Ivar was sitting at a cobbler's bench in the
barn, mending harness by the light of a lantern
and repeating to himself the 101st Psalm. It
was only five o'clock of a mid-October day, but
a storm had come up in the afternoon, bring-
ing black clouds, a cold wind and torrents of
rain. The old man wore his buffalo-skin coat,
and occasionally stopped to warm his fingers at
the lantern. Suddenly a woman burst into the
shed, as if she had been blown in, accompanied
by a shower of rain-drops. It was Signa,
wrapped in a man's overcoat and wearing a
pair of boots over her shoes. In time of trouble
Signa had come back to stay with her mistress,
for she was the only one of the maids from
whom Alexandra would accept much personal
service. It was three months now since the
news of the terrible thing that had happened
in Frank Shabata's orchard had first run like
a fire over the Divide. Signa and Nelse were
staying on with Alexandra until winter.
"Ivar," Signa exclaimed as she wiped the
rain from her face, "do you know where she
The old man put down his cobbler's knife.
"Who, the mistress?"
"Yes. She went away about three o'clock. I
happened to look out of the window and saw
her going across the fields in her thin dress and
sun-hat. And now this storm has come on. I
thought she was going to Mrs. Hiller's, and I
telephoned as soon as the thunder stopped, but
she had not been there. I'm afraid she is out
somewhere and will get her death of cold."
Ivar put on his cap and took up the lantern.
"JA, JA, we will see. I will hitch the boy's mare
to the cart and go."
Signa followed him across the wagon-shed to
the horses' stable. She was shivering with cold
and excitement. "Where do you suppose she
can be, Ivar?"
The old man lifted a set of single harness
carefully from its peg. "How should I know?"
"But you think she is at the graveyard,
don't you?" Signa persisted. "So do I. Oh, I
wish she would be more like herself! I can't
believe it's Alexandra Bergson come to this,
with no head about anything. I have to tell her
when to eat and when to go to bed."
"Patience, patience, sister," muttered Ivar
as he settled the bit in the horse's mouth.
"When the eyes of the flesh are shut, the eyes
of the spirit are open. She will have a message
from those who are gone, and that will bring her
peace. Until then we must bear with her. You
and I are the only ones who have weight with
her. She trusts us."
"How awful it's been these last three
months." Signa held the lantern so that he
could see to buckle the straps. "It don't seem
right that we must all be so miserable. Why do
we all have to be punished? Seems to me like
good times would never come again."
Ivar expressed himself in a deep sigh, but
said nothing. He stooped and took a sandburr
from his toe.
"Ivar," Signa asked suddenly, "will you tell
me why you go barefoot? All the time I lived
here in the house I wanted to ask you. Is it for
a penance, or what?"
"No, sister. It is for the indulgence of the
body. From my youth up I have had a strong,
rebellious body, and have been subject to every
kind of temptation. Even in age my tempta-
tions are prolonged. It was necessary to make
some allowances; and the feet, as I understand
it, are free members. There is no divine pro-
hibition for them in the Ten Commandments.
The hands, the tongue, the eyes, the heart, all
the bodily desires we are commanded to sub-
due; but the feet are free members. I indulge
them without harm to any one, even to tramp-
ling in filth when my desires are low. They are
quickly cleaned again."
Signa did not laugh. She looked thoughtful
as she followed Ivar out to the wagon-shed and
held the shafts up for him, while he backed in
the mare and buckled the hold-backs. "You
have been a good friend to the mistress, Ivar,"
"And you, God be with you," replied Ivar as
he clambered into the cart and put the lan-
tern under the oilcloth lap-cover. "Now for a
ducking, my girl," he said to the mare, gather-
ing up the reins.
As they emerged from the shed, a stream of
water, running off the thatch, struck the mare
on the neck. She tossed her head indignantly,
then struck out bravely on the soft ground,
slipping back again and again as she climbed
the hill to the main road. Between the rain and
the darkness Ivar could see very little, so he let
Emil's mare have the rein, keeping her head in
the right direction. When the ground was level,
he turned her out of the dirt road upon the sod,
where she was able to trot without slipping.
Before Ivar reached the graveyard, three
miles from the house, the storm had spent
itself, and the downpour had died into a soft,
dripping rain. The sky and the land were a
dark smoke color, and seemed to be coming
together, like two waves. When Ivar stopped
at the gate and swung out his lantern, a white
figure rose from beside John Bergson's white
The old man sprang to the ground and shuf-
fled toward the gate calling, "Mistress, mis-
Alexandra hurried to meet him and put her
hand on his shoulder. "TYST! Ivar. There's
nothing to be worried about. I'm sorry if I've
scared you all. I didn't notice the storm till it
was on me, and I couldn't walk against it. I'm
glad you've come. I am so tired I didn't know
how I'd ever get home."
Ivar swung the lantern up so that it shone in
her face. "GUD! You are enough to frighten
us, mistress. You look like a drowned woman.
How could you do such a thing!"
Groaning and mumbling he led her out of the
gate and helped her into the cart, wrapping her
in the dry blankets on which he had been sitting.
Alexandra smiled at his solicitude. "Not
much use in that, Ivar. You will only shut the
wet in. I don't feel so cold now; but I'm heavy
and numb. I'm glad you came."
Ivar turned the mare and urged her into a
sliding trot. Her feet sent back a continual
spatter of mud.
Alexandra spoke to the old man as they
jogged along through the sullen gray twilight of
the storm. "Ivar, I think it has done me good
to get cold clear through like this, once. I don't
believe I shall suffer so much any more. When
you get so near the dead, they seem more real
than the living. Worldly thoughts leave one.
Ever since Emil died, I've suffered so when it
rained. Now that I've been out in it with him,
I shan't dread it. After you once get cold clear
through, the feeling of the rain on you is sweet.
It seems to bring back feelings you had when
you were a baby. It carries you back into the
dark, before you were born; you can't see things,
but they come to you, somehow, and you know
them and aren't afraid of them. Maybe it's like
that with the dead. If they feel anything at all,
it's the old things, before they were born, that
comfort people like the feeling of their own
bed does when they are little."
"Mistress," said Ivar reproachfully, "those
are bad thoughts. The dead are in Paradise."
Then he hung his head, for he did not believe
that Emil was in Paradise.
When they got home, Signa had a fire burn-
ing in the sitting-room stove. She undressed
Alexandra and gave her a hot footbath, while
Ivar made ginger tea in the kitchen. When
Alexandra was in bed, wrapped in hot blankets,
Ivar came in with his tea and saw that she
drank it. Signa asked permission to sleep on
the slat lounge outside her door. Alexandra
endured their attentions patiently, but she was
glad when they put out the lamp and left her.
As she lay alone in the dark, it occurred to her
for the first time that perhaps she was actually
tired of life. All the physical operations of life
seemed difficult and painful. She longed to be
free from her own body, which ached and was
so heavy. And longing itself was heavy: she
yearned to be free of that.
As she lay with her eyes closed, she had again,
more vividly than for many years, the old illu-
sion of her girlhood, of being lifted and carried
lightly by some one very strong. He was with
her a long while this time, and carried her very
far, and in his arms she felt free from pain.
When he laid her down on her bed again, she
opened her eyes, and, for the first time in her
life, she saw him, saw him clearly, though the
room was dark, and his face was covered. He
was standing in the doorway of her room. His
white cloak was thrown over his face, and his
head was bent a little forward. His shoulders
seemed as strong as the foundations of the
world. His right arm, bared from the elbow,
was dark and gleaming, like bronze, and she
knew at once that it was the arm of the mighti-
est of all lovers. She knew at last for whom it
was she had waited, and where he would carry
her. That, she told herself, was very well.
Then she went to sleep.
Alexandra wakened in the morning with
nothing worse than a hard cold and a stiff
shoulder. She kept her bed for several days,
and it was during that time that she formed a
resolution to go to Lincoln to see Frank Sha-
bata. Ever since she last saw him in the court-
room, Frank's haggard face and wild eyes
had haunted her. The trial had lasted only
three days. Frank had given himself up to the
police in Omaha and pleaded guilty of kill-
ing without malice and without premeditation.
The gun was, of course, against him, and the
judge had given him the full sentence,--ten
years. He had now been in the State Peni-
tentiary for a month.
Frank was the only one, Alexandra told her-
self, for whom anything could be done. He had
been less in the wrong than any of them, and he
was paying the heaviest penalty. She often felt
that she herself had been more to blame than
poor Frank. From the time the Shabatas had
first moved to the neighboring farm, she had
omitted no opportunity of throwing Marie and
Emil together. Because she knew Frank was
surly about doing little things to help his wife,
she was always sending Emil over to spade or
plant or carpenter for Marie. She was glad to
have Emil see as much as possible of an intelli-
gent, city-bred girl like their neighbor; she no-
ticed that it improved his manners. She knew
that Emil was fond of Marie, but it had never
occurred to her that Emil's feeling might be dif-
ferent from her own. She wondered at herself
now, but she had never thought of danger in
that direction. If Marie had been unmarried,
--oh, yes! Then she would have kept her eyes
open. But the mere fact that she was Sha-
bata's wife, for Alexandra, settled everything.
That she was beautiful, impulsive, barely two
years older than Emil, these facts had had no
weight with Alexandra. Emil was a good boy,
and only bad boys ran after married women.
Now, Alexandra could in a measure realize
that Marie was, after all, Marie; not merely
a "married woman." Sometimes, when Alex-
andra thought of her, it was with an aching
tenderness. The moment she had reached them
in the orchard that morning, everything was
clear to her. There was something about those
two lying in the grass, something in the way
Marie had settled her cheek on Emil's shoulder,
that told her everything. She wondered then
how they could have helped loving each other;
how she could have helped knowing that they
must. Emil's cold, frowning face, the girl's
content--Alexandra had felt awe of them,
even in the first shock of her grief.
The idleness of those days in bed, the relax-
ation of body which attended them, enabled
Alexandra to think more calmly than she had
done since Emil's death. She and Frank, she
told herself, were left out of that group of
friends who had been overwhelmed by disaster.
She must certainly see Frank Shabata. Even
in the courtroom her heart had grieved for him.
He was in a strange country, he had no kins-
men or friends, and in a moment he had ruined
his life. Being what he was, she felt, Frank
could not have acted otherwise. She could
understand his behavior more easily than she
could understand Marie's. Yes, she must go to
Lincoln to see Frank Shabata.
The day after Emil's funeral, Alexandra had written to Carl Linstrum; a single page of note- paper, a bare statement of what had happened. She was not a woman who could write much about such a thing, and about her own feelings she could never write very freely. She knew that Carl was away from post-offices, prospect- ing somewhere in the interior. Before he started he had written her where he expected to go, but her ideas about Alaska were vague. As the weeks went by and she heard nothing from him, it seemed to Alexandra that her heart grew hard against Carl. She began to wonder whether she would not do better to finish her life alone. What was left of life seemed unimportant.