Alexandra did not find time to go to her
neighbor's the next day, nor the next. It was a
busy season on the farm, with the corn-plowing
going on, and even Emil was in the field with a
team and cultivator. Carl went about over the
farms with Alexandra in the morning, and in
the afternoon and evening they found a great
deal to talk about. Emil, for all his track prac-
tice, did not stand up under farmwork very
well, and by night he was too tired to talk or
even to practise on his cornet.
On Wednesday morning Carl got up before it
was light, and stole downstairs and out of the
kitchen door just as old Ivar was making his
morning ablutions at the pump. Carl nodded
to him and hurried up the draw, past the gar-
den, and into the pasture where the milking
cows used to be kept.
The dawn in the east looked like the light
from some great fire that was burning under
the edge of the world. The color was reflected
in the globules of dew that sheathed the short
gray pasture grass. Carl walked rapidly until
he came to the crest of the second hill, where
the Bergson pasture joined the one that had
belonged to his father. There he sat down and
waited for the sun to rise. It was just there
that he and Alexandra used to do their milking
together, he on his side of the fence, she on hers.
He could remember exactly how she looked
when she came over the close-cropped grass,
her skirts pinned up, her head bare, a bright
tin pail in either hand, and the milky light of the
early morning all about her. Even as a boy he
used to feel, when he saw her coming with her
free step, her upright head and calm shoulders,
that she looked as if she had walked straight
out of the morning itself. Since then, when he
had happened to see the sun come up in the
country or on the water, he had often remem-
bered the young Swedish girl and her milking
Carl sat musing until the sun leaped above
the prairie, and in the grass about him all the
small creatures of day began to tune their tiny
instruments. Birds and insects without num-
ber began to chirp, to twitter, to snap and
whistle, to make all manner of fresh shrill
noises. The pasture was flooded with light;
every clump of ironweed and snow-on-the-
mountain threw a long shadow, and the golden
light seemed to be rippling through the curly
grass like the tide racing in.
He crossed the fence into the pasture that
was now the Shabatas' and continued his walk
toward the pond. He had not gone far, how-
ever, when he discovered that he was not the
only person abroad. In the draw below, his gun
in his hands, was Emil, advancing cautiously,
with a young woman beside him. They were
moving softly, keeping close together, and
Carl knew that they expected to find ducks on
the pond. At the moment when they came in
sight of the bright spot of water, he heard a
whirr of wings and the ducks shot up into the
air. There was a sharp crack from the gun, and
five of the birds fell to the ground. Emil and his
companion laughed delightedly, and Emil ran
to pick them up. When he came back, dangling
the ducks by their feet, Marie held her apron
and he dropped them into it. As she stood
looking down at them, her face changed. She
took up one of the birds, a rumpled ball of
feathers with the blood dripping slowly from its
mouth, and looked at the live color that still
burned on its plumage.
As she let it fall, she cried in distress, "Oh,
Emil, why did you?"
"I like that!" the boy exclaimed indignantly.
"Why, Marie, you asked me to come yourself."
":Yes, yes, I know," she said tearfully, "but I
didn't think. I hate to see them when they are
first shot. They were having such a good time,
and we've spoiled it all for them."
Emil gave a rather sore laugh. "I should say
we had! I'm not going hunting with you any
more. You're as bad as Ivar. Here, let me
take them." He snatched the ducks out of her
"Don't be cross, Emil. Only--Ivar's right
about wild things. They're too happy to kill.
You can tell just how they felt when they flew
up. They were scared, but they didn't really
think anything could hurt them. No, we won't
do that any more."
"All right," Emil assented. "I'm sorry I
made you feel bad." As he looked down into
her tearful eyes, there was a curious, sharp
young bitterness in his own.
Carl watched them as they moved slowly down the draw. They had not seen him at all. He had not overheard much of their dialogue, but he felt the import of it. It made him, some- how, unreasonably mournful to find two young things abroad in the pasture in the early morn- ing. He decided that he needed his breakfast.