"Well I hadn't wanted it to come home to me tonight," he sighed plaintively. "I'm really most upset about this unfortunate affair. I had thought that you, Katie, would be pleasant."
"Forgive me," she laughed. "I can see how it must disturb you, uncle, to hear me express a serious thought."
He laughed at her delightedly. He loved Katie. "You've got the fidgets, Katie. Just the fidgets. That's what's the matter with the whole lot of you youngsters. It's becoming an epidemic—a sort of spiritual measles. Though I must say, I hadn't expected you to catch it. And just a word of warning, Katie. You've always been so unique as a trifler that one rather hates to see you swallowed up in the troop of serious-minded young women. I was talking to Darrett the other day—charming fellow, Darrett—and he held that your charm was in your brilliant smile. I told him I hadn't thought so much about the brilliant smile, but that I knew a good deal about a certain impish grin. Katie, you have a very disreputable grin. You have a way of directing it at me across ponderous drawing-rooms that I wish you'd stop. It gives me a sort of—'Oh I am on to you, uncle old boy' feeling that is most—"
He looked at her, humorously and yet meditatively—fondly. "Katie, why do you think it's so funny? Why does it make you want to grin?"
"You know. Else you wouldn't read the grin."
"But I don't know. Nobody else grins at me."
"Oh don't you think we're a good deal of a joke, uncle?"
"Us. The solemnity with which we take ourselves and the way the world lets us do it."
He laughed. Then, as one coming back to his lines: "You have no reverence."
"No, neither have you. That's why we get on."
He made an unsuccessful attempt at frowning upon her and surveyed her a little more seriously. "Katie, do you know that the things you say sometimes puzzle me. They're queer. They burrow. They're so insultingly knowing, down at the root of their unknowingness. I'll think—'She didn't know how "pat" that was'—and then as I consider it I'll think—'Yes, she did, only she didn't know that she knew.' I remember telling your mother once when you were a little girl that if you were going to sit through service with your head cocked in that knowing fashion I wished she'd leave you at home."
Katie laughed and cocked her head at him again, just to show she had not forgotten. Then she fell serious.
"Uncle, for a long time I only smiled. I seemed to know enough to do that. Do you think you could bear it with Christian fortitude if I were to tell you I'm beginning now to try and figure out what I was smiling at?"
He shook his head. "'Twould spoil it."
He looked at his niece and smiled as he asked: "Katie dear, are you becoming world weary?" Katie, very smart that night in white gown and black hat, appealed to him as distinctly humorous in the role of world weariness.
"No," returned Katie, "not world weary; just weary of not knowing the world."
Afterward in his room they chatted cheerfully of many things: family affairs, army and church affairs. Katie strove to keep to them as merely personal matters.
But there were no merely personal matters any more. All the little things were paths to the big things. There was no way of keeping herself detached. Even the seemingly isolated topic of the recent illness of the Bishop's wife led full upon the picture of other people she had been seeing that summer who looked ill.
Her uncle was telling of a case he had recently disposed of, a rector of his diocese who was guilty of an atheistic book. He spoke feelingly of what he called the shallowness of rationalism, of the dangers of the age, beautifully of that splendid past which the church must conserve. He told of some lectures he himself was to deliver on the fallacies of socialism. "It's honeycombing our churches, Katherine—yes, and even the army. Darrett tells me they've found it's spreading among the men. Nice state of affairs were we to have any sort of industrial war!"
It was hard for Katie to keep silence, but she felt so sadly the lack of assurance arising from lack of knowledge. Well, give her a little time, she would fix that!
She contented herself with asking if he anticipated an industrial war.
The Bishop made a large gesture and said he hoped not, but he felt it a time for the church to throw all her forces to safeguarding the great heritage of the country's institutions. He especially deplored that the church itself did not see it more clearly, more unitedly. He mentioned fellow bishops who seemed to be actually encouraging inroads upon tradition. Where did they expect it to lead?—he demanded.
"Perhaps," meekly suggested Katie, "they expect it to lead to growth."
"Growth!" snorted the Bishop. "Destruction!"
They passed to the sunnier subject of raising money. As regards the budget, Bishop Wayneworth was the church's most valued servant. His manner of good-humored tolerance gave Mammon a soothing sense of being understood, moving the much maligned god to reach for its check book, just to bear the friendly bishop out in his lenient interpretation of a certain text about service rendered in two directions.
He was telling of a fund he expected to raise at a given time. If he did, a certain capitalist would duplicate it. The Bishop became jubilant at the prospect.
And as they talked, there passed before Katie, as in review, the things she had seen that summer—passed before her the worn faces of those girls who night after night during the hot summer had come from the stores and factories where the men of whom her uncle was so jubilantly speaking made the money which they were able to subscribe to the church. She thought of her uncle's church; she could not recall having seen many such faces in the pews of that church. She thought of Ann—wondered where Ann might be that night while she and her uncle chatted so cheerfully in his pleasant room at his luxurious hotel. She tried to think of anything for which her uncle stood which would give her confidence in saying to herself, "Ann will be saved." The large sum of money over which he was gloating was to be used for a new cathedral. She wondered if the Anns of her uncle's city would find the world a safer or a sweeter place after that cathedral had been erected. She thought of Ann's world of the opera and world of work. Was it true—as the man who mended the boats would hold—that the one made the other possible—only to be excluded from it? And all the while there swept before her faces—faces seen in the crowd, faces of those who were not finding what they wanted, faces of all those to whom life denied life. And then Katie thought of a man who had lived & long time before, a man of whom her uncle spoke lovingly in his sermons as Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God. She thought of Ann's father—how far he had gone from a religion of love. Then came back to her lovable uncle. Well, what of him?
Charm of personality, a sense of humor, a comfortable view of living (for himself and his kind) did not seem the final word.
"Uncle," Katie asked quietly, "do you ever think much about Christ?"
In his astonishment the Bishop dropped his cigar.
"What a strange man he must have been," she murmured.
"Kindly explain yourself," said he curtly.
"He seemed to think so much about people. Just people. And chiefly people who were down on their luck. I don't believe he would have been much good at raising money. He had such a queer way of going around where people worked, talking with them about their work. If he were here now, and were to do that, I wonder if he'd help much in 'stemming the rising tide of socialism' What a blessing it is for our institutions," Katie concluded, "that he's not anywhere around."
The Bishop's hand shook. "I had not expected," he said, "that my own niece, my favorite niece—indeed, the favorite member of my family—was here to—revile me."
"Uncle—forgive me! But isn't it bigger than that thing of being members of the same family—hurting each other's feelings? Oh uncle!" she burst forth, no longer able to hold back, "as you stand sometimes at the altar don't you hear them moaning and sobbing down underneath?"
He looked at her sharply, with some alarm.
"Oh no," she laughed, "not going crazy. Just trying to think a little about things. But don't you ever hear them, uncle? I should think they might—bother you sometimes."
"Really, Katherine," he said stiffly, "this is most—annoying. Hear whom moaning and sobbing?"
"Those people! The worn out shop girls and broken down men and women and diseased children that your church is built right on top of!"
Not the words but the sob behind them moved him to ask gently: "Katie dear, what is it? What's the trouble?"
Her eyes were swimming. "Uncle—it's the misery of the world! It's the people who aren't where they belong! It's the lives ruined through blunders—it's the cruelty—the needless cruelty of it all." She leaned forward, the tears upon her cheeks. "Uncle, how can you? You have a mind—a kind heart. But what good are they? If you believe the things you say you believe—oh you think you believe them—but you don't seem to connect them. Here to-night we've been talking about the forms of the church—finances of the church—and humanity is in need, uncle—bodily need—and oh the heart need! Why don't you go and see? Why you've only to look! What are your puny little problems of the church compared with people's lives? And yet you—cut off—detached—save in so far as feeding on them goes—claim to be following in the footsteps of a man who followed in their footsteps—a man who went about seeing how people lived—finding out what troubled them—trying—" She sank back with a sob. "I didn't mean to—but I simply can't understand it. Can't understand how you can."
She hid her face. Those faces—they passed and passed.
He had risen and was walking about the room. After a moment he stopped and cleared his throat. "If I didn't think, Katherine, that something had happened to almost derange you, I should not have permitted you to continue these ravings."
She raised her head defiantly. "Truths people don't want to hear are usually disposed of as ravings!"
"Now if I may be permitted a word. Your indictment is not at all new, though your heat in making it would indicate you believed yourself to be saying something never said before—"
"I know it's been said before! I'm more interested in knowing how it's been answered."
"You have never seemed sufficiently interested in the affairs of the church, Katherine, for one to think of seriously discussing our charities with you—"
"Uncle, do you know what your charities make me think of?"
He had resumed his chair—and cigar. "No," he said coldly, "I do not know what they make you 'think of.' I was attempting to tell you what they were."
"I know what they are. The idea that comes to my mind has a rather vulgar—"
"Oh, pray do not hesitate, Katherine. You have not been speaking what I would call delicately."
"Your charities are like waving a scented handkerchief over the stock-yards. Or like handing out after-dinner mints to a mob of starving men."
"You're quite the wrong end there—as is usual with you agitators," he replied comfortably. "We don't give them mints. We give them soup."
"Giving them soup—even if you did—is the mint end. Why don't you give them jobs?"
He spread out his hands in gesture of despair. "What a bore a little learning can make of one! My dear niece, I deeply regret to be compelled to inform you that there aren't 'jobs' enough to go around."
"Why aren't there?"
"Why the obvious reason would seem, Katie," he replied patiently, "that there are too many of them wanting them."
"And as usual, the obvious reason is not it. There are too many of you and me—that's the trouble. They don't have the soup because they must furnish us the mints." It was Katie who had risen now and was walking about the room. Her cheeks were blazing. "I tell you, uncle, I feel it's a disgrace the way we live—taking everything and doing nothing. I feel positively cheap about it. The army and the church and all the other useless things—"
"I do not agree with you that the army is useless and I certainly cannot permit you to say the church is."
"You'll not be able to stop other people from saying it!"
He seemed about to make heated reply, but instead sank back with an amused smile. "Katie, your learning sounds very suspiciously as though it were put on last night. I feel like putting up a sign—'Fresh Paint—Keep Off.'"
"Well at any rate it's not mouldy!"
"At college I roomed with a chap who had a way of discovering things, getting in a fine glow of discovery over things everybody else had known. He would wake me out of a sound sleep to tell me something I had heard the week before."
"And it's trying to be waked out of a sound sleep, isn't it, uncle?" she flashed back at him.
It ended with his kindly assuring her that he was glad she had begun to think about the problems of the world; that no one knew better than he that there was a social problem—and a grave one; that men of the church had written some excellent things on the subject—he would send her some of them. Indeed, he would be glad to do all in his power to help her to a better understanding of things. He was convinced, he said soothingly, that when she had gone a little farther into them she would see them more sanely.
Katie was back home; or, more accurately, she was back at Wayne's quarters, where they could perhaps remain for a month or two longer.
And craving some simple, natural thing, something that could not make the heart ache, she went out that afternoon to play golf. The physical Kate, Katie of the sound body, was delighted to be back playing golf. Every little cell sang its song of rejoicing—rejoicing in emancipation from the ill-smelling crowds, return to the open air and the good green earth.
It seemed a saving thing that they could so rejoice.
Katie was reading the little book on man's evolution which the man who was having much to do with her evolution had—it seemed long ago—sent her in the package marked "Danger." She had finished the book about women and was just looking through the one on evolution on the day Caroline Osborne's car had stopped at her door. That began a swift series of events leaving small place for reading. But when, that last day they were together in Chicago, she asked him about something to read, he suggested a return to that book. There seemed wisdom and kindness in the suggestion. The story of evolution was to the mind what the game of golf was to the body. With the life about her pressing in too close there was something freeing and saving in that glimpse of herself as part of all the life there had ever been. Because the crowds had seemed the all—were suffocating her—something in that vastness of vision was as fresh air after a stifling room. It was not that it did away with the crowds—made her think they did not matter; they were, after all, the more vital—imperative—but she had more space in which to see them, was given a chance to understand them rather than be blindly smothered by them.
For a number of years Katie had known that there was such a thing as evolution. It had something to do with an important man named Darwin. He got it up. It was the idea that we came from monkeys. The monkey was not Katie's favorite animal and she would have been none too pleased with the idea had it not been that there was something so delicious about solemn people like her Aunt Elizabeth and proper people like Clara having come from them. She was willing to stand it herself, just because if she came from them they did, too. She had assumed all along that she believed in Darwin and that people who did not believe in him were benighted. But the chief reason she had for believing in him was that the church had not believed in him. That was through neither malice nor conviction as regards the church, but merely because it was exciting to have some one disagreeing with it. It had thrilled her as "fearless," She had always meant to find out more about evolution, she had a hazy idea that there was a great deal more to it than just the fact of having come from monkeys, but she led such a busy life—bridge and things—that there was never time and so it remained a thing she believed in and was some day going to find out about.
Now she was furious with herself and with everybody connected with her for having lived so much of her life shut out from the knowledge—vision—that made life so vast and so splendid. It was like having lived all one's life in sight of the sea and being so busy walking around a silly little lake in a park that there was no time to turn one's face seaward. She wondered what she would think of a person who said the little toy lake kept her so busy there was never a minute to turn around and take a good look at the sea!
Katie had always loved the great world of living things—the fishes and birds—all animals—all things that grew. They had always called to her imagination—she used to make up stories about them. She saw now that their real story was a thousand-fold more wonderful—more the story—than anything she had been able to invent. She would give much to have known it long before. She felt that she had missed much. There was something humiliating in the thought of having lived one's life without knowing what life was. It made one seem such a dead thing. Now she was on fire to know all about it.
She smiled as it suggested to her what her uncle had said a few days before of the fresh paint. She supposed there was some truth in it, that one who was conserving the past must find something raw and ludicrous in her state of mind. Her passion to fairly devour knowledge would probably bring to many of them the same amused smile it had brought to her uncle. But it was surprising how little she minded the smile. She was too intent on the things she would devour.
Her glimpse into this actual story of life brought the first purely religious feeling she had ever known. It even brought the missionary fervor, which, as they sat down to rest, she exercised upon Worth, who had been proudly filling the office of caddy. She told him that she was going to tell him the most wonderful fairy story there had ever been in the world. And the thing that made it most wonderful of all was that, while it was just like a fairy story in being wonderful, it was every bit true. And then she told him a little of the great story of how one thing became another thing, how everything grew out of something else, how it had been doing that for millions of years, how he was what he was then because through all those years one thing had changed, grown, into something else.
As she told it it seemed so noble a thing to be telling a child, so much purer and more dignified—to say nothing of more stimulating—than the evasive tales of life employed in the attempt to thwart her childish mind.
Worth was upon her with a hundred questions. How did a worm become something that wasn't a worm? Did it know it was going to do it? And why did one worm go one way and in a lot of million years be a little boy and another worm go another way and just never be anything but a worm? Did she think in another hundred million years that little bird up there would be something else? Would they be anything else? And why—?
She saw that she had let herself in for a whole new world of whys. One thing was certain: if she were to remain with Worth she would have to find out more about evolution. Her knowledge was pitifully incommensurate to his whys.
But it was beautiful to her the way his mind reached out to it. He was lying on his stomach, head propped up on hands, in an almost prayerful attitude before an ant hill. Did she think those little ants knew that they were alive? Would they ever be anything else? He wanted to be told more stories about things becoming other things, seemed intoxicated with that idea of the constant becoming.
"But, Aunt Kate," he cried, "mama told me that God made me!"
"Why so He did, Worthie—that is, I suppose He did—but He didn't just make you out of nothing."
He lay there on the grass in silence for a long time, looking at the world about him—thinking. After a while he was singing a little song. This was the song:
"Once I was a little worm— Long—long—ago."
Katie smiled in thinking how scandalized Clara would be to have heard the story just told her son, story moving him to sing a vulgar song about having been a horrid little worm. It would be Clara's notion of propriety to tell Worth that the doctor brought him in his motor car and expect his mind, that wonderful, plastic little mind of his, to be proper enough to rest content with that lucid exposition of the wonder of life.
The time was near for Clara's six months of Worth to begin. Katie had promised she would bring him to her wherever she was; and Clara was in Paris and meaning to remain there. It meant that Worth would spend the winter in Paris, away from them; from time to time—as the custom of the city dictated—he would be taken for perfunctory little walks in the Bois and would be told to "run and play" if he asked indelicate questions concerning the things of life.
In the light of this story of the ways of growth the arrangement about Worth seemed an unnatural and a brutal thing.
She did not believe that, as a matter of fact, Clara wanted Worth. The maternal passion was less strong in Clara than the passion for lingerie. But she wanted Worth with her for six months because that kept him from Wayne and Katie for six months and she knew that they did want him.
The poor little fellow's summer had not been what Katie had planned. Part of the time he had been with his father and part of the time with her—that thing of division again, and as neither of them had been happy any of the time Worth had had to suffer for it. He seemed to have to suffer so much through the fact that grown-up people did not know how to manage their lives.
Suddenly he sat up. "Aunt Kate," he asked, "when's Miss Ann coming back?"
"I don't know, dear."
"Well where is she?"
"She's been—called away."
"Well I wish she'd come back. I like Miss Ann, Aunt Kate."
"Yes, dear; we all do."
"She tells nice stories, too. Only they're about fairies that are just fairies—not worms and things that are really so. Do you suppose Miss Ann knows, Aunt Kate, that she used to be a frog?"
Katie laughed and tried to elucidate her point about the frog. But she wondered what difference it might not have made had Ann known that, as Worth put it, she used to be a frog. With Ann, fairy stories would have to be about things not real. All Ann's life it had been so. It suddenly seemed that it might have made all the difference in the world had Ann known that the things most wonderful were the things that were.
Or rather, had the world in which Ann lived cared to know real things for precious things, the desire for life as the most radiant thing that had ever been upon the earth. Ann would have found the world a different place had men known life for the majestic thing it was, seen that back of what her uncle called the "splendid heritage of the country's institutions" was the vastly more splendid heritage of the institution of life. Letting the former shut them from the latter was being too busy with the toy lake to look out at the sea.
Seeing Ann as part of all the life that had ever been upon the earth she became, not infinitesimal, but newly significant. Widened outlook brought deepened feeling. Newly understanding, she sat there brooding over Ann anew, pain in the perfection of her understanding.
But new courage. Life had persisted through so much, was so triumphant. The larger conception lent its glow to the paling belief that Ann would persist, triumph.
"Aunt Kate," Worth burst forth, "let's take the boat and go up and find the man that mends the boats."
Aunt Kate blushed. "Oh no, dearie, we couldn't do that."
"Why we did do it once," argued Worth.
"I know, but we can't do it now."
"I don't see why not."
No, Worth didn't see.
"I just want to ask him, Aunt Kate, if he knows that he used to live in a tree."
"Oh, he knows it," she laughed.
"He knows everything," said Worth.
"Worthie, is that why you like him? 'Cause he knows everything? Or do you like him—just because you like him?"
"I like him because he knows everything—but mostly I like him just because I like him."
"Same here," breathed Aunt Kate.
The man who mended the boats was coming to see her that night. Perhaps golf and evolution should not grow arrogant, after all.
He had been strange about coming; when she talked with him over the 'phone he had hesitated at the suggestion and finally said, with a defiance she could not see the situation called for, that he would like to come. In Chicago he had once said to her: "There's too much gloom around you now for me to contribute the story of my life. But please remember that that was why I didn't tell it."
She wondered if the "story of his life" had anything to do with his hesitancy in coming to see her. Surely he would have no commonplace notions about "different spheres," though he had mentioned them, and with bitterness. He was especially hostile to the army, had more than once hurt her in his hostility. She would not have resented his attacking it as an institution, that she would expect from his philosophy, but it was a sort of personal contempt for the army and its people she had resented, almost as she would a contemptuous attitude toward her own family.
She had contended that he was unjust; that a lack of sympathy with the ends of the army—basis of it—should not bring him to a prejudiced attitude toward its people. She maintained that officers of the army were a higher type than civilians of the same class. He had told her, almost roughly, that he didn't think she knew anything about it, and she had replied, heatedly, that she would like to know why she wouldn't know more about it than he! In the end he said he was sorry to have hurt her when there was so much else to hurt her, but had not retracted what he had said, or even admitted the possibility of mistake.
It seemed that one of the worst things about "classes" was that they inevitably meant misunderstanding. They bred antagonism, and that prejudice. People didn't know each other.
Considering it now, she wondered, though feeling traitorous to him in the wondering, if the man who mended the boats might shrink from anything so distinctly social as calling upon her.
Their meetings theretofore had been on a bigger and a sterner basis; she had missed a few of the little niceties of consideration, a few of those perfunctory and yet curiously vital courtesies to which she had all her life been accustomed as a matter of course from her army men; but it had been as if they were merely leaving them behind for things larger and deeper, as if their background was the real world rather than world of perfunctory things. From him she had a consideration, not perfunctory, but in the mood of the things they were sharing. That sense of sharing big things, things real and rude, had swept them out of the world of artificial things. Now did he perhaps hold back in timidity from that world of the trivial things?
She put it from her, disliking herself as of the trivial things in letting it suggest itself at all. Expecting him to be just like the men she had known would be expecting the sea to behave like that lake in the park.
That night she put on her most attractive gown, a dress sometimes gray and sometimes cloudy blues and greens, itself like the sea, and finding in Katie a more mysterious quality than her openness would usually suggest. Feeling called upon to make some account to herself for dressing more than occasion would seem to demand, she told herself that she must get the poor old thing worn out and get something new.
But it was not a poor old thing, and the last thing Katie really wanted was to succeed in getting it worn out.
As she dressed she was thinking of Ann's pleasure in clothes. There were times when it had seemed a not altogether likeable vanity. It was understandable—lovable—after having been to Centralia, after knowing. So many things were understandable and lovable after knowing.
She wished she might call across the hall and ask Ann to come in and fasten her dress. She would like to chat with her about the way she had done her hair—all those intimate little things they had countless times talked about so gayly.
She walked over into Ann's room—room in which Ann had taken such pride and pleasure. Ann had loved the things on the dressing-table, she had more than once seen her fairly caressing those pretty ivory things. She wondered if Ann had anything resembling a dressing-table—what she wore—how she managed.
Those were the little worries about Ann forever haunting her, as they would a mother who had a child away from home. New vision of the immensity of life could save her from giving destroying place to that sense of the woe of the world, but a conception of the wonders of the centuries could not keep out the gnawing fear that Ann might not be getting enough to eat.
There was a complexity in her mood of that night—happiness and sadness so close as at times to be indistinguishable—the whole of it making for a sense of the depth of life.
But their evening was constrained. Katie blamed the dress for part of it, vexed with herself for having put it on. She had wanted to be attractive—not suggest the unattainable.
And that was what something seemed suggesting. He appeared less ill at ease than morose. Katie herself, after having been so happy in his coming, was, now that he was there, uncontrollably depressed. They talked of a variety of things—in the main, the things she had been reading—but something had happened to that wonderful thing which had grown warm in their hearts as they walked those last two blocks.
Even the things of which they talked had lost their radiance. What did it matter whether the universe was wonderful or not if the wonderful thing in one's own heart was to be denied life?
From the first, it had been as if the things of which they talked were things sweeping them together, they were in the grip of the power and the wonder of those things, wrung by the tragedy of them, exalted by the hope—in it all, by it all, united. It was as if the whole sea of experience and emotion, suffering and aspiration, was driving, holding, them together.
So it had been all along.
But not tonight. It was now—or at least so it seemed to Katie—as if those forces had let them go. What had been as a great sea surging around their hearts was now just things to talk about.
It left her desolate. And as she grew unhappy, she forced her gaiety and that seemed to put him the farther away.
The two different worlds had sent Ann away; was it, in a way she was unable to cope with, likewise to send him away?
Watts passed through the hall. She saw him glance out at the soldier loweringly and after that he grew more morose, almost sullenly so.
It seemed foolish to talk of one's being free when held by things one could not even see.
It was just when she was feeling so lonely and miserable she wished he would go that the telephone rang and central told her that Chicago was trying to get her.
It was in the manner of the old days that she turned to him and asked what he thought it could be.
The suggestion—possibility—swept them back to the old basis, the old relationship. Katie grew excited, unnerved, and he talked to her soothingly while she waited for central to call again.
They spoke of what it probably was; her brother was in Chicago, Katie told him, and of course it was he, and something about his own affairs. Perhaps he had news of when he would be ordered away. Yes, without doubt that was it.
But there was a consciousness of dissembling. They were drawn together by the possibility they did not mention, drawn together in the very thing of not mentioning it.
As in those tense moments they tried to talk of other things, they were keyed high in the consciousness of not talking of the real thing. And in that there was suggestion of the other thing of which they were not talking. It was all inexplicably related: the excitement, the tenseness, the waiting, the dissembling.
Katie had never been more lovely than as she sat there with her hand on the telephone: flushed, stirred, expectant—something stealing back to her eyes, something both pleading and triumphant in Katie's eyes just then.
The man sitting close beside her at the telephone desk scarcely took his eyes from her face.
When the bell rang again and her hand shook as it took down the receiver he lay a steadying hand upon her arm.
At first there was nothing more than a controversy as to who had the line. In her impatience, she rose; he rose, too, standing beside her.
"Here's your party," said central at last.
Her "party" was Wayne.
But something was still the matter on the line; she could not get what Wayne was trying to tell her.
As her excitement became more difficult to control the man at her side kept speaking to her—touching her—soothingly.
At last she could hear Wayne. "You hear me, Katie?"
"Oh yes—yes—what is it?"
"I want to tell you—"
It was swallowed up in a buzzing on the line.
Then central's voice came clear and crisp. "Your party is trying to tell you that Ann is found."
"Oh—" gasped Katie, and lost all color—"Oh—"
"Katie—?" That was Wayne again.
"Oh yes, Wayne?"
"I have found her. She is well—that is, will be well. She is all right—going to be all right. I'll write it all to-morrow. It's all over, Katie. You don't have to worry any more."
The next instant the telephone was upside down on the table and Katie, sobbing, was in his arms. He was holding her close; and as her sobs grew more violent he kissed her hair, murmured loving things. Suddenly she raised her head—lifting her face to his. He kissed her; and all the splendor of those eons of life was Katie's then.
Captain Jones had come down from Fort Sheridan late that afternoon. He had been in Chicago for several days, as a member of a board assembled up at Fort Sheridan. The work was over and he would return to the Arsenal that night.
But he was not to go until midnight. He would have dinner and go to the theater with some of the friends with whom he had been in those last few days.
He wished it were otherwise. He was in no mood for them. He would far rather have been alone.
He had a little time alone in his room before dinner and sat there smoking, thinking, looking at the specks of men and women moving about in the streets way down there below.
He was in no humor that night to keep to the everlasting talk about army affairs, army grievances and schemes, all those things of a world within a world treated as if larger than the whole of the world. The last few days had shown him anew how their hold on him was loosening.
There seemed such a thing as the army habit of mind. Within their own domain was orderliness, discipline, efficiency, subservience to the collectivity, pride in it, devotion to it—many things of mind and character sadly needed in the chaotic world without. But army men lacked perspective; in isolation they had lost their sense of proportion, of relationships. They had not a true vision of themselves as part of a whole. They had, on the other hand, unconsciously fallen into the way of assuming the whole existed for the part, that they were larger than the thing they were meant to serve. Their whole scale was so proportioned; their whole sense of adjustment so perverted.
They lacked flexibility—openness—all-sides-aroundness.
Life in the army disciplined one in many things valuable in life. It failed in giving a true sense of the values of life.
He could not have said why it was those inflated proportions irritated him so. They lent an unreality to everything. They made for false standards. And more and more the thing which mattered to him was reality.
He tried to pull away from the things that thought would lure him into. He had not the courage to let himself think of her tonight.
He feared he had not increased his popularity in the last few days. At a dinner the night before a colonel had put an end to a discussion on war, in which several of the younger officers showed dangerous symptoms of hospitality to the civilian point of view, with the pious pronouncement: "War was ordained by God."
"But man pays the war tax," he had not been able to resist adding, and the Colonel had not joined in the laugh.
He found it wearisome the way the army remained so smug in its assumption that God stood right behind it. When worsted on economic grounds—and perhaps driven also from "survival of the fittest" shelter—a pompous retreat could always be effected to divinity.
It was that same colonel who, earlier in the evening, had thus ended a discussion on the unemployed. "The poor ye have always with you," said the Colonel, delicately smacking his lips over his champagne and gently turning the conversation to the safer topic of high explosives.
He turned impatiently from thought of it to the men and women far down below. He was always looking now at crowds of men and women, always hoping for a familiar figure in those crowds.
With all the baffling unreality there had been around her, she seemed to express reality. She made him want it. She made him want life. Made him feel what he was missing—realize what he had never had.
It seemed that if he did not find her he would not find life.
She, too, had wanted life. Her quest had been for life—that he knew. And he wanted to find her that he might tell her he understood, tell her—what he had never told any one—that all his life he, too, had dreamed of a something somewhere.
And he was growing the farther apart from his army friends because he had come to think of them as standing between.
During the summer he had seen. In the mornings when they were going to work, in the evenings when they were going home, he had many times been upon the streets with the people who worked. He could not any longer regard the enlargement of the army, its organization and problems as the most vital thing in the world. It did not seem to him that what the world wanted was a more deadly rifle. His lip curled a little as he looked down at the men and women below and considered how little difference it made to them whether rifles were improved or not. And so many things did make difference with them—they needed improvements on so many things—that to be giving one's life to perfecting instruments of destruction struck him as a sorry vocation.
It made him feel very distinctly apart.
He knew of no class of men more isolated from the real war of the world than were the men of the army. They were tied up in their own war of competition—competition in preparedness for war. They were frantically occupied in the creation of a Frankenstein. They would so perfect destruction as to destroy themselves. Meanwhile their blood had grown so hot in their war of competition that they were in prime condition for persuading themselves a real war awaited them. This hot blood found its way into much talk of hardihood and strenuousness, vigor, martial virtues, "the steeps of life," "the romance of history"—all calculated to raise the temperature of tax-paying blood. So successful was the self-delusion of the militarist that sanity appeared mollycoddelism.
Their greatest fear was fear of the loss of fear.
And now they were threatened by colorless economists who were mollycoddelistically making clear that the "stern reality" was the giant hallucination.
It seemed rather close to farce.
That night he was going back. Katie, too, had gone. For the first time that summer neither of them would be there. It seemed giving up.
Loneliness reached out into places vast and barren in the thought that both in the things of the heart and the affairs of men he seemed destined to remain apart.
He looked far more the dreamer than the man of warfare as he sat there, his face, which was so finely sensitive as sometimes to be called cold, saddened with the light of dreams which know themselves for dreams alone.
That very first night, night when she had been so shy, he had felt in her that which he called the real thing, which he knew for the great thing, which had been, for him, the thing unattainable. And with all her timidity, aloofness, elusiveness, he had felt an inexplicable nearness to her.
He had found out something about the conditions girls had to meet. His face hardened, then tightened with pain in the thought of those being the conditions Ann was meeting. He did not believe those conditions would go on many days longer if every man had to see them in relation to some one he cared for. "The poor ye have always with you" might then prove less authoritative—less satisfying—as the final word.
And the other conditions—things his sort stood for—Darrett—the whole story—He had come to loathe the words chivalry and honor and all the rest of the empty terms that resounded so glibly against false standards.
Something was wrong with the world and he could not see that improving a rifle was going to go very far toward setting it right.
And there was springing up within him, even in his loneliness and gloom, a passion to be doing something that would help set it right.
An older officer with whom he had been talking that day had spoken lovingly of his father, under whom he had served; spoken of his hardihood and integrity, his manliness and soldierliness. As he thought of it now it seemed to him that just because he was his father's son—had in him the blood of the soldier—he should help fight the real battles of the day—the long stern battles of peace.
His father had served, faithfully and well. He, too, would like to serve. But yesterday's needs were not to-day's needs, nor were the methods of yesterday desirable, even possible, for to-day. What could be farther from serving one's own day than rendering to it the dead forms of what had been the real service to a day gone by?
There came a curious thought that to give up the things of war might be the only way to save the things that war had left him. That perhaps he could only transmit his heritage by recasting the form of giving.
Looking out across the miles of the city's roofs, hearing the rumble of the city as it came faintly up to him, watching the people hurrying to and fro, there was something puerile in the argument that men any longer needed war to fill their lives, must have the war fear to keep them from softness and degeneration. Thinking of the problems of that very city, it seemed men need not worry greatly about having nothing to fight for, no stimulus to manhood.
Men and women! Those men and women passing back and forth and all the millions of their kind, they were what counted. The things that mattered to them were the things that mattered. Their needs the things to fight for.
So he reflected and drifted, brushing now this, now that, in thought and fancy.
Weary—lonely—he dreamed a dream, dream such as the weary and the lonely have dreamed before, will dream again. Too utterly alone, he dreamed he was not alone. Heart-hungry, he dreamed of love. He dreamed of Ann. He had dreamed of her before, would dream of her again. Dream of her, if for nothing else, because he knew she had dreamed of love; because she made him know that it was there, because, unreasoningly, she made him hope.
Her face that night at the dance—that night in the boat, when they had talked almost not at all, had seemed to feel no need for talking—things remembered blended with things desired until it seemed he could feel her hair brush his face, feel her breath upon his cheek, her arms about his neck—vivid as if given by memories instead of wooed from dreams.
But the benign dream became torturing vision—vision of Ann with hands held out to him—going down—her wonderful eyes fearful with terror.
It was that which dreaming held for him.
And it seemed that he—he and his kind—all of those who stood for the things not real were the thing beating Ann down.
Dreams gone and vision mercifully falling away there came a yearning, just a simple human yearning, to know where she was. He felt he could bear anything if only he knew that she was safe.
The telephone rang. He supposed it was some of his friends—something about the hour for dining.
He would not answer. Could not. Too sick of it all—too sore.
But it kept ringing, and, habit in the ascendency, he took down the receiver.
It was not a man's voice. It was a woman's. A faint voice—he could scarcely catch it.
And could with difficulty reply. He did not know the voice, it was too faint, too far-away, but a suggestion in it made his own voice and hand unsteady as he said: "Yes? What is it?"
"Is this—Captain Jones?"
The voice was stronger, clearer. His hand grew more unsteady.
"Yes," he replied in the best voice he could muster. "Yes—this is Captain Jones. Who is it, please?"
There was a silence.
"Tell me, please," he managed to say. "Is it—?"
The voice came faintly back, "Why it's—Ann."
The keenest joy he had ever known swept through him. To be followed by the most piercing fear. The voice was so faint—so unreal—what if it were to die away and he would have no way to get it back!
It seemed he could not hold it. For an instant he was crazed with the sense of powerlessness. He felt it must even then be slipping back into the abyss from which it had emerged.
Then he fought. Got himself under command; sent his own voice full and strong over the wire as if to give life to the voice it seemed must fade away.
"Ann," he said firmly, authoritatively, "listen to me. No matter what happens—no matter what's the matter—I've got something you must hear. If we're cut off, call up again. Will you do that? Are you listening?"
"Yes," came Ann's voice, more sure.
"I've got to see you. You hear what I say? It's about Katie. You care a little something for Katie, don't you, Ann?"
It was a sob rather than a voice came back to him.
"Then tell me where I can find you."
"Tell me where you're living—or where I can find you. Now tell me the truth, Ann. If you knew the condition Katie was in—"
She gave him an address on a street he did not know.
"Would you rather I came there? Or rather I meet you down town? Just as you say. Only I must see you tonight."
"I—I can't come down town. I'm sick."
His hand on the receiver tightened. His voice, which had been almost harsh in its dominance, was different as he said: "Then I'll come there—right away."
There was no reply, but he felt she was still there. "And, Ann," he said, very low, and far from harshly, "I want to see you, too."
There was a little sob in which he faintly got "Good-bye."
He sank to a chair. His face was buried in his hands. It was several minutes before he moved.
Children seemed to spring up from the sidewalk and descend from the roofs as his cab, after a long trip through crowded streets with which three months before he would have been totally unfamiliar, stopped at the number Ann had given. All the way over he had been seeing children: dirty children, pale-faced children, children munching at things and children looking as though they had never had anything to munch at—children playing and children crying—it seemed the children's part of town. The men and women of tomorrow were growing up in a part of the city too loathsome for the civilized man and woman of today to set foot in. He was too filled with thought of Ann—the horror of its being where she lived—to let the bigger thought of it brush him more than fleetingly, but it did occur to him that there was still a frontier—and that the men who could bring about smokeless cities—and odorless ones—would be greater public servants than the men who had achieved smokeless powder. Riding through that part of town it would scarcely suggest itself to any one that what the country needed was more battleships.
The children still waited as he rang an inhospitable doorbell, as interested in life as if life had been treating them well.
He had to ring again before a woman came to the door with a cup in her hand which she was wiping on a greasy towel.
She looked very much as the bell had sounded.
She let him in to a place which it seemed might not be a bad field for some of the army's boasted experts on sanitation. It was a place to make one define civilization as a thing that reduces smell.
Several heads were stuck out of opening doors and with each opening door a wave stole out from an unlovely life. Captain Wayneworth Jones, U. S. Army, dressed for dining at a place where lives are better protected against lives, was a strange center for those waves from lives of struggle.
"She the girl that's sick?" the woman demanded in response to his inquiry for Miss Forrest.
He replied that he feared she was ill and was told to go to the third floor and turn to the right. It was the second door.
He hesitated, coloring.
"Would you be so kind as to tell her I am here? I think perhaps she may prefer to see me—down here."
The woman stared, then laughed. She looked like an evil woman as she laughed, but perhaps a laughing saint would look evil with two front teeth gone.
"Well we ain't got no parlor for the young ladies to see their young men in," she said mockingly. "And if you climbed as many stairs as I did—"
"I beg your pardon," said he, and started up the stairway.
On the second floor were more waves from lives of struggle. The matter would be solemnly taken up in Congress if it were soldiers who were housed in the ill-smelling place. Evidently Congress did not take women and children and disabled civilians under the protecting wing of its indignation.
Wet clothes were hanging down from the third floor. They fanned back and forth the fumes of cabbage and grease. He grew sick, not at the thing itself, but at thought of its being where he was to find Ann.
Though the fact that he was to find her made all the rest of it—the fact that people lived that way—even the fact of her living that way—things that mattered but dimly.
As he looked at the woman in greasy wrapper who was shaking out the wet clothes he had a sudden mocking picture of Ann as she had been that night at the dance.
The woman's manner in staring at him as he knocked at Ann's door infuriated him.
But when the door was opened—by Ann—he instantly forgot all outside.
He closed the door and stood leaning against it, looking at her. For the moment that was all that mattered. And in that moment he knew how much it mattered—had mattered all along. Even how Ann looked was for the moment of small consequence in comparison with the fact that Ann was there.
But he saw that she was indeed ill—worn—feverish.
"You are not well," were his first words, gently spoken.
She shook her head, her eyes brimming over.
He looked about the room. It was evident she had been lying on the bed.
"I want you to lie down," he said, his voice gentle as a woman's to a child. "You know you don't mind me. I come as one of the family."
He helped her back to the bed; smoothed her pillow; covered her with the miserable spread.
Ann hid her face in the pillow, sobbing.
He pulled up the one chair the room afforded, laid his hand upon her hair, and waited. His face was white, his lips trembling.
"It's all over now," he murmured at last. "It's all over now."
She shook her head and sobbed afresh.
His heart grew cold. What did she mean? A fear more awful than any which had ever presented itself shot through him. But she raised her head and as she looked at him he knew that whatever she meant it was not that.
"What is it about Katie?" she whispered.
"Why, Ann, can't you guess what it is about Katie? Didn't you know what Katie must suffer in your leaving like that?"
"I left so she wouldn't have to suffer."
"Well you were all wrong, Ann. You have caused us—" But as, looking into her face, he saw what she had suffered, he was silenced.
She was feverish; her eyes were large and deep and perilously bright, her temples and cheeks cruelly thin. But what hurt him most were not the marks of illness and weakness. It was the harassed look. Fear.
Fear—that thing so invaluable in building character.
Thought of the needlessness of it wrung from him: "Ann—how could you!"
"Why I thought I was doing right," she murmured. "I thought I was being kind."
He smiled faintly, sadly, at the irony and the bitter pity of that.
"But how could you think that?" he pressed. "Not that it matters now—but I don't see how you could."
She looked at him strangely. "Do you—know?"
"Then don't you see? I left to make it easy for Katie."
He thought of Katie's summer. "Well your success in that direction was not brilliant," he said with his old dryness.
Her eyes looked so hurt that he stroked her hand reassuringly, as he would have stroked Worth's had he hurt him. And as he touched her—it was a hot hand he touched—it struck him as absurd to be quibbling about why she had gone. She was there. He had found her. That was all that mattered.
He became more and more conscious of how much it mattered. He wanted to draw her to him and tell her how much it mattered. But he did not—dared not.
"And how did you happen to be so unkind as to call me up, Ann?" he asked with a faint smile.
"I wanted—I wanted to hear about Katie. And I wanted"—her eyes had filled, her chin was trembling—"I was lonesome. I wanted to hear your voice."
His heart leaped. For the moment he was not able to keep the tenderness from his look.
"And I knew you were there because I saw it in the paper. A woman brought back some false hair to be exchanged—I sell false hair," said Ann, with a wan little smile and unconsciously touching her own hair—"and what she wanted exchanged—though we don't exchange it—was wrapped up in a newspaper, and as I looked down at it I happened to see your name. Wasn't that funny?"
"Very humorous," he replied, almost curtly.
"I had been sick all day—oh, for lots of days. But I was trying to keep on. I had lost two other places by staying away for being sick—and I didn't dare—just didn't dare—lose this one. You don't know how afraid you get—how frightened you are—when you're afraid you're going to be sick."
The fear—sick fear that fear of sickness can bring—that was in her eyes as she talked of it suddenly infuriated him. He did not know what or whom he I was furious at—but it was on Ann it broke.
He rose, overturning his unsteady chair as he did so, and, seeking command, looked from the window which looked down into a squalid court. The wretchedness of the court whipped his rage. "Well for God's sake," he burst forth, "what did you do it for! Of all the unheard of—outrageous—unpardonable—What did you mean"—turning savagely upon her—"by selling false hair?"
"Why I sold false hair," said Ann, a little sullenly, "so I could live."
"Well, didn't you know," he demanded passionately, "that you could live with us?"
She shook her head. "I didn't think I had any right to—after—what happened."
He came back to her. "Ann," he asked gently, "haven't you a 'right to'—if we want you to?"
She looked at him again in that strange way. "Are you sure—you know?"
"Very sure," he answered briefly.
"And do you mean to say you would want me—anyhow?" she whispered.
He turned away that she might not see how badly and in what sense he wanted her. His whole sense of fitness—his training—was against her seeing it then.
The pause, the way she was looking at him when he turned back to her, made restraint more and more difficult. But suddenly she changed, her face darkening as she said, smolderingly: "No—I'm not that weak. If I can't live—I'll die. Other people make a living! Other girls get along! Katie would. Katie could do it."
She sat up; he could see the blood throbbing in her neck and at her temples. She was gripping her hands. She looked so frail—so helpless.
"But Katie is strong, Ann," he said soothingly.
"Yes—in every way. And I'm not." She turned away, her face twitching. "Why I seem to be just the kind of a person that has to be taken care of!"
He did not deny it, filled with the longing to do it.
He would at one time have supposed that it would be, should be; would have held to the idea that every man and woman ought be able to make a living, that there was something wrong with them if they couldn't. But not after the things he had seen that summer. The something wrong was somewhere else.
"And yet you don't know," Ann was saying brokenly, "how hard it is. You don't know—how many things there are."
She turned to him impetuously. "I want to tell you! Then maybe it will go. I couldn't tell Katie. But I don't know—I don't know why—but I could tell you anything."
He nodded, not clear-eyed, and took one of her hands and stroked it.
Her cheeks grew more red; her eyes glitteringly bright. "You see—it's men—things like—that's what makes it hard for girls."
He pressed her hand more firmly, though his own was shaking.
"Katie told you—Katie must have told you about—the first of it—" She faltered. He drew in his breath sharply and held it for an instant. "And after that—" She turned upon him passionately. "Do they know? Does it make a difference?"
He did not get her meaning for an instant and when he did it brought the color to his face; he had always been a man of great reserve. But Ann seemed unconscious. This was the reality that realities make.
He shook his head. "No. You only imagine."
"No, I don't imagine. They pretend. Pretend they know."
He gritted his teeth. So those were the things she had had to meet!
"They lie," he said briefly. "Bluff." And for an instant he covered his eyes with her hand.
"You see after—after that," she went on, "I couldn't go back to the telephone office. I don't know that I can explain why—but it seemed the one thing I couldn't do, so—oh I did several things—was in a store—and then a girl got me on the stage—in the chorus of 'Daisey-Maisey.' I thought perhaps I could be an actress, and that being in the chorus would give me a chance."
She laughed bitterly. "There are lots of silly people in the world, aren't there?" was her one comment on her mistake.
"That night—the last night—" she told it in convulsive little jerks—"the manager said something to me. He pretended. And when he saw how frightened I was—and how I loathed him—it made him furious—and he said things—vowed things—and he kissed me—and oh he was so terrible—his face—his lips—"
She hid her face, rocking back and forth. He sat on the bed beside her, put his arm around her as he would around Katie or Worth, holding her tenderly, protectingly, soothingly, his own face white, biting his lips.
"He vowed things—he claimed—I knew I couldn't stay with the company. I was even afraid to stay until it was over that night. I had a chance to run away—Oh I was so frightened." She kept repeating—"I was so frightened.
"I can't explain it—you'd have to see him—his lips—his thick, loose awful lips!"
"Ann," he whispered. "Please, dear—don't talk about it—don't think about it!"
"But I want it to go away! I don't want to be alone with it. I want somebody to know. I want you to know."
"All right," he murmured. "All right. I want to hear." His whole body was set for pain he knew must come.
Ann's eyes were full of terror, that terror that lives after terror, the anguish of terror remembered. "It's awful to be alone with awful thoughts," she whispered. "To be shut in with something you're afraid of."
"I know—I know," he soothed her. "But you're going to tell me. Tell me. And then you'll never be alone with it again."
"I've been afraid so much," she went on sobbingly. "Alone so much—with things that frightened me. That night I was alone. All alone. And afraid. You see I went and went and went. Just to be getting away. And at last I was out in the country. And then I was afraid of that. I went in something that seemed to be a barn. Hid in some hay—"
He gripped her arm as if it were more than he could stand. His face was colorless.
"I almost went crazy. Why I think I did go crazy—with fear. Being alone. Being afraid."
He looked away from her. It seemed unfair to her to let himself see her like that—her face distorted—unlovely—in the memory of it.
"When it came daylight I went to sleep. And when I woke up—when I woke up—" She was laughing and sobbing together and it was some time before he could quiet her. "When I woke up another man was bending over me—an old man—so old—so—
"Oh, I suppose it was just that he was surprised at finding me there. But I thought—I hadn't got over the night before—
"So again I went. Just went. Just to get away. And that was when I saw it was life I'd have to get away from. That there wasn't any place in it for me. That it meant being alone. Afraid. That it was just that—those thick awful lips—that old man's eyes—Oh no—no—not that!"
She was fighting it with her hands—trying to push it away. It took both tenderness and sternness to quiet her.
"So I hurried on,"—she told it in hurried, desperate way, as if fearful she would not get it all told and would be left alone with it. "To find a way. A place. I just wanted to find the way—the place—before anything else could happen. I thought all the people who looked at me knew. I thought there was nothing else for me—I thought there was something wrong with me—and when I remembered what I had wanted—I hated—hated them.
"I saw water—a bridge. On the bridge I looked down. I was going to—but I couldn't, because a man was looking up at me. I hated him, too." She paused. "Though I've thought of it since. It was a queer look. I believe that man knew. And wanted to help me.
"But I didn't want to be helped. Nothing could help. I just wanted to get away—have it over. So I hurried on—across your Island—though I didn't know—just looking for a place—a way. Just to have it all over."
She changed on that, relaxed. Her eyes closed. "To have it all over," she repeated in a whisper. She opened her eyes and looked up at him. "Doesn't that ever seem to you a beautiful thing?"
His eyes were wet. "Not any more," he whispered. "Not now."
"Then again I saw water—the other side of the Island." She went back to it with an effort, exhausted. "I ran. I wanted to get there. Have it all over—before anything else could happen. I couldn't look—but I kept saying to myself it would only be a minute—only a minute—then it would be all over—not so bad as having things happen—being alone—afraid—"
She shuddered—drew back—living it—realizing it. Her visioning—realizing—had gone on beyond her words, beyond the events. She was shuddering as if the water were actually closing over her. But again she was called back by Katie's voice and that look he felt he should not be seeing went as a faint smile formed on her lips. "Then Katie. Katie calling to me. Dear Katie—pretending.
"I didn't want to go. I thought it was just something else. And oh how I wanted to get it all over!" She sobbed. "But I saw it was a girl. Sick. I wasn't able to help going—and then—Well, you know. Katie. How she fooled me. And saved me."
She looked up at him, again the suggestion of a smile on her colorless lips. "Was there ever anybody in the world so wonderful—so funny—as Katie?
"But at first I couldn't believe in her. I thought it must be just something else." She stopped, looking at him. "Why I think it wasn't till after I met you I felt sure it couldn't be—"
His arm about her tightened. He drew her closer to him. He was shaken by a deep sob.
And so she rested, lax, murmuring about things that had happened, sometimes smiling faintly as she recalled them. The terror had gone, as if, as she had known, telling it to him had freed her. That twisted, unlovely look which he had tried not to see, loving her too well to wish to see it, had gone. She was worn, but lovely. She was resting. At peace.
And so many minutes passed when she would not speak—resting, rescued. And then she would whisper of little things that had happened and smile a little and seem to drift the farther into the harbor of security into which she had come.
He saw that—exhausted, protected, comforted—she was going to fall asleep. His heart was all tenderness for her as he held her, adoring her, sorrowing over her, guarding her. "I haven't really slept all summer," she murmured at last, and after a few minutes her breathing told that sleep had come.
But when, in trying to unfasten her collar—he longed to be doing some little thing for her comfort—he took his hand from hers, she started up in alarm and he had to put it back, reassuring her, telling her that she was not alone, that nothing could ever harm her again.
An hour passed. And in that hour things which he would have believed fixed loosened and fell. It was all shaken—the whole of his thinking. It could never be the same again. Old things must go. New things come.
Watching Ann, yearning over her, sorrowing, adoring, he saw life as what life had done to her. Saw it as the thing she had found.
He watched the curve of her mouth. Her beautiful bosom rising and falling as she slept. The lovely line of her throat, the blood throbbing in her throat, her long lashes upon her cheek, that loveliness—beauty—that sweetness and tenderness—and what it had met. She, so exquisitely fashioned for love—needful of it—so perfect—so infinitely to be desired and cherished—and what she had found. He writhed under a picture of that old man bending over her—of that other man—bully, brute—thick awful lips snatching at her as a dog at meat. And then still another man. That first man. Darrett. His friend. His sort. The man who could so skillfully use the lure of love to rob life—
As he thought of him—his charm, cleverness—how that, too, had been pitted against her—starved, then offered what she would have no way of judging—close to her loveliness, conscious of her warmth, her breath, the superb curves of her lovely body—thinking of what Darrett had found—taken—what he had left her to—there were several minutes when his brain was unpiloted, a creaking ship churning a screaming sea.
And now? Had it killed it in her? Taken it? If he were to kiss her in the way he hungered to kiss her would it wake nothing more than that sick terror in her wonderful eyes? That thought became as a band of hot steel round his throat. Was it gone? How could she be sleeping that way with her hand in his—his face so close to her—if there remained any of that life-longing that had been there for Darrett to find?
Life grew too cold, too gray and misshapen in that thought to see it as life. It could not be. It was only that she was exhausted. And her trust in him.
At least there was that. Then he would make her care for him by caring for her—caring for her protectingly, tenderly, surrounding her with that sea of tenderness that was in his heart for her. Life would come back. He would woo it back. And no matter how the flame in his own heart might rage he would wait upon the day when he could bring the love light to her eyes without even the shadow of remembering of fear.
So he yearned over her—sorrowing, hoping. And life was to him two things. What life had done to Ann. What life would be with Ann. He wanted to let himself touch his lips lightly to her temple—so close to him. But he would not—fearing to wake the fear in her, vowing to wait till love could come through a trust that must cast fear forever from the heart.
Passion melted to tenderness; the tenderness flooding him in thought of the love he would give her.
That same night he had her taken to a hospital. It was the only way he could think of for caring for her, and she was far enough from well to permit it. He left her there, again asleep, and cared for. Then returned to his hotel and telephoned Katie. It was past daylight before sleep came to him.
Once again Katie was donning the dress which had the colors of the sea. She was wearing it this time, not because she must get the poor old thing worn out, but because she had been asked to wear it. "By Request" she was saying to herself, with a warm smile, as she shook out its folds.
As Nora was fastening it for her she saw her own face in the mirror and tried to twist it about in some way. It seemed she would have to make some explanation to Nora for looking like that.
It had been a day of golden October sunshine without, and within Katie's heart a day of such sunshine as all her years of sunshine had never brought. She had not felt like playing golf, or like reading about evolution; body and mind were filled with a gladness all their own and she had taken a long walk in and out among the wooded paths of her beautiful Island and had been filled with thoughts of many beautiful and wonderful things. Of the past she had thought, and of the future, and most of all of the living present: the night before, and that evening, when he was coming to see her again and would have things to tell her.
He had wanted to tell them then—some of the things about himself which he said she must know and which he gave fair warning would hurt her, "Then not to-night," she had said.
And now the happiness was too great, filled her too completely and radiantly for her to fear the pain of which she had been warned. She was fortified against all pain.
Wayne's finding Ann seemed to throw the gate to happiness wide open to her, giving her, not only happiness, but the right to it. She smiled in thinking how, again, it was Ann who opened a door.
If Ann had never come she would not—in this way which had made it all possible—have known her man who mended the boats. The experience with Ann was as a bridge upon which they met. It was because of Ann they could walk so far along that bridge.
The adventure, and what had come to seem the tragedy of the adventure, was over. It turned her back to those first days of play—the pretending which had led to realizing, the fancies which had been paths to realities.
They would not go on in just that way; some other way would shape itself; she and Wayne would talk of it, make some plan for Ann. She could plan it better after the letter she would have from Wayne the next day telling of finding Ann.
It was a new adventure now. The great adventure. But it was because she had ventured at all that the great adventure was offered her.
Her venturing had led her to the crowds. She was not forgetting the crowds. She would go back to them. It could not be otherwise. There was much she wanted to do, and so much she wanted to know. But she would go back to them happy, and because happy, wiser and stronger.
In myriad ways life had beckoned to her, promised her, as with buoyant step and singing heart she walked sunny paths that golden October afternoon.
Later she had stopped to see Mrs. Prescott, and she, as she so often did, talked of Katie's mother. Katie was glad to be talking of her mother, and, as they also did, of her father. It brought them very near, so close it was as if they could know of the beautiful happiness in their child's heart. They talked of things which had happened when Katie was a little girl, making herself as the little girl so real, visualizing her whole life, making real and dear those things in which her life had been lived.
As she thought of it again that night, after she was dressed and was waiting, hurt did come in the thought of his feeling for the army. She must talk to him again about the army, make him see that thing in it which was dear to her.
Though could she? She did not seem able to tell even herself just what there was in her feeling for the army.
Instead of arguments, came pictures—pictures and sounds known from babyhood: Men in uniform—her father in uniform, upon his horse—dress parade—the flag—the band—from reveille to taps things familiar and dear swept before her.
It would seem to be the picturesque in it which wove the spell; but would her throat have tightened, those tears be springing to her eyes at a thing no deeper than the picturesque? No, in what seemed that fantastic setting were things genuine and fine: simplicity, hospitality, friendship, comradeship, loyalty, courage in danger and good humor in petty annoyances.
Those things—oh yes, together with things less admirable—she knew to be there.
She got out her pictures of her father and mother; her father in uniform—that gentle little smile on her mother's face. She thought of what her mother had endured, of what hosts of army women had endured, going to outlandish spots of the earth, braving danger and doing without cooks! She was proud of them, proud to be of them.
She lingered over her father's picture. A soldier. Perhaps he was of a vanishing order, but she hoped it would be long—very long—before the things to be read in his face vanished from the earth.
Through memories of her father there many times sounded the notes of the bugle—now this call, now that, piercing, compelling, sounding as motif of his life, thing before which all other things must fall away. She seemed to hear now the notes of retreat—to see the motionless regiment—then the evening gun and the band playing the Star Spangled Banner and the flag—never touching the ground—coming down for the night. She answered it in the things it woke in her heart: those ideals of service, courage, fidelity which it had left her.
She would talk to him—to Alan (absurd she should think it so timidly—so close in the big things—so strange in some of the little ones)—about her father and mother. To make them real to him would make him see the army differently. It hurt her to think of his seeing it as he did, hurt her because she knew how it would have hurt them. To them, it had been the whole of their lives. They had not questioned; they had served. They had given it all they had.
And that other thing there was to tell her—? Was that, too, something that would have hurt them? She hoped not. It seemed she could bear the actual hurt to herself better than thought of the hurt it would have been to them.
But when the bell rang and she heard his voice asking for her a tumult of happiness crowded all else out.
She was shyly radiant as she came to him. As he looked at her, it seemed to pass belief.
But when he dared, and was newly convinced, as, his arms about her he looked down into her kindling face, his own grew purposeful as well as happy, more resolute than radiant. "We will make a life together," he said, as if answering something that had been in his thoughts. "We will beat it all down."
An hour went by and he had not told the story of his life, life itself too mysterious, too luring, too beautiful. Whenever they came near to it they seemed to hold back, as if they would remain as they were then. Instead, they told each other little things about themselves, absurd little things, drawing near to each other by all those tender little paths of suddenly remembered things. And they lingered so, as if loving it so.
It was when Katie spoke of her brother that he was swept again into the larger seriousness. Looking into her tender face, his own grew grave. "You know, Katie—what I told you—what I must tell you—"
"Oh yes," said Katie, "there was something, wasn't there?" But she put out her hand as if to show there was nothing that could matter. He took the hand and held it; but he did not grow less grave.
"Katie," he asked, "how much do you really care for the army?"
It startled her, stirring a vague fear in her happy heart.
"Why—I don't know; more than I realize, I presume." She was silent, then asked: "Why?"
He did not reply; his face had become sober.
"You are thinking," she ventured, "that your feeling for it is going to be—hard for me?"
He nodded; he was still holding her hand tightly, as if to make sure of keeping it.
"You see, Katie," he went on, with difficulty, "I have reason for that feeling."
"What do you mean?" she asked sharply.
"I have tried not to show you that I knew anything—in a personal way—about the army."
Her breath was coming quickly; her face was strained. But after a moment she exclaimed: "Why—to be sure—you were in the Spanish War!"
"No," said he with a hard laugh, "I am nothing so glorious as a veteran."
He felt the hand in his grow cold. She drew it away and rose; turned away and was picking the leaves from a plant.
But she found another thing to reach out to. "Well I suppose"—this she ventured tremulously, imploringly—"you went to West Point—and were— didn't finish?"
"No, Katie," he said, "I never went to West Point."
"Well then what did you do?" she demanded sharply.
He laughed harshly. "Oh I was just one of those fools roped in by a recruiting officer in a gallant-looking white suit!"
"You were—?" she faltered.
"In the ranks. One of the men." The fact that she should be looking like that drove him to add bitterly: "Like Watts, you know."
She stood there in silence, held. The radiance had all fallen from her. She was looking at him with something of the woe and reproach of a child for a cherished thing hurt.
"Why, Katie," he cried, "does it matter so? I thought it was only when we were in that we were so—impossible."
But she did not take the hands he stretched out. She was held.
It drove him desperate. "Well if that's so—if to have been in the army at all is a thing to make you look like that—Heaven knows," he threw in, "I don't blame you for despising us for fools!—But I don't know what you'll say when I tell you—"
"When you tell me—what?" she whispered.
"That I have no honorable discharge to lay at your feet. That I left your precious army through the noble gates of a military prison!"
She took a step backward, swaying. The anguish which mingled with the horror in her face made him cry: "Katie, let me tell you! Let me show you—"
But Katie, white-faced, was standing erect, braced for facing it. "What for? What did you do?"
Her voice was quick, sharp; tenseness made her seem arrogant. It roused something ugly in him. "I knocked down a cur of a lieutenant," he said, and laughed defiantly.
"You struck—an officer?"
"I knocked down a man who ought to have been knocked down!"
"Struck—your superior officer?"
"Katie," he cried, "that's your way of looking at it! But let me tell you—let me show you—"
But she had turned from him, covered her face; and before Katie there swept again those pictures, sounds: her father's voice ringing out over parade ground—silent, motionless regiment; the notes of retreat—those bugle notes, piercing, compelling, thing before which all other things must fall away—evening gun and lowered flag—
She lifted colorless face, shaking her head.
"Katie!" he cried. "Our life—our love—our life—"
She raised her hand for silence, still shaking her head.
"Won't you—fight for it?" he whispered. "Try?"
She kept shaking her head. "Anything else," she managed to articulate. "Anything else. Not this. You don't understand. Can't. Never would." Suddenly she cried: "Oh—go away!"
For a moment he stood there. But her face was locked against appeal. Colorless, unsteady, he turned and left her.
Katie put out her hand. Her father—her father in uniform, it had been so real, it seemed he must be there. But he was not there. Nothing was there. Nothing at all. As the front door closed she started forward, but there sounded for her again the notes of the bugle—piercing, compelling, thing before which all other things must fall away. "Taps," this time, as blown over her father's grave, soldiers' heads bowed and tears falling for a fine soldier who would respond to bugle calls no more.
Paris was in one of her gray moods that January afternoon. Everything was gray except the humanity. Emotion never seemed to grow gray in Paris. From her place by the window in Clara's apartment Katie was looking down into the narrow street, the people passing to and fro. Two men were shaking hands. They would stop, then begin again. They had been doing that for the last five minutes. They seemed to find life a very live thing. So did the femme de menage and her soldier, who also had been standing over there for the last five minutes. Katie did not want to look longer at the femme de menage and her soldier, so she turned her chair a little about and looked more directly at Clara.
Clara was in gray mood, too. Only Clara differed from the streets in that it was the emotion was gray; the robe de chambre was red.
So were Clara's eyes. "It's not pleasant, Katie," she was saying, "having to remain here in Paris for these foggy months—with all one's friends down on the Riviera."
"No," said Katie grimly, "life's hard."
Clara's tears flowed afresh. "I've often thought you were hard, Katie. It's because you've never—cared. You've never—suffered."
Katie smiled slightly, again looking out the window at the femme and her soldier, who were as contented with the seclusion offered by a lamp-post as though it were seclusion indeed. As she watched them, "hard" did not seem the precise word for something in Katie's eyes.
"You see, Katie," Clara had resumed, as if her woe gave her the right to rebuke Katie for the lack of woe, "you've always had everything just the way you wanted it."
"Just exactly," said Katie, still looking at the femme de menage.
"Your grandfather left you all that money, and when you want to do a thing all you have to do is do it. What can you know of the real sorrows and hardships of life?"
"What indeed?" responded Katie briskly.
"And your heart has never been touched—and I don't believe it ever will be," Clara continued spitefully—Katie seemed so complacent. "You have no real feeling. You're just like Wayne."
Katie laughed at that and looked at Clara; then laughed again, and Clara flushed.
"Speaking of Wayne," said Katie in off-hand fashion, "he's been made a major."
She watched Clara as she said it. There were things Katie could be rather brutal about.
"I'm sure that's very nice," said the woman who had divorced Wayne.
"Yes, isn't it? And other things are going swimmingly. One of those things he used to be always puttering over—you may remember, Clara, mentioning, from time to time, those things he used to be puttering around with—has been adopted with a whoop. A great fuss is being made over it. It looks as though Wayne was confronted with something that might be called a future."
"I'm sure I'm very glad," said Clara, "that somebody is to have something that might be called a future. Certainly a woman with barely enough to live on isn't in much danger of being confronted with one."