One of the lies would make it out that nothing
Ever presents itself before us twice. Where would we be at last if that were so? Our very life depends on everything's Recurring till we answer from within.^* The thousandth time may prove the charm.- That leaf!
It can't turn either way. It needs the wind's help.
But the wind didn't move it if it moved.
It moved itself. The wind's at naught in here.
It couldn't stir so sensitively poised
A thing as that. It couldn't reach the lamp
To get a puff of black smoke from the flame,
Or blow a rumple in the collie's coat.
You make a little foursquare block of air,
Quiet and light and warm, in spite of all The illimitable dark and cold and storm, And by so doing give these three, lamp, dog, And book-leaf, that keep near you, their repose ;
Though for all anyone can tell, repose May be the thing you haven't, yet you give it. So false it is that what we haven't we can't give;
So false, that what we always say is true. I'll have to turn the leaf if no one else will. It won't lie down. Then let it stand. Who cares ? "
" I shouldn't want to hurry you, Meserve, But if you're going- Say you'll stay, you know?
But let me raise this curtain on a scene, And show you how it's piling up against you. You see the snow-white through the white of frost ?
Ask Helen how far up the sash it's climbed Since last we read the gage."
" It looks as if
Some pallid thing had squashed its features flat
And its eyes shut with overeagerness To see what people found so interesting In one another, and had gone to sleep Of its own stupid lack of understanding, Or broken its white neck of mushroom stuff Short off, and died against the window-pane."
" Brother Meserve, take care, you'll scare yourself
More than you will us with such nightmare talk.
It's you it matters to, because it's you Who have to go out into it alone."
" Let him talk, Helen, and perhaps he'll stay."
" Before you drop the curtain-I'm reminded: You recollect the boy who came out here To breathe the air one winter-had a room Down at the Averys' ? Well, one sunny morning
After a downy storm, he passed our place And found me banking up the house with snow.
And I was burrowing in deep for warmth, Piling it well above the window-sills.
The snow against the window caught his eye.
' Hey, that's a pretty thought'-those were his words.
' So you can think it's six feet deep outside, While you sit warm and read up balanced rations.
You can't get too much winter in the winter.' Those were his words. And he went home and all
But banked the daylight out of Avery's windows.
Now you and I would go to no such length. At the same time you can't deny it makes It not a mite worse, sitting here, we three, Playing our fancy, to have the snowline run So high across the pane outside. There where There is a sort of tunnel in the frost More like a tunnel than a hole-way down At the far end of it you see a stir And quiver like the frayed edge of the drift Blown in the wind. I like that-I like that. Well, now I leave you, people."
" Come, Meserve, We thought you were deciding not to go-
The ways you found to say the praise of comfort
And being where you are. You want to stay."
" I'll own it's cold for such a fall of snow. This house is frozen brittle, all except This room you sit in. If you think the wind You're further under in the snow-that's all-
You're further under in the snow-that's all- And feel it less. Hear the soft bombs of dust
It bursts against us at the chimney mouth, And at the eaves. I like it from inside More than I shall out in it. But the horses Are rested and it's time to say good-night, And let you get to bed again. Good-night, Sorry I had to break in on your sleep."
" Lucky for you you did. Lucky for you You had us for a half-way station To stop at. If you were the kind of man Paid heed to women, you'd take my advice And for your family's sake stay where you are.
But what good is my saying it over and over?
You've done more than you had a right to think
You could do-now. You know the risk you take In going on."
" Our snow-storms as a rule Aren't looked on as man-killers, and although fl'd rather be the beast that sleeps the sleep Under it all, his door sealed up and lost, / \Than the man fighting it to keep above it, Yet think of the small birds at roost and not In nests. Shall I be counted less than they are?
Their bulk in water would be frozen rock In no time out to-night. And yet to-morrow They will come budding boughs from tree to tree
Flirting their wings and saying Chickadee, As if not knowing what you meant by the word storm."
" But why when no one wants you to go on i Your wife-she doesn't want you to. We don't,
And you yourself don't want to. Who else is there?"
" Save us from being cornered by a woman. Well, there's "-She told Fred afterward that in
The pause right there, she thought the dreaded word
Was coming, " God." But no, he only said " Well, there's-the storm. That says I must go on.
That wants me as a war might if it came. Ask any man."
He threw her that as something To last her till he got outside the door. He had Cole with him to the barn to see him off.
When Cole returned he found his wife still standing
Beside the table near the open book, Not reading it.
" Well, what kind of a man Do you call that ? " she said.
" He had the gift Of words, or is it tongues, I ought to say?"
" Was ever such a man for seeing likeness ? "
" Or disregarding people's civil questions- What? We've found out in one hour more about him
Than we had seeing him pass by in the road A thousand times. If that's the way he preaches!
You didn't think you'd keep him after all. Oh, I'm not blaming you. He didn't leave you
Much say in the matter, and I'm just as glad We're not in for a night of him. No sleep If he had stayed. The least thing set him going.
It's quiet as an empty church without him."
" But how much better off are we as it is ? We'll have to sit here till we know he's safe."
" Yes, I suppose you'll want to, but I shouldn't.
He knows what he can do, or he wouldn't try.
Get into bed I say, and get some rest. He won't come back, and if he telephones, It won't be for an hour or two."
" Well then. We can't be any help by sitting here And living his fight through with him, I suppose."
Cole had been telephoning in the dark.
Mrs. Cole's voice came from an inner room: " Did she call you or you call her ? "
" She me.
You'd better dress: you won't go back to bed. We must have been asleep: it's three and after."
" Had she been ringing long? I'll get my wrapper. I want to speak to her."
" All she said was, He hadn't come and had he really started."
" She knew he had, poor thing, two hours ago."
" He had the shovel. He'll have made a fight."
" Why did I ever let him leave this house! "
" Don't begin that. You did the best you could
To keep him-though perhaps you didn't quite
Conceal a wish to see him show the spunk To disobey you. Much his wife'll thank you."
" Fred, after all I said! You shan't make out That it was any way but what it was. Did she let on by any word she said She didn't thank me?"
" When I told her ' Come,' 'Well then,' she said, and 'Well then'like a threat. And then her voice came scraping slow: ' Oh, you,
Why did you let him go ?'"
"Asked why we let him? You let me there. I'll ask her why she let him.
She didn't dare to speak when he was here. Their numbers-twenty-one ? The thing won't work.
Someone's receiver's down. The handle stumbles.
The stubborn thing, the way it jars your arm! It's theirs. She's dropped it from her hand and gone."
" Try speaking. Say'Hello!'"
" What do you hear? "
" I hear an empty room- You know-it sounds that way. And yes, I hear-
I think I hear a clock-and windows rattling. No step though. If she's there she's sitting down."
" Shout, she may hear you."
" Shouting is no good."
" Keep speaking then."
"Hello. Hello. Hello. You don't suppose-? She wouldn't go out doors?"
" I'm half afraid that's just what she might do."
" And leave the children ? "
" Wait and call again. You can't hear whether she has left the door Wide open and the wind's blown out the lamp And the fire's died and the room's dark and cold?"
" One of two things, either she's gone to bed Or gone out doors."
" In which case both are lost. Do you know what she's like ? Have you ever met her?
It's strange she doesn't want to speak to us."
" Fred, see if you can hear what I hear. Come."
" A clock maybe."
" Don't you hear something else ?"
" Not talking."
"Why, yes, I hear-what is it?" " What do you say it is ? "
"A baby's crying!"
" Frantic it sounds, though muffled and far off."
" Its mother wouldn't let it cry like that, Not if she's there."
" What do you make of it? "
" There's only one thing possible to make, That is, assuming-that she has gone out.
Of course she hasn't though." They both sat down
Helpless. " There's nothing we can do till morning."
" Fred, I shan't let you think of going out."
" Hold on." The double bell began to chirp. They started up. Fred took the telephone. " Hello, Meserve. You're there, then!-And your wife?
Good! Why I asked-she didn't seem to answer.
He says she went to let him in the barn.- We're glad. Oh, say no more about it, man. Drop in and see us when you're passing."
She has him then, though what she wants him for
I don't see."
" Possibly not for herself. Maybe she only wants him for the children."
" The whole to-do seems to have been for nothing.
What spoiled our night was to him just his fun.
What did he come in for?-To talk and visit? Thought he'd just call to tell us it was snowing.
If he thinks he is going to make our house a halfway coffee house 'twixt town and nowhere-"
"I thought you'd feel you'd been too much concerned."
" You think you haven't been concerned yourself."
"If you mean he was inconsiderate To rout us out to think for him at midnight And then take our advice no more than nothing,
Why, I agree with you. But let's forgive him.
We've had a share in one night of his life. What'll you bet he ever calls again?"