Against this delicate imagery, Willa Cather renders the tough inner terrain of a man in mid-life crisis. Bartley Alexander is a master bridge engineer. At 43 he is at the height of his power, comfortable with success and all it brings. Yet he yearns for the lost vibrancy of his youth. He leads a double life, veering between his beautiful, accomplished wife and his mistress, an actress he knew as a student in Paris. The conflict creates a crack in the structure of his life that ultimately undermines him.