The story that won the Five-Hundred-Dollar First Prize in MacLean's Short Story Contest
ALBERTA C. TRIMBLE
IT LOOKS like a ruptured appendix.”
Cassie Bomok made her pronouncement and subsequent explanations as professionally as if she were in uniform, though her only reason for speaking Ruthenian was to prevent her brother’s wife, transfixed with fear on the bed, from understanding. She was sorry for Pete, yet she hoped her diagnosis would prove correct, so that the family would have to admit her superiority and so that Pete and Polly, out of gratitude, would forget the quarrel of two years ago, would forget the “Dirty Galician!” she had hurled at Polly and her slovenly ways—why, God knew, when the same epithet, carelessly uttered, had , icked her own soul so keenly.
“Get Dr. Swale if you can ; he’s the best. On your way to ’phone, leave the children with mother. No, Pete,” silencing his protests, “it would kill Polly to take her to town now, the way the roads are. You’ll have to wait at Konipsky’s corner to bring the doctor back. No car can get through that mud. And the culvert’s out at Podidworny’s.”
Cassie was in her element. It pleased her to see Pete’s slack spine stiffen as, shifting the responsibility to her, he hastened out to hitch the team. It pleased her to see Lena, Pete’s eldest, bustle importantly about getting the other three ready, one eye watchfully on her aunt; but most of all, it pleased her to see Polly, though still stubbornly refusing to speak to her, do exactly as she was bidden.
Cassie, herself, was not idle. She seemed to be everywhere at once: putting a hot stove lid in a sweater for Polly’s feet; making out the list of things Lena was to bring back from the old homestead; settling the bewildere four on the straw in the grain wagon. Before she went in, she split some kindling in case Dr. Swale wished a quick fire; and was vaguely aware of emotions aroused by the swinging of axe, crisp smell of tamarack, liquid turquoise of the June sky, young green of poplar grove.
Indoors, the garlic-tinged stuffiness was a sweaty hand which she could not shake off. Polly had been sick again. Poor thing! An ignorant little immigrant of fifteen when she was married; seven children in nine years—three of them dead; wretched housekeeper— would rather plow than sweep or cook. Still, Cassie thought as she washed out the basin, if it had not been for Anton Presunka who had fired her with a desire for education and a higher standard of living, she herself might have been spring-plowing with three or four kids yanking at her skirt. Nevertheless, much as she owed Anton, she was not going to pay her debt by marrying him. Vehemently she ran out to the barnyard pump with her pail, escaping from the sweaty hand.
Marrying Dr. Redmond would be an escape. No one could shout “Dirty Galician!” at her, then. It showed, too, what fixing your eye on a star would do. How they had jeered when she was a child and had informed them that she was going to marry a doctor!
“No, no,” her mother had protested all those years ago. “Marry with your own people. The kind of English that makes marriage with Ruthenians is no good.”
Well, she thought as she worked the creaking pumphandle up and down, no one could say that Dr. Redmond was no good. Clever; quick with his tongue—no wit like the Irish, Miss Carter, the superintendent, always said; good-looking. Wouldn’t their eyes pop out when she told them that she was going to be his wife? Number Three, she reflected wryly, and not strictly sober at the moment of proposing; though he had explained that the next day by saying that it had taken an extra amount of Dutch courage for such an old duffer as he to presume to such beauty, youth and grace. Old? As she turned to go in, she screwed up her eyes for a picture of him; but she could not get him as a whole-only a flash of long hands, puffy eyes, thinning hair, which left her cold, so that she was suddenly conscious of the unsettling sweetness of June, rising like a familiar incense about her, shutting her in, closing down upon her with dreams dearer than life, making her more poignantly unhappy than she could bear . . .
RESOLUTELY closing her mind to reflection, she filled the boiler, emptied the woodbox of its rubbish, swept the dirt from behind the stove, refilled the woodbox, disposed of the malodorous garments cluttering up the sleeping apartment, swept both rooms, gave Polly another drink, and, while waiting for the water to heat, rummaged about in her sister-in-law’s wooden chest for the embroidered bridal sheets which were her chief treasures. Scraps of gay silk, ribbons, tissue paper —Polly had been a great hand at paper flowers—a cerise shawl, the color she had heard called “Galician pink.’’ All Ruthenians were children in their love of color. That was why she had liked her black-and-white maid’s uniforms, her blue-and-white hospital garb. Nothing “Galician” about them. Yet as she hung the sheets on the line to air, she admired the intricate red-and-blue cross-stitch design, and wished that she had some treasures to take to her new home.
Judged from the outside, Dr. Redmond had a nice house. Passing it one night, the light from a pink-shaded lamp had glowed right out at her. A fireplace, too. And nice children, five of them, the two sons older than she. How would they enjoy a “Galician” stepmother?
Cassie scooped a handful of Polly’s dark brown soft soap into the scrub pail, poured in hot water, and beat up a suds. She hoped that Pete would not get Dr. Redmond, though at this distance from town they would be lucky to get a doctor at all. She would hate him to see this miserable shack and think it her kind of a home. He might even—but she would make a point of telling him chat Polly was just out from the old country when Pete married her, so had never worked out. Working out helped, if one were lucky in one’s places. She had been, except for that awful month at Mrs. Argue’s. First she had worked for Mrs. Parkman, the lawyer’s wife—she had almost decided then to marry a lawyer —attending school in the daytime and minding the children at night. Mrs. Parkman was death on dirt, had taught her how to clean corners—Cassie pulled up her skirt, knelt on a sack, and attacked one—and had led her to read books other than school texts.
At first it was words, words, words, no sense, no beauty; but she had stuck at it because it helped at school. She often wondered how she had stuck school, being called “Bohunk” and having the other pupils hold their noses for garlic. Often their taunts stung; left marks on her soul as mosquitos did on her body. She used to think of her soul as a kind ot invisible shell within her, all scarred . . . But she had shown them. She had climbed to the top of her class and stayed there, looking down her own nose. The credit for her scholarship was Anton’s, of course; the good grounding he had given her when he had taught in the home school and made them speak English even on the playground.
“You’ll never get to be Canadians till you can think in English,” he would say. (She thought in English now.) “Singing ‘0 Canada’ loudly and fervently, or flying the flag, will not do it.”
Listening to Anton now, you could not tell that he was anything else, though one look at the flat back of his head and you would know he was middle-of-Europe! No; she would not marry Anton, medical doctor as he was now; and have Ruthenian children. That was why she was set on marrying Dr. Redmond, she admitted, scrubbing furiously; their children would be only half Ruthenian, and in another generation they would be so entirely Canadian that they would be accepted anywhere, and people in general could not talk about “these foreigners without any background.” Hateful word! It brought before her the ugly little shack on the prairies, the garlic hanging to dry from the rafters, her father’s wild growth of beard and her mother’s figure slopping over her apron-strings, as on hot days she padded about in bare feet. She had bought her father a safety razor and some white collars, and her mother a pair of corsets as well as shoes, but she would have been wiser to have spent her money on silk stockings or face powder.
“We’re too old for foolishness,” her mother had laughed, and her father had whispered her not to be ashamed of the old folks with their Ruthenian ways from the old country.
Not that she was ashamed of them, she thought as she leaned back to wring out her cloth. Among the Ruthenians her people could hold up their heads. The Bomoks. The priest stayed with them every month; and before the teacherage was built, the teacher had boarded with them. Anton—her mother had worked out for three years and could cook English dishes. The Bomoks had background even if the casual Canadian acquaintance could neither see nor appreciate it.
“Doctor’s wife, doctor’s wife,” her brush sang as it swished briskly over the floor. Ever since his wife’s last illness, she had had her eye on Dr. Redmond, but he had not noticed her till one hot day in the operating room when she had taken her cap off. “Madonna,” he had said in surprise. Madonna? She had made a point of finding out what it meant, Miss Carter lending her a volume of pictures. Though he had intended a compliment, it was not especially flattering. As if she was not better looking than any of those Madonnas!
It was her hair, of course, so long and thick and fine that Miss Carter had persuaded her not to have it bobbed, but to wear it parted in the middle and drawn into a bun at her neck. When one had small ears and a straight nose, one could wear one’s hair that way.
Rising to throw out the muddy water and get a fresh supply, she paused to look in the small mirror beside the window. (With only that scrap of looking-glass, no wonder Polly did not know what a fright she looked, her awful clothes on every-which-way !) Yes; quite beautiful . . . likely to throw herself away on a Ruthenian, even Anton Presunka, M.D. . . .
The floor was finished—she tore pages from a mail order catalogue to make stepping-places till it dried—and smelled better. Mingled with soap, the barnyard scents wafted in through the open door had a different smell; and when she tore down the dingy curtains, nearly smothering herself in dust, and opened the window, there was the pungent odor of the balm of Gilead from the bluff on the other side.
Before proceeding to clean the window she glanced in at Polly again. Sleeping; that last bout had settled her stomach. Asleep, her face was vacant, the skin drab and greasy. Such hands; broken, grimy nails. Polly was the kind which brought out that “Dirty Galician!” from the Canadians, Cassie felt intolerantly. Yet Mrs. Argue had called her that; her! because she had nervously fumbled one of her most cherished and expensive dishes.
“You don’t know enough to feed pigs,” she had screeched. “Brains! The Lord made you to be servants for us, that’s why he didn’t give you brains, you dirty Galician!”
At the memory, the little shack was weighed down with drabness. There was that other occasion, back in her childhood when, thrilled with the adventure of being in town, she had stood beside the big shiny automobile, fearful of touching it, yet wishing to be able to say back home that she had; and the owner’s voice snapping, “Get away from here, you dirty little Galician, you!”
Dirty! and she scrubbed within an inch of her life Galician! Was one an outcast because one’s parents were not born English? . . . She was cleaner than Mrs. Argue, who took a bath only when the spirit moved her; a sluggish spirit, too. She said that then, that she took a bath every day . . . she had learned that from Mrs. Parkman. She recalled her awe at learning that the Parkman children had fresh underwear every day. She had sneaked into the bathroom and washed hers, cheap mail order stuff that she would not be caught dead in now.
“I don’t mean your bodies are dirty,” Mrs. Argue had retorted. “I mean your souls. You all lie, you all steal, you have no morals.”
She did not lie; she did not steal: she had morals. When walking from church Anton had proposed marriage, she had checked him at the word “love” as if he had offered her a deadly insult. Love!—she had seen it spell trouble for many . . .
CASSIE polished the pane, watching the barnyard contours grow from a blur into clear delineation, the hills in the distance glowing beneath the sun. Graduation had been a hilltop, clear and glowing. She had felt then that she had thrown off the shackles of her parentage, to emerge free. But one could not. Even Mrs. Swale recognized that. Cassie Bomok stood idle at the window in her brother’s shack, but the real self of her was standing outside the drawing-room door, putting the last touches to the tray to be carried in to the afternoon bridge.
“They say that Presunka fellow has graduated in medicine and is going to set up in town here. He’ll get all the foreigners, of course.”
“Better at cutting up pigs than at surgery, I’ll bet.” “That’s where he belongs,”—Mrs. Argue’s cackle— “in the south end cutting up Galicians.”
“Anton's clever,” Mrs. Swale said in her soft voice,” “and conscientious. Still, one wonders. Hardly enough background for a professional man. It takes at least three generations living in Canada, I think.”
Three generations living in Canada. No chance for her; or for her children. At eighteen, grandchildren were as remote as Mars. “No background!” stood out as a refrain in their babble of talk.
“Your Cassie,” Mrs. Argue said—Cassie was deliberately listening—“is not undiluted middle-of-Europe. Some good blood . . . mother worked in town before she was married . . . none of their morals . . .” Cassie’s first impulse was to rush in and tell Mrs. Argue that her mother’s morals, were above question, but what Mrs. Swale had said was foremost in her mind. She let herself linger on the idea that she had Canadian blood in her, though, knowing her mother’s rectitude, that was but an illusion; and for a long time she wove romances about her mother who had been a pretty girl, and about the proud wealthy Canadian who would come along and claim her as his daughter, taking her away to parts unknown where she could have a fresh start.
But it was Mrs. Swale who gave her a fresh start by suggesting that she would make a good nurse.
“You move quickly, Cassie, and don’t waste any motions,” she said.
A nurse’s cap instead of a maid’s cap! Nurses played golf. Miss Carter came to Mrs. Swale’s bridge parties. Nurses married doctors. Mrs. Swale had been a nurse.
She had held herself aloof from the girls who spent all their wages on their backs, stayed out half the night at dances, hung around the railway stafon.
“Too good to mix with her own people,” they jeered. “Take an English name, Miss Bomok. Bumblebee is a nice name.”
The hospital kitchen-maid, who had not taken an English name herself but refused to speak to her mother on the street when the latter was wearing a shawl, told the girls in training that Bomok was Ruthenian for bumblebee. They would buzz-z-z when they passed her. They would say, when there were disagreeable tasks— and there were plenty—“Let Bumblebee do it.” In her second year, when there had been a difficult task; “Bumblebee can do that.” In her last year, when there had been a bad case: “Put Bumblebee on, Miss Carter,” the doctors said. And it was Bumblebee who had been made night supervisor after graduation.
The Swales had attended the exercises and had sent her a beautiful bouquet. She had been so happy that she had cried all night. Top of the mountain now, at her feet all the golf courses, bridge parties . . .
"L-TOT as it was, Cassie blackleaded the stove, one eye on the clock. She hoped that Pete would get Dr. Swale. Yet he was busy, not anxious for trips to the country. Dr. Redmond was not so busy. He had let go a bit; drink, and a private income from Ireland. He had an opportunity of moving to the city, examining for a life insurance company. It suited her. She had come home for the last time, to tell them that she was going to marry him, but her mother’s amused smile, half-appealing and half-tolerant, had postponed the announcement. Their broken English irritated her. She lost dignity when she talked Ruthenian; had always felt that when asked to interpret in the wards.
“It might now you’ll do such as you said,” her father continually teased, “make marriage with a doctor. They say from town that Anton Presunka’s got a sweet on you.”
“All by himself, then,” disdainfully. “That nose flatened all over his face, his ears sticking out like bouquets.”
The big room was finished at last, except for the marshmarigolds she had been picking when Pete had called her.
She took them from the lard pail and arranged them in a brown bowl. They were just buds, but ripe ones, green globes with yellow crosses sharply defined—hot cross buns. In the heat of the kitchen some of them were beginning to burst. They shone up at her, reminding her of the picnic Anton had let them have to gather marsh-marigolds, his loitering behind with her, talking so gravely, older at twenty than now at thirty. Now boyishness twinkled everywhere from him; his step, his smile, his eyes, his hair. Suddenly as she bent above the flowers,
Dr. Redmond’s face which she had tried in vain to catch rose before her, and she had the queer emotions that her mother’s folk-songs aroused, but only because he was so remote from the solution. She was overwhelmed by a surge of desire—of the flowers’ wild gold flooding up to her— something to be strangled. . .
Lena was arriving, her aunt’s bag slung on one side of the old mare, the bundle on the other. At the transformation of the room the child hesitated on the threshold, clasping and unclasping her hands in dumb ecstasy, finally managing to articulate in awe: “Our home is now
“Not quite,” Cassie laughed complacently, taking out the clean towels, old sheets for dressings, her own nightgowns for the patient. Pete’s children masked their emotions when Aunt Cassie was about, she thought, probably shrinking from another outburst of “Dirty Galician!” which had caused the break; but with that look on her face, the little girl was almost attractive. As Cassie helped her mount the mare again and watched her out the gate, she decided that she would have Lena come to the city for a year or two. She would put into practice Anton’s theories about making Canadians, not in the schools and churches, but in the homes, as Mrs. Swale had with her.
Cassie now turned her attention to Polly. Polly protested, mumbling to herself. A bath when she was so sick would kill her; would open up her skin and let in the cold. She was suffering enough now without being tortured. But she had the bath, moaning with increased fervor as it progressed, though so interested was she in the pretty gown which her sister-in-law had merely for sleeping, that she quieted down and allowed her hair to be brushed and braided in two plaits. However, when Cassie proceeded to change the bed, producing the bridal sheets, she went wild. Cassie was getting her ready to lay her out! Send for the priest at once! She was dying! Where was Pete? Where were her children? Send for the priest! . . . One thing was accomplished by the sheets: Polly was so prepared for the end that she said not a word when Cassie brought out the razor and iodine.
AFTER all her worrying, it was Anton who came.
Dr. Presunka, she was meticulous to say, as, her uniform and cap on, she moved swiftly about at his directions, getting things ready, instruments sterilized, a sterile sheet on the kitchen table, another on the sewingmachine for the instruments; he in the bedroom, his pleasant voice lulling the patient to security.
“She’s frightened,” he said in English, coming out. “We mustn’t take a chance on shock. We’ll get her under before we bring her in. You’ll have no trouble with the anaesthetic, nurse; just watch her pupils.” That “Nurse” steadied her. There was even a difference in his smile as if he were sending out courage to her from his inexhaustible supply; the way he used to say in arithemetic class: “You can do that problem, Cassie, just use your head.”
His smile steadied Polly, too. She took the hypo
without a murmur, smiled into the ether mask, her hand in Pete’s.
Cassie had not seen him operate before, but she had heard that his technique was good, and if she were any judge after all the times she had watched Dr. Swale, it was. He moved swiftly and surely, yet the smile never for an instant left his face. Under the influence of his presence, she went over and over their walk home from church, he telling her all his plans, his hospital he would build up here in the bush country for his people, his red-brick hospital with living quarters downstairs on one side, maternity ward above, and the general hospital on the other side. For nurses, they would take a girl into the house for three months, teach her housekeeping, cooking, mending, table manners. Then she could spend six months in their hospital before going into town to train.
“But,” she had asked, “will they come back? That will drain these parts of its girls.” He had smiled down at her when he replied. “What does it matter? Aren’t you better for it, even if the city is going to swallow you up?”
That was after she had told him that she would not marry him, that she was going to the city, she thought . . . But he had not really wanted her, she decided angrily, looking at his hands putting in the stitches. Capable hands; ugly. Not like Dr. Redmond’s tapering fingers; but dexterous, gentle. All he had wished of her was a matron for his hospital! His ears were ugly, too; his mother should have made him wear a band when he was a baby. What was he at heart, Ruthenian or Canadian? Radical ideas; trying to understand both people. Holding classes of men and women in the hall; Bolsheviki the Canadians called them; Reds. Trying to get his mother to wear hats and shoes, but buying her handsome shawls. Pouring oil on the troubled waters of racial differences. Getting in wrong because he had confronted an interpreter with maliciously misinterpreting. Accusing Pete of deliberately engendering a “Little Galicia” ¡n Manitoba . . .
“She should be all right now,” he said suddenly.
Pete, after helping to put her back in her bed, stood wringing his hands at Polly so white and still, at Polly moaning as she came out of the ether, at Polly calling in a frightened voice for him. His brown eyes worshipped her. His face was transfigured as he leaned above her.
Cassie thought of Dr. Redmond; no working shoulder to shoulder with him. She would always look up to him, and he would always look down on her a little, even when he was drunk, perhaps more when he was drunk. And when he vras drunk, she would look down on him. Her father never got drunk, even at weddings. She hated drunken men; old men. She hated to think of an old man putting his hands on her; claiming her lips. It was, she sighed as she restored the big room to order, the high price one paid for posterity.
Pete, insisting that Anton stay for supper, went out to do the milking. Cassie ransacked the cupboard in consternation; fat salt pork and “bought” jam. No wonder Polly had been sick. But she planned swiftly. Potato and onion soup, omelette, stewed rhubarb and hot biscuits. She peeled the potatoes and onion, set them on to boil, and went out to pick the rhubarb.
TT WAS a pleasure to get outdoors again. The middle
of June, but the year had not quite stepped into summer, hovering as if reluctant to leave spring. She returned to the shack, as if reluctant to leave all the lovely out-of-doors, wishing that Anton would come in and talk to her as she worked, would see how capable she was, and feel what a great loss was to be his. She suddenly wanted him to feel that, to feel it terribly. She wanted to see the smile fade from his face, the twinkle from his eyes.
Anton swung along the path, springing on the balls of his feet as if he had no time to waste on earth. He jumped and clutched the lew bar of the children’s swing, chinned himself half a dozen times, the muscles rippling through his shirt sleeves in little dancing movements. Eternal boy. She, now, was the one feeling the great loss, feeling it terribly; the same feeling she had experienced the time the pink light from Dr. Redmond’s lamp had glowed out at her, lighting a glow inside her, making her long for she knew not what buried happiness sending up its home^ familiar music to her heart. But not DrTRedmond with what he incomprehensibly called his “burned-out enthusiasms.” Not Dr. Redmond. It was as if the pink light picked out the pouches beneath his eyes, the heavy abdomen, the flatness with which he walked.
“The municipality is going to finance my hospital, Cassie,” Anton said, coming in beside her where she mixed the biscuits. “I got the plans this morning. They’ll begin at once. Right near the lake. Sun balcony facing the water.”
She could see it plainly, the gleaming windows, the white paint of the doorway against the red brick, the lake itself, the tall spruce trees all around and on the farther shore. Beauty at their feet all the time. But not for her.
“This north country would never have been opened up except for our people,” he said. “We’ve hewn out the bush land that none of their down-easterners would look at; farmed it. It will be our country in time. But we must be worthy of it. Not mere politicians. And no ‘Little Galicia.’ We’ve got to make them respect us. Fawning and cringing,” vehemently, “will not do it. We’ve got to make them see that we’re a people with a history, that we have fine arts ourselves—”
Background, she thought dully, the marigolds and the moisture in her eyes blinding her so that her fingers fumbled the dough.
“—that we have poets, writers, artists they know nothing of; that we have produced great musicians and great leaders. And what we’ve done before, we can do again. But not if we mix the strain. Keep it pure. If we mix it, the honor and the glory’ll be theirs.”
“Shall I tell him now,” she thought, “about Dr. Redmond?”
But as she listened to his passionate voice, she decided against it. Putting it into words would seal it irrevocably. If she had accepted Anton’s proposal it would be so easy to tell everyone; so natural a thing it was that they should marry after all these years of friendship. If she married Anton—she played with the idea—perhaps half of their children might take after her. If they had enough, twelve, say, six might be good-looking, and, she thought whimsically, six great. If Anton was homely he appeared noble. Eager eyes. Youth . . .
“Flying the flag only to get the school grant. Singing “O Canada” with his tongue in his cheek ... No one exploits the illiterate Ruthenian as his own educated countryman. Politics, for instance. In the last election, Jazznechuk promised the farmers of this township that if they’d vote for him he’d drain the low farms, build a ditch. And ditches are provincial, not federal. He said that the English-speaking candidate was going to Ottawa with one plank in his platform, the disenfranchisement of the foreigner . . . They talk of loose morals among our young people, but who is to blame but ourselves? They’ve taken away our old gods without giving us new.”
What did she care? What did she care? she thought fiercely. Talking impersonally that way as if to show that there was no hard feeling because she had turned him down. Probably already engaged to another girl. He had asked her first—if he had—because she would be a better matron for his hospital than a girl who had got to be just a teacher or a stenographer. Engaged. Even before he had got his M.D., the girls were crazy about him.
“It’s getting late,” he said in a different tone. “I’ll go out and give Pete a hand.”
The color seemed to fade out of the kitchen with him. She put the biscuits into the oven and went into the bedchamber. Relaxed, that drawn look gone. Polly’s skin, now faintly flushed, had a transparent quality. Her hair was in pretty disorder from tossing about. She stared defiantly yet entreatingly at her sister-in-law, and over Cassie rushed the terrible hopelessness and futility of her buried longings. With a little cry she put her arms about Polly and pressed her cheek to hers. She could not say all that was in her heart, about Polly standing shoulder to shoulder with her man, and building up something worthy if unenlightened in this new country, about love that did not degrade; but a vital spark flowing from one to the other . . .
Dirty Galician, she thought tempestuously as she rushed back to the kitchen, padding the tears from her eyes. It was she herself who was that. Dirty of soul. No loyalty to her own, no pride of patriotism, of family, the traditions of her race betrayed.
HUMBLED, she set the table, the marsh-marigolds—the heat of the kitchen had burst most of the buds— reproaching her with their brightness. When she had finished she went to the door to wait for the men. The setting sun bathed the whole earth in a rich mellow glow, the visible peacefulness of it clutching at her. Behind her, to the south, were the Riding Mountains, cutting northern Manitoba sharply off from the cities. Ahead of her, clear to the horizon, stretched the wheatfields; as Anton said, hewn out of the bush; cultivated now farther than eye could reach, yet miles and miles more waiting hungrily for the thrifty peasant from middle Europe. Not a Little Galicia, but an integral part of Canada.
She had a vision of herself as an evangel sending her children, an army of bright young Canadians, marching out across the northland with their gospel of progress; and was exalted, floating on spheres of color—music, with Anton . . . But she was not going to marry Anton. She sighed heavily, a sob in her throat for her lost opportunity; and was turning to go in when the men came in sight.
Pete, crossing the barnyard with the milk pails, stopped to pat one of the calves, but Anton came on, his habitual smile making a wreath from his eyes to his mouth. At something he saw in her face, he ceased smiling, and she realized how gravity became him, an eager gravity which ennobled, shining in his gray eyes with enthusiasms not burned out. It made her think of anemones, pussy willows, the first meadowlarks, the river running, smells of new plowing, the contentment of the stock released from the sheds. As if spring were a wine coursing through one’s body. As if the look in Anton’s eyes was spring ...
She was aware with a great trembling of his arm about her waist, the muscles of him taut with longing; and, in spite of the beginnings of greatness within her, felt humble. “Unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,” she thought irrelevantly, “but showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.” She drew him in, away from Pete’s line of vision.
The squalid shack was bright with glory as if all the marsh-marigolds in the world were blooming just for her. Her hand slipped into his, warm and firm, as if nothing to shake one’s faith could happen again forever and ever.