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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesTogether - Part Seven - Chapter 79
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Together - Part Seven - Chapter 79 Post by :Jay_White Category :Long Stories Author :Robert Herrick Date :May 2012 Read :1259

Click below to download : Together - Part Seven - Chapter 79 (Format : PDF)

Together - Part Seven - Chapter 79

PART SEVEN CHAPTER LXXIX

The private car Olympus had been switched for the day to a siding at the little town of Orano on the edge of the Texas upland. The party within--the Lanes, Margaret and her children, and several men interested in the new railroad--had been making a leisurely tour of inspection, passing through the fertile prairies and woodlands of Oklahoma, stopping often at the little towns that were springing up along the road, aiming south until they had reached the Panhandle. These September days the harvests were rich and heavy, covered with a golden haze of heat,--the sweat of earth's accomplishment. The new soil was laden with its fruit. The men had been amazed by the fertility, the force of the country. "Traffic, traffic," Lane had murmured enthusiastically, divining with his trained eye the enormous possibilities of the land, the future for the iron highroad he was pushing through it. Traffic,--in other words, growth, business, human effort and human life,--that is the cosmic song that sings itself along the iron road.

Margaret had said mockingly:--

"Wouldn't it do our New York friends a world of good to get out here once a year and realize that life goes on, and very real life, outside the narrow shores of Manhattan!"

That was the illuminating thought which had come to them all in different ways during this slow progress from St. Louis south and west. This broad land of states had a vital existence, a life of its own, everywhere, not merely in the great centres, the glutted metropolitan points. Men lived and worked, happily, constructively, in thousands and thousands of small places, where the seaboard had sunk far beneath the eastern horizon. Life was real, to be lived vitally, as much here in prairie and plain as anywhere on the earth's surface. The feeling which had come to Isabelle on her westward journey in March--the conviction that each one counted, had his own terrestrial struggle, his own celestial drama, differing very little in importance from his neighbor's; each one--man, woman, or child--in all the wonderful completeness of life throughout the millions--swept over her again here where the race was sowing new land. And lying awake in the stillness of the autumn morning on the lofty plateau, as she listened to the colored servants chaffing at their work, there came to her the true meaning of that perplexing phrase, which had sounded with the mockery of empty poetry on the lips of the district attorney,--"All men born free and equal." Yes! in the realm of their spirits, in their souls,--the inner, moving part of them, "free and equal"! ...

"It's the roof of the world!" Margaret said, as she jumped from the car platform and looked over the upland,--whimsically recalling the name of a popular play then running in New York.

An unawakened country, dry and untilled, awaiting the hand of the master, it lifted westward in colored billows of undulating land. Under the clear morning sun it was still and fresh, yet untouched, untamed.

"It _is the roof of the world," she repeated, "high and dry and extraordinarily vast,--leading your eyes onward and upward to the heavens, with all the rest of the earth below you in the fog. How I should like to live here always! If I were you, Isabelle, I should get your husband to give you a freight-car like those the gangs of track-layers use, with a little stovepipe sticking out of one corner, and just camp down in it here,--on the roof of the world."

She lifted her thin, delicate face to the sun, reaching out her arms to it hungrily.

"We must sleep out to-night under the stars, and talk--oh, much talk, out here under the stars!"

During the past year at Grosvenor her frail body had strengthened, revived; she was now firm and vigorous. Only the deep eyes and the lines above them and about the mouth, the curve of the nostril and chin, showed as on a finely chased coin the subtle chiselling of life. And here in the uplands, in the great spaces of earth and sky, the elemental desire of her soul seemed at last wholly appeased, the longing for space and height and light, the longing for deeds and beauty and Peace. At last, after the false roads, the fret and rebellion, she had emerged into the upper air....

"How well the little man rides!" Isabelle remarked as the children went by them on some ponies they had found.

Margaret's face glowed with pride.

"Yes, Ned has improved very fast. He will go to school with the others now.... The doctor has really saved his life--and mine, too," she murmured.

So the two slept out under the stars, as Margaret wished, with dotted heavens close above and vague space all about; and they talked into the morning of past years, of matters that meant too much to them both for daylight speech. Isabelle spoke of Vickers, of the apparent waste of his life. "I can see now," she said, "that in going away with that woman as he did he expressed the real soul of him, as he did in dying for me. He was born to love and to give, and the world broke him. But he escaped!" And she could not say even to Margaret what she felt,--that he had laid it on her to express his defeated life.

They spoke even of Conny. "You received the cards for her wedding?" Margaret asked. "The man is a stockbroker. She is turning her talents to a new field,--money. I hear the wedding was very smart, and they are to live on Long Island, with a yacht and half a dozen motors."

"I thought she would marry--differently," Isabelle observed vaguely, recalling the last time she had seen Conny.

"No! Conny knows her world perfectly,--that's her strength. And she knows exactly what to take from it to suit her. She is a bronze Cleopatra with modern variations. I think they ought to put her figure on the gold eagles as the American Woman Triumphant, ruling her world."

"And on the other side the figure of a Vampire, stacking at the souls of men." ...

And then they talked of the future, the New Life, as it would shape itself for Isabelle and her husband, talked as if the earth were fresh and life but in the opening.

"He may do something else than this," Isabelle said. "He has immense power. But I hope it will always be something outside the main wheels of industry, as Mr. Gossom would say,--something with another kind of reward than the Wall Street crown."

"I wish he might find work here for Rob," Margaret said; "something out here where he belongs that will not pay him in fame or money. For he has that other thing in him, the love of beauty, of the ideal." She spoke with ease and naturally of her lover. "And there has been so little that is ideal in his life,--so little to feed his spirit."

And she added in a low voice, "I saw her in New York--his wife."

"Bessie!"

"Yes,--she was there with the girl,--Mildred.... I went to see her--I had to.... I went several times. She seemed to like me. Do you know, there is something very lovable in that woman; I can see why Rob married her. She has wrecked herself,--her own life. She would never submit to what the doctor calls the discipline of life. She liked herself just as she was; she wanted to be always a child of nature, to win the world with her charm, to have everything nice and pleasant and gay about her, and be petted into the bargain. Now she is gray and homely and in bad health--and bitter. It is pitiful to wake up at forty after you have been a child all your life, and realize that life was never what you thought it was.... I was very sorry for her."

"Will they ever come together again?"

"Perhaps! Who knows? The girl must bring them together; she will not be wholly satisfied with her mother, and Rob needs his daughter.... I hope so--for his sake. But it will be hard for them both,--hard for him to live with a spent woman, and hard for her to know that she has missed what she wanted and never quite to understand why.... But it may be better than we can see,--there is always so much of the unknown in every one. That is the great uplifting thought! We live in space and above unseen depths. And voices rise sometimes from the depths."

And lying there under the stars Margaret thought what she could not speak,--of the voice that had risen within her and made her refuse the utmost of personal joy. She had kissed her lover and held him in her arms and sent him away from her. Without him she could not have lived; nor could she live keeping him....

At last they came to Renault, the one who had opened their eyes to life and to themselves.

"Still working," Margaret said, "burning up there in the hills like a steady flame! Some day he will go out,--not die, just wholly consume from within, like one of those old lamps that burn until there is nothing, no oil left, not even the dust of the wick."

As the faint morning breeze began to draw across the upland they fell asleep, clasping hands.

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