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Title: Aladdin O'Brien
Author: Morris, Gouverneur
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.

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ALADDIN O’BRIEN

BY GOUVERNEUR MORRIS



BOOK I

    “It was many and many a year ago,
      In a kingdom by the sea,
    That a maiden there lived whom you may know
      By the name of Annabel Lee.
    And this maiden she lived with no other thought
      Than to love and be loved by me.
    I was a child and she was a child”--



ALADDIN O’BRIEN



I


It was on the way home from Sunday-school that Aladdin had enticed
Margaret to the forbidden river. She was not sure that he knew how to
row, for he was prone to exaggerate his prowess at this and that,
and she went because of the fine defiance of it, and because Aladdin
exercised an irresistible fascination. He it was who could whistle the
most engagingly through his front teeth; and he it was, when sad dogs of
boys of the world were met behind the barn, who could blow the smoke of
the fragrant grapevine through his nose, and swallow the same without
alarm to himself or to his admirers. To be with him was in itself a
soulful wickedness, a delicious and elevating lesson in corruption. But
to be with him when he had done wrong, and was sorry for it (as always
when found out), that was enough to give one visions of freckled angels,
and the sweetness of Paradise in May.

Aladdin brought the skiff into the float, stern first, with a bump.
Pride sat high upon his freckled brow, and he whistled piercing notes.

“I can do it,” he said. “Now get in.”

Margaret embarked very gingerly and smoothed her dress carefully, before
and after sitting down. It was a white and starchy dress of price, with
little blue ribbons at the throat and wrists--such a dress as the little
girl of a very poor papa will find laid out on the gilt and brocade
chair beside her bed if she goes to sleep and wakes up in heaven.

“Only a little way, ‘Laddin, please.”

The boy made half a dozen circular, jabbing strokes, and the skiff
zigzagged out from the float. It was a fine blue day, cool as a
cucumber, and across the river from the deserted shipyards, where, upon
lofty beamings, stood all sorts of ships in all stages of composition,
the frequent beeches and maples showed pink and red and yellow against
the evergreen pines.

“It’s easy ‘nough,” said Aladdin. And Margaret agreed in her mind, for
it is the splash of deeds rather than the skill or power which impresses
a lady. The little lady sat primly in the stern, her mitted paws folded;
her eyes, innocent and immense, fastened admiringly upon the rowing boy.

“Only ‘bout’s far’s the cat-boat, ‘Laddin, please,” she said. “I
oughtn’t to of come ‘t all.”

Somehow the cat-boat, anchored fifty yards out and straining back from
her moorings, would not allow herself to be approached. For although
Aladdin maintained a proper direction (at times), the ocean tide,
setting rigidly in and overbearing the current of the river, was
beginning to carry the skiff to some haven where she would not be.

Aladdin saw this and tried to go back, catching many crabs in the
earnestness of his endeavor. Then the little girl, without being told,
perceived that matters were not entirely in the hands of man, and began
to look wistfully from Aladdin to the shore. After a while he stopped
grinning, and then rowing.

“Can’t you get back, ‘Laddin?” said the little girl.

“No,” said the boy, “I can’t.” He was all angel now, for he was being
visited for wrong.

The little girl’s lips trembled and got white.

“I’m awful sorry, Margaret.”

“What’ll we do, ‘Laddin?”

“Just sit still, ‘n’ whatever happens I’ll take care of you, Margaret.”

They were passing the shipyards with a steady sweep, but the offices
were closed, the men at home, and no one saw the distressed expedition.
The last yard of all was conspicuous by a three-master, finished,
painted, sparred, ready for the fragrant bottle to be cracked on her
nose, and the long shivering slide into the river. Then came a fine
square, chimneyed house with sherry-glass-shaped elm-trees about it. The
boy shouted to a man contorted under a load of wood. The man looked up
and grinned vacantly, for he was not even half-witted. And they were
swept on. Presently woods drew between them and the last traces of
habitation,--gorgeous woods with intense splashes of color, standing
upon clean rocks that emphatically divided the water from the land,--and
they scurried into a region as untroubled by man as was Eden on the
first morning. The little boy was not afraid, but so sorry and ashamed
that he could have cried. The little girl, however, was even deeper down
the throat of remorse, for she had sinned three times on Sunday,--first,
she had spoken to the “inventor’s boy”; second, she had not “come
straight home”; third, she had been seduced into a forbidden boat,--and
there was no balm in Gilead; nor any forgiveness forever. She pictured
her grand, dark father standing like a biblical allegory of “Hell and
Damnation” within the somber leathern cube of his books, the fiercely
white, whalebone cane upon which he and old brother gout leaned, and the
vast gloomy centers at the bases of which glowed his savage eyes. She
thought of the rolling bitter voice with which she had once heard him
stiffen the backs of his constituents, and she was sore afraid. She did
not remember how much he loved her, or the impotence of his principles
where she was concerned. And she did not recollect, for she had not been
old enough to know, that the great bitter voice, with its heavy, telling
sarcasm, had been lifted for humanity--for more humanity upon earth.

“Oh, ‘Laddin,” she said suddenly, “I daren’t go home now.”

“Maybe we can get her in farther up,” said Aladdin, “and go home through
the woods. That’ll be something, anyhow.”

Margaret shuddered. She thought of the thin aunt who gave her lessons
upon the pianoforte--one of the elect, that aunt, who had never done
wrong, and whom any halo would fit; who gave her to understand that the
Almighty would raise Cain with any little girl who did not practise an
hour every day, and pray Him, night and morning, to help her keep off
the black notes when the white notes were intended. First there would
be a reckoning with papa, then one with Aunt Marion, last with Almighty
God, and afterward, horribile dictu, pitchforks for little Margaret,
and a vivid incandescent state to be maintained through eternity at vast
cost of pit-coal to a gentleman who carried over his arm, so as not to
step on it, a long snaky tail with a point like a harpoon’s.

Meanwhile, Aladdin made sundry attempts to get the boat ashore, and
failed signally. The current was as saucy as strong. Now it swept them
into the very shade of the trees, and as hope rose hot in the boy’s
heart and he began to stab the water with the oars, sent them skipping
for the midriver. Occasionally a fish jumped to show how easy it was,
and high overhead an eagle passed statelily in the wake of a cloud.
After the eagle came a V of geese flying south, moving through the
treacherous currents and whirlpools of the upper air as steadily and
directly as a train upon its track. It seemed as if nature had conspired
with her children to demonstrate to Margaret and Aladdin the facility of
precise locomotion. The narrow deeps of the river ended where the shore
rolled into a high knob of trees; above this it spread over the lower
land into a great, shallow, swiftly currented lake, having in its
midst a long turtlebacked island of dense woods and abrupt shores. Two
currents met off the knob and formed in the direction of the island a
long curve of spitting white. Aladdin rowed with great fervor.

“Do it if you can, ‘Laddin,” said the little girl.

It seemed for one moment as if success were about to crown the boy’s
effort, for he brought the boat to an exciting nearness to the shore;
but that was all. The current said: “No, Aladdin, that is not just the
place to land; come with me, and bring the boat and the young lady.” And
Aladdin at once went with the current.

“Margaret,” he said, “I done my best.” He crossed his heart.

“I know you done your best, ‘Laddin.” Margaret’s cheeks were on the
brink of tears. “I know you done it.”

They were dancing sportively farther and farther from the shore. The
water broke, now and again, and slapped the boat playfully.

“We ‘ve come ‘most three miles,” said Aladdin.

“I daren’t go back if I could now,” said Margaret.

Meanwhile Aladdin scanned the horizon far and wide to see if he could
see anything of Antheus, tossed by the winds, or the Phrygian triremes,
or Capys, or the ships having upon their lofty poops the arms of Caicus.
There was no help in sight. Far and wide was the bubbling ruffled river,
behind the mainland, and ahead the leafy island.

“What’ll your father do, ‘Laddin?”

Aladdin merely grinned, less by way of explaining what his father would
do than of expressing to Margaret this: “Have courage; I am still with
you.”

“‘Laddin, we’re not going so fast.”

They had run into nominally still water, and the skiff was losing
momentum.

“Maybe we’d better land on the island,” said Aladdin, “if we can, and
wait till the tide turns; won’t be long now.”

Again he plied the oars, and this time with success. For after a little
they came into the shadow of the island, the keel grunted upon sand,
and they got out. There was a little crescent of white beach, with an
occasional exclamatory green reed sticking from it, and above was a fine
arch of birch and pine. They hauled up the boat as far as they could,
and sat down to wait for the tide to turn. Firm earth, in spite of
her awful spiritual forebodings, put Margaret in a more cheerful mood.
Furthermore, the woods and the general mystery of islands were as
inviting as Punch.

“It’s not much fun watching the tide come in,” she said after a time.

Aladdin got up.

“Let’s go away,” he said, “and come back. It never comes in if you watch
for it to.”

Margaret arose, and they went into the woods.

A devil’s darning-needle came and buzzed for an instant on the bow of
the skiff. A belated sandpiper flew into the cove, peeped, and flew out.

The tide rose a little and said:

“What is this heavy thing upon my back?”

Then it rose a little more.

“Why, it’s poor little sister boat stuck in the mud,” said the tide.

From far off came joyful crackling of twigs and the sounds of children
at play.

The tide rose a little more and freed an end of the boat.

“That’s better,” said the boat, “ever so much better. I can almost
float.”

Again the tide raised its broad shoulders a hair’s-breadth.

“Great!” said the boat. “Once more, Old Party!”

When the children came back, they found that poor little sister boat was
gone, and in her stead all of their forgotten troubles had returned and
were waiting for them, and looking them in the face.



II


It is absurdly difficult to get help in this world. If a lady puts her
head out of a window and yells “Police,” she is considered funny, or if
a man from the very bottom of his soul calls for help, he is commonly
supposed to be drunk. Thus if, cast away upon an island, you should wave
your handkerchief to people passing in a boat, they would imagine that
you wanted to be friendly, and wave back; or, if they were New York
aldermen out for a day’s fishing in the Sound, call you names. And so
it was with Margaret and Aladdin. With shrill piping voices they called
tearfully to a party sailing up the river from church, waved and waved,
were answered in kind, and tasted the bitterest cup possible to the
Crusoed.

Then after much wandering in search of the boat it got to be
hunger-time, and two small stomachs calling lustily for food did not add
to the felicity of the situation.

With hunger-time came dusk, and afterward darkness, blacker than the
tall hat of Margaret’s father. For at the last moment nature had thought
better of the fine weather which man had been enjoying for the past
month, and drawn a vast curtain of inkiness over the luminaries from
one horizon even unto the other, and sent a great puff of wet fog up the
valley of the river from the ocean, so that teeth chattered and the ends
of fingers became shriveled and bloodless. And had not vanity gone out
with the entrance of sin, Margaret would have noticed that her tight
little curls were looser and the once stately ostrich feather upon her
Sunday hat, the envy of little girls whom the green monster possessed,
as flabby as a long sermon.

Meanwhile the tide having turned, little sister boat made fine way of
it down the river, and, burrowing in the fog, holding her breath as it
were, and greatly assisted by the tide, slipped past the town unseen,
and put for open sea, where it is to be supposed she enjoyed herself
hugely and, finally, becoming a little skeleton of herself on unknown
shores, was gathered up by somebody who wanted a pretty fire with
green lights in it. The main point is that she went her selfish way
undetected, so that the wide-lanterned search which presently arose for
little Margaret tumbled and stumbled about clueless, and halted to take
drinks, and came back about morning and lay down all day, and said it
never did, which it certainly hadn’t. All the to-do was over Margaret,
for Aladdin had not been missed, and, even if he had, nobody would have
looked for him. His father was at home bending over the model of the
wonderful lamp which was to make his fortune, and over which he had been
bending for fifteen rolling years. It had come to him, at about the time
that he fell in love with Aladdin’s mother, that a certain worthless
biproduct of something would, if combined with something else and
steeped in water, generate a certain gas, which, though desperately
explosive, would burn with a flame as white as day. Over the perfection
of this invention, with a brief honeymoon for vacation, he had spent
fifteen years, a small fortune,--till he had nothing left,--the most
of his health, and indeed everything but his conviction that it was a
beautiful invention and sure of success. When Aladdin arrived, he was
red and wrinkled, after the everlasting fashion of the human babe, and
had no name, so because of the wonderful lamp they called him Aladdin.
And that rendered his first school-days wretched and had nothing to do
with the rest of his life, after the everlasting fashion of wonderful
names. Aladdin’s mother went out of the world in the very natural act
of ushering his young brother into it, and he remembered her as a thin
person who was not strictly honorable (for, having betrayed him with
a kiss, she punished him for smoking) and had a headache. So there was
nobody to miss Aladdin or to waste the valuable night in looking for
him.

About this time Margaret began to cry and Aladdin to comfort her, and
they stumbled about in the woods trying to find--anything. After awhile
they happened into a grassy glade between two steep rocks, and there
agreeing to rest, scrunched into a depression of the rock on the right.
And Margaret, her nose very red, her hat at an angle, and her head on
Aladdin’s shoulder, sobbed herself to sleep. And then, because being
trusted is next to being God, and the most moving and gentlest condition
possible, Aladdin, for the first time, felt the full measure of his
crime in leading Margaret from the straight way home, and he pressed her
close to him and stroked her draggled hair with his cold little hands
and cried. Whenever she moved in sleep, his heart went out to her, and
before the night was old he loved her forever.

Sleep did not come to Aladdin, who had suddenly become a father and a
mother and a nurse and a brother and a lover and a man who must not be
afraid. His coat was wrapped about Margaret, and his arms were wrapped
about his coat, and the body of him shivered against the damp, cold
shirt, which would come open in front because there was a button gone.
The fog came in thicker and colder, and night with her strange noises
moved slower and slower. There was an old loon out on the river, who
would suddenly throw back his head and laugh for no reason at all. And
once a great strange bird went rushing past, squeaking like a mouse; and
once two bright eyes came, flashing out of the night and swung this way
and that like signal-lanterns and disappeared. Aladdin gave himself up
for lost and would have screamed if he had been alone.

Presently his throat began to tickle, then the base of his nose, then
the bridge thereof, and then he felt for a handkerchief and found none.
For a little while he maintained the proprieties by a gentle sniffling,
finally by one great agonized snuff. It seemed after that as if he were
to be left in peace. But no. His lips parted, his chin went up a
little, his eyes closed, the tickling gave place to a sudden imperative
ultimatum, and, when all was over, Margaret had waked.

They talked for a long time, for she could not go to sleep again, and
Aladdin told her many things and kept her from crying, but he did not
tell her about the awful bird or the more awful eyes. He told her about
his little brother, and the yellow cat they had, and about the great
city where he had once lived, and why he was called Aladdin. And when
the real began to grow dim, he told her stories out of strange books
that he had read, as he remembered them--first the story of Aladdin and
then others.

“Once,” began Aladdin, though his teeth were knocking together and his
arms aching and his nose running--“once there was a man named Ali Baba,
and he had forty thieves--”



III


Even in the good north country, where the white breath of the melting
icebergs takes turn and turn with diamond nights and days, people did
not remember so thick a fog; nor was there a thicker recorded in any
chapter of tradition. Indeed, if the expression be endurable, so black
was the whiteness that it was difficult to know when morning came. There
was a fresher shiver in the cold, the sensibility that tree-tops
were stirring, a filmy distinction of objects near at hand, and the
possibility that somewhere ‘way back in the east the rosy fingers of
dawn were spread upon a clear horizon. Collisions between ships at sea
were reported, and many a good sailorman went down full fathom five to
wait for the whistle of the Great Boatswain.

The little children on the island roused themselves and groped about
among the chilled, dripping stems of the trees; they had no end in view,
and no place to go, but motion was necessary for the lame legs and arms.
Margaret had caught a frightful cold and Aladdin a worse, and they were
hungrier than should be allowed. Now a jarred tree rained water down
their necks, and now their faces went with a splash and sting into
low-hanging plumes of leaves; often there would be a slip and a
scrambling fall. And by the time Aladdin had done grimacing over a
banged shin, Margaret would have a bruised anklebone to cry about.
The poor little soul was very tired and penitent and cold and hurt and
hungry, and she cried most of the time and was not to be comforted. But
Aladdin bit his lips and held his head up and said it all would be well
sometime. Perhaps, though he still had a little courage left, Aladdin
was the more to be pitied of the two: he was not only desperately
responsible for it all, but full of imagination and the horrible
things he had read. Margaret, like most women, suffered a little from
self-centration, and to her the trunk of a birch was just a nasty old
wet tree, but to Aladdin it was the clammy limb of one drowned,
and drawn from the waters to stand in eternal unrest. At length the
stumbling progress brought them to a shore of the island: a slippery
ledge of rock, past whose feet the water slipped hurriedly, steaming
with fog as if it had been hot, two big leaning birches, and a ruddy
mink that slipped like winking into a hole. The river, evident for only
a few yards, became lost in the fog, and where they were could only be
guessed, and which way the tide was setting could only be learned by
experiment. Aladdin planted a twig at the precise edge of the water,
and they sat down to watch. Stubbornly and unwillingly the water receded
from the twig, and they knew that the tide was running out.

“That’s the way home,” said Aladdin. Margaret looked wistfully
down-stream, her eyes as misty as the fog.

“If we had the boat we could go now,” said Aladdin.

Then he sat moody, evolving enterprise, and neither spoke for a long
time.

“Marg’ret,” said Aladdin, at length, “help me find a big log near the
water.”

“What you going to do, ‘Laddin?”

“You ‘ll see. Help look.”

They crept along the edge of the island, now among the close-growing
trees and now on the bare strip between them and the water, until at
length they came upon a big log, lying like some gnarled amphibian half
in the river and half on the dry land.

“Help push,” said Aladdin.

They could move it only a little, not enough.

“Wait till I get a lever,” said Aladdin. He went, and came back with a
long, stiff little birch, that, growing recklessly in the thin soil over
a rock, had been willing to yield to the persuasion of a child and come
up by the roots. And then, Margaret pushing her best, and Aladdin prying
and grunting, the log was moved to within an ace of launching. Until
now, for she was too young to understand about daring and unselfishness,
Margaret had considered the log-launching as a game invented by Aladdin
to while away the dreary time; but now she realized, from the look in
the pale, set, freckly, almost comical face of the boy, that deeds more
serious were afoot, and when he said, “Somebody’ll pick me up, sure,
Marg’ret, and help me come back and get you,” she broke out crying
afresh and said, “Don’t, ‘Laddin! Doo-on’t, ‘Laddin!”

“Don’t cry, Marg’ret,” said Aladdin, with a gulp. “I’d do more’n that
for you, and I can swim a little, too--b-better’n I can row.”

“Oh, ‘Laddin,” said Margaret, “it’s so cold in the water.”

“Shucks!” said Aladdin, whose teeth had been knocking all night. “She’s
the stanch little craft” (he had the phrase of a book) “Good Luck.
I’m the captain and you’re the builder’s daughter”--and so she was.
“Chrissen ‘er, Marg’et. Kiss her on the bow an’ say she’s the Good
Luck.”

Then Margaret, her hat over one ear, and the draggled ostrich feather
greatly in the way, knelt, and putting her arms about the shoreward end
of the log, kissed it, and said in a drawn little voice

“The Good Luck.”

“And now, Margaret,” said Aladdin, “you must stay right here’ n’ not
go ‘way from the shore, so’s I can find you when I come back. But
don’t just sit still all the time,--keep moving, so’s not to get any
colder,--‘n I’ll come back for you sure.”

Then, because he felt his courage failing, he said, “Good-by, Marg’ret,”
 and turning abruptly, waded in to his ankles and bent over the log to
give it that final impetus which was to set it adrift. In his heart
were several things: the desire to make good, fear of the river, and,
poignant and bitter, the feeling that Margaret did not understand. He
was too young to believe that death might really be near him (almost
reckless enough not to care if he had), but keenly aware that his
undertaking was perilous enough to warrant a more adequate farewell. So
he bent bitterly over the log and stiffened his back for the heave. It
must be owned that Aladdin wanted more of a scene.

“‘Laddin, I forgot something. Come back.”

He came, his white lips drawn into a sort of smile. Then they kissed
each other on the mouth with the loud, innocent kiss of little children,
and after that Aladdin felt that the river was only a river, the cold
only cold, the danger only danger and flowers--more than flowers.

He moved the log easily and waded with it into the icy waters, until his
feet were dragged from the bottom, and after one awful instant of
total submersion the stanch little ship Good Luck and valiant Captain
Kissed-by-Margaret were embarked on the voyage perilous. His left arm
over and about the log, his legs kicking lustily like the legs of
a frog, his right hand paddling desperately for stability, Aladdin
disappeared into the fog. After a few minutes he became so freezing cold
that he would have let go and drowned gladly if it had not been for the
wonderful lamp which had been lighted in his heart.

Margaret, when she saw him borne from her by the irresistible current,
cried out with all the illogic of her womanly little soul, “Come back,
‘Laddin, come back!” and sank sobbing upon the empty shore.



IV


However imminent the peril of the man, it is the better part of
chivalry to remain by the distressed lady, and though impotent to be of
assistance, we must linger near Margaret, and watch her gradually rise
from prone sobbing to a sitting attitude of tears. For a long time she
sat crying on the empty shore, regarding for the most part black life
and not at all the signs of cheerful change which were becoming evident
in the atmosphere about her. The cold breath across her face and hands
and needling through her shivering body, the increasing sounds of
treetops in commotion, the recurring appearance of branches where before
had been only an opaque vault, did little to inform her that the fog was
about to lift. The rising wind merely made her the more miserable and
alone. Nor was it until a disk of gold smote suddenly on the rock before
her that she looked up and beheld a twinkle of blue sky. The fog
puffed across the blue, the blue looked down again,--a bigger eye than
before,--a wisp of fog filmed it again, and again it gleamed out, ever
larger and always more blue. The good wind living far to the south had
heard that in a few days a little girl was to be alone and comfortless
upon a foggy island, and, hearing, had filled his vast chest with warmth
and sunshine, and puffed out his merry cheeks and blown. The great
breath sent the blue waves thundering upon the coral beaches of Florida,
tore across the forests of palm and set them all waving hilariously,
shook the merry orange-trees till they rattled, whistled through the
dismal swamps of Georgia, swept, calling and shouting to itself, over
the Carolinas, where clouds were hatching in men’s minds, banked up the
waters of the Chesapeake so that there was a great high tide and the
ducks were sent scudding to the decoys of the nearest gunner, went
roaring into the oaks and hickories of New York, warmed the veins of New
England fruit-trees, and finally coming to the giant fog, rent it apart
by handfuls as you pluck feathers from a goose, and hurled it this way
and that, until once more the sky and land could look each other in the
face. Then the great wind laughed and ceased. For a long time Margaret
looked down the cleared face of the river, but there was no trace
of Aladdin, and in life but one comfort: the sun was hot and she was
getting warm.

After a time, in the woods directly behind where she sat hoping and
fearing and trying to dry her tears, a gun sounded like an exclamation
of hope. Had Aladdin by any incredible circumstance returned so soon?
Mindful of his warning not to stray from where she was, Margaret stood
up and called in a shrill little voice

“Here I am! Here I am!”

Silence in the woods immediately behind where Margaret stood hoping and
fearing!

“Here I am!” she cried. And it had been piteous to hear, so small and
shrill was the voice.

Presently, though much farther off, sounded the merry yapping bark of
a little dog, and again, but this time like an echo of itself, the
exclamation of hope--hope deferred.

“Here I am! Here--I--am!” called Margaret.

Then there was a long silence--so long that it seemed as if nothing in
the world could have been so long. Margaret sat down gasping. The sun
rose higher, the river ran on, and hope flew away. And just as hope
had gone for good, the merry yapping of the dog broke out so near that
Margaret jumped, and bang went the gun--like a promise of salvation.
Instantly she was on her feet with her shrill,

“Here I am! Here I am!”

And this time came back a lusty young voice crying:

“I’m coming!”

And hard behind the voice leaves shook, and a boy came striding into
the sunlight. In one hand he trailed a gun, and at his heels trotted
a waggish spaniel of immense importance and infinitesimal size. In his
other hand the boy carried by the legs a splendid cock-grouse, ruffled
and hunger-compelling. The boy, perhaps two years older than Aladdin,
was big and strong for his age, and bore his shining head like a young
wood-god.

Margaret ran to him, telling her story as she went, but so incoherently
that when she reached him she had to stop and begin over again.

“Then Senator St. John is your father?” said the boy at length. “You
know, he’s a great friend of my father’s. My father’s name is Peter
Manners, and he used to be a congressman for New York. Are you hungry?”

Margaret could only look it.

They sat down, and the boy took wonderful things out of his wonderful
pockets--sandwiches of egg and sandwiches of jam; and Margaret fell to.

“I live in New York,” said the boy, “but I’m staying with my cousins
up the river. They told me there were partridges on this island, and I
rowed down to try and get some, but I missed two.” The boy blushed most
becomingly whenever he spoke, and his voice, and the way he said words,
were different from anything Margaret had ever heard. And she admired
him tremendously. And the boy, because she had spent a night on a desert
island, which he never had, admired her in turn.

“Maybe we’ll find ‘Laddin on the way,” said Margaret, cheerfully, and
she looked up with great eyes at her godlike young friend.



V


Meanwhile to Aladdin and his log divers things had occurred, but the
wonderful lamp, burning low or high at the will of the river, had
not gone out. Sliding through the smoking fog at three miles an hour,
kicking and paddling, all had gone well for a while. Then, for he was
more keen than Margaret to note the fog’s promise to lift, at the very
moment when the shores began to appear and mark his course as favorable,
at the very moment when the sun struck one end of the log, an eddy of
the current struck the other, and sent the stanch little craft Good Luck
and her captain by a wide curve back up the river. The backward journey
was slow and tortuous, and twice when the Good Luck turned turtle,
submerging Aladdin, he gave himself up for lost; but amidships of the
island, fairly opposite to the spot where he had left Margaret, the log
was again seized by the right current, and the voyage recommenced.
But the same eddy seized them, and back they came, with only an arm
stiffened by cold between Aladdin and death. The third descent of the
river, however, was more propitious. The eddy, it is true, made a final
snatch, but its fingers were weakened and its murderous intentions
thwarted. They passed by the knob of trees at the narrowing of the
river, and swept grandly toward the town. Past the first shipyard they
tore unnoticed, but at the second a shouting arose, and a boat was
slipped overboard and put after them. Strong hands dragged Aladdin from
the water, and, gulp after gulp, water gushed from his mouth. Then they
rowed him quickly to land, and the Good Luck, having done her duty, went
down the river alone. Years after, could Aladdin have met with that log,
he would have recognized it like the face of a friend, and would have
embraced and kissed it, painted it white to stave off the decay of old
age, and set it foremost among his Lares and Penates.

For the present he was insensible. They put him naked into coarse, warm
horse-blankets, and laid him before the great fire in the blacksmith’s
shop across the road from the shipyard. And at the same time they sent
one flying with a horse and buggy to the house of Hannibal St. John, for
Aladdin had not passed into unconsciousness without partly completing
his mission.

“Margaret--is--up--at--” he said, and darkness came.

At the moment when Aladdin came to, the door of the smithy was darkened
by the tremendous figure of Hannibal St. John. Wrapped in his long black
cloak, fastened at the throat by three links of steel chain, his face
glowering and cavernous, the great man strode like a controlled storm
through the awed underlings and stopped rigid at Aladdin’s side.

“Can the boy speak?” he said.

To Aladdin, looking up, there was neither pity nor mercy apparent in the
senator’s face, and a great fear shook him. Would the wrath descend?

“Do you know where my daughter is?”

The great rolling voice nearly broke between the “my” and the
“daughter,” and the fear left Aladdin.

“Mister St. John,” he said, “she’s up at one of the islands. We went in
a boat and couldn’t get back. If you’ll only get a boat and some one
to row, I can take you right to her.” Then Aladdin knew that he had not
said all there was to say. “Mister St. John,” said Aladdin, “I done it
all.”

Men ran out of the smithy to prepare a boat.

“Who is this boy?” said St. John.

“It’s Aladdin O’Brien, the inventor’s boy,” said the smith.

“Are you strong enough to go with me, O’Brien?” said the senator.

“Yes, sir; I’ve got to go,” said Aladdin. “I said I’d come back for
her.”

“Give him some whisky,” said St. John, in the voice of Jupiter saying
“Poison him,” “and wrap him up warm, and bring him along.”

They embarked. Aladdin, cuddled in blankets, was laid in the bow, St.
John, not deigning to sit, stood like a black tree-trunk in the stern,
and amidships were four men to row.

A little distance up the river they met a boat coming down. In the stern
sat Margaret, and at the oars her godlike young friend. Just over
the bow appeared the snout and merry eyes of the spaniel, one of his
delightful ears hanging over on each side.

“I am glad to see you alive,” said St. John to Margaret when the boats
were within hailing distance, and to her friend he said, “Since you have
brought her so far, be good enough to bring her the rest of the way.”
 And to his own rowers he said, “Go back.” When the boats came to land
at the shipyard, Margaret’s father lifted her out and kissed her once
on each cheek. Of the godlike boy he asked his name, and when he learned
that it was Peter Manners and that his father was Peter Manners, he
almost smiled, and he shook the boy’s hand.

“I will send word to your cousins up the river that you are with me,” he
said, and thus was the invitation extended and accepted.

“O’Brien,” said the great man to Aladdin, “when you feel able, come to
my house; I have something to say to you.”

Then Senator St. John, and Margaret, and Margaret’s godlike young
friend, and the spaniel got into the carriage that was waiting for them,
and drove off. But Margaret turned and waved to Aladdin.

“Good-by, Aladdin!” she called.



VI

They helped Aladdin back to the smithy, for his only covering was
a clumsy blanket; and there he put on his shrunken clothes, which
meanwhile had dried. The kindly men pressed food on him, but he could
not eat. He could only sit blankly by the fire and nurse the numb,
overpowering pain in his heart. Another had succeeded where he had
failed. Even at parting, just now, Margaret’s eyes had not been for him,
but for the stranger who had done so easily what he had not been able to
do at all. The voyage down the river had been mere foolishness without
result. He had not rescued his fair lady, but deserted her upon a desert
island. For him no bouquets were flung, nor was there to be any clapping
of hands. After a time he rose like one dreaming, and went slowly, for
he was sick and weak, up to the great pillared house of Hannibal St.
John. The senator in that stern voice of his had bade him come; nothing
could be any worse than it was. He would go. He knocked, and they showed
him into the library. It was four walls of leather books, an oak table
neater than a pin, a huge chair covered with horsehair much worn, and
a blazing fire of birch logs. Before the fire, one hand thrust into his
coat, the other resting somewhat heavily upon the head of a whalebone
cane, stood the senator. Far off Aladdin heard Margaret’s laugh and with
it another young laugh. Then he looked up like a little hunted thing
into the senator’s smoldering eyes.

“Sit down in that chair,” said the senator, pointing with his cane
to the only chair in the room. His voice had the effect of a strong
muscular compulsion to which men at once yielded. Aladdin sat into the
big chair, his toes swinging just clear of the ground. Then there was
silence. Aladdin broke it.

“Is Margaret all right?” he gulped.

The senator disregarded the question. Having chosen his words, he said
them.

“I do not know,” he began, “what my daughter was doing in a boat with
you. I do not object to her enjoying the society at proper times of
suitable companions of her own age, but the society of those who lead
her into temptation is not suitable.” Aladdin fairly wilted under the
glowering voice. “You will not be allowed to associate with her any
more,” said the senator. “I will speak to your father and see that he
forbids it.”

Aladdin climbed out of the chair, and stumbled blindly into the table.
He had meant to find the door and go.

“Wait; I have not done,” said the senator.

Aladdin turned and faced the enemy who was taking away the joy of life
from him.

“In trying to atone for your fault,” said the senator, “by imperiling
your life, you did at once a foolhardy and a fine thing--one which I
will do my best to repay at any time that you may see fit to call upon
me. For the present you may find this of use.” He held forward between
his thumb and forefinger a twenty-dollar gold piece. Aladdin groped for
words, and remembered a phrase which he had heard his own father return
to a tormentor. He thrust his red hands into his tight pockets, and with
trembling lips looked up.

“It’s a matter of pride,” he said, and walked out of the room. When he
had gone the senator took from his pocket a leather purse, opened it,
put back the gold piece, and carefully tied the string. Then far from
any known key or tune the great man whistled a few notes. Could his
constituents have heard, they would have known--and often had the
subject been debated--that Hannibal St. John was human.

Aladdin stood for a while upon the lofty pillared portico of the
senator’s house, and with a mist in his eyes looked away and away to
where the cause of all his troubles flowed like a ribbon of silver
through the bright-colored land. Grown men, having, in their whole
lives, suffered less than Aladdin was at that moment suffering, have
considered themselves heartbroken. The little boy shivered and toiled
down the steps, between the tall box hedges lining the path, and out
into the road. A late rose leaning over the garden fence gave up her
leaves in a pink shower as he passed, and at the same instant all the
glass in a window of the house opposite fell out with a smash. These
events seemed perfectly natural to Aladdin, but when people, talking at
the tops of their voices and gesticulating, began to run out of houses
and make down the hill toward the town, he remembered that, just as the
rose-leaves fell and just as the glass came out of the window-frame,
he had been conscious of a distant thudding boom, and a jarring of the
ground under his feet. So he joined in the stream of his neighbors, and
ran with them down the hill to see what had happened.

Aladdin remembered little of that breathless run, and one thing only
stood ever afterward vivid among his recollections. All the people were
headed eagerly in one direction, but at the corner of the street in
which Aladdin lived, an awkish, half-grown girl, her face contorted
with terror, struggled against the tugging of two younger companions and
screamed in a terrible voice:

“I don’t wahnt to go! I don’t wahnt to go!”

But they dragged her along. That girl had no father, and her mother
walked the streets. She would never have any beauty nor any grace; she
was dirt of the dirt, dirty, but she had a heart of mercy and could not
bear to look upon suffering.

“I don’t wahnt to go! I don’t wahnt to go!” and now the scream was a
shudder.

Aladdin’s street was crowded to suffocation, and the front of the house
where Aladdin lived was blown out, and men with grave faces were going
about among the ruins looking for what was left of Aladdin’s father.

A much littler boy than Aladdin stood in the yard of the house. In his
arms folded high he clutched a yellow cat, who licked his cheek with her
rough tongue. The littler boy kept crying, “‘Laddin, ‘Laddin!”

Aladdin took the little boy and the yellow cat all into one embrace, and
people turned away their heads.



VII


In the ensuing two days Aladdin matured enormously, for though a kind
neighbor took him in, together with his brother Jack and the yellow cat,
he had suffered many things and already sniffed the wolf at the door.
The kind neighbor was a widow lady, whose husband, having been a master
carpenter of retentive habits, had left her independently rich. She
owned the white-and-green house in which she lived, the plot of ground,
including a small front and a small back yard, upon which it stood,
and she spent with some splendor a certain income of three hundred and
eighty-two dollars a year. Every picture, every chair, every mantelpiece
in the Widow Brackett’s house was draped with a silk scarf. The parlor
lamp had a glass shade upon which, painted in oils, by hand, were
crimson moss-roses and scarlet poppies. A crushed plush spring rocker
had goldenrod painted on back and seat, while two white-and-gold vases
in precise positions on the mantel were filled with tight round
bunches of immortelles, stained pink. Upon the marble-topped,
carved-by-machine-walnut-legged table in the bay-window were things to
be taken up by a visitor and examined. A white plate with a spreading of
foreign postage-stamps, such as any boy collector has in quantities for
exchange, was the first surprise: you were supposed to discover that the
stamps were not real, but painted on the plate, and exclaim about it. A
china basket contained most edible-looking fruit of the same material,
and a huge album, not to be confounded with the family Bible upon which
it rested, was filled with speaking likenesses of the Widow Brackett’s
relatives. The Bible beneath could have told when each was born, when
many had died, and where many were buried. But nobody was ever allowed
to look into the Widow Brackett’s Bible for information mundane or
spiritual, since the only result would have been showers of pressed
ferns and flowers upon the carpet, which was not without well-pressed
flowers and ferns of its own.

Very soon after the explosion of the wonderful lamp the Widow Brackett
had taken Aladdin and Jack and the cat into her house and seen to it
that they had a square meal. Early on the second day she came to the
conclusion that if it could in any way be made worth her while, she
would like to keep them until they grew up. And when the ground upon
which Aladdin’s father’s house had stood was sold at auction for three
hundred and eight dollars, she let it be known that if she could get
that she would board the two little waifs until Aladdin was old enough
to work. The court appointed two guardians. The guardians consulted for
a few minutes over something brown in a glass, and promptly turned over
the three hundred and eight dollars to the Widow Brackett; and the Widow
Brackett almost as promptly made a few alterations in the up-stairs
of her house the better to accommodate the orphans, tied a dirty white
ribbon about the yellow cat’s neck, and bought a derelict piano upon
which her heart had been set for many months. She was no musician, but
she loved a tightly closed piano with a scarf draped over the top, and
thought that no parlor should be without one. Up to middle C, as
Aladdin in time found out, the piano in question was not without musical
pretensions, but above that any chord sounded like a nest of tin plates
dropped on a wooden floor, and the intervals were those of no known
scale nor fragment thereof. But in time he learned to draw pleasant
things from the old piano and to accompany his shrill voice in song. As
a matter of fact, he had no voice and never would have, but almost from
the first he knew how to sing. It so happened that he was drawn to the
piano by a singular thing: a note from his beloved.

It came one morning thumb-marked about the sealing, and covered with the
generous sprawl of her writing. It said:

DEAR ALADDIN: Do not say anything about this because I do not know if my
father would like it but I am so sorry about your father blowing up and
all your troubles and I want you to know how sory I am. I must stop now
because I have to practis.

         Your loving friend

                        MARGARET ST. JOHN.

Aladdin was an exquisite speller, and the first thing he noticed about
the letter was that it contained two words spelled wrong, and that he
loved Margaret the better by two misspelled words, and that he had a
lump in his throat.

He had found the letter by his plate at breakfast, and the eyes of Mrs.
Brackett fastened upon it.

“I don’t know who ken have been writin’ to you,” she said.

“Neither do I,” said Aladdin, giving, as is proper, the direct lie to
the remark inquisitive. He had put the letter in his pocket.

“Why don’t you open it and see?”

Aladdin blushed.

“Time enough after breakfast,” he said.

There was a silence.

“Jack’s eatin’ his breakfast; why ain’t you eatin’ yours?”

Aladdin fell upon his breakfast for the sake of peace. And Mrs. Brackett
said no more. Some days later, for she was not to be denied in little
matters or great, Mrs. Brackett found where Aladdin had hidden the
letter, took it up, read it, sniffed, and put it back, with the remark
that she never “see such carryin’s-on.”

Aladdin hid, and read his letter over and over; then an ominous silence
having informed him that Mrs. Brackett had gone abroad, he stole into
the parlor, perched on the piano-stool, and, like a second Columbus,
began to discover things which other people have to be shown. The joy of
his soul had to find expression, as often afterward the sorrow of it.

That winter Jack entered school in the lowest class, and the two little
boys were to be seen going or coming in close comradeship, fair weather
or foul. The yellow cat had affairs of gallantry, and bore to the
family, at about Christmas-time, five yellow kittens, which nobody had
the heart to drown, and about whose necks, at the age of eye-opening,
the Widow Brackett tied little white ribbons in large bows.

Sometimes Aladdin saw Margaret, but only for a little.

So the years passed, and Aladdin turned his sixteenth year. He was very
tall and very thin, energetic but not strong, very clever, but with less
application than an uncoerced camel. To single him from other boys, he
was full of music and visions. And rhymes were beginning to ring in his
head.

A week came when the rhymes and the music went clean out of his head,
which became as heavy as a scuttle full of coal, and he walked about
heavily like an old man.



VIII


One day, during the morning session of school, Aladdin’s head got so
heavy that he could hardly see, and he felt hot all over. He spoke to
the teacher and was allowed to go home. Mrs. Brackett, when she saw him
enter the yard, was in great alarm, for she at once supposed that he had
done something awful, which was not out of the question, and suffered
expulsion.

“What have you done?” she said.

“Nothing,” said Aladdin. “I think I’m going to be sick.”

Mrs. Brackett tossed her hands heavenward.

“What is the matter?” she cried.

“I don’t know,” said Aladdin. She followed him into the house and up the
stairs, which he climbed heavily.

“Where do you feel bad, ‘Laddin O’Brien?” she said sharply.

“It’s my head, ma’am,” said Aladdin. He went into his room and lay face
down on the bed, having first dropped his schoolbooks on the floor, and
began to talk fluently of kings’ daughters and genii and copper bottles.

The Widow Brackett was an active woman of action. Flat-footed and
hatless, but with incredible speed, she dashed down the stairs, out
of the house, and up the street. She returned in five minutes with the
doctor.

The doctor said, “Fever.” It was quite evident that it was fever; but
a doctor’s word for it put everything on a comfortable and satisfactory
footing.

“We must get him to bed,” said the doctor. He made the attempt alone,
but Aladdin struggled, and the doctor was old. Mrs. Brackett came to the
rescue and, finally, they got Aladdin, no longer violent, into his bed,
while the doctor, in a soft voice, said what maybe it was and what maybe
it wasn’t,--he leaned to a bilious fever,--and prescribed this and that
as sovereign in any case. They darkened the room, and Aladdin was sick
with typhoid fever for many weeks. He was delirious much too much, and
Mrs. Brackett got thin with watching. Occasionally it seemed as if he
might possibly live, but oftenest as if he would surely die.

In his delirium for the most part Aladdin dwelt upon Margaret, so that
his love for her was an old story to Mrs. Brackett. One gay spring
morning, after a terrible night, Aladdin’s fever cooled a little, and he
was able to talk in whispers.

“Mrs. Brackett,” he said, “Mrs. Brackett.”

She came hurriedly to the bed.

“I know you’re feelin’ better, ‘Laddin O’Brien.”

He smiled up at her.

“Mrs. Brackett,” he said, “I dreamed that Margaret St. John came here to
ask how I was--did she?”

Margaret hadn’t. She had not, so hedged was her life, even heard that
Aladdin lay sick.

Mrs. Brackett lied nobly.

“She was here yesterday,” she said, “and that anxious to know all about
you.”

Aladdin looked like one that had found peace.

“Thank you,” he said.

Mrs. Brackett raised his head, pillow and all, very gently, and gave him
his medicine.

“How’s Jack?” said Aladdin.

“He comes twice every day to ask about you,” said Mrs. Brackett. “He’s
livin’ with my brother-in-law.”

“That’s good,” said Aladdin. He lay back and dozed. After a while he
opened his eyes.

“Mrs. Brackett-”

“What is it, deary?” The good woman had been herself on the point of
dozing, but was instantly alert.

“Am I going to die?”

“You goin’ to die!” She tried to make her voice indignant, but it broke.

“I want to know.”

“He wants to know, good land!” exclaimed Mrs. Brackett.

“If a man’s going to die,” said Aladdin, aeat-sixteen, “he wants to
know, because he has things that have to be done.”

“Doctor said you wasn’t to talk much,” said Mrs. Brackett.

“If I’ve got to die,” said Aladdin, abruptly, “I’ve got to see
Margaret.”

A woman in a blue wrapper, muddy slippers, her gray hair disheveled,
hatless, her eyes bright and wild, burst suddenly upon Hannibal St. John
where he sat in his library reading in the book called “Hesperides.”

“Senator St. John,” she began rapidly, “Aladdin O’Brien’s sick in my
house, and the last thing he said was, ‘I’ve got to see Margaret’; and
he’s dyin’ wantin’ to see her, and I’ve come for her, and she’s got to
come.”

It was a tribute to St. John’s genius that in spite of her incoherent
utterance he understood precisely what the woman was driving at.

“You say he’s dying?” he said.

“Doctor’s given up hope. He’s had a relapse since this mornin’, and
she’s got to come right now if she’s to see him at all.”

The senator hesitated for once.

“It’s got nothin’ to do with the proprieties,” said Mrs. Brackett,
sternly, “nor what he was to her, nor her to him; it’s a plain case of
humanity and--”

“What is the nature of the sickness?” asked the senator.

“It’s fever--”

“Is it contagious?” asked the senator.

“No, it ain’t!” almost shrieked the old lady. “And what if it was?”

“Of course if it were contagious she couldn’t go,” said the senator.

“It ain’t contagious, and, what’s more, he once laid down his life for
her on the log, that time.”

“If you assure me the fever is not contagious--”

“You’ll let her come--”

“It seems nonsense,” said the senator. “They are only children, and I
don’t want her to get silly ideas.”

“Only children!” exclaimed Mrs. Brackett. “Senator, give me the troubles
of the grown-ups, childbirth, and losing the first-born with none
to follow, the losing of husband and mother, and the approach of old
age,--give me them and I’ll bear them, but spare me the sorrows and
trials of little children which we grown-ups ain’t strong enough to
bear. You can say I said so,” she finished defiantly.

The senator bowed in agreement.

“I believe you are right,” he said. “I will take you home in my
carriage, Mrs.--”

“Brackett,” said she, with pride.

The senator stepped into the hall and raised his voice the least trifle.

“Daughter!”

She answered from several rooms away, and came running. Her hands were
inky, and she held a letter. She was no longer the timid little girl
of the island, for somehow that escapade had emancipated her. She had
waited for a few days in expectation of damnation, but, that failing to
materialize, had turned over a leaf in her character, and became such a
bully at home that the family and servants loved her more and more from
day to day. She was fourteen at this time; altogether exquisite and
charming and wayward.

“Aladdin O’Brien is very sick, daughter,” said the senator, “and we are
going to see him.”

“And don’t tell him that you didn’t come to ask after him yesterday,”
 said Mrs. Brackett, defiantly, “because I said you did. I had my
reasons,” she went on, “and you can say I said so.”

Margaret ran up-stairs to get her hat. She was almost wild with
excitement and foreboding of she knew not what.

The letter which she had been writing fell from her hand. She picked it
up, looked hastily at the superscription, “Mr. Peter Manners, Jr.,” and
tore it into pieces.



IX


There is no doubt that Aladdin’s recovery dated from Margaret’s visit.
The poor boy was too sick to say what he had planned, but Margaret
sat by his bed for a while and held his hand, and said little abrupt
conventional things that meant much more to them both, and that was
enough. Besides, and under the guns of her father’s eyes, just before
she went away she stooped and kissed him on the forehead, and that was
more than enough to make anybody get over anything, Aladdin thought.
So he slept a long cool sleep after Margaret had gone, and woke free of
fever. As he lay gathering strength to sit up in bed, which treat had
been promised him in ten days, Aladdin’s mind worked hard over the
future, and what he could machinate in order one day to be almost worthy
to kiss the dust under Margaret’s feet. She sent him flowers twice, but
was not allowed to come and see him again.

Aladdin had awful struggles with the boredom of convalescence. He felt
perfectly well, and they wouldn’t let him get up and out; everything
forbidden he wanted to eat. And his one solace was the Brackett library.
This was an extraordinary collection of books. They were seven, and how
they got there nobody knows. The most important in the collection was,
in Mrs. Brackett’s estimation, an odd volume of an encyclopedia, bound
in tree-calf and labeled, “Safety-lamps to Stranglers.” Next were four
fat tomes in the German language on scientific subjects; these, provided
that anybody had ever wanted to read them, had never succeeded
in getting themselves read, but they had cuts and cuts which were
fascinating to surmise about. The sixth book was the second volume of
a romance called “The Headsman,” by “the author of ‘The Spy,’” and the
seventh was a back-split edition of Poe’s poems.

The second volume of “The Headsman” went like cakes and syrup on a cold
morning, for it was narrative, and then it was laid aside, because it
was dull. The four German books had their cuts almost examined out of
them, and the encyclopedia book, from “Safety-lamps to Stranglers,”
 practically had its contents torn out and devoured. In after life
Aladdin could always speak with extraordinary fluency, feeling, and
understanding on anything that began with S, such as Simeon Stylites and
Senegambia. But the poems of Poe were what made his sickness worth while
and put the call upon all his after life. We learn of the critics and
professors of English that there are greater lyric poets than Poe. They
will base this on technicalities and theories of what poetry has been
and what poetry ought to be, and will not take into account the fact
that of all of them--Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth when he is a poet
at all, Heine, and the lyric body of Goethe and the rest--not one in
proportion to the mass of his production so often leaves the ground and
spreads wings as Poe,--

    If I might dwell
    Where Israfel
    Hath dwelt, and he where I,
    He might not sing so wildly well
    A mortal melody,
    While a bolder note than his might swell
    From my lyre within the sky,--

and that where they have, they have perhaps risen a little higher, but
never have sung more hauntingly and clear. The wonderful sounds and
the unearthly purity--the purity of a little child that has died--took
Aladdin by the throat and shook up the imagination and music that had
lain dormant within him; his father’s bent for invention clarified into
a passion for creation. The first thing he read was three stanzas on the
left-hand page where the book opened to his uneager hands, and his eyes,
expectant of disappointment,--for up to that time, never having read
any, he hated poetry,--fell on one of the five or six perfect poems in
the world:

    Helen, thy beauty is to me
    Like those Nicean barks of yore
    That gently o’er a perfumed sea
    The weary, wayworn wanderer bore
    To his own native shore.

    On desperate seas long wont to roam,
    Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
    Thy naiad airs have brought me home
    To the glory that was Greece,
    And the grandeur that was Rome.

    Lo, in yon brilliant window-niche
    How statue-like I see thee stand,
    The agate lamp within thy hand!
    Ah, Psyche! From the regions which
    Are holy land.

And he knew that he had read the most exquisite, the most insouciant,
and the most universal account of every man’s heart’s desire--Margaret
as she would be when she grew tall. He knew little of the glory that was
Greece or the grandeur that was Rome, but whatever they were, Margaret
had all of them, and the hyacinth hair, very thick and clustery and
beautiful, and the naiad airs. Ah, Psyche!

And he read forward and back in the book, and after a little he knew
that he had a soul, and that the only beautiful thing in the world is
beauty, and the only sad thing, and that beauty is truth.

Open at the lines to Helen he laid the book face down upon his heart,
with his hands clasped over it, and shut his eyes.

“Now I know what I’ve got to do,” he said. “Now I know what I’ve got to
do.”

He dreamed away hours until suddenly the need of deeds set him bolt
upright in bed, and he called to Mrs. Brackett to bring him pencil
and paper. From that time on he was seldom without them, and, by
turns reading and writing, entered with hope and fortitude into the
challenging field of literature. And from the first, however ignorant
and unkempt the effort, he wrote a kind of literature, for he buckled to
no work that he knew, and was forever striving after an ideal (nebulous,
indescribable, and far) of his own, and that is literature. Go to those
who have wrought for--forever (without, of course, knowing it) and those
who have wrought earnestly for the day, and these things you will find
made the god in their machine: Raphael’s sonnets and Dante’s picture!
Aladdin had no message, that he knew of, for the world, but the call
of one of the arts was upon him; and he knew that willy-nilly he must
answer that call as long as eyes could see, or hands hold pen, or tongue
call for pencil and paper, money buy them, or theft procure them. He set
himself stubbornly and courageously to the bitter-sweet task of learning
to write.

“It must be like learning anything else,” he said, his eyes on a sheet
of seemingly uncorrectable misbalances, “and just because I’m rotten at
it now doesn’t prove that if I practise and practise, and try and try,
and hope and hope, I won’t be some good sometime.”

He saw very clearly the squat dark tower itself in the midst of the
chin-upon-hand hills, and the world and his friends sitting about to
see him fail. He saw them, and he knew them all, and yet, with Childe
Roland,

    Dauntless the slughorn to his lips he set,
    And blew.

And incidentally, when he got well and returned to school, he entered
on a period of learning his lessons, for he thought that these might one
day be of use to him in his chosen line.



X


Senator St. John, for he was at heart democratic, and heard little of
Aladdin that was not to Aladdin’s credit, derigorized the taboo which he
had once placed on Aladdin’s and Margaret’s friendship, and allowed the
young man to come occasionally to the house, and occasionally loaned
him books. Margaret was really at the bottom of this, but she stayed
comfortably at the bottom, and teased her father to do the needful, and
he, wrapped up in the great issues which were threatening to divide the
country, complied. In those days the senator’s interests extended
far beyond his family, Margaret and the three powerful sons who were
building a reputation for the firm of John St. John & Brothers, lawyers
in Portland. He gave Aladdin leave to come and go, even smiled grimly
as he did so, and, except at those moments when he met him face to
face, forgot that Aladdin existed. Margaret enjoyed Aladdin hugely,
and unconsciously sat for the heroine of every novel he began, and
the inspiration of every verse that he wrote. When Aladdin reached his
eighteenth year and Margaret her sixteenth there was such a delightful
and strong friendship between them that the other young people of the
town talked. Margaret in her heart of hearts was fonder of Aladdin than
of anybody else--when she was with him, or under the immediate influence
of having been with him, for nobody else had such extraordinary ideas,
or such a fund of amusing vitality, or such fascinating moods. Like
every one with a touch of the Celt in him, Aladdin was by turns
gloomiest and most unfortunate of all mortals upon whom the sun
positively would not shine, or the gayest of the gay. From his droll
manner of singing a song, to the seriousness with which he sometimes
bore all the sufferings of all the world, he seemed to her a most
complex and unusual individual. But his spells were of the instant, and
her thoughts were very often on that beautiful young man, Manners, who,
having completed his course at the law school, was coming to spend a
month before he should begin to practise. Since his first visit years
ago, Manners, now a grown man of twenty, had spent much of many of his
vacations with the St. Johns. The senator was obliged, as well as his
limitations would allow, to take the place of a mother to Margaret, and
though it was barely guessable from his words or actions, he loved Peter
Manners like a son, and had resolved, almost since the beginning, to end
by having him for one. And the last time that Manners had visited them
in Washington, St. John had seen to it that he shook hands with all the
great men who were making history. Once the senator and Margaret
had visited the Manners in New York. That had been a bitter time for
Aladdin, for while all the others of his age were sniffing timidly at
love and life, he had found his grand passion early and stuck to it, and
was now blissful with hope and now acrid with jealousy. Peter Manners he
hated with a green and jealous hatred. And if Peter Manners had any of
the baser passions, he divined this, and hated Aladdin back, but rather
contemptuously. They met occasionally, and the meetings, always in the
presence of Margaret, were never very happy. She was woman enough to
rejoice at being a bone of contention, and angel enough to hate seeing
good times spoiled.

But it was hard on Aladdin. He could go to her house almost when he
liked, and be welcomed by her, but to her father and the rest of the
household he was not especially welcome. They were always polite to him,
and always considerate, and he felt--quite rightly--that he was merely
tolerated, as a more or less presentable acquaintance of Margaret’s.
Manners, on the other hand, and it took less intuition to know it, was
not only greatly welcome to Margaret, but to all the others--from
the gardener up to the senator. Manners’ distinction of manner, his
wellbred, easy ways, his charmingly enunciative and gracious voice,
together with his naive and simple nature, went far with people’s
hearts. Aladdin bitterly conceded every advantage to his rival except
that of mind. To this, for he knew even in his humble moments that he
himself had it, he clung tenaciously. Mrs. Brackett, with a sneaking
admiration for Peter Manners, whom she had once seen on the street, had
Aladdin’s interests well in heart, and the lay of the matter well in
hand. She put it like this to a friendly gossip:

“I guess’ Laddin O’Brien’s ‘bout smaht enough to go a long ways further
than fine clothes and money and a genealogical past will carry a body.
He writes sometimes six and eight big sides of paper up in a day, and
if he ain’t content with that he just tears it up and goes at it again.
There won’t be anybody’ll go further in this world than ‘Laddin O’Brien,
and you can say I said so--”

Here under oath of secrecy Mrs. Brackett lowered her voice and divulged
a secret:

“He got a letter this mornin’ sayin’ that the Portland’spy’ is goin’ to
print three poems he sent ‘em, and enclosin’ three dollars to pay for
‘em. I guess beginnin’ right now he could go along at that rate and make
mebbe five or six hundred dollars a year. Poetry’s nothin’ to him; he
can write it faster than you and I can baste.”

At the very moment of this adoring act of divulgence Aladdin was in
the parlor, giving his first taste of success a musical soul, and
waiting--waiting--waiting until it should be late enough in the day for
him to climb the hill to the St. Johns’ and hand over the Big News to
Margaret. And as he sat before the piano, demipatient and wholly joyful,
his fingers twinkled the yellowed and black keys into fits of merriment,
or, after an abrupt pause, built heap upon heap of bass chords. Then
the mood would change and, to a whanging accompaniment, he would chant,
recitative fashion, the three poems which alone he had made.

The day waned, and it was time to go and tell Margaret. His way lay
past the railway-station, under the “Look out for the locomotive” sign,
across the track, and up the hill. In the air was the exhilarating
evening cool of June, and the fragrance of flowers, which in the north
country, to make up for the shorter tale of their days, bloom bigger
and smell sweeter than any other flowers in the world. Even in the dirty
paved square fronting the station was a smell of summer and flowers. You
could see people’s faces lighten and sniff it, as they got out of the
hot, cindery coaches of the five-forty, which had just rolled in.

The St. Johns’ fine pair of bays and their open carriage were drawn up
beside the station. The horses were entering a spirited, ground-pawing
protest against the vicinity of that alway inexplicable and snorting
monster on wheels. On the platform, evidently waiting for some one to
get off the train, stood St. John and Margaret. She looked much fresher
and sweeter than a rose, and Aladdin noted that she was wearing her hair
up for the first time. Her dress was a floaty white affair with a
blue ribbon round it, and her beautiful, gay young face flushed with
excitement and anticipation till it sparkled. There was a large crowd
getting off the train, at that aggravating rate of progression with
which people habitually leave a crowded public conveyance or a theater,
and Margaret and her father were looking through the windows of the cars
to see if they could catch a glimpse of whom they sought. Suddenly the
senator broke into a smile and waved his cane. The action was so unusual
for him that it looked grotesque. Margaret stood on tiptoe and waved her
hand, and a presentiment came to Aladdin and took away all his joy.

Peter Manners, looking fresh and clean in spite of his long, dusty ride,
got off the train and made a hilarious rush for his friends. He
shook hands with Margaret, then with the senator, and turned again to
Margaret. She was altogether too pretty, and much too glad to see him.
In the excitement of the moment it couldn’t be borne, and he kissed her.
Then they both laughed, and the senator laughed, for he was glad. He put
his great hand on Manners’ shoulder, and laughing and talking, the three
went to the carriage. Then the senator remembered that the checks had
been forgotten, and against a voluble protest he secured them from
Manners, and went after an expressman. Having found the expressman--one
of his constituents and a power in the town,--he handed him the checks,
a fifty-cent piece, and a ponderous joke as old as Xerxes, at which the
expressman roared. Manners stood by the carriage and looked at Margaret.
“Lord God,” he thought, “it has come at last!” and they grinned at each
other.

“Mmm!” said Margaret, who stood for the glory that was Greece and the
grandeur that was Rome. She had not expected to be so glad to see him.

Meanwhile Aladdin had turned and was going home.

Margaret caught sight of his back, and the pitiful little droop in the
usually erect shoulders, and she divined like a flash, and called
after him. He pretended not to hear and went on. In his pocket was the
editor’s letter which he had designed to show her. It had lain down and
died.

“Why does that man hate me so?” said Manners.

A little of the joy of meeting had gone. A cloud passed over the sun,
and the earth was darkened. Many drops of rain began to fall, each
making a distinct splash as it struck. One began to smell the disturbed
dust. But the flowers continued to send up their incense to heaven, and
Manners put his light overcoat about Margaret.



XI


Aladdin had a large acquaintance in the town among all sorts of men,
and, as he went home sorrowfully in the rain, he met a youth, older
than himself, who had an evil notoriety; for being born with brains, of
respectable people, and propitiously launched on the world, he had begun
in his early teens, and in the face of the most heartrending solicitude,
to drink himself to death. The miserable part of it was that everybody
loved him when he was sober, and out of consideration to his family
still asked him to the best that the town could do in the way of parties
and entertainments. He was a good-looking young man with a big frame and
a pale face. His real name was William Addison Larch, but he was better
known as “Beau Larch.” He had a nervous, engaging smile, of which he
made frequent use.

“My word, Aladdin,” he said, “you look sick as a dog. Come with me and
take a snifter for it.”

Aladdin hesitated a moment. And as soon as he had thoroughly made up his
mind that it was wrong to say so, he said:

“I believe I will.” The Celt in him was feeling suicidal. They went into
the ground-floor room of a house where liquor was sold.

“For me, whisky,” said Beau Larch.

“The same for me,” said Aladdin, with something suspiciously like a
gulp. The first drink which a man takes against his better judgment is
a grisly epoch in his life. Aladdin realized this, and was at once
miserable and willing that it should be so.

“To those that love us!” said Beau Larch.

Aladdin put down his liquor without grimace or gasp.

Beau Larch paid.

In Aladdin’s pocket were three dollars, the first mile-post on the steep
road to his ideal. He felt, to be sure that they were there.

“Now you ‘ll have one with me,” he said.

When the sudden rain-storm had rained and thundered and lightened itself
out, they went to another saloon, and from there to the Boat Club, of
which Beau Larch was a member and whither he asked Aladdin to supper.
Fishes and lobsters and clams were the staple articles of Boat Club
suppers, and over savory messes of these, helped down with much whisky
and water, Aladdin and Beau Larch made the evening spin. Aladdin,
talking eagerly and with the naivete of a child, wondered why he had
never liked this man so much before. And Larch told the somewhat
abject story of his life three times with an introduction of much racy
anecdote.

Aladdin’s head held surprisingly well. Every now and then he would hand
himself an inward congratulation on the alertness and clearness of
his mind, and think what a fine constitution he must have. They got to
singing after a while, and reciting poems, of which each knew a quantity
by heart. And, oddly enough, Aladdin, though he had been brought up to
speak sound American, developed in his cups, and afterward clung to,
in moments of exhilaration or excitement, an indescribably faint but
perfectly distinct Hibernian accent. It was the heritage to which he
was heir, and made his eager and earnest rendering of “Annabel Lee” so
pathetic that Beau Larch wept, and knocked a glass off the table....

Men came and sat with them, and Aladdin discovered in himself what
he had hitherto never suspected--the power of becoming heart-to-heart
friends with strangers in two seconds.

Aladdin was never able to remember just how or when or with whom they
left the Boat Club. He only remembered walking and walking and talking
and talking, and finally arguing a knotty question, on which all
defended the same side, and then sitting down on the steps of a house
in a low quarter of the town, and pouring the ramifications of all his
troubles into the thoroughly sympathetic if somewhat noncomprehending
ears of Beau Larch. He talked long and became drunker as he talked,
while Larch became soberer. Then Aladdin remembered that the door at the
top of the steps had opened, and a frowzy head had been stuck out, and
that a brassy voice, with something at once pathetic and wheedling in
it, had said:

“Aren’t you coming in, boys?”

Then Aladdin remembered that Beau Larch and he had had angry words,
and that Beau Larch had told him not to make an ass of himself, and for
heaven’s sake to go home. To which Aladdin had retorted that he was old
enough to know what was good for him, and hated the world and didn’t
give a damn who knew it, and wouldn’t go home. Aladdin could swear that
after that he only closed his eyes for a second to shut out something or
other, and that when he opened them, the reverberation of a door closing
was in his ears. But for all that Beau Larch had gone, and was to be
seen neither up the street nor down. Although his own was past mending,
Beau Larch, drunk as he was, had done a good deed that night, for he had
guarded a precious innocence against the assaults of a drunken little
Irish boy who was feeling down about something--a girl named something
or other, Beau Larch thought, and another boy named something or other.
The next day Beau had forgotten even that much.

Aladdin thought that Larch was hiding in jest. He arose unsteadily and
wandered off in search of him. After a time he found himself before
the door of his own house. There were lights in the parlor, and Aladdin
became almost sober. He realized with a thrill of stricken conscience
that Mrs. Brackett was sitting up for him, and he was afraid. He tried
the front door and found it unlocked. He went in. On the right, the door
leading into the parlor stood open. On the table burned a lamp. Beside
the table in the crushed plush rocker sat Mrs. Brackett. Her spectacles
were pushed high up on her forehead. Her eyes were closed, and her mouth
was slightly open. From the corners of her eyes red marks ran down her
cheeks. Her thin gray hair was in disarray. In her lap, open, lay her
huge family Bible; a spray of pressed maidenhair fern marked the place.

Aladdin, somewhat sobered by now, and already stung with the anguish of
remorse, tiptoed into the parlor and softly blew out the light; but the
instant before he did so he glanced down at the Bible in the good lady’s
lap and saw that she had been reading about the prodigal son. Great
tears ran out of Aladdin’s eyes. He went up-stairs, weeping and on
tiptoe, and as he passed the door of his brother’s room he heard a stir
within.

“Is that you, ‘Laddin?”

“Sssh, darlint,” said Aladdin; “you’ll wake Mother Brackett.”

In his own room there was a lamp burning low, and on his bureau was a
note for him from Margaret:

DEAR ALADDIN: Papa wants you to come up and have supper with us.
Peter Manners is here, and I think it will be fun. Please do come, and
remember a lot of foolish songs to sing. Why wouldn’t you speak to me?
It hurts so when you act like that....

Aladdin, kissing the note, went down on his knees and twice began to
pray, “O God--O God!” He could say no more, but all the penitence and
heartburnings of his soul were in his prayer. Later he lay on his bed
staring into a darkness which moved in wheels, and he kept saying to the
darkness:

    “Neither the angels in Heaven above,
       Nor the demons down under the sea,
     Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
       Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.”

Late in the still morning he awoke, grieving and hurt, for he did not
see how he should ever face Mrs. Brackett, or his brother, or Margaret,
or himself, or anybody ever again.



XII


There was in town at this time what passed for a comic-opera troupe, and
Margaret and her father, by way of doing honor to their guest, invited
all the young people to go to the performance and attend a supper
afterward. The party occupied the three foremost rows in the music-hall,
and Aladdin sat next to Margaret, and Manners sat upon the other side.

The hero of the piece was a jovial big rascal with a spirited voice, and
much byplay which kept his good-natured audience in titters--from the
young gentlemen and little shrieks--from the young ladies. Mr. Blythoe,
the hero, when the curtain had fallen upon what the management was
pleased to call the second act, consented, in response to continued
applause, due to a double back somersault and two appropriate remarks
fired off in midair (this was his great psychic moment), to make a
little speech and sing a song. His speech, though syntactically erratic,
was delivered in a loud, frank way that won everybody’s heart, and in
closing he said:

“Three nights ago I met with a young feller in this tow--city
[applause], and when we had taken one together for luck [titters from
the young gentlemen, who wanted one another to know that they knew what
he meant], he made me the loan of the song I’m a-going to sing. He made
up the words and the tune of this song hisself, and he’s right here in
this audience.” This gave an opportunity for some buffoonery among the
young gentlemen. Mr. Blythoe looked for one instant straight at Aladdin,
and Aladdin went into a cold sweat, for he began to recollect that
somewhere on a certain awful night he had taken drinks with Mr. Blythoe
and had sung him songs. Mr. Blythoe went on:

“This young gentleman said I specially wasn’t to mention his name, and
I won’t, but I want all you ladies and gentlemen to know that this here
beautiful ballad was composed right here in this tow--city [applause] by
a citizen of this city. And here goes.”

Then Mr. Blythoe did a wonderful thing. Much was owing to the words and
air, but a little something to the way in which Mr. Blythoe sang. He
took his audience with the first bar, and had some of them crying when
he was through. And the song should have been silly. It was about a gay,
gay young dog of a crow, that left the flock and went to a sunny land
and lived a mad, mad life; and finally, penitent and old, came home to
the north country and saw his old playmates in the distance circling
about the old pine-tree, but was too weak to reach them, or to call loud
enough for them to hear, and so lay down and died, died, died. The tune
was the sweetest little plaintive wail, and at the end of each stanza it
died, died, till you had to cry.

Mr. Blythoe received tremendous applause, but refused to encore. He
winked to Aladdin and bowed himself off. Then Aladdin executed an
unparalleled blush. He could feel it start in the small of his back and
spread all over him--up under the roots of his hair to the top of his
head. He should have felt proud, instead of which he was suffused with
shame. Margaret caught sight of his face.

“What is it, Aladdin?” she said in a whisper.

“Nothing.”

“Won’t you tell me?”

“It’s nothing.” He got redder and redder.

“Please.”

With downcast eyes he shook his head. She looked at him dubiously and
a little pathetically for a moment. Then she said, “Silly goose,” and
turned to Manners.

“Poor old crow!” said Manners. “I had one, Margaret, when I was little;
he had his wings clipped and used to follow me like a dog, and one day
he saw some of his old friends out on the salt-marsh, and he hopped out
to talk it over with them, and they set upon him and killed him. And
I couldn’t get there quick enough to help him--I beg your pardon.” He
picked up a fan and handed it to the girl on his left, and she, having
dropped it on purpose, blushed, thanked him, and giggled. Manners turned
to Margaret again. “Ever since then,” he said, “when I have a gun in my
hand and see a crow, I want to kill him for the sake of the crows that
killed mine, and to let him go for the sake of mine, who was such a nice
old fellow. So it’s an awful problem.”

Aladdin sat and looked straight before him. “Is real fame as awful as
this?” he thought.

Somebody clapped him on the shoulder, and a hearty voice, something the
worse for wear, said loudly in his ear, “Bully, Aladdin, bully!”

Aladdin looked up and recognized that bad companion, Beau Larch.

“That’s all right,” Aladdin tried to say, but Mr. Larch would not be
downed.

“Wasn’t it bully, Margaret?” he said.

“Oh--hallo--hallo, Beau!” said she, starting and turning round and
collecting her wits. “What? Wasn’t what bully?”

Aladdin frowned at Larch with all the forbiddingness that he could
muster, but Larch was imperturbable.

“Why, Aladdin’s song!” he said. “You know, the one about the old
crow--the one the man just sang.”

Here a young lady, over whom Beau Larch was leaning, confided to her
escort in an audible, nervous voice that she knew Beau Larch had been
drinking, but she wouldn’t say why she knew--anybody could see he had;
and then she sniffed with her nose by way of indicating that seeing was
not the only or best method of telling.

“You don’t mean to say--” said Margaret to Aladdin, and looked him in the
eyes. “Why, Aladdin!” she said. And then: “Peter--Peter--‘Laddin wrote
it, he did. Isn’t it gr-reat!”

And Peter, rising to the occasion, said, “Bully,” and “I thought it was
great,” with such absolute frankness and sincerity that Aladdin’s heart
almost warmed toward him. It was presently known all over the house that
Aladdin had written the song. And some of the more clownish of the young
people called for Author, Author. Aladdin hung his head.

At supper at the St. Johns’ later was a crisp, brisk gentleman with
grayish hair, who talked in a pleasant, dry way. Aladdin learned that it
was Mr. Blankinship, editor and proprietor of the Portland “Spy.” Almost
immediately on learning this important item, he saw Mr. Blankinship
exchange a word with Margaret and come toward him.

“Mr. O’Brien?”

“Yes, sir.”

“The same that sent us three poems a while ago?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And you wrote that song we heard to-night?”

“Yes, sir.” Aladdin was now fiery red.

“What do you do for a living?”

“I’ve just finished school,” said Aladdin. “And I don’t know what to
do.”

“Newspaper work appeal to you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Timid as a coot,” thought Mr. Blankinship.

“Write easily?” he said. “Fast--short words?”

Aladdin thought a moment. “Yes, sir,” he said coolly.

“Less timid than a coot,” thought Mr. Blankinship.

“Willing to live in Portland?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’ll give you five dollars a week and give you a trial.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Can you get moved and start work Monday?”

“Yes, sir.”

Mr. Blankinship smiled cheerfully.

“Pretty entertainment, isn’t it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, O’Brien, see you Monday; hope we get on.” Mr. Blankinship nodded
pleasantly and passed up the room to the punch, muttering as he went,
“Writes better than talks--dash of genius--more or less timid than a
coot.”

Aladdin went quickly to find Margaret. He traced her to the pantry,
where she was hurrying the servant who had charge of the ice-cream.
Aladdin waited until the servant had gone out with a heaping tray.

“Margaret,” he said, “I’m going away to live.”

He spoke in the flat, colorless voice with which a little child
announces that it has hurt itself.

“What do you mean, Aladdin?” She changed color slightly.

“Only that I’ve got to make a living, Margaret, and it’s on a paper, so
I ought to be glad.”

“Aren’t you glad, Aladdin?”

“A little.”

“Aladdin--”

“Margaret--O Margaret--”

She read in his eyes what was coming.

“Not now, Aladdin,” she said.

“Not now--dear Aladdin.”

“Then you know?”

“I’ve always known, Aladdin, and been grateful and that proud.”

“Will there never be any chance for me, Margaret?”

“Aladdin, I think I like you better than anybody else in the world--”

“Darling--” he had never supposed that it could be said so easily; he
leaned toward her.

“No,” she said suddenly; “I’ve got to go and see after all those foolish
people.”

“Just for the sake of old times, and now, and new times--”

She hesitated, reddened a little, and then, as sweetly and innocently as
a child, put up her lips for him to kiss.



XIII


Hannibal St. John’s campaign for reelection to the senatorship was,
owing to a grievous error in tact, of doubtful issue. A hue and cry
arose against him among his constituents, and things in general fell
out so unhappily that it looked toward the close of the contest as if he
would be obliged to sit idle and dangle his heels, while the two halves
of the country, pushing against each other, were rising in the middle
like the hinge of a toggle-joint into the most momentous crisis in
the nation’s history. It looked as if the strong man, with his almost
blasphemous intolerance of disunion, his columnlike power of supporting,
and his incomparable intellect, was to stand in the background and watch
the nightmare play from afar. He fought for his place in the forefront
of the battle with a great fervor of bitterness, and the possibility of
defeat weighed upon his glowering soul like a premature day of judgment.
He knew himself to be the one man for the opportunity, and could his
true feelings have found utterance, they would have said, “Damn us
everlastingly in hell, but don’t shelve us now!”

Opposed to St. John was a Mr. Bispham, of about quarter his height
intellectually and integrally--a politician, simple, who went to war for
loot. But he was blessed with a tremendous voice and an inexhaustible
store of elemental, fundamental humor, upon the waves of which the ship
bearing his banner floated high. It seemed that because of one glaring
exhibition of tactlessness, and a lack of humor, a really important,
valuable, and honest man was to lose the chance of serving his country
to a designing whipper-snapper, who was without even the saving grace of
violent and virulent prejudices. And so the world goes. It seemed at one
time that St. John’s chance was a ghost of a chance, and his friends,
sons, and relatives, toiling headstrong by night and day, were brought
up at the verge of despair. To make the situation even more difficult,
St. John himself was prostrated with the gout, so that his telling
oratory and commanding personality could not be brought to bear.
Margaret was never far from her father’s side, and she worked like a dog
for him, writing to dictation till her hands became almost useless, and
when the spasms of pain were great, leaving her work to kiss his old
brow.

It was at this time that people all over the State began to take up a
song with an inimitably catching tune. The words of this song held up
Mr. Bispham in so shrewdly true and farcically humorous a light that
even his own star began to titter and threatened to slip from its high
place in the heavens. The song fell so absolutely on the head of
the nail that Mr. Bispham, when he heard it for the first time, was
convulsed with anger and talked of horse-whips. The second time he heard
it, he drew himself up with dignity and pretended not to notice, and
the third time he broke into a cold sweat, for he began to be afraid of
those words and that tune. At a mass-meeting, while in the midst of a
voluble harangue, somebody in the back of the hall punctuated--an absurd
statement, which otherwise might have passed unnoticed, by whistling the
first bar of the song. Mr. Bispham faced the tittering like a man, and
endeavored to rehabilitate himself. But his hands had slipped on the
handle of the audience, and the forensic rosin of Demosthenes would not
have enabled him to regain his grip. He was cruelly assured of the fact
by the hostile and ready-witted whistler. Again Mr. Bispham absurded.
This time the tune broke out in all parts of the hall and was itself
punctuated by catcalls and sotto-voce insults delivered with terrific
shouts. Mr. Bispham’s speech was hurriedly finished, and the peroration
came down as flat as a skater who tries a grape-vine for the first time.
He left the hall hurriedly, pale and nervous. The tune followed him down
the street and haunted him to his room. The alarming takingness of it
had gotten in at his ear, and as he was savagely undressing he caught
himself in the traitorous act of humming it to himself.

Among others to leave the hall was a tall, slim young man with freckles
across the bridge of his nose and very bright blue eyes. A party of
young men accompanied him, and all were a little noisy, and, as they
made the street, broke lustily into the campaign song. People said,
“That’s him,” “That’s O’Brien,” “That’s Aladdin O’Brien,” “That’s the
man wrote it,” and the like. The young men disappeared down the street
singing at the tops of their voices, with interlardations of turbulent,
mocking laughter.

Aladdin’s song went all over the North, and his name became known in the
land.

Hannibal St. John was not musical. There were only four tunes, and three
of them were variations of “Carry Me Back to Old Virginia,” that he
recognized when he heard them. As he lay on his bed of pain, he
heard the shrill whistle of his gardener piping in the garden below.
Unconsciously the senator’s well hand marked the time. All day, as he
came and went about his business, the gardener kept whistling that tune,
and the senator heard and reheard ever with increasing pleasure. And
this was an extraordinary thing, for it was as difficult or nearly so
to move Hannibal St. John with music as it must have been for Orpheus
to get himself approached by rocks and stones and trees, and far more
difficult than it ever was for the Pied Piper to achieve a following of
brats and rats.

Margaret had been for a drive with a girl friend. She came home and to
her father’s side in great spirits.

“Oh, papa,” she cried, “will you do me a favor?”

She read consent.

“Claire has got the wonderfulest song, and I want you to let her come in
and sing it for you.”

“A song?” said the senator, doubtfully.

“Papa de-e-ear, please.”

He smiled grimly.

“If Claire will not be shocked by my appearance,” he said against hope.

“Rubbish,” cried Margaret, and flew out of the room.


There were a few preliminary gasps and giggles in the hall, and the
two maidens, as sedate and demure as mice, entered. Claire was a little
party, with vivacious manners and a comical little upturned face.

“How do you do, senator?” she said. “I’m so sorry you’re laid up. Isn’t
it lovely out?” She advanced and shook his well hand.

“Won’t you take a chair?” said the senator.

“I just ran in for a moment. Margaret and I thought maybe you’d like to
hear the new campaign song that everybody’s singing. My brother brought
it up from Portland--” she paused, out of breath.

“It would afford me great pleasure,” said the senator.

And forthwith Claire sang in a rollicking voice. The tune was the same
as that which the gardener had been whistling. St. John recognized it
in spite of the difference in the mediums and smiled. Then he smiled
because of the words, and presently he laughed. It was the first real
pleasure he had had in many a day.

“Everybody is wild about it,” said Claire, when she had finished.

The senator was shaking with laughter.

“That’s good,” he said, “that’s good.”

“Papa,” said Margaret, when Claire had gone, “who do you think wrote
that song?”

“I don’t know,” said the senator. “But it’s good.”

“Aladdin wrote it,” said Margaret.

“Upon my word!” said the senator.

Margaret knelt and threw her arms about her father’s neck and blushed a
lovely blush.

“Isn’t it splendid?”

There was a ring at the front door, and a telegram was brought in.

“Read it, Peggy,” said the senator. He used that name only when moved
about something. The despatch was from the senator’s youngest son,
Hannibal, and read:

    Do not worry; we are singing Bispham up a tree.

“And Aladdin wrote the song!” cried Margaret. “Aladdin wrote it!”

The senator’s face clouded for a moment. He forced the cloud to pass.

“We must thank him,” he said. “We must thank him.”

Senator St. John was reelected by a small majority. Everybody admitted
that it was due to Aladdin O’Brien’s song. It was impossible to disguise
the engaging childishness of the vote.



XIV


As he went to his desk in the back room of the Portland “Spy” offices
the morning after the election, Aladdin had an evil headache, and a
subconscious hope that nobody would speak to him suddenly. He felt that
his arms and legs might drop off if anybody did, and he could have sworn
that he saw a gray sparrow with blue eyes run into a dark corner, and
turn into a mouse. But he was quite free from penitence, as the occasion
of this last offense had been joy and triumph, whereas that of his first
had been sorrow. He lighted a bad cigar, put off his editorial till
later, and covered a whole sheet of paper with pictures like these:

(Transcriber’s note: These are simple sketches of birds and animals.)

He looked back with a certain smug satisfaction upon a hilarious evening
beginning with a dinner at the club, which some of the older adherents
of St. John had given him in gratitude for the part he had taken in the
campaign. He remembered that he had not given a bad exhibition, and that
noble prophecies had been made of his future by gentlemen in their cups,
and that he himself, when just far enough gone to be courageous without
being silly, had made a snappy little speech of thanks which had been
received with great applause, and that later he had sung his campaign
song and others, and that finally, in company with an ex-judge, whose
hat was also decorated with a wreath of smilax, he had rolled amiably
about the town in a hack, going from one place where drinks could be
gotten to another, and singing with great fervor and patriotism:

    Zhohn Brownzh bozhy liezh a mole-ring in zhe grave.

Aladdin thought over these things with pleasure, for he had fallen
under the dangerous flattery of older men, and with less pleasure of the
editorial which it was his immediate business to write. His brisk,
crisp chief, Mr. Blankinship, came in for a moment, walking testily and
looking like the deuce.

“So you’ve showed up, Aladdin, have you?” he said. “That’s young
blood. If any question of politics--I mean policy--arises, I leave it
absolutely to you. I’m going back to bed. Can’t you stop smoking that
rotten cigar?”

Aladdin laughed aloud, and Mr. Blankinship endeavored to smile.

“Somewhere,” he said, “in this transcendentally beautiful continent,
Aladdin, there may be some one that feels worse than I do, but I doubt
it.” He turned to go.

“Won’t Mr. Orde be here either?” said Aladdin.

“No; he’s home in bed. You’re editor-in-chief and everything else for
the day, see? And I wish I was dead.” Mr. Blankinship nodded, very
slightly, for it hurt, and went out.

The misery of others is a great cure: with the first sight of Mr.
Blankinship, Aladdin’s headache had gone, and he now pounced upon fresh
paper, got a notion out of the God-knows-where, wrote his editorial at
full speed, and finished it without once removing the cigar from his
mouth.

He had just done when the shrewd, inky little boy, who did everything
about the “Spy” offices which nobody else would do, entered and said
that a gentleman wanted to speak with Mr. O’Brien. Aladdin had the
gentleman shown up, and recognized the oldest of Hannibal St. John’s
sons; he knew them well by sight, but it so happened that he had never
met them. They were the three biggest and most clean-cut young men
in Maine, measuring between six feet three and four; erect, massive,
utterly composed, and, if anything, a little stronger than so many
dray-horses. They were notable shots, great fishermen, and the whole
State was beginning to speculate with excitement about their respective
futures and the present almost glittering success of the law firm which
they composed. The oldest was the tallest and the strongest. He had been
known to break horseshoes and to tear a silver dollar in two. Iron was
as sealing-wax in his huge hands. His habits were Spartan. The second
son was almost a replica of the first--a little darker and a little less
vivid. The third was like the others; but his face was handsomer, and
not so strong. He was of a more gentle and winning disposition, for his
life was not ignorant of the frailties. The girl to whom he had
been engaged had died, and that had left a kind of sweetness, almost
beseechingness, in his manner, very engaging in so tall and strong a
man.

“Mr. O’Brien?” said John St. John.

Aladdin arose and held out his long, slender hand.

Aladdin had a way of moving which was very individual to himself, a
slight, ever so slight, exaggeration of stride and gesture, a kind of
captivating awkwardness and diffidence that was on the borderland of
grace and assurance. Like all slender people who work much with
their heads, he had a strong grip, but he felt that his hand was as
inconsistent as an eel when St. John’s closed over it.

“I came in for a moment,” said St. John, “to say that we are all
exceedingly grateful to you. Your song was a great factor in my father’s
reelection to the Senate. But we do not hold so much by the song as
by the good will which you showed us in writing it. I want you to
understand and believe that if I can ever be of the slightest service to
you, I will go very far to render it.”

“I’m as obliged as I can be,” said Aladdin. “It’s mighty good of you
to come and talk to me like this, and except for the good will I have
toward all your family, I don’t deserve it a bit.”

When John St. John had gone, the inky boy came to announce that another
gentleman wished to speak with Mr. O’Brien.

The second gentleman proved to be the second brother, Hamilton St. John.

“Mr. O’Brien?” said he.

Aladdin shook hands with him.

“I came in for a moment,” said Hamilton St. John, “for the pleasure of
telling you how tremendously grateful we all are to you for your song,
which was such a big factor in my father’s redirection to the Senate.
But I want to say, too, that we’re more grateful for your good will than
for the song, and if I can ever do you a service, I want you to feel
perfectly free to come and ask it of me, whatever it is.”

Aladdin could have laughed for joy. Margaret did not seem so far away as
sometimes.

“I’m as obliged as I can be,” he said. “It’s mighty good of you to come
and talk to me like this, and except for the good will I have toward
all your family, I don’t deserve it a bit, but I appreciate it just the
same.”

Presently Hamilton St. John departed.

Again the inky boy, and this time grinning.

“There’s a gentleman would like to speak with you, sir,” he said.

“Show him in,” said Aladdin.

Hannibal St. John, Jr., entered.

“O’Brien,” he said, “I’ve often heard my sister Margaret speak about
you, and I’ve been meaning for ever so long to look you up. And I wish
I’d done it before I had such an awfully good excuse as that song of
yours, because I don’t know how to thank you, quite. But I want you to
understand that if at any time--rubbish, you know what I mean. Come up
to the club, and we’ll make a drink and talk things over.”

He drew Aladdin’s arm into his, and they went out.

Aladdin had never before felt so near Margaret.

He returned to the office in half an hour, happy and a slave. Hannibal
St. John, Jr., had won the heart right out of him in ten minutes. He sat
musing and dreaming. Was he to be one of those chosen?

“Gentleman to see you, sir.”

“Show him in.”

The inky snickered and hurried out. He could be heard saying with
importance, “This way, sir. Look out for that press, sir. It’s very dark
in here, sir.” And then, like a smart flunky in a house of condition, he
appeared again at the door and announced

“Senator Hannibal St. John.”

Aladdin sprang up.

The senator, still suffering from the gout, and leaning heavily on his
whalebone cane, limped majestically in. There was an amiability on his
face, which Aladdin had never seen there before. He placed a chair for
his distinguished guest. The senator removed his high hat and stood it
upon the edge of Aladdin’s desk.

“My boy,” he said,--the word tingled from Aladdin’s ears to his heart,
for it was a word of great approachment and unbending,--“I am very
grateful for your efforts in my behalf. I will place honor where honor
is due, and say that I owe my recent reflection to the United States
Senate not so much to my more experienced political friends as to you.
The present crisis in the affairs of the nation calls for men of feeling
and honor, and not for politicians. I hope that you will not misconstrue
me into a braggart if I say from the bottom of my heart I believe
that, in returning a man of integrity and tradition to his seat in the
Congress of the nation, you have rendered a service to the nation.”

The senator paused, and Aladdin, still standing, waited for him to
finish.

“After a week,” said the senator, “I shall return to my duties in
Washington. In the meanwhile, Margaret” (he had hitherto always referred
to her before Aladdin as “my daughter”) “and I are keeping open house,
and if it will give you pleasure we shall be charmed” (the word fell
from the senator’s lips like a complete poem) “to have you make us a
visit. Two of my sons will be at home, and other young people.”

“Indeed, and it will give me pleasure!” cried Aladdin, falling into the
least suspicion of a brogue.

“I will write a line to your chief,” continued the senator, “and I have
reason to believe that he will see you excused. We shall expect you
to-morrow by the fourthirty.”

“I’m ever so much obliged, sir,” said Aladdin.

“My boy,” said the senator, gravely, after a full minute’s pause, “we
are all concerned in your future, which promises to be a brilliant
one. It rests with you. But, if an old man may be permitted a word of
caution, it would be this: Let your chief recreation lie in your work;
leave the other things. Do I make myself clear enough?” (Aladdin nodded
guiltily.) “Leave the frailties to the dullards of this world.”

He rose to go.

“My young friend,” said the senator, “you have my best wishes.”

Grimacing with the pain in his foot, limping badly, but always stately
and impressive,--almost superimpending,--Hannibal St. John moved slowly
out of the office.



XV


The weather turned suddenly gusty and cold, and that afternoon it began
to snow, and it kept on snowing. All night fine dry flakes fell in
unexampled profusion, and by morning the face of the land was many
inches deep. Nor did the snow then cease. All the morning it continued
to fall with vigor. The train by which Aladdin was to go to the St.
Johns’ left at two-thirty, arriving there two hours later; and it was
with numb feet and stinging ears that he entered the car reserved for
smokers, and, bundling in a somewhat threadbare over coat, endeavored
to make himself comfortable for the journey. As the train creaked and
jerked out of the protecting station, the storm smote upon the windows
with a noise like thrown sand, and a back draft down the chimney of
the iron stove in one end of the car sent out puffs of smutty smoke at
whatever points the various castings of the stove came together with
insufficient snugness. There were but half a dozen people in the whole
train.

“Troubles, old man,” said Aladdin, for so he was in the habit of
addressing himself at moments of self-communication, “this is going to
be the slowest kind of a trip, but we’re going to enjoy every minute
of it, because it’s taking us to the place where we would be-God bless
her!”

Aladdin took a cigar from his breast pocket.

“Troubles,” said he, “may I offer you a smoke? What? Oh, you’re very
much obliged and don’t mind if you do. There you are, then.” Aladdin
sent out a great puff of white smoke; this turned into a blue wraith,
drifted down the aisle, between the seats, gathering momentum as it
went, and finally, with the rapidity of a mint julep mounting a sucked
straw (that isn’t split) and spun long and fine, it was drawn through a
puncture of the isinglass in the stove door and went up the chimney
in company with other smoke, and out into the storm. Aladdin, full of
anticipation and glee, smoked away with great spirit. Presently, for the
car was empty but for himself, Aladdin launched into the rollicking air
of “Red Renard”

   “Three scarlet huntsmen rode up to White Plains
    With a carol of voices and jangle of chains,
    For the morning was blue and the morning was fair,
    And the word ran, “Red Renard” is waiting us there.”

He puffed at his cigar a moment to be sure that its fire should not
flag, and sang on:

   “The first scarlet huntsman blew into his horn,
    Lirala, Lovely Morning, I’m glad I was born”;
    The second red huntsman he whistled an air,
    And the third sang, “Red Renard” is waiting us there.”

“Just such weather as this, Troubles,” he said, looking out into the
swirl of snow. “Just the beautifulest kind of cross-country weather!” He
sang on:

    Three lovely ladies they met at the meet,
    With whips in their hands and with boots on their feet;
    And the gentlemen lifted their hats with a cheer,
    As the girls said, “Red Renard is waiting you here.”

He quickened into the stanza he liked best:

    Three scarlet huntsmen rode off by the side
    Of three lovely ladies on horses of pride.
    Said the first, “Call me Ellen”; the second, “I’m Claire”;
    Said the third, “I’m Red Renard--so called from my hair.”

The train, which had been running more slowly, drew up with a chug, and
some minutes passed before it again gathered itself and lurched on.

“That’s all right,” said Aladdin. He was quite warm now, and thoroughly
happy.

    Three scarlet huntsmen rode home from White Plains,
    With its mud on their boots, and its girls on their brains;
    And the first sang of Ellen, the second of Claire,
    But the third sang, “Red Renard is waiting back there.”

He made a waggish face to finish with:

    Three scarlet huntsmen got into frock-coats,
    And they pinched their poor feet, and they tortured their throats;
    And the first married Ellen, the second wed Claire,
    While the third said, “Re Renar izh waishing back zhere.”

He assumed the expression for a moment of one astutely drunk.

“A bas!” he said, for this much of the French language was his to
command, and no more. He turned and attempted to look out. He yawned.
Presently he threw away the reeking butt of his cigar, closed his eyes,
and fell asleep.

The water below the veranda was alive with struggling fishes in high
hats and frock-coats. Each fish had a label painted across his back with
his name and address neatly printed on it, and each fish was struggling
to reach a tiny minnow-hook, naked of bait, which dangled just out of
reach above the water. The baitless hook was connected by a fine line
(who ever heard of baiting a line at the wrong end?) with Margaret’s
hand. She had on a white dress stamped with big pink roses, and there
was a pale-green ribbon round the middle of it; her hair was done up for
the first time, and she was leaning over the railing, which was made of
safety-lamps and stranglers alternately, painted light blue, regarding
the struggling fishes with a look at once full of curiosity and pity.
Presently one of the fishes’ labels soaked off, and went hurtling out
to sea, with the fish weeping bitterly and following at express speed,
until in less than one moment both label and fish were hull down
below the horizon. Then another label washed off, and then another and
another, and fish after fish, in varying states of distraction, followed
after and disappeared, until all you could see were two, whereof the one
was labeled Manners and the other O’Brien (these continued to fight for
the hook), and all you could hear was Neptune, from down, down, down in
the sea, saying coquettishly to Cleopatra, “I’m Red Renard--so
called from my hair.” And then all of a sudden valiant Captain
Kissed-by-Margaret went by on a log writing mottos for the wives of
famous men. And then Manners and O’Brien, struggling desperately to
drown each other, sank down, down, down, and Cleopatra could be heard
saying perfectly logically to Neptune, “You didn’t!” And then there was
a tremendous shower of roses, and the dream went out like a candle.


Aladdin opened his eyes and stroked his chin. He was troubled about the
dream. The senator had spoken to him of “others.” Could Peter Manners
possibly be there? Was that the especial demolishment that fate held in
store for him? He was very wide awake now.

At times, owing to the opaqueness of the storm, it was impossible to see
out of the car window. But there were moments when a sudden rush of wind
blew a path for the eye, and by such occasional pictures--little long
of the instantaneous--one could follow the progress of the blizzard.
Aladdin saw a huddle of sheep big with snow; then a man getting into a
house by the window; an ancient apple-tree with a huge limb torn off;
two telegraph poles that leaned toward each other, like one man fixing
another’s cravat; and he caught glimpses of wires broken, loosened,
snarled, and fuzzy with snow. Then the train crawled over a remembered
trestle, and Aladdin knew that he was within four miles of his station,
and within three of the St. Johns’ house by the best of short cuts
across country. He looked precisely in its direction, and kissed his
fingers to Margaret, and wondered what she was doing. Then there was a
rumbling, jumping jar, and the train stopped. Minute after minute went
by. Aladdin waited impatiently for the train to start. The conductor
passed hurriedly through.

“What’s up?” called Aladdin after him.

“Up!” cried the conductor. “We’re off the track.”

“Can’t we go on to-night?”

“Nup!” The conductor passed out of the car and banged the door.

“Got to sit here all night!” said Aladdin. “Not much! Get up, Troubles!
If you don’t think I know the way about here, you can stay by the stove.
I’m going to walk.”

Aladdin and Troubles rose, buttoned their coat, left the car, and set
out in the direction of the St. Johns’. Aladdin’s watch at starting read
five o’clock.

“Our luggage is all checked, Troubles,” he said, “and all we’ve got
to face is the idea of walking three miles through very disagreeable
weather, over a broad path that we know like the palm of our hand (which
we don’t know as well as we might), arriving late, wet to the skin, and
without a change of clothes. On the other hand, we shall deserve a long
drink and much sympathy. As for you, Troubles, you’re the best company I
know, and all is well.”

    The first scarlet huntsman blew into his horn,
    “Lirala, Lovely Morning, I’m glad I was born.”



XVI


At first the way, lying through waist-high fir scrub, was pretty bad
underfoot, but beyond was a stretch of fine timber, where the trees had
done much to arrest the snow, and the going was not so severe. Aladdin
calculated that he should make the distance in an hour and a half; and
when the wood ended, he looked at his watch and found that the first
mile, together with only twenty-five minutes, was behind him.

“That’s the rate of an hour and a quarter, Troubles,” he said. “And
that’s good time. Are you listening?”

But following the wood was a great open space of country pitched up from
the surrounding levels, and naked to every fury of nature. Across that
upland the wind blew a wicked gale, scarifying the tops of knolls to the
brown, dead grass, and filling the hollows flush with snow. At times, to
keep from being blown over, it was necessary to lean against the gusts.
Aladdin was conscious of not making very rapid progress, but there was
something exhilarating in the wildness, the bitter cold, and the roar of
the wind; it had an effect as of sea thundering upon beach, great
views from mountain-tops, black wild nights, the coming of thunder and
freshness after intense heat, or any of the thousand and one vaster
demonstrations of nature. Now and again Aladdin sang snatches of song:

          Gaily bedight,
         A gallant knight
       In sunshine and shadow
         Journeyed long,
         Singing a song,
       In search of El Dorado.

Or from “The Mole of Marimolena”

  I was turning fifty-odd when the everlasting God
    Smote a path of molten gold across the blue,
  Says, “There’s many million men would have done the like again,
    But you didn’t, and, my man, there’s hope for you.

   “Start sheets and sail for the Mole--
    For the old rotten Mole of Marimolena;
     There’s maybe some one there
     That you’re longing to treat fair,
    On the dismal, woeful Mole of Marimolena.”

And other deep-sea chanteys,--the one in which the pirate found the Lady
in the C-a-a-bin and slivered off her head, or back to Red Renard, or
further to his own campaign song, and furthest of all to the bad, bad
young dog of a crow. Then he got quite out of breath, and pausing for a
moment to catch it, noted for the first time the extreme bitterness of
the cold. It stung the face like insects. “Woof!” he said. “And now for
lost time.”

Again he stepped out, but with each step the snow became deeper, and
presently he floundered in to his waist. “Must be a ditch!” he said,
turning a little to the right and exclaiming, “Thought so!” as the
wading got shallower. Whereupon he stepped into a deep hole and fell.
After plunging and plowing about, it was brought home to him that he had
lost the path. Even at that the difficulty remained one of hard walking
alone, for he had been familiar with that country since childhood,
and knew the precise direction in which it was necessary for him to
locomote. It was a pity that the only structure in the vicinity was an
ancient and deserted house,--it lay just off there,--as he should have
liked to have warmed himself by a good fire before going farther. He
remembered that there were a partly preserved stove in the deserted
house, broken laths, and naily boards, and swathes of curious old
wall-papers, layer upon layer, which, dampening and rotting from the
wall, hung raggedly down. He had once explored the house with Margaret,
and it seemed almost wise to go to the place and make a fire. But on
account of the delay involved and the approach of darkness, he
discarded the notion, and, a little impatient at being badly used by a
neighborhood he knew so well, struggled on.

“Troubles,” he said, “what sort of a storm is this anyway? Did you ever
see anything quite like it round here? Because I never did. It must
be like those things they have out West, when millions of poor little
baa-sheeps and horses and cattles freeze to death. I’d hate to be a
horse out in this, but I wish I had one. I--”

If, as a child, you have ever slipped, though only an inch, while
climbing over roofs, you will know that sudden, stabbing, sinking
feeling that came to Aladdin and stopped the beating of his heart by the
hairbreadth of a second. He had been proceeding chin on breast, and head
bent against the wind, or he would have seen it before, for it was a
notable landmark in that part of the world, and showed him that he had
been making way, not toward his destination, but toward the wilderness.

He gazed up at the great black blasted pine, its waist the height of a
tall tree, and its two lonely lightning-scathed and white arms stretched
out like a malediction; and for a moment he had to take himself in hand.
After a little he mastered the fear that had seized him.

“It’s only a poor old lonely vegetable out in the cold,” he said. “And
it shows us exactly where we are and exactly which way we have to go.”

He set himself right, and, with head lowered and hands clenched, again
started on. But he was beginning to be very much bored, and sensible
that his legs were not accustomed to being used so hard. Furthermore,
there was a little difficulty--not by any means an insurmountable
one--in steering straight, because of the constantly varying point of
the compass in which the wind blew. He went on for a long time....

He began to look for the high ground to decline, as it should, about
now, if it was the high ground he took it for. “I ought to be getting
somewhere,” he said.

And, God help him! tired out, half frozen and very foot-sore, he was
getting somewhere, for, glancing up, he again beheld the gigantic and
demoniac shape of the blasted pine.

It is on prairies and among mountains, far from the habitations of
men, that man is most readily terrified before nature, and not on the
three-mile primrose way from a railway accident to a house-party. But
for a moment cold terror struck at Aladdin like a serpent, and the
marrow in his bones froze. Before he could succeed in reducing this
awful feeling to one of acute anxiety alone, he had to talk to himself
and explain things as to a child.

“Then it is true, Troubles, old man,” he said, “about a person’s
tendency to go to the left. That’s interesting, isn’t it? But what do we
care? Being gifted with a certain (flighty, it is true) intelligence, we
will simply take pains, and every step pull a little to the right; and
that will make us go straight. Come now-keep thinking about it-every
step!”

As the end of the day approached, a lull came in the gale, and the
snow fell less freely. The consequently widened horizon of vision was
eminently comforting, and Aladdin’s unpleasant feeling of anxiety almost
disappeared.

Suddenly he was aware of a red horse.



XVII


It was standing almost leg-clear, in an angle of what seemed a
drifted-over snake-fence. Its ugly, Roman-nosed head was thrown up and
out, as if about to neigh.

“Poor beastie,” said Aladdin, after a start. “You must be direfful cold,
but we’ll ride you, and that will make you warm, and us cold, and we’ll
all get along faster.”

Drawing near, he began to gentle the horse and call it pet names. It was
a huge brute, over seventeen hands high, and Aladdin, aided only by a
rickety fence, and a pair of legs that would hardly support him, was
appalled by the idea of having to climb to that lofty eminence, its
back. Without doubt he was dreadfully tired.

“The fence will help, old man” he said. “Here, you, pay attention and
get over.” He tried to insinuate himself between the horse and the
fence, but the horse did not seem inclined to move.

“Get over, you!” he said, and gave a shove. The horse moved a little,
very unwillingly. “Farther yet,” said Aladdin: “Get over, you, get
over.” Again he shoved; this time harder. He slapped the great shoulder
with his open hand. And again the horse moved, but very slowly. “You’re
an unwilling brute, aren’t you?” he said angrily.

For answer the thing tottered, and, to his horror, began to fall, at
first slowly, but ever with accelerating speed, until, in the exact
attitude in which it had stood by the fence,--the great Roman-nosed head
thrown up and out, as if to neigh,--he beheld the horse stretched before
him on the ground, and noted for the first time the awful death-like
glint of the yellow teeth through the parting of the lips.

He went very gravely from that place, for he had been looking upon death
by freezing, and he himself was terribly cold, terribly tired, and--he
admitted it now--completely lost.

But he went on for a long time--four or five hundred years. And it grew
darker and colder.

He began to talk to himself, to try and steady himself, as he had done
ever since childhood at forsaken times.

“Troubles,” he said, “You’re full of troubles, aren’t you, old man? You
always were. But this is the worst. You can’t walk very much farther,
can you? I can’t. And if you don’t get helped by some one pretty soon,
you’re going to come to the end of your troubles. And, Troubles, do you
know, I think that’s what’s going to happen to you and me, and I want
you to stand up to it if it comes [gulp] and face it like a man. Now
let’s rest a little, Troubles, will we?”

Troubles and Aladdin rested a little. When the rest was over they could
hardly move, and they began to see the end of a young man that they had
hoped would live a long time and be very happy. They went on.

“Troubles,” said Aladdin, “do you suppose she knows that we are out
here, perhaps dying? We would know if she were, wouldn’t we? And do you
think she cares? Liar, you know she cares, and a lot. She wouldn’t
be she if she didn’t care. But we didn’t think that all the years of
waiting and hoping and loving and trying to be something would end like
this, did we, Troubles? We thought that it might end with the godlike
Manners (whom we wouldn’t help if he were freezing to death, would we?),
but not like this--O Lord God, not like this!... And we weren’t sure it
would end with Manners; we were going to fight it out to a mighty good
finish, weren’t we, Troubles? But now it’s going to end in a mighty good
storm, and you’re going to die for all your troubles, Troubles... And
I’m talking to you so that we won’t lose our sand, even if we are afraid
to die, and there’s no one looking on.”

Though Aladdin stopped making talk in his head, the talk kept going on
by itself; and he suddenly shouted aloud for it to stop. Then he began
to whimper and shiver, for he thought that his mind was going.

Presently he shook himself.

“Troubles,” he said, “we’ve only a little farther to go--just as far as
our feet will carry us, and no farther. That’s the proper way to finish.
And for God’s sake keep sane. We won’t give her up yet!”

Ten steps and years passed.

“Troubles,” said Aladdin, “we’re going to call for help, and if it don’t
come, which it won’t, we’re going to try and be calm. It seems simplest
and looks best to be calm.”

Aladdin stood there crying aloud for the help of man, but it did
not come. And then he cried for the help of God. And he stood there
waiting--waiting for it to come.

“We must help ourselves, Troubles,” he said, with a desperate effort to
be calm. “We’ve got ten steps left in us. Now, then, one--two--”

During the taking of those ten steps the snow ceased entirely to fall,
and black night enveloped the earth.

Aladdin was all numb, and he wished to sleep, but he made the ten steps
into eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, before his limbs refused to
act, and he fell forward in the snow. He managed to raise himself and
crawl a little way. He saw a light afar off, and guessing that it must
be an angel, held out his hands to it--and one of them encountered a
something in the dark.

Even through his thick mitten it felt round and smooth and colder than
his fingers, like a ball of ice. Then Aladdin laughed aloud, for he knew
that his last walk upon earth had been in the form of a silly circle. He
had returned to the dead horse, and his gloved hand was resting upon its
frozen eye. He shrieked with laughter and became heavy with a desire to
sleep.

He sank deliciously down, and began to see showers of roses, when it
flashed upon him that this was not sleep, but death.

It was like lifting prodigious dumb-bells to get his eyes to open, and
a return to consciousness was like the stabbing of knives. But he opened
his eyes and roused himself.

“I won’t give her up yet,” he cried.

And then, by the help of God Almighty, he crawled the whole length of
the horse.

And fell asleep.



XVIII


It was a miserable, undressed thing wrapped in a horse-blanket and a
buffalo-robe that woke up in front of a red-hot stove and remembered
that it used to be Aladdin O’Brien. It had a dreadful headache, and
could smell whisky and feel warm, and that for a long time was about
all. Then it noticed that the wall opposite was ragged with loosened
wall-paper and in places stripped of plaster, so that the lathing showed
through, and that in its own head--no, in the room beyond the wall--an
impatient stamping noise of iron on wood was occurring at intervals.
Then it managed to turn its head, and it saw a big, beautiful man
sitting on the end of an old soapbox and smoking a pipe. Then it was
seized with a wrenching sickness, and the big man came quickly and held
its head and was very good to it, and it felt better and went to sleep.
After a while it descended into the Red Sea, with the avowed intention
of calling Neptune Red Renard to his face, and when it got to the
bottom, which was of red brick sprinkled with white door-knobs that
people kept diving for, it became frightened and ran and ran until it
came to the bottom of an iceberg, that had roots like a hyacinth bulb
and was looking for a place to plant itself, and it climbed up to the
top of the iceberg, which was all bulrushes, and said, “I beg your
pardon, but I forgot; I must go back and make my apologies.” Then it
woke up and spoke in a weak voice.

“Peter Manners,” said Aladdin, “come here.”

Manners came and sat on the floor beside him.

“Feel better now?” he said.

“Tell me--” said Aladdin.

“Oh, stuff!” said Manners.

“Manners,” said Aladdin, “you don’t look as if you hated me any more.”

“You sleep,” said Manners. “That’s what you need.”

Aladdin thought for a long time and tried to remember what he wanted to
say, and shutting his eyes, to think better, fell asleep.

For the third time he awoke. Manners was back on the soap-box, still as
a sphinx, and smoking his pipe.

“Please come and talk some more,” said Aladdin.

Again Manners came.

“Tell me about it,” said Aladdin.

“You be good and go to sleep,” said Manners.

“What time is it?”

“Nearly morning.”

“Still storming?”

“No; stars out and warmer.”

Aladdin thought a moment.

“Manners,” he said, “please talk to me. How did you find me?”

“Simply enough,” said Manners. “I took the senator’s cutter out for
a little drive, and got lost. Then I heard somebody laughing, and I
stumbled over you and your horse; that’s all. How the devil did you
manage to lose your saddle and bridle?”

“It was a dead horse,” said Aladdin, and he shivered at the
recollection.

“Quite so,” said Manners.

“It was the funniest thing,” said Aladdin, and again he shuddered with
a kind of reminiscent revolt. “I pushed it, and it fell over frozen to
death.” He was conscious of talking nonsense.

“Wait a minute, Manners,” he said. “I’ll be sensible in a minute.”

Presently he told Manners about the horse.

“I saw alight just then,” he said, “and I thought it was an angel.”

“It was I,” said Manners, naively.

“Yes, Manners, it was you,” said Aladdin.

He thought about an angel turning out to be Manners for a long time.
Then a terrible recollection came to him, and, in a voice shaking with
remorse and self-incrimination, he cried:

“God help me, Manners, I would have let you freeze.”

Manners pulled at his pipe.

“Manners,” said Aladdin, “it’s true I know it’s true, because, for all I
knew, I was dying when I said it.”

Manners shook his head.

“Oh, no,” said Manners.

“Make me think that,” said Aladdin, with a quaver. “Please make me think
that if you can, for, God help me, I think I would have let you freeze.”

“When I found you,” said Manners, “I--I was sorry that the Lord hadn’t
sent somebody else to you, and me to somebody else. That was because you
always hated me with no very good reason, and a man hates to be hated,
and so, to be quite honest, I hated you back.”

“Right,” said Aladdin, “right.”

Light began to come in through the windows, whose broken panes Manners
had stopped with crumpled wall-paper.

“But when I got you here,” said Manners, “and began to work over you,
you stopped being Aladdin O’Brien, and were just a man in trouble.”

“Yes,” said Aladdin, “it must be like that. It’s got to be like that.”

“At first,” said Manners, “I worked because it seemed the proper thing
to do, and then I got interested, and then it became terrible to think
that you might die.”

“Yes,” said Aladdin. His face was ghastly in the pre-sunrise light.

“You wouldn’t get warm for hours,” said Manners, “and I got so tired
that I couldn’t rub any more, and so I stripped and got into the
blankets with you, and tried to keep you as warm as I could that way.”

He paused to relight his pipe.

Aladdin stared up at the tattered ceiling with wide, wondering eyes.

“When you got warm,” said Manners, “I gave you all the rest of the
whisky, and I’m sorry it made you sick, and now you’re as fit as a
fiddle.”

“Fit-as-a-fiddle,” said Aladdin, slowly, as the wonder grew. And then he
began to cry like a little child. Manners waited till he had done, and
then wiped his face for him.

“So you see,” said Manners, simply, though with difficulty,--for he was
a man shy, to terror, of discussing his own feelings,--“I can’t help
liking you now, and--and I hope you won’t feel so hard toward me any
more.”

“I feel hard toward you!” said Aladdin. “Oh, Manners!” he cried. “I
thought all along that you were just a man that knew about horses and
dogs, but I see, I see; and I’m not going to worship anybody any more
except you and God, I’m not!”

Then he had another great long, hot cry. Manners waited patiently till
it was over.

“Manners,” said Aladdin, in a choky, hoarse voice, “I think you’re
different from what you used to be. You look as if--as if you ‘d got the
love of mankind in you.”

Manners did not answer. He appeared to be thinking of something
wonderful.

“Do you think that’s it?” cried Aladdin.

Manners did not answer.

“Can’t I get it, too?” Aladdin cried. “Have I got to be little and mean
always? So help me, Manners, I don’t love any one but you and her.”

“You ‘re not fit to talk,” said Manners, with great gentleness. “You
go to sleep.” He arose, and going to the door of the house, opened it a
little way and looked out.

“It’s warm as toast out, Aladdin,” he called. “There’s going to be a big
thaw.” He closed the door and went into the next room, and Aladdin could
hear him talking to the horse. After a little he came back.

“Greener says that she never was better stalled,” he said.

“Manners,” said Aladdin, “have I been raving?”

“Not been riding quite straight,” said Manners.

“How soon are we going to start?” said Aladdin.

“We’ve got to wait till the snow’s pretty well melted,” said Manners.
“About noon, I think.”

Then, because he was very tired and sick and weak, and perhaps a trifle
delirious, Aladdin asked Manners if he would mind holding his hand.
Manners took the hand in his, and a thrill ran up Aladdin’s arm and all
over him, till it settled deliciously about his heart, and he slept.

The sun rose, and dazzling beams of light filled the room.



BOOK II


“In this combat no man can imagine, unless he had seen and heard as I
did, what yelling and hideous roaring Apollyon made all the time of the
fight, he spake like a Dragon; and on the other side, what sighs and
groans burst from Christian’s heart. I never saw him all the while give
so much as one pleasant look, till he perceived he had wounded Apollyon
with his two-edged sword: then indeed he did smile and look upward.”



XIX


Senator St. John, attended by Margaret, her maid, and a physician, had
made the arduous journey from Washington to Portland without too much
fatigue, and it seemed reasonable to suppose that a long rest in his
comfortable house, far from the turmoil of public affairs, would do much
to reinstate his body after the savage attack of gout with complications
to which it had been subjected during six long weeks. Arrived at
Portland, he was driven to the house of his old friend Mr. Blankinship,
and helped to bed. Next morning he was seized with acute pains in the
region of the heart, and though his valiant mind refused for a single
moment to tolerate the thought that the end might be near, was persuaded
to send for his daughter and his sons.

Margaret was in the parlor with Aladdin. It was April, and the whole
land dripped. Through the open window, for the day was warm, the
moisture of the soaked ground and trees was almost audible. Margaret
had much to say to Aladdin, and he to her; they had not met for several
months.

“I want to hear about Peter,” said Aladdin--“all about him. He met you,
of course, and got you across the city?”

“Yes, and his father came, too,” said Margaret. “Such an old dear--you
never saw him, did you? He’s taller than Peter, but much thinner, and
a great aristocrat. He’s the only man I ever saw that has more presence
than papa. He looks like a fine old bird, and you can see his skull very
plainly--especially when he laughs, if you know what I mean. And he’s
really witty. He knows all about you and wants you to go and stay
with them sometime.” Aladdin sighed for the pure delight of hearing
Margaret’s voice running on and on. He was busy looking at her, and did
not pay the slightest attention to what she said. “And the girl came to
lunch, Aladdin, and she is so pretty, but not a bit serene like Peter,
and the men are all wild about her, but she doesn’t care that--”

“Doesn’t she?” said Aladdin, annoyingly.

“No, she doesn’t!” said Margaret, tartly. “She says she’s going to be
a horse-breaker or a nurse, and all the while she kept making eyes at
brother John, and he lost his poise entirely and smirked and blushed,
and I shouldn’t wonder a bit if he’d made up his mind to marry her, and
if he has he will--”

Aladdin caught at the gist of the last sentence. “Is that all that’s
necessary?” he said. “Has a man only got to make up his mind to marry a
certain girl?”

“It’s all brother John would have to do,” said Margaret, provokingly.

“Admitting that,” said Aladdin, “how about the other men?”

“Why,” said Margaret, “I suppose that if a man really and truly makes up
his mind to get the girl he wants, he’ll get her.”

She looked at him with a grand innocence. Aladdin’s heart leaped a
little.

“But suppose two men made up their minds,” said Aladdin, “to get the
same girl.”

“That would just prove the rule,” said Margaret, refusing to see any
personal application, “because one of them would get her, and the other
would be the exception.”

“Would the one who spoke first have an advantage?” said Aladdin.
“Suppose he’d wanted her ever so long, and had tried to succeed because
of her, and”--he was warming to the subject, which meant much to
him--“had never known that there was any other girl in the world, and
had pinned all his faith and hope on her, would he have any advantage?”

“I don’t know,” said Margaret, rather dreamily.

“Because if he would--” Aladdin reached forward and took one of her
hands in his two.

She let it lie there, and for a moment they looked into each other’s
eyes. Margaret withdrew her hand.

“I know--I know,” she said. “But you mustn’t say it, ‘Laddin dear,
because--somehow I feel that there are heaps of things to be considered
before either of us ought to think of that. And how can we be quite
sure? Anyway, if it’s going to happen--it will happen. And that’s all
I’m going to say, ‘Laddin.”

“Tell me,” he said gently, “what the trouble is, dear. Is it this: do
you think you care for me, and aren’t sure? Is that it?”

She nodded gravely. Aladdin took a long breath.

“Well,” he said finally, “I believe I love you well enough, Margaret, to
hope that you get the man who will make you happiest. I don’t know,” he
went on rather gloomily, “that I’m exactly calculated to make anybody
happy, but,” he concluded, with a quavering smile, “I’d like to try.”
 They shook hands like the two very old friends they were.

“We’ll always be that, anyway,” said Margaret.

“Always,” said Aladdin.

“Mademoiselle!” Eugenie opened the parlor door and looked cautiously in,
after the manner of the French domestic.

“What is it?” said Margaret in French.

Aladdin listened with intense admiration, for he did not understand a
word.

“Monsieur does not carry himself so well,” said Eugenie, “and he asks if
mademoiselle will have the goodness to mount a moment to his room.”

“I’ll go at once.” Margaret rose. “Papa’s worse,” she said to Aladdin.
“Will you wait?”

“I am so sorry,” said Aladdin. “No, I can’t wait; I have to get out the
paper. I”--he smiled--“am announcing to an eager public what general,
in my expert opinion, is best fitted to command the armies of the United
States.”

“Of course there’ll be fighting.”

“Of course--and in a day or two. Good-by.”

“Good-by.”

“I’ll come round later and inquire about your father. Give him my love.”

Margaret ran up-stairs to her father’s room. He was in great pain, but
perfectly calm and collected. As Margaret entered, the doctor went out,
and she was alone with her father.

“Are you feeling badly, dear?” she said.

“I am feeling more easy than a moment ago,” said the senator. “Bring a
chair over here, Peggy; we must have a little talk.”

She brought a little upright chair and sat down facing him, her right
hand nestling over one of his.

“The doctor,” said the senator, “considers that my condition is
critical.”

“Papa”

“I disagree with him. I shall, I believe, live to see the end of this
civil riot, but I cannot be sure. So it behooves me to ask my dear
daughter a question.” St. John asked it with eagerness. “Which is it to
be, Peggy?”

She blushed deeply.

“You are interested in Aladdin O’Brien?”

Her head drooped a little.

“Yes, papa.”

The senator sighed.

“Thank you, dear,” he said. “That is all I wanted to know. I had hoped
that it would be otherwise. Peggy,” he said, “I love that other young
man like a son.”

“Peter?”

“I have always hoped that you would see him as I have seen him. I would
be happy if I thought that I could leave you in such strong young hands.
I trust him absolutely.”

“Papa.”

“Well, dear?”

“You don’t like Aladdin?”

“He is not steady, Margaret.” The simple word was pregnant with meaning
as it fell from the senator.

“You don’t mean that he--that he’s like--”

“Yes, dear; I should not wish my youngest son to marry.”

“Poor boy,” said Margaret, softly.

“It’s the Irish in him,” said the senator. “He must do all things to
extremes. There, in a word, lies all his strength and all his weakness.”

“You would be sorry if I married Aladdin?”

“I should be afraid for your happiness. Do you love him?”

“I am not sure, papa.”

“You are fond of Peter, aren’t you?”

She leaned forward till her cheek touched his.

“Next to you and ‘Laddin.”

The senator patted her shoulder, and thus they remained for some time.

A great shouting arose in the neighborhood.

The senator sat bolt upright in bed. His nostrils began to quiver. He
was like an old war-horse that hears bugles.

“Sumter?” he cried. “Sumter? Do I hear Sumter?”

The shouting became louder.

“Sumter?” he cried. “Have they fired upon Sumter?”

Margaret flew to the window and threw it open. It acted upon the
shouting like the big swell of an organ, and the cries of excitement
filled the room to bursting. South Carolina had clenched her hand and
struck the flag in the face.

The doctor rushed in. He paused flabbergasted at sight of the man whom
he had supposed to be dying.

“Great God, man!” cried the senator, “can’t you get my clothes?”

When he was dressed they brought him his whalebone stick.

“Damn it, I can walk!” said he, and he broke the faithful old thing over
a knee that had not been bent for a month.



XX


New fervor of enlistment took place, and among the first to enlist was
Aladdin, and when his regiment met for organization he was unanimously
elected major. He had many friends.

At first he thought that his duty did not lie where his heart lay,
because of his brother Jack, now fourteen, whom he had to support. And
then, the old promises coming to mind, he presented himself one morning
before Senator St. John.

“Senator,” he said, “you promised to do me a favor if I should ever ask
it.”

The senator thought of Margaret and trembled.

“I have come to ask it.”

“Well, sir?”

“I want to enlist, sir, but if I do there’s nobody to look after Jack.”

Again the senator thought of Margaret, and his heart warmed.

“He shall live in my house, sir,” said the senator, “as a member of my
family, sir.”

“God bless you, sir!” cried Aladdin.

In a state of dancing glee he darted off to the “Spy” office to see his
chief.

Mr. Blankinship was leaning against the post of the street door, reading
his own editorial in the morning issue.

“Hallo, Mr. Blankinship!” cried Aladdin.

“Hallo, Aladdin!” cried Mr. Blankinship, grinning at his favorite. “Late
as usual.”

“And for the last time, sir.”

“I know of only one good reason for such a statement.”

“It’s it, sir!”

Mr. Blankinship folded his paper carefully. His eyes were red, for he
had been up late the night before.

“I’d go, too,” he said simply, “if it wasn’t for the mother.”


The firm of John St. John & Brothers sat in its office. The head of
the firm was gorgeous in a new uniform; he had hurried up from New York
(where he had been paying vigorous court to Ellen Manners, whom he had
made up his mind to marry) in order, as oldest, biggest, and strongest,
to enlist for the family in one of the home regiments. There lingered
on his lips the thrill of a kiss half stolen, half yielded, while in his
pockets were a number of telegrams since received, and the usually grave
and stern young man was jocular and bantering. The two younger members
of the firm were correspondingly savage.

“For God’s sake, clear out of here,” said Hamilton. “Your shingle’s
down. Bul and I are running this office now.”

“Well, it’s the chance of your lives, boys,” said the frisky colonel.
“I’ll have forgotten the law by the time I come back.”

“Hope you may choke, John,” said Hannibal, sweetly.

“Don’t allow smoking in here, do you, boys?” He got no answer. It was a
hard-and-fast rule which he himself had instituted.

“Well, here goes.” He lighted a huge cigar and puffed it insolently
about the office. He surveyed himself in the cracked mirror.

“Cursed if a uniform isn’t becoming to a man!” he said.

“Chicken!” said Hamilton.

“Puppy!” said Hannibal.

“Titmouse!” said Hamilton.

“Ant!” said Hannibal.

John’s grin widened.

“Boys,” he said, “you’ve got one swell looker in the family, anyway, and
you ought to be glad of that.”

The boys exchanged glances.

Hannibal had upon his desk a pen-wiper which consisted of a small sponge
heavy with the ink of wiped pens. Hamilton had beneath his desk an
odd rubber boot which served him as a scrap-basket. These ornamental
missiles took John St. John in the back of the head at about the same
moment, the weight and impetus of the boot knocking the cigar clean out
of his mouth, so that it dashed itself against the mirror.

The gallant colonel turned, still grinning. “Which threw the boot?” said
he.

“I did,” said Hamilton.

“Then you get the first licking.”

Hamilton met his brother’s hostile if grinning advance with the hardest
blow that he could strike him over the left eye. Then they clenched,
and Hannibal joined the fray. The three brothers, roaring with laughter,
proceeded to inflict as much damage to each other and the office as
they jointly could. Over and under they squirmed and contorted, hitting,
tripping, falling and rising. Desks went over, lawbooks strewed the
floor, ink ran, and finally the bust of George Washington, which had
stood over the inner door since the foundation of the firm, came down
with a crash.

By this time the three brothers were helpless with laughter. The combat
ceased, and they sat upon the floor to survey the damage.

“You can’t handle the old man yet, boys,” said the colonel. His left
eye was closed, and his new uniform looked like the ribbons hung on a
May-pole.

Hamilton was bleeding at the nose. Hannibal’s lip was split. The three
looked at each other and shook with laughter.

“I’m inclined to think we’ve had a healthy bringing-up,” said Hamilton
between gasps.

“Better move, colonel,” said Hannibal; “you’re sitting in a pool of
ink.”

“So I am,” said the colonel, as the cold struck through his new
trousers.

The laughter broke out afresh.

Beau Larch, in the uniform of a private, appeared at the door.

“Hallo, Beau!”

“Come in.”

“Take a hand?”

“Thank you, no,” said Beau. “I just dropped in to tell you fellows that
we’ve just had a hell of a licking at Bull Run.”

“Us!” said the colonel, rising.

“Us!” said Hamilton. “Licked!”

“Us!” said Hannibal.

“And I’ve got other news, too,” said Beau, bashfully. “If I stop
drinking till my year’s up, and don’t ever drink any more, Claire says
she’ll marry me.”

Hannibal was the first to shake his hand.

“Boys,” said Beau, “I hope if any of you ever sees me touch a drop
you’ll strike me dead.”

He went out.

“I’m going to find out about this,” said John; “what did he say the name
of the licking was?”

“Bull Run.”

“Bull Run. And I’ll come back and tell you.”

He was starting to descend the steep stairs to the street, when he
caught the sound of snickers and creeping footsteps behind him. He
turned like a panther, but was not in time. The heavily driven toes of
the right boots of the younger St. Johns lifted him clear of the stairs,
and clean to the bottom of them. There he sat, his uniform a thing of
the past, his left eye blackening and closed, and roars of laughter
shaking him.

But Hamilton and Hannibal put the office more or less to rights, and
sat down gloomily at their respective desks. Up till now they had faced
being left behind, but this licking was too much. Each brooded over it,
while pretending to be up to the ears in work. Hamilton wrote a letter,
sealed it, addressed it, and presently rose.

“Bul,” he said, and to Hannibal the whole manoeuver smacked suspicious,
“I’m going to run up and see the old man for a few minutes.”

“All right,” said Hannibal.

Hamilton reached the door and turned.

“By the way,” he said, “I left a letter on my desk; wish you’d put a
stamp on it and mail it.”

He went out.

Hannibal felt very lonely and fidgety.

“I think I’ll just mail that letter and get it off my mind,” he said.

He put on his hat, licked a stamp, and crossed to his brother’s desk.
The letter was there, right enough, but it did not require a stamp, for
on it was written but one word, and that word was Hannibal.

Hannibal tore open the envelop and read:

DEAR OLD Bul: I can’t stand it any longer, but you’ll try and not be mad
with me for running off and leaving you to keep up the old place alone,
and damn it, Bul, two of us ought to go anyway....

The letter ran on for a little in the same strain. Hannibal put the
letter in his pocket, and sat down at his brother’s desk.

“It will kill the old man if we all go,” he said. “And of all three I’m
the one with the best rights to go and get shot.”

He took from somewhere in his clothes a little gold locket, flat and
plain. Each of the St. John boys had carried one since their mother’s
death. Facing her picture each had had engraved the motto which he had
chosen for himself to be his watchword in life. In John’s locket was
engraved, “In fortis vinces”; in Hamilton’s, “Deo volente”; and in
Hannibal’s, “Carpe diem.” But in Hannibal’s locket there was another
picture besides that of his mother. He opened the locket with his
thumb-nails and laid it on the desk before him. Presently his eyes
dimmed, and he looked beyond the locket.

Hamilton St. John’s ink-well was a globe of glass, with a hole like a
thimble in the top to contain ink. Hannibal found himself looking at
this, and noting the perfect miniature reproduction of the big calendar
on the wall, as it was refracted by the glass. With his thoughts far
away, his eyes continued to look at the neat little curly calendar in
the ink-well. Presently it seemed to him that it was not a calendar at
all, but just a patch of bright green color--a patch of bright green
that became grass, an acre of it, a ten-acre field, a great field gay
with trampled flowers, rolling hills, woods, meadows, fences, streams.
Then he saw, lying thickly over a fair region, broken guns, exploded
cannons, torn flags, horses and men contorted and sprung in death;
everywhere death and demolition. He wandered over the field and came
presently upon himself, scorched, mangled, and dead under the wheel of a
cannon.

After a little it seemed to him that the field of battle shrank until
it became again the calendar. But there was something odd about that
calendar; the dates were queer. It read July, right enough; but this
was the year 1861, whereas the calendar bore the date 1863. And why was
there a cross to mark the third day of July? Hannibal came to with a
shock; but he could have sworn that he had not been asleep.

“God is very--very good!” he said solemnly.

Then he opened his pen-knife, and scratched a deep line of erasure
through the “Carpe diem” in his locket, and underneath, cutting with
great pains, he inserted a date, “July 3, 1863,” and the words “Nunc
dimittis.” Below that he cut “Te Deum laudamus.”

He looked once more at the picture of his mother and at the picture that
was not of his mother, shut the little gold case, and put it back in his
pocket.

Then he inked on the white inside of a paper-box cover, in large
letters, these words:

This office will not be opened until the end of the war.

That office was never opened again.



XXI


The lives of sixty million people had become suddenly full of drill,
organization, uniforms, military music, flags, hatred, love, and
self-sacrifice, and the nations of the Old World stood about, note-book
in hand, like so many medical students at a clinic: could a heart, cut
in two, continue to supply a body with blood after the soul had been
withdrawn? And the nations of the Old World hoped that there would be
enough fresh meat left on the carcass for them to feed on, when the
experiment should be at an end. Mother England was particularly hungry,
and dearly hoped to have the sucking of the eggs which she herself had
laid.

It was a great time for young men, and Margaret shed secret tears on
behalf of five of them. It had fallen upon her to tell the old man that
his three sons had enlisted, and that task had tortured her for an hour
before she had dared go and accomplish it.

“Papa,” she said, “Ham has enlisted, and so has Bul.”

The senator had not moved a muscle.

“It was only a question of time,” he said. “I wish that I had begotten a
dozen others.”

He had borrowed her well-marked Bible from old Mrs. Blankinship and read
Isaiah at a gulp. Then he had sought out his boys and bantered them on
their new clothes.

Margaret sat very still for a long time after the interview with her
father. She knew that Bul, whom she loved best of her brothers, was
going to be killed. She had never before seen his face so serenely
happy as when he came to tell her that he had sworn in, nor had she
ever before seen that unexplainable phenomenon, known variously as fate,
doom, numbered, Nemesis, written upon a face. And there were others who
might be taken.

Aladdin came in for a moment to give her the news. He was nervous with
enthusiasm, and had been working like a horse. His regiment was to leave
Friday for the front; he could stay but a minute; he had only dashed
in on his way to drill. Would she care to come? Quite right; there was
nothing much to look at. He talked as cheerfully and as rapidly as a
mountain brook runs. And then he gave his best piece of news, and looked
almost handsome as he gave it.

“Peter’s here,” he said. “He’s outside talking to the senator. He looks
simply stunning, and he’s a whole lot of things on a staff--assistant
adjutant-general with the rank of a colonel; and he’s floated up here on
a dash against time to say good-by to us.”

Aladdin’s face puckered.

“You and Peter and I, Margaret,” he said, “Lord, what a muddle!”

“I’m terribly blue, old man,” said Margaret, “and it hurts to have you
say things like that.”

Instantly Aladdin was all concern.

“You know I wouldn’t hurt you purposely,” he said, “but I’m terribly
blue, too, dear, and one tries to keep up and says asinine things,
and”--he smiled, and his smile was very winning--“is at once forgiven by
an old dear.”

She held out her hand and gave his a friendly squeeze.

“You old darling!” he said, and ran out.

She followed him into the hall, and met Manners, who had just parted
from the senator at the front door. His uniform was wonderfully
becoming.

“Is it Peter?”

They shook hands.

“Never,” she said, “have I seen anything so beautiful!”

Peter blushed (looking even more beautiful, for he hated to be talked
about).

“Where was ‘Laddin going?” he said. “He went by me like a shot out of a
gun, and had only time to pull my hat over my eyes and squeal Peeeter.”

“He’s very important now,” said Margaret, “and wonders how anybody can
want to write things and be a poet or a musician when there are real
things to do in the world.”

Peter looked at his watch.

“Isn’t that the least bit rude?” said Margaret.

“No,” said Peter; “my train back leaves in one hour, and I could better
afford to lose my chances of heaven. I had no business to come, as it
was. But I had to come.”

Margaret sighed. She had hoped that it would not happen so soon. He
followed her into the parlor and closed the door behind him.

“First, Margaret,” he said, “I’m going to tell you something that may
surprise you a little. It did me; it was so sudden. My sister Ellen is
going to be married.”

“Ellen!” exclaimed Margaret. “Why, she always said--” “It’s only been
arranged in the last few days,” said Peter, “by many telegrams. I was
told to tell you.”

“Is he nice?”

“Yes. He’s a good chap.”

“Rich?”

“Well--rather rising than rich.”

“Who is it?”

“Your brother John.”

“My dear Peter--”

“No--I never did, either!”

“Isn’t that splendid!”

Peter pulled a grave face.

“Yes--and no,” he said.

“I hope you’re not going to be insolent,” said Margaret.

“It depends on what you call insolent. My father, you see, objects very
much to having Ellen go out of the family, but he says that he can learn
to bear that if the only other girl in the world will come into the
family.”

Manners’ voice had become husky toward the last of the sentence, and
perhaps not husky so much as hungry. Margaret knew better than to say
anything of the kind, but she couldn’t help looking as innocent as a
child and saying:

“Won’t she?”

“How do I know?” said Peter. “I have come to ask her.”

He looked so very strong and manly and frank that Margaret, whose world
had been terribly blue recently, was half tempted to throw herself into
his arms and cry.

“O Peter!” she said pitifully.

He came and sat beside her on the sofa, and drew her close to him.

“My darling,” he said brokenly.

A great sense of trust and security stole over Margaret, but she knew
that it was not love. Yet for a moment she hesitated, for she knew that
if she took this man, his arm would always be about her, and he would
always--always--always be good to her. As she sat there, not trusting
herself to speak, she had her first doubt of Aladdin, and she wondered
if he loved her as much--as much as he loved Aladdin. Then she felt like
a traitor.

For a little neither could find any words to say. So still they sat
that Margaret could hear the muffled ticking of Peter’s watch. At length
Peter spoke.

“What shall I tell my father?” he said.

“Tell him--” said Margaret, and her voice broke.

“Aren’t you sure, darling--is that it?”

She nodded with tears in her eyes.

He took his arm from round her waist, and she felt very lonely.

“But I’m always going to love you,” he said.

She felt still more alone.

“Peter,” she said, “I can’t explain things very well, but I--I--don’t
want you to go away feeling as if--”

Manners’ eyes lifted up.

“As if it was all over?” he asked eagerly.

“Almost that, Peter,” she said. “I--I can’t say yes now--but God knows,
Peter, perhaps sometime--I--I can.”

She was thinking of the flighty and moody Aladdin, who had loved her so
long, and whom (she suddenly realized in spite of the words just spoken)
she loved back with all her heart and soul.

Honor rose hot in her to give Peter a final answer now and forever--no.
But she looked into his eyes and could not. He looked at his watch.

“Margaret dear,” he said, “I’ve got to go. Thanks for everything, and
for the hope and all, and--and I may never see you again, but if I do,
will you give me my answer then?”

“I will,” said Margaret, “when I see you again.”

They rose.

“May I kiss you, Margaret?” he said.

“Certainly, Peter.”

He kissed her on the cheek, and went away with her tears on his lips.

A newly organized fife-and-drum corps marched by struggling with “The
Girl I Left Behind Me.”

In those days the most strangled rendering of that tune would bring
lumps into the throats of those that heard.



XXII


Hannible and Hamilton were privates in the nth regiment, Aladdin was
major, and John was colonel. If any of them had the slightest military
knowledge, it was Aladdin. Not in vain had he mastered the encyclopedia
from Safety-lamps to Stranglers. He could explain with strange words and
in long, balanced sentences everything about the British army that began
with an S, except only those things whose second letter stood farther
down in the alphabet than T. But the elements of knowledge kept dropping
in, at first on perfunctory calls, visitors that disappeared when you
turned to speak with them, but that later came to stay. The four young
men were like children with a “roll-the-seven-number-eight-shot-into-the
middle” puzzle. They could make a great rattling with the shot, and
control their tempers; that was about all. Later they were to form units
in the most efficient and intelligent large body of men that the world
ever saw, with the possible exception of the armies it was to be pitted
against; but those, it must be owned, were usually smaller, though, in
the ability of their commanders to form concentration, often of three
times the size. They learned that it is cheaper to let a company sleep
in tents upon hard ground of a rainy night than to lodge them in a
neighboring hotel at one’s own expense, and that going the rounds in
pitch-darkness grows less thrilling in exact ratio to the number of
times you do it, and finally, even in sight of the enemy’s lines,
becomes as boring as waltzing with a girl you don’t like. They began to
learn that cleanliness is next to godliness only in times of peace, and
that food is the one god, and the stomach his only prophet. They learned
that the most difficult of all duties is to keep the face straight when
the horse of a brother officer who mounts for the first time is
surprised to vehemence by its first experience with a brass band.

Aladdin was absolutely equal to the occasion, and developed an
astonishing talent for play-acting, and, it is to be feared, strutted a
little, both in the bosom of his soul and on the parade-ground. It was
only when he looked at two of the “tall men on the right,” Hamilton and
Hannibal St. John, who had chosen humble parts that they might serve
under their brother, that he felt properly small and resented himself.
Sometimes, too, he searched his past life and could find in it only
one brave deed, his swim down the river, and he wondered with an
awful wonder what he would do when the firing began. He need not have
troubled: he was of too curious and inquiring a disposition to be afraid
of most things. And he was yet to see proved on many Southern fields
that a coward is, if anything, a rarer bird than a white quail. Only
once in action did Aladdin see a man really show the white feather. The
man had gone into the army from a grocery-store, and was a very thin,
small specimen with a very big, bulbous head; and, like many others of
his class, proved to be a perfect fire-eater in battle, and a regular
buzzard to escape fever and find food. But during the famous seven days
before Richmond a retreat was ordered of a part of the line which the
Buzzard helped compose, and he was confronted by the necessity, for his
friends were hastening him from behind, of crossing a gully by means of
a somewhat slender fallen tree. It was then that Aladdin saw him show
fear. Bullets tore up the bark of the tree, and pine needles, clipped
from the trees overhead, fell in showers. But he did not mind that. It
was the slenderness and instability of the fallen tree that froze the
marrow in his bones: would it bear his one hundred and twenty-four
pounds, or would it precipitate him, an awful drop of ten feet, into the
softest of muds at the bottom of the gully, where a sickeningly striped
but in reality harmless water-snake lay coiled?

Finally, pale and shaking, he ventured on the log, got half-way across,
turned giddy, and fell with such a howl of terror that it was only
equaled in vehemence by the efforts of the snake to get out of the way.
After which the Buzzard picked himself up, scrambled out, and continued
his retreat, scraping his muddied boots among the fallen leaves as he
went. “Some talk of Alexander and some of Hercules,” but it may be that
an exceedingly giddy elevation coupled with a serpent would have
made shivering children of both those heroes. To each his own fear.
Margaret’s and Aladdin’s was the same they both feared Aladdin.

That afternoon the regiment was to leave for the front, and Aladdin went
to bid Margaret good-by. She and her father were still staying with the
Blankinships.

They had a very satisfactory talk, beginning with the beginning of
things, and going over their long friendship, laughing, remembering, and
regretting. Jack was to live with the St. Johns, and they talked much of
him, and of old Mrs. Brackett, and of affairs at home. Jack about this
time was in the seventh hell of despair, for his extreme youth had
prevented him from bringing to its triumphant conclusion a pleasant
little surprise, consisting of a blue uniform, which he had planned
for himself and others. No love of country stirred the bosom of the
guileless Jack; only hatred of certain books out of which he was obliged
to learn many useless things, such as reading, writing, spelling, and
arithmetic. Besides, word had come to him that persimmons were to be
had for the picking and chickens for the broiling in that country toward
which the troops were heading. And much also had he heard concerning
the beauty of Southern maidens, and of the striped watermelons in the
watermelon-patch. And so he was to be left behind, and God was not good.

Toward the end their talk got very serious.

“I’m going to turn over a new leaf,” said Aladdin, “and be better
things, Margaret, and you must save up a lot of pride to have in me if I
do, and perhaps it will all come right in the end.”

“You know how fond I am of you,” said Margaret, “and because I am, and
because you’re all the big things that are hard to be, I want you to be
all the little things that ought to be so easy to be. That doesn’t seem
very plain, but I mean--”

“I know exactly what you mean,” said Aladdin. “Don’t you suppose I know
myself pretty well by this time, and how far I’ve got to climb before I
have a ghost of a right to tell you what I tell you every time I look at
you?”

Aladdin rose.

“Margaret,” he said, “this time I’m going like an old friend. If I make
good and live steady, as I mean to do, I shall come back like a lover.
Meanwhile you shall think all things over, and if you think that you can
care for me, you shall tell me so when I come back. And if you conclude
that you can’t, you shall tell me. I’m not going to ask you to marry me
now, because in no way am I in a position to. But if I come back and say
to you, ‘Margaret, I have turned into a man at last,’ you will know that
I am telling the truth and am in a position to ask anything I please.
For I shall come back without a cent, but with a character, and that’s
everything. I shall not drink any more, and every night I shall pray
to God to help me believe in Him. But, Margaret, I may not come back at
all. If I don’t it will be for one of two reasons. Either I shall fail
in becoming worthy to kiss the dust under your blessed feet, or I shall
be killed. In the first case, I beg that you will pray for me; but in
the second I pray that you will forget all that was bad in me and only
remember what was good. And so, darling--” his voice broke, “because I
am a little afraid of death and terribly afraid of myself--”

She came obediently into his arms, and knew what it was to be kissed by
the man she loved.

“Aladdin,” she said, “promise that nothing except--”

“Death?” said Aladdin.

“--that nothing, nothing except death--shall keep you from coming back.”

“If I live,” said Aladdin, “I will come back.”

Everybody of education knows that Lucy Locket lost her pocket and that
Betty Pringle found it without a penny “in it” (to rhyme with “found
it”), but everybody does not know that the aforementioned Lucy Locket
had a tune composed for her benefit that has thrilled the hearts of more
sons of the young republic when stepping to battle than any other tune,
past, present, or to come. There is a martial vigor and a tear in “The
Girl I Left Behind Me”; some feet cannot help falling into rhythm when
they hear the “British Grenadiers”; North and South alike are possessed
with a do-or-die madness when the wild notes of “Dixie” rush from the
brass; and “John Brown’s Body” will cause the dumb to sing. But it is
the farcical little quickstep known by the ridiculous name of “Yankee
Doodle” which the nations would do well to consider when straining the
patience of the peace-loving and United States.

And so they marched down the street to the station, and the tall men
walked on the right and the little men on the left, and the small boys
trotted alongside, and the brand-new flags flung out, and bouquets were
thrown, and there were cheers from the heart up all along the line. But
ever the saucy fifes sang, and the drums gaily beat

          Yankee Doodle came to town
            Riding on a pony,
          Stuck a feather in his Hat,
            And called it macaroni.

At the station the emotions attendant on departure found but one voice.
The mother said to the son what the sweetheart said to the lover, and
the sister to the brother. Nor was this in any manner different from
what the brother, lover, and son said to the sister, sweetheart, and
mother. It was the last sentence which bleeding hearts supply to lips at
moments of farewell:

“Write to me.”

And the supercilious little quickstep went on:

          Yankee Doodle came to town
         Riding on a pony,
          Stuck a feather in his Hat,
            And called it macaroni.



XXIII


A tongue of land with Richmond (built, like another capital beginning
with R, on many hills) for its major root, and a fortification vulgarly
supposed to be of the gentler sex for its tip, is formed by the yellow
flow of the James and York rivers. To land an army upon the tip of this
tongue, march the length of it and extract the root, after reducing it
to a reminiscence, was the wise plan of the powers early in the year
1862. To march an army of preponderous strength through level
and fertile country, flanked by friendly war-ships and backed by
unassailable credit; to meet and overcome a much smaller and far less
rich army, intrenched behind earthworks of doubtful formidableness, and
finally to besiege and capture an isolated city of more historic than
strategic advantages, seemed on the face of it as easy as rolling a
barrel downhill or eating when hungry. But the level, fertile country
was discovered to be very muddy, its supply of rain from heaven
unparalleled in nature, its streams as deadly as arsenic, and its
topography utterly different from that assigned to it in any known
geography. Furthermore, in its woods, and it was nearly all woods, dwelt
far more mosquitos than there are lost souls in Hades, and each mosquito
had a hollow spike in his head through which he not only could but would
squirt, with or without provocation, the triple compound essence of
malaria into veins brought up on oxygen, and on water through which you
could see the pebbles at the bottom. A bosom friend of the mosquito,
and some say his paramour, was little Miss Tick. Of the two she was
considerably the more hellish, and forsook her dwelling-places in the
woods for the warm flesh of soldiers where it is rosiest, next the skin.
The body, arms, and legs of Miss Tick could be scratched to nothing by
poisonous finger-nails, but her detached head was eternal, and through
eternity she bit and gnawed and sometimes laughed in the hollow of her
black soul. For the horses, mules, and cattle there were shrubs which
disagreed with them, and gigantic horse-flies. And for the general at
the head of the vast body of irritation there was an opposing army
whose numbers he overrated, and whose whereabouts he kept discovering
suddenly. It is said that during the Peninsular campaign the buzzards
were so well nourished that they raised a second brood.

While the army was still in the vicinity of Fort Monroe, numbers of
officers secured leave to ride over to Newport News and view the traces
of the recent and celebrated naval fight, which was to relegate wooden
battle-ships to the fireplace. Aladdin was among those to go. At this
time he was in great spirits, for it had been brought home to him
that he was one of the elect, one of those infinitely rare and godlike
creatures whom mosquitos do not bite nor ticks molest. His nights were
as peaceful as the grave, and the poisonous drinking-waters glanced from
his rubber constitution. Besides, he had forsaken his regimental duties
to enjoy a life of constant variety upon the staff of a general, and had
begun to feel at home on horseback. It was one of those radiant, smiling
days, which later on were to become rarer than charity, and the woods
were positively festive with sunshine. And the temperature was precisely
that which brings to a young man’s fancy thoughts of love. So that it
was in the nature of a shock to come suddenly upon the shore and behold
for the first time the finality of war. There was no visible glory
about it. What had happened to the Cumberland and the Congress was
disappointingly like what would happen to two ships destroyed in shallow
water. The masts of the Cumberland, slightly off the vertical and still
rigged, projected for half their length from the yellow surface of the
river. That was all. Some distance to the left and half submerged was a
blackened and charred mass that bore some resemblance to a ship that had
once been proud and tall, and known by the name of Congress. That
was all. Aladdin had hoped that war would be a little more like the
pictures.

As he rode back, pondering, toward the encampment, however, he came upon
something which was truly an earnest of what was to come. There were so
many buzzards perched in the trees of a certain wood that he turned in
to see what they had. He came upon it suddenly, just beyond a cheerful
bush of holly, and the buzzards stepped reluctantly back until he had
looked. It was only a horse. Some of the buzzards, heavy with food,
raised their eyelids heavily and looked at Aladdin, and then lapsed
back into filthy sleep. Others, not yet satiated, looked upon him
querulously, and suggested as much as looks can suggest that he go, and
trouble them no more. Others, the newly arrived and ravenous, swooped
above the trees, so that dark circles were drawn over the fallen
sunlight. Now a buzzard opened and closed its wings, and now one looked
from the horse to Aladdin, and back, fretfully, to the horse. There
seemed to be hundreds of them, dark and dirty, with raw heads and
eyelids. Aladdin sat solemn and motionless upon his horse, but he could
feel the cold sweat of horror running down his sides from under his
arms, and the bristling of his hair. He wanted to make a great noise, to
shout, to do anything, but he did not dare. It would have been breaking
the rules. In that assembly no sound was allowed, for the meeting was
unholy and wicked and worked with hurried stealth, so that the attention
of God should not be drawn. Aladdin knew that he had no right to be
there, that without knocking he had entered the bedroom of horror and
found her naked in the arms of lust. He turned and rode away shivering
and without looking back. He had not ridden the distance between two
forest trees before the carcass was again black with the descending
birds, and the blood streamed to their bills.

The Peninsular campaign developed four kinds of men: the survivors, the
wounded, the dead, and the missing. When the campaign was over Aladdin
sometimes woke starting in the night to think of those missing and of
what he had seen in the woods.



XXIV


The tedious locomotion of an army and the incessant reluctance of
the battle to be met will try a sinner; but a scarcity of tobacco and
constantly wet feet will try a saint. Aladdin was somewhat of both. But
in the fidgety gloom which presently settled upon man and beast, his,
great Irish gift of cheerfulness shone like a star. He even gave up
longing for promotion, and strained his mind to the cracking-point for
humorous verses and catching tunes. He went singing up the Peninsula,
and thumped the gay banjo by the camp-fire, and was greatly beloved by
the foot-sore and sick. He had given up worrying about what he would do
in battle, for there were much more important things to think about.

Battles are to soldiers what Christmas trees are to children: you must
wait, wait, and wait for them, and forever wait; and when they do come
the presents are apt to be a little tawdry. And you are only envied by
the other little children who didn’t really see what you really got. The
most comforting man in the army was one minister of the gospel, and
the most annoying was another. The first had the divine gift of
story-telling and laughter, and the second thanked God because the
soldiers had run out of their best friend, tobacco, which he described
through his nose as “filthy weed,” “vile narcotic,” or “pernicious
hell-plant.” And they both served the Lord as hard as they could--and
they both suffered from dysentery.

As the days passed and the temperature of the army rose, and its
digestion became permanently impaired, Aladdin, by giving out, and
constantly, all that was best in himself, became gradually exhausted.
He found himself telling stories as many as three times to the same man,
and he began to steal from the poets and musicians that he knew in order
to keep abreast of his own original powers of production. He even went
so far as to draw inspiration from men of uneven heights stood in line:
he would hum the intervals as scored by their heads on an imaginary
staff and fashion his tune accordingly, but this tended to a somewhat
compressed range and was not always happy in its results. His efforts,
however, were appreciated, and the emaciated young Irishman became a
most exceptional prophet, and received honor in his own land.

For the rest, being a staff-officer, he was kept busy and rode hundreds
of extra miles through the rain. It was a large army, as inexperienced
as it was large, and it stood in great need of being kept in contact
with itself. If you lived at one end of it and wanted to know what was
going on at the other end, you had to travel about as far as from New
York to New Haven. The army proper, marching by fours, stretched away
through the wet lands for forty miles. A fly-bitten tail of ambulances
and wagons, with six miserable horses or six perfectly happy mules
attached to each, added another twenty miles. At the not always attained
rate of fifteen miles a day the army could pass a given point in four
days. To the gods in Olympus it would have appeared to have all the
characteristic color and shape of an angleworm, without, however,
enjoying that reptile’s excellent good health. If the armies of
Washington, Cornwallis, Clive, Pizarro, Cortes, and Christian de Wet had
been added to it, they would have passed unnoticed in the crowd. And the
recurring fear of the general in command of this army was that the army
he sought would prove to be twice as big. So speculation was active
between the York and James rivers.

In the minds of the soldiers a thousand years passed, and then there was
a little fight, and they learned that they were soldiers. And so did
the other army. Another thousand years passed, and it seemed tactful to
change bases. Accordingly, that which had been arduously established on
a muddy river called the Chickahominy (and it was very far from either
of those two good things) was forsaken, and the host began to be moved
toward the James. This move would have been more smoothly accomplished
if the enemy had not interfered. They, however, insisted upon making
history, turning a change of base into a nominal retreat, and begetting
in themselves a brass-bound and untamable spirit which it took vast
wealth and several years to humble. From Gaines’s Mill to the awful brow
of Malvern Hill there were thunder and death. Forty thousand men were
somewhat needlessly killed, wounded, or (as one paradoxical account has
it) “found missing.”

Aladdin missed the fight at Malvern Hill and became wounded in a
non-bellicose fashion. His general desired to make a remark to another
general, and writing it on a piece of thin yellow paper, gave it to him
to deliver. He rode off to the tune of axes,--for a Maine regiment
was putting in an hour in undoing the stately work of a hundred
years,--trotted fifteen miles peacefully enough, delivered his general’s
remark, and started back. Then came night and a sticky mist. Then the
impossibility of finding the way. Aladdin rode on and on, courageously
if not wisely, and came in time to the dimly discernible outbuildings of
a Virginia mansion. They stood huddled dark and wet in the mist, which
was turning to rain, and there was no sign of life in or about them.
Aladdin passed them and turned into an alley of great trees. By looking
skyward he could keep to the road they bounded. As he drew near the
mansion itself a great smell of box and roses filled his nostrils with
fragrance. But to him, standing under the pillared portico and knocking
upon the door, came no word of welcome and no stir of lights. He gave
it up in disgust, mounted, and rode back through the rich mud to the
stables. Had he looked over his shoulder he might have seen a face at
one of the windows of the house.

He found a door of one of the stables unlocked, and went in, leading his
horse. Within there was a smell of hay. He closed the door behind him,
unsaddled, and fell to groping about in the dark. He wanted several
armfuls of that hay, and he couldn’t find them. The hay kept calling to
his nose, “Here I am, here I am”; but when he got there, it was hiding
somewhere else. It was like a game of blindman’s-buff. Then he heard
the munching of his horse and knew that the sought was found. He moved
toward the horse, stepped on a rotten planking, and fell through the
floor. Something caught his chin violently as he went through, and in
a pool of filthy water, one leg doubled and broken under him, he passed
the night as tranquilly as if he had been dosed with laudanum.



XXV


Aladdin came to consciousness in the early morning. He was about as sick
as a man can be this side of actual dissolution, and the pain in his
broken leg was as sharp as a scream. He lay groaning and doubled in
the filthy half-inch of water into which he had fallen. About him was
darkness, but overhead a glimmer of light showed a jagged and cruel
hole in the planking of the stable floor. Very slowly, for his agony was
unspeakable, he came to a realization of what had happened. He called
for help, and his voice was thick and unresonant, like the voice of a
drunken man. His horse heard him and neighed. Now and again he lapsed
into semi-unconsciousness, and time passed without track. Hours passed,
when suddenly the glimmer above him brightened, and he heard light
footsteps and the cackling of hens. He called for help. Instantly there
was silence. It continued a long time. Then he heard a voice like soft
music, and the voice said, “Who’s there?”

A shadow came between him and the light, and a fair face that was
darkened looked down upon him.

“For God’s sake take care,” he said. “Those boards are rotten.”

“You ‘re a Yankee, aren’t you?” said the voice, sweetly.

“Yes,” said Aladdin, “and I’m badly hurt.”

The voice laughed.

“Hurt, are you?” it said.

“I think I’ve broken my leg,” said Aladdin. “Can you get some one to
help me out of this?”

“Reckon you’re all right down there,” said the voice.

Aladdin revolved the brutality of it in his mind.

“Do you mean to say that you’re not going to help me?” he said.

“Help you? Why should I?”

Aladdin groaned, and could have killed himself for groaning.

“If you don’t help me,” he said, and his voice broke, for he was
suffering tortures, “I’ll die before long.”

A perfectly cool and cruel “Well?” came back to him.

“You won’t help me?”

“No.”

Anger surged in his heart, but he spoke with measured sarcasm.

“Then,” he said, “will you at least do me the favor of getting from
between me and God’s light? If I die, I may go to hell, but I prefer not
to see devils this side of it, thank you.”

The girl went away, but presently came back. She lowered something to
him on a string. “I got it out of one of your holsters,” she said.

Aladdin’s fingers closed on the butt of a revolver.

“It may save you a certain amount of hunger and pain,” she said. “When
you are dead, we will give it to one of our men, and your horse too.
He’s a beauty.”

“I hope to God he may--” began Aladdin.

“Pretty!” said the girl.

She went away, and he heard her clucking to the chickens. After a time
she came back. Aladdin was waiting with a plan.

“Don’t move,” he said, “or you’ll be shot.”

“Rubbish!” said the girl. She leaned casually back from the hole, and
he could hear her moving away and clucking to the chickens. Again she
returned.

“Thank you for not shooting,” she said.

There was no answer.

“Are you dead?” she said.

When he came to, there was a bright light in Aladdin’s eyes, for a
lantern swung just to the left of his head.

“I thought you were dead,” said the girl, still from her point of
advantage. The lantern’s light was in her face, too, and Aladdin saw
that it was beautiful.

“Won’t you help me?” he said plaintively.

“Were you ever told that you had nice eyes?” said the girl.

Aladdin groaned.

“It bores you to be told that?”

“My dear young lady,” said Aladdin, “if you were as kind as you are
beautiful--”

“How about your horse kicking me to a certain place? That was what you
started to say, you know.”

“Lady--lady,” said Aladdin, “if you only knew how I’m suffering, and I’m
just an ordinary young man with a sweetheart at home, and I don’t want
to die in this hole. And now that I look at you,” he said, “I see that
you’re not so much a girl as an armful of roses.”

“Are you by any chance--Irish?” said the girl, with a laugh.

“Faith and of ahm that,” said Aladdin, lapsing into full brogue; “oi’m a
hireling sojer, mahm, and no inimy av yours, mahm.”

“What will you do for me if I help you?” said the girl.

“Anything,” said Aladdin.

“Will you say ‘God save Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate
States of America,’ and sing ‘Dixie’--that is, if you can keep a tune.
‘Dixie’ ‘s rather hard.”

“I’ll ‘God bless Jefferson Davis and every future President of the
Confederate States, if there are any,’ ten million times, if you’ll help
me out, and--”

“Will you promise not to fight any more?”

A long silence.

“No.”

“You needn’t do the other things either,” said the girl, presently. Her
voice, oddly enough, was husky.

“I thought it would be good to see a Yankee suffer,” she said after a
while, “but it isn’t.”

“If you could let a ladder down,” said Aladdin, “I might be able to get
up it.”

“I’ll get one,” said the girl. Then she appeared to reflect. “No,” she
said; “we must wait till dark. There are people about, and they’d kill
you. Can you live in that hole till dark?”

“If you could throw down a lot of hay,” said Aladdin. “It’s very wet
down here and hard.”

The girl went, and came with a bundle of hay.

“Look out for the lantern,” she called, and threw the hay down to
him. She brought, in all, seven large bundles and was starting for the
eighth, when, by a special act of Providence, the flooring gave again,
and she made an excellent imitation of Aladdin’s shute on the previous
evening. By good fortune, however, she landed on the soft hay and was
not hurt beyond a few scratches.

“Did you notice,” she said, with a little gasp, “that I didn’t scream?”

“You aren’t hurt, are you?” said Aladdin.

“No,” she said; “but--do you realize that we can’t get out, now?”

She made a bed of the hay.

“You crawl over on that,” she said.

Aladdin bit his lips and groaned as he moved.

“It’s really broken, isn’t it?” said the girl. Aladdin lay back gasping.

“You poor boy,” she said.



XXVI


The girl borrowed Aladdin’s pocket-knife and began whittling at a
fragment of board. Then she tore several yards of ruffle from her white
petticoat, cut his trouser leg off below the knee, cut the lacings of
his boot, and bandaged his broken leg to the splint she had made. All
that was against a series of most courteous protests, made in a tearful
voice.

When she had done, Aladdin took her hand in his and kissed the fingers.

“They’re the smallest sisters of mercy I ever saw,” said he. She made no
attempt to withdraw her hand.

“It was stupid of me to fall through,” she said.

“Isn’t there any possible way of getting out?”

“No; the walls are stone.”

“O Lord!” said Aladdin.

“I’m glad I repented before I fell through,” said the girl.

“So am I,” said Aladdin.

“What were you doing in our stable?” said the girl.

“I got lost, and came in for shelter.”

“You came to the house first. I heard you knocking, and saw you from the
window. But I wouldn’t let you in, because my father and brother were
away, and besides, I knew you were a Yankee.”

“It was too dark to see my uniform.”

“I could tell by the way you rode.”

“Is it as bad as that?”

“No--but it’s different.”

The girl laid her hand on Aladdin’s forehead.

“You’ve got fever,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Aladdin, politely.

“Does your leg hurt awfully?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Did any one ever tell you that you were very civil for a Yankee?”

“It doesn’t matter,” said Aladdin.

She looked at him shrewdly, and saw that the light of reason had gone
out of his eyes. She wetted her handkerchief with the cold, filthy water
spread over the cellar floor and laid it on his forehead. Aladdin spoke
ramblingly or kept silence. Every now and then the girl freshened the
handkerchief, and presently Aladdin fell into a troubled sleep.

When he awoke his mind was quite clear. The lantern still burned, but
faintly, for the air in the cellar was becoming heavy. Beside him on
the straw the girl lay sleeping. And overhead footsteps sounded on the
stable floor. He remembered what the girl had said about the people who
would kill him if they found him, and blew out the lantern. Then, his
hand over her mouth, he waked the girl.

“Don’t make a noise,” he said. “Listen.”

The girl sat up on the straw.

“I’ll call,” she whispered presently, “and pretend you’re not here.”

“But the horse?”

“I’ll lie about him.”

She raised her voice.

“Who’s there?” she called.

“It’s I--Calvert. Where are you?”

“Listen,” she answered; “I’ve fallen through the floor into the cellar.
Don’t you see where it’s broken?”

The footsteps approached.

“You’re not hurt, are you?”

“No; but don’t come too close, don’t try to look down; the floor’s
frightfully rickety. Isn’t there a ladder there somewhere?”

A man laughed.

“Wait,” he said. They heard his footsteps and laughter receding.
Presently the bottom of a ladder appeared through the hole in the floor.

“Look out for your head,” said the man.

The girl rose and guided the ladder clear of Aladdin’s head.

“What have you done with the Yankee’s horse?” she called.

“He’s here.”

“Where’s the Yankee, do you suppose?”

“We think he must have run off into the woods.”

“That’s what I thought.”

The girl began to mount the ladder.

“I’m coming up,” she said.

She disappeared, and the ladder was withdrawn.

She came back after a long time, and there were men with her.

“It’s all right, Yankee,” she called down the hole. “They’re your own
men, and I’m the prisoner now.”

The ladder reappeared, and two friendly men in blue came down into the
cellar.

“Good God!” they said. “It’s Aladdin O’Brien!”

Hannibal St. John and Beau Larch lifted Aladdin tenderly and took him
out of his prison.

Outside, tents were being pitched in the dark, and there was a sound of
axes. Fires glowed here and there through the woods and over the fields,
and troops kept pouring into the plantation. They laid Aladdin on a heap
of hay and went to bring a stretcher. The girl sat down beside him.

“You’ll be all right now,” she said.

“Yes,” said Aladdin.

“And go home to your sweetheart.”

“Yes,” said Aladdin, and he thought of the tall violets on the banks of
the Maine brooks, and the freshness of the sea.

“What is her name?” said the girl.

“Margaret,” said Aladdin.

“Mine’s Ellen,” said the girl, and it seemed as if she sighed.

Aladdin took her hand.

“You ‘ve been very good to me,” he said, and his voice grew tender, for
she was very beautiful, “and I’ll never forget you,” he said.

“Oh, me!” said the girl, and there was a silence between them.

“I tried to help you,” said the girl, faintly, “but I wasn’t very good
at it.”

“You were an angel,” said Aladdin.

“I don’t suppose we’ll ever see each other again, will we?” said the
girl.

“I don’t know,” said Aladdin. “Perhaps I’ll come back some day.”

“It’s very silly of me--” said the girl.

“What?” said Aladdin.

“Nothing.”

He closed his eyes, for he was very weak. It seemed as if a great
sweetness came close to his face, and he could have sworn that something
wet and hot fell lightly on his forehead; but when he opened his eyes,
the girl was sitting aloof, her face in the shadow.

“I dreamed just then,” said Aladdin, “that something wonderful happened
to me. Did it?”

“What would you consider wonderful?”

Aladdin laid a finger on his forehead; he drew it away and saw that the
tip was wet.

“I couldn’t very well say,” he said.

The girl bent over him.

“It nearly happened,” she said.

“You are very wonderful and beautiful,” said Aladdin.

Her eyes were like stars, and she leaned closer.

“Are you going to go on fighting against my people?” she said.

Roses lay for a moment on his lips.

“Are you?”

He made no sign. If she had kissed him again he would have renounced his
birthright and his love.

“God bless and keep you, Yankee,” she said.

Tears rushed out of Aladdin’s eyes.

“They’re coming to take you away,” she said. “Good-by.”

“Kiss me again,” said Aladdin, hoarsely.

She looked at him quietly for some moments.

“And your sweetheart?” she said.

Aladdin covered his face with his arm.

“Poor little traitor,” said the girl, sadly. She rose and, without
looking back, moved slowly up the road toward the house.

Nor did Aladdin ever see her again, but in after years the smell of box
or roses would bring into his mind the wonderful face of her, and the
music of her voice.

In the delirium which was upon him all that night, he harped to the
surgeon of Ellen, and in the morning fell asleep.

“Haec olim meminisse juvabit,” said the surgeon, as rain-clouded dawn
rose whitely in the east.



XXVII


Aladdin was jolted miserably down the Peninsula in a white ambulance,
which mules dragged through knee-deep mud and over flowing, corduroy
roads. He had fever in his whole body, anguish in one leg, and hardly a
wish to live. But at Fort Monroe the breezes came hurrying from the sea,
like so many unfailing doctors, and blew his fever back inland where
it belonged. He lay under a live-oak on the parade ground and once more
received the joy of life into his heart. When he was well enough to limp
about, they gave him leave to go home; and he went down into a ship,
and sailed away up the laughing Chesapeake, and up the broad Potomac to
Washington. There he rested during one night, and in the morning took
train for New York. The train was full of sick and wounded going home,
and there was a great cheerfulness upon them all. Men joined by the
brotherhood of common experience talked loudly, smoked hard, and drank
deep. There was tremendous boasting and the accounting of unrivaled
adventures. In Aladdin’s car, however, there was one man who did not
join in the fellowship, for he was too sick. He had been a big man and
strong, but he looked like a ghost made of white gossamer and violet
shadows. His own mother would not have recognized him. He lay back
into the corner of a seat with averted face and closed eyes. The more
decent-minded endeavored, on his account, to impose upon the noisy a
degree of quiet, but their efforts were unavailing. Aladdin, drumming
with his nails upon the windowpane, fell presently into soft song:

        Give me three breaths of pleasure
         After three deaths of pain,
        And make me not remeasure
         The ways that were in vain.

Men grew silent and gathered to hear, for Aladdin’s fame as a maker of
songs had spread over the whole army, and he was called the Minstrel
Major. He felt his audience and sang louder. The very sick man turned
a little so that he, too, could hear. Only the occasional striking of
a match or the surreptitious drawing of a cork interrupted. The stately
tune moved on:

        The first breath shall be laughter,
         The second shall be wine;
        And there shall follow after
         A kiss that shall be mine.

Somehow all the homing hearts were set to beating.

        Roses with dewfall laden
         One garden grows for me;
        I call them kisses, maiden,
         And gather them from thee.

The very sick man turned fully, and there was a glad light of
recognition in his eyes.

        Give me three kisses only--
         Then let the storm break o’er
        The vessel beached and lonely
         Upon the lonely shore.

If Aladdin’s singing ever moved anybody particularly, it was Aladdin,
and that was why it moved other people. He sang on with tears in his
voice

        Give me three breaths of pleasure
         After three deaths of pain,
        And I will no more treasure
         The hopes that are in vain.

There was silence for a moment, more engaging than applause, and then
applause. Aladdin was in his element, and he wondered what he would
best sing next if they should ask him to sing again, and this they
immediately did. The train was jolting along between Baltimore and
Philadelphia. There was much beer in the bellies of the sick and
wounded, and much sentiment in their hearts. Aladdin’s finger was always
on the pulse of his audience, and he began with relish:

     Oh, shut and dark her window is
      In the dark house on the hill,
     But I have come up through the lilac walk
      To the lilt of the whippoorwill,
     With the old years tugging at my hands
      And my heart which is her heart still.

There was another man in the car whose whole life centered about a house
on a hill with a lilac walk leading up to it. He was the very sick man,
and a shadow of red color came into his cheeks.

     They said, “You must come to the house once more,
      Ere the tale of your years be done,
     You must stand and look up at her window again,
      Ere the sands of your life are run,
     As the night-time follows the lost daytime,
      And the heart goes down with the sun.”

There were tears in the very sick man’s eyes, for the future was hidden
from him. Aladdin sang on:

     Though her window be darkest of every one,
      In the dark house on the hill,
     Yet I turn to it here from this ruin of grass,
      She has leaned on that window’s sill,
     And dark it is, but there is, there is
      An echo of light there still!

There was great applause from the drunk and sentimental. And Aladdin
lowered his eyes until it was over. When he raised them it was to
encounter those of the very sick man. Aladdin sprang to his feet with a
cry and went limping down the aisle.

“Peter,” he cried, “by all that’s holy!”

All the tenderness of the Celt gushed into Aladdin’s heart as he
realized the pitiful condition and shocking emaciation of his friend. He
put his arm gently about him, and thus they sat until the journey’s end.
In New York they separated.

Aladdin rested that night and boarded an early morning train for Boston.
He settled himself contentedly behind a newspaper, and fell to gathering
news of the army. But it was difficult to read. A sentence beginning
like this: “Rumors of a savage engagement between the light horse
under” would shape itself like this: “I am going to see Margaret
to-morrow--to-morrow--to-morrow--I am going to see Margaret
to-morrow-tomorrow--and God is good--is good--is good.”

Oddly enough, there was another man in the car who was having precisely
the same difficulty in deciphering his newspaper. At about the same
time they both gave up the attempt; and their eyes met. And they laughed
aloud. And presently, seated together, they fell into good talk, but
each refrained pointedly from asking the other where he was going.

With a splendid assumption of innocence, they drove together across
Boston, and remarking nothing on the coincidence, each distinctly heard
the other checking his luggage for Portland, Maine.

Side by side they rolled out of Portland and saw familiar trees and
hills go by. Presently Aladdin chuckled:

“Where are you going, Peter, anyway?” he said.

“Just where you are,” said Peter.



XXVIII


“Peter,” said Aladdin, presently, “it seems to me that for two such old
friends we are lacking in confidence. I know precisely what you are
thinking about, and you know precisely what I am. We mustn’t play the
jealous rivals to the last; and to put it plainly, Peter, if God is
going to be good to you instead of me, why, I’m going to try and thank
God just the same. A personal disappointment is a purely private matter
and has no license to upset old ties and affections. Does it occur to
you that we are after the same thing and that one of us isn’t going to
get it?”

“We won’t let it make any difference,” said Peter, stoutly.

“That’s just it,” said Aladdin. “We mustn’t.”

“The situation--” Peter began.

“Is none the less difficult, I know. Here we are with a certain amount
of leave to occupy as we each see fit. And, unfortunately, there’s only
one thing which seems fit to either of us. And, equally unfortunately,
it’s something we can’t hold hands and do at the same time. Shall I go
straight from the station to Mrs. Brackett’s and wait until you’ve had
your say, Peter?--not that I want to wait very long,” he added.

“That wouldn’t be at all fair,” said Peter.

“Do you mind,” said Aladdin after a pause, “telling me about what your
chances are?”

Peter reddened uncomfortably.

“I’m afraid they’re not very good, ‘Laddin,” he said. “She--she said
she wasn’t sure. And that’s a good deal more apt to mean nothing than
everything, but I can’t straighten my life out till I’m sure.”

“My chances,” said Aladdin, critically, “shouldn’t by rights be anywhere
near as good as yours, but as long as they remain chances I feel just
the same as you do about yours, and want to get things straightened out.
But if I were any kind of a man, I’d drop it, because I’m not in her
class.”

“Nonsense,” said Peter.

“No, I’m not,” said Aladdin, gloomily. “I know that. But, Peter, what is
a man going to do, a single, solitary, pretty much good-for-nothing man,
with three great bouncing Fates lined up against him?”

Peter laughed his big, frank laugh.

“Shall we chuck the whole thing,” said Aladdin, “until it’s time to go
back to the army?”

“No,” said Peter, “that would be shirking; it’s got to be settled one
way or another very quickly.” He became grave again.

“I think so, too, Peter,” said Aladdin. “And I think that if she takes
one of us it will be a great sorrow for the other.”

“And for her,” said Peter, quietly.

“Perhaps,” said Aladdin, whimsically, “she won’t take either of us.”

“That,” said Peter, “should be a great sorrow for us both.”

“I know,” said Aladdin. “Anyway, there’s got to be sorrow.”

“I think I shall bear it better,” said Peter, “if she takes you,
‘Laddin.”

A flash of comparison between his somewhat morbid and warped self and
the bigness and nobility of his friend passed through Aladdin’s mind. He
glanced covertly at the strong, emaciated face beside him, and noted the
steadiness and purity of the eyes. A little quixotic flame, springing
like an orchid from nothing, blazed suddenly in his heart, and for the
instant he was the better man of the two.

“I hope she takes you, Peter,” he said.

They rolled on through the midsummer woods, heavy with bright leaves and
waist-deep with bracken; little brooks, clean as whistles, piped away
among immaculate stones, and limpid light broken by delicious shadows
fell over all.

“Who shall ask her first?” said Aladdin. Peter smiled. “Shall we toss
for it?” said Aladdin. Peter laughed gaily. “Do you really want it to be
like that?” he said.

“What’s the use of our being friends,” said Aladdin, “if we are not
going to back each other up in this of all things?”

“Right!” said Peter. “But you ought to have the first show because you
mentioned it first.”

“Rubbish!” said Aladdin. “We’ll toss, but not now; we’ll wait till we
get there.”

Peter looked at his watch.

“Nearly in,” he said.

“Yes,” said Aladdin. “I know by the woods.”

“Did you telegraph, by any chance?” said Peter. “Because I didn’t.”

“Nor I,” said Aladdin; “I didn’t want to be met.”

“Nor I,” said Peter.

“The sick man and the lame man will take hands and hobble up the hill,”
 said Aladdin. “And whatever happens, they mustn’t let anything make any
difference.”

“No,” said Peter, “they mustn’t.”



XXIX


Our veterans walked painfully through the town and up the hill; nor were
they suffered to go in peace, for right and left they were recognized,
and people rushed up to shake them by the hands and ask news of such an
one, and if Peter’s bullet was still in him, and if it was true, which
of course they saw it wasn’t, that Aladdin had a wooden leg. Aladdin,
it must be owned, enjoyed these demonstrations, and in spite of his
lameness strutted a little. But Peter, white from the after effects of
his wound and weary with the long travel, did not enjoy them at all.
Then the steep pitch of the hill was almost too much for him, and now
and again he was obliged to stop and rest.

The St. Johns’ house stood among lilacs and back from the street by the
breadth of a small garden. In the rear were large grounds, fields, and
even woods. The place had two entrances, one immediately in front of the
house for people on foot, and the other, a quarter of a mile distant,
for people driving. This latter, opening from a joyous country lane
of blackberry-vines and goldenrod, passed between two prodigious round
stones, and S-ed into a dark and stately wood. Trees, standing gladly
where God had set them, made a screen, impenetrable to the eye, between
the gateway and the house.

Here Peter and Aladdin halted, while Aladdin sent a coin spinning into
the air.

“Heads!” called Peter.

Aladdin let the piece fall to the ground, and they bent over it eagerly.

“After you,” said Peter, for the coin read, “Tails.”

Aladdin picked up the coin, and hurled it far away among the trees.

“That’s our joint sacrifice to the gods, Peter,” he said.

Peter gave him five cents.

“My share,” he said.

“Peter,” said Aladdin, “I will ask her the first chance I get, and if
there’s nothing in it for me, I will go away and leave the road clear
for you. Come.”

“No,” said Peter; “you’ve got your chance now. And here I wait until you
send me news.”

“Lord!” said Aladdin, “has it got to be as sudden as this?”

“Let’s get it over,” said Peter.

“Very good,” said Aladdin. “I’ll go. But, Peter, whatever happens, I
won’t keep you long in suspense.”

“Good man,” said Peter.

Aladdin turned his face to the house like a man measuring a distance. He
drew a deep breath.

“Well--here goes,” he said, and took two steps.

“Wait, ‘Laddin,” said Peter.

Aladdin turned.

“Can I have your pipe?”

“Of course.”

Aladdin turned over his pipe and pouch. “I’m afraid it’s a little
bitter,” he said.

Again he started up the drive; but Peter ran after him.

“‘Laddin,” he cried, “wait--I forgot something.”

Aladdin came back to meet him.

“Aladdin,” said Peter, “I forgot something.” He held out his hand, and
Aladdin squeezed it.

“Aladdin,” said Peter, “from the bottom of my heart I wish you luck.”

When they separated again there were tears in the eyes of both.

Just before the curtain of trees quite closed the view of the gate,
Aladdin turned to look at Peter. Peter sat upon one of the big stones
that marked the entrance, smoking and smoking. He had thrown aside his
hat, and his hair shone in the sun. There was a kind of wistfulness in
his poise, and his calm, pure eyes were lifted toward the open sky. A
great hero-worship surged in Aladdin’s heart, and he thought that there
was nothing that he would not do for such a friend. “He gave you your
life once,” said a little voice in Aladdin’s heart; “give him his. He is
worth a million of you; don’t stand in his way.”

Aladdin turned and went on, and the well-known house came into view, but
he saw only the splendid, wistful man at the gate, waiting calmly, as a
gentleman should, for life or death, and smoking smoking.

Even as he made his resolve, a lump of self-pity rose in Aladdin’s
throat. That was the old Adam in him, the base clay out of which springs
the fair flower of self-sacrifice.

He tried a variety of smiles, for he wished to be easy in the difficult
part which he had so suddenly, and in the face of all the old years,
elected to play. “He must know by the look of me,” said Aladdin, “that I
do not love her any more, for, God help me, I can’t say it.”

He found her on the broad rear veranda of the house. And instead of
going up to her and taking her in his arms,--for he had planned this
meeting often, as the stars could tell, he stood rooted, and said:

“Hallo, Margaret!”

He acted better than he knew, for the great light which had blazed for
one instant in her eyes on first seeing him went out like a snuffed
candle, and he did not see it or know that it had blazed. Therefore his
own cruelty was hidden from him, and his part became easier to play.
They shook hands, and even then, if he had not been blinded with the
egotism of self-sacrifice, he might have seen. That was his last chance.
For Margaret’s heart cried to her, “It is over,” and in believing it,
suddenly, and as she thought forever, an older sweetness came in her
face.

“You’ve changed, Aladdin,” she said.

“Yes, I’m thinner, if possible,” said Aladdin, “almost willowy. Do you
think it’s becoming?”

“I am not sure,” said Margaret. “The fact remains that I’m more than
glad to see you.”

Aladdin fumbled for speech.

“I’m still a little lame, you see,” he said apologetically, and took
several steps to show.

“Very!” said Margaret, in such a voice that Aladdin wondered what she
meant.

“But it doesn’t hurt any more.”

“Then that’s all right.”

“Where’s Jack?” he asked at length.

Margaret became very grave.

“I’m afraid we’ve betrayed our trust, Aladdin,” she said. “Because only
yesterday he slipped away and left a little note to say that he was
going to enlist. We’re very much distressed about it.”

“Perhaps it’s better so,” said Aladdin, “if he really wanted to go. Did
he leave any address?”

“None whatever; he simply vanished.”

“Ungrateful little brute!” said Aladdin. Then he bethought him of Peter.
“I’ll come back later, Margaret,” he said, “but it behooves me to go and
look up the good Mrs. Brackett.”

He hardly knew how he got out of the house. He felt like a criminal who
has been let off by the judge.

The sun was now low, and the shadows long and black. Aladdin found Peter
where he had left him, balancing on the great stone at the entrance, and
sending up clouds of smoke. He rose when he saw Aladdin, and he looked
paler and more worn. “Peter,” said Aladdin, “from the bottom of my heart
I wish you luck.”

Aladdin had never seen just such a look as came into Peter’s eyes; at
once they were full of infinite pity, and at peace with the whole world.

“Peter,” said Aladdin, “give me back my pipe.” His voice broke in spite
of himself, for he had given up golden things. “I--” he said, “I’ll wait
here a little while, but if--if all goes well, Peter, don’t you bother
to come back.”

They clasped hands long and in silence. Then Peter turned with a gulp,
and, his weakness a thing of the past, went striding up the driveway.
But Aladdin sat down to wait. And now a great piping of tree-frogs arose
in all that country. Aladdin waited for a long time. He waited until
the day gave way to twilight and the sun went down. He waited until the
twilight turned to dark and the stars came out. He waited until, after
all the years of waiting and longing, his heart was finally at peace.
And then he rose to go.

For Peter had not yet come.



BOOK III


  “Where are the tall men that marched on the right,
    That marched to the battle so handsome and tall?
   They ‘ve been left to mark the places where they saw the foemen’s faces,
   For the fever and the lead took them all, Jenny Orde,
    The fever and the lead took them all.

  “I found him in the forefront of the battle, Kenny Orde,
    With the bullets spitting up the ground around him,
   And the sweat was on his brow, and his lips were on his sword,
   And his life was going from him when I found him.

  “We lowered him to rest, Jenny Orde,
    With your picture on his breast, Jenny Orde,
   And the rumble of pursuit was the regiment’s salute
    To the man that loved you best, Jenny Orde.”



XXX


As a dam breaking gives free passage to the imprisoned waters, and they
rush out victoriously, so Vicksburg, starving and crumbling in the West,
was about to open her gates and set the Father of Waters free forever.
That was where the Union hammer, grasped so firmly by strong fingers
that their knuckles turned white, was striking the heaviest blows
upon the cracking skull of the Confederacy. On the other hand,
Chancellorsville had verged upon disaster, and the powers of Europe
were waiting for one more Confederate victory in order to declare the
blockade of Southern ports at an end, and to float a Southern loan.
That a Confederate victory was to be feared, the presence in Northern
territory of Lee, grasping the handle of a sword, whose splendid blade
was seventy thousand men concentrated, testified. That Lee had lost the
best finger of his right hand at Chancellorsville was but job’s comfort
to the threatened government at Washington. That government was still,
after years of stern fighting, trying generals and finding them wanting.
But now the Fates, in secret conclave, weighed the lots of Union and
Disunion; and that of Disunion, though glittering and brilliant like
gold, sank heavily to the ground, as a great eagle whose wing is broken
by the hunter’s bullet comes surely if fiercely down, to be put to
death.

Early on the morning of July 1, 1863, Lee found himself in the
neighborhood of a small and obscure town named Gettysburg. A military
invasion is the process of occupying in succession a series of towns.
To occupy Gettysburg, which seemed as possible as eating breakfast, Lee
sent forward a division of a corps, and followed leisurely with all his
forces. But Gettysburg and the ridges to the west of Gettysburg were
already occupied by two brigades of cavalry, and those, with a cockiness
begotten of big lumps of armed friends approaching from the rear,
determined to go on occupying. This, in a spirit of great courage, with
slowly increasing forces, against rapidly increasing forces, they did,
until the brisk and pliant skirmish which opened the business of the
day had grown so in weight and ferocity that it was evident to the least
astute that the decisive battle of the New World was being fought.



XXXI

There was a pretty girl in Manchester, Maryland (possibly several, but
one was particularly pretty), and Aladdin, together with several young
officers (nearly all officers were young in that war) of the Sixth Army
Corps, rather flattered himself that he was making an impression. He was
all for making impressions in those days. Margaret was engaged to
marry Peter--and a pretty girl was a pretty girl. The pretty girl of
Manchester had several girls and several officers to tea on a certain
evening, and they remained till midnight, making a great deal of
noise and flirting outrageously in dark corners. Two of the girls got
themselves kissed, and two of the officers got their ears boxed, and
later a glove each to stick in their hat-bands. At midnight the party
broke up with regret, and the young officers, seeking their quarters,
turned in, and were presently sleeping the sleep of the constant in
heart. But Aladdin did not dream about the pretty girl of Manchester,
Maryland. When he could not help himself--under the disadvantage of
sleep, when suddenly awakened, or when left alone--his mind harped upon
Margaret. And often the chords of the harping were sad chords. But on
this particular night he dreamed well. He dreamed that her little feet
did wrong and fled for safety unto him. What the wrong was he knew
in his dream, but never afterward--only that it was a dreadful,
unforgivable wrong, not to be condoned, even by a lover. But in his
dream Aladdin was more than her lover, and could condone anything. So
he hid her feet in his hands until those who came to arrest them had
passed, and then he waked to find that his hands were empty, and the
delicious dream over. He waked also to find that it was still dark,
and that the Sixth Army Corps was to march to a place called Taneytown,
where General Meade had headquarters. He made ready and presently was
riding by his general at the head of a creaking column, under the starry
sky. In the great hush and cool that is before a July dawn, God showed
himself to the men, and they sang the “Battle-hymn of the Republic,” but
it sounded sweetly and yearningly, as if sung by thousands of lovers:

  Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
  He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
  He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword
  His truth is marching on.

The full sunlight gives man poise and shows him the practical side of
things, but in the early morning and late at night man is seldom quite
rational. He weakly allows himself to dwell upon what was not, is not,
and will not be. And so Aladdin, during the first period of that march,
pretended that Margaret was to be his and that all was well.

A short distance out of Manchester the column met with orders from
General Meade and was turned westward toward Gettysburg. With the
orders came details of the first day’s fight, and Aladdin learned of the
officer bringing them, for he was a Maine man, that Hamilton St. John
was among the dead. Aladdin and the officer talked long of the poor boy,
for both had known him well. They said that he had not been as brilliant
as John, nor as winning as Hannibal, but so honest and reliable, so
friendly and unselfish. They went over his good qualities again and
again, and spoke of his great strength and purity, and of other things
which men hold best in men.

And now they were riding with the sun in their eyes, and white dust
rolled up from the swift feet of horses and men. Wild roses and new-mown
grass filled the air with delightful fragrance, and such fields as were
uncut blazed with daisies and buttercups. Over the trimmed lawns about
homesteads yellow dandelions shone like stars in a green sky. Men,
women, and children left their occupations, and stood with open mouths
and wide eyes to see the soldiers pass. The sun rose higher and the day
became most hot, but steadily, unflinchingly as the ticking of a clock,
the swift, bleeding, valiant feet of the Sixth Army Corps stepped off
the miles. And the men stretched their ears to hear the mumbled distant
thunder of artillery--that voice of battle which says so much and tells
so little to those far off. The Sixth Corps felt that it was expected to
decide a battle upon Northern soil for the North, and marching in
that buoyant hope, left scarcely a man, broken with fatigue and
disappointment, among the wild flowers by the side of the way.

If you have ever ridden from Cairo to the Pyramids you will remember
that at five miles’ distance they look as huge as at a hundred yards,
and that it is not until you actually touch them with your hand that you
even begin to realize how wonderfully huge they really are. It was
so with the thunders of Gettysburg. They sounded no louder, and they
connoted no more to the column now in the immediate vicinage of the
battle, than they had to its far-distant ears. But presently the
column halted behind a circle of hills, and beheld white smoke pouring
heavenward as if a fissure had opened in the earth and was giving forth
steam. And they beheld in the heavens themselves tiny, fleecy white
clouds and motionless rings, and they knew that shells were bursting and
men falling upon the slopes beyond the hills.

A frenzy of eagerness seized upon the tired feet, and they pressed
upward, lightly, like dancers’ feet. Straps creaked upon straining
breasts, and sweat ran in bubbles. Then the head of the column reached
the ridge of a hill, and its leaders saw through smarting eyes a great
horseshoe of sudden death.



XXXII


That morning Peter Manners had received a letter, but he had not had a
chance to open and read it. It was a letter that belonged next to his
heart, as he judged by the writing, and next to his heart, in a secure
pocket, he placed it, there to lie and give him strength and courage for
the cruel day’s work, and something besides the coming of night to look
forward to. For the rest, he went among the lines, and smiled like a boy
released from school to see how silently and savagely they fought.

The Sixth Corps rested wherever there was shade along the banks of Rock
Creek, and gathered strength and breath for whatever work should be
assigned to it.

Aladdin, sharing a cherry-pie with a friend, shivered with excitement,
for there was a terrific and ever-increasing discharge of cannons and
muskets on the left, and it seemed that the time to go forward again and
win glory was at hand. Presently one came riding back from the battle.
His face was shining with delight, and, sitting like a centaur to
the fiery plunges of his horse, he swung his hat and shouted. It was
Sedgwick’s chief of staff, McMahon, and he brought glorious news, for
he said that the corps was to move toward the heavy firing, where the
fighting was most severe.

Then the whole corps sprang to its feet and went forward, tearing down
the fences in its path and trampling the long grass in the fields. A
mile away the long, flowery slopes ended in a knobbed hill revealed
through smoke. That was Little Round Top, and its possession meant
victory or defeat. The corps was halted and two regiments were sent
forward up the long slope. To them the minutes seemed moments. They went
like a wave over the crest to the right of the hill, and poured down
into the valley beyond. Here the blue flood of men banked against a
stone wall, spreading to right and left, as the waters of a stream
spread the length of a dam. Then they began to fire dreadfully into the
faces of their enemy, and to curse terribly, as is proper in battle.
Bullets stung the long line like wasps, and men bit the sod.

Aladdin was ordered to ride up Little Round Top for information.
Half-way up he left his horse among the boulders and finished the
laborious ascent on foot. At the summit he came upon a leaderless
battery loading and firing like clockwork, and he saw that the rocks
were strewn with dead men in light-blue Zouave uniforms, who looked as
if they had fallen in a shower from the clouds. Many had their faces
caved in with stones, and terrible rents showed where the bayonet
had been at work, for in this battle men had fought hand to hand like
cave-dwellers. Bullets hit the rocks with stinging blows, and round
shot screamed in the air. Sometimes a dead man would be lifted from
where he lay and hurled backward, while every instant men cried hoarsely
and joined the dead. In the midst of this thunder and carnage, Aladdin
came suddenly upon Peter, smiling like a favorite at a dance, and
shouted to him. They grinned at each other, and as Aladdin grinned he
looked about to see where he could be of use, and sprang toward a gun
half of whose crew had been blasted to death by a bursting shell. The
sweat ran down his face, and already it was black with burning powder.
The flash of the guns set fire to the clothing of the dead and wounded
who lay in front, and on the recoil the iron-shod wheels broke the
bones of those lying behind. It was impossible to know how the fight was
going. It was only possible to go on fighting.

There was a voice in front of the battery that kept calling so terribly
for water that it turned cold the stomachs of those that heard. It
came from a Confederate, a general officer, who had been wounded in
the spine. Occasionally it was possible to see him through the smoke.
Sometimes a convulsion seized him, and he beat the ground with his whole
body, as a great fish that has been drawn from the water beats the deck
of a vessel. It was terrible to look at and hear. Bullets and shot tore
the ground about the man and showered him with dust and stones. Aladdin
shook his canteen and heard the swish of water. It seemed to him, and
his knees turned to water at the thought, that he must go out into that
place swept by the fire of both sides, and give relief to his enemy.
He did not want to go, and fear shook him; but he threw down the rammer
which he had been serving, and drawing breath in long gasps, took a step
forward. His resolve came too late. A blue figure slipped by him and
went down the slope at a run. It was Manners. They saw him kneel by the
dying Confederate in the bright sunlight, and then smoke swept between
like a wave of fog. The red flashes of the guns went crashing into the
smoke, and on all sides men fell. But presently there came a star-shaped
explosion in the midst of the smoke, hurling it back, and they saw
Manners again. He was staggering about with his hands over his eyes,
and blood was running through his fingers. Even as they looked, a shot
struck him in the back, and he came down. They saw his splendid square
chest heaving, and knew that he was not yet dead. Then the smoke closed
in, but this time another figure was hidden by the smoke. For no sooner
did Aladdin see Peter fall than he sprang forward like a hound from the
leash. Aladdin kneeled by Manners, and as he kneeled a bullet struck his
hat from his head, and a round shot, smashing into the rocky ground
a dozen feet away, filled his eyes with dirt and sparks. There was a
pungent smell of brimstone from the furious concussions of iron against
rock. A bullet struck the handle of Aladdin’s sword and broke it. He
unstopped his canteen and pressed the nozzle to Manners’ lips. Manners
sucked eagerly, like an infant at its mother’s breast. A bullet struck
the canteen and dashed it to pieces. The crashing of the cannon was like
close thunder, and the air sang like the strings of an instrument. But
Aladdin, so cool and collected he was, might have been the target for
praises and roses flung by beauties. He put his lips close to Peter’s
ear, and spoke loudly, for the noise of battle was deafening.

“Is it much, darlint?”

Manners turned his bleeding eyes toward Aladdin.

“Go back, you damn little fool!” he said.

“Peter, Peter,” said Aladdin, “can’t you see?”

“No, I can’t. I’m no use now. Go back; go back and give ‘em hell!”

Aladdin endeavored to raise Peter in his arms, but was not strong
enough.

“I can’t lift you, I can’t lift you,” he said.

“You can’t,” said Peter. “Bless you for coming, and go back.”

“Shut up, will you?” cried Aladdin, savagely. “Where are you hit?”

“In the back,” said Peter, “and I’m done for.”

“The hell you are!” said Aladdin. Tears hotter than blood were running
out of his eyes. “What can I do for you, Peter?” he said in a husky
voice.

Manners’ blackened fingers fumbled at the buttons of his coat, but he
had not the strength to undo them.

“It’s there, ‘Laddin,” he said.

“What’s there?” said Aladdin. He undid the coat with swift, clever
fingers.

“Let me hold it in my hands,” said Peter.

“Is it this--this letter--this letter from Margaret?” asked Aladdin,
chokingly, for he saw that the letter had not been opened.

A shower of dirt and stones fell upon them, and a shell burst with a
sharp crash above their heads.

“Yes,” said Peter. “Give it to me. I can’t ever read it now.”

“I can read it for you,” said Aladdin. He was struggling with a sob that
wanted to tear his throat.

“Will you? Will you?” cried Peter, and he smiled like a beautiful child.

“Sure I will,” said Aladdin.

With the palm of his hand he pressed back the streaming sweat from his
forehead twice and three times. Then, having wiped his hands upon his
knees, he drew the battered fragment of his sword, and using it as a
paper-knife, opened the letter carefully, as a man opens letters which
are not to be destroyed. Then his stomach turned cold and his tongue
grew thick and burred. For the letter which Margaret had written to her
lover was more cruel than the shell which had blinded his eyes and the
bullet which was taking his life.

“‘Laddin--” this in a fearful voice.

“Yes.”

“Thank God. I thought you’d been hit. Why don’t you read?”

Aladdin’s eyes, used to reading in blocks of lines rather than a word at
a time, had at one glance taken in the purport of Margaret’s letter,
and his wits had gone from him. She called herself every base and cruel
name, and she prayed her lover to forgive her, but she had never had the
right to tell him that she would marry him, for she had never loved him
in that way. She said that, God forgive her, she could not keep up the
false position any longer, and she wished she was dead.

“There’s a man at the bottom of this,” thought Aladdin. He caught a
glimpse of Peter’s poor, bloody face and choked.

“I--it--the sheets are mixed,” he said presently. “I’m trying to find
the beginning. There are eight pages,” he went on, “fighting for time,”
 and they ‘re folded all wrong, and they’re not numbered or anything.”

Peter waited patiently while Aladdin fumbled with the sheets and tried,
to the cracking-point, to master the confusion in his mind.

Suddenly God sent light, and he could have laughed aloud. Not in vain
had he pursued the muse and sought after the true romance in the far
country where she sweeps her skirts beyond the fingers of men. Not in
vain had he rolled the arduous ink-pots and striven manfully for the
right word and the telling phrase. The chance had come, and the years of
preparation had not been thrown away. He knew that he was going to
make good at last. His throat cleared of itself, and the choking phlegm
disappeared as if before a hot flame of joy. His voice came from between
his trembling lips clear as a bell, and the thunder of battle rolled
back from the plain of his consciousness, as, slowly, tenderly, and
helped by God, he began to speak those eight closely lined pages which
she should have written.

“My Heart’s Darling--” he began, and there followed a molten stream of
golden and sacred words.

And the very soul of Manners shouted aloud, for the girl was speaking to
him as she had never spoken before.



XXXIII


When the fighting was over for that day, Aladdin wrote as follows to
Margaret:

MARGARET DEAR: Peter was shot down to-day, while doing more than his
duty by his enemies and by his country and by himself, which was always
his way. He will not live very long, and you must come to him if it
is in any way possible. His love for you makes other loves seem very
little, and I think it would be better that you should walk the streets
than that you should refuse to come to him now. He had a letter from
you, which God, knowing about, blinded him so that he could not read it,
and he believes that you love him and are faithful to him. It is very
merciful of God to let him believe that. He must not be undeceived now,
and you must come and be lovely to him and pretend and pretend, and make
his dying beautiful. I have the right to ask this of you, for, next to
Peter, I was the one that loved you most. And when I made you think I
didn’t I lied. I lied because I felt that I was not worthy, and I loved
you enough to want you to belong to the best man God ever made, and I
loved him too. And that was why it was. I tell you because I think you
must have wondered about it sometimes. But it was very hard to do, and
because I did it, and because Peter is what he is, you must come to him
now. If God will continue to be merciful, you will get here in time. I
hope I may be on hand to see you, but I do not know. Hamilton is gone,
and Peter is going, and there will be a terrible battle to-morrow, and
thousands of poor lads will lie on this field forever. And here, one way
or another, the war will be decided. I have not the heart to write to
you any more, my darling. You will come to Peter, I know, and all will
be as well as it can be. I pray to God that I too shall live to see you
again, and I ask him to bless you and keep you for ever and ever. Always
I see your dear face before me in the battle, and sometimes at night
God lets me dream of you. I am without dogma, sweetest of all possible
sweethearts, but this creed I say over and over, and this creed I
believe: I believe in one God, Maker of heaven and Margaret.

        Angels guard you, darling.

                                     ALADDIN.
GETTYSBURG, July 2, 1863.



XXXIV


On the morning of the third day of July, young Hannibal St. John shaved
his face clean and put himself into a new uniform. The old nth Maine was
no longer a regiment, but a name of sufficient glory. On three occasions
it had been shot to pieces, and after the third the remaining tens were
absorbed by other regiments. Hannibal’s father had obtained for him
a lieutenancy in the United States artillery, Beau Larch was second
lieutenant in another Maine regiment, and John, the old and honored
colonel of the nth, was now, like Aladdin, serving on a staff.

The battle began with a movement against Johnson on the Confederate
left, and one against Longstreet on their right.

That against Longstreet became known in history as Farnsworth’s charge,
and Aladdin saw it from the signal-station on Little Round Top.

It was a series of blue lines, whose relations to one another could not
be justly estimated, because of the wooded nature of the ground, which
ran out into open places before fences and woods that spat red fire, and
became thinner and of less extension, as if they had been made of
wax and were melting under the blaze of the July sun. In that charge
Farnsworth fell and achieved glory.

Aladdin held a field-glass to his eyes with trembling hands, and watched
the cruel mowing of the blue flowers. Sometimes he recognized a man that
he knew, and saw him die for his country. Three times he saw John St.
John in the forefront of the battle. The first time he was riding a
glorious black horse, of spirit and proportions to correspond with those
of the hero himself. The second time he was on foot, running forward
with a-halt in his stride, hatless, and carrying a great battle-flag.
Upon the top of it gleamed a gold eagle, that nodded toward the enemy.
A dozen blue-coated soldiers, straggling like the finishers in a
long-distance race, followed him with bayonets fixed. The little loose
knot of men ran across a field toward a stone wall that bounded it upon
the other side. Then white smoke burst from the wall, and they were
cut down to the last man. The smoke cleared, and Aladdin saw John lying
above the great flag which he had carried. A figure in gray leaped the
stone wall and ran out to him, stooped, and seizing the staff of the
flag in both hands, braced his hands and endeavored to draw it from
beneath the great body of the hero. But it would not come, and as he
bent closer to obtain a better hold, the back of a great clenched hand
struck him across the jaw, and he fell like a log. Other men in gray
leaped the wall and ran out. The flag came easily now, for St. John was
dead; but so was the gray brother, for his comrades raised him, and his
head hung back over his left shoulder, and they saw that his neck had
been broken like a dry stick.

Aladdin had not been sent to that place to mourn, but to gain
information. Twice and three times he wiped his eyes clear of tears, and
then he swept his faltering glass along the lines of the enemy, until,
ranged in their center, he beheld a great semicircle of a hundred and
more iron and brass cannons, and movements of troops. Then Aladdin
scrambled down from Little Round Top to report what he had seen in the
center of the Confederate lines.

At one o’clock the Confederate batteries, one hundred and fifteen pieces
in all, opened their tremendous fire upon the center of the Union lines.
Eighty cannons roared back at them with defiant thunder, and the blue
sky became hidden by smoke. Among the Union batteries horses began to
run loose, cannons to be splintered like fire-wood, and caissons to
explode. At these moments men, horses, fragments of men and horses,
stones, earth, and things living and things dead were hurled high into
the air with great blasts of flame and smoke, and it was possible to
hear miles of exultant yells from the hills opposite. But fresh cannon
were brought lumbering up at the gallop and rolled into the places of
those dismantled, shot and shell and canister and powder were rushed
forward from the reserve, and the grim, silent infantry, the great
lumbermen of Maine and Vermont, the shrill-voiced regiments from New
York, the shrewd farmers of Ohio and Massachusetts, the deliberate
Pennsylvanians, and the rest, lay closely, wherever there was shelter,
and moistened their lips, and gripped their rifles, and waited--waited.

For two hours that terrible cannonading was maintained. The men who
served the guns looked like stokers of ships, for, such was the heat,
many of them, casting away first one piece of clothing and then another,
were half naked, and black sweat glistened in streams on their chests
and backs. As sight-seers crowd in eagerly by one door of a building
where there is an exhibition, and come reluctantly out by another and go
their ways, so the reserves kept pressing to the front, and the wounded
maintained an unceasing reluctant stream to the rear.

A little before three o’clock Hannibal St. John had his right knee
smashed by the exploding of a caisson, and fell behind one of the guns
of his battery. He was so sure that he was to be killed on this day
that it had never occurred to him that he might be trivially wounded and
carried to the rear in safety. An expression of almost comical chagrin
came over his face, for life was nothing to him, and somewhere far above
the smoke a goodly welcome awaited him: that he knew. Men came with a
stretcher to carry him off, but he cursed them roundly and struggled
to his well knee. The cannon behind which he had fallen was about to be
discharged.

“Give ‘em hell!” cried Hannibal.

As he spoke, the piece was fired, and leaping back on the recoil, as a
frenzied horse that breaks its halter, one of the wheels struck him
a terrible blow on the body, breaking all the ribs on that side and
killing him instantly. His face wore a glad smile, and afterward, when
Aladdin found him and took the gold locket from his pocket, and read the
inscription written, a great wonder seized men:

                July 3, 1863.
                Nunc dimittis.
               Te Deum laudamus.

Thus in one battle fell the three strong hostages which an old man had
given to fortune.



XXXV


Three o’clock the Union batteries were ordered to be silent, for it was
well known to those in command that presently there would be a powerful
attack by infantry, for which the cannonade was supposed to have paved
the way with death and disorder, and it was necessary that the pieces
should be kept cool in order to be in efficient condition to grapple
with and suppress this attack. Sometimes a regiment, stung to a frenzy
of courage by bullets and the death of comrades, will rise from its
trench without the volition of its officers, and go frantically forward
against overwhelming odds. A different effect of an almost identical
psychological process is patience. Men will sometimes lie as quietly
under a rain of bullets, in order to get in one effective shot at an
enemy, as cattle in the hot months will lie under a rain of water to get
cool. It was so now. The whole Union army was seized by a kind of bloody
deliberation and lay like statues of men, while, for quarter of an hour
more, the Confederates continued to thunder from their guns. Now and
again a man felt lovingly the long black tube of a cannon to see if its
temperature was falling. Others came hurrying from the rear with relays
of powder, shot, shell, and canister.

It seemed now to the Confederate leaders that the Union batteries had
been silenced, and that the time had come for Pickett, the Ney of the
South, to go forward with all his forces. Only Longstreet demurred and
protested against the charge. When Pickett asked him for the order to
advance he turned away his head sorrowfully and would not speak. Then
Pickett, that great leader of men, who was one half daring and one half
magnetism and all hero, said proudly: “I shall go forward, sir.” And
turned to his lovers.

Silence and smoke hung over Gettysburg.

Presently out of the smoke on the Confederate side came three lines of
gray a mile long. Battle-flags nodded at intervals, and swords blazed in
the sun.

Very deliberately and with pains about aiming, the Union batteries began
to hurl solid shot against the gray advance. Soon holes were bitten here
and there, and occasionally a flag went down, to be instantly snatched
up and waved defiantly. When Pickett, Pettigrew, and the splendid
brigade of Cadmus Wilcox had reached the bottom of the valley, their
organization was as unbroken as a parade. But there shell, instead of
round shot, met them, and men tasted death by fives and tens. But the
lines, drawing together, closed the spaces left by mortality, and the
flags began to approach each other. Then the gray men began to come
up the slope, and there were thousands of them. But shell yielded to
canister, and the muskets of the infantry sent out death in leaden
showers, so that the great charge began to melt like wax over heat, and
the flags hung close together like a trophy of battle in a chapel. But
still the gray men came. And now, in a storm of flame and smoke, they
reached the foremost cannons of the Union line, and planted their flags.
So much were they permitted for the glory of a lost cause. For a little,
men killed one another with the butts of guns, with bayonets, and with
stones, and then, as the overdrip of a wave broken upon an iron coast
trickles back through the stones of the beach to the ocean, so all
that was left of Pickett’s great charge trickled back down the slope,
driblets of gray, running blood. For a little while longer the firing
continued. Battle-flags were gathered, and thrown together in sheaves.
There was a little broken cheering, and to all intents and purposes the
great war was at an end.

Aladdin, broken with grief and fatigue, went picking his way among the
dead and wounded. He had lost Peter and Hannibal in that battle, and
Hamilton and John were dead; he alone remained, and it was not just. He
felt that the Great Reaper had spared the weed among the flowers, and
he was bitter against the Great Reaper. But there was one more sorrow
reserved for Aladdin, and he was to blaspheme against the God that made
him.

There was still desultory firing from both armies. As when, on the
Fourth of July, you set off a whole bunch of firecrackers, there is
at first a crackling roar, and afterward a little explosion here and a
little explosion there, so Gettysburg must have sounded to the gods in
Olympus. Thunder-clouds begotten of the intense heat rolled across
the heavens from east to west, accentuating the streaming glory of
the setting sun, and now distant thunder rumbled, with a sound as of
artillery crossing a bridge. Drops of rain fell here and there.

Aladdin heard himself called by name, “‘Laddin, ‘Laddin.”

As quickly as the brain is advertised of an insect’s sting, so quickly
did Aladdin recognize the voice and know that his brother. Jack was
calling to him. He turned, and saw a little freckled boy, in a uniform
much too big for him, trailing a large musket.

“Jack!” he cried, and rushed toward him with outstretched arms. “You
little beggar, what are you doin’ here?”

Jack grinned like one confessing to a successful theft of apples
belonging to a cross farmer. And then God saw fit to take away his life.
He dropped suddenly, and there came a rapid pool of blood where his face
had been. With his arms wrapped about the little figure that a moment
before had been so warlike and gay, Aladdin turned toward the heavens a
face of white flint.

“I believe in one God, Maker of hell!” he cried.

Thunder rumbled and rolled slowly across the battle-field from east, to
west.

“I believe in one God, Maker of hell!” cried Aladdin, “Father of
injustice and doer of hellish deeds! I believe in two damnations, the
damnation of the living and the damnation of the dead.”

He turned to the little boy in his arms, and terrible sobs shook his
body, so that it appeared as if he was vomiting. After a while he turned
his convulsed face again to the sky.

“Come down,” he cried, “come down, you--”

Far down the hill there was a puff of white smoke, and a merciful
bullet, glancing from a rock, struck Aladdin on the head with sufficient
force to stretch him senseless upon the ground.

When the news of Gettysburg reached the Northern cities, lights were
placed in every window, and horns were blown as at the coming of a new
year. Senator Hannibal St. John had lost his three boys and the hopes of
his old age in that terrible fight, but he caused his Washington house
to be illuminated from basement to garret.

And then he walked out in the streets alone, and the tears ran down his
old cheeks.



XXXVI


There had been a wedding in the hospital tent. Margaret bent over Peter
and kissed him goodby. She was in deep black, and by her side loomed a
great, dark figure, whose eyes were like caverns in the depths of which
burned coals. The great, dark man leaned heavily upon a stick, and did
not seem conscious of what was going on. The minister who had performed
the ceremony stood with averted face. Every now and then he moistened
his lips with the tip of his tongue. The wounded in neighboring cots
turned pitiful eyes upon the girl in black, for she was most lovely--and
very sad. Occasionally a throat was cleared.

“When you come, darling,” said the dying man, “there will be an end of
sorrow.”

“There will be an end of sorrow,” echoed the girl. She bent closer to
him, and kissed him again.

“It is very wonderful to have been loved,” said Peter. Then his face
became still and very beautiful. A smile, innocent like that of a little
child, lingered upon his lips, and his blind eyes closed.

St. John laid his hand upon Margaret’s shoulder.

A man, very tall and lean and homely, entered the tent. He was clad in
an exceedingly long and ill-fitting frock-coat. Upon his head was a high
black hat, somewhat the worse for wear. He turned a pair of very gentle
and pitying eyes slowly over those in the tent.

Aladdin, his head almost concealed by bandages, sat suddenly upright
in a neighboring cot. A wild, unreasoning light was in his eyes, and
marking time with his hand, he burst suddenly into the “Battle Hymn of
the Republic”

  He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call
         retreat;
  He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat
  Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
         Our God is marching on.

He sang on, and the wounded joined him with weak voices:

  In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
  With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me;
  As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
         While God is marching on.

The tall man who had entered, to whom every death was nearer than his
own, and to whom the suffering of others was as a crucifixion, removed
the silk hat from his head, and wiped his forehead with a colored
handkerchief.

Margaret knelt by Aladdin and held his unconscious form in her arms.

Outside, the earth was bathing in exquisite sunshine.



XXXVII


It was not long before Aladdin got back the strength of his body, but
the gray bullet which had come in answer to his cry against God, even
as the lightning came to Amyas Leigh, in that romance to which it is so
good to bow, had injured the delicate mechanism of his brain, so that
it seemed as if he would go down to the grave without memory of things
past, or power upon the hour. Indeed, the war ended before the surgeons
spoke of an operation which might restore his mind. He went under the
knife a little child, his head full of pictures, playthings, and fear of
the alphabet; he came forth made over, and turned clear, wondering eyes
to the girl at his side. And he held her hand while she bridged over the
years for him in her sweet voice.

He learned that she had married Peter, making his death peaceful, and he
God-blessed her for so doing, while the tears ran down his cheeks.

But much of Aladdin that had slept so long was to wake no more. For it
was spring when he woke, and waking, he fell in love with all living
things.

One day he sat with Margaret on the porch of a familiar house, and
looked upon a familiar river that flowed silverly beyond the dark trees.

Senator St. John, very old and very moving, came heavily out of the
house, and laid his hands upon the shoulders of Margaret and Aladdin. It
was like a benediction.

“I have been thinking,” said the senator, very slowly, and in the voice
of an old man, “that God has left some flowers in my garden.”

“Roses?” said Aladdin, and he looked at Margaret.

“Roses perhaps,” said the senator, “and withal some bittersweet, but,
better than these, and more, he has left me heart’s-ease. This little
flower,” continued the senator, “is sown in times of great doubt and
sorrow and trouble, and it will grow only for a good gardener, one who
has learned to bow patiently in all things to God’s will, and to set his
feet valiantly against the stony way which God appoints. I call Margaret
‘Heart’s-ease,’ and I call you, too, ‘Heart’s-ease,’ Aladdin, for you
are becoming like a son to me in my declining years. Consider the
river, how it flows,” said the old man, “smoothly to the sea, asking no
questions, and making no lamentations against the length of its days,
and receiving cheerfully into the steadfast current of its going alike
the bitter waters and the sweet.”

We have forgotten Aladdin’s songs and the tunes which he made, for the
people’s ear is not tuned to them any more. But that is a little thing.
It is pleasant to think of that night when, the knocking of his heart
against his ribs louder than the knocking of his hand upon her door, he
carried to Margaret’s side the wonderful lamp which, years before, had
been lighted within him, and which, burning always, now high, now low,
like the rising and falling tides in the river, had at length consumed
whatever in his nature was little or base, until there was nothing
left save those precious qualities, love and charity, which fire cannot
calcine nor cold freeze. Also it is pleasant to think that little
children came of their love and sang about their everlasting fire.





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