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Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, December 22, 1929, Image 86

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6
AND ON EARTH —PEACE —By Zona Gale
Christmas
Romance.
m CROSS a mile of flat white pasture
! /m lßnd one light shone - Bertha Millet
/ /-i saw the light, and hated it.
y M Snow flakes were whirling against
the glass. There was wind. Her first
night in the hills was to be a night of storm.
She only hoped that Carl would come with her
mail and her supplies before the storm grew
fierce. This would be his last trip up into the
bills before Christmas—only three days away.
Christmas! The first Christmas day that
She had ever spent alone.
How they were talking down in the valley.
“Bart Millet's wife—yes, the flighty one. No
wonder he left her for Jane Graham, a sober,
quiet, industrious creature, who understood all
that he had put up with from Bertha, who was
no housekeeper. Jane was 30, a widow with a
girl of 8. She must have pitied him—poor
Bart. Not that Bart had done right—nobody
was defending him—but to understand weak
ness was your duty. As for that Bertha Millet,
with her independence and her high ways, who
could understand her? Who wanted to under
stand her?”
She could hear their voices as if they were
rising from the valley. She listened for the
sound of Carl’s car coming up the Glen road,
but all that she heard was the roll of voices.
She knew what else they said.
"And Bart Millet’s death,” they were saying,
“was Bertha’s fault and nobody else’s. Because,
if Bart hadn't gone off with Jane, he wouldn’t
have hired out to the lumber camp—and the
raft wouldn’t have drowned him. Bertha killed
him just as much as if she’d pushed him off the
raft into the river. And there was poor Jane,
trying to keep her girl Anne off in school —
away from gossip.”
It was Jane's light which Bertha could see
across the valley. Bertha stood at the window
watching for Carl and thinking how perfectly
neat the room was where that far lamp was
set—the room which she herself had never kept
In order. But Bertha had left that house on
the day after Bart had gone. She had lived
on in the town in a boarding house. And now
Jane’s light shone across the mile of flat pas
ture into Bertha’s new abode—a small place,
aet up in the hills, the farm which had be
longed to Bertha’s father.
jpOR the last fortnight, Bertha knew, that
light had shone on some one besides Jane
Graham-Millet. It had been shining on Anne,
Jane's daughter, home for the Christmas holi
days, home for the first time since the upheaval.
Bertha wondered if she knew. The valley and
the village wondered if she knew.
"Poor little thing! Os course, she couldn’t
understand like the rest of us. She’ll think her
mother has done something awful. She won’t
know what kind of a cook Bertha was. Mebbe
some of us could kind of explain, like her
mother can’t——”
Bertha had no doubt that somebody had ex
plained. The wind was strong and it beat upon
the house. Bertha had on the kettle to make
Coffee for Carl—she could make good coffee,
even if the valley hadn’t liked her way of serv
ing vegetables and salads instead of pastry and
cake. And Carl could eat at any moment of the
day or night. She had loved him from his lit
tle boyhood, when he had run over from the
adjoining farm and asked her to tell him a story.
She had opened to him a new world, and he
admired her increasingly when his two years of
college were done and he had come back to
manage his father's farm. He was her one link
with the world now, she told herself. But they
must have it understood that on a night like
this he must not drive up with her provisions.
Snow was falling so that she could hardly see
Jane’s light. She turned away, and the wind
was so strong that she did not hear the sound
of Carl’s car until he had driven into her yard.
She Sung open the door and he came in, and
the room filled with the odor of the cold and
with flying snow. The lamp flickered, the fire
leaped in the draft and his presence seemed to
wake the air.
*T’m a sight, Mrs. Millet,” he said. ’’The
snow came in even through the windshield. I’d
Just drop the basket and go, only ”
He looked at her and at the window, caked
With the flakes.
“Take off your coat,” she cried. “I’ll have
some coffee in 10 minutes—but it’ll only take
me a second!”
They laughed, as they had always laughed—
together. She was actually bustling—the valley
would not have believed it of her—getting ready
bis supper.
He did not take off his coat, but made in
effective dabs with his cap, beating away the
snow. His face was brown and firm, his blond
hair was thick.
“I can’t,” he said. "I must get straight on
tonight ”
She turned. "Why, my dear! I haven’t seen
you—l haven’t seen anybody since you were
here last week. Os course,” she caught herself,
“I don’t want to see anybody—but I do want to
see you— —”
THE SUNDAY STAR, WASHINGTON, D. C., DECEMBER 22, 1929.
Ann and Bertha met as two beings having no wrongs and no relatives.
“I know," he said. “I’ve no end of stuff 1
want to talk over with you, but tonight ”
He turned to look to the window. -
"You shouldn’t have come," she told him.
"I’ve been anxious for two hours. That road—
Carl, don’t you think that you should stay
here?”
Again his look went to the window, where the
lights of his car made the flakes sparkle.
“I could get on all right myself,” he said,
“only ”
“What, Carl?”
“I’ve got some one with me.”
"Well, then—of course, you’ll both stay here!”
"I don’t think you’d like that, Mrs. Millet.
I don’t think ”
She made a gesture; her face was not even
curious.
"X shall not mind, whoever it Is." Her thought
caught, as on some visible obstacle. “Perhaps
you mean it’s somebody who wouldn’t care about
putting up with me?”
"It’s not that —why, she’s up here with me,
Isn't she? But you—l wish it wasn’t such a bad
night!”
“If she wouldn’t care,” said Bertha lightly,
“that’s all. Don’t keep her out there freesing
to death, Carl!”
“My dear,” he said, “it’s Anne—Anne Gra
ham.”
For an Instant her look was blank.
“Jane Graham’s daughter,” he had to add.
"Does she know?” Bertha asked only.
“Oh, everything!”
“Then she shares the valley’s idea that I
deserved what I got. She won’t want ”
“Don’t be absurd. But are you sure ”
“Don’t you be absurd,” she said, and took
down another cup.
His look was his answer. Then she heard
him:
"Anne! Mrs. Millet wants us both to stay.”
ANNE and Bertha met as two beings having
no wrongs and no relatives.
“Mrs. Millet,” Anne said, "I do wish we
weren’t making you so much trouble! I was
paralyzed at that Glen road coming up. I
* daren't think of it going down ”
"I shouldn’t have forgotten either of you,”
Bertha said.
Anne slipped out of her coat—she had a
scarf over her hair and she wore nothing over
'-heT shoes. She was in a black gown, but her
bright, short hair and her high color height
ened the room like light.
"Come and have some coffee,” said Bertha,
and the doubtful moment was at an end.
That Carl’s path and Anne's were irrev
ocably crossed became at once evident to
Bertha. She wondered what there is to signal
that two people are in love. Not words nor
looks—but they flowed together, mind and
mood, like an hour and a clock—and no more
to be said about it. Love, among many things,
was what they were for, and they assumed It.
And yet, Bertha saw, there was not less ro
mance, but more! Carl and Anne were not, in
the manner of older lovers, disconcerted.
Merely they were exquisitely, jubilantly at
home.
When, therefore, Carl said, "Anne, shall we
tell her?” Bertha said: “Do tell me the par
ticulars, the plans! Everything else I see for
myself.”
“But,” cried Anne gayly, "we’re not going
to be married. We want to be free—perfectly
free. We —I don’t believe in marriage.”
Faced thus abruptly with the open phrasing
of a secret thought which had sometimes come
to her through the years of her own marriage
to Bart Millet, Bertha’s first stricken amaze
ment was more at this barefaced announcement
than at the opinion itself.
Yet instinctively she cried: “Oh, my dears,
not that!”
She felt her mistake in their instant with
drawal. They said no more, seeming oddly to
feel that the burden of proof lay upon her.
"I shouldn’t have thought,” she accused
them feebly, “that you’d stand for anything
so unoriginal.”
They laughed. This was better. Carl, she
saw, had wistfully expected of her something
like this.
“To go against marriage ” she began, and
glanced at Anne and faltered.
“Don’t mind me.” said Anne briskly. “Moth
er gave you a rotten deal —nobody feels that
more than I do. I’m frightfully ashamed
of it.”
"Every case seems special,” Bertha heard
herself saying. This had come so suddenly—
she had no time to sort her certainties!
Anne leaned toward her.
“Look here,” she said winnlngly, "he yourself
with us, please! Don’t feel you have to stand
up for society. We both know—everybody
knows—what you’ve been through. You—you
were a wonder, and marriage simply crucified
you. You were a brick—but—it—it killed some
of you, all the same. Don't stand up for that
sort of thing—to us!”
Bertha looked at Anne’s wise young face—so
strangely wise on such youthful shoulders.
Why, she was not 23 yet! And yet she was
aware of truths.
Bertha caught herself on that. Truths? Yes,
there was truth in what Anne had just been
saying. She knew, the village knew—and other
villages and other valleys, the world around.
There were marriages that killed some of the
souls of those who had taken marriage vows.
But, oh, couldn't they see the others ”
“Would you go through it again?” Anne de
manded. "I mean, as you did before ”
"No,” she said, “indeed I would not. And
certainly if I had only known that ” she
cried to them, “but you two! Don’t you know
that you love each other?” She tried to add
gayly: “I know it—l can see that you do!”
"We love each other too much to bind each
other,” said Anne solemnly.
Bertha turned to Anne. “Tell me,” she said,
"you don’t mind my asking—do you feel this—
or is it only because ”
Anne laughed. “No, I’ve believed this way
for ages.”
“Your mother,” said Bertha. "Forgive me—
she acted on that principle of freedom—do you
think that she ”
"Oh, but she wasn’t free!” cried Anne. "She
was bound —or she ought to have been—by
your bondage. That’s it—when you’re once
inside you can never get free yourself or let
anybody else be free. Os course, mother has
suffered fearfully. That’s one of the things
that make me know marriage is so wrong.
It—it binds everybody, perfectly miserably.
And Carl and I ”
J-£E put out his hand, and she took it. Their
look was the look of two who would never
let each other go.
“You’re bound already,” said Bertha. "Don’t
you see that?”
They looked startled, but they quickly rallied,
however.
“For just as long as we want to be,” said
Anne stoutly.
“And how do you know that you will both
cease to want to be at the same time?”
“I wouldn’t want anything Anne didn’t
want,” said Carl.
“Wouldn’t you?” Bertha looked at him in
tently. “Wouldn’t you lore her at this minute
whether she loved you or not? If you wouldn’t
I wouldn’t give much for your love!”
Carl said remorsefully: "We didn’t mean to
worry you with this. We came by the Olen
road only because I wanted to leave your
things ”
Bertha turned to them with a startled look.
“You don’t mean that you’re leaving now?"
she cried. “Three days before Christmas!
You’re not leaving home now!”
Anne had a definite air of trying to be casual.
“We pay too much attention to Christmas,
don’t you think?”
“Anyway, the elements are on your side,”
said Carl. He strolled to the window and
peered out unhappily. Anne followed him.
“Look!” cried Carl. “There comes a car up
the Olen road!”
Bertha joined them and saw down the valley
the light of a car making its way in the storm.
The light of Jane’s house was now obscured
in the surging of the snow. “Somebody must
be as much in love as I am,” said Anne.
Bertha stared at them. How beautiful they
were! How they loved each other! More than
they knew! Was she so certain that they had
chosen badly?”
The question, stabbing at her, swung her
round to face some inner clamor of which she
had been aware from the first.
“Do you mind telling me,” she asked, uncer
tainly, "I mean, do you want to tell me what
your plans are? Where will you go?”
“Some place where people understand,” said
Anne.
“Understand,” Bertha repeated. “Do you
mean—know how you will be living?”
Well, free people," said Anne, with energy.
"Generous, big-hearted people not like these
ghastly folks in our valley—but big souls who
won’t make a jolly row over things that are
none of their business ”
“None of their business?” Bertha repeated.
“Not if we aren’t harming any one.” •
Bertha was feeling her way, wondering if she
knew how to say the next word.
“What do you mean by harming any one?”
she asked.
"Oh, just breaking their old laws for them,”
Carl explained.
"And history,” Anne informed Bertha prettily,
"is built on outgrown laws.”
"Which somebody had to break before they
could be outgrown," Carl added defiantly.
“What martyrs you are going to be—for the
new society!” cried Bertha.
They looked at her a little stupidly. It was
Anne who said, with dignity:
“No. It’s first of all because we love each
other. We each want the other to be free.”
“Then if,” said Bertha clearly, "either of you
finds somebody whom you love more ”
"We shall always love each other,” Anne be
gan. Carl put In. "That’s unthinkable." But
they may suddenly have remembered that this
was neither certain nor modern, and they
looked at each other a bit foolishly.
Carl burst out: "Mrs. Millet—you’re not
going to pretend that you weren’t glad when
Bart went away?”
"In spite of everything, didn’t—didn't my
mother really do you—a service?” said Anne,

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