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This was new to me.

"What more of that do you want to do?" I asked her.

She cried out:

"Oh, don't you understand? In nature everything is so glad and proud to diereally and truly to die. To flower and fruit, to serve its turn, give what it is and has, then perish and be forgotten, not to cumber the memory of the earth at all. That's the true happiness, the only glory -to spend oneself utterly and die.

"I always hated having a soul," she said; "it made one so careful and egotistical. My flowers had no souls, and while they lasted they were always fresher and finer than ever I was. My dog did n't have a soul to start with. He was a dear beast, quite undignified and foolish. Then being so much in the house with us, and what with the maids petting him, he began to grow a sort of imitation one and became self-conscious and appealing. I sent him to the stables, I was so cross, and told them to train him after rats."

She laughed.

"You mean," I said, "that you never wanted an immortal soul. Yes, I understand that."

"What's the use of one?" she cried. "What's the use of all these silly shapes flapping around here? What good are they to themselves or anything else?"

"But what should happen to them?" I asked. "God never destroys anything utterly, you know. It's against the rules."

"I know what does happen," she said slowly, "to all the true lovers and workers who have given their strength without stint or question, without bargain or hope of reward, to the service that they saw. Their work is their immortality, and the salvation of those they worked for and loved. For themselves they have earned oblivion. And if, their bodies dead, the fire of faith by which they burned like beacons in the dark does not at once die, too, it falls in little flames of inspiration upon the hearts of all the comrades that could understand."

"That's a fine enough belief," I said, "and you are putting it very finely, so I

really can't make out what you are doing here at all."

"Nor can I," she replied, "and it's very dreadful, is n't it?"

"Ah, but I can," I added, and I told her coldly and hardly, as it had been truly told to me: "It is the things you do that count, not all the pretty beliefs and hopes with which you decorate your heart and mind. The inexorable laws that God has made take no account of what you'd like to be and wish you were. How can they? What are you that you should complicate the scheme of things with ifs and ands?. There 's your life. Live it as you choose, and take the consequences."

She was silent.

"It's all very well for you," she said; "you have n't got to drift up and down this horrible avenue forever and ever and no amen. If I'd only known, I 'd have been wicked, so I would."

"Why wicked?" I was impatient.

"Yes, that's the silly thing," she said. "When you 're so well brought up and well looked after, you can't be yourself at all without being wicked."

I wondered how wicked she would have managed to be, and she caught me wondering before I was aware. We were slipping into sympathy, it seemed.

"Oh, I'd a bit of a devil in me," she exclaimed, "and I was very pretty, I tell you was indeed."


I laughed. It's a paradox I always laugh at rather grimly. How can wickedness and the beauty of women go together? Oh, blindness of the morality of man! Then she spoke of other things.

When I wished her good night she said:

"You'll go back to those woods when it's springtime and the sun is shining through them, won't you? Go there in the early morning and sit silent, and when the little live things around you begin to talk, think of me."

"I will," I said.

"For that was how my soul was meant to live and die, I 'm sure," she said. "And it has never been itself since the dogwood days."

For a week or more after this I did not see her. To say truth, I did not altogether want to. I walked up the avenue once or twice, but I took care to keep her out of my mind, and so, as I had begun to learn, kept her away from me; for she had rather impressed me. Not favorably; her chatter about wickedness showed her to have been a frivolous little fool. But after the struggles and temptations of some years I had succeeded in detaching myself from all interest whatsoever in my fellow-creatures, and I did not choose to be impressed even unfavorably by anybody. The third time I went out, though, I was making such conscious efforts not to think of her that I only produced the very opposite effect, and there she hung in the air a foot before my nose.

She was genuinely glad to find me.

"I began to fear we were n't in sympathy at all," she said, "as you did n't turn up again. By the way, are you a

man ?"

"Yes, of course," I told her. Somehow I had assumed she knew.

"I could n't be quite sure, you see," she said, "only talking to you soul to soul. For once we lose our bodies, there are so many gradations from malest man to femalest woman that you can't always draw a definite line, and sex in the old earthly sense does n't seem to count. It 's rather a blessing."

"Well, I am a man," I told her decidedly.

"I did put you down as one," she went on, "because you were so priggish the other night when I spoke of committing sin."

I denied being priggish.

"Oh, but you were feeling priggish," she insisted, "no matter what you said."

I told her she had no right to pry into my feelings.

"Nonsense!" she cried. "You 've the advantage of your body; you can run away when you like, leave me all the good I get from being a naked soul. I need never listen to lies again, not even to the little ones."

"Well, I do think that your notion of

committing sin by running off with some man or other, or, worse, by not running off with him, was excessively trivial and vulgar. Besides, it would n't have kept you from being here. On the contrary." I know that she smiled a little sadly. "We don't want to go tumbling out of one man's arms into another's. Maybe you only encourage us to do it by calling it sin. For what we do want is somehow to escape the terrible consequences of being good. There it is," she said.

Then she moaned a little, sorry for herself. "And I must, I must, escape from this awful immortality," she said. "Is n't there any way it can be done?"

"Perhaps," I suggested, "if you could fix firmly in you a desire for something different it might be granted."

"So we can achieve no new desires here," she said. "Is n't it dreadful?" That was a constant phrase of hers.

"Can't you call up the memory of an, old one?" I asked. "There must have been something other than Fifth Avenue in your inner life.”

"Now I'll tell you," she said; "I 've tried that. I used to plan that when my husband got free of business, if he ever did, we 'd take a romantic old castle in Italy or on the Rhine and live there at least six months in the year. I fixed that idea well in him. He 'll want to do it with his other wife now, and I dare say she won't like it a bit. I wish you had n't forgotten her name. Well, I thought to myself when I 'd been dead awhile, half an eternity in any place in Europe is better than spending the whole of it here. So I set my desire hard on some old castle, just as I used to in life to make my husband promise he 'd buy one. And one night I thought I'd got to it, and I was so glad. There were the battlements and the rocks and the moonlit lake below; but it turned out to be only that sham place that 's really the waterworks in Central Park. So after that I gave up trying."

We stayed some time in silence. She had nothing else to say; I had no more suggestions. But we found, I suppose, some satisfaction in staying so.

I was

wearing a thick coat and leaning on the park wall; her soul was on my shoulder. Suddenly I said:

"Good night. It's nearly dawn. must be going."


she said. "I can't make out how you did n't see me."

"Now, don't you think that because I have a body I can be lied to, either," I stormed at her. "You 've been wishing

"You said you might be leaving New yourself out of the way on purpose." York soon," she ventured.

"Yes," said I. "And, quite unexpectedly, I'm through my work. I get off the day after to-morrow."

"Oh," she said, "good night," and never another word.

The next night I went out to say good-by; I thought it would be only civil. I made no doubt we should find each other along that first half-mile of park wall, that she'd descend upon me as she had done before. She was n't there. I paced up and down, searching most carefully; my eyes were experts now. I spent the whole night searching. It was broad day when I stopped. I stood in the morning light, with my face in my hands, fixing my thoughts in a final effort firmly on her. I hoped that, though I could not see, I should feel her presence near me if she came. Quite in vain.

I could not make up my mind to leave New York without seeing her. It sounds absurd, for what was she to me? What was she, anyhow, but a disembodied soul, one of thousands and thousands, and all past praying for, despite anything the good Catholics may say? What could there ever be between us? My desires had certainly never been set on New York. Wherever I might find myself when I died, it would certainly not be here. But I felt I could not go without seeing her. For seven nights I searched from dark till daybreak, standing, willing her to come, pacing wildly, silently calling. I remembered then that I did n't even know her name. I slept exhaustedly all day.

On the seventh night the wind was rough. I was at the corner of Sixtyninth Street when a gust blew her right into my face. I caught her, and held her with the roughest grasp.

"Where on earth have you been," I said, "and what have you been doing?" "I've been close to you lots of times,"

"Yes, I have," she said.

"Why?" I asked her.

She did not answer.

"Will you tell me why?" I demanded. "No, I won't," she said, "but if there's anything in it at all you ought to be able to tell without my telling."

"Well, I can't," I snapped.

"I knew you would n't," she said, what's the good, anyway?"


"You really are a most irritating little soul," I said. "Will you tell me what it is you want of me?"

Not, poor dear, that she had shown she wanted anything. She made no answer. "Will you please tell me what it is you want of me?" I repeated. Still no answer.

"Then I shall wait here night and day until you do." I did not mean to be bullied. I had made up my mind to that. A long silence.

Then suddenly she said:

"I want to escape. I thought I was settling down to it, but talking to you has brought back time again, and now when you go I shall want to escape worse than ever. I shall want to die, and I sha'n't be able to. Won't it be dreadful?" Her silly little phrase!

"But I really don't see what I can do to help you," I told her. "If you can think of anything, by all means tell me. I'll certainly try it."

"Where do you go to when you go?" she asked.

"I go west across the prairies and the mountains," I said, "and then southwest across the sea."

"I knew that really," she confessed; "it has been in your mind all the time. I've been jealous of your having it so much in your mind."

"Well, go on!" I told her, sharply, as my way was.

"I thought," she spoke slowly, "that if

you could like me well enough to be able to carry me with you part of the way, then why should n't you leave me on the prairie as you passed? And there, if I fixed my desire on nothingness, the great wind might carry me to such a lonely place that I'd be almost as good as dead."

"We might try it," I said; "but you would have to like me enough to stop yourself flying back here."

"But how can I like you," she protested, "unless you like me first?"

"Like you in any ordinary sense of the word I certainly do not," I said. “I am a practical man. I have no use for these fantastic exercises of imagination. How do you expect me to like you?”

She sobbed aloud.

"That's because I 've lost my body," she cried. "If I had my body back, I 'd make you like me fast enough, oh dear! oh dear!"

I did my best to soothe her.

"And now I dare say I'm not even a decent-looking soul," she wailed.

I assured her she was a charming-looking soul.

"What shape am I?" she asked.

I assured her she was a perfect oval, and her color a most delicate pale gray.

"It sounds very dull," she said. "I've never dared ask any one to tell me before. But compared with the others, I suppose it 's not so bad."

"But if I do try to take you, how am I to take you?" I asked her. "I can't carry you in my hand for two whole days; besides in the daylight I 'd lose you."

"Oh, but I 've thought of that," she said. "What you want is a match-box to fold me up and put me in. No, not a real match-box, silly; but one of the-what used the spiritualists to call it?-one of the astral sort."

"And where does one buy those?" I asked.

I was sure she was smiling queerly. "Have you never been in love with a pretty foolish woman?" she said.

"With dozens," I answered. I always say that; it is safer. But the fact is that I had never been in love at all.

She must have known both of the silly lie and the more shameful truth, but she did not remark on them. Instead, she said:

"Think of your love for a woman like that, and you'll find it very like a sort of match-box to carry me about in."

I never sleep in the train, so all night I sat upright in the darkened car. I had taken the Little Soul from my pocket, and I held her against my cheek; and through the noise of the shaking of the train all night she whispered in my ear. She was sure she was going to die now, she said, and did I mind her telling me things she had never told any one before.

"Why should I?" I answered her coldly. I was leaving the country; she could be certain they would go no further.

They were but simple things she had to tell: of dreams, first for herself, then for her dead children; of little verses she had written and hidden and destroyed; of a temptation to unlawful love that she had shunned. Foolish things, I thought; and I stuck to the thought, though I knew she knew I was thinking it.

The next night I stood on the wide prairie and held her soul in my hand. It was late, for I had walked as far from the town as I could. There was no sound; it was cloudy and pitchy dark. No wind as yet, but a feeling as if a wind would rise.

"Now it's good-by," I said. "I've kept my promise, and I'll wait, what 's more, till the wind blows you away."

"Don't put me down for a minute," she begged. "I have something else to tell you." "You were

"What is it?" I asked. talking all last night."

"Oh, nothing about me, indeed," she whispered. "I 've nothing more to tell. But I wanted you to know that why I told you about myself and did n't ask about yourself at all was only because, being so close to you, I could learn and feel and understand all there was in your heart. I knew all that you had done and suffered in your life from the beginning until now." "Then you know of a poor thing," I

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"Yes," she went on. "And I knew that you were thinking that, but I wanted to tell you that I did n't think so at all. I think you've done very well in spite of what people call your failure, and you 've always tried your best. Though fame has never come to you, you 've set your teeth and gone on, have n't you, and newer chattered or complained? And I wanted to tell you that I love you for it."

"I never heard anything so ridiculous in my life,” I said. "How can you love me? We're absolutely unsuited to each other in every way, not a tradition or a taste in common. Besides, you 're dead; quite dead in one sense and almost dead in the other. What 's the use of talking about such things?"

"Now don't pretend to be cross when you 're not," she went on. "That 's childish. I've told you this for a very selfish reason. I thought that instead of running the risk of being blown about this great prairie forever, if you could learn to love me just enough in return, my soul perhaps might pass completely into yours, and in that way there would be quite an end of me. Now, don't interrupt me in what I'm saying. You need a little something like this added to you, a little common sense, a little patience, a little tenderness toward helpless things. You need it badly, and it's very conceited of you to pretend you don't. And, oh, my dear," she cried, and the very soul of her seemed to be throbbing, "love is often like this, you know. How is it that you don't know-death to give, but always life to him that will dare take the offered love? And how gladly one dies to give it!"

"I do not love you," I said, "and I won't pretend to. I have never loved any one and I never will. It's not worth while. I made up my mind to that long ago."

"Very well," she said; "it does n't matter. Please put me down." I put her down.

"Good-by," I said.

"Good-by," said she.


And then I knelt there for an hour or It was dark; I could not see her, and not another word did we say. Waiting so, I felt how dreadful eternity must be.

At last I heard it rise in the far distance, the northwest wind. Shaking and shrieking and rumbling, it came in leaps of gusty anger, with silence in between. I set my teeth, or I must have cried out in fear. But she made never a sound. Then it was on us, brutal, vindictive. I could not help it; I flung myself along the ground to shield her, groping with my hands where I thought she must be. My neck was bare, and in a moment I felt the frail little thing she was fluttering close

to me.

"I can't," she pleaded in agony; "I'm afraid. It's so cold and merciless and strong. I once had asthma as a child. Take me back to that selfish city. At least they 'll understand me there."

"No, no," I whispered, "not back to that; that 's worse than any hell. We must n't be cowards, we two, must we?"

"But I can't be lonely through eternity," she wailed. "I can't, I can't. It is n't fair to ask me."

Suddenly I began to shake as if a very ague were on me. I choked. I turned on my side for air. I crushed her soul between my hands. I ground it to my breast.

I threw my face up to the dark above, and a cry came from me that surely God might have heard. "Oh, my dear Little Soul, my dear Little Soul!" And the ice within me broke, and the tears sprang. I, who had not shed a tear since I could remember!

Before ever the tears could fall, my hands, which had held her, were empty and my lips, which would have kissed her, foiled. The Little Soul had vanished.

But my soul was full of joy. And the wind, as I lay there, could not harm me nor the night make me afraid.

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