PART II. Neighboring Fields
12. CHAPTER XII
Carl came into the sitting-room while Alexandra was lighting the
lamp. She looked up at him as she adjusted the shade. His sharp
shoulders stooped as if he were very tired, his face was pale,
and there were bluish shadows under his dark eyes. His anger had
burned itself out and left him sick and disgusted.
"You have seen Lou and Oscar?" Alexandra asked.
"Yes." His eyes avoided hers.
Alexandra took a deep breath. "And now you are going away. I
Carl threw himself into a chair and pushed the dark lock back
from his forehead with his white, nervous hand. "What a hopeless
position you are in, Alexandra!" he exclaimed feverishly. "It is
your fate to be always surrounded by little men. And I am no better
than the rest. I am too little to face the criticism of even such
men as Lou and Oscar. Yes, I am going away; to-morrow. I cannot
even ask you to give me a promise until I have something to offer
you. I thought, perhaps, I could do that; but I find I can't."
"What good comes of offering people things they don't need?"
Alexandra asked sadly. "I don't need money. But I have needed
you for a great many years. I wonder why I have been permitted to
prosper, if it is only to take my friends away from me."
"I don't deceive myself," Carl said frankly. "I know that I am
going away on my own account. I must make the usual effort. I
must have something to show for myself. To take what you would
give me, I should have to be either a very large man or a very
small one, and I am only in the middle class."
Alexandra sighed. "I have a feeling that if you go away, you will
not come back. Something will happen to one of us, or to both.
People have to snatch at happiness when they can, in this world.
It is always easier to lose than to find. What I have is yours,
if you care enough about me to take it."