The next afternoon Carl and Alexandra
were walking across the fields from Mrs.
Hiller's. Alexandra had left Lincoln after mid-
night, and Carl had met her at the Hanover
station early in the morning. After they
reached home, Alexandra had gone over to
Mrs. Hiller's to leave a little present she had
bought for her in the city. They stayed at the
old lady's door but a moment, and then came
out to spend the rest of the afternoon in the
Alexandra had taken off her black traveling-
suit and put on a white dress; partly because
she saw that her black clothes made Carl un-
comfortable and partly because she felt op-
pressed by them herself. They seemed a little
like the prison where she had worn them yester-
day, and to be out of place in the open fields.
Carl had changed very little. His cheeks were
browner and fuller. He looked less like a tired
scholar than when he went away a year ago,
but no one, even now, would have taken him
for a man of business. His soft, lustrous black
eyes, his whimsical smile, would be less against
him in the Klondike than on the Divide. There
are always dreamers on the frontier.
Carl and Alexandra had been talking since
morning. Her letter had never reached him.
He had first learned of her misfortune from a
San Francisco paper, four weeks old, which he
had picked up in a saloon, and which con-
tained a brief account of Frank Shabata's trial.
When he put down the paper, he had already
made up his mind that he could reach Alexandra
as quickly as a letter could; and ever since he
had been on the way; day and night, by the
fastest boats and trains he could catch. His
steamer had been held back two days by rough
As they came out of Mrs. Hiller's garden
they took up their talk again where they had
"But could you come away like that, Carl,
without arranging things? Could you just walk
off and leave your business?" Alexandra asked.
Carl laughed. "Prudent Alexandra! You see,
my dear, I happen to have an honest partner.
I trust him with everything. In fact, it's been
his enterprise from the beginning, you know.
I'm in it only because he took me in. I'll
have to go back in the spring. Perhaps you
will want to go with me then. We haven't
turned up millions yet, but we've got a start
that's worth following. But this winter I'd like
to spend with you. You won't feel that we
ought to wait longer, on Emil's account, will
Alexandra shook her head. "No, Carl; I
don't feel that way about it. And surely you
needn't mind anything Lou and Oscar say
now. They are much angrier with me about
Emil, now, than about you. They say it was all
my fault. That I ruined him by sending him to
"No, I don't care a button for Lou or
Oscar. The moment I knew you were in trou-
ble, the moment I thought you might need
me, it all looked different. You've always
been a triumphant kind of person." Carl
hesitated, looking sidewise at her strong, full
figure. "But you do need me now, Alex-
She put her hand on his arm. "I needed you
terribly when it happened, Carl. I cried for you
at night. Then everything seemed to get hard
inside of me, and I thought perhaps I should
never care for you again. But when I got your
telegram yesterday, then--then it was just as
it used to be. You are all I have in the world,
Carl pressed her hand in silence. They were
passing the Shabatas' empty house now, but
they avoided the orchard path and took one
that led over by the pasture pond.
"Can you understand it, Carl?" Alexandra
murmured. "I have had nobody but Ivar and
Signa to talk to. Do talk to me. Can you un-
derstand it? Could you have believed that
of Marie Tovesky? I would have been cut
to pieces, little by little, before I would have
betrayed her trust in me!"
Carl looked at the shining spot of water
before them. "Maybe she was cut to pieces,
too, Alexandra. I am sure she tried hard; they
both did. That was why Emil went to Mexico,
of course. And he was going away again, you
tell me, though he had only been home three
weeks. You remember that Sunday when I
went with Emil up to the French Church fair?
I thought that day there was some kind of feel-
ing, something unusual, between them. I
meant to talk to you about it. But on my way
back I met Lou and Oscar and got so angry
that I forgot everything else. You mustn't
be hard on them, Alexandra. Sit down here
by the pond a minute. I want to tell you
They sat down on the grass-tufted bank and
Carl told her how he had seen Emil and
Marie out by the pond that morning, more than
a year ago, and how young and charming and
full of grace they had seemed to him. "It hap-
pens like that in the world sometimes, Alexan-
dra," he added earnestly. "I've seen it before.
There are women who spread ruin around
them through no fault of theirs, just by being
too beautiful, too full of life and love. They
can't help it. People come to them as people go
to a warm fire in winter. I used to feel that in
her when she was a little girl. Do you remem-
ber how all the Bohemians crowded round her
in the store that day, when she gave Emil her
candy? You remember those yellow sparks in
Alexandra sighed. "Yes. People couldn't
help loving her. Poor Frank does, even now, I
think; though he's got himself in such a tangle
that for a long time his love has been bitterer
than his hate. But if you saw there was any-
thing wrong, you ought to have told me, Carl."
Carl took her hand and smiled patiently.
"My dear, it was something one felt in the air,
as you feel the spring coming, or a storm in
summer. I didn't SEE anything. Simply, when
I was with those two young things, I felt my
blood go quicker, I felt--how shall I say it?--
an acceleration of life. After I got away, it
was all too delicate, too intangible, to write
Alexandra looked at him mournfully. "I
try to be more liberal about such things than
I used to be. I try to realize that we are not
all made alike. Only, why couldn't it have
been Raoul Marcel, or Jan Smirka? Why did it
have to be my boy?"
"Because he was the best there was, I sup-
pose. They were both the best you had here."
The sun was dropping low in the west when
the two friends rose and took the path again.
The straw-stacks were throwing long shadows,
the owls were flying home to the prairie-dog
town. When they came to the corner where the
pastures joined, Alexandra's twelve young colts
were galloping in a drove over the brow of the
"Carl," said Alexandra, "I should like to go
up there with you in the spring. I haven't
been on the water since we crossed the ocean,
when I was a little girl. After we first came out
here I used to dream sometimes about the ship-
yard where father worked, and a little sort of
inlet, full of masts." Alexandra paused. After
a moment's thought she said, "But you would
never ask me to go away for good, would you?"
"Of course not, my dearest. I think I know
how you feel about this country as well as you
do yourself." Carl took her hand in both his
own and pressed it tenderly.
"Yes, I still feel that way, though Emil is
gone. When I was on the train this morning,
and we got near Hanover, I felt something like
I did when I drove back with Emil from the
river that time, in the dry year. I was glad to
come back to it. I've lived here a long time.
There is great peace here, Carl, and freedom.
. . . I thought when I came out of that prison,
where poor Frank is, that I should never feel
free again. But I do, here." Alexandra took a
deep breath and looked off into the red west.
"You belong to the land," Carl murmured,
"as you have always said. Now more than
"Yes, now more than ever. You remember
what you once said about the graveyard, and
the old story writing itself over? Only it is we
who write it, with the best we have."
They paused on the last ridge of the pasture,
overlooking the house and the windmill and the
stables that marked the site of John Bergson's
homestead. On every side the brown waves of
the earth rolled away to meet the sky.
"Lou and Oscar can't see those things," said
Alexandra suddenly. "Suppose I do will my
land to their children, what difference will that
make? The land belongs to the future, Carl;
that's the way it seems to me. How many of the
names on the county clerk's plat will be there
in fifty years? I might as well try to will the
sunset over there to my brother's children. We
come and go, but the land is always here. And
the people who love it and understand it are
the people who own it--for a little while."
Carl looked at her wonderingly. She was
still gazing into the west, and in her face there
was that exalted serenity that sometimes came
to her at moments of deep feeling. The level
rays of the sinking sun shone in her clear eyes.
"Why are you thinking of such things now,
"I had a dream before I went to Lincoln--
But I will tell you about that afterward, after
we are married. It will never come true, now,
in the way I thought it might." She took Carl's
arm and they walked toward the gate. "How
many times we have walked this path together,
Carl. How many times we will walk it again!
Does it seem to you like coming back to your
own place? Do you feel at peace with the world
here? I think we shall be very happy. I haven't
any fears. I think when friends marry, they are
safe. We don't suffer like--those young ones."
Alexandra ended with a sigh.
They had reached the gate. Before Carl
opened it, he drew Alexandra to him and kissed
her softly, on her lips and on her eyes.
She leaned heavily on his shoulder. "I am
tired," she murmured. "I have been very
They went into the house together, leaving the Divide behind them, under the evening star. Fortunate country, that is one day to receive hearts like Alexandra's into its bosom, to give them out again in the yellow wheat, in the rustling corn, in the shining eyes of youth!