Alexandra was to hear more of Ivar's case,
however. On Sunday her married brothers
came to dinner. She had asked them for that
day because Emil, who hated family parties,
would be absent, dancing at Amedee Chevalier's
wedding, up in the French country. The table
was set for company in the dining-room, where
highly varnished wood and colored glass and
useless pieces of china were conspicuous enough
to satisfy the standards of the new prosperity.
Alexandra had put herself into the hands of the
Hanover furniture dealer, and he had conscien-
tiously done his best to make her dining-room
look like his display window. She said frankly
that she knew nothing about such things, and
she was willing to be governed by the general
conviction that the more useless and utterly
unusable objects were, the greater their virtue
as ornament. That seemed reasonable enough.
Since she liked plain things herself, it was all
the more necessary to have jars and punch-
bowls and candlesticks in the company rooms
for people who did appreciate them. Her
guests liked to see about them these reassuring
emblems of prosperity.
The family party was complete except for
Emil, and Oscar's wife who, in the country
phrase, "was not going anywhere just now."
Oscar sat at the foot of the table and his four
tow-headed little boys, aged from twelve to five,
were ranged at one side. Neither Oscar nor
Lou has changed much; they have simply, as
Alexandra said of them long ago, grown to be
more and more like themselves. Lou now looks
the older of the two; his face is thin and shrewd
and wrinkled about the eyes, while Oscar's is
thick and dull. For all his dullness, however,
Oscar makes more money than his brother,
which adds to Lou's sharpness and uneasiness
and tempts him to make a show. The trouble
with Lou is that he is tricky, and his neighbors
have found out that, as Ivar says, he has not
a fox's face for nothing. Politics being the nat-
ural field for such talents, he neglects his farm
to attend conventions and to run for county
Lou's wife, formerly Annie Lee, has grown to
look curiously like her husband. Her face has
become longer, sharper, more aggressive. She
wears her yellow hair in a high pompadour,
and is bedecked with rings and chains and
"beauty pins." Her tight, high-heeled shoes
give her an awkward walk, and she is always
more or less preoccupied with her clothes. As
she sat at the table, she kept telling her young-
est daughter to "be careful now, and not drop
anything on mother."
The conversation at the table was all in Eng-
lish. Oscar's wife, from the malaria district of
Missouri, was ashamed of marrying a foreigner,
and his boys do not understand a word of
Swedish. Annie and Lou sometimes speak
Swedish at home, but Annie is almost as much
afraid of being "caught" at it as ever her
mother was of being caught barefoot. Oscar
still has a thick accent, but Lou speaks like
anybody from Iowa.
"When I was in Hastings to attend the con-
vention," he was saying, "I saw the superin-
tendent of the asylum, and I was telling him
about Ivar's symptoms. He says Ivar's case
is one of the most dangerous kind, and it's
a wonder he hasn't done something violent
Alexandra laughed good-humoredly. "Oh,
nonsense, Lou! The doctors would have us all
crazy if they could. Ivar's queer, certainly, but
he has more sense than half the hands I hire."
Lou flew at his fried chicken. "Oh, I guess
the doctor knows his business, Alexandra. He
was very much surprised when I told him how
you'd put up with Ivar. He says he's likely to
set fire to the barn any night, or to take after
you and the girls with an axe."
Little Signa, who was waiting on the table,
giggled and fled to the kitchen. Alexandra's
eyes twinkled. "That was too much for Signa,
Lou. We all know that Ivar's perfectly harm-
less. The girls would as soon expect me to
chase them with an axe."
Lou flushed and signaled to his wife. "All
the same, the neighbors will be having a say
about it before long. He may burn anybody's
barn. It's only necessary for one property-
owner in the township to make complaint, and
he'll be taken up by force. You'd better send
him yourself and not have any hard feelings."
Alexandra helped one of her little nephews to
gravy. "Well, Lou, if any of the neighbors try
that, I'll have myself appointed Ivar's guardian
and take the case to court, that's all. I am
perfectly satisfied with him."
"Pass the preserves, Lou," said Annie in a
warning tone. She had reasons for not wishing
her husband to cross Alexandra too openly.
"But don't you sort of hate to have people see
him around here, Alexandra?" she went on
with persuasive smoothness. "He IS a disgrace-
ful object, and you're fixed up so nice now. It
sort of makes people distant with you, when
they never know when they'll hear him scratch-
ing about. My girls are afraid as death of him,
aren't you, Milly, dear?"
Milly was fifteen, fat and jolly and pompa-
doured, with a creamy complexion, square
white teeth, and a short upper lip. She looked
like her grandmother Bergson, and had her
comfortable and comfort-loving nature. She
grinned at her aunt, with whom she was a great
deal more at ease than she was with her mother.
Alexandra winked a reply.
"Milly needn't be afraid of Ivar. She's an
especial favorite of his. In my opinion Ivar has
just as much right to his own way of dressing
and thinking as we have. But I'll see that he
doesn't bother other people. I'll keep him at
home, so don't trouble any more about him,
Lou. I've been wanting to ask you about your
new bathtub. How does it work?"
Annie came to the fore to give Lou time to
recover himself. "Oh, it works something
grand! I can't keep him out of it. He washes
himself all over three times a week now, and
uses all the hot water. I think it's weakening
to stay in as long as he does. You ought to
have one, Alexandra."
"I'm thinking of it. I might have one put in
the barn for Ivar, if it will ease people's minds.
But before I get a bathtub, I'm going to get a
piano for Milly."
Oscar, at the end of the table, looked up from
his plate. "What does Milly want of a pianny?
What's the matter with her organ? She can
make some use of that, and play in church."
Annie looked flustered. She had begged
Alexandra not to say anything about this plan
before Oscar, who was apt to be jealous of what
his sister did for Lou's children. Alexandra did
not get on with Oscar's wife at all. "Milly can
play in church just the same, and she'll still
play on the organ. But practising on it so
much spoils her touch. Her teacher says so,"
Annie brought out with spirit.
Oscar rolled his eyes. "Well, Milly must have
got on pretty good if she's got past the organ.
I know plenty of grown folks that ain't," he
Annie threw up her chin. "She has got on
good, and she's going to play for her commence-
ment when she graduates in town next year."
"Yes," said Alexandra firmly, "I think Milly
deserves a piano. All the girls around here have
been taking lessons for years, but Milly is the
only one of them who can ever play anything
when you ask her. I'll tell you when I first
thought I would like to give you a piano, Milly,
and that was when you learned that book of
old Swedish songs that your grandfather used
to sing. He had a sweet tenor voice, and when
he was a young man he loved to sing. I can
remember hearing him singing with the sailors
down in the shipyard, when I was no bigger
than Stella here," pointing to Annie's younger
Milly and Stella both looked through the
door into the sitting-room, where a crayon por-
trait of John Bergson hung on the wall. Alex-
andra had had it made from a little photograph,
taken for his friends just before he left Sweden;
a slender man of thirty-five, with soft hair curl-
ing about his high forehead, a drooping mus-
tache, and wondering, sad eyes that looked
forward into the distance, as if they already
beheld the New World.
After dinner Lou and Oscar went to the
orchard to pick cherries--they had neither of
them had the patience to grow an orchard of their
own--and Annie went down to gossip with
Alexandra's kitchen girls while they washed the
dishes. She could always find out more about
Alexandra's domestic economy from the prat-
tling maids than from Alexandra herself, and
what she discovered she used to her own advan-
tage with Lou. On the Divide, farmers' daugh-
ters no longer went out into service, so Alex-
andra got her girls from Sweden, by paying
their fare over. They stayed with her until
they married, and were replaced by sisters or
cousins from the old country.
Alexandra took her three nieces into the
flower garden. She was fond of the little girls,
especially of Milly, who came to spend a week
with her aunt now and then, and read aloud
to her from the old books about the house, or
listened to stories about the early days on the
Divide. While they were walking among the
flower beds, a buggy drove up the hill and
stopped in front of the gate. A man got out and
stood talking to the driver. The little girls
were delighted at the advent of a stranger, some
one from very far away, they knew by his
clothes, his gloves, and the sharp, pointed cut
of his dark beard. The girls fell behind their
aunt and peeped out at him from among the
castor beans. The stranger came up to the gate
and stood holding his hat in his hand, smiling,
while Alexandra advanced slowly to meet him.
As she approached he spoke in a low, pleasant
"Don't you know me, Alexandra? I would
have known you, anywhere."
Alexandra shaded her eyes with her hand.
Suddenly she took a quick step forward. "Can
it be!" she exclaimed with feeling; "can it be
that it is Carl Linstrum? Why, Carl, it is!"
She threw out both her hands and caught his
across the gate. "Sadie, Milly, run tell your
father and Uncle Oscar that our old friend Carl
Linstrum is here. Be quick! Why, Carl, how
did it happen? I can't believe this!" Alexan-
dra shook the tears from her eyes and laughed.
The stranger nodded to his driver, dropped
his suitcase inside the fence, and opened the
gate. "Then you are glad to see me, and you
can put me up overnight? I couldn't go
through this country without stopping off to
have a look at you. How little you have
changed! Do you know, I was sure it would be
like that. You simply couldn't be different.
How fine you are!" He stepped back and
looked at her admiringly.
Alexandra blushed and laughed again. "But
you yourself, Carl--with that beard--how
could I have known you? You went away a
little boy." She reached for his suitcase and
when he intercepted her she threw up her
hands. "You see, I give myself away. I have
only women come to visit me, and I do not
know how to behave. Where is your trunk?"
"It's in Hanover. I can stay only a few days.
I am on my way to the coast."
They started up the path. "A few days?
After all these years!" Alexandra shook her
finger at him. "See this, you have walked into
a trap. You do not get away so easy." She put
her hand affectionately on his shoulder. "You
owe me a visit for the sake of old times. Why
must you go to the coast at all?"
"Oh, I must! I am a fortune hunter. From
Seattle I go on to Alaska."
"Alaska?" She looked at him in astonish-
ment. "Are you going to paint the Indians?"
"Paint?" the young man frowned. "Oh! I'm
not a painter, Alexandra. I'm an engraver. I
have nothing to do with painting."
"But on my parlor wall I have the paint-
He interrupted nervously. "Oh, water-color
sketches--done for amusement. I sent them to
remind you of me, not because they were good.
What a wonderful place you have made of this,
Alexandra." He turned and looked back at the
wide, map-like prospect of field and hedge and
pasture. "I would never have believed it could
be done. I'm disappointed in my own eye, in
At this moment Lou and Oscar came up the
hill from the orchard. They did not quicken
their pace when they saw Carl; indeed, they
did not openly look in his direction. They
advanced distrustfully, and as if they wished
the distance were longer.
Alexandra beckoned to them. "They think
I am trying to fool them. Come, boys, it's
Carl Linstrum, our old Carl!"
Lou gave the visitor a quick, sidelong glance
and thrust out his hand. "Glad to see you."
Oscar followed with "How d' do." Carl could
not tell whether their offishness came from
unfriendliness or from embarrassment. He and
Alexandra led the way to the porch.
"Carl," Alexandra explained, "is on his way
to Seattle. He is going to Alaska."
Oscar studied the visitor's yellow shoes.
"Got business there?" he asked.
Carl laughed. "Yes, very pressing business.
I'm going there to get rich. Engraving's a very
interesting profession, but a man never makes
any money at it. So I'm going to try the gold-
Alexandra felt that this was a tactful speech,
and Lou looked up with some interest. "Ever
done anything in that line before?"
"No, but I'm going to join a friend of mine
who went out from New York and has done
well. He has offered to break me in."
"Turrible cold winters, there, I hear," re-
marked Oscar. "I thought people went up
there in the spring."
"They do. But my friend is going to spend
the winter in Seattle and I am to stay with him
there and learn something about prospecting
before we start north next year."
Lou looked skeptical. "Let's see, how long
have you been away from here?"
"Sixteen years. You ought to remember
that, Lou, for you were married just after we
"Going to stay with us some time?" Oscar
"A few days, if Alexandra can keep me."
"I expect you'll be wanting to see your old
place," Lou observed more cordially. "You
won't hardly know it. But there's a few chunks
of your old sod house left. Alexandra wouldn't
never let Frank Shabata plough over it."
Annie Lee, who, ever since the visitor was
announced, had been touching up her hair and
settling her lace and wishing she had worn
another dress, now emerged with her three
daughters and introduced them. She was
greatly impressed by Carl's urban appearance,
and in her excitement talked very loud and
threw her head about. "And you ain't married
yet? At your age, now! Think of that! You'll
have to wait for Milly. Yes, we've got a boy,
too. The youngest. He's at home with his
grandma. You must come over to see mother
and hear Milly play. She's the musician of the
family. She does pyrography, too. That's
burnt wood, you know. You wouldn't believe
what she can do with her poker. Yes, she goes
to school in town, and she is the youngest in
her class by two years."
Milly looked uncomfortable and Carl took
her hand again. He liked her creamy skin and
happy, innocent eyes, and he could see that her
mother's way of talking distressed her. "I'm
sure she's a clever little girl," he murmured,
looking at her thoughtfully. "Let me see--
Ah, it's your mother that she looks like, Alex-
andra. Mrs. Bergson must have looked just
like this when she was a little girl. Does Milly
run about over the country as you and Alex-
andra used to, Annie?"
Milly's mother protested. "Oh, my, no!
Things has changed since we was girls. Milly
has it very different. We are going to rent the
place and move into town as soon as the girls
are old enough to go out into company. A
good many are doing that here now. Lou is
going into business."
Lou grinned. "That's what she says. You
better go get your things on. Ivar's hitching
up," he added, turning to Annie.
Young farmers seldom address their wives by
name. It is always "you," or "she."
Having got his wife out of the way, Lou sat
down on the step and began to whittle. "Well,
what do folks in New York think of William
Jennings Bryan?" Lou began to bluster, as he
always did when he talked politics. "We gave
Wall Street a scare in ninety-six, all right,
and we're fixing another to hand them. Silver
wasn't the only issue," he nodded mysteriously.
"There's a good many things got to be changed.
The West is going to make itself heard."
Carl laughed. "But, surely, it did do that,
if nothing else."
Lou's thin face reddened up to the roots of his
bristly hair. "Oh, we've only begun. We're
waking up to a sense of our responsibilities,
out here, and we ain't afraid, neither. You
fellows back there must be a tame lot. If you
had any nerve you'd get together and march
down to Wall Street and blow it up. Dyna-
mite it, I mean," with a threatening nod.
He was so much in earnest that Carl scarcely
knew how to answer him. "That would be a
waste of powder. The same business would go on
in another street. The street doesn't matter.
But what have you fellows out here got to kick
about? You have the only safe place there is.
Morgan himself couldn't touch you. One only
has to drive through this country to see that
you're all as rich as barons."
"We have a good deal more to say than we
had when we were poor," said Lou threateningly.
"We're getting on to a whole lot of things."
As Ivar drove a double carriage up to the
gate, Annie came out in a hat that looked like
the model of a battleship. Carl rose and took
her down to the carriage, while Lou lingered for
a word with his sister.
"What do you suppose he's come for?" he
asked, jerking his head toward the gate.
"Why, to pay us a visit. I've been begging
him to for years."
Oscar looked at Alexandra. "He didn't let
you know he was coming?"
"No. Why should he? I told him to come at
Lou shrugged his shoulders. "He doesn't
seem to have done much for himself. Wander-
ing around this way!"
Oscar spoke solemnly, as from the depths of
a cavern. "He never was much account."
Alexandra left them and hurried down to the gate where Annie was rattling on to Carl about her new dining-room furniture. "You must bring Mr. Linstrum over real soon, only be sure to telephone me first," she called back, as Carl helped her into the carriage. Old Ivar, his white head bare, stood holding the horses. Lou came down the path and climbed into the front seat, took up the reins, and drove off without saying anything further to any one. Oscar picked up his youngest boy and trudged off down the road, the other three trotting after him. Carl, holding the gate open for Alexandra, began to laugh. "Up and coming on the Divide, eh, Alexandra?" he cried gayly.