Carl had changed, Alexandra felt, much less
than one might have expected. He had not
become a trim, self-satisfied city man. There
was still something homely and wayward and
definitely personal about him. Even his clothes,
his Norfolk coat and his very high collars, were
a little unconventional. He seemed to shrink
into himself as he used to do; to hold him-
self away from things, as if he were afraid
of being hurt. In short, he was more self-con-
scious than a man of thirty-five is expected to
be. He looked older than his years and not
very strong. His black hair, which still hung
in a triangle over his pale forehead, was thin at
the crown, and there were fine, relentless lines
about his eyes. His back, with its high, sharp
shoulders, looked like the back of an over-
worked German professor off on his holiday.
His face was intelligent, sensitive, unhappy.
That evening after supper, Carl and Alex-
andra were sitting by the clump of castor beans
in the middle of the flower garden. The gravel
paths glittered in the moonlight, and below
them the fields lay white and still.
"Do you know, Alexandra," he was saying,
"I've been thinking how strangely things work
out. I've been away engraving other men's
pictures, and you've stayed at home and made
your own." He pointed with his cigar toward
the sleeping landscape. "How in the world
have you done it? How have your neighbors
"We hadn't any of us much to do with it,
Carl. The land did it. It had its little joke. It
pretended to be poor because nobody knew how
to work it right; and then, all at once, it worked
itself. It woke up out of its sleep and stretched
itself, and it was so big, so rich, that we sud-
denly found we were rich, just from sitting still.
As for me, you remember when I began to buy
land. For years after that I was always squeez-
ing and borrowing until I was ashamed to show
my face in the banks. And then, all at once,
men began to come to me offering to lend me
money--and I didn't need it! Then I went
ahead and built this house. I really built it for
Emil. I want you to see Emil, Carl. He is so
different from the rest of us!"
"Oh, you'll see! I'm sure it was to have sons
like Emil, and to give them a chance, that father
left the old country. It's curious, too; on the
outside Emil is just like an American boy,--he
graduated from the State University in June,
you know,--but underneath he is more Swed-
ish than any of us. Sometimes he is so like father
that he frightens me; he is so violent in his feel-
ings like that."
"Is he going to farm here with you?"
"He shall do whatever he wants to," Alex-
andra declared warmly. "He is going to have
a chance, a whole chance; that's what I've
worked for. Sometimes he talks about studying
law, and sometimes, just lately, he's been talk-
ing about going out into the sand hills and tak-
ing up more land. He has his sad times, like
father. But I hope he won't do that. We have
land enough, at last!" Alexandra laughed.
"How about Lou and Oscar? They've done
well, haven't they?"
"Yes, very well; but they are different, and
now that they have farms of their own I do not
see so much of them. We divided the land
equally when Lou married. They have their
own way of doing things, and they do not alto-
gether like my way, I am afraid. Perhaps they
think me too independent. But I have had to
think for myself a good many years and am not
likely to change. On the whole, though, we
take as much comfort in each other as most
brothers and sisters do. And I am very fond of
Lou's oldest daughter."
"I think I liked the old Lou and Oscar better,
and they probably feel the same about me. I
even, if you can keep a secret,"--Carl leaned
forward and touched her arm, smiling,--"I
even think I liked the old country better. This
is all very splendid in its way, but there was
something about this country when it was a
wild old beast that has haunted me all these
years. Now, when I come back to all this milk
and honey, I feel like the old German song, 'Wo
bist du, wo bist du, mein geliebtest Land?'--
Do you ever feel like that, I wonder?"
"Yes, sometimes, when I think about father
and mother and those who are gone; so many
of our old neighbors." Alexandra paused and
looked up thoughtfully at the stars. "We can
remember the graveyard when it was wild
prairie, Carl, and now--"
"And now the old story has begun to write
itself over there," said Carl softly. "Isn't it
queer: there are only two or three human
stories, and they go on repeating themselves as
fiercely as if they had never happened before;
like the larks in this country, that have been
singing the same five notes over for thousands
"Oh, yes! The young people, they live so
hard. And yet I sometimes envy them. There
is my little neighbor, now; the people who
bought your old place. I wouldn't have sold it
to any one else, but I was always fond of that
girl. You must remember her, little Marie
Tovesky, from Omaha, who used to visit here?
When she was eighteen she ran away from the
convent school and got married, crazy child!
She came out here a bride, with her father and
husband. He had nothing, and the old man
was willing to buy them a place and set them
up. Your farm took her fancy, and I was glad
to have her so near me. I've never been sorry,
either. I even try to get along with Frank on
"Is Frank her husband?"
"Yes. He's one of these wild fellows. Most
Bohemians are good-natured, but Frank thinks
we don't appreciate him here, I guess. He's jeal-
ous about everything, his farm and his horses
and his pretty wife. Everybody likes her, just
the same as when she was little. Sometimes I
go up to the Catholic church with Emil, and
it's funny to see Marie standing there laughing
and shaking hands with people, looking so ex-
cited and gay, with Frank sulking behind her
as if he could eat everybody alive. Frank's not
a bad neighbor, but to get on with him you've
got to make a fuss over him and act as if you
thought he was a very important person all the
time, and different from other people. I find it
hard to keep that up from one year's end to
"I shouldn't think you'd be very successful
at that kind of thing, Alexandra." Carl seemed
to find the idea amusing.
"Well," said Alexandra firmly, "I do the
best I can, on Marie's account. She has it hard
enough, anyway. She's too young and pretty
for this sort of life. We're all ever so much older
and slower. But she's the kind that won't be
downed easily. She'll work all day and go to
a Bohemian wedding and dance all night, and
drive the hay wagon for a cross man next morn-
ing. I could stay by a job, but I never had the go
in me that she has, when I was going my best.
I'll have to take you over to see her to-morrow."
Carl dropped the end of his cigar softly
among the castor beans and sighed. "Yes, I
suppose I must see the old place. I'm cow-
ardly about things that remind me of myself.
It took courage to come at all, Alexandra. I
wouldn't have, if I hadn't wanted to see you
very, very much."
Alexandra looked at him with her calm,
deliberate eyes. "Why do you dread things
like that, Carl?" she asked earnestly. "Why
are you dissatisfied with yourself?"
Her visitor winced. "How direct you are,
Alexandra! Just like you used to be. Do I give
myself away so quickly? Well, you see, for one
thing, there's nothing to look forward to in my
profession. Wood-engraving is the only thing
I care about, and that had gone out before I
began. Everything's cheap metal work now-
adays, touching up miserable photographs,
forcing up poor drawings, and spoiling good
ones. I'm absolutely sick of it all." Carl
frowned. "Alexandra, all the way out from
New York I've been planning how I could de-
ceive you and make you think me a very envi-
able fellow, and here I am telling you the
truth the first night. I waste a lot of time pre-
tending to people, and the joke of it is, I don't
think I ever deceive any one. There are too
many of my kind; people know us on sight."
Carl paused. Alexandra pushed her hair
back from her brow with a puzzled, thoughtful
gesture. "You see," he went on calmly, "mea-
sured by your standards here, I'm a failure.
I couldn't buy even one of your cornfields.
I've enjoyed a great many things, but I've
got nothing to show for it all."
"But you show for it yourself, Carl. I'd
rather have had your freedom than my land."
Carl shook his head mournfully. "Freedom
so often means that one isn't needed anywhere.
Here you are an individual, you have a back-
ground of your own, you would be missed. But
off there in the cities there are thousands of
rolling stones like me. We are all alike; we
have no ties, we know nobody, we own nothing.
When one of us dies, they scarcely know where
to bury him. Our landlady and the delicatessen
man are our mourners, and we leave nothing
behind us but a frock-coat and a fiddle, or an
easel, or a typewriter, or whatever tool we got
our living by. All we have ever managed to
do is to pay our rent, the exorbitant rent that
one has to pay for a few square feet of space
near the heart of things. We have no house,
no place, no people of our own. We live in
the streets, in the parks, in the theatres. We sit
in restaurants and concert halls and look about
at the hundreds of our own kind and shudder."
Alexandra was silent. She sat looking at the
silver spot the moon made on the surface of the
pond down in the pasture. He knew that she
understood what he meant. At last she said
slowly, "And yet I would rather have Emil
grow up like that than like his two brothers.
We pay a high rent, too, though we pay differ-
ently. We grow hard and heavy here. We
don't move lightly and easily as you do, and
our minds get stiff. If the world were no wider
than my cornfields, if there were not something
beside this, I wouldn't feel that it was much
worth while to work. No, I would rather have
Emil like you than like them. I felt that as soon
as you came."
"I wonder why you feel like that?" Carl
"I don't know. Perhaps I am like Carrie Jensen, the sister of one of my hired men. She had never been out of the cornfields, and a few years ago she got despondent and said life was just the same thing over and over, and she didn't see the use of it. After she had tried to kill herself once or twice, her folks got wor- ried and sent her over to Iowa to visit some relations. Ever since she's come back she's been perfectly cheerful, and she says she's con- tented to live and work in a world that's so big and interesting. She said that anything as big as the bridges over the Platte and the Missouri reconciled her. And it's what goes on in the world that reconciles me."