BOOK II: Neighboring Fields
On Sunday afternoon, a month after Carl Linstrum's arrival, he rode
with Emil up into the French country to attend a Catholic fair. He
sat for most of the afternoon in the basement of the church, where
the fair was held, talking to Marie Shabata, or strolled about the
gravel terrace, thrown up on the hillside in front of the basement
doors, where the French boys were jumping and wrestling and throwing
the discus. Some of the boys were in their white baseball suits;
they had just come up from a Sunday practice game down in the
ballgrounds. Amedee, the newly married, Emil's best friend, was
their pitcher, renowned among the country towns for his dash and
skill. Amedee was a little fellow, a year younger than Emil and
much more boyish in appearance; very lithe and active and neatly
made, with a clear brown and white skin, and flashing white teeth.
The Sainte-Agnes boys were to play the Hastings nine in a fortnight,
and Amedee's lightning balls were the hope of his team. The little
Frenchman seemed to get every ounce there was in him behind the
ball as it left his hand.
"You'd have made the battery at the University for sure, 'Medee,"
Emil said as they were walking from the ball-grounds back to the
church on the hill. "You're pitching better than you did in the
Amedee grinned. "Sure! A married man don't lose his head no more."
He slapped Emil on the back as he caught step with him. "Oh, Emil,
you wanna get married right off quick! It's the greatest thing
Emil laughed. "How am I going to get married without any girl?"
Amedee took his arm. "Pooh! There are plenty girls will have
you. You wanna get some nice French girl, now. She treat you well;
always be jolly. See,"--he began checking off on his fingers,--"there
is Severine, and Alphosen, and Josephine, and Hectorine, and Louise,
and Malvina--why, I could love any of them girls! Why don't you
get after them? Are you stuck up, Emil, or is anything the matter
with you? I never did know a boy twenty-two years old before that
didn't have no girl. You wanna be a priest, maybe? Not-a for me!"
Amedee swaggered. "I bring many good Catholics into this world,
I hope, and that's a way I help the Church."
Emil looked down and patted him on the shoulder. "Now you're windy,
'Medee. You Frenchies like to brag."
But Amedee had the zeal of the newly married, and he was not
to be lightly shaken off. "Honest and true, Emil, don't you want
any girl? Maybe there's some young lady in Lincoln, now, very
grand,"--Amedee waved his hand languidly before his face to denote
the fan of heartless beauty,--"and you lost your heart up there.
Is that it?"
"Maybe," said Emil.
But Amedee saw no appropriate glow in his friend's face. "Bah!"
he exclaimed in disgust. "I tell all the French girls to keep 'way
from you. You gotta rock in there," thumping Emil on the ribs.
When they reached the terrace at the side of the church, Amedee,
who was excited by his success on the ball-grounds, challenged
Emil to a jumping-match, though he knew he would be beaten. They
belted themselves up, and Raoul Marcel, the choir tenor and Father
Duchesne's pet, and Jean Bordelau, held the string over which they
vaulted. All the French boys stood round, cheering and humping
themselves up when Emil or Amedee went over the wire, as if they
were helping in the lift. Emil stopped at five-feet-five, declaring
that he would spoil his appetite for supper if he jumped any more.
Angelique, Amedee's pretty bride, as blonde and fair as her name,
who had come out to watch the match, tossed her head at Emil and
"'Medee could jump much higher than you if he were as tall. And
anyhow, he is much more graceful. He goes over like a bird, and
you have to hump yourself all up."
"Oh, I do, do I?" Emil caught her and kissed her saucy mouth squarely,
while she laughed and struggled and called, "'Medee! 'Medee!"
"There, you see your 'Medee isn't even big enough to get you away
from me. I could run away with you right now and he could only
sit down and cry about it. I'll show you whether I have to hump
myself!" Laughing and panting, he picked Angelique up in his arms
and began running about the rectangle with her. Not until he saw
Marie Shabata's tiger eyes flashing from the gloom of the basement
doorway did he hand the disheveled bride over to her husband.
"There, go to your graceful; I haven't the heart to take you away
Angelique clung to her husband and made faces at Emil over the
white shoulder of Amedee's ball-shirt. Emil was greatly amused at
her air of proprietorship and at Amedee's shameless submission to
it. He was delighted with his friend's good fortune. He liked to
see and to think about Amedee's sunny, natural, happy love.
He and Amedee had ridden and wrestled and larked together since
they were lads of twelve. On Sundays and holidays they were always
arm in arm. It seemed strange that now he should have to hide the
thing that Amedee was so proud of, that the feeling which gave one
of them such happiness should bring the other such despair. It
was like that when Alexandra tested her seed-corn in the spring,
he mused. From two ears that had grown side by side, the grains
of one shot up joyfully into the light, projecting themselves into
the future, and the grains from the other lay still in the earth
and rotted; and nobody knew why.