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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesTogether - Part Seven - Chapter 69
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Together - Part Seven - Chapter 69 Post by :Jay_White Category :Long Stories Author :Robert Herrick Date :May 2012 Read :2747

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Together - Part Seven - Chapter 69

PART SEVEN CHAPTER LXIX

All night long in the corridors of the cliff-city the elevator doors had clicked, as they were opened and shut on the ceaseless trips to pack away the people in the eighteen stories. In the morning they became even livelier in their effort to take down the hungry guests for breakfast and the day's business. The corridors and the lobbies and the foyer were thronged with the same people, freshly dressed for the day, fat or lean, heavy eyed or alert, pale, nervous, with quick tones and jerky movements. And there was a line of new arrivals before a fresh row of pale clerks. The prominent people of the city, especially the women, had already left town for the Springs or Florida or Paris or the Mediterranean, anywhere but here! Their flitting, however, had made no impression on the hotels or the honey-hives along the avenue. What they abandoned--the city in March with its theatres, opera, restaurants, and shops--the provincials came hungrily to suck. For the cast-off, the spurned, is always Somebody's desired.

It was the same on the other side of the ferry in the railroad terminal, hurrying throngs pressing through the little wickets that bore the legend of the destination of each train,--"The Florida East Coast Limited," "New Orleans, Texas, and the South," "Washington and Virginia," etc. From this centre the strands of travel ran outwards to many beguiling points. And there were two perpetual motions,--the crowd flowing out to some joy beyond the horizon, and the crowd flowing back irresistibly to the sucking whirlpool. Always movement, change, endless going, going with these people,--the spirit of the race in their restless feet! There was always the Desirable beyond at the other end of the line. All the world that could move was in unstable flux, scurrying hither and thither in hot search for the phantom Better--change, variety--to be had for the price of a ticket.

It was a relief to be on the Pullman, seated for a time in a small fixed space, free from the revolving whirlpool of restless humanity, though that fixity itself was being whirled across the land. With a sigh Isabelle leaned back and looked at the passing country outside. The snow had long disappeared, leaving the brown earth naked and forlorn. It was the same landscape, under similar conditions, that Isabelle had gazed at the spring afternoon when she was hurrying back to meet Cairy, his violets on her breast. It seemed to her then that she was happy, with a wonderful happiness. Now she was content.... As the train rushed through the Alleghanies, the first faint touches of spring appeared in the swelling stems of the underbrush, in the full streams of yellow water, and the few spears of green grass beside the sheltering fence posts, and the soft misty atmosphere full of brooding changes over the level fields.

Isabelle became eager to get on to her journey's end, to see her husband. Once out there with him, whatever accident befell them, she was equal to it, would see its real meaning, would find in it Peace. She had brought with her the copy of the _People's and a number of other magazines and books, and as the day waned she tried to interest herself in some of their "pleasant" stories. But her eyes wandered back to the landscape through which they were speeding, to the many small towns past which they darted,--ugly little places with ugly frame or brick buildings, stores and houses and factories, dirty and drab, unlike the homely whiteness of the Grosvenor village street. But they were strangely attracting to her eye,--these little glimpses of other lives, seen as the train sped by, at the back porches, the windows, the streets; the lives of the many fixed and set by circumstance, revolving between home and workshop, the lives of the multitude not yet evolved into ease and aspiration. But they counted, these lives of the multitude,--that was what she felt this day; they counted quite as much as here or any. She had travelled back and forth over this main artery of the Atlantic and Pacific many times from her childhood up. But hitherto the scene had meant nothing to her; she had never looked at it before. She had whirled through the panorama of states, thinking only of herself, what was to happen to her at the end of the journey. But to-day it was _her country, _her people, _her civilization that she looked out on. The millions that were making their lives in all these ugly little houses, these mills and shops, men and women together, loving, marrying, breeding, and above all living! "All of life is good!" Each one of these millions had its own drama, each to itself, as hers had been to her, with that tragic importance of being lived but once from the germ to the ultimate dust. Each one was its own epic, its own experience, and its own fulfilment. As Renault once said, "Any of the possibilities may lie in a human soul." And in that was the hope and the faith for Democracy,--the infinite variety of these possibilities!

So the literature of "movements" and causes, the effort by organization to right the human fabric, seemed futile, for the most part. If man were right with himself, square with his own soul, each one of the millions, there would be no wrongs to right by machinery, by laws, by discussion, by agitation, by theories or beliefs. Each must start with self, and right that.... Yes, the world needed a Religion, not movements nor reforms!

* * * * *

... Sometime during the night Isabelle was roused by the stopping of the train, and pulling aside the curtain of the window she looked out. The train was standing in the yards of a large station with many switch lights feebly winking along the tracks. At first she did not recognize the place; it might be any one of the division headquarters where the through trains stopped to change engines. But as she looked at the maze of tracks, at the dingy red brick building beyond the yards, she finally realized that it was Torso, the spot where her married life had begun. It gave her an odd sensation to lie there and look out on the familiar office building where she used to go for John--so long ago! Torso, she had felt at that time, was cramping, full of commonplace, ordinary people that one did not care to know. She had been very anxious to escape to something larger,--to St. Louis and then to New York. She wondered what she would think of it now if she should go back,--of Mrs. Fraser and the Griscoms. Then she remembered the Falkners, and how badly it had gone since with Bessie. It was sad to think back over the years and see how it might have been different, and for the moment she forgot that if it had been different in any large sense, the result would have been different. She would not be here now, the person she was. Regret is the most useless of human states of mind.... The railroad operatives were busy with lanterns about the train, tapping wheels, filling the ice-boxes and gas-tanks, and switching cars. She could see the faces of the men as they passed her section in the light of their lanterns. With deliberate, unconscious motions they performed their tasks. Like the face of that lad on the engine at White River, these were the faces of ordinary men, privates of the industrial world, and yet each had something about it distinctive, of its own. What kept these privates at their work, each in his place? Hunger, custom, faith? Surely something beyond themselves that made life seem to each one of them reasonable, desirable. Something not very different from the spirit which lay in her own soul, like a calming potion, which she could almost touch when she needed its strength. "For life is good--all of it!" ... and "Peace is the rightful heritage of every soul."

The train rolled on towards its destination, and she fell asleep again, reassured.

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PART SIX CHAPTER LXV"They seem to be in such a pother, out in the world," Isabelle remarked to Margaret, as she turned over the leaves of her husband's letter. "The President is calling names, and a lot of good people are calling names back. And neither side seems to like being called names. John doesn't like it, and he calls names. And they sulk and won't play marbles. It all sounds like childish squabbling." Margaret, who was unusually absent-minded this evening, sighed:-- "So many desires of men, always struggling at cross-purposes! I haven't read the papers for months! They don't seem
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