"M-no!" said the Squire, "he was on his high horse. He knows he aint in any danger now."
"Aint you afraid she'll carry on dreadfully, when she finds out 't he's gone for good?" asked Mrs. Gaylord, with a sort of implied satisfaction that the carrying on was not to affect her.
"M-yes," said the Squire, "I suppose she'll carry on. But I don't know what to do about it. Sometimes I almost wish I'd tried to make it up between 'em that day; but I thought she'd better see, once for all, what sort of man she was going in for, if she married him. It's too late now to do anything. The fellow came in to-night for a quarrel, and nothing else; I could see that; and I didn't give him any chance."
"You feel sure," asked Mrs. Gaylord, impartially, "that Marcia wa'n't too particular?"
"No, Miranda, I don't feel sure of anything, except that it's past your bed-time. You better go. I'll sit up awhile yet. I came in because I couldn't settle my mind to anything out there."
He took off his hat in token of his intending to spend the rest of the evening at home, and put it on the table at his elbow.
His wife sewed at the mending in her lap, without offering to act upon his suggestion. "It's plain to be seen that she can't get along without him."
"She'll have to, now," replied the Squire.
"I'm afraid," said Mrs. Gaylord, softly, "that she'll be down sick. She don't look as if she'd slept any great deal since she's been gone. I d' know as I like very much to see her looking the way she does. I guess you've got to take her off somewheres."
"Why, she's just been off, and couldn't stay!"
"That's because she thought he was here yet. But if he's gone, it won't be the same thing."
"Well, we've got to fight it out, some way," said the Squire. "It wouldn't do to give in to it now. It always was too much of a one-sided thing, at the best; and if we tried now to mend it up, it would be ridiculous. I don't believe he would come back at all, now, and if he did, he wouldn't come back on any equal terms. He'd want to have everything his own way. M-no!" said the Squire, as if confirming himself in a conclusion often reached already in his own mind, "I saw by the way he began to-night that there wasn't anything to be done with him. It was fight from the word go."
"Well," said Mrs. Gaylord, with gentle, sceptical interest in the outcome, "if you've made up your mind to that, I hope you'll be able to carry it through."
"That's what I've made up my mind to," said her husband.
Mrs. Gaylord rolled up the sewing in her work-basket, and packed it away against the side, bracing it with several pairs of newly darned socks and stockings neatly folded one into the other. She took her time for this, and when she rose at last to go out, with her basket in her hand, the door opened in her face, and Marcia entered. Mrs. Gaylord shrank back, and then slipped round behind her daughter and vanished. The girl took no notice of her mother, but went and sat down on her father's knee, throwing her arms round his neck, and dropping her haggard face on his shoulder. She had arrived at home a few hours earlier, having driven over from a station ten miles distant, on a road that did not pass near Equity. After giving as much of a shock to her mother's mild nature as it was capable of receiving by her unexpected return, she had gone to her own room, and remained ever since without seeing her father. He put up his thin old hand and passed it over her hair, but it was long before either of them spoke.
At last Marcia lifted her head, and looked her father in the face with a smile so pitiful that he could not bear to meet it. "Well, father?" she said.
"Well, Marsh," he answered huskily. "What do you think of me now?"
"I'm glad to have you back again," he replied.
"You know why I came?"
"Yes, I guess I know."
She put down her head again, and moaned and cried, "Father! Father!" with dry sobs. When she looked up, confronting him with her tearless eyes, "What shall I do? What shall I do?" she demanded desolately.
He tried to clear his throat to speak, but it required more than one effort to bring the words. "I guess you better go along with me up to Boston. I'm going up the first of the week."
"No," she said quietly.
"The change would do you good. It's a long while since you've been away from home," her father urged.
She looked at him in sad reproach of his uncandor. "You know there's nothing the matter with me, father. You know what the trouble is." He was silent. He could not face the trouble. "I've heard people talk of a heartache," she went on. "I never believed there was really such a thing. But I know there is, now. There's a pain here." She pressed her hand against her breast. "It's sore with aching. What shall I do? I shall have to live through it somehow."
"If you don't feel exactly well," said her father "I guess you better see the doctor."
"What shall I tell him is the matter with me? That I want Bartley Hubbard?" He winced at the words, but she did not. "He knows that already. Everybody in town does. It's never been any secret. I couldn't hide it, from the first day I saw him. I'd just as lief as not they should say I was dying for him. I shall not care what they say when I'm dead."
"You'd oughtn't,—you'd oughtn't to talk that way, Marcia," said her father, gently.
"What difference?" she demanded, scornfully. There was truly no difference, so far as concerned any creed of his, and he was too honest to make further pretence. "What shall I do?" she went on again. "I've thought of praying; but what would be the use?"
"I've never denied that there was a God, Marcia," said her father.
"Oh, I know. That kind of God! Well, well! I know that I talk like a crazy person! Do you suppose it was providential, my being with you in the office that morning when Bartley came in?"
"No," said her father, "I don't. I think it was an accident."
"Mother said it was providential, my finding him out before it was too late."
"I think it was a good thing. The fellow has the making of a first-class scoundrel in him."
"Do you think he's a scoundrel now?" she asked quietly.
"He hasn't had any great opportunity yet," said the old man, conscientiously sparing him.
"Well, then, I'm sorry I found him out. Yes! If I hadn't, I might have married him, and perhaps if I had died soon I might never have found him out. He could have been good to me a year or two, and then, if I died, I should have been safe. Yes, I wish he could have deceived me till after we were married. Then I couldn't have borne to give him up, may be."
"You would have given him up, even then. And that's the only thing that reconciles me to it now. I'm sorry for you, my girl; but you'd have made me sorrier then. Sooner or later he'd have broken your heart."
"He's broken it now," said the girl, calmly.
"Oh, no, he hasn't," replied her father, with a false cheerfulness that did not deceive her. "You're young and you'll get over it. I mean to take you away from here for a while. I mean to take you up to Boston, and on to New York. I shouldn't care if we went as far as Washington. I guess, when you've seen a little more of the world, you won't think Bartley Hubbard's the only one in it."
She looked at him so intently that he thought she must be pleased at his proposal. "Do you think I could get him back?" she asked.
Her father lost his patience; it was a relief to be angry. "No, I don't think so. I know you couldn't. And you ought to be ashamed of mentioning such a thing!"
"Oh, ashamed! No, I've got past that. I have no shame any more where he's concerned. Oh, I'd give the world if I could call him back,—if I could only undo what I did! I was wild; I wasn't reasonable; I wouldn't listen to him. I drove him away without giving him a chance to say a word! Of course, he must hate me now. What makes you think he wouldn't come back?" she asked.
"I know he wouldn't," answered her father, with a sort of groan. "He's going to leave Equity for one thing, and—"
"Going to leave Equity," she repeated, absently Then he felt her tremble. "How do you know he's going?" She turned upon her father, and fixed him sternly with her eyes.
"Do you suppose he would stay, after what's happened, any longer than he could help?"
"How do you know he's going?" she repeated.
"He told me."
She stood up. "He told you? When?"
"Why, where—where did you see him?" she whispered.
"In the office."
"Since—since—I came? Bartley been here! And you didn't tell me,—you didn't let me know?" They looked at each other in silence. At last, "When is he going?" she asked.
She sat down in the chair which her mother had left, and clutched the back of another, on which her fingers opened and closed convulsively, while she caught her breath in irregular gasps. She broke into a low moaning, at last, the expression of abject defeat in the struggle she had waged with herself. Her father watched her with dumb compassion. "Better go to bed, Marcia," he said, with the same dry calm as if he had been sending her away after some pleasant evening which she had suffered to run too far into the night.
"Don't you think—don't you think—he'll have to see you again before he goes?" she made out to ask.
"No; he's finished up with me," said the old man.
"Well, then," she cried, desperately, "you'll have to go to him, father, and get him to come! I can't help it! I can't give him up! You've got to go to him, now, father,—yes, yes, you have! You've got to go and tell him. Go and get him to come, for mercy's sake! Tell him that I'm sorry,—that I beg his pardon,—that I didn't think—I didn't understand,—that I knew he didn't do anything wrong—" She rose, and, placing her hand on her father's shoulder, accented each entreaty with a little push.
He looked up into her face with a haggard smile of sympathy. "You're crazy, Marcia," he said, gently.
"Don't laugh!" she cried. "I'm not crazy now. But I was, then,—yes, stark, staring crazy. Look here, father! I want to tell you,—I want to explain to you!" She dropped upon his knee again, and tremblingly passed her arm round his neck. "You see, I had just told him the day before that I shouldn't care for anything that happened before we were engaged, and then at the very first thing I went and threw him off! And I had no right to do it. He knows that, and that's what makes him so hard towards me. But if you go and tell him that I see now I was all wrong, and that I beg his pardon, and then ask him to give me one more trial, just one more—You can do as much as that for me, can't you?"
"Oh, you poor, crazy girl!" groaned her father. "Don't you see that the trouble is in what the fellow is, and not in any particular thing that he's done? He's a scamp, through and through; and he's all the more a scamp when he doesn't know it. He hasn't got the first idea of anything but selfishness."
"No, no! Now, I'll tell you,—now, I'll prove it to you. That very Sunday when we were out riding together; and we met her and her mother, and their sleigh upset, and he had to lift her back; and it made me wild to see him, and I wouldn't hardly touch him or speak to him afterwards, he didn't say one angry word to me. He just pulled me up to him, and wouldn't let me be mad; and he said that night he didn't mind it a bit because it showed how much I liked him. Now, doesn't that prove he's good,—a good deal better than I am, and that he'll forgive me, if you'll go and ask him? I know he isn't in bed yet; he always sits up late,—he told me so; and you'll find him there in his room. Go straight to his room, father; don't let anybody see you down in the office; I couldn't bear it; and slip out with him as quietly as you can. But, oh, do hurry now! Don't lose another minute!"
The wild joy sprang into her face, as her father rose; a joy that it was terrible to him to see die out of it as he spoke: "I tell you it's no use, Marcia! He wouldn't come if I went to him—"
"Oh, yes,—yes, he would! I know he would! If—"
"He wouldn't! You're mistaken! I should have to get down in the dust for nothing. He's a bad fellow, I tell you; and you've got to give him up."
"You hate me!" cried the girl. The old man walked to and fro, clutching his hands. Their lives had always been in such intimate sympathy, his life had so long had her happiness for its sole pleasure, that the pang in her heart racked his with as sharp an agony. "Well, I shall die; and then I hope you will be satisfied."
"Marcia, Marcia!" pleaded her father. "You don't know what you're saying."
"You're letting him go away from me,—you're letting me lose him,—you're killing me!"
"He wouldn't come, my girl. It would be perfectly useless to go to him. You must—you must try to control yourself, Marcia. There's no other way,—there's no other hope. You're disgraceful. You ought to be ashamed. You ought to have some pride about you. I don't know what's come over you since you've been with that fellow. You seem to be out of your senses. But try,—try, my girl, to get over it. If you'll fight it, you'll conquer yet. You've got a spirit for anything. And I'll help you, Marcia. I'll take you anywhere. I'll do anything for you—"
"You wouldn't go to him, and ask him to come here, if it would save his life!"
"No," said the old man, with a desperate quiet, "I wouldn't."
She stood looking at him, and then she sank suddenly and straight down, as if she were sinking through the floor. When he lifted her, he saw that she was in a dead faint, and while the swoon lasted would be out of her misery. The sight of this had wrung him so that he had a kind of relief in looking at her lifeless face; and he was slow in laying her down again, like one that fears to wake a sleeping child. Then he went to the foot of the stairs, and softly called to his wife: "Miranda! Miranda!"
Kinney came into town the next morning bright and early, as he phrased it; but he did not stop at the hotel for Bartley till nine o'clock. "Thought I'd give you time for breakfast," he exclaimed, "and so I didn't hurry up any about gettin' in my supplies."
It was a beautiful morning, so blindingly sunny that Bartley winked as they drove up through the glistening street, and was glad to dip into the gloom of the first woods; it was not cold; the snow felt the warmth, and packed moistly under their runners. The air was perfectly still; at a distance on the mountain-sides it sparkled as if full of diamond dust. Far overhead some crows called.
"The sun's getting high," said Bartley, with the light sigh of one to whom the thought of spring brings no hope.
"Well, I shouldn't begin to plough for corn just yet," replied Kinney. "It's curious," he went on, "to see how anxious we are to have a thing over, it don't much matter what it is, whether it's summer or winter. I suppose we'd feel different if we wa'n't sure there was going to be another of 'em. I guess that's one reason why the Lord concluded not to keep us clearly posted on the question of another life. If it wa'n't for the uncertainty of the thing, there are a lot of fellows like you that wouldn't stand it here a minute. Why, if we had a dead sure thing of over-the-river,—good climate, plenty to eat and wear, and not much to do,—I don't believe any of us would keep Darling Minnie waiting,—well, a great while. But you see, the thing's all on paper, and that makes us cautious, and willing to hang on here awhile longer. Looks splendid on the map: streets regularly laid out; public squares; band-stands; churches; solid blocks of houses, with all the modern improvements; but you can't tell whether there's any town there till you're on the ground; and then, if you don't like it, there's no way of gettin' back to the States." He turned round upon Bartley and opened his mouth wide, to imply that this was pleasantry.
"Do you throw your philosophy in, all under the same price, Kinney?" asked the young fellow.
"Well, yes; I never charge anything over," said Kinney. "You see, I have a good deal of time to think when I'm around by myself all day, and the philosophy don't cost me anything, and the fellows like it. Roughing it the way they do, they can stand 'most anything. Hey?" He now not only opened his mouth upon Bartley, but thrust him in the side with his elbow, and then laughed noisily.
Kinney was the cook. He had been over pretty nearly the whole uninhabitable globe, starting as a gaunt and awkward boy from the Maine woods, and keeping until he came back to them in late middle-life the same gross and ridiculous optimism. He had been at sea, and shipwrecked on several islands in the Pacific; he had passed a rainy season at Panama, and a yellow-fever season at Vera Cruz, and had been carried far into the interior of Peru by a tidal wave during an earthquake season; he was in the Border Ruffian War of Kansas, and he clung to California till prosperity deserted her after the completion of the Pacific road. Wherever he went, he carried or found adversity; but, with a heart fed on the metaphysics of Horace Greeley, and buoyed up by a few wildly interpreted maxims of Emerson, he had always believed in other men, and their fitness for the terrestrial millennium, which was never more than ten days or ten miles off. It is not necessary to say that he had continued as poor as he began, and that he was never able to contribute to those railroads, mills, elevators, towns, and cities which were sure to be built, sir, sure to be built, wherever he went. When he came home at last to the woods, some hundreds of miles north of Equity, he found that some one had realized his early dream of a summer hotel on the shore of the beautiful lake there; and he unenviously settled down to admire the landlord's thrift, and to act as guide and cook for parties of young ladies and gentlemen who started from the hotel to camp in the woods. This brought him into the society of cultivated people, for which he had a real passion. He had always had a few thoughts rattling round in his skull, and he liked to make sure of them in talk with those who had enjoyed greater advantages than himself. He never begrudged them their luck; he simply and sweetly admired them; he made studies of their several characters, and was never tired of analyzing them to their advantage to the next summer's parties. Late in the fall, he went in, as it is called, with a camp of loggers, among whom he rarely failed to find some remarkable men. But he confessed that he did not enjoy the steady three or four months in the winter woods with no coming out at all till spring; and he had been glad of this chance in a logging camp near Equity, in which he had been offered the cook's place by the owner who had tested his fare in the Northern woods the summer before. Its proximity to the village allowed him to loaf in upon civilization at least once a week, and he spent the greater part of his time at the Free Press office on publication day. He had always sought the society of newspaper men, and, wherever he could, he had given them his. He was not long in discovering that Bartley was smart as a steel trap; and by an early and natural transition from calling the young lady compositors by their pet names, and patting them on their shoulders, he had arrived at a like affectionate intimacy with Bartley.
As they worked deep into the woods on their way to the camp, the road dwindled to a well-worn track between the stumps and bushes. The ground was rough, and they constantly plunged down the slopes of little hills, and climbed the sides of the little valleys, and from time to time they had to turn out for teams drawing logs to the mills in Equity, each with its equipage of four or five wild young fellows, who saluted Kinney with an ironical cheer or jovial taunt in passing.
"They're all just so," he explained, with pride, when the last party had passed. "They're gentlemen, every one of 'em,—perfect gentlemen."
They came at last to a wider clearing than any they had yet passed through, and here on a level of the hillside stretched the camp, a long, low structure of logs, with the roof broken at one point by a stovepipe, and the walls irregularly pierced by small windows; around it crouched and burrowed in the drift the sheds that served as stables and storehouses.
The sun shone, and shone with dazzling brightness, upon the opening; the sound of distant shouts and the rhythmical stroke of axes came to it out of the forest; but the camp was deserted, and in the stillness Kinney's voice seemed strange and alien. "Walk in, walk in!" he said, hospitably. "I've got to look after my horse."
But Bartley remained at the door, blinking in the sunshine, and harking to the near silence that sang in his ears. A curious feeling possessed him; sickness of himself as of some one else; a longing, consciously helpless, to be something different; a sense of captivity to habits and thoughts and hopes that centred in himself, and served him alone.
"Terribly peaceful around here," said Kinney, coming back to him, and joining him in a survey of the landscape, with his hands on his hips, and a stem of timothy projecting from his lips.
"Yes, terribly," assented Bartley.
"But it aint a bad way for a man to live, as long as he's young; or haint got anybody that wants his company more than his room.—Be the place for you."
"On which ground?" Bartley asked, drily, without taking his eyes from a distant peak that showed through the notch in the forest.
Kinney laughed in as unselfish enjoyment as if he had made the turn himself. "Well, that aint exactly what I meant to say: what I meant was that any man engaged in intellectual pursuits wants to come out and commune with nature, every little while."
"You call the Equity Free Press intellectual pursuits?" demanded Bartley, with scorn. "I suppose it is," he added. "Well, here I am,—right on the commune. But nature's such a big thing, I think it takes two to commune with her."
"Well, a girl's a help," assented Kinney.
"I wasn't thinking of a girl, exactly," said Bartley, with a little sadness. "I mean that, if you're not in first-rate spiritual condition, you're apt to get floored if you undertake to commune with nature."
"I guess that's about so. If a man's got anything, on his mind, a big railroad depot's the place for him. But you're run down. You ought to come out here, and take a hand, and be a man amongst men." Kinney talked partly for quantity, and partly for pure, indefinite good feeling.
Bartley turned toward the door. "What have you got inside, here?"
Kinney flung the door open, and followed his guest within. The first two-thirds of the cabin was used as a dormitory, and the sides were furnished with rough bunks, from the ground to the roof. The round, unhewn logs showed their form everywhere; the crevices were calked with moss; and the walls were warm and tight. It was dark between the bunks, but beyond it was lighter, and Bartley could see at the farther end a vast cooking-stove, and three long tables with benches at their sides. A huge coffee-pot stood on the top of the stove, and various pots and kettles surrounded it.
"Come into the dining-room and sit down in the parlor," said Kinney, drawing off his coat as he walked forward. "Take the sofa," he added, indicating a movable bench. He hung his coat on a peg and rolled up his shirt-sleeves, and began to whistle cheerily, like a man who enjoys his work, as he threw open the stove door and poked in some sticks of fuel. A brooding warmth filled the place, and the wood made a pleasant crackling as it took fire.
"Here's my desk," said Kinney, pointing to a barrel that supported a broad, smooth board-top. "This is where I compose my favorite works." He turned round, and cut out of a mighty mass of dough in a tin trough a portion, which he threw down on his table and attacked with a rolling-pin. "That means pie, Mr. Hubbard," he explained, "and pie means meat-pie,—or squash-pie, at a pinch. Today's pie-baking day. But you needn't be troubled on that account. So's to-morrow, and so was yesterday. Pie twenty-one times a week is the word, and don't you forget it. They say old Agassiz," Kinney went on, in that easy, familiar fondness with which our people like to speak of greatness that impresses their imagination,—"they say old Agassiz recommended fish as the best food for the brain. Well, I don't suppose but what it is. But I don't know but what pie is more stimulating to the fancy. I never saw anything like meat-pie to make ye dream."
"Yes," said Bartley, nodding gloomily, "I've tried it."
Kinney laughed. "Well, I guess folks of sedentary pursuits, like you and me, don't need it; but these fellows that stamp round in the snow all day, they want something to keep their imagination goin'. And I guess pie does it. Anyway, they can't seem to get enough of it. Ever try apples when you was at work? They say old Greeley kep' his desk full of 'em; kep' munchin' away all the while when he was writin' his editorials. And one of them German poets—I don't know but what it was old Gutty himself—kept rotten ones in his drawer; liked the smell of 'em. Well, there's a good deal of apple in meat-pie. May be it's the apple that does it. I don't know. But I guess if your pursuits are sedentary, you better take the apple separate."
Bartley did not say anything; but he kept a lazily interested eye on Kinney as he rolled out his piecrust, fitted it into his tins, filled these from a jar of mince-meat, covered them with a sheet of dough pierced in herring-bone pattern, and marshalled them at one side ready for the oven.
"If fish is any better for the brain," Kinney proceeded, "they can't complain of any want of it, at least in the salted form. They get fish-balls three times a week for breakfast, as reg'lar as Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday comes round. And Fridays I make up a sort of chowder for the Kanucks; they're Catholics, you know, and I don't believe in interferin' with any man's religion, it don't matter what it is."
"You ought to be a deacon in the First Church at Equity," said Bartley.
"Is that so? Why?" asked Kinney.
"Oh, they don't believe in interfering with any man's religion, either."
"Well," said Kinney, thoughtfully, pausing with the rolling-pin in his hand, "there 'a such a thing as being too liberal, I suppose."
"The world's tried the other thing a good while," said Bartley, with cynical amusement at Kinney's arrest.
It seemed to chill the flow of the good fellow's optimism, so that he assented with but lukewarm satisfaction.
"Well, that's so, too," and he made up the rest of his pies in silence.
"Well," he exclaimed at last, as if shaking himself out of an unpleasant reverie, "I guess we shall get along, somehow. Do you like pork and beans?"
"Yes, I do," said Bartley.
"We're goin' to have 'em for dinner. You can hit beans any meal you drop in on us; beans twenty-one times a week, just like pie. Set 'em in to warm," he said, taking up a capacious earthen pot, near the stove, and putting it into the oven. "I been pretty much everywheres, and I don't know as I found anything for a stand-by that come up to beans. I'm goin' to give 'em potatoes and cabbage to-day,—kind of a boiled-dinner day,—but you'll see there aint one in ten 'll touch 'em to what there will these old residenters. Potatoes and cabbage'll do for a kind of a delicacy,—sort of a side-dish,—on-tree, you know; but give 'em beans for a steady diet. Why, off there in Chili, even, the people regularly live on beans,—not exactly like ours,—broad and flat,—but they're beans. Wa'n't there some those ancients—old Horace, or Virgil, may be—rung in something about beans in some their poems?"
"I don't remember anything of the kind," said Bartley, languidly.
"Well, I don't know as I can. I just have a dim recollection of language thrown out at the object,—as old Matthew Arnold says. But it might have been something in Emerson."
Bartley laughed "I didn't suppose you were such a reader, Kinney."
"Oh, I nibble round wherever I can get a chance. Mostly in the newspapers, you know. I don't get any time for books, as a general rule. But there's pretty much everything in the papers. I should call beans a brain food."
"I guess you call anything a brain food that you happen to like, don't you, Kinney?"
"No, sir," said Kinney, soberly; "but I like to see the philosophy of a thing when I get a chance. Now, there's tea, for example," he said, pointing to the great tin pot on the stove.
"Coffee, you mean," said Bartley.
"No, sir, I mean tea. That's tea; and I give it to 'em three times a day, good and strong,—molasses in it, and no milk. That's a brain food, if ever there was one. Sets 'em up, right on end, every time. Clears their heads and keeps the cold out."
"I should think you were running a seminary for young ladies, instead of a logging-camp," said Bartley.
"No, but look at it: I'm in earnest about tea. You look at the tea drinkers and the coffee-drinkers all the world over! Look at 'em in our own country! All the Northern people and all the go-ahead people drink tea. The Pennsylvanians and the Southerners drink coffee. Why our New England folks don't even know how to make coffee so it's fit to drink! And it's just so all over Europe. The Russians drink tea, and they'd e't up those coffee-drinkin' Turks long ago, if the tea-drinkin' English hadn't kept 'em from it. Go anywheres you like in the North, and you find 'em drinkin' tea. The Swedes and Norwegians in Aroostook County drink it; and they drink it at home."
"Well, what do you think of the French and Germans? They drink coffee, and they're pretty smart, active people, too."
"French and Germans drink coffee?"
Kinney stopped short in his heated career of generalization, and scratched his shaggy head. "Well," he said, finally, "I guess they're a kind of a missing link, as old Darwin says." He joined Bartley in his laugh cordially, and looked up at the round clock nailed to a log. "It's about time I set my tables, anyway. Well," he asked, apparently to keep the conversation from flagging, while he went about this work, "how is the good old Free Press getting along?"
"It's going to get along without me from this out," said Bartley. "This is my last week in Equity."
"No!" retorted Kinney, in tremendous astonishment.
"Yes; I'm off at the end of the week. Squire Gaylord takes the paper back for the committee, and I suppose Henry Bird will run it for a while; or perhaps they'll stop it altogether. It's been a losing business for the committee."
"Why, I thought you'd bought it of 'em."
"Well, that's what I expected to do; but the office hasn't made any money. All that I've saved is in my colt and cutter."
Bartley nodded. "I'm going away about as poor as I came. I couldn't go much poorer."
"Well!" said Kinney, in the exhaustion of adequate language. He went on laying the plates and knives and forks in silence. These were of undisguised steel; the dishes and the drinking mugs were of that dense and heavy make which the keepers of cheap restaurants use to protect themselves against breakage, and which their servants chip to the quick at every edge. Kinney laid bread and crackers by each plate, and on each he placed a vast slab of cold corned beef. Then he lifted the lid of the pot in which the cabbage and potatoes were boiling together, and pricked them with a fork. He dished up the beans in a succession of deep tins, and set them at intervals along the tables, and began to talk again. "Well, now, I'm sorry. I'd just begun to feel real well acquainted with you. Tell you the truth, I didn't take much of a fancy to you, first off."
"Is that so?" asked Bartley, not much disturbed by the confession.
"Yes, sir. Well, come to boil it down," said Kinney, with the frankness of the analytical mind that disdains to spare itself in the pursuit of truth, "I didn't like your good clothes. I don't suppose I ever had a suit of clothes to fit me. Feel kind of ashamed, you know, when I go into the store, and take the first thing the Jew wants to put off on to me. Now, I suppose you go to Macullar and Parker's in Boston, and you get what you want."
"No; I have my measure at a tailor's," said Bartley, with ill-concealed pride in the fact.
"You don't say so!" exclaimed Kinney. "Well!" he said, as if he might as well swallow this pill, too, while he was about it. "Well, what's the use? I never was the figure for clothes, anyway. Long, gangling boy to start with, and a lean, stoop-shouldered man. I found out some time ago that a fellow wa'n't necessarily a bad fellow because he had money, or a good fellow because he hadn't. But I hadn't quite got over hating a man because he had style. Well, I suppose it was a kind of a survival, as old Tylor calls it. But I tell you, I sniffed round you a good while before I made up my mind to swallow you. And that turnout of yours, it kind of staggered me, after I got over the clothes. Why, it wa'n't so much the colt,—any man likes to ride after a sorrel colt; and it wa'n't so much the cutter: it was the red linin' with pinked edges that you had to your robe; and it was the red ribbon that you had tied round the waist of your whip. When I see that ribbon on that whip, damn you, I wanted to kill you." Bartley broke out into a laugh, but Kinney went on soberly. "But, thinks I to myself: 'Here! Now you stop right here! You wait! You give the fellow a chance for his life. Let him have a chance to show whether that whip-ribbon goes all through him, first. If it does, kill him cheerfully; but give him a chance first.' Well, sir, I gave you the chance, and you showed that you deserved it. I guess you taught me a lesson. When I see you at work, pegging away hard at something or other, every time I went into your office, up and coming with everybody, and just as ready to pass the time of day with me as the biggest bug in town, thinks I: 'You'd have made a great mistake to kill that fellow, Kinney!' And I just made up my mind to like you."
"Thanks," said Bartley, with ironical gratitude.
Kinney did not speak at once. He whistled thoughtfully through his teeth, and then he said: "I'll tell you what: if you're going away very poor, I know a wealthy chap you can raise a loan out of."
Bartley thought seriously for a silent moment. "If your friend offers me twenty dollars, I'm not too well dressed to take it."
"All right," said Kinney. He now dished up the cabbage and potatoes, and throwing a fresh handful of tea into the pot, and filling it up with water, he took down a tin horn, with which he went to the door and sounded a long, stertorous note.
"Guess it was the clothes again," said Kinney, as he began to wash his tins and dishes after the dinner was over, and the men had gone back to their work. "I could see 'em eyin' you over when they first came in, and I could see that they didn't exactly like the looks of 'em. It would wear off in time, but it takes time for it to wear off; and it had to go pretty rusty for a start-off. Well, I don't know as it makes much difference to you, does it?"
"Oh, I thought we got along very well," said Bartley, with a careless yawn. "There wasn't much chance to get acquainted." Some of the loggers were as handsome and well-made as he, and were of as good origin and traditions, though he had some advantages of training. But his two-button cutaway, his well-fitting trousers, his scarf with a pin in it, had been too much for these young fellows in their long 'stoga boots and flannel shirts. They looked at him askance, and despatched their meal with more than their wonted swiftness, and were off again into the woods without any demonstrations of satisfaction in Bartley's presence.
He had perceived their grudge, for he had felt it in his time. But it did not displease him; he had none of the pain with which Kinney, who had so long bragged of him to the loggers, saw that his guest was a failure.
"I guess they'll come out all right in the end," he said. In this warm atmosphere, after the gross and heavy dinner he had eaten, he yawned again and again. He folded his overcoat into a pillow for his bench and lay down, and lazily watched Kinney about his work. Presently he saw Kinney seated on a block of wood beside the stove, with his elbow propped in one hand, and holding a magazine, out of which he was reading; he wore spectacles, which gave him a fresh and interesting touch of grotesqueness. Bartley found that an empty barrel had been placed on each side of him, evidently to keep him from rolling off his bench.
"Hello!" he said. "Much obliged to you, Kinney. I haven't been taken such good care of since I can remember. Been asleep, haven't I?"
"About an hour," said Kinney, with a glance at the clock, and ignoring his agency in Bartley's comfort.
"Food for the brain!" said Bartley, sitting up. "I should think so. I've dreamt a perfect New American Cyclopaedia, and a pronouncing gazetteer thrown in."
"Is that so?" said Kinney, as if pleased with the suggestive character of his cookery, now established by eminent experiment.
Bartley yawned a yawn of satisfied sleepiness, and rubbed his hand over his face. "I suppose," he said, "if I'm going to write anything about Camp Kinney, I had better see all there is to see."
"Well, yes, I presume you had," said Kinney. "We'll go over to where they're cuttin', pretty soon, and you can see all there is in an hour. But I presume you'll want to see it so as to ring in some description, hey? Well, that's all right. But what you going to do with it, when you've done it, now you're out of the Free Press?"
"Oh, I shouldn't have printed it in the Free Press, anyway Coals to Newcastle, you know. I'll tell you what I think I'll do, Kinney: I'll get my outlines, and then you post me with a lot of facts,—queer characters, accidents, romantic incidents, snowings-up, threatened starvation, adventures with wild animals,—and I can make something worth while; get out two or three columns, so they can print it in their Sunday edition. And then I'll take it up to Boston with me, and seek my fortune with it."
"Well, sir, I'll do it," said Kinney, fired with the poetry of the idea. "I'll post you! Dumn 'f I don't wish I could write! Well, I did use to scribble once for an agricultural paper; but I don't call that writin'. I've set down, well, I guess as much as sixty times, to try to write out what I know about loggin'—"
"Hold on!" cried Bartley, whipping out his notebook. "That's first-rate. That'll do for the first line in the head,—What I Know About Logging,—large caps. Well!"
Kinney shut his magazine, and took his knee between his hands, closing one of his eyes in order to sharpen his recollection. He poured forth a stream of reminiscence, mingled observation, and personal experience. Bartley followed him with his pencil, jotting down points, striking in sub-head lines, and now and then interrupting him with cries of "Good!" "Capital!" "It's a perfect mine,—it's a mint! By Jove!" he exclaimed, "I'll make six columns of this! I'll offer it to one of the magazines, and it'll come out illustrated! Go on, Kinney."
"Hark!" said Kinney, craning his neck forward to listen. "I thought I heard sleigh-bells. But I guess it wa'n't. Well, sir, as I was sayin', they fetched that fellow into camp with both feet frozen to the knees—Dumn 'f it wa'n't bells!"
He unlimbered himself, and hurried to the door at the other end of the cabin, which he opened, letting in a clear block of the afternoon sunshine, and a gush of sleigh-bell music, shot with men's voices, and the cries and laughter of women.
"Well, sir," said Kinney, coming back and making haste to roll down his sleeves and put on his coat. "Here's a nuisance! A whole party of folks—two sleigh-loads—right on us. I don't know who they be, or where they're from. But I know where I wish they was. Well, of course, it's natural they should want to see a loggin'-camp," added Kinney, taking himself to task for his inhospitable mind, "and there ain't any harm in it. But I wish they'd give a fellow a little notice!"
The voices and bells drew nearer, but Kinney seemed resolved to observe the decorum of not going to the door till some one knocked.
"Kinney! Kinney! Hello, Kinney!" shouted a man's voice, as the bells hushed before the door, and broke into a musical clash when one of the horses tossed his head.
"Well, sir," said Kinney, rising, "I guess it's old Willett himself. He's the owner; lives up to Portland, and been threatening to come down here all winter, with a party of friends. You just stay still," he added; and he paid himself the deference which every true American owes himself in his dealings with his employer: he went to the door very deliberately, and made no haste on account of the repeated cries of "Kinney! Kinney!" in which others of the party outside now joined.
When he opened the door again, the first voice saluted him with a roar of laughter. "Why, Kinney, I began to think you were dead!"
"No, sir," Bartley heard Kinney reply, "it takes more to kill me than you suppose." But now he stepped outside, and the talk became unintelligible.
Finally Bartley heard what was imaginably Mr. Willett's voice saying, "Well, let's go in and have a look at it now"; and with much outcry and laughter the ladies were invisibly helped to dismount, and presently the whole party came stamping and rustling in.
Bartley's blood tingled. He liked this, and he stood quite self-possessed, with his thumbs in his waistcoat pockets and his elbows dropped, while Mr. Willett advanced in a friendly way.
"Ah, Mr. Hubbard! Kinney told us you were in here, and asked me to introduce myself while he looked after the horses. My name's Willett. These are my daughters; this is Mrs. Macallister, of Montreal; Mrs. Witherby, of Boston; Miss Witherby, and Mr. Witherby. You ought to know each other; Mr. Hubbard is the editor of the Equity Free Press. Mr. Witherby, of The Boston Events, Mr. Hubbard. Oh, and Mr. Macallister."
Bartley bowed to the Willett and Witherby ladies, and shook hands with Mr. Witherby, a large, solemn man, with a purse-mouth and tight rings of white hair, who treated him with the pomp inevitable to the owner of a city newspaper in meeting a country editor.
At the mention of his name, Mr. Macallister, a slight little straight man, in a long ulster and a sealskin cap, tiddled farcically forward on his toes, and, giving Bartley his hand, said, "Ah, haow d'e-do, haow d'e-do!"
Mrs. Macallister fixed upon him the eye of the flirt who knows her man. She was of the dark-eyed English type; her eyes were very large and full, and her smooth black hair was drawn flatly backward, and fastened in a knot just under her dashing fur cap. She wore a fur sack, and she was equipped against the cold as exquisitely as her Southern sisters defend themselves from the summer. Bits of warm color, in ribbon and scarf, flashed out here and there; when she flung open her sack, she showed herself much more lavishly buttoned and bugled and bangled than the Americans. She sat clown on the movable bench which Bartley had vacated, and crossed her feet, very small and saucy, even in their arctics, on a stick of fire-wood, and cast up her neat profile, and rapidly made eyes at every part of the interior. "Why, it's delicious, you know. I never saw anything so comfortable. I want to spend the rest of me life here, you know." She spoke very far down in her throat, and with a rising inflection in each sentence. "I'm going to have a quarrel with you, Mr. Willett, for not telling me what a delightful surprise you had for us here. Oh, but I'd no idea of it, I assure you!"
"Well, I'm glad you like it, Mrs. Macallister," said Mr. Willett, with the clumsiness of American middle-age when summoned to say something gallant. "If I'd told you what a surprise I had for you, it wouldn't have been one."
"Oh, it's no good your trying to get out of it that way," retorted the beauty. "There he comes now! I'm really in love with him, you know," she said, as Kinney opened the door and came hulking forward.
Nobody said anything at once, but Bartley laughed finally, and ventured, "Well, I'll propose for you to Kinney."
"Oh, I dare say!" cried the beauty, with a lively effort of wit. "Mr. Kinney, I have fallen in love with your camp, d' ye know?" she added, as Kinney drew near, "and I'm beggin' Mr. Willett to let me come and live here among you."
"Well, ma'am," said Kinney, a little abashed at this proposition, "you couldn't do a better thing for your health, I guess."
The proprietor of The Boston Events turned about, and began to look over the arrangements of the interior; the other ladies went with him, conversing, in low tones. "These must be the places where the men sleep," they said, gazing at the bunks.
"We must get Kinney to explain things to us," said Mr. Willett a little restlessly.
Mrs. Macallister jumped briskly to her feet. "Oh, yes, do, Mr. Willett, make him explain everything! I've been tryin' to coax it out of him, but he's such a tease!"
Kinney looked very sheepish in this character, and Mrs. Macallister hooked Bartley to her side for the tour of the interior. "I can't let you away from me, Mr. Hubbard; your friend's so satirical, I'm afraid of him. Only fancy, Mr. Willett! He's been talkin' to me about brain foods! I know he's makin' fun of me; and it isn't kind, is it, Mr. Hubbard?"
She did not give the least notice to the things that the others looked at, or to Kinney's modest lecture upon the manners and customs of the loggers. She kept a little apart with Bartley, and plied him with bravadoes, with pouts, with little cries of suspense. In the midst of this he heard Mr. Willett saying, "You ought to get some one to come and write about this for your paper, Witherby." But Mrs. Macallister was also saying something, with a significant turn of her floating eyes, and the thing that concerned Bartley, if he were to make his way among the newspapers in Boston, slipped from his grasp like the idea which we try to seize in a dream. She made sure of him for the drive to the place which they visited to see the men felling the trees, by inviting him to a seat at her side in the sleigh; this crowded the others, but she insisted, and they all gave way, as people must, to the caprices of a pretty woman. Her coquetries united British wilfulness to American nonchalance, and seemed to have been graduated to the appreciation of garrison and St. Lawrence River steamboat and watering-place society. The Willett ladies had already found it necessary to explain to the Witherby ladies that they had met her the summer before at the sea-side, and that she had stopped at Portland on her way to England; they did not know her very well, but some friends of theirs did; and their father had asked her to come with them to the camp. They added that the Canadian ladies seemed to expect the gentlemen to be a great deal more attentive than ours were. They had known as little what to do with Mr. Macallister's small-talk and compliments as his wife's audacities, but they did not view Bartley's responsiveness with pleasure. If Mrs. Macallister's arts were not subtle, as Bartley even in the intoxication of her preference could not keep from seeing, still, in his mood, it was consoling to be singled out by her; it meant that even in a logging-camp he was recognizable by any person of fashion as a good-looking, well-dressed man of the world. It embittered him the more against Marcia, while, in some sort, it vindicated him to himself.
The early winter sunset was beginning to tinge the snow with crimson, when the party started back to camp, where Kinney was to give them supper; he had it greatly on his conscience that they should have a good time, and he promoted it as far as hot mince-pie and newly fried doughnuts would go. He also opened a few canned goods, as he called some very exclusive sardines and peaches, and he made an entirely fresh pot of tea, and a pan of soda-biscuit. Mrs. Macallister made remarks across her plate which were for Bartley alone; and Kinney, who was seriously waiting upon his guests, refused to respond to Bartley's joking reference to himself of some questions and comments of hers.
After supper, when the loggers had withdrawn to the other end of the long hut, she called out to Kinney, "Oh, do tell them to smoke: we shall not mind it at all, I assure you. Can't some of them do something? Sing or dance?"
Kinney unbent a little at this. "There's a first-class clog-dancer among them; but he's a little stuck up, and I don't know as you could get him to dance," he said in a low tone.
"What a bloated aristocrat!" cried the lady. "Then the only thing is for us to dance first. Can they play?"
"One of 'em can whistle like a bird,—he can whistle like a whole band," answered Kinney, warming. "And of course the Kanucks can fiddle."
"And what are Kanucks? Is that what you call us Canadians?"
"Well, ma'am, it aint quite the thing to do," said Kinney, penitently.
"It isn't at all the thing to do! Which are the Kanucks?"
She rose, and went forward with Kinney, in her spoiled way, and addressed a swarthy, gleaming-eyed young logger in French. He answered with a smile that showed all his white teeth, and turned to one of his comrades; then the two rose, and got violins out of the bunks, and came forward. Others of their race joined them, but the Yankees hung gloomily back; they clearly did not like these liberties, this patronage.
"I shall have your clog-dancer on his feet yet, Mr. Kinney," said Mrs. Macallister, as she came back to her place.
The Canadians began to play and sing those gay, gay airs of old France which they have kept unsaddened through all the dark events that have changed the popular mood of the mother country; they have matched words to them in celebration of their life on the great rivers and in the vast forests of the North, and in these blithe barcaroles and hunting-songs breathes the joyous spirit of a France that knows neither doubt nor care,—France untouched by Revolution or Napoleonic wars; some of the airs still keep the very words that came over seas with them two hundred years ago. The transition to the dance was quick and inevitable; a dozen slim young fellows were gliding about behind the players, pounding the hard earthen floor, and singing in time.
"Oh, come, come!" cried the beauty, rising and stamping impatiently with her little foot, "suppose we dance, too."
She pulled Bartley forward by the hand; her husband followed with the taller Miss Willett; two of the Canadians, at the instance of Mrs. Macallister, came forward and politely asked the honor of the other young ladies' hands in the dance; their temper was infectious, and the cotillon was in full life before their partners had time to wonder at their consent. Mrs. Macallister could sing some of the Canadian songs; her voice, clear and fresh, rang through those of the men, while in at the window, thrown open for air, came the wild cries of the forest,—the wail of a catamount, and the solemn hooting of a distant owl.
"Isn't it jolly good fun?" she demanded, when the figure was finished; and now Kinney went up to the first-class clog-dancer, and prevailed with him to show his skill. He seemed to comply on condition that the whistler should furnish the music; he came forward with a bashful hauteur, bridling stiffly like a girl, and struck into the laborious and monotonous jig which is, perhaps, our national dance. He was exquisitely shaped, and as he danced he suppled more and more, while the whistler warbled a wilder and swifter strain, and kept time with his hands. There was something that stirred the blood in the fury of the strain and dance. When it was done, Mrs. Macallister caught off her cap and ran round among the spectators to make them pay; she excused no one, and she gave the money to Kinney, telling him to get his loggers something to keep the cold out.
"I should say whiskey, if I were in the Canadian bush," she suggested.
"Well, I guess we sha'n't say anything of that sort in this camp," said Kinney.
She turned upon Bartley, "I know Mr. Hubbard is dying to do something. Do something, Mr. Hubbard!" Bartley looked up in surprise at this interpretation of his tacit wish to distinguish himself before her. "Come, sing us some of your student songs."
Bartley's vanity had confided the fact of his college training to her, and he was really thinking just then that he would like to give them a serio-comic song, for which he had been famous with his class. He borrowed the violin of a Kanuck, and, sitting down, strummed upon it banjo-wise. The song was one of those which is partly spoken and acted; he really did it very well; but the Willett and Witherby ladies did not seem to understand it quite; and the gentlemen looked as if they thought this very undignified business for an educated American.
Mrs. Macallister feigned a yawn, and put up her hand to hide it. "Oh, what a styupid song!" she said. She sprang to her feet, and began to put on her wraps. The others were glad of this signal to go, and followed her example. "Good by!" she cried, giving her hand to Kinney. "I don't think your ideas are ridiculous. I think there's no end of good sense in them, I assure you. I hope you won't leave off that regard for the brain in your cooking. Good by!" She waved her hand to the Americans, and then to the Kanucks, as she passed out between their respectfully parted ranks. "Adieu, messieurs!" She merely nodded to Bartley; the others parted from him coldly, as he fancied, and it seemed to him that he had been made responsible for that woman's coquetries, when he was conscious, all the time, of having forborne even to meet them half-way. But this was not so much to his credit as he imagined. The flirt can only practise her audacities safely by grace of those upon whom she uses them, and if men really met them half-way there could be no such tiling as flirting.
The loggers pulled off their boots and got into their bunks, where some of them lay and smoked, while others fell asleep directly.
Bartley made some indirect approaches to Kinney for sympathy in the snub which he had received, and which rankled in his mind with unabated keenness.
But Kinney did not respond. "Your bed's ready," he said. "You can turn in whenever you like."
"What's the matter?" asked Bartley.
"Nothing's the matter, if you say so," answered Kinney, going about some preparations for the morning's breakfast.
Bartley looked at his resentful back. He saw that he was hurt, and he surmised that Kinney suspected him of making fun of his eccentricities to Mrs. Macallister. He had laughed at Kinney, and tried to amuse her with him; but he could not have made this appear as harmless as it was. He rose from the bench on which he had been sitting, and shut with a click the penknife with which he had been cutting a pattern on its edge.
"I shall have to say good night to you, I believe," he said, going to the peg on which Kinney had hung his hat and overcoat. He had them on, and was buttoning the coat in an angry tremor before Kinney looked up and realized what his guest was about.
"Why, what—why, where—you goin'?" he faltered in dismay.
"To Equity," said Bartley, feeling in his coat pockets for his gloves, and drawing them on, without looking at Kinney, whose great hands were in a pan of dough.
"Why—why—no, you aint!" he protested, with a revulsion of feeling that swept away all his resentment, and left him nothing but remorse for his inhospitality.
"No?" said Bartley, putting up the collar of the first ulster worn by a native in that region.
"Why, look here!" cried Kinney, pulling his hands out of the dough, and making a fruitless effort to cleanse them upon each other. "I don't want you to go, this way."
"Don't you? I'm sorry to disoblige you; but I'm going," said Bartley.
Kinney tried to laugh. "Why, Hubbard,—why, Bartley,—why, Bart!" he exclaimed. "What's the matter with you? I aint mad!"
"You have an unfortunate manner, then. Good night." He strode out between the bunks, full of snoring loggers.
Kinney hurried after him, imploring and protesting in a low voice, trying to get before him, and longing to lay his floury paws upon him and detain him by main force, but even in his distress respecting Bartley's overcoat too much to touch it. He followed him out into the freezing air in his shirt-sleeves, and besought him not to be such a fool. "It makes me feel like the devil!" he exclaimed, pitifully. "You come back, now, half a minute, and I'll make it all right with you. I know I can; you're a gentleman, and you'll understand. Do come back! I shall never get over it if you don't!"
"I'm sorry," said Bartley, "but I'm not going back. Good night."
"Oh, good Lordy!" lamented Kinney. "What am I goin' to do? Why, man! It's a good three mile and more to Equity, and the woods is full of catamounts. I tell ye 't aint safe for ye." He kept following Bartley down the path to the road.
"I'll risk it," said Bartley.
Kinney had left the door of the camp open, and the yells and curses of the awakened sleepers recalled him to himself. "Well, well! If you will go" he groaned in despair, "here's that money." He plunged his doughy hand into his pocket, and pulled out a roll of bills. "Here it is. I haint time to count it; but it'll be all right, anyhow."
Bartley did not even turn his head to look round at him. "Keep your money!" he said, as he plunged forward through the snow. "I wouldn't touch a cent of it to save your life."
"All right," said Kinney, in hapless contrition, and he returned to shut himself in with the reproaches of the loggers and the upbraiding of his own heart.
Bartley dashed along the road in a fury that kept him unconscious of the intense cold; and he passed half the night, when he was once more in his own room, packing his effects against his departure next day. When all was done, he went to bed, half wishing that he might never rise from it again. It was not that he cared for Kinney; that fool's sulking was only the climax of a long series of injuries of which he was the victim at the hands of a hypercritical omnipotence.
Despite his conviction that it was useless to struggle longer against such injustice, he lived through the night, and came down late to breakfast, which he found stale, and without the compensating advantage of finding himself alone at the table. Some ladies had lingered there to clear up on the best authority the distracting rumors concerning him which they had heard the day before. Was it true that he had intended to spend the rest of the winter in logging? and was it true that he was going to give up the Free Press? and was it true that Henry Bird was going to be the editor? Bartley gave a sarcastic confirmation to all these reports, and went out to the printing-office to gather up some things of his. He found Henry Bird there, looking pale and sick, but at work, and seemingly in authority. This was what Bartley had always intended when he should go out, but he did not like it, and he resented some small changes that had already been made in the editor's room, in tacit recognition of his purpose not to occupy it again.
Bird greeted him stiffly; the printer girls briefly nodded to him, suppressing some little hysterical titters, and tacitly let him feel that he was no longer master there. While he was in the composing-room Hannah Morrison came in, apparently from some errand outside, and, catching sight of him, stared, and pertly passed him in silence. On his inkstand he found a letter from Squire Gaylord, briefly auditing his last account, and enclosing the balance due him. From this the old lawyer, with the careful smallness of a village business man, had deducted various little sums for things which Bartley had never expected to pay for. With a like thriftiness the landlord, when Bartley asked for his bill, had charged certain items that had not appeared in the bills before. Bartley felt that the charges were trumped up; but he was powerless to dispute them; besides, he hoped to sell the landlord his colt and cutter, and he did not care to prejudice that matter. Some bills from storekeepers, which he thought he had paid, were handed to him by the landlord, and each of the churches had sent in a little account for pew-rent for the past eighteen months: he had always believed himself dead-headed at church. He outlawed the latter by tearing them to pieces in the landlord's presence, and dropping the fragments into a spittoon. It seemed to him that every soul in Equity was making a clutch at the rapidly diminishing sum of money which Squire Gaylord had enclosed to him, and which was all he had in the world. On the other hand, his popularity in the village seemed to have vanished over night. He had sometimes fancied a general and rebellious grief when it should become known that he was going away; but instead there was an acquiescence amounting to airiness.
He wondered if anything about his affairs with Henry Bird and Hannah Morrison had leaked out. But he did not care. He only wished to shake the snow of Equity off his feet as soon as possible.
After dinner, when the boarders had gone out, and the loafers had not yet gathered in, he offered the landlord his colt and cutter. Bartley knew that the landlord wanted the colt; but now the latter said, "I don't know as I care to buy any horses, right in the winter, this way."
"All right," answered Bartley. "Just have the colt put into the cutter."
Andy Morrison brought it round. The boy looked at Bartley's set face with a sort of awe-stricken affection; his adoration for the young man survived all that he had heard said against him at home during the series of family quarrels that had ensued upon his father's interview with him; he longed to testify, somehow, his unabated loyalty, but he could not think of anything to do, much less to say.
Bartley pitched his valise into the cutter, and then, as Andy left the horse's head to give him a hand with his trunk, offered him a dollar. "I don't want anything," said the boy, shyly refusing the money out of pure affection.
But Bartley mistook his motive, and thought it sulky resentment. "Oh, very well," he said. "Take hold."
The landlord came out. "Hold on a minute," he said. "Where you goin' to take the cars?"
"At the Junction," answered Bartley. "I know a man there that will buy the colt. What is it you want?"
The landlord stepped back a few paces, and surveyed the establishment. "I should like to ride after that hoss," he said, "if you aint in any great of a hurry."
"Get in," said Bartley, and the landlord took the reins.
From time to time, as he drove, he rose up and looked over the dashboard to study the gait of the horse. "I've noticed he strikes some, when he first comes out in the spring."
"Yes," Bartley assented.
The landlord rose again and scrutinized the horse's legs. "I don't know as I ever noticed 't he'd capped his hock before."
"Done it kickin' nights, I guess."
"I guess so."
The landlord drew the whip lightly across the colt's rear; he shrank together, and made a little spring forward, but behaved perfectly well.
"I don't know as I should always be sure he wouldn't kick in the daytime."
"No," said Bartley, "you never can be sure of anything."
They drove along in silence. At last the landlord said, "Well, he aint so fast as I supposed."
"He's not so fast a horse as some," answered Bartley.
The landlord leaned over sidewise for an inspection of the colt's action forward. "Haint never thought he had a splint on that forward off leg?"
"A splint? Perhaps he has a splint."
They returned to the hotel and both alighted.
"Skittish devil," remarked the landlord, as the colt quivered under the hand he laid upon him.
"He's skittish," said Bartley.
The landlord retired as far back as the door, and regarded the colt critically. "Well, I s'pose you've always used him too well ever to winded him, but dumn 'f he don't blow like it."
"Look here, Simpson," said Bartley, very quietly. "You know this horse as well as I do, and you know there isn't an out about him. You want to buy him because you always have. Now make me an offer."
"Well," groaned the landlord, "what'll you take for the whole rig, just as it stands,—colt, cutter, leathers, and robe?"
"Two hundred dollars," promptly replied Bartley.
"I'll give ye seventy-five," returned the landlord with equal promptness.
"Andy, take hold of the end of that trunk, will you?"
The landlord allowed them to put the trunk into the cutter. Bartley got in too, and, shifting the baggage to one side, folded the robe around him from his middle down and took his seat. "This colt can road you right along all day inside of five minutes, and he can trot inside of two-thirty every time; and you know it as well as I do."
"Well," said the landlord, "make it an even hundred."
Bartley leaned forward and gathered up the reins, "Let go his head, Andy," he quietly commanded.
"Make it one and a quarter," cried the landlord, not seeing that his chance was past. "What do you say?"
What Bartley said, as he touched the colt with the whip, the landlord never knew. He stood watching the cutter's swift disappearance up the road, in a sort of stupid expectation of its return. When he realized that Bartley's departure was final, he said under his breath, "Sold, ye dumned old fool, and serve ye right," and went in-doors with a feeling of admiration! for colt and man that bordered on reverence.
This last drop of the local meanness filled Bartley's bitter cup. As he passed the house at the end of the street he seemed to drain it all. He knew that the old lawyer was there sitting by the office stove, drawing his hand across his chin, and Bartley hoped that he was still as miserable as he had looked when he last saw him; but he did not know that by the window in the house, which he would not even look at, Marcia sat self-prisoned in her room, with her eyes upon the road, famishing for the thousandth part of a chance to see him pass. She saw him now for the instant of his coming and going. With eyes trained to take in every point, she saw the preparation which seemed like final departure, and with a gasp of "Bartley!" as if she were trying to call after him, she sank back into her chair and shut her eyes.
He drove on, plunging into the deep hollow beyond the house, and keeping for several miles the road they had taken on that Sunday together; but he did not make the turn that brought them back to the village again. The pale sunset was slanting over the snow when he reached the Junction, for he had slackened his colt's pace after he had put ten miles behind him, not choosing to reach a prospective purchaser with his horse all blown and bathed with sweat. He wished to be able to say, "Look at him! He's come fifteen miles since three o'clock, and he's as keen as when he started."
This was true, when, having left his baggage at the Junction, he drove another mile into the country to see the farmer of the gentleman who had his summer-house here, and who had once bantered Bartley to sell him his colt. The farmer was away, and would not be at home till the up-train from Boston was in. Bartley looked at his watch, and saw that to wait would lose him the six o'clock down-train. There would be no other till eleven o'clock. But it was worth while: the gentleman had said, "When you want the money for that colt, bring him over any time; my farmer will have it ready for you." He waited for the up-train; but when the farmer arrived, he was full of all sorts of scruples and reluctances. He said he should not like to buy it till he had heard from Mr. Farnham; he ended by offering Bartley eighty dollars for the colt on his own account; he did not want the cutter.
"You write to Mr. Farnham," said Bartley, "that you tried that plan with me, and it wouldn't work, he's lost the colt."
He made this brave show of indifference, but he was disheartened, and, having carried the farmer home from the Junction for the convenience of talking over the trade with him, he drove back again through the early night-fall in sullen desperation.
The weather had softened and was threatening rain or snow; the dark was closing in spiritlessly; the colt, shortening from a trot into a short, springy jolt, dropped into a walk at last as if he were tired, and gave Bartley time enough on his way back to the Junction for reflection upon the disaster into which his life had fallen. These passages of utter despair are commoner to the young than they are to those whom years have experienced in the impermanence of any fate, good, bad, or indifferent, unless, perhaps, the last may seem rather constant. Taken in reference to all that had been ten days ago, the present ruin was incredible, and had nothing reasonable in proof of its existence. Then he was prosperously placed, and in the way to better himself indefinitely. Now, he was here in the dark, with fifteen dollars in his pocket, and an unsalable horse on his hands; outcast, deserted, homeless, hopeless: and by whose fault? He owned even then that he had committed some follies; but in his sense of Marcia's all-giving love he had risen for once in his life to a conception of self-devotion, and in taking herself from him as she did, she had taken from him the highest incentive he had ever known, and had checked him in his first feeble impulse to do and be all in all for another. It was she who had ruined him.
As he jumped out of the cutter at the Junction the station-master stopped with a cluster of party-colored signal-lanterns in his hand and cast their light over the sorrel.
"Nice colt you got there."
"Yes," said Bartley, blanketing the horse, "do you know anybody who wants to buy?"
"Whose is he?" asked the man.
"He's mine!" shouted Bartley. "Do you think I stole him?"
"I don't know where you got him," said the man, walking off, and making a soft play of red and green lights on the snow beyond the narrow platform.
Bartley went into the great ugly barn of a station, trembling, and sat down in one of the gouged and whittled arm-chairs near the stove. A pomp of timetables and luminous advertisements of Western railroads and their land-grants decorated the wooden walls of the gentlemen's waiting-room, which had been sanded to keep the gentlemen from writing and sketching upon them. This was the more judicious because the ladies' room, in the absence of tourist travel, was locked in winter, and they were obliged to share the gentlemen's. In summer, the Junction was a busy place, but after the snow fell, and until the snow thawed, it was a desolation relieved only by the arrival of the sparsely peopled through-trains from the north and east, and by such local travellers as wished to take trains not stopping at their own stations. These broke in upon the solitude of the joint station-master and baggage-man and switch-tender with just sufficient frequency to keep him in a state of uncharitable irritation and unrest. To-night Bartley was the sole intruder, and he sat by the stove wrapped in a cloud of rebellious memories, when one side of a colloquy without made itself heard.
Some question was repeated.
"No; it went down half an hour ago."
An inaudible question followed.
"Next down-train at eleven."
There was now a faintly audible lament or appeal.
"Guess you'll have to come earlier next time. Most folks doos that wants to take it."
Bartley now heard the despairing moan of a woman: he had already divined the sex of the futile questioner whom the station-master was bullying; but he had divined it without compassion, and if he had not himself been a sufferer from the man's insolence he might even have felt a ferocious satisfaction in it. In a word, he was at his lowest and worst when the door opened and the woman came in, with a movement at once bewildered and daring, which gave him the impression of a despair as complete and final as his own. He doggedly kept his place; she did not seem to care for him, but in the uncertain light of the lamp above them she drew near the stove, and, putting one hand to her pocket as if to find her handkerchief, she flung aside her veil with her other, and showed her tear stained face.
He was on his feet somehow. "Marcia!"
He had seized her by the arm to make sure that she was there in verity of flesh and blood, and not by some trick of his own senses, as a cold chill running over him had made him afraid. At the touch their passion ignored all that they had made each other suffer; her head was on his breast, his embrace was round her; it was a moment of delirious bliss that intervened between the sorrows that had been and the reasons that must come.
"What—what are you doing here, Marcia?" he asked at last.
They sank on the benching that ran round the wall; he held her hands fast in one of his, and kept his other arm about her as they sat side by side.
"I don't know—I—" She seemed to rouse herself by an effort from her rapture. "I was going to see Nettie Spaulding. And I saw you driving past our house; and I thought you were coming here; and I couldn't bear—I couldn't bear to let you go away without telling you that I was wrong; and asking—asking you to forgive me. I thought you would do it,—I thought you would know that I had behaved that way because I—I—cared so much for you. I thought—I was afraid you had gone on the other train—" She trembled and sank back in his embrace, from which she had lifted herself a little.
"How did you get here?" asked Bartley, as if willing to give himself all the proofs he could of the every-day reality of her presence.
"Andy Morrison brought me. Father sent him from the hotel. I didn't care what you would say to me, I wanted to tell you that I was wrong, and not let you go away feeling that—that—you were all to blame. I thought when I had done that you might drive me away,—or laugh at me, or anything you pleased, if only you would let me take back—"
"Yes," he answered dreamily. All that wicked hardness was breaking up within him; he felt it melting drop by drop in his heart. This poor love-tossed soul, this frantic, unguided, reckless girl, was an angel of mercy to him, and in her folly and error a messenger of heavenly peace and hope. "I am a bad fellow, Marcia," he faltered. "You ought to know" that. You did right to give me up. I made love to Hannah Morrison; I never promised to marry her, but I made her think that I was fond of her."
"I don't care for that," replied the girl. "I told you when we were first engaged that I would never think of anything that had gone before that; and then when I would not listen to a word from you, that day, I broke my promise."
"When I struck Henry Bird because he was jealous of me, I was as guilty as if I had killed him."
"If you had killed him, I was bound to you by my word. Your striking him was part of the same thing,—part of what I had promised I never would care for." A gush of tears came into his eyes, and she saw them. "Oh, poor Bartley! Poor Bartley!"
She took his head between her hands and pressed it hard against her heart, and then wrapped her arms tight about him, and softly bemoaned him.
They drew a little apart when the man came in with his lantern, and set it down to mend the fire. But as a railroad employee he was far too familiar with the love that vaunts itself on all railroad trains to feel that he was an intruder. He scarcely looked at them, and went out when he had mended the fire, and left it purring.
"Where is Andy Morrison?" asked Bartley. "Has he gone back?"
"No; he is at the hotel over there. I told him to wait till I found out when the train went north."
"So you inquired when it went to Boston," said Bartley, with a touch of his old raillery. "Come," he added, taking her hand under his arm. He led her out of the room, to where his cutter stood outside. She was astonished to find the colt there.
"I wonder I didn't see it. But if I had, I should have thought that you had sold it and gone away; Andy told me you were coming here to sell the colt. When the man told me the express was gone, I knew you were on it."
They found the boy stolidly waiting for Marcia on the veranda of the hotel, stamping first upon one foot and then the other, and hugging himself in his great-coat as the coming snow-fall blew its first flakes in his face.
"Is that you, Andy?" asked Bartley.
"Yes, sir," answered the boy, without surprise at finding him with Marcia.
"Well, here! Just take hold of the colt's head a minute."
As the boy obeyed, Bartley threw the reins on the dashboard, and leaped out of the cutter, and went within. He returned after a brief absence, followed by the landlord.
"Well, it ain't more 'n a mile 'n a half, if it's that. You just keep straight along this street, and take your first turn to the left, and you're right at the house; it's the first house on the left-hand side."
"Thanks," returned Bartley. "Andy, you tell the Squire that you left Marcia with me, and I said I would see about her getting back. You needn't hurry."
"All right," said the boy, and he disappeared round the corner of the house to get his horse from the barn.
"Well, I'll be all ready by the time you're here," said the landlord, still holding the hall-door ajar, "Luck to you!" he shouted, shutting it.
Marcia locked both her hands through Bartley's arm, and leaned her head on his shoulder. Neither spoke for some minutes; then he asked, "Marcia, do you know where you are?"
"With you," she answered, in a voice of utter peace.
"Do you know where we are going?" he asked, leaning over to kiss her cold, pure cheek.
"No," she answered in as perfect content as before.
"We are going to get married."
He felt her grow tense in her clasp upon his arm, and hold there rigidly for a moment, while the swift thoughts whirled through her mind. Then, as if the struggle had ended, she silently relaxed, and leaned more heavily against him.
"There's still time to go back, Marcia," he said, "if you wish. That turn to the right, yonder, will take us to Equity, and you can be at home in two hours." She quivered. "I'm a poor man,—I suppose you know that; I've only got fifteen dollars in the world, and the colt here. I know I can get on; I'm not afraid for myself; but if you would rather wait,—if you're not perfectly certain of yourself,—remember, it's going to be a struggle; we're going to have some hard times—"
"You forgive me?" she huskily asked, for all answer, without moving her head from where it lay.
The minister was an old man, and he seemed quite dazed at the suddenness of their demand for his services. But he gathered himself together, and contrived to make them man and wife, and to give them his marriage certificate.
"It seems as if there were something else," he said, absently, as he handed the paper to Bartley.
"Perhaps it's this," said Bartley, giving him a five-dollar note in return.
"Ah, perhaps," he replied, in unabated perplexity. He bade them serve God, and let them out into the snowy night, through which they drove back to the hotel.
The landlord had kindled a fire on the hearth of the Franklin stove in his parlor, and the blazing hickory snapped in electrical sympathy with the storm when they shut themselves into the bright room, and Bartley took Marcia fondly into his arms.
They sat down before the fire, hand in hand, and talked of the light things that swim to the top, and eddy round and round on the surface of our deepest moods. They made merry over the old minister's perturbation, which Bartley found endlessly amusing. Then he noticed that the dress Marcia had on was the one she had worn to the sociable in Lower Equity, and she said, yes, she had put it on because he once said he liked it. He asked her when, and she said, oh, she knew; but if he could not remember, she was not going to tell him. Then she wanted to know if he recognized her by the dress before she lifted her veil in the station.
"No," he said, with a teasing laugh. "I wasn't thinking of you."
"Oh, Bartley!" she joyfully reproached him. "You must have been!"
"Yes, I was! I was so mad at you, that I was glad to have that brute of a station-master bullying some woman!"
He sat holding her hand. "Marcia," he said, gravely, "we must write to your father at once, and tell him. I want to begin life in the right way, and I think it's only fair to him."
She was enraptured at his magnanimity. "Bartley! That's like you! Poor father! I declare—Bartley, I'm afraid I had forgotten him! It's dreadful; but—you put everything else out of my head. I do believe I've died and come to life somewhere else!"
"Well, I haven't," said Bartley, "and I guess you'd better write to your father. You'd better write; at present, he and I are not on speaking terms. Here!" He took out his note-book, and gave her his stylographic pen after striking the fist that held it upon his other fist, in the fashion of the amateurs of that reluctant instrument, in order to bring down the ink.
"Oh, what's that?" she asked.
"It's a new kind of pen. I got it for a notice in the Free Press."
"Is Henry Bird going to edit the paper?"
"I don't know, and I don't care," answered Bartley.
"I'll go out and get an envelope, and ask the landlord what's the quickest way to get the letter to your father."
He took up his hat, but she laid her hand on his arm. "Oh, send for him!" she said.
"Are you afraid I sha'n't come back?" he demanded, with a laughing kiss. "I want to see him about something else, too."
"Well, don't be gone long."
They parted with an embrace that would have fortified older married people for a year's separation. When Bartley came back, she handed him the leaf she had torn out of his book, and sat down beside him while he read it, with her arm over his shoulder.
"Dear father," the letter ran, "Bartley and I are married. We were married an hour ago, just across the New Hampshire line, by the Rev. Mr. Jessup. Bartley wants I should let you know the very first thing. I am going to Boston with Bartley to-night, and, as soon as we get settled there, I will write again. I want you should forgive us both; but if you wont forgive Bartley, you mustn't forgive me. You were mistaken about Bartley, and I was right. Bartley has told me everything, and I am perfectly satisfied. Love to mother.
"P.S.—I did intend to visit Netty Spaulding. But I saw Bartley driving past on his way to the Junction, and I determined to see him if I could before he started for Boston, and tell him I was all wrong, no matter what he said or did afterwards. I ought to have told you I meant to see Bartley; but then you would not have let me come, and if I had not come, I should have died."
"There's a good deal of Bartley in it," said the young man with a laugh.
"You don't like it!"
"Yes, I do; it's all right. Did you use to take the prize for composition at boarding-school?"
"Why, I think it's a very good letter for when I'm in such an excited state."
"It's beautiful!" cried Bartley, laughing more and more. The tears started to her eyes.
"Marcia," said her husband fondly, "what a child you are! If ever I do anything to betray your trust in me—"
There came a shuffling of feet outside the door, a clinking of glass and crockery, and a jarring sort of blow, as if some one were trying to rap on the panel with the edge of a heavy-laden waiter. Bartley threw the door open and found the landlord there, red and smiling, with the waiter in his hand.
"I thought I'd bring your supper in here, you know," he explained confidentially, "so 's't you could have it a little more snug. And my wife she kind o' got wind o' what was going on,—women will, you know," he said with a wink,—"and she's sent ye in some hot biscuit and a little jell, and some of her cake." He set the waiter down on the table, and stood admiring its mystery of napkined dishes. "She guessed you wouldn't object to some cold chicken, and she's put a little of that on. Sha'n't cost ye any more," he hastened to assure them. "Now this is your room till the train comes, and there aint agoin' to anybody come in here. So you can make yourselves at home. And I hope you'll enjoy your supper as much as we did ourn the night we was married. There! I guess I'll let the lady fix the table; she looks as if she knowed how."
He got himself out of the room again, and then Marcia, who had made him some embarrassed thanks, burst out in praise of his pleasantness.
"Well, he ought to be pleasant," said Bartley, "he's just beaten me on a horse-trade. I've sold him the colt."
"Sold him the colt!" cried Marcia, tragically dropping the napkin she had lifted from the plate of cold chicken.
"Well, we couldn't very well have taken him to Boston with us. And we couldn't have got there without selling him. You know you haven't married a millionnaire, Marcia."
"How much did you get for the colt?"
"Oh, I didn't do so badly. I got a hundred and fifty for him."
"And you had fifteen besides."
"That was before we were married. I gave the minister five for you,—I think you are worth it, I wanted to give fifteen."
"Well, then, you have a hundred and sixty now. Isn't that a great deal?"
"An everlasting lot," said Bartley, with an impatient laugh. "Don't let the supper cool, Marcia!"
She silently set out the feast, but regarded it ruefully. "You oughtn't to have ordered so much, Bartley," she said. "You couldn't afford it."
"I can afford anything when I'm hungry. Besides. I only ordered the oysters and coffee; all the rest is conscience money—or sentiment—from the landlord. Come, come! cheer up, now! We sha'n't starve to-night, anyhow."
"Well, I know father will help us."
"We sha'n't count on him," said Bartley. "Now drop it!" He put his arm round her shoulders and pressed her against him, till she raised her face for his kiss.
"Well, I will!" she said, and the shadow lifted itself from their wedding feast, and they sat down and made merry as if they had all the money in the world to spend. They laughed and joked; they praised the things they liked, and made fun of the others.
"How strange! How perfectly impossible it all seems! Why, last night I was taking supper at Kinney's logging-camp, and hating you at every mouthful with all my might. Everything seemed against me, and I was feeling ugly, and flirting like mad with a fool from Montreal: she had come out there from Portland for a frolic with the owners' party. You made me do it, Marcia!" he cried jestingly. "And remember that, if you want me to be good, you must be kind. The other thing seems to make me worse and worse."
"I will,—I will, Bartley." she said humbly. "I will try to be kind and patient with you. I will indeed."
He threw back his head, and laughed and laughed. "Poor—poor old Kinney! He's the cook, you know, and he thought I'd been making fun of him to that woman, and he behaved so, after they were gone, that I started home in a rage; and he followed me out with his hands all covered with dough, and wanted to stop me, but he couldn't for fear of spoiling my clothes—" He lost himself in another paroxysm.
Marcia smiled a little. Then, "What sort of a looking person was she?" she tremulously asked.
Bartley stopped abruptly. "Not one ten-thousandth part as good-looking, nor one millionth part as bright, as Marcia Hubbard!" He caught her and smothered her against his breast.
"I don't care! I don't care!" she cried. "I was to blame more than you, if you flirted with her, and it serves me right. Yes, I will never say anything to you for anything that happened after I behaved so to you."
"There wasn't anything else happened," cried Bartley. "And the Montreal woman snubbed me soundly before she was done with me."
"Snubbed you!" exclaimed Marcia, with illogical indignation. This delighted Bartley so much that it was long before he left off laughing over her.
Then they sat down, and were silent till she said, "And did you leave him in a temper?"
"Who? Kinney? In a perfect devil of a temper. I wouldn't even borrow some money he wanted to lend me."
"Write to him, Bartley," said his wife, seriously. "I love you so I can't bear to have anybody bad friends with you."
The whole thing was so crazy, as Bartley said, that it made no difference if they kept up the expense a few days longer. He took a hack from the depot when they arrived in Boston, and drove to the Revere House, instead of going up in the horse-car. He entered his name on the register with a flourish, "Bartley J. Hubbard and Wife, Boston," and asked for a room and fire, with laconic gruffness; but the clerk knew him at once for a country person, and when the call-boy followed him into the parlor where Marcia sat, in the tremor into which she fell whenever Bartley was out of her sight, the call-boy discerned her provinciality at a glance, and made free to say that he guessed they had better let him take their things up to their room, and come up themselves after the porter had got their fire going.
"All right," said Bartley, with hauteur; and he added, for no reason, "Be quick about it."
"Yes, sir," said the boy.
"What time is supper—dinner, I mean?"
"It's ready now, sir."
"Good. Take up the things. Come just as you are, Marcia. Let him take your cap,—no, keep it on; a good many of them come down in their bonnets."
Marcia put off her sack and gloves, and hastily repaired the ravages of travel as best she could. She would have liked to go to her room just long enough to brush her hair a little, and the fur cap made her head hot; but she was suddenly afraid of doing something that would seem countrified in Bartley's eyes, and she promptly obeyed: they had come from Portland in a parlor car, and she had been able to make a traveller's toilet before they reached Boston.
She had been at Portland several times with her father; but he stopped at a second-class hotel where he had always "put up" when alone, and she was new to the vastness of hotel mirrors and chandeliers, the glossy paint, the frescoing, the fluted pillars, the tessellated marble pavements upon which she stepped when she left the Brussels carpeting of the parlors. She clung to Bartley's arm, silently praying that she might not do anything to mortify him, and admiring everything he did with all her soul. He made a halt as they entered the glittering dining-room, and stood frowning till the head-waiter ran respectfully up to them, and ushered them with sweeping bows to a table, which they had to themselves. Bartley ordered their dinner with nonchalant ease, beginning with soup and going to black coffee with dazzling intelligence. While their waiter was gone with their order, he beckoned with one finger to another, and sent him out for a paper, which he unfolded and spread on the table, taking a toothpick into his mouth, and running the sheet over with his eyes. "I just want to see what's going on to-night," he said, without looking at Marcia.
She made a little murmur of acquiescence in her throat, but she could not speak for strangeness. She began to steal little timid glances about, and to notice the people at the other tables. In her heart she did not find the ladies so very well dressed as she had expected the Boston ladies to be; and there was no gentleman there to compare with Bartley, either in style or looks. She let her eyes finally dwell on him, wishing that he would put his paper away and say something, but afraid to ask, lest it should not be quite right: all the other gentlemen were reading papers. She was feeling lonesome and homesick, when he suddenly glanced at her and said, "How pretty you look, Marsh!"
"Do I?" she asked, with a little grateful throb, while her eyes joyfully suffused themselves.
"Pretty as a pink," he returned. "Gay,—isn't it?" he continued, with a wink that took her into his confidence again, from which his study of the newspaper had seemed to exclude her. "I'll tell you what I'm going to do: I'm going to take you to the Museum after dinner, and let you see Boucicault in the 'Colleen Bawn.'" He swept his paper off the table and unfolded his napkin in his lap, and, leaning back in his chair, began to tell her about the play. "We can walk: it's only just round the corner," he said at the end.
Marcia crept into the shelter of his talk,—he sometimes spoke rather loud,—and was submissively silent. When they got into their own room,—which had gilt lambrequin frames, and a chandelier of three burners, and a marble mantel, and marble-topped table and washstand,—and Bartley turned up the flaring gas, she quite broke down, and cried on his breast, to make sure that she had got him all back again.
"Why, Marcia!" he said. "I know just how you feel. Don't you suppose I understand as well as you do that we're a country couple? But I'm not going to give myself away; and you mustn't, either. There wasn't a woman in that room that could compare with you,—dress or looks!"
"You were splendid," she whispered, "and just like the rest! and that made me feel somehow as if I had lost you."
"I know,—I saw just how you felt; but I wasn't going to say anything for fear you'd give way right there. Come, there's plenty of time before the play begins. I call this nice! Old-fashioned, rather, in the decorations," he said, "but pretty good for its time." He had pulled up two arm-chairs in front of the glowing grate of anthracite; as he spoke, he cast his eyes about the room, and she followed his glance obediently. He had kept her hand in his, and now he held her slim finger-tips in the fist which he rested on his knee. "No; I'll tell you what, Marcia, if you want to get on in a city, there's no use being afraid of people. No use being afraid of anything, so long as we're good to each other. And you've got to believe in me right along. Don't you let anything get you on the wrong track. I believe that as long as you have faith in me, I shall deserve it; and when you don't—"