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He saw
love and admiration in her face. She saw only friendliness and some
dark, unsmiling mood in his.

They sat down and talked upon the fringe of personalities which he
avoided. She fancied that she saw a personal sorrow in his face and she
longed to comfort him. She longed to touch his vexed forehead with her
fingers.

They talked on, of late books and coming music. He noticed how clear and
sweet and intelligent were her eyes. Refinement was in the folds of her
dress and in the faint perfume which exhaled from her drapery. The firm
flesh of her arms appealed to him like the limbs of a child so beautiful
and tender!

He saw in her face something wistful, restless. He tried to ignore it,
to seem unconscious of the adoration he saw there, for it pained him. It
affected him as a part of the general misdirection of affection and
effort in the world.

She asked him about his plans. He told her of them. He grew stern and
savage as he outlined the work which he had set himself to do. His hands
spread and clutched, and his teeth set together involuntarily. "It is to
be a fight," he said; "but I shall win. Bribery, blackmail, the press,
and all other forces are against me, but I shall win."

He rose at length to a finer mood as he sketched the plan which he hoped
to set in action.

She looked at him with expanding eyes and quickened breath. A globed
light each soft eye seemed to him.

He spoke more freely of the struggle outside in order to make her feel
her own sweet security--here where the grime of trade and the reek of
politics never came.

At last he rose to go, smiling a little as if in apology for his dark
mood. He looked down at her slender body robed so daintily in gray and
white; she made him feel coarse and rough.

Her eyes appealed to him, her glance was like a detaining hand. He felt
it, and yet he said abruptly:

"Good night."

"You'll come to see me again!"

"Yes," he answered very simply and gravely.

And she, looking after him as he went down the street with head bent in
thought, grew weak with a terrible weakness, a sort of hunger, and deep
in her heart she cried out:

"Oh, the brave, splendid life _he_ leads out there in the world! Oh, the
big, brave world!"

She clinched her pink hand.

"Oh, this terrible, humdrum woman's life! It kills me, it smothers me. I
must do something. I must be something. I can't live here in this
way--useless. I must get into the world."

And looking around the cushioned, glowing, beautiful room, she thought
bitterly:

"This is being a woman. O God, I want to be free of four walls! I want
to struggle like that."

And then she sat down before the fire and whispered very softly, "I want
to fight in the world--with him."


III. A FAIR EXILE.

The train was ambling across the hot, russet plain. The wind, strong and
warm and dry, sweeping up from the south, carried with it the subtle
odor of September grass and gathered harvests. Out of the unfenced roads
the dust arose in long lines like smoke from some hidden burning which
the riven earth revealed. The fields were tenanted with thrashing crews,
the men diminished by distance to pygmies, the long belt of the engine
flapping and shining like a ribbon in the flaming sunlight.

The freight cars on the accommodation train jostled and rocked about and
heaved up laterally, till they resembled a long line of awkward,
frightened, galloping buffaloes. The one coach was scantily filled with
passengers, mainly poorly clothed farmers and their families.

A young man seated well back in the coach was looking dreamily out of
the window, and the conductor, a keen-eyed young fellow, after passing
him several times, said in a friendly way:

"Going up to Boomtown, I imagine."

"Yes--if we ever get there."

"Oh, we'll get there. We won't have much more switching. We've only got
an empty car or two to throw in at the junction."

"Well, I'm glad of that. I'm a little impatient because I've got a case
coming up in court, and I'm not exactly fixed for it."

"Your name is Allen, I believe."

"Yes, J. H. Allen, of Sioux City."

"I thought so. I've heard you speak."

The young lawyer was a tall, slender, dark-eyed man, rather somber in
appearance. He did not respond to the invitation in the conductor's
voice.

"When do you reach the junction?"

"Next stop. We're only a few minutes late. Expect to meet friends
there?"

"No; thought I'd get a lunch, that's all."

At the junction the car became pretty well filled with people. Two or
three Norwegian families came clattering in, the mothers clothed in
heavy shawls and cheap straw hats, the flaxen-haired children in faded
cottonade and blue denims. They filled nearly half the seats. Several
drummers came in, laughing loudly, bearing heavy valises. Then Allen
heard above the noise the shrill but sweet voice of a girl, and caught
the odor of violets as two persons passed him and took a seat just
before him.

The man he knew by sight and reputation as a very brilliant young
lawyer, Edward Benson, of Heron Lake. The girl he knew instantly to be
utterly alien to this land and people. She was like a tropic bird seen
amid the scant foliage of northern hills. There was evidence of great
care and taste in every fold of her modish dress. Her hat was simple but
in the latest city fashion, and her gloves were spotless. She gave off
an odor of cleanliness and beauty.

She was very young and slender. Her face was piquant but not
intellectual, and scarcely beautiful. It pleased rather by its life and
motion and oddity than by its beauty. She looked at her companion in a
peculiar way--trustfully almost reverently--and yet with a touch of
coquetry which seemed perfectly native to every turn of her body or
glance of her eyes.

The young lawyer was a fine Western type of self-made man. He was tall
and broad-shouldered, but walked a little stooping, like a man of fifty.
He wore a long Prince Albert frock coat hanging loosely from his rather
square shoulders. His white vest was a little soiled by his watch chain
and his tie was disarranged.

His face was very fine and good. His eyes were gray-blue, deep and quiet
but slightly smiling, as were his lips, which his golden-brown mustache
shaded but did not hide. He was kept smiling in this quizzical way by
the nervous chatter of the girl beside him. His profile, which was the
view Allen had of him, was handsome. The strong, straight nose and
abrupt forehead formed a marked contrast to the rather characterless
nose and retreating forehead of the girl.

The first words that Allen distinguished out of the merry war in which
they seemed engaged were spoken in the tone of pretty petulance such
women use, a coquette's defense.

"You did, you did, you _did_. _Now!_ You know you did. You told me that.
You told me you despised girls like me."

"I said I despised women who had no object in life but dress," he
replied, rather soberly.

"But you were hopping on me; you meant me, now! You can't deny it. You
despise me, I know you do!" She challenged his flattery in her pouting
self-depreciation.

The young man tried to stop her in her course, to change her mood, which
was descending to real feeling. His low words could not be heard.

"Yes, yes, try to smooth it over, but you can't fool me any more. But I
don't want you to flatter me and lie to me the way Judge Stearns did,"
she said, with a sudden change of manner. "I like you because you're
square."

The phrase with which she ended seemed to take on a new meaning uttered
by those red lips in childish pout.

"Now, why are you down on the judge? I don't see," said the man, as if
she had gone back to an old attack.

"Well, if you'd seen what I have you'd understand." She turned away and
looked out of the window. "Oh, this terrible country! I'd die out here
in six weeks. I know I should."

The young lawyer was not to be turned aside.

"Of course I'm pleased to have you throw the judge over, and employ me,
but, all the same, I think you do him an injustice. He's a good, square
man."

"Square man!" she said, turning to him with a sudden fury in her eyes.
"Do you call it square for a man--married, and gray-haired, too--to take
up with a woman like Mrs. Shellberg? Say, do you, now?"

"Well, I don't quite believe----"

"Oh, I _lie_, do I?" she said, with another swift change to reproach.
"You can't take my word for Mrs. Shellberg's visit to his office."

"But he was her lawyer."

"But you know what kind of a woman she is! She didn't need to go there
every day or two, did she? What did he always receive her in his private
office for? Come, now, tell me that."

"I don't know that he did," persisted the lawyer.

A sort of convulsion passed over her face, her little hands clinched,
and the tears started into her eyes. Her voice was very quiet.

"You think I lie, then?"

"I think you are mistaken, just as other jealous women have----"

"You think I'm jealous, do you?"

"You act like a jeal----"

"Jealous of that gray-haired old wretch? No, sir! I--I--" She struggled
to express herself. "I liked him, and I hated to lose all my faith in
men. I thought he was good and honest when he prayed--Oh, I've seen him
pray in church, the old hypocrite!" her fury returned at the
recollection.

Her companion's face grew grave. The smile went out of his eyes, leaving
them dark and sorrowful.

"I understand you now," he said, at last. She turned to look at him. "My
practice in the divorce business out here has almost destroyed my faith
in women. If it weren't for my wife and sister----"

She broke in eagerly: "Now I _know_ you know what I mean. Sometimes I
think men are--devils." She thrust this word forth, and her little face
grew dark and strained. "But the judge kept me from thinking--I never
loved my father; he didn't care for me; all he wanted to do was to make
ten thousand barrels of beer a year and sell it; and the judge seemed
like a father to me till _she_ came and destroyed my faith in him."

"But--well, let Mrs. S. go. There are lots of good men and pure women in
the world.



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