The Tempting of Tavernake
II.7. In A Virgin Country
One night Tavernake began to laugh. He had grown a long brown beard and the hair was
over his ears. He was wearing a gray flannel shirt, a handkerchief tied around his neck,
and a pair of worn riding breeches held up by a belt. He had kicked his boots off at the
end of a long day, and was lying in the moonlight before a fire of pine logs, whose smoke
went straight to the star-hung sky. No word had been spoken for the last hour.
Tavernake's fit of mirth came with as little apparent reason as the puffs of wind which
every now and then stole down from the mountain side and made faint music in the virgin
Pritchard turned over on his side and looked at him. Cigars had for many weeks been an
unknown thing, and he was smoking a corn-cob pipe full of coarse tobacco.
"Stumbled across a joke anywhere?" he asked.
"I'm afraid no one but myself would see the humor of it," Tavernake answered. "I was
thinking of those days in London; I was thinking of Beatrice's horror when she
discovered that I was wearing ready-made clothes, and the amazement of Elizabeth when
she found that I hadn't a dress suit. It's odd how cramped life gets back there."
Pritchard nodded, pressing the tobacco down into the bowl of his pipe with his forefinger.
"You're right, Tavernake," he agreed. "One loses one's sense of proportion. Men in the
cities are all alike. They go about in disguise."
"I should like," Tavernake said, inconsequently, "to have Mr. Dowling out here."
"Amusing fellow?" Pritchard inquired.
Tavernake shook his head, smiling.
"Not in the least," he answered, "only he was a very small man. Out here it is difficult to
keep small. Don't you feel it, Pritchard? These mountains make our hills at home seem
like dust-heaps. The skies seem loftier. Look down into that valley. It's gigantic,
"There's a little place in the Bowery," he began,--
"Oh, I don't want to know any more about New York," Tavernake interrupted. "Lean
back and close your eyes, smell the cinnamon trees, listen to that night bird calling every
now and then across the ravine. There's blackness, if you like; there's depth. It's like a
cloak of velvet to look into. But you can't see the bottom--no, not in the daytime. Listen!"