Full Online Books
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Web Of Life - Part 2 - Chapter 7
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
The Web Of Life - Part 2 - Chapter 7 Post by :Roy_hunter Category :Long Stories Author :Robert Herrick Date :February 2011 Read :2524

Click below to download : The Web Of Life - Part 2 - Chapter 7 (Format : PDF)

The Web Of Life - Part 2 - Chapter 7

Part II Chapter VII

"Pshaw! pshaw!" Dr. Leonard exclaimed, in a coaxing tone. "I'm disappointed, Alves. 'Tain't natural. I mean to see _him and show him what harm it is."

"No, no, don't speak of it again, at least to _him_," Alves pleaded anxiously. "He would do that, or anything, if he thought I wanted it. I _don't want it, I tell you; I'm happier as it is."

"S'pose there are children?" the old dentist asked, in a convincing tone.

"I hope there never will be."

"Now, that shows how wrong you are, how fussed up--why, what's marriage for if it ain't for children? I guess I've had as hard a struggle as most to keep head to the tide, but I couldn't spare the children. Now, I'll get our minister to do the job. You and the doctor come out next Sunday to my house, and after the evening service we'll slip over to the church and make it all right."

Alves smiled at the earnest kindness of the old dentist, but shook her head firmly. Dr. Leonard gathered up his overcoat and silk hat, but seemed loath to go. He peered out of the windows that Sommers had put into the big doors of the temple.

"It's like your living out here in this ramshackle old chicken-coop, when you might have a tidy flat on Paulina Street; and the doctor could have a desk in my office next door to his old boss." Dr. Leonard spoke testily, and Alves laid her hand soothingly on his arm.

"I guess we aren't made to be like other people."

"You won't have any happiness so long as you defy God's law."

"Did I have any when I lived according to it?"

The dentist, at the end of his arguments, turned the door-knob.

"Some day, Alves, _he will reproach you justly for what you've done."

"I shall be dead before that day."

"I've no patience with you, talking of death and hoping you'll never have children."

The old dentist stumbled out into the portico, and, without further words, trudged down the road. Alves lingered in the open door in spite of the intense cold, and watched him, with an unwonted feeling of loneliness. The few people that touched her solitary life seemed to draw back, repelled by something unusual, unsafe in her and her situation. Why was she so obstinate about this trivial matter of a ceremony that counted for so much with most people? At first her refusal had been a sentiment, merely, an instinctive, unreasoned decision. Now, however, there were stronger causes: she would not consent to tie his hands, to make him realize the irrevocableness of his step. Time might come when...

And why had she so stoutly denied a wish for children? These days her thoughts went back often to her dead child--the child of the man she had married. Preston's share in the child was so unimportant now! To the mother belonged the child. Perhaps it was meant to be so in order that something might come to fill the empty places of a woman's heart. If she had children, what difference would that ignorance of the man she loved, that division from him, make? The man had his work, his ideas--the children of his soul; and the woman had the children of her body. Each went his way and worked his life into the fabric of the world. Love! Love was but an episode, an accident of the few blossoming years of life. To woman there was the gift of children, and to man the gift of labor. She wondered if this feeling would increase as the years passed. Would she think more and more of the child she had had, the other man's child? And less of him whom she loved?

"Trying to make an icicle of yourself?" a jovial voice called out; the next moment Dresser came up the steps. The portico shook as he stamped his feet. He wore a fur-lined coat, and carried a pair of skates. His face, which had grown perceptibly fuller since his connection with _The Investor's Monthly_, was red with cold.

"The ice on the lake is first-rate, Alves, and I skated up the shore to see if I could get you for a spin."

"I am glad you came," Alves said, with new life. "I was kind of lonely and blue, and the doctor is off on a case the other side of nowhere."

"Just the time," responded Dresser, who seemed to have the good luck at present of making "right connections."

They skated down the lagoon to the blackened Court of Honor, through this little pond, around the dismantled figure of Chicago, out into the open lake beside the long pier. The ice was black and without a scratch. They dashed on toward the centre of the lake, Alves laughing in pure exultation over the sport. They had left far behind the few skaters that had ventured beyond the lagoon, and taking hands they flew for a mile down the shore. Then Alves proposed that they should go back to the temple for a cup of tea. The wind was up, beating around the long, black pier behind them, and when they turned, they caught it full in the face. Alves, excited by the tussle, bent to the task with a powerful swing; Dresser skated fast behind her. As they neared the long pier, instead of turning in toward the esplanade, Alves struck out into the lake to round the obstruction and enter the yacht pool beyond. Dresser kept the pace with difficulty. As she neared the end of the pier, she gave a little cry; Dresser saw her leap, then heard a warning shout,

"Look out--the pool!" As he scuttled away from the oily water where the drifts opened, he saw Alves clinging to the rim of ice on the piles.

"Don't be afraid," she called back. "I can crawl under the pier and get up on the cross-bars. Go on to the shore."

While he protested she vanished, and in a minute he saw her reappear above, waving her hand to him. She took off her skates leisurely, wrung out her skirt, and walked along the pier. He skated up as close as he could, stammering his admiration and fears. When he reached the shore, she was already running down the path to the temple. He followed more leisurely, and found her, in a dry skirt, stirring up the fire in the stove.

"That was a close call," he gasped admiringly, throwing his skates into the corner.

"Wasn't it fine?" she laughed. "I'd like days and days of that--flying ahead, with a hurricane behind."

She shovelled some coal into the ugly little stove, and gayly set about preparing tea. Dresser had never seen her so strong and light-hearted as she was this afternoon. They made tea and toasted crackers, chaffing each other and chattering like boy and girl. After their meal Dresser lit his pipe and crouched down by the warm stove.

"I wish you were like this oftener," he murmured admiringly. "Gay and ready for anything!"

"I don't believe I shall be as happy as this for weeks. It comes over me sometimes."

She leaned forward, her face already subdued with thought.

"It makes you beautiful to be happy," Dresser said, with clumsy self-consciousness.

Alves's eyes responded quickly, and she leaned a little farther forward, pondering the words. Suddenly Dresser took her hand, and then locked her in his arms. Even in the roughness of his passion, he could not fail to see her white face. She struggled in his grasp without speaking, as if knowing that words would be useless. And Dresser, too embarrassed by his act to speak, dragged her closer to him.

"Don't touch me," she gasped; "what have I done!"

"I _will kiss you," the man cried. "What difference is it, anyway?"

He wrested her from the low chair, and she fell without power to save herself, to struggle further. The room was swimming before her eyes, and Dresser had his arms about her. Then the door opened, and she saw Sommers enter. Her eyes filled with tears.

"What is the matter?" he exclaimed, looking sharply about at the upset chair, the prostrate form, and Dresser's red face.

"She has fallen--fainted," Dresser stammered. Alves seemed to acquiesce for a moment, and her head sank back; then she opened her eyes and looked at Sommers pitifully.

"No, Howard. Help me."

Sommers raised her, his face much troubled. While he held her, she spoke brokenly, trying to hide her face.

"You must know. He kissed me. I don't know why. Make him go away. O Howard, what am I?"

Sommers dropped his arm from Alves and started toward Dresser, who was edging away.

"What is this?"

His dictatorial tone made Dresser pause.

"She told you. I was a fool. I tried to kiss her."

Sommers took him by the arm without a word.

"Yes, I am going. Don't make a row about it. You needn't get into a state about it. She isn't Mrs. Sommers, you know!"

"Oh!" Alves groaned, closing her eyes again. "How can he say that!"

Sommers dropped his arm.

"Who told you that Alves was not my wife?" he asked drearily.

"Every one knows it. Lindsay has the whole story. You--"

"Don't say anything more," Sommers interrupted sternly. "You are too nasty to kill."

His tone was quiet. He seemed to be questioning himself what he should do. Finally, opening the door, he grasped Dresser by the neck and flung him into the sand outside. Then he closed the door and turned to Alves. She was crouching before the fire, sobbing to herself. He stroked her hair soothingly.

"We must conform," he said at last.

She shook her head. "It is too late to stop that talk. I was wrong to care about not having the ceremony, and it was foolish to tell Jane. But--to have him think, his touch--how can you ever kiss me again! You let him go," she added, her passion flaming up; "I would have killed him. Why didn't you let me kill him?"

"That is savage," he replied sadly. "What good is it to answer brutality by crime? You cannot save your skirts from the dirt," he concluded softly to himself. "I knew the fellow was bad; I knew it eight years ago, when he took a Swiss girl to Augsburg and left her there. But I said to myself then that, like many men, he had his moods of the beast which he could not control, and thought no more about it. Now his mood of the beast touches me. Society keeps such men in check; he will marry Laura Lindsay and make an excellent, cringing husband, waiting for Lindsay's savings. You see," he ended, turning to his work-table, "I suppose he felt released from the bonds of society by the way we live, by--it all."

Alves rose and walked to and fro.

"Do you think," she asked at last, "that anything I could have done--he could have felt that I--encouraged him?"

"I don't think anything more about it," Sommers answered, closing his lips firmly. "It is part of the mire; we must avert our eyes, Alves."

But in spite of his mild, even gentle way of dealing with the affair, he could not fall into his routine of work. He got up from the table and, finding the room too warm, threw open a window to let the clear, cold winter air rush over his face. He stood there a long time, plunged in thought, while Alves waited for him to come back to her. At last she could bear it no longer. She crept over to his side and placed her head close to his.

"I wish you would even hate me, would be angry, would _feel it," she whispered. "Will you ever care to kiss me again?"

"Foolish woman!" Sommers answered, taking her face in his hands. "Why should _that make any difference to me, any more than if a drunken brute had struck you?"

"But it does," she asserted sadly. "Everything does, Howard--all the past: that I let my husband touch me; that I had to live with him; that you had to know it, him--it all makes, oh, such a difference!"

"No," he responded, in a high voice. "By God, it makes no difference--only one thing." He paused. Then with a wrench he went on, "Alves, did you--did you--" But he could not make himself utter the words, and before he had mastered his hesitation she had broken in impetuously:

"No, I am right; the great happiness that I wanted to give you must come from the spirit and body of a woman untouched by the evil of living in the world. The soiled people like me should not--"

He closed her lips with a kiss.

"Don't blaspheme our life," he answered tenderly. "One cannot live unspotted except in the heart."

He kissed her again, tenderly, lovingly. But the kiss did not assuage her burning shame; it savored of pity, of magnificent charity.

If you like this book please share to your friends :

The Web Of Life - Part 2 - Chapter 8 The Web Of Life - Part 2 - Chapter 8

The Web Of Life - Part 2 - Chapter 8
Part II Chapter VIII One still, frozen winter day succeeded another in changeless iteration. The lake was a solid floor of gray ice as far as one could see. Along the shore between the breakwaters the ice lay piled in high waves, with circles of clear, shining glass beyond. A persistent drift from the north and east, day after day, lifted the sheets of surface ice and slid them over the inner ledges. At night the lake cracked and boomed like a battery of powerful guns, one report starting another until the shore resounded with the noise. The perpetual groaning of

The Web Of Life - Part 2 - Chapter 6 The Web Of Life - Part 2 - Chapter 6

The Web Of Life - Part 2 - Chapter 6
Part II Chapter VI The summer burned itself out, and the autumn winds pierced the rotten staff walls of the temple. They were no nearer to moving into better quarters than they had been in the spring. The days had come when there was little food, and the last precarious dollar had been spent. They lived on the edge of defeat, and such an existence to earnest people is sombre. Finally the tide turned. The manager of a large manufacturing plant in Burnside, one of the little factory hamlets south of the city, asked Sommers to take charge of an epidemic