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A Circle In The Sand

A Circle In The Sand image
Parent Issue
Day
4
Month
November
Year
1898
Copyright
Public Domain
OCR Text

(i Airthor of j A "Bood of feeling trickled over Donald's heart.soinethingnever feit bef ore - a pain, an eoetasy, a flre looseuing some callous growth and seeniing by a miracle to turn it to sunshine within him. "ïes, yes,"be said, the perplexing joy still controlling hini. " What can we do?" "There's only one way Eed Evans can escape," she continued feverishly. "I've tuoney with me. I'll give it to him. Bnt that doesn't help matters while he's bidden here. The only way he can leave the mine unquestioned is by putting on your blouse and bat and takiug your place when I go up. Ouce he's freed, I'll return for you. This is my plan - to pretend I lost some money and oome baok with these tbings I wear secreted under my own cloak for you, to slip them to you, have you pnt them on, step out unnoticed and join the searchers for the money. It will be easy enough. All men look alike in these tbings, and with the collar up and one's face turned away they make a good disguise. But should there be any cornment you'd have to insist that you came down with me the second time. Are you ■willing? Will you risk it? I promise to return for yon. ' ' In answer Donald took off the long blouse and bat and saw Anne's eyes darken with gratitude. She pointed to the mule cart. "He's there, and you'll need to give him some whisky; he's so weak. " After putting out the light upon his bat, which had begun to flicker, Donald stepped across an cozing stream and leanud over the cart. "Evans! Evans I Look up, man! Here's your chance. This hat and blouse" - He broke off abruptly. "Why doesn't he answer?" He bent nearer and tonched the head and face of the bidden man. "Oh, if he's fainted how can we save him? There isn't a moment," whispered Aune in a frenzy of fear. Donald climbed into the mule cart and plunged down. "He'sdead!" The words rang out. The echoes carried them and played with them in a ghastly way. No need of plans, sacrifl danger. Freedom and the hangman we alike impossible and indifferent to Bed Evans now. Anae saw Donald's face lifted, touched by the awe always following the wake of the great mystery, but only for a few seconds before her lamp went out with a long leap, as if protesting against some new, uncanny presence, and they were in darkness with the dead. Anne sank down, her folded arms resting against a wet wall. Everything seemed to slip into a mist; she feit nombed, vanquished, when, like a promise of good, Donald's groping hand songht hers and held it firmly. They did not speak. It was a burden even to tbink of the horrors surrounding them, the masses of coal not far above their heads creaking like a lazy monster settling himself, the whimpering of flying rats and the knowledge that beside tbem lay a dead man, a look of affright on bis face. After awhile it became evident that sometbing delayed the return of the cage. Hours seemed to crawl by as they sat there, hand in hand, scarcely speaking until it became imperativo to talk and let sound trouble the black pall dividing and overhanging them. Then something happened that seetned to Anne beyond belief. Donald in hesitating tones began speaking of himself. To see the lips of the sphinx melt into a smile could scarcely have been more astounding to her. She listened, understanding how the sights and sounds of that terrible day and the intímate hand clasp in the blackness had aroused the inner self he so consistently silenced. Her heart stnarted for him as she beard the halting story of hischildhood. She could see him left orphaned, under an nnfriendly roof, no natural love excusing his faults, loneliness eating into him. Loneliness! It was the word on which his life had reared its twisbed tructure. In words that burned he sketched the dlffeience between David'g place and his in John Temple's house - David, eecretly loved by him always and bitterly envied, David the figure in the ■white light which he might adore, but never follow. He told her how manhood came and the bitter knowledge of all. He was despised, superfluous, and the detertnination took root to fulfill the pröuïïse "of Sis üark origin to üuV'tö the level coDsidered fitting. A stronger nature would have doggedly risen no doubt. But the other was easy, natural and had not been without joy. The poor, the unhappy Hko bimBelf had nnderstood aud loved him. For tbe rest he had grown content to tear principies to rags, revel in the mud, live for the moment and go with flags flying to ruin and death. "Why didn't you try to do well?" Anne asked urgently. "I was afraid, " he ssu'd in a Hfeless tone. "I thought it wouldn't do for me with the inherited tendencies of which I was so constantly Besides, no one carei!. That was it. .It's all well enongh to talk of doing right, butwhen your instinct leads you to the wrong and there's not a soul on earth to care a pin if you 're fished out of the river, a boy - at least most boys - would get into an easy stride on the wrong road." "No, you needa't have gone," she said passionately. "I'm not trying to escuse myself. " "But you're uot hopeless, are you?" "I don 't kuow, " he said slowly. "I ougbt to be. I have been. But tonight somehow I wish I conld begin over again. " He heard a sob. All Anne had feit during the trying day and the pathos of thla confidence had touched her beyoud endurance. She wept unrestrainedly from a full heart. She could not see Donald's eyes nor how they grew intent and unbelieving. It seemed impossible that he should hear a woman's sobs for him, tears for him. They -were terrible and racked him, but they were sweet too. Before he could fully accept the wonderful occurrence as true and before Anne could control herself to speak the grating of the wire ropes in the shaft cautiously commenced. A light sprang into Donald's face, and despite the opposing forces tearing him like teeth he pressed her hand and said in a whisper that was slow and difflcult: "If I do make anything of rayself, if I ever do, it won't be because it's right nor for society, nor even for shame of what I am, but for you. " When they entered the cage, Anne's tearswollen face needednoexplanation. To have been kept in a mine for an hour without a light because part of the machinery had slipped its groove and to have chanced upon Eed Evans dead was enough to unnerve any woman. Only Anne and Donald ever knew the troth of that hour. They stepped into the night and saw the moou filling the place with phosphoric light, making a glory of the drenched earth. More marvelous than this white atmosphere of peace after the stormy day was the friendship which had put forth sudden flower in silence and night. CHAPTER VIII. By the middle of December even the most carelessin the office of Tbe Citizen had commeuted upon the change in Donald Sefain. He was no longer the voluntary recluse, a man parading his vices, eager to be judged by them alone. He had learned to believe in his possibilities. His fettered nature, feeding on all that was rotten, had risen like a dazed, hnngry thing following an instinct for better food andfreedom Ar.ibition, a rebellious prisoner alway.s, had revived in him after he had striven to crucify it. It called to him in the long nights, in his lonely walks, and its voice was somehow Anne's: "What have you done with your life?" The assertion of his best instincts had left their marks upon the outer man. His antagonism and gloom had almost vanished ; so had his untidiness and air of general dissoluteness. He carried himself. better, his clothes were better, and they were worn as if he respected them and himself. As his habits mended and his work steadily improved David Temple treated him as a worker whoru he prized. A closer degree of intimacy between the two men seemed impossible. They saw each other seldom, save in the office. But Anne was the friend of both. David visited her less often than in the sumruer, his engagemeuts were so many, but every honr he could spare was spent in her pretty, out of the way rooms. He let the social mask fall when with her as with no one else. Auy one seeing him pacing up and down her room, a privileged cigarette between his fingers, as he indulged in brilliant nonsense, laughing like a boy when he pulled her pet theories to bits as if he blew away loóse rose petals, would scarcely have known him. Anne loved these hours with him, and her happiness went with her, absorbing her thoughta to tbe detriment of the art so dear to her. The pen lay dry upon the sheets of her novel. She no longer struggled against the passionate effacement of self in auother's being. She dld not torment her heart by looking for a growing love in David's eyes. She was content to drift. It was evident to all he was very fond of her. He sougbt her familiarly. She knew nothing of his life beyond the small horizon of her owu, and, feeling an anticipative joy which seemed to melt her future with his, she was content. Dr. Ericsson had much to eugross him and keep him away. The wild winter weather had brought the usual illuesses, and the Waverly place house was in chaos, greparing for tho arrival of his wife aud daughter after au abseuce of eight years. Anne bad plenty of leisure, aud she gave rnuch of it to Donald Sefain. Between them they made some of those winter nights idyls of joy for little Joe Evaus. He was very ill. Giviug way to rest after inured bardship seerned like giviug way to grief, aud his weak body collapsed. He was iu Donald's home, a trio of small rooms iu a street a short distauoe froiu The Citizen. They were cheap apartments, but hopefully cleau, presided over by a "louo" woman, Mrs. Mulligau, who lived ou the floor beneath. Aune ofteu weut home with Douald in the quick winter dusks, and, stepping from tli hall iuto the firelight, she would ieel as if summer had come across the snow aud kissed her. Tbo room was always sweet smelling from a bunch of flowers, the kettle always siuging, the lamp shaded. "Ah, Joe, dear, if yez had seen me whin I was young!" she had surprised Mrs. Mnlligan saying once as she knitted beside the pillowed chair where Joe reclined, pale from the languor of unhealthy sleep. "There was a sight for ye! The girls of today with their crotched in bodies and white cheeks stuck to the boue - what are they? Ah, avick, girls were different in moy toimel Why, I shtud 14 stone, weighed iu me stockiugs. Me hair shtud out loike eaves ou both soides of me head, alauna, 'twas so thick. As f er me cheeks, " she added in olimactic trinmph, "they shtuok out loike apples and were that red ye cud bleed them with a shtraw. " On nights like these Donald's nature seemed to expaud and exult. He surprised Aune by his humor, his mockiug grace as host, his boyish play with Joe, who adored bim. Sometiines when he read aloud after dinuer and Mrs. Mulligan sat motionless as a sphinx save for the darting needies, Anue knelt ou the floor, her arins around the boy. His feverish mouth would creep close to her ear and he would teil her how he loved Mr. Sefain and how he was never to go back to the mines, never. Anne would assure him of this while holding him to her and kissing him in a little storm of love, and then her eyes would rove over him, his hands with no more substance than claws, dry and hot, his huugry eyes seeming to hold life like a picture before them in an endeavor to see all quickly before the short day ended. It was Douald who showed Anne some of the singular sirles of the city's life. During this seasou of pure frost when the electric wires spanning the city were turned into glacial ribbons and the noise of traffic on the f rozen ground was like the clamor from brass, she of ten found herself treading the narrow, uphill etreets in the lower quarter of the city to see some marvelous "find" of his. Ouce it was an old Russiau musician, a political exile. The room they found him in was wretched, but in a corner stood a samovar of copper fit for a prince's table. This and the Amati on the old man's kneewere the only visible relies of a sumptuous past. Bending over the decaying fire, be had played for them wild and terrible music, which awoke strange faucies. It seemed to whisper of a spirit haunting a familiar but empty house, where moonlight Btrearned through the bare Windows; ic shrieked of shipwreck, mumbled of witches dancing iu a haggard dawn, prayed for life while the block and the headsman waited. The unsyllabled desolation of the exile's life, it had haunted her for days. Although working in the office of a world known newspaper, she had never geen the wondersof the mechanism used in its construction until one midnight Douftld tqok her_down to the pressroom. There was a weighty but soundless vibration as Bhe went down the stone stairs, but when the iron door was pushed back the noise was so treruendous it leaped ont like a bar and struck her. A gnst of air accoinpanied it which seemed to suok her down the ladderlike stairway against her will until, dazzled and bewildered, she stood on a little bridge overlooking a plateau of steel that leaped and shivered in gigantic sockets. Bare chested men like sweating pygmies stood between the big machines, and above thein, a monster of many jaws, the roariug presses snapped up the paper. On the first page there was a portrait of a murderer, and this was repeated all over the gaslit space. On every side the sinister visage with eyes turned obliquely toward her oaine riding into view, and the glittering clainps seized it, seemed to crush it furionsly until, like the stone Sisyphus, rolled, it appeared again, and the task was incessantly continued. It was Douald who showed her the underground restaurants where the newspaper "haoks" plunged in the early inorning hours for coffee that was like a fluid blessing. She went with him to all sorts of queer and storied nouks. Once they liad tea in a place known only to a few privileged scribblers. This was in a sort of cul de sac, a swinging lamp lighting the way up the long alley. Separated trom the noise of the town aud waited upon by a genial Freuch host and lus wife, they had seemed in Paris, for the secretive niohe in the crowded street might have strayed from oue of Hugo's stories and settled, out of countenance, in a commercial atmosphere. Together they went to well known studios whera all was harmony and beauty - idols sombrously contemplativo, uiediaeval wiudows, wood carving from India and rugs from Damascus. She had watched the last touches put to a landscape, had seen a sculptor inake lips of clay smilc as if he had called life there. Donald had taken her behind the scènes of a theater, and she had watched the progresa of a play from the wings, had gazed with critical eyes and a sense of illusions lost at the mechanism of what had so often enchanted her - exits, entrances, cues and prompter's book. And they had read much together - the exquisite prose of Hnysmans and Mallarme, Kipling's crushing phrases painting the arid glitter of ludia, "Tess, " bare arined and fawn eyed, loving tragically in a setting of clover and dawn mists; the fatalism of the "Rubaiyat" and fhe wholesome cynicism of Thackeray. They shared all together as comrades and confidants. The boy in Donald and the piquant schoolgirl only masked in the woman clasped hands and laughed. (To be eontinued)