A Man and a Woman by Stanley Waterloo


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Page 1




A MAN AND A WOMAN.


CHAPTER I.

PROLOGUE.

But for a recent occurrence I should certainly not be telling the story
of a friend, or, rather, I should say, of two friends of mine. What
that occurrence was I will not here indicate--it is unnecessary; but it
has not been without its effect upon my life and plans. If it be asked
by those who may read these pages under what circumstances it became
possible for me to acquire such familiarity with certain scenes and
incidents in the lives of one man and one woman,--scenes and incidents
which, from their very nature, were such that no third person could
figure in them,--I have only to explain that Grant Harlson and I were
friends from boyhood, practically from babyhood, and that never, during
all our lives together, did a change occur in our relationship. He has
told me many things of a nature imparted by one man to another very
rarely, and only when each of the two feels that they are very close
together in that which sometimes makes two men as one. He was proud
and glad when he told me these things--they were but episodes, and
often trivial ones--and I was interested deeply. They added the
details of a history much of which I knew and part of which I had
guessed at.

He was not quite the ordinary man, this Grant Harlson, close friend of
mine. He had an individuality, and his name is familiar to many people
in the world. He has been looked upon by the tactful as but one of a
type in a new nationality--a type with traits not yet clearly defined,
a type not large, nor yet, thank God, uncommon--one of the best of the
type; to me, the best. A close friend perhaps is blind. No; he is not
that: he but sees so clearly that the world, with poorer view, may not
always agree with him.

I hardly know how to describe this same Grant Harlson. At this stage
of my story it is scarcely requisite that I should, but the account is
loose and vagrant and with no chronology. Physically, he was more than
most men, six feet in height, deep of chest, broad-shouldered,
strong-legged and strong-featured, and ever in good health, so far as
all goes, save the temporary tax on recklessness nature so often
levies, and the other irregular tax she levies by some swoop of the
bacilli of which the doctors talk so much and know so little. I mean
only that he might catch a fever with a chill addition if he lay
carelessly in some miasmatic swamp on some hunting expedition, or that,
in time of cholera, he might have, like other men, to struggle with the
enemy. But he tossed off most things lightly, and had that vitality
which is of heredity, not built up with a single generation, though
sometimes lost in one. Forest and farm-bred, college-bred,
city-fostered and broadened and hardened. A man of the world, with
experiences, and in his quality, no doubt, the logical, inevitable
result of such experiences--one with a conscience flexile and seeking,
but hard as rock when once satisfied. One who never, intentionally,
injured a human being, save for equity's sake. One who, of course,
wandered in looking for what was, to him, the right, but who, having
once determined, was ever steadfast. A man who had seen and known and
fed and felt and risked, but who seemed to me always as if his religion
were: "What shall I do? Nature says so-and-so, and the Power beyond
rules nature." Laws of organization for political purposes, begun
before Romulus and Remus, and varied by the dale-grouped Angles or the
Northmen's Thing, did not seem to much impress him. He recognized
their utility, wanted to improve them, made that his work, and
eventually observed most of them. This, it seemed to me, was his
honest make-up--a Berseker, a bare-sark descendant of the Vikings, in a
dress-coat. He had passions, and gratified them sometimes. He had
ambitions, and worked for them. He had a conscience, and was guided by
it.

It was always interesting to me to look at him in youthful fray, more
so, years afterward, in club or in convention, or anywhere, and try to
imagine him the country small boy. Keen, hard, alert in all the ways
of a great city, it was difficult to conceive him in his early youth,
well as I knew it; difficult to reflect that his dreams at night were
not of the varying results of some late scheme, nor of white shoulders
at the opera, nor the mood of the Ninth Ward, nor of the drift of
business, but of some farm-house's front yard in mid-summer with a boy
aiming a long shot-gun at a red-winged poacher in a cherry tree, or
that he saw, in sleep, the worn jambs beside the old-fashioned
fireplace where, winter mornings, he kicked on his frozen boots, and
the living-room where, later in the morning, he ate so largely of
buckwheat cakes. He was a figure, wicked some said, a schemer many
said, a rock of refuge for his friends said more. This was the man, no
uncommon type in the great cities of the great republic.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Sun 15th Sep 2019, 16:47