easy rowing. They talked of the library, of the movies. He hummed and
she softly sang "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." A breeze shivered across the
agate lake. The wrinkled water was like armor damascened and polished.
The breeze flowed round the boat in a chill current. Carol drew the
collar of her middy blouse over her bare throat.
"Getting cold. Afraid we'll have to go back," she said.
"Let's not go back to them yet. They'll be cutting up. Let's keep along
"But you enjoy the 'cutting up!' Maud and you had a beautiful time."
"Why! We just walked on the shore and talked about fishing!"
She was relieved, and apologetic to her friend Maud. "Of course. I was
"I'll tell you! Let's land here and sit on the shore--that bunch of
hazel-brush will shelter us from the wind--and watch the sunset. It's
like melted lead. Just a short while! We don't want to go back and
listen to them!"
"No, but----" She said nothing while he sped ashore. The keel clashed
on the stones. He stood on the forward seat, holding out his hand.
They were alone, in the ripple-lapping silence. She rose slowly, slowly
stepped over the water in the bottom of the old boat. She took his hand
confidently. Unspeaking they sat on a bleached log, in a russet twilight
which hinted of autumn. Linden leaves fluttered about them.
"I wish----Are you cold now?" he whispered.
"A little." She shivered. But it was not with cold.
"I wish we could curl up in the leaves there, covered all up, and lie
looking out at the dark."
"I wish we could." As though it was comfortably understood that he did
not mean to be taken seriously.
"Like what all the poets say--brown nymph and faun."
"No. I can't be a nymph any more. Too old----Erik, am I old? Am I faded
"Why, you're the youngest----Your eyes are like a girl's. They're
so--well, I mean, like you believed everything. Even if you do teach
me, I feel a thousand years older than you, instead of maybe a year
"Four or five years younger!"
"Anyway, your eyes are so innocent and your cheeks so soft----Damn it,
it makes me want to cry, somehow, you're so defenseless; and I want to
protect you and----There's nothing to protect you against!"
"Am I young? Am I? Honestly? Truly?" She betrayed for a moment the
childish, mock-imploring tone that comes into the voice of the most
serious woman when an agreeable man treats her as a girl; the childish
tone and childish pursed-up lips and shy lift of the cheek.
"Yes, you are!"
"You're dear to believe it, Will--ERIK!"
"Will you play with me? A lot?"
"Would you really like to curl in the leaves and watch the stars swing
"I think it's rather better to be sitting here!" He twined his fingers
with hers. "And Erik, we must go back."
"It's somewhat late to outline all the history of social custom!"
"I know. We must. Are you glad we ran away though?"
"Yes." She was quiet, perfectly simple. But she rose.
He circled her waist with a brusque arm. She did not resist. She did
not care. He was neither a peasant tailor, a potential artist, a
social complication, nor a peril. He was himself, and in him, in the
personality flowing from him, she was unreasoningly content. In his
nearness she caught a new view of his head; the last light brought out
the planes of his neck, his flat ruddied cheeks, the side of his nose,
the depression of his temples. Not as coy or uneasy lovers but as
companions they walked to the boat, and he lifted her up on the prow.
She began to talk intently, as he rowed: "Erik, you've got to work! You
ought to be a personage. You're robbed of your kingdom. Fight for it!
Take one of these correspondence courses in drawing--they mayn't be any
good in themselves, but they'll make you try to draw and----"
As they reached the picnic ground she perceived that it was dark, that
they had been gone for a long time.
"What will they say?" she wondered.
The others greeted them with the inevitable storm of humor and slight
vexation: "Where the deuce do you think you've been?" "You're a fine
pair, you are!" Erik and Carol looked self-conscious; failed in their
effort to be witty. All the way home Carol was embarrassed. Once Cy
winked at her. That Cy, the Peeping Tom of the garage-loft, should
consider her a fellow-sinner----She was furious and frightened and
exultant by turns, and in all her moods certain that Kennicott would
read her adventuring in her face.
She came into the house awkwardly defiant.
Her husband, half asleep under the lamp, greeted her, "Well, well, have
She could not answer. He looked at her. But his look did not sharpen.
He began to wind his watch, yawning the old "Welllllll, guess it's about
time to turn in."
That was all. Yet she was not glad. She was almost disappointed.
Mrs. Bogart called next day. She had a hen-like, crumb-pecking, diligent
appearance. Her smile was too innocent. The pecking started instantly:
"Cy says you had lots of fun at the picnic yesterday. Did you enjoy it?"
"Oh yes. I raced Cy at swimming. He beat me badly. He's so strong, isn't
begged every one to like him. She perceived how inaccurate her judgments
could be. At the picnic she had fancied that Maud Dyer looked upon Erik
too sentimentally, and she had snarled, "I hate these married women who
cheapen themselves and feed on boys." But at the supper Maud was one of
the waitresses; she bustled with platters of cake, she was pleasant to
old women; and to Erik she gave no attention at all. Indeed, when she
had her own supper, she joined the Kennicotts, and how ludicrous it was
to suppose that Maud was a gourmet of emotions Carol saw in the fact
that she talked not to one of the town beaux but to the safe Kennicott
When Carol glanced at Erik again she discovered that Mrs. Bogart had
an eye on her. It was a shock to know that at last there was something
which could make her afraid of Mrs. Bogart's spying.
"What am I doing? Am I in love with Erik? Unfaithful? I? I want youth
but I don't want him--I mean, I don't want youth--enough to break up my
life. I must get out of this. Quick."
She said to Kennicott on their way home, "Will! I want to run away for a
few days. Wouldn't you like to skip down to Chicago?"
"Still be pretty hot there. No fun in a big city till winter. What do
you want to go for?"
"People! To occupy my mind. I want stimulus."
"Stimulus?" He spoke good-naturedly. "Who's been feeding you meat? You
got that 'stimulus' out of one of these fool stories about wives that
don't know when they're well off. Stimulus! Seriously, though, to cut
out the jollying, I can't get away."
"Then why don't I run off by myself?"
"Why----'Tisn't the money, you understand. But what about Hugh?"
"Leave him with Aunt Bessie. It would be just for a few days."
"I don't think much of this business of leaving kids around. Bad for
"So you don't think----"
"I'll tell you: I think we better stay put till after the war. Then
we'll have a dandy long trip. No, I don't think you better plan much
about going away now."
So she was thrown at Erik.
She awoke at ebb-time, at three of the morning, woke sharply and fully;
and sharply and coldly as her father pronouncing sentence on a cruel