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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Man's Woman - Chapter 4
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A Man's Woman - Chapter 4 Post by :Tom_Brownsword Category :Long Stories Author :Frank Norris Date :May 2012 Read :1503

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A Man's Woman - Chapter 4


On the day that Lloyd returned to the house on Calumet Square (Hattie's recovery being long since assured), and while she was unpacking her valise and settling herself again in her room, a messenger boy brought her a note.

"Have just arrived in the City. When may I see you? BENNETT."

News of Ward Bennett and of Richard Ferriss had not been wanting during the past fortnight or so. Their names and that of the ship herself, even the names of Adler, Hansen, Clarke, and Dennison, even Muck Tu, even that of Kamiska, the one surviving dog, filled the mouths and minds of men to the exclusion of everything else.

The return of the expedition after its long imprisonment in the ice and at a time when all hope of its safety had been abandoned was one of the great events of that year. The fact that the expedition had failed to reach the Pole, or to attain any unusual high latitude, was forgotten or ignored. Nothing was remembered but the masterly retreat toward Kolyuchin Bay, the wonderful march over the ice, the indomitable courage, unshaken by hardship, perils, obstacles, and privations almost beyond imagination. All this, together with a multitude of details, some of them palpably fictitious, the press of the City where Bennett and Ferriss both had their homes published and republished and published again and again. News of the men, their whereabouts and intentions, invaded the sick-room--where Lloyd watched over the convalescence of her little patient--by the very chinks of the windows.

Lloyd learned how the ship had been "nipped;" how, after inconceivable toil, the members of the expedition had gained the land; how they had marched southward toward the Chuckch settlements; how, at the eleventh hour, the survivors, exhausted and starving, had been rescued by the steam whalers; how these whalers themselves had been caught in the ice, and how the survivors of the Freja had been obliged to spend another winter in the Arctic. She learned the details of their final return. In the quiet, darkened room where Hattie lay she heard from without the echo of the thunder of the nations; she saw how the figure of Bennett towered suddenly magnificent in the world; how that the people were brusquely made aware of a new hero. She learned that honours came thronging about him unsought; that the King of the Belgians had conferred a decoration upon him; that the geographical societies of continental Europe had elected him to honourary membership; that the President and the Secretary of War had sent telegrams of congratulations.

"And what does he do," she murmured, "the first of all upon his return? Asks to see me--me!"

She sent an answer to his note by the same boy who brought it, naming the following afternoon, explaining that two days later she expected to go into the country to a little town called Bannister to take her annual fortnight's vacation.

"But what of--of the other?" she murmured as she stood at the window of her room watching the messenger boy bicycling across the square. "Why does not he--he, too--?"

She put her chin in the air and turned about, looking abstractedly at the rugs on the parquetry.

Lloyd's vacation had really begun two days before. Her name was off the roster of the house, and till the end of the month her time was her own. The afternoon was hot and very still. Even in the cool, stone-built agency, with its windows wide and heavily shaded with awnings, the heat was oppressive. For a long time Lloyd had been shut away from fresh air and the sun, and now she suddenly decided to drive out in the City's park. She rang up her stable and ordered Lewis to put her ponies to her phaeton.

She spent a delightful two hours in the great park, losing herself in its farthest, shadiest, and most unfrequented corners. She drove herself, and intelligently. Horses were her passion, and not Lewis himself understood their care and management better. Toward the cool of the day and just as she had pulled the ponies down to a walk in a long, deserted avenue overspanned with elms and great cottonwoods she was all at once aware of an open carriage that had turned into the far end of the same avenue approaching at an easy trot. It drew near, and she saw that its only occupant was a man leaning back rather limply in the cushions. As the eye of the trained nurse fell upon him she at once placed him in the category of convalescents or chronic invalids, and she was vaguely speculating as to the nature of his complaint when the carriage drew opposite her phaeton, and she recognised Richard Ferriss.

Ferriss, but not the same Ferriss to whom she had said good-bye on that never-to-be-forgotten March afternoon, with its gusts and rain, four long years ago. The Ferriss she had known then had been an alert, keen man, with quick, bright eyes, alive to every impression, responsive to every sensation, living his full allowance of life. She was looking now at a man unnaturally old, of deadened nerves, listless. As he caught sight of her and recognised her he suddenly roused himself with a quick, glad smile and with a look in his eyes that to Lloyd was unmistakable. But there was not that joyful, exuberant start she had anticipated, and, for that matter, wished. Neither did Lloyd set any too great store by the small amenities of life, but that Ferriss should remain covered hurt her a little. She wondered how she could note so trivial a detail at such a moment. But this was Ferriss.

Her heart was beating fast and thick as she halted her ponies. The driver of the carriage jumped down and held the door for Ferriss, and the chief engineer stepped quickly toward her.

So it was they met after four years--and such years--unexpectedly, without warning or preparation, and not at all as she had expected. What they said to each other in those first few moments Lloyd could never afterward clearly remember. One incident alone detached itself vividly from the blur.

"I have just come from the square," Ferriss had explained, "and they told me that you had left for a drive out here only the moment before, so there was nothing for it but to come after you."

"Shan't we walk a little?" she remembered she had asked after a while. "We can have the carriages wait; or do you feel strong enough? I forgot--"

But he interrupted her, protesting his fitness.

"The doctor merely sent me out to get the air, and it's humiliating to be wheeled about like an old woman."

Lloyd passed the reins back of her to Lewis, and, gathering her skirts about her, started to descend from the phaeton. The step was rather high from the ground. Ferriss stood close by. Why did he not help her? Why did he stand there, his hands in his pockets, so listless and unconscious of her difficulty. A little glow of irritation deepened the dull crimson of her cheeks. Even returned Arctic explorers could not afford to ignore entirely life's little courtesies--and he of all men.

"Well," she said, expectantly hesitating before attempting to descend.

Then she caught Ferriss's eyes fixed upon her. He was smiling a little, but the dull, stupefied expression of his face seemed for a brief instant to give place to one of great sadness. He raised a shoulder resignedly, and Lloyd, with the suddenness of a blow, remembered that Ferriss had no hands.

She dropped back in the seat of the phaeton, covering her eyes, shaken and unnerved for the moment with a great thrill of infinite pity--of shame at her own awkwardness, and of horror as for one brief instant the smiling summer park, the afternoon's warmth, the avenue of green, over-arching trees, the trim, lacquered vehicles and glossy-brown horses were struck from her mind, and she had a swift vision of the Ice, the darkness of the winter night, the lacerating, merciless cold, the blinding, whirling, dust-like snow.

For half an hour they walked slowly about in the park, the carriages following at a distance. They did not talk very much. It seemed to Lloyd that she would never tire of scrutinising his face, that her interest in his point of view, his opinions, would never flag. He had had an experience that came but to few men. For four years he had been out of the world, had undergone privation beyond conception. What now was to be his attitude? How had he changed? That he had not changed to her Lloyd knew in an instant. He still loved her; that was beyond all doubt. But this terrible apathy that seemed now to be a part of him! She had heard of the numbing stupor that invades those who stay beyond their time in the Ice, but never before had she seen it in its reality. It was not a lack of intelligence; it seemed rather to be the machinery of intelligence rusted and clogged from long disuse. He deliberated long before he spoke. It took him some time to understand things. Speech did not come to him readily, and he became easily confused in the matter of words. Once, suddenly, he had interrupted her, breaking out with:

"Oh, the smell of the trees, of the grass! Isn't it wonderful; isn't it wonderful?" And a few seconds later, quite irrelevantly: "And, after all, we failed."

At once Lloyd was all aroused, defending him against himself.

"Failed! And you say that? If you did not reach the Pole, what then? The world will judge you by results perhaps, and the world's judgment will be wrong. Is it nothing that you have given the world an example of heroism--"

"Oh, don't call it that."

"Of heroism, of courage, of endurance? Is it nothing that you have overcome obstacles before which other men would have died? Is it nothing that you have shown us all how to be patient, how to be strong? There are some things better even than reaching the Pole. To suffer and be calm is one of them; not to give up--never to be beaten--is another. Oh, if I were a man! Ten thousand, a hundred thousand people are reading to-night of what you have done--of what you have done, you understand, not of what you have failed to do. They have seen--you have shown them what the man can do who says _I will_, and you have done a little more, have gone a little further, have been a little braver, a little hardier, a little nobler, a little more determined than any one has ever been before. Whoever fails now cannot excuse himself by saying that he has done as much as a man can do. He will have to remember the men of the Freja. He will have to remember you. Don't you suppose I am proud of you; don't you suppose that I am stronger and better because of what you have done? Do you think it is nothing for me to be sitting here beside you, here in this park--to be--yes, to be with you? Can't you understand? Isn't it something to me that you are the man you are; not the man whose name the people are shouting just now, not the man to whom a king gave a bit of ribbon and enamel, but the man who lived like a man, who would not die just because it was easier to die than to live, who fought like a man, not only for himself but for the lives of those he led, who showed us all how to be strong, and how strong one could be if one would only try? What does the Pole amount to? The world wants men, great, strong, harsh, brutal men--men with purposes, who let nothing, nothing, nothing stand in their way."

"You mean Bennett," said Ferriss, looking up quickly. "You commenced by speaking of me, but it's Bennett you are talking of now."

But he caught her glance and saw that she was looking steadfastly at him--at him. A look was in her face, a light in her dull-blue eyes, that he had never seen there before.

"Lloyd," he said quietly, "which one of us, Bennett or I, were you speaking of just then? You know what I mean; which one of us?"

"I was speaking of the man who was strong enough to do great things," she said.

Ferriss drew the stumps of his arms from his pockets and smiled at them grimly.

"H'm, can one do much--this way?" he muttered.

With a movement she did not try to restrain Lloyd put both her hands over his poor, shapeless wrists. Never in her life had she been so strongly moved. Pity, such as she had never known, a tenderness and compassion such as she had never experienced, went knocking at her breast. She had no words at hand for so great emotions. She longed to tell him what was in her heart, but all speech failed.

"Don't!" she exclaimed. "Don't! I will not have you."

A little later, as they were returning toward the carriages, Lloyd, after a moment's deliberation upon the matter, said:

"Can't I set you down somewhere near your rooms? Let your carriage go."

He shook his head: "I've just given up my downtown rooms. Bennett and I have taken other rooms much farther uptown. In fact, I believe I am supposed to be going there now. It would be quite out of your way to take me there. We are much quieter out there, and people can't get at us so readily. The doctor says we both need rest after our shaking up. Bennett himself--iron as he is--is none too strong, and what with the mail, the telegrams, reporters, deputations, editors, and visitors, and the like, we are kept on something of a strain. Besides we have still a good deal of work to do getting our notes into shape."

Lewis brought the ponies to the edge of the walk, and Lloyd and Ferriss separated, she turning the ponies' heads homeward, starting away at a brisk trot, and leaving him in his carriage, which he had directed to carry him to his new quarters.

But at the turn of the avenue Lloyd leaned from the phaeton and looked back. The carriage was just disappearing down the vista of elms and cottonwoods. She waved her hand gayly, and Ferriss responded with the stump of one forearm.

On the next day but one, a Friday, Lloyd was to go to the country. Every year in the heat of the summer Lloyd spent her short vacation in the sleepy and old-fashioned little village of Bannister. The country around the village was part of the Searight estate. It was quiet, off the railroad, just the place to forget duties, responsibilities, and the wearing anxieties of sick-rooms. But Thursday afternoon she expected Bennett.

Thursday morning she was in her room. Her trunk was already packed. There was nothing more to be done. She was off duty. There was neither care nor responsibility upon her mind. But she was too joyful, too happily exalted, too exuberant in gayety to pass her time in reading. She wanted action, movement, life, and instinctively threw open a window of her room, and, according to her habit, leaned upon her elbows and looked out and down upon the square. The morning was charming. Later in the day it probably would be very hot, but as yet the breeze of the earliest hours was stirring nimbly. The cool of it put a brisker note in the sombre glow of her cheeks, and just stirred a lock that, escaping from her gorgeous coils of dark-red hair, hung curling over her ear and neck. Into her eyes of dull blue--like the blue of old china--the morning's sun sent an occasional unwonted sparkle. Over the asphalt and over the green grass-plots of the square the shadows of the venerable elms wove a shifting maze of tracery. Traffic avoided the place. It was invariably quiet in the square, and one--as now--could always hear the subdued ripple and murmur of the fountain in the centre.

But the crowning delight of that morning was the sudden appearance of a robin in a tree close to Lloyd's window. He was searching his breakfast. At every moment he came and went between the tree-tops and the grass-plots, very important, very preoccupied, chittering and calling the while, as though he would never tire. Lloyd whistled to him, and instantly he answered, cocking his head sideways. She whistled again, and he piped back an impudent response, and for quite five minutes the two held an elaborate altercation between tree-top and window-ledge. Lloyd caught herself laughing outright and aloud for no assignable reason. "Ah, the world was a pretty good place after all!"

A little later, and while she was still at the window, Rownie brought her a note from Bennett, sent by special messenger.

"Ferriss woke up sick this morning. Nobody here but the two of us; can't leave him alone. BENNETT."

"Oh!" exclaimed Lloyd Searight a little blankly.

The robin and his effrontery at once ceased to be amusing. She closed the window abruptly, shutting out the summer morning's gayety and charm, turning her back upon the sunlight.

Now she was more in the humour of reading. On the great divan against the wall lay the month's magazines and two illustrated weeklies. Lloyd had bought them to read on the train. But now she settled herself upon the divan and, picking up one of the weeklies, turned its leaves listlessly. All at once she came upon two pictures admirably reproduced from photographs, and serving as illustrations to the weekly's main article--"The Two Leaders of the Freja Expedition." One was a picture of Bennett, the other of Ferriss.

The suddenness with which she had come upon his likeness almost took Lloyd's breath from her. It was the last thing she had expected. If he himself had abruptly entered the room in person she could hardly have been more surprised. Her heart gave a great leap, the dull crimson of her cheeks shot to her forehead. Then, with a charming movement, at once impulsive and shamefaced, smiling the while, her eyes half-closing, she laid her cheek upon the picture, murmuring to herself words that only herself should hear. The next day she left for the country.

On that same day when Dr. Pitts arrived at the rooms Ferriss and Bennett had taken he found the anteroom already crowded with visitors--a knot of interviewers, the manager of a lecture bureau, as well as the agent of a patented cereal (who sought the man of the hour for an endorsement of his article), and two female reporters.

Decidedly Richard Ferriss was ill; there could be no doubt about that. Bennett had not slept the night before, but had gone to and fro about the rooms tending to his wants with a solicitude and a gentleness that in a man so harsh and so toughly fibred seemed strangely out of place. Bennett was far from well himself. The terrible milling which he had undergone had told even upon that enormous frame, but his own ailments were promptly ignored now that Ferriss, the man of all men to him, was "down."

"I didn't pull through with you, old man," he responded to all of Ferriss's protests, "to have you get sick on my hands at this time of day. No more of your damned foolishness now. Here's the quinine. Down with it!"

Bennett met Pitts at the door of Ferriss's room, and before going in drew him into a corner.

"He's a sick boy, Pitts, and is going to be worse, though he's just enough of a fool boy not to admit it. I've seen them start off this gait before. Remember, too, when you look him over that it's not as though he had been in a healthy condition before. Our work in the ice ground him down about as fine as he could go and yet live, and the hardtack and salt pork on the steam whalers were not a good diet for a convalescent. And see here, Pitts," said Bennett, clearing his throat, "I--well, I'm rather fond of that fool boy in there. We are not taking any chances, you understand."

After the doctor had seen the chief engineer and had prescribed calomel and a milk diet, Bennett followed him out into the hall and accompanied him to the door.

"Verdict?" he demanded, fixing the physician intently with his small, distorted eyes. But Pitts was non-committal.

"Yes, he's a sick boy, but the thing, whatever it is going to be, has been gathering slowly. He complains of headache, great weakness and nausea, and you speak of frequent nose-bleeds during the night. The abdomen is tender upon pressure, which is a symptom I would rather not have found. But I can't make any positive diagnosis as yet. Some big sickness is coming on--that, I am afraid, is certain. I shall come out here to-morrow. But, Mr. Bennett, be careful of yourself. Even steel can weaken, you know. You see this rabble" (he motioned with his head toward the anteroom, where the other visitors were waiting) "that is hounding you? Everybody knows where you are. Man, you must have rest. I don't need to look at you more than once to know that. Get away! Get away even from your mails! Hide from everybody for a while! Don't think you can nurse your friend through these next few weeks, because you can't."

"Well," answered Bennett, "wait a few days. We'll see by the end of the week."

The week passed. Ferriss went gradually from bad to worse, though as yet the disease persistently refused to declare itself. He was quite helpless, and Bennett watched over him night and day, pottering around him by the hour, giving him his medicines, cooking his food, and even when Ferriss complained of the hotness of the bedclothes, changing the very linen that he might lie upon cool sheets. But at the end of the week Dr. Pitts declared that Bennett himself was in great danger of breaking down, and was of no great service to the sick man.

"To-morrow," said the doctor, "I shall have a young fellow here who happens to be a cousin of mine. He is an excellent trained nurse, a fellow we can rely upon. He'll take your place. I'll have him here to-morrow, and you must get away. Hide somewhere. Don't even allow your mail to be forwarded. The nurse and I will take care of Mr. Ferriss. You can leave me your address, and I will wire you if it is necessary. Now be persuaded like a reasonable man. I will stake my professional reputation that you will knock under if you stay here with a sick man on your hands and newspaper men taking the house by storm at all hours of the day. Come now, will you go? Mr. Ferriss is in no danger, and you will do him more harm by staying than by going. So long as you remain here you will have this raft of people in the rooms at all hours. Deny yourself! Keep them out! Keep out the American reporter when he goes gunning for a returned explorer! Do you think this," and he pointed again to the crowd in the anteroom, "is the right condition for a sick man's quarters? You are imperilling his safety, to say nothing of your own, by staying beside him--you draw the fire, Mr. Bennett."

"Well, there's something in that," muttered Bennett, pulling at his mustache. "But--" Bennett hesitated, then: "Pitts, I want you to take my place here if I go away. Have a nurse if you like, but I shouldn't feel justified in leaving the boy in his condition unless I knew you were with him continually. I don't know what your practice is worth to you, say for a month, or until the boy is out of danger, but make me a proposition. I think we can come to an understanding."

"But it won't be necessary to have a doctor with Mr. Ferriss constantly. I should see him every day and the nurse--"

Bennett promptly overrode his objections. Harshly and abruptly he exclaimed: "I'm not taking any chances. It shall be as I say. I want the boy well, and I want you and the nurse to see to it that he _gets well. I'll meet the expenses."

Bennett did not hear the doctor's response and his suggestion as to the advisability of taking Ferriss to his own house in the country while he could be moved. For the moment he was not listening. An idea had abruptly presented itself to him. He was to go to the country. But where? A grim smile began to relax the close-gripped lips and the hard set of the protruding jaw. He tugged again at his mustache, scowling at the doctor, trying to hide his humour.

"Well, that's settled then," he said; "I'll get away to-morrow--somewhere."

"Whereabouts?" demanded the doctor. "I shall want to let you know how we progress."

Bennett chose to feel a certain irritation. What business of Pitts was it whom he went to see, or, rather, where he meant to go?

"You told me to hide away from everybody, not even to allow my mail to be forwarded. But I'll let you know where to reach me, of course, as soon as I get there. It won't be far from town."

"And I will take your place here with Mr. Ferriss; somebody will be with him at every moment, and I shall only wire you," continued the doctor, "in case of urgent necessity. I want you to have all the rest you can, and stay away as long as possible. I shan't annoy you with telegrams unless I must. You'll understand that no news is good news."

* * * * *

On that particular morning Lloyd sat in her room in the old farmhouse that she always elected to call her home as often as she visited Bannister. It was some quarter of a mile outside the little village, and on the road that connected it with the railway at Fourth Lake, some six miles over the hills to the east. It was yet early in the morning, and Lloyd was writing letters that she would post at Fourth Lake later in the forenoon. She intended driving over to the lake. Two days before, Lewis had arrived with Rox, the ponies and the phaeton. Lloyd's dog-cart, a very gorgeous, high-wheeled affair, was always kept at Bannister.

The room in which she now sat was delightful. Everything was white, from the curtains of the bed to the chintz hangings on the walls. A rug of white fur was on the floor. The panellings and wooden shutters of the windows were painted white. The fireplace was set in glossy-white tiles, and its opening covered with a screen of white feathers. The windows were flung wide, and a great flood of white sunlight came pouring into the room. Lloyd herself was dressed in white, from the clean, crisp scarf tied about her neck to the tip of her canvas tennis shoes. And in all this array of white only the dull-red flame of her high-piled hair--in the sunshine glowing like burnished copper--set a vivid note of colour, the little strands and locks about her neck and ears coruscating as the breeze from the open windows stirred them.

The morning was veritably royal--still, cool, and odorous of woods and cattle and growing grass. A great sense of gayety, of exhilaration, was in the air. Lloyd was all in tune with it. While she wrote her left elbow rested on the table, and in her left hand she held a huge, green apple, unripe, sour, delicious beyond words, and into which she bit from time to time with the silent enjoyment of a school-girl.

Her letter was to Hattie's father, Mr. Campbell, and she wrote to ask if the little girl might not spend a week with her at Bannister. When the letter was finished and addressed she thrust it into her belt, and, putting on her hat, ran downstairs. Lewis had brought the dog-cart to the gate, and stood waiting in the road by Rox's head. But as Lloyd went down the brick-paved walk of the front yard Mrs. Applegate, who owned the farmhouse, and who was at once Lloyd's tenant, landlady, housekeeper, and cook, appeared on the porch of the house, the head of a fish in her hand, and Charley-Joe, the yellow tomcat, at her heels, eyeing her with painful intentness.

"Say, Miss Searight," she called, her forearm across her forehead to shade her eyes, the hand still holding the fish's head, "say, while you're out this morning will you keep an eye out for that dog of our'n--you know, Dan--the one with liver'n white spots? He's run off again--ain't seen him since yesterday noon. He gets away an' goes off fighting other dogs over the whole blessed county. There ain't a dog big 'r little within ten mile that Dan ain't licked. He'd sooner fight than he would eat, that dog."

"I will, I will," answered Lloyd, climbing to the high seat, "and if I find him I shall drag him back by the scruff of his neck. Good-morning, Lewis. Why have you put the overhead check on Rox?"

Lewis touched his cap.

"He feels his oats some this morning, and if he gets his lower jaw agin' his chest there's no holding of him, Miss--no holding of him in the world."

Lloyd gathered up the reins and spoke to the horse, and Lewis stood aside.

Rox promptly went up into the air on his hind legs, shaking his head with a great snort.

"Steady, you old pig," said Lloyd, calmly. "Soh, soh, who's trying to kill you?"

"Hadn't I better come with you, Miss?" inquired Lewis anxiously.

Lloyd shook her head. "No, indeed," she said decisively.

Rox, after vindicating his own independence by the proper amount of showing off, started away down the road with as high an action as he could command, playing to the gallery, looking back and out of the tail of his eye to see if Lewis observed what a terrible fellow he was that morning.

"Well, of all the critters!" commented Mrs. Applegate from the porch. But Charley-Joe, with an almost hypnotic fixity in his yellow eyes, and who during the last few minutes had several times opened his mouth wide in an ineffectual attempt to mew, suddenly found his voice with a prolonged and complaining note.

"Well, heavens an' airth, take your fish, then!" exclaimed Mrs. Applegate suddenly, remembering the cat. "An' get off'n my porch with it." She pushed him away with the side of her foot, and Charley-Joe, with the fish's head in his teeth, retired around the corner of the house by the rain barrel, where at intervals he could be heard growling to himself in a high-pitched key, pretending the approach of some terrible enemy.

Meanwhile Lloyd, already well on her way, was having an exciting tussle with Rox. The horse had begun by making an exhibition of himself for all who could see, but in the end he had so worked upon his own nerves that instead of frightening others he only succeeded in terrifying himself. He was city-bred, and the sudden change from brick houses to open fields had demoralised him. He began to have a dim consciousness of just how strong he was. There was nothing vicious about him. He would not have lowered himself to kick, but he did want, with all the big, strong heart of him, to run.

But back of him there--he felt it thrilling along the tense-drawn reins--was a calm, powerful grip, even, steady, masterful. Turn his head he could not, but he knew very well that Lloyd had taken a double twist upon the reins, and that her hands, even if they were gloved in white, were strong--strong enough to hold him to his work. And besides this--he could tell it by the very feel of the bit--he knew that she did not take him very seriously, that he could not make her afraid of him. He knew that she could tell at once whether he shied because he was really frightened or because he wanted to break the shaft, and that in the latter case he would get the whip--and mercilessly, too--across his haunch, a degradation, above all things, to be avoided. And she had called him an old pig once already that morning.

Lloyd drove on. She keenly enjoyed this struggle between the horse's strength and her own determination, her own obstinacy. No, she would not let Rox have his way; she would not allow him to triumph over her for a single moment. She would neither be forced nor tricked into yielding a single point however small. She would be mistress of the situation.

By the end of half an hour she had him well in hand, and was bowling smoothly along a level stretch of road at the foot of an abrupt rise of land covered with scrub oak and broken with outcroppings of granite of a curious formation. Just beyond here the road crossed the canal by a narrow--in fact, a much too narrow--plank bridge without guard-rails. The wide-axled dog-cart had just sufficient room on either hand, and Lloyd, too good a whip to take chances with so nervous a horse as Rox, drew him down to a walk as she approached it. But of a sudden her eyes were arrested by a curious sight. She halted the cart.

At the roadside, some fifty yards from the plank bridge, were two dogs. Evidently there had just been a dreadful fight. Here and there a stone was streaked with blood. The grass and smaller bushes were flattened out, and tufts of hair were scattered about upon the ground. Of the two dogs, Lloyd recognised one upon the instant. It was Dan, the "liver'n white" fox-hound of the farmhouse--the fighter and terror of the country. But he was lying upon his side now, the foreleg broken, or rather crushed, as if in a vise; the throat torn open, the life-blood in a great pool about his head. He was dead, or in the very throes of death. Poor Dan, he had fought his last fight, had found more than his match at last.

Lloyd looked at the other dog--the victor; then looked at him a second time and a third.

"Well," she murmured, "that's a strange-looking dog."

In fact, he was a curious animal. His broad, strong body was covered with a brown fur as dense, as thick, and as soft as a wolf's; the ears were pricked and pointed, the muzzle sharp, the eyes slant and beady. The breast was disproportionately broad, the forelegs short and apparently very powerful. Around his neck was a broad nickelled collar.

But as Lloyd sat in the cart watching him he promptly demonstrated the fact that his nature was as extraordinary as his looks. He turned again from a momentary inspection of the intruders, sniffed once or twice at his dead enemy, then suddenly began to eat him.

Lloyd's gorge rose with anger and disgust. Even if Dan had been killed, it had been in fair fight, and there could be no doubt that Dan himself had been the aggressor. She could even feel a little respect for the conqueror of the champion, but to turn upon the dead foe, now that the heat of battle was past, and (in no spirit of hate or rage) deliberately to eat him. What a horror! She took out her whip.

"Shame on you!" she exclaimed. "Ugh! what a savage; I shan't allow you!"

A farm-hand was coming across the plank bridge, and as he drew near the cart Lloyd asked him to hold Rox for a moment. Rox was one of those horses who, when standing still, are docile as a kitten, and she had no hesitancy in leaving him with a man at his head. She jumped out, the whip in her hand. Dan was beyond all help, but she wanted at least to take his collar back to Mrs. Applegate. The strange dog permitted himself to be driven off a little distance. Part of his strangeness seemed to be that through it all he retained a certain placidity of temper. There was no ferocity in his desire to eat Dan.

"That's just what makes it so disgusting," said Lloyd, shaking her whip at him. He sat down upon his haunches, eyeing her calmly, his tongue lolling. When she had unbuckled Dan's collar and tossed it into the cart under the seat she inquired of the farm-hand as to where the new dog came from.

"It beats me, Miss Searight," he answered; "never saw such a bird in these parts before; t'other belongs down to Applegate's."

"Come, let's have a look at you," said Lloyd, putting back the whip; "let me see your collar."

Disregarding the man's warning, she went up to the stranger, whistling and holding out her hand, and he came up to her--a little suspiciously at first, but in the end wagging his tail, willing to be friendly. Lloyd parted the thick fur around his neck and turned the plate of the collar to the light. On the plate was engraved: "Kamiska, Arctic S.S. 'Freja.' Return to Ward Bennett."

"Anything on the collar?" asked the man.

Lloyd settled a hairpin in a coil of hair at the back of her neck.

"Nothing--nothing that I can make out."

She climbed into the cart again and dismissed the farm-hand with a quarter. He disappeared around the turn of the road. But as she was about to drive on, Lloyd heard a great clattering of stones upon the hill above her, a crashing in the bushes, and a shrill whistle thrice repeated. Kamiska started up at once, cocking alternate ears, then turned about and ran up the hill to meet Ward Bennett, who came scrambling down, jumping from one granite outcrop to another, holding on the whiles by the lower branches of the scrub oak-trees.

He was dressed as if for an outing, in knickerbockers and huge, hob-nailed shoes. He wore an old shooting-coat and a woollen cap; a little leather sack was slung from his shoulder, and in his hand he carried a short-handled geologist's hammer.

And then, after so long a time, Lloyd saw his face again--the rugged, unhandsome face; the massive jaw, huge almost to deformity; the great, brutal, indomitable lips; the square-cut chin with its forward, aggressive thrust; the narrow forehead, seamed and contracted, and the twinkling, keen eyes so marred by the cast, so heavily shadowed by the shaggy eyebrows. When he spoke the voice came heavy and vibrant from the great chest, a harsh, deep bass, a voice in which to command men, not a voice in which to talk to women.

Lloyd, long schooled to self-repression and the control of her emotions when such repression and control were necessary, sat absolutely moveless on her high seat, her hands only shutting tighter and tighter upon the reins. She had often wondered how she would feel, what was to be her dominant impulse, at such moments as these, and now she realised that it was not so much joy, not so much excitement, as a resolute determination not for one instant to lose her poise.

She was thinking rapidly. For four years they had not met. At one time she believed him to be dead. But in the end he had been saved, had come back, and, ignoring the plaudits of an entire Christendom, had addressed himself straight to her. For one of them, at least, this meeting was a crisis. What would they first say to each other? how be equal to the situation? how rise to its dramatic possibilities? But the moment had come to them suddenly, had found them all unprepared. There was no time to think of adequate words. Afterward, when she reviewed this encounter, she told herself that they both had failed, and that if the meeting had been faithfully reproduced upon the stage or in the pages of a novel it would have seemed tame and commonplace. These two, living the actual scene, with all the deep, strong, real emotions of them surging to the surface, the vitality of them, all aroused and vibrating, suddenly confronting actuality itself, were not even natural; were not even "true to life." It was as though they had parted but a fortnight ago.

Bennett caught his cap from his head and came toward her, exclaiming:

"Miss Searight, I believe."

And she, reaching her right hand over the left, that still held the reins, leaned from her high seat, shaking hands with him and replying:

"Well--Mr. Bennett, I'm so very glad to see you again. Where did you come from?"

"From the City--and from seventy-six degrees north latitude."

"I congratulate you. We had almost given up hope of you."

"Thank you," he answered. "We were not so roseate with hope ourselves--all the time. But I have not felt as though I had really come back until this--well, until I had reached--the road between Bannister and Fourth Lake, for instance," and his face relaxed to its characteristic grim smile.

"You reached it too late, then," she responded. "Your dog has killed our Dan, and, what is much worse, started to eat him. He's a perfect savage."

"Kamiska? Well," he added, reflectively, "it's my fault for setting her a bad example. I ate her trace-mate, and was rather close to eating Kamiska herself at one time. But I didn't come down here to talk about that."

"You are looking rather worn, Mr. Bennett."

"I suppose. The doctor sent me into the country to call back the roses to my pallid cheek. So I came down here--to geologise. I presume that excuse will do as well as another." Then suddenly he cried: "Hello, steady there; _quick_, Miss Searight!"

It all came so abruptly that neither of them could afterward reconstruct the scene with any degree of accuracy. Probably in scrambling down the steep slope of the bank Bennett had loosened the earth or smaller stones that hitherto had been barely sufficient support to the mass of earth, gravel, rocks, and bushes that all at once, and with a sharp, crackling noise, slid downward toward the road from the overhanging bank. The slip was small, hardly more than three square yards of earth moving from its place, but it came with a smart, quick rush, throwing up a cloud of dust and scattering pebbles and hard clods of dirt far before its advance.

As Rox leaped Lloyd threw her weight too suddenly on the reins, the horse arched his neck, and the overhead check snapped like a harp-string. Again he reared from the object of his terror, shaking his head from side to side, trying to get a purchase on the bit. Then his lower jaw settled against his chest, and all at once he realised that no pair of human hands could hold him now. He did not rear again; his haunches suddenly lowered, and with the hoofs of his hind feet he began feeling the ground for his spring. But now Bennett was at his head, gripping at the bit, striving to thrust him back. Lloyd, half risen from her seat, each rein wrapped twice around her hands, her long, strong arms at their fullest reach, held back against the horse with all her might, her body swaying and jerking with his plunges. But the overhead check once broken Lloyd might as well have pulled against a locomotive. Bennett was a powerful man by nature, but his great strength had been not a little sapped by his recent experiences. Between the instant his hand caught at the bit and that in which Rox had made his first ineffectual attempt to spring forward he recognised the inequality of the contest. He could hold Rox back for a second or two, perhaps three, then the horse would get away from him. He shot a glance about him. Not twenty yards away was the canal and the perilously narrow bridge--the bridge without the guard-rail.

"Quick, Miss Searight!" he shouted. "Jump! We can't hold him. Quick, do as I tell you, jump!"

But even as he spoke Rox dragged him from his feet, his hoofs trampling the hollow road till it reverberated like the roll of drums. Bracing himself against every unevenness of the ground, his teeth set, his face scarlet, the veins in his neck swelling, suddenly blue-black, Bennett wrenched at the bit till the horse's mouth went bloody. But all to no purpose; faster and faster Rox was escaping from his control.

"Jump, I tell you!" he shouted again, looking over his shoulder; "another second and he's away."

Lloyd dropped the reins and turned to jump. But the lap-robe had slipped down to the bottom of the cart when she had risen, and was in a tangle about her feet. The cart was rocking like a ship in a storm. Twice she tried to free herself, holding to the dashboard with one hand. Then the cart suddenly lurched forward and she fell to her knees. Rox was off; it was all over.

Not quite. In one brief second of time--a hideous vision come and gone between two breaths--Lloyd saw the fearful thing done there in the road, almost within reach of her hand. She saw the man and horse at grapples, the yellow reach of road that lay between her and the canal, the canal itself, and the narrow bridge. Then she saw the short-handled geologist's hammer gripped in Bennett's fist heave high in the air. Down it came, swift, resistless, terrible--one blow. The cart tipped forward as Rox, his knees bowing from under him, slowly collapsed. Then he rolled upon the shaft that snapped under him, and the cart vibrated from end to end as a long, shuddering tremble ran through him with his last deep breath.

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A Man's Woman - Chapter 5 A Man's Woman - Chapter 5

A Man's Woman - Chapter 5
CHAPTER VWhen Lloyd at length managed to free herself and jump to the ground Bennett came quickly toward her and drew her away to the side of the road. "Are you hurt?" he demanded. "Tell me, are you hurt?" "No, no; not in the least." "Why in the world did you want to drive such a horse? Don't ever take such chances again. I won't have it." For a few moments Lloyd was too excited to trust herself to talk, and could only stand helplessly to one side, watching Bennett as he stripped off the harness from the dead horse, stowed

A Man's Woman - Chapter 3 A Man's Woman - Chapter 3

A Man's Woman - Chapter 3
CHAPTER IIIAs Lloyd Searight turned into Calumet Square on her way from the bookseller's, with her purchases under her arm, she was surprised to notice a drop of rain upon the back of one of her white gloves. She looked up quickly; the sun was gone. On the east side of the square, under the trees, the houses that at this hour of the afternoon should have been overlaid with golden light were in shadow. The heat that had been palpitating through all the City's streets since early morning was swiftly giving place to a certain cool and odorous dampness. There