Signa's wedding supper was over. The
guests, and the tiresome little Norwegian
preacher who had performed the marriage cere-
mony, were saying good-night. Old Ivar was
hitching the horses to the wagon to take the
wedding presents and the bride and groom up to
their new home, on Alexandra's north quarter.
When Ivar drove up to the gate, Emil and
Marie Shabata began to carry out the presents,
and Alexandra went into her bedroom to bid
Signa good-bye and to give her a few words of
good counsel. She was surprised to find that
the bride had changed her slippers for heavy
shoes and was pinning up her skirts. At that
moment Nelse appeared at the gate with the
two milk cows that Alexandra had given Signa
for a wedding present.
Alexandra began to laugh. "Why, Signa,
you and Nelse are to ride home. I'll send Ivar
over with the cows in the morning."
Signa hesitated and looked perplexed. When
her husband called her, she pinned her hat on
resolutely. "I ta-ank I better do yust like he
say," she murmured in confusion.
Alexandra and Marie accompanied Signa to
the gate and saw the party set off, old Ivar
driving ahead in the wagon and the bride and
groom following on foot, each leading a cow.
Emil burst into a laugh before they were out of
"Those two will get on," said Alexandra as
they turned back to the house. "They are not
going to take any chances. They will feel safer
with those cows in their own stable. Marie, I
am going to send for an old woman next. As
soon as I get the girls broken in, I marry them
"I've no patience with Signa, marrying that
grumpy fellow!" Marie declared. "I wanted
her to marry that nice Smirka boy who worked
for us last winter. I think she liked him, too."
"Yes, I think she did," Alexandra assented,
"but I suppose she was too much afraid of
Nelse to marry any one else. Now that I think
of it, most of my girls have married men they
were afraid of. I believe there is a good deal of
the cow in most Swedish girls. You high-strung
Bohemian can't understand us. We're a ter-
ribly practical people, and I guess we think a
cross man makes a good manager."
Marie shrugged her shoulders and turned to
pin up a lock of hair that had fallen on her neck.
Somehow Alexandra had irritated her of late.
Everybody irritated her. She was tired of
everybody. "I'm going home alone, Emil, so you
needn't get your hat," she said as she wound
her scarf quickly about her head. "Good-night,
Alexandra," she called back in a strained voice,
running down the gravel walk.
Emil followed with long strides until he over-
took her. Then she began to walk slowly. It
was a night of warm wind and faint starlight,
and the fireflies were glimmering over the wheat.
"Marie," said Emil after they had walked
for a while, "I wonder if you know how un-
happy I am?"
Marie did not answer him. Her head, in its
white scarf, drooped forward a little.
Emil kicked a clod from the path and went
"I wonder whether you are really shallow-
hearted, like you seem? Sometimes I think one
boy does just as well as another for you. It never
seems to make much difference whether it is me
or Raoul Marcel or Jan Smirka. Are you really
"Perhaps I am. What do you want me to
do? Sit round and cry all day? When I've
cried until I can't cry any more, then--then I
must do something else."
"Are you sorry for me?" he persisted.
"No, I'm not. If I were big and free like you,
I wouldn't let anything make me unhappy. As
old Napoleon Brunot said at the fair, I wouldn't
go lovering after no woman. I'd take the first
train and go off and have all the fun there is."
"I tried that, but it didn't do any good.
Everything reminded me. The nicer the place
was, the more I wanted you." They had come
to the stile and Emil pointed to it persuasively.
"Sit down a moment, I want to ask you some-
thing." Marie sat down on the top step and
Emil drew nearer. "Would you tell me some-
thing that's none of my business if you thought
it would help me out? Well, then, tell me, PLEASE
tell me, why you ran away with Frank Sha-
Marie drew back. "Because I was in love
with him," she said firmly.
"Really?" he asked incredulously.
"Yes, indeed. Very much in love with him.
I think I was the one who suggested our run-
ning away. From the first it was more my fault
Emil turned away his face.
"And now," Marie went on, "I've got to
remember that. Frank is just the same now as
he was then, only then I would see him as I
wanted him to be. I would have my own way.
And now I pay for it."
"You don't do all the paying."
"That's it. When one makes a mistake,
there's no telling where it will stop. But you
can go away; you can leave all this behind
"Not everything. I can't leave you behind.
Will you go away with me, Marie?"
Marie started up and stepped across the
stile. "Emil! How wickedly you talk! I am
not that kind of a girl, and you know it. But
what am I going to do if you keep tormenting
me like this!" she added plaintively.
"Marie, I won't bother you any more if you
will tell me just one thing. Stop a minute and
look at me. No, nobody can see us. Every-
body's asleep. That was only a firefly. Marie,
STOP and tell me!"
Emil overtook her and catching her by the
shoulders shook her gently, as if he were trying
to awaken a sleepwalker.
Marie hid her face on his arm. "Don't ask
me anything more. I don't know anything
except how miserable I am. And I thought it
would be all right when you came back. Oh,
Emil," she clutched his sleeve and began to
cry, "what am I to do if you don't go away? I
can't go, and one of us must. Can't you see?"
Emil stood looking down at her, holding his
shoulders stiff and stiffening the arm to which
she clung. Her white dress looked gray in the
darkness. She seemed like a troubled spirit,
like some shadow out of the earth, clinging to
him and entreating him to give her peace. Be-
hind her the fireflies were weaving in and out
over the wheat. He put his hand on her bent
head. "On my honor, Marie, if you will say
you love me, I will go away."
She lifted her face to his. "How could I help
it? Didn't you know?"
Emil was the one who trembled, through all his frame. After he left Marie at her gate, he wandered about the fields all night, till morning put out the fireflies and the stars.