Thursday, October 31, 2013


From Harper’s Magazine, 1915

At times the muffled conversation in the kitchen resembled the resonant humming of bees, and again, when it became animated, it sounded like the distant cackling of geese. Then there would come a pause; and it would begin again with sibilant whispers, and end in a chorus of dry laughter that somehow suggested the crackling of burning logs.
Occasionally a figure would open the bedroom door, pass the old man as he sat huddled in his chair, never throwing a glance at him, and go and kneel by the side of the bed where the body was. They usually prayed for two or three minutes, then rose and walked on tiptoe to the kitchen, where they joined the company. Sometimes they came in twos, less often in threes, but they did precisely the same thing—prayed for precisely the same time, and left the room on tiptoe with the same creak of shoe and rustle of clothes that sounded so intensely loud throughout the room. They might have been following instructions laid down in a ritual.
The old man wished to heaven they would stay away. He had been sitting in his chair for hours, thinking, until his head was in a whirl. He wanted to concentrate his thoughts, but somehow he felt that the mourners were preventing him.
The five candles at the head of the bed distracted him. He was glad when the figure of one of the mourners shut off the glare for a few minutes. He was also distracted by the five chairs standing around the room like sentries on post and the little table by the window with its crucifix and holy-water font. He wanted to keep thinking of “herself,” as he called her, lost in the immensity of the oaken bed. He had been looking at the pinched face with its faint suspicion of blue since early that morning. He was very much awed by the nun’s hood that concealed the back of the head, and the stiffly posed arms and the small hands in their white-cotton gloves moved him to a deep pity.
Somebody touched him on the shoulder. “Michael James.”
It was big Dan Murray, a gaunt red farmer, who had been best man at his wedding.
“Michael James.”
“What is it?”
“I hear young Kennedy’s in the village.”
“What of that?”
“I thought it was best for you to know.”
Murray waited a moment, then he went out, on tiptoe, as everybody did, his movements resembling the stilted gestures of a mechanical toy.
Down the drive Michael heard steps coming. Then a struggle and a shrill giggle. Some young people were coming to the wake, and he knew a boy had tried to kiss a girl in the dark. He felt a dull surge of resentment.
She was nineteen when he married her; he was sixty-three. Because he had over two hundred acres of land and many head of milch and grazing cattle and a huge house that rambled like a barrack, her father had given her to him; and young Kennedy, who had been her father’s steward for years, and had been saving to buy a house for her, was thrown over like a bale of mildewed hay.
Kennedy had made several violent scenes. Michael James remembered the morning of the wedding. Kennedy waylaid the bridal-party coming out of the church. He was drunk. “Mark me,” he had said, very quietly for a drunken man—“mark me. If anything ever happens to that girl at your side, Michael James, I’ll murder you. I’ll murder you in cold blood. Do you understand?”
Michael James could be forgiving that morning. “Run away and sober up, lad,” he had said, “and come up to the house and dance.”
Kennedy had gone around the countryside for weeks, drunk every night, making threats against the old farmer. And then a wily sergeant of the Connaught Rangers had trapped him and taken him off to Aldershot.
Now he was home on furlough, and something had happened to her, and he was coming up to make good his threat.
What had happened to her? Michael James didn’t understand. He had given her everything he could. She had taken it all with a demure thanks, but he had never had anything of her but apathy. She had gone around the house apathetically, growing a little thinner every day, and then a few days ago she had lain down, and last night she had died, apathetically.
And young Kennedy was coming up for an accounting to-night. “Well,” thought Michael James, “let him come!”
Silence suddenly fell over the company in the kitchen. Then a loud scraping as they stood up, and a harsher grating as chairs were pushed back. The door of the bedroom opened and the red flare from the fire and lamps of the kitchen blended into the sickly yellow candle-light of the bedroom.
The parish priest walked in. His closely cropped white hair, strong, ruddy face, and erect back gave him more the appearance of a soldier than a clergyman. He looked at the bed a moment, and then at Michael James.
“Oh, you mustn’t take it like that, man,” he said. “You mustn’t take it like that. You must bear up.” He was the only one who spoke in his natural voice.
He turned to a lumbering farmer’s wife who had followed him in, and asked about the hour of the funeral. She answered in a hoarse whisper, dropping a courtesy.
“You ought to go out and take a walk,” he told Michael James. “You oughtn’t to stay in here all the time.” And he left the room.
Michael James paid no attention. His mind was wandering to strange fantasies he could not keep out of his head. Pictures crept in and out of his brain, joined as by some thin filament. He thought somehow of her soul, and then wondered what a soul was like. And then he thought of a dove, and then of a bat fluttering through the dark, and then of a bird lost at twilight. He thought of it as some lonely flying thing with a long journey before it and no place to rest. He could imagine it uttering the vibrant, plaintive cry of a peewit. And then it struck him with a great sense of pity that the night was cold.
In the kitchen they were having tea. The rattle of the crockery sounded very distinctly. He could distinguish the sharp, staccato ring when a cup was laid in a saucer, and the nervous rattle when cup and saucer were passed from one hand to the other. Spoons struck china with a faint metallic tinkle. He felt as if all the sounds were made at the back of his neck, and the crash seemed to burst in his head.
Dan Murray creaked into the room. “Michael James,” he whispered, “you ought to take something. Have a bite to eat. Take a cup of tea. I’ll bring it in to you.”
“Oh, let me alone, Daniel,” he answered. He felt he would like to kick him and curse him while doing so.
“You must take something.” Murray’s voice rose from a whisper to a low, argumentative sing-song. “You know it’s not natural. You’ve got to eat.”
“No, thank you, Daniel,” he answered. It was as if he were talking to a boy who was good-natured but tiresome. “I don’t feel like eating. Maybe afterward I will.”
“Michael James,” Murray continued.
“Well, what is it, Daniel?”
“Don’t you think I’d better go down and see young Kennedy and tell him how foolish it would be of him to come up here and start fighting? You know it isn’t right. Hadn’t I better go down? He’s at home now.”
“Let that alone, Daniel, I tell you.” The thought of Murray breaking into the matter that was between himself and the young man filled him with a sense of injured delicacy.
“I know he’s going to make trouble.”
“Let me handle that, like a good fellow, and leave me by myself, Daniel, if you don’t mind.”
“Ah well, sure. You know best.” And Murray crept out of the room.
As the door opened Michael could hear some one singing in a subdued voice and many feet tapping like drums in time with the music. They had to pass the night outside, and it was the custom, but the singing irritated him. He could fancy heads nodding and bodies swaying from side to side with the rhythm. He recognized the tune, and it began to run through his head, and he could not put it out of it. The lilt of it captured him, and suddenly he began thinking of the wonderful brain that musicians must have to compose music. And then his thoughts switched to a picture he had seen of a man in a garret with a fiddle beneath his chin.
He straightened himself up a little, for sitting crouched forward as he was put a strain on his back, and he unconsciously sat upright to ease himself. And as he sat up he caught a glimpse of the cotton gloves on the bed, and it burst in on him that the first time he had seen her she was walking along the road with young Kennedy one Sunday afternoon, and they were holding hands. When they saw him they let go suddenly, and grew very red, giggling in a half-hearted way to hide their embarrassment. And he remembered that he had passed them by without saying anything, but with a good-humored, sly smile on his face, and a mellow feeling within him, and a sage reflection to himself that young folks will be young folks, and what harm was there in courting a little on a Sunday afternoon when the week’s work had been done?
And he remembered other days on which he had met her and Kennedy; and then how the conviction had come into his mind that here was a girl for him to marry; and then how, quietly and equably, he had gone about getting her and marrying her, as he would go about buying a team of horses or make arrangements for cutting the hay.
Until the day he married her he felt as a driver feels who has his team under perfect control, and who knows every bend and curve of the road he is taking. But since that day he had been thinking about her and worrying and wondering exactly where he stood, until everything in the day was just the puzzle of her, and he was like a driver with a restive pair of horses who knows his way no farther than the next bend. And then he knew she was the biggest thing in his life.
The situation as it appeared to him he had worked out with difficulty, for he was not a thinking man. What thinking he did dealt with the price of harvest machinery and the best time of the year for buying and selling. He worked it out this way: here was this girl dead, whom he had married, and who should have married another man, who was coming to-night to kill him. To-night sometime the world would stop for him. He felt no longer a personal entity—he was merely part of a situation. It was as if he were a piece in a chess problem—any moment the player might move and solve the play by taking a pawn.
Realities had taken on a dim, unearthly quality. Occasionally a sound from the kitchen would strike him like an unexpected note in a harmony; the whiteness of the bed would flash out like a piece of color in a subdued painting.
There was a shuffling in the kitchen and the sound of feet going toward the door. The latch lifted with a rasp. He could hear the hoarse, deep tones of a few boys, and the high-pitched sing-song intonations of girls. He knew they were going for a few miles’ walk along the roads. He went over and raised the blind on the window. Overhead the moon showed like a spot of bright saffron. A sort of misty haze seemed to cling around the bushes and trees. The out-houses stood out white, like buildings in a mysterious city. Somewhere there was the metallic whir of a grasshopper, and in the distance a loon boomed again and again.
The little company passed down the yard. There was the sound of a smothered titter, then a playful resounding slap, and a gurgling laugh from one of the boys.
As he stood by the window he heard some one open the door and stand on the threshold.
“Are you coming, Alice?” some one asked.
Michael James listened for the answer. He was taking in eagerly all outside things. He wanted something to pass the time of waiting, as a traveler in a railway station reads trivial notices carefully while waiting for a train that may take him to the ends of the earth.
“Alice, are you coming?” was asked again.
There was no answer.
“Well, you needn’t if you don’t want to,” he heard in an irritated tone, and the speaker tramped down toward the road in a dudgeon. He recognized the figure of Flanagan, the football-player, who was always having little spats with the girl he was going to marry. He discovered with a sort of shock that he was slightly amused at this incident.
From the road there came the shrill scream of one of the girls who had gone out, and then a chorus of laughter. And against the background of the figure behind him and of young Kennedy he began wondering at the relationship of man and woman. He had no word for it, for “love” was a term he thought should be confined to story-books, a word to be suspicious of as sounding affected, a word to be scoffed at. But of this relationship he had a vague understanding. He thought of it as a criss-cross of threads binding one person to the other, or as a web which might be light and easily broken, or which might have the strength of steel cables and which might work into knots here and there and become a tangle that could crush those caught in it.
It puzzled him how a thing of indefinable grace, of soft words on June nights, of vague stirrings under moonlight, of embarrassing hand-clasps and fearful glances, might become, as it had become in the case of himself, Kennedy, and what was behind him, a thing of blind, malevolent force, a thing of sinister silence, a shadow that crushed.
And then it struck him with a sense of guilt that his mind was wandering from her, and he turned away from the window. He thought how much more peaceful it would be for a body to lie out in the moonlight than on a somber oak bedstead in a shadowy room with yellow, guttering candle-light and five solemn-looking chairs. And he thought again how strange it was that on a night like this Kennedy should come as an avenger seeking to kill rather than as a lover with high hope in his breast.
Murray slipped into the room again. There was a frown on his face and his tone was aggressive.
“I tell you, Michael James, we’ll have to do something about it.” There was a truculent note in his whisper.
The farmer did not answer.
“Will you let me go down for the police? A few words to the sergeant will keep him quiet.”
Michael James felt a pity for Murray. The idea of pitting a sergeant of police against the tragedy that was coming seemed ludicrous to him. It was like pitting a school-boy against a hurricane.
“Listen to me, Dan,” he replied. “How do you know Kennedy is coming up at all?”
“Flanagan, the football-player, met him and talked to him. He said that Kennedy was clean mad.”
“Do they know about it in the kitchen?”
“Not a word.” There was a pause.
“Well, listen here, now. Go right back there and don’t say a word about it. Wouldn’t it be foolish if you went down to the police and he didn’t come at all? And if he does come I can manage him. And if I can’t I’ll call you. Does that satisfy you?” And he sent Murray out, grumbling.
As the door closed he felt that the last refuge had been abandoned. He was to wrestle with destiny alone. He had no doubt that Kennedy would make good his vow, and he felt a sort of curiosity as to how it would be done. Would it be with hands, or with a gun, or some other weapon? He hoped it would be the gun. The idea of coming to hand-grips with the boy filled him with a strange terror.
The thought that within ten minutes or a half-hour or an hour he would be dead did not come home to him. It was the physical act that frightened him. He felt as if he were terribly alone and a cold wind were blowing about him and penetrating every pore of his body. There was a contraction around his breast-bone and a shiver in his shoulders.
His idea of death was that he would pitch headlong, as from a high tower, into a bottomless dark space.
He went over to the window again and looked out toward the barn. From a chink in one of the shutters there was a thread of yellow candle-light. He knew there were men there playing cards to pass the time.
Then terror came on him. The noise in the kitchen was subdued. Most of the mourners had gone home, and those who were staying the night were drowsy and were dozing over the fire. He felt he wanted to rush among them and to cry to them to protect him, and to cower behind them and to close them around him in a solid circle. He felt that eyes were upon him, looking at his back from the bed, and he was afraid to turn around because he might look into the eyes.
She had always respected him, he remembered, and he did not want to lose her respect now; and the fear that he would lose it set his shoulders back and steadied the grip of his feet on the floor.
And then there flashed before him the thought of people who kill, of lines of soldiery rushing on trenches, of a stealthy, cowering man who slips through a jail door at dawn, and of a figure he had read of in books—a sinister figure with an ax and a red cloak.
As he looked down the yard he saw a figure turn in the gate and come toward the house. It seemed to walk slowly and heavily, as if tired. He knew it was Kennedy. He opened the kitchen door and slipped outside.
The figure coming up the pathway seemed to swim toward him. Then it would blur and disappear and then appear again vaguely. The beating of his heart was like the regular sound of a ticking clock. Space narrowed until he felt he could not breathe. He went forward a few paces. The light from the bedroom window streamed forward in a broad, yellow beam. He stepped into it as into a river.
“She’s dead,” he heard himself saying. “She’s dead.” And then he knew that Kennedy was standing in front of him.
The flap of the boy’s hat threw a heavy shadow over his face, his shoulders were braced, and his right hand, the farmer could see, was thrust deeply into his coat pocket.
“Aye, she’s dead,” Michael James repeated. “You knew that, didn’t you?” It was all he could think of saying. “You’ll come in and see her, won’t you?” He had forgotten what Kennedy had come for. He was dazed. He didn’t know what to say.
Kennedy moved a little. The light from the window struck him full in the face, and Michael James realized with a shock that it was as grim and thin-lipped as he had pictured it. A prayer rose in his throat, and then fear seemed to leave him all at once. He raised his head. The right hand had left the pocket now. And then suddenly he saw that Kennedy was looking into the room, and he knew he could see, through the little panes of glass, the huge bedstead and the body on it. And he felt a desire to throw himself between Kennedy and it, as he might jump between a child and a threatening danger.
He turned away his head, instinctively—why, he could not understand, but he felt that he should not look at Kennedy’s face.
Over in the barn voices rose suddenly. They were disputing over the cards. There was some one complaining feverishly and some one arguing truculently, and another voice striving to make peace. They died away in a dull hum, and Michael James heard the boy sobbing.
“You mustn’t do that,” he said. “You mustn’t do that.” And he patted him on the shoulders. He felt as if something unspeakably tense had relaxed and as if life were swinging back into balance. His voice shook and he continued patting. “You’ll come in now, and I’ll leave you alone there.” He took him under the arm.
He felt the pity he had for the body on the bed envelop Kennedy, too, and a sense of peace came over him. It was as though a son of his had been hurt and had come to him for comfort, and he was going to comfort him. In some vague way he thought of Easter-time.
He stopped at the door for a moment.
“It’s all right, laddie,” he said. “It’s all right,” and he lifted the latch.
As they went in he felt somehow as if high walls had crumbled and the three of them had stepped into the light of day.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Addie Ransom: A Memory of the Tokelaus

By  Louis Becke

A hot, steamy mist rose from the gleaming, oily sea, and the little island lay sweltering and gasping under a sky of brass and a savagely blazing sun. Along the edges of the curving lines of yellow beach the drought-smitten plumes of the fast-withering coco-palms drooped straight, brown and motionless; and Wallis, the trader at Avamua village, as he paced to and fro upon the heated boards of his verandah, cursed the island and the people, and the deadly calm, and the brassy sky, and the firm of Tom de Wolf & Sons (whom he blamed for the weather), and the drought, and the sickness, and the overdue ship, and himself, and everything else; and he wished that Lita would go away for a month--her patience and calmness worried and irritated him. Then he might perhaps try getting drunk on Sundays like Ransom; to-day was Sunday, and another Sunday meant another hell of twelve hours' heat, and misery, and hope deferred.
'Curse that damned bell! There it goes again, though half of the people are dead, and the other half are dying like rotten sheep! Oh, for a ship, or rain, or a howling gale--anything but this!'
He dashed his pipe furiously upon the verandah, and then flung himself into a cane lounge, pressed his hands to his ears, and swore silently at the jarring clamour of the hated church bell.
Lita's brown hand touched him on the shoulder.
'Wassa th' matter, Tom, wis you?'
'Oh, go away, for God's sake, Lita, there's a good girl. Leave me alone. Go to church, and tell Ioane I'll give him a couple of dollars not to ring that damned, infernal bell again to-day. I'm going mad! I'll get drunk, I think, like Ransom. My God! just think of it, girl! Twelve months without a ship, and this hateful, God-forsaken island turning into a pest-house.'
'Wasa is pesta-house, Tom?'
'Place where they put people in to die--lazzaretto, charnel-house, morgue, living grave! Oh, go away, girl, go to the blarsted church if you want to, and leave me alone.'
Her slender fingers touched his hand timidly.
'I don' wan' go to church, Tom. I don' wan' leave you here to get mad an' lon'ly by yourse'f.'

'Very well, old woman, stay here with me. Perhaps a breeze may come by-and-by and then we can breathe. How many people died yesterday, Lita?'
''Bout nine, Tom--four men, tree woman, an' some child.'
'Poor devils! I wish I had some medicine for them. But I'm hanged if I know what it is--some sort of cholera brought here by that infernal American missionary brig, I believe. Hallo! there's Ioane beginning.'
                    *    *    *    *    *
The white-walled native church was not a stone's throw away, and through the wide, paneless windows and open doors the deep voice of Ioane, the Samoan native teacher, sounded clearly and solemnly in the still, heated morn. Wallis, with his wide straw hat covering his bronzed face, lay back in the lounge, and, at first, took no heed. Lita, sitting at his feet, rested her chin on one hand and listened intently.
'Turn ye all, men and women of this afflicted land of Nukutavau, to the Word of God, which is written in the Book of Isaiah, in the fortieth chapter and the sixth verse. It was to my mind that we should first sing to the praise of Jehovah; but, alas! we cannot sing to-day; for my cheeks are wetted with many tears, and my belly is bursting with sorrow when I see how few there are of us who are left. But yet can we pray together; and the whisper of affliction shall as surely reach the ear of God as the loud, glad song of praise. But first hear ye these words:--
'"The Voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? And the Voice answered. All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth; because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: Surely the people is grass."'
Wallis sat up and listened; for as the preacher ceased he heard the sound of many sobs; and presently a woman, old, gaunt and feeble, staggered out from the church and flung herself face downwards upon the burning sand.
'A mate, a mate tatou,' she moaned, 'e agi mai le manava Ieova.' ('We perish, we perish with the breath of Jehovah.')
She lay there unheeded; for now the preacher, with broken voice, was passionately imploring his congregation to cast themselves upon the mercy of God, and beseech Him to stay the deadly pestilence which had so sorely smitten the land.
'And spare Thou, O God Most High, Most Merciful, and Most Just, these many little children who yet live, for they are but very small, and have not yet sinned before Thee. Three of mine own hast thou touched with Thy hand, and taken to Thee, and my belly and the belly of my wife are empty, and yearn in the night for the voices we shall hear no more. And for those three whom Thou hast taken, spare Thou three of those who yet live. And shield, O God, with Thy care, the papalagi{*} Ranisome and his child, the girl Ati' (Addie), 'for she loveth Thy word; and turn Thou the heart of her father from the drinking of grog, so that he shall be no more as a hog that is loia.'{**} 'And shield, too, the papalagi Walesi and the woman Lita--she who liveth with him in sin--for their hearts are ever good and their hands ever open to us of Nukutavau; and send, O most merciful and compassionate One, a ship, so that the two white men and the woman Lita, and the girl Ati, and we, Thy people, may not die of hunger and thirst and sickness, but live to praise Thy holy name.'
* Foreigner.
** A man or an animal is loia when he or it has eaten or drunk to such repletion as to lie down and be overrun with ants--an expressive Samoan synonym for excess.
A burst of weeping, and Amene! Amene! came from his hearers, then silence; and Wallis, taking his hat from his face, bent his head.
Presently the scanty congregation came slowly forth. Some, as they passed the white man and Lita, tried to smile a greeting to them, though every brown face was wet with tears. Last of all came Ioane, the Samoan teacher, short, square-built, with deep sunken earnest eyes bent to the ground, his right arm supporting his wife, whose slender frame was shaken with the violence of her grief for those three of her heart whom 'He had taken.' Wallis, followed by Lita, stepped down from his verandah, and held out his hand. The teacher pressed it in silence, and, unable now to speak, walked slowly on. Lita, her dark, oval face still hot with anger, drew back and made no sign, though Eliné, the teacher's wife, murmured as she passed,--'Nay, be not angry, Lita; for death is near to us all.'
                    *    *    *    *    *
As they returned to the house, Ransom, the old trader from Avatulalo, the next village to that in which Wallis lived, met them at the gate. He was a man of sixty or thereabout--grey, dirty, dishevelled and half drunk.
'I want you and Lita to come back with me,' he said slowly, holding to the palings of the fence, and moving his head from side to side; 'you must come... 'you must come, or'--with sudden frenzy--'by God, I'll put a firestick into your house; I will, by blazes, I will! Curse you, Tom Wallis, and your damned, Sydney-white-duck-suit-respectability, and your damned proud quarter-caste Portugee woman, who you ain't married to, as I was to mine--bad as she was. Put up your hands you--'
Wallis gripped him firmly but kindly by the wrists, and forced him into a seat.
'What's the matter with you, Ransom? Only drunk and fightable as usual? or are you being chased by pink snakes with tiger's heads again, eh? There, sit quiet, old man. Where is Addie?'
For a few moments the old man made no answer; then he rose, and placing his trembling hands on Wallis's chest said brokenly,--
'God help me, Tom! She's a-dyin'... an' I'm near drunk. She was took bad this mornin', an' has been callin' for the teacher an' Lita-- an' I'd as lief go to hell as to ask a damned Kanaka mission'ry to come an' talk Gospel an' Heaven to a child o' mine--not in my own house, anyway. It ain't right or proper. But she kep' on a-pesterin' me, an' at last I said I would come an' arst him... an' while I was waitin' outside the church I hears the damned feller a-prayin' and sayin' "All flesh is grass, and the grass withereth"'--his voice quivered and broke again--'an' onct I heard my old mother say them very words when she was a-dyin', more'n forty year ago, in the old country. An' Addie's dyin' fast, Tom; dyin', an' I can't say a prayer with her; I don't know none. I'm only a drunken old shellback, an' I ought to be struck dead for my bloody sins. She's all I has in the world to love; an' now, an' now--' He turned away and, covering his face with his coarse, sunburnt hands, sobbed like a child.
                    *    *    *    *    *
Half an hour later Wallis and Lita were in the room with the dying girl. Ransom, shambling behind them, crept in and knelt at the foot of the bed. Two native women, who were squatted on the matted floor went out softly, and Wallis bent over the girl and looked into her pallid, twitching face, over which the dread grey shadow was creeping fast. She put out her hand to the trader and Lita, and a faint smile moved her lips.
'You is good to come, Tom Wallis,' she said, in her childish voice, 'an' so is you, Lita. Wher' is my fath'? I don' see him. I was ask him to bring Ioane here to pray fo' me. I can't pray myself.... I have been try.... Wher' is you, fath'?'
Ransom crept round to her side, and laid his face upon her open hand.
'Ah, fath', you is come... poor fath'. I say, fath', don you drink no more. You been promise me that, fath', so many time. Don' you break yo' promise now, will you?'
The grizzled old sinner put his trembling lips to hers. 'Never no more, Addie--may God strike me dead if I lie!'
'Come away, old man,' said Wallis, softly, 'let Lita be with her. Neither you nor I should disturb her just now. See, she wants Lita. But her time is near, and you must keep close to her.'
They drew apart, and Lita knelt beside the bed.
*   *   *   *   *   *
                    *    *    *    *    *
'An' did he pray for fath', an' me, an' you, an' Tom, an' my mother who runned away? Tell me all 'bout it, Lita. I did wan' him to come and tell me some things I wan' to know before I is dead. Tell me what he say.'
'He say dat vers', "De grass with', de flow' fade, but de word of de Lor' God endure fo' ev.'"'
'Was do it mean, Lita, dear?'
'I don' 'xactly know, Ati, dear. But Tom say he mean dat by-an'-by, if we is good an' don' lie an' steal, an' don' kill nobody, dat we all go to heav' when we is die.'
'Lita, dear, Ioane say one day dat de Bible say my fath' go to hell because he get drunk all de time.'
'Don' you b'lieve him, Ati; Ioane is only dam Kanaka mission'ry. Wassa the hell do he know 'bout such thing? You go to heav' sure 'nuff, and you' fath' come to you there by-an'-by. He never been steal or lie; he on'y get drunk. Don' you be 'fraid 'bout dat, Ati, dear. An' you will see yo' mother, too. Oh, yes, yo' will see yo' mother; an' yo' fath' will come there too, all nice, an' clean, an' sober, in new pyjamas all shinin' white; an' he will kiss yo' mother on her mouf, an' say, "I forgive you, Nellie Ransom, jes' as Jesu Christ has forgive me."'
The girl sighed heavily, and then lay with closed eyes, breathing softly. Suddenly she turned quickly on her side, and extended her arms, and her voice sounded strangely clear and distinct.
'Where is you, fath'? Quick, quick, come an' hol' me. It is dark.... Hol' me tight... clos' up, clos' up, fath', my fath'... it is so dark--so dark.'
                    *    *    *    *    *
The natives told Wallis next morning that 'Ranisome' had gone quite mad.
'How know ye he is mad?'
'Tah! He hath taken every bottle of grog from two boxes and smashed them on the ground. And then we saw him kneel upon the sand, raise his hands, and weep. He is mad.'

Saturday, October 26, 2013


The two met in a saloon. She was a small, black haired woman, twenty if that. From the way she held the glass and swallowed the cold whiskey without even a flinch, he knew she was very familiar with it.

He didn't ask to take a seat; he just pulled up a chair. She sat at a round wooden table by one of the windows. It was late afternoon, and the townspeople could be seen hustling just outside. She gazed out the yellow tinted windows, as if she looked for someone.

He waved his arm up, popped two fingers out, and the drinks were ordered. She was already on her way to drunk. He could tell as she turned her head. The tainted daylight seized her face, and her eyes flickered under their heavy lids. They were more brown than the dirt floor the chairs sat on.

The drinks arrived in two dirty shot glasses. He toasted her and drank down the whiskey- it was smooth. It had been a long time since he had tasted such a flavor.

She watched him grasp the glass, lift his arm and drink. He appeared old with blonde haired, and unshaven - a hardened trapper from his look. She picked up the glass and smiled thanks. She let the liquor taste her tongue, and slide down her throat. Taking a deep breath, she opened her eyes. He ordered two more.

There they sat. Neither said a word.

Day dragged to dusk, and dusk dragged to night. The saloon started to bustle with regulars and strangers all trying to buy a moment from their loneliness. Some walked by the two, not a work spoken, others nodded tipping their hat at the lady. One man called to the man by name. He smiled. She was in such a stupor, she didn't hear the voices. She was tired of listening to those voices anyway.

One glass let to another, and the glasses let to bottles. With each drink the glasses got cleaner, and their eyes clouded over. She no longer saw an old wind torn face, and he no longer saw a woman child. It was getting late.

He did his best to stand up, teetering a bit as he placed a thick brown hat upon his head. The hat fit perfectly, even his hair seemed to part just for the hat. It had a beaded band, and the tied leather straps fell just far enough to touch his chest.

She watched him stand there, maneuvering to putting his overcoat on. They both took a deep breath.

He reached his hand out- it was large, something she hadn't noticed before. From the wrinkles on his face, and the pain in his ice blue eyes, she knew he would be strong enough. She held out her hand and grasped his so softly, that if his eyes didn't see her take it, he'd have never known.

She wiggled from the wood chair she'd begun to call home. It was as comfortable as a bed, and whiskey warmed her like a lover.

He moved his arm around her back, placing a tattered jacket upon her shoulders like it was white lace. She put her arms into the sleeves and around his waist. He was warm. More warm than the hours of liquor they had drunk. He steadied her steps as they walked out of the saloon and into the darkness.

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Golden Wedding.

by Lucy Maud Montgomery

The land dropped abruptly down from the gate, and a thick, shrubby growth of young apple orchard almost hid the little weather-grey house from the road. This was why the young man who opened the sagging gate could not see that it was boarded up, and did not cease his cheerful whistling until he had pressed through the crowding trees and found himself almost on the sunken stone doorstep over which in olden days honeysuckle had been wont to arch. Now only a few straggling, uncared-for vines clung forlornly to the shingles, and the windows were, as has been said, all boarded up.
The whistle died on the young man's lips and an expression of blank astonishment and dismay settled down on his face—a good, kindly, honest face it was, although perhaps it did not betoken any pronounced mental gifts on the part of its owner.
"What can have happened?" he said to himself. "Uncle Tom and Aunt Sally can't be dead—I'd have seen their deaths in the paper if they was. And I'd a-thought if they'd moved away it'd been printed too. They can't have been gone long—that flower-bed must have been made up last spring. Well, this is a kind of setback for a fellow. Here I've been tramping all the way from the station, a-thinking how good it would be to see Aunt Sally's sweet old face again, and hear Uncle Tom's laugh, and all I find is a boarded-up house going to seed. S'pose I might as well toddle over to Stetsons' and inquire if they haven't disappeared, too."
He went through the old firs back of the lot and across the field to a rather shabby house beyond. A cheery-faced woman answered his knock and looked at him in a puzzled fashion. "Have you forgot me, Mrs. Stetson? Don't you remember Lovell Stevens and how you used to give him plum tarts when he'd bring your turkeys home?"
Mrs. Stetson caught both his hands in a hearty clasp.
"I guess I haven't forgotten!" she declared. "Well, well, and you're Lovell! I think I ought to know your face, though you've changed a lot. Fifteen years have made a big difference in you. Come right in. Pa, this is Lovell—you mind Lovell, the boy Aunt Sally and Uncle Tom had for years?"
"Reckon I do," drawled Jonah Stetson with a friendly grin. "Ain't likely to forget some of the capers you used to be cutting up. You've filled out considerable. Where have you been for the last ten years? Aunt Sally fretted a lot over you, thinking you was dead or gone to the bad."
Lovell's face clouded.
"I know I ought to have written," he said repentantly, "but you know I'm a terrible poor scholar, and I'd do most anything than try to write a letter. But where's Uncle Tom and Aunt Sally gone? Surely they ain't dead?"
"No," said Jonah Stetson slowly, "no—but I guess they'd rather be. They're in the poorhouse."
"The poorhouse! Aunt Sally in the poorhouse!" exclaimed Lovell.
"Yes, and it's a burning shame," declared Mrs. Stetson. "Aunt Sally's just breaking her heart from the disgrace of it. But it didn't seem as if it could be helped. Uncle Tom got so crippled with rheumatism he couldn't work and Aunt Sally was too frail to do anything. They hadn't any relations and there was a mortgage on the house."
"There wasn't any when I went away."
"No; they had to borrow money six years ago when Uncle Tom had his first spell of rheumatic fever. This spring it was clear that there was nothing for them but the poorhouse. They went three months ago and terrible hard they took it, especially Aunt Sally, I felt awful about it myself. Jonah and I would have took them if we could, but we just couldn't—we've nothing but Jonah's wages and we have eight children and not a bit of spare room. I go over to see Aunt Sally as often as I can and take her some little thing, but I dunno's she wouldn't rather not see anybody than see them in the poorhouse."
Lovell weighed his hat in his hands and frowned over it reflectively.
"Who owns the house now?"
"Peter Townley. He held the mortgage. And all the old furniture was sold too, and that most killed Aunt Sally. But do you know what she's fretting over most of all? She and Uncle Tom will have been married fifty years in a fortnight's time and Aunt Sally thinks it's awful to have to spend their golden wedding anniversary in the poorhouse. She talks about it all the time. You're not going, Lovell"—for Lovell had risen—"you must stop with us, since your old home is closed up. We'll scare you up a shakedown to sleep on and you're welcome as welcome. I haven't forgot the time you caught Mary Ellen just as she was tumbling into the well."
"Thank you, I'll stay to tea," said Lovell, sitting down again, "but I guess I'll make my headquarters up at the station hotel as long as I stay round here. It's kind of more central."
"Got on pretty well out west, hey?" queried Jonah.
"Pretty well for a fellow who had nothing but his two hands to depend on when he went out," said Lovell cautiously. "I've only been a labouring man, of course, but I've saved up enough to start a little store when I go back. That's why I came east for a trip now—before I'd be tied down to business. I was hankering to see Aunt Sally and Uncle Tom once more. I'll never forget how kind and good they was to me. There I was, when Dad died, a little sinner of eleven, just heading for destruction. They give me a home and all the schooling I ever had and all the love I ever got. It was Aunt Sally's teachings made as much a man of me as I am. I never forgot 'em and I've tried to live up to 'em."
After tea Lovell said he thought he'd stroll up the road and pay Peter Townley a call. Jonah Stetson and his wife looked at each other when he had gone.
"Got something in his eye," nodded Jonah. "Him and Peter weren't never much of friends."
"Maybe Aunt Sally's bread is coming back to her after all," said his wife. "People used to be hard on Lovell. But I always liked him and I'm real glad he's turned out so well."
Lovell came back to the Stetsons' the next evening. In the interval he had seen Aunt Sally and Uncle Tom. The meeting had been both glad and sad. Lovell had also seen other people.
"I've bought Uncle Tom's old house from Peter Townley," he said quietly, "and I want you folks to help me out with my plans. Uncle Tom and Aunt Sally ain't going to spend their golden wedding in the poorhouse—no, sir. They'll spend it in their own home with their old friends about them. But they're not to know anything about it till the very night. Do you s'pose any of the old furniture could be got back?"
"I believe every stick of it could," said Mrs. Stetson excitedly. "Most of it was bought by folks living handy and I don't believe one of them would refuse to sell it back. Uncle Tom's old chair is here to begin with—Aunt Sally give me that herself. She said she couldn't bear to have it sold. Mrs. Isaac Appleby at the station bought the set of pink-sprigged china and James Parker bought the grandfather's clock and the whatnot is at the Stanton Grays'."
For the next fortnight Lovell and Mrs. Stetson did so much travelling round together that Jonah said genially he might as well be a bachelor as far as meals and buttons went. They visited every house where a bit of Aunt Sally's belongings could be found. Very successful they were too, and at the end of their jaunting the interior of the little house behind the apple trees looked very much as it had looked when Aunt Sally and Uncle Tom lived there.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Stetson had been revolving a design in her mind, and one afternoon she did some canvassing on her own account. The next time she saw Lovell she said:
"We ain't going to let you do it all. The women folks around here are going to furnish the refreshments for the golden wedding and the girls are going to decorate the house with golden rod."
The evening of the wedding anniversary came. Everybody in Blair was in the plot, including the matron of the poorhouse. That night Aunt Sally watched the sunset over the hills through bitter tears.
"I never thought I'd be celebrating my golden wedding in the poorhouse," she sobbed. Uncle Tom put his twisted hand on her shaking old shoulder, but before he could utter any words of comfort Lovell Stevens stood before them.
"Just get your bonnet on, Aunt Sally," he cried jovially, "and both of you come along with me. I've got a buggy here for you ... and you might as well say goodbye to this place, for you're not coming back to it any more."
"Lovell, oh, what do you mean?" said Aunt Sally tremulously.
"I'll explain what I mean as we drive along. Hurry up—the folks are waiting."
When they reached the little old house, it was all aglow with light. Aunt Sally gave a cry as she entered it. All her old household goods were back in their places. There were some new ones too, for Lovell had supplied all that was lacking. The house was full of their old friends and neighbours. Mrs. Stetson welcomed them home again.
Alibris"Oh, Tom," whispered Aunt Sally, tears of happiness streaming down her old face, "oh, Tom, isn't God good?"
They had a right royal celebration, and a supper such as the Blair housewives could produce. There were speeches and songs and tales. Lovell kept himself in the background and helped Mrs. Stetson cut cake in the pantry all the evening. But when the guests had gone, he went to Aunt Sally and Uncle Tom, who were sitting by the fire.
"Here's a little golden wedding present for you," he said awkwardly, putting a purse into Aunt Sally's hand. "I reckon there's enough there to keep you from ever having to go to the poorhouse again and if not, there'll be more where that comes from when it's done."
There were twenty-five bright twenty-dollar gold pieces in the purse.
"We can't take it, Lovell," protested Aunt Sally. "You can't afford it."
"Don't you worry about that," laughed Lovell. "Out west men don't think much of a little wad like that. I owe you far more than can be paid in cash, Aunt Sally. You must take it—I want to know there's a little home here for me and two kind hearts in it, no matter where I roam."
"God bless you, Lovell," said Uncle Tom huskily. "You don't know what you've done for Sally and me."
That night, when Lovell went to the little bedroom off the parlour—for Aunt Sally, rejoicing in the fact that she was again mistress of a spare room, would not hear of his going to the station hotel—he gazed at his reflection in the gilt-framed mirror soberly.
"You've just got enough left to pay your passage back west, old fellow," he said, "and then it's begin all over again just where you begun before. But Aunt Sally's face was worth it all—yes, sir. And you've got your two hands still and an old couple's prayers and blessings. Not such a bad capital, Lovell, not such a bad capital."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Fish Drive on a Micronesian Atoll

By Louis Becke,

We were thrashing our way in a little brigantine, owned by Tom de Wolf, of Liverpool, against the strong north-east trade wind, from the Western Carolines to Milli in the Marshalls, when one day we sighted a low-lying cluster of five small palm-clad islands that lay basking, white and green, in the bright Pacific sun; and an hour before dark the Lunalilo dropped her anchor just in front of the native village. In a few minutes the resident white trader came off to us in his boat and made us welcome to his island home.
We had heard that he had quite a considerable quantity of hawkbill turtle shell and some coco-nut oil to sell, and came to ascertain the truth of the report before we were anticipated by some German or American trading vessel.
Less than a mile away from where the brigantine was anchored we saw a noble white beach, trending east and west in many curves, and backed by serried lines of palms and groves of bread-fruit trees, through whose bright verdancy peeped out the thatch-covered and saddle-backed houses of the natives. Apart from the village, and enclosed by a low fence of growing hibiscus palings, stood the trader's house, a long, rambling building with white coral-lime walls and a wide, shady verandah on all four sides. In front of the fence was a tall, white-painted flagstaff, and presently we saw a woman come out of the trader's house and walk up to it. In another minute the Stars and Stripes went slowly up, and then hung limp and motionless in the windless atmosphere.
'There,' said the trader, with a laugh, 'you see, my wife, native as she is, is more polite than I am. But the fact is that I was so excited when I saw your schooner that I never thought about hoisting the old gridiron. Now, look here, gentlemen; before we do anything else, or talk about business, I want you to promise to come ashore to night. There is to be a big fish drive, and I can assure you that that is a sight worth seeing.'
We made the promise, and half an hour later went ashore and walked up to our friend's house. Here we found the entire population of the island assembled to do us honour, and for quite ten minutes were embraced most effusively by every one, male or female, who could get near us. The men were naked to their waists--the missionaries had not then made any headway in the Caroline Islands--around which they wore either gaily-coloured girdles of bleached and then dyed strips of fine pandanus leaf, or sashes of closely-woven banana fibre. The women, however, somewhat ineffectually concealed the remarkable beauty of their figures by wearing, in addition to their grass waist girdles, a crescent-shaped garment of similar material, which was suspended from their necks, and covered their bosoms.{*} Their glossy black hair hung in wavy curls down their smooth brown backs. * Since the advent of the missionaries this costume has been suppressed.
Nearly all the young unmarried girls wore narrow head circlets of white pandanus leaf, profusely adorned and embroidered with red and yellow beads, flat pieces of polished pearl shell, and edged with green and gold and scarlet parrots' feathers. Their address and modest demeanour was engaging in the extreme, and we noticed that they showed the utmost deference and respect to an aged female who sat on a mat in the centre of the room, surrounded by a number of young children. She was, we learnt, the king's mother, and at her request the trader led us over to where she sat, and gave us a formal introduction. She received us in a pleasant but dignified manner, and the moment that she opened her lips to speak the clatter of tongues around us ceased as if by magic, and the most respectful silence prevailed.
As neither the captain nor myself were able to speak the local dialect--which is similar to that of Ponapé--we were somewhat at a loss to answer the questions she put to us, and etiquette forbade the trader to volunteer his services as an interpreter, till the old dame asked him. Presently, however, she desired him to tell us that she was very pleased to see us; that the fish drive would, she hoped, interest us greatly. Then, at a sign from her, a handsome young man who stood in the doorway came forward and laid down a bundle of mats at our feet; this was the old lady's formal present to the captain and myself. She then rose, and bidding us to come and see her in her son's house before we sailed, she walked over to the end of the room, attended by her retinue of children, and sat down again on a finely-worked mat, which was spread out before her. Then she made another and longer speech on behalf of her son, who, she said, had desired her to say that he was very pleased we had brought the ship to an anchor; that his stomach was filled with friendship for white men; and that the trader would tell us that all that he (the king) said was true; also that if any of her people stole even the most trifling article from our ship they would be severely punished, etc. Furthermore, she trusted that after we had spent one night at the white man's house and seen the fish drive, we would spend the following morning with her, when we should be feasted, and every honour and attention shown us. Then the young man attendant produced another present--from the king. This was a live sucking pig, a pair of fat Muscovy ducks, and a huge green turtle. This latter was carried in by four women, and placed in the centre of the room. We then, through the trader, made return gifts of a bolt of white calico, a lamp and a tin of kerosene. Touching these with her hand the old woman signed to her attendants to take them away, and then, with another polite speech, left the house.
The moment the king's mother retired, many more of the common people swarmed into the house, and all seemed highly delighted to learn that we intended to stay and see the great fish drive.
As every one of our native crew was very anxious to join in the sport, the captain had asked the king's mother to 'tapu' the ship till daylight, and shortly afterwards we were told by a messenger from the king that this had been done, and that no native would attempt to board the ship till we had returned. Although these people were honest enough, our captain thought it hardly safe enough to leave the ship without a white man on board, for all natives are very careless with the use of fire, and, being great smokers, he felt nervous on that score.
At five o'clock we were taken to the king's house, where we found the whole population assembled. A great feast was spread out, and King Ralok, who advanced to meet us, took us by our hands and sat us down in the midst of a vast collection of baked fish, bread fruit, turtle meat and eggs, and roast fowls, pigeons and pork. Of course we had to eat; but at the earliest opportunity the trader told the king that we were anxious to see the preparations made for the drive before it got too dark. Ralok at once agreed, and after drinking the milk of a young coco-nut to wash down the repast, we made a start for the scene of operations.

This was along the shore of the lagoon. At high water, for nearly two or three miles, the white, sandy bottom would be covered by a depth of about four feet of water; at low water, as it was now, it was dry. Here and there were clumps of coral boulders, generally circular in shape, and these, at high water, would be just flush with the surface. These boulders were some two or three hundred yards apart, and as we came out upon the lagoon beach we saw that they were connected by a vast number of nets lying upon the sand, in readiness to rise, by means of their light wooden floats of puka wood, as soon as the incoming tide swept in from the ocean. Upon the top of each of these connecting boulders were piled bundles or long torches made of dried coco-nut branches, which were to be lighted when the drive began. The total length of the netting was about two miles, but at one end, that facing the deep water of the lagoon, there was a wide, unenclosed space. Here, however, were lying half a dozen canoes, whose outrigger platforms were piled up with strong nets, which were to be stretched across the opening at the proper moment.
After looking at the preparations, we returned to the village, and as we had no time to lose, and the tide was coming in at a great rate over the reef, we began to dress, or rather undress, for the sport. To each of us was given a spear, and a number of young women and children were told off to accompany us with baskets, with half-a-dozen boys as torch-bearers.
As soon as darkness had fallen the whole village was astir. From every house men, women and very young children swarmed, these latter without even the traditional leaf to hide their nakedness, while the grown girls and women, possibly with the view of not shocking us too much, wore short--very short--girdles around their loins.
The grown men and youths now launched a number of canoes, and, crowding into them, paddled out into the lagoon, keeping well away, however, from the line of nets, the floats of which were now appearing upon the surface of the water. In each canoe was a large basket filled with a nasty-looking mass. This was the crushed shells and bodies of uga, or small land crabs, and was to be used as 'burley' to attract the fish to the wake of the canoes.
Before going further I must mention that at a particular season of the year--May--many of the Micronesian Islands are visited by vast shoals of fish much resembling an English salmon. These enter the lagoons from the ocean in pursuit of smaller fish. These smaller fish, which are a species of sprat, assemble in incredible quantities, and at night-time are wont to crowd together in prodigious numbers about the coral boulders before mentioned, in the same manner that ocean-living fish will sometimes attach themselves to a ship or other moving substance, as some protection from pursuit by bonito, albicore, and the fish called tautau. The latter are of nocturnal habit when seeking food, and during the daytime lie almost motionless near the bottom, where they can often be seen in serried masses. As soon as night falls they rise to the surface and give chase to flying-fish and other surface-swimming ocean fish. In shape they are very similar to a salmon, but do not possess the same deepness of body and general fulness. Their heads consist of a series of long plates, and their jaws are armed with rows of serrated bone plates. In colour they are a very beautiful iridescent silver along the sides and belly, the back and head being a deep, glossy blue. When full grown their length is slightly over four feet, and weight about twenty-five pounds. They are as voracious as the pike, swim with extraordinary swiftness at night-time, and will take the hook eagerly if baited with a whole flying-fish; their flesh is somewhat delicate in flavour and greatly relished by the natives of Micronesia, who regard it as second only to the universally esteemed flying-fish.
Two or three days before we made the little group of islands, immense droves of these tautau, as the natives of Eastern Polynesia call them, had been hovering about the reefs, and the people were now to endeavour to tempt them into the trap set for them with such care and labour.
For about a quarter of an hour not a sound broke the silence of the night. We were in the midst of some three or four hundred natives, who only spoke in whispers for fear of alarming the fish. All round the deeper portion of the chain of nets was a line of canoes, filled with women and girls, who held torches in their hands ready to light up the moment the signal was given. Further in towards the shore, where the water was not too deep to prevent them keeping on their feet, were numbers of girls and children standing close together, their bodies almost touching, and the floats of the nets touching their bosoms; we white men, with the trader, were standing together, with our torch-bearers, upon a flat-topped coral boulder.
Suddenly a whisper ran along the line of watchers--the canoes were coming. One by one we made them out, the paddlers dipping their paddles into the water in silence, as one of their number in each canoe threw out double handfuls of the crushed crab 'burley.' As they approached nearer to us we became aware of a peculiar lapping, splashing noise, as of hundreds of bare feet walking in water a few inches deep.
'That's the fish,' whispered the trader. 'Look at them--they are coming in in thousands.'
And then even our unaccustomed eyes could see that the water behind the canoes was churned into a white froth by the jumping, splashing fish, which x were following the canoes in a solid wall, snapping up the food so industriously thrown to them. In a few minutes the canoes had entered the open end of the trap, and were paddling noiselessly past the inner lines of nets, not a hundred yards from where we stood. At last, when the whole inclosure was literally swarming with fish, the outside canoes quickly closed up the gap by stretching the nets across it, and almost at the same moment there was a tremendous splashing and churning up of the water around each knoll and boulder of coral. The tautau had left off eating the bait thrown them from the canoes, and were attacking the myriads of small fish that clustered round the boulders. And then, at a signal given by one of the outside canoes, the torches sprang into flame, and by the bright light that flooded the scene the most extraordinary sight was revealed, for from one side to the other the great inclosure was full of magnificent tautau about three feet six in length. They were all swimming on the surface; and as soon as the blaze of the torches illumined the water they at once became almost stationary; or, after the manner of flying-fish, when subjected to a strong light, swam slowly about in a dazed, hesitating manner.
The work of capturing some very large turtle, that had come into the fatal circle of nets, was now at once begun, lest in their endeavours to escape the nets might be broken and the fish escape. There were six of these creatures speared before they could do any damage; as well as two or three small sharks, which, having gorged themselves to repletion, were killed as they lazily swam along the circle of nets.
So well had the natives judged of the time it would take to carry out their scheme, that within half an hour of the inclosure of the fish the tide began to fall, and the imprisoned swarms showed signs of anxiety to escape, but as fresh supplies of torches were brought from the village, and kept continuously alight, their alarm seemed to disappear. Had a heavy shower of rain fallen--so the trader told us--and extinguished the torches, the fish would have rushed at the nets and carried them away by sheer weight.
Meanwhile, as the tide continued to fall, many of the women and girls amused themselves by stunning all the fish that came within reach of them, and loading the canoes with them. Once some fifty or sixty tautau came right up to the boulder on which we stood, and were so dazed by the glare of light that poured down on them, that some permitted themselves to be captured by the hand.
Lower and lower fell the water, and as the shore end of the trap became dry, the fish were gradually forced to come closer and closer together as their swimming space diminished. By-and-by, as the receding tide left the chain of coral rocks dry on their summits, women waded out with firewood, and built fires on them; not that there was now any danger of the fish breaking away, but to give a still better light. At last, however, the word was passed along the line that the sea end of the drive had been strengthened by additional nets in case a sudden rush might occur; but, by this time, so rapidly was the water running out, that even at the deepest end there was not perhaps two feet available for the now terrified and struggling swarms of tautau. In another twenty minutes there was heard a most extraordinary sound, caused by thousands upon thousands of fish thrashing and jumping about on the sand; while at the sea end of the drive, where the great body of all were massed together, the scene was simply indescribable. What little water was left was beaten into froth and foam by their violent struggles, and the light from the torches showed that a space of about five acres in extent was covered with a shining, silvery mass of splendid tautau, intermixed with a small number of gorgeous-hued rock-fish, cray-fish, and some hawk-bill turtle.
The work of picking up the prizes went on for at least two hours. Three or four of the tautau placed in a basket was as much as a woman could carry, and, although everyone present worked hard, some thousands of fish were not taken. Many of these, however, were not dead, and, with the incoming tide, swam off again. All the young turtle, however, were secured, the natives taking them up carefully and putting them in walled-in pools where they would remain prisoners.
We tried to ascertain the number of fish taken, but gave it up. Every house and canoe-shed appeared to have the floor covered with them, and for the next day or two there were great fish dinners on the island.
Some thousands of tautau were split open and dried upon platforms in the same manner as the natives of Eastern Polynesia dry flying-fish, and the Fraser River Indians their salmon.
We succeeded in buying a fine lot of turtle shell from the trader, as well as some from the king and his mother. The old lady treated us right royally, and, a few hours before we sailed, a canoe-load of fruit and drinking coco-nuts were sent off to the ship, with her compliments.

When I was dead.

by Vincent O'Sullivan 

Starbucks Tazo Tea "And yet my heart     
Will not confess
he owes the malady     
That doth my life besiege."       
All's Well that Ends Well
That was the worst of Ravenel Hall. The passages were long and gloomy, the rooms were musty and dull, even the pictures were sombre and their subjects dire. On an autumn evening, when the wind soughed and ailed through the trees in the park, and the dead leaves whistled and chattered, while the rain clamoured at the windows, small wonder that folks with gentle nerves went a-straying in their wits! An acute nervous system is a grievous burthen on the deck of a yacht under sunlit skies: at Ravenel the chain of nerves was prone to clash and jangle a funeral march. Nerves must be pampered in a tea-drinking community; and the ghost that your grandfather, with a skinful of port, could face and never tremble, sets you, in your sobriety, sweating and shivering; or, becoming scared (poor ghost!) of your bulged eyes and dropping jaw, he quenches expectation by not appearing at all. So I am left to conclude that it was tea which made my acquaintance afraid to stay at Ravenel. Even Wilvern gave over; and as he is in the Guards, and a polo player his nerves ought to be strong enough. On the night before he went I was explaining to him my theory, that if you place some drops of human blood near you, and then concentrate your thoughts, you will after a while see before you a man or a woman who will stay with you during long hours of the night, and even meet you at unexpected places during the day. I was explaining this theory, I repeat, when he interrupted me with words, senseless enough, which sent me fencing and parrying strangers, — on my guard.   "I say, Alistair, my dear chap!" he began, "you ought to get out of this place and go up to Town and knock about a bit — you really ought, you know."   "Yes," I replied, "and get poisoned at the hotels by bad food and at the clubs by bad talk, I suppose. No, thank you: and let me say that your care for my health enervates me."   "Well, you can do as you like," says he, rapping with his feet on the floor. "I'm hanged if I stay here after to-morrow I'll be staring mad if I do!"   He was my last visitor. Some weeks after his departure I was sitting in the library with my drops of blood by me. I had got my theory nearly perfect by this time; but there was one difficulty. The figure which I had ever before me was the figure of an old woman with her hair divided in the middle, and her hair fell to her shoulders, white on one side and black on the other. She as a very complete old woman; but, alas! she was eyeless, and when I tried to construct the eyes she would shrivel and rot in my sight. But to-night I was thinking, thinking, as I had never thought before, and the eyes were just creeping into the head when I heard terrible crash outside as if some heavy substance had fallen. Of a sudden the door was flung open and two maid-servants entered they glanced at the rug under my chair, and at that they turned a sick white, cried on God, and huddled out.   "How dare you enter the library in this manner?" I demanded sternly. No answer came back from them, so I started in pursuit. I found all the servants in the house gathered in a knot at the end of the passage.   "Mrs. Pebble," I said smartly, to the housekeeper, "I want those two women discharged to-morrow. It's an outrage! You ought to be more careful." But she was not attending to me. Her face was distorted with terror.   "Ah dear, ah dear!" she went. "We had better all go to the library together," says she to the others.   "Am I master of my own house, Mrs. Pebble?" I inquired, bringing my knuckles down with a bang on the table.   None of them seemed to see me or hear me: I might as well have been shrieking in a desert. I followed them down the passage, and forbade them to enter the library.   But they trooped past me, and stood with a clutter round the hearth-rug. Then three or four of them began dragging and lifting, as if they were lifting a helpless body, and stumbled with their imaginary burthen over to a sofa. Old Soames, the butler, stood near.   "Poor young gentleman!" he said with a sob. "I've knowed him since he was a baby. And to think of him being dead like this and so young, too!"   I crossed the room. "What's all this, Soames!" I cried, shaking him roughly by the shoulders. "I'm not dead. I'm here — here!" As he did not stir I got a little scared. "Soames, old friend!" I called, "don't you know me! Don't you know the little boy you used to play with? Say I'm not dead, Soames, please, Soames!"   He stooped down and kissed the sofa. "I think one of the men ought to ride over to the village for the doctor, Mr. Soames," says Mrs. Pebble; and he shuffled out to give the order.   Now, this doctor was an ignorant dog, whom I had been forced to exclude from the house because he went about proclaiming his belief in a saving God, at the same time that he proclaimed himself a man of science. He, I was resolved, should never cross my threshold, and I followed Mrs. Pebble through the house, screaming out prohibition. But I did not catch even a groan from her, not a nod of the head, nor a cast of the eye, to show that she had heard.   I met the doctor at the door of the library. "Well," I sneered, throwing my hand in his face, "have you come to teach me some new prayers?"   He brushed by me as if he had not felt the blow, and knelt down by the sofa.   "Rupture of a vessel on the brain, I think," he says to Soames and Mrs. Pebble after a short moment. "He has been dead some hours. Poor fellow! You had better telegraph for his sister, and I will send up the undertaker to arrange the body."   "You liar!" I yelled. "You whining liar! How have you the insolence to tell my servants that I am dead, when you see me here face to face?"   He was far in the passage, with Soames and Mrs. Pebble at his heels, ere I had ended, and not one of the three turned round.   All that night I sat in the library. Strangely enough, I had no wish to sleep nor during the time that followed, had I any craving to eat. In the morning the men came, and although I ordered them out, they proceeded to minister about something I could not see. So all day I stayed in the library or wandered about the house, and at night the men came again bringing with them a coffin. Then, in my humour, thinking it shame that so fine a coffin should be empty I lay the night in it and slept a soft dreamless sleep — the softest sleep I have ever slept. And when the men came the next day I rested still, and the undertaker shaved me. A strange valet!   On the evening after that, I was coming downstairs, when I noted some luggage in the hall, and so learned that my sister had arrived. I had not seen this woman since her marriage, and I loathed her more than I loathed any creature in this ill-organised world. She was very beautiful, I think — tall, and dark, and straight as a ram-rod — and she had an unruly passion for scandal and dress. I suppose the reason I disliked her so intensely was, that she had a habit of making one aware of her presence when she was several yards off. At half-past nine o'clock my sister came down to the library in a very charming wrap, and I soon found that she was as insensible to my presence as the others. I trembled with rage to see her kneel down by the coffin — my coffin; but when she bent over to kiss the pillow I threw away control.   A knife which had been used to cut string was lying upon a table: I seized it and drove it into her neck. She fled from the room screaming.   "Come! come!" she cried, her voice quivering with anguish. "The corpse is bleeding from the nose."   Then I cursed her.   On the evening of the third day there was a heavy fall of snow. About eleven o'clock I observed that the house was filled with blacks and mutes and folk of the county, who came for the obsequies. I went into the library and sat still, and waited. Soon came the men, and they closed the lid of the coffin and bore it out on their shoulders. And yet I sat, feeling rather sadly that something of mine had been taken away: I could not quite think what. For half-an-hour perhaps — dreaming, dreaming: and then I glided to the hall door. There was no trace left of the funeral; but after a while I sighted a black thread winding slowly across the white plain.   "I'm not dead!" I moaned, and rubbed my face in the pure snow, and tossed it on my neck and hair. "Sweet God, I am not dead."




"The parting genius is with sighing sent."
Milton's Hymn on the Nativity.
It was high noon, blue and hot. The little town upon the southern slope of the hills that shut in the great plain glared white in the intense sunlight. The beds of the brooks in the valleys that cut their way through the hill-clefts were dry and dusty; and the sole shade visible lay upon the orchard floors, where the thick branches above cast blue-black shadows upon the golden tangle of grasses at their feet. A soft murmur of hidden creature-things rose like an invisible haze from earth, and nothing moved in all the horizon save the black kites high in the blue air and the white butterflies over the drowsy meadows. The poppies that flecked the yellow wheat fields drooped heavily, spilling the wine of summer from their cups. Nature stood at drowsy-footed pause, reluctant to take up again the vital whirr of living.
At the edge of the orchard, near the dusty highway, under a huge misshapen olive tree sat a boy, still as a carven Buddha save that his eyes stood wide, full of dreams. His was a sensitive face, thoughtful beyond his childish years, full of weariness when from time to time he closed his eyes, full of dark brooding when the lids lifted again. Presently he rose to his feet, and his two hands clenched tightly into fists.

"I hate it!" he muttered vehemently.

At his side the grasses stirred and a portion of the blue shadow of the tree detached itself and became the shadow of a man.

"Hate?" questioned a golden, care-free voice at his side. "Thou'rt overyoung to hate. What is it thou dost hate?"

A young man had thrown himself down in the grass at the boy's side. Shaggy locks hung about his brown cheeks; his broad, supple chest and shoulders were bare; his eyes were full of sleepy laughter; and his indolent face was now beautiful, now grotesque, at the color of his thoughts. From a leathern thong about his neck hung a reed pipe, deftly fashioned, and a bowl of wood carved about with grape-bunches dangled from the twisted vine which girdled his waist. In one hand he held a honey-comb, into which he bit with sharp white teeth, and on one arm he carried branches torn from fig and almond trees, clustered with green figs and with nuts. The two looked long at each other, the boy gravely, the man smiling.

"Thou wilt know me another time," said the man with a throaty laugh. "And I shall know thee. I have been watching thee a long time—I know not why. But what is it thou dost hate? For me, I hate nothing. Hate is wearisome."

The boy's gaze fixed itself upon the bright, insouciant face of the man with a fascination he endeavored to throw off but could not. Presently he spoke, and his voice was low and clear and deliberate.
"Hate is evil," he said.

"I know not what evil may be," said the man, a puzzled frown furrowing the smooth brow for a swift moment. "Hunger, now, or lust, or sleep—"

"Hate is the thing that comes up in my throat and chokes me when I think of tyranny," interrupted the boy, his eyes darkening.

"Why trouble to hate?" asked the man. He lifted his pipe to his lips and blew a joyous succession of swift, unhesitant notes, as throbbing as the heat, as vivid as the sunshine. His lithe throat bubbled and strained with his effort, and his warm vitality poured through the mouthpiece of the pipe and issued melodiously at the farther end. Noon deepened through many shades of hot and slumberous splendor, the very silence intensified by the brilliant pageant of sound. A great hawk at sail overhead hung suddenly motionless upon unquivering wings. Every sheep in the pasture across the road lifted a questioning nose, and the entire flock moved swiftly nearer on a sudden impulse. And then the man threw down his pipe, and the silence closed in softly upon the ebbing waves of sound.

"Why trouble to hate?" he asked again, and sank his shoulder deeper into the warm grass. His voice was as sleepy as the drone of distant bees, and his dream-filmed eyes looked out through drooping lids. "I hate nothing. It takes effort. It is easier to feel friendly with all things—creatures, and men, and gods."

"I hate with a purpose," said the child, his eyes fixed, and brooding upon an inward vision. The man rose upon his elbow and gazed curiously at the boy, but the latter, unheeding, went on with his thoughts. "Some day I shall be a man, and then I shall kill tyranny. Aye, kill! It is tyranny that I hate. And hatred I hate; and oppression. But how I shall go about to kill them, that I do not yet know. I think and think, but I have not yet thought of a way."

"If," said the man, "thou could'st love as royally as thou could'st hate, what a lover thou would'st become! For me, I love but lightly, and hate not at all, yet have I been a man for aeons. How near art thou to manhood?"
"I have lived nearly twelve years."

Like a flash the man leaped to his feet and turned his face westward towards the sea with outstretched arms, and a look and gesture of utter yearning gave poignancy and spirit to the careless, sleepy grace of his face and figure. He seized the boy's arm. "See now," he cried, his voice trembling upon the verge of music, "it is nearly twelve years that I have been a wanderer, shorn of my strength and my glory! Look you, boy, at the line of hills yonder. Behind those hills lie the blue sea-ridges, and still beyond, lies the land where I dwelt. Ye gods, the happy country!" Like a great child he stood, and his breast broke into sobs, but his eyes glowed with splendid visions. "Apollo's golden shafts could scarce penetrate the shadowy groves, and Diana's silver arrows pierced only the tossing treetops. And underfoot the crocus flamed, and the hyacinth. Flocks and herds fed in pastures rosy with blossoms, and there were white altars warm with flame in every thicket. There were dances, and mad revels, and love and laughter"—he paused, and the splendor died from his face. "And then one starry night—still and clear it was, and white with frost—fear stalked into the happy haunts, and an ontreading mystery, benign yet dreadful. And something, I know not what, drove me forth. Aie! Aie! There is but the moaning of doves when the glad hymns sounded, and cold ashes and dead drifted leaves on the once warm altars!"
A sharp pull at his tunic brought his thoughts back to the present. The child drew him urgently down into the long grass, and laid a finger upon his lip; and at the touch of the small finger the man trembled through all his length of limbs, and lay still. Up the road rose a cloud of dust and the sound of determined feet, and presently a martial figure came in sight, clad in bronze and leather helmet and cuirass, and carrying an oblong shield and a short, broad-bladed sword of double edge. Short yet agile, a soldier every inch, he looked neither to the right nor to the left, but marched steadily and purposefully upon his business. His splendid muscles, shining with sweat, gleamed satinwise in the hot sun. A single unit, he was yet a worthy symbol of a world-wide efficiency.

The man and boy beneath the tree crouched low. "Art afraid?" whispered the man. And the boy whispered back, "It is he that I hate, and all his kind." His child-heart beat violently against his side, great beads stood out upon his forehead, and his hands trembled. "If you but knew the sorrow in the villages! Aye, in the whole country—because of him! He takes the bread from the mouths of the pitiful poor—and we are all so poor! The women and babes starve, but the taxes must be paid. Upon the aged and the crippled, even, fall heavy burdens. And all because of him and his kind!"
The man looked at the flushed face and trembling limbs of the boy, and his own face glowed in a golden smile that was full of a sudden and unaccustomed tenderness. "Why, see now," he whispered, "that is easily overcome. Look! I will show thee the way." Lifting himself cautiously, he crouched on all fours in the grass, slipping and sliding forward so hiddenly that the keen ear and eagle eye of the approaching soldier took note of no least ripple in the quiet grass by the roadside. It was the sinuous, silent motion of a snake; and suddenly his eyes narrowed, his lips drew back from his teeth, his ears pricked forward, along the ridge of his bare back the hair bristled, and the locks about his face waved and writhed as though they were the locks of Medusa herself. Ah, and were those the flanks and feet of a man, or of a beast, that bore him along so stealthily? The child watched him in a horror of fascination, rooted to the spot in terror.

With the quickness of a flash it all happened—the martial traveller taken unaware, the broad-bladed sword wrenched from his hand by seemingly superhuman strength, a sudden hideous grip at his throat, blows rained upon his head, sharp sobbing breaths torn from his panting breast ... a red stain upon the dusty road ... a huddled figure ... silence. And he who had been a man indeed a few brief, bright years, was no more now than carrion; and he who through all his boasted aeons had not yet reached the stature of a man stood above the dead body, his face no longer menacing, but beautiful with a smiling delight in his deed. And then suddenly the spell that held the child was broken, and he leaped out upon the murderer and beat and beat and beat upon him with helpless, puny child-fists, and all a child's splendid and ineffectual rage. And at that the man turned and thrust the child from him in utter astonishment, and the boy fell heavily back upon the road, the second quiet figure lying there. And again the man's face changed, became vacant, bewildered, troubled; and stooping, he lifted the boy in his arms, and ran with him westward along the road, through the fields of dead-ripe wheat, across the stubble of the garnered barley, fleet-footed as a deer, till he could run no more.

In a little glen of hickory and oak, through whose misty-mellow depths a small stream trickled, he paused at last and laid the boy upon a soft and matted bed of thick green myrtle, and brought water in his two hands to bathe the bruised head, whimpering the while. Then he chafed the small bare feet and warmed them in his own warm breast; and gathering handfuls of pungent mint and the sweet-scented henna, he crushed them and held them to the boy's nostrils. And these devices failing, he sat disconsolate, the curves of his mobile face falling into unwonted lines of half-weary, half-sorrowful dejection. "I know not how it may be," he said to himself, smiling whimsically, "but I seem to have caught upon my lips the bitter human savor of repentance."
Utter silence held the little glen. The child lay unconscious, and the man sat with his head in his hands, as one brooding. When the sun at last neared the place of his setting, the boy's eyes opened. His gaze fell upon his companion, and crowded and confused thoughts surged through him. For some time he lay still, finding his bearings. And at length the hatred that had all day, and for many days, filled his young breast, melted away in a divine pity and tenderness, and the tears of that warm melting rolled down his cheeks. The man near him, who had watched in silence, gently put a questioning finger upon the wet cheeks.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Repentance," said the boy.

"I pity thee. Repentance is bitter of taste."

"No," said the boy. "It is warm and sweet. It moves my heart and my understanding."

"What has become of thy hatred?"

"I shall never hate again."

"What wilt thou do, then?"

"I shall love," said the boy. "Love," he repeated softly. "How came I never to think of that before?"

"Wilt thou love tyranny and forbear to kill the tyrant?"

The boy rose to his feet, and his young slenderness was full of strength and dignity, and his face, cleared of its sombre brooding, was full of a bright, untroubled decision. The cypresses upon the hilltops stood no more resolutely erect, the hills themselves were no more steadfast. "Nay," he said, laughing a little, boyishly, in pure pleasure at the crystal fixity of his purpose. "Rather will I love the tyrant, and the tyranny will die of itself. Oh, it is the way! It is the way! And I could not think of it till now! Not till I saw thee killing and him bleeding. Then I knew." Then, more gravely, he added, "I will begin by loving thee."

"Thou hast the appearance of a young god," said the man slowly, "but if thou wert a god, thou would'st crush thine enemies, not love them." He sighed, and his face strengthened into a semblance of power. "I was a god once myself," he added after some hesitation.

"What is thy name?" asked the boy.

"They called me once the Great God Pan. And thou?"

"My father is Joseph the carpenter. My mother calls me Jesus."

"Ah ..." said Pan, " ... is it Thou?"

Quietly they looked into each other's eyes; quietly clasped hands. And with no more words the man turned westward into the depths of the glen, drawing the sun's rays with him as he moved, so that the world seemed the darker for his going. And as he went he blew upon his pipe a tremulous and hesitating melody, piercing sweet and piercing sorrowful, so that whosoever should hear it should clutch his throat with tears at the wild pity of it, and the strange and haunting beauty. And the boy stood still, watching, until the man was lost upon the edge of night. Then he turned his face eastward, whence the new day comes, carrying forever in his heart the echoes of a dying song.





"I am in love with my wife," he said—a superfluous remark, as I had not questioned his attachment to the woman he had married. We walked for ten minutes and then he said it again. I turned to look at him. He began to talk and told me the tale I am now about to set down.
The thing he had on his mind happened during what must have been the most eventful week of his life. He was to be married on Friday afternoon. On Friday of the week before he got a telegram announcing his appointment to a government position. Something else happened that made him very proud and glad. In secret he was in the habit of writing verses and during the year before several of them had been printed in poetry magazines. One of the societies that give prizes for what they think the best poems published during the year put his name at the head of their list. The story of his triumph was printed in the newspapers of his home city, and one of them also printed his picture.
As might have been expected, he was excited and in a rather highly strung nervous state all during that week. Almost every evening he went to call on his fiancée, the daughter of a judge. When he got there the house was filled with people and many letters, telegrams and packages were being received. He stood a little to one side and men and women kept coming to speak with him. They congratulated him upon his success in getting the government position and on his achievement as a poet. Everyone seemed to be praising him, and when he went home to bed he could not sleep. On Wednesday evening he went to the theatre and it seemed to him that people all over the house recognized him. Everyone nodded and smiled. After the first act five or six men and two women left their seats to gather about him. A little group was formed. Strangers sitting along the same row of seats stretched their necks and looked. He had never received so much attention before, and now a fever of expectancy took possession of him.
As he explained when he told me of his experience, it was for him an altogether abnormal time. He felt like one floating in air. When he got into bed after seeing so many people and hearing so many words of praise his head whirled round and round. When he closed his eyes a crowd of people invaded his room. It seemed as though the minds of all the people of his city were centered on himself. The most absurd fancies took possession of him. He imagined himself riding in a carriage through the streets of a city. Windows were thrown open and people ran out at the doors of houses. "There he is. That's him," they shouted, and at the words a glad cry arose. The carriage drove into a street blocked with people. A hundred thousand pairs of eyes looked up at him. "There you are! What a fellow you have managed to make of yourself!" the eyes seemed to be saying.
My friend could not explain whether the excitement of the people was due to the fact that he had written a new poem or whether, in his new government position, he had performed some notable act. The apartment where he lived at that time was on a street perched along the top of a cliff far out at the edge of the city and from his bedroom window he could look down over trees and factory roofs to a river. As he could not sleep and as the fancies that kept crowding in upon him only made him more excited, he got out of bed and tried to think.
As would be natural under such circumstances, he tried to control his thoughts, but when he sat by the window and was wide awake a most unexpected and humiliating thing happened. The night was clear and fine. There was a moon. He wanted to dream of the woman who was to be his wife, think out lines for noble poems or make plans that would affect his career. Much to his surprise his mind refused to do anything of the sort.
At a corner of the street where he lived there was a small cigar store and newspaper stand run by a fat man of forty and his wife, a small active woman with bright grey eyes. In the morning he stopped there to buy a paper before going down to the city. Sometimes he saw only the fat man, but often the man had disappeared and the woman waited on him. She was, as he assured me at least twenty times in telling me his tale, a very ordinary person with nothing special or notable about her, but for some reason he could not explain being in her presence stirred him profoundly. During that week in the midst of his distraction she was the only person he knew who stood out clear and distinct in his mind. When he wanted so much to think noble thoughts, he could think only of her. Before he knew what was happening his imagination had taken hold of the notion of having a love affair with the woman.
"I could not understand myself," he declared, in telling me the story. "At night, when the city was quiet and when I should have been asleep, I thought about her all the time. After two or three days of that sort of thing the consciousness of her got into my daytime thoughts. I was terribly muddled. When I went to see the woman who is now my wife I found that my love for her was in no way affected by my vagrant thoughts. There was but one woman in the world I wanted to live with me and to be my comrade in undertaking to improve my own character and my position in the world, but for the moment, you see, I wanted this other woman to be in my arms. She had worked her way into my being. On all sides people were saying I was a big man who would do big things, and there I was. That evening when I went to the theatre I walked home because I knew I would be unable to sleep, and to satisfy the annoying impulse in myself I went and stood on the sidewalk before the tobacco shop. It was a two story building, and I knew the woman lived upstairs with her husband. For a long time I stood in the darkness with my body pressed against the wall of the building and then I thought of the two of them up there, no doubt in bed together. That made me furious.
"Then I grew more furious at myself. I went home and got into bed shaken with anger. There are certain books of verse and some prose writings that have always moved me deeply, and so I put several books on a table by my bed.
"The voices in the books were like the voices of the dead. I did not hear them. The words printed on the lines would not penetrate into my consciousness. I tried to think of the woman I loved, but her figure had also become something far away, something with which I for the moment seemed to have nothing to do. I rolled and tumbled about in the bed. It was a miserable experience.
"On Thursday morning I went into the store. There stood the woman alone. I think she knew how I felt. Perhaps she had been thinking of me as I had been thinking of her. A doubtful hesitating smile played about the corners of her mouth. She had on a dress made of cheap cloth, and there was a tear on the shoulder. She must have been ten years older than myself. When I tried to put my pennies on the glass counter behind which she stood my hand trembled so that the pennies made a sharp rattling noise. When I spoke the voice that came out of my throat did not sound like anything that had ever belonged to me. It barely arose above a thick whisper. 'I want you,' I said. 'I want you very much. Can't you run away from your husband? Come to me at my apartment at seven to-night.'
"The woman did come to my apartment at seven. That morning she did not say anything at all. For a minute perhaps we stood looking at each other. I had forgotten everything in the world but just her. Then she nodded her head and I went away. Now that I think of it I cannot remember a word I ever heard her say. She came to my apartment at seven and it was dark. You must understand this was in the month of October. I had not lighted a light and I had sent my servant away.
"During that day I was no good at all. Several men came to see me at my office, but I got all muddled up in trying to talk with them. They attributed my rattle-headedness to my approaching marriage and went away laughing.
"It was on that morning, just the day before my marriage, that I got a long and very beautiful letter from my fiancée. During the night before she also had been unable to sleep and had got out of bed to write the letter. Everything she said in it was very sharp and real, but she herself, as a living thing, seemed to have receded into the distance. It seemed to me that she was like a bird, flying far away in distant skies, and I was like a perplexed bare-footed boy standing in the dusty road before a farm house and looking at her receding figure. I wonder if you will understand what I mean?
"In regard to the letter. In it she, the awakening woman, poured out her heart. She of course knew nothing of life, but she was a woman. She lay, I suppose, in her bed feeling nervous and wrought up as I had been doing. She realized that a great change was about to take place in her life and was glad and afraid too. There she lay thinking of it all. Then she got out of bed and began talking to me on the bit of paper. She told me how afraid she was and how glad too. Like most young women she had heard things whispered. In the letter she was very sweet and fine. 'For a long time, after we are married, we will forget we are a man and woman,' she wrote. 'We will be human beings. You must remember that I am ignorant and often I will be very stupid. You must love me and be very patient and kind. When I know more, when after a long time you have taught me the way of life, I will try to repay you. I will love you tenderly and passionately. The possibility of that is in me, or I would not want to marry at all. I am afraid but I am also happy. O, I am so glad our marriage time is near at hand.'
"Now you see clearly enough into what a mess I had got. In my office, after I read my fiancée's letter, I became at once very resolute and strong. I remember that I got out of my chair and walked about, proud of the fact that I was to be the husband of so noble a woman. Right away I felt concerning her as I had been feeling, about myself before I found out what a weak thing I was. To be sure I took a strong resolution that I would not be weak. At nine that evening I had planned to run in to see my fiancée. 'I'm all right now,' I said to myself. 'The beauty of her character has saved me from myself. I will go home now and send the other woman away.' In the morning I had telephoned to my servant and told him that I did not want him to be at the apartment that evening and I now picked up the telephone to tell him to stay at home.
"Then a thought came to me. 'I will not want him there in any event,' I told myself. 'What will he think when he sees a woman coming to my place on the evening before the day I am to be married?' I put the telephone down and prepared to go home. 'If I want my servant out of the apartment it is because I do not want him to hear me talk with the woman. I cannot be rude to her. I will have to make some kind of an explanation,' I said to myself.
"The woman came at seven o'clock, and, as you may have guessed, I let her in and forgot the resolution I had made. It is likely I never had any intention of doing anything else. There was a bell on my door, but she did not ring, but knocked very softly. It seems to me that everything she did that evening was soft and quiet but very determined and quick. Do I make myself clear? When she came I was standing just within the door, where I had been standing and waiting for a half hour. My hands were trembling as they had trembled in the morning when her eyes looked at me and when I tried to put the pennies on the counter in the store. When I opened the door she stepped quickly in and I took her into my arms. We stood together in the darkness. My hands no longer trembled. I felt very happy and strong.
"Although I have tried to make everything clear I have not told you what the woman I married is like. I have emphasized, you see, the other woman. I make the blind statement that I love my wife, and to a man of your shrewdness that means nothing at all. To tell the truth, had I not started to speak of this matter I would feel more comfortable. It is inevitable that I give you the impression that I am in love with the tobacconist's wife. That's not true. To be sure I was very conscious of her all during the week before my marriage, but after she had come to me at my apartment she went entirely out of my mind.
"Am I telling the truth? I am trying very hard to tell what happened to me. I am saying that I have not since that evening thought of the woman who came to my apartment. Now, to tell the facts of the case, that is not true. On that evening I went to my fiancée at nine, as she had asked me to do in her letter. In a kind of way I cannot explain the other woman went with me. This is what I mean—you see I had been thinking that if anything happened between me and the tobacconist's wife I would not be able to go through with my marriage. 'It is one thing or the other with me,' I had said to myself.
"As a matter of fact I went to see my beloved on that evening filled with a new faith in the outcome of our life together. I am afraid I muddle this matter in trying to tell it. A moment ago I said the other woman, the tobacconist's wife, went with me. I do not mean she went in fact. What I am trying to say is that something of her faith in her own desires and her courage in seeing things through went with me. Is that clear to you? When I got to my fiancée's house there was a crowd of people standing about. Some were relatives from distant places I had not seen before. She looked up quickly when I came into the room. My face must have been radiant. I never saw her so moved. She thought her letter had affected me deeply, and of course it had. Up she jumped and ran to meet me. She was like a glad child. Right before the people who turned and looked inquiringly at us, she said the thing that was in her mind. 'O, I am so happy,' she cried. 'You have understood. We will be two human beings. We will not have to be husband and wife.'
"As you may suppose, everyone laughed, but I did not laugh. The tears came into my eyes. I was so happy I wanted to shout. Perhaps you understand what I mean. In the office that day when I read the letter my fiancée had written I had said to myself, 'I will take care of the dear little woman.' There was something smug, you see, about that. In her house when she cried out in that way, and when everyone laughed, what I said to myself was something like this: 'We will take care of ourselves.' I whispered something of the sort into her ears. To tell you the truth I had come down off my perch. The spirit of the other woman did that to me. Before all the people gathered about I held my fiancée close and we kissed. They thought it very sweet of us to be so affected at the sight of each other. What they would have thought had they known the truth about me God only knows!
"Twice now I have said that after that evening I never thought of the other woman at all. That is partially true but sometimes in the evening when I am walking alone in the street or in the park as we are walking now, and when evening comes softly and quickly as it has come to-night, the feeling of her comes sharply into my body and mind. After that one meeting I never saw her again. On the next day I was married and I have never gone back into her street. Often however as I am walking along as I am doing now, a quick sharp earthy feeling takes possession of me. It is as though I were a seed in the ground and the warm rains of the spring had come. It is as though I were not a man but a tree.
"And now you see I am married and everything is all right. My marriage is to me a very beautiful fact. If you were to say that my marriage is not a happy one I could call you a liar and be speaking the absolute truth. I have tried to tell you about this other woman. There is a kind of relief in speaking of her. I have never done it before. I wonder why I was so silly as to be afraid that I would give you the impression I am not in love with my wife. If I did not instinctively trust your understanding I would not have spoken. As the matter stands I have a little stirred myself up. To-night I shall think of the other woman. That sometimes occurs. It will happen after I have gone to bed. My wife sleeps in the next room to mine and the door is always left open. There will be a moon to-night, and when there is a moon long streaks of light fall on her bed. I shall awake at midnight to-night. She will be lying asleep with one arm thrown over her head.
"What is that I am talking about? A man does not speak of his wife lying in bed. What I am trying to say is that, because of this talk, I shall think of the other woman to-night. My thoughts will not take the form they did the week before I was married. I will wonder what has become of the woman. For a moment I will again feel myself holding her close. I will think that for an hour I was closer to her than I have ever been to anyone else. Then I will think of the time when I will be as close as that to my wife. She is still, you see, an awakening woman. For a moment I will close my eyes and the quick, shrewd, determined eyes of that other woman will look into mine. My head will swim and then I will quickly open my eyes and see again the dear woman with whom I have undertaken to live out my life. Then I will sleep and when I awake in the morning it will be as it was that evening when I walked out of my dark apartment after having had the most notable experience of my life. What I mean to say, you understand, is that, for me, when I awake, the other woman will be utterly gone."