Robert Walmsley's descent upon the city
resulted in a Kilkenny struggle. He came out of the
fight victor by a fortune and a reputation. On the
other band, he was swallowed up by the city. The
city gave him what he demanded and then branded
him with its brand. It remodelled, cut, trimmed and
stamped him to the pattern it approves. It opened
its social gates to him and shut him in on a close-
cropped, formal lawn with the select herd of rumi-
nants. In dress, habits, manners, provincialism,
routine and narrowness he acquired that charming in-
solence, that irritating completeness, that sophisti-
cated crassness, that overbalanced poise that makes
the Manhattan gentleman so delightfully small in his
One of the up-state rural counties pointed with
pride to the successful young metropolitan lawyer as
a product of its soil. Six years earlier this county
had removed the wheat straw from between its huckle-
berry-stained teeth and emitted a derisive and bucolic
laugh as old man Walmsley's freckle-faced " Bob
abandoned the certain three-per-diem meals of the
one-horse farm for the discontinuous quick lunch
counters of the three-ringed metropolis. At the end
of the six years no murder trial, coaching party, au-
tomobile accident or cotillion was complete in which
the name of Robert Walmsley did not figure. Tailors
waylaid him in the street to get a new wrinkle from
the cut of his unwrinkled trousers. Hyphenated fel-
lows in the clubs and members of the oldest subpoenaed
families were glad to clap him on the back and allow
him three letters of his name.
But the Matterhorn of Robert Walmsley's success
was not scaled until be married Alicia Van Der Pool.
I cite the Matterhorn, for just so high and cool and
white and inaccessible was this daughter of the old
burghers. The social Alps that ranged about her
over whose bleak passes a thousand climbers struggled
-- reached only to her knees. She towered in her own
atmosphere, serene, chaste, prideful, wading in no
fountains, dining no monkeys, breeding no dogs for
bench shows. She was a Van Der Pool. Fountains
were made to play for her; monkeys were made for
other people's ancestors; dogs, she understood, were
created to be companions of blind persons and objec-
tionable characters who smoked pipes.
This was the Matterhorn that Robert Walmsley
accomplished. If he found, with the good poet with
the game foot and artificially curled hair, that he who
ascends to mountain tops will find the loftiest peaks
most wrapped in clouds and snow, he concealed his
chilblains beneath a brave and smiling exterior. He
was a lucky man and knew it, even though he were
imitating the Spartan boy with an ice-cream freezer
beneath his doublet frappeeing the region of his
After a brief wedding tour abroad, the couple re-
turned to create a decided ripple in the calm cistern
(so placid and cool and sunless it is) of the best so-
ciety. They entertained at their red brick mausoleum
of ancient greatness in an old square that is a ceme-
tery of crumbled glory. And Robert Walmsley was
proud of his wife; although while one of his hands
shook his guests' the other held tightly to his alpen-
stock and thermometer.
One day Alicia found a letter written to Robert by
his mother. It was an unerudite letter, full of crops
and motherly love and farm notes. It chronicled the
health of the pig and the recent red calf, and asked
concerning Robert's in return. It was a letter direct
from the soil, straight from home, full of biographies
of bees, tales of turnips, peaans of new-laid eggs, neg-
lected parents and the slump in dried apples.
"Why have I not been shown your mother's let-
ters?" asked Alicia. There was always something in
her voice that made you think of lorgnettes, of ac-
counts at Tiffany's, of sledges smoothly gliding on
the trail from Dawson to Forty Mile, of the tinkling
of pendant prisms on your grandmothers' chandeliers,
of snow lying on a convent roof; of a police sergeant
refusing bail. "Your mother," continued Alicia,
"invites us to make a visit to the farm. I have
never seen a farm. We will go there for a week or
"We will," said Robert, with the grand air of an
associate Supreme Justice concurring in an opinion.
"I did not lay the invitation before you because I
thought you would not care to go. I am much pleased
at your decision."
"I will write to her myself," answered Alicia, with
a faint foreshadowing of enthusiasm. " Felice shall
pack my trunks at once. Seven, I think, will be
enough. I do not suppose that your mother entertains
a great deal. Does she give many house parties?"
Robert arose, and as attorney for rural places filed
a demurrer against six of the seven trunks. He en-
deavored to define, picture, elucidate, set forth and
describe a farm. His own words sounded strange in
his ears. He had not realized how thoroughly urbsi-
dized he had become.
A week passed and found them landed at the little
country station five hours out from the city. A grin-
ning, stentorian, sarcastic youth driving a mule to a
spring wagon hailed Robert savagely.
"Hallo, Mr. Walmsley. Found your way back at
last, have you? Sorry I couldn't bring in the auto-
mobile for you, but dad's bull-tonguing the ten-acre
clover patch with it to-day. Guess you'll excuse my,
not wearing a dress suit over to meet you -- it ain't
six o'clock yet, you know."
"I'm glad to see you, Tom," said Robert, grasp-
ing his brother's band. "Yes, I've found my way at
last. You've a right to say 'at last.' It's been over
two years since the last time. But it will be oftener
after this, my boy."
Alicia, cool in the summer beat as an Arctic wraith,
white as a Norse snow maiden in her flimsy muslin and
fluttering lace parasol, came round the corner of the
station; and Tom was stripped of his assurance. He
became chiefly eyesight clothed in blue jeans, and on
the homeward drive to the mule alone did he confide
in language the inwardness of his thoughts.
They drove homeward. The low sun dropped a
spendthrift flood of gold upon the fortunate fields of
wheat. The cities were far away. The road lay curl-
ing around wood and dale and bill like a ribbon lost
from the robe of careless summer. The wind followed
like a whinnying colt in the track of Phoebus's steeds.
By and by the farmhouse peeped gray out of its
faithful grove; they saw the long lane with its convoy
of walnut trees running from the road to the house;
they smelled the wild rose and the breath of cool,
damp willows in the creek's bed. And then in unison
all the voices of the soil began a chant addressed to
the soul of Robert Walmsley. Out of the tilted aisles
of the dim wood they came hollowly; they chirped and
buzzed from the parched grass; they trilled from the
ripples of the creek ford; they floated up in clear
Pan's pipe notes from the dimming meadows; the
whippoorwills joined in as they pursued midges in the
upper air; slow-going cow-bells struck out a homely
accompaniment -- and this was what each one said:
"You've found your way back at last, have you?"
The old voices of the soil spoke to him. Leaf and
bud and blossom conversed with him in the old vocabu-
lary of his careless youth - the inanimate things, the
familiar stones and rails, the gates and furrows and
roofs and turns of the road had an eloquence, too, and
a power in the transformation. The country had
smiled and he had felt the breath of it, and his heart
was drawn as if in a moment back to his old love.
The city was far away.
This rural atavism, then, seized Robert Walmsley
and possessed him. A queer thing he noticed in con-
nection with it was that Alicia, sitting at his side,
suddenly seemed to him a stranger. She did not be-
long to this recurrent phase. Never before had she
seemed so remote, so colorless and high - so intan-
gible and unreal. And yet he had never admired her
more than when she sat there by him in the rickety
spring wagon, chiming no more with his mood and
with her environment than the Matterhorn chimes
with a peasant's cabbage garden.
That night when the greetings and the supper were
over, the entire family, including Buff, the yellow dog,
bestrewed itself upon the front porch. Alicia, not
haughty but silent, sat in the shadow dressed in an
exquisite pale-gray tea gown. Robert's mother dis-
coursed to her happily concerning marmalade and
lumbago. Tom sat on the top step; Sisters Millie
and Pam on the lowest step to catch the lightning
bugs. Mother had the willow rocker. Father sat in
the big armchair with one of its arms gone. Buff
sprawled in the middle of the porch in everybody's
way. The twilight pixies and pucks stole forth un-
seen and plunged other poignant shafts of memory
into the heart of Robert. A rural madness entered
his soul. The city was far away.
Father sat without his pipe, writhing in his heavy
boots, a sacrifice to rigid courtesy. Robert shouted:
"No, you don't!" He fetched the pipe and lit it; he
seized the old gentleman's boots and tore them off.
The last one slipped suddenly, and Mr. Robert
Walmsley, of Washington Square, tumbled off the
porch backward with Buff on top of him, bowling
fearfully. Tom laughed sarcastically.
Robert tore off his coat and vest and hurled them
into a lilac bush.
"Come out here, you landlubber," be cried to Tom,
and I'll put grass seed on your back. I think you
called me a 'dude' a while ago. Come along and cut
Tom understood the invitation and accepted it with
delight. Three times they wrestled on the grass,
"side holds," even as the giants of the mat. And
twice was Tom forced to bite grass at the hands of
the distinguished lawyer. Dishevelled, panting, each
still boasting of his own prowess, they stumbled back
to the porch. Millie cast a pert reflection upon the
qualities of a city brother. In an instant Robert had
secured a horrid katydid in his fingers and bore down
upon her. Screaming wildly, she fled up the lane,
pursued by the avenging glass of form. A quarter
of a mile and they returned, she full of apology to
the victorious " dude." The rustic mania possessed
I can do up a cowpenful of you slow hayseeds,"
he proclaimed, vaingloriously. "Bring on your bull-
dogs, your hired men and your log-rollers."
He turned handsprings on the grass that prodded
Tom to envious sarcasm. And then, with a whoop,
he clattered to the rear and brought back Uncle like,
a battered colored retainer of the family, with his
banjo, and strewed sand on the porch and danced
"Chicken in the Bread Tray" and did buck-and-
wing wonders for half an hour longer. Incredibly,
wild and boisterous things he did. He sang, he told
stories that set all but one shrieking, he played the
yokel, the humorous clodhopper; he was mad, and
with the revival of the old life in his blood.
He became so extravagant that once his mother
sought gently to reprove him. Then Alicia moved as
though she were about to speak, but she did not.
Through it all she sat immovable, a slim, white spirit
in the dusk that no man might question or read.
By and by she asked permission to ascend to her
room, saying that she was tired. On her way she
passed Robert. He was standing in the door, the
figure of vulgar comedy, with ruffled hair, reddened
face and unpardonable confusion of attire -- no trace
there of the immaculate Robert Walmsley, the courted
clubman and ornament of select circles. He was do-
ing a conjuring trick with some household utensils,
and the family, now won over to him without excep-
tion, was beholding him with worshipful admiration.
As Alicia passed in Robert started suddenly. He
had forgotten for the moment that she was present.
Without a glance at him she went on upstairs.
After that the fun grew quiet. An hour passed
in talk, and then Robert went up himself.
She was standing by the window when he entered
their room. She was still clothed as when they were
on the porch. Outside and crowding against the
window was a giant apple tree, full blossomed.
Robert sighed and went near the window. He was
ready to meet his fate. A confessed vulgarian, he
foresaw the verdict of justice in the shape of that
whiteclad form. He knew the rigid lines that a
Van Der Pool would draw. He was a peasant gam-
bolling indecorously in the valley, and the pure, cold,
white, unthawed summit of the Matterhorn could not
but frown on him. He had been unmasked by his
own actions. All the polish, the poise, the form that
the city had given him had fallen from him like an
ill-fitting mantle at the first breath of a country
breeze. Dully be awaited the approaching condemna-
"Robert," said the calm, cool voice of his judge,
"I thought I married a gentleman."
Yes, it was coming. And yet, in the face of it,
Robert Walmsley was eagerly regarding a certain
branch of the apple tree upon which be used to climb
out of that very window. He believed he could do it
now. He wondered bow many blossoms there were
on the tree -- ten millions? But here was some one
"I thought I married a gentleman," the voice
went on, "but -- "
Why had she come and was standing so close by
"But I find that I have married" -- was this
Alicia talking? -- "something better -- a man --
Bob, dear, kiss me, won't you?"
The city was far away.