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Chapter 18

  • Toward noon old Jotham Blue came in from a cornfield where he had been turnin_he earth between the rows. Although sixty-five and with snowy hair and bear_e looked to be vigorous, and good to live until ninety or a hundred. His eye_ere blue and keen, his color rosy. He had great broad shoulders set upon _pare waist, for he had been a handsome figure of a man in his youth.
  • "How do you do, Mr. Witla," he inquired with easy grace as he strolled up, th_ellow mud of the fields on his boots. He had pulled a big jackknife out o_is pocket and begun whittling a fine twig he had picked up. "I'm glad to se_ou. My daughter, Angela, has been telling me one thing and another abou_ou."
  • He smiled as he looked at Eugene. Angela, who was sitting beside him, rose an_trolled toward the house.
  • "I'm glad to see you," said Eugene. "I like your country around here. It look_rosperous."
  • "It is prosperous," said the old patriarch, drawing up a chair which stood a_he foot of a tree and seating himself. Eugene sank back into the hammock.
  • "It's a soil that's rich in lime and carbon and sodium—the things which mak_lant life grow. We need very little fertilizer here—very little. Th_rincipal thing is to keep the ground thoroughly cultivated and to keep ou_he bugs and weeds."
  • He cut at his stick meditatively. Eugene noted the chemical and physica_nowledge relative to farming. It pleased him to find brain coupled with cro_ultivation.
  • "I noticed some splendid fields of wheat as I came over," he observed.
  • "Yes, wheat does well here," Blue went on, "when the weather is moderatel_avorable. Corn does well. We have a splendid apple crop and grapes ar_enerally successful in this state. I have always thought that Wisconsin had _ittle the best of the other valley states, for we are blessed with a moderat_limate, plenty of streams and rivers and a fine, broken landscape. There ar_ood mines up north and lots of lumber. We are a prosperous people, w_isconsiners, decidedly prosperous. This state has a great future."
  • Eugene noted the wide space between his clear blue eyes as he talked. He like_he bigness of his conception of his state and of his country. No petty littl_round-harnessed ploughman this, but a farmer in the big sense of the word—_ultivator of the soil, with an understanding of it—an American who loved hi_tate and his country.
  • "I have always thought of the Mississippi valley as the country of th_uture," said Eugene. "We have had the Valley of the Nile and the Valley o_he Euphrates with big populations, but this is something larger. I rathe_eel as though a great wave of population were coming here in the future."
  • "It is the new paradise of the world," said Jotham Blue, pausing in hi_hittling and holding up his right hand for emphasis. "We haven't come t_ealize its possibilities. The fruit, the corn, the wheat, to feed the nation_f the world can be raised here. I sometimes marvel at the productivity of th_oil. It is so generous. It is like a great mother. It only asks to be treate_indly to give all that it has."
  • Eugene smiled. The bigness of his prospective father-in-law's feelings lure_im. He felt as though he could love this man.
  • They talked on about other things, the character of the surroundin_opulation, the growth of Chicago, the recent threat of a war with Venezuela, the rise of a new leader in the Democratic party, a man whom Jotham admire_ery much. As he was telling of the latter's exploits—it appeared he ha_ecently met him at Blackwood—Mrs. Blue appeared in the front door.
  • "Jotham!" she called.
  • He rose. "My wife must want a bucket of water," he said, and strolled away.
  • Eugene smiled. This was lovely. This was the way life should be—compounded o_ealth, strength, good nature, understanding, simplicity. He wished he were _an like Jotham, as sound, as hearty, as clean and strong. To think he ha_aised eight children. No wonder Angela was lovely. They all were, no doubt.
  • While he was rocking, Marietta came back smiling, her blond hair blowing abou_er face. Like her father she had blue eyes, like him a sanguine temperament, warm and ruddy. Eugene felt drawn to her. She reminded him a little of Ruby—_ittle of Margaret. She was bursting with young health.
  • "You're stronger than Angela," he said, looking at her.
  • "Oh, yes, I can always outrun Angel-face," she exclaimed. "We fight sometime_ut I can get things away from her. She has to give in. Sometimes I fee_lder—I always take the lead."
  • Eugene rejoiced in the sobriquet of Angel-face. It suited Angela, he thought.
  • She looked like pictures of Angels in the old prints and in the stained glas_indows he had seen. He wondered in a vague way, however, whether Marietta di_ot have the sweeter temperament—were not really more lovable and cosy. But h_ut the thought forcefully out of his mind. He felt he must be loyal to Angel_ere.
  • While they were talking the youngest boy, David, came up and sat down on th_rass. He was short and stocky for his years—sixteen—with an intelligent fac_nd an inquiring eye. Eugene noted stability and quiet force in his characte_t once. He began to see that these children had inherited character as wel_s strength from their parents. This was a home in which successful childre_ere being reared. Benjamin came up after awhile, a tall, overgrown, puritanical youth, with western modifications and then Samuel, the oldest o_he living boys and the most impressive. He was big and serene like hi_ather, of brown complexion and hickory strength. Eugene learned in th_onversation that he was a railroad man in St. Paul—home for a brief vacation, after three years of absence. He was with a road called the Great Northern, already a Second Assistant Passenger Agent and with great prospects, so th_amily thought. Eugene could see that all the boys and girls, like Angela, were ruggedly and honestly truthful. They were written all over with Christia_recept—not church dogma—but Christian precept, lightly and good naturedl_pplied. They obeyed the ten commandments in so far as possible and live_ithin the limits of what people considered sane and decent. Eugene wondere_t this. His own moral laxity was a puzzle to him. He wondered whether he wer_ot really all wrong and they all right. Yet the subtlety of the universe wa_lways with him—the mystery of its chemistry. For a given order of society n_oubt he was out of place—for life in general, well, he could not say.
  • At 12.30 dinner was announced from the door by Mrs. Blue and they all rose. I_as one of those simple home feasts common to any intelligent farming family.
  • There was a generous supply of fresh vegetables, green peas, new potatoes, ne_tring beans. A steak had been secured from the itinerant butcher who serve_hese parts and Mrs. Blue had made hot light biscuit. Eugene expressed _redilection for fresh buttermilk and they brought him a pitcherful, sayin_hat as a rule it was given to the pigs; the children did not care for it.
  • They talked and jested and he heard odd bits of information concerning peopl_ere and there—some farmer who had lost a horse by colic; some other farme_ho was preparing to cut his wheat. There were frequent references to th_hree oldest sisters, who lived in other Wisconsin towns. Their childre_ppeared to be numerous and fairly troublesome. They all came home frequently, it appeared, and were bound up closely with the interests of the family as _hole.
  • "The more you know about the Blue family," observed Samuel to Eugene, wh_xpressed surprise at the solidarity of interest, "the more you realize tha_hey're a clan not a family. They stick together like glue."
  • "That's a rather nice trait, I should say," laughed Eugene, who felt no suc_een interest in his relatives.
  • "Well, if you want to find out how the Blue family stick together just d_omething to one of them," observed Jake Doll, a neighbor who had entered.
  • "That's sure true, isn't it, Sis," observed Samuel, who was sitting next t_ngela, putting his hand affectionately on his sister's arm. Eugene noted th_ovement. She nodded her head affectionately.
  • "Yes, we Blues all hang together."
  • Eugene almost begrudged him his sister's apparent affection. Could such a gir_e cut out of such an atmosphere—separated from it completely, brought into _adically different world, he wondered. Would she understand him; would h_tick by her. He smiled at Jotham and Mrs. Blue and thought he ought to, bu_ife was strange. You never could tell what might happen.
  • During the afternoon there were more lovely impressions. He and Angela sa_lone in the cool parlor for two hours after dinner while he restated hi_mpressions of her over and over. He told her how charming he thought her hom_as, how nice her father and mother, what interesting brothers she had. H_ade a genial sketch of Jotham as he had strolled up to him at noon, whic_leased Angela and she kept it to show to her father. He made her pose in th_indow and sketched her head and her halo of hair. He thought of his doubl_age illustration of the Bowery by night and went to fetch it, looking for th_irst time at the sweet cool room at the end of the house which he was t_ccupy. One window, a west one, had hollyhocks looking in, and the door to th_orth gave out on the cool, shady grass. He moved in beauty, he thought; wa_reading on showered happiness. It hurt him to think that such joy might no_lways be, as though beauty were not everywhere and forever present.
  • When Angela saw the picture which _Truth_ had reproduced, she was besid_erself with joy and pride and happiness. It was such a testimony to he_over's ability. He had written almost daily of the New York art world, so sh_as familiar with that in exaggerated ideas, but these actual things, lik_eproduced pictures, were different. The whole world would see this picture.
  • He must be famous already, she imagined.
  • That evening and the next and the next as they sat in the parlor alone he dre_earer and nearer to that definite understanding which comes between a man an_oman when they love. Eugene could never stop with mere kissing and caressin_n a reserved way, if not persistently restrained. It seemed natural to hi_hat love should go on. He had not been married. He did not know what it_esponsibilities were. He had never given a thought to what his parents ha_ndured to make him worth while. There was no instinct in him to tell him. H_ad no yearnings for parenthood, that normal desire which gives visions of _ome and the proper social conditions for rearing a family. All he thought o_as the love making period—the billing and cooing and the transports o_elight which come with it. With Angela he felt that these would be super- normal precisely because she was so slow in yielding—so on the defensiv_gainst herself. He could look in her eyes at times and see a swooning vei_hich foreshadowed a storm of emotion. He would sit by her stroking her hands, touching her cheek, smoothing her hair, or at other times holding her in hi_rms. It was hard for her to resist those significant pressures he gave, t_old him at arm's length, for she herself was eager for the delights of love.
  • It was on the third night of his stay and in the face of his growing respec_or every member of this family, that he swept Angela to the danger line—woul_ave carried her across it had it not been for a fortuitous wave of emotion, which was not of his creation, but of hers.
  • They had been to the little lake, Okoonee, a little way from the house durin_he afternoon for a swim.
  • Afterward he and Angela and David and Marietta had taken a drive. It was on_f those lovely afternoons that come sometimes in summer and speak direct t_he heart of love and beauty. It was so fair and warm, the shadows of th_rees so comforting that they fairly made Eugene's heart ache. He was youn_ow, life was beautiful, but how would it be when he was old? A morbi_nticipation of disaster seemed to harrow his soul.
  • The sunset had already died away when they drew near home. Insects hummed, _ow-bell tinkled now and then; breaths of cool air, those harbingers of th_pproaching eve, swept their cheeks as they passed occasional hollows.
  • Approaching the house they saw the blue smoke curls rising from the kitche_himney, foretelling the preparation of the evening meal. Eugene claspe_ngela's hand in an ecstasy of emotion.
  • He wanted to dream—sitting in the hammock with Angela as the dusk fell, watching the pretty scene. Life was all around. Jotham and Benjamin came i_rom the fields and the sound of their voices and of the splashing water cam_rom the kitchen door where they were washing. There was an anticipator_tamping of horses' feet in the barn, the lowing of a distant cow, the hungr_runt of pigs. Eugene shook his head—it was so pastoral, so sweet.
  • At supper he scarcely touched what was put before him, the group at the dinin_able holding his attention as a spectacle. Afterwards he sat with the famil_n the lawn outside the door, breathing the odor of flowers, watching th_tars over the trees, listening to Jotham and Mrs. Blue, to Samuel, Benjamin, David, Marietta and occasionally Angela. Because of his mood, sad in the fac_f exquisite beauty, she also was subdued. She said little, listening t_ugene and her father, but when she did talk her voice was sweet.
  • Jotham arose, after a time, and went to bed, and one by one the other_ollowed. David and Marietta went into the sitting room and then Samuel an_enjamin left. They gave as an excuse hard work for the morning. Samuel wa_oing to try his hand again at thrashing. Eugene took Angela by the hand an_ed her out where some hydrangeas were blooming, white as snow by day, bu_ale and silvery in the dark. He took her face in his hands, telling her agai_f love.
  • "It's been such a wonderful day I'm all wrought up," he said. "Life is s_eautiful here. This place is so sweet and peaceful. And you! oh, you!" kisse_nded his words.
  • They stood there a little while, then went back into the parlor where sh_ighted a lamp. It cast a soft yellow glow over the room, just enough to mak_t warm, he thought. They sat first side by side on two rocking chairs an_hen later on a settee, he holding her in his arms. Before supper she ha_hanged to a loose cream colored house gown. Now Eugene persuaded her to le_er hair hang in the two braids.
  • Real passion is silent. It was so intense with him that he sat contemplatin_er as if in a spell. She leaned back against his shoulder stroking his hair, but finally ceased even that, for her own feeling was too intense to mak_ovement possible. She thought of him as a young god, strong, virile, beautiful—a brilliant future before him. All these years she had waited fo_omeone to truly love her and now this splendid youth had apparently cas_imself at her feet. He stroked her hands, her neck, cheeks, then slowl_athered her close and buried his head against her bosom.
  • Angela was strong in convention, in the precepts of her parents, in the sens_f her family and its attitude, but this situation was more than she coul_esist. She accepted first the pressure of his arm, then the slow subtlet_ith which he caressed her. Resistance seemed almost impossible now for h_eld her close—tight within the range of his magnetism. When finally she fel_he pressure of his hand upon her quivering limbs, she threw herself back in _ransport of agony and delight.
  • "No, no, Eugene," she begged. "No, no! Save me from myself. Save me fro_yself. Oh, Eugene!"
  • He paused a moment to look at her face. It was wrought in lines of intens_uffering—pale as though she were ill. Her body was quite limp. Only the hot, moist lips told the significant story. He could not stop at once. Slowly h_rew his hand away, then let his sensitive artists' fingers rest gently on he_eck—her bosom.
  • She struggled lamely at this point and slipped to her knees, her dres_oosened at the neck.
  • "Don't, Eugene," she begged, "don't. Think of my father, my mother. I, wh_ave boasted so. I of whom they feel so sure. Oh, Eugene, I beg of you!"
  • He stroked her hair, her cheeks, looking into her face as Abélard might hav_ooked at Héloïse.
  • "Oh, I know why it is," she exclaimed, convulsively. "I am no better than an_ther, but I have waited so long, so long! But I mustn't! Oh, Eugene, _ustn't! Help me!"
  • Vaguely Eugene understood. She had been without lovers. Why? he thought. Sh_as beautiful. He got up, half intending to carry her to his room, but h_aused, thinking. She was such a pathetic figure. Was he really as bad a_his? Could he not be fair in this one instance? Her father had been so nic_o him—her mother—He saw Jotham Blue before him, Mrs. Blue, her admirin_rothers and sisters, as they had been a little while before. He looked at he_nd still the prize lured him—almost swept him on in spite of himself, but h_tayed.
  • "Stand up, Angela," he said at last, pulling himself together, looking at he_ntensely. She did so. "Leave me now," he went on, "right away! I won't answe_or myself if you don't. I am really trying. Please go."
  • She paused, looking at him fearfully, regretfully.
  • "Oh, forgive me, Eugene," she pleaded.
  • "Forgive me," he said. "I'm the one. But you go now, sweet. You don't know ho_ard this is. Help me by going."
  • She moved away and he followed her with his eyes, yearningly, burningly, unti_he reached the door. When she closed it softly he went into his own room an_at down. His body was limp and weary. He ached from head to foot from th_ntensity of the mood he had passed through. He went over the recen_ncidents, almost stunned by his experience and then went outside and stoo_nder the stairs, listening. Tree toads were chirping, there were suspiciou_racklings in the grass as of bugs stirring. A duck quacked somewhere feebly.
  • The bell of the family cow tinkled somewhere over near the water of the littl_tream. He saw the great dipper in the sky, Sirius, Canopus, the vast galax_f the Milky Way.
  • "What is life anyway?" he asked himself. "What is the human body? Wha_roduces passion? Here we are for a few years surging with a fever of longin_nd then we burn out and die." He thought of some lines he might write, o_ictures he might paint. All the while, reproduced before his mind's eye lik_ cinematograph, were views of Angela as she had been tonight in his arms, o_er knees. He had seen her true form. He had held her in his arms. He ha_oluntarily resigned her charms for tonight; anyhow, no harm had come. I_ever should.