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Alexander's Bridge

pride, given direction to his tastes and habits. The life they led together seemed
to him beautiful. Winifred still was, as she had always been, Romance for him,
and whenever he was deeply stirred he turned to her. When the grandeur and
beauty of the world challenged him-- as it challenges even the most self-
absorbed people-- he always answered with her name. That was his reply to the
question put by the mountains and the stars; to all the spiritual aspects of life. In
his feeling for his wife there was all the tenderness, all the pride, all the devotion
of which he was capable. There was everything but energy; the energy of youth
which must register itself and cut its name before it passes. This new feeling was
so fresh, so unsatisfied and light of foot. It ran and was not wearied, anticipated
him everywhere. It put a girdle round the earth while he was going from New
York to Moorlock. At this moment, it was tingling through him, exultant, and live
as quicksilver, whispering, "In July you will be in England."
Already he dreaded the long, empty days at sea, the monotonous Irish coast, the
sluggish passage up the Mersey, the flash of the boat train through the summer
country. He closed his eyes and gave himself up to the feeling of rapid motion
and to swift, terrifying thoughts. He was sitting so, his face shaded by his hand,
when the Boston lawyer saw him from the siding at White River Junction.
When at last Alexander roused himself, the afternoon had waned to sunset. The
train was passing through a gray country and the sky overhead was flushed with
a wide flood of clear color. There was a rose-colored light over the gray rocks
and hills and meadows. Off to the left, under the approach of a weather-stained
wooden bridge, a group of boys were sitting around a little fire. The smell of the
wood smoke blew in at the window. Except for an old farmer, jogging along the
highroad in his box-wagon, there was not another living creature to be seen.
Alexander looked back wistfully at the boys, camped on the edge of a little
marsh, crouching under their shelter and looking gravely at their fire. They took
his mind back a long way, to a campfire on a sandbar in a Western river, and he
wished he could go back and sit down with them. He could remember exactly
how the world had looked then.
It was quite dark and Alexander was still thinking of the boys, when it occurred to
him that the train must be nearing Allway. In going to his new bridge at Moorlock
he had always to pass through Allway. The train stopped at Allway Mills, then
wound two miles up the river, and then the hollow sound under his feet told
Bartley that he was on his first bridge again. The bridge seemed longer than it
had ever seemed before, and he was glad when he felt the beat of the wheels on
the solid roadbed again. He did not like coming and going across that bridge, or
remembering the man who built it. And was he, indeed, the same man who used
to walk that bridge at night, promising such things to himself and to the stars?
And yet, he could remember it all so well: the quiet hills sleeping in the moonlight,
the slender skeleton of the bridge reaching out into the river, and up yonder,
alone on the hill, the big white house; upstairs, in Winifred's window, the light that
told him she was still awake and still thinking of him. And after the light went out
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