Alexander's Bridge HTML version

Chapter 9
On the last Saturday in April, the New York "Times" published an account of the
strike complications which were delaying Alexander's New Jersey bridge, and
stated that the engineer himself was in town and at his office on West Tenth
On Sunday, the day after this notice appeared, Alexander worked all day at his
Tenth Street rooms. His business often called him to New York, and he had kept
an apartment there for years, subletting it when he went abroad for any length of
time. Besides his sleeping-room and bath, there was a large room, formerly a
painter's studio, which he used as a study and office. It was furnished with the
cast-off possessions of his bachelor days and with odd things which he sheltered
for friends of his who followed itinerant and more or less artistic callings. Over the
fireplace there was a large old-fashioned gilt mirror. Alexander's big work-table
stood in front of one of the three windows, and above the couch hung the one
picture in the room, a big canvas of charming color and spirit, a study of the
Luxembourg Gardens in early spring, painted in his youth by a man who had
since become a portrait-painter of international renown. He had done it for
Alexander when they were students together in Paris.
Sunday was a cold, raw day and a fine rain fell continuously. When Alexander
came back from dinner he put more wood on his fire, made himself comfortable,
and settled down at his desk, where he began checking over estimate sheets. It
was after nine o'clock and he was lighting a second pipe, when he thought he
heard a sound at his door. He started and listened, holding the burning match in
his hand; again he heard the same sound, like a firm, light tap. He rose and
crossed the room quickly. When he threw open the door he recognized the figure
that shrank back into the bare, dimly lit hallway. He stood for a moment in
awkward constraint, his pipe in his hand.
"Come in," he said to Hilda at last, and closed the door behind her. He pointed to
a chair by the fire and went back to his worktable. "Won't you sit down?"
He was standing behind the table, turning over a pile of blueprints nervously. The
yellow light from the student's lamp fell on his hands and the purple sleeves of
his velvet smoking-jacket, but his flushed face and big, hard head were in the
shadow. There was something about him that made Hilda wish herself at her
hotel again, in the street below, anywhere but where she was.
"Of course I know, Bartley," she said at last, "that after this you won't owe me the
least consideration. But we sail on Tuesday. I saw that interview in the paper
yesterday, telling where you were, and I thought I had to see you. That's all.
Good-night; I'm going now." She turned and her hand closed on the door-knob.