Katie made no apology to herself for the pleasure she took in "rubbing it in." She remembered too many things too vividly.
"It's pretty hard," said Clara, "when one has a—duty to society, and nothing to go on."
Katie was thinking that society must be a very vigorous thing, persisting through all the "duties" people had to it.
She smiled now in seeing that the thing which had brought her to Clara that day was in the nature of a "duty to society" and that in her case, too, a duty to society and a personal inclination moved happily together.
Katie was there that afternoon to buy Worth.
So she put it to herself in what Clara would have called her characteristically brutal fashion.
She was sure Worth could be had for a price. She had that price and she believed the psychological moment was at hand for offering it.
The reason for its being the psychological moment was that Clara wanted to join a party at Nice and did not have money enough to buy the clothes which would make her going worth while. For there was a man there—an American, a rich westerner—whom Clara's duty to society moved her to marry.
That was Katie's indelicate deduction from Clara's delicate hints.
And Katie wanted Worth. It wasn't wholly a matter of either affection or convenience. It had to do, and in almost passionate sense, with something which was at least in the category with such things as duties to society. Worth seemed to her too fine, too real, to be reared by a "truly feminine woman," as Clara had been known to call herself. Clara's great idea for Worth was that he be well brought up. That was Clara's idea of her duty to society. And it was Katie's notion of her duty to society to save him from being too well brought up.
The things she had been seeing, and suffering, in the past year made her feel almost savagely on the subject.
Katie had been there since October. Clara had magnanimously permitted Worth to remain with his Aunt Kate most of the time, with the provision that Katie bring him to her as often as she wanted him. This was unselfish of Clara, and cheaper.
Clara's alimony was not small, but neither were her tastes. Indeed the latter rose to the proportions of duties to society.
Katie knew it was as such she must treat them in the next half hour. She must save the "maternal instinct" Clara was always talking about—usually adding that it was a thing which Katie, of course, could not understand—by taking it under the sheltering wing of the "child's good."
Katie knew just how to reach the emotions which Clara had, without outraging too much the emotions she persuaded herself she had.
So she began speaking in a large way of life, how hard it was, how complicated. How they all loved Worth and wished to do the best thing for him, how she feared it must hurt the child's personality, living in that unsettled fashion, now under one influence, now under another. She spoke of Clara's own future, how she had that to think of and how it was hard she be so—restricted. She drew a vivid picture of what life might be if Clara didn't "provide for the future"—she was careful to use no phrase so raw to truly feminine ears as "make a good marriage." And then, rather curtly when it came to it, tired of the ingratiating preamble, she asked Clara what she would think of relinquishing all claim on Worth and taking twenty thousand dollars.
Clara tried to look more insulted by the proposition than invited by the sum. But Katie got a glimmer of that look of greed known to her of old.
She went on talking. She was sure every one would think it beautiful of Clara to let Worth go to them just because they had a better way of caring for him, just because it was for the child's good. Every one would know how it must hurt her and admire her for the sacrifice. And then Katie mentioned the fact that the matter could be closed immediately and Clara start at once for Nice and perhaps that itself would "mean something to the future."
From behind Clara's handkerchief—Clara's tears were in close relation to Clara's sense of the fitness of things—Katie made out that life seemed driving her to this, but that it hurt her to think so tragic a thing should be associated with so paltry a sum.
"It's my limit," said Katie shortly. "Take it or leave it."
Amid more sobs Katie got that all the Jones family were heartless, that life was cruel, but that she was willing to make any sacrifice for her child's good.
"Then I'll go down and get him," said Katie, rising.
Clara's sobs ceased instantly. "Get who?"
"My lawyer. I left him down there talking to the concierge."
"Katie Jones—how could you!"
"Oh she looks like a decent enough woman," said Katie. "I don't think it will hurt him any."
"Katie, you have grown absolutely—vulgar. And so hard. You have no fineness—no intuition—nothing feminine about you. And how dared you bring your lawyer here to me? What right had you to assume I'd do this?"
"Why I knew you well enough, Clara, to believe you would be willing to do it—for your child's good."
Clara looked at her suspiciously and Katie hastened to add that she brought him because she wanted to pay ten thousand francs on account and she thought Clara might want to get the disagreeable business all settled up at once so she could hurry on to Nice before those friends of hers got over to Algiers, or some place where Clara might not be able to go after them.
Clara again looked suspicious, but only said it was inconsiderate of Katie to expect her to receive a lawyer with her poor eyes in that condition.
But when Katie returned with him Clara's eyes were a softer red and she managed to extract from the interview the pleasure of showing him that she was suffering.
As she watched the transaction, Katie felt a little ashamed of herself. Not because she was doing it, but because she had known so well how to do it. But with a grimace she banished her compunctions in the thought of its being for the child's good, and hence a duty to society.
Less easy to banish was the hideous thought that she might have been able to get him for less!
By the time the attorney had gone Clara seemed to be looking upon herself as one hallowed by grief; she was in the high mood of one set apart by suffering. In her eyes was something which she evidently felt to be a look of resignation. In her hand something which she certainly felt to be an order for ten thousand francs.
The combination first amused and then irritated Katie. It was exasperating to have Clara giving herself airs about the grief which was to make such a sorry cut in Katie's income.
Clara, in her mellowed mood, spoke of the past, why it had all been as it had. She was even so purged by suffering as to speak gently of Wayne. "I hope, Katie—yes, actually hope—that Wayne will some time find it possible to care, and be happy."
And when Katie thought of how much Wayne had cared, why he had not been happy, it grew more and more difficult to treat Clara as one sanctified by sorrow.
It gave her a fierce new longing for the real, the real at all costs, a contempt for all that artifice and self-delusion which made for the things at war with the real.
She had enough malice to entertain an impulse to strip Clara of her complacency, take away from her her pleasant cup of sorrow, make her take one good look at herself for the woman she was rather than the woman she was flaunting. But she had no zest for it. What would be the use? And, after all, self-deception seemed a thing one was entitled to practice, if one wished.
What Katie wanted most was to get out into the air.
To get out into the air was the thing she was always wanting in those days, or at least for the last two months it had been so. At first she had been too wretched to be conscious of needing anything.
But Katie was not built for wretchedness; everything in her was fighting now for air, what air meant to spirit and body.
It was in the sense of the spirit that she most of all wanted to get out into the air, out into a more spacious country than the world Clara suggested, out where the air was clear and keen and where there were distances more vast than those which would shut her in.
For she had looked into a larger country. Allegiance to the smaller one could not be whole-hearted.
She wondered if it were true she was getting hard. Something in her did seem hardening. At any rate, something in her was wanting to fight, fight for air, fight, no matter who must be hurt in the struggle, for that bigger country into which she had looked, those greater distances, more spacious sweeps. Sometimes she had a sense of being in a close room, and nothing in the world was so dreadful to Katie as a close room, and felt that she had but to open a door and find herself out where the wind would blow upon her face. And the door was not bolted. It was hers to open, if she would. There were no real chains. There were only dead hands, hands which live hands had power to brush away. And the room was made close by all those things which they of the dead hands had loved, things which they had served, things which, for them, had been out in the open, not making the air unbearable in a close room. And when she wanted to tell them that she must get out of the room because it was too close for her, that she could no longer stay with things which shut out the air, it seemed they could not understand—for they were dead, but they could look at her with love and trust, those hands, which could have been so easily brushed away, as bolts on the door of the room holding the things they had left for her to guard.
And they were proud, and their trusting eyes seemed to say they knew she would not make all their world sorry for them.
She walked slowly across Pont du Carrousel, watching the people, the people going their many ways, meeting their many problems, wondering if many of them had well loved hands, either of life or death, as bolts upon the doors which held them from more spacious countries, holding them so securely because they could be so easily brushed away. It was people, people of the crowds, who saved her from a sense of isolation her own friends brought: for she was always certain that in the crowds was some one else who was wondering, longing, perhaps a courageous some one who was fighting.
Paris itself had fought, was fighting all the time. She loved it anew in the new sense of its hurts and its hopes. And always it had laughed. She felt kinship to it in that. Seeming so little caring, yet so deeply understanding. The laughter-loving city had paid stern price that its children might laugh. It seemed to her sometimes that one could love and hate Paris for every known reason, but in the end always love for the full measure it gave. She stood for a moment looking at the spire of Sainte Chapelle, slender as a fancy, yet standing out like a conviction; watching the people on the busses, the gesticulating crowds—blockades of emotion, the men on the Quai rummaging among the book-stalls for possible treasures left by men who had loved it long before, looking at the thanks in stone for yesterday's vision of to-morrow, and everywhere cabs—as words carrying ideas—breathlessly bearing eager people from one vivid point to another in the hurrying, highly-pitched, articulate city.
It interested her for a time, as things that were live always interested Katie. The city's streets had always been for her as waves which bore her joyously along. But after a time, perhaps just because she was so live, it made her unbearably lonely.
The things they might do together in Paris! The things to see—to talk about.
And still filled with her revolt against Clara's self-delusions, she asked of herself how much the demand of her spirit to soar was prompted by the hunger of her heart to love.
She could not say. She wondered how many of the world's people would be able to say. How many of the spacious countries would have been gained had men been fighting only for their philosophies, pushed only by the beating of wings that would soar. But did that make the distances less vast? Less to be desired? Though visioning be child of desiring—was the vision less splendid, and was not the desire ennobled?
Her speculations were of such nature as to make her hurry home to see whether there was American mail.
A certain letter which sometimes came to her was called "American mail." All the rest of the American mail which reached Paris was privileged to be classed with that letter.
Katie had come over in October with her Aunt Elizabeth, who felt the need of recuperation from the bitter blow of her son's marriage. Katie, too, felt the need of recuperation—she did not say from what, but from something that made her intolerant of her aunt's form of distress. Her aunt said that Katie was changing: growing unsympathetic, hard, unfeminine. She thought it was because she did not marry. It would soften her to care for some one, was the theory of her Aunt Elizabeth.
She had remained in order to be with Worth; and, too, because there seemed nothing to go back to. Mrs. Prescott had come over to be for a time with a niece who was studying music, and she and Katie were together. Now the older woman was beginning to talk of wanting to go back; she was getting letters from Harry which made her want to see him. The letters sounded as though he were in love again.
And Katie was getting letters herself, letters to make her want to see the writer thereof. They, too, sounded as if written by one in love. With things as regards Worth adjusted, Katie would be free to go with her friend, and she was homesick. At least that was the non-committal name she gave to something that was tugging at her heart.
But—go home to what? For what?
Her vision had not grown any clearer. It was only that the "homesickness" was growing more acute.
And that night's mail did not fill her with a yearning to become an expatriate.
In addition to the "American mail" there was a letter from Ann. That evening after Worth was asleep and Mrs. Prescott had gone to her room, Katie reread both letters, and a number of others, and thought about a number of things.
Wayne had undertaken the supervision of Ann. In his first letter, that unsatisfactory letter in which he gave so few details about finding Ann, he had said quite high-handedly that he was going to look after things himself. "I think, Katie," he wrote, "that with the best of intentions, your method was at fault. I can see how it all came about, but it is not the way to go on. It was too unreal. The time of make-believe is over. Ann is a real person and should work out her life in a real way, her own way, not following your fancyings. She must be helped until she gets stronger and more prepared. You've had the thing come too tragically to you to see it just right, so I'm going to step in and I want you to leave things to me."
So Wayne had "stepped in" and was lending Ann the money to study stenography. Katie had made a wry face over stenography, which did not have a dream-like or an Ann-like sound—but a very Wayne-like one!—but had entered no protest; at that time she had been too dumbly miserable to enter protest about anything.
Wayne seemed to her curt and rather unfeeling about the whole thing, insisting, somewhat indelicately, she thought, on the point that Ann be prepared to earn her own living and that there be no more nonsense about her. She hoped he was kinder with Ann than he sounded in his letters about her.
Ann was in New York. Wayne had said, and Katie agreed with him, that Chicago was not the place for her to start in anew. She had gone through too many hard things there. And Katie was glad for other reasons. With Wayne in Washington, she would have no more occasion to be in the middle-west and Ann would be too far away in Chicago.
But Katie was looking desperately homesick at that thought of having no more occasion to be in the middle-west.
The man who mended the boats was still out there, mending boats and finishing his play, which she knew now was to be about the army. One reason he had wanted to mend boats there was that he might know some of the men who worked in the shops at the Arsenal, interested in that relation of labor to militarism.
For two months Katie had heard nothing from him. In those first months he, too, seemed helpless before it, seemed to understand that Katie's feeling was a thing he could not hope to understand—much less, change.
Then there rose in him the impulse to fight, for her, against it all, stir her to fight.
"Katie," he wrote in that first letter, letter she was re-reading that night, "we have seen two sides of the same thing. Our two visions, experiences, have roused in us two very different emotions. Does that mean it must kill for us what we have said is the biggest emotion—experience—the greatest joy and brightest hope life has brought us?
"We're both bound by it. I by the hurt it's brought me, you by the happiness; I by the hate it roused, you by the love that lingers round it. Are we going to make no efforts to set ourselves free? Are we so much of the past that the institutions of the past and the experiences and prejudices of those institutions can shut us out from the future and from each other?
"Katie, you have the rich gift of the open mind. I don't believe that, lastingly, there's anything you'll shut out as impossible to consider. Your eyes say it, Katie—say they'll look at everything, and just as fairly as they can. Oh they're such honest, fearless, just eyes—so wise and so tender. And it was I—I who love them so—brought that awful look of hurt to those wonderful eyes. Katie—I want to spend all of my life keeping that hurt look from those dear eyes!
"You're asked to do a hard thing, dear Katie. It's cruel it should be you so hard a thing is asked of. Asked to look at a thing you see through the feeling of a lifetime as though seeing it for the first time. To look at all you've got to push aside things you regarded as fixed. I suppose every one has something that to him seems the things unshakable, something he finds it terrifying to think of moving. All your traditions, all your love and loyalty cling round this thing which it seems to you you can't have touched. But Katie, as you read these pages won't you try to think of things, not as you've been told they were, but just as they seem to you from what you read? Think of them, not in the old grooves, but just as it comes in to you as the story of a life?
"You'll try to do that for me, won't you, dear fair-minded, loving-spirited Katie?
"I was a country boy; lived on a farm, got lonesome, thought about things I had nobody to talk to about, read things and wanted more things to read, part the dreamer and part the great husky fellow wanting life, adventure, wanting to see things and know things—most of all, experience things. I want to tell you a lot about it sometime. I can't let go the idea that there is going to be a sometime. Just because there's so much to tell, if nothing else. And, Katie, isn't there something else?
"No way to begin the story of one's life!
"Then I went away from home. To see the world. Try my fortune. Experience. Adventure. That was the call.
"And the very first thing I fell in with that recruiting officer in the white suit. I can see just how that fellow looked. Get every intonation as he drew the glowing picture of life in the army.
"The army sounded good. The army was experience, adventure, with a vengeance. A life among men. A chance. He told me that an intelligent fellow like me would soon be an officer. Of course I agreed perfectly I was an intelligent fellow, impressed with army intelligence in picking me for one. Why I could see myself as commander-in-chief in no time!
"There's the cruelty of it, Katie. The expectation they rouse to get you—the contemptuous treatment after they've got you. The difference between the army of the 'Men Wanted For the Army' posters and the army those men find after those posters have done their work.
"Remember your telling me about visiting at Fort Riley when you were quite a youngster? The good time you had?—how gay it was? How charming your host was? As nearly as I can figure it out, I was there at the same time, filling the noble office of garbage man. Now, far be it from me, believing in the dignity of all labor, to despise the office of garbage man. I can think of conditions under which I would be quite happy to serve my country in that capacity. But having enlisted because of the noble figure of a soldier carrying a flag, I grew pretty sore at the 'Damn you, we've got you' manner in which I was ordered to carry things—well, not to be too indelicate let us merely say things less attractive than the flag.
"It's not having to peel potatoes and wash dishes; it's seeming to be despised for doing it that stirs in men's hearts the awful soreness that makes them deserters.
"In our regiment men were leaving right along. Our company had a particularly bad record on desertions. Our captain, a decent fellow, was away most of the time and the lieutenant in command was a cur. I'd find a more gentle word for him if I could, but I know none such. Army men talk a great deal about discipline. But there's a difference between discipline and bullying. This fellow couldn't issue an order without making you feel that difference.
"He had a laugh that was a sneer. It wasn't a laugh, just a smile; a smile that sneered. He couldn't pass a crowd of men cutting grass without making their hearts sore.
"I don't say he's the typical army man. I don't doubt that there are men high in the army who, if all were known, would despise him as much as the men in his company did. But I do say that if there were not a good many a good deal like him more than fifty thousand young men of America would not have deserted from the United States army in the past twelve years.
"There was a fellow in our company I had been particularly sorry for. He wasn't a bad sort at all; he was more dazed than anything else; didn't understand the army manner; the army snobbishness. This lieutenant couldn't look at him without making him sullen.
"One day he told him to do a loathsome thing, then stood there with that sneering smile watching him do it. Well, he did it, all right; that's what gets you, that powerlessness under what you know for injustice. But that night he left.
"I knew he was going. He wanted me to go with him. I don't know why I didn't. I don't blame men for deserting. But for my own part, it would only be two years more; I used to say to myself, 'You got into this. You'll see it through.'
"They caught him, brought him back the next day. I happened to be there at the time. So did our spick and span lieutenant. The man who had been caught—or boy, rather, for he was but that—was anything but spick and span. His clothes were torn and muddy, his face dirty and bloody—it had been scratched by something. He knew what he was in for. Court martial and imprisonment for desertion. We knew what that meant.
"He was a sorry, unsoldierly sight. Gone to pieces. Unnerved. All in. His chin was quivering. And then the little lieutenant came along, starting out for golf. He stood in front of him and looked him up and down—this boy who had been caught. Boy who would be imprisoned. And as he looked at him he laughed; or smiled rather, that smile that was a sneer.
"He stood there continuing to smile—torturing him with that smile he couldn't do a thing about—this boy who was down; this fellow who was all in. That was when I struck him in the face and knocked him down.
"The penalty for that, as I presume I need not tell an army girl, is death. 'Or such other punishment as a court martial may direct.'
"The thing directed in my case was imprisonment at Fort Leavenworth for five years. Most of the men in that prison would say, 'Give me death.'
"I'd better not say much about it. Something gets hot in my head when I begin to talk about it. If you were with me—your cooling hand, your steadying eyes—I could tell you about it. 'If you were with me'! I find that a very arresting phrase, Katie.
"Those were black years. Cruel years. Years to twist a man's soul. They took something from me that will not be mine again. I remember your telling how Ann said there were things to make perfect happiness forever impossible. She was right. There are hours that stay.
"I went into the army just an adventurous boy. I came from it an embittered man. My experience with it made me suspect all of life. I was more than unhappy. I was sullen. I hated—and I wanted to get even. Oh it was a lovely spirit in which I went forth a second time to meet the world.
"I don't know what might not have happened, I think I was right in line to become a criminal, like so many of the rest of them who have served time at Leavenworth—I don't suppose the United States has any finer school anywhere than its academy for criminals at Fort Leavenworth—had it not been for a man I met.
"I got a job in a garage. I had always been pretty good at mechanical things and knew a little about it. And there I met this man—and through him came salvation.
"I don't know, Katie, maybe socialism will not save the world. I don't see how it can miss it—but be that as it may, I know it has saved many a man's soul. I know it saved mine.
"This fellow—an older man with whom I worked—talked to me. He saw the state I was in, won my confidence and got my story. And then he began talking to me and gave me books. He got me to come to his house instead of the places I was going to, saying nothing against the other places, but just making his things so much more attractive. We used to talk and argue and gradually other things fell away just because there was no room for them.
"You know I had loved books—read all I could get—but didn't seem to get the right ones. Well, after I had served time breaking clay I didn't care anything about books—too sore, too dogged, too full of hate. But the love for the books came back, and through the books, and through this friend, came the splendid saving vision.
"Vision of what the world might be—world with the army left out, with all that the army represented to me vanished from the earth. With men not ruling and cursing other men; but working together—the world for all and all for the world. And the thing that saved me was that I saw there was something to work for—something to believe in—look at—think about—when old memories of the guard knocking me down with the butt of his gun would tear into my soul and bring me low with the hate they roused.
"And so I began again, Katie dear, that sense of things as they might be—that vision—taking some of the sting from what I had suffered from things as they were. I stopped hating and cursing; I began thinking and dreaming. There came the desire to know. I tore into books like a madman. I couldn't go on hating my fellow-men because I was too busy trying to find out about them. And so it happened that there were things more interesting to think about than the things I had suffered in the army; I was carried out of myself—and saved.
"I wish I could talk to some of those other fellows! Some of those boys who ran away from the army, not because they were criminals and cowards, but just because they didn't know what to make of things. I wish I could talk to some of those men who dug clay with me at Fort Leavenworth—men who went away cursing the government, loathing the flag, hating all men, and who have nothing to take them out of it. I wish I could take them up with me to the hill-top and say—'There! Don't look at the little pit down below! Look out! Look wide!'
"Katie—you aren't going to save men by putting them at back-breaking work under brutalized guards. You aren't going to redeem men by belittling them. You're going to save them by making them see. And the crime of our whole system of punishments is that it does all in its power, not to make them see, but to shut them out from seeing...."
In the letters which followed he told her other things, things he had done, the work he hoped to do, what he wanted to do with his life. Told it with the simplicity of sincerity, the fine seriousness untainted with the self-consciousness called modesty.
He believed he could work with men; things he had already done made him believe he could do more, bigger things. He wanted to help fight the battles of the people who worked; not with any soldier of fortune notion, but because he was one of those people, because he had suffered as one of those people, and believed he saw their way more clearly than the mass of them were seeing it.
And he wanted to write about men; had some reason for believing he could. He was hoping that his play would open the way to many other things; it looked as though it were going to be put on.
He told of his feeling for it. "More than a showing up and a getting even, though there is that. It will be no prancing steed and clanking saber picture of the army. More digging of clay than waving of the flag. I see significant things arising from that survival of autocracy in a democracy, an interesting study in the bitter things coming out of the relation of the forms and habits of a vanishing order to the aspirations and tendencies of a forming one. And in that bending of spirit to form, the army codes and standards making for the army habit of mind, the army snobbishness and narrowness. The things that shape men, until a given body of men have particular characteristics, particular limitations. You said that if you loved them for nothing else you would love army people for their hospitality. But in the higher sense of that beautiful word they are the least hospitable of people. Their latch string of the spirit is not out. Their minds are tight—fixed. They have not that openness of spirit and flexibility of mind that make for wider visioning.
"And it's not that they haven't, but why they haven't, brings one to the vein.
"Yes, I got the article you sent me, written by your army friend, eloquent over the splendid things war has done for the human race, the great things it has bred in us. Well if the 'war virtues' aren't killed by an armed peace, then I don't think we need worry much about ever losing them. It's the people at war for peace who are going to conserve and utilize for the future the strong and shining things which days of war have left us. Men who must base their great claim on what has been done in the past are not the men to shape the future—or even carry the heritage across the bridge. War is now a faithful servant of capitalism. Its glorious days are over. It's even a question whether it's longer valuable as a servant. It may lose its job before its master loses his. In any case, it goes with capitalism; and if the good old war virtues are to be saved out of the wreck it's the wreckers will save them!
"Which is not what I started out to say. This play into which I'm seeking to get the heart of what I've lived and thought and dreamed is not the impersonal thing this harangue might make it sound. I trust it's nothing so bloodless as a study of economic forces or picture of the relationship of old things to new. It's that only as that touches a man's life, means something to that life. It's about the army because this man happens, for a time, to be in the army—it's what the army does to him that's the thing.
"Though it seems to me a pretty dead thing in these days. Life itself is a dead thing with you gone from it."
In the letter she received that night he wrote: "Katie, is it going to spoil it for us? Can it? Need it? We who have come so close? Have so much? Are outlived things to push us apart? That seems too bitter!
"Oh don't think that I don't see. The things it would mean giving up. The wrench. And, for what?—your friends would say. At times I wonder how I can—ask it, hope for it. Then there lives for me again your wonderful face as it was when you lifted it to me that first time. You—and I grow bold again.
"I don't say you wouldn't suffer. I don't say there wouldn't be hurts, big hurts brought by the little things arising from lives differently lived. I know there would be times of longing for things gone. For the sunny paths. For it couldn't be all sunny paths with me, Katie. Those years in the dark will always throw their shadow.
"Then, how dare I? Loving you—laughing, splendid you—how can I?
"Because I believe that you love me. Remembering that light in your eyes, knowing you, I dare believe that the hurts would be less than the hurt of being spared those hurts.
"I can hear your friends denouncing me. Hear their withering arguments, and I'll own that at times they do wither. But, Katie, I just can't seem to stay withered!
"You're such an upsetting person, dear Katie. To both heart and philosophy. It's not possible to hate a world that Katie's in. World that didn't spoil Katie. And if there are many of the you—oh no other real you!—but many who, awakened, can fight as you can fight and love as you can love—wouldn't it be a joke on us revolutionists if we were cheated out of our revolution just by the love in the hearts of the Katies?
"Well, nobody would be so happy in that joke as would the defrauded revolutionists!
"You make me wonder, Katie, if perhaps it isn't less the vision than the visioning. Less the thing seen than that thing of striving to see. Make me feel the narrowness in scorning the trying to see just because not agreeing with the thing seen. Sometimes I have a new vision of the world. Vision of a world visioning. Of the vision counting less than the visioning.
"Those moments of glow bear me to you. Persuade me that our visions must be visioned together.
"Life's all empty without you. The radiance is not there. In these days light comes only through dreams, and so I dream dreams and see visions.
"Dreams of us—visions of the years we'd meet together. And you are not bowed and broken in those visions, Katie. You're very strong and buoyant—and always eager for life—and always tender. No, not always tender. Sometimes fighting! Telling me I don't know what I'm talking about. It's a splendid picture of Katie fighting—eyes shining, cheeks red.
"And then at the very height of her scorn, Katie happens to think of something funny. And she says the something funny in her inimitable way. Then she laughs, and after her laugh she's tender again, and says she loves me, though still maintaining I didn't know what I was talking about!
"And in the visions there are times when Katie is very quiet. So still. Hushed by the wonder of love. Then Katie's laughing eyes are deep with mystery, Katie's face seems melted to pure love, and from it shines the light that makes life noble.
"In these days of a fathomless loneliness I dare not look long upon that vision.
"Do you ever hear a call, dear heart? A call to a freer country than any country you have known? Call to a country where the things which bind you could bind no more? And if in fancy you sometimes let yourself drift into that other country, am I with you there? Do you ever have a picture of our venturing together into the unknown ways—daring—suffering—rejoicing—growing? Sometimes sunshine and sometimes storm—but always open country and everwidening sky-line. Oh Katie—how splendid it might be!"
She read and re-read it, dreaming and picturing. And at length there settled upon her that stillness, that pause before life's wonder and mystery. Her eyes were deep. The light that makes life noble glorified her tender face.
She broke from it at last to look for a card they had there giving dates of sailings.
They would get in late that afternoon. Off on the horizon was a hazy mass which held the United States of America, as sometimes the haze of a dream may hold a mighty truth.
Katie and Mrs. Prescott were having a brisk walk on deck. They paused and peered off at that mist out of which New York must soon shape itself.
"Just off yonder's your country, Katie," the older woman was saying. "Soon you'll see the flag flying over Governor's Island. Will it make you thrill?"
"It always has," replied Katie.
Mrs. Prescott stole a keen look at her, seeing that she was not answered. They had had some strange talks on that homeward trip, talks to stir in the older woman's mind vague apprehensions for the daughter of her old friend. It did not seem to Mrs. Prescott what she called "best" that a woman—and particularly an unmarried one—should be doing as much thinking as Katie seemed to be doing. She wished Katie would not read such strange books; she was sure Walt Whitman, for one, could not be a good influence. What would happen to the world if the women of Katie's class were to—let down the bars, she vaguely and uneasily thought it. And she was too fond of Katie to want her to venture out of shelter.
"Well it ought to, Katie dear. I don't know who has the right to thrill to it, if you haven't. Doesn't it make you think of those sturdy forefathers of yours who came to it long ago, when it was an unknown land, and braved dangers for it? Your people have always fought for it, Katie. There would be no country had not such lives as theirs been given to it."
Katie was peering off at the faint outlines which one moment seemed discernible in the mist and the next seemed but a phantom of the imagination, as the truth which is to stand out bold and incontestable may at first suggest itself so faintly through the dream as to be called a phantom of the imagination. "True," she said. "And fine. And equally true and fine that there's just as much to fight for now as there ever was."
"Oh yes," murmured Mrs. Prescott, "we must still have the army, of course."
"The fighting's not in the army," said Katie, to herself rather than to her friend.
The older woman sighed. "I'm afraid I don't understand you, Katie." After a pause she added, sadly: "Something seems happening in the world that is driving older people and younger people apart."
Katie turned to her affectionately. "Oh, no."
But more affectionately than convincingly. Mrs. Prescott looked at her wistfully: so strong, so buoyant, so fearless and so fine; she felt an impulse to keep her, though for what—from what—she would not have been able to say.
"Katie dear," she said gently, "I get a glimpse of what you mean in there still being things to fight for. You mean new ideas; new things. I know you're stirred by something. I feel your enthusiasm; it shines from your face. Enthusiasm is a splendid thing in the young, Katie. In any of us. New things there always are to fight for, of course. But, dear Katie—the old things? Those beautiful old things which the generations have left us? Things fought for, tested, mellowed by our fathers and mothers, and their fathers and mothers? Aren't they a little too precious, too hardly won, too freighted with memories to be lightly cast aside?"
Katie looked at her friend's face, itself so incontestably the gift of the generations. It made vivid her own mother's face, and that her own struggle. "I don't think," she said tremulously, "that you are justified in saying they are 'lightly' cast aside."
They were silent, looking off at the land which was breaking through the mists, responding in their different ways to the different things it was saying to them.
"It seems to me," Mrs. Prescott began uncertainly, "that it is not for women—particularly women to whom they have come as directly as to you and me—to cast them off at all. We seem to be in strange days. Days of change. To me, Katie, it seems that the work for the women—our women—is in preserving those things, dear things left to us, holding them safe and unharmed through the destroying days of change."
She had grown more sure of herself in speaking.
The last came staunchly.
"It seems," she added, "that it would be enough for us to do. And the thing for which we are best fitted."
Katie was silent; she could not bear to say to her friend—her mother's friend—that it did not seem to her enough to do, or the thing for which she was best fitted.
She was the less drawn to the idea because of a face she could see down in the steerage: face of an immigrant girl who was also turning eager face, not to the land for which her forefathers had fought, but to that which would be the land of her descendants.
She had seen her there before, face set toward the land into which she was venturing. She had become interested in her. She seemed so eager. And thinking back to the things seen in her search for Ann, other things she had been reading of late, a fear for that girl—pity for her—more than that, sense of responsibility about her grew big in Katie.
It made it seem that there was bigger and more tender work for women than preserving inviolate those things women had left. As she drew near the harbor of New York she was more interested in the United States of America as related to that girl than as associated with her own forefathers who had fought for it long before.
And as it had been for them to fight in the new land, it seemed that it was for her, not merely to cherish the fact of their having fought, not holding that as something apart—something setting her apart, but to fight herself; not under the old standards because they had been their standards, but under whatsoever standards best served the fight. It even seemed that the one way to keep alive those things they had left her was to let them shape themselves in whatever form the new spirit—new demands—would shape them.
Mrs. Prescott was troubled by her silence. "Katie dear," she said, "you come of a long line of fine and virtuous women. In these days when everything seems attacked—endangered—that, at least—that thing most dear to women—most indispensable—must be held inviolate. And by such as you. Wherever your ideas may carry you, don't let that be touched. Remember that the safety of the world for women goes, if you do."
It turned Katie to Ann. Safety she had found. Then again she looked down at the immigrant girl—beautiful girl that she was. And wondered. And feared.
She turned to Mrs. Prescott with a tear on her eyelashes and a smile a little hard about her lips. "Would you say that 'fine and virtuous women' have succeeded in keeping the world a perfectly safe place for women?"
Mrs. Prescott was repelled, but Katie did not notice. She was looking with a passionate sternness off at New York. "Let anything be touched," she spoke it with deep feeling. "I say nothing's too precious to be touched—if touching it can make things better!"
Mrs. Prescott had gone below. Katie feared that she had wounded her, and was sorry. She had not been able to help it. The face of that immigrant girl was too tragically eager.
They were almost in now, close to Governor's Island, over which the flag was flying. It gripped her as it had never done before.
"Boy," she said to Worth, perched on a coil of rope beside her, "there's your country. Country your people came to a long time ago, and fought for, and some of them died for. And you'll grow up, Worth, and you'll fight for it. Not the way they fought; it won't need you to fight for it that way; they did that—and now that's done. But there will be lots for you to fight for, too; harder fights to fight, I think, than any they fought. You'll fight to make it a better place for men and women and little children to live in. Not by firing guns at other men, Worth, but by being as wise and kind and as honest and fair as you know how to be."
It was her voice moved him; it had been vibrant with real passion.
But after a moment the face of the child of many soldiers clouded. "But won't I have any gun 'tall, Aunt Kate?" he asked wistfully.
She smiled at the stubborn persistence of militarism. "I'm afraid not, dear. I hope we're not going to have so many guns when you're a man. But, Worth, if you don't have the gun, other little boys will have more to eat. There are lots of little boys and girls in the world now haven't enough to eat just because there are so many guns. Wouldn't you rather do without the gun and know that nobody was going hungry?"
"I—guess so," faltered Worth, striving to be magnanimous but looking wistful.
"But, Aunt Kate," he pursued after another silence, "what's father making guns for—if there aren't going to be any?"
Katie's smile was not one Worth would be likely to get much from. "Ask father," she said rather grimly. "I think he might find the question interesting."
Worth continued solemn. "But, Aunt Kate—won't there be anybody 'tall to kill?"
"Why, honey," she laughed, "does it really seem to you such a gloomy world—world in which there will be nobody to kill? Don't worry, dear. The world's getting so interesting we're going to find lots of things more fun than guns."
"Maybe," said Worth, "if I don't have a gun you'll get me an air-ship, Aunt Kate."
"Maybe so," she laughed.
"The man that mends the boats says I'll have an air-ship before I die, Aunt Kate."
She gave Worth a sudden little squeeze, curiously jubilant at the possibility of his having an air-ship before he died. And she viewed the city of sky-scrapers adoringly—tenderly—mistily. "Oh Worthie," she whispered, "isn't it lovely to be getting home?"
She found it difficult to adjust herself to the Ann who had luncheon with her the next day. The basis of their association had shifted and it had been too unique for it to be a simple matter to appear unconscious of the shifting.
She had not seen Ann since the day they said the cruel things to each other. Wayne had thought it best that way, saying that Ann must have no more emotional excitement. She had acquiesced the more readily as at the time she was not courting emotional excitement for herself.
And now the Ann sitting across the table from her was not the logical sequence of things experienced in last summer's search for Ann. She was not the sum of her thoughts about Ann—visioning through her, not the expression of the things Ann had opened up. It was hard, indeed, to think of her as in any sense related to them, at all suggestive of them.
An Ann radiating life rather than sorrowing for it was an Ann she did not know just what to do with.
And there was something disturbing in that rich glow of happiness. She did not believe that Ann's something somewhere could be stenography. Yet her radiance—the deep, warm quality of it—suggested nothing so much as a something somewhere attained. It seemed to Katie rather remarkable if the prospect of soon being able to earn her own living could make a girl's eyes as wonderful as that.
There was no mistaking her delight in seeing Katie and Worth. And a sense of the old relationship was there—deep and tender sense of it; but something had gone from it, or been added to it. It was not the all in all.
Truth was, Ann was more at home with her than she was with Ann.
After luncheon they went up to Katie's room for a little chat. Katie talked about stenography and soon came to be conscious of that being a vapid thing to be talking about.
"What pretty furs," she said, in the pause following the collapse of stenography.
That seemed to mean more. "Yes, aren't they lovely?" responded Ann, with happy enthusiasm. "They were my Christmas present—from Wayne."
The way Ann said Wayne—in the old days she had never said it at all—led instantly, though without her knowing by what path, to that strange fear of hers in finding Ann so free from fear.
Ann was blushing a little: the "Wayne" had slipped out so easily, and so prettily. "He thought I needed them. It's often so cold here, you know."
"Why certainly one needs furs," said Katie firmly, as if there could be no question as to that.
Katie's great refuge was activity. She got up and began taking some dresses from her trunk.
Then, just to show herself that she was not afraid, that there was nothing to be afraid about, she asked lightly: "What in the world brings Wayne up to New York so much?"
Ann was affectionately stroking her muff. She looked up at Katie shyly, but with a warm little smile. There was a pause which seemed to hover over it before she said softly: "Why, Katie, I think perhaps I bring him up to New York."
Everything in Katie seemed to tighten—close up. She gave her most cobwebby dress a perilous shake and said in flat voice: "Wayne's very kind, I'm sure."
Ann did not reply; she was still stroking her muff; that smile which hovered tenderly over something had not died on her lips. It made her mouth, her whole face, softly lovely. It did something else. Made it difficult for Katie to go on pretending with herself.
Though she made a last stand. It was a dreadful state of affairs, she told herself, if Ann had been so absurd as to fall in love with Wayne—Wayne—just because he had been kind in helping her get a start.
She followed that desperately. "Oh yes, Wayne's really very kind at heart. And then of course he's always been especially interested in you, because of me."
Ann looked up at her. The look kept deepening, sank far down beneath Katie's shallow pretense.
"Well, Katie," Ann began, with the gentle dignity of one whom life has taken into the fold, "as long as we seem into this, I'd rather go on. Wayne said I was to do just as I liked about telling you. Just as it happened to come up. But I think you ought to know he is not interested in just the way you think." She paused before it, then said softly, with a tremulous pride: "He cares for me, Katie—and wants to marry me."
"He can't do that! He can't do that!"
It came quick and sharp. Quick and sharp as fire answering attack.
She sat down. The sharpness had gone and her voice was shaking as she said: "You certainly must know, Ann, that he can't do that."
So they faced each other—and the whole of it. It was all opened up now.
"It's very strange to me," Katie added hotly, "that you wouldn't know that."
It seemed impossible for Ann to speak; the attack had been too quick and too sharp; evidently, too unexpected.
"I told him so," she finally whispered. "Told and told him so. That you would feel—this way. That it—couldn't be. He said no. That you felt—all differently—after last summer. And I thought so, too. Your letters sounded that way."
Katie covered her eyes for a second. It was too much as if the things she was feeling differently about were the things she was losing.
"And when you want to be happy," Ann went on, "it's not so hard to persuade yourself—be persuaded." She stopped with a sob.
"I know that," was wrung wretchedly from Katie.
"And since—since I have been happy—let myself think it could be—it just hasn't seemed it could be any other way. So I stopped thinking—hadn't been thinking—took it for granted—"
Again it wrung from Katie the this time unexpressed admission that there was nothing much easier than coming to look upon one's happiness as the inevitable.
"And Wayne kept saying," Ann went on, sobs back of her words, "that all human beings are entitled to work out their lives in their own way. You believed that, he said. And I—I thought you did, too. Your letters—"
"No," said Katie bitterly, "what I believed was that I was entitled to work out my life in my own way. Wayne got his life mixed up with mine."
The laugh which followed them was more bitter, more wretched than the words.
She had persuaded herself the more easily that she was entitled to work out her life in her own way because she had assumed Wayne would be there to stand guard over the things left from other days. He was to stay there, fixed, leaving her free to go.
She could not have explained why it was that the things she had been thinking did not seem to apply to Wayne.
The thing grew to something monstrous. There whirled through her mind a frenzied idea as to what they would do about sending Major Barrett a wedding announcement.
Other things whirled through her mind—as jeers, jibes, they came, a laugh behind them. A something somewhere was very commendable while it remained abstract! Having a fine large understanding about Ann had nothing to do with having Ann for a sister-in-law! "Calls" were less beautiful when responded to by one's brother! This (and this tore an ugly wound) was what came of helping people in their quests for happiness.
It was followed by a frantic longing to be with Mrs. Prescott—in the shelter of her philosophy, hugging tight those things left by the women of other days. Frightened, outraged, her impulse was to fly back to those well worn ways of yesterday.
But that was running away. Ann was there. Ann with the radiance gone; though, for just that moment, less stricken than defiant. There was something of the cunning of the desperate thing cornered in the sullen flash with which she said: "You talked a good deal about wanting me to be happy. Used to think I had a right to be. When it was Captain Prescott—"
It was unanswerable. The only answer Katie would be prepared to make to it was that she didn't believe, all things considered, it was a thing she would have said. But doubtless people lost nice shades of feeling when they became creatures at bay fighting for life.
And seemingly one would leave nothing unused. "I want you to know, Katie, that I paid back that money. The missionary money. You made me feel that it wasn't right. That I—that I ought to pay it back. I earned the money myself—some work there was for me to do at school. I wanted to—to buy a white dress with it." Ann was sobbing. "But I didn't. I sent back the money."
Katie was wildly disposed to laugh. She did not know why, after having worried about it so much, Ann's having paid back the missionary money should seem so irrelevant now. But she did not laugh, for Ann was looking at her as pleadingly, as appealingly, as Worth would have looked after he had been "bad" and was trying to redeem it by being "good."
With a sob, Ann hid her face against her muff.
Seeing her thus, Katie made cumbersome effort to drag things to less delicate, less difficult, ground.
"Ann dear," she began, "I—oh I'm so sorry about this. But truly, Ann, you wouldn't be at all happy with Wayne."
Ann raised her face and looked at her with something that had a dull semblance to amusement.
"You see," Katie staggered on, "Wayne hasn't a happy temperament. He's morose. Queer. It wouldn't do at all, Ann, because it would make you both wretchedly unhappy."
She found Ann's faint smile irritating. "I ought to know," she added sharply, "for I've lived in the house with him most of my life."
"You may have lived in the house with him, Katie," gently came Ann's overwhelming response. "You've never understood him."
Katie openly gasped. But some of her anger passed swiftly into a wondering how much truth there might be in the preposterous statement. Wayne as "immune" was another idea jeering at her now. And that further assumption, which had been there all the while, though only now consciously recognized, that Wayne's knowing Ann's story, made Ann, to Wayne, impossible—
Living in the same house with people did not seem to have a great deal to do with knowing their hearts.
"Wayne," Ann had resumed, in voice low and shaken with feeling, "has the sweetest nature of any one in this world. He's been unhappy just because he hadn't found happiness. If you could see him with me, Katie, I don't think you'd say he had an unhappy nature—or worry much about our not being happy."
Katie was silent, driven back; vanquished, less by the words than by the light they had brought to Ann's face.
And what she had been wanting—had thought she was ready to fight for—was happiness—for every one.
"Of course I know," Ann said, "that that's not it." That light had all gone from her face. It was twisted, as by something cruel, blighting, as she said just above a whisper: "There's no use pretending we don't know what it is."
She turned her face away, shielding it with her muff.
It was all there—right there between them—opened, live, throbbing. All that it had always meant—all that generations of thinking and feeling had left around it.
And to Katie, held hard, it was true, all too bitterly true, that she came of what Mrs. Prescott called a long line of fine and virtuous women. In her misery it seemed that the one thing one need have no fear about was losing the things they had left one.
But other things had been left her. The war virtues! The braving and the fighting and the bearing. Hardihood. Unflinchingness. Unwhimperingness.
Those things fought within her as she watched Ann shaken with the sobs she was trying to repress.
Well at least she would not play the coward's part with it! She brought herself to look it straight in the face. And what she saw was that if she could be brave enough to go herself into a more spacious country, leaving hurts behind, she must not be so cowardly, so ignobly inconsistent as to refuse the hurts coming to her through others who would dare. Through the conflict of many emotions, out of much misery, she at last wrenched from a sore heart the admission that Wayne had as much right to be "free" as she had. That if Ann had a right to happiness at all—and she had always granted her that—she had a right to this. It was only that now it was she who must pay a price for it. And perhaps some one always paid a price.
Ann looked up into Katie's colorless, twitching face.
"I hope you and Wayne will be very happy." It came steadily, and with an attempted smile.
The next instant she was sobbing, but trying at the same time to tell Ann that sisters always acted that way when told of their brothers' engagements.
She did not see her brother until evening. "Katie," he demanded sharply, "have you been disagreeable to Ann?"
She shook her head. "I haven't meant to be, Wayne."
Her face was so wretched that he grew contrite. "You're not pleased?"
"Why, Wayne, you can scarcely expect me to be—wholly pleased, can you?"
"But you always seemed to understand so well. I"—he paused in that constraint there so often was between them in things delicately intimate—"I've never told you, Katie, how fine I thought you were. So big about it."
"It's not so difficult," said Kate, with a touch of her old smile, "to be 'big' about people who aren't marrying into the family."
It seemed that he, too, was not above cornering her. "You know, Katie, it was your attitude in the beginning that—"
"Just don't bother calling my attention to that, Wayne," she said sharply. "Please credit me with the intelligence to see it for myself."
Then she went right to the heart of it. "Oh Wayne—think of Major Barrett's knowing."
The dull red that came quickly to his face told how bitterly he had thought of it, though he only said quietly: "Damn Barrett."
"But you can't damn him. Suppose you were to be stationed at the same place!"
He laughed shortly. "Well that, at least, is something upon which I can set your fears at rest."
She looked up quickly. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, Katie, that my army days are over."
She stared at him. "I don't understand you."
"It shouldn't be so difficult to comprehend. I have resigned my commission."
"Wayne," she asked slowly, "what do you mean?"
"Just what I say. That I have resigned my commission. That I am out of the army."
It made it seem that the whole world was whirling round and round and that there was nothing to take hold of. "But you can't do that. Why your whole life is there—friends—traditions—work—future."
"Not my future," he said briefly.
His calm manner made it the more bewildering. "Wayne, I don't see how you can—in such a light manner—give up such a big thing!"
He turned upon her in manner less calm. "What right have you to say that it is done in a 'light manner'!"
The words had a familiar sound and she recalled them as like something she had said to Mrs. Prescott the day before; just the day before, when she had been so sure of things, and of herself.
"But where is your future then, Wayne?" she asked appealingly. "We know, don't we, how hard it is for army men to find futures as civilians?"
"I'm going into the forest service."
Katie never could tell why, for the moment, it should have antagonized, infuriated her that way. "So that's it. That's what got—a poetic notion! And I suppose," she laughed scornfully, "you're going into the ranks? What is it they call them? Rangers? Starting in at your age—with your training—to 'work from the bottom up'—is that it?"
"No," he replied coldly, "that is not it. You have missed it about as far as you could. I have no such picturesque notion. I am doing no such quixotic thing. I value my training too highly for that. It should be worth too much to them. I don't even scorn personal ambition, or the use of personal pull, so you see I'm a long way from a heroic figure. I know I've a brain that can do a certain type of thing. I know I'm well equipped. Well, so far as the equipment goes, my country did it for me and I mean to give it back; only I've got to do it in my own way."
"Why, Katie," he resumed after a pause, "I never was more surprised in my life than to find you so out of sympathy with this. I knew what most people would think of it, but I quite took it for granted that you would understand."
"It seems a little hard," replied Katie with a tearful laugh, "to understand the fine things other people do. And, Wayne, I'm so afraid it will lead to disappointment! Aren't you idealizing this forest service? Remember Fred's tales of how it's almost strangled by politics. And you know what that means. Let us not forget Martha Matthews!"
It was a relief to be laughing together over a familiar thing. Martha Matthews was the daughter of a congressman from somewhere—Katie never could remember whether it was Texas or Wyoming. She had been asked to "take her up" at one time when the army appropriation bill was pending and Martha's father did not seem to realize that the country needed additional defense. But when Martha discovered that army people were "perfectly fascinating—and so hospitable" Martha's parent suddenly awakened to the grave dangers confronting his land. Katie had more than once observed a mysterious relationship between the fact of the army set being fashionable in Washington and the fact that the country must be amply protected, further remarking that army people were just clever enough to know when to be fascinating.
"No," he came back to it in seriousness, "I don't think I have many illusions. I know it's far from the perfect thing, but I see it as set in the right direction. It seems to me that that, in itself, ought to mean considerable. It's the best thing I know of—for what I have to offer. Then I want to get out of cities for awhile—get Ann away from them." He paused over that and fell silent. "Osborne offered me a job," he came back to it with a laugh. "Seemed to think I was worth a very neat sum a year to his company—but that was scarcely my notion. In fact I doubt if I would have so much confidence in the forest service if it weren't for his hatred of it. You can judge a thing pretty well by the character of its enemies. Then I'm enough the creature of habit to want to go on in a service; I'm schooled to that thing of the collectivity. But I'll be happier in a service that—despite the weak spots in it—is in harmony with the big collectivity—rather than hopelessly discordant with it. And perhaps it needs some more or less disinterested fellows to help fight for it," he added with a touch of embarrassment, as if fearing to expose himself.
He had come close enough to self-betrayal for Katie, despite her fear and confusion, to feel proud of him as he looked then.
"Wayne," she asked, "have you felt this way a long time? Out of sympathy with the army?"
He did not at once reply, thinking of the night he had sat beside Ann, night when the whole world was shaken and things he had regarded as fixed loosened and fell. Just how much had been loosening before that—some, he knew—just how much would have more or less insecurely held its place had it not been for that night, he was not prepared to say—even to himself.
"Longer than I knew, I think," he came back to Katie. "One night last fall I went to a dinner and they drank our toast." He repeated it, very slowly. "'My country—may she always be right—but right or wrong—my country.'
"I used to have the real thrill for that toast. That night it almost choked me. That 'right or wrong' is a spirit I can thrill to no longer. I'm more interested in getting it right.
"Though I'll own it terrified me, just as it seems to you, to feel it slipping from me. Recently I had occasion to go up to West Point and I spent a whole day deliberately trying to get back my old feeling for things—the whole business that we know so well and that I used to love so much.
"And, in a way, I could; but as for something gone. That day up at the Point was one of the saddest of my life. I still loved the trappings. They still called to me. But I knew that, for me, the spirit was dead.
"Oh I have no sensational declarations to make about the army. I wouldn't even be prepared to say what I think about disarmament. It's more complex than most peace advocates seem to see. I only know that the army's not the thing for me. I can't go on in it, simply because my feeling for it is gone."
He had been speaking slowly and seriously; his head was bent. Now he looked up at her. "It was at the close of that day—day up at West Point—that I resigned my commission. And if you had seen me that night, Katie, I doubt if you would reproach me with 'doing it lightly.'"
The marks of struggle had come back to his face with the story of it. They told more than the words.
"Forgive me," she said in her impetuous way. "No, I didn't know. How awful it is, Wayne, that we don't know—about each other."
She was forced to turn away; but after a moment controlled herself and turned back to add: "Wayne dear, I think you're right. I'm proud of you."
"Oh, I'm entitled to no halo," he hastened to say. "It's the fellow who would do it without an income might be candidate for that."
"But you would do it without an income, Wayne," she insisted warmly.
"I don't know. How can I tell whether I would or not?
"And you'll be good to Ann?" he took advantage of her mood to press, as though that were the one thing she could do for him. "You know, how much she needs you, Katie."
"I shall certainly want to be good to Ann," she murmured. "Though I don't think she needs me much—any more."
Something about her went to his heart. "Why, Katie—we all need you."
She shook her head; there were tears, but a smile with them. "Not much, Wayne. Not now. I'm not—indispensable. Though pray why should one wish to be anything so terrifying as indispensable?"
"Will you take Worth?" she asked after a little while. "He goes—with you and Ann?"
"We want him. And Katie, we want you. We're to go to Colorado and fight the water barons," he laughed. "Aren't you coming with us?"
She shook her head. "Not just now. I want to flit round in the East a little first. Be gay—renew my youth," she laughed, choking a little.
She drew him to talk of his hopes. "I'll fess up, Katie," he said, when warmed to it by her sympathy, "that I fear I do have rather a poetic notion about it. I want to do something—something that will count, something set in the direction of the future. And I like the idea of going back to that old frontier—place where I was born—and where mother went through so much—and where father fought—and because of which he died. And serving out there now in a way that is just as live—just as vital—as the way he served then."
He paused; they were both thinking of their father and mother, of how they might not have understood, of the sadness as well as the triumph there is in change, that tug at the heart that must so often come when the new generation sees a little farther down the road than older eyes can see, the ache in hearts left behind when children of a new day are called away from places endeared by habit into the incertitude and perhaps the danger of ways unworn.
"Life seems too fine a thing, Katie, to spend it making instruments of destruction more deadly. It's not a very happy thought to think of their being used; and it's not a very stimulating one to think of their not being. In either case, it doesn't make one too pleased with one's vocation. And life seems a big enough thing," he added, a little diffidently, "to try pretty hard to get one's self right with it."
He did not understand the way Katie was looking at him as she replied: "Yes, Wayne; I know that. I've been thinking that myself."
Something moved her to ask: "Wayne, do you think you would have done it, if it had not been for Ann?"
"I think," he replied quietly, "that possibly that is still another thing I have to thank her for." His face and voice gave Katie a sharp sense of loneliness, that loneliness which came in seeing how poorly she had understood him, how little people knew each other.
They talked of a number of things before he suddenly exclaimed: "Oh Katie, I must tell you. That fellow—what's his name? Mann? The mythical being known as the man who mends the boats is a fellow you'll have to avoid, should you ever see him again—which of course is not likely."
She had turned and was looking out at the lights in the street below. "Yes?"
"Who do you suppose the scoundrel is?"
"I'm sure I don't know," she faltered.
"A military convict. Attacked an officer. Served time at Leavenworth."
Katie was intent upon the lights down below.
"And what do you suppose he was prying around the Island for?"
"I'm sure I have no idea," she managed to say.
"Going to write a play—a play about the army! Now what do you think of that? Darrett found out about it. Oh just the man, you see, to write a play about the army! And some sensationalists here are going to put it on. It's the most damnable insolence I ever heard of! They ought to stop it."
"Oh, I don't know," said Katie, still absorbed in the cabs down below; "a man has a right to use his experiences—in a play."
"Well a fine view he'll give of it! It's the most insufferable impertinence I ever knew of!"
She turned around to ask oddly: "Why, Wayne, why all this heat? You're not in the army any more."
"Well, don't you think I'm not of it, when an upstart like that turns up to rail at it!"
"But how do you know he'll rail?"
"Oh he'll rail, all right. I know his type. But we'll see to it that it's pretty generally understood it's military life as presented by a military convict."
"Perhaps you can trust him to make that point clear himself," said Katie rather dryly.
"The coward. The cur."
She turned upon him hotly. "Look here, Wayne, I don't know why you're so sure you have a right to say that!"
"I'd like to know why I haven't! Attacked an officer without the slightest provocation whatsoever! Some kind of a hot-headed taking sides with a deserter, I believe it was. I suppose this remarkable play is to be a glorification of desertion," he laughed.
"Well," said Katie with an unsteady laugh, "perhaps there are worse things to glorify than desertion."
He stared at her. "Come now, Katie, you know better than that."
But Katie was looking at him strangely. "Wayne," she said quietly, "you're a deserter, yourself."
He flushed, but after an instant laughed. "Really, Katie, you have a positive genius for saying preposterous things."
"In which there may occasionally lurk a little truth. You are deserting. Why aren't you?"
"I call that about as close to rot as an intelligent person could come," he replied hotly. "I'm resigning my commission. It's perfectly regular."
"Yes; being an officer and a gentleman, you can resign your commission, and have it perfectly regular. Being that same officer and gentleman, you never were mugged—treated as a prospective criminal; no four thousand posters bearing your picture will now be sent broadcast over the country; no fifty dollars is offered lean detectives for your capture; you're in no chance of being thrown into prison and have your government do all in its power to wring the manhood out of you! Oh no—an officer and a gentleman—you resign your commission and go ahead with your life. But you're leaving the army, aren't you? Deserting it. And why? Because you don't like the spirit of it. And yet—though you're too big for it—though it's time for you to desert—you're enough bound by it not to let the light of your intelligence fall for one single second on the question of desertion!"
She had held him. He made no reply, looking in bewilderment at her red cheeks and blazing eyes.
Suddenly her face quivered. "Wayne," she said, "I don't use the term as a hard name. I'm not using it in just its technical sense, our army sense. But mayn't desertion be a brave thing? A fine thing? To desert a thing we've gone beyond—to have the courage to desert it and walk right off from the dead thing to the live thing—? Oh, don't mind my calling you a deserter, Wayne," she added, her eyes full of tears, "for the truth is I'd like to be a deserter myself. But perhaps one deserter is enough for a family—and you beat me to it." She laughed and turned back to the cabs.
He wanted to go on with the argument; show her what it was in desertion that army men despised, make the distinction between deserting and resigning. But the truth was he was more interested in the things Katie had said than in the things which could be called in refutation.
And Katie puzzled him; her heat, feeling, not only astonished but worried him a little. She was standing there now beating a tattoo on the window pane. He wondered what she was thinking about. The experience as to Ann revealed Katie to him as having thought about things he would not have dreamed she was thinking about. What in the world did she mean by saying she'd like to be a deserter herself? One of her preposterous sayings—but it was true that considerable truth had often lurked at the heart of Katie's absurd way of talking.
Watching her, he was drawn to thought of her attractiveness and that made him wonder whom Katie would marry. He had always been secretly proud of his sister's popularity; it seemed she should make a brilliant marriage. Live brilliantly. It was the thing to which she was adapted. Katie was unique. Distinctive. Secretly, unadmittedly, he was very ambitious for her. And with a little smile he considered that seemingly Katie was just shrewd enough to be ambitious for herself. She had steered her little bark safely past the place where she would be likely to marry a lieutenant. Was she heading for a general?
So he reflected with humor and affection, watching Katie beat the tattoo on the window.
Thought of what some one had said of her as the army girl suggested something that changed his mood, bringing him suddenly to his feet. "Katie," he demanded, "how much did you ever talk to this fellow? You don't think, do you, that he was trying to get you for his 'army girl'—or some such rot? If I thought that—You don't think, do you, Katie, that that was what he was trying to work you for?"
Katie suddenly raised her hands and pushed back her hair, for the minute covering her eyes. "No, Wayne," she said, "I don't think that was what he was trying to 'work me' for."
And unable to bear more, she told him that she was very tired and asked him to go.
Katie Jones was very gay that winter. She made her home at her uncle's, near Washington, though most of the time she was in Washington itself, with various cousins and friends; there were always people wanting Katie, especially that winter, when she had such unfailing zest for gayety.
They wondered that she should not be more broken up at her brother's absurd move in quitting the army—just at the time the army offered him so much. She seemed to take it very easily; though Katie was not one to take things hard, too light of spirit for that. And they wondered about his marriage to a girl whom nobody but Katie knew anything about. Katie seemed devoted to her and happy in the marriage.
"Why, naturally I am pleased," she said to a group of army people who were inquiring about Wayne's bride. "She is my best friend. The girl I care most about."
Major Darrett was one of the group. Some one turned to him and asked if he had met her when she visited Katie at the Arsenal the summer before. He replied that he had had that pleasure and that she was indeed beautiful and very charming.
Katie hated him the more for having to be grateful to him.
She knew that he was sorry for her and grew more and more gay. She could not talk of it, so was left to disclaim tragedy in frivolity. It was royally disclaimed.
There were a few serious talks with older army men, men who had known her father and who were outraged at Wayne's leaving the army when he was worth so much to it and it to him. In her efforts to make them see, she was forced to remember what the man who mended the boats said of their lack of hospitality. They were unable to entertain the idea of there being any reason for a man's leaving the army when he was being as well treated in it as Wayne was. Katie's explanations only led them to shake their heads and say: "Poor Wayne."
It was impossible to bury certain things in her, for those were the things she must use in defending Wayne. And in defending him, especially to her uncle, she was forced to know how far those things were from being decently prepared for burial. She was never more gay than after one of her defenses of her brother.
The winter had passed and it was late in April, not unlike that May day just the year before when she had first seen her sister-in-law. Try as she would she could not keep her thoughts from that day and all that it had opened up.
She had received a letter from her sister-in-law that morning. It was hard to realize that the writer of that letter was the Ann of the year before.
Her thoughts of Ann led seductively to the old wonderings which Ann had in the beginning opened up. She wondered how many of the people with whom things were all wrong, people whom good people called bad people, were simply people who had been held from their own. She wondered how many of those good people would have remained good people had life baffled them, as it had some of the bad people. The people whom circumstances had made good people were so sure of themselves. She had observed that it was from those who had never sailed stormy waters came the quickest and harshest judgments on bad seamanship in heavy seas.
Ann had met Helen and did not seem to know just what to think about her. "She's nice, Katie," she wrote, "but I don't understand her very well. She has so many strange ideas about things. Wayne thinks you and she would get on famously. She doesn't seem afraid of anything and wants to do such a lot of things to the world. I'm afraid I'm selfish; I'm so happy in my own life—it's all so wonderful—that I can't get as excited about the world as Helen does."
And yet Ann would not have found the world the place she had found it were it the place Helen would have it. But Ann had found joy and peace—safety—and was too happy in her own life to get excited about the world—and thought Helen a little queer!
That was Ann's type—and that was why there were Anns.
Ann was radiant about the mountains and their life in them. "Helen said it about right, Katie. They're hard on the hair and the skin—but good for the soul!" They would be for the summer in one of the most beautiful mountain towns of Colorado and wanted Katie to come and bring Worth. Wayne had consented to leave him for a time with Katie at their uncle's. That Katie knew for a concession received for staying in New York with Ann until after her marriage.
She believed she would go. She was so tired of Zelda Fraser that she would like to meet Helen. And she would like the mountains. Perhaps they would do something for her soul—if she had not danced it quite away. She was getting very wretched about having to be so happy all the time.
She was on her way to Zelda's that afternoon, Zelda having asked her to come in for a cup of tea and a talk. A whiff of some new scandal, she supposed. That was the basis of most of Zelda's "talks."
Though possibly she had some things to tell about Harry Prescott's approaching marriage to Caroline Osborne. Katie had been asked to be a bridesmaid at that wedding.
"While we have known each other but a short time," Caroline had written in her too sweet way, "I feel close to you, Katie, because it was through you Harry and I came together. Then whom would we want as much as you! And as it is to be something of an army wedding, may I not have you, whom Harry calls the 'most bully army girl' he ever knew?"
Mrs. Prescott had also written Katie the glad news, saying she was happy, believing Caroline would make Harry a good wife. Katie was disposed to believe that she would and was emphatically disposed to believe that Mr. Osborne would make Harry a good father-in-law. Katie's knowledge of army finances led her to appreciate the value of the right father-in-law for an officer and gentleman who must subsist upon his pay.
But she had made an excuse about the wedding, in no mood to be a bridesmaid, especially to a bride who would enter the bonds of matrimony on the banks of the Mississippi, just opposite a certain place where boats were mended.
She walked on very fast toward Zelda's, trying to occupy the whole of her mind with planning a new gown.
But Zelda had more tender news to break that day than that of a new scandal. "Katie," she approached it, in Zelda's own delicate fashion, "what would you think of Major Darrett and me joy-riding through life together?"
"I approve of it," said Katie, with curious heartiness.
"Some joy-ride, don't you think?"
"I can fancy," laughed Katie, "that it might be hard to beat. I think," she added, "that he's just the one for you to marry. And I further think, Zelda, that you're just the one for him to marry."
Zelda looked at her keenly. "No slam on either party?"
"On the contrary, a sort of double-acting approval," she turned it with a laugh.
"Then as long as your approval has a back action, so to speak, I cop you out right now, Katie, for a bridesmaid."
"Don't," said Katie quickly. "No, Zelda, I'm not—suitable."
"Oh, too old and worn," she laughed. "Bridesmaids should be buds."
"Showing up the full-blowness of the bride? Don't you think it!"
"So you hastened to get me!"
"Come now, Katie, you know very well why I want you. Why wouldn't I want you? Anyhow," she exposed it, "father wants you. Father thinks you're so nice and respectable, Katie."
"And so, for that matter," she added, "does my chosen joy-rider."
"I'm not so sure of his being particularly impressed with my respectability," replied Katie.
"He's always been quite dippy about you, Katie. I don't know how I ever got him."
Zelda spoke feelingly of the approaching nuptials of her old school friend. "Cal's considerable of a prissy, but take it from me, Harry Prescott will see that all father's money doesn't pour into homes for the friendless—so there's something accomplished. Heaven help the poor fellow who must live on his pay," sighed Zelda piously.
Major Darrett, too, was to be congratulated on his father-in-law. Just the father-in-law for a man ambitious to become military attache.
It was nice, Katie told herself as she walked away, to know of so many weddings. She insisted upon asserting to herself that she was glad all her friends were getting on so famously.
Though if Zelda persisted, she would have to go West earlier than she had planned. She could not regard Ann's sister-in-law as suitable person for attendant at Major Darrett's wedding. That would be a little too much like playing the clown at a masked ball.
The image was suggested by seeing one of those grotesque figures across the street. He was advertising some approaching festivity. With the clown was a monkey. He put the monkey down on the sidewalk and it danced obediently in just the place where it was put down.
Suddenly it seemed to Katie that she was for all the world like that monkey—dancing obediently in the place where she was put down, not asking about the before or after, just dutifully being gay. That monkey did not know the great story about monkeys; doubtless he was even too degraded by clowns to yearn for a tree. He only danced at the end of the string the clown held—all else shut out.
She—shutting out the before and after—was that pathetically festive little monkey; and society was the clown holding the string—the whole of it advertising the tawdry thing the clown called life.
Only she knew that there were trees. She had danced frantically in seeking to forget them, but the string pulled by the clown fretted her more and more.
She could not make clear to herself why it had seemed that if Wayne were to be "free," she could not be; it was as if all the things she had worked out for herself had been appropriated by her brother. Everybody could not go into more spacious countries! There were some who must stay behind and make it right for the deserters.
Wayne's marrying Ann had turned her back to familiar paths. It had terrified her. There seemed too much involved, too little certainty as to where one would find one's self if one left the well-known ways.
She had been put in the position of the one hurt just when she had been steeled to bring the hurt. It gave her a new sense of the hurts—uncertainty as to the right to deal them.
And probably no monkey would dance more obediently than the monkey who had run away and been frightened at a glimpse of the vastness of the forest.
She would have to remain and explain Wayne, because she felt responsible about Wayne. It was her venturings had found what had led Wayne to venture—and, in the end, go. How could she outrage the army as long as Wayne had done so?
So it had seemed to Katie in her hurt and bewilderment. And the bewilderment came chiefly because of the hurt. It appalled her to find it did hurt like that.
But it was spring—and she knew that there were trees!
She paused and watched a gardener removing some debris that had covered a flower bed. It was spring, and there were new shoots and this gardener was wise and tender in taking the old things away, that the new shoots might have air. Katie could see them there—and tender green of them, as he lifted the old things away that the growing things might come through. The gardener did not seem to feel he was cruel in taking the dead things away. As a good gardener, he would scout the idea of its being unkind to take them away just because they had been there so long. What did that matter, the wise gardener would scornfully demand, when there were growing things underneath pushing their way to the light?
And if he were given to philosophizing he might say that the kindest thing even to the dead things was to let the new things come through. Thus life would be kept, and all the life that had ever been upon the earth perpetuated, vindicated, glorified.
It seemed to Katie that what life needed was a saner gardener. Not a gardener who would smother new shoots with a lot of dead things telling how shoots should go.
She drew a deep breath, lifted her face to the sky, and knew. Knew that she herself had power to push through the dead things seeking to smother her. Knew that if she but pushed on they must fall away because it was life was pushing them away.
She walked on slowly, breathing deep.
And swinging along in the April twilight she had a sense of having already set her face toward a more spacious country. And of knowing that it had been inevitable all the time that she should go. The delay had been but the moment's panic. Her life itself mattered more than what any group of people thought about her life.
Spring!—and new life upon the earth. It was that life itself, not the philosophy men had formulated for or against it, was pushing the dead things away. It was not even arrested by the fear of displacing something.
She had held herself back for so long that in the very admission that she longed to see him there was joy approaching the sweetness of seeing him. A long time she walked in the April twilight—knowing that it was spring—and that there was new life upon the earth.
Harry Prescott would be married within two weeks. It seemed nothing was so important as that she witness that ceremony. Dear Harry Prescott, who would be married on the banks of the Mississippi, close by a certain place where boats were mended.
It was hard for Katie to contain her delight in Wayne's generosity when she found he had left his launch with Captain Prescott. "Now wasn't that just sweet of father?" she exulted to Worth as they walked together down to the little boat house.
Worth was more dispassionate. "Y—es; but why wouldn't he, Aunt Kate? Where would he take it?"
"Well, but it's just so nice, dearie, that it's here."
"You going out in it?" he demanded.
Katie looked around. Some soldiers and some golfers in the distance, but like the day Ann had come upon the Island, no one within immediate range.
"Watts says she's running like a bird, Aunt Kate. Somebody was out this morning and somebody's going again this afternoon."
"Maybe she won't be here for them to take!"
"You going to take it, Aunt Kate?" he pressed excitedly.
"Well, I don't just know, Worth." She looked up the river. She could see a part of the little island where she had once pulled in to ask about the underlying principles of life, but not being able to see the other side of it, how could she be sure whether a launch ride was what she wanted or not?
"Father says we mustn't go in it alone, Aunt Kate. Shall I see if we can get Watts?"
"N—o; that's not exactly the idea," said Aunt Kate, stepping into the launch.
"Goin', Aunt Kate?"
"Why—I don't know. I thought I'd just sit in it a little while."
So Worth joined her for the delightful pastime of just sitting in it for a little while.
"I'd rather like to find out whether it's in good condition." She turned to Worth appealing. "It seems we ought to be able to tell father whether they're taking good care of it, doesn't it, Worth?"