The Project Gutenberg EBook of Wilderness of Spring, by Edgar Pangborn

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Title: Wilderness of Spring

Author: Edgar Pangborn

Release Date: June 3, 2012 [EBook #39907]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


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Wilderness of Spring


... For if I am in sore plight, I would not therefore wish affliction to be the lot of all the world. No, indeed, no! since, besides, I am distressed by the fate of my brother Atlas, who, towards the west, stands bearing on his shoulders the pillar of heaven and earth, a burthen not easy for his arms to grasp.

—AESCHYLUS, Prometheus Bound.

Rinehart & Company, Inc.

Published simultaneously in Canada by
Clarke, Irwin & Company, Ltd., Toronto

Copyright 1958 by Edgar Pangborn

Printed in the United States of America

All Rights Reserved

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 58-5139

To my Sister,

NOTE: Pastor John Williams of Deerfield is a historical figure; Belding, Stebbins, Hoyt, Wells and Hawks were actual names in the Deerfield of 1704. With these minor exceptions, all characters in this novel are completely fictitious, not intended to suggest any actual person living or dead.

The language of the dialogue is a compromise, an attempt to convey some quality of early eighteenth-century speech, but not to create a literal reproduction of it, since that might be tedious and obscure in some places to modern readers. For a literal reproduction the worst nuisance would have been those words, such as "naughty," that have changed not in form but in meaning or emotional charge. I have tried to avoid all these except where the context should make plain their archaic sense. I think the use of "thee" and "thou" is substantially correct. At that time the second person singular could be used in English as in most European languages today, for intimates and children, but the universal "you" was already displacing it. The third person singular verb ending was obsolescent but still in some use; "hath" and "doth" seem to have survived long after the ending was abandoned in other verbs.

In the modern (Everyman) edition of Montaigne, the essay that Mr. Kenny asks for is entitled "Of Training" instead of "Use Makes Perfect." The copy from Mr. Kenny's library was the seventeenth-century translation by Charles Cotton.

My special thanks to Mrs. Kelsey Flower of Deerfield, who gave me welcome aid with the research; and to the personnel of the State Library at Albany, N.Y. for their unfailing helpfulness and courtesy.



Chapter One

High clouds drove across the dark toward abiding calm. Ben Cory watched them rolling under west wind down a winter sky, until his father's voice drew him back into the pool of firelight and candleshine. The moment's alarm of loneliness lingered, another occasion when the self disturbed by the not-self desires the assurance of boundaries. Where does the self end and the universe begin? Ben knew the inquiry to be a corridor where many doors open on darkness but not all.

Most of the days of that February had been whitely brilliant, the nights heavy with malignant doubts of wartime. Outside Deerfield's palisade, where one did not go alone, Ben at fourteen could never forget the enemy, the Others. Indians and French—or say danger itself, a thing of the mind harsh as an arrow in the flesh. In the cave of darkness that was the garret at bedtime, with Reuben's breath tickling his shoulder, the thought of the Others often entered behind Ben Cory's eyes. If sleep refused him his parents' talk might be recalled, and that sense of the Others, the quiet-footed, would become a commentary like secret laughter. They could laugh, those bronze people of the wilderness; they could laugh and cry, as wolves do.

On this evening of the twenty-ninth of February, 1704, snow was drifted mightily against Deerfield's palisade, crusted and frozen over. All winter the village had shivered to warnings: the French might try it. Governor Dudley sent reinforcements as generously as other commitments of a scared Massachusetts would allow; then the waiting, and the snow.

Ben's father had recently received a letter from Great-uncle John Kenny of Roxbury. As he discussed it that evening with Ben's mother, the boys could listen. From an Englishman who escaped Port Royal and reached Boston, Mr. Kenny had learned the French were friendlier than ever with the Abenaki tribes of Acadia. Joseph Cory read aloud: "I am moved to wonder whether we may ever know a time when the good works of men shall be no longer set at naught by embroilments of faction and credo, or by maneuvering of states and principalities. It is a sorry thing that a man should refrain from speaking his mind, overborne by the righteous who forget it was said: Be not righteous overmuch: Ecclesiastes vii; 16. I hate no man for that he believeth in other fashion than I do, be he Anabaptist, Quaker, Papist, I care nothing. He hath his light, so let me live by mine own."

Ben's mother was sewing, in her favorite small chair by the fireplace, the day's work never quite ended, candlelight mild on her dark face and her fingers that hurried because she was troubled. "Truly, Joseph, he displayeth much pride."

"Is it wrong, Adna, a man should be proud? Brave too—nay, reckless, seeing the letter might have fallen in the wrong hands."

"But—to make himself, as it were, judge of all things...."

Ben glanced at the enigma of his younger brother's face, wondering which view Reuben would share.

Hesitantly Adna Cory said: "You've spoke, times, of inviting Mr. Kenny here. I'd be pleased of course. In the spring, perhaps, before such time as you'll be too busied with the plowing and all?"

Joseph Cory sighed. Ben's parents often left much unsaid, the silences a communication not always excluding himself and Reuben. Neither now mentioned the smallness of the house, the cramping difficulties of living on a raw frontier. Even by frontier standards the house was meager—two rooms downstairs and the lean-to where old Jesse Plum dwelt in frowsty security; upstairs the garret and that was all. Ben knew his mother's family was or had been wealthy; so was Grandmother Cory in Springfield. But Joseph Cory was proud, with a sharp-cornered aversion to owing anyone anything.

The land spread generously fruitful here at the edge of wilderness; good times ought to bloom in this village if ever an end came to the alarms and imperatives of war. Under that stress it suffered the bleakness of a place often forgotten, where a handful of garrison soldiers tried to hold themselves ready for disaster, nourishing scant patience for Deerfield and not loved there. They cleaned their dark tools and cursed the weather, the Indians, the French, the pay or lack of it, above all their own foolishness in joining the militia.

Ben's mother and father were surely wondering in silence how the house could provide for such a guest as John Kenny, Grandmother Cory's elder brother, a fabulous merchant-importer, owner of ships and warehouses of the fat Boston trade. To Ben, Uncle John was a figure of learning, wealth and magnificence moving seven or eight feet tall in a haze of legend, mythical as Dudley or the Mathers or Queen Anne. Ben had heard his father call Uncle John slight and frail—a stiff breeze would blow him away; Ben's mind noted the information, his heart not accepting it at all. Joseph Cory said at last: "Well, Adna, he's sixty-seven. I suppose he seldom leaves Roxbury, especially now when all's uncertain. I hear the Boston road is fair as far as Hadley, but they mean for good riders, young men. Up from Hadley 'tis what you remember, love, muddy as dammit even when the spring's past. And he's not in the best health—says so here, further on."

Ben noticed Reuben's face drooping in resignation. Ru would know, as Ben did, that even if Uncle John were invited he probably could not come. The untamed roads were lonely; an old man on horseback could die swiftly from an arrow or bullet out of the brush.... Ben supposed he ought to take up a candle and persuade Reuben to bed. At fourteen Ben was expected to assume many of a man's responsibilities, not least of them the jumpy task of riding herd on his brother, who would be twelve in May.

Ben stood tall for his age, his slimness toughened by farm and other work to wiry flexibility. He could split wood nearly as well as his father, mend shoes better than Jesse Plum, manage the big kettles for his mother's candlemaking. But he could search his face in a mirror for signs of maturity and find maddeningly few. It remained a mild, large-eyed boy's face, high at the forehead, the jaw square but rounded at the chin. Father's craggy nose had character; Father was said to resemble Great-grandfather Stephen Cory, the sailor.

Legend placed Stephen Cory aboard Lord Howard's flagship when the Armada came against England in 1588. It just might have been true, for he was past middle life when he gave up the wild universe of the sea and begat Ben's grandfather Matthew Cory, and he was in his salt-encrusted seventies when he died in 1643 in the little new town of Boston. Whether the myth was true or false, Stephen Cory lived gaudily in Ben's fancy, strutting the quarterdeck, thrusting a beaky face like Joseph Cory's to the leaping spray and the enormous winds.

But Ben Cory in these prosaic modern times had grown resigned to a nose that stayed straight and small like his mother's, and his mouth was wide and full like hers—not a mouth for sternness, said the mirror. If Ben glared commandingly at the glass, somebody inside him hooted with merriment. His voice had changed but could still crack; the down on his face did not yet need shaving, being light in color.

"I never heard," said Joseph Cory, "that the Abenaki had any better stomach for winter campaigns than any other damned Inj'ans."

Adna Cory bit off a thread. "Septembers, Octobers, after they have their own corn harvested, then they come." Adna Pownal Cory would have been thinking of many past times when summer was fading but no dead leaves lay fallen to rustle warnings of approach. "A September, was it not, when they attacked the Beldings? Poor Sam! Thou wast six that year, Benjamin, and all warrior with no mind to be hustled out of the way—remember?"

"Yes, Mother, I do." A September Sabbath. The Beldings had gone to bring their corn from the outer fields before the service, when Indians ambushed the wagon, raging briefly into the village and away.

The Corys were not members of the church. Joseph Cory had been brought up in the congregation at Springfield, but when he came to Deerfield with his bride in 1688 he had declined either to join or to explain his failure to do so. Adna Cory was a member of the Anglican communion, which had been permitted to exist in Massachusetts for several years. On many Sundays and Lecture Days, in defense against public opinion, the family went to the meeting-house, the boys rigidly enduring the rhymed Psalms and the tedium of Mr. John Williams, who tended to preach in a sort of febrile blank verse.

They had stayed at home on the morning the Beldings were ruined. Ben remembered the explosion of Sabbath quiet into screams and shots, Father snatching the flintlock from its deerhorn rack and Mother gone very white, hurrying himself and four-year-old Reuben up to the garret. Ben was no warrior then—Adna Cory's fantasy developed that later, maybe from Ben's insistence on crowding in front of Reuben because he hoped to see what was going on.

For the Beldings help came too late—the mother and three children killed, the father and two other children taken captive to Canada, another child wounded and left for dead. Later Ben watched a soldier carrying in nine-year-old Sam Belding, who had revived and hidden in the swamp. The thin legs dangled; Sam's head rolled against the soldier's jacket, a bloody mess. Sam lived. Ben at six had understood it adequately: we, and the Others. The village could be furious but not astonished. Sam Belding's head became a commonplace, like any pitiable thing seen long enough for the seeing mind to grow its own scar.

"Now I think of it," Joseph Cory said, "there may have been Abenaki with the French who raided Schenectady fourteen years ago." He left the table to sit near the fire, long-limbed and rangy, tired from a day at the woodpile and at mending harness. He adjusted a log on the flames and yawned, smiling at his cavernous noise, rubbing his palms up over his forehead; a clean and sober man, still young. Ben grew bemused with a fancy that his father's face had become translucent to some other fire behind the hawk-nosed profile, untidy sandy hair, pointed chin, friendly thin mouth, speculative gray eyes. "Those poor fools at Schenectady! That you don't remember, Ben. The meeting voted our palisade as soon as word came from Schenectady—early March, you but a few weeks old. I was an angry man that year as well as proud." His glance at his wife invited sharing of other memories; Adna Cory lifted a dark eyebrow and blushed a little, not quite smiling. "We all labored beyond ourselves to build that stockade, Ben, chopping frozen ground. Had cause—they were caught asleep at Schenectady, those Dutchmen. Men at Albany warned 'em of danger, but they were carrying on some factional quarrel with the people at Albany, and to show how lightly they held any word from that source they put up snowman sentinels. Marry come up!—and went to bed, so the Inj'ans and French walked in through the open gates. Snowmen! They that were butchered in bed were the fortunate. I'll never understand my fellow men. Babes and women cut open and burned alive...."

The Abenaki, Ben knew, had not changed. Climbing out there with Reuben the other day, he had seen the snow, high and hard-crusted against the stockade walls. Beyond the window clouds would be still rushing in their silence. Ben heard his mother saying in distress: "So long ago, Joseph! Let it be."

"Oh, Adna, I do rattle on.... I hear Captain Wells is not content about our palisade. It will stand, so we have men behind it, not snowmen. And I hear the common talk that Dudley should have done better by us. I think he did what he could. What's one minikin village in all the Massachusetts?—but you can't ask the village to see it so, it a'n't human. Dudley's politics and religion cause them to damn him for all else. Should caterpillars ravage the corn again it will be Dudley's fault, same as the poor man keepeth the butter from coming in the chum and is to blame if Goody What's-'er-name hath a flux."

"I pray our Father we never need the stockade." Adna Cory's voice held a drawling note of fatigue or drowsiness, not responding to her husband's labored mirth. She studied Ben; the one long glance, he knew, would tell her whether he needed buttons sewn on or holes mended, whether his face and hands wanted washing, whether his supper had been sufficient, whether he was likely to remember about hearing and prompting Reuben in prayers at bedtime. The glance gave Ben a passing mark and moved on to embrace Reuben. "Mm—sitting there like Mumchance that was hanged for saying nothing! Sleep got thee, Ru? Eyes drawing sand?"

Reuben smiled angelically and stretched, his thin face reflecting her own—small nose, high forehead, pointed ears. He bore an even more emphatic resemblance to Ben, his eyes a darker gray. The ocean must be gray like that, Ben supposed, the gray Atlantic that his father had once glimpsed and never forgotten—speaking of it sometimes like a man who has promised himself to revisit a mystery if the demands of daily existence ever allow it.

Ben knew that a vulnerable quality in Reuben troubled their father. It was easy to wound Reuben. Ben had done it more than once, without intent and with regret in the same moment. No doubt Joseph Cory prayed the boy would grow stronger armor with increase of manhood.

Reuben Cory watched his tall brother lift a candle in its pewter sconce and trim a blob of wax with his thumbnail. Ben's hand, firm below the flame and golden, brought Reuben the amazement of a miracle, a thing never seen before. A familiar knife-scar on the forefinger—even that was new, though Reuben recalled quite well how Ben had got it ignobly a year ago by losing his patience when Jesse Plum was showing him how to whittle a maple stick. A text from the prescribed Scriptural reading sounded in Reuben's mind, as happened so often when he was startled, delighted or disturbed: I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. But it seemed to the boy that something here was false. The thought might be dutiful and correct, yet was he actually praising the Lord for having made Ben beautiful? Why, hardly. Rather he knew, as with Puritan skill and insistence he searched his heart, that he was more of a mind to praise Ben for being himself—which was heresy, and of course absurd. Uncle John's letter must be to blame.

The marvel of Ben's hand moved out of the concentrated light. Reuben rose, aware that Ben wished him to come along without a fuss. The letter, lying open as his father had left it on the table, pulled at him. His mother would not be pleased to have him study it. In spite of that, in spite of his own uneasiness, his eyes probed swiftly at it, and hungrily. Mr. Kenny had used a brownish ink; light slanting from a new angle as Ben moved the candle transfigured the writing to iridescent gold: It is a sorrie thing that a Man should refrayne from speaking his Minde.... He hath his Light, so let mee live by mine owne. Reuben's eyes snatched a few lines further on, words his father had not read aloud: Nor no man, by threat of Damnation nor Promiss of Paradise, shall ever betray me into the Folly of hating my Naybor, whether in the name of Princes who are but Men or in the name of a God I knowe not.

Reuben turned away clumsily, shocked and confused. It was clear why his father had read no more aloud. His mother might have offered no comment at all; but.... Ben was regarding him kindly, perhaps puzzled, across the hot flower of the candle. "Come on, Ru——" and Ben's voice cracked woefully, baritone to treble and back to a rumble.

Looking then at none of them, Reuben could feel certain lines of force: their mother's tender amusement at the cracking of Ben's voice, and Ben's helpless annoyance at that amusement, and from the other seat by the fireplace a quiet contemplation neither amused nor much concerned with judgment. And here at the center of the lines of force, here within himself, a wonder much like a pain just below the ribs, that anyone so admired and respected as Uncle John could be such a tremendous heretic. A God I know not?—that shook the ground. And Reuben was certain that, for the present at least, he could not speak to his father about that fretful thing under the ribs.

Nor even to Ben.

Ben noticed that Reuben was making less snickering circumstance than usual of diving under the covers in the chill of the garret. Both had wriggled into dark security before Ben remembered that Ru had not said prayers at all—for him almost unprecedented—nor had Ben himself done so. Uneasily Ben decided to let it go this once. Reuben had lapsed into heavy stillness and would certainly resent a jab in the back. As for himself, he could pray silently in bed: Father and Mother both said so.

So far as Ben knew, Reuben was sleeping as well as ever these nights, starting dutifully on his own side buried to the nose, but later twitching in sleep, flinging himself about—frequently plagued, Ben knew, by terrifying dreams. Often, when he was well down in sleep, his arm would arrive on Ben's chest with a hard impatient flop; then, usually, quiet. Ben could not remove the arm without waking him, which might bring on an hour's talking-spell. Ben enjoyed those, but on these February nights Ben wanted to sleep, and an unfamiliar difficulty in it was annoying him like a sore tooth.

Was he a coward, that he should die a little whenever some obscure night noise resembled distant shouts or gunfire? What was bravery anyway, and why could you never be certain you possessed it?

Had he stumbled into sin without knowing it? He could uncover no kernel of serious iniquity. All winter he had been rigidly good, because (Father said, Mother said) his brother looked up to him and needed the example of virtue. Yet they ought to know—Mother surely did—that Reuben was the nearer to grace.

No angel of course. Ru's normally loving temper could be submerged in sullen withdrawal or red-faced wrath. The brothers had quarreled a few times; only a few, since for Ben the experience was too shattering, turning the natural world upside down in loss and destruction. Nowadays Ben thought he knew how to read the danger signs and head off an explosion.

It could not be sin that held him wakeful. More likely fear—listening for the town watch to become a voice instead of a crunch of boots. Ben had fallen into the habit of noting that squeak of leather on snow, then straying into some waking dream in which a stern Ben Cory with a thinner mouth played a heroic part or died interestingly.

He could enter other waking dreams, the only region where a warm personification of desire is unfailingly obliging, never giggles secretly with other girls, never snuffles from a cold in the head or talks back. More than a year ago Ben had suffered a three months' obsession with a tangible human being named Judith. He saw it now as a childish aberration of the far past—the girl's father was the tithingman; one must draw the line somewhere. He had seen Judith hardly at all this winter, being no longer obliged to attend the little Deerfield school; when he did glimpse her he was heart-free. But no flesh-and-blood creature had superseded her, and often in the waking dreams his lively collaborator looked like Judith, as she said and did those shameless things which were saved (he hoped) from sinfulness by the covering assumption: We'd be married, of course, before we did anything like that, or that. Ben had spoken to the tangible Judith perhaps a dozen times during his obsession, as the occasions of school made it flat-out necessary; to Judith of the dreams he spoke at length, wittily, memorably, relishing her praise, her sharing of all his views, as she whispered under his ear in the dark and Ben could imagine he knew the sliding of a silken thigh and searching fingers.

Dreams of sleep followed no such intelligent direction. Ben experienced few of them, for usually his sleep was profound. The wench who did once recently delight him in one of these bore no resemblance to Judith or anyone. Ben had managed to glimpse little more of her than a pert earlobe and tumbling hair. The agony of climax had not even ended when he woke with wet loins and the exasperation of not quite remembering. Better and worse than waking dreams; worse because waking demolished them as full sunshine kills a rainbow, and better because they left him in something like temporary peace as no waking fantasy ever did.

Aware of the near warmth of Reuben, of Father and Mother sleeping downstairs, and beyond the snow-burdened roof the hard great glitter of February night, Ben could also discover aloneness, a cool splendor of thought wide-ranging, since a mind free of daytime bounds need recognize few others, sometimes none at all.

Did Heaven and Hell fill everything beyond the earth? Well, how could they? Something else must include them, if only emptiness.

At the ancient game of contemplating time, Ben found no great alarm in staring down either direction of forever, while the brain refused to conceive an end or a beginning, but too much of this wearied him like an effort to grasp air in the hand. He could not follow those speculations without coming to something like a blank wall. Possibly God put it there; possibly if God put the wall there men should stay away from it.

On such cold nights, while Ben wrestled not too urgently with eternity, the house might achieve a transitory perfection of silence. Then a contracting beam would set off a snap like gunshot. It could be real gunshot; after thin worry of listening Ben would know it was not. He might hear his father downstairs sigh and turn over in the four-poster that would not quite accommodate his long legs. Down in the fireplace an ember might pop in the banked-up ash—like a knocking, like floorboards disturbed by an otherwise noiseless footfall. Out in the shadows a village dog might bark, and Ranger in the shed boom back at him. Sometimes the gray cat Bonny, who liked to come smokefooting in and curl on the boys' bed, would take to snoring lightly. If it was a night when Jesse Plum's narrow ruddy nose was troubling him, Jesse in his lean-to might imitate anything from a waterfall to a hog-killing. Or Ben would hear the hollow baritone of an owl, the lamenting of a wolf, the nearly human scream of a mountain cat. But true silence also might arrive, and it would seem to Ben that if he could himself be silent as the dark, permitting no least sound of breath, there might come to him another moment of revelation such as he had once known—he could not quite recall the time—when he had dropped on his back in the grass, and looking up, had discovered the brilliant life of new birch leaves between him and the immortal blue of spring.

Reuben was wakeful too, but sought to conceal it by lying motionless even after his back began to itch, since the desire for talk was at present not in him. For a while he was both hurt and relieved that Ben had not reminded him to pray. But terror was latent in this; his mind winced away from it and sought the consolation of a decision: as soon as Ben should fall asleep—and Ben usually snored a little—he would get up and stand by the window and atone for the omission by offering up a better prayer than usual, one in fact that he preferred Ben not to hear, since he particularly intended to ask God's blessing on Ben himself. Once the decision was reached the comfort of it was genuine, allowing his body to relax as fear dissolved away. Unaware of the surreptitious approach of sleep, he found himself recalling things far away, wherever it is that yesterdays go, and at the same time wondered why his mind should so becloud itself with forgetting. He wanted—after a time quite eagerly wanted to recreate a certain day, the day when Jesse Plum and the Indian Meco brought in a lion. As he invited it the recollection brightened, yet remained under a nimbus of the not-remembered.

Reuben knew Jesse Plum's history in a general way. The old man had arrived from England as an indentured servant some time in the early 1670's, a long-jawed hulk with certain fixed ideas, one of which was that nobody loved him any more than you could put in your eye and see never the worse. After his first term of servitude he had drifted to Springfield and cemented himself to Grandfather Matthew Cory's family with the suctorial power of the meek. Reuben knew that in the same year when his father and mother were married and came to Deerfield, Grandfather Cory died, and after his death Grandmother Rachel Cory had no place for a godless sot; her son at Deerfield casually inherited Jesse, and Jesse did nobly, working for his keep and a trifle over, aware that Goodman Joseph Cory could seldom be stern toward anyone but himself.

Jesse's thin nose, wedged between gently wandering milky blue eyes, possessed an intuition for alcohol, as a good bloodhound's nose will hold him firm on the trail. Jesse never rebelled nor complained. His mention of the Pain in his Back was simply a special kind of breathing with words, his muscle the sort of unlovely boot-leather that can always beat out one more day's wear. He tended to be somewhere else at plowing-time, and Reuben had seen him approach overt emotion in the presence of a woodpile, but he never failed at harvest—Jesse was doing his best and said so himself. A neighbor, Benoni Stebbins, observing Jesse's slowly receding back, once declared in Reuben's hearing that some men are born tired—the charitable heart can only hope they'll find time for enough rest before Judgment.

Jesse talked most colorfully when resting; Jesse was a man of memories. In youth he had known the Great Plague of 1665 and the fire that laid London flat the following year; of these he almost never spoke, but he loved to croak on by the hour with less sorrowful recollections of the motherland.

The Indian Meco must have met inquiries about his true name with a bubble and purr of Algonkian syllables inconvenient for English tongues. Reuben had almost forgotten him until tonight, and calculated in the dark: that was four years ago, the day they brought in a lion. Reuben could then find Meco's image—scrawnily tall, gnarled, bald, the softer wrinkles of his eroded face fallen in from a bulging forehead and stupendous hooked nose. Meco wore a cast-off English bodice as a favorite breechclout. A Pocumtuck, he was believed to have claimed in his bruised English. If that was true he had reason for a desolate old age: the Mohawks almost annihilated that nation in 1664, and the remnant was further cut down in King Philip's War of 1675-'76 against the English. Not too small a war—Joseph Cory remembered it as a background thunder of his own childhood. The Indians burned Springfield; at Deerfield an innocent small stream earned the name of Bloody Brook and bore it still. The war ended when Sachem Metacomet of the Wampanoags, called King Philip, was betrayed by one of his own people and shot, and most of the survivors of his tribe were sold by the irritated Saints of Massachusetts into West Indian slavery.

Meco lived and foraged God knew where—somewhere in the highlands beyond the Pocumtuck River. At least Reuben had always seen him appear from that direction, an undecipherable message out of the region of sundown and west wind.

The Day of the Lion—midsummer of four years past, so Ben had been ten and Reuben a little past eight: the year the century turned. Jesse Plum vanished before sunrise; by afternoon the household grew convinced he had wandered off with Meco. The two satisfied each other in conversation, an affair of huge parturient silences, a drink, a further scanning of horizons—all this a genuine mental mining rewarded in the end by the substantial nugget of a grunt.

When the family sat at supper one of the Hoyt boys danced in, expanded with joy, announcing: "They killed a catamount!" The youth was swooping on when Joseph Cory asked: "Boy—who did? When, pray, and how, may a man arise to inquire?"

"Well, they killed a catamount," said the younger Hermes, and fled, not wishing to miss any more of the triumph which was entering the north gate of the stockade, collecting startled admirers. A progress of two, Jesse Plum and Meco, bearing on a pole between them the corpse of a mountain cat. They were both drunk as David's sow. Respectfully they dumped the tawny ruin in the dooryard.

"In the hills," Jesse Plum declaimed. "Yah!" He waved (Goodman Cory's) gun approximately east, toward the Pocumtuck Range. "Now he'll slay no more cattle." He set the gun down with care. "Why, he might've attackted the boys, then I couldn't never 've forgave myself, no never." Jesse lifted knotty hands defying all powers that could threaten the Cory children, and Meco began a stately shuffle, perhaps the tentative offer of a victory dance, but found himself in the wrong mood. Smiling at everyone, Jesse explained: "'S the Lord's guidance."

Father asked: "There's been cattle killed?"

Jesse was immediately hurt and sulky. "Not never again by this beast—heart-shot he be." He nodded where he thought Meco was probably standing. "Good man—whoreson good man there."

Reuben could remember seeing and hearing all that through a doorway partially filled by his mother's grace; he could remember squeezing in beside her, her arm dropping on his shoulder, her finger twisting in his hair, which he still wore quite long in those days. He could remember her bubbling with suppressed laughter. Ben was already outside, standing slim beside Father, contemplating Jesse's performance with adult gravity.

The carcass lay at some distance, and a damp east wind was blowing toward the river, but even from the first that lion had not looked right. Bloated and not bloody; flies were settling. "Oh!" Mother said—"thankful heart! It hath a—a little stink."

Meco was not as drunk as Jesse. He spread dark fingers in resignation. "Big stink," he amended, and strode off into rainy twilight, leaving Jesse to salvage what he might of glory.

So far as Reuben recalled, Meco never came back. After he had gone—but now at twelve Reuben could not bring the rest easily to mind.

Father had not found it so amusing. Jesse must have been obliged to bury the carrion and spend sober hours longing for invisibility. In following days, no doubt, whenever Jesse joined a gathering, say at the ordinary or leaning on a fence or discussing a bottle behind a shed, someone would make a soft faraway mention of catamounts, and Jesse would be surrounded by that shattering New England laughter which is performed without moving a muscle of the face or emitting any sound of any kind.

Then, within the obscurity of this last night of February, Reuben did remember more. Shame had stirred within him for Jesse Plum, who had always owned the status of a friend, old but accessible and a spinner of tales. Jesse knew everything, Reuben had once supposed—wild secret things, winds and weather signs, the enigma of women's flesh and one's own, charms against disaster, skin-prickling histories of what witches might do to cause it, and endless gaudy tales of England in the days of King Charles. If you could believe Jesse Plum—Reuben had, once—his youth before the Plague would have terrified Marlborough and made a stallion blush. Jesse could tell of monsters too—basilisk, mandrake, unicorn, sea serpent. Jesse liked to hint murkily that once during the miserable Atlantic passage to the colonies he had glimpsed a Something rising from the bowels of the deep, and never quite got around to saying what it was. He could explain the simpler stories written by furred feet in the snow, by iron bear-claws high on a tree trunk. From a blur and a spot of blood he could make you see a mouse becoming a midnight dinner for an owl, and then set your spine wriggling with a hint that maybe it was not exactly an owl but like one. For a long time—long anyway to Reuben Cory—the brothers had settled many private arguments by: "We can ask Jesse."

Drunk or no, it had not been right that a tall grown man, an old man, should act the clown. It had not felt right to watch Jesse with the dead lion when his sweating grayish face turned lost and vague and crumpled in a stupid chuckle of apology.

And then as Meco stalked away, Ben had looked around, not smiling but startled, awed—clearly aware, as Reuben was, of an astonished sharing. The Day of the Lion was perhaps the first day when Reuben understood that Ben was a person too. Before that, an image worshipped, slightly feared, not consciously loved. Afterward, a separate self, a brightly visible human being with gray eyes. On that rainy evening four years ago, Reuben now remembered, he had soon looked away from Ben's warm stare, not quite able to bear it, and had resolved in secret: I'll never quarrel with him again. The resolution had been broken of course, once or twice....

Ben Cory dwelt in a natural multiplicity of worlds. He could be active in the world of Deerfield's daily occasions: the reasonable labors on his father's farm grant; the school remembered from last year, where Ru's offhand brilliance at the piddling studies was now making him disliked, and Ben no longer there to prevent the occasional bloody nose or comfort him after a pedagogic birching; the not-friendly church; the clumsy kindness of some boys and girls of the village, and the mindless, furtively obscene cruelty of others; nearer to him sometimes than any of these, the quiet land itself in the flowing of the seasons, the smells of summer morning and of the milky breath of cattle, the open fields and marshes, the frame of low hills and the all-surrounding presence of maple and beech and oak and pine, the wilderness.

Ben knew the unique world his mother's presence created, where without much discomfort he was on his good behavior. With another sort of good behavior he could enjoy the world of being-with-Father, one often lit with unexpected mirth and kindness.

He possessed a sense of the outer world: an important Massachusetts, a half-mythical Canada inhabited hatefully by the Others, a New York not very real, an England thought of as Home—in a perfunctory way because of the ocean that made England, for a Deerfield boy, only slightly nearer than the moon. From his father Ben gained some clear perception of the war, the giants France and England raging over old hates and new advantages under two sick and stubborn sovereigns, Queen Anne of England and the doddering Sun King Louis XIV of France—yet the ocean itself was more actual to Ben than England or the war, for Ben's own father had seen it once on a boyhood visit to Dorchester. He said, if your ear lay close on the pillow at night, the murmuring you heard then was not unlike the moaning of breakers on sand, and why shouldn't a boy (said Joseph Cory) send himself to sleep by listening? The sound was eternal, Joseph Cory said—somewhere, always, ocean was breaking on the sand.

North of Deerfield the greater wilderness was a world inviting no one, a forest too old for imagining: green rounded hills secret in distance, swamps, valleys obscure, streams of unknown sources. That belonged to the bear and mountain lion, to the deer with midnight eyes and the comic grandeur of moose; to the rabbit—bouncing bread and butter of the wilderness—and the fox and weasel who followed him; to the down-footed lynx and quiet-sliding rattlesnake. Hunters, trappers and fur-traders knew something of that land, and had for nearly a hundred years.

The Abenaki knew everything about it—green depths of spring and balsam-pungent air, ardent stillness of forest summer afternoon, autumn explosions of gold and scarlet, and all the ways for men on an errand of killing to travel through it in silence when the ground was white and the evergreens bowed down and the northern lights a wavering of madness between them and the February moon.

Ben was welcome in yet another world as no one else was: a world that existed only when Reuben willed it.

Ru's talking-spells began when he was about six and able to find hidden hens' nests in the shed, to the sharp-faced ladies' continuing indignation. At that time the Corys still maintained the yellow-necked rooster brought as a youth from Springfield (senile and resembling Louis XIV in other ways but named Sir Pudden) who believed himself master of the shed and hated Jesse Plum's boots. He and Ranger and Bonny knew all about the nests. Ranger avoided them from a rigid sense of honor, with only a pensive lift of the white eyebrows in his black face. Sir Pudden stood about in glamorous attitudes—second nature if you have twelve wives, all of them cloth-heads. Bonny entered the shed in those days on a moral tiptoe, never certain whether the armed truce with Sir Pudden was still in force. Sir Pudden, to Reuben's extreme sorrow, regretfully became soup in the year 1699. Even sorrow was grist for Ru's talk-mill.

Bemused by the chickens' personalities, Reuben elaborated names for all of them—Martha, Patience, Hoobah, Binega, many others. Every new batch of fluff-balls drove him to a dither of vicarious maternity. At night he kept Ben awake with flowing tales in which these names acquired quasi-human characters who could range up and down in a special world with horizons of Reuben's choosing.

In the conventionally documented world nobody ever chopped William Stoughton into small red gobbets. That vinegar-blooded Saint, deputy governor during the witchcraft frenzy of 1692 and again later, died in 1701, but not in the small red gobbets Duchess Hoobah made of him in one of Reuben's narratives. The conventionally documented Stoughton would not have been interested to learn how an obscure Joseph Cory, remembering 1692, had loathed him out loud in the presence of wide-eared children. It didn't matter. The past of one, or two, or two thousand years, the fluid present, the future that can exist only in myth, all came to focus in Reuben's here-and-now, in the theme and variations of a small clean mouth chirping in the dark.

Ben seldom suppressed the talk. He liked to offer details of adult wisdom, or new words that Reuben would roll with relish on the tongue. The stories gained in sophistication, especially during the last three or four years, when the boy had developed a taste for listening to Jesse Plum. Princesses appeared; decapitations were limited to villains, wizards and Frenchmen. Allegory too: the tales no longer rambled but were innervated by unifying purpose, and Ben knew rather plainly that he was receiving gifts from a mind altogether separate and unlike his own. Ru also acquired some tact, and awareness of the times when Ben preferred to sleep.

If he itched with questions, though, and found Ben reluctant to answer, Ru might take advantage of his smaller size, punch and prod, try to smother Ben with the covers or nag after the forbidden tickle-spot at the edge of the ribs. He could hurt if he gripped a handful of hair, but he generally managed to stop short of open war. Ben imagined, sometimes with uneasiness, that his brother could study his mind, feel with his nerves, control him as a small man controls a big horse with wit alone. After such assaults, secondary eruptions would demonstrate that the little wretch was still awake—pinches, pokes, muffled war whoops, prohibited words: original sin taking its own time to simmer down.

Nowadays Ru's stories would be delivered sotto voce, lest Father shout up telling the boys to go to sleep. The hushed story-teller's voice illuminated the inner world, making of the night a sheltering room. Ben would be more aware of his brother than if darkness had not hidden him—the warmth, the harmless small-boy smell of him, above all the voice and its comic or startling or grandiose inventions....

Ben sighed in the exasperation of insomnia, and slid out of bed to stand barefoot in the cold, saying a proper prayer in an undertone. His mother preferred to kneel, but admitted it was wise to conform to surrounding custom lest one forget in a public place. Puritans did not kneel, regarding it as a mark of popery. Faintly relieved, Ben walked to the garret window to glance into the winter night, wondering if a dark moving thing he saw was that it ought to be. Yes—the watch, on his rounds. Ben could make out the black stem line of a jutting flintlock. The shadowy important man marched along the northern limit of the stockade, passing out of sight to Ben's left behind the meeting-house.

"Ben, what ails thee?—can't sleep?"

"Restless." Ben stumbled back into bed shivering, squirming down away from the cold. "Go back to sleep—sorry I disturbed thee." It must be after midnight, Ben thought, and all well. But as he tried to settle himself, inviting sleep with a better conscience, the snow outside the palisade, pressed high against the logs, nagged at him like the thought of a broken lock on a back door.

Chapter Two

Ben surged up on a stiff arm, listening. The uproar had been in the shed, he thought. Maybe Ranger had broken his rope and run out. Now Ben could hear only the bumping sickly turbulence of his own heart. In a dream he had been flying; the dream had betrayed him into this agony of listening where no sound was, and fear grew over him like frost on a stone image.


That noise was part of the dream. In the dream, faceless beings had been shouting, not willing that Ben should fly.

Then he knew the cry was the summons of the watch in a world of no dreaming—a few rods away, near the north end of the palisade. It flared, a jet of terror in darkness, and died.

The covers dropped. Cold slapped and squeezed Ben, but he could not move until some sound released him from this frozen waiting.

It came, a yelling that soared upward like fire swallowing dry pine, throbbing yells made by only one kind of creature alive.

A different voice pierced the clamor, snarling in search of authority: "À droit, vous! Là-bas! Enfoncez les portes!" And a wild drawled afterthought: "Prisonniers!" The voice was smothered by the yells and a whinnying of some other man's laughter.

Footsteps pounded on snow. Steel assaulted wood. Then—Reuben still sleeping—the flintlocks began to talk, the near ones a dry thundering, the farther ones like slamming doors.

Ben could move. He reeled up, shocked into panic, thrashing against sullen-clinging bedclothes. "Ru!" Ben punched and shook him. "God damn it, wake up!" Reuben made an empty noise. "Raid! It's the French!" Reuben leaped under his hand, comprehending. "Here!—your britches. Your shoes—no, bugger it, these're mine, where'd you put yours?" Ben slammed his forehead on the foot of the bed, searching; his nightshirt tripped him and he flung it off. A floor-splinter lanced fire into his knee. He heard two thuds, one below the window, the other in the same instant on the opposite wall. "Ru!"

"Leave off shouting, Ben."

"That bullet——"

"What bullet?"

"Never mind. Will you tell me where your shoes are?"

Reuben could not answer. Joseph Cory's voice fumed at the foot of the stairs: "Come down! Coats—don't forget your coats!"

Ben shouted: "We're coming!" He pursued the shoes under the fallen bed-cover. He found his own breeches and shirt, then his hunting-knife where it always rested on the table by the bed.

Orange glory beyond the window marvelously bloomed, flooding Reuben's angelic face and thin naked body moving toward the square of light. "Why," said Reuben—"why, the cods're burning us!"

"God's mercy, get away from that window!"

He had to pull Reuben from it; force the shoes on his feet and find armholes for him. Father was calling again. Ben hustled his brother to the head of the stairs. "Stay here. I'll get the coats."

The room shimmered. Red-black ghosts in a swirling jig hid the coats, defying Ben to come get them and fall on his face. He got them; then he too was drawn against his will to the window.

The fire danced on his left, the heart of it out of sight—west and south, beyond the training field, the Hawks house perhaps. North, near the meeting-house, a confusion of shapes under gunfire was twisting toward some climax. Five fire-tinted men broke away, soundless to Ben, moving with apparent slowness. One leaped forward in mid-stride to drop in the white; his arms sought each other above his head, scooping the snow as if he would embrace it, or climb like a hurt bug up the side of a world for him overturned.

The others disregarded him, plunging toward the Cory house. Reuben was trying to speak. "I'm here, Ru. We must go down—could be trapped." Reuben mumbled something. "What?"

"Ben, I must——"

"God damn it, don't be looking for the pot, use the floor, if they burn us who's to care?" Ben called again to his father, but his voice was swallowed by a bang. Not his father's gun—Jesse Plum's musket, a piece of trash the old man had picked up at third or fourth hand, likely to shoot anywhere but forward. "Come on, Ru!"

"I'm sorry."

"Your coat. Here—I'll button it for you."

"Ben, I didn't pray tonight, nor I didn't forget neither."

"What? Oh, put on your coat!"

"I didn't pray."

Ben forced the boy's arms into the coat and lifted him, amazed at his own strength, at the sureness of his feet on invisible stair-treads. "Ru, you deceive yourself."

"Mr. Williams saith that without prayer——"

"Ru, be still!"

Jesse's wretched gun slammed again, a different sound, a spattering clang, followed by the stridency of Jesse cursing and weeping.

Ben's mouth brushed Reuben's cheek; he tried to say something reassuring. How could even a child suppose the disaster was on his account? What of all those in Deerfield who did pray? He supposed Reuben would presently recover his wits, and set him down, but held him still in the hollow of his arm.

No true dark prevailed here in the entry facing south. The front room's west window admitted the glare of the burning, showing the empty four-poster. Ben's father was a specter in a nightshirt, cursing himself for not having locked the shutters. "Where's Mother?"

"In the hall." That was the name for the rear room, kitchen-parlor-workroom, heart of the little house. "Go to her, Reuben." Ben let him go. The brass face of the clock blurred in its tall oaken cabinet; Ben could not make it out. His time-sense said it was near dawn.

Outside the front door voices set up a gobbling not in French. Joseph Cory yelled: "I hear you, God damn you!" And to Ben, quietly: "See to Jesse, I think his gun blowed. Find out if you will."

If you will—he had never spoken so to Ben before. Ben groped through the doorway between the rooms; Reuben was shivering there alone. Ben found his mother and Jesse Plum in the hall, Jesse swinging his gaunt arms, one bare, the other trailing a wisp of nightshirt. The old man was fending her off. "Don't impede me, Goody Cory! 'Tis a nothing—leave me fetch my axe!" He lurched clear of her helpless hands, and Ben glimpsed his right side where the nightshirt had been blasted away—cooked meat. A piece of the gun-barrel stuck from a crack in the wall. Jesse seemed unaware of pain.

"Let him be, Mother. Come away from the windows!" She heard, understood, came to him. Jesse plunged into the woodshed and returned with his axe dangling.

"A nothing!" Jesse hooted. The little blue eyes burned above a mad smile. "I'll hold this side, Goody Cory. They won't pass, not by me. I'll see their guts cheese and the dogs eating it." He raved on. Ben hurried back to his father.


Only a blot with eyes, at the west window. In wide fluid motion like the final leap of a cat, Joseph Cory swung his gun and fired. The thing toppled away. Below the ridiculous starred hole in the glass a choking body began a gradual dying.

"You got him."

"I got him," said Joseph Cory, and turned on his son a sickened face Ben had never known. "What of Jesse?" The choking continued. Goodman Cory's voice climbed, beating down that noise: "Speak up, boy!"

"His gun did blow, he's hurt but not down. He fetched his axe. I think he knows what he's doing."

Goodman Cory reloaded the gun. "Ben, I'm weak." The choking became a bubbling squeal. Goodman Cory stumbled toward the window.

Ben's mother was kneeling in the doorway between the rooms, Reuben clutched in her arms, her cheek against his head. She was praying. The light of the fires showed Ben her moving lips, her dark eyes that now and then sought for him, too. Goodman Cory had halted short of the window, crucified by uncertainty, the flintlock a stiff burden. "Ben," he said—"Ben, hear me...."

The crash of an axe against the oaken door blotted out at last the clamor of a man strangling in his own blood. But Ben could still hear his mother praying.

"A stone axe, not steel," said Joseph Cory, and nodded to Ben as one man to another. "No good against our oak."

"Will you shoot through the door?"

"... and forgive us our trespasses ..."

"Nay—only waste a bullet. Ben, thou art a man—if I'm lost, take care of thy mother and Reuben. Be ready. Readiness—I mean alway—later—all thy life—readiness, wherein I've failed."

"You've not failed."

"No time for kindness." He shook Ben's arm. "Ben—if God liveth he is far away."

"... for thine is the kingdom ..."

"Ben, hear me," said Goodman Cory. "I say God is far away, no whit concerned with man."

"Deliver us," said Adna Cory—"deliver us from evil...."

"I wanted learning, Ben. Find more than I did."

The good oak was barely quivering under the petulant fury of the stone axe. "But Father, you know so much——"

"I? Learning—oh, a key to so many doors! Why, I never found but a few, sniffing at the threshold, a fool, a bumpkin. And Reuben must find learning too." He pulled Ben close, crouching, whispering: "Ben, hear me. I fear for Reuben. I pray you, keep him from being too much wounded. I can't understand him, Ben. Thou art mine own, I know thee—while he—nay, I haven't words...."

"But Father, you will——"

The pounding ceased. Sudden footsteps thumped rhythmically on snow. Something different smashed against the oak with the gross dullness of the invincible. Goodman Cory pushed his son into the front room. "The devils have found a log. Why, Ben, I shall live if I may."

It was an honest door, three-ply, studded with nails; the log ram thundered five times before that barrier yielded. Then Ben's eyes winced at high-crested devil-shadows surging in the orange glare.

Goodman Cory wasted no shot on the two who rushed the entrance. The muzzle of his gun found their heads, snake-swift, aimed like the course of a bullet. They collapsed in a mess of legs and arms. With thumping violence a hatchet skidded across the floor.

Ben saw his father clamber over the stunned enemy and past the wreckage of oaken boards. He heard his father shout in a voice so searching that all the roaring confusion, magnified with the door down and a sudden cold wind in the gap crying, was momentarily a silence: "Did you come here to murder children?"

A French officer ten yards away in the corrupted snow gracefully lifted his flintlock and shot Goodman Cory through the heart.

He said: "Mother, you must not shield me." But in her prayers she did not hear him.

The room before him spread out as a mass of darkness holding two oblong mouths of Hell, yet from moment to moment as his mother prayed, Reuben was aware, coldly aware that those two hell-gates were simply windows of the house where he lived: the west window displaying an absurd, pretty hole—who'd have thought a bullet could go through without shattering all the glass?—the south window a fainter gleaming, for its shutters were partly closed and the glare of the fires came upon it indirectly—beautiful in fact, rather like first light of a red-sky morning; rather like——

Wind struck him, rushing through the ravished door, and Reuben thought: Now! "Mother, let me go! Let me——" but her cheek was heavy and hot against his head; her arms would not understand; he could not hurt her by struggling to free himself.

Someone, maybe Father, shouted a dim word or two outside and was answered by a blast of gunfire. In the room behind them Jesse Plum raved. Mother, let me speak to you—Reuben understood he had not said it aloud.

"Deliver us from evil—deliver us from evil...."

It was coming.

Reuben had known it, waited for it, now watched with no astonishment as the thing on all fours lurched obscenely from the entry into the front room and fumbled about, snorting, searching for the axe.

Reuben caught his mother's wrists and pushed her arms away—no help for it. Amazed at their clinging strength, he was more amazed that he had the power to overcome it, and without harming her. He was free and not free.

He could drive himself a few steps forward, but it seemed that the air between him and the thing on all fours had thickened to monstrous glue. His lungs must toil to fill themselves. He located the thing again as it crouched and began to rise. With all his force, with a sense of huge achievement, he spat on the face of it.

Reuben felt it at first simply as a brutal and foul indignity when the thing, rising to a vast height, laid a hand flat across his face and lifted him so, with nothing but iron thumb and finger gouging under his cheekbones, and flung him sprawling. He struck the bed, and during some long sluggish course of time, two or three seconds perhaps, he secured a bedpost and hauled himself upright, finding that the firelight from the west window was now behind him, and everything was changed. He must get back across the room.

The thing towered to the ceiling between him and his mother, who still knelt in the doorway and still prayed. He must get back across the room. She would not look up. It might be she did not see, did not know the stone axe was swinging down. He must go back across the room.

Reuben felt the scream wrenched out of his throat: he himself had nothing to do with it. He was certain then that he was running back across the room. This room or some other, in this world or some other.

Ben moved into the light, stumbling over the ravished door, falling, gathering himself in one motion to go on, to kneel beside the unresponding mouth, knowing that his father was dead. His mind retained an ice-fire shrewdness, a corner-of-the-eye intelligence understanding the smoking houses, the running, the shrieking, the fur-capped Frenchman who was reloading, and shouting too in foreign-sounding English: "Surrender!"—was that what the fool was yammering? To Ben he appeared a stupid and trivial man with babyish pop eyes—couldn't the fellow understand that Goodman Cory was dead?

Ben was on his feet, his father's gun dull and heavy—loaded, too, he realized. The French officer fired, clumsily this time, and a hornet-thing of no importance muttered past Ben's ear.

In the house, someone screamed.

Ben turned his back on the Frenchman dreamily. "Acquire learning?" Delayed knowledge of the scream penetrated him like blown flame. A man in the entry was struggling to rise. Automatically, with no conscious anger, Ben clubbed the gun against the black head, catching the Indian smell of acorn grease and paint. Should he now shoot through the deerskin jacket?—no, because he must be already dead. Ben had heard and felt the splintering of bone. And anyway this man was only one, and there had been two.

The fires continued in his eyes and shifted to blackness. Here in the front room he couldn't see. He knew his mother or maybe Reuben had screamed. He understood the blackness was in his head, a vertigo, and he called: "I'm coming to you, Mother!" The blackness dissolved, giving back the room. He must look there, where she was lying, and the spilled blood, and the boy kneeling beside her saying quite softly over and over: "Mother—Mother...."

Out in the hall a muffled hammering went on and on. Ben explained aloud carefully: "I will go and find out."

Jesse Plum's nightshirt still flapped on him in strips. He was bringing down his axe repeatedly, though the Indian's head lay nearly separate from the trunk. Ben stood quiet, compelled to watch until the head broke from a band of skin and rolled on the drenched hearthstones, the forehead displaying the gash of Jesse's first blow.

Jesse squinted at Ben, a puzzled and exhausted old man. His hairy legs shivered, kneecaps dancing. "I was too late—plague and fire! Oh, the fair things I looked for in this land! Gold—the Fountain—yah, the Fountain, the things they'll tell a man! Benjamin, it be'n't right, it be'n't right...." Reuben was still speaking, too; the empty silver monotone reached Jesse's consciousness and he pulled himself to erectness. "Goodm'n Cory?"

"They've shot him, Jesse."


Ben did not speak. Jesse lurched to the east window. "This side's clear. Fetch your brother, Ben. I'll get you out, I will so. Hatfield—Cap'n Wells' fort anyway. Hurry—fetch him, Ben!"

Reuben writhed away from Ben's touch. "Jesse, help me with him!"

Jesse caught him up. Reuben fought in dumb fury, but Jesse held him fast ignoring that, and rushed through the woodshed, opening the door at the far end with a thrust of a horny foot. "Stay close, Ben!" They were stumbling across snow trampled by the flight of others, in the shadow of their own house that stood between them and the fires; then out of that shadow toward a beginning of winter dawn. Men and women were running about here, unrecognizable in wounds and terror and nakedness, people Ben had known all his life, swept into the panic of a crushed anthill. The east wall of the stockade rose cruelly high. There Jesse set Reuben down. The boy swung about mechanically, walking back toward the fires. Ben grabbed and slapped him; he only stared.

Jesse snatched off the wreck of his nightshirt and twisted it into a cord, running it through the belt of Reuben's breeches. "Go first, Ben—I'll h'ist you."

Ben swarmed up somehow. Jesse yelled: "Drop! You must catch him." Then Jesse was up too, clutching the palisade with his knees, hauling on the makeshift rope before Reuben's groping hand could discard it. Jesse gained a grip on Reuben's armpit, and Ben flung himself down. "Ready, Jesse!" But instead of letting Ben catch his brother, the old man leaped with him, turning in mid-air so that he fell under Reuben, who sprawled free and ripped loose the cord.

Ben grabbed the boy's arm. Jesse reeled up on his knees. "Get to Hatfield! I'm undone. The filthy papists've done me in."

Reuben had at least delivered himself from his witless trance. He tugged to free his arm and wailed: "Let me go!"

"Get up, Jesse! You can't sit there so."

Jesse shook his head, a stubborn child. "I stink. There's men fail at everything—you don't understand." He whimpered, trying to cover his crotch. "I be naked, can't you see? You go on. I'm done."

"Let me go, Ben! Let me go back! Let me go, damn you!"

Ben's eyes were watering from the cold and from a billow of smoke the wind flung down on them. "God damn it, Jesse, you think we'd abandon you? Get up!"

"Plague and fire...."

"Get up!"

"Oh, I—I will, Ben. It's the old liquor rising up in me. Ben, I couldn't help that, it was on me to drink. Leave me gather my wits. O Lord Jesus, is it coming day already? I will get up, Ben, don't fret." And he did, jerky in motion like an ill-made doll, willing to follow....

Some confusion of battle still fumed by Captain Wells' fortified house beyond the southeast corner of the palisade. Ben heard gunfire, the heart-cracking sound of a woman wailing unseen. Leading, gripping Reuben's wrist, Ben avoided that fort, plunging into the woods and white-packed underbrush to circle it and come out well to the south on the Hatfield road—unmistakable, familiar, over there on his right under enormous morning sky. Others in flight had marked the road with the signature of bloody drops, clear against white now that the sun was surely rising.

Reuben pulled back continually. Ben's right knee throbbed, he couldn't think why. He knew Jesse was following. Impossible to run in this white muck. He could push on, the sun at his left hand, and not look back. He was aware not of time but only of breathing, of driving forward in pain against the sodden snow and retaining his hold of Reuben's wrist; yet time was moving too, as it would forever, and the sun advancing.

He realized that for some while now he had heard no gunfire. They had surely not come so far on the Hatfield road as not to hear it, for the morning was still. It must have ended. The wind had dropped, the air becoming sluggish, almost warm. Drowsy....

Reuben struggled abreast of him and beat feebly at his shoulder. "Ben, you must let me go back. Mother——"

"Ru, thou knowest she is dead."

"You never loved her or you could not say it."

Ben faced about, feeling the sun of March, seeing on the backward trail nothing familiar, only a rising faraway smoke. That must have been Deerfield. Nearby, the quiet world of snow was lightly patterned with tracks of forest life; no wind at all now to disturb the shadowy trees and undergrowth. Ben knew his brother was nearly sane, already ashamed of the words just spoken. Jesse had halted, swaying and mumbling in his cold nakedness, looking back. "I loved her, Reuben. Now save thy breath for walking."

More time unmeasurable passed in the dreary plodding. Small shadows down the trail became large, large shadows became men—angry men from Hatfield, some of them soldiers. A blunt-faced sergeant of militia shouted to Ben: "They still there, boy?"

"Yes," Ben wheezed—"I think so."

The sergeant paused, seeing Jesse's side. "You're bad hurt."

Someone tossed a jacket over Jesse. The sergeant offered a leather flask and Jesse grabbed his arm, muttering uneasily: "Water?"

"Water of Jamaica."

"God magnify you!" Jesse drank. "Don't know you—'d pray for you was I a'ready in Hell."

The sergeant jerked his head at the north. "How many?"

"Jesus, I don't know. Killed one Inj'an with my axe." Jesse said that in startled thoughtfulness as if just remembering. "My own gun got me—peddler sold it me for a musket, bloody grape-shot it is now, might've killed me deader'n a son of a bitch." The sergeant ran on to the head of the column. "A'n't left you much," Jesse apologized, and discovered the flask still in his hand. "Why, he's gone and left me it, in the name of God."

"Come on, Jesse—he meant to. Come on!"

"I will, Ben. But do you boys walk on ahead—it be'n't right a thing so ugly as me should walk naked in the sun, the Lord never intended it."

Some others of the column called to them, words sounding kind, passing over Ben like a slightly warming breeze.

A vague time later—the column was gone and Ben was trying to ignore a stitch in the side—Jesse's voice rose and fell in a fitful rambling; the old man sang a little, too. "If I knowed that man's name I could pray for him. The race is not alway to him that can the swiftest run—call that a Psa'm, they do, no music in 'em, Church of England myself, if so be it makes any difference when a man's a sinner and lost and bound to Hell. I know what I'll do, I'll say to the Lord Jesus, that man who gave me a drink on the Hatfield road the first day of March, that's what I'll say, mark it, Ben, and pity but the dear Lord'd understand, you would think—Benjamin? Won't he? I'll say, that man who gave me a drink on the first bloody day of March, right about there on the Hatfield road, do you see, and will that do fair enough, Benjamin?"

"Of course, Jesse."

"You're a sweet soul, Benjamin, to gi' me that out of the good learning you got. I call that an act of kindness to an old fart that's wallowed in ignorance and sin all his days, I won't forget it, I could kiss your foot. I used to could sing, Benjamin. At Mother Gilly's house they'd use to ask me to sing, every smock there would ask me—her house was in Stepney, not far from the Mile End Road. 'Brave Benbow lost his legs'—that's a song I picked up from a chapman come by your father's house, Benjamin, I think it was last year. 'Brave Benbow'—oh, bugger me blind if I a'n't forgot it, anyway there was better songs in the days of King Charles that won't come again, needn't to think they will, boy. That's all past, that is...."

Ben's hand had relaxed. Reuben broke free and plunged blindly ahead to drop face down in the snow, not rising.

Here the road curved near the frozen expanse of the Connecticut. Distant in the south smoke threaded into the clouds, the smoke of decent fires—Hatfield village, warmth and safety. Ben raised Reuben's limply protesting body, brushing white smears from his face and collar. Jesse stood by, trying to drink from an empty flask. "Ru, brother——"

"I can't go on, nor I will not."

"You must."

"I cursed you."

"What? That?—you know that was nothing."

"I'm rotten with sin. I let it happen. I did nothing. And yesterday she chided me for using an ugly word, and I went out into the shed and I—and——"

"That's nothing."

"You say that. I befouled myself. I didn't pray last night. So I'm to die in sin and be damned forever."

"No. No...."

Jesse mumbled: "God-damn flask's empty." Ben's eyes were compelled to follow the motion of a brown thing soaring up from Jesse's long arm, flying, descending to the river ice and skidding off to lie still, a dot of darkness. "Don't know m' own bloody strength," said Jesse Plum, and chuckled in apology.

"Reuben, thou art no more in sin than any child of Adam."

"I let it happen. He came out of the dark. I let it happen."

"Reuben, get up on your feet!" As Reuben answered that angry shout with nothing but a sick stare, Ben searched in desperation for anything at all that might reach the boy's mind, and could find nothing, thwarted by the barrier that rises or seems to rise between one self and another, and so cried out unthinkingly: "For my sake then! Because I need thee and love thee."

Reuben Cory clung to the power of a fantasy. The snow before him, through which his feet could now drive with amazing patience and force, was not really level but a stairway. Level it was—flat level, drearily flat and white and cold—but his mind by quiet assertion made of it a stairway: because a level may indicate infinity, but a stairway, any stairway, must come to an end. Let it be a thousand miles or a thousand years away, a stairway must come to an end, for the mind refused to imagine one that went up forever, to no goal. Therefore each step was a rising, something gained toward the summit where Ben stood waiting to tell him he had done well.

By fantasy the universe might stand divided, into a region endurable and an outer region. To the outer region one must return, soon, and Reuben knew it.

From within the region of illusion that he knew to be illusion, Reuben grew aware, and more comfortably, that old Jesse Plum was still rambling on, and singing.

"Brave Benbow lost his legs, by chain-shot, by chain-shot...."

Reuben no longer resented the croaking sound as a hateful intrusion. The old man meant no harm, and was drunk. Ben had refused to abandon him, and Ben always knew best.

"Says Kirby unto Wade: 'We will run, we will run.'
 Says Kirby unto Wade: 'We will run.
 For I value no disgrace, nor the losing of my place,
 But the enemy I won't face, nor his gun, nor his gun....'"

Peacefully, almost unobserved, the boundary between the two regions dissolved. The snow was flat. For a few moments Reuben's mind was completely engaged in an effort to understand how they had got away from the house. The axe—came—down.... Then what? Out of this blank two remote voices spoke with needle sharpness: "Goodm'n Cory?" "They've shot him, Jesse." Maybe after that he had fainted. But now, to the deepest privacy of his mind, Reuben could state: That home was not; that he would be twelve in May; that his mother and father were dead; that he was walking on flat snow into the outskirts of the village of Hatfield with his brother and an old servant who was drunk and naked.

Hatfield buzzed. For a short way—questions from distracted citizens spattered from all sides—Reuben knew that Jesse was shambling between him and Ben, an arm on each, wobbling and protective; then under the guidance of a pink fat man they passed into the thick warmth of the ordinary's common room. In this hot haze and clatter of voices, Reuben's senses clouded, not in retreat but bodily exhaustion. A birdy, ancient woman hovered about them with noises of concern. Beside her face, Ben's appeared, and Reuben searched the strangeness of it in a fluctuating dark and brightness. They must be sitting near a fireplace, he reasoned, and Ben's arm was preventing him from toppling over. Ben was speaking, too. "What?"

"I said, rest thee a while, Ru."

The fat man had wrapped Jesse Plum in a huge brown horse-blanket; now someone brought the old man a pewter tankard. At the rim of it gleamed Jesse's little blue eyes, unfocused like those of a baby at the breast. At length Reuben heard someone drawl in unbelieving admiration: "Godso-o-o!" Jesse's grimy fingers fluttered; a frowzy-haired boy in a grubby apron giggled and snatched the tankard before it could hit the floor. Jesse collapsed into himself, a wired skeleton from which rose the bubble and rasp of a sudden snore.

The fat man was talking in lardy tones. "Hoy! Killed an Inj'an, he did say. He don't look it." Jowls shaking and puffy fingers gentle, he twitched away the blanket to examine Jesse's burnt side. "Bad. Gun blowed, he said. We'd ought to have goose-grease." The ragged boy was peeking at it. The fat man lifted him away by a greasy spreading ear. "Mind thy God-damned manners, pup—a'n't we all brothers in Christ? Go fetch cobwebs. Good as grease, they'll mend a burn."

Jesse Plum was carried away, his slumber undisturbed, and Ben was talking with the old woman.

Reuben supposed he ought to listen, say something himself. Their speech came to him disconnected and obscure. "Grandmother in Springfield—Madam Rachel Cory ... great-uncle—Mr. John Kenny of Roxbury."

"... sleigh gone a'ready to Hadley with others from Deerfield—be there more on the way?"

"I think there was no one near us."

"... to your grandmother—certainly...."

Most unmanly, Reuben thought, to let his head sink, to leave Ben the whole burden of caring for him, but with that head an unmanageable lump of exhaustion there was no help for it. He found it strange that Ben's voice should be rumbling directly under his ear and yet sound far away. "Ma'am, if my brother might rest in a room where it's quiet?"

Reuben tried to protest as he was lifted. He could walk. The protest fell short of words. An alien hand touched him, someone else offering to take him. Ben's voice was oddly impatient: "Nay, I'll carry him...."

Reuben sensed the passage of a creaking stairway. Ben let him down, on a cot, and as he stretched out his vision cleared, showing him a narrow room, and Jesse Plum on a pallet nearby, snug in his horse-blanket, brown gnarled feet innocently protruding, Adam's apple bobbing with his snores. The old woman was hovering. "Nay then, boys, you bide here long as you're a-mind. Jerusha'll get a cart, or you might wait on the sleigh's returning if you wish. Eh, Lord, we saw the fires on the sky before dawn, I'd only just come down to see after breakfast. Anyone'd know you for brothers—eh, Lord, yes! What's your name?"

"Reuben and Benjamin Cory—I'm Benjamin."

"Eh, Lord, yes! I'm Goody Hawks, and you can trust my Jerusha—he'll get you to Springfield one way or t'other. Some tea, ha?"

Reuben thought: I must speak, if only for thanks. But Ben, sitting by him, a hand spread without pressure on Reuben's chest, was saying everything, taking care of everything. "You're most kind, ma'am."

"Eh, Lord, nothing—shame if we couldn't help the Lord's own on such a day...."

Reuben saw his brother wince and lean down, pulling up the leg of his breeches to bare his knee. Though it made the room swirl dangerously, Reuben braced up on his elbow to look at the long splinter embedded below Ben's kneecap.

"Law me!" Goody Hawks knelt by Ben, clucking and muttering. She secured the end of the splinter in horny nails, drew it free with skillful quickness and held it up. "You walked from Deerfield with that and all? Marry, it's two inches long if I'm a day old. You must have a poultice of sawdust or the like. I'll fetch it when I bring the tea. That'll draw out any that's left—like draws like, you know—eh, Lord, what a thing, I'd've dropped flat with it in twenty paces."

Reuben thought: I will speak, and his hand reached out, and he heard his own voice as a hoarse and stupid little noise: "Give it here."

Goody Hawks dropped the stained thing in Reuben's hand, apparently not puzzled that he should want it, though Ben was, and studied him with some mixture of amusement and concern. Reuben pushed the splinter into his shirt pocket, and then, in some dread that Ben might ask questions unanswerable, he lay back and shut his eyes.

He heard them whispering together a little while, the sound partly smothered by the snoring of Jesse Plum. "... was there when our mother was killed ... outside the house, but he was forced to see...."

Reuben thought: A stairway. I am lying still—nevertheless a stairway.

As Goody Hawks tiptoed from the room, he felt again on his chest the undemanding weightless warmth.

"Ben, what are we to do?"

"Nothing for now, except you should rest.... I suppose Grandmother will have room for us. If not there's Uncle John at Roxbury."

"Last night I saw a part of his letter that Father didn't read aloud. Uncle John must be a great infidel."

"What did he write?"

"'Nor no man, by threat of damnation nor promise of paradise, shall ever betray me into the folly of hating my neighbor, whether in the name of princes who are but men or in the name of a God I know not....' How could anyone write such a thing, unless he...."

"Marry, I don't know. I think—oh, let it be, Ru. He's a good man, we know that.... I suppose he only meant that the general opinion is not his own, that his own religion is in some manner different."

"Yes, maybe.... Ben, is it true 'tis a hundred miles to Boston and Roxbury?"

"More than a hundred, I believe."

"Will the French be coming down this way, you think?"

"They'd be here now, Ru, if that was their mind. Though I did hear Captain Wells saying a few days ago that if the French found the wit and the forces to drive down the river and hold it, they could cut the Massachusetts in half. But, he said, he thought they hadn't the men, nor the wit to think of it. There'll be no Inj'ans here."

"What'll we do—I mean in Springfield, or Roxbury?"

"Oh, I must be apprenticed to some trade or other. But thou shalt—continue studies. That was Father's wish—'deed it was the very last thing he spoke of before they broke down the door. And 'tis my wish too, remember that. Thou must acquire learning, he said."

"And why should I have that, and thou not have it?"

"I shall too. But being older, I can be apprenticed now, to earn my keep anyway, and I'll find means to study at the same time. I dare say that'll be Grandmother's wish, or Uncle John's."

"What about going to sea?"

"D'you know, I believe that's why I keep thinking of Uncle John and Roxbury. He's a shipowner. If thou couldst stay with him until a little older, and study, why, I might well be able to sign on shipboard for a while, so to earn my way."

"Ben, thou wilt never see thyself."

"Why? What does that mean?... Who ever can see himself?"

"Maybe no one. But thou especially—thou art ever thinking what may be done for others, the while I've thought only of mine own—mine own——"

"Heavens, Ru! I'm selfish enough."

"Not as I've been. Nay, let me say it—it's on me to say it, Ben: I mean to do better, to make thee not ashamed of me. I'm afeared, but I tell thee, I will try to be brave."

Chapter Three

Ben Cory lifted and dropped the brass knocker of an oak door, nail-studded, with hinges of dull-gleaming iron. "She may open to us herself, Ru. Remember to take off your cap."

Ben recalled that the sole of Reuben's left shoe was cracked; he had noticed it when he found the shoes after that nightmare search—actually the morning of this same first day of windy March. Ben's own shoes were still sound; the wet melting snow would be working up miserably through that crack in Reuben's. He squeezed the boy's shoulder. At least they were together. Undoubtedly Grandmother Cory would provide decent shoes.

The alien town oppressed him; Reuben too would be feeling the loneliness of a place where no one knew them. Other windows they had passed were alive with the mild glory of candles; Ben had noted this as they climbed the hill road from the frozen river, to the house with two chimneys that Jesse Plum had pointed out. Madam Cory's windows stood blankly gray in the graying evening.

Ben missed Jesse here. The old man, who had snored all afternoon in the oxcart that drowsily brought them down from Hatfield, had gone into a flutter of anxious apology at the prospect of approaching Madam Cory's house. "It a'n't fitten, Benjamin," he said. "Your grandmother was never no-way partial to me. I'll come later, ha? You don't take it unkind? That's her house, third back from the hill road, with the two chimbleys." Meanwhile his sad little blue eyes had fixed on a tavern signboard down the riverside street, a yellow rooster against startling blue. "She was never no-way partial—" still fluttering, apologizing, promising to come later, Jesse set off for the sign of the rooster at a feeble run....

The door at last squeaked open. The one observing them was only a servant in a drab russet jacket, bulging with heavy muscle. His baldness was fringed with gray at the temples, the thick skin of his face channeled like a withering pumpkin, his voice the hushed croak of a good soul enjoying a funeral. "You are Madam Cory's grandsons?"

"Yes. Word arrived about us?"

The big man nodded. "A militia rider from Hatfield. Madam Cory is at evening prayers. Come this way." He led them through a chilly entry into a parlor crowded with polished lifeless shapes. Ben selected a black throne; Reuben kept hold of his hand, speechless. "I am Jonas Lloyd—sir. Me and m' good wife, we does for Madam Cory. I trust you'll be some comfort in her affliction.... That is the Mister's chair—Mr. Matthew Cory's, your grandfather's. I fear Madam Cory doth prefer it be not used."

Ben scrambled out of it to stand in disgust by the cold fireplace. Jonas Lloyd's canine brown eyes assessed their ragged clothes; he nodded in sad approval of Ben's action, and faded away with the silence of well-trained muscle. Reuben muttered: "Dare we sit elsewhere?"

"Try it anyway."

"You was here once, Ben. Is the house as you remember it?"

"I can't remember it—I was a pisstail baby."

"I suppose we oughtn't use such words here?"

"You're right. I must remember."

They explored the room, timidly. A pot clattered in the unknown kitchen. A dog barked outdoors and was chided by some woman's elderly peevish voice. In the dying light, they could not make much of a painting on the wall—someone lean, stern, undoubtedly dead, with the high-bridged Cory nose; probably Grandfather Matthew, of whom Ben's father had seldom spoken. Jonas Lloyd had made no move to light the candles or the firewood standing ready on the hearth. Ben ventured onto another chair; no ghost pitched him out of it. Reuben sank on the floor and rested his cheek against Ben's knee, then jerked away, feeling the poultice that Goody Hawks had bound on the splinter-wound. "Did I——"

"Nay, it don't hurt," said Ben, and pulled him back, and tried to smooth his tangled hair, but only a vigorous combing would do that.

"Ben, how ever did we get over the palisade?"

"Jesse—he pulled you up and jumped with you."

"Why can't I remember it?"

"Oh, you was—I don't know. Hush—that's over...." Ben could find no light at all beyond the windows. Enough light filtered in from the hallway where a rushlight burned to show him Reuben's face gone vague and absent. As time crawled on, Ben wondered how anyone could spend an hour at evening prayers. Adna Pownal Cory would have called it excess of zeal.

His memory of his grandmother ought not to be so dim, he thought. When he was four, his mother had been expecting another child—a girl who lived only a week, as it happened—and Madam Cory offered to take him for a month or so; Adna Cory would not let two-year-old Reuben out of her care, for he was sickly, but she let Ben go. Madam Cory was then forty-nine, to Ben timelessly ancient. Ben could recall little except a struggle to say a Psalm right for her. Gray skirt, stiff white bodice, plain cap—and Ben could not get in all those new words of the Psalm. Grandmother's hand was dry and cool. "Dost thou not wish to be saved, Benjamin?..."

After Grandfather Cory died in 1688, Grandmother's younger sister and brother-in-law moved in with her—Patience and Recovered Herrin. The Herrins were blessed with six surviving children, whom they must have distributed somehow around the house. Ben could dredge up no infantile memory of them but a blur of faces sharing nothing, voices tediously speaking not for him. He knew that Patience had died in '97, and Recovered had gathered up his brood, married again and moved away.

Ben recovered no memory of the Pownals breezing in at Springfield to look at him, though they must have done so. Ben's aunt Mercy Pownal visited Deerfield in 1701, wearing a red silk hood, reckless short-sleeved bodice and scarlet cheyney jacket that shocked Mr. Williams and others to the bone, especially in view of a rumor that the woman could read Greek and Latin, had been to London (or Philadelphia?—some foreign place anyway) and, worst of all, was twenty-nine and yet unmarried. Ben remembered his mother trying to speak a formal welcome and crying instead. Then the two clung to each other in the doorway, the tall woman leaning her cheek against Mother's head, saying: "Nay, it's good, Adna, good—I wish I was in thy little shoes." Moments later Ben's mother was showing her over the small house, still sniffling, also chuckling like a skylark.

At another time came the marvel of Uncle Zebina Pownal, in black curls, who plumped down on all fours claiming to be a moose so the boys could ride him—a tame moose, he said, but amoosing; possibly Reuben's first pun, for the boy nearly strangled getting it down. Uncle Zebina sang, music of England; he had gone there, and heard the new inventions of Henry Purcell, who died young. Father was obliged to warn Uncle Zebina that the Deerfield neighbors would think ill of such music. "We must not interfere with their sadness, to be sure," said Uncle Zebina, and for the remainder of his visit he made the music a sweet conspiracy, humming softly and shielding his big red mouth with a comic hand.

But those were Deerfield memories and clouded with a strangeness. In 1702, the year of King William's death and Queen Anne's accession, when war broke out again, the bearded patriarch Enos Pownal, Mother's grandfather, had pulled up stakes in wrath at Springfield sold his fine house to some lowborn Dutchman from Albany, and sailed for the West Indies with most of the tribe. Enos died at sea, but the tribe went on, Mercy and Zebina and a flock of others, to settle at Kingston. Ben's mother occasionally received letters from them that left her brilliant-eyed. Even at fourteen Ben had never heard the whole story of that very Pownal-like upheaval; it carried overtones of religion and politics, and suppressed echoes of the word "smuggling."

No use—the woman now at evening prayers would take on no reality for Ben, as the Benjamin Cory four years old was an infinity removed. Yet he found it astonishingly easy to bring up recollection from the age of six of Reuben's four-year-old self, a wild passionate atom submerged in serious illness every few months, a being who must somehow be shielded, not hurt....

He thought of the journey just ended, the brown oxen slopping on dreamily through the mush of a thaw that had come on a benign breeze out of the south, the pearls falling from bare oak and dark-clothed pine to make gray periods in the white. He saw again Jesse Plum snoring, shaken about but no part of him awake except one hand that clung with a life of its own to the rail of the cart; he felt again Reuben huddled against him, speaking hardly a word in all the hours of the journey. The driver walking with the team had been a deaf-mute servant of the Hatfield ordinary, beyond communication in a hushed universe of his own. Across the river from Springfield the oxen had refused to venture on the ice. At Ben's prodding Jesse Plum had waked, his mind still shrinking within the rags of sleep, and the mute had swung the cart about for home.

Somewhere in that passage, Ben recalled, he had glimpsed a flash of life—a wintering jay, clean as a fragment of sky, lighting on a branch to scold the human thing. The cart crawled on; gazing back, Ben had been able to see the bird rise into the wider blue, in airy departure not wholly lost.

The bulk of Jonas Lloyd abruptly shut off the light. The man was rumbling with the studied cheerfulness of a hangman: "You may come now." He led them up a drafty staircase and indicated an open doorway at the rear of the upper hall and padded back into the gloom below.

A canopied four-poster filled the center of Madam Cory's bedroom, a neat pleasant room with western windows that would overlook the river by daylight. The quiet woman sat by one of these, pallid hands folded in her gray-skirted lap. Her eyes were, like Reuben's, ocean-gray, but unacquainted with laughter. A table beside her held a leather-bound Bible and one candle in a pewter sconce.

"Well, come to me then! Are you afeared of an old woman?"

Ben was dazed to discover—so vast had been the infantile image—that his grandmother was not large at all. She sat no higher in the little chair than Reuben would have done. "We are not—not too presentable, Grandmother."

"That's no matter. You must be Benjamin—awkward still, I see. And Reuben, whom I never saw—yes, yes, anyone would know you for brothers. You take after your mother's side somewhat, in appearance." Rachel Cory sighed gustily. "Thankful heart, Benjamin—don't cry! We all die, don't we? Pity but men would give more thought to what cometh after. I said don't cry. Your father's death, Benjamin, is a grievous thing, and you will remember that I have lost a son. Am I weeping? Am I, my dear?"

"No, Grandmother."

"Benjamin, let us understand one another from the beginning. I remember you as a child, willful and headstrong. If you and Reuben are to bide here until you can maintain yourselves, as of course you shall, you must walk in the one right way. Your father erred, who might have been one of the Saints; concerning your poor mother, I will not speak. Your father strayed. Benjamin, Reuben, in the Book of Psalms it is written: The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

Reuben heard and did not hear his grandmother: the sound of words in her deep, positive voice reached him, but not the meaning—it was not as though she had spoken in a foreign language, but as though his own comprehension were momentarily numb. He saw Ben look away from her in stunned blankness, and then no more reflection was possible, for a wild hoarse singing had broken loose in the night outside.

Rachel Cory winced and leaned to her window; it was too dark, Reuben guessed, for anything to be recognized. "Well," she said with the precision of disgust, "there is one heedless enough. You might as well understand, Springfield is no Canaan."

"Brave Benbow lost his legs, by chain-shot, by chain-shot,
 Brave Benbow lost his legs—"

"The constable is slack again. It has been weeks since we suffered open sodden drunkenness in the streets. I do regret it should have happened on the evening of your arrival. Take a lesson from it if you have the wit. Benjamin, one thing you and Reuben must understand: in all the time the Lord hath permitted me to dwell here——"

"Yaphoo! If I a'n't a futtering he-goat of Hell there a'n't no name for me. Behold, I'm the brazen serpent of the wilderness—yaphoo! Look on me, you pocky smock-tumblers, you pot-walloping get of Belial, on my bosom I got the bleeding bloody cross, only it slipped some, there's some men fail at everything, can't even carry a cross right side up and be God-damned to you, s's I!" In panic fear of laughing, Reuben coughed, and tried to look out the window so that his back would be turned to his grandmother. "You harken unto me, you jolly whoremasters, you cuckoldy cods and Roundheads too, harken how I pickled my wounds in the juice of the vine! Why, bugger 'em all, s's I, and you too—a'n't I meek and lowly? Yaphoo! A'n't I crushed to the dust nor can't sink no further down, a piss-poor toad under the heel of the Almighty? Look down! Don't I stay alive because Hell won't have me? You broke my heart, Lord, you fried my brains, now scourge me with a bull's pizzle, I won't say nothing. Yaphoo!" The voice was moving away. Reuben prayed that Ben would not speak. "Ah, Lord, look down!" Yes, it was fainter, muffled, as if walls intervened; Jesse must have turned a corner of the street. "Out of the deeps, O Lord—yaphoo!..."

Precariously, Reuben said: "I think he's gone, Grandmother."

She nodded grimly, letting out her breath in a shaken sigh. "I trust so. Some idle scum of the river-front.... In all the time the Lord hath permitted me to dwell here, I have tried to maintain my house as, let us say, a small imperfect Zion, if that be not vanity. I will tolerate no ungodliness, Benjamin, Reuben—no foul speech, no unconsidered acts. You'll never find me unkind or failing in understanding, but the walking is strict. You will be at meeting without fail on Sabbath and Lecture Days. These are wicked times. The faith is everywhere assailed, every day bringeth new inventions. See to it that I find you on the side of the Saints. Well, you must be weary and hungry. Jonas will see to your supper and show you to your room."

They were dismissed.

No more music came from Jesse Plum.

Jonas was waiting, and led the boys to the kitchen where his rawboned wife Anna had kept a supper warm. Anna Lloyd sniffed more than she spoke, through a ribbon of nose overhanging the shrunken area where most of her teeth had been lost. Neatly dressed and clean, perhaps she would never seem so, kitchen smoke and years of drudgery having found permanent lodgment in her wrinkles. She was incurious about Deerfield and the boys; her few questions were aimed at some region not well defined because of a cast in her eye.

Here in his own domain Jonas laid aside solemnity, straddling a chair, carelessly pawing Anna's scrawny bottom now and then, a caress such as he might have granted to a useful dog.

Reuben pushed the lukewarm stew around on his trencher for politeness' sake. He noticed that Ben was actually eating the stuff and emptying his mug of thin beer. Then Jonas recovered his mantle of stately gloom and guided them back upstairs to a room of their own. It was at the rear of the house overlooking a yard; except for Grandmother Cory's, probably the best room in the house. Jonas lit a candle and padded away.

The room contained another four-poster with a dark blue canopy. The small-paned windows shone brilliantly clean, the furniture stood just so, defying any sinfulness of disorder. A framed sampler on the wall aimed its message so that anyone retiring or rising must be advised: I will also vex the hearts of many people, when I shall bring thy destruction among the nations, into the countries which thou hast not known. Ezekiel xxxii; 9.

Staring at this, Reuben thought: There was never such a thing in my mother's house. "Ben," he said, and turned to his brother in sudden need—"Ben, I'm only now understanding."

"Understanding, Ru?"

"We're alone. There's nothing. Only you and me."

It came to Ben belatedly, lying still under the dark canopy, the candle out, that once again neither he nor Reuben had prayed. For his own part he had not even thought of it, being too concerned with finding some word of comfort for Reuben in that moment of desolate comprehension. Now, since there was some possibility that the boy had fallen asleep, he dared not move.

He thought of Jesse Plum—surely a drinking companion must have steered the old man away to sleep it off in some tolerant kennel.

"The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

She might have been there in the room.

Ben faced up to the words for the first time, retreated incredulously, was compelled to return, wondering if Reuben could have understood them as he did now. In effect his grandmother had said it was right and fitting that their father (her son) should die.

Ben thought: Fanatic.... His father had used that term now and then, but indecisively, defining it but giving Ben the impression that a fanatic was a person you weren't likely to meet. The word was clarified for Joseph Cory's son now that it owned a face.

Laboriously Ben instructed himself: in the morning he would tell his grandmother that he and Reuben intended to go on to Roxbury.

At least that was decision, not frivolously reached; now perhaps he could rest. Reuben stirred and mumbled, but quieted at a pressure of Ben's arm. Ben watched the canopy, a blackness against softer dark. Moonlight must have arrived outside, faint, without consolation. In random air the canopy swayed like the bough of a sublimely silent tree possessed by midnight. Ben watched it, remembering.

Reuben was five, the first time he nearly died. Mr. Williams, a frontier minister of many duties, had felt obliged to offer what medical aid he could. He called the illness a calenture, came to the house to pray, provided some remedies that Ru promptly vomited. One of these was crushed sow bugs, recommended by the great Cotton Mather. Adna Cory stayed by the bedside, seeming unable to hear anything said to her by anyone but Reuben. Ben could remember firelight mixed with a gleam of candles, flooding through the half-open door of the back room where Reuben cried and drowsed and burned. Ru's breath had been loud and rapid on the night Ben recalled most clearly—it must have been the night before the fever broke and they began to think the child would live.

Ben's father was sleeping as usual in the front room; he needed to be up early and out for the corn-planting that will not wait even on the shadow of death. He had snuffed his candle but sat up still dressed, bony hands dangling, and said: "Thou shouldst go to bed, Ben—'tis late."

Lost, missing his mother in her deafness, Ben did not want to go to bed. The garret would be black, with the certainty of the lion under the bed of which Ben must not speak because it was not real. Voices in the other room dragged him toward other perils, cliffs not quite seen—the flowing tenor of Mr. Williams, now and then a word from his mother. Drawn elsewhere was his body, awkwardly, into the curve of his father's arm. "Thou shouldst be told, thy brother may die." But Father himself had told him, that morning; it was strange he could forget.

Ben remembered asking why God let people be ill, and then something, blurred now, about the drowning of Bonny's kittens. Lowering his face to his father's shirt, Ben had discovered a heartbeat heavy and interesting, overriding his father's words, leaving only fragments for later memory: "I wouldn't have thee question Mr. Williams concerning such a thing ... over-sure he knoweth all truth ... do themselves suffer from the sin of pride, as if knowledge of holy things resembled the goods of a man of business...." But Father had said something more, important, and it would not now come to mind.

"A promise to thyself is binding, unless a better wisdom——"

No, that was later, when Ben was ten years old and had been told to search his heart for any call to a particular life-work....

In the other room: "The broth was from a turkey Plum shot for us, Mr. Williams. He couldn't swallow the meat, I made a broth in the room of it. I know he got strength of it."

And Mr. Williams, melodious: "Goody Cory, I have prayed that this affliction might bring you and your good husband to a better understanding of the Christian's necessities. Oh, how advantageous gracious supplications are! God accounts forgetting his mercies a forgetting himself—no time more fit for praise than a time of trial. Why, can't you see this visitation must be God's means of bringing you and Goodman Cory and——"

"There was hominy in it!" An ecclesiastical sigh followed that wail, and the rapid, harsher sighs of Reuben fighting to live.

But what else had his father said? Was it before they went outdoors?—in Ben's memory they were already in the yard, the house door closed. "No rain tomorrow." A breeze was blowing off the river. Joseph Cory had shown his son the inviolate shining of Polaris. "That star tells sailors where the north is, Ben. It never changes."

"Why, don't they alway know that?"

"Compasses sometimes fail. Nothing distracts Polaris."

Later he carried Ben up to bed and sat by him in the dark a while, speaking of a book of voyages by one Hakluyt, promising he would try to secure a copy and they would read it together. And he wrote of it afterward to Uncle John, who sent it as a gift with Ben's name in his own hand. Now it would be smoke.

In the Springfield house, boards squeaked upstairs—probably an attic bedroom for Jonas Lloyd and his sad wife. A rooster somewhere woke with the abrupt foolishness of his kind and crowed four times. Jesse Plum would say that was a sign somebody would give you money in four days, or maybe four changes of the moon.

"Thou didst have a sister, Ben, and thou too small to understand, who lived but a few days. If Ru dies, so I keep thee I'll bear it somehow. North, right of the meeting-house, up a little—that is Polaris."

He said that.

In devotions at Deerfield, Ben's father had often read from the Book of Job, as his mother owned a fondness for the Epistle of James.

Where is the way where light dwelleth?

The voice exclaimed: "Behold the judgment true and righteous on those conceived in sin and born in iniquity!" Then for Reuben the dark was pierced with little fires that grew, and in growing illuminated many writhing faces in the pit, and blackened arms that could not quite reach the rim of it. This was the pit where blood boiled in the veins and burst them, yet one never died, never.

Out of the midnight arch above him a monstrous sorrowing thing with a stubble of gray beard swooped down. Flame twisted from its side, still it could catch hold of the bubble of glass where Reuben sought to hide himself, catch hold and thrust at it repeatedly with a forked black phallus, while Reuben could not scream to frighten it away. He could not, because now began—he had foreseen it—the one torment he always dreaded most of all: suffocation, a gasping for clean air where none was, lungs locked and heaving, yielding at last because they must and drawing in the sulfur fumes—yet one never died. All were agreed on the definition of eternity....

Meanwhile, on the other side of the palisade of burning logs, Ben and Great-uncle John Kenny of Roxbury were strolling quietly, talking quietly, watching Reuben with calm. Ben, however, was not faceless like Uncle John, not too remote or impersonal. Ben grinned as he jerked his thumb toward a more distant place, where a little old man with a white beard sat on his hams cutting figures out of paper with a rusty pair of scissors, impaling some of them, tearing some of them, burning some of them with solemn care like an old chapman cooking meat in the open on a forked twig. To whom Reuben advanced through muddy snow and said as he had been instructed: "Forgive us our transparencies." Some one of the words must have been wrong, for the little man rose up gibbering from a toothless gap and came for him viciously, the scissors raised like a hatchet. Reuben was able to scream at last and fling himself away——

Into the warmth where Ben—Oh, this is waking!—where Ben was saying: "Hush thee, Ru, hush! Don't be so afeared! I'm here, I'm with thee."

As Reuben slept on, peacefully after his nightmare, morning imperceptibly arrived, a pallor in an unfamiliar window long dark; much more time must pass, Ben knew, before true dawn. This was that neutral hush before one is compelled to accept a finished thing and say: All that was yesterday. Now and then in the sluggishly advancing, sluggishly dying night, Ben had listened to a drip of melting from the roof. The patient monotone had ceased, Ben never knowing the moment. He crept out naked from under the covers, finding the room not too distressingly cold, and knelt at one of the windows, wishing he might gain a glimpse of the hill road that ran east, toward Roxbury.

Shadow-country of black and gray was brightening to the prosaic. An inky monster on Ben's right became a woodshed and a higher structure that must be a stable. A trotting-horse weather-vane grew clear, the horse's head pointing away—so the wind had shifted to blow from the west, and that had probably brought an end to the thaw. Ben fumbled on his clothes and returned to the window. During this brief absence had begun the day's miracle, a promise of fire on the underside of cloud.

The snow and mud in the yard below him showed a tangle of blurry tracks enlarged by yesterday's melting. At the rear of the yard rose the untidy grandeur of an elm. A lake of churned mud by the stable resembled a mammoth cluster of grapes, separate blobs of fruit supplied by outlying hoofprints. Near the base of the elm a murky area suggested a man sprawling with his head on his arm.

Maybe this very day, Ben thought, he and Reuben could be climbing that hill road, discovering the far side of it. If he behaved politely his grandmother was bound to let them go....

That shadow under the elm did create a dreadfully potent illusion of humanity—almost-real legs in abandoned collapse.

Ben gasped and clawed open the bedroom door.

Anna Lloyd was pottering downstairs with a candle. At Ben's noise she jumped, shielding the flame. "Oh, it's you. What's up?"

"Someone in the yard—" Ben shoved past her. She followed trembling, covering the candle so that it gave little help.

He reached the back door of the kitchen. The key jammed; Anna Lloyd shuffled up behind him wheezing: "Now what's all this, boy?"

The key gave way. Ben ignored her, running out across slush that had frozen crisp and hard.

Jesse's face was recognizable. In the twist of his bluish open mouth one could imagine an apologetic smile. Ben clutched his arm; the whole body moved with it, stiff as a dead branch.

Behind Ben Anna Lloyd wailed thinly. She was gripping her candle though it had blown out; morning light gave Ben her ugly peering face, more peevish than sad. "Land of mercy! Oh, law, the Mist'ess'll be terrible put out! Why, 'tis old Plum."

"Yes, he came with us from Deerfield. He must have been trying to reach the stable, find some way to get in where it was warm without troubling my grandmother. Fell and couldn't rise with the liquor in him—oh, when the singing stopped I did think some friend——"

"Singing? Ooh!—he done all that commotion last night?" Ben did not answer; she seemed useless, not open to communication, like a tiresome dog. "Must call the Mist'ess immediate. She'll be terrible put out—well, it a'n't my fault, no one can say...."

There was more in her mumbling about the wages of sin. Ben's stomach heaved. He lurched away from Anna Lloyd, back into the kitchen. He grabbed a chair and straddled it, fighting nausea, head on his arm. In this self-imposed darkness he heard the outer door bang, and Anna shuffled past him muttering. Only a few moments passed before the house was in a sputtering uproar—voices, hurrying feet, Jonas braying something or other. So long as he could keep his face hidden, his body quiet, he might not vomit. Soon enough his shoulder was tapped. "Benjamin!"

"Yes, Grandmother."

"I suppose you can stand up when spoken to?"

He managed it. "I was feeling sick. Grandmother, I ought to have gone out last night—to find out——"

"You knew, last night, you knew it was that fellow Plum making that foul commotion, knew and would not tell me. Benjamin, I marvel at you, I do marvel."

"But I thought——"

"You thought!" She was dressed for the day; haggard, the mark of a pillow fading on her cheek. "Well, well—you thought what?"

"When he stopped, I thought some friend must have taken him away, so you needn't to trouble about him."

She said with intense patience: "Benjamin, I am not troubled about him. I knew him long before you were born, and why my husband saw fit to tolerate him I shall never know—excess of charity perhaps."

"He saved our lives."


"He got us over the palisade when the village was burning."

"Indeed? Any oaf can have a good impulse now and then. Someone else would have lent a hand if not he. You're not beholden."

"There was no one else. Jesse was ever friendly to Ru and me. I never knew him unkind, Grandmother."

"What? What? No unkindness to himself and others to live with the conversation of a hog, to spend all the years God gave him in utter blasphemy?" Her voice climbed. "Blasphemy, swinish drunkenness, sin and corruption, knowing the truth—why, he was instructed; your grandfather and I saw to that—knowing it and rejecting it, knowing his steps went down to Hell and heedless continually. No unkindness?"

"He was not like that, Grandmother."

"You contradict me?... Benjamin, go in the parlor. I'll come to you presently." She pointed at the door and Ben shambled through it, more in flight than obedience.

The place was clammily cold, and dark. Ben remembered to avoid Grandfather Matthew's throne. He stood by the fireplace spreading his hands where no warmth was. Pain gnawed at his knee; he wondered if he ought to have kept on Goody Hawks' poultice. Almost at once Grandmother Cory was confronting him in the gloom. "Jonas!" When the big man tiptoed in she said: "Open the shutters." Thin light brought no comfort. "Light the fire—boy appears to be cold. Nay, first go wake that child upstairs if he's slept through all this—I wonder he could."

"Oh, he could!" Ben snatched clumsily for something harmless to ease the tension. "Wide awake one minute and then——"

"Benjamin, do please to be quiet. Jonas, bring Reuben down. He is to stay with Anna; he is not to come in here." Ben saw Jonas' witch-wife join him in the hallway and they went upstairs together. "Ah, Benjamin!—about your miserable clothes, I had hoped to employ part of this day in buying suitable garments for you and your brother, but now I suppose the time must be spent otherwise—and Lecture Day at that, when I must be at meeting after the noon hour. And you and Reuben ought to go too, but of course I cannot take you to the meeting-house looking like beggar boys and very likely lousy."

"We are not! Grandmother, I——"

"You won't find me failing in understanding, Benjamin, but pray understand this once and for all: your failure last night to tell me about that fellow Plum was a lie—a lie of silence.... Oh, when word came yesterday I did pray that you and your brother might be brands from the burning. I do pray for it yet. I made plans for you, I searched my heart, I sought guidance, I even trusted I had found it. D'you think me cold, unnatural? D'you imagine I don't love you, my grandson?" She brushed with dry impatience at sudden tears. Footsteps sounded on the stairs. Ben tried to catch a glimpse of Reuben, but the bulk of the Lloyds hid him as they passed the doorway. "Benjamin, what am I to do with you? What do you yourself think would be right for me to do with you, a liar, a wilderness child who hath something like the conversation of a savage?"

"Grandmother, about Jesse——"

"Plum again! And thus I'm answered! Why, the constable will see after all that."


"Town authorities, boy. Burial. Is that what you meant?"

"A pauper's burial."

"Thankful heart, boy, I can't understand you. You wish the creature buried among the Saints?"

"No, I...." Ben searched his mind hopelessly. During the night many polite convincing speeches had been prepared—scattered, one and all. He blurted the one thought his mind could hold: "Reuben and I must go to Uncle John Kenny at Roxbury."

"What!" She was whitely horrified. "You don't know what you say."

"Why, Grandmother, he was a friend to my father. They wrote to one another. Once Uncle John sent me a book."

"He did?" She sat down slowly, little white hands stiff as ivory on the arms of the chair. "That may serve to explain much.... Benjamin, I require you to listen to me if only this once. I have reason to believe that my poor brother John is an atheist. I will trust you did not know this; now you do. He is an old man—as I'm old—and hardened, corrupt with false learning, evil conversation, a blasphemer, often fuddled with drink, a—a fornicator. He hath kept a mistress, at Roxbury, quite openly, under the name of housekeeper—for all I know the whore is there yet. Being wealthy, with friends in high places, none dares deal with him—that's the pass our colony hath arrived at. We builded a Zion; it becometh an abomination, a pen of swine, a nest of adulterers, blasphemers, sodomites, worshippers of the golden calf—vipers.... And now you wish me to allow you and that poor child your brother to go into that—that filthiness. Benjamin, I will hear nothing more about going to my brother at Roxbury. I will not send you to an even worse darkness than you dwelt in at Deerfield."

"We dwelt in no darkness there!"

"Benjamin, be careful!"

The avalanche had him, all fences of caution swept aside. "You have no right to speak so of my father! We will go to Roxbury!"

"Benjamin, stop!"

"And you'll bury Jesse like a dead dog—your Christian charity! Judgments—my father—you lie, lie!"


"Wasn't he your son? I believe nothing."

"Jonas! Jonas!"

"I won't bear it!" But now Jonas was behind him and twisting his right arm up between the shoulders.

"Jonas, lock him in his room. Here!" She fumbled a bunch of keys from her belt, with difficulty, for doubtless she could not see plainly. "Here, take it, Jonas! The boy is possessed!" Eyes flaring to the whites, she lifted the cluster of keys and struck Ben twice across the mouth.

As Jonas frogmarched him to the stairs, Ben tried to see down the hallway into the kitchen. Anna Lloyd was restraining Reuben, though at the moment the boy was not trying to break free but stood leaning away from her in a frozen motion, his white face empty.

Jonas hurled Ben into the bedroom. Ben pulled himself upright by a leg of the four-poster in time to hear the door slam and the key chatter in the lock. He spat blood from his lips, and heard the floor creak under Jonas' swift departure; heard silence fall on the room like the booming of another, larger door. Even then a part of his mind could fret at what seemed the strangest thing of all: when she struck him with the keys, his grandmother had looked exalted, almost happy—satisfied....

Hours crawled.

Now and then Ben Cory tried to retreat from images of the recent past and terrors of the immediate present within the shelter of a lethargy, a temporary refusal to think of anything at all. This was no good, since no power could shut away the thought of Reuben alone with these people, his own twelve-year-old temper explosive and perilous. Sooner or later Ru was bound to lose control and fetch down the wrath as Ben himself had done. Now when it was too late, Ben saw his outbreak as a betrayal of Reuben, a betrayal of trust. Once or twice he pressed his forehead on the window glass and tried to pray—seeing then that if only Reuben were with him it would be quite possible to jump from this window with fair safety into the snow.

A square of thin sunshine moved across the floor. It had neared the window when high clouds obscured the sun of March; the square yielded, grayed, vanished, like Ben's own trust in ancient certainties. Footsteps sounded often, not for him. Voices flowed on somewhere; Ben heard the homely commotion of household activity—doors closing, the hiss of sweeping, a shovel scraping ash from a hearthstone, clatter of kitchen gear.

Continually his ears strained for Reuben's treble or a light tread that would be his. But plainly Reuben was forbidden to come to him. Someone would, some time soon, he supposed. Someone in authority would be obliged to deal with the wild beast, the blasphemer.

He sprawled on the bed, raising his right knee to soften the nagging of the splinter-wound. Anxious to avoid the refuge of sleep, he fell into it anyway, having had little or none last night, and woke to what was surely the pallor of late afternoon. The house was quite silent; maybe everyone had gone to the Lecture Day sermon. In spite of himself he slept again, and roused, feeling ill and disoriented, in total dark.

From the window small lights could be found twinkling over on the left where the hill road must be. Ben groped for the stub candle on the mantel, and fought a dreary battle with his tinderbox, winning at last the consolation of a pale candle-flame. His knee felt hot, and throbbed. He let down his breeches but could find nothing very wrong. The splinter-wound was slightly raised; he saw or imagined faint steaks of red up his thigh. His clothing must have chafed the wound while he slept. As he moved sluggishly about the room the throbbing ceased and he could forget it. The lightheadedness—that would be hunger. Anger was no longer hot but heavy, lead in the stomach.

He thought what had roused him had been a murmur of talk somewhere. He no longer heard it. Nothing happened; no one came. The flame of the candle worked downward. One of the lights near the hill road winked out, a friend gone away.... Cry out? Rattle the door, bang on the walls? Pride as well as caution forbade. They could not keep this up forever. Ben Cory of Deerfield could wait them out....

From slumped dejection on the bed, Ben saw the door opening so gradually and softly that he feared his eyes were playing a trick. Even as Reuben slipped in and closed the door with the same caution, Ben was slow to believe it. Reuben had not even troubled to lay a finger over his lips, certain that Ben would smother any sound of greeting.

Reuben's shirt bulged. He lifted from it a rolled-up length of harness leather five or six feet long, and crossed at once to the window. As Ben joined him he spoke sparingly, in an undertone that would not carry so far as a whisper: "Must be now—we'll have no other chance. I have some food. Bit of new snow, maybe enough to hide our tracks."

They worked together in silence and complete understanding, easing the window open, fastening the end of the strap to a shutter-hook. Though far short of the ground, it lessened the drop to reasonable safety. Ben let himself down first, dropping easily on the old snow. Large soft flakes of the new were dreamily floating. He stood in silence with waiting arms.

"Ah, what happened to the day?"

"Ben, hush! We mustn't be heard talking in the street...."

"Right, here, Ru. Up the hill and east...."

"That might be the last house, you think?"

"Hope so."

"The day was a bad dream, Ben. Take this—you ha'n't eaten all day. Got another half-loaf under my shirt, and a chunk I cut from a ham I found in the shed, all I could carry.... Think this'll cover our tracks?"

"Not unless it thickens some."

"Pray it does."

"Nay, it better hold off a while or we'll lose these sled-tracks and direction with 'em...."

"I cursed old Anna when she was holding me. She—I mean Grandmother—made me wash my mouth with vinegar, then I must sit not moving all morning. Then they all went to meeting but Jonas, who locked me in a closet so he could mind his chores. Damn them all, I say God-damn them!"

"Hush, Ru! Grandmother only thought——"

"I say she doesn't think. I say she hath no heart at all, and your mouth'll be scarred all your days like Sam Belding's head."

"It will not—and don't speak so loud. Could be houses back of those trees, it's too dark to be sure."

"I will be quiet, Ben, but I say I cannot forgive her nor I will not, and I'll sooner die in the snow than ever go back in that house."

"We can't go back, that's sure. But Ru, to her we were—don't you understand?—sinful. And I was, too—I ought never to have spoken to her so. I lost my head somehow."

"But Mother, or Father, or anyone with a heart, would have forgiven anything you said at such a time. I cursed you, when I was out of my wits. You forgave at once, when I reminded you you could scarce remember it."

"What you said was nothing. What I said to Grandmother was—well, too much somehow. There's a strangeness—let's not think of it. We need all our wits to find the way here.... Can you make out the sled-marks? My eyes don't feel just right."

"Yes, I can see them. Ben, art thou fevered? Thy hand is too hot."

"I don't think so. I was hungry, and the food you brought will hold me up."

"They let me eat heavy at supper, and I did so, knowing we might have a chance—Ben, are you having trouble walking?"

"No, no, I slipped, that was all. It's from fretting all day in that room and doing nothing. My head's clearing already."

"You were to have a flogging in the morning. It would have been today, but the minister was ill. He preached for Lecture Day, but then went home with a sore throat. Grandmother and old Anna were talking of it when they came back, Anna saying the flogging should be in the public square, but Grandmother said it would be at the house, and first the minister should instruct you and pray. I say let them pray for their own salvation."


"I'll be quiet. But I make no peace with them, never."

"The snow's stopped?"

"It's less here under the trees."

"Trees? We're under—oh yes, I see."

"Ben—thou didst not know it?"

"I was keeping my eyes on the ground, to find those sled-marks."

"Oh ... I was thinking and planning all evening. They put me in an attic room, next the Lloyds, I was forced to wait till they went a-futtering and then a-snoring.... Ben, if it's a hundred miles to Roxbury—we can do ten miles, maybe fifteen, in a day. You've got your knife, and I stole one from the kitchen—better than nothing. We can find something. The food will last a few days anyway."

"We'll get to Roxbury."

"Wish to rest a while?"

"I think I'd best not, Ru, unless—art thou tired?"

"I'll never tire. And then the Spice Islands?"

Chapter Four

In windless calm under the pines, Reuben's dark-dilated eyes could still find the furrows where sled-runners had passed, and the half-moons of dainty hoof prints. Nothing stirred within the vague archway continually opening before him. Gradually, tree and rock and snow came to possess sharper lines, stronger shadows; somewhere, a birth of new light—"Ben," he said, "it's the moon."

"Where, Ru? I can't find it."

"Somewhere ahead...."

Since they came under the shelter of the trees—and that was a long time ago—Reuben had felt no longer the cold kiss of snowflakes. It had been nothing but a flurry, now ended. At a curve in the road he discovered, through a break in the treetops, a grayness brightening. He halted; Ben blundered into him, arms slipping clumsily around him as if in need of support. Dull rags of cloud dropped away from the naked radiance. "I told you, Ben. There she rides." Ben was smiling. "Ben—all's well?... I did right? We could not have stayed, and thou to be flogged, maybe put in the stocks."

"The stocks, was it?"

"Yes, old Anna was yattering about that too when they came home from the sermon, and Grandmother never said her nay."

"Of course thou'st done right.... They'll search. That snow wasn't enough to hide anything."

"No.... We've walked more than an hour—must have done five miles."

"We can walk another five." Though standing quietly, Ben was breathing too fast, his eyes too steadily fixed on the new light in the sky.

In the woods Ben always had been leader. And there it was Ben's natural way to send his glance flickering everywhere. Reuben recalled the voice of Jesse Plum: "No Inj'an'll ever surprise you, Ben. Swoonds, you could look at a squirrel while the little bugger jumps from one branch to the next, and tell me its age and gender, and if she be female whether she got little 'uns." Jesse had not croaked that in flattery. Wilderness had been near and vital to Jesse; he never made a mock of it, and was capable of scolding either boy for walking noisily in dead leaves.

"Ben, do you feel——"

"All's well. Let's go on."

Reuben walked on ahead, trying to set an easier pace. Surely, surely there was no reason why Ben should fall ill....

In time the forest opened to a park-like region where perhaps in past seasons the Indians had followed their custom of burning over the land, killing new growth and brush, allowing established trees to expand their side branches in isolation. Through more than a mile of this they walked. Ben did not speak.

The sled-tracks passed abruptly over the edge of a slope. Reuben could make out no treetops directly ahead, though a thick cluster of them stood to his left; the part of the slope where the road ran down would be open ground. A ghost of alien sound disturbed him.

He held out his hand, but Ben either failed to see it or was unwilling that his brother should go ahead alone; he still followed closely—more quietly though, more careful of his steps—when Reuben reached the beginning of the slope.

The thing could not be more than thirty feet away, a living blot of long shadow on the trampled white.

The slope ran steeply down. At the bottom, a flat expanse to the right must be the northern end of a pond or lake, frozen, snow-covered. The sled-tracks, plain in moon-shadow, skirted that level surface and disappeared in thicker woods beyond. On Reuben's left, all the way down the slope and connecting with the farther woods, hemlocks loomed densely black, branches bowing to the ground.

The thing gazed up across the wild turkey between its paws, and Reuben understood the sound—crunch of monstrous teeth on frail bone. Ben drew his knife and pushed in front muttering: "He won't attack, Ru. They're timid—Jesse alway said...."

The panther had flattened in alarm and readiness, all motionless but for a quiver at the tip of the tail. Round ears spread back on a skull smooth and cruel as the head of a snake, and moonlight greenly sparked from eyes arrogant with the majesty of loneliness. Once or twice the angry head dipped as if meaning to snatch up the meat and save it from the human threat; the motions were abortive, the beast preferring to freeze, and watch, and wait.

Reuben yielded no time to the weakening pain of anticipation. He scooped a handful of damp snow into a ball, swung on his heel in the fine free motion that Ben himself had taught him, and let fly.

The snowball hit the great face on the nose, spattering wonderfully. Unbelieving, Reuben watched a grayish blur shoot away to the black shelter of the hemlocks, belly to earth.

A violent tremor of reaction took hold of Reuben; he heard Ben gasp. "Ru—Ru—oh, man, how he scooned off!" Ben sat down laughing helplessly in the snow.

"Ay," said Reuben, shaken and panting and full of pride. "I allow, Mr. Cory, he might travel some little time, Mr. Cory." The tremor was overcome by the swift joyous action of running down the slope to bring back the remains of the turkey. "See, Ben—he's left us both legs and some of the back and breast."

"Poor puss! My own little brother, a man who'd steal from a——"

"Snow down your backside!" said Reuben, and jumped for him.

Ben caught him fairly and pulled him off his feet, but in the mimic struggle Ben stiffened suddenly and groaned: "Ru—help me up!" Before Reuben could do so, Ben was on his feet without help, denying his own words: "It's nothing, Ru—I got a little dizzy, nothing more."

"Ben, if you——"

"We can't go back.... Hoy, here's a thought! All that turkey blood on the snow—couldn't we make it seem——"

"Law you!" Reuben yelped and war-danced. Ben could not be ill, he thought, so long as he was able to produce such a dazzling conception. "Ben, a marvelous bloody swindle—why, damme, they'll mumble it in chimney comers till the Devil's blind, and his eyes a'n't sore yet. Think of it!—those poor lost boys!"

"Small red gobbets."


"Hast thou forgotten? Thine own tales——"

"Oh, that. Nay then, behold how bravely they did stand before the beast—alas, all for nothing, though Benjamin Cory with his good right arm did—did make varsall sure to pick up the turkey feathers."

Eagerly Ben joined him in that undertaking. Reuben found and scuffed out the line of tracks where the gobbler had walked out from under the trees into calamity. As they viewed the shambles critically in devoted silence, it seemed to Reuben that there ought to be more blood. Beside the patch of snow where the stain was largest, Reuben dropped on his back with outflung arms to leave a tragic imprint. Ben grunted approval, but then spoke with a discouragement that was unlike him: "It'll never deceive a woodsman."

"Oh, Ben, they'll be townfolks that find it. Superstitious too. If our own trail ends here, what can they think? We must go under the trees, where—where he went."

"Oh, him!" Ben recovered, laughing again not quite naturally. "He's na' but a spent fart, Ru. He'll travel as you said, and then I picture him climbing a tree to grieve all day tomorrow about what my little brother did to him. 'Snowballs!' he'll say. 'Me, to be whopped by a snowball—why, bugger me blind, and all the time it was that Reuben Cory no bigger'n a boar's tit!'"

"You're no Goliar neither, in fact I could whup you handy with my arse tied under my chin. Now drag me, Ben, from here to the trees, along that line where he ran. That'll make a fine confusion and wipe out your own tracks. Then we'll follow his marks under the trees and smear our own till they can't tell which from nohow."

"That's the thing. What a catamount was he! Know what he did? Laid us out like a pair of sticks, he did, your ankle crossed on mine, took both feet in his mouth, poor wretch, and for his sins went a-blundering through the woods with a boy dangling on each side."

"I tell you, Ben, the superstitious will believe madder things than that. La, some of the tales Jesse used to tell!"

"Miaaow!" Ben doubled over, laughing far too much. "Why, of course—by the time the tale is carried back to Springfield he won't be a catamount at all. He'll be taller'n a house, the Old Nick himself with a passel of demons. It'll be a—a——" he stopped, watching Reuben blankly, all laughter spent.

Reuben said: "It will be a judgment of the Lord." Ben stared, and nodded, and looked away, searching the northern sky above the hemlocks.

Following his gaze, Reuben lost himself a while in the wonder of open night, seeing Cassiopeia released from a last fringe of departing cloud, and the Great Bear slanting toward the North Star. Reuben darkly felt the absence of some familiar thing, something his own mind ought to supply and would not. The night was serene, without complication beautiful, answering nothing.

Ben Cory followed his brother in slowly deepening weariness. The time must be not far from dawn. The moon rode high and lonely, dimmed by new cloud battalions from the west. Ben groped at the thought of sleep; but Reuben, who was wise about everything tonight, might tell him it was not yet time. Ben suffered a passing resentment, that the boy could walk on ahead so untiringly, so unconcerned.

In this more open part of the woods they were not attempting to disguise their tracks. Reuben said it was no longer worth it, and Reuben knew best. Ben tried to step in his brother's prints, nowhere else. This seemed a clever thing to do—when he could remember to do it, and forget the pain in his knee, and ignore certain soft dark waves that now and then approached him from nowhere and flowed away independently of any shadow on the moon.

Back there under the crowded hemlocks, a very long time ago, it had not appeared necessary after all to search for the panther's prints and follow them. All the way down that slope, and far beyond it where the land rose again and the hemlocks continued, many patches of snowless ground allowed them to progress without leaving marks. For an hour, or two or three hours perhaps, they had worked their way along these areas. Glimpses of the moon held them to a general easterly direction. In several places—Ben recalled this with solemn pride in Reuben's wisdom—Reuben had spread his jacket across a patch of snow too wide to jump, so that they might step on it and leave a vague blur nothing like a footprint, rather like the impress of some animal's body lying down. At the least, their efforts would provide a most confusing trail unless the searchers brought dogs; they reassured each other of this from time to time. Advance by this method had been tormentingly slow, yet after a while Reuben, who knew everything, announced that they must have covered another mile.

The road and the sled-tracks were things forgotten. The eastward direction was still a certainty: the moon had said so, until it climbed too high to be a fair guide. The trees had thinned out, the snow lay continuous on the ground; Reuben who knew everything said they might as well walk naturally again, since there was no help for it anyway, and to blur the tracks here would be a waste of effort. Ben had a confused sense of walking on higher ground where a light wind was blowing.

Once, back in the darker woods, he had heard the wail of a mountain cat, so thin and far away that hills and hollows must have intervened. Their friend, maybe, lamenting at snowballs. Reuben had laughed at it. Later Ben caught another sound, a remote tenor howling, lonely at first but answered by another and another. Reuben who knew everything had not laughed at that. Ben thought or imagined that he heard it still.

No wolves had come.

Or if they have come, he thought, I can't see them. They slip along fogfooted behind the larger trees—that tree or that one—maybe. If they are truly come, my brother Reuben will know and tell me. In time for me to draw my knife. Wolves do understand cold steel, they say....


The boy turned quickly and came back to him. Ben saw his face fade and brighten; the eyes, improbably large, watched him from a mighty depth. Now that, Ben thought, that is certainly an effect of the new cloud-wrack passing over the moon. How warm it is! he thought—nay, damn the thing, how cold! Nothing's truly warm since Mother died, therefore I was deluded.... "Ru, what's the time?"

"Can't be far from dawn."

"How do you know?"

"I can feel it.... Some kind of shack over there—see it? A hunter's lean-to, that's what it is."

"Looks more like a beast."

"Can't you see the poles? Come on—it's not far."

"Ru, listen!"

"Yes, I hear them. They're a long way off. Come!"

"Wait, Ru!" The waves of darkness, each time they advanced on him, were climbing higher, toward his eyes. "Listen to me, Reuben, and not to the wolves." Perhaps the next one would go over his head, and he could be quiet. "Listen to me—in my father's house are many mansions."

"Ben, save thy breath. Lean on me. It's not far."

Nothing came in search of them that night. For another hour Reuben heard the wolves, unable to guess in what region of the secret night they were crying. The shrill desolation of the noise wavered from every quarter of the dark, ceasing at times; then the mind could propose that it had never sounded, until it started up afresh, as pain will.

A flood of intense and soundless fire grew along the lower edge of a mass of winter clouds that had gathered and thickened in the latter part of the night. At some time before the kindling of that sullen splendid flame the howling of the wolves was ended.

Ben had fallen into sleep. When they reached the lean-to he appeared to have shaken off some of his confusion. He spoke reasonably; he stretched out on the heap of leaves and long-dead balsam boughs, insisting that Reuben lie down and rest also. Doing so mainly to humor him, Reuben heard his brother mutter something about Roxbury and then grunt in the plaintive way he always did when sleep had taken him.

When the clouds caught fire Ben still slept, his cheeks raging hot and his hands restless.

The lean-to had been shrewdly made, by some hunter looking to his own welfare. Heavy poles slanted against the base of a perpendicular bank some seven feet high, with others laid across them horizontally; on these brush was piled; snow had gathered, making a dense roof. The back was closed with tougher brush. Near the open end the hunter had thoughtfully heaped dead sticks so that the next comer need not immediately search for firewood. The shelter stood near a curve of the bank, the open end facing east and secure from any wind but the most violent. The space under the roof, barely enough to allow a large man some elbow room, was almost warm, and became unmistakably so after the boys had lain there a few minutes. But Ben shivered continually in his fevered sleep.

Reuben wrapped his coat around Ben's legs. He dreaded lighting a fire: it seemed to him still that to be discovered by searchers from Springfield was a sharper peril than any other. They would do nothing for Ben's sickness, he thought—flog him and let him die. Reuben collected evergreen branches small enough to hack off with the kitchen knife, and piled them at Ben's sides and over him, to hold in the body warmth. This occupied him for half an hour. The sky flamed. It was the third day of March.

He found he could study the position with some practicality; he could weigh the odds for survival, and say: we have a pound or so of smoked ham, half a loaf, part of a raw turkey; we are at least ten miles from Springfield, and anyway I cannot leave him to search for help. Having done this once or twice, he found it unprofitable to toil through the summary again, yet the emptiness of the morning hour demanded action of the mind, if only to hold away a madness of panic.

He saw Springfield consumed like Deerfield by flame from heaven, then saw himself in the bleak honesty of morning as a foolish child for creating such an image: Springfield wasn't to blame. If he dared leave Ben and go back there, he might dodge the powers represented by Grandmother Cory and find help. But he could not leave Ben to retrace a journey of ten miles. Wolves hunted sometimes by daylight; wolves and Indians. They could find Ben sick and sleeping.

Ben shook in a chill; his tossing pushed away some of the cover. Reuben restored it and lay close against him to give what warmth he could until the shivering passed. Panting, with some faint shine of sweat on his forehead, Ben said: "Right of the meeting-house—yes, I see it."

Reuben tried then, long and earnestly, to pray in the manner of his childhood, repeating familiar words aloud, since Ben was too far lost in sleep and sickness to be disturbed. During the act of supplication, some memory nagged. Something demoralizing, to be refused, but at last it sharpened into focus in spite of him. His mother had prayed: "Deliver us from evil ..." her clear voice completing the words, twice, three times perhaps in that reddened doorway until she received the answer, the blow, itself a completion which God had allowed. To Reuben the sound of his own voice became alien, then contemptible, a disgusting whine. A human being ought never to sound like that. Why should God listen to such a squeak?

In the abrupt silence the words of that question swelled to vast importance. They were not right. The question was not the right one.

Change it. Shorten it.

Why should God listen?...

The question was still not the right one.

Reuben crawled out into cold sunless light. He searched the east. The sun was present, a hazed white blur just visible in the overcast. New snowflakes were already drifting, far apart, without a wind.

Why God?...

That was not merely the sun but something of the mind, old, vaguely evil, dying, dissolving not quite as a dream dissolves but with the illogic and inconsequence of a dream.

Reuben said aloud: "Why?..."

The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

The snow would thicken, covering all things. It increased as he watched, the white ball fading, blotted out at last in the gray and white morning. The cold was not severe. No wind was blowing.

Reuben said: "I do not believe it."

He crept back into the shelter to hold his brother in his arms.

Late in the morning Ben woke in a remission of the fever, knowing Reuben was not far away. To the complex interesting lines above him—evidently a roof—he said experimentally: "I must have been sick."

"Lie quiet!" The power of Reuben's hand on his chest startled him, the sodden ache of his own muscles dismayed him. "We can't go on today, Ben. It's snowing heavy. I mean to light a fire—with all the snow they'll never see the smoke, if they come this way at all."

"They?—oh." Ben doubtfully remembered. It would not do for Reuben to guess how puzzled he was; craftily he asked: "How far you think we came from Hatfield?"


"How stupid I am!" The unintended words drawled out of his mouth and floated away. "Meant Deerfield. My leg...." Reuben (who knew everything) helped him shove down his breeches, then allowed him to sit up and look at the splinter-wound, a yellowish scabby island in a puddle of pink. He wished to study it, but Reuben was already pulling up the musty repellent garment and urging him back on the pile of sweet-smelling leaves. "Suppose that's what made me sick?"


"Suppose I ought to be bled?"

"I daren't, Ben. I don't know how a physician does it. I might cut wrong and not be able to stop the flow."

"I'll do well enough."

"Yes, but you must eat, or you'll weaken."

Ben considered this. He was hungry, yes, but wasn't some difficulty connected with the idea of eating? Meanwhile someone, apparently himself, was burdened with a bladder about to burst. "Must go outside."

"Watch out!" Reuben somewhere sounded frightened or angry. "You'll fetch down the roof if you try to stand."

That was sensible, Ben observed—of course he would, and then they'd have all the trouble of building it over. He located Reuben kneeling in a whiteness outside, ready to help him in spite of his stupidity, and crawled to him. Improbably, the boy transformed himself into a pillar under Ben's right arm, a curve of warm iron around Ben's middle—only Reuben who knew everything could have thought of that.

Out here in the blind white morning, Ben was distressed by inability to interpret what he saw. The swirling pallor might conceal a thousand significant shapes. He simply must not urinate on what might easily turn out to be Grandmother Cory's doorstep. He asked with care: "Here?"

"Anywhere. Hurry! You must get back under cover."

"That's right," said Ben humbly, suffering a panic dread that his bladder would never let go; it did, with relief like an end of pain. But still the gray and white was all a whirling bewilderment. He knew the sentinel monsters to be trees; nothing or everything might be stirring just beyond reach of his vision in these enormous distances. "Where is the way where light dwelleth?"


"Which way is Roxbury?"

"That's east," said Reuben, and jerked his head. "Don't think about it now. Come back under cover. Damnation, Ben, help me a little! You know I can't lift you if you fall."

Ben walked with extreme care, and then crawled, back on the pile of leaves. Darkness approached and slid away. Reuben was shaking his shoulder, urging him to eat something. "What? What is it?"

"Some of the ham I stole—don't you remember?"

"Yes. But.... How much have we?"

"A plenty. See—all this. And the turkey too—I'll cook that when I have a fire going."

"Oh yes, the turkey.... Ru——"

"I ate all I wanted while you were sleeping."

He would lie of course, Ben thought. But with a face changeable as sunlight on a wind-rippled pond, Reuben had never been a good liar. Ben lifted a heavy arm to turn that face into the wan daylight. "You—did?"

"I swear to you, Ben, we have enough for several days, and I ate all I needed an hour ago."

Ben struggled over the mouthfuls. The meat lay heavy in him, threatening nausea; that passed. He accepted a final wave of darkness—not true darkness, simply a voluntary closing of the eyes. Certainly not unconsciousness, because he could feel Reuben wrapping some cloth around his legs. He wondered what it was, the curiosity not powerful enough to raise his ponderous eyelids. Later he heard Reuben speak—close to his ear maybe; surely not far away, or the words could not have reached him with that sweetness and clarity: "Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me."

The wolves came that night, not with howling but in silence.

Through the afternoon, under the long patient drive of snow, Reuben had gone out after more dead wood whenever Ben seemed quiet in his sleep. He had struggled with Ben's tinderbox to the edge of despair, and won a flame at last, the fire then leaping bravely and settling to steadiness under the endless slanting white, the smoke pushed away from the opening of the lean-to by a faint breeze out of the west. When he had gathered all the firewood he could find without going beyond reach of Ben's voice, Reuben used the stolen kitchen knife to hack off a green ash sapling and trim it to a six-foot spear. He was wearing Ben's knife now at his belt, but was unwilling to employ it in such labor—besides, the tedious task of trimming and whittling disposed of much time when there was nothing else to do and he knew it might be dangerous to think. All afternoon he heard only the crackle of his fire, the sustained mild hiss of the snow, and the small sounds of Ben's troubled slumber. His mind heard the wolves, knowing they would come.

The hunter-builder had chosen this location cleverly. Thick brambles and a looping confusion of wild grape covered the high bank above the lean-to; a beast could squirm through it, no doubt, but probably would not try, and surely would not jump down from it so long as someone tended a fire below. This fair security in the rear left only a half-circle of territory that needed watching. At the western end of that little arc, where the lean-to itself shut off his view if he sat by the opening, Reuben laid ready a stack of dead wood mixed with evergreen branches. It would be a moment's work to carry a brand to that pile, sending it up in a fine blaze to guard the blind spot. The wolves would not like that.

This was his last act of preparation before evening came on. He knew of evening as a gradual failing of the light, a growth of shadows in the continual drift of snowflakes, a shift from gray to black. At one time it had been afternoon; then afternoon resembling evening. Then night. Reuben became ears and eyes.

He could never hear their feet when they came, but all night he must listen for any change in Ben's breathing or any call from him, such a sound as might be smothered by fire noises or the small narcotic monotone of the snow. He sought to imitate Ben's way of looking everywhere, never allowing his gaze to become frozen in a stare. If something seemed to move out yonder, as happened many times deceivingly after darkness beyond the fire had grown complete, he must flick a glance at it, look away, return, and so assure himself that it was nothing, maybe a leap of fire-shadow, a harmless swaying of a branch of the giant spruce that stood twenty yards away.

He knew the truth of it, and with relief because it ended the sour agony of anticipation, when twin emeralds to the left of the spruce blinked on and off and shone again nearer. Two other pairs of jewels flashed into life, one to the right, the third directly below the tower of the tree. "I know you," he called. "I know you for what you are."

He stood up to look beyond the lean-to. A fourth pair of hunting lights had been approaching the blind spot, and halted at sight of him. Reuben drew forth a burning stick. He walked slowly, with care for the flame, and touched it to the dead wood and pine needles. The lights in the snow did not retire; they watched, curious and cold. In the sudden radiance they acquired a gray body, taut, startled at the new flame but not yet in retreat and visible to Reuben in sharp detail. A bitch wolf carrying young, her belly not much distended but seeming so because of the gauntness of her ribs and a wiry thinness of long flanks.

Only four; probably no others. They ranged in small groups like families, Jesse Plum used to say. The tales of large wolf packs, Jesse insisted, were travelers' fancies. A few of the young sometimes remained with the old ones until full-grown, then drifted away to start families of their own. "Be you ever confronted by 'em," said Jesse once, "they'll be few, boys, and no great peril unless they can get behind you in the dark. True, they can kill you and eat you, but they do doubt it, they understand cold steel and they be full of fear, the way all creatures fear man, and so do I." Well, in the complex story that grew from that opening, Jesse had been assailed by ten wolves who were not wolves; after he climbed seventy feet to the top of a beech, the great dog wolf leader had scrambled up after him, snapping at his heels but unable to reach them so long as Jesse remembered to make certain signs in the air. All that had been perfectly understood as a fireside fantasy, designed to send the children off to the black garret in a good mood. Here, Reuben told himself, he faced only four common wolves, angry with the long winter hunger but afraid of the fire. The gummy spruce branch in his hand still sputtered hotly. He flung it at the somber eyes. The bitch wolf casually dodged the brand. He saw the gray evil of her glide away to join the three others in deeper obscurity.

He sat on his heels near the opening of the lean-to, the green ash spear lying under his right hand, and listened for Ben's breathing. That sound reached him at last, seeming untroubled; then he could watch with greater assurance. If anything pushed through the brambles and dry brush at the top of the bank, he would hear it and be ready.

The eyes shifted, winked, vanished to reappear in silence. He found no more than four pairs at any time. If they became three or two, that might mean fresh danger. They remained, for a long time, four.

Reuben wondered when the snowfall had ceased. He remembered noticing that it was thinning when the eyes first appeared. Now it was over, the air clean and mild, a weak wind still sending the smoke away from the place where Ben lay sleeping. Reuben glanced upward in search of stars and found a few. Maybe—though not for hours yet, he thought—the moon would return, and shine on a smooth silver blank where yesterday his feet and Ben's had scrawled a trail.

He began to feel acquainted with those eyes. "You over on the left," he called—"you're Snotnose. You under the spruce, you're Trundletail, and your mother is Doxy Tumble." For a while he amused and warmed himself by hurling snowballs at them.

They slunk away, not far. The unconcern of their withdrawal conveyed the arrogance of contempt. They could wait.

Reuben's amusement died like the breaking of a weapon in his hand. He thought: What do they know? He stood as tall as he could, waving the green spear, and shouted at them: "I know you! Dirty dogs! Offal! I spit on you!" He fought back a desire to rush out in pursuit of them, with Ben's knife and the green spear.

That would be mad. They would understand his smallness, his singleness, and close in, tear him apart, move on to the shelter where Ben lay helpless and sleeping.... Reuben carried more wood to the other fire, then forced himself to squat once more patiently on his heels, and keep count of the pairs of eyes. Four. He could wait, too. How long?

Eternal hours. Like those that must have already passed since the wolves came. Or had they been there forever?

Why, of course they had. The breed was immortal. They had never been far from Deerfield. They owned the wilderness before ever Christians came to it. They howled in Rome, when Reuben Cory was not. Meeting the green ancient stare from the dark, Reuben felt his face stiffly smiling. He thought: It's true, true—there was a time when I was not. Something new began—something—the name of it I, Reuben Cory. Well, this I may have known, but until now I did never believe it.... He shivered, and although there was cool pleasure in it he drove away the consolation of philosophy because anything that dimmed alertness was dangerous. He could wait.

In a reasonable world, one slept for a part of each revolution of the beautiful sun. Reuben thought back in search of the last time he had slept—Springfield, before Jesse was found in the snow. Danger hid in this reflection also, the danger of self-pity. He put an end to it: I will not sleep.

It came to him that if one is hungry enough, any creature not downright poisonous is meat. Suppose, somehow——?

He could not go out against them, away from the fires. Either they would rush him all four together, or they would run away—good meat lost. But suppose, somehow, one of them might be tempted to come alone—say the old gray bitch who had already tried a sneak approach. How?

Wisdom lurked in her, a cold flame behind a long gray face. Reuben thought of her as their leader. He discovered that he hated her, in a swelling ecstasy not extended to her slinking companions. The thought of killing her, at first a random flicker like a further warning of madness, became a purpose, a source of power, a wildness deserving a better name than lunacy because of its very absurdity. For ten minutes or perhaps an hour Reuben hovered apart from his mind and watched the thought grow. A boy does not kill a grown wolf with a little stick.

And yet the point was sharp. The ash would bend like a bow but never break. His hand and eye were true, true as Ben's.

The fire beyond the lean-to was dying down. This had happened before—how many times? Marching over to refresh it, Reuben found he could not remember. No moon yet, therefore dawn must be remote in the future. He stood with his spear on the unimpeded ground between the two fires, considering, brooding.

The passion of hatred held something of love or at least a sultry need, a hunger not of the belly. He studied the pairs of eyes—four—wondering which pair might be hers. He fell to muttering, aiming at the gray bitch wolf every foulness of indecent words he could recall. Words only, unrelieving, lacking the thrust and achievement of a spear. New words startled him: "Such meat should help him...."

He had not the strength to do any harm with a thrown spear; he would only lose the weapon. Sometimes the very power of a stronger adversary can be made to work for you. If you know how. If you dare.

Reuben knew he was not mad. Within the passion was a coldness to match her own; shrewdness; wicked planning with all the treachery of a wolf and the bravery. No time now to think of courage or fear. Endless time to know the unbearable need for an act of love.

Reuben sank to his heels on this open ground, the lean-to at his back, fires not great to the left and the right of him, between him and the wolves only an expanse of flame-lit snow. He dropped the green ash spear in that white so that the sharp end was covered. His hand curling midway on the shaft owned a separate life, refusing to suffer from the harsh coldness. Gradually he allowed his head to droop, lift feebly and droop again, while his upturned eyes, perhaps not plain to the enemy, maintained alertness. Seeing all. Clever as Ben's.

The beasts were cruelly wise, Jesse Plum used to say. Out of thickets and moon-shadows they watched men's ways, as dogs did. Unlike dogs they watched only for signs of weakness, and this from no motives but hunger and savagery—except, said Jesse, those wolves which were not wolves.

He must be not reckless but wise and cold as they. He must be ready also to recognize the need for retreat. Supposing they all four came together, then he must jump to life quickly, scare them with noise and bustling and renewal of the fires. But supposing, when this interminable ordeal of crouching, waiting and feigning weakness came to an end, supposing it ever did—supposing his feet had not grown numb and frozen to betray him—supposing the old gray bitch should advance alone, while Ben lay sleeping and the Great Bear slanted toward the North Star——

She was coming.

He would not believe it for a while. Slowly he explained to himself that one of them must have crept out into the open a long time ago, as some trick of the firelight deceived him into calling it another shadow. Then he knew this was not so. She was coming to him. With all his heart he accepted it.

He lowered his head once more, and in that moment witnessed the brief belly-to-earth advance, the freezing down to watch him again across a much smaller distance. This could only be the one he hated, no other. She was coming to him. The others remained a shifting of eyes beyond the clear ground—afraid of him, mere offal, mere dogs as she was not—or else they were holding back because they knew her reasons and his own.

He knew that if he were to jump to his feet and dodge back behind the fire, she would not rush, not yet. No gambler, she would slide away and wait for the certainty, wait till dawn or beyond dawn or beyond the next dawn. He could not do it. It might be wiser, safer; might almost be a duty to Ben that he should retreat to comparative safety, now, while he had time. His body would not do it. His body would only wait like a bowstring, clutching the spear, controlling that deceitful droop of his head until the approaching moment when one of them—a half-starved alien beast or a boy who must remember the doorway of a reddened room where he clung sickly to a bedpost and did nothing—one of them would die quickly.

Was she only a wolf? Some wolves, Jesse said——

Was it possible—he was up on his feet in the surging act of madness—was it possible she could hate and love him in the same way?

He could not understand.

His mind must have flown away, missing the interval, the second of decision. But she was here. She was down. It was over.

She had screamed once, he thought, like a human thing; his ears held something of the strangled cry. More of the moment returned, her flaring mouth receiving the point in mid-air, her own driven weight spitting her upon it. It could not have happened.

It had happened, and she was down, and it was over, and he could remember his own backward staggering at the impact while all of him tightened down on that center of existence where his hands grasped the green ash spear. There followed some wave of elastic power in his legs, and all the force was then flowing the other way until it was over.

Simple butchery remained. He must follow with the spear her agonized writhing, hating no longer. No danger. Her failing paws threshed and tore at the shaft of the death she had swallowed. Her blood fumed out around it from a pierced lung.

It was all over.

"Thursday night we came away—remember? That was the night you fell sick, and was burning and tossing all day Friday. Saturday you was better, but once or twice you didn't know me. It was the Friday night when the wolves came."

"Are they still about? Nay, they can't be on so fair a morning. I feel washed clean, Ru. Weak, but—oh, I could do anything."

"Weaker than you know. It'll pass. I saw the wolves last on Saturday. They scented something, I think, and drifted away."

"It's all so still under the sun, and warm—what? I thought this was Saturday."

"This is Monday, Ben. Yesterday was the Sabbath. I hadn't thought of that till now, when you began asking me about the time. It was yesterday your fever broke for good. These three days have been a hundred years. I've had much time to think, when there was nothing else I could do—mind the fire, gather more wood, then either think or go mad, but I've not gone mad. I have not prayed, Ben, since before dawn on the Friday morning."

"I don't know what I should say about that. Father said, just before he died—did you hear?—said that God is far away."

"And Mother's last prayer was not answered. She prayed, 'Deliver us from evil.' And mine have never been answered."

"But we can't know that."

"I can't say that I know anything, anything at all, except that I'm here with you, and the air has turned warm, and the Bay Path road must be somewhere a mile or so over yonder, and tomorrow we shall try for Roxbury."

"And that thou hast killed a wolf.... Ru, if I didn't see that carcass under my nose——"

"I never lied to you. Oh—tales for your fancy now and then."

"I know that. What did you do with the hide?"

"Flung it out to the cannibals. The entrails too, and the head. They were delighted."

"Puh! What's this part I'm eating now and enjoying so?"

"Have you swallowed it, Mr. Cory?"

"I have, and you needn't try to make me puke."

"A puppy. She was carrying young—six. I had one whole, when you was still in the fever."


"Oh, ay, your ears'll turn furry any day now. I say, Ben, when we're dirty-rich and famous, let's keep a few wolves on hand—you know, so to have roasted pups for guests of distinction."

"Now you sound like yourself."

"Do I?... Ben, I—something happened that night, Friday night."

"What do you mean?"

"I don't know whether I can tell it.... When I dragged the carcass to the fire I was crying like a fool, I don't know why. Sat there crying with her bloody head on my knees, some-way I couldn't make it seem she was only a piece of meat. Later I could, later it didn't matter. And then—well...."

"What is it, Ru?"

"I found my britches were wet. Nay, not what you think, and not her blood neither, though that's dried all over 'em and I declare we both smell like the Devil's own. Remember you told me how some time soon, whenever it happened, I'd be spending the seed?"

"Oh—of course."

"Ben, I didn't know it when it happened. It must have been the moment when I was killing her. I didn't know it could happen that way."

"I didn't neither."

"Is something wrong with me?"

"No, no."

"You see, I already knew how it feels. I did confess to you about that—long ago, remember? That was the time when you told me, about the change, and the seed."

"Yes. Well, they say it's a sin to bring it on, but I think it must be venial, Ru, for Jesse said once that every man's vessels are alway in need of it. The dreams don't help. Nothing's wrong with you."

"But why didn't I know it when it happened?"

"Oh, the excitement—why, you must have been white-hot, to stand up to a wolf with nothing but a little stick. I didn't know it could happen that way, but I think it's not so strange."

"Jesse Plum.... Why did Father never speak of those things?"

"I don't know, Ru."

"Did he to you?"

"No, he never.... Look: I remember I spent once, merely from lifting a big rock. And—oh, tree-climbing, things like that. So you see—anyway there's nothing wrong with you, brother, nothing."

"Do you have those dreams much, Ben?"

"Not too often. You?"

"Oh, they...."

"You will. You'll be dreaming about girls, and——"

"I ... You'll be strong enough to go on tomorrow, Ben. One thing: we needn't fret now about anyone following from Springfield. That snow will have covered everything. I hope they found the turkey blood before it began a-falling. We can go slowly, rest as soon as we come to another fair shelter. This morning might be the start of another thaw, even an early spring—only look at the tears of that spruce, how they fall in the sun! We'll find more food some-way, now that you're well. There must be towns between here and Roxbury, where we could work for a few meals, a few nights' rest."

"Why, sure, we'll make it.... What happened to your jacket?"

"My—oh, the wolf."

"But the wolf did not reach you, brother."

"I dragged her."

"And so got your jacket torn and muddy on the inside? But I found it wrapped around my legs yesterday when I woke with a clear head, and you slipped it away, but I knew. Last night when it turned a little colder you put it around me again, thinking I was asleep, and I was silent, wishing to speak but too stupid."

"No need. You'd have done the same. Don't speak of it now."

"Very well. But——"

"Thou owest me nothing. I've been forced to think of these things—so many hours, Ben, when I—nay, but how could there be any owing or standing beholden between thee and me?"

"I think I owe thee everything."

"No! Pray understand, Ben. It's not a thing to be measured—why, it's not a thing at all, but—oh, like a region one travels through, an area of light."

"Love, a region?"

"What else? Can you own it or give it or take it? It came to me, Ben, that we only dwell in it, as in the sun, or this morning air."


Chapter One

Ben Cory searched the bay, his eyes ardent for greater distances. Here at the wharf the ships relinquished wakefulness and power, becoming boxes of cargo for the calculations of landsmen: the harbor is not the sea.

"Watch, Ben—he'll take in sail presently." John Kenny was holding his dwarfish body erect to make the most of it, ancient head slanted so that he might look down his nose even at Boston Bay. He thrust his gold-headed cane against a crack in the wharf—his wharf, and smiled at the boy—his boy. "Luck of the Artemis, this breeze. When she nears the wharf Jenks will haul his tops'l to set her aback. You'll see her reach the piling a-tiptoe, a lady, all whisper and dignity. Didn't I say she'd be the lucky thing, when I took thee and Reuben up the Mystic to watch her a-building on the ways?"

"Yes, Uncle John." The mild westerly breeze fluttered Mr. Kenny's gray coat and the gray owl-tufts above his ears. It woke the dance of whitecaps under April sky, and seventeen is a kind of April. "She's a fair ship, sir."

"Hoy, mind your terms! A ship is all square-rigged, commonly a three-master. Two-masted, a ketch, is Artemis—well, a loose name, seeing we use it also to mean small harbor craft. But with her fore-and-aft mizzen you mustn't be calling her a ship. I wish Reuben had come. He's missing a pretty sight, and all to go strolling in the woods." Ben winced inwardly, knowing that the old man, for all his understanding, had been hurt by that. He ought to know by this time, Ben thought, how when the black mood came over Reuben there was nothing to do but let the boy alone, let him go walk in the woods or whatever else he wished. Ben himself did not know whether it was the flame of Deerfield that attacked Reuben at such times; had not been able to learn, in all the three years since they came to Roxbury and Uncle John had opened heart and home to them. "Artemis is near three hundred ton, Ben. That's not big, but she could sail anywhere in the world."

The lonely man, blue-eyed and gaunt, who stood at the outermost end of Kenny's wharf, swung about to gaze at the old merchant. Ben had not until now observed the stranger's face, motionless as a boulder in a patch of grass against the raised collar of a shabby green coat. Grave, Irish maybe, handsome in spite of a signature of smallpox from jutting cheekbones to the edge of an angular jaw. Under a battered tricorne hat Ben saw coal-black hair and a forehead high and pale. The mouth was thin, the upper lip compressed. Hands projected immensely from frayed sleeves, a sailor's hands broadened at the knuckles. Others on the wharf had been watching Artemis; discouraged by the chill of the breeze, they had abandoned the airy region to Ben and Mr. Kenny and the blue-eyed man.

Anchored in the near waters or drawn up to the many docks, an orderly jungle stirred to the bay's mild motion—stem masts, steep bowsprits, nervous bodies of the drowsing wind-wanderers. To Ben's eyes, Clarke's Wharf over yonder hardly dwarfed Mr. Kenny's single squat warehouse and three hundred feet of pier. All around Ben spread an apparent confusion of ropes, tackle, mooring-posts, more meaningful than when he had first stumbled through it three years ago, but still a confusion to one whose hand had never yet felt the lurching sting and thrust of a working rope across the palm.

Woolgathering, Ben had missed some remark about Artemis' rigging. "She owes much to that fore-and-aft mizzen. Fore-and-aft or square, either'll bring you the service of all the winds, but the way of the fore-and-aft is a woman's way, Ben, seeming to yield, winning by yielding. Your squares'l is male, standing up to wrestle the sky breast to breast—nay, but he can drive almost as near the wind's eye—point or two less, what's a point or two in a long journey? Artemis don't roll too much. I've been aboard her under sail only the once, when we tried her out. She didn't roll much, for all Mr. Jenks tempted her to it so to learn her paces. Fast she is, Ben. You can feel it even now when she's picking her way slow as a dream."

"Sir, if I—supposing I might ship aboard——"

"You?" Mr. Kenny jabbed his cane at the planking, his crinkled face gone blank. "Ben, boy, you must stick to your studies. You'll have sea enough when Mr. Hibbs brings your Greek far enough on to read the Odyssey. Better to drown in poetry than salt water."

"Still, Uncle John, the sea——"

"Now let me tell you a thing: never admit to a sailor that you love the sea, if love is the word. He'd despise you for a landsman. A sailor may love a ship, if she be fair and not vicious. Not the sea, not the old blind murdering bitch-mother."

"No, I think love is not the word, but—nay, I don't know."

"You think I don't feel it? Didn't I take ship as a common seaman when I was twenty? I ran away, Ben. My father's blood was partly cold vinegar—something of that you felt in your day with my good sister. My brother George's and mine was red, and hot. Well, I had but a few years of it, he too. Not for me with my piddling strength. We went into trade, we prospered, and I'm a landsman—but I know her. Sometimes if my bad toe's a-troubling or I go to bed with too much drink in me, I dream I'm fathoms down in the cold, the green dark. I see their faces, I mean those of the dead, men I knew who own no grave except the sea. They float by me orderly, no crowding—hoy, you learn not to crowd a man in the neighborhood of live ropes! They go by me one by one—Amyas Holt maybe, that was first officer of the ship Marigold and would never sing except he was stone cold sober, but I have heard him sing, marry have I. Went down with the Marigold off the Bermudas—all hands.... Isn't the land fair, Ben? Full of good things? Good work, women, children, warmth of an earned fireside? And the time of year that's coming now?—but maybe you suppose an old man don't notice the spring. Is not the land fair?"

"Yes, Uncle John," said Ben, and turned his face away.

"Sometimes I see Danny Roeder too, laughing boy, ready for anything, dead of the scurvy when we stood thirty-four days becalmed south of the Line, a run to Recife in the ship Providence—most of his teeth fallen from puffed purple gums, not laughing then.... I've but now remembered, Ben, this is the first time you've seen Artemis afloat. When she left the ways last August you and Reuben were a trifle indisposed."

Ben grinned weakly in acknowledgement. Last August he and Reuben had had the measles. After a day or so of misery they had grown busily critical of each other's spots, the despair of Mr. Kenny's housekeeper Kate Dobson, who tried to make them mind the orders of Mr. Welland the doctor and stay covered up in bed. Plump Kate did not frown on pillow fights in principle. She suppressed a few nobly, knowing her massive rear to be prime target, because she believed the boys were in a rarely tender condition. Kate had heard that measles could become the lapsing fever—whatever that was, and never mind that Mr. Welland rumbled and chuckled and took snuff and said it wa'n't so. Kate had sniffed pointedly and severely about Mr. Welland of Roxbury, asking after his gentle departure how a head under such a Lord-help-a-sinner wig as he wore could hold knowledge of the healing art or in fact anything else.

More than a year in building and the pride of Mr. Kenny's ancient years, Artemis took to the water—tide and wind and season won't wait on the measles—with no help from Ben and his brother. By the time Mr. Welland decreed they could leave the house, she was gone, with half a cargo, mostly hardware and woolens from England. She slipped down to Newport to fill her hungry hull with flour and cheese; on to Virginia for a quick turnover; then with tobacco and what remained of the Yankee hardware—anything you like from frying pans to thimbles—she was for Jamaica in the warm seas. At Kingston she ran into a bit of trouble; Captain Jenks sent word of it by a homeward-bound. Tropic fever and smallpox had played hell with his crew, and he was delayed seeking replacements. He would not put out in late winter even on the Kingston-Boston run with nothing better than a passel of louse-gnawed Jamaican monkeys who'd die like Caribbee butterflies at the first breath of a northerly and anyway couldn't tell the head from the hawse-holes. Jenks ripped out other comments, cramped by the need of setting quill to paper, concerning Jamaican speed in loading his logwood and molasses while the remnants of his good crew were too sick or drunk to lend a hand. "They doe labour a Moment," he wrote, "and falle into a most sweete bloudie Slummber." Snorting over that letter in the company of Ben and Reuben, John Kenny remarked that he couldn't picture man, monkey or butterfly winning much sweet slumber when Mr. Jenks spoke in his natural voice—the which, said Mr. Kenny, was the secret of Mr. Jenks' virtue, for by raising that voice to strong conversational pitch he could lift you the father and mother of a typhoon out of a flat calm.

A clop of hoofs, a grind of halting wheels—Ben heard that above the mutter of small waves fumbling the piles of the wharf, and turned to see the coach drawing up near Mr. Kenny's warehouse. A dark woman stepped out, doll-size with distance, helping two others alight. The breeze snatched at full skirts; an arm flew up restraining a blue bonnet; Ben heard a ripple of remote laughter, and the women consulted, bonnets grouped like the heads of little lively fowl. Plainly not working-women nor dockside sluts, they must have some errand at the warehouse, and would not be coming out here into the raw smell of tar, fish, sewage-corrupted water and salt air. Mr. Kenny, with slightly dulled hearing, was unaware of them. Ben looked again to Artemis.

"Watch, Ben! Wouldn't you think he was bearing down smack onto the bow of that three-master? She's a New Yorker, by the way. Hoy!" Mr. Kenny danced a stiff caper. "Like an old woman threading a needle! But if the watchman on that Mannahatta tub pissed his britches, no shame to him at all. Watch!"

The lonely blue-eyed man was watching too, in the curve of his long back something hawk-like.

Mr. Kenny relaxed, chuckling. "Ben, I recall you've never met Mr. Jenks. When he's ashore he never visits around, damn the dear man, not even to Roxbury. There's a reason—never mind. Had he a contrary wind this afternoon he'd likely bring her in anyhow. Once I watched him fetch my wallowing old Hera to this wharf. Filthy little northeast blow, and she about as comfortable to handle as a bull on ice. I thought he'd drop anchor alee of Bird Island and wait. Not Jenks—brought her in like a homing dove. Knows every inch and instant of the tides as they'll never be known by your landside chart-makers, noticed it a thousand times. I don't mean he'll take foolish risks. With Hera that time—to him it was a nothing, did it easy as a milkmaid strips a cow. Hera went down off the Cape—'d I ever tell you?—seven years ago in a fog. Floating hulk stove in her la'board side. Filled in twenty minutes, no fault of Jenks, and didn't he bring off every man alive in one boat and one damned little dory? Not a soul lost."

He had told of it before. Ben never found it difficult to hear Uncle John's repeated tales as if new. In a way they were, since Ben knew he had probably missed something in the earlier telling.

Wharf hands slouched from the warehouse, taking command of the space where soon the figurehead under the low-slung bowsprit of Artemis would gaze inward toward her homeland, if that grave white face, something less than a woman's and something more, knew any homeland now but the one she shared with Mother Carey's chickens. The men busied themselves over ropes and fenders, with raucous horseplay. The blue-eyed man certainly noticed them, but never turned from observing Artemis with the intentness of a schoolmaster or a lover.

The roustabouts brought a stench of cheap taverns, rum, tobacco, sweat. Bulky short-worded men, some tattooed and wonderfully scarred, their noise slightly restrained by the presence of an important merchant and a well-dressed boy. The boy envied their carelessness. To watch them you'd think the homecoming of Artemis from her maiden voyage was a trifle, worth no more than a shot of spit off the jetty. Ben saw a leather-hided giant twiddle free a length of rope and try it on the legs of a companion who yelped and grappled with him harmlessly.

Behind Ben a crystalline voice abruptly asked: "Will she anchor, Mr. Kenny, or come in to moor direct?"

"Direct, my dear." Mr. Kenny was beaming, a hand on the girl's arm. "Did your father ever make me pay lighterage if he could help it?"

"What a pert breeze! I vow I'm brave to be out in it."

"This little air? Why, Faith, it would scarce raise a kite for a running boy. Anyway 'twas no breeze put the brier roses in your cheeks, you was born with those, well I remember."

Mr. Kenny's back was turned to Ben. Ben was standing quite alone, hearing yet the long murmuring of the water, as he fought away the dead weight of shyness and discovered the April grace of her, dressed in shining blue, wind-clasped; looked again, and encountered a wounding sweetness of blue eyes.

John Kenny's woodland had never been surveyed; somewhere it blended into crown-grant timberland or unclaimed wilderness. His house stood beyond the natural limits of Roxbury—he liked that—on a rolling rise of ground south of the road to Cambridge. From his back pasture, Reuben Cory had heard him say, you could keep under forest cover all the way to Providence, and maybe he'd do it some time, the old man said, if ever the Saints came a-snapping too close at his heels. John Kenny might have started saying that twenty or thirty years ago when it wasn't entirely a jest.

From the window of the room upstairs that he shared with Ben, Reuben stared eastward beyond the Dorchester road, across open land and marsh and water, to the low hills of Dorchester Neck two miles away, gray and brown yet alive with a subdued radiance under the afternoon sun of April. Beyond those harmless hills moved the sunrises, and the stern Atlantic that seemed to be tugging at his brother's heart and giving him no rest.

Driven by his own dark unease of spring, by some dread of human voices and the wrong questions they ask, by shame at the ungracious whim that had prompted him to stay home—after all, if he was not going in to watch the return of Artemis, sighted yesterday playing games off the Cape with a contrary wind, then he had no proper excuse for this half-holiday from study—driven above all by a need for the April day as it might come to him lonely in a golden calm at the edge of wilderness, Reuben slipped downstairs light as a cat, out past the black wet ground of the kitchen garden and down a long slope into the south pasture, then on toward soft-spoken hemlocks.

Reuben had discovered a bodily sureness in these solitary journeys, a trust in his own senses, and a puzzled, reaching love for the life of the unhuman world. Sometimes he stole out of the house at night, with owl and fox and whippoorwill, if the moon was shining to help him; Ben slept sweetly never knowing that. Ben often came with him into the daytime woodland, but to stroll out here with Ben belonged to another category of experience. The world of I-am-alone cannot share an orbit with other planets, as the world and Reuben-self that existed in Ben's presence could exist nowhere else.

He would never be tall like Ben, nor quite as strong. At fifteen that no longer troubled him. His own hard wiry thinness was sufficient; it would carry him, he supposed, wherever he cared to go.

At the lower end of the pasture he climbed a stile into the spicy-smelling hush. A wood road continued on the other side; Reuben soon abandoned it, following landmarks that brought him to one of his better-loved havens, where Ben had often loafed with him.

Over a huge flat-topped boulder a spruce towered to sixty feet, the droop of branches enclosing the rock; one could imagine the hide of a gray monster lurking in the green. The boughs slanted steeply, creating a room with a granite floor and walls of gold-flecked shadow, a gentle and a secret place—old; the spruce must have been already old in the time of King Philip's War. A midget brook passed here. It had gouged a pool at the outer end of the granite block, not deep even in the time of spring rains, but reflections of the spruce gave it an ocean infinity of green.

Wander a few yards down the brook and you owned another world, where the water widened to larger ponds, supporting patches of feather-topped marsh grass here and there. Maples on firmer ground bordered this damp clearing, which by itself became many worlds in the flow of the seasons—the world of deep summer, for example, when you could watch mating dances of the small green dragonflies that never come near houses.

Reuben climbed silently into the sanctuary under the spruce and lay out on the rock to stare into the pool refreshed by the rains of April. He invited to his ears all least disturbances of the enclosing silence—a weak murmur upstream where the trifling water hurried over pebbles, a breath of motion in the needles of the spruce, a bluejay's complaint softened by distance, a cow lowing more than a mile away; a greater mystery, the beat of his own heart in the rib-cage pressed against rock, not quite pain. He saw the face of himself the stranger in the water below, and shut his eyes. When the flesh is quiet, he thought, the mind is also. Why? I alway knew that. The quiet is brief.


Because (I think) everything is part of a journey. I am never, I was never still. Perhaps there is no stillness except in death.

Human sounds reached him, a brushing of last year's grass in that clearing downstream, a vague cough. Reuben sat up, annoyed and puzzled.

It could not be anyone with the privilege of bidding him to cease idling. Uncle John was in Boston with Ben. The tutor was sulking in his room—it hurt Mr. Hibbs that a boy granted a half-holiday should elect to spend it as he pleased, and anyway Mr. Gideon Hibbs was not at home in any forest outside the Eclogues of Virgil. Uncle John's gardener and handy man Rob Grimes was accounted for too—Reuben had heard his axe in the woodshed.

If some poacher or Indian were fooling about the back land, Uncle John would wish to know. Reuben slipped from the rock with no sound, and wormed a gradual way through the brush. Someone sneezed. Poachers try not to sneeze; prowling Indians just don't; still Reuben maintained his caution because of a wild-animal pleasure in it. Having stolen by degrees to the edge of the clearing, he observed the stout bowed back and lightly fringed bald head of a man kneeling by a shallow pond, parting the dead grass to stare down into the water. Surely not a poacher examining a trap; the man was familiar somehow.

Reuben identified him, but doubtfully. Acting on an impulse of gentle wickedness, he slid out from the bushes and sat cross-legged with his chin in his hands, all as quietly as a mouse crossing a heap of flour.

Rising at last from his peculiar inspection of the pond water, the man sneezed again. He turned unknowing, and jumped delightfully. He said "God bless me!" and closed his large mouth two or three times while a slow chuckle shook him from fringed head to dingy shoes—a memorably ugly man pitted with smallpox scars from a button chin to a bulging forehead. His clothes were snuff-stained; respectable once, now a second best suited to the woods. His little dark eyes gleamed mirthful and sad, intent. A ribbony nose ended in a flared tip with a double knob. Reuben marveled that having known this face at his bedside, and that not long ago, he could have been confused in remembering it.

"I'm sorry, sir—didn't go for to startle you, Mr. Welland." "Oh, didn't you!"

"It was the wig."

"The wig, sir? Oh, you mean the absence of my wig. I'm in a manner disguised. I understand your synecdoche, or do I mean hypallage?"

"Metonymy," said Reuben.

"Brrr!" said Amadeus Welland. "Mm-yas, of course, 'tis the spotted child, the younger one. How's your brother, Mr. Cory?" "Well," said Reuben, and laughed happily for no plain reason.

Sighing and grunting as the elderly do, the little man sat on the ground, not too ungracefully in spite of stooped plumpness and a modest melon of potbelly. His darkened snuff-stained hands were firm, not very wrinkled; he might be less ancient than he seemed. "Ah, the wig! The structure! I employ it, you understand, for medical purposes. Wondrous therapeutic—I dare venture you and your brother were so frightened by it that you were forced to recover in spite of the worst my simples could do. Yet plainly no one in his right mind could dwell in such a thing, let alone go for a walk in the woods."

"I can see that, sir."

"You can, ha? I bought it in Newport," said Mr. Welland dreamily. "Ten years ago. The moths have been at it a little since then; at that time there were more ribbons in it, and I was younger myself. It doth own one other function beside the medical. Not exactly duplicity nor artifice—let us say, concealment. As a scholar, Mr. Cory, you'll discover how a man of learning must often hide in the bushes, not only from the ignorant, sir, but even more from the almost-wise. Now a man of medicine, if he hath also some pretension to scholarship, is much exposed, sir, much exposed to the winds of mischance, and so must even carry his own dem'd shrubbery about with him, and that's what I do. Honestly, Reuben, a'n't it a hell of a wig?"

"Oh, Mr. Kenny!" said Faith Jenks. "Brier roses? I'll rest content with that till you say a prettier." She studied Ben with silent laughter.

Laughing of course at the pimples. For a year Ben's face had been lightly tormented. Huge wrists jutted; his nose was too small, his mouth too big, the devil with all of it. Since she chose to laugh, Ben hated her; thus occupied, he discovered as one caught in the embrace of ocean that he was in love.

Maybe she had not been laughing. Her own small dainty mouth showed no obvious quirk. Not brier roses. Damask roses, remembered—remembered——

In a dooryard garden at Deerfield.

Why, they would be blooming still! The village burned, and many died, but not the secret life under the snow. She planted them.... At the first urgency of summer sun they would have waked, spreading over scorched fallen timbers in the desolate ground to spill the sweetness from their clear June faces. For the first time Ben thought: I must go back—some day. I must learn whether that is true.

The blue of Faith's coat and dress conspired with the bay and the blue of heaven to make her eyes deeper than any sky of April. She stood taller than Mr. Kenny, a woman grown, full-breasted, poised, maybe no older than Ben in years but in command of all she said and did. His quick glance told him she was in the habit of biting her right thumbnail, and he rebuked himself for noticing it—merely such a flaw as a goddess needs if she's to wear the semblance of common clay.

"Your mother's well, my dear?"

"Ay, Mr. Kenny, but not well enough to be out in this changeable weather. She wished to come but I prevailed on her. Poor Mother is so readily distracted!"

"I know. Ah, forgive me!—Mistress Faith Jenks, Mr. Benjamin Cory, my grand-nephew, more a son. Hoy, and Charity—how's my lady Charity?" This to a brief, blunt block of child who made some breathy noise. Faith was holding out her hand. Ben knew he could not kiss it (as Ru could have done) nor speak at all without sounding like a crow.

She had pity, letting his fingers know the electric softness and taking her hand away. Ben confronted the glare of my lady Charity. About thirteen, grim with crippling shyness, Charity tilted her square face back in a blue bonnet that reflected her sister's in everything but grace. A freckled paw jerked out and dropped before Ben could grasp it, clenching its tiny companion. "'D do," she said, and examined her shoe-tips in a cold quiet of despair.

A third strange face watched Ben—still, brown, impersonal; a Negro girl, therefore a servant, probably a slave, but with no beaten, cringing air such as Ben had noticed in the slaves of Pastor Williams at Deerfield or in the few he had glimpsed in Boston and Roxbury. Her slenderness was clad Puritan-fashion in white and gray, somehow not subdued by the radiance of Faith. She stood apart, unconcerned as the lady Artemis. Charity had taken a few awkward backward steps until the brown girl's long-fingered hand dropped on her shoulder and there remained. Dark eyes moved on to contemplate the open daylight and blue water, disturbing Ben with the sense of a quiet alien and strong.

"Indeed," Faith was saying, "I've heard of you, Mr. Cory, and hoped we might meet sooner. We don't go about much, with my father so much away at sea. You was of Deerfield, I think?"

"Yes." Why, that was no croak! "I feel it to be long ago."

She smiled compassionately; everyone knew the story of Deerfield. "'Deed you and your brother are men of mystery. I fear your noses are buried in big old long books from a day's end to the next."

Mr. Kenny sighed and intervened. "True, Faith, their tutor and I, we make 'em toil like galley slaves. Harvard in the autumn—the both of 'em, I'm proud to say. Might have entered last year, but I wished 'em better prepared, Mr. Leverett of Harvard concurring, seeing they had no classics in childhood." Ben squirmed; it sounded as though having no classics in childhood was rather like being born with one leg.

"Your brother isn't in Boston today to see the Artemis?"

"No, Mistress Faith, he—well...."

"Mr. Reuben," said Uncle John too lightly, "was of a mind to go walking in the woods."

"Ah, the pretty thing!" Faith exclaimed, and Ben gave her credit for divine tactfulness. "Mr. Kenny, why is the bowsprit slanted so low to the water? I never saw the like on another vessel, no never."

"A whim of mine, my dear. I meddled with the builders. But your father hath told me the thought's good—larger spread of jib, and a stronger angle against the tension of the stays. Yet when I wanted it so I merely thought 'twould make a handsomer line to the eye. Mph!—so peradventure art is good for something?"

"Sir...." The lonely blue-eyed man had come lightly from the end of the wharf, his hat held to his breast with no attempt to hide its shabbiness. His shoes were cracked and stained. A rip in the green coat was mended with large seaman's stitches, evidence that no woman tended him, that his feline neatness was his own achievement. He bowed, as Mr. Kenny's wizened mask watched courteously down the nose. "I fear I intrude—is it I'm addressing the owner of the ketch?"

"I am her owner, sir."

"I've not seen a fairer craft in my seafaring years, and they some twenty or more in all manner of vessels, all manner of places too betwixt here and the Indies, that'll be the eastern Indies—Molucca, Ceylon...."

His voice was baritone, resonant and sweet, a power stirring in it like a drumbeat felt in the marrow. A plangent overtone rang in every word. A lifting inflection suggested the speaker loved his words, reluctant to put a period to them. Ben had never heard that in New England speech—once, maybe, in that lost time when Uncle Zebina Pownal came out of nowhere to sing for them.

"Ay, she's fair," said Mr. Kenny, admitting the obvious.

"And if it's you that oversaw the designing, as (forgive my rudeness) I thought I overheard you say, then may I be shaking your hand?"

Mr. Kenny held it out impulsively, defenses down. Ben saw in his great-uncle what he thought of as the "Artemis look"—love me, love my ketch. Pushing aside a transient alarm, Ben himself gave way to one of his gusty moments of allegiance. This blue-eyed man must be admirable and wise. His pale quiet, the odd way his face took little share in the ardor of his voice—why, merely the reasonable caution of a man who must have voyaged everywhere and seen everything on the everlasting seas. One would do well to listen when he spoke, and remember.

"I am John Kenny of Roxbury, sir. The ketch is the Artemis, Peter Jenks captain, her maiden voyage now ending."

"Artemis! O the fair true name for such a lady! Daniel Shawn, sir, your humble servant." No man's servant, and Ben knew it. Presented to the elder daughter of Peter Jenks, captain, Mr. Shawn kissed her fingers, and Ben writhed, not in jealousy but at his own incompetence: that was how it ought to be done, and Faith was clearly pleased. "Artemis!—what other name would be possible?" said Mr. Shawn, and grew intent on brushing his coat lapel, asking casually in the same breath: "Doth she carry letters of marque, Mr. Kenny?"

"That she don't," said John Kenny rather blankly. "Armed she is—you can see the la'board falconet from here—but no letters of marque, sir. I've not a word to say against the privateersmen, in these years of war when the French do beset us so, but for my ships I'll have no part of it, having made mine own small fortune in the hard way, Mr. Shawn—refraining, let us say, from the thought of easy prizes because I know mine own share of human frailty, and proposing so to continue."

"For which I honor you, sir," said Mr. Shawn, and having brushed the lapel to his satisfaction and smiled with wonderful sweetness, he changed the subject. "I've heard of your father, Mistress Jenks, the way I suppose most seaman have in this part of the world, and he noble as any captain under sail, now that's no lie."

Faith blushed, overwhelmed; her right hand wandered to her mouth. Mr. Kenny was visibly wondering whether to steer Charity into another social ordeal. Charity leaned against the brown girl, observing Artemis to the exclusion of all else on earth, particularly Benjamin Cory. Faith turned to Ben, astoundingly, swaying so near that her face under the ribboned calash must tilt up to look at him. She clutched the bonnet, though it was well tied. "Pray allow me to tack into the lee of you, Mr. Cory, to shelter my silly bonnet—your shoulders are broad enough."

Later in white nights Ben thought: She said that, and to me....

Later also Ben found it hard to recall anything else said by Faith or himself—small talk, surely—in those moments of nearness while Artemis, clear of the harbor shipping, moved down on them tranquilly, a great wind-begotten dream realizing herself in the here-and-now.

A round bulky man held a rope at the bow of Artemis. Below him a face cruelly pure and calm, carved from apple-wood a year ago by an old artist of Dorchester who was nearly blind, stared into a world of many homelands. In the momentary enclosing silence, Ben saw a flash of startled recognition between that stout man in the bow and Daniel Shawn; since both looked away immediately, Ben dismissed it as a vagary of his own imagination, or none of his business. The stout man was unknown to Ben, perhaps one of the replacements signed on at Kingston; a greasy, unrevealing face. Ben heard a flurry of shouts from men aboard and men on the dock who knew each other. He also found a face he knew, and waved—the mate, yellow-haired Jan Dyckman, who had visited at Roxbury, brick-solid and big, a shy and gentle soul ashore, moving with a warm confidence in all the ways of his Lutheran God. But Jan did not see Ben's wave or had no time for it, taut at the starboard rail and watching simultaneously every inch of remaining canvas, every ripple between Artemis and the wharf.

"Ahoy, Mistress Faith!" That was a north-wind voice overriding all other commotion, from the bald giant looming aft near the helmsman. Artemis was yet some thirty yards away, gliding, barely disturbing the filthy dockside water. Ben's glance took in the giant—it could only be Peter Jenks—with a wonder that such an iron mountain could have begotten the loveliness of Faith. Even that far away Captain Jenks was more than life-size, and surely knew it. His nose was flattened like a board, set in deep leather creases between small eyes icy blue in the sunlight—courageous arctic eyes without compassion.

Faith jumped at her father's shout, clutching her skirt prettily. "Clarissa! My kerchief—quickly!" Her hand behind her snapped a finger impatiently before the Negro girl gave her a white kerchief; then Faith was running, waving the cloth, expertly careless of ropes and tackle and the roustabouts who lurched out of her path. She knew her way; she was not impeding them, and stepped back properly when it was time for that rope in the bow to leap ashore.

Another snaked from the pier to be caught amidships. The lady Artemis needed no restraining thrust of the fenders. She nudged wet timbers as one arranging a pillow for her head, and fell asleep.

"I would not," said Reuben, "utter any gratuitous multiloquence which could be construed as a detraction, libel or impudicitous derogation of another man's periwig."

"I yield. You know bigger and sillier words than I do."

"Then will you tell me, sir, what on earth you were looking for over there by the pond?"

"Mm-yas," said Mr. Welland, "the pond. Why, I've been longing for years to learn how peeper frogs peep. Don't have much time to ramble—difficult for a doctor to break away, but now and then I do, with the excuse of hunting for herbs. I heard 'em peeping hereabouts, thought at last I might catch 'em at it. No such thing. They hide when I peep at 'em, and devil a peep will they peep. Why's that?"

"Too near them, sir, and not still enough. You should have sat well away from the water, with no motion for at least a quarter-hour."

Deliberately Mr. Welland took snuff from an enameled box, and sneezed, a light explosion with a double after-echo. "Fi-choo-shoo!... Mr. Cory, I take it they have peeped in your presence?"

"Oh yes. The little throats swell up enormous and they shake all over." To soften the blow Reuben added: "I'm sure they would for you, Mr. Welland. Merely a matter of making yourself look like a rock."

"At my age I'm to imitate a boulder—boulder and yet more bold."

"Paronomasia," said Reuben. "The ultimate in wit."

"Boo! You imitated a rock rather well yourself. I never heard a sound. When I first saw you I thought I had to do with one of the Little People."

"Ah! The invisible world!" Daringly Reuben made horns of his fingers and waggled them. He was very happy, no longer much concerned to wonder why.

"Might I ask further, why you don't find it strange that I should spend my declining years endeavoring to watch frogs peep?"

Reuben considered. "I think everything is interesting."

"Oh!" That was a startled sound, without laughter. Mr. Welland looked away from him so long that Reuben's pleasure clouded over. He could have gone too far; said something wrong; happiness and friendship could tumble, an air-castle in ruins. Mr. Welland was holding out the snuffbox, closed. "Try if you can discover the catch. If you can I'll tell you who gave it me."

Reuben studied it, aware he was being tested in some way that went far beyond the trifling problem. The box was of ebony, the sides covered with intricate carving of grape leaves. The enameled picture inset in the cover displayed a naked goat-leg fellow plucking a cluster from a vine. Since pressure on the carving brought no result, Reuben methodically tried lifting the leaves With a thumbnail until one yielded and the box was open.

"Mph!—most persons spend half an hour and give it up. Well, it was given me—worthless keepsake, he said—by Sir Thomas Sydenham, when as a young man stuffed with mine own importance I called upon him at London. He was most kind. Corrected my quantities, I recall, when I ventured a Latin tag in what he tolerantly called my vile colonial accent. He died, I believe, in the year of the revolution, 1689—so you see, Reuben, time and change, and we grow old somehow." Reuben thought: But he is not speaking to himself in the far-off way of the old; he is speaking to me, and for my sake.... "Perhaps you never heard of Sir Thomas?"

"No, sir, I never did."

"He hath been called the English Hippocrates—an exaggeration, but a great man certainly, I think the greatest in medicine since Harvey."


"There are gaps in your learning after all. I'll be happy to tell you about Harvey if you like. About Signor Malpighi too, who as it happens discovered the presence of the capillaries by dissecting the lung of a frog. Not one of your frogs of course. Some Swiss or Italian frog, unknown benefactor of science."

"Did you think, sir, I was all vain because I like to make comical noises with big words?"

"No, sir. On reflection—no; I did not think that."

"I've been called—oh, flippant or the like, because it seems I do now and then laugh at the wrong time."

"Who calls you that?"

"Oh!... My tutor for one, but meaneth no harm by it. Actually he's very kind, and I suppose I try him badly, but then by chance I'll pronounce some Latin quantity correctly or come unscathed through the horrid jungle of some Greek verb, and he forgiveth all."

"M. Cory, I have been sitting here fearing that perhaps I had laughed at the wrong times, and that you might regard me as—mm-yas, flippant or the like."

"I do not."

"In that view of the case, perhaps you and I ought to be friends."

"As a matter of fact," said Reuben, "I thought we already were."

South of Boston Neck the road to Roxbury entered a desolate mile between the waters of Gallows Bay on the east and a waste of salt marsh. Here the smell of the sea was all about you; above, a meager crying of gulls in the windy daytime. Near Roxbury the salt flats and Gallows Bay were partly hidden by woods and rocky knolls. Lights were said to wander this mile of road at night, not fireflies nor lanterns of vessels on Gallows Bay, which had honestly earned its name.

Efforts had been made to pave the road during the last sixty or seventy years. Stones rose up and walked. Hence derived grave democratic discussion and heartburning: if you have all the rocks of New England to draw upon, there's still nothing so pleasing as a paving block to support the sills of a barn, especially if it be cut as God might have left it in a state of nature, so that no town father can lay his hand on his heart and swear it came from the particular hole where his horse broke a leg.

Ben Cory watched a soaring of white wings tipped with black as a gull drifted out of sight over the marshes. Out here the white-headed eagles came at times, lesser life falling quiet. Lordly, Uncle John called them, but said they were cowardly pirates too, and told once how he had watched them circle about till other birds rose with hard-won fish, and then torment them into yielding it. Ben wondered as the gull vanished, why he should think of the man Daniel Shawn. He had missed something Uncle John was saying, and clucked to his mare. "Your pardon, sir?"

"I was saying Mr. Jenks had three daughters, Faith, Hope and Charity. Hope died as an infant. Charity's but a young thing...."

"Faith is—charming, I thought."

"She is," said Uncle John with total dryness. "Ben, I wish your opinion of that fat man, that new bosun Tom Ball."

"My opinion?" Flattered and flustered, Ben drew his wits away from the dream of Faith. "He's short of words certainly, Uncle John. He only showed me about the deck while you was engaged with Mr. Dyckman, and I don't recall he said more than half a dozen words, and that in so thick a talk—Devon, isn't it?—I missed much of it. That's not fat, Uncle John, that's mostly brawn, I believe.... I don't like it, sir, when a man stares at me long without winking. They say it's the candid way, but I feel more as if he was defying me to call him a liar."

"Eh, Benjamin, you're somewhat sharp. I don't like him either, but Mr. Jenks calls him a good sailor. Ay, Devon, where my father was born—within sound of the Channel, he used to say, and could speak of the old country pleasantly when he was not laying about him as the Lord's own interpreter and flail...."

"You said Mr. Jenks never visits about ashore?"

"Mph!... Ben, when you're a man grown, should you find yourself a little too fond of drink, I suggest you resist it, even sometimes at cost of being named a poor thing, canting killjoy or whatever. 'Tis a matter of being your own man. Should you find—by your own judgment, boy—that drinking interferes with that, don't drink. Did you like Mr. Shawn?"

"Yes, sir, I did like him, very much. Are you telling me indirectly, Uncle John, that Captain Jenks——?"

"I am." Mr. Kenny halted his gray gelding on a rise of ground. "I like to pause here, Ben, where you see only the roofs and little threads of smoke.... Yes, he's something a slave to it, though never aboard ship. At sea he allows his men the ration and not a drop for himself. But ashore he must fall into another sea, of liquor—drifting, helpless, I don't know what stops him from sinking altogether. Blameth it on the moon and tides—his fancy. He told me once how in the dark times of the moon at sea he goes near mad with need of it but won't yield—then I dare say it'll go hard with every man aboard. The moon's his friend in some manner—he's well enough when she's waxing full, sad and bitten by his need when she waneth, noticed it a thousand times. I told him who Artemis was in the legends of the Greeks, virgin huntress and goddess of the moon. He was pleased, and turned on my ketch a newly loving eye. A troubled man, Benjamin. Knoweth well what is right, but no one ever tells him, no preacher or any other. Having shaken hands with him at last, I dare say you can imagine why few would undertake it."

"My hand still aches.... Sir, do you think that if I—I mean when I go to Harvard, I shall know what I wish to do, that is for a life's work?" So it was spoken, the doubt that had been nagging his days.

"I trust so, Ben." And was that all? Ben wondered—was that all the old man would say? A gust of wind full of the sea smell blew across Ben's shoulder and sent a last year's oak leaf scurrying down the road. The wind's embrace was cold, the leaf a reminder of autumn in the flood of spring. "You know I concur in the wish your father expressed in his last moments: you and Reuben must acquire learning. But then the decision must be with you. If you should decide to take up my affairs when I'm done with 'em, why, I'll be pleased, more perhaps I shouldn't say. Trade, commerce—it's not dull, Ben, so long as one keeps the wit alive with a private philosophy. Our holy friends make great show of despising it, the while it keeps them and the rest of us fed and clothed. It might not suit Reuben—well well, let time work a little on it, boy.... If you should come to see it that way, remember ships are the thing, and there our dirty Boston's got 'em all by the nose. Never be a port in the Americas to match her, never."

Daringly Ben murmured: "What about Newport?"

"Pretty little harbor. I hear they never let anybody piss off the docks—afraid of flooding it, you know. Now New York might come to something one day, if they ever find the wit to use what nature gave 'em. Like you to see New York some time, maybe after the war, the way the river comes down wide and grand past miles of cliffs on the west. Nothing like it in New England nor Old England neither. Clean, wondrous blue—Jenks told me once 'tis good as well water above the tides. He took a sloop of mine up to Albany once, years ago. Well, poor Jenks! He'll be into the second or third tankard by now, scarce giving that slave wench time to lift off his boots. Yes, the troubled men—seekers and dreamers and friends of the moon, a little mad, and minds grown wise before their time like your sweet brother's—I don't pretend to understand 'em, Ben, the way I think you and I understand each other. I suppose they engender a great share of the sorrow in the world. What a place it might be without 'em! In a world without 'em I swear I'd die of boredom before I was hanged."

"She is fair. When we saw her a-building up the river and climbed about on her naked ribs, that was different, Ru. Now she's alive, even at the wharf you feel it. She's only waiting to meet the winds again."

"You'd marry the sea if you could. Come here to the window and look down. Something else is fair. Still light enough if you look sharp. The apple—nay, I mean the little new one, that Rob set out the first year we came here. It's budded, for the first time."

"So it is. Will Rob let 'em ripen this year, I wonder?"

"I dare say not.... So you've met the great Jenks at last."

"Never shake hands with him. Remember the bosun Joe Day? Died at the Indies—smallpox, Mr. Dyckman said. I was fond of Joe Day—made me think of Jesse Plum, the tales he could tell.... What's Kate contriving that smells so good all over the house?"

"Roast goose, O wanderer."

"And what's up with Hibbs? Ha'n't seen him since I got home."

"Sulking. Benjamin, stand forth! You ask me, what of Gideon Hibbs; you ask, oh, where is he? Hibbs Pontifex hath gone to roost, with a book upon his knee."


"Next door."

"All lank and lean?"

"Ay—dreaming of roast goose."

"What planneth he for the morrow's morn, the evil old—uh—papoose?"

"Ovid, my lord."

"Not Ovid still!"

"Ovid, my lord."

"Oh, no!"

"Multum in parvo, fiat lux, pro bono publico. Balls, we've done better, but for a Monday evening it'll pass. Throw me a clean pair of drawers, will you, like a fair angel, Ben? Was Jenks' daughter there?"

"Yes. Both, I mean. The younger's a child. And a stranger introduced himself, a Mr. Daniel Shawn. Excited by Artemis and won Uncle John's heart praising her. A seaman, silver-tongued—honest, I thought."

"What was he after?"

"I don't know that he was after anything, Ru. From his talk he must have been everywhere and seen everything."

"Maybe not everything."

"Oh, Muttonhead!—a manner of speaking."

"A goaty eye for Jenks' fair daughter belike?"

"No. Merely polite to her, like any gentleman."

"An old man then."

"Forty perhaps."

"Ah, Ben, these ancient cods! They're the worst, didn't you know? Consider our Pontifex, how we sometimes hear him moaning in the night. I tell you, he hath a private succubus. Down the chimney cometh she, most punctually, Wednesdays and Saturdays, to grind him all night long between hot ivory legs, grind him even unto the very last gerunds and aorists and ablatives and first person plural of the verb contorquere."


"Alas, poor Ben!—no Latin? It means to wriggle."

"Well, shame on you!"

"Button your long lip. You can't say that when I've made you laugh."

"No, blast you, I can't. As for Shawn, I think he only wished to know more about Artemis."

"Ay-yah. Still everyone wants for something."

"Granted, O Grandfather! And thou?"

"Trifles. Most of the ocean and the empire of Cathay. The spring moon. The Northwest Passage, the Fountain of Youth, a few acres of Eden. Trifles, but still you see it's true—everyone wants for something, even I."

Chapter Two

"Yet the manifold desires of man," said Mr. Gideon Hibbs, biting a walnut—"and note that within this category I would subsume the concupiscent;"—his long right hand held down a finger of the left—"the natural, wherein I include the need of daily provender and nature's other common demands;"—another finger—"the intellectual, that is the desires of mind operating as it were in vacuo; the spiritual, whereby I understand the desire of man unto God;"—his left thumb waved, not included, and this troubled Mr. Hibbs because he was slightly drunk—"all these desires, I say, are subject to the ineluctable domination of chance, gentlemen, pure chance." He sighed at another walnut, a grayish man not old, in fact rather young by arithmetical measure. He could never have been young in spirit; Reuben supposed that Mr. Hibbs would have admitted this himself, with stern pride, holding that flesh is corruption, that truth can be illuminated only by the cold flame of philosophy.

From threadbare sleeves jutted his hands, pale and bony, clumsy with anything but a goose quill, stained by ink and tobacco, the nails always black—a corruption of the flesh that did not trouble him.

Reuben wondered occasionally if anything did. Mr. Hibbs' pedagogic rages were just that, put on for discipline and academic show. Reuben had sensed this, ever since his and Ben's first sweaty encounters with amo, amas, amat. The rages were as artificial as the lancinating stare of Mr. Hibbs' dark eyes, the stare intended to pin a student to the mat confessing all sins, especially those of omission. He knew Ben felt less secure under the furor academicus. The eyes of Mr. Hibbs might glare bitterly, the large red lips squirm anguished above the spade-shaped jaw, the hands clench as if itching to claw the answer out of a boy like a loose tooth, but Reuben knew the soul of Mr. Hibbs was away from all that on the other side of the moon, disputing with Democritus, Aristotle, Cicero, the Schoolmen, Comenius, even John Calvin, who might have been a sad sort of freshman in that crowd. Living at John Kenny's house with no duty but teaching, Mr. Hibbs had all the time in the world for the boys but not an undivided spirit. The black stare was further softened by his wig, a mousy thing carelessly powdered. The powder grayed his poor clothes, puffing off in a sneezy cloud if anyone patted his back—no one ever did except John Kenny.

"And yet," said Mr. Kenny, "if I understand you, sir, you believe in God. Shall God rule by chance? I am not well grounded in philosophy."

"Oh, the Prime Mover set the wheel a-spinning, and needeth not to observe it, I dare say—heresy of course, for the which I could spend a week or two in the stocks."

"And I with you," John Kenny chuckled, "for at least two thirds of what I say every day within mine own house. God then is synonymous with first cause?"

Ben was gazing into the purple country of a wineglass, and Reuben saw that he had not drunk much, which was proper—or was that his second glass? This was the first time the boys had been invited to linger thus after dinner. Perhaps Uncle John wished to give them an initiatory taste of manhood, or else supposed them too full of roast goose to move.

"Not synonymous, sir, for that would imply that God is only first cause, no more. We must assume he hath many more attributes."

"We may assume it. We can hardly know it," Mr. Kenny suggested, and reached across the table to refresh the tutor's Madeira and splash a bit more in Reuben's glass. "But what is knowledge?"

A sidelong glance told Reuben that black caterpillars had gone crawling up toward Mr. Hibbs' wig; the big red mouth was pursed; the eyes squinted at the borders of philosophy. "We must recognize divers degrees of knowledge. There is mere factual knowledge: I know I hold this glass in my hand; if I drop it the wine will stain the cloth. Knowledge of the attributes, eternal presence of God is a higher knowledge."

"In what manner higher, Mr. Hibbs? More difficult? More important? More full of earthly significance?—if so, to whom?"

"I mean such knowledge cometh to the mind and soul direct, not by way of mere tangible evidence."

"And yet, Mr. Hibbs—this is simply mine own ignorance finding a voice—I don't understand why knowledge becomes higher because tangible evidence is lacking, nor indeed why tangible evidence should be despised. But may we return to the matter of definition?" John Kenny glanced at Reuben while the tutor's head was bowed for the inspection of another walnut; Reuben decided it was not merely possible, it was a fact: Uncle John's eyelid had flickered down and up. "What is knowledge?"

"Knowledge is the perception of truth."

Reuben drank a little, remembering the afternoon. He had spent at least two hours by the pond with Mr. Welland—listening mostly, for once launched the doctor spoke well, like one whose talk had been dammed up a long time: Harvey, Sydenham, a surgeon named Paré, Signor Malpighi again and his little frog, something of a book named Micrographia by a Robert Hooke of England. The time had gone quickly; Mr. Welland was still talking as they crossed the south pasture and climbed the slope, and from the top of it Reuben could see the tiny figures of Ben and Uncle John returning, but the doctor at first was not able to make them out. "My eyes are not what they were," he said, "though maybe I can peer a little way through a stone wall." With that remark Mr. Welland had become somewhat remote, like a man interrupted in conversation by a distant call, though all he did was stand there, his ugly, kindly face turned away from the path of the late lowering sun.

John Kenny asked: "And what is truth?"

"We must recognize divers degrees of truth," said Gideon Hibbs. "There is the empirical, observational truth I mentioned. There is logical truth, demonstrated by proceeding correctly from the premise. There is ethical truth, not demonstrable by observation or logic, deriving from an ideal harmony between the human will and the will of God."

"There I begin to lose you," said John Kenny.

"Ideal, sir, attainable in perfection only by the mind, not in common life because man is the plaything of chance, a conclusion to which I am forced, in defiance of prevailing theology, by contemplation of human frailty and the vicissitudes of life." Mr. Hibbs drank and looked a trifle happier. "Above all there is metaphysical truth, even further beyond the reach of observation and logic. Here indeed the philosopher may find consolation—by submission, if you like, to the incomprehensible."

"But in what manner is mind not a part of common life?"

"Oh? Sir, do you doubt the separateness of soul and body?"

"I confess that sometimes I do." Uncle John looked tired, Reuben saw, as though he might have lost interest in Socratic method, might even prefer to be playing chess. He enjoyed it most with Ben, Reuben knew; when Reuben himself entered the dry brilliant world of the chessboard he found it nearly impossible to temper his own sharp skill, and victory came with too much ease. He wondered if the doctor could be a chess-player. Strange, the remoteness like a sadness that had come over Mr. Welland there at the top of the rise. "If you run, Reuben, you can meet them in front of the house." That had been like a mind reading. "I don't run nowadays, Reuben." He recalled the doctor's brief mirthless smile as they shook hands. "I think I'd admire to see you run. I'll take the path through this other field—it'll bring me out back of my own house.... Run, boy, run!"

He had missed a part of something Uncle John was saying concerning the influence on the human spirit of every change suffered by the flesh. The old man was speaking of youth and age. It was all reasonable and wise, Reuben thought. Uncle John was seldom anything but reasonable and wise. "I think truth may be both a humbler and a sterner thing. I think, Mr. Hibbs, there can never be any truth but a partial truth, subject to change by every new observation."

"But that is...."

"Terrifying? For my part I don't find it so. This may be a matter of one's disposition, I suppose."

And so I ran from Mr. Welland, and because I knew my own speed and was loving the wind around me, I did not look back....

"Beyond such partial truth," said John Kenny, "you enter the region of faith; and by faith, Mr. Hibbs, I think men have moved no mountains. I think in mine old age that men have moved mountains by art and by the sweat of discontent, while faith never stirred one grain of sand."

And Ben had spurred the mare, running up the road to meet him, leaving Uncle John far behind, sweeping off his hat to let the wind at his hair. Reuben recalled his gray eyes wide and curious and sweet, his flushed face somehow surprised, as though Ben had never dreamed the world could be as good to him as it was....

John Kenny was saying something more, about the arrogance of certainty; it was not completed, for someone was knocking.

The man in the green coat stood ghostlike in the dining-room doorway behind the bulk of a bothered Kate Dobson. He should have waited for Kate to announce him. To Reuben he was a shadow of something not quite acceptable, even dimly alarming, tall with his ancient hat held to his breast, sweeping them all in a blue stare. But Uncle John was pleased. "Only a poor matter of business, Mr. Kenny, and had I known you was entertaining guests——"

"But happy to have another, and if business, let it be pleasure too! Off with your coat, man, and take a chair, and drink up!" As Daniel Shawn was protesting but sitting down anyway, Mr. Kenny sent Kate flying for a fresh decanter. "If a man hath an eye for my Artemis, shall I let him go without drinking her health? Mr. Gideon Hibbs, Mr. Daniel Shawn. Ben you've met, sir. And this is Mr. Reuben Cory, my other grand-nephew—nay, my other son."

Standing to reach across the table for a handshake, Reuben thought: God damn it, I don't like him. "I am honored, sir."

If Mr. Shawn was astonished that a pup of fifteen should have the impudence to speak first and with high formality, he hid it well; his hand was firm and kind, his murmured response neutral without amusement. Very likely, Reuben thought, he supposes I know no better; and so I have made a fool of myself once again. But he continued to feel that the coming of Daniel Shawn on this evening of winy philosophy was the approach of a wolf to a pack of harmless dogs.

Ben was pleased too, though Reuben had noticed shyness settling over him like a mist. Kate Dobson was not pleased. As she brought in the wine, her prominent mild eyes openly assessed Mr. Shawn's clothes, and her soft-footed rush from the room was virtually a flounce. Uncle John was asking: "Did you come afoot, sir, all the way to Roxbury, and at night?"

"Oh, I did that, Mr. Kenny, an easy walk."

"I'm pleased you had moonlight." In the windows, reflections of candelabra were steady golden fires. "The dem'd road's a caution, noticed it a thousand times and said so in high places too, but it does no good. I trust you met no inconvenience?"

"None, sir." Good white teeth flashed in a light dangerous smile. "No man troubles me," said Mr. Shawn, and patted his left hip, where he carried a short knife something like Ben's. "And I easy found your house, sir, the way everyone knows of Mr. John Kenny." The flattery was gross. Shawn clearly meant it to be recognized as such, using it to intimate a deeper flattery, a suggestion that he and John Kenny knew how to value the coinage of light conversation and enjoy it as a comic work of art.

"To Artemis!" said Mr. Kenny. "May she venture far!"

"Amen!" Shawn jumped up to drink that toast standing, in one draft, and Ben, Reuben saw, could do no less. He took one swallow himself for courtesy, and sat down, shifting his chair until the delicate flame of a silver wall lamp was behind Ben's head and created around him a golden nimbus that no one but Reuben would see, or seeing, remember.

"I'm happy we spoke at once of the bright lady, Mr. Kenny, for that allows me to state my business and so have done, and not be outstaying a welcome that's more than kind." But once settled in the chair at Ben's right, Mr. Shawn appeared to be in no haste at all. Reuben observed an old scar running in a gray-white thread from the black hair behind Mr. Shawn's left ear, winding through the smallpox scars and losing itself under his collar. Mr. Shawn wore no stock, no wig; simple, clean and neat in a brown jacket and gray shirt and patched breeches, he made Reuben feel foppishly overdressed in his fine silk stock, dabs of lace and other impedimenta of a gentleman that Uncle John liked to see him wear. Mr. Shawn's green coat, tossed on a chair, nakedly displayed its own patches. His large-knuckled hands were clean, his face slick-shaven and scrubbed, a moderate tan combining with natural pallor to give him a look of pitted old ivory, the only grooves two deep ones framing his proud nose and three faint permanent frown-tracks between his heavy black brows. Uncle John was replenishing his glass. "I thank you, sir, but I pray you don't press me to drink overmuch, it's I have a poor head for it, now that's no lie."

"In vino veritas," said Gideon Hibbs, and giggled. Reuben squirmed inwardly as usual at that degeneration of Mr. Hibbs' conversation into Latin snippets, the eroded currency of scholarship. With the sometimes dispassionate malevolence of youth, Reuben had spoken of it to Ben as the harrumphitas hemanhorum Hibbsiana.

Daniel Shawn threw a light, tight smile to the room at large. "Legend says truth is a naked lady dwelling in the bottom of a well, and so up we must drag her and cast a rag upon her lest her beauty be a-dazzling us, or will it be that she's a Gorgon and no beauty?—I can't say. Turn our heads, and faith, don't she go down again to the bottom of the well, the way we've had our labor for nothing? I've heard of no man ever lay with her and lived to tell of it, let alone having any get of her at all."

To the stained crystal of his suddenly empty glass, Reuben said: "Unless it was Socrates, and 'tis very true he died."

Small silence ruled. Reuben heard Mr. Hibbs draw a deep stormy breath, but before anyone could set about demolishing green youth for its impudence (if anyone was a-mind to) Daniel Shawn was tranquilly continuing: "To my business, Mr. Kenny, and I'll have done. I'm here, sir, to inquire if there be an opportunity for me to ship aboard your Artemis on her next outward passage." Caution settled on Mr. Kenny's face like cold. "I must tell you, sir, the way I've fallen enamored of the little sea-witch, I'd count it better than a berth on any full-rigged ship I know. Call it a seaman's fancy. I have mate's papers—captain's for that matter, but no man could replace Mr. Jenks, there'd be never no such thought in me mind. Indeed, Mr. Kenny, were I offered a command at present I think I'd refuse, now that's no lie. I think I'm not of a mind for it, though I have captained a vessel twice in the past and done well enough as the world judges. But if any lesser berth be available with Artemis, I'm ready, sir—ready to offer twenty years' experience of the sea and the best devotion a man can give at all."

John Kenny said with care: "But if you have captain's papers, I can't suppose you'd wish to sign on for small pay and scant authority."

Shawn sighed, smiling again with tight upper lip and steady eyes. "I think, sir, if the vessel were the Artemis, the position of mate would find me content as any man on salt water, now that's no lie. Truth is I love ships, Mr. Kenny; I know a fair one when I see her. Mother of God, in the old days, the ships I'd see standing out from Sligo Bay, and I too young to follow! I'm a Sligo man, Mr. Kenny, born in Dromore forty-one years ago and can't bear the life on the bloody beach. Steady as she goes!—it's I need a deck under me feet or I'm not living."

Mr. Kenny shook his head unhappily. "Jan Dyckman hath sailed as mate with Mr. Jenks a long time now. I can't imagine Mr. Jenks considering any other in the room of him."

"Still," said Shawn, his head on one side, his smile perhaps no more than a flicker of the candles—"still, sir, you are the owner."

"I am the owner," said Mr. Kenny stiffly, "and merely that. With such a captain as Mr. Jenks, I say nothing about the manning of my craft."

"And very just, sir. I was but thinking this Mr. Dyckman might be ready for a command himself, in one of your other vessels—thus an advancement for him, an opportunity for me."

"I see.... At present I own but two others, Mr. Shawn, one a mere sloop. The other is a ship that should now be at Virginia, a fair sturdy vessel, but she won't be homeward-bound for some months—Captain Foster is intending a triangle course, Barbados and then home. Further, I fear Jan Dyckman himself hath no wish for a captain's place. Splendid fellow, but by his own estimation a natural second in command, who tells me his ambition flies no higher. 'Tis true"—John Kenny's head slanted back and he was looking down his nose—"'tis true Artemis will carry a second mate with her usual complement."

"What is that complement, sir, may I ask?"

"She put out last August with fourteen hands. Came home with ten—smallpox and tropic fever. Three of the ten were new men Mr. Jenks signed on at Kingston. Worked her on the homeward passage with three men and a boy to a watch. I dare say the cook was obliged to turn a hand in dirty weather—he's a renegade Frenchman, by the way, and utterly mad."

"Sir, if a cook aboard ship be not mad he must become so, a law of nature. Why, I recall one we had when I captained the sloop Viceroy, King William's time—she was for Naples out of Bristol and a pleasant passage, the most of it. Rot my liver if this cook didn't go overboard off Malta—in a moderate gale, mind you—crying that a pack of Sirens was corrupting the ship's boys and he'd have 'em flayed for it, and all the time wasn't it only the wind in the stays? A Yorkshireman, and broad in the beam with a list to la'board from a broken leg that'd healed somewhat crook. No Sirens that day, and didn't I put about to fish him out of the drink?—the more fool me, for he was na' but a bundle of disaster ever after. His fancy, d'you see, took another turn—O the child he was, the great smiling angry child!—and he'd have it he must train the weevils in our biscuit to be the like of some educated fleas he'd seen, I think it was at the Cambridge Fair, and he all in a frenzy when they wouldn't answer to the names he gave 'em but continued weevils, nothing more. Mother of God, had he wished he could've had fleas a-plenty, Bristol fleas, the best in the world. Well, there was Jemima, Hannibal, Simon, Jasper—many more I forget. His time passed in shaking more of 'em out of the biscuit and bidding 'em increase and multiply in the bottom of a stewpot, the way he saw his fortune made the day we'd raise Land's End once more, but it did so happen, Mr. Kenny, on a brisk golden afternoon, that a cross-wind caught us for a moment, and no blame to vessel or man, over went the stewpot, and someone stepped on Jemima, and here was fourteen stone of redheaded Yorkshireman coming at me with a knife, for he declared the fault was mine. We were obliged to tie him below. For the rest of the voyage the cooking was done by a highland Scot from Inverness, 'tis a mystery of God we didn't all die—no Scottishmen present, I hope?... Well, I think I would not despise the place of second mate if the vessel was your Artemis, now that's no lie. Nowadays a berth is hard to find."

Uncle John had laughed too much, and was wiping his eyes. Ben had hooted unrestrained. Behind his own laughter, Reuben was reflecting that what Mr. Shawn said of maritime employment was quite simply not true. As the war dragged on, one heard that Her Majesty's Navy was only too hungry for any man who could remain upright and heave on a rope. "Sir, sir," said Mr. Kenny, "was there no reviving Jemima?"

"Oh, there was not, seeing it was the cook himself who stepped on her, the blacker the day.... As you can see, Mr. Kenny, I am not at present in prosperity. Perhaps before now I have aimed too high, rejecting opportunities that I ought to have considered."

"Have you a family, sir?"

"A widower, sir, of modest habit, with never no stomach for riot or extravagance. I married young in the old country (God comfort her!) and when my wife died in childbirth thanks to a certain damned English midwife who probably—Oh, I can see it now——" Mr. Shawn stopped, and lifted frowning eyes as if startled by some remote vision beyond the walls; he finished his wine at a gulp. "Your pardon, sir—my wits were wandering. When my wife died and the little one with her—it was long ago—I took to the sea at last, and since then the ships have been wife and child," said Mr. Shawn, and let the silence hang.

"It would be best," said Mr. Kenny, "if you approach Mr. Jenks direct. But since you've put it to me fairly, I'll speak to him also if you wish. I can make no promise at all, Mr. Shawn."

"I understand that, sir, and I thank you." Daniel Shawn's neck was flushed, the old scar throbbing, a lightly breathing snake. "You're the fair man, Mr. Kenny, and if 'tis my good luck to serve in your employ, I'll give a man's best, more I can't say."

Reuben wondered why he should be finding it necessary to compare this man with the doctor Amadeus Welland. They were nothing alike. Why?

"Mr. Shawn, let me fill your glass. Will you stay the night? I'd be pleased to save you the walking home in the dark."

"Oh, I must be going, but a thousand thanks for the thought, and I'm happy the glass is full so I may drink your health, Mr. Kenny, and the continuance of all good fortune to you, sir!"

They all drank Mr. Kenny's health, and Mr. Shawn did not go.

Reuben thought: Well, it's because of what they don't share. As Ben's face is surrounded by that golden light, so Mr. Welland carries about him—honesty. That man Welland could never plot and contrive, never; he could never show a false face, no more than Ben could. But I think friend Shawn is doing exactly that, and I have drunk far too much wine....

No doubt of it: the sweet purple sorcery was stealing away all natural alertness. A certain Irish magic was filling the room and swelling, Reuben himself yielding to enjoyment of it, until it possessed not only the mournful mighty sound of a sea wind but all the driving power of a wind crossing the dark places, the lonely places, the foam-drenched wilderness.

Daniel Shawn was explaining—had been for a long time, Reuben realized—that the tales of mermaids were mythical fancies; that certain profounder mysteries had nothing to do with such froth of dreams. Uncle John appeared unwilling to abandon the fishtail wenches, and countered with classical texts. Some of these, Reuben knew from a glint in Uncle John's eye and a squirming discomfort in Mr. Hibbs, had been invented on the spot for the occasion—John Kenny could be a rough man with a spontaneous Latin hexameter. But Shawn insisted, and was now launched on the story of a supposed mermaid seen by himself and another of his watch on a voyage among the hot somnolent West Indian isles. "Truly the crayter had the like of a woman's bubbies, and nursed a little one at them, and wasn't it meself was thinking I beheld the mermaid, for all she was that mortal ugly and her mouth ran up and down like a caterpillar's?"

"Now," said Gideon Hibbs—"now, after all!"

"I give you my word, sir, do I not?" Daniel Shawn's flare of wrath was swiftly veiled. "Will a man be inventing such a thing? Wasn't it meself that saw that mouth munching a huge great gob of sea grass, the kind that groweth in brackish waters, and saw the lips churning from side to side? That other man started for a harpoon. I stayed him. Ochone!—how could a man be looking on the ugly thing, the mother she was, and not have pity?"

"Pity's a rare uneasy thing," said John Kenny.

"A bald black head round like a cannon ball, devil a bit of nose but only a pair of slits like a common seal." Shawn laughed abruptly. "And now I must ruin my tale, Mr. Kenny, for when I went below one of the crew who'd often sailed those parts told me the thing was called a manatee or sea cow, and had been well known for many years, the way the folk at Campeachy and elsewhere do fancy the meat highly and use the hide of the gentle beast for making whips. Thus I was spared the folly of telling abroad the marvel I had seen. But you understand me, sir?—in this manner, from such particulars glimpsed in a poor light, come many inventions." Reuben could smell Shawn, a muskiness not quite unpleasant; a wild smell. "In all waste places are wonders—in swamps, jungles, mountains, deserts. The greatest of all lies very far west of here, or say east if you like, for it's the other side of the world. Beside that these fancies of storytellers are pap for children. I have never beheld the sea serpent, though I've heard of him times enough, and spoke with those who'd seen him, honest men owning no more imagination than a block of holystone. The Kraken too, perhaps. Yet those mysteries, and all others, are nothing beside the sea's own self, the sea of the west, the Pacific."

Ben turned to Shawn, rapt and flushed, and Reuben knew he was asking for the sake of hearing Shawn speak again: "The Kraken?"

"A titan of many arms, Mr. Cory, mightier than a right whale they say, who will drag down entire ships, or overturn them belike to feed on all aboard the way a cat will take her a nestful of little birds. It may be so. The sea is boundless. Anything might live therein."

"Even mermaids," said John Kenny, but Mr. Shawn was not listening.

"No man knoweth the sea until he hath ventured the western sea, the Pacific. The fat Spanish ships travel it, but I tell you the route they follow is a single thread stretched over a Sahara. I have sailed it too, a very little of it, above and below the Line, in a whaler, once, and I young with no wisdom in me but with open eyes—and I was, say, like an insect crossing the continent of Europe, but I'm a wise insect, sir—Mother of God, I know the meaning of horizons! Pacific nights—deep as any night of the soul, and will you be telling me of a deeper dark than that? Out there only the sea is truth, only the sea, and this is a part of the truth: there be many islands."

"Continents perhaps," said John Kenny, agreeing but somehow without enthusiasm, and Shawn sat back to study him, the blue eyes clouded windows closing away some of the lightning of inner storm.

"What's the Atlantic?—a gray mad stormy puddle. Sea of the Caribbees?—a small hot lagoon, green lumps of land like a lady's emerald necklace on a blue gown—oh, steady as she goes! I'll grant you her breast can heave and toss. If the wind's coming dark and fast down there in the Caribbees I'll strip canvas quick as any man and remember I was brought up religious, for men and ships are small things. But out there on the far side of the world, have I not seen an empty island open to the west, where the high rollers came down and down forever with all the blind leagues of the sea behind them, down and down as heavy and slow and sure as the years beating on a man's youth? Have I not seen Pacific moonrise where no land is, and the gray and silver piled higher than the North Star Polaris?"

Ben woke on Thursday before dawn, disoriented in time, noticing how the days and nights of being in love run together like those disquieted by simpler fevers. He recalled it was a Monday afternoon when he watched Artemis sail home, therefore a Monday evening when he went to bed undeniably drunk, therefore a gray Tuesday morning when Mr. Hibbs, red-eyed and taciturn, gave him and Reuben an assignment of one hundred and twenty lines of the Tristia of Ovid, to be absorbed by Wednesday afternoon, plus (as atonement for Tuesday morning's inattention and general sinfulness) a demand for five copies per boy, in a fair firm hand with no nonsense, no margin of error, of the entire conjugation of the verb [Greek: kephalalgeô], which means to have a headache. So Tuesday and Wednesday coalesced to one inky-dark billow of time, and now before dawn the young apple tree out there that Reuben had spoken of was stirring in a new pale softness. As Ben watched, the sky awoke beyond Dorchester Neck, and the truth of full bloom was confirmed. He thought: I'll see her today.

She was lying touched by the pallor of the morning as he knelt at the window, a breeze on his shoulders mild as a woman's fingers. She was sleeping—in a garden maybe, or under that same apple tree's white foam, her gold-brown hair tumbled over the grass, a curl of it on her forehead above the flush of damask rose. The blue vague garment betrayed her in sleep—no, rather his own daring hand drew it down, leaving bare one breast and the red flower of it. From that, the fantasy moved with reluctance, sluggishly, oppressed by the sense of a thing contrived: sweet yet false. Nevertheless for a moment she shone quite naked, turning in her sleep away from him, a swell of flesh pliant under his hand and hiding the dark desired triangle, the other flower of red. But then she was no longer Faith; she was any woman, with a face unknown.

Reuben stirred and yawned. "Behold the nympholept! Benjamin, what of the night?"

"It a'n't night, Muttonhead."

"Do you attempt to assert that the difference between night and dawn can be detected by the dull besotted perception of the peasantry?"

"I love you too," said Ben.

"Ah! In lieu of morning prayers let us contemplate Pontifex."

"Law, why that, on a spring morning?"

"He hath been subjected to experiment and found wanting."

"How's that?"

"The verb, boy. Consider, it was the doom of Pontifex to read all those twice five copies. Well, sir, in one of 'em, taking not even you into my confidence, I inserted one error, a miserable crawling misplaced accent—a wee louse, do you see, nibbling the fair white integument of a Greek verb. Did he discover, percontate and make manifest this crapulent, this obscene and overweening impudicity? Damn, I forgot concupiscent. Did he find this adventitious louse to be a concupiscent intrusion upon the fulgurant purity of grammatical impeccancy, and crack the hereinbeforementioned louse upon that sable thumbnail? Nah. By the way, where'd the bloody pot get to this time?"

"Under your bed," said Ben, exasperated, for the Cyprian fantasy had not completely dissolved, and it did seem too bad that the last of it must be dismissed by the unequivocal din of urination.

"There!" Reuben sighed. "I have subsumed the concupiscent." He stooped to pat the floor a few times with the flat of his hands, and sprawled back on his bed. "With reference, sir, to that Cicero whose lank shadow falleth across our afternoon: Sunt autem qui dicant foedus esse quoddam sapientius ut ne minos amicos quam se ipsos diligant. Do you understumble me, sir?"

"Please, sir, no, sir."

"I freely render: Some say there's a kind of compact of the wise, to love their friends no less than themselves. You may construe."

"Please, sir, no, sir, I won't, sir."

"You what or that which, sir?"

Ben snatched for his brother's sleep-tangled hair. Reuben caught his hand palm to palm and braced his elbow, stretching out wiry and tense. "Wrastle then," he said, not smiling.

Ben knew that with his feet firm on the floor he could hardly fail to force Reuben's hand back, though the boy did possess uncommon strength in his thin arms. Ben recalled he had won last time; not wishing to win twice running, he allowed his hand to sink slowly, as their eyes locked too, Reuben's grave and dilated. Ben drove the smaller hand up once or twice, catching then a glimpse of panic in Reuben, but Reuben clamped his mouth tight and heaved, the power of his knotting arm increased unreasonably, and Ben was startled to find his own arm wavering down. No need after all to simulate defeat; it was fairly done. Ben slumped on the floor laughing and rubbing his shoulder. He thought of telling Reuben that he meant to go into Boston today, Hibbs or no Hibbs. "Ru, you could strangle a bull."

"Not yet." Reuben lay flat, lifting yesterday's shirt from a chair with his toes, to frown at it horribly. "But seeing you're about to throw me a clean shirt like a good Christian, be careful how you come within reach, for I'd be happy to try my powers on a small calf." Ben threw a pillow at him and then the shirt. "Snuff the air, little Benjamin! What hath Kate wrought, do you know? I know."


"True," said Reuben, rising in a whirl of activity, "and though you may seem more dressed than I"—he slipped behind Ben, snatched off his neckcloth and darted away knotting it around his own neck—"I shall be in the land of the sausage before you."

They were late. Mr. Kenny had already breakfasted and gone to Boston. Mr. Hibbs lurked impatiently in the schoolroom, nursing one of the head colds that tormented him with the onset of spring, and Kate Dobson was moving about in a large dreamy morning mood, soft-footed scamperings carrying her billowing body from one to another of a dozen errands—the rising of bread, the simmering of a kettle on the hearth, a speck of dirt to be scrubbed, the demolition of a fly. She bounced everywhere, a huge gray-headed silkworm ever hurrying at her generous spinning, and began talking as the boys entered, with some sentence begun obscurely in the depths of her mind: "... so to myself I said, minute I see 'em I'll ask, is it p-i-e-s or p-e-i-s or what is it, with a pox?—I could declare it had an a in it the way you showed it me, Master Reuben, oh dearie me, the letters all shaped out fair and plain."

"Ah, that," said Reuben. "P-e-a-c-e, Kate."

"Didn't I say it had an a into it? Think of that! Ah, well...."

Ben saw she was close to tears. Kate wept easily at many things trifling and great; this was no trifle. What she referred to was a labor of years, a sampler intended (some day) for the wall of Mr. Kenny's study. For all Ben knew it might have been started before he was born. Kate herself couldn't say when she began it, as she couldn't say for sure how old she was, or what year it was she came as a redemptioner from England. To Kate all the past telescoped in a half-reality, and memories overflowing in her talk could seldom be closely tied to conventional mileposts of time. Ben had seen the incomplete sampler, shyly unfolded from a workbasket at times when Mr. Kenny was away in the city. The border was almost done, she said. From the bottom on either side rose branches, ivy idealized, stitched in springtime greens with immense pains and skill; at the top the branches met, interlocking as leaves in nature do, contending but sharing sunlight. That part, she claimed, was easy—why, you just stitched it: so, and so. But the motto caused her endless grief, since she had never been taught to write or read. She knew the alphabet; with desperate trouble she could fit together elements of it indicating words. Ben wondered how she had found courage for such a project before he and Reuben were present to aid her. But she was still troubled even with their aid. No motto was ever quite good enough on second thought. Occasionally she changed the lovely border too. Once Ben had found her rocking in her sewing chair and weeping because, she said, a brown thread among the leaves was the wrong brown and must be picked out, every stitch, and that by candlelight. Her eyes hurt—weren't as good as they used to be.

"Woman dear," said Reuben, "you've gone and lost the paper."

She blinked in sorrow at the hominy and sausage she set before him. "That I have, and I don't understand how a body can be so heedless. I did, I had it in my basket, and then I vow I must've wrapped something in it, maybe a skein, and put it away somewhere, I don't know where—why, my mind's light, light as a whore's promise, I just don't think good."

Ben reached out to pat her fat floury hand, as Reuben said: "Then we'll draw you a fresh one. A nothing for such scholars as me and my little brother—only, bruit it not abroad that ever I said such a thing. You know, Kate, the sin of vanity in us—sad, sad."

She chuckled, dashing a comfortable tear from a bulging cheek, and bounced away to deal with a fresh emergency. Fragments of yesterday's chicken sat on a side table waiting a destiny in soup, and the lean yellow tomcat, Mr. Eccles, had wandered in nursing a sordid plot, one easily detected and swiftly refuted by a whisk of Kate's apron. He came over to rub Ben's leg rather grimly, knowing well enough that breakfast sausage is not cat-food. "Which motto was it, Kate?—believe I've lost track."

"Oh—le' me think, Master Benjamin—'Let peace in this house be everlasting as the sea'—it was real pretty." She wiped an eye and sighed. "Boys, I was thinking—maybe it's foolish, maybe it a'n't even right I should try such a thing, but I was thinking, what if I was to make that motto something in the Latin? He'd favor it so—wouldn't he?"

"The very thing!" Reuben exclaimed. "Hark 'ee: Omnia vincit amor, et nos cedamus amori. That's Virgil, Kate."

"Think of that! That's real Latin, Master Reuben? But—but a'n't it terrible short?"

"Oh, Kate!—greatest things said with fewest words."

"It do sound pretty. What's it mean?"

"Love conquereth all things, let us yield to love."

"You wouldn't play no jape on me, would you?"

"Save us!" Ben knew his brother was genuinely shocked. "Not about the sampler, Kate!"

"I know, dear."

"Only ask Mr. Hibbs whether my translation be right, if you doubt me."

"Nay nay, Reuben, love, I don't at all.... Love conquereth—"

Ben said: "Love conquereth all things."

"Ah me!" She came near, a soft hand on Ben's shoulder, her small sweet mouth like pink petals fallen in bread dough. "Ben, boy, you be a little changed. Something happen, Master Benjamin?—maybe Monday?"

"Monday? Why, Uncle John's Artemis came home from her maiden voyage that day, and a prettier vessel you never—"

"Oh, bother old Artemis! And ha' done with talk of the sea too—ask Mr. John, what's it ever done but make widows, and empty graves in the God's acre?"

Reuben said to his empty plate: "The tale goes, it may have been filled by the tears of Chronos who was before all the gods."

"Ha?—oh, your talk, Master Reuben. But only look at Ben boy there a-blushing! Bound to happen—I knowed it, I knowed it, I know all the signs of what makes the world go 'round, and who should know 'em better? O Ben, oh dearie me, soon you'll be a-moping about with a long face, there'll be a wringin' of hands, you'll go sighing with the springtime in your loins and no living with you at all. Ben dear! Tell Kate. Is she fair, Ben? Is she kind?"

"Now, Kate, truly!"

He will go where I cannot go. Three years past he told me something of his dreams, but I dream never that way, never.

"Why, Ben, not a word! Mumchance. But I know, for a'n't I alway said it was love 't makes the world go 'round? Oh dearie me, they do grow to be men before there's time a spider should build her web over the cradle where they was rocked."

"Can't help it, Kate, the way you stuff Reuben and me with sausage and kindness, we're bound to get big and bad and greasy."

Where he goeth I cannot go, and he will be much loved, as he ought to be, but I ... I think that I....

"Phoo, didn't I marry for love me own self, the more fool me for not listening to wiser heads, however and moreover I don't regret it nor won't to my dying day, though it was a whoreson hard thing to learn the cull was na' but a file, dearie."

"A file, Kate?"

He said: A man of learning must often hide ... even more from the almost-wise. He said: You and I ought to be friends.

"Nay, Ben, it's right you shouldn't know the word, it's only London-town cant and means a common cutpurse, that's all he was, him and his fair talk to me about an inheritance, washed down you might say with the kissing and the sweet looks and the tumbling—marry, could I say no to the likes of him, and meself as hot and limber as a March hare, could I? Well, rest him quiet, he danced for it at Tyburn."

"Oh, I remember. You've spoke of it before, but I'd forgotten the word. Kate, you shouldn't let those old memories rise up and trouble you—not here, and the old country so far away."

It's back from the Cambridge road (he said nothing about coming to visit him), the cottage with green-painted shutters. Something discourteous the way I ran, but he did say....

"Ay, it's far. Repent?—phoo! nor they wouldn't've got him, never, only he drunk hisself blind in a tavern and talked, so you see, dearie, it was the rum that ruint him, and never took a strap to me neither except he was in the drink, and that only once or twice. Repent?—why, didn't he spit on the foot of the gallows tree and cock his head at the sky to see a shower coming, and didn't he say to the ordinary: 'Ha' done canting and go to hanging, man, can't you see it's coming on to rain and must I catch a quinsy for King Charles' sake, God bless him?'"

"Maybe he repented later, Kate—I mean in the last moment when there was no way to say the words."

How much he must know! Why not medicine? Nay, think of it, Ru Cory, why not? WHY NOT?

"Not him. Why, didn't he wave a purse that he'd h'isted from the ordinary's own pocket, that he had—waved it and throwed it to the crowd and cried: 'Here, culls, drink me a remembrancer!' That he did, anyway so a friend told me that was there and seen it all, the which I couldn't be meself, being in childbed on his account—died, the little thing, and best maybe seeing it'd've had no father, and then me for the colonies, I suppose it was a long time ago."


But if I am—if there be some evil, some mark of evil to make others recoil as from a leper—but it can't be so, it can't. Would that man know (could I ask him?) why so often I—why—why——

"But do you know, dearie, I had another friend in the crowd that day to see him die, and she told me the tale different, I can't understand how it could be so different, how that my Jem was leaden-faced, and fought the rope, nor spoke nothing at all but some mumbling about former times, and how his life should be an example—example, with a pox! That wasn't never his way of talk, but—but maybe he did and all. No purse for the crowd, she said, nothing like that."

"I don't think it happened that way, Kate."

Could I kill a wolf again if there was need? I think I could.

"'Deed she said there was but few present to watch it, and the officers in haste to be done with it because the rain was already falling—I don't know, I don't know."

"Kate, from what you say of him, I'm certain it was the way the other friend told you, that he met it bravely, and threw the purse too, not for impudence but only so to hold himself a man to the end."

How long it is now since I was child enough to cry out: God help me!

Chapter Three

The builder had intended a storeroom off the kitchen, with no heat and one narrow window, where Gideon Hibbs in these days wrestled with Ben and Reuben across the rackety battlefield of the classics. When the boys came to Roxbury John Kenny, in a genial phase of turning things upside down, had hired a mason to build a fireplace in this austere chamber, and had purchased a magisterial new desk and high-backed chair for Mr. Hibbs. Then with his own hands he fetched from the attic two small old desks, trusting only Ben to help him worry them downstairs, and grew dreamy at the marred and squeaky things, chuckling over jokes superseded forty-odd years before.

In the house of the Reverend Mr. Elias Kenny of Boston, these desks had sustained the squirmings of John Kenny and his brother George, whose young hands left a network of schoolboy carvings now black with age. The satiny pine held room for Reuben and Ben to add a number of their own: arrows, circles, cabalistic squiggles; on Ben's a rising sun with a questioning eyebrow, on Reuben's a portrait of Mr. Eccles that did scant justice to his second-best ear.

One other chair stood at the rear of the schoolroom, sacred to occasions when Uncle John strolled in to listen, owl-tufts cocked like secondary ears alert for a false quantity. At such times Mr. Hibbs became grave and slow-spoken. Hibbs was not an obsequious man: he merely found it important to satisfy Mr. John Kenny of Roxbury. It was at one of those times that Reuben witnessed Uncle John's discovery of the new carvings, a pale crinkled hand descending to the desk, groping at B—R newly incised. Reuben saw only the hand, fearing to look up lest he find Uncle John sad or annoyed. After all the desk was a chip of history; having served John Kenny when he was a boy of twelve, it must have been made at least as early as 1649, and from a pine tree that would have sprung up in the wilderness before the planting of Plymouth Colony. The blue-veined hand lingered feather-light, restless like that of a blind man encountering something formidably new in the pattern of the known. Then it rose and passed gently through Reuben's hair, and the door of the schoolroom closed.

This Thursday morning spring was assailing the house with lazy reminders, a ripple of breeze at the window Mr. Hibbs had sternly closed, a muted hammering from the shed where Rob Grimes was mending a chicken coop at great leisure; earlier Reuben had heard the lonesome Sundayish clamor of the meeting-house bell nearly a mile away, warning that Thursday was Lecture Day, when decent citizens take thought for their souls.

"Very well, Reuben." Mr. Hibbs sniffed. "Lines twenty-one and twenty-two, and pray note that you are not to stress the caesura in line twenty-two, seeing there is no break in the thought."

"quid fuit, ut tutas agitaret Daedalus alas,
Icarus immensas...."

"What's the matter? Are you considering, Mr. Cory, whether the caesura be intended by the poet to indicate a pause for daydreaming?"

"Icarus immensas nomine signet aquas."

"You have the quantities correct, and may now construe."

"'Why should Daedalus have——'"

"'Should'? 'Should'? I see no subjunctive, Mr. Cory."

"I was construing freely, sir."


"I thought it sounded smoother so, in English."

"Fiddle! Fuit, not being subjunctive, cannot be so translated."

"'Why was it that Daedalus safely moved his wings——'"

"Mr. Cory, one light fugitive moment if you please. Concerning the word tutas: is this an adverb?"

"No, sir."

"If Ovid had wished an adverb he would have written——?"

"Tuto, sir."

"Yet he used this strange word tutas, which is——?"

"An adjective, sir. Tutas, -a, -um, meaning 'safe.'"

"Light breaks." Mr. Hibbs filled his clay pipe, deliberately maddening his tortured nose. "The source, incidentally, of a dreadful English word, 'tutor'—I suppose from some woeful misguided conceit to the effect that a tutor can hold his charges in safety, Master Reuben, from the perils of error—wharrmphsh!—within and without. An adjective, then, and plural, I presume. The case, Mr. Cory?"

"Objective, Mr. Hibbs."

"Could it by any remote chance agree with—hm——"

"It agrees with alas, sir."

"Oh! How we do see eye to eye at times! Tutas alas. I could even imagine it meant 'safe wings,' 'uninjured wings,' something like that, if an adverb had not gone flying past my aging benighted head. Now concerning this word agitaret. Did I hear you translate it as 'moved'?"

"I did, sir."

"Had you considered the word 'agitate'?—excellent, I should have thought, and taken direct from the mother Latin."

"I did, sir, but the present-day meaning seemed unsatisfactory."


Reuben discovered he had pulled down his underlip. Mr. Hibbs had striven for three years to break him of the habit, but Reuben, as now, was often unaware he had done it until it was too late. He let it back gently without the usual comforting pop. "To me," Reuben said, "the word 'agitate' suggested fluttering. I might translate: 'Why was it that Daedalus fluttered safe wings?'" He glanced up, honestly feeling as apologetic as a puppy caught in flagrante with a ravished shoe. "To me, sir, Daedalus was no butterfly."

Ben knocked his Ovid on the floor and scrambled after it. Reuben guessed he was trying to divert the lightning, but Mr. Hibbs paid the uproar no heed at all, staring at Reuben with a twitching nose. You could never quite predict Gideon Hibbs: the next moment might be hell, or sudden sunshine, or merely another sneeze.

It was sunshine. Mr. Hibbs relaxed, a wrestler overcome, and laughed, a large generous bray. "You have a point, Reuben. Oh yes!" He fumbled for a kerchief and blew the inflamed organ mightily. "Well, but I'm not content with so flat a word as 'moved.' Benjamin? Considering the wriggles you perform at your desk (and I declare only a young backside could endure it) you ought to be able to offer some word conveying the sense of a sustained and powerful motion."

Shining with relief, Ben said: "'Plied'?"

"Why, excellent!" Mr. Hibbs tensed in astonishment. "'Why was it Daedalus plied uninjured wings?'—mph, comes out in English as iambic pentameter, bless me if it doesn't. Satisfactory, Reuben?"

"Yes, sir, I like that. 'Why was it Daedalus plied uninjured wings, but Icarus marks with his name the enormous waves?'"

Out of a suspended hush, Mr. Hibbs sighed. "Benjamin, proceed. If possible, without butterflies. Let us leave the butterflies to Reuben."

Reuben thought with care: He means no harm by that, none at all.... His eyes idly compelled the carved B—R to grow immense and blurred, and he listened to Ben's voice:

"nempe quod hic alte, demissius ille volabat;
nam pennas ambo non habuere suas."

"Quantities correct, Benjamin. Construe."

"'Surely it was because Icarus flew high, and Daedalus lower; for both wore wings that were not their own.'"

"Eh, Benjamin, doing uncommon well today. High time of course—I am not prepared to consider this the millennium." Mr. Hibbs could seldom bear to leave a compliment undiluted. "Well, gentlemen, I suggest to you, these particular lines are something more than an exercise in grammar and prosody. I think, no more of the Tristia today. Your grammars if you please—this afternoon it shall be Cicero of course."

"Sir"—startled, Reuben saw his brother rising, not quite knocking over his little desk—"sir, may I ask a favor?"

Mr. Hibbs' lank features froze, but not completely. "Yes, my boy?"

"Last night, sir, I wrote out a translation of the lines in De Finibus that you assigned us for this afternoon. I—wished to know if I could do so without aid. I mean, sir—Ru hath helped me often at other times, being swifter at these things, so I—so I didn't tell him of it. And if it be satisfactory, Mr. Hibbs, may I go to Boston this afternoon?"

Mr. Hibbs stared at the paper Ben handed him, like a man hit by a chunk of firewood. "Done without aid, ha?"

"It was, sir. I even waited till Ru was asleep, for fear I'd give up and ask him for help after all."

Reuben gazed deeply into the swirling black midgets that had been the text of Ovid; he instructed himself: It doesn't matter. It does not matter. Seeing that he will go—

"No objection," Mr. Hibbs was saying vacantly—"no objection to the two of you helping each other: I expect it and you profit by it, but I can see, I understand, Benjamin, I—uh—commend your industry and the sentiment that must have prompted it." His voice trailed away under the threat of another sneeze, and Reuben knew that he must speak.

"It's quite true, Mr. Hibbs. I knew nothing of it till just now." Was that good enough? Did I snarl, or squeak?...

"Of course. This translation is—not bad, Benjamin. Some errors, but nothing that cannot be caught up—uh—tomorrow. I'm assuming your great-uncle hath nothing against it, or you would mention it, being"—the sneeze arrived and passed on—"being an honorable boy. Yes, you may have the afternoon. No precedent, of course."

"I understand that, sir, and thank you."

There was grammar, there was logic, there were Greek verbs, there was in the air a warm premonition of luncheon. Mr. Hibbs tucked his books under his arm and marched upstairs, where he would allow himself a five-minute meditation before the meal. He was willing to explain this exercise without embarrassment. It was not the same as prayer, but a contemplation of nothing, a device for clearing his mind of trivia in the hope of perceiving a moment of truth.... "Ru, why don't you come too? You could easy catch up the work if he gives you the afternoon, and he would—for all his barking you know you can twist him any way you please."

"No, bub," said Reuben lightly—but he was afraid to look up from his desk at the puzzled kindness he knew he would see. "There'll be a tag end of the afternoon when Pontifex hath done his worst, and I—wish to do something else."

"Something else?"

"Oh, I—nothing too important."

Ben looked hurt. "About the Cicero—haven't I leaned on thee too much, Ru? I never did think to wound thee, doing that."

"I'm not wounded! I"—careful, Ru Cory!—"I commend your industry."


"I'm sorry. About this afternoon—you remember Mr. Welland?"

"Welland? Oh, the doctor?"

"Yes, I—he knows so much—I met him by chance the other day, when you was in Boston——"

It was no use. What had seemed clear a little while ago, a lamp in a parting of the mist, was now once more submerged in fog, and Reuben lost his way in a tangle of half-exasperated words, trying to reassure Ben that a wish to see Mr. Welland had nothing whatever to do with being ill.

Older and neater than neighboring houses, the Jenks house was shielded from them by a coach house, and on the other side by a small fenced-in garden. Such aloofness would not save it if flames like those of 1679 or '91 ever raged into this western quarter of the city, where many still owned the forbidden wood-framed chimneys and hoped for the best. Fires in the past had usually started near the docks. That might be the reason why Captain Jenks wished to keep the breadth of the town between him and the ships that were his daily bread.

Approaching the house, Ben had been sharply aware of second-floor windows, feeling eyes in a way remarkably like fright if only it weren't absurd to be frightened at calling on a girl. Now he held back his hand from the knocker, studying the garden with unstable dignity, suppressing a hope that nobody was at home. He admired the grape arbor, enlivened already by a white and brown of buds, and noted here and there the brave glow of daffodils. Flagstone walks suggested a trust in permanence.

He remembered other doorways, how they had stood between him and the unknown. Three years ago one had opened, himself and Reuben standing in rags on the threshold and unable to speak at all to the face with owl-tufts, for John Kenny had answered the door himself, looking down his nose. "To what have I the honor—oh, my soul! Your mother's look, the both of you—come in out of the cold!" Not until hours later, when they were washed and fed and settled in the room where they now lived, did John Kenny speak of his sister's letter announcing their tragic death in the jaws of the beast, a passing hard example of the infinite wisdom of God. He had answered the letter, he said, with the proper sentiments. Very much later, weeks later, Mr. Kenny's own conscience moved him to write another letter even more stately, explaining that the boys appeared to be abundantly alive and would remain with him until of man's years. This letter was never answered by Rachel Cory; after three years, it seemed unlikely that it ever would be. That doorway had opened on years of change, as all years are, but Ben held a private notion that the century really turned then, in March of 1704: for himself and Reuben an end to flame and trouble except for whatever stirred within—and this only natural, since any boy or man is a volcano with a thin crust and knows it.

Ben sounded the knocker. Now he must remember to take off his hat after the door opened, not before—supposing it ever did.

It opened. In Puritan gray and white, she of the brown face was regarding him with amiable recognition. Ben had started to claw his hat at the first rattle of the latch; he checked that, and was now able to remove it, not gracefully but at least without dropping it on her shoes. All this the slave girl observed with calm, secure in cool gravity, a well-trained servant waiting for him to speak, but there could be no doubt about that flash of welcome. "Mistress Faith Jenks—is she at home?" He spoke so softly he could hardly hear the noise himself.

"I think so, sir." Again a sparkle shared, as if she had said aloud: "Of course she is, Ben Cory of Deerfield, but I must make a show of going to find out." In her actually spoken words Ben heard a puzzling foreign quality: the th was almost a t. "Will you come in, Mr. Cory, the while I inquire?" The foreign stress altered his name to something like Coree. But she did remember him, name and all.

Clarissa showed him through the entry—he knocked over no furniture—into a parlor dim with heavy drapes at the windows such as Ben had never seen. Mr. Kenny liked his windows casually plain to the world. Clarissa moved to the drapes with the grace of a wild being incapable of clumsiness. She said: "Let's have more light."

"Thank you," Ben said. She glanced at him quickly, startled maybe by the thanks, then flung the cloth open and lingered briefly, a golden hand raised to the drapery, the round of her cheek lovable in the sun.

Ben realized he was rudely staring, in a sudden loss of blindness. He automatically damned himself for shameful thoughts—he came here to call respectfully on Faith Jenks!—not to yearn and lust after a slave wench who doubtless owned not even a last name. In his confusion he could no longer look at Clarissa. He heard her murmur some pleasant word about sitting down and making himself at ease. She was gone, and the room cold.

Clarissa's hand—now Ben could not even scold himself. He could not escape the sweetness of a golden hand, pink-palmed, shining in sunlight as a part of sunlight.

Seated and short of breath he tried furtively to clean an over-looked fingernail with a thumbnail, an operation tinged with futility. On the wall a sampler confronted him, not very well made—Kate would have sniffed—asserting: And thine ears shall hear a voice behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left. Isaiah, xxx; 21. Ben Cory ventured a modest alteration in the angle of his chair.

He remembered he did not know the religion of the Jenks family; had stupidly failed to inquire about it of Uncle John. What if Faith were strongly devout?—it was likely. What if she discovered with shock that he had not seen the inside of a meeting-house since coming to Roxbury?... He fretted at the fingernail, borrowing trouble. Could a man dissemble, hiding essential doubts from a woman if he loved her? Shabby bargain: for my pretense, your love. He gave up the fingernail as a lost cause, and begged the moral dilemma to go away a while.

Slowly, as it may dawn on a wanderer in the forest that he is under examination from a thicket by the feral unconciliating eyes of a Something—bear, catamount, Indian, he doesn't know, doesn't exactly wish to know—so it dawned on Ben that he was being studied from the hallway, in perfect silence, by a square lump of girl and a smaller lump of yellowish dog.

Following her inclinations, the mother of Charity's dog might have conceived and born a spaniel, but she must have been tempted by the Devil in the shape of a terrier. The snuff-colored result had been amended by years of overeating into a hairy sausage too close to the floor. His silky ears were tolerable spaniel, his eyes all spaniel in foolish sadness, blurred in the iris like some old human eyes. When Ben smiled, a wag disturbed the squirrely tail; he shambled up to analyze the smell of Ben's feet and pronounce it fair. Charity nodded. "He worships you. I foresaw it plain. Most uncommon for Sultan to worship anyone."

Ben studied Sultan in some alarm. He was lying on Ben's shoes, true, but it looked more like sleep than worship. "Often he growls with menace"—Charity approached, awkward in a shapeless brown frock that did her no good—"the which he was prepared to do when we ambushed you."

"I'd've gone straight up in the air. A perfect ambush."

Charity planted her feet far apart and hid her hands behind her back. "Did you play Inj'an when you was young?"

"Oh, I did, Mistress Charity, my brother and I. Used to sneak off to the woods where we were forbidden to go, which was wrong of us."


"The woods were dangerous—real Inj'ans."

"I've seen real ones—not wild, though." She came nearer, not by walking but by a side-to-side evolution of spread feet, carrying her like a statue on small wheels. "Christian Indians, talked English all piggedy-gulp."

"I remember an old Indian at Deerfield, supposed to be a Christian. A Pocumtuck. Wore a cast-off bodice for a breechclout, and was alway——" Ben remembered the failing of Captain Jenks—"was alway a little foolish."

"Faith is dressing her hair different, the which you're obliged to notice or she'll be in a taking, the which I think is poo."

"I'll be sure to notice it, Mistress Charity."

"Be you"—Charity jerked her head; upstairs Ben could hear a muted ripple of women's voices—"in love with her?"

Ben evaded. "Charity, I've met her but the once."

No good. "I thought a person alway knew."

"Oh—maybe they do and I'm just foolish."

"I guess you are, but very wonderful."

Maneuvered thus against a lee shore with the broadside raking him from bow to stern, Ben mumbled: "'Deed I'm not."

"Not poo," said Charity, sinking him....

"Do you go often to church, Mistress Charity?"

"We're Church of England."

"Oh, so was my mother."

"Then a'n't you too?"

"Well—my father was not a member of the congregation at Deerfield, and my Uncle John is not a churchgoer, nor—nor am I."

"Um. Thought everyone was obliged to go."

"My Uncle John says it was so, years past. Now, if everyone went there wouldn't be meeting-houses to hold 'em.... Do you like going?"

"Mr. Binyon was very wonderful."

"He is—no longer with you?"

Charity shook her head and sighed. "I do treasure his memory. He thundered, as with the voice of many waters."


"Nay, he went back to England. Later they said his steps went down unto the—that is, he joined—well, somebody. I don't just know. Mr. Mitching is not wonderful. He whuffles. In fact he is...."


Charity came quite close, and seemed perilously near to smiling. "You said that—but I'll never tell. Nay, I do hold in my heart many things that Mr. Binyon—thundered—but mustn't speak of him, and yet I do sometimes, because everyone says I own the nature of a heedless brat."

"I don't say so."

"You are different. Mr. Binyon spoke as with the voice of angels. Somebody said he was forty—he didn't look so terrible old.... Were all your people killed at Deerfield, Mr. Cory?"

"My father and mother. My brother escaped, with me. He's fifteen now, and I'm seventeen. And you?"

"Thirteen in May. A sad time—nobody will ever listen."

"You don't mean you're going to be thirteen forever?"

"Do not be poo...."

"He's a much better student than I, Reuben is."

"I can read, by the way.... Was your mother very beautiful?"

"Why—yes, Charity, she was. Everyone should be able to read."

"I thought so because you are beautiful."

"Now, Charity! You ought not——"

"I know. Alway, everything wrong."

"Not that, but—oh, never mind.... What do you like to read?"

"Not romances. Faith reads those, by the way."

"I've read but a few." In Mr. Kenny's helter-skelter library, Ben had had a glimpse of Aphra Behn and her long-winded imitators; he had rather enjoyed the swashbuckling of Oroonoko. "Our tutor keeps us so hard pressed with the classics we can't read much else."

"Um ... Mr. Cory, is it true that swallows spend the winter at the bottom of frozen ponds and streams all naked of any feathers?"

"Nay, I've heard that but don't believe it. They must go south like so many others and return in the spring."

"Um. All the same I drew a picture of some of them under the water all naked of any feathers, and another on the brink—he hath just risen and put his feathers on again." She gulped and stuck out a blunt jaw. "I draw many pictures, when I ought to be sewing. I like cooking if I can cook what I like."

"But sewing is poo?"

"You too would think so, had you been obliged to do it. Would you wish to behold the picture I made of swallows under the water all naked of any feathers and one on the brink?"

"Yes, I would, Charity."

She whirled like a doll on a revolving pole and marched away. Sultan moaned and followed, a slave to duty with a backward glance of apology.

Ben heard other footsteps and rose, too soon, and bowed—too soon, so that he was bent in the middle when Faith entered, grave and shining and young, preceded by the bulk of Madam Prudence Jenks, who clearly did not expect a hand to be kissed or shaken but held both pale things curled below the twin billows of her bosom and entered the room thus, rather like an angel looking for breakfast, and allowed Faith to help her into a chair, and loomed in it, rather like an angel disappointed but willing to wait. "'Tis most agreeable of you, Mr. Carey, to call upon us in our simple afflicted seclusion."

Uncle John hadn't mentioned that the Jenks family was secluded, afflicted, or simple. The drowned gaze of Madam Jenks suggested she had risen from a rest of ages under water, for the purpose (imposed on her by others) of viewing Benjamin Cory; if he proved not too detestably in need of correction, she might submerge. Ben mumbled how happy he was to meet her. For all their damp opacity, her prominent eyes were not at all blind.

Faith's gold-brown hair lay in soft spirals above her ears; on the coils rested a cap, no such cap as Puritan custom approved but a trifle of frivolous lace—the Mathers would have hated it as one of the stigmata of popery. Her dress today was dead-leaf brown. To Ben it looked uncomplicated and demure, its very plainness encouraging the eye to rejoice in what it held. Surely she could never become gross and overblown, the damask fading to an underwater bleach, dugs swollen to down pillows!

"How charmingly you've done your hair, Mistress Faith!"

"Oh, la, thank you, sir—I merely toss it together so to have it out of the way." (And thank you, Charity!) Hands chastely folded, Faith watched him with unmistakable radiance; as Ben dared to meet her eyes she blinked both of them. Ben's heart floated over shining fields. He must have said the right thing. In fact, as matters looked now he could perfectly well sit down; it might even be expected of him.

With larger sternness Madam Jenks repeated: "Most kind of you to call, Mr. Carey, seeing we have not been much about since our loss, the which one must suffer with fortitude required of us by the Lord in his infinite mercy, very kind of you." A parchment contraption appeared magically in her hand; she fanned the pallid orb of her face in a motion grave and hypnotic.

Faith patted her mother's arm where folds of baby-creases narrowed to a tiny wrist. "Mama, I think Mr. Cory never met Uncle James." Faith's charming double wink instructed Ben not to be even slightly dismayed by sudden Uncle James: she would see him through.

A red enameled comb projected from Madam Jenks' tight-bound hair like the comb of a hen, bobbing so unstably that Ben's anxiety climbed notch after notch. "He did not know James?" Madam Jenks shook her head, but nothing happened. "A pity, seeing he was ever a worthy influence to young and old and would have profited much by knowing him, but God disposes." Pronouns, Ben noted, counted for no more than ripples, to be brushed aside by the lady under full sail. Solidly abeam of him, cutting his wind and threatening to broach him just when he was trying to claw off to windward, she seemed to be conveying a message: that Benjamin Cory or Carey must have found it extraordinary difficult to maintain the Christian virtues with no assistance from Uncle James.

"My father's brother-in-law," Faith interpreted. "He died last year, Mr. Cory. Mamma thought you might have met him."

"Hadn't the honor, ma'am. I'm sorry to learn of your affliction."

"He resteth in the Lord," said the fat woman, and beamed. "Lived in Cambridge. I trust your grandfather is well?"

"Yes, ma'am, very well these days." (What was the use?)

"I join you, Mr. Carey, in praising, for that mercy, the Dispenser of All Things." Madam Jenks went on to pronounce the weather changeable; Ben agreed; Faith expressed intelligent neutrality. Small silence spread like a blot of ink.... "I understand you intend going to the college this year, Mr. Carey?"

"Yes, ma'am, my brother and I."

"Preparing for the ministry, I presume?"

"Neither of us would appear to have the call, Madam Jenks."

"Indeed.... Do you enjoy the Boston air?"

"I don't think I've ever heard it, ma'am."

"Your pardon, sir?"

"Nay, I—beg your pardon—I must have misunderstood."

"My inquiry was in reference to the Boston air. Do you enjoy it?"

"Oh, very much...."

By some transition which Ben heard but didn't understand—the instant of kaleidoscopic shift was blurred for him by a gleam of merriment in Faith—Madam Jenks was comparing cats and dogs. "'Tis true a cat is a tidy beast and of value if she be a good mouser, but one can feel no affection for them."

"Why," said Ben, "our big yellow cat——"

"They are treacherous," said Madam Jenks. The comb was rising. "Now a dog is a faithful animal instant ever to his master's needs, for it would appear the Lord hath prepared him for the service of man, and I am trying, Faith, to recall the name of a small dog Mr. Jenks owned, you must remember: I mean the one that was two before Sultan, or was it three?—with a white ear."

"You must be thinking of Prince, Mama."

"No, my dear, seeing that Prince was the one that fell down the well, and Goodman Jennison spent the better part of a forenoon attempting to rescue the poor brute and had no white ear to be sure."


"Faith, Rags was black, and was given to us by Mr. Riggs when his good wife was taken to the Lord, and was obliged for business reasons to go to Newport for some weeks, and certainly had no white ear, and was indeed rather ill-natured, in fact we were obliged to give him away, since he did not return from Newport until some damage had already been done to Goody Jennison's herb garden, the which I regret."

Ben wondered how long Charity had been standing in the hallway, a paper clasped to her square breast and Sultan lying on her shoes. She might have been waiting for Ben to smile, since when he did she dislodged the dog with a backward step and brought him the paper, ignoring her elders.

"My word, Charity!" Faith spoke kindly. "Mr. Cory doesn't wish to look at pictures."

"He told me he did," said Charity flatly, and laid the paper on Ben's knee, leaning close. "This be the one with feathers restored."

"Oh, I see." Confusedly, Ben saw more than that. It had never occurred to him that lines of ink on paper could move and sing. A stream glittered with fragmented ice. Ben could feel the vulnerable pride of the swallow twitching a pert forked tail, tilting a round head toward distant cloud. And how should Charity have made him actually hear the slow yielding of a brook to the coming of spring? Those naked things huddled under the water—swallows maybe, or squirming babies, ambiguous, blind. The eye clung to them, not in laughter.

"Charity," said Madam Jenks, "I believe Mr. Carey would prefer to look at pictures another time."

Charity tried to ignore that. In nearness she was all little-girl softness and warmth, electric. Little?—thirteen.

"Charity," said Madam Jenks, "go and aid Clarissa with the refreshments. You should have remembered it before."

Ben blurted: "Charity, this is beautiful."

"Charity," said Madam Jenks.

Charity inhaled carefully. "Very well, Mama, I will leave the room."

The red comb popped. Ben had been half-prepared for that, and for the deferential scramble he now performed. Under cover of the commotion Charity vanished with the picture, Sultan gloomily following.

"Thankful heart!" The comb restored, Madam Jenks fanned herself. "Ah well, a difficult time of life I suppose. You have no idea, Mr. Carey, the hours of grief and dismay, I have sought guidance on my knees, the which she'll be the death of me yet considering the palpitations of my heart, nevertheless when the Lord calls me to my long home I shall certainly go."

"Mama!" Faith murmured. "I'm sure in a few years she'll learn poise and manners. 'Tis only a passing thing. Why, when I was her age I'm sure I was difficult too."

"Nay, my darling, never intractable, never strange, alway a consolation to me. Faith is my great comfort, Mr. Carey, you've no idea."

"I'm sorry she plagued you, Mr. Cory."

"But—truly she didn't. Anyway, that picture—"

"Art," said Madam Jenks sadly. "When I think how Mr. Jenks and I have striven to teach her womanly ways, and all to no purpose, and then such dreadful passion if she be crossed in the lightest particular, even in these trivial childish notions of art, the which she could not have got it from Mr. Jenks or myself, good heavens!"

Charity said from the doorway: "I heard that." Sultan had given up trying to sleep; he leaned against her leg and whined.

"Oh, Charity, Charity—I suppose you never even went near the kitchen to help Clarissa."

Charity's square face had gone dull red to the eyelids. "She said she had no need of me. Mama, I brought that picture to Mr. Cory because he did ask to see it."

The red comb popped. Ben gathered it up again, but could not immediately return it, for Madam Jenks needed all her powers for speech. "I should have supposed, Charity, that at your years you might have acquired some trace of manners if not of gratitude, the which I do not ask although a child of thirteen is certainly capable, and never no unjust correction nor harsh words if not wholly yielded up to depravity, the which——"

"Mama, I am becoming exceedingly wrathful."

"Charity," said Madam Jenks, "we will not have one of your Times. I forbid it. Go to your room, after all the effort your father and I have made, and that continually."

"Don't you bring Papa into it and him lying up there dead to the world!"

"Charity!" That was Faith, rising, then kneeling quickly by her mother, whose round face had gone gray as ash.

"I will go away forever," said Charity in a sudden loud rage of tears. "Even as Mr. Binyon. I tell you my steps will go down unto the Whore of Babylon!"

"Reuben, I've thought occasionally that the game hath something in common with the course of living. The opening—that's a preparation like youth, and I alway thought, if a chess player might truly understand the opening no other player could defeat him—a'n't that so? Still, it is too complex, the possibilities too near to infinite, for any mind to hold 'em all, and so the best of players will inevitably fumble the opening, at least a little, missing some bright opportunities, the result a compromise with what might have been. Then the middle game—action, struggle, changes of fortune, more opportunities lost, and a few fairly grasped at the just moment."

"I believe I like that, Mr. Welland. And the end game?"

"The end game, if one may arrive at it—some die young, you know, some from a Fool's Mate, or blind chance may overset the board—but if one may arrive—oh dear! Oh dear me! That knight, through my poor wall of pawns—dare say it's all up with me. I will try this. What next?"

"This, sir. You left a hole for my Bishop too."

"So, for my sins, I did. Brrr!... Well, this."


"Blast!... If one may arrive at the end game—as I certainly can't here, my friend—'tis not unlike old age, a time demanding some coolness and precision and the summary of the ending, which is no simple matter of victory or defeat or draw, I think."

"I like the simile, but I'm not sure living is a game."

"It is not, Reuben. I'm pleased you find the flaw. It will remind you that any simile is a mischancy nag to ride. Ride him easy, perhaps for entertainment only, and be ready to jump off before he blunders into the ditch on the left which is marked reductio ad absurdum. If I said, however, that living is a journey, would that be a simile?"

"No, sir, I call that a fair description, no flight of rhetoric."

"Mm-yas.... Let's see what remains for me here. I will try what the poor Pawn can do, creeping into the breach, but I fear little David hath here no slingshot."

"Well.... Well, I'm afraid he did leave it at home, Mr. Welland, for this is checkmate."


"Ben would say I had scuttled him, nautical language being ever on his lips these days. He plays carelessly—in chess, I mean. And in living, with the carelessness of generosity. But he'll win his end game."

"So much of what you say this afternoon ends with Ben! He's very close to your heart, is he not?"

"Oh, we—were alway close."

"And went through much trouble together, I know, which it would seem hath strengthened the tie, but with those of a different nature it might have done the opposite. I had two brothers, Reuben. We drifted apart, as they say—one lives now in England, the other died some years ago. After childhood we were—oh, let us say like friends, but with strangely little to say to one another. Cherish what you have—devotion is not quite the commonest thing in the world."

"This noon, sir, I tried to tell him something. It should have been a simple thing to say, but I lost myself in a most wonderful tangle of misunderstanding—yes, and finally gave it up like a fool, though later I thought of a dozen different ways I might have said it plainly."

"Mm-yas—a little strange. You speak clearly to me, as clearly as anyone I can recall meeting, of any age."

"Well—well, I told him I intended coming here, and he at once supposed that I thought I was ill, and then in reassuring him that it was nothing like that, I somehow lost track of what I had meant to say, which was—which was, sir, that one of my reasons in coming was to tell you that I wish I might study medicine. Or at least hear whatever you might tell me of such an ambition."

"Oh.... That was only one reason, Reuben?"

"Only one of—of many."

"Continue, Reuben."

"I'm confused about many things."

"So am I. But it's a good reason, seeing two candles are a trifle brighter than one."

"And you said to me that you and I ought to be friends."

Chapter Four

Alone outside, dizzy from the rapidly quashed insurrection of Charity Jenks, Ben heard a meeting-house bell remote and jangling-sweet, reminder of Lecture Day, and did his best to assume that appearance of godly gravity which Reuben sometimes described as the likeness of a boiled onion.

Clarissa had been the superior force employed in putting down the rebellion, Ben wasn't quite sure how. The brown girl was just suddenly there, swift and cool, and Charity was both comforted and outflanked, with no reinforcements, not even from the Whore of Babylon—still it seemed to Ben that the honors of war were mighty close to even. After that, Ben could concentrate on restoring the red comb and, under a diminishing surge of pronouns, make polite excuses for departure, refreshments forgotten. He lingered on the doorstep, a startled youth saying softly: "Phoo!" Then he weighed anchor, made sail, and stood on at about three knots, close-hauled.

Next time, of course, everything would go smoothly. He might even be allowed to speak with Faith alone. Meanwhile, the memory of her double wink helped him to repair the fabric of sentiment....

Where to? Uncle John would have left for home; riding, too, and Ben was afoot, for yesterday his mare had gone slightly lame. Ben tried to recall if he had promised to be home by supper-time; he thought not. With the better part of a generous monthly allowance in his breeches, Ben thought: Why return at once? Soon of course, but....

He accepted casual turnings, coming out unexpectedly on Treamount Street near Queen—which led to the Town House, and later became King Street, wandering toward the dock where the lady Artemis lay sleeping. Under the declining sun the city took on a grayness like antiquity.

Ben knew it was not old. Uncle John once called it new and raw—and took the boys into his study to show them a tray of coins, the metal greenish, almost shapeless. "The antiquary asked but a trifle: few value them. This tetradrachm of Athens—you can find the owl of Pallas if your eyes are as good as mine used to be—why, Sophocles could have used it for wine or bread. Consider though, gentlemen, how many things must be vastly older than coins of the classic age; for example, the hills of New England."

The gray city was without silence, as a river cannot be wholly silent. Did true silence ever come to the open sea?—say, in that time when the ship Providence in her passage to Recife lay becalmed? No lightest air, Uncle John said, no ripple; sometimes a long heaving rise and fall; sometimes a burst of silver as a flying fish broke the mirror quiet; sometimes a black triangle of fin, cruising. The sharks made no commotion of haste. Ship sounds, a few—a creaking when a swell raised the ship in her dreambound stillness and let her fall. Human sounds, including prayer. Knife brawls, Uncle John said, in the middle period of the calm....

Most of the shops near the Town House were closed. Ben lingered at a bookstall, his eye caught by a row of titles on the bottom shelf of an outdoor rack, his mind disturbed by the sudden partial clarification of a memory. That noon Reuben had certainly been trying to tell him something. Not that he was ill—Ru had really been exasperated at that notion—but it did have to do with Mr. Welland. Ben importuned his memory for his brother's words. "He knows so much ... to study ... if I might...."

A call? All of a sudden Ru wished to study medicine? Ben squatted before the books—certainly medical, and mostly Latin—and the guess acquired confidence until Ben was fretting at his own stupidity: the boy could hardly have meant anything else.

"Harvard, sir?" asked the bookseller from the doorway, a squatty man who must have been nobly redheaded in his prime.

"Not yet. This autumn, probably." (Why did I say that?—no probably about it, when Uncle John says I shall, and I can't disappoint him.)

"I know the look, sir. Closing soon, but don't be hurried, look about.... Student of medicine?"

"Not I, sir, but my brother is a learned man of divers interests." Intending it as a jest for private enjoyment, Ben felt no impulse to chuckle at the pompous utterance. Not even a lie—oh, not a man maybe, if one must be precise about chronology; but not exactly a boy either.

"Ah!... All sixpence on that shelf except the one from Oxford. For that I must have two shillings—'t a'n't badly worn, you see."

Immediately desiring it, Ben sniffed. It was in English, not Latin—Anatomy of Human Bodies, published in 1698, only nine years ago. Ben turned the pages. The flayed and dissected subjects in the copper engravings wore a look both rigidly embarrassed and amused. How unlike Charity's naked swallows! And yet how like them too, for these artists, with the coolness of great skill, were certainly trying to convey——("What is truth?" said John Kenny.) Ben sniffed again. "Some pages gone."

"I know. Two shillings is cheap all the same."

"Why, damme, suppose my brother wishes to know the very things told of in these lost pages?"

"Must even look elsewhere. However, merely because I like your face—oh, what if I do die in the almshouse?—buy it for two shillings and you may add a sixpence book for nothing, and I'll tie the both of 'em in a piece of string dissected, sir, from the very rope that hanged Johnny Quelch."

"Done!" Ben grabbed the next volume at random—Neurologia Universalis, by Raymond de Vieussens. It looked fat. "And tie 'em in any string, or do you take me for a mooncalf?"

"Anything but that, old friend! Can't tempt you with Johnny?"

"Why, man, Quelch swung there till he rotted and the rope too, and what would I want of his furniture?"

"Only what they say, you know—bit of hanging rope—wonderful fine tonic for the vessels of generation."

"They say that, do they now?"

"Ah, they do, but at your age why should you need it?" He winked, and gurgled, and scratched his armpit, and tied the books in a common string. "I venture you wouldn't believe the number of old men have gone away from here, sir, skipping, sir, with a hank of the rope that hanged Johnny. I must have given away a league of it. You don't mind, I hope, if I talk a certain amount of shit?"

"Thrive on it," said Ben, and snapped a finger at his hatbrim affectionately, and walked away with his parcel, curiously happy.

On King Street the water-front smells thickened. Ben turned into Fish Street where they became a miasma, but dominant always was the salt cleanness of the sea. Here a few sodden faces appraised Ben's good clothes and youthful slimness, as if debating how much the garments might fetch, supposing he were dragged down an alley, coshed, and stripped. Ben missed his knife, which he seldom wore nowadays, admitting that it would never have done to wear it for his call at the Jenks house. No one offered him any trouble; that might have been different at a later hour, when the widely separated lamps would do no more than emphasize the blackness.

Artemis rested high in the water, unloading done, her new cargo not yet aboard, her empty rigging lonely against the late sky. Debating whether to go up the plank, oppressed by a shyness of inexperience, Ben heard some stir of leisured voices below the forward hatch. "... opportunity, for a man like yourself...." The words received some grumbled answer. Ben wandered away disconsolate to perch on a mooring-post and argue that there was no reason at all why he shouldn't go aboard. The last of the sunlight dissolved in a thickening of cloud-wrack on the horizon; a small southerly breeze was shifting to the eastern quarter when an ancient tricorne hat appeared over the side—Mr. Shawn about to step ashore, frowning a moment at sight of Ben, but relaxing at once and smiling, coming to sink in an easy squat by the mooring-post, careless of the old green coat that settled around his feet. "I'm after passing the time with the watchman, wishing I could make the man talk of something but fish. O to listen to the long Gloucester face of him, and he with scarce a sight of Gloucester the twenty years past by his own telling!" Shawn's knife gouged a splinter from the planking and went to whittling under big knowing hands. "Will it be a truce to studies, Mr. Cory?"

"A short one, sir. Mr. Hibbs gave me the afternoon."

One end of the sliver grew to a delicate fishtail. "Boy—look at that bowsprit line. Mother of God, will your mind's eye see her under a fair wind?—a following wind, say, to belly that fores'l, to make her lean toward the faraway like the goddess she is, man? Do you see it?"

"I think I do. I've never been under sail, Mr. Shawn."

"You will, one day."

"It seems not to be my great-uncle's wish."

"Then maybe not till it's you with the full years of a man, but you'll be going." Shawn frowned at the shape growing under his fingers as if he faced a strong light but would not turn away. "Maybe it'll destroy you, maybe not, but whatever time you'll be going, and you that young, why, Beneen—may I call you so?—you'll see places I'll never live to see at all, now that's no lie."

"May I ask, have you spoken to Mr. Jenks, about that matter you mentioned to my great-uncle?"

"Faith, I've not had opportunity." Shawn smiled at his sliver, where now grew a rounded head and the suggestion of a face, and his knife defined deep curves of female waist and hips. "Indisposed he hath been, and not receiving visitors." Shawn drooped an eyelid. "From the little black wench I understood the condition might continue to prevail."

To Ben that seemed not funny but unkind. "Uncle John told me the Captain never drinks at sea."

Ben knew he was being studied from under lowered brows. "I meant no disparagement. May I ask what years you have itself?"

"I am seventeen, sir—last February."

"And I thinking you nearer twenty." Shawn whittled with tiny careful strokes. "Parents not living?"

"They were both killed in the French attack on Deerfield."

"Forgive my blundering! I remember hearing about Deerfield, in London. 1704 surely, and I navigator of a Dutch brig in the spring of that year, homeward bound out of the Moluccas for Amsterdam, where I left her and so to London, and was the long time cooling my heels waiting a passage for these colonies, with a thought of settling here—a'n't it the laughable way of a man never to know himself at all? I'll never settle, nowhere. In less than a month I was hunting another berth, and do be still hunting. I'll never settle anywhere till I die, and won't that be under the salt water where nothing marks the place a man's vanity ended?... Killed by the savages?"

"My mother was. It was a French officer shot my father."

"And such is war," said Shawn; the mermaid sagged in his hand. "Wars, wars, and all the time the world scarce explored! War was never no profit to a living soul, Beneen, unless it might be a king or a priest." Mr. Shawn spat off the wharf. Ben was confused, that in the moment when Shawn spoke out against the cruelties of mankind his face should be showing the color of some kind of hatred.

"Well, sir, we can hardly permit the French Louis to become master of all Europe, so to harry us and drive us out of this land too, as his forces in Canada have attempted continually."

The Irishman shrugged, watching the bay. "Canada, the way I hear, is a handful of frightened papists in a wilderness. As for the Sun King Louis, I saw him once. Six years past, before the war was renewed—the Treaty of Ryswick accomplished nothing, you'll understand, a patching-up, a pause for the licking of wounds, and so you may say 'tis all one war, and I happening to be in Paris when his solar bloody Majesty made a gracious appearance unto the multitude, I beheld a trembling dried-up monkey in velvet. That minikin shivering old man, that homunculus, that thing, master of Europe and the West? Don't they tell he's not even master of his own bowels? Faith, when he dies his empire will be crumbling like a child's mud castle in the rain as others have done before, and England would do better to wait for it, but not so, the armies and navies must be employed and good men die to no purpose, anyway that's the opinion of one mad Irishman," said Shawn, and smiled with sudden brilliance. A twist of the knife gave the mermaid a pretty navel; he held her away for admiration. "O the anatomical enigmas of the mermaid!—hey? I wonder could there be word of her in Physiologus?... Will you be in haste to return home?"

"No great haste." But with the words, Ben realized he ought to be. The sun was behind the rooftops, the wind sharp easterly.

"Would you dine with me, Ben?—that is," he asked again, "may I call you so and no offense?"

"Of course, Mr. Shawn."

"That's kind. I dread a lonely evening, now that's no lie."

Ben was startled, having meant only to agree to the use of his first name, for which Mr. Shawn hardly needed permission. Well—might not Uncle John suppose he had been invited to dine at the Jenks house, and so not be troubled? It would mean walking that ugly mile of the Roxbury road after dark, but there would be a moon later, if the deepening clouds did not interfere. Mr. Shawn was already speaking of a tavern on Ship Street. "The Lion they call it, nothing so fine, but I fear, Beneen, I am not dressed for a finer place. Hi!—that wind's pure easterly, and will that be meaning rain by morning in this part of the world?"

"Sometimes," Ben said, and discovered he was cold.

"Let us go...."

The Lion tavern consisted of one long narrow room, filled with the reek of malt, sweat, clay pipes, rummy breath, wood smoke. A line of small tables on one side was divided by a poorly drawing fireplace; on the other side of the room a bar ran from the kitchen door to a grimy window, and the smeary glass denied all memory of daylight. Pine knots sputtered above the fireplace; a lantern on the bar added more smoke but no light worth the name. Shawn chose a table within spitting distance of the hearth, ignoring two shabby customers who were exchanging an aimless rambling conversation at the bar.

At the table farthest to the rear, dark as the smoke and like a part of it, a thin man with a black patch on one eye sat by himself, smiling. Before him stood a dirty trencher with the remains of supper, and a pewter mug. He sprawled with elbows hooked on the back of his chair, arms dangling, so quiet he might have been asleep, but the one good eye was open wide and one does not sleep with a frozen smile. When the eye moved to examine Ben and Shawn with no sign of interest, the rest of his face took no part in the act.

An ancient waiter who knew Shawn by name was mumbling a good evening, flicking a rag at the table, his warty face darkened like a ham hung a long time on a rafter. Shawn seemed quite at home; after some unease, Ben found his own lungs could adjust to the haze.

Shawn approached the roast beef, which was not bad, like a man with a week's hunger. Ben finished his first mug of ale quickly, for it helped him avoid coughing; the influence of it softened the sordidness of this place; as the mug was refilled, Ben wondered why anything here should have troubled him—honest working-man's tavern, and Daniel Shawn the prince of good fellows. As for the one-eyed half-corpse, one needn't look....

Shawn's manners, he noticed, were not quite those of Mr. Kenny's house. Holding down the meat with his spoon, Shawn cut it in curiously small pieces, and often used the knife to carry them to his mouth, instead of his fingers. It looked dangerous, for the knife was sharp. Afterward Shawn took pains to clean his fingers on a kerchief from his pocket. Privately consulting his wallet for reassurance, Ben ordered a third round of ale. Mr. Shawn was touched and pleased.

He drank Ben's health. He told two or three bawdy anecdotes, large voice intimately lowered; Ben laughed in delight and forgot them at once, which annoyed him. He discovered he was lifting his mug and drinking to the hope that Mr. Shawn would secure a berth with Artemis.

"O the warm heart of youth!" said Shawn, and looked away. "But Beneen, you must not feel obliged to speak of that to your great-uncle."

"But of course I will!" Softness, Ben thought—he is without it. Even now, when Mr. Shawn was manifestly touched and pleased, the brilliance of his look, his friendship, made Ben think of the spurting of light from the diamond thumb-ring Uncle John occasionally wore, or the stark gleam of sun on snow. Wondering whether the sea took all softness from a man, wondering also as he drank whether such an event ought to be called good or bad, Ben understood that Shawn was saying something more he ought to hear and remember.

"Isn't it the strange thing how from all the ruck, all the thousands, millions of humankind, explorers are so few? Why, you may name all the great ones on the fingers of one hand."

"So few as that?"

"Cabot, Columbus, Magellan, maybe Drake, maybe the both hands. And all the South Pacific lies there unseen, untraveled—nothing but a waste of water? I'll not believe that, when there's room for a continent greater than this one, or a thousand islands larger than mine own motherland."

It was music, and what little music he had heard had always troubled Ben, as a voice whose words could never be wholly translated. For all the pure pleasure, that had been so in those distant hours with Uncle Zebina Pownal. "I suppose, Mr. Shawn, some day every least corner of the world will be explored."

"Ha?... Not in my time nor yours. Now that troubles me, Beneen. It's the clear plain thing what you say, but d'you know I never had the thought myself? No more horizons—O the sad earth!... Man dear, I'm wishing you'd not said that."

"I suppose they who live in that day will be otherwise concerned."

"Most are now, the way explorers are few...."

The dirty trencher had been removed from in front of the one-eyed man, and his mug refilled. He must have drunk from it, for a bit of foam clung near his bleak smile and was drying there, as if someone had spat on a statue. Ben hitched his chair sideways, the better to avoid looking at him, and glanced at the bar, knowing the ale had made him foolishly drowsy.

Two newcomers had arrived. Ben was obliged to stare, then understood he should have recognized them in an instant without need of thought. ("'Tis a matter of being your own man....") That was Jan Dyckman over there, big and blond and mild, drinking rum with the round-headed greasy bosun Tom Ball. Ben leaned across the table in a generous glow. "Do you know Mr. Dyckman?"

Shawn shook his head, deep in revery. "By sight only."

"I could present you. Maybe a word from him would be of use?"

Shawn shook his head again and murmured: "The thought is kind, but look again, the way the time's inauspicious. Mr. Dyckman is the worse for drink, Beneen. Some other time."

Ben looked again, astonished, to find Jan Dyckman gazing directly at him without recognition, eyes rigid and damp. The eyes moved jerkily away and with dignity viewed a coin that Mr. Dyckman would have liked to raise from a wet spot on the bar. He must have been drinking elsewhere, to be so far gone. Abruptly Shawn was asking: "Have you ever had a woman?"

"Why, no, I—no, Mr. Shawn."

"And don't I remember that time of life, the ache of it? Ah, steady as she goes!—the fear too, boy, but devil any need of that. I'll take you to a house, and you agreeing."

"I—don't know. I suppose I ought to start soon for home."

Shawn seemed not to hear. "It's orderly is the place I'm thinking of, above a cordwainer's on Fish Street and next door to a grog shop, the which is convenient. Four girls and the madam—O the fine flow of conversation in her cups! She's that rambling you wouldn't know the thing she'd say. I'd have you hear how she was betrayed by an earl in London town, the way I'm thinking she was never no closer to England than a comfortable pile of sacking, maybe forninst a warehouse on one of the wharfs out yonder, but it's the fair fine tale." Ben fidgeted. "As for the rest, Beneen, a stallion will need but a moment to cover a willing mare, and in such a house they are willing. I recall a half-ugly wench who would be doing anything you like at all." Shawn laid a finger along his old-ivory pockmarked nose and smiled diamond-like. "I had her once—wasn't it like sinking into a warm dumpling fresh from the oven? One of the others is handsome but cowlike—I'm a-mind to try her, though I fear she'll be watching a spot on the ceiling and do no more for a man's entertainment than if he was a wind at the door."

Ben pressed damp hands on the table to check a shaking in them, knowing with exasperation that Shawn must have seen it. Vague sounds at the bar gave him an excuse to turn away. Tom Ball and Jan Dyckman were leaving, Dyckman moving like a giant wooden doll, every step a separate achievement. When at length Ben turned back it seemed to him—but everything now was confused, the ale in him mumbling I-will-I-will-not—it seemed to him that Daniel Shawn was settling in his chair as if he too had just swung about, or risen perhaps, resuming his former position in the same moment when the one-eyed scarecrow stood up (not drunk at all) and stalked in the wake of Ball and Dyckman out of the tavern.

As he passed Ben's table the thin man shot one downward glance. To Ben in the cold-hot worry of I-will-I-will-not it was like being jabbed by an icicle, and he could not even summon his wits to think about it, for Shawn was saying kindly: "It's the fresh air you need, Beneen, and I'm thinking of the old saying, a man's not quite a man till he's tried that bit of a doorway. So shall we go?"

Reuben left the cottage with the green shutters before the sun had entered the smudge of horizon clouds. He took the path across the back fields, his muscles lazy with the spring, his mind blazing.

Mr. Welland had not appeared surprised that Reuben should wish to study his art. He had not probed for motives; had not even inquired whether such ambition harmonized with Mr. Kenny's plans; had offered no large generalities of grave counsel. Alertness was the word: as though the doctor had caught something more than Reuben's words, and must listen sharply within his own universe to interpret the message.

Reuben had lived through a heavy time while Mr. Welland gazed at the completed chess game, his monkey face a stillness. Then—"Yes," said Mr. Welland, "you and I must be friends. Yet I have never taught...."

The doctor spent much time laying the chessmen away in their plain box, the stillness remaining, his lips pursed, a dim frown coming and going. He carried the box to a drawer of a battered cabinet, then stood before the single bookcase in his surgery, stoop-shouldered, elderly, pinching his small chin with thumb and forefinger. "Mm-yas—Vesalius. Not the most recent but still the best." He spread the tall book open on his desk. With the appearance of impatience he nodded for Reuben to come to him.

"This is a man," said Amadeus Welland. "You've glimpsed him, clad in garments, and in a skin—itself an organ of first importance, but forget it for the moment and look on him here, flayed. You can imagine, I suppose, what these are—these flowing, overlapping bands?"

"Muscles, surely?"

"Yes. Place your left hand by your right armpit, here, now draw your right arm leftward; what bunches under your fingers is this, here in the drawing, and the name of it is Pectoralis major, and you may find some little trouble in remembering it."

"I will try to remember it."

"I am glad you said 'try.' I have spent fifty-three years striving to overcome that vanity wherewith all men are born. You'll also try, and succeed, in remembering the names of all the other muscles in this drawing, and in this one where the fella turns you his flayed back, and in all these other drawings further on. You will reflect that muscles, while of major importance, are not more important than all the organs that live below them in their manifold occasions—since these also you must remember, all of them, their names, their functions so far as we know them, the many changes that will affect them in youth and age, sickness and health. Here, for example, is the diagram of the bony frame that bears us. When my own studies began I had first to learn these bones—all of them, naturally, their names, position, function whether in action or repose—mm-yas, as you will. I do recall my teacher once struck me across the face with a dry bone called the radius—this one—because I called it the ulna, for the which I later praised him—with reservations."

"Reservations, sir?"

"It was possible for him," said Mr. Welland lightly, and took snuff. "It would not be possible for me to strike—a student. Fi-choo-shoo! And here, sir, is a representation of the human heart...."

When Reuben next glanced at the clock in Mr. Welland's surgery, another hour had passed. "There will be times," said Mr. Welland, removing a gray cat from a cushion on a three-legged stool by the western window, where she had slept through the lesson, so that he might sit on the stool himself with the late sun behind his shoulder—"times, I guess, when your eyes grow tired in candlelight; other times when you'd much prefer to go outside and play—as you must do fairly often, but not of course at times when you're unable to remember, for example, all the occasions when laudanum may be given and those when it may not. And so on, Reuben, and so on and so on—I've merely mentioned a few things that come first to mind," said Mr. Welland, and rubbed his eyes. Reuben could not see his face very clearly against the light....

Crossing the back fields, Reuben passed through a clump of trees, and from the other side could look across a better-known field to the roof of Mr. Kenny's house. He leaned against a beech, discovering that he was hungry, that it would be enjoyable to pester Kate for something unauthorized in advance of supper. The wind had shifted behind him, now easterly; the broad hard body of the beech was a friend.

There was too much: Reuben knew he could not immediately bring order to any such welter of new impressions and discoveries. Hungry, yes, but let that wait; and the questions about himself that he had timorously half-intended to ask Mr. Welland—let them wait too. Too much for now—like a runner exhausted, he must rest, and was even reluctant to go on to the house. Better for the moment only to stand here in the failing daylight, friendly with the beech and needing (for the moment!) no other friend.

Rising from that stool, disturbing the cat again and taking pencil and paper at his desk, Mr. Welland had made a few light loving strokes.

"You draw with great skill, sir."

"Thank you—practice. And this woman's breast I have drawn—beautiful, you would say?"

"Yes, it is."

"Yes, I should think so, to anyone, although I fear my poor sketch claims only accuracy and not art. But 'tis beautiful, as you say, the thing itself—maketh one to think of the lover's kiss, or of a child's mouth here drinking life." He began another drawing. "This is what I have seen not once but too many times, when this organ is afflicted with certain kinds of destroying tumor." Reuben watched, shaken and sickened but refusing to turn away until the doctor sat back from his desk, murmuring: "You understand, Mr. Cory, I am merely trying to frighten and demoralize you with selected scraps of truth."

"I killed a wolf once," said Reuben Cory, refusing to look away.

"Tell me of that."

Reuben told of it, reluctant to meet the doctor's look because of what the man had said a while ago about vanity, but finding no great difficulty in the telling. After all it was not brag. It had happened.

"I shall speak to Mr. Kenny," said Amadeus Welland. "Perhaps an apprenticeship? Or better a year or so of preparation, to determine for yourself if this be really what you wish, in such time as may be allowed from your other studies—which are not to be neglected, Reuben, not ever, you understand? Show me a man of medicine who hath found himself too busy for other fields of learning, and you will have shown me an educated damned fool."

"I can't——"

"Reuben, if thanks be appropriate, let them wait. I may have done thee no service. I have only pointed out one or two signposts on a most heartbreaking journey. But if that is the way you will go—I am fifty-three, Reuben, not very successful and not at all loved here in Roxbury—if that is the way you will go, I'll go with you as far as I may."

Ben Cory ducked his head to clear the doorframe, unused even yet to being rather tall, following Daniel Shawn with the precarious poise of a man of the world. The room in many ways resembled a cavern, its air stale-scented and much used, with bat-rustlings from other chambers. The shriveled woman squeezed his damp hands, twittering, her pink cheeks like summer apples as they look after a winter in the cellar, powdery and dull within but retaining a characteristic cloying sweetness. "Any friend of yours, Mr. Shawn—ooh, look at the great gray eyes of him!" Mistress Gundy patted the pleat of her lips every moment or two, maybe enjoying a silent burp. "What do I call you, dearie?" She trotted away with small bobbing steps, to plump into an armchair and smile and sigh. "Cat's got his tongue, la. So he loseth nothing else, no harm done, ha, Mr. Shawn? What do I call the pretty young gentleman that's lost his pretty tongue, Mr. Shawn? Won't have anything lost in my place, and me trying so hard to keep everything agreeable, ha, Mr. Shawn?"

"Just Benjamin," said Shawn, and straddled a chair, watching the old woman with somber upturned eyes, a darkness in him. Ben thought, with alcoholic irrelevance, that if Shawn were to reach out and squash poor Mistress Gundy with a twist of a sailor's thumb, she would pop like any defenseless bug, but none of them need be astonished, Mistress Gundy least of all. But at one time she had been a child, a growing maid.... "Just Benjamin will do," said Shawn, and spat in the fireplace.

"Oh, marry will he, I'm sure." Mistress Gundy giggled and remained genteel.

"Anything new here, Nanny?"

"A'n't it alway new, Mr. Shawn?"

"That it is not, and never was unless maybe for Adam, the poor sod, and for a boy the first time but not the second. Nanny, I'm wanting Laura for the boy. For meself I don't care—anything that'll bear me weight a moment."

"Mister Shawn, such a manner of conversation! Will you not mend, sir?" He only looked at her. "Well, Master Just Benjamin, dearie, Laura it shall be, and she so fresh and lovely, I'm sure, you'll be most content, I'm sure."

Ben cleared his throat, mindful of Shawn's rambling advice in the evening street. "Would you wish something to drink, Mistress Gundy, that we might have sent up from next door?"

"Nay, I knew he'd find it, and with pleasant speech!" She cut her eyes at Shawn to make that a reproach, but he was remote, observing only the embers, or the South Pacific. "Well, dearie, 'tis early on in the evening for it, but since you speak of it and so pleasantly, a trifle to wet the whistle would not go amiss." She patted her lips. "For my part, sir, ever since I resided in London I have been partial to a bit of hot buttered rum of a chilly evening, to settle the rifting-up and keep out the cold. It's the Boston air, sir. Never do I grow accustomed to it, that I never."

"Yes," said Ben.

"I'll send the servant," said Mistress Gundy, and rose, about to potter away.

"Do you send him," said Shawn to the embers, "but bring in the wenches before he returns, Nanny, else you'll be rambling on from here to hereafter and we biting the curbing of the stall, God damn it, with nothing to mount."

"Mr. Shawn, sir, one day your tongue'll turn and bite you, sir."

"Then I'll have thee kiss the place, old woman." She sidled for the doorway, out of reach of his lazy hand. "But wait till I bleed."

"I marvel the sweet young gentleman ever took up with you, sir, you that come in with a smile and stay with a curse."

"Took up with me to see a bit of the world, Nanny, the way the world's a troublesome thing for a boy to see at all and I'm part of it. Come give us a kiss!"

"You leave me tell you this: you mark one of my poor girls on the face just once, just once, Mr. Shawn——"

"And you'll have law on me belike?"

"Though it be the ruin o' me I'll say it: I think you're a wicked man, Mr. Shawn."

"But not on the face is well enough?"

"Mr. Shawn!"

"Come now, give us a kiss and be friends!"

Ben said involuntarily: "Don't, Mr. Shawn! Leave her alone!"

Shawn locked stares with him a moment, smiling, then spread his hands and folded them again on the chair back and dropped his jaw on them, watching the embers, alone on an island. Behind his back Mistress Gundy was beckoning, and Shawn paid no heed as Ben stepped into the hallway with her. "I don't suppose he means too much by his talk, Mistress Gundy."

"Eh? Known him long?"

"Not long, not very well.... I was astonished he should speak so."

She was sniffling, patting her lips. "Let it go." In spite of the small gust of tears she was alert and brisk. "Be you paying or him?"

"I am. How—how much?"

"Ho, and if he's not, how comes he to lay about him so?" She broke off, laughing indulgently. "Never thee mind, Master Just Benjamin. Two such lovely girls! Well now, if you're a-mind to buy us a wee trifle of rum—so pleasant with a dab of butter, don't you think?—and the girls...."

Ben re-entered the parlor with enlarged wisdom and a shrunken wallet. The books for Reuben, lying in a chair, comforted him: at least some of his money had been well spent.

"Don't allow her to rob you, a devil's name," said Shawn drowsily. "No highwayman liveth but could learn jolly tricks of a bawd."

Glancing down at the alien profile, wondering in passing whether he even liked Daniel Shawn, Ben felt disinclined to mention that the robbery, if that was the name for it, had already taken place. He jingled the few pence and farthings remaining, and waited, himself alone on an island within a cavern.

She entered abruptly with good-natured bounce and giggle, plump and moon-faced, smelling of rose-water and sweat. As she paused in the doorway her transparent smock offered Ben a silhouette of cushiony thighs, by her intent maybe, and then she was coming to him directly with nothing for Shawn but a glance that might or might not have held recognition. "There's the sweet cod," she said, and cupped Ben's chin in her hands, and was on his lap, heavy and squirming, elastic, moist and warm.

In Deerfield, "whore" was only a word, seldom used except in back-of-the-barn profanity or Bible readings. It had never occurred to Ben, but did now as Laura twitched his shirt open and rubbed a knowing silky hand over his nipples, that a whore might be a human being, and friendly.

Another girl, stately and yellow-haired, sat in dignity across the room from Shawn—surely not cowlike as he had said but quite beautiful in her stillness, conveying an impression that she was not really present. A woman on an island. Shawn had remained in his idle sprawl, studying the queenly repose of her like a man who might yawn any moment. "Be you pleased with me?" Laura whispered, and nibbled Ben's ear.

"Of course." With some enterprise he found a smooth kneecap and sent his hand exploring, since she seemed to expect it; and then he thought: Too much of that damned ale—or maybe I'm ill—and now we must even have buttered rum!

All the same, it was unmistakable relief when Mistress Gundy pottered back, ahead of a gangling servant with the drinks. "Well, I'm sure," said the little madam—"to the Queen, God bless her!"

Laura bounced off Ben's lap at the call of patriotism. The tall quiet girl was on her feet, and Shawn too. But as Ben staggered, finding his leg half asleep, and drank dutifully, he was aware of a sudden annoyance in Daniel Shawn, and saw how with the mug at his lips the man was hardly tilting it at all. To Ben it was obscure, a thing he might tell himself he had not seen. This stifling moment, with fat Laura's arm hugging his loins, held no fair opportunity to think about it. But surely for all his strange, sometimes cruel speech and wild ways, Mr. Shawn was not disloyal—surely nobody ever refused to drink the health of Queen Anne!

Ben coughed as the cheap rum bored down his gullet. He saw Shawn grab the wrist of the tall girl and stride out of the room with her, not a word for courtesy. She had not even finished her drink.

"A hard man," said Mistress Gundy, comfortably stirring her mug. "Well, I told him. Just let him mark one of my girls, just once...."

"He won't, Mother," said Laura. "Why, that time——" A sharp glance from the old woman checked her. It held more than sharpness; they were exchanging some wry understanding, and Ben was oppressed at feeling himself a patronized, tiresome child. Laura tugged amiably at his arm. "Come to my room, love?" He followed her jiggling rear down a whispering hallway to a smaller cavern of stale roses. She had brought along the remains of his buttered rum. "Old bawd'd finish it, did you leave it there. A'n't she a caution, love?"

"Mm." Ben gulped a little more of it, finding it not so bad. Here the bed was virtually everything, but Laura was fond of dolls; a dozen of them sat about in comical attitudes, and Ben would have liked to say something about them. "Help me drink it, won't you? I had enough."

"Nay, I had too, and too much." She patted her stomach and yawned. With the casualness of habit, she pulled her smock up to her middle and dropped on the bed, fat thighs comfortably wide.

Ben shoved his drink aside. In daydream, yes—he had pictured such mindless complaisance in a woman who never quite owned a face. The reality was no more voluptuous than a belch or a kick under the ribs. Yet Laura was neither gross nor unclean—indeed, pretty in her overblown way, and certainly friendly. Repelled and hypnotized, he stumbled toward her, meeting, across the bulk of her pink flesh, a drowsy smile that suppressed another yawn. "What's the matter, love? Be you afeared of me?"

"Of course not."

"Ah—sweet cod—my little goat—whatever's the matter, love?" Her voice was thick and slow, the noise of a wave, her giggle the idle foam on a reaching wave. "Don't you know nothing, little goat?"

Ben fought with his clothes. For an instant in the candlelight the hair was golden, not dark, the pallid skin a damask rose. Then it was fat Laura again, nobody else—writhing, arching her heaviness, moaning, big arms reaching for him in practised simulation of hunger as Ben groped, struggled, and spent at the instant of contact with no pleasure, no excitement but that of fear and no relief but that of exhaustion.

Laura cursed casually under her breath, but as she sat up she was not noticeably angry—more amused, maybe a little concerned. "First time, dearie?" Ben nodded in misery. "Ho, never mind! You're very young."

"God damn, I'm seventeen."

"Hey! No cursing and swearing, boy!—I can't abide it.... Did something happen maybe? You know—spill salt at supper? Something?" She was serious, lightly worried. Ben shook his head. "Why, there!" She pointed at his jacket tossed on a chair, a bit of his kerchief dangling from a pocket. "Swoonds, that's bad luck as ever was," she said, and rolled off the bed to push the kerchief out of sight. "No bloody wonder!"

Ben knew she would take great offense if he laughed. Anyway the darkness of a new fear was killing laughter. She sat by a little square of wall-mirror to put her hair to rights. Ben ordered his clothes, finding his legs too large, blurred, disobedient. Maybe the last of that buttered rum would steady him. He gulped it down. "I'm sorry," said Ben.

"Hoo, it's a nothing, boy, happens all the time. Come again some day," she said, and could not resist a small parting cruelty: "When you're old enough."

The darkness of the new fear followed him out of the room, and the name of it was Pox.

Mistress Gundy sat as before with her rum, or somebody's rum, and nodded to Ben, waving her puckered hand in some cryptic courtesy. Her eyes were swimming—sad or hilarious or both. Somewhere down the hallway a woman was whimpering rhythmically. "Top of the evening, young man. I'm bloody mellow." Mistress Gundy patted her lips. "Going so soon? Parcel's yonder, needn't make out I'm keeping a den of thieves."

"Thank you. Had no such thought."

"No dallying with Venus? Up and off like a little bull? I'm bloody mellow or I wouldn't speak so free, but I say a bit of broad speech never hurt no one, la, besides, I lived on a farm when I was a little maid. Lord, the Surrey countryside, and I'll never see it again!" She wept comfortably, and burped. "A'n't you waiting for your friend?"

"I must be going. Tell him I couldn't wait."

"Tsha!" She drank, her little finger thrust out for gentility. "Come again, do. I feel sorry for you. My weakness." She held up her free hand earnestly to detain him. "Understand? I feel like a mother to you, but you—you—you——"

"I must be going."

"That's right, boy, turn away from an old whore. You—you—have—not—got the least notion wha's like to be old and lorn and forsaken, every man's bloo' hand raised against you. Have you? Colonial. You never saw no earl, not in this Godforsaken land, marry you never. Why, one of the particular maids to 'is lady I was, and he got it in a linen-closet, now that's no lie as your nasty-spoken Irish friend would say. Understand?—the very self-same sheets 'er ladyship slep' on, the mere smell of lavender can still set me a-thinking of it, and her playing cards only two rooms away, if I'd so much as whimpered he might've been caught what they call flagrant delicious, and you think I'd do any such of a thing, loyal as I was? It shows your God-damned bloody ignorance, all the same there was a time you wouldn't've turned away."

Ben fled downstairs. The smells in the blackness of Fish Street were fresher. He thought, as in prayer: No harm done. None at all, unless he had caught the pox. Probably you couldn't, just from that much.

He dropped Reuben's books, his clumsiness a warning that he was drunk, his head grown to a foggy region of rising and roaring waves. He searched patiently for the parcel, since nothing could be done or considered till he found it. Stooping caused a rush of blood to his head, a tenor of collapse. He squatted, groping with clawed fingers, found the blessed hardness of the books and gathered them up. He knew a shrewd way to deal with this problem: he unfastened his belt, slid the end of it under the string of the parcel, and buckled it fast. Now the books bit his hipbone, but all was well—he would not lose them, and the not unwelcome discomfort would keep him sober on the long journey. The moon had not risen, or was covered by cloud. He supposed it was still early in the evening, but something had happened to his time sense.

Maybe, he thought, I have grown old and am too stupid to know it. Maybe the sun will discover me with white hair. Dried like a summer apple and no teeth. Bent on a stick, poor old Ben Cory. "Yaphoo!"

Yes, I heard that. That was me—old Cory, old Ben Cory, know him? A public shame in the middle of the street, but who'll notice old Ben Cory in the dark?

He advanced with precision on a street-lantern that showed him dingy house-fronts and the filthy gutter in the middle of the road, where a stray dog watched him sullenly, then slunk away, demoniac and lonely. Ben observed quietly that there were no pigs: his excellent judgment had chosen a time to walk on Fish Street when no pigs wallowed in it: alleluia. Of course only a fool would go to shouting "Yaphoo!" in such a place as if he were drunk, and he quite unarmed, carrying no money now to be sure, but dressed like one who had it. "I notice here," he said, "a fortuitous yet welcome opportunity." Stepping to the channel in the middle of the street, he relieved himself, with embarrassment. Untidy, but evidently in this part of town everyone did it. Startled, he thought: Oh, fine! Oh, wonderful!—now I could, while back there.... "Yaphoo!" There we go again! The rest of his comment came out as a harmlessly soft muttering: "... 'sn't anybody remember poor old Ben Coree, late of Deerfield?"

Someone, somewhere, not long ago, had pronounced his name in that odd foreign way. It would be pleasant to remember about that, for it had something to do with sunlight. Meanwhile, his breeches decently buttoned, he was making excellent progress toward another lamp, Reuben's books were safe, and he was utterly sober, gruesomely sober, sober as Mr. Cotton Mather. "Sober as all the mamn Dathers," said Ben, and stumbled on something soft and screamed a little. Just a dead cat. Now if he might walk on in this patient way, past the grim windows and their occasional furtive gleam, he would arrive at another wholly dark section where a man, offending no one, might run a finger down his throat, lighten ship, and proceed.

He made it.

His stomach empty, he noted that in spite of perfect sobriety he was still tremendously drunk, whereat he laughed, but wriggling companion shadows to left and right of him did not. No: they were heavy-cold, banishing all warmth of amusement; imaginary but nasty, having the creeping urgency of sick dreams. He knew them to be imaginary in the light of that pale flame of reason which stayed alive in him under a long rising and subsidence of the waves, and here he asked himself acutely: how may one diminish the force of an imaginary creation, when naming it imaginary availeth not? Shall we assert, brethren, with overweening impudicity, that the imagination, by its own act of creation, hath given unto the shadow a substance akin to that which occupieth the carnal, corporeal yaphoo?

Cannily they remained behind him, receding, if he dared turn his head, with contemptuous ease. He knew them, though: open-eyed but dead, trivial heads with nothing left of the body but a flabby band of hide such as might be left by the sliding drag of an axe. Double Indians—why? Why, because the body happens to possess a right side and a left. "Mother, I have but to remember the look of Union Street and Dock Square and Cornhill, and shall unquestionably know the Town House when I arrive at it, being in no sense too foxed for such, but deliver my mind from that page of Cicero, seeing I hurt him, heedless, heedless continually...."

The lump in his stomach swallowed that speech, bloating. How can you cancel a hurt when there's no way to turn back the clock?

You can't.

It happened. It's over.

"Nempe quod hic alte demissius ille volabat——" Ben retched, but the lump would not come up, and he lost interest in weeping. He supposed he ought to consider this plaguy longing to talk like a drunken man, above all to explain, thwarted by the absence of anyone who might listen. But wasn't that someone lounging by the faint lantern which ought to mark the opening of Union Street? Two in fact, two women, not imaginary. He observed them with great intelligence, their shawls and full skirts—one tall, one short; alone in this region at night, certainly whores in search of business, but never mind. They were animated, and as he approached, Ben found he could explain things in an undertone which need not disturb them.

"Hoy!" Ben thought that was the tall girl; certainly she was the one who delivered that birdy whistle. "Looking for something?"

"Regret," said Ben. "Spent ball, just had some. Otherwise pleased and proud, my word on it."

Both laughed obligingly. The tall girl said: "Phew! Drunk as a lord and him na' but a boy. Feel sorry for 'm, I do."

"Someone else said that a while ago." Ben spoke stiffly, wounded. "No occasion for it. Not worthy of sorrow in sight of God or man."

"Drunk as a lord and running on like a canting parson. It wants 'a wipe its little nose. How they hangin', m' lud?"

But the small plump girl had stepped into Ben's path, and Ben could see her smile was amiable, swimming and shifting in the cold light. She was young, he thought, and pretty. "Sorry. Another time."

"Ay, but sha'n't I walk a bit way with you? You're rotten drunk, boy, and dressed so fine, someone'll rob you."

"No money. Few farthings left."

"A stoodent, Lottie. Look at them books. Oh, do fetch 'em out, m' lud. Read a girl bloody something, do!"

But plump Lottie said: "Leave me walk on a way with you, if you be going by Cornhill." Not waiting for consent, she had his arm, ignoring some under-the-breath comment from her companion, which Ben also preferred to overlook. "That's my way too. Come on—I won't bite you, boy."

"He can read the books," said the tall girl—"between times, like."

"You're kind," Ben said. "I've often marveled how kind people can be, I mean when one's not expecting it. My mother and father were killed at Deerfield. I am, as you say, drunk and not speaking plain."

Lottie was keeping step somehow with his long rambling legs, the other girl forgotten though she had sent after them a little miauling cry. Ben tried to shorten his pace; the legs were riotously disobedient; he could no longer think of them as trustworthy comrades; this was sad. "Drunk as a pig," she said, and giggled warmly. "But you got a sweet face."

"It's merely a kind of good nature," said Ben judicially, disturbed by the sin of vanity. "One can be too good-natured, now that's no lie."

"I'm good-natured too."

"You think a man and woman ought to marry if they have serious 'ligious differences?"

"Ha? I don't know. Walk easy-don't give in to it, boy.... You're to be married?"

"Not fitting. Do you believe in God?"

"Hoy, don't talk so loud! You're drunk."

"Yes.... Can you make up for a hurt when there's no way to turn back the clock?"

"Now it don't do no good to cry. Come on. You can walk."

"Of course I can walk. You don't understand. It can't be done, that's the answer. It happened. It happened in the wilderness. It's over. Goes away from you the way the spring goes and the summer too. You think I could cry when I saw my people killed? God damn it, if we wept for every sufficient reason we'd've all drowned long ago. What did you say, Lottie?"

"Nothing, boy. Come on."

"No, you said something about marrying. Did you not?" He lurched against her and gasped an apology for clumsiness. "That's not even been spoke of, I suppose I'm too young, but she—now pray understand, what I don't understand is this: how a man could love a woman so much and nevertheless go and—go and——"

He stopped, embarrassed, realizing that she was undoubtedly a whore, and therefore he could not, without unkindness—through intricate labor of thought he heard her remark: "You'll learn...." The street was a forest, a wilderness where Ben could feel the power of snow on branches suffering for the coming of spring, and in this jungle he was now marvelously ready for the act of love, and had no money. "Come along, love, come along. You live here in Boston?"

"Nay, Roxbury." He watched the pale flame of reason surviving the onslaught of another wave. Was this forest under the sea? A wilderness not of snow-burdened hemlock but of oozing weed, monstrous, ancient. Here monsters lazily glided above dead ships and men unburied, a wilderness where no spring had ever dawned since the beginning of the world. "I don't know where he is, Lottie. The men from Hatfield buried all the dead they could find—later in the day, you understand, after the French were driven out, but I don't know where he lieth or my mother. I'll go back some day, but only if my brother wishes to go with me. Thou hast dove's eyes."


"Thou art fair, my love."

"You are drunk. I'll see you to Newbury Street if you like—that's your way to Roxbury."

"Most kind. Oh, I wish——"

"You're drunk, and no money—remember? I'm good-natured too, but not that good-natured. Now see can you walk without my hand."

"Of course I can," said Ben with resentment. "Was I not doing so when we met?"

"Not too bloody well," she said, and laughed so cheerfully that he was obliged to join in it, knowing that for a while she still walked on beside him. At a later time, in the sedate quiet of Newbury Street, she was gone. Ben looked back and could still see her, turning a corner, more clearly visible than when she had been near to him. In gentle wonder Ben observed she was slightly hunchbacked, and not young, perhaps not much like the image his mind had drawn of her, that image no more substantial than the shadow of a bird in passage above the leaves in a wilderness of spring.

John Kenny said: "You might as well, Mr. Hibbs. I dare say he was invited to dine at the Jenks', but he'll have no lantern, and I don't like it. Take Rob Grimes with you. Of course, Reuben, you may go with them." Mr. Kenny winced at the pain in his foot which was his common evening companion. "He won't have been invited to stay the night—a house guest would set poor Madam Jenks all of a doodah."

"It's my fault," said Gideon Hibbs.

Mr. Kenny grunted in pain and impatience. "Do you also take that brace of pistols, mine and the one that was George's, they're in my bedroom cabinet. Won't need them, but no harm in carrying them."

Reuben turned from the window, the brightness of the dining room beating down on his mask. "I'll fetch them, sir, and I think I'll wear Ben's knife, seeing he left it behind."

Mr. Kenny relaxed enough to chuckle. "Heh, a small army!—I pity any malefactors in your path. Nay, 'tis only sensible. Well, go as far as the fort anyway. The road's lighted well enough on the Boston side, but I pray you take care passing the Neck. If my God-damned foot wasn't so horrid bad tonight—well, get along, gentlemen! Must you stay for my senile chattering?"

Gnarled, small, ancient and unexcited, Rob Grimes marched in front with the lantern, a pistol jammed in his belt absurd and piratical. Mr. Hibbs carried the other under his flapping great-coat. Eased by physical activity, Reuben's own anxiety lessened: Ben was probably in no trouble, Ben with his wilderness eyes and other senses, and would be sure to relish the comic value of this escort. Presently Reuben was dubiously enjoying the gaunt majesty of Gideon Hibbs in a three-cornered hat, and elaborating comments for Ben's later entertainment.

Mr. Hibbs was not amused. Reuben could feel in him the intense mirthless zeal of a sedentary soul obliged to take the responsibility for something athletic. Maybe, Reuben speculated, a walk in the dark on the Roxbury road did approach the borders of philosophy. He sniffed the east wind, its wild smell of sea-wrack and approaching rain. His hand touched Ben's beloved knife and fell away.

"Said nothing to you, Reuben, about remaining late?"

Mr. Hibbs had asked that twice already. "No, sir."

"'F I may make so bold"—the thick voice of Rob Grimes floated back on a beery chuckle—"some doxy be a-bouncing under him this 'ere moment. Boy's had the look of a stud colt come a year now—blarst it to Jesus, you can't 'old 'em beyant a certain age."

"None of that!" said Mr. Hibbs, who for courtesy would never have spoken so to Grimes in the presence of Mr. John Kenny of Roxbury. Rob grunted, uncrushed. "Reuben, hath Benjamin spoke any word to you lately to suggest a disturbance or over-concern with—hm—with——"

"With the mounting of smocks? No, sir."

"Reuben, I await your apology. I remind you that your favored position doth neither protect nor justify you in assuming the conversation of a roustabout. From evil speech evil conduct. I am waiting."

"I'm sorry, sir," said Reuben, and discovered distractedly that he was, a little. Shocking Mr. Hibbs was too cheap a victory. "I'm truly sorry, Mr. Hibbs. I do speak heedless, and will try to mend."

The great shadow of Gideon Hibbs grunted forgiveness. It almost always did. Uncle John, Reuben thought, is another who forgives much, and why did I never think of that before? It seemed to him that Uncle John, frail and gouty and gray, was somehow closely with them here in the dark. Some day, he thought, I shall be old—well, the devil with that! Why think now of poor old Reuben Cory?

Because Ben will go where I cannot? Because an old man must regret the flowers he never touched, mornings when he never saw the sun?

But if it is to be medicine—why, then I shall be going where he will not. "If I said, however, that living is a journey"—oh, Mr. Welland, what else could it be, and every morning a misty crossroads?

"Reuben—could Benjamin by chance have overindulged in liquor?"

"I doubt it, sir. Last Monday he did and so did I, but away from home I believe Ben would be careful."

Rob Grimes snorted. Clearing his pug nose, maybe.

"You do reassure me somewhat."

Rob Grimes was calling back: "Mind a puddle here! Och—too bad! Best go about, gentlemen!"

Reuben had already seen what lay under the glow of Rob's lantern, the horrible bulge of the puffed belly, the straightened legs, the obscene pool of blood at the nostrils. "Still warm," said Rob, kneeling, running a hand down the miserable neck, in pity or perhaps only regret at the waste of something useful. "Not of Roxbury," he said. "Know every-each nag in the village. A chapman's likely, some louse-eaten chapman bound he'd drag the last half-mile out of the poor old fart. Shit, look at them ribs! A'n't had a fair meal in months."

"Reuben! What ails thee, boy?"

"Nothing," said Reuben, vomiting.

"Well"—Rob Grimes was ignoring the commotion—"well, the knackers'll be along for 'm in the morning." The old man strode on a short way to wait, his squat back shutting the lantern light from the corpse as he studied the windy night.

"Let me be!" said Reuben, wincing at the sympathy of Mr. Hibbs' arm. "I can't help it. It's the blood, that's all."

"So? Why, only the other day you cut your hand, and bound it up yourself, no-way troubled."

"That was my blood."

"Mm. But——"

"Let me be! Will you go on, Rob?"

Grimes walked on, maintaining silence for which Reuben loved him. Reuben hurried, wanting to draw nearer that moving island of light.

"Sometimes," said Mr. Hibbs gently, "I imagine I can sense it, when you have fallen to thinking of Deerfield."

"I try not to think of it overmuch."

"That's best of course." Mr. Hibbs sighed, as one whose overture of kindness has been rejected, and Reuben was ashamed. "As you know, I call myself a Seeker, the name I borrow from Mr. Roger Williams whose memory I revere; many would not even call me a good Christian. But I would venture to suggest, Reuben, that God is with you, his ways past finding out."

"You are very kind, sir." And Reuben thought in a continuing astonishment: As a matter of fact, he is.... He wished Rob Grimes would set a stronger pace, but his best intelligence told him that the old man's sturdy plodding was actually not slow, considering the darkness, the need for sheltering the lantern and sending its light from side to side so that they might watch both the right and the left of the road. Maybe they were lost, the three of them, and always had been lost, lost but following some difficult thread of purpose in this windy dark. In a kindlier night they could have found the Great Bear slanting toward the North Star. In a kindlier night there would have been no cause to fear, as in this wilderness Reuben knew he was afraid.

"In my own life," said Hibbs, "I have not seen much of violence. I cannot pretend to know how it was for you three years ago, except I know it to be a thing beyond words of comfort. Nevertheless allow me to say, Reuben, that your life, yours and Benjamin's, is yet at the spring."

Rob Grimes called: "Something ahead! I heard——"

The noise floated to them faintly, puzzling in the wind, a hallooing with an insane note of cheerfulness. Reuben felt a scattering coldness across his cheek—rain, or sea-scud torn by the east wind from the surface of Gallows Bay. Grimes mumbled: "Can't hear it now——"

"Hush!" said Reuben savagely. Then: "It's to the left."

"You mean the marshes, boy?"

"Yes. Give me the light, old man!" Grimes yielded it without a murmur, and Reuben ran, unthinking, sure-footed, avoiding the hummocks and the marshy hollows, shouting: "Where are you? Where are you?" Then he could see his brother fifty feet away, upright in grotesque dignity on a small sodden peninsula of land not much broader than the spread of his feet. Between him and Reuben was a muttering of wind-tormented marsh water, and a smooth patch of featureless gray unaffected by the wind. Ben took a wavering step. "Don't move, you damn fool! Look down!"

"'M a damn fool," said Ben agreeably, and swayed back from the quicksand, grinning at Reuben's light. "Fact 'm drunk."

Reuben laughed. "That I know. Don't move your feet. Stay as you are till I come to you." Laughing still, he picked his way along the edge of the water and the foulness, to the narrow strip of solid ground that Ben's luck had found for him in the dark. "Pee-yew!" said Reuben, and clutched a handful of Ben's shirt. "With such a breath why walk? Why not float, friend?"

"Was trying to. Was trying to find Polaris. Too dark. Besides I'm in a 'culiar condition."

"Lean on me. Firm ground here."

"Wherever thou art."

"I shall remember that, and thou wilt forget it."

"I forget nothing, Reuben. I was trying to find Polaris."

"Well, a'n't it the nature of the children of Adam to hunt for the North Star on a cloudy night?"

"Very sound. One of thine evenings. Yaphoo!"

"All evenings are mine. But don't weep."

"I'm laughing, boy. A'n't I? Oh, Ru, I was so confused. I thought—I certainly thought——"

"What, Ben?"

"I thought it was wilderness."

"That wouldn't make thee afeared. That wouldn't make thee weep."

"I thought everything was wilderness."

"Well, what if it is?"

Chapter Five

In the sunlight on Reuben's bed sat two male images, the smaller one all orange-gold, the larger cross-legged and brighter than rippling gold and ivory, with brown hair, and a heartless voice saying: "This I was waiting to observe. Note, Mr. Eccles, the motions of the creature's head, how they creak. Are these actual sounds of pain, or only noises of some mechanism which creates an illusion of animation?"

"Alas!" said Ben. "I am not fit to rise and murder you—yet."

"It speaks. Note that, Eccles. Note the bleared eyes, how obscene! Will you go to the kitchen and fetch a pot of coffee for it?" Mr. Eccles yawned and filed his yellow paws. "Unfeeling animal! Have you no pity? Must I wait on the needs of this moaning monster?"

"Some day when you feel like dawn on the battlefield, I'll stand on your stomach and read aloud every word of Magnalia Christi Americana."

"You heard that, Eccles?—how it appeals to my humanity and in the same breath threatens my life? I must act." Ben watched the golden image rise, slip on a dressing-gown, and stand over him in the enormous light. "Puh, what a breath even now!" said Reuben, and stooped suddenly to kiss his forehead, and vanished out of the room.

Moving his head with care, Ben met the contemplation of Mr. Eccles, who had nothing to offer. Uncle John was accustomed to explain that the cat derived his name from a merchant Levi Eccles of Plymouth who looked and behaved just like him. But to the boys privately, after he had come to know them a little, the old man admitted this was an ex post facto invention. He took them into his study and opened his much-worn Bible; over Reuben's shoulder Ben had read familiar words: For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. Ecclesiastes iii: 19.

Reuben was displaying a different mood altogether when he returned with a pot of the blessed stuff—quiet and no longer much amused, or at least not showing it. "Drink deep, sufferer, and tell all—if you wish."

The coffee was a benediction; so long as The Head did not move suddenly, all might be well. "Oh, I ran into Mr. Shawn at Uncle John's wharf—O my God! Uncle John! Why, he must have thought——"

Reuben shook his head casually. "Beyond a broad statement to the effect that boys will be boys, for the which he claimed no great measure of originality, I saw no sign of severe displeasure. When he insisted on helping me remove your smelly boots, he—chuckled: this I affirm. You may get a few instructions this morning, but without pain. Proceed."

"Oh—a few drinks with Shawn—dinner at a tavern—I don't seem to remember all of it." But he did.

Reuben studied his finger tip that was scratching Mr. Eccles' chin. "You brought home some books. Over there on your dresser."

"They're for you."

"What!" Reuben was a long time at the dresser, his back turned, his hands on the books not turning the pages. "Ben—how did you know?"

"I guessed right, then?"

"Yes! Yes, but I—why, I only gabbled. I don't see how——"

"You did. Came to me later, what you must mean. Is it a call?"

Eyes wet, face shining and troubled and amazed, Reuben turned to him and started once or twice to speak, then said only: "Yes."

"You can—oh, damn my head!—you can be certain?"

"I'm—certain. I did go to see Mr. Welland again yesterday. He spoke of an apprenticeship."

"Oh.... Well—well, good, if it's what you wish. What about Harvard, Ru?"

"I don't know." Reuben sat on the floor by Ben's bed, a motion of effortless grace that made Ben's head throb to watch it. "I must speak to Uncle John of course. Maybe I can go to the college and study with Mr. Welland at the same time. There'll be the summers."

Ben groped at it uneasily, with some small confusion of envy. "Pills—pills and sick people and——"

Reuben shook his head. "It's not like that, Ben. I mean, that is only one part of it, and for the rest—I can't explain it because I don't know enough, but of a sudden, after a long time of not knowing what I desired, there is this, and I do seem to be certain."

"But for myself, I've not found it."

"You will," said Reuben quickly. "It'll come to you, as it has—as I know it has to me." He reached for Ben's empty cup and poured a drink for himself, sitting cross-legged, intent, a small man with a boy's face. "Ben, I think—so far as I can explain it, I think it's a desire to know."

"To know?"

"About human creatures. How they're made, why they feel, think, suffer, act as they do. I wish...." His face tightened in distress, and Ben, with some insight, knew it was merely the distress of a search for communication among inadequate slippery words.

"But medicine—that's healing the sick. That's going about——"

"It's that, and that I accept, that I desire too, but it's more, Ben, it's study. Mr. Welland says a doctor must remain a student or die on his feet. And the study is not only sickness, remedies, surgery, the study is human beings—men, women, children, in all their ways—and that I desire." He smiled suddenly, vulnerably, holding up his little finger. "There are creatures so tiny—Mr. Welland showed me a book, the Micrographia—so tiny there might be hundreds, nay thousands of them there on the space of my little fingernail. Too small to see without the lens, but living things, Ben—separate living beings, no fancy at all but the discovery of sober men—and he says, Mr. Welland says, why mayn't these animalculae have something to do with the mysteries of disease? They've been found everywhere—pond water, earth, the surface of the skin. Why mayn't they enter us sometimes, causing the ills we can't explain? It's a speculation, Mr. Welland says—he found it not in the books, only had the thought, and now and then (he said himself) from such thoughts come discoveries. I must—know," said Reuben. He jumped up and crossed the room swiftly to examine the books again. "One thing I know: you wasn't drunk when you bought these."

"No, I didn't drink until supper at the tavern, and then later."


"Well, Mr. Shawn took me to a—place. A house, Ru—one of those."

"Oh?..." Ben wondered why he had been moved to speak of it at all: there was no need. But even now, aware of something tight and painful in Reuben's silence, he felt and suppressed a continuing impulse to brag, to invent for Reuben a story of what never happened. "Was it—any good, Ben?"

"I can't say it was. I think I'd had too much ale, and then something more there—buttered rum. That was my undoing." His laughter sounded to himself feeble and unwelcome.

"You mean nothing happened?"

"Nothing much.... No, damn it, nothing—I spilled at the gates. I think maybe I didn't really wish to go. Mr. Shawn——"

Reuben's words raced and ran together: "Well, the devil fly off with your friend Shawn, and couldn't the son of a bitch stand by you and you so drunk? Do you know you was stepping direct for that quicksand?"


"We might have gone down in it."

"Well—wait, Ru! It was no fault of Shawn. I left him at the house. He was still with his wench when I was ready to go, and some-way I didn't wish to see him then, so I came off alone."

"Oh." His face still averted, his thin hands motionless on the books, Reuben muttered: "Sorry, Ben. The cork popped out of the bottle and I spattered. My regrets." He started getting dressed, and Ben knew his chatter was mainly for his own benefit: "Beware the lightning after breakfast—Pontifex is not wholly pleased with our Benjamin, and will be summoning the cohorts of Ovid, his Tristia; Ramus, his Logic; Cicero, his honorificabilitudinitatibus."


"What—coach wheels?"

"I thought that was my head."

"No," said Reuben, and flung open the window. "Something's afoot."

"If on wheels, how should it be—ow! Shut that arctic window, you bloody worm!" But as Ben tried to creep under the covers, Reuben hauled a corner of them over his shoulder and marched to the door with it, his good humor restored, peeling Ben raw to the April breeze. He wadded the bedclothes into a spherical snarl out of Ben's reach, heaved that into the closet, barked in some satisfaction, and ran downstairs. Ben could plainly make out the squeak and rattle of coach wheels from the driveway before the house. He leaped for his clothes—unwisely, considering his head—and paused to reflect on the uses of sobriety.

The fat horses were lathered, blowing in relief at the halt. From the parlor window Reuben saw the girl alight before the coachman's hand could aid her, a square small maiden in a hurry. As Kate Dobson opened the door he heard fright, determination and embarrassment in the throaty voice: "I must speak with Mr. Kenny—'tis most urgent."

Kate was fluttering. "He's at breakfast, my dear."

Reuben intervened, startled as she abruptly swung to him, a miniature whirlwind with sea-blue eyes. Some blurred yellowish phenomenon passed her feet—a dog apparently, not relevant unless Mr. Eccles should choose that moment to come downstairs. "I'll take you to him," Reuben said, and Kate relaxed at the authority of a man in the house.

"You are Mr. Cory's brother."

"Madam, the charge is well founded."

"This," said Charity, "is no time for schoolboy levity."

"Ow-ooh!" said Reuben, and stood to attention by the dining-room doorway as Charity passed, and the dog. In a woolgathering way, the animal acknowledged Reuben's feet, but had no time for them. It was mere carelessness, not sin, that made Reuben leave the door open as he followed Charity with all the meekness of Sultan.

Pleased and then alarmed, Mr. Kenny jumped up, winced at his bad foot and clutched the table-edge. "Charity, my dear, what lucky wind——"

"Sir, Faith said I'd best be the one to bring word, seeing Mama is prostrated and—and so—so I——" she lapsed into stuttering confusion and stamped her foot in rage at her own behavior.

"Breathe slow, my dear," said the old man, no longer smiling. "Count to four, my dear, then to eight by twos. Now: two, four, six——"

"Eight, ten, twelve," said Charity, and shuddered. "Pray don't be prostrated, Mr. Kenny, the way Mama said you was sure to be. I'd not know what to do."

"Now sit thee down," said John Kenny. "I shall undertake not to be prostrated, and a'n't thy bonnet-strings a little tight?"

Standing by her chair, Reuben briefly recalled the sensation of living as a pigmy in a world of giants. "Mama saith, never no such thing happened here in all her time. My father—he—well, when they brought the news he heard something and came downstairs, but he—but he...."

Reuben noticed her fists pressing on the table. On impulse he lifted one of them. "Allow me," said Reuben, urging the fingers to open and relax. They did so, as Charity stared up at him in a trance of observation. He patted the hand and set it back on the table. "I think, Charity, my Uncle John would prefer not to have bad news broken gently. Am I right, sir? Better to hear it quick and plain?"

"Much better." John Kenny spoke absently, watching him and not Charity, who would have accomplished her errand then, Reuben guessed, but hell broke loose.

Reuben glimpsed the preliminary tableau—Sultan in the doorway, frozen in unbelieving horror at a ball of golden evil which advanced on stiff legs directly toward his nose. Reuben had time to lay a private wager entirely in favor of Mr. Eccles, but was too late for anything else—the golden ball rose up straight, reversed itself in mid-air, and dropped on Sultan's back with the ineluctable certainty of the Puritan Hell.

"Oh!" Charity cried. "Oh, the horrid beast!" She jumped up on her chair, maybe to see better. "Sultan, stop it!"

Sultan would have loved to, if he could. John Kenny swung up his aging feet as the storm swept by.

Reuben followed.

"Sultan!" Charity wailed. "Come here this instant! Sultan, shame! Abusing that poor cat!"

Mr. Kenny lifted his feet again.

Reuben followed.

A chair toppled over. If Sultan had nourished any hopes at all, they had centered around that chair. He might, like Milton's Lucifer, have had none—Which way I fly is hell, myself am hell.... Reuben followed, dimly aware of his brother in the doorway and Kate Dobson behind him, both shouting encouragement. Uncle John seemed rather happy too, but was preparing to lift his feet a third time. Reuben observed that everyone, in fact, was laughing except himself, and he would too if he could only gain a little.... At last he was able to swoop down and grasp the loose skin of a rigid yellow neck. He hoisted it; Sultan shot away from under it. A good deal of Sultan's hair came up on the claws, but the essential dog was then able to flee under Charity's chair and leave all the rest to the judgment of history.

Reuben secured Mr. Eccles' threshing hind legs and bore him to the kitchen door. Ben dived to open it for him, doubled over and hooting but aware of the flashing forepaws.

"Ben!" said Mr. Kenny—"Ben, you a'n't got sea-room. You, Reuben, I mean Mr. Cory, do you tack a mite to la'board—la'board, sir! There—now, Ben, now you can cross his bow."

"'Sbody!" said Kate. "I wouldn't trade 'im for a mastiff!"

"Best not leave him alone out there, Kate," said Mr. Kenny. "You hear that?" Reuben had flung Mr. Eccles into the kitchen and closed the door just in time, but he could be heard marching up and down, blaspheming. "He's lonely, the little thing."

Kate bounced away whooping. Mr. Kenny wiped his eyes and finished a buttered bun. "I suppose," said Reuben, "it happens to the best of dogs."

"Why," said Charity, "he was overtaken by surprise."

"Of course he was," said Mr. Kenny. "Come, Sultan! Come here, boy, good boy!" Mr. Kenny chirped, but though Sultan was willing to explain everything in a long undertone, he was not at the moment coming anywhere, for anyone.

Charity exploded in fresh cries. "I can't stop laughing!" she wept, and dropped her head on the table. "I can't stop it!" Mr. Kenny bent over her, concerned; her laughter had gone shrill and sick. "Dreadful news, and I—I can't stop laughing! Help!"

For Reuben, the worst of Mr. Eccles' dangerous writhing had not obscured a second's glimpse of Charity in the moment when she discovered that Ben was in the room. Under cover of her wailing laughter he muttered in Ben's ear: "Can't you see she loves you? Do something!"

He knew Ben did not quite understand nor believe it, but Ben took an uncertain step toward the chair where Charity struggled with the demons of her laughter, and that was enough. Charity flung herself at him. Reuben saw his brother's arms close around her with a natural kindness, and heard him say: "Now, now! What's the matter, Mistress Charity?"

"Cousin Jan—Mr. Dyckman." She spoke quietly into Ben's shirt, all laughter spent.

"Dyckman?" John Kenny came to them, and touched her shoulder lightly, as if it might burn him. "What of Mr. Dyckman, my dear?"

"He is dead."

"Dead! But——"

Her cheek over Ben's heart, Charity was able now to deliver plainly and bleakly the words she must have rehearsed a dozen times during the journey in the coach. "The men of the watch discovered him in an alley off Ship Street a little before dawn. Faith bade me take the coach, seeing you might wish to return in it with me. Our servant Clarissa is seeing to the house while Faith cares for Mama, so—none to send but me."

"Of course, my dear," said Mr. Kenny vacantly. "I'll go with thee at once." Mr. Hibbs had come down for breakfast, but stood apart gloomily, apparently not presuming to hope that anyone would explain matters to him. "I'll go with thee, and—and my two sons."

"I was to say, sir, that the Constable Mr. Derry hath undertook to be at your office at the warehouse this forenoon, and will summon back the men of the Select Watch if you wish to question them."

"Mr. Derry?—the watch? What art thou saying, Charity? Mr. Dyckman was murdered?"

"I alway do everything wrong!" Charity mourned, but Ben patted her shoulder and she quieted again. "Yes, and they said, sir, his wallet was gone—some footpad of the water front, but Mama will have it that it was the French. She will have it that Frenchmen are a-prowl in the streets of our neighborhood seeking opportunity to murder my father and herself. Could—could it be so?"

"It could not," said Mr. Kenny, and managed a wavering laugh. "Your mother is fanciful."

"She speaks of selling our Clarissa, and away from Boston, for that Clarissa was bred and born in Guadeloupe."

John Kenny snorted; Reuben hoped he was recovering his firmness. "I trust Mr. Jenks will forbid any such thing—meaning no disrespect to your mother, Charity."

Charity sighed, burrowing her nose deeper. Reuben supposed that for her the worst was over. She went on in a brittle but steady monotone: "Cousin Jan—Mr. Dyckman was—they said he was yet alive when he was found, and must have been lying there untended for many hours, for blood was dry on his garments."

"Alive? Could he speak then?"

"He told the watch his name. And then begged that he might speak with my father, and said somewhat more of justice being done, and they said he commended his soul unto God, and there was some other word, but not clear, and when they would lift him to carry him the blood came up in his mouth, they said, and he choked, and died. He was stabbed, they said, stabbed in the back, stabbed in a dozen places."

Constable Malachi Derry, a sad man with excellent muscle disguised by a concave chest, a willowy neck and a jaw like a pick-axe, commonly described himself as slow to wrath, but he could be angry, and Ben saw that he was now, as he drooped on a three-legged stool in Mr. Kenny's office and tried to find space for surplus leg where the uncompromising feet of Captain Peter Jenks allowed not another inch of it and would not budge. Mr. Derry was a ship chandler by trade. Chosen for the thankless position of constable, he had done his level New England best to wriggle out of it, until informed by Governor Dudley himself that he would serve, or else pay a fine of not less than ten pounds, possibly more. Faced with that, Mr. Derry did the next best thing—tried to be a good constable.

It came hard, leaving him scant time for his rightful labors. He must waste hours in the courts, bustle about serving warrants, seeing to the daytime peace of his district, while the chandlery went to ruin. On the Sabbath, engaged in preventing others from ungodliness, how could he find proper time to look to his own soul? The supplementary emoluments, in view of the damage to his trade, were dem'd low. Besides, the work was dangerous. Still trying to find room for his legs, he rumbled on to a peroration: "I was compelled, Mr. Kenny, to say this morning to Madam Dyckman herself, poor woman: 'We do what we may, more we cannot.' I have heard Judge Sewall himself declare that disorder increaseth continually, but doth the power of my office increase also? Not at all, sir, the while this very air of the water front, as it were, spawns evildoers, the cutthroat, the footpad, the blasphemer, the piratically inclined—mostly foreigners, you understand."

"I understand," said John Kenny, "that you hold out small hope of discovering the ruffian who hath murdered the mate of my ketch Artemis and so taken from me and my captain a good friend."

Captain Jenks slammed his fist down on his knee and said nothing. To Ben this morning he was almost unrecognizable as the same man who had come ashore in a flood of sunlight. His whole broad face was darkly flushed, the red skin raddled with a thousand lines. When his thick hands were not jumping like those of an old man with the palsy, a fine tremor possessed them. Bags hung like flabby udders below his bloodshot blue eyes, and the eyes were cold with wrath and confusion: a man goaded by much pain, unable to understand the source of it; a stricken leviathan unable to see the harpoon that has pierced it.

"That's true," said Mr. Derry—"small hope, I fear. You understand, sir, a cobblestone takes no footprint, a knife-blade leaves no signature. We know he was scurvily set upon, robbed, slain. But are you aware, sir, there may be as many as two or three hundred evil livers in and about the city who might have done this, and for no reason but the scent of whatever money or goods he had upon him?"

"Well..." Mr. Kenny rested his head on his shriveled hands. Reuben had drawn up a chair to sit by him at the desk, unbidden except by a silent glance that Ben had seen. Lounging across the room, Ben felt the coolness of the light, always dusty in this small office, pouring over their faces, the old man and the boy, the sick man and the well-meaning officer of the law. The stirring of pain within himself was so vague he could not know whether it was a foolish jealousy because Uncle John had sent that message to Reuben and not to him, or merely that unreasonable stab of loneliness which may assail any person at certain times. "Well," said Mr. Kenny, "I see no profit in summoning the watch. I take it, Mr. Derry, you've told us everything Mr. Dyckman was able to say before he died?"

"I think so, sir. Sadly little, seeing he was in the last extremity. He spoke his name, he begged to be taken to Captain Jenks. All of the men, sir, heard him say: 'God's will be done!' And as they were endeavoring to lift him, Mr. Dyckman did speak some word of his wife and children, but the men could scarce hear it, and that was all."

Ben fidgeted. He knew he should have spoken during the journey from Roxbury; Charity's distracted presence had restrained him. When they left her at home and the Captain took her place in the coach, certainly he ought to have spoken. Captain Jenks had made a difficult and vaguely courageous thing of the journey from the house steps to the coach, winning each step like an old man, his face rigid, red and terrible. Waiting in the coach and looking the other way, Uncle John had murmured to Ben: "Don't offer your hand to aid him into the seat." And once the Captain was installed there, Ben had barely room to breathe, let alone speak. But now in the slightly less crowded office he managed to blurt out: "Uncle John...."

The old man looked up at him dimly, and Reuben searched him with a gaze of intentness like a sword. Malachi Derry wheeled about to observe him with that kind of tight patience that operates like a thumb in the eye. Captain Jenks alone paid him no attention; earlier he had acknowledged Ben's existence with a grunt, Reuben's not at all.

"Yes, Ben?" said Uncle John.

"I saw Mr. Dyckman yesterday evening. I ought to have spoke sooner, but didn't wish to distress little Charity further." They simply waited; even Captain Jenks was looking at him now, his attention caught perhaps by Charity's name. "I met Mr. Shawn by chance, and he seemed to wish my company, so we went to dine at—I think the Lion is the name of it, a tavern on Ship Street."

"Well, young man," said Mr. Derry, "I know the place, the which——"

Jenks interrupted as if Derry were a plaguy noise in the street: "Shawn? Who a devil's name is Shawn?"

Mr. Kenny said rather sharply: "I know him, Peter. Let the boy tell it. Why—you met Mr. Shawn yourself, I remember, the afternoon you came ashore. He was with us at the wharf."

"Oh, that—yah." Jenks rubbed his face wearily and subsided.

"Go on, Ben."

"Well, sir, only that Mr. Dyckman came to that tavern while we were there, and was drinking rum with the new bosun Tom Ball, and—had evidently been drinking already for some time. He was very foxed."

"Jan Dyckman? Are you certain, Ben?"

"Of course, sir. Mr. Shawn noticed it too. I had the thought he might wish me to introduce him to Mr. Dyckman, but Mr. Shawn said nay, let it be another time, for Mr. Dyckman was not himself. In fact, Uncle John, he looked directly at me without recognition, though he knows me well enough. Knew me, I suppose I must say."

Captain Jenks was staring down into his hands as if wondering why they were empty. To them he said ponderously: "Jan seldom drank, and when he did could always hold his liquor like a man. Shit, I don't believe it."

"Peter, my boy Benjamin is not an inventor of tales."

"Tell him," said Jenks—Ben might have been in Roxbury—"tell him to spend more time with the futtering books, and less with silver-tongued bloody idlers and Irish at that."

"Mr. Jenks"—that was Reuben, an ugly softness such as Ben had never before heard in his light adolescent baritone—"you are doing an injustice, to my brother certainly, and perhaps to Mr. Shawn."

Jenks turned slowly to examine him, as one who wished to ask: Who a devil's name are you? Beside Reuben's cold furious face was the waiting quiet of Mr. Kenny. The Captain's wrath appeared to fade, a fire he could not be troubled to sustain. "D'you tell me the same, John?"

"I do."

"Then I am sorry, and will retract what I said, and hope no offense was taken."

"None, sir," said Ben quickly, inwardly very greatly offended; but Peter Jenks was Faith's father, and was at present (as Uncle John would have said) not his own man.

Mr. Derry, evidently fatigued from the labor of saying nothing, now mildly and respectfully asked: "Had you more to tell, Mr. Cory?"

"There was one thing," said Ben, but stopped at a knocking on the office door, and after a nod from Uncle John opened it.

Daniel Shawn was very clean, fresh, brisk. He smiled at Ben, not with any smirk of conspiracy or other reminder of the night, but openly and amiably. "Good morning, Ben—but it's not the good morning, now that's no lie." He turned at once to Mr. Kenny. "Sir, don't be slow to tell me if I intrude. I heard, sir—the water front is talking of nothing else the day. I wished to say, if there be anything I might do, I owe you some service, Mr. Kenny, if only for your kindness and hospitality the other night, and you may call on me for anything it's in my power to do at all."

"That's kind," said Mr. Kenny vaguely.

Mr. Derry got his legs loose at last, and moved to lean against the door, by that rambling action somehow making them all his prisoners of the moment. The room had been crowded before—Captain Jenks made any closed space seem so; now, with Daniel Shawn lean and large in his green coat, and Mr. Derry obscurely grown in stature, the little place was stifling as a shut box. "Who are you, sir?"

"Daniel Shawn, seaman. And you?"

"I am Malachi Derry, and Constable. Your name was mentioned but now, Mr. Shawn. I understand you dined yesterday evening with Mr. Cory here, at the Lion Tavern on Ship Street?"

"Oh, I did that," said Mr. Shawn lightly. "And later, Mr. Kenny, I feared maybe I had presumed, but sir, the boy and I were both at a loose end, you might say, and most pleasant conversation we had, and no harm in it, I hope?"

"Oh, none," said John Kenny, groping at something in his mind. "I wish Ben might have let me know, but that's unreasonable of me, for I don't know how he could, seeing I left early for Roxbury. Ben, you had something more to tell?"

"Yes, and I'm glad Mr. Shawn is here, for he'll remember it too. There was a man seated at the back of the tavern when Mr. Shawn and I went in, a total stranger, a one-eyed man I'd know again if I saw him, no matter how far away, and—oh, it can't be important, only a feeling I had——"

"Now I will judge of that," said Malachi Derry, and came alive, leaning away from the door with the sudden monstrous tension of a cat who has just sighted a wriggle in the grass. "A one-eyed man?"

"Ay, a black patch, over the left eye. And the only reason I mention him, sir, is that when Mr. Dyckman and Ball left the place, this man rose at once and followed them out, but until then he had been sitting idle with the flies gathered on his empty trencher, and when I first saw him I had a feeling that he was—oh, waiting for something."

Captain Jenks shook his head in grim disgust.

"The left eye, Mr. Cory? You are certain?"

"Yes, Mr. Derry, the left eye. He was—not the common sort. I'd know him again, anywhere. Shabby clothes, black, patched. Tall, thin, a gray diagonal scar across the back of his right hand, and on his face a mad fixed smile such as I never saw on any man before."

"Oh, come!" said Captain Jenks. "May we not have the precise height of this hobgoblin, in inches and fractions?"

John Kenny said carefully: "Mr. Derry, I have sometimes walked with Ben in the woods. Though an old man, I did not know until then how much the human eye can grasp." Ben warmed within; he saw Reuben smile as if the small triumph were his own. "You may take it, Mr. Derry, it was the left eye, and with this pencil—catch, Ben!—he can draw you an accurate sketch of the diagonal scar."

"No need," said Mr. Derry softly, examining the ceiling, a little relaxed. "I happen to know of mine own knowledge, the description is just." His gaze wandered here and there, and settled on Daniel Shawn. "Did you also see this man?"

Shawn considered with gravity. "I think I noticed some such person when we entered. I recall I sat facing the front of the tavern. I didn't notice him leaving, but if it's Beneen says he left soon after Mr. Dyckman, then sure he did."

"But," said Ben—"oh, I remember. When he passed our table, Mr. Shawn, you'd just then leaned to the fireplace, and likely never saw him. One other thing I remember, Mr. Derry—nay, but it was only a feeling of mine, and of no importance——"

"Tell me anyway," said the Constable.

"Why, only that when he passed our table, he looked at me, just one quick look from his one eye, and—I can't explain this, Mr. Derry. He did nothing, you understand, only glanced at me and likely with no thought for me at all, and yet I felt as if he'd spat in my face."

"Ay, that," said Constable Derry as if he found nothing strange in it at all, and Ben looked down at the little pencil in his fingers, wondering why Daniel Shawn should suddenly be angry with him. Not anger perhaps; only something probingly cold and measuring in the large blue eyes. It could not really be so, Ben thought. Or if it was so, then it meant that Shawn was hurt or offended because Ben had run away without waiting for him from Mistress Gundy's house....

Reuben watched the glittery ink-blots of Mr. Derry's little brown eyes; heavy brows above them danced for Reuben's troubled amusement like busy moths. "Another name was mentioned—a new bosun, Tom Ball—will that mean bosun of your ketch Artemis, Mr. Kenny? And could you or the Captain tell me anything of him?"

"I've met him only to shake hands. Peter?"

"Good sailor," said Captain Jenks thickly. "Obeys orders, works hard, keeps his mouth shut—more'n that I never ask of my men."

Except, Reuben thought, their souls and their lives. But how can a captain demand less than that even if he would? Reuben tried to put the thought away, and succeeded, because now every nerve of observation in him had grown taut to the edge of agony, and the focal point was not Captain Jenks. Something in this crowded room was wrong as a rattlesnake in a flower bed. It became a severe effort not to look toward the blue eyes of Daniel Shawn. Reuben forced his attention back to what the Constable was saying—something more about Tom Ball, maybe not important. "Another thing, Mr. Kenny, and I'll be on my way. Have you ever heard tell of one named Jack Marsh, or some say it should be Judah Marsh, or Judas?"

"Why, that name—it doth echo somewhere....

"Think back, sir, ten or eleven years. Eleven it is—'96. An occasion when a certain Captain Avery, or Every, alias Bridgeman and sometimes called Long Ben, was allowed to enter Boston, and that openly, to dicker for the sale of his plunder gotten under the black flag. To the great scandal, I must say, of any man who can tell a privateer from a gallows-bird, but so it was, Mr. Stoughton being acting Governor."

Mr. Kenny peered down his nose with the lopsided half of a smile, perhaps suspecting Mr. Derry of humorous intent in linking holy Stoughton with dreadful Avery. Malachi Derry appeared quite innocent. "Mph, yes, and m'lord Bellomont as Governor had his Captain Kidd, yes yes. Of course, Mr. Derry, I remember Avery, as who would not?"

"We suffered much odious brawling in the town by Avery's men."

"I recall it."

"One of them, known then as Judah or Judas Marsh, did have his left eye gouged out in a brush with—umph—some of the ruder element." A glint in the brown eyes suggested he might not be wholly innocent after all. "It happened near my establishment, though I didn't witness it."

"And I recall the roustabout who blinded him was flogged, and Marsh—(but wasn't it March, Mr. Derry?)—nursed the wound at the Alms House as an idle, drunken and disorderly person."

"And escaped."

"Oh?—that I'd forgotten. So many have done so, and we still continue to use the Alms House, damn the thing, because the House of Correction is not in fit posture to restrain ailing rats. And by the way, Constable, if the Meeting shall ever instruct the Selectmen and Justices in this particular, I predict nothing will come of it. Go on, pray."

"Amen, sir. Yes, Marsh escaped after Captain Avery had gone his way. Later Marsh was seen, oh, here and there—Plymouth, Salem Village—alway with an evil reputation. And disappeared—for good, it was thought—about the time we began to hear tell of John Quelch. A month ago I received intelligence from a worthy man of my acquaintance at Gloucester, who is a justice of the peace and a man of substance." Mr. Derry swelled comfortably and brushed lint from his jacket, applying the pressure of a genial silence.

John Kenny said reminiscently: "I was obliged to serve a year once as constable, at Roxbury—mph—must confess that lieth further in the past than 1696. Onerous occupation." He smiled like a December thaw. Mr. Derry looked politely attentive and slightly sulky. Mr. Kenny sighed and obliged: "You heard, from your friend at Gloucester—?"

"I heard that this man Marsh—sometimes his name did appear as March, it's all one—had been hanging about there recent, seeking a berth with one of the fishing vessels, but because of his foul conversation and ugly habit, none would have him. My informant advised me that Marsh had left, possibly for Boston, and recommended I be watchful, seeing trouble follows this man as stink follows a polecat. Marsh, I hear, is quick with a knife, and nowadays they do call him Smiling Jack. I believe, sir, that thanks to this timely aid from Mr. Cory, we may be able to conclude the grievous happening of last night by persuading Mister Marsh to dance without benefit of a floor."

"Still, what do we know, man?" Mr. Kenny bleakly asked. "Item, he left the tavern when Dyckman did. Any man might have done so for any of a dozen innocent reasons."

Mr. Derry smiled slowly, reached in the air for an imaginary throat, twisted it, wiped his hand lingeringly on his breeches. "Mr. Kenny, if Marsh be found anywhere in the town, I can detain and question him. Why, I dare say he'll be found before Mr. Dyckman must be buried. He shall be brought before the body, and does any man doubt the wounds will bleed?"

"May I be there!" said Captain Jenks to his tremendous hands.

Reuben felt a new sort of sternness in his great-uncle as the small old man leaned far over the desk. "Peter." He waited until the Captain turned to look at him. "Peter, I will not delay the sailing of Artemis. When she hath her cargo and her complement, and the tide is right, she'll go, sir, and landside justice no concern of hers."

"Well, John—-" Captain Jenks sighed cavernously. "Well, John...." For the dozenth time he rubbed at his flushed face as if cobwebs clung to it; his gaze wandered until it met Constable Derry's, and then he spoke more or less as to a friend: "Find him soon, Constable."

Daniel Shawn had stepped to the window, a little behind Mr. Kenny. Reuben could see him, his gaunt and handsome face staring away through the smeary glass. "It's the hard thing such a man as Mr. Dyckman should die, and for what? The poor scrap of money he may have had with him—what's money beside a man's life, Mother of God?"

Nobody answered him. To the Captain Mr. Derry said: "I expect to find him soon enough, and you have the right to be present when he's examined. You understand, sir, there'll be no interference with the law, no cheating of the gallows, for except I be strangely deluded, the man will hang." Malachi Derry bowed to the room at large and moved to the door on the balls of his feet.

"And that no great loss, I suppose," said Mr. Kenny. A tumbling of disorderly papers on the desk had threatened to submerge his gold-headed cane. He rescued it and rubbed the handle, that was shaped into an elfin woman's leg and thigh, against the dry sagging skin beneath his jaw. "But Jan will still be dead."

Stooping for a passage of the doorway, Mr. Derry paused to stare in disapproval. "Mr. Kenny, surely you, sir, will not display a froward heart before the will of the Lord? We are insects before his footstool: we do what we may, more we cannot. Is it for us to question the judgment? Did not your friend himself commend his soul to God? He said: 'God's will be done!' Amen."

"I am sure he said it." Mr. Kenny gazed at the Constable politely. "Mr. Dyckman was a Lutheran, by the way. If you find Marsh, and if his guilt be proven on him, I shall not protest his being hanged, or hanged, drawn and quartered since that ever pleaseth the multitude, and left on the handiest gallows Boston can provide, as a plain apodeixis"—Mr. Derry winced and looked largely wise—"a veritable indicium of human justice. Good morning, Mr. Derry."

Reuben heard through the opened door into the warehouse the boom of rolling barrels, thud of boxes, metallic clang of large voices echoing back from barren walls. Artemis was filling her hold with a cargo of salt cod for Bridgetown in Barbados. Word of the death had occasioned a pause in the clamor earlier in the morning; a short one: commerce and the seasons don't wait. The warehouse, Reuben thought, was a roaring djinn, the ships its only masters; it could pause in its thundering activity if someone died, as a giant might hesitate at the squeak of something under his foot, but not for long. Within him a cool voice remarked that a simile was a mischancy nag to ride—ride him easy.... He saw Ben lean down, returning that pencil to the desk, and Ben was evidently doing battle with some private unease. It was necessary, Reuben reflected with some coolness of his own, to talk with Ben as soon as they could be alone together, if only to learn what it was about yesterday evening that Ben had not told.... Outside, Mr. Derry's voice rumbled: "Yes, Mr. Eames, he's within, but engaged."

"He will have time for me." The voice was dry. The man entered the office without knocking, his dour face reminding Reuben of that portrait seen long ago in Grandmother Cory's parlor: no specific likeness to Grandfather Matthew in the lean sadness of Mr. Simon Eames, except for the tight closing of the gash below the nose, the mouth of a man who expected life to taste bitter and could not allow his expectation to be wrong.

The wealth of Mr. Eames was all ocean-born; he could have bought out Mr. Kenny twice over. Unfortunately he hated water and was said by the naughty-minded to turn seasick at the touch of a washrag. He might have sat quiet in his countinghouse and let the pounds and shillings come to him; he need not even have turned his pale eyes on the sometimes lively water of the Bay. But human nature is consistent as a lost puppy in a typhoon: whenever one of his ships came in, Mr. Eames invariably gritted his large teeth and had himself rowed out across the demoniac element. He must have this moment returned from such an ordeal. He was quite green. "Mr. Kenny, sir, if you have a moment?"

"Certainly, Mr. Eames. I saw your Regina was in on the tide this morning. Had she a fair passage?"

"Middling, they tell me. The Lord maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters. No, I thank you, I never drink," he said as Mr. Kenny fumbled at a drawer of his desk. Mr. Eames sniffed, glancing in distaste at the bowed head of Captain Jenks, which had not lifted to acknowledge his presence. "I regret, Mr. Kenny, it is my grievous Christian duty to be the bearer of ill news, in the which one must seek to discover the infinite wisdom of Providence, the Dispenser of all mercies." Reuben sickened with understanding: the ship Regina was in the Virginia trade, and so was Uncle John's ship Iris; any moment now this pious carrion crow would come to the end of the preliminaries he was enjoying so much, and declare a disaster in plain words. Meanwhile the man was talking, and talking, and had not yet begun, and Daniel Shawn had swung away from the window to thrust his hands in the pockets of his green coat and gaze down at the sad speaker as one might watch a yapping dog. Reuben thought: What's it to Shawn? Why should he step forward so, where Uncle John must be aware of him, and put on a plain show of anger at the bringer of bad news? "... as in all mischances and vicissitudes it is necessary to submit, Mr. Kenny, even to offer up gracious supplications...."

"Mr. Eames," said John Kenny, and the noise ended. Simon Eames was not accustomed to interruptions; he probably found them ill-bred. He stood patiently, expecting blasphemy. "Mr. Eames, I have not much time, not here at my warehouse this morning and perhaps not in the world. As for God's providence and disposition of the burdens men bear, may I leave such questions to God himself, rather than have them expounded unto me by men who, I suppose, share my humility as well as my mortality?"

"John Kenny, you had ever a somewhat naughty spirit."

"That may be so. Will you speak your news?"

Flushed, Mr. Eames drew a few deep breaths. Reuben sickly, inconsequently remembered another face, nothing at all like the face of Mr. Eames, a bronze painted face in a darkly reddened room. He had spat on it. In spite of the observations anyone must make, it had never become fully credible to Reuben that a human creature could find pleasure in the pain of others. His mind acknowledged the evidence, his heart refused it, and he wished weakly that magic could lift him out of this chilly crowded room into some place—the spring woods, for choice—where Mr. Welland would answer questions with mirth and kindness. "Mr. Kenny, your ship Iris, Captain Samuel Foster commanding, put out of Norfolk a fortnight before the departure thence of my ship Regina. I have this intelligence from Captain Bart of the Regina, with whom I was but now speaking. The Iris sailed on the third day of April to be precise, for Barbados, at least that was the destination announced by Captain Foster."

"Yes, it was Captain Foster's intention to make Barbados."

"The Regina sailed on the sixteenth day of April, arriving here this morning after a slow passage, having encountered contrary winds as the Lord willed. On her second day out of Norfolk, the seventeenth day of April, the weather being overcast and a dirty sea running, my Captain Bart hath told me, the Regina overtook the longboat of the ship Iris."

"The—longboat," said Captain Jenks, and got laboriously to his feet, massive arms swinging, quite helpless.

Mr. Eames ignored him. "Three men were in it, Mr. Kenny, rather two men and a boy, the boy's name being Bartram Wilks, of Dedham, a lad of about sixteen years...."

"I remember him. Will you continue?"

"All three were wounded and famished, the Lord having seen fit to visit them with the vials of his wrath. The boy Wilks and one of the men were brought aboard. The other man—the sea running high and as God disposeth—burst his head against the strakes and sank immediate. The man brought aboard perished later, having overeaten though suffering from pistol wounds, but the boy Wilks lived two days."

His gaze not once abandoning Mr. Eames, Daniel Shawn had taken from his pocket a bright copper coin and was rubbing his broad thumb across it, turning it deftly to rub the other side, an action evidently so habitual it needed no guidance of his eyes. A farthing, Reuben thought, but not colonial. When for a moment the thumb and forefinger held the coin motionless by the finely milled rim, Reuben could make out a robed figure kneeling by a floating crown, and the legend FLOREAT REX. The pale eyes of Simon Eames were caught by the brightness and he let the silence drag. Shawn asked of no one in particular: "Had Mr. Dyckman wife and children?"

"Eh?" Mr. Kenny turned to him, startled. "He had, sir. A wife and two little girls survive him."

"Oh, hanging's too gentle," said Shawn, rubbing the coin, his eyelids lowered on a blueness like that of two bright mirrors turned to a blue sky. "Is there a blacker thing than murder in the Decalogue? Isn't it the destroying of the one thing we know we possess? Forgive me, sir—I should not be talking, belike I should not be here in your time of trouble, but I—sir, I feel it. I can't explain—steady as she goes, can I not! for didn't I see a friend murdered in a knife brawl on the brig Terschelling, and for nothing, a thing done in the time it'd take you to breathe twice, the time it took me, sir, to run from companionway to la'board rail and no chance, no chance to aid him at all, and then his blood blackening in the deck seams hour by hour, the way no holystone would ever rub it out?" Mr. Shawn seemed blankly startled to discover the farthing in his fingers, and put it away. "Mr. Kenny, they're saying about the docks that the poor soul was yet living when he was found. Could he not speak at all, to damn the man who'd done the thing?"

"Little enough," said Mr. Kenny slowly. "Little enough, Mr. Shawn.... Will you continue, Mr. Eames?"

"Ha? Oh.... I believe I was about to say, Wilks lived two days, and then died of an infection of his wounds, cutlass wounds, though Captain Bart tended the boy in his own cabin, bled him, did whatever he might, but—having lived long enough on this wretched earth to give Captain Bart the tidings and to prepare his soul for its going unto the Father of all mercies, the boy died, being a lad of decent conversation evidently raised in fear of the Lord, for Captain Bart saith he did make a most touching confession of faith, indeed exemplary, and may have been of the elect, we may hope...."

"Will you continue?"

"Why, as it was told by Wilks, your ship Iris was set upon by a fast sloop which came out of the starboard quarter at dawn on the eighth day of April, the Iris being then at about latitude thirty, having made very little southing because of scant and fitful winds, also a sudden leak near the water line—but Captain Foster, it seems, preferred to beat out the passage to Barbados with extra toil at the pumps rather than put back to Norfolk, the Lord having so moved his heart to his own sad destruction."

"What?" said Jenks. "What? What did you say?"

"Why—he was lost, Mr. Jenks, with the others. On the eighth of April the weather was fair, the sea moderate. The sloop ran up a French flag and may have been a privateer. The boy Wilks, however, said that the men who boarded the Iris appeared to be plain pirates, and their general conduct of the affair would so indicate. Yet they allowed Wilks and four others, all wounded and of no mind to go on the account, to take the longboat, so to make the continental shore if they might or the Bermudas—thus carrying out the plain intent of Providence that the intelligence should come to us for a warning and a judgment. They could not row with much effect, yet the Lord sent them a southwesterly, early for the season, and by his infinite mercy they did cross the course of the Regina as I have said, after nine days afloat with a trifle of water and biscuit, during which time two of the men died of their wounds, having accomplished their part in God's purpose."

"Sam Foster," Jenks said. "Sam was a sailor of King William's time. How did he die, Mr. Eames? Will you tell me how he died?"

"It would appear he placed the Iris in posture to resist as best he might, but was overwhelmed. A shot at close quarters swept away the mainmast. The pirates grappled, swarmed aboard superior in numbers and weapons. They were stripping the ship of all they wished to carry aboard the sloop, when the longboat was put overside. Wilks and the others saw her burned to the water, the sloop bearing off south by southeast."

Daniel Shawn grunted. "They will have been from the Bahamas, Mr. Kenny—wolves, sir, wolves, and with the flags of a dozen nations in the locker to suit the occasion."

"Eh? Yes, I suppose. Mr. Eames, did any go alive on the sloop?"

At least, Reuben observed, the old man was letting him keep a hand on his arm, seemed even to welcome it, and must know that Ben was on his other side. John Kenny was not predictable, his manner tending to put love in its place—an acquaintance respected, possibly feared a little, and not permitted any too forward liberties.

"The boy Wilks thought not, Mr. Kenny, but was not certain. One of the cutlass blows had destroyed his right eye."

Captain Jenks panted: "Mr. Eames—I asked you—be there any word how Sam Foster died?"

"With a seaman's fortitude apparently, although not, alas, in a state of grace. He was struck down soon after the enemy boarded. Wilks saw him lying in his blood and cursing them, but did not see the moment of his death, whether he then turned his thought to the Lord."

"Well, Mr. Eames," said John Kenny, "you have accomplished your errand, and I thank you for the trouble you have taken to bring me word. I beg you also, commend me to your good Captain Bart. I will speak with him when I may."

"I keep thinking in what sorry fashion I came home on this road last night."

"Forget that, Ben."

"I can't, quite. I feel as though I'd given him another burden when already he hath too much to bear—well, you did say, didn't you, that he wasn't too troubled about my—my——"

"Wasn't at all. Would you have everyone perfect, devil any lapse from virtue, and yourself a saint in ivory?"

"Oh, I know.... I swear I ought not to be going to Harvard. You must go, but damn it, I'm no scholar. Uncle John himself wishes me to go into trade with him some day. I say, if I do, it ought to be now."

"I disagree."

"Ay, you too.... Ru, a few weeks ago Uncle John told me—only in passing, because then it was nothing to trouble him—that he had debts waiting on the profit the ship Iris was to have brought him. Most of the debt is from the building of Artemis, and her maiden voyage won't have fetched enough to satisfy it. It could happen, Ru, the creditors will be on top of him like a pack of wolves."

"I—didn't know that."

"You do now. Look: wouldn't it be unwise to send Artemis to be gone for months on the Barbados triangle, when she's all he owns—she and the little sloop Hebe at Newport that can't give much account of herself?"

"What would you have him do?"

"I think Artemis should make short voyages—should take that salt cod, for instance, maybe no further than New York, back at once for more, until the debt is cleared. I suppose the harshest of 'em would give him that much time. And then I think that when the debt is cleared, he ought to get a few more little fast vessels like Hebe for the coastal trade, for heaven knows that's the bread and butter of this colony, and let the long ventures wait a few years."

"Then tell him so, Ben."

"I?... Commerce should be building, not gambling, a'n't that so? Well, I think Uncle John believes that, but is moved to gamble all the same. The great ventures draw his heart—and why not, seeing that in the past he's won them? Only, now...."

"You might as well say it: now he's old, and in trouble, and the times themselves are changing, so everyone seems to think. Tell him how you see it. I say tell him, little brother."

"Can't you be sensible, Muttonhead?"

"Sensible—mm-yas. Well, tell him, maybe not that last morsel of your wisdom, but tell him at least about the little companions for Hebe, and short voyages for Artemis."

"I'm to instruct a man of seventy, when he won't even hear to my signing on to learn a bit of seamanship and so be of use to him?"

"You could tell him anything. You only need speak in a plain voice and never let anyone stop you from smiling in your own peculiar manner. I say this fully understumbling that in this moment I stand to you in loco Gideonis Hibborum."

"Oh, God damn it, Ru, whenever I'm dead in earnest you're laughing on a mountaintop—yes, and when I think something comical you're a little old man a thousand years old."

"Only a thousand? As best I can discover from perusal of ancient records, I was born during the government of Pericles of Athens, circa five hundred years before the birth of Christ. Plutarch doesn't specifically mention me—that's the slipshod scholarship of his times for you, obliging a man to read between the lines. It so happens I was not laughing when I urged you to tell that to Uncle John. And now, what was it about yesterday evening at the tavern that you didn't tell the Constable?"


"Yes, Ben, and yes. One-eyed man. Lion Tavern. Some part of that untold was hurting thee. What was it? Note that I stand here in the road, my bare face hung decently in front of my brains, not laughing."

"Good God! Was I so——"

"No one in that room has my eyes and ears."

"I see.... Will you undertake not to speak of it to anyone?"

"Of course, if you charge me so."

"I do. It was simply a fleeting impression I had, that while I had turned to see Ball and Dyckman leaving the tavern, Shawn also had done—something or other. Looked back, I thought, where that one-eyed man was sitting, just before he rose and followed them out. Now understand, Ru: I was drank already. It was nothing more than a fancy."

"But I know your eyes."

"No no! I was drunk, and did not truly see it anyway. Even if true, why should it mean anything? Why should it stick in my mind?"

"That of course is the question."

"Now what do you mean?"

"What is it in Shawn that should make the thought trouble you?... What in fact do you know about Mr. Shawn?"

"Why—why, he is a man of pleasant conversation—mostly. Of—of poetic spirit, wouldn't you say? Possessed of some learning too. He hath read Physiologus."

"That is learning? And now again you're holding something back, but I am no Malachi Derry."

"'Deed you're not, but what are you? Why do you press me so? Like a judge?"

"Not to judge you, certainly. You've seen something in Shawn to disturb you. I wish to know what it was, because—because I'm frightened, Ben; because what touches thee touches me...."

"Something at that—house. He spoke quite cruelly to the women there, poor sluts, as if he hated them, and for no cause. I don't know—I know you don't like him, Ru, I can feel it. Let's not speak of him."

"Very well. Let's go on. Pontifex awaits, I'm sure. Let's walk on—you know, decently, like Christian worthies debating how best to diddle a neighbor over a line fence and yet remain in a state of grace."

"Pagan Athenian!"

"Of course."

"I recall a time, when thou wast—"

"The boy's dead. Poor snotnose, he died near Springfield in the Massachusetts, in the reign of Queen Anne. Tell me something, Ben, and don't be angry—remember how Mother used to call me Puppy?"

"Of course. And Father called thee Sir Inquiry."

"Ha? So he did...."

"Why should I be angry?"

"She called me that, I think, because I am—I am over-demonstrative, heart on my sleeve and can't help it, Ben, it's my way, my way. I only meant to ask—does it trouble thee, that I like to put my arm over thy shoulder, sometimes kiss thy cheek? Because——"

"Now why in the world should it trouble me? A'n't thou my own brother, Athenian?"

"I am."

"And didn't I carry thee down the stairs at Deerfield, a small boy in a great daze at the burning and thinking it his own fault for a failure to pray—remember that?"

"He doth ask me, whether I remember it."

"I only meant, thy notion of being at fault for failing to pray." But it may be mine own fault that he's an even greater infidel than I—what did I ever do but encourage his doubting, when perhaps—when—where is the way where light dwelleth?

"I know, Ben. Yes, I remember it." And if there be no Spice Islands, where shall I go?

Chapter Six

On Saturday began a long lisping April rain. Mr. Hibbs pointed out that anyhow the boys' half-holiday had been used up on the Friday forenoon, and although this happened because of disaster, in logic that made no difference: the spring and summer would be all too short if Ben and Reuben were to be ready for Harvard in September. Mr. Hibbs said too that man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble; in other words they'd better quit the commotion and go to work.

Mr. Kenny spent all of that day in Boston, returning late and weary in a twitching mood. It was one of the evenings, more frequent of late, when he insisted that no one but Ben or Reuben understood how to lift the boot off his gouty foot. Ben did that, as Kate stood by in tears, and from shadow at the side of the fireplace Reuben watched the old man with the bemused intentness of one who has only recently discovered that the study of human beings may begin at home. Reuben Cory had hardly spoken all day, except as the lessons required it of him....

When the boot was safely removed and the foot installed on a cushion, Ben ventured to ask whether any more had been learned concerning the death of Jan Dyckman. "Nor is like to be!" John Kenny snarled. "The law hath the brain of a gnat, meaning no dem'd disrespect to Mr. Derry, blast him! Cease crying, Kate! I'll not be in my grave for another ten or twenty years, and should you weep even then, dear, I'll rise to ha'nt you, I swear it—now there's a good girl." Since she could not check the flow, Kate bounced away to build a hot toddy, and later beckoned from the doorway for Ben to come and take it to him, lest her continued sniffling should offend.

Marsh had not been found; no sign of him, no hint of where he might have lodged. The waiter and bartender at the Lion Tavern professed total ignorance of such a man. "They'll be lying," said Reuben from his shadow, and John Kenny shifted his head in discomfort until he was in better posture to look at Reuben down his nose. "Lying, Reuben, or unobservant or forgetful. I incline somewhat to your view. It would seem that Mr. Derry, after one day of sniffing about like an old blind ferret with a cold in the nose, is prepared to write off the happening as an act of God."

When the toddy was consumed, and Mr. Kenny's clay pipe drawing properly, and the lashing mutter of rain at the windows had become no longer a nagging but a comfortable sound, Ben stirred the logs to stronger flame and said, stuttering only slightly: "Uncle John, is there any market for salt cod in New York?"

Long and drowsily, John Kenny contemplated a mild, large-eyed boy's face, high at the forehead, the jaw square but rounded at the chin, and the benediction upon it of firelight not unlike a lamp within. Toward such a lamp one might spread cold hands to warm them. "Mph! Might be."

Reuben smiled to himself and slipped out of the room, and so did not hear it when Ben inquired whether Mr. Shawn was to be considered in the room of Jan Dyckman. "Why, Ben—as a matter of fact I must give that some further thought," said John Kenny.

Later Ben said: "Uncle John, if Artemis should make a quick run, no further than New York and return, might I not—I mean, sir, I'd be gone only a few weeks, and could learn——"

"Now don't press me about that. I must give it more thought. Did we not go to Cambridge not long ago and discuss your situation with Mr. Leverett himself? Did he not examine you in beginner's Greek and in Latin, and find that even with the summer's work you may be scarce ready for the first year's studies?"

"But suppose, sir—Ru is ready, as Mr. Leverett said, and certainly he ought to begin in September—but suppose I were to wait another year? Then I might go with Artemis now—might I not?—and earn something, and continue studies afterward, in the winter, and next summer when Ru could aid me, and so...."

"Ben, you would sail as a ship's boy. If you endured the hardships, and satisfied Mr. Jenks in matters of heavy labor and obedience, the which is no easy thing to do, you might fairly soon achieve the proud condition of an ordinary seaman. They have a saying: 'Six days shalt thou labor as hard as thou art able; the seventh, holystone the main deck and chip the chain cable.' They say also: 'No law off soundings'—and I'm afraid that's true, though I guess the law according to Peter Jenks is just enough in its own harsh way. They have even another saying—I suppose it was repeated by the men who followed John Quelch a few years ago and were hanged with him at Copp's Hill: 'Better a short gasp on a tricing line than a long hunger, short pay and the bloody scurvy.'"

"But at least, Uncle John, there would not be the expense of my keep here, and I would be——"

"What? You're troubled that I should spend my substance on mine own—my—like a son—why, Ben, the old have little enough they can do except give. I pray you allow me to do that much."

"And I pray you, Uncle John, understand me! I did not mean it like that. I meant—if I sailed, I'd be learning things that might make me of some use to you in the business."

"Oh? So?... Well, you know that's near my heart. A few days ago you was undecided. We spoke of it, coming home from seeing Artemis return—did we not?"

"Yes, Uncle John."

"And I feared I was nursing an old man's vanity. Urging on you something that might be unwelcome.... Mind you, Ben, I am not your master and no one shall be. I will not say to you, go there, do this, as I might to the common sort. Somehow, of late years, I don't much fancy the meaning they give to the word 'gentleman' in England. Joseph Cory was a farmer, and a better gentleman than any milord in London. Yes, in this land the word doth seem to be earning a new definition, or maybe it did alway own it, but title-dazed Europe is in no posture to comprehend such a thing. You are a gentleman's son, Ben. I say there's an aristocracy which hath nothing at all to do with wealth or position, nor with ancestry neither except as a parent's good qualities do often appear in the children. I mean the aristocracy of the good mind with the good heart—you will not find that very often on earth, Benjamin. You are a gentleman, and no one may order you about, only guide a little, so far as love and friendship may do it, while you—while you are yet a boy."

Ben felt the fire in his cheeks, and dreaded stammering. "Well, sir, might it not be that sailing with Artemis would help me decide, or at least understand better, what I wish to do?"

"It—might.... Mind, I've not said yea or nay. Don't press me more on it now. It may be two weeks yet before Artemis is ready to go. Mr. Banning of Gloucester is delaying me. His dem'd price is too dear, noticed it a thousand times. Uh—don't you think so?"

If Reuben had been in the room he would have known how Ben, in the face of all common sense, was very nearly taking that to mean yes. He would have seen how the inner lamp steadied and brightened in a manner hardly reasonable when the overt topic was nothing more ecstatic than the current value of salt codfish. Why, the old man had not even said that Artemis would put out for New York instead of Barbados....

On Sunday the rain continued. Rob Grimes, an accomplished backslider with sixty-odd years of sin to his credit, marched off to meeting as usual and retained sanctity like a best suit until Monday morning, when Mr. Kenny's nervous gray gelding acted up at sight of the saddle and caused the first lapse into blasphemy. It was a conspiracy of the Powers against Rob, that everything should always go wrong on Monday morning, so that for the rest of the week his state of grace should be nothing but a God-damned ruin. Kate Dobson slipped away to the Anglican services that she found a comfort in a barbarous land. John Kenny fretted at home—even he might have been subject to arrest and fine for unnecessary travel on the Sabbath—fretted like one under enchantment who must spend a certain twenty-four hours of every week in the guise of a rabbit, a shrewd one who knows very well that if he should venture abroad where the godly are baying he'd be a gone bunny.

In their first year at Roxbury, Ben and Reuben had been similarly housebound on the Lord's day. But on a morning of urgent springtime in the year 1705, Reuben had advanced the doctrine that one could easily pass from the back door through the orchard and to the woods with no danger of detection, and look: anyone who did observe the sin would be far from any route to the meeting-house and therefore a sinner himself; wouldn't he? "Besides, sir," said Reuben Cory, "we've a'ready done it a couple-three times." "Oh," said John Kenny. "I find your reasoning faultless but incomplete. You omit, Mr. Cory, reference to the necessity of wearing your brown suits that don't show at a distance, and of promising to avoid the sky line and open places. Some say reason doth advance, even in these times. I a'n't sure. Wear your brown suits...."

On the Sunday after the death of Jan Dyckman, the rain was heavy enough to discourage even Reuben's need to wander. He felt it unsafe to go to Mr. Welland's cottage, for part of the approach out of the back fields was visible from the main street of Roxbury; and anyway Ben shamefacedly declared he needed help with the next half-acre of Cicero.

Drearily it rained on the Monday when Jan Dyckman was buried.

More time lost to lessons: Gideon Hibbs nourished that thought so obviously that there was no occasion for him to utter it aloud. He was not attending the funeral, having been only distantly acquainted with the Dyckman family. Acidly, with a kind of humor occasionally encountered at the borders of philosophy, he remarked to John Kenny that he was the fourth son in a family of twelve; all his brothers and sisters had married and begotten young, of whom the expected percentage had died, and thus he found himself already in possession of a massive collection of pallbearer's gloves, for the which he could discover no practical application whatsoever (although familiar with the rumor that some persons of a weightier worth than himself had turned a fair penny in disposing of such); he would therefore, with Mr. Kenny's permission, remain at home and take advantage of the peace and quiet to do a trifle more on a work which had engaged him now for ten years, namely an employment of the sternest logic—(it could not be published in the colonies)—in a demonstration of the immortality of the soul. Mr. Kenny sighed and patted his dusty back.

The few who were present with Mr. Kenny and the boys bulked like a multitude in the spotless parlor of the Dyckman house. More unobtrusive than the Jenks' slave Clarissa, Constable Derry was there—so far as was known, the corpse had not bled in anyone's presence. There were Jan's two small girls red-nosed in doll-like silence, his stricken wife, a handful of dour strangers, Captain Jenks thoroughly sober and looking like the vast man he was instead of a ruin, Faith and Charity stiff and amazingly pale in black, Clarissa self-effacing, and Madam Prudence Jenks with a black enameled comb instead of a red one.

The Lutheran dominie did not exhort, nor shout, nor whine, but spoke all manner of pleasant things concerning the nature of the dead man, and then entered on the main stream of his discourse—this a poetic enumeration and description of the mercies of God, announced with mild certainty as though he had been directly instructed in the matter and had been astonished at the kindness of the Lord in assenting to some of his own small suggestions. Unhesitatingly he implied that if any soul could rest sure of heaven it was the soul of Jan Dyckman. A gentle spirit, this minister: incapable of learning how to be content with discontent, he had luckily never needed to learn it, since not every son of Adam is obliged to go to school.

At some time during this passage of consolation a kerchief tumbled from Faith's restless hand. Ben was able to find and return it to her, not prevented, not even much scared by the polar stare of Captain Jenks. He won a pressure of her fingers and a sudden blue-eyed look of such depth and sweetness that she might have been saying aloud: "I am with you." Reuben sat motionless, all gold and ivory.

The minister's tender music did not touch on the fact of murder, yet somehow conveyed that this was an aspect of the infinite wisdom of God which at the present time it was not polite to mention.

The mellow voice was larger but otherwise not changed, when in the cemetery under a slanting curtain of rain it recited the last words of commitment to the earth. Here Ben and Reuben stood together and glanced often at each other—communication, as any observer would have known, but under this quiet rain perhaps only one message passed, the simplest and the most essential: I am with you.

It rained all night.

In the morning at Roxbury pools of standing water translated the image of a warmer sky, for it was now well past the time of the return of the robins, and of the bluebirds whose color of morning is a music made visible. Once in such a pool at the base of a rock near Uncle John's private road—but that was another April, the April of last year—a distant self of Ben Cory had been revived, so that the older boy could momentarily breathe with the breath of that child and rejoice in the sunlight wantoning over the child's bare chest and legs and muddy feet. He had been five then or younger, master of a vessel on a sea of shining calm—a chip with an oak-leaf sail, a pond in a world no longer living: well, in the immediate world you must write down a Latin subjunctive a hundred times, whipping an intractable brain into retaining it, and by the way, what the devil did Ovid himself care about subjunctives when it was spring in Italy? Nothing, Ru would say—subjunctive's one small step in a stairway to a place up yonder where you might get a glimpse of Ovid; and Ru would take the book from him, and tumble across the bed in his thin-legged sprawl or sit on the floor with his almost beardless chin hooked on his knees, and listen while Ben groped and stumbled through the lesson—correcting Ben casually, guiding, sometimes ripping out lewd or startling comment to make the Latin stick in Ben's mind by association, and never once needing to open the blasted volume and make sure he was right....

By the same pool in the April of 1707, this present year of change, Reuben Cory had stared as through a window on the inverted blue of heaven; had knelt by the rock to find white violets, the first to come, miniature, early-waking, with a midget purple eye. Hurried bees had discovered them before him, since it is not enough for these restless innocent to store up summer in the honeycomb, but with the earliest warmth they must be out and seeking in hunger. He heard then the incessant whispering, the waters of the earth returning to the broader streams, to the sea, the sky, the earth again, the waters of spring.

Drifting away to the south pasture and the woods, Reuben heard also a catbird in a budding thicket, chuckling and mewling and singing in a dozen voices, attempting alone the merriment of a full choir, sounding the bravura of summer before its time, fantastic, strong and sweet as the reed of the horned god. Furry silver softness of pussy willows shone at the edge of the woods; further in, he found the never-distant symbols of struggle and pain, for the tips of the wild grape were becoming fingers, later to grow aggressive, cruel in silent pressure, though all they seek is an island of space in the sunlight. He heard the peeper frogs, the delicate violence in their amorous throats, and now and then the ponderous grumble of a big frog, not yet sustained in the organpoint of summer but large as the owl-voices that had been disturbing the night woods all winter long. He watched a robin carrying mud with a purpose, and other small architects concerned with the foundations of secret houses, and sat long silent in his watching; silent and thinking now and again of something said by Mr. Welland which seemed not unrelated to springtime and the nesting of birds: "I do believe in God, Reuben, but I must tell you my faith is rather like that of a man on a cloudy day who hath some notion the sun may come out before evening. Should the sky remain overcast he will not be too sadly dismayed and may fall asleep with ease. And I suggest, it is no belittling of mine own faith, that I reject the arrogance of certainty."

Silent—so long that a box turtle placed a blundering claw on his shoe before it understood that Reuben was no rock. Reuben moved his hand idly to make it withdraw hissing into the sanctuary; he held his foot motionless, until by degrees the little bothered head emerged, vague and sad like Jesse Plum's, and the creature lurched away to safety. Reuben forgot it, listening to the wind and the voices of a thousand hungers within him, almost but not quite seeing the airy rising in mist of castles in Spain, almost but not quite hearing the reed of the horned god that makes a mockery of everything but blind desire and the need to embrace the fleeing sun-dappled body in the country of Arcadia.

Then from near bushes another music streamed, three notes of purity, the last one twice repeated; notes at intervals true to the human scale but sung as no one sings them except a white-throated sparrow who has come home to April in New England. But even under the glow of this music Reuben's human brain must at once observe how bounteous nature includes the porcupine's quill festering in helpless flesh, the needle teeth of a weasel in a rabbit's neck, the scar on Ben Cory's lip, the drop of a hawk, smallpox, the death of Deerfield, a pencil sketch of unredeemable sorrow in Mr. Welland's surgery, the husband-eating habits of spiders, the right eye of the boy Wilks gouged out by a cutlass; and so it would seem there's no help for it, but the brain must continue, trying in some confusion to kill wolves and learn how to be content with discontent. It will not say: What is man, that thou art mindful of him? Such mock humility, Reuben thought, is iniquitous rubbish, in the presence of the whitethroat's music and the drawings of Vesalius, for if the human creature and the sparrow are not beings of wonder and infinite depth then nothing is wonderful under the North Star.

On cool mornings after fog, Ben Cory liked to search out the green of poplar bark still damp, a green softer and stranger than any other on earth, seeming translucent, leading the mind to green oceans.

Ben Cory knew as well as anyone that the country beyond the magic of poplar bark is not to be entered, and may be declared what you will.

There as here, like the reed of the horned god demanding and perilous, the west winds move beyond the green land and over blue-green waves remote from land.

The days crawled with inky toil into another Saturday afternoon, and Ben Cory was once more free to invade Boston. This time he could ride his mare to the Jenks house—ride like a gentleman, with a solid determination not to fall from grace, no, not in the lightest particular.

In the morning, Uncle John also had gone to Boston, as he seldom did on a Saturday. Since that evening a week ago when Ben had presumed to speak out, Uncle John had appeared withdrawn in a puzzling way—even more since the gray hours of the funeral—almost as though he regretted having allowed young Benjamin to talk up like a man. It created a background trouble for Ben's thought: maybe he had made a fool of himself after all; maybe on second thought Uncle John had found it downright insulting, the idea that his Artemis should abandon the rich journey to the Indies and operate like a cheap ferry tub in the coastal trade. Only background: even the fear he had managed to discuss with Reuben, that John Kenny's fortune might tumble suddenly at the assault of creditors, could not dominate such an afternoon as this, when the warmth of June had arrived to blend with the crystal freshness of the end of April, and the girl Faith was in the garden by the house, alone, kneeling to lift with a pink finger tip the golden face of a jonquil.

Ben jumped down, not able to look again and pretend to discover her until he had made a careful business of hitching his mare to the post in the street, rubbing the hairy foolish nose and murmuring the words old Molly usually required before she would stand quiet and go to dreaming in the sun. He could turn then, but (such is the bewildering skill of women) Faith was still engaged with the daffodil. Only at that moment did she rise, glance toward the house, lift a hand in the light to push back a strand of hair under her little cap, brush away a clinging leaf from the softness of her brown skirt, and then at long last step away from the bed of flowers to find Ben Cory at the gate, with a wondrous flush of surprise. "Oh, Benjamin, you startled me!" Her right hand jumped to her mouth, blue eyes laughing over it in mirthful self-reproach at having used his first name when of course she ought to have spoken with proper reserve in spite of the violets swaying at her feet, and called him Mr. Cory.

"I didn't mean to. I'm not dangerous, now that's no lie."

"That, sir, remains to be seen. You did cause me to forget myself." She was still silently laughing—from natural good spirits, or from kindness, or because Ben Cory was the most comical savage under the sun. "Surprising me so, Mr. Cory!" That in drawling mimic reproach, as her hands held down the latch of the picket gate, in mimic warfare declining to open it.

"May I come in then?"

"Oh-h—mmm," she said, her tone a singing. "I'll consider it, I suppose. I suppose it would be cold and unkind if I obliged you to stand out there in the street. Though perhaps you ought to, as a punishment for surpri-ising me so."

"I'm most sorry for that."

"Are you now? Why, Mr. Cory, if I thought so I might decide you were a poor thing of no enterprise, and so away into the house closing the door, and you might sit out here lorn and lonely enough until the lamplighter cometh in the evening." She blinked both eyes. "Or I could send Charity to you, sir? With another picture maybe, so to keep you company?" She glanced down at her hands.

Out of breath in an April gust of wisdom, Ben lifted their unresisting warmth from the latch, opened it, found himself inside the garden and closing the gate without commotion. She had drawn away from him, laughter fallen from her like a ravished shield. Not too far away, grave, with veiled downward-looking eyes, the hands he had briefly touched holding each other as if for safety between her breasts. Ben could neither move nor speak unless she did so. "Would you like to come look at the daffodils? They were timid, Mr. Cory. They would not bloom in March, but now I think the sun's a little kinder."

The daffodils, yes, but not yet. Ben stooped to the purple glow and wind-stirred motion at his feet, plucked a single violet perfect in fragility and held it near her eyes, so that she must lift them presently to look at him, frightened with discovery, as young in all ways as himself and unsure. He recaptured the memory of a breath of music from the dingy library of John Kenny, and found a glory of pride that he could bring these words to himself out of some dusty hour that must have passed without love, and speak them for her pleasure, and not sound in the least like a fool.

"You violets that first appear,
By your pure purple mantles known,
 Like the proud virgins of the year,
As if the spring were all your own;
What are you when the rose is blown?"

"Ah! What's that?"

"The verse is—oh, if I remember, by Sir Henry Wotton, to his mistress the Queen of Bohemia. But I did make it mine," said Ben. "I made it mine, to give you today."

"Why—why, Ben!" He saw the tears start to her eyes. A few appeared on her cheeks. He could not touch them; understood how she must turn her face away quickly, for the tears were no pretense at all, and she as much startled by them as the boy who loved her—no part assigned to that sort of tears in the undertakings of mimic reproach and mimic warfare. "Is that why you came? To—to say something beautiful I couldn't forget, even though...."

"Even though——?"

She smiled down at dainty shoes that were somehow not very muddy in spite of the spring ground, trying again to be distant and a lady. "My mother and father, 'deed they'd be much put out to know I was speaking thus alone with you, Mr. Cory.... I meant to say: even though the words cannot be for me."

"Cannot—why, for you and no other, ever."

"Well, we might——" she glanced at the house, and at him, and at the house again, so that Ben grasped what she would never be so brazen as to put in words, namely that the stone seat on the other side of the bed of daffodils stood very near the house wall, and that this part of the wall was blind, without any windows to overlook the seat; that the jonquils would not tell and the stone would be warm in the sun so much like a sun of June. She sat there with a woman's grace; without a smile, shyly touched the stone beside her. The seat was small, yet she could only mean that he was to be there, that near to her, breathing her fragrance even as fantasies of twelve troubled nights had dwelt upon it. "Now tell me, Benjamin, tell me truly the reason that brought you here?"

"Oh, to—to pluck this violet, and look on it, whether it be, as they tell, the flower of modesty."

"Now you laugh at me."


"Any scholar may laugh at me, Benjamin. I'm not learned."

"Nor I. But as I remember—well, not the books but what my mother used to say, maybe I ought to take from this garden a sprig of rosemary, but there'll be none in the bloom this time of year. Oh, Faith, I'm no scholar at all. My brother is the wise one."

"Ay, faraway Reuben. Monday, you know, was the first and only time I've laid eyes on him. I thought only his body was there, and he the other side of the moon—but of course a funeral is a poor time to meet anyone.... Rosemary? Why rosemary? Rosemary's for remembrance."

"That's what my mother used to tell. You see, I may be going away," said Ben, and at the moment quite believed it.

"Going away?" Her face was a new miracle because of nearness.

"You heard what happened to the Iris?"

"Oh!" She caught his hand in both her own. "Yes, I heard of course. You mean—what do you mean, Ben?"

"I ought to be out and earning my way. I spoke of it to Uncle John the other evening. You see"—and he found that he was speaking to her very much as he had done in certain dreams before the onset of sleep: reasonably, bravely, easily, finding words without stammering. This realization of a dream was in itself so great a wonder that he could take other marvels almost lightly, even the marvel of her thigh against his own, her two hands holding his one as if they desired never to let it go. He would sail, he said. He would learn all there was for him to know of the sea, for it was the mightiest of highways for human enterprise—and the world, said Ben, is scarce explored. Faith seemed astonished to learn how few were the names of great explorers.... If, said Ben, a shipowner of Boston could build his fortune soundly on the colonial trade until his resources were great enough so that no minor disaster need shake him, there was no reason why such a man—he was not completely sure at this point whether he meant himself or Uncle John Kenny—why such a man, later on, say when the present war was over, should not fit out a fleet, maybe five or six vessels as fast and good as Artemis but probably larger, and strike out for those parts of the incredible Pacific where anything might be found. Islands—continents.... Why should Spain and France sit a-straddle of half the known earth? For that matter, what did England herself really understand of the New World? "Oh," said Faith. "Why, this land of our own," said Ben—"I say this ought to be the heart and center for the exploration that's still to be done." And Faith watched him, shining, but presently let go his hand and turned her face away.

It dawned on Ben that this vision had been newborn of this moment. It was in the blue intensity of her eyes that those five or six vessels as fast and good as Artemis were setting out, breaking out the full splendor of white canvas and turning south—across the Line, and then the Horn? Or should they rather beat across the South Atlantic and round da Gama's Cape and so on through the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean toward their goal? Well, Shawn—Daniel Shawn would know what way they ought to go, and would go with them of course. But not just yet; not for a few years; not until.... Born of this moment, and so perhaps all his earlier imaginings of the sea had been no more than prelude—including those of a great while past, when he had never seen so much as the tame waters of Boston harbor, but his brother (at some moment of that past so far away that Ben could not now locate it in time or place) had said: "I'll go with thee to the Spice Islands."

Faith was saying: "I see those things for you. It's very fair and brave." She was not happy. "I see you will go away."

"Why, I'll come back."

"I don't know," said Faith to the faces of the jonquils. "I don't know, whether they ever do. I am not sure my father ever cometh back, Ben. He is here and not here."

For that Ben found no answer, but a new wave of courage allowed him to recapture her hand. "I suppose, Faith, it sounds as if I were talking the stuff of dreams."

"Brave dreams, but—why to me?"

"I think you made them."

"Oh, Ben, you'll break my heart. I am not—I—never mind, I don't wish to speak of it. But you should not be telling these things to me. I should not allow it. When we first met I thought you were only a green boy. Now I see you're—not, quite, and I...."

His own courage amazing him, Ben said: "And thou, Faith? How old art thou?"

"I am seventeen. But women are much older."

"I have heard that, and don't believe it."

"Oh! Oh! Must I now be angered with you?"

"No," said Ben, still dizzily courageous—"no, you must not. But you must tell me why you should be suddenly distressed, and—and why I shouldn't tell you what's in my heart. What is it, Faith?" The courage, he supposed, could hardly last much longer, but he could take some pride in it, this courage faintly like cruelty, that seemed to have swept away her needless defenses.

"We should not be speaking thus together." As though the dutiful assertion itself had given her confidence, she went on more tranquilly: "Have you ever thought, Benjamin—but, la, why should you?—that the lot of women is none so easy? We must stay at home. In many concerns we may not even speak. We marry, d'you see, and bear children, and must mind the house—no matter if those we love are on the far side of the earth, yet we must do that, and keep our own counsel too.... One day, Benjamin, I shall marry a rich man, and I hope"—but as she said it she clutched his hand and her eyes filled—"I hope and pray he'll have nothing whatsoever to do with the old gray sea. Oh, I will not marry a sailor, never! Only think," she said, warming to it and laughing now with some mischief—"he my husband shall be a pillar of the colony, like Judge Sewall, ha?—or even a royal governor, Benjamin, with such a wig!—oh, Ben, Ben, have I hurt thee?"

Helplessly Ben said: "I love thee."

She rose quickly and moved away. He dared not look up until she spoke again. "I am—sorry.... Marry, yes, and bear children and mind the house, and grow old little by little—why, that Magellan of yours, tell me, how long was he gone when he made the circuit of the world? I shall be old and gray when you—come back. Oh yes yes, an old gray dame with wrinkled cheeks and shaking hands, and belike I'll say, 'Why, grandchildren, I knew him, the great Benjamin Cory——'"

"Don't!" said Ben, and knew her hands were on his shoulders.

One of them curled under his chin to lift his face. "There!" she said—"do you see? You see what a naughty heartless old woman I am already? But promise me, Ben—promise me you will come back."

Ben knew he could have stood up then and kissed her—if someone had not passed by in the street. Faith herself seemed not displeased by that intrusion of alien noise, only took her hands away and stood back smiling at him, the moment irretrievable. "I will come back."

"Ben, I wish I had known you'd be here today. We have a guest arriving soon—I must dress, and aid Mama with a few things, and I cannot invite you to stay. I wish I might, but you understand—not my place to do so, and I dare say Mama would be upset."

"Of course."

"But you will come again—that is, if you wish to," she said, and laughed herself at the high absurdity of the notion that a time could ever come when he would not wish to see her.

"Of course—whenever I may, Faith."

"I do wish you might stay this evening, but—well, 'tis a——" she sighed in some private trouble or exasperation, moving her hands vaguely—"one of those occasions."

Dimly frightened and not intending his own words, Ben asked: "Someone important?"

Faith made a wry face. "He would think so." Her hands sketched a wig on her head, and she strutted a little in mimicry of self-importance. "A man of substance, la. A little wintry in years to be sure. A merchant, a pillar of the church, and a—widower."

"I see...."

"Take care," she said with what might be a show of real anger, "that you do not see too much. He is a good man—I am sorry I was so naughty and forward as to make light of him. Good day, Mr. Cory!" Then in a lightning change at sight of his stricken face, Faith hurried to him and framed his face in her hands and whispered: "Did I not make you promise to come back? Oh, make your voyages—if you must. Make them for me, Ben, and forgive my cruelty!"


Lightly and quickly, Faith kissed his lips. "Queer little scar," she said, and touched it with a finger tip, breathing hard. "Tell me of it some time. Why, I—Benjamin Cory, I would wait for you a thousand years." And she ran away across the garden, vanished utterly, in some place where Ben supposed there would be a door to safety.

He passed through the gate in a golden haze. Molly was restless. She meant no disrespect, but sometimes found it humorous to fidget and dance ponderously at the moment he was lifting his foot for the stirrup. She did so now, perhaps in comment at the obvious remoteness of Ben's mortal mind. It had the effect of drawing him back to the present world, a few mild expletives quivering on the edge of utterance, when the brown girl Clarissa, returning from some bit of marketing with a parcel under her arm, observed his difficulty, set the parcel on the steps and came to him. "May I hold her for you, sir?"

"Oh, thanks!" Ben smiled without knowing it, and mounted easily as she competently held the bridle and stroked Molly's friendly repentant nose. He was in the saddle, but her hand remained there a moment longer, and her look held him, a look profounder than a touch, demanding nothing, declaring nothing except some kind of understanding which (until he thought about it later) seemed to Ben quite natural. As if they, the two of them alone, understood and recognized certain things that concerned no one else, that no one else had ever guessed.

Clarissa spoke also, quietly, looking up at him in the sun with no smile: "Good fortune, wherever you go."

"And to you," said Ben—involuntarily, in a way, or because no other words could possibly have been spoken. She turned aside to take up her parcel, and Ben rode home—across Boston Neck, past the waters of Gallows Bay, the marshes and the quicksands.

In the nights that followed Ben's return from Boston with a glowing dreambound face, April became May, but Reuben did not slip outdoors while the house was slumbering to walk in the dark woods. He had done so sometimes last year and the year before—usually on summer nights of light airs and starshine when beauty like something dangerous commanded him to approach, even though it be madness or immolation, because to retreat was a sure kind of dying. The summery warmth was continuing; the nights following Ben's return were as soft and full of sorcery as any that had ever called outside his window, but Reuben did not go. A certain new trouble had come on him, and part of it was a simple and shameful physical fear, like that of the boy who watched the careful advance of a wolf.

Shawn—that devil Shawn.

To Reuben, on the morning after Jan Dyckman's death, the office at the warehouse had stunk of guilt from the moment Shawn strode into it. He could rule that out as a morbid fancy for which Mr. Welland might have chided him; he could damn himself half-heartedly for owning a suspicious nature; nevertheless one fact remained clear to him (and apparently to nobody else): the death of Jan Dyckman was simply too convenient for Mr. Shawn, and Shawn was a man driven by a demon of ambition. Never mind whether the ambition itself was good or bad: whatever it was, Reuben felt, it crowded to fullness that part of the man's nature which in most human beings held the capacity for love, kindness, and compromise with the needs of other lives.

And now, Reuben knew, he would find no calm out there in the calling, sweet-breathing night if he must imagine that devil Shawn behind every tree, and fear the moonlight itself because it would illuminate his body for—what? A knife-throw? A lethal rush?

Once Reuben had supposed that everyone possessed something like his own electric awareness of the emotional state of others. In school at Deerfield he used to foresee disaster whenever the teacher was about to break into rage at Johnny Hoyt or Tom Hawks or some other favorite butt; Reuben had never been wrong, wincing in sympathy for five or ten minutes before the ruler slammed on a palm or the birch was lifted in ceremony from the wall. At fifteen he still found it difficult to credit that few actually did possess that awareness. The thing itself, he guessed, was merely a sharp observation for tiny shifts of expression or inflections of the voice.... Shawn had reeked of guilt—but more. The large blue eyes had met Reuben's once above the glittering coin; and had understood.

Unable to suggest anything in the realm of proof, Reuben quailed at thought of speaking out. On Sunday, briefly alone with Uncle John, he did attempt it, and fumbled it; the old man was shocked, confused, a little angry and apparently not in a mood to listen; Reuben in misery cancelled his own words. After that, with pain but doggedly, Reuben considered the possibility that he was suffering from green vicious jealousy because Ben so plainly admired the big Irishman. But the one fact that needed no proof, the fact of the convenience of Jan Dyckman's death for a man who wished to be mate of Artemis, remained like a cold lump of indigestion, inescapable and sour.... That devil Shawn would not have used the knife himself. That would be Judas Marsh. It could be one-eyed Marsh behind the peaceful dark trees of John Kenny's orchard.

When Reuben could sleep at all, Shawn invaded sickly dreams, his features rather changed, sometimes carrying a flintlock, but always rubbing the brilliant coin, sardonically ready to tell Reuben something or other. His words (usually) were no more than "Floreat Rex"—but the Irishman's true meaning appeared to be that the house was afire, or that somebody, somewhere, was being flogged, and Reuben too much a womanish coward to do anything about it. "Floreat Rex," said Shawn, meaning also of course: "I think I'll cut that off—you can't plant anything with it." Three times Reuben woke in a sweat from such a snarling dream, the third and worst time being on the Saturday night after Ben's return from his hour with Faith in the garden—of which he told Reuben with shy self-deprecating astonishment, a need to speak, a need to marvel aloud that anyone could be as fortunate as himself.

On Monday night Reuben dreamed that he was (as he truly was) lying in his bed in this familiar lovely room, but frozen to immobility, the house as silent as though everyone had died and no wind would ever again rattle a shutter or chuckle outside in the expanding leaves. One sound, however, could be felt—leisured footsteps on the stairs. Reuben's eyes were glued shut; he knew that, knew also that the stairs were dark, the night-light somehow blown out; but with another kind of vision he could watch the man Shawn coming up-black patch over left eye, bright farthing in the busy fingers of the left hand, flintlock in the right. If Reuben could have spoken, as he tried to do, he would have said: "I killed a wolf." He could not. He knew that if he did, the man would merely lift him with gouging fingers under the cheekbones and toss him aside, because it was not for Reuben, or rather not only for Reuben, that he was gliding up the stairway. A halting then, a steady, purposeful raising of the flintlock until Reuben must stare down into the small black eye of the muzzle and understand that it was all over. Then waking, swift cool wave of understanding how once more the thing was a dream.

It had been much like that not so many years ago, when the dreams were of Hell.

The moon was not shining, but the sky was a field of a million untroubled lights. As Reuben got up and stretched a cramp out of his arms—his body must have been locked like iron in the dream—he could make out something of his brother's face, enough to sense the tranquillity of Ben's healthy sleep, and envy it.

Ben's smooth forehead was turned away; his hand, firm and large, curled childishly under his rounded chin. Ben's eyelashes were long as a girl's, darker than his brows and curling upward at the tips, darker than the thickening down on his lip that he must now shave every other day. Reuben sat quiet, staring in the dark, until the dim pattern of his brother's face was set free from natural bounds, became incomprehensibly vast, all else a background, then dizzyingly small and far away, unreachable as an image in the bottom of a well.

What are you? What am I?

What is fear?

What is happiness?—well, that arrives unsought, if at all: to seek it, I know, is to stumble in a quicksand; to wait wearily hoping for it is simply one tedious way of dying.

What if nothing is real at all except the present moment?

Why, if so, then eternity is only a word. As I look on him now, I look on him forever. But there's deception here, for we do move and change: eternity is a word.

If the present alone is real, then do we ourselves create it from moment to moment? What is memory? I remember looking over hemlocks to the North Star, and Ben looked there too, and I have no way of knowing, ever, what he saw. I remember a day of summer——

Mid-July, for the hay was ripe then, and Reuben and his mother were returning from carrying a noon meal and a jug of beer to the outer fields. Other men beside Father were there, and Ben too, and some other older children and women to help with the raking, but Reuben at seven years old was no use with a rake. He had been allowed to carry the beer, sipping one mouthful and no more on the way. This was the homeward journey, and she in a smiling mood, tanned cheeks flushed, dark eyes full of mischief.

She sat in the long grass by the palisade gate, sweeping her skirt about to cover her feet in one graceful glide of her arm, lightly as any young girl——

(And so she was of course. Always young. Never to be old.)

"Sit by me, Puppy." No one else was about: only the men in the fields now toylike with distance, a flock of cloud-sheep radiant in the lower sky, a bumblebee lighting with clumsy abruptness on Reuben's knee. "Ah, don't stir! He won't sting thee. See!—yellow packets on his legs, he's been a-gathering. Tell me where he's been and what did he see?" (Warmth of a laughing face expecting nonsense.)

"Why, Mother, he went away over England, away over France, even way away over Boston, and he went awa-a-ay over the places in Ben's Hakluyt book where the Spice Islands are, and there was a king with ten thousand courtiers and he stung them. Every one."

"Now why? Did they do wrong?"

"They stole the king's beer."

"What, all ten thousand of 'em?"

"Every-each of the ten thousand."

"Now, love, what a selfish old pig the king must've been, for if there was beer enough for all ten thousand, I vow that was more than he'd ever drink alone, la?"

"Phoo, he was a big king."

"Ah, I see.... And was there a queen of the Spice Islands?"

"There was, and she did try to prevent them stealing the beer, but one would be tying spoons to her apron the while the rest was after it, she could no-way catch 'em."

"Wicked things!... Was she beautiful?"

"Ay, but not like you."

"Reuben, thou'lt have me weeping."

"Why, Mother? What for?"

"I don't know, Puppy. They say women must weep sometimes, if only because—I don't know.... Don't ever leave me."

On the same Monday night Ben Cory dreamed:

Faith arrived in the coach to call politely on those who lived in the stockade, and Ben was embarrassed for them, because they allowed her blue skirt to become draggled in the mud as she stepped from the coach at the stockade gate. She was not annoyed, but walked in grace to the inner citadel under the red parasol that Clarissa held unopened above her head. Ben shook hands with her pleasantly, and climbed with the girl named Clarity up the long spiral ladder to the top of the citadel. "Deerfield hath no citadel," said Clarity, Ben good-naturedly agreeing. From this eyrie they could watch the country beyond the stockade, while in the inner rooms far below, Faith and some friend of Uncle John's were enjoying cakes and coffee and Madeira. "Like crosstrees," said Clarity, Ben good-naturedly agreeing, and she placed her brown sweet sunlit hands at the edge of their perch and pulled at it to make it set up an agreeable swaying, entertaining as a swing in a garden.

The forest beyond the stockade was alive with gray dogs.

"He is compassed about," Ben said, knowing Clarity shared his anxiety. "He may be obliged to sell a tetradrachm of the time of Dyckman." Clarity nodded, moving their crow's-nest back and forth with her little brown hands, so that he could see her body arch and sway, arch and sway, bending and straightening as the wind blew her hair back to him and hid her face from time to time—still he could look down and see Faith walking out through the stockade walls into the woods. The parasol was the only thing the gray dogs were likely to desire, and Clarity had that now, under her arm; therefore the dogs were not likely to attack Faith, but Ben nevertheless felt a certain gloom, because she was too far away, too far down for him to shout a warning. No real danger of course. He said to Clarity: "Mind that thing, Mistress Coronal—I must be going."

"Rest, John! All evening you was like a cat on a hot stove, la, and all Sunday too. Can't you sleep? Can't I help you sleep?"

"I'd have been lost long ago but for your kindness, Kate."

"Oh, now! Something hot to drink? I could get it easy."

"I had enough in the evening, or too much. Besides, dear, I'm not certain the boys are asleep. Heard some stirring. One of them opening the window or the like. I don't think Ru's been sleeping well—red-eyed in the morning, and d'you know I can't ask? Don't know how."

"Don't fret so—'tis only their time of life. Both brave boys, and will be grand men. In a few years you'll have no cause for anything but pride in 'em, the both of 'em."

"That's true.... Kate, it would not much amaze me if the boys—Reuben at least—were quite aware that sometimes I come up here to thy room at night. They'd never speak, never show the knowledge by so much as a look; I think they'd never even discuss it with each other alone; and neither would have any unkind thought about it."

"Oh.... All the same——"

"I know. Best to remain discreet. Still, if we were wed——"

"It's not fitting, John. The gossip that's gone on about us, all these years, it's become a—a—what's the word I want?"

"A commonplace?"

"Yes, of course—that, with a pox. But don't you see?—if we was to wed now there'd be talk of another kind, and then—then I must be Madam Kenny and bear it like a lady, which I am not, John, and cannot be. Oh, let be as it is! I'd be most wretched, John—truly.... As you say, the boys would never speak of it. I know them too. I love them too, John."

"Well.... If it were spoken I suppose Ben would be—embarrassed, let us say, because he's much aware of social opinion. And Reuben—who looketh down upon social opinion from his own mountaintop like a puzzled angel—Reuben would hold some thought about it which I could never understand, never interpret—Kate, I don't know them!... I can't see my own youth, Kate. I think of it. A thousand things keep coming back to me now that never did so in my fifties, or sixties—my father's sniff, my Aunt Jessica's passion for setting the furniture exactly parallel to the walls and washing her hands a hundred times a day—damme, the very shape of a knot in the ash stick my father used for correcting me, and didn't I count it a great thing won if I was hit with the plain part of the stick and not with the knob! How Ru would have loathed him! I did too, but a long time after he was dead I suppose I acquired a certain comprehension, even gratitude in some matters. Well, those things come back, but only like little pictures, Kate. I can't feel how it was, to be a youth of Ben's age. I only know that once I was, and that in a world nothing like the one they live in, nothing like.... Mr. Welland stopped by at my office today."

"Mr. Welland!"

"Nay, nothing to do with illness. I now learn, Kate, that our Reuben hath suddenly decided he wishes to study medicine."

"Marry come up!"

"Ye-es. Well, I wish he might have discussed it with me first, but from what Mr. Welland told me, I believe the thought came suddenly, and I suppose Ru felt unready to speak to me about it, and Mr. Welland being in town anyway on some other errand—mph, anyway, so it is. Maybe a passing thing—but Welland seemed to think not, and was earnest, nay almost impassioned in telling me he thought the boy had a true call to it. I like Welland of course—honest man, courteous too, said he would be pleased to take Reuben as apprentice, by whatever arrangement suited my own plans for him. Man of learning too—I found we share many interests.... Damn the thing, I could have wished better for Reuben than—oh, pills, syrups, the whining of sick people, exposing himself to dangerous ills, but...."

"That's what troubled you today?"

"Uh—well, no. Of course I must have some talk with Reuben about this in—well, in a day or two...."

"Tell Kate."

"Kate, I have done a thing, the which seemed right to me at the time, and still does, but...."

"Tell Kate."

"Artemis is to sail tomorrow. The Tuesday afternoon, if the weather be right. The sky's clear tonight—I dare say it will be fair."


"Ay—Barbados. And Ben does not know it, Kate, and will not know it until she is gone."

"Oh, John!"

"I know. Now let me try to tell thee: Ben was most desirous to sail—you knew that—and I—I can't have it, Kate. Not now, and he so young—the hardships, and his study disrupted, all that. A while ago—a week ago Saturday, I think—he spoke to me of this. He had the thought that Artemis might make a quick passage to New York. It was reasonable. He'd given it much thought evidently, and spoke up every inch a man, I was obliged to consider it, though I still think my own judgment is best, and so—so she's for Barbados, and will surely bring enough on her return to clear away—certain debts, and put us in good posture for some time to come.... Well, let it be I'm simply a coward, Kate: I could not face him, and tell him he was not to go—that is, not now, when I—I tell thee, Kate, I can't quite seem to recover from what happened to Iris. Not as I used to recover from such misfortune. Why, when Hera was lost—oh, I'm getting old. I simply could not bear to see the light go out of him, as I knew it would."

"But later, when he's bound to know——"

"Kate—dear—don't you think it may be better for him to meet it as a thing already done, no room for discussion?"

"Oh, I don't know, John. He—it's not for me to say."

"But you know I wish to hear whatever you think."

"I—don't know. Some-way, it don't seem...."

"You think he may be angry with me?"

"I never saw Ben angry. Could be, I vow, if he was hurt."

"And you think this may hurt him, too much?"

"I—don't know, John. It seemed right to you, and—oh dearie me——"

"Well, there, never mind. It's done. I sha'n't tell him till tomorrow. Nor Reuben of course, seeing I can't burden him with the obligation to keep a secret from his brother.... I was obliged to cross Ben in one other particular—maybe it a'n't important. He put in a good word once or twice for Mr. Shawn, you see, to replace poor Jan. I considered it. I like Shawn well enough—I suppose. But then yesterday—ay, Sunday it was—Reuben said something, to me alone, that gave me pause."

"Reuben did! John, I—did not like that Mr. Shawn."

"You too?"

"I only glimpsed him the once, that evening he came here. I felt a coldness in him. I a'n't wise in the head, John, but my heart knows a little sometimes. I did feel a coldness."

"Not so far from what Reuben said. We were speaking of Jan's death, and Reuben said—blurted it, not his natural way at all, and I could see it cost him pain—Ru said: 'Ha'n't they even questioned him?' I was obliged to ask whom he meant. He said: 'Shawn, that devil Shawn.' He said: 'Will they not ask him concerning ends and means? Will they not ask him how far he would go to secure a vessel so to be another Francis Drake?' Well, I—I chided him, Kate—it shocked me, not only because he lacks a man's years. He apologized and said no more. But then today, it so happened another man applied—Will Hanson, New Haven man, a good sailor that Jenks knew from years past. Jenks wished to sign him on. I had meant to suggest Mr. Shawn, but I remembered what Reuben said and held my peace, and so—so Hanson will be mate when she sails tomorrow.... I'm getting old—fret and fume over decisions I'd've made a few years ago with a snap of the fingers—and been right too. Usually. Oh, my foot! God damn that bloody thing!"

"Lie still. You know it alway stops hurting if you lie still."

"Ah, you're kind."

"Why, John, you're mine in the sight of God. And you not even able to believe!—well, there, I made my peace with that too, long ago, for a'n't it what makes the world go 'round, a'n't I alway said so? Nay, love, never mind how I chatter. Try now if you can't get some sleep."

Chapter Seven

If the present alone is real, one might as well eat the damn' porridge. On Tuesday morning Reuben did so, admitting at once that the porridge was good as always, that the fault lay with his own jumpy stomach, his sandy-eyed weariness from a bad night. Ben also seemed depressed, or at least without the glow and buoyancy he had shown since his last return from Boston. Reuben had intended to offer a few not too classical flights concerning Aphrodite Anadyomene the sea-born, partly in the hope of learning whether love totally obliterated the sense of humor. He left them unsaid.

It might be abstraction, not depression, that ailed Ben. Experimentally, while his brother gazed moodily out the window, Reuben stole a sliver of bacon from his trencher; Ben never noticed. When Reuben replaced it, Ben did observe the action, vaguely startled, smiling and saying: "Thanks."

"Well, damn," said Reuben. Kate had watched the operation—vacantly and without chuckling.

"Uh? A'n't you hungry, Ru?"

"Damn again," said Reuben. "I am alway hungry. I own a tapeworm of the soul." He recaptured the bacon and popped it in his mouth. Ben was still merely looking puzzled. "'Twould appear that this morning I am penned up with mooncalves—even Kate won't laugh. And yet it's a fair day, a red sky last night." Kate turned her back with odd abruptness. And in his own dark privacy, it seemed to Reuben that he was like one who can behold the gathering of the crimson banners for Armageddon where others see only a flaming translation of natural clouds.

Something spoke then within him, so vividly that Reuben imagined at first he was recalling some remark of Mr. Welland's; but casting back, he felt certain that in their few meetings of the last weeks, the doctor had said no such thing: Learning begins now. Simply his own thought, taking on a verbalized form of uncommon clearness, of imperative power: LEARNING BEGINS NOW.

Ben had drifted back into his country of dream. Kate was, abnormally, not talking. Having breakfasted early as usual with Mr. Kenny, who had left for Boston, Mr. Hibbs was waiting in the schoolroom—perhaps not too impatiently, since work could always be done in odd moments on the immortality of the soul. The kitchen, not oppressed by dining-room demands of dignity, was rich with pleasant smells and the warmth of May. Reuben refilled his coffee cup.

If learning begins (ever) it must somehow begin with premises that will not betray. All men are mortal; Ben and I are men....

Death is the conclusion of known life. I am forced to doubt, what once upon a time I believed, that a knowable life continues in a heaven or hell; therefore I am forced to doubt, what once upon a time I did believe, that Ben (or I, or Mother, or honest Jan Dyckman) can continue beyond the conclusion we call death.

Knowledge (Mr. Welland said last Saturday) pertains to what can be proven by the carnal senses.

Faith is belief in a proposition that cannot be established by the carnal senses—("My faith is like that of a man on a cloudy day....") Faith cannot be supported by knowledge, for if proof is found the proposition becomes knowledge and faith is no longer relevant; if it be not found, the proposition comes not within the region of knowledge.

Hope and desire—(must you rattle those pots, Kate, at this especial mortal moment?)—hope and desire may derive partly from knowledge, but cannot possess the force of it, for they are directed to the future, which does not exist. Therefore faith, hope and desire are all in the same class: to say that once upon a time I had faith in a heaven is no more than to say that I desired it, or hoped for it, or was told I ought to desire it—all without knowledge.

They say: "Help thou mine unbelief!" But belief and unbelief are no more to be helped or hindered than the eyes' perception of a cloud. If the eyes carry out their function and if the cloud be there, I shall see it. Why, so far as belief and unbelief are concerned, will, desire, hope, fear, pain have no part to play at all, let them be cruel as flame or powerful as time.

The mind, he understood, would continue proposing premises for all its life: some false, to be rejected; some (so far as the senses themselves can be trusted) true; every one of them to be examined in the atmosphere of doubt. Since without faith there is no other atmosphere.

A few strange years ago I walked on a quicksand, in a fog. Then it never occurred to me that the seeming certainties were a quicksand, the visions of Heaven a fog of fantasy. Am I any more likely to sink or stray, now that I know it? Proposition concluded pro tem.

As for Hell—Open up, old rat-hole! I may wish to spit.

"Ben," said Reuben, "do be a good boy and eat your bacon."

"Mm," said Ben, and smiled, and ate it.

Kate's unnatural silence was like a crying. Reuben made a private note to find out, if possible, what ailed her. The dregs of his coffee were still good for a bit more lingering.

You could not—in simple nature you could not listen to all the surrounding voices explaining and re-explaining, accusing, justifying, probing, forever contradicting one another and seldom pausing for an answer. You could heed only a few. Which ones? How to choose?

Love will choose some of the few, the nearest and surely the most important (including Kate). (The most important, why? Query noted, for future consideration.) Caution will select a few that must be heard, for reasons of safety and self-defense. And some will be chosen by native curiosity, which Mr. Welland described last Saturday as one of the rarest of all virtues.

Other voices speak outside the region of individual contact, some of them urgent. Micrographia; the old voice of Hakluyt if only because Ben loves it; Scripture, if only because the world is so obsessed with its thunderings; many others—even Ovid. Mr. Welland spoke of the dramatist Shakespeare; Uncle John has one volume of him—note: find and percontate, immed. These voices are not altogether unlike the near ones—more methodical, because the pen, unlike the voice, need not move in dizzy haste to get everything said before someone interrupts; more methodical and not so much given to hemming and hawing and conversational fluff; but these voices too are engaged in explaining and re-explaining, commanding, blurred sometimes in flurries of contradiction. Sometimes (Michael Wigglesworth for example) they sound downright embarrassed and peevish, when the stubborn universe they speak of is so plainly not as they describe it.

Since not all voices may be attended, since some of them lie and many more speak loudly in the absence of knowledge, one must wait, Reuben guessed, for the sudden inner waking, the unsought recognition, the mind's clear declaration: This voice—(Why did you say to me, "Run, boy! Run!"—why?)—this voice is speaking not merely out of some other's need to assert, but speaking to me, and I understand what it says—some of it....

If we create the present by living it, then right and wrong are man-made. I will accept the verdicts of others in this matter if they seem reasonable to me, and just—not otherwise.

It was once proposed to me on excellent authority that the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. It seems to be necessary to hear much nonsense while waiting for the sound that rings true. I may be deceived again, many times, but I say it shall not be from any scared wish to believe.

Am I correct, Mr. Welland, in supposing that if doctrines of right and wrong are man-made, learning begins now?

Ben struggled through Tuesday morning's Greek and logic without serious discredit, and picked up only a few minor fresh scratches from the thorns of Latin grammar. He could not quite win clear of a mental shadow that had haunted him since waking after a dream not plainly remembered—a foreboding uneasiness something like that of a child who has wandered into a strange and exciting room: he has not been specifically forbidden to enter here, but knows he has not been granted permission either; presently someone may arrive and with the cool finality of adults chivy him back to the nursery where the toys have lost all magic.

In the afternoon Ben achieved brief glory, encountering an area of De Finibus in which Reuben had drilled him so briskly that error was nearly impossible. After this victory the deadly hour hand, the slightly less cruel minute hand, appeared to be creeping with better speed toward the beautiful moment of three o'clock, when Mr. Hibbs would snap his books shut, blow from the tops of them a little imaginary dust, and go away. Ru said once (a dreamy voice coming out of the dark of the bedroom when Ben thought he was asleep): "If I live to be old, I shall alway consider that the immortality of the soul sets in at three o'clock post meridian."

A resolution to go once more into Boston had grown today, less like a rational decision than like the climbing of a fever. With the lessons concluded, he would not, like a schoolboy, ask permission: he would simply go, as casually as Ru had been strolling over to Mr. Welland's cottage lately; if there should be consequences of disapproval from Mr. Hibbs or Uncle John himself, Ben supposed they would not be serious—in any case he could meet them with a man's calm, surely?

He tried (from two o'clock on) to lay it out serenely as a plan of campaign. One: he must speak with Faith again—briefly, soberly, a man of affairs saying a temporary good-bye. Two: he must interview Uncle John at the warehouse, in the cool atmosphere of business affairs, and pray for a definite answer, on the grounds that the time of Artemis' departure must be quite near. At this point the plan hazed up a little—Uncle John seldom stayed at the warehouse later than five o'clock. Well, Molly could make fair time into the city, and he would not remain long with Faith—he spent some effort here, defining a few poignant answers he would make to what she would say. Still, he had better prepare a second line of approach: if Uncle John had already left for Roxbury, he would seek out Captain Jenks himself, no less, beat down the devils of fear and self-consciousness so to put the matter plainly to the iron mountain and get an answer. After all, Jenks wasn't so bad. Honest and human. In fantasy Ben saw a gleam of rugged friendliness (respect?) in the little blue eyes....

Better have a third line. If Uncle John had left and Jenks could not be reached, lost in liquor or otherwise unavailable, then he could—oh, hell, ask around at the wharf anyway, find out when Artemis was expected to sail, since it seemed that Uncle John was unwilling to tell him. Tom Ball ought to know. Maybe he would run into Daniel Shawn again, and could, at the very least, learn whether Shawn was to sail as mate. On Sunday, Uncle John had been immune to approach, shut up in his study the better part of the day; yesterday evening he had displayed an impossible mood, his manner testy and faraway, his foot tormenting him. But with a plan of campaign you could always accomplish something. Couldn't you?...

He found it infuriating that as three o'clock drew very near the whole thing seemed more and more like a fever. His breath was difficult; he looked into damp palms and thought: What the devil am I contemplating? Running away? From what? Good God, not from Uncle John Kenny, the soul of generosity! From what?... He watched the inexorable dwindling of the pie-slice made by the hour-hand and the minute-hand as ten minutes of three became five minutes of three. At three minutes of three he felt downright sick, and then jumped like a fool when the dry uncomprehended monologue of Mr. Hibbs ended with a quite familiar snap of a closed volume. He sat still, demoralized, watching Mr. Hibbs stride away; waited for inner quiet and was again grotesquely startled when Reuben, in one of those warm moods which Ben nowadays found almost as strange as his moods of withdrawal, came behind his desk and leaned over to lock thin arms under Ben's chin and murmur: "What's the matter, Mooncalf?"

"Nothing, Ru—nothing. I think I'll go into Boston."

"Oh." Reuben broke the contact; Ben had found it vaguely comforting as well as disturbing. Reuben came around the desk, and re-established nearness by placing his hands over Ben's, hands thinner and smaller, but harder, sometimes even stronger. "Would you," said Reuben presently, "care to take a creeping crawling student of medicine into your confidence, not that the ancient creature wishes to intrude, but——?"

It was not always possible to look directly at Reuben. He saw too much, or if he did not, his quiet intentness made it seem that he did. The faces of others were apt to make it plain enough that they were not so much concerned with you as with themselves; Reuben (who surely thought about himself as much as anyone) somehow could put that preoccupation aside, and make you believe that nothing mattered to him at the moment except that jumble of thought and image and desire which you had grown accustomed to calling your Self. And it was, Ben thought, no illusion: the boy did search, and he did care for what he found. Ben fumbled for an evasion: "Student of medicine for sure?"

This proved to be no evasion after all, for Reuben smiled, and used the question itself as a part of the effort to illuminate the self of Ben Cory. "Yes, truly, and I wish you could find the same kind of certainty, Ben, because it's good. Why, I almost think, Ben, that anything could happen to me now—anything, no matter what—and though I might be hurt as much as I would have been, say a year ago, I could defend myself against my trouble, whatever it was: I could go and study another page of Vesalius' Anatomy. Or the books you bought for me. They wouldn't fade, I think. They wouldn't betray me.... Find something like that, Ben. Suppose you did change your mind about it after a while, at least you'd have it for now."

"But when I search myself I don't find it. I only...."

"Only what?" Reuben tightened his hands, relentless.

"I only wish—oh, I wish to God Uncle John would allow me to sail with Artemis."

Reuben let go his hands, and perched on Mr. Hibbs' sacred desk, swinging his feet, drooping a little, boyish and old, perhaps no longer searching. "You put it to him a few days ago, did you not?"

"Mm—he wouldn't say ay or no."

"You know Uncle John would find it difficult to disappoint thee."

"I am not a child."

"No," said Reuben, and with nothing in his voice to contradict the word. "What about this afternoon, that is what's left of it?"

"I thought I might see Uncle John at the warehouse. Ride home with him maybe."

"Ay, might be easier—he's a rather different man there at the office."

"It—seems not wrong to you, that I wish to sail?"

Reuben was long silent, drooping, looking into his empty hands. "Ben—'d I ever recount to thee the story of the woodcutter's stupid son who tamed a lion?"

"Woodcutter's son—I don't think so. Is it from Aesop?"

"No. Well, that's nearly the whole tale already. He found it as a cub. They grew up together, played together, the lion learning not to unsheath his claws, the woodcutter's son trying to roar like a lion, but 'tis said he made only some poor squeaking sounds that carried no great distance. They were yet friends when the lion was full grown, but then the poor brute in some manner sickened, fretted, vanishing at whiles and returning unwillingly, until at length the woodcutter's stupid son did arrive at one moment of wisdom, and took his friend into the forest and said to him, 'Go thy way.'"

"I am no lion."

"Marry come up, I am a shade more learned than that woodcutter's son. Ben, I'm only trying to say I don't think anyone should try to possess you, as I suppose Uncle John does, as maybe I've done—but if you wish to sail, if it's your decision and your heart in it, d'you think I'd impede you? Supposing I could?"

"No, I don't think you would."

"And I will not," said Reuben, and jumped off the desk. "I'm for Mr. Welland's, by the back fields. Best change thy jacket, Ben—that one beareth the slight saffron memory of an egg which hath gone before. I'll saddle Molly for thee, meanwhile."

When Ben rejoined him in the stable, Reuben had nothing more to say, except the light random murmuring that Molly enjoyed. Ben led her out into the yard—not in sight of Mr. Hibbs' window. Reuben said again, unnecessarily: "I'll go by the fields, you by the road."

As Reuben held the bridle, Ben was bewildered at his reluctance to set his foot in the stirrup. "Ru, what ails thee? It's not as if we were saying a good-bye."

"No. Why, man, if you sail, I also—well, I hope it turns out as you wish. I believe Uncle John heeds what you say, more than you suppose. Why the knife, little Benjamin?"

"Oh, I might be in the city after dark. I rather missed it that other night, coming home."

"Well, tuck it under your britches, can't you?—so to look less like a bloody cutthroat and more like my little brother?"

"Very well.... Ru, I don't know how to say this—lately I've been some-way troubled about thee."

"Oh, why, why? Have I two heads?—but don't answer that."

"As if we no longer understood each other—my fault, I think."

"It is not. It is not even true." Reuben still held the bridle, his face stiff and white and smiling. "No cause for trouble about me. I am one of the fortunate, didn't you know?"

"I don't understand."

"I own a shield. I walk in the woods. I read the Anatomy of Vesalius, and the books you bought for me. And I told you, Ben—they do not fade."

"Ay, there's that. Still, if I live to be a thousand I don't suppose I'll ever understand you."

"Must you, Ben?"

"I try."

"I have never understood another, and yet I think about them as much as you do."

"But—oh, I don't know how to say it—I don't think I meant that kind of understanding. There's more than one kind...."

"Ben, you'd best hurry a little if you're to have any time with Uncle John at the office."

"Yes," said Ben unhappily, and was in the saddle looking down, more than ever reluctant to be going away. "I'll tell you after supper, what he says. Ru, what was that?—you started to say that if I sail, then you also—?"

Ben had spoken softly, in his confusion. He supposed Reuben had not heard, for he did not answer, and that was a discourtesy Ben had never known him to employ. Ben saw him rub his hand along Molly's fat neck. "Be a good horse," said Reuben, and was gone, walking quickly around the stable, the shortest way to the back fields.

The cottage with the green shutters sat comfortably under the dignity of twin elms—like its owner mild, and quiet, and rather old, carrying age as an elm does with rugged awkwardness, with many scars, without pomp and circumstance.

Reuben had learned the inside of the cottage—simple, on the same stark plan as the house in Deerfield, with two main downstairs rooms and a garret, but where the Deerfield house had owned a small lean-to off the kitchen, Mr. Welland had a larger annex, more solidly built, which he called the surgery. It was also his reception room for patients, his library, his study, his room of contemplation. The gray striped lady, Goody Snively, who kept the cottage rather constantly supplied with kittens (often yellow), lived here in a box of her own beside the wood-box at the fireplace. Very few patients ever came to Mr. Welland here at the cottage, so few that he did not try to keep precise hours for them, but it was understood that he would ordinarily be at home in the late hours of the afternoon. Most of his work was done in visits that often took him a considerable distance to outlying farms. A small stable stood separate from the cottage, home of the brown mare Meg, who carried Mr. Welland on his labors in all weathers, all times of day or night. He claimed that Meg was a better diagnostician of the purse than himself, being always restless outside the houses of wealthy patients, who were invariably the slowest to pay his charges. That puzzled Reuben. "You'll learn," said Mr. Welland. "Your great-uncle is one of perhaps five exceptions to the rule that I can remember."

Mr. Welland kept no servant, and no one came in to clean or cook for him. He took most of his meals at the ordinary down the street; messages were left for him there more often than at the cottage. In the cottage he maintained a monastic neatness—no dust, no clutter, very few possessions and those necessary, functional and in good order. "It's not difficult," he had explained on Reuben's first visit, "but a servant or woman-by-the-day would make it so, and by the way, Reuben, my house is never locked, this door from hall to surgery never closed except when I have a patient with me. I like simplicity, seeing it leaves one free to consider complexity—especially that of persons who a'n't so smart as you and me. Don't trouble to knock, I don't like it. I hate knocking. If it's loud I jump out of my skin, if it's soft I blame it on the mice." "Mice, with that cat?" "Mice is a general term, boy. Mice includes everything that bothers by day or goes thump in the night. If a door squeaks I blame it on the mice for a week before I oil it. Everyone needs a devil, Reuben, and mice have served me bravely in that capacity for lo, these many years. Pull up a chair and be at ease."

On this Tuesday afternoon Reuben entered without knocking, an action that still caused him some shy discomfort, and spoke Mr. Welland's name unanswered. The door to the surgery stood open; also the stable door, as Reuben noticed through the window; the doctor was away, and this new loneliness an unexpected blow. "I am most unreasonable," said Reuben to Goody Snively, who rubbed his leg, and purred, and exercised a cat's privilege of trotting ahead and sitting down in front of his feet as he was about to go into the surgery. Reuben hooked her on his shoulder; she sang casually and damply in his ear as he went to the doctor's bookshelves and took down the Vesalius.

"This is a man——" well, certainly, but also not a man. A man is motion and thought; a man is foolishness, courage, love, pain. Reuben turned the pages at the desk, rather blindly trying to force them into some clearness, and he wondered if there had been any truth at all in what he had said to Ben less than half an hour ago. Vesalius had not faded—that much was true. The mist is in the observer.

Not only now, he thought, but always, in every observation, whether made at a favorable time or not. If I were happy, that also could deceive, a rosy mist no easier to penetrate than a gray one. If I were calm, neither sad nor happy—still a mist, of accepted thoughts that may be false as fog over quicksand. "But don't you see, Goody Snively?—we know one thing: we know the fog is there. And that, by the way, is my tender thigh and not a tree trunk. If you regard me as a tree, I may bark." Goody Snively retired—shocked, maybe.

The drawing before his face was lost to him a while, the room also, in a trance not of thought but of stillness avoiding thought. Then, as the body itself will usually shatter such a refuge with its own cantankerous insistence, Reuben's nose itched, his hands upholding his cheekbones grew sweaty and cramped. He gave it up and wandered about disconsolately. He knelt by the box to which Goody Snively had returned. Her latest kittens were quite new, their open eyes not focusing, their legs uncertain. He lifted the black-and-brindle one of the four and held it against his cheek, liking the harmlessly wild kitten smell; it mewed in small wrath, and Goody Snively began to look stern, so he replaced it at the consolation of the nipple and strolled away. He leaned in the open doorway of the front room, the room where Mr. Welland slept. Curious, but somehow not inappropriate, that this room like the rest of the house should be bare of ornament. Monastic was the word, but it held a sense of comfort too. A plain narrow bed, made up with sharp precision. One armchair, much worn in the seat; beside that an unpainted table, bearing a Betty lamp, a pitcher and a basin, nothing else. Two pairs of shoes—so the doctor owned three altogether—lined up at the side of the bed like little soldiers. Reuben thought of his own five expensive pairs, of the days in Deerfield when he had not always owned two pairs, of time and change and human virtue, of the froth of bright embroidery Kate had stitched at the buttonholes of the fine maroon waistcoat he now wore, and shut his eyes, wondering if that enameled snuffbox was the doctor's only luxury.

Opening them—but still holding away thought, or letting his eyes alone think for him—Reuben observed that one pair of Mr. Welland's shoes bore the marks of dried mud. The man must have changed in haste with no time to take care of them, or had forgotten. Reuben recalled noticing on a kitchen shelf a few cleaning rags and a jar of neatsfoot oil. He carried the yellowed shoes out there, refreshed the fading hearth-fire and sat by it to polish them. The crackle of new wood and the noise of his cleaning covered the light sounds of Mr. Welland returning and putting up Meg in the stable. Reuben was aware of it as the doctor opened the door, but the task was not quite done; he did not want to abandon it, or even to rise respectfully: work started ought to be finished, and as for the trivia of politeness, Amadeus Welland wouldn't care.

"What's this, Reuben?"

"It was something to do, sir. I couldn't bring my mind properly to the study, some-way. Besides, if this mud stays here too long it'll spoil the leather."

"Ay, but—thou, scrubbing my shoes? It's kind, Reuben, but I don't find it fitting."

"Sir, I do."

"Eh?" Reuben could not answer, nor look up when after a silence the doctor drew a chair to the hearth and sat there spreading his hands to the warmth. Yet he was not disturbed, nor worried—if Mr. Welland was annoyed, that would pass. It occurred to Reuben as his fingers (remembering Deerfield) worked the oil into the leather, that he had in fact never felt less troubled about his own behavior and how it might appear to another. It was simple, satisfying and natural that you should scrub mud from the shoes of someone you loved, taking it for granted that if the occasion ever happened to suggest it he would do the same for you. "Each time you have come here," said Mr. Welland at last, "you have been in some degree different, and also the same. Each time I must become acquainted with you again, and each time, I suppose, a little better, since I change too if only by learning."

"You remarked that living is a journey."

"Oh," said Welland, and sighed, "I fear that was little better than a simile after all, for what is the thing that travels and cannot itself remain wholly constant? All is change; all things flow; and what's more, I'd no idea those dem'd shoes had so much virtue left in 'em." Reuben could look up then and smile. "Well, Reuben, being in Boston yesterday, I called at thy great-uncle's office and spoke to him concerning thine apprenticeship. He is not averse to it, not at all, but would have thee continue for Harvard, and perhaps not be formally bound immediate, but later, if it is still thy wish in a year or so.... Pleased, my dear?"

"I—am. I would—I would...."

"What, Reuben?"

"I would study, and—serve, if I may, whether formally bound or not. I think that is what I was trying to say. It won't fade, Mr. Welland. I was never so certain of any other thing.... I ought to have spoken of it to Uncle John, but rather feared to because he hath had so much to distress him lately, the death of Mr. Dyckman, the loss of the Iris."

"The Iris? I heard about Mr. Dyckman of course, everyone has."

"A ship, that should have brought him a great return, taken by pirates off Virginia. Ben is worried about his affairs, knowing more of them than I do. That's one reason why he hath so set his heart on sailing and earning his own way."


"Yes. Mr. Welland, you and Uncle John—you are both very kind. I will not disappoint you. I can work."

"Not exactly kindness. On my part at least, let us call it—mm-yas—recognition, and no more of it for the present, because—well, because the subject is complex and I must presently be off again, almost to Dorchester, damn the luck. There was a message for me at the ordinary. I've only time to snatch a bit of rest for me and Meg, and a quick meal, and a—I think, a change of shoes.... He never spoke of the Iris—well, he and I are not well acquainted. Certainly he hath a marvel in that ketch Artemis. He was good enough to take me aboard for a few minutes. I'm no sailor, but even I can see she's no common sort."

"Was Shawn there? A black-haired Irishman with a green coat?"

"Why, no, I noticed no such man, but there were many about."

"You would have noticed and remembered him."

"Mm? Mr. Kenny introduced me to two or three there at the wharf—Captain Jenks, and the mate, who was here, there and everywhere with scant time for landsmen."

"The mate? What was his name?"

"Why, Hanson, I think—don't you know him? We exchanged some little talk about New Haven, where he comes from, seeing I lived a year there once. Everyone was in a whirl of last-minute business. I felt in the way. Never knew there were so many different ropes to trip over."

Reuben set the shoes aside. "Last-minute business?"

"Why, yes." The doctor glanced down, puzzled. "What's the matter, Reuben? What did I say to disturb thee?"

"Did Uncle John say when Artemis was to sail?"

"Why, today. You didn't know?"

"No, I—pray tell me about it."

"Well—he said she ought to have sailed that day, yesterday, but they were waiting on some cargo from Gloucester, salt fish I believe, that hadn't come, and Captain Jenks all of a growl about it. They left it that they would wait till today, and if it still had not come she'd sail and—let me think—put in at Sherburne on Nantucket, and find what the islanders might offer to fill her hold. To my ignorant eye she already looked low in the water, but Captain Jenks was swearing she'd ride sweeter for another twenty ton, and a dirty shame—not his exact words—she should sail light."

"And then New York, from Sherburne?"

"Why, no, Reuben—Barbados, thy great-uncle said."

"Ah!... Thunder!—she may be gone before he's at the office. Ben hoped to sail, Mr. Welland. His heart was set on it. He was all one ache for it. He left for Boston only an hour ago, with no notion that Artemis was to sail today, only hoping to persuade Uncle John to let him sign on. I felt, sir, as if I was saying good-bye. He felt it too."

"I'm confused. Isn't he for Harvard in the autumn, with thee?"

"Yes, but he hoped to make a quick voyage to New York and return. It was his idea she should go there, and damn it, the proposal was most sensible. Uncle John might at least have considered it. Now he'll be heartbroken. Maybe I was saying good-bye to him, and not in the way I thought. He won't be the same when he comes home, not after this."

"Surely, Reuben, you're making too much of it."

"I know him, Mr. Welland. Certainly Uncle John meant it for the best, but it won't do. You can cross Ben, disappoint him, be harsh with him, but damnation, you can't deceive him, never mind if it may be for his own good—he won't bear it." And yet even as he spoke Reuben knew that his own strongest feeling was unwelcome, unreasonable relief: Ben would not sail, not yet.

"Mm-yas, I begin to see.... Reuben, why do you speak as if he were somehow your charge? He's the older. He must find his own way."

"That's true, sir. I even tried to tell him so this afternoon. To tell him that I had been—oh, too much my brother's keeper, and was sorry for it. I think he understood."

"Then let it be. If he's hurt and angry about this, it will pass. You've only to stand by and be a friend to him until it does. Don't make it more important than it is. I'm sure that after the first day or so, Ben will not."

"I hope so." Reuben hugged his knees, watching the fire. "I hope so, and I'll do as you say. And still I feel as if I had said good-bye to him."

"I suggest that much of living consists of saying good-bye. I suggest that a man says good-bye to his wife when they fall asleep in the same bed, the morrow's morn being a new region in the journey that can't be known till they meet there together. If they do. At certain times we are more aware of saying good-bye, that's all. As presently I must h'ist my creaky bones out of this comfort, change to those good shoes, and say good-bye to thee for a while. By the way, if study should come hard this evening, let it go. Thou dost look, as a matter of fact, very tired."

"Nay, I—maybe I am.... Dorchester, you said? Might I not go with you? You said a while ago that soon I could go with you on your rounds."

Reuben heard Mr. Welland catch his breath. "Not this one!" As often in bothered moments, Mr. Welland took snuff. "The message at the ordinary was—fi-choo-shoo!—garbled as usual, but having dissected out the fleck or two of not-so-golden truth from the rubbish, I have some reason to fear smallpox. That's in confidence, Doctor." He poked Reuben's shoulder, smiling a little but also stern. "Not a word to anyone. If it's true we'll all know it shortly, but if not there's no reason to set people's hearts a-squirming. Lord God, it comes, and comes again, and again, and we live like sheep on the side of Vesuvius, never knowing. Reuben, I sometimes think—and you'll have bad moments of thinking it too—that all we doctors do is no whit better than what the Inj'ans do, howling and screaming and beating drums around a sick man's hut to scare away the demons. Do you know that in all history no epidemic hath ever been overcome, nor even much lightened? It strikes, runs its course, and we stand helpless, making motions in the air. And yet one would think that if contagion could somehow be prevented—but where doth it breed? We don't know. What is contagion? We don't know. Why should a thing like the black plague have struck at England as it did some thirty years ago, and then after blazing and slaying for a time, simply fade away, for no reason men can see? Don't know, don't know. Sir Thomas Sydenham, a great venerator of Hippocrates by the way, was much concerned with epidemiology; I remain skeptical as to his conclusions. Galen, the great Galen to whom they say we must all bow down—Galen evades; I would have thee most cautious, Reuben, with regard to all the doctrines of Galen. If at Harvard they give you Galen as a final authority, be polite, but read in private the works of Sydenham—and even Paracelsus for that matter.... I'll tell thee an almost comical thing: I have lived fifty-three years, have read much and pondered, have spoke with a goodly number of learned and thoughtful men, and I have never, never satisfied myself as to a proper definition of good health."

"May it be, that state wherein flesh and spirit (the two indivisible, I think) are free to act as fully as the condition of a social being will allow?"

"Reuben...." The doctor was leaning forward in his chair, frowning intently, hands clasped before him. "Reuben, you did not give me that on the spur of the moment."

"Why, no, sir. I was fretting at that question the other night—only I came to it from the other side, wondering, what is disease? I wished a broader definition than any I found in the books, and so searched a little, but I don't know that it satisfies me altogether."

"I think—mm-yas—I think I will accept it until such time as you give me a better.... It takes no account of theology of course. But then, I cannot entertain the thought of a punishing God. Nor even a personal God perhaps. If personal, then in some way well beyond man's imagination. It often amazes me, that others can find such great comfort in the notion of a punishing God. Yet they do."

"It saves them from thought."

"Eh? How's that?"

"I think it saves them, sir, from the pains and trials of thought."

"Keep thy sharpness, Reuben. Thou hast already a summer heart and will not lose it. Keep that thorn in the tongue. Hide it almost always, but use it at need, never mind if others wince or even hate thee for it. Sir William Harvey was an angry man, too much perhaps, yet without the thorn in his tongue I dare say no one would ever have heeded him. I have none myself." Mr. Welland bent down, short of breath, to fumble at his shoes. "In anger I am—mm-yas—most ineffectual, a poor thing. I flush and mumble, lose all command of my thoughts. Anger requires a coolness I do not possess." He groped for the shoes Reuben had cleaned, and slipped his feet into them, and sighed. "Ah, that's better—my most comfortable pair. Thou art both cool and warm." Mr. Welland's fingers fussed awkwardly at the shoelaces; Reuben would have helped him, but had been unreasonably shaken by the words and did not trust his face. "I suppose that is one reason why I love thee."

Reuben thought: He is speaking only as convention allows; I must not make it mean what it cannot. He said rather clumsily: "Mr. Welland, if I'm to be a doctor, some time I shall be obliged to attend smallpox cases, whether or not I have the disease and the immunity it brings."

"But not now!" said Mr. Welland sharply. "Well—they say it's worse for the young—and mine own observation—thou art still growing. I will not see—I will not allow—no, not now!" he said, and having laced the shoes after a fashion, he rose and went to the door. "I must go."

Still at the hearth, watching the fire because his vision needed a refuge, Reuben asked: "Sir, may I detain you for one question more?"

"Of course."

"Mr. Welland, I am fifteen. I have a man's body—came to the change two years ago, nor am I ignorant of its meaning. Why have I never desired women?"

The fire murmured in peace; Reuben held out his hand to it, watching the aureole of light around the fingers cleanly defined. Eventually Mr. Welland spoke. "Never ask that of anyone else. I am glad, I suppose, that you asked me. Never ask it of anyone else."

"I never could," said Reuben to the fire. "It would never occur to me."

"Especially not of a priest."

"I have no need for any sort of priest," said Reuben Cory.

"I know. I say that because a priest is commonly the most earnest in nourishing and supporting men's hate for whatever is unlike themselves. I have never understood why it should be so—Jesus, if I rightly remember, did not assert that there was only one path of virtue. Well—the desire of women may come to thee at a later time."

"It came to Ben before he was fourteen."

"And in France, I believe, they still burn at the stake the ones who—never mind—my wits are wandering. Thou may'st have wondered too, why I live so like a monk? Why I have never married?"

"Mr. Welland, I don't think I've ever wondered much, about your life, because—oh, because you're as you are, because I don't seem to have any wish that you should be in any way different."

"What art thou saying now?"

"Is that strange?" Reuben was able then to rise and go to him, seeing his crinkled hands hanging motionless, his face that most would have found supremely ugly, lowered, eyes downcast, hidden. "Is it strange?"

"To me, yes. Since no one ever said the like to me. Reuben, thou art still growing—many more changes—let them come to pass—heavens, what else can anyone do? But remember: whatever thou art, that is good. I have no fantastic heart's image of thee, Reuben. I love thy self, whatever it is and will become. Now let me only kiss thy forehead, once, and I must go."

The garden was empty but for the daffodils, and the violets by the fence, and, near the empty stone seat, a hyacinth that had opened blue eyes for the sacrament of May. In the house itself Ben imagined too much quiet.

His uneasiness had not lessened but grown. His hands had been shaking when he hitched Molly; now they wobbled again when it was necessary to lift the knocker, but they lifted it, and let it fall, and Ben winced at the outrageous clamor his ears made of it in the silent street. Foolish of course, a green boy's idiocy, to stand here shivering and hoping everyone had gone away. No sound of footsteps within. Ben made vague resolves to try the knocker once more and then hurry for the warehouse. He was not late, however; it was still short of four o'clock, so Uncle John would not have left. No sound of steps, but the door opened, and Clarissa at sight of him looked unmistakably astonished.

"May I have a word with Mistress Faith, or"—Ben gulped, and applied finishing touches to half a dozen plans in the time it took Clarissa to glance down in slight embarrassment at the soft slippers she was wearing, and up to his face again—"or with Captain Jenks, if he...."

"Why, I'm sorry, sir. They're all away. They left within the half-hour."

"All away?" Ben thought: This is—relief? Relief?

"Yes, sir. Madam Jenks and the girls might be returning within an hour or two—or, I think, you might find them at the docks. They all left in the coach."

"Oh.... The—docks?" I must stop this parrot-babbling.

"Yes, sir." That answer had been slow in coming; when it did her voice had subtly changed, softened. "The Captain is sailing today, Mr. Coree. Did you not know it?"

"The—Artemis—is sailing?"

Not relief. Something dull, heavy, unreal, as if friendly trustworthy Molly had swung her rump about and let him have her heels; presently, when he could scramble up from the ground, the pain would start. He felt prepared—maybe this was the pain beginning—quite prepared to be savagely angry with the little brown slave if he discovered that she was amused at his ignorance of the sailing. Let her laugh, just once, or merely smile, with that cool superior wisdom——

She did not. He had known all along that she would do nothing of the sort; had known also that he would not have been angry if she had, seeing it was no fault of hers that part of the world had fallen down.

The look in her brown face—widening of brown eyes, slight parting of friendly lips—not pity, surely? Why should the slave pity him? Yet Ben's mother had worn that look at times—when Ru cut his finger trying to prove he could whittle with the knife in his left hand; when, on a certain evening, Father had spoken of the French butchery at Schenectady.... "Sir, you must have ridden hard—I see your horse is a-sweat. Will you not come in and rest a moment?"

"Artemis, sailing today.... I dare say I have no occasion now to—to go——"

"Sir, come inside. I'll fetch you a drop of brandy, isn't it? I think you rode too hard, and the day that warm it might be June." She touched his arm lightly, almost commandingly. Ben stepped into the cool entry, and she closed the door. "Come into the parlor. I won't be a moment. Do sit down, sir, and be at ease."

Ben sat down, his eyes avoiding the stern, badly stitched sampler on the wall, seeking instead the graceful model of a full-rigged ship on the mantel. He had been about to get up for a better look at that model, he recalled, when Charity and Sultan ambushed him. Clarissa spread open the drapes at the window, startling him; he had thought that in her noiseless slippers she had already left the room. He said clumsily: "I remember you did that when I was here before."

On her way out of the room she looked down at him—not smiling, he was sure, though the light shone strong behind her face and he could not see her very well. "Yes," she said thoughtfully, and was gone, and Ben turned to the model, finding in this better light the name painted on the side: HERA. Then this was she that went down off the Cape in a fog, seven years ago—not a man lost.

Uncle John's telling of the story had never given Ben much realizing sense of the smothering terror of fog at sea. He had it now, in the delicate presence of the Hera's image. Wet smoke pressing on the eyeballs of men seeking to live; no guide, no refuge, no gleam of direction anywhere, only merciless whiteness concealing fangs. A whiteness like snow, a silence like the silence of snow that muffles footsteps in a winter night.

No wind: fog flows in where the wind is not. Under the fog, no weakening of the rolling invisible currents that could drag man's creation into the snag teeth of a reef or against the crushing mass of a dead hulk. "Stove in her la'board side, filled in twenty minutes...."


They would have prayed, the men of the Hera, and perhaps Captain Jenks with them if he had time for it. When they came safe ashore, not a man lost—but first the long blind groping, in one boat and one damned little dory, never knowing what might answer the next weary thrust of the oars—why, safe ashore they would have praised God for hearing them—the same God who strangely failed to hear a myriad others praying in extremity—and with some leftover gratitude to Peter Jenks as God's instrument. "Ben, hear me. I say God is far away, no whit concerned with man...."

"Sir, will you not look up?" There was a trace of most gentle laughter in that. Ben wondered when she had come in her silence, how long she had been standing there with the brandy glass on a little tray.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I was far off indeed."

"I know."

"Thank you—this is very kind.... You are from one of the French islands, are you not?"


A sip of the brandy warmed him a little. It was old, and smooth, the glass fantastically lovely—probably the best in the house, and probably English or continental, since nothing of the kind was made in the colonies; Uncle John's house had nothing to match it. "This must seem a cold foreign place to you."

"Oh, I have been more than eight years in Boston, sir. It used to be, I must think in French and translate before I spoke—I do not do that now. Perhaps I do not look as old as I am."

"I had thought you was near my age."

"I am twenty-seven, Mr. Coree. I know it to the very day, because Monsieur Lafourche—of Lyons, who later settled at Guadeloupe—used often to say that I was born but two days after his other—after his daughter. He wished me bred up as maid and companion to her. I had lessons with the same teachers when we were little girls, even the reading and writing. I cannot read English with any comfort. She, the little Mademoiselle, she died at sixteen of a consumption. I think my presence hurt him with reminders of her." Clarissa's voice was passionless, cool and distant; Ben noticed his hands were no longer shaking. "Monsieur Lafourche his fortune was much impaired in the war of—of your King William's time. Then in 'ninety-eight, between the wars, he sold his plantation at Guadeloupe and returned to France, and so was obliged to let me go, to a merchant of Boston, who later sold me here. Where," she said mildly and remotely, "I have received much kindness."

Anger moved in Ben, severe but directionless, formless, thwarted, without an object and seeking one. One could not be angry with Uncle John. He must have meant it for the best—somehow, somehow. "Where—do you know where Artemis is bound for?"

"Barbados, sir."

"I see.... Clarissa, I cannot think of you as a slave."

She moved into the light at the window, looking out; presently said with neutral calm: "But I am a slave."

The anger moved blindly, a flooded river seeking any low spot, any outlet at all. "Don't you know there's talk in these times that slavery itself is wrong? Why, Judge Samuel Sewall hath said it, written it too, and maybe not many will agree with him, but—but before God, I do," Ben said, wondering at the wiry clang of his own voice.

"One hears of it," she said gently, "but I think there will alway be slavery."

"Oh, why?"

"Perhaps because no one is ever wholly free."

"Oh, don't put me off with philosophy! I understand you, but—that was not—well, my brother, and my Uncle John too—I have heard my Uncle John say he would never own a slave, for that the thing itself is wrong. And later I talked of it with my brother, he was most passionate, he said it was vile and contemptible that any man should pretend to possess the life of another, or be privileged to command it and drive it where he may please. My brother is strangely wise—younger but a better scholar than I, much wiser. Somehow I can't ever do anything without first wondering, how would he do it, what would he think of it? I lean on him too much—well, I suppose it's because we went through much together, and I love him so, and we—I don't know—I'm confused."

"I am not so sure," she said, speaking into the light. "I think you have your own wisdom, Mr. Cory. Perhaps, if he be the quicker scholar, it is only that your brother can speak his thoughts more easily."

"No," said Ben, and sighed shortly. "No, he's truly wise. I have alway known it, am even pleased it should be so. He hath chosen a most difficult life work, medicine. I have alway known he would go where I cannot."

"You wished to sail with Artemis, did you not?"

"I did so."

"Mistress Faith spoke of it a few days ago, when I was dressing her hair, and charged me hold it in confidence because, she said, she was not sure you were ready to discuss it with the Captain."

It never occurred to Ben that there might be something strange in his lack of interest as to what else Faith Jenks had said about him. "Yes, I wished to sail, and it seems to me—I don't know why I never saw it before—it seems to me the best reason I could have for learning my great-uncle's trade and making myself of some account in it, would be that then I could aid my brother. It must be difficult to be a doctor. No one seems to grant them much respect. Mr. Welland of Roxbury is a very learned man, Reuben tells me, and yet I never heard of anyone deferring to him. He lives more or less in poverty."

"And still," said Clarissa, to the light—"and still, perhaps even wisdom is not everything."

"Nay, I'm sure it's not," Ben said, and wondered whether it was wisdom he was searching for in the brandy glass, where half of the beautiful amber sparkled as yet untouched. He saw her then, with a more naked vision, as she stood in the light and shadow slight as a child and wholly a woman, in her feminine grace no longer alien. He rose with no thought for the action and entered the same sunlight. "Clarissa, there is more here than I should drink. Will you not share it?"

Her eyes held him, not once lowering to look at the glass, her hand not moving to take or reject it. She was not shocked, he saw; not afraid of him, perhaps not afraid of the brandy glass. It might be that she was only considering what to do, like Reuben considering a position on the chessboard; but then he understood it was nothing like that. Nudged by his own heart, Ben said: "I assure you, no red comb will pop."

She stepped back, staring rather wildly. Her hand flew up to her mouth, but that was no defense, for mischief and delight were brimming over, uncontrollable. As Ben himself began to chuckle, she gave way to it completely, throwing back her head, pointing at him helplessly, the laugh going up and up in a golden rocket. "Oh, le peigne, le peigne, le bon Dieu me garde! Whoo!" Clarissa wailed, and slapped her thigh, and swayed toward him—sobering completely as Ben's arm went around her waist, but not drawing away, studying him a while with a dark and new sweet gravity, then at last taking the brandy glass, turning it about so that when she raised it the small mark left by his lips was covered by her own as she drained it. The glass dropped to the floor from her drooping hand; Ben felt she would not have cared if the lovely thing had broken, or perhaps she wished it to break, but it did not. "Une heure, fugitive et immortelle, une heure et alors——"

"I have no French." Ben's fingers lost themselves in her dark sweet-smelling hair. "My dear, what art thou saying?—tell me."

"Ah, little or nothing," Clarissa mumbled. She unfastened his shirt, her fingers swift and petulant, until she could rub her cheek over his bare skin; her mouth groped for his nipple and clung lightly a second with soft pressure of her teeth. "One hour, I think I said, one hour and then nothing more, because you will go away, because one hour given by chance is all we may have, mais ton sourire—but your smile I shall yet see, as I saw it first when you gave it to my little Charity there at the wharf, and I could look into you and know you, and my loins hurt me and my empty flesh, and my silly heart cried out I love you, I love you." Her hand sought for his wrist and clutched it hard. She spoke in a breathless tone like anger: "Come to my room!"

It was small, and bleak, and very clean, a room under the eaves with not even a bed but a pallet on the floor, a chair, a few hooks on the wall for her few garments. As he followed her half blindly, Ben had received a dim impression of passing, on the second floor, the open doorway of some luxurious room. It didn't matter. In her room she turned to him, suddenly grave but no less urgent. A small laugh came and passed like a breeze, impatient, as she helped him with his clothes and her own, her hands a bridge of warmth between them.

Slowness he felt then in the upward reaching of her mouth to find his lips. She was embracing him, a small column of urgent softness, and slipping down, kneeling, falling away—a slow and graceful falling until she lay on the pallet at his feet, no longer looking at him but knowing he would come to her.

There were the fears, shy, ridiculous but now amusingly so, not even shameful when with another faint gust of laughter Clarissa helped him again. Time thereafter was measured in roaring heartbeats, in the grotesque innocent throes where Ben at last discovered a strength that was his own, a sureness and a rightness. Some part of him could still observe at the very crests of the waves. He could see, perhaps pity, her rich mouth squared down as in suffering, her brown dear face suddenly drenched in tears and twisting from side to side, and yet know that nothing of this could be held back, nor softened, nor in any way denied, and that pain was of no importance whatever until the cup should be drained.

He was aware of most of the words she spoke—random and wild, fantastic or pitiable, they all owned a rightness in the moment and were a part of the climbing waves. "O God, hurt me! Set thy mark on me, Benjamin, Benjamin. I want thy seed. À moi! Now! Now! Benjamin—thy bright mouth—ainsi je vais, je vais avec toi jusqu'à la fin de la terre."

Out of limitless quiet, his face on her satin shoulder, Ben asked: "Have I hurt thee?"

"No. Yes...." And again with the faintest moth-wing touch of laughter: "No...."

He drew away from her; presently sat up and saw her lying still, with wet cheeks and closed eyes, near and defenseless, wholly quiet. She said: "I will not yet open my eyes." And she did not, even when—timidly this time and bewildered at his own impulse—Ben curved his hand over the golden round of her breast where fading sunlight lay across it.

"Clarissa, forgive me."

She looked at him then, pools of darkness opening, filling with amazement, then sorrow, then showing him such a remote and ruminative blankness that Ben was frightened as a child, for it seemed to him that what his own voice had said was monstrous, and nothing said now or later could redeem it. She stood, unconcerned at her nakedness, looking down at him he knew, the abyss between self and self widening. At length she asked with much coolness: "What does that mean?"

"Clarissa, I did never intend"——Oh, close my mouth, anything I say makes it worse, and I go on spilling words—"We were swept away—I never intended—I've—sinned—betrayed——"

He managed to stop the noise. She was silent; he could not even hear her breathing. Forced by the silence to look up at last, he found as he had known he would the high blaze of contempt. "Sin? Betrayal?..." Then—he had known this too and feared it more than anything else—contempt and anger were gone, closed away altogether by a mask impenetrable and cruelly polite. The mask said gently: "Shall I help you with your clothes, Mr. Cory?"

He thought with a resentment that could accomplish nothing: Nay, I didn't deserve that.

The mask softened a little; a brittle thing quivering, but because it was so greatly needed it would not break. She caught her breath and said: "Oh, I am sorry! Forgive me too—if you can." She caught up her clothes in a clumsy armful and ran barefoot out of the room.

She had forgotten her slippers. Ben knew—this was the worst knowledge of all—that he could not search for her in the empty house. If he found her somewhere, a hurt and shrinking brown slave, he would not be finding her at all. The slippers were very small, soft, gray, a little run over at the edges. Ben dressed clumsily. He took up one of the slippers and tucked it under his shirt, but then it seemed to him that he could not even do that. He put back the mute and harmless thing beside its companion, and left the house. As he unhitched Molly and set his foot in the stirrup it occurred to him, in a misery now grown dull and almost impersonal, that perhaps it takes more than a successful act of intercourse at seventeen, to make a man.

"I say overside is the only place. A devil's name, what do you want of a pisstail boy on such an errand?"

"Watch that tongue, Judah. Watch it, man, against the day the rations'll run short and I'll be a-mind to cut it off and ram it down your gullet for amusement and nourishment, now that's no lie."

"I said nothing, only spoke m' futtering mind."

"Good. You may do it again. You may speak up plain and tell me who's captain of this bloody sloop."

"You are, Mister Shawn. I'm only saying, a God-damn boy is no use here. Are you soft on the pup?"

"You could say one thing too much one day."

"Dead in hell or alive in hell with one eye, what's the difference? Comes to that, though, betwix' you and me, maybe I won't be the one that dies. Be you going below—sir?"

"I am in a moment. You too."

"Leaving only Joey and Manuel on deck, and Joey scared of a tiller he don't know yet, and the God-damn night blacker 'n a witch's box?"

"What's to be scared of, you fool?"

"I a'n't scared of nothing, never was. Piss on 'em all. What've I got left any man could take from me? You want Joey to pile up the tub on Noddle's Island it's no beshitten difference to me and you know it."

"Noddle's is it? You're daft. We're miles south of it, and clear of Dorchester Neck too, and nothing to watch but a sweet wide-open sea. Steady as she goes, Joey Mills! Why, Judah, man, I can feel and smell the sea and the land in the dark, the way they lie."

"I'll ever recall how Quelch give you a rope's end once for that same mad Irish brag. Nobody can feel land in the dark."

"Mother of God, what I put up with from you! Peace on it, Judah.... Keep your eye sharp for riding lights, Manuel—any lights. You won't see 'em, and yet you might. Close 'em just once, any more 'n you need to blink, and you'll hear old Shawn speak in a manner unkind. That's my boy, Manuel—steady as she goes! O the fair night, and we better off without a moon!... Well, Judah, well—say I brought the boy on impulse, though it's not that entirely. I never planned it, that I did not, but didn't I find him, the poor puzzled thing, hiding in the doorway where I was a-mind to hide me own self for a last look at Artemis going down the bay? And didn't I learn the way he'd set his own heart on going with her, and Kenny played him false too, with promises and then a chopping and a changing? God damn the old fart, I could puke to think of the way I all but licked the boots of him for a berth on her, and then to be shoved aside, shoved aside! We'll learn how far they'll be shoving old Shawn aside! Why, Ben's heart was set on her, so it was, he was that full of it you wouldn't know the thing he'd do, to be sailing on her—wisha, he shall!"

"If he was that hot for it why'd you bother to drug him?"

"This fishy tub will not have been his notion of going to sea."

"What are you laughing at now?"

"You wouldn't know. There's a sailor in that boy, Judah. There's an explorer in that boy."

"Ah! Still beating that dead horse."

"Steady as she goes, Judah! You know how much you can say to me—don't exceed! Ah, at that I might've persuaded him, seeing how sweet he come aboard of us here for a gossip with old Shawn, and was telling some of his boy's troubles but not all, not all, and believing everything old Shawn was a-mind to tell him over the little drinks, and the fish stink, why, he wasn't minding it, and the lantern light winking on the pretty face of him——"

"Shit, you're drunk."

"Drunk on sea water, Judah, you with your leather heart, you wouldn't know. He might'a' come along of his own will, now that's no lie. He was halfway so minded. He did believe I'd been given command, for a quick fishing trip to the Banks and so home—I think he did. But there'd have been much to explain later, and the devil with all explaining, the drop of opium didn't go amiss and will do him no hurt.... Judah, you fool, don't you know he saw you there at the Lion—and you that clumsy, and giving him your dead-window look, the way you might as well have written a letter to their Select Watch, that you might."

"What if he did? The others is bought and paid for."

"You'll run me no such errand again, Judah—nor wouldn't've then, had not my voice told me there was need. Mother of God, to think I may have misheard, and a man died for nothing! But it can't be so."


"You wouldn't know. How many times did you strike?"

"I don't know."

"I do. Thirteen. And he didn't die till morning. He lived to speak."

"He's dead enough now, and never spoke of me. He never saw me nor Tom. Tom got the rag on his eyes and I came at him from behind. Thirteen, was it?"

"It was. Judah, I think you've never been as close to your Maker as you be this moment. You bungled that thing. He suffered, and no need, and now it seems there was no profit in the thing at all."

"Easy, Shawn! We'll take Artemis the easier and him not there."

"True enough. All the same I'm trying—while you're here so near the rail and a weak puky thing too—I'm trying to recall if you had any part in persuading me to it."

"You're mad, Shawn. You know I never...."

"I think you hadn't. God help you if ever I'm receiving different instruction!... Come below, Judah. I'll show you something. I'll discover if there's any juice in that leather heart at all. Mind the hatch, you clumsy son of a bitch! And go in front—I'm not so green you'll ever find yourself behind me with a rag over me eyes.... Hath he been quiet, Dummy? Shake your head for ay or no. Dummy's a good man, Dummy is. Mind if I'm touching your hump for luck, Dummy? And that headshake is ay?—good enough. Look here, Judas——"


"Touchy, man? Look here, and look well. Nay, drink first, there's something left here, and don't cut your stupid eye at me! I'm drinking first from the same bottle, am I not? I say, drink it!... Now look here: this is the mortal image and presentment of a man, Judah. O the quiet sleep! Look on this chin, rounded like a woman's and firm with all the fair power of a god! But you can't see, you haven't the eye to see or the mind to know. Look on this hand, how firm already, and will it not be all the nobler when its wondrous jointure is acquainted with the rope, and the leap of a tiller and the burning of salt and wind? This is a man. This is the man who'll go with me, and be my friend, and stand by me in the new world when the rest of you are stinking carrion. And yet it hurts me a little, that I should be taking him away from his brother who loved him.... Go back on deck, Judah. Your one eye sees nothing. Go back on deck. Well, lively, man! I'm following.... Come for'd. We must have a feather under the bow."

"You're drunk and raving. I've no mind to go for'd unless you make it an order, Shawn, and take care how you do it."

"Then bide here aft, seeing I care nothing what you think or do, and your one eye blinder than the one that's gone.... Any lights, Manuel?"

"No, sir."

"That's well enough. She'll be far ahead. Belike we sha'n't see her till a certain day when we're standing on and off outside Sherburne. We'll see her then, Manuel, boy, but she won't see us until the time I choose. And Tom Ball and French Jack aboard her, they'll know the time I choose, they'll see us come out of the north long before the others do, I don't care who's aloft. Good men, those, Manuel. Can you hear the water, Manuel? What does it say, Manuel?"

"I don't know, Mr. Shawn."

"But I know. It saith, there be many islands."


Chapter One

The shadows of westward-rolling cloud obscured the calm of Polaris and the other stars, and the May moon. Reuben Cory had looked out not long ago from John Kenny's window, noticing a ground-mist over the lawn, ghosts of it rising toward his eyes; a feeble thing like the random smoke of a fire dying out, but later it might increase, filling all the still air above the village, above the city in the north, above the harbor and that house in Dorchester where Charity at this moment might be watching the sea through her own window of loneliness. John Kenny's voice had drawn Reuben back to the island of lamplight by the bed, and Reuben had resumed his watch there, trying to interpret the sound. It was vast labor for John Kenny to speak at all; the effort flushed his sunken cheeks, twisted his lips loosely downward to the side; after such toil it was necessary to wipe his mouth, and Mr. Welland had recommended cooling his face with a damp cloth. Reuben had done this, skilled with months of practise; now he sought to analyze in memory the blurred fragment of speech. It had carried the inflection of a question. The word, most probably, was "long." Certainly within the stricken flesh a mind and a self were poignantly awake, needing an answer. The brown eyes retained much alertness. Sometimes, when the old man was asleep—as he was the greater part of the time—one could imagine that he would wake naturally, frown, say something half-kind and half-sharp, clearly, looking down the nose.

Trusting to insight—since thought must move in the atmosphere of doubt, and is often free to claim that this guess is truly a little better than that one—Reuben spoke slowly and plainly: "It is a year, Uncle John, since Ben went away." A thought of the ground-mist touched Reuben again as he settled in his chair and reached for the book on the bedside table. Doubtless it would increase; men would grope in it cursing; the tower of South Church would dissolve away, shadowing forth some remote day of demolition, and in the harbor no ships would move.

Uncle John could still make some motions of his head within a narrow range, enough to indicate yes or no, agreement or denial, satisfaction or protest. Reuben saw it stir, the waxen chin lowering a fraction of an inch, the gray owl tufts rising the same tiny distance from the dent in the pillow—a nod. The guess must have been fair. Reuben saw the flush fading, the deep wrinkles around the eyes relaxing after travail. Uncle John could also move his right leg and arm, and until about a month ago had used the right hand to feed himself. Kate fed him now, or Reuben: the paralysis of his stroke had not advanced, but that right arm seemed too weary, too skeletal, and the old man had finally appeared willing to be delivered from that exertion.

"Uncle John, I've thought all winter long that Ben might come back this spring. It is May. The wild flags are out in the marshes. I know we cannot put any trust in a mere hope, but I keep the thought in my mind. I feel certain he is alive, and will come home when he can."

The eyes watched, with intelligence; as Reuben was aware, nothing in response to what he had said was worth the effort of speech; acceptance of the message was enough. Reuben held a volume of Montaigne near Uncle John's right hand, so that if it wished the hand could rise and turn the pages, indicating a part to be read. When sleep would not arrive, Uncle John seemed to enjoy such reading, and Montaigne was his usual choice. At times Erasmus, Locke, Sir Thomas Browne, Virgil—more often Montaigne. The blurred eyes lowered, the hand groped among the pages for a while, and tapped the beginning of the essay "Use Makes Perfect," as Reuben had almost known it would, and fell away.

Familiar with the text, Reuben could read without much thought for anything but slowness and clarity in his voice, remembering to keep his face turned toward the old man. Reuben and Mr. Welland were convinced that since the stroke of last July, Mr. Kenny's deafness had thickened; he could hear plain speech and hear it well, but it was apparent how closely his eyes followed the motion of a speaker's lips.

"'... A man may by custom fortify himself against pain, shame, necessity and such like accidents, but, as to death, we can experiment it but once, and are all apprentices when we come to it.'" Natural enough, Reuben thought, and perhaps good, that Uncle John should so often wish to hear this essay, in which Montaigne would have it that one must train for death as for a voluntary act. Not unnatural anyway, for one whose task of dying had begun months ago and might continue yet a long time. "'... with how great facility do we pass from waking to sleeping, and with how little concern do we lose the knowledge of light and of ourselves....'"

Kate would have been distressed by it. She clung, at least outwardly, to the thought that John Kenny would recover. Reuben supposed that when she was alone with herself, not sustained by those who loved her enough to reinforce the fantasy, she knew better.

"'Of this I have daily experience: if I am under the shelter of a warm room, in a stormy and tempestuous night, I wonder how people can live abroad, and am afflicted for those who are out in the fields: if I am there myself, I do not wish to be anywhere else....'"

The eyes watched. It was possible, Reuben felt, that the hidden self was listening to his voice as much as to the voice of Montaigne: this would remain in the region of doubt, a thing not to be known. He read on without weariness to the end: "'Whosoever shall so know himself, let him boldly speak it out.'" But Reuben thought: Who under the North Star hath ever known himself to the depth? May one not most nearly approach it by gaining a glimpse of the self in the thought of one other?—but this will happen only in the rarest moments of the journey.

John Kenny could sometimes speak with considerable clearness—clearness at any rate to one who had spent much time in learning to translate the thwarted sounds. He did so now. Kate might have been confused; Reuben found no difficulty in receiving the message: "If you will, Reuben—at the proper time—let it be known—with what peace—an infidel can die."

Reuben knew that the light convulsion of the distracted lips thereafter was a smile, in itself a major achievement. He smiled in response and set Montaigne aside. "I'll read from Religio Medici—shall I, sir?" The eyes pondered; the right hand moved gently back and forth, which meant: "Yes, read at random or as you wish."

Reuben read, seeking out words he desired because he had known them at other hours and in another voice, but not unmindful of his listener's preoccupations so far as a boy of sixteen could hope to guess at them: "'Further, no man can judge another, because no man knows himself: for we censure others but as they disagree from that humor which we fancy laudable in ourselves, and commend others but for that wherein they seem to quadrate and consent with us....

"'... It is an act within the power of charity, to translate a passion out of one breast into another, and to divide a sorrow almost out of it self; for an affliction, like a dimension, may be so divided as, if not indivisible, at least to become insensible. Now with my friend I desire not to share or participate, but to engross, his sorrows; that, by making them mine own, I may more easily discuss them; for in mine own reason, and within myself, I can command that which I cannot intreat without myself, and within the circle of another....

"'... I love my friend before myself, and yet methinks I do not love him enough: some few months hence my multiplied affection will make me believe I have not loved him at all....'

"Elsewhere in the essay," said Reuben, and closed the book, "I think Sir Thomas was somewhat entranced by his own music at the cost of reason." The eyes watched, probably with kindness; Reuben searched for the motion of another smile and decided, but doubtfully, that he had seen it. The eyes grew less alert; soon the old man might fall asleep. "I once asked Mr. Welland how good a doctor Sir Thomas Browne is thought to have been. He didn't know. But he hath told me, sir, how in the time since Sir Thomas wrote, less than a hundred years, the art is much advanced. I can't but think it must go further in another hundred, as more of the unknown yields to inquiry." The eyes were patient, interested, kind; and drowsier. At length they closed, Mr. Kenny's face settling into the tranquil imitation of death, his breathing shallow, not uncomfortable. Reuben returned to the window. The mist had grown to a veil over all things.

Light from this window penetrated the whiteness as far as a budded maple on the lawn. Whorls of thicker vapor passed through the light, small disturbances in the ocean of mist that would now be over all the village, perhaps over all the coast as far as the Cape and out beyond. As in the larger ocean, life groped about on the bottom in a purposeful blindness.

On a May night a year ago, when Reuben and Gideon Hibbs and Mr. Kenny had searched the water front, such a mist had hung low on the sullen water of the harbor. That mist too had grown after a while, a white tide rising over the warehouses and idle docks, blotting vision, smothering and diffusing the nervous beams of lanterns and the sounds of frightened voices wiry in the throat. Every plank bore a slime of dampness; the cordage of sleeping ships was dripping with a whisper of slow tears. Night transformed the water front to a labyrinth dreary, foul and perilous. Seldom any freshly illuminated face looked back at you bravely there at night, unless it might be that of a drunken man too sodden to be afraid. The smooth fogbound water of the bay had possessed no voice that night except at the piling of the wharfs where, fumbling and muttering secretly, it encountered the transitory obstruction of the works of man.

Where are you? Where are you?...

Constable Derry had lent the searchers a sturdy man from the Select Watch. It was that man who discovered the floating corpse, its arm caught in a tangle of rope that had most unreasonably been knocked or thrown off a dock not far from Mr. Kenny's, and he identified the broken old man as a watchman hired by that wharf's owner Mr. Harkness. Waked and summoned in the saddest hours of the night, little Mr. Harkness danced up and down on the dock in rage. "She was here!" he fumed. "I paid forty-six pounds for her, and that only last week." "This man, sir——" "Yes yes, my watchman, poor devil. I tell you she was here! Went aboard of her myself." Tactfully Mr. Derry's man extracted the information that Mr. Harkness was referring to a sloop, a swift rangy craft of twenty tons—gone, but by Mr. Harkness not forgotten.

Reuben had taken no part in this inquisition. Until that hour it had been possible to imagine that Ben had ridden away somewhere—say into the countryside, to think, cool off his disappointment; he could even be waiting for them at Roxbury. Hibbs and Uncle John seemed still able to cling to something like that, to suppose that the poor dripping ruin on the dock, its head crushed in the back, had nothing to do with Ben and that devil Shawn. Reuben could do so no longer. Where are you? The question could be directed nowhere except into the rolling fog and the dark.

The following day, after dragging out the remainder of a crazed sleepless night, Reuben felt it merely as the confirmation of something known, when he learned that a stevedore had brought Mr. Derry the decisive scrap of truth. This man had been near Harkness' wharf a little after sunset when a well-dressed youth and an older man in a green coat had come by, the boy leading a brown mare. The man was talking a spate, and cheerfully, about some good luck. "No great thing, a fishing venture, but I'm content, I say it's the smile of fortune on me, now that's no lie, so come aboard a few minutes anyway and drink to it." He chattered much more the roustabout could not remember, and the boy said very little, but presently offered him a shilling to mind the horse, saying he would be gone not more than half an hour. Then the two had gone out on Harkness' wharf or maybe the one beyond it. The stevedore had been puzzled by that boy, who seemed downcast and confused; might have been weeping not long before; drunk, the stevedore thought at first, but he smelled no liquor when the shilling changed hands. It had grown quite dark by then, the lamps of Ship Street lighted but not sufficient to make the strangers' faces plain; the stevedore would know the man in the green coat again, he thought, but maybe not the boy—handsome though, his lip a bit in need of a shave, and very young. "When they was going the man in the green coat winked at me, Constable—you know, meaning-like, like as if he meant to say it was a boy's troubles and we was all young once and took things hard...." More than the half-hour had passed; the stevedore found a hitching post for the mare and went in search, finding nothing at Harkness' wharf except a lumber-barge, although he thought he remembered noticing a small sloop moored there during the day. He took the mare to a public stable and returned to search further, but learned nothing and gave it up in disgust until the morning brought him the news of the watchman's murder.

That, for nearly three months, had been the sum of knowledge....

Soft-voiced in the room behind him, not moving now with the bounce and ease of a year ago, Kate Dobson was saying: "Do you go and sleep now, Master Reuben. I'll bide with him the rest of the night."

"Did you sleep enough yourself?"

"Well enough. Ah, the doctor!" she said, and smiled at his finger tips pressed on her fat wrist. The message from her elderly heart was slow and sound. Once or twice Reuben had detected a fluttering in it; tonight he found nothing out of the way except that variability of pace which Mr. Welland described as not unnatural. Kate accepted this sort of thing as a game to be played with the tenderness of maternal indulgence. Yet again it might be that when she was alone with herself, thinking perhaps of Reuben Cory in the here-and-now and not so much of the twelve-year-old boy who once collapsed in her arms at the end of a long journey, she knew better.

Reuben's hand sought the sampler that hung by the door in line with Mr. Kenny's vision, touching the truth of the dark leaves, the fine-stitched perfection of the slanting letters: Omnia vincit amor, et nos cedamus amori. Kate had not been able to finish it until after the old man was struck down. Mr. Kenny could see it there, had held it, groped at it with the right hand, smiled in his distorted fashion, mumbling blurred sounds of pleasure and thanks. It seemed to Reuben that for this labor of years she ought to have received his elaborate courtly declamation mingled with airy nonsense and a pat on the rump; she never would. She was not wholly satisfied with the sampler even now: she said some of the ivy leaves were too big in contrast to the letters. Omnia vincit amor—but love is a wider region than was spoken of in the Eclogues. Reuben wandered downstairs with no desire to sleep, and closed the front door behind him and walked out alone into the mist....

Remembering Deerfield. Mist lay there sometimes in the early mornings of the end of winter or the beginning of spring, over the low ground by the river, or within the palisade, until a strengthening sun dissolved it away from the brave small houses, the training field, the little dooryard gardens; and Mother liked gray mornings, but Jesse Plum said they worsened the Pain in his Back, and Father looked on them mildly as no worse, no better than others-because, said Joseph Cory, every day was a new-minted shilling to be spent as reasonably as one might....

Remembering—one sometimes winces at the scar of a minor wound—a house where the judgments of the Lord were true and righteous altogether.

Remembering a narrow gray face advancing in the snow:—If I had died then, who would walk in this fog in this year's May? Mm-yas—a might-have-been universe for each event that might have been. Should I reach out to that maple, the cosmos will wag one way; another if I do not. Notice, gentlemen, the astonishing power of Reuben Cory! Philosophy, I vow Mr. Hibbs would enjoy it in all solemnity, bless the man, but likely it'll slip my mind before I see him again. A boy ties a string to a pulled milk-tooth and keeps it a while in his pocket, then somehow loses it....

Remembering a midsummer evening—July, the windless heat a burden of fever; lightning, too distant to be heard, startling the black sky over Cambridge or some farther place in the northwest—and the coming of a messenger on a lathered horse to Mr. Kenny's house. Good news comes often quietly, arriving like dawn; bad news like a rabid beast leaping for the throat. That horseman was merely gentle Sam Tench, the clerk who had labored so long and dustily in Mr. Kenny's countinghouse that he seemed like an outgrowth of his three-legged stool, but scrambling down from a sweaty horse and panting his news on the doorstep, he was Fate, if you like, since the word he bore came direct from Her Majesty's frigate Dread, newly arrived at Boston for provisions and sundry errands of state and war.

On a morning in early July, in open waters west of the Bermudas, the Dread had picked up one Pieter Van Anda, single survivor of the sloop Schouven out of Amsterdam, who had clung all night to the smashed fragment of a mast. The Schouven had been attacked by a fast ketch flying no flag, boarded, plundered, her captain and most of her crew butchered in a rapid engagement where no quarter was given—but later, before the sloop was set afire, the mad captain of the ketch had harangued, even pleaded with the three who still lived, to throw in their lot with him, for he was bound to the other side of the world as soon as he could acquire two or three other vessels as good as his own, and was in need of good men. The sloop was worthless except for her provisions and so must be burned, but would they not go with him? One consented; the other and Van Anda, then expecting nothing worse than being set adrift, would not; they were thrown into the sea. This, the tall, sweet-voiced, black-haired captain told them—they being crushed against the rail of the sloop by four men who seemed not mad but merely rabble of the baser sort, pirates—this was an evil thing he did and he knew it, but the end he served was beyond their understanding, and could he allow them to bear witness to his acts before the time was ripe? Perhaps the sea would be kind, at any rate he must do as his inner voice commanded and could do no other. As he told them this, he rubbed a copper coin, and his blue eyes spread into black, burning into them. "And since I cannot be trusting you now, Mother of God, the time's past for any change of heart, and so God keep you, gentlemen"—and the sea (said Van Anda) in its most furious mood was surely kinder than such a man.

The ketch carried two small guns—six-pounder falconets, Van Anda thought—handled with great skill or great luck, for the first shot, delivered with no warning as the ketch glided to windward of her, sliced off the Schouven's mast and left her in a welter of confusion while the ketch's boat shot across the gap and the pirates boarded her like starved rats. The Schouven carried only seven hands; it was soon over. An infernal vessel, Van Anda said—the airs had been light that evening, the Schouven making not much more than steerage way, yet the ketch ran down on her out of the eye of the late sun as if the Devil himself had lent her a capful of wind. Clinging to that fragment of the mast, Van Anda had seen her for a while, speeding southward, in the light of sunset and of the burning sloop. A beautiful, wild, unnatural thing, her bowsprit low-slung, her figurehead a white maiden, her name Diana.

The Dread's lookout had seen the fire, too, from several leagues' distance, and the frigate hurried off her course to inquire about it. The blazing sloop filled and sank during the night; it was dawn, the breeze still fitful and contrary, when Van Anda was found. His story told, the frigate beat to southward a while in the wrath of vengeance. In the evening a fore-and-aft mizzen was sighted, far south, and found again in the morning. At that sunrise the Diana—if it was she—cracked on all sail and by evening was hull down, though the Dread was bearing all canvas, a mastiff groaning in pursuit of a greyhound. The Dread found empty sea next morning and was obliged to put about for Boston.

John Kenny asked: "Did this Dutchman speak of others?"

"He spoke of a big red-haired man jabbering to himself in French, and a fat, short man they called Tom, and—and a gray-haired man with a broken nose and a great purple patch covering all the left side of his face. Sir, I asked myself, could that be anyone but Matthew Ledyard that was carpenter of the Artemis? No one of theSchouvenwent aboard the ketch except that one man who agreed to join them. Some must have remained aboard the—Diana. My God, sir, I had thought Ledyard loyal as any man could be——"

"The devil with Ledyard. He described no others?"

"No others."

"Did he say if any of them was young?"

"Sir, sir, I asked him that, and he said—he said no." Then neither Sam Tench nor Reuben was quick enough to catch the old man, who fell like a broken spar and struck his head against the doorframe, and for more than a month thereafter could not speak at all.

Reuben walked in the mist, remembering. No stars; the May moon, not visible, lent a faint pallor to the enfolding vapor, or he imagined it, so that he walked in a darkness not complete. He could have followed this path through the back fields, he supposed, if he were wholly blind. He moved slowly, pausing many times, though not in need to assure himself of direction, remembering.

The war went on of course, in its far-off way; it always had. It seems we snatched ourselves a helping of glory at some place called Ramillies; but that was very long ago, two years ago, 1706. Throughout the fighting weather of last year, one heard, my lord Marlborough had put in the time in the Low Countries doing nothing in particular....

A certain order had been established at the house in Roxbury by the end of the summer months of confusion. Four friends—Reuben was well aware of it—had built a sort of wall of defense around a youth who was legally not yet a man and an old man who could scarcely move or speak: Amadeus Welland, William Heath the captain of the sloop Hebe, Sam Tench, and Gideon Hibbs. Reuben was formally apprenticed to the doctor; Harvard, by Reuben's wish, vetoed. On a morning when, according to his own tortured speech, his mind was very clear, John Kenny wrote out in a wild but readable scrawl his desire that Welland, Heath, Tench and Hibbs be appointed trustees for his affairs while he remained disabled; the court allowed it, giving Tench a limited power of attorney. The warehouse and wharf were mortgaged, and rented to Mr. Riggs of Salem, the most merciful of Kenny's creditors.

Reuben discovered with no surprise that it was quite simple to get along without five pairs of shoes; also to tend the garden and scythe the lawn at odd moments without the aid of Rob Grimes. Hibbs too had been obliged to find employment with another family at Roxbury whose son and heir required cramming, but he continued to live at Kenny's house, insisting on paying for his room and board, nagging Reuben to continue his Greek—was not Hippocrates a Greek?—and trying to drive a little more general learning into the boy, but underhandedly as it were, under the pretense that he was merely keeping up with his own studies at the borders of philosophy. The sloop Hebe, unmortgaged, ran her small profitable errands between Boston and Newport like a dog who will go on herding sheep or guarding the house into the shadows of old age, not even asking for a pat on the head. Even Rob Grimes strolled over occasionally, pecking peevishly at odd jobs and refusing pay for it; he ceased perhaps only because Kate was singularly short and cold with him.

It seemed to Reuben that by spending a lifetime in contemplation of human love and loyalty, you might learn one or two things about people, but not their limits. One could simply note: under certain conditions, certain members of the human race—most, maybe—are capable of supreme goodness. The Preacher Ecclesiastes was old, weary, holding some unreal scale of value; disappointed, like enough, because these bewildered passion-ridden beings fell so far short of his private image of the godlike. You could not watch Amadeus Welland making grave monkey faces under his wig for the hilarious comfort of a sick child, and say that all is vanity. That was no fair example, because Amadeus was not as other men; so consider—well, Kate Dobson, who called herself common and stupid, and would be spending uncalculated kindness to the day she died.

The Preacher's namesake was loyal too. Through all vicissitudes he remained a beat-up yellow tomcat, charging not a farthing for the privilege of scratching him under his evil chin....

The same human race included that devil Shawn, the bronze butchers who fell upon Deerfield, a smiling murderer with one eye. Of course.

Sometimes also Reuben speculated: If they—Heath, or Hibbs, or Tench, or even dear Kate—if ever they knew that I am a monster, a lusus naturae, a two-headed calf, a moral leper so outlandish and beyond hope of forgiveness that, were my nature known, even the children in the street would be a bit afraid to throw dead cats and dung—what then? Would there then be any part of this earth where Amadeus and I might go, and not be hated, driven, feared, utterly condemned?... The thought came only in the darkest hours; seldom if ever when he was with Mr. Welland, the world excluded, the ugly pockmarked face an unfathomable essay in the beautiful, the moment blazing or peaceful as sun on summer grass. Here in the mist, the fear touched him as an almost trivial thing, an arrow missing the mark, a fire burning somewhere else, a lesson glimpsed further on in the book. Blessed be the mask—and yet I hate it, will ever hate it, wearing it only because I wish to live, remembering it was not worn in the time that some have named the Golden Age.

If I am a monster—who seem to myself a young man not incapable of the earthly virtues, who love the sun and rain as well as any man and would never willingly do a dishonest thing or hurt anyone, who need and rejoice like any man in all the harmless glory of the senses—then who made me a monster? If I am evil, who set the standard whereby men and women are to be judged? Let Mr. Cotton Mather tell me God did so and will punish the transgressor: I am not interested, nor is Amadeus, who doth believe in God after his own fashion.

Reuben knew he was near the beech tree. He put out his hand to find the amiable tower of it and leaned against it in the mist, remembering. I stood here last year, having made certain discoveries. A good day—April, I think. Ben rode home smiling. A long time ago.

It was never possible to hold away for any long stretch of minutes the knowledge that Ben was gone. One schooled the mind to repeat that lesson, though it might whimper and snarl miserably in repeating it: He is probably lost. Then, the lesson driven home once more, he turned usually to Vesalius, or Micrographia, or Neurologia Universalis (Ben's gift!), or the collected works of Ambroise Paré, or the Severall Surgical Treatises of Richard Wiseman, because Mr. Welland said it was time for him to acquire a small preliminary hint of the enigmas of knife and suture.

"But why do so many die after trifling minor surgery? Don't we all suffer small cuts and bruises repeatedly and take no harm by it?"

"We don't know. Doctors despise surgery; send 'em to the filthy barber surgeons, and they die. I no longer send anyone to the barbers, Reuben. If surgery can't be avoided I stumble through it myself, trying to follow the methods you'll read in that book of Paré's, with these grim little tools—that's splendid steel, by the way, I care for 'em like an old housewife—and I've lost very few under the knife, but I can't tell you why. Why, maybe they're so bemused by the wig that they stay alive so to have another look at it...."

At other times it was scarcely possible to drive the lesson home at all. Then in partial retreat from the unbearable he permitted the dream of Ben's return—telling over this complex year as it might be told to him, polishing those whimsical or naughty inventions that used to be rewarded by the startled stare of his gray eyes and his rocketing laughter. Reuben knew such fantasy to be a drug, but yielded in times of need. "You see, Ben, not to put too sharp a point on it when likely it was dull——" No no! Not that way, seeing he may have truly loved her. "You see, Ben, doubtless because their fortunes went down with ours, Captain Jenks being lost or presumed lost—why, she married. Some ancient December blossom"—revise!—"some man named Hoskison, a merchant of Salem where she now liveth, but her mother and Charity dwell with the mother's brother at Dorchester, the said Charity being a most sweet maid, little Benjamin, and greatly changed, who hath not forgotten thee."

And so she is, he thought, strolling sure-footed away from the beech in the deep quiet of the mist—so she is; and he wondered in passing whether any self ever lived that was not divided by contrary hungers. Occasionally with Charity—when she sat close by him, or pushed at his chest with friendly impatience, or rubbed her cheek on his shoulder in her impulsive way that was half child, half woman—occasionally Reuben could be reminded of those needs the world allows. Never enough, he thought; never complete; never the sure and hearty answer that Ben, for example, would have known.

And never, in fact, quite free from a sense of the pressure of the world, of the command to conform and be like all others; and since to yield to that nagging, to conform and be like others at whatever sacrifice, is to lose oneself in the meanest of all vanities begotten of fear, it is not acceptable to the lonely.

Charity came often to Roxbury, lending Kate a hand in the kitchen as well as the sickroom. She did so even more often after the move to Dorchester, for her uncle allowed her to ride about a good deal—much more, some said, than was at all fitting, safe or decent for a young girl. She was calmer at fourteen, not so much given to fits of temper, at least not at Roxbury. Reuben seldom saw her in her mother's company, since Madam Jenks at Dorchester had submerged in a stately retirement, letting it be known that she was not long for this world, the which was merely a place of trial for the life to come, and blessed reunion with One Who Was Gone and, though the best of men, had never quite understood the palpitations of her heart, and was even given at times to profane thoughts and actions, for the which he doubtless repented in the end, and was taken to the Lord, a good provider with all his faults, and sometimes fluttered in her chest so that she could scarcely breathe at all, but were in no sense connected with her overweight, which was slight and for that matter incomprehensible since she ate like a very sparrow, and suffered also from insomnia and risings from the stomach.

Some day, Reuben thought—oh, some day perhaps that other world ought to be explored, if only for the sake of the slow, strange enterprise of trying to learn a little about the human race. Amadeus would probably say that it ought.

Never with Charity of course. Reuben was aware that Charity, very much a woman this last year, did not regard him as a potentially aggressive male, but as a friend who could be trusted to listen with kindness, share a moment of mirth, speak with intelligence about the fantastic pictures she still liked to draw, and even take her part against those restrictions of a woman's world that chafed her to rage. Besides, there was that day in November, soon after the move to Dorchester, when Charity Jenks threw her snarled-up sewing all the way across Kenny's library and flung herself crying into Reuben's arms, to speak of a sorrow until then unknown to him. A servant of theirs, a French-born slave Clarissa, had been sold to New York when the household was broken up, seeing there was no place for her at Dorchester—and that girl, said Charity, had been her real mother for years and years, and was the only friend she would ever have. "You have me," said Reuben, and was startled to watch her considering that, sniffling, accepting it and seeming remarkably comforted. A few minutes later she was speaking, for the first time freely and shamelessly—about Ben. And then of the house at Dorchester, which was near the shore. She had found a place where tumbled rocks made three walls excluding the land, the fourth side open to the sea—you could look out for miles on a clear day, and could hardly fail to see any of the ships that came into Boston out of the south; she'd draw him a picture. She did so; and then this spring, about a month ago, Reuben had seen that lookout for himself, making a harmless conspiracy of the secret approach to it, since otherwise tongues would have wagged and clattered. It had seemed to him, in the fair sun of that spring afternoon, beyond reach of a thunderous high tide but not beyond the reach of the spray, that Charity was almost happy, though not in the same way or to the same degree that he had been happy himself for some moments, even hours, in the past year....

Well, it would be no simple or pleasant thing, to tell Ben about Faith's marriage. Do it quickly, lightly, ready to go along with whatever mood took Ben at the news. Then later, maybe, the wedding could be described in—in harrumphitatis Reubencoribus. "I did endeavor, little Benjamin, to place my spirit in such posture as to snap up any unconsidered morsels of hymeneal sanctity that might be flipped my way when the good and just Eliphalet Hoskison re-entered that holy state in manly pride and a gingery-yallery weskit"—Revise! Leave out most of Hoskison; to Hell with Eliphalet Hoskison and the ivory buttons on that hemi-spherical weskit!—"but my chaste resolution, sir, was overruled, and barely indeed could I repress the cachinnations of a lewd nature and subsume the concupiscent, when my perspiring attention was led astray by observation of a touching yet not wholly tragical prodigy—prodigal tragedy—of nature. Nay rather, in these latter years I have come to regard it as a pastoral or even, mm-yas, a comical-historical-pastoral interlude, the which I will elucidate if you perpend. The dominie who wedded those twain was not, little Benjamin, a tall man, and on the top he was bald as a baby's bottom—for this I can summon witnesses if need arise. Now as he stood before us in the ultimate or perhaps the penultimate prayer, it was required of him to lower that benevolent denuded skull, and I did behold, advancing unto the pinkish radiance thereof, a small fly. A fly, sir, buffeted by the gathering winds of October and, I think, lonely. He circled the dull glow thrice, I saw it, and thrice flew away, and yet once more returned—drawn, do you see, to the services in spite of original and later sin—and circled a last time resisting the call, unrepentant, naughty in mortal pride and unredeemed, but in the end lit softly upon the holy ground. There did he scrub his forelegs, Benjamin, and listen, taking thereafter a few sprightly steps toward a certain silvery fringe, the which must have indicated to him: 'Thus far and no farther!' Strait is the gate and few that enter, mm-yas. Frustrated and remote indeed from a state of grace, he did flirt his saucy wings, and listen, and scrub his middle legs, and bravely attempt another region of the fringe where he was again baffled and cast down. Fiat justitia, ruat caelum! I watched him returning to the center, broken (as I thought) in spirit, not one of the elect yet loathing his sins and mourning after the pardon of them, but there most delicately—O Ben, Ben, as a fellow sinner I foresaw this and my bowels yearned for him—there most delicately did he lay down a mild brown memento of his presence as a representative of the secular arm. Thereat he shuddered but the act was done, ad majorem lignocapitis humani gloriam. He listened then as it were with an absent mind. He cocked his red head at me as we listened, and I knew then, Benjamin, I knew from the shameless manner of his conversation that mercy and salvation had passed him by. He sampled the pink surface with an heretical tongue and thought little of it. Lost even to the sense of decorum, he r'ared up behind and scrubbed his ultimate legs—furtively, however, you understand, like any other boy in church. And then at last (in fact at very long last) he rose up and buzzed away—relieved but not saved, not saved at all, by the resonance of an Amen."

Later. Mm-yas—much later, if at all....

He walked in the mist, no longer remembering but in the here-and-now, coming at length to the cottage, where he would have tapped on the window, but Amadeus Welland came to him across the lawn out of the mist. "I slept a while but was restless. A turn around the garden—sends me off sometimes. Is it one of his bad nights, Reuben?"

"Nay, not bad, in fact I thought him rather cheerful, as far as one can guess. I read to him, his usual Montaigne, and then a little from the Religio because he seemed to be listening and enjoying it. When Kate relieved me I think he was not far from sleep. Ah, how long, Amadeus?"

"No one could possibly say. I once knew the apoplexy to leave a woman quite motionless and yet alive for six years. Others go in a few moments, a few weeks. And there are remissions, don't forget. It's no mere word of comfort to say that he might recover his speech, even the use of his left side, or partial use. I've seen that happen. Or it might be that when he falls asleep tonight, or some night, he won't wake."

"He said once—if I rightly understood the words, but he was excited, trying too hard to speak, and so they were difficult—he said he could not die until Ben comes home."

"Well.... The mere thought of it might do much to keep him in this world a while. Nobody understands the power of the mind over the flesh—or ought I to say, over the rest of the flesh? Or the power of flesh over the mind. We don't know, we don't know."

"I know it is May, and a misty night."

"Yes, and thou art here."

"And I think I enjoy the misty nights, Amadeus, mm, even the nights when the moon's down as much as the others, and I've wondered why, and I think I know the reason. I enjoy them because I know that, while others are sometimes afraid of the dark, I am not. I can tell you, I can tell you surely, I'm not afraid of anything in nature. Am I speaking nonsense, I wonder? Why, before a lion my flesh would cringe and squeak, I don't doubt it, but somewhere, Amadeus, somewhere in here there's a part of me would hold calm and yield nothing even to the thought of mine own death."

"Have I not alway known that, in thee?"

"You have?"


"So again I learn something.... I'm tired."

"Come in then and rest."

"Yes, that's my wish," said Reuben, but he knelt and took Welland's hands and rested his forehead in the warmth of them.

"Art thou in need of me?"

"You've taught me how tomorrow is another region, so let it be—I'm not part of it tonight. I shall be forever in need of you."

"But there will be years...."

"When you die before me, a thing I do accept because I must, I shall be in need of you still, and will bear the need, and laugh sometimes, and work as you've taught me, and grow old—I swear I'm not afraid. I told my brother once I would sail with him to the Spice Islands. Where do children go, Amadeus?"

"Matthew, you may call me an old fart, you that's no bloody lamb yourself, but I can remember when I was a boy in Gloucester. More and more I remember it, the decent way of living there and the little houses—no easterly ever shook them houses, Matthew, tight to the ground the way they was, they a'n't got the wit to build no such way in Boston. Good, that it was. Eh, I remember that low-tide smell in my mother's kitchen, year 'round, call it a stink if you like, not me, you might say I was born to it. That was a good life—if a man could live Godfearing, not go whoring after strange inventions, listening at the Devil in his left ear."

"Oh, 'vast preaching, Joey, I got no heart for it."

"I a'n't preaching. Oons, I was only crowding thirteen when I first went on my father's sloop. We was to the Banks, good luck all the way, home with cod to the gun'ls. Weight of one more fish scale would've sunk her, my father said, and said it was me brung him the good luck. Me! That's a futtering laugh, that is, all the same he said it. I'll trouble you for that bottle.... Dried-up scarecrow, five good teeth in my head, you got to remember I was young one time.... I can't think how I ever come to listen at that man, and me a watchman, all done with the sea or should've been. Now don't betray me, Matthew Ledyard. Don't never let it out I said such a thing. I got no wish to die at his hand, and far from home."

"You look young now—being it's that dark a man can't see his fingers."

"Now that's not comical, Matthew, that's not kind.... Matthew."


"Moon'll be up in an hour.... What if we don't go back to the ketch?"

"You fool, he means to clear out of here on the morning ebb."

"I know that."

"Well? Orders was to row back no later 'n moonrise. It was a favor, to leave us stay on the beach this long so to stretch our legs and catch a nap off shipboard—knows we got a bottle too. He wants them water kegs no later 'n moonrise and the fruit too, though I can't say that's good for nothing but to make a great slosh into a man's belly, let 'em say it keeps off scurvy if they like, I won't eat the bloody muck and never had no scurvy.... Joey Mills, don't be more of a damn fool than you can avoid."

"A man could hide on this island. He'd maroon us—willingly."

"And him breaking his heart for a year because he's short-handed?"

"But Matthew, he's jumpy here as the Devil in a gale of wind. He's got no love for the Bahamas. Call him mad, but he means all he says. Could he get him another vessel good as Artemis—ha! Diana—and enough hands for safety, he'd be off and away after his daft dreams to the other side of the world. He'd hunt for us here, yah, but not long."

"Long enough to find your gandy-shank back'ard end sticking out of a bush and sink a hook in it. And we'd live on what? Fruit and clams?"

"I seen goat tracks back there a piece this afternoon."

"Luff, you bloody beggar! You're stern-heavy. Got your old arse spread to a following wind, let 'er freshen and down you go by the head. Tell you what he'd do. He'd say to that fat swine Tom Ball: 'Down!' he'd say, and down would Ball go on all fours and come rooting up the whole island for you like the hog he is."

"You sure to God hate that man, don't you?"

"Two gods he has, his belly and his other purse. Why wouldn't I? Wasn't it Ball mostly that set me against the Old Man? Begun it the day after we come into Boston last year, and now I know that him and Shawn was old friends reunited and Shawn had set him up to it, but then I thought Ball was an honest cod. Sought me out, he did—come to my house, drank up with me, praised the wife's cooking, things like that. And begun dropping little things in my ear to turn me against the Old Man. One evening he told me Cap'n Jenks laughed behind my back about my—my face, my mark. Lies, all lies, but it wasn't till it was far too late that I knowed it must be all lies, and Shawn set him up to it so to win me over to his God-damned venture. I could run a knife in Shawn, but that Tom Ball, he ought to be tried out in one of French Jack's kettles—slow, for the lard.... Suppose we don't go back to the ketch. Suppose we stayed alive, and sometime an honest ship took us off. You think there's any place in the world for us now? Boston? Gloucester? Can we go anywhere and not be hanged? Gi' me that bottle back."

"I was thinking of Virginia."

"Virginia, he says. Her Majesty's law don't reach there, ha? Why, word of Artemis will have gone all up and down the coast for a year."

"Maybe. Suppose.... If we got to go back to the ketch, suppose we might—do something?... Matthew, it come to me, that man Shawn made one big mistake in his bloody life."

"Keeping the Old Man alive?"

"Ay, that, but that a'n't what I meant. Sure, only a madman would have let Jenks live. Tell you something about that too, something I seen the other day when I was into the cabin to carry out slops. But the big mistake Shawn made was when he stole that boy. I'm old. I watch, I see things. They say you can't kill a witch but with a silver bullet. I tell you plain, if anyone ever does for Shawn, it won't be one of us."

"Why, that boy couldn't harm——"

"I know. Gentle as a May morning, and that's all you see. I see more. A'n't Shawn tried to break him for a year now? Make him over into something the Devil himself wouldn't own? Has he done it?—tell me that. A'n't I heard 'em talk together, devil and angel? I say, Matthew, some time, maybe soon, it'll come to life and death between them two, and I'm prophesying: it won't be Ben Cory that dies."

"It could be."

"I want you should take that back. Ben a'n't for dying."

"He a'n't even full-growed.... Ah, Christ, count him in then, and what could he and the two of us do, three against French Jack, and Ball, and Marsh, and Shawn himself?—not to say nothing of poor Dummy, that don't know nothing except the devil is kind to him? I'm a stout man. Break me in half with one hand, Dummy could, grinning like a dog the while he done it."

"Ben is kind to him."

"Ah? You think——?"

"I—don't know. But hark 'ee to this, Matthew: could somebody steal the key to that leg-chain and turn the Old Man loose——"

"God Almighty, who'll bell the cat? Don't the key hang on a cord at the devil's neck, and is it ever off him?... What was it you seen in the cabin, Joey?"

"Ah.... Only him, the Old Man, that ha'n't touched a drop the whole year long, and that devil keeping it ever at his hand—only him, not paying me no heed at all, I could've been a breath of wind in the cabin—only him, Matthew, lowering himself to his heels, slow, and then grabbing the table and pushing himself up, clean off the boards, chain and all, and down again, slow. Against the day, Matthew, against the day. Did he ever go within four foot of the end of that chain? Could three men, four men, ever hold the Old Man, if somebody was to steal the key?"

"He'd be match for three or four, grant you that. When it was over, you he'd only see hanged with time to pray, but he'd snap my neck with his own hands. I fit out them irons myself, Joey. I wouldn't wonder but I'll wear the like in Hell, if there be justice. Forty years honest, that's me. Nay, Lord, ha'n't I been in irons myself, my life long, with this purple face? Forty years honest, and Chips for seventeen of 'em—nine and more on the old Hera, seven on the Iris, eight months on the Artemis. I'm not counting this last year, she's the Diana, he'll break her heart like mine. Forty years honest—oh, I was in anger already at the Old Man for slights and curses a good sailor would've ignored, so I listened to Tom Ball, Shawn's pet hog, and then to Shawn himself, his singing tongue—listened in my anger and said I'd do it, and I did it. You think God forgives such a thing? I killed Hanson, shot him dead, never harmed me. You God might forgive, not me. I wish I was dead."

"Nay, Matthew, you old sod——"

"I mean it. I don't see why God didn't strike me down a year ago. I a'n't sunk yet, but the tiller's gone. Wa'n't Shawn broke it, it was me. I should've thought—why, should've hove to, but Christ, I let her broach, and the sea come over me, the tiller's gone, it's clean broke off. Anything in that bottle?... Sometimes it's on me to march into that cabin, say: 'Here, sir—that neck, you been wanting it.' He'd take it. With him loose, we might win back the ketch, grant you that. Then you for Copp's Hill and my neck cracked a mite sooner. Don't forget it."

"All the same, Matthew, it won't be the Old Man that does for Shawn. Nay, it won't be the Old Man."

Chapter Two

Driven by a southwest wind of the upper air that stirred as yet no breath here at the island, a cloud moved toward Polaris, and would conceal the star a while, and pass on. Ben heard no voice except of the sea, and that unconcerned with him, a hiss and groan of breakers on the beach, and somewhere, beyond the southern arm of the cove, a larger mourning as incoming waves lashed an outlying part of the island's body and fell away sighing.

The ketch now named Diana had been careened for scraping, a labor completed yesterday, wearisome in the sun. Comfortable again in the deep water of the cove, she rode at anchor, waiting on sunrise that should summon a breeze, and rouse the man who ruled her (if he ever slept) and send her out wherever his desire commanded. The tide would be running fair an hour after dawn.

Her shadow begotten of the May moon stretched long across the still surface, in nearness sharply edged, then vague, then melting in the blackness of open water far out. The May moon, approaching the full, would be illuminating the letters on the starboard side. If Ben leaned over the rail he could glimpse the black sprawl of them: DIANA. But Ben Cory still thought of her as Artemis.

This was one private way to keep alive the integrity of a self. Another was to inquire: Where does the self end and the universe begin?...

Manuel was aloft. Manuel loved sleep, and could sleep anywhere, he shyly told Ben once—even at the masthead. But his fawn eyes would likely be open at present, searching the harmless night. If he drowsed up there, or if Captain Shawn or the second mate Marsh merely imagined he had, Manuel would be whipped, and then obliged to swab away any red drops that might have spattered on the sacred deck. A year ago Shawn had been quite kind to stupid Manuel. That ended after Cornelius Barentsz of the sloop Schouven had been hanged, and Manuel had furtively tried to cut the body down from the yardarm.

However balmy the weather, however empty and flat the sea, a twenty-four-hour lookout must be kept on the Diana: Shawn's law. Even in harbor the men stood watch and watch, having learned not to grumble in the presence of Captain Shawn, who might seem not to hear the words at the time spoken, but would nurse them in his bosom a week or so, and bring them forth and quote them gravely while Ball or Marsh corrected them with a rope's end. The deck must shine spotless as a duchess's drawing room; the brass must be dazzling, the ropes coiled exactly so, and the powder dry.

Judah Marsh and the hunchback mute who possessed no name but Dummy were somewhere aft, idle as Ben. Marsh never invented work when nothing needed to be done. This was not from laziness, certainly not from any charity: human beings were simply not so important to Judah Marsh that he could derive much joy from dominating them. He executed Shawn's orders for punishment with satisfaction; the sight of Manuel bleeding deepened his fixed smile; but he seemed to find no pleasure in ordering big soft Manuel about and watching him fumble at meaningless tasks.

It was not in nature, Ben thought, that a creature could be devoid of all common impulses to mirth, compassion, generosity, recognizable lust, interest in his fellow men, and still walk about on two legs; but there Marsh was, unquestionably spewed up by the human race. Some man must have begotten the thing, some woman borne it in pain and maybe loved it a while. Marsh would not even eat like a man, but like a peevish dog, gulping the tedious food and returning to his one-eyed vacancy. For Daniel Shawn Ben had been obliged to learn hatred, a waiting, despairing hatred that even now might hold some tormenting elements of love or at least of searching. Before the stalking dead man Marsh, Ben could only recoil, watchful, glad that, except for the necessary rule of the starboard watch, Marsh let him alone.

Ben expected nothing to be required of him till after sunrise when the tide turned. Then it would be up anchor and away, if Shawn's intention held. It often changed. Shawn was in no triumph these days, after a year of frustration and trivial actions with nothing gained.

The tide should turn at about seven bells. The mate's watch would tumble up early to lend a hand at breaking out the anchor and making sail—unavoidable since, after a year, the ketch was still woefully undermanned. As always at such times, the mate Tom Ball would remind the men that better times were coming with the next prize—more hands, better food, another vessel maybe, riches to burn, and best of all probably a bit of amusement at the expense of the Spaniards and their women, say at Campeachy or Merida. They paid scant attention to that noise now when it came from Mr. Ball, though the mere word "money" gave Ball's thick Devon voice a special fruitiness as if the taste of it comforted him all the way down to the gut. ("Money is the thing, Ben boy," he said once with damp and genuine friendliness, pawing amiably at Ben's shirt. "Got gold, you got everything, take an older man's word for it—good food, good smocks, safe old age. Gi' me the money, other cods can have the glory." Then finding Ben's stare to be an incomprehensible cold lance, he grunted with the pained astonishment of a man who wants to be liked, and spat overside, and pushed his hands against the sides of his paunch to settle it better on the burdened pelvis, and waddled away.) Manuel might giggle at Ball's belching oratory, but French Jack would only shrug without chattering, and Matthew Ledyard's purple-stained face would freeze into a peculiar quiet. When Captain Shawn said nearly the same thing (without the women and Spaniards), standing tall in his green breeches and green sash, in that favorite spot of his where his left hand could stroke the larboard falconet while his other rubbed the copper farthing, they still listened. Or they seemed to. While pronouncing such words as "our company," "our enterprise," Shawn's splendid voice could briefly make it seem that the men gathered to hear him were indeed a company of some consequence, and not a tatterdemalion handful of sharkbait committed to the guidance of a lunatic dreamer.

Ben tried to lose himself in the tranquillity of black water out yonder, to make some temporary truce in the private struggle. A battle with arithmetic, in a way: how does one youth steal a vessel from seven grown men—not counting Manuel, who was rather less than a man?

Ledyard was a man; little Joey Mills had at least a memory of manhood. One or even both might be allies, if there were any way to reach Ledyard. But all year long, Ledyard had seldom acknowledged Ben with more than a grunt, a stare and a turning of the back. He offered no other unkindness; he merely made it plain that Ben's existence distressed him somehow, while chattering Joey Mills tried to explain to Ben that Matthew was a grieving man who meant no harm by it. Ledyard, Ben knew, was deeply involved in Shawn's declaration of war against the world. Ledyard had shot the mate Hanson and one of the seamen in the taking of Artemis. Ben could imagine how Matthew Ledyard might still cling to the thought of the new lands in the western sea, and might forget (sometimes) that if ever he arrived there his own conscience would arrive there with him, to speak with him in the night and burn down on him in the noonday sun.

Ben had grown acquainted with a saving reasonableness in the very monotony of shipboard, in the endless daily things that must be done for the vessel's survival and one's own, without much thought, certainly without argument. Not too unlike the labors of a frontier farm—but the earth can be kind, with many shelters for one in extremity. In the open sea you've only to glance over the rail, and understand.

There is another sort of reasonableness in the status of a slave. Maybe, Ben thought, most men accept a little of that status because they must: but when you begin to accept it willingly, you begin to die.

("Benjamin Cory, I would wait for you a thousand years....")

After eight bells, breakfast. Hardtack, and stew built on a wild slimy formula unknown to any mortal but French Jack, and a dark tragic fluid that Jack called café arabique. The stew originated in Bahaman goat and wild pig, shot by Ledyard and Ball not long ago but too long for comfort. Nothing remained of the good provisions taken in a midnight raid two months ago on a coastal settlement at Martinique. Shawn might try another such raid before long; if not, back to the salt cod.

Shawn had not even considered trying to dispose of that honest cargo of Mr. Kenny's at one of the Caribbean ports where he could have sneaked in to bargain with no questions asked. Tom Ball had urged him to do so, waving his stumpy arms, his voice climbing to a reckless howl of despair. Shawn merely grinned at his copper farthing, and let Tom sputter out like a fat candle, and then remarked that one day soon they might be most happy to own such a handy supply of dem'd wonderful fish. Ben Cory had never regarded himself as a poet, but he thought sometimes that if he ever saw home again, there was one original composition that he could recite to Reuben in a decent glow of authorship. It went like this:

Old boiled cod.
O God!

As for the café arabique, Captain Shawn had been heard to say that he supposed Jack made it from a secret crock of hog manure hidden in the hold. Ben more charitably suspected an infusion from scraps of old leather salvaged maybe on the field of Blenheim.

Red-haired Jack claimed to have fought gloriously there under the banners of Marshal Tallard until the surrender, when a great light burst around him, and God told Jack that Louis the Fourteenth was no mortal king but an incarnation of the fiend Asmodeus who cut up little girls and ate them. Well—Jack could have been at Blenheim; far more likely he wasn't. Peter Jenks, captain in 1705 of the ship Iris, had happened on French Jack in Barbados, and being in sore need of a cook, had signed him on, with Jenks' usual massive disregard of authorities and formalities—Jack doubtless had the status of a prisoner of war, but he was somehow at large on the island, he seemed to be declaring that he knew how to cook, and that was good enough for Jenks. ("I say to dat captain, I am so big man, so good man, me, I am coq du village, coq de la paroisse, me. He say strong, 'You coq?' I say coq, he not know nut'n, nor me not more. I fool, I crazy, me—he big fool, strong crazy, go to hell.")

Somewhere, before then, Daniel Shawn might have known the man. At any rate French Jack, as well as Ball and the carpenter Ledyard, had been a part of Shawn's conspiracy. When Shawn took Artemis by deceit in broad daylight, it was French Jack who loomed up behind Peter Jenks with a capstan bar and struck him down.

Ben could still see that—Jenks reeling, clutching at the mizzenmast, missing it and going down—as almost a year ago he had seen it in reality across a gap of shining water, the sunlight of that May sparing Ben nothing of it as he writhed at the rope that held him and gnawed the gag in his mouth. Everything had been well planned that day, in the clear Atlantic, the island of Nantucket just over the rim of the world. If Ben had been able to struggle free, a scream of warning would likely have done no good: Jenks was down. The strangely methodical skirmish came to an end with the prim grace of a minuet—but that was no dance, that shifting and interweaving of pigmy man-figures over there in the sunlight. That was plain murder, like the death of Dyckman.... Then Manuel lashed the tiller of the sloop and came to Ben, removing gag and rope, patting his hands, troubled in his soft way by Ben's unhidden loathing, but grinning with a dazzle of white teeth and explaining: "Iss good, got ship now. All be ver' rich, much gold, much women. You like women, boy, so pretty? You like gold?..."

Very shrewdly planned, even to the tarpaulin spread over Ben and covering him up to the eyes.

The sloop from Harkness' wharf had stolen a long time without lights through the depth of a May night until fog closed in around her. Then she crept on most gently, slowly, under mainsail and jib, head on to a leisured march of smooth rollers, her captain aware that Artemis would be fogbound too. Ben had known nothing of that. Ben was asleep.

He woke late that morning, his head throbbing wildly, in the stench of a dark hole in a universe which was swaying impossibly back and forth, and from side to side too, with a grand inexorable calm. In this pocket of dimness he found he was alone with a human-like thing that could bob its misshapen head, and grin, but not speak. He dimly remembered this creature from some faraway evening: it was harmless. Steps led out of the cavity to a grayness of daylight. The cavity—oh, it was harmless too, it was the tiny cabin of a sloop, one that Mr. Shawn had been hired to sail to the Banks for somebody named Harkness, all fair enough. But why, Ben wanted to know, why was she at sea now, and why was his head one great blind snarl of pain? Toward the daylight he reeled, asking questions. Up in wet salt air, he learned that everything was gray—under him a gray sliver of deck, above him muttering and sobbing canvas gray with damp, before him a shaft of gray wood—that was a solid mast, harmless, and he grabbed it frantically to save himself as gravity dropped away from his feet, and he could see all around him one heaving gray of ocean to the end of the world. Behind him a cackling voice inquired: "Mr. Shawn, sir, Mr. Shawn—be that there thing a sailor?"

"Why, steady as she goes, Joey Mills! I shall make it one, Mother of God, and you kissing his boots one day."

Ben forced himself around. In the act he lost the mast somehow, the sloop gravely but mirthfully tossing his feet elsewhere. He fetched up against the larboard rail and grasped it with all his power, retching. The cackler was another mass of gray, small, hunched at the tiller, an old man and shriveled, who observed Ben's situation with an uncommunicating, not unfriendly eye, and cackled again and spat astern.

Shawn—the same Shawn and somehow not the same—was coming forward, the green coat flapping about him as he swayed with perfect casual ease to the sloop's leaning and rise and fall. "Your head'll be paining you, Beneen, I know it and sorry I am for it, but without a bit of persuasion you'd never have consented to come with old Shawn at all, I could see that, the way I was forced to it entirely. O the poor landside dreams that do hold a man, the pull of a hearthstone and the clutch of women! You're free, Beneen—old Shawn hath set you free. Never you mind all that now. Back below, man dear, and tell Dummy I said to give you a jolt of rum. You'll not be standing watch the day. Tomorrow you shall, beginning with the forenoon watch, that'll be eight o'clock of the morning the way you measured time in the old days, man dear, the old days you was a landsman, but now you go with Shawn, now you go with old Shawn that knows the brave heart of you, and that better than you'll be knowing it yourself, now that's no lie."

The Irishman was virtually singing. It penetrated the whirling agony of Ben's head—a little. He mumbled uncomprehendingly, not understanding with his brain, but understanding the event in his marrow maybe as clearly as he had ever done in the year since then. Shawn watched him, smiling, firm on the crazy deck like a weighted doll: let the world swing upside down, that'll stay upright, no fear. "It was the drinks. You drugged me," said Ben, not believing it, praying for denial.

"Ben, go below!" Shawn said that firmly but softly, not unkindly, and moved away forward in rolling ease, the green back vanishing beyond the mainsail, the dark riddle of him immediately replaced by the black riddle of someone else. This also Ben would not believe, this gaunt thing striding aft, its black eye-patch and its frozen smile. With no effort, the one-eyed man of the Lion Tavern detached Ben's hands from the rail. "Captain said go below," said Judah Marsh, and struck him in the face.

Ben tumbled sprawling into the cabin. There Dummy supported him kindly and fed him rum. There, presently, Ben understood how Jan Dyckman had died. He began, a little, to understand why.

The gray haze of that day wore itself out to evening with no questions answered except in the privacy of Ben's mind, and those without finality. Rain was falling when he went on deck again. The headache was receding, his body learning balance. He could not find the sun that would have told him what way the sloop was bound. Now and then Shawn passed him on the deck as if totally unaware of him. No one indeed acknowledged his existence at all except a bulky black-haired man, smooth-faced and young, who grinned at him in vacuous amiability. The others called that man Manuel. But when Ben dared to ask him: "Where are we bound?" Manuel shrugged and grinned and spread his hands, and shook his head until Ben feared he might be another mute, and then said at last: "Rain stop soon."

Manuel was right. Toward evening the drizzle ended, the overhanging clouds receded, and a white ball appeared—low in the sky and standing, as Ben faced the bow, on Ben's right hand. Manuel at that time was at the helm, and Shawn stood near him, arms folded, disdaining any support. He had been gazing off to the southwest, but now, since the blue-eyed stare had swung around to Ben, Ben asked: "Mr. Shawn, are we tacking?"

Shawn cocked his head at Manuel in some understanding, and Manuel grinned. "Now why would we be tacking, Beneen?"

Ben's nerves crackled and snapped. "Don't call me that!"

"I may not then?" Shawn displayed no anger, though Ben had almost hoped for it. The blue eyes dilated a little, perhaps in hurt, but he did not cease smiling. "Well—well, Cory, why would we be tacking, and a good little westerly breeze on the sta'board quarter that do be sending us where we wish to go?"

"And where is that?"

"Why, tomorrow, Cory, I fear you'll see little except water—a great deal of it—but you'll see tacking enough if that's your wish, and you'll be learning something about the handling of sail on small craft in the forenoon watch, I'm hoping, and later. And now and then, man dear, away far off up in the northwest or sometimes due north, you'll find me a wee blue lump on the horizon—why, so faint and small that sometimes your eyes will say it's not there at all, but it'll be there. And it'll be there the following day, and maybe the day after that, for we'll be standing off and on. Now that's a way of waiting, Cory, that's the way a vessel must wait if she's in the open waters and biding her time for a certain thing to happen—it's the way of a hawk in the air, if you like, the way he must move about continually up there in the great sky, biding his time for a certain thing to happen." He was coming to Ben, and his broad hands fell heavy on Ben's shoulders. The blue stare dilated to black; Ben met it, refusing to shrink away. "That blue lump will be an island, Cory, a sprawling island where it happens I've never gone ashore, but I know how it lies. I'm of no mind to go there on my errand, do you see, because on land—why, on land I'm compassed about, I have enemies, Mother of God, and some of them are agents of—puh!—Her Majesty Queen Anne."

"What's that you say?"

"Easy, Cory, easy! You have a new allegiance. That I will explain later, not now."

"I have no new allegiance."

"Later, friend, I said. The name of the island is Nantucket. Now sooner or later—on the second, the third day, it doesn't matter—a lovely small vessel will put out from Sherburne. We shall speak her, the island then being over the horizon."

"I think I understand your meaning," Ben said. "I think I understood it when that murderer struck me in the face."

"I'm hoping he did not harm you," said Shawn mildly. The eyes were altogether black; the smile remained. "No murderer, Ben. He acted at command of a certain voice—more of that later too, you wouldn't be understanding it now. As for striking you—mere shipboard discipline, Cory. You might be thanking him for that one day, when you've come around to learning how to obey a captain's orders."

"If I understand your meaning, I will have no part of it."

"Can you walk on water? Swim among the fishes?"

"That's not worth an answer," said Ben, and he heard Manuel suck in his breath as if in pain, but would not look his way. "I met you last night in friendship. I came aboard here, and drank with you as a friend because I supposed you to be one. Oh, my brother...."

"Your brother?"

Terror stabbed at Ben, and caution gave him wisdom. He had almost said: "My brother was right, and you no friend." It was possible that some day Shawn would be ashore again, where Reuben was. "Nothing about my brother," said Ben—"merely that he told me I ought not to set my heart on sailing, as I did. I told you how I had hoped for it, and you knew last night, you know this moment that I meant it honest—not this, not this—I say I'll never have no part of it."

"But," said Shawn peacefully, "I must have an answer to what I asked. Do you wish to live?"

"Yes, like any man. Not at cost of betraying my own people or doing what my heart refuses."

"Why, that's very bravely spoken."

"You thought I'd help you take Artemis?"

"Oh," said Shawn, and took out the copper coin and frowned at it. "Who's to know all the whims of a green boy?"

"Whims, Mr. Shawn? Well, not that or any other dirty piracy."

"Oh!" said Shawn again, and held up the coin, turning it about in the gray light. His forehead was damp, perhaps from the spray. "A St. Patrick farthing, Beneen. From Dromore. Sometimes I'm wondering why I keep it. Not much there, ha, to make a man think of the green land?... Well, you'll forget you said that—in time, time. Your heart, is it? And so, do you see, it's your heart I must teach. I must change it, the way you'll be breaking the old bonds and will sail with me to the new lands. Time—that's all. The old gray mother'll give you the truth of it, and I'll change your heart."

"That no one can do."

"But I can," said Shawn, and strode away smiling....

Artemis was overtaken on the third day.

The weather shone fair, the winds themselves giving Shawn their favor, mild westerlies holding, shifting on the third day a little toward the northwest. The island, as Shawn had said, was a faraway thing, at times not visible, reappearing as the blue fragment of a dream. It was early morning, and Shawn, fortunate in this too, had tacked well away to the southeast of the island when the clean white of new sail first appeared. Shawn needed only a moment's study through his glass. His face, that had been smiling, changed to an ivory stillness, and he took the helm.

Artemis, gliding out of Sherburne, had clapped on all sail—jib and topsail and mainsail bellying taut, her fore-and-aft mizzen a great wing of purpose and of splendor. For her the northwesterly was a following wind, not her best wind but good enough; her low-slung bowsprit leaned joyfully to the sparkle of harmless whitecaps, outward bound.

Shawn's little sloop danced about, settling into the long starboard tack; it would intercept the course of Artemis—but not until the island was well below the horizon, and none to observe but the gulls that still dipped and wheeled above and around Artemis, careless angels in the sun. Shawn gave one order in one roared word: "Judah!"

It must have all been arranged long beforehand. Ben at that moment was trying to understand a snapped order from Judah Marsh. Trim something or other—he hadn't quite heard or understood, and was undecided whether to obey as he had tried to do yesterday or to choose this time for hopeless rebellion. Startled by that thunder from the helm, he turned his head to glance at Shawn—and was face down on the deck, his hands wrenched behind him and bound fast at the wrists. His threshing legs were secured at knees and ankles. The creature Dummy was doing most of this, as Ben knew from the moaning slobber at his ear.

He was tied then at the foot of the mast, by back and ankles, legs bent under him so that he could not lift his knees, a rag jammed in his mouth, a tarpaulin flung over him up to the eyes. He struggled a while, not in hope, merely in refusal to surrender, and dislodged the tarp. Judah Marsh noticed this, and fastened two corners of the canvas behind the mast. Ben could do nothing then but go limp, trying to lessen the torture of bent legs and keep the edge of the tarpaulin from slipping against his eyelids. He faced the starboard rail. He could glimpse Artemis from time to time as the sloop rolled. She grew larger through the morning.

He saw the sloop's dory readied to go overside, long before Artemis was in hailing distance, the life aboard her only a motion of midgets. Dummy, swift and excited as an ape, tossed into the dory a broad sheet of canvas. Judah Marsh and dry little Joey Mills climbed into the dory and disappeared. They would be a bundle under a rag; Ben ceased to wonder....

"Ahoy the Artemis!"

"Hoy!" The answer came back large and brazen over the mild water, Jenks with his megaphone no midget now but recognizable, massive at the rail and calm.

"I'm bearing a message from Mr. John Kenny of Roxbury."

Ben tried to yell. Nothing penetrated the gag—a strangled gurgling that would not be audible ten feet away. He gave it up, hearing a part of Jenks' answer: "—'bliged to you. Let me have it."

"A sealed message, sir—must be delivered to you safe hand, says he, no other way. Will you heave to, sir? I'll send me boat and delay you as little as I may."

The heavy clang of Captain Peter Jenks' voice cursed once or twice amiably for the record, and consented.

Shawn was right. He delayed Artemis very little indeed.

Her shortened sail holding her to a crawl, the sloop was rolling more. Her rising starboard side would close away Ben's view, and then it seemed to him, not that his own bound body was being moved, his eyes turned in spite of him to the sun and empty sky, but that the sharp bright field of agony across the water had been thrust down, rejected and overwhelmed: sea and sky would not own it nor allow it. He supposed he was not quite sane. Then with each contrary roll the vision would return, plainer than ever, and he was sane enough.

Printed on his memory was a moment when Shawn and Jenks stood together on the deck of Artemis in what seemed to be innocent palaver, the megaphone dangling idly from Jenks' hand, while the dory with Dummy at the oars was sliding astern—and then a roll of the sloop to larboard. Another moment—why, Jenks and Shawn had hardly moved, and Ben could recognize fat Tom Ball, and the carpenter Matthew Ledyard—but the dory had been made fast. Three rats like men were climbing. Surely the helmsman could see them! Or the red-haired man—yes, but what the devil was the cook doing on deck at a conference of captains, and with something black hanging from his right hand? Another roll to larboard—the sloop in her whimsy hung there, tormenting him through a time of sunny blindness and no breathing.

Then Ben discovered why the red-haired cook was present. The same glance embraced the helmsman—anyway a human creature wearing a green kerchief around his head such as the helmsman had been wearing—tumbling strangely from the stem of the beautiful slow-gliding vessel, striking the water with no great splash, floating briefly with no struggle as of life, and disappearing. The sloop rolled to larboard.

Ben in the sunlight could remember Reuben in the red gleam of burning houses, stricken and condemning himself because he had not prayed. And I have not prayed. But—but....

From the pain in his legs or the beating sun, Ben might have fainted for a while. Later he could recall no more of the dance of death; nothing until he was aware of the dory skimming back toward him, no one in it but Judah Marsh. Manuel came to release him.

Marsh troubled himself with nothing aboard the sloop, not even the sails; his only errand was to bring the dory for Ben and Manuel, and herd them into it with the lash of a word or two. Manuel was obliged to drop Ben into it, his legs being still numb and useless.

An hour later, as Artemis sped southward, the sloop was still visible, yawing this way and that, making poor silly rushes downwind, dropping in a trough and swinging until caught aback. When Ben last glimpsed her, he and Manuel and Dummy were employed in holystoning the deck of Artemis, and Manuel laughed to see her, and nudged Dummy so that he might enjoy it too, even though Judah Marsh was standing by with a belt. Very comical was Mr. Harkness' sloop stumbling about back there, a puzzled pup ordered to go home. Ben could see that. To protest this present labor was to receive the buckle end of the belt; Ben could see that such a cause was not worth a protest—any deck should be made decent, one granted that. The stains were already browning in the sun, difficult to remove, but Captain Shawn would not gather his crew to hear, approve and sign the articles until that deck was clean....

"We here gathered, who have hereunder set our names, do declare ourselves prepared to undertake all such enterprises of discovery as our Captain shall design, and all acts of seizure, search, requisition, defense and warfare that may be needful thereto.

"We here and now and forever forswear all allegiance to any crown, republic, dominion, principality on the face of the earth.

"We here and now and forever swear loyalty unto one another, and to our Captain obedience in all things, and unto the following laws we do agree:

"1. That man that shall refuse any order of our Captain, or of those to whom he may assign command, shall for a first offending receive Moses' Law, that is forty stripes less one on the bare back; for second offending his punishment shall be as the Captain may direct; but for a third offending he shall suffer present death.

"2. Of prizes taken, the Captain shall have one share and a quarter; the mates, the gunner, the carpenter and the boatswain shall have each one share and one eighth; and every man one share; but that man that shall display devotion beyond the common unto our endeavors, he shall have such additional reward as the Captain may decide.

"3. That man that shall utter blasphemy or foul speech in the presence of the Captain, or suffer any filth or uncleanness to remain on the deck of the vessel or in the hold, shall receive ten stripes.

"4. That man that shall snap his arms, or smoke tobacco in the hold with pipe uncapped, or carry a lit candle without a lanthorn, or strike flint or carry flame within three paces of gunpowder except he be the gunner, shall receive not less than twenty and not more than thirty stripes on the bare back.

"5. That man that shall offer to meddle with a prudent woman without her consent shall suffer the loss of his tongue and both hands, and shall be set adrift, or marooned, as the Captain may direct.

"6. That man that shall secretly bring a lewd woman aboard this or other vessel of our company, with intent she shall remain aboard, the vessel being at sea, shall be bound to his doxy by wrists and ankles and they both be cast into the sea beyond sight of land.

"7. That man that shall be found in liquor during his hours of duty or in the presence of an enemy, shall receive Moses' law for three succeeding days; but for a second offending he shall suffer death.

"8. That man that shall display cowardice in battle shall be hanged by the neck from the yardarm until dead.

"9. That man that shall practise the vice of Sodom or other unnatural lust shall be hanged by the neck from the yardarm in presence of the entire company, his body there to remain for the space of three days, when it shall be quartered and cast into the sea.

"10. If it shall become known that any man, woman or child hath entered aboard this or other vessel of our company as a spy or agent of the Crown of England or any other foreign power, such spy or agent shall be put to death in whatever manner the Captain shall direct; but if such spy or agent be one who hath signed these articles and presented himself to be an honest member of our company, he shall before his dispatch be nailed by the hands to the foremast for the space of five days without meat or drink.

"This shall be your Decalogue," said Daniel Shawn, "and you agreeing. And yet if any man among you be not agreeable, I do not rightly know what we shall do with him the day, seeing I cannot spare a boat, and the distance to the mainland may be something tedious to the best of swimmers."

They laughed. All seven, even Judah Marsh, for the dry grunt that came from him was certainly meant for a laugh. The laugh of Tom Ball, who had taken over the helm during the ceremony, rolled forward like greasy bubbles. Ben Cory, an eighth man who stood apart from the group by the larboard gun and had not been summoned by Shawn to join them, was reflecting that though the life of his body might continue for a while, the part of it that had known laughter was surely ended; reflecting also that his presence here was, in part and obscurely, a result of his own actions. Drugged and kidnapped, yes, but ever since the morning when Reuben had spoken out against Shawn, some part of Ben had understood that his brother was right; another part, swift to deny it, had been stronger in him at the time, and so—so the drinks in the cabin of the sloop, and the waking.

And so perhaps a man's every act is but in part his own, in part a yielding to the thrust of other forces. And perhaps a man is strong in just so far as his actions may be called his own; and so—little gray Joey Mills had begun to sputter words, no one preventing him—and so where is the way where light dwelleth? "Gawd, sir, that part there—I mean——"

"What part, Joey Mills?" Shawn asked that not loudly, and he spread the paper against the bulk of the mainmast, his left hand restraining it against the breeze. Manuel stood by him holding an inkstand and goose quill from the cabin. So much, Ben thought, for the fireside legends that such documents were signed with the heart's blood. Or maybe they were. "Some article you wished to question, Joey Mills?"

"Oh no, sir, nothing like that, sir. I only thought—that there part about forswearing allegiance—well, sir——"

"You wished it more strongly expressed, belike?"

"Well, sir, you see, sir——"

"Ah, I have it!" Shawn beamed in a great glow of generous satisfaction. "You're not the big man, Joey Mills, though sure it's the heart of a gamecock under your old hide, so do you make yourself the greater by coming forward now and being first to sign, ha? Come, Joey! Let me behold your handwrite plain and large!"

Ben noticed no tremor in the grimy fist. That might have been because Joey Mills clutched the quill like a rope, his whole arm toiling in the grave task of shaping the letters, his tongue protruding from clamped lips, his brows a cat's cradle of distress, while Shawn's right arm spread kindly over his sparrowy shoulders. "There, sir! And now, sir——"

"Whisht, man!—time to speak of all things, but now you've signed, and happy am I to have your pledged word in writing, but now, man dear, you must step aside for others."

Joey Mills gave it up and stumbled away, his glance meeting Ben's rather wildly. He seemed almost to be imploring Ben, of all people, for something or other, an impression soon blotted out by a weakly apologetic chuckle. As Joey Mills then scuttled aft to relieve Tom Ball at the helm, Ben thought of Jesse Plum....

Matthew Ledyard the carpenter, last to join the group, had stalked forward—from the captain's cabin, Ben thought—and had halted, demoralized with astonishment at sight of Ben. Ben had supposed Ledyard was murdered with the others, yet there he stood in the sunlight, gaunt face flushed to the eyes under the broad birthmark, lips moving without words. Shawn had drawn him aside for a word or two that seemed to calm him. He had listened to the articles with a sleepwalker's gaze at nothing, and now was the second to sign, shaking his head afterward like a man who hopes to understand something sometime but cannot do so in the present.

After him came Manuel and Dummy and French Jack, these three guided by Shawn's hand to make their marks, and he wrote their names for them with amiable flourishes. Tom Ball then signed, a remarkable lightness and delicacy in his fat fingers.

Judah Marsh wrote slowly but steadily with a savage gouging, his writing a pattern of cutlass gashes. Shawn took the quill from him, regarding the point in sorrow and the man who had nearly ruined it. Some current of understanding was flowing between them, no affection in it and no mirth. Shawn signed his name, handsome and large and bold, pocketed the folded paper, and flung the quill dartwise over the side. "Stay as you be, men," he said—"we'll choose the watches presently." He jerked his head for Ben to follow him, and went forward to the bow, leaning there idly at the rail, the wind at his back. "Cory, I did not require you to sign. Men go with me of their own will, one way or another."

"And so I'm to go overboard?"

"You seem not to be shaking.... I've not been so instructed."

"Instructed?—I don't understand you."

"Never mind. Time, time."

"We are strangers, Mr. Shawn, who never met before. You could have forced my hand to take the quill, maybe. I'd never sign such a thing any other way, and I will not serve you on this venture." Shawn's face did not change. "Are the others all dead?"

Shawn watched the ocean in the south. "Several died and no help for it," he said quietly. "Peter Jenks lives—not harmed, I dare say. A thick skull. He'll share my cabin for a while at least."


Shawn laughed, not musically but almost soundlessly, a thing Ben had not seen him do before. "Under restraint, Ben. Like all good vessels, Artemis, who must now be named Diana, carries irons for malefactors. I have had Chips staple a chain in the floor of the cabin for the leg irons. Unpleasant, but I'm obliged to question Mr. Jenks in certain particulars. Then no doubt he can be released."

"Released to go overside."

"Time, Ben, time. And so you will not serve me?"

"I will not."

"I like that stubborn will. Mother of God, what a power of strength it might be when you're a man!... Ben, those fellas back there, they are servants. Good men—chose 'em with much thought—but servants, cattle. You are not as they."

"If I did you any service aboard this vessel of Mr. Kenny's I'd be no better than they are."

But it seemed impossible for Ben to make Shawn angry. The man continued strangely gentle and reflective in all he said. "I grant I may have done Mr. Kenny some harm, but he's a wealthy man." About to protest that Mr. Kenny would be so no longer with Artemis lost, Ben held his peace. "I do regret it. If you will not serve me—as yet—perhaps you will serve the ketch? A vessel hath many needs, Mr. Cory. An idle or unskillful hand may do her much harm, come tempest or other misfortune. You cannot expect to share in any prizes——"

"Do you fancy I ever would?"

"Shall we hope to soften this Puritan virtue to some degree?"

But Shawn was not at all angry. "I say, you cannot share in prizes, but while aboard you will be fed and clothed like the others, and for this perhaps you might make some return in labor, if only for Artemis' sake?"

"I suppose I must, as a captive slave, if I wish to live. But I will do no act of piracy, I will do no violence to anyone except in defense of my life, and I will escape you when I can. I believe any slave has that privilege."

"Then I'll require of you no act of violence, only the labor of a foremast hand—can I say more? You have my word on it. And tell me something—have you ever spoken in this fashion to any man before?"

"I never did. I never had cause."

"Knowing quite well that by a lift of my finger I could have you put to death? Human life is nothing to these men, you know. And there'll be muttering a-plenty because you haven't signed."

"Knowing that, of course."

Shawn's hand swung out and gripped Ben's upper arm, not with intentional cruelty, Ben guessed, but he could feel the nerves of his forearm going numb. "Ben, Ben, do you not also hear a voice, sometimes behind your shoulder as it were?—saying now for instance, 'Resist old Shawn, resist him even if you die for it!'" Shawn shook him impatiently. "Is there not such a voice?"

"I don't understand you."

"Tell me the truth!"

"I hear my own mind—heart, conscience, whatever you wish to call it. It serves me as well as it may, and I listen to it."

"Strange! You are not a believer, I think? Do you pray?"

"I haven't truly prayed since my father and mother were murdered.... Is not conscience enough?"

Shawn released him and sighed and turned away. "You spoke of slavery. Ah, Beneen, don't you see, all this is but prologue? I serve a great end. I spoke to you of the western sea and the new lands, and I did see the thought strike fire in you, don't try to deny it. Why, I'd not go on the account, nor meddle with this rabble, nor do violence to anyone, if I could help it. Mother of God, two or three fine ships, a handful of brave men, say fifty, sixty—it needs no more. We need no women—we'll take us native women in the new lands and raise up a new breed of men, and they shall be like gods. You must see it, Beneen, the way I have no choice?"

"I do see—as my father and my mother taught me, as I learned from my tutor and my great-uncle, and above all from my brother, whose understanding is better than mine—I do see, Mr. Shawn, that you cannot serve a good end by evil means."

"Ochone!—a Puritan indeed but very young, now that's no lie. I know that talk, that doctrine, Ben, know it of old, a stick to beat the young and no truth in it, and so I deny it altogether."

"I will affirm it while I live. Damnation, Mr. Shawn, it's no article of faith, only a plain observation any man can make. Your great end lies in the future, but the future grows from the present. The evil you do in the present can only generate evil in the future and not the good end you dream of."

"Puritan and philosopher! Now I have seen flowers growing from a dunghill."

"They grow from the seed of other flowers and would do so in common ground. The dunghill itself only makes a stink."

"Feeds them, does it not?"

"I dare say nothing's purely good or purely evil. What's good in the dunghill feeds them, the rest is a stink."

"Damn the thing, blind and stubborn as you are, I like you, Ben Cory.... Do you play chess?"

"A little."

"I found a set of men in the cabin. We must play now and then."

"If you like...."

"Nothing left then, Beneen, of the friendship I hoped there was between thee and me?"

"I don't know how to answer that. I don't see how there can be friendship if one man enslaves another, if one man does what another must hate and reject."

"You're very bitter, boy."

"I don't possess my own life, if it can be destroyed at your whim, a lift of your finger. I think his life is all any man owns. I think that's cause for bitterness, Shawn. I refused as soon as I understood, the first day. There've been three nights when you could have stood in to shore and let me swim for it." Shawn laughed a little, silently. "I know—you couldn't have me spreading word of you. And it's true, I would have done so at once."

Shawn said slowly: "I could not destroy your life, I think. I spoke as if I might, only in hope of persuading you, opening your eyes. I keep you with me for the same reason, now that's no lie. The friendship abides in me, though you've turned against me. And now you have my word on this: when I have won my little fleet, and my men, and am ready for the regions where none will follow me, I will be finding some means to set you free, and you still unwilling to go with me. I'll put you aboard some other ship, or leave you in a foreign port if I can. You have my word on it—yet I think you may go with me. And for the present I do be asking nothing of you but a seaman's labor, no violence. No violence, Beneen."

Ben knew somehow that, even in that moment, when brown stains were still visible on the deck in spite of all the scrubbing and washing down, Shawn's sorrow at Ben's rejection of him was quite real, quite honest and deep, and so was his belief that Ben's mind would change and that he himself could change it. A most divided man, who could condemn war and practice it. One could picture him sheltering a fallen nestling in his hand, while his heel pressed on the bloody corpse of one of his own breed. But Ben was forced to understand after a while that such insane division is not, by most men, called insanity. They call it necessity.

For a year now, Shawn had kept his word. No violence was required of Ben. When action approached, as it did hardly more than a dozen times in the whole year, Ben was tied, not cruelly, down in the forecastle, and saw only the aftermath.

It seemed to Ben now as he watched the tropic glory of the May moon—this fading slowly, for morning was not far away—that it was true enough, as was said in the Book of Proverbs: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he—and maybe, Ben speculated, any madman is merely one who believes a thing which the one who names him mad is forced to call a lie.

Shawn's blunders in chess were of a curious kind. Ben could beat him as a rule, with effort, and Shawn took it graciously except for a compulsion to curse at his own mistakes. Ben was reminded each time (but did not say) how Reuben could have given the man a handicap of a rook or better and still have beaten him in fourteen or fifteen moves. Shawn would prepare a good enough attack—squatting by the board in the sunlight of the quarterdeck, on days of small wind when the Diana held an even keel and no work needed to be done—and he would be cheerful in the beginning, a little excited, humming in his teeth, moving his pieces with a mirthful flourish. One could not think of him then as anything but a kindly, humorous, thoughtful man, almost a young man, a man on holiday. But in the decisive moment, when he must push through the attack or be damned to it, the humming would cease, the copper farthing would appear in his fingers, and Shawn would either abandon the attack for some meaningless scrimmage in another part of the field, or make one of his blatant errors—a piece left hanging unprotected, a reckless sacrifice gaining nothing. After that, Ben's limited knowledge was sufficient to demolish him. Daniel Shawn would never seem to understand just how this had happened, and Ben did not tell him.

The Diana won no big prizes in that year of prowling up and down the Caribbean. True, she was woefully undermanned, reason enough for risking no lives on anything less than a flat certainty. All the same (said Judah Marsh in Ben's hearing), John Quelch would not have chased a French sloop for three days and then turned tail merely because the little rascal put about in despair and uncovered a gun she shouldn't have possessed. Shawn heard that too, and stared blankly at Marsh, rubbing the coin, until Marsh turned away; but Shawn turned away too, without a reply.

There were braver occasions, such as the breathless evening in July when the sloop Schouven died. That was an open battle with everything risked. Tied securely in the stifling forecastle, Ben could hear as much for himself—the coughing thunder above him of the Diana's larboard gun, presently a distant animal howling, a banging of small arms, a piercing squeal like a stuck pig that was French Jack's war cry. When Ben was released to come on deck the Schouven was already afire, the Diana leaving her behind in the gathering night. Tom Ball and Dummy and Jack were gaudily bleeding from minor wounds, but the Diana had lost nothing. She had won about fifty pounds in silver, a month's provisions, a little long-tailed black monkey and a man—a tall, gray, soft-spoken scoundrel, Cornelius Barentsz, who was even then scrawling his name on the Diana's articles with Shawn's blessing. The terrified monkey clung frantically to Dummy and found a friend....

Ben saw little of Barentsz, who spoke almost no English and was assigned to Mr. Ball's watch, relieving French Jack of his occasional double duty for a week or so until Barentsz was hanged. Ben never altogether understood that. The execution was carried out with no ceremony in the silent hours of the first watch, when Ben was asleep below. Manuel at that time was serving on the larboard watch, and Joey Mills on Marsh's watch with Ben; the two changed places after the hanging, at the request of Mr. Ball, who said he didn't wish to be tempted to do violence to the dirty Portagee when the ketch was so short-handed. It was Matthew Ledyard, in one of his rare impulses to communication, who snarlingly explained the incident to Ben. Barentsz had been discovered in the darkness of the first watch trying to embrace poor giggling weakwitted Manuel like a woman. The articles of the Diana were specific. A week later, though, after the body had been disposed of in the manner prescribed, Shawn asked in the middle of a chess game: "Do you know the true reason why that Dutchman was hanged?" And he set down a Bishop where it could not legally go.

"The piece can't be played there," said Ben.

"Ha?" Shawn stood abruptly and pushed the board aside with his foot. "Devil with the game, my mind's not on it." He had already made his blunder. "You heard my question?"

"I can't say I know the true reason for anything you do."

"I did not hang him, Ben. His destiny hanged him. Nor I don't make much of poor Manuel trying to cut the body down, for 'tis Manuel's destiny to remain weak in the wits and no harm in him, except he may be used for harm by others. But—ah well, 'tis true enough what I told the men, I did find Barentsz so, and I'll have no such Devil's foulness under my command, now that's no lie. But"—he glanced about the sunny deck, where no one else was in earshot—"there was another reason, one I didn't wish the men to know. On second thought—on further instruction—it doesn't matter. You may even tell them if you see fit." He waited, the silence forcing Ben to look up at him at last. "It might be of especial importance to you, Ben Cory, to know that I know Barentsz's true reason for coming aboard my ketch."

"His reason! He was brought aboard a captive, that or be drowned."

"That was the seeming," said Shawn, rubbing his coin, looking gravely down with the sun behind him, his eyes all black. "Yet Barentsz could have gone with the others. They thought (not understanding the end I serve) that I would give them a boat. But no, this Barentsz chose to make a show of favoring my enterprise, so to deceive me and get himself aboard my ketch. Then soon enough, hearing what he muttered under his breath, I understood why."

"I could make nothing of what he tried to say in English."

"That's no matter."

"Do you speak Dutch?"



"You wouldn't care to say 'Well, sir?' or 'Well, Captain?'"

"Well, Shawn?"

"How you do play with your own life, the way it might be a thing of no value!"

"While I'm a slave it's of no value," said Ben, knowing that this was not at all true.

"Mother of God, it's your very impudence that saves you. If you were what I've sometimes feared you might be, your conversation would not be so. You'd be sly, I think. You'd try to please me, I think, and not spit back at me like a little wildcat.... Well—Cornelius Barentsz was an agent, and that in the service of Queen Anne of England."

"I don't believe it."

"It doesn't matter. You haven't my ways of discovering truth. But now that you know I know this, will there be any particular thing you wish to tell me, Ben Cory?"

"No, Shawn."

"If you be what I devoutly pray you are, you've nothing to fear even in your impudence. But those who betray me I do not forgive."

Ben knew—and had known for some time, he supposed—that he was in the presence of madness, whatever that is. It seemed not to be the simple, half-supernatural thing that the common speech heard in Ben's childhood had made of it. Shawn did not rave or babble or foam at the mouth; he never acted as one possessed of a devil ought to act, and besides, are there any devils? If so, what are they, and how was one who had lived three years with the calm skepticism of John Kenny to believe in them? One remembered Reuben snorting and gurgling and sometimes cursing over Cotton Mather's Wonders of the Invisible World, and then reading with greater joy the burlesque of it written by the merchant Robert Calef of Boston, whom Uncle John admired. Never mind about devils.

Ben knew his own life could end at any moment. At that time, however, he had already lived three months with the nearness of sudden death—his own defiance, he sometimes thought, the sheerest bluff. Like living in the same den with a tiger who, for his own reasons, has so far refrained from destroying you. You can cringe and shiver for only a limited time; then it becomes tiresome, and you must look after your own occasions of eating and sleeping and waking no matter what the tiger does. And doubtless a tiger is more likely to pounce on a creature that cringes than on one who spits back at him. And in spitting back, in turning his face directly toward the lightning and to hell with the consequences, Ben had found, no doubt of it, a hot pleasure as definite, almost as keen as in the surging moments when Clarissa had loved him.

Shawn played few chess games with Ben after that day, appearing to lose interest in them. He seemed to Ben to be changing in some gradual, obscure fashion—more aloof, more silent except for the occasional furious monologue after some ship had been sighted, and followed a while, and then allowed to slip away over the horizon because Shawn's voice told him the moment was not ripe and his forces not sufficient. Several times Shawn had robbed small interisland vessels—trivial occasions when Ben was not tied below but allowed to remain on deck with Manuel and Dummy and the monkey. The Diana swooped down on these helpless chickens like the wrath of God, but having taken what little they held of provisions and valuables, and having learned that no man aboard them was willing or worthy to go with him, Shawn showed contemptuous mercy and let them depart unharmed. What they could tell, he said, was no threat to him—he had already satisfied himself, after the pursuit by the frigate Dread, that the Diana could outrun anything afloat.

Vessels in the Diana's class or larger were always too well manned or too well armed, or sighted too near the land or in the presence of other shipping, or simply rejected by the inner voice. Something—("I am compassed about," said Shawn—"compassed about")—something was always not quite right.

Shawn spent more and more time in the cabin, where Ben had not been allowed to go the whole year long.

There was an October afternoon of aching sunlight in the waters off Grenada, when Ben noticed a thick scattering of silver at Shawn's temples and wondered how long it could have been there....

No one entered that locked cabin except Shawn, who kept its key and one other key on a cord at his neck, and Judah Marsh, and Joey Mills. Mills entered it only long enough to carry in food and fetch out the pail of slops. Since no one was ever of a mind to question Shawn or Marsh, Ben and the others (even Tom Ball) relied on Joey Mills for news of Peter Jenks. Mills did not much enjoy talking on the subject.

It was ever the same, Mills said. Jenks was there, and alive; but what the Captain wanted of him was beyond the imagination of an old man who'd been brought up Godfearing in Gloucester. Jenks' ankles were close together in irons; Ledyard had stapled the chain of the irons to the floor and nailed a plank over the staple so that nothing less than a crowbar would ever tear it loose. The chain was long enough to allow Jenks to lie in his bunk or sit at the stationary bench by the built-in table. When the ketch was careened for cleaning, Mills said, the Old Man must be obliged to lie braced against the side boards of his bunk—never speaking a word. Nothing movable was allowed within Jenks' reach except a light wooden food tray that Mills pushed to him by a long stick, and the slop bucket, managed with the same stick, and a leather flask of rum. Under Shawn's strictest orders, Mills observed all the precautions one might with a chained bear. Jenks laughed at that sometimes, Mills said—but spoke not a word. He had not once touched the rum; Mills was certain of it. The flask lay in a corner, some motion of the vessel having dislodged it from the table where Shawn had tossed it. It still lay within Jenks' reach: Mills doubted if he even looked at it. And the leather had turned green on the outside with tropic mold.

Shawn actually slept in that cabin, the door locked. Beside the bunk across the cabin from the one Jenks used, Ledyard had built a heavy wooden screen, and after that Ledyard also had been forbidden the place. The screen, Mills supposed, would keep the chained bear from hurling his bucket at Shawn while Shawn slept—if Shawn ever slept....

The May moon sank into a grayness of horizon cloud behind the island, then sank altogether, lost out of the night, and with its passing the shadow of the Diana vanished into the black immensity of the sea. Under the blackness that spread above him like another sea bearing a foam of stars, Ben stood in a loneliness complete, feeling nothing for a time but the loyal secret motion of his own heart and the noise of ocean not concerned with him. He was waiting: waiting at least for the gradual fading of the dark that must soon begin in the lower sky, maybe for something more. That light would come in its time, over the open waters in the east, pouring upward, compelling the sea of blackness to a luminous change and then dissolving it away. But what is morning to a slave?

Why, nothing. Nothing unless in some way the light can grow within the slave as well as upon the world where he drags out his captivity.

I have been too passive, Ben thought, and that for much too long a time. Defiant, yes, and maybe brave enough, but in a child's way, to no real purpose. For that first month or so I may have had some excuse—I was dazed; I had never dreamed any such thing could happen, to me. But since then, no excuse for drifting, letting things happen. There must have been something I could have done.

Oh, and passive, too passive by far, a long time before that evening in the cabin of the sloop. Drifting, letting things happen instead of taking a hand in forcing them to happen. Maybe a child is compelled to that. But childhood ended—when? Did not Reuben at fifteen discover a purpose?

He will have turned sixteen a few days ago, and I not there; and doubtless he believes I am dead.

Faith surely imagines I am dead, she who said with her lips at my ear that she would wait for me a thousand years.

There must have been something I could do....

Dry logic of arithmetic asserted itself and Ben noted it. I don't know how one youth steals a ketch from seven grown men. But....

By the contemptuous assent of Daniel Shawn himself, I still possess the knife my father gave me. He gave me also a word: readiness....

The stars weakened; some of them were gone. The sky, no sea of blackness now, became a paleness and then a glory. Shadows acquired weight and relief, substance and sharpness in the transfiguration of daylight—the rail under Ben's hand no pallid blur but familiar with every spot and imperfection of the polished wood. The headland out yonder at the southern arm of the cove, a looming dullness not long ago, became the gray hand of a giant, then green, then manifest jungle, a fragment of solid earth, and the lonely red flare of the sun burst free in silence over the rim of the world. Clouds hung high in the west; none lingered over there on the morning side to obscure the birth, and at the moment of completion a light sweet wind tranquilly arrived, a northeasterly breeze, cooling Ben's face, roving across the island, waking in the bare cordage a music of morning and perhaps of spring.

There must be something I can do....

"Mr. Hibbs, was Reuben uncertain what time he would come home?"

"Yes—late, I think, Charity. There was something—a cutting for the stone to be precise, and the patient living somewhere near Cambridge. You know he goes with Mr. Welland on nearly all the visits now. On this occasion, I understand, he's to aid with the surgery, holding instruments I suppose, or whatever—the which maketh me ill only to contemplate it, but when I saw Ru this morning he was cool as you please, and quite unmoved, and cracked a joke or two that I'm sure Mr. Kenny was able to hear and enjoy. I dare say the doctor is right, that to visit the sick in all their trials will provide a learning not to be won from the best of books. Yet I wish it did not mean that he must neglect his other studies."

"Perhaps he'll come back to them one day."

"Ay—'tis absurd of me, but I feel in a manner cheated. There was so much more I had hoped to teach him—nay, I dare say any teacher is a fool, seeing only his small island of knowledge, forgetting how wide is the world beyond it. Can you stay the night, my dear?"

"Yes. Kate's most kind, allowing me to share her bed. I fear I'm a plague to her, I'm that restless, but she says not."

"I believe there's another bed in the attic that we could bring down, if she wishes."


"Oh, no! That hath remained in Reuben's room—their room, I'd rather say. I don't know that Reuben ever said anything of it, but—you can imagine no one of us would suggest taking it out."

"Of course. I spoke something foolish. I do so often."

"Not at all. It is—may I say this, Charity?—a blessing, that you do come to us here. In this house we are, all but Reuben—oh, how shall I say it?—old, dusty, something discouraged perhaps. There was so much of youth and gaiety, the which we took for granted when we had it, when Ben was here, the two of them alway in some harmless commotion or other—why, merely to hear them talk together was—was.... What are you sewing, Charity? Something for the—for what I believe fair young maids do call a bride chest?"

"I am no-way fair, Mr. Hibbs. And—honestly now, doth this appear to you like an item of female apparel?"

"Oh! Marry it don't, now you hold it up—you had it bunched under your hand so I couldn't see."

"A nightshirt of Mr. Kenny's, and I only trust I may mend this hole so it won't chafe him. He wears them out in the back, you see, lying on them constantly, and—oh, the fidgeting that's all he's able to do. I pray you, Mr. Hibbs, would you sit the other side of the lamp? You're in peril of my elbow, besides shutting off the light."

"Of course—clumsy of me.... How deftly your little hands do work at whatever they find, Charity!... Te spectem, suprema mihi cum venerit hora...."

"I sew very badly, Mr. Hibbs, and I have no Latin."

"Forgive me. I think, though, you sew excellent well."


"'Twas only a line of Tibullus that cometh now and then to my mind. Et teneam moriens deficiente manu.... I never read Tibullus with the boys. Not altogether suited, I felt, to their time of life. And yet sometimes, as in those particular lines, my dear, he is quite innocent, indeed expressing sentiments appropriate to a man of honorable feeling. 'May I'—(saith Tibullus, my dear)—'may I look on thee when cometh my last hour, and may I hold thy hand as I sink dying!'"

"I must tell Kate this one is nearly past mending, but if she'll make a pattern for me I believe I could follow it in my blundering fashion. He ought to have a change of them for every day. I know a place on Sudbury Street where they have better material than this, and cheap."

"I recall some other lines from the same poem—me mea paupertas vita traducat inerti, dum meus adsiduo luceat igne focus.... 'Let the humble fortune that is proper to me lead me through a quiet way of life, if only my hearth may glow with an unfailing fire!' You'd suppose that the sentiment of an aging man, wouldn't you? And yet they tell that Tibullus, he died young.... Charity...."

"Yes, Mr. Hibbs?"

"Charity, having spent, I must admit, very nearly twenty years—beginning, let us say, with the year I commenced study at Harvard, the which was the thirteenth year of my life—having spent so much time, I say, in what would seem, to some, a most arid employment, namely the cultivation of the abstract, the exploration (tentative, limited by the frailty of mine own poor powers) of the borders of philosophy—having spent thus much time in—shall I call it, perhaps, a sanctuary of loneliness?—not altogether unrewarding, you understand; not without the consolation of the poets; not without an occasional satisfaction, like unto discovery, within the region of the inquiry: nevertheless, out of such loneliness—out of——"


"Nay, forgive me, Charity, I'm most clumsy with words, and could never speak bold and plain what's in my mind, the which plain speaking I do much admire to discover in others, but let me essay it. Having spent, I say, almost twenty years, yes, almost a full score in the—I must call it the dust of scholarship, save the mark—one may then, suddenly as it were, look out as through the window of a study, let us say, and observe that outside this not altogether despicable refuge there is—oh, spring perhaps, as it is even now, my dear—and one may presume to hope that one hath not remained so long out of the world, nor grown so old, but that—but that——"

"Mr. Hibbs, I pray you——"

"Not so old but that perhaps one who is truly at the very brightest beginning of the springtime might find—might find in one's maturer years—oh, nothing like the call of youth to youth, my God! but—but.... You have not known how I—how since you began coming here in so much kindness—I think you have not known——"

"Mr. Hibbs, I must speak too, and I pray you say no more till I have done. The sentiments you express, the which—oh bother! There goes my thread again and I wasn't even pulling at it, they needn't to make it so miserable weak, do they? The sentiments—look, Mr. Hibbs: when we moved to Dorchester last autumn, I found there a place on the shore, just beyond reach of the high tides, a pretty place, a kind of—what was it you said?—a sanctuary of loneliness, at any rate I made it one. The rocks hide it from the house, from the land; 'tis like a room overlooking the open waters, where all the ships from the south must pass when they come in for the harbor, and I go there—oh, whenever I may. My mother thinks I'm looking for seashells or other such employment suited to children, and so I do bring in any pretty ones I find—and then throw them away secret-like, la, to make room for more—why, I'm a deceiving small beast, Mr. Hibbs, learned deception young, marry did I, I often wonder that anyone can put up with me. Well—even last winter, if it wasn't outright storming, I'd bundle up in my coat and go out there. The rocks break the wind. You can look a long way out.... I told Reuben about this. He understood—well, of course he did. One expects understanding from Reuben, I don't quite know why."

"I am not certain that I myself understand you, Charity."

"I must say more then?... But perhaps you will tell me, as my mother would, that at my years I can know nothing of love, and yet I do.... Sometimes I'll see a sail that looks from a distance like the Artemis. But I watch any sail that appears, because—because who can say what manner of ship it will be that brings him home?—and now you are weeping, but Mr. Hibbs, I never intended——"

"Nay, I—am not. The fireplace a'n't drawing properly—I'll push these logs further back."

"I am a beast."

"Hush!... I think he will come home, Charity—older, as you are, but what you saw in him will not be greatly changed.... But I may be your gray-headed counselor, and—friend?"

"Of course. You aren't gray."

"Soon enough."

"What is it, Mr. Hibbs—what is it that doth compel one to—eh, as they say, to give away the whole heart to another? I would be better, I would be happier, I suppose, if I...."

"I could wish for mine own sake that I knew the answer to that. Why, Charity, it seems we love where we must and no help for it."

"I remember I was not happy, very far from it, a year and more ago, when I was a silly child, had not even met him, indeed had none to love but—oh, poor Sultan. Clarissa of course, but it seems to me I never knew I loved her until I lost her, only took her for granted like sunlight until the day she was no longer there."


"Don't you remember Sultan, Mr. Hibbs? Why, the child I was would never forgive your forgetting Sultan. He died, very fat and ancient, soon after we moved to Dorchester. It was the sea air, my mother said. I wept like a fountain. But I think it was some while before then that I had ceased to feel like a child."

Chapter Three

The island fell away in the west. All day long, and for three days more, the ketch Diana held the northeast trade off her larboard bow, close-hauled. Ben supposed that presently Shawn would turn south and prepare for another chicken-thief raid somewhere in the Leeward Islands. On the fifth day he did shift course, but not much, the unchanging wind now on the larboard beam, the Diana's direction southeast.

A withdrawn, taciturn mood had come over Captain Shawn. The members of his ragamuffin crew, including Ben, felt it as schoolboys feel a teacher's cold in the head. For Ben there was the growing urgency of that secret whisper: Something I can do....

Ben was forced to admit that, whatever else might have happened to the year, he had learned a little seamanship. He had acquired sea-legs even before the capture of Artemis. He was never seasick—Shawn himself knew green moments from time to time. Ben had learned the ropes—no mystery after all but quite simple once you agreed to use your head and accept the buckle end of Marsh's belt as a parallel to the sarcasm of Gideon Hibbs. Marsh was acidly fair about that: as soon as Ben's hand had learned to jump for the right rope at the right instant, the belt was no longer used.

Shawn's instruction had followed a different idiom—articulate explanation, with continuing patience (not displayed toward anyone but Ben). Somehow the Irishman conveyed: Let's forget that we seem to be enemies; let's consider this logic of navigation, the sextant, the tiller, the handling of sail, powers of wind and current and the pattern of the clear stars; let's do this as though we were not afraid to turn our backs to each other, you with the knife I let you keep, and I with mine. Ben could respond to this; could not help responding.

The secret whisper continued in the dark.

Ben's body was learning too, his hands calloused and enlarged, his shoulders thickened. Already wiry and tough, he was aware of a burgeoning strength that never reached exhaustion even in the occasional days of bad weather when the mainsail could stiffen and fight back like a living beast. When Ben stripped for swimming, as he had done back there at the island to the amused horror of all aboard, he had noticed a whiplash hardness in leg and thigh, surely much greater than he had possessed a year ago. Ben had been startled to learn—last July, when the Diana put in for careening at another lonely island—that not one other man aboard could swim. So Ben, who had learned it fishlike in the waters of the Pocumtuck River with Reuben darting around him, a little demon of gold and ivory, frolicked alone in the surf and beyond it, amazed and delighted at the buoyancy of salt water and the untiring almightiness of the waves. Even to Shawn it was a mystery. Manuel giggled helplessly. Tom Ball appeared to regard it as a black art.

Once in November, during a lesson on the sextant, Shawn had happened to stretch and flex his shoulders, and Ben discovered that he was fully as tall as Captain Shawn. Another time, Ben spoke with careless sharpness to Joey Mills—the old man's garrulity could be a nuisance—and Joey had drawn back in manifest physical fright, astonishing to Ben until he understood: Well, I could break him in two, couldn't I?

Manuel? One fist, and Manuel would cringe and run.

Ledyard? Maybe, just maybe. That would be a near thing.

Ball? French Jack? Well, hardly. And still, either of them might think twice before starting anything unarmed, or alone.

Dummy? Never, if he got a grip.

Judah Marsh? Why, knives put aside, by God, I could flatten him like a bug, and wash my hands.


The whisper continued in the dark.

Since leaving the island under the northeast trade, Captain Shawn had spent most of his time in the locked cabin, or on deck in a black and scowling silence. He ordered the log cast unreasonably often; it was plain the Diana was maintaining an even speed, better than nine knots. Ben was present whenever Shawn checked his bearings, and could make his own calculations. When his trick at the helm began at midnight on the seventh night out from the island, the Diana had crossed the 18th parallel and was surely far east of the Leewards, too far if Shawn intended any business with them, and was still running blandly southeast. Why?...

In these wartime years, with no pressure of maritime unemployment to drive hungry men into piracy, some furtive harbors throughout the Caribbean still nourished the old trade, and at some outwardly respectable ports a vessel of dubious virtue could still put in to dispose of this and that with few questions asked. So much had been common talk at Boston; Ben heard it again from the half-timid chatter of Joey Mills. Captain Shawn might have found men in those ports to make up his complement; he never went near one of them, all year long. Joey Mills dared to ask why, and shook his head and spat over the rail. "Tell you why," said Joey Mills, watching Ben with squirrely courage and making sure no one else could hear. "He'll get more men, he says, from the fine prize we a'n't seen yet—or if we seen it we been evermore tacking somewheres else, God almighty damn. But this here ketch, Ben Cory, let alone it seems she a'n't bound for nowhere, she a'n't got nothing. Salt cod, God almighty damn. Put in at one of them places, nothing to trade, he'd be laughed at. They'd give him salt cod, yah. I allow he can't bear no laughing at—now don't betray me, don't never let it out I said no such of a thing—you wouldn't, boy?" Before Ben could even promise, he chuckled in apology and fled, and avoided Ben for days....

Far away ahead this midnight, over the curve of the world, stood the shoulder of Africa. Somewhere in the south—Ben gazed off idly to his right in the murmurous dark—down there beyond the Line, the Spanish and Portuguese settlements of the southern continent. Down there too—so far that one's thought hardly dared trouble with it—the wild cold legendary region of the Horn, Magellan's gateway, the path to the western sea.

Here in the undemanding night Ben found it possible to command the earth to be not vast but small. Merely to point with the right arm toward the Horn—did not that reduce the world to a modest map that might be held in fancy, handled, contemplated?—never mind the thousands of leagues of open sea where that right arm was no greater than one splash of foam. The paradox was familiar. Mr. Gideon Hibbs had touched on it at the borders of philosophy: how, if the container be greater than the thing contained, that organ in the skull must be somehow wider than a galaxy....

The shadow coming slowly aft might be Manuel, ready to relieve Ben at the tiller. No—too soon, and Manuel was aloft. Moonrise had begun some while ago at Ben's left shoulder, magnificent and calm. The shadow was not Manuel but Daniel Shawn, prowling the dark as he often did when, as Ben supposed, he could not sleep. Ben suppressed a word of greeting. His arm over the tiller held firm with elastic readiness for all of the Diana's whims, as Shawn himself had patiently taught him it must do. Captain Shawn stood a long time at the after rail gazing northwestward.

It could happen some night, Ben knew, out of a silence like this. The unknowable driven brain could abruptly decide that Ben Cory must no longer live. What is madness?... After the decision, execution—but not immediate, perhaps. It did not seem to be Shawn's way to kill with his own hand.

He was capable of it. Joey Mills had told Ben how, in the battle with the Schouven, Shawn had boarded the sloop with the rest, two pistols in his belt. Disdaining a cutlass after the pistols were empty, Shawn went in howling with his short knife, and that on a tall Dutchman with long arms—as if, Mills muttered, death was a nothing to Captain Shawn, or welcome. But Shawn wasn't for dying that day.

Quite gently Shawn asked; "All quiet, Ben?"

"Yea, quiet." Not "Yea, sir." Not "Yea, Captain." The self clinging to integrity will snatch at trivia. But for Ben there was a kind of upside-down shame in reflecting that anyone else aboard who omitted the formula of humility would very quickly be instructed with a rope's end. And so, Ben Cory thought, it seems Ben Cory doth care about the opinion of others, be they only the rats aboard a pirate ketch, the which would be dem'd good and comical—could I be telling it to Ru before the fire in Uncle John's library, and sweet Kate maybe bringing us a plate of——

"Ben, who's aloft?"


"Have you chanced to look aft, the last half-hour, boy?"

"No. Watching the bow, so to keep the bearing you ordered."

"Then give me the helm, and take this glass"—Shawn's voice was rising curiously—"and look well abaft, and tell me what you see at all."

"Where away?"

"God damn it," said Shawn, still rather softly, "find it yourself!" He thrust the spyglass into Ben's hand and snatched the tiller, humming in his teeth and not pleasantly.

Ben searched the northwestern arc, and found nothing but empty sea. Something to throw him off his guard?—he lowered the glass quickly, but Shawn was not even watching him. Shawn was staring forward, head high, the moon's whiteness displaying his face, cold and suffering and proud.

"I don't find anything."

"Look again."

"I see the stars, a quiet sea, and not another thing."

"Judah!" Marsh hurried aft. "Take the glass, Mr. Marsh. See what you can find to the northwest."

Ben stood away from them. He saw Marsh stiffen with uneasiness or bewilderment; fidget, and mutter, and rub the glass with an end of his shirt. "Mr. Shawn, sir, my one glim a'n't too sharp."

Shawn immensely filled his lungs and slowly let the breath go. "You too maybe?... Well—it may be gone." It might be easier, Ben thought, to endure the ache of waiting if Shawn himself would look aft again, but he would not.

"Was it a sail, Captain?"

"It wasn't the Lamb of God walking upon the waters, Mr. Marsh. I am changing course two points. Sou'-sou'east, d'you hear? Call that fool Manuel from aloft, who wouldn't be seeing the entire Royal Navy and it half a mile to wind'ard. He and Dummy will make ready to haul me the tack—will you move, man?" Marsh vanished forward; Ben heard his thin snarl crying Manuel down from the masthead. "Well, Cory?—get to the mizzen, damn you!" Ready in his place—what else?—Ben presently heard Marsh's advisory shout. "Cory, Mother of God, can't you speak up like a seaman?"


"Lee-oh!" The Diana answered calmly, undismayed. "Trim her!" Ben had already done so, handily. "Will you sheet her in, you bloody farmer? Oh, dear Mother of God, for men to sail with me!..." Undismayed, the Diana settled to her new course under the friendly wind. A small maneuver—a crew of boys could have done it in this soft landsman's weather. Ben knew that Shawn had no cause to rave at his part in it; knew also in a moment that the crying voice climbing from the region of the helm was no longer concerned with him. "Speak plainer! I cannot hear you.... Oh, but I will go alone if I must. Have I not alway gone alone? Have I not alway made mine own law—as I am directed, as I am directed—but thou knowest I am compassed about.... Plainer! Speak plain!—or send me a wind and not this damned crawling breeze! Am I to meet them in a bloody calm?... Then, most soberly and quietly: "Ben—aft with you!"

Ben returned aft, being on duty and having perhaps no choice. "Am I to take the helm again?"

"First look, only once more. Man dear, don't you see?—it could be I'm growing old and foolish, but—but for all you hate me, you can't call me fool, Beneen, you can't do that."

"I never have."

"Then look once more—the way I might've been deceived—the way the Devil's minions are in the thing tonight, now that's no lie. I waited too long, so I did. I cast about, while time wasted, praying for the easier course—a fleet—men enough—seeing I could not have the support of those who should have understood me. I prayed for the easier course, so I did, but I tell you now, Beneen, a man must never do that."

And Ben looked again, and found nothing. "It was a sail?"

"I thought so. I thought so, Ben."

"If you'll call Manuel aft, whose eyes are good as mine——"

"Manuel is it? Have I time for the witless, when—but I may have been deceived. Not there, you say, and I'm believing you. Nothing?"

"Nothing. Sometimes, Mr. Shawn, I've been fooled at night by a whale's spouting. The spray of him seems to hang in the air a while, and I suppose moonlight may lend it the look of a sail." Shawn laughed a little, his breathing slower. He seemed not annoyed that an untamed pup should be instructing him concerning sea-born illusions. "Well, do you take the helm again, and this'll be your bearing, steady as she goes."

"May I ask, Mr. Shawn, is this course for Martinique?"

"It seems to be gone and that's the truth, and yet I could have sworn—what? Martinique? Why, if my reckoning is right, her present course maintained will bear her a very far way to the east of Martinique."

"Nothing before us then but the South Atlantic."

"The Line, the South Atlantic, and the Horn. No more waiting. No more of this petty cruising about. No more—piracy. Do you hear me?"

"Less than a year ago I might have jumped at the sound of that."

"Not now?"

"You're not speaking to a boy now, Mr. Shawn."

"'Deed so, friend? When did that happen?"

"Who can ever say? It happened.... Mr. Shawn, I've asked you a dozen times, and have been refused, and now I say again: I wish to go in that cabin and speak with Captain Jenks."

"And I'll be telling you for maybe the hundredth time, Ben, he is not captain of this or any other vessel.... Ben, with all the charity I've seen in you, can you not hear a man acknowledge his error? I said, no more piracy. I have done wrong, almost betraying my purpose. I say now—and this is like something you once said to me yourself—henceforth I will not lift my hand against any man except to defend my life and my purpose. Jenks?—why, I think he can be released, and you too if it must be so. I shall be forced to put in at some Brazilian port for water and provisions, and there, I think—well, we shall see. Can I say more?"

"Yes, you could, Mr. Shawn, because I'm asking you again: Why do you hold him at all? Mills says you question him continually, and he answers nothing."

"That's true." Shawn gazed steadily northward, at the open sea. "Answers nothing, and will any man hold such a silence with nothing to hide?"

"Hide, Mr. Shawn? Captain Jenks, hide?"

"Must I say again, he is not captain now?... Ben, did you know I spent more than a year in that sorry city of Boston?"

"No, how should I?"

"Oh, you might've.... More than a year, seeking support for the greatest venture a man's spirit ever conceived. I was ignored, laughed at, brushed aside. I sought out the merchants, for behind all the pious canting they've become the rulers of your Boston and I suppose you know it. Sought 'em out one after another, and spilled my heart, the while they looked at my poor clothes and shuffled their feet and remembered important business. I sought audience with your Governor Dudley himself—Mother of God, would he even admit me to the bloody presence? Queen Anne's man, body and soul.... Somehow, Ben—and mark this, I pray you—at some time that miserable year, the story was passed about that I had been with John Quelch. And—why, damn their souls, so I was, for a while. I did ship with him, being penniless and starving, and escaped him as soon as I might. He was evil, Ben, a common pirate, it was right he should hang. I served him briefly, I did that, having no choice, and the rumor of it was made a cause why I should be persecuted, ignored, laughed at, brushed aside. Compassed about.... And still, didn't I ask far less than was asked by Cabot, Drake, Magellan? A trifle of support, mind you, a tiny fleet, a sound crew, a charter to explore—don't you see any man of them might have compounded his fortune a hundred times and written his name in history beside my own? But would they? You know the answer, and they shall know the whole of it too, in time.... And somehow, Ben—while I went from one to another wearing my heart out—somehow a few of them did finally understand a little of what I so recklessly told concerning this venture. Certain of them began to think: Why not the venture without the man? You see? Have you ever heard of such a thing as stealing a man's dreams?"

"What has this to do with Captain Jenks?"

"Surely it's plain? The man you childishly call Captain was one of those who began to ask themselves: What if this wild, shabby, tedious Irishman hath glimpsed something of value after all? What if there are new lands for the taking in the western sea, and why should this miserable noisy Sligo man, this old Shawn, why should he have any part of it?... Why, I couldn't believe this of Peter Jenks myself for a long time—never came to me that he was one of 'em, till he hired that man Hanson in the room of me—and that in despite of your great-uncle."


"Whisht, Ben! You'll be telling me your great-uncle gave me no promise hard and fast, but I know men's hearts. But for Jenks, I'd've had my way, and glory in it for Mr. Kenny as well as me, don't you doubt it. It wasn't to be. When he took on that agent Hanson, sure my voice was plain enough, I could see how they'd been planning it all the while. You see now, don't you? Had I not taken Artemis from him, Jenks would have her now the other side of the Horn, and Boston would never see her again. But I, Ben—why, I shall give her back the name of Artemis, and I'll send her home, when she's taken us to the new country...." In the silence Ben caught the glint of something—merely the copper farthing; at length Shawn spoke again, quietly: "True, Ben—nothing before you now but the Line, and the South Atlantic, and the Horn. Nothing below you but the Atlantic. And once on a time wasn't I a boy of your age who believed that God was over me?" He was moving away. Ben thought he might be weeping, but his voice often sounded so when his eyes were dry. "And over you, over all that breathe. Oh, but in those days I was that young and foolish you wouldn't know the misguided thoughts that would seize hold of me and deceive, for the voices I heard then were not God's voice, they were far other. Maybe even now I'm not certain of anything, except that I cannot die until I've looked again on the color of the western sea." He returned swift and silent out of the shadow and stood close to the helm, eyes level with Ben's; no taller than Ben. Not even as tall, perhaps. "What now? Why did I say that, Ben? Why did I say, the color of the western sea?"

Ben supposed his right hand could flash away from the tiller to his belt, if it must. "How could I know why you say any of the things you do?"

"Ah? But you must sail with me, all the way. Will you not say it? Will you be forcing me to destroy you? Then I'll be alone, Ben. These men with us—what are they but phantoms, all of 'em? Knife 'em, they'd bleed smoke—not blood, Ben—smoke, and drift away downwind. None aboard but you and me, now that's no lie...."

But Ben, for sheer pity and disgust, terror and bewilderment, self-blame and homesickness and again pity, could not speak at all, and Shawn moved away, himself like smoke, past another black shadow by the mizzen that must have heard all he said; at this Shawn snarled: "If the wind changes, Mr. Marsh, you needn't be calling me—I shall know it."

Under Ben's hand beautiful Diana ran southward, cutting away the miles with a timeless whisper at her bow; but during the night the wind fell off, the air growing dull, silent, and in the morning dead. The sun rose on sails become slack, bemused in idleness on a mirror sea.

"I wondered, in fact, that she had not long ago destroyed herself in one of those seizures."

"They seldom do, Reuben, though often they injure themselves. She is nearly forty, that woman we saw today—I've known her bite her tongue and bruise herself, but nothing worse. As a rule they die somewhat young. It's as well you saw her so—the condition is not too rare and you'll encounter it again."

"And the books?"

"Have nothing to offer but speculation and bad advice. Nothing I've tried ever had the slightest effect.... What's that?—I mean the one that called from back there in the pasture."

"Red-winged blackbird."

"I wish I knew 'em all, the way you do."

"Brought up with 'em in the wilderness, Amadeus. But nobody could know them all.... Do the books tell anything of the cause?"

"Nothing worth your notice. Speculation, most of it not based on clinical observation. And (as you suggest) without at least some knowledge of immediate causes, treatment's only a blind groping. We must try it of course, because sometimes a guess is correct. But somehow we must also push back along the chain of causes—widen the area of light—somehow.... As you may or may not know, there are many going about in the world far madder than that poor epileptic, who is not really mad at all but merely drops into her fit from time to time, and usually comes out of it unharmed. A fearful thing to watch, Ru—I dare say you still feel it in your stomach. But some of the forms of madness that don't so loudly announce themselves are much worse."

"The world may be a mad place, Amadeus, but there go the peeper frogs. I told you they might, on such an afternoon."

"So they do. You don't suppose——?"

"If we continue to the pond, they'll stop. However, should we then squat patient in our boots, the thing might be done—imitating boulders, you know. We might, as it were, rock ourselves into the semblance of a natural outgrowth."

"Who now hath plumbed the depths of a contumelious paronomasia?"


"That log looks more comfortable."

"If the ants on it are black, yes. If red, no."

"They look black, the few I see. Is there a difference?"

"Oh, my friend! How did you survive till I came to you?"

"Don't know."

"Yes, they're black.... By the madder ones, you mean the raving kind? Those with wild delusions?"

"Those, and others. I was thinking of the quieter sort, who are seldom called mad. Men and women eaten up with suspicion. So that—I think you've never encountered this, but beware of it if you do—so that everything happening within their purview must be bent to the shape of that suspicion; and to hear them talk you'd suppose the whole world was allied in conspiracy against them. I'd guess that such a state of mind is begotten of a most fearful vanity. And what evil is commoner than vanity? Of course that particular sickness of the mind is only one of its fruits. How seldom do you find anyone who hath ever attempted to look on his own life with something like the eye of eternity! But without at least some detachment, vanity is bound to grow."

"As for example the seeming humility of proper Christians?"

"Oh, that, yes—but don't trouble thyself too much about that. It would seem they need it. Well, and there are those madder ones devoured by jealousy, spite, greed, and fears of a hundred kinds, mostly groundless. It's no-way true that all is vanity, but I think you may say that vanity is the source of nearly all the saddest things in human nature. Nay, I think our poor wench with the fits, by comparison with many respectable souls, is quite sane."

"And so what is madness?"

"Do thou tell me, thou who gavest me once a definition of health that serves me still."

"A—a gross exaggeration of some natural activity of the mind? 'Lilies that fester....'"

"I'm pleased I made thee discover the Sonnets. Yes, that might serve.... But the hunger for verifiable knowledge—now there's an activity of the mind, natural I think, but sluggish or nonexistent in most men, and in a few like thee and me, very intense: are we then mad?"

"If such hunger for knowledge became painful or annoying to others, Amadeus, I am sure we would be called mad."

"Mm-yas—thought I'd caught thee, but (as usual) I'm caught instead. So consider—would you say there are any activities of the mind that would not deserve the name of madness if sorely exaggerated?"

"Maybe none. That hunger for knowledge could become a thing I'd call madness, if the pursuit of it caused a man to neglect too many other matters—such as sunlight and peeper frogs and Charity's pictures and the brightness of a swallow flying."

"I'll agree. I dare say anything out of proportion may become a madness. Even generosity. Even love."

"But Amadeus, I do ever think that love is not a thing, but more like a region where we travel. Something of that I said once to Ben. I can't remember when it was, and he may not have understood it—I'm sure I said it badly. Like a region, where we travel with—oh, some vision, some of the time. As sleep is like a region, and waking. Do I still say it badly, Amadeus? I mean that no one can give his friend a handful of sunlight, but may walk in it with him, and so love him."

After scant and haunted sleep, Ben woke to stillness where motion should have been. Stumbling up on deck long before the beginning of the forenoon watch, he saw Shawn on the quarterdeck deep in a stillness of his own, ignoring Tom Ball who muttered at him, and Joey Mills who stood by the helm but had nothing to do there, for the Diana had lost all way, the sails were dead rags, and if some profound current still moved her there was nothing to tell of it in this deathlike air under a brazen sun.

Ben remained forward, to avoid Shawn. Matthew Ledyard was lounging near the bow with nothing to do. His stare was not unfriendly; he even wished Ben a laconic good morning. Maybe he wanted to break his custom and share a word or two out of his permanent gloom. Like Ben, in these tropic days Ledyard had discarded shirt and jacket, wearing nothing above his belt but a kerchief around his head to moderate the sun and hold sweat out of his eyes. His gaunt chest was darkly tanned; it had never seemed to Ben that the purple splash on Ledyard's face was particularly ugly—once you grew used to it, it was a nothing, no more than another man's scar or mole. Unnecessarily Ledyard said: "We're in for a calm."

For several days a carrion reek had corrupted the air of the forecastle, and the murky hell-hole of the galley where French Jack prepared his strange offerings. Likely more barrels of the salt cod had gone bad and ought to be hunted out. Mr. Ball claimed the whole dirty cargo was spoiled and should be heaved overside, but French Jack explained that cod smelt that way anyhow; in spite of the pride of a Boston man, Ben was inclined to agree. With no breeze to sweep the nastiness away, the stench overhung the deck also, as though the Diana herself were exhaling corruption in a mortal sickness. To come up into this from the fetid forecastle was for Ben like waking to a continuation of nightmare. He was in a mood to fume and curse at anyone—particularly at Shawn, and that not for the large and just reasons, but simply for a certain standing order that forbade any of the hands to sleep on deck. For Ledyard, however, Ben managed a smile and a grunt of agreement. "Hope I may spend some of my trick aloft."

"Ay—stinks, don't it?" And Ledyard startled Ben exceedingly by adding: "Like a dead man's dream it is. A fair hope gone rotten."

Ben grew alert. Ledyard had never said anything like that to him before. "Maybe it'll be as bad at the masthead. This morning I believe we could stink out Father Neptune himself. Is no one aloft?"

"I was. Captain called me down. Seems dem'd foolish even to him to keep a lookout now—if we're becalmed so's everything else that might be about." He glanced aft and continued, a murmur in his smallest voice: "Cory, him and Mr. Ball was just now speaking of breaking out the boat and towing her. Understand that? Take at least six men at the oars to move her. Six men in a boat, in this sun, nothing to their bellies but p'ison stew or salt cod.... Step further away from the hatch, will you?" He lounged away to the bow, and Ben followed him as casually as he might, noticing how, with no way on her at all, the Diana had at some time since the wind died turned completely about, her lifeless bow pointing homeward to the north. Ben stood with the blaze of the morning sun behind him and watched the fire of it on the battlefield of Ledyard's face. "You might say, Cory, if so be he wants to kill all us mis'able scrannel hands, us buggerly rascals, that's what he'll do. Just get us out there at the oars in the sun, to tow the old bitch, that's all it needs." His browned sturdy arms spread out along the rail, Matthew Ledyard looked much like a man crucified, his dark face unflinching in the sun. "And I wonder would you be out there too—Mister Cory? Pulling an oar? With your charmed young life, so even the tropic sun won't strike you down? Or back here on the deck belike, so to sail with Captain Shawn when the rest of us is maybe dried up and burnt too black to stink? Or will you now be trundling aft to tell the Captain what old Ledyard said to you?"

Ben dropped his hand on the man's iron wrist. It did not move away. Ledyard's intense stare did not seem to be one of wrath, for all his words. "I have never carried tales to Shawn and you know it."

"Ya-ah—maybe I do know it. Maybe I wished to learn if you could ever be angered any way at all."

"I can." Ledyard's heavy brows lifted; his brown eyes in the sun squeezed down to little fires. "I can, and since you're a-mind to speak to me at last, I'll say this: the hope was never fair, it was rotten in the beginning, and I told him so. He lets me live because he imagines he can change me into one like himself, no other reason. He cannot. As for me, I swallow the puky food and haul on the ropes and jump to Marsh's orders because I wish to live, no other reason. I'm not Shawn's man."

"Whose then?"

"My own."

"That'd be the hard thing to prove in the sight of God."

"And you shall be your own man, nothing less."

"Shall I so?" Ledyard winced heavily and turned his face away from the beating of the sun at last, but Ben tightened his grip. "How could that be, now? You don't know, boy, you don't know——"

"Why, I say it shall be."

"And who a devil's name are you? A boy—a——"

"Benjamin Cory, son of Joseph Cory of Deerfield, adopted son of Mr. John Kenny of Roxbury, who owns this ketch. Look back at me!"

Ledyard did so, plainly with great effort—changed; certainly without wrath, perhaps even without curiosity. It seemed to Ben that what he must say was only something that Ledyard would surely have been saying to himself, and for a long time. "You will believe it, Matthew Ledyard, so now listen to me. She is not the old bitch. She is the ketch Artemis out of Boston, and the man who's a second father to me, whom you served well for nearly the length of my life—he had a hand in designing her. My brother and I climbed about on her ribs when she was a-building up the Mystic River—you were there. Since those days I have loved her, as Kenny's vessel and mine, sir, mine—and you were her carpenter, and Peter Jenks is her captain." Ledyard groaned at the sound of that name and jerked his hand away and pounded it on the rail. Ben reached out quickly and tapped his purple cheek. "Look back at me, I say! Chips—what's the name of this ketch?"

"The ketch is the Artemis," he said, harshly and choking on it. "Step away from me, Cory, or they'll notice us from the quarterdeck."

Ben did so, instinct urging him to wait, to look away, to lounge at the bow in the semblance of idleness till Ledyard's whisper came: "What will you do?"

"Who would be with us?"

Dubiously the whisper said: "Joey Mills. But he's old and puny."

"Are you sure of him?"

"Sure enough. We—have spoke of it. But——"

"I've seen him wear a pistol sometimes. I suppose he could use it?" Ledyard grunted. "I suppose he might even bear a message from me to Captain Jenks?"

"Oh, my God!... You mean it, don't you?"

"I will ask you to cease doubting it. Now, how many men would it require, to get Artemis home to Boston?"

"God!... Three or four hands could do it somehow." He sounded calmer. Glancing at him again, Ben found his face no less a battlefield, even more perhaps, but it had grown sharp with intelligence. "On such a thing as that, Mr. Cory, you'd be obliged to play it timid, understand me? Reef in at the first hint of dirty weather, if you'll take an old seaman's word for it. Comes fast, do you see? You remember we rode out a bad one off Grenada last year, and it was all hands hop to it, and even then it near-about caught us. Now imagine two or three men trying to get her snug in the time we did it then! Remember you got to keep one at the helm. All the same—all the same, sir, three or four hands could do it. That—is your intention?"

"It's my intention to try. What about Dummy?"

"Shawn's dog. Jack's another dog, a mad one."

"That's mostly show, I think. It makes others let him alone."

"Maybe, but don't trust him, Mr. Cory. He's not—with us."


"Can neither fight nor hold his tongue.... If you—if we can take care of Shawn and the others, you would release the Captain?"


"Then I ... Mr. Cory, I'll beg you for your word on a—on two things, if I may."


"If we can do it, and if Captain Jenks is free, put in a word for me. Let him know that whatever else I did, I tried to change back to what I was. Let him know I went back. Those would be the words, Mr. Cory. Say to him, if so be I can't say it myself, say that Matthew Ledyard went back."

"I will."

"And one other thing. If we can do it, then when we raise the Cape or—my God, better if it might be Rhode Island, but I suppose there's no hope of that—aid me, if you can, to get away in the boat. It's a thing, Mr. Cory—I've got a fear I wouldn't hang decent. Sooner drown. Would it sit fair with your conscience to help me run for it? Would you do that much, if I can help you in this thing?"

Ben said: "It sticks in my conscience that hanging never mended anything, and I will do that if I can. It'll mean deceiving Captain Jenks, helping you steal the boat, but I will do it. Matthew Ledyard, I'm eighteen, with less than a year at sea against the many that you've served. Can you take orders from me?"

Wonderingly, Ledyard said: "Yes, sir, I can."

"Bide the time then. It will be soon. I must speak with Mills and do one or two other things."

Ben spoke quickly—already he heard the commotion of Dummy lurching up from the forecastle with his monkey, and he was dizzy with the first full understanding of what had taken place. Well, damn it, I was wishing to make things happen!... As he moved away from Ledyard the man's whisper followed him: "Don't forget, those are the words, Mr. Cory—Matthew Ledyard went back...."

The monkey had begun to ail when the fruit gave out, after the Diana left the Bahamas, although she had endured other periods of poor eating without harm. This morning she looked half dead in the great hairy cradle of Dummy's arms. Dummy squatted with her at the foot of the mainmast, crooning hopelessly. Sometimes in the last few days she had swallowed a bit of sea biscuit if Dummy chewed the miserable stuff first to soften it. This morning she would not, but only shivered in spite of the sullen heat and twisted her wise black head away from the repulsive mass. Ben on his way aft paused to consider them, aware that of the two sorrowful ape-faces, Dummy's held the greater pain. The little black beast was merely dying.

She had been lively and delighted with her new home after her capture from the Schouven, learning every corner of the ketch—including the galley, where she could engage in shrieking encounters with French Jack. Since she returned continually, and never got anything there except missiles and rhetoric unsuited to the tender sex, Ben deduced that because of her streak of hoyden she must relish war for its own sake. Jack never once scored a hit. Best of all she loved soaring in dizzy flights all over the rigging, and hanging by her tail from the crosstrees to contemplate the sky and the ocean and the ways of man. She would come quickly down out of that for Dummy if he smacked his lips, but not for anyone else—except, occasionally and with the air of granting a favor, for Ben.

Now it seemed likely that her airy journeys were ended. Dummy gazed up at Ben with the grieving eyes of an ape-mother, and Ben could find nothing worth saying, but touched his finger to the tiny black bullet head that paid him no heed. Dummy smiled in his loose bewildered way, and Ben moved on.

Joey Mills was scuttling down the short companion ladder. Ben wished to detain him, but Shawn had noticed Ben and called to him. Ben whispered hastily: "I've spoke with Ledyard—he'll inform you what passed between us. Tell him I said he was to do so—and wipe that surprise off your face, quick!" Ben climbed to the quarterdeck, not glancing back to see how much Joey had understood. Shawn in this reeking glare of morning light looked old. No wrinkle, no scar of smallpox was spared, and none of the white dust at his temples. His hand had a fine tremor and he needed shaving.

"Mr. Ball," he said in a voice of weariness, "go below and get your breakfast."

"Yea, sir—but it be'n't yet eight bells, and you'm not eat a bite since yesterday noontime."

Shawn spoke with ugly patience: "I said go, and will I be explaining? I wish to speak with Cory alone."

"Yea, sir." Ball made a vague motion at his forelock, and waddled past Ben with a glance of remote dislike, muttering under his breath.

Shawn watched Ball's back out of sight. "Even he would desert me, had he anywhere to go. He was not so fat and sullen when he sailed with John Quelch—and escaped Quelch when I did—and listened when I told him of the western sea, and seemed, like you, to be understanding it. I suppose time's gone over all of us, and I alone faithful to the vision. Did I not say they were all phantoms, all but you and me?"

"You wished to speak with me?"

"Cold, cold. It's the cold good morning I get from you."

"Did Judah Marsh have visions, Mr. Shawn?"

"Oh, Ben, Ben! Marsh is a tool to be used, a thing with a cutting edge in the shape of a man. And Manuel is a lump of muscle, a sort of poor engine for pulling ropes, in the shape of a man, and Dummy another, with hardly even the shape. They're all phantoms, all but you and me."

"At this moment, your thing with hardly the shape of a man is grieving like a mother over his pet that's like to die in a day or so."

"So? Well, what should that be to you?"

"Much, I find, Mr. Shawn. And I suppose no one ever found it comfortable to cease being a boy."

"Hm? Your mind's running in strange courses. Maybe it's true you've come to be something like a man. Wisha!" said Shawn, and tried to smile—"nearly as tall as me, now that's no lie." His hand came out in an abortive gesture of friendship, and fell to his side. "Dummy, Ben, is what I made him. I found him on your foul Boston water front, sweeping and carrying garbage in a warehouse. I sat down by him with a length of rope and showed him sailor's knots, and he grinned and took the rope and showed me he knew them too. Then, seeing he knows well what you say for all he can't speak, I told him of the new countries in the western sea, and the vision did strike fire in him—Mother of God, I saw it! Plainer, more honest than I've seen it in many a man who hath all his wits and the power of speech. And I said to him: 'Will you sail with me then?' And he knelt in the filth of the warehouse and patted my boots. Poor lump, have I not given him vision and purpose? Could I heal his dirty monkey for him I would do it, now that's no lie. But I am not God, Ben—only God's instrument. Now take this glass. It's there, Ben, but when I try to bring the glass on it I lose it—it must be my eyes or this damned blaze of light—yet without the glass I see it. Why, even Ball saw it, but would have it a floating tree. A floating tree!" said Shawn with thin bitterness, and smiled, and held out the spyglass.

Very far away it was, a dark smudged line at the angle of a rakish sail, miles away over a flat sea where nothing stirred—no, something did stir out there as Ben took the glass, a black triangle of fin cruising in calm perhaps a quarter-mile to starboard, but Shawn was not concerned with that, and Ben paid it no heed as he sought to bring the distant shape under the power of the lens.

Ball was right. In the glass it was quite plainly a floating tree-trunk, felled or uprooted by storm maybe a long time ago and swept here by the whims of wind and current from God knew where. A single branch stood upright at that deceiving angle; a heavier one submerged must have been overbalancing it.

Ben was remembering an April afternoon when Artemis came into Boston harbor, and Faith stood beside him, and Daniel Shawn also was someone new, both admirable and good. He was remembering certain acts of kindness, of almost incredible forbearance, chess games, lessons with the sextant, jests and tall stories told in moments of relaxation during the long armed truce, and told without any overtones of madness or evil. He was remembering above all the magic of a voice, and how the vision it generated had stirred his own spirit with all the rocketing enthusiasm of a boy and the more sober acceptance of a man—for surely, no matter what madness and evil there were in Shawn, it was still as true as sunrise that there must be new lands in the western sea, and some day those would be discovered, and one could fairly trust (as Shawn said) that all men's life on earth would be the richer for it. Remembering all this, it seemed wholly impossible to Ben that he could actually do what he now intended. He prayed for at least a little time of delay, and hesitantly said: "Mr. Shawn, it seems we've swung full about during the calm this morning. By the sun, I make it that our stem here is pointed near due south, and so——"

"And the sail is southwest by west, and when I saw it last night it was northwest, but Mother of God, Ben, I make nothing much of that. They could have made a better run in the night than we did before the wind fell away. Even if they be common men aboard her, that's possible. The great thing—ah, have you sometimes thought me mad, Ben, until now?—the great thing is, you see it too, and so you know I am not deluded. Now give me back the glass. I'll try once more if I can't find her in it."

Ben knew he must no longer delay, or he could not do the thing at all. He said: "The marks on her side will be the letters of her name—must be mighty large to show at such a distance, I cannot quite make them out, except there are three, and then a space, and then a D. The next after the D may be a Y."

"Give me the glass!" Shawn snatched it and held it to his eye, but with such wildly shaking hands that surely he would find nothing in it. The sight of such weakness sickened Ben, yet at the same time gave him a sense of his own power overwhelming as a wave, and of amazement that he could ever have feared this man Shawn, or believed Shawn to be stronger than himself.

Shawn's struggle with the spyglass was not prolonged. Something—possibly sweat on his hands—caused the glass to slip and fall to the deck with a sharp tinkle of breakage. Ben thought: Something broke in me then, and when he dies something in me will die and no help for it. He would have retrieved the glass for Shawn, but Shawn stooped quickly, blood suffusing his face, and leaned at the rail fumbling at it aimlessly, though he must have known when a shard of broken glass fell from his fingers that the thing was smashed beyond saving. "And didn't I know last night that I must meet them in a calm? And alone. I was not told I would be blind also."

"Mr. Shawn——"

"Blind!" Shawn said, and hurled the spyglass far out over the flat water, toward the black blade that calmly cruised in its wide circuit of the motionless Diana.

"Mr. Shawn, Peter Jenks would speak for me, if I may enter the cabin. Merely the sight of me would make him speak. Does he know I am aboard?"

"What? He knows it. I told him long ago you were one of us."

"Then you told him a lie, for I have never been one of your crew and well you know it."

"But you will be," said Shawn, not commandingly but in pleading, almost in pathos, and took hold of Ben's arm. "You will be."

Ben met the blue stare, knowing how in many ways it was truly blind, and shook his head. "I can make Jenks speak, Mr. Shawn. You wish him to speak, do you not?"

"What? Why, he must, if only to confess the sin. It's a very great sin to steal a man's dream. I'd compel no man to die in it."

"What if he never did so, Mr. Shawn?"

Shawn let go his arm. "You question the voice that guides me?"

"Did your voice tell you of the coming of that sloop?"

"I am not God. I am not told everything."

"A sloop bearing Jan Dyckman's name, a sloop that seems now to be moving, Mr. Shawn, in a flat calm where we find no breath of wind at all? But we might be moving presently. Will you look over there—sir?"

Shawn swung about to gaze where Ben pointed, to the northeast. There—no illusion—a faint blackish smudge was visible on the horizon, with a slight hazing in a small area of the burning sky. Shawn turned back to Ben a face transfigured. "Why, there's the answer! Let it come down on us, and we'll outrun them to the ends of the earth. Can you doubt me now? What's that you were asking? Oh, Jenks, Jenks. You may not go in the cabin, Ben, not yet. But sure he'll speak now, and I seeing to it. A word of that sloop and he'll speak, the Devil willing, if I must cut out his damned tongue and let it wag alone." Shawn strode down the quarterdeck laughing—not in music but with shrillness, high and thin, almost an old man's laugh. "Let it come down! D'you hear, Ben? D'you hear?—I say, if that squall comes down on us, Mother of God, we'll not reef one inch of sail, I'll hang the man that tries it. Let it come down, we'll go about and run south for Hell or Heaven, or the western sea, or the dark!"

When Ben reached the companion ladder Shawn had already entered the cabin. Ben heard the door crash, the rattle of the key.

Ben hurried forward, where a voice was crackling and spitting in the lifeless air. Ben had glimpsed Manuel climbing to the masthead; Marsh must have sent him up, not knowing the standing order had been revoked. Tom Ball would be still below, and French Jack serving him what passed for breakfast. Joey Mills and Ledyard had not gone below to eat but stood together near the bow, tightly watching the black scarecrow Judah Marsh, and Dummy with his sick monkey.

Dummy had backed away from Marsh to the rail, shaking his head and moaning. "So throw it over, d'you hear, or will I do it? You've had the dirty Jonah long enough. Wish us to stay beca'med forever? Don't make out you can't understand me, you pig's get, you know every word I say. Throw it over!" But Dummy, who could squeeze no further away from him, began a desperate sidling down the deck, his twisted back pressed against the rail, the monkey whimpering at his shaggy breast.

Coming up behind, Ben said: "Stop that, Marsh!"

The man swung fast, a glare of total amazement above his smile as though he did not know the voice, and doubtless he did not, since Ben had never before in his life spoken in such a tone. "You? I'll take care of you presently." A long arm snaked out, snatching the monkey from Dummy's embrace by a miniature wrist.

Marsh flung her over the side. She made no outcry; only the lightest splash. She surfaced in the mildly rippled water, feebly beating at it, her black button of head scarcely clear of it, already near to death, unable to swim, an atom of life useless and helpless. Dummy had turned automatically, stunned, to watch the arc of her falling. "Now then!" said Marsh, and grabbed at the mute's arm.

The arm surged upward at the touch, a motion like brushing at a fly—Dummy did not look at the man, only at the struggle in the water, too hypnotized by it even to moan or shake his bulging head. But the brushing motion was enough to send Marsh reeling across the deck. He fetched up squealing in the scuppers, his left leg bent under him. His knife was out. Ben saw his leg give way once; then he was upright, advancing slowly and with great care, the blade flat in his hand, swinging from side to side. The monkey sank out of sight. Dummy turned then, and saw Marsh. Head lowered, arms dangling to his ankles, he saw Marsh, and understood, and charged him in a shambling rush.

Joey Mills and Ledyard had not moved.

The monkey broke the surface once more in some last spurt of strength and stubborn hunger for life. Ben slipped out of his trousers and tossed them to Ledyard. "Chips, mind my knife!" He was free of his shoes and climbing naked over the rail.

He gave himself time for a glance out over the still water. The black fin was there, yes, but not too perilously near, he thought—maybe a hundred yards off, and moving away, cutting the water slowly astern of the Diana. The small commotion of the monkey's fall must have gone unnoticed, or the shark would have had her in an instant.

Ben gave himself time for one other glance, backward. Marsh had no knife. Dummy's chest was dripping blood, but the knife lay several feet away. Dummy was over Marsh, a knee on his chest, one fearsome hand closed around his throat, and Marsh was not struggling. His neck was probably broken already; the black eye-patch dangled over his ear; neither eye would see anything more, and the smile was gone.

Joey Mills inside the rail was chattering. "Don't dive, Ben, for God's sake don't! Leave me throw the brute a rope." He had one in his quick little hands, had made it fast to the rail.

"Don't heave it, Joey—let it down." Ben could make out the shoe-button dots of eye. They were fixed and possibly blind. "She could never find it," Ben said. The motion of her arms had almost ceased; she could make no progress through the water. Ben caught the rope and let himself down without a splash, gauged his distance from her, and struck out under water, eyes open.

He found the black shadow of her body and emerged beside her, about to reach for her, but she had life enough yet to grab at him. He turned his head to save his eyes. He felt the clutch of midget fingers in his hair, the scrabble of her legs at his shoulders, and he swam for his life.

Ledyard's wild yell aided him. Until he caught the noise of it he had been concerned only with his need to complete the act, having no time at all to be afraid. The yell brought him sharp knowledge of death, and the one more ounce of speed required to defeat it. He found and seized the rope, and swung with a final burst of violence into safety. Up here in his own element, clutching the rail with Dummy's monkey secure in his other arm, he could look down in time to see not only the black fin lancing toward him from astern but another shape of the same breed, a vast gray hunger shimmering upward from the abyss, shifting to dull silver, cutting water harmlessly at the Diana's side and surging unappeased away.

Dummy stumbled over the deck bleeding from the long gash across his ribs. He blinked in love and fear at the naked god and fell to his knees, then forward to clasp Ben's foot and roll his forehead over it.

"Don't! I pray you, don't!—here, take her! But I fear she'll die, Dummy—I could only bring her back." Dummy reached up for her. Ledyard at Ben's elbow was muttering something about his britches. "In a moment," said Ben. "Mind the hatch, you and Joey. I don't want Jack and Ball coming up yet if we can stop them." He knew somehow without a glance that they would do as he directed. He crossed the deck to the black heap of strangely inoffensive carrion. It seemed to him—outside and apart from this incredibly violent new self of Ben Cory—that his only impulse was to discover whether he could lift that gangling weight. He could, and with astonishing ease. A limp stick, nothing more, a stick with hanging legs and spiritless head and a bad smell. Needlessly he crossed with it back to the starboard side. "The fish will be hungry," he said, and heaved it over. He gripped the rail with both hands, and watched.

They were hungry. Ben watched, thinking not of Jan Dyckman nor of justice nor of the long year ending; thinking only that quiet must presently arrive when this was over, and that in his home country it would be spring. The young apple tree by the kitchen garden—might that be in bloom this morning, and Reuben there to see it? The water briefly boiled in muddy red, and sent its diminishing ripples to infinity, and was still.

Ledyard was tugging at his hand, which could now release its grip on the rail, and urgently shoving something into it—the handle of Ben's knife. "Look to yourself—he's coming!"

Daniel Shawn was framed in the cabin doorway, blankly staring. He could certainly see them all—Joey and Ledyard now by the open forward hatch, Dummy squatting in the shadow of the mainmast cherishing his dying companion, Ben naked at the rail, the knife his father gave him unsheathed and brilliant in the sun. Shawn closed the cabin door and came a step away from it. He remembered; drew out the key from under his shirt and turned his back on all of them, carefully locking the cabin. Then he was advancing, astonishment giving way to some partial understanding, savage and cold. He glanced aloft.

Ben did so too, having almost forgotten Manuel. Manuel was frozen at the masthead, gazing down. Manuel must have seen it all. Ben guessed that not even a roar from Shawn would bring him down at this moment, and Ben was aware of having laughed.

"Well?" Shawn came forward another step or two. "Well? What's this disorder, and thou naked and shameless?"

"Why," said Ben, "this is the garment and shield I wore when I came into the world, as they say, and one day I'll die wearing it, maybe not today. It's my intention to live a long while, after this ketch is returned to Mr. John Kenny of Roxbury."

"Mutiny," said Shawn quietly. His head canted to one side, a danger sign. He had stood so, without a word, when the body of Cornelius Barentsz was cut in quarters and tossed to the sharks. Then as now, the copper farthing had appeared in his left hand, twisting and sparkling. It caught the sun this morning, sending lances of sharp light at Ben's eyes, and Ben turned his knife until it shot the same small cruel messages to Shawn, who winced and briefly turned his face away. "Judah!"

"He can't run any more of your errands. He's sharks' meat, five minutes past. Don't be calling the others and disturbing their breakfast."

"This from you.... Ben, you shall have part of your wish. You shall go in the cabin, immediate. I order you to go there, and here is the key." He took it from under his shirt and tossed it across the deck.

Ben made no motion for it, watching its fall with the corner of his eye. "Joey," he said, "take that key and open the cabin. Tell Captain Jenks that if fortune favors me I'll come to him presently with the key to his leg irons. Tell him, Joey, I am hoping to redeem a year of my life that in folly and weakness I threw away. Tell him that, and return here at once to me."

The key had fallen near to Ben. Joey Mills did not need to pass close to Shawn in order to retrieve it. Small, old and terrified, he was sidling for it when Shawn bellowed: "Joey Mills, do you take orders from a bare-naked child and not from your captain?"

Mills leaped and fluttered like a hurt sparrow. But he had the key, and scuttled to larboard, intending a quick rush aft along by the larboard rail as far from Shawn as he could get. Shawn was wearing no pistols, only his short knife. Ben said: "He won't harm you, Joey. His business is with me, not with you. If he tries to stop you, Ledyard and I will both help you."

"Dummy!" Shawn called that name not in command but in pleading. But even as he spoke, Dummy sobbed once, wetly and loudly, and shambled away up to the bow. Ben glimpsed the monkey's head flopping limp, and the spidery arms. She must have died, and Dummy must have known the moment—yet up there at the bow Dummy was still trying to support her head and make it live.

"Shawn, you spoke of these men as phantoms. Only some of them are that. I think your Judah Marsh was a phantom, and so likely he made a thin meal for the fish. Mills there is a man, and Matthew Ledyard, and Dummy. Men are creatures you've never understood, never. I can see that now. Myself, I begin, just a little, to understand them.... Joey has opened the cabin. Needn't trouble to look behind you. Take my word for it, and now give me that other key."

Shawn did not look behind him. He drew his own knife, slowly, without threat, and leaned his back against the mainmast. "Compassed about.... Ben—why, why? Why must it be so?... And if I do not give you that other key?"

"Then I must take it."

"With that knife. You'll use that knife against the man who would have given you the key to a whole new world."


"Were we not to go there together, Ben?"

"Certainly I dreamed that once myself, before Jan Dyckman was found dying in a dirty alley. And afterwards too, until I learned why he had to lie there."

"Did I not give you the vision?"


"And see it strike fire in you?"


"As I never saw it in any other.... Have I not been kind?"


"Forbearing too? Forgiving a thousand things I'd never take from any other man?"


"But you will use the knife. Have we not spoke together a thousand times like friends? Haven't I made you laugh?"


"But you will use it.... Why?"

"Shawn, do you think I could walk into Heaven across the flesh of Jan Dyckman? Dyckman and others—how many? The men of the Schouven—how many, Shawn? And how many more, before we ever saw the new lands?"

"Does it matter? The vision is greater than the man."

"Nay, I think not, but even let that be so if you wish. But if you follow the vision through blood and deceit, in mad denial of what your senses tell you, then you lose it. Maybe the vision is there yet, but you're mired down in your own folly. You're lost.... Shawn, you're truly compassed about, as you say." Ben raised his voice, knowing that in this windless air it must reach into the open cabin, if Jenks was in any condition to hear it. "Mills and Ledyard and Dummy are with me. Manuel won't fight for you. If Jack or Tom Ball would come on deck, they must pass my friends there at the hatch. I don't wish to fight you, Shawn, nor to harm you. We were friends. I know what you gave me and I value it. But you're lost. You're mired, and I will not go down with you. Now hear the alternatives. If you——"

"I see," said Shawn, perhaps to himself. "I see you will not go with me, the way I should have known it all the while."

"Shawn"—Ben understood that he himself was pleading—"Shawn, there are those who love me, or there were. My life is more to them than ever it was to you. You never knew me. You never saw me. You saw the image of a follower, and that you may have loved, but me you never saw. Now then—my life is all I own. I'm naked in every way. And if you'd take that from me I'll fight you to the last breath, and I'll win. Now hear the alternatives. Throw your knife away and give me that other key. Then, sir, I will not release Captain Jenks until he gives me his word that he will take you unharmed to Boston."

"To man's justice!" said Shawn, and laughed. "No hearing. The short gasp on the tricing line and all vision dead!"

"Men know little enough about justice, that's true. And so I'll give you another alternative. If you will yield, I'll even set you free in a boat when we raise the Cape—as you could have done for me a year ago when I told you plain I'd have no part of your venture."

In dark astonishment, Shawn appeared to be considering that a while. His gaze wandered over the deck. Certainly he would be understanding the open cabin behind him, and whatever Mills and Ledyard were doing at the hatch—Ben could not turn his head to look—and Dummy up there at the bow, shut away in a private world of grief. "Your friend Peter Jenks would never be consenting to such a thing at all."

"He would. His first duty is to Mr. Kenny and to the Artemis. To carry out that duty he must be free of the leg irons. If I say he cannot be free until he gives me his word to let you go, he will give it, and he will keep his word."

"He will not. I know his kind."

"You know nothing of him. You see all men, including me, through your fog of ambition and vanity—and visions.... Well, a third alternative—nay, I can't put that in words."

"To turn this knife against myself?" Shawn's eyes were all black. The copper farthing had been put away. He was shifting lightly from one foot to the other. Ben caught some blurred noise from the forward companionway, but could not turn to look. "I might even do it, Beneen, now that's no lie—if so be the voyage is ended, and wouldn't it be the lightest demand your tender heart has made of me? But Mother of God, I wonder a little what you can do with the pretty ketch, and I not here. Will you look to the northeast?"

Ben did so, a glance not so long as a heartbeat, taking in all that part of the horizon. The faint smudge had grown to a rolling wall of black, far away, maybe not so far. No least breath stirred here aboard or over the near waters still ardent under the sun, but the pressure of storm ached in Ben's eardrums, and over yonder, where the advancing shadow fell, the water, no longer beaten gold, wavered in a troubled darkness. So much Ben discovered in less than a heartbeat, and Shawn chose that moment to leap for him.

The knife was up and aiming for Ben's heart—flashing, perilous enough, intending death, but not shrewdly held as Judah Marsh would have held it, in the flat of the hand, circling and slicing.

To Ben the man's action seemed almost slow; clumsy, weary. He was able with amazing ease to catch the wrist of Shawn's right hand and force it away. His own was seized in the same moment, the blade only inches from Shawn's corded throat. Then indeed a slowness settled over them, a long straining, a silent tension like that of the nearing squall—it must break sometime, maybe not for a long while. Ben became a fighting machine, the power in his left arm sufficient to hold destruction away, the power in his right sufficient to maintain the ultimate threat, but—because of the quivering effort in Shawn's bent arm and because of a tortured reluctance in himself—he was not quite able to fulfill the threat, not quite able to drive the point the two or three inches more down into the soft pulsing spot in Shawn's neck where the life could drain away.

Locked so and waiting, Ben heard commotion break loose behind him. A yell, a shot, a tramp of loud struggling feet, a shrill hollow squeal that could only be French Jack's war cry, and then a different kind of yell from him—higher and thinner, maybe a scream of pain. Ben thought he heard some strangled cursing in Ledyard's voice. No way to learn about it. Nothing to do but hold the fighting machine to its cold purpose until it should win through or take a knife in the back.

It seemed to Ben that he knew, before it happened, everything that Shawn would try to do. Shawn shifted his feet, seeking to bring his boot down on Ben's bare foot. The foot was not there, and Shawn nearly lost his balance, regaining it with a groan of stormy breath—but Ben could still breathe deeply, evenly. After that, he knew, Shawn would not dare to try raising a knee to foul him. I am a little taller after all....

In chill calculation, the fighting machine forced Shawn aft by gradual steps. Behind Ben the noise went on, a thrashing and a snarling. Two men must be rolling about all over the forward deck—which two? Not Joey Mills—surely Mills could do nothing with bare hands against Jack or Tom Ball. It ought to be possible to turn about in this hideous embrace, at least long enough to see——

Ben jerked his right arm backward, hoping to throw Shawn off balance or at least to turn him.

It turned him, but in the swirling and writhing readjustment Shawn's knife found Ben's forehead and drew a hot line downward. Ben heaved at it long enough to save his eye. It returned, for that instant inexorable, gouging Ben's cheek in a lingering kiss of fury to the edge of the jaw. Then Ben's left hand could drive it away, and Shawn was down on his knees and his face was turning brilliant red. But that's my blood on him. Shawn was staring upward. "The color," he said. He was staring directly into Ben's eyes. "The color of the western sea." And his knife clattered on the deck.

Yet he was up on his feet once more, still pressing Ben's knife away, even forcing it downward a little, and the motionless deadlock continued. Weaponless and gasping, knowing defeat, Shawn would not yield. "It's over," Ben said. "Can't you understand?" He would not yield.

Ben's left eye clouded with blood from his forehead. The right eye could discover all things in brilliant detail. A small gray heap by the open hatch—Joey Mills, shot in the forehead. Up near the bow, Ledyard and Tom Ball in a tangle of tom clothes and flailing arms; Ledyard had him by the ears, beating his round head against the planks, and Ledyard's marred face was a great gash of grin. Nearer, a redheaded thing crawled aft inch by inch, holding a pistol, trailing a leg broken between knee and ankle. This thing should have been creeping and suffering in sunlight, but in the sky beyond it a blackness had done away with the sun, while over Ben's head had begun a dubious mutter of troubled canvas.

And only three or four feet away—Dummy, his head swaying from side to side on the blunt neck, moaning, unable to advance, or understand, or take part. Ben could understand that somehow. Dummy had two gods now, and the gods were destroying one another, and the world had fallen to bits while he clutched dead love in his tremendous arms.

Ben could not understand how there should again be huge noise behind him, now that he was facing forward and could see them all with his one unclouded eye, the living and the dead. Manuel? Never. The noise was metallic, a crashing jangle, and the repeated thud of some heavy object striking on the deck. He yelled: "God damn you, Shawn, give over!" Shawn might not have heard that. Shawn was staring fixedly over Ben's shoulder. Except for the grip on Ben's right wrist he was certainly relaxing, weakening fast. It was possible to swing him around again, and look aft, and understand.

With shackled ankles the giant could move in a horrible and careful hopping, the chain jerking behind him. He carried in his hand the three-foot plank that he had torn loose from the floor nails and all. His broad face was one whitened granite calm. Clear of the cabin doorway, he swayed for a time without support, observing—the wrathful sky, the full spread of sail fitfully trembling and stammering under the first warning gusts, the human deeds completed and not completed. His little blue eyes brilliant with all the pure cold of northern ice, he raised the plank, and balanced it, and hurled it.

But French Jack rolled his crawling body just clear of it, and leveled his pistol with some care. It crashed in the same moment that Jenks flung himself forward, and Jenks struck the deck still a yard or two from his enemy, blood seeping from his leg above the iron band. Jenks could crawl too. They would meet in a moment. The thunder of the shot had galvanized Shawn into a last effort, and Ben could watch no more, but he knew that the other thunder following was not from any human source.

That was in the sails, a roar of stricken canvas above a deck gone mad. Out of the torn sky the northeast wind with a booming outrage of rain fell upon Artemis, slapping her over on her beam ends. The twisted knots of human warfare rolled tight against the larboard rail, inches away from a suddenly boiling sea.

Pressed down in that inferno, his face cold, and still, and streaming with the flood of rain, Shawn forced Ben upward away from him, until his right hand could join his left in grasping Ben's right hand. Shawn was trying to speak above the uproar; Ben could not hear him. Ben felt the agonized living shudder of Artemis as a thing within himself, and then he saw, not believing it, that his knife had gone down, its blade hidden in the green cloth, buried to the hilt. Ben could not know, then or in all his life, whether Shawn's own hands had drawn the blade in upon himself, or whether this had been done by the wrenching struggle of Artemis in her extremity, or whether Ben's own right hand had sent it down and so blotted out in one motion all the hope and the madness, the cruelty, the blindness and the radiant visions, and the pain.

Chapter Four

"In such a gale, and my father shot down, and no one at the helm?"

"Ay, but she did rise, Charity. I felt her bear up against it slow and brave, and I trusted her. Call it a fancy or a vain thought, but surely any vessel will carry under her ribs some part of the spirit of the men who made her, a spirit of her own. Yes, she answered that blow, and no one at the helm. It had caught her flat-aback, but some-way, rising against it, she brought herself clear into the eye of the wind. There she hung in irons a moment, only a moment, found herself, paid off, heeled over to starboard and scudded away to the southwest before it, steady as an arrow. No one at the helm."

"Do you notice, Charity?—he speaks louder, and plain, my little brother. That will be from answering back to the winds, and I think they will never be so big my little brother can't shout 'em down."

"They've shouted me down many a time and will again. Well, when she found her way like that, of course we were all flung to starboard too. I cannot remember taking that key from Shawn's body. I must have done it during that moment while she hung in the wind's eye, for I had it in my teeth when I reached your father, and he helped me drag him to the mainmast where he could brace himself. He knew me and spoke to me. He held my knife for me while I unlocked the irons—I remember seeing it in his hand, and the rain was washing it clean."

And will again. She thought: How else could it be, after all? Certainly he would go again, and many times again. And it might be that God would bring him safe through tempest and calm and war, but no daughter of Peter Jenks would dare to predict safe harbor, least of all perhaps for anyone so loved, since the Lord is a jealous God. There could be that final time when even Ben would not come home; his place would be empty, and so then—and so—as if one of those fleecy tranquil clouds over in the blue clean east were advancing on her for her dubious entertainment, Charity observed the beginning of a daydream. It was nothing in her mind, as yet; it could become the familiar indulgence, if she wished: herself receiving the news of her widowhood and bearing it as best she might, maybe accepting the Romish faith so to join a nunnery, or—much better!—going out among the Indians—(why not? Did not John Eliot do so?)—to heal their sick and bind up their wounds and teach them, becoming gray and old in this dispensation of decent mercies until such time as God was willing to—Hey! Misty dreams for silly maids. I don't want you—go away!... Well, it was partly Ben's fault for falling silent so long, when there was so much more to tell; Reuben's too—Reuben sitting there radiantly quiet, and skimming a pebble out beyond the line of foam whenever a wave spent itself whispering at the open side of their sanctuary. Why dream now, when the one dream (so unlike all the others!) had amazed and somewhat frightened her by coming true? It might have been well enough in the long year past to dream. Not now. Anyway not of widowhood—when he ha'n't even asked me!—but his eyes inquire of many things this afternoon—and other such matters far-off and cold and surely unwelcome. It might have been well enough, once, to dwell in that labyrinthine refuge of fantasy; and certain treasures brought back from the labyrinth might be saved—as for instance the created moment when his face would turn to her gravely astonished in discovery, and he would say: 'Why, Mistress Charity, you're no longer an awkward child at all'—or something like that—something.... But why flee from the present even for an instant? Was he not close in the here-and-now? A very tall stranger who was not a stranger; vastly older, a whole year older, the mobile miracle of his face transformed by the bitter dissonance of the great scar still livid and not quite healed, that angled across his high forehead and then ran from his cheekbone to the edge of his jaw. Mouth and eyes were spared. He could look far and curiously, as he always had, and deep. His smile was—almost the same. Surely it would be altogether the same when the scar was fully healed: probably now the torn muscles pained him when his mouth widened; and maybe he felt less often in a mood for smiling since his homecoming and the death of John Kenny. While a part of her irresolutely wondered whether that mouth had ever kissed a woman—it must have—her eyes searched and pondered the multiple planes and shadows of his quiet face, beholding it in many ways. It was the face of Ben Cory, with much in it of the Ben Cory who was, but even more for a while it was a challenge and a problem. What if I undertake what I could never do before? Why could I never draw his face when he was gone?... God knows I remembered it. Or did I truly? Did it not float before me in the dark and come between me and the sunlight of winter? The shadow in the hollow of his cheek was deeper than she remembered it—well, he was thinner; bad food and not much of it, she supposed; still he grew on it and found strength in it. The hairline above his ear was a simpler curve than she recalled. And why, why had she never noticed that the tops of his ears were slightly pointed?—very slightly, not like Reuben's, but still he did have that comical faunlike point. Her fingers itched for a pencil but lay still, and she looked away to the ever-moving green, and white, and unfathomable blue, the lashing hurry of spent water up along the sand, the unceasing rise and fall. I must have been blind. She closed her eyes, seeing much. Well, it ought to be three-quarter face, the chin up a little, intentness without a smile-like so....

"'O, how shall summer's honey breath hold out
Against the wreckful siege of battering days?...

"Reuben, you know too much. Won't you tell the rest, Ben? So many things—tell me more about my father, and—all the rest. Will you not?"

"I will try.... She was far over to starboard, running from the squall, until we got the tops'l furled. Dummy and Ledyard saw to that—or better say your father did, for it was his voice, not mine, that made them jump to it, and I to the helm, so to lash it and then go back to your father for what little I could do. So much happened, and all in a moment. All that I spent minutes in telling—why, I don't suppose more than one minute passed from the time the squall struck to the time I was unlocking the irons. Then much less than a minute, and I was lashing the helm, Dummy and Ledyard aloft—in that bit of time Manuel died. Ledyard had broken French Jack's leg with a capstan bar when Jack came up through the hatch. Tom Ball shot poor Joey Mills, and Ledyard grappled with Ball, beat the wind out of him I guess—a man's work. When the squall hit us, only an instant after Jack shot your father, Jack was washed overboard, and Ledyard—helped Ball to follow him, I believe. All that I didn't see; Ledyard told me later. I saw Manuel die. It was while I was at the helm, and she settling steady as you please on that starboard tack. Poor soul, he'd stayed at the masthead through it all, and clung to it through the first stroke of the storm, and now was trying to come down, and it wasn't wind or rain that made him fall, but his own sudden shaking—or maybe he thought Dummy was coming to get him, but I don't believe that. He fell clear of the side, sank and never rose, and Artemis swept on by the empty waters where I could see nothing of him.... Shawn was not washed over. His dead hand had gripped the rail. Later I had much trouble freeing it so to give him a decent sea-burial; and maybe that was when I truly said him a farewell, and his hand so unwilling to let her go."

"Don't alway be turning me the right side of your face. I tell you it does not trouble me."

"The scar would trouble most girls, Charity. Well, so I lashed the helm and went back to the Captain, who was losing blood at a fearful rate, and then I was a frantic time scrabbling in the locker for a cord to bind the leg and stop the flow. I was obliged to pull the cord with all my power before it would stop. The bullet had completely shattered the bone. I don't think a surgeon could have set it. He said so himself, and commanded me to cut the leg away below the break."

"The blood was not flowing but spurting?"

"Ay, Ru. Could anything have been done?"

"Not that I know of, under those conditions. Not with the anterior tibial artery spouting and the bone shattered. You were fortunate he lived beyond that day. You did as he ordered?"

"I did, and he lived twenty days. I asked him if I might not bring him rum from the cabin before I cut it, and he thundered at me, No, in God's name no, and thrust my knife back in my hand, and I cut as quickly and cleanly as I might. Then he thanked me, and bade me help him up the companion ladder to the quarterdeck. There he remained for all of our homeward voyage, by the helm to give me guidance—and the same a fair passage with no dirty weather except a little off the Bermudas, nothing bad. He took the tiller himself at times, to relieve me, during the first days. On the fourth day, I think it was, we could see the wound had begun to mortify, and later he was sometimes out of his wits and rambling, but he would alway come clear of that and tell me once more how he would live until we came into harbor—seeing that nothing except his word stood between me and Copp's Hill. He wrote an account of it all and signed it with a great flourish—that was a quiet and a sunny day—but he feared that would not be enough. Determined he was to speak that word for Dummy and me, and he did so. Charity, I had never thought your father a compassionate man, but—we learn, sometimes."

"He—I don't know. I don't know what to say."

"Perhaps he changed, as it seems we all do.... My clothes were washed overside, by the way. I came into Boston harbor and to Uncle John's house wearing a suit of Shawn's garments too small for me."

"Yes, little brother, they were too small for you, now that's no lie."

"Don't ever laugh at him!"

"I was never farther from laughing. You killed your wolf...."

"Ben, what of Ledyard? He did not come home with you."

"Nay, Charity, he did not. Ledyard, who felt so great a dread of hanging—oh, it happened in the night, Charity, and the quiet, when we'd come clear of that bad weather off the Bermudas and were sailing free under a fair southeasterly and hoping to raise the Cape in a day or two. Your father was sleeping in the fever of his sickness. Dummy came to me in the dark, whimpering and pointing. He took the helm while I went forward, half knowing what I was to find, but I was a long time finding it. Ledyard had climbed out on the bowsprit with a length of rope. The rope slipped backward after he fell, and so his face came close against the face of the white goddess. I have never seen her look so careless and so proud."

"For the deity of the moon that may be a way of kindness."

"Maybe, Reuben, maybe...."

Ben could remember how some such thought had stirred in his own mind there in the moonless shadow—not altogether moonless, since the white goddess had taken starlight to her face and was delicately shining, aloof, indifferent, as Ben leaned out and cut the rope and gave the spent body to the sea, and the sea accepted it with the careless whisper of an enfolding wave. He had gone back then to the quarterdeck, where the Captain had waked in a remission of the fever, and told him of it. "She's taken better men," said Captain Jenks, and shrugged and groaned. "All the same I never thought he had it in him." That was all Captain Jenks ever said of Matthew Ledyard. Ben in the undemanding hours of the days that followed could yet inquire: Where is the way where light dwelleth? And where does the self end and the universe begin? But it was plain—more than ever plain in this calm place where land and ocean met and the war between them was only the joyful-tragic music of breakers on firm sand—plain that he must ask those questions again and many times again: of Reuben, of Charity, of others not yet known, most often of himself, and would discover many answers, until the unimaginable time when all questions arrived at silence as they had for John Kenny. Answers bearing illumination seemed closer in this place than ever before—"My garden," said Charity when they first came here, and held up to him a pebble of many colors, flowerlike, worn smooth and round with the sea's many thousand years.

"Storm never continues, I notice. The sky itself can't maintain it, nor can we. Always the calm afterward—here, Ben, or in the Spice Islands."

"There are storms then in the Spice Islands?"

"Of course, Ben...."

"Did my father have—have aught to say of poor Ledyard?"

"Oh, he.... Why, he prayed God deal kindly with him. And he said not a word against him when we'd entered the harbor and the men who came aboard were questioning us. True, he had little time for words, Charity, since death was on him while he spoke, and it took him, his head on my arm, before the men were ready to lower him into the boat that should have brought him ashore.... Yesterday when I went into Boston I sought out Ledyard's widow, and told her how he aided us, and then I—a white lie, I said he was washed overboard. Your father would have approved this deception, I'm sure of it. I wish he could have lived to see you again, Charity—still it's a marvel he could even live out the homeward voyage, he was that wasted and worn out with the sickness from his wound. But he did, and his word stood like a shield for me, so that when I gave mine own account they believed me. Charity, when he'd done speaking I asked him if I might not bring him something to drink. He laughed at me a little, saying he had not the craving. He said: 'Do you drink to me as well as pray for me if you're a-mind.' That was the last he spoke.... Are you dreaming, Charity?"

"She's human too, you know."

"Oh, Ben, I was remembering how it was when they brought him home to us. Is it possible that was only three weeks ago now? And thinking of the burial, and how all the things we did—all the words spoken, ours, the minister's, our friends'—how all that was so far from—him. Am I a terrible bad heathen, that I should have felt—well, angry at it? But mark you, Ben, I did not show it, I did not have one of my—my Times. Did I? Did I show it, Ben?"

"Certainly not. You was a most quiet sweet mouse and opened your mouth for naught but Amen and Thine-is-the-power."

"Faith and Mama in tears all day, and the neighbors resenting my dry eyes, be sure of it, and good Mr. Hoskison so—marry, so important! As if motions of the hands and holy words spoken could make any difference to one who's died and gone away. But you don't think I'm a terrible bad heathen?"

"You are not, but if Ben and I labor with you long enough, love, perhaps we can make you one. I have hopes."

"Oh, you!"

"No, Charity, never mind the pup, you're no heathen, or if you are, then I too. I've no patience with—let's call it mummery. I saw your father die. He was a captain of men, and he died well. No words spoken over his body can add anything to that. Such words are for the living, if they wish them. No one spoke them for Daniel Shawn, and though it may be that I killed him, I loved him too."

And having said so much, and understood it while you said it, you will never lean on me again, the which I accept because it is right. Reuben shied another pebble beyond the running line of the water's edge, aiming for a circle of hurrying foam, hitting it with a neat plop in the center. Good exercise for a steady hand. What he had said to Ben concerning storm and calm was banal, he reflected, but truth has a way of hiding in the blur of the commonplace and must be hunted there from time to time: no good rushing upstairs or outdoors in search of a paper that lies on the table under your nose. We do pass continually from storm to calm—every one of us, even Madam Prudence Jenks. So meet them both, in the atmosphere of doubt where honesty is—whether in fog over quicksand, or on firm-appearing ground like this under a sunny sky of June. Reuben tossed another pebble, seeing Charity smile at him ruminatively, a gust of the sea breeze lifting a lock of soft hair from her broad forehead; then her homely, snub-nosed, square-jawed face turned back to Ben and was beautiful.

"I was thinking too, I wish I might have been with you both when Mr. Kenny died. You've told me little of that, indeed nothing much about your homecoming."

"He came on foot, Charity, and no word arrived ahead of him. We are not such important people now, you know. I was upstairs in Uncle John's room, and Mr. Welland with me. It was late, Mr. Hibbs gone to bed, and we had almost persuaded Kate to go and rest too, but Mr. Welland had told me he half expected Uncle John to go out that night, so we sat up with him. There had been another stroke, as you know, a light one, but he was failing rapidly and most of the time seemed hardly to know us. Kate went downstairs for something, a pitcher of water I think, and I heard the front door, and she cried out something, presently weeping and laughing and calling up gibberish to us. I knew it was Ben, but I—you know, Snotnose, you really should have sent a messenger to warn us you was an inch taller and fifteen pounds heavier, in fact you'll be obliged to work now to some purpose, or at thirty you'll have a gut, I swear it. Mind it, Charity—he was ever too fond of cracklin's." Quiet, Ru Cory! This is how it was, and you can't tell it: Ben Cory appeared in the candlelight, and Ru Cory stood like a cold image and could not move, and Amadeus Welland came to him—to Reuben because he was the one in need—and then Ben came to him also—but you can't tell it, seeing that for all your and-so-forth intellect you cannot bring love into the compass of a few well-chosen words, so be quiet and live a while. "Well, Charity, Uncle John knew him at once, even before he knelt by the bed and said, 'I've come back.' His right hand came up and touched the scar, and he said very plainly—we all heard it: Kate, and Mr. Hibbs who'd come in rubbing his eyes and doubting, it may be, that anything so good as Ben's return could actually happen at the borders of philosophy—Uncle John said very plainly: 'Thou art my son.'"

"And he died then?"

"No, love, somehow nature seldom accommodates our itch for the appropriate, I don't know why. That was later in the night. Ben was exhausted, and I made him go to bed and save the story of his life for the following morning. Uncle John didn't die then, but seemed to have fallen into a heavy sleep. We stayed with him of course. I was watching his hand, Charity"—and Amadeus' arm over my shoulder, and his voice speaking to me now and then—"and at some time toward morning there was a kind of disturbance in his sleep, his hand closing as if it would hold fast to certain things for a while yet. Then it opened and gave it all away."

He needs no help except what Mr. Welland can give, still I'll do what I may. Ben could see also the next voyage of the ketch Artemis. He would not be aboard—as Sam Tench had made clear, there was much to do, and Ben Cory the one to do it. A possible partnership with Riggs of Salem, for instance—it must be considered at least. Captain Heath would take Artemis to New York, and some good man must be found to take Heath's place on the sloop Hebe. But next year, Ben thought, maybe he could go again on Artemis—maybe to Norfolk—maybe.... Then at some time, much later, maybe three or four good vessels fit for the passage around the Horn, even a charter from the Queen—not at all impossible, some years from now, if done in the right way. In the meanwhile——

"Now you are dreaming, Ben. I used to know that look, in Deerfield. But now when your mind's under sail I suppose it goes into places you've seen with your true eyes. And when you'd hear the sea you needn't bury an ear in the pillow and cover the other with the flat of your paw—well, Charity, what a fool he used to look that way! And how often was I tempted to shove the paw aside and blow in his ear—give him a real storm—you know? Never did, and can't now because he's grown big enough to give me a hiding, or he thinks he has."

"It's true I was thinking a little of the seaways, but how a devil's name did you know it?"

"He's much too wise a fox, Ben—it's those little pointed ears."

"Charity, I meant to ask before now: Faith—is she—content?"

"I believe so. Mr. Hoskison is a worthy man, and has been most kind to us."

"What of that girl who—I mean—her name was Clarissa, was it not?"

"My mother was obliged—that is, she...."

"Without Charity's knowledge, Ben, Clarissa was sold to New York because there was no place for her at Dorchester."

"Oh, as for my knowledge—what difference—damn it—oh, forgive me! I meant——"

"Darling wench, in the presence of two scholars of the humanities you needn't alway be deferring to your Mama's judgment, and if you do, I will overlook your attainment of the years of decorum and paddle you. Clarissa should have been manumitted—you know it, would have done it had it been in your power, I know it, Ben knows it, and I dare say now and then your Mama knows it—this being a mad world, and it seems we live in it. Now I do prophesy: in a few years my little brother will be a man of affairs, and I myself intend to become filthy rich. As soon as we may, sweetheart, Ben or I will go to New York and Clarissa shall be bought free, so stop crying—Ben don't like it...."

"Better so in my arm, Charity? Are you comfortable?"


"And I must be going, seeing I promised Mr. Welland I'd be back in Roxbury by the end of the afternoon. Medicines to be compounded, a visit he's to make this evening and wishes me to go with him, and more of the study that endeth never."

"We can't keep you?"

"No, dear."

"If you must go, Ru, maybe I——"

"Oh no! Do you stay here in the sun. I pray you both, be happy, and love me sometimes. I must get on with my work."

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