All the while the heavy barge sailed on, and at last land came in sight. I wonder if his heart was full when he saw it? Did he remember his wife and his home? Did he feel his life strong within him, and eager as a battle-horse, as he neared the land where wars were to be fought, and glories won?
All the while his heart was firm. He stood the very foremost of them all, as they drifted quite in to the green, green shore. Around him men talked and laughed, and the sun shone. He may have laid his hand commandingly on some youthful shoulders and pushed back the eager boy who longed to bound first into this new world. He may have saved him thus from death for life. We do not know.
All we do know is, that with his own brave feet he marched ahead of them all, solemnly, smilingly, with the oracle in his heart. From the vessel to the green, green shore—such a little step. He leaps from the Grecian barge to the Trojan land, alive. Does he turn to look at his comrades and off eastwards, beyond homewards, with a great thrill before he falls dead? We do not know.
All we do know is, that we thrill now as we see him leaping to his death, even over this gap of ages, through these shadows of unreality.
We have left Mae flashing scorn at Norman for a long while, a much longer while than she really needed for her flash, for Norman’s angry start, violent exclamation, and indignant glance convinced her of her mistake before he answered her.
“I refuse to fight—I—Great—I beg your pardon, Miss Mae, but of course I’ll fight. I only hope the fellow isn’t such a craven as to let it blow over. However, I strongly suspect policy and his friends will keep him from it. For my part, I would like to break my lance for the poor woman. Any good blow struck for the fair thing, helps old Mother earth a bit, I suppose.”
“That’s your idea of life?” queried Eric, rather gravely. “My efforts are all to push Eric Madden on his way a bit.”
“And I haven’t any idea; I just live,” said Mae, “like a black and tan dog. I wish I were one. Then the only disagreeable part of me, my conscience, would be out of the way. But what has all this to do with the duel?” “That has something to do with it, I fancy,” said Eric, rising and leaving the room hastily, as the bell rang. “No, stay where you are. I’ll receive him in the little salon.” Mae rose and walked to the fireside, and looked down on the two small logs of wet wood that sizzled on the fire-dogs. The faint, red flame that flickered around them, looked sullen and revengeful, she thought, as she watched the feeble blaze intently. It seemed hours since Eric had left the room. What was Norman thinking? What was the stranger saying out in the little salon? No, no, she would not think thus. She would repeat something to quiet herself—poetry—what should it be? Ah, here is Eric.
It was Eric. His face was flushed. His lip curled. “Coward! craven!” he exclaimed, “Coward, craven.”