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A Circle In The Sand

A Circle In The Sand image
Parent Issue
Day
21
Month
October
Year
1898
Copyright
Public Domain
OCR Text

"r)? ftss o öoci.TAe Otier House: Jj CHAPTER VI. Dear Miss Garrick- Your breezy letter carne líke a voice froru the outside world into the solitude of mj siokroom. I am muoh better. In a week or two I'U be niyself again. The consequences of the accident are a treacherously dizzy brain, a bandaged shoulder and head and a great weariness of everything ouder the aun. Your request stuiefle3 me. I never heard of such reckless courage. Fancy you out among the miners in these times of bloodshed. Do you kuow what it means? I can imagine what you will say. You are a student of life, and a reading of selected passages will not content you. However, we won't tear thia subject to shreds again. Of course you know that from s mercantile standpoint your report of the strike, your description of the life of the women in that hopeless place, would be most valuable to the paper, and, if you still wish to go, please, for friendship's sake, ask Dr. Ericsson to go with you. I will write to him too. About the stories. Don't go into the intricacies of the strike. Teil the women's story in a woman's way. I'll feature them in the half weekly and Sunday editions. Sefain, whoni you have seen in the office, is there now. I'll instruot him to illustrate your stories, and, as he does excellent work, too, they ought to make a hit. The relief funi which has been started will be forwarded to you for distribution. After all these instruetions I urgently add- don't go. Faithfully, David Temple. This letter was held closely in Anne's band, hidden under the folds of her traveling cloak, as the train carried her over tbe bilis of Pennsylvania. Dr. Ericsson had closed his eyes npon the glooruiness of his sarroundings and fallen asleep upon the opposite seat. She was free to think uniuterrnptedly, her eyes upon the longlinesof Windows ourtaiued with mist and irisated with raindrops, the reaches of land patched with melting suow, the smoke from infreqnent cottages struggling in tbe dampness and vanishing groundward as if añrighted. Ten coinnionplace days and nights had passed siuce sudden griof like a flarne had illumiiied her heart and set before ber eyes its hopeless, passionate buiden. Since then she had been unquiet; tha bappiuess of kucrwiug David's injury wonlfi aot be señeras mixea witb a curious disinclination to see him again and a sense of defeat. It appeared unconformable that tbis love sbonld have unexpectedly awakened within her wben she bad thought herself too prond and strong. It seemed as if her senses bad lightly suecurubed to the poteney of environment, as if passion were a raeré impulse, and the man treading the same path with ber a man to love, not the man her soul had irresistibly soughfc and found. And yet something within her after all reasoning insisted on being heard. It had an eostatic voice and gave its own golden meaning to the dark day. She seemed drawn to David bya warm, strong hand, and the delight of yielding sent a feeling of sublime weakness over her as comes to one wearied who slips the will and sinks to sleep. It was a happy faDoy and hid the meager land under the hurrying twilight froru her sigbt. Dr. Ericsson gave his body a chilly shake and roused himself, opening one eye querulonsly and tben the other. "You'll regret taking me as a traveling companion, roy dear. How long have I been asleep?" "For hours. We'll get to Platt's Peak in time for dinner. " Anne cleared away a spot on the glass with her finger and gazed at tbe blankness beyond. "You'll be hungry, poor dear, won't yon?" "Dinner? Be thankful if we get doughnuts and cabbage or pork and f ried bread. I know these places," he grunted. "You don't know wbat you've run into, young lady. I warned you. I might have saved my breath. " "Fancy being able from actual experience to describe thepangsof hunger, " said Anne, with a laugh. "Don't madden me. I've arrived at the age when I respect a good dinner as much as anything on earth. As the irreproachable bourgeois said at the pantomime when the ballet appeared, 'I wish I hadn't carne. ' " " You're in a vile humor today, " said Anne placidly. "Jmuot." "Of course you're not; you're a wornan. You've had your way and you've made eome one miserable, so there yon are," he jerked out, a smile in his eyes. "But truly, " he added in a different tone, "I had a letter from your aunt this morning which annoyed me very much. They'll be back some time in January. " "But you'll surely be glad to see them." "Oh, fundamentally of course! But there's the house to be renovated - not good enough as it is. And I au made distinctly aware that Olga is to be brought here on a husband hunting skirmish. Foreigners evidently have been given up as hopeless. JVIy beautiful daughter has no money, you see." He clasped his hands and looked belligerent. " "Do you remember Olga at all? I took her down to your father's a few times when sbe was a little tbing. " "I remember her very distinctly," and Anne laughed. "She scratched my face once. We quarreled all the time. I remember that a little guinea hen of mine died, and I buried it with proper, religious pomp, singing over it, 'Sister, thou wast mild and lovely. ' But Olga wouldu't liave this at all and interrupted the services with shrieks and dances. We parted the frankest of enemies. It will be curious to see her again. Do you know she wasn'tatall pretty then?" "Today she is a professional beauty wifch no other ambition than to make a good match. It will be strange to have l them back. But you wou 't desert rae then, Anne?" And he looked wistful. "I have Mrs. Micawbers staying qualities, you'll see, " she said gayly. It was dark now. Beyond the windows lay a tenipestuous blackness crossed at tirnes by the red and green of railroad lights. Anne sat back and closed her eyes. There was work before her, and she meant to do it well. Besides the stubborn law she had always followed of putting the best of herself into her work there was now a determination to become a name in the world of journalisin, and all for a reason that made her a lifctle ashamed - the tnilliner who humined a bailad while she twisted a ribbon for a bat, the dairymaid who eyed her rows of glistening pans with a orifcical eye while listening for a footstep, shared this ambition with her - simply the Ionging to appear well in one man 's eyes and be loved by him. The rain was beating in a drumming downpour on the roof of the car when the brakeman swung in, a red lantern in his hand. As he stood in the doorway, the spray driving against his crouched shoulders, the bloody blotch of light against his rain soaked clothos, he seerned a figure of doom, as if the raisery, cold and death rampant there had taken humau forru and entered, crying in hoarse acceuts: "Platt's Peak colliery!" Anne's dreaming feil from her like a cloak shrugged from uneasy shoulders, and she spraDg np, her face bright with sudden energy. On Dr. Ericsson 's arm she plunged through the black night to the railway station. This was little more than a shed over a flooring and supported by begrimed posts. It was dark save for the yellcw rays from a small window opening into a boxlike house where two telegraph operators sat, the beat of the machines stealing into the shadow like the clucking of a tongue. A man stood looking in. When he swung arouud, Anne found herself face to face with Donald Sefain. They had seen each other constantly without recognition and without excbanging a word. The meeting there under the circurristances was a trifle perplexing. Douald's expression was almost forbidding as he awkwardly pulled off his cap. "Miss Garrick, I believe?" "How are you, Donald?" cried Dr. Ericsson, stepping into the light. "I haven"t seen you for an age." And he seized him by the shoulder. "Oh, I'm all right!" he said indifferentLv. "You'll have tn -walk to the hotel. The cab service is very deficiënt here. We've all got to live like paupers wbether we like it or not. " He hurried ahead, the effort of being conventionally polite evidently a new role. "I'll show yon the way,"he saiü brasquely. "I say, Donald" - and Dr. Ericsson's tone was just as genial as when he had first spoken - "are things very bad?" Donald's stormy eyes flashed from beneath the rim of bis cap. His tone was almost insoleut. "Heil is loose here," he said. CHAPTER VIL It was a dark morning, and Dr. Ericsson's mood matched it. He had rhenmatism. It had rained for three days, was still raining, and they had again given him fried bread for breakfast. "Thank God, sunshine and laugbter are in the world somewhere! It is well to remember that here, " h& said, poking the fire furiously. Anne stood near him, drawing on a pair of loose dogskin gloves. A fur cap fitted like a bandage above her troubled eyes. "Tuck me in, Anne, dear. Then look out, like a good girl, and see if there'sa break in the dirty sky. " She swept the rag of curtain aside and gazed on the roarvels of desolation before her. The hotel was on one of the highest hills, and she could see mountains of coal waste looming black in the mist, rivers like ink flowing beneath gaunt bridges, vast hollows of moist, shrunken land above the mines spreading like emptied arteries beneath the surface, houses, as if shaken by palsy, leaning sideways upon erratic foundations, and over all a light rain driven by a wind from the east. "The sky is as dull as ever, "said Anne, still standing with the curtain in her hand, and she added in a vehement whisper: "It's all wrong, uncle. There's something horribly wrong with the world." "Have you just found that out?" "Last night as we came home from the funeral of the man Red Evans killed" - her voice trembled - "it came to me what these people are. They are the moving, untombed dead. The starving men guarding the black pits, the women, nothing but child bearing blocks, the pieker boys with their undersized, ghastly bodies, have dead souls, uncle - quite, quite dead. " "Don't look so tragic, my dear. One comfort - they don't know how really badly off they are; brought up to it, you see." "I know it" - the curtain slipped from Anne's fingers - "but that's what makes me fairly sick when I think of it - their apathy, their stolid acceptance of all. They don't crave anything except enough food to keep them quiet, and they can 't get that. Then one of tbem grows irantio and tbe rest toüow. Only now and then there's a Red Evans wbo bas bate enougb in bim to kill tbe insulting despot who ruined bis daughter and who has been crnshing and cheating hini for years. He went mad, and now the law is loose hunting for Red Evans as terriërs hunt for a rat. If they flnd him, they'll hang him, and this is justioe of course. But wby need Red Evans ever have become what be was? Wby? It's such a big, terrible question. " Dr. Ericsson caught her hand and kissed it. "You shonld have put an iron casing round those too ready sympathies of yours, Anne, bef ore yon carne bere. We'll have a very hard time of it if we try to change conditions which have always been," he said mildly. "Besides, I've come to the conclusión myself for my own satisfaction that the small tbings of life are inevitably balanoed bere; so life in total with all its oppositious and wrongs must be as evenly balauced soiuewhere else. What are yoar plans for torïay? I wish I could go with you aud Sefain. Coufonnd thisuncertain leg of mine!" "I'm first going with money to Red Evans' sister," said Aune, seating herself on tbe arm of bis chair and opening her notebook. "Theu I want to see the interior of a miue if it's possible. I'd like to get an idea of the graves where these men spend their days. Tonight I must get a long 'special' ready." "Sefain must go witb you everywhere. Don 't forget that. Goodby, my dear. Don 't fret over wbat eau 't be helped. Remember all workers are not like these. Tbink of niggers singing iu a lily field I Ah, I wish I were tbere now!" Anne burried down the stairs and found Donald waiting for her with a venerable carriage. He did not see her as she carne up to him. Standing just outside the doorway, au Inverness cape flapping around him, he was sketchiDg in tbe salient points of a noisy group across the road. One man stood on a barrel, bis arrus held up, whilein bowls he called on the others toresist. Arouud him were a score of men - Huns, Poles, witb a smaller mixture of Irish and English - their working jeans discarded for autique and yellowed broadcloth. Thev werfi all stnnidlv listenins wittiout sign of answering spirit, tbeir faces showing that they were hungry and shivering. Donald was nfver fully aroused except when be workeil. Hia brown, nervous fingers held tbu book intently, bis eyes flashed keeulyfrom tbe page to the men, but his dark face looked pinched in the raw morning. His air was frankly dissolute. When Anne spoke to bim, the sinile of which he always seemed ashamed made bis face attractive for a second before it settled again iuto the usual ungracious quiet. The horse went at a crawling pace over the bilis and across swampy land, and they talked of the work for the paper as if they were two men. No personalities were touched upon. There was nothing to brighten tbe drive, and af ter a long distance covered in the fact of a mist that made Anne's cheeks like pale, wet roses they stopped before the house where Red Evans had lived. The clamor following disgrace surrounded it. Women bowed by the malformationsof toil and years stood shoulder to shoulder with idle men, all talking loudly, their eyes fastened upon the sulphur hued cottage, whose under story f rom the trembling of the tunneled land bad been shot out like a hag'sjaw. "She'sin there," said Donald. "They say she's like a crazy woman. I'll go in with you." Hetied the horse to a post and shielded Anne through the curious crowd. After some imperative knocking and promises of help to the woman shrieking abuse from withiu the door was guardedly opened, and they stood before Red Evans' sister. Anne shuddered at the face. Tho forces in a soul that damn seemed to have set lire to all the softness in the woman and ieft their flamea blazing in her hollow eyes. With lank gray hair failing to her shoulders and veined hands clinched at her sides she stood at bay in the desolate room, bitten through with grief, an epitome of hatred, fatnine and fear. Unnoticed Donald swiftly made a sketch of her and at a sign from Anne slipped out, leaving her to her difficult task. In the warmth of her sympathy and gratitude for the visible help she brougbt the beast in tbe sufferer was conquered, and with wild weeping she told the story of her life. She had been born on a sheep farm in Scotland near a river winding through a valley and had Ieft it to come to her brother when his wife died. Anne saw tbe lost home plainly as the bomely sentences sketched it - a place of perfume, light and healthy sleep. She realized the gloomy change to tbis black valley with Red Evans, the morbid slave; bis daughter pretty and wild, ready to sell her soul for a trinket and at length flying away in shame, and the younger son, .Toe, a pieker boy, choked with miner's asthma (To be conünued)