Benediction by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Baltimore Station was hot and crowded, so Lois was forced to
stand by the telegraph desk for interminable, sticky seconds while a
clerk with big front teeth counted and recounted a large lady's day
message, to determine whether it contained the innocuous forty-nine
words or the fatal fifty-one.
Lois, waiting, decided she wasn't quite sure of the address, so
she took the letter out of her bag and ran over it again.
“Darling,” IT BEGAN—“I understand and I'm happier than life ever
meant me to be. If I could give you the things you've always been in
tune with—but I can't Lois; we can't marry and we can't lose each
other and let all this glorious love end in nothing.
“Until your letter came, dear, I'd been sitting here in the half
dark and thinking where I could go and ever forget you; abroad,
perhaps, to drift through Italy or Spain and dream away the pain of
having lost you where the crumbling ruins of older, mellower
civilizations would mirror only the desolation of my heart—and then
your letter came.
“Sweetest, bravest girl, if you'll wire me I'll meet you in
Wilmington—till then I'll be here just waiting and hoping for every
long dream of you to come true.
She had read the letter so many times that she knew it word by
word, yet it still startled her. In it she found many faint
reflections of the man who wrote it—the mingled sweetness and
sadness in his dark eyes, the furtive, restless excitement she felt
sometimes when he talked to her, his dreamy sensuousness that lulled
her mind to sleep. Lois was nineteen and very romantic and curious and
The large lady and the clerk having compromised on fifty words,
Lois took a blank and wrote her telegram. And there were no overtones
to the finality of her decision.
It's just destiny—she thought—it's just the way things work out
in this damn world. If cowardice is all that's been holding me back
there won't be any more holding back. So we'll just let things take
their course and never be sorry.
The clerk scanned her telegram:
“Arrived Baltimore today spend day with my brother meet me
Wilmington three P.M. Wednesday Love
“Fifty-four cents,” said the clerk admiringly.
And never be sorry—thought Lois—and never be sorry—-
Trees filtering light onto dapple grass. Trees like tall, languid
ladies with feather fans coquetting airily with the ugly roof of the
monastery. Trees like butlers, bending courteously over placid walks
and paths. Trees, trees over the hills on either side and scattering
out in clumps and lines and woods all through eastern Maryland,
delicate lace on the hems of many yellow fields, dark opaque
backgrounds for flowered bushes or wild climbing garden.
Some of the trees were very gay and young, but the monastery trees
were older than the monastery which, by true monastic standards,
wasn't very old at all. And, as a matter of fact, it wasn't
technically called a monastery, but only a seminary; nevertheless it
shall be a monastery here despite its Victorian architecture or its
Edward VII additions, or even its Woodrow Wilsonian, patented,
Out behind was the farm where half a dozen lay brothers were
sweating lustily as they moved with deadly efficiency around the
vegetable-gardens. To the left, behind a row of elms, was an informal
baseball diamond where three novices were being batted out by a
fourth, amid great chasings and puffings and blowings. And in front as
a great mellow bell boomed the half-hour a swarm of black, human
leaves were blown over the checker-board of paths under the courteous
Some of these black leaves were very old with cheeks furrowed like
the first ripples of a splashed pool. Then there was a scattering of
middle-aged leaves whose forms when viewed in profile in their
revealing gowns were beginning to be faintly unsymmetrical. These
carried thick volumes of Thomas Aquinas and Henry James and Cardinal
Mercier and Immanuel Kant and many bulging note-books filled with
But most numerous were the young leaves; blond boys of nineteen
with very stern, conscientious expressions; men in the late twenties
with a keen self-assurance from having taught out in the world for
five years—several hundreds of them, from city and town and country
in Maryland and Pennsylvania and Virginia and West Virginia and
There were many Americans and some Irish and some tough Irish and
a few French, and several Italians and Poles, and they walked
informally arm in arm with each other in twos and threes or in long
rows, almost universally distinguished by the straight mouth and the
considerable chin—for this was the Society of Jesus, founded in Spain
five hundred years before by a tough-minded soldier who trained men to
hold a breach or a salon, preach a sermon or write a treaty, and do it
and not argue . . .
Lois got out of a bus into the sunshine down by the outer gate.
She was nineteen with yellow hair and eyes that people were tactful
enough not to call green. When men of talent saw her in a street-car
they often furtively produced little stub-pencils and backs of
envelopes and tried to sum up that profile or the thing that the
eyebrows did to her eyes. Later they looked at their results and
usually tore them up with wondering sighs.
Though Lois was very jauntily attired in an expensively
appropriate travelling affair, she did not linger to pat out the dust
which covered her clothes, but started up the central walk with
curious glances at either side. Her face was very eager and expectant,
yet she hadn't at all that glorified expression that girls wear when
they arrive for a Senior Prom at Princeton or New Haven; still, as
there were no senior proms here, perhaps it didn't matter.
She was wondering what he would look like, whether she'd possibly
know him from his picture. In the picture, which hung over her
mother's bureau at home, he seemed very young and hollow-cheeked and
rather pitiful, with only a well-developed mouth and all ill-fitting
probationer's gown to show that he had already made a momentous
decision about his life. Of course he had been only nineteen then and
now he was thirty-six—didn't look like that at all; in recent
snap-shots he was much broader and his hair had grown a little
thin—but the impression of her brother she had always retained was
that of the big picture. And so she had always been a little sorry for
him. What a life for a man! Seventeen years of preparation and he
wasn't even a priest yet—wouldn't be for another year.
Lois had an idea that this was all going to be rather solemn if
she let it be. But she was going to give her very best imitation of
undiluted sunshine, the imitation she could give even when her head
was splitting or when her mother had a nervous breakdown or when she
was particularly romantic and curious and courageous. This brother of
hers undoubtedly needed cheering up, and he was going to be cheered
up, whether he liked it or not.
As she drew near the great, homely front door she saw a man break
suddenly away from a group and, pulling up the skirts of his gown,
run toward her. He was smiling, she noticed, and he looked very big
and—and reliable. She stopped and waited, knew that her heart was
beating unusually fast.
“Lois!” he cried, and in a second she was in his arms. She was
“Lois!” he cried again, “why, this is wonderful! I can't tell you,
Lois, how MUCH I've looked forward to this. Why, Lois, you're
His voice, though restrained, was vibrant with energy and that odd
sort of enveloping personality she had thought that she only of the
“I'm mighty glad, too—Kieth.”
She flushed, but not unhappily, at this first use of his name.
“Lois—Lois—Lois,” he repeated in wonder. “Child, we'll go in
here a minute, because I want you to meet the rector, and then we'll
walk around. I have a thousand things to talk to you about.”
His voice became graver. “How's mother?”
She looked at him for a moment and then said something that she
had not intended to say at all, the very sort of thing she had
resolved to avoid.
“Oh, Kieth—she's—she's getting worse all the time, every way.”
He nodded slowly as if he understood.
“Nervous, well—you can tell me about that later. Now—-”
She was in a small study with a large desk, saying something to a
little, jovial, white-haired priest who retained her hand for some
“So this is Lois!”
He said it as if he had heard of her for years.
He entreated her to sit down.
Two other priests arrived enthusiastically and shook hands with
her and addressed her as “Kieth's little sister,” which she found she
didn't mind a bit.
How assured they seemed; she had expected a certain shyness,
reserve at least. There were several jokes unintelligible to her,
which seemed to delight every one, and the little Father Rector
referred to the trio of them as “dim old monks,” which she
appreciated, because of course they weren't monks at all. She had a
lightning impression that they were especially fond of Kieth—the
Father Rector had called him “Kieth” and one of the others had kept a
hand on his shoulder all through the conversation. Then she was
shaking hands again and promising to come back a little later for some
ice-cream, and smiling and smiling and being rather absurdly happy . .
. she told herself that it was because Kieth was so delighted in
showing her off.
Then she and Kieth were strolling along a path, arm in arm, and he
was informing her what an absolute jewel the Father Rector was.
“Lois,” he broken off suddenly, “I want to tell you before we go
any farther how much it means to me to have you come up here. I think
it was—mighty sweet of you. I know what a gay time you've been
Lois gasped. She was not prepared for this. At first when she had
conceived the plan of taking the hot journey down to Baltimore
staying the night with a friend and then coming out to see her
brother, she had felt rather consciously virtuous, hoped he wouldn't
be priggish or resentful about her not having come before—but walking
here with him under the trees seemed such a little thing, and
surprisingly a happy thing.
“Why, Kieth,” she said quickly, “you know I couldn't have waited a
day longer. I saw you when I was five, but of course I didn't
remember, and how could I have gone on without practically ever
having seen my only brother?”
“It was mighty sweet of you, Lois,” he repeated.
Lois blushed—he DID have personality.
“I want you to tell me all about yourself,” he said after a pause.
“Of course I have a general idea what you and mother did in Europe
those fourteen years, and then we were all so worried, Lois, when you
had pneumonia and couldn't come down with mother—let's see that was
two years ago—and then, well, I've seen your name in the papers, but
it's all been so unsatisfactory. I haven't known you, Lois.”
She found herself analyzing his personality as she analyzed the
personality of every man she met. She wondered if the effect of—of
intimacy that he gave was bred by his constant repetition of her name.
He said it as if he loved the word, as if it had an inherent meaning
“Then you were at school,” he continued.
“Yes, at Farmington. Mother wanted me to go to a convent—but I
didn't want to.”
She cast a side glance at him to see if he would resent this.
But he only nodded slowly.
“Had enough convents abroad, eh?”
“Yes—and Kieth, convents are different there anyway. Here even in
the nicest ones there are so many COMMON girls.”
He nodded again.
“Yes,” he agreed, “I suppose there are, and I know how you feel
about it. It grated on me here, at first, Lois, though I wouldn't say
that to any one but you; we're rather sensitive, you and I, to things
“You mean the men here?”
“Yes, some of them of course were fine, the sort of men I'd always
been thrown with, but there were others; a man named Regan, for
instance—I hated the fellow, and now he's about the best friend I
have. A wonderful character, Lois; you'll meet him later. Sort of man
you'd like to have with you in a fight.”
Lois was thinking that Kieth was the sort of man she'd like to
have with HER in a fight.
“How did you—how did you first happen to do it?” she asked,
rather shyly, “to come here, I mean. Of course mother told me the
story about the Pullman car.”
“Oh, that—-” He looked rather annoyed.
“Tell me that. I'd like to hear you tell it.”
“Oh, it's nothing except what you probably know. It was evening
and I'd been riding all day and thinking about—about a hundred
things, Lois, and then suddenly I had a sense that some one was
sitting across from me, felt that he'd been there for some time, and
had a vague idea that he was another traveller. All at once he leaned
over toward me and I heard a voice say: 'I want you to be a priest,
that's what I want.' Well I jumped up and cried out, 'Oh, my God, not
that!'—made an idiot of myself before about twenty people; you see
there wasn't any one sitting there at all. A week after that I went to
the Jesuit College in Philadelphia and crawled up the last flight of
stairs to the rector's office on my hands and knees.”
There was another silence and Lois saw that her brother's eyes
wore a far-away look, that he was staring unseeingly out over the
sunny fields. She was stirred by the modulations of his voice and the
sudden silence that seemed to flow about him when he finished
She noticed now that his eyes were of the same fibre as hers, with
the green left out, and that his mouth was much gentler, really, than
in the picture —or was it that the face had grown up to it lately? He
was getting a little bald just on top of his head. She wondered if
that was from wearing a hat so much. It seemed awful for a man to grow
bald and no one to care about it.
“Were you—pious when you were young, Kieth?” she asked. “You know
what I mean. Were you religious? If you don't mind these personal
“Yes,” he said with his eyes still far away—and she felt that his
intense abstraction was as much a part of his personality as his
attention. “Yes, I suppose I was, when I was—sober.”
Lois thrilled slightly.
“Did you drink?”
“I was on the way to making a bad hash of things.” He smiled and,
turning his gray eyes on her, changed the subject.
“Child, tell me about mother. I know it's been awfully hard for
you there, lately. I know you've had to sacrifice a lot and put up
with a great deal and I want you to know how fine of you I think it
is. I feel, Lois, that you're sort of taking the place of both of us
Lois thought quickly how little she had sacrificed; how lately she
had constantly avoided her nervous, half-invalid mother.
“Youth shouldn't be sacrificed to age, Kieth,” she said steadily.
“I know,” he sighed, “and you oughtn't to have the weight on your
shoulders, child. I wish I were there to help you.”
She saw how quickly he had turned her remark and instantly she
knew what this quality was that he gave off. He was SWEET. Her
thoughts went of on a side-track and then she broke the silence with
an odd remark.
“Sweetness is hard,” she said suddenly.
“Nothing,” she denied in confusion. “I didn't mean to speak aloud.
I was thinking of something —of a conversation with a man named
“Maury Kebble's brother?”
“Yes,” she said rather surprised to think of him having known
Maury Kebble. Still there was nothing strange about it. “Well, he and
I were talking about sweetness a few weeks ago. Oh, I don't know—I
said that a man named Howard—that a man I knew was sweet, and he
didn't agree with me, and we began talking about what sweetness in a
man was: He kept telling me I meant a sort of soppy softness, but I
knew I didn't—yet I didn't know exactly how to put it. I see now. I
meant just the opposite. I suppose real sweetness is a sort of
“I see what you mean. I've known old priests who had it.”
“I'm talking about young men,” she said rather defiantly.
They had reached the now deserted baseball diamond and, pointing
her to a wooden bench, he sprawled full length on the grass.
“Are these YOUNG men happy here, Kieth?”
“Don't they look happy, Lois?”
“I suppose so, but those YOUNG ones, those two we just
passed—have they—are they—-?
“Are they signed up?” he laughed. “No, but they will be next
“Yes—unless they break down mentally or physically. Of course in
a discipline like ours a lot drop out.”
“But those BOYS. Are they giving up fine chances outside—like you
“Some of them.”
“But Kieth, they don't know what they're doing. They haven't had
any experience of what they're missing.”
“No, I suppose not.”
“It doesn't seem fair. Life has just sort of scared them at first.
Do they all come in so YOUNG?”
“No, some of them have knocked around, led pretty wild
lives—Regan, for instance.”
“I should think that sort would be better,” she said meditatively,
“men that had SEEN life.”
“No,” said Kieth earnestly, “I'm not sure that knocking about
gives a man the sort of experience he can communicate to others. Some
of the broadest men I've known have been absolutely rigid about
themselves. And reformed libertines are a notoriously intolerant
class. Don't you thank so, Lois?”
She nodded, still meditative, and he continued:
“It seems to me that when one weak reason goes to another, it
isn't help they want; it's a sort of companionship in guilt, Lois.
After you were born, when mother began to get nervous she used to go
and weep with a certain Mrs. Comstock. Lord, it used to make me
shiver. She said it comforted her, poor old mother. No, I don't think
that to help others you've got to show yourself at all. Real help
comes from a stronger person whom you respect. And their sympathy is
all the bigger because it's impersonal.”
“But people want human sympathy,” objected Lois. “They want to
feel the other person's been tempted.”
“Lois, in their hearts they want to feel that the other person's
been weak. That's what they mean by human.
“Here in this old monkery, Lois,” he continued with a smile, “they
try to get all that self-pity and pride in our own wills out of us
right at the first. They put us to scrubbing floors—and other things.
It's like that idea of saving your life by losing it. You see we sort
of feel that the less human a man is, in your sense of human, the
better servant he can be to humanity. We carry it out to the end, too.
When one of us dies his family can't even have him then. He's buried
here under plain wooden cross with a thousand others.”
His tone changed suddenly and he looked at her with a great
brightness in his gray eyes.
“But way back in a man's heart there are some things he can't get
rid of—an one of them is that I'm awfully in love with my little
With a sudden impulse she knelt beside him in the grass and,
Leaning over, kissed his forehead.
“You're hard, Kieth,” she said, “and I love you for it—and you're
Back in the reception-room Lois met a half-dozen more of Kieth's
particular friends; there was a young man named Jarvis, rather pale
and delicate-looking, who, she knew, must be a grandson of old Mrs.
Jarvis at home, and she mentally compared this ascetic with a brace of
his riotous uncles.
And there was Regan with a scarred face and piercing intent eyes
that followed her about the room and often rested on Kieth with
something very like worship. She knew then what Kieth had meant
about “a good man to have with you in a fight.”
He's the missionary type—she thought vaguely—China or something.
“I want Kieth's sister to show us what the shimmy is,” demanded
one young man with a broad grin.
“I'm afraid the Father Rector would send me shimmying out the
gate. Besides, I'm not an expert.”
“I'm sure it wouldn't be best for Jimmy's soul anyway,” said Kieth
solemnly. “He's inclined to brood about things like shimmys. They were
just starting to do the—maxixe, wasn't it, Jimmy?—when he became a
monk, and it haunted him his whole first year. You'd see him when he
was peeling potatoes, putting his arm around the bucket and making
irreligious motions with his feet.”
There was a general laugh in which Lois joined.
“An old lady who comes here to Mass sent Kieth this ice-cream,”
whispered Jarvis under cover of the laugh, “because she'd heard you
were coming. It's pretty good, isn't it?”
There were tears trembling in Lois' eyes.
Then half an hour later over in the chapel things suddenly went
all wrong. It was several years since Lois had been at Benediction
and at first she was thrilled by the gleaming monstrance with its
central spot of white, the air rich and heavy with incense, and the
sun shining through the stained-glass window of St. Francis Xavier
overhead and falling in warm red tracery on the cassock of the man in
front of her, but at the first notes of the “O SALUTARIS HOSTIA” a
heavy weight seemed to descend upon her soul. Kieth was on her right
and young Jarvis on her left, and she stole uneasy glance at both of
What's the matter with me? she thought impatiently.
She looked again. Was there a certain coldness in both their
profiles, that she had not noticed before—a pallor about the mouth
and a curious set expression in their eyes? She shivered slightly:
they were like dead men.
She felt her soul recede suddenly from Kieth's. This was her
brother—this, this unnatural person. She caught herself in the act
of a little laugh.
“What is the matter with me?”
She passed her hand over her eyes and the weight increased. The
incense sickened her and a stray, ragged note from one of the tenors
in the choir grated on her ear like the shriek of a slate-pencil. She
fidgeted, and raising her hand to her hair touched her forehead, found
moisture on it.
“It's hot in here, hot as the deuce.”
Again she repressed a faint laugh and, then in an instant the
weight on her heart suddenly diffused into cold fear. . . . It was
that candle on the altar. It was all wrong—wrong. Why didn't somebody
see it? There was something IN it. There was something coming out of
it, taking form and shape above it.
She tried to fight down her rising panic, told herself it was the
wick. If the wick wasn't straight, candles did something—but they
didn't do this! With incalculable rapidity a force was gathering
within her, a tremendous, assimilative force, drawing from every
sense, every corner of her brain, and as it surged up inside her she
felt an enormous terrified repulsion. She drew her arms in close to
her side away from Kieth and Jarvis.
Something in that candle . . . she was leaning forward—in another
moment she felt she would go forward toward it—didn't any one see it?
. . . anyone?
She felt a space beside her and something told her that Jarvis had
gasped and sat down very suddenly . . . then she was kneeling and as
the flaming monstrance slowly left the altar in the hands of the
priest, she heard a great rushing noise in her ears—the crash of the
bells was like hammer-blows . . . and then in a moment that seemed
eternal a great torrent rolled over her heart—there was a shouting
there and a lashing as of waves . . .
. . . She was calling, felt herself calling for Kieth, her lips
mouthing the words that would not come:
“Kieth! Oh, my God! KIETH!”
Suddenly she became aware of a new presence, something external,
in front of her, consummated and expressed in warm red tracery. Then
she knew. It was the window of St. Francis Xavier. Her mind gripped at
it, clung to it finally, and she felt herself calling again endlessly,
Then out of a great stillness came a voice:
“BLESSED BE GOD.”
With a gradual rumble sounded the response rolling heavily through
“Blessed be God.”
The words sang instantly in her heart; the incense lay mystically
and sweetly peaceful upon the air, and THE CANDLE ON THE ALTAR WENT
“Blessed be His Holy Name.”
“Blessed be His Holy Name.”
Everything blurred into a swinging mist. With a sound half-gasp,
half-cry she rocked on her feet and reeled backward into Kieth's
suddenly outstretched arms.
“Lie still, child.”
She closed her eyes again. She was on the grass outside, pillowed
on Kieth's arm, and Regan was dabbing her head with a cold towel.
“I'm all right,” she said quietly.
“I know, but just lie still a minute longer. It was too hot in
there. Jarvis felt it, too.”
She laughed as Regan again touched her gingerly with the towel.
“I'm all right,” she repeated.
But though a warm peace was falling her mind and heart she felt
oddly broken and chastened, as if some one had held her stripped soul
up and laughed.
Half an hour later she walked leaning on Kieth's arm down the long
central path toward the gate.
“It's been such a short afternoon,” he sighed, “and I'm so sorry
you were sick, Lois.”
“Kieth, I'm feeling fine now, really; I wish you wouldn't worry.”
“Poor old child. I didn't realize that Benediction'd be a long
service for you after your hot trip out here and all.”
She laughed cheerfully.
“I guess the truth is I'm not much used to Benediction. Mass is
the limit of my religious exertions.”
She paused and then continued quickly:
“I don't want to shock you, Kieth, but I can't tell you how—how
INCONVENIENT being a Catholic is. It really doesn't seem to apply any
more. As far as morals go, some of the wildest boys I know are
Catholics. And the brightest boys—I mean the ones who think and read
a lot, don't seem to believe in much of anything any more.”
“Tell me about it. The bus won't be here for another half-hour.”
They sat down on a bench by the path.
“For instance, Gerald Carter, he's published a novel. He
absolutely roars when people mention immortality. And then
Howa—well, another man I've known well, lately, who was Phi Beta
Kappa at Harvard says that no intelligent person can believe in
Supernatural Christianity. He says Christ was a great socialist,
though. Am I shocking you?”
She broke off suddenly.
“You can't shock a monk. He's a professional shock-absorber.”
“Well,” she continued, “that's about all. It seems so—so NARROW.
Church schools, for instance. There's more freedom about things that
Catholic people can't see—like birth control.”
Kieth winced, almost imperceptibly, but Lois saw it.
“Oh,” she said quickly, “everybody talks about everything now.”
“It's probably better that way.”
“Oh, yes, much better. Well, that's all, Kieth. I just wanted to
tell you why I'm a little—luke-warm, at present.”
“I'm not shocked, Lois. I understand better than you think. We all
go through those times. But I know it'll come out all right, child.
There's that gift of faith that we have, you and I, that'll carry us
past the bad spots.”
He rose as he spoke and they started again down the path.
“I want you to pray for me sometimes, Lois. I think your prayers
would be about what I need. Because we've come very close in these
few hours, I think.”
Her eyes were suddenly shining.
“Oh we have, we have!” she cried. “I feel closer to you now than
to any one in the world.”
He stopped suddenly and indicated the side of the path.
“We might—just a minute—-”
It was a pietà, a life-size statue of the Blessed Virgin set
within a semicircle of rocks.
Feeling a little self-conscious she dropped on her knees beside
him and made an unsuccessful attempt at prayer.
She was only half through when he rose. He took her arm again.
“I wanted to thank Her for letting as have this day together,” he
Lois felt a sudden lump in her throat and she wanted to say
something that would tell him how much it had meant to her, too. But
she found no words.
“I'll always remember this,” he continued, his voice trembling a
little—-"this summer day with you. It's been just what I expected.
You're just what I expected, Lois.”
“I'm awfully glad, Keith.”
“You see, when you were little they kept sending me snap-shots of
you, first as a baby and then as a child in socks playing on the
beach with a pail and shovel, and then suddenly as a wistful little
girl with wondering, pure eyes—and I used to build dreams about you.
A man has to have something living to cling to. I think, Lois, it was
your little white soul I tried to keep near me—even when life was at
its loudest and every intellectual idea of God seemed the sheerest
mockery, and desire and love and a million things came up to me and
said: 'Look here at me! See, I'm Life. You're turning your back on
it!' All the way through that shadow, Lois, I could always see your
baby soul flitting on ahead of me, very frail and clear and
Lois was crying softly. They had reached the gate and she rested
her elbow on it and dabbed furiously at her eyes.
“And then later, child, when you were sick I knelt all one night
and asked God to spare you for me—for I knew then that I wanted
more; He had taught me to want more. I wanted to know you moved and
breathed in the same world with me. I saw you growing up, that white
innocence of yours changing to a flame and burning to give light to
other weaker souls. And then I wanted some day to take your children
on my knee and hear them call the crabbed old monk Uncle Kieth.”
He seemed to be laughing now as he talked.
“Oh, Lois, Lois, I was asking God for more then. I wanted the
letters you'd write me and the place I'd have at your table. I wanted
an awful lot, Lois, dear.”
“You've got me, Kieth,” she sobbed “you know it, say you know it.
Oh, I'm acting like a baby but I didn't think you'd be this way, and
He took her hand and patted it softly.
“Here's the bus. You'll come again won't you?”
She put her hands on his cheeks, add drawing his head down,
pressed her tear-wet face against his.
“Oh, Kieth, brother, some day I'll tell you something.”
He helped her in, saw her take down her handkerchief and smile
bravely at him, as the driver kicked his whip and the bus rolled off.
Then a thick cloud of dust rose around it and she was gone.
For a few minutes he stood there on the road his hand on the
gate-post, his lips half parted in a smile.
“Lois,” he said aloud in a sort of wonder, “Lois, Lois.”
Later, some probationers passing noticed him kneeling before the
pietà, and coming back after a time found him still there. And he was
there until twilight came down and the courteous trees grew garrulous
overhead and the crickets took up their burden of song in the dusky
The first clerk in the telegraph booth in the Baltimore Station
whistled through his buck teeth at the second clerk:
“See that girl—no, the pretty one with the big black dots on her
veil. Too late—she's gone. You missed somep'n.”
“What about her?”
“Nothing. 'Cept she's damn good-looking. Came in here yesterday
and sent a wire to some guy to meet her somewhere. Then a minute ago
she came in with a telegram all written out and was standin' there
goin' to give it to me when she changed her mind or somep'n and all of
a sudden tore it up.”
The first clerk came around tile counter and picking up the two
pieces of paper from the floor put them together idly. The second
clerk read them over his shoulder and subconsciously counted the
words as he read. There were just thirteen.
“This is in the way of a permanent goodbye. I should suggest
“Tore it up, eh?” said the second clerk.