UpperAsquewanFalls,NewYork. Abeautifulyoungwoman?ThatisexactlywhatBillyMageewantedtoknowas, closingthewaiting-roomdoorbehindhim,hestoodstaringjustinside.Werethe features against which that frail bit of cambric was agonizingly pressed of a pleasing contour? The girl's neatly tailored corduroy suit and her flippant but charmingmillineryauguredwell.Shouldhestepgallantlyforwardandinquirein sympathetictonesastothecauseofherwoe?Shouldhecarrychivalryevento thelengthsofUpperAsquewanFalls? No,Mr.Mageedecidedhewouldnot.Thetrainthathadjustroaredawayinto theduskhadnotbroughthimfromtheregionofskyscrapersandderbyhatsfor deeds of knight errantry up state. Anyhow, the girl's tears were none of his business. A railway station was a natural place for grief—a field of many partings,uponwhosefloorfelloftenintorrentsthetearsofthoseleftbehind.A friend,mayhapalover,hadbeenwhiskedoffintothenightbytherelentlessfive thirty-fourlocal.Whynotalover?Surelyaboutsuchadaintytrimfigureasthis courtiershoveredasmothsaboutaflame.Uponatenderintimatesorrowitwas nottheplaceofanunknownMageetointrude.Heputhishandgentlyuponthe latchofthedoor. Andyet—dimandheartlessandcoldwastheinteriorofthatwaiting-room.No place, surely, for a gentleman to leave a lady sorrowful, particularly when the lady was so alluring. Oh, beyond question, she was most alluring. Mr. Magee stepped softly to the ticket window and made low-voiced inquiry of the man inside. "What'sshecryingabout?"heasked. A thin sallow face, on the forehead of which a mop of ginger-colored hair lay listlessly,waspressedagainstthebars. "Thanks,"saidtheticketagent."Igetaskedthesameoldquestionssooften,one
likeyourssortofbreaksthemonotony.SorryIcan'thelpyou.She'sawoman, and the Lord only knows why women cry. And sometimes I reckon even He mustbealittlepuzzled.Now,mywife—" "IthinkI'llaskher,"confidedMr.Mageeinahoarsewhisper. "Oh, I wouldn't," advised the man behind the bars. "It's best to let 'em alone. Theystopquickeriftheyain'tnoticed." "Butshe'sintrouble,"arguedBillyMagee. "Andso'llyoube,mostlikely,"respondedthecynic,"ifyouinterfere.No,siree! Takemyadvice.ShootoldAsquewan'srapidsinabarrelifyouwantto,butkeep awayfromcryingwomen." TheheedlessBillyMagee,however,wasalreadymovingacrosstheunscrubbed floorwithchivalrousintention. The girl's trim shoulders no longer heaved so unhappily. Mr. Magee, approaching, thought himself again in the college yard at dusk, with the great elmssighingoverhead,andthefreshyoungvoicesofthegleeclubringingout from the steps of a century-old building. What were the words they sang so manytimes? "Weepnomore,mylady, Oh!weepnomoreto-day." He regretted that he could not make use of them. They had always seemed to him so sad and beautiful. But troubadours, he knew, went out of fashion long beforerailwaystationscamein.Sohisremarktotheyoungwomanwasnotat allmelodious: "CanIdoanything?" Aportionofthehandkerchiefwasremoved,andaneyewhich,Mr.Mageenoted, wasofanadmirableblue,peepedoutathim.Tothegazeofevenasolitaryeye, Mr.Magee'saspectwasdecidedlypleasing.YoungWilliams,whoposedatthe clubasawit,hadoncesaidthatBillyMageecameasneartobeingamagazine artist'sideaoftheproperheroofastoryasanymancould,andatthesametime retain the respect and affection of his fellows. Mr. Magee thought he read approval in the lone eye of blue. When the lady spoke, however, he hastily revisedhisopinion.
"Yes,"shesaid,"youcandosomething.Youcangoaway—far,faraway." Mr.Mageestiffened.ThuschivalryfaredinUpperAsquewanFallsintheyear 1911. "Ibegyourpardon,"heremarked."Youseemedtobeintrouble,andIthoughtI mightpossiblybeofsomeassistance." Thegirlremovedtheentirehandkerchief.Theothereyeprovedtobethesame admirableblue—abluehalf-waybetweentheshadeofhercorduroysuitandthat ofthejacky'scostumeinthe"SeetheWorld—JointheNavy"posterthatserved asbackgroundtoherwoe. "Idon'tmeantoberude,"sheexplainedmoregently,"but—I'mcrying,yousee, andagirlsimplycan'tlookattractivewhenshecries." "If I had only been regularly introduced to you, and all that," responded Mr. Magee, "I could make a very flattering reply." And a true one, he added to himself. For even in the faint flickering light of the station he found ample reason for rejoicing that the bit of cambric was no longer agonizingly pressed. Asyethehadscarcelylookedawayfromhereyes,buthewasdimlyawarethat up above wisps of golden hair peeped impudently from beneath a saucy black hat.Hewouldlookatthosewispsshortly,hetoldhimself.Assoonashecould lookawayfromtheeyes—whichwasnotjustyet. "My grief," said the girl, "is utterly silly and—womanish. I think it would be best to leave me alone with it. Thank you for your interest. And—would you mindaskingthegentlemanwhoispressinghisfacesofeverishlyagainstthebars tokindlyclosehiswindow?" "Certainly,"repliedMr.Magee.Heturnedaway.Ashedidsohecollidedwitha rather excessive lady. She gave the impression of solidity and bulk; her mouth was hard and knowing. Mr. Magee felt that she wanted to vote, and that she wouldsayasmuchfromtimetotime.Theladyhadaglitteringeye;sheputitto itstime-honoreduseandfixedMr.Mageewithit. "I was crying, mamma," the girl explained, "and this gentleman inquired if he couldbeofanyservice." Mamma!Mr.Mageewantedtoaddhistearstothoseofthegirl.Thisfrailand lovelydamselindistressowningashermaternalparentaheavyunnecessary— person!Theolderwomanalsohadyellowhair,butitwasthesortthatsuggests
the white enamel pallor of a drug store, with the soda-fountain fizzing and the bottles of perfume ranged in an odorous row. Mamma! Thus rolled the world along. "Well,theyain'tnousegettin'allworkedupfornothing,"advisedtheunpleasant parent.Mr.Mageewassurprisedthatinhertonetherewasnohostilitytohim— thusbelyingherlooks."Mebbethegentlemancandirectustoagoodhotel,"she added,witharatherstagysmile. "I'mastrangerhere,too,"Mr.Mageereplied."I'llinterviewthemanoverthere inthecage." The gentleman referred to was not cheerful in his replies. There was, he said, BaldpateInn. "Oh,yes,BaldpateInn,"repeatedBillyMageewithinterest. "Yes,that'saprettyswellplace,"saidtheticketagent."Butitain'topennow.It's asummerresort.Thereain'tnoplaceopennowbuttheCommercialHouse.And Iwouldn'trecommendnohumanbeingthere—especiallynoladywhowassad beforesheeversawit." Mr.Mageeexplainedtotheincongruousfamilypairwaitingonthebench. "There'sonlyonehotel,"hesaid,"andI'mtoldit'snotexactlytheplaceforany onewhoseoutlookonlifeisnotrosyatthemoment.I'msorry." "It will do very well," answered the girl, "whatever it is." She smiled at Billy Magee."MyoutlookonlifeinUpperAsquewanFalls,"shesaid,"growsrosier everyminute.Wemustfindacab." Shebegantogatheruphertraveling-bags,andMr.Mageehastenedtoassist.The three went out on the station platform, upon which lay a thin carpet of snowflakes. There the older woman, in a harsh rasping voice, found fault with UpperAsquewanFalls,—itsgeography,itspublicspirit,itsbrandofweather.A dejectedcabatthe endoftheplatformstoodmourningitslonelylot. In itMr. Mageeplacedthelargeladyandthebags.Then,whilethedriverclimbedtohis seat,hespokeintotheinvisibleearofthegirl. "Youhaven'ttoldmewhyyoucried,"heremindedher. She waved her hand toward the wayside village, the lamps of which shone
sorrowfullythroughthesnow. "UpperAsquewanFalls,"shesaid,"isn'titreasonenough?" Billy Magee looked; saw a row of gloomy buildings that seemed to list as the windblew,ablurredsign"LiquorsandCigars,"astreetthatstaggeredawayinto thedarklikeamanwhohadlingeredtoolongattheemporiumbackofthesign. "Areyoudoomedtostayherelong?"heasked. "Comeon,Mary,"criedadeepvoicefromthecab."Getinandshutthedoor.I'm freezing." "Italldepends,"saidthegirl."Thankyouforbeingsokindand—goodnight." The door closed with a muffled bang, the cab creaked wearily away, and Mr. Mageeturnedbacktothedimwaiting-room. "Well, what was she crying for?" inquired the ticket agent, when Mr. Magee stoodagainathiscellwindow. "Shedidn'tthinkmuchofyourtown,"respondedMagee;"sheintimatedthatit madeherheavyofheart." "H'm—it ain't much of a place," admitted the man, "though it ain't the general rulewithvisitorstoburstintotearsatsightofit.Yes,UpperAsquewanisslow, andnomistake.Itgetsonmynervessometimes.Nothingtodobutwork,work, work, and then lay down and wait for to-morrow. I used to think maybe some daythey'dtransfermedowntoHooperstown—there'smovingpicturesandsuch goings-ondownthere.Buttherailroadnevernoticesyou—unlessyougowrong. Yes,sir,sometimesIwanttoclearoutofthistownmyself." "Anaturalwanderlust,"sympathizedMr.Magee."Yousaidsomethingjustnow aboutBaldpateInn—" "Yes,it'salittlemorelivelyinsummer,whenthat'sopen,"answeredtheagent; "wegetalotofcomplaintsabouttrunksnotcoming,fromprettyswellpeople, too.Itsortofcheersthings."HiseyeroamedwithinterestoverMr.Magee'sNew Yorkattire."ButBaldpateInnisshutuptightnow.Thisisnothingbutanannex toagraveyardinwinter.Youwasn'tthinkingofstoppingoffhere,wasyou?" "Well—IwanttoseeamannamedElijahQuimby,"Mr.Mageereplied."Doyou knowhim?"
"Of course," said the yearner for pastures new, "he's caretaker of the inn. His houseisaboutamileout,ontheoldMillerRoadthatleadsupBaldpate.Come outsideandI'lltellyouhowtogetthere." The two men went out into the whirling snow, and the agent waved a hand indefinitelyupatthenight. "If it was clear," he said, "you could see Baldpate Mountain, over yonder, lookingdownontheFalls,sortofkeepinganeyeonustomakesurewedon't get reckless. And half-way up you'd see Baldpate Inn, black and peaceful and winter-y.Justfollowthisstreettothethirdcorner,andturntoyourleft.Elijah livesinalittlehousebackamongthetreesamileout—there'sagateyou'llsure hearcreakingonanightlikethis." Billy Magee thanked him, and gathering up his two bags, walked up "Main Street." A dreary forbidding building at the first corner bore the sign "CommercialHouse".Underthewhitegaslightintheofficewindowthreeborn pessimistsslouchedlowinhotelchairs,gazingsourlyoutatthestorm. "Weepnomore,mylady, Oh!weepnomoreto-day," hummed Mr. Magee cynically under his breath, and glanced up at the solitary up-stairswindowthatgleamedyellowinthenight. At a corner on which stood a little shop that advertised "Groceries and Provisions"hepaused. "Let me see," he pondered. "The lights will be turned off, of course. Candles. And a little something for the inner man, in case it's the closed season for cooks." Hewentinside,whereawearyoldwomanservedhim. "What sort of candles?" she inquired, with the air of one who had an infinite varietyinstock.Mr.MageerememberedthatChristmaswasnear. "ForaChristmastree,"heexplained.Heaskedfortwohundred. "I've only got forty," the woman said. "What's this tree for—the Orphans' Home?"
Withtheaddedburdenofapackagecontaininghispurchasesinthetinystore, Mr.Mageeemergedandcontinuedhisjourneythroughthestingingsnow.Upper Asquewan Falls on its way home for supper flitted past him in the silvery darkness.Hesawinthelightedwindowsofmanyofthehousesthegreenwreath ofChristmascheer.Finallythehousesbecameinfrequent,andhestruckouton an uneven road that wound upward. Once he heard a dog's faint bark. Then a carriagelurchedbyhim,andastrongvoicecursedtheroughnessoftheroad.Mr. Mageehalfsmiledtohimselfashestrodeon. "DonQuixote,myboy,"hemuttered,"Iknowhowyoufeltwhenyoumovedon thewindmills." Itwasnotthewhirofwindmillsbutthecreakofagateinthestormthatbrought Mr. Magee at last to a stop. He walked gladly up the path to Elijah Quimby's door. In answer to Billy Magee's gay knock, a man of about sixty years appeared. Evidentlyhehadjustfinishedsupper;atthemomenthewasengagedinlighting his pipe. He admitted Mr. Magee into the intimacy of the kitchen, and took a numberofcalmjudiciouspuffsonthepipebeforespeakingtohisvisitor.Inthat intervalthevisitorcheerilyseizedhishand,obliviousofthewarmburntmatch that was in it. The match fell to the floor, whereupon the older man cast an anxiousglanceatagray-hairedwomanwhostoodbesidethekitchenstove. "My name's Magee," blithely explained that gentleman, dragging in his bags. "Andyou'reElijahQuimby,ofcourse.Howareyou?Gladtoseeyou."Hisair wasthatofonewhohadknownthisQuimbyintimately,inmanyoddcornersof theworld. Theoldermandidnotreply,butregardedMr.Mageewonderinglythroughwhite puffs ofsmoke.Hisfacewas kindly,gentle,ineffectual;heseemed tolackthe final"punch"thatsendmenoverthelinetosuccess;thiswasevidentintheway hisnecktiehung,thewayhisthinhandsfluttered. "Yes,"headmittedatlast."Yes,I'mQuimby." Mr. Magee threw back his coat, and sprayed with snow Mrs. Quimby's immaculatefloor. "I'm Magee," he elucidated again, "William Hallowell Magee, the man Hal Bentleywrotetoyouabout.Yougothisletter,didn'tyou?"
Mr. Quimby removed his pipe and forgot to close the aperture as he stared in amazement. "Goodlord!"hecried,"youdon'tmean—you'vereallycome." "Whatbetterproofcouldyouask,"saidMr.Mageeflippantly,"thanmypresence here?" "Why,"stammeredMr.Quimby,"we—wethoughtitwasallajoke." "Hal Bentley has his humorous moments," agreed Mr. Magee, "but it isn't his habittoflinghisjestsintoUpperAsquewanFalls." "And—andyou'rereallygoingto—"Mr.Quimbycouldgetnofurther. "Yes,"saidMr.Mageebrightly,slippingintoarocking-chair."Yes,I'mgoingto spendthenextfewmonthsatBaldpateInn." Mrs.Quimby,whoseemedtohavesettledintoastoutlittlemoundofawoman throughstandingtoolonginthewarmpresenceofherstove,cameforwardand inspectedMr.Magee. "Ofallthings,"shemurmured. "It'sclosed,"expostulatedMr.Quimby;"theinnisclosed,youngfellow." "Iknowit'sclosed,"smiledMagee."That'stheveryreasonI'mgoingtohonorit withmypresence.I'msorrytotakeyououtonanightlikethis,butI'llhaveto ask you to lead me up to Baldpate. I believe those were Hal Bentley's instructions—intheletter." Mr. Quimby towered above Mr. Magee, a shirt-sleeved statue of honest Americanmanhood.Hescowled. "Excuseaplainquestion,youngman,"hesaid,"butwhatareyouhidingfrom?" Mrs.Quimby,intheneighborhoodofthestove,pausedtohearthereply.Billy Mageelaughed. "I'm not hiding," he said. "Didn't Bentley explain? Well, I'll try to, though I'm notsureyou'llunderstand.Sitdown,Mr.Quimby.Youarenot,Itakeit,thesort ofmantofollowcloselythelightandfrivolousliteratureoftheday." "What'sthat?"inquiredMr.Quimby.
"Youdon'tread,"continuedMr.Magee,"thesortofnovelsthataresoldbythe poundinthedepartmentstores.Now,ifyouhadadaughter—afluffydaughter inseparable from a hammock in the summer—she could help me explain. You see—Iwritethosenovels.Wildthrillingtalesforthetiredbusinessman'stired wife—shots in the night, chases after fortunes, Cupid busy with his arrows all overtheplace!It'sgoodfun,andIliketodoit.There'smoneyinit." "Isthere?"askedMr.Quimbywithashowofinterest. "Considerable," replied Mr. Magee. "But now and then I get a longing to do somethingthatwillmakethecriticssitup—therealthing,youknow.Theother dayIpickedupanewspaperandfoundmylatestbrain-childadvertisedas'the best fall novel Magee ever wrote'. It got on my nerves—I felt like a literary dressmaker,andIcouldseemypubliclayingdownmyfallnovelandsighingfor my early spring styles in fiction. I remembered that once upon a time a critic advisedmetogoawayfortenyearstosomequietspot,andthink.Idecidedto doit.BaldpateInnisthequietspot." "You don't mean," gasped Mr. Quimby, "that you're going to stay there ten years?" "Blessyou,no,"saidMr.Magee."Criticsexaggerate.Twomonthswilldo.They say I am a cheap melodramatic ranter. They say I don't go deep. They say my thinkingprocessisascream.I'mafraidthey'reright.Now,I'mgoingtogoupto BaldpateInn,andthink.I'mgoingtogetawayfrommelodrama.I'mgoingtodo anovelsofineandliterarythatHenryCabotLodgewillcometomewithtears inhiseyesandaskmetojoinhisbunchofself-madeImmortals.I'mgoingtodo all this up there at the inn—sitting on the mountain and looking down on this littleoldworldasJovelookeddownfromOlympus." "Idon'tknowwhoyoumean,"objectedMr.Quimby. "Hewasagod—thegodofthefruit-standmen,"explainedMagee."Pictureme, if you can, depressed by the overwhelming success of my latest brain-child. PicturememeetingHalBentleyinaForty-fourthStreetclubandaskinghimfor thelocationofthelonesomestspotonearth.Halthoughtaminute.'I'vegotit',he said, 'the lonesomest spot that's happened to date is a summer resort in midwinter.ItmakesCrusoe'sislandlooklikeConeyonawarmSundayafternoonin comparison.'Thetalkflowedon,alongwithotherthings.Haltoldmehisfather ownedBaldpateInn,andthatyouwereanoldfriendofhiswhowouldbehappy fortheentirewinteroverthechancetoservehim.Hehappenedtohaveakeyto
theplace—thekeytothebigfrontdoor,Iguess,fromtheweightofit—andhe gaveittome.Healsowroteyoutolookafterme.SohereIam." Mr.Quimbyranhisfingersthroughhiswhitehair. "Here I am," repeated Billy Magee, "fleeing from the great glitter known as Broadwaytodoalittlerationalthinkinginthesolitudes.It'sgettinglate,andI suggestthatwestartforBaldpateInnatonce." "Thisain'texactly—regular,"Mr.Quimbyprotested."No,itain'twhatyoumight callafrequentoccurrence.I'mgladtodoanythingIcanforyoungMr.Bentley, but I can't help wondering what his father will say. And there's a lot of things youhaven'ttookintoconsideration." "There certainly is, young man," remarked Mrs. Quimby, bustling forward. "Howareyougoingtokeepwarminthatbigbarnofaplace?" "The suites on the second floor," said Mr. Magee, "are, I hear, equipped with fireplaces.Mr.Quimbywillkeepmesuppliedwithfuelfromtheforestprimeval, forwhichservicehewillreceivetwentydollarsaweek." "Andlight?"askedMrs.Quimby. "For the present, candles. I have forty in that package. Later, perhaps you can findmeanoillamp.Oh,everythingwillbeprovidedfor." "Well,"remarkedMr.Quimby,lookinginadazedfashionathiswife,"Ireckon I'llhavetotalkitoverwithma." Thetworetiredtothenextroom,andMr.Mageefixedhiseyesona"GodBless OurHome"mottowhileheawaitedtheirreturn.Presentlytheyreappeared. "Was you thinking of eating?" inquired Mrs. Quimby sarcastically, "while you stayedupthere?" "Icertainlywas,"smiledMr.Magee."ForthemostpartIwillpreparemyown mealsfromcansand—er—jars—andsuchpagansources.Butnowandthenyou, Mrs.Quimby,aregoingtosendmesomethingcookedasnootherwomaninthe countycancookit.Icanseeitinyoureyes.InmypoorwayIshalltrytorepay you." HecontinuedtosmileintoMrs.Quimby'sbroadcheerfulface.Mr.Mageehad thetypeofsmilethatmovesmentopartwithtenuntilSaturday,andwomento
closetheireyesanddreamofSirLauncelot.Mrs.Quimbycouldnotlongresist. Shesmiledback.WhereuponBillyMageesprangtohisfeet. "It'sallfixed,"hecried."We'llgetonsplendidly.Andnow—forBaldpateInn." "Notjustyet,"saidMrs.Quimby."Iain'tonetoletanybodygouptoBaldpate Innunfed.I'sposewe'resorto'responsibleforyou,whileyou'reuphere.You justsetrightdownandI'llhaveyoursupperhotandsmokingonthetableinno time." Mr.Mageeenteredintonodisputeonthispoint,andforhalfanhourhewasthe pleased recipient of advice, philosophy, and food. When he had assured Mrs. Quimbythathehadeatenenoughtolasthimtheentiretwomonthsheintended spending at the inn, Mr. Quimby came in, attired in a huge "before the war" ulster,andcarryingalightedlantern. "Soyou'regoingtositupthereandwritethings,"hecommented."Well,Ireckon you'llbelefttoyourself,allright." "Ihopeso,"respondedMr.Magee."IwanttobesolonesomeI'llsobmyselfto sleep every night. It's the only road to immortality. Good-by, Mrs. Quimby. In myfortressonthemountainIshallexpectanoccasionalculinarymessagefrom you."Hetookherplumphand;thismotherlylittlewomanseemedthelastlink bindinghimtotheworldofreality. "Good-by,"smiledMrs.Quimby."Becarefulofmatches." Mr.Quimbyledthewaywiththelantern,andpresentlytheysteppedoutupon the road. The storm had ceased, but it was still very dark. Far below, in the valley,twinkledthelightsofUpperAsquewanFalls. "Bytheway,Quimby,"remarkedMr.Magee,"isthereagirlinyourtownwho hasblueeyes,lighthair,andthegeneralairofaqueenoutshopping?" "Light hair," repeated Quimby. "There's Sally Perry. She teaches in the MethodistSunday-school." "No,"saidMr.Magee."Mydescriptionwaspoor,I'mafraid.ThisoneIreferto, when she weeps, gives the general effect of mist on the sea at dawn. The Methodistsdonotmonopolizeher." "Ireadbooks,andIreadnewspapers,"saidMr.Quimby,"butalotofyourtalkI
don'tunderstand." "The critics," replied Billy Magee, "could explain. My stuff is only for lowbrows.Leadon,Mr.Quimby." Mr. Quimby stood for a moment in dazed silence. Then he turned, and the yellowofhislanternfellonthedazzlingsnowahead.Togetherthetwoclimbed BaldpateMountain.
CHAPTERII ENTERALOVELORNHABERDASHER Baldpate Inn did not stand tiptoe on the misty mountain-top. Instead it clung withgrimdeterminationtothesideofBaldpate,abouthalf-wayup,muchasa city man clings to the running board of an open street-car. This was the comparisonMr.Mageemade,andevenashemadeitheknewthatatmospheric conditionsrendereditquestionable.Foranopenstreet-carsuggestssummerand the ball park; Baldpate Inn, as it shouldered darkly into Mr. Magee's ken, suggestedwinteratitsmostwintry. About the great black shape that was the inn, like arms, stretched broad verandas.Mr.Mageeremarkeduponthemtohiscompanion. "Those porches and balconies and things," he said, "will come in handy in coolingthefeveredbrowofgenius." "There ain't much fever in this locality," the practical Quimby assured him, "especiallynotinwinter." Silenced,Mr.MageefollowedthelanternofQuimbyoverthesnowtothebroad steps, and up to the great front door. There Magee produced from beneath his coat an impressive key. Mr. Quimby made as though to assist, but was waved aside. "Thisisaceremony,"Mr.Mageetoldhim,"somedaySundaynewspaperstories will be written about it. Baldpate Inn opening its doors to the great American novel!" Heplacedthekeyinthelock,turnedit,andthedoorswungopen.Thecoldest blastofairMr.Mageehadevenencounteredsweptoutfromthedarkinterior.He shuddered, and wrapped his coat closer. He seemed to see the white trail from DawsonCity,thesleddogsstragglingonwiththedwindlingprovisions,thefat Eskimoguidebeggingforgum-dropsbyhisside. "Whew,"hecried,"we'vediscoveredanotherPole!" "It'sstaleair,"remarkedQuimby.
"You mean the Polar atmosphere," replied Magee. "Yes, it is pretty stale. Jack LondonandDoctorCookhaveworkedittodeath." "Imean,"saidQuimby,"thisairhasbeeninherealonetoolong.It'sasstaleas lastweek'snewspaper.Wecouldn'theatitwithamillionfires.We'llhavetolet insomewarmairfromoutsidefirst." "Warmair—humph,"remarkedMr.Magee."Well,liveandlearn." The twostood togetherin agreatbareroom.The rugshadbeenremoved,and suchfurnitureasremainedhadhuddledtogether,asifforwarmth,inthecenter of the floor. When they stepped forward, the sound of their shoes on the hard woodseemedtheboomthatshouldwakethedead. "Thisisthehoteloffice,"explainedMr.Quimby. Attheleftofthedoorwastheclerk'sdesk;behinditloomedagreatsafe,anda seriesofpigeon-holesforthemailoftheguests.Oppositethefrontdoor,awide stairwayledtoalandinghalf-wayup,wherethestairsweredivorcedandwent to the right and left in search of the floor above. Mr. Magee surveyed the stairwaycritically. "A great place," he remarked, "to show off the talents of your dressmaker, eh, Quimby?Can'tyoujustseethestunninggownscomingdownthatstairinstate, andtheyoungmenbelowhereagitatedintheirbosoms?" "No,Ican't,"saidMr.Quimbyfrankly. "I can't either, to tell the truth," laughed Billy Magee. He turned up his collar. "It's like picturing a summer girl sitting on an iceberg and swinging her openworkhosieryovertheedge.Idon'tsupposeit'snecessarytoregister.I'llgoright upandselectmyapartments." ItwasuponasuiteofroomsthatborethenumbersevenontheirdoorthatMr. Magee'schoicefell.Alargeparlorwithafireplacethatafewblazinglogswould cheer,abedroomwhosebedwasdestituteofallsavemattressandsprings,anda bathroom, comprised his kingdom. Here, too, all the furniture was piled in the center of the rooms. After Quimby had opened the windows, he began straighteningthefurnitureabout. Mr. Magee inspected his apartment. The windows were all of the low French variety,andopenedoutuponabroadsnow-coveredbalconywhichwasinreality
the roof of the first floor veranda. On this balcony Magee stood a moment, watchingthetreesonBaldpatewavetheirblackarmsinthewind,andthelights ofUpperAsquewanFallswinkknowinglyupathim.Thenhecameinside,and hisinvestigationsbroughthim,presentlytothetubinthebathroom. "Fine," he cried, "a cold plunge in the morning before the daily struggle for immortalitybegins." Heturnedthespigot.Nothinghappened. "I reckon," drawled Mr. Quimby from the bedroom, "you'll carry your cold plungeupfromthewellbackoftheinnbeforeyouplungeintoit.Thewater's turnedoff.Wecan'ttakechanceswithbustedpipes." "Ofcourse,"repliedMageelessblithely.Hisardorwassomewhatdampened—a paradox—bythefailureofthespigottogushfortharesponse."There'snothing I'denjoymorethancarryingeightpailsofwaterup-stairseverymorningtoget upanappetitefor—what?Oh,well,theLordwillprovide.Ifweproposetoheat upthegreatAmericanoutdoors,Quimby,Ithinkit'stimewehadafire." Mr.Quimbywentoutwithoutcomment,andleftMageetolighthisfirstcandle inthedark.Foratimeheoccupiedhimselfwithlightingafewoftheforty,and distributing them about the room. Soon Quimby came back with kindling and logs, and subsequently a noisy fire roared in the grate. Again Quimby retired, andreturnedwithagenerousarmfulofbedding,whichhethrewuponthebrass bed in the inner room. Then he slowly closed and locked the windows, after which he came and looked down with good-natured contempt at Mr. Magee, whosatinachairbeforethefire. "Iwouldn'twanderroundnone,"headvised."Youmightfalldownsomething— orsomething.Ibeenlivingintheseparts,offandon,forsixtyyearsandmore, and nothing like this ever came under my observation before. Howsomever, I guessit'sallrightifMr.Bentleysaysso.I'llcomeupinthemorningandseeyou downtothetrain." "Whattrain?"inquiredMr.Magee. "YourtrainbacktoNewYorkCity,"repliedMr.Quimby."Don'ttrytostartback inthenight.Thereain'tnotraintillmorning." "Ah,Quimby,"laughedMr.Magee,"youtauntme.YouthinkIwon'tstickitout. ButI'llshowyou.Itellyou,I'mhungryforsolitude."
"That'sallright,"Mr.Quimbyresponded,"youcan'tmakethreesquaremealsa dayoffsolitude." "I'mdesperate,"saidMagee."HenryCabotLodgemustcometome,Isay,with tearsinhiseyes.Everseethesenatorthatway?No?Itisn'tgoingtobeaneasy job.Imustputitover.Imustgodeepintotheheartsofmen,uphere,andwrite whatIfind.Nomoreshotsinthenight.Justtheadventureofsoulandsoul.Do yousee?Bytheway,here'stwentydollars,yourfirstweek'spayascaretakerof aNewYorkQuixote." "What'sthat?"askedQuimby. "Quixote,"explainedMr.Magee,"wasaSpanishladwhowasalittleconfused in his mind, and went about the country putting up at summer resorts in midwinter." "I'dexpectitofaSpaniard,"Quimbysaid."Becarefulofthatfire.I'llbeupin the morning." He stowed away the bill Mr. Magee had given him. "I guess nothingwillinterferewithyourlonesomeness.Leastways,Ihopeitwon't.Good night." Mr.Mageebadethemangoodnight,andlistenedtothethumpofhisboots,and theclosingofthegreatfrontdoor.Fromhiswindowshewatchedthecaretaker movedowntheroadwithoutlookingback,todisappearatlastinthewhitenight. Throwingoffhisgreatcoat,Mr.Mageenoisilyattackedthefire.Theblazeflared red on his strong humorous mouth, in his smiling eyes. Next, in the flickering half-lightofsuiteseven,hedistributedthecontentsofhistraveling-bagsabout. Onthetableheplacedanumberofnewmagazinesandafewbooks. ThenMr.Mageesatdowninthebigleatherchairbeforethefire,andcaughthis breath.Herehewasatlast.ThewildplanheandHalBentleyhadcookedupin that Forty-fourth Street club had actually come to be. "Seclusion," Magee had cried. "Bermuda," Bentley had suggested. "A mixture of sea, hotel clerks, and honeymooners!"theseekerforsolitudehadsneered."Somewinterplacedown South,"—from Bentley. "And a flirtation lurking in every corner!"—from Magee."Acountrytownwhereyoudon'tknowanyone.""Theeasiestplacein the world to get acquainted. I must be alone, man! Alone!" "Baldpate Inn," Bentley had cried in his idiom. "Why, Billy—Baldpate Inn at Christmas—it mustbeoldJohnH.Seclusionhimself."
Yes, here he was. And here was the solitude he had come to find. Mr. Magee looked nervously about, and the smile died out of his gray eyes. For the first time misgivings smote him. Might one not have too much of a good thing? A silencelikethatofthetombhaddescended.Herecalledstoriesofmenwhowent madfromloneliness.Whatplacelonelierthanthis?Thewindhowledalongthe balcony. It rattled the windows. Outside his door lay a great black cave—in summergaywithmenandmaids—nowlikeCrusoe'sislandbeforetheoldman landed. "Alone,alone,all,allalone,"quotedMr.Magee."IfIcan'tthinkhereitwillbe because I'm not equipped with the apparatus. I will. I'll show the gloomy old critics!Iwonderwhat'sdoinginNewYork?" NewYork!Mr.Mageelookedathiswatch.Eighto'clock.Thegreatstreetwas ablaze. The crowds were parading from the restaurants to the theaters. The electricsignswerepastingluridlegendsonalongsufferingsky;thetaxiswere spraying throats with gasoline; the traffic cop at Broadway and Forty-second Streetwasmadlyearninghispay.Mr.Mageegotupandwalkedthefloor.New York! Probably the telephone in his rooms was jangling, vainly calling forth to sport withAmaryllisintheshadeoftherubbertreesBillyMagee—BillyMageewho sataloneinthesilenceonBaldpateMountain.Fewknewofhisdeparture.This wasthenightofthatstupidattemptattheatricalsatthePlaza;stupidinitselfbut gay,almostgiddy,sinceHelenFaulknerwastobethere.Thiswasthenightof thedinnertoCareyattheclub.Thiswasthenight—ofmanydivertingthings. Mr.Mageepickedupamagazine.Hewonderedhowtheyread,intheolddays, bycandlelight.Hewonderediftheywouldhavefoundhisownstoriesworththe strainontheeyes.Andhealsowonderedifabsolutesolitudewasquitethething necessarytothecompositionofthenovelthatshouldforeversilencethosewho sneeredathisability. Absolute solitude! Only the crackle of the fire, the roar of the wind, and the ticking of his watch bore him company. He strode to the window and looked down at the few dim lights that proclaimed the existence of Upper Asquewan Falls.Somewhere,downthere,wastheCommercialHouse.Somewherethegirl whohadweptsobitterlyinthatgloomylittlewaiting-room.Shewasonlythree milesaway,andthethoughtcheeredMr.Magee.Afterall,hewasnotonadesert island.
And yet—he was alone, intensely, almost painfully, alone. Alone in a vast moaninghousethatmustbehisonlyhomeuntilhecouldgobacktothegaycity with his masterpiece. What a masterpiece! As though with a surgeon's knife it wouldlaybaretheheartsofmen.Notricksofplot,no— Mr.Mageepaused.Forsharplyinthesilencethebellofhisroomtelephonerang out. Hestoodforamomentgazinginwonder,hisheartbeatingswiftly,hiseyesupon theinstrumentonthewall.Itwasahousephone;heknewthatitcouldonlybe rung from the switchboard in the hall below. "I'm going mad already," he remarked,andtookdownthereceiver. Abluroftalk,anelectricmuttering,aclick,andallwasstill. Mr.Mageeopenedthedoorandsteppedoutintotheshadows.Heheardavoice below. Noiselessly he crept to the landing, and gazed down into the office. A young man sat at the telephone switchboard; Mr. Magee could see in the dim light of a solitary candle that he was a person of rather hilarious raiment. The candle stood on the top of the safe, and the door of the latter swung open. Sinkingdownonthestepsinthedark,Mr.Mageewaited. "Hello,"theyoungmanwassaying,"howdoyouworkthisthing,anyhow?I've tried every peg but the right one. Hello—hello! I want long distance—Reuton. 2876West—Mr.AndyRutter.Willyougethimforme,sister?" Another wait—a long one—ensued. The candle sputtered. The young man fidgetedinhischair.Atlasthespokeagain: "Hello!Andy?Isthatyou,Andy?What'sthegoodword?Asquietasthetomb ofNapoleon.ShallIcloseupshop?Sure.Whatnext?Oh,seehere,Andy,I'ddie uphere.Didyoueverhitaplacelikethisinwinter?Ican't—I—oh,well,ifhe saysso.Yes.Icoulddothat.Butnolonger.Icouldn'tstanditlong.Tellhimthat. Tellhimeverything'sO.K.Yes.Allright.Well,goodnight,Andy." He turned away from the switchboard, and as he did so Mr. Magee walked calmly down the stairs toward him. With a cry the young man ran to the safe, threwapackageinside,andswungshutthedoor.Heturnedtheknobofthesafe severaltimes;thenhefacedMr.Magee.Thelattersawsomethingglitterinhis hand. "Goodevening,"remarkedMr.Mageepleasantly.
"Whatareyoudoinghere?"criedtheyouthwildly. "I live here," Mr. Magee assured him. "Won't you come up to my room—it's rightattheheadofthestairs.Ihaveafire,youknow." Backintotheyoungman'sleanhawk-likefacecrepttheassurancethatbelonged withthegayattirehewore.Hedroppedtherevolverintohispocket,andsmiled asneeringsmile. "You gave me a turn," he said. "Of course you live here. Are any of the other guestsabout?Andwhowonthetennismatchto-day?" "You are facetious." Mr. Magee smiled too. "So much the better. A lively companionistheverysortIshouldhaveorderedto-night.Comeup-stairs." The young man looked suspiciously about, his thin nose seemingly scenting plots.Henodded,andpickedupthecandle."Allright,"hesaid."ButI'llhaveto ask you to go first. You know the way." His right hand sought the pocket into whichtherevolverhadfallen. "Youhonormypooranddraftyhouse,"saidMr.Magee."Thisway." He mounted the stairs. After him followed the youth of flashy habiliments, lookingfearfullyabouthimashewent.Heseemedsurprisedthattheycameto Magee'sroomwithoutincident.Inside,Mr.Mageedrewupaneasychairbefore thefire,andofferedhisguestacigar. "Youmustbecold,"hesaid."Sithere.'Abadnight,stranger'astheyremarkin stories." "You've said it," replied the young man, accepting the cigar. "Thanks." He walkedtothedoorleadingintothehallandopeneditaboutafoot."I'mafraid," he explained jocosely, "we'll get to talking, and miss the breakfast bell." He droppedintothechair,andlightedhiscigaratacandleend."Say,younevercan tell,canyou?ClimbingupoldBaldpateIthoughttomyself,thathotelcertainly makestheSaharaDesertlooklikeacozycorner.Andhereyouare,assnugand comfortableandathomeasifyouwereinaHarlemflat.Younevercantell.And whatnow?Thestoryofmylife?" "You might relate," Mr. Magee told him, "that portion of it that has led you trespassingonagentlemanseekingseclusionatBaldpateInn."