This mountain girl had always regarded Illinois as "the East," but after a few weeks in New York City she now looked away to Chicago as a Western town. She was glad to face the sunset sky again, and yet as she wheeled away to the train she acknowledged a regret. Under the skilful guidance of Lucius she had seen a great deal of the splendid and furious Manhattan. She had gazed with unenvious admiration on the palaces of upper Fifth Avenue and the Park. Together with Haney she had spun up Riverside Drive, past Grant's Tomb, and on through Washington Heights, with joy of the far-spreading panorama. She had visited the Battery and sailed the shining way to Staten Island in silent awe of the ship-filled bay. She had heard the sunset-guns thunder at Fort Hamilton, and had threaded the mazes of the Brooklyn Navy-Yard, and each day the mast-hemmed island widened in grandeur and thickened with threads of human purpose, making the America she knew very simple, very quiet, and very remote.
Night by night she had gone to the music-halls and theatres, and her mind had been powerfully wrought upon by what she had seen and heard. In all these trips Haney had heroically accompanied his wife, though he frequently dropped asleep in his seat; and he, too, left the city with regret, though he said, "Thank God, I'm out of it," as they settled into their seats in the ferry. "'Tis not the night traffic that wears me down — I'm used to being on the night shift; 'tis the wild pace Lucius sets by day. Faith, 'twas the aquarium in the morning and the circus in the afternoon. Me dreams have been wan long procession of misbegotten fish, ballet-dancers, dirty monkeys, and big elephants the nights. 'Tis a great city, but I am ready to return to me peaceful perch above the faro-board; I think 'twould rest me soul to see a game of craps."
"Why didn't you order Lucius to let up on the sight' seeing business?" Bertha said.
"And expose me weak knees to me nigger? No, no, Mike."
"I wanted you to let me rummage about alone."
"You did. But I could not allow that, neyther. So long as I can sit the road-cart or run me arms into a biled shirt I'll stay by, darling. 'Tis not safe for you to go about alone in the hell-broth of these Eastern streets. Besides, while I'm losin' weight I'm lighter on me feet than when I came. I've enjoyed me trip, but it does seem sinful to think of our big house standing empty and the horses 'stockin" in their stalls, and I'm glad we're edgin' along homeward."
"So am I," Bertha heartily agreed, even as she looked lovingly back upon the mighty walls and towers which filled the sky behind her. It was a gloriously exciting place to live in, after all. "Some day I may come back," she promised herself, but the thought of Humiston lurking like a wolf in the shadow came to make her going more and more like an escape.
The elder Haney amused her by his frank comment on everything that was strange to him. His new teeth, which did not fit him very securely, troubled him greatly, and he spoke with one hand held alertly, ready to catch them if they fell, but his smile was a radiant grin, and his shrewd old face was good to look at as he faced the splendors of the limited express.
" 'Tis foine as a bar-room," said he. "To be whisked about over the world like this is no hairdship. Bedad, if I'd known how aisy it was I'd a visited McArdle befoore." He pretended to believe that everybody travelled this way, and that Mart was merely doing the ordinary in the matter of meals and state-room; and as he wandered from end to end of the train and found only luxurious coaches, and people taking their ease, he had all the best of the argument. Lucius he regarded as a man of his own level, and they held long confabulations together — the colored man accepting this comradeship in the spirit of democracy in which it was given. Mart, for his part, sat looking out of the window, dreaming of the past.
As she neared Chicago next day Bertha thought with pleasure of seeing the Mosses again. Now that Humiston was eliminated, she had only the pleasantest memories of the people she had met in the smoky city. It was as if in a dark forest of lofty trees she had found a pleasant mead on which the warm sunlight fell. The mellow charm of the studios was made all the more appealing by reason of the drab and desolate waste through which she was forced to pass to attain the light and laughter of those high places.
Chicago had grown more gloomily impressive, and at the same time—by reason of her knowledge of the larger plans and mightier enterprises of New York—it seemed simpler, and Bertha re-entered the hotel which had once dazzled her in confidence, finding it cheerful and familiar. She liked it all the better because it was less pretentious. It gave her a pleasant sense of getting back home to have the men in buttons smile and say, "Glad to see you, Mrs. Haney." The head clerk was very cordial; he even found time to come out and shake hands. "I can't give you precisely your old quarters," he said, "but I can fix you out on the next floor. I'm sure you'll be very comfortable." Thereupon she took up her quietly luxurious life at the point where she had dropped it some weeks before.
There lay in this Western girl a strongly marked tendency towards the culture and refinement of the East; and, though she had grown up far from anything aesthetic in home-life, she instinctively knew and loved the beautiful in nature, the right thing in art; and now that she was about to leave the East for the West— perhaps to abandon the town for the village—she found herself aching with a hunger which had hitherto been unconscious. She was torn with desire to go and a longing to stay. New York, Paris, the world, was open before her if only she were content to take Marshall Haney's money and use it to these ends.
That night as she lay in her bed hearing the rumble and jar of the city's traffic, her mind recalled and dwelt upon the wonderful scenes, especially the beautiful pictures which her eyes had gleaned from the East. The magical, glittering spread of Manhattan harbor, the silver sweep of the Hudson at West Point, the mighty panorama from Grant's Tomb, the silken sheen of Fifth Avenue on a rainy night, the crash and glitter of upper Broadway, the splendid halls of art, literature, and especially of music and the drama—all these came back one by one to claim a place beside her peaks and canons, sharing the glory of the purple deeps and the snowy heights of the mountains she had hitherto loved so single-heartedly and so well.