Blue eyes, brown eyes, green-and-gold
Eyes that question, doubt deny,
Sudden-flashing, sweet, young bold eyes--
Here's your answer: I am I!
Not for you and not for any
Came I into this man's town;
Barkeep, here's my golden penny--
Come who will and drink it down!
I'm not one to lend and borrow,
I'm not one to overstay--
I shall go alone tomorrow,
Whistling, as I came today!
The world is full of good and useful people. Jasper Wood was perhaps neither useful nor good. And perhaps he had no need to be, for he was charming. But, oddly enough, he wanted to be useful, he wanted to be good. Yet his destiny made him first a tramp, then a criminal, and then a fugitive from justice. And it all began with a house.
* * * * * * * * * *
It was an old house, as stately and graceful in
outlines as any you could find in New England, with a pillared doorway
that strangers stopped in the street to admire. Jasper's mother
that house. It had been bought by her father in the days when he
was rich and proud; but he had died poor and bitter, with nothing in
world to leave his daughter except this house, mortgaged for a good
more than it was worth. Everybody said it would be a sensible
to let the house go for the debt. But Jasper's mother was not a
woman; she was an idealist, of a sort. That house stood for
and order and pride and place in the world. She would never give
it up; she said she would die first.
The mortgage was held by the factory. Jasper's father worked in the factory as a bookkeeper. Doubtless his wife had expected him to rise to be superintendent, for he had been ambitious and enterprising as a young man; but he remained a bookkeeper. The factory people were very good about the mortgage; they renewed it year after year, saying there was no need to worry. But Jasper's parents worried just the same. They had managed to pay off part of the mortgage, but it began to seem a lifetime task. Jasper's father became sullen and discouraged, Jasper's mother shrill and querulous.
It was a big house, too big for one woman to take care of, as she frequently remarked in a vaguely reproachful voice. Young Jasper took these reproaches to himself. He knew he was always tracking in dirt and making extra work for his poor mother. He didn't intend to; he just forgot. He loved his mother, and wanted to grow up so that he could go to work and help pay off that mortgage.
When Jasper was fifteen he had his chance. The factory people decided at last to foreclose. The matter was put to Mr. Weed in the most considerate manner.
"I should honestly think," said the superintendent, "that you'd feel it was taking a burden off your shoulders."
James Weed, on his own account, might well have felt relieved; he had long known that it was a hopeless struggle. But it would break his wife's heart.
It happened that Jasper was late from school that afternoon. He had been playing in the woods with his chums, and his mother would not fail to reproach him for not having been home to fill her wood box or run some errand for her. Just as he came within sight of the house, he thought of these things and of the way his mother would look at him when he came in, late again. "I suppose you just forgot!" she would say quietly. All his blithe, careless happiness oozed out of him, and he did not have the courage to face her. He turned into a vacant lot beside the road, intending to sit down on a big rock for a few minutes' respite, as often before on such occasions.
But somebody else was sitting there on that rock in the dusk -- Jasper's father. For his courage also had failed him, and he had stopped to think how he was going to confront the fierce, sad woman who lived in that house and loved it more than anything else on earth.
Father and son looked at each other in surprise, and then they seemed instinctively to understand each other. And Jasper's father told him what had happened.
"But how are we going to tell your mother?" he asked.
"We can't tell her," said Jasper. "We've got to do something."
And the something they did was to go together to the home of the superintendent and make a plea to be given another chance to pay off the mortgage. It was an absurd but effective plea. The superintendent was embarrassed.
"Oh, well," he said. "if you feel that way about it! We'll let it go a little longer, and see how it works out."
Jasper was then in his third year at high school and doing well. But he quit school immediately and went to work in the factory, trying not to care. His life was now dedicated to saving the house.
* * * * * * * * * *
When Jasper had been working in the factory a
more than a year, his Aunt Miriam paid the family a little visit.
She was a sister of his father's; she had sent him, when he was a
boy, a wonderful book by Mark Twain, called "Roughing It." Jasper
used to ask about his Aunt Miriam; but she was a vaudeville actress,
hense a disgraceful person, and not to be spoken of any more than was
But what he had heard, scant and mysterious phrases, had made her a
figure in Jasper's mind.
She turned out to be a breezy, middle-aged little woman whose face was painted to look young and whose breath smelled of cigarettes. She brought into the old house an alien glamor, a hint of places far and strange.
After a stiff Sunday dinner with the family, she demanded to be escorted back to the railroad station by young Jasper, upon whose size and strength and handsomeness she had remarked with enthusiasm. On the way to the station she said aburptly:
"You look as though you could be one of the happiest boys alive, Jasper. What is the matter?"
Jasper looked at her with hurt eyes, unable to answer. She ought not to say such things. How could he help being unhappy?
The suddenly she began to talk about the house.
Part of what she told him he knew already . But he hadn't known that his mother had been engaged to another man before she married his father, and had given him up because of the house. When Aunt Miriam spoke the man's name, Jasper cried out in surprise:
"Jack Tully, the drunkard!"
His aunt nodded.
"That's the one. A fine young fellow he was once. He took to drink because his feelings were hurt, and whose wouldn't be, to have a girl throw him over for the sake of a house? You see, she knew he wasn't the sort of fellow that would settle down and work year in and year out to pay off a dirty mortgage."
Jasper's mind seemed to whirl in a dizzy arc through a vast empty gulf. As if from far away, he heard Aunt Miriam's voice telling him other things. About his father: his father had wanted to go to college and study to become a teacher, but he had put those dreams aside when he married. He had settled down in that little town to pay off the mortgage on that house.
That house -- it began to seem a monstrous thing. And Jasper now for the first time realized that he had always hated and feared it. He had kept this hatred and fear a secret even from himself. But now that he knew, he was terribly afraid, as in a nightmare, and full of a sick, hopeless anger.
But the train drew in. Aunt Miriam stood on tiptoe to kiss him, and he flung his arms around her, almost crying. She held him and whispered:
"That house has ruined enough lives, Jasper. Don't let it get you, too! Good-bye!"
That night Jasper could not sleep, and in the middle of the night he got up and went to the china dish where his mother kept the family money. Yesterday he had turned in his week's wages to her, keeping nothing. Now he took a dollar from the china dish and left the house walking west along the railroad track. By late summer, walking and beating his way on freights, he had reached the wheat-fields of Kansas. He never saw that house again.
* * * * * * * * * *
In ten years Jasper had worked at a hundred
jobs in twenty different States. He had been farm-hand, mechanic,
chauffeur, lumberman, hop-picker; he had gone for a few months to a
state university; had had a few descriptive articles printed in obscure
magazines; had sold real estate in California, almost settling down in
a thriving suburb, almost getting married -- only to take suddenly to
road again, working for a while and then wandering on farther.
"Curiously enough," he said to me, "it was being a tramp that first made me like work. When I was cooped up in that factory as a kid, I hated and loathed work, and wasn't much good at it. That was because I thought I had to work. But when I hit the road, I found that I didn't have to work unless I wanted to. I could live without working, and just about as well as I had lived before. Yes, I went hungry sometimes, and I took my life in my hands every time I hopped a freight; but I didn't mind that. I was free. And when I did get a job, I could throw it up the minute I didn't like it. So I kept on working. And when I found I was clumsy, and that other fellows not as strong as I could do better work, it roused my pride. I would show them! And I did. For the first time in my life I worked well.
"That was the trouble. I worked so well that I had to throw up the job, sooner or later, for fear I would get to be a fixture and settle down there! That almost happened to me once, that time in California when I was selling real estate. I was pretty much in love with a girl, and I don't know what would have happened, but one night her father turned on the prochlight and caught us kissing. That girl ran upstairs, and left me and her father to have it out. He wasn't angry at me; it seemed he liked me for some reason. He offered me a cigar, and talked to me in a friendly enough way -- about himself. I guess he was a embarrassed as I was. He told me his whole history. He had been a poor boy, and had worked hard for everything he had. He had married young, when he had hardly one dollar to rub against another. It seemed reckless at the time, he said, but it had come out all right; now he owned this house, with the mortgages all paid off.
"No doubt the old man meant well, but it scared me. I saw myself settling down in that little town and buying a house for that girl to live in, and spending the rest of my life paying off the mortgage. The truth was, I was almost crazy enough about her to do something like that, and that was what scared me. I walked up and down thinking about it, and then just before daybreak I lit out and took to the road agin."
On the road, of course, a man who is afraid of marriage can feel freer in his mind. A girl is not very likely to want to marry a tramp. But Jasper was a handsome lad, and his shy ways were just the sort that many a girl takes to. As a vagabond he could find pretty girls to exchange kisses with, and yet not be afraid of becoming involved in domestic slavery and misery. If danger threatened, he drifted along and kept his freedom.
And yet it seems that he wasn't content with being a happy vagabond. He must have felt all along that he had a duty to the world, and he couldn't keep on running away from it. At any rate, when he was twenty-six years old he went through a swift process of conversion to the gospel of syndicalism, joined the Industrial Workers of the World, and became an active organizer.
* * * * * * * * * *
Jasper Weed was now, according to his lights,
to make the world more beautiful, orderly, and happy.
As is so often the case, these utopian endeavors were not generally appreciated. The organization was being accused of every crime, and Jasper, by becoming a member, became automatically a kind of outlaw, to be hunted down by the police. He was arrested again and again, and served many months in jail.
But he kept on, organizing the seasonal workers along the coast, assisting in strikes, joining in free-speech fights. The history of the American labor struggle, learned in many a tale from veterans old and young, became the background of his own life; names like Cœur d'Alene, Yakima Valley, and Mesaba Range stirred him like the names of battles. He was happy at last. Where else but in the "Wobbly" halls could he hear talk that was not the talk of money and the things money will buy? He had three good friends, Pete the Peg-leg, who knew the poetry of Shelley and Blake by heart; Swede Oscar, a kindly giant out of some heroic fairy-tale; and Little Bill, with a golden tongue for speech, who laughed even at the cause he loved. Jasper had always an immense capacity for friendship, and this was, from all accounts, a gay, devil-may-care, epic friendship while it lasted.
It was not fated to last long. The war against the organization became frantic and ruthless. Men were thrown into jail for having a red card, and tales were told of others branded with red-hot irons. The death-roll mounted swiftly. Little Bill of the golden voice and mocking tongue was shot dead by a deputy sheiff down in the Sacramento Valley. Swede Oscar was thrown into a county jail of which terrible tales were told, and died there -- killed his friends said. And Pete the Peg-leg, in the free-speech fight at Seattle, on the boat that was met at the dock by an armed mob of citizens, was shot and killed at Jasper's side.
Jasper himself, wounded in the arm, lay hidden in the house of a fellow worker. And there, waiting for his wound to heal, he had hours of sick and feverish thought. The whole world was at war: it seemed to him a kind of insanity, a suicide of the human race. He had scorned that folly. And yet -- the thought came unbidden -- what had he himself been doing except taking part in a war, the war of the classes? Was that, perhaps, a kind of insanity, too? Was it merely another way in which the human race was committing suicide?
He knew that he ought not to think such things. Those thoughts weakened a man for the struggle. They were not the thoughts of a fighter; they were the thoughts of a coward. Worse than that, they were the thoughts of a "scissor-bill ," which is the militant term of healthy contempt for a kind of weak-minded pacifist in the class war. Jasper was ashamed of himself. But these weak thoughts continued to infest him.
He had believed that he was helping to create a new society within the shell of the old. Perhaps this was true. But it seemed very dim and far away and theoretical just now. His friends -- Bill dead, Oscar dead, Pete dead, killed like mad dogs. For what? The cause, the future. But friendship is beautiful, too.
Jasper was sick at heart. Oh, no doubt he would get back his old fighting spirit some time. But, feeling this way, could he go on with the struggle?
His wound healed, and there was need for him. But he did not answer the call. He ran away once more from duty. He beat his way back to New York, took some kind of job, and let the world alone.
* * * * * * * * * *
The nations of the earth continued to make war
one another, and now the United States had been drawn into the
Jasper, as a convicted criminal several times over, was not wanted in
armies of the republic; he was let alone for a while.
He had discovered Greenwich Village and modeling clay; he was living in a garret on Macdougal Street, and making queer and delightful figurines in his spare time. He did not think he was an artist, but he knew that this gave him peace from tormenting thoughts.
Moreover, he had discovered in Greenwich Village a kind of tramp he had never known before -- the artist kind. These painters, poets, story-writers, were old friends in a new guide. He and they understood one another perfectly. Perhaps I should say we understood one another, for I was one of those artistic tramps living in Greenwich Village then, and one of Jasper's new friends. We had him at all our parties, and he taught us to sing the "Wobbly" songs. It came natural enough to us to sing:
"Oh, why don't you work
Like other men do?
How the hell can I work
When there's no work to do?
"Hallelujah, I'm a bum!
Hallelujah, bum again!
Hallelujah, give us a hand-out --
Revive us again!"
It was at one of these parties that Jasper met
Vance, the artist, then poor and obscure and one of us. They fell
in love with each other at the first glance, and for a fortnight we saw
little enough of either of them.
But a fortnight was about as long as any of Inez Vance's enthusiasms lasted, and we were not surprised to see Jasper Weed back at our parties. He sang again a little sadly:
* * * * * * * * * *
He did not take her to any of the eating places
he was known. He did not want people to be saying, "That's Jasper
Weed, one of the boys on trial, you know." And he did not want
and Reddy to hail him eagerly when he came in at the door, and then
curiously and resentfully at Inez. He did not want them to be
him tomorrow, "Where in the world did you pick her up?" He did
want to have to attempt to explain her to his friends. She was of
a different, an alien, world. In his mind he twisted Swinburne's
verses to fit the occasion, "For me the jungle, and you the
Tomorrow she would be gone out of this hot world of hate and fighting,
into her cool artist's world of serene and lovely contours and colors:
and then he need never think about her again.
In the quiet little restaurant by the bridge he forgot everything except how happy he could be with her. They stayed there talking until the waiters began to pile the chairs noisily on the tables. He sighed.
"I suppose we must go. Will you come over to my place? I live just across the brdge."
"I imagine you as living on the top floor of some old ramshackle building that is about to be torn down."
"You imagine it very well," he said. "As a matter of fact, I do live on the top floor. And because the building may be torn down any day, I get the place for almost nothing, which is lucky for me." He laughed. "Of couse I could always find accommodations with the other boys at the county jail."
"And your key," she said, taking his arm again as they crossed the bridge, "lies on the dusty ledge over the door, just as in Greensich Village, so that your friends can come in and make themselves at home."
"Not a bad guess," he said.
"I can even guess what one sees inside when one takes down the key and unlocks the door," she said provocatively.
" A room in fine disorder--"
"That's too easy!"
"And some cartoons from 'Freedom' pinned on that wall--"
"And the copy of John Donne I gave you--"
"And -- a cheap unpainted kitchen table for a writing desk, and sheets and sheets of yellow paper on which you have been writing out your ideas for the improvement of mankind!"
He was startled.
"Have you been there?"
"Perhaps. But here we are."
They climbed the steep, rickety stairs to the top. "Let me!" she said. She felt along the ledge above the door, and took down the key. She unlocked the door, and reached up again to the ledge to put back the key. They went in.
The door shut behind them, and in the darkness he felt her hand touch his shoulder wistfully. With a kind of sob, he clasped her in his arms and their lips met hungrily.
"You do love me?" he whispered.
"'Ssh!" she warned him.
There was a noisy sound of footsteps on the stairs and voices. He recognized the voices. It was Mike and Reddy, come to see him. They pounded on the door and called, "Hey, Jasper!" A soft hand was pressed over his lips, and he kept silent. But--
"Let's go in and wait for him," said Mike.
The key -- it was there on the ledge for them. Jasper made a movement to free himself from the encompassing arms, but they held him tightly, and lips were pressed against his for silence.
"Key's gone," said Reddy's voice.
"Maybe it's fallen down, " said Mike.
There was the sound of a match being struck, and a beam of light crept in under the door.
"It isn't here," said Reddy.
"Well," said Mike, "I guess there's nothing to do but beat it."
The footsteps clattered noisily down the stairs.
"The key--" said Jasper, in a puzzled tone.
"Here it is," whispered Inez, and pressed it into his hand.
"But I thought--"
"You were mistaken. You often are."
He took a step into the darkened room, and his foot struck some strange object. "What's that?" he asked sharply, and stooped down. It felt like a suitcase.
"Do you mind?" asked Inez, softly.
He took her in his arms again, but stopped abruptly.
"One would think you loved me," he said harshly.
"Yes, wouldn't one?" said Inez.
"But do you?" he demanded.
"At least," she said coldly, "I don't hate you."
"That isn't enough," he said.
"Oh, why does a word matter so much?" she cried. "Why do you torment me?"
"It's you," he said, "who are tormenting me."
"Must we have that whole argument over again?" she asked forlornly.
"Why did you come here?" he demanded savagely.
"Oh, Jasper, we're quarreling again! Why did I come? Because -- because I was lonely for you, Jasper. And -- I thought perhaps you were a litle lonely for me. If you aren't, I'll go away. Do you want me to go away, Jasper?"
"And you won't quarrel with me?"
"I can't promise that."
"Oh, well, quarrel with me if you must. But we don't need the dark for quarrels. Light the lamp."
He struck a match, and stared at her, resentfully. She gazed back at him scornfully. They continued to look at each other, unsteadily, by the light of that flickering match, until it burned up to his fingers and fell to the floor and went out. And then, in the darkness, they found themselves in each other's arms.
* * * * * * * * * *
They did quarrel, as always. Inez refused
take seriously the struggle between Jasper's friends and the guardians
of capitalist law and order.
"Two sets of virtuous fanatics!" she said impatiently. "Either set would be cruel to make the world better. Only, the others have the power to be cruel, and your crows hasn't; that's the difference."
"A voice from Olympus!" he mocked.
"Not at all," she said. "The truth is, I've seen so much of their cruelties, I'm tired of them; I'd welcome some other kind for a change. But victory is always so ugly! I can sympathize more easily with defeat. Only I know the underdog is just the same kind of dog as the upper dog, really."
"You think, Inez, that I'm just the same sort of animal as that assistant district attorney who's been yelping at us today?"
"You both want to make the world better, don't you? He believes in his cause, and perhaps he would die for it. Who knows? Martyrdom would glorify even him, I'm afraid. Yes, I assure you that if your revolution came, and you were the stern, self-satisfied, smugly virtuous prosecutor, and he the one who was being sent to rot in prison, he would be to me the more appealing figure of the two! Oh, Jasper, don't you see that it's a kind of madness, this wanting to make the world better? The only sane ones are the dreamers and idlers. At least they don't willfully increase the sum of human misery."
"We can't all be artists, Inez."
"Why not? And who are you to defend the useful life, Jasper? You are a tramp. You have got yourself into a missionary state of mind, but really you are just a tramp. You got converted, and went about converting others, and I'll tell you why: because it gave you a good excuse for keeping on being a tramp. I knew that, when you were telling me all those things about yourself back in Greenwich Village. You called it bumming around with the kind of people you like best. They are tramps because they have to be; you, because it's in your blood. But a tramp is a tramp. I know. Am I not one of them? We look at life differently from people who live the year round under the same roof. We are not afraid of things that other people are afraid of. We take chances that other people don't take. We are free, and we don't give a damn. So you stay with us and play with us. You can call it creating a new society within the shell of the old if you want to. But I am more candid. I am not a part of this silly old world, and I have no responsibilities toward it. But you--you seem to have a New England conscience. Is it because you ran away from home, Jasper, and let them take that house from your mother? Are you still trying to make it up to her? To be a dutiful son? You want to be good and useful, and yet you can't bear to settle down and be a slave, like everyone else. Well, along comes this new gospel, and gives you a chance to risk your neck doing your precious duty to society -- and still keep on being a tramp! I'm not making fun of you, Jasper. I love your courage; only I think it's absurd. But I think the United States Government is still more absurd. It thinks you are a danger to society, and wants to lock you up in a prison for half a lifetime! Oh, you are all mad; and sometimes I think I am the only sane person alive on this wretched earth!"
And they argued, as before in Greenwich Village, about whether she loved him.
"You are like that district attorney, Jasper -- the way you cross-question me! You want me to confess that I am guilty of being in love with you; and then you'll sentence me to be faithful to you forever after! Jasper, I tell you I am not that kind of person. I am an idler and a vagabond. I thought you were, too. That was why I liked you!"
"Why are you so stubborn, Inez? Why won't you say -- love!"
"Because, Jasper, love is a word that belongs to the world we don't live in, the world of stability and order. When people love each other, they get married and settle down and have a family and go to church and believe what they read in the newspapers. They surrender to the world and become a part of it. No, Jasper, I don't love you. And you don't want me to, really. You wouldn't want me to be your wife."
He made a painful grimace.
"I'm scarcely in a position to propose marriage just now, with twenty years in prison hanging over my head. But -- if I were free to ask you, I would propose marriage. Of couse I want you to be my wife, Inez."
"Oh, no, Jasper!" It was like a cry of pain. And then she burst out laughing gayly. "But how absurd!"
"I know it's absurd," he said stiffly. "As you have taken pains to remind me, I'm a tramp. I shall have nothing to support a wife on, even if I am lucky enough not to get sent to prison. All that you say is true -- I've been a bum. But I don't want to be a bum all my life."
"Oh, but I want you to, Jasper dear!" she cried. "And -- and -- that's not what I meant! Do you think I would marry you if you had a job and money and could support me?"
"If you loved me," he said.
"Well, we've agreed that I don't, so that's out of the question."
"It's out of the question for practical reasons," he said, "but the principle of the thing remains the same."
"Good!" she said cheerfully, reaching under her pillow for another cigarette. "Let's quarrel about the principle of the thing!"
The world was at war, and the destiny of nations was at stake. The freedom of a hundred men was being weighed in scales by a carefully blindfolded goddess, and one of these men was Jasper Weed. But all this seemed remote to them now. Love was their theme. They hurt each other with cruel words, and sought passionately to heal those hurts with kisses.
And it seemed that the debate was not waged in vain. As the trial ended, Inez Vance wavered irresolutely in her defense of freedom. On the night the jury went out to decide the fate of the accused, Inez Vance wept. And from her tears she whispered presently:
"Oh, Jasper, I do love you!"
"Stubborn girl! I knew it!" he answered.
"I suppose," she said spitefully, "you think it is worth while going to prison just to wring that admisssion from me!"
"Well worth it," he said, laughing. "I shall go to prison happy."
That may have been a lover's extravagance, but they were happy, lyrically happy. Others may have waited with anxious hearts for the jury's verdict. They did not seem to care.
The jury brought in its verdict of "Guilty" against ninety-eight men, including Jasper Weed. And that night, so paradoxically ran the course of their vagabond love, Jasper and Inez became engaged.
"I know it's silly," said Inez, "but since we are honestly in love, let's declare it to each other in the usual way."
"We ought to have a ring," said Jasper, gravely, wondering where he could borrow the money.
"Let me give you a ring," said Inez, and took off one of quaint workmanship from her finger and slipped it on his. It would only go on his little finger. "With this I give you my heart," she whispered, "forever."
They kissed each other solemnly.
The judge was to pronounce sentence. That morning, absurdly and beautifully and defiantly, they went to city hall and were married. That afternoon Jasper Weed sat in his place among the defendants, and Inez in a corner of the courtroom, and heard the white haired judge pronounce sentence: "Jasper Weed, twenty years in prison."
"And now that this trial is over," said Jasper that night, "I can go and look for a job."
"Look for a job!" Inez echoed in amazement.
"Yes. I've been talking with our lawyers. I won't have to go to prison for a while, perhaps not for a long time. You see, the case is being appealed. It will go up to the Supreme Court, and that takes time -- perhaps a year or more."
Inez Vance looked thoughtful.
* * * * * * * * * *
Jasper looked for work, and so did Inez.
made a precarious living at that time doing various kinds of hack
art work, at which she was very clever. She presently found
to do for a department store. In order to do this work, she had
have a place of her own. Her key did not repose over the ledge of
her door as an invitation to idle friends. Nevertheless, she was
sometimes at home to Jasper and others.
The change was disconcerting to Jasper. He did not complain, because the things that came into his mind were rather too bitter. He contented himself with taking the ring from his little finger, and keeping it in his pocket. If she noticed its absence, she did not mention it. Not being able to say the things in his heart, he said little or nothing. He must have been poor company.
He told himself that his nerves were all on edge. When he had a job, he would be better able to deal with the situation.
But before he got a job, Inez had finished her pictures, turned them in, and received the check; and now, she told him casually, as though it were news in which a good friend of hers would be interested, she was going back to New York.
"That so?" he said as politely as he could.
He did not come to her place again; but a few days later, on returning home from job-hunting, he found a note slipped under his door, saying she was sorry she hadn't been able to see him to say good bye. It was a friendly note. "If you should come to New York again," it ended, "be sure to come and see me. I shall be at my old address."
He wrote her a letter full of angry reproach, and mailed it, and next day hopped a freight east-ward. A week later he walked up the stairs and stopped in front of her door in Greenwich Village. He was wearing a ring of quaint workmanship on his little finger.
The door was slightly ajar. He knocked, and when there was no answer, he pushed it open and entered. The room was empty. But there was a book lying open on the couch, as though she had just been reading and had laid it down. He walked over and looked frowningly at it, as if seeking for an omen. It was a book of poems, and there was a black pencil mark beside one of the stanzas. He knelt and read:
"I shall not bargain with you, knowing well
How futile were the effort to make over
Me, skeptic, vagabond, rebel and infidel,
Into the pattern of a perfect lover!"
"I guess you are right," he murmured, and took the ring from his little finger and laid it on the page of the open book. Then he went out, leaving the door ajar as he had found it.
* * * * * * * * * *
That is doubtless where the story should
But there yet remains one more episode to be told. The time is
years later, and the place Mrs. Raymond's house on Long Island.
war of the nations is over, and people were trying to forget it.
And the case of the men convicted in Chicago had at last reached the
Court in vain. Word had gone out for those on bond to surrender
within a week to the authorities. All but three had already done
so, and there were newspaper stories to the effect that these three men
would try to escape from the country and go to Soviet Russia, under
from the Third International. One of these three men was Jasper
Mrs. Raymond was naturally interested. In fact, she and her
were talking about it that April evening. By an odd chance, one
these guests happened to be connected with the Department of Justice;
was assuring Mrs. Raymond that her five thousand dollars were
Another of the guests, Inez Vance, now becoming a celebrity, had smiled
and made no comments. It was at this point that the bell rang,
the maid returned to tell Mrs. Raymond that a "Mr. Jimson" wished to
"Jimson?" repeated Mrs. Raymond, wonderingly. She didn't remember the name; but a curoius look that flitted across Inez Vance's face seemed to signify that he was some one she knew. "Bring him in," she said. Then Inez Vance frowned anxiously, and instantly Mrs. Raymond's mind made the association: Jimson -- Weed, of course! She rose, a little fluttered.
He entered the room smiling. Yes, it was Jasper Weed, instantly recognizable despite his absurd beard and still more absurd horn-rimmed spectacles.
"How do you do, Mr. Jimson!" she said warmly, and shook his hand. "I'm so glad you could come. I belive you know Miss Vance?"
"Of course. How are you, Mr. Jimson?" said Inez, cooly.
Mrs. Raymond remained nervous until she had managed to mention, in introducing Mr. Parbetter, that he had been telling them such interesting things about his work in the Department of Justice; the other introductions were easier. for she was sure none of these people had ever been in Greenwich Village or seen Jasper Weed. She took a breath of relief. "Crudely done!" she thought of herself; "I show my excitement too much. I would never make a good conspirator!" But perhaps she was wrong; for, having seen the introductions successfully through, she settled down to an interesting evening.
It was interesting. Mrs. Raymond was afterward heard to say that she had had five thousand dollars' worth of excitement and fun that evening. For the case of Jasper Weed continued to be the topic of conversation. The gentleman from the Department of Justice, under skillful coaxing from Inez Vance, related to them the true history of Jasper Weed, as it stood in the secretest files of the department. It appeared that Jasper Weed's real name was Joseph Widinsky, that he was born in Riga, that he had figured in the Russian revolutionary uprising of 1905, that he had been with Lenin in Switzerland, and had been sent to this country to stir up a labor rebellion.
"Those," said Mr. Parbetter, "are the real facts of the case!"
"How exciting!" said Inez Vance.
As it happened, the question of Mrs. Raymond's five thousand dollars came up for discussion again. Mr. Parbetter again assured her that it was lost.
"Of course," said Mr. Jimson mildly, "there are still a few hours of grace, I believe. The week is up tonight. If he surrenders himself to the authorities before midnight, your bail is safe, Mrs. Raymond. And how do you know but that he may be intending to do just that?"
"If he did," said Mrs. Raymond, sharply, "I'd think him a fool. What is five thousand dollars beside twenty years of a boy's life? I should hate to believe that is what he thought of me! So far as I am concerned, I wish him luck in getting to Russia!"
Inez Vance laughed softly.
"The question is," she said, "what does Russia want of him?"
"You are right," laughed Mr. Jimson; "that is the question. Why should Russia regard him as a useful person? After all, what is he? Nothing but a bum!"
"If you knew him as well as I do." said Mr. Parbetter, gravely, "you would not think it a joking matter."
"Tell us more, Mr. Parbetter," urged Inez Vance.
Mr Parbetter complied with her request, and the company was thrilled with the desperate deeds of Jospeh Widinsky, alias Jasper Weed. It was late when Mr. Parbetter and the other guests took their leave. Mr. Jimson and Inez Vance reamined.
When they were all gone, Jasper took out his watch.
"It's fifteen minutes to twelve," he said. "There's still time to call up the police station --"
"Don't be an idiot, Jasper!" said Mrs. Raymond, and put an arm affectionately about him. "I'm sure I don't know how you ever got mixed up in this crazy mess, but I want you to get out of it. The idea of your going to prison!"
Then, having sent the maids to bed, she took Jasper and Inez out into the kitchen, and they rummaged in the ice-box and made sandwiches for themselves and talked about old times in Greenwich Village.
"Of course you're going to let me put you up for the night?" she said to Jasper.
"Yes, if you don't mind my leaving before breakfast. If I'm going to Russia, my program from now on is laid out for me."
Mrs. Raymond picked up the kitchen clock.
"This has an alram. Take it with you. And if you're going so early, you must get some sleep. Good night, Jasper, and good bye, and good luck!" She kissed him. Her glance dwelt for a moment on Inez. "Show him his room, darling, the one over the garden, while I lock up the house."
"This is your room," said Inez, and went over and drew aside the curtain. "How sweet the flowers are! Their odors seem mixed with moonlight."
He breathed in their fragrance.
"Everything I look at is precious to me just now," he said. "absurd as it may seem, I love my country. I keep thinking I may not see it again -- ever."
"Jasper," said Inez, "what are you going to do in Russia?"
"Try to make myself useful," he said. "There's a whole new civilization to help build up. I know you think of me as useless, but I should like to be something else."
She put her arm about him.
"You poor darling!" she said. "Of course you are useless. That's what I like about you!"
"Why did you run away from me?" he asked abruptly.
"Because that's the sort of person I am," she said softly.
"Then -- why did you --"
"Why did I marry you? It was wrong to do that, wasn't it? But -- I thought you were going off to prison. I wanted to make you happy."
"I was happy," he said.
"Can you forgive me, Jasper?"
"For making me happy? Yes. I can forgive you anything."
"And will you believe me if I tell you something?"
"Yes. Tell me."
"If you won't ask me to -- go to Russia with you and help you build up a new civilization, or something useful and absurd like that, I'll tell you that I love you now, Jasper."
"I don't think I'd take you to Russia with me if I could," he replied.
"I'm so glad!" she said. "You are being sensible, Jasper, at last."
"I must wind my alarm clock," he said. "That will remind me in time that life is real, and that I am a citizen of the world, with duties awaiting me for which I shall eventually get hanged or shot. You are making me forget these things already."
"Forget them, then," she urged. "Forget them for a little while, and be my playmate again!"
The moonlight shined into the room.
* * * * * * * * * *
Oh, doubtless the alarm clock will ring at the appointed hour, sending a man into exile, followed by derision and contempt, to live and die with irrelevant heroism in some strange place. But not yet.
"And here a while, where no wind brings
The baying of a pack athirst,
May sleep the sleep of blessed things
The blood too bright, the brow accurst."
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