Alexander's Bridge HTML version

Chapter 10
On Tuesday afternoon a Boston lawyer, who had been trying a case in Vermont,
was standing on the siding at White River Junction when the Canadian Express
pulled by on its northward journey. As the day-coaches at the rear end of the
long train swept by him, the lawyer noticed at one of the windows a man's head,
with thick rumpled hair. "Curious," he thought; "that looked like Alexander, but
what would he be doing back there in the daycoaches?"
It was, indeed, Alexander.
That morning a telegram from Moorlock had reached him, telling him that there
was serious trouble with the bridge and that he was needed there at once, so he
had caught the first train out of New York. He had taken a seat in a day-coach to
avoid the risk of meeting any one he knew, and because he did not wish to be
comfortable. When the telegram arrived, Alexander was at his rooms on Tenth
Street, packing his bag to go to Boston. On Monday night he had written a long
letter to his wife, but when morning came he was afraid to send it, and the letter
was still in his pocket. Winifred was not a woman who could bear
disappointment. She demanded a great deal of herself and of the people she
loved; and she never failed herself. If he told her now, he knew, it would be
irretrievable. There would be no going back. He would lose the thing he valued
most in the world; he would be destroying himself and his own happiness. There
would be nothing for him afterward. He seemed to see himself dragging out a
restless existence on the Continent--Cannes, Hyeres, Algiers, Cairo-- among
smartly dressed, disabled men of every nationality; forever going on journeys that
led nowhere; hurrying to catch trains that he might just as well miss; getting up in
the morning with a great bustle and splashing of water, to begin a day that had
no purpose and no meaning; dining late to shorten the night, sleeping late to
shorten the day.
And for what? For a mere folly, a masquerade, a little thing that he could not let
go. AND HE COULD EVEN LET IT GO, he told himself. But he had promised to
be in London at mid- summer, and he knew that he would go. . . . It was
impossible to live like this any longer.
And this, then, was to be the disaster that his old professor had foreseen for him:
the crack in the wall, the crash, the cloud of dust. And he could not understand
how it had come about. He felt that he himself was unchanged, that he was still
there, the same man he had been five years ago, and that he was sitting stupidly
by and letting some resolute offshoot of himself spoil his life for him. This new
force was not he, it was but a part of him. He would not even admit that it was
stronger than he; but it was more active. It was by its energy that this new feeling
got the better of him. His wife was the woman who had made his life, gratified his