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Benediction


The Baltimore Station was hot and crowded, so Lois was forced to
stand by the telegraph desk for interminable, sticky seconds
while a clerk with big front teeth counted and recounted a large
lady's day message, to determine whether it contained the
innocuous forty-nine words or the fatal fifty-one.

Lois, waiting, decided she wasn't quite sure of the address, so
she took the letter out of her bag and ran over it again.

"Darling," IT BEGAN--"I understand and I'm happier than life ever
meant me to be. If I could give you the things you've always
been in tune with--but I can't Lois; we can't marry and we can't
lose each other and let all this glorious love end in nothing.

"Until your letter came, dear, I'd been sitting here in the half
dark and thinking where I could go and ever forget you; abroad,
perhaps, to drift through Italy or Spain and dream away the pain
of having lost you where the crumbling ruins of older, mellower
civilizations would mirror only the desolation of my heart--and
then your letter came.

"Sweetest, bravest girl, if you'll wire me I'll meet you in
Wilmington--till then I'll be here just waiting and hoping for
every long dream of you to come true.
"Howard."

She had read the letter so many times that she knew it word by
word, yet it still startled her. In it she found many faint
reflections of the man who wrote it--the mingled sweetness and
sadness in his dark eyes, the furtive, restless excitement she
felt sometimes when he talked to her, his dreamy sensuousness
that lulled her mind to sleep. Lois was nineteen and very
romantic and curious and courageous.

The large lady and the clerk having compromised on fifty words,
Lois took a blank and wrote her telegram. And there were no
overtones to the finality of her decision.

It's just destiny--she thought--it's just the way things work
out in this damn world. If cowardice is all that's been holding
me back there won't be any more holding back. So we'll just let
things take their course and never be sorry.

The clerk scanned her telegram:

"Arrived Baltimore today spend day with my brother meet me
Wilmington three P.M. Wednesday
Love

"Lois."

"Fifty-four cents," said the clerk admiringly.

And never be sorry--thought Lois--and never be sorry---

II


Trees filtering light onto dapple grass. Trees like tall, languid
ladies with feather fans coquetting airily with the ugly roof of
the monastery. Trees like butlers, bending courteously over
placid walks and paths. Trees, trees over the hills on either
side and scattering out in clumps and lines and woods all through
eastern Maryland, delicate lace on the hems of many yellow
fields, dark opaque backgrounds for flowered bushes or wild
climbing garden.

Some of the trees were very gay and young, but the monastery
trees were older than the monastery which, by true monastic
standards, wasn't very old at all. And, as a matter of fact, it
wasn't technically called a monastery, but only a seminary;
nevertheless it shall be a monastery here despite its Victorian
architecture or its Edward VII additions, or even its Woodrow
Wilsonian, patented, last-a-century roofing.

Out behind was the farm where half a dozen lay brothers were
sweating lustily as they moved with deadly efficiency around the
vegetable-gardens. To the left, behind a row of elms, was an
informal baseball diamond where three novices were being batted
out by a fourth, amid great chasings and puffings and blowings.
And in front as a great mellow bell boomed the half-hour a swarm
of black, human leaves were blown over the checker-board of paths
under the courteous trees.

Some of these black leaves were very old with cheeks furrowed
like the first ripples of a splashed pool. Then there was a
scattering of middle-aged leaves whose forms when viewed in
profile in their revealing gowns were beginning to be faintly
unsymmetrical. These carried thick volumes of Thomas Aquinas and
Henry James and Cardinal Mercier and Immanuel Kant and many
bulging note-books filled with lecture data.

But most numerous were the young leaves; blond boys of nineteen
with very stern, conscientious expressions; men in the late
twenties with a keen self-assurance from having taught out in the
world for five years--several hundreds of them, from city and
town and country in Maryland and Pennsylvania and Virginia and
West Virginia and Delaware.

There were many Americans and some Irish and some tough Irish and
a few French, and several Italians and Poles, and they walked
informally arm in arm with each other in twos and threes or in
long rows, almost universally distinguished by the straight mouth
and the considerable chin--for this was the Society of Jesus,
founded in Spain five hundred years before by a tough-minded
soldier who trained men to hold a breach or a salon, preach a
sermon or write a treaty, and do it and not argue . . .

Lois got out of a bus into the sunshine down by the outer gate.
She was nineteen with yellow hair and eyes that people were
tactful enough not to call green. When men of talent saw her in a
street-car they often furtively produced little stub-pencils and
backs of envelopes and tried to sum up that profile or the thing
that the eyebrows did to her eyes. Later they looked at their
results and usually tore them up with wondering sighs.

Though Lois was very jauntily attired in an expensively
appropriate travelling affair, she did not linger to pat out the
dust which covered her clothes, but started up the central walk
with curious glances at either side. Her face was very eager and
expectant, yet she hadn't at all that glorified expression that
girls wear when they arrive for a Senior Prom at Princeton or New
Haven; still, as there were no senior proms here, perhaps it
didn't matter.

She was wondering what he would look like, whether she'd possibly
know him from his picture. In the picture, which hung over her
mother's bureau at home, he seemed very young and hollow-cheeked
and rather pitiful, with only a well-developed mouth and all
ill-fitting probationer's gown to show that he had already made a
momentous decision about his life. Of course he had been only
nineteen then and now he was thirty-six--didn't look like that at
all; in recent snap-shots he was much broader and his hair had
grown a little thin--but the impression of her brother she had
always retained was that of the big picture. And so she had
always been a little sorry for him. What a life for a man!
Seventeen years of preparation and he wasn't even a priest
yet--wouldn't be for another year.

Lois had an idea that this was all going to be rather solemn if
she let it be. But she was going to give her very best imitation
of undiluted sunshine, the imitation she could give even when her
head was splitting or when her mother had a nervous breakdown or
when she was particularly romantic and curious and courageous.
This brother of hers undoubtedly needed cheering up, and he was
going to be cheered up, whether he liked it or not.

As she drew near the great, homely front door she saw a man break
suddenly away from a group and, pulling up the skirts of his
gown, run toward her. He was smiling, she noticed, and he looked
very big and--and reliable. She stopped and waited, knew that her
heart was beating unusually fast.

"Lois!" he cried, and in a second she was in his arms. She was
suddenly trembling.

"Lois!" he cried again, "why, this is wonderful! I can't tell
you, Lois, how MUCH I've looked forward to this. Why, Lois,
you're beautiful!"

Lois gasped.

His voice, though restrained, was vibrant with energy and that
odd sort of enveloping personality she had thought that she only
of the family possessed.

"I'm mighty glad, too--Kieth."

She flushed, but not unhappily, at this first use of his name.

"Lois--Lois--Lois," he repeated in wonder. "Child, we'll go in
here a minute, because I want you to meet the rector, and then
we'll walk around. I have a thousand things to talk to you
about."

His voice became graver. "How's mother?"

She looked at him for a moment and then said something that she
had not intended to say at all, the very sort of thing she had
resolved to avoid.

"Oh, Kieth--she's--she's getting worse all the time, every way."

He nodded slowly as if he understood.

"Nervous, well--you can tell me about that later. Now---"

She was in a small study with a large desk, saying something to a
little, jovial, white-haired priest who retained her hand for
some seconds.

"So this is Lois!"

He said it as if he had heard of her for years.

He entreated her to sit down.

Two other priests arrived enthusiastically and shook hands with
her and addressed her as "Kieth's little sister," which she found
she didn't mind a bit.

How assured they seemed; she had expected a certain shyness,
reserve at least. There were several jokes unintelligible to her,
which seemed to delight every one, and the little Father Rector
referred to the trio of them as "dim old monks," which she
appreciated, because of course they weren't monks at all. She had
a lightning impression that they were especially fond of
Kieth--the Father Rector had called him "Kieth" and one of the
others had kept a hand on his shoulder all through the
conversation. Then she was shaking hands again and promising to
come back a little later for some ice-cream, and smiling and
smiling and being rather absurdly happy . . . she told herself
that it was because Kieth was so delighted in showing her off.

Then she and Kieth were strolling along a path, arm in arm, and
he was informing her what an absolute jewel the Father Rector
was.

"Lois," he broken off suddenly, "I want to tell you before we go
any farther how much it means to me to have you come up here. I
think it was--mighty sweet of you. I know what a gay time you've
been having."

Lois gasped. She was not prepared for this. At first when she had
conceived the plan of taking the hot journey down to Baltimore
staying the night with a friend and then coming out to see her
brother, she had felt rather consciously virtuous, hoped he
wouldn't be priggish or resentful about her not having come
before--but walking here with him under the trees seemed such a
little thing, and surprisingly a happy thing.

"Why, Kieth," she said quickly, "you know I couldn't have waited
a day longer. I saw you when I was five, but of course I didn't
remember, and how could I have gone on without practically ever
having seen my only brother?"

"It was mighty sweet of you, Lois," he repeated.

Lois blushed--he DID have personality.

"I want you to tell me all about yourself," he said after a
pause. "Of course I have a general idea what you and mother did
in Europe those fourteen years, and then we were all so worried,
Lois, when you had pneumonia and couldn't come down with
mother--let's see that was two years ago--and then, well, I've
seen your name in the papers, but it's all been so
unsatisfactory. I haven't known you, Lois."

She found herself analyzing his personality as she analyzed the
personality of every man she met. She wondered if the effect
of--of intimacy that he gave was bred by his constant repetition
of her name. He said it as if he loved the word, as if it had an
inherent meaning to him.

"Then you were at school," he continued.

"Yes, at Farmington. Mother wanted me to go to a convent--but I
didn't want to."

She cast a side glance at him to see if he would resent this.

But he only nodded slowly.

"Had enough convents abroad, eh?"

"Yes--and Kieth, convents are different there anyway. Here even
in the nicest ones there are so many COMMON girls."

He nodded again.

"Yes," he agreed, "I suppose there are, and I know how you feel
about it. It grated on me here, at first, Lois, though I wouldn't
say that to any one but you; we're rather sensitive, you and I,
to things like this."

"You mean the men here?"

"Yes, some of them of course were fine, the sort of men I'd
always been thrown with, but there were others; a man named
Regan, for instance--I hated the fellow, and now he's about the
best friend I have. A wonderful character, Lois; you'll meet him
later. Sort of man you'd like to have with you in a fight."

Lois was thinking that Kieth was the sort of man she'd like to
have with HER in a fight.

"How did you--how did you first happen to do it?" she asked,
rather shyly, "to come here, I mean. Of course mother told me the
story about the Pullman car."

"Oh, that---" He looked rather annoyed.

"Tell me that. I'd like to hear you tell it."

"Oh, it's nothing except what you probably know. It was evening
and I'd been riding all day and thinking about--about a hundred
things, Lois, and then suddenly I had a sense that some one was
sitting across from me, felt that he'd been there for some time,
and had a vague idea that he was another traveller. All at once
he leaned over toward me and I heard a voice say: 'I want you to
be a priest, that's what I want.' Well I jumped up and cried out,
'Oh, my God, not that!'--made an idiot of myself before about
twenty people; you see there wasn't any one sitting there at all.
A week after that I went to the Jesuit College in Philadelphia
and crawled up the last flight of stairs to the rector's office
on my hands and knees."

There was another silence and Lois saw that her brother's eyes
wore a far-away look, that he was staring unseeingly out over the
sunny fields. She was stirred by the modulations of his voice
and the sudden silence that seemed to flow about him when he
finished speaking.

She noticed now that his eyes were of the same fibre as hers,
with the green left out, and that his mouth was much gentler,
really, than in the picture --or was it that the face had grown
up to it lately? He was getting a little bald just on top of his
head. She wondered if that was from wearing a hat so much. It
seemed awful for a man to grow bald and no one to care about it.

"Were you--pious when you were young, Kieth?" she asked. "You
know what I mean. Were you religious? If you don't mind these
personal questions."

"Yes," he said with his eyes still far away--and she felt that
his intense abstraction was as much a part of his personality as
his attention. "Yes, I suppose I was, when I was--sober."

Lois thrilled slightly.

"Did you drink?"

He nodded.

"I was on the way to making a bad hash of things." He smiled and,
turning his gray eyes on her, changed the subject.

"Child, tell me about mother. I know it's been awfully hard for
you there, lately. I know you've had to sacrifice a lot and put
up with a great deal and I want you to know how fine of you I
think it is. I feel, Lois, that you're sort of taking the place
of both of us there."

Lois thought quickly how little she had sacrificed; how lately
she had constantly avoided her nervous, half-invalid mother.

"Youth shouldn't be sacrificed to age, Kieth," she said steadily.

"I know," he sighed, "and you oughtn't to have the weight on
your shoulders, child. I wish I were there to help you."

She saw how quickly he had turned her remark and instantly she
knew what this quality was that he gave off. He was SWEET. Her
thoughts went of on a side-track and then she broke the silence
with an odd remark.

"Sweetness is hard," she said suddenly.

"What?"

"Nothing," she denied in confusion. "I didn't mean to speak
aloud. I was thinking of something --of a conversation with a man
named Freddy Kebble."

"Maury Kebble's brother?"

"Yes," she said rather surprised to think of him having known
Maury Kebble. Still there was nothing strange about it. "Well, he
and I were talking about sweetness a few weeks ago. Oh, I don't
know--I said that a man named Howard--that a man I knew was
sweet, and he didn't agree with me, and we began talking about
what sweetness in a man was: He kept telling me I meant a sort of
soppy softness, but I knew I didn't--yet I didn't know exactly
how to put it. I see now. I meant just the opposite. I suppose
real sweetness is a sort of hardness--and strength."

Kieth nodded.

"I see what you mean. I've known old priests who had it."

"I'm talking about young men," she said rather defiantly.

They had reached the now deserted baseball diamond and, pointing
her to a wooden bench, he sprawled full length on the grass.

"Are these YOUNG men happy here, Kieth?"

"Don't they look happy, Lois?"

"I suppose so, but those YOUNG ones, those two we just
passed--have they--are they---?

"Are they signed up?" he laughed. "No, but they will be next
month."

"Permanently?"

"Yes--unless they break down mentally or physically. Of course in
a discipline like ours a lot drop out."

"But those BOYS. Are they giving up fine chances outside--like
you did?"

He nodded.

"Some of them."

"But Kieth, they don't know what they're doing. They haven't had
any experience of what they're missing."

"No, I suppose not."

"It doesn't seem fair. Life has just sort of scared them at
first. Do they all come in so YOUNG?"

"No, some of them have knocked around, led pretty wild
lives--Regan, for instance."

"I should think that sort would be better," she said
meditatively, "men that had SEEN life."

"No," said Kieth earnestly, "I'm not sure that knocking about
gives a man the sort of experience he can communicate to others.
Some of the broadest men I've known have been absolutely rigid
about themselves. And reformed libertines are a notoriously
intolerant class. Don't you thank so, Lois?"

She nodded, still meditative, and he continued:

"It seems to me that when one weak reason goes to another, it
isn't help they want; it's a sort of companionship in guilt,
Lois. After you were born, when mother began to get nervous she
used to go and weep with a certain Mrs. Comstock. Lord, it used
to make me shiver. She said it comforted her, poor old mother.
No, I don't think that to help others you've got to show yourself
at all. Real help comes from a stronger person whom you respect.
And their sympathy is all the bigger because it's impersonal."

"But people want human sympathy," objected Lois. "They want to
feel the other person's been tempted."

"Lois, in their hearts they want to feel that the other person's
been weak. That's what they mean by human.

"Here in this old monkery, Lois," he continued with a smile, "they
try to get all that self-pity and pride in our own wills out of
us right at the first. They put us to scrubbing floors--and other
things. It's like that idea of saving your life by losing it.
You see we sort of feel that the less human a man is, in your
sense of human, the better servant he can be to humanity. We
carry it out to the end, too. When one of us dies his family
can't even have him then. He's buried here under plain wooden
cross with a thousand others."

His tone changed suddenly and he looked at her with a great
brightness in his gray eyes.

"But way back in a man's heart there are some things he can't get
rid of--an one of them is that I'm awfully in love with my
little sister."

With a sudden impulse she knelt beside him in the grass and,
Leaning over, kissed his forehead.

"You're hard, Kieth," she said, "and I love you for it--and
you're sweet."

III


Back in the reception-room Lois met a half-dozen more of Kieth's
particular friends; there was a young man named Jarvis, rather
pale and delicate-looking, who, she knew, must be a grandson of
old Mrs. Jarvis at home, and she mentally compared this ascetic
with a brace of his riotous uncles.

And there was Regan with a scarred face and piercing intent eyes
that followed her about the room and often rested on Kieth with
something very like worship. She knew then what Kieth had meant
about "a good man to have with you in a fight."

He's the missionary type--she thought vaguely--China or something.

"I want Kieth's sister to show us what the shimmy is," demanded
one young man with a broad grin.

Lois laughed.

"I'm afraid the Father Rector would send me shimmying out the
gate. Besides, I'm not an expert."

"I'm sure it wouldn't be best for Jimmy's soul anyway," said
Kieth solemnly. "He's inclined to brood about things like
shimmys. They were just starting to do the--maxixe, wasn't it,
Jimmy?--when he became a monk, and it haunted him his whole first
year. You'd see him when he was peeling potatoes, putting his
arm around the bucket and making irreligious motions with his
feet."

There was a general laugh in which Lois joined.

"An old lady who comes here to Mass sent Kieth this ice-cream,"
whispered Jarvis under cover of the laugh, "because she'd heard
you were coming. It's pretty good, isn't it?"

There were tears trembling in Lois' eyes.

IV


Then half an hour later over in the chapel things suddenly went
all wrong. It was several years since Lois had been at
Benediction and at first she was thrilled by the gleaming
monstrance with its central spot of white, the air rich and heavy
with incense, and the sun shining through the stained-glass
window of St. Francis Xavier overhead and falling in warm red
tracery on the cassock of the man in front of her, but at the
first notes of the "O SALUTARIS HOSTIA" a heavy weight seemed to
descend upon her soul. Kieth was on her right and young Jarvis on
her left, and she stole uneasy glance at both of them.

What's the matter with me? she thought impatiently.

She looked again. Was there a certain coldness in both their
profiles, that she had not noticed before--a pallor about the
mouth and a curious set expression in their eyes? She shivered
slightly: they were like dead men.

She felt her soul recede suddenly from Kieth's. This was her
brother--this, this unnatural person. She caught herself in the
act of a little laugh.

"What is the matter with me?"

She passed her hand over her eyes and the weight increased. The
incense sickened her and a stray, ragged note from one of the
tenors in the choir grated on her ear like the shriek of a
slate-pencil. She fidgeted, and raising her hand to her hair
touched her forehead, found moisture on it.

"It's hot in here, hot as the deuce."

Again she repressed a faint laugh and, then in an instant the
weight on her heart suddenly diffused into cold fear. . . . It
was that candle on the altar. It was all wrong--wrong. Why didn't
somebody see it? There was something IN it. There was something
coming out of it, taking form and shape above it.

She tried to fight down her rising panic, told herself it was the
wick. If the wick wasn't straight, candles did something--but
they didn't do this! With incalculable rapidity a force was
gathering within her, a tremendous, assimilative force, drawing
from every sense, every corner of her brain, and as it surged up
inside her she felt an enormous terrified repulsion. She drew her
arms in close to her side away from Kieth and Jarvis.

Something in that candle . . . she was leaning forward--in
another moment she felt she would go forward toward it--didn't
any one see it? . . . anyone?

"Ugh!"

She felt a space beside her and something told her that Jarvis
had gasped and sat down very suddenly . . . then she was kneeling
and as the flaming monstrance slowly left the altar in the hands
of the priest, she heard a great rushing noise in her ears--the
crash of the bells was like hammer-blows . . . and then in a
moment that seemed eternal a great torrent rolled over her
heart--there was a shouting there and a lashing as of waves . . .

. . . She was calling, felt herself calling for Kieth, her lips
mouthing the words that would not come:

"Kieth! Oh, my God! KIETH!"

Suddenly she became aware of a new presence, something external,
in front of her, consummated and expressed in warm red tracery.
Then she knew. It was the window of St. Francis Xavier. Her mind
gripped at it, clung to it finally, and she felt herself calling
again endlessly, impotently--Kieth--Kieth!

Then out of a great stillness came a voice:

"BLESSED BE GOD."

With a gradual rumble sounded the response rolling heavily
through the chapel:

"Blessed be God."

The words sang instantly in her heart; the incense lay mystically
and sweetly peaceful upon the air, and THE CANDLE ON THE ALTAR
WENT OUT.

"Blessed be His Holy Name."

"Blessed be His Holy Name."

Everything blurred into a swinging mist. With a sound half-gasp,
half-cry she rocked on her feet and reeled backward into Kieth's
suddenly outstretched arms.


V


"Lie still, child."

She closed her eyes again. She was on the grass outside, pillowed
on Kieth's arm, and Regan was dabbing her head with a cold towel.

"I'm all right," she said quietly.

"I know, but just lie still a minute longer. It was too hot in
there. Jarvis felt it, too."

She laughed as Regan again touched her gingerly with the towel.

"I'm all right," she repeated.

But though a warm peace was falling her mind and heart she felt
oddly broken and chastened, as if some one had held her stripped
soul up and laughed.

VI


Half an hour later she walked leaning on Kieth's arm down the
long central path toward the gate.

"It's been such a short afternoon," he sighed, "and I'm so sorry
you were sick, Lois."

"Kieth, I'm feeling fine now, really; I wish you wouldn't worry."

"Poor old child. I didn't realize that Benediction'd be a long
service for you after your hot trip out here and all."

She laughed cheerfully.

"I guess the truth is I'm not much used to Benediction. Mass is
the limit of my religious exertions."

She paused and then continued quickly:

"I don't want to shock you, Kieth, but I can't tell you how--how
INCONVENIENT being a Catholic is. It really doesn't seem to apply
any more. As far as morals go, some of the wildest boys I know
are Catholics. And the brightest boys--I mean the ones who think
and read a lot, don't seem to believe in much of anything any
more."

"Tell me about it. The bus won't be here for another half-hour."

They sat down on a bench by the path.

"For instance, Gerald Carter, he's published a novel. He
absolutely roars when people mention immortality. And then
Howa--well, another man I've known well, lately, who was Phi Beta
Kappa at Harvard says that no intelligent person can believe in
Supernatural Christianity. He says Christ was a great socialist,
though. Am I shocking you?"

She broke off suddenly.

Kieth smiled.

"You can't shock a monk. He's a professional shock-absorber."

"Well," she continued, "that's about all. It seems so--so NARROW.
Church schools, for instance. There's more freedom about things
that Catholic people can't see--like birth control."

Kieth winced, almost imperceptibly, but Lois saw it.

"Oh," she said quickly, "everybody talks about everything now."

"It's probably better that way."

"Oh, yes, much better. Well, that's all, Kieth. I just wanted to
tell you why I'm a little--luke-warm, at present."

"I'm not shocked, Lois. I understand better than you think. We
all go through those times. But I know it'll come out all right,
child. There's that gift of faith that we have, you and I,
that'll carry us past the bad spots."

He rose as he spoke and they started again down the path.

"I want you to pray for me sometimes, Lois. I think your prayers
would be about what I need. Because we've come very close in
these few hours, I think."

Her eyes were suddenly shining.

"Oh we have, we have!" she cried. "I feel closer to you now than
to any one in the world."

He stopped suddenly and indicated the side of the path.

"We might--just a minute---"

It was a pieta, a life-size statue of the Blessed Virgin set
within a semicircle of rocks.

Feeling a little self-conscious she dropped on her knees beside
him and made an unsuccessful attempt at prayer.

She was only half through when he rose. He took her arm again.

"I wanted to thank Her for letting as have this day together," he
said simply.

Lois felt a sudden lump in her throat and she wanted to say
something that would tell him how much it had meant to her, too.
But she found no words.

"I'll always remember this," he continued, his voice trembling a
little---"this summer day with you. It's been just what I
expected. You're just what I expected, Lois."

"I'm awfully glad, Keith."

"You see, when you were little they kept sending me snap-shots of
you, first as a baby and then as a child in socks playing on the
beach with a pail and shovel, and then suddenly as a wistful
little girl with wondering, pure eyes--and I used to build dreams
about you. A man has to have something living to cling to. I
think, Lois, it was your little white soul I tried to keep near
me--even when life was at its loudest and every intellectual idea
of God seemed the sheerest mockery, and desire and love and a
million things came up to me and said: 'Look here at me! See, I'm
Life. You're turning your back on it!' All the way through that
shadow, Lois, I could always see your baby soul flitting on ahead
of me, very frail and clear and wonderful."

Lois was crying softly. They had reached the gate and she rested
her elbow on it and dabbed furiously at her eyes.

"And then later, child, when you were sick I knelt all one night
and asked God to spare you for me--for I knew then that I wanted
more; He had taught me to want more. I wanted to know you moved
and breathed in the same world with me. I saw you growing up,
that white innocence of yours changing to a flame and burning to
give light to other weaker souls. And then I wanted some day to
take your children on my knee and hear them call the crabbed old
monk Uncle Kieth."

He seemed to be laughing now as he talked.

"Oh, Lois, Lois, I was asking God for more then. I wanted the
letters you'd write me and the place I'd have at your table. I
wanted an awful lot, Lois, dear."

"You've got me, Kieth," she sobbed "you know it, say you know it.
Oh, I'm acting like a baby but I didn't think you'd be this way,
and I--oh, Kieth--Kieth---"

He took her hand and patted it softly.

"Here's the bus. You'll come again won't you?"

She put her hands on his cheeks, add drawing his head down,
pressed her tear-wet face against his.

"Oh, Kieth, brother, some day I'll tell you something."

He helped her in, saw her take down her handkerchief and smile
bravely at him, as the driver kicked his whip and the bus rolled
off. Then a thick cloud of dust rose around it and she was gone.

For a few minutes he stood there on the road his hand on the
gate-post, his lips half parted in a smile.

"Lois," he said aloud in a sort of wonder, "Lois, Lois."

Later, some probationers passing noticed him kneeling before the
pieta, and coming back after a time found him still there. And he
was there until twilight came down and the courteous trees grew
garrulous overhead and the crickets took up their burden of song
in the dusky grass.

VII


The first clerk in the telegraph booth in the Baltimore Station
whistled through his buck teeth at the second clerk:

"S'matter?"

"See that girl--no, the pretty one with the big black dots on her
veil. Too late--she's gone. You missed somep'n."

"What about her?"

"Nothing. 'Cept she's damn good-looking. Came in here yesterday
and sent a wire to some guy to meet her somewhere. Then a minute
ago she came in with a telegram all written out and was standin'
there goin' to give it to me when she changed her mind or somep'n
and all of a sudden tore it up."

"Hm."

The first clerk came around tile counter and picking up the two
pieces of paper from the floor put them together idly. The second
clerk read them over his shoulder and subconsciously counted the
words as he read. There were just thirteen.

"This is in the way of a permanent goodbye. I should suggest
Italy.

"Lois."

"Tore it up, eh?" said the second clerk.

F. Scott Fitzgerald