Spring was coming. Spring was in the air. (Author's Note.—This is the same day on which the story starts, back on page three.) A chinook wind was blowing. Work- men were coming home from the factory. Scripps's bird singing in its cage. Diana looking out of the open window. Diana watching for her Scripps to come up the street. Could she hold him? Could she hold him? If she couldn't hold him, would he leave her his bird? She had felt lately that she couldn't hold him. In the nights, now, when she touched Scripps he rolled away, not toward her. It was a little sign, but life was made up of little signs. She felt she couldn't hold him. As she looked out of the window, a copy of The Century Magazine dropped from her nerveless hand. The Century had a new editor. There were more woodcuts. Glenn Frank had gone to head some great university somewhere. There were more Van Dorens on the magazine. Diana felt that might turn the trick. Happily she had opened The Century and read all morning. Then the wind, the warm chinook wind, had started to blow, and she knew Scripps would soon be home. Men were coming down the street in increasing numbers. Was Scripps among them? She did not like to put on her spectacles to look. She wanted Scripps's first glimpse of her to be of her at her best. As she felt him drawing nearer, the confidence she had had in The Century grew fainter. She had so hoped that would give her the something which would hold him. She wasn't sure now.
Scripps coming down the street with a crowd of workmen. Men stirred by the spring. Scripps swinging his lunch-bucket. Scripps waving good-by to the workmen, who trooped one by one into what had formerly been a saloon. Scripps not looking up at the window. Scripps coming up the stairs. Scripps coming nearer. Scripps coming nearer. Scripps here.
"Good afternoon, dear Scripps," she said. "I've been reading a story by Ruth Suckow."
"Hello, Diana," Scripps answered. He set down his lunch-pail. She looked worn and old. He could afford to be polite.
"What was the story about, Diana?" he asked.
"It was about a little girl in Iowa," Diana said. She moved toward him. "It was about people on the land. It reminded me a little of my own Lake Country."
"That so?" asked Scripps. In some way the pump-factory had hardened him. His speech had become more clipped. More like these hardy Northern workers'. But his mind was the same.
"Would you like me to read a little of it out loud?" Diana asked. "They're some lovely woodcuts."
"How about going down to the beanery?" Scripps said.
"As you wish, dear," Diana said. Then her voice broke. "I wish—oh, I wish you'd never seen that place!" She wiped away her tears. Scripps had not even seen them. "I'll bring the bird, dear," Diana said. "He hasn't been out all day."
Together they went down the street to the beanery. They did not walk hand in hand now. They walked like what are called old married people. Mrs. Scripps carried the bird-cage. The bird was happy in the warm wind. Men lurching along, drunk with the spring, passed them. Many spoke to Scripps. He was well known and well liked in the town now. Some, as they lurched by, raised their hats to Mrs. Scripps. She responded vaguely. If I can only hold him, she was thinking. If I can only hold him. As they walked along the slushy snow of the narrow sidewalk of the Northern town, something began to beat in her head. Perhaps it was the rhythm of their walking together. I can't hold him. I can't hold him. I can't hold him.
Scripps took her arm as they crossed the street. When his hand touched her arm Diana knew it was true. She would never hold him. A group of Indians passed them on the street. Were they laughing at her or was it some tribal jest? Diana didn't know. All she knew was that rhythm that beat into her brain. I can't hold him. I can't hold him.