One January day, thirty years ago, the little
town of Hanover, anchored on a windy Ne-
braska tableland, was trying not to be blown
away. A mist of fine snowflakes was curling
and eddying about the cluster of low drab
buildings huddled on the gray prairie, under a
gray sky. The dwelling-houses were set about
haphazard on the tough prairie sod; some of
them looked as if they had been moved in
overnight, and others as if they were straying
off by themselves, headed straight for the open
plain. None of them had any appearance of
permanence, and the howling wind blew under
them as well as over them. The main street
was a deeply rutted road, now frozen hard,
which ran from the squat red railway station
and the grain "elevator" at the north end of
the town to the lumber yard and the horse
pond at the south end. On either side of this
road straggled two uneven rows of wooden
buildings; the general merchandise stores, the
two banks, the drug store, the feed store, the
saloon, the post-office. The board sidewalks
were gray with trampled snow, but at two
o'clock in the afternoon the shopkeepers, hav-
ing come back from dinner, were keeping well
behind their frosty windows. The children were
all in school, and there was nobody abroad in
the streets but a few rough-looking country-
men in coarse overcoats, with their long caps
pulled down to their noses. Some of them had
brought their wives to town, and now and then
a red or a plaid shawl flashed out of one store
into the shelter of another. At the hitch-bars
along the street a few heavy work-horses, har-
nessed to farm wagons, shivered under their
blankets. About the station everything was
quiet, for there would not be another train in
On the sidewalk in front of one of the stores
sat a little Swede boy, crying bitterly. He was
about five years old. His black cloth coat was
much too big for him and made him look like
a little old man. His shrunken brown flannel
dress had been washed many times and left a
long stretch of stocking between the hem of his
skirt and the tops of his clumsy, copper-toed
shoes. His cap was pulled down over his ears;
his nose and his chubby cheeks were chapped
and red with cold. He cried quietly, and the
few people who hurried by did not notice him.
He was afraid to stop any one, afraid to go into
the store and ask for help, so he sat wringing his
long sleeves and looking up a telegraph pole
beside him, whimpering, "My kitten, oh, my
kitten! Her will fweeze!" At the top of the
pole crouched a shivering gray kitten, mewing
faintly and clinging desperately to the wood
with her claws. The boy had been left at the
store while his sister went to the doctor's office,
and in her absence a dog had chased his kit-
ten up the pole. The little creature had never
been so high before, and she was too frightened
to move. Her master was sunk in despair. He
was a little country boy, and this village was to
him a very strange and perplexing place, where
people wore fine clothes and had hard hearts.
He always felt shy and awkward here, and
wanted to hide behind things for fear some one
might laugh at him. Just now, he was too un-
happy to care who laughed. At last he seemed
to see a ray of hope: his sister was coming, and
he got up and ran toward her in his heavy
His sister was a tall, strong girl, and she
walked rapidly and resolutely, as if she knew
exactly where she was going and what she was
going to do next. She wore a man's long ulster
(not as if it were an affliction, but as if it were
very comfortable and belonged to her; carried
it like a young soldier), and a round plush cap,
tied down with a thick veil. She had a serious,
thoughtful face, and her clear, deep blue eyes
were fixed intently on the distance, without
seeming to see anything, as if she were in
trouble. She did not notice the little boy until
he pulled her by the coat. Then she stopped
short and stooped down to wipe his wet face.
"Why, Emil! I told you to stay in the store
and not to come out. What is the matter with
"My kitten, sister, my kitten! A man put
her out, and a dog chased her up there." His
forefinger, projecting from the sleeve of his coat,
pointed up to the wretched little creature on
"Oh, Emil! Didn't I tell you she'd get us
into trouble of some kind, if you brought her?
What made you tease me so? But there, I
ought to have known better myself." She went
to the foot of the pole and held out her arms,
crying, "Kitty, kitty, kitty," but the kitten
only mewed and faintly waved its tail. Alex-
andra turned away decidedly. "No, she won't
come down. Somebody will have to go up after
her. I saw the Linstrums' wagon in town. I'll
go and see if I can find Carl. Maybe he can do
something. Only you must stop crying, or I
won't go a step. Where's your comforter? Did
you leave it in the store? Never mind. Hold
still, till I put this on you."
She unwound the brown veil from her head
and tied it about his throat. A shabby little
traveling man, who was just then coming out of
the store on his way to the saloon, stopped and
gazed stupidly at the shining mass of hair she
bared when she took off her veil; two thick
braids, pinned about her head in the German
way, with a fringe of reddish-yellow curls blow-
ing out from under her cap. He took his cigar
out of his mouth and held the wet end between
the fingers of his woolen glove. "My God, girl,
what a head of hair!" he exclaimed, quite
innocently and foolishly. She stabbed him with
a glance of Amazonian fierceness and drew in
her lower lip--most unnecessary severity. It
gave the little clothing drummer such a start
that he actually let his cigar fall to the side-
walk and went off weakly in the teeth of the
wind to the saloon. His hand was still unsteady
when he took his glass from the bartender. His
feeble flirtatious instincts had been crushed
before, but never so mercilessly. He felt cheap
and ill-used, as if some one had taken advan-
tage of him. When a drummer had been knock-
ing about in little drab towns and crawling
across the wintry country in dirty smoking-
cars, was he to be blamed if, when he chanced
upon a fine human creature, he suddenly wished
himself more of a man?
While the little drummer was drinking to
recover his nerve, Alexandra hurried to the
drug store as the most likely place to find Carl
Linstrum. There he was, turning over a port-
folio of chromo "studies" which the druggist
sold to the Hanover women who did china-
painting. Alexandra explained her predica-
ment, and the boy followed her to the corner,
where Emil still sat by the pole.
"I'll have to go up after her, Alexandra. I
think at the depot they have some spikes I can
strap on my feet. Wait a minute." Carl thrust
his hands into his pockets, lowered his head,
and darted up the street against the north
wind. He was a tall boy of fifteen, slight and
narrow-chested. When he came back with the
spikes, Alexandra asked him what he had done
with his overcoat.
"I left it in the drug store. I couldn't climb
in it, anyhow. Catch me if I fall, Emil," he
called back as he began his ascent. Alexandra
watched him anxiously; the cold was bitter
enough on the ground. The kitten would not
budge an inch. Carl had to go to the very top
of the pole, and then had some difficulty in tear-
ing her from her hold. When he reached the
ground, he handed the cat to her tearful little
master. "Now go into the store with her, Emil,
and get warm." He opened the door for the
child. "Wait a minute, Alexandra. Why can't
I drive for you as far as our place? It's get-
ting colder every minute. Have you seen the
"Yes. He is coming over to-morrow. But
he says father can't get better; can't get well."
The girl's lip trembled. She looked fixedly up
the bleak street as if she were gathering her
strength to face something, as if she were try-
ing with all her might to grasp a situation which,
no matter how painful, must be met and dealt
with somehow. The wind flapped the skirts of
her heavy coat about her.
Carl did not say anything, but she felt his
sympathy. He, too, was lonely. He was a thin,
frail boy, with brooding dark eyes, very quiet
in all his movements. There was a delicate pallor
in his thin face, and his mouth was too sensitive
for a boy's. The lips had already a little curl
of bitterness and skepticism. The two friends
stood for a few moments on the windy street
corner, not speaking a word, as two travelers,
who have lost their way, sometimes stand and
admit their perplexity in silence. When Carl
turned away he said, "I'll see to your team."
Alexandra went into the store to have her pur-
chases packed in the egg-boxes, and to get warm
before she set out on her long cold drive.
When she looked for Emil, she found him sit-
ting on a step of the staircase that led up to the
clothing and carpet department. He was play-
ing with a little Bohemian girl, Marie Tovesky,
who was tying her handkerchief over the kit-
ten's head for a bonnet. Marie was a stranger
in the country, having come from Omaha with
her mother to visit her uncle, Joe Tovesky. She
was a dark child, with brown curly hair, like a
brunette doll's, a coaxing little red mouth,
and round, yellow-brown eyes. Every one
noticed her eyes; the brown iris had golden
glints that made them look like gold-stone, or,
in softer lights, like that Colorado mineral
The country children thereabouts wore their
dresses to their shoe-tops, but this city child
was dressed in what was then called the "Kate
Greenaway" manner, and her red cashmere
frock, gathered full from the yoke, came almost
to the floor. This, with her poke bonnet, gave
her the look of a quaint little woman. She had
a white fur tippet about her neck and made
no fussy objections when Emil fingered it
admiringly. Alexandra had not the heart to
take him away from so pretty a playfellow, and
she let them tease the kitten together until Joe
Tovesky came in noisily and picked up his little
niece, setting her on his shoulder for every
one to see. His children were all boys, and he
adored this little creature. His cronies formed
a circle about him, admiring and teasing the
little girl, who took their jokes with great good
nature. They were all delighted with her, for
they seldom saw so pretty and carefully nur-
tured a child. They told her that she must
choose one of them for a sweetheart, and each
began pressing his suit and offering her bribes;
candy, and little pigs, and spotted calves. She
looked archly into the big, brown, mustached
faces, smelling of spirits and tobacco, then she
ran her tiny forefinger delicately over Joe's
bristly chin and said, "Here is my sweetheart."
The Bohemians roared with laughter, and
Marie's uncle hugged her until she cried, "Please
don't, Uncle Joe! You hurt me." Each of Joe's
friends gave her a bag of candy, and she kissed
them all around, though she did not like coun-
try candy very well. Perhaps that was why she
bethought herself of Emil. "Let me down,
Uncle Joe," she said, "I want to give some of
my candy to that nice little boy I found." She
walked graciously over to Emil, followed by her
lusty admirers, who formed a new circle and
teased the little boy until he hid his face in his
sister's skirts, and she had to scold him for
being such a baby.
The farm people were making preparations
to start for home. The women were checking
over their groceries and pinning their big red
shawls about their heads. The men were buy-
ing tobacco and candy with what money they
had left, were showing each other new boots
and gloves and blue flannel shirts. Three big
Bohemians were drinking raw alcohol, tinctured
with oil of cinnamon. This was said to fortify
one effectually against the cold, and they
smacked their lips after each pull at the flask.
Their volubility drowned every other noise in
the place, and the overheated store sounded of
their spirited language as it reeked of pipe
smoke, damp woolens, and kerosene.
Carl came in, wearing his overcoat and carry-
ing a wooden box with a brass handle. "Come,"
he said, "I've fed and watered your team, and
the wagon is ready." He carried Emil out and
tucked him down in the straw in the wagon-
box. The heat had made the little boy sleepy,
but he still clung to his kitten.
"You were awful good to climb so high and
get my kitten, Carl. When I get big I'll climb
and get little boys' kittens for them," he mur-
mured drowsily. Before the horses were over
the first hill, Emil and his cat were both fast
Although it was only four o'clock, the winter
day was fading. The road led southwest, toward
the streak of pale, watery light that glimmered
in the leaden sky. The light fell upon the two
sad young faces that were turned mutely toward
it: upon the eyes of the girl, who seemed to be
looking with such anguished perplexity into
the future; upon the sombre eyes of the boy,
who seemed already to be looking into the past.
The little town behind them had vanished as if
it had never been, had fallen behind the swell
of the prairie, and the stern frozen country
received them into its bosom. The homesteads
were few and far apart; here and there a wind-
mill gaunt against the sky, a sod house crouch-
ing in a hollow. But the great fact was the land
itself, which seemed to overwhelm the little
beginnings of human society that struggled in
its sombre wastes. It was from facing this vast
hardness that the boy's mouth had become so
bitter; because he felt that men were too weak
to make any mark here, that the land wanted
to be let alone, to preserve its own fierce
strength, its peculiar, savage kind of beauty,
its uninterrupted mournfulness.
The wagon jolted along over the frozen road.
The two friends had less to say to each other
than usual, as if the cold had somehow pene-
trated to their hearts.
"Did Lou and Oscar go to the Blue to cut
wood to-day?" Carl asked.
"Yes. I'm almost sorry I let them go, it's
turned so cold. But mother frets if the wood
gets low." She stopped and put her hand to
her forehead, brushing back her hair. "I don't
know what is to become of us, Carl, if father
has to die. I don't dare to think about it. I
wish we could all go with him and let the grass
grow back over everything."
Carl made no reply. Just ahead of them was
the Norwegian graveyard, where the grass had,
indeed, grown back over everything, shaggy
and red, hiding even the wire fence. Carl real-
ized that he was not a very helpful companion,
but there was nothing he could say.
"Of course," Alexandra went on, steadying
her voice a little, "the boys are strong and work
hard, but we've always depended so on father
that I don't see how we can go ahead. I almost
feel as if there were nothing to go ahead for."
"Does your father know?"
"Yes, I think he does. He lies and counts
on his fingers all day. I think he is trying to
count up what he is leaving for us. It's a com-
fort to him that my chickens are laying right
on through the cold weather and bringing in a
little money. I wish we could keep his mind off
such things, but I don't have much time to be
with him now."
"I wonder if he'd like to have me bring my
magic lantern over some evening?"
Alexandra turned her face toward him. "Oh,
Carl! Have you got it?"
"Yes. It's back there in the straw. Didn't
you notice the box I was carrying? I tried it all
morning in the drug-store cellar, and it worked
ever so well, makes fine big pictures."
"What are they about?"
"Oh, hunting pictures in Germany, and
Robinson Crusoe and funny pictures about
cannibals. I'm going to paint some slides for
it on glass, out of the Hans Andersen book."
Alexandra seemed actually cheered. There is
often a good deal of the child left in people who
have had to grow up too soon. "Do bring it
over, Carl. I can hardly wait to see it, and I'm
sure it will please father. Are the pictures col-
ored? Then I know he'll like them. He likes
the calendars I get him in town. I wish I could
get more. You must leave me here, mustn't
you? It's been nice to have company."
Carl stopped the horses and looked dubi-
ously up at the black sky. "It's pretty dark.
Of course the horses will take you home, but I
think I'd better light your lantern, in case you
should need it."
He gave her the reins and climbed back into
the wagon-box, where he crouched down and
made a tent of his overcoat. After a dozen
trials he succeeded in lighting the lantern, which
he placed in front of Alexandra, half covering
it with a blanket so that the light would not
shine in her eyes. "Now, wait until I find my
box. Yes, here it is. Good-night, Alexandra.
Try not to worry." Carl sprang to the ground
and ran off across the fields toward the Linstrum
homestead. "Hoo, hoo-o-o-o!" he called back
as he disappeared over a ridge and dropped
into a sand gully. The wind answered him like
an echo, "Hoo, hoo-o-o-o-o-o!" Alexandra
drove off alone. The rattle of her wagon was
lost in the howling of the wind, but her lantern,
held firmly between her feet, made a moving
point of light along the highway, going deeper
and deeper into the dark country.
On one of the ridges of that wintry waste
stood the low log house in which John Bergson
was dying. The Bergson homestead was easier
to find than many another, because it over-
looked Norway Creek, a shallow, muddy stream
that sometimes flowed, and sometimes stood
still, at the bottom of a winding ravine with
steep, shelving sides overgrown with brush and
cottonwoods and dwarf ash. This creek gave a
sort of identity to the farms that bordered upon
it. Of all the bewildering things about a new
country, the absence of human landmarks is
one of the most depressing and disheartening.
The houses on the Divide were small and were
usually tucked away in low places; you did not
see them until you came directly upon them.
Most of them were built of the sod itself, and
were only the unescapable ground in another
form. The roads were but faint tracks in the
grass, and the fields were scarcely noticeable.
The record of the plow was insignificant, like
the feeble scratches on stone left by prehistoric
races, so indeterminate that they may, after all,
be only the markings of glaciers, and not a rec-
ord of human strivings.
In eleven long years John Bergson had made
but little impression upon the wild land he had
come to tame. It was still a wild thing that had
its ugly moods; and no one knew when they
were likely to come, or why. Mischance hung
over it. Its Genius was unfriendly to man. The
sick man was feeling this as he lay looking out
of the window, after the doctor had left him,
on the day following Alexandra's trip to town.
There it lay outside his door, the same land, the
same lead-colored miles. He knew every ridge
and draw and gully between him and the
horizon. To the south, his plowed fields; to the
east, the sod stables, the cattle corral, the pond,
--and then the grass.
Bergson went over in his mind the things
that had held him back. One winter his cattle
had perished in a blizzard. The next summer
one of his plow horses broke its leg in a prairie-
dog hole and had to be shot. Another summer he
lost his hogs from cholera, and a valuable
stallion died from a rattlesnake bite. Time and
again his crops had failed. He had lost two
children, boys, that came between Lou and
Emil, and there had been the cost of sickness
and death. Now, when he had at last struggled
out of debt, he was going to die himself. He
was only forty-six, and had, of course, counted
upon more time.
Bergson had spent his first five years on the
Divide getting into debt, and the last six getting
out. He had paid off his mortgages and had
ended pretty much where he began, with the
land. He owned exactly six hundred and forty
acres of what stretched outside his door; his own
original homestead and timber claim, making
three hundred and twenty acres, and the half-
section adjoining, the homestead of a younger
brother who had given up the fight, gone back
to Chicago to work in a fancy bakery and dis-
tinguish himself in a Swedish athletic club. So
far John had not attempted to cultivate the
second half-section, but used it for pasture
land, and one of his sons rode herd there in
John Bergson had the Old-World belief that
land, in itself, is desirable. But this land was
an enigma. It was like a horse that no one
knows how to break to harness, that runs wild
and kicks things to pieces. He had an idea that
no one understood how to farm it properly, and
this he often discussed with Alexandra. Their
neighbors, certainly, knew even less about
farming than he did. Many of them had
never worked on a farm until they took up
their homesteads. They had been HANDWERKERS
at home; tailors, locksmiths, joiners, cigar-
makers, etc. Bergson himself had worked in a
For weeks, John Bergson had been thinking
about these things. His bed stood in the sitting-
room, next to the kitchen. Through the day,
while the baking and washing and ironing were
going on, the father lay and looked up at the
roof beams that he himself had hewn, or out at
the cattle in the corral. He counted the cattle
over and over. It diverted him to speculate as
to how much weight each of the steers would
probably put on by spring. He often called his
daughter in to talk to her about this. Before
Alexandra was twelve years old she had begun
to be a help to him, and as she grew older he
had come to depend more and more upon her
resourcefulness and good judgment. His boys
were willing enough to work, but when he
talked with them they usually irritated him. It
was Alexandra who read the papers and fol-
lowed the markets, and who learned by the mis-
takes of their neighbors. It was Alexandra who
could always tell about what it had cost to fat-
ten each steer, and who could guess the weight
of a hog before it went on the scales closer than
John Bergson himself. Lou and Oscar were in-
dustrious, but he could never teach them to use
their heads about their work.
Alexandra, her father often said to himself,
was like her grandfather; which was his way of
saying that she was intelligent. John Bergson's
father had been a shipbuilder, a man of consid-
erable force and of some fortune. Late in life he
married a second time, a Stockholm woman of
questionable character, much younger than he,
who goaded him into every sort of extrava-
gance. On the shipbuilder's part, this marriage
was an infatuation, the despairing folly of a
powerful man who cannot bear to grow old.
In a few years his unprincipled wife warped the
probity of a lifetime. He speculated, lost his
own fortune and funds entrusted to him by
poor seafaring men, and died disgraced, leav-
ing his children nothing. But when all was said,
he had come up from the sea himself, had built
up a proud little business with no capital but his
own skill and foresight, and had proved himself
a man. In his daughter, John Bergson recog-
nized the strength of will, and the simple direct
way of thinking things out, that had charac-
terized his father in his better days. He would
much rather, of course, have seen this likeness
in one of his sons, but it was not a question of
choice. As he lay there day after day he had to
accept the situation as it was, and to be thank-
ful that there was one among his children to
whom he could entrust the future of his family
and the possibilities of his hard-won land.
The winter twilight was fading. The sick
man heard his wife strike a match in the kitchen,
and the light of a lamp glimmered through the
cracks of the door. It seemed like a light shin-
ing far away. He turned painfully in his bed
and looked at his white hands, with all the
work gone out of them. He was ready to give
up, he felt. He did not know how it had come
about, but he was quite willing to go deep un-
der his fields and rest, where the plow could not
find him. He was tired of making mistakes. He
was content to leave the tangle to other hands;
he thought of his Alexandra's strong ones.
"DOTTER," he called feebly, "DOTTER!" He
heard her quick step and saw her tall figure
appear in the doorway, with the light of the
lamp behind her. He felt her youth and
strength, how easily she moved and stooped
and lifted. But he would not have had it again
if he could, not he! He knew the end too well to
wish to begin again. He knew where it all went
to, what it all became.
His daughter came and lifted him up on his
pillows. She called him by an old Swedish name
that she used to call him when she was little
and took his dinner to him in the shipyard.
"Tell the boys to come here, daughter. I
want to speak to them."
"They are feeding the horses, father. They
have just come back from the Blue. Shall I
He sighed. "No, no. Wait until they come
in. Alexandra, you will have to do the best you
can for your brothers. Everything will come on
"I will do all I can, father."
"Don't let them get discouraged and go off
like Uncle Otto. I want them to keep the land."
"We will, father. We will never lose the
There was a sound of heavy feet in the
kitchen. Alexandra went to the door and beck-
oned to her brothers, two strapping boys of
seventeen and nineteen. They came in and
stood at the foot of the bed. Their father looked
at them searchingly, though it was too dark to
see their faces; they were just the same boys, he
told himself, he had not been mistaken in them.
The square head and heavy shoulders belonged
to Oscar, the elder. The younger boy was
quicker, but vacillating.
"Boys," said the father wearily, "I want you
to keep the land together and to be guided by
your sister. I have talked to her since I have
been sick, and she knows all my wishes. I
want no quarrels among my children, and so
long as there is one house there must be one
head. Alexandra is the oldest, and she knows
my wishes. She will do the best she can. If she
makes mistakes, she will not make so many as
I have made. When you marry, and want a
house of your own, the land will be divided
fairly, according to the courts. But for the next
few years you will have it hard, and you must
all keep together. Alexandra will manage the
best she can."
Oscar, who was usually the last to speak,
replied because he was the older, "Yes, father.
It would be so anyway, without your speaking.
We will all work the place together."
"And you will be guided by your sister, boys,
and be good brothers to her, and good sons to
your mother? That is good. And Alexandra
must not work in the fields any more. There is
no necessity now. Hire a man when you need
help. She can make much more with her eggs
and butter than the wages of a man. It was
one of my mistakes that I did not find that out
sooner. Try to break a little more land every
year; sod corn is good for fodder. Keep turning
the land, and always put up more hay than you
need. Don't grudge your mother a little time
for plowing her garden and setting out fruit
trees, even if it comes in a busy season. She has
been a good mother to you, and she has always
When they went back to the kitchen the boys
sat down silently at the table. Throughout the
meal they looked down at their plates and did
not lift their red eyes. They did not eat much,
although they had been working in the cold all
day, and there was a rabbit stewed in gravy for
supper, and prune pies.
John Bergson had married beneath him, but
he had married a good housewife. Mrs. Berg-
son was a fair-skinned, corpulent woman, heavy
and placid like her son, Oscar, but there was
something comfortable about her; perhaps it
was her own love of comfort. For eleven years
she had worthily striven to maintain some sem-
blance of household order amid conditions that
made order very difficult. Habit was very
strong with Mrs. Bergson, and her unremitting
efforts to repeat the routine of her old life among
new surroundings had done a great deal to keep
the family from disintegrating morally and get-
ting careless in their ways. The Bergsons had
a log house, for instance, only because Mrs.
Bergson would not live in a sod house. She
missed the fish diet of her own country, and
twice every summer she sent the boys to the
river, twenty miles to the southward, to fish
for channel cat. When the children were little
she used to load them all into the wagon, the
baby in its crib, and go fishing herself.
Alexandra often said that if her mother were
cast upon a desert island, she would thank God
for her deliverance, make a garden, and find
something to preserve. Preserving was almost
a mania with Mrs. Bergson. Stout as she was,
she roamed the scrubby banks of Norway Creek
looking for fox grapes and goose plums, like a
wild creature in search of prey. She made a yel-
low jam of the insipid ground-cherries that grew
on the prairie, flavoring it with lemon peel; and
she made a sticky dark conserve of garden toma-
toes. She had experimented even with the rank
buffalo-pea, and she could not see a fine bronze
cluster of them without shaking her head and
murmuring, "What a pity!" When there was
nothing more to preserve, she began to pickle.
The amount of sugar she used in these processes
was sometimes a serious drain upon the family
resources. She was a good mother, but she was
glad when her children were old enough not to
be in her way in the kitchen. She had never
quite forgiven John Bergson for bringing her
to the end of the earth; but, now that she was
there, she wanted to be let alone to reconstruct
her old life in so far as that was possible. She
could still take some comfort in the world if
she had bacon in the cave, glass jars on the
shelves, and sheets in the press. She disap-
proved of all her neighbors because of their
slovenly housekeeping, and the women thought
her very proud. Once when Mrs. Bergson, on
her way to Norway Creek, stopped to see old
Mrs. Lee, the old woman hid in the haymow
"for fear Mis' Bergson would catch her bare-
One Sunday afternoon in July, six months
after John Bergson's death, Carl was sitting in
the doorway of the Linstrum kitchen, dreaming
over an illustrated paper, when he heard the
rattle of a wagon along the hill road. Looking
up he recognized the Bergsons' team, with two
seats in the wagon, which meant they were off
for a pleasure excursion. Oscar and Lou, on
the front seat, wore their cloth hats and coats,
never worn except on Sundays, and Emil, on
the second seat with Alexandra, sat proudly in
his new trousers, made from a pair of his
father's, and a pink-striped shirt, with a wide
ruffled collar. Oscar stopped the horses and
waved to Carl, who caught up his hat and ran
through the melon patch to join them.
"Want to go with us?" Lou called. "We're
going to Crazy Ivar's to buy a hammock."
"Sure." Carl ran up panting, and clamber-
ing over the wheel sat down beside Emil. "I've
always wanted to see Ivar's pond. They say
it's the biggest in all the country. Aren't you
afraid to go to Ivar's in that new shirt, Emil?
He might want it and take it right off your
Emil grinned. "I'd be awful scared to go,"
he admitted, "if you big boys weren't along to
take care of me. Did you ever hear him howl,
Carl? People say sometimes he runs about the
country howling at night because he is afraid
the Lord will destroy him. Mother thinks he
must have done something awful wicked."
Lou looked back and winked at Carl. "What
would you do, Emil, if you was out on the
prairie by yourself and seen him coming?"
Emil stared. "Maybe I could hide in a
badger-hole," he suggested doubtfully.
"But suppose there wasn't any badger-hole,"
Lou persisted. "Would you run?"
"No, I'd be too scared to run," Emil ad-
mitted mournfully, twisting his fingers. "I
guess I'd sit right down on the ground and say
The big boys laughed, and Oscar brandished
his whip over the broad backs of the horses.
"He wouldn't hurt you, Emil," said Carl
persuasively. "He came to doctor our mare
when she ate green corn and swelled up most as
big as the water-tank. He petted her just like
you do your cats. I couldn't understand much
he said, for he don't talk any English, but he
kept patting her and groaning as if he had the
pain himself, and saying, 'There now, sister,
that's easier, that's better!'"
Lou and Oscar laughed, and Emil giggled
delightedly and looked up at his sister.
"I don't think he knows anything at all
about doctoring," said Oscar scornfully. "They
say when horses have distemper he takes the
medicine himself, and then prays over the
Alexandra spoke up. "That's what the
Crows said, but he cured their horses, all the
same. Some days his mind is cloudy, like. But
if you can get him on a clear day, you can learn
a great deal from him. He understands ani-
mals. Didn't I see him take the horn off the
Berquist's cow when she had torn it loose and
went crazy? She was tearing all over the place,
knocking herself against things. And at last
she ran out on the roof of the old dugout and
her legs went through and there she stuck, bel-
lowing. Ivar came running with his white bag,
and the moment he got to her she was quiet and
let him saw her horn off and daub the place
Emil had been watching his sister, his face
reflecting the sufferings of the cow. "And then
didn't it hurt her any more?" he asked.
Alexandra patted him. "No, not any more.
And in two days they could use her milk
The road to Ivar's homestead was a very poor
one. He had settled in the rough country across
the county line, where no one lived but some
Russians,--half a dozen families who dwelt
together in one long house, divided off like
barracks. Ivar had explained his choice by
saying that the fewer neighbors he had, the
fewer temptations. Nevertheless, when one
considered that his chief business was horse-
doctoring, it seemed rather short-sighted of
him to live in the most inaccessible place he
could find. The Bergson wagon lurched along
over the rough hummocks and grass banks, fol-
lowed the bottom of winding draws, or skirted
the margin of wide lagoons, where the golden
coreopsis grew up out of the clear water and
the wild ducks rose with a whirr of wings.
Lou looked after them helplessly. "I wish
I'd brought my gun, anyway, Alexandra," he
said fretfully. "I could have hidden it under
the straw in the bottom of the wagon."
"Then we'd have had to lie to Ivar. Besides,
they say he can smell dead birds. And if he
knew, we wouldn't get anything out of him,
not even a hammock. I want to talk to him,
and he won't talk sense if he's angry. It makes
Lou sniffed. "Whoever heard of him talking
sense, anyhow! I'd rather have ducks for sup-
per than Crazy Ivar's tongue."
Emil was alarmed. "Oh, but, Lou, you don't
want to make him mad! He might howl!"
They all laughed again, and Oscar urged the
horses up the crumbling side of a clay bank.
They had left the lagoons and the red grass
behind them. In Crazy Ivar's country the
grass was short and gray, the draws deeper
than they were in the Bergsons' neighborhood,
and the land was all broken up into hillocks
and clay ridges. The wild flowers disappeared,
and only in the bottom of the draws and gullies
grew a few of the very toughest and hardiest:
shoestring, and ironweed, and snow-on-the-
"Look, look, Emil, there's Ivar's big pond!"
Alexandra pointed to a shining sheet of water
that lay at the bottom of a shallow draw.
At one end of the pond was an earthen dam,
planted with green willow bushes, and above it
a door and a single window were set into the
hillside. You would not have seen them at all
but for the reflection of the sunlight upon the
four panes of window-glass. And that was all
you saw. Not a shed, not a corral, not a well,
not even a path broken in the curly grass. But
for the piece of rusty stovepipe sticking up
through the sod, you could have walked over
the roof of Ivar's dwelling without dreaming
that you were near a human habitation. Ivar
had lived for three years in the clay bank, with-
out defiling the face of nature any more than the
coyote that had lived there before him had done.
When the Bergsons drove over the hill, Ivar
was sitting in the doorway of his house, reading
the Norwegian Bible. He was a queerly shaped
old man, with a thick, powerful body set on
short bow-legs. His shaggy white hair, falling in
a thick mane about his ruddy cheeks, made him
look older than he was. He was barefoot, but he
wore a clean shirt of unbleached cotton, open at
the neck. He always put on a clean shirt when
Sunday morning came round, though he never
went to church. He had a peculiar religion of
his own and could not get on with any of the
denominations. Often he did not see anybody
from one week's end to another. He kept a
calendar, and every morning he checked off a
day, so that he was never in any doubt as to
which day of the week it was. Ivar hired him-
self out in threshing and corn-husking time,
and he doctored sick animals when he was sent
for. When he was at home, he made ham-
mocks out of twine and committed chapters
of the Bible to memory.
Ivar found contentment in the solitude he
had sought out for himself. He disliked the
litter of human dwellings: the broken food, the
bits of broken china, the old wash-boilers and
tea-kettles thrown into the sunflower patch.
He preferred the cleanness and tidiness of the
wild sod. He always said that the badgers had
cleaner houses than people, and that when he
took a housekeeper her name would be Mrs.
Badger. He best expressed his preference for
his wild homestead by saying that his Bible
seemed truer to him there. If one stood in the
doorway of his cave, and looked off at the rough
land, the smiling sky, the curly grass white in
the hot sunlight; if one listened to the rapturous
song of the lark, the drumming of the quail, the
burr of the locust against that vast silence, one
understood what Ivar meant.
On this Sunday afternoon his face shone with
happiness. He closed the book on his knee,
keeping the place with his horny finger, and
He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run
among the hills;
They give drink to every beast of the field; the wild
asses quench their thirst.
The trees of the Lord are full of sap; the cedars of
Lebanon which he hath planted;
Where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the
fir trees are her house.
The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the
rocks for the conies.
Before he opened his Bible again, Ivar heard
the Bergsons' wagon approaching, and he
sprang up and ran toward it.
"No guns, no guns!" he shouted, waving his
"No, Ivar, no guns," Alexandra called reas-
He dropped his arms and went up to the
wagon, smiling amiably and looking at them
out of his pale blue eyes.
"We want to buy a hammock, if you have
one," Alexandra explained, "and my little
brother, here, wants to see your big pond, where
so many birds come."
Ivar smiled foolishly, and began rubbing the
horses' noses and feeling about their mouths
behind the bits. "Not many birds just now.
A few ducks this morning; and some snipe
come to drink. But there was a crane last week.
She spent one night and came back the next
evening. I don't know why. It is not her sea-
son, of course. Many of them go over in the
fall. Then the pond is full of strange voices
Alexandra translated for Carl, who looked
thoughtful. "Ask him, Alexandra, if it is true
that a sea gull came here once. I have heard so."
She had some difficulty in making the old
He looked puzzled at first, then smote his
hands together as he remembered. "Oh, yes,
yes! A big white bird with long wings and pink
feet. My! what a voice she had! She came in
the afternoon and kept flying about the pond
and screaming until dark. She was in trouble
of some sort, but I could not understand her.
She was going over to the other ocean, maybe,
and did not know how far it was. She was
afraid of never getting there. She was more
mournful than our birds here; she cried in the
night. She saw the light from my window and
darted up to it. Maybe she thought my house
was a boat, she was such a wild thing. Next
morning, when the sun rose, I went out to take
her food, but she flew up into the sky and went
on her way." Ivar ran his fingers through his
thick hair. "I have many strange birds stop
with me here. They come from very far away
and are great company. I hope you boys never
shoot wild birds?"
Lou and Oscar grinned, and Ivar shook his
bushy head. "Yes, I know boys are thoughtless.
But these wild things are God's birds. He
watches over them and counts them, as we do
our cattle; Christ says so in the New Testa-
"Now, Ivar," Lou asked, "may we water
our horses at your pond and give them some
feed? It's a bad road to your place."
"Yes, yes, it is." The old man scrambled
about and began to loose the tugs. "A bad
road, eh, girls? And the bay with a colt at
Oscar brushed the old man aside. "We'll
take care of the horses, Ivar. You'll be finding
some disease on them. Alexandra wants to see
Ivar led Alexandra and Emil to his little
cave house. He had but one room, neatly plas-
tered and whitewashed, and there was a wooden
floor. There was a kitchen stove, a table cov-
ered with oilcloth, two chairs, a clock, a calen-
dar, a few books on the window-shelf; nothing
more. But the place was as clean as a cup-
"But where do you sleep, Ivar?" Emil asked,
Ivar unslung a hammock from a hook on the
wall; in it was rolled a buffalo robe. "There,
my son. A hammock is a good bed, and in
winter I wrap up in this skin. Where I go to
work, the beds are not half so easy as this."
By this time Emil had lost all his timidity.
He thought a cave a very superior kind of
house. There was something pleasantly unusual
about it and about Ivar. "Do the birds know
you will be kind to them, Ivar? Is that why so
many come?" he asked.
Ivar sat down on the floor and tucked his
feet under him. "See, little brother, they have
come from a long way, and they are very tired.
From up there where they are flying, our coun-
try looks dark and flat. They must have water
to drink and to bathe in before they can go on
with their journey. They look this way and
that, and far below them they see something
shining, like a piece of glass set in the dark
earth. That is my pond. They come to it and
are not disturbed. Maybe I sprinkle a little
corn. They tell the other birds, and next year
more come this way. They have their roads up
there, as we have down here."
Emil rubbed his knees thoughtfully. "And
is that true, Ivar, about the head ducks falling
back when they are tired, and the hind ones
taking their place?"
"Yes. The point of the wedge gets the worst
of it; they cut the wind. They can only stand
it there a little while--half an hour, maybe.
Then they fall back and the wedge splits a little,
while the rear ones come up the middle to the
front. Then it closes up and they fly on, with a
new edge. They are always changing like
that, up in the air. Never any confusion; just
like soldiers who have been drilled."
Alexandra had selected her hammock by the
time the boys came up from the pond. They
would not come in, but sat in the shade of the
bank outside while Alexandra and Ivar talked
about the birds and about his housekeeping,
and why he never ate meat, fresh or salt.
Alexandra was sitting on one of the wooden
chairs, her arms resting on the table. Ivar was
sitting on the floor at her feet. "Ivar," she said
suddenly, beginning to trace the pattern on the
oilcloth with her forefinger, "I came to-day
more because I wanted to talk to you than be-
cause I wanted to buy a hammock."
"Yes?" The old man scraped his bare feet
on the plank floor.
"We have a big bunch of hogs, Ivar. I
wouldn't sell in the spring, when everybody
advised me to, and now so many people are
losing their hogs that I am frightened. What
can be done?"
Ivar's little eyes began to shine. They lost
"You feed them swill and such stuff? Of
course! And sour milk? Oh, yes! And keep
them in a stinking pen? I tell you, sister, the
hogs of this country are put upon! They be-
come unclean, like the hogs in the Bible. If you
kept your chickens like that, what would hap-
pen? You have a little sorghum patch, maybe?
Put a fence around it, and turn the hogs in.
Build a shed to give them shade, a thatch on
poles. Let the boys haul water to them in bar-
rels, clean water, and plenty. Get them off the
old stinking ground, and do not let them go
back there until winter. Give them only grain
and clean feed, such as you would give horses
or cattle. Hogs do not like to be filthy."
The boys outside the door had been listening.
Lou nudged his brother. "Come, the horses
are done eating. Let's hitch up and get out of
here. He'll fill her full of notions. She'll be for
having the pigs sleep with us, next."
Oscar grunted and got up. Carl, who could
not understand what Ivar said, saw that the
two boys were displeased. They did not mind
hard work, but they hated experiments and
could never see the use of taking pains. Even
Lou, who was more elastic than his older bro-
ther, disliked to do anything different from
their neighbors. He felt that it made them
conspicuous and gave people a chance to talk
Once they were on the homeward road, the
boys forgot their ill-humor and joked about
Ivar and his birds. Alexandra did not propose
any reforms in the care of the pigs, and they
hoped she had forgotten Ivar's talk. They
agreed that he was crazier than ever, and would
never be able to prove up on his land because
he worked it so little. Alexandra privately
resolved that she would have a talk with Ivar
about this and stir him up. The boys persuaded
Carl to stay for supper and go swimming in the
pasture pond after dark.
That evening, after she had washed the sup-
per dishes, Alexandra sat down on the kitchen
doorstep, while her mother was mixing the
bread. It was a still, deep-breathing summer
night, full of the smell of the hay fields. Sounds
of laughter and splashing came up from the
pasture, and when the moon rose rapidly above
the bare rim of the prairie, the pond glittered
like polished metal, and she could see the flash
of white bodies as the boys ran about the edge,
or jumped into the water. Alexandra watched
the shimmering pool dreamily, but eventually
her eyes went back to the sorghum patch south
of the barn, where she was planning to make her
new pig corral.
For the first three years after John Bergson's
death, the affairs of his family prospered. Then
came the hard times that brought every one on
the Divide to the brink of despair; three years
of drouth and failure, the last struggle of a wild
soil against the encroaching plowshare. The
first of these fruitless summers the Bergson boys
bore courageously. The failure of the corn
crop made labor cheap. Lou and Oscar hired
two men and put in bigger crops than ever
before. They lost everything they spent. The
whole country was discouraged. Farmers who
were already in debt had to give up their
land. A few foreclosures demoralized the
county. The settlers sat about on the wooden
sidewalks in the little town and told each other
that the country was never meant for men to
live in; the thing to do was to get back to Iowa,
to Illinois, to any place that had been proved
habitable. The Bergson boys, certainly, would
have been happier with their uncle Otto, in the
bakery shop in Chicago. Like most of their
neighbors, they were meant to follow in paths
already marked out for them, not to break
trails in a new country. A steady job, a few
holidays, nothing to think about, and they
would have been very happy. It was no fault
of theirs that they had been dragged into the
wilderness when they were little boys. A
pioneer should have imagination, should be
able to enjoy the idea of things more than the
The second of these barren summers was
passing. One September afternoon Alexandra
had gone over to the garden across the draw to
dig sweet potatoes--they had been thriving
upon the weather that was fatal to everything
else. But when Carl Linstrum came up the
garden rows to find her, she was not working.
She was standing lost in thought, leaning upon
her pitchfork, her sunbonnet lying beside her
on the ground. The dry garden patch smelled
of drying vines and was strewn with yellow
seed-cucumbers and pumpkins and citrons.
At one end, next the rhubarb, grew feathery
asparagus, with red berries. Down the middle
of the garden was a row of gooseberry and cur-
rant bushes. A few tough zenias and marigolds
and a row of scarlet sage bore witness to the
buckets of water that Mrs. Bergson had carried
there after sundown, against the prohibition of
her sons. Carl came quietly and slowly up the
garden path, looking intently at Alexandra.
She did not hear him. She was standing per-
fectly still, with that serious ease so character-
istic of her. Her thick, reddish braids, twisted
about her head, fairly burned in the sunlight.
The air was cool enough to make the warm sun
pleasant on one's back and shoulders, and so
clear that the eye could follow a hawk up and
up, into the blazing blue depths of the sky.
Even Carl, never a very cheerful boy, and con-
siderably darkened by these last two bitter
years, loved the country on days like this, felt
something strong and young and wild come out
of it, that laughed at care.
"Alexandra," he said as he approached her,
"I want to talk to you. Let's sit down by the
gooseberry bushes." He picked up her sack of
potatoes and they crossed the garden. "Boys
gone to town?" he asked as he sank down on
the warm, sun-baked earth. "Well, we have
made up our minds at last, Alexandra. We are
really going away."
She looked at him as if she were a little fright-
ened. "Really, Carl? Is it settled?"
"Yes, father has heard from St. Louis, and
they will give him back his old job in the cigar
factory. He must be there by the first of
November. They are taking on new men then.
We will sell the place for whatever we can get,
and auction the stock. We haven't enough to
ship. I am going to learn engraving with a
German engraver there, and then try to get
work in Chicago."
Alexandra's hands dropped in her lap. Her
eyes became dreamy and filled with tears.
Carl's sensitive lower lip trembled. He
scratched in the soft earth beside him with a
stick. "That's all I hate about it, Alexandra,"
he said slowly. "You've stood by us through
so much and helped father out so many times,
and now it seems as if we were running off and
leaving you to face the worst of it. But it isn't
as if we could really ever be of any help to you.
We are only one more drag, one more thing you
look out for and feel responsible for. Father
was never meant for a farmer, you know that.
And I hate it. We'd only get in deeper and
"Yes, yes, Carl, I know. You are wasting
your life here. You are able to do much better
things. You are nearly nineteen now, and I
wouldn't have you stay. I've always hoped
you would get away. But I can't help feeling
scared when I think how I will miss you--
more than you will ever know." She brushed
the tears from her cheeks, not trying to hide
"But, Alexandra," he said sadly and wist-
fully, "I've never been any real help to you,
beyond sometimes trying to keep the boys in a
Alexandra smiled and shook her head. "Oh,
it's not that. Nothing like that. It's by under-
standing me, and the boys, and mother, that
you've helped me. I expect that is the only
way one person ever really can help another.
I think you are about the only one that ever
helped me. Somehow it will take more courage
to bear your going than everything that has
Carl looked at the ground. "You see, we've
all depended so on you," he said, "even father.
He makes me laugh. When anything comes up
he always says, 'I wonder what the Bergsons are
going to do about that? I guess I'll go and ask
her.' I'll never forget that time, when we first
came here, and our horse had the colic, and I ran
over to your place--your father was away,
and you came home with me and showed father
how to let the wind out of the horse. You were
only a little girl then, but you knew ever so
much more about farm work than poor father.
You remember how homesick I used to get,
and what long talks we used to have coming
from school? We've someway always felt alike
"Yes, that's it; we've liked the same things
and we've liked them together, without any-
body else knowing. And we've had good times,
hunting for Christmas trees and going for ducks
and making our plum wine together every year.
We've never either of us had any other close
friend. And now--" Alexandra wiped her
eyes with the corner of her apron, "and now I
must remember that you are going where you
will have many friends, and will find the work
you were meant to do. But you'll write to me,
Carl? That will mean a great deal to me here."
"I'll write as long as I live," cried the boy
impetuously. "And I'll be working for you as
much as for myself, Alexandra. I want to do
something you'll like and be proud of. I'm a
fool here, but I know I can do something!" He
sat up and frowned at the red grass.
Alexandra sighed. "How discouraged the
boys will be when they hear. They always
come home from town discouraged, anyway.
So many people are trying to leave the country,
and they talk to our boys and make them low-
spirited. I'm afraid they are beginning to feel
hard toward me because I won't listen to any
talk about going. Sometimes I feel like I'm
getting tired of standing up for this country."
"I won't tell the boys yet, if you'd rather
"Oh, I'll tell them myself, to-night, when
they come home. They'll be talking wild, any-
way, and no good comes of keeping bad news.
It's all harder on them than it is on me. Lou
wants to get married, poor boy, and he can't
until times are better. See, there goes the sun,
Carl. I must be getting back. Mother will want
her potatoes. It's chilly already, the moment
the light goes."
Alexandra rose and looked about. A golden
afterglow throbbed in the west, but the coun-
try already looked empty and mournful. A
dark moving mass came over the western hill,
the Lee boy was bringing in the herd from the
other half-section. Emil ran from the windmill
to open the corral gate. From the log house, on
the little rise across the draw, the smoke was
curling. The cattle lowed and bellowed. In
the sky the pale half-moon was slowly silvering.
Alexandra and Carl walked together down the
potato rows. "I have to keep telling myself
what is going to happen," she said softly.
"Since you have been here, ten years now, I
have never really been lonely. But I can
remember what it was like before. Now I shall
have nobody but Emil. But he is my boy, and
he is tender-hearted."
That night, when the boys were called to
supper, they sat down moodily. They had
worn their coats to town, but they ate in their
striped shirts and suspenders. They were grown
men now, and, as Alexandra said, for the last
few years they had been growing more and
more like themselves. Lou was still the slighter
of the two, the quicker and more intelligent, but
apt to go off at half-cock. He had a lively blue
eye, a thin, fair skin (always burned red to the
neckband of his shirt in summer), stiff, yellow
hair that would not lie down on his head, and a
bristly little yellow mustache, of which he
was very proud. Oscar could not grow a mus-
tache; his pale face was as bare as an egg, and
his white eyebrows gave it an empty look. He
was a man of powerful body and unusual endur-
ance; the sort of man you could attach to a
corn-sheller as you would an engine. He would
turn it all day, without hurrying, without slow-
ing down. But he was as indolent of mind as
he was unsparing of his body. His love of
routine amounted to a vice. He worked like an
insect, always doing the same thing over in the
same way, regardless of whether it was best or
no. He felt that there was a sovereign virtue
in mere bodily toil, and he rather liked to do
things in the hardest way. If a field had once
been in corn, he couldn't bear to put it into
wheat. He liked to begin his corn-planting at
the same time every year, whether the season
were backward or forward. He seemed to feel
that by his own irreproachable regularity he
would clear himself of blame and reprove the
weather. When the wheat crop failed, he
threshed the straw at a dead loss to demon-
strate how little grain there was, and thus
prove his case against Providence.
Lou, on the other hand, was fussy and
flighty; always planned to get through two
days' work in one, and often got only the least
important things done. He liked to keep the
place up, but he never got round to doing odd
jobs until he had to neglect more pressing work
to attend to them. In the middle of the wheat
harvest, when the grain was over-ripe and every
hand was needed, he would stop to mend fences
or to patch the harness; then dash down to the
field and overwork and be laid up in bed for a
week. The two boys balanced each other, and
they pulled well together. They had been good
friends since they were children. One seldom
went anywhere, even to town, without the other.
To-night, after they sat down to supper,
Oscar kept looking at Lou as if he expected him
to say something, and Lou blinked his eyes and
frowned at his plate. It was Alexandra herself
who at last opened the discussion.
"The Linstrums," she said calmly, as she
put another plate of hot biscuit on the table,
"are going back to St. Louis. The old man is
going to work in the cigar factory again."
At this Lou plunged in. "You see, Alex-
andra, everybody who can crawl out is going
away. There's no use of us trying to stick it
out, just to be stubborn. There's something in
knowing when to quit."
"Where do you want to go, Lou?"
"Any place where things will grow." said
Lou reached for a potato. "Chris Arnson has
traded his half-section for a place down on the
"Who did he trade with?"
"Charley Fuller, in town."
"Fuller the real estate man? You see, Lou,
that Fuller has a head on him. He's buy-
ing and trading for every bit of land he can
get up here. It'll make him a rich man, some
"He's rich now, that's why he can take a
"Why can't we? We'll live longer than he
will. Some day the land itself will be worth
more than all we can ever raise on it."
Lou laughed. "It could be worth that, and
still not be worth much. Why, Alexandra, you
don't know what you're talking about. Our
place wouldn't bring now what it would six
years ago. The fellows that settled up here just
made a mistake. Now they're beginning to see
this high land wasn't never meant to grow no-
thing on, and everybody who ain't fixed to graze
cattle is trying to crawl out. It's too high to
farm up here. All the Americans are skinning
out. That man Percy Adams, north of town,
told me that he was going to let Fuller take his
land and stuff for four hundred dollars and a
ticket to Chicago."
"There's Fuller again!" Alexandra ex-
claimed. "I wish that man would take me for a
partner. He's feathering his nest! If only poor
people could learn a little from rich people!
But all these fellows who are running off are
bad farmers, like poor Mr. Linstrum. They
couldn't get ahead even in good years, and they
all got into debt while father was getting out.
I think we ought to hold on as long as we can on
father's account. He was so set on keeping this
land. He must have seen harder times than this,
here. How was it in the early days, mother?"
Mrs. Bergson was weeping quietly. These
family discussions always depressed her, and
made her remember all that she had been torn
away from. "I don't see why the boys are
always taking on about going away," she said,
wiping her eyes. "I don't want to move again;
out to some raw place, maybe, where we'd be
worse off than we are here, and all to do over
again. I won't move! If the rest of you go, I
will ask some of the neighbors to take me in,
and stay and be buried by father. I'm not
going to leave him by himself on the prairie,
for cattle to run over." She began to cry more
The boys looked angry. Alexandra put a
soothing hand on her mother's shoulder.
"There's no question of that, mother. You
don't have to go if you don't want to. A third
of the place belongs to you by American law,
and we can't sell without your consent. We only
want you to advise us. How did it use to be
when you and father first came? Was it really
as bad as this, or not?"
"Oh, worse! Much worse," moaned Mrs.
Bergson. "Drouth, chince-bugs, hail, every-
thing! My garden all cut to pieces like sauer-
kraut. No grapes on the creek, no nothing.
The people all lived just like coyotes."
Oscar got up and tramped out of the kitchen.
Lou followed him. They felt that Alexandra
had taken an unfair advantage in turning their
mother loose on them. The next morning they
were silent and reserved. They did not offer
to take the women to church, but went down
to the barn immediately after breakfast and
stayed there all day. When Carl Linstrum came
over in the afternoon, Alexandra winked to
him and pointed toward the barn. He under-
stood her and went down to play cards with the
boys. They believed that a very wicked thing
to do on Sunday, and it relieved their feelings.
Alexandra stayed in the house. On Sunday
afternoon Mrs. Bergson always took a nap, and
Alexandra read. During the week she read only
the newspaper, but on Sunday, and in the long
evenings of winter, she read a good deal; read
a few things over a great many times. She knew
long portions of the "Frithjof Saga" by heart,
and, like most Swedes who read at all, she was
fond of Longfellow's verse,--the ballads and
the "Golden Legend" and "The Spanish Stu-
dent." To-day she sat in the wooden rocking-
chair with the Swedish Bible open on her knees,
but she was not reading. She was looking
thoughtfully away at the point where the up-
land road disappeared over the rim of the
prairie. Her body was in an attitude of perfect
repose, such as it was apt to take when she was
thinking earnestly. Her mind was slow, truth-
ful, steadfast. She had not the least spark of
All afternoon the sitting-room was full of
quiet and sunlight. Emil was making rabbit
traps in the kitchen shed. The hens were cluck-
ing and scratching brown holes in the flower
beds, and the wind was teasing the prince's
feather by the door.
That evening Carl came in with the boys to
"Emil," said Alexandra, when they were all
seated at the table, "how would you like to go
traveling? Because I am going to take a trip,
and you can go with me if you want to."
The boys looked up in amazement; they were
always afraid of Alexandra's schemes. Carl
"I've been thinking, boys," she went on,
"that maybe I am too set against making a
change. I'm going to take Brigham and the
buckboard to-morrow and drive down to
the river country and spend a few days looking
over what they've got down there. If I find
anything good, you boys can go down and make
"Nobody down there will trade for anything
up here," said Oscar gloomily.
"That's just what I want to find out. Maybe
they are just as discontented down there as we
are up here. Things away from home often look
better than they are. You know what your
Hans Andersen book says, Carl, about the
Swedes liking to buy Danish bread and the
Danes liking to buy Swedish bread, because
people always think the bread of another
country is better than their own. Anyway,
I've heard so much about the river farms, I
won't be satisfied till I've seen for myself."
Lou fidgeted. "Look out! Don't agree to
anything. Don't let them fool you."
Lou was apt to be fooled himself. He had not
yet learned to keep away from the shell-game
wagons that followed the circus.
After supper Lou put on a necktie and went
across the fields to court Annie Lee, and Carl
and Oscar sat down to a game of checkers, while
Alexandra read "The Swiss Family Robinson"
aloud to her mother and Emil. It was not long
before the two boys at the table neglected their
game to listen. They were all big children
together, and they found the adventures of the
family in the tree house so absorbing that they
gave them their undivided attention.
Alexandra and Emil spent five days down
among the river farms, driving up and down
the valley. Alexandra talked to the men about
their crops and to the women about their poul-
try. She spent a whole day with one young
farmer who had been away at school, and who
was experimenting with a new kind of clover
hay. She learned a great deal. As they drove
along, she and Emil talked and planned. At
last, on the sixth day, Alexandra turned Brig-
ham's head northward and left the river behind.
"There's nothing in it for us down there,
Emil. There are a few fine farms, but they are
owned by the rich men in town, and couldn't be
bought. Most of the land is rough and hilly.
They can always scrape along down there, but
they can never do anything big. Down there
they have a little certainty, but up with us
there is a big chance. We must have faith in
the high land, Emil. I want to hold on harder
than ever, and when you're a man you'll thank
me." She urged Brigham forward.
When the road began to climb the first long
swells of the Divide, Alexandra hummed an old
Swedish hymn, and Emil wondered why his
sister looked so happy. Her face was so radiant
that he felt shy about asking her. For the first
time, perhaps, since that land emerged from
the waters of geologic ages, a human face was
set toward it with love and yearning. It seemed
beautiful to her, rich and strong and glorious.
Her eyes drank in the breadth of it, until her
tears blinded her. Then the Genius of the
Divide, the great, free spirit which breathes
across it, must have bent lower than it ever
bent to a human will before. The history of
every country begins in the heart of a man or
Alexandra reached home in the afternoon.
That evening she held a family council and told
her brothers all that she had seen and heard.
"I want you boys to go down yourselves and
look it over. Nothing will convince you like
seeing with your own eyes. The river land was
settled before this, and so they are a few years
ahead of us, and have learned more about farm-
ing. The land sells for three times as much as
this, but in five years we will double it. The
rich men down there own all the best land, and
they are buying all they can get. The thing to
do is to sell our cattle and what little old corn
we have, and buy the Linstrum place. Then
the next thing to do is to take out two loans on
our half-sections, and buy Peter Crow's place;
raise every dollar we can, and buy every acre
"Mortgage the homestead again?" Lou cried.
He sprang up and began to wind the clock
furiously. "I won't slave to pay off another
mortgage. I'll never do it. You'd just as
soon kill us all, Alexandra, to carry out some
Oscar rubbed his high, pale forehead. "How
do you propose to pay off your mortgages?"
Alexandra looked from one to the other and
bit her lip. They had never seen her so ner-
vous. "See here," she brought out at last.
"We borrow the money for six years. Well,
with the money we buy a half-section from
Linstrum and a half from Crow, and a quarter
from Struble, maybe. That will give us up-
wards of fourteen hundred acres, won't it?
You won't have to pay off your mortgages for
six years. By that time, any of this land will be
worth thirty dollars an acre--it will be worth
fifty, but we'll say thirty; then you can sell a
garden patch anywhere, and pay off a debt of
sixteen hundred dollars. It's not the principal
I'm worried about, it's the interest and taxes.
We'll have to strain to meet the payments. But
as sure as we are sitting here to-night, we can
sit down here ten years from now independent
landowners, not struggling farmers any longer.
The chance that father was always looking for
Lou was pacing the floor. "But how do you
KNOW that land is going to go up enough to pay
the mortgages and--"
"And make us rich besides?" Alexandra put
in firmly. "I can't explain that, Lou. You'll
have to take my word for it. I KNOW, that's all.
When you drive about over the country you
can feel it coming."
Oscar had been sitting with his head lowered,
his hands hanging between his knees. "But we
can't work so much land," he said dully, as if he
were talking to himself. "We can't even try.
It would just lie there and we'd work ourselves
to death." He sighed, and laid his calloused
fist on the table.
Alexandra's eyes filled with tears. She put
her hand on his shoulder. "You poor boy, you
won't have to work it. The men in town who
are buying up other people's land don't try to
farm it. They are the men to watch, in a new
country. Let's try to do like the shrewd ones,
and not like these stupid fellows. I don't want
you boys always to have to work like this. I
want you to be independent, and Emil to go
Lou held his head as if it were splitting.
"Everybody will say we are crazy. It must be
crazy, or everybody would be doing it."
"If they were, we wouldn't have much
chance. No, Lou, I was talking about that with
the smart young man who is raising the new
kind of clover. He says the right thing is usu-
ally just what everybody don't do. Why are
we better fixed than any of our neighbors?
Because father had more brains. Our people
were better people than these in the old coun-
try. We OUGHT to do more than they do, and see
further ahead. Yes, mother, I'm going to clear
the table now."
Alexandra rose. The boys went to the stable
to see to the stock, and they were gone a long
while. When they came back Lou played on
his DRAGHARMONIKA and Oscar sat figuring at his
father's secretary all evening. They said no-
thing more about Alexandra's project, but she
felt sure now that they would consent to it.
Just before bedtime Oscar went out for a pail of
water. When he did not come back, Alexandra
threw a shawl over her head and ran down the
path to the windmill. She found him sitting
there with his head in his hands, and she sat
down beside him.
"Don't do anything you don't want to do,
Oscar," she whispered. She waited a moment,
but he did not stir. "I won't say any more
about it, if you'd rather not. What makes you
"I dread signing my name to them pieces of
paper," he said slowly. "All the time I was a
boy we had a mortgage hanging over us."
"Then don't sign one. I don't want you to,
if you feel that way."
Oscar shook his head. "No, I can see there's
a chance that way. I've thought a good while
there might be. We're in so deep now, we
might as well go deeper. But it's hard work
pulling out of debt. Like pulling a threshing-
machine out of the mud; breaks your back. Me
and Lou's worked hard, and I can't see it's got
us ahead much."
"Nobody knows about that as well as I do,
Oscar. That's why I want to try an easier way.
I don't want you to have to grub for every
"Yes, I know what you mean. Maybe it'll
come out right. But signing papers is signing
papers. There ain't no maybe about that."
He took his pail and trudged up the path to the
Alexandra drew her shawl closer about her
and stood leaning against the frame of the mill,
looking at the stars which glittered so keenly
through the frosty autumn air. She always
loved to watch them, to think of their vastness
and distance, and of their ordered march. It
fortified her to reflect upon the great operations
of nature, and when she thought of the law that
lay behind them, she felt a sense of personal
security. That night she had a new conscious-
ness of the country, felt almost a new relation
to it. Even her talk with the boys had not
taken away the feeling that had overwhelmed
her when she drove back to the Divide that
afternoon. She had never known before how
much the country meant to her. The chirping
of the insects down in the long grass had been
like the sweetest music. She had felt as if
her heart were hiding down there, somewhere,
with the quail and the plover and all the lit-
tle wild things that crooned or buzzed in the
sun. Under the long shaggy ridges, she felt the
IT is sixteen years since John Bergson died.
His wife now lies beside him, and the white
shaft that marks their graves gleams across the
wheat-fields. Could he rise from beneath it,
he would not know the country under which he
has been asleep. The shaggy coat of the prairie,
which they lifted to make him a bed, has van-
ished forever. From the Norwegian graveyard
one looks out over a vast checker-board, marked
off in squares of wheat and corn; light and
dark, dark and light. Telephone wires hum
along the white roads, which always run at
right angles. From the graveyard gate one can
count a dozen gayly painted farmhouses; the
gilded weather-vanes on the big red barns wink
at each other across the green and brown and
yellow fields. The light steel windmills trem-
ble throughout their frames and tug at their
moorings, as they vibrate in the wind that often
blows from one week's end to another across
that high, active, resolute stretch of country.
The Divide is now thickly populated. The
rich soil yields heavy harvests; the dry, bracing
climate and the smoothness of the land make
labor easy for men and beasts. There are few
scenes more gratifying than a spring plowing
in that country, where the furrows of a single
field often lie a mile in length, and the brown
earth, with such a strong, clean smell, and such
a power of growth and fertility in it, yields itself
eagerly to the plow; rolls away from the shear,
not even dimming the brightness of the metal,
with a soft, deep sigh of happiness. The wheat-
cutting sometimes goes on all night as well as
all day, and in good seasons there are scarcely
men and horses enough to do the harvesting.
The grain is so heavy that it bends toward the
blade and cuts like velvet.
There is something frank and joyous and
young in the open face of the country. It gives
itself ungrudgingly to the moods of the season,
holding nothing back. Like the plains of Lom-
bardy, it seems to rise a little to meet the sun.
The air and the earth are curiously mated and
intermingled, as if the one were the breath of
the other. You feel in the atmosphere the same
tonic, puissant quality that is in the tilth, the
same strength and resoluteness.
One June morning a young man stood at the
gate of the Norwegian graveyard, sharpening
his scythe in strokes unconsciously timed to the
tune he was whistling. He wore a flannel cap
and duck trousers, and the sleeves of his white
flannel shirt were rolled back to the elbow.
When he was satisfied with the edge of his
blade, he slipped the whetstone into his hip
pocket and began to swing his scythe, still
whistling, but softly, out of respect to the quiet
folk about him. Unconscious respect, probably,
for he seemed intent upon his own thoughts,
and, like the Gladiator's, they were far away.
He was a splendid figure of a boy, tall and
straight as a young pine tree, with a hand-
some head, and stormy gray eyes, deeply set
under a serious brow. The space between his
two front teeth, which were unusually far
apart, gave him the proficiency in whistling
for which he was distinguished at college.
(He also played the cornet in the University
When the grass required his close attention,
or when he had to stoop to cut about a head-
stone, he paused in his lively air,--the "Jewel"
song,--taking it up where he had left it when
his scythe swung free again. He was not think-
ing about the tired pioneers over whom his
blade glittered. The old wild country, the
struggle in which his sister was destined to suc-
ceed while so many men broke their hearts and
died, he can scarcely remember. That is all
among the dim things of childhood and has been
forgotten in the brighter pattern life weaves
to-day, in the bright facts of being captain of
the track team, and holding the interstate
record for the high jump, in the all-suffusing
brightness of being twenty-one. Yet some-
times, in the pauses of his work, the young man
frowned and looked at the ground with an
intentness which suggested that even twenty-
one might have its problems.
When he had been mowing the better part of
an hour, he heard the rattle of a light cart on
the road behind him. Supposing that it was
his sister coming back from one of her farms,
he kept on with his work. The cart stopped at
the gate and a merry contralto voice called,
"Almost through, Emil?" He dropped his
scythe and went toward the fence, wiping his
face and neck with his handkerchief. In the
cart sat a young woman who wore driving
gauntlets and a wide shade hat, trimmed with
red poppies. Her face, too, was rather like a
poppy, round and brown, with rich color in her
cheeks and lips, and her dancing yellow-brown
eyes bubbled with gayety. The wind was flap-
ping her big hat and teasing a curl of her
chestnut-colored hair. She shook her head at
the tall youth.
"What time did you get over here? That's
not much of a job for an athlete. Here I've
been to town and back. Alexandra lets you
sleep late. Oh, I know! Lou's wife was telling
me about the way she spoils you. I was going
to give you a lift, if you were done." She gath-
ered up her reins.
"But I will be, in a minute. Please wait for
me, Marie," Emil coaxed. "Alexandra sent me
to mow our lot, but I've done half a dozen
others, you see. Just wait till I finish off the
Kourdnas'. By the way, they were Bohemians.
Why aren't they up in the Catholic grave-
"Free-thinkers," replied the young woman
"Lots of the Bohemian boys at the Univer-
sity are," said Emil, taking up his scythe again.
"What did you ever burn John Huss for, any-
way? It's made an awful row. They still jaw
about it in history classes."
"We'd do it right over again, most of us,"
said the young woman hotly. "Don't they ever
teach you in your history classes that you'd all
be heathen Turks if it hadn't been for the
Emil had fallen to mowing. "Oh, there's no
denying you're a spunky little bunch, you
Czechs," he called back over his shoulder.
Marie Shabata settled herself in her seat
and watched the rhythmical movement of the
young man's long arms, swinging her foot as
if in time to some air that was going through
her mind. The minutes passed. Emil mowed
vigorously and Marie sat sunning herself and
watching the long grass fall. She sat with the
ease that belongs to persons of an essentially
happy nature, who can find a comfortable spot
almost anywhere; who are supple, and quick in
adapting themselves to circumstances. After a
final swish, Emil snapped the gate and sprang
into the cart, holding his scythe well out over
the wheel. "There," he sighed. "I gave old
man Lee a cut or so, too. Lou's wife needn't
talk. I never see Lou's scythe over here."
Marie clucked to her horse. "Oh, you know
Annie!" She looked at the young man's bare
arms. "How brown you've got since you came
home. I wish I had an athlete to mow my
orchard. I get wet to my knees when I go
down to pick cherries."
"You can have one, any time you want him.
Better wait until after it rains." Emil squinted
off at the horizon as if he were looking for clouds.
"Will you? Oh, there's a good boy!" She
turned her head to him with a quick, bright
smile. He felt it rather than saw it. Indeed,
he had looked away with the purpose of not see-
ing it. "I've been up looking at Angelique's
wedding clothes," Marie went on, "and I'm so
excited I can hardly wait until Sunday. Ame-
dee will be a handsome bridegroom. Is any-
body but you going to stand up with him? Well,
then it will be a handsome wedding party."
She made a droll face at Emil, who flushed.
"Frank," Marie continued, flicking her horse,
"is cranky at me because I loaned his saddle
to Jan Smirka, and I'm terribly afraid he won't
take me to the dance in the evening. Maybe
the supper will tempt him. All Angelique's
folks are baking for it, and all Amedee's twenty
cousins. There will be barrels of beer. If once
I get Frank to the supper, I'll see that I stay
for the dance. And by the way, Emil, you
mustn't dance with me but once or twice. You
must dance with all the French girls. It hurts
their feelings if you don't. They think you're
proud because you've been away to school or
Emil sniffed. "How do you know they think
"Well, you didn't dance with them much at
Raoul Marcel's party, and I could tell how they
took it by the way they looked at you--and at
"All right," said Emil shortly, studying the
glittering blade of his scythe.
They drove westward toward Norway Creek,
and toward a big white house that stood on a
hill, several miles across the fields. There were
so many sheds and outbuildings grouped about
it that the place looked not unlike a tiny village.
A stranger, approaching it, could not help notic-
ing the beauty and fruitfulness of the outlying
fields. There was something individual about
the great farm, a most unusual trimness and
care for detail. On either side of the road, for a
mile before you reached the foot of the hill,
stood tall osage orange hedges, their glossy
green marking off the yellow fields. South of
the hill, in a low, sheltered swale, surrounded by
a mulberry hedge, was the orchard, its fruit trees
knee-deep in timothy grass. Any one there-
abouts would have told you that this was one
of the richest farms on the Divide, and that
the farmer was a woman, Alexandra Bergson.
If you go up the hill and enter Alexandra's
big house, you will find that it is curiously
unfinished and uneven in comfort. One room
is papered, carpeted, over-furnished; the next
is almost bare. The pleasantest rooms in the
house are the kitchen--where Alexandra's
three young Swedish girls chatter and cook and
pickle and preserve all summer long--and the
sitting-room, in which Alexandra has brought
together the old homely furniture that the
Bergsons used in their first log house, the fam-
ily portraits, and the few things her mother
brought from Sweden.
When you go out of the house into the flower
garden, there you feel again the order and fine
arrangement manifest all over the great farm;
in the fencing and hedging, in the windbreaks
and sheds, in the symmetrical pasture ponds,
planted with scrub willows to give shade to the
cattle in fly-time. There is even a white row of
beehives in the orchard, under the walnut trees.
You feel that, properly, Alexandra's house is
the big out-of-doors, and that it is in the soil
that she expresses herself best.
Emil reached home a little past noon, and
when he went into the kitchen Alexandra was
already seated at the head of the long table,
having dinner with her men, as she always did
unless there were visitors. He slipped into his
empty place at his sister's right. The three
pretty young Swedish girls who did Alexandra's
housework were cutting pies, refilling coffee-
cups, placing platters of bread and meat and
potatoes upon the red tablecloth, and continu-
ally getting in each other's way between the
table and the stove. To be sure they always
wasted a good deal of time getting in each other's
way and giggling at each other's mistakes. But,
as Alexandra had pointedly told her sisters-in-
law, it was to hear them giggle that she kept
three young things in her kitchen; the work she
could do herself, if it were necessary. These
girls, with their long letters from home, their
finery, and their love-affairs, afforded her a
great deal of entertainment, and they were com-
pany for her when Emil was away at school.
Of the youngest girl, Signa, who has a pretty
figure, mottled pink cheeks, and yellow hair,
Alexandra is very fond, though she keeps a
sharp eye upon her. Signa is apt to be skittish
at mealtime, when the men are about, and to
spill the coffee or upset the cream. It is sup-
posed that Nelse Jensen, one of the six men at
the dinner-table, is courting Signa, though he
has been so careful not to commit himself that
no one in the house, least of all Signa, can tell
just how far the matter has progressed. Nelse
watches her glumly as she waits upon the table,
and in the evening he sits on a bench behind the
stove with his DRAGHARMONIKA, playing mournful
airs and watching her as she goes about her
work. When Alexandra asked Signa whether
she thought Nelse was in earnest, the poor child
hid her hands under her apron and murmured,
"I don't know, ma'm. But he scolds me about
everything, like as if he wanted to have me!"
At Alexandra's left sat a very old man, bare-
foot and wearing a long blue blouse, open at the
neck. His shaggy head is scarcely whiter than
it was sixteen years ago, but his little blue eyes
have become pale and watery, and his ruddy
face is withered, like an apple that has clung
all winter to the tree. When Ivar lost his land
through mismanagement a dozen years ago,
Alexandra took him in, and he has been a mem-
ber of her household ever since. He is too old to
work in the fields, but he hitches and unhitches
the work-teams and looks after the health
of the stock. Sometimes of a winter evening
Alexandra calls him into the sitting-room to
read the Bible aloud to her, for he still reads
very well. He dislikes human habitations, so
Alexandra has fitted him up a room in the barn,
where he is very comfortable, being near the
horses and, as he says, further from tempta-
tions. No one has ever found out what his
temptations are. In cold weather he sits by the
kitchen fire and makes hammocks or mends
harness until it is time to go to bed. Then he
says his prayers at great length behind the
stove, puts on his buffalo-skin coat and goes
out to his room in the barn.
Alexandra herself has changed very little.
Her figure is fuller, and she has more color. She
seems sunnier and more vigorous than she did as
a young girl. But she still has the same calmness
and deliberation of manner, the same clear eyes,
and she still wears her hair in two braids wound
round her head. It is so curly that fiery ends
escape from the braids and make her head look
like one of the big double sunflowers that fringe
her vegetable garden. Her face is always tanned
in summer, for her sunbonnet is oftener on her
arm than on her head. But where her collar
falls away from her neck, or where her sleeves
are pushed back from her wrist, the skin is of
such smoothness and whiteness as none but
Swedish women ever possess; skin with the
freshness of the snow itself.
Alexandra did not talk much at the table,
but she encouraged her men to talk, and she
always listened attentively, even when they
seemed to be talking foolishly.
To-day Barney Flinn, the big red-headed
Irishman who had been with Alexandra for five
years and who was actually her foreman, though
he had no such title, was grumbling about the
new silo she had put up that spring. It hap-
pened to be the first silo on the Divide, and
Alexandra's neighbors and her men were skep-
tical about it. "To be sure, if the thing don't
work, we'll have plenty of feed without it,
indeed," Barney conceded.
Nelse Jensen, Signa's gloomy suitor, had his
word. "Lou, he says he wouldn't have no silo
on his place if you'd give it to him. He says
the feed outen it gives the stock the bloat. He
heard of somebody lost four head of horses,
feedin' 'em that stuff."
Alexandra looked down the table from one
to another. "Well, the only way we can find
out is to try. Lou and I have different notions
about feeding stock, and that's a good thing.
It's bad if all the members of a family think
alike. They never get anywhere. Lou can learn
by my mistakes and I can learn by his. Isn't
that fair, Barney?"
The Irishman laughed. He had no love for
Lou, who was always uppish with him and who
said that Alexandra paid her hands too much.
"I've no thought but to give the thing an honest
try, mum. 'T would be only right, after puttin'
so much expense into it. Maybe Emil will come
out an' have a look at it wid me." He pushed
back his chair, took his hat from the nail, and
marched out with Emil, who, with his univer-
sity ideas, was supposed to have instigated the
silo. The other hands followed them, all except
old Ivar. He had been depressed throughout
the meal and had paid no heed to the talk of
the men, even when they mentioned cornstalk
bloat, upon which he was sure to have opinions.
"Did you want to speak to me, Ivar?" Alex-
andra asked as she rose from the table. "Come
into the sitting-room."
The old man followed Alexandra, but when
she motioned him to a chair he shook his
head. She took up her workbasket and waited
for him to speak. He stood looking at the car-
pet, his bushy head bowed, his hands clasped in
front of him. Ivar's bandy legs seemed to have
grown shorter with years, and they were com-
pletely misfitted to his broad, thick body and
"Well, Ivar, what is it?" Alexandra asked
after she had waited longer than usual.
Ivar had never learned to speak English and
his Norwegian was quaint and grave, like the
speech of the more old-fashioned people. He
always addressed Alexandra in terms of the
deepest respect, hoping to set a good example
to the kitchen girls, whom he thought too fam-
iliar in their manners.
"Mistress," he began faintly, without raising
his eyes, "the folk have been looking coldly at
me of late. You know there has been talk."
"Talk about what, Ivar?"
"About sending me away; to the asylum."
Alexandra put down her sewing-basket.
"Nobody has come to me with such talk," she
said decidedly. "Why need you listen? You
know I would never consent to such a thing."
Ivar lifted his shaggy head and looked at her
out of his little eyes. "They say that you can-
not prevent it if the folk complain of me, if your
brothers complain to the authorities. They say
that your brothers are afraid--God forbid!--
that I may do you some injury when my spells
are on me. Mistress, how can any one think
that?--that I could bite the hand that fed
me!" The tears trickled down on the old man's
Alexandra frowned. "Ivar, I wonder at you,
that you should come bothering me with such
nonsense. I am still running my own house,
and other people have nothing to do with
either you or me. So long as I am suited with
you, there is nothing to be said."
Ivar pulled a red handkerchief out of the
breast of his blouse and wiped his eyes and
beard. "But I should not wish you to keep me
if, as they say, it is against your interests, and
if it is hard for you to get hands because I am
Alexandra made an impatient gesture, but
the old man put out his hand and went on
"Listen, mistress, it is right that you should
take these things into account. You know that
my spells come from God, and that I would not
harm any living creature. You believe that
every one should worship God in the way
revealed to him. But that is not the way of
this country. The way here is for all to do alike.
I am despised because I do not wear shoes,
because I do not cut my hair, and because I
have visions. At home, in the old country,
there were many like me, who had been touched
by God, or who had seen things in the grave-
yard at night and were different afterward. We
thought nothing of it, and let them alone. But
here, if a man is different in his feet or in his
head, they put him in the asylum. Look at
Peter Kralik; when he was a boy, drinking out
of a creek, he swallowed a snake, and always
after that he could eat only such food as the
creature liked, for when he ate anything else, it
became enraged and gnawed him. When he
felt it whipping about in him, he drank alcohol
to stupefy it and get some ease for himself. He
could work as good as any man, and his head
was clear, but they locked him up for being
different in his stomach. That is the way; they
have built the asylum for people who are dif-
ferent, and they will not even let us live in the
holes with the badgers. Only your great pros-
perity has protected me so far. If you had had
ill-fortune, they would have taken me to Has-
tings long ago."
As Ivar talked, his gloom lifted. Alexandra
had found that she could often break his fasts
and long penances by talking to him and let-
ting him pour out the thoughts that troubled
him. Sympathy always cleared his mind, and
ridicule was poison to him.
"There is a great deal in what you say, Ivar.
Like as not they will be wanting to take me to
Hastings because I have built a silo; and then
I may take you with me. But at present I need
you here. Only don't come to me again telling
me what people say. Let people go on talking
as they like, and we will go on living as we
think best. You have been with me now for
twelve years, and I have gone to you for advice
oftener than I have ever gone to any one. That
ought to satisfy you."
Ivar bowed humbly. "Yes, mistress, I shall
not trouble you with their talk again. And as
for my feet, I have observed your wishes all
these years, though you have never questioned
me; washing them every night, even in winter."
Alexandra laughed. "Oh, never mind about
your feet, Ivar. We can remember when half
our neighbors went barefoot in summer. I ex-
pect old Mrs. Lee would love to slip her shoes
off now sometimes, if she dared. I'm glad I'm
not Lou's mother-in-law."
Ivar looked about mysteriously and lowered
his voice almost to a whisper. "You know
what they have over at Lou's house? A great
white tub, like the stone water-troughs in the
old country, to wash themselves in. When you
sent me over with the strawberries, they were
all in town but the old woman Lee and the baby.
She took me in and showed me the thing, and
she told me it was impossible to wash yourself
clean in it, because, in so much water, you could
not make a strong suds. So when they fill it up
and send her in there, she pretends, and makes a
splashing noise. Then, when they are all asleep,
she washes herself in a little wooden tub she
keeps under her bed."
Alexandra shook with laughter. "Poor old
Mrs. Lee! They won't let her wear nightcaps,
either. Never mind; when she comes to visit
me, she can do all the old things in the old
way, and have as much beer as she wants.
We'll start an asylum for old-time people,
Ivar folded his big handkerchief carefully
and thrust it back into his blouse. "This is
always the way, mistress. I come to you sor-
rowing, and you send me away with a light
heart. And will you be so good as to tell the
Irishman that he is not to work the brown
gelding until the sore on its shoulder is healed?"
"That I will. Now go and put Emil's mare
to the cart. I am going to drive up to the north
quarter to meet the man from town who is to
buy my alfalfa hay."
Alexandra was to hear more of Ivar's case,
however. On Sunday her married brothers
came to dinner. She had asked them for that
day because Emil, who hated family parties,
would be absent, dancing at Amedee Chevalier's
wedding, up in the French country. The table
was set for company in the dining-room, where
highly varnished wood and colored glass and
useless pieces of china were conspicuous enough
to satisfy the standards of the new prosperity.
Alexandra had put herself into the hands of the
Hanover furniture dealer, and he had conscien-
tiously done his best to make her dining-room
look like his display window. She said frankly
that she knew nothing about such things, and
she was willing to be governed by the general
conviction that the more useless and utterly
unusable objects were, the greater their virtue
as ornament. That seemed reasonable enough.
Since she liked plain things herself, it was all
the more necessary to have jars and punch-
bowls and candlesticks in the company rooms
for people who did appreciate them. Her
guests liked to see about them these reassuring
emblems of prosperity.
The family party was complete except for
Emil, and Oscar's wife who, in the country
phrase, "was not going anywhere just now."
Oscar sat at the foot of the table and his four
tow-headed little boys, aged from twelve to five,
were ranged at one side. Neither Oscar nor
Lou has changed much; they have simply, as
Alexandra said of them long ago, grown to be
more and more like themselves. Lou now looks
the older of the two; his face is thin and shrewd
and wrinkled about the eyes, while Oscar's is
thick and dull. For all his dullness, however,
Oscar makes more money than his brother,
which adds to Lou's sharpness and uneasiness
and tempts him to make a show. The trouble
with Lou is that he is tricky, and his neighbors
have found out that, as Ivar says, he has not
a fox's face for nothing. Politics being the nat-
ural field for such talents, he neglects his farm
to attend conventions and to run for county
Lou's wife, formerly Annie Lee, has grown to
look curiously like her husband. Her face has
become longer, sharper, more aggressive. She
wears her yellow hair in a high pompadour,
and is bedecked with rings and chains and
"beauty pins." Her tight, high-heeled shoes
give her an awkward walk, and she is always
more or less preoccupied with her clothes. As
she sat at the table, she kept telling her young-
est daughter to "be careful now, and not drop
anything on mother."
The conversation at the table was all in Eng-
lish. Oscar's wife, from the malaria district of
Missouri, was ashamed of marrying a foreigner,
and his boys do not understand a word of
Swedish. Annie and Lou sometimes speak
Swedish at home, but Annie is almost as much
afraid of being "caught" at it as ever her
mother was of being caught barefoot. Oscar
still has a thick accent, but Lou speaks like
anybody from Iowa.
"When I was in Hastings to attend the con-
vention," he was saying, "I saw the superin-
tendent of the asylum, and I was telling him
about Ivar's symptoms. He says Ivar's case
is one of the most dangerous kind, and it's
a wonder he hasn't done something violent
Alexandra laughed good-humoredly. "Oh,
nonsense, Lou! The doctors would have us all
crazy if they could. Ivar's queer, certainly, but
he has more sense than half the hands I hire."
Lou flew at his fried chicken. "Oh, I guess
the doctor knows his business, Alexandra. He
was very much surprised when I told him how
you'd put up with Ivar. He says he's likely to
set fire to the barn any night, or to take after
you and the girls with an axe."
Little Signa, who was waiting on the table,
giggled and fled to the kitchen. Alexandra's
eyes twinkled. "That was too much for Signa,
Lou. We all know that Ivar's perfectly harm-
less. The girls would as soon expect me to
chase them with an axe."
Lou flushed and signaled to his wife. "All
the same, the neighbors will be having a say
about it before long. He may burn anybody's
barn. It's only necessary for one property-
owner in the township to make complaint, and
he'll be taken up by force. You'd better send
him yourself and not have any hard feelings."
Alexandra helped one of her little nephews to
gravy. "Well, Lou, if any of the neighbors try
that, I'll have myself appointed Ivar's guardian
and take the case to court, that's all. I am
perfectly satisfied with him."
"Pass the preserves, Lou," said Annie in a
warning tone. She had reasons for not wishing
her husband to cross Alexandra too openly.
"But don't you sort of hate to have people see
him around here, Alexandra?" she went on
with persuasive smoothness. "He IS a disgrace-
ful object, and you're fixed up so nice now. It
sort of makes people distant with you, when
they never know when they'll hear him scratch-
ing about. My girls are afraid as death of him,
aren't you, Milly, dear?"
Milly was fifteen, fat and jolly and pompa-
doured, with a creamy complexion, square
white teeth, and a short upper lip. She looked
like her grandmother Bergson, and had her
comfortable and comfort-loving nature. She
grinned at her aunt, with whom she was a great
deal more at ease than she was with her mother.
Alexandra winked a reply.
"Milly needn't be afraid of Ivar. She's an
especial favorite of his. In my opinion Ivar has
just as much right to his own way of dressing
and thinking as we have. But I'll see that he
doesn't bother other people. I'll keep him at
home, so don't trouble any more about him,
Lou. I've been wanting to ask you about your
new bathtub. How does it work?"
Annie came to the fore to give Lou time to
recover himself. "Oh, it works something
grand! I can't keep him out of it. He washes
himself all over three times a week now, and
uses all the hot water. I think it's weakening
to stay in as long as he does. You ought to
have one, Alexandra."
"I'm thinking of it. I might have one put in
the barn for Ivar, if it will ease people's minds.
But before I get a bathtub, I'm going to get a
piano for Milly."
Oscar, at the end of the table, looked up from
his plate. "What does Milly want of a pianny?
What's the matter with her organ? She can
make some use of that, and play in church."
Annie looked flustered. She had begged
Alexandra not to say anything about this plan
before Oscar, who was apt to be jealous of what
his sister did for Lou's children. Alexandra did
not get on with Oscar's wife at all. "Milly can
play in church just the same, and she'll still
play on the organ. But practising on it so
much spoils her touch. Her teacher says so,"
Annie brought out with spirit.
Oscar rolled his eyes. "Well, Milly must have
got on pretty good if she's got past the organ.
I know plenty of grown folks that ain't," he
Annie threw up her chin. "She has got on
good, and she's going to play for her commence-
ment when she graduates in town next year."
"Yes," said Alexandra firmly, "I think Milly
deserves a piano. All the girls around here have
been taking lessons for years, but Milly is the
only one of them who can ever play anything
when you ask her. I'll tell you when I first
thought I would like to give you a piano, Milly,
and that was when you learned that book of
old Swedish songs that your grandfather used
to sing. He had a sweet tenor voice, and when
he was a young man he loved to sing. I can
remember hearing him singing with the sailors
down in the shipyard, when I was no bigger
than Stella here," pointing to Annie's younger
Milly and Stella both looked through the
door into the sitting-room, where a crayon por-
trait of John Bergson hung on the wall. Alex-
andra had had it made from a little photograph,
taken for his friends just before he left Sweden;
a slender man of thirty-five, with soft hair curl-
ing about his high forehead, a drooping mus-
tache, and wondering, sad eyes that looked
forward into the distance, as if they already
beheld the New World.
After dinner Lou and Oscar went to the
orchard to pick cherries--they had neither of
them had the patience to grow an orchard of their
own--and Annie went down to gossip with
Alexandra's kitchen girls while they washed the
dishes. She could always find out more about
Alexandra's domestic economy from the prat-
tling maids than from Alexandra herself, and
what she discovered she used to her own advan-
tage with Lou. On the Divide, farmers' daugh-
ters no longer went out into service, so Alex-
andra got her girls from Sweden, by paying
their fare over. They stayed with her until
they married, and were replaced by sisters or
cousins from the old country.
Alexandra took her three nieces into the
flower garden. She was fond of the little girls,
especially of Milly, who came to spend a week
with her aunt now and then, and read aloud
to her from the old books about the house, or
listened to stories about the early days on the
Divide. While they were walking among the
flower beds, a buggy drove up the hill and
stopped in front of the gate. A man got out and
stood talking to the driver. The little girls
were delighted at the advent of a stranger, some
one from very far away, they knew by his
clothes, his gloves, and the sharp, pointed cut
of his dark beard. The girls fell behind their
aunt and peeped out at him from among the
castor beans. The stranger came up to the gate
and stood holding his hat in his hand, smiling,
while Alexandra advanced slowly to meet him.
As she approached he spoke in a low, pleasant
"Don't you know me, Alexandra? I would
have known you, anywhere."
Alexandra shaded her eyes with her hand.
Suddenly she took a quick step forward. "Can
it be!" she exclaimed with feeling; "can it be
that it is Carl Linstrum? Why, Carl, it is!"
She threw out both her hands and caught his
across the gate. "Sadie, Milly, run tell your
father and Uncle Oscar that our old friend Carl
Linstrum is here. Be quick! Why, Carl, how
did it happen? I can't believe this!" Alexan-
dra shook the tears from her eyes and laughed.
The stranger nodded to his driver, dropped
his suitcase inside the fence, and opened the
gate. "Then you are glad to see me, and you
can put me up overnight? I couldn't go
through this country without stopping off to
have a look at you. How little you have
changed! Do you know, I was sure it would be
like that. You simply couldn't be different.
How fine you are!" He stepped back and
looked at her admiringly.
Alexandra blushed and laughed again. "But
you yourself, Carl--with that beard--how
could I have known you? You went away a
little boy." She reached for his suitcase and
when he intercepted her she threw up her
hands. "You see, I give myself away. I have
only women come to visit me, and I do not
know how to behave. Where is your trunk?"
"It's in Hanover. I can stay only a few days.
I am on my way to the coast."
They started up the path. "A few days?
After all these years!" Alexandra shook her
finger at him. "See this, you have walked into
a trap. You do not get away so easy." She put
her hand affectionately on his shoulder. "You
owe me a visit for the sake of old times. Why
must you go to the coast at all?"
"Oh, I must! I am a fortune hunter. From
Seattle I go on to Alaska."
"Alaska?" She looked at him in astonish-
ment. "Are you going to paint the Indians?"
"Paint?" the young man frowned. "Oh! I'm
not a painter, Alexandra. I'm an engraver. I
have nothing to do with painting."
"But on my parlor wall I have the paint-
He interrupted nervously. "Oh, water-color
sketches--done for amusement. I sent them to
remind you of me, not because they were good.
What a wonderful place you have made of this,
Alexandra." He turned and looked back at the
wide, map-like prospect of field and hedge and
pasture. "I would never have believed it could
be done. I'm disappointed in my own eye, in
At this moment Lou and Oscar came up the
hill from the orchard. They did not quicken
their pace when they saw Carl; indeed, they
did not openly look in his direction. They
advanced distrustfully, and as if they wished
the distance were longer.
Alexandra beckoned to them. "They think
I am trying to fool them. Come, boys, it's
Carl Linstrum, our old Carl!"
Lou gave the visitor a quick, sidelong glance
and thrust out his hand. "Glad to see you."
Oscar followed with "How d' do." Carl could
not tell whether their offishness came from
unfriendliness or from embarrassment. He and
Alexandra led the way to the porch.
"Carl," Alexandra explained, "is on his way
to Seattle. He is going to Alaska."
Oscar studied the visitor's yellow shoes.
"Got business there?" he asked.
Carl laughed. "Yes, very pressing business.
I'm going there to get rich. Engraving's a very
interesting profession, but a man never makes
any money at it. So I'm going to try the gold-
Alexandra felt that this was a tactful speech,
and Lou looked up with some interest. "Ever
done anything in that line before?"
"No, but I'm going to join a friend of mine
who went out from New York and has done
well. He has offered to break me in."
"Turrible cold winters, there, I hear," re-
marked Oscar. "I thought people went up
there in the spring."
"They do. But my friend is going to spend
the winter in Seattle and I am to stay with him
there and learn something about prospecting
before we start north next year."
Lou looked skeptical. "Let's see, how long
have you been away from here?"
"Sixteen years. You ought to remember
that, Lou, for you were married just after we
"Going to stay with us some time?" Oscar
"A few days, if Alexandra can keep me."
"I expect you'll be wanting to see your old
place," Lou observed more cordially. "You
won't hardly know it. But there's a few chunks
of your old sod house left. Alexandra wouldn't
never let Frank Shabata plough over it."
Annie Lee, who, ever since the visitor was
announced, had been touching up her hair and
settling her lace and wishing she had worn
another dress, now emerged with her three
daughters and introduced them. She was
greatly impressed by Carl's urban appearance,
and in her excitement talked very loud and
threw her head about. "And you ain't married
yet? At your age, now! Think of that! You'll
have to wait for Milly. Yes, we've got a boy,
too. The youngest. He's at home with his
grandma. You must come over to see mother
and hear Milly play. She's the musician of the
family. She does pyrography, too. That's
burnt wood, you know. You wouldn't believe
what she can do with her poker. Yes, she goes
to school in town, and she is the youngest in
her class by two years."
Milly looked uncomfortable and Carl took
her hand again. He liked her creamy skin and
happy, innocent eyes, and he could see that her
mother's way of talking distressed her. "I'm
sure she's a clever little girl," he murmured,
looking at her thoughtfully. "Let me see--
Ah, it's your mother that she looks like, Alex-
andra. Mrs. Bergson must have looked just
like this when she was a little girl. Does Milly
run about over the country as you and Alex-
andra used to, Annie?"
Milly's mother protested. "Oh, my, no!
Things has changed since we was girls. Milly
has it very different. We are going to rent the
place and move into town as soon as the girls
are old enough to go out into company. A
good many are doing that here now. Lou is
going into business."
Lou grinned. "That's what she says. You
better go get your things on. Ivar's hitching
up," he added, turning to Annie.
Young farmers seldom address their wives by
name. It is always "you," or "she."
Having got his wife out of the way, Lou sat
down on the step and began to whittle. "Well,
what do folks in New York think of William
Jennings Bryan?" Lou began to bluster, as he
always did when he talked politics. "We gave
Wall Street a scare in ninety-six, all right,
and we're fixing another to hand them. Silver
wasn't the only issue," he nodded mysteriously.
"There's a good many things got to be changed.
The West is going to make itself heard."
Carl laughed. "But, surely, it did do that,
if nothing else."
Lou's thin face reddened up to the roots of his
bristly hair. "Oh, we've only begun. We're
waking up to a sense of our responsibilities,
out here, and we ain't afraid, neither. You
fellows back there must be a tame lot. If you
had any nerve you'd get together and march
down to Wall Street and blow it up. Dyna-
mite it, I mean," with a threatening nod.
He was so much in earnest that Carl scarcely
knew how to answer him. "That would be a
waste of powder. The same business would go on
in another street. The street doesn't matter.
But what have you fellows out here got to kick
about? You have the only safe place there is.
Morgan himself couldn't touch you. One only
has to drive through this country to see that
you're all as rich as barons."
"We have a good deal more to say than we
had when we were poor," said Lou threateningly.
"We're getting on to a whole lot of things."
As Ivar drove a double carriage up to the
gate, Annie came out in a hat that looked like
the model of a battleship. Carl rose and took
her down to the carriage, while Lou lingered for
a word with his sister.
"What do you suppose he's come for?" he
asked, jerking his head toward the gate.
"Why, to pay us a visit. I've been begging
him to for years."
Oscar looked at Alexandra. "He didn't let
you know he was coming?"
"No. Why should he? I told him to come at
Lou shrugged his shoulders. "He doesn't
seem to have done much for himself. Wander-
ing around this way!"
Oscar spoke solemnly, as from the depths of
a cavern. "He never was much account."
Alexandra left them and hurried down to the
gate where Annie was rattling on to Carl about
her new dining-room furniture. "You must
bring Mr. Linstrum over real soon, only be sure
to telephone me first," she called back, as Carl
helped her into the carriage. Old Ivar, his white
head bare, stood holding the horses. Lou came
down the path and climbed into the front seat,
took up the reins, and drove off without saying
anything further to any one. Oscar picked up
his youngest boy and trudged off down the
road, the other three trotting after him. Carl,
holding the gate open for Alexandra, began to
laugh. "Up and coming on the Divide, eh,
Alexandra?" he cried gayly.
Carl had changed, Alexandra felt, much less
than one might have expected. He had not
become a trim, self-satisfied city man. There
was still something homely and wayward and
definitely personal about him. Even his clothes,
his Norfolk coat and his very high collars, were
a little unconventional. He seemed to shrink
into himself as he used to do; to hold him-
self away from things, as if he were afraid
of being hurt. In short, he was more self-con-
scious than a man of thirty-five is expected to
be. He looked older than his years and not
very strong. His black hair, which still hung
in a triangle over his pale forehead, was thin at
the crown, and there were fine, relentless lines
about his eyes. His back, with its high, sharp
shoulders, looked like the back of an over-
worked German professor off on his holiday.
His face was intelligent, sensitive, unhappy.
That evening after supper, Carl and Alex-
andra were sitting by the clump of castor beans
in the middle of the flower garden. The gravel
paths glittered in the moonlight, and below
them the fields lay white and still.
"Do you know, Alexandra," he was saying,
"I've been thinking how strangely things work
out. I've been away engraving other men's
pictures, and you've stayed at home and made
your own." He pointed with his cigar toward
the sleeping landscape. "How in the world
have you done it? How have your neighbors
"We hadn't any of us much to do with it,
Carl. The land did it. It had its little joke. It
pretended to be poor because nobody knew how
to work it right; and then, all at once, it worked
itself. It woke up out of its sleep and stretched
itself, and it was so big, so rich, that we sud-
denly found we were rich, just from sitting still.
As for me, you remember when I began to buy
land. For years after that I was always squeez-
ing and borrowing until I was ashamed to show
my face in the banks. And then, all at once,
men began to come to me offering to lend me
money--and I didn't need it! Then I went
ahead and built this house. I really built it for
Emil. I want you to see Emil, Carl. He is so
different from the rest of us!"
"Oh, you'll see! I'm sure it was to have sons
like Emil, and to give them a chance, that father
left the old country. It's curious, too; on the
outside Emil is just like an American boy,--he
graduated from the State University in June,
you know,--but underneath he is more Swed-
ish than any of us. Sometimes he is so like father
that he frightens me; he is so violent in his feel-
ings like that."
"Is he going to farm here with you?"
"He shall do whatever he wants to," Alex-
andra declared warmly. "He is going to have
a chance, a whole chance; that's what I've
worked for. Sometimes he talks about studying
law, and sometimes, just lately, he's been talk-
ing about going out into the sand hills and tak-
ing up more land. He has his sad times, like
father. But I hope he won't do that. We have
land enough, at last!" Alexandra laughed.
"How about Lou and Oscar? They've done
well, haven't they?"
"Yes, very well; but they are different, and
now that they have farms of their own I do not
see so much of them. We divided the land
equally when Lou married. They have their
own way of doing things, and they do not alto-
gether like my way, I am afraid. Perhaps they
think me too independent. But I have had to
think for myself a good many years and am not
likely to change. On the whole, though, we
take as much comfort in each other as most
brothers and sisters do. And I am very fond of
Lou's oldest daughter."
"I think I liked the old Lou and Oscar better,
and they probably feel the same about me. I
even, if you can keep a secret,"--Carl leaned
forward and touched her arm, smiling,--"I
even think I liked the old country better. This
is all very splendid in its way, but there was
something about this country when it was a
wild old beast that has haunted me all these
years. Now, when I come back to all this milk
and honey, I feel like the old German song, 'Wo
bist du, wo bist du, mein geliebtest Land?'--
Do you ever feel like that, I wonder?"
"Yes, sometimes, when I think about father
and mother and those who are gone; so many
of our old neighbors." Alexandra paused and
looked up thoughtfully at the stars. "We can
remember the graveyard when it was wild
prairie, Carl, and now--"
"And now the old story has begun to write
itself over there," said Carl softly. "Isn't it
queer: there are only two or three human
stories, and they go on repeating themselves as
fiercely as if they had never happened before;
like the larks in this country, that have been
singing the same five notes over for thousands
"Oh, yes! The young people, they live so
hard. And yet I sometimes envy them. There
is my little neighbor, now; the people who
bought your old place. I wouldn't have sold it
to any one else, but I was always fond of that
girl. You must remember her, little Marie
Tovesky, from Omaha, who used to visit here?
When she was eighteen she ran away from the
convent school and got married, crazy child!
She came out here a bride, with her father and
husband. He had nothing, and the old man
was willing to buy them a place and set them
up. Your farm took her fancy, and I was glad
to have her so near me. I've never been sorry,
either. I even try to get along with Frank on
"Is Frank her husband?"
"Yes. He's one of these wild fellows. Most
Bohemians are good-natured, but Frank thinks
we don't appreciate him here, I guess. He's jeal-
ous about everything, his farm and his horses
and his pretty wife. Everybody likes her, just
the same as when she was little. Sometimes I
go up to the Catholic church with Emil, and
it's funny to see Marie standing there laughing
and shaking hands with people, looking so ex-
cited and gay, with Frank sulking behind her
as if he could eat everybody alive. Frank's not
a bad neighbor, but to get on with him you've
got to make a fuss over him and act as if you
thought he was a very important person all the
time, and different from other people. I find it
hard to keep that up from one year's end to
"I shouldn't think you'd be very successful
at that kind of thing, Alexandra." Carl seemed
to find the idea amusing.
"Well," said Alexandra firmly, "I do the
best I can, on Marie's account. She has it hard
enough, anyway. She's too young and pretty
for this sort of life. We're all ever so much older
and slower. But she's the kind that won't be
downed easily. She'll work all day and go to
a Bohemian wedding and dance all night, and
drive the hay wagon for a cross man next morn-
ing. I could stay by a job, but I never had the go
in me that she has, when I was going my best.
I'll have to take you over to see her to-morrow."
Carl dropped the end of his cigar softly
among the castor beans and sighed. "Yes, I
suppose I must see the old place. I'm cow-
ardly about things that remind me of myself.
It took courage to come at all, Alexandra. I
wouldn't have, if I hadn't wanted to see you
very, very much."
Alexandra looked at him with her calm,
deliberate eyes. "Why do you dread things
like that, Carl?" she asked earnestly. "Why
are you dissatisfied with yourself?"
Her visitor winced. "How direct you are,
Alexandra! Just like you used to be. Do I give
myself away so quickly? Well, you see, for one
thing, there's nothing to look forward to in my
profession. Wood-engraving is the only thing
I care about, and that had gone out before I
began. Everything's cheap metal work now-
adays, touching up miserable photographs,
forcing up poor drawings, and spoiling good
ones. I'm absolutely sick of it all." Carl
frowned. "Alexandra, all the way out from
New York I've been planning how I could de-
ceive you and make you think me a very envi-
able fellow, and here I am telling you the
truth the first night. I waste a lot of time pre-
tending to people, and the joke of it is, I don't
think I ever deceive any one. There are too
many of my kind; people know us on sight."
Carl paused. Alexandra pushed her hair
back from her brow with a puzzled, thoughtful
gesture. "You see," he went on calmly, "mea-
sured by your standards here, I'm a failure.
I couldn't buy even one of your cornfields.
I've enjoyed a great many things, but I've
got nothing to show for it all."
"But you show for it yourself, Carl. I'd
rather have had your freedom than my land."
Carl shook his head mournfully. "Freedom
so often means that one isn't needed anywhere.
Here you are an individual, you have a back-
ground of your own, you would be missed. But
off there in the cities there are thousands of
rolling stones like me. We are all alike; we
have no ties, we know nobody, we own nothing.
When one of us dies, they scarcely know where
to bury him. Our landlady and the delicatessen
man are our mourners, and we leave nothing
behind us but a frock-coat and a fiddle, or an
easel, or a typewriter, or whatever tool we got
our living by. All we have ever managed to
do is to pay our rent, the exorbitant rent that
one has to pay for a few square feet of space
near the heart of things. We have no house,
no place, no people of our own. We live in
the streets, in the parks, in the theatres. We sit
in restaurants and concert halls and look about
at the hundreds of our own kind and shudder."
Alexandra was silent. She sat looking at the
silver spot the moon made on the surface of the
pond down in the pasture. He knew that she
understood what he meant. At last she said
slowly, "And yet I would rather have Emil
grow up like that than like his two brothers.
We pay a high rent, too, though we pay differ-
ently. We grow hard and heavy here. We
don't move lightly and easily as you do, and
our minds get stiff. If the world were no wider
than my cornfields, if there were not something
beside this, I wouldn't feel that it was much
worth while to work. No, I would rather have
Emil like you than like them. I felt that as soon
as you came."
"I wonder why you feel like that?" Carl
"I don't know. Perhaps I am like Carrie
Jensen, the sister of one of my hired men. She
had never been out of the cornfields, and a few
years ago she got despondent and said life was
just the same thing over and over, and she
didn't see the use of it. After she had tried
to kill herself once or twice, her folks got wor-
ried and sent her over to Iowa to visit some
relations. Ever since she's come back she's
been perfectly cheerful, and she says she's con-
tented to live and work in a world that's so big
and interesting. She said that anything as big
as the bridges over the Platte and the Missouri
reconciled her. And it's what goes on in the
world that reconciles me."
Alexandra did not find time to go to her
neighbor's the next day, nor the next. It was a
busy season on the farm, with the corn-plowing
going on, and even Emil was in the field with a
team and cultivator. Carl went about over the
farms with Alexandra in the morning, and in
the afternoon and evening they found a great
deal to talk about. Emil, for all his track prac-
tice, did not stand up under farmwork very
well, and by night he was too tired to talk or
even to practise on his cornet.
On Wednesday morning Carl got up before it
was light, and stole downstairs and out of the
kitchen door just as old Ivar was making his
morning ablutions at the pump. Carl nodded
to him and hurried up the draw, past the gar-
den, and into the pasture where the milking
cows used to be kept.
The dawn in the east looked like the light
from some great fire that was burning under
the edge of the world. The color was reflected
in the globules of dew that sheathed the short
gray pasture grass. Carl walked rapidly until
he came to the crest of the second hill, where
the Bergson pasture joined the one that had
belonged to his father. There he sat down and
waited for the sun to rise. It was just there
that he and Alexandra used to do their milking
together, he on his side of the fence, she on hers.
He could remember exactly how she looked
when she came over the close-cropped grass,
her skirts pinned up, her head bare, a bright
tin pail in either hand, and the milky light of the
early morning all about her. Even as a boy he
used to feel, when he saw her coming with her
free step, her upright head and calm shoulders,
that she looked as if she had walked straight
out of the morning itself. Since then, when he
had happened to see the sun come up in the
country or on the water, he had often remem-
bered the young Swedish girl and her milking
Carl sat musing until the sun leaped above
the prairie, and in the grass about him all the
small creatures of day began to tune their tiny
instruments. Birds and insects without num-
ber began to chirp, to twitter, to snap and
whistle, to make all manner of fresh shrill
noises. The pasture was flooded with light;
every clump of ironweed and snow-on-the-
mountain threw a long shadow, and the golden
light seemed to be rippling through the curly
grass like the tide racing in.
He crossed the fence into the pasture that
was now the Shabatas' and continued his walk
toward the pond. He had not gone far, how-
ever, when he discovered that he was not the
only person abroad. In the draw below, his gun
in his hands, was Emil, advancing cautiously,
with a young woman beside him. They were
moving softly, keeping close together, and
Carl knew that they expected to find ducks on
the pond. At the moment when they came in
sight of the bright spot of water, he heard a
whirr of wings and the ducks shot up into the
air. There was a sharp crack from the gun, and
five of the birds fell to the ground. Emil and his
companion laughed delightedly, and Emil ran
to pick them up. When he came back, dangling
the ducks by their feet, Marie held her apron
and he dropped them into it. As she stood
looking down at them, her face changed. She
took up one of the birds, a rumpled ball of
feathers with the blood dripping slowly from its
mouth, and looked at the live color that still
burned on its plumage.
As she let it fall, she cried in distress, "Oh,
Emil, why did you?"
"I like that!" the boy exclaimed indignantly.
"Why, Marie, you asked me to come yourself."
":Yes, yes, I know," she said tearfully, "but I
didn't think. I hate to see them when they are
first shot. They were having such a good time,
and we've spoiled it all for them."
Emil gave a rather sore laugh. "I should say
we had! I'm not going hunting with you any
more. You're as bad as Ivar. Here, let me
take them." He snatched the ducks out of her
"Don't be cross, Emil. Only--Ivar's right
about wild things. They're too happy to kill.
You can tell just how they felt when they flew
up. They were scared, but they didn't really
think anything could hurt them. No, we won't
do that any more."
"All right," Emil assented. "I'm sorry I
made you feel bad." As he looked down into
her tearful eyes, there was a curious, sharp
young bitterness in his own.
Carl watched them as they moved slowly
down the draw. They had not seen him at all.
He had not overheard much of their dialogue,
but he felt the import of it. It made him, some-
how, unreasonably mournful to find two young
things abroad in the pasture in the early morn-
ing. He decided that he needed his breakfast.
At dinner that day Alexandra said she
thought they must really manage to go over to
the Shabatas' that afternoon. "It's not often I
let three days go by without seeing Marie. She
will think I have forsaken her, now that my old
friend has come back."
After the men had gone back to work, Alex-
andra put on a white dress and her sun-hat, and
she and Carl set forth across the fields. "You
see we have kept up the old path, Carl. It has
been so nice for me to feel that there was a
friend at the other end of it again."
Carl smiled a little ruefully. "All the same, I
hope it hasn't been QUITE the same."
Alexandra looked at him with surprise.
"Why, no, of course not. Not the same. She
could not very well take your place, if that's
what you mean. I'm friendly with all my
neighbors, I hope. But Marie is really a com-
panion, some one I can talk to quite frankly.
You wouldn't want me to be more lonely than
I have been, would you?"
Carl laughed and pushed back the triangular
lock of hair with the edge of his hat. "Of course
I don't. I ought to be thankful that this path
hasn't been worn by--well, by friends with
more pressing errands than your little Bohe-
mian is likely to have." He paused to give
Alexandra his hand as she stepped over the stile.
"Are you the least bit disappointed in our com-
ing together again?" he asked abruptly. "Is it
the way you hoped it would be?"
Alexandra smiled at this. "Only better.
When I've thought about your coming, I've
sometimes been a little afraid of it. You have
lived where things move so fast, and every-
thing is slow here; the people slowest of all. Our
lives are like the years, all made up of weather
and crops and cows. How you hated cows!"
She shook her head and laughed to herself.
"I didn't when we milked together. I
walked up to the pasture corners this morning.
I wonder whether I shall ever be able to tell you
all that I was thinking about up there. It's a
strange thing, Alexandra; I find it easy to be
frank with you about everything under the sun
"You are afraid of hurting my feelings, per-
haps." Alexandra looked at him thoughtfully.
"No, I'm afraid of giving you a shock.
You've seen yourself for so long in the dull
minds of the people about you, that if I were to
tell you how you seem to me, it would startle
you. But you must see that you astonish me.
You must feel when people admire you."
Alexandra blushed and laughed with some
confusion. "I felt that you were pleased with
me, if you mean that."
"And you've felt when other people were
pleased with you?" he insisted.
"Well, sometimes. The men in town, at the
banks and the county offices, seem glad to see
me. I think, myself, it is more pleasant to
do business with people who are clean and
healthy-looking," she admitted blandly.
Carl gave a little chuckle as he opened the
Shabatas' gate for her. "Oh, do you?" he
There was no sign of life about the Shabatas'
house except a big yellow cat, sunning itself on
the kitchen doorstep.
Alexandra took the path that led to the
orchard. "She often sits there and sews. I
didn't telephone her we were coming, because I
didn't her to go to work and bake cake
and freeze ice-cream. She'll always make a
party if you give her the least excuse. Do you
recognize the apple trees, Carl?"
Linstrum looked about him. "I wish I had a
dollar for every bucket of water I've carried for
those trees. Poor father, he was an easy man,
but he was perfectly merciless when it came to
watering the orchard."
"That's one thing I like about Germans;
they make an orchard grow if they can't make
anything else. I'm so glad these trees belong to
some one who takes comfort in them. When I
rented this place, the tenants never kept the
orchard up, and Emil and I used to come over
and take care of it ourselves. It needs mowing
now. There she is, down in the corner. Ma-
ria-a-a!" she called.
A recumbent figure started up from the grass
and came running toward them through the
flickering screen of light and shade.
"Look at her! Isn't she like a little brown
rabbit?" Alexandra laughed.
Maria ran up panting and threw her arms
about Alexandra. "Oh, I had begun to think
you were not coming at all, maybe. I knew you
were so busy. Yes, Emil told me about Mr.
Linstrum being here. Won't you come up to
"Why not sit down there in your corner?
Carl wants to see the orchard. He kept all
these trees alive for years, watering them with
his own back."
Marie turned to Carl. "Then I'm thankful
to you, Mr. Linstrum. We'd never have bought
the place if it hadn't been for this orchard, and
then I wouldn't have had Alexandra, either."
She gave Alexandra's arm a little squeeze as
she walked beside her. "How nice your dress
smells, Alexandra; you put rosemary leaves in
your chest, like I told you."
She led them to the northwest corner of the
orchard, sheltered on one side by a thick mul-
berry hedge and bordered on the other by a
wheatfield, just beginning to yellow. In this
corner the ground dipped a little, and the blue-
grass, which the weeds had driven out in the
upper part of the orchard, grew thick and luxu-
riant. Wild roses were flaming in the tufts of
bunchgrass along the fence. Under a white
mulberry tree there was an old wagon-seat.
Beside it lay a book and a workbasket.
"You must have the seat, Alexandra. The
grass would stain your dress," the hostess in-
sisted. She dropped down on the ground at
Alexandra's side and tucked her feet under her.
Carl sat at a little distance from the two wo-
men, his back to the wheatfield, and watched
them. Alexandra took off her shade-hat and
threw it on the ground. Marie picked it up and
played with the white ribbons, twisting them
about her brown fingers as she talked. They
made a pretty picture in the strong sunlight,
the leafy pattern surrounding them like a net;
the Swedish woman so white and gold, kindly
and amused, but armored in calm, and the alert
brown one, her full lips parted, points of yel-
low light dancing in her eyes as she laughed
and chattered. Carl had never forgotten little
Marie Tovesky's eyes, and he was glad to have
an opportunity to study them. The brown
iris, he found, was curiously slashed with yel-
low, the color of sunflower honey, or of old
amber. In each eye one of these streaks must
have been larger than the others, for the effect
was that of two dancing points of light, two
little yellow bubbles, such as rise in a glass of
champagne. Sometimes they seemed like the
sparks from a forge. She seemed so easily ex-
cited, to kindle with a fierce little flame if one
but breathed upon her. "What a waste," Carl
reflected. "She ought to be doing all that for
a sweetheart. How awkwardly things come
It was not very long before Marie sprang up
out of the grass again. "Wait a moment. I
want to show you something." She ran away
and disappeared behind the low-growing apple
"What a charming creature," Carl mur-
mured. "I don't wonder that her husband is
jealous. But can't she walk? does she always
Alexandra nodded. "Always. I don't see
many people, but I don't believe there are many
like her, anywhere."
Marie came back with a branch she had
broken from an apricot tree, laden with pale-
yellow, pink-cheeked fruit. She dropped it be-
side Carl. "Did you plant those, too? They are
such beautiful little trees."
Carl fingered the blue-green leaves, porous
like blotting-paper and shaped like birch
leaves, hung on waxen red stems. "Yes, I
think I did. Are these the circus trees, Alex-
"Shall I tell her about them?" Alexandra
asked. "Sit down like a good girl, Marie, and
don't ruin my poor hat, and I'll tell you a story.
A long time ago, when Carl and I were, say,
sixteen and twelve, a circus came to Hanover
and we went to town in our wagon, with Lou
and Oscar, to see the parade. We hadn't
money enough to go to the circus. We followed
the parade out to the circus grounds and hung
around until the show began and the crowd
went inside the tent. Then Lou was afraid we
looked foolish standing outside in the pasture,
so we went back to Hanover feeling very sad.
There was a man in the streets selling apricots,
and we had never seen any before. He had
driven down from somewhere up in the French
country, and he was selling them twenty-five
cents a peck. We had a little money our fathers
had given us for candy, and I bought two pecks
and Carl bought one. They cheered us a good
deal, and we saved all the seeds and planted
them. Up to the time Carl went away, they
hadn't borne at all."
"And now he's come back to eat them,"
cried Marie, nodding at Carl. "That IS a good
story. I can remember you a little, Mr. Lin-
strum. I used to see you in Hanover some-
times, when Uncle Joe took me to town. I re-
member you because you were always buying
pencils and tubes of paint at the drug store.
Once, when my uncle left me at the store, you
drew a lot of little birds and flowers for me on a
piece of wrapping-paper. I kept them for a long
while. I thought you were very romantic be-
cause you could draw and had such black eyes."
Carl smiled. "Yes, I remember that time.
Your uncle bought you some kind of a mechani-
cal toy, a Turkish lady sitting on an ottoman
and smoking a hookah, wasn't it? And she
turned her head backwards and forwards."
"Oh, yes! Wasn't she splendid! I knew well
enough I ought not to tell Uncle Joe I wanted
it, for he had just come back from the saloon
and was feeling good. You remember how he
laughed? She tickled him, too. But when we
got home, my aunt scolded him for buying toys
when she needed so many things. We wound
our lady up every night, and when she began to
move her head my aunt used to laugh as hard as
any of us. It was a music-box, you know, and
the Turkish lady played a tune while she
smoked. That was how she made you feel so
jolly. As I remember her, she was lovely, and
had a gold crescent on her turban."
Half an hour later, as they were leaving the
house, Carl and Alexandra were met in the path
by a strapping fellow in overalls and a blue
shirt. He was breathing hard, as if he had been
running, and was muttering to himself.
Marie ran forward, and, taking him by the
arm, gave him a little push toward her guests.
"Frank, this is Mr. Linstrum."
Frank took off his broad straw hat and nod-
ded to Alexandra. When he spoke to Carl, he
showed a fine set of white teeth. He was
burned a dull red down to his neckband, and
there was a heavy three-days' stubble on his
face. Even in his agitation he was handsome,
but he looked a rash and violent man.
Barely saluting the callers, he turned at once
to his wife and began, in an outraged tone, "I
have to leave my team to drive the old woman
Hiller's hogs out-a my wheat. I go to take dat
old woman to de court if she ain't careful, I tell
His wife spoke soothingly. "But, Frank, she
has only her lame boy to help her. She does the
best she can."
Alexandra looked at the excited man and
offered a suggestion. "Why don't you go over
there some afternoon and hog-tight her fences?
You'd save time for yourself in the end."
Frank's neck stiffened. "Not-a-much, I
won't. I keep my hogs home. Other peoples
can do like me. See? If that Louis can mend
shoes, he can mend fence."
"Maybe," said Alexandra placidly; "but
I've found it sometimes pays to mend other
people's fences. Good-bye, Marie. Come to
see me soon."
Alexandra walked firmly down the path and
Carl followed her.
Frank went into the house and threw himself
on the sofa, his face to the wall, his clenched fist
on his hip. Marie, having seen her guests off,
came in and put her hand coaxingly on his
"Poor Frank! You've run until you've made
your head ache, now haven't you? Let me
make you some coffee."
"What else am I to do?" he cried hotly in
Bohemian. "Am I to let any old woman's hogs
root up my wheat? Is that what I work myself
to death for?"
"Don't worry about it, Frank. I'll speak to
Mrs. Hiller again. But, really, she almost cried
last time they got out, she was so sorry."
Frank bounced over on his other side.
"That's it; you always side with them against
me. They all know it. Anybody here feels free
to borrow the mower and break it, or turn their
hogs in on me. They know you won't care!"
Marie hurried away to make his coffee.
When she came back, he was fast asleep. She
sat down and looked at him for a long while,
very thoughtfully. When the kitchen clock
struck six she went out to get supper, closing
the door gently behind her. She was always
sorry for Frank when he worked himself into
one of these rages, and she was sorry to have
him rough and quarrelsome with his neighbors.
She was perfectly aware that the neighbors had
a good deal to put up with, and that they bore
with Frank for her sake.
Marie's father, Albert Tovesky, was one
of the more intelligent Bohemians who came
West in the early seventies. He settled in
Omaha and became a leader and adviser among
his people there. Marie was his youngest child,
by a second wife, and was the apple of his
eye. She was barely sixteen, and was in the
graduating class of the Omaha High School,
when Frank Shabata arrived from the old coun-
try and set all the Bohemian girls in a flutter.
He was easily the buck of the beer-gardens,
and on Sunday he was a sight to see, with his
silk hat and tucked shirt and blue frock-coat,
wearing gloves and carrying a little wisp of a
yellow cane. He was tall and fair, with splendid
teeth and close-cropped yellow curls, and he
wore a slightly disdainful expression, proper for
a young man with high connections, whose
mother had a big farm in the Elbe valley. There
was often an interesting discontent in his blue
eyes, and every Bohemian girl he met imagined
herself the cause of that unsatisfied expression.
He had a way of drawing out his cambric hand-
kerchief slowly, by one corner, from his breast-
pocket, that was melancholy and romantic in
the extreme. He took a little flight with each of
the more eligible Bohemian girls, but it was
when he was with little Marie Tovesky that he
drew his handkerchief out most slowly, and,
after he had lit a fresh cigar, dropped the match
most despairingly. Any one could see, with
half an eye, that his proud heart was bleeding
One Sunday, late in the summer after Marie's
graduation, she met Frank at a Bohemian pic-
nic down the river and went rowing with him all
the afternoon. When she got home that even-
ing she went straight to her father's room and
told him that she was engaged to Shabata. Old
Tovesky was having a comfortable pipe before
he went to bed. When he heard his daughter's
announcement, he first prudently corked his
beer bottle and then leaped to his feet and had
a turn of temper. He characterized Frank
Shabata by a Bohemian expression which is the
equivalent of stuffed shirt.
"Why don't he go to work like the rest of us
did? His farm in the Elbe valley, indeed!
Ain't he got plenty brothers and sisters? It's
his mother's farm, and why don't he stay
at home and help her? Haven't I seen his
mother out in the morning at five o'clock with
her ladle and her big bucket on wheels, putting
liquid manure on the cabbages? Don't I know
the look of old Eva Shabata's hands? Like an
old horse's hoofs they are--and this fellow
wearing gloves and rings! Engaged, indeed!
You aren't fit to be out of school, and that's
what's the matter with you. I will send you
off to the Sisters of the Sacred Heart in St.
Louis, and they will teach you some sense,
Accordingly, the very next week, Albert
Tovesky took his daughter, pale and tearful,
down the river to the convent. But the way to
make Frank want anything was to tell him he
couldn't have it. He managed to have an in-
terview with Marie before she went away, and
whereas he had been only half in love with her
before, he now persuaded himself that he would
not stop at anything. Marie took with her to
the convent, under the canvas lining of her
trunk, the results of a laborious and satisfying
morning on Frank's part; no less than a dozen
photographs of himself, taken in a dozen differ-
ent love-lorn attitudes. There was a little round
photograph for her watch-case, photographs
for her wall and dresser, and even long nar-
row ones to be used as bookmarks. More than
once the handsome gentleman was torn to
pieces before the French class by an indignant
Marie pined in the convent for a year, until her
eighteenth birthday was passed. Then she met
Frank Shabata in the Union Station in St. Louis
and ran away with him. Old Tovesky forgave his
daughter because there was nothing else to do,
and bought her a farm in the country that she
had loved so well as a child. Since then her
story had been a part of the history of the
Divide. She and Frank had been living there
for five years when Carl Linstrum came back to
pay his long deferred visit to Alexandra. Frank
had, on the whole, done better than one might
have expected. He had flung himself at the
soil with savage energy. Once a year he went
to Hastings or to Omaha, on a spree. He
stayed away for a week or two, and then
came home and worked like a demon. He did
work; if he felt sorry for himself, that was his
On the evening of the day of Alexandra's call
at the Shabatas', a heavy rain set in. Frank sat
up until a late hour reading the Sunday newspa-
pers. One of the Goulds was getting a divorce,
and Frank took it as a personal affront. In
printing the story of the young man's mar-
ital troubles, the knowing editor gave a suffi-
ciently colored account of his career, stating
the amount of his income and the manner in
which he was supposed to spend it. Frank read
English slowly, and the more he read about this
divorce case, the angrier he grew. At last he
threw down the page with a snort. He turned
to his farm-hand who was reading the other half
of the paper.
"By God! if I have that young feller in de
hayfield once, I show him someting. Listen
here what he do wit his money." And Frank
began the catalogue of the young man's reputed
Marie sighed. She thought it hard that the
Goulds, for whom she had nothing but good
will, should make her so much trouble. She
hated to see the Sunday newspapers come into
the house. Frank was always reading about the
doings of rich people and feeling outraged. He
had an inexhaustible stock of stories about their
crimes and follies, how they bribed the courts
and shot down their butlers with impunity
whenever they chose. Frank and Lou Bergson
had very similar ideas, and they were two of the
political agitators of the county.
The next morning broke clear and brilliant,
but Frank said the ground was too wet to
plough, so he took the cart and drove over to
Sainte-Agnes to spend the day at Moses Mar-
cel's saloon. After he was gone, Marie went out
to the back porch to begin her butter-making. A
brisk wind had come up and was driving puffy
white clouds across the sky. The orchard was
sparkling and rippling in the sun. Marie stood
looking toward it wistfully, her hand on the lid
of the churn, when she heard a sharp ring in the
air, the merry sound of the whetstone on the
scythe. That invitation decided her. She ran
into the house, put on a short skirt and a pair of
her husband's boots, caught up a tin pail and
started for the orchard. Emil had already be-
gun work and was mowing vigorously. When he
saw her coming, he stopped and wiped his brow.
His yellow canvas leggings and khaki trousers
were splashed to the knees.
"Don't let me disturb you, Emil. I'm going
to pick cherries. Isn't everything beautiful
after the rain? Oh, but I'm glad to get this
place mowed! When I heard it raining in the
night, I thought maybe you would come and
do it for me to-day. The wind wakened me.
Didn't it blow dreadfully? Just smell the wild
roses! They are always so spicy after a rain.
We never had so many of them in here before.
I suppose it's the wet season. Will you have to
cut them, too?"
"If I cut the grass, I will," Emil said teas-
ingly. "What's the matter with you? What
makes you so flighty?"
"Am I flighty? I suppose that's the wet sea-
son, too, then. It's exciting to see everything
growing so fast,--and to get the grass cut!
Please leave the roses till last, if you must cut
them. Oh, I don't mean all of them, I mean
that low place down by my tree, where there
are so many. Aren't you splashed! Look at
the spider-webs all over the grass. Good-bye.
I'll call you if I see a snake."
She tripped away and Emil stood looking
after her. In a few moments he heard the cher-
ries dropping smartly into the pail, and he
began to swing his scythe with that long, even
stroke that few American boys ever learn.
Marie picked cherries and sang softly to herself,
stripping one glittering branch after another,
shivering when she caught a shower of rain-
drops on her neck and hair. And Emil mowed
his way slowly down toward the cherry trees.
That summer the rains had been so many
and opportune that it was almost more than
Shabata and his man could do to keep up with
the corn; the orchard was a neglected wilder-
ness. All sorts of weeds and herbs and flowers
had grown up there; splotches of wild larkspur,
pale green-and-white spikes of hoarhound,
plantations of wild cotton, tangles of foxtail
and wild wheat. South of the apricot trees, cor-
nering on the wheatfield, was Frank's alfalfa,
where myriads of white and yellow butterflies
were always fluttering above the purple blos-
soms. When Emil reached the lower corner by
the hedge, Marie was sitting under her white
mulberry tree, the pailful of cherries beside her,
looking off at the gentle, tireless swelling of the
"Emil," she said suddenly--he was mowing
quietly about under the tree so as not to disturb
her--"what religion did the Swedes have away
back, before they were Christians?"
Emil paused and straightened his back. "I
don't know. About like the Germans', wasn't it?"
Marie went on as if she had not heard him.
"The Bohemians, you know, were tree wor-
shipers before the missionaries came. Father
says the people in the mountains still do queer
things, sometimes,--they believe that trees
bring good or bad luck."
Emil looked superior. "Do they? Well,
which are the lucky trees? I'd like to know."
"I don't know all of them, but I know
lindens are. The old people in the mountains
plant lindens to purify the forest, and to do
away with the spells that come from the old
trees they say have lasted from heathen times.
I'm a good Catholic, but I think I could get
along with caring for trees, if I hadn't anything
"That's a poor saying," said Emil, stooping
over to wipe his hands in the wet grass.
"Why is it? If I feel that way, I feel that
way. I like trees because they seem more
resigned to the way they have to live than
other things do. I feel as if this tree knows
everything I ever think of when I sit here.
When I come back to it, I never have to re-
mind it of anything; I begin just where I left
Emil had nothing to say to this. He reached
up among the branches and began to pick the
sweet, insipid fruit,--long ivory-colored ber-
ries, tipped with faint pink, like white coral,
that fall to the ground unheeded all summer
through. He dropped a handful into her lap.
"Do you like Mr. Linstrum?" Marie asked
"Yes. Don't you?"
"Oh, ever so much; only he seems kind of
staid and school-teachery. But, of course, he is
older than Frank, even. I'm sure I don't want
to live to be more than thirty, do you? Do you
think Alexandra likes him very much?"
"I suppose so. They were old friends."
"Oh, Emil, you know what I mean!" Marie
tossed her head impatiently. "Does she really
care about him? When she used to tell me
about him, I always wondered whether she
wasn't a little in love with him."
"Who, Alexandra?" Emil laughed and
thrust his hands into his trousers pockets.
"Alexandra's never been in love, you crazy!"
He laughed again. "She wouldn't know how
to go about it. The idea!"
Marie shrugged her shoulders. "Oh, you
don't know Alexandra as well as you think
you do! If you had any eyes, you would see
that she is very fond of him. It would serve
you all right if she walked off with Carl. I like
him because he appreciates her more than you
Emil frowned. "What are you talking about,
Marie? Alexandra's all right. She and I have
always been good friends. What more do you
want? I like to talk to Carl about New York
and what a fellow can do there."
"Oh, Emil! Surely you are not thinking of
going off there?"
"Why not? I must go somewhere, mustn't
I?" The young man took up his scythe and
leaned on it. "Would you rather I went off in
the sand hills and lived like Ivar?"
Marie's face fell under his brooding gaze. She
looked down at his wet leggings. "I'm sure
Alexandra hopes you will stay on here," she
"Then Alexandra will be disappointed," the
young man said roughly. "What do I want to
hang around here for? Alexandra can run the
farm all right, without me. I don't want to
stand around and look on. I want to be doing
something on my own account."
"That's so," Marie sighed. "There are so
many, many things you can do. Almost any-
thing you choose."
"And there are so many, many things I can't
do." Emil echoed her tone sarcastically. "Some-
times I don't want to do anything at all, and
sometimes I want to pull the four corners of
the Divide together,"--he threw out his arm
and brought it back with a jerk,--"so, like a
table-cloth. I get tired of seeing men and horses
going up and down, up and down."
Marie looked up at his defiant figure and her
face clouded. "I wish you weren't so restless,
and didn't get so worked up over things," she
"Thank you," he returned shortly.
She sighed despondently. "Everything I say
makes you cross, don't it? And you never used
to be cross to me."
Emil took a step nearer and stood frowning
down at her bent head. He stood in an attitude
of self-defense, his feet well apart, his hands
clenched and drawn up at his sides, so that the
cords stood out on his bare arms. "I can't play
with you like a little boy any more," he said
slowly. "That's what you miss, Marie. You'll
have to get some other little boy to play with."
He stopped and took a deep breath. Then he
went on in a low tone, so intense that it was
almost threatening: "Sometimes you seem to
understand perfectly, and then sometimes you
pretend you don't. You don't help things any
by pretending. It's then that I want to pull
the corners of the Divide together. If you
WON'T understand, you know, I could make you!"
Marie clasped her hands and started up from
her seat. She had grown very pale and her eyes
were shining with excitement and distress.
"But, Emil, if I understand, then all our good
times are over, we can never do nice things to-
gether any more. We shall have to behave like
Mr. Linstrum. And, anyhow, there's nothing
to understand!" She struck the ground with
her little foot fiercely. "That won't last. It
will go away, and things will be just as they
used to. I wish you were a Catholic. The
Church helps people, indeed it does. I pray for
you, but that's not the same as if you prayed
She spoke rapidly and pleadingly, looked
entreatingly into his face. Emil stood defiant,
gazing down at her.
"I can't pray to have the things I want," he
said slowly, "and I won't pray not to have
them, not if I'm damned for it."
Marie turned away, wringing her hands.
"Oh, Emil, you won't try! Then all our good
times are over."
"Yes; over. I never expect to have any
Emil gripped the hand-holds of his scythe
and began to mow. Marie took up her cherries
and went slowly toward the house, crying
On Sunday afternoon, a month after Carl
Linstrum's arrival, he rode with Emil up into
the French country to attend a Catholic fair.
He sat for most of the afternoon in the base-
ment of the church, where the fair was held,
talking to Marie Shabata, or strolled about the
gravel terrace, thrown up on the hillside in
front of the basement doors, where the French
boys were jumping and wrestling and throwing
the discus. Some of the boys were in their
white baseball suits; they had just come up
from a Sunday practice game down in the ball-
grounds. Amedee, the newly married, Emil's
best friend, was their pitcher, renowned among
the country towns for his dash and skill.
Amedee was a little fellow, a year younger than
Emil and much more boyish in appearance;
very lithe and active and neatly made, with a
clear brown and white skin, and flashing white
teeth. The Sainte-Agnes boys were to play the
Hastings nine in a fortnight, and Amedee's
lightning balls were the hope of his team. The
little Frenchman seemed to get every ounce
there was in him behind the ball as it left his
"You'd have made the battery at the Univer-
sity for sure, 'Medee," Emil said as they were
walking from the ball-grounds back to the
church on the hill. "You're pitching better
than you did in the spring."
Amedee grinned. "Sure! A married man
don't lose his head no more." He slapped Emil
on the back as he caught step with him. "Oh,
Emil, you wanna get married right off quick!
It's the greatest thing ever!"
Emil laughed. "How am I going to get mar-
ried without any girl?"
Amedee took his arm. "Pooh! There are
plenty girls will have you. You wanna get some
nice French girl, now. She treat you well;
always be jolly. See,"--he began checking off
on his fingers,--"there is Severine, and
Alphosen, and Josephine, and Hectorine, and
Louise, and Malvina--why, I could love any
of them girls! Why don't you get after them?
Are you stuck up, Emil, or is anything the
matter with you? I never did know a boy
twenty-two years old before that didn't have
no girl. You wanna be a priest, maybe? Not-a
for me!" Amedee swaggered. "I bring many
good Catholics into this world, I hope, and
that's a way I help the Church."
Emil looked down and patted him on the
shoulder. "Now you're windy, 'Medee. You
Frenchies like to brag."
But Amedee had the zeal of the newly mar-
ried, and he was not to be lightly shaken off.
"Honest and true, Emil, don't you want ANY
girl? Maybe there's some young lady in Lin-
coln, now, very grand,"--Amedee waved his
hand languidly before his face to denote the
fan of heartless beauty,--"and you lost your
heart up there. Is that it?"
"Maybe," said Emil.
But Amedee saw no appropriate glow in his
friend's face. "Bah!" he exclaimed in disgust.
"I tell all the French girls to keep 'way from
you. You gotta rock in there," thumping Emil
on the ribs.
When they reached the terrace at the side of
the church, Amedee, who was excited by his
success on the ball-grounds, challenged Emil
to a jumping-match, though he knew he would
be beaten. They belted themselves up, and
Raoul Marcel, the choir tenor and Father
Duchesne's pet, and Jean Bordelau, held the
string over which they vaulted. All the
French boys stood round, cheering and hump-
ing themselves up when Emil or Amedee went
over the wire, as if they were helping in the lift.
Emil stopped at five-feet-five, declaring that
he would spoil his appetite for supper if he
jumped any more.
Angelique, Amedee's pretty bride, as blonde
and fair as her name, who had come out to
watch the match, tossed her head at Emil and
"'Medee could jump much higher than you
if he were as tall. And anyhow, he is much more
graceful. He goes over like a bird, and you
have to hump yourself all up."
"Oh, I do, do I?" Emil caught her and
kissed her saucy mouth squarely, while she
laughed and struggled and called, "'Medee!
"There, you see your 'Medee isn't even big
enough to get you away from me. I could run
away with you right now and he could only sit
down and cry about it. I'll show you whether
I have to hump myself!" Laughing and pant-
ing, he picked Angelique up in his arms and
began running about the rectangle with her.
Not until he saw Marie Shabata's tiger eyes
flashing from the gloom of the basement door-
way did he hand the disheveled bride over
to her husband. "There, go to your graceful;
I haven't the heart to take you away from
Angelique clung to her husband and made
faces at Emil over the white shoulder of
Amedee's ball-shirt. Emil was greatly amused
at her air of proprietorship and at Amedee's
shameless submission to it. He was delighted
with his friend's good fortune. He liked to see
and to think about Amedee's sunny, natural,
He and Amedee had ridden and wrestled and
larked together since they were lads of twelve.
On Sundays and holidays they were always
arm in arm. It seemed strange that now he
should have to hide the thing that Amedee was
so proud of, that the feeling which gave one of
them such happiness should bring the other
such despair. It was like that when Alexandra
tested her seed-corn in the spring, he mused.
From two ears that had grown side by side, the
grains of one shot up joyfully into the light,
projecting themselves into the future, and the
grains from the other lay still in the earth and
rotted; and nobody knew why.
While Emil and Carl were amusing them-
selves at the fair, Alexandra was at home, busy
with her account-books, which had been ne-
glected of late. She was almost through with
her figures when she heard a cart drive up to the
gate, and looking out of the window she saw her
two older brothers. They had seemed to avoid
her ever since Carl Linstrum's arrival, four
weeks ago that day, and she hurried to the
door to welcome them. She saw at once that
they had come with some very definite purpose.
They followed her stiffly into the sitting-room.
Oscar sat down, but Lou walked over to the
window and remained standing, his hands be-
"You are by yourself?" he asked, looking
toward the doorway into the parlor.
"Yes. Carl and Emil went up to the Catho-
For a few moments neither of the men spoke.
Then Lou came out sharply. "How soon
does he intend to go away from here?"
"I don't know, Lou. Not for some time, I
hope." Alexandra spoke in an even, quiet tone
that often exasperated her brothers. They felt
that she was trying to be superior with them.
Oscar spoke up grimly. "We thought we
ought to tell you that people have begun to
talk," he said meaningly.
Alexandra looked at him. "What about?"
Oscar met her eyes blankly. "About you,
keeping him here so long. It looks bad for him
to be hanging on to a woman this way. People
think you're getting taken in."
Alexandra shut her account-book firmly.
"Boys," she said seriously, "don't let's go on
with this. We won't come out anywhere. I
can't take advice on such a matter. I know you
mean well, but you must not feel responsible for
me in things of this sort. If we go on with this
talk it will only make hard feeling."
Lou whipped about from the window. "You
ought to think a little about your family.
You're making us all ridiculous."
"How am I?"
"People are beginning to say you want to
marry the fellow."
"Well, and what is ridiculous about that?"
Lou and Oscar exchanged outraged looks.
"Alexandra! Can't you see he's just a tramp
and he's after your money? He wants to be
taken care of, he does!"
"Well, suppose I want to take care of him?
Whose business is it but my own?"
"Don't you know he'd get hold of your property?"
"He'd get hold of what I wished to give him, certainly."
Oscar sat up suddenly and Lou clutched at
his bristly hair.
"I don't know about the homestead," said
Alexandra quietly. "I know you and Oscar
have always expected that it would be left to
your children, and I'm not sure but what
you're right. But I'll do exactly as I please
with the rest of my land, boys."
"The rest of your land!" cried Lou, growing
more excited every minute. "Didn't all the
land come out of the homestead? It was bought
with money borrowed on the homestead, and
Oscar and me worked ourselves to the bone
paying interest on it."
"Yes, you paid the interest. But when you
married we made a division of the land, and you
were satisfied. I've made more on my farms
since I've been alone than when we all worked
"Everything you've made has come out of
the original land that us boys worked for,
hasn't it? The farms and all that comes out of
them belongs to us as a family."
Alexandra waved her hand impatiently.
"Come now, Lou. Stick to the facts. You are
talking nonsense. Go to the county clerk and
ask him who owns my land, and whether my
titles are good."
Lou turned to his brother. "This is what
comes of letting a woman meddle in business,"
he said bitterly. "We ought to have taken
things in our own hands years ago. But she
liked to run things, and we humored her. We
thought you had good sense, Alexandra. We
never thought you'd do anything foolish."
Alexandra rapped impatiently on her desk
with her knuckles. "Listen, Lou. Don't talk
wild. You say you ought to have taken things
into your own hands years ago. I suppose you
mean before you left home. But how could you
take hold of what wasn't there? I've got most
of what I have now since we divided the prop-
erty; I've built it up myself, and it has nothing
to do with you."
Oscar spoke up solemnly. "The property of a
family really belongs to the men of the family,
no matter about the title. If anything goes
wrong, it's the men that are held responsible."
"Yes, of course," Lou broke in. "Everybody
knows that. Oscar and me have always been
easy-going and we've never made any fuss.
We were willing you should hold the land and
have the good of it, but you got no right to
part with any of it. We worked in the fields
to pay for the first land you bought, and what-
ever's come out of it has got to be kept in the
Oscar reinforced his brother, his mind fixed
on the one point he could see. "The property
of a family belongs to the men of the family,
because they are held responsible, and because
they do the work."
Alexandra looked from one to the other, her
eyes full of indignation. She had been impa-
tient before, but now she was beginning to feel
angry. "And what about my work?" she asked
in an unsteady voice.
Lou looked at the carpet. "Oh, now, Alex-
andra, you always took it pretty easy! Of
course we wanted you to. You liked to manage
round, and we always humored you. We realize
you were a great deal of help to us. There's no
woman anywhere around that knows as much
about business as you do, and we've always
been proud of that, and thought you were
pretty smart. But, of course, the real work
always fell on us. Good advice is all right, but
it don't get the weeds out of the corn."
"Maybe not, but it sometimes puts in the
crop, and it sometimes keeps the fields for corn
to grow in," said Alexandra dryly. "Why,
Lou, I can remember when you and Oscar
wanted to sell this homestead and all the im-
provements to old preacher Ericson for two
thousand dollars. If I'd consented, you'd have
gone down to the river and scraped along on
poor farms for the rest of your lives. When I
put in our first field of alfalfa you both opposed
me, just because I first heard about it from a
young man who had been to the University.
You said I was being taken in then, and all the
neighbors said so. You know as well as I do
that alfalfa has been the salvation of this coun-
try. You all laughed at me when I said our
land here was about ready for wheat, and I had
to raise three big wheat crops before the neigh-
bors quit putting all their land in corn. Why, I
remember you cried, Lou, when we put in the
first big wheat-planting, and said everybody
was laughing at us."
Lou turned to Oscar. "That's the woman of
it; if she tells you to put in a crop, she thinks
she's put it in. It makes women conceited to
meddle in business. I shouldn't think you'd
want to remind us how hard you were on us,
Alexandra, after the way you baby Emil."
"Hard on you? I never meant to be hard.
Conditions were hard. Maybe I would never
have been very soft, anyhow; but I certainly
didn't choose to be the kind of girl I was. If
you take even a vine and cut it back again and
again, it grows hard, like a tree."
Lou felt that they were wandering from the
point, and that in digression Alexandra might
unnerve him. He wiped his forehead with a
jerk of his handkerchief. "We never doubted
you, Alexandra. We never questioned any-
thing you did. You've always had your own
way. But you can't expect us to sit like stumps
and see you done out of the property by any
loafer who happens along, and making yourself
ridiculous into the bargain."
Oscar rose. "Yes," he broke in, "every-
body's laughing to see you get took in; at your
age, too. Everybody knows he's nearly five
years younger than you, and is after your
money. Why, Alexandra, you are forty years old!"
"All that doesn't concern anybody but Carl
and me. Go to town and ask your lawyers what
you can do to restrain me from disposing of my
own property. And I advise you to do what
they tell you; for the authority you can exert
by law is the only influence you will ever have
over me again." Alexandra rose. "I think I
would rather not have lived to find out what I
have to-day," she said quietly, closing her desk.
Lou and Oscar looked at each other ques-
tioningly. There seemed to be nothing to do
but to go, and they walked out.
"You can't do business with women," Oscar
said heavily as he clambered into the cart.
"But anyhow, we've had our say, at last."
Lou scratched his head. "Talk of that kind
might come too high, you know; but she's apt
to be sensible. You hadn't ought to said that
about her age, though, Oscar. I'm afraid that
hurt her feelings; and the worst thing we can do
is to make her sore at us. She'd marry him out
"I only meant," said Oscar, "that she is old
enough to know better, and she is. If she was
going to marry, she ought to done it long ago,
and not go making a fool of herself now."
Lou looked anxious, nevertheless. "Of
course," he reflected hopefully and incon-
sistently, "Alexandra ain't much like other
women-folks. Maybe it won't make her sore.
Maybe she'd as soon be forty as not!"
Emil came home at about half-past seven
o'clock that evening. Old Ivar met him at the
windmill and took his horse, and the young man
went directly into the house. He called to his
sister and she answered from her bedroom,
behind the sitting-room, saying that she was
Emil went to her door.
"Can I see you for a minute?" he asked. "I
want to talk to you about something before
Alexandra rose quickly and came to the door.
"Where is Carl?"
"Lou and Oscar met us and said they wanted
to talk to him, so he rode over to Oscar's with
them. Are you coming out?" Emil asked
"Yes, sit down. I'll be dressed in a mo-
Alexandra closed her door, and Emil sank
down on the old slat lounge and sat with his
head in his hands. When his sister came out, he
looked up, not knowing whether the interval
had been short or long, and he was surprised to
see that the room had grown quite dark. That
was just as well; it would be easier to talk if he
were not under the gaze of those clear, deliber-
ate eyes, that saw so far in some directions and
were so blind in others. Alexandra, too, was
glad of the dusk. Her face was swollen from
Emil started up and then sat down again.
"Alexandra," he said slowly, in his deep young
baritone, "I don't want to go away to law
school this fall. Let me put it off another year.
I want to take a year off and look around. It's
awfully easy to rush into a profession you don't
really like, and awfully hard to get out of it.
Linstrum and I have been talking about that."
"Very well, Emil. Only don't go off looking
for land." She came up and put her hand on his
shoulder. "I've been wishing you could stay
with me this winter."
"That's just what I don't want to do, Alex-
andra. I'm restless. I want to go to a new place.
I want to go down to the City of Mexico to join
one of the University fellows who's at the head
of an electrical plant. He wrote me he could
give me a little job, enough to pay my way, and
I could look around and see what I want to do.
I want to go as soon as harvest is over. I guess
Lou and Oscar will be sore about it."
"I suppose they will." Alexandra sat down
on the lounge beside him. "They are very
angry with me, Emil. We have had a quarrel.
They will not come here again."
Emil scarcely heard what she was saying; he
did not notice the sadness of her tone. He was
thinking about the reckless life he meant to live
"What about?" he asked absently.
"About Carl Linstrum. They are afraid I am
going to marry him, and that some of my
property will get away from them."
Emil shrugged his shoulders. "What non-
sense!" he murmured. "Just like them."
Alexandra drew back. "Why nonsense, Emil?"
"Why, you've never thought of such a thing,
have you? They always have to have something to
"Emil," said his sister slowly, "you ought
not to take things for granted. Do you agree
with them that I have no right to change my
way of living?"
Emil looked at the outline of his sister's head
in the dim light. They were sitting close to-
gether and he somehow felt that she could
hear his thoughts. He was silent for a mo-
ment, and then said in an embarrassed tone,
"Why, no, certainly not. You ought to do
whatever you want to. I'll always back you."
"But it would seem a little bit ridiculous to
you if I married Carl?"
Emil fidgeted. The issue seemed to him too
far-fetched to warrant discussion. "Why, no.
I should be surprised if you wanted to. I can't
see exactly why. But that's none of my busi-
ness. You ought to do as you please. Certainly
you ought not to pay any attention to what the
Alexandra sighed. "I had hoped you might
understand, a little, why I do want to. But I
suppose that's too much to expect. I've had a
pretty lonely life, Emil. Besides Marie, Carl is
the only friend I have ever had."
Emil was awake now; a name in her last sen-
tence roused him. He put out his hand and
took his sister's awkwardly. "You ought to do
just as you wish, and I think Carl's a fine fel-
low. He and I would always get on. I don't
believe any of the things the boys say about
him, honest I don't. They are suspicious of him
because he's intelligent. You know their way.
They've been sore at me ever since you let me
go away to college. They're always trying to
catch me up. If I were you, I wouldn't pay
any attention to them. There's nothing to get
upset about. Carl's a sensible fellow. He won't
"I don't know. If they talk to him the way
they did to me, I think he'll go away."
Emil grew more and more uneasy. "Think
so? Well, Marie said it would serve us all right
if you walked off with him."
"Did she? Bless her little heart! SHE would."
Alexandra's voice broke.
Emil began unlacing his leggings. "Why
don't you talk to her about it? There's Carl, I
hear his horse. I guess I'll go upstairs and get
my boots off. No, I don't want any supper. We
had supper at five o'clock, at the fair."
Emil was glad to escape and get to his own
room. He was a little ashamed for his sister,
though he had tried not to show it. He felt
that there was something indecorous in her
proposal, and she did seem to him somewhat
ridiculous. There was trouble enough in the
world, he reflected, as he threw himself upon
his bed, without people who were forty years
old imagining they wanted to get married. In
the darkness and silence Emil was not likely to
think long about Alexandra. Every image
slipped away but one. He had seen Marie in
the crowd that afternoon. She sold candy at the
fair. WHY had she ever run away with Frank
Shabata, and how could she go on laughing and
working and taking an interest in things? Why
did she like so many people, and why had she
seemed pleased when all the French and Bohe-
mian boys, and the priest himself, crowded
round her candy stand? Why did she care
about any one but him? Why could he never,
never find the thing he looked for in her playful,
Then he fell to imagining that he looked once
more and found it there, and what it would be
like if she loved him,--she who, as Alexandra
said, could give her whole heart. In that dream
he could lie for hours, as if in a trance. His spirit
went out of his body and crossed the fields to
At the University dances the girls had often
looked wonderingly at the tall young Swede
with the fine head, leaning against the wall and
frowning, his arms folded, his eyes fixed on the
ceiling or the floor. All the girls were a little
afraid of him. He was distinguished-looking,
and not the jollying kind. They felt that he was
too intense and preoccupied. There was some-
thing queer about him. Emil's fraternity
rather prided itself upon its dances, and some-
times he did his duty and danced every dance.
But whether he was on the floor or brooding in a
corner, he was always thinking about Marie
Shabata. For two years the storm had been
gathering in him.
Carl came into the sitting-room while Alex-
andra was lighting the lamp. She looked up at
him as she adjusted the shade. His sharp shoul-
ders stooped as if he were very tired, his face
was pale, and there were bluish shadows under
his dark eyes. His anger had burned itself out
and left him sick and disgusted.
"You have seen Lou and Oscar?" Alexandra
"Yes." His eyes avoided hers.
Alexandra took a deep breath. "And now
you are going away. I thought so."
Carl threw himself into a chair and pushed
the dark lock back from his forehead with his
white, nervous hand. "What a hopeless posi-
tion you are in, Alexandra!" he exclaimed
feverishly. "It is your fate to be always sur-
rounded by little men. And I am no better than
the rest. I am too little to face the criticism of
even such men as Lou and Oscar. Yes, I am
going away; to-morrow. I cannot even ask you
to give me a promise until I have something to
offer you. I thought, perhaps, I could do that;
but I find I can't."
"What good comes of offering people things
they don't need?" Alexandra asked sadly. "I
don't need money. But I have needed you for a
great many years. I wonder why I have been
permitted to prosper, if it is only to take my
friends away from me."
"I don't deceive myself," Carl said frankly.
"I know that I am going away on my own
account. I must make the usual effort. I must
have something to show for myself. To take
what you would give me, I should have to be
either a very large man or a very small one,
and I am only in the middle class."
Alexandra sighed. "I have a feeling that if
you go away, you will not come back. Some-
thing will happen to one of us, or to both.
People have to snatch at happiness when they
can, in this world. It is always easier to lose
than to find. What I have is yours, if you care
enough about me to take it."
Carl rose and looked up at the picture of
John Bergson. "But I can't, my dear, I can't!
I will go North at once. Instead of idling about
in California all winter, I shall be getting my
bearings up there. I won't waste another week.
Be patient with me, Alexandra. Give me a
"As you will," said Alexandra wearily. "All
at once, in a single day, I lose everything; and I
do not know why. Emil, too, is going away."
Carl was still studying John Bergson's face and
Alexandra's eyes followed his. "Yes," she said,
"if he could have seen all that would come of the
task he gave me, he would have been sorry. I
hope he does not see me now. I hope that he is
among the old people of his blood and country,
and that tidings do not reach him from the
Winter has settled down over the Divide
again; the season in which Nature recuperates,
in which she sinks to sleep between the fruitful-
ness of autumn and the passion of spring. The
birds have gone. The teeming life that goes on
down in the long grass is exterminated. The
prairie-dog keeps his hole. The rabbits run
shivering from one frozen garden patch to an-
other and are hard put to it to find frost-bitten
cabbage-stalks. At night the coyotes roam the
wintry waste, howling for food. The variegated
fields are all one color now; the pastures, the
stubble, the roads, the sky are the same leaden
gray. The hedgerows and trees are scarcely per-
ceptible against the bare earth, whose slaty hue
they have taken on. The ground is frozen so
hard that it bruises the foot to walk in the roads
or in the ploughed fields. It is like an iron
country, and the spirit is oppressed by its rigor
and melancholy. One could easily believe that in
that dead landscape the germs of life and fruit-
fulness were extinct forever.
Alexandra has settled back into her old
routine. There are weekly letters from Emil.
Lou and Oscar she has not seen since Carl
went away. To avoid awkward encounters in
the presence of curious spectators, she has
stopped going to the Norwegian Church and
drives up to the Reform Church at Hanover,
or goes with Marie Shabata to the Catholic
Church, locally known as "the French Church."
She has not told Marie about Carl, or her dif-
ferences with her brothers. She was never very
communicative about her own affairs, and
when she came to the point, an instinct told her
that about such things she and Marie would
not understand one another.
Old Mrs. Lee had been afraid that family
misunderstandings might deprive her of her
yearly visit to Alexandra. But on the first day
of December Alexandra telephoned Annie that
to-morrow she would send Ivar over for her
mother, and the next day the old lady arrived
with her bundles. For twelve years Mrs. Lee
had always entered Alexandra's sitting-room
with the same exclamation, "Now we be yust-a
like old times!" She enjoyed the liberty Alex-
andra gave her, and hearing her own language
about her all day long. Here she could wear her
nightcap and sleep with all her windows shut,
listen to Ivar reading the Bible, and here she
could run about among the stables in a pair of
Emil's old boots. Though she was bent almost
double, she was as spry as a gopher. Her face
was as brown as if it had been varnished, and as
full of wrinkles as a washerwoman's hands. She
had three jolly old teeth left in the front of her
mouth, and when she grinned she looked very
knowing, as if when you found out how to take
it, life wasn't half bad. While she and Alex-
andra patched and pieced and quilted, she
talked incessantly about stories she read in a
Swedish family paper, telling the plots in great
detail; or about her life on a dairy farm in
Gottland when she was a girl. Sometimes she
forgot which were the printed stories and which
were the real stories, it all seemed so far away.
She loved to take a little brandy, with hot
water and sugar, before she went to bed, and
Alexandra always had it ready for her. "It
sends good dreams," she would say with a
twinkle in her eye.
When Mrs. Lee had been with Alexandra for
a week, Marie Shabata telephoned one morning
to say that Frank had gone to town for the day,
and she would like them to come over for coffee
in the afternoon. Mrs. Lee hurried to wash out
and iron her new cross-stitched apron, which
she had finished only the night before; a checked
gingham apron worked with a design ten inches
broad across the bottom; a hunting scene, with
fir trees and a stag and dogs and huntsmen.
Mrs. Lee was firm with herself at dinner, and
refused a second helping of apple dumplings.
"I ta-ank I save up," she said with a giggle.
At two o'clock in the afternoon Alexandra's
cart drove up to the Shabatas' gate, and Marie
saw Mrs. Lee's red shawl come bobbing up the
path. She ran to the door and pulled the old
woman into the house with a hug, helping her
to take off her wraps while Alexandra blan-
keted the horse outside. Mrs. Lee had put on
her best black satine dress--she abominated
woolen stuffs, even in winter--and a crocheted
collar, fastened with a big pale gold pin, con-
taining faded daguerreotypes of her father and
mother. She had not worn her apron for fear of
rumpling it, and now she shook it out and tied
it round her waist with a conscious air. Marie
drew back and threw up her hands, exclaiming,
"Oh, what a beauty! I've never seen this one
before, have I, Mrs. Lee?"
The old woman giggled and ducked her head.
"No, yust las' night I ma-ake. See dis tread;
verra strong, no wa-ash out, no fade. My sis-
ter send from Sveden. I yust-a ta-ank you like
Marie ran to the door again. "Come in,
Alexandra. I have been looking at Mrs. Lee's
apron. Do stop on your way home and show it
to Mrs. Hiller. She's crazy about cross-stitch."
While Alexandra removed her hat and veil,
Mrs. Lee went out to the kitchen and settled
herself in a wooden rocking-chair by the stove,
looking with great interest at the table, set for
three, with a white cloth, and a pot of pink
geraniums in the middle. "My, a-an't you
gotta fine plants; such-a much flower. How you
keep from freeze?"
She pointed to the window-shelves, full of
blooming fuchsias and geraniums.
"I keep the fire all night, Mrs. Lee, and when
it's very cold I put them all on the table, in the
middle of the room. Other nights I only put
newspapers behind them. Frank laughs at me
for fussing, but when they don't bloom he says,
'What's the matter with the darned things?'--
What do you hear from Carl, Alexandra?"
"He got to Dawson before the river froze,
and now I suppose I won't hear any more until
spring. Before he left California he sent me a
box of orange flowers, but they didn't keep
very well. I have brought a bunch of Emil's
letters for you." Alexandra came out from the
sitting-room and pinched Marie's cheek play-
fully. "You don't look as if the weather ever
froze you up. Never have colds, do you?
That's a good girl. She had dark red cheeks like
this when she was a little girl, Mrs. Lee. She
looked like some queer foreign kind of a doll.
I've never forgot the first time I saw you in
Mieklejohn's store, Marie, the time father was
lying sick. Carl and I were talking about that
before he went away."
"I remember, and Emil had his kitten along.
When are you going to send Emil's Christmas
"It ought to have gone before this. I'll have
to send it by mail now, to get it there in time."
Marie pulled a dark purple silk necktie from
her workbasket. "I knit this for him. It's a
good color, don't you think? Will you please
put it in with your things and tell him it's from
me, to wear when he goes serenading."
Alexandra laughed. "I don't believe he goes
serenading much. He says in one letter that
the Mexican ladies are said to be very beauti-
ful, but that don't seem to me very warm
Marie tossed her head. "Emil can't fool me.
If he's bought a guitar, he goes serenading.
Who wouldn't, with all those Spanish girls
dropping flowers down from their windows!
I'd sing to them every night, wouldn't you,
The old lady chuckled. Her eyes lit up as
Marie bent down and opened the oven door.
A delicious hot fragrance blew out into the tidy
kitchen. "My, somet'ing smell good!" She
turned to Alexandra with a wink, her three yel-
low teeth making a brave show, "I ta-ank dat
stop my yaw from ache no more!" she said con-
Marie took out a pan of delicate little rolls,
stuffed with stewed apricots, and began to dust
them over with powdered sugar. "I hope you'll
like these, Mrs. Lee; Alexandra does. The
Bohemians always like them with their coffee.
But if you don't, I have a coffee-cake with nuts
and poppy seeds. Alexandra, will you get the
cream jug? I put it in the window to keep
"The Bohemians," said Alexandra, as they
drew up to the table, "certainly know how to
make more kinds of bread than any other peo-
ple in the world. Old Mrs. Hiller told me once at
the church supper that she could make seven
kinds of fancy bread, but Marie could make a
Mrs. Lee held up one of the apricot rolls
between her brown thumb and forefinger and
weighed it critically. "Yust like-a fedders,"
she pronounced with satisfaction. "My, a-an't
dis nice!" she exclaimed as she stirred her
coffee. "I yust ta-ake a liddle yelly now, too,
Alexandra and Marie laughed at her fore-
handedness, and fell to talking of their own
affairs. "I was afraid you had a cold when I
talked to you over the telephone the other
night, Marie. What was the matter, had you
"Maybe I had," Marie smiled guiltily.
"Frank was out late that night. Don't you get
lonely sometimes in the winter, when every-
body has gone away?"
"I thought it was something like that. If I
hadn't had company, I'd have run over to see
for myself. If you get down-hearted, what will
become of the rest of us?" Alexandra asked.
"I don't, very often. There's Mrs. Lee
without any coffee!"
Later, when Mrs. Lee declared that her
powers were spent, Marie and Alexandra went
upstairs to look for some crochet patterns the
old lady wanted to borrow. "Better put on
your coat, Alexandra. It's cold up there, and I
have no idea where those patterns are. I may
have to look through my old trunks." Marie
caught up a shawl and opened the stair door, run-
ning up the steps ahead of her guest. "While I
go through the bureau drawers, you might look
in those hat-boxes on the closet-shelf, over
where Frank's clothes hang. There are a lot
of odds and ends in them."
She began tossing over the contents of the
drawers, and Alexandra went into the clothes-
closet. Presently she came back, holding a
slender elastic yellow stick in her hand.
"What in the world is this, Marie? You
don't mean to tell me Frank ever carried such
Marie blinked at it with astonishment and
sat down on the floor. "Where did you find it?
I didn't know he had kept it. I haven't seen
it for years."
"It really is a cane, then?"
"Yes. One he brought from the old coun-
try. He used to carry it when I first knew him.
Isn't it foolish? Poor Frank!"
Alexandra twirled the stick in her fingers and
laughed. "He must have looked funny!"
Marie was thoughtful. "No, he didn't, really.
It didn't seem out of place. He used to be
awfully gay like that when he was a young
man. I guess people always get what's hard-
est for them, Alexandra." Marie gathered the
shawl closer about her and still looked hard at
the cane. "Frank would be all right in the right
place," she said reflectively. "He ought to
have a different kind of wife, for one thing. Do
you know, Alexandra, I could pick out exactly
the right sort of woman for Frank--now.
The trouble is you almost have to marry a man
before you can find out the sort of wife he
needs; and usually it's exactly the sort you are
not. Then what are you going to do about it?"
she asked candidly.
Alexandra confessed she didn't know.
"However," she added, "it seems to me that
you get along with Frank about as well as any
woman I've ever seen or heard of could."
Marie shook her head, pursing her lips and
blowing her warm breath softly out into the
frosty air. "No; I was spoiled at home. I like
my own way, and I have a quick tongue. When
Frank brags, I say sharp things, and he never
forgets. He goes over and over it in his mind;
I can feel him. Then I'm too giddy. Frank's
wife ought to be timid, and she ought not to
care about another living thing in the world but
just Frank! I didn't, when I married him, but
I suppose I was too young to stay like that."
Alexandra had never heard Marie speak so
frankly about her husband before, and she felt
that it was wiser not to encourage her. No
good, she reasoned, ever came from talking
about such things, and while Marie was think-
ing aloud, Alexandra had been steadily search-
ing the hat-boxes. "Aren't these the pat-
Maria sprang up from the floor. "Sure
enough, we were looking for patterns, weren't
we? I'd forgot about everything but Frank's
other wife. I'll put that away."
She poked the cane behind Frank's Sunday
clothes, and though she laughed, Alexandra saw
there were tears in her eyes.
When they went back to the kitchen, the
snow had begun to fall, and Marie's visitors
thought they must be getting home. She went
out to the cart with them, and tucked the robes
about old Mrs. Lee while Alexandra took the
blanket off her horse. As they drove away,
Marie turned and went slowly back to the
house. She took up the package of letters
Alexandra had brought, but she did not read
them. She turned them over and looked at the
foreign stamps, and then sat watching the fly-
ing snow while the dusk deepened in the kitchen
and the stove sent out a red glow.
Marie knew perfectly well that Emil's letters
were written more for her than for Alexandra.
They were not the sort of letters that a young
man writes to his sister. They were both more
personal and more painstaking; full of descrip-
tions of the gay life in the old Mexican capital
in the days when the strong hand of Porfirio
Diaz was still strong. He told about bull-fights
and cock-fights, churches and FIESTAS, the flower-
markets and the fountains, the music and dan-
cing, the people of all nations he met in the
Italian restaurants on San Francisco Street. In
short, they were the kind of letters a young man
writes to a woman when he wishes himself and
his life to seem interesting to her, when he
wishes to enlist her imagination in his behalf.
Marie, when she was alone or when she sat
sewing in the evening, often thought about
what it must be like down there where Emil
was; where there were flowers and street bands
everywhere, and carriages rattling up and
down, and where there was a little blind boot-
black in front of the cathedral who could play
any tune you asked for by dropping the lids
of blacking-boxes on the stone steps. When
everything is done and over for one at twenty-
three, it is pleasant to let the mind wander
forth and follow a young adventurer who has
life before him. "And if it had not been for
me," she thought, "Frank might still be free
like that, and having a good time making peo-
ple admire him. Poor Frank, getting married
wasn't very good for him either. I'm afraid I
do set people against him, as he says. I seem,
somehow, to give him away all the time. Per-
haps he would try to be agreeable to people
again, if I were not around. It seems as if I
always make him just as bad as he can be."
Later in the winter, Alexandra looked back
upon that afternoon as the last satisfactory
visit she had had with Marie. After that day
the younger woman seemed to shrink more and
more into herself. When she was with Alexan-
dra she was not spontaneous and frank as she
used to be. She seemed to be brooding over
something, and holding something back. The
weather had a good deal to do with their seeing
less of each other than usual. There had not been
such snowstorms in twenty years, and the path
across the fields was drifted deep from Christ-
mas until March. When the two neighbors went
to see each other, they had to go round by the
wagon-road, which was twice as far. They tele-
phoned each other almost every night, though
in January there was a stretch of three weeks
when the wires were down, and when the post-
man did not come at all.
Marie often ran in to see her nearest neigh-
bor, old Mrs. Hiller, who was crippled with
rheumatism and had only her son, the lame
shoemaker, to take care of her; and she went to
the French Church, whatever the weather. She
was a sincerely devout girl. She prayed for her-
self and for Frank, and for Emil, among the
temptations of that gay, corrupt old city. She
found more comfort in the Church that winter
than ever before. It seemed to come closer to
her, and to fill an emptiness that ached in her
heart. She tried to be patient with her hus-
band. He and his hired man usually played Cal-
ifornia Jack in the evening. Marie sat sew-
ing or crocheting and tried to take a friendly
interest in the game, but she was always
thinking about the wide fields outside, where
the snow was drifting over the fences; and
about the orchard, where the snow was falling
and packing, crust over crust. When she went
out into the dark kitchen to fix her plants
for the night, she used to stand by the window
and look out at the white fields, or watch the
currents of snow whirling over the orchard.
She seemed to feel the weight of all the snow
that lay down there. The branches had be-
come so hard that they wounded your hand if
you but tried to break a twig. And yet, down
under the frozen crusts, at the roots of the
trees, the secret of life was still safe, warm
as the blood in one's heart; and the spring
would come again! Oh, it would come again!
If Alexandra had had much imagination she
might have guessed what was going on in
Marie's mind, and she would have seen long
before what was going on in Emil's. But that,
as Emil himself had more than once reflected,
was Alexandra's blind side, and her life had not
been of the kind to sharpen her vision. Her
training had all been toward the end of making
her proficient in what she had undertaken to do.
Her personal life, her own realization of herself,
was almost a subconscious existence; like an
underground river that came to the surface only
here and there, at intervals months apart, and
then sank again to flow on under her own fields.
Nevertheless, the underground stream was
there, and it was because she had so much per-
sonality to put into her enterprises and suc-
ceeded in putting it into them so completely,
that her affairs prospered better than those of
There were certain days in her life, out-
wardly uneventful, which Alexandra remem-
bered as peculiarly happy; days when she was
close to the flat, fallow world about her, and
felt, as it were, in her own body the joyous
germination in the soil. There were days,
too, which she and Emil had spent together,
upon which she loved to look back. There
had been such a day when they were down
on the river in the dry year, looking over the
land. They had made an early start one
morning and had driven a long way before
noon. When Emil said he was hungry, they
drew back from the road, gave Brigham his
oats among the bushes, and climbed up to the
top of a grassy bluff to eat their lunch under the
shade of some little elm trees. The river was
clear there, and shallow, since there had been
no rain, and it ran in ripples over the sparkling
sand. Under the overhanging willows of the
opposite bank there was an inlet where the
water was deeper and flowed so slowly that it
seemed to sleep in the sun. In this little bay a
single wild duck was swimming and diving and
preening her feathers, disporting herself very
happily in the flickering light and shade. They
sat for a long time, watching the solitary bird
take its pleasure. No living thing had ever
seemed to Alexandra as beautiful as that wild
duck. Emil must have felt about it as she did,
for afterward, when they were at home, he used
sometimes to say, "Sister, you know our duck
down there--" Alexandra remembered that
day as one of the happiest in her life. Years
afterward she thought of the duck as still there,
swimming and diving all by herself in the sun-
light, a kind of enchanted bird that did not
know age or change.
Most of Alexandra's happy memories were as
impersonal as this one; yet to her they were
very personal. Her mind was a white book,
with clear writing about weather and beasts and
growing things. Not many people would have
cared to read it; only a happy few. She had
never been in love, she had never indulged in
sentimental reveries. Even as a girl she had
looked upon men as work-fellows. She had
grown up in serious times.
There was one fancy indeed, which persisted
through her girlhood. It most often came to
her on Sunday mornings, the one day in the
week when she lay late abed listening to the
familiar morning sounds; the windmill singing
in the brisk breeze, Emil whistling as he blacked
his boots down by the kitchen door. Some-
times, as she lay thus luxuriously idle, her eyes
closed, she used to have an illusion of being
lifted up bodily and carried lightly by some one
very strong. It was a man, certainly, who car-
ried her, but he was like no man she knew; he
was much larger and stronger and swifter, and
he carried her as easily as if she were a sheaf
of wheat. She never saw him, but, with eyes
closed, she could feel that he was yellow like the
sunlight, and there was the smell of ripe corn-
fields about him. She could feel him approach,
bend over her and lift her, and then she could
feel herself being carried swiftly off across the
fields. After such a reverie she would rise has-
tily, angry with herself, and go down to the
bath-house that was partitioned off the kitchen
shed. There she would stand in a tin tub and
prosecute her bath with vigor, finishing it by
pouring buckets of cold well-water over her
gleaming white body which no man on the
Divide could have carried very far.
As she grew older, this fancy more often
came to her when she was tired than when she
was fresh and strong. Sometimes, after she had
been in the open all day, overseeing the brand-
ing of the cattle or the loading of the pigs, she
would come in chilled, take a concoction of
spices and warm home-made wine, and go to bed
with her body actually aching with fatigue.
Then, just before she went to sleep, she had
the old sensation of being lifted and carried by
a strong being who took from her all her bodily
The White Mulberry Tree
The French Church, properly the Church of
Sainte-Agnes, stood upon a hill. The high, nar-
row, red-brick building, with its tall steeple and
steep roof, could be seen for miles across the
wheatfields, though the little town of Sainte-
Agnes was completely hidden away at the foot
of the hill. The church looked powerful and
triumphant there on its eminence, so high above
the rest of the landscape, with miles of warm
color lying at its feet, and by its position and
setting it reminded one of some of the churches
built long ago in the wheat-lands of middle
Late one June afternoon Alexandra Bergson
was driving along one of the many roads that
led through the rich French farming country to
the big church. The sunlight was shining di-
rectly in her face, and there was a blaze of light
all about the red church on the hill. Beside
Alexandra lounged a strikingly exotic figure in a
tall Mexican hat, a silk sash, and a black vel-
vet jacket sewn with silver buttons. Emil had
returned only the night before, and his sister
was so proud of him that she decided at once
to take him up to the church supper, and to
make him wear the Mexican costume he had
brought home in his trunk. "All the girls who
have stands are going to wear fancy costumes,"
she argued, "and some of the boys. Marie is
going to tell fortunes, and she sent to Omaha
for a Bohemian dress her father brought back
from a visit to the old country. If you wear
those clothes, they will all be pleased. And you
must take your guitar. Everybody ought to do
what they can to help along, and we have never
done much. We are not a talented family."
The supper was to be at six o'clock, in the
basement of the church, and afterward there
would be a fair, with charades and an auction.
Alexandra had set out from home early, leaving
the house to Signa and Nelse Jensen, who were to
be married next week. Signa had shyly asked to
have the wedding put off until Emil came home.
Alexandra was well satisfied with her brother.
As they drove through the rolling French coun-
try toward the westering sun and the stalwart
church, she was thinking of that time long ago
when she and Emil drove back from the river
valley to the still unconquered Divide. Yes,
she told herself, it had been worth while; both
Emil and the country had become what she had
hoped. Out of her father's children there was
one who was fit to cope with the world, who had
not been tied to the plow, and who had a per-
sonality apart from the soil. And that, she
reflected, was what she had worked for. She
felt well satisfied with her life.
When they reached the church, a score of
teams were hitched in front of the basement
doors that opened from the hillside upon the
sanded terrace, where the boys wrestled and had
jumping-matches. Amedee Chevalier, a proud
father of one week, rushed out and embraced
Emil. Amedee was an only son,--hence he
was a very rich young man,--but he meant to
have twenty children himself, like his uncle
Xavier. "Oh, Emil," he cried, hugging his old
friend rapturously, "why ain't you been up to
see my boy? You come to-morrow, sure?
Emil, you wanna get a boy right off! It's the
greatest thing ever! No, no, no! Angel not sick
at all. Everything just fine. That boy he come
into this world laughin', and he been laughin'
ever since. You come an' see!" He pounded
Emil's ribs to emphasize each announcement.
Emil caught his arms. "Stop, Amedee.
You're knocking the wind out of me. I brought
him cups and spoons and blankets and mocca-
sins enough for an orphan asylum. I'm awful
glad it's a boy, sure enough!"
The young men crowded round Emil to ad-
mire his costume and to tell him in a breath
everything that had happened since he went
away. Emil had more friends up here in the
French country than down on Norway Creek.
The French and Bohemian boys were spirited
and jolly, liked variety, and were as much pre-
disposed to favor anything new as the Scandi-
navian boys were to reject it. The Norwegian
and Swedish lads were much more self-centred,
apt to be egotistical and jealous. They were
cautious and reserved with Emil because he
had been away to college, and were prepared
to take him down if he should try to put on
airs with them. The French boys liked a bit
of swagger, and they were always delighted to
hear about anything new: new clothes, new
games, new songs, new dances. Now they car-
ried Emil off to show him the club room they
had just fitted up over the post-office, down in
the village. They ran down the hill in a drove,
all laughing and chattering at once, some in
French, some in English.
Alexandra went into the cool, whitewashed
basement where the women were setting the
tables. Marie was standing on a chair, building
a little tent of shawls where she was to tell
fortunes. She sprang down and ran toward
Alexandra, stopping short and looking at her
in disappointment. Alexandra nodded to her
"Oh, he will be here, Marie. The boys have
taken him off to show him something. You
won't know him. He is a man now, sure enough.
I have no boy left. He smokes terrible-smelling
Mexican cigarettes and talks Spanish. How
pretty you look, child. Where did you get those
"They belonged to father's mother. He
always promised them to me. He sent them
with the dress and said I could keep them."
Marie wore a short red skirt of stoutly woven
cloth, a white bodice and kirtle, a yellow silk
turban wound low over her brown curls, and
long coral pendants in her ears. Her ears had
been pierced against a piece of cork by her
great-aunt when she was seven years old. In
those germless days she had worn bits of broom-
straw, plucked from the common sweeping-
broom, in the lobes until the holes were healed
and ready for little gold rings.
When Emil came back from the village, he
lingered outside on the terrace with the boys.
Marie could hear him talking and strumming
on his guitar while Raoul Marcel sang falsetto.
She was vexed with him for staying out there.
It made her very nervous to hear him and not
to see him; for, certainly, she told herself, she
was not going out to look for him. When the
supper bell rang and the boys came trooping in
to get seats at the first table, she forgot all
about her annoyance and ran to greet the tall-
est of the crowd, in his conspicuous attire. She
didn't mind showing her embarrassment at all.
She blushed and laughed excitedly as she gave
Emil her hand, and looked delightedly at the
black velvet coat that brought out his fair skin
and fine blond head. Marie was incapable of
being lukewarm about anything that pleased
her. She simply did not know how to give a
half-hearted response. When she was de-
lighted, she was as likely as not to stand on
her tip-toes and clap her hands. If people
laughed at her, she laughed with them.
"Do the men wear clothes like that every
day, in the street?" She caught Emil by his
sleeve and turned him about. "Oh, I wish I
lived where people wore things like that! Are
the buttons real silver? Put on the hat, please.
What a heavy thing! How do you ever wear
it? Why don't you tell us about the bull-
She wanted to wring all his experiences from
him at once, without waiting a moment. Emil
smiled tolerantly and stood looking down at her
with his old, brooding gaze, while the French
girls fluttered about him in their white dresses
and ribbons, and Alexandra watched the scene
with pride. Several of the French girls, Marie
knew, were hoping that Emil would take them
to supper, and she was relieved when he took
only his sister. Marie caught Frank's arm and
dragged him to the same table, managing to get
seats opposite the Bergsons, so that she could
hear what they were talking about. Alexandra
made Emil tell Mrs. Xavier Chevalier, the
mother of the twenty, about how he had seen a
famous matador killed in the bull-ring. Marie
listened to every word, only taking her eyes
from Emil to watch Frank's plate and keep it
filled. When Emil finished his account,--
bloody enough to satisfy Mrs. Xavier and to
make her feel thankful that she was not a
matador,--Marie broke out with a volley of
questions. How did the women dress when
they went to bull-fights? Did they wear man-
tillas? Did they never wear hats?
After supper the young people played char-
ades for the amusement of their elders, who sat
gossiping between their guesses. All the shops
in Sainte-Agnes were closed at eight o'clock
that night, so that the merchants and their
clerks could attend the fair. The auction was
the liveliest part of the entertainment, for the
French boys always lost their heads when they
began to bid, satisfied that their extravagance
was in a good cause. After all the pincushions
and sofa pillows and embroidered slippers were
sold, Emil precipitated a panic by taking out
one of his turquoise shirt studs, which every one
had been admiring, and handing it to the auc-
tioneer. All the French girls clamored for it,
and their sweethearts bid against each other
recklessly. Marie wanted it, too, and she kept
making signals to Frank, which he took a sour
pleasure in disregarding. He didn't see the use
of making a fuss over a fellow just because he
was dressed like a clown. When the turquoise
went to Malvina Sauvage, the French banker's
daughter, Marie shrugged her shoulders and
betook herself to her little tent of shawls, where
she began to shuffle her cards by the light of
a tallow candle, calling out, "Fortunes, for-
The young priest, Father Duchesne, went
first to have his fortune read. Marie took his
long white hand, looked at it, and then began to
run off her cards. "I see a long journey across
water for you, Father. You will go to a town
all cut up by water; built on islands, it seems to
be, with rivers and green fields all about. And
you will visit an old lady with a white cap and
gold hoops in her ears, and you will be very
"Mais, oui," said the priest, with a melan-
choly smile. "C'est L'Isle-Adam, chez ma
mere. Vous etes tres savante, ma fille." He
patted her yellow turban, calling, "Venez
donc, mes garcons! Il y a ici une veritable
Marie was clever at fortune-telling, indulg-
ing in a light irony that amused the crowd. She
told old Brunot, the miser, that he would lose
all his money, marry a girl of sixteen, and live
happily on a crust. Sholte, the fat Russian
boy, who lived for his stomach, was to be disap-
pointed in love, grow thin, and shoot himself
from despondency. Amedee was to have
twenty children, and nineteen of them were to
be girls. Amedee slapped Frank on the back
and asked him why he didn't see what the
fortune-teller would promise him. But Frank
shook off his friendly hand and grunted, "She
tell my fortune long ago; bad enough!" Then
he withdrew to a corner and sat glowering at
Frank's case was all the more painful because
he had no one in particular to fix his jealousy
upon. Sometimes he could have thanked the
man who would bring him evidence against his
wife. He had discharged a good farm-boy, Jan
Smirka, because he thought Marie was fond of
him; but she had not seemed to miss Jan when
he was gone, and she had been just as kind to
the next boy. The farm-hands would always do
anything for Marie; Frank couldn't find one so
surly that he would not make an effort to please
her. At the bottom of his heart Frank knew
well enough that if he could once give up his
grudge, his wife would come back to him. But
he could never in the world do that. The grudge
was fundamental. Perhaps he could not have
given it up if he had tried. Perhaps he got more
satisfaction out of feeling himself abused than
he would have got out of being loved. If he
could once have made Marie thoroughly un-
happy, he might have relented and raised her
from the dust. But she had never humbled her-
self. In the first days of their love she had been
his slave; she had admired him abandonedly.
But the moment he began to bully her and to be
unjust, she began to draw away; at first in tear-
ful amazement, then in quiet, unspoken dis-
gust. The distance between them had widened
and hardened. It no longer contracted and
brought them suddenly together. The spark of
her life went somewhere else, and he was always
watching to surprise it. He knew that some-
where she must get a feeling to live upon, for
she was not a woman who could live without
loving. He wanted to prove to himself the
wrong he felt. What did she hide in her heart?
Where did it go? Even Frank had his churlish
delicacies; he never reminded her of how much
she had once loved him. For that Marie was
grateful to him.
While Marie was chattering to the French
boys, Amedee called Emil to the back of the
room and whispered to him that they were going
to play a joke on the girls. At eleven o'clock,
Amedee was to go up to the switchboard in the
vestibule and turn off the electric lights, and
every boy would have a chance to kiss his
sweetheart before Father Duchesne could find
his way up the stairs to turn the current on
again. The only difficulty was the candle in
Marie's tent; perhaps, as Emil had no sweet-
heart, he would oblige the boys by blowing out
the candle. Emil said he would undertake to do
At five minutes to eleven he sauntered up to
Marie's booth, and the French boys dispersed
to find their girls. He leaned over the card-
table and gave himself up to looking at her.
"Do you think you could tell my fortune?"
he murmured. It was the first word he had
had alone with her for almost a year. "My
luck hasn't changed any. It's just the same."
Marie had often wondered whether there
was anyone else who could look his thoughts
to you as Emil could. To-night, when she met
his steady, powerful eyes, it was impossible
not to feel the sweetness of the dream he was
dreaming; it reached her before she could shut
it out, and hid itself in her heart. She began
to shuffle her cards furiously. "I'm angry
with you, Emil," she broke out with petu-
lance. "Why did you give them that lovely
blue stone to sell? You might have known
Frank wouldn't buy it for me, and I wanted it
Emil laughed shortly. "People who want
such little things surely ought to have them,"
he said dryly. He thrust his hand into the
pocket of his velvet trousers and brought out a
handful of uncut turquoises, as big as marbles.
Leaning over the table he dropped them into
her lap. "There, will those do? Be careful,
don't let any one see them. Now, I suppose you
want me to go away and let you play with
Marie was gazing in rapture at the soft blue
color of the stones. "Oh, Emil! Is everything
down there beautiful like these? How could you
ever come away?"
At that instant Amedee laid hands on the
switchboard. There was a shiver and a giggle,
and every one looked toward the red blur that
Marie's candle made in the dark. Immediately
that, too, was gone. Little shrieks and currents
of soft laughter ran up and down the dark hall.
Marie started up,--directly into Emil's arms.
In the same instant she felt his lips. The veil
that had hung uncertainly between them for so
long was dissolved. Before she knew what she
was doing, she had committed herself to that
kiss that was at once a boy's and a man's, as
timid as it was tender; so like Emil and so
unlike any one else in the world. Not until it
was over did she realize what it meant. And
Emil, who had so often imagined the shock of
this first kiss, was surprised at its gentleness
and naturalness. It was like a sigh which they
had breathed together; almost sorrowful, as if
each were afraid of wakening something in the
When the lights came on again, everybody
was laughing and shouting, and all the French
girls were rosy and shining with mirth. Only
Marie, in her little tent of shawls, was pale and
quiet. Under her yellow turban the red coral
pendants swung against white cheeks. Frank
was still staring at her, but he seemed to see
nothing. Years ago, he himself had had the
power to take the blood from her cheeks like
that. Perhaps he did not remember--perhaps
he had never noticed! Emil was already at the
other end of the hall, walking about with the
shoulder-motion he had acquired among the
Mexicans, studying the floor with his intent,
deep-set eyes. Marie began to take down and
fold her shawls. She did not glance up again.
The young people drifted to the other end of the
hall where the guitar was sounding. In a mo-
ment she heard Emil and Raoul singing:--
"Across the Rio Grand-e
There lies a sunny land-e,
My bright-eyed Mexico!"
Alexandra Bergson came up to the card
booth. "Let me help you, Marie. You look
She placed her hand on Marie's arm and felt
her shiver. Marie stiffened under that kind,
calm hand. Alexandra drew back, perplexed
There was about Alexandra something of the
impervious calm of the fatalist, always discon-
certing to very young people, who cannot feel
that the heart lives at all unless it is still at the
mercy of storms; unless its strings can scream
to the touch of pain.
Signa's wedding supper was over. The
guests, and the tiresome little Norwegian
preacher who had performed the marriage cere-
mony, were saying good-night. Old Ivar was
hitching the horses to the wagon to take the
wedding presents and the bride and groom up to
their new home, on Alexandra's north quarter.
When Ivar drove up to the gate, Emil and
Marie Shabata began to carry out the presents,
and Alexandra went into her bedroom to bid
Signa good-bye and to give her a few words of
good counsel. She was surprised to find that
the bride had changed her slippers for heavy
shoes and was pinning up her skirts. At that
moment Nelse appeared at the gate with the
two milk cows that Alexandra had given Signa
for a wedding present.
Alexandra began to laugh. "Why, Signa,
you and Nelse are to ride home. I'll send Ivar
over with the cows in the morning."
Signa hesitated and looked perplexed. When
her husband called her, she pinned her hat on
resolutely. "I ta-ank I better do yust like he
say," she murmured in confusion.
Alexandra and Marie accompanied Signa to
the gate and saw the party set off, old Ivar
driving ahead in the wagon and the bride and
groom following on foot, each leading a cow.
Emil burst into a laugh before they were out of
"Those two will get on," said Alexandra as
they turned back to the house. "They are not
going to take any chances. They will feel safer
with those cows in their own stable. Marie, I
am going to send for an old woman next. As
soon as I get the girls broken in, I marry them
"I've no patience with Signa, marrying that
grumpy fellow!" Marie declared. "I wanted
her to marry that nice Smirka boy who worked
for us last winter. I think she liked him, too."
"Yes, I think she did," Alexandra assented,
"but I suppose she was too much afraid of
Nelse to marry any one else. Now that I think
of it, most of my girls have married men they
were afraid of. I believe there is a good deal of
the cow in most Swedish girls. You high-strung
Bohemian can't understand us. We're a ter-
ribly practical people, and I guess we think a
cross man makes a good manager."
Marie shrugged her shoulders and turned to
pin up a lock of hair that had fallen on her neck.
Somehow Alexandra had irritated her of late.
Everybody irritated her. She was tired of
everybody. "I'm going home alone, Emil, so you
needn't get your hat," she said as she wound
her scarf quickly about her head. "Good-night,
Alexandra," she called back in a strained voice,
running down the gravel walk.
Emil followed with long strides until he over-
took her. Then she began to walk slowly. It
was a night of warm wind and faint starlight,
and the fireflies were glimmering over the wheat.
"Marie," said Emil after they had walked
for a while, "I wonder if you know how un-
happy I am?"
Marie did not answer him. Her head, in its
white scarf, drooped forward a little.
Emil kicked a clod from the path and went
"I wonder whether you are really shallow-
hearted, like you seem? Sometimes I think one
boy does just as well as another for you. It never
seems to make much difference whether it is me
or Raoul Marcel or Jan Smirka. Are you really
"Perhaps I am. What do you want me to
do? Sit round and cry all day? When I've
cried until I can't cry any more, then--then I
must do something else."
"Are you sorry for me?" he persisted.
"No, I'm not. If I were big and free like you,
I wouldn't let anything make me unhappy. As
old Napoleon Brunot said at the fair, I wouldn't
go lovering after no woman. I'd take the first
train and go off and have all the fun there is."
"I tried that, but it didn't do any good.
Everything reminded me. The nicer the place
was, the more I wanted you." They had come
to the stile and Emil pointed to it persuasively.
"Sit down a moment, I want to ask you some-
thing." Marie sat down on the top step and
Emil drew nearer. "Would you tell me some-
thing that's none of my business if you thought
it would help me out? Well, then, tell me, PLEASE
tell me, why you ran away with Frank Sha-
Marie drew back. "Because I was in love
with him," she said firmly.
"Really?" he asked incredulously.
"Yes, indeed. Very much in love with him.
I think I was the one who suggested our run-
ning away. From the first it was more my fault
Emil turned away his face.
"And now," Marie went on, "I've got to
remember that. Frank is just the same now as
he was then, only then I would see him as I
wanted him to be. I would have my own way.
And now I pay for it."
"You don't do all the paying."
"That's it. When one makes a mistake,
there's no telling where it will stop. But you
can go away; you can leave all this behind
"Not everything. I can't leave you behind.
Will you go away with me, Marie?"
Marie started up and stepped across the
stile. "Emil! How wickedly you talk! I am
not that kind of a girl, and you know it. But
what am I going to do if you keep tormenting
me like this!" she added plaintively.
"Marie, I won't bother you any more if you
will tell me just one thing. Stop a minute and
look at me. No, nobody can see us. Every-
body's asleep. That was only a firefly. Marie,
STOP and tell me!"
Emil overtook her and catching her by the
shoulders shook her gently, as if he were trying
to awaken a sleepwalker.
Marie hid her face on his arm. "Don't ask
me anything more. I don't know anything
except how miserable I am. And I thought it
would be all right when you came back. Oh,
Emil," she clutched his sleeve and began to
cry, "what am I to do if you don't go away? I
can't go, and one of us must. Can't you see?"
Emil stood looking down at her, holding his
shoulders stiff and stiffening the arm to which
she clung. Her white dress looked gray in the
darkness. She seemed like a troubled spirit,
like some shadow out of the earth, clinging to
him and entreating him to give her peace. Be-
hind her the fireflies were weaving in and out
over the wheat. He put his hand on her bent
head. "On my honor, Marie, if you will say
you love me, I will go away."
She lifted her face to his. "How could I help
it? Didn't you know?"
Emil was the one who trembled, through all
his frame. After he left Marie at her gate, he
wandered about the fields all night, till morning
put out the fireflies and the stars.
One evening, a week after Signa's wedding,
Emil was kneeling before a box in the sitting-
room, packing his books. From time to time he
rose and wandered about the house, picking up
stray volumes and bringing them listlessly back
to his box. He was packing without enthusi-
asm. He was not very sanguine about his fu-
ture. Alexandra sat sewing by the table. She
had helped him pack his trunk in the afternoon.
As Emil came and went by her chair with his
books, he thought to himself that it had not
been so hard to leave his sister since he first
went away to school. He was going directly to
Omaha, to read law in the office of a Swedish
lawyer until October, when he would enter the
law school at Ann Arbor. They had planned
that Alexandra was to come to Michigan--a
long journey for her--at Christmas time, and
spend several weeks with him. Nevertheless, he
felt that this leavetaking would be more final
than his earlier ones had been; that it meant a
definite break with his old home and the begin-
ning of something new--he did not know
what. His ideas about the future would not
crystallize; the more he tried to think about it,
the vaguer his conception of it became. But
one thing was clear, he told himself; it was
high time that he made good to Alexandra,
and that ought to be incentive enough to begin
As he went about gathering up his books he
felt as if he were uprooting things. At last he
threw himself down on the old slat lounge where
he had slept when he was little, and lay looking
up at the familiar cracks in the ceiling.
"Tired, Emil?" his sister asked.
"Lazy," he murmured, turning on his side
and looking at her. He studied Alexandra's
face for a long time in the lamplight. It had
never occurred to him that his sister was a
handsome woman until Marie Shabata had
told him so. Indeed, he had never thought of
her as being a woman at all, only a sister. As
he studied her bent head, he looked up at the
picture of John Bergson above the lamp.
"No," he thought to himself, "she didn't get
it there. I suppose I am more like that."
"Alexandra," he said suddenly, "that old
walnut secretary you use for a desk was
father's, wasn't it?"
Alexandra went on stitching. "Yes. It was
one of the first things he bought for the old log
house. It was a great extravagance in those
days. But he wrote a great many letters back
to the old country. He had many friends there,
and they wrote to him up to the time he died.
No one ever blamed him for grandfather's dis-
grace. I can see him now, sitting there on Sun-
days, in his white shirt, writing pages and
pages, so carefully. He wrote a fine, regular
hand, almost like engraving. Yours is some-
thing like his, when you take pains."
"Grandfather was really crooked, was he?"
"He married an unscrupulous woman, and
then--then I'm afraid he was really crooked.
When we first came here father used to have
dreams about making a great fortune and going
back to Sweden to pay back to the poor sailors
the money grandfather had lost."
Emil stirred on the lounge. "I say, that
would have been worth while, wouldn't it?
Father wasn't a bit like Lou or Oscar, was he?
I can't remember much about him before he
"Oh, not at all!" Alexandra dropped her
sewing on her knee. "He had better opportuni-
ties; not to make money, but to make some-
thing of himself. He was a quiet man, but he
was very intelligent. You would have been
proud of him, Emil."
Alexandra felt that he would like to know
there had been a man of his kin whom he
could admire. She knew that Emil was ashamed
of Lou and Oscar, because they were bigoted
and self-satisfied. He never said much about
them, but she could feel his disgust. His
brothers had shown their disapproval of him
ever since he first went away to school. The
only thing that would have satisfied them
would have been his failure at the University.
As it was, they resented every change in his
speech, in his dress, in his point of view; though
the latter they had to conjecture, for Emil
avoided talking to them about any but family
matters. All his interests they treated as
Alexandra took up her sewing again. "I can
remember father when he was quite a young
man. He belonged to some kind of a musical
society, a male chorus, in Stockholm. I can
remember going with mother to hear them sing.
There must have been a hundred of them, and
they all wore long black coats and white neck-
ties. I was used to seeing father in a blue coat,
a sort of jacket, and when I recognized him
on the platform, I was very proud. Do you
remember that Swedish song he taught you,
about the ship boy?"
"Yes. I used to sing it to the Mexicans.
They like anything different." Emil paused.
"Father had a hard fight here, didn't he?" he
"Yes, and he died in a dark time. Still, he
had hope. He believed in the land."
"And in you, I guess," Emil said to himself.
There was another period of silence; that warm,
friendly silence, full of perfect understanding,
in which Emil and Alexandra had spent many
of their happiest half-hours.
At last Emil said abruptly, "Lou and Oscar
would be better off if they were poor, wouldn't
Alexandra smiled. "Maybe. But their chil-
dren wouldn't. I have great hopes of Milly."
Emil shivered. "I don't know. Seems to me
it gets worse as it goes on. The worst of the
Swedes is that they're never willing to find out
how much they don't know. It was like that at
the University. Always so pleased with them-
selves! There's no getting behind that con-
ceited Swedish grin. The Bohemians and Ger-
mans were so different."
"Come, Emil, don't go back on your own
people. Father wasn't conceited, Uncle Otto
wasn't. Even Lou and Oscar weren't when
they were boys."
Emil looked incredulous, but he did not dis-
pute the point. He turned on his back and lay
still for a long time, his hands locked under his
head, looking up at the ceiling. Alexandra
knew that he was thinking of many things. She
felt no anxiety about Emil. She had always
believed in him, as she had believed in the
land. He had been more like himself since he
got back from Mexico; seemed glad to be at
home, and talked to her as he used to do.
She had no doubt that his wandering fit was
over, and that he would soon be settled in
"Alexandra," said Emil suddenly, "do you
remember the wild duck we saw down on the
river that time?"
His sister looked up. "I often think of her.
It always seems to me she's there still, just like
we saw her."
"I know. It's queer what things one re-
members and what things one forgets." Emil
yawned and sat up. "Well, it's time to turn
in." He rose, and going over to Alexandra
stooped down and kissed her lightly on the
cheek. "Good-night, sister. I think you did
pretty well by us."
Emil took up his lamp and went upstairs.
Alexandra sat finishing his new nightshirt, that
must go in the top tray of his trunk.
The next morning Angelique, Amedee's
wife, was in the kitchen baking pies, assisted by
old Mrs. Chevalier. Between the mixing-board
and the stove stood the old cradle that had been
Amedee's, and in it was his black-eyed son. As
Angelique, flushed and excited, with flour on
her hands, stopped to smile at the baby, Emil
Bergson rode up to the kitchen door on his mare
"'Medee is out in the field, Emil," Angelique
called as she ran across the kitchen to the oven.
"He begins to cut his wheat to-day; the first
wheat ready to cut anywhere about here. He
bought a new header, you know, because all the
wheat's so short this year. I hope he can rent it
to the neighbors, it cost so much. He and his
cousins bought a steam thresher on shares. You
ought to go out and see that header work. I
watched it an hour this morning, busy as I am
with all the men to feed. He has a lot of hands,
but he's the only one that knows how to drive
the header or how to run the engine, so he has
to be everywhere at once. He's sick, too, and
ought to be in his bed."
Emil bent over Hector Baptiste, trying to
make him blink his round, bead-like black eyes.
"Sick? What's the matter with your daddy,
kid? Been making him walk the floor with
Angelique sniffed. "Not much! We don't
have that kind of babies. It was his father that
kept Baptiste awake. All night I had to be get-
ting up and making mustard plasters to put on
his stomach. He had an awful colic. He said he
felt better this morning, but I don't think he
ought to be out in the field, overheating him-
Angelique did not speak with much anxiety,
not because she was indifferent, but because she
felt so secure in their good fortune. Only good
things could happen to a rich, energetic, hand-
some young man like Amedee, with a new baby
in the cradle and a new header in the field.
Emil stroked the black fuzz on Baptiste's
head. "I say, Angelique, one of 'Medee's grand-
mothers, 'way back, must have been a squaw.
This kid looks exactly like the Indian babies."
Angelique made a face at him, but old Mrs.
Chevalier had been touched on a sore point,
and she let out such a stream of fiery PATOIS that
Emil fled from the kitchen and mounted his
Opening the pasture gate from the saddle,
Emil rode across the field to the clearing where
the thresher stood, driven by a stationary
engine and fed from the header boxes. As
Amedee was not on the engine, Emil rode on to
the wheatfield, where he recognized, on the
header, the slight, wiry figure of his friend,
coatless, his white shirt puffed out by the wind,
his straw hat stuck jauntily on the side of his
head. The six big work-horses that drew, or
rather pushed, the header, went abreast at a
rapid walk, and as they were still green at the
work they required a good deal of management
on Amedee's part; especially when they turned
the corners, where they divided, three and
three, and then swung round into line again
with a movement that looked as complicated as
a wheel of artillery. Emil felt a new thrill of
admiration for his friend, and with it the old
pang of envy at the way in which Amedee could
do with his might what his hand found to do,
and feel that, whatever it was, it was the most
important thing in the world. "I'll have to
bring Alexandra up to see this thing work,"
Emil thought; "it's splendid!"
When he saw Emil, Amedee waved to him
and called to one of his twenty cousins to take
the reins. Stepping off the header without
stopping it, he ran up to Emil who had dis-
mounted. "Come along," he called. "I have
to go over to the engine for a minute. I gotta
green man running it, and I gotta to keep an
eye on him."
Emil thought the lad was unnaturally flushed
and more excited than even the cares of manag-
ing a big farm at a critical time warranted. As
they passed behind a last year's stack, Amedee
clutched at his right side and sank down for a
moment on the straw.
"Ouch! I got an awful pain in me, Emil.
Something's the matter with my insides, for
Emil felt his fiery cheek. "You ought to go
straight to bed, 'Medee, and telephone for the
doctor; that's what you ought to do."
Amedee staggered up with a gesture of
despair. "How can I? I got no time to be sick.
Three thousand dollars' worth of new machin-
ery to manage, and the wheat so ripe it will
begin to shatter next week. My wheat's short,
but it's gotta grand full berries. What's he
slowing down for? We haven't got header
boxes enough to feed the thresher, I guess."
Amedee started hot-foot across the stubble,
leaning a little to the right as he ran, and waved
to the engineer not to stop the engine.
Emil saw that this was no time to talk about
his own affairs. He mounted his mare and rode
on to Sainte-Agnes, to bid his friends there
good-bye. He went first to see Raoul Marcel,
and found him innocently practising the
"Gloria" for the big confirmation service on
Sunday while he polished the mirrors of his
As Emil rode homewards at three o'clock in
the afternoon, he saw Amedee staggering out of
the wheatfield, supported by two of his cousins.
Emil stopped and helped them put the boy to bed.
When Frank Shabata came in from work at
five o'clock that evening, old Moses Marcel,
Raoul's father, telephoned him that Amedee
had had a seizure in the wheatfield, and that
Doctor Paradis was going to operate on him as
soon as the Hanover doctor got there to help.
Frank dropped a word of this at the table,
bolted his supper, and rode off to Sainte-
Agnes, where there would be sympathetic dis-
cussion of Amedee's case at Marcel's saloon.
As soon as Frank was gone, Marie telephoned
Alexandra. It was a comfort to hear her friend's
voice. Yes, Alexandra knew what there was to
be known about Amedee. Emil had been there
when they carried him out of the field, and had
stayed with him until the doctors operated for
appendicitis at five o'clock. They were afraid
it was too late to do much good; it should
have been done three days ago. Amedee was in
a very bad way. Emil had just come home,
worn out and sick himself. She had given him
some brandy and put him to bed.
Marie hung up the receiver. Poor Amedee's
illness had taken on a new meaning to her, now
that she knew Emil had been with him. And it
might so easily have been the other way--
Emil who was ill and Amedee who was sad!
Marie looked about the dusky sitting-room.
She had seldom felt so utterly lonely. If Emil
was asleep, there was not even a chance of his
coming; and she could not go to Alexandra for
sympathy. She meant to tell Alexandra every-
thing, as soon as Emil went away. Then what-
ever was left between them would be honest.
But she could not stay in the house this
evening. Where should she go? She walked
slowly down through the orchard, where the
evening air was heavy with the smell of wild
cotton. The fresh, salty scent of the wild roses
had given way before this more powerful per-
fume of midsummer. Wherever those ashes-of-
rose balls hung on their milky stalks, the air
about them was saturated with their breath.
The sky was still red in the west and the even-
ing star hung directly over the Bergsons' wind-
mill. Marie crossed the fence at the wheatfield
corner, and walked slowly along the path that
led to Alexandra's. She could not help feeling
hurt that Emil had not come to tell her about
Amedee. It seemed to her most unnatural that
he should not have come. If she were in trou-
ble, certainly he was the one person in the world
she would want to see. Perhaps he wished her
to understand that for her he was as good as
Marie stole slowly, flutteringly, along the
path, like a white night-moth out of the fields.
The years seemed to stretch before her like the
land; spring, summer, autumn, winter, spring;
always the same patient fields, the patient little
trees, the patient lives; always the same yearn-
ing, the same pulling at the chain--until the
instinct to live had torn itself and bled and
weakened for the last time, until the chain
secured a dead woman, who might cautiously
be released. Marie walked on, her face lifted
toward the remote, inaccessible evening star.
When she reached the stile she sat down and
waited. How terrible it was to love people when
you could not really share their lives!
Yes, in so far as she was concerned, Emil was
already gone. They couldn't meet any more.
There was nothing for them to say. They had
spent the last penny of their small change;
there was nothing left but gold. The day of
love-tokens was past. They had now only their
hearts to give each other. And Emil being
gone, what was her life to be like? In some
ways, it would be easier. She would not, at
least, live in perpetual fear. If Emil were once
away and settled at work, she would not have
the feeling that she was spoiling his life. With
the memory he left her, she could be as rash as
she chose. Nobody could be the worse for it
but herself; and that, surely, did not matter.
Her own case was clear. When a girl had loved
one man, and then loved another while that man
was still alive, everybody knew what to think of
her. What happened to her was of little con-
sequence, so long as she did not drag other
people down with her. Emil once away, she
could let everything else go and live a new life
of perfect love.
Marie left the stile reluctantly. She had,
after all, thought he might come. And how
glad she ought to be, she told herself, that he
was asleep. She left the path and went across
the pasture. The moon was almost full. An
owl was hooting somewhere in the fields. She
had scarcely thought about where she was
going when the pond glittered before her,
where Emil had shot the ducks. She stopped
and looked at it. Yes, there would be a dirty
way out of life, if one chose to take it. But she
did not want to die. She wanted to live and
dream--a hundred years, forever! As long as
this sweetness welled up in her heart, as long as
her breast could hold this treasure of pain! She
felt as the pond must feel when it held the moon
like that; when it encircled and swelled with
In the morning, when Emil came down-
stairs, Alexandra met him in the sitting-room
and put her hands on his shoulders. "Emil, I
went to your room as soon as it was light, but
you were sleeping so sound I hated to wake
you. There was nothing you could do, so I
let you sleep. They telephoned from Sainte-
Agnes that Amedee died at three o'clock this
The Church has always held that life is for
the living. On Saturday, while half the vil-
lage of Sainte-Agnes was mourning for Ame-
dee and preparing the funeral black for his
burial on Monday, the other half was busy
with white dresses and white veils for the great
confirmation service to-morrow, when the
bishop was to confirm a class of one hundred
boys and girls. Father Duchesne divided his
time between the living and the dead. All day
Saturday the church was a scene of bustling
activity, a little hushed by the thought of
Amedee. The choir were busy rehearsing a
mass of Rossini, which they had studied and
practised for this occasion. The women were
trimming the altar, the boys and girls were
On Sunday morning the bishop was to drive
overland to Sainte-Agnes from Hanover, and
Emil Bergson had been asked to take the place
of one of Amedee's cousins in the cavalcade of
forty French boys who were to ride across coun-
try to meet the bishop's carriage. At six o'clock
on Sunday morning the boys met at the church.
As they stood holding their horses by the bridle,
they talked in low tones of their dead comrade.
They kept repeating that Amedee had always
been a good boy, glancing toward the red brick
church which had played so large a part in
Amedee's life, had been the scene of his most
serious moments and of his happiest hours. He
had played and wrestled and sung and courted
under its shadow. Only three weeks ago he had
proudly carried his baby there to be christened.
They could not doubt that that invisible arm
was still about Amedee; that through the church
on earth he had passed to the church triumph-
ant, the goal of the hopes and faith of so many
When the word was given to mount, the
young men rode at a walk out of the village;
but once out among the wheatfields in the
morning sun, their horses and their own youth
got the better of them. A wave of zeal and fiery
enthusiasm swept over them. They longed for
a Jerusalem to deliver. The thud of their gal-
loping hoofs interrupted many a country break-
fast and brought many a woman and child to
the door of the farmhouses as they passed. Five
miles east of Sainte-Agnes they met the bishop
in his open carriage, attended by two priests.
Like one man the boys swung off their hats in a
broad salute, and bowed their heads as the
handsome old man lifted his two fingers in the
episcopal blessing. The horsemen closed about
the carriage like a guard, and whenever a rest-
less horse broke from control and shot down the
road ahead of the body, the bishop laughed and
rubbed his plump hands together. "What fine
boys!" he said to his priests. "The Church still
has her cavalry."
As the troop swept past the graveyard half a
mile east of the town,--the first frame church
of the parish had stood there,--old Pierre
Seguin was already out with his pick and spade,
digging Amedee's grave. He knelt and un-
covered as the bishop passed. The boys with
one accord looked away from old Pierre to the
red church on the hill, with the gold cross
flaming on its steeple.
Mass was at eleven. While the church was
filling, Emil Bergson waited outside, watching
the wagons and buggies drive up the hill. After
the bell began to ring, he saw Frank Shabata
ride up on horseback and tie his horse to the
hitch-bar. Marie, then, was not coming. Emil
turned and went into the church. Amedee's
was the only empty pew, and he sat down in it.
Some of Amedee's cousins were there, dressed
in black and weeping. When all the pews were
full, the old men and boys packed the open
space at the back of the church, kneeling on the
floor. There was scarcely a family in town that
was not represented in the confirmation class,
by a cousin, at least. The new communicants,
with their clear, reverent faces, were beautiful
to look upon as they entered in a body and took
the front benches reserved for them. Even
before the Mass began, the air was charged
with feeling. The choir had never sung so well
and Raoul Marcel, in the "Gloria," drew even
the bishop's eyes to the organ loft. For the
offertory he sang Gounod's "Ave Maria,"--
always spoken of in Sainte-Agnes as "the Ave
Emil began to torture himself with questions
about Marie. Was she ill? Had she quarreled
with her husband? Was she too unhappy to
find comfort even here? Had she, perhaps,
thought that he would come to her? Was she
waiting for him? Overtaxed by excitement and
sorrow as he was, the rapture of the service took
hold upon his body and mind. As he listened
to Raoul, he seemed to emerge from the con-
flicting emotions which had been whirling him
about and sucking him under. He felt as if
a clear light broke upon his mind, and with it
a conviction that good was, after all, stronger
than evil, and that good was possible to men.
He seemed to discover that there was a kind
of rapture in which he could love forever with-
out faltering and without sin. He looked across
the heads of the people at Frank Shabata
with calmness. That rapture was for those who
could feel it; for people who could not, it
was non-existent. He coveted nothing that was
Frank Shabata's. The spirit he had met in
music was his own. Frank Shabata had never
found it; would never find it if he lived beside it
a thousand years; would have destroyed it if he
had found it, as Herod slew the innocents, as
Rome slew the martyrs.
wailed Raoul from the organ loft;
O--RA PRO NO-O-BIS!
And it did not occur to Emil that any one had
ever reasoned thus before, that music had ever
before given a man this equivocal revelation.
The confirmation service followed the Mass.
When it was over, the congregation thronged
about the newly confirmed. The girls, and even
the boys, were kissed and embraced and wept
over. All the aunts and grandmothers wept
with joy. The housewives had much ado to
tear themselves away from the general rejoicing
and hurry back to their kitchens. The country
parishioners were staying in town for dinner,
and nearly every house in Sainte-Agnes enter-
tained visitors that day. Father Duchesne, the
bishop, and the visiting priests dined with
Fabien Sauvage, the banker. Emil and Frank
Shabata were both guests of old Moise Marcel.
After dinner Frank and old Moise retired to
the rear room of the saloon to play California
Jack and drink their cognac, and Emil went
over to the banker's with Raoul, who had been
asked to sing for the bishop.
At three o'clock, Emil felt that he could
stand it no longer. He slipped out under cover
of "The Holy City," followed by Malvina's
wistful eye, and went to the stable for his mare.
He was at that height of excitement from which
everything is foreshortened, from which life
seems short and simple, death very near, and
the soul seems to soar like an eagle. As he rode
past the graveyard he looked at the brown hole
in the earth where Amedee was to lie, and felt no
horror. That, too, was beautiful, that simple
doorway into forgetfulness. The heart, when it
is too much alive, aches for that brown earth,
and ecstasy has no fear of death. It is the old
and the poor and the maimed who shrink from
that brown hole; its wooers are found among
the young, the passionate, the gallant-hearted.
It was not until he had passed the graveyard
that Emil realized where he was going. It was
the hour for saying good-bye. It might be the
last time that he would see her alone, and to-
day he could leave her without rancor, without
Everywhere the grain stood ripe and the hot
afternoon was full of the smell of the ripe wheat,
like the smell of bread baking in an oven. The
breath of the wheat and the sweet clover passed
him like pleasant things in a dream. He could
feel nothing but the sense of diminishing dis-
tance. It seemed to him that his mare was fly-
ing, or running on wheels, like a railway train.
The sunlight, flashing on the window-glass of
the big red barns, drove him wild with joy. He
was like an arrow shot from the bow. His life
poured itself out along the road before him as he
rode to the Shabata farm.
When Emil alighted at the Shabatas' gate,
his horse was in a lather. He tied her in the
stable and hurried to the house. It was empty.
She might be at Mrs. Hiller's or with Alexan-
dra. But anything that reminded him of her
would be enough, the orchard, the mulberry
tree. . . When he reached the orchard the sun
was hanging low over the wheatfield. Long
fingers of light reached through the apple
branches as through a net; the orchard was rid-
dled and shot with gold; light was the reality,
the trees were merely interferences that reflected
and refracted light. Emil went softly down
between the cherry trees toward the wheatfield.
When he came to the corner, he stopped short
and put his hand over his mouth. Marie was
lying on her side under the white mulberry tree,
her face half hidden in the grass, her eyes
closed, her hands lying limply where they had
happened to fall. She had lived a day of her new
life of perfect love, and it had left her like this.
Her breast rose and fell faintly, as if she were
asleep. Emil threw himself down beside her and
took her in his arms. The blood came back to
her cheeks, her amber eyes opened slowly, and
in them Emil saw his own face and the orchard
and the sun. "I was dreaming this," she whis-
pered, hiding her face against him, "don't take
my dream away!"
When Frank Shabata got home that night,
he found Emil's mare in his stable. Such an
impertinence amazed him. Like everybody
else, Frank had had an exciting day. Since
noon he had been drinking too much, and he
was in a bad temper. He talked bitterly to him-
self while he put his own horse away, and as he
went up the path and saw that the house was
dark he felt an added sense of injury. He ap-
proached quietly and listened on the doorstep.
Hearing nothing, he opened the kitchen door
and went softly from one room to another.
Then he went through the house again, up-
stairs and down, with no better result. He sat
down on the bottom step of the box stairway
and tried to get his wits together. In that un-
natural quiet there was no sound but his own
heavy breathing. Suddenly an owl began to
hoot out in the fields. Frank lifted his head.
An idea flashed into his mind, and his sense
of injury and outrage grew. He went into his
bedroom and took his murderous 405 Winches-
ter from the closet.
When Frank took up his gun and walked out
of the house, he had not the faintest purpose of
doing anything with it. He did not believe that
he had any real grievance. But it gratified him
to feel like a desperate man. He had got into
the habit of seeing himself always in desperate
straits. His unhappy temperament was like a
cage; he could never get out of it; and he felt
that other people, his wife in particular, must
have put him there. It had never more than
dimly occurred to Frank that he made his own
unhappiness. Though he took up his gun with
dark projects in his mind, he would have been
paralyzed with fright had he known that there
was the slightest probability of his ever carry-
ing any of them out.
Frank went slowly down to the orchard gate,
stopped and stood for a moment lost in
thought. He retraced his steps and looked
through the barn and the hayloft. Then he
went out to the road, where he took the foot-
path along the outside of the orchard hedge.
The hedge was twice as tall as Frank himself,
and so dense that one could see through it only
by peering closely between the leaves. He
could see the empty path a long way in the
moonlight. His mind traveled ahead to the
stile, which he always thought of as haunted
by Emil Bergson. But why had he left his
At the wheatfield corner, where the orchard
hedge ended and the path led across the pasture
to the Bergsons', Frank stopped. In the warm,
breathless night air he heard a murmuring
sound, perfectly inarticulate, as low as the
sound of water coming from a spring, where
there is no fall, and where there are no stones to
fret it. Frank strained his ears. It ceased. He
held his breath and began to tremble. Resting
the butt of his gun on the ground, he parted the
mulberry leaves softly with his fingers and
peered through the hedge at the dark figures on
the grass, in the shadow of the mulberry tree.
It seemed to him that they must feel his eyes,
that they must hear him breathing. But they
did not. Frank, who had always wanted to see
things blacker than they were, for once wanted
to believe less than he saw. The woman lying
in the shadow might so easily be one of the
Bergsons' farm-girls. . . . Again the murmur,
like water welling out of the ground. This time
he heard it more distinctly, and his blood was
quicker than his brain. He began to act, just as
a man who falls into the fire begins to act. The
gun sprang to his shoulder, he sighted mechani-
cally and fired three times without stopping,
stopped without knowing why. Either he shut
his eyes or he had vertigo. He did not see any-
thing while he was firing. He thought he heard
a cry simultaneous with the second report, but
he was not sure. He peered again through the
hedge, at the two dark figures under the tree.
They had fallen a little apart from each other,
and were perfectly still-- No, not quite; in
a white patch of light, where the moon shone
through the branches, a man's hand was pluck-
ing spasmodically at the grass.
Suddenly the woman stirred and uttered a
cry, then another, and another. She was living!
She was dragging herself toward the hedge!
Frank dropped his gun and ran back along the
path, shaking, stumbling, gasping. He had
never imagined such horror. The cries fol-
lowed him. They grew fainter and thicker, as
if she were choking. He dropped on his knees
beside the hedge and crouched like a rabbit,
listening; fainter, fainter; a sound like a whine;
again--a moan--another--silence. Frank
scrambled to his feet and ran on, groaning and
praying. From habit he went toward the house,
where he was used to being soothed when he had
worked himself into a frenzy, but at the sight
of the black, open door, he started back. He
knew that he had murdered somebody, that a
woman was bleeding and moaning in the or-
chard, but he had not realized before that it
was his wife. The gate stared him in the face.
He threw his hands over his head. Which way
to turn? He lifted his tormented face and
looked at the sky. "Holy Mother of God, not to
suffer! She was a good girl--not to suffer!"
Frank had been wont to see himself in dra-
matic situations; but now, when he stood by the
windmill, in the bright space between the barn
and the house, facing his own black doorway, he
did not see himself at all. He stood like the
hare when the dogs are approaching from all
sides. And he ran like a hare, back and forth
about that moonlit space, before he could make
up his mind to go into the dark stable for a
horse. The thought of going into a doorway
was terrible to him. He caught Emil's horse
by the bit and led it out. He could not have
buckled a bridle on his own. After two or
three attempts, he lifted himself into the sad-
dle and started for Hanover. If he could catch
the one o'clock train, he had money enough to
get as far as Omaha.
While he was thinking dully of this in some
less sensitized part of his brain, his acuter
faculties were going over and over the cries he
had heard in the orchard. Terror was the only
thing that kept him from going back to her,
terror that she might still be she, that she might
still be suffering. A woman, mutilated and
bleeding in his orchard--it was because it was
a woman that he was so afraid. It was incon-
ceivable that he should have hurt a woman. He
would rather be eaten by wild beasts than see
her move on the ground as she had moved in
the orchard. Why had she been so careless?
She knew he was like a crazy man when he was
angry. She had more than once taken that gun
away from him and held it, when he was angry
with other people. Once it had gone off while
they were struggling over it. She was never
afraid. But, when she knew him, why hadn't
she been more careful? Didn't she have all
summer before her to love Emil Bergson in,
without taking such chances? Probably she had
met the Smirka boy, too, down there in the
orchard. He didn't care. She could have met
all the men on the Divide there, and welcome, if
only she hadn't brought this horror on him.
There was a wrench in Frank's mind. He did
not honestly believe that of her. He knew that
he was doing her wrong. He stopped his horse
to admit this to himself the more directly, to
think it out the more clearly. He knew that
he was to blame. For three years he had been
trying to break her spirit. She had a way of
making the best of things that seemed to him a
sentimental affectation. He wanted his wife to
resent that he was wasting his best years among
these stupid and unappreciative people; but she
had seemed to find the people quite good
enough. If he ever got rich he meant to buy
her pretty clothes and take her to California in
a Pullman car, and treat her like a lady; but in
the mean time he wanted her to feel that life
was as ugly and as unjust as he felt it. He had
tried to make her life ugly. He had refused to
share any of the little pleasures she was so
plucky about making for herself. She could be
gay about the least thing in the world; but she
must be gay! When she first came to him, her
faith in him, her adoration-- Frank struck the
mare with his fist. Why had Marie made him
do this thing; why had she brought this upon
him? He was overwhelmed by sickening mis-
fortune. All at once he heard her cries again--
he had forgotten for a moment. "Maria," he
sobbed aloud, "Maria!"
When Frank was halfway to Hanover, the
motion of his horse brought on a violent attack
of nausea. After it had passed, he rode on
again, but he could think of nothing except his
physical weakness and his desire to be com-
forted by his wife. He wanted to get into his
own bed. Had his wife been at home, he would
have turned and gone back to her meekly
When old Ivar climbed down from his loft
at four o'clock the next morning, he came upon
Emil's mare, jaded and lather-stained, her
bridle broken, chewing the scattered tufts of
hay outside the stable door. The old man was
thrown into a fright at once. He put the mare
in her stall, threw her a measure of oats, and
then set out as fast as his bow-legs could carry
him on the path to the nearest neighbor.
"Something is wrong with that boy. Some
misfortune has come upon us. He would never
have used her so, in his right senses. It is not
his way to abuse his mare," the old man kept
muttering, as he scuttled through the short,
wet pasture grass on his bare feet.
While Ivar was hurrying across the fields, the
first long rays of the sun were reaching down
between the orchard boughs to those two dew-
drenched figures. The story of what had hap-
pened was written plainly on the orchard grass,
and on the white mulberries that had fallen in
the night and were covered with dark stain.
For Emil the chapter had been short. He was
shot in the heart, and had rolled over on his
back and died. His face was turned up to the
sky and his brows were drawn in a frown, as
if he had realized that something had befallen
him. But for Marie Shabata it had not been so
easy. One ball had torn through her right lung,
another had shattered the carotid artery. She
must have started up and gone toward the
hedge, leaving a trail of blood. There she had
fallen and bled. From that spot there was
another trail, heavier than the first, where she
must have dragged herself back to Emil's body.
Once there, she seemed not to have struggled
any more. She had lifted her head to her lover's
breast, taken his hand in both her own, and
bled quietly to death. She was lying on her
right side in an easy and natural position, her
cheek on Emil's shoulder. On her face there was
a look of ineffable content. Her lips were parted
a little; her eyes were lightly closed, as if in a
day-dream or a light slumber. After she lay
down there, she seemed not to have moved an
eyelash. The hand she held was covered with
dark stains, where she had kissed it.
But the stained, slippery grass, the darkened
mulberries, told only half the story. Above
Marie and Emil, two white butterflies from
Frank's alfalfa-field were fluttering in and out
among the interlacing shadows; diving and
soaring, now close together, now far apart; and
in the long grass by the fence the last wild roses
of the year opened their pink hearts to die.
When Ivar reached the path by the hedge, he
saw Shabata's rifle lying in the way. He turned
and peered through the branches, falling upon
his knees as if his legs had been mowed from
under him. "Merciful God!" he groaned;
Alexandra, too, had risen early that morning,
because of her anxiety about Emil. She was in
Emil's room upstairs when, from the window,
she saw Ivar coming along the path that led
from the Shabatas'. He was running like a
spent man, tottering and lurching from side to
side. Ivar never drank, and Alexandra thought
at once that one of his spells had come upon
him, and that he must be in a very bad way
indeed. She ran downstairs and hurried out
to meet him, to hide his infirmity from the
eyes of her household. The old man fell in the
road at her feet and caught her hand, over
which he bowed his shaggy head. "Mistress,
mistress," he sobbed, "it has fallen! Sin and
death for the young ones! God have mercy
Ivar was sitting at a cobbler's bench in the
barn, mending harness by the light of a lantern
and repeating to himself the 101st Psalm. It
was only five o'clock of a mid-October day, but
a storm had come up in the afternoon, bring-
ing black clouds, a cold wind and torrents of
rain. The old man wore his buffalo-skin coat,
and occasionally stopped to warm his fingers at
the lantern. Suddenly a woman burst into the
shed, as if she had been blown in, accompanied
by a shower of rain-drops. It was Signa,
wrapped in a man's overcoat and wearing a
pair of boots over her shoes. In time of trouble
Signa had come back to stay with her mistress,
for she was the only one of the maids from
whom Alexandra would accept much personal
service. It was three months now since the
news of the terrible thing that had happened
in Frank Shabata's orchard had first run like
a fire over the Divide. Signa and Nelse were
staying on with Alexandra until winter.
"Ivar," Signa exclaimed as she wiped the
rain from her face, "do you know where she
The old man put down his cobbler's knife.
"Who, the mistress?"
"Yes. She went away about three o'clock. I
happened to look out of the window and saw
her going across the fields in her thin dress and
sun-hat. And now this storm has come on. I
thought she was going to Mrs. Hiller's, and I
telephoned as soon as the thunder stopped, but
she had not been there. I'm afraid she is out
somewhere and will get her death of cold."
Ivar put on his cap and took up the lantern.
"JA, JA, we will see. I will hitch the boy's mare
to the cart and go."
Signa followed him across the wagon-shed to
the horses' stable. She was shivering with cold
and excitement. "Where do you suppose she
can be, Ivar?"
The old man lifted a set of single harness
carefully from its peg. "How should I know?"
"But you think she is at the graveyard,
don't you?" Signa persisted. "So do I. Oh, I
wish she would be more like herself! I can't
believe it's Alexandra Bergson come to this,
with no head about anything. I have to tell her
when to eat and when to go to bed."
"Patience, patience, sister," muttered Ivar
as he settled the bit in the horse's mouth.
"When the eyes of the flesh are shut, the eyes
of the spirit are open. She will have a message
from those who are gone, and that will bring her
peace. Until then we must bear with her. You
and I are the only ones who have weight with
her. She trusts us."
"How awful it's been these last three
months." Signa held the lantern so that he
could see to buckle the straps. "It don't seem
right that we must all be so miserable. Why do
we all have to be punished? Seems to me like
good times would never come again."
Ivar expressed himself in a deep sigh, but
said nothing. He stooped and took a sandburr
from his toe.
"Ivar," Signa asked suddenly, "will you tell
me why you go barefoot? All the time I lived
here in the house I wanted to ask you. Is it for
a penance, or what?"
"No, sister. It is for the indulgence of the
body. From my youth up I have had a strong,
rebellious body, and have been subject to every
kind of temptation. Even in age my tempta-
tions are prolonged. It was necessary to make
some allowances; and the feet, as I understand
it, are free members. There is no divine pro-
hibition for them in the Ten Commandments.
The hands, the tongue, the eyes, the heart, all
the bodily desires we are commanded to sub-
due; but the feet are free members. I indulge
them without harm to any one, even to tramp-
ling in filth when my desires are low. They are
quickly cleaned again."
Signa did not laugh. She looked thoughtful
as she followed Ivar out to the wagon-shed and
held the shafts up for him, while he backed in
the mare and buckled the hold-backs. "You
have been a good friend to the mistress, Ivar,"
"And you, God be with you," replied Ivar as
he clambered into the cart and put the lan-
tern under the oilcloth lap-cover. "Now for a
ducking, my girl," he said to the mare, gather-
ing up the reins.
As they emerged from the shed, a stream of
water, running off the thatch, struck the mare
on the neck. She tossed her head indignantly,
then struck out bravely on the soft ground,
slipping back again and again as she climbed
the hill to the main road. Between the rain and
the darkness Ivar could see very little, so he let
Emil's mare have the rein, keeping her head in
the right direction. When the ground was level,
he turned her out of the dirt road upon the sod,
where she was able to trot without slipping.
Before Ivar reached the graveyard, three
miles from the house, the storm had spent
itself, and the downpour had died into a soft,
dripping rain. The sky and the land were a
dark smoke color, and seemed to be coming
together, like two waves. When Ivar stopped
at the gate and swung out his lantern, a white
figure rose from beside John Bergson's white
The old man sprang to the ground and shuf-
fled toward the gate calling, "Mistress, mis-
Alexandra hurried to meet him and put her
hand on his shoulder. "TYST! Ivar. There's
nothing to be worried about. I'm sorry if I've
scared you all. I didn't notice the storm till it
was on me, and I couldn't walk against it. I'm
glad you've come. I am so tired I didn't know
how I'd ever get home."
Ivar swung the lantern up so that it shone in
her face. "GUD! You are enough to frighten
us, mistress. You look like a drowned woman.
How could you do such a thing!"
Groaning and mumbling he led her out of the
gate and helped her into the cart, wrapping her
in the dry blankets on which he had been sitting.
Alexandra smiled at his solicitude. "Not
much use in that, Ivar. You will only shut the
wet in. I don't feel so cold now; but I'm heavy
and numb. I'm glad you came."
Ivar turned the mare and urged her into a
sliding trot. Her feet sent back a continual
spatter of mud.
Alexandra spoke to the old man as they
jogged along through the sullen gray twilight of
the storm. "Ivar, I think it has done me good
to get cold clear through like this, once. I don't
believe I shall suffer so much any more. When
you get so near the dead, they seem more real
than the living. Worldly thoughts leave one.
Ever since Emil died, I've suffered so when it
rained. Now that I've been out in it with him,
I shan't dread it. After you once get cold clear
through, the feeling of the rain on you is sweet.
It seems to bring back feelings you had when
you were a baby. It carries you back into the
dark, before you were born; you can't see things,
but they come to you, somehow, and you know
them and aren't afraid of them. Maybe it's like
that with the dead. If they feel anything at all,
it's the old things, before they were born, that
comfort people like the feeling of their own
bed does when they are little."
"Mistress," said Ivar reproachfully, "those
are bad thoughts. The dead are in Paradise."
Then he hung his head, for he did not believe
that Emil was in Paradise.
When they got home, Signa had a fire burn-
ing in the sitting-room stove. She undressed
Alexandra and gave her a hot footbath, while
Ivar made ginger tea in the kitchen. When
Alexandra was in bed, wrapped in hot blankets,
Ivar came in with his tea and saw that she
drank it. Signa asked permission to sleep on
the slat lounge outside her door. Alexandra
endured their attentions patiently, but she was
glad when they put out the lamp and left her.
As she lay alone in the dark, it occurred to her
for the first time that perhaps she was actually
tired of life. All the physical operations of life
seemed difficult and painful. She longed to be
free from her own body, which ached and was
so heavy. And longing itself was heavy: she
yearned to be free of that.
As she lay with her eyes closed, she had again,
more vividly than for many years, the old illu-
sion of her girlhood, of being lifted and carried
lightly by some one very strong. He was with
her a long while this time, and carried her very
far, and in his arms she felt free from pain.
When he laid her down on her bed again, she
opened her eyes, and, for the first time in her
life, she saw him, saw him clearly, though the
room was dark, and his face was covered. He
was standing in the doorway of her room. His
white cloak was thrown over his face, and his
head was bent a little forward. His shoulders
seemed as strong as the foundations of the
world. His right arm, bared from the elbow,
was dark and gleaming, like bronze, and she
knew at once that it was the arm of the mighti-
est of all lovers. She knew at last for whom it
was she had waited, and where he would carry
her. That, she told herself, was very well.
Then she went to sleep.
Alexandra wakened in the morning with
nothing worse than a hard cold and a stiff
shoulder. She kept her bed for several days,
and it was during that time that she formed a
resolution to go to Lincoln to see Frank Sha-
bata. Ever since she last saw him in the court-
room, Frank's haggard face and wild eyes
had haunted her. The trial had lasted only
three days. Frank had given himself up to the
police in Omaha and pleaded guilty of kill-
ing without malice and without premeditation.
The gun was, of course, against him, and the
judge had given him the full sentence,--ten
years. He had now been in the State Peni-
tentiary for a month.
Frank was the only one, Alexandra told her-
self, for whom anything could be done. He had
been less in the wrong than any of them, and he
was paying the heaviest penalty. She often felt
that she herself had been more to blame than
poor Frank. From the time the Shabatas had
first moved to the neighboring farm, she had
omitted no opportunity of throwing Marie and
Emil together. Because she knew Frank was
surly about doing little things to help his wife,
she was always sending Emil over to spade or
plant or carpenter for Marie. She was glad to
have Emil see as much as possible of an intelli-
gent, city-bred girl like their neighbor; she no-
ticed that it improved his manners. She knew
that Emil was fond of Marie, but it had never
occurred to her that Emil's feeling might be dif-
ferent from her own. She wondered at herself
now, but she had never thought of danger in
that direction. If Marie had been unmarried,
--oh, yes! Then she would have kept her eyes
open. But the mere fact that she was Sha-
bata's wife, for Alexandra, settled everything.
That she was beautiful, impulsive, barely two
years older than Emil, these facts had had no
weight with Alexandra. Emil was a good boy,
and only bad boys ran after married women.
Now, Alexandra could in a measure realize
that Marie was, after all, Marie; not merely
a "married woman." Sometimes, when Alex-
andra thought of her, it was with an aching
tenderness. The moment she had reached them
in the orchard that morning, everything was
clear to her. There was something about those
two lying in the grass, something in the way
Marie had settled her cheek on Emil's shoulder,
that told her everything. She wondered then
how they could have helped loving each other;
how she could have helped knowing that they
must. Emil's cold, frowning face, the girl's
content--Alexandra had felt awe of them,
even in the first shock of her grief.
The idleness of those days in bed, the relax-
ation of body which attended them, enabled
Alexandra to think more calmly than she had
done since Emil's death. She and Frank, she
told herself, were left out of that group of
friends who had been overwhelmed by disaster.
She must certainly see Frank Shabata. Even
in the courtroom her heart had grieved for him.
He was in a strange country, he had no kins-
men or friends, and in a moment he had ruined
his life. Being what he was, she felt, Frank
could not have acted otherwise. She could
understand his behavior more easily than she
could understand Marie's. Yes, she must go to
Lincoln to see Frank Shabata.
The day after Emil's funeral, Alexandra had
written to Carl Linstrum; a single page of note-
paper, a bare statement of what had happened.
She was not a woman who could write much
about such a thing, and about her own feelings
she could never write very freely. She knew
that Carl was away from post-offices, prospect-
ing somewhere in the interior. Before he started
he had written her where he expected to go, but
her ideas about Alaska were vague. As the
weeks went by and she heard nothing from him,
it seemed to Alexandra that her heart grew hard
against Carl. She began to wonder whether she
would not do better to finish her life alone.
What was left of life seemed unimportant.
Late in the afternoon of a brilliant October
day, Alexandra Bergson, dressed in a black suit
and traveling-hat, alighted at the Burlington
depot in Lincoln. She drove to the Lindell
Hotel, where she had stayed two years ago
when she came up for Emil's Commencement.
In spite of her usual air of sureness and self-
possession, Alexandra felt ill at ease in hotels,
and she was glad, when she went to the clerk's
desk to register, that there were not many
people in the lobby. She had her supper early,
wearing her hat and black jacket down to the
dining-room and carrying her handbag. After
supper she went out for a walk.
It was growing dark when she reached
the university campus. She did not go into the
grounds, but walked slowly up and down the
stone walk outside the long iron fence, looking
through at the young men who were running
from one building to another, at the lights shin-
ing from the armory and the library. A squad
of cadets were going through their drill behind
the armory, and the commands of their young
officer rang out at regular intervals, so sharp
and quick that Alexandra could not understand
them. Two stalwart girls came down the library
steps and out through one of the iron gates. As
they passed her, Alexandra was pleased to hear
them speaking Bohemian to each other. Every
few moments a boy would come running down
the flagged walk and dash out into the street as
if he were rushing to announce some wonder to
the world. Alexandra felt a great tenderness for
them all. She wished one of them would stop
and speak to her. She wished she could ask
them whether they had known Emil.
As she lingered by the south gate she actually
did encounter one of the boys. He had on his
drill cap and was swinging his books at the
end of a long strap. It was dark by this time;
he did not see her and ran against her. He
snatched off his cap and stood bareheaded and
panting. "I'm awfully sorry," he said in a
bright, clear voice, with a rising inflection, as if
he expected her to say something.
"Oh, it was my fault!" said Alexandra eagerly.
"Are you an old student here, may I ask?"
"No, ma'am. I'm a Freshie, just off the
farm. Cherry County. Were you hunting
"No, thank you. That is--" Alexandra
wanted to detain him. "That is, I would like to
find some of my brother's friends. He gradu-
ated two years ago."
"Then you'd have to try the Seniors,
wouldn't you? Let's see; I don't know any of
them yet, but there'll be sure to be some of
them around the library. That red building,
right there," he pointed.
"Thank you, I'll try there," said Alexandra
"Oh, that's all right! Good-night." The lad
clapped his cap on his head and ran straight
down Eleventh Street. Alexandra looked after
She walked back to her hotel unreasonably
comforted. "What a nice voice that boy had,
and how polite he was. I know Emil was always
like that to women." And again, after she had
undressed and was standing in her nightgown,
brushing her long, heavy hair by the electric
light, she remembered him and said to herself,
"I don't think I ever heard a nicer voice than
that boy had. I hope he will get on well here.
Cherry County; that's where the hay is so fine,
and the coyotes can scratch down to water."
At nine o'clock the next morning Alexandra
presented herself at the warden's office in the
State Penitentiary. The warden was a Ger-
man, a ruddy, cheerful-looking man who had
formerly been a harness-maker. Alexandra had
a letter to him from the German banker in
Hanover. As he glanced at the letter, Mr.
Schwartz put away his pipe.
"That big Bohemian, is it? Sure, he's
gettin' along fine," said Mr. Schwartz cheer-
"I am glad to hear that. I was afraid he
might be quarrelsome and get himself into more
trouble. Mr. Schwartz, if you have time, I
would like to tell you a little about Frank
Shabata, and why I am interested in him."
The warden listened genially while she told
him briefly something of Frank's history and
character, but he did not seem to find anything
unusual in her account.
"Sure, I'll keep an eye on him. We'll take
care of him all right," he said, rising. "You can
talk to him here, while I go to see to things in
the kitchen. I'll have him sent in. He ought
to be done washing out his cell by this time. We
have to keep 'em clean, you know."
The warden paused at the door, speaking
back over his shoulder to a pale young man in
convicts' clothes who was seated at a desk in
the corner, writing in a big ledger.
"Bertie, when 1037 is brought in, you just
step out and give this lady a chance to talk."
The young man bowed his head and bent
over his ledger again.
When Mr. Schwartz disappeared, Alexandra
thrust her black-edged handkerchief nervously
into her handbag. Coming out on the street-
car she had not had the least dread of meeting
Frank. But since she had been here the sounds
and smells in the corridor, the look of the men
in convicts' clothes who passed the glass door of
the warden's office, affected her unpleasantly.
The warden's clock ticked, the young con-
vict's pen scratched busily in the big book, and
his sharp shoulders were shaken every few
seconds by a loose cough which he tried to
smother. It was easy to see that he was a sick
man. Alexandra looked at him timidly, but he
did not once raise his eyes. He wore a white
shirt under his striped jacket, a high collar, and
a necktie, very carefully tied. His hands were
thin and white and well cared for, and he had a
seal ring on his little finger. When he heard
steps approaching in the corridor, he rose,
blotted his book, put his pen in the rack, and
left the room without raising his eyes. Through
the door he opened a guard came in, bringing
"You the lady that wanted to talk to 1037?
Here he is. Be on your good behavior, now. He
can set down, lady," seeing that Alexandra
remained standing. "Push that white button
when you're through with him, and I'll come."
The guard went out and Alexandra and
Frank were left alone.
Alexandra tried not to see his hideous
clothes. She tried to look straight into his face,
which she could scarcely believe was his. It
was already bleached to a chalky gray. His lips
were colorless, his fine teeth looked yellowish.
He glanced at Alexandra sullenly, blinked as if
he had come from a dark place, and one eye-
brow twitched continually. She felt at once
that this interview was a terrible ordeal to him.
His shaved head, showing the conformation of
his skull, gave him a criminal look which he had
not had during the trial.
Alexandra held out her hand. "Frank," she
said, her eyes filling suddenly, "I hope you'll
let me be friendly with you. I understand how
you did it. I don't feel hard toward you. They
were more to blame than you."
Frank jerked a dirty blue handkerchief from
his trousers pocket. He had begun to cry. He
turned away from Alexandra. "I never did
mean to do not'ing to dat woman," he mut-
tered. "I never mean to do not'ing to dat boy.
I ain't had not'ing ag'in' dat boy. I always like
dat boy fine. An' then I find him--" He
stopped. The feeling went out of his face and
eyes. He dropped into a chair and sat looking
stolidly at the floor, his hands hanging loosely
between his knees, the handkerchief lying
across his striped leg. He seemed to have
stirred up in his mind a disgust that had para-
lyzed his faculties.
"I haven't come up here to blame you,
Frank. I think they were more to blame than
you." Alexandra, too, felt benumbed.
Frank looked up suddenly and stared out of
the office window. "I guess dat place all go to
hell what I work so hard on," he said with a
slow, bitter smile. "I not care a damn." He
stopped and rubbed the palm of his hand over
the light bristles on his head with annoyance.
"I no can t'ink without my hair," he com-
plained. "I forget English. We not talk here,
Alexandra was bewildered. Frank seemed to
have undergone a change of personality. There
was scarcely anything by which she could
recognize her handsome Bohemian neighbor.
He seemed, somehow, not altogether human.
She did not know what to say to him.
"You do not feel hard to me, Frank?" she
asked at last.
Frank clenched his fist and broke out in
excitement. "I not feel hard at no woman. I
tell you I not that kind-a man. I never hit my
wife. No, never I hurt her when she devil me
something awful!" He struck his fist down on
the warden's desk so hard that he afterward
stroked it absently. A pale pink crept over
his neck and face. "Two, t'ree years I know
dat woman don' care no more 'bout me, Alex-
andra Bergson. I know she after some other
man. I know her, oo-oo! An' I ain't never hurt
her. I never would-a done dat, if I ain't had
dat gun along. I don' know what in hell make
me take dat gun. She always say I ain't no
man to carry gun. If she been in dat house,
where she ought-a been-- But das a foolish
Frank rubbed his head and stopped suddenly,
as he had stopped before. Alexandra felt that
there was something strange in the way he
chilled off, as if something came up in him that
extinguished his power of feeling or thinking.
"Yes, Frank," she said kindly. "I know you
never meant to hurt Marie."
Frank smiled at her queerly. His eyes filled
slowly with tears. "You know, I most forgit
dat woman's name. She ain't got no name for
me no more. I never hate my wife, but dat
woman what make me do dat-- Honest to
God, but I hate her! I no man to fight. I don'
want to kill no boy and no woman. I not care
how many men she take under dat tree. I no
care for not'ing but dat fine boy I kill, Alexan-
dra Bergson. I guess I go crazy sure 'nough."
Alexandra remembered the little yellow cane
she had found in Frank's clothes-closet. She
thought of how he had come to this country a
gay young fellow, so attractive that the pretti-
est Bohemian girl in Omaha had run away with
him. It seemed unreasonable that life should
have landed him in such a place as this. She
blamed Marie bitterly. And why, with her
happy, affectionate nature, should she have
brought destruction and sorrow to all who had
loved her, even to poor old Joe Tovesky, the
uncle who used to carry her about so proudly
when she was a little girl? That was the
strangest thing of all. Was there, then, some-
thing wrong in being warm-hearted and impul-
sive like that? Alexandra hated to think so.
But there was Emil, in the Norwegian grave-
yard at home, and here was Frank Shabata.
Alexandra rose and took him by the hand.
"Frank Shabata, I am never going to stop
trying until I get you pardoned. I'll never
give the Governor any peace. I know I can get
you out of this place."
Frank looked at her distrustfully, but he
gathered confidence from her face. "Alexan-
dra," he said earnestly, "if I git out-a here, I
not trouble dis country no more. I go back
where I come from; see my mother."
Alexandra tried to withdraw her hand, but
Frank held on to it nervously. He put out his
finger and absently touched a button on her
black jacket. "Alexandra," he said in a low
tone, looking steadily at the button, "you ain'
t'ink I use dat girl awful bad before--"
"No, Frank. We won't talk about that,"
Alexandra said, pressing his hand. "I can't
help Emil now, so I'm going to do what I can
for you. You know I don't go away from
home often, and I came up here on purpose to
tell you this."
The warden at the glass door looked in in-
quiringly. Alexandra nodded, and he came in
and touched the white button on his desk. The
guard appeared, and with a sinking heart
Alexandra saw Frank led away down the cor-
ridor. After a few words with Mr. Schwartz,
she left the prison and made her way to the
street-car. She had refused with horror the
warden's cordial invitation to "go through
the institution." As the car lurched over its un-
even roadbed, back toward Lincoln, Alexandra
thought of how she and Frank had been
wrecked by the same storm and of how, al-
though she could come out into the sunlight,
she had not much more left in her life than he.
She remembered some lines from a poem she
had liked in her schooldays:--
Henceforth the world will only be
A wider prison-house to me,--
and sighed. A disgust of life weighed upon her
heart; some such feeling as had twice frozen
Frank Shabata's features while they talked
together. She wished she were back on the
When Alexandra entered her hotel, the clerk
held up one finger and beckoned to her. As she
approached his desk, he handed her a telegram.
Alexandra took the yellow envelope and looked
at it in perplexity, then stepped into the ele-
vator without opening it. As she walked down
the corridor toward her room, she reflected that
she was, in a manner, immune from evil tid-
ings. On reaching her room she locked the door,
and sitting down on a chair by the dresser,
opened the telegram. It was from Hanover,
and it read:--
Arrived Hanover last night. Shall wait
here until you come. Please hurry.
Alexandra put her head down on the dresser
and burst into tears.
The next afternoon Carl and Alexandra
were walking across the fields from Mrs.
Hiller's. Alexandra had left Lincoln after mid-
night, and Carl had met her at the Hanover
station early in the morning. After they
reached home, Alexandra had gone over to
Mrs. Hiller's to leave a little present she had
bought for her in the city. They stayed at the
old lady's door but a moment, and then came
out to spend the rest of the afternoon in the
Alexandra had taken off her black traveling-
suit and put on a white dress; partly because
she saw that her black clothes made Carl un-
comfortable and partly because she felt op-
pressed by them herself. They seemed a little
like the prison where she had worn them yester-
day, and to be out of place in the open fields.
Carl had changed very little. His cheeks were
browner and fuller. He looked less like a tired
scholar than when he went away a year ago,
but no one, even now, would have taken him
for a man of business. His soft, lustrous black
eyes, his whimsical smile, would be less against
him in the Klondike than on the Divide. There
are always dreamers on the frontier.
Carl and Alexandra had been talking since
morning. Her letter had never reached him.
He had first learned of her misfortune from a
San Francisco paper, four weeks old, which he
had picked up in a saloon, and which con-
tained a brief account of Frank Shabata's trial.
When he put down the paper, he had already
made up his mind that he could reach Alexandra
as quickly as a letter could; and ever since he
had been on the way; day and night, by the
fastest boats and trains he could catch. His
steamer had been held back two days by rough
As they came out of Mrs. Hiller's garden
they took up their talk again where they had
"But could you come away like that, Carl,
without arranging things? Could you just walk
off and leave your business?" Alexandra asked.
Carl laughed. "Prudent Alexandra! You see,
my dear, I happen to have an honest partner.
I trust him with everything. In fact, it's been
his enterprise from the beginning, you know.
I'm in it only because he took me in. I'll
have to go back in the spring. Perhaps you
will want to go with me then. We haven't
turned up millions yet, but we've got a start
that's worth following. But this winter I'd like
to spend with you. You won't feel that we
ought to wait longer, on Emil's account, will
Alexandra shook her head. "No, Carl; I
don't feel that way about it. And surely you
needn't mind anything Lou and Oscar say
now. They are much angrier with me about
Emil, now, than about you. They say it was all
my fault. That I ruined him by sending him to
"No, I don't care a button for Lou or
Oscar. The moment I knew you were in trou-
ble, the moment I thought you might need
me, it all looked different. You've always
been a triumphant kind of person." Carl
hesitated, looking sidewise at her strong, full
figure. "But you do need me now, Alex-
She put her hand on his arm. "I needed you
terribly when it happened, Carl. I cried for you
at night. Then everything seemed to get hard
inside of me, and I thought perhaps I should
never care for you again. But when I got your
telegram yesterday, then--then it was just as
it used to be. You are all I have in the world,
Carl pressed her hand in silence. They were
passing the Shabatas' empty house now, but
they avoided the orchard path and took one
that led over by the pasture pond.
"Can you understand it, Carl?" Alexandra
murmured. "I have had nobody but Ivar and
Signa to talk to. Do talk to me. Can you un-
derstand it? Could you have believed that
of Marie Tovesky? I would have been cut
to pieces, little by little, before I would have
betrayed her trust in me!"
Carl looked at the shining spot of water
before them. "Maybe she was cut to pieces,
too, Alexandra. I am sure she tried hard; they
both did. That was why Emil went to Mexico,
of course. And he was going away again, you
tell me, though he had only been home three
weeks. You remember that Sunday when I
went with Emil up to the French Church fair?
I thought that day there was some kind of feel-
ing, something unusual, between them. I
meant to talk to you about it. But on my way
back I met Lou and Oscar and got so angry
that I forgot everything else. You mustn't
be hard on them, Alexandra. Sit down here
by the pond a minute. I want to tell you
They sat down on the grass-tufted bank and
Carl told her how he had seen Emil and
Marie out by the pond that morning, more than
a year ago, and how young and charming and
full of grace they had seemed to him. "It hap-
pens like that in the world sometimes, Alexan-
dra," he added earnestly. "I've seen it before.
There are women who spread ruin around
them through no fault of theirs, just by being
too beautiful, too full of life and love. They
can't help it. People come to them as people go
to a warm fire in winter. I used to feel that in
her when she was a little girl. Do you remem-
ber how all the Bohemians crowded round her
in the store that day, when she gave Emil her
candy? You remember those yellow sparks in
Alexandra sighed. "Yes. People couldn't
help loving her. Poor Frank does, even now, I
think; though he's got himself in such a tangle
that for a long time his love has been bitterer
than his hate. But if you saw there was any-
thing wrong, you ought to have told me, Carl."
Carl took her hand and smiled patiently.
"My dear, it was something one felt in the air,
as you feel the spring coming, or a storm in
summer. I didn't SEE anything. Simply, when
I was with those two young things, I felt my
blood go quicker, I felt--how shall I say it?--
an acceleration of life. After I got away, it
was all too delicate, too intangible, to write
Alexandra looked at him mournfully. "I
try to be more liberal about such things than
I used to be. I try to realize that we are not
all made alike. Only, why couldn't it have
been Raoul Marcel, or Jan Smirka? Why did it
have to be my boy?"
"Because he was the best there was, I sup-
pose. They were both the best you had here."
The sun was dropping low in the west when
the two friends rose and took the path again.
The straw-stacks were throwing long shadows,
the owls were flying home to the prairie-dog
town. When they came to the corner where the
pastures joined, Alexandra's twelve young colts
were galloping in a drove over the brow of the
"Carl," said Alexandra, "I should like to go
up there with you in the spring. I haven't
been on the water since we crossed the ocean,
when I was a little girl. After we first came out
here I used to dream sometimes about the ship-
yard where father worked, and a little sort of
inlet, full of masts." Alexandra paused. After
a moment's thought she said, "But you would
never ask me to go away for good, would you?"
"Of course not, my dearest. I think I know
how you feel about this country as well as you
do yourself." Carl took her hand in both his
own and pressed it tenderly.
"Yes, I still feel that way, though Emil is
gone. When I was on the train this morning,
and we got near Hanover, I felt something like
I did when I drove back with Emil from the
river that time, in the dry year. I was glad to
come back to it. I've lived here a long time.
There is great peace here, Carl, and freedom.
. . . I thought when I came out of that prison,
where poor Frank is, that I should never feel
free again. But I do, here." Alexandra took a
deep breath and looked off into the red west.
"You belong to the land," Carl murmured,
"as you have always said. Now more than
"Yes, now more than ever. You remember
what you once said about the graveyard, and
the old story writing itself over? Only it is we
who write it, with the best we have."
They paused on the last ridge of the pasture,
overlooking the house and the windmill and the
stables that marked the site of John Bergson's
homestead. On every side the brown waves of
the earth rolled away to meet the sky.
"Lou and Oscar can't see those things," said
Alexandra suddenly. "Suppose I do will my
land to their children, what difference will that
make? The land belongs to the future, Carl;
that's the way it seems to me. How many of the
names on the county clerk's plat will be there
in fifty years? I might as well try to will the
sunset over there to my brother's children. We
come and go, but the land is always here. And
the people who love it and understand it are
the people who own it--for a little while."
Carl looked at her wonderingly. She was
still gazing into the west, and in her face there
was that exalted serenity that sometimes came
to her at moments of deep feeling. The level
rays of the sinking sun shone in her clear eyes.
"Why are you thinking of such things now,
"I had a dream before I went to Lincoln--
But I will tell you about that afterward, after
we are married. It will never come true, now,
in the way I thought it might." She took Carl's
arm and they walked toward the gate. "How
many times we have walked this path together,
Carl. How many times we will walk it again!
Does it seem to you like coming back to your
own place? Do you feel at peace with the world
here? I think we shall be very happy. I haven't
any fears. I think when friends marry, they are
safe. We don't suffer like--those young ones."
Alexandra ended with a sigh.
They had reached the gate. Before Carl
opened it, he drew Alexandra to him and kissed
her softly, on her lips and on her eyes.
She leaned heavily on his shoulder. "I am
tired," she murmured. "I have been very
They went into the house together, leaving
the Divide behind them, under the evening
star. Fortunate country, that is one day to
receive hearts like Alexandra's into its bosom,
to give them out again in the yellow wheat, in
the rustling corn, in the shining eyes of youth!
End of the Project Gutenberg Edition of O Pioneers!