by Joseph Hergesheimer
The maid, smartly capped in starched ruffled muslin and black, who
admitted them to the somber luxury of the rectory, hesitated in
unconcealed sulky disfavor.
“Doctor Goodlowe has hardly started dinner,” she asserted.
“Just ask him to come out for a little,” the man repeated.
He was past middle age, awkward in harsh ill-fitting and formal
clothes and with a gaunt high-boned countenance and clear blue eyes.
His companion, a wistfully pale girl under an absurd and expensive
hat, laid her hand in an embroidered white silk glove on his arm and
said in a low tone: “We won't bother him, Calvin. There are plenty of
ministers in Washington; or we could come back later.”
“There are, and we could,” he agreed; “but we won't. I'm not going
to wait a minute more for you, Lucy. Not now that you are willing. Why,
I have been waiting half my life already.”
A gaunt young man with clear blue eyes sat on the bank of a mountain
road and gazed at the newly-built house opposite. It was the only
dwelling visible. Behind, the range rose in a dark wall against the
evening sky; on either hand the small green valley was lost in a blue
haze of serried peaks. The house was not imposing; in reality small,
but a story and a half, it had a length of three rooms with a kitchen
forming an angle, invisible from where Calvin Stammark sat; an outside
chimney at each end, and a narrow covered portico over the front door.
An expiring clatter of hoofs marked the departure of the neighbor
who had helped Calvin set the last flanged course. It seemed incredible
that it was finished, ready—when the furniture and bright rag carpet
had been placed—for Hannah. “The truck patch will go in there on the
right,” he told himself; “and gradually I'll get the slope cleared out,
corn and buckwheat planted.”
He twisted about, facing the valley. It was deep in grass, watered
with streams like twisting shining ribbons, and held a sleek
slow-grazing herd of cattle.
The care of the latter, a part of Senator Alderwith's wide
possessions, was to form Calvin's main occupation—for the present
anyhow. Calvin Stammark had larger plans for his future with Hannah.
Some day he would own the Alderwith pastures at his back and be grazing
his own steers.
His thoughts returned to Hannah, and he rose and proceeded to where
a saddled horse was tied beside the road. He ought to go back to
Greenstream and fix up before seeing her; but with their home all
built, his impatience to be with her was greater than his sense of
propriety, and he put his horse at a sharp canter to the left.
Calvin continued down the valley until the road turned toward the
range and an opening which he followed into a steeper and narrower rift
beyond. Here there were no clearings in the rocky underbrush until he
reached Richmond Braley's land. A long upturning sweep ended at the
house, directly against the base of the mountain; and without
decreasing his gait he passed over the faintly traced way, by the
triangular sheep washing and shearing pen, to the stabling shed.
Hannah's mother was bending fretfully over the kitchen stove, and
Richmond, her father, was drawing off sodden leather boots. He was a
man tall and bowed, stiff but still powerful, with a face masked in an
unkempt tangle of beard.
“H'y, Calvin,” he cried; “you're just here for spoon licking! Lucy
was looking for company.” Mrs. Braley's comment was below her breath,
but it was plainly no corroboration of her husband's assurance. “You'll
find Hannah in the front of the house,” Richmond added. Hannah was
sitting on the stone steps at the side entrance to the parlor. As usual
she had a bright bow in the hair streaming over her back, and her feet
were graceful in slippers with thin black stockings. She kissed him
willingly and studied him with wide-opened hazel-brown eyes. There
wasn't another girl in Greenstream, in Virginia, with Hannah's fetching
appearance, he decided with a glow of adoration. She had a—a sort of
beauty entirely her own; it was not exactly prettiness, but a quality
far more disturbing, something a man could never forget.
“She's done,” he told her abruptly.
“What?” Hannah gazed up at him with a dim sweetness in the gathering
“What!” he mocked her. “You ought to be ashamed to ask. Why, the
house —our home. We could move in by a week if we were called to. We
can get married any time.”
She now looked away from him, her face still and dreaming.
“You don't seem overly anxious,” Calvin declared.
“It's just the idea,” she replied. “I never thought of it like this
before—right on a person.” She sighed. “Of course it will be nice,
He sat below her with an arm across her slim knees. “I'm going to
dig right into the truck patch; there's a parcel of poles cut for the
beans. It won't be much the first year; but wait and we'll show people
how to live.” He repeated his vision in connection with the present
“I wonder will we ever be rich like the senator?”
“Certainly,” he answered with calm conviction. “A man couldn't be
shiftless with you to do for, Hannah. He'd be obliged to have
everything the best.”
“It'll take a long while though,” she continued.
“We will have to put in some hard licks,” he admitted. “But we are
young; we've got a life to do it in.”
“A man has, but I don't know about girls. It seems like they get old
faster; and then things—silk dresses don't do them any good. How would
ma look in fashionable clothes!”
“You won't have to wait that long,” he assured her. “Your father has
never hurt himself about the place, there's no money in sheep; and as
for Hosmer—you know well as me that he is nothing outside of the bank
and his own comfort. Store clothes is Hosmer all through.”
“I wish you were a little like him there,” Hannah returned.
He admitted that this evening he was more untidy than need be. “I
just couldn't wait to see you,” he declared; “with our place and—and
all so safe and happy.”
The Braley table, spread after the Greenstream custom in the
kitchen, was surrounded by Richmond and Calvin—Hosmer had stayed late
at the bank—Hannah and Susan, the eldest of the children, prematurely
aged and wasted by a perpetual cough, while Lucy Braley moved
carelessly between the stove and the table. At rare intervals she was
assisted by Hannah, who bore the heavy dishes in a silent but
perceptible air of protest.
Calvin Stammark liked this; it was a part of her superiority to the
other girls of the locality. He made up his mind that she should never
lose her present gentility. Whenever he could afford it Hannah must
have help in the house. No greater elegance was imaginable. Senator
Alderwith, at his dwelling with its broad porch, had two servants—two
servants and a bathtub with hot water running right out of a tap. And
he Calvin Stammark, would have the same, before Hannah and he were too
old to enjoy it.
He had eleven hundred dollars now, after buying the land about his
house. When the right time came he would invest it in more property—
grazing, a few herd of cattle and maybe in timber. Calvin had
innumerable schemes for their betterment and success. To all this the
sheer fact of Hannah was like the haunting refrain of a song. She was
never really out of his planning. He might be sitting on his rooftree
squaring the shingling; bargaining with Eli Goss, the stone-cutter;
renewing the rock salt for Alderwith's steers; but running through
every occupation was the memory of Hannah's pale distracting face, the
scarlet thread of the lips she was continually biting, her slender
He had heard that her mother was like that when she was young; but
looking at Mrs. Braley's spent being, hearing her thin complaining
voice, it seemed impossible. People who had known her in her youth
asserted that it was so. Phebe too, they said, was the same—Phebe who
had left Greenstream nine years ago, when she was seventeen, to become
an actress in the great cities beyond the mountains. This might or
might not be a fact. Calvin always doubted that any one else could have
However, he had never seen Phebe; he had moved from a distant part
of the county to the principal Greenstream settlement after she had
gone. But the legend of Phebe's beauty and talent was a part of the
Braley household. Mrs. Braley told it as a distinguished trait that
Phebe would never set her hand in hot dishwater. Calvin noted that
Hannah was often blamed for domestic negligence, but this and far more
advanced conduct in Phebe was surrounded by a halo of superiority.
After supper, in view of the fact of their courtship, Calvin and
Hannah were permitted to sit undisturbed in the formality of the
parlor. The rest of the family congregated with complete normality in
the kitchen. The parlor was an uncomfortable chamber with uncomfortable
elaborate chairs in orange plush upholstery, a narrow sofa, an organ of
highly varnished lightwood ornamented with scrolled fretwork, and a
cannon stove with polished brass spires.
Calvin sat on the sofa with an arm about Hannah's waist, while she
twisted round her finger the ring he had given her, a ring of warranted
gold clasping a large red stone. Her throat was circled by a silver
chain supporting a mounted polished Scotch pebble, his gift as well.
Their position was conventional; Calvin's arm was cramped from its
unusual position, he had to brace his feet to keep firm on the slippery
plush, but he was dazed with delight. His heart throbs were evident in
his wrists and throat, while a tenderness of pity actually wet his
eyes. At times he spoke in a hushed voice, phrases meaningless in word
but charged with inarticulate emotion; Hannah replied more coherently;
but for the most they were silent. She accepted the situation with
evident calm as an inevitable part of life. Drawn against him she
rested her head lightly on his shoulder, her gaze speculative and
Once he exclaimed: “I don't believe you love me! I don't believe
you're interested in the things for the kitchen or the bedroom suite I
saw in a catalogue at Priest's store!”
“Don't be silly!” she murmured. “Why shouldn't I be when it's my
own, when it's all I'm going to have.”
He cried bravely. “It's only the beginning! Wait till you see our
cattle herded over the mountain to the railroad; wait till you see a
spur come up the Sugarloaf and haul away our hardwood. Just you
There was the clip-clip of a horse outside, and the creaking of
“I believe that's Hosmer.” Hannah rose. “It's funny, too, because he
said he'd have to stay at the hotel to-night, there was so much
settling up at the bank.”
It was, however, Hosmer Braley. He paused at the parlor door, a man
in the vicinity of thirty, fat in body and carefully clad, with a white
starched collar and figured satin tie.
“I didn't want to drive out,” he said, at once bland and aggrieved;
“but it couldn't be helped. Here's a piece of news for all of you—
Phebe is coming home to visit She wrote me to say so, and I only got
the letter this evening. Whatever do you suppose took her?”
Hannah at once flushed with excitement—like, Calvin Stammark
thought, the parlor lamp with the pink shade, turned up suddenly. An
instant vague depression settled over him; Hannah, only the minute
before in his arms, seemed to draw away from him, remote and
unconcerned by anything but Phebe's extraordinary return. Hosmer made
it clear that the event promised nothing but annoyance for him.
“She's coming by to-morrow's stage,” he went on, untouched by the
sensation his information had wrought in the kitchen; “and it's certain
I can't meet her. The bank's sending me into West Virginia about some
Richmond Braley, it developed further, was bound to a day's work on
the public roads. They turned to Calvin.
“Take my buggy,” Hosmer offered; “I'll have to go from Durban by
There was no reason why he shouldn't meet Phebe Braley, Calvin
realized. He lingered, gazing with silent longing at Hannah, but it was
evident that she had no intention of returning to the parlor.
Waiting in Hosmer's buggy for the arrival of the Greenstream stage
and Phebe Braley, Calvin was conscious of the persistence of the
depression that had invaded him at the announcement of her visit. He
resented, too, the new element thrust into the Braley household,
disrupting the familiar course of his love. Hannah had been
unreasonably distracted by the actuality of Phebe's return—the Phebe
who had gone away from the mountains and become an actress.
The buggy was drawn to one side of the principal Greenstream road,
at the post-office. Before him the way crossed the valley and lifted
abruptly to the slope of the eastern range. At his back the village—
the brick Methodist church and the white painted Presbyterian church,
the courthouse with its dignified columns, the stores at the corners of
the single crossroads, and varied dwellings—was settling into the
elusive May twilight. The highest peaks in the east were capped with
dissolving rose by the lowering sun, and the sky was a dusty blue.
Calvin Stammark heard the approaching stage before he saw it; then
the long rigid surrey with its spare horses rapidly rolled up over the
open road to the post-office. He got down and moved diffidently
forward, seeing and recognizing Phebe immediately. This was made
possible by her resemblance to Hannah; and yet, Calvin added, no two
women could be more utterly different.
Phebe Braley had a full figure—she was almost stout—a body of the
frankest emphasized curves in a long purple coat with a collar of
soiled white fur. A straw hat with the brim caught by a short purple-dyed ostrich feather was pinned to a dead-looking crinkled mass of
greenish-gold hair, and her face—the memorable features of Hannah—was
loaded with pink powder.
Calvin said: “You must be Phebe Braley. Well, I'm Calvin Stammark.
Your father or Hosmer couldn't meet the stage and so they had to let me
get you. Where's your bag?”
She adopted at once an air of comfortable familiarity. “I don't
remember your name,” she said, settling beside him in the buggy.
He told her that he had come to this vicinity after she had gone and
that he was about to marry her sister.
“The hell you say!” she replied with cheerful surprise. “Who'd
thought Hannah was old enough to have a fellow!”
They were out of the village now and she produced a paper pack of
cigarettes from a leather hand bag with a florid gilt top. Flooding her
being with smoke she gazed with a shudder at the mountain wall on
either hand, the unbroken greenery sweeping to the sky.
“It's worse than I remembered,” she confided, resting against him.
“A person with any life to them would go dippy here. Say, it's fierce!
And yet, inside of me, I'm kind of glad to see it. I used to dream
about the mountains, and this is like riding in the dream. I'm glad you
came for me and let me down easy into things. I suppose they live in
the kitchen home and pa'd lose a currycomb in his beard. Does Hosmer
still beller if he gets the chicken neck?
“Do you sit in the holy parlor for your courting, and ain't that
plush sofa a God-forsaken perch for two little love birds? It's funny
how I remember this and that. I reckon ma's temper don't improve with
age. They kid me something dreadful about saying 'reckon,' in the
talent. But it's all good and a dam' sight better than 'I guess.'
That's all they get off me.”
Calvin Stammark's vague uneasiness changed to an acute dislike, even
a fear of Phebe. Her freedom of discourse and person, the powdered hard
fare close to his, the reek of scent—all rasped the delicacy of his
love for Hannah. The sisters were utterly different, and yet he would
have realized instantly their relationship. Phebe, too, had the
disturbing quality that made Hannah so appealing. In the former it was
coarsened, almost lost; almost but not quite.
“I'll bet,” she continued, “that I'm the only female prodigal on the
bills. Not that I've been feeding on husks. Not me. Milwaukee lager and
raw beef sandwiches. I have a passion for them after the show. We do
two a day and I want solid refreshment. I wonder if you ever saw me. Of
course you didn't, but you might have. Ned Higmann's Parisian Dainties.
Rose Rayner's what I go by. That's French, but spelled different, and
means brightness. And I'm bright, Casper.
“My, what are you so glum about—the dump you live in or matrimony?
There was a gentleman in an orchestra in Harrisburg wanted to marry me
—he played the oboe—but I declined. Too Bohemian.... This is where we
turn,” she cried instinctively, and they swung into the valley where
the Braleys had their clearing.
Phebe crushed the cigarette in her fingers. Suddenly she was
“It's natural I have changed a lot,” she said. “If you hear me
saying anything rough pinch me.”
Richmond Braley was standing beside his house in the muddy clothes
in which he had labored on the roads, and Mrs. Braley and Hannah came
eagerly forward. Behind them sounded Susan's racking cough. Sentimental
tears rolled dustily over Phebe's cheeks as she kissed and embraced her
mother and sisters.
“H'y,” Richmond Braley awkwardly saluted her; and “H'y,” she
answered in the local manner.
“Well,” he commented, “you hain't forgotten that anyway.”
Calvin was asked to stay for the supper that had been delayed for
Phebe's return, but when he declined uncertainly he wasn't pressed.
Putting up Hosmer's rig and saddling his own horse he rode slowly and
Instead of going directly back to Greenstream he followed the way
that led to his new house. The evening was silvery with a full
brilliant moon, and the fresh paint and bright woodwork were striking
against the dark elevated background of trees. The truck patch would be
dug on the right, the clearing widen rod by rod. From Alderwith's
meadows came the soft blowing of a steer's nostrils, while the
persistent piping of the frogs in the hollows fluctuated in his
Calvin had drawn rein and sat on his horse in the road. He was
trying to picture Hannah standing in the door waiting for him, to hear
her calling him from work; but always Phebe intervened with her
travesty of Hannah's clear loveliness.
Again at the Braleys' he found the family—in the kitchen—listening
with absorbed interest to Phebe's stories of life and the stage.
Richmond Braley sat with an undisguised wonderment and frequent
exclamations; there was a faint flush in Mrs. Braley's dun cheeks;
Susan tried without success to strangle her coughing. Only Hosmer was
unmoved; at times he nodded in recognition of the realities of Phebe's
narratives; his attitude was one of complacent understanding.
Calvin, at last succeeding in catching Hannah's attention, made a
suggestive gesture toward the front of the house, but she ignored his
desire. She, more than any of the others, was intent upon Phebe. And he
realized that Phebe paid her a special attention.
“My,” she exclaimed, “the healthy life has put you in the front row.
Ned Higmann would rave about your shape and airs. It's too bad to bury
them here in the mountains. I reckon you love me for that”—she turned
cheerfully to Calvin—“but it's the truth. If you could do anything at
all, Hannah, you'd lead a chorus and go in the olio. And you would draw
at the stage door better than you would on the front. Young and fresh
as a daisy spells champagne and diamond garters. I don't believe they'd
let you stay in burlesque but sign you for comic opera.”
The blood beat angrily in Calvin Stammark's head. Whatever did Phebe
mean by talking like that to Hannah just when she was to marry him! He
cursed silently at Richmond Braley's fatuous face, at Mrs. Braley's
endorsement of all that her eldest daughter related, at Hosmer's
assumption of worldly experience. But Hannah's manner filled him with
“It's according to how you feel,” Phebe continued; “some like to get
up of a black winter morning and fight the kitchen fire. I don't. Some
women are happy handing plates to their husband while he puts down a
square feed. Not in mine.”
“The loneliness is what I hate,” Hannah added.
“It's hell,” the other agreed. “Excuse me, ma.”
Hannah went on: “And you get old without ever seeing things. There
is all that you tell about going on—those crowds and the jewels and
dresses, the parties and elegant times; but there is never a whisper of
it in Greenstream; nothing but the frogs that I could fairly scream at
—and maybe a church social.” As she talked Hannah avoided Celvin
“Me and you'll have a conversation,” Phebe promised her recklessly.
Choking with rage Calvin rose. “I might as well move along,” he
“Don't get heated,” Phebe advised him. “I wouldn't break up your
happy home, only I want Hannah to have an idea of what's what. I don't
doubt you'll get her for a wife.”
“There's nothing but slaving for a woman round here,” Mrs. Braley
put in. “I'm right glad Phebe had so much spirit.”
Richmond Braley evidently thought it was time for certain
reservations. “You mustn't come down so hard on Calvin and me,” he said
practically. “We're both likely young fellows.”
“I'll be here evening after to-morrow,” Calvin told Hannah in a low
She nodded without interest. They must be married at once, he
decided, his wise horse following unerringly the rocky road, stepping
through splashing dark fords. If there was a repetition of the past
visit he would have something to say. Hannah was his, she was promised
to him. He felt the coolness of her cheeks, her bright mouth against
his. A tyranny of misery and desire flooded him at the sudden
danger—it was as much as that—threatening his happiness and life.
It was a danger founded on his entire ignorance of what he must
combat. He couldn't visualize it, but it never occurred to him that
Hannah would actually go away—leave him and Greenstream. No, it was a
quality in Hannah herself, a thing that had always lurked below the
surface, beyond his knowledge until now. Yet he realized that it formed
a part of her appeal, a part of her distinction over the other girls of
Maybe it was because he was never in his heart absolutely certain of
her—even when she was closest to him she seemed to slip away beyond
his power to follow. His love, he acknowledged for the first time, had
never been easy or contented or happy. It had been obscure, like the
night about him now; it resembled a fire that he held in his bare
hands. Hannah's particularity, too, was allied to this strange newly-awakened peril. In a manner it was that which had carried Phebe out of
the mountains. Now the resemblance between them was far stronger than
There was more than a touch of all this in the girls' mother, in her
bitterness and discontent. He felt that he hated the elder as much as
he did Phebe. If the latter were a man——
He dressed with the greatest care for his next evening with Hannah.
Hosmer wore no stiffer nor whiter collar, and Calvin's necktie was a
pure gay silk. He arrived just as the moon detached itself from the
fringe of mountain peaks and the frogs started insistently. His heart
was heavy but his manner calm, determined, as he entered the Braley
kitchen. No one was there but Susan; soon however, Phebe entered in an
amazing slovenly wrapper with a lace edge turned back from her ample
throat; and Hannah followed.
Phebe made a mocking reference to the sofa in the parlor, and
Hannah's expression was distasteful; but she slowly followed Calvin
into the conventional chamber.
He made no attempt to embrace her, but said instead: “I came to fix
the day for our wedding.”
“Phebe wants me to go with her for a little first,” she replied
indirectly. “She says I can come back whenever I like.”
“Your Phebe has no say in it.” He spoke harshly. “We're honestly
promised to each other and don't need outside advice or interference.”
“Don't you go to call Phebe 'outside,'“ she retorted. “She's my
sister. Perhaps it's a good thing she came when she did, and saved me
from being buried. Perhaps I'm not aiming to be married right off.”
Hannah was standing, a hand on the table that held the pink-shaded
lamp, and the light showed her petulant and antagonistic. A flare of
anger threatened to shut all else from Calvin's thoughts; but suddenly
he was conscious of the necessity for care—care and patience. He
forced back his justified sense of wrong.
“I wasn't referring direct to Phebe,” he told her. “I meant that
between us nobody else matters, no one in the world is of any
importance to me but you. It's all I think about. When I was building
the house, our house, I hammered you into it with every nail. It is
sort of made out of you,” he foundered; “like—like I am.”
He could see her relenting in the loss of the rigidity of her pose.
Hannah's head drooped and her fingers tapped faintly on the table. He
moved closer, urging his advantage.
“We're all but married, Hannah; our carpet is being wove and that
suite of furniture ordered through Priest. You've been upset by this
talk of theaters and such. You'd get tired of them and that
fly-by-night life in a month.”
“What suits one doesn't suit all,” he said concisely.
“It would suit more girls than you know for,” she informed him.
“Take it round here, there's nothing to do but get married, and all the
change is from one kitchen to another. You don't even have a way to
match up fellows. Soon as you're out of short skirts one of them visits
with you and the rest stay away like you had the smallpox. Our courting
lasted a week and you were here four times.”
“We haven't much time, Hannah,” he reminded her. “It was right hard
for me to see you that often. There was a smart of things you were
“The more fool!” she exclaimed.
Again his resentment promised to leap beyond control. He clenched
his hands and stared with contracted eyes at the floor.
“Well,” he articulated finally, “we're promised anyhow; that can't
be denied. I have your word.”
“Yes,” she admitted, “but chance that I went with Phebe doesn't mean
I'd never come back.”
“It would mean that you'd never come back,” he paraphrased her.
“Maybe I would know better,” she answered quickly. “I'm sorry,
Calvin. I didn't go to be so sharp. Only I don't know what's right,”
she went on unhappily.
“It isn't what's right,” he corrected her, “but what you want. I
wish Phebe had stayed away a little longer.”
“There you go again at Phebe!” she protested.
He replied grimly; “Not half what I feel.”
In a dangerously calm voice she inquired, “What's the rest then?”
“She's a trouble-maker,” he asserted in a shaking tone over which he
seemed to have no command; “she came back to Greenstream and for no
reason but her own slinked into our happiness. Your whole family—even
Hosmer, pretending to be so wise—are blind as bats. You can't even see
that Phebe's hair is as dyed as her stories. She says she is on the
stage, but it's a pretty stage! I've been to Stanwick and seen those
Parisian Dainties and burlesque shows. They're nothing but a lot of
half-naked women cavorting and singing fast songs. And the show only
begins—with most of them—when the curtain drops. If I even try to
think of you in that I get sick.”
“Go on,” Hannah stammered, scarcely above her breath.
“It's bad,” Calvin Stammark went on. “The women are bad; and a bad
woman is something awful. I know about that too. I've been to the city
as well as Phebe. Oh, Hannah,” he cried, “can't you see, can't you!”
With a violent effort he regained the greater part of his composure.
“But it won't touch you,” he added; “we're going to be married right
“We are?” Hannah echoed him thinly, in bitter mockery. “I wouldn't
have you now if you were the last man on earth with the way you talked
about Phebe! I don't see how you can stand there and look at me. If I
told pa or Hosmer they would shoot you. You might as well know this as
well—I'm going back with her; it'll be some gayer than these lonely
old valleys or your house stuck away all by itself with nothing to see
but Senator Alderwith's steers.”
There flashed into Calvin Stammark's mind the memory of how he had
planned to possess just such cattle for Hannah and himself; he saw in
the elusive lamplight the house he had built for Hannah. His feeling,
that a second before had been so acute, was numb. This, he thought, was
strange; a voice within echoed that he was going to lose her, to lose
Hannah; but he had no faculty capable of understanding such a calamity.
“Why, Hannah,” he said impotently—“Hannah—” His vision blurred so
that he couldn't see her clearly; it was as if, indistinct before him,
she were already fading from his life. “I never went to hurt you,” he
continued in a curious detachment from his suffering. “You were
everything I had.”
Calvin grew awkward, confused in his mind and gestures. At the same
time Hannah's desirability increased immeasurably. Never in Greenstream
or any place else had he seen another like her; and he was about to
lose her, lose Hannah.
Automatically he repeated, “If Phebe were a man——”
He was powerless not only against exterior circumstance but to
combat what lay with Hannah. Phebe would never set her hands in hot
dishwater. He recalled their mother, fretful and impatient. He shook
his head as if to free his mind from so many vain thoughts. She stood,
hard and unrelenting.
He tried to mutter a phrase about being here if she should return,
but it perished in the conviction of its uselessness. Calvin saw her
with green-yellow hair, a cigarette in painted lips; he heard the
blurred applause of men at the spectacle of Hannah on the stage,
dressed like the women he had seen there. Then pride stiffened him into
a semblance of her own remoteness.
“It's in you,” he said; “and it will have to come out. I'm what I am
too, and that doesn't make it any easier. Kind of a fool about you.
Another girl won't do. I'll say good night.”
He turned and abruptly quitted the room and all his hope.
When the furniture Calvin had ordered through the catalogue at
Priest's store arrived by mountain wagon he placed it in the room
beside the kitchen that was to have been Hannah's and his. Hannah had
gone three weeks before with Phebe. This done he sat for a long while
on the portico of his house, facing the rich bottom pasturage and high
verdant range beyond. It was late afternoon and the rift was filling
with a golden haze from a sun veiled in watery late-spring vapors. An
old apple tree by the road was flushed with pink blossoms and a mocking
bird was whistling with piercing sweetness.
Soon it would be evening and the frogs would begin again, the frogs
and whippoorwills. The valley, just as Hannah had said, was lonely. He
stirred and later found himself some supper—in the kitchen where
everything was new.
On the following morning he left the Greenstream settlement; it was
Friday, and Monday he returned with Ettie, his sister. She was
remarkably like him—tall and angular, with a gaunt face and steady
blue eyes. Older than Calvin, she had settled into a complete
acquiescence with whatever life brought; no more for her than the
keeping of her brother's house. Calvin, noting the efficient manner in
which she ordered their material affairs, wondered at the fact that she
had not been married. Men were unaccountable, but none more than
himself, with his unquenchable longing for Hannah.
This retreated to the back of his being. He never spoke of her.
Indeed he tried to put her from his thoughts, and with a measure of
success. But it never occurred to him to consider any other girl; that
possibility was closed. Those he saw—and they were uniformly kind,
even inviting—were dull after Hannah.
Instead he devoted himself to the equivalent, in his undertakings,
of Ettie's quiet capability. The following year a small number of the
steers grazing beyond the road were his; in two years more Senator
Alderwith died, and there was a division of his estate, in which Calvin
assumed large liabilities, paying them as he had contracted. The timber
in Sugarloaf Valley drew speculators—he sold options and bought a
place in the logging development.
It seemed to him that he grew older, in appearance anyhow, with
exceptional rapidity; his face grew leaner and his beard, which he
continued to shave, was soiled with gray hair.
He avoided the Braleys and their clearing; and when circumstance
drew him into conversation with Richmond or Hosmer he studiously spoke
of indifferent things. He heard nothing of Hannah. Yet he learned in
the various channels of communication common to remote localities that
Richmond Braley was doing badly. Hosmer went to bank in one of the
newly prosperous towns of West Virginia and apparently left all family
obligations behind; Susan died of lung fever; and then, at the post-office, Calvin was told that Richmond himself was dangerously sick.
He left the mail with Ettie at his door and rode on, turning for the
first time in nine years into the narrow valley of the Braleys' home.
The place had been neglected until it was hardly distinguishable from
the surrounding tangled wild. Such sheep as he saw were in wretched
condition, wild and massed with filth and burrs.
Mrs. Braley was filling a large glass flask with hot water for her
husband; and to Calvin's surprise a child with a quantity of straight
pale-brown hair and wide-opened hazel-brown eyes was seated in the
kitchen watching her.
“How is Richmond?” he asked, his gaze straying involuntarily to the
“Kingdom Come's how he is,” Lucy Braley replied. “Yes, and the
poorhouse will end us unless Hosmer has a spark of good feeling. I sent
him a postal card to come a long while back, but he hasn't so much as
answered. Here, Lucy”—she turned to the child—“run up with this.”
“Lucy?” Calvin Stammark asked when they were alone.
“Been here two weeks,” Mrs. Braley told him. “What will become of
her's beyond me. She is Hannah's daughter, and Hannah is dead.”
There was a sharp constriction of Calvin's heart. Hannah's daughter,
and Hannah was dead!
“As far as I know,” the other continued in a strained metallic
voice, “the child's got no father you could fix. Her mother wrote the
name was Lucy Vibard, and she'd called her after me. But when I asked
her she didn't seem to know anything about it.
“Hannah was alone and dog poor when she died, that's certain. Like
everything else I can lay mind on she came to a bad end—Lord reckons
where Phebe is. I always thought you were weak fingered to let Hannah
go—with that house built and all. I suppose maybe you weren't, though;
well out of a slack bargain.”
Calvin Stammark scarcely heard her; his being was possessed by the
pitiable image of Hannah dying alone and dog poor. He had always
pictured her—except in the fleet vision of debasement—as young and
graceful and disturbing. Without further speech he left the kitchen and
crossed the house to the shut parlor. It was screened against the day,
dim and musty and damp. The orange plush of the chairs and the narrow
uncomfortable sofa, carefully dusted, was as bright as it had been when
he had last seen it—was it ten years ago?
Here she had stood, her fingers tapping on the table, when he had
made the unfortunate remark about Phebe; the lamplight had illuminated
her right cheek. Here she had proclaimed her impatience with
Greenstream, with its loneliness, her hunger for life. Here he had lost
her. A sudden need to see Hannah's daughter invaded him and he returned
to the kitchen.
The child was present, silent; she had Hannah's eyes, Hannah's hair.
Seated by Richmond Braley's bed he realized instantly that the old man
was dying; and mentally he composed the urgent message to be sent to
Hosmer. But that failed to settle the problem of Lucy's safety—
Hannah's Lucy, who might have been his too. The solution of that
difficulty slowly took form in his thoughts. There was no need to
discuss it with Ettie—his duty, yes, and his desire was clear.
He took her home directly after Richmond's funeral, an erratic wind
blowing her soft loose hair against his face as he drove.
There had been additions to Calvin Stammark's house—the half story
raised, and the length increased by a room. This was now furnished as
the parlor and had an entrance from the porch extended across the face
of the dwelling; the middle lower room was his; the chamber designed
for his married life was a seldom used dining room; while Ettie and
Lucy were above. A number of sheds for stabling and implements, chicken
coops and pig pen had accumulated at the back; the corn and buckwheat
climbed the mountain; and the truck patch was wide and luxuriant.
A narrow strip, bright, in season, with the petunias and cinnamon
pinks which Ettie tended, separated the dwelling from the public road;
and the flowers more than anything else attracted Hannah's daughter.
Calvin talked with her infrequently, but a great deal of his silent
attention was directed at the child.
Already Lucy had a quality of appeal to which he watched Ettie
respond. The latter took a special pride in making Lucy as pretty as
possible; in the afternoon she would dress her in sheer white with a
ribbon in her hair. She spared Lucy many of the details of housework in
which the latter could have easily assisted her; and when Calvin
protested she replied that she was so accustomed to doing that it was
easier for her to go ahead.
Calvin's feelings were mixed. At first he had told himself that Lucy
would be, in a way, his daughter; he would bring her up as his own; and
in the end what he had would be hers, just as it should have been
Hannah's. However, his attitude was never any that might be recognized
as that of parenthood. He never grew completely accustomed to her
presence, she was always a subject of interest and speculation. He
continued to get pleasure from her slender graceful being and the
little airs of delicacy she assumed.
He was conscious, certainly, that Lucy was growing older—yet not so
fast as he—but he had a shock of surprise when she informed him that
she was fifteen. Calvin pinched her cheek, and, sitting on the porch,
heard her within issuing a peremptory direction to Ettie. The elder
made no reply and, he knew, did as Lucy wished. This disturbed him.
There wasn't a finer woman living than Ettie Stammark, and he didn't
purpose to have Lucy impudent to her. Lucy, he decided, was getting a
little beyond them. She was quick at her lessons, the Greenstream
teacher said. Lucy would have considerable property when he died; he'd
like her to have all the advantages possible; and—very suddenly—
Calvin decided to send her away to school, to Stanwick, the small city
to and from which the Greenstream stage drove.
She returned from her first term at Christmas, full of her
experiences with teachers and friends, to which Ettie and he listened
with absorbed attention. Now she seemed farther from him than before;
and he saw that a likeness to Hannah was increasing; not in
appearance—though that was not dissimilar—but in the quality that had
established Hannah's difference from other girls, the quality for which
he had never found a name. The assumptions of Lucy's childhood had
become strongly marked preferences for the flowers of existence, the
ease of the portico rather than the homely labor of the back of the
Neither his sister nor he resented this or felt that Lucy was
evading her just duties; rather they enjoyed its difference from their
own practical beings and affairs. They could afford to have her in
fresh laundered frills and they secretly enjoyed the manner in which
she instructed them in social conventions.
At her home-coming for the summer she brought to an end the meals in
the kitchen; but when she left once more for Stanwick and school Ettie
and Calvin without remark drifted back to the comfortable convenience
of the table near the cooking stove.
This period of Lucy's experience at an end she arrived in
Greenstream on a hot still June evening. Neither Calvin nor his sister
had been able to go to Stanwick for the school commencement, and Calvin
had been too late to meet the stage. After the refreshing cold water in
the bright tin basin by the kitchen door he went to his room for a
presentable necktie and handkerchief—Lucy was very severe about the
latter—and then walked into the dining room.
The lamp was not yet lit, the light was elusive, tender, and his
heart contracted violently at the youthful yet mature back toward him.
She turned slowly, a hand resting on the table, and Calvin Stammark's
senses swam. An inner confusion invaded him, pierced by a sharp
“Hannah,” he whispered.
She smiled and advanced; but, his heart pounding, Calvin retreated.
He must say something reasonable, tell her that they were glad to have
her back—mustn't leave them again. She kissed him, and, his eyes shut,
the touch of her lips re-created about him the parlor of the
Braleys,—the stiffly arranged furniture with its gay plush, the
varnished fretwork of the organ, the pink glow of the lamp.
She was Hannah! The resemblance was so perfect—her cheek's turn,
her voice, sweet with a trace of petulance, her fingers—that it was
sustained in a flooding illumination through the commonplace revealing
act of supper. It was as if the eighteen years since Hannah, his
Hannah, was a reality were but momentary, the passage of the valley.
His love for her was unchanged—no, here at least, was a difference; it
was greater, keener; exactly as if during the progress of their
intimacy he had been obliged to go away from her for a while.
She accompanied Ettie to the kitchen and Calvin sat on the porch in
a gathering darkness throbbing with frogs and perfumed with drifting
locust blooms. Constellation by constellation the stars glimmered into
being. Hannah, Lucy! They mingled and in his fiber were forever one. He
gave himself up to the beauty of his passion, purified and intense from
long patience and wanting, amazed at the miracle that had brought back
everything infinitely desirable.
He forgot his age, and, preparing for the night, saw with a sense of
personal outrage his seamed countenance reflected in the mirror of the
bureau. Yet in reality he wasn't old—forty-something—still, not
fifty. He was as hard and nearly as springy as a hickory sapling. There
was a saying in which he found vast comfort—the prime, the very prime
His enormous difficulty would be to bring Lucy to the understanding
of his new—but it was the old—attitude toward her. If she had never
become completely familiar to him association had made him a solid
recognized part of her existence; if not exactly a father, an uncle at
the very least. Calvin realized that she would be profoundly shocked by
any abrupt revelation of his feeling. Yet he was for the time in no
hurry to bring about the desired change in their relationship. His life
had been so long empty that it was enough to dwell on the great
happiness of his repossession.
This, he knew, could not continue, but at present, today, it was
almost enough. Before he was aware, the summer had gone, the mountains
were sheeted in gold; and he was still dreaming, putting off the
actuality before them.
The logging in Sugarloaf Valley had grown to an operation of
importance, and a great deal of his time was spent watching the spur of
railroad creep forward and the clearing of new sections; sawmills and
camps were in course of erection; and what had been a still green cleft
in the mountains was filled with human activity. He had secured an
advantageous position for a young man from the part of the county
inhabited by the Stammark family, Wilmer Deakon, and consulted with him
frequently in connection with his interests.
Wilmer was to the last degree dependable; a large grave individual
who took a serious interest in the welfare of his fellows and supported
established customs and institutions. He sang in a resounding barytone
with the Methodist Church choir; his dignified bearing gave weight to
the school board; and he accumulated a steadily growing capital at the
Greenstream bank. An admirable individual, Calvin thought, and extended
to him the wide hospitality of his house.
Lucy apparently had little to say to Wilmer Deakon; indeed, when he
was not present, to their great amusement she imitated his deliberate
balanced speech. She said that he was too solemn—an opinion with which
Calvin privately agreed—and made an irreverent play on his name and
the place he should occupy in the church. It seemed that she found a
special pleasure in annoying him; and on an occasion when Calvin had
determined to reprove her for this he was surprised by Winner's request
to speak to him outside.
Wilmer Deakon said abruptly: “Lucy and I are promised to each
Calvin stood gazing at him in a lowering complete surprise, at a
loss for words, when the other continued with an intimation of his
peculiar qualifications for matrimony, the incontrovertible fact that
he could and would take care of Lucy. He stopped at the appropriate
moment and waited confidently for Calvin Stammark's approval.
The latter, out of a gathering immeasurable rage, almost shouted:
“You get to hell off my place!”
Wilmer Deakon was astounded but otherwise unshaken. “That's no way
to answer a decent man and a proper question,” he replied. “Lucy and I
want to be married. There's nothing wrong with that. But you look as if
I had offered to disgrace her. Why, Mr. Stammark, you can't keep her
forever. I reckon it'll be hard on you to have her go, but you must
make up your mind to it some day. She's willing, and you know all about
me. Then Lucy won't be far away from you all. I've cleared the brush up
and right now the bottom of our house is laid in Sugarloaf.”
Calvin's anger sank before a sense of helplessness at this latter
fact. Wilmer was building a house for her just as he had built one for
Hannah. He remembered his delight and pride as it had approached
completion; he remembered the evening, nearly twenty years ago, when he
had sat on the bank across the road and seen it finished. Then he had
ridden, without waiting to fix up, to the Braleys'; Hannah had scolded
him as they sat in the parlor.
“I must talk to Lucy,” he said in a different weary tone. Bareheaded
he walked over into the pasture, now his. The cattle moved vaguely in
the gloom, with softly blowing nostrils, and the streams were like
smooth dark ribbons. When he returned to his house the lights were out,
Wilmer Deakon was gone and Lucy was in bed.
He again examined his countenance in the mirror, but now he was
surprised that it was not haggard with age. It seemed that twenty more
years had been added to him since supper. He wondered whether there had
ever been another man who had lost his love twice and saw that he had
been a blind fool for not speaking in the June dusk when Lucy had come
back from school.
Lucy, it developed, had spoken to Ettie, and there was a general
discussion of her affair at breakfast.
Calvin carried away from it a persistent feeling of dissatisfaction,
but for this he could find no tangible reason. Of course, he silently
argued, the girl could not be expected to show her love for Wilmer
publicly; it was enough that he had been assured of its strength; the
fact of her agreement to marry him was final.
He went about his daily activities with a heavy absent-mindedness,
with a dragging spirit. A man was coming from Washington to see him in
the interest of a new practically permanent fencing, and he met him at
the post-office, listened to a loud cheerful greeting with marked
The salesman was named Martin Eckles, and he was fashionably dressed
in a suit of shepherd's check bound with braid, and had a flashing
ring—a broad gold band set with a mystic symbol in rubies and
diamonds. After his supper at the hotel he walked, following Calvin's
direction, the short distance to the latter's house, where Calvin and
Ettie Stammark and Lucy were seated on the porch.
Martin Eckles, it developed, was a fluent and persuasive talker, a
man of the broadest worldly experiences and wit. He was younger than
Calvin, but older than Wilmer Deakon, and a little fat. He had a small
mustache cut above his lip, and closely shaved ruddy cheeks with a
tinge of purple about his ears. Drawing out his monologue
entertainingly he gazed repeatedly at Lucy. Calvin lost the sense of
most that the other said; he was immersed in the past that had been
made the present and then denied to him—it was all before him in the
presence of Lucy, of Hannah come back with the unforgetable and magic
danger of her appeal.
In the extension of his commercial activity Martin Eckles kept his
room at the Greenstream hotel and employed a horse and buggy for his
excursions throughout the county. It had become his habit to sit
through the evenings with the Stammarks where his flood of conversation
never lessened. Lucy scarcely added a phrase to the sum of talk. She
rocked in her chair with a slight endless motion, her dreaming gaze
fixed on the dim valley.
Wilmer Deakon, on the occasion of his first encounter with Eckles at
the Stammarks', acknowledged the other's phrase and stood waiting for
Lucy to proceed with him to the parlor. But Lucy was apparently unaware
of this; she sat calm and remote in her crisp white skirts, while
Wilmer fidgeted at the door.
Soon, however, she said: “For goodness' sake, Wilmer, whatever's the
matter with you? Can't you find a chair that suits you? You make a
At the same time she rose ungraciously and followed him into the
Wilmer came out, Calvin thought, in an astonishingly short time.
Courting was nothing like it had been in his day. The young man
muttered an unintelligible sentence that, from its connection, might be
interpreted as a good night, and strode back to the barn and his horse.
Martin Eckles smiled: “The love birds must have been a little
And Calvin, with a strong impression of having heard such a thing
before, was vaguely uneasy. Eckles sat for a long space; Lucy didn't
appear, and at last the visitor rose reluctantly. But Lucy had not gone
to bed; she came out on the porch and dropped with a flounce into a
chair beside Calvin.
“Wilmer's pestering me to get married right away,” she told him;
“before ever the house is built. He seems to think I ought to be just
crazy to take him and go to that lonely Sugarloaf place.”
“It's what you promised for,” Calvin reminded her; “nothing's turned
up you didn't know about.”
“If I did!” she exclaimed irritably. “What else is a girl to do, I'd
like to ask? It's just going from one stove to another, here. Only
it'll be worse in my case—you and Aunt Ettie have been lovely to me. I
hate to cook!” she cried. “And it makes me sick to put my hands in
greasy dishwater! I suppose that's wicked but I can't help it. When I
told Wilmer that to-night he acted like I'd denied communion. I can't
help it if the whippoorwills make me shiver, can I? Or if I want to see
a person go by once in a while. I—I don't want to be bad—or to hurt
you or Wilmer. Oh, I'll settle down, there's nothing else to do; I'll
marry him and get old before my time, like the others.”
Calvin Stammark leaned forward, his hands on his knees, and stared
at her in shocked amazement—Hannah in every accent and feeling. The
old sense of danger and helplessness flooded him. He thought of Phebe
with her dyed hair and cigarette-stained lips, her stories of the stage
and life; he thought of Hannah dying alone and dog poor. Now Lucy——
“Do you remember anything about your mother,” he asked, “and before
you came here?”
“Only that we were dreadfully unhappy,” she replied. “There was a
boarding house with actresses washing their stockings in the rooms and
a landlady they were all afraid of. There was beer in the wash-stand
pitcher. But that wouldn't happen to me,” she asserted; “I'd be
different. I might be an actress, but in dramas where my hair would be
down and everybody love me.”
“You're going to marry Wilmer Deakon and be a proper happy wife!” he
declared, bringing his fist down on a hard palm. “Get this other
nonsense out of your head!”
Suddenly he was trembling at the old catastrophe reopened by Lucy.
His love for her, and his dread, choked him. She added nothing more,
but sat rigid and pale and rebellious. Before long she went in, but
Calvin stayed facing the darkness, the menace of the lonely valley.
Except for the lumbermen it would be worse in the Sugarloaf cutting.
Damn the frogs!
Martin Eckles appeared in the buggy the following evening and
offered to carry Lucy for a short drive to a near-by farm; with an air
of indifference she accepted. Wilmer didn't call, and Calvin sat in
silent perplexity with Ettie. The buggy returned later than they had
allowed, and Lucy went up to bed without stopping on the porch.
The next morning Ettie, with something in her hand, came out to
Calvin at the stable shed.
“I found this in Lucy's room,” she said simply.
It was Martin Eckles' gold ring, set with the insignia in rubies,
suspended in a loop of ribbon.
A cold angry certitude formed in his being. What a criminal fool he
had been! What a blind booby! His only remark, however, brought a
puzzled expression to Ettie's troubled countenance. Calvin Stammark
exclaimed, “Phebe Braley.” He was silent for a little, his frowning
gaze fixed beyond any visible object, then he added: “Put that back
where you found it and forget everything.”
Ettie laid a hand on his sleeve. “Now, Calvin,” she begged, her
voice low and strained, “promise me——”
“Forget everything!” he repeated harshly.
His face was dark, forbidding, the lines deeply bitten about a
somber mouth, his eyes were like blue ice. He walked into Greenstream,
where he saw the proprietor of the small single hotel; then, back in
his room, he unwrapped from oiled leather a heavy blued revolver; and
soon after he saddled his horse and was clattering in a sharp trot in
the opposite direction from the village.
It was dark when, having returned, he dismounted and swung the
saddle from the horse to its tree. Familiar details kept him a long
while, his hands were steady but slow, automatic in movement. He went
in through the kitchen past Ettie to his room, and after a little he
re-wrapped the revolver and laid it back in its accustomed place.
Supper, in spite of Lucy's sharp comment, was set by the stove, and
Ettie was solicitous of his every possible need. He ate methodically
what was offered, and afterward filled and lit his pipe. It soon went
out. Once, on the porch, he leaned toward Lucy and awkwardly touched
Wilmer came. He was late, and Lucy said wearily, “I've got a
headache to-night. Do you mind if we stay out here in the cool?”
He didn't, and his confident familiar planning took the place of
Martin Eckles' more exciting narratives.
The next day, past noon, the proprietor of the Greenstream hotel
left an excited group of men to stop Calvin as he drove in from
He cried: “Eckles has been shot and killed. First they found the
horse and buggy by the road, and then Martin Eckles. He had fallen out.
One bullet did it.”
“That's too bad,” Calvin replied evenly. “Lawlessness ought to be
put down.” He had known Solon Entreken all his life. The level gaze of
two men encountered and held.
Then: “I'll never say anything against that,” the other pronounced.
“It's mighty strange who could have shot Eckles and got clear away.
That's what he did, in spite of hell and the sheriff.”
Turning, after inevitable exclamations, toward home, Calvin found
Lucy sitting moodily on the porch.
“I've got a right ugly piece of news,” he told her, masking the
painful interest with which he followed her expression. “Martin Eckles
was killed yesterday; shot out of the buggy.”
She grew pale, her breast rose in a sudden gasp and her hands were
“Oh!” she whispered, horrified.
But there was nothing in her manner beyond the natural detestation
of such brutality; nothing, he saw, hidden.
“He wanted me to go away with him,” she swept on; “and get married
in Stanwick. Martin wanted me to see the world. He said I ought to, and
not stay here all my life.”
The misery that settled over her, the hopelessness dulling her youth
filled him with a passionate resentment at the fate that made her what
she was and seemingly condemned her to eternal denial. His love for
her—Lucy, Hannah, Hannah, Lucy—was intolerably keen. He went to her,
bending with a riven hand on the arm of her chair.
“Do you want Wilmer?” he demanded. “Do you love him truly? Is he
“I don't know.” Slow tears wet her cheeks. “I can't say. I ought to;
he's good and faithful, and with some of me that's enough. But there's
another part; I can't explain it except to say it's a kind of
excitement for the life Mr. Eckles told us about, all those lights and
restaurants and theaters. Sometimes I think I'll die, I want it so
much; then it comes over me how ungrateful I am to you and Aunt Ettie,
and I hate myself for the way I treat Wilmer.” “Do you love him?” he
“Perhaps not like you mean.”
All that had been so long obscured in his mind and heart slowly
cleared to understanding—Lucy Braley, Richmond's wife; Phebe; Hannah;
and again Lucy, Lucy Vibard had this common hunger for life, for
brightness; they were as helpless in its grasp as he had been to hold
Hannah. Phebe's return, Martin Eckles—were only incidents in a great
inner need. In itself it wasn't wicked; circumstance had made it seem
wrong; Phebe's greenish hair, the mark of so much spoiled, Hannah's
unhappy death—were the result of aspirations; they fretted and
bruised, even killed themselves, like gay young animals, innocent
animals, in a dark lonely enclosure.
They were really finer than the satisfied women who faded to
ugliness in the solitary homes of the Greenstream mountains; not
better, for example, than Ettie—it might be that they weren't so good,
not so high in heaven; but they were finer in the manner of blooded
horses rebelling against the plow traces. They were more elegant,
slimmer, with a greater fire. That too was the secret of their
memorable power over him; he wanted a companion different from a
kitchen drudge; when he returned home at evening, he wanted a wife cool
and sweet in crisp white with a yellow ribbon about her waist, and
store slippers. He loved Lucy's superiority—it was above ordinary
things. “Like a star,” Calvin Stammark told himself.
He, with everything else that had combated their desire, depriving
them of the very necessities for his adoration, had been to blame.
“Lucy,” he said, bending over her and speaking rapidly, “let's you
and me go and learn all this life together. Let's run away from
Greenstream and Wilmer Deakon and even Ettie, what we ought to hold by,
and see every theater in the country. I've got enough money——”
The radiance of the gesture by which she interrupted his speech
filled him with pounding joy.
“Oh, shall we!” she cried; and then hugged him wildly, her warm
young arms about his neck.
“Of course we will,” he reassured her; “and right away, to-morrow.
You and me.”
He felt her lips against his, and then more cautiously she took up
the immediate planning of their purpose. It would be ridiculously easy;
they would drive to Stanwick in the buggy.
“The hotels and all,” she continued with shining eyes; “and nobody
will think it's queer. I'll be your daughter, like always.”
Calvin turned abruptly from her and faced the valley saturated with
slumberous sunlight. Lucy hesitated for a moment and then fled lightly
into the house. After a little he heard her singing on the upper floor.
People wouldn't think it was queer because she would be his daughter,
Yet he wasn't old beyond hope, past love—as strong and nearly as
springy as a hickory sapling. He had waited half his life for this.
Calvin slowly smiled in bitterness and self-contempt; a pretty figure
for a young girl to admire, he thought, losing the sense of mere
physical fitness. Anyhow Lucy was supremely happy and safe, and he had
accomplished it. He was glad that he had been so industrious and
successful. Lucy could have almost anything she wanted—pretty clothes
and rings with real jewels, necklaces hung with better than Scotch
Perhaps when she had seen the world—its bigness and noise and
confusion—after her longing was answered, she would turn back to him.
Already he was oppressed by a feeling of strangeness, of loss at
leaving the high valleys of home.