Alexander's Bridge HTML version

Chapter 1
Late one brilliant April afternoon Professor Lucius Wilson stood at the head of
Chestnut Street, looking about him with the pleased air of a man of taste who
does not very often get to Boston. He had lived there as a student, but for twenty
years and more, since he had been Professor of Philosophy in a Western
university, he had seldom come East except to take a steamer for some foreign
port. Wilson was standing quite still, contemplating with a whimsical smile the
slanting street, with its worn paving, its irregular, gravely colored houses, and the
row of naked trees on which the thin sunlight was still shining. The gleam of the
river at the foot of the hill made him blink a little, not so much because it was too
bright as because he found it so pleasant. The few passers-by glanced at him
unconcernedly, and even the children who hurried along with their school-bags
under their arms seemed to find it perfectly natural that a tall brown gentleman
should be standing there, looking up through his glasses at the gray housetops.
The sun sank rapidly; the silvery light had faded from the bare boughs and the
watery twilight was setting in when Wilson at last walked down the hill,
descending into cooler and cooler depths of grayish shadow. His nostril, long
unused to it, was quick to detect the smell of wood smoke in the air, blended with
the odor of moist spring earth and the saltiness that came up the river with the
tide. He crossed Charles Street between jangling street cars and shelving lumber
drays, and after a moment of uncertainty wound into Brimmer Street. The street
was quiet, deserted, and hung with a thin bluish haze. He had already fixed his
sharp eye upon the house which he reasoned should be his objective point,
when he noticed a woman approaching rapidly from the opposite direction.
Always an interested observer of women, Wilson would have slackened his pace
anywhere to follow this one with his impersonal, appreciative glance. She was a
person of distinction he saw at once, and, moreover, very handsome. She was
tall, carried her beautiful head proudly, and moved with ease and certainty. One
immediately took for granted the costly privileges and fine spaces that must lie in
the background from which such a figure could emerge with this rapid and
elegant gait. Wilson noted her dress, too,--for, in his way, he had an eye for such
things,--particularly her brown furs and her hat. He got a blurred impression of
her fine color, the violets she wore, her white gloves, and, curiously enough, of
her veil, as she turned up a flight of steps in front of him and disappeared.
Wilson was able to enjoy lovely things that passed him on the wing as completely
and deliberately as if they had been dug-up marvels, long anticipated, and
definitely fixed at the end of a railway journey. For a few pleasurable seconds he
quite forgot where he was going, and only after the door had closed behind her
did he realize that the young woman had entered the house to which he had
directed his trunk from the South Station that morning. He hesitated a moment
before mounting the steps. "Can that," he murmured in amazement,--"can that
possibly have been Mrs. Alexander?"