Late in the afternoon of a brilliant October
day, Alexandra Bergson, dressed in a black suit
and traveling-hat, alighted at the Burlington
depot in Lincoln. She drove to the Lindell
Hotel, where she had stayed two years ago
when she came up for Emil's Commencement.
In spite of her usual air of sureness and self-
possession, Alexandra felt ill at ease in hotels,
and she was glad, when she went to the clerk's
desk to register, that there were not many
people in the lobby. She had her supper early,
wearing her hat and black jacket down to the
dining-room and carrying her handbag. After
supper she went out for a walk.
It was growing dark when she reached
the university campus. She did not go into the
grounds, but walked slowly up and down the
stone walk outside the long iron fence, looking
through at the young men who were running
from one building to another, at the lights shin-
ing from the armory and the library. A squad
of cadets were going through their drill behind
the armory, and the commands of their young
officer rang out at regular intervals, so sharp
and quick that Alexandra could not understand
them. Two stalwart girls came down the library
steps and out through one of the iron gates. As
they passed her, Alexandra was pleased to hear
them speaking Bohemian to each other. Every
few moments a boy would come running down
the flagged walk and dash out into the street as
if he were rushing to announce some wonder to
the world. Alexandra felt a great tenderness for
them all. She wished one of them would stop
and speak to her. She wished she could ask
them whether they had known Emil.
As she lingered by the south gate she actually
did encounter one of the boys. He had on his
drill cap and was swinging his books at the
end of a long strap. It was dark by this time;
he did not see her and ran against her. He
snatched off his cap and stood bareheaded and
panting. "I'm awfully sorry," he said in a
bright, clear voice, with a rising inflection, as if
he expected her to say something.
"Oh, it was my fault!" said Alexandra eagerly.
"Are you an old student here, may I ask?"
"No, ma'am. I'm a Freshie, just off the
farm. Cherry County. Were you hunting
"No, thank you. That is--" Alexandra
wanted to detain him. "That is, I would like to
find some of my brother's friends. He gradu-
ated two years ago."
"Then you'd have to try the Seniors,
wouldn't you? Let's see; I don't know any of
them yet, but there'll be sure to be some of
them around the library. That red building,
right there," he pointed.
"Thank you, I'll try there," said Alexandra
"Oh, that's all right! Good-night." The lad
clapped his cap on his head and ran straight
down Eleventh Street. Alexandra looked after
She walked back to her hotel unreasonably
comforted. "What a nice voice that boy had,
and how polite he was. I know Emil was always
like that to women." And again, after she had
undressed and was standing in her nightgown,
brushing her long, heavy hair by the electric
light, she remembered him and said to herself,
"I don't think I ever heard a nicer voice than
that boy had. I hope he will get on well here.
Cherry County; that's where the hay is so fine,
and the coyotes can scratch down to water."
At nine o'clock the next morning Alexandra
presented herself at the warden's office in the
State Penitentiary. The warden was a Ger-
man, a ruddy, cheerful-looking man who had
formerly been a harness-maker. Alexandra had
a letter to him from the German banker in
Hanover. As he glanced at the letter, Mr.
Schwartz put away his pipe.
"That big Bohemian, is it? Sure, he's
gettin' along fine," said Mr. Schwartz cheer-
"I am glad to hear that. I was afraid he
might be quarrelsome and get himself into more
trouble. Mr. Schwartz, if you have time, I
would like to tell you a little about Frank
Shabata, and why I am interested in him."
The warden listened genially while she told
him briefly something of Frank's history and
character, but he did not seem to find anything
unusual in her account.
"Sure, I'll keep an eye on him. We'll take
care of him all right," he said, rising. "You can
talk to him here, while I go to see to things in
the kitchen. I'll have him sent in. He ought
to be done washing out his cell by this time. We
have to keep 'em clean, you know."
The warden paused at the door, speaking
back over his shoulder to a pale young man in
convicts' clothes who was seated at a desk in
the corner, writing in a big ledger.
"Bertie, when 1037 is brought in, you just
step out and give this lady a chance to talk."
The young man bowed his head and bent
over his ledger again.
When Mr. Schwartz disappeared, Alexandra
thrust her black-edged handkerchief nervously
into her handbag. Coming out on the street-
car she had not had the least dread of meeting
Frank. But since she had been here the sounds
and smells in the corridor, the look of the men
in convicts' clothes who passed the glass door of
the warden's office, affected her unpleasantly.
The warden's clock ticked, the young con-
vict's pen scratched busily in the big book, and
his sharp shoulders were shaken every few
seconds by a loose cough which he tried to
smother. It was easy to see that he was a sick
man. Alexandra looked at him timidly, but he
did not once raise his eyes. He wore a white
shirt under his striped jacket, a high collar, and
a necktie, very carefully tied. His hands were
thin and white and well cared for, and he had a
seal ring on his little finger. When he heard
steps approaching in the corridor, he rose,
blotted his book, put his pen in the rack, and
left the room without raising his eyes. Through
the door he opened a guard came in, bringing
"You the lady that wanted to talk to 1037?
Here he is. Be on your good behavior, now. He
can set down, lady," seeing that Alexandra
remained standing. "Push that white button
when you're through with him, and I'll come."
The guard went out and Alexandra and
Frank were left alone.
Alexandra tried not to see his hideous
clothes. She tried to look straight into his face,
which she could scarcely believe was his. It
was already bleached to a chalky gray. His lips
were colorless, his fine teeth looked yellowish.
He glanced at Alexandra sullenly, blinked as if
he had come from a dark place, and one eye-
brow twitched continually. She felt at once
that this interview was a terrible ordeal to him.
His shaved head, showing the conformation of
his skull, gave him a criminal look which he had
not had during the trial.
Alexandra held out her hand. "Frank," she
said, her eyes filling suddenly, "I hope you'll
let me be friendly with you. I understand how
you did it. I don't feel hard toward you. They
were more to blame than you."
Frank jerked a dirty blue handkerchief from
his trousers pocket. He had begun to cry. He
turned away from Alexandra. "I never did
mean to do not'ing to dat woman," he mut-
tered. "I never mean to do not'ing to dat boy.
I ain't had not'ing ag'in' dat boy. I always like
dat boy fine. An' then I find him--" He
stopped. The feeling went out of his face and
eyes. He dropped into a chair and sat looking
stolidly at the floor, his hands hanging loosely
between his knees, the handkerchief lying
across his striped leg. He seemed to have
stirred up in his mind a disgust that had para-
lyzed his faculties.
"I haven't come up here to blame you,
Frank. I think they were more to blame than
you." Alexandra, too, felt benumbed.
Frank looked up suddenly and stared out of
the office window. "I guess dat place all go to
hell what I work so hard on," he said with a
slow, bitter smile. "I not care a damn." He
stopped and rubbed the palm of his hand over
the light bristles on his head with annoyance.
"I no can t'ink without my hair," he com-
plained. "I forget English. We not talk here,
Alexandra was bewildered. Frank seemed to
have undergone a change of personality. There
was scarcely anything by which she could
recognize her handsome Bohemian neighbor.
He seemed, somehow, not altogether human.
She did not know what to say to him.
"You do not feel hard to me, Frank?" she
asked at last.
Frank clenched his fist and broke out in
excitement. "I not feel hard at no woman. I
tell you I not that kind-a man. I never hit my
wife. No, never I hurt her when she devil me
something awful!" He struck his fist down on
the warden's desk so hard that he afterward
stroked it absently. A pale pink crept over
his neck and face. "Two, t'ree years I know
dat woman don' care no more 'bout me, Alex-
andra Bergson. I know she after some other
man. I know her, oo-oo! An' I ain't never hurt
her. I never would-a done dat, if I ain't had
dat gun along. I don' know what in hell make
me take dat gun. She always say I ain't no
man to carry gun. If she been in dat house,
where she ought-a been-- But das a foolish
Frank rubbed his head and stopped suddenly,
as he had stopped before. Alexandra felt that
there was something strange in the way he
chilled off, as if something came up in him that
extinguished his power of feeling or thinking.
"Yes, Frank," she said kindly. "I know you
never meant to hurt Marie."
Frank smiled at her queerly. His eyes filled
slowly with tears. "You know, I most forgit
dat woman's name. She ain't got no name for
me no more. I never hate my wife, but dat
woman what make me do dat-- Honest to
God, but I hate her! I no man to fight. I don'
want to kill no boy and no woman. I not care
how many men she take under dat tree. I no
care for not'ing but dat fine boy I kill, Alexan-
dra Bergson. I guess I go crazy sure 'nough."
Alexandra remembered the little yellow cane
she had found in Frank's clothes-closet. She
thought of how he had come to this country a
gay young fellow, so attractive that the pretti-
est Bohemian girl in Omaha had run away with
him. It seemed unreasonable that life should
have landed him in such a place as this. She
blamed Marie bitterly. And why, with her
happy, affectionate nature, should she have
brought destruction and sorrow to all who had
loved her, even to poor old Joe Tovesky, the
uncle who used to carry her about so proudly
when she was a little girl? That was the
strangest thing of all. Was there, then, some-
thing wrong in being warm-hearted and impul-
sive like that? Alexandra hated to think so.
But there was Emil, in the Norwegian grave-
yard at home, and here was Frank Shabata.
Alexandra rose and took him by the hand.
"Frank Shabata, I am never going to stop
trying until I get you pardoned. I'll never
give the Governor any peace. I know I can get
you out of this place."
Frank looked at her distrustfully, but he
gathered confidence from her face. "Alexan-
dra," he said earnestly, "if I git out-a here, I
not trouble dis country no more. I go back
where I come from; see my mother."
Alexandra tried to withdraw her hand, but
Frank held on to it nervously. He put out his
finger and absently touched a button on her
black jacket. "Alexandra," he said in a low
tone, looking steadily at the button, "you ain'
t'ink I use dat girl awful bad before--"
"No, Frank. We won't talk about that,"
Alexandra said, pressing his hand. "I can't
help Emil now, so I'm going to do what I can
for you. You know I don't go away from
home often, and I came up here on purpose to
tell you this."
The warden at the glass door looked in in-
quiringly. Alexandra nodded, and he came in
and touched the white button on his desk. The
guard appeared, and with a sinking heart
Alexandra saw Frank led away down the cor-
ridor. After a few words with Mr. Schwartz,
she left the prison and made her way to the
street-car. She had refused with horror the
warden's cordial invitation to "go through
the institution." As the car lurched over its un-
even roadbed, back toward Lincoln, Alexandra
thought of how she and Frank had been
wrecked by the same storm and of how, al-
though she could come out into the sunlight,
she had not much more left in her life than he.
She remembered some lines from a poem she
had liked in her schooldays:--
Henceforth the world will only be
A wider prison-house to me,--
and sighed. A disgust of life weighed upon her
heart; some such feeling as had twice frozen
Frank Shabata's features while they talked
together. She wished she were back on the
When Alexandra entered her hotel, the clerk
held up one finger and beckoned to her. As she
approached his desk, he handed her a telegram.
Alexandra took the yellow envelope and looked
at it in perplexity, then stepped into the ele-
vator without opening it. As she walked down
the corridor toward her room, she reflected that
she was, in a manner, immune from evil tid-
ings. On reaching her room she locked the door,
and sitting down on a chair by the dresser,
opened the telegram. It was from Hanover,
and it read:--
Arrived Hanover last night. Shall wait here until you come. Please hurry. CARL LINSTRUM
Alexandra put her head down on the dresser and burst into tears.