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He handles her as if he knew her."

"You bet your life.--Tune up, Cap."

Williams came from the obscurity somewhere, and looked over the
shoulders of the men.

"Down in front," somebody called, and the men took seats on the benches,
leaving Field standing with the violin in hand. He smiled around upon
them in a frank, pleased way, quite ready to show his skill. He played
"Annie Laurie," and a storm of applause broke out.

"_Hoo_-ray! Bully for you!"

"Sam, you're out of it."

"Sam, your name is Mud."

"Give us another, Cap."

"It ain't the same fiddle."

He played again some simple tune, and he played it with the touch which
showed the skilled amateur. As he played, Mrs. Field noticed a grave
restlessness on Williams's part. He moved about uneasily. He gnawed at
his finger nails. His eyes glowed with a singular fire. His hands
drummed and fingered. At last he approached and said roughly:

"Let me take that fiddle a minute."

"Oh, cheese it, Williams!" the men cried. "Let the other man play."

"What do _you_ want to do with the fiddle--think it's a music box?"
asked Sam, its owner.

"Go to hell!" said Williams. As Field gave the violin over to him his
hands seemed to tremble with eagerness.

He raised his bow and struck into an imposing brilliant strain, and the
men fell back in astonishment.

"Well, I'll be damned!" gasped the owner of the violin.

"Keep quiet, Sam."

Mrs. Field looked at her husband. "Why, Ed, he is playing Sarasate!"

"That's what he is," he returned slangily, too much astonished to do
more than gaze. Williams played on.

There was a faint defect in the high notes, as if his fingers did not
touch the strings properly, but his bow action showed cultivation and
breadth of feeling. As he struck into one of those difficult
octave-leaping movements his face became savage. On the E string a
squeal broke forth; he flung the violin into Sam's lap with a ferocious
curse, and then extending his hands, hard, crooked to fit the axe-helve,
calloused and chapped, he said to Field:

"Look at my cursed hands. Lovely things to play with, ain't they?"

His voice trembled with passion. He turned and went outside. As he
passed Mrs. Field his head was bowed and he was uttering a groaning cry
like one suffering acute physical agony.

She went out quickly, and Field and Ridgeley followed. They were all
moved--but the men made little of it, seeing how deeply touched she
was.

"That's what drink does for a man," Ridgeley said, as they watched
Williams disappear down the swampers' trail.

"That man has been a violinist," said Field. "What's he doing up here?"

"Came up to get away from himself," Ridgeley replied.

"I'm afraid he's failed," said Field, as he put his arm about his wife
and led her to the sleigh.

The ride home was made mainly in silence. "Oh, the splendid silence!"
the woman kept saying in her heart. "Oh, the splendid moonlight, the
marvelous radiance!" Everywhere a heavenly serenity--not a footstep, not
a bell, not a cry, not a cracking tree--nothing but vivid light, white
snow dappled and lined with shadows, and trees etched against a starlit
sky. Splendor of light and sheen and shadow. Wide wastes of snow so
white the stumps stood like columns of charcoal. A night of Nature's
making when she is tired of noise and blare of color.

And in the midst of it stood the camps and the reek of obscenity, foul
odors, and tobacco smoke, to which a tortured soul must return.


IV.

The following Saturday afternoon, as Ridgeley and Field entered the
office, Williams rose to meet them. He looked different; finer some way,
Field imagined. At any rate, he was perfectly sober. He was freshly
shaven, and though his clothes were rough, he looked like a man of
education. His manner was cold and distant.

"I'd like to be paid off, Mr. Ridgeley," he said. "I guess what's left
of my pay will take me out of this."

"Where do you propose to go?" Ridgeley said kindly.

Williams must have perceived his kindliness, for he answered: "I'm going
home to my wife. I am going to try it once more."

After Williams went out Field said, "I wonder if he'll do it?"

"Oh, I shouldn't wonder. I've seen men brace up just as mysteriously as
that and stay right by their resolutions. I thought he didn't look like
a common lumber Jack when he came in."

"Oh, how happy his wife will be!" Mrs. Field cried when she heard of
Williams's resolution. "She'll save him yet."

"Well, I don't know; depends on what kind of a woman she is."




THE OWNER OF THE MILL FARM.


Beyond his necessity, a tired man is not apt to be polite. This Mrs.
Miner had generalized from long experience with her husband. She knew at
a distance, by the way he wore his hat when he came in out of the field,
whether he was in a peculiarly savage mood, or only in his usual state
of sullen indifference.

As he came in out of the barn on this spring day, he turned to look up
at the roof with a curse. Something had angered him. He did not stop to
comb his hair after washing at the pump, but came into the neat kitchen
and surlily took a seat at the table.

Mrs. Miner, a slender little woman, quite ladylike in appearance, had
the dinner all placed in steaming abundance upon the table, and the
children, sitting side by side, watched their father in silence. There
was an air of foreboding, of apprehension, over them all, as if they
feared some brutal outbreak on his part.

He placed his elbows on the table. His sleeves were rolled up,
displaying his red and much sunburned arms. He wore no coat, and his
face was sullen, and held, besides, a certain vicious quality, like that
of a bad-tempered dog.

He had not spoken to his wife directly for many weeks. For years it had
been his almost constant habit to address her through the children, by
calling her "she" or "your mother." He had done this so long that even
the little ones were startled when he said, looking straight at her:

"Say, what are you going to do about that roof?"

Mrs. Miner turned her large gray eyes upon him in sudden confusion.
"Excuse me, Tom, I didn't----"

"I said 'What you goin' t' do with that roof?'" he repeated brutally.

"What roof?" she asked timidly.

"What roof?" he repeated after her. "Why, the barn, of course! It's
leakin' and rottin' my oats. It's none o' my business," he went on, his
voice containing an undercurrent of vicious insult. "Only I thought
you'd like to know it's worse than ever. You can do as you like about
it," he said again, and there was a peculiar tone in his voice, as if,
by using that tone, he touched her upon naked nerves somewhere. "I guess
I can cover the oats up."

A stranger would not have known what it all meant, and yet there was
something in what he said that made his wife turn white. But she
answered quietly:

"I'll send word to the carpenter this forenoon. I'm sorry," she went
on, the tears coming to her eyes. She turned away and looked out of the
window, while he ate on indifferently. At last she turned with a sudden
impulse: "O Tom, why can't we be friends again? For the children's sake,
you ought to----"

"Oh, shut up!" he snarled. "Good God! Can't you let a thing rest? Suits
me well enough. I ain't complainin'. So, just shut up."

He rose with a slam and went out. The two children sat with hushed
breath. They knew him too well to cry out.

Mrs. Miner sat for a long time at the table without moving. At last she
rose and went sighfully at work. "Morty, I want you to run down to Mr.
Wilber's and ask him to come up and see me about some work." She stood
at the window and watched the boy as he stepped lightly down the road.
"How much he looks like his father, in spite of his sunny temper!" she
thought, and it was not altogether a pleasant thing to think of, though
she did not allow such a thought to take definite shape.

The young carpenter whom Wilber sent to fill Mrs. Miner's order walked
with the gay feet of youth as he passed out of the little town toward
the river. When he came to the bridge, he paused and studied the scene
with slow, delighted eyes. The water came down over its dam with a leap
of buoyant joy, as if leaping to freedom. Over the dam it lay in a quiet
pool, mirroring every bud and twig. Below, it curved away between low
banks, with bushes growing to the water's edge, where the pickerel lay.

But the young man seemed to be saddened by the view of the mill, which
had burned some years before. It seemed like the charred body of a
living thing, this heap of blackened and twisted shafts and pulleys,
lying half buried in tangles of weeds.

It appealed so strongly to young Morris that he uttered an unconscious
sigh as he walked on across the bridge and clambered the shelving road,
which was cut out of the yellow sandstone of the hillside.

The road wound up the sandy hillside and came at length to a beautiful
broad terrace of farm land that stretched back to the higher bluffs. The
house toward which the young fellow turned was painted white, and had
the dark-green blinds which transplanted New-Englanders carry with them
wherever they go.

Soldierly Lombardy poplar trees stood in the yard, and beds of flowers
lined the walk. Mrs. Miner was at work in the beds when he came up.

"Good day," he said cordially. "Glorious spring weather, isn't it?" He
smiled pleasantly. "Is this Mrs. Miner?"

"Yes, sir." She looked at him wonderingly.

"I'm one of Wilber's men," he explained. "He couldn't get away, so he
sent me up to see what needed doing."

"Oh," she said, with a relieved tone. "Very well; will you go look at
it?"

They walked, side by side, out toward the barn, which had the look of
great age in its unpainted decay. It was gray as granite and worn fuzzy
with sleet and snow. The young fellow looked around at the grass, the
dandelions, the vague and beautiful shadows flung down upon the turf by
the scant foliage of the willows and apple trees, and took off his hat,
as if in the presence of something holy. "What a lovely place!" he
said--"all but the mill down there; it seems too bad it burnt up.



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