Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Wasted Generation
Author: Johnson, Owen
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Wasted Generation" ***

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



Transcriber’s note: Table of Contents added by Transcriber.



CONTENTS


  PART            PAGE
    I                3
   II               79
  III              187
   IV              269
    V              309



THE WASTED GENERATION



By Owen Johnson

_Lawrenceville Stories_

  THE PRODIGIOUS HICKEY
  THE VARMINT
  THE TENNESSEE SHAD

      * * * * *

  STOVER AT YALE
  THE SPIRIT OF FRANCE
  THE WOMAN GIVES
  VIRTUOUS WIVES
  THE WASTED GENERATION
  MAKING MONEY
  THE SIXTY-FIRST SECOND



  THE
  WASTED GENERATION

  BY
  OWEN JOHNSON

  [Illustration]

  BOSTON
  LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY
  1921



  _Copyright, 1921_,
  BY OWEN JOHNSON.

  _All rights reserved_

  Published September, 1921



  TO
  HUGH WALPOLE
  IN FRIENDSHIP AND IN ADMIRATION



THE WASTED GENERATION



PART I


I

  _August, 1916_

I am thirty this day, the twenty-ninth of August, 1916. The guns are
roaring along the Somme front. Another great attack is on. The gray
waves are passing over the top for the thousandth time and, for the
thousandth time, hope is in the air once more. I feel it in the sudden
optimism of the daily bulletin, in the groups in the market-place, in
the little knot of _evacués_, here in a Savoyard courtyard, basking in
the sun and studying the winding line of pins on the yellowed map of
the front.

  “_Brigadier David Littledale, Légion Etrangère, Croix de Guerre,
  wounded at Verdun, March 5th, shell wound in the shoulder and the
  leg, shell-shock and gangrene. Entered Val de Grace, March 21st,
  evacuated on Chambèry, July 10th, 1916._”

The record used to hang at the foot of my bed beside the fever chart
and the record of operations. From Chambèry, here into a rest area, to
put on flesh again, to quiet my jumping nerves and to fatten up for the
return to the front. To-day I have no desire to hasten that return. I
write it down frankly,--as I intend to keep honesty with myself and my
impressions. There are other times when I feel the tug and fret to be
back. It is my mood to-day, as war is a succession of unrelated moods.

This morning I ask no more of life than to continue here at my open
window in the buzzing month of August, looking down on a drowsy world
in animal content. A pipe of tobacco and the noonday meal--_Pinard_,
_pommes de terre frites_, and perhaps a _ragout_ with a touch of
onions--all these simple joys to my keen senses seem the limit of human
desires.

There is a touch of ivy at my window; below, the courtyard is
flagged and the red-tiled, shovel-hatted Savoyard roofs throw sharp
blue shadows across the glowing yellow pavement. Bompard, an old
territorial, is peeling potatoes in the door frame. Coustic and
Valentin, of the Chasseurs Alpins, are quarreling good-humoredly over a
game of Manille, and old Canache, of the _Bat d’Af_, is baking in the
chaise-longue, kepi over his nose, and a thin stream of smoke twining
upward like Jack’s beanstalk. A mottled setter is flat on his side; a
kitten plays with its toes; over the pink roofs the Col du Chat strikes
into the skies with its brass cross blazing in the sun, and I say to
myself, incredulously, that on the Northern Front cannon are roaring,
men pitting themselves against machines, as the long trains of wounded
begin to move our way,--into one of which at some near day I shall step
and return to the Legion.

A buxom, tow-headed girl comes clattering into the courtyard, draws a
pail of water and moves sinuously out. An exchange of jests, and we
watch her go. She is more than a woman. She is woman. She represents
that incredible other life to us, the dream life that runs at night
with the will-o’-the-wisps along the trenches; violins and dancing
under southern harvests; wet beaches and a glowing Normandy hearth;
lights on the boulevards; children’s voices; an old couple waiting on
a doorstep,--many things to many men! To me it brings back a stranger
of four years and some months ago,--David Littledale, of Littledale,
Connecticut; an old, rambling, red-sided house under the elms; a
household of young people, frolicking; a girl’s face,--a first love;
Ben, Alan, and Rossie, and one tomboy, shock-haired sister, Molly,
galloping up the avenue on Pinto, the cow pony.

       *       *       *       *       *

Will I ever go back to it and, if I do, will all this pass away like
the frantic shadow that blots out the valley when thunder clouds come
stampeding down the Col du Chat? Will the old life come out again,
as the countryside returns, brilliant and glistening, sunlight and
shadow, balanced and friendly? Is war an incident, or an education
that remains? To tell the truth, I have seldom thought on such
things,--never in the line of duty.

In resigning my will I am conscious of having resigned my imagination.
The future is so indecipherable that it is rather a relief to say to
one’s self:

“Nothing that I can do, say or think, except obey orders, can have the
slightest effect on what is fated to happen.”

After two years war ceases to be an experience: it becomes a journey
to be traveled in the shafts of the inevitable. I have gone through
it, inspired, thrilled, grumbling, skeptical, rebellious, joking
mechanically, but always, at the last test, obedient to the hidden
power in the machine that decides my every act.

       *       *       *       *       *

Why have I fallen back on this introspective mood in these emerging
days of convalescence? I think it is as a refuge from the _cafard_,--a
feeling of after all being a stranger in a strange land. Perhaps it has
a basis in physical weakness,--perhaps simply inaction: inaction which
is so demoralizing. To-day I have a longing to be back--to rub elbows
with my own people--to be no longer “_l’Americain_” but an American
among Americans.

For there is always this difference between me and Coustic and
Valentin, sons of the mountain side; Canache, Apache and filcher of
the gutters; Bompard, tiller of Normand soil: they are fighting for
something bigger than themselves that at times raises them to heights
of heroic eloquence, that obliterates the present and joins them to
their forbears of the brave days of old: Grognards, Sans Culottes,
Chevaliers and bearded Gauls. While I, I am fighting alone, for love of
a man’s adventure, in order to find myself. I am alone, for, much as I
love their country, it is theirs,--not mine.

       *       *       *       *       *

Yet, if I cannot entirely possess this deep spirit of nationalism, it
has been the most satisfying experience of my haphazard, drifting life
to live among those who did. You cannot understand the _poilu_ with
your ears alone.

_Blagueur_, _critique_, _sceptique_ (bluffer, critic and skeptic)--I
have lived two years with them, _poilu_ myself by the grace of rags and
dirt, by a thousand sworn oaths never to move a further inch. I have
sung with them in the slimy trenches of the first winter. I have cursed
their commanders and sat on their boards of strategy. I have doubted,
rebelled, grumbled, and denied my leader and,--at the zero hour, surged
up and gone over the top.

       *       *       *       *       *

I went into the war, heaven knows, wearied of my kind and of myself,
disillusioned with man, seeking men. I have found what I sought. I have
found and I understand them,--men, the mass, the race, which moves on,
slowly, irresistibly, without inner questionings, doing what must be
done. Above all, I have known the love of the Fatherland, the faith
of the humble, handed down at simple hearths,--the will to remain,
whatever the cost, French. Well, if I am fated to lie in No-man’s-land,
I am honestly thankful to have known life at its simplest, its keenest,
and to have served some purpose.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Blagueur_, _critique_, _sceptique_, but, at the call of duty,--ready.
Often have I marveled at the soul of the _poilu_, the bit of sunlight
that abides in it--the love of the beautiful--the answering thrill
when a hero leads; that inexhaustible reserve, at the bottom of which
miracles wait! Yesterday the answer came, and it illumined the dark
places.

At lunch we were discussing the prospects of going back, that and the
end of the war are, of course, the daily topics. Canache launched on
his favorite tirade against the _embusqués_; Paris was full of them;
the hospitals were full of them; twenty miles behind the front they
were as thick as berries; before they sent back the older classes
who had been shot to pieces once already, let them clean out the
_embusqués_! As for him, Canache, he would refuse to go,--like that,
flat! He’d demand justice; he’d tell a few names, and he ended by
spitting contemptuously on the flagging, and exclaiming:

“_Sale Gouvernement!_”

Coustic, who wore the Military Medal and the Croix de Guerre, humored
the old rogue, knowing well the heart of iron behind the froth. But,
as a _poilu_, he would have been a traitor to his kind not to grumble.
For the _poilu_ has a fixed attitude: everything is wrong, from top
to bottom: the government, the leaders; the commissariat, especially;
the civilians, always. And, always, the _poilu_, despite injustice,
favoritism, neglect and inefficiency, is there to save the day!
Valentin wagged his head wisely and swore that every word was gospel.
Bompard alone remained mute, buried in his bread and cheese.

“Well, old grunter, what do you say to all this?” I said, addressing
him.

“Me?” Bompard’s face is the purple of the grape; he has a long sweeping
moustache and his eyes disappear behind shaggy eyebrows.

“Yes, you. What’ll you do if you have to go back?”

“Bah! What’s the use of words,” he said contemptuously; “if we have to
go back, we’ll go. If we’ve got to fight, we’ll fight. That’s all there
is to it. We’ll do our duty--the same as the others--perhaps, the same,
perhaps, a little better. _Que diable! Nous avons du sang français dans
nos artères, et le sang français ne ment pas!_”

The revolt died. Canache’s eyes flashed. He was back at the front,
spitting Boches and swearing horribly. Coustic and Valentin, ashamed to
have been caught in a cheap insincerity, sat up under the reproof, the
good red blood of France mounting to their cheeks. Bompard had found
the phrase. At that moment, had the hated little town major stuck his
head through the postern and cried, “Volunteers, to go immediately to
the front!” we would have risen, as one man, and cried:

“Ready!”

       *       *       *       *       *

So our leaders talk to us who understand us. A phrase--something to
fire the imagination--something to exalt the heart--something to throw
defiantly from the lips in the cauldron of battle--a phrase to the
_poilu_ is worth an army or ten thousand cannon!

It was with a phrase that we won at Verdun and rolled the Hun back from
the Marne.

“_Mourir sur place! Debout les morts! Ils ne passeront pas!_” The
whole war is there. And to me who heard it, the phrase which fell
unconsciously from old Bompard’s lips,--“French blood never lies!”
makes the rest comprehensible.

It is something to have the right to a phrase like that.


II

Yesterday, when I began these notes, it was more as a caprice than
from any conviction that I would continue them. Yet to-day, I find
myself to my surprise filled with a certain eagerness. During the night
the thought came to me that it would be interesting to attempt an
absolutely honest portrayal of myself, setting down everything, small
and great, the good and the bad, as it occurred.

A classmate I met at Harvard (I cannot remember his name) once said to
me, casually:

“The man who has the courage to write down day by day the true record
of his life, concealing nothing, excusing nothing, without attempt
to reconcile the irreconcilable, putting down the sublime and the
ridiculous, the mud that soils his feet as he contemplates the
stars, the struggle, the inconsistencies, the little basenesses, the
hypocrisies that make him virtuous--the man who will dare arraign
himself before the pitiless bar of his own judgment--will leave an
immortal book. But no one has ever confessed, and no one ever will.”

I never forgot this remark. It determined a whole course of mental
speculation, fortunately or unfortunately, for it threw me into a
period of introspection which at times verged perilously close to a
melancholia, which might have been fatal had I not had in my sound
body the corrective of an intense animal delight in life and an
abounding curiosity for adventure. Since then, I have read copiously
in the so-called confessions that line the shelves of intimate
libraries, and I have recognized the essential truth of the dictum.
Even Jacques Casanova who, in the effrontery of his brilliant record
of a master-rogue, seems to have approached the stark verity of a
confession, has moments of colossal vanity, in which he cannot resist
the temptation to pose as an honest man. As for the famous confessions
of Jean Jacques Rousseau, they confess nothing at all except perhaps
the author’s desire to pass as a great man.

       *       *       *       *       *

It may be that a sentiment of vanity alone is the impulse which has
determined me to this attempt; yet I do not think it is entirely
that,--except as vanity is a natural and healthy quality and is allied
to ambition. What is ambition? Is it not an instinctive rebellion
against the little term of existence which is accorded to us, the
soul’s struggling against mortality,--the longing to leave something
behind us so that we shall not be utterly snuffed out?

       *       *       *       *       *

Of such ambition I am conscious. If two years voyaging over the
stormy paths of war has left me with a new conception of the flotsam
value of my life against the great currents of human destiny, it has
robbed death of half its terrors. Death has seemed such a casual
thing. Yet, at other times, there comes a swift, passionate revulsion
towards living,--a need of not entirely passing out of the memory of
those who have known us. This is the explanation, I believe, of the
multitude of little diaries, often but a jumble of hasty notes jotted
down on the eve of an attack; an impression of incredulous delight
after deliverance out of the agony of battle; a last cry of the soul,
scribbled in a shell hole under the flaming winds of a bombardment;
a final struggling to leave something that will remain,--something
tangible beyond a memory that recedes. It is this instinct, I think,
which I obey. We are all more or less fatalists; and I, for my part,
feel that my end will come in the moving ranks--some day--sooner or
later--but inevitably. There were those who were certain they would
pass unscathed out towards the unimaginable dawn, who died at my
side, by a grim freak of fate that left me living. Yet my fatalism is
unshaken. I am neither sadder nor happier for it: I accept it as the
final explanation of my presence here.

       *       *       *       *       *

Before estimating my past conduct or proceeding to a critical analysis
of the future, I may as well take stock of Mr. David Littledale, as he
stands to-day.

Physically the damage done is trifling and soon repaired. The shoulder
is as good as new. The leg will carry a limp for some time to come. The
effects of the gas are rapidly departing, and in another two months my
nerves should come again under complete control.

Outwardly I am a typical Littledale, of a family of fighting men and
militant preachers. There never was a Littledale who did not have three
marked characteristics; the straight bushy line of the eyebrows, the
low cropped hair over the forehead, and the mouth cut like an inverted
sickle. The stark ruggedness of the jaws of our Puritan ancestry has
been softened with easier generations but the faces run lean and brown
and muscled. The ears are particularly my own and have a defiant way of
leaving the head that has earned a score of insulting nicknames.

As a family we are not given to gayety, rather over-serious, I am
afraid; tenacious, introspective, seldom shining in conversation,
listeners rather than debaters, realists and traditionalists,--though
occasionally a dreamer, like my brother Alan, comes into the family,
rebels, breaks away, and disappears restlessly into the outer world.

       *       *       *       *       *

To take stock of myself mentally is not so easy. I have received the
deplorable education of the day. Everything that possibly could be
done was done to make me hate the pursuit of knowledge. I am, indeed,
an excellent example of the signal failure of American education,--the
failure to provide for the utilization of a developed type. My father
and my grandfather and his father before him were brought up to public
service as the result of a system of society and education which
demanded service of them. What, all at once, has happened to our
generation? We had everything to make us leaders, family traditions,
unlimited opportunity and undoubted energy; yet the only result that
I can see of our education has been either to divert our unquestioned
energy towards a heaping up of material comforts or to make of us
triflers and dilettanti; in a word, parasites. It may have been our
fault, but I think it was deeper,--the fault of national thinking.
Undoubtedly, in the future, the irresistible forces which mold a nation
will bring order into the multiplicity of confused movements which now
dominate us. But as I look back, even from my short retrospective,
and see myself and my brothers, I can give but one judgment. We are a
generation wasted.

       *       *       *       *       *

I am at that point in my life when traditions fall away; when a man,
educated as I have been, suddenly finds himself alone, wandering
through a vast valley of doubt, seeking, with the instinct that is in
men for order, to recreate in stone the house of cards which has just
fallen about him.

What do I really believe? What of my education remains after the test
of experience? I was taught certain principles of morality, certain
judgments on conduct, given certain standards of right and wrong.
Virtue must bring its own reward and the wages of sin is death.

After a few years’ contact with the world, I find myself completely
mystified. Perhaps I have been too often behind the scenes and must
pay the penalty of disillusionment. I was given certain principles
of common honesty,--and I have seen great criminals exalted because
they either stole on a grandiose scale or procured others to steal
for them. True, I have heard many unflattering judgments passed on
these financiers, privately, but these criticisms seemed to proceed
more from an instinctive envy, and I seldom found that they interfered
in the least with the successful rogue’s power in the community. I
was given certain sharp distinctions between good women and bad. In
the cosmopolitan society which I knew in Paris, I saw those who were
surest of their position flagrantly and insolently defying all public
criticism. I have never found, in my occasional contact with women of
the demimonde, the libertinage that I have met with in certain of the
most exalted spheres of society.

My grandfather was Senator and a member of the National Cabinet. My
great-grandfather was one of the founders of the nation. My father,
as judge of the Circuit Court, has been in intimate touch with public
men and party politics. The ideal of public leadership I have always
regarded reverently and yet, on closer contact, I have discovered that
the leaders who were like demigods to my young imagination were capable
of underhand trafficking for office and midnight deals with repellant
political tricksters that seemed to me to place them on a level with
political fences,--receivers of stolen political goods. Puritan I am
and shall always be, so long as the heart of a child, which abides in
every man, remains open. Yet I have been wandering along pagan roads,
seeking new readjustments, which do not satisfy me, as I at first
believed.

       *       *       *       *       *

There may be a deeper truth than I have uncovered below the shallow
surface of my experience. There must be, though I have not yet had the
vision to perceive it,--unless it be by renouncing the class into which
I was born and seeking new elements of faith in closer contact with the
great simple mass of humanity which remains vitally significant and
predestined, through the saving grace of struggle.

       *       *       *       *       *

Yet do I believe, whole-heartedly and without reservation, in
Democracy? I am not sure. Certainly, not in the demoralization into
which I see it now wandering. Not if it means Democracy at the price
of inefficiency, rejection of self-discipline, and the negation of
real leadership. The vital principle, to me, is the equalization of
opportunity. Yet with it there must be an aristocracy of achievement
and an ability to recognize the quality of leadership in exceptional
men,--without which Democracy is no better than a rabble.

       *       *       *       *       *

If I should announce such ideas in the rigid formalism of my Littledale
home, I would be regarded, I know, as an intellectual pariah. But I am
not seeking to impose my ideas on others. I am setting them down in a
moment of intellectual luxury, for my own self-education; that is, as
I perceive them through this vista of isolation, when old commonplaces
come into a new significance.

       *       *       *       *       *

To-day there is a great yearning inside me, allied with a new feeling
of homesickness. I long to go to the home that is denied me. The air
which I have breathed these long two years has been extraordinarily
vital. I have lived with humanity at its keenest. With all the sodden
realism of war, with all its inconsistencies of detail, its mingled
brutality and heroism, it has been a privilege to have known its
rare moments of exaltation. I have known my kind as they are, as my
friends in the courtyard below are,--inconsistent and frail, selfish,
avaricious, sunk in mere animal passions of living; but I have seen
a sudden flaming vision of sacrifice exalt them above the brute, as
I have known Christian and Pagan to offer themselves on the cross of
their own suffering that their race might go on living.


III

  _September_

_Sunday evening._

This morning I attended Mass with Coustic and Valentin, who are very
religious. (The others are not.) I like the solemnity and the calm of
the old Cathedral, the footsteps that slip past lost in the obscurity,
the candle-points that punctuate the darkness without illuminating it,
the sense of repose, beauty, meditation. Yet, every time I enter a
church now and see the cross, my memory returns to another crucifixion,
to a man who was not divine, yet who never flinched in his sacrificial
agony.

       *       *       *       *       *

His name was Jules Fromentin, and a worse rascal did not exist in the
company. He had been a deserter in the Argentine, but he had his code.
And, somewhere in the bottom of his muddied philosophy was the love of
France. He caught the first steamer, claimed foreign citizenship, and
enlisted in the Legion. One night, in the spring of 1915, when we held
the trenches at the foot of the Notre Dame de Lorette slopes, working
towards Ablain St. Nazaire, a scouting detail was caught between the
lines and wiped out. Fromentin, alone, wounded to the death, was left
hanging on an advanced section of our barbed wire, to which he had
struggled. To attempt a rescue was humanly impossible. We had made
an advance the night before, and another was expected. The Boches,
on the _qui vive_, kept the night luminous with rockets and drooping
flares. No head could have appeared for an instant above the trench in
the illuminated night. At that, only the authority of our commander
held us in. I can remember still our feeling of horror and of rage
as we crouched helplessly in the whipped-around trench and listened
with the cold sweat starting up our backs. Fromentin was singing,--a
ribald marching song, an unprintable thing, salacious and vilifying the
Boches. From time to time a bullet reached home. Then the song ceased,
and a defiant voice cried:

“_Touché! Vive la France!_”

He lay there, suffering untold tortures--a man, and not a god--without
hope or faith, passing through the sacrificial agony, and yet, hour
after hour:

“_Touché! Sales Boches! Vive la France!_”

Then, at dawn, a final bullet, more merciful than the rest.

“_Touché!_ Ah--” And silence.

When we got to him, two days later, there were twenty-two bullet wounds
in him.

       *       *       *       *       *

I put it down reverently, and reverently I compare that crucifixion
that is a symbol of mankind dying for an ideal with the divine agony
on Calvary. The agony was equal but no certainty of Paradise opened
before the man, unless there came a glorified vision we could not
share. Often, in the drab weariness of war, the sodden fatigue, the
brutalizing of the instincts and the weakening of the spirit, I go back
to the lingering horror and sublimity of that night and cling to my
symbol. For me every crude wooden cross that rises in the fields has
this human replica of the Calvary.

       *       *       *       *       *

The strange thing, or perhaps the natural thing, is that I have little
inclination to write about the war. It is rather myself in its past
progression and the self which has come out of the reaction of the war
which interests me.

       *       *       *       *       *

For the war is not a logical sequence in my memory. It is a jumble and
confusion of reiterated notes, endless movement, hunger, drenching,
cold. Only a few scenes detach themselves,--a very few. When I recall
the mobilization, I hear only one voice in the surge and roar of
hysterical multitudes crowding down to the departing trains at the Gare
du Nord,--a child’s voice, saying:

“_Non, non_, mamma,--don’t cry. Be brave,--till he’s gone!”

       *       *       *       *       *

I seldom remember definite details, any particular dawn breaking after
the night of vigil, or the shrinking waiting of any one bombardment.
It is all one stretching gray line of sky; a tireless to and fro of
men and horses; the same broken line of trenches, a monotony of slime
and sleety rain; and all this is confused, as though I were struggling
upward through swirling, roaring bodies of water. Repetition has
dulled the perceptions. I am conscious only of fatigue, of unending
beating against the ears, of vigils under stars that never sink, of
marching,--yes, here one vivid impression always returns. It is one of
those memories that enter into the phantasmagoria of the night.

I am back again in the ranks, that have been marching for days. Some
one--the comrade at my left--says:

“_Mon vieux?_”

“What is it?”

“I want to sleep a little.”

“Pass over your rifle.”

Then he places his arm about my neck and the same to the comrade on the
other side, and presently I hear him begin to snore; marching, and dead
asleep,--until we wake him up and another takes his place.

       *       *       *       *       *

What else comes out of the blur? The red smile of a comrade who lay
grinning at me in a shell hole all one mortal day. I remember no one
night, but I remember distinctly Night in the trenches,--the winging
bullets, the occasional rocket, the rising, lumbering whirl of a trench
mortar, the sudden digging in against the damp wall, a breathless wait,
and then, somewhere up the line, an explosion, and a shriek:

“_Ah, Jésu!_”

       *       *       *       *       *

But all this is the confusion of drifting fog. Out of the months in
the Val de Grace I can see but two faces,--the provocative smile of a
nurse, as a doctor whispered in her ear amid the groans and delirium
of a Senegalese dying beside me, and another, the face of an old, ugly
woman, strangely devoted and untiring,--an old woman on her hands and
knees, scrubbing the floors for us, who, I was told, was a Princess of
the House of Bourbon.

Only these details come back to me. The war is too near and too
inevitable. I wish to escape it, if not entirely, for a brief
period. For inaction is what is demoralizing now, inaction and the
contemplation of the approaching fact. The moment convalescence ends
and I step again into the ranks and feel the touch of a comrade’s
shoulder, before that accomplished fact, all will seem obvious
again,--but not now. All my instinct now is to put from me this thing
that approaches so relentlessly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two periods of my life stand out; the calm of the early home days, and
the disorder of two years in Paris; two utterly, inexplicably different
David Littledales; on whom now I, a third personality, can look with
some dispassionate estimate.


IV

  _October_

A budget of letters with a touch of home has sent me back to my diary
this morning, which, as I feared, I have neglected these last weeks.
At the time these letters had been written no word had reached them of
my having been wounded at Verdun, and as I sat recalling the thousand
details of our daily life, I imagined how the family would receive the
news.

Nothing could be more characteristic of the Littledale family than
its departure to worship on Sunday morning. We are organized on the
theory of absolute liberty of conscience in matters religious as well
as political. My mother and Ben departed in one direction for the
Unitarian Church, Aunt Janie to the Congregational, and my father,
Molly and myself for the little Presbyterian chapel in the village
square. Rossie, the privileged character of the family, remained in
that state of suspended judgment which permitted him to lengthen the
Sunday morning rest. No asperities, no dissensions resulted from this
opposition of views. In fact, each Littledale was a little proud of the
family’s individualism, regarding it as the inherited trait of a strong
intellectual strain.

We were four brothers and a sister, and all as different as one day is
from another. Because of my mother’s public interests and her theories
on individualism, we were brought up with small restraint, along lines
of our own choosing. Alan, the third of the line, was the rebel of the
family. As I look back, I can see where the mistakes were all on the
part of Ben and myself. Wild, impatient of restraint, Alan certainly
was, yet the rough discipline which the older brother inflicted was the
worst method of dealing with him. The two never understood each other.
Every idea and every instinct was opposed and each in his way was
remarkably unyielding in type.

While Rossie was alive, he and Molly, through their good humor and
affection, were able to hold the insurgent in check, but after Rossie’s
tragic drowning matters went from bad to worse. Alan quickly assumed
the traditional rôle of the family black sheep.

In every respectable family of New England there is, I suppose, always
that predestined place. It had been so in my father’s generation and in
the generation before him. We all, with the exception of Molly, who was
too young to have an opinion, expected that Alan would sooner or later
disgrace the family, and as we did not conceal from him the state of
our convictions he did his best to justify them. After being expelled
from two schools and dragged into college by the application of every
family influence, there came the final storm. In his sophomore year he
became involved in a disgraceful row which reached the columns of the
metropolitan press. Alan was permitted to resign, returned home, had a
violent scene with Ben and my father, and departed, vowing never to set
foot in the family home again. That we were all unjust to him admits of
no doubt--I among the rest--but at that time I was completely under the
influence of Ben, who was three years my senior.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have left my brother Ben until the last: utterly different from
me in temperament, impulse and character, he exercised over me the
strongest domination. From boyhood we had been inseparable. Study
came laboriously to him, to me naturally, so, despite the difference
in age, we passed through school and college together. Mentally I was
his superior but he exercised over me a moral supremacy by the direct
and ruthless expression of his will. His strength lay in the fact that
he was diverted by no complexities. He had little imagination, read
little, and talked less. The two or three ideas which guided him were
settled convictions. Nothing perplexed him. In all things he was a
direct force.

I have noticed the same phenomenon in later life. Men of little
imagination and small mental baggage often dominate men of superior
imagination by the sheer tenacious simplicity of never being in
doubt of what they want. As I see them now, Alan was revolt and Ben
traditionalism in its most rigid New England form. He was born to
maintain what was as it had been, a mid-Victorian in his tastes, a
Bourbon in his ideas,--quite capable, in another era, of burning
witches at the stake.

For better or for worse, our destinies have been tragically
intertwined,--how tragically, I alone know. His code of morality would
not have looked well in copy books but, such as it was, it did have the
advantage of sincerity and a contempt for hypocrisy as he saw it in
others.

To fight hard and fairly on any question; to do as he believed every
man of breeding did in months of relaxation, but never to surrender
the control of one’s self or to be moved out of one’s calm by any wind
of passion; to take women as they came, lightly; but never to lie to
them or descend to petty meanness, or to become involved in situations
which compromised your dignity: this was a code which savored rather of
the _condottieri_ of the Middle Ages than of the Puritan traditions he
represented. Yet he saw in it no inconsistencies and, as men go (and
as I have known them), the code had certain qualities of _noblesse
oblige_. I have since turned from this insolent egotism but for a long
time it influenced my attitude towards life and brought me close to
disaster. Yet, by establishing this moral tyranny, Ben saved me from
what would have been the shipwreck of my life.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the age of eighteen, in the summer of my Sophomore year, I fell
madly, foolishly in love with the daughter of a farmer back of
Littledale, Jenny Barnett, a handsome little country girl, red-cheeked,
black-haired, and gray-eyed, the beauty of the county. Looking back
now, I can understand many things,--particularly with the subsequent
career of Jenny before me, but then I was an extremely innocent
youngster, whose head turned at a look from the gray eyes in the warm
odors of June, and it would never have entered my imagination to
entertain the slightest suspicion of her. She, on her side, perceiving
what a greenhorn she had to deal with, made up her shrewd little mind
to set her cap for me. Before I knew it, I had lost so completely all
perspective that I seriously considered a runaway match.

To-day it is all so incredible that I ask myself if I could have
proceeded so far, if, in the last test, a saving grain of common sense
would not have halted me, and I like to reason that I was but playing
with an idea, deceiving myself as much as the girl. Yet I do not know
that this is a fair estimate, for I have seen so much of what men do
under the narcotic impulse of passion, even against their own will
and intelligence, that I am not certain I might not have played the
fool,--without the interception of my brother.

In my simplicity I had gone to him with my confidence. I can still see
the shock of amazement on his face. Then he remained silent a long
moment, his eyes on my face.

“Absolutely sure you want to marry?”

“Oh, absolutely,” I said, yet my heart sank as though I had pronounced
my own sentence.

“And the girl,--Jenny? Absolutely sure she loves you?”

“Absolutely.”

“Well, you’re making a fool of yourself, but that’s your affair. I’ll
see you through, that’s promised.”

His words brought me no joy. A cloud settled before my eyes. At the end
of half an hour, as though his mind had been made up, he questioned
me adroitly as to our relations, our place of meeting, our next
rendezvous. All of which information I gave him, without mistrust. The
second day he came to me and said:

“What are you doing this afternoon? Nothing? Wait for me in Talbot’s
wood, by the old spring. I’ve got a line on a honey tree. Meet me at
four.”

“At four. I’ll be there,” I answered, not without surprise.

I installed myself in the wood at the appointed time and shortly
afterward, hearing familiar voices, I sprang up and perceived Jenny on
the arm of my brother. My first thought was that he was bringing her
to me in sign of allegiance. The next moment, to my astonishment, I
saw her fling her arms about his neck and kiss him passionately, very
differently from the furtive embraces she had vouchsafed me.

The next moment I was before them, with murder in my heart. The girl
sprang back with a cry. My hands reached Ben’s throat and we went to
the ground. In my rage I understood but one thing,--that what he had
done he had done deliberately, after having put to sleep my suspicions
by an attitude of false acquiescence. My next impulse was the most
tragic and instinctive hatred which can blind the reason of a human
being,--the wild jealousy of brother against brother. At the thought
that the girl could so easily have preferred him after all that had
been between us, all the love that I had for him turned to the blackest
fury, and I believe that for a short moment if I could have killed him
I would have done so. The minx stood by, no longer frightened, but
delighted in her vanity at the sight of our struggling over her.

At first Ben had burst out laughing, defending himself from my frantic
rage but, little by little, under the sting of my blows, he too lost
his head. We rolled over and over, clawing at each other frantically,
striking out blindly. I was no match for him then in strength, and at
the end I found myself on my back, my arms pinned under his knees,
looking up into his bruised face.

Suddenly he bent down and cried angrily:

“You little fool! Is that the sort of wife you want to bring home!”

“You made her do it!” I cried, and in my rage I almost succeeded in
freeing myself. He exerted all his strength and brought me back to
earth.

“Made her do it! A girl that’s engaged to you? Do you want to be the
laughingstock of the country?”

My brain cleared and a great thankfulness came over me. I began to
laugh uproariously.

This was too much for Jenny. With a swish of her skirts, she went
flying through the woods.

I continued to laugh, with a sudden detention of all my nerves, cut by
sudden involuntary sobs, but the laugh was not honest and something
bitter and contemptuous descended into my heart, there to remain.

“Let me up,” I said, at the end.

“All right?”

“Quite.”

We arose and surveyed the wreck we had made of each other.

“I had to do it, Davy.”

“You did right.”

We shook hands and went home, his arm over my shoulder, a rare
demonstration of affection for him. Had I only been present to render
him a like service when the rôles were reversed, years later!

       *       *       *       *       *

There was no need of admonition and it was characteristic of him that
he never once referred to the episode. All my anger turned on myself.
I saw the fool I had played and I swore that I would never be caught
again. From that time on vulgarity played no part in my life. Milestone
Number 1.

Unquestionably the thing that saved me was the blow to my vanity.
Even to this day I cannot recall the incident without resentment and,
though it is quite illogical, I believe of all the episodes of my life
this will always be the one I shall think on with keenest humiliation.
Even between Ben and myself the memory has always remained a secret
irritation. For despite all my efforts to fight down the feeling, I
still retain a little resentment at the superiority he had shown,--a
primitive instinct of the male, I suppose, particularly when a woman is
involved.


V

A revulsion was imperative, and the revulsion sent me back to my own
kind. There is, I suppose, in every man’s life the figure of some woman
who represents what might have been; some turning point at which he
looks back and perceives where the direct road abruptly diverged. My
intimacy with Anne Brinsmade was not the usual boy and girl romance
but was something quite genuine and loyal and, though in the end the
inevitable complications brought their misunderstandings, I look back
on this natural comradeship, which extended over two years, with
real affection. For this, strangely enough, I had Jenny Barnett to
thank. The anger in me against my credulity and weak sentimentality
was so insistent that to recover some self-respect I felt the need
of asserting my ascendancy over some worthier one of her sex, if but
to prove to myself that I had the qualities of reticence, authority
and self-control I admired in my brother. It was not premeditated or
conscious, yet if it had been skillfully calculated, nothing could have
served me better.

Stephen Brinsmade was a lawyer of large political and business
activities, a man of considerable fortune, and Anne was surrounded with
every luxury and attention which he could shower on her. They had a big
place at Taunton, about fifteen miles from our home at Littledale, and
the friendship of the families was traditional. In my case there was a
deeper reason. At school I had roomed with young Stephen and when he
had died as the result of an accident on the polo field, the memory of
his friendship brought me close to the father and sister.

Anne, even as a young girl, was a problem. She was all impulse, and
no one knew where impulse might lead her. I was approaching twenty
and she was scarcely sixteen at this time, and my air of determined
impersonality successfully piqued her curiosity, roused her resentment,
and finally drew her to me in impulsive trust. Her brother had been
my dearest chum. For his young sister I could have only the most
exact loyalty. I became her confidant, assuming the rôle of mentor,
and occasionally delivered moral precepts with a gravity that was
so natural that it even eluded my sense of humor. Different beings,
I suppose, appeal to different qualities in us, according to their
needs, and there was something in the wayward, lovable, undirected
charm of the young girl which aroused the chivalry in me. My attitude,
so different from that of the men who surrounded her, naturally had
two results. It brought a delightful companionship, utterly free from
mawkishness, or the simulated coquetries and aped sentimentality which
too often, in the freedom of our American intercourse, leave the regret
in man and woman of having failed in reverence before the things that
count. Unconsciously, however, as this intimacy continued, the feminine
temptation was hard to resist. Once or twice she tried to provoke my
jealousy. I do not think it was consciously done, but I recognized it
and my studied indifference undoubtedly gave me an increasing value in
her eyes.

The influence I exerted over her was, I know, the strongest in her
life. I saw that she idealized me and though the incongruity of making
a hero of me struck me, a certain strength came from the realization.
I never fully believed in her and frequently told her so,--much to
her annoyance. I saw her as a young girl, too easily influenced, with
natural instinct towards the good, yet with dangerous cravings for
excitement and pleasure. I knew as a woman she would be the creature
of circumstances and, foreseeing the flattery and adoration that would
be hers on her entrance into the world, I doubted the stability of
her best motives. On these subjects we talked frankly, and once, with
suddenly clouded face, listening to me intently, she confessed in a
burst of feeling that my fears were justified and, genuinely moved,
placing her hand in mine, said:

“When I’m with you, Davy, I don’t want to be just selfish and
superficial. I do want other things in life; but I know myself so well
that--I’m afraid.”

       *       *       *       *       *

It was in the summer after my graduation that I first became aware that
my own feelings were undergoing a change. In the beginning I was master
enough of myself to control them, even when in daily contact with her
implicit trust and her too frankly shown desire for my company. My
reason warned me that my strength was in her ignorance of my true state
of mind but, at twenty-two, with a young girl on the brink of a radiant
and lovely womanhood, the reason is but an intermittent refuge, and
propinquity and the moment, decisive. One night in mid-summer, after
a long and intimate discussion, when least I expected it, at her hand
freely and impulsively placed in mine, every inhibition in me stopped.
I raised her fingers suddenly to my lips, drew a long breath and held
them there until, troubled, she sought to withdraw them.

“Why--David!”

She was looking at me, wide-eyed and wondering.

I tried to repair my blunder, hastily and awkwardly.

“You’re such a good sort, I was thinking--well, I’d hate to have
anything but the best come to you, later--”

She was still looking at me as I stopped, floundering. I drew a long
breath and said:

“It’s chilly here. Let’s go in.”

She slipped her arm from mine and led the way back. She said no word
for the rest of the evening, while I exerted myself to talk to her
father, and left as soon as I could make the opportunity. But I knew
that she was not deceived, then or later, by my new, almost hostile
attitude of aloofness.

       *       *       *       *       *

The damage was done. From that day we never really talked to each
other. And here a curious thing happened. Until then there had been
no mistaking her preference for me. It was so open that every one saw
it,--her father, my brothers, everybody. In fact, it was rather looked
upon as a matter of course that eventually we should marry. I knew
this. There are things which do not deceive us and in the attitude of
Mr. Brinsmade there was even more than consent, though on the part of
the mother I felt an increasing antagonism.

Now, over night, all was changed. We avoided the moments of intimacy
which had come so naturally. Her attitude became the extreme of
capriciousness. I knew I had blundered and believed that the blunder
was irreparable, but when I would deliberately refrain from seeing her,
she was certain to call me up and insist upon my coming to dinner. Yet
the moment I was in her presence she was so silent and so moody that
I always returned with a feeling of hopelessness and disillusionment.
Hurt and miserable, my pride drove me to assume an attitude of
raillery, which crystallized in a studious assumption of tolerant
amusement and an apparent refusal to see in her anything but a wayward
child. She resented this and never let pass an occasion to rouse my
jealousy. I was, in turn, mortified, proud, and angry.

My old doubts returned and, forgetting how much my own attitude could
excite irritation; forgetting how young she was in the knowledge of
her own needs; forgetting all that we had built upon together, I saw
her only as an inconscient child, disdaining the toy which she had
finally acquired. As her mother was, so I felt she would inevitably
become, and I ceased to believe that the memory of our talks and
the natural, kindly impulses in her would ever be strong enough to
counteract the craving for the baubles of vanities which to-morrow
would be thrown into her lap.

What hurt me most was the seeming ungenerosity of her attitude,--that
after the years of unswerving loyalty and protection I had given her
she should now adopt towards me the methods of a coquette. It ended on
a trifle. There was a scene of petty jealousy--I cannot recall it now
without astonishment--a dance accorded and withdrawn,--nothing more.
And yet for that, the course of two lives was irretrievably affected.
Perhaps this was but the pretext. We were both high-spirited, both too
young to understand life’s values or the emotions which swayed us, and
both too proud to yield the first. For a moment’s pique, we parted in
anger,--I have never seen her since. A month later I left for Paris, to
take up the study of architecture. Milestone Number 2.

The memory quickly receded. I was, of course, too young myself to have
been truly capable of love. Yet to-day, as I look back, but for that
one instant’s wavering, I can see how my whole life would have run.
From time to time I followed her career, saw her photograph in the
public fashion show blazoned forth in newspaper and periodical; read
occasional news of her reported engagements, and then, lost in the
maelstrom of a malevolent infatuation, I put her finally from my mind,
as at that time I put from me all memories of a life where quiet, order
and simple ideals dominated.

I cabled home my decision to enlist. A month later, among the frantic
letters from the family, I found one from her.

  Dear old Davy:

  Molly has just told me and I can’t help writing to you. We are no
  longer children, are we? And the old misunderstanding was of a boy
  and a girl. I have always bitterly regretted it. I don’t know whose
  fault it was,--perhaps both. If I was to blame I am truly sorry.
  I have never forgotten the old days or how fine you were with me.
  In all my life there has been nothing more _honest_. I cannot bear
  to have you go without knowing it. If you will let me, it will
  mean a great deal to me if I could help just a little,--keep you
  in touch with things at home, and let you know how many, many of
  your friends are keeping you in their thoughts. May I,--please,
  Davy--for old times.

  Just as I used to be,
  ANNE.

I have the letter in my hand and to-day the memory hurts. The _cafard_
is strong on me, and the futility of my drifting existence. There are
other letters, chatty, carefully restrained letters, matching the tone
of my answers,--but this one I keep, for sometimes, in moments of
depression, in the passionate revulsion to living, I turn to what might
have been.

       *       *       *       *       *

At this point, Coustic came in with my orders. To-morrow I am to set
out for Paris, there to report before an examining board. He stared at
my long face and the open diary.

“What’s wrong, youngster?”

“Thinking of home, _mon vieux_.”

“What are you writing there,--a romance?”

“It passes the time.”

“Literature? Bad for the nerves. Don’t do it. You can’t change
anything--can you?”

“Evidently not.”

“Come with me. We’ll dine at La Mère Argentine’s,--a couple of red
bottles and--to hell with the rest! _Moi, je suis philosophre._”

Which, after all, was the best thing I could do. And so, out for a last
dinner with Coustic and Valentin and then no more. Quick friends and
open hearts,--but when you haven’t the time, as Coustic says, to smell
a man over, it must be open-handed and open-hearted at once. Besides,
one man is as good as another, to smoke with, to dine with, and to damn
the politicians.--I drank my two bottles and sang with the loudest, but
it cured nothing. To-night I feel the dead weight of homesickness as
never before. The prospect of Paris brings no pleasure.


VI

  _Paris_

At the Quai d’Orsay, where I debarked three nights ago, the old days
came back to me with a vividness of pain which I had not expected; the
old careless days of another world which has been snuffed out. I walked
out alone, being _en permission_, feeling my way along the black banks
of the hidden Seine. The street where she had lived was close at hand
and habit was so strong that despite my reason I felt the tug of old
instinct. Where was now that light, reckless crowd, so indefatigable
in the scampering pursuit of pleasure? Scattered to the four winds of
heaven. Most of the women have drifted away,--some to London, some to
America; one, a fortune’s favorite, died in an air raid; another, a
suicide after her lover’s death, one whom I had not thought capable
of a real passion. The test of war has redeemed some of the men--there
were the good with the bad--by some spark of a saving ancestry, perhaps
simply from a gambler’s love of a new hazard. Those who were born to
fight have found a purpose; the rest,--well, it does not much matter
what has become of the froth: all that matters is that a man or two,
whom once we despised, has redeemed himself with an heroic death. All
these memories are inseparably bound up with the experience which, I
suppose, was bound to come into my life,--that I believed erased from
my memory, but which to-day remains a haunting, ominous specter which
sooner or later must be faced.

The memory that obtrudes is of a clouded page in my life--a
chapter which I fatuously hoped had been closed and laid aside
forever--something to be regretted, to stand as a warning in the
future, and yet inclining me to a greater charity. This I know is the
experience of many men. That in my case, by some malignant turn of the
fates, it should remain in tragic permanence, is something against
which I rebel.

       *       *       *       *       *

I think that I can now look back dispassionately upon the David
Littledale of 1913 and recognize the impulses which led me into an
infatuation which, without the outbreak of the great war, would in all
probability have left me a moral wreck.

Even as I write this severe judgment, I react against it. Perhaps I am
too harsh upon myself. It may be that of my own will I would have found
the strength to free myself of the humiliating bondage--perhaps--but I
am not sure.

Yet I am quite certain that not for a moment was I in love with Madame
de Tinquerville. Curiosity, vanity, habit, idleness; the pride of a
young man still a boy in the ways of the world; a fancied domination
over a woman accomplished in artifice; an unsated appetite for
pleasure; susceptibility to flattery; the old Littledale failing of
intense exaggeration in all things; all these motives I clearly see.
And then,--I was playing at love, which often is more dangerous than
love itself.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have frequently heard women of the demimonde referred to as dangerous
women. There is nothing dangerous in such women except to a young and
inexperienced man, with quick sympathies and a conscience. They carry
their warning on their faces. The woman who is truly dangerous is
the unsuspected woman who waits behind the mask of a Madonna. Since
my arrival, twenty instances have reminded me of the woman I knew as
Letty, Madame de Tinquerville.

I do not know that I can be entirely dispassionate as I look back over
this incident in my life. _Tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner_: to
understand everything is to forgive everything. There may have been
in her life, in her inheritance, or in her tradition--perhaps in her
earlier contact with men--things which would make her comprehensible. I
do not know them. There is a mystery of evil and good in us that defies
analysis. It is so in my case; it must be so in hers. And yet,--she
is the only human being in my experience who did evil from the sheer
delight of doing it. She did it as a child plays with some defenceless
animal. Yet there was nothing obvious about her, and in all the
different societies through which she moved I doubt if more than five
men ever suspected what lay behind her quiet, strictly conventional
attitude toward life.

       *       *       *       *       *

I met her first at the studio of a fashionable artist, Enrico Gonzalez,
in the midst of a Goya fête, to which the fashionable, slightly
_déclassée_ society of cosmopolitan Paris had come, eager for a new
sensation.

I saw her directly I had passed under the swinging lanterns and entered
the glowing studio. Amid the gay confusion of reds and yellows, greens
and purples of gala Spain, she stood out, slight and dark in the black
velvet serenity of her costume,--an infanta with a certain intuitive
dignity of childish astonishment.

She saw my persisting look, studied me a moment, and asked a friend to
present me. The next moment I was at her side, flattered, inviting her
to dance.

She shook her head with a smile.

“What--not dance?”

“Never, in public.”

She motioned me to a seat and, looking at me intently, said:

“Tell me, where have we met before?”

“I am certain that I have never seen you.” I was on the point of
adding, “For I could not have forgotten it,” but instinctively feeling
how banal the answer would seem to her satiated ears, I refrained.

She looked at me, unconvinced.

“You are quite certain?”

“Yes, quite.”

“As children, perhaps?”

“No.”

My manner seemed to amuse her. She studied my face a moment, and then
said:

“You are from the South; from Virginia, perhaps?”

“Not even that. A Yankee from Connecticut.”

“Strange! I shouldn’t have thought it.”

After a moment, as if her interest in me had ceased, she asked:

“You like to dance, of course?”

I bowed my assent.

“There is a little girl from the Opéra over there who dances
beautifully. Ask her to dance.” Then, as I rose, perplexed, not quite
certain whether to be angry or not,--“and later, come back and talk to
me.”

The conversation had been in French and, though I was certain she
was not of that nationality, I was unable to place her. I know that
my first movement was one of mistrust, for my answers had been
unnecessarily brusque. For no reason whatsoever I was conscious of
an instinctive antagonism and yet I obeyed her suggestion and began
a tango. From time to time I glanced in the direction of Madame de
Tinquerville but, though I was certain she was observing me, each time
I sought her glance I found her in languid conversation with the group
of young men who surrounded her.

The dance ended. With a growing antagonism, I asked myself why I had
so docilely followed her request. With a resentment that was like a
child’s, I avoided her and did not speak to her again that night. This
was the instinctive revulsion of our first meeting.

       *       *       *       *       *

Yet from the crowd I watched her. Very small, she seemed slighter for
the prevailing note of black. The only note of color was the natural
brilliance of her lips,--extraordinary lips, full and, the lower one,
sensuously so, lips that had just been plunged into strawberries;
eyebrows like the flight of ravens’ wings; a nose that might have
been Cleopatra’s, thin-bridged and slightly irregular; eyes black as
Africa, not nervously alert like the glance of the city woman, which is
crowded with shifting details, but with the fixed contemplation of one
accustomed to gaze steadily towards far horizons and clear spaces.

Her manner? At first contact utterly impersonal, interested only in
herself, in her pretty poses, her transparent fingers and her dainty
feet. I remember thinking that one might live with such a woman a
lifetime and never know her inmost thoughts,--if thoughts there were
behind the mask. She had two characteristic smiles which I learned to
know; one for the public,--the smile that she wore like a necklace.
Occasionally, when something stirred a slumbering spark in her, a
smile all excitement and vibration suffused her face like the flash of
footlights: it was then that mischief was brewing. My first impression
was of distrust: of a woman all instinct, tyrannous, jealous, adroit,
feline, languid, brooding, voluptuous, hidden and, above all, without
sense of pain, either for herself or for others.

       *       *       *       *       *

I retained only a troubling memory of this pungent, irritating
impression when, a few days later, I received a formal note inviting me
to call. I was flattered. I went.

She was alone. She made no reference to my avoiding her, led me to talk
with intelligence, turned any approach to intimacy, and was so natural
and gracious that I asked myself in astonishment why I should have felt
such a sudden antagonism. In a short time, without my being able to
distinguish the gradual progression, I was enveloped in the insidious
charm of her personality as completely as though she had bound me hand
and foot. For six months I forgot everything else in the world and
followed where she led, allowing her slender fingers to turn my destiny
according to their malicious fancy.

How did she do it? As skilfully as one plays a trout.
Indifference--with a sudden touch of simulated interest, immediately
withdrawn as soon as offered--a little opening of the doors to intimacy
and, once I had learned to expect it, an abrupt refusal; the power to
read me and to rouse my appetites and my vanities: in a word, the
ability to create the illusion of being pursued and of waking in me the
instinct of the pursuer.

       *       *       *       *       *

I learned of her life only by hearsay, never from her own lips.
Paris is full of just such women; the drift of strange currents, out
of mysterious beginnings. Her father was an Irish adventurer, John
Finucane, who by devious and clouded ways had amassed some fortune
in Egypt and the Orient. Her mother, according to one story, was the
daughter of an Arab sheik; according to another, a gypsy; others
ascribed to her the rôle of a woman of the circus, a wandering
mountebank. I saw her once and, allowing for all exaggerations, she was
undoubtedly of some Eastern strain,--an inheritance apparent in Letty.
Madame de Tinquerville had married early an old roué of that well-known
family, impoverished and exiled to a minor diplomatic position, and
who, shortly after bringing his bride and her fortune back to Paris,
left her a widow.

She was, I am certain, thoroughly conscient in everything she did. The
corruption she exerted over me was both mental and moral. I had come
back to Paris filled with enthusiasm and ambition. My self-discipline
disappeared. I threw myself into a life of pleasure and dissipation. My
days were disorganized and I obeyed only the craving for excitement,
movement, and rapidly succeeding sensations. My old philosophy, simple
and proud, yielded to the worldly wisdom of the facile luxury which
surrounded me. I saw how easy it was to achieve by social trafficking
what men spent lifetimes laboriously to acquire.

       *       *       *       *       *

Not that I yielded without a struggle. At times, scenes of extreme
violence broke out between us; scenes I realize now it was her
delight to provoke. Though of strong and violent passions, I had
always held myself in firm control. What had been an orderly, measured
mode of life, contemplative, tolerant, and good-humored, now became a
tumultuous succession of days and nights, when every nerve was raw to
the exposure. I found myself irritable, suspicious, passing from sudden
depressions to feverish flights of gayety; quick at offence and wincing
under the new tortures which she invented each day for the perverse
delight of proving to herself how completely she held me in subjection.
Why I did not strangle her in some blind moment of rage, I do not know.

This I will say: she did not lack courage. It never failed her in the
dangerous excesses of jealousy she provoked in me, for, even as my
fingers itched to close over her delicate throat, at a sudden smile,
at a look in the shadowy eyes, at a caress from her fingers, the heat
would vanish from my brain and I would be pliant in her hands. Perhaps
it was this constant revolt--the rough, untamed animal in me--that
interested her. Did she care for me, or not? At this moment, despite
the tragic sequence of events, I am not certain but that at bottom,
despite all her malignant appetites, her joy in destruction, her
catlike love of cruelty, for some unknown reason, she genuinely loved
me,--so far as she could comprehend love. Sometimes I believe that the
secret of her attachment to me was in my resemblance to some one whom
she had known and loved--as a young girl loves--before the flood of
corruption had contaminated her. It may be that I recalled this other
by some trick of look or manner. I do not know. I know very little of
her past life.


VII

As I try to reconstruct this episode, much of it remains blurred,--a
confused repetition of fatiguing emotions; scenes of jealousy no
sooner ended than begun again: revulsions in me away from her, weak
returns: the obsession of her presence; her caprices and her demands
disorganizing all the routine of a once methodical existence. Only a
few scenes come back to me vividly. Of her life I know as little as of
the motives which ran in her agile mind. I am beginning to see her now
with a colder point of view; then I did not understand her at all. We
never discussed her life or mine,--that is, what had happened before
our meeting.

I do not know her age exactly (perhaps twenty-five, perhaps thirty)
yet she seemed always of another generation, and old in the wisdom of
experience. I had often the curious feeling of not looking at her but
at the mirror of a woman, and of never being able to progress beyond
the pale reflection.

As I try to analyze her now, her salient quality was an utter inability
to feel pain. Nor do I believe she could understand it in others, even
when for her own enjoyment she was its cause. She was, of course, one
of those women of over-refined temperament who simulate sensations
they no longer can feel, seeking mentally what is no longer a natural
impulse. Her curiosity in inflicting pain was of this nature.

       *       *       *       *       *

Occasionally, however, she was capable of an amazing frankness, whether
by cunning or from the inconsistency of her woman’s nature. Once, when
I sought to penetrate beyond her reserve--the occasion was after an
accidental meeting with her mother as we were driving in the Bois--she
said something to me in such prophetic artlessness that to this day I
wonder if for one moment this was not the true Letty.

Our carriages had met and passed and for an instant I had felt her
suddenly rigid at my side. I looked over and saw something out of
Letty’s past,--a thin, crooked old lady, very black, bejeweled and
grotesquely dressed, who was agitating a pink parasol as though it were
a bell-rope, to attract our attention. The next second, and we had
passed.

“Your mother?”

“Yes.”

She had been too startled to deny it.

“Letty,” I said eagerly, for the tone of her voice threw an air of
romantic mystery about her figure to me, “don’t you want to,--can’t you
tell me something of your life?”

She shook her head.

“To you, if to any one. Don’t ask me. It is too painful!”

She added, and at such moments I felt twenty years rushing in between
us:

“Life is only a succession of doors to be closed and never reopened. I
never do.”

Something made me reply:

“Not very flattering to me.”

She looked at me, and answered:

“Oh, you! How you will hate me, some day!”

It was by such unexpected remarks, by the very seeming frankness of
an abrupt confession, that she knew how to rouse my curiosity and to
surround herself with a glamor of mystery. I believed in her sorrows
until the day came when I was shocked out of my fatuity and saw the
feline delight in playing with a wounded animal which alone was
insatiable in her character.

I have often wondered over that speech and why she had made it. A
sense of the dramatic, a moment’s indulgence in absolute truth, a sure
sense of the effect on my tempestuous imagination, to be warned of
danger? Perhaps, all three.

“_Life is only a succession of doors to be closed and never reopened._”

It is strange how a phrase remains when a memory has been conquered.
This phrase, which summed up all her defiant, selfish, worldly wisdom,
has come back to me again and again and, though I am freed of the
tyranny of her malicious personality, the poison of her philosophy
still lurks in my memory.

       *       *       *       *       *

There are moments when we look back in cold memory and cannot
comprehend the whence and the wherefore of the hot fever that once
dominated every sense and drove us through the hallucination of a
passion. So with me, to-day.

When I think of Jenny Barnett, I seem to remember a confidence told
me by a friend of college days: when I recall Letty, I seem to recall
a chapter in some unhealthy romance. It is impossible that I and that
David Littledale are one and the same person!

       *       *       *       *       *

The heart of a man is like running water,--the years in their course
purify the moral contagion. I do not know that this is true of all men.
Perhaps those who remain in the stagnant pools of little existence
never free themselves of the scum of the past; yet it is true of those
who venture out into the traveling current. In a large sense, it is
true of the generations, that move as great rivers move,--and in this
running purification is the hope of all society.

       *       *       *       *       *

Why, at this period of my life, should I have fallen so completely
under the spell of such a woman as Madame de Tinquerville? It was not
genuine love that caused it, for as I conceive love it is the calm of a
great certainty,--and with Letty it was never anything but a ceaseless
conflict. If not Letty, would it have been some one else? Was it an
experience which I was to undergo,--an impulse that came from within
me, rather than from outside? Perhaps I understand better to-day the
springs of my impulses.

There are in most men two strong and opposite impulses towards
women which, at first sight, appear contradictory but are easily
reconcilable, as they spring from the two linked needs of their natures
and are the key to the many seeming inconsistencies, infidelities,
abrupt passions and incomprehensible tyrannies into which their
sentimental cravings lead them. A man seeks in woman saint and sinner,
calm and tempest, salvation and demoralization.

As architects of life our instincts are towards order and discipline,
yet we are eternally seeking the thing that will upset our
self-control. We are irresistibly attracted by what threatens our
equanimity, enslaves our senses, imprisons our will,--for that brief,
fleeting ecstasy which we feel at its fullness only when we are aware
that we have cast aside the reins of our government. But, as the
abiding instinct of our nature is order, there remains always the
ideal of woman, which represents the revulsion to sanity, calm and
serenity,--back to which we grope with reverence and to which we fasten
with the instinct of self-preservation. I know this is true, though
to-day this woman, the woman who is serenity and order, has not come
into my life.

So intimately entwined are these two natures, these twin struggling
impulses, that they often remain confused and inseparable. This is the
explanation of the two tragedies of society, each proceeding from the
same complex source: the phenomenon of a man’s marrying his mistress
and that darker mystery which remains behind the curtain of marriage,
the debasing of an ideal once raised in reverence.

       *       *       *       *       *

The ease with which I yielded to her dominance, the disorganization
into which I plunged, and the violent revulsion which came in the end
are explainable, I believe, by this conflict in our nature. But then
I did not reason thus, I did not reason at all, and therein lay the
danger,--a danger that I shudder now to contemplate.

What was the essence of this corruption which she exercised over
me,--that was more moral and mental than physical? It was in the
stifling of all the youth and ambition of my nature by the baleful
weight of her age-old weariness of intellect. She took a keen delight
in seeking out my illusions, one by one; of slowly destroying them
before my eyes under her malicious wit. She taught me that all striving
was futile, that youth was a season of riotous enjoyment for the wise,
and that only fools sacrificed it in a groaning pursuit of an ambition
which could never be attained.

“Why strain for the thing that is here, at your finger tips?
This is the fullness of life; seize it. What would you seek?--a
career?--fame? My dear little Davy, you are not a genius. Your talents
are not even considerable. The chances are that after ten years of
drudgery you would only have condemned yourself to the bitterness of
disillusionment! What do men seek in fame? Just the vanity that a
pretty woman has to be noticed as she enters a restaurant. Believe me,
the quality of youth, which you hold so lightly, is worth all your
drowsy, rheumatic celebrities! You have senses given you to enjoy life
with,--enjoy it!”

“And, the end--”

“Who knows what may be the end? Rather remorse than regrets!”

All her philosophy was summed up in this sentence. Yet she was
exceedingly punctilious in her religious observances and, although
she had a sort of dare-devil courage, she hated so the intrusion of
realities that she would turn down a side street rather than meet a
funeral.

       *       *       *       *       *

The struggle to free myself was a hideous one. Again and again I
determined to fling off the unhealthy bondage that weighed on my
freedom of thought, and as often, from weakness, from fear of giving
pain, with rage and hatred in my soul, I temporized. The fear of giving
pain! How it holds a man at the last to his own destruction! For I was
still innocent enough of what such a world can hold of depravity to
believe that, such as she was, she loved me with all the good and bad
of her nature.

Once, after a week of mutual recriminations, driven beyond my strength
by her simulated scenes of jealousy, I went to her, determined to
provoke a final rupture. I can still remember the rage in my heart as I
came into her salon that night of the final rupture that calls out the
primitive criminal which abides in all of us. For criminal instinct is
essentially the instinct of the survival of the fittest, and in that
moment when, rightly or wrongly, we reach the frenzy where we must tear
from us the arms that hold us back,--we destroy as criminals destroy. I
cannot think of what might have happened that night, without a shudder.

I came resolved to wound her on the raw, to force her out of her calm,
and in the clash of our hatreds to find my escape. Yet, despite taunts
and insults, she remained superbly self-possessed,--complete mistress
of the situation. When from very exhaustion I stopped, she looked up
at me, with her smile of Mona Lisa, her eyes sparkling with triumph,
and said carelessly:

“So you love me as much as that!”

“Love you?” I cried, choking with inarticulate rage. I tried to
continue but I could not. I felt that if I remained another minute in
her presence I did not know what I might do. “The end--thank God! The
end!”

I flung up my arms, with a horrible laugh, and bolted for the door. But
as I went I heard her clap her hands, as a delighted child might have
done, and her voice came to me:

“David--you will come back.”

       *       *       *       *       *

And back I returned, to delude myself, once more, with her sudden
melting repentance, to listen to her self-accusation, to believe that
all she had done wickedly and consciously had been only the instinct of
a jealous woman to know how completely she was loved. Not a delectable
page in my life. I set it down as it happened, without extenuation.
Yet, two days later, I was free of her, forever! She lied to me and I
caught her in the lie.

       *       *       *       *       *

We were to have dined together and to have gone to the theater, but she
had written me the day before that she would be forced to leave town.
This had often happened and this postponement did not in the least
excite my suspicion. A young Frenchman, the Comte Maurice Plessis de
Saint Omer, one of my intimate friends, happened to drop in on me, and
agreeing to dine together, we set out for Foyot’s, near the Luxemburg,
bent on an epicurean dinner and a quiet evening.

Maurice de Saint Omer, in the pleasure-seeking crowd in which we moved,
had the reputation of being a great dandy and my natural attraction
towards him was considerably enhanced by the compliment to my vanity.
He came of one of the great families of France which named its
ancestors before the Crusades (his father was the Duc de Saint Omer
and the château is the famous one near the Lorraine border). While he
lived the life of a thorough man of the world, as it was understood
in the Paris before the war, he brought to all relations of life
dignity and distinction. He was neither rake nor profligate. Straight,
tawny-haired, nose high-bridged and sensitively chiseled, blue-eyed and
soft of voice, almost too elegant for our American ideal, his courage
and tact had made him one of the arbiters on the field of honor. Why he
should have taken to me, I do not know, but he did, and he occasionally
favored me with his confidences. My own entanglement with Madame de
Tinquerville was known to him. In fact, for months all his influence
had been exerted to show me the quicksands into which I was sinking. We
were talking of her as we neared the restaurant.

“And La Belle Tinquerville?”

“I was to have dined with her to-night but she was called to St.
Germain.”

“No use warning you, my dear fellow, I suppose?”

“Evidently not,” I answered moodily. “I must work out my fate alone.”

“At least--open your eyes.”

“In what way?”

“Neither she nor you is the slightest in love.”

“What do you call it, then, when one moment you are ready to do murder,
and the next you are as weak as a child, ready to believe anything,
undergo anything, afraid of everything?”

“My dear friend, I went through that, at the age of sixteen, with a
little girl in a _laiterie_ who could not write five words correctly
and who ran off with a lawyer’s clerk. The trouble is you are still
sixteen. You know, I do not discuss women lightly; my principles are
fixed on that point. But you have come to me as a friend and as a
friend I am once more going to warn you.”

“Go on,” I said, shrugging my shoulders.

“My dear David,--you have no place in this society of ours,” he said,
taking my arm. “You have a heart, and you have no knowledge of the
conventions of the game. We do not love in this crowd; we play at
love; just as we do not discuss; we play at discussing. We meet, to
fence lightly and gracefully, with tremendous lunges,--which are
always parried. We do not seek a woman because we want her but because
twenty other men want her and--we wish to carry off the prize. You are
seeking romance, and--it has never crossed our thresholds. This society
is old: it refines only on its emotions. It is egotistical, selfish,
superficial, and self-indulgent. There isn’t a man or woman in it who
doesn’t love himself or herself better than anything else in the world.
Madame de Tinquerville may be better, or worse, than the rest of her
set. I do not know. If you were an American nabob, perhaps she might
make up her mind to marry you. Luckily, you are not. There is something
primitive enough in you to resist and rebel. There is still something
young in you,--a piece of a real heart left. When she has completely
broken you, dominated you and corrupted you, you will cease to interest
her. Bid her good-by before she closes the door in your face.”

“Every word you say is the truth,” I said impulsively, “but,--then--”

“I know,--I know,” he said, laughing, and then, turning to a more
serious tone, he added, “Do not think me cynical. I am not. There exist
in this world women that are worthy to be loved, in reverence. One day
I shall meet a young girl whom I can respect and adore as I do the
ideal of womanhood that is in my mother and sister, but when I take a
wife I shall never bring her to this poisoned atmosphere. David, if you
were a man of the world, if you could keep to the surface of things, I
should shrug my shoulder, but you can not.” He gripped my arm tightly.
“You are not even a man. Confess that it is only your vanity that holds
you, that at bottom you hate this entanglement that humiliates you and
corrupts you.”

“It is a nightmare,” I said gloomily.

“Well, then?”

“In her way,” I said, “she loves me.”

He stopped and looked at me in amazement at my innocence. I did not
understand his look then. I do, now. He started to speak. I can imagine
what was on the tip of his tongue but, beyond a certain point his
notion of chivalry would not permit him to go.

“In that case, my dear David, I have nothing more to say. Your
appetite, at least, is not affected?”

“Not in the least.”

“Then a very good solution to all problems is a certain _Canard au
vin blanc_ and gooseberries, that Carlo will cook for us with his own
hands!”

We had ascended the old Rue de Tournon, the Senate rising ahead of us.
We entered the restaurant, and the first person I saw was Madame de
Tinquerville, dining _en tête-à-tête_ with a man unknown to me.

She looked up, saw me, and glanced down again, quickly. We passed into
the inner room and took a table. Something exploded in my brain.

“You saw?” said De Saint Omer.

“Yes.”

“You are convinced?”

“Quite. The man?”

“Pedro Fornesco,--an Argentine millionaire.”

“How long has this been going on?”

“Three months.”

I began to laugh. De Saint Omer slipped his hand over my wrist.

“David--it is Providence.”

“Thank God,” I said loudly, but, despite myself, I felt a cold in the
small of my back and a dryness in my throat.

“Will you follow my advice?” he said, studying me anxiously.

“Wait.” I put my head in my hands and drew great breaths, while I
fought for calm and decision.

“Now.”

“You are sure of your control?”

“Absolutely.”

“No scenes?”

“I give you my word.”

“That must be understood,” he said firmly. “No public scandal--no
dramatics, my friend, or as sure as you are sitting here you will have
to answer to me. Is that understood?”

“I assure you I never was more master of myself,” I said, smiling, and,
indeed, a cold indifference had come to me. I felt a tempest raging in
my brain and somewhere in that tempest a voice crying, “Now or never!”

“Very well, I believe you. Carlo!” The head waiter came hastily to us.

“Carlo. A table opposite M. Fornesco,--the one that is engaged.”

“M. le Comte--”

“Carlo--this is an exception. I _must_ have it.”

His eye met the head waiter’s, who hesitated and bowed. We rose and,
sauntering into the main dining room, seated ourselves two tables away
from Madame de Tinquerville, in an angle that was partitioned off from
the rest of the room. When, with an appearance of casualness, I turned
to watch her, I saw in her eyes a look of abject terror. Every such
woman believes more or less in the dramatics of Camille and, from that
moment to the end, I know Letty awaited the public scene that would
strip her sacred reputation and leave her the butt of Paris gossip.
As for myself, I was at that moment capable of the greatest cruelty
without the turning of a hair: I found resources of self-control in me
that astounded me. I laughed, discussed affairs of the day whimsically,
and swapped anecdotes, as though out on a collegian’s holiday. Madame
de Tinquerville watched me from the corner of her eye, never losing me
from her gaze, listening, waiting--

Towards the end of the dinner, De Saint Omer said to me:

“You know the anecdote on Gommecourt,--no? Quite amusing. I’ll tell it
to you. Besides,--there is a moral.”

“A moral?” I said, feeling that the comedy was about to begin.

“Gommecourt was a young parvenu of the time of the Regence who had
become involved in an affair with a celebrated actress of those days.
He was avaricious, vain, prudent, and not without a certain wit, as you
shall see.”

The conversation at Madame de Tinquerville’s table had stopped. De
Saint Omer’s voice could be heard distinctly, and I knew that Letty was
listening breathlessly.

“When it was time for Gommecourt to marry, he was much embarrassed how
to break away from his charming but expensive friend. He took up a pen
and wrote a long and very tender letter, recalling his past happiness,
his regret at the decision of his family,--a very, very moving,
affectionate, temperamental and tragic letter, and at the end he wrote,
‘I shall never forget, and I send you an order for one hundred thousand
francs.’”

“Very handsome,” I said mechanically, not yet seeing daylight.

“A little too handsome--as Gommecourt decided, after a very brief
struggle. He wrote a second letter, a very tender letter, too, but a
little modified in its transports of passion, and ended by announcing a
gift of fifty thousand francs.”

“Very prudent.”

“Wasn’t it? You see, Gommecourt was of good, thrifty stock. The more
he considered it, the more absurd it seemed to him to give way to his
impulses. And then, suppose she had not been faithful? He wrote a third
letter, quite formal this time, and cut the sum to twenty thousand
francs.”

By this time the conversation at the other two tables had ceased,
and every one was listening, quite frankly amused at De Saint Omer’s
vivacious account.

“So, Gommecourt, quite delighted with his two transactions by which
he had saved himself eighty thousand francs, arose to send off letter
number three. But, halfway to the bell, suddenly he stopped, struck
his forehead and exclaimed, ‘But, after all, it’s simpler than that!’
And, returning to the table, he wrote a final letter, thus,--‘I have
discovered all. Adieu.’”

“Bravo!” I cried loudly, above the ripple of laughter which greeted the
ending. “And he was right.”

“You like the anecdote?”

“Excellent.” I glanced at Madame de Tinquerville and saw her rigidly
examining her plate. “But it doesn’t fit all cases,--since we are now
talking of ruptures.”

“Oh, a friend of mine had an even better expedient!”

“I should like to know it,” I remarked, pretending to laugh. “One never
knows--”

“He simply took his card and marked on it ‘P.P.C.’ and left it at her
home. That, and nothing more.”

“Thanks for the idea.”

I drew out my portfolio instantly and selected a card. The couple next
to us, deceived by my gayety, began to laugh.

“A pencil?”

“Be careful!” said De Saint Omer, under his breath.

“Don’t worry.”

I took the pencil he offered me, after a little hesitation, and
inscribed the three letters.

“Carlo! An envelope--and call a taxi.”

“David! No scene.”

“Don’t worry, I tell you.”

I addressed the envelope, slipping the card into it and, the reckoning
being paid, rose and stood deliberately facing Madame de Tinquerville.
For that one awful moment, which I prolonged, I paid her back in terror
the thousand humiliations of those hideous months.

Then we lifted our hats with exaggerated ceremony and went out.

We left the letter at her _concierge’s_ and went directly to my
apartment.

“You have letters--keepsakes--of hers?” asked De Saint Omer.

I nodded.

“Make a package of them and leave them with the _concierge_, to be
given to her when she calls--”

“When she calls?”

“Idiot, she will come at once! And now, throw some things in a bag, and
come away with me for a couple of weeks’ fishing.”

       *       *       *       *       *

As I look back at it now I am filled only with a feeling of nausea.
All I can say in extenuation of this period, when the thinking man had
ceased and was near to the brute, is that for weeks I had not been
master of myself, that I moved in a delirium of passionate anger,
weak jealousy, with every nerve unstrung and every impulse riotous,
incapable of either controlling or judging my action.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is not a chapter that I like to contemplate but, as it was I write
it down. For the mystery of evil is that out of it there often comes a
revulsion to sanity. I am not sure but in the end it was beneficial.
The shock of experience made me see myself as I was, and after the
disorganization the primeval spirit of order awoke in me, and now that
I am seeking to build up again it is as my own mason, consciously and
responsible.

The trouble with the New England tradition is its lack of flexibility.
Nothing gives, but it breaks. Yield the slightest, and everything
crumbles. We lack a sure sense of values and are therefore at the
mercy of little things as well as great. We conceive of man’s struggle
against the forces of demoralization as the defence of a fortress: one
breach made, and capitulation follows. More mature reflection, tempered
with a knowledge of good and evil, has led me, I think, to a broader
philosophy. We are not intrenched in our beliefs but are mobile forces,
constantly maneuvering, constantly at war--turned back here, advancing
there--with only the ultimate objective important.

       *       *       *       *       *

We had been gone but four days when the war broke out and we separated,
he to join his regiment, and I to enlist in the Foreign Legion. His
last words to me were, “David, my dear friend, if through weakness you
return now, you are worse than the most despicable of men,--you will be
utterly lost. After this, Madame de Tinquerville will hate you or love
you beyond anything else in life,--and either will be fatal.”

I did not see her again. I threw myself into the war as a salvation,
seeking an escape from a life that filled me with horror, hating and
despising myself, asking only to forget. She wrote me many letters,
frantic, repentant, imploring an answer, and then a final one--the rage
of a woman scorned--full of veiled threats. I did not answer them.

I heard indirectly that she had entered the Red Cross, devoting herself
with a courage and determination that had surprised every one. When
the memory had receded and my normal self had returned, I was willing
to believe that the mobilization which had come to France as a moral
re-birth had perhaps reached the Magdalene in her,--as in how many
others! Yet, I wondered how much the dramatic impulse was responsible.

But the scales had fallen from my eyes. It was not against the woman
but myself against which I revolted with every force in me. The strange
thing is that, once the rupture was complete, she passed completely out
of my existence, and in a fortnight I was looking back upon that period
with incredulity. Events were too colossal to remember private sorrows.
I felt myself, at last, one of a great army of action, redeemed to
meaning and purpose.

       *       *       *       *       *

Those who did not see the mobilization can never have a conception of
all that war can bring of sublimity and purification,--as those who
never knew the first winter in the trenches cannot imagine the long
horror of that soul-crushing defence. If the war had only ended in the
first year! But, it didn’t. Incredulity succeeded the first flaming
rise of faith. Neither the end nor the issue can now be foreseen. Those
who had faith remain in that faith; others, to whom faith had come as a
revealing experience, have lapsed into the old easy habits. Life has
readjusted itself along the lines of war, and society has returned to
its old divisions! So it must have been with Madame de Tinquerville. By
the end of the year the impulse had burned out. The daily thing ceased
to be dramatic. Her old nature asserted itself. She drifted away to
England, and then to America, gradually and easily back into the life
of self-indulgence and pleasure she craved.

I had not heard of her for over a year and a half when, dragged out of
the inferno at Verdun, transported from a field hospital, more dead
than alive, to the Hospital du Val du Grace at Paris, I came out of a
battle for life to have a letter from my brother placed in my hands,
announcing his marriage to Letty, Madame de Tinquerville.

I went off into a delirium and for weeks fought against a return to
life. But the obstinate nature in me triumphed over my will, and
I found myself at last convalescent, facing the issue of some day
confronting the brother I loved with the knowledge of the secret which
must always be between us.

       *       *       *       *       *

The thing that frightens me, that leaves me cold when I think of it,
is this: Can she still have power over my senses? I say I am certain
that I never loved her, that this yoked hostility, this mutual tyranny
could not be love, and yet--Something there was that was insidious and
instinctive, something that blinded me and stopped my ears to warnings,
and sent me to her with the obsession of pursuit and conquest. I have
seen infatuation in other men and understood it, yet in myself it still
is incredible. If it had to be, I only hope it is a fever that has
burned itself out and left me immune for the future.--Yet now, as I
stop to analyze myself and my motives, as I look back at that scene in
the Café Foyot (I think I suffered as much as she did), and remember
the first wild leap of animal rage when I saw her with Fornesco at her
side, I wonder--

If I were only sure that I could write--Milestone Number 3.


VIII

  _November_

To-day I saw my brother, Alan, after six years. Through a chance
meeting, I found him living in the Luxemburg quarter. A girl answered
my knock. We stood confronting each other, mutually surprised. I
remembered her among the restless habitués of the Abbé de Thelême
and the Café de Paris, in the old days. The paint and artifice were
gone. She stood there, dark-eyed, frail, olive-tinted, considering me
suspiciously, her woman’s instinct warned of possible danger to the
thing she sheltered from the world.

“_Tiens_; it’s you, Toinon!”

She started forward and looked at me intently, but in her multitudinous
conception of man, my face was but a blur in the panorama.

“It’s me you want to see--what’s your business?”

“Does Mr. Alan Littledale live here?”

“And if he does?”

“I am his brother.”

Instantly her manner changed.

“Ah, you’ve come to take him away, then?”

Before I could answer, a voice from within cried querulously: “_Qui est
là?_”

The next moment a big frame, topped by a shaggy head, came into the
anteroom.

“Hello, Alan!” I said, extending my hand.

He drew back, scowling and undecided.

“What the devil brings you here?”

“My dear fellow,” I said, smiling. “You do happen to be my own flesh
and blood and, no matter how we’ve fought in the past, we’re both
Littledales, to the end.”

Now, Alan had scoffed and stormed against all our traditions but,
despite all, there still remained a lingering pride in the name. He
relented a little bit,--though with ill grace.

“If you’re coming in to lecture me--”

“Don’t be an ass, Alan,” I broke in good-naturedly. “I’m no more saint
than you are. Well, am I to come in or not?”

“You can come in.”

I had expected a shoddy, disordered interior. The little apartment
was immaculate; flower-boxes, red and white geraniums at the balcony
which gave on a garden; neatness, order, charm. I sat, asking no
questions,--puzzled. Was it from love of the man, or from the denied
natural instinct towards home-building? Toinon served the dinner, which
she had cooked herself; hesitated and then, at a sign from Alan, sat
down with us. When Alan left the room she turned to me and said, in a
warning voice: “He is very ill.”

Down the hall I heard him coughing.

“How ill?”

She shook her head.

“Does he realize--?”

“No, no.”

Dinner over, she cleared the table deftly and converted the room into a
salon, brought the tisane to her invalid, lit our cigars and, drawing
up her chair before the fire, began to crochet. But, all at once,
looking up, she said:

“If you’d rather be alone?”

“Stay, of course.”

I, studying the end of my cigar, waited, feeling his defiant glance on
me.

“Shocked?”

“Why?”

“You always were sanctimonious when it was a question of doing things
openly.”

“I haven’t come here to quarrel,” I said, smiling. His characterization
at the moment struck me as grotesque. So far, we had barely skimmed the
surface of things, and I felt the underlying hostility of his attitude.
Resolving to take the bull by the horns, I said:

“Alan, before we bury the past, as I hope we’ll do, I want to tell you
that I blame myself. I was unjust; we were all unjust to you. I regret
it with all my heart.”

He stared at me, as a man grudging to relinquish his advantage.

“What good will that do--now?”

“You are right. It can do no good--now. But we can’t talk as man to
man until we’ve had it out. So now you know how I feel. As for the
rest--I’ve done a lot of things, been a bigger fool than you’ve ever
been, so, your adjective doesn’t apply.”

He looked at me quizzically.

“You’ve changed; changed a lot! You talk like a two-fisted man. How
long have you been away from that precious family of ours?”

“About five years.” I drew a letter from my pocket. “It was through
Molly I heard of you.”

His face softened. “The one human being in the family.”

“And Rossie, Alan.”

“Yes, yes,--Rossie,” he said hastily. “Had he lived--but he didn’t.
Great God! What a family! As much human affection as you can squeeze
out of the hind foot of a horsefly! You--you were one of them, but
I--God knows why--I was different. I was stifling in that atmosphere
of smug egotism.” His voice rose as his face set in anger. The girl
looked up from her knitting and then at me, anxiously, but I knew that
it was better for him to give play to the pent-up grievances of years.
“I was stifling. I tell you--starved! A home? A mockery! A gallery of
granite statues. I can’t remember one single time having known what it
was to have a father or mother. I never knew a word of sympathy, a look
of love. You made me believe I was a lost soul--a gallows bird--you
made me believe it myself! Why? Because I had warm blood in my veins,
because I was human, had imagination, ambition, wild animal force. I,
who was worth the whole lot of you, you crushed out with your cold,
damned superiority, your conventionality and your pride in yourselves.
And now, you come here and acknowledge you were wrong! Sublime!”

“We were wrong.”

“Wrong? Can you give me back these ten years? Can you make me what I
should have been? Great heavens, this decent little devil here has got
more of a woman’s heart to her when she brings me my medicine than the
whole blooming lot of you ever dreamed of!”

Toinon, who only half understood, looked up.

“What are you saying about me, _mon ami_?”

“Only good things, and only half of what you deserve,” he said, laying
his hand on her shoulder. He sat down, exhausted, and leaning over,
buried his head in his hands.

“Now, you know what I think, what I shall always think. At that, though
I hate it all--your narrowness and priggishness and holier-than-thou
attitude--you’ve left your confounded Littledale pride in me. I _am_
one of you, under my skin, or else I’d marry the only human being--”
He stopped, looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t worry. I
won’t. Give me Molly’s letter.”

When he came to a part that told of my father’s ill health, he frowned
and looked up. “That’s why you’ve come round, is it?”

“What do you mean?”

“To take me back with you--grand reconciliation--prodigal son--and all
that sort of stuff?”

“I had no such thought,” I answered warmly. “As a matter of fact, I am
not going myself.”

“You’re not?” He looked at me, too sharply for comfort. “Why not?
Easiest thing in the world for you to get leave in your condition.”

“I want to get back to the Legion,” I said, looking away.

He saw there was more than I wished to say and probably he ascribed it
to a different reason for, the letter read, his manner changed, and he
said:

“Looks bad for the Governor. Well, I’ve nothing against him. A good
sort, in his way, and as he saw; a civilization that passes away with
the rising flood. Good sort--but utterly without significance. No--I
won’t go back. What a farce--to play the prodigal son! Why, Davy, I’ve
_lived_! You haven’t, none of you has. I’ve lived--I’ve seen--I’ve
been down in the depths and seen! And you’ve gone on playing at being
eighteenth century Littledales, and never realizing that you don’t
count! You don’t even realize what America--the new America--is!”

“I think I suspect it,” I said, surprised at the turn of the
conversation. I had come, I think, rather patronizingly, and I found
myself yielding to a mental supremacy.

“Your kind still believes in government by individuals; you can’t
even see what’s coming. It’s mass that counts, to-day. I don’t
say ‘majorities’: the world has always been governed by organized
minorities, and it always will be. You don’t know your generation; I
do; I’ve been one of them. I know what’s coming!”

“You don’t think much of our generation, I gather,” said I, startled at
the way his thought had run with mine.

“Of the generation of our kind? Precious little!”

“Well, Alan--that’s about my way of thinking.”

“Honest?”

“Why not?” I said, amused.

“What’s happened to you?” he said, pulling at his chin. “Aren’t you
satisfied with being a Littledale, with a Harvard accent, and a number
of good clubs, and parading up and down this private preserve God
made for you? You haven’t lost faith in your Divine right of being a
Littledale? Good God--he has!”

We broke out laughing and, leaning over, struck hands with a resounding
clap.

“Davy, damned if I expected this!”

“Well, Alan, you’ve been knocking round one way. I’ve knocked round
another: between us we must have gone up and down the scale,” I said,
settling back. “Well, what have you gotten out of it, and what do you
think of this funny old world of ours?”

He looked at me a long moment, still a little suspicious of me.

“I enjoy it,” he said, to my surprise.

“Really? As for me, I’ve had about everything I started with knocked
into a cocked hat.”

“Then there’s hope--so long as you cling to some sort of code.”

“Wonder if I do.”

“Aren’t there some things that you wouldn’t do, no matter what
happened? You wouldn’t forge--or cheat--”

“Well, hardly.”

“Well, David, that’s moral. Suppose my ideas shock you. They do most
persons. You asked just now what I’ve picked up these ten years. That’s
about the most important,--judging men by their codes. A man who’s got
a code of morals is moral, whether he’s a libertine, a horse thief
or--a minister. We start with about a hundred and fifty inhibitions
that are poured into our ears; we end with about five or six fences
which, no matter what happens, we won’t cross.”

“Don’t get you.”

“Take your man of the world, who considers every woman fair game; go
further down; take one who’ll think nothing of taking a woman to pay
his debts, use one woman to pay what he gives another; yet there are
certain things he won’t do. He won’t cheat at cards. That’s a code.
Take your criminal type. If there is something stops him somewhere--say
that it’s only going to the gallows without ‘peaching’ on a
friend--that’s a code,--his code of morals, and, by that, he’s moral!”

“You’re not serious,” I said, laughing.

“Never more so. Think me crazy--wild--eccentric--anything you want.
I’m looking from the bottom up towards your top-heavy society and
your morality, and I tell you that it’s only the man who won’t stop
at anything, who’ll cheat, lie, steal, seduce a young girl, traffic
in women--a man incapable of a code--that is absolutely, hopelessly
immoral. Look here; you’re still looking at things from a moral point
of view; you can’t help it. I’m just looking on--recognizing things as
they are--interested in the human game. You think I’m crazy, don’t you?”

“Frankly--yes.”

“You think I’m bitter--a rebel--my head against everything. Perhaps so;
once, very much so. Not now. Fact, I’m rather more of an optimist than
you. If we got down to it, you’d find I had a better opinion of mankind
than you.”

The excitement into which his defence of himself had worked him started
a coughing fit. Toinon came in and looked at me in warning. I rose
immediately, holding out my hand.

“Well, Alan, I don’t have to agree with you, do I, to say that I’m
honestly glad to talk to you?”

“No, no, of course not. I’m a queer dick, probably, but I’ve got
reasons for what I think. Don’t ask questions, if you don’t want my
answers.” He touched the decorations I wore and said, “I’m human
enough, though, to be glad you’re wearing those. Picked up a couple
myself, with the Canadians.”

“We never heard--”

“I was under an assumed name. Tell them at home about it when you
write.”

“Alan, there’s one thing,” I said, voicing a thought that had been
uppermost in my mind, “one thing I have a right to know--”

“Oh, go along with you. Of course, you’d have to say the obvious
thing,” he said, slapping me on the shoulder. “I’m well fixed. Thanks
just the same. And don’t worry about me; I’m picking up amazingly. Come
again. Come again, soon.”

He went off into the back room, that I might not hear his coughing.

“Is he any better?” I asked of Toinon, who had followed me to the door.

She shook her head.

“Gas--at Neuve Chapelle.”

“No hope?”

“He is condemned.”

I stood, moodily incredulous, unable to believe that beneath the vital
activity of the brain the inevitable, relentless contagion was working
in the body. Then I tried to thank her but made a sad botch of it.

“Whatever happens, Toinon,” I said, giving her my address, “remember
that I shan’t forget what you’ve done. I shall see that--” She looked
at me, so suddenly and so straight that I floundered and stopped. “I
meant if ever you were in need--” Still she kept her eyes directly on
mine, disdaining a reply and, under that look I stammered: “Forgive me.
I’m an ass--but it was kindly meant.”

Then, not knowing what to do, I took off my hat and made her an
absurdly exaggerated bow. She shrugged her shoulders and closed the
door. Which was no more than I deserved.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the hotel I found a card from Stephen Brinsmade, offering me a
rendezvous for the next day. I wonder if he is behind this transfer to
Paris, and what it means?

       *       *       *       *       *

I have set down as nearly as I can remember the circumstances of my
first meeting with my brother after the lapse of years. I do not
pretend to judge him for I am not in the mood to formulate judgments.
I only know that a great new current of thought flowed into my mind
and that I felt an eagerness to encounter again the opposition of his
strangely antagonistic and dispassionate mind. As for Toinon, I don’t
pretend to sentimentalize her kind. In my experience nothing is further
from the truth than the Marguerite Gauthiers of fiction.

The war, after a brief period of the hysterical emotionalism of
mob psychology, has shaken down society into much the same order
as before. The rear has its pagan side, a revulsion to life, a
frantic determination to eat, drink and be merry under the shadow of
to-morrow’s realism. There is an outward sobriety and a decent respect
for the black democracy of sorrow. Below the surface, revelry is as
_macabre_ as ever, for it must compress the passions of a lifetime into
a span of hours, and laughter is the hunger for unrealities. A few
of Toinon’s class--a very few--have turned Magdalene, some genuinely
impelled to service, most of them swayed by a new dramatic loyalty to
some man who brings them the new sensations of heroic love.

There is nothing sentimental about Toinon. She is a realist who looks
life steadily in the face. Yet she, too, has her code, as Alan would
have said.


IX

I am going back to America. I am going home! It has all come about
so quickly that I hardly know what I feel. If it were not for the
inevitable meeting with Letty--At the very thought everything in me
rebels: rather an exile of ten years than the hideous mockery of that
confrontation! Yet I am no longer a free agent; a superior destiny
is directing all my movements. To what end? For there is no choice;
my father has had a stroke and I have been sent for. In my present
condition there is no excuse that I can offer. America! Home! Despite
even the ominous shadow that awaits me there, I feel everything in me
palpitating at the prospect. I sail from Bordeaux in three days, with
Mr. Brinsmade.

       *       *       *       *       *

As I had begun to suspect, Mr. Brinsmade has been the quickening finger
in my transfer here. Yet I cannot reproach him, given the end in
view,--though at first, when he announced that he had secured me my
leave, I was inclined in my pride to be a little resentful. Of course,
being the legal representative of the great banking house of Gunther
and Son, purchasing agents in America for the French Government, a hint
from him is all that is necessary. When you reach the inner circle of
government you find always a very practical realism, and Brinsmade is
in all things a realist. Yet, there is another side to him.

I think I admire him genuinely as much as any man I know. He is utterly
free from cant or pretense. He is an idealist with an objective mind.
When I talk with him, I feel that I am building my philosophies on
the safe ground of things as they are. His knowledge of men and their
motives is stupendous. He is privileged to pass in the corridors of
the human opera, and though his knowledge gained of the dark places
might form another to cynicism,--not so Brinsmade. His mental attitude
is like his physical aspect,--genial, tolerant, unhurried, strong, not
through bluster but by the authority of his knowledge and experience.
The war has waked in him the desire for bigger things in America.
He says so frankly, and this new hunger in him, so close to my own
awakening, promises to be a great intellectual stimulus to me on the
trip over. There is no misunderstanding the quality of his affection
for me. I seem suddenly lifted out of a drear monotony of unchanging
days, back to a life of extraordinary vitality and promise.

       *       *       *       *       *

Saw my old friend, Maurice Plessis de Saint Omer. I should not have
known him. All the dandy is gone, the feminine languor and grace
sloughed off, and from underneath has emerged the grim, unyielding
granite of a race of warriors. He is commandant in a regiment of
dragoons and decorated with every honor. The mortality in his family
has been fearful, but he dismisses it quickly.

“Nothing matters,--except France!”

His optimism is that of absolute faith. I can imagine how his men must
adore him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Said good-by to Alan,--a stiff, unsatisfactory parting, in which
we acted like puppets, rather than human beings. But that is the
Anglo-Saxon of it. He gave me his decoration, to put in father’s
hand, and immediately began to joke about the family fetiches, our
cave-dweller’s point of view, etc., but I think it was to cover up his
emotion. He hates sentimentality.

“Good-by, then--”

“Good-by.”

We had separated as though it were the most casual parting in the
world. I wonder if I shall see him again.


X

  _Bordeaux_

My last night on the soil of France. To-morrow I leave for America,
and for a brief, incredible two months go back into the life that
was once mine, but which to-night is incomprehensible, strange and
unreal. I am writing in a little bedroom of the Hotel de l’Europe,
fitfully awake, and stirred at the thought of the change as I never
had believed possible. I don’t quite know this sudden self that is
come so imperiously into my mood. I am older by a dozen years than
this morning,--and by a mental decision that I feel deep down in my
heart has been made. To-night I believe has brought a crisis in my
life. I am not quite sure of my motives; I do not know that I wish
to examine them too closely. But to-night the old rebellion against
the obvious in life has somehow left me. I am conscious of a new point
of view. Acceptance of life, a middle-age philosophy, a yielding to
safe currents? Yes, all of these and, perhaps, most of all, just an
overpowering homesickness,--the cry in my heart to be back among my own
kind. For all of which I have Mr. Brinsmade to thank and the strangest
of strange confidences.

       *       *       *       *       *

It began quite naturally and I had not the slightest suspicion of
any serious purpose. We were dining in a papier-maché grotto of the
celebrated Chapon Fin when, in the midst of the meal, he looked over at
me and said abruptly:

“David, ever thought of getting out of the service?”

The question took me by surprise, coming so close to thoughts that had
haunted me for weeks.

“At times, when I get the _cafard_,” I admitted. “Every one does.”

“How long have you been in the Legion?”

“Over two years, now. There isn’t much of the glamor left, sir. It gets
to be a long drag without much light ahead.” A little regretful of my
frankness, I sought to justify myself. “You see, I went into it from
the spirit of adventure; it was a man’s job. I don’t say it wasn’t also
from love of the French. You couldn’t have seen that mobilization and
not have felt a thrill. Then--you do hate a bully. At bottom, though,
it was the adventure,--the biggest thing that had ever happened in the
world. You couldn’t be there and keep out of it.”

“But now--?”

“Now the thrill is gone,” I admitted. “It’s grim plugging, not much
fireworks or new business. When you’ve seen Verdun--”

“Yes?”

“When you’ve gone through that,” I said, frowning at the starting
memories of that inferno, “it takes it out of you.”

“It ages you--” he interrupted, looking at me.

“It’s hideous--horrible. I wake up at night even now and then and feel
myself back in it. You can’t imagine it. I can’t describe it. You go in
because you’re a soldier and a man,--that’s all. You expect to die--you
know you’re going to die; all there is to it is a blind rage for
killing and a prayer to die quickly when it comes.”

My hand was trembling and my eyes must have taken on that strange
far-off glaze which we bring back out of battle, for he stopped me with
a sudden grip on my arm.

“Here! That’s doing you no good. We’ll talk of other things.”

I looked at my hand, which was shaking, and feeling an attack of nerves
impending, I rose hurriedly and left the room.

“It takes you like that,” I said, when I had fought it out and
returned. “I’m sorry. I’m much better now. I don’t get it often.”

He looked at me gravely.

“Good heavens, man! Are you going back in that condition?”

“It won’t take a month to get me in shape.”

“It still attracts you?”

“I hate it.”

“Why, then?”

“Because,” I said, shrugging my shoulders, “because I hate this other
thing more,--this sitting out of it, when real men are doing!”

He hesitated, and then leaned forward.

“David, if you ever make up your mind--if you feel you need a longer
time to pull yourself together--or if you want to get out--let me know.
That’s all.”

This hurt more than he could understand, and my answer must have been
brusque, for though he spoke out of affection for me, he deserved it.

“Look here, Mr. Brinsmade, I don’t want things done that way.”

“I only meant--”

“Thank you, but there’s too much of that, already. Question of pride;
that’s all.”

He was tactful enough not to insist and turned the conversation.
Towards the end of the dinner, and a magnificent bottle of Château
Margot 1896, he said to me:

“David, you are a hard man to talk to.”

“Oh, no--if you talk directly.”

“All right: suppose I do. Let’s talk about Anne.”

“About Anne!” I exclaimed, taken off my guard.

“Suppose I should tell you, point-blank, I want you for my son-in-law?
Well, what astonishes you? My frankness?”

“Why sir, it’s very kind of you,” I began lamely, “but, Anne--?”

“Exactly. As to Anne,--I’m convinced she cares, always has cared,” he
said, leaning forward. “I know something happened. I don’t know whether
you want to talk about it. Really, I should appreciate--”

The interview had taken such an extraordinary turn that I found myself,
without surprise, answering:

“Mr. Brinsmade, quite frankly, I am not in love with Anne.”

“I know that now, but--”

“Once, for a time,--yes, I thought so. But neither of us had the right
to be thinking of such things, then. It was a boy and girl affair.”

“Quite sure that was all?”

“Quite. The trouble was I showed her what I felt, or thought I felt,
and from that came the inevitable complication and misunderstanding. We
were both very stubborn. Mr. Brinsmade, there’s another thing, since
we’re speaking plainly,” I added, suddenly impelled to frankness. “Do
you realize that in these years many things have come into my life? I
wonder if you would feel as you do--”

“David, you have been tried; that shows in your face,” he said, looking
at me keenly. “I have been a young man myself, and I don’t pretend to
misunderstand you. Perhaps this is unfair to you--”

“Mr. Brinsmade, there was a woman--I almost went on the rocks two years
ago,” I said abruptly, and immediately regretted it.

“Are you your own master to-day?”

“Yes--thank God.”

“Absolutely certain?”

“Absolutely.”

“That’s all I want to know,” he said, as though satisfied by the
estimate of his own eyes. “I appreciate your confidence, and like you
for it. I’m not partisan for the wild oats theory but, sometimes,
when you’ve been through the mill, it does leave you with a sense of
values.” Our eyes met, and each nodded in silent comprehension.

“Now, let’s go on. Was there ever a question of pride in it--on your
side?”

“Frankly and naturally, yes. I have no intention of going through life
on my wife’s pocketbook.”

“Good. Now the decks are cleared. As I thought. You’ve been frank.
So’ll I. Take up this question of money. What is money? Opportunity.
If men like yourself, who have ideas, energy, and ambition, refuse to
take the opportunity money offers you,--who profits? Some well-groomed
little parasite who will loaf through life genteelly until the day
when the real people rise and take it away from him. And quite right, I
say. And that is what I don’t intend to have for my daughter.” He cited
names of men, men in public life of our acquaintance, whose start in
life had been facilitated by the fortunes of their wives. “Look at it
from my point of view. I’ve made what I’ve made, and I want it to count
in this world. David, what do you intend to do in life?”

I shrugged my shoulders.

“Fight through the war.”

“But, after?”

“After!” I said incredulously. “I may take up the study of architecture
again, unless--unless I am able to do what I really want,--which is to
write.”

“So I supposed. Don’t decide quickly. The current is all the other
way. We are a country of action, and you’ve got that in you. I don’t
make mistakes in men. The real Americans are not those who sit and
meditate; they are those who are laying the foundations. Write? What
is the future? Deceptions. You know I’m not a low-brow, as they say.
Every night, before I go to sleep, I read an hour in Balzac. Books are
half my life, so what I say to you I say without narrowness. But what
are our writers to-day? The servants of a great public that wants to
be amused, diverted in moments of relaxation; a great mass that is
striving, combating, contending,--a public of children. Is that all
you want to do? Amuse them? Write for yourself: you’ll be over their
heads--misunderstood--if not ridiculed! The current is against you.
We move rapidly, and we read rapidly; a moment to laugh or dream, as
we read on the train. Hard for you,--yes, but what do individuals
count, to-day?” He laid his hand on my arm. “Commerce, science, public
affairs. You like a man’s job. That’s where it lies, and it’s our kind
that must lead. Jump into the fight. Wealth and education are not only
opportunities but responsibilities: that’s what we must understand. I
said I want you as my son-in-law, Davy. It’s more than that: I want to
invest what I’ve made in a man that counts. I want you with me. I want
to feel when it comes time for me to step out that I’m passing on the
power to count for big things to some leadership I’ve inspired.”

He talked some while in this strain and, despite myself, I felt myself
yielding to his persuasion. Brinsmade is not a selfish man. Among
his own friends he was looked at rather askance for his progressive
tendencies. I found myself thinking, with pride, “Here is a man,
thoroughly American, who has a sentiment of nationality; who does not
look at life from a detached point of view but has a sense of being one
in a multitude with a higher loyalty than his own interests--loyalty to
the name he bears--and a pride in the America that will come!”

I think he saw the effect he had produced on me and, shrewd lawyer
that he was, he did not insist. I left him, exceedingly flattered and
already inclined to the pleasant ways he opened to me.

       *       *       *       *       *

Just why I should feel any compunction is the thing that surprises me,
now. Yet I do feel,--well, if not compunction, a little uneasiness.
After all, up to now, whatever I have done has been done impulsively,
without a second thought as to the advantages or disadvantages to me.
This is another thing. For the first time, I am looking on life with a
middle-aged estimating of values,--and to-night is like a valedictory
to a youth that has fled.

In one way I almost resent the very frankness of his discussion with
me. For now I am somehow uneasily conscious that there must be a
certain grim deliberation about my future conduct. And I ask myself
again, “Is this a new phase of life into which I have entered,--a new
milestone left behind?”

       *       *       *       *       *

There are other things which haunt me. I know that with Brinsmade’s
influence with the French Government it would be an easy thing for
him to procure my discharge and, under the circumstances, with my
past record and my present condition, who could criticize me? I have
the feeling that this is in the back of his mind, and looking ahead
and wondering what may happen when I meet Anne again, I cannot help
wondering if to-night I am not stepping out from the bonds which have
forged my destiny here to a foreign land, to those whose every thought
and action is strange to my traditions. The thing is so obvious I
cannot avoid facing it. If only it had come unperceived and by hidden
ways: would it have been easier for my pride and my self-respect?

       *       *       *       *       *

The trouble is that during my convalescence I have been aware that the
terrific strain on my physical energy has left a moral inclination
towards the easy way through the future. This physical and moral
vitality in us is of course inseparable. I have noticed that as men’s
bodies grow old a tolerance of social laxities comes with it. Women
in moments of physical exhaustion are most vulnerable. The effect
of shell-shock on the moral fabric, even in officers of the highest
character, is well known. And then, there is something else. Comrades
of mine, who have fought with me with unimaginable bravery, return from
death with the feeling that they have spent all their vital energy and
looking to society to assure their future, as a right acquired.

To-night I feel old, with the sense of duty accomplished. I have done
quite enough, I tell myself, in my passage through the inferno of
war. If now, when opportunity offers, it pleases me to dispense with
the bruising struggle for existence, who has the right to judge of my
actions? Certainly not those who have not dared what I have dared.

       *       *       *       *       *

All this is really rather morbid: both my will and my body have given
beyond their strength and are still convalescent, or I should not be
troubled with such sickly doubts. Well--who knows? Is this a mood, or a
decision? To-night, frankly, I feel I have done enough to have earned
my right to rest. Let others do their part. Milestone Number 4.



PART II


I

  _December_
  _Littledale_

Almost three weeks have passed since I last wrote a line in this
book,--three weeks crowded with events which have turned the current of
my life into ways of which I never dreamed. I am here, in my old room,
a log fire snapping in the fireplace, the window sills banked with
snow, and the clock on the landing below has rung eleven times. I have
sat before these written pages a full half-hour, tempted to destroy
all,--yielding to the sense of the futility in my life. Has it been
but three weeks since the night I sat and listened to Brinsmade in the
Chapon Fin at Bordeaux? To-day every logical consideration is scattered
to the winds as I realize with an acute pain what sport we are in the
veiled hands of chance. Into my life has come the greatest exaltation
and the greatest emptiness, so inextricably interwoven that I know not
what to name it, pleasure or pain,--this emotion which has imprisoned
all my faculties with the sudden awakening of a great love.

I do not know that I shall ever see her again; I have given my promise
never to seek her out. Why? I do not know. Simply because, for her own
reasons, she implored it of me, and to her slightest wish I would be
as powerless to offer opposition as to consciously give her physical
pain. I have spoken of the mystery of good and evil that is in each
of us. To-day it is a mystery more baffling than ever. As I look back
now, what I marvel at most is that I should have met Bernoline at the
very moment when I had so complacently, in my worldly wisdom, accepted
the easy path held open to me. Two women will ever remain before me as
the embodiment of the twin contending mysteries in my soul: Letty, who
stands as the sinister embodiment of all those fierce, primal instincts
which in civilization we name evil; and Bernoline, who has reached deep
into the hidden needs of which I was ignorant and revealed to me a self
I did not know,--a self against whose imperious idealism I rebel, but
a self which will, to the end of my days, dominate me and determine my
actions. One has vanished into the wilderness of men, and the other
returns, a sinister memory, which is a cross to be borne day by day,
behind a mask that must forever stand between me and my brother.

At Bordeaux I had but explored the mystery of evil; the mystery of good
was still unknown to me.

       *       *       *       *       *

As I look back now, every word, every object, every outline is clear
to me from the first instant of our meeting. It is as though with the
sudden stirring of my deeper nature every little sense awoke. There
are colors, the oranges in a straw basket, the blue of a porter on the
dock, the gray whirl of her scarf against the blue Breton cape on the
upper deck as we passed out of France, the red luxury of the sunset
that swam over our heads that last day at sea,--all these tints and a
dozen others are associated in the minutest visualization along with
the scent of tarred ropes about us at Bordeaux, the clean brine of the
sea which held us ten unforgettable days, the sound of the forecastle
bell tolling off the hours, and the light, slipping step which I would
know to-day from a thousand others.

It was in the wet dawn of late November that I first saw her, and the
memory starts up before my eyes, even to the most irrelevant details.
I can see again the moist dock, the gray flanks of the ocean liner
shutting out the sky, the masts dissolving in the morning mist and the
white splotches of faces flowering against the rails. The salt, tarred
smell of the sea is still in my nostrils and I am back in the crowd of
leave-takers, saying the last broken farewells; an old couple clinging
to their son, a sailor with his sweetheart. Boatswains are piping,
cabmen swearing, loiterers gazing; a smirched face looms as a little
wharf rat bumps against me, and--I look up and see her again--as I saw
her for the first time.

She stood heavily veiled, her arm about an old servant in a Breton cap,
who was weeping her heart out,--a very old woman, wrinkled and stooped,
whose lips trembled, whose eyes never ceased their staring intentness.
It was not simply grief at parting, often hysterical in servants,
but something inexpressibly deeper; not so much a protest as a final
resignation to a weight of sorrow beyond old age’s power to bear.

At this moment, her young mistress lifted her veil and, as she bent
forward to kiss each shriveled cheek, I saw her face out of the mist
and the blurred crowd--as I see it now--and no second glance could ever
add to that instant conviction. The whistle blew above us. The old
woman cried something hysterically and caught the young hand to her
lips. I heard her murmur a blessing, I saw her try to disengage her
hand, and then as, helplessly, she sought for assistance, her look met
mine. I know that my eyes were dim. She saw and trusted them. I stepped
forward, bare-headed.

“_Permettez--Madame?_”

“_Merci, Monsieur--vous êtes bien bon._”

The veil dropped again. I put my hand under the old woman’s arm and
drew her slowly away. When I returned, her young mistress was already
on the boat.

I do not know that I can describe her, for when I see her face I see
only the eyes, dark, round and big, without guile or artifice, eyes
that were open and luminous, and yet eyes that were stricken with a
suffering too deep to be cast off in tears. It was not what I saw but
what I felt,--the inner quality, the sweet dignity, the gentleness and
the high aristocracy. Women, before, had been to me types. In her,
instantly, I discerned a being set apart, whose choice of action could
never proceed from feminine acceptance of the hour’s fashion in dress,
thought and standards. She was what she was, and would go forward
always along her clear path, undisturbed by the troubling blast of the
popular wind. I knew that for the first time I had looked into eyes
which no ugliness, no meanness, no unworthy thought could ever trouble,
and that I was of the privileged of the world to have seen her. One
look, a look that might pass a thousand times--one look in the mists
of the dawn, in the scrambling, shoddy crowd--and yet, for that one
instant’s fugitive understanding, all that I had been and was became
as nothing, and my destiny--for better or worse, for ill and pain and
sorrow, emptiness and loneliness--was irrevocably determined. Yes,
mystery of the good and evil that is in us! From the pain of evil, we
struggle back to sanity and clean air and memory covers over the scar,
but from the emptiness and the ache that, in the mystery of good, love
may lay upon our lives, what escape or what answer is there?

       *       *       *       *       *

Last night I left off when the memory was too acute and my eyes could
no longer see to write. To-night, I come back to it, impatiently, with
a longing to reclaim every word, every look, every precious minute, and
fix it indelibly before me. The situation here is hideous. I seem to
be walking over a mine that sooner or later will go off, while I can
do nothing but await the final catastrophe. To write is to return to
her, to hope again that somehow, somewhere, without being false to my
promise, I shall see her again.


II

The gangplank swung out as I stepped on the deck, the air shrilling
with the chirp of whistles and the creak of pulleys. I shouldered
through the motley crowd and joined Mr. Brinsmade on the upper deck.
I remember how solemnly I looked down on the France I knew and loved,
and with what reluctant apprehension of the future I watched the gray
hawser stiffen.

“Strange, to be going?”

“Yes--incredibly strange,” I said slowly. “I can’t quite believe it;
for whole months to be a free agent--no longer a part of a great
orderly machine, without eyes or ears or will. I think I have forgotten
what the other world is like.”

“Do you regret this?”

“Regret it? Yes, it’s hard to leave a thing unfinished when you’ve
gone so far. And, though I’ve hated it and cursed it, well, it is a
different conception of humanity, after all, this doing a thing as
a mass. I’ve accepted it, readjusted myself to it. I think it’s not
the question of liking it or not liking it; it’s the feeling of the
inevitable and the wanting to measure up to other men. I stopped
debating with myself the day I saw a man at my side go to his death.
He was a scullion out of the kitchen of a New York hotel--Carlo
Roger--deserter and rascal. He could have remained, and no one would
have cared. He did his duty, unnoticed. I couldn’t do less.”

I looked up, and then down, and added, “Better hold on tight to me, Mr.
Brinsmade. I feel like making a jump for it.”

Laughing he passed his arm through mine and pretended not to notice the
dimness in my eyes.

“You’ve known humanity at its best, my boy,” he said. “And I, thank
God, have had a glimpse of it. And when you’re like myself, a
weather-worn old lawyer, who walks behind the scenes, that’s something
to be thankful for. Well--if they’re not of our race--they’re the same
human beings: we can share that.”

“I feel that way.”

A group of ambulance drivers descended upon us, with their fragmentary
chatter.

“Boat in had a close shave.”

“Missed a torpedo by twenty feet.”

“Come off! Every one’s seeing submarines!”

“Hope we pick one up.”

“Say, what’s the matter with this boat?”

“Off for the good old U. S. A!”

A great blast of steam shook the air above us, sending its wet vapors
against our cheeks. The gangway swung clear and rolled back on the
dock. Another moment, and the big ship trembled beneath our feet and
slowly and definitely veered out against the straining hawsers.

We left the noisy exuberance of the crowd and went down the deck, in
search of quieter moods.

“Here’s our spot.”

I followed Mr. Brinsmade and slipped between two lifeboats. Then,
abruptly, we stopped. The railing was already tenanted by a young woman.

If she heard our exclamation she did not change from the rigidity of
her pose. We hesitated, moving to one side, and lifted our hats in
a sobered deference and, I knew, through our minds flashed the same
thought: she was French and France was receding from her eyes.

One hawser still held us to the land, like a faint memory stretching
back into the past. Then a sudden hissing contortion whipped over the
widening waters. And so, with the parting of that link, one chapter had
ended for me and another, that in the wildest flight of my imagination
I could never have divined, had begun.

Instinctively I raised my eyes and recognized my chance acquaintance of
the dock.

       *       *       *       *       *

She had fallen back against the life boat, arms rigidly extended,
holding the railing from her. A gray film hid her features, wound about
her neck and stood out in a long flutter, a ripple of light against the
dark unanimity of her costume. Youth and sorrow are two great emotions
which cannot be disguised. I felt, despite the rigidity of the body
which told of the stricken soul, the young grace and dignity. I hoped
that she would notice me, but she remained in staring oblivion. Yet,
though I had spoken but a half dozen words to her, I can remember how
keen was the sense of her presence at my side and how, on the instant,
I forgot my personal emotions and seemed to be entering into the moods
of the woman whose first glance had brought me a sense of intimacy.

I looked, and then I looked away, with a guilty consciousness of
trespassing on her grief. Yet, though my glance was averted, I was
looking back with her eyes. My companion spoke to me: I did not hear.

I was thinking of the wrench of old affections for her--the venture
into the uncharted new--the fading of the homeland that was in her
heart by a thousand memories.

Below, the swift currents of the Garonne ran from us, swift as the
currents of time. Faces of blue-shirted dock hands grew blurred.
Flashes of red trousers, gray-blue uniforms, brown and black of women’s
dresses merged into a momentary tapestry. The ungainly, lumbering
motor-boat, with a hulking colossus balanced at the tiller, dropped
behind. Blue-tiled roofs slipped away. Cathedral spires came out
against the horizon, like the spoutings of huge sea monsters. The
grassy shores flowed back with the current. Wharves, factories, lean
shipyards with naked iron arms extended, tilted ships discharging
cargoes, brown vineyards combing the aged slopes, tramp steamers
in dusty garments, Swedish and Greek, under the imperial banner of
Britain, the Tricolor, the Stars and Stripes; tubs, derelicts, old men
of the sea, reclaimed and pressed into service,--all the multiple,
incongruous aspects of war crowded about our passing, and always that
revelation of the human note, the swarming sea adventurers, undaunted,
incredulous of the odds, contemptuous of man’s malignant genius for
slaying man.

I hazarded another glance at my companion and, perceiving her still
oblivious to our presence, my glance remained, my sympathies quickened
by a hundred remembered scenes of parting. I could not see her eyes for
the veil that hid them but, instinctively, I divined the yearning of
their backward look.

Heavens, how I knew that last look! How many times, in crowded depot
or passing train, I had seen on the faces of women, dry-eyed and
staring, that look of the soul’s rebellion, the last renunciation, the
last groping for a final memory to bear down the lonely years. France,
land of her childhood and girlish dreams; France, of precious sorrows
and what affections: France, of her long race and living prayers, was
receding before the weakening vision that rebelled.

“I say, Davy.”

I came to myself at the touch of Mr. Brinsmade’s hand.

“I don’t think we’ve a right here, do you?”

Then, and then only, I realized how profound had been my absorption.

“No, no, guess you’re right.”

As we started to withdraw, a couple of sailors, preparing to swing
the lifeboats for the night’s perilous dash into haunted seas, came
shuffling up.

“_Pardon, Messieurs._”

“All right--moving out.”

“_Pardon, Mamzelle._”

The sailor hesitated, shuffled and touching his cap, repeated his
request, unnoticed. As he stood there awkwardly, undecided, I stepped
to her side, raising my hat.

“_Pardon, Mademoiselle. Les matelots._”

She turned, and I felt her staring blankly at us, as though in the long
blur of faces she were unable to separate friends, acquaintances and
enemies. But, immediately perceiving the situation, she thanked me with
a little nod and turning, said:

“_Je vous dérange--mil pardons._”

There was a tired note in the modulated voice that I remember to this
day,--the weariness of too much struggling.

From the sailors a chorus went up.

“_Pas de quoi, Mamzelle!_”

“_Ne vous donnez pas la peine._”

They made way for her deferentially, fingers to their caps,
simple-hearted men, quick to feel and sure to recognize the finer metal.

“_Merci, Messieurs._”

A slight inclination of her head, and she had passed down the deck to
the further rail.

“I didn’t realize I was staring,” I blurted out.

“Yes--a little too openly.”

“Perhaps. It rather got me--took me back to the mobilization, and the
depots--the look on the faces of the women; when you’ve seen it you
can’t forget it.”

We moved to the rear and talked of desultory things, as we hung on the
rail and watched the steerage. Below, a returning _permissionaire_,
perched on a capstan, was playing on a harmonica the defiant strains
of “Sambre et Meuse,” a group of cattlemen from a torpedoed ship,
stretched about him, basking in the sun. The martial air quickened the
blood in my veins. I saw a regiment growing out of the mists of the
morning, gaunt, grim and proud, bandaged and limping, returning with
their memories from the trenches. I have seen many a dress parade after
battle and been thrilled; but I still can remember that first knowledge
of the living returning from the dead to the rolling drums of the
“Sambre et Meuse.”

“I want to love my country like that,” I said suddenly. “I want to get
the same thrill when the regiment swings up the street--” I broke off.
“I don’t know just how I’ll fit in. I’m afraid they won’t understand my
way of looking at things. I’m rather dreading the test.”

“You’ll get that thrill.”

“I wonder. We all seem to be pulling for ourselves: liberty,
individualism, yes; but real nationalism--the thing that’s a
religion--the thing you get over here--that makes it worth while to
die.”

“Wait until we understand.”

Some one in the khaki of a volunteer ambulance hailed me.

“David Littledale, ’08. Remember me? Joe Hungerford. Heard you were on
board. What luck!”

I turned to shake hands. It was the same Joe Hungerford of school and
college days, lively and irrepressible, a pink and white complexion,
a mischief-loving eye, a quick smile and a clear visage, incapable of
wrong, deceit, subtleties, or an unnecessary mental operation,--a boy,
as his nation was young.

“Who’d thought to run in on you, Big Dale? Glad to meet you, Mr.
Brinsmade. You know my father--Sam Hungerford, of the Illinois Central?
Quite a crowd on board. Say, do you think there is any chance of our
sighting a submarine?”

“Same old Joe,” I said, laughing. “You wouldn’t feel anything if you
were being led out to be shot.”

“The devil I wouldn’t.” But, in the midst of a retort, perceiving a
familiar face below, he was off, with an exclamation: “Hello! If there
isn’t Frangipani! See you later!”

“There’s your young America.”

“Yes,” I assented. “And a pretty good sort, too. It does everything but
think. That sounds rather hard; but that was what I was, three years
ago.”

“I suppose it was the feeling of the game, the bigger game, that got
you in it?”

“Frankly, yes; more or less. And that’s true of most of us. Not all,
though. But once in, we got a touch of the other thing.”

“Don’t be too quick to judge when you get over there,” he said,
divining my thoughts. “Public opinion is complex, but there is one
thing that decides America in the end, always,--idealism. It’s a
quality that is our weakness and our salvation. It makes us the prey to
quacks and demagogues, until we learn to see through them. But it is
the air we breathe and no one can lead us long away from it.”

“I say, Mr. Brinsmade,” I broke in, “don’t put me down for the sort of
expatriate who goes round damning his country--”

“My dear David,” he said, laying his hand on my arm, “don’t worry. I
feel even more strongly than you do. And it’s a big test that’s coming;
make no mistake. It’s our kind that’s failing, not America. Somehow,
the class that ought to lead, doesn’t.”

We separated on that, and I went down to arrange my cabin, a little
uncomfortable at what I had said, and wondering if my listener had not
been all the while smiling tolerantly at my youthful pessimism,--for
though I am obstinate in my opinions, I do not express them easily in
conversation.

When I returned the early twilight was sifting in. I went to the upper
deck, with a vague feeling of uneasiness which to this day I cannot
explain. Invisible nets descended between us and the fading world; the
ship itself, its masts and its traveling rails, was dissolving in the
flowing in of the dusk. I went directly to the rear, and twenty feet
away I saw her as I had expected, a blot against the rail. She did not
turn at my approach, though we were alone on the creaking deck. Twice
I came to the railing at her side, hesitated and turned away. She was
there, like a statue of bereavement, oblivious of all but the France
that was now but the faint iterated flashing of distant lights.

I do not know how long I continued there, pacing off the deck under the
swinging spaces of the night. All my instincts urged me to her side,
and all my education warned me against the intrusion. I felt so keenly
her utter loneliness, the mysterious sense of some overwhelming sorrow,
the exhaustion of an unending struggle, that twice, with some hasty
phrase on my lips, I stopped, determined to speak to her. But each time
I turned away. Yet, each time, I remember the angry rebellion that came
into my heart at the tyranny of convention which interposed between us.
Had she been a woman of the people,--how easy it would have been! But
she was not. She was of my own kind, and convention dictated that I
should pass on and leave her there in the melancholy of the damp night,
eating out her heart.

What was it came to me at that moment? What inexplicable intuition
of danger? I had left her with a feeling of my utter helplessness,
when, with my hand on the door, I stopped, looking out into the dark
void, where sea and sky had disappeared and but a single step led into
Infinity.

But a single step and such an easy step! Suddenly I turned, went to her
directly, and said:

“_Mademoiselle--pardon, Mademoiselle_; you must not--_vous ne pouvez
rester ici_.”

The emotion in my voice startled her. Her head turned hastily; she
swayed and leaned heavily on the rail. I felt the stiffening of her
body against the impertinence of my intrusion, and all my assurance
fled.

“Monsieur, I do not think I understood you.”

She answered me slowly, in excellent English, with only the slightest
accent.

“I beg your pardon, humbly. Please don’t think I mean to be
impertinent,” I stammered back, “but I don’t think it is good for you
to stay up here--all alone.”

I felt how ridiculous this must have sounded, and broke off lamely.

“By what right?”

“No right, Mademoiselle; just a human impulse, that’s all--just the
feeling that you are in great sorrow and that you shouldn’t be left
alone,--not here, at least. I feel it very strongly, Mademoiselle.”

“Monsieur, there are some sorrows that are sacred.”

The words, the accent, the suffering implied went to my heart. I felt
then as I have ever felt since the indefinable superiority of her
gentle nature over mine.

“Mademoiselle, I know that this may seem incomprehensible to you; I
have been walking here half an hour, before I dared to speak to you,
but--but I cannot go away and leave you here alone.”

Saying which, I bowed and moved away a little distance and took my
station resolutely. Presently she said:

“Monsieur--you will not leave me?”

“I cannot, Mademoiselle.”

“Oh, please go away; please leave me alone!”

Her voice broke and, as I hurried to her side, she put her head
suddenly down on her arms. A film of her veil whipped by the wind
caught my arm, and by this slender bond I held her in my protection.

“Mademoiselle, I, too, am a soldier of France; I have fought with
your people: must I turn from one of my own kind who, I know, is in
distress, just because of conventionality! You are in distress, and I
know it. Please let me judge for you at this moment. You must not stay
up here alone. I mean it.”

“But I want to be alone.”

It was the weak voice of a child that now fought against me.

“I know I am right,” I said with difficulty, for then, as ever, all
my impulse was to do her bidding. But it was the thought of the void
without and that unseen step that gave me courage to resist her. “I
know how impertinent this must seem to you. It is not meant that way.
Do believe that. You must go down on the lower deck. You really must.”

She straightened up and there, cloaked by the night, facing each other,
our wills clashed. A moment--a long moment--then, yielding, she turned
and I followed by her side. Halfway down the deck she stopped.

“Just a second.”

She leaned back against the lifeboat, her hand to her throat.

“Now.”

I piloted her below and found her a chair near mine. She suffered me to
wrap her up without further objection.

“There are no lights to-night and all passengers are ordered to spend
the night on deck. You will be quite alone here. Good-night and thank
you.”

If she answered me I did not hear her. I left her purposely and went
aimlessly through the ship, with something new and strange stirring in
my brain.


III

I know now that I loved her from the first meeting of our eyes. I did
not realize it then nor for many days after. The impulse that drew me
to her was so imperious that I yielded completely to it, without power
of pausing to put questions to myself.

       *       *       *       *       *

That night I was possessed of many conflicting emotions. I was an
American again after years of exile, making contact with my own kind,
accustoming my ear to old accents, familiar phrases, forgotten bits of
slang, my heart warming with their exuberance, their youthful spirits.
Even the drummer by my side at the table, nasal, rough and loquacious,
was a type so comprehensible that I found myself beaming with grateful
pleasure as he talked of “God’s country,” stretched for the hors
d’oeuvres, and addressed his neighbor as “Sonny.”

Supper was a hasty, scrambling meal, with the portholes sealed.
The crowd was oddly mixed, like a herd of refugees arrived from an
inundation; a score of young ambulance men returning, the gray-blue of
a few French officers, sailors and officers from torpedoed boats, crews
of cattle boats, commercial travelers, and those endless rovers of the
sea, dressmakers and journalists. The conversation, freed by the sense
of the abnormal, rose about me without restriction.

“What are we stoppin’ down here for?”

“Moon’s coming up: waiting for it to cloud over.”

“Why that?”

“Clear moon’s what submarines like, lady. They can see us, and we can’t
see them.”

“That’s how they got us, second night out of Genoa, just a ripple
blowing, and full moon.”

“What were you in?”

“Three-master, carrying lumber--that we’d landed--return voyage. Well,
I ain’t got no kick coming. We pulled off ten round trips, and the
balance is on the right side.”

“Torpedoed?”

“Yep--and sunk in ten minutes.”

“Spry work getting into boats?”

“Sure was.”

“All off?”

“Most of us.”

“Where was your section?”

“We were up in the Vosges.”

“Know Harrity?”

“He was down in Verdun with us.”

“That was rather hot, wasn’t it?”

“Quite hot enough.”

“Shucks! I don’t believe there’s any danger,” said a voice.

“If they sank us, it would mean war, sure.”

“That is, if it could be proved: and what chance would there be of
proving it, a night like this?”

“Guess that’s sense, too; besides, there’s always a chance at a mine.”

Joe Hungerford joined me as I left the table.

“Going to spend the night on deck?”

“It’s orders.”

A little moonlight had come filtering in between the decks, as the
heavy moon rolled up over the horizon. A faint streak ran along the
railing and touched the stanchions with the luster of fallen snow.
In the shadows we could distinguish shapes stretched out on steamer
chairs, while others arrived, trailing life preservers and rugs, with
an occasional handbag.

“Quite a picnic.”

“Don’t like the children being around, Hungerford.”

“No, that’s not pleasant. If it weren’t for that, wouldn’t mind having
a run in with a submarine. Hello--sounds like the anchor coming up.”

We mounted to the upper deck, under the open sky, with its opalescent
tints and shifting clouds to the west. Red lights and green lights on
ghostlike shadows dotted the stretch of foggy water. Ahead, from the
last sentinel of the world underfoot, a shaft of light came whirling
in broken iteration,--like a can of fire that a small boy whirls in
the night. A group of sailors shuffled by. The shrill of a whistle,
the thrum of engines, and ahead the whirling beacon crept around the
bow and, returning, slid down amidships. The door shot out its feeble
ray of light. A group from the smoking room crowded out to witness the
running of the channel. Then, a sudden rise of voices.

“Well, bring on your submarines!”

“If they get us, I take my chances on deck.”

“You young fellows are mighty chipper; wait till you get shaken up
once.”

“Well, you got away, didn’t you?”

“Gosh, with that light playing on us, anything ought to hit us.”

“Back to the good old U. S. A., boys!”

“Well, enough scenery! Let’s start up a game!”

There was a laugh, and the crowd shuffled back to the card room.

“Going to sit in, Littledale? It’s a good crowd.”

“Perhaps, later.”

I went below, bundled up my great-coat, fished out a couple of life
preservers, and groped my way to my chair. She was there as I had
placed her, but in the black of the deck I could not tell whether she
was awake or asleep. I hesitated a moment and then, slipping in, made
myself comfortable for the night.

Brinsmade at my right was struggling with a tinder which refused to
light.

“Have a _briquet_,” said a voice.

“Thanks.”

The next moment the steel struck sparks and an odor of burning tobacco
filled the air. Slight as had been the light it provoked remonstrances
and down the deck the plaint of a woman was heard.

“I don’t see why they allow such a thing as that!”

“No lights!”

“Put it out!”

“Good many persons seem unduly excited about submarines,” said the
voice of our neighbor, high-pitched, pleasing, if not resonant.

“Well--there’s always a risk.”

“Hardly. Germany doesn’t want us in the war.”

“Germany? Think so? From what I’ve seen of her, she doesn’t care what
we think or any one else--except what she wants at the time.”

Our new acquaintance was silent a moment, as though unwilling to
venture too rapidly forward.

“Well, thank God, we’re out of it!” he said, at last. “The election
settled that. If it had gone the other way, there might be a little
more excitement.”

“Pacifist?”

“Absolutely.”

There was a long silence, broken at last by a question.

“Been over long?”

“Three months.”

“In France?”

“Yes.”

“So--and you still come back with those ideas?” said Brinsmade’s bass
voice, studiously polite but with a note of criticism.

“Does that mean you’d have us in the war?” said the other, in a tone
which showed that he recognized the criticism and resented it. “To pull
the chestnuts out of the fire for France and England?”

“Over on business?”

“No, I don’t desire peace to keep on making money,” answered the other,
with a suavity which suggested a smile. “I am a journalist. Suppose
I’d better warn you--a socialist; worse, still--the editor of _The
Protest_.”

“_The Protest?_ Yes, I read it,” said the other. “Then you are Peter
Magnus?”

“Now you know the worst.”

“Glad to know you. Well, I’m rather on the other side. Stephen B.
Brinsmade,--one of the unconvicted rich, I suppose you’d call us.”

“Really? And you read _The Protest_?” said Magnus in surprise. “May I
ask why?”

“Why I read it? Certainly; to know what the other side thinks.” He
laughed, and continued with the good humor men of politics use as a
cloak but which in his case was the complacency of success. “Honestly,
I’m glad to meet you, Magnus, and I look forward to talking things
over with you. That’s rather odd, for I suppose we’ll get to hating
each other cordially. However, I’ll promise to keep my temper.”

“I don’t see why.”

“Well--that’s my experience. Men can meet in physical combat and, the
struggling over, sit down over a friendly chop. They may fight each
other with their wits; as lawyers, blackguard each other in public for
the benefit of the unsuspecting jury, and retain a friendly liking;
but when it comes to a combat of ideas, we seem to acquire a secret
antipathy for the man who disagrees with us.”

“That’s because the conflict of ideas is the most fundamental and
irrepressible of all conflicts,” said Magnus thoughtfully.

“Quite right.” Brinsmade drew on his pipe until the ashes reddened,
outlining the fingers which screened it. Then he began to whistle,
softly, to himself, drawing in his breath.

Outside, the lighthouse was sinking into the sea, while the whirling
beams continued to blazon the sky like flashes of heat lightning. To
the south a star swam out from the horizon, swelled and glittered, as
a new lighthouse took up its warning. A rift of clouds spread over the
risen moon, obscuring the crested ripples that had been following us.
A patrol of sailors went heavily overhead, to the sound of a dragging
rope, the creak of a pulley,--and through the hiss of cleft waters and
the whistle of the wind the thud of powerful engines shook the decks.

“Feels like ‘Full Speed,’ Davy,” said Brinsmade. “Guess we’re clear.”

“Suppose we’re convoyed. Well, anyhow, it’s clouded over, and that’s a
good thing. Hardly think there’s any danger,” said Magnus.

“Neither did our friends on the _Lusitania_.” Brinsmade changed the
subject to one which had evidently been in his mind. “So you’ve been
over here in this hallowed land three months, and you come back with
the same ideas you started with?”

“Only more so.”

“No offence. Most men I know have had their pre-conceived ideas pretty
badly shaken up. That’s my own experience. Well--time enough to discuss
all that. Only--I’ll say this. Whatever you may think of war, and I was
a good deal of a pacifist, myself, to have been over here, to see what
this old world is capable of in a crisis, gives me a better liking for
my fellow man. I haven’t always had a very affectionate regard for him.
But, by Jove, what I’ve seen of this people over here makes me respect
myself a little more just as a plain human being!”

“You’re plumb right there, Mister, whoever you may be!” said a voice
back of us, a voice with the nasal Yankee twang.

“It is glorious, I grant you,” said Magnus quietly.

“But useless?”

“Quite useless, because it accomplishes nothing toward a final
solution; but, of course, where we differ, and, I suppose, in all
arguments will come back to it, is that I don’t admit the necessity of
nationality.”

“That’s frank, and glad you mentioned it,” said Brinsmade, with a
certain joy. “For that is the one big thing that has come out of the
war, and it’s bigger than creed or politics, Magnus. See what happened
to your German Socialists! It’s the rock on which you’ve split!”

“For the present, quite true,” said Magnus, “but it’s the backbone of
Socialism and, if we are not internationalists, we are not Socialists.”

“Why?”

“Well--put it this way. You’ll agree that war is savagery, and contrary
to the spirit of civilization; in other words, that what we are all
seeking is a final and enduring peace?”

“Two years ago I’d have agreed. Now, I’m not quite so sure I do believe
that is possible in our vision. However, for the sake of argument, go
on.”

“What is war? Competition. Competition of what? Of rival nationalities.
Seeking what? Commercial aggrandizement--subjecting the many to benefit
the few. America, Germany, England, France have been at war with
each other commercially one hundred years. War is only a commercial
ultimatum, when a commercial tariff is too slow. The trouble is, men
are guided by their sentiments to think nationally, instead of by their
logic to conceive of themselves as a world race.”

“You are a Jew, of course, Magnus?”

“I am.”

“And proud of the history of your race?”

“I am exceedingly proud.”

“And rightfully. It is a wonderful race. But if it had been guided by
such theories as you now profess, it would have disappeared centuries
ago, like a drop of ink in a barrel of water. Racial solidarity
has been the immortality of you Jews, and sometimes--no offence,
Magnus--I’m inclined to believe that the instinct that moves many of
your brilliant race into Socialism is a contempt of mere national
definitions which in your own world-solidarity have no meaning to you.”

“The Jewish race is not socialistic,” said Magnus, with a note of
impatience.

“It is increasingly so, and most of its intellectuals are.”

“It was not a Jew, but William Lloyd Garrison, who said ‘Our Country is
the world.’”

“A fair rejoinder in a debate, but we are not appealing to the
applause of an audience, but, I take it, as two men holding
diametrically opposite opinions, honestly seeking to find out what each
believes.”

“All right,” said Magnus, evidently favorably influenced by the
other’s good nature, for he answered more frankly. “It is possibly
true that the Jewish race is most ready to embrace the principle of
internationalism on account of its past history. I will grant that. But
that does not affect the general proposition. Pacifism, which is good
Christianity, is the first step to internationalism, and don’t forget
that the most determined opponents of militarism are of a Christian
sect,--your Quakers.”

“Two years ago,” said Brinsmade, carefully, “when I called myself a
pacifist, I might have denied that. By pacifism then I meant opposition
to war,--the belief in the possibility of universal disarmament and
settlement of all difficulties by arbitration. But I never associated
that with internationalism.”

“Am I not logical when I say that pacifism must be considered the
first step to internationalism?” said Magnus. There was in his voice
the persuasive gentleness of the born debater, who is confident of
leading his opponent to the conclusion he seeks. “If you wish nations
to renounce warring on each other by arms, isn’t it because we are
coming to the point of view that we are all human beings on the same
globe, artificially divided by national lines? And if it is abhorrent
to you that one nation should murder another with gunpowder, isn’t it
just as wrong to seek by commercial warfare to impoverish and reduce an
inferior to a state of commercial slavery, a portion of the same human
race?”

I sat up, listening with strong attention. Thoughts which had struggled
for clarification in my own deliberate mind started up. Once or twice I
had come near breaking in with a question, so close to my own problems
had the debate come. Here were two men discussing theories that might
apply in a thousand years, when the immediate problem was this present
thing: what should a nation--my nation--do in this world crisis, for
its greater good?

“Well, now, Magnus--there’s logic in what you say, and I’m the more
ready to admit it in that I haven’t the slightest patience with what I
used to believe.”

“What’s changed you?”

“France. Keeping my eyes open and seeing things as they are in
this world, and not as I want them to be. Your internationalism is
a political millennium, which will come just about as soon as the
other millennium. I used to think that we were all pretty much alike,
English, American, German, and French. I’ve found out we’re not. We’re
not pursuing the same ideas. The English world has settled down to an
easy-going existence, each man sufficient unto himself, occupied in his
own private affairs, getting farther and farther away from his national
ideal, looking on government as a convenient policeman, a central
telephone, and all that. And then, there’s Germany--and the explanation
of Germany is national solidarity--every man fitting into the national
scheme, and every man working for the national aggrandizement.
‘_Deutschland uber alles!_’ We used to laugh at that. I don’t. It
impresses me now. And it terrifies me.”

“Do you want to live under such a system?”

“I’ll come back to that. No, I don’t want to be subjected to that.
That’s why I’m done with pacifism. Because the world’s up against not
simply German armies but the German idea. And we may as well admit that
it is the German idea that’s got to be destroyed or adopted: no two
ways.”

“What does the man in the fields, or the man in the street, care about
all that?” said Magnus softly.

“If the French peasant and the French workman can understand that, I
guess we can,” said Brinsmade. “I said France has changed me over to
a belief in a strong national feeling. It has. I don’t want German
militarism, but I want the sort of military education you see in the
French army,--preparation, with absolute democracy.”

“Compulsory service?”

“Of course. And I want it because I want my sons to be educated into
democracy, and I know no better way than sending them out for a year
or two to rough it with the fellow who comes up out of the mines and
fields, out of the city slums and the wharves. I want them to eat
together, tramp together, sleep together, to learn how to talk to each
other. I want them to respect a man, wherever found, and I want them
to make themselves respected as men. Moreover, I want them to have a
vision of what America is and can be. Why? Because the wealth I leave
them is going to make them leaders and instead of artificial leadership
I want intelligent leadership.”

“You’ll never get compulsory training in America,” said Magnus shortly.
“That’s one thing I’m not worrying about.”

“If we need it for nothing else, we need it to digest our foreign
classes,” said Brinsmade, warming up; “German, Italian, Russian, Greek,
Swedish; we need it for self-education, to form our own race,--a
clear-cut, united American type. But of course,” he said, stopping
suddenly, “that doesn’t enter into your philosophy.”

“No,” said Magnus directly. “To me the greatness of America is that
it is not American. It has the whole world in it and, as long as
these world elements remain distinctly defined in their inherited
traditions, just so long America remains the natural Parliament of Man.”

“The little Sassenach,” said a voice out of the night. “Damned if I
don’t hope a submarine gets us.”

Brinsmade laughed.

“Thanks, friend,” he said. “I feel almost that way, myself.”

“Whether you like it or not, it is so to-day,” said Magnus, “and the
reason that internationalism will come as an American doctrine is
just that. We are international, and not in a hundred years can we be
anything else. This to you may seem abhorrent, but to me it is the
greatest destiny that could come to us. You would wipe out our links to
other nations. I say, keep them; do nothing to weaken them, and make
them great bonds of political thought, that America may lead the world.”

“What gets me--and by George, it does get me--” Brinsmade blurted out,
“is your assumption to speak for my country. Good heavens; my family
fought in three wars, and you have been here twenty years and tell me
what America is, and--damn it--the worst is, I believe you do know!”

“Yes, Mr. Brinsmade, I do,” said Magnus quietly. “What do you know of
the great East Side of New York? What do you know of how multitudes
think and act,--the great labor organizations, the I. W. W? What do you
know of what you call the foreign press? Do you know that there are
over four hundred newspapers published in a foreign tongue--German,
French, Italian, Swedish, Jewish and Hungarian--and that they represent
a circulation of millions? The foreign element that was born abroad,
or whose parents were born abroad, represents twenty millions;
you represent a dwindling minority. You represent--we are talking
frankly--an insular element, and the strange thing is that you still
persist in seeing America in that spirit of nationalism which existed
in Revolutionary days. America has passed beyond such limitations, and
you don’t realize it.”

“And this from a man who came to my country twenty-five years ago!”

“But who has, perhaps, a greater vision of your country’s mission in
world affairs than you have,” retorted Magnus.

“You are probably right,” said Brinsmade. “You place crudely things
that are coming into my mind and the minds of others like me.
Probably we are not awake. Have we, the old American strain, lost our
inheritance?” He added, as if to himself, “And if so, is it our fault?”

Up the deck a spear of light shot across the night from an open door.
A group of young men, emerging from the card room for a breath of air,
came shuffling down the deck, singing as they came.

      I was drunk last night, dear mother;
      I was drunk the night before,
      And if I live till to-morrow,
      I’ll be--

“Hello there--Littledale!”

I cursed them mentally and returned an uninviting grunt.

“Hello.”

“Counting the submarines?”

Four figures loomed at the foot of my chair.

“Some games running up there! Four tables. Better take a hand.”

Farther up the line of chairs, a child, awakened by their coming, began
to cry.

“Not to-night. And say, if you want to make a night of it, you fellows,
tramp the upper deck. People want to sleep down here.”

“Yes, Captain,” said a laughing voice; but another said, “Shut up,
Limpy. The women are round here. Come on: clear out.”

The sound of their heavy tramp died out in the distance. A woman behind
me sat up, rearranged her pillow, and settled back. The child whimpered
sleepily and then grew quiet. In the distance some one began to snore.
The ship had begun a slight roll, as it fled, ghostlike in a ghostly
night, followed by noises of unseen things; the hiss of hidden waves, a
sudden leap of spray, the creak of pulleys, a stifled whistle, and the
rumble of the invisible force that thrust it forward.

Magnus laughed.

“Your American inheritance; there it is!”

“Damned if I can listen to any more of that!”

I rose abruptly, kicking the rugs from my legs, and went down the deck.
I am, I suppose, too young not to resent unwelcome arguments with a
hot intolerance. Socialism had meant to me little more than a name,
which I rejected on faith as something akin to anarchy. The voice of
the immigrant, speaking for my America, roused in me a blind rebellion.
The more so that, while he had cut across every traditional instinct,
I was at a loss in the poverty of my mental experience to answer the
coldly stated propositions which, despite my will, convinced me of some
measure of their truth. Yet what had he done but state in his own words
thoughts which had been in my own mind; yes, even those opinions which
had been surging uppermost,--that, in the coming test of a changed
democracy, my generation had let slip the leadership that was its by
inherited responsibility. I could say this to myself, yet I could not
brook it from another. Why? Perhaps Mr. Brinsmade was right, and in
the conflicts of man to man there is no antagonism so deep-rooted, so
unreasoning, so obedient to inherited repulsions, as that antagonism
which in the field of ideas has led men to persecute, to torture and to
stamp out one another with the fury of unreasoning beasts.

Of this reflection I was not then conscious. I felt only the resentment
of the man of action for the man of thought. It was not the ideas,
but the ideas in the mouth of Peter Magnus which aroused my fury. I
remember standing a long time forward, sheltering myself behind a
bulging canvas which slapped against its chains with windy explosions,
trying to shake off my ill-humor, until the cold cut of the spray which
hissed over the decks brought back some equanimity.


IV

I went inside. The sofas in the ladies’ saloon had been turned into
beds. Most of the women had already put on their life preservers
and were surrounded by impossible mounds of baggage. An old man was
methodically deploying a pack of cards at a table. A woman, with a
child on her shoulder, was staring open-eyed at the ceiling. Outside
on the landing two returning sailors and a nursemaid were whispering
with sudden outbursts of mirth,--Americans all, Yankee, Westerner,
Scandinavian, Latin and Asiatic.

I went upstairs and into the foul thickness of the smoking room, where
the shock of my entrance set the layers of gray fumes to twisting
and coiling about the dim lamps. Groups had already formed at the
corner tables; Hungerford and the younger men, a solemn audience
about a chess match; another group near me--officers of two torpedoed
freighters--were swapping yarns as they played.

“Got ours out of Genoa, just after dawn.”

“Trouble getting away?”

“Shelled us right up to the last minute.”

A little woman, wife of the speaker, broke into a light laugh.

“Kept on shellin’, too, when we got the boats clear. Dan here, he says
to me, ‘Sarah, you stand right up and let ’em see there’s a woman in
the boat.’ So I stood up, and crack, they let go with a shot that
jumped the bonnet from my head. Polite, aren’t they?”

“Don’t tell that at home: they’ll say you ex--aggerate!” said a large,
swarthy man, who was shuffling the cards. “Civilized folks don’t do
such things; that’s what they’ll say!”

“Well, Sarah and I ain’t got no kick coming,” said the skipper
philosophically. “We got away with six trips and landed the last cargo,
too. Risky--but big money, and I guess we’re on easy street for a
while.”

“Say, if this war goes on another year, boy, we’ll have all the money
in the world.”

A short, stockily built young fellow, keen as a vulture, derby pushed
back, removed a fat cigar and nodded to his neighbor, a type of world
peddler, Armenian or Levantine, who was chewing a toothpick in a drowsy
interest.

“All the money in the world! And after? Say--I’ve been over cleaning
up _some_ contracts, believe me; but that’s nothin’ to what’s
comin’--nothin’! Say--when this little war’s over, any fellow who’s got
somethin’ to sell is goin’ to cash in so fast a crooked gamblin’ wheel
won’t be in it.”

“Oh, got a pretty good line, myself.”

“You have, eh? What?”

“Antiques.”

“Pretty soft bargains, eh?”

The Levantine smiled contentedly. And the two, suddenly attracted,
moved into a corner, absorbed by their own bright conceptions of the
future.

“Hello, there, Big Dale. Ship ahoy!”

I sauntered over curiously to where Hungerford was ensconced in the
midst of congenial spirits.

“Have a hand?”

“No, thanks.”

“Have a drink?”

“Not now.”

I had sat through just such all-night sessions in the days when such
feats were regarded as title to man’s estate, but to-night the mood was
foreign to my own.

“Shake hands with my old friend, ‘Gyp, the Blood,’ alias Frangipani,”
said Hungerford, whose good humor was proof against hunger, drowsiness,
the cold gray dawn and stale tobacco. “Mr. Frangipani was _not_ a
professor of English at Columbia.”

“How be you, friend? Seen you on the deck,” said a stocky, square
fellow in ambulance uniform, who gave me a drowsy squint from around a
knobby nose and put out a squatty hand which was minus a finger. “Not
drinkin’?”

“Thanks, no. The atmosphere is strong enough,” I answered, wondering in
what strange by-ways of civilization--tramp steamer, traveler of the
underworld, or ranger of the Western prairies--the man had gone his
careless journey.

“Mr. Tooker, of Tookerville, Mississippi, sah. Mr. Tooker is a close
student of our great national game.”

“Very glad to know you, Mr. Littledale,” said a brisk little fellow,
sober, well-groomed, soft-voiced, alert and smiling. “Heard a good deal
about you.”

“Mr. Galligan, of Walla Walla. Mr. Galligan is returning from his
period of rest at the front to get a little excitement in the Coeur
d’Alene district,” said Hungerford, who was in good spirits.

A powerful, big-framed youth, with bullet head, blue eyes and thin
lips, who had been making desperate attempts at keeping his eyes open,
yawned, and said thickly:

“’Scuse me. Had a ---- of a night in Bordeaux. Glad to know you.”

“_And_ Professor Ralph Waldo William Butler Swinburne Southwick, of
Harvard, and Beacon Street, and the American Ambulance.”

Southwick, in his precipitation to shake hands, dropped his glasses,
which slid from his long, delving nose and dangled back and forth on
their short string, overturned a pile of chips, and started to take up
the discards, under a storm of protests.

“Other members of the original Inter-Allied Poker Club have succumbed
to poison gas, auto-intoxication, and the need of a recumbent
position,” continued Hungerford, with a wave of his hand toward
two figures on the couches, who had passed beyond the stage of
introductions. He paused and indicated a large, bulbous figure under
a sombrero, snoring peacefully in a sitting position at his side.
“The late Mr. Honus Scroff, of Tittle Valley, Arizona. Mr. Scroff is
especially delighted to meet you,” he added, lifting the hat from the
red, cropped hair and freckled ears.

“Honus hasn’t been to bed since we started down,” said Galligan,
gathering in the cards.

“Quite right. Mr. Scroff’s like an eight-day clock; he only has to
sleep every Saturday night from 12 to 8.”

“Play ball!” said Frangipani loudly, throwing in an ante.

Scroff woke, blinked, and said thickly, “My deal?”

“Not yet, old top!”

“All right.”

And he went off to sleep again.

“I’m in,” said the professor colloquially. “Shove around the
pasteboards.”

      She did
      And she didn’t;
      She would
      And she wouldn’t;
      O-o-o-o-o! BUT--!

began Frangipani, in a long, doglike wail, which drew curses from the
four corners of the room. The cards were dealt and the bets began.

I stood watching them quite a while, amused at their patter. They were
real, as I had learned to value men in the rough-and-tumble of life.
It was Young America relaxing,--the need of a young nation to return
to its play, to blow off steam after months of driven dynamic energy.
Quite barbaric at bottom, perhaps,--but so understandable, to me! I
liked the democracy of the group and its unconscious camaraderie. Yet,
I could not help thinking how unrelated we were to one another,--to the
present or to the future. And, as I stood there studying them--in my
mind the menace that Magnus had voiced--I wondered how long we could
stem the moving forces below that had the solidarity and the energy of
determined rebels.

       *       *       *       *       *

To-night, as I recall this first conversation with Magnus, my
irritation dies away. I am not sure but what he has but stated in his
own antagonistic way things which have been growing over me.

Democracy was a revolt against the leadership of a class when that
leadership had grown weak and was no longer natural and genuine. But,
if democracy cannot produce its own real leadership--if it can do no
more than set in motion a mob--the leadership of that mob will be the
leadership that surges out of the accidents of a stampede.


V

Four bells rang from the forecastle when I returned to my chair on the
lower deck. Brinsmade and Magnus were breathing heavily. I enclosed my
legs in the rug, burrowed my nose in my great coat, and sought sleep.
Disturbed by the bustle of my arrival, the young woman at my side
stirred in her sleep and moaned. The dream passed into a nightmare for,
struggling suddenly against some grim horror of unreality, she burst
into a cry:

“_Ma mère! Ma mère,--oh non, pas ça!_”

The scream awoke a score of passengers. Out of the darkness voices
cried excitedly:

“What’s happened?”

“Submarine?”

“Oh, my God!”

People began to rise and grope towards the cabins. I heard Brinsmade
and Magnus struggling to their feet. Another moment, and a panic would
have swept over us. I called out cheerily:

“Nothing wrong! Somebody’s got a bad dream; nothing else!”

Then I leaned over and caught the arm of the dreamer. She groaned,
shivered, and sat up.

“A nightmare, Mademoiselle,” I said, loud enough to be heard down the
deck. “All right now. Nothing wrong.”

She was sitting bolt upright, straining against the horror of the
passing phantom.

“Pardon, Mademoiselle, for having taken your arm--it seemed best--you
were evidently--” I stopped lamely, a prey to the diffidence I had felt
in her presence from the first approach.

She had not moved.

“I hope I did not offend you--”

“No, no,” she said suddenly. “It was a dream--a terrible dream!”

Her voice was not yet under control. I waited, but having said this,
she drew back into her silence. Presently, I heard her settling
back into her chair. Quiet had returned to the deck. I sat there,
keenly awake. The memory of her cry haunted me and, though the utter
blackness prevented my seeing her, I had the feeling that she, too, was
tremulously, nervously awake at my side.

       *       *       *       *       *

Often have I wondered what makes us so blind to our own selves, and
sometimes I think it is our insistence in seeing our lives as a logical
development. We seek in all phases of life a working formula (formulas
which are not knowledge but the substitute for knowledge) and we early
adopt a formula about our own selves. We never see ourselves whole
because, perhaps, we never complete our own image.

       *       *       *       *       *

I know that I, too, am a slave to my own formula. I say to myself
that I am an average man,--that, given a problem of action, I will do
under given circumstances just what the average man will do; that, if
I am better or worse, it is all in the quality of opportunity. I am
influenced largely by the judgment my neighbors would pass on me--by
a desire to maintain my own self-respect, or to return to it--and
yet I am conscious of but a distant and imperfect acquaintance with
this self which is my court of last judgment. And, when I have said
all this, I am conscious that I have explained nothing,--that there
is always at the bottom of myself some unpremeditated, rebellious
impulse that in the moments of most determined progress towards a given
point suddenly sends me blindly in another direction. What is that
invisible, intangible sense? I obey by instinct something that I do
not comprehend. I follow myself through changing phases and wonder at
the instinct that brings me back to the level of common sense--as a
ship in a storm struggles to right itself. I am here as I am to-day by
some agency that mystifies me,--invisible forces from without, or some
instinct from within. Yet as I look back I see no logical relation in
the process.

       *       *       *       *       *

That night, half-awake, half-adream, four figures passed before me,
conjured up from the cauldron of my imagination, as the mystic sequence
which greeted Macbeth.

The First: A boy, with the eyes of faith, believing in the good of the
world, a scrubby, tousled little urchin, in and out of mischief, just
beginning to penetrate beyond the borders of fairyland, passionately
curious; a rich little mind exploring vast continents of treasured
knowledge; a youngster who had already dared climb the magic walls of
childhood and hesitated before the jump into the strange real world.
What was I then? All of creation was within my imagination; society
was expressed in three laws,--the rising bell, soap, and the Sunday
prohibitions. The first two I comprehended (in my male’s instinct for
order); the last I never did. What had happened to the world that
periodically, at the end of each week, a sudden hush should fall in
the household, that romping must cease and playthings be hidden away,
and the body encased in starched shirts and shining black suits, and
the young romping spirits should be led in leash to hard benches
and the pointing finger. Father and mother were majestic, Olympian
figures, never quite understood; authority was absolute, and the
world black or white. My first love, a young lady of twenty years,
was an angel stepping down out of the parted heavens, whose voice
thrilled to the secret caverns of my heart. She stopped but a week
at our home and I have never seen her since, yet in those short days
I fell so desperately in love with her--greatest and most radiant of
fairy princesses--that to this day I can feel my little heart stop as
over the bed-covers I saw her come to my bedside, all fragrance and
loveliness, to touch my eyelids with her lips. And then, they told me
that she was to be married; that she had gone and I would see her no
more. I remembered the child quivering under his first touch of sorrow,
poignant and overwhelming. That first knowledge of sorrow, the utter
loneliness, the incomprehension that such things could exist in the
simplicity of the world! There was no refuge but in dreams and for
months I lived for my dream,--for that moment when the candle wick
glowed and dropped into the darkness and the shimmering stars came
through the open window, and my dreams would begin anew, as out of the
peopled dark, ogres and kings’ sons, Napoleons and presidents, Hercules
and Ulysses, fairy godmothers and elves, and--always--the loveliest
princess in the world came forth to fetch me into the fantasy of the
future.

Sometimes now, thinking on that future, I wonder, should I have sons,
if any of them will be as real to me as that boy. I think not. In the
man, the first-born and the closest to his heart must ever be the boy
that was. I see now that it was that first imagined sorrow which led
me beyond the magic garden of childhood into the questioning of youth.
There were nights, moonlit nights and starry nights, when I crept to my
window and strove to pierce the riddle of the strange things above;
when I stood and wondered and shivered, a little mind striving to
penetrate the sky, pitting itself against Infinity. And, as I watched
this young self there in the still of the covered night, I wondered.
Now, I seldom dream or question: I have retreated behind my formulas.
But what became of all the brave little thoughts, the fancy, the rich
curiosity and the eagerness for first knowledge? Which is the true,
abiding self,--this, or the pebble fashioned by the grinding, restless
forces of Society?

       *       *       *       *       *

Second Figure: A young man of twenty, outwardly disciplined, walking,
talking, dressing like ten thousand other well-groomed, mechanical
products of the educational factories; inwardly, a turbulent appetite
for life, a mind which had stopped functioning, an imagination buried,
but with every impulse and curiosity vibrantly awake. Never have I
been surer of myself, and never was I more worked upon by forces which
I did not understand; I, a high-strung young animal suddenly released
into the pastures of youth. Everything appealed to me; every broad
way and byway in the vast forest of life sent me galloping down it in
exploration. Each impulse, good or evil, was genuine and irresistible.
I adored one woman as a saint, blushed and stumbled in her presence,
trembled at the contact of her fingers and, in the full flush of this
puppy-love, could feel my blood surge at a brazen glance. I drank
too much, gambled outrageously: yet it was not from any desire for
ugliness, but from the sheer joy of wrestling with invisible outer
forces, in a strange belief that I, a privileged being, could affront
the gods of chance and bind them to my way. I dissipated a month’s
allowance in a day; fell into deep periods of religious speculation;
rebelled at dogma and constituted authority; rejected all that was old
and followed everything that was new. All this I did as hungrily as I
sat down at table, without knowing in the slightest why I did it. Yet
this is not quite true. Already, I had begun to be conscious of a dual
self, a self that acted and a self that watched. Often, I went madly
towards an infatuation which would have meant the end of all things,
knowing all the time the fatality of it, powerless to resist and saved
only by some trick of circumstance. The truth was that my blood ran too
rapidly in my veins, the delight in every sense was too imperious, the
joy of being alive too intoxicating.

       *       *       *       *       *

Still, in this period when everything was fermenting, fructifying,
bubbling to the surface in me, my outlook was of the simplest. Black
was still black, and white, white. Women were good or bad,--and both
drew me to them. I broke the laws of society, but I believed in them,
fully determined at some calmer, wiser period of my life to maintain
and defend them. So, when I was most inconsistent, I had faith in
inconsistency. I repented with the same ardor with which I transgressed.

I walked down the avenue, and my imagination took fire at the brilliant
women in their speeding luxury. What did I feel? The need of exerting
the supremacy of my youth over their shallow, sparkling little souls.
I sat in a great Opera House and, before that insistent, imperious
parade of society, dreamed of some future date when I who was now
lost in the crowd would impose myself. Everything in me was force,
faith, and desire, and all these young impulses tugged at my soul for
the opportunity to express themselves. How confident, how wise, how
convinced I was, and--I knew nothing. For, mentally, it was a period of
arrested development, when I mistook hunger for strength, vanity for
power, longing for capacity.

We are all, I suppose, more or less cases of arrested development.
When a man ceases to inquire, to explore, and to wonder, when he is
convinced of his knowledge, when he reaches the point where all his
free and flexible opinions have settled into hardened convictions, at
that moment his development is stopped, even as a little child whose
mind cannot move beyond the A. B. C.

       *       *       *       *       *

This was what I was in the days when all within me was but an appetite
for life. What shook my equanimity and violently freed me of my
self-complacency? The first contact with evil, the knowledge and the
mysterious reaction.

       *       *       *       *       *

Third Figure: A man approaching thirty, perhaps too near to be seen
distinctly, and yet in such violent contrast that before its note of
worldly knowledge boyhood and youth fled from the contact. I saw a
man whose eyes had gone behind every scene, whose back had turned,
he believed, on every illusion, tolerant of every frailty, amused
at little hypocrisies and of those greater shams which an arrogant
society imposes on the outsider and itself defies with impunity:
steeped in this class cynicism, without realizing that in the strong
nourishing forces of civilization this society is but the scum that
rises to the surface and that in the old _pot-au-feu_ below are
the vital nourishments of the race. I had come eagerly into the
brilliant cosmopolitan society of Europe with enough money and proper
credentials, and I had come as how many young men of imagination and
fire before me, believing in pleasure as the goal of life, pleasure,
which I had seen in my ardent nature as in youth one sees and believes
in the painted beauties and the paste jewels behind footlights. I
recoiled, I grew accustomed to what I at first resented. I shrugged
my shoulders, and, in the end, I did as those I lived with did. In
the unconscious progression is the whole story. I became a _flâneur_
of society. I knew the comedies and tragedies of a ballroom as an old
collector on the _quais_ recognizes and smiles over the titles whose
stories he knows. I lived a life of crowded inconsequences. The days
and nights were consumed in doing--what to-day is a blank of years. But
how my world had narrowed! The limitless horizons and starry spaces
of childhood, even the mysterious depths of youth, had contracted
into confines so narrow that my daily run of life was more provincial
than that of a buried village. Why did I not go on in the paths of
worldly wisdom, with a cynical weighing of actual values? Why did I
not continue steadfast, as my logic showed me? The truth lay, perhaps,
in the heart of a child that we men can never quite kill. The first
impulse is the abiding impulse; if you would know the man, know the
child.

It was in vain I told myself that only the living was vital, and that
in a world of sceptics and pagans only the fools cling to compunctions.
I repeated to myself that the sum of all moralities is in the instinct
of the man to believe what he wants to believe. It brought me no
calm. I did wrong, saying to myself that it was not wrong, and yet
all the time I knew in my restlessness that it was wrong. Madame de
Tinquerville instilled into my veins this mental corruption and yet,
at the end, when I believed that I had accepted everything, a nausea
seized me and I flung this self violently aside. Then the mobilization,
and a new self.

       *       *       *       *       *

Fourth Figure: I, myself,--if not the self of to-morrow, the self
of to-day: an exile. For I had been that all these long embittered
months,--an exile from all that life had been to me, a man grown
suddenly taciturn, who smoked his pipe, lying in a mud hole behind a
flap, and gazed up at the thin blue avenue of the trenches overhead;
smoked, obeyed, questioned not, and was content to have found a
meaning. Atavism, perhaps, the content to be just man again, following
man’s instinct to survive among the fittest. I knew life as though
I had been born to it again. Three times a day I thrilled with the
delight of eating; I knew the ecstasy of sleep after fatigue; I wept
at the loss of a comrade, and my whole heart rejoiced when in the
exhaustion after battle with my closing vision I felt the rough hands
of a convict drawing his coat over me with the tenderness of a woman.
The world had no perplexities for me. The mask was discarded. I felt
myself brute, Crusader, sinner, pagan and saint, and each mood was
genuine. I saw men in the frenzy of combat swept into moments of
unbelievable ferocity. I myself knew moments when there was nothing
human in me, when courage was but the panic for existence. And out of
the abnormal slaying self I would grope back into the man that reasoned
over his actions and shivered at the animal that had run wild. I knew
the pagan hour that comes so easily to those who have felt the breath
of passing destruction continuously at their side. In the whirlpool and
the whipping trenches I have seen my comrade at arms struck and strewn
into unrecognizable matter and have felt but one instinctive thought:

“I live--I still live!”

Yet, later, in a more reasoning mood, deliberately and calmly, I have
gone back as others went, into the certainty of destruction, to rescue
a wounded stranger. I have returned with the living, singing, greedy
of life,--a bed of hay paradise and a can of _Pinard_ the ecstasy of
forgetfulness. I have rebelled, hesitated, been caught with the cold
nausea of fear, thrilled at a word from a peasant boy kneeling and
crossing himself, and awakened to the call of leadership which was
mine by _noblesse oblige_, become suddenly and disdainfully impersonal
when responsibility had fallen to me and I could do no less than the
least. Other moments there were, when I walked, a lone sentry in the
night, among the sleeping and the dead, when a feeling of reverence
and awe possessed my soul at the slow revolving stars, and I wondered
at the futility of victors and vanquished under the things that change
not. I knew moments of intense intellectual clarity when my mind seemed
to take wing and lift me above the soiled reality of conflict into a
mystic sense of my own loneliness in the scheme of things. At such
moments, when only the questioning remained, I had a disdain of danger
and of the death which went unseen and whining in the night,--a disdain
that was absolute. Yet in the morning, cramped in a dugout, I heard
above me the great shells shatter and felt the cold sweat rise in my
back. After this can the other life be real? I wonder. Or will all this
pass into a dim incredible memory?

       *       *       *       *       *

And so, through the long night, there on the hidden deck among those
who waited and feared, next to the woman at my side, awake, too, with
her memories, I saw my strange selves pass and wondered. Which was the
nearest kin to the David of that hour? What new figure would come out
of the future that was as impenetrable as the dark that wrapped me
about?


VI

I think I must have gone off into a half-sleep, for all at once my
eyes opened to gray and wavering shapes. The skeleton outline of
the creaking ship grew out of the fluid dawn, figures of sleeping
passengers rose out of the obscurity and across the rail glimmered the
white curl of the clearing sea. My first instinctive impulse was to the
woman at my side.

The veil had been thrown back; the long lashes lay on the brown cheek
across which clung a spray of dark hair. The front of the rough
Breton hood half concealed the clear rise of the forehead and soaring
eyebrows, the fine delicacy of the high-bridged nose, the full and
sensitive lips. One hand lay at her throat, a rosary entwined in her
fingers and the silver flash of a crucifix. I thought then that I
had never looked upon anything so gentle, so fragile, so pure. She
was so far removed from the things of this heavy world that in her
semi-recumbent position, I thought of some sculptured saint, asleep in
an olden monastery.

Her eyes opened, rested in mine a full moment, read my thoughts, and
dropped away. Instantly, she drew her veil, sat up, and averted her
head. Within me everything grew troubled and confused. I rose hastily
and went down the deck.

I can remember to this day the sudden timidity that overcame me always
in her presence, the eagerness to speak to her, and the hesitancy
whenever I found an excuse. In her, too, I see now, two impulses
fought, for at times, in her instinct to repel me, she was brusque
almost to the point of rudeness and her manner so determinedly
antagonistic that I grew diffident as a boy. What had become of the
man of the world? I, who prided myself on my knowledge of women, was
as awkward in her presence, as helpless and at loss as the veriest
schoolboy. I can remember that I had but one thought on awakening,--to
do her some service. Yet when I had returned from below-decks with a
thermos bottle of hot coffee I was utterly nonplussed for some pretext
to approach her.

I came hesitantly down the strewn deck. The sky was graying rapidly
now, as the dawn crept in chill and sickly. Astern, the low-huddled
funnels of our escort,--guardian of our night. Brinsmade and Magnus
had wakened and gone below. The lady with the child was sitting up,
rearranging her veil. A sudden inspiration came to me. I stopped and
made my offer.

“A drop of hot coffee, Madame?”

She took it, smiling and grateful, refusing a second cup. I breathed
more freely, for I felt I had removed all personal emphasis. I passed
on.

“Won’t you also, Mademoiselle, have a bit of coffee? It’s a long way to
breakfast.”

Yet, as I said this, I had a sudden weak feeling of intruding, and
I looked away from her for fear she would read beneath the studied
impersonality of my tone. Behind the veil, I felt a moment of
hesitation.

“If you will hold the bottle, I will get some clean glasses.”

When I returned, I brought a box of crackers, taking the precaution
to offer them along the way. This action evidently disarmed her
prejudices, for she had drawn her veil when I came to her chair. I
poured a full glass.

“But you, Monsieur?”

“Oh, I’ve had my cup, below. Take it--you need it. I’m afraid you had a
bad night.”

She took the glass but made no answer. When I referred to the night,
her gray-eyed glance rose to my face, rested a furtive moment in
thoughtful inquiry, and retreated; but the moment was not one of
embarrassment or hesitation, but rather of a settled attitude of
aloofness.

“There is just a little more.”

“Some one else, then.”

I poured out what remained and handed it to her, pressing her
acceptance.

“Thank you--no more.”

She drew on her glove, lowered her veil, and sank back once more.

Feeling a certain irritation that in this first clash of authority she
should have resisted, I sat down.

“To-morrow morning I’ll be better provided.”

“To-morrow? We spend another night on deck?” she said, in surprise.

“That’s orders. But you don’t obey orders,” I said, glancing at the
deck. “Orders are to bring your life belt, and you’ve not done it.”

“No--I didn’t think of it.”

“You are not afraid?”

“Afraid? Of that?” she said slowly. She shook her head and I wondered
at the look behind her veil.

The tone in which it was said, coupled with the memory of that meeting
on the upper deck, thrilled me. I sought to make her talk, to establish
a natural acquaintance, through no forward curiosity but out of a
genuine sympathy. Yet I was so keenly aware of the bar which her
traditions interposed that I waited a long moment before I had courage
to say:

“Mademoiselle, I hope you will forgive my presumption of last night.”

“Presumption?”

“Yes, it was that. I hope you did not misunderstand my action.”

She turned.

“I did not misunderstand that, no,” she said reluctantly, for I was
forcing her into a conversation against her will, “and yet, why should
you have done it?”

“Mademoiselle,” I said, surprised at the quickening of my pulses, “I
have done what little I could to help, because I love your people. I
have lived among sorrow and terror. Am I not allowed to understand, and
try to help, just--because it is one of my own kind?”

She did not reply at once. I felt that her eyes were on me.

“You Americans have kind hearts, Monsieur, and I thank you again.”

To this day I can remember the thrill of pleasure that came to me with
the first softening of her voice, that first note which told me that in
her eyes I was no longer just one of the passing crowd.

“I know how a young girl is brought up in France,” I began hurriedly--

“We are no young girls now, Monsieur. There are only women in France.”

The voice was back into the measured, impersonal tone.

I looked at her, amazed, started to speak and stopped. I understood
that I should gain nothing by forcing a conversation, and though every
instinct urged me to remain near her, I rose to withdraw.

“May I present myself, Mademoiselle, since we are to be companions for
a while? I am Mr. David Littledale.”

She bowed in acknowledgment but made no answer, and I went down the
deck with a stirring uneasiness at the awkwardness which it seemed to
me I had displayed in every word and action. Later in the day I found a
card on her chair. The name was like herself, a veil thrown up against
my curiosity.

“Mademoiselle Renée Duvernoy.”


VII

An ocean steamer is a great university of the world. Infinity of sea
and sky bring an incredulity of the defined land, where strange human
beings move under precise conventions to the tyranny of what is or is
not done. For me the comprehensible world was but this speck of wood,
swinging between water and sky. The salt democracy of the sea and
the common sense of danger run quickened our senses and let down the
barriers of our Anglo-Saxon restraint.

Yet of all those who crowded the decks the one woman who interested me
most defied all my attempts at friendship. Beyond the unconventionality
of our first meetings on the dock and by the upper rail I had been
unable to progress. Indeed, all her attitude indicated a studied
resolve to retreat from the memory of that accidental intimacy. Her
greeting each morning was gracious. She allowed me to arrange her
pillows and wrap her solicitously in her steamer rugs.

“Monsieur, I thank you; you are very kind.”

She said it gravely, with a slight acknowledgment of her head, but her
tone remained impersonal and she conveyed to me, without possibility of
misunderstanding, that her privacy was to be respected, and it was not
until I had gone off for a tramp of the decks or had turned into the
constant discussion which ran on between Magnus and Brinsmade that she
drew her veil and picked up her book. The book was but a pretext. For
hours she held it before her without the turning of a page.

At times, I pretended to go off into long siestas, studying her
furtively in short examinations. For despite every precaution, if my
glance remained on her too long, she became aware of it and, if I
persisted, she retired behind her veil.

This very reserve stirred my curiosity. My imagination was drawn to the
mystery I divined of some inner conflict beneath the precise formality
of her outer manner. Her slightest action became to me the important
record of my day. I studied her and wondered. There were hollows in
her cheek that should not have gone with her years. Often in the warm,
impulsive lips I detected the set droop of long fatigue, while about
the eyes, which remained long moments lost in the healing distance, I
felt the still quivering lines of remembered pain. She seemed so out
of place that, with the memory of my own exile, I felt intuitively the
struggle of a soul brutally torn from its protecting affections and
forced by the tragic hazards of war to struggle for readjustment and
the right to go on living. I felt this and yet I could not intrude.
About her, in everything she did, in every word she uttered, was an
authority I could not but respect.

Her day was measured in an unvarying routine. She came from breakfast,
walked alone for an hour, took to her chair and read, with long periods
of abstracted contemplation, until a glance at her watch apprised her
of the time for another turn of the deck.

When she walked, it was without movement of the hips or shoulders, her
elbows to her sides, with a curious erect and measured grace, as our
grandmothers used to walk,--when our grandmothers were straight and
slender. Her step was light and leisurely, without purpose. She paused
often, leaning against the rail, to gaze into the western distances,
before resuming her pensive strolling. In the afternoon, particularly
at the stealing in of the dusk, I saw her turn to her prayer-book. Then
she became so absorbed that she forgot my presence completely, lifted
into regions where I could not follow.

The method, the dryness, the precision of this routine would have
convinced me were it not for a memory,--the cry of the woman in her
loneliness on the upper deck. With that memory in mind, I felt from the
first the struggle and the conflict,--two natures contending within
her; or rather that, with some determined resolve before her, as a
novice about to renounce the world, she was striving to impose upon
herself a discipline, mental and moral, which was not in the ardent and
impulsive rebellion of her temperament.

The short word of greeting, the punctilious farewell at night, in a
manner grave, restrained, and without a smile, were all so carefully
adjusted to the most obvious civilities that I despaired of ever
penetrating her reserve. Yet when the opportunity came it came as
naturally as it was unexpected.

       *       *       *       *       *

Among the few children was a boy of five or six who enjoyed great
popularity among the passengers. The child, attracted to Mademoiselle
Duvernoy by childhood’s instinct to those who have borne pain, passed
and repassed a dozen times a day before her chair, seeking by every
artifice to catch her eye.

The fourth morning out, when we were stretched languidly in our steamer
chairs, Master Jack, enveloped in leggings, sweater and muffler,
wabbled down like a rolling ball of cotton and, after the usual
preliminary skirmishes, rallying his courage, stopped directly between
our chairs and said timidly:

“How do?”

The piping voice startled her from her mechanical contemplation. She
dropped her book and her body seemed to shrink back.

“I talk to you a little while--yes?”

The smile of the young suppliant would have won over a jury, yet to my
surprise she did not unbend and the greeting was forced and perfunctory.

“Good-morning.”

Determined, the youngster sidled up and stood gazing in adoration.

“Why you wear that ugly veil all the time?”

As he asked the question, the childish fingers fastened and turned
about her wrist, while the young eyes grew big with sympathy. I saw
her arm draw hastily back from the contact. Then, after a moment, as
though obeying a superior determination, it came forward slowly and
reluctantly.

“The veil is not ugly.”

The tone, the action, the undefined look with which she stared at him,
impressed the child. A serious expression came over his face,--a look
of trying to understand something beyond his ken.

“Is it because you are so very sad?” he said softly.

I felt her panic before the child’s innocent directness and that in her
helplessness she turned to me.

“Come here, Jack the Giant Killer,” I said, catching him up and
swinging him through the air to plant him firmly on my lap. “How old
are you? Where are you going? What makes the steam white, the water
wet, and why does the wind sing? Do you know all that?”

“Why is the water wet?” said the youngster.

“You don’t know? Goodness--neither do I!”

The child, with his eyes still on Mademoiselle Duvernoy, extended a
pudgy forefinger.

“Is she your sister?”

“No, young man: and Mademoiselle Duvernoy is not my daughter, nor my
cousin, aunt or wife,” I said hastily, with a fear of coming questions.
“And if you will promise, solemnly promise, not to ask another
question, I’ll tell you the story of ‘Puss-in-Boots’.”

“I know ‘Puss-in-Boots’!”

“Well, ‘Cinderella and the Glass Slipper’.”

“I know ‘Cinderella’.”

“Well, what don’t you know?”

“I like the story of the Bears,” said the youngster decidedly.

“Humph! Now, that is funny,” I said, to gain time, for my memory was
not of the clearest. To save the situation, I decided to improvise.
“That is funny, because,--do you know, that reminds me of myself and
my brothers. What do you think they called us? ‘Big Dale, Little Dale,
Weeny Dale, and No Dale at All’!”

“You look like a bear,” said the youngster gravely.

“So they say. Well, once upon a time there was a little girl,--a very
little girl, with the most wonderful golden hair in the world. She was
called--”

“Snow-White!”

“Not at all. Golden-Locks. Well, one day, Golden-Locks went out walking
in the woods, and she saw the most wonderful butterfly in the world,
with diamonds glittering on its wings. She went on and on, following
the diamond butterfly, until all at once she came to a little river
that was flowing milk; but that wasn’t the strangest thing--”

“No?” said Master Jack, with round eyes.

“No. On the opposite side was a house,--all made of gingerbread; but
that wasn’t the strangest thing.”

“No?”

“No. She went inside, and there, on the table, were five white plates.”

But here Master Jack sat up in protest.

“How could there be five plates, when there is only three Bears?”

“Three? Who said there were only three Bears? There were five Bears in
the story.”

“Three!”

“Five. The story of the Five Bears. Don’t I know?”

“Wasn’t there only three Bears?” said Master Jack, who had caught the
now amused glance of Mademoiselle Duvernoy.

“Three--yes.”

“There--you see!” exclaimed the youngster. “And--and wasn’t she called
Snow-White?”

“She was.”

“There!”

“Then they’re not the same Bears,” said I, in pretended wrath.
“My Bears are American Bears. There was Father Growler and Mother
Gruff--that makes two--and Grumble Bear and Guzzle Bear--and that makes
four--and then there was Tinkle Bear--”

“That makes five!”

“I resign,” I said, with tremendous dignity. “Tell it your own way.”

But instead of protests and capitulation, the critic stood to his
colors.

“You don’t tell it at all the right way,” said the prejudiced public in
the person of Master Jack. “You put in things that don’t belong. You
tell it?” he said, suddenly turning to Mademoiselle Duvernoy, who had
been smiling at my perplexity.

“Oh, but Mr. Littledale tells it very well.”

“You tell it yourself, and I’ll correct you,” I said, laughing.

The issue was settled by Master Jack who, with a sudden wriggle,
transferred himself to the other chair. I rose to reclaim the truant,
who had snuggled up to her shoulder, but she shook her head.

“No, no, he can stay.”

Her arms closed about the fluffy rascal, and she began.

“Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Snow-White, who lived
with her father, a wood-chopper, in the woods--”

The youngster nodded, satisfied, glancing at me from time to time with
malicious triumph as the narration ran along classic lines. Her voice
was low, warmed with tenderness, and with the serio-comic pantomime
of the story there came into her face a new light, all gentleness. I
bent forward, listening to the melody of the voice without attention
to the narrative, my eyes fixed on the mobile, fugitive expressions of
her face. Why had she resisted the child at first,--shrinking from his
touch? And, why this sudden melting?

“And the enchanted Prince came out and married Snow-White, and they
lived happily, ever and ever after!”

But only half of the audience heard her. Master Jack was fast asleep.

“I thought I made up a very good story,” I said hurriedly, fearing the
opportunity would pass.

“You see, fairy stories are better each time they are told over--and
that’s why they must always be kept the same.”

We lowered our voices.

“I thought for a moment you--” I caught myself. “I beg your pardon; I
was going to ask you a personal question, and I know you don’t like
that.”

“You thought I disliked children, didn’t you?” she asked.

“Why, yes--”

“It was not that. Memories--” She checked herself, frowning.

“Of course. I understand,” I said hurriedly, as I saw the old
expression of sadness cloud her face. “I am sorry. Don’t you want me to
take the youngster? He is rather heavy.”

“No, no, please.”

I felt opportunity slipping from me.

“Mademoiselle Duvernoy, it must seem strange to you, a French girl,
brought up as you were, to realize this freedom of the sea?”

She turned to me in astonishment.

“What do you know about the way I have been brought up, Monsieur?” The
tone was a return to the old formality. Yet her eyes, in the brief
second they met mine, had a certain fugitive alarm.

“I have lived in France. I know the ways of your people, and I have
been privileged to know many of your old families. I am certain we have
acquaintances in common, of the Faubourg St. Germain; and I know how
rigidly the daughters are brought up.”

She frowned and shook her head decisively.

“You are quite mistaken about me. I have come to America to earn my own
living.”

The tone in which she said it was imperative, set and admitting no
debate.

“If you are a Frenchwoman, coming to my country, in whatever way, I
hope I may be honored by your friendship.”

“But, Monsieur,” she retorted, in a gentler tone, “I don’t see how you
and I can touch at any point; our ways are entirely different; and my
traditions do not permit me to make chance acquaintanceships. Pardon me
for saying this frankly to you, but it is a question of pride.”

I felt the door had been firmly closed in my face. Why such a rebuff,
when every instinct in me had been but of kindness? I was hurt, and
my manner showed it. I turned stiffly, and, sinking back in my chair,
returned to my book. Master Jack woke up and departed in search of a
tray of cookies.

“Mr. Littledale,--please?”

I looked up so hastily that the book slipped from my hands and tumbled
to the deck.

“I did not mean anything to offend you. You won’t be offended, will
you?”

“Why, just for a moment, I wasn’t quite sure--” Such a clear feeling of
joy rose in me, after the blank discouragement of a moment before, that
I cried out:

“Good heavens, no; of course, I won’t!”

She looked at me a little shyly and then away, hesitating, and I
feared I had frightened her away again with my tactless impulsiveness.
However, after a moment, she turned to me.

“You were in the Legion, Monsieur?”

“Yes, Mademoiselle.”

“Long?”

“I went in with the mobilization.”

“May I ask why you, an American, did that?”

“I could not help myself. It was so much bigger than anything else that
had come into my life.”

She thought this over a moment and then nodded as though pleased.

“Ah, yes--the mobilization. It made us very proud of our old French
race.”

“It made me proud of my fellow beings!”

“You--an American--felt that?”

“Particularly because I was an American,” I found myself saying, with
great warmth. “Oh, I do not sentimentalize war. I have lived it.”

“You do not see it as only brutalizing, as that book ‘Gaspard,’ of
which we are so much ashamed?”

“No, if that were the only side, France would not be living to-day.”

“Thank you, Monsieur,” she said, in sudden friendliness.

“The truth is in neither point of view. We cannot say that war ennobles
or brutalizes mankind. I have thought about this much, and this is what
I think: the man who is fundamentally a brute is made more brutal; the
man who has in him a spark of nobility, even unsuspected, is lifted
up. What war does is to search our souls and discover the ultimate
truth. You see, in times of peace, we all more or less wear a mask for
our neighbors. Well, when you’ve once gone into the trenches, that all
disappears: you find out what you believe. When all may be over at any
moment, you do what you want to do. And the strange thing is that each
respects the other’s point of view.”

“I think there is one thing you have left out,” she said, after a
moment’s thought.

“What is that?”

“The question of leadership. When he who leads is simple and high of
heart, the _poilu_ always responds.”

“Yes, that is true, absolutely true.”

“War is a time when the leader is everything, isn’t it?” She thought a
moment, and added, with a little weariness in her voice: “That is why I
think, no matter what the hideous suffering that comes, it does set us
right and turn us from false leaders.”

At this moment Hungerford came up and, much to my chagrin, I was forced
to present him, cutting short our first conversation.


VIII

Her behavior with Hungerford puzzled me. There was not a trace of the
calculated reserve which dominated all our meetings and to which, if
for a moment she forgot herself, she inevitably returned. A little
jealousy sprang up in me, for I was quite blind then to the real
reason. I felt that in me there was some lack of spontaneous appeal
to a woman. Before the irresistible good spirits of the younger man I
felt a heaviness of experience and wondered why in all my attempts at
friendship I should be so constantly saying the things that sent her
into the shell of her reserve, when she would listen with her grave
smile to Joe’s amusing patter. I was blind, indeed, and though I took
pains to hide it, I was weakly hurt at this unconscious camaraderie
with another.

She consented to our accompanying her in her walks when Joe assumed
it as a matter of course, though she did refuse, and I remember it
with a secret delight, to permit him the privilege alone. Here again
her personality dominated us. When Hungerford, with the free and easy
catch-as-catch-can manner of the younger generation, started to assume
possession of her arm, she disengaged herself quietly, and said:

“Messieurs, if you will offer me _your_ arms.”

Any one but Hungerford would have been discountenanced. As it was,
though he was a bit flustered, he gave her an exaggerated sweep of his
hat.

“Style Louis XIV, Marquise!”

And, with her hands resting lightly on our arms, we adapted our
impulsive strides to the leisurely grace of her choosing. Whatever her
reason for assuming the name and position she did (I had never believed
in it from the first), it was by such little things as this that she
betrayed the quality of her breeding. Brinsmade and Peter Magnus were
drawn to her instinctively, and often in the long afternoons we formed
a circle of animated discussion. The opportunities to talk to her alone
were rare and always she avoided them. When I did find a moment’s
intimacy it was always to be made aware of the ever present sadness
back of her eyes and the weight of some oppressing memory.

       *       *       *       *       *

The afternoon after her first introduction to Hungerford, a curious
incident happened, which, to this day, remains inexplicable to me. For
neither of us ever after referred to it.

We were walking the upper deck, under the open sky, the crisp tingling
air setting our cheeks to glowing. Despite herself, she was smiling
at Hungerford’s whimsical instructions on American society, while I,
feeling a little out of it, walked silently at her side, wondering at
the ease with which Joe had plunged into her acquaintance.

“And remember, in America, a young lady of fashion, who is properly
brought up, never marries until she has had a dozen proposals.”

“Never?”

“Never. It isn’t done. Oh, American girls are brought up to take care
of themselves! When she is bored, do you think she waits for the men to
come round? Not at all: she goes to the ’phone and says: ‘Jack, come up
and take me out to dinner and a show; I want to be amused’.”

“And she pays the bill?” said Mademoiselle Duvernoy innocently.

“The what?”

“The bill.”

“Mademoiselle--I am living in hopes--”

At this moment a gust of wind caught a large woman and bore her down
the deck, screaming for help. Hungerford dashed ahead, while we,
sheltering ourselves in the lee of a lifeboat, stood laughing at the
difficulties of the rescue. A sailor passed us and then a boy, carrying
a pot of grease, slipped, and, to save himself, caught at my arm. When
I had righted him, I saw such an expression of astonishment on his
face as he gazed at Mademoiselle Duvernoy that I said, still laughing:

“I say, this young fellow seems to know you.”

“_Eh, Bonne Dame; que c’est notre Mamzelle!_”

She turned, and her face went blank: then, recovering herself, she said
something rapidly in the Breton dialect which I could not understand.
The effect was instantaneous. The boy drew up straight, snatched off
his cap, and with marks of great respect backed away.

“Take my arm,” I said, going to her instantly.

She made no resistance and once as we started she swayed against
my side. We crossed the deck and I found her a seat where she was
sheltered from sight. There was no mistaking the effect on her.
The lips were twitching, and the lines under her staring eyes were
quivering with a haunting pain.

“Don’t try to speak. Don’t worry. No one saw you--not even I. Do you
understand?”

“Monsieur--” She tried to speak and then put her hand to her throat.

“Don’t try to explain. Believe me, it isn’t necessary.”

She looked up at me, weak and shaken, and for the first time that I
remembered her eyes held mine in a long, searching, mute appeal.

“But you will think--”

“Let me be your friend that far, Mademoiselle,” I said impulsively.
“Trust me. I have forgotten.”

Hungerford swung around the deck and stopped short.

“Hello. What’s wrong?”

“Too much motion, you unfeeling brute, or perhaps the sight of your
gyrations.”

I sent him for a chair and rugs, which gave her time to regain her
self-control. Then I tucked her away in a sheltered corner, without
opposition. She was stunned and did not seem to notice my presence for
the long hour during which I religiously kept my eyes from her face,
turning my back and staring over the driven waves. Later she called
to me in a voice still weak and I helped her to the lower deck. The
incident remained in my memory, obsessing it, deepening the film of
mystery which had been about her from the first.


IX

I think the thing that impelled me irresistibly to Mademoiselle
Duvernoy was the directness and order of her character. I knew that
as she was, she had always been, and that no future temptation could
ever alter for a moment her clear perception of her own high ideals.
In fact, I could not conceive of any such thing as temptation even
entering her life. To me, in my own consciousness of my turbulent,
shifting existence and my distrust of to-morrow, it brought me a
sense of cathedral calm to be privileged to sit at her side and
listen. I had not the slightest thought what was awakening in me,
so simple, so natural and so unpremeditated was my impulse towards
her. Gradually, a sense of well-being and light-heartedness came to
me, for now, while I was still aware of her struggling against me, I
was also aware of her yielding. With each morning’s greeting I felt
the night’s determination to relegate me into the safe distance of
the crowd. Yet I had but to conquer the disappointment of her first
manner and possess my soul in patience, to have her turn to me in a
new friendliness. At first I talked, and she listened, gravely and
attentively. I spoke of impersonal things, of memories of trenches and
hospital, of my intellectual unrest and philosophic speculations. She
answered me shortly, or by a question led me to find my own solution,
but it was not until we were three days from port that she revealed her
own thoughts and Peter Magnus was the occasion. I had been speaking of
my reluctance to return home and my fear of the indifference to war I
should find.

“You are never very tolerant, are you?” she said pensively.

“No, I suppose not,” I said, rather surprised at her reading my
character. “And yet you who are French surely must understand the
longing I have to love my own country.”

“My country has been centuries in the making. Our memories are long.
In every family some one has died that France might remain France. We
are an old race. We have lived together, been proud together, suffered
together, a long while. That does not come in a day.”

“No, of course not.”

I must have shown in my sudden abstraction something of the indecision
in my mind for, to my surprise, a note of friendly sympathy came into
her voice.

“Mr. Littledale, I am afraid you are going to be unhappy, just at
first. You hope for too much. Don’t be impatient. How can your people
know what we know? You will learn, as we learned, to stand together--by
suffering.”

At this moment, the voice of Peter Magnus broke in on our new mood.

“Then, you are glorifying war; you’ve come to that. Admit it.”

Brinsmade rose from his rugs and stood before us with an expression of
utter helplessness.

“Here is a man who has been three months in France and brings back
nothing but war is horrible. What am I to do with him?”

Peter Magnus ensconced himself in Brinsmade’s chair, so that we formed
a group. He took off his hat and ran his hands through his hair, which
was like a mane.

“When you speak of the glory of war,” he said, addressing Mademoiselle
Duvernoy directly, “I see only the women in black, the cripples, the
men who will grope in blindness, the station filled with the agony of
parting, the homes swept by sorrow. Glory! Where is the glory in it, if
you do not wear a crown? No, no, war is horrible, unthinkable!”

“Yet war is as inevitable a condition to a nation as death is to a
human being,” she said quietly. “And is death so horrible?”

We three, of differing degrees of agnosticism, looked at her, struck
with the boldness of the thought. It was Magnus who broke out:

“Yes, horrible! Death is horrible!”

“That, Monsieur, is because you have not seen how men die: you are
frightened by the mystery of the thing you do not know. And--perhaps,
in a man like you, you see only your own death--do you not?”

Magnus stared at her. From the first he had been strongly attracted to
her and never failed in deference.

“What can you know of such a thing?” he asked incredulously.

“Men have died by the hundreds about me.”

“You?”

She nodded.

“You have nursed in the Red Cross?”

“Yes. I do not like to speak of myself. I only mention it because
we are discussing things seriously. Yes, I have seen men die by the
hundreds. Monsieur Magnus, I have listened to many things you have
said, and I wish to tell you where you are wrong, and where all your
doctrines will fall down. All you think of is to avoid suffering.”

“Yes, not only the suffering that comes from needless sacrifice, but
the unending suffering that comes from those who must go on living.
You know one thing. I know the great mass; the suffering of those who
starve and suffocate.”

“You speak of the individual. I speak of the bigger thing,--the race.”
A little color came into her face as she grew animated with her theme.
“If a million men die to-day or to-morrow, what difference does that
make to the nation, any more than the death of a single sparrow?”

“I can hardly believe it is you that says such a thing!” he said,
astounded.

“Perhaps you don’t understand me. It is not how a million men die but
how they live that is important.”

“You are arguing with an individualist,” said Brinsmade.

“The right to live your life as you wish is to me a far more important
thing than whether half the world shall speak English or German,” said
Magnus warmly. “I am looking from the bottom up. I know what they think
who are striving,--not how best to enjoy life, but how to live. I know
what the workers feel about such things.”

“If that is true in America,” she said, seeking to moderate the
antagonism which his views aroused in her, “it is because the peasants
and the workers who have emigrated are--how do you say?--_déracinés_;
they have been uprooted; they have not yet fastened to your land; they
do not love it more than they do themselves. What you say is not true
of our French people. If you had seen our mobilization, you would have
understood what it is,--the love of country.”

“I saw it in the city,” I said, breaking in, “and it is a memory I
shall never forget.”

“But you should have seen it in the country! The quietness and the
stillness of it all--only the tocsin ringing in the church towers,
ringing all the afternoon. I saw it. I saw the women running to join
the men in the fields; to be together, the first thought. And I can see
the men leaving their reaping, sending back the women to make ready
their uniforms while they went, silently--always silently--to register
at the _mairies_. And when they went off, that night, each woman
brought down something from the store of the stockings,--a hundred,
two hundred francs. Not a woman rebelled. They put out flower pots on
the window sills and garlands of flowers on the great locomotives;
and I myself saw a little child writing in chalk on the cars, ‘J’aime
la France!’ There have been other moments--moments of doubt and
weakness--but it is good to have seen that!” She stopped, a little
embarrassed at having been carried away by her own enthusiasm. Then,
she said more quietly: “That is how the people of France, the people
you speak of, felt.”

Magnus was silent a moment.

“It is hard to answer you, Mademoiselle,” he said, gently. “I grant you
that it is beautiful, but I maintain that the tragic thing is that it
is all so unnecessary.”

“No, no, it is not unnecessary. I say that France is finer, nobler now
than it was before. Sacrifice is the essence of life. Suffering is the
test of the finest in us. Why won’t you admit that? Is it because you
don’t believe in anything else?”

“No,” he said. “I cannot believe.”

“Yes, that is at the bottom of much of your Socialism and your
internationalism and your individualism. It is the selfish conception
of mankind. There, Mr. Magnus, there, we disagree. We are not afraid of
death.”

“The Socialists and Freethinkers fought bravely, Mademoiselle,” he said
quietly, flushing under the antagonism he felt in her voice.

“True,” she said, checked for a moment, “but one is not truly agnostic
when one’s mother has had faith. It is not a question of bravery,
though. That is not quite fair,” she admitted. “Yet, I am sure I am
right. If there is no religious belief, you cannot have faith also for
your nation, can you, Mr. Brinsmade?”

“I had not thought of it in your way,” he said slowly. “I am inclined
to believe you are right.”

“I am. A Frenchman may have ceased to believe, but he can’t get
away from what has been taught him back through his generations of
ancestors. For we have taught him duty, not as something he rebels
against, but as an ideal, something so beautiful that he is willing to
sacrifice himself to that. Also, that is why we are a great nation;
because our young men are brought up to think of France as something
outside of themselves, that must go on, that must live,--an ideal
that is not selfish. That is what we all feel, Messieurs, from top to
bottom. What difference what happens to us, if France remains? Oh, I
express myself badly,” she broke off. “I wish I could make you feel
what we feel!”

“I understand your point of view, and I do respect it: yet,
Mademoiselle, there is something that I believe is more important, and
that is to see the truth. Don’t condemn too hastily. You have the gift
of faith: it is a wonderful thing. We are unhappier, I grant you; but
we cannot change our independence. Pardon me if I am not convinced.”

“In what way?”

“I still maintain that when the people’s eyes are open, they will see
that they are the ones who are sacrificed. The nationality you speak
of is a beautiful thing,--a dramatically beautiful thing. I can
understand how honor, glory, duty--those Middle Ages words--thrill your
class. But the others,--the peasant, the workman; no, no, he fights
without understanding, blindly, and he is the one who bears the burden.
For is it not true that it is the great mass, the men in the fields and
in the streets, that bears the burden and receives nothing?”

She started to answer and checked herself, but immediately, impelled by
an impulse too strong to be mastered, she said:

“Monsieur Magnus, it is my right to answer that. At New Year’s, 1914,
in my family, we sat down to table, fifteen of us: my mother, my
father, my five brothers, uncles and cousins--fifteen. Five are left
to-day: myself, a brother and two cousins at the front, and a brother
who in another year will go to do his duty as a volunteer; and, if for
any reason he should seek to avoid it, we would disown him though he
were the last of our name.”

She said it quietly without change of voice. We looked at her,
incapable of reply. Tears started to the eyes of Peter Magnus. He took
off his hat and said solemnly:

“If all the world were like you, Mademoiselle Duvernoy, there would be
no rebels like me.”

And, for that, I shall always maintain a respect for Peter Magnus.


X

Later in the afternoon I came out of the smoking room on the upper deck
for a breath of fresh air. To my surprise I had hardly started for a
turn among the rafts and lifeboats when I perceived the slender figure
of Mademoiselle Duvernoy standing by the rail. I went to her. One
glance, and I knew that her mood had been melancholy.

“If you are going to indulge in the mopes--you know what the mopes
are--the blues--I refuse to leave you alone.”

“But, Monsieur Littledale, I don’t see--” she began, drawing herself up.

“What business it is of mine?” I said, smiling. “No, no, you can
intimidate me at other times--you do that, you know--but not now, when
I feel that you are sad, and--please don’t go away,” I said hurriedly,
as she began to draw her cape about her. “I want to talk to you.”

“But in France we don’t talk alone with young men,” she protested, yet
I noticed that she lingered.

“You are not in France, now, and we are not alone,” I said, indicating
a group of children who were playing on the opposite deck.

She glanced in the direction of my gesture.

“Please, I do want to talk to you.”

Her look came to my eyes, the first time that her glance had met mine
openly, and in the look was gravity, friendliness, and a shade of
uncertainty. Then she looked away, hesitating.

“It is a new country and a new life you are going to, Mademoiselle,” I
said quickly, “and if our ways seem freer, you will find at the bottom
that you can always count on one thing,--the friendship and protection
of our men.”

“You have been very kind to me, Mr. Littledale,” she said solemnly.

“I did not mean that.”

She did not turn her glance from the horizon, but her head nodded
twice, and a rare smile touched the corners of her lips.

For the last days the air had been growing clearer, vibrant with the
vitality of younger skies: skies that had not been drenched in the
suffering of many multitudes. In the west, the sun was falling below
the green-blue horizon that wavered in sharp outline; a magnificent
sweep of golden reds was spreading across the cloud-strewn skies;
colors of hope and exaltation, colors of action. I, who had walked in
doubts, felt the boundless youth and opportunity which came streaming
towards me from the world of the future.

“It has been a privilege to meet you,” I said warmly. “I wish I could
talk over--so many things with you.”

“Yes, I feel what is in your mind: you are torn between two ideas--”

“Two? Twenty! I listen to every one; to Magnus, who sometimes convinces
me; to Brinsmade, whom I want to believe; to twenty different points of
view I pick up in the smoking room. I want to see my way clear as an
American, to something that stands out and thrills me as the one word
‘France’ thrills you. I want to have some beautiful ideal of my country
to live for, and I can’t yet see what we stand for. I’ve lost all the
smug, complacent ideas I had, and I don’t see anything else clearly.”

“I have felt that,” she said, in her simple way, unconscious of the
intimacy into which we were drifting. “Yes, I have felt that often
as I watched your face when you were listening to Mr. Magnus and Mr.
Brinsmade.”

“They debate what’s going to happen to America in a hundred years! What
interests me is what’s going to happen now.”

“Do you believe you will get into the war?”

“I hope so, from the bottom of my heart.”

“It will be a great awakening. We in France needed the war, too. You
see only what is glorious in us now. You don’t know what went before.
The heart of the people was pure in the great, beautiful fields of
France, and that saved us. But we had begun to lose faith; we even
said that we were decadent, that our day had passed. We were led by
false leaders who talked to the people of their ‘rights,’ not of their
duties. And these ‘rights,’--what were they? To do as they pleased,
to seek to make life easier. They were breaking down the faith of the
people, the faith in the family, with their right to live each for
himself; the faith in France, with their internationalism; and their
faith in God, which is at the bottom of it all.”

“Yes, so you said.”

“You do not believe?” she said, turning to me.

“I hope,” I said, after a moment’s pause.

“That may be enough for you, for you have traditions, traditions
founded in faith. But is that enough for the people?”

“Magnus says it is just what keeps them from progressing.”

“How does he say that?”

“He says that the Church is a superstition worked in the interests
of property. When the Church tells them that the reward will come in
another life, it blinds them to what they can accomplish in this if
they would organize and act.”

“Mr. Magnus is honest and logical, because he does not believe,” she
said, to my surprise. “Those who are not honest with themselves are
those who try to stand halfway.”

“But how would you answer him?” I said, troubled.

“By his own argument. If there is no future life, and therefore no
faith, why should we not do anything we please--steal, murder; why
should we abide by any law?”

“But he would supplant that by devotion to the Common State,” I said,
rather awkwardly.

“Isn’t that just what the Prussians are doing, with all their
pretensions of calling on God? Isn’t that why we hate the Prussian idea
and resent it, because it has no faith, either in the sacredness of
one’s word or in the feelings of humanity? Isn’t it founded on the idea
of force, and isn’t that what would result from any State formed on
agnosticism? Force, and only force, would prevail.”

“But would it?”

“Hasn’t it? Take our own Revolution: what happened? Didn’t it produce
worse tyrants, men of force,--Marat, Robespierre? And what killed
the Revolution? The attempt to destroy faith, in the abolishing of
religion. You see, you are questioning yourself as though faith
were only a spiritual speculation. It is much more than that, Mr.
Littledale: it is the beginning and end of all political organization.
Don’t you see?”

“When you speak, it is easy to be convinced,” I said, yielding to the
honesty in her eyes and the impassioned ring of her voice.

The discussion had carried her out of herself. The stiff preciseness
had gone. Her words, warm and glowing, thrilled me. It was not that she
convinced me of what she said but that she convinced me of herself.
I felt the woman in her, swept by generous impulses, glowing with
a beautiful ideal,--a great nature, with so much need to give. She
checked herself.

“Pardon. I am perhaps speaking too frankly.”

“No, no, you could never do that.”

I waited her pleasure, wishing to speak but finding no words, afraid of
the interruption which might come.

“I wonder what you were like before? I cannot see you in your home. But
I feel you have changed.”

She said it without looking at me, hardly aware that she had spoken her
thoughts aloud.

“Yes, great changes--so great that it is hard to look back and
understand myself. The first night there on the deck--you remember--I
could not sleep, and I kept going back over what I had been. You, too;
I felt you were awake, feverishly awake. Was I right?” She nodded, but
without looking at me. “I rebelled at going back! Oh, that’s what war
does for you. Whether you hate it or love it, it ends by creating about
you a new life and the other becomes something incredible, something
you wish to forget, something you don’t wish to interfere with your
liberty of action. For, Mademoiselle, the thing that’s hard at first
is to build up for yourself a new life that will satisfy, a new
philosophy; a new code of morals,--something to die with, not to live
by. All that is so different from the other thing that I have seen men
at my side who loved their homes shrink from opening a letter. For when
you have prepared yourself to die it is hard to remember how you have
lived. That was what I was rebelling against,--the thought of going
back, taking up life again, only to have to go through all the mental
pain of readjustment.”

“You are going back?” she said, turning to me in surprise.

“I am on a furlough only.”

“I didn’t know--I did not realize.”

“You ask if there have not been great changes in my life? Many, so
that I wonder what is coming. Up to the present, my life has been
without meaning, and I have only just realized it. It’s the change--the
contrast: the coming back has opened my eyes. It’s been drifting--just
drifting--nothing else. I don’t suppose I had an idea that was really
my own or that I had thought out. Was it my fault, or the education
they gave me? I don’t know. I went through school and college, with a
nice collection of hand-picked acquaintances, wafted gently from one
exclusive club to another. In the course of things I would have married
in my own set a charming, irreproachable girl--a spoiled child, with
entirely too much money--and settled down to the weary task of warding
off boredom. Why I didn’t do it, I don’t know. A curious, rebellious
pride, perhaps. I went abroad, to Paris, two years. Well, I came
through that! I do not see them clearly yet or their relation to my
life. They may have been necessary: time only will tell. I only know
that the mobilization was like an escape into pure air. The rest? Just
an acceptance of a thing that can’t be changed,--a happiness in finding
some purpose.”

“Monsieur, all this has made you what you are,” she said, directly. “I
did feel much of this. I felt this restlessness in you. And I think I
know what you are going to do. You have qualities of the heart that
will make you see clearly in the end; the qualities of the heart are
sounder, truer than the qualities of the mind; make no mistake. Will
you tell me about her? The young girl?”

“May I?” We had drawn a little together and stood looking over the rail
at the tumbling swirl below. “After all, why not?” I added, hesitating.

“Monsieur, sometimes it is easier to speak of the deep things in our
hearts to some one we meet just for a moment and never see again, when
each is true of heart and understands.” She turned and a smile touched
her lips,--a smile of dignity and friendliness. “I should not ask it if
I did not think, if I did not feel very strongly, that I might help you
to see a little clearer. She loves you, does she not?”

I did not realize then how strange the conversation was, nor the sudden
intimacy that drew us together.

“It is easy to tell you anything, Mademoiselle,” I said, smiling back
into her eyes. “But the situation is not just what you think. Do you
believe in marriage without love?”

“I believe--we are taught to believe--that love should follow
marriage,” she said, hesitating. “And if both are loyal--”

“That is your tradition; it is not ours. And you--is it always possible
for you to control your hearts?”

“We are taught that such love can only mean tragedy and unhappiness,”
she answered, staring away from me.

“Mademoiselle, it is Mr. Brinsmade’s daughter.” She looked up at this,
startled. “We have grown up together. She is charming. I admire and
respect her. Once, I thought it was a little more than that. But--but
I do not love her. Let me tell you all. It would mean everything to
me--power, opportunity, a big life--and Mr. Brinsmade would like it.”
Then I told her of our conversation, as best I could remember. “And
now, to be honest, I think--I believe that she cares for me and--yet I
do not love her.”

“Your pride is very strong,” she said solemnly.

“I suppose it is.”

She considered a long moment before she began to speak.

“Monsieur, I feel, no matter what you may think to-day, your happiness
lies there. The question of money is what makes it difficult to you,
but it is a question that should not come into it at all. Mr. Brinsmade
is right. Money is opportunity, to be utilized or to be thrown away.
He is a man with big ideas, a man who goes forward, and you will go
forward with him. I do feel I understand your nature more than you do
yourself, perhaps. You need stability in life, a home, and a woman who
loves you. A woman who is true, loyal and loves you, you will love in
the end, believe me.”

“Mademoiselle, do you believe that you can make yourself love?”

“There are many kinds of love, Monsieur Littledale: loves that destroy
us and wreck our lives; loves that pass; loves that we must fight down
to be true to ourselves; but there is another love which is calm and
security, which comes from mutual respect, the love that comes with
sharing life together loyally; and that love will come later to you,
for you have the qualities of the heart that count.”

“To some, to some brought up in different traditions, perhaps,” I said
rebelliously. “But with myself--no.”

“Wait, the young girl is a woman, a charming woman now, and all the
advantages are in her hands.”

“It is of course what I should do,” I said, shrugging my shoulders.
Then, all at once, the incongruity of it struck me, and I broke into a
laugh. “After all, there is one thing we forget.”

“What is that?”

“That all such things are quite unimportant: in a few months’ time I go
back. It is not a time to be making such decisions.”

“You will come through safely, Monsieur Littledale,” she said, in
a tone of deep conviction. “I know it. I feel it. I have strange
intuitions sometimes. I see storm and trouble ahead but I see the end
in happiness for you.” She could not have realized the gentleness which
came into her voice. I knew that the secret of her change of manner was
the introduction of a third. Was I altogether honest in permitting a
serious discussion, for no thought of such a marriage was then in my
mind. I watched her face eagerly, wondering at the gentle womanliness
that came out of its hidden cell,--all unconsciousness and simplicity.

“And your mother--what is she like?” she said.

“Mother? Why, I don’t know how to describe her,” I said, in some
perplexity. “I don’t know whether you’d understand. Mother goes
in for public things--very strong on woman suffrage, charities,
uplift, and pacifism. She’s a terrific worker. She has terrific
convictions--terrific! The Governor’s a trump; a sort of country
gentleman. He’s written quite a bit; he has convictions, too: other
convictions. There’s six of us; all with convictions--separate
convictions. Oh, we’d amuse you. A typical American family.”

She shook her head.

“That seems so strange; but don’t your families stand together?”

“Well, there’s one thing unites us,” I said, with a laugh. “We agree on
our right to disagree.”

She frowned in some perplexity.

“I don’t think I understand a home like that.”

“It isn’t like your French idea of home. We are all tremendously
devoted to each other but the thing you mean--the family tradition--the
standing for one definite idea--that doesn’t exist.”

“Are you a happy race, I wonder?”

The question surprised me.

“I had never thought of that. I should say we are--yes--and yet--I
don’t know: perhaps we are not. We are a nation of individualists,
full of driving energy and ambition. We all want something we haven’t
got. I’m afraid it’s rather a material ambition, usually. I’d like to
believe it makes for the greatness of the country,--this restlessness,
this discontent, this wanting to push up: but perhaps we do sacrifice a
good deal to it. I haven’t thought over that much.”

“I think that what makes my nation truly great is that we are the
happiest people in the world.”

“I don’t think I quite understand you.”

“Everything is so well ordered with us,” she said, and her voice
softened as she spoke of loved things. “Just as our beautiful land
is so well ordered: the fields so well laid out, the trees so
well disciplined, the little, red-topped villages so clean and so
prosperous, so in harmony. Just so in our family life: it is so well
ordered. We have real grandmothers and real grandchildren, and our
fathers are real heads of the family. I don’t think a Frenchwoman
would want to have a husband who didn’t have authority, to whom she
didn’t look up. And our mothers--you can never know the affection, the
deference, the respect that surrounds them.”

“Yes, I know that: it’s a rare and beautiful thing.”

“We have such pride in what the family has stood for. We live as one,
we surround the family life with so many quaint little customs. There
is much beauty and simplicity in it, for we are willing to be happy as
our grandfathers have been happy; and that happiness is not selfish;
it means many, many sacrifices often, but that makes it true happiness
because we cannot be happy unless we keep our pride in our ideals.” She
stopped. “I don’t know if you understand me, but I think we study how
to live more than you do. And, because we French are so happy together,
we can give everything to keep that happiness undefiled and pass it
down to our children.”

“Tell me of yourself--of your life,” I said, strangely moved.

She drew back, as though she had been unaware of a listener. The change
was so instantaneous that it startled me.

“But--Monsieur--certain things I cannot discuss--”

“Yet you asked me the same questions, didn’t you?”

“I? But I--”

She was thrown into confusion--at loss for an answer--and, all at once,
her face went red.

“I only want you to understand, Mademoiselle,” I said, with kindness,
“that it seemed a natural thing. It was not an impertinence. I could
never be impertinent to you.”

“You make me feel--” She hesitated again. “I am sorry--I didn’t
realize. But you made me talk. It were better I should not; I knew I
should not.”

“For heaven’s sake, why not?”

“I do not want to hurt you, Monsieur Littledale. You have been so kind,
so generous; but you make me do things I don’t want to do,--things that
are against my traditions, for I am traveling alone, unprotected--”

“Mademoiselle Duvernoy, I shall consider it a great privilege to be
your friend now and hereafter.”

“That cannot be; it is not possible; it is not right. We go different
ways in the world.”

“I don’t believe that--”

“We go different ways,” she repeated firmly. “If you will be generous,
you will not ask any more--please.”

She ended so low that it came to me in a whisper.

“I can be generous, but not to that point,” I said obstinately. “I want
another answer.”

“Monsieur Littledale, we are just chance acquaintances,” she said,
bringing her hands together in impulsive entreaty. “There is no
reason--”

“I do not believe we are what you say. It was something more than that
which brought me to your side that first night here.”

“What do you mean?”

She turned to me, with startled eyes.

“The feeling that made me know you were in--in danger.”

“In danger!”

“In danger, Mademoiselle. I felt it so strongly that it sent me to you,
and I did not dare leave you alone.”

I had no sooner said it than I realized how profoundly and fatally I
had erred. The woman who faced me I had never seen before.

“Monsieur, you do not know me. I am not of a race of cowards. I do not
take a coward’s way out of life.”

I looked at her, without power to answer,--amazed and baffled by the
swift succession of emotions which had culminated in this erect and
scornful pride. My eyes dropped before the look.

“Mademoiselle,” I said, at last. “I have offended you, I have offended
you, when my only thought, from the moment I met you, has been to offer
you all my friendship and deference. I am profoundly and miserably
sorry.”

I left her and went down the deck to the farther rail. There was no
resentment towards her,--only a weak, sinking misery that I should have
wounded her. My ears were filled with the sound of her gentleness. I
remembered only the hurt pride in her eyes. I saw her face in the mists
of the twilight, her deep eyes looking gravely out at me.

“Good God! How could she think I would say or do word or deed to hurt
her!” I said to myself, again and again.

“Monsieur Littledale?”

Unperceived, she had come to me. She was there, waiting at my side.

“Monsieur Littledale, I am sorry, too.”

Her hands were clasped before her, and the eyes that looked to me in
compassion and forgiveness were blurred. I put out my hands blindly,
but she had fled. I stood there, hearing nothing, seeing nothing, my
heart pounding within me.

It was then I knew that I loved her.


XI

She was not down to dinner when I came eagerly into the crowded
_salon_. She was not on the deck when I hurried up, nor did she appear
again that night. I slept badly and was out with the dawn, making
endless rounds through the sailors, who were swabbing down the decks.

I knew that I was beginning to love her, nor was I so dull as not to
feel that to her, too, I was more than just a chance acquaintance. I
did not attempt to analyze my feelings or to penetrate the future.
The present hour was too imperious. My mood was not of exultation but
of fear of her shy and persistent avoidance of me. If only a week
were before us! But the day was the last, and the morrow would bring
America, and--separation. I think I did not realize the full force
of the emotion that had swept over me; nor all the complexities, the
hazards, and the tragic destiny that it had, in the twinkling of an
eye, laid upon my life. My only thought was to see her again to know
from her first look that I still retained what had come to us in the
dusk before. I knew that everything was horribly against me. I was
certain, for some reason I could not fathom, that she would resist me,
had resisted me from the first. I was sure of nothing. But though it
meant finally but emptiness and the struggle to forget, I was powerless
to draw back now.

Breakfast passed, and the morning drew out, and she did not come. I
went to my chair and threw myself down, bodily and mentally tired. A
vast feeling of depression possessed me. Magnus came and talked to me.
I was conscious of seeming to listen; I caught phrases, heard myself
making responses. I knew nothing. My heart sank within me and such a
feeling of physical weakness possessed me, in this new, utter sense of
loneliness, that I could do no more than lie there, stretched inertly,
saying again and again to myself:

“She will not come. I have frightened her away.”

Yet she had not passed the door before I was instantly aware of it. A
wave of happiness and well-being went through me, as though my lungs
had filled with the first life-giving breath of air. She was coming,
head down and walking fast. I sprang up and hurried to relieve her of
the rug she was carrying. I knew she saw me, for she wavered and turned
aside to speak to a little French-woman who was traveling with her baby.

“Good morning, Mademoiselle.”

“Good morning, Monsieur.”

“May I take your rug?”

She glanced at her arm as though she had just perceived its burden.

“Thank you, Monsieur.”

I went to her chair and prepared it for her coming. All the depression
had left me at the first glance into her gray eyes. She, too, had felt
the tumult and the turmoil; it was written there in weariness and
strain. A violent joy, a sense of living and of hope, surged up in me,
as I awaited her first words. When I turned she had taken the arm of
her companion and was silently pacing off the deck.

An intuition, the instinct born of the struggle which is inseparable
from love, came to me. I, too, would avoid her and, in my absence, in
the longing denied, she would suffer, too, and by that suffering come
closer to me. Cruel? Yes, as in such moments the impulse is to beat
down all obstacles, to contend without quarter for the happiness that
lies beyond the agony of doubt and disbelief! I rose and went into the
smoking room, steeling myself to patience, resolved not to leave it
until luncheon. I sat there ten, fifteen, twenty minutes. At the end of
a half-hour I could bear it no longer. I went out hurriedly and, all my
resolutions forgot, straight to where she waited in her chair.

“Mademoiselle, you have not forgiven me,” I said, without preliminaries.

“Why?”

She turned, startled, and the new conflict I saw in the haunted
weariness of her glance brought me a sense of coming victory.

“Because you avoid me.”

“I?”

She could not meet the direct challenge of my look and turned away.
Still I pursued, without compassion.

“Yes. You avoid me. Would you rather that I did not remain here?” I
asked suddenly, sure of her answer. “For nothing in the world would I
do anything that would be distasteful to you. Tell me only what you
wish. Shall I go?”

She hesitated and, before the trouble I felt in her, my resolve almost
gave way. Yet, because I was fighting for both of us, I held firm.

“Only tell me what you wish.”

Once or twice she seemed to make up her mind to speak, but each time
she checked herself.

“Do you realize that by this time to-morrow we shall be steaming up New
York harbor?”

“This time to-morrow!”

“This time to-morrow.”

She put down the book she held in her hands with a show of purpose, and
looked out gravely.

“A strange world to both of us,” I said.

To my annoyance, the sound of the gong began to rumble through the
ship.

“What--already?” she said, to my delight, looking incredulously at her
watch.

“Take your luncheon up here; it’s a perfect day.”

“What a good idea! Yes, I think I shall.”

I hesitated, all my assurance melting away.

“I suppose the terrible gods of French etiquette would rock on their
thrones if I stayed, too--”

“I should feel very conspicuous.”

“Yes, yes, of course. I knew you would feel that way.”

My tone fell, in such unconcealed chagrin that she could not help
noticing it. She sat up and glanced down the deck. Other groups,
yielding to the sunlight which poured over the dancing ocean and flung
rainbows in the spray, were preparing to picnic above.

“It is the last day,” I repeated.

“Please--I should like if you will stay,” she said, all at once, and
then blushed and looked away.

I affected not to notice her confusion and busied myself with a serious
contemplation of the menu.

“There, it’ll be just like a meal at the front! Not quite so good
cooking as at one of your little country inns. Do you know, what you
said the other day’s been in my mind?”

“What was that?”

“About seeing death at first hand. I didn’t feel the way you did. I was
all broken up the first time; couldn’t sleep for a week. And yet, you
Frenchwomen go through all that and can still smile. Why is it? Have we
weaker nerves?”

“Don’t you think there is something changed in our smiles?” she said,
looking up.

“Yes, yes, I feel that. But you have so much faith in the good of the
world, you seem so uplifted by your experience, there is something so
serene in your eyes--”

I stopped, realizing how personal my analysis was growing.

“Ah, but when you are not just a spectator, when you are helping, it is
different. What is uplifting in service is that your own self becomes
of such little importance.”

“Yes, but I should think your memories--” I broke off. “When you told
that fairy tale to Master Jack, the first day, you could even laugh.”

“It’s because what I remember is not pain and ugliness but only the
beauty of sacrifice and the nobility of men who at other times may have
been very sordid,” she said warmly. “Do you know what our memories
are?” She half closed her eyes, and a tender look touched her lips.
“I think of one Christmas Eve--a great barn where I was nursing--a
barn that had been improvised into a hospital, with beds in the straw,
just like the birthplace of the little Saviour. I don’t like to speak
of myself, but I will tell you this. We stayed--my mother and I--in
a little village on the frontier--our village--when the Germans came
through; and that village, our little village, changed hands six times.”

“And you stayed--you and your mother?”

“We stayed, not to abandon our people and to take care of our poor
wounded.”

“And they let you do that?”

“They needed some one to take care of their own,” she said, with a
frown, “and we agreed--my mother and I--to do that if we could be
permitted to nurse our own men. Six times the village changed hands,
but on that night--Christmas Night--it was ours. So we made ready to
celebrate. We organized a concert. Oh, it was a strange concert! There
were over a hundred wounded in that great barn, and only a dozen could
stand on their legs, but they were all so gay, for that is something
our brave little _poilus_ never lose,--their gaiety. And there was to
be a tree, and all sorts of funny presents. And the concert! There was
a quartet, and there was a waiter from the Café de Paris who was lying
in a stall--with his feet carried off--who was to sing comic songs,
and a real tenor from the _Conservatoire_, who would sing magnificent
arias from the opera, and then there was to be a comic recitation, and
a classic recitation. Every one quite forgot their troubles in the
excitement. But Christmas morning a dozen wounded were brought in, and
one, a sergeant of chasseurs, in such a dreadful state that we did not
think he would live through the day. So of course, we prepared to give
up the celebration: and what do you think? He heard the men talking,
and he sent for me.

“‘Mademoiselle, is it true you are giving up the concert on my account?’

“‘You are in a bad way, _mon petit_!’ I told him.

“‘Bad way! _Allons!_ I am going to die,’ he broke out. ‘_Eh, bien!_ I
choose to die gaily, instead of in a corner, like a dog. It is my wish
that the concert go on. And tell the comrades to sing out good and
strong!’

“It was done, as he wished.”

“And he died?”

“Not that day, but the next,” she said, “without a complaint. Do you
think that when I can remember there are men like that in France, I
have a right to be sad?”

The deck steward came and went, and we began our luncheon. A hundred
questions were on my tongue, but I gave voice to none.

“They were so patient and so simple in their courage,” she continued
gravely, “always trying to help me. Many times, I’ve had a soldier who
was suffering say to me:

“‘_Allons_, Mam’zelle, get your sleep to-night. If this arm of mine
won’t keep quiet, I can be of some use. I’ll make the rounds.’”

“And the brave fellows who fretted because they couldn’t return soon
enough to the lines! They were so gay. I remember a little Breton who
had both legs gone, posing for his photograph, with stockings pinned to
his trousers, and saying:

“‘When I get up to Paris, I’ll get a pair of legs that’ll make me two
inches taller than this old Auvergnat over here!’”

“Those are the things that are good to remember. Poor boys! There were
so many that died unnecessarily! We were so few, and we could do so
little!”

“But you had doctors?”

She shook her head.

“I am speaking of the first months. Only from time to time a doctor,
and, when the Germans had the village, never. But I think that was
better.”

“I could not have done that,” I said, shaking my head. “I think I could
meet what I had to meet but--day in and day out--to have seen others
suffer, others die like that--”

“I only remember the look of gratitude in their eyes,” she said,
simply. “And then, I had my part. I had to keep up their morale, you
know, and send them back to the front with courage. It would never
have done for me to weaken.” She turned with a smile and saw the
profound gravity on my face. “Believe me, what I say is true,” she said
solemnly. “It had its hardships, but they were days of beauty, and I
never think on them without a thrill of pride in the France I have been
privileged to know. Please don’t look so grave. I’m afraid I’ve been
too serious.”

I was staring at her, looking into the past which she had conjured up,
divining things she had passed lightly over.

“Why are you staring so?” she said, a little embarrassed.

“I was trying to imagine you in your white and blue costume,--the most
beautiful robe that has ever been given to woman,” I said solemnly.
“You have no photograph?”

She shook her head.

“I only meant I should have liked to see it.”

“I love the uniform, too,” she said, and a note of sadness was in her
voice.

“But you will go back?” I said, before I could catch myself.

“I shall never go back. Will you take the tray?”

I hastened to obey. When I returned, I saw at once a stiffening of her
whole nature against me.

“Confess that you are thinking of the sacred gods of French etiquette,”
I said, hoping to make her smile.

She acknowledged the hit, with a little confusion.

“Then please blame me, and not your conscience, for I made you talk.”

“That is so. You make me talk against my will.”

“And now you are wondering how you can run away.”

“How do you know me so well?” she said, forced at last into a smile.

“Oh, I do. There is a very stern, uncompromising Mademoiselle Duvernoy,
and there is a very gay, happy Mademoiselle Duvernoy.”

“Once, there was a very frivolous one,” she said, nodding.

“I didn’t say that--”

“But it is so; oh, very frivolous--very _mondaine_, before the war--who
loved good things, as a child loves sugar plums!”

“What terrible sins you must have had on your conscience!” I said,
laughing.

“Oh, but I loved pleasure, very much, and the things of this world. I
did, very much.”

I smiled.

“I smile, as the Father who heard your confession must have smiled.”

She shook her head.

“I was a very superficial little person; not at all tolerant, very
satisfied with myself, and very dissatisfied with others.”

“Good heavens; I don’t think you have ever been anything but the spirit
of gentleness!” I broke out.

She drew back instantly, and I hastened to repair the blunder my
impulsiveness had made.

“You women of France all have that quality of gentleness,” I said
hastily, in a more guarded tone. “That is what I notice about all of
you.”

She relaxed, though not quite convinced.

“You idealize me, Monsieur. We have done our duty, that is all, and we
have found in it a great happiness.”

“I wish my sister--I used to think of her as my little sister; good
heavens, she must be twenty now!--I wish my sister Molly could know
you. Of all the family, she is closest to me. I hate to think of her
going through four or five years of useless life, dancing herself to
death, learning to get bored with every pleasure: she’s such a little
trump, now.” I took out my pocketbook and brought out a photograph of
a youngster in pigtail, tanned and straight, looking out with innocent
laughter at the most beautiful of worlds.

She took it, and glanced from the photograph to me.

“Yes, I understand. There is something very noble, very pure, very
brave. She is your favorite?”

I began to laugh.

“What is it?”

“Do you know, that’s only the second time I think you’ve really looked
me in the eyes.”

She blushed--as she did easily--and tried to laugh.

“We are told never to look a man in the eyes. It is very old-fashioned
to you?”

“But why?”

“Because,” she hesitated a little and then went on, looking away
from me, “because, when you look in a man’s eyes, they say, you are
seeking a different meaning to his words.” She blushed furiously.
“It’s not that exactly but--how shall I say?--we are taught that it is
too forward--too provocative. But you are laughing at me,” she said,
covered with confusion.

“I am not laughing, Mademoiselle,” I said seriously, “and I like that
in you.”

The conversation became difficult and a certain diffidence overcame us.
A moment before, she had been talking to me freely and impulsively,
though a little shy and hesitant, as a young girl. I saw her mood
change and a certain womanly dignity come to her.

“Monsieur, I have been thinking much of the confidence you entrusted to
me. Have you--have you no photograph of Miss Brinsmade?”

My pocketbook was still in my hand. I drew out a little snapshot and
handed it to her. She held it a long time, studying it intently.

“She is very beautiful,” she said at last.

“Yes.”

“This is how long ago?”

“Three--four years; when she was just out of school.”

She nodded, still studying it.

“Monsieur, there is a great deal that is waiting there--a great deal of
love--a great deal of nobility. A woman like that will be what you want
her to be; only, don’t make her wait too long.”

I took the photograph, looked at it wondering if she had said all her
thought, and slowly replaced it in my pocket.

“Mademoiselle, I, too, have been thinking over our conversation and I
feel I may have given you a wrong impression--”

“How so?”

“I was only discussing something that was a remote possibility, nothing
that I have really considered. I reproach myself a little; I had not
the right--on her account.”

“Why?”

“Because I know now that it is quite impossible.”

Heavens, how much I wished to say to her, and how little I dared. I
waited, wondering if she would understand. She did not answer, but I
saw her hands clasp and unclasp in her lap.

“What you have said of marriage is natural to your traditions. Some
other man might do as you suggest and find happiness. I know--I know I
could not, and keep my self-respect. I shall never marry, Mademoiselle,
unless my whole heart goes with it.” I hesitated and, despite myself,
knowing the danger of it, I added, very low, “I know that now.”

She did not hesitate but answered me, instantly and lightly.

“Perhaps, Monsieur, the future will settle that. Will you permit me to
hope that it may be so?”

She rose, with a formal nod and made a pretext to descend to her cabin.
I saw her to the door and returned, my brain in a whirl. At one moment
she had seemed to come to me with such impulsiveness; at the next,
to be a thousand miles away. I dropped back into my chair, uneasy
and tortured by regrets. A flash of gold on the gray scarf she had
left behind her caught my eye and, leaning over, I picked up a little
brooch I had always seen at her throat. It was in the form of a locket,
heart-shaped, such as children wear. I turned it over in my hands and
saw an inscription on the back, a date and a name written in a free
hand:

  _BERNOLINE_

The next moment I realized that unwittingly I had trespassed on the
mystery of her identity. I put the pin hastily in my pocket and rose,
with an idea to restore it to her immediately. I went into the Ladies’
Cabin, hoping to find her there, and then into the writing room. I
could not take it, myself, to her stateroom and I did not wish to
entrust it to a steward. In the end, I kept it and waited for her
reappearance.


XII

It was well into the heart of the afternoon when I discovered her, at
her old post on the upper deck.

“Mademoiselle, please do not think that I mean to intrude,” I said
diffidently, when I had come to her side.

“You are not intruding, and I had hoped that you would come,” she said,
without evasion. “For, Monsieur, I feel that I ought to say something
to you very seriously.”

Her manner, in its decision and thoughtfulness, alarmed me.

“I have things, too, which I wish to talk over with you, in the
uttermost seriousness. I am a little afraid of that conversation,” I
said, looking down, “because we are going to disagree. My mind is made
up to certain things, Mademoiselle, and I do not think you can change
it.” I added, looking up into the sadness of her eyes, “Will you grant
me a favor--a last favor. There is so little time that is left us. Wait
until to-morrow.”

She shook her head.

“My conscience reproaches me for putting it off as I have done. Do not
make it any harder.”

“If it is to be only a memory,” I said, “let the memory be complete. It
is something even to have had a memory of you. Please grant my request.”

I doubt whether she would have yielded even then, though I saw her
breast rise and her eyes close at my voice, had I not brought forward
the locket, saying:

“Mademoiselle, I came to bring you this. I found it on your chair.”

Her hand went to her dress spasmodically, and the color left her face
with the violence of her emotion.

“I must tell you. I did not realize what I was doing, but I saw the
name on the back.”

“You did not open the locket?” she said, in terror.

“Mademoiselle, I am sorry that you asked that question.”

“Forgive me--I--forgive me.” She put her hand to her eyes, and stood
trembling from head to foot. God knows it was hard not to take her in
my arms. But I stood there, gritting my teeth, waiting until she grew
quiet once more.

“Bernoline--so that is your name?” I said softly.

“Yes, that is my name.”

“I have known, from the first. Bernoline--I am glad I saw it, for the
other name I could not associate with you.”

“Monsieur.” She turned, and this time her eyes looked me through and
through. “You are a man of honor? Give me your word of honor never to
mention that name to a human being. Oh, I do not mean to hurt you--I do
trust you. But--I must have your word!”

“You have hurt me,” I said. “It was not necessary, but--you have my
word.”

Her agitation was so extreme that she hardly noticed my reply.

“Mademoiselle--no one who has had the privilege of knowing you--of
listening to you--can ever believe that you were brought up to be a
governess. And if you had been,” I added hastily, “that would not make
the slightest difference. You are you, and that is sufficient. I think,
Mademoiselle, I never wanted anything more in the world than to be your
friend.”

She shook her head again at this, but the agitation passed and her
voice was soft with pleading as she answered me:

“Monsieur Littledale, you will forgive me? From the heart? I
did not know what I was saying. I should always trust you--in
everything--without a doubt.”

“Thank you,” I said, all choked up.

“Your friendship? Yes. But, friends? No. To-morrow, it is to be
good-by,” she said, more gently than I had heard her. “Is it not better
to say now what we must say to each other?”

“No, no--to-morrow.”

“To-morrow, then. Since you asked it and because I did hurt you,”
she answered. “Only, make no mistake. You have seen me, Monsieur, in
moments of weakness. Why I have been so I do not know: I am not like
that. I can do what has to be done.” The locket was in her hands;
she held it before her. “It is the last thing that remains of all my
past life. I had no right to keep it; I have been wrong. Monsieur
Littledale, I think you will understand now how immovable my resolution
is, when I know what must be done!”

She opened her hand, and the locket, a tiny streak of gold, vanished
into the sea.

“It was my baby pin, and the name was in the handwriting of my father.”

It was done without a tremor and the chill of the waters, into which
the locket had passed, possessed me.

       *       *       *       *       *

Instinctively we avoided the danger of personal references. For
the rest of the afternoon we sat there together, talking eagerly,
unconscious as two children of the shortening day. I do not remember
ever to have known such an exquisite and eager pleasure as in this
impulsive searching of our minds. It was the delight in meeting
in intimate conversation some one who woke in me all my dormant
imagination and led me along suddenly opening galleries, into
unsuspected worlds. As we rambled on, touching lightly or profoundly
twenty changing ideas, a deep tranquillity came to my restless spirit,
not simply from the contemplation of the serenity that lay on her
open forehead and deep in her clear, untroubled eyes, nor the charm
of listening to the melody of her voice, but in the calm certitude
of coming happiness. I was happy; yes, for that one all too brief
afternoon. I was happy as I never realized happiness could come to me.
For I saw such happiness in her face that at times she seemed no more
than a girl of sixteen, artlessly spreading before me her imagination
and her treasured thoughts. She was happy. I knew what that meant. I
was content to go no further, sure that on the morrow, when we came
to serious discussion, I could turn all her objections, based, as I
believed them to be, on a sentiment of too scrupulous pride.

We were in the midst of a gay debate on the upbringing of the young
girl in France, when the sound of the dinner gong broke in on our
illusions.

“What, so soon!”

“It is not possible!”

The two cries came simultaneously. We stood up, suddenly sobered. I saw
her face change.

“And, to-morrow afternoon--here,” I said confidently.

“It were better to say good-by now,” she said wearily.

“It will not be good-by, Mademoiselle.”

She shook her head and gave me her hand, and I remember now how heavily
it lay for that short second in mine.

“Monsieur, I repeat, you make me do things I do not mean to do, that I
have no right to do.”

“Wait until to-morrow,” I said, so completely happy that I tried to
laugh her out of her mood and refused to perceive the solemnity and
sadness that settled over her face.

       *       *       *       *       *

I am glad now, as I look back, for that one hour of absolute faith in
the future. Life was a certainty; I was filled with an eagerness to
begin and in the knowledge of the rare and beautiful realization of
happiness, I had not the slightest fear of the test of the morrow.


XIII

I spent the hours after supper in the smoking room, puffing at my pipe,
with a new tolerant understanding of the young America before me; of
these young spirits, with their exaggerated bursts of humor, their
overflowing belief in themselves, their boyish eagerness to return to
“God’s Country.”

“I wonder if they would ever agree on anything,” I thought, as I
watched the nervous, combustible American need of reaction breaking out
in sudden fits of gaiety. “So many minds; so many ideas!”

Some had served from curiosity, more from the love of adventure, and
a few, thrilled by the comprehension of noble ideals. I saw them
returning, scattering north, south, and west; into village, farm and
city; mechanics, students, idlers; taking up again the easy, careless
run of American lives; moving on obedient to the accidents which
determined their paths; good-natured, generous, emotional, keen,
ambitious, seeking that success that is counted in terms of dollars.
And then I wondered. I wondered if the sudden, transforming call on the
air would ever come to them.

“What does it matter whether a million men die to-day or next year?”

Bernoline’s words, words that had startled me at first, came back to me
then. “All that matters is how they live!”

“For, if the test come,” I thought, “it is our generation that’ll have
to make good. Make good! Yes, that’s one thing we can do: I have no
fear of that--and yet, how unprepared we are for the test!”

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning I was up and out on deck with the sun. Already there
was the note of change. The dream life of the last days, suspended
between sea and sky, between one civilization and another in a happy
incredulity, was come to an end. Ahead was reality; life to be taken up
again, the fixed path to be followed!

Forward, the hatches were off and the donkey engines were diving
into the holds. The passengers who came out were unrecognizable in
their shore clothes, stiff and formal, retreating into the shells of
themselves. The smoke of an ugly freighter smirched the sky. A swarm
of sea gulls, noisy as the approaching multitudes of the city, vexed
the air. Across the lapping of shallower waters a dozen sails stood out
to sea. At noon Fire Island rose out of the waves, passed and sank.
A group on the deck below set up a cheer. The thin, white sand of
Long Island slipped over the horizon and grew towards us. America--my
America--was there! I felt like snatching off my hat and waving it
madly, hysterically, as Frangipani and the others were doing.

I had not thought to be so stirred. I had thought to return with
foreboding in my eyes and questions on my lips, and instead there came
this involuntary gripping of the heart. Out of the whole world, this,
this bit of land was mine!

“Good to see your own again, after all, isn’t it?” said Brinsmade, who
had come to my side.

I acknowledged it, with a laugh.

“Had no idea it would affect me so.”

“It’s an instinct that’s down pretty deep, David.”

We watched the derricks swinging up their cargo. A crowd of young
fellows, led by Frangipani’s ear-splitting tenor, were singing:

      Give my regards to Broadway,
      Remember me to Herald Square!

“We’re all like that,” said Brinsmade. “Must blow off steam
occasionally. Would you believe it--I feel like jumping down there and
doing the same thing!”

“I believe you.”

I glanced at my watch for the twentieth time, and went up to the upper
deck and waited, scanning the horizon that was perplexed with the drift
of the great city; scows, tugboats, coast liners and pilot boats,--a
busy officious rabble. Then Bernoline came.

She was gloved and bonneted, an umbrella in her hand, veiled, as she
had been on the day of departure. My heart sank. I was quite unprepared
for this. In my rapt imagination I had expected the Bernoline of
yesterday, impulsive and generous, a woman turning back into the eager
unconsciousness of girlhood. This was more than a mask. She had
retreated behind a barrier of impersonality,--an impersonality as stiff
and starched and forbidding as the outward form.

“Monsieur Littledale, will you walk with me a moment?”

The voice was calm, self-possessed and resolved. I was so overcome, I
had already such a sensation of futility and defeat, that I do not know
that I even acknowledged her greeting as I turned and followed at her
side.

“A little farther--there--here we can be alone.”

We crossed and found a sheltered nook. I stood, staring down. All below
me was ugliness, and I remember now how suddenly depressed it made me
to be brought face to face with this sordid realism,--this muddy water,
streaked with oil, the waste, refuse and litter of the city. The siren
blew, once, twice, in shattering blasts. We moved onward, towards the
river head.

“Monsieur, I have to thank you, and I do thank you deeply for your
perfect courtesy towards me.” Her voice sank lower. “You have been
loyal and considerate. It is a memory I shall always retain of an
American gentleman. Now, I am going to appeal to that chivalry and to
that loyalty.”

“You are going to ask me never to see you again.”

She hesitated before the shock of pronouncing the decision which must
have been in her thoughts for days. Then, recovering herself, she said,
calmly:

“That is exactly what I must ask of you.”

“I do not understand--_must_?”

“Must.”

All that I had thought out, every argument which I had built up
victoriously to combat her resolution, all power of reasoning, left me.
Intuition, which never fails at such times, told me that before this
Bernoline nothing that I could say or do would avail. The woman who
spoke was a soul in retreat, and the veil which barred the meeting of
our eyes was the veil of renunciation. I blurted out:

“Why? Why do you ask such a thing, such an unnatural thing of me? What
reason can there be?”

“Monsieur, I must remind you,” she said instantly, “that there is no
reason why I should give explanations.”

“Wait. I can’t talk to you like this,” I broke in. “Yesterday--good
heavens, where is yesterday?--yesterday I knew you. Only yesterday,
we were happy as two children, exploring the world, hand in hand:
to-day you come to me and face me as though I were an enemy! You
speak to me behind this mask of a veil! You ask me something utterly
incomprehensible and, at my first dazed question, you--but what have I
done--why, why should you take this way with me?”

She raised her arms instantly and drew back her veil.

“You are not an enemy, Monsieur Littledale.”

When I looked at her I was so shocked by the pallor of her face and the
dark stricken eyes that I cried involuntarily:

“I have made you suffer like that!”

“It is right that I should suffer,” she said bravely, though her lips
trembled a bit, “for I have done wrong in even permitting you to speak
to me.”

“Why? What wrong?” I said desperately. “What wrong is there in our
friendship? I have never said a word to you, Mademoiselle, that could
not be said before a third person. I never shall. Leave it as it is.
Keep me in your life--as a friend, only.”

She shook her head, and her eyes never wavered from mine.

“You make it very hard for me. Yet, because I feel that what has
happened is my fault, I must say things that it is very hard for a
woman to say. _Mon ami_, I shall not disguise from you that, had I
the right, your devotion would mean to me the greatest happiness in
the world. Let us not play with a situation that is too serious for
half-truths. What might be cannot be. I tell you this, and after what
I have told you, my friend, without concealment, I ask you to believe
without further question.”

“Good God! And what do you think I feel!”

“Try to forgive me--if not now, a little later. I accuse myself
bitterly. Don’t--don’t show me how I have hurt you.”

“Bernoline! Bernoline! Don’t say such things.”

I looked away, at the world that grew blurred, and at the sky and
water, which ran together before my eyes. Everything was against
me--the minutes even, dwindling away as we moved inexorably towards the
final parting. At one moment I rebelled against the needless insensate
pain of it all. Something in me called out: “She is a woman--a
woman that suffers as you do. Clasp her in your arms--beat down all
opposition--still all her doubts and fears with the thing that is above
reasoning. Be cruel. It is the only way. Be cruel now, to be happy
always.”

But at the next moment, at the thought of all it must have cost her to
have said what she had said; at the struggle I had seen in her eyes,
just to spare her this one added touch of pain, I was ready to accept
everything she asked as she asked it. So, I stood, struggling with many
impulses. At the end, I raised my head, and said:

“Bernoline, you are right: it can be no question of friendship between
us. You have done a very brave thing. I wish I could do as big a thing.
I cannot. There is no earthly reason which I can conceive of that can
come between us. Do you think, now, after what you have shown me, I
could go away without an explanation and not be haunted by the thought
of what might have been!”

“Monsieur Littledale, you do not realize the difference between
our positions. I am come here to this world to earn my living, as
governess, nurse, companion, in whatever way God will show me.”

“Good heavens, what difference does that make to me?”

“It does, to me: it is a question of pride. I have chosen my way, and I
must do as others do. Are you going to make it harder?”

“Bernoline, that is not the real reason,” I said sternly.

“_Mon ami_, there is the difference in religion--”

“Bernoline, that is not the real reason!”

“Monsieur Littledale,” she said, wavering from the look in my eyes, “I
repeat, I alone have the right to decide, and I do not admit--”

“And I tell you now I will never let you go out of my life, no matter
what you may ask of me!”

There was a long moment before she again raised her head.

“You make it very difficult for me, _mon ami_; if you knew how
difficult, I think you would be more generous.”

The rebellious combat in me died away before the break in her voice. I
looked, and saw her eyes closed with sudden tears.

“Oh, don’t,” I said brokenly. “Anything--anything but that, Bernoline!”

“My friend, I will not lie to you,” she said, after a moment. “If
I could--if it were right--I should prize beyond all things your
friendship.”

“Friendship!”

“It cannot be. I have been wrong, very, very wrong to have even talked
to you as I have--but at moments it was beyond my strength. I reproach
myself, bitterly! David, _mon ami_,” she said suddenly, and her hand
came out bravely and lay on mine. “I have more than I can bear, now.
If you insist, I will tell you, but--it will break my heart to do
so. I am going to ask you, once more. If you have the great heart I
believe you have, my friend, my good loyal friend, if you do not want
me to suffer more than I can bear to suffer, if I am to hold to my
own respect, give me your promise never to see me again. Ask me no
questions; trust me. Go your own way and let me go mine.”

Her hands had come together in supplication; her eyes had in them a
terror of returning pain and their look hung in mortal distress on my
decision. Her agitation communicated itself to me; confusion was in my
eyes, and in my heart was a chill.

“Good God! What can I do, when you ask me like that?” I said
helplessly. “I promise. It shall be as you wish. I--it--I promise.”

“_Merci, oh, mon Dieu!_”

I heard her cry like something far off; all the world had dropped away
from me. She came close to me; perhaps my very helplessness disarmed
her.

“David, I never meant to hurt you so. Believe me, what I do is for
you--for you, first. Keep me as a memory of something beautiful in
your life. Day and night I shall have you in my prayers--you and your
happiness. That will come, David. You will forget what I was too weak
to prevent.”

I bowed my head, incapable of speech.

“There is only one thing I ask, now,” I said at last. “Oh, it’s only a
little thing, otherwise it would be too cruel: I ask only to be allowed
to see you through the landing--just the last courtesies.”

“Yes, _mon ami_.”

I held out my hand abruptly, and she gave me both of hers. She was so
close to me that for a moment we swayed against each other, parting
and longing in our eyes so poignant that all the world seemed like a
whirlpool drawing us down together.

“Your promise, David, your promise!”

I released her hands instantly and my eyes closed not to see her so
near and so weak. When I knew what I was doing again, I was alone.
How long I had been there, I do not know. A great mass was before me,
thrusting a torch into the skies and the kindling stars. I went down
the deck like a drunken man and ran into Hungerford, who came up gayly.

“Hello, there, seen a paper?” He checked himself, staring at my face.
“Here--Big Dale--what’s wrong?”

“Wrong--nothing’s wrong!”

I felt his arm under mine and was glad for this touch of another human
being in my blank loneliness. I heard him rambling on, nodded my
head, and knew not a word he was saying. This for long minutes, while
gradually I fought back to myself.

To this day I can feel the overwhelming insolence of the stone
weight of New York rising out of the waters, crushing me down in my
utter loneliness. An invisible hand was lighting up the city; glass
squadrons suddenly relieved, floated in carnival pomp across the night.
Across the vanishing space of bridges, feverish traveling flames shot
out,--one, two, and then another. A furnace belched against the sky.
Electric signs swarmed out of the dusk. Below me, over the swift,
oily, painted waters, were green lights, red lights, ferryboats afire,
tugs coming and going, shrieking, puffing, roaring,--and always we
moved on, irrevocably on, past the Battery, past the oozing, slimy
hulks of the city wharves, rotting below the fiery splendor of the
city’s rise; stagnant as poverty beneath the soaring pride of wealth,
in the miraculous city of tragic contrasts! How vast it was, how
unhuman! Every note a thousand times multiplied,--every sensation of
multitude! Multitude on multitude--armies of order and disorder--a
collective tyranny that roared over me on the threshold of America, as
the resistless downward plunge of Niagara beats endlessly. Torrent of
forty nations and twenty creeds, conflict of tongues and churning of
races--not my America, but the world-vision of Peter Magnus--multitudes
moving like glaciers towards destinies no one might confidently predict!

And, against this howling contention, this churning, grinding
background, I saw but one figure,--the shadow of a woman, the woman I
loved, exiled and alone.

       *       *       *       *       *

At six o’clock it was all over. I stood at her carriage door,
bareheaded, bending over her hand. The bustle of the landing, the
examination of the baggage, the damp, noisy, strident wharf, the
pushing and the strife were behind us,--too soon gone. Only this
remained.

“You can give him your address,” I said, stepping back.

“It is St. Rosa’s Convent.”

“Thank you.” Even at that moment, her trust in me brought a little
comfort.

“Do not worry. I shall be well taken care of.”

“St. Rosa’s Convent,” I said loudly to the driver.

The moment had come. I had not realized what it would cost me. Before
the finality of it, I stood, clutching the door, incapable of a word.

“God be with you,” she said, bending forward.

“Bernoline--Bernoline, if ever--”

She leaned forward and, suddenly remembering, drew her veil. Our eyes
met without wavering, unconscious of the crowd that jostled and shouted
behind us. She raised her hand and touched my forehead.

“Thank you, from my heart. I shall keep you in my prayers, day and
night--always, David.”

She sank back, and I saw her face no more. A policeman shouted an angry
order. The carriage moved away. At the window her hand fluttered in
a last weak gesture. Then, even the window grew blank. I was alone,
standing with head uncovered, in the midst of a group of urchins, who
were mocking my long face.



PART III


I

The rest is a blur. Clear and definite as is every moment from my
first meeting with Bernoline to the last faint flutter of her white
hand, the rest of the day is confused. There are hours which are lost,
during which I do not know what I did or where I wandered. The great
city roared about me. I walked interminable miles along dark, echoing
side streets and into sudden flaming thoroughfares, where rapid crowds
descended upon me like gusts of wind. I can remember the tap-tap of my
cane along some stony solitude, and again standing at Times Square, in
a wilderness of lights, roared at, amid the clanging and the honking of
traffic; crowded, jostled, buffeted in the polygot stream,--a stranger
in the land of his fathers.

Those crowds--those hostile, unintelligible crowds, so triumphantly
successful--shall I ever forget them! I had known the monastic
multitudes of Paris, slow-moving, reticent, respectful of the
black-garbed mourners, compassionate and grim, hiding neither their
sorrows nor their sympathy. I had known them and felt at home in them.
But this other thing; this strident influx of strange tongues, this
pagan riot, this shrill pursuit of pleasure, when all the world was
hushed and apprehensive! What did they understand? What could they be
made to understand? I stood, bewildered--I who had come for my American
heritage--more alone, more distant than when in the long days of
convalescence the dread feeling of homesickness gripped my heart.

If this were America, it was the America that Peter Magnus saw,
polygot, cosmopolitan, international, an America that might be roaring
on to some greater world-significance, but an America that had left me
behind.

       *       *       *       *       *

My room was on the eighteenth floor of a great hotel flung above the
electric city. Below me swam the theatric night, the fluid effulgence
of Broadway, the piping thrum of automobiles, the revelry ascending
from flaring restaurants, carried upward into hanging gardens floating
on the night,--nervous, shifting sheets of electric transparencies,
fantastic, ingenious, unescapable, a million splendors to exalt a
corset or a soap! What a vast, illuminated billboard! Everything
oppressed me, the staggering scale of things, the importance of
unimportant things, this capture of the night by the materialism of the
day. I watched it, as one stands before the unleashed torrents of the
sea and sky, overwhelmed with my own shrunk significance.

In the morning my first movement was to my window. The city of the
night was fled. Below me lay a shanty civilization. The fairy splendor,
the figment of the night had dissolved with the dawn. Broadway was but
a huddled group of puny shanties, with skeleton trickeries exposed in
the pitiless light of the day; ugly, visible, naked,--an adventuress
stealing home at dawn, rouged, powdered and wan, and the pretentious
jewels of the night showing themselves to be paste. The whole was stale
as a ballroom when the laughter is fled. The crowded stars were empty
sockets; the flaming palaces, scaffolding.

Homesickness? Yes, even in Picardy, even in the wet weariness of the
trenches, in the gray rain that soaked into my soul, I had never felt
such utter loneliness as here, in the nausea of the revealing dawn.

I came out of the city and set my face sternly to the task of
readjustment. I would not be true to my determination to set down
without disguise or sentimentalization the history of my shifting
moods, actions and reactions, emotions and resolves, if I didn’t write
this down. No sooner had I entered the train, pulled my cap over my
eyes and sunk back in my corner, than I fell into a mood of extreme
weakness. As the instinct to live is stronger in the body, no matter
what the will to die, so I believe that in the thinking man the will to
continue as a free agent is an instinct deeper than our perceptions.
Everything in me rebelled at the sudden subjection which a blind
destiny had forced upon me. Something in me cried out imperiously:

“Forget! You must forget!”

And this is the hideous thing: the words of the other woman, the words
of Letty, were the ones that sounded in my ears:

“Life is a succession of doors to be closed and never reopened.”

To close the door and never to return! If it were possible!

       *       *       *       *       *

I said to myself, incredulously, that it was not possible that in ten
days I had come to a final and irrevocable love; that the romance and
the glamor were for much, that the dramatic quality of the lone woman
venturing into the wilderness of men, the mystery which enveloped her,
had caught my sympathy. I did not attempt, it is true, to deceive
myself into the belief that I did not love her, but I tried to convince
myself that I could and must forget her.

Yet, even as rebelling against the cruelty of such destiny, I argued
thus, I found myself comparing the women about me, the women there in
the car, the women in the crowds of New York, the women of the past I
had known, to the Bernoline I loved,--and wondering where again in the
empty world I would meet with another such. Suddenly, ahead of me in
the far end of the car, a silhouette, the turn of the neck, a carriage
of the head, reminded me so vividly of her that I sat bolt upright,
staring, and so acute was the sense of her presence that though I knew
it to be the wildest trick of fancy, I could not rest until I had risen
and reassured myself. I returned and sank back heavily in my corner, no
longer with strength or will to struggle against my fate.

The visible things receded, the unreal present dissolved. I abandoned
myself to the unforgettable past. I lived again the hours since our
meeting. I saw her, I heard her, I talked with her. I was back on the
high forward deck, with the cliffs of New York growing into the night.
I argued against her decision; I pleaded for us both. I said the things
I should have said, as I reconstructed the inexorable past, until,
struck by my own absurdity, I regained some measure of self-control.

After all, what remains? What can remain of this, the purest and
deepest seeking of my life? I have dreamed a beautiful dream! The rest
is a waking to the pain of reality.

Yet is it possible, I wonder, that for this ten days’ dreaming the
years of my life must pay the reckoning?


II

At South Norwalk I descended and took the train for Littledale. Hardly
had I turned up the platform before I was among friends, welcomed
with incredulous shouts: Burke, the conductor, and Lannigan, of the
express, smothering me with rapturous greetings. I rode back in the
baggage car, the center of an admiring group. The old oil lamps still
flickered overhead, undisturbed in their appointed task of gathering
in the cobwebs, and for a while I forgot my loneliness in the warm
pleasure of being back among my own kind. Heaven be thanked, nothing
had changed! The baggage car still dates from 1870, wheezing and
bumping over the narrow-gauge road as the old familiar figures gather
about the stove in the solemnity of country-store conclave.

I had not thought to have such a thrill, yet a lump was in my throat
when at the station old man Carpenter came hobbling up and a group
of youngsters set up a cheer. It was no longer New York: it was my
America, and I belonged to it.

I refused a trap and set out on foot, after cautioning them against
telephoning my arrival. Hardly five years were gone, yet every detail
of the green and white village was so definite in my memory that I
noted with an intolerant resentment the new porch at Hamill’s and the
glass front which had arrived at Sherwood’s corner grocery. All my
boyhood was about me as I hurried on under the vaulted elms: Parson
Miller’s home, where Ben and I had strung a tick-tack; the green
picket fence where the fox terrier came fearfully out when we rattled
our sticks; the side street where I had fought M’Ginnis; the hideous
soldiers’ monument, where the snowball fights raged; the stone bridge
to which I used to steal after supper to meet Jenny. The past lay at
my side,--tranquil, unchanging, and undisturbed by the currents that
whirled and struggled three thousand miles away, and in that moment I,
too, felt a leaping joy in my heart to be in this America which had
stood still in the breathless rush of things.

The lights were in the windows of the great hall as I turned the
postern and came up the deep well of the evergreens, towards the low,
rambling, red house that sat at the feet of the three drooping elms. I
came slowly across the white hoar frost which coated the lawn, and the
stiff gravel crackled as I stood under the _porte-cochère_, undecided,
fearful of what I should find, steeling myself against the shock of
disillusionment, and in my heart the cold repugnance of that one
dreaded confrontation,--Letty, at the side of Ben. Yet, despite doubt
and shrinking, I think that in my heart the deepest sentiment was a
weak gladness to leave all the world behind and come back, as a tired
boy comes back, into that sheltered warmth which is called home.

As I debated, with a sudden scurry and barking defiance, the dogs
came tumbling over each other,--and the next moment old Dan was in
my arms, while the two younger dogs, accepting me on faith, set up a
furious chatter. Then, a rush of feet across the hall, the door flung
open, and something soft and fluttering leaped to my neck;--home was
a reality and Molly was crying my name! It was no longer the laughing
tomboy of the bobbed hair and short skirts, but a woman whose eyes
were on a level with mine. I took her by the shoulders and held her
from me fiercely, and then caught her to me once more with a great
thankfulness, for the eyes were straight and clear and the heart was
the heart of my little sister.

My mother ran out, and it gave me a great thrill to see her face, for
we had always stood in awe of her,--of her austerity, her brilliance
and her measured mentality. To us she had always been one on whose
public services we children should never intrude. I think she must have
pictured me as stricken or mutilated, for I shall never forget the
first incredulous look on her face as she saw me, and then--the burst
of tears. In all my life, in stress and disaster, I never remember to
have seen her show such emotion.

“Be careful, with the Governor,” Molly whispered. “Don’t seem
surprised. He’s in there.”

He was in the dusky library, sunk in a great leather chair, a
drop-light at his side, and I noticed at once how thin and loose was
the hand that lay on the magazine.

“Hello, Governor,” I said. “Dropped in to see you.”

He put out his hand and felt of me. He was gray, and the red blood
had run from his face and left feeble veins under the drawn skin. The
watery eyes came unsteadily up to mine and passed on to the faces of my
mother and Molly, in a silent, terrifying interrogation. I guessed what
was in his mind, even before he said,--

“Then, it’s closer than I thought.”

The mater stood it without flinching, but Molly swayed and went
suddenly out of the room.

“Not much, Governor,” I said, in bluff cheerfulness. “We’re a tough
lot. They tried hard to get me, but they couldn’t. Don’t get any such
nonsense in your head. I came home because the doctors insisted upon my
being fattened up before they’d let me back. Two months’ furlough.”

His fingers had closed over my wrist and, still holding it, he motioned
me to be seated.

“Glad you’re here, Davy.”

“And lots to tell you, Governor. I’ve good news for you.”

“Alan?”

Now, the Governor had never been as quick as that, and I ascribe it to
the uncanny prescience which comes to the very sick.

“Yes--Alan.” I drew out the cross from my pocket and laid it before
him.

“Governor, you don’t need to be ashamed of Alan. He sent that to you,
and told me to tell you how he’d won it.”

He looked up quickly at the mater, and his lip trembled so that we
hurriedly changed the subject. I left him presently, with a promise to
return, and went out into the hall, where Molly’s hand slid into mine.

“Aunt Janie?”

“Upstairs.”

“You expected me?”

“Mr. Brinsmade telephoned.”

“Who’s here?” I said suddenly. “Ben?”

“No. They’re coming at the end of the week.”

This news took a sudden dread from my heart. For that night, the night
of my home-coming, I would not have to face that!

       *       *       *       *       *

The very old change little. Aunt Janie was the same fairy godmother
that I remember as a mischievous youngster: tall, thin, a little
stooped, soft-voiced, gentle, living in a more measured age, aloof
from the momentum of the present. Strange, silent, devoted soul:
she had come into the home, asking of life only the opportunity of
serving others! She had brought us up, run the house, planted the
trees which had grown to stature and let the rest of the world pass
her by, faithful to the one and only love of her life, the memory of
the Captain of the --th Massachusetts who had died at Antietam. His
sword hangs above the fireplace and his portrait is in the locket at
her throat. Each night, after the rest of the house has retired, she
descends and closes the doors, examines the windows, ushers the dogs
into the back hall, and extinguishes the lights. Nothing has ever been
able to dissuade her from this last responsibility. We argued with
her, we implored her, and, finally, we came to accept with a feeling
of restful gratitude the sound of her slippered step up the stairs,
ushering in the night.

I am always to her about twelve years old and, I think, her favorite.

“I have prayed for you every night, Davy,” she said, when I put my arm
around her. “_You’ve_ come back.”

Possibly she had been dreaming by the fire of the other, who had not
returned. I sat there, trying to answer her questions and finding it
difficult. It is not easy to talk about the war. The point of view is
so different. All that I have lived has been so inevitable, so part of
the instincts of the man who fights, that I find it hard to comprehend
the curiosity of those who look on it from the outside. To me still it
is this other life that is incomprehensible and chaotic, and profoundly
disturbing. When men must fight, it is better to forget.--With all the
home memories thronging about me, sitting there with Aunt Janie’s hand
in mine, I was thinking but one thing.

“In two months I shall return to it--the grim gamble--where those who
stake their lives must lose in the end inevitably,--as all gamblers do.”


III

The next night Molly and I drove over to the Brinsmades’. Anne had
been insistently in my thoughts all day. All my revolt from the dead
weight of emptiness in life was instinctively towards her. Yet I can
hardly explain to myself now the strangeness of my conduct, once in her
presence, nor the motive that prompted me deliberately to wound her,
as though I were seeking once for all to reject her from my life. Was
it some savage instinct of honesty towards her, or a strange unhuman
bitterness that entered my soul,--a resentment for the thing offered
against the thing denied? I do not know. I cannot yet see clearly.

Yet I do know that I came there eagerly, with a great need of the
affection of my old playmate. For what Bernoline had waked in me, the
discovery of the harmonious companionship of a true woman, had left
me with a new feeling of dependence. Perhaps, also, in the years of
absence, I had idealized my very human little friend.

       *       *       *       *       *

I do not know if such contradictory impulses are true to others or
only to me. I imagine that few persons would understand me. Yet it is
true that in the desolate loneliness against which I was struggling, I
longed to find in some one, some one known and kind, some measure of
that deep womanhood of the Bernoline who had gone.

       *       *       *       *       *

When we arrived the dance was in full swing. I stood staring, unable
to adjust myself to the carnival note. For months I had not looked on
such a scene. For months I had forgotten the existence of this world,
where color fired the imagination and music awoke disturbing needs of
pleasure. Anne hurried forward, we shook hands, and--a sudden shyness
came between us. Others crowded up, an old friend or two, chance
acquaintances; an indiscriminate, curious crowd that, to my annoyance,
insisted on treating me as a hero. I resented it all. The men offended
me. I forgot I had once been like them. How unrelated to actualities
they were, these men, mostly of my generation, of the generation
of wasted opportunities, well-set-up, pleasing, clean-cut, but so
untested, so devoid of the stamp of leadership. What could they know of
the realities that were gathering on the horizon? The sobered France
of Bernoline lay outside. Light and shadow, I thought. Half the world
dancing, while the other half staggers through the night!

Then I thought of the leaping call to duty which, in the coming day,
would startle them in the midst of their playtime. And, knowing what I
know, the irony of it all stood out. How little they could divine the
future or what the immutable, slow-moving course of little things could
mean to each.

“My generation is the tragic generation,” De Saint Omer had often
said to me. Would this, too, be our tragic generation,--a generation
brought up only to play, to enjoy life gluttonously, to pursue pleasure
riotously--abruptly halted in the full of the revelry and summoned to
face the recurring test of the ages?

       *       *       *       *       *

I dare say the mood was morbid and my own mental condition was
accountable for much in it. Yet there was cause for irritation. My
ears were filled with the chatter of silliness. I was paraded for the
curiosity of empty-headed girls, outrageously décolleté and bejeweled.
Had I been afraid? Wouldn’t I please tell them about the atrocities?
Had I really killed a man? What did it feel like? What sort of uniform
did I wear? Was it attractive?

One disappointed young lady exclaimed:

“Oh, dear! Then you’re not an aviator. I’m just crazy to have one of
those dinky little caps!”

       *       *       *       *       *

Molly, who divined my irritation, saved the situation by drawing me
away into the library, where I shook hands with Mr. Brinsmade, and
presently, ashamed of my too evident ill-humor, I returned to the
ballroom.

I was a little hurt, too, that Anne had not made more of my coming. I
remembered her diffidence, her quick yielding to others who pressed
around her, and I asked myself moodily the reason for this attitude.
Was it the memory of old days, of certain things half expressed in her
letters? Had her father spoken to her as he had to me? Did she expect
that I would assume any rights over her? This last thought increased my
irritation. I stood at the door of the conservatory, watching her as
she danced.

It was not the Anne that I remembered. There was a finished charm about
all she did, a grace of conscious assurance, a sure sense of her own
value, that for some reason offended me. She was no longer an impulsive
girl, but a brilliant and confident woman. From the tumult of her
golden hair to the decolleté of her black jet gown, that revealed too
boldly the lithe and graceful lines of her body; in the ready smile of
attention, to the eyes which had the fevered sense of pleasure, she was
one of them,--of a vapid, inconsequential society which, that night,
offended every instinct in me.

“And the worst is, she feeds upon it,” I said to myself gloomily.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the dance ended, she came directly to me, smiling and confident.
I was quite at a loss to account for the sudden antagonism which came
over me.

“I’ve saved this dance: it’s yours, Davy. If you’ll ask me?”

“I’ve forgotten how,” I said shortly, and with very bad grace.
“Besides, after all this while, we might have something to say to each
other.”

Now, this was not only ill-humored, but unjustified. She looked at
me quickly and then, with a glance down the conservatory: “There’s a
corner. Let’s sit it out, then?”

A little remorseful, I gave her my arm, saying:

“First I want to thank you for your letters. They meant a lot.”

She did not answer, suddenly serious, wondering, perhaps, at my mood.
When we had come to our corner she turned and faced me.

“You have changed, Davy.”

“And I don’t think I should have known you.” She looked at me so
quickly that I added, “You see--I am dazzled.”

“You do not approve?”

The truth is that I did not quite approve, and her question threw me
off my guard. She must have read in my eyes, for such a hurt look came
to the corners of her lips that I repeated hastily:

“My dear Anne, I am dazzled. Just think; I have come out of a gray
world, and I am still blinking with astonishment. I can’t quite get
used to it. You women are different from the women over there--more
feminine, perhaps--but you represent something I had forgotten. Don’t
pay any attention to me. I’m an old bear who comes to you, grumbling,
out of the wet and the mud.”

“I see,” she said, and then, “but I do pay attention to what you say,
so please be frank, as you always were, Davy.”

“I don’t think you would understand,” I began and then, struck by
the absurdity of it, I broke into a laugh. “After all, it isn’t the
slightest business of mine.”

“Am I any different from the rest?”

I looked into the dancing crowd.

“No, of course not.”

“Well--then?”

“Anne, you will not understand in the least; you probably will be
offended, but, since you ask, I will tell you.”

But there I stopped.

“So, you’re not going to tell me?”

“No. Besides, it is a question of a point of view.”

“I wonder what you really think of me, Davy?” she said, puzzled. “Is it
such a very bad opinion?”

“It is not your fault. It is the whole system,” I blurted out, led
on by my growing irritation; the feeling, perhaps, of the quality of
girlhood that should be there and was now gone; the eyes that had seen
too much, the ears that had heard too much, the woman who knew too well
her worth in the eyes of men. Perhaps it was because I needed to see
her differently that I felt so strongly. “It’s you who are defrauded.
There are bigger things in our women than just the pursuit of pleasure.
However,” I broke off, with a sudden laugh, “I am just as absurd to be
talking to you like this!”

“I wanted to go over there and nurse,” she said, looking down.
“Heavens, don’t you think I’m tired of this sort of life!”

“I wonder just how sincere that is,” I said, watching her with
amusement. “Service, or--adventure?”

She sat up, suddenly frowning.

“You will go back?”

“Of course.”

Suddenly a recollection smote me.

“My dear Anne, don’t mind me to-night. I dare say I’m unjust, but
I’m living in another world, and this shocks me--the incomprehension
of it all! Are these really men and women, and do they think war is
a vaudeville show? Yes, I am out of temper; but if you’d heard the
questions I’ve been asked! I beg your pardon. You were very good to
write me all the time: it meant a lot, too.”

She looked up, so happily, that I began to reproach myself for my
boorishness.

“What is it you don’t like in me?”

“I should like to see you--you and Molly--in the blue and white of the
Red Cross, with big square hob-nailed boots, splashing around in the
mud and rain, with smirches on your dainty noses!”

I had hurt her, despite my assumed levity, and I knew it. Some one
came up to claim a dance, and she rose quickly, both of us glad of
the interruption. The rest of the evening I spent with Mr. Brinsmade,
discussing politics. Now that I write it, I am sorry that I acted as I
did. Yet I am at a loss to know why.


IV

I have seen Letty. I had steeled myself against the meeting, with a
cold, panicky dread. Yet, when the actual test came, I was amazed at
my self-possession. The inevitable thing is, after all, the easiest
thing to do. It was so, I remember, with my first test in battle, the
question of courage, which had so tortured my imagination, clarified
itself with the first command. I answered it, as others did, because, I
think, there was no choice.

So, the moment that the crisis arose, I knew it would have to be gone
through,--that I would have to meet her eyes and his without a false
movement. It had to be done, and I did it, as calmly and as naturally
as though I had lied all my life. And yet, there was one awful moment
for me,--and for her, too.

They had motored over for luncheon and I knew that they would arrive
about one o’clock. I debated and made a dozen decisions, changing them
immediately. I would wait until all the company was assembled and meet
them in the confusion of the crowd. I even contemplated a morning
canter, timing my ride so as to meet them on my return, and obtain some
clue of the exact situation in the advantage of the hasty informality.
For I felt a cold dread of the test. What had she told him? Was I to
act as a chance acquaintance, or as an old friend? If I pretended
ignorance, my attitude might rouse his suspicions immediately. Yet if I
called her by her first name and showed the knowledge of an intimate, I
might precipitate a dangerous situation. I must take my cue from her,
holding myself alertly on my guard.

At the last moment, at the sound of their entering the driveway, I did
the thing I had not even considered. I went out on the porch and stood
forth openly to greet them, curiously calm and ready for any turn, now
that it was a question of danger. Yet I loathed the dissimulation I
could not escape. The next instants seemed leaden. The car drove up.
I looked at Ben, steadily, controlling my glance. Fortunately, he was
nearest to me.

“Hello, there, old fellow!”

“Hello, Ben,” I said, in my heart a great thankfulness.

“_Bon jour, Monsieur_, my brother-in-law; you have not forgotten me?”

I looked. I had to look. Letty’s shadowy eyes--calm, even a trifle
amused--were on me, and no more trace of emotion than was in her voice.

“The idea! But I did not expect to meet you again like this,” I heard
myself saying, with all the banality of an accomplished society fop.
Had there been a look of fear or distress in her eyes I might have
faltered, but the self-possession roused my anger and that carried me
through. I took the gloved hand (thank heaven it was gloved) and forced
some sort of a smile to my face. Fortunately the others ran out, and
the first test was over.

Luncheon ended, after coffee in the conservatory, Ben said:

“Davy, let’s take a tramp around the duck pond. There are some things I
want to talk over with you.”

I rose and I know that my heart leaped. I saw Letty’s little fingers
work slowly up the arms of her chair and her shoulders stiffen. That
was all; but I, who knew Letty, knew what terror was beneath.

We bundled up and went out over the hard ground, and, as we turned the
conservatory, I saw that Letty had taken up a position by the window. I
did not dare look at her, for my own heart within me stood still, while
I waited his first words. Everything required me to make some reference
to his wife, and yet I could not do it. My tongue refused to move.

“The mater does not like my marriage, Davy,” he said finally, after he
had waited for me to begin the conversation. “Oh, it’s nothing open;
she’s too loyal for that, you know; but of course, their worlds are
absolutely different. Still, I feel it, and I know that Letty feels it.”

“Yes, I suppose that would be so,” I said, forced to answer.

Again, he seemed to wait for something I should say and when I remained
silent, he dropped into a silence, too. Presently, he began to whistle
to himself, and so we came to the duck pond. The cabin we had built as
children still stood, sagging and covered with moss.

“I can’t get Rossie out of my mind,” I said suddenly. “Remember the day
he stepped into the hornet’s nest and had to dive into the pond?”

We stood on the rustic bridge, leaning over the rail, the white, solemn
ducks waddling below us.

“Davy, will you answer me a direct question?”

I felt the moment approaching.

“Fire away.”

“Did you ever write back anything against Letty to the family?”

“What!”

He repeated the question, while for me the tension relaxed. Still, this
might be only a preliminary.

“Ben, I have never written a word home mentioning your wife one way or
the other.”

“You knew her well in Paris, didn’t you?”

“We were in the same crowd, yes.”

“Weren’t you a little bit in love with her at one time?”

“Frankly, yes; we all were.”

I had given my answers readily, for each question I had foreseen.

“Do you know, Davy,” he said, looking me in the face, “that I am
beginning to think that you, too, do not approve.”

“That’s a hard question to answer, but since you’ve put it,--here goes.
There’s been something closer between us, Ben, than other brothers.
I think I would make any sacrifice for you and your happiness. I’m
not thinking of Letty; I’m thinking of you. I know her world and I
know yours. Her world is a world that takes everything lightly and is
not bruised by disillusionments. You are different. If you should be
unhappy, it would break you.”

“You don’t know her as I know her,” he broke in.

“No--of course not.” For a moment the hideous irony of it escaped me.
Had it been any other man, I would have been willing to convince myself
that Letty, like a thousand other women of her class, was capable, once
her love awakened, of absolute loyalty and devotion. But did she really
love him, beyond a caprice of the emotions? That was what I did not
know.

“Ben, you know that I am always loyal, no matter what happens. If it
were a question of your good, old fellow, I would give my right arm.”

I held out my hand, and waited. If he could not bring himself to take
it--but he did--though after some hesitation! The first test, thank
God, was over. He could not have suspected and done that!

       *       *       *       *       *

What had we said to each other? What could I have said differently?
I was caught in the iron grip of circumstance, and every word was
dictated to me. I knew my brother, and I was afraid,--coldly, mortally
afraid. Such men are capable of murder.

Then I told him of Bernoline. Some instinct warned me to do so, and
the way his face cleared and the old affection returned confirmed
my suspicions. Beneath all he had said (or not said) was something
brooding. Only, in that case, the situation was more than ever fraught
with danger.

We went back over the old days, when we four were the Littledale
boys,--Big Dale, Little Dale, Tiny Dale, and Rossie, who was no Dale
at all. With the clearing vista of years, I saw my brother as he was,
and I was astonished to find in my new estimate a sense of personal
superiority. He felt it, too, for once or twice he said something which
showed me that he had a feeling of having stood still.

I told him of having seen Alan.

“I never liked him,” he said, without compromise, “and there’s no use
pretending; but I’m glad he made good.” He turned to me, laying his
hand on my arm for the first time. “Davy, there’s not been much luck in
the family, has there? We’re out of existence--shot to pieces. And the
other time doesn’t seem so very far ago,--the time when we romped and
played like good, wholesome puppies. Rossie gone--Alan drifting about
the world--you crawling back by the skin of your teeth--I suppose
there’s no use arguing with you about your going back?”

“None.”

“Well, if we don’t wake up and get into it, I’m going, myself,” he
blurted out. “The mater, of course, is all for pacifism, but as for the
Governor, I believe he’s just hanging on until we declare war.”

“I believe so, too.”

“Must seem strange to you, here.”

“Yes--strange.”

We each wished the interview over, I felt. With all our attempts at
restoring the old intimacy, there was a constraint on us we couldn’t
shake off.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first thing I saw, as we went back, was Letty’s face at the window
of the conservatory. It was only a look, for she rose immediately and
shifted her seat, but that look I shall never efface from my memory.
She was no coward. Indeed, I have never known any woman with more of
the reckless, devil-may-care attitude towards danger, but that vital
hour, when she sat there and wondered, must have tried her soul.

When we entered she was consummately at ease. She did not appear to
notice our coming, but once I caught her glancing furtively in the
mirror, watching Ben.

I went on upstairs and there, in the old playroom, the tension I had
been under snapped and my nerves went bad and, as I was doubled up,
shivering and shaking, Molly found me. It must have frightened her out
of her wits, to come upon me without warning, for by the time the spell
was over, she was in my arms, weeping her heart out.

“Oh, Davy, you aren’t going back, like that!”

“Nonsense! It’s almost over--only, once in a while--when something
excites me.”

“You’ve been talking to Ben,” she said, straightening up. “Davy, I
don’t _like_ her! And, what’s more, Ben isn’t happy!”

What could I say? I couldn’t look into my dear little sister’s clean
eyes and counsel her to accept Letty with an open heart.

       *       *       *       *       *

I went back presently and joined the company. I knew that in public
I must pay my brother’s wife some attention. To avoid her would be
confession. She had quite recovered by this time and was her own
malicious self again.

“Do you know, David, that you have neglected me shamefully?” she said
aloud. “You were more gallant in Paris.”

I made some lame excuse. I do not remember what I muttered and,
avoiding any intimacy, turned the conversation to common acquaintances.
I cannot remember a more hideously disagreeable hour in all my life.
Not that there was left any flicker of the old infatuation. The image
of Bernoline had cleansed the old fever. I looked at Letty and, looking
at her, wondered that I could meet her eyes without a tremor. She felt
this, I know, and did not like the sensation for, despite the danger
of the situation, her voice at times took on the old caressing tone
and her eyes sparkled with the desire to entice. Our conversation was
necessarily banal in the presence of others. It was not until they
started to go that I found myself alone with her on the porch.

“I hope to God you did it because you love him,” I said, without
premeditation.

“And if there was any other reason, Davy?” she said softly.

“He is quite capable of killing you. I give you a solemn warning.”

Her fur slipped to the ground and, as I recovered it, she said aloud:

“Thank you, my brother-in-law--and you will be sociable, and run over?”

Ben had come up as we were speaking, but her quick ear had detected his
approach.

       *       *       *       *       *

The interview has left me quite in the dark. Why had she done it? Is
she in love with Ben? Is there any change in the inner woman? Can
she be held wholly and loyally by a man with whom she cannot trifle,
before whom she is genuinely afraid? Was it the dramatic revenge that
tempted her? Or was it just the instinct of social self-preservation,
the fetich of that great god, Respectability, which dominates all
such women? For, protest as they may, no matter how they rage
against conventionalities, flout them openly or secretly, in the
heart of each lawless woman, whether her situation be sheltered or
ruthlessly exposed, is the slumbering veneration of the thing called
respectability. Once passed the thirties, it becomes an obsession.
Perhaps, after all, it was the safe haven of respectability that
Letty sought, at the end of a few adventurous years. Perhaps, it
was a combination of all these motives. But, of one thing I am
certain,--Letty is afraid of her husband.


V

  _December_

My first Sunday has come and gone. All day I have been looking at
myself and at my home with a new revelation of values. Strangely
enough, I never before perceived its significance. France and another
civilization have suddenly thrown it into a clearer relief, and all the
while the words of Bernoline return to my memory. What a contrast!

At eleven o’clock we departed to Sunday worship: Ben and my mother
to the Unitarian Church; Aunt Janie to the Congregational, with
father; and Molly and myself to a Presbyterian service, accompanied
by the servants. No scene is more typical of what we are: a group of
individualists bound together by mutual tolerance. Are we a home, I
wonder, or simply a shelter over a group of lodgers for this night
or for many nights? Of course, it is not fair to take us as typical
of America. Yet we are typical of one thing,--a developed type of
traditional New England. This morning, as I sat in the old pew, with
Molly by my side, I thought with a little tightening of my heart that
even in the coming days of suspense when I go back to the front my
family will not be even united in its sorrow.

       *       *       *       *       *

The whole contrast between our two civilizations, French and American,
is here,--in the family. Thinking on this to-night, I understand
Bernoline better. The sense of duty that dominates her life and makes
sacrifice so easily possible is the sense of family solidarity. Love of
the mother, respect for the authority of the father, companionship with
the children,--it is a France in miniature, and that greater love of
country is but a tradition of family pride.

I do not think we have this strongly disciplined sense of duty nor
this unquestioning acceptance of sacrifice. How often children are but
accidents and sometimes strangers under the same roof. In my own case,
what is my father to me? Do I know him as well as I know the boy I
roomed with at school, I wonder? There is hardly an opinion we share
or an outlook on life which we could understand together. He has never
really discussed anything with me, as though instinctively he divined I
would take an opposite view.

I don’t say what should be. Yet to-night, perhaps because the sense of
loss of a dear and necessary presence accents my own loneliness, I can
visualize another type of home--the home of Bernoline--and wonder....
After all, there is something that touches the heart strings in the
thought of the generations succeeding each other, standing for the same
ideal of conduct, the same loyalty to a conception of state and faith,
passing down the same standard from father and son and guarding it in
reverence! Governments change as I change my hat; waves of paganism,
materialism and doubt come and pass; but so long as the family faith is
untouched, France will be found equal to its past. Order, stability,
discipline,--the sunken cornerstone of the national consciousness are
all in this conception, and I think to understand this is to understand
why there was no miracle in France’s answer in the month of August,
1914.

       *       *       *       *       *

Yet, I have no doubt now of America’s answer when the call is clear:
only we will respond from different motives. If the sense of duty
is not developed here by old traditions, there is a man’s pride in
doing what free men should do. It will be a great voluntary impulse,
something that has come down to us from our strong, free, battling
ancestors of Jutland, of those who sang of heroic deaths and defied
the tempest and the perils of the forest, who never bowed to king or
conqueror,--the fierce dissenting strain of Saxon manhood. I am not
afraid of this heritage when stirred by the test of war;--but in peace?

What is the basic impulse, then, that moves through our Anglo-Saxon
civilization? It is the relation between man and woman, and this
conception of love as heroic is of the origins of our race.
Christianity did not exalt women with us. In the days of the Berserkers
and the sea-rovers, man and woman clove together in single partnership
and kept their faith. So, to-day, the children in the house are but
waiting the touch of destiny, free agents, held by no family tradition,
impatient for life to open to them. Under all the sentimentalism of our
literature and art there is this abiding instinct, the need of love
that shall come as a directing purpose. Each child, in the imagination
of boy or girl, holds it as his right to give his heart where it
pleases him, no matter what the wrench or what the sacrifice, as the
beginning and the meaning of life. In this instinct to determine our
own existence as children in our father’s house, we remain fierce and
rebellious, as our Saxon heroes who served, but feared neither their
gods nor their masters. We do not inherit our homes: we create them.

       *       *       *       *       *

My little sister, who hangs on my arm and comes to me with her
confidences, knows deep in her heart that this is not her home.
To-morrow she will look in the eyes of some stranger and, despite all
our entreaties, pleadings, warnings, put her hand in his and follow
him into the outer world. No wonder that we have colonized the earth,
when each of us has in him the soul of the pioneer! And now that I
have written this, I think I understand why I cannot do what would be
so easy for a Latin to do. Marriage to us is not a formula, but a need
of our hidden spiritual self, the meaning of our existence. No, I can
never turn to Anne with a divided memory, not even in the instinct of
self-preservation!

Everything separates me from Bernoline. In our basic conceptions
of life, she in her clear outlook of faith, and I in my driven
questionings; she in her unquestioned acceptance of duty; I in my
rebellion against aught which means the immolation of self on the altar
of convention. We are as distant as though she stood at the threshold
of a hundred years and I at the close. A civilization and an age
intervene between us. Yet why, knowing this, despite instinct and will,
have we been powerless to turn away? Is it, I wonder, because the thing
is so utterly hopeless, forbidden, destructive, that the instinct of
Eden draws us irresistibly to our destiny?

       *       *       *       *       *

Yesterday I read in Maeterlinck’s “Life of The Bee” that strange and
terrible chapter of the Nuptial Flight, which in its fearful mystery of
love and death reveals to us the mysterious origin in nature’s purpose
of our human seeking. How little we foresee in the first quickening
ecstasy of our beings the destiny of tragedy towards which we move! How
little, in that one clear, untroubled afternoon, when all the beating
frenzy in me grew still and peaceful with the knowledge that I was
loved, did I divine that the rapture which held me was but the prelude
to life denied and the ache of happiness remembered. Mystery of good
and evil! How often this thought returns across the vista of my life!

The thing I cannot struggle against is silence,--this blank wall of
silence that I cannot seize and yet which fastens about me and shuts
out all hope. If I could but see her, talk to her, write to her! But
between that and nothingness is my promise. Yesterday, in my loneliness
and rebellion, I wrote her,--a wild, incoherent letter, imploring her
to release me of a promise beyond my strength to keep. I sealed it and
addressed it, refusing to listen to anything but the fever and the
revolt that burned through every fiber of my being. I rushed out of
the house and down to the village, with only one thought,--to end the
suspense, to be done with my conscience by an irrevocable act. And then
I came back, slowly, with lagging steps, beaten, the letter destroyed.
Why? Because, in all the checkered path of my life, there is one memory
inviolate. No matter what I have done, and bitterly regretted; no
matter what I may come to in some middle-aged sophistry,--I once have
reached an ideal of myself. This ideal that she, Bernoline, created of
me can never be lowered. Whatever in its tyranny this memory demands of
me, I shall in the end obey.


VI

I remember an incident in my boyhood. A little Airedale called Frazzles
had become so wild that a conference of the powers had decided on
sending her away to a veterinary. The sentence was duly carried out,
and Frazzles was deported in the last days of autumn, while we children
howled our grief in the nursery. The next we heard of her, she had
escaped and taken to the woods some twenty miles away, where she was
living like a wild animal. The winter passed and then the spring, and
one day Frazzles came, scratching at the door, weary, savage, and
caked with mud. The door opened, she flew to her old post under the
blue sofa by the fireplace. Six months had passed,--outcast from home
and humanity, yet, at the hour when the tea-cakes were brought in, she
crept out of her hiding; place and lay at the feet of Aunt Janie, just
as though it were yesterday.

At times I feel strangely akin to that little bedraggled outcast. I
have fallen back so easily into the familiar routine that all the
other life seems incredible. Have I ever really lived in the wet and
slime of the trenches, pillowed on a foul blanket; and is it possible
that in a few short weeks the moving finger of fate will return and
touch me over again? It is so far off, so obscure, fainter than a dying
echo; only the memory of Bernoline is vivid and acute with the power to
pain.

Against this memory I struggle day and night. There are times when I
combat it fiercely in the instinct of self-preservation, when I try
to reach down into my heart and tear out the thing that aches. At
others, I yield to a fool’s paradise and delude myself with impossible
solutions that deceive me but for an hour.

       *       *       *       *       *

Yesterday, in my desperation, I went over to the Brinsmades’. I went,
deliberately, to see Anne. Why, I do not know. For Anne, I think, loves
me, and, despite all my reason, all my will to escape from my destiny,
I do not, I cannot love her as she deserves to be loved. Perhaps, if I
had not met Bernoline--

I went, hesitating and undecided. I came away convinced. Whatever
comes, I care this much for my boy-hood’s companion; I shall never come
to her with a memory between us.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a morning when Bernoline’s presence had been so acutely near me
that there was no escape from the blank impossibility of the future.
Did I go to seek some strange, healing comfort in the knowledge of
another’s suffering,--even as I suffered without possibility of hope?
The instinct of love is, I suppose, so fiercely primitive in us that
under its tyranny we are subjected to some moral atavism. All the
primitive passions that have swayed us from the dawn of time are
suddenly let loose and, with the leaping impulse towards possession,
comes the instinct to hate violently or to desire fiercely the joy
that comes from the feeling of being able to cause pain, to turn
against another all that we suffer from the one we love. Girl or
courtesan, I have seen women pour out treasures of sacrifice to one
man and at the same time show themselves savagely, incomprehensibly
pitiless to an unwelcome lover.

       *       *       *       *       *

Not that all this was in my thought. Far from it. I went, brooding and
restless, without impulse but to escape from myself. I drove over after
luncheon, after telephoning my coming.

She came down immediately and at my first look I felt a guilty feeling,
yet one of some compensating happiness.

“There’s a house party, but I got rid of them,” she said, giving me
both her hands. “Do you know, Davy, you have waited a long, long time
to come.”

“I have wanted to, many times.”

“Really, and honestly?” she said, looking me in the eyes.

“Of course.”

My heart smote me as I met her glance. One word from me had brought
back the comrade of other days. From her hair to the stout walking
boots, all artifice had been so evidently offered up on the altar of my
criticism that I could not help saying:

“Now I remember an old friend.”

She laughed at this and her eyes sparkled, but there was a retort on
her tongue.

“It’s quite hopeless to try and please you,--and I who fondly believed
I was going to make such an impression on you with my grand manner!”

“Now, Miss Flattery, you don’t take me in like that. There were others
present, and--you didn’t know I was coming.”

“Father told me,” she said abruptly. “Let’s get out of this hothouse
atmosphere. How about a ramble into the glen? There’s not enough snow
to bother us. Shall we?”

“Agreed.”

Well bundled up, we struck out over the frozen swamps for the solitudes
of the hills, and as we went a curious diffidence fell between us.

“David, it’s you who are the stranger,” she said suddenly. “You are
changed, much changed.”

“In what way?”

“Your eyes are terribly critical of things you don’t like. You--you
rather intimidate me. Please be a little kind in your judgments.”

“I am not aware--”

“Yes, you have changed. Before, I often wondered how you would turn
out--you might have gone so many ways. You have been tested and you
have found yourself. Only, Davy, in finding yourself, I think you have
forgotten a little the way you have gone and are apt to be without much
indulgence towards others.”

Now, the directness of this analysis and its point quite startled me.

“Do you think I am like that?” I said, wondering.

She nodded decisively, twice.

“And dreadfully direct. You can’t conceal what you feel.”

A memory returned, and, also, a possible explanation.

“What I said that first night hurt you?”

“Terribly.”

“You attach too much importance to a chance remark.”

“Don’t.”

I stopped short in my lumbering explanation.

“Don’t talk to me like that,” she said, looking at me with a little
frown above her eyes. “Davy, in the old days there was nothing but
absolute honesty between us--no nonsense. I have known many men since
you went; naturally, some who attracted me,--one or two, very much--”

“Naturally,” I said, but, to my surprise, with a certain instinctive
resentment.

“But no one else to whom I could talk, frankly and openly, as I always
did with you. Don’t change that, because”--she hesitated--“because,
Davy, you can help me to see clearer in many ways, and--and I shall
always be to you the one person to whom you can tell anything. Davy,
memories, the real memories, I think, are the things to hold on to in
this world.”

Her words went through me like a knife, so near were they to my own
fate. It was all that I could do to fight back the telltale moodiness I
felt rising in my face, for I knew her eyes were on me.

“I really need to talk to you, Davy,” she said, when I did not answer,
and there was such a plaintive note in her voice that, to cover my
unease, I held out my hand and said with an appearance of bluffness:

“All right: the old alliance is renewed.”

“Absolute honesty?”

“So help me.”

“Then--you were disappointed when you saw me again?”

“Yes.”

“You thought I had become superficial, vacillating?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I am,” she said, to my surprise. “I didn’t know it. You gave me
a shock, but you made me realize it. You still think so?”

“My dear Anne,” I said carefully. “How can you be otherwise? Everything
is against you. What in life is real to you, except pleasure? You’ve
been shown nothing else in life--granted it isn’t your fault. You have
been cheated out of something bigger. Other women will never notice it;
thank heaven, you do. Now, to explain what I felt on coming back out of
the other world. Before, I don’t suppose it ever would have occurred to
me. I took the American man’s point of view--from the best of motives,
I grant you--our attitude of chivalry towards you. But, over there,
something else has come to us, a bigger conception of you, an ideal of
service. That is the difference in point of view.”

“But what am I to do?” she said, shrinking under the directness of the
opinion she had invited.

“Heavens, you’re making me talk like a confounded, self-righteous
prig,” I exclaimed, with a sudden realization, “and God knows I’m far
from that.”

“No, no! Say what you mean. You, you do not quite trust my sincerity,
do you?”

“Not quite.”

“Why?”

“Because, well, because I think you are inclined to dramatize your
moods,” I said lightly. “I think you are colored by the wish to please
whomever you happen to be with. We all are. But I wonder if to-night,
when the guests, the dreadful guests who bore you so, return, you will
find time so heavy on your hands?”

“For heaven’s sake, don’t _laugh_ at me!” she cried, flaring up with
more show of feeling than I had seen.

“Forgive me. I won’t do that again,” I said contritely. “Do you really
care what I think?”

“You know I do.”

Her answer left me awkwardly floundering, until suddenly she burst out:

“All you say is true: I do change, I do drift; what I feel is true one
moment will be different the next. But, Davy, I realize it! Do you
think I want to go on this way? I do what I do because I am restless,
just--just to do something. You think I am superficial: I am, horribly
so. You think I crave pleasure--excitement: I do. You think I like to
play with emotions: I do. All that’s true, and I know it.”

“I wonder if you know what harm you do?” I said, not quite convinced.

“What do you mean?”

“Anne, I sometimes think good women do more harm in this world than
bad. They, poor devils, do so little harm: they are so obvious. A
moment’s madness, and we throw ourselves violently back from them. To
leave them is to forget them. But you--you others--the pain you inflict
is given unconsciously.”

“It doesn’t last,” she said.

“How do you know? Tell me one thing, Anne, because it has always
interested me. You didn’t need to tell me there had been many men in
your life: have you ever felt any responsibility toward them? I mean
this: have you ever stopped to question your right to attract them, to
awaken their love, even when you knew there was no interest on your
part?”

“Why, no, of course not.”

“Probably not; such things are unconscious--an instinct. And of a dozen
men who come to love you, eight or ten forget quickly. But some don’t,
do they?”

“No, that’s true.”

“That’s what I mean by the harm good women do, unconsciously. You would
not give pain willingly, I am sure, and yet I doubt if even you realize
the sorrow that has come from you. You may say it’s all in the game.
It is: but I go back to what I said--that often a girl like yourself,
like Molly, with everything to charm and attract, leaves wounds behind
that it takes years to heal. That’s the strange thing about it; a
friendship that is precious in the life of both, inevitably, by some
hidden spark of impulse, a sudden need of the soul, is transformed into
love on the part of one. Then, what happens? Not only is the friendship
taken out of the lives of both, but to one that first joy of human
contact becomes emptiness and bitterness. It is not only of you I am
thinking, but of my own sister. When I saw Molly again, so radiant, so
lovely in her unconscious youth, so eager for life to begin, I could
not help thinking that wherever she went, so lightly and so joyfully,
she would leave behind her many bruises and aches. Then, a few real men
will come to love her profoundly, and without hope, and know the daily,
hourly slavery to a hopeless longing.”

“It is of yourself you are talking now, Davy?”

I stopped, thunderstruck. In my earnestness I had quite forgotten how
much my own personal feelings must have given warmth to my statement.

“Of course, I did not expect that in all this time you wouldn’t have
fallen in love,” she said. She stood, looking down. “It’s a queer
world.” The next moment she had started up the ravine, swinging from
rock to rock, with a challenge to me to follow. I hurried after her,
vexed at my own indiscreet revelations and seriously alarmed at her
reckless flight.

“Be careful. You’ll slip and turn your ankle. Anne, you’re crazy!”

“Nonsense, never slip!”

She darted up, heedless of my cautions, and when finally I reached the
top, quite out of breath, she was watching me with a malicious smile
from her seat in the little observatory.

“Come up here and take a peep at the view. A fine soldier, to be
out-distanced by a woman!”

“That’s hardly fair,” I said, laughing and relieved to pass from the
dangerous seriousness of a moment ago. “Give me a few more weeks.”

Instantly she was contrite.

“How thoughtless of me. Forgive me!”

“Very little to forgive. By George, that’s fine.” The valley lay
below us, blanketed with a sheen of snow that in great spaces lifted
occasionally for a glimpse of green; black-blue shadows in the far
hills, and faint, transparent reds in the bared branches against the
sky; the whole tremulously still, a winter cameo cut in frozen silences.

“Do you want to go back?” she said at last.

“I shall answer you as I answered your father; honestly, no.”

“But then, why? Surely, after what you’ve been through, in your
condition, and it would be so easy to arrange--”

“Exactly; but you, as my friend--would you want me to stay?”

She did not answer.

“Would you?”

“It is not your war.”

“That isn’t the point.”

“It _is_ the point,” she said, in sudden rebellion. “No, I don’t want
you to go back. It’s absurd, unnecessary, quixotic!”

Poor Anne. She little knew what harm she had done by that one little
outburst. I remembered Bernoline, and, when next I looked at Anne, I
saw only a child.

“And when we get into it? What then, young lady?” I said, laughing.
“Are you going to arrange everything to suit yourself?”

“Davy, if you knew how you hurt me when you take that tone,” she said,
shrinking back. “I am not a child.”

“Then, Anne, you must face life as it comes to you. We can’t make it
as we want it, but our kind, of all the world, should never dodge a
responsibility.”

“I always show you my worst side,” she said, shaking her head, and
presently, leading the way down the ravine again, but this time more
deliberately, she began to chatter lightly of old memories without an
approach to intimacy, until the moment came for my departure.

“David, have you still such a bad opinion of me?” she said, seeking the
answer in my eyes.

“I never have had.”

“Funny: I am not at all myself with you. It’s because I’m so used to
looking up to you, I suppose.”

“Because I am such an old bear, you mean.”

“No, no, that’s not what I mean. I’m very much of a woman now--more
than you can ever imagine--and quite capable of determining my life for
myself. And I know what I want. And, David--don’t make one mistake.”

“What?”

“I’m not in love with you.”

Before I could recover myself, she had skipped up the steps. And so
ended this strange interview. Not being myself in love with her, I
could estimate more deliberately the value of her last words, and yet,
knowing in my own experience all the wound to her pride that the fear
of my divining her true motives would bring, I think her last defiance
brought me into closer sympathy with my old playmate.

       *       *       *       *       *

When I reached home, Ben and Letty were there,--come for the Christmas
holidays.

“David!”

As I was hurrying through the hall, she called me to her, where she was
warming herself by the fireplace.

“You here?” I said, feigning surprise.

“B’rrr! You are cordial as an open door. They said you were at the
Brinsmades’.”

“Yes.”

“_Monsieur fait des conquêtes?_”

I shrugged my shoulders and disdained a reply, which always irritated
her.

“So you are in love--again, David?” she said, with her provoking smile.

“Does this amuse you?”

“You forget that I remember the signs.”

At this I stared at her in such futile anger that she laughed to
herself, well content.

“But I quite approve! An excellent match for you!”

Then she deliberately dropped her muff, and as I stooped to pick it up,
she leaned over and pinched my ear.

“Have you forgotten that, _mon ami_?”

The muff was scented with the perfume I knew. I came up angry and
baffled.

“My dear Davy, if you are not going to pay me some attention, you
may as well go right to your brother and tell all. The situation is
evident.”

I left her in a vindictive, smoldering rage,--in one of those moods
of violence into which she had thrown me a hundred times, out of
her malicious pleasure. Does she love me or hate me? Which is the
explanation? As for myself, the anger she awakened frightened me, for
before I was confident of my utter indifference. Is it possible that
by some baneful trick of habit there can remain a vestige of the old
tyranny over my senses? It is unthinkable! If only I could go to Ben!
But no, that is impossible! And for a week, while we three are under
the same roof, this hideous comedy must go on!

       *       *       *       *       *

As I go back over my interview with Anne, I am somewhat puzzled. Why
was I so brutally direct? I should like to feel that it was an honest
effort to repel her: yet I wonder if I am as honest as all that and if
underneath is not the intuitive knowledge that just such an attitude is
what would draw her closer to me? How difficult it is to know our real
motives!

       *       *       *       *       *

This morning, in my mail, a note.

  David:

  Don’t take what I say too literally. Of course, I would never do
  anything to keep you from going back,--don’t think I am that weak,
  sentimental type of woman. But I might rebel at your going,--and
  that is very different, so long as you keep it to yourself,--which
  I didn’t. If you don’t think me quite hopeless, come in to-night
  for dinner.

  ANNE

I went, if for nothing but to escape from the situation here. Mr.
Brinsmade was there, and we had a long talk on our prospects of getting
into the war, which he feels is certain. Anne sat by, listening, but
studiously avoided any opportunity for a tête-à-tête.

I am less sure of my attitude towards her. Last night, with the mental
eagerness which Brinsmade always wakes in me, there, by the great
fireplace, watching her camped by her father’s knee--young, ardent,
desirable--a doubt came into my mind, I again saw my life as it might
be and, frankly, I was tempted. Fortunately, Mr. Brinsmade had the tact
not to broach the subject again. After all, decisions are futile now.
In a few short weeks I shall be returning to France and there, perhaps,
will be the decision to all my perplexities. To-night, when I suddenly
stop at that realization, I am inclined to break out into laughter. The
irony of my plaguing myself with questions now!

And yet it is torture: this memory of a few days’ utter happiness,
of one afternoon’s clear belief in the future! I try to escape from
it, but there is no escape, least of all in the direction of Anne.
That is not fair to her or what might come. I sit long hours in Aunt
Janie’s parlor, pulling at my pipe before the fire and staring into the
coals. Of all the family she understands me best, and I talk or remain
silent, according to my mood. Yet when I look at her, and realize the
shadow of a life to which she has been dedicated--everything denied,
repressed, throttled--I spring up in revolt and go tramping over the
countryside;--that life is beyond my strength!


VII

Christmas and the holidays have passed and certain incidents stand out
vividly. My own personal perplexities have somehow receded into the
healing background. Our sorrows destroy us or themselves, some one has
said. There is a protecting instinct, perhaps, in the soul as well
as in the body. The healing fluids of the eye isolate the intruding
cinder, the membranes of the body wrap around the splinter which
penetrates the flesh; so, insensibly, memory drops its curtains over
our grief, until the pain is lessened, and in fainter perception, we
can bear to look upon it. To the first poignant wrench of my longing
for Bernoline has come a sort of healing incredulity. Is it a mood or
an achieved attitude? Have I definitely risen to a new philosophy of
acceptance, or will the old malaria of loneliness and emptiness return
when I am most sure of equanimity? These are things I do not know.

I know only this: that of late I have been able to get out of myself,
to return to an objective point of view towards life: that the old
desire to play my part is new again; that I am not aloof but vibrantly
a part of my day and my nation, thrilled with the sudden rising anger
at temporizing that is sweeping the country,--a great, mounting,
climactic storm of wrath. The hour is coming, I know, when America will
show to the world and to itself the majesty of its indignant pride.

       *       *       *       *       *

Christmas night has always been open cheer with us and, with me home,
the house was crowded with friends from the countryside and the
village. They came in sleighs and cutters, with jingling bells, wrapped
in voluminous scarfs, stamping in the great hallway, eager for the
good cheer of a gathering which took them back to the rollicking days
of Merrie England. Threescore, at least, and for every man, woman and
child some present on the old tree. For we at Littledale have a custom
that I don’t remember seeing elsewhere.

In the back of the house, between the two wings, is a stone-flagged
court, and in the midst of it a splendid cedar. It was Rossie’s idea as
a child to convert it into the Christmas symbol. So, promptly at ten,
being well-fed from the buffet of roast pig, fatted ducks, great crisp
turkeys, mountainous dishes of vegetables, pies and cakes to stagger
the imaginations of the youngest eyes, every one bustles into coats and
wraps and crowds out into the court. There, the green tree is ablaze
with lanterns and tinsel wreaths, with a magnificent Santa Claus to
distribute the presents, with appropriate hits at the idiosyncrasies
of each recipient. The fiddles strike up from the dining room. We join
hands and go circling round the tree, singing “For He’s a Jolly Good
Fellow,” until every one is exhausted from laughter and panting for
breath, while the dogs go barking, in and out, frantic with the spirit
of good cheer.

This year, on account of my father’s health, we were in some doubt. But
the Governor, like the fine old trump that he is, insisted that nothing
be changed and watched the celebration from an upper window. The rest
of the night was given up to square dances with old man Carpenter
calling out the figures from the midst of the village fiddles.
I wondered, watching the Governor, if he would see another such
Christmas, or, for that matter, how many would dance so light-heartedly
again. The accent of the evening was absolute democracy,--every one
privileged to dance with every one else,--without introductions, and
much scrambling under the mistletoe.

Jenny, my first flame, was there,--a buxom matron, with three ravenous
youngsters. And once the hazards of a quadrille brought us all
together, Jenny, Ben, Letty, Anne, and myself. In one figure, Ben and
I being opposite each other, Letty was at my side and Jenny at his. I
looked up at him and wondered if he remembered the day, twelve years
ago, when he saved me from utterly throwing away my life. And the
irony of it all,--that I should have been away and powerless, when I
should have stood in his stead. Letty’s behavior throughout the evening
was outrageous, and Ben’s face grew blacker and blacker. She flirted
openly with several young friends of Molly’s and deliberately with
me, whenever she could bring it before the notice of Anne. Of course,
knowing her of old, I realized that we were but the pretexts; that her
real object was to torture Ben himself. And this alarmed me, for I saw
already the progression towards tragedy.

“Letty, let me warn you again,” I said to her, as we were dancing. She
had come to me herself, out of pure malice, and to refuse would have
been an open affront.

“Go on, Davy _mio_,” she said, under her breath.

“When Ben’s hands close about your little throat--they won’t let go,”
I said savagely, “and I don’t know that they ought to.”

“David, I am bored--so bored!”

“I am not joking.”

“Anything for excitement,” she said, with her slow smile. “La petite
Anne is _éprise_. Be quite attentive, Davy. You’ll land her. Now you
are angry, but it seems so natural to have you angry at me!”

“Since when have you danced in public?” I said, unwilling to show her
my disgust and my rage. “And why now?”

“It isn’t fair to the man, do you think?” she said softly.

I stopped abruptly. What devil had made her say this I don’t know: but
she was right. I have danced with hundreds of women, and never been
conscious of what I held in my arms,--until that dance with Letty.

“Thank you; I must see to something,” I said, leaving her abruptly, and
making a pretext of examining the tree, I went out into the cold air,
past the lanterned courtyard, and down the crunching way to the old
wooden bridge by the duck pond.

       *       *       *       *       *

What a hideous situation, and how my whole being revolted at the part
I was forced to play! It is at such moments that the old instinct of
superstition that lies dormant in each of us comes insistently back.
I know that in my old worldly wisdom I have scoffed at Sunday-school
morality and have seen as many sinners succeed as fail. Yet at such
moments when fate overtakes me I go back to my childhood terror of
pulpit thunderings and feel the avenging justice of the Old Testament
at my back. It is no use repeating to myself that other men have
done much worse than I have done and, the memory dropping away from
them, become pillars of respectability. I feel the ominous pursuit of
consequences and hear the bitter cry of conscience,--“_The wages of
sin is death_.” Perhaps there are moments so personal in our lives
that all morality returns into one individual experience, and right
and wrong are momentarily but our superstitious estimate of cause and
effect as it suddenly grips us.

Even as, in the bitter nausea of enforced hypocrisy, I stood there in
the darkness, a prey to my remorse, I heard a step and knew that my
brother was seeking me out.

“Is that you, Ben?”

“I saw you leave.”

Then he had been watching us. The tone of his voice warned me. Again, I
should have to lie.

“Couldn’t stand it; had to break away.”

“Why?”

It was black as pitch--thank heaven for that--but I felt as though
through the obscurity his hot eyes were watching the tortured agitation
on my face.

“It’s not in my mood,” I said rapidly. “Should think you’d understand.
My God--with the Governor there--the thought of going back in a few
weeks--of all that is coming to us--this dancing and merry-making
before--”

“David, are you _lying_ to me?”

His hand closed over my wrist, and the phrase died on my lips.

“Ben!”

“For God’s sake, tell me the truth! What was there between you and
Letty?”

What would I not have given to have bared my conscience to him; but it
was not my life alone that was at stake. There was the good name of the
family. For a moment, I felt lost in a sickly weakness, and hideous
possibilities seemed to strike at me out of the darkness. Then I
recovered myself. I began to act. I acted as I had never done before in
my life. I caught him by the shoulders and shook him.

“Ben, don’t be a damn fool!”

“Is that your answer?”

“Answer? How can I answer a crazy man? Do you think if there had been,
I should ever have come back here? Do you?” In my emotion my hands
cut into his shoulders and, driven on by the force of circumstances,
I said fiercely, “No, I don’t approve of your marriage. You are not
happy. I knew you wouldn’t be. Women like Letty never become real
wives. Not that she will do anything she oughtn’t to do--she is too
cold-blooded--she loves her little self more than she can ever love
anybody else--but the breath of her life is flattery and adoration. God
knows, I never wanted to tell you this--but you’ve forced it out of me.”

“You’re telling me nothing new.”

“In heaven’s name, why did you do it, Ben?”

He started back at some thought suggested by this outburst of mine.

“You know something about her, then--over there in Paris?”

I caught myself. Every word, I felt, was dangerous, and anything I
might say a trap.

“Ben, do you realize we are discussing your wife?” I said slowly. “Do
you realize how impossible this conversation is?”

“Damn it! You’re beating around the bush. You’re my brother, and I have
a right to know.”

“Letty is no different from the women of her set, here or over there;
no better, no worse. You have chosen to take one of them for your wife.
If you ask me has there ever been any public scandal attached to her
name, I can say at once, no--absolutely not.”

“You’re telling me the truth?”

“I am.”

“Thank God, at least for that!”

“As for the rest, I repeat, I don’t believe Letty has any heart to give
to you or to any one else. That may be cold comfort, but I believe it.”

“If only I believed it!”

“You can. She is a child playing with toys. She must have her toys,
to play with and to break. Just at present, because she sees she can
torture you, she is amusing herself, just as a child would with a
woolly lamb--twisting its legs. Whether she flirts with me or with a
dozen men, she’s not thinking of us; it’s you.”

“Don’t--”

“Ben, there’s only one thing to do: grin and bear it, or--”

“Well?”

“Separate and divorce,” I said, and no sooner had I said it than hope
flared up in me,--the one hope of ending a ghastly situation.

“It’s not so simple.”

“Do you care--still?”

He stood at my side without an answer.

“Ben, remember one thing.”

“The family--oh, yes--I hope to God I can remember it,” he broke out.
“Davy, sometimes I see so red that--that--”

“Stop talking like a fool,” I said angrily. “You’ve chosen to do what
you’ve done. You didn’t marry to make a home or with the hope of
having children, did you? You married Letty, as half the men we know
marry--just in a blind instinct for possession. Now, whatever happens,
however you work it out, you’re not going to do anything to disgrace
the family. Keep that in mind, Ben.”

“I wish to God I could go back with you and get into it.”

“Why not?”

“If I don’t--I don’t know what’ll happen,” he said, very low. “Davy,
it’s all very well for you to stand here and say what you say. You’ve
got a cold head. Do you think a man in my position is normal? Do you
think that he knows what he is doing half the time? I tell you, Davy,
I’m afraid--afraid.”

My mind was made up on that instant.

“Ben, you know I’d do anything in the world for you, don’t you? Will
you trust me to make the decision for you?”

“Yes,” he said, after a moment.

“You are coming back with me.” I hesitated, and then added: “For I’m
afraid, too.”

So, it is agreed that we go off to France together, though nothing is
to be said of it for the present. That is three weeks ahead; much can
happen before then. Will he hold to his determination? Will he find the
strength to wrench himself free of the slavery of the senses,--for that
is all there is to it? I don’t know. I can only wait, fearful of the
issue. I can only hope and pray.

       *       *       *       *       *

Letty, I knew, would have noticed our absence and be watching for our
return, and though I didn’t see her when we came into the hall, I was
certain that somewhere in the crowd her sharp, unquiet eyes were on us.
Late in the evening she came to me as I had expected.

“_Eh bien, Davy mio_, you are amusing yourself?”

“And you?”

“I am curious,” she said, looking at me intently.

I raised my hand to my throat significantly and the look in my eyes
must have frightened her, for she attempted no more persiflage but
moved away, rather still and serious for the rest of the evening.
Perhaps, at the bottom of her feline soul, there is a touch of genuine
fear and--a desire to live.

       *       *       *       *       *

I thought the evening would never end. Anne reproached me for
my gloominess and went off early, hurt, I know, at my seeming
indifference. I do not love her, I am sure of that; and yet I cannot
bear to see a certain wounded look in her eyes!


VIII

To-day, a strange conversation with Molly,--strange, for all at once I
seemed to know the human being with whom I had lived all these years.
Until now, I had thought of her only as a lovely child, something soft
and gentle, a laugh that was good to hear, a smiling face, content, as
you enjoy a graceful animal, a bit of sunshine and the fragrance of the
violet beds. Now, to my astonishment, I perceive a woman; a directness
of vision; a delicate perception of standards and a firmness of purpose.

She came in late from a skating party over at the Brinsmades’, where
I had purposely not gone, and, at the first glance of her telltale
countenance, I knew that something had happened. In the hall she caught
my hand.

“Come upstairs with me, Davy, just a minute.”

“Up it is, young lady.”

Much intrigued and a little apprehensive, I followed her into the blue
sitting room and closed the door. The next moment she was in my arms,
weeping out her heart on my shoulder.

“Oh, Davy, Davy, I had to come to some one!”

“But, good heavens, what’s wrong?” I was thinking of Letty and
wondering.

“I am so miserably unhappy!”

“Then talk it out with me. It’ll do you good.”

“Oh, Davy, some one wants to marry me!”

I started to burst out laughing at this and suddenly checked myself.
I held her from me, her shoulders in my hands, and said, with a swift
jealousy:

“You child! What right have you to be thinking of such things!”

“What things, Davy?”

“Falling in love, and marriage.”

“But I’m not in love--and that’s just the awful part of it! It’s of
him I’m thinking. It’s so terrible to think that a man has fallen in
love with you, that he cares as much as all that--when you know you
can’t--you never will. I--I feel as though I had committed a crime!”

I took her into my arms again and I think I never loved her, my little
sister, as I did at that moment. If this were American womanhood, I
felt a sudden thrill of pride!

“Perhaps, it is not so serious--”

“It is, it is,” she protested, hiding her face against my shoulder. “If
you had seen his face! I was so sorry for him, Davy. It’s terrible that
he should come to care like that! Oh, don’t laugh at me--there’s no one
else to go to but you--and do try to understand!”

“I couldn’t laugh at you, bless your honest little heart, and I think I
understand,” I said, wondering a little if she knew her true feelings.
“Is this the first time any man has proposed--”

“Yes, and I saw it coming, and I dreaded it so, and when I couldn’t
prevent it I was so frightened. He was so terribly in earnest, and his
face went so white. I--I couldn’t say a thing,--I just burst into
tears and ran away. Oh, David, I feel so guilty. I can’t bear that any
one should be so unhappy as that--just over me!”

“This is what life means, little sister,” I said, drawing her down
beside me on the old chintz sofa. “These are the things no one can
protect us from. And now, tell me, are you quite sure of your own
feelings?”

She raised her eyes, her eyes clear as Bernoline’s, to me and in
that moment I felt the spiritual kinship of true womanhood that lies
underneath all social divisions.

“It will be a long time before I shall fall in love. I am only a girl
now, Davy. I want to be a woman first, to have read and thought much.
For I want to be fit to be at the head of my home and for the lives
that may come to me.”

“Do you really feel that way, Molly dear?”

“Can any one feel differently about such things?”

I bent over her hand and caught it to my lips.

“That is the only right way--the natural way to think.”

“Oh, David, I do want to talk to you so much! You see, I never can,
with mother: you know how it is. There’s only you, Davy. I don’t love
Ted. I’m sure I never will love him, but it seems so terrible that I
should lose the other--the real friendship--and yet I suppose that’s
not possible--”

“Not quite fair to him.”

“No, and Ted is the only one to think about, isn’t he?”

“Ted?”

“Ted Seaver.”

“Oh, yes, the tall one, with dark hair,” I said, seeing confusedly one
of the many who had passed through the house. “Why, he’s only a boy.
What right had he--”

“That’s just it; but, of course, he’s not such a boy: he’s
twenty-three, and he couldn’t help saying what he did. And I did
respect him for the way he did it. Only--only such things are way off--”

“I should hope so.”

“It would have to be some one--some one very much of a man--whom I
could look up to--some one much stronger than I am--who has been really
tested and come through.” Again she looked at me and, suddenly laying
her hand over mine, said: “Some one like you, Davy.”

The look of clear faith as her face lit up somehow searched into my
heart and left me humble and regretful. I looked down at her white hand
against my dark one, and Jessica’s words came into my mind,

“So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”

“I’m glad you came to me, Molly,” I said, “and I value your confidence
very deeply. Suppose we snuggle up before the fire and talk lots of
things out!”

“Oh, if you only would!”

I touched a match to the tinder, wheeled her into position and sat down
beside her. She leaned forward, her hands clasped over her knees, her
look sunk in the climbing flame.

“It’s such a pity!”

“What, Molly?”

“It is such a sad thing to think, David, that it can’t just remain
a friendship. I am thinking of the friend I have lost. There are
many girls who are terribly excited about men--falling in love with
them. I’m not that way. I only wish--because in the end it’s you who
lose--isn’t it?”

“How long have you known him?”

“Ted? Almost a year.”

She looked, and saw the lingering question in my eye.

“Oh, David, you don’t understand me at all!”

“Yes, yes, I do, but sometimes--”

“If I cared for him, do you think I’d tell any one--even you?”

This brought me up sharp. I laughed, quite amazed, and not at all sure
that I liked it.

“That’s a rather queer way of putting it.”

“Don’t tease me, David. You understand.”

“I suppose that means, young lady,” I said, thinking of something I
had been impelled to write a few days ago, “that when the time comes,
you’ll go whisking out of this house on the arm of some stranger,
without even saying ‘by your leave’.”

“If you mean shall I decide for myself--of course, David!”

“And even a big brother’s advice--”

“No, David; not even you. How can any one else know? And then, think
of the responsibility of deciding such a thing! If I really cared, I
should believe in him, no matter what any one would tell me.”

“Molly,” I said, a bit surprised though to find myself playing the part
of Wisdom, “I am not much worried about you. You will make no mistake.
There’s an honest, direct way you have of facing life that I think I
can trust. Only, I want you to value yourself very high, and I’m afraid
sometimes that just because you are so straightforward and unselfish
you may not realize what you are worth.”

“That’s very dear of you,” she said pensively. “Of course, I won’t
pretend to you that I don’t--well, that I don’t sometimes look ahead
and wonder. Of course, I do. And I have a very high ideal.”

“It is so easy to make mistakes. It’s when you want to love, my dear
little sister, that it is easy to believe you do love. Such awful
mistakes can be made.”

“Now you are thinking of Ben,” she said irrelevantly.

“No, no, I was thinking of myself,” I said hastily, for Letty was a
subject I could not discuss with her. “Do you know, if I hadn’t been
prevented--I would--well, I don’t want to say I would have--I might
have thrown away my whole life on a mad suicidal marriage?”

“I know,” she said, nodding her head.

“You know? What do you mean?” I said, startled.

“Don’t be angry, David. I guessed. It was Jenny Barnett, wasn’t it?”

I laughed, to cover my confusion and my amazement,--a not very
successful laugh.

“Yes, it was Jenny; and that’s why I say be very sure, just at first.”

“But, David, I am not like you. You have always been so impulsive, so
intense.”

“I impulsive?” I cried, forgetting how the conversation had switched.
And I was genuinely amazed, for frankly, it had never occurred to me to
look at myself as such. Though I am not sure but what she is right, but
how she learned to see me so clearly is beyond me.

“Yes, you are! I never know what you’re going to do; whereas I--I am
really quite sensible and matter-of-fact. Why haven’t _you_ married,
David? You ought to.”

“I thought, young lady, we were here to discuss your affairs,” I said
warily.

“Please, David, let me talk to you,” she said, raising her eyes to
mine. “I love you very much, more than any one else in the world. And
we ought to be very close to each other, real confidants.”

“Now, what’s coming?” I thought to myself, but, putting on a brave
front, I answered, “Fire away, then.”

“I feel you are unhappy. I feel it so strongly.”

“I am neither happy nor unhappy,” I said, being on my guard. “All I am
thinking about now is going back and doing my duty, because it is quite
immaterial, so long as the war lasts, what I plan to do.”

“I am thinking of Anne.”

“Now, we have it! Young lady, there is such a thing as imagining you
see too much.”

“Don’t you think, David,” she said, not paying the slightest attention
to me, “that it would be kinder, more honest, if you told her--”

“Told her what?”

“That you love some one else.”

I jumped at this, in great wrath.

“Extraordinary! Child, where did you imagine--”

“Don’t be angry, David. You needn’t tell me if you don’t want to--but
I know. I’ve seen it in your face too often, these days. Only, I think
it’s hard on Anne.”

I decided on another course.

“My dear Molly, Anne isn’t in the slightest doubt as to my feelings
towards her. I wish I did love her, sometimes. I don’t. And if I did, I
shouldn’t tell her so--just as I was going off to war.”

“Why not?”

“Because a man has no right to take a woman’s heart when it may mean an
empty life for the rest of her existence.”

“But why, David? If you men are willing to give your lives, why should
we women not have our part of sorrow?”

“Each as he feels: that’s my point of view,” I said. Yet, as I look at
it now, I wonder why I said it, for no such compunction had arrested my
impulse toward Bernoline. “However, that’s all academic and don’t get
it into your romantic little head that I’m not telling you the truth
about Anne. Furthermore, she understands.”

She shook her head.

“I’m inclined to shake you!” I said, vexed.

The next moment her arms closed about me.

“David, I can’t bear to see you unhappy; that’s all.”

As I look back on this conversation, I am the more amazed. Where did
she get such uncanny insight into my thoughts? What had not her child’s
eyes divined?--if they had ever been the eyes of a child! I suppose my
irritation arose from the fact that she had come too close to my own
misgivings. No, I am not quite sure that I have been honest with Anne,
even when I assured myself that I was. Before I leave I shall see Anne
again. To-night, I know what I shall say: but I am not sure what it
will be at the time.


IX

  _New York_

I am here with Ben at the hotel and at noon, day after to-morrow, we
sail for France. To me, as to him, it is an escape from a hideous
situation. All day I have tramped the streets, seeking in the crowds
a glimpse of Bernoline. Twice I came to the steps of St. Rosa’s
Convent,--tempted. If I had any doubt as to the lasting wound that is
in my heart, I know now. To be in this city, where she walks hidden in
the wilderness of human beings, where at every turn I look for her!
There is nothing here for me--nothing! I want to get back to the other
life--to be from morning to night a pawn in the fingers of fate--to
have every decision made for me--to surrender my initiative--to accept
what can’t be changed--to perform without question.

       *       *       *       *       *

But to go back. The leave-taking was hard, the shadow was over it all.
If I come back--and who knows?--one place will be empty. But first,
Anne.

For days I had not seen her. Each consciously avoided the other. Yet a
good deal of what Molly had said haunted me: I could not depart without
some explanation. We left Sunday. Friday afternoon I called her up on
the telephone, and asked if I might come over,--a strange conversation,
full of long pauses and hesitations, where I could not see her face and
could only wonder.

“I am going Sunday--you know?”

“Yes, I know.”

“And I really would like to see you before then.”

“But, David, I’m leaving in an hour.”

Curiously enough, this upset me more than I would have thought.

“Leaving? Where?” I asked stupidly.

There was a long silence.

“Anne!”

“Yes?”

“And to-morrow?”

“But I am leaving in an hour for a week end.”

“Oh, then I shan’t see you. I’m sorry.”

“You should have let me know before.”

“Yes, yes, of course. My fault. Well, I suppose it can’t be helped.”

No answer.

“When do you leave?”

“In an hour.”

“Then I’m afraid it’s good-by over the telephone.”

“You haven’t been very friendly, you know.”

“I know.”

Another silence.

“Will you write to me once in a while?”

“Do you want me to, David?”

“Please.”

“Very well--once in a while.”

Now this was not the turn I had wished to give to my parting, but some
sudden feeling of the blankness of her eyes caused me to relent.

“So, it’s good-by, Anne, and--I’m sorry it’s to be like this.”

“It is not my fault.”

“No.”

“Then--good-by, and good luck--Davy.”

The last was almost inaudible. I put up the receiver and went to my
room and puttered around nervously with my packing, not at all quiet in
my mind and frankly missing something out of my day.

In the middle of the afternoon, all at once, I determined to fling on
my things and go out for a tramp, to calm my irritation. I had hardly
passed the postern when who should come whirling up the road in her
cutter, bells jangling, snow clouds flying, but Anne, with her cheeks
aflame.

“Jump in.”

I clambered to the seat by her side and we were off so precipitately
that I caught at her arm to save myself a tumble. Away we went,
skipping over the crinkling snow, the sharp wind whipping at our
cheeks, long minutes without a word, until Littledale and the outskirts
were left behind in a whirling maze. At Muncie’s Woods she drew in
suddenly and under the green canopy of the evergreens we slowed to a
walk.

“There was no house party,” she said, staring ahead.

“Of course not.”

“How did you know?”

“I knew.”

“What a spiteful, irrational, idiotic person you must think me.”

“No--very human.”

She shook her head, and I thought her lip trembled a little.

“It’s always so, and I can’t help it. I’m always doing the wrong thing
with you.”

I did not answer this, for I was afraid to.

“It’s been a miserably unsatisfactory time,” she said, flicking the
horses suddenly with her whip, so that they pranced about for quite a
moment before she could control them. “I had looked forward so much
to your coming, to going back to the old days, Davy. They were the
best--and instead, we have only been fencing with each other. We never
say what we mean. And I--I show you my very worst self--my worst!
Everything I say to you, you misunderstand.”

“There you are wrong.”

“You do, you do! You are always ascribing to me motives that aren’t
there, and so, David, there are two things I can’t bear from you,
ridicule, and--pity!”

“Good heavens, nothing is further from my mind.”

“That’s not true,” she said obstinately. “David, why can’t we say the
things we think to each other? Is there any reason?”

“It is sometimes rather hard, Anne, isn’t it?”

“There you go! But if we don’t--don’t you see that we lose all that was
so wonderful, so rare, so genuine that we once had. And this is what
is happening.” Still she had not looked at me. Her mood changed and
she drew the lash of her whip over the steaming flank of a horse. When
she spoke it was gravely and with determination, the voice of a woman.
“David, I do not think any harm can come from being absolutely honest,
and sometimes, for not being so, a whole destiny may be changed. David,
whatever you think I am--I am not in love with you--”

“But I never--”

“I am not in love with you, but I can imagine--some day--if I did--if I
was--well, marrying you.”

The next moment the whip had struck across the glistening back and we
shot out into a gallop.

“Stop!” I cried out, but she only shook her head, bending lower to hide
her face that was aflame with confusion.

“Stop!”

I caught the reins from her and brought our perilous rocking flight to
a halt. Then I turned to her. Poor child, I knew what the suspense of
that moment meant to her! I could almost feel her heart stand still;
even then, thank heaven, I did not abuse the situation--at least, I
think not--and heaven knows how easy it would have been!

“Anne, dear little friend, I think more of you at this minute than I
ever have, for saying that.”

“Oh, Davy, I shall want to kill myself to-night for--”

“No, don’t say that. Now, I am going to be just as honest with you.”

I saw her hand steal up to her throat and hurried on to end the
suspense.

“I feel just as you do. I am not in love with you, and yet I can
imagine, just as you said, that if some day I married you a great
happiness would come into my life. Would to God I could say more!”

She turned for the first time as I began to speak and her eyes went
to mine. I had a strange premonition there in the green light of the
forest, in the stillness of the carpeted woods, the stillness that was
in her listening face, that beyond the inscrutable future, through
what twisted tormented ways I know not, in some final calm, just for
the strange incongruous daring of that moment, Anne and I would end as
husband and wife. Premonition or illusion,--I write it down as I felt
it.

“Will you really believe me?” she said, and her glance went down,
“when I say that I should never, never have said even this if--if it
were not that you are going back, and everything else seems so little
beside that. Will you understand that I can be like this, that without
being in love I can look into the future and see what may come? David,
it’s--it’s so hard to say--”

“I don’t think so. Say just what you feel, and then I shall be just as
honest.”

“You have always been different in my life, David. Other men have
just been shells. You I’ve known, and you’ve known me. It isn’t that,
oh, since we are talking this way, it’s this: I know my weaknesses,
Davy--oh, so well--and I know what I’ll become if I marry a certain
type of man. It’s what you bring out in me, the thing I want to be when
I’m with you. Of course, it sounds terribly--I’m ashamed to say it. No,
don’t look at me; but David, I can say this--when you come back--some
day, when it’s all over--I shan’t have changed.”

“Shan’t have what?”

“Changed,” she said, in a whisper.

I felt my eyes blurred. What wouldn’t I have given to have been able at
that moment, in perfect honesty, to have taken her into my arms for her
sake--and for mine!

“Anne,” I said, “let me tell you this,--for you will want to know this
when you look back to-night: never regret what you have done. We have
come closer together this afternoon than ever before, and you have done
it.”

“Do you mean it, Davy?” she said, looking up, her eyes shining so that
it was hard to resist them.

“I do. From now on I shall always know the strength of a woman--a very
real woman--that is in you. You have left a memory that I shall hold in
great reverence. Between us now there will be always absolute honesty;
and that is something to build on. Hold what we have, dear friend, and
let us both have some faith in the future.”

“Thank you, David,” she said, with a touch of wistfulness. Then, “And
now, tell me--”

“Are you sure you want to hear? It will hurt you.”

“I only know that you are unhappy. And, David, I think that is the
reason, the real reason I have come to you.”

It was hard to begin, for I, too, shrunk from the pain I knew I would
give her. Presently, she said, looking up at my clouded face:

“There was some one else--”

I nodded.

“Of course, I knew there was.”

“There is.”

“Oh.”

“But it is quite hopeless,” I added hastily.

“Quite hopeless?” she said, looking at me, and so strange are the ways
of the heart, that, I believe, that was the only thought she seized
upon.

“I only knew her for ten days. I shall never see her again. I have
promised.”

“It hurts?”

“Yes.”

“I am sorry.” She laid her hand on my arm and looked away. “Is--is it
because she’s married, David?”

Strange to say, the suggestion came to me like a flash of lightning
in the darkness of my perplexity. Never once had such an explanation
occurred to me. I thought it over and wondered.

“You needn’t answer.”

“I do not think so,” I said, without thinking how strange this must
sound. “I don’t know--I hardly know anything about her. We are entirely
apart in everything,--race, tradition, faith.”

“And if it were not hopeless, David?”

“Don’t ask me.”

We drove on in silence, each to his own thoughts. In the end it was
Anne who spoke.

“Just one question: is--is she there--in France?”

“No. She is here. That I said is true. She is gone utterly out of my
life. It was her decision. Why? I don’t even know. It was all very
beautiful and very tragic. It is over--all except the forgetting.”
I drew a long breath and turned to her. “That is going to be a hard
fight, but it must be done. I wonder if I should have told you this.”

“Oh, yes, yes! You should have told me.”

“Of course. Anne--I want you to know this, too. With what we have been
to each other--we are now--I should never ask anything of you unless I
did love you with my whole heart. That is your right. This is a strange
conversation, but I think you know me well enough to believe that!”

“Of course, David.”

She looked at me, and her eyes suddenly were filled with tears.

“I wish I could feel that you needed me a little.”

“Good God! But have I the right!”

Then, she did a thing I shall never forget,--that only comes to the
intuition of the woman who loves. She drew off her glove and laid her
bare hand in mine. And so, speaking little, we returned.

       *       *       *       *       *

Is it possible, I wonder, that with one’s heart filled with the
ache and anguish of a love that is denied any hope, the soul in its
defensive instinct can look ahead and know what some future date may
bring? For, to-day, I can say this with perfect honesty: I need to keep
Anne in my life.

The last moments in the old home were harder than I had thought. Aunt
Janie was the bravest of them all, not excepting the mater, but then,
Aunt Janie, bless her heart, is of the heroic line. Molly has come
on to see us off, though I begged her not to. The hardest was saying
good-by to the Governor. During the weeks of my return he had seemed to
pick up famously, until we had almost begun to hope. But, at the last,
all the light went out of his face. And when I leaned down suddenly and
kissed him, his fingers clung to my hand until I had gently to release
them. I had left this till the last minute and hurried out into the
hall, where Molly put her arms around me and took me to the sleigh. For
one thing I am profoundly thankful: he remembered Alan, and I carry to
him the old daguerreotype of the Governor as a young man.

At the station every one in the village waited. The Littledale Band
played “The Marseillaise” and other patriotic airs, amid great waving
of handkerchiefs and cheering. You would have thought I was a candidate
for Governor. But I was too affected to do anything but wave back.

       *       *       *       *       *

What Ben has said to Letty I do not know. He seldom speaks, but a
certain grimness settles over him as he paces up and down. I’m afraid
that it has cost him more than he thought to tear himself away from
her. To-night everything seems confused and out of joint,--Anne,
Bernoline, the Governor, Ben, Letty; myself most of all. Again, the
close of another chapter--the wrench of old associations--new hazards,
and what beyond?

If only I could see _her_ once more!


X

  _New York_

I have seen her, by some miracle of coincident, or by a destiny which
never seems to leave me. It is midnight, and I have been sitting here,
my head in my hands, my brain galloping, going over and over every
word, every look. I have seen her, talked to her, held her in my arms!
What is the trick destiny has played on me? What is my mood to-night?
Exaltation, or the sense of having bound myself irrevocably to tragedy?
At one moment the wildest hopes surge up in me: I live in fantastic
daydreams with a belief in some miraculous, healing Providence. At
the next I am dropped into bottomless despair, and I see no end but
unfulfilled longing and the emptiness of denial. And so, what I have
longed for, to see her once again, has come, and I don’t know which is
the stronger,--the joy of hoping or the pain of certainty.

All day long I had sought her, aimlessly, without a plan, weary of
spirit, without a hope, but with a prayer on my lips, as even men of
no faith pray in a last hope, when all other means have failed them.
Towards evening the thought came to me to seek her in the calm of
vaulted spaces, and I went into the Cathedral, and, from there, into
the Church of the Dominican Fathers. Then the inspiration came to me
that if she were anywhere it would be in the little French Church of
the Franciscans. No sooner had this idea come to me than a strange
sense of certainty possessed me. I went there, absolutely convinced
that I would find her.

Yet, at my entrance, as I stood with incredulous, blinded eyes, peering
into the hollow obscurity, my heart sank. And then I saw her!

How I knew that the kneeling figure by the little altar of the Virgin
was Bernoline, I do not know, but I knew. My heart seemed to stop. I
leaned against a pillar and waited. The great vaulted supports rose up
and closed above me somewhere in the night. Far off I heard a slipping
step. Through the church a dozen tiny lights burned silently. At her
altar the Mother of Sorrows looked down out of the shadow of the ages.
She was on her knees, the mellow points of the votive candles lighting
her uplifted face in a glow of serene radiance. So I saw her again, as
I had imagined her a hundred times, when I knew she returned to me in
her prayers.

There are pictures which remain in memory’s galleries. This will never
fade.

       *       *       *       *       *

Something of my presence she must have felt, for all at once her hand
was arrested in mid-air, and she turned and met my look. Instantly I
came forward and knelt at her side. I saw her lips open and over her
face the wonder of a living miracle. I know now that my name was on
her lips at that very moment, and that in her simple faith she saw the
answer. Her great dark eyes met mine. I saw her breast rise. Her pale
slender hand went to her throat, and in that first unwavering look I
knew at last how I was loved.

“Bernoline, it is God’s will.”

“It is you. I prayed that I might see you once again.”

She laid her hand on mine, bidding me wait, and went off into the stony
vastness. Presently I heard the step I knew from all others returning.
A pervading sense of happiness such as I had never known filled my
whole being at the knowledge that she was drawing near, that she whom I
loved was coming back to me. When I raised my eyes she was at my side,
tenderness and pride in her face, and in her hand a thin white taper.
She knelt again.

“Mother, I thank thee,” she said.

She rose and, lighting the wick at the wavering crown of tiered tapers,
placed it so that it dominated all the rest.

“Your light, _mon ami_,--above the crowd, always; strong, proud and
true.”

Then kneeling, she made the sign of the cross, and as a smile of
thankfulness touched her lips, I knew that she prayed for me.

I forgot all the complex world of realities: actions and reactions of
our mortal nature; doubts, questionings, logic and tradition. There, in
the silence and the shadows, purity at my side, mystery above me, my
spirit took wings with the faith that was hers. I do not think that I
uttered a prayer, yet it was a prayer, for at that moment I believed as
a child believes.

When she touched my arm I rose and followed her. At the end of the
aisle, a mutual impulse made us turn. The candle, my candle, shone out
bravely above the rest.

“You will remember?”

“Always.”

       *       *       *       *       *

When we emerged into the strange, jarring world, the healing dusk was
stealing over the hard outlines. For a moment we walked silently, our
hearts too full, unable to speak to each other.

“To-morrow I sail for France.”

“To-morrow?” she cried, with a little catch in her voice.

“You will walk a little way with me? A last time?”

“How could I help it, _mon ami_?”

She looked at me and smiled her sad little smile, and I saw in her eyes
the weariness of the struggling against the call of her heart. A great
hope came to me.

“I thought you would wait for America,” she said, and now her eyes no
longer avoided mine but seemed never to leave my face.

“I’m going back to the Legion and, of course, the moment we go in, and
that can’t be long, I shall be transferred.”

“You are well?”

“Entirely.”

What did it matter what we said? I think neither of us really knew.
I saw only the light that shone in her eyes, and in the joy of being
together neither the past nor the future nor the things about us
existed. I took her arm and slowed my pace to the meditative step I
knew so well, and together, heads bowed and still too happily oppressed
by all we had to say to each other, we went silently towards the Park,
each content with the knowledge of the other’s presence. It was the
hour when the city, like another Cinderella, steps out of the drab and
homespun of the day into the beaded fairy raiment of the twilight; when
through the hard and hazy battlements something soft and gentle tempers
the air; when the clamor of strident sounds lingers faintly in the
drowsy distance and polyglot ugliness masks itself behind half-shadows
and fleeting forms.

“Ah, Davy, I did want to see you again,” she said, without subterfuge,
in the honesty of her nature, as only her nature could be honest. “I
wanted to see you strong--yourself. I wanted to know that I had not
brought you weakness and sorrow. _Mon ami_, tell me that it is so.”

We had wandered into the Park, through obscure winding paths, the
argus-eyed city receding against the darkling sky, the lake at our
feet, and only an occasional passer-by hurrying on his way. At the
bridge we stopped, leaning over, shoulder to shoulder, each of us under
the spell of the silence which visited us, and afraid of the test that
words would bring.

“I cannot tell you anything that is not true,--even for your sake,” I
said at last.

“No, David.”

“But first, you. How has it gone with you? It has been hard, Bernoline?”

“No, no.”

“That is the truth?”

“Yes, _mon ami_. It has not been hard. I have found great kindness. I
am companion in the family of a true gentlewoman.”

“Bernoline, I cannot bear to think of you--”

“Hush; it is so little when you think of what has come to other women.”

“Bernoline, you do not know how I have fought to keep my promise.
I’ve gone by St. Rosa’s Convent a dozen times, and twice I wrote you
letters,--only to tear them up.”

“But you won out, _mon ami_. I knew you would.”

“Yes, but there is no happiness in it.”

“Must I always hurt you, Davy?” she said sadly, “I who only long to
protect you? Dear friend, all I have done--believe me, though you
cannot understand it--has been done for you.”

“Yes, Bernoline.”

I felt that the moment had come when the happiness of my whole life was
there in my hands to fight for. We were no longer man and woman, but
two atoms in the wavering sea of multitudes,--atoms gravitating towards
each other, cleaving together despite opposition and circumstance,
despite all the forces of society that laboriously and fruitlessly lay
their inhibitions against the great sweeping instincts of race.

“Night and day, David, I have had you in my prayers. I have prayed
that our meeting--our knowing each other--would leave no wound in you.
Ah, _mon ami_, if I do this strange thing, to be here alone with you,
it is because I must know that I am not to carry that remorse through
all my life.” She stopped, as though dreading what she might be led to
say, and then, staring down at the stars that swam in the dark waters
below us, she added slowly: “I shall never be sure--never--until I know
that you are in your own home, married and happy.”

Then I broke out.

“Bernoline, are you quite honest with yourself?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that is not the true reason. Bernoline, if you are here,
to-night, alone at my side, it is because you cannot help it--because
you love me. Oh, why hide from ourselves what is?”

“No, no! Don’t say that!”

“Bernoline, Bernoline, why deny it?” I cried, bending over her. “You
don’t deceive me; you don’t deceive yourself! What stands between us?
What can stand? What do we care? What else counts but this thing we
feel, here, now, at this very moment! We know. You know, as I know.
Happiness, Bernoline? Do you think in the whole world there is any
happiness for me away from you--from the longing for you, day and
night! Bernoline, I tell you, you have never been an hour away from me.
I have had you before my eyes; I have talked with you; lived over a
thousand times each moment spent with you. Bernoline, turn to me, look
at me, tell me--”

Do I know what I said, there in the deep pool of the night! It is not
words, but accents, that we hear at such times. I don’t know that she
heard me any more than I can remember the torrent of pleading that
surged to my lips, but I know that she, too, felt the snapping of
cords, the longing of my arms to reach out and draw her up to me, the
wild triumphant force beating down all our little struggling, closing
about us and confounding us in one impulse, one desire, for, all at
once, she swayed from me and began to tremble, crying: “Don’t touch me,
David. I can’t stand it--don’t!”

“But why, in heaven’s name, why?” Her voice stirred all my compassion,
but the thought that I was fighting for my happiness, her happiness,
was stronger. I came closer. “Bernoline, what is it? Pride? Is
that all? Do you think I care who you are, what you are, what was
your family, or anything else? You are you. And now, listen to me,
Bernoline. To-morrow, I go back. Marry me to-night; be my wife. Let me
take that with me in my heart!”

“If I could, if I only could!” she burst out suddenly.

“You can, you will,” I said, with a sudden sense of triumphant victory,
pitiless, as in love we are driven to show no mercy. “Bernoline,
whatever it is, I have the right to share it. Yes, the right. Nothing
else matters but you in my life. Do you understand? You are life!”

She turned to me, struggling against herself, her hands clasped, and
again the terror in her eyes.

“I can’t. I can’t.”

“But why, _why_?”

Suddenly, like a flash, I remembered the first instinctive question of
Anne’s. My heart contracted so sharply that for a moment I could not
voice the terrible doubt.

“Bernoline--is there--any one else--who has a right?”

She stood, staring at me. Twice her lips moved, parted, trembled, and
refused to utter the answer. Her hands gripped the coping, and I saw
her arms stiffen.

“Bernoline, you are--married!” I said, in a whisper. “Is it that?”

Still she did not answer.

“Bernoline, for God’s sake, say it is not that.”

“Yes, yes--it is--that!”

I should not have known her voice.

“Good God! Why didn’t you tell me before?”

I was stunned; yet it seemed as though I had always known--that it
could have been nothing else. The world went black before me.

“He is alive?” I said, at last.

“Yes.”

“You must go back to him, some day?”

“Never.”

“Ah, Bernoline, why--why didn’t you tell me?”

She waited a moment.

“It is not my secret alone. It is terrible that I cannot tell you any
more than that. Yes, yes, I have done wrong: I have been weak. But
don’t you reproach me, David; that would break my heart!”

“Oh, no, I don’t reproach you!” I blurted out. “I don’t know your
reasons. I know if you’ve done what you’ve done, there is a reason,
and--it will always be right. Never, dear, could I have any other
feeling towards you but of reverence for the loveliest and purest thing
I have known.”

“You can still think so, David?” she cried with a little sob.

“Always. Nothing that you or I can do will ever change that--and
nothing that has gone before.”

She looked up at me so swiftly, with her sad, sweet smile, that before
I knew it she was in my arms, trembling against my heart, her head
buried against my shoulder. I knew nothing more, what I did or said,
only this: that we were united--that this soft, gentle body in my arms
was the woman who, whatever intervened, loved me now and irrevocably.

“_Ah, mon bien aimé--ayez de la force pour moi--je n’en peux
plus--non--non--je n’en peux plus!_”

But even as she cried to me to be strong for her, she clung to me, her
arms strained about me, and her body collapsed in my grip.

“Bernoline, look into my eyes, dear!”

She raised her head, her eyes met mine, all struggling at an end.
Another moment, and our impending lips would have closed in the first
kiss. Yet, by some inexplicable miracle, it was I who was the stronger.
For what I saw in her dear eyes was so innocent and so full of trust
that I could not tarnish the ideal. My arms loosed and slowly I put her
from me.

She caught her breath, and her hands went to my shoulders.

“Yes, you are as I knew you were,” she said proudly. “Never shall I
forget, _David mon ami, mon ami adoré_.”

“Thank God!” I said, drawing a deep breath.

“And now, believe me, a last time--if I could--if I only had the right
to say what you want to hear, how gladly my heart would go to you! But
David, I can say this: in all my life, I have never for one instant
loved any other man--and I never will. That is a promise.”

“Bernoline, I have done everything as you wished, more than I would
have believed I could do. This I ask: during those months of loneliness
and trial, write to me, and let me write to you!”

“Is that wise, I wonder?” she said, yet already wishing to be convinced.

“You cannot leave me utterly. I am not strong enough for that! Anything
else--but not that!”

“Nor I.” Her eyes filled with tears and then, at last, through the
tears, the smile came bravely forth. “Until the end of the war, then.
And now--” She stopped, looked at me, and shook her head slowly.

“So soon?”

“It is best not to try ourselves beyond our strength,” she said.
“But--we will not go too fast.”

I do not remember much what she said. For I was silent, once the
great test passed, all at once weak and rebellious. She spoke to me,
recalling our first meeting, speaking of the home she had found. My
head was turning. All the complications, all the tragic incidents of
our meeting and parting, the fatality that lay between us; all was
nothing to the knowledge of the love that had looked at me out of the
great dark eyes. My instincts revolted. I could not believe, I would
not believe that this was the end. Somewhere, somehow, the future would
be ours, if we had to wait--for twenty years!

We came to the end and, as I stood, all choked up, she took my hand and
laid it against her heart--a moment.

“_Mon ami_, you will be there, always.”

The light in her eyes is still before me as I write and the dear face,
transformed with all the pure happiness of a child.

“And now--” she began reluctantly.

“No--no! Not that word!” I blurted out.

“As you wish,” she said gravely. “Courage, and God keep you, my dear.”

She went up the steps slowly, looking back, and her eyes for a moment
lingered, smiling down on me, before she could find courage to end a
look that might be the last. The door closed and shut her out from me.

       *       *       *       *       *

And from these moments, sanctified in my memory, by the perverse turns
of my fate, that seems to entangle all the skeins of my life, the good
and the evil, I came back to meet--Letty.

She was in the salon that separated our rooms when I entered, and
from the look on Ben’s face I saw that his soul was being torn to its
foundations. At my entrance they stopped, in a sudden telltale silence.

“You here, Letty?” I said, stupidly enough. God knows that no more
unwelcome figure could have come before me at that moment.

She nodded curtly, but did not speak. She looked quite worn despite
her artifice, and in her cold face the eyes burned forth as they did
only when she was roused to some fury of obstinate determination. The
conversation had been at a high tension, as I could see by Ben’s ugly
frown. I went into my bedroom and closed the door and, overcome by
the moral nausea of this malignant intrusion across the clean memory
of the evening’s exaltation, I sank on the bed and, taking my head in
my hands, cursed her from the bitterness of my heart as I have never
cursed another human being.

Not that she had come to see me. I knew too well the only genuine
impulse of which in her tired experience she was capable. It was only
the prey which was escaping her that could rouse the female in her. I
did not know how far Ben had gone in his revolt,--though I suspected
that he had given an ultimatum. But I knew this, that Letty would never
let him go without a struggle. What to do? My lips were sealed: the
slightest false move might precipitate a tragedy. An hour passed, while
I listened to the falling and rise of their contending voices, when,
suddenly, the door opened and banged, and Ben came into the room.

“For God’s sake, David, get her away!”

I sprang up, half expecting Letty to rush in--but she did not--and
after a moment I went over to my brother and laid my hand on his
shoulder to steady him.

“Ben, do you mean that?”

“Get her away--quick!”

“That’s a big responsibility to take,” I said slowly. “Your mind’s made
up?”

He dug his fingers into his arms and, in the breath that went through
him, I felt a sudden vacillation.

“Ben,” I said, sternly. “Stick to your guns. Care for you? All she
cares is to know she can make you suffer. Sit down.”

I went on tiptoe to the door and flung it open. As I had known, she
was there, listening. But it is dangerous to try such a woman as Letty
too far, and the blind rage I saw in her face at this exposure so
frightened me that, closing the door behind me, I clapped my hand over
her mouth and picked her up bodily.

“The scene is over, and out you go,” I said, savagely. She did not
struggle but suddenly became quiet and inert and, with the devilish
instinct that was in her to wound me, her arms closed softly about my
neck. I wrenched myself free, loathing the hated perfume of her body,
and set her down in the hall.

“So, you have told him?” she said quickly, keen for the pretense at
dramatics.

“If I had, you wouldn’t be alive now,” I said, and closed and locked
the door and, for further security, slipped the key into my pocket.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is four o’clock in the morning now, as I finish these lines. I can
hear Ben in the next room, walking up and down.


XI

  _At Sea_

We sailed at noon. Molly and Anne were on the deck to see us
off,--Letty, to plant a final sting. Anne came in after breakfast
with her father and with Molly we went down to the boat. I do not
know when I have been so sorry for any one as for Anne. What fatality
ever impelled her to come into my life at just that moment? She came
in so happily that immediately my heart fell, for I saw that our last
interview in Littledale had left the way to the future open to her.
Yet she had not been ten minutes with me before her woman’s intuitions
had warned her. I saw the light manner change to a sudden meditation
and always when I turned my head her eyes were on me in anxious
interrogation. Poor child--I would have spared her the pain, but it
was not to be. The moment we were left alone together on the dark and
pungent wharf, she turned to me and said:

“David, you have seen her?”

“Yes.”

I took her arm and led her a little apart, to a nook where we were
hidden from the crowd.

“Anne, for God’s sake, put me out of your life,” I said, taking her
hand. “There is only misery and unhappiness if you don’t. This is
honest, because I must be honest with you.”

“I can’t put you out of my life,” she said, shaking her head, “and if
you are unhappy--all the more reason for me to stay in yours.”

“Anne, it is not fair to you, to what your life may be.”

“Let me be the judge of that, David,” she said soberly, her hand on
my arm. “Have I the right to know this? Is it--the other--still quite
hopeless?”

“Quite,” I said gloomily.

“David, my heart goes out to you. If I could only help. No, no--Wait a
moment, I can’t go back yet.”

“All right now?”

“All right, David.”

And when we went back, there was Letty, her arm through Molly’s, as
pretty and as enticing as could be, coquetting with Mr. Brinsmade. From
her face one would never have had the slightest suspicion that there
was the least flaw in the serene content of her day. I held myself on
my guard, fearing her purpose, but at the last she caught me as, of
course, she had intended. The whistle blew and with it the time to say
good-by. Molly, little trump, held up with forced gayety and so did
Anne, though I saw such suffering in her eyes that it was all I could
do not to take her impulsively in my arms: for, no matter what I had
protested for her sake, to know that she cared was a great consolation.

When it came Letty’s turn, quite as the most natural thing in the world
(as, of course, to the others it was), she flung her arms about me and
kissed me; there--before Ben. Then she went off, protesting it was bad
luck to see a ship out of port, thoroughly pleased with having planted
a last dart. And Ben and I, with that kiss between us, went up the
gangway.

“I hope to God I never lay eyes on her again!” he said, with an oath.

If only that may be true!

We went to the promenade deck and stood over the stern, gazing back at
the shores that began to recede. The waters rushed in between the wharf
and us. I saw Molly and Anne in the crowd and raised my hat, swinging
it slowly back and forth. And as I looked into that fading throng,
my heart leaped a little at the thought that perhaps she, Bernoline,
might be standing there, come down for a last look--a quite irrational
thought--yet I did feel her there, in that human mass, unrecognizable,
now nothing more than a spotted shadow against the pier. Then the pier
ran back into the oblivion of the city and the city faded into the sky.

I do not remember since boyhood to have felt the utter empty loneliness
of life as at that moment. But a few months before I had been
self-sufficient, a curious traveler, emerging from one experience,
eager for others, satisfied and interested with the contact of my kind.
Now, for what had come into my life in one short week, for an hour in
the twilight, for a look given and taken, a voice remembered, I felt
at once rudely lifted out of the companionship of men, doomed to carry
with me a solitude from which there could be no escape.

In this weakness of the spirit I even rebelled against the call which
took me back; the inexorable call of duty and honor which, after all,
is only our yielding to what others may think of us: at least, in this
moment of rebellion, this is what I feel! For, now that life has grown
so precious to me, even though I but cling to ashes of hope, I wonder
how in the coming days of battle I shall stand the test? Yet now that I
write with a clearer discipline, a new feeling of reverence comes to me
as I think on the men of France who fought beside me, with memories and
hopes in their hearts. What others have done, I can do. All our vaunted
courage is sometimes no more than that.

       *       *       *       *       *

New York was but a haze in the distance as I stood by my brother’s
side, with the dread feeling of the irrevocable in life closing down on
me, wondering when--where--and how, again?

       *       *       *       *       *

As we stood there, a cabin boy hailed us: “Mr. Littledale? Special
delivery for you, sir.”

We both turned hastily.

“Which Mr. Littledale?”

“David Littledale, sir.”

“That’s right. It’s for me.”

I took the letter and at the first glance, though I had never seen her
handwriting, I knew it was from Bernoline.

“David?”

Ben’s hand closed over my wrist, and I looked up to see his eyes ablaze
with jealousy and suspicion.

“David, show me that letter!”

I held it before him, and he gave it one wild look and turned away.

“Ben, old fellow, get hold of yourself!”

“I feel like jumping over and swimming for it,” he said miserably.

“To-morrow you’ll be thanking God from the bottom of your heart,” I
said, linking my arm under his. “Do you remember once when you came
between me and making a fool of myself, and how we fought and rolled
on the ground? Well, my turn, now. It’s a queer world, and we’ve both
got to grin and bear things. But it isn’t a question of love, Ben. It’s
just been slavery, weak, unnatural, humiliating slavery. Better now
than later!”

“Right! Sorry I made such an ass of myself. It’s over, and, David,
that’s the last I’ll ever see of her.”

But I am not so sure of that.

       *       *       *       *       *

The letter was crumpled in my hand. To have given courage to Ben gave
me a sort of courage, which I sadly needed. I did not at once open and
read it. I was afraid. I was afraid of a hundred nameless imagined
fears, but most of all of the sure reaction I knew must come in her
woman’s heart, once the irresistible spell of our coming together had
been broken. I went below, into the saloon, and laid her letter before
me on the desk. Then, with a sudden inspiration, I found a sheet of
paper and wrote:

  _Sailing down the Harbor_

  Bernoline, dear:

  Your letter is here, before my eyes: and I am still afraid to open
  it. I shall not read it until I have written this. For I feel
  already what you will say. Bernoline, no matter what the obstacle
  which stands between us, it can alter nothing. While you live and I
  live, we are powerless to change what fate has laid upon us. As for
  me, just to know your love is to me so great a thing that if I had
  to choose again with open eyes, I would choose all I have suffered
  and all that may come to me, all the heart-burnings and all the
  daily, hourly longing, the cruelty of separation,--all just to have
  seen your eyes at parting. Be to each other what is right that we
  should be,--the rest is beyond our knowledge. I have strength for
  everything but one thing,--not to hear from you again.

  DAVID.

Then I took up her letter, and read:

  _Midnight_

  _Mon seul ami_:

  I have prayed on my knees for hours to see my way clear. For I no
  longer know myself. I, who thought myself so strong, have had so
  little strength. All that I have determined not to do, I have done.
  And yet, when you were at my side I could not do otherwise. When
  you are near me all my courage leaves me and I do not know what I
  do or say. And it is I who am so much older than you in experience
  and suffering who ought to protect you. But you,--is it not your
  whole life I am wrecking? Would it not be better to have you
  hate me than to do what I am doing? Is it not a great crime I am
  committing? For David, my dear David,--it _cannot_ be. There is no
  hope for us, now, or ever. What shall I do? To-night, my heart is
  torn--I cannot think. I have given my promise, and yet--Oh, David,
  I want to do what is best for you, and what seems cruel now may be
  the kindest later. I cannot decide. What shall I do? Have courage
  for us both. Be strong for me.

  B.

I read this through once, with heavy heart,--then many times. To give
her up was beyond my strength, though something within me admitted the
truth of what she wrote. I took up my letter again, and added this
postscript:

  P. S.--I have read your letter, and I would not change a word of
  this. You leave the decision to me. I make it, and I take on my
  shoulders all that may come. I cannot do otherwise. I need your
  strength. I shall always need it. The fate that has sent us to each
  other is more mysterious than our little reason can fathom. Yet
  in it there must be some purpose. We can never harm each other.
  One thing is life; the other, worse than death. Write to me, dear
  little friend. Give me only what it is right for you to give me. I
  shall ask no more.

  DAVID.

I put the letter into the bag myself and watched the pilot go over
the side of the ship. Then, I went down to my cabin and got out my
_poilu’s_ uniform. Another milestone passed.



PART IV


I

  _Paris_

Some mysterious influence seems to be watching over me; perhaps Mr.
Brinsmade, for his hand is powerful here, and a request from him would
undoubtedly be honored. At any rate, on my return I found orders for me
to report temporarily at the Bureau de la Presse as an interpreter. At
any other time I should resent this, but now--frankly--I am glad, as
I want to be able to transfer into the American service as soon as we
declare war, and to be in Paris is to be where friends and influence
can expedite matters. Ben goes into the Morgan-Harjes ambulance for six
months, and leaves at the end of the week. He is more taciturn than
ever, but the feeling of being in a great current, a man among men, is,
I know, a great release to him. We have never discussed Letty since the
day of our departure, when he gave me to understand that the separation
was definite. I am still in the dark as to his real thoughts.
Sometimes, I catch his glance on mine (quickly averted) and I wonder.

       *       *       *       *       *

The coming back to it all, much to my surprise, was the most natural
thing in the world. I felt no special thrill, no strangeness and (this
surprised me) not the slightest revolt. In some ways it was a relief
from my thoughts, from my own little existence battling against the
currents of destiny.

Yet I except one moment,--the day of our landing at Bordeaux, when
the shifting turns of my destiny were brought before me in a dramatic
revelation. We were at the rail, looking down on the tedious process
of the tying up to the dock. A number of blue-gray recruits were
straggling out of wine shops, lounging on the piers, watching our
arrival. Suddenly, at the call of a bugle, the gray, loosely flung
shadows contracted, took shape and alignment, became an entity. Another
command and a hundred feet swung forward, a hundred arms rippled over
one body, and an idea set to purpose passed up the street. A moment
before they were identities, free as I still was; free to turn, to sit,
to rise, to jump and to run; the next, all human semblance had sunk
into the anonymity of a machine. It was glorious. It stirred me as
nothing else has the power to stir the blood,--this groping become an
idea, this confusion crystallizing into purpose, this visualization of
man moving as history moves. Yet for that moment it terrified me with
its actuality. For I felt the obliteration of all that had been for
these last incredible weeks--David Littledale. Anonymity? Yes, as death
may be anonymous, and number me into the ranks of the forgotten.

       *       *       *       *       *

At Bordeaux, I bade Ben good-by and became once more Brigadier
Littledale, Légion Etrangère, soldier of France. It is the dirt and the
filth that are hard to accept,--the feeling of being of the cattle of
war.

       *       *       *       *       *

From there to Paris, in a steaming mass of human flesh, crowded into
box cars. No longer the swinging enthusiasm of the mobilization;
instead a comradeship become the ox-like acceptance of a fate which has
fatigued the imagination into indifference. But the return is always
hideous. At Paris, to the medical inspection, and the surprise of being
detached and transferred. Perhaps the imminence of our entry into the
war, which can be but a matter of days, is much in my good fortune.

My new detail gives me quite a little liberty, as some of my superiors
are old friends of social days, and I am permitted to sleep at the
hotel with Ben, who was astonished when I walked in. To-morrow we are
going over to see Alan. I am a little apprehensive of how he will
receive Ben. No letter yet from Bernoline. I write her each night and
mail the letter at the end of the week.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dined to-night with Ben at an out-of-the-way restaurant of older days,
across the Seine, where boys of thirteen and fourteen masqueraded as
waiters and gave us of the toll of death. My old _sommelier_, who
always kept a special bottle for me (or made me think he did), is
gone, dead in the fight around the Labyrinth. New faces everywhere.
Afterwards we walked back, silently, across the blackened city,
stumbling down old Paris towards the dim blur of a hooded light.
Occasionally a star detached itself from the Milky Way and went
wandering like a great firefly, where above us, a sentinel aeroplane
patrolled the night.

We came back shoulder to shoulder, unseen to each other, in long
stretches of silence. It is strange how little we can say to each
other. I have not the slightest inkling to the ways of his mind.
Sometimes I think him totally devoid of imagination. Perhaps I am wrong
and in his inner shell his thoughts are active and relentless. His code
is a strange one--very Anglo-Saxon--and I think he is still ashamed
that once or twice I saw him in the raw. I of course never refer to
Letty, though her presence is always between us. The nearest approach
to intimacy is a dialogue like this:

“How are you to-day, Ben?”

“First rate.”

“Nothing worrying you?”

“Nothing.”

“You look more like your old self.”

“Feel so.”

“All right then, old fellow?”

“Quite.”

And we are two human beings, brothers even, living from day to day and
indifferent to the fates!

Whether the passion in him that Letty had fired has died out or is only
smoldering, I have no way of knowing. I am inclined to think it is his
pride that suffers most. I do not think there is any black resolve back
of his mind. His imagination is not apt to run away with him. But,
having written this, I wonder. He is a nature utterly incomprehensible
to me, and daily contact seems to send him further away. I am living
with a stranger.


II

This afternoon we saw Alan. I had sent him word of our arrival at
Bordeaux, before I knew I should have the opportunity to see him. As a
matter of fact, I was apprehensive of what might happen, for both Alan
and Ben are strong-willed and direct to the point. But to my surprise
the meeting passed off without incident. We sat down as though twenty
years had not passed and the leader was not Alan nor myself, but Ben.
We both felt it. From the moment he walked into the room, he was the
older brother and tradition held.

It was a curious phenomenon, yet one that I have noticed before on
meeting again some hero of school days; an idolatry does abide that
nothing in the passage of human life can destroy. It is probably
this reason--the need of revolting against a mastership once
acknowledged--that drives certain strong growing natures away from the
dwarfing influences of the family.

Alan was alone when we entered, though Toinon came in shortly afterward.

“Well, Skipper, pretty banged up, aren’t you?”

Ben had come in with outstretched hand, as though there had never been
a cloud between them, and Alan, who had hung back at my first approach,
found himself shaking hands, yielding, allowing himself to be ordered
around by the man against whom he had steeled his heart.

“Well, how are you? You look pretty much slapped around but a damned
sight better than I expected.”

“Yes. Much better.”

“Amazingly so, old fellow. You’ll be out having a fling at the Boche
before you know it.”

And he did look better, though how much may have been the excitement of
seeing us is a thing I do not know.

“Here. Stretch out in this chair. If there’s any hustling to do, we’ll
do it. Coddle yourself there. Davy and I can find the tobacco. Nice
diggings you have here.”

At this moment Toinon came in, her market basket on her arm, and
stopped short at sight of us.

“What shall I call her? Davy has told me about her,” said Ben, rising.

“Toinon--Mademoiselle Toinon, if you like. _Toinon, ma mie, c’est mon
frère Ben. Tu connais David. Viens ici._”

She shook hands gaily, and passing to Alan, leaned over and kissed him,
while Alan looked at us with a certain defiance.

“Don’t carry a chip on your shoulder, Skipper,” said Ben, knocking out
the ashes from his pipe, while Toinon disappeared with her marketing.

“And if I married her?” said Alan stubbornly.

“Why? If you’re happy,” said Ben, shrugging his shoulders, “I’m sure
that’s your affair. And I say, Skipper--we’re grown up, so let’s quit
scrapping.” He sat down and stretched himself before the little wood
fire and began to laugh.

“What’s so funny?” said Alan suspiciously.

“Guess Davy can figure it out.”

He grew suddenly solemn and laid his hand on my arm.

“Sometime, when I’m not around, you can tell him--you would, anyhow.
Fact, Alan, I wasn’t laughing at you. If you’re good at guessing, that
ought to shut you up. Let’s talk of other things.”

Toinon came and stood warming her ankles at the fire, looking down on
the three of us. From her height she began to smile, in an amused way.

“You are alike as three ogres,” she said, drawing her finger over her
eyebrows, to indicate the characteristic Littledale line. “You will
lunch with us?”

“_Y-a de quoi manger, ma petite?_”

“_Mais, oui, et du bon vin._”

Alan’s voice was of a gentleness we had never heard. We offered to run
out to a _charcutier_, but he would not hear of it and realizing that
it might be a question of pride, we did not insist. There was no reason
for our anxiety, for the lunch was delicious and under the mellowing
influence of the extra bottle of wine the stiffness wore away. Yet the
conversation was not exactly expansive.

“What made you get into it, Skipper?”

“More amusing than staying out. How about you?”

“Same with me.”

“Davy said you were going in the ambulance.”

“Just for a couple of months. I’ve been at Plattsburg. I’ll strike for
a commission as soon as we get in it.”

Ben glanced at his watch and jumped up.

“Hello! Must be off.” He shook hands punctiliously with Toinon.
“_Déjeuner tres bon._ Good-by, Skipper. Any time I get a chance at
Paris I’ll look you up. Are you fixed all right for money?”

“Plenty.”

“No offense. See you later, Davy.”

He had been over an hour in the apartment, asked twenty questions,
studied everything, and said nothing at all.

“Well, that’s over,” I said, with a laugh.

“Yes, damn his cool cheek; but you’re as bad as I am; we sat there
listening to him as though we were both twelve years old,” he said, in
his growling way.

“Habit, Alan. You see, Ben never has two ideas in his mind. Make a good
officer.”

“Probably. What was he hinting at? Domestic difficulties?”

Then I told him, omitting, of course, whatever concerned me personally.

“Yes, I see why he laughed,” he said, when I had finished. “That was
almost human. Is it possible, I wonder, that Ben has got a new point of
view?”

“He is a clam, you know.”

We had gone back to our chairs before the fireplace. I saw that Alan
was quite puzzled over Ben’s history.

“Thinking of Ben?”

“Yes. Never figured him out that way,” he said meditatively. “You
know, with all the antagonism he roused in me, I used to envy him his
disposition.”

“Envy!”

“Yes; I figured out a fellow like that would go on ambling through
life, getting just about what he wanted from it, not worried by ideas
or having much to struggle with. Guess I don’t know so much about human
nature, after all.”

“There’s a law of averages comes in, even with Ben.”

“Suppose so. Did he take it hard?”

I nodded.

“Curious. I always thought of Ben as some robber baron of the Middle
Ages. I’d sort of expect him to rig up a gallows and see justice done
in good old mousquetaire fashion.”

“Really?”

“Yes; I say, David, why the devil do we feel his leadership the way we
do? We can think all around him. We’ve gone fifty years ahead of him.”

“Funny. I’ve been puzzling over that, myself.”

“Suppose men of action aren’t necessarily thinkers. We turn around an
idea, see the complexities; a decision with us is a mental process of
elimination. With him, it is instantaneous--an instinct; the primitive.
That’s why I’d have thought he’d strangle her.”

“Family feeling counts.”

“Yes, you’re right; felt that as we three were sitting here; felt it
strong. And a year ago I would have laughed at it. It’s so. I may champ
at the bit, but I’m one of you Littledales, for all that.”

Toinon brought in the coffee, slipped a pillow under his shoulders,
and went back into the kitchen. He looked very like the _condottieri_
of the Middle Ages he described, as he sat sunk in his chair, the
dressing-gown loose on his thin frame, white bony hands locked under
his chin, deep eyes and stubbled hair, gaunt and relentless.

“Davy, it would be queer if I pulled through, after all.”

I looked up in surprise.

“Course you’re going to! What an idea! Why, you took my breath away
when I came in--”

“Honest?”

“Quite honest.”

“You know a man like myself shouldn’t fool himself,” he said, staring
into the fire. “To-day’s a good day. But I do seem to be picking
up. You know, I would like to live. I don’t mind going, not at all.
But--it’s such an interesting world, I’d like to see what’s going to
happen, and--after.”

He moved his hand in a feeble gesture, and the shadow it made crept
across the sunlight that flooded the room.

“It’s interesting when you’ve got to an impersonal point of view and
you can stand and just look on. Youth is a sort of disease. I’ve lived
through that fever, groped beyond my limitations, struggled with
nightmares. It left some marks on me--not many. Funny, I feel just
ready to begin life, now.”

“I wish to God I could look at it that way,” I said impulsively.

“What way, Davy?” he said, a little puzzled, and by that I knew that he
had been talking, not to me, but to some shadowy self.

“Looking at things from the impersonal way.”

I was making a pretense of emptying my pipe, and turning, I faced his
sharp eyes.

“Want to talk it out, Davy?”

“Some day, perhaps. Not now.”

“You’re too young yet,” he said, nodding. “You think in terms of
yourself. Most of us do, and philosophy isn’t going to help that.”

“Right, there.”

“Know what strikes me? We human beings have so damned little charity
towards ourselves. All the institutions we’ve ever created--the Church,
the State, Society; for we _have_ created them--make us despise
ourselves,--look down upon ourselves. For two thousand years we’ve got
the conception that we are weak, crawling worms, originally sinful,
predestined to evil. We’ve been thundered at, frightened, cursed, and
every agency has united to belittle us in our own eyes. And yet, Davy,
look at the wonder of it; it’s only a few thousand years since we were
among the beasts of the field, groping in the darkness. And now, we
have illuminated the night, ridden the air, sowed the earth, bridged
the sea, abolished every impossibility, except the one thing--time.
And it’s not simply brain force, science, but the instinct towards a
beautiful ideal, that’s amazing in us; we’ve evolved a Parthenon out of
placing one stone on top of another; we’ve blown into a seashell and
imagined a modern orchestra; created literature, painting, the forms
of government, and all in a few thousand years, despite this strange
conception of our impotence and frailty. By Jove, sometimes I almost
want to go and just lift my hat in reverence to my race!”

“What’s going to happen after this war is over?” I said, interested in
this revelation of Alan.

“Here?”

“Well, I was thinking of America. Been thinking a lot about it lately.
You’ve had the chance to knock about as I haven’t. What do you think is
coming?”

“I’ll answer you like this,” he said, reaching for a pipe which he held
a moment nervously in his teeth, champing on it as a horse does on its
bit. “It’s all complex till you look at it in just one way. Look at it
as you would the forces of nature. Forces of human nature act just the
same way. That is, if you can see them in the proper perspective.

“There’s only one genuine aristocracy in the world to-day: that’s
Germany. It is a genuine force, because it does lead, is educated
to lead. England is an aristocracy that is more or less artificial,
struggling to hold the leadership it has inherited. And, Davy, I’m not
so sure that Germany is going to be beaten.”

“Well, I’ll be damned--”

“Germany and the German idea are two separate things. You’ve got to
beat her thoroughly if you want to get rid of the German conception of
the State. Just a stand-off won’t do that. Quite frankly, to me the
tragedy to-day is that the German idea of government, the finest modern
conception, has got to be stamped out because it is harnessed to this
inhuman, bestial, conscienceless Prussianism. It is economically sound
and morally wrong.”

“Well, Alan, I don’t think I can follow you there,” I said, warmly.
“Perhaps I hate them too much to see any good in them, but--”

“Good? Why, Davy, what are you going to put up against them? Your other
civilizations, based on individualism, without responsibility, order,
discipline, efficiency? Whatever you may think about it, Germany has a
logical conception, worked out to the minutest detail. What have we?
A government based on the theory of the consent of the governed. And
who governs? Not the people--not the leaders we see--but something
which remains in the shadows. We’re plundered, we’re wasteful, we’re
inefficient; we don’t even know there is a science of government.
Government annoys us. We conceive of the State as a big telephone
central, a convenient policeman. It isn’t an ideal; it isn’t even a
central idea to express all the future of a great democracy. Why talk
of the State when we can’t govern even a single city! No other nation
in the world could go on like that without being gobbled up. But we go
on because we see no visible danger. David, I sometimes wonder if it
wouldn’t be better for us if Germany did win,--just as it would bring
us up short if we had the threat of a great civilization on our Mexican
frontier.”

“I grant that; but what if Germany doesn’t win?”

“Then it won’t be a question of what we’ve got to do but one of natural
evolution. Let’s go back to forces. Wherever you find the greatest
force concentrating, there you’ll find the ultimate power. What is a
revolution but the shifting of the balance of power from an artificial
force to a natural force? When the old order falters, weakens, sickens,
it becomes an artificial control; the leadership is imposed and not
genuine, and, you can put it down as an axiom that an artificial force
is a force whose days are numbered. Society is like an iceberg. Eight
ninths of it are under the surface, but when that upper minority
dwindles below the line of safety, the submerged mass rises to the sky.
We have a new peak but the balance remains the same. That’s all.”

“I see what you’re driving at,” I admitted reluctantly, for his method
recalled to me the haunting prophecies of Peter Magnus.

“We’ve had the king idea and the aristocratic idea, and both
theoretically were good ideas so long as you had the intelligent
despot and the class that had the right to lead; and those ideas were
practical ideas, so long as they were concentrated, unified, and
efficient. Decay, before revolution, destroyed them. Then you’ve had
the rise of the middle class, and remember this in all fairness, Davy,
each class has always ruled in its own interest. Now, in America what
class or force is there that is unified, concentrated and efficient to
carry out its decisions?”

“Labor, and labor alone,” I said, following in his thought.

“Something greater than agitation has done it. It’s the course of
modern civilization,--machinery. It began with the first invention.
To-day it is an accelerating force. Ten thousand cobblers scattered
through a State are not a political force, but ten thousand workers
in a shoe factory are. They live together, they think together, they
become politically conscious. Davy, answer this to yourself: can you
honestly believe there is anything going to prevent a class that has
the power, that knows it has the power, from finally exercising that
power, in the same way and for the same ends that every other social
movement has acted?”

“No, not as you put it; not as I see it now.”

“Why deceive ourselves? What is the meaning of a strike? More wages,
better conditions? Not fundamentally. Every strike is one step onward
in the solidification of a new political force,--a skirmish before the
final battle.”

“Then you, too, think that the old order is passing?”

“Passing! It started the day universal suffrage was proclaimed. I
suppose now you’ll ask me if I believe in democracy?”

“I confess I am wondering.”

“Ask me if I believe in machinery! Why debate on what is an
accomplished fact? Why ask if a river should move in its course?
If machinery was inevitable, so democracy was inevitable. We have
proclaimed universal suffrage; now we must watch it work out to its
logical conclusion. We’ve been proclaiming one thing and doing another
for generations. Now, we’re going to find out.”

“Socialism, then?”

“Not necessarily. The rise of a new force; a perfectly natural appetite
for power, that’s all. Ideas are always translated into appetites. The
Girondins were a body of idealists, and the Revolution they produced
immediately devoured them. As a matter of fact, men in the mass do not
want anything different from men as privileged individuals; only they
want the luxury for themselves, and when they are strong enough they
seize it,--to live first and then to enjoy life in a big and bigger
way,--the pursuit of happiness, if you wish. Just as strong in the
mass as with us.”

“I’ll agree this much, Alan,” I said, “though I know much of what
you’ve said is true: our American failure has been the failure to
produce a continuing class of leadership. If those who are born to
lead, who ought to be educated to lead, won’t lead, they must take the
consequences. And I’m hitting my own kind!”

“Particularly as others are preparing to take that leadership.”

When I left, I put out a hand with a genuine admiration and affection.

“Well, Alan, it’s pretty late to be finding it out, isn’t it, but I’m
glad I’ve really got to know you.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” he said gruffly, but pleased nevertheless.
“Drop around. Lots more to be settled in the old world. I say, Davy, I
wonder what Ben would have thought of my heresies?”

We broke into a hearty laugh at this, and I went out.

When I reached the hotel, I sat down and wrote out a little of the
conversation to Bernoline. For I am anxious to know what she, with
every instinct opposed, will say to it.

“Queer duck, Alan,” said Ben that night at table. “How long did you
stay?”

“About an hour or two.”

“Could you get him to talk?”

“Yes, he opened up quite a bit.”

“Don’t like his dying there, like a dog. We ought to get him home.”

“I’m afraid you’ll find him rather obstinate.”

“Don’t like it.”

“I think we’d better accept him on his own terms.”

“Don’t like it. Don’t like his dying in a hole. Don’t like the woman.”

“Are we our brother’s keeper?”

“Well, at least, we ought to have a good doctor in.”

“I’ve thought of that.”

I arranged for Doctor Murchison, a man I knew at Neuilly, to go over
and make a thorough examination, cautioning him about dispelling
illusions. His report, as I feared, leaves little hope; the lungs are
badly affected. It can be only a question of time.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ben went off to-night.


III

At last her letter! It was waiting for me on the little table in the
hall, among the mail from home. I went up the stairs breathlessly,
without waiting for the elevator, and shutting myself in, read it again
and again.

  _Mon ami_:

  I have waited a whole week since receiving your letter, for I
  wanted time to think, to think calmly and deliberately. It was
  wrong for me to leave the decision to you, as I did. I alone must
  bear the responsibility, for I alone know all the facts, don’t you
  see? I shall write you, as I promised, and as my heart would have
  it,--until God brings you safely through this war.

  David, I do this with many misgivings, and my doubts will always be
  with me. If, some later day, in your spirit, you may reproach me
  and wonder at my lack of courage (some day, _mon ami_, you will do
  so, and that will be my punishment) remember this, that I should
  never have weakened as I have done, if it were not that you are
  going again into this hideous war. All that I have told myself this
  long week, all my arguments, are as nothing when I say to myself
  that death will be your companion by day and by night. Even if
  some day you should blame me in the bitterness of your heart, I can
  do no otherwise,--no woman could. I do not matter,--you ask for my
  strength. It is yours.

  And now, _mon ami_, only one thing can justify the decision I
  have made, freely and not impulsively; the feeling that if God in
  some mysterious way has willed that I should come into your life,
  that it is not to weaken you, not to sadden you, but to give you
  strength and courage and that for knowing all the faith I have in
  you, you will rise to the big things.

  I have such a high ideal for you, _mon ami_. I know your
  strength and I know what you need. I feel about you a certain
  weakness--perhaps weakness is too strong a word--a certain longing
  for what a woman, a real woman, can give to you. You do not speak
  what is in your heart easily,--never to friends. It is through
  another that you will discover yourself. Some men are sufficient
  to themselves and, if they do not know the greatest happiness--for
  women seldom love them--they are saved from much sorrow. You are
  not like that, David. You are sensitive to every impression and you
  need happiness really to find all the qualities of the heart that
  are waiting to be called forth. I could not bear the thought of
  your marrying the wrong woman.

  For you are not meant to go through this world alone. It may seem
  strange, incomprehensible to you, that I can hold you so dear and
  yet look forward with such hope to your marrying some lovely young
  girl, like Anne Brinsmade, to complete your life. Yet it is so. It
  is the maternal in me, _mon ami_, that you always appeal to, David,
  since I have no right to the other. Let me then be in your life
  all that means hope and faith and ambition, during this period of
  trial, and if you wish to make me feel some little happiness in
  what I do, let me know that nothing I have done will ever weaken
  your courage or prevent your seeking the happiness to which every
  man has a right. Let us keep then a nobility of spirit, _mon ami_,
  and without rebellion or sadness, face life as God in his fuller
  knowledge has willed to prove us.

  B.

When I had read this through the first time--tumultuously--seeking to
absorb it in one breath, I read it through again, slowly, stopping at
every sentence, sometimes with every sense thrilling, sometimes with
a black revolt against the obstinate struggle for a repression that I
knew was not in her heart. I searched every phrase for a significance
that might be concealed beneath the words, alternately high with hope
and again given over to despair. When I had read her letter for the
fifth time, I laid it on my lap and abandoned myself to my thoughts.
It had become so dark in my little bedroom that I could no longer
distinguish her handwriting. Outside, over the young green of the
trees, past the fading foliage of the Champs Elysées, the golden
dome of the Invalides was paling in the sifting in of the dust. It
is the hour of all the day to which I am most sensitive, the hour,
when shared, which brings a tenderness to the heart that raises us
triumphant above the riot of the city, but an hour, when faced alone,
that oppresses the imagination and weighs it down with the futility of
hoping against the inevitable, when memories of vanished happiness are
too acute and separation intolerable.

I rose hurriedly, lit my candle and drew the curtains. How many
emotions thronged into my heart as I sat down at my table and turned
her letter in my hands; the soft blue paper, with the thin and rounded
handwriting, that was all Bernoline,--order, discipline and delicacy.
My first impulse was to take up the chronicle of my days and write to
her while the mood was strong. I remained an hour staring at an empty
page, unable to phrase a thought. And, even now, what is in my mind?
There are moments when I face the truth without wavering, and tell
myself that her instinct is right, that there is no outcome possible
for me, that I am wilfully, blindly plunging ahead into an entanglement
which will wreck my whole life; that I am wrong in overcoming
her determination and forcing a situation which is against her
intuitions,--and where, of course, she must suffer as much as I shall.
For in her tradition there is no escape even from the most hideous of
marriages.

       *       *       *       *       *

The idea of her being married is unbearable to me, and I revolt against
the inhumanity and immorality of such enforced slavery. At the thought
of her sensitive, fragile spirit at the brutal whim of a husband she
loathed--No, I cannot bear to dwell on what may have happened: thank
God, her body, at least, is now free. Perhaps that is the explanation
of her anonymity and her terror of retaining even a trace of her past
identity.

       *       *       *       *       *

As I write, an extraordinary thought flashes into my
mind,--extraordinary because, strangely enough, it has never occurred
to me before; are there children in her life, too? I remember, now, how
she shrank from the touch of Master Jack that morning on the boat when
we told fairy tales. Can it be possible? And why has such a supposition
never occurred to me before? And yet--no--I do not think this possible.
It is possible that there may have been a child, but not that there is
a child that is living to-day; no, that is quite unthinkable! For with
her faith, her clear sense of duty, her acceptance of sacrifice,--no,
that is impossible, quite impossible!

       *       *       *       *       *

At least there is this consolation to me, sitting here alone and
separated by time and distance; I know how profoundly her heart has
gone out to me; that despite all her traditions, she has been unable
to close the door and put me out of her life. Whatever the waiting,
to know that is to have something to cling to. Who knows? This war in
which my own life must be risked, may free us both!

Now that I can think more sanely, and that every word of hers is
written in my memory, thank God that there is only one feeling in my
heart, and that for her. What am I to pit my sorrows against hers? I
shall do as she asks of me. No written word of mine shall ever cause
her a regret or a pain, if I can help it. And that will not be easy,
for it means a constant struggle, a constant check on every impulse.

       *       *       *       *       *

After all, are not my little reasonings quite futile? What must be,
will be. We have ventured unwittingly from the safe shallows into the
great tumult of life and destiny, and it will bear us where it wills.
So, why debate and wonder?

       *       *       *       *       *

In the same mail came a letter from Anne. Only a few pitiful
words,--but reading them has broken me all up:

  This is not a letter, David: just a message. I am so sorry. If I
  could only make it easier to bear. Bless you.

  ANNE.

  _April_

At last! Yesterday America declared war. It is my fight now. I shall be
transferred, at once.

       *       *       *       *       *

I went over to Alan’s in the afternoon and found him in a high pitch
of excitement, insisting on going out to see the city. I argued with
him, fruitlessly, for he would have his way. So we bundled him up, and
Toinon and I helped him down the stairs, and, with him between us in
the back seat of a lazy fiacre, we went forth into the delirious city.
Flags everywhere, and everywhere, thank God, the Stars and Stripes!
Where they came from, heaven knows: they blossomed out like dandelions
after a rain, in the most unexpected places,--orthodox and home-made;
flags constructed of hastily-ripped-up skirts and comforters, the
stripes and stars confused: but what did it matter! I think all the
crowded panoply of the boulevards did not give us half the thrill that
we received at the sight of one clumsy, grotesque banner swinging above
a butcher shop on the Rue des Quatre-vents, with its green-blue stripes
and its wabbly white stars hastily sewn on. Alan was in uniform and I
in my blue-gray, and everywhere it was:

“_Bravo, les Americains_!”

“_Vive l’Amerique_!”

We stayed out until dark: nothing could induce him to return sooner.

“Why, good Lord, Davy, this is doing me more good than all the doctors
in Paris,” he exclaimed fretfully. “This is something to live for. I’ll
be cured and back in a couple of months. You’ll see. You must apply for
a commission for me. I know more about artillery than half their dinky
West Pointers. I can start in a little light work; there’ll be a lot
of instructing necessary. What do they say? Will the army be sent over
here to train?”

I humored him, hoping against hope that the mental incentive might
produce the miracle. But, once before the test of the long stairs to be
climbed, the inexorable force of reality dispelled our hasty illusions.
We helped him as best we could up four flights, and up the last,
without resistance from him, I carried my brother in my arms. He had a
dreadful spell of coughing that left him shaken and limp, and for the
first time, I believe, he guessed the truth.

For when we had him at last in bed, and it was time for me to go, he
caught my hand, and cried rebelliously:

“Good God; I haven’t got to die now, have I?”


IV

  _June, At the Front_

I am back in active service at last. Lieutenant Littledale, attached
as _officier de liaison_ with the ----th Division de Fer, French Army,
thanks to De Saint Omer, now Commandant on the staff of General La
Pierre. We are constantly together. My record was against me--the leg
still has a limp and I am under weight--and the best I could have
hoped for was to be used in a training school. So, when De Saint Omer
suggested being attached to the French, I jumped at the chance.

Hope is running high: a new offensive is in the air. Several American
officers have come to us on a visit, and the stories they bring of
preparations at home are very heartening. The presence of the American
uniform works miracles among the troops.

       *       *       *       *       *

Letters are fearfully delayed. I have a helpless feeling that half of
them never reach me. It has been a month since I have had word from
Bernoline. The last news was that she had gone as companion in the
family of the Barristers. It gave me a strange feeling. I know them;
they are cousins of Anne’s, and I am happy that she at least is with
friends. Anne has written me every week. Ben is in the aviation.

  _A week later_

To-day Maurice de Saint Omer told me of the death of his brother in the
early days of the war. He was a young lieutenant, just twenty-two, and
was in command of a section that was to go over the top at dawn.

It was in the early days of the stabilized war of the trenches,
when men went to certain slaughter on account of the lack of proper
artillery protection, and when to win a few strategic yards, hundreds
of men had to be sacrificed as a screen.

The section of trench which the young lieutenant held was absolutely at
the mercy of the Boche machine guns. To obey the order meant the death
of every man who went over the top. He debated his duty all through the
night and in the morning, half an hour before the appointed time, he
called his men together and said:

“The attack is to be general, all up and down the line. Therefore, no
account can be taken of local conditions. You can understand that.
There can be no army without obedience and discipline. But I cannot
find it in my heart to sacrifice every life here. Therefore, at the
hour, I go over the top alone.”

They pleaded with him, but he remained firm as he saw his duty; wrote
his farewell to his brother, embraced his men, and, when the time came,
went over the top, and--was killed instantly.

“It is a story to be told after the war,” said De Saint Omer, in
conclusion. “Technically, of course, he was wrong--but it was like the
boy to pay the price!”

       *       *       *       *       *

He told it without emotion that I could see. In fact, all personal
feeling has left him completely. The old feeling of family and race
gives him an impassivity and a detachment of sacrifice which is beyond
my understanding. No one would recognize now the dandy of Paris. His
hair is gray, his face gaunt and wrinkled, but he never loses either
his faith in the outcome or the Gallic quality of gaiety to the end.
Yet, when he makes a decision, nothing can swerve him. He hates the
Boches with a burning, unholy hatred (there is some tragic story about
his family and particularly his mother which some day I think he will
tell me), and yet, when it is a question of some captured officer, he
is punctilious to the extreme in his courtesy. _Noblesse oblige!_

  _July_

Back from the Chemin des Dames affair to hear of my father’s death in
the month of May. I have, of course, expected it from day to day. Yet
now that it has come, it brings home to me what will some day come to
me, as nothing else has done. Then, too, I have the feeling of suddenly
stepping into the front rank and looking into vacancy--a feeling of
others crowding at my back--and I ask myself, incredulously, if thirty
years is now my allotted span. Strangely enough, I don’t think of what
may happen here.

  _July, In Rest Camp_

Letters from home; from Anne, Molly and two from Bernoline. I had
almost forgotten the existence of that other world: not its existence,
but its power to reach out to me. The Champagne offensive has been
a ghastly failure, terrible blunders committed, useless sacrifices.
We all feel it and the _poilus_, too, are not deceived. At the close
of a brave, gossipy letter of Bernoline’s about the war frenzy at
home, a passage that I have read over three times,--one that I do not
comprehend.

  When you write me, David, that you can never think of me but as
  a woman to whom every good act is instinctive,--how sadly you
  misjudge me. David, this very ideal you have of me makes me examine
  my conscience so restlessly. Don’t idealize me. See me as I am,--a
  very human and weak woman, who falls far short of the ideal you
  raise of her. No, _mon ami_, the way is not clear before me, nor
  do I know yet what I shall do. If you knew how I am tortured by
  remorse at times, I who write to you of duty and sacrifice,--who
  am I to preach to you! I try to say to myself that whatever God
  has sent to me in this world, it is His will, as He sees the good
  of my soul. If He tries me, it is for His purpose. And yet, with
  all my struggling, I do not accept it. I cannot; God have pity on
  me!

  It is hard to know the right, when others are involved. I should
  not write down this moment of weakness, when all I should mean to
  you is courage and fortitude. David, if you ever pray, pray for me
  in these coming months. Would that I could open my heart to you.

  B.

  What a terrible disaster it has been in Champagne. And you have
  been in it! Your last letter spoke of your being attached to
  General La Pierre’s staff. I have had you in my thoughts every
  moment.

It is the first time she has written me so. I am quite puzzled. What
can such a clear, direct nature know of remorse?

       *       *       *       *       *

Ben was killed at the front on the eighth of July. He brought down an
enemy plane and fell into a trap. His machine came down in flames, near
X----. We were not thirty miles away.

       *       *       *       *       *

Did he do it deliberately, or not? I shall probably never know for,
if he did, he would never leave a hint of it. Yet I do not think he
deliberately threw his life away. It was not his way of playing the
game. Letty is in Paris. I shall have to see her.

I wonder if Ben left a letter behind him and if that letter will tell
me what I dread to know at the last.

It is hard to write. I can only jot down a few incoherent notes.
Actuality dominates and oppresses me. I have again the old feeling of
having surrendered my imagination and of moving like an automaton.

  _August_

No letter from Bernoline in ages. Others come--from Anne and Molly, but
a blank door of silence is between us. I think I shall write no more in
this chronicle. I have a weariness and a distaste for life outside.


V

  _Paris, September_

I am here for three days’ _permission_. At the hotel a packet of
letters, from every one except from--her!

Molly is married! I cannot believe it and yet the evidence is before me
in two letters.

  _August, 1917._

  Dear David:

  Molly has, of course, written you of her marriage. I know that
  she is tremendously upset over what you will think of it. And,
  remembering some of the things you said, I am a little afraid,
  too. But I know you too well, David, to fear that you will ever
  write anything to hurt her. For she needs all your love and you
  are the only one now that counts with her in the loneliness of
  the situation she must face. Remember, whatever you may think,
  Molly never did this impulsively, but from the highest sense of
  her duty to share in the anguish that this war must bring. And,
  David,--you men may have one way of looking at it (the chivalry of
  the American, God bless him) but every real woman will understand
  Molly. And, David, could I say more than this: despite all that
  may come, and it is fearful to think what may come, if I write the
  truth and you can understand,--I envy her.

  There were some things about it that were so fine that, whether we
  agree with her or not, I want you to know what a trump your little
  sister is.

  She came over to spend a week with me and begged me not to ask
  questions, and to let her quite alone. Naturally, I suspected,
  particularly when she went off every afternoon for long walks and
  shut herself up in her room the rest of the time. So the third day
  I went to her and, putting my arm around her, I asked if I couldn’t
  help her.

  “No,” she said very quietly, “this is something I must decide
  absolutely by myself.”

  “Of course, I know what it is, dear,” I began, hoping to get her to
  talk. “Don’t you think some one who loves you might help you to see
  clearer?”

  She shook her head.

  “No. No one should take the responsibility of deciding my life.
  Even if Davy were here, and you know what he means to me, I should
  do this alone. When I’ve made up my mind I’ll tell you.”

  At the end of the week, she told me that she was engaged to Mr.
  Seaver and had made up her mind to marry him before he left with
  his Division for France. I admit that I hadn’t expected this and my
  breath was rather taken away.

  “But, Molly, have you thought over all this may mean to you?” I
  said at once.

  “Yes.”

  “You may have to begin life all over, dear, alone, perhaps as a
  mother,--and you are only nineteen.”

  “I have thought that all out.”

  “Are you sure that it isn’t a desire simply to do a hard thing that
  is influencing you?”

  She shook her head.

  “No. I did want to be sure of that,--to be fair to him. Now I know.
  If I love him I should marry him. It is his right and my right. If
  anything is going to happen to him, I am going to share it as his
  wife. Anything else is cowardice. That’s the way I feel about it.”

  Of course, after that there was nothing more to do about it, except
  to take her in my arms.

  David, I have never seen any one quite like her. She made up her
  mind and she quietly carried through her will, despite every one
  and everything. And, David, I do believe it was her idea alone. For
  when Mr. Seaver came, he looked all broken up. He is very young, of
  course, and perhaps Molly does idealize him, but he is the sort of
  man you could trust and it is easy to see that he adores the ground
  she walks on.

  How Molly carried it through I cannot imagine, but she did,
  somehow or other. She made every one do as she wanted and that by
  just quietly reiterating her decision. Your mother was terribly
  opposed to it, for they _are_ young and Mr. Seaver has still his
  way to make. His parents were terribly distressed, and the father
  telegraphed Mrs. Littledale and came down with his son in tow.
  There was a family conference, with all concerned present and every
  one excited and expostulating,--every one except Molly.

  And what do you think happened? In the midst of the uproar who
  should walk in but your Aunt Janie, and straight up to Molly and
  put her arm around her,--which was the only time your sister came
  near breaking down.

  “If this is a question of Molly’s marrying, why am I not
  consulted?” she said indignantly.

  Molly told me that only three or four times in her life has your
  Aunt Janie asserted herself, and then she frightened the wits out
  of every one.

  “Who is this gentleman? Is this the father of Mr. Seaver?”

  The presentations were hastily made.

  “Do I understand, sir, that you are opposing the marriage of my
  niece to your son?”

  “I am,” said Mr. Seaver, wavering a little before her eyes (but I
  think, also, Molly had won him over). “So I conceive my duty.”

  “You ought to go down on your knees and thank God, sir, that your
  son has the chance to marry any one as brave and true and loyal as
  my niece.”

  “But, good Lord, ma’am, I’ve no objection to their being engaged,”
  he said hastily, “only I don’t want them to marry now.”

  “Why?”

  “My son’s too young.”

  “He’s old enough for his country.”

  “Frankly, I don’t think it is fair to your niece! Who knows what
  may happen!”

  “That’s her affair. Any other objections?” she continued, as though
  she had dismissed all that had been offered before.

  “Janie, what are they going to live on?” said your mother at this
  point.

  “Exactly. My son hasn’t a cent,” said Mr. Seaver, plucking up
  courage.

  “I beg your pardon?”

  “My son hasn’t a cent,” repeated Mr. Seaver, but he must have
  quailed under the awful look Molly tells me your aunt gave him at
  this.

  “Have you?”

  The father’s jaw must have dropped at this, for he was so
  astonished that he had nothing more to say.

  “I am going to make my meaning so plain that no one can
  misunderstand it,” she said, very thin, and tall, and aroused.
  “If your son is willing to give his life for his country, and
  my niece is ready to pledge her life to him, sir, and face the
  consequences,--if these young people see their duty and do it, we
  are going to stand back of them and see them through! That’s as
  much our duty as going out to fight. And now, don’t let me hear
  any more of this nonsense. Molly shall marry your son, and you and
  I will take care of her until he gets back from the war. If you
  won’t, I intend to do it myself!”

  Molly broke down at this. Your mother threw up her hands and
  capitulated and, in the confusion, Ted Seaver’s voice was heard,
  saying:

  “Governor, it’s up to you.”

  Mr. Seaver went over to Molly and said solemnly:

  “Young lady, every word your aunt has said is gospel. I’m
  thoroughly lambasted and convinced and mighty glad of it. Go ahead.
  We _will_ see you through. Molly dear,--will you have me for a
  father-in-law?”

  And married they were, with every one present and adoring Molly.
  Mr. and Mrs. Seaver, who were quite won over, wanted her to come
  to them, but she chose to stay at Littledale, mainly on account of
  Aunt Janie, and maybe also from pride.

  But now that she is alone, I think the full realization has come to
  her of what is ahead and though her pride will never let her admit
  it, at times her dear little face is awfully serious. You are her
  ideal, David. Be generous.

  Father is in Europe. Have you seen him? The war feeling is
  wonderful. All the men are going and all the women are making ready
  to help. I am not satisfied with what I am doing here in the local
  Red Cross and have made up my mind to go to New York and train for
  a nurse’s assistant. Mother is opposed but I, too, must decide
  things. She has agreed on condition that I shall find a companion.
  It seems rather unnecessary but if it will make her happy I shall
  do it. I go to-morrow to stay with some cousins. Later on, I am
  determined to go over but I’m not saying anything about that now. I
  do appreciate your writing to me, David, as you do, and don’t ever
  think you have to hide things from me.

  Bless you,
  ANNE.

  P.S.--I know you’ll stand by Molly.

  P.P.S.--It is a very great inspiration to know any one so fine
  as Molly, who looks things so straight in the face and never
  hesitates. It has done something for me that I shall never forget.

  _Littledale, August_

  My own big Brother:

  I married Ted Seaver three days ago and to-morrow he leaves for his
  camp. I do not know when I shall see him again. I have married him
  knowing that he may never come back to me. I thought it all over
  very hard, and when I knew I loved him I insisted that I should
  have the right to share with him whatever sacrifice he may have to
  face.

  I am a little afraid of what you will think just at first, David,
  dear, and oh, I don’t want you to misunderstand. I didn’t do it
  impulsively or just out of a weak sentimentality. You do know and
  trust me, don’t you, better than that. When I came to realize how
  much I loved him, it was only the right and simple thing to do. At
  first it was rather hard convincing others--all except Aunt Janie,
  who was a tower of strength--but in the end every one saw my point
  of view and respected it. I don’t think they all agreed with it,
  but they did respect it,--and that is all I can ask, isn’t it? For,
  Davy, with my three brothers gone, I couldn’t flinch, could I, and
  take the easy way out? Davy, dear, there is of course one thing I
  can’t explain to you and yet it’s all, and that is the way I love
  my husband. It’s just one of those things you can’t speak about,
  and that you’ll have to try to understand, for everything else is
  so simple when you understand that.

  I feel ten years older than the day, you remember, when we sat
  and talked in the blue sitting room and I was so broken up about
  Ted’s proposing. I know now that I did care,--only I didn’t know.
  I didn’t realize what I wanted in life, nor all the finer quality
  in him. We have seen each other a great deal, written to each
  other a great deal, and the knowledge that I loved him came to
  me gradually, not all at once. I knew what a serious thing I was
  doing, and do believe that I thought it over from every side.

  I shall be quite truthful with you, Davy. If it were not for the
  war, I should have wanted to wait for a year, maybe two,--not
  because I didn’t know that I could love him but because I wanted to
  be more of a woman, to be of greater help to him as his wife.

  Will you understand? Please do, dear, even if, just at first, you
  are terribly upset, as I’m afraid you’re going to be. You will
  trust your little sister this far, won’t you, to know that the man
  she gives her life to is worthy to be your brother. Please do, even
  if you can’t approve of me, all at once. Dear Davy, I wish you were
  here to-night, to catch me up in that great bear hug of yours. I
  need it. I have been two days writing this, and Ted went back this
  afternoon.

  Your old Peggoty, who loves you,
  MOLLY.

When I read these two letters and thought of Aunt Janie (it was like
her, never to refer to the captain she didn’t marry) and dear old
Molly, a lump was in my throat. And, though it was a shock, there was
only one thing I thought of and that was what a little Spartan my
sister was. I rushed out and sent her the following cable:

  God bless you. With you from start to finish. Bully for Aunt Janie!


VI

  _November, Paris_
  _New York_

  Dear David:

  I have been here a month, staying with my cousins, the Barristers.
  You remember Nina, who was such a wild scatterbrain: well, she has
  settled down into the most matter-of-fact, quietest little worker
  in the world. You would never know her. She is up at six each
  morning and off to her work in the Women’s Auxiliary Corps, has
  given up all her society interests and looks with scorn upon her
  old friends. I think she has shamed at least a dozen of her old
  social set into service work with her point-blank way of saying:
  “Well, what are _you_ doing in the war?”

  At that, it isn’t quite fair, because the country is wonderful. No
  matter what is asked of it, it gives immediately and impulsively.
  I’m doing my part to prepare myself for service abroad when the
  time comes. I know father will oppose, but I have made up my mind
  and I shall go.

  David, there is the loveliest little French woman here as companion
  to Nina,--a Mademoiselle Duvernoy, and my heart has gone right out
  to her. Every one adores her and I think it is her influence that
  has made Nina over. There is some story back of her deep, sad eyes,
  I know. You will never get me to believe she is not a gentlewoman
  born and bred. I don’t know when I have gone so impulsively to any
  one. Just to be with her makes life, the right way of living, the
  things that do count, seem the simplest things in the world. I
  loved her from the first day we sat and talked together over the
  womanhood of France, and I think she was drawn at once to me, for
  she put out her hand and laid it over mine and said:

  “Mademoiselle, you have a very big and beautiful nature. It is the
  suffering and the responsibilities that will bring it out in you
  and make you worthy some day to be a great inspiration to a true
  man. We women are not our best or happiest when we are denied the
  hard things in life. And that is where life is so different for one
  in your position, for those who love you can hurt you most.”

  She said it so sweetly and her eyes had such understanding and such
  gentleness in them that I said:

  “Mademoiselle Duvernoy, I don’t think I ever wanted anything more
  in the world; will you really be my friend?”

  “I have wanted to from the first,” she said. “Perhaps we can be of
  help to each other.”

  Help her? How can I help her, except by loving her, and every one
  does that,--but I know what she can mean to me.

  _Later_

  I spoke of you to-day, and, to my surprise, she told me that she
  had crossed on the steamer with you and father. Do you remember
  her? I am sure you do, for no one can forget her. I have asked her
  to come with me as my friend and companion, for Nina really doesn’t
  need her. To my surprise and delight, she answered:

  “Mademoiselle Brinsmade, I shall do so with all my heart.”

  I do know she is drawn to me, too, for there were tears in her eyes
  as she said it. I know the Barristers won’t want to let her go, but
  it is decided between us.

I laid the letter down, too moved to go on. Bernoline with Anne! Every
thought that must have been in her heart, I think, came instantly into
mine at that moment. Is there any depth of sacrifice and generosity
before which her loyal nature would recoil? Never have I felt more
deeply the sublimity of sacrifice in woman. How can I find it in my
heart to rebel against her evident purpose? For I know that what she
has done has been done for my sake in a spirit of self-effacing loyalty
to my happiness as she conceives it. Thank heaven that I know at least
that she is well and with those who love her. Yet why has she ceased to
write me?

       *       *       *       *       *

Bernoline with Anne! No, I don’t resent it; though I still cannot
comprehend it. Why it should be so, I don’t know, yet a feeling of
great calm and certainty has come to me since I have known it, that and
a feeling of humble reverence before something that shames me in my own
tempestuous revolt against the loneliness that has been on me. Good
God, how I love her, yet almost without hope, as some dear vision that
I have only the right to worship from afar!

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Paris_

How could I have doubted her for a single moment! I have been to the
bank, and there were her letters awaiting me, and on each written
directions to hold until my arrival. I tore open the first hurriedly,
for the explanation of this mystery. It was there in the first.

  My dear Friend:

  I cannot send you my letters to the front and I have for a long
  time debated whether I should even continue writing you. For,
  David, among those with whom you are now in daily contact there
  might be some who would recognize my handwriting, and I have not
  the right to run that risk. You are too loyal ever to seek the
  explanation in your imagination, as I am loyal to the promise I
  gave you and which a hundred times has tortured my conscience. But
  even in conversation never, never refer once to having met even the
  Mademoiselle Duvernoy you knew on the steamer, for you might bring
  a sorrow too awful to contemplate on those I must protect. Even
  this I ask of you--destroy every letter I have written you. Do not
  question, _mon ami_, do not seek to penetrate this mystery. And oh,
  David, if by any unthinkable accident you might guess at the truth,
  for my sake I ask it,--keep the knowledge to yourself. Yes, even
  from me, dear friend. I must ask this of you blindly, and without
  question, and I do so in perfect faith.

Blindly, and without question: yes, I shall obey her. But the
imagination,--that is another thing. A hundred suppositions have
rushed through my head, for I have written the names of a dozen of the
officers whose mess I share, and there is one, a young captain from
Brittany, François d’Hauteville, who, strangely, has reminded me many
times of her, in coloring and in the breeding that I know is hers,--in
the very quality of his voice. Is it possible that I have been living
day after day with her own flesh and blood and never divined it!
Control my imagination--how is it possible!

       *       *       *       *       *

I rushed through the other letters and impatiently took up the last one.

  Dear Friend:

  You have probably heard from Miss Brinsmade of the way we met at
  her cousin’s and of my decision to go to her. I think, David, you
  will have guessed the reasons that have dictated my decision.
  Believe me that it is a great happiness to be so close to some one
  who is dear and necessary to you. Since I have known her a new
  confidence in the future has come to me. How could I resist her?
  There is something so instantly winning in her impulsive kindness,
  her brave struggling determination to be of some service, and the
  so evident need of a woman’s love and faith. With everything
  against her, a false education, the incitement to pleasure, the
  mistaken affections of those who love her best and who would make
  life only a long self-indulgence; with all against her, David, it
  is wonderful how the deeper things in her--the instincts of the
  real woman--have made her seek her own salvation. The real impulse,
  _mon ami_, make no mistake about it, is her love for you and the
  longing to stand high in your estimation. Such an aspiration is a
  precious thing, David,--a trust that you must never shatter.

  I have talked many times with her and I love her. She does need
  something that I can give her, thank God,--and to feel that, is
  something that means everything to me in this period of great
  indecision. It is a mission that I shall perform very reverently,
  and for your sake.

  B.

  I have told her only that I crossed on the steamer with you. Send
  your letters always to the Convent, and I shall get them there.
  Dear David, don’t begrudge me this little opportunity for real
  service. I am happier to-day than I have been in years, for I do
  believe that in some mysterious way Providence has granted me the
  opportunity to help others to a great happiness. This, _mon ami_,
  compensates for everything.

When I had read this, a feeling of helplessness again came to me.
It is one thing to combat an enemy, but how resist the quiet,
self-sacrificing determination of the one you love and who loves you!
From the first I have known that in Bernoline’s presence my will would
always yield to her inflexible view of duty. Her moral supremacy over
me was immediate, and I have never questioned it. I accepted it as I
accept it now,--as a faith. Yet not for a moment have I relinquished
hope, even though that hope is indefinable and confused and lost in
future speculation. There must be some future happiness in this world
that can be shared together: otherwise--


VII

  _Paris, December_

Down on the sad duty of burying my brother, Alan. How strangely life
and death are mingled in this swift impulse of war; Ted Seaver--Captain
Seaver, now--who informed me of Alan’s last moments, told me too of
Molly’s coming motherhood. One generation gone, and another arriving!

       *       *       *       *       *

We walked back together from the cemetery across Paris, and he opened
his heart to me. At first, it was difficult. There is a certain
restrictive bar that interposes when there is this intimacy of family
connections. It is easier, often, to unburden one’s self to a stranger.
Alan’s death had upset him more than it had me, in my acquired
fatalism. It was his first contact with the closed mystery and as
always, I think, his thoughts had leaped ahead to his own appointed
hour. Yet in this supposition I had not entirely done him justice.

“God, how terrible death is!” he broke out nervously, at last.

“It’s not death; it’s life you’re experiencing,” I said solemnly.

“What do you mean?”

“Life, Ted, is just this: readiness to face the end at any moment,
our own and those who are dear to us. We aren’t taught these things
at home: nothing prepares us. We can’t believe it till it comes, as a
shock.”

“Yes, that’s so,” said the boy, pulling at his cuff, for he is only a
boy. “I can’t get it out of my mind; I feel jumpy all over.”

“It’s tough, damned tough.”

“Mr. Littledale,” he said abruptly, “do you blame me for marrying Molly
as I did?”

“No-o,” I said slowly.

“For, you see, that’s what breaks me up. The thought of her, of what’s
coming, of what will be ahead of her,--if anything happens to me.”

“Naturally, you can’t help thinking of such things,” I admitted. “You
see, Ted, there is some logic in the military point of view that wants
an officer single, isn’t there?”

“Good heavens, yes. I keep thinking of it all the time, and--wondering.”

“Wondering what?”

“What I’ll do when I get out there,--out at the front,” he said,
drawing a long breath.

We were walking through the crowded section, near the Place de la
Bastille. I touched his arm and drew his attention to the crowds.

“See there; do you know what war has meant to them? Do you realize,
Ted, that your lot is the general lot, and that the real sacrifice is
there,--in those who remain. Are we privileged to choose our way of
service to our country? No. _Noblesse oblige._ Remember that, Ted; it
answers everything.”

“You’re right,” he said, straightening up at once. “But it wasn’t
myself I was caring about, it--it’s Molly.”

“Molly is no longer my sister or your wife. Molly has gone beyond us;
she represents now something bigger and finer, the spiritual heritage
of American womanhood.”

“Then you don’t blame us?” he said.

“No, of course not. I shouldn’t have had the courage, perhaps, but you
of the younger generation are right. Meet life as it offers itself:
it’s a bigger thing than avoiding it.”

“Thank you; that does a lot of good,” he said, drawing a long breath.

       *       *       *       *       *

He is of another generation, as is Molly, too,--God bless her. And what
I said to him I believe. May it be a generation more significant and
responsive than my own! I think it will, for it has been blessed with
two things, opportunity and the test of suffering.



PART V


I

  _April, 1918_

For weeks, ever since the staggering nightmare of the German thrust
in March, we have been marching and counter-marching, entraining and
debarking, living in a delirium. I have had no news from home in ages.
Heaven only knows where my mail has gone. I can only scribble down a
note here and there and wait for a moment that never comes. The war has
seen nothing to match this hideous driving tempest of massed artillery.
I have ceased to think or to wonder what is in store for me. The
imagination, like the body, yields to fatigue and ceases to respond.

       *       *       *       *       *

We have come back from beyond the English lines to a position of
support at X----. The second thrust has rolled through us as it did
through the English. Can it be stopped? I begin to lose faith. The
sight of this army of refugees streaming through us is heart-breaking.
Poor souls, now twice dispossessed from their homes! We have lost in
these days all that we fought to recover. No wonder that bitterness has
entered our souls: only De Saint Omer remains unfaltering in his faith,
cheerful and inspired. But it is not so with the others.

       *       *       *       *       *

To-morrow I shall have letters from home. An orderly is returning from
Paris, and he will stop at the bank for my mail. Thank heaven! Even if
it is denied me ever to see home again, it is like a ray of light at
the end of winter to know that there is somewhere a calm green world,
where Bernoline, Molly and Anne exist.

       *       *       *       *       *

We go forward in relief to-morrow at daybreak. The tension is terrible.


II

  _Taunton, February_

  Dear David:

  A terrible thing has happened. My head is in a whirl--oh, my poor
  lovely Mademoiselle Duvernoy! How shall I tell you? I’m afraid I’m
  so upset by it all that I shan’t be able to write you anything
  coherently. I still can’t understand. It all happened so suddenly
  to-night, only a few hours ago.

  We had a member of the visiting French Commission in for
  dinner,--quite informally. Father telephoned at the last
  minute he was bringing him and I had forgotten to mention it
  (Mademoiselle Duvernoy has always been unwilling to come down
  when guests were present). I was in the salon, alone with General
  de Villers-Costa--that is his name and a very distinguished and
  handsome officer he is--when Mademoiselle Duvernoy came abruptly
  in, humming to herself. We were so placed that she did not see the
  General until she was almost on him, and then,--I thought she was
  going to fall. As for him, he looked as though he had seen a ghost!

  David, they recognized each other! I heard them cry,

  _“Bernoline--Mademoiselle de Saint Omer--vous ici!”_

  _“Jacques--pour l’amour de Dieu, pas un mot!”_

  Then they stood together for a moment, talking very low and
  rapidly, and, at the end, Mademoiselle Duvernoy went by me without
  seeing me and up to her room, and General de Villers-Costa stood at
  the window a long while, while I waited, feeling as though the sky
  had fallen on me. When he turned he came directly towards me, his
  eyes very red, in a terrible state of excitement, and said:

  “Mademoiselle Brinsmade, as you are a true and loyal woman, I beg
  you to forget what you have seen and heard.”

  I nodded. I couldn’t say a word and I think tears were in my eyes.

  “Mademoiselle” (in his nervousness he kept pulling at his
  handkerchief), “did you hear the name I pronounced?”

  “Yes, Monsieur.”

  This seemed to overwhelm him completely, for it was a long moment
  before he could continue.

  “Mademoiselle--will you believe me that it is all a mistake--an
  astounding mistake--and will you, in charity--I ask of you--forget
  it?”

  “I love Mademoiselle Duvernoy,” I said. “I never could do anything
  to hurt her.”

  At that moment the others came in. I hurried upstairs, but she was
  not in her room. I ran out in the garden, and, at the end of the
  walk, I found her sitting, and oh, David,--the look on her face!
  I flung my arms about her and wept as though my heart would break
  and, for the first time, tears came to her too, and we clung to
  each other. She has told me nothing, though I know she loves me
  dearly, but just goes about staring in a numbed sort of way. David,
  what does it mean? What awful tragedy is in her life,--in the life
  of that dear little saint! David, I looked up her name in the
  Almanach de Gotha, and there is only one family of that name, the
  Duc Henri Plessis de Saint Omer: four sons, and--Bernoline Marie
  Renée Plessis de Saint Omer! Is it possible that--

       *       *       *       *       *

  David, just as I was writing, she came into my room, and oh, David,
  she has told me all. There have been times when I suspected but I
  am overwhelmed. I must try to set it down as it happened, for she
  wishes me to write to you.

  I was so buried in my letter that I had not heard her entrance
  until I felt her hand on my shoulder and looked up to see her at
  my side. My face, I know, went red, and involuntarily I tried to
  cover up my letter.

  “You have written it to David!” she said, looking into my eyes.

  And then I guessed! All that I have merely wondered at--put out of
  my mind as impossible, as fantastic, flashed back. I knew, and she
  knew that I knew, for she said swiftly:

  “He is the man that I have loved as I have never loved any one in
  my life.”

  I write it to you, as she said it, as you have the right to know.

  “And whom I shall never see again,” she added. “It is better that
  you should write it, dear child.”

  I flung myself in her arms and begged her forgiveness, not knowing
  what I did. I won’t tell you all she said, David, only that I know
  now how you love her, for who could help loving her.

  _Later_

  The terrible, terrible thing is that she is going away. I have
  pleaded with her to stay as my friend: think what it must have been
  to her pride all these months--but nothing can move her. There is
  something mysterious under it all, something dreadful--I don’t dare
  ask--that I feel no one has a right to know.

       *       *       *       *       *

  That night, she came down to dinner. I was so broken up when I saw
  her enter that I couldn’t look at her, and the General stopped
  short and then began to talk rapidly. She came to me presently,
  and, in the same quiet tone, said:

  “Anne, dear, I count on your help to-night. Be calm, dear, and
  after dinner,--I must speak to General de Villers-Costa.”

  Her control was absolute, yet I wonder that every one did not see
  the change, for it was no longer Mademoiselle Duvernoy who was in
  the room, but Bernoline, daughter of the Duke de St. Omer. Beyond
  that there was not a trace of emotion in face or manner. She must
  have a will of iron!

  Dinner over, I managed to signal the General, and the three of us
  went into the garden together until we were well hidden from the
  house.

  “And now, Anne, dear, thank you, and may I ask you to wait for us
  here just a moment. Monsieur de Villers-Costa, will you walk with
  me a little ahead?”

  It must have been at least ten minutes before they returned, and
  the General was so evidently upset that he could not say a word as
  we came back. At the terrace Mademoiselle de Saint Omer turned and
  said, with the gracious smile which is hers alone,

  “In this sad day I am fortunate in having two such loyal friends in
  whom I have perfect trust.”

  Wasn’t that fine of her: not a question of our promising,--just
  trust! Then she went into the house, but as I started to follow
  her, the General stopped me.

  “Mademoiselle--I beg of you--just a moment. I haven’t that
  strength--a moment to get hold of myself.”

  “I, too,” I said hastily, and we went and leaned over the
  balustrade, without a word.

  “Thank you,” he said, at last, drawing himself up. “I can go in,
  now.” And he added, with a little touch of pride I loved, “Such are
  our women, Mademoiselle,--do you wonder that we fight on?”

       *       *       *       *       *

  She left to-day. Every one is terribly broken up,--even the
  servants, who, I think, instinctively felt her quality. She is
  returning to the convent in New York, but I think her intention is
  to sail for France. I feel so helpless, and so alone.

       *       *       *       *       *

  I could not write you last night and had to put my pen down. I
  don’t know when I have been so completely broken up. It seems all
  so hideously unjust. She told me that she had written you, for the
  last time, but I cannot believe that. Surely, there must be some
  way out; life can’t be so cruel as that. David, my dear friend,
  will you believe me that I have thought of you all these days and
  that my heart goes out to you?

  The shock must have been terrible to her, for everything about
  her seemed absolutely petrified and her eyes looked at you with
  such a dry, such a burning heat. She never seemed to know she was
  talking to us or to be aware of what was around her. Her whole
  mind is concentrated on some fixed resolve. That is the terrible
  part,--with all my love, I cannot help her!

  I shall not forget her last words when I caught her hands and
  implored her a last time not to go.

  “I have failed: and this is my punishment.”

  Whatever can she mean, David, and what is it she is planning to do?

  _New York_

  Just a last line. I am sailing next week for France. I have
  enlisted for the war in the Red Cross as a hospital assistant.
  Father has arranged all for me, like the dear that he is,--without
  a single objection. And what do you think: I have seen Mademoiselle
  Duvernoy, and we are going over on the same boat! I know that this
  will be some comfort to you, for, David, I, too, love her, and I
  know she loves me, and is glad that I am to be with her. My address
  in Paris is below: it is quicker, they tell me, than the Red Cross.
  If you are in Paris before I go to my post, do come to me, David.

  ANNE.

  _St. Rosa’s Convent,_
  _New York_

  David:

  I am here with the good sisters. In a week I sail for France. This
  must be my last letter to you, and I shrink from the pain that it
  must bring you. Anne has written you what happened at Taunton.
  She knows only who I am, and my cousin, General de Villers-Costa,
  whatever he may suspect, knows no more. He is of my blood, and he
  is an absolutely loyal gentleman. His lips are sealed. To you alone
  I must tell everything. Better for us both if I had done so in the
  beginning. I couldn’t. You will understand why.

  David, I have told only two deliberate lies in my life, and each
  has been followed by a dreadful calamity: the first to save the
  life of a soldier of France; and the second to you, when you asked
  me if I were married. I did it because I thought I was doing it
  for your sake, because I was tried beyond my strength, because I
  no longer knew what to do, and because, David, I couldn’t bear to
  leave in your heart a memory that would haunt you. I tell you now
  because it is inevitable.

  David, I have failed, and God has seen fit to punish me. For months
  I have been tortured by remorse, for months I have refused to bear
  the full burden of my cross, and no one will ever know--not even
  you--the agony of my indecision. Now, my way is clear. I know what
  I must do, and I shall do it.

  David, it is so hard to tell you, for as you know now, I am of
  an old and proud race, that guards its honor with its life; and,
  David, I am a woman who loves you. Forgive me, if you can, in my
  weakness. My family thinks me dead. For their sake, for the honor
  of my family, of my brother, whom you know now is at your side, I
  am and must remain dead. When I tried to escape from my destiny it
  was for their sake and their sake alone. Only one other person in
  this world besides you knows the truth, and that is Marianne, my
  old nurse, whom you saw at Bordeaux, and who has in her keeping my
  baby.

  I cannot tell you in detail; that would be too horrible, and all
  the courage that I have built up would not be proof against that
  hideous memory.

  You know that my mother and I were caught in the first German rush
  through Luxemburg. Our château was but a few kilometers from the
  border. It was taken and retaken, again and again. We stayed, as
  a duty to our peasants, to our old men and to our poor women and
  children. We believed in our pride that the authority of our name
  and presence could save them from torture and worse than torture.
  How little we knew the beasts with whom we were dealing! We thought
  we were safe, for the German commander was an acquaintance of my
  brothers,--had visited us in our home in the years before the war!
  For we knew many Germans and we trusted in the honor of a gentleman
  of noble descent!

  David, it is so hard to write it down. I can only do it by moments.
  Twice we were accused of signaling to the French,--twice imprisoned
  and threatened with execution,--we who gave our days and nights to
  but one thought,--the comforting of the dying, friend and enemy.
  We saw our home battered to pieces, everything we loved destroyed,
  everything we owned in the world wiped out, and yet, despite every
  agony, we stayed on, trusting in our sacred mission, to protect and
  aid those we loved.

  And then came the lie. He was a little _poilu_, hardly more than a
  boy, who had been left behind, too wounded to carry away. We hid
  him in our own apartment, my mother and I, and to do it we lied.
  God forgive me, I would do it again! For discovery meant death: he
  was an Alsatian and for them the Boches know no pity. For three
  long weeks we were able to conceal his presence,--until he was able
  to make a try at escape. They caught him and all was discovered.
  And then--

  They tore my mother from me and sent her off somewhere into the
  interior, to work in the fields. She was spared the worst,--the
  knowledge of what happened to me. She died. And to me came worse
  than death,--but oh, the ferocity of it, the brutality of it, the
  stamping of a weak woman with the rage of the victor; and he who
  did it was the one, above all, who by every tradition of chivalry,
  by every instinct of race, religion and honor--

       *       *       *       *       *

  David, my religion, my faith was all that was left me. What was
  I to do? To take one’s life is to us a mortal sin; even that
  escape was denied me. And the horror when I knew that my shame was
  eternally fastened upon me! For the first months I sought death as
  only I had the right to seek it, praying for the mercy of a quick
  end, exposing myself in every bombardment, seeking every post of
  danger. Men were killed at my side--a child that ran to me was
  blown to pieces--and I lived.

  Then, for the sixth time, our little village was retaken, and I
  escaped that night into France. A faithful soul gave out the report
  that I had been killed, and so, thank God, for the honor of my
  name, I am dead to-day.

  The rest? I found my old nurse, Marianne, who concealed my identity
  and placed the baby (I have never been able to call it mine) with
  her family. I rebelled against it--God forgive me for that sin, as
  He in His high righteousness has seen fit to punish me. David, what
  those months were only a woman can know.

  I had not meant to write you like this: but I cannot write it
  calmly. I have never rebelled against God,--only sometimes, I have
  not been able to understand. I have tried to think of His stern and
  equal justice. I have tried to think of all the other women,--yes,
  of those who have suffered more hideously than I. There was a
  girl--a child--but no, I cannot even write it. I try to say to
  myself that it is right that we too, the proud women of France,
  should suffer with the humblest.

  David, where I was wrong was in trying to escape from what was in
  the will of God. It was my baby, and I forsook it. Night and day,
  that remorse, that conflict has been in my heart. And now, that
  through His justice, God has opened my eyes, I know my duty. I am
  going back to him,--my baby. I shall disappear from the world. No
  one shall ever know from now on what has become of me. But, since
  this is my cross, and since life in this world is not for me, I
  shall take up that cross, and, little by little, I shall learn no
  longer to rebel. The Holy Virgin, Mother of Sorrows, will watch
  over me and give me that courage. The child of hate is still an
  immortal soul and I, its mother, must save it for eternity.

  David, I had thought that to write all this to you would break me.
  It has not. I feel as though something had purified my spirit, and
  I feel all at once a clarity of vision, a courage that is calm and
  will not falter. The truth, _mon ami_, cannot weaken us. It is
  only when we refuse to face it that we are weak. I feel this so
  strongly. Share this knowledge with me, and do not suffer for me.
  I am no longer of this world.

  David, it is only of you I think now. Now that the moment has
  come to say farewell, I can tell you all the love that is in my
  heart for you, has always been, will always be. David, how little
  you guessed what was in my heart, for I think I loved you from
  the first moment our eyes met,--when I saw in yours that look of
  sympathy--there on the dock. When you came to me that night on the
  deck, out of the night, and stood by my side, I knew that if I did
  not fight against it with all my will, I should love you and bring
  sorrow into your life. And how I fought against you! But in the
  moment when I felt the strongest I would see a look in your eyes,
  a wounded, uncomprehending look, and all my strength would go. At
  times it was all I could do to keep back the tears from my eyes! If
  only I had not seen all the need of a woman’s love in your life!

  And then, one night, after long sleepless hours, I had such a
  strange dream. I dreamed that I was on a rock in the midst of a
  great sea that rose and swirled about me, and, all at once I looked
  down and saw your face in the waters, and you were struggling
  towards me. I ran down to the edge and stretched out my hands and
  caught you and drew you up to safety, all wet and limp in my arms.
  And, ever since, this has haunted me, and at times I have seen in
  it a sign of your struggling to find your true self and that I, in
  some mysterious way, was meant to give you strength. I was so torn
  by differing impulses. I passed such long hours in my little berth,
  praying to the dear Virgin to help me to struggle, to be strong for
  your sake. But the moment I came into your presence, the moment
  I met your eyes, _mon ami_, I was just a woman, a weak, helpless
  woman, whose whole being went to you in the longing to love and be
  loved.

  David, may God forgive me if I have done wrong by you; forgive me,
  too,--for I have loved you with every thought and every impulse of
  my life, with an intensity beyond my strength. I love you as only
  those can love, who have known the depths of sorrow and suffering;
  as those who need love in their lives. If it had only been
  possible, what happiness I could have given thee, David, to you,
  who were so gentle and so strong! I know I haven’t the right to say
  this, but I must! Just for these minutes, I am what I was born to
  be. Don’t utterly forget me, David,--or rather, yes, utterly forget
  me, for your sake. I do not know any longer what I am saying, and
  to end is the end of all. Forget me. It is right and your duty.
  You must, for your sake, for my sake: but, afterwards, long years
  afterwards,--when you can do so calmly, remember that somewhere in
  this world, just as the dusk comes in over the world,--I shall be
  kneeling and praying for your happiness.

  B.


III

I have been in a stupor for hours, my mind paralyzed, my brain unable
to comprehend. Instead of rereading the letter eagerly, I put it
mechanically back in its envelope and wrapped it up in the little
rubber-lined case I carry along with me. I do not know that I shall
ever be able to bring myself to read it again. It is too hideous--too
incomprehensible. Good God! Such things do not happen! But why? Why?
No, I cannot realize it!

       *       *       *       *       *

For fifty-eight hours I have not lain down or closed my eyes.
Ordinarily, after a second night of watchfulness, my physical nature
revolts and I tumble over unconsciously. But now, at this moment, I
am as keenly awake as though sleep were unknown to my brain. Inside
my head, there is a feeling of a great, shining, hollow vacancy, and
my little thoughts seem to rattle around in its luminous space, quite
lost. I have done the strangest things, with a perfectly calm exterior.
This morning I came upon a group of _poilus_, kneeling before a priest,
Père Glorieux, a _poilu_ likewise, a black robe hastily drawn over
his soiled uniform,--giving the Communion with a solemn majesty that
I shall ever remember. I went and knelt among them, gazing up at the
rough bearded face with eyes that shone down into my soul, quite
unconscious of anything further than the instinct within me. When he
came to me, he hesitated.

“_Vous êtes catholique, mon fils?_”

I drew up, hastily.

“_Non, non, je ne suis pas catholique. Pardon._”

He bowed, hardly noticing the strangeness of my actions in the tumult
about us, and I moved away, without realization either,--I was thinking
of Bernoline.

       *       *       *       *       *

That afternoon I slept for the first time. One moment I had been
moving around, giving orders for the storing of our kit, and the
next--I must have dropped suddenly like a drunken man, for when I
came to, it was late afternoon, and my orderly told me I had slept
fourteen hours without moving. I remember nothing of the last four
days, except,--except that letter. Yet I have been, to all intents and
purposes, a rational man, moving and speaking instinctively, meeting
and answering my fellow officers,--and all is a blur. I remember no
more than a swimming sensation of being buffeted in contending floods
of humanity; of hearing motor lorries roaring endlessly in my ears;
of being thundered over, shrieked over; of being borne along on the
flotsam and jetsam of human tides, with dimly remembered half-lights;
of a child’s running to a dressing station, holding a broken jaw
together; of a dog to whom I fed a crust; of an old woman, with red
stockings, riding on an army kitchen, and I think I must have broken
into a laugh!

       *       *       *       *       *

Still we are in the back wash of refugees, old men, women, cattle,
wounded _poilus_ straggling to the rear, torn regiments returning.
They pass us like apparitions, eyes set and sullen. Only occasionally
a cry from the ranks, a cry of old age or defiant youth, but the rest,
the muddied human flood, rolls by, grim and inert. Fatalism! In our
ranks a great deal of grumbling, but we know what that grumbling is
worth. The aspect of the fields is hideous. The only thing which rouses
our resentment is the passing to and fro of Boche aeroplanes and the
sudden spurts of flame beneath them as they pass. We hate them, with a
blind, unreasoning hatred, as the tiger must hate the weapon that slays
it from a safe distance. For the rest, indifference.

       *       *       *       *       *

The attack seems stemmed. We are in the second line, ready to relieve
the ----th Division when our turn comes. Our aeroplanes have swarmed
in, and everywhere there are strange falcon-like encounters, under the
clouds and above them. To-day, as I was seeking General La Pierre’s
headquarters, Maurice de Saint Omer hailed me around a jutting wall.

“_Eh, l’Americain!_ David, _mon bon vieux_! Still alive?”

I shrank from him; why, I don’t know. But the touch of his hand hurt me.

“_Mais, qu’est-ce que tu as, mon vieux. Tu es blessé?_”

“No--sleep!”

“Turn in here. We have a cellar as luxurious as the Ritz. Lunched?”

“Sufficiently.” I could not look at him. It seemed a dream, to be
letting him chatter on so nonchalantly, with the letter that lay in my
pocket. “Only just located you. How’s every one?”

“Not so bad,” he said, looking around. “Pretty warm at times.
D’Arvilliers, poor fellow, blown to pieces--a few flesh wounds. We
counter-attacked the day before yesterday. Hot work. Took a number of
prisoners. The Boches are fagged out. Nothing to eat for days.”

“Have we stopped them?”

“Absolutely. Enormous losses. This time they’re done for!”

Others grumble and look serious; with him, not an instant’s wavering.
Victory is his faith. There I recognize the race of Bernoline.

       *       *       *       *       *

Bernoline! For all these days I have rejected her from my mind, by some
involuntary instinct of self-preservation. I think at times during that
blank moment it must have been touch and go with me. Where was my mind
all the while? Who knows? That I am still able to reason sanely may be
due to this hideous obsession of panic and retreat which has mercifully
crowded in on my struggling consciousness. Still I cannot realize it!

I have just taken out the two letters and examined the postmarks. They
were mailed five weeks ago. She has been in France, then, for weeks!


IV

And, in this moment of all moments, a letter from Letty. Others I had
taken and torn to shreds. When this came, I laughed out loud and opened
it.

  _David mio_:

  You love me: you have always loved me, or you could not have hated
  me so. It is in your blood. I loved you and I love you, or I could
  never have done the thing I did. _Que voulez vous?_ We are made as
  we are made. Why struggle, and what is your victory worth?

  Come back to me. You will find me changed in all but one thing.
  Yes, I am a little pagan: I am good and bad: I am capricious,
  changing, cruel, but I love you! _Tu te souviens?_ What is all the
  rest worth? _Viens, pour un jour or pour toujours! A ton plaisir,
  mon roi!_

  You will not believe me? I sign my name in full.

  LETTY DE TINQUERVILLE LITTLEDALE.

  A woman who dares to do that _must_ love you!

  LETTY.

We struggle on and we say to ourselves that we can struggle just so
far. Yet we go on struggling until there comes a moment of utter
defeat, a moment of terrible weakness, of crushing moral fatigue, when
the will cries out that too much has been asked of it and we are ready
to throw over everything. Up to such a breaking point we can contend:
that reached, everything crumbles and the rest is panic. I know. I have
been there.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thank God I was not in the Paris of Letty at that moment, when I was
saying to myself, “Why be tormented by a conscience--why deny one’s
self for an ideal--when all it means is this dead loneliness, this
blank ache of denial, this laying bare of a hundred nerves to daily
pain!”

A sudden hatred swept over me against myself, a scorn and a bitter
rebellion. Why couldn’t I be like other men, who close up their hearts,
cease dreaming, and avoid the price of great emotions? To take life
in little measures, to play in the shallows and avoid the tempestuous
depths: other men, most men, live in this tranquil, tolerant attitude;
why not I? They may never know the exaltation of a moment but they will
not bear the dead despair of years.

Yes, just for that moment--the bitterest in my life--everything in me
rebelled against myself. I cursed myself: I ridiculed my compunctions
and my sickly conscience, my oversensitive imagination, and my groping
after futility. I hated everything I was and everything I had done
that had brought me to this living bankruptcy. I broke into a laugh--a
laugh of contempt and derision at myself--flung into my things and
went riotously into the night, seeking some befuddling oblivion,--some
sudden end of this martyrdom of discipline--and, after a quarter of an
hour’s blind wandering, I turned abruptly into an open chapel and down
on my knees, there to remain inertly until the frenzy had spent itself!
But--if it had been Paris--and Letty’s shadowy eyes at my side--

       *       *       *       *       *

This was two days ago. The storm has passed. Somehow, the struggle has
been met anew. I take no credit. That moment of weakness was too real.
A man who looks back honestly over his own life is terrified at the
things that did not happen,--and not by the strength of his own will,
but by the saving quality of circumstance or accident. Few women can
understand this: every man will.

       *       *       *       *       *

Action has cleared my brain--the necessity of going on--of doing
some little, appointed thing. The tension is relaxing; the swaying,
stumbling conflict has stabilized itself. Arras is saved and we have
even counter-attacked the attackers and regained some ground! Many
prisoners are coming in.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have been out with a covering party cleaning up the dugouts and
among other discoveries we have made prisoner a fierce-looking old
fellow--quite a prize--a General von Holwitz. His left arm was pretty
badly shot up. So I was delegated to take him to a dressing station and
have it attended to. Brought him back to our post, as he looks pretty
much played out, and coffee and a touch of brandy will pull him up
amazingly. Even if he is a Boche, he is a gentleman and an officer.

De Saint Omer came in while I was feeding my prisoner, and recognized
him as an old acquaintance of pre-war days. Curiously enough, Von
Holwitz was visibly upset by the meeting and drew back into his
Prussian shell. But that is the way with these war lords,--defeat is
something they cannot bear, and I fancy that the humiliation of being
made a prisoner is galling to him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Our dugout is about six miles back of the front lines but as we are in
a strategic village the crossroads are heavily bombarded. The cellars
are full of refugees. De Saint Omer’s attitude towards his prisoner is
strictly courteous but the conversation is along conventional lines,
naturally. To-night Von Holwitz sleeps with us; to-morrow he goes to
the rear, while we, in all probability, are destined for a forward
sector.


V

  _In Germany, February, 1919_

Ten months have passed since I broke off,--ten months in which I have
shrunk again and again from opening this chronicle to write down the
final chapters. For months, only the constant affection of De Saint
Omer, who has watched over me like a brother, and the loyalty of Anne
have kept me sane and struggling to accept life as it has had to be
readjusted and lived out. I have been through battle after battle,
buried twice under a torrent of shells, sought the thickest of the
danger, and come through unscathed. The war is ended, the armistice has
come, and ahead is the more difficult thing--life.

A month ago I tried to write and gave it up. This last week a new calm
has come into my spirit,--a strange, sudden convalescence, like the
lifting of a long fever. I shall suffer to write down the end, and
yet I shall suffer more until it is done. It is only the record of a
last few hours, six or seven in all, and yet it is the record of the
ending of a lifetime and the beginning of another. To write it will not
be difficult. Every word, every look is implanted in my memory, has
haunted me in the delirium of the night and the walking unreality of
the day, from the moment I came into the courtyard at R---- until the
final parting, when I saw her with the baby in her arms.

       *       *       *       *       *

She might have come, passed at my side and gone, without my ever
knowing it if it had not been for her old nurse, Marianne. R---- was
under a prolonged bombardment that morning. The Boches must have had
wind of the passage of an artillery support, for they opened up on the
crossroads in the public square at dark and kept at it venomously all
night. Our casualties were heavy and, just before dawn, a squadron of
Fokkers bombed us, adding to the inferno. We stuck close to our cellars
all morning,--De Saint Omer, our Boche Von Holwitz, and myself, but
towards noon, as the fire seemed to lessen somewhat, or rather to leave
the streets of the village and concentrate on the Square, De Saint Omer
decided to take his prisoner back to headquarters and have him sent to
the rear. He went out with Von Holwitz who, to give the devil his due,
showed good nerve, and I promised to follow presently.

I finished shaving and tidying up and started after them, but hardly
had I poked my head out before the Boches began to search out the
village with shrapnel, and I was driven to shelter. At the end of an
hour I succeeded in making my way through the ruins of cellars to an
area of comparative quiet. The streets were badly cut up and blocked. I
crossed behind a pile of masonry, entered the wreck of the church, and
gaining the shelter of a wall, passed into the garden of what had once
been a convent. There I stopped amazed.

A child--hardly more than a baby--was seated in the gravel path,
gravely picking up the pebbles and build them in heaps, and by his side
an old peasant woman, on her knees, was sobbing and telling her beads.

The village had, I knew, its smatter of refugees, hidden away
in cellars, awaiting an opportunity to escape, and the spot was
somewhat out of the line of fire. But the sight of a child, sitting
unconcernedly there, under the split skies where shells were screaming
to and fro, while half a mile away the houses were crumbling and great
holes being torn in the streets, filled me with horror.

I stepped forward, and said, peremptorily:

_“Que diable faites vous ici, ma bonne vielle?”_

She looked up at me, startled at my voice. I stared at her, sprang
back, started forward and, placing my hand on her shoulder, peered at
her. Over the passage of months, of a hundred shifting scenes, a memory
came slowly back to me, a face seen in the wet dawn of a November
morning, on the docks at Bordeaux.

“Marianne!”

Her jaw dropped and she started up, staring at me,--but no recognition
came to her.

Marianne! Then the child was--

       *       *       *       *       *

The next moment, I heard De Saint Omer’s voice around the wall. A
sudden flash of what had happened came to me. I stumbled to the
opening, turned the corner, and came upon them: De Saint Omer, Von
Holwitz, planted in a corner, and before me, in the blue and white
uniform of the Red Cross--Bernoline!

       *       *       *       *       *

The next moment, oblivious of all the rest, I had her in my arms. She
lay there, inert, weakly incapable of words, a poor, fluttering bird,
listening to my voice that cried out to her. Gradually, her arms rose,
passed around my neck, and tightened there.

“_Ah, mon Dieu_, even you!”

I realized nothing; neither the significance of her cry of despair, nor
the grim erectness of the brother, nor the shadowy third, waiting with
crossed arms against the wall. I only knew life had come again to me. I
had her. I would never let her go. She had come to me again, again into
my life! No matter what had been the past, no matter what her reasons,
her pleadings or her will,--this time nothing could separate us again.
I had come out of the inferno and the delirium back to life and hope.

“Bernoline, I have almost gone mad!”

She took my head in her hands and looked in my eyes.

“_Ah mon bien aimé_--if I could have spared you this! David, give me
your strength for these last minutes!”

“What do you mean?”

I looked from her to the two men and back again. Still I did not seize
the situation. Then, all at once, the tense rigidity of their attitudes
struck me. I had the feeling of arriving on the skirts of tragedy,--of
something having happened before, of my being out of it--an intruder,
a mere spectator--while something ominous and terrifying was moving to
its culmination. I felt that and instinctively I caught her in my arms
again, to hold her against the unseen thing that threatened us. I tried
to collect my wits to piece together this mystery. If De Saint Omer
were here--then he, too, knew. Bernoline had told him; with the child
present no concealment was possible.

Then, I think for the first time, out of the blur, I became aware of
the incongruity of Von Holwitz being there. I looked at him and saw the
stone pallor on his face. Yet I did not understand.

“What is it? What are you all waiting for? Bernoline, why is that man
here?”

Then I saw it in her face! Good God!


VI

When I next remember anything, Bernoline’s arms were around me, and
I was staring at Von Holwitz, who was gasping for breath against the
wall, a streak of blood curved on his cheek. De Saint Omer--he must
have had arms of steel--had me by the collar, and I heard Bernoline
crying,

“David, David, for my sake--don’t!”

I turned and looked at her,--a look that must have frightened her, for
I heard her say:

“_Ah, mon bien aimé_, will you desert me now?”

My brain cleared instantly. I put my hand over my eyes and pressed
against the dull numbness that filled my head. When I looked up, De
Saint Omer had loosened his hold and stood watching me.

“David, understand well one thing,” he said sharply, to bring me to my
senses. “As head of my family, I _command_ here.”

Even then nothing could have held me,--nothing but the touch of her
hand.

“God! You can stand here and _reason_!”

“Come to your senses! At once!” he ripped out, with the suddenness of a
drill master. “Do you hear me, _Lieutenant_ Littledale! At once!”

It was incongruous, grotesque, and involuntary, but I came to attention
and my hand went up in salute. Our eyes met, and what I saw there made
me forget everything else.

_“Pardon, mon commandant._ I am at your orders.”

Then I looked at Von Holwitz; if there was death brooding in the face
of De Saint Omer, the face of the other was the face of the dead.

“David, you will do everything exactly as I decide,” De Saint Omer
said more quietly, though his eyes continued to blaze imperiously,
dominating my own. “Monsieur, I am quite capable of protecting the
honor of my sister and the name of my family.”

“Do as he says, _mon ami_” said Bernoline, staring past me. “He has the
right.”

“_Mon commandant_,” I repeated stiffly. “I shall obey.”

From that moment everything seemed to occur outside of me. I was there,
but only to look on helplessly and incredulously,--an American watching
the unfolding of some grim scene in the Middle Ages, a spectator before
an older race, disciplined, proud, exact to their point of honor, as
their old grim generations had held to that honor.

I, who could understand but the instinct of murder--blinding, groping,
two-handed murder--was dominated, morally and physically, by the cold,
punctilious, relentless decision in the burning eyes of De Saint Omer
that sent a chill into my heart as though I were back in the days of
the Sforzas and Malatestas. What was he going to do? What were they
waiting for?

The next moment I knew. The gravel cried out; a shadow fell between us,
and a _poilu_ stood at attention.

“_Mon commandant_, you sent for me?”

It was Père Glorieux, soldier of God and France, gun in hand, knapsack
on his back.

“You have your surplice?”

_“Oui, mon commandant.”_

“Good. Just a moment.” He turned to me, designating Von Holwitz with
his thumb. “You have your revolver?”

_“Oui, mon commandant.”_

I drew it but I did not trust myself to meet the eyes of Von Holwitz,
who was sitting and staunching his wound with a handkerchief.

“Save yourself the trouble,” I heard him say. “I expect nothing!”

De Saint Omer, moving to one side, began to talk to Père Glorieux.
Once or twice I saw the soldier start and glance in our direction, but
immediately he controlled himself. Finally they returned.

“Mademoiselle, it is customary to confess,” Père Glorieux began, to my
growing amazement.

“_Mon père_--I did--this morning.”

“I shall take communion, too,” said De Saint Omer. “If you will hear
me, first--”

The _poilu_, for he still was the soldier, passed on and confronted Von
Holwitz.

“You are Catholic?”

“I am.”

“Do you do this willingly?”

“More than willingly.”

“For the good of your soul, my son, you will confess!”

“That is my desire.”

He straightened up, solemn and abrupt, but the assumption of dignity
was spoiled by the wound on his cheek which continued to flow and
against which he kept continually pressing his handkerchief.

“Commandant de Saint Omer, I do not expect any mercy. I would not ask
for it. That is understood. I ask you to trust to my honor. I shall not
evade any decision you make.”

“Your honor?”

“There _is_ an honor at such times--among men of our kind,” he said
stubbornly.

Curiously enough, the phrase of Alan’s flashed into my mind; every man,
his code. Even Von Holwitz, brute and bully, wished to die like an
officer. I think De Saint Omer saw that, for he nodded, and I pocketed
my revolver.

“Follow me,” he said peremptorily.

The three men moved across the garden, to a further niche in the wall.
Père Glorieux, opening his knapsack, drew a surplice over his uniform
and rose with a sudden majesty. De Saint Omer had fallen to his knees,
while Von Holwitz waited, sitting some distance apart.

I had my arm around Bernoline, still supporting her broken strength,
and at last I turned to her, screwing up courage to ask the question I
feared.

“Bernoline!”

_“Oui, mon ami?”_

“What is it they’re going to do? What is going to happen?”

She tried to tell me, but couldn’t. Again I asked the question.

“You do not know?”

“For God’s sake, what is it?”

“David--I--I--am to marry him!”

“Marry _him_!”

“It is for the honor of the family,” she said, as a tired child repeats
a formula. “Maurice has said it must be so. I have no choice.”

“And afterward?”

She shivered and sagged against my shoulder. Again the world went
black about me. To stand at her side and to witness that! Yet I knew I
was powerless to oppose, and even in my misery I gave justice to his
reason. The first part was clear, but--afterwards? The time seemed
endless, as we waited there, clinging to each other, too numb with the
sense of pain to utter word or protest.

“Lieutenant Littledale!”

I came sharply back to my senses.

“Follow us--take care of my sister--into the chapel--”

Père Glorieux first, then the two men, side by side, and back of them
Bernoline and I; so we went, around the wall, where, I remember,
Marianne’s wrinkled face shone wet with tears. There a ghastly thing
happened.

The child, startled by our apparition, started to run, stumbled, and
lurched against the leg of Von Holwitz. Never shall I forget the look
on his face as he looked down!

Bernoline sprang forward, an instinctive movement of motherhood--who
knows, perhaps the first--and snatched him up. The child, frightened,
began to cry. I took him hurriedly and put him in the arms of the
nurse. Bernoline stood, waiting my return, and the tears were standing
in her eyes as she looked back.

“God help me to feel as a mother,” she said, staring beyond me. “David,
your hand.”

Together, we picked our way across the strewn débris to the chapel.

“Charlotte Corday! Charlotte Corday!” kept running through my mind.
Why? I don’t know. An irrelevant suggestion, unless it were the feeling
of a martyr in the tumbrils of the Revolution, going to her execution.
Yes, I think that was the thought.

I remember little of the mockery of a service. I stood in the shadows,
unable to think or pray, hearing from time to time the shriek of a
traveling shell, the mumbled, hurried cadences from the altar, and
across the shattered walls, from time to time, in the quiet between
explosions, the cry of the child; that child who, too, was a human
being with an immortal soul, and must work out its destiny of wrath.
Once, a stray shell burst several hundred yards away and a flying crumb
of masonry fell in the nave and ricocheted a moment. No one moved. De
Saint Omer stood like an avenging angel, arms folded, waiting.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was over. She came to me directly, gave a little sigh, and lay
shuddering in my arms.

“And now?”

It was the voice of Von Holwitz, facing his judge.

“Follow me.”

“Murder?”

At this Bernoline started up and running to her brother, caught him by
the arm.

“_Maurice, qu’est-ce que tu vas faire?_”

“_Ne crains rien, ma petite soeur. Aie foi! La justice du bon Dieu se
fera._ General von Holwitz--are you ready?”

“I am curious to know your plan. Is it murder?”

“Monsieur, you forget that you are among Frenchmen,” he said, looking
down at him. “I have no further explanations to make to you. Père
Glorieux, you will inform Mademoiselle de Saint Omer.”

None of us noticed the slip until afterwards. Von Holwitz flushed under
the rebuke, shrugged his shoulders, and then turned to Bernoline.

“I do not imagine that you contemplate claiming my name for my son.”

He waited. No one answered him.

“If you should wish a written attestation, I shall be glad to give
it. That was all I wanted to say. Père Glorieux,”--he drew out his
pocketbook and handed it to the _poilu_,--“you will find here the
address of my mother. The rest--for the necessary masses. Ready, now.”

He turned and, with the spirit of bravado that remained to the end, his
heels clicked and his hand came to salute.

“Ahead of me--and walk as I direct you,” said de Saint Omer’s stern
voice. “_Bernoline, ma petite soeur, prie pour ton frère._”

The last I saw of Von Holwitz was the eternal red and white
handkerchief pressed to his cheek,--a man who was going to his death,
annoyed at a scratch! They passed and the voice of Père Glorieux cried
out,

“Pray for the souls of both of them!”

       *       *       *       *       *

What happened I have never been able to see quite clearly. They went
down the main street, twenty paces between them, and straight to
the murderous intersection at the Square. What was the idea in the
mediaeval imagination of De Saint Omer; the judgment of God, as by some
trial of fire; or, if that failed him, a resort to the duel? I don’t
know. Strange as it may seem, it is a question I have never asked. I
couldn’t. The past between us two is something buried and protected by
the granite weight of suffering. At any rate, it ended there in the
Square. Thank God for that!

       *       *       *       *       *

We had been on our knees--I don’t know how long--Bernoline and I,
shoulder to shoulder,--praying from the bottom of our hearts when De
Saint Omer returned. I saw him coming and leaned towards her.

“Safe!”

She closed her eyes, and her head dropped on my shoulder. The next
moment, the brother was beside her, kneeling.

“Your prayers were heard, little saint. And God has done justice.”

       *       *       *       *       *

I left them alone and went outside and sat on a toppled stone. Heavens,
how benign and innocent that afternoon was, clear blue with powdery
clouds above, the young green stealing along a sheltered bush, the
shrill piping of a nesting bird somewhere,--a note that pierced through
the shattering iteration of the bombardment and down into my brain. It
terrified me, that insistent eternal cry of reborn nature that recked
neither our sorrows nor our human passing.

Père Glorieux came out presently, drew off his surplice, ranged his
communion service, packed it into a box and opened his knapsack. I
watched him. _Poilu_ once more, gun at attention, he stood awaiting
orders, a bronzed, bearded face that had looked into death and heard
the laments of a thousand souls.

       *       *       *       *       *

_“David, mon frère!”_

I rose, seeing nothing. De Saint Omer came to me and took my hand in
his quick, vibrating grip.

“From now on, we are brothers. It is a solemn promise,” he said,
looking into my eyes. “And now, David, _mon frère_, there is only one
person to be thought of,--Bernoline. You will give her the courage she
needs. I know her decision. It is the only one. We are an old race,
and, when we see our duty, we never hesitate. Come to me afterwards.”
He opened his arms and took me into them in a long embrace. Then he
turned to his sister.

“It is good-by until--” He raised his finger to the calm serenity
above. “Sister, your blessing.”

He dropped to one knee. She laid her hands on his forehead and her lips
moved silently. Then he rose and went hurriedly out. The _poilu_ turned
and went to join Marianne and the child. I was alone with Bernoline.

“Good God! If a shell would only end it all!”

“_Mon ami_, that is why death is not the hardest.”

I held out my arms. She came to them, her eyes looked into mine, our
lips came together, and that first kiss, which was our last, was given
with our mingled tears.

       *       *       *       *       *

I did not attempt to struggle against our fate. I knew it was hopeless.
She did not move; nor did her arms relax their straining tension while
time went by us unheeded, until--

“I love you, David _mon adoré_. I have always loved you, with all my
being,” she said, looking into my eyes.

“Bernoline, I would marry you now, to-day. I could go with you
anywhere, into any life--you and your child--nothing can matter,” I
said brokenly.

“I know.” She tried to smile and couldn’t. “Thank you, dear, for not
making it harder. And now come.”

She held out her hand and, taking it, I followed her blindly.

All that I remember is my standing there in the swept garden of the
convent, is seeing her take the child from the nurse and raise it to
her shoulder. Thus bearing her cross, she went out of my life forever.

       *       *       *       *       *

All the rest is only numbed pain and incomprehension,--weeks and
months. To-day I am alive, and the world has somehow come back to me.
How, I don’t know.

Now that I have written it down, I feel as though something had changed
in me. Our sorrows destroy us, or themselves. Somewhere before, I
remember writing that. Something is gone in me that the rest may
struggle up and go on.


VII

There is little more to add, only two letters,--one from Bernoline and
one from Anne, without whom I would not be here to-day. They came to
me, worn and postmarked, a week before we went into the final struggles
of July, and through those final months of hurricane and tireless
slaughter I carried them over my heart--together.

  David:

  I write this last letter to you. Would that I had never crossed
  your path, to bring the unhappiness that I have brought into your
  life. I write this to you as the final and supreme proof of my
  love, of all that I would have given you every hour of the year,
  had God willed it. It is of Anne that I write.

  I went to her at B----, where she is stationed, and told her
  all, though much she had guessed. David, she is no longer the
  girl, untried and undisciplined. She is a woman that you will be
  proud of as your wife, when the time comes, and the ache and pain
  have passed. There is a bigness in her soul, something deep and
  honest--and she loves you. She has always loved you and, what is
  wonderful in a woman’s heart--she understands. There will never be
  anything petty or unworthy of a great nature. She loves you, David;
  how much, how beautifully; with what a maternal affection you can
  never guess. And you need this protecting love. If you could have
  been present, have seen the look in her eyes, her simplicity and
  her dignity, when I asked her to be your strength, to watch over
  you these months!

  “I love him,” she said. “I have never really loved any one else,
  and I took a vow long ago that if I could not belong to him, I
  would never marry any other man.”

  Perhaps I have no right to tell you this, but in this moment
  I think you should know. Do not turn from her, David. It is a
  treasure that awaits you.

  I have thought of you ever since I left you; I think of you every
  moment of my hours in the little chapel that alone brings me some
  strength, and I have seen far ahead of the pain of the present. I
  would that I could take into my heart all that I cannot keep you
  from suffering, that you must suffer for a while for having come
  into my sad life. Yes, David, it will be hard--readjustment is
  hard--it is sometimes so much easier to go on, no matter what we
  have to bear. But you will come out of this period of trial. You
  will come out superbly. Happiness will be waiting for you; do not
  delay too long. For, dear friend, you are one of those who need
  happiness in your life. All this period of unrest and indecision
  which so often has depressed you and shaken your confidence will
  give you a bigger vision and a surer charity, when once life is
  stable and calm. And, David, that will come; I know it--I feel it
  so strangely. I do see ahead, and I think this power is given me as
  some consolation for what I must bear.

  Don’t let your mind dwell too much on me. I have my faith, David,
  and I can accept anything. Sacrifice must fall on all equally in
  this terrible trial. I am only one of a million women,--remember
  that!

  And now, it must be good-bye--_Ah, mon bien aimé_, how hard it
  is to write. I feel as though thy hand were in my hand and that
  I were clinging to it, unable to let it go. I do not ask thee to
  forget me. Remember me only to help thee. Be strong--be true to
  yourself--accept life nobly. Your country is a great country; men
  like you are needed. Be what you can, whether it be big or little,
  to give it leadership. Suffering we cannot avoid, mon ami, but
  unselfish achievement is alone lasting satisfaction. Davy, _mon
  bien aimé_, aim high, for your own sake--and for the peace of soul
  of one who night and day will keep you both in her prayers.

  BERNOLINE.

  David:

  Bernoline has been here, and told me, and oh, my heart goes out to
  you. You will need to know that you are not alone in this world,
  that there is some one who shares your sorrow and holds you dear.
  Will you let me be all that to you--just for the present. Will
  you let me give you just a little of the great love that you are
  denied, and let me tell you that in friendship or otherwise, as
  it may come to you, I am always at your side. I don’t know how I
  find the courage to write you thus. I know you will respect it.
  We are not children, dear. We are man and woman, and we both know
  suffering. If I thought only of myself, I would never send this
  letter. But we live in the midst of death, when little things fade
  away, and at the thought of your utter loneliness, David, dear, I
  think of nothing else but the love you need, and I can do no less
  after having known Bernoline.

  David, she is not of this world. I shall always love her as you
  love her, as a peasant kneels and adores an ideal among the shadows
  and the candles. She has a strength that is not my strength, a
  faith that I envy but cannot find. I went with her to the little
  chapel of St. Anne, and knelt while she prayed. If you could have
  seen her face! I thought it was not the sculptured calm of the
  Madonna enshrined in heaven but the serenity in her worn eyes that
  was the miracle. A little saint, David, has crossed our paths and
  we must be true to the memory. Let me help you, David, dear.

  ANNE.


VIII

A week has gone since I started these final pages. I have been amazed
at the feeling of detachment that has come to me. Bernoline and Maurice
have often spoken to me of that state of grace which in their faith
lifts men and women above the earth to seek heaven. I have seen this
same unhuman state of grace, of sanctified sacrifice, among officers
and _poilus_ during the war,--the need to live in some rarefied
atmosphere. Family and friends recede before the proud isolation of the
soul dedicated to a sacrificial death. It is not quite that with me.
Yet there has come with the final writing a serenity that surprises
me. Is it that I have suffered beyond my capacity--for each of us has
in him only a certain capacity to suffer--or is it life in its strange
compensations that is molding me? To-day, for the first time, I can
recall Bernoline and feel a quiet happiness to have been privileged
to know her. Until now I have felt only my bondage to the past.
To-day--_noblesse oblige_--I want to live, and count in the living. The
bitterness and the rebellion are gone; an inspiration remains.

       *       *       *       *       *

In this new liberation, Anne, too, counts for much. I have seen her
three times,--once in a week’s _permission_ we were together every
day. Twice a week her letters come to me. It is strange how Bernoline
has brought us together. We both feel it. There is a great moral force
in love, and against its silent, cumulative movement the meanness and
littleness of life must yield. As Bernoline, in her faith, wished to
see us, we shall become.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is beyond the inherent nobility that is in Anne a largeness of
spirit that is hard for a man to understand. She reveres the memory
of Bernoline and in her great heart there is no trace of jealousy. At
least, if there is, it is wonderful how she conceals it. That is a
quality which I do not think would be in me. I can look ahead--we both
can--and see what is coming; yet until every corner of my heart is
wholly and loyally hers, I cannot offer it to her. To do so would be to
offend what is the one thing to build on,--absolute honesty between
us, that brings the deepest reverence.--Yet, to-day, I know the time is
near.

       *       *       *       *       *

We both feel the call to service and often have discussed where we
may fit in to do our little part. For a life that is closed in about
our own self-centered enjoyment is now impossible. We see the failure
of our generation,--its failure to rise to its opportunities and
responsibilities, its consequent weakening and approaching impotence
and the inevitable surging up from beneath of another more virile
force; the substitution of a natural for an artificial power (as Alan
would have said). It _is_ a challenge.

Once, when we were discussing this, Anne said to me a very searching
thing.

“David, our kind hasn’t even the instinct of self-preservation.”

True--but if we haven’t we shall have to yield, as we should yield.

Anne constantly surprises me. I find in her such an eager outlook
on life,--a longing to read, to explore, to question, to find an
illuminating purpose for living. Her mind, as it awakens, leads mine
on, and I react to its stimulus.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have no illusion about myself. The part I may be called on to play
is but a little part in the progress of my country. Yet, there must
be thousands of us--quiet, patient lieutenants--to make possible the
coming of a real leader.

       *       *       *       *       *

I think I understand better now the mystery of good and evil, the
thought that has run all through these pages,--often groping, turned
back on itself, and often in seeming contradiction. Sometimes out of
evil there comes a healthy reaction, but the moral quality of an act
remains, much as we should like to believe otherwise. Temptations,
the great salient temptations that determine a life, are as rare as
opportunities. They are opportunities to be met and dominated. Neither
Letty nor any of her kind can to-day even for a moment swerve me from
my clear perception of values. That, at least, I know. Yet, in my
memory that will always be a tithe to be paid. I have won a certain
mastery,--but a scar will abide.

       *       *       *       *       *

The mystery of good and the pain that from a pure source may often
destroy a life is this. In each of us is the choice between rebellion
and acceptance of life; in each is the reaching out beyond our
designated paths, towards a love that has the romance, the mystery
and the wonder of life, that we know is forbidden us. Even so in the
Garden of Eden, the fruit of the tree of knowledge was forbidden. The
other is facing actuality, founding our lives on a logical, practical
companionship, and growing into unity through mutual respect and the
test of experience. To different natures, different answers. Rebel
against life and destroy ourselves with a beating of the wings against
the bars of circumstance,--or meet it with a deliberate, difficult
acceptance? Which, I wonder, is the more fortunate nature? But for
those who have a tiny, latent spark hidden away under layers of
bread-and-butter years--an uneasy stirring of remembered dreams--youth,
too often, must be burned out, like a fever.


THE END



Transcriber’s Notes


Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not
changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Narrative sentences followed by quoted dialog sometimes end with commas
rather than with periods.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Wasted Generation" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home