An American Tragedy Chapter 47

And then, as planned that night between them—a trip to Grass Lake the next morning in separate cars, but which, upon their arrival and to his surprise, proved to be so much more briskly tenanted than he anticipated. He was very much disturbed and frightened by the evidence of so much active life up here. For he had fancied this, as well as Big Bittern, would be all but deserted. Yet here now, as both could see, it was the summer seat and gathering place of some small religious organization or group—the Winebrennarians of Pennsylvania—as it proved with a tabernacle and numerous cottages across the lake from the station. And Roberta at once exclaiming:

“Now, there, isn’t that cute? Why couldn’t we be married over there by the minister of that church?”

And Clyde, puzzled and shaken by this sudden and highly unsatisfactory development, at once announced: “Why, sure—I’ll go over after a bit and see,” yet his mind busy with schemes for circumventing her. He would take her out in a boat after registering and getting settled and remain too long. Or should a peculiarly remote and unobserved spot be found… but no, there were too many people here. The lake was not large enough, and probably not very deep. It was black or dark like tar, and sentineled to the east and north by tall, dark pines—the serried spears of armed and watchful giants, as they now seemed to him—ogres almost—so gloomy, suspicious and fantastically erratic was his own mood in regard to all this. But still there were too many people—as many as ten on the lake.

The weirdness of it.

The difficulty.

But whisper:—one could not walk from here through any woods to Three Mile Bay. Oh, no. That was all of thirty miles to the south now. And besides this lake was less lonely—probably continually observed by members of this religious group. Oh, no—he must say—he must say—but what—could he say? That he had inquired, and that no license could be procured here? Or that the minister was away, or that he required certain identifications which he did not have—or—or, well, well—anything that would serve to still Roberta until such hour to-morrow, as the train south from here left for Big Bittern and Sharon, where, of course, they would surely be married.

Why should she be so insistent? And why, anyhow, and except for her crass determination to force him in this way, should he be compelled to track here and there with her—every hour—every minute of which was torture—an unending mental crucifixion really, when, if he were but rid of her! Oh, Sondra, Sondra, if but now from your high estate, you might bend down and aid me. No more lies! No more suffering! No more misery of any kind!

But instead, more lies. A long and aimless and pestilential search for water-lilies, which because of his own restless mood, bored Roberta as much as it did him. For why, she was now thinking to herself as they rowed about, this indifference to this marriage possibility, which could have been arranged before now and given this outing the dream quality it would and should have had, if only—if only he had arranged for everything in Utica, even as she had wanted. But this waiting—evasion—and so like Clyde, his vacillating, indefinite, uncertain mood, always. She was beginning to wonder now as to his intentions again—whether really and truly he did intend to marry her as he had promised. Tomorrow, or the next day at most, would show. So why worry now?

And then the next day at noon, Gun Lodge and Big Bittern itself and Clyde climbing down from the train at Gun Lodge and escorting Roberta to the waiting bus, the while he assured her that since they were coming back this way, it would be best if she were to leave her bag here, while he, because of his camera as well as the lunch done up at Grass Lake and crowded into his suitcase, would take his own with him, because they would lunch on the lake. But on reaching the bus, he was dismayed by the fact that the driver was the same guide whom he had heard talk at Big Bittern. What if it should prove now that this guide had seen and remembered him! Would he not at least recall the handsome Finchley car—Bertine and Stuart on the front seat—himself and Sondra at the back—Grant and that Harley Baggott talking to him outside?

At once that cold perspiration that had marked his more nervous and terrified moods for weeks past, now burst forth on his face and hands. Of what had he been thinking, anyhow? How planning? In God’s name, how expect to carry a thing like this through, if he were going to think so poorly? It was like his failing to wear his cap from Lycurgus to Utica, or at least getting it out of his bag before he tried to buy that straw hat; it was like not buying the straw hat before he went to Utica at all.

Yet the guide did not remember him, thank God! On the contrary he inquired rather curiously, and as of a total stranger: “Goin’ over to the lodge at Big Bittern? First time up here?” And Clyde, enormously relieved and yet really tremulous, replied: “Yes,” and then in his nervous excitement asked: “Many people over there to-day?” a question which the moment he had propounded it, seemed almost insane. Why, why, of all questions, should he ask that? Oh, God, would his silly, self-destructive mistakes never cease?

So troubled was he indeed, now, that he scarcely heard the guide’s reply, or, if at all, as a voice speaking from a long way off. “Not so many. About seven or eight, I guess. We did have about thirty over the Fourth, but most o’ them went down yesterday.”

The stillness of these pines lining this damp yellow road along which they were traveling; the cool and the silence; the dark shadows and purple and gray depths and nooks in them, even at high noon. If one were slipping away at night or by day, who would encounter one here? A blue-jay far in the depths somewhere uttered its metallic shriek; a field sparrow, tremulous upon some distant twig, filled the silver shadows with its perfect song. And Roberta, as this heavy, covered bus crossed rill and thin stream, and then rough wooden bridges here and there, commented on the clarity and sparkle of the water: “Isn’t that wonderful in there? Do you hear the tinkling of that water, Clyde? Oh, the freshness of this air!”

And yet she was going to die so soon!


But supposing now, at Big Bittern—the lodge and boat-house there—there were many people. Or that the lake, peradventure, was literally dotted with those that were there—all fishermen and all fishing here and there, each one separate and alone—no privacy or a deserted spot anywhere. And how strange he had not thought of that. This lake was probably not nearly as deserted as he had imagined, or would not be to-day, any more than Grass Lake had proved. And then what?

Well, flight then—flight—and let it go at that. This strain was too much—hell—he would die, thinking thoughts like these. How could he have dreamed to better his fortunes by any so wild and brutal a scheme as this anyhow—to kill and then run away—or rather to kill and pretend that he and she had drowned—while he—the real murderer—slipped away to life and happiness. What a horrible plan! And yet how else? How? Had he not come all this way to do this? And was he going to turn back now?

And all this time Roberta at his side was imagining that she was not going to anything but marriage—to-morrow morning sure; and now only to the passing pleasure of seeing this beautiful lake of which he had been talking—talking, as though it were something more important and delectable than any that had as yet been in her or his life for that matter.

But now the guide was speaking again, and to him: “You’re not mindin’ to stay over, I suppose. I see you left the young lady’s bag over there.” He nodded in the direction of Gun Lodge.

“No, we’re going on down to-night—on that 8:10. You take people over to that?”

“Oh, sure.”

“They said you did—at Grass Lake.”

But now why should he have added that reference to Grass Lake, for that showed that he and Roberta had been there before coming here. But this fool with his reference to “the young lady’s bag”! And leaving it at Gun Lodge. The Devil! Why shouldn’t he mind his own business? Or why should he have decided that he and Roberta were not married? Or had he so decided? At any rate, why such a question when they were carrying two bags and he had brought one? Strange! The effrontery! How should he know or guess or what? But what harm could it do—married or unmarried? If she were not found—“married or unmarried” would make no difference, would it? And if she were, and it was discovered that she was not married, would that not prove that she was off with some one else? Of course! So why worry over that now?

And Roberta asking: “Are there any hotels or boarding houses on the lake besides this one we’re going to?”

“Not a one, miss, outside o’ the inn that we’re goin’ to. There was a crowd of young fellers and girls campin’ over on the east shore, yisterday, I believe, about a mile from the inn—but whether they’re there now or not, I dunno. Ain’t seen none of ’em to-day.”

A crowd of young fellows and girls! For God’s sake! And might not they now be out on the water—all of them—rowing—or sailing—or what? And he here with her! Maybe some of them from Twelfth Lake! Just as he and Sondra and Harriet and Stuart and Bertine had come up two weeks before—some of them friends of the Cranstons, Harriets, Finchleys or others who had come up here to play and who would remember him, of course. And again, then, there must be a road to the east of this lake. And all this knowledge and their presence there now might make this trip of his useless. Such silly plotting! Such pointless planning as this—when at least he might have taken more time—chosen a lake still farther away and should have—only so tortured had he been for these last many days, that he could scarcely think how to think. Well, all he could do now was to go and see. If there were many he must think of some way to row to some real lonely spot or maybe turn and return to Grass Lake—or where? Oh, what could or would he do—if there were many over here?

But just then a long aisle of green trees giving out at the far end as he now recalled upon a square of lawn, and the lake itself, the little inn with its pillared verandah, facing the dark blue waters of Big Bittern. And that low, small red-roofed boathouse to the right on the water that he had seen before when he was here. And Roberta exclaiming on sight, “Oh, it is pretty, isn’t it—just beautiful.” And Clyde surveying that dark, low island in the distance, to the south, and seeing but few people about—none on the lake itself—exclaiming nervously, “Yes, it is, you bet.” But feeling half choked as he said it.

And now the host of the inn himself appearing and approaching—a medium-sized, red-faced, broad-shouldered man who was saying most intriguingly, “Staying over for a few days?”

But Clyde, irritated by this new development and after paying the guide a dollar, replying crustily and irritably, “No, no—just came over for the afternoon. We’re going on down to-night.”

“You’ll be staying over for dinner then, I suppose? The train doesn’t leave till eight-fifteen.”

“Oh, yes—that’s so. Sure. Yes, well, in that case, we will.” …For, of course, Roberta on her honeymoon—the day before her wedding and on a trip like this, would be expecting her dinner. Damn this stocky, red-faced fool, anyway.

“Well, then, I’ll just take your bag and you can register. Your wife’ll probably be wanting to freshen up a bit anyway.”

He led the way, bag in hand, although Clyde’s greatest desire was to snatch it from him. For he had not expected to register here—nor leave his bag either. And would not. He would recapture it and hire a boat. But on top of that, being compelled “for the register’s sake,” as Boniface phrased it, to sign Clifford Golden and wife—before he could take his bag again.

And then to add to the nervousness and confusion engendered by all this, thoughts as to what additional developments or persons, even, he might encounter before leaving on his climacteric errand—Roberta announcing that because of the heat and the fact that they were coming back to dinner, she would leave her hat and coat—a hat in which he had already seen the label of Braunstein in Lycurgus—and which at the time caused him to meditate as to the wisdom of leaving or extracting it. But he had decided that perhaps afterwards—afterwards—if he should really do this—it might not make any difference whether it was there or not. Was she not likely to be identified anyhow, if found, and if not found, who was to know who she was?

In a confused and turbulent state mentally, scarcely realizing the clarity or import of any particular thought or movement or act now, he took up his bag and led the way to the boathouse platform. And then, after dropping the bag into the boat, asking of the boathouse keeper if he knew where the best views were, that he wanted to photograph them. And this done—the meaningless explanation over, assisting Roberta (an almost nebulous figure, she now seemed, stepping down into an insubstantial row-boat upon a purely ideational lake), he now stepped in after her, seating himself in the center and taking the oars.

The quiet, glassy, iridescent surface of this lake that now to both seemed, not so much like water as oil—like molten glass that, of enormous bulk and weight, resting upon the substantial earth so very far below. And the lightness and freshness and intoxication of the gentle air blowing here and there, yet scarcely rippling the surface of the lake. And the softness and furry thickness of the tall pines about the shore. Everywhere pines—tall and spearlike. And above them the humped backs of the dark and distant Adirondacks beyond. Not a rower to be seen. Not a house or cabin. He sought to distinguish the camp of which the guide had spoken. He could not. He sought to distinguish the voices of those who might be there—or any voices. Yet, except for the lock-lock of his own oars as he rowed and the voice of the boathouse keeper and the guide in converse two hundred, three hundred, five hundred, a thousand feet behind, there was no sound.

“Isn’t it still and peaceful?” It was Roberta talking. “It seems to be so restful here. I think it’s beautiful, truly, so much more beautiful than that other lake. These trees are so tall, aren’t they? And those mountains. I was thinking all the way over how cool and silent that road was, even if it was a little rough.”

“Did you talk to any one in the inn there just now?”

“Why, no; what makes you ask?”

“Oh, I thought you might have run into some one. There don’t seem to be very many people up here to-day, though, does there?”

“No, I don’t see any one on the lake. I saw two men in that billiard room at the back there, and there was a girl in the ladies’ room, that was all. Isn’t this water cold?” She had put her hand over the side and was trailing it in the blue-black ripples made by his oars.

“Is it? I haven’t felt it yet.”

He paused in his rowing and put out his hand, then resumed. He would not row directly to that island to the south. It was—too far—too early. She might think it odd. Better a little delay. A little time in which to think—a little while in which to reconnoiter. Roberta would be wanting to eat her lunch (her lunch!) and there was a charming looking point of land there to the west about a mile further on. They could go there and eat first—or she could—for he would not be eating to-day. And then—and then——

She was looking at the very same point of land that he was—a curved horn of land that bent to the south and yet reached quite far out into the water and combed with tall pines. And now she added:

“Have you any spot in mind, dear, where we could stop and eat? I’m getting a little hungry, aren’t you?” (If she would only not call him dear, here and now!)

The little inn and the boathouse to the north were growing momentarily smaller,—looking now, like that other boathouse and pavilion on Crum Lake the day he had first rowed there, and when he had been wishing that he might come to such a lake as this in the Adirondacks, dreaming of such a lake—and wishing to meet such a girl as Roberta—then—— And overhead was one of those identical woolly clouds that had sailed above him at Crum Lake on that fateful day.

The horror of this effort!

They might look for water-lilies here to-day to kill time a little, before—to kill time… to kill, (God)—he must quit thinking of that, if he were going to do it at all. He needn’t be thinking of it now, at any rate.

At the point of land favored by Roberta, into a minute protected bay with a small, curved, honey-colored beach, and safe from all prying eyes north or east. And then he and she stepping out normally enough. And Roberta, after Clyde had extracted the lunch most cautiously from his bag, spreading it on a newspaper on the shore, while he walked here and there, making strained and yet admiring comments on the beauty of the scene—the pines and the curve of this small bay, yet thinking—thinking, thinking of the island farther on and the bay below that again somewhere, where somehow, and in the face of a weakening courage for it, he must still execute this grim and terrible business before him—not allow this carefully planned opportunity to go for nothing—if—if—he were to not really run away and leave all that he most desired to keep.

And yet the horror of this business and the danger, now that it was so close at hand—the danger of making a mistake of some kind—if nothing more, of not upsetting the boat right—of not being able to—to—oh, God! And subsequently, maybe, to be proved to be what he would be—then—a murderer. Arrested! Tried. (He could not, he would not, go through with it. No, no, no!)

And yet Roberta, sitting here with him now on the sand, feeling quite at peace with all the world as he could see. And she was beginning to hum a little, and then to make advisory and practical references to the nature of their coming adventure together—their material and financial state from now on—how and where they would go from here—Syracuse, most likely—since Clyde seemed to have no objection to that—and what, once there, they would do. For Roberta had heard from her brother-in-law, Fred Gabel, of a new collar and shirt factory that was just starting up in Syracuse. Might it not be possible for Clyde, for the time being at least, to get himself a position with that firm at once? And then later, when her own worst trouble was over, might not she connect herself with the same company, or some other? And temporarily, since they had so little money, could they not take a small room together, somewhere in some family home, or if he did not like that, since they were by no means so close temperamentally as they once had been, then two small adjoining rooms, maybe. She could still feel his unrelenting opposition under all this present show of courtesy and consideration.

And he thinking, Oh, well, what difference such talk now? And whether he agreed or whether he did not. What difference since he was not going—or she either—that way. Great God! But here he was talking as though to-morrow she would be here still. And she would not be.

If only his knees would not tremble so; his hands and face and body continue so damp.

And after that, farther on down the west shore of this small lake in this little boat, to that island, with Clyde looking nervously and wearily here and there to see that there was no one—no one—not anywhere in sight on land or water—no one. It was so still and deserted here, thank God. Here—or anywhere near here might do, really,—if only he had the courage so to do now, which he had not,—yet. Roberta trailing her hand in the water, asking him if he thought they might find some water-lilies or wild flowers somewhere on shore. Water-lilies! Wild flowers! And he convincing himself as he went that there were no roads, cabins, tents, paths, anything in the form of a habitation among these tall, close, ranking pines—no trace of any little boat on the widespread surface of this beautiful lake on this beautiful day. Yet might there not be some lone, solitary hunter and trapper or guide or fisherman in these woods or along these banks? Might there not be? And supposing there were one here now somewhere? And watching!



Death! Yet no sound and no smoke. Only—only—these tall, dark, green pines—spear-shaped and still, with here and there a dead one—ashen pale in the hard afternoon sun, its gaunt, sapless arms almost menacingly outstretched.


And the sharp metallic cry of a blue-jay speeding in the depths of these woods. Or the lone and ghostly tap-tap-tap of some solitary woodpecker, with now and then the red line of a flying tanager, the yellow and black of a yellow-shouldered blackbird.

“Oh, the sun shines bright in my old Kentucky home.”

It was Roberta singing cheerfully, one hand in the deep blue water.

And then a little later—“I’ll be there Sunday if you will,” one of the popular dance pieces of the day.

And then at last, after fully an hour of rowing, brooding, singing, stopping to look at some charming point of land, reconnoitering some receding inlet which promised water-lilies, and with Roberta already saying that they must watch the time and not stay out too long,—the bay, south of the island itself—a beautiful and yet most funereally pine-encircled and land delimited bit of water—more like a smaller lake, connected by an inlet or passage to the larger one, and yet itself a respectable body of water of perhaps twenty acres of surface and almost circular in form. The manner in which to the east, the north, the south, the west, even, except for the passage by which the island to the north of it was separated from the mainland, this pool or tarn was encircled by trees! And cat-tails and water-lilies here and there—a few along its shores. And somehow suggesting an especially arranged pool or tarn to which one who was weary of life and cares—anxious to be away from the strife and contentions of the world, might most wisely and yet gloomily repair.

And as they glided into this, this still dark water seemed to grip Clyde as nothing here or anywhere before this ever had—to change his mood. For once here he seemed to be fairly pulled or lured along into it, and having encircled its quiet banks, to be drifting, drifting—in endless space where was no end of anything—no plots—no plans—no practical problems to be solved—nothing. The insidious beauty of this place! Truly, it seemed to mock him—this strangeness—this dark pool, surrounded on all sides by those wonderful, soft, fir trees. And the water itself looking like a huge, black pearl cast by some mighty hand, in anger possibly, in sport or phantasy maybe, into the bosom of this valley of dark, green plush—and which seemed bottomless as he gazed into it.

And yet, what did it all suggest so strongly? Death! Death! More definitely than anything he had ever seen before. Death! But also a still, quiet, unprotesting type of death into which one, by reason of choice or hypnosis or unutterable weariness, might joyfully and gratefully sink. So quiet—so shaded—so serene. Even Roberta exclaimed over this. And he now felt for the first time the grip of some seemingly strong, and yet friendly sympathetic, hands laid firmly on his shoulders. The comfort of them! The warmth! The strength! For now they seemed to have a steadying effect on him and he liked them—their reassurance—their support. If only they would not be removed! If only they would remain always—the hands of this friend! For where had he ever known this comforting and almost tender sensation before in all his life? Not anywhere—and somehow this calmed him and he seemed to slip away from the reality of all things.

To be sure, there was Roberta over there, but by now she had faded to a shadow or thought really, a form of illusion more vaporous than real. And while there was something about her in color, form that suggested reality—still she was very insubstantial—so very—and once more now he felt strangely alone. For the hands of the friend of firm grip had vanished also. And Clyde was alone, so very much alone and forlorn, in this somber, beautiful realm to which apparently he had been led, and then deserted. Also he felt strangely cold—the spell of this strange beauty overwhelming him with a kind of chill.

He had come here for what?

And he must do what?

Kill Roberta? Oh, no!

And again he lowered his head and gazed into the fascinating and yet treacherous depths of that magnetic, bluish, purple pool, which, as he continued to gaze, seemed to change its form kaleidoscopically to a large, crystalline ball. But what was that moving about in this crystal? A form! It came nearer—clearer—and as it did so, he recognized Roberta struggling and waving her thin white arms out of the water and reaching toward him! God! How terrible! The expression on her face! What in God’s name was he thinking of anyway? Death! Murder!

And suddenly becoming conscious that his courage, on which he had counted so much this long while to sustain him here, was leaving him, and he instantly and consciously plumbing the depths of his being in a vain search to recapture it.


Kit, kit, kit, Ca-a-a-ah!

Kit, kit, kit, Ca-a-a-ah!

Kit, kit, kit, Ca-a-a-ah!


(The weird, haunting cry of that unearthly bird again. So cold, so harsh! Here it was once more to startle him out of his soul flight into a realization of the real or unreal immediate problem with all of its torturesome angles that lay before him.)

He must face this thing! He must!


Kit, kit, kit, Ca-a-a-ah!

Kit, kit, kit, Ca-a-a-ah!


What was it sounding—a warning—a protest—condemnation? The same bird that had marked the very birth of this miserable plan. For there it was now upon that dead tree—that wretched bird. And now it was flying to another one—as dead—a little farther inland and crying as it did so. God!

And then to the shore again in spite of himself. For Clyde, in order to justify his having brought his bag, now must suggest that pictures of this be taken—and of Roberta—and of himself, possibly—on land and water. For that would bring her into the boat again, without his bag, which would be safe and dry on land. And once on shore, actually pretending to be seeking out various special views here and there, while he fixed in his mind the exact tree at the base of which he might leave his bag against his return—which must be soon now—must be soon. They would not come on shore again together. Never! Never! And that in spite of Roberta protesting that she was getting tired; and did he not think they ought to be starting back pretty soon? It must be after five, surely. And Clyde, assuring her that presently they would—after he had made one or two more pictures of her in the boat with those wonderful trees—that island and this dark water around and beneath her.


His wet, damp, nervous hands!

And his dark, liquid, nervous eyes, looking anywhere but at her.


And then once more on the water again—about five hundred feet from shore, the while he fumbled aimlessly with the hard and heavy and yet small camera that he now held, as the boat floated out nearer the center. And then, at this point and time looking fearfully about. For now—now—in spite of himself, the long evaded and yet commanding moment. And no voice or figure or sound on shore. No road or cabin or smoke! And the moment which he or something had planned for him, and which was now to decide his fate at hand! The moment of action—of crisis! All that he needed to do now was to turn swiftly and savagely to one side or the other—leap up—upon the left wale or right and upset the boat; or, failing that, rock it swiftly, and if Roberta protested too much, strike her with the camera in his hand, or one of the oars at his right. It could be done—it could be done—swiftly and simply, were he now of the mind and heart, or lack of it—with him swimming swiftly away thereafter to freedom—to success—of course—to Sondra and happiness—a new and greater and sweeter life than any he had ever known.

Yet why was he waiting now?

What was the matter with him, anyhow?

Why was he waiting?

At this cataclysmic moment, and in the face of the utmost, the most urgent need of action, a sudden palsy of the will—of courage—of hate or rage sufficient; and with Roberta from her seat in the stern of the boat gazing at his troubled and then suddenly distorted and fulgurous, yet weak and even unbalanced face—a face of a sudden, instead of angry, ferocious, demoniac—confused and all but meaningless in its registration of a balanced combat between fear (a chemic revulsion against death or murderous brutality that would bring death) and a harried and restless and yet self-repressed desire to do—to do—to do—yet temporarily unbreakable here and now—a static between a powerful compulsion to do and yet not to do.

And in the meantime his eyes—the pupils of the same growing momentarily larger and more lurid; his face and body and hands tense and contracted—the stillness of his position, the balanced immobility of the mood more and more ominous, yet in truth not suggesting a brutal, courageous power to destroy, but the imminence of trance or spasm.

And Roberta, suddenly noticing the strangeness of it all—the something of eerie unreason or physical and mental indetermination so strangely and painfully contrasting with this scene, exclaiming: “Why, Clyde! Clyde! What is it? Whatever is the matter with you anyhow? You look so—so strange—so—so— Why, I never saw you look like this before. What is it?” And suddenly rising, or rather leaning forward, and by crawling along the even keel, attempting to approach him, since he looked as though he was about to fall forward into the boat—or to one side and out into the water. And Clyde, as instantly sensing the profoundness of his own failure, his own cowardice or inadequateness for such an occasion, as instantly yielding to a tide of submerged hate, not only for himself, but Roberta—her power—or that of life to restrain him in this way. And yet fearing to act in any way—being unwilling to—being willing only to say that never, never would he marry her—that never, even should she expose him, would he leave here with her to marry her—that he was in love with Sondra and would cling only to her—and yet not being able to say that even. But angry and confused and glowering. And then, as she drew near him, seeking to take his hand in hers and the camera from him in order to put it in the boat, he flinging out at her, but not even then with any intention to do other than free himself of her—her touch—her pleading—consoling sympathy—her presence forever—God!

Yet (the camera still unconsciously held tight) pushing at her with so much vehemence as not only to strike her lips and nose and chin with it, but to throw her back sidewise toward the left wale which caused the boat to careen to the very water’s edge. And then he, stirred by her sharp scream, (as much due to the lurch of the boat, as the cut on her nose and lip), rising and reaching half to assist or recapture her and half to apologize for the unintended blow—yet in so doing completely capsizing the boat—himself and Roberta being as instantly thrown into the water. And the left wale of the boat as it turned, striking Roberta on the head as she sank and then rose for the first time, her frantic, contorted face turned to Clyde, who by now had righted himself. For she was stunned, horror-struck, unintelligible with pain and fear—her lifelong fear of water and drowning and the blow he had so accidentally and all but unconsciously administered.

“Help! Help!

“Oh, my God, I’m drowning, I’m drowning. Help! Oh, my God!

“Clyde, Clyde!”


And then the voice at his ear!


“But this—this—is not this that which you have been thinking and wishing for this while—you in your great need? And behold! For despite your fear, your cowardice, this—this—has been done for you. An accident—an accident—an unintentional blow on your part is now saving you the labor of what you sought, and yet did not have the courage to do! But will you now, and when you need not, since it is an accident, by going to her rescue, once more plunge yourself in the horror of that defeat and failure which has so tortured you and from which this now releases you? You might save her. But again you might not! For see how she strikes about. She is stunned. She herself is unable to save herself and by her erratic terror, if you draw near her now, may bring about your own death also. But you desire to live! And her living will make your life not worth while from now on. Rest but a moment—a fraction of a minute! Wait—wait—ignore the pity of that appeal. And then—then— But there! Behold. It is over. She is sinking now. You will never, never see her alive any more—ever. And there is your own hat upon the water—as you wished. And upon the boat, clinging to that rowlock a veil belonging to her. Leave it. Will it not show that this was an accident?”

And apart from that, nothing—a few ripples—the peace and solemnity of this wondrous scene. And then once more the voice of that weird, contemptuous, mocking, lonely bird.


Kit, kit, kit, Ca-a-a-ah!

Kit, kit, kit, Ca-a-a-ah!

Kit, kit, kit, Ca-a-a-ah!


The cry of that devilish bird upon that dead limb—the wier-wier.

And then Clyde, with the sound of Roberta’s cries still in his ears, that last frantic, white, appealing look in her eyes, swimming heavily, gloomily and darkly to shore. And the thought that, after all, he had not really killed her. No, no. Thank God for that. He had not. And yet (stepping up on the near-by bank and shaking the water from his clothes) had he? Or, had he not? For had he not refused to go to her rescue, and when he might have saved her, and when the fault for casting her in the water, however accidentally, was so truly his? And yet—and yet—


The dusk and silence of a closing day. A concealed spot in the depths of the same sheltering woods where alone and dripping, his dry bag near, Clyde stood, and by waiting, sought to dry himself. But in the interim, removing from the side of the bag the unused tripod of his camera and seeking an obscure, dead log farther in the woods, hiding it. Had any one seen? Was any one looking? Then returning and wondering as to the direction! He must go west and then south. He must not get turned about! But the repeated cry of that bird,—harsh, nerve shaking. And then the gloom, in spite of the summer stars. And a youth making his way through a dark, uninhabited wood, a dry straw hat upon his head, a bag in his hand, walking briskly and yet warily—south—south.