THE SATURDAY EVENING POST 11 silk bathing suit for a garment that looked like a holland summer covering for a large chair. He had caught from Beulah her faith in the Colony. She, the daughter of a dreamy New Thought clergyman, had all her life been accustomed to take cobwebby theories seriously, and on her father's death had become the lieutenant of Professor Tonson. Emotions, enthusiasms, theories, trust, were to her real things. She never grinned when she read in New Thought magazines the advertisements of gentlemen who offer for an insignificant sum to cure baldness by Thought Power, or to initiate you into recently discovered mysteries of the Tibetans that will increase your bank account and keep your cook from leaving. She could not convert Mr. William Packard to her theories, but she did convert him to a belief in herself. On an October day, when the line of silver poplars and cottonwoods that shouldered across the hills back of the Colony was high-colored, when the sea breeze had an entrancing nip, and ducks hurled across the sky, and the course tide roared on the bars of Gosnold's Rip, Packard sat beside her on the dove-gray sands. His tie was as gay as of old, but he wore black sneakers and khaki trousers smeared in crosshatchings with motor-boat grease. His voice was not flippant, but quiet with friendship and a deep affection more genuine than any feeling he had known before in his bustling life. "Well," he said, "I guess our party's all over now. Buildings are done." "Yes." "And I'll have to go back to the city." Yes." "Well, Beulah, it'll be kind of too bad to leave "Yes; when you are coming to understand our sim- plicity here "Yes; but I wish you could see Boston. Be fine ! Art gal- leries and opera and music and stuff—and, say, it wouldn't hurt you to be comfortable for a while ! You'd enjoy it here all the more when you got back." "Yes; but the sea —" "Yes; but the streets —" "Yes; but— Oh, Bill, you aren't going to go back and stay, and lose all the simplicity here, and lose—lose —" "Lose you? " He stopped fencing. "No, no; I won't! Why, you absurd littleness, I could hold you in one hand and I could put one finger round your neck, and yet already you've become my boss. Will you marry me if I come here and live? I—" "Yes." He picked her up and cradled her in his arms. For an instant their lips blurred together as the waves met and blurred with the sands. Holding him off, she said, lucidly and quaintly as a child talking to a beloved uncle: "Come, then; we'll get Professor Tonson to marry us this afternoon according to the rites, and then we'll drive right down to Orleans and be married again—to make it legal." "T-this afternoon ! Why, little girl, don't you want to be engaged for a while? Why, gee, I've never heard —" "Oh, no, Billy. You see, I've had a course in Conversion of the Worldly-Minded to Higher Thought; and the professor taught us that when a man yields to the Natural Force of Love he'll be willing to follow the Clearer Feminine Light of the Woman— at first. But then he'll get old-minded, and want to go back to his worldly Spirit Habits and still try to keep his love; so he must be shown the way while there is yet light." "Well, gee, honey, I thought a business man would be able to put it all over this Higher Thought bunch; but you win." "Oh, yes, dear," she said serenely. "I expect to man- age you, as a humble aid to the professor, until you get trained in the Higher Life. Come, child !" She sprang from his lap. Her spring was like the swallow's darting flight along the sedge grass. She took his hand and led him toward the Colony. . . . They crossed the long flat sickle of beach; they stumbled up through the loose sand and the tangled brown selvage of grass roots to a dunetop; they were outlined against the angry sky—her hair blowing out like the delicate filaments of mist that were flicked along with the storm clouds. They turned back to face the sea and his arm was about her, his chin was high. Then she took his hand again. He followed her like a meek but enormously overgrown boy and they disappeared beyond the dunes. Two pearly-breasted terns, flying in from sea, preened themselves on the sand and watched the vanishing lovers. "Haw !" laughed one raucously, hoarse-noted as the surf. "There go two fools! Doesn't it make you landsick to see a fifteen-foot horse mackerel trying to play with a herring- like that?" "You're a fool—and a young fool !" said the elder tern. "All you know yet is food. Don't you understand that every one laughs at lovers because a laugh is the tenderest thing in the world? Come on ! The sperling are running." It was not only that his simple taste preferred a steak sprinkled with mushrooms to a tulip-bulb salad, but, furthermore, Packard considered it an insult that Professor Tonson should lecture him on the merits of the beans that he himself had raised. Oh, Packard—Brother Packard—had raised the beans, all right ! For seven months now he had been a tremendously married member of the Nature and Guidance Colony, and he had brought those beans up by hand, according to the Montessori method. He had fed them and watered them and called them religious-sounding pet names, and almost dandled them on his knee and taught them Chopsticks on the piano. He had weeded them daily—he knew nothing about botany and he could not have told you the Latin name of a single weed, but he had little names of his own for every one of them. There was the bunch of casual grass that stuck to the ground like your last stamp to a misdirected envelope. There was the flat, sneaky weed that sprawled like a fawning dog, with a lying and treacherous smile on its shiny leaves, and had to be yanked out by hand. Clad in a straight linen robe and sandals, and a Peter the Hermit haircut, with his poor patient desk-trained back contorted to a stoop, his tender neck slowly broiling to one red smear of unhappiness, Packard had weeded, and weeded, and weeded—he, the immaculate, whose diagonally striped ties, and club-barber haircuts, and manicured nails, and suits with a faintly distinctive pattern, once had made him as sleek as a newly groomed race horse ! Now he had actually got used to his incredible linen Colony robe, which flapped with a sneaky sheepishness about his plump ankles. He had been so wistfully good. He had not made one sign of wanting to beat the professor; he had not quarreled with him—well, had scarcely quarreled with him at all. But now, when the professor came nickering round at Colony supper, suave among the workhouse-gray benches and bare tables; when he praised the succulent bean as though Packard had never even heard of a bean before, Packard growled: "Y' ought to weed them !" And under the shelter of the table he bent a fork double. The professor merely smiled and flowed away. After supper the colonists were instructed to retire to their cottages for Instructive Reading. Though he had not become particularly instructed, Packard had obediently read several pounds of books about Spirit Impulses and about sages who lived a long while ago and wore beards. The books all sounded so much alike that Packard would unintentionally skip from Yogi Trance, on page 223, to Navajo Concentration, on page 226, without knowing he had missed anything in between. And he had kept himself from smoking, though every ten minutes during the evening a bright realization would come to him that he wanted something new and exciting, and wanted it right now—and that something new would always prove to be the same old thing, a smoke. The women sat across from the men in the Hall. Packard hastened across to where Beulah's silken hair and the lovely little curve of her chin were brilliant amid the discreet gray of earnest old women. As he approached her, as she looked up like a white verbena blossom tilted by a breeze, the resentment that he belonged to this ridiculous Colony left him, and his smile was radiant when he whispered: " I'm going out to try and meditate on the dunes. Be right home." His whisper was a vocal caress; but he was lying, passionately, devotedly, for Packard was not as yet in such a state of Natural Grace that he really cared much for sitting on a damp dune and meditating about the ethics of the Bhagavad-Gita. He was not going to go out and try to get into any such state of grace, either. He was going to have a smoke. And he concealed his vile object from his wife partly because he did not want to hurt her feelings and partly because—oh, any married man will understand ! He carted his huge form out among the dark dunes as delicately as a lone lorn fern frond, lest he be discovered by chronic Meditators and be invited to join in a real Medita- tion bee. He stole into a clump of pines and laurel and scrub oak—and luxuriant poison ivy, which gratefully parted to make it easy for him to get right into the midst of it—and after cursory fumbling reached his new hiding place for a box of one thousand cigarettes and two thousand matches, his last thoughtful purchase before taking a year's leave of Boston and his business. He felt in a nonexistent trousers pocket for a match safe he no longer carried. He took a match from the box, and as he scratched it on his shiny linen robe he mourned: "This is a — of a pair of pants for a Pride's Crossing Club man to wear ! Gee, the prof might let us wear pyjamas, anyway!" He clumped toward the cubicle they called home, with its sparse furniture and the Futurist paintings that appealed to Colony taste. But he forgot his troubles when he found Beulah in the golden silk kimono which was her only remaining vanity; when they curled together in the armchair. Everything has a symbol—at least if you live in a Nature and Guidance Colony. If beans were the symbol of the day that the historian has just chronicled, then of the following day twain were the symbols—fog and a cow rampant on a field slippery. At five-thirty A. ?f., the hour at which the well-to-do Mr. Packard, of Boston, had been wont to turn over in bed for three more hours of conscientious slumber, the Colony always rose and had a unanimous, though not necessarily enthusiastic, swim before breakfast— call it breakfast. This morning of fate a fog like a snowstorm hid the world, presaged vague dangers Out There, crept through clothing, and chilled the colonists until they shivered and moaned as they hesitated out of warm beds. A foghorn down on the Point moaned like an orphaned calf at such regular in- tervals that Packard kept listening for its recurrence as he put on his damply stiff robe instead of his bathing suit. The robe felt like a new towel used as a washcloth, but it was divinely preferable to a bathing suit this morning. "Thank the Lord, we won't have to go swimming anyway!" he sighed to the nose-tip of Beulah—the only part of her that had as yet dared to slip out of the pillow into which her head had snuggled. "Yes!" she said devoutly, and burrowed again. Packard went to stand on their doorstep. He wrapped a table covering about his shoulders. He felt like a man catching a three A. M. train for the first time in his life as he stared at the bleary fields and the blanket of mist. He wanted to smoke. He wanted to devour beefsteak and coffee. ff "Oh, Tee, Dear," She Said J ly. Expect to Manage You Until You Get Trained in the Higher Life"
Lewis - Nature, Inc
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