The Project Gutenberg eBook of Proud Lady

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Title: Proud Lady

Author: Neith Boyce

Release date: June 25, 2020 [eBook #62478]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Karin Spence, Tim Lindell and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at (This
file was produced from images generously made available
by The Internet Archive/American Libraries.)





Star of Earth
Morris Dallett

Sigfrid Siwertz

Ralph Herne
W. H. Hudson

Gates of Life
Edwin Björkman

John T. Frederick

The Long Journey
Johannes V. Jensen

The Bridal Wreath
Sigrid Undset

The Hill of Dreams
Arthur Machen

A Room with a View
E. M. Forster






Published, January, 1923

Set up and printed by the Vail-Ballou Co., Binghamton, N. Y.
Paper furnished by W. F. Etherington & Co., New York.
Bound by H. Wolff Estate, New York.





Across the ringing of the church bells came the whistle of the train. Mary Lavinia, standing in the doorway, watched her mother go down the walk to the gate. Mrs. Lowell's broad back, clad in black silk, her black bonnet stiffly trimmed with purple pansies, bristled with anger. She opened the gate and slammed it behind her. The wooden sidewalk echoed her heavy tread. She went down the street out of sight, without looking back.

The slow melancholy bells were still sounding, but now they stopped. Mrs. Lowell would be late to church. Mary listened, holding her breath. She heard the noise of the train. Now it whistled again, at the crossing, now it was coming into town—white puffs of smoke rose over the trees. The engine-bell clanked, and the shrill sound of escaping steam signalled its stopping.

Mary listened, but there was no cheering, though a number of people had gone to the depot to welcome the little knot of returning soldiers. She remembered the day, three years before, when the company raised in the town had marched to the train—there was plenty of cheering then. Now perhaps half a dozen of those men were coming back. The war was over, but the rest of them had been left on southern battle-fields.

Mary stood looking out at the light brilliant green of the trees in the yard. It was very quiet all around her. The house always seemed quiet when her mother[2] was out of it, and now there was a lull after the storm. But she was breathing quickly, intent, listening, shivering a little in her light print dress. The spring sunlight had little warmth, the air was sharp, with a damp sweetness. In the silence, she heard the rustling of a paper and the sound of a slight cough, behind a closed door. Her father was there, in his office. He would have gone to meet the train, she knew, but that these were his office-hours. But she couldn't have gone—and neither could she go to church, however angry her mother might be. A light flush rose in her cheeks, as she stood expectant.

She was beautiful—tall, slender, but with broad shoulders and a straight proud way of holding herself. Her thick hair, of bright auburn, with a natural small ripple, parted in the middle, was drawn down over her ears into a heavy knot. She was dazzlingly fair, with a few freckles on her high cheek-bones, with large clear grey eyes, with scarlet, finely-cut lips. She looked mature for her twenty years and yet completely virginal, untouched, unmoved. But her face expressed very little of what she might be thinking or feeling. It was like a calm mask—there was not a line in it, there was no record to be read.

Footsteps began to echo down the wooden walk, and voices. She went into the house and shut the door. In the office she heard a chair pushed back, and as she did not want to speak to her father just then, she walked quickly and lightly out through the big bright kitchen into the garden at the back of the house, slipping on as she went a blue coat that she had taken from the hall.


The garden was long and narrow, bounded by rail fences along which was set close together lilac bushes and other flowering shrubs of twenty years' growth. It was carefully laid out, in neat squares or oblongs, separated by rows of currant and gooseberry bushes or by grass-paths. The fresh turned earth in the beds looked dark and rich. All the bushes and shrubs were covered with light-green leaves. Bordering the central path were two narrow beds of tulips, narcissus, jonquils, flowering in thick bands of colour. At the end of the garden was a small orchard of apple, cherry and peach trees, some of them in bloom. In summer there was shade and seclusion here, but now there was no place to hide. Mary stopped a moment, looking back at the house, then opened a gate and in a panic fled out into the pasture. She was well aware that she ought to be in the house, that the minister was coming to dinner, that the roast would probably burn, but above all that some one was coming for her, that they would be calling her any moment; so she hurried on, up a slight rise of ground, over the top of it, and there she was out of sight.

The pasture stretched all about her, dotted with cattle nibbling the short green grass. Below, the ground fell suddenly, and there was a large pond. It was very deep, with a treacherous mud bottom near the shores. Willows encircled it, and on the farther side marshes blended it with the land. The water had a colour of its own, almost always dark—now it was a dull blue, deeper than the light April sky. Beyond it on every side was the prairie, flat, unbroken to the skyline. Trees, fields, houses, scattered over it, seemed insignificant, did not[4] interrupt its monotony. It rolled away in long low wavering lines, endless and sombre, like a dark sea.

A faint call from the direction of the house—that was her father's gentle voice. Then a shout, lusty and clear—her name, shouted out over the hill for the whole town to hear! Mary started, a confused cloud of feelings made her heart beat heavily. But she stood still. In another moment a man appeared at the top of the rise and came plunging down toward her. In his blue uniform—cap tilted over one eye—just the same! He caught her in his arms and kissed her, laughing, repeating her name over and over, and kissed her again and again. Mary did not return his kisses, but bowed her head to the storm. Released at last from the tight clasp against his breast, but still held by his hands on her shoulders, she looked at him, and he at her—their eyes were on a level. But his eyes were full of an intoxication of joy, excited, almost blinded, though they seemed to be searching her face keenly, from brow to lips. Mary's eyes were clear. She saw the sword-cut on his left cheek, a thin red scar—that was new to her. She saw that he was thinner and the brown of his face was paler—he had been wounded and in hospital since she had seen him. She saw what had always repelled her—what she thought of vaguely as weakness, in his mouth and chin. But then she saw too the crisp black hair brushed back from his square forehead, the black eyebrows, sharp beautiful curves—and the long narrow blue eyes—and these she loved, she did not know why, but they had some strange appeal to her, something foreign, come from far away. She never could[5] look at those eyes without tenderness. Now she put up her hands on his shoulders and bent toward him, and tenderness glowed like a light through the mask. At that moment she did not look cold.

He could not say anything except, "Oh, Mary! Mary!" And Mary did not speak either, but only smiled. They sat down together on a stone in the pasture. The young soldier held her hands in his clasp, his arm around her, as though he could never let her go again. His heart was overflowing. He held her clasped against him and stared at the dull-blue water. This was like a dream. Many a time, on the bivouac, on the march when he dozed from fatigue in his saddle, he had dreamed vividly of Mary, he had felt her near him as now. He half expected to wake and hear again the tramp of marching men, the jingle of the chains of his battery behind him. The present, the future, were a dream, he was living in the past. He had thought of Mary when the shell burst among his guns. "This is death," he had thought too, wounded in the hip by a fragment of shell, deluged with blood from the man killed beside him. He had taken the place of the gunner and served his gun. That was at the Wilderness. Yes, he had held them back, and brought off his whole battery. "Distinguished gallantry." ...

He sighed, and touched Mary's bright hair with his lips, and was surprised that she did not vanish. Was it true, that life was over, "Daredevil Carlin" was no more, his occupation gone? Then he must begin the world at twenty-five, with empty hands. He turned and looked at the woman beside him. It was hard to realize that now his life would be with her, that what he had so longed for was his.



The roast was burned. Dr. Lowell, at the head of the table, carved and dispensed it, with sly chuckles. His mild blue eyes beamed through his spectacles, and he kept up the slow flow of conversation, now addressing the minister, who sat alone on one side of the table, now Captain Carlin, who sat with Mary on the other side; and sending propitiatory glances at his wife, who loomed opposite, stonily indignant. She was outraged at having her dinner spoiled—in addition to everything else. And if looks could have done it, the whole company, except the minister, would have been annihilated.

Yes, her husband too. This was one of the times when he exasperated her beyond endurance. How ridiculous he was, with his perpetual good-humour, his everlasting jokes! As he carved the leathery beef he made a point of asking each person, "Will you have it well-done, or rare?" And then he would wink at her. She glared back at him, looking like a block of New England granite, as she was.

It was strange that in a long life together she had not been able to crush the light-mindedness out of that man. But she had not even made a church member of him. He treated the minister as he did anybody else, with gentle courtesy—beneath which, if you knew him well, you might suspect a sparkle of amusement. He laughed at everything, everybody! At times she sus[7]pected him of being an atheist. He had said that he was too busy correcting God's mistakes in people's bodies to think about their souls, or his own. Mrs. Lowell would not have dared repeat this remark to the minister, for if she had an atheist in the family she would conceal him to the last gasp, as she would a forger.

Whenever she spoke, during this meal, she addressed herself pointedly to the minister, for she was above being hypocritical or pretending that Captain Carlin's presence was welcome to her. From the deep respect of her manner toward the Reverend Mr. Robertson, he might have been a very venerable personage indeed. But he was a young man, under thirty and at first glance insignificant—slight and plain. His straw-coloured hair was smoothed back from a brow rather narrow than otherwise, his light eyebrows and lashes gave no emphasis to his grey-blue eyes, his complexion was sallow, his mouth straight and rather wide. Perhaps Mrs. Lowell's manner merely indicated respect to the cloth.

But when Hilary Robertson spoke, people listened to him—whether he was in his pulpit or in a chance crowd of strangers. Sometimes on the street, people would turn and look at him, at the sound of his voice. It had a deep, low-toned bell-like resonance. The commonest words, spoken in that rich voice, took on colour, might have an arresting power. Perhaps this remarkable organ accounted for Hilary Robertson as a minister of religion. No, it was only one of his qualifications.

A second glance was apt to dwell on his face with attention. There were deep lines from the nostrils to the corners of the mouth and across the forehead and between the eyebrows. The pale-coloured eyes had a[8] luminous intensity, and the mouth a firm compression. A fiery irritable spirit under strong control had written its struggle there.

As he sat quietly, eating little, speaking less, but listening, glancing attentively at each of the family in turn and at Captain Carlin, only an uncommon pallor showed that he was feeling deeply. No one—not Mrs. Lowell, though she suspected much, not Mary—no one knew what the return of Carlin meant to Hilary Robertson. Two people at that table would have been glad if Carlin never had come back. Mrs. Lowell would have denied indignantly that she wished any ill to Laurence Carlin—only she did not want her daughter to marry a nobody, of unworthy foreign descent. But the minister faced the truth and knew that he, Hilary Robertson, sinner, had hoped that Laurence Carlin would die in battle; that when his imagination had shown him Carlin struck down by a bullet, he felt as a murderer feels. His heart had leaped and a deep feeling of solace had filled it, to think that Carlin might be out of his way. Why not, where so many better men had died? Why must just this man, whom his judgment condemned, come back to cross the one strong personal desire of his life, his one chance of happiness? Mary belonged to him already, in a sense—he shared the life of her soul, its first stirring was due to him. Not a word of love had ever been spoken between them. She was betrothed, he could not have spoken to her. But all the same he felt that only a frail bond held her to the other—the bond of her word and of a feeling less intense than the spiritual sympathy between her and himself.... But now it was all over—Carlin had come[9] back and she would marry him. And a soul just beginning to be awakened to eternal things would perhaps slip back into the toils of the temporal and earthly....

Dr. Lowell asked questions about Washington city, the great review of the army, about General Grant, and Sherman and the new President. Carlin answered rather briefly, his natural buoyancy suppressed by the hostility of two of his auditors. But this he felt only vaguely, his happiness was like a bright cloud enfolding him, blurring his eyes. The other people were like shadows to him, he was really only conscious of Mary there beside him. He would have liked to be silent, as she was.

There was no lingering over the table. The doctor had his round of visits to make. The Indian pudding disposed of, he lit his pipe, put on his old felt hat and his cape, took his black medicine-chest, and went out to hitch up Satan, a fast trotter who had come cheap because of his kicking and biting habits. Gentle Dr. Lowell liked a good horse, and as he pointed out to his wife, he needed one, on his long country journeys at all hours of the day or night. The horse's name had provoked a protest, but as the doctor said, that was his name and it suited him, why change it? You might christen him the Angel Gabriel but it wouldn't change his disposition.

The minister took his leave, saying that he had work to do. At parting he asked if he should see them at evening meeting. Mary felt a reproach and blushed faintly and Mrs. Lowell said with asperity, "Certainly, that is all except the doctor, nobody ever knows when he'll be back." She escorted Mr. Robertson to the door,[10] and then majestically began gathering up the dinner dishes. There were no servants in the household. Mary came to help, but her mother said sternly, "I'll attend to these, you can go along."

So Mary went along, to the parlour where Laurence Carlin was waiting. This room was bright now because of the sunlight and the potted plants in all the windows, between the looped-up lace curtains. But the furniture was black walnut and horse-hair, and marble-topped tables. On the walls were framed daguerreotypes and a wreath under glass, of flowers made from hair. It was not a genial room. The blue and purple hyacinths flowering in the south windows made the air sweet with rather a funeral fragrance.

Carlin turned to her with a tremulous wistful look. After the first joy of seeing her, as always, timidity came upon him. Each time that he had come back to her, during these four years, it seemed that he had to woo her all over again. Each time she had somehow become a stranger to him. Yet she had never repudiated the engagement made when she was seventeen. It was always understood that they were to be married. But it seemed almost as though she had accepted and then forgotten him. She took their future together for granted, but his passionate eagerness found no echo in her. So he always had to subdue himself to her calm, her aloofness, and his wistful hungry eyes expressed his unsatisfied yearning. Mary liked him best when only his eyes spoke, when his caress, as now, was timid and restrained. He touched her bright hair and looked adoringly at her untroubled face. They sat down together on the slippery horse-hair sofa.


"Captain!" said Mary, looking at the stripes on his sleeve with a pensive smile. "So now you're Captain Carlin!"

"That's all I am," he said ruefully. "I have to start all over again now."


"Nothing to show for these four years."

Mary smiled and touched with her square finger-tips the scar on his cheek.

"How did you get that?"

"Sabre-cut." He looked hurt. "I wrote you from the hospital, don't you remember?"

"Oh, yes, I remember," she said serenely. "Well, it doesn't look so bad. You aren't sorry, are you?"

"For what, the—"

"The four years."

"No, I couldn't help it. But—but—"

"I'm glad of it—I'm proud of you—and that you were promoted for bravery—"

"Oh, Mary, are you?... But bravery isn't anything, it's common. Why—"

"Yes, I know. But you must have been uncommonly brave, or they wouldn't have promoted you!"

He laughed and drew her near him, venturing a kiss.

"It seems strange that you have been through all that—battles, killing people—and you just a boy too, just Laurence," said Mary dreamily. "And wouldn't hurt a fly. I can remember yet what a fuss you made about a kitten—you remember the kitten the boys were—"

"Just Larry O'Carolan, the gossoon, divil a bit else," said Laurence.


"Oh, don't be Irish!... O'Carolan is pretty, though, prettier than Carlin, but it's too Irish!"

"You can have it either way you like, Mary darling," said he tenderly. "Just so you take it soon—will you?"

She could feel the strong beating of his heart as he held her close.

"And yet—I ought not to ask you, maybe! For I've got nothing in the world, only my two hands!... You know I was studying law when it came. Judge Baxter would take me back in his office, I think—but it would be years before—"

"He said you would be a good lawyer," pondered Mary.

"Would you like that? I could make some money at something else, perhaps, and be reading law too—at night or some time.... Or there's business—there are a lot of chances now, Mary, all over the country. I've heard of a lot of things.... Would you go away with me, Mary, go west, if—"


She looked startled, rather dismayed.

"Well, we'll talk about that later, I'll tell you what I've heard," said Laurence hastily. "But I'll do exactly what you want, Mary, about everything. You shall have just what you want, always!"

She smiled, her pensive dreamy smile, and looked at his eyes so near her—blue mysterious eyes, radiant with love. This love, his complete devotion, she accepted calmly, as her right and due. Laurence belonged to her and she to him—that was settled, long ago. Her heart beat none the quicker at his touch—except now and then when he frightened her a little. Mary Lavinia was not[13] in the least given to analysing her own feelings. She took it for granted that they were what they should be. And they remained largely below the threshold of consciousness.

But now she moved a little away from him and studied his face thoughtfully. This was not the handsome boy of four years ago, gay, tumultuous, demanding, full of petulant ardour. The lines of his mouth and jaw, which she had always thought too heavy, with a certain grossness, were now firmly set. He was thinner, that helped—the scar on his cheek, too. There was power in this face, and a look, sad, almost stern, that she had never seen before. Suffering, combat, the resolute facing of death, the habit of command, had formed the man. She had been used to command Laurence Carlin, she had held him in the palm of her hand. But here was something unfamiliar. Her instinct for domination suffered an obscure check.



The doctor returned earlier than usual, and was able to work for an hour in his garden, before dark. Mrs. Lowell, wrapped in a purple shawl, stood in the path, while he was turning over the soil with a pitchfork. She often objected to his working on Sunday. The doctor pointed out that his hedges were thick enough to conceal him from observation; she said that being seen wasn't what mattered, but breaking the Sabbath; whereupon the doctor alleged that he felt more religious when working in his garden than any other time, so that Sunday seemed a particularly appropriate day to work in it. This would reduce Mrs. Lowell to silence; she always looked scandalized when her husband referred to religion, suspecting blasphemy somewhere.

This old dispute was not in question now, however. In answer to a question about "the young folks," Mrs. Lowell had said curtly that they were out walking. Then she had stood silent, her broad pale face, with its keen eyes and obstinate mouth, expressing so plainly trouble and chagrin that the doctor spoke very gently.

"You mustn't worry about it, Mother."

Her chin trembled and she set her mouth more firmly.

"Of course I worry about it! I never liked it!"

"No, I know you didn't. But Laurence isn't a bad fellow."

"That's a high praise for a man that—that—!"


"Yes, I know, you think he isn't good enough for Mary. But you wouldn't think anybody good enough."

"I've seen plenty better than Laurence Carlin! Who is he, anyway—the son of a labourer, a man that worked for day-wages when he wasn't too drunk!"

"Oh, come now, Mother! Don't shake the family crest at us. Your father was a carpenter—and don't I work for wages?"

"My father was a master-carpenter and had his own shops and workmen, as you know very well!" cried Mrs. Lowell, flushing with wrath. "And if you like to say you work for wages, when it isn't true, you can, of course! Anyhow my people and yours too were good Americans for generations back and not bog-trotting Irish peasants!"

"Now, Mother, who told you Laurence's ancestors trotted in bogs? They may have been—"

"Didn't his father come over here with a bundle on his back, an immigrant?"

"Why, now, we're all immigrants, more or less, you know. Didn't your ancestors come over from England?"

"James Lowell—"

"Yes, I know, they came in the Mayflower, or pretty nearly ... that is, those that did come. Of course, on one side you're right, and we're all immigrants and foreigners, except you! You're the only real native American!"

And the doctor chuckled, while his wife started to walk into the house. A standing joke with him was Mrs. Lowell's aboriginal ancestry. Her grandfather, in Vermont, had married a French-Canadian, and the[16] doctor pretended to have discovered that this grandmother was half Indian. He would point to her miniature portrait on the parlour-wall, her straight black hair and high cheek-bones, as confirmation. Mrs. Lowell and Mary too had the high cheek-bones, they had also great capacity for silence, which the doctor said was an Indian trait—not to mention the ferocity of which he sometimes accused his wife. Equally a jest with him was her undoubted descent from a genteel English family which actually did boast a crest and motto—and the fact that Mrs. Lowell treasured a seal with these family arms, and though she did not use it, she might, any day. And how did she reconcile her pride in that seal with her pride in the grandfather who had fought in the Revolution?

But the doctor, seeing his wife walk away, stuck his pitchfork in the ground and followed her, saying penitently:

"There, there, now, I was only joking."

"Yes, you'd joke if a person was dying!... But you know very well what I'm thinking about is his character, that's what worries me. His father drank. And he's got nothing to hold him anywhere, he's a rolling stone, I'm sure. I don't believe he has principles. And he's been roaming around for four years, getting into all sorts of bad habits, no doubt—"

The doctor sighed. It was useless to oppose his wife's idea that the life of a soldier was mainly indulgence, not to say license. Useless to point to Laurence's military record, for she did not approve of the war, her position being that people should be let alone and not interfered with. If they wanted to keep slaves, let them, they were[17] responsible for their sins. If they wanted to secede, it was a good riddance. How did she reconcile this principle of non-resistance with the fact that she imposed her own will whenever she could on all around her? She didn't. That was her strength, she never tried to reconcile any of her ideas with one another—it was impossible to argue with her. So he sighed, for he knew she wanted comfort, her pride and her love for Mary were bleeding—and he couldn't give it. He was doubtful himself about this marriage. What he finally said was cold enough comfort:

"I don't think we can help it."

"You're her father!" cried Mrs. Lowell, angrily. "I've said all I can."

"I'll talk to Mary," he said.


With that she went into the house and banged the door. Well, what did she expect him to do—shut Mary up—or disinherit her? The doctor smiled ruefully as he returned to his gardening. It was growing dark, but he would work as long as he could see. There was no set meal on Sunday nights—people went to the pantry and helped themselves when they felt like it. He liked the smell of the fresh earth, even mixed with the manure he was turning in. The air was sharp and sweet, and over there above the lilacs with their little tremulous leaves, was a thin crescent moon. He stood looking at it, leaning on his pitchfork, thinking that tomorrow he would put in the rest of his seeds, if he had time. Thinking how sweet was the spring, how full of tenderness and melancholy, now as ever, though he was an old man....


He thought too of the murdered Lincoln, whom he had deeply admired; of the men now returning to their homes, the long struggle over; of the many he had known who would not return. He had wanted to serve also, had offered himself for the field-hospitals but had been rejected on the score of age. That might have been a good end, he thought. Now what was before him but old age, with lessening powers, the routine of life.... He sighed again, submissively, and darkness having come, went slowly in.

To his wife's surprise, he offered to accompany her to church. She was pleased, for now she could take his arm instead of Carlin's, who followed with Mary. Laurence had no particular desire to go to church, but as Mary was going, naturally he went also. They walked silently, arm in arm, down the quiet street. Mary had been very sweet and gentle to him, all day, and very serious—more so than ever before. She had changed, he felt, she was not a young girl any more, she was a woman. She had never been very gay—but yet she had had a glow of youth rather than sparkle, an enthusiasm, that he missed now. They had talked over plans for the future, gravely. She was ready to marry him at once, if he wished. She did not mind his being poor, she had said earnestly, she expected they would be, at first. She had not expected it to be a path of roses. There was a slight chill about this, to Laurence. Marriage with Mary was to him a rosy dream, a miracle—not a sober reality.

Still silently, they entered the church and took their seats. It was the "meeting-house," plain, austere—[19]nothing to touch the senses. No mystery of shadowy lights or aspiring arches or appealing music. But the pews and benches were full, when the simple service began, there were even people standing at the back, as in a theatre.

Mary sat with her head bent forward. The broad rim of her bonnet hid her face from Laurence, but he felt this was the attitude of prayer. He watched her for what seemed many minutes, with a faint uneasiness. He had never thought Mary religious, and somehow her absorption seemed to set her away from him—it was one more change. She raised her head only when the minister stepped into the pulpit and gave out a hymn, and then she looked directly at him. She joined in the singing, with a deep, sweet alto, a little husky and tremulous.

Hilary Robertson in the pulpit had no pomp of office. With his black coat and black string tie he looked like any other respectable citizen, and his manner was perfectly simple. But when he began his prayer, there was an intense hush of attention in his audience. It was a brief prayer, for help in present trouble, for guidance in darkness, like the cry of a suffering heart. Many of the congregation were in mourning. This appeal was perhaps in their behalf, but it had the note of personal anguish.

There was the secret of Hilary's power. He never appeared the priest, set apart from the struggle of living—but a man like any other, a sinner, for so he felt himself to be. And then, he had true dramatic power, he could move and sway his hearers. His voice, his eloquence, his personality, created an atmosphere, in that bare room, like cathedral spaces, the colours of[20] stained glass, deep organ melodies, incense—an atmosphere of mystic passion, thrilling and startling.

When the prayer ended and another hymn was sung, Carlin caught a glimpse of Mary's face, pale, exalted; her eyes, shining with fervour, fixed upon the minister. The mask for a moment had fallen, she was all feeling, illuminated. Carlin saw it, with a sharp jealous pang. Some strong emotion surely rapt her away from him, into a region where he could not follow. She was as unconscious of him now as though he had not existed, and so she remained through the service.

Carlin listened, sitting rigidly upright, his arms folded, his narrow blue eyes upon the speaker. He wanted to study and judge this man, for whom he suddenly felt a personal dislike.

He referred this dislike to Hilary's office—any assumption of spiritual authority was repugnant to him, perhaps partly from memories of his boyhood, when the priest had tried to direct him. His mood of sharp criticism was not softened by the beginning of Hilary's brief discourse. The first thing that struck his attention was a quotation from Lincoln's inaugural address:

"If God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn by the lash shall be paid by another drawn by the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so must it still be said, 'The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether'."

This blood and treasure had been paid, the preacher said, the whole nation had spent to cancel the debt incurred by our own and our father's guilt, the measure[21] had been filled up by the death of Lincoln. In spite of himself, Carlin approved what was said about Lincoln. It was true also, he admitted, that though peace had been declared, the nation was still in the midst of turmoil arising out of past errors, the evil spirit, departing, had rent and torn it. Peace was not on the earth and never would be. Not peace but a sword had been given to men. Yes, that was true, probably. The world was an eternal battle-field, the field of a war without truce and without end, till man should subjugate his own nature. In the heart of man, full of pride, self-love and injustice, lay the root of all evil. He that could overcome himself was greater than he that should take a city. That was the true, the infinite struggle, of which all others were but ephemeral incidents—that was the end and aim of man's existence on earth. Not with earthly but with spiritual weapons must his battles be fought and his eternal conquests made.

Hilary spoke with curt simplicity, but with the fire of a spirit to whom these things were realities, indeed the only realities, all else being a shadow and a dream. There was nothing cold about his morality, nothing soft or sweet—it was intense, hard and burning.

A fanatic, Carlin thought, frowning—but all the same a man to be reckoned with.



At the close of the service, the minister stood at the door, to shake hands with his departing congregation. Carlin, not disposed to shake his hand, went out and found himself joined by the doctor. They moved on with the crowd, and then stood on the edge of the sidewalk, under the maple trees, and waited.

"He's a good speaker," said the doctor pensively. "I like to come and hear him once in a while."

"Yes," said Carlin, coldly. "He's an able man."

"He's too mystical for me, though.... Seems to me you can think too much about salvation, you can look at your own soul so hard that you get cross-eyed ... that's the way it affects some of them. The women think a lot of him."


"I think some of his doctrine is rather dangerous," went on the doctor mildly. "It takes a strong head, you know, to keep it straight.... But he's all right, himself, he's a good man. Got into trouble preaching against slavery—he lost his first church that way, in Chicago—that was before the war. Oh, yes, he's plucky."

The doctor mused for a moment, while Carlin watched the church door for Mary, then he went on:

"He doesn't pay much attention to worldly affairs, though—doesn't care about political institutions and so on. We had a discussion when he first came here,[23] about slavery. He thinks nothing is of importance except the human soul, but each soul is of infinite importance, the soul of the black slave is just as important as that of his white master. He said he hated slavery because of its effect on the master more than on the slave. He said the slave could develop Christian virtues, but the master couldn't."

The doctor paused and chuckled softly.

"I asked him," he resumed, "why, if the slaves outnumbered the masters, the sum of virtue might not be greater under slavery. But of course he had his answer, we were not to do evil that good might come.... Shall we walk on? The women-folks are probably consulting about something or other. They do a lot of church-work."

After a moment's hesitation, Carlin accompanied him.

"I didn't know Mary was so much interested in the church," he said moodily. "She wasn't, before."

"Well," said the doctor. "The war has made a difference, you know. Life has been harder—not many amusements—and lots of tragedies and suffering. We've had losses in our own family.... The church was about the only social thing that didn't seem wrong, to the women, you see. And they've done a lot of work, through it, for the soldiers and all that.... Yes, Mary's changed a good deal, she's very serious. I think the preacher has had a good deal of influence."

"How?" asked Carlin abruptly.

"Why, in getting her to think this world is vanity, a vale of tears, a place of trial, and so on.... It is, maybe, but she's too young to feel it so. I hope she'll[24] get out of that and enjoy life a little," the doctor ended, with much feeling.

They walked on in silence. Carlin's heart was sore. The doctor had not mentioned his absence and peril as having anything to do with the change in Mary. Well, perhaps it hadn't had. He gave way to a sudden impulse.

"You're not against her marrying me, are you?" he asked tremulously. "I know your wife is. She doesn't like me."

"No, I like you, and I think well of you, Laurence," was the doctor's grave answer. "As far as you're concerned, I've no objection.... But sometimes I think Mary isn't ready to marry yet."

"She says she is," said Laurence quickly.

"I don't pretend to understand anything," said the doctor plaintively, and sighed.

"Perhaps—you think she doesn't care enough about me—is that it?"

"Sometimes I think she doesn't care about anybody," was the regretful answer.

When they reached the gate, Carlin did not go in.

"I'll walk on, for a bit," he said.

The doctor went into his office-study and lighted a lamp. This room was arranged to suit him, and he did as he pleased in it. It smelt very much of tobacco, though there were no curtains and no carpet, only a couple of small rugs on the painted floor. The furniture consisted of a large desk, a sofa and two chairs, besides some shelves full of books. Out of it opened his bedroom, which had an outside door with a night-bell.


The doctor established himself in his easy-chair, with a pipe and a medical review. But his attention wandered from the printed page, and twice he let his pipe go out. Half an hour passed before the women-folk returned, and he noted that they entered the house in silence.

He opened his door and called Mary gently. As she came in, she asked with surprise, "Where's Laurence?"

"He went off for a little walk.... Sit down, my dear, I want to talk to you."

Mary, with a startled and reluctant look, sat down on the sofa. She disliked the atmosphere of this room, not so much the tobacco-flavour as the flavour of the confessional. She was used to hearing low-toned murmurs coming from it through the closed door, and sometimes sounds of pain and weeping. And now she had an instant feeling that she was in the confessional, as had happened a few times before during her girlhood, occasions of which she retained a definite impression of fear.

"Mary, are you sure you're doing right?" asked the doctor abruptly, yet gently.

"Right?" she murmured, defensively.

"About marrying now. Laurence tells me you are ready to marry him, at once."

"Yes, I am ready," said Mary, with a forced calmness. "We have been engaged four years. I always expected to marry him when he came back."

"And you haven't changed your mind at all, in those four years? You were very young, you know—it would be natural that you should change."

"No—I haven't changed."

"In some ways, you have.... But you mean not in[26] that way. You still love Laurence, as much as ever?"

"Yes," said Mary, her heart beating fast and sending a deep flush into her cheeks.

"Because, you know, you are not bound to marry him," said the doctor sharply.

"Don't you think that a promise is binding?" asked Mary.

"Certainly not—that kind of a promise! Are you going to marry him just because you promised?"

"I have no wish to break my promise," said Mary.

"Because it's a promise, or because you want to marry him anyway and would, if you hadn't promised? Come, Mary, answer me!"

"I want to keep my promise," said Mary clearly, with a look of the most perfect obstinacy in her fair eyes.

The doctor was hot-tempered, and banged a book on his desk with his fist. But instantly he controlled himself, for he loved this exasperating child of his, and there was no one but himself to stand between her and harm—so he felt it.

"You mean," he said tenderly, "that you haven't any reason not to keep it?"

Mary assented.

"And Laurence loves you and depends on you."

Her silence gave assent to this.

"You feel it would be wrong to disappoint him—desert him."

"Yes, of course it would be."

"And there's no one else you care about?"

The last question was sharp and sudden. Mary started slightly, and cast a troubled and angry glance at her inquisitor. But such was the personality of this[27] little man with the gentle firm voice and pitying eyes, such was his relation to his daughter, that she never thought of denying his authority or right to question her. She felt obliged to answer him, and truthfully too.

"Nobody—in that way," she said faintly.

"You don't love anyone else."


"And you haven't thought of marrying any one else?"

There was just an instant's hesitation before she answered:


The doctor reflected, and Mary sat still, her long eyelids drooping—the image of maiden calm.

"Well, then, I was mistaken," said the doctor after a pause. "I thought you were interested in some one else—and I guess your mother thought so too.... But it wasn't that kind of interest."

"No, it wasn't," said Mary quickly.

"But it was—it is—an interest. I wish you could tell me what it is, why you think so much of Mr. Robertson as you do, what your feeling is about him."

"But—it isn't a personal feeling!" cried Mary, no longer calm, suddenly alert and on the defensive. "It has nothing to do with that!"

"But you admire him and look up to him—"

"Of course I do! But you don't understand, you don't believe—"

"It's religious, you mean, it's your feeling for religion, and he represents it—"

"Yes," said Mary angrily.

"Don't be vexed with me, my dear—perhaps I don't[28] understand these things, as you say.... But he is something like a spiritual director, isn't he, now?"

"I don't know what you mean by that—"

"I mean, you talk to him about your religious feelings, and he gives you counsel," said the doctor gravely.

"Yes—yes, he does."

"Have you talked to him about your marriage?"

"I—why, no!"

"You don't talk about worldly affairs, then—is that it? Do you think marriage not important enough to talk about?"

"It isn't that! I haven't, because—"

Here was a pause, and the doctor asked:

"Perhaps because, Mary, you thought he had a feeling for you that—"

"No, it wasn't that! He hasn't—it isn't that at all!"

Disturbed, distressed, she got up.

"Wait a minute, Mary.... I wish you would talk to him about it," said the doctor in his most serious tone.

"But, why? Why should I?"

"Why? Because it's a most important thing to you, and mixed up with everything, or should be. Because you shouldn't keep your religion separate from your marriage. Because you shouldn't shut Laurence out from everything."

"I shut him out?"

"Now you do as I tell you, Mary," said the doctor quietly.

He sat looking out of the window, feeling her bewilderment and silent revolt. He hesitated whether he should tell Mary that he thought her religion erotic in origin and her feeling for the minister very personal indeed,[29] but finally decided against it. She would deny it not only to him but to herself—women's minds were made like that. At last he said:

"I think at first you were in love with Laurence—but four years is a long time, and you were very young."

"I haven't changed," said Mary proudly.

"Yes, you have, but you don't want to admit it. You think there are higher things than being in love. You seem to think of marriage as a serious responsibility, a—sort of discipline."

"Isn't it?" she asked.

"Well, that isn't the way to go into it! Confound it, I tell you you had better not!"

He glared at her over his spectacles, then put out his hand and drew her toward him.

"What a child you are, Mary—with your airs of being a hundred and fifty!... I don't think you understand anything. The basis of marriage is physical, if that isn't right nothing is right—you want to think of that, Mary. It's flesh and spirit, but both, not divided. If your imagination is drawn away from Laurence to what you think are spiritual things, then you oughtn't to marry—or you ought to marry Hilary."

Mary stood like a stone—her fingers turned cold in his grasp. He saw the tears flood her eyes, and got up and led her to the door, and dismissed her with a kiss on her cold cheek.



She went out and stood at the gate, waiting for Laurence, uneasy about him, troubled by many thoughts, oppressed. She was still crying when she heard his step down the sidewalk, firm and quick. The thin little moon was already sinking behind the trees, but there was bright starlight, so that Laurence could see her face.

"What's the matter, Mary?" he cried.

"Where have you been? Why did you run off like that?" she demanded with a sob.

She swung the gate open for him, but he took her hand and drew her out.

"It's early yet—come, we don't want to go in yet. Come, let's get away from everybody!"

She was quite willing at the moment to get away from everybody. Out of a vague sense of injury she continued to weep, and to Laurence's anxious inquiries she returned a sobbing answer:

"I don't think older people ought to interfere!... It's our own business, isn't it?... What do they know about it?..."

Laurence agreed passionately that they knew nothing about it and had better not interfere, and kissed her tearful eyes till she protested that they must go on now or somebody would be coming. She said softly:

"Poor Laurence! This isn't very gay, for your first evening home!"


"Never mind about being gay!"

He drew her hand firmly through his arm and strode down the street with a feeling that he was bearing her off triumphantly from a legion of enemies. When she was near him, and in a troubled and melting mood, like this, he feared nothing, his doubts vanished, he felt sure of her, and that was all he cared about at present. As for anybody interfering, that was nonsense. His spirits rose with a bound out of the evening's depression. Soon he was talking light-heartedly and Mary was laughing. He was quick and fluent, when at ease, and full of careless, gay and witty turns of speech that amused and charmed her. No one had ever amused her so much as Laurence. With him life seemed really a cheerful affair, he was so rich in confidence—he had the brightest visions of the future. He was bubbling over now with plans, schemes of all sorts.... The vastness, the richness of the country, its endless opportunities, were in his imagination, a restless ambition in his veins. He had a feeling of his power, more than mere youthful self-confidence. Already he had been tried and proved in different ways, and had stood the test. So far he had always been successful. His mind was restless now because a definite channel for his activity was to be fixed. He wanted Mary's advice—rather, he wanted to know what she wanted. His own most marked bent was toward the law, with a vista of political power beyond. And there was money in the law, too. But if Mary wanted more money, a lot of money—well, she had only to say so! As his talk came back to this point, Mary said that she didn't care about money, and that he had better stick to the law and go into Judge Baxter's office.


"Not Chicago?... I thought you'd like to make a start in a big city," he suggested persuasively.

"Why not here?... You'd have a better start with Judge Baxter, and you know he's a good lawyer, he has a big practice.... And then we could live at home till you get started," Mary said practically.

No, Laurence didn't like that at all, it wouldn't do, living with Mary's parents!... She didn't press that point, but she was firm about not going away—not to Chicago, still less to some vague point "out west." Laurence argued. Why did she want to stay here, in this one-horse town? Why not the city? There was more life, there were more chances, in the city, she would like it better.... No! Mary couldn't explain why she wanted to stay, but with emotion she made it clear that she wanted to....

Laurence was silenced. He took her hand and kissed it, perhaps in acquiescence. But he meditated, puzzled, asking himself why, after all....

He looked at the town from the vantage-point of his four years' wanderings. By contrast with the great cities he had seen, the east, populous and civilized, the picturesque south, beautiful mountains and valleys, stately old houses, glimpses of a life that had been rich in colour and luxury—beside all this the little town, his birth-place, seemed like a mere mud-spot on the prairie.... A little square, with a few brick buildings, the bank, the courthouse, small shops—two or three streets set with frame dwelling-houses, straggling out into the prairie—what was the attraction, the interest of this place?... His absence had broken all his own associations with it except as to Mary. His mother, the[33] last remaining member of his family, had died the year before; his only brother had been killed at Shiloh. The friends of his youth had scattered, most of them in the army. He could not see himself settling here.... Perhaps, for a little while, till he had finished his law-reading, if he decided on the law—they might stay till then, since Mary wanted it. But why did she? To be sure, she knew no other place, what friends and interests she had were here—but she was young, she must want to see something of the world! He shook his head, in pensive bewilderment. Women were queer, decidedly! He made no pretence of understanding the sex—in fact never had had time or occasion to make an exhaustive study of it.

They had come to the end of the board sidewalk; beyond was only a path by the roadside. They went a little distance along this, but it was muddy; a stream, dividing the road from the pasture, had overflowed. Mary thought they had better turn back, but Laurence protested. So they sat down on the trunk of a fallen tree, among a clump of willows that hung over the stream.

The lights of the town were faintly visible on one side; on the other, the prairie stretched out dark and silent, with the starry sky bright by contrast. A slight breeze swayed the long fronds of the willows, the stream gurgled softly along its mud-bed, and from a pond out in the pasture rose the musical bassoon of an amorous bull-frog.... The damp heavy air, hardly stirring, had a sweet oppression, a troubled languor, the pulse of the spring....

Laurence sighed deeply. Turning, he took Mary[34] gently in his arms, and kissed her lowered eyelids and her lips, first lightly, then lingeringly, then as she began to resist, with passionate possession.

"Don't—don't push me away," he begged. "Come near to me...."

But she was frightened, and struggled against his strong clasp, till she slipped down, bent backward over the tree-trunk, and cried out with pain and anger. Laurence released her suddenly, roughly.

"You don't love me," he said.

She got to her feet, trembling, but Laurence sat still, turning away from her.

"You don't love me," he repeated bitterly. "You'd better leave me—go back."

Without a word she moved away, her head bent, stumbling a little on the dark path. He looked after her sullenly. Yes, she would go, like that, without a word to him, without a sign.... Was she angry—was she hurt?... That silence of hers was a strong weapon. She disappeared beyond the trees.... No, he couldn't let her go like that. In a moment he overtook her.

"Take my arm," he said curtly. "The path's rough."

She took it, and they went back in silence. As they came to a street-light he looked at her, and saw the mysterious mask of her face more immobile, more impassive than ever. Doubt had come back upon him, now it was almost despair. He had a strong impulse to break with her, to tell her that he was going away. She was too elusive, too distant, too cold.... But instead, when they came to her gate, he only murmured sadly:


"Forgive me, Mary."

And to his surprise she bent toward him to kiss him good-night, and said steadily:

"You shouldn't have said what you did. I do love you. Why should I want to marry you if I don't love you?"

"I don't know, Mary," said Laurence with a faint weary smile.



Judge Baxter's office was in the Bank Building, up a flight of worn and dingy stairs. Carlin, knowing the Judge's habits, appeared there at eight o'clock the next morning, and was warmly welcomed. The judge was a big man, with waves of white hair and beard and bright blue eyes; carelessly dressed; with a quid of tobacco in his cheek, which did not interfere with his speech, but gave him a somewhat bovine, meditative air, as he rolled and nibbled at it in the intervals of conversation.

"Coming back to me, Laurence?" he said at once, tilting back his chair and beaming at the young man.

"I don't know—I came to talk things over," Laurence hesitated.

"Hope you will—don't see as you could do better. I always said you ought to go into law. And I need an assistant. What's the objection?"

"Well—I hadn't thought of settling here."

"I know." The Judge nodded. "Hard to settle down now—I expect things seem pretty dull and drab to you around here. Natural. A lot of good fellows will have the Wanderlust—"

"No, I want to settle down.... I want to be married soon," said Laurence, slightly embarrassed.

"Yes, I know—Miss Mary! Think of her waiting for you all this time—a lot of girls wouldn't have done that, and I don't believe she even had a sweetheart," said[37] the Judge, his eyes twinkling. "Though I tell you, if I'd been twenty years younger—you see, she used to run up here and read me some of your letters.... She's a beautiful woman," ended the old man warmly.

"I must make some money—I haven't a dollar!" Laurence explained. "I thought there'd be better chances in the city perhaps, or—"

"No, no!" the Judge protested. "Why, look here, you'd have a salary—not much, to be sure, at first—but you come into my office and peg away at Blackstone and Chitty—and in a year or less you can be admitted to the bar. And meantime you could live with the old folks—they're so wrapped up in Mary, they'd like it—"

"No," said Laurence positively, "I wouldn't do that. I must have a place of my own to take her to."

"Well, yes, I understand." The Judge chewed his cud for a moment, then his face lit up. "See here, why shouldn't you live with me!... I've got a good-sized house and there's the whole top floor I never use, and I've got a sort of housekeeper, such as she is. You two young folks could have all the room you want, and Mary could fix up the old place and make it a hell of a lot more cheerful, and I'd have somebody to eat with and something pretty to look at—why, Jesus, man! It would be charity to me, it would, upon my soul! Say you will, now!"

"Why, Judge, you're very kind, I don't know—I'll think it over, and talk to Mary—we'd pay our board, of course," Laurence stammered, rather overcome.

"Board, hell!" said the Judge, excited. "Mary could fix up some pies and things once in a while—I haven't had a decent doughnut for a year.... Well, you can[38] board if you want to, we won't quarrel.... And you can be making something besides your salary, if you don't mind work—"

"I don't," said Laurence, smiling, curiously touched by the old man's warmth. Somehow he felt at home now for the first time since his return, he felt some wish to stay.

The Judge pondered and rolled his quid.

"Ever run a creamery?" he asked, suddenly, with a twinkle.

Laurence shook his head.

"I was principal of a school once," he remarked.

"Well, I haven't got a school, but I've got a creamery—that is, I'm the Receiver. Owner was killed at Vicksburg, and his widow has been trying to run it—it's a big place at Elmville, about five miles from here—I need a manager for it. I tell you what, Laurence, you have a bite of dinner with me at twelve, and then we'll drive over there, I've got to go anyway, and we can talk it over on the way—"

There was a knock at the glazed door, the pale youth who occupied the outer office put his head in and announced a client. Laurence rose. The Judge escorted him out with an arm round his shoulders, and they were to meet at the tavern.

"It's only a little worse than at my house," Judge Baxter said cheerfully. "We need a good hotel here. We need a lot of things, principally some good, hustling young men—I tell you, we've missed you fellows. But the town's all right, you mustn't look down on our town, we're going ahead."

Laurence strolled across the little square, the centre[39] of the town, and smiled at the Judge's civic fervour. He could not see any signs of enterprise or change, except that the young maple trees along the sidewalks had grown, and there were two or three new buildings. The same row of country plugs tied to wooden posts in front of the courthouse, the same row of loafers in front of the saloon. The dry-goods store had a new window with a display of shirts and neckties. There was a new Tonsorial Parlour, with a gaily painted striped pole, the cigar-store had a wooden Indian standing on the sidewalk, holding out a bunch of wooden cigars, and the Opera-house had been repainted, and had large bills outside, announcing a minstrel show. Yes, there was an ice-cream parlour, too, with a window full of confectionery. Laurence stopped to buy a cigar, and spoke to two or three people who recognized him; their greetings were friendly enough but not especially cordial. Laurence had no great fund of friendship to draw upon in his native town. He said to himself, as he walked on, that Judge Baxter was his only friend there. Should he go and see Mary this morning? It was too early to go yet—and there was a sore feeling in him about Mary. No, he would wait till he had made his expedition with the Judge and had something definite to talk to her about. Something practical, that would suit her. He smiled wryly and went on along the street. There was not much of the brass band about this home-coming, he reflected, not much of Hail, the conquering hero comes. No, he would sink into civilian life without any fuss being made over him—so would all the other fellows, the men he had marched with this last week, through the streets of Washington,[40] Sherman's magnificent army. There had been plenty of brass band there, they had felt pretty important then—it was a shame that the Old Man hadn't been allowed to lead his army in review, but had been sent straight off to the border. Laurence had a feeling of personal affection for the Old Man, and he realized suddenly, for his companions in arms. He was going to miss them, those tough chaps, scattered now to the four winds of heaven. The best soldiers on earth—now, like him, they would have to compete empty-handed with the fat citizens who had stayed behind and been piling up money these four years.

Laurence scowled under the rim of his cap, and reflected that he must get himself a suit of civilian clothes. The street he was on brought him to the railroad tracks. A long freight-train was passing, car after car loaded with cattle, going to Chicago. After it had passed, he crossed the tracks, and the street became a road, which led up a slight rise, to the cemetery. He followed it listlessly, his eyes fixed on the wide expanse of tombstones, crosses, spires, slabs of grey and white, that covered the swell of the prairie. The cemetery was considerably more populous than the town, he thought; and now he was here, he would go and look at his mother's grave. He had some difficulty in finding it, though he vaguely remembered its location. The lot had been neglected, the prairie-grass had grown long over it, hiding the grey slab with her name, the date of her death and her age, forty-seven. Another small stone, with a dove and the name "Evangeline," marked the grave of his little sister, dead twenty years. And this was all that remained of his family. Patrick lay on the[41] field of Shiloh. As to his father, he might be dead or living—he had run away ten years before, and nothing had ever been heard of him.

He stood looking sorrowfully down on the unkempt grass. Poor his mother had lived, poor she had died, and alone too. Pat and he had both gone and left her. He had been very fond of his mother. The proud woman she was, and silent, with long black hair and fine little hands and feet—and she worked at the wash-tub, and he and Pat, bare-footed boys, carried the wash home in baskets. Oh, but she had a bitter tongue when she did let it out, and she let his father have it. He remembered the night when his father struck her, and he, Laurence, fifteen then, knocked his father flat on the floor. That was the last night they saw him, he had sworn he wouldn't stay to be beaten by his own son, and they had all been glad he went....

He turned away, and went on across the rise, thinking he would get out into the country. At the far side of the cemetery he passed a little plot without even a headstone but neatly kept, where a girl in a grey dress was kneeling, setting out some plants. He noticed her slim figure and her copper-coloured hair, but passed without seeing her face. She called after him.

"Oh, Larry! Is it you?"

He turned and she got up and put out both hands to him, smiling, showing her big white teeth.

"Well, Nora!" he cried, clasping her hands gladly. "Why, what a young lady you've grown!"

She was not pretty, her red mouth was too big and her nose turned up, and she was freckled, but she had a slim graceful shape, her hair was a glory and her eyes[42] full of warmth. She had been Laurence's playmate of old—she belonged to the only other Irish family in town. They had lived in the slum together, and she had been his first sweetheart.

"And you!" she said, looking at him shyly with artless admiration. "I hardly knew you, and yet I knew it was you!"

They stood and talked for a while. Laurence found out that she was tending the grave of her brother, "Colin, you'll remember," who had come back with the prison-fever on him, and died, "wasted to the bone." And that she did very well, she had been working on a dairy farm but it was too hard for her, and now she had got a place in the store, and was to begin next week. She lived with her mother. When Laurence said he would go to see her she seemed a little embarrassed, and asked, couldn't they meet some evening outside, her mother was a bit queer. So they arranged to meet on Sunday evening, (Mary would be at church) by the big willow on the river road. Nora looked a little disappointed, perhaps at having the meeting put off so long, but she was not one to demand or expect much. Laurence remembered what she had been—an humble, generous little creature, grateful for the least kindness, and she didn't get much. She was always giving more than she got, to her family and every one. She was hot-tempered, too, and would fly into a rage easily, and then dissolve in repentant tears. He looked at her rough red hands—poor Nora always had worked hard. But her neat dress, her carefully arranged hair, showed that she was making the most of herself. Her skin was soft and creamy, in spite of the freckles, her eyes were almost[43] the colour of her hair, deep reddish-brown. They were like a dog's eyes, so soft and warm and wistful. Poor Nora, what a good little thing she was! With a quick glance round, Laurence seized her in his arms and kissed her very warmly on her red mouth. She blushed and trembled, but did not resist. She never had been able to resist any sign of affection, however careless. He kissed her again, and said a few tender words to her, in a lordly way. The homage of her shining dazzled eyes was sweet to him. And besides, the remembrance of old times had wakened.

As he left her and went on down the slope, along the country road, he realized that his memories of this place were deep. He would still have said that there was not much he cared to remember, that it was better to cut loose and begin afresh in some new place. The poverty of his boyhood still stung him, the community had looked down upon him and his, and old slights rankled in him. And yet it seemed that, little by little, things were shaping to tie him here. Not only outside, but in himself he was feeling as if some root went down deep into the black soil of the prairie and held him.



It was late afternoon when they drove back behind the Judge's spanking pair of bays, hitched to a light buggy. The roads were very rough, with frequent mud-holes where the wheels sank nearly to the axle, but when they got a fairly level stretch the trotters stepped out finely.

Laurence had enjoyed this day. On the way over they had talked politics. Judge Baxter was a fiery Republican. His face flushed red with wrath as he spoke of Lincoln's murder and hoped they would hang Jeff Davis for it. He was in favour of a heavy hand on the South—Lincoln would have been gentle with them, they had killed him, the blank rebels, now let them have it. Vae victis!

Laurence was cooler. He had no anger against the men he had helped to fight and beat. They were good fighters, good men, most of them. He did not think the southern leaders had plotted the attack on Lincoln and Seward. They had fought for a wrong idea, a wrong political system, and they had been beaten. Now they wanted peace, not revenge, he thought. They had suffered enough. If they were still to be punished, it would take longer to establish the Union in reality. The men who had fought for the Union wanted to see it a reality, not one section against another any more, but one country, united in spirit, great and powerful.

The Judge had listened, and then said meditatively:


"You fellows that did the fighting seem to have less bitterness than some of us that had to stay at home—I've noticed that. I suppose you worked it off in fighting."

"Why, yes," Laurence agreed. "And then, when you come right up against the other fellow, you find he's folks, just like yourself. Of course he's wrong and you have to show him, but he fights the best he can for what he believes in, he risks his life, the same as you do—and when it's over you feel like shaking hands, in spite of—"

"You think we ought to let them come back in the Union, as if nothing had happened?"

"Why," said Laurence slowly. "Aren't they in it? If we fought to prove they couldn't go out when they felt like it—"

"Well, authorities differ on that point. I've heard some right smart arguments on both sides," said the Judge sharply.

After a short silence, he went on:

"I see you've been thinking and keeping track of things.... This is a great time we live in, Laurence, I wish I was young like you and could see all that's going to happen. Still, I've had my day, I've seen a good deal—and maybe done a little. We had some kind of fighting to do here at home, you know, we had plenty of black-hearted copperheads here.... You ought to go into public life, my boy, and there's no entering wedge like the law."

But it was on the way home, after they had spent the afternoon inspecting the creamery, a large brick building in the midst of a small town, going over accounts and[46] talking with various people, it was then that Judge Baxter urged on Laurence the wisdom of following the path before him here.

"I don't see any use in rambling over the country looking for something better, ten to one you won't find it," he argued. "And you haven't time to lose, Laurence, you ought to be buckling right down to your job. Our town may look small to you, but she's linked up to a lot of things. To be the big man of this place is better than being a small fish in Chicago—to be the best lawyer at the bar of your state is no small thing. It might lead anywhere, and I believe you've got it in you.... This is your state, Laurence—this country round here is a rich country and it's going to be richer—you ought to stay with it."

The Judge swept his whip in a wide circle over the prairie. They were driving westward, the low sun was dazzling in their eyes. Laurence looked to the left and the right, over the low rolling swells to the horizon. Where the plough had cut, endless furrows stretched away, black and heavy, with young green blades showing. Herds of cattle spotted the pastures. Yes, it was rich land.... With the flood of sunlight poured along it, the fresh green starting through, the piping song of the birds that have their nests in the grass, the wind that blew strongly over the great plain, smelling of the spring, it had a strange sweetness to Laurence, even beauty.... No, it was not beauty, but some sort of appeal, vague but strong....

"You'd have your own people behind you," said the Judge.


That broke the spell, for the moment. Laurence smiled bitterly.

"You know what my people were—and what your people thought of them," he said in a cutting tone. "To tell the truth, that's one reason I want to go. I want to forget that I lived in Shanty-town and my mother was Mrs. Carlin the washerwoman, not good enough to associate with your women—that weren't good enough, most of them, to tie the shoes on her little feet!"

The Judge turned, pulling the broad brim of his hat over his eyes, and looked at the young man's face, pale and set with ugly lines.

"Laurence," he said after a moment, "if you're the man I think you are, you won't want to forget that. We can none of us forget what we have been, what we came from. You can't do anything for your mother now, and I know it's bitter to you. But you can make her name, her son, respected and honoured here—not somewhere else, where she was never known, but here, where she lived. That would mean a lot to her. Doesn't it mean something to you?"

The Judge continued to look earnestly at Laurence's face, and presently saw it relax, soften, saw the stormy dark-blue eyes clear, become fixed as though upon a light ahead.

"Judge," said Laurence huskily, "you understand a lot of things. Perhaps you're right—"

The Judge, holding whip and reins in one hand, put out the other and they shook hands warmly. They were silent for a while, then the Judge began to talk about[48] the local situation, finance and politics, with a good many shrewd personal sketches mixed in.

"You want to know every string to this town," he remarked.

Judge Baxter knew all these strings, evidently, and could, he insinuated, pull a good many of them. Though too modest to point the fact, he himself illustrated his contention that, to live in a small town, a man need not be small. If he knew Cook county thoroughly, the county knew him too. He had rather the air of a magnate, in spite of his seedy dress, his beard stained with tobacco. He had more money than he cared for. His only adornment was a big diamond in an old-fashioned ring on his little finger, but he drove as good horses as money could buy.

Near the end of their journey he asked:

"Well, what do you say—about made up your mind?"

"Pretty much. I'll talk to Mary tonight. I don't think she'll have anything against it. But the women have to be consulted, you know," said Laurence lightly.

"Oh, of course, of course."

The Judge didn't think the women had to be consulted—but then he was a bachelor.

"I really don't see why you should be so good to me—take all this trouble about me," pondered Laurence.

"Well," said the Judge judicially, "it isn't altogether for you, though I may say that I like you, Laurence. But I'm looking out for myself too. I calculate that you're going to be useful to me, you might say a credit to me, if I have anything to do with giving you a start. I see more in you than—well, I think you're one in a thousand. Remember I've seen you grow up, I know[49] pretty much all about you.... I tell you, I felt mighty bad when you marched away. I knew it was right, you had to go, I wouldn't have held you back if I could—and yet I said to myself, ten to one a bullet will pick off that boy instead of some of those lubbers along with him, and I felt bad. Why," the Judge ended pensively, "I thought I knew then about how it feels to have a son go to war—"

Rather startled himself at this touch of sentiment, he flicked the off-horse with his whip, and they dashed into the town at top speed.



In the dusk Mary stood waiting for him by the gate. He had thought she might be piqued or angry at him, but she met him without the slightest coquetry, asking only where on earth he had been all day. Her tone was almost motherly, a little anxious, as if he had been a truant child. He liked it.

They sat on the steps. The wind had fallen and the evening was warm. There was the crescent moon over the tree-tops, but tonight it was hazy, a veil had drawn across the sky. There was rain in the air. A syringa-bush beside the steps, in flower, and the honeysuckle over the porch, were strongly fragrant.

"I'll tell you in a little while, I'm tired," said Laurence lazily. He leaned his head against her knee and she swept her cool finger-tips over his crisp black hair, touching his temples and his eyelids.

"Are you?" she asked softly.

He sighed with pleasure, shutting his eyes, knowing that he could take his time to speak, Mary was in no hurry, she never was. Sometimes her silence and repose had irritated him, but more often it was a deep pleasure to him. The night was as quiet as she. Not a leaf stirred. A cricket chirped under the porch. The honeysuckle was almost too sweet in the damp air. Thin veil upon veil hid the stars, and the moon was only a soft blur.

When her hand ceased to touch his hair, he reached up[51] and took it, clasping the cool strong fingers and soft palm. He moved and looked up at her. She wore a white dress, sweeping out amply from the waist, open a little at the neck, and she had a flower of the syringa in her hair. The outline of her face, bent above him, was clear and lovely.

"How beautiful you are," he murmured. "I love you."

She put her arms around him and drew him up, his head to her shoulder.

"And I'm very, very fond of you," she whispered. "More than I ever was of anybody. But sometimes you're so impatient."

"Yes," he said submissively.

"You get angry with me. You always did."

"Yes," he said humbly. "I'll try not to. But sometimes I think you don't love me."

"But I do," she assured him gently.

"But sometimes—" he stopped.

"Well, what?"

"No, I won't say it."

"Yes, tell me."

"Well, sometimes—you don't seem to like to have me touch you, you—"

"I don't like you to be rough," said Mary.

"Am I—rough?"


"But if you liked me, you—"

"No, I do, and you know it."

"I don't see why you should, after all."

"Should what?"

"Love me."


"Well, it's been so long now, I couldn't very well stop," said Mary, smiling.

"Yes, a long time.... And you really have, all the time?"

"Oh, yes."

"And nobody else? Ever?"

"No, you know it," said Mary, lifting her head proudly.

He was silent, thinking of the years past....

Yes, it had been a long time—six years. They had first met at the High School, then at the country college where he was working his way and Mary was preparing to teach. He hadn't made many friends—he had been sensitive and apt to take offence, and had plenty of fighting to do. But Mary had been his friend from the first. Hers was the first "respectable" house in town to open its doors to him. He, however, did not know what a battle-royal had been fought over his admission there.

Mrs. Lowell of course had been against him. In that little town where people apparently lived on terms of equality, caste-prejudice was subtle and strong, and Mrs. Lowell had her full share. Money didn't count for much, as nobody had very much, but education and "family" counted heavily, also worldly position. The town had its aristocracy—the banker, the minister, the lawyers and the doctor.

Mary, with all her mother's obstinacy, had something of her father's crystal outlook on the world, his perfect unworldliness. She cared nothing for what "people would say," and she seemed to look serenely over the heads of her neighbours and to see something, whatever it[53] was, beyond. When she and her mother had come to a deadlock about Laurence, the doctor was called in, and gave his voice on Mary's side. So Laurence had become a visitor, on equal terms with the other young people—not invited to meals very often, for that was not the custom, but free to drop in of an evening or to take Mary out. Their youthful friendship had grown and deepened rapidly, and as Mary at seventeen was old enough to teach school, she was able also to engage herself to him, in spite of her mother's opposition and her father's wish that she should wait. Many girls were married at seventeen or sixteen. Mary had made up her mind, and when this happened, it was not apt to change. Her nature had a rock-like immobility; hard to impress, it held an impression as the rock a groove.

Memories and thoughts of her were passing through Carlin's mind—vague, coloured by her warmth and nearness, a soft tide of adoration. He had always admired her deeply, she appealed to his imagination as no other woman ever had. He had known other women, more easily moved, more loving, more ready to respond and give, than Mary. And he wanted love, wanted it warm and expressive and caressing, wanted a long deep draught of it. But—he wanted Mary, and no other woman. Now she would be his, very soon. He was very happy there, with his head on her shoulder, feeling the soft even beating of her heart; but at this thought he moved, his arms closed around her impetuously, and the dreamy peace that enfolded them was broken.

"There, you bad boy," she said with mild chiding.[54] "Don't pull my hair down—now tell me what you've been doing all day."

He told her, after some insistence—all except the meeting with Nora. Laurence never, if he could help it, mentioned one woman he had any liking for to another. But in this case he didn't think of Nora at all. He told Mary all about the Judge and his offers; the prospect of immediate work, of a temporary home with the Judge, if she liked the idea. In that case they could be married at once.

She moved away from him, clasped her arms round her knees, and sat silent.

"What is it—have I said anything to bother you?" asked Laurence alarmed.

"I'm just thinking," she answered absently.

After a time she began to speak her thoughts.

"It will seem odd, going to live at the Judge's house. Mother won't like it, she'll want us to stay here, she will think that people will think it's queer if we don't. But it wouldn't be best to live here. Father will understand, I think. He doesn't care what people think, it never bothers him at all. But Mother is different."

"And how about you, Mary? Does it suit you?"

"Oh, yes, until we can have a house of our own."

"That won't be for long, I hope. I'll do my best."

Mary turned and looked gravely at him.

"Do you feel contented to stay here, after all?"

"Perhaps it's best," said Laurence vaguely.

"You know the Judge will be a great help to you, getting started."

"Oh, yes, I see that, it makes a lot of difference. But the main reason is, you want it."


"Yes, I think it's better."

They spoke in low tones, though the house was empty and dark behind them. The doctor was off on his round, and Mrs. Lowell had gone out to a neighbour's. About them now the leaves stirred softly, a damp breath lifted the honeysuckle sprays. Then came a soft rustling.

"Rain," said Laurence.

They moved up into some low chairs on the porch.

"Shall I get you a wrap?"

"No, thank you."

"Do you mind if I smoke?"


Laurence lit a cigar, and laid his left hand on Mary's knee. The gently falling rain seemed to shut them in together, in a strange delicious quiet.

"Can you tell me, Mary, why it is that you feel so strongly about this place?... You've always lived here, why is it you don't want something new?"

"I don't like new things," she said, after a pause.

"You're a strange girl!... You don't seem like a girl at all, sometimes you seem about a thousand years old. I feel like a boy beside you."

"You are a boy," said Mary. From her tone, she was smiling.

"I would like to know where you get your air of experience, of having seen everything! It's astonishing!"

"Everything is everywhere," said Mary serenely.

"Now, when you say a thing like that! Upon my word! Where do you get it? I don't half like it, it doesn't seem natural!"


Laurence pulled hard at his cigar, blew out a great cloud of smoke.

"I hope you're not going to be a saint," he said petulantly.

Mary made no reply, but quietly drew her hand away from his.

"There, now, I've done it again!" he groaned. "You think I'm a barbarian, don't you. I don't understand you? Well, I don't! I think you're wonderful.... But you don't explain things to me, you don't talk—I don't feel that you give me your confidence, not all of it—"

"I don't like to talk much.... And you're in too much of a hurry about everything," said Mary coldly.

"Well, you're not!... You have about as much speed as a glacier!"

He sprang up and walked to the end of the porch and stood with his back to her. But he couldn't stand there forever. And certainly Mary could sit there forever. He turned and looked at her dim stately outline, the white blur of her dress. The rain pattered softly all around, a great wave of sweetness came from the honeysuckle.

It came to him that he might as well quarrel with the slow turning of the earth, he might as well be angry with the rain for falling.... She was right—he was impatient and violent, and foolish—awfully foolish. No wonder she called him a boy.... Hadn't he any self-control, any ...?

He went back to her, knelt beside her, accusing himself; she did not accuse herself, but she put her arms around him. They made peace.



The minister lived in a small frame house near the church. A widow woman of certain age and uncertain temper kept his house and provided his ascetic fare. It was she who opened the door to Mary, with the suspicious glance due to the visitor's youth and good looks. Proclaiming that Mr. Robertson was busy writing his sermon, she nevertheless consented to knock at his study door, and after a moment Mary was admitted. Hilary rose from his desk to receive her, gave her hand a quick nervous clasp, and indicated a chair facing the windows, the only easy-chair in the bare room. For himself he was impatient of comfort. He sat down again before his desk and waited for Mary to speak, but seeing that she looked pale and troubled and hesitated, he began with an effort to question her.

"What is it, Mary? You have something to tell me? How can I help you?"

She looked earnestly at him, her face was more youthful in its expression of appeal and confidence.

"You're the only person I can speak to.... Nobody else understands," she murmured. "Every one thinks I am wrong."

"How, wrong?"

"My mother is so unhappy, and she makes me unhappy.... Do you think I'm wrong, to marry against her wish?"


Hilary was silent, looking at some papers on his desk and moving them about. At last he said in a low voice:

"Not if you're sure, otherwise, that it's right—for you, I mean. We have to judge for ourselves, nobody can judge for us.... Your parents are opposed ... to your marriage?"

"Yes—in a different way, not for the same reason. My mother never has liked Laurence, she doesn't trust him—and my father—doesn't trust me, he doesn't think I know my own mind."

"And are you sure you do?"

"Oh, yes," said Mary. "I couldn't desert Laurence, possibly, and I don't see why I should put him off longer—when it has been so long already—"

"You want to marry soon, then?"

"Yes, in two weeks."


"Why, we would be married at home, I suppose."

"And then—are you going away?"

"No, Laurence is going into Judge Baxter's office, and we're going to live at the Judge's house, for the present."

"I see," said Hilary, in a trembling voice.

"At first Laurence wanted to go away, to start somewhere else, but I persuaded him to stay here," Mary went on. "I didn't want to go to a strange place. All I care about is here. I don't want to go away from you, Mr. Robertson, I depend on you—"

Hilary pushed back his chair sharply, then, controlling himself, folded his arms tight across his breast. His back was to the light which fell on Mary's face,[59] raised toward him with a look of humility that perhaps no one but he ever saw there.

"You've taught me so much, and helped me to see.... Before I knew you, I didn't know anything about life, how one should live.... You're so strong, so good...."

"I am?... You know very little about it, Mary. Don't say that sort of thing, please."

"Oh, it's just because you don't think you are that you're so wonderful—"

Hilary looked into her eyes bright and liquid with feeling, and said to himself that he must keep this faith, he must not disturb it by a look, a word—or his hold on her would be gone. He said abruptly:

"Your mother has talked to me. She thinks—as you say, she doesn't trust—Captain Carlin. She thinks he is irreligious and unsteady—and with a bad inheritance. She is troubled about you, she thinks you are marrying just because you gave your word, years ago, and don't like to break it.... Is it so, Mary?"

In spite of himself, this question was a demand. Mary looked startled.

"No, no, she doesn't understand. I love Laurence, and he is good, though—though in some ways.... Nobody is perfect, you know, and we shouldn't stop loving people just because they aren't altogether—what we would like.... We ought to try to help them, I know you think so—"

"You think you can help him, then?"

"I hope so, I—"

"Do you think you're strong enough to help another?"


Mary's bright look wavered a little, was shadowed.

"Aren't you too confident? Perhaps you have a little too much pride in yourself. You may lose what you have instead of helping another."

She bowed her head, turning pale under this reproof, wincing, but she said humbly:

"You will help me."

"I'm not sure that I can," said Hilary sharply. "When you are married, it will be different—you may not be able to do as you would like, live as you would—"

"But I must!" Mary got up, pale and agitated. "Laurence wouldn't interfere with me in that way, he couldn't. Nothing could!"

She went a step toward Hilary, and stopped, suddenly bewildered and almost frightened by his look. And Hilary could bear no more. He turned away from her, bent over his papers, and said harshly:

"I must work now, I can't talk to you any longer.... Don't look for an easy life, Mary, you won't have it."

"But I don't!" she protested.

With relief she seized upon his words, her eyes lit up again.

"Why should I look for an easy life? I don't want it—I expect struggle and suffering, isn't that what life is? You have told me so—"

"Well, then, you won't be disappointed," cried Hilary almost savagely. "If you can suffer—I don't know whether you can or not...."

He took up a pen and dipped it blindly in the ink, and waited for the closing of the door.

"You are against me too," said Mary blankly.


He made an impatient movement, but did not look around at her.

"You must not mind who is against you, as you call it, if you're sure you are right. That's the hard thing, to be sure," he said in the same harsh voice.

He was struggling. Why not be honest with Mary, tell her that he could not advise her, tell her why?... He thought she could not be so blind as she seemed to his feeling for her.... But it would be dishonourable to express that feeling, as she was not free. And it would shock her faith in him. She depended on him, not as a man who loved her, but as a sexless superior being, who could teach and lead her.... But he was not that, he was quite helpless himself for the moment at least, certainly he could not help her. Why pretend to be what he was not?

He felt her bewilderment, her disappointment. He did not dare look at her, still she lingered. What a child she was after all! Looking for support, for approval, and yet so rigid in her own way, so sure of herself! No, she never had suffered anything, and she was trying to make of her religion an armour against life, that would keep her from suffering. He mourned over her. She did not see anything as yet, perhaps she never would, few women could. In his heart Hilary regarded religion as the activity of a man, much as fighting. He was impatient with the emotional religion of women; though he could hardly have admitted it to himself, he had a tinge of the oriental feeling that women have no souls of their own and that they can get into heaven only by clinging to the garment of a man.... He would have said that[62] religion is too strenuous for women, they do not think, feel deeply enough.... But it was his duty to help these weak sisters and manfully he did it as best he could. They clung to his garment and he resisted frequent impulses to twitch it out of their hands. In the case of Mary he knew that she was as feminine as the worst of them. Only she had more firmness, more clearness, there was some kind of strength in her—and she did not chatter.

Oh, how beautiful she was!... He sat, making aimless scrawls on his paper, and feeling her there behind him, feeling her gaze fixed on him. She was waiting for him to say something, what on earth could he say? Should he say that his heart was breaking at the thought that in two weeks she would belong to another man, and that he, Hilary Robertson, was expected to stand up and perform the ceremony that would give her to this man, and that he would not do it?

He made a long dash across the paper, and rose, turned to her.

"You must go now, Mary—I'm busy.... You did not come to me because you're in doubt yourself as to what you ought to do, or want to do?"

"No," faltered Mary.

"Then, if you're sure of yourself, I have no advice to give you. If not, make sure. Don't fear to inflict suffering—some one suffers, whatever we do. We can't avoid that, we have to look beyond it."

"Yes," breathed Mary devoutly, her eyes fixed on his face.

"But we needn't go out to look for martyrdom either—we can trust life for that," said Hilary bitterly.


She went away, reluctantly, unsatisfied. She had wanted, expected, one of those long talks, confidential yet impersonal, that had meant so much to her during the year past. Never before had he treated her this way, he had always had time for her, had shown an eager interest in her difficulties. Her face was clouded as she walked slowly home. She was bent on keeping this relation with her spiritual teacher just as it had been. But now she wondered if her marriage was going to make a difference, had already disturbed and troubled it. Why should that be? It made no difference to her, why should it to him?

She did not want to think that Hilary was a man like other men, she refused to think of him in that way. No, he was better, higher, he was above personal feelings—that was her idea of him. She knew that he cared about her, but the image of the shepherd and his sheep, the pastor and his flock, dwelt in her mind. If she was distinguished from the rest of the flock by a special care, then it was the mystic love of a soul for another soul, it had nothing to do with mere human love, the desire for personal satisfaction, for caresses and companionship. To see Hilary seeking such things would spoil completely her idea of him. She saw him as a sort of saint, who denied the flesh. Did he not live in the most uncomfortable way, eating hardly enough to keep body and soul together, as the widow said, and working beyond his strength, always pale and tired-looking? He was devoted to service. It was impossible to think of him as taking thought for the morrow, for food and raiment, or as married and having a family.

She remembered how, when he had first come, the ladies of the congregation had tried to make him com[64]fortable—one had even worked him a pair of slippers—and how he had brushed their ministrations aside. He was subject to severe colds, but by now they had learned not to offer any remedies, or even express solicitude. Mary never had offended in that way. She liked his carelessness about himself, his shabby clothes and frayed tie. She felt that probably he would work himself to death, would go into a decline and die in a few years, but she did not grieve over this prospect as the other sisters did. Truly the earth had no hold on him, he was already like a spirit.

She had been profoundly shocked by her father's suggestion that she might marry Hilary—the more so as the idea had before occurred to her that possibly Hilary thought of it. But she had rejected this idea, with all her obstinacy refused to consider it. Now it came back to her, but she denied it. She would not have her idol spoiled by any such feet of clay.

The fact that Hilary repulsed with irritation any attempts to idolize him, or to regard him as a superior being, only affirmed her conviction that he was one. As such he was precious to her, and as such she would keep him.



Judge Baxter was happy. He decided at once that his house was not fit for the reception of the fair bride, it must be made so. He took Laurence with him to inspect the house from cellar to garret and unfolded a scheme of complete renovation.

"Women like things bright and cheerful," he said, beaming. "Gay colours and lots of little fixings, instead of this—" and he looked round the chocolate and maroon parlours. "I'll run up to Chicago tomorrow and see what I can find. The wall-papers now—they'll have to be changed. Some light colours—roses, that kind of thing. New carpets. And the furniture—hasn't been touched since I bought the place. Time it was. And we need a piano for Mary—"

"Say, Judge, you mustn't buy out the town," protested Laurence. "We don't want you to go to a lot of expense—"

"Pshaw, pshaw! Don't interfere with me—guess I can do what I like in my own house, can't I? If I want some new furniture, what have you got to say about it? But I tell you, Laurence—suppose you come along with me—you know better than I do what women like. Or look here! Why shouldn't we take Miss Mary? That's the thing!"

He glowed with pleasure at this idea.

"I tell you, we three will go up together, say tomorrow morning, and we'll make a day of it, or better, a couple[66] of days! We'll see the town, have a good dinner, go to the theatre, and Mary can pick out the stuff we want. I'll arrange at the office, and you go along and fix it up with Mary and her people. Tell 'em I'll look after her, and if she don't come I'll buy everything in sight!"

The Judge was accustomed to getting what he wanted. Not considering this threat sufficient, he added a note of pathos.

"Tell her I haven't had a vacation for a coon's age, and if she wants to please an old fellow and give him a good time, she'll come. You're both my guests and I'm going to enjoy myself. Damn it, man, you fetch her. If you don't I'll go after her myself!"

The Judge did enjoy himself. From the train he took a carriage straight to the biggest furniture house on State Street, and there he plunged into a fury of buying. Mary and Laurence stood by, but it turned out that they had very little to say about it. When the Judge found that Mary had no definite ideas about furniture and that she demurred whenever any expensive article was in question, he over-rode her bewildered protests and bought whatever struck his eye. He bought a light carpet with red roses on it for the parlour, a set of shiny mahogany upholstered in flowered brocade, a carved oak set for the dining-room. He bought three cut-glass chandeliers and a grand piano; marble vases, an onyx clock and a service of French china.

It did not take long. He walked rapidly through the room, followed by the salesmen, glancing round with an eagle eye and pointing with his cane to what he[67] wanted. Sometimes he asked Mary's opinion, but she was shy about giving it, and provided a thing was bright enough and costly enough, the Judge was sure she must like it. He discovered that he himself had more taste than he had suspected; he knew a good article from an inferior one in a minute, and he didn't buy any cheap stuff. Everything was handsome.

When they thought he was all through, he beckoned them and announced that now things must be bought for their part of the house, the big rooms upstairs, and these Mary positively must select. But first they would have lunch and take a drive.

The Judge took his party to the best hotel, engaged rooms and ordered an elaborate luncheon, over which he was gay as a boy on a holiday. Then, in an open carriage, they started out to see the city.

They drove through miles of badly paved dusty streets, faced with wooden buildings. The Judge admitted that it was not a beautiful city—business couldn't be beautiful, except to the mind—but it appealed to his imagination.

Its history was romantic, going back into the dim past. Before the whites came, this had been a meeting-place for the Indian tribes; and later for voyageurs and traders. It had been French territory, then English to the end of the Revolutionary War. Its Indian name meant "wild onion"—a racy and flavoursome name, suggesting strength!

"Think of it—twenty-five years ago this city had less than five thousand inhabitants—now it has a quarter of a million! It's growing like a weed!"


They crossed the river which ran through the middle of the city, and the Judge pointed to the thronged wharves where ten thousand vessels arrived in a year and nearly as many cleared, bringing lumber, carrying the yield of the prairie, wheat, corn, and oats. "Chicago might yet have a direct European trade—a ship had sailed from there to Liverpool, with wheat, and three European vessels had sailed to Chicago...."

Built on the flat prairie, on sand and swamp, almost on the level of the lake, nearly the whole city had now been raised a grade of ten feet; an entire business block being raised at one time! With such an energetic and growing population, with its marvellous situation, commanding the lake trade and with all the western territory to draw from, the city had a great future. "Half the country will be tributary to it," said the Judge with glowing eyes....

They drove out along the lake shore, a broad beach of sand and gravel, back of which rolled low sand-dunes. It was a warm June day, and the great inland sea lay calm and blue, with a slight mist on the horizon. The water sparkled in the sun, a slight motion sent wavelets lapping on the sand. No land could be seen across it, yet there was the feeling of land out there just beyond the line of vision. The air that blew over those miles of water was flat, it had an inland flavour.

Here it was not the water that was boundless, but the land. The lake was like a pond—the prairie was like the sea....

Judge Baxter talked on enthusiastically about the future of the city, the vast tide of trade that was bound[69] to pass through this, the heart of the country. Mary, beside him, listened smiling. Laurence, sitting opposite, watching Mary, was preoccupied, hardly spoke at all.

The drive lasted so long that there was no time for further shopping. The Judge said they must dine early, so as to be in time for the theatre. Mary went up to her room, to rest a little and to put on her best dress and bonnet which she had brought carefully enveloped in tissue paper, in a box. The dress was of grey silk, heavy and shining, and the bonnet was white. When she was dressed, she stood looking at herself in a long mirror for some time. The rich silk, hanging in full folds, suited her tall stately figure. Inside the soft airy ruches of the bonnet her bright hair rippled, each red-gold wave exactly in order, making a clear crisp line like metal. Her cheeks were lightly flushed, her grey eyes shining. She smiled reluctantly at herself in the glass. Beauty, she knew, was a vain show, and vanity was a weakness that she hoped was entirely beneath her. Still, one should make a proper appearance, with due regard to decorum; should not appear careless, nor above all eccentric. A lady should look like a lady.

As she was drawing on her white gloves a knock sounded at the door. She went to open it, there stood Laurence.

"Let me come in a minute," he said.

She was startled at his tone, his pale and agitated look. He left the door ajar, with a quick motion he drew her away from it, sat down on the bed, his arms round her waist as she stood before him too astonished to speak.

"Mary! Let us not go back there again till we are[70] married! Marry me now, here—tonight, or tomorrow!... Why wait any longer—and then all the fuss about it.... Do, Mary—do this for me, please—"

He looked up at her, pleading, demanding, his eyes gleaming intensely, humble and imperious.

"Sweetheart! Why shouldn't we?... The Judge will be a witness, it will be all right, your parents won't mind very much, will they?... I hate a show wedding anyhow, a lot of people round.... And I don't want to wait any longer, Mary—I want it over and settled, and to be alone with you.... We can stay here a few days.... Do, please, Mary—"

He clasped her tighter and pressed his face against the silken folds of her skirt; drew her down beside him. Mary was thinking, so intently that though she looked straight at him she hardly saw him, did not notice that he was crumpling her dress, her gloves.

"We could send a telegram," he murmured eagerly.

"No, not a telegram, a letter," said Mary, abstractedly.

"Yes, a letter!"

She disengaged herself from his clasp, and he let her go, watching her as she went slowly over to the mirror, and smoothed her dress, set her bonnet straight, began again to draw on her gloves, all with that absent gaze.

"You will, Mary?" he breathed.

She did not answer, hardly heard.

She was thinking that this would be an end for her too of a difficult time. It had been hard for her, with her mother especially, who even now was not resigned and went about with a pale set face.... Her father wasn't happy about it either, nobody was, it wasn't a[71] cheerful atmosphere.... They hadn't treated her very well about it. Mr. Robertson too, her pastor, who was to marry them—he had rebuffed her. None of them had smiled on her, had any joy for her....

They would be hurt, of course, her mother would be anyhow. Her mother, she knew, had intended to hold her head high, if the marriage had to be, and to have the customary wedding festivities and not let any outsider know how she felt. But perhaps she would be glad not to have to go through it. Anyhow—

She turned, met Laurence's look of eager suspense and appeal, smiled faintly.

"What an idea!... It's time to go down now—"

"Yes, but—tell me.... Tomorrow?"

He got up and put out his hands to her, grave and tender, as he met her eyes with a new look in them, a kind of timidity, a yielding look. He had not thought she would consent, it had been, he felt, a wild impulse, but behold, she was consenting. Secretly Mary was thrilled by it—it seemed reckless and adventurous to her—an elopement!

"I'll take care of you, Mary," murmured Laurence with passionate tenderness.

She smiled mistily at him.

At dinner she drank a glass of the champagne that Judge Baxter insisted on. The Judge's gaiety and flowery compliments, Laurence's adoring gaze, the novel luxury of the big restaurant and the box afterward at the play—it was like a dream. She did not recognize herself in the person going through this experience—it seemed to be happening to somebody else. That glass of golden wine—never had Mary Lowell tasted anything[72] of the sort, never had she acted irresponsibly.... But it was delicious not to be Mary Lowell.... To let herself go, for once, to feel this abandonment and not to care whither this soft flowing tide was taking her....

The Judge was thunderstruck, when Laurence told him, late that night.

"The house won't be ready," he murmured feebly.

Laurence had an answer to all his objections. They would stop a few days in the city, then they would go to Mary's parents for a time. The Judge mustn't feel responsibility, nobody would blame him. They just didn't want the fuss of a wedding at home. Mary would write to her parents and it would be all right. In the end, the Judge was persuaded that, if wrong-headed, it was a romantic thing to do, and entered into it with spirit. But he had to have his part in it. A wedding-dinner, in a private room, with an avalanche of flowers. A wedding-gift to the young couple, a complete service of flat silver. And at the ceremony, in the little parlour of a minister whom Laurence had taken at hazard, the Judge, with paternal tears in his eyes, gave the bride away, and kissed her fair cheek.



Summer lay hot and heavy on the prairie. Grass and trees were at their fullest, most intense green. They were full of sap, luxuriant—the heat had not begun to crisp them. But it hung like a blanket over the town. People sweltered and panted as they went about their business in the streets, where the slow creaking watering-cart could not keep down the dust. When dusk came they sat out on their porches, fanning themselves and fighting mosquitos. It was not the custom to go away in summer, nobody thought of it. Life went on just the same, only at a more languid pace. In the yards facing the street roses were blooming and drooping.

At Judge Baxter's house all was long since in order. The outside had been repainted a clear white with bright green blinds, kept shut now all day against the heat, with the shutters open to admit any breath of air. Inside the half-light softened the newness of everything, the medley of bright colours which the Judge had got together. At night, shaded lamps toned down the glitter.

Mary was constantly about the house, keeping it immaculate—she was slow, methodical and thorough. But with the Judge's housekeeper to do the work in the hot kitchen, she felt that she was living in pampered luxury. It was not what she had expected for the beginning of her married life. Sometimes she vaguely regretted that things were not harder, more strenuous for her.[74] There were long hours that seemed vacant, with all she could do. Laurence was working hard. Three times a week he drove over to Elmville and spent the afternoon at the creamery. The rest of the time he was busy at the Judge's office, he worked at night too over his law-books or papers. He did not mind the heat, he was in radiant health and spirits.

There was not much social life in the town except for the boys and girls. Older people were supposed to stay at home. Married women were out of the game, they had their houses and children to attend to, and for relaxation, the church or gossip with a neighbour. The men had their business and an occasional visit to Chicago; they met in the bar of the tavern or the barbershop, or at the lodge, if they were Masons. There was no general meeting-place, no restaurant or park. Very seldom did any citizen take a meal outside his own home. The Opera-house did not often open. There were a few dances, for the youth; older people did not go, even as chaperones, nor were they wanted at the straw-rides or picnics, nor in the front parlours where the girls received their beaux. Once married, a person retired into private life, so far as amusement was concerned. Anything else would have been scandalous.

Mary did not feel these restrictions. She was, if not wholly content, at least for the moment satisfied; it was a pause. If not radiance, there was some sort of subdued glow about her, something that softened and lightened her look and manner. She was silent as ever, not more expressive, even more slow. Sometimes alone, she would give way to a dreamy languor.


She never had been very social, and now she was less so. She saw few people, paid few visits. Friends of her own age she had none—she had always felt herself older than other girls. She went regularly to church and kept up the activities connected with it, and so constantly saw the minister. But here had come a distinct break; she had not talked with him at any length, or except about church-matters, since her marriage. She did not mean this break to be permanent; she knew that some time she would want to talk to him again, but just now she did not, and he did not seek her, even for an ordinary pastoral visit.

Each day she went in to see her parents, five minutes' walk up the street, or one of them came to see her. They were quite reconciled now, though there had been sore scenes at first, after her return. Mrs. Lowell had wept bitterly, and told Mary that she was a selfish girl, who never thought of any one but herself, a bad daughter who didn't care how much she hurt her mother and father. At this Mary had cried too, not with sobs and gaspings, but just big slow tears rolling down her cheeks, as she sat looking unutterably injured. When she spoke, in answer to her mother's long complaint, it was only to say gently;

"But Mother, you know you never pretended to like Laurence or my marrying him, so why should I think you cared about the wedding? It wasn't as if you'd been pleased, and liked it. Everybody could see you didn't like it, so I thought the sooner it was over the better."

"Who says I don't like Laurence?" Mrs. Lowell[76] demanded hotly. "Don't you see it was just the way to make the whole town believe it, running off that way! A pretty position it puts me in, and your father—as if you couldn't be married at home, like other girls! As if we would have prevented you, if you were set on it! We would have given you as nice a wedding as any girl ever had here—"

Then another burst of tears, at the end of which they found themselves in one another's arms. Endearments were rare between them, but it was with great relief to both that they now kissed and made it up, for they did love one another. From that time it was understood that Mrs. Lowell was very fond of her son-in-law. Woe to the person who should dare say a word to the contrary or against him! He was now fully received into the family; his status was fixed for all time. The doctor had not made any scene; had welcomed them both warmly, as if nothing had happened. Indeed, Mary thought he was pleased. They had stayed for two weeks there, till the Judge's house was ready; a satisfaction to Mrs. Lowell, as effectually giving the lie to any report that there was trouble in her family. And she had done her utmost, after the first day, to make things pleasant. By the end of the visit, Laurence was calling her "Mother," and paying her compliments; every one was in good humour, the house gayer than it had ever been; and Mrs. Lowell was nearly in love with the scion of Irish bog-trotters.

So Mary had no more defending of Laurence to do. It was understood that she was happy, that her husband was full of promise and well-befriended, and that everybody was satisfied.


The Judge insisted that Laurence must help exercise his horses, so often, when work and the heat of the day were over, Laurence drove the trotters out over the prairie, with Mary in the buggy beside him. He handled the spirited horses with ease, and she felt perfectly safe with him. He would talk to her at length of his day's doings, of anything that came into his head, and she listened, not saying much. Sometimes he wanted her to talk, and she found she had nothing to say. Her inexpressiveness often bothered him, sometimes made him angry. He needed response and was impatient if he didn't get it, in all things.

He was ardent and tumultuous in his love, constantly wanting expression of love from her. He was demanding, impetuous, imperious in his desire. He could not have patience, he could not woo any longer, he must possess—all, to the uttermost, without reserve. His experience of women had not taught him to understand a nature like hers—less emotional than his own, really more sensual. His whole idea of women in general, of Mary in particular was opposed to this understanding—he would have reversed the judgment, and so would Mary. He thought Mary cold to love, and her coldness often made him brusque and overbearing.

Yet he was very happy. He loved to be with her, to talk to her even when she did not answer, to look at her. He was proud of her beauty; liked to drive with her through the town or to walk with her on his arm; liked the admiring glances that followed her. He held his head high; consciousness of power, confidence in himself and his destiny, were strong in him. He felt that he could control the forces about him, as his powerful[78] wrists controlled the horses, and drive them at his will, along the road he chose.

Several times a week he saw Nora, the companion of his childhood, for she was working now in the creamery at Elmville. He had not met her that Sunday on the river road, for then he was in Chicago with Mary, and had forgotten all about Nora. But he had remembered her afterwards, and as she had lost her place in the store because she was not quick at figures, he had found a place for her at the creamery. He meant to look out for poor little Nora, had a desire to be kind to her. He had a quick sympathy for the weak and helpless, always; he was full of generous impulses, would kindle at any tale of distress or injustice and was ready to help. Part of his feeling for "the under dog" came by nature; part perhaps from his own circumstances in the years of sensitive youth.

A deep mark had been left upon him by these early hardships—he hated and feared poverty. He was ambitious in a worldly and social way, he wanted to count among men, he wanted power; and he was determined to be rich. His power was to be beneficent, his riches were to benefit others. Though he liked display and luxury, he liked better the feeling that he could be a mainstay and rock of refuge to those weaker than himself. He would be great, powerful, and generous.

These ambitions and dreams came out clearly as he talked to Mary. But she did not echo them, only listened gravely. She did not sympathize with Laurence's desire for worldly things, and she knew he would not sympathize with her indifference to them. When she expressed anything of the kind he would say[79] with irritation that she knew nothing of the world and had better get some experience before she despised it. So after a few attempts, she gave up trying to talk to him about it. The time hadn't come, she felt, Laurence's spiritual eyes were not opened, he was bound to earthly vanities. Perhaps he would have to experience these things before he could despise them, see their nothingness. But she needn't, she felt serenely that no experience would change her point of view. She loved Laurence, but she nourished in her heart an ideal to which he did not correspond. A militant saint—that was her ideal. Not a man struggling for the goods of this world, but one who could put his feet upon them and whose vision was far beyond. A look of infinite remoteness would come into her eyes sometimes and she would fall into abstraction; and Laurence, when this happened in his presence, would resent it instinctively and drag her out of it by making love to her or quarrelling with her, or both at once.

But they had many happy hours together in the long drowsy twilights, many times of troubled exquisite sweetness in the dusk or the dark of still summer nights. Their youthful tenderness was stronger than any division of feeling; a deep unconscious bond was forming between them.

Sometimes in the evenings, the heat and mosquitos would drive them indoors. Then in the dim light Mary would sit down at the piano. She did not play very well, her fingers were strong rather than skilful, but she sang old ballads in her husky contralto, for Laurence and Judge Baxter.


The Judge had a sentimental passion for these songs, and as he sat and listened, pulling slowly at his cigar, he was happy, he had a feeling of home. His bare bachelor existence had been cushioned, or he would have said, glorified by the tender touch of a woman. He had a chivalric affection for Mary, he admired her intensely. He and Laurence would sit with their eyes fixed upon her as she sang, on the clear outline of her cheek, her thick knot of burnished hair, her young figure, strong and stately, in the light flowing gown of white muslin. She sang "Ye banks and braes of bonnie Doon," and "Oh, tell me if all those endearing young charms," and other old-world songs. The two men listened raptly, the glowing tips of their cigars gathering thick cones of ashes. In the intervals of the song, a chorus of night-insects could be heard outside, shrilling in the grass and heavy-leaved trees. Or sometimes the low rumbling of thunder heralded an approaching storm.



On an August afternoon, Mary walked languidly up the street to her father's house. She was bare-headed, dressed in a plain white muslin, and carried a small parasol, though the sun was hidden in a thick haze. It was about four o'clock. All day the heat had been intense, the air was thick, motionless, stifling. The greyish haze hung low and heavy, and darkened steadily.

It was as though all the heat of the summer, of all the long monotonous summer days, had been gathered up, concentrated in that one day; as if it hung there between the baked earth and the thick blanket of cloud sinking lower and lower, pressing down.

There was no feeling of space. The prairie was stagnant, torpid—nothing stirred on it, except the small ant-like motions of men. The horizons of the vast plain had disappeared....

Day follows day, each with its little occupations, orderly, monotonous, peaceful. Some little corner of the world seems a safe place to live in—shut in upon itself, shut out from disturbance—perhaps too safe. Life may grow dull and languid, sometimes, even when new pulses are stirring in it, grow faint. Long summer days, one like another, each with its weight of humid heat, pile up a burden....

Vast unbroken spaces are dangerous. Beyond that curtain of sullen mist, who knows what is brewing?[82] Unknown forces, long gathering and brooding, strike suddenly out of darkness. That infinite monotony of the prairie breeds violence—long suppressed, breaking at last....

Mary found her mother sitting on the porch, gasping, fanning herself with a palm-leaf.

"What a day—the worst yet," moaned Mrs. Lowell. "Have a glass of lemonade, Mary? I made some for your father. It's on the dining-room table."

"Where is Father?"

Mary dropped into the hammock, panting.

"He hasn't come back yet. I wish he'd come. There's going to be a storm."

Mary lay against the cushion, her lips parted, breathing heavily.

"How pale you are! What ails you, child?" Mrs. Lowell asked with alarm.

"Nothing—the heat—"

"Don't you want the lemonade? I'll get it for you—"

"No, no—I'll go in a minute—"

But Mrs. Lowell rose with an effort, and went in. When she brought the lemonade, Mary sat up with a faint murmur of thanks, and drank it. Mrs. Lowell stood looking at her with watchful tenderness.

"There isn't anything the matter, is there? You ought to be careful, this hot weather, and not overdo, Mary."

"No, it isn't anything—"

Mrs. Lowell took the empty glass and went back to her chair.

"Laurence is over at Elmville," said Mary languidly.[83] "I'm afraid he'll get caught in the storm. How dark it's getting."

She looked out at the low cloud that thickened momently and that now was clotting into black masses against a greenish grey. The rattle of the doctor's old buggy was heard approaching; he drove rapidly in past the house. His horse was sweating heavily and flecked with foam. They caught a glimpse of his pale face as he passed.

"Thank goodness," murmured Mrs. Lowell. "Perhaps we'd better go in."

But she remained, gazing at the clouds. A few people went by, more hurriedly than usual. It was almost dark now, a strange twilight. Mary left the hammock and came to look up at the sky. Up there were masses of cloud in tumult, but down below not a breath of air stirred.

"How queer it looks—I wish Laurence was home. He starts about this time," she said uneasily.

"Oh, he'll wait till it's over.... I wonder why your father doesn't come in...."

Mary turned and entered the house, but the doctor was not there, and she went on out into the garden. At the door of the stable she saw the horse hitched, he had not been unharnessed. Dr. Lowell stood there, looking up. She went quickly along the path to him.

"Say, Mary, this looks mighty queer. We're going to have a big wind," he called to her. "You better go in."

"Well, why don't you come in? Aren't you going to unhitch?"

"I suppose so," he said with a worried glance. "Satan acted like the very deuce on the way home—"


He looked at the wooden stable doubtfully.

"I suppose I'll have to put him in there. I don't know but we're going to get a twister."

He unbuckled the tugs and pushed the buggy into the stable, and then, holding the sweating, stamping horse firmly by the halter, led him in, but did not take off the harness. He shut the stable-door and joined Mary, gazing up at the boiling black clouds, which cast greenish gleams. He looked around at his garden, kept fresh and full of blossom by his labours. The yellow of late summer had begun to shoot through its green, but it was still lovely, tall phlox blooming luxuriantly, and many-coloured asters. In the sick light, the foliage and flowers looked metallic, not a leaf moved. The doctor took Mary by the arm and they went in. Mrs. Lowell was shutting all the windows. It was hot as a furnace in the house. The cellar-door stood open.

"It's cooler down there," suggested Mrs. Lowell in a trembling voice.

"Well, we may have to," the doctor responded calmly, helping himself to lemonade.

Mary hurried to look out of the front windows. The passers-by were running now, teams went by at a gallop. Then it was as if a great sighing breath passed over, the trees waved and tossed their leaves, and then—the wind struck.

In an instant the air was full of tumult, of flying dust, leaves, branches, and darkened to night, with a roar like the sea in storm. All was blurred outside the windows, the house shook and seemed to shift on its foundations, blinds tore loose and crashed like gun-fire.

Mary felt a grasp on her arm, and saw her mother's[85] face, white and scared. Mrs. Lowell tried to drag her away, shouted something. But she wrenched her arm loose, turned and ran upstairs. From the second-story windows she could see nothing but a wild whirl, the trees bent down and streaming, dim shapes in the visible darkness driving past. There was still another stair, narrow and steep, to the attic. She climbed up there. From the small window in the eaves she could see over the tree-tops. The house shook and trembled under her, the roar of the wind seemed to burst through the walls, but she crouched by the low window, heedless. She started at a touch on her shoulder, her father was there beside her. She made room for him at the window, and pointed out, turning to him a white face of terror.

The fury of the wind was lessening, the darkness was lifting. The outer fringe of the storm-cloud had swept them—but out there on the prairie, miles away, they could see now—

There it was, a murky green and black boiling centre in the sky, and shooting down from it, trailing over the earth, something like a long twisting finger—

An instant's vision of it. Then there came a deluge of rain, beating on the sloping roof. Through the streaming window nothing could be seen. The doctor raised Mary and led her down the stair, she clung to him without a word. On the second floor they found Mrs. Lowell, about to mount in search of them, trembling with fright.

"It's all over, Mother," shouted the doctor through the drumming of the rain. "We only got the edge of it."


They went down to the lower floor. Now it was perceptibly lighter. The cloud fringe sweeping like a huge broom was passing as swiftly as it had come. The rain lessened in force, the grey outside brightened. The doctor and his wife looked at one another, and both looked at Mary, who stood beside a window staring out.

"Now, Mother," said Dr. Lowell briskly, "you get me a sandwich or something, I've got to start out. Mary! help your mother, will you? You might as well fill up a basket, as quick as you can—put in anything you've got, in five minutes—don't know how long I may be—"

He was already fastening his rubber coat, his old hat jammed down on his head. Mary followed her mother, blindly obeying her quick directions in the kitchen. The basket was packed by the time the doctor came out with his medicine-chest and a big roll of surgical dressings.

"Where you going?" Mrs. Lowell then demanded.

"There'll be some damage where that thing struck," said the doctor cheerfully. "I'm going over there. Don't you sit up for me, I may be all night. You better keep Mary here, till Laurence comes for her."

But Mary was putting on an old cloak of her mother's that hung in the entry.

"I'm going with you. Laurence is over there," she said.

Mrs. Lowell started to protest, but looking at Mary's face, stopped, and went to get a scarf to tie over her hair. The doctor said nothing, but went to hitch up his horse and put a feed of grain into the back of the buggy. They started. Satan indicated his displeasure at the turn of things by rearing up in the shafts and then try[87]ing to kick the dashboard in; but the doctor gave him the whip and he decided to go.

The road was mud-puddles, ruts and gullies, and strewn with branches, sometime great boughs or fence-rails lay across it. Other people were on the way now. Satan passed everything going in their direction. Salutations and comments were shouted at the doctor. Then they began to meet people coming the other way; the doctor did not stop to talk, but a man called to him that Elmville had been wiped out by the cyclone.

Two miles on they came to a cluster of houses where a crowd had gathered, most of them refugees who had fled before the storm. Two houses here had been un-roofed, sheds blown away, and the place was littered with splinters, but nobody was seriously hurt. From there on they met a stream of people, nearly all the population of Elmville, including the people from the creamery who had escaped into the prairie laden with whatever goods they could carry. Then they reached the last buildings left standing by the storm—a farmhouse and barns, by some freak of the wind untouched, a mile from Elmville. These were crowded with people from the town, mostly women and children, and a few men, some of them injured. The doctor pulled up his horse and shouted an inquiry for Laurence. Oh, Captain Carlin was all right, he had been there when the storm struck, had started home but decided he couldn't make it and stopped there—he had driven back now to see what he could do, and most of the men had gone after him. Wouldn't the doctor come in? One of the men had a broken leg and there was a woman with her head[88] hurt by a flying brick, they thought she would die. The doctor hesitated. Mary said:

"You stay, Father, I'll drive on and find Laurence."

"You drive Satan! You couldn't hold him a minute!"

"I'll drive him."

He looked at her, realized that she was quite irrational, called out that he would come back, and drove on.

The storm had come at an angle to the road, so the wreckage of the town had blown the other way, but where its buildings had stood, with the tall brick factory in their midst, the skyline was now absolutely empty.

They came on Laurence's horse, tied to a fallen tree, and then Laurence himself came running toward them, out of a group of men who were lifting timbers. Mary was out of the buggy and in his arms in a moment, sobbing on his shoulder, clinging to him wildly, the rain falling on her bare head. She hid her face against his wet coat, not to see the desolation around her. But then after a little she raised her head and looked over his shoulder, her eyes full of the terror of death that had passed so near, that had threatened to strike to her heart....

A rubbish-heap, in which men were frantically digging for the wounded and dead, was all that was left of the town. A heap of splintered boards and bricks, with pitiful odds and ends of household furniture mixed in. Not a wall was standing, not one brick left on another, all was levelled to the earth.

The wind had roared away across the prairie and there, somewhere in the midst of vast spaces, it would vanish. Over beyond, now, near the horizon, a rift had opened in the grey clouds, and through it was visible a long belt of blue sky—serene, limpid, smiling.





Carlin walked with a quick firm step across the square from the courthouse to his office in the bank building. His usually ruddy face was pale, his eyes gleamed with excitement under the brim of his soft felt hat. He made his way through the crowd that filled the street before the jail without halting, shaking off impatiently some attempts to stop him, nodding or shaking his head for all answer to questions shouted at him.

It was a bright spring day. For the second time since his marriage the maples round the square were putting out their brilliant young leaves. But there was no brightness in the throng under the maples. A sombre excitement moved them, a low-toned angry murmur followed Carlin's progress. It was hardly personal to him, however, or only faintly, doubtfully so. He was recognized respectfully, and responded with curt nods, or sometimes a quick lifting of his hand, like a military salute.

He ran up the steps into his own office, and through this to Judge Baxter's, entering with a quick rap on the glass, closing the door sharply behind him. The Judge was alone, writing at his desk, and looked round rather absently, pushing his spectacles up on his forehead. Carlin flung his hat on the rickety sofa in the corner and standing by the desk, his hands thrust deep in his pockets, frowning, he said firmly:


"Judge, we must take this case."

The Judge looked at him now with attention, but without answering. Resistance showed in his face, but he put out his lower lip and thoughtfully shifted his quid of tobacco from one cheek to the other.

"He sent for me and I was admitted to see him, as his counsel," Laurence went on in the same quick urgent tone. "And then—we must do it, that's all."

The Judge looked at the sheet of paper before him, half-filled with his crabbed painstaking writing, laid down his pen, and leaned back in his chair.

"Why?" he demanded coolly.

"My God, Judge!" Carlin burst out.

With an effort to master himself, he turned away and walked several times across the floor.

"If you'd seen the man—if you'd heard him!... I'm all smashed up by it," he confessed huskily, stopping and staring out of the window.

"I see you are," said the Judge. "Have a drink?"

Carlin shook his head. But the Judge, opening a cupboard in his desk, took out a bottle and one glass, poured a stiff allowance of whiskey and tossed it off neat.

"I'm glad you don't drink much, Laurence," he remarked as he put away the glass. "With your excitable temperament you couldn't stand it."

As Carlin stood silent, staring out, the Judge addressed his back.

"I don't like murder cases—never did. Never could do anything with 'em. My clients were hanged, every time—that was long ago.... I haven't touched a criminal case for—well, years. I'm no jury lawyer. We[93] don't want to go into that, Laurence ... and then, the fellow's a brute."

"No—no!... Wait until I tell you about it...."

Laurence turned round. His tone was calmer but he still looked deeply agitated, and began to pace the floor again.

"Well, take your time.... But I can't see what it is to you," said Judge Baxter curiously.

His genial shrewd old face expressed a somewhat cynical perplexity. If he had ever been deeply moved by human passion and folly, he had forgotten it—for many years it had been only a spectacle to him. All crimes spring from love, so-called, or money. One of these two great mainsprings the Judge understood thoroughly. He knew all about human cupidity. He had made his own fortune out of the desire of some of his fellow-beings to over-reach others, and this golden fountain would never run dry. The Judge had all the law of property at his fingers' ends. His ability to help a corporation to use the law was abundantly recognized and recompensed. He was a noted railroad counsel. Why turn aside from this safe and profitable concern with people's purses, to meddle with the wild impulses of their hearts, so-called?

"You say you don't see what it is to me," Carlin began, turning abruptly. "But I know the man, if you remember. He was in my company—one of the best in it too—I knew him well—that's why he thought of me, I suppose.... But even if I hadn't known him, if I'd seen any man as he was this morning, if any man talked to me as he did.... I never heard anything like it—I never saw anything so friendless, forlorn.... He's like[94] a lost beaten dog—there isn't a soul in the world that isn't against him...."

"Well, that's right, I guess," said the Judge cautiously. "He's worse than friendless." He turned his head toward the window, giving ear to the noise from the street—a low continuous murmur. "That crowd means trouble.... When do they take him out?"

"By the afternoon train. The Sheriff thinks he can do it—he's got thirty deputies sworn in."

"I've never seen a lynching here," said the Judge, getting up and going to the window. "But—we came pretty near it once or twice during the war. It looked a good deal like this, too.... You see, our people don't make an awful lot of noise about a thing—when they mean business, they're quiet."

The two men stood side by side, looking down on the square, which was by now closely packed.

"Well, I guess we'll get him out just the same," said Carlin grimly.


"They won't get him if I can help it.... But I'd like to know why they want to—don't understand a mob getting up like this about it—"

"It runs like wildfire, once it starts.... Perhaps the boys want some excitement, we haven't had much lately. And then," said the Judge emphatically, "they don't like it. It was an unprovoked brutal murder of a woman—a good hardworking woman, with little children to look after—and this fellow comes back, takes to drinking, quarrels with his wife and smashes her head with an ax—by God, if they want to string him up, I don't blame them!"


"Look here, Judge, you're just like the rest of them, you don't understand, you don't know! A man doesn't smash his wife with an ax for nothing—"

"If you're going to try to justify him—"

"No, he doesn't want that, neither do I. He's a lost man and he knows it.... All he seemed to want of me was to have one human being understand it—just to tell me about it. He doesn't want to get off, he wants to die."

Carlin's intense blue eyes held the Judge's unwilling gaze; they both forgot the crowd outside, turned from the window. The Judge sat down again at his desk.

"Well, tell me about it," he said reluctantly. "But I'm sorry to see you so worked up.... I really don't see how we could handle a case like this, even if we had a chance to do anything with it. I tell you it isn't the thing, it's all off my beat—you know it. And you're just getting your start, and to handicap yourself right off with an unpopular case where you haven't the ghost of a show, where feeling's dead against you—no, Laurence, my boy, I oughtn't to let you—we can't do it!"

Laurence drew a chair to the other side of the desk, facing the Judge.

"If we can't, I'll try it alone," he said quietly. "All I want for Barclay is a hearing—just to have his side of it known, that's all. He'll have to pay the penalty, of course—he'll get life imprisonment at least and I'm not sure he wouldn't rather be hanged, in fact I'm sure he would, now.... But he did have provocation—if you could get anybody to see it."

"Well, see if you can get me to see it. I guess that's a good test," said the Judge coolly. "I'm as prejudiced[96] against him as anybody. I wouldn't lynch him, maybe—but I don't want you to lose your first important case."

He leaned back in his chair and fixed his old, wise, wary eyes on Carlin, who, quite calm now, had an abstracted look.

"Well, to begin I'd have to tell you what I knew about Barclay before this.... He was in the first company to go from here—enlisted for three months, you know. Just dropped his tools and went—he was a machinist, making good wages, had a nice little home here, wife and two children. They were dependent on him, but the wife was sturdy and said she guessed they could get along somehow—and they did. She got work and people helped them, and she kept up the home. Barclay was awfully proud of her and the youngsters—another one was born after he went. He used to show me their pictures and talk about them. He was good at machinery—it was the only thing he did know—he was a gunner in my battery later and a good one. Strong as a horse and he'd fight like the devil when things got hot. A big fellow, good-natured too and kind of simple-minded—soft, you might say, except when he was fighting or drunk. He didn't seem to have but two ideas in his head—one was the war and the other was his family. He re-enlisted, of course, and went through the whole thing, but he was homesick all the time. He used to write home whenever he could, and when he didn't get letters as often as he thought he ought to, he'd come to me and worry, and ask if I'd heard and so on.... I'm telling you this, Judge," Carlin looked earnestly at the Judge's impassive face, "so you can understand what[97] sort of a man he was and what his home meant to him—just everything, outside of what he was fighting for. That man made a real sacrifice, because he thought it his duty. He felt it all the time, but he thought the country needed him, and he had to do it, and he had a pride in it too—he didn't look for any reward, but I suppose he thought what he did would be appreciated somehow—anyhow he didn't expect to lose out altogether by it...."

Carlin stopped for a moment, frowning till his eyes showed only a blue glint.

"Lots of us that went were remembered," he said slowly, "and some—were forgotten."

He picked up a pencil and began scoring deep lines on a sheet of paper.

"Four years is a good slice out of a man's life. He loses a lot—in his life, his work—other men get the start of him—he's far away, and perhaps will never come back, and they're here.... When a man gives that much, and risks everything, in what seems a holy cause to him, it seems as if—it seems as if—"

His voice trembled. The Judge was watching him now intently. He got up and began to walk the floor again.

"You see, Judge, that's natural—to want to have some recognition of what you've done. And I know a lot of our fellows felt that the people at home didn't recognize it. They made a lot of fuss about us when we went away, but when we came back—those of us that did come back—they didn't get excited much about us.

"They were busy—they'd been living their lives in[98] peace while we were fighting and protecting them—we stood between them and the enemy and most of them never felt what war is. They might know about it, but they didn't feel it, we saved them from that.... Then when we came back, sometimes they were glad to see us, sometimes not. Anyhow, we had to scramble around and see what we could do, to make a living, to get back the place we'd lost. Lots of us found it hard. It wasn't only the time lost, but those four years of war made a difference in us, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse...."

"Surely," said Judge Baxter, nodding.

"You see, Judge, it upsets all a man's habits and way of living. You can't make a good soldier of a man without loosening up some things in him that are usually kept down. He faces violent death every day, and he kills. It's a primitive thing, war is, and men get back to where they were. They suffer and they try to make the other fellow suffer more, they get callous, savage, lots of them. Then when they come back to civilized life, it's hard for them to fit in. I wonder there wasn't more trouble than there was, I wonder that that great army, nearly a million men, melted away as quietly as it did.... Judge, it was a great thing that we did—"

Carlin stopped and fixed his eyes on the Judge, who nodded gravely.

"We felt it so at the time, at least very many of us did, and looking back, we can see how big a thing it was. We fought the good fight, we crushed something evil, that would have destroyed our country. Every[99] man in our army has a right to be proud of it, proud of himself, if he did his best ... he has a right to be remembered...."

"Yes, surely," said Judge Baxter, with the same grave intentness, his keen eyes watching Carlin's every look and motion.

There was a brief silence.

"Well," said Carlin, drawing a deep breath. "Barclay was forgotten.... The last year, letters were scarce. We were on the jump and then we went down into Georgia.... I don't know just what happened here. He doesn't make any accusation against his wife, though it seems there was somebody else she liked. But she'd settled her life without him. She could support the family and she'd got used to doing without him. Perhaps she never cared so much for him as he thought. But yet if he'd been here, probably it would have gone along all right. But he wasn't, you see.... And she heard things about him too. He was in the guardhouse a few times for drinking, and somebody else would mention it in writing home.... All that came out after he got back."

Carlin was still walking about restlessly under the Judge's watchful gaze.

"When he got back he found he wasn't wanted—that's all. His wife could do without him, and preferred to. His children were little—they'd forgotten him. There was a baby he'd never seen. He felt like a stranger in the house. And she made him feel it! At first he couldn't realize it, and tried to have it all as it was before—but it was no use. She didn't want[100] him there.... Well, I suppose you can't see what that meant to him—"

"Yes, I can," said the Judge.

"It was all he had, you know. And she'd taken it away from him—the children and all. He could see that if he'd never come back, if he'd been killed, she would have married this other man, and never missed him. He saw that she wished he hadn't come back. In fact—she told him so, after they got to quarrelling...."

"That was pretty bad," muttered the Judge.

"And he still loved her, you see. Otherwise he'd have gone away again. But he wanted her and the children. So he took to drinking—"

"Why, naturally."

"He took to drinking hard and didn't work—couldn't. And he made the house miserable, of course. They quarrelled terribly, he beat her.... She reproached him for being a useless drunken loafer, spoiling her life and the children's—then she told him she wished he'd died.... It was after that...."

Carlin was silent. The Judge nodded his white head and said abruptly: "Yes, the poor simpleton—lost his head."

"He doesn't remember how it happened—he was drunk. But he doesn't deny it—can't, of course," said Carlin in a low voice. "He said to me that he could hardly believe it ... he'd always loved her ... he said it didn't seem possible he could have hurt her ... he thought he must have been crazy ... he wished he had been killed down south, then it wouldn't have happened and she would have been happy, and the[101] children taken care of, while now.... And then he cried...."

Carlin's voice broke, and he turned away to the window. The Judge's eyes followed him eagerly, dwelt on his bent head, his bowed shoulders for some moments.

"The poor fool," he said, taking off his spectacles and looking at them critically.

"Judge, it was an awful thing to see—that big fellow, all crumpled up like a wet rag—broken, crushed—helpless as a baby,—not a soul to put out a hand to him—and he was sinking, lost—lost forever.... And a good man too, that's the mystery ... why, Judge, anybody might have acted that way—might have ... if people could only see that, feel it...."

The Judge had polished his spectacles to a nicety and now put them on and stood up.

"Well, Laurence, I guess you can make them feel it—I guess you can, my boy!" he burst out.

His broad face lighted up with enthusiasm, with professional ardour.

"Laurence, you were right and I was wrong. If you feel the thing as much as this, it's a chance for you. Nothing counts so much with a jury as feeling—real feeling—and you've got it. We'll take that case and you shall make the address—I'm not a jury lawyer myself, but I know one when I see him! You won't save your man, Laurence, but many a reputation has been made in a lost cause!"

And the Judge, advancing, took Carlin's hand and shook it warmly. Carlin looked at him with troubled, bewildered eyes, and the Judge clapped him on the shoulder briskly.


"Laurence, my boy, I knew you had it in you!" he cried.

"I'm not taking this case to distinguish myself," Carlin said angrily.

"No, no, of course not—that makes it all the better!" the Judge assured him, with the utmost cheerfulness.

But suddenly he became grave again and pondered.

"If the boys try anything it will be when they take him to the train," he reflected.

"I'm going home now to get a bite of dinner—then I'll be on hand if there's trouble. You coming, Judge?" Carlin took up his hat.

"I've got a letter to finish—then I'll be along. But, say, Laurence—"

The Judge stopped on the way to his desk.

"Mary—she won't like this."

Laurence was at the door, and turned a disturbed look on the Judge.

"No, she won't. She liked Mrs. Barclay."

"She won't like our defending him."

"I'll explain—there's a lot she doesn't know—I'll tell her and she'll understand." Carlin's tone had not much conviction.

"Well, perhaps," said the Judge dubiously.



In Carlin's household there were now two children. The family still lived at the Judge's house; he had resisted firmly their attempts to leave him. He had turned over the whole house to them, reserving only two rooms on the ground floor for himself, and by now he had established himself as a member of the family. There was no more thought of breaking up the arrangement.

Carlin reached the house a little before the dinner hour. He found his eldest son carefully penned up on the porch, exercising his fat legs by rushes from side to side of his enclosure. In a chair beside the pen sat Mary, with the new baby at her breast. In spite of his hurry and preoccupation, Carlin smiled with pleasure at the group, stopped to hold out a finger to the tottering golden-haired boy, bent to kiss Mary, looking tenderly at her and the small blonde head against her bosom. The baby was but three weeks old. Mary had still about her the soft freshness and radiance of new motherhood. She was pale, her tall figure had not yet regained its firm lines, but her beauty was at its best. She had borne her children easily and happily. The fuller oval of her face, her soft heavy-lidded eyes and the new tenderness of her mouth, expressed the quiet joy of fulfilment, satisfaction.

"I must hurry back—can I have a bite to eat now?" Carlin asked softly, touching the baby's tiny hand outspread on Mary's breast.


"Dinner's nearly ready—I'll see. He's asleep."

"He's always asleep, when he isn't eating, and sometimes then," commented Carlin, smiling.

"So he ought to be," said Mary calmly.

She rose with caution, and carried the baby indoors, the frills of her muslin robe billowing about her. Both parents smiled as a wail from the deserted first-born followed them. They had a robust attitude toward the young James, and he was used to solitary communing with himself in his pen, but didn't like it. Mary carried the baby into the Judge's bedroom and laid him on the bachelor's bed. The Judge liked to have his room used in this way; it delighted him to find articles of infant's attire, or toys belonging to young James, in his quarters. He often said that he was getting all the feeling of being a family man without any of the bother.

Mary went into the kitchen to hurry the stolid Swedish cook, and Carlin ran lightly upstairs. When Mary came up to arrange her hair and dress, a moment later, she found him loading his army revolver, which he persisted in keeping in his top bureau drawer among his neckties.

"What's that for?" she asked quickly.

Carlin looked at her with concern, wishing to break the matter gently to her, for it had been deeply impressed upon him that to disturb Mary was to disturb the baby also, and that any interference with her sacred function was a crime—sacrilege, in fact. He hesitated.

"I know—it's that Barclay!... But what are you going to do?"


"Why—there may be some trouble getting him out of town—"

"Yes, I heard about it. But why do you—"

"Well, I'm sworn in as a deputy to defend him, if—"


"Yes, defend him—he's going to have a fair trial, if I—and look here, Mary, I might as well tell you, the Judge and I are going to defend him at the trial."

Paler than before, she laid down her comb and gazed at him. He finished loading the revolver and slipped a box of cartridges into his pocket.

"Defend that man? I don't believe you mean it, Laurence, the Judge wouldn't."

"Yes, he would. You ask him.... I haven't time to tell you all about it now, Mary, I must eat and run. Come downstairs."

Not having succeeded in breaking it gently, Carlin took the opposite tack and spoke with curt military command. In silence Mary turned to the glass, fastened her dress and smoothed her hair carefully. In no circumstances would she be sloppy. She descended the stairs after Carlin, they sat down at the table in the dining-room, and the awkward Swedish girl brought in the dinner. Mary silently filled Carlin's plate. He began to speak, but just then the Judge arrived, winded from a rapid walk and looking worried. He greeted Mary rather apologetically, as he tucked his napkin under his beard.

"Laurence tell you?" he panted. "Now don't get mad, Mary—seems as if we'd have to do it. Explain to you later."


Mary lifted her chin haughtily as she gave the Judge his plate.

"I'm not 'mad'—but I certainly don't understand why you and Laurence want to defend a brute like that man. When I think of poor Sarah Barclay, working and slaving away, and those poor little children—I can't see how you can do it!"

She looked indignantly at her husband, who was eating in haste and left the Judge to reply.

"Now, Mary, you don't understand—don't know his side of it—"

"His side of it—a drunken worthless brute—Judge, I wonder at you, defending murder!"

"No, not murder—no, I don't defend murder, certainly not—"

"You've just said you would! The murder of a helpless woman, with little children depending on her!"

Mary's grey eyes blazed with anger, and the Judge, cowed, continued to splutter excuses with his mouth full.

"Now, Mary! I tell you I don't defend what he did! But he did have something on his side, she didn't treat him well—?"

"Treat him well! He came back, wouldn't work, took her money for drink, beat her—Judge, I'm ashamed of you, to make excuses for such a man!"

The Judge, not liking his post of whipping-boy, glanced reproachfully at the real culprit. Carlin pushed back his chair and lit a cigar.

"Don't abuse the Judge, I got him to do it," he said coolly. "And I did it because I was sorry for the man and because he hasn't a friend on earth, nobody to look[107] to but me, and he isn't half so bad as you think. But you've made up your mind and you don't want to hear anything on the other side. You just want him punished."

"Of course I do!" she cried.

"Well, now, I can't understand why you good church-people are so hard on sinners. Your religion doesn't teach that."

Mary flushed slowly at the bitterness of this speech.

"It doesn't teach us to defend sin," she answered. "But I don't think you know what it does teach."

"Perhaps not. But I seem to remember something about there being more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just men—in heaven, of course, not on earth."

"Repents, yes—"

"Well, Barclay repents all right.... But the good people of this town don't want to give him any time to repent, you see. They're in a great hurry to send him, with all his imperfections on his head, to—well, I suppose they think he'd go straight to hell. That's why I've got to go right back."

He got up, went round to Mary and bent to kiss her.

"I'm sorry you don't like my doing this, but I've got to do it," he said gently.

She did not respond, but sat looking straight before her. He started away, then came back.

"Mary—kiss me good-bye."

Something in his tone pierced through her frozen resentment. She met his look of anxious love, a sorrowful troubled look—the kiss was given. He hurried out.

The Judge hated to be disturbed at his meals, he[108] was making a very bad dinner. He said pettishly:

"I've got to go right away too—I'll take some pie, please.... I wish people wouldn't get up a fuss at dinner-time."

Mary looked at him absently and handed him the bread.

"Pie, please!... Now, you see, Mary, I was against it at the start," the Judge explained rapidly, after getting what he wanted. "As you know, I've never taken criminal cases, and I didn't want Laurence to get the whole town down on him—for he will, you know, at the beginning.... But do you know why I changed my mind? You may believe I had a good reason—say, Mary, are you listening?"

"Well? You were saying you had a good reason."

"Well, sometimes it pays to go against public feeling. It gets a man noticed, anyway. And if he believes enough in his side and can put it over on all the other fellows—why, then, you know, it's a real success.... And I found out today that Laurence can do it—that is, I believe he can. Mary, that boy has lots of talent, lots of it.... Why, look here, he nearly made me cry today, talking about that Barclay,—and yet I believe the man's a low-down skunk, just as you do.... You just let Laurence get at a jury, with that feeling he's got, that sympathy, that simple way of appealing to their emotions—why, he might almost get the man off! Anyhow, he'll make a reputation, Mary, there isn't a doubt—"

"I don't want him to make a reputation doing what's wrong!"

"Wrong? Why, Mary, it isn't wrong to defend a[109] criminal! The law insists that he be defended, it's a sacred part of our legal system. They wouldn't think of hanging him unless he was properly defended. Somebody'll have to do it. And Laurence believes he's right to do it—that's what makes him so strong. There's nothing like having right on your side—that is, I mean, believing you have it, of course—"

"Then Laurence thinks the man was right to murder his wife?" Mary said ironically.

"No, no, dash it all!—oh, well, you can't explain things to a woman," groaned the Judge. "Excuse me, Mary, I've got to get back—"

He took off his napkin, and rose, sighing.

"But I should think you'd be proud of Laurence," he added as he moved ponderously to the door. "To think he's willing to face public disapproval, take all sorts of risks, just to stand by that poor hunted beast—run into danger—"


She was moved now. Her eyes, wide open, fixed the Judge piercingly. He promptly hedged.

"Oh, well, I don't mean actual danger, of course—life and limb.... I mean,—why, I mean his career, that's all. But he doesn't give a—doesn't think of that. I must run."

The Judge fled ignominiously.

Mary sat still. Her mind moved rapidly enough when her emotion was stirred. In a flash she had pieced together the Judge's words—his hurry and Laurence's—the revolver—Laurence's reference to the mob and his saying he had been sworn in to defend Barclay. She saw it now—certainly he was in danger, actual danger. She[110] wondered she had been so stupid, not to see it before, not to feel it when he said good-bye.

The girl came in to clear the table, and Mary remembered that it was time for young James' nap. She went quickly out on the porch, picked him up and carried him upstairs. When he was tucked into his crib, she put on her bonnet and light shawl, and went down to look at the baby, who was sleeping. She did not like leaving the children, she always got her mother to stay with them if she went out, but now she would not stop for that. She sent a message to her mother by a passing neighbour, and hurried down the street toward the square.

Afterwards she remembered it shuddering, with the vividness of a bad dream that has startled one from sleep. The crowd in the square, in which she was caught at once, it seemed without the possibility of getting forward or getting out. Waves of motion passed through this crowd. She was pushed on, pushed back. Those near her seemed as helpless as herself. A group of men about her tried to protect her, but they too were swept on by the mass, sometimes a rush would almost carry them off their feet. The frills of her dress were torn, her shawl wrenched off her shoulders. In a sudden pressure that nearly crushed her she cried out sharply. Her defenders, fighting back savagely, made a united effort and beat their way across the sidewalk, up some steps, lifting her into the embrasure of a closed shop-door, and there they formed a line before her.

She leaned against the wall, panting and faint, and looked over their shoulders at the swaying crowd. All[111] those faces—a vague blur, like the noise that came from that mass of men—something bewildered, indefinite, a formless suggestion of violence. It was a mob without leaders. The feeling was there, the vague intent, but without shape.

Above the groundswell of the crowd a voice was ringing out, deep and powerful. Across the square, on the courthouse steps, Hilary Robertson was speaking. Through the light veil of maple-branches, at the top of the long crowded flight of steps, she could see him. His voice reached her, not the words but the tones, sharp and hard, not pleading, rather menacing, commanding, flashing like a keen sword of wrath. Now he lifted his arm, with clenched fist, in an imperious gesture....

He stopped, turned and went into the building. There came a sudden shout from the crowd and a struggle began, an eddy like a whirlpool, about something advancing—a black closed vehicle, with horsemen surrounding it, visible over the heads of the people. It passed slowly along the side of the square. Cries, hisses greeted it, and a shower of stones. It passed so close that she could clearly see the faces of two men who stood on the step of the prison van, shielding its door with their bodies. Both had the same look of hard pale resolution. The narrow step gave them a bare foot-hold, they stood close together, holding to the door. One was Carlin, with his revolver in his hand, the other was Hilary Robertson, hatless, his forehead cut by a stone.



Carlin came back late that night, weary but triumphant, having seen his man safely lodged in the county jail. He was full of scorn for the futile malice of his fellow-citizens, and declared to Mary and the Judge, as he ate his supper, that he would get Barclay off, just to spite them. He was excited, his blue eyes gleamed with the elation of combat and success. He had identified himself completely now with the cause of his client. The odds against him roused all his energies, his fighting instinct as well as his instinct for protection. Carlin needed at the same time to hate and to love.

But he liked things in clear black and white, he wanted always a definite adversary whom he could hate with reason. He was profoundly impatient of certain feelings in himself which he could not explain nor justify. Some incidents of the day had irritated him deeply, stirring these feelings. Presently he broke out, addressing the Judge.

"I suppose you know that the preacher mixed himself up in it."

"Yes, yes, he certainly did. I will say for that fellow that he's always on hand when there's a scrap," replied the Judge easily. "Spoiled a good fighting man, I guess, when he took to preaching."

"Well, he ought to stick to preaching, and not come poking his nose into what doesn't concern him!"


"Oh, I don't know, Laurence, I guess he did a good turn today. The way he lit into that crowd—he gave them hell. And he has influence round here, people respect him, they know he's no milk-sop. Of course maybe the talk didn't do so much, I don't know—but his coming along with you—"

Carlin cut the Judge short impatiently.

"We didn't want him to go! But there he stuck—he would be in it.... And then he'd got in too and talked to Barclay. Got the poor fellow all mushed up, talking about his sin—as if he didn't feel enough like a sinner already!"

"Well, well, that's his business, you know," argued the Judge. "You can't blame him for that. And he showed he was willing to stand by Barclay. I guess he did about as much to protect him as the deputies did—"

"Oh, bosh!"

"Well, I think so. That crowd knew they'd have to hurt him to get at Barclay, and they didn't want to."

"I saw they cut his head open with a stone," observed Mary calmly. She was sitting beside the table, sewing.

"You saw?"

"I was down there in the square."

The two men stared at her incredulously. She went on, taking tiny neat stitches carefully in the baby's garment:

"I went down after you left. I was worried."

"Down there—in that crowd? Good Lord!"

The Judge looked horrified and guilty.

"Yes. My dress got torn and I lost my shawl. But[114] some men helped me up into a doorway. I saw you go by."

She looked up reflectively at Carlin.

"You were crazy to do that!" he cried. "Why on earth—"

"Well, I was worried. I knew you wouldn't be taking that pistol for nothing."

Carlin gazed at her with softened eyes, with compunction, disturbed and pleased too.

"Why, you poor girl! I didn't think you'd worry. You always take everything so quietly. Why, Mary! You in that mob—!"

"I'm glad I went. The crowd was dreadful, but—I'm glad I saw you."

Her eyes lit up suddenly, glowed.

"You looked splendid!"


He laughed, stretched out his hand to hers, deeply pleased.

"I can't express it, but with all that howling crowd, and the stones, yes, you were splendid! Both of you."

Carlin withdrew his hand abruptly, and Mary serenely went on with her sewing.

She was well aware that Carlin disliked Hilary Robertson, but as she considered that his dislike was without reason, she ignored it as much as possible. Carlin's flings at "the preacher," she was accustomed to receive in silence. She considered that Hilary needed no defence, his life spoke for him, he was blameless. She put Carlin's sneers down to his unregenerate nature,[115] his habit of scoffing at religion, which now seemed ingrained. Never would she have admitted the possibility that Carlin might be jealous. That would have been too degrading, it would have reflected upon her, and she was serenely conscious that her conduct and feelings were blameless also. She had tried to explain to him the nature of her admiration for Hilary, but he couldn't or wouldn't understand it. He had a wrong attitude toward it, and toward her church activities and charitable work. Most men, she thought, liked to have their wives religious, but Laurence would have preferred frivolity on her part. He was very fond of pleasure; he insisted on keeping wine in the house, and on taking her to Chicago for the evening on the rare occasions when she could get away. Mary felt that she yielded a good deal, perhaps more than she ought, to Laurence's light tendencies; but then, also, it was a wife's duty to yield, whenever she could consistently with higher duties. So she had a submissive attitude—except when some question of "right" came up.

In reality she ruled the house, and the Judge and Carlin, and the babies and the Swedish servant, with an iron hand. An exact order prevailed in the household, a definite routine for each day. Mary had her ideas about how a family should be managed, and she worked hard to carry them out, and made other people work too. She had a manner now of quiet authority. She did not scold, nor raise her voice when displeased; but visited the transgressor with an awful silence and with icy glances. Outside the house she seldom interfered with the doings of her husband or Judge Baxter. "Business" was the man's province, and she did not[116] enquire, as a rule, into its details. And in her own province she did not expect to be interfered with.

The Judge and Carlin submitted meekly to her rules—refrained from smoking in certain rooms, were prompt at meals, careful about the sort of men they brought to the house, did not indulge in unseemly levity of conversation. The Judge had almost conquered a lifelong habit of profanity. He had a complete fealty to Mary, was touchingly pleased to be ruled by her. He was afraid of her, and often felt like a small boy in her presence. He despised her intellect, as he did that of all women. This contempt existed side by side in his mind with admiration and involuntary awe, and the conjunction never troubled him. He would have said that he admired women but didn't respect them. More difficult to overcome than swearing was his habit of cynical speech about the sex. It broke out now and then in Mary's presence, revealing his deep conviction that women (though angelic no doubt) were hardly human, but of a distinctly inferior species. Mary never troubled to defend her sex. She would merely look at the Judge with a calm, slightly ironical gaze, under which he sometimes blushed.

The next afternoon she went to visit Hilary, who was ill, Mrs. Lowell reported. There was no hesitation now about her entrance. She walked into the house, majestic in her sweeping grey dress, and the widow received her gladly. Confidential relations had long since been established between them on the subject of the minister.

"He's up and dressed, though the doctor ordered him to stay in bed," the widow complained in a subdued[117] voice. "And he won't take his chicken broth, that I made specially—"

"Well, bring it in and I'll see that he takes it," said Mary.

She knocked at the study door. A peevish voice said, "Oh, come in!"

Hilary was lying on the hard sofa, with a rumpled afghan over him. His head was swathed in bandages, his cheeks flushed with fever.

"Oh, it's you," he murmured apologetically. "I thought it was that old woman again."

Mary, laying aside her shawl, proceeded to spread the afghan more smoothly over him and to shake up his pillows. Then she took his wrist, her finger on the pulse.

"Why don't you stay in bed?" she enquired. "You have fever."

"Nonsense, no fever. I got tired yesterday, that's all."

"I should think so. Was the cut on your head very bad?"

"The doctor sewed it up. It's all right."

He spoke gently, and lay back quietly on his pillows. Mary sat down beside the sofa and picked up a book that lay open on the floor.

"Greek—a nice time for you to be reading Greek!" she remarked.

Hilary smiled.

"How are you getting on with it?" he asked.

"Oh, I can pretty nearly write the alphabet," she smiled too. "I practise when I have time. And I'm going to teach it to James when he's old enough."


"They say John Stuart Mill could read Greek when he was three."

"Then I don't see why James shouldn't."

At this they both laughed. The widow now came in, with a sad look, bearing a steaming cup, which Mary took from her and presented to Hilary.

"Drink your broth—and after this you must drink it whenever Mrs. Lewis brings it."

Hilary raised himself with an effort on his pillows and began to sip the broth, making a wry face.

"Awful stuff," he protested.

"Indeed, it's the best chicken broth, if I did make it myself!" muttered the widow, retiring with an offended air.

"I'm afraid you're a trying invalid," said Mary, amused.

"Hate to be treated like an invalid, that's all.... But women always have to be coddling something," Hilary said ungraciously.

He finished the broth and lay back with a sigh of relief. Mary rose and began setting the room in order, restoring scattered books to their shelves, picking up articles of clothing and crumpled papers from the floor. Hilary's eyes followed her; he made no protest, even when she arranged the papers on his desk in neat piles.

"You know," said Mary suddenly, "Laurence and the Judge are going to defend that man—Barclay."

"Yes, I know it."

"Do you think it is right for a lawyer to defend a man he knows to be guilty?"

"There's something to be said even for the guilty," said Hilary after a moment.


"You mean he can be defended?"

Again he hesitated.

"As I understand it, they can't try to deny that he committed the murder, they can only plead extenuating circumstances."

"That means, try to justify it!... Do you believe in that?"

"I don't know all the circumstances.... But the law distinguishes—if it is done in the heat of passion, it may be called manslaughter—not murder."

"And what would he get for that?"

"A term of years, imprisonment."

"Well, I should think murder was murder, however it was done!... And as to circumstances, you know Mrs. Barclay was a good woman, a member of your church, you know what a hard time she had, especially after he came home, and now her children are left worse than orphans—I don't see how you can say that 'circumstances' make any difference!"

She stood straight, her eyes flashing reproach at him.

"Why, Mary, do you want the man hanged?"

"Well, if anybody is hanged, he ought to be! So long as we have laws to punish criminals—"

"You stand up for the woman always, Mary," said Hilary, smiling faintly.

"And you—you and Laurence—it seems to me very queer that you two should be standing up for that man! Yesterday—risking your life for him—now I think it's very strange."

"That wasn't so much for him," said Hilary slowly. "It was to prevent another murder, that's all—to keep them from doing what he'd done."


He shut his eyes wearily, and Mary softened.

"I oughtn't to talk to you about it now. You must be quiet. I'll go now, and you must promise me to go to bed and not get up till the fever's gone. Will you?"

"Yes. But stay a little longer."

She sat down again beside him, and he lay still with his eyes closed.

"Did you go to see the children today?" he asked after a pause.

"Yes, I stopped in. They were playing in the yard—they're so little, you know, they don't realize anything—except perhaps the girl. I wanted to take one of them, but Mrs. Peters said she thought they were better off together."

"Yes, I should think so.... We'll have to find homes for them, though, and it isn't likely they can be together long."

"I know. Mrs. Peters said she would keep one of them—and I could take one. I'm sure Laurence would think that right, as he is so much interested in—the father."

Mary's face and tone expressed a sudden repugnance. Hilary half-opened his eyes and looked at her.

"You hate sinners, don't you, Mary? You don't understand why people sin?"

"From weakness," she said.

"And you haven't much pity for weakness.... You don't understand how a man can make a beast of himself with drink, because he's unhappy."

"Do you?"

"Oh, yes, yes, I understand it," said Hilary with a tortured look. "I know what unhappiness and lone[121]liness can do.... Sometimes I wish I didn't. How can I condemn sin when I understand the sinner so well?"

"You must, though," said Mary calmly.

She knew well this mood of his, by this time she knew his weakness. The relation between these two had changed. No longer did she with humility look up to Hilary as a saint. The change was not so much in him as in her. In the old days, before her marriage, Hilary had often accused himself to her as a weak and erring man, he had passionately resisted her attempts to canonize him. Since then he had talked to her more frankly but in the same way, she knew his yearning for perfection, and his despair of it; she knew too, though not by direct expression, his human longings and his loneliness. She no longer idealized him, she did not need to. But he was intensely interesting to her. He was only a man now, but still better than other men, stronger, with higher aims. She admired him. But they now stood more on an equality; her manner toward him had even a tinge of maternal authority. For she felt that all men, all that she knew, however gifted and interesting, were somewhat childish.

She herself had reached maturity. With the birth of her children she had come into her heritage of life. She was now so firmly planted on the earth, so deeply rooted, that it seemed nothing could shake her. The dreams of her girlhood, of life beyond life, passed by her now like the clouds on the wind. She was satisfied, assured.

Hilary's life, even, seemed to her dream-like, cloud-like, because it was so restless, so tormented. The need[122] for incessant action and struggle that drove him, as it drove Laurence in a different direction, seemed to her sometimes absurd. Religion to her meant tranquillity, the calm certitude that one was on the right path, doing one's duty and refraining from wrong. Simple—and easy.

She stayed a little while longer with Hilary, but insisted that he should not talk. She knew that he liked to have her sitting beside him, immobile, her hands folded on her knee, not even looking at him. She knew now very well what her presence meant to him; their constant meeting in the work of the church; their talks, intimate in a sense, though she made no personal confessions to him and he never expressed his feeling for her in speech. She was quite satisfied with this relation, and sure that Hilary would never overstep the bounds of right and reason, even if tempted to do so. She herself had not the least temptation. All her pride lay in keeping things exactly as they were.



That night she proposed to Laurence that they should adopt one of Barclay's children. Laurence did not like the idea at all; he looked discomfited, and so did the Judge. Both felt it would be the intrusion of a stranger into the domestic circle. Laurence had a good reason to give for his objection, and a sincere one—it would be too much for Mary, she had her hands full now, with the house and two small children. Mary said she could manage it, and that it was only right for her to do her part in helping the unfortunates. She looked so calmly resolved as she spoke that Laurence and the Judge exchanged alarmed glances. They did not oppose her directly, but devised a stratagem. Laurence pointed out to Mary next morning that after all they were living in the Judge's house, and the Judge didn't want a strange child there. So they couldn't very well adopt the child, but he, Laurence, would be responsible for its maintenance and care somewhere else.

"Very well," said Mary austerely. "But I think the Judge is very self-indulgent."

"So am I, then," confessed Laurence. "I don't want it either. But honestly, both of us think about you. I don't want you to undertake it, dearest—it's too much."

"If other people, not so well off as we are, can do it, I should think we could."

"It's a question of what we can do best. I'll gladly[124] give the money, and I'm doing all I can for Barclay too, and so is the Judge."

"I know—for him. You're interested in him, but I think you'd do much better to help the children."

"Well, I will help them, you'll see."

Laurence kept his word, and in fact charged himself with the future, as it turned out, of all three children. But Mary was for the moment dissatisfied. She wished to put into instant practice her theories of duty, and utterly scorned theory without practice.

Looking in that afternoon, as she had said she would, to see if Hilary had kept his promise and to report about the children, she mentioned the attitude of her husband and the Judge as explaining why she could not carry out her plan.

"I think men are very inconsistent," she said caustically. "They like to talk about what they'll do for other people, but when it really comes to doing it—"

"A man's reach should exceed his grasp," quoted Hilary. "We always see much more than we can do."

"I think it would be better, then, to see less and do more," remarked Mary.

Hilary looked very weak and pale. His fever was down, but he had kept his bed, unwillingly. Mary had brought him a pot of jelly and a few daffodils from her garden. He held the flowers in his hand, and looked with brooding tender pleasure at their brilliant colour. Mary asked questions about some church-business she was to do for him, and then, in the short remaining time of her visit, they talked about sin.

The conversation of the day before had remained in her mind and puzzled her. She questioned him sharply:


"What did you mean by saying that when you understood the sinner you couldn't condemn sin? Do you really feel that?"

"I often feel it," said Hilary in a low voice.

"Then it would be better for you not to understand the sinner. You said so yourself, you said you wished you didn't."

"Well, I can't help it," Hilary smiled wanly. "Because, you see, I'm a sinner myself."

"Of course you're not. You only like to think you are."

"What is sin? You said it's weakness. Do you think I'm not weak, sometimes?"

"No, I don't think you are. You don't act weakly, and that's the only thing that counts."

"Is it? Don't you think there are sinful thoughts and feelings?"

"Of course. But if we fight against them—"

"Well, don't you think that a man who carries a sinful feeling around with him, even if he doesn't act on it, knows what a sinner is—and do you think he can be very hard on another man who just happens to act?"

Mary cast an angry glance at the pale face turned toward her. There was a look about Hilary's mouth, as though he were repressing a smile. He had a look of mischief, not merry either, but as though deliberately trying to puzzle and disturb her—and she had seen this in him before.

She arose from her chair, and gathered her shawl about her, lifting her chin, stately in her displeasure. Her grey eyes looked down with cold reproof.


"I think instead of talking that way, you'd much better go to sleep."

"Well, good-bye, then," said Hilary.

He turned his head away sharply. His fingers closed tightly on the yellow daffodils. Mary suddenly saw lying there before her, not a man, but a forlorn sick child. For the first time she knew the impulse to comfort this unhappiness, an impulse of tenderness. It frightened her, and she went out quickly, without a word.

Returning home, she found trouble and confusion. The Judge had been taken ill and Laurence had brought him home. Mrs. Lowell was there in the room, a messenger had been sent to try to find the doctor. The Judge was stretched out on his bed, unconscious, his face deeply flushed. Laurence, with Mrs. Lowell's aid, was trying to get some of his clothes off.

"He's had a stroke—just toppled over at his desk—I wish you'd been at home, Mary," said Laurence with sharp reproach. "I don't know what on earth to do for him—"

Silently Mary gave what help she could. They got his coat and boots off, loosened his shirt-collar, put a cold compress on his head. He was breathing heavily and the purple flush deepened, especially on the left side of his face. In her alarm, Mary still remembered the children and that it was the baby's nursing-time, and as there seemed nothing more to do, she left the room. Laurence followed her out.

"You remember he's complained of dizziness several times lately—I tried to have him see your father but he[127] wouldn't, said he thought perhaps he'd been eating or smoking too much. At his age, you know, it's pretty serious—"

"He didn't look well this morning," began Mary, going into the dining-room, where the cook was looking after the children.

"Well, I should think you might have stayed at home, then—where were you?" asked Laurence irritably.

"Please put James in his pen," said Mary, taking the baby. "Hilda, you'd better see that there's plenty of hot water—the doctor may want it."

She carried the baby upstairs and sat down in a low chair in their room to nurse it. When Laurence came in the door, she said directly:

"I went to see Mr. Robertson—he's ill."

"You went yesterday too, didn't you?... You're very attentive to him."

She looked up at him, opposing to harsh irritation her reproving silence.

"I tell you, I don't care to have you going to see him that way, alone. Do you want to be talked about?"

"Don't disturb me when I'm nursing the baby.... There—isn't that Father?"

The clatter of wheels and a hasty run up the steps in fact announced the doctor's arrival. Laurence went downstairs, with an angry parting glance. The baby cried a little, and Mary gathered it to her breast, composing herself, shutting her eyes, trying to banish all disturbing thoughts, even the thought of the Judge. She believed that any disturbance in her when she was nursing reacted at once on the baby. Indeed now the[128] baby cried shrilly and at first refused the breast; but after a few moments, quiet succeeded, and Mary sighed, relaxing. It was a deep physical pleasure to her, to nurse her child—more so with this one than with the first. The baby's strong pull at the breast, for he was a robust infant—his hand opening and shutting on her flesh, the warmth of his little body, the relation of complete confidence and satisfaction—it moved and soothed her. She sank into a dreamy contentment, isolated from all that hurry and trouble downstairs.

But when the baby, replete, had gone to sleep, she laid him on the bed, and at once went down. She was very much concerned about the Judge, though her quiet face and motions did not betray her anxiety. She did what could be done, and awaited her father's verdict silently.

"Apoplexy—he'll recover, undoubtedly, but his left side is affected, there may be a slight paralysis," Dr. Lowell told them. "His habits have been bad—no exercise, too much whiskey and tobacco. And then his age—he must be over seventy. Probably he'll be a good deal of an invalid from now on."

"He won't like that," Laurence said sorrowfully.

"No, he's never taken care of himself, he'll hate it, naturally—but so it is.... It will mean a good deal for you and Mary—the care of him here, and then he won't be able to do any work for some time—perhaps never again, to any extent."

Laurence and Mary looked at one another gravely and sadly—both felt what this would mean to the Judge. When they were alone, Laurence went and took her into his arms.


"I'm sorry I was cross to you," he said softly. "I didn't mean to be rough."

Mary kissed his cheek.

"I know—of course you were terribly worried," was her forgiving response.

"This will be very hard for you, Mary, the Judge being ill—we must get some one to help."

"Well—we'll see.... You'll have a lot of extra work too, Laurence, and you're working so hard now—"

"Oh, I think I can manage," he said absently. "But the thing right now is to get somebody here to help you—he'll have to be watched at night now, and—I tell you, there's Nora. You remember the girl you saw at the office the other day, Nora Skehan, you know I told you I used to know her as a child. She's out of work again, and I'm sure she'd be glad to come. You might try her."

"Well, I'll see," said Mary again.

Laurence held her and looked at her appealingly.

"Mary—I can't bear to have anything wrong with you and me.... Other things go wrong—there's a lot of trouble and worry—but I can't stand it to feel angry at you, or have you angry with me—"

"I don't think I'm ever angry with you," murmured Mary reflectively.

"Well, worse ... you look at me sometimes as if you didn't like me! When you're displeased—it's worse than being angry. I'd rather you'd flame out, the way I do, and get it over with—"

"I'm not like you." She smiled gravely.

"I wish you felt as I do—that you'd do anything rather than have trouble between us—"


"Trouble? What trouble?"

She drew away from him, an instinctive shrinking that hurt him.

"I mean, you don't seem to care that certain things disturb me!" he burst out. "You're so terribly reserved, you keep things to yourself—you do things I don't like, and you don't care that I don't like them—"

"I don't do anything wrong," said Mary proudly.

"You're so sure everything you do is right! No matter how it affects me!"

"You do things I don't like—Barclay, for instance."

"That was a matter—I felt I had to do it—I felt it was right—"

"Well, you must allow me to judge what is right for me. I shall never do what I think wrong."

"What you think! You don't think it wrong then to disturb me by your actions, not to give me your confidence—"

"Confidence?" said Mary haughtily. "I will tell you anything you want to know. I haven't anything to conceal. But you simply don't understand my feelings, certain things I care about that you don't care about—"

"That's it! You take it for granted I can't understand.... I don't want you to have friendships apart from me!"

Mary stood still, looking down, her eyes hidden by the long drooping lids that gave her face a look of passionless calm, inflexible, immovable.

"Do you hear?" cried Laurence.

He knew, even while he could not master his agitation, that it put him in the wrong, that it gave her the ad[131]vantage. But he could not bear opposition from her. To know that they were not completely united, completely one in feeling, was a torment to him.

"Don't shout," she said. "I think this is a queer time for you to talk like this, Laurence—it seems to me you ought to be thinking about the Judge."

"Ought!" he muttered. "Did you hear what I said?"

"Yes, I heard, Laurence. But—" She looked full at him now, her clear grey eyes very bright. "But I will not let you interfere with what I think right to do."

"You will not?... Don't you know that I'm master here, that you're bound to do as I say?"

Again the long lids veiled her eyes, and she stood without replying. And Laurence's heart was burning. This harsh assertion of authority had been wrong, it was not what he meant. He hated force. What good would anything forced from Mary do to him? What he longed for was a tender understanding—but if she would not understand, would not be tender, what could he do but rage?

At this point they were interrupted. Mrs. Lowell called to them from the sickroom, and Mary hurried to take charge there, without a word or look for her husband. Resentment smouldered in her mind, a feeling that Laurence was wrong, and, in addition, undignified. All the rest of the afternoon, busy as she was, and grieved too as she watched the Judge's stricken figure—all this time a turmoil of feeling about Laurence was going on below the surface of her mind. Never had she been so disturbed. This was the first really serious clash in the two years of their life together.



For the first time, her will and Laurence's were definitely, sharply opposed. Heretofore, each of them had yielded, in much that concerned the other, without a clear issue. She felt that she had yielded a good deal to Laurence. He had associates that she did not like, hard-drinking bachelors of the bar, with whom he spent an occasional convivial evening, coming back flushed and gay though never overcome. She did not like even his moderate drinking, nor the fact that he never went to church, that he took no interest in religion except to jest crudely about it. On the other hand, he had not, so far, tried to interfere openly with her interest in the church nor her association with Hilary in work, nor her taking up a course of reading in history and beginning to study Greek under Hilary's direction. He had acquiesced in her asking Hilary to supper a few times, as was her social duty, and had behaved with courtesy, though she knew he disliked "the preacher." He gave no good reason for his feeling, but he expressed it in gibes and bitter jokes about "sky-pilots," the fondness of women for priests, the power of "holiness," and so on. These expressions irritated Mary deeply, but she had passed them over in silence, withdrawing into herself and indicating to Laurence that she did not expect him to understand nor take any part in this interest of hers, any more than she could take part in his stag-suppers.


But this division of interest, this separation, to some extent, of activity, did not affect her feeling about Laurence nor disappoint any desire in her. She was satisfied with Laurence and with the arrangement of her life. The achievement of maternity had given her the solid basis, the central motive, to which everything else was incidental. Laurence was most importantly connected with this motive, but yet in a way he was outside it. And he felt this and raged dumbly against it. What he had dreamed of was a mystic bond between Mary and himself, which should be the centre of all things, subordinating everything else. And this, in his feeling, had not come to pass, because she could not understand nor respond to his desire. He was unsatisfied; therefore demanding, often harsh and bitter, often unreasonable.

Laurence was not contented to be a husband and a father; and this appeared to Mary the height of unreason on his part. To be the head of a family—what more dignified and satisfactory position could he wish, so far as his private life was concerned? If, in addition, he succeeded in his profession, what more could he ask? Why, when everything promised well, should he so often be moody, irritable and discontented? It must be the nature of man, perpetually unquiet.

On one point Mary was a little disingenuous, or perhaps not clearly conscious. Her plan assigned to Laurence the rôle of head of the family; in reality what she expected him to be was a figurehead. This was quite in accordance with custom and tradition. Theoretically, of course, the man was master of his household, and the wife as well as the children owed him[134] obedience. Mary would never have dreamed of disputing this axiom. It was accepted by all the women of her acquaintance. But practice—that was quite another thing. In practice, the women ruled their households and themselves, and very often their husbands also, allowing them liberty of course in exclusively masculine matters, such as business, and a certain amount of license in regard to their amusements. The woman's path was sharply marked out; she could not overstep certain limits. But keeping within those limits, she had her authority and independence.

In her own family, Mary could remember very few occasions on which her mother's actions or decisions had been questioned by the nominal chief. If she were subject to her husband, it did not appear; the household produced the effect of a matriarchy. And this was Mary's idea of the proper constitution of a family. It was unthinkable that the man should interfere in details, should try to dictate in matters outside his province; by so doing, he lost dignity, which it was essential he should maintain.

A wife must always speak to her husband with respect; must never criticize him nor complain of him, even to her nearest friend or relative; his dignity was hers. Also, a certain formality in her address to him was proper. She should use his title, if he had one, as Judge, Doctor or Colonel; or if not, should call him Mr. Brown, rather than John. Mary was conscious that her relation with Laurence, so far, lacked formality. But Laurence hated that sort of thing, and he was very young, for his years. He was nearly thirty, yet he acted like a boy, much of the time.


That afternoon and evening, there were times when there was nothing to be done in the sickroom but to sit and watch; and Mary was thinking. She regretted bitterly the clash with Laurence—those sharp words, her own assertion of independence. There she had made a mistake, had transgressed her own code. Laurence's counter-assertion of authority was also a mistake, but a natural consequence of hers. She should not have set herself up against him, in a personal matter, even if he were wrong. She now found herself obliged either to give battle or to retreat—both alternatives very distasteful to her. She was angry at herself; she had fallen below her own standard, lost her self-control, behaved in an unseemly fashion; and had much weakened her own position.

She perceived now, aghast, that if Laurence actually did command, she would have to obey. She could not openly flout her husband's authority, that was impossible, her own pride would not permit it. The terrible mistake was to have brought him to issue a command. She knew very well that that was not the way to manage.

Sitting by the bedside, her hands folded on her knee, looking straight before her, she thought it out. She did not like the idea of "managing," or gaining any point by methods other than the most simple and direct. Anything underhand, any ruse or scheme, was deeply repugnant to her. She did not like even to "humour" people. How, then, was one to deal with an unreasonable man—must one actually submit to him when he was in the wrong?

Laurence was wrong and unreasonable in this case[136] because he could not possibly think that there was any harm in her friendship with Hilary. He could not possibly suspect her of anything approaching wrong, in that connection. At the mere idea of it, her cheeks fired and her eyes flashed proudly. She felt herself not only impeccable in thought and deed, but above suspicion from him or any one else. Therefore in acting as though he suspected her, or even disapproved of her, he was wronging her deeply....

But let that be, for the moment. The thing to do now, was to retrieve her own false step. She had done wrong—she would set that right, as far as possible. Then at least she would be right, whatever he might be. And it was absolutely necessary for her to be right, in her own feeling. What she saw as the right thing she would do, whatever it cost her.

Having made her decision, she became quieter in mind, and began to think about the Judge. This day was evidently a day of disaster. The Judge would never be the same again. Suddenly she realized that she had grown very fond of him. Affection had been obscured in her by constant disapproval of his character. She disdained fleshly indulgences, such as eating and drinking too much. She had felt scornful when the Judge's face would flush after dinner, when sometimes his speech was a little thick of an evening, when he found difficulty in lifting his heavy bulk. But now that the punishment of these carnal indulgences had fallen upon him, she felt real sorrow. And even, as she thought what was before him, the rare tears rose and softened her grey eyes.


When she had a few minutes alone with Laurence, before he took up his night-watch beside the Judge, she said to him gently:

"I'm very sorry I spoke to you as I did this afternoon. I was wrong. I shall never oppose your will, in anything that concerns myself, if I can help it."

Laurence's troubled gloomy face lit up with a flash of joy. He clasped her in his arms, melting instantly when she showed a sign of yielding, too happy to pause upon the manner of her yielding. His generous spirit, impetuous and uncalculating, carried him much farther in concession. He swept their difference away passionately.

"Dearest, I was wrong too—more than you!... You know, Mary, I don't want to interfere with any pleasure of yours—you know I want you to have everything you want!... And I don't think you want anything wrong, you know I don't think it, not for a minute!... Only I want you to love me more than anything, not to need anything but me, that's all I really want! And you do, don't you? Because I love you more than the whole world—"

"Of course I do," she said softly. "You know perfectly well, I do."

"No, sometimes I don't, and then I get wild! Then I can't bear to have you like any one else at all. Only make me feel that you love me, Mary, and it will be all right. I shan't care what you do, if I'm sure of you!"

"As if you weren't sure of me!" said Mary, with a touch of austerity.


"Oh, I don't mean what you do, I mean your feeling, don't you see?"

"No, I don't. How queer you are, Laurence!"

"No, it's you that's queer!... But I love you."

So the shadow passed, for the time being. But the reality which had cast this shadow remained, the real difference. Both of them were careful now not to bring it up, both repressed themselves somewhat. Mary continued to see Hilary in connection with the church, but she did not ask him to the house. Laurence did not speak of him, nor of Mary's studies, and she kept her books out of his sight. But he knew that she was going on, as he would have said, regardless of his feeling; and she knew that he was still unreasonable about it.

For some time, however, this remained an undercurrent in their life, which was full of activities, interests, anxieties, in which they generally accorded. It was on the whole a happy time for them, an unconscious happiness. They were young and vigorous, life opened out before them full of hope and promise, vaguely bright.



The next year brought significant changes. Laurence made a brilliant personal success in his defence of Barclay, and melted the jury to the point where nearly half stood out for twenty-four hours in favour of a verdict of manslaughter. Finally however Barclay was convicted of murder in the second degree and was sentenced to a long term of imprisonment. Laurence was showered with praise and congratulations for his conduct of the case, his address to the jury had moved a crowded courtroom to irrepressible enthusiasm. His reputation was made.

The Judge had been able to give him some assistance, though he never recovered from his illness. The burden of the partnership now fell upon Laurence, the Judge could only consult and advise in important cases, and as time went on not even that, for his memory was impaired. He suffered and fretted under his restrictions, was a fractious invalid, and the loss of mental power was so sore a grief to him that he resorted for solace to the forbidden whiskey-bottle, perhaps with the desire, unconscious or not, to end it all the sooner.

Nora, now domesticated in the family, was of great assistance with the Judge. Her quick good-humour amused the old man, her energy was unfailing, she was deft and tactful. She became his special attendant, and also helped with the children, for another baby was[140] coming. Nora liked the Judge, but she loved the children, she became devoted to them. Soon she was indispensable in the household. Mary was a little ailing. Three children in less than four years had taxed her strength. But she was well content; she wanted another son, in fact she would have liked six of them, big strapping fellows. Sometimes she saw them in her mind's eye, a robust procession.

During that year the Judge made his will. He desired to leave his property, which was much larger than any one had suspected, to Laurence. But Laurence protested. There were relatives, sisters and nephews, and he couldn't take what ought to belong to them. The Judge, easily excited, flew into a rage, and declared that he didn't care a cuss for any of his relatives, and that he would leave his money to charity rather than to them; nay, lest they should contest his will, he would give away the lot of it during his lifetime, make ducks and drakes of it, throw it away, by God! He would do as he pleased!

Laurence had to calm him, tried to postpone the discussion.

"No," said the Judge fretfully. "Carpe diem—I haven't so many left. I want it settled."

"Judge, how can I take anything more from you? See what you've done for me already. It wouldn't be right—"

"Well, see what you've done for me, you and Mary. You've given me a home, the only one I ever had, you've been like my own children to me, and that's the way I feel about you. And I want you should have something to remember the old man by, when he's gone."


In the end, Mary being consulted and feeling as Laurence did about the money, a compromise was effected. Generous legacies were left to the near relatives, and the remainder, for those days a small fortune, to Laurence in trust for his children, the income to be Laurence's for his life. The Judge, having drawn up and executed what he considered an ironclad will with these provisions, was easier in his mind, and felt that he had nothing more to do in life, except to watch Laurence's progress and give an occasional counsel. Laurence was fairly launched, business poured in upon him, he had two juniors in the office. The Judge rather regretted his tendency to take criminal cases whenever they appealed to him; but he recognized too that Laurence's talent lay in this direction. And then the boy could afford it now, he needn't be looking closely after money. He could afford to take cases that brought him little except reputation, and to have it said that every poor man in trouble knew the way to Lawyer Carlin's office. If Laurence wanted to be the champion of the poor and oppressed, if he could be more eloquent in behalf of an ignorant negro cheated out of his small property than when he had a fat fee in prospect—why, let him go ahead. He was provided for, anyhow.

In his many vacant hours, the Judge fell back on reading, of which he had always been fond. He had a respectable library of classics, bound in calf. He liked Laurence to read aloud in the evenings when work permitted. The Judge had a taste for lofty and magnificent diction. Shakespeare, the Old Testament, Milton, Burton and Macaulay were his favourites. He liked De[142] Quincey too, and Burke's speeches. He could listen by the hour to Milton's prose, or the "Anatomy of Melancholy." He often dwelt on the advantages of such reading, in forming a style. He did not consider that Laurence as yet had a style—he was too simple, too colloquial in his speaking. Rolling sonorous periods, balanced and built up, a wide range of allusion and metaphor, a sombre and weighty splendour, was the Judge's ideal of eloquence.

Mary was usually present at these readings, sitting by and sewing. But her thoughts often wandered—she had not much æsthetic feeling, and poetry bored her. However, she liked the sound of Laurence's voice, as an accompaniment to thoughts which might have no concern with him.

One evening a strange thing happened—Hilary Robertson came to call on the Judge. Laurence happened to be away on business at the county seat—perhaps Hilary knew this. What the purpose of his visit was, did not appear at that time. The Judge received him politely, though a little nervous, and begged Mary to stay when she was about to leave them together. There was a little general conversation, which presently fell upon literature and ended by Hilary's reading at the Judge's request the "Urn Burial" of Sir Thomas Browne. The effect of this stately prose in Hilary's wonderful voice thrilled the two listeners. Mary dropped her work. Something of the feeling of old days came back upon her—some mysterious lifting of the heart, vague pain and yearning at the touch of unearthly beauty. She had hardly felt this since her girlhood, her present life had too much absorbed her.[143] Her eyes were fixed upon Hilary with startled feeling—no one but he, she was thinking, had ever had the power to move this feeling in her, to make her conscious of a world beyond this narrow world she lived in, to make her dissatisfied with herself, unhappy.... And he could do this just by the tone of his voice, reading something that she did not attend to. Music, what little she had heard, produced a similar effect upon her—it was the only form of art that touched her.... But now she resented Hilary's power, she did not want to be stirred or made unhappy. Especially now, when she was carrying a child. Hearing the Judge issue a cordial invitation to Hilary to repeat his visit, she decided that next time she would avoid him.

In the next few months Laurence was away a good deal, and was obliged also to work late in the evenings when at home. The Judge came to depend upon Hilary for at least two weekly visits, when they would read and talk together, and Mary often sat with them, in spite of her judgment. Sometimes she was sorry for it, sometimes not.

Laurence learned of this intimacy with astonishment. Finding how it had begun, he was struck with Hilary's audacity. He had received the Judge's praise of his new friend in silence; all the more incensed because he couldn't openly oppose Hilary nor keep him out of the house.

"I think the Judge is getting childish," he said to Mary darkly.

"He is much weaker," she agreed.

"He must be—to let the preacher get hold of him. That would never have happened if he'd been himself."


She made no reply, but lay in her low chair, looking out across the lawn to where the sunset sparkled red through the trees. Laurence was sitting on the steps near her, carefully cutting the end of a thick black cigar. He glanced up. Mary's look of weariness and sadness startled him.

She was thinking that Laurence did not seem to realize that the Judge was dying, and needed what Hilary gave him. She knew that Hilary had begun to talk to him, gently, of the future, of what he must soon meet; the Judge did not resent it, he was a little frightened, and only clung the closer to the firm hand stretched out to him. Yes, he needed Hilary—to no one else could he confess that he was afraid of death, that he had lived a careless life, that he didn't want to believe in immortality but sometimes couldn't help it.... But, Mary thought, it was no use to try to explain to Laurence.

He felt her sadness without knowing its cause. A quick impulse of alarm and affection made him repentant. He moved closer to her, put his hand on hers.

"Mary, you're not looking well—I'm afraid you're doing too much. Are you very tired?"

"Yes, a little," she said vaguely, without responding to him, her eyes still fixed on the swaying trees and the red glow beyond.

Laurence moved back, struck a match sharply and lit his cigar. At that moment he felt acutely that she was far away from him in spirit. He did not know her thoughts, he had no part in them; if he asked her what she was thinking of, she would not tell him. He had[145] given up asking her. It seemed to him often that it was only the material part of her life that he had any connection with—that she willed it so. But she had another life, it seemed, jealously kept secret from him—a life of thought and feeling. He turned away from her, his face dark and brooding. Laurence could look evil. His narrow blue eyes, half-closed, were menacing. His heavy jaw, thrust forward, teeth clenched on the cigar, spoke the strength of passionate instinct that would not be repulsed nor foiled, that must be active, that would destroy if it could not build. Now he looked destructive.

He had changed much in these few years, grown heavier in body from his indoor life, grown handsomer. He still had his military erectness of carriage, something of the soldier remained in his alertness of movement and speech. But the spring and gaiety of youth were gone. Experience, thought, responsibility, were marked on his face—and there were lines of pain too, visible at times like this.

The Judge came up the walk with Nora. He had been taking his constitutional late, because of the heat, supported by his gold-headed cane and Nora's arm. They were laughing as they approached.

"She's been telling me some of her Irish stories," called out the old man tremulously. "Never was so amused in my life. She's a smart girl, Nora is—and a pretty girl too! Isn't she now?"

Laurence went to help the Judge up the steps. He sank heavily into a chair, keeping hold of Nora's hand, panting.


"Isn't she pretty now?... I like her red hair. I wish I was a young fellow, I'd make up to her.... She'd keep me laughing...."

Nora blushed, laughed, wrested her hand away and ran indoors. Laurence lounged for a moment against the door, and then went in too. He had to go to the office, and went upstairs to fill his cigar-case. Passing the open door of the children's room, he saw Nora, with a candle, bending to arrange a tossed coverlet. He stood looking at her. The candle-flame lit up her shining hair, her red lips and tender eyes. She came out softly, and as she passed him, smiling, Laurence, put his arm around her, drew her close.

"No!" she protested in a whisper.


He felt her tremble in his clasp, felt her frightened, wishing to resist, unable, felt the emotion that shook her at his touch. He bent his head, kissed her on the mouth.



Carlin could not have told himself how nor when his attitude toward Nora had changed, nor when he first became aware that the most ardent feeling of her warm heart was for him. It was all gradual and easy; it seemed to reach far back in the past, and to grow out of their childhood intimacy. Carlin could not remember the time when he had not felt affection for Nora. Affection was still his feeling—but hers was much stronger. And to know that she loved him, humbly, adoringly, passionately, as without any words on her part it was evident she did, could not but influence him.

Nora had always looked up to him, even when they were playmates; he was the bright romantic figure in her life. The years had set him apart from her; he had risen in the social scale and she had remained where she was. She was too humble to feel any bitterness at this. Nay, it was only right, for wasn't it well known that Carlin came of gentlefolk in Ireland? It was natural that Laurence should be a gentleman, and that she, Nora, should be his handmaid. But it was also natural that she should love him. He was the handsomest, cleverest man she had ever seen; and no one else had ever been so kind to her.

Up to the time she entered his household, Nora had certainly never aspired to more than kindness and an occasional word of affection from Laurence; and there[148] for some time she was too happy to want more. She was treated not like a servant, but almost like a member of the family. She had her own pleasant room, she had no hard nor disagreeable work to do; she was always nicely dressed, clean and fresh. She spent her time with the children or the Judge; was in awe of Mary, who however always spoke to her kindly and pleasantly; addressed Laurence as "Mr. Carlin," at which, chatting with her, he would laughingly protest.

Nora did her work with real devotion. Far from feeling that her position was in any way an inferior or degrading one, she made her service so willing, so thorough and complete, she gave it with such pleasure, that it became an art. Mary soon learned that she need not watch Nora, that her instructions would be followed exactly, that nothing would be slurred nor forgotten, that Nora could be trusted to the last detail. As the time approached for the third child to be born, the other two came more and more under Nora's care.

Nora loved Laurence's children. If her own life had been happily arranged, she would by this time have had some children of her own. She was twenty-eight years old, and had never had even a satisfactory love-affair. For this no doubt Laurence was indirectly to blame. His image, bright and radiant, made any swain who might sigh for Nora appear too dull for more than a passing interest. It was not in Nora's nature to be ungrateful for any affection, whatever the source, and she had honestly tried to love her humble suitors, but in vain. She would have liked to marry, her only life in fact being that of affection, but instead she had drifted from one employment to another, untrained, badly paid, always[149] finding something in the rough conditions of her work to disgust or hurt her.

In Carlin's house she found for the first time a pleasant way of living, gentleness, consideration, and she was so happy that her spirit danced and sang all day long. She was deeply grateful to all of them, especially to Laurence, for he had placed her here; she tried to show her gratitude in service to them all. She quarrelled freely, to be sure, with the Swedish cook, whose slowness and awkwardness provoked her contempt. But with the family, inspired by love, she was tactful, graceful, meek; even to Mary, whom she did not love, but admired from a distance.

As time went on she shared more intimately in the life of the family. Through the children she began to feel that she belonged to it. Keenly sensitive to anything that concerned Laurence, she was aware of occasional friction between him and Mary; she saw that he was unhappy sometimes. She began in her mind to criticize Mary, sometimes to be angry with her, on Laurence's account; she sought out things to do for Laurence, put a tender thoughtfulness into the care of his personal belongings. She did not put herself in his way, at least not consciously, but naturally they were always seeing one another. And always her face, her whole being, welcomed him, glowed with pleasure when he stopped to talk to her or bestowed a light caress. The caresses grew more frequent, grew warmer, by insensible gradations. She came to expect his kiss when they met alone; and to dream of it before he came.

Now her happiness was no longer serene and childish, as at first. It was poignant at moments—with intervals[150] of depression and restlessness. But Nora was nearly incapable of reflection or of looking beyond the moment; she had no wisdom except what love gave her, and that did not help her to take care of herself.

Nora's helplessness had always been evident to Laurence. He had felt that she needed to be taken care of, and he still felt it. He felt that he was taking care of her. Nora needed affection, she could not work like a menial without any reward but money. Money could not buy such service as hers. It was done for love, and love must be its reward—tenderness such as one would give to a child, or a sister.... Just when his affectionate recognition of Nora passed this line, Laurence could hardly have told. It was connected, though, with his feelings about Mary, with a wounded resentment that burned in him the deeper for having little expression. When Mary hurt him by her coldness or absorption in something apart from him, he was more apt to take or make a chance of being with Nora alone. These interviews came to have a secret, a stolen character; snatched moments, a word, a look, an embrace.

Laurence did not feel that he was doing harm to Nora. He did not feel anything very deeply about her—his strong feelings were all for other things. That he was irresponsible, unscrupulous, he would have denied blankly. But his mood was reckless. He wanted the comfort of Nora's warmth, her utter acceptance of him, her trembling joy in his caress. From his obscure jealousy, he wanted obscurely to revenge himself on Mary, though she was never to know that he had done so. Lately, Nora had shown some fear—but fear was not resistance. Well he knew that she could never resist any impulse, any desire of his.



On the thick summer air, in the close room, the scent of flowers was overpowering. Laurence, standing by the door, looking round at the silent black assemblage, at the black coffin heaped with roses, felt deeply impatient with this show of grief. No one there grieved for the Judge, except perhaps Nora, sobbing in a corner, and himself. Mary was upstairs, not able to be present.

He looked coldly at Hilary, reading in his deep musical voice the funeral service. It was the custom to pronounce a panegyric on the departed; and he wondered what Hilary would say, and waited cynically for some hypocritical praise, for how could the preacher appreciate the Judge's real qualities? But he underrated Hilary's honesty. In truth it was impossible for Hilary to praise the Judge's life and character. It was not for him to betray the confidence of the old man's last days, of his fears, doubts and regrets, his halting steps toward the unknown. So he uttered simply a brief prayer, full of solemn tenderness for the passing soul. In Hilary's feeling the infinite was like the living air surrounding, interpenetrating, every finite thing; there was no line between life and death, except for a personal loss. To him also, the funeral panoply was unpleasant; he also reflected that the Judge had perhaps only one or two real mourners.

When it was all over and Laurence had returned to[152] the house alone, he went up to see Mary. She was lying in bed, in the big room they shared together; she looked very white and tired and had evidently been weeping. Laurence bent to kiss her tenderly, and sat by her, holding her hand.

"He was a good friend to us," she said at last softly.

"Yes, he was, indeed."

"He thought everything of you, Laurence."

"I didn't deserve it especially."

"I'm sorry for him now, I'm afraid he feels very lonely."

Laurence looked at her uneasily.

"Because, you see," she went on slowly, "he never thought about his soul, till just lately, or about another life. It will be very strange to him. He was so worldly."

"He was a good man," asserted Laurence, frowning.

"No, Laurence, he wasn't," said Mary with inflexible regret. "He was bound up in worldly things, and had no light. So it will be hard for him."

"I don't think you are in a position to judge him," said Laurence sharply.

But then, seeing her tears begin to flow again, he reproached himself and tried to comfort her with soft words and kisses. He resolved once more that until Mary was quite strong again he would not cross her in anything, that even if she were unreasonable he would remember her state and be patient. He was really alarmed about her, she had never been ill before, never in the least morbid. Several times lately she had frightened him by saying that she thought she would die when this baby was born; and dissolving in tears[153] for the other two babies who would be left motherless. Altogether she was unlike herself. Laurence, profoundly worried, had talked to Mary's father, who told him that she had had her children too fast and was tired out for the time, and naturally affected by the Judge's illness, but that there was no cause for great alarm. But at the mere idea of losing Mary, Laurence was deeply shaken. He would not have said that he was happy with her—in fact for the past year he had seldom felt happy—but he couldn't imagine being anything but miserable without her. He had loved her too long, too exclusively, to live without her. And always he had the hope, though sometimes unconscious, that she would change and love him as he wanted her to. That was all that was lacking, he thought, to make him perfectly happy. He believed in happiness and never ceased to expect it.

"Laurence," said Mary, when her tears had stopped, insensibly soothed by his tenderness, "I wish the Judge hadn't left us that money. We didn't need it."

"Well, sometimes I wish so too," he answered thoughtfully.

He was perfectly sincere in this. At times, after the Judge's will was made, the thought of the money had weighed on him. He disliked the feeling of obligation, even to the Judge; he would have liked to owe his advancement to his own efforts alone. But the Judge had stood behind him and helped him on, in every way. He was grateful, and yet he was burdened by that help.

In later years he was never able to forget it. Then it seemed to him that he owed his career to the Judge[154] and to the condemned criminal Barclay, who had died in prison, for it was the Barclay case that gave him his professional start. He showed gratitude as best he could. He put up for the Judge a massive monument of granite; and he maintained Barclay's children. But he would have preferred to be independent of any assistance. He was conscious of powers that could make their way unaided. And he disliked the feeling that he had not been able to mould his life just as he wished, that in some ways it seemed made for him by forces beyond his control. That feeling did not yet oppress him, he was still too full of youthful energy; it was only an occasional shadow.

But many times, in the course of the next months, Laurence wished the Judge's money at the devil or in the hands of his disappointed relatives. Laurence, as executor of the will, had to deal with innumerable details and complexities that bored and bothered him; he hated "business." When finally the estate was settled, the relatives having decided not to contest the will, Laurence found himself in possession of a handsome income. The Judge had shown his faith in the future of Chicago by investing largely in real estate there; these holdings were rapidly increasing in value. They were in the business section and the rentals were high. In addition, the Judge's house and its contents, and his horses, were left personally to Laurence.

For a time, his enjoyment of these things was clouded. The attitude of the Judge's relatives had stung him, in spite of his consciousness that his efforts alone had procured them any share in the property. He was extremely sensitive to disapproval, to criticism, espe[155]cially to any reflection on his independence. To feel that some people, perhaps many of his fellow-citizens, thought his relation with the Judge an interested one, that he might be suspected of "making a good thing" out of the Judge's friendship, galled him deeply. He knew that never in his life had he used any indirect means for his own advancement, that he was incapable of using people for his own interest, and he hated to appear what he was not. It was more than the pride of an honest man in keeping his reputation clear of any spot. Laurence cared more than he could admit about public opinion, about his position in the eyes of his fellow-citizens. Their admiration was necessary to him. His ambition could be satisfied only by predominance without any shadow on it, any reproach or sneer.

Professionally he understood how to keep himself safe from anything of that sort. There he stood on solid rock. His reputation for uprightness, for indifference to money, was unquestioned. He began to be considered "eccentric"; no one could predict what cases he would take, what refuse, except that the more unpromising a case appeared, the more apt he was to take it. He made enemies, of course; but this sort of enmity pleased him. He liked to be called "quixotic" and to be accused of "tilting at windmills." In the law he knew perfectly well what he was about. His law was sound; he worked faithfully and constantly to build up his knowledge. He aspired to the judicial ermine, and a spot upon it would have killed his pride. He would be known as an able and incorruptible judge.

He would not owe his position to politics, either, if he could help it. Judge Baxter had been a busy pol[156]itician, and had striven to initiate Laurence into the local situation. But Laurence had not been interested; he hated wire-pulling and contests for power. Naturally he belonged to the party that had supported the war and was now all-powerful. But he wanted none of the spoils, at present. His political activity was confined to supporting what he thought good candidates and opposing bad ones; his test being the public welfare. He had identified himself more than he would have thought possible with his town. Its growth and prosperity had become important to him. He wanted the town improved and did not want it plundered, and had made his position clear. It suited him—active, and yet aloof from any vulgar scramble for profit. The enemies made for him by this activity he despised; they could not hurt him, he was too strong. The public esteem that he cared for was increased rather than otherwise by their opposition.



But he had his vulnerable point.

When he saw money coming in faster than he could spend it, piling up at the bank, he felt that the time had come to change their way of living. The house that he had wanted to live in had been in his mind for years. It remained only to get an architect from Chicago and have the plans drawn for the stately mansion of his dreams.

Yes, one other thing—to persuade Mary that she too wanted it.

Mary had another son now—a frail infant in whom her life and thoughts seemed centred. It had been a question whether this child would live, and she still watched it with anxious care. She had not fully recovered her own health after its birth—she was thinner, looked much older. For the first time she was a little careless of her own appearance, thought nothing of her dress, and even her rich hair lost its lustre and sometimes straggled untidily from its heavy knot.

Laurence did not like this change in her—her total absorption in the nursery, her prevailing anxiety, which seemed to him exaggerated. His children had not reached the stage of development necessary to interest his mind. He was fond of them, proud of the two sturdy older ones, and concerned about the sickly youngest.[158] But he could not see why Mary couldn't take a little interest in life outside them. It was partly his desire to give her another interest, something that she could share with him, that made him broach the subject of the house. He wanted a more social life—something that they could join in, beside mere parenthood. Magnificence would become Mary, if she only thought so. She was a beautiful and stately woman, in spite of her present neglect of herself, and would be in her proper place at the head of a big establishment. She ought to have more servants, to entertain, to wear rich dresses of silk, to be adorned with jewels. He wanted to see her so—he wanted more amusement, more gaiety. They were both young—why bury themselves in a mere daily round of work and care?

Mary at first opposed his idea, but languidly, from mere lack of interest in it. When he grew warm and petulant, and passionately accused her of not caring for anything that he did or for any of his wishes, she yielded the point without more ado. It was Laurence's money, of course he could do as he liked with it. She thought they were very comfortable as they were, but if he didn't like the house and wanted a bigger one, very well, let it be built. One house or another was much the same to her.

Laurence drove out with her one day to see the site he had selected—on the outskirts of the town, which was however rapidly growing. It was a big pasture, running from the road back to the edge of the lake—a rough piece of ground, thickly overgrown with weeds and with straggling willows under which the cattle gathered. But Laurence already saw it laid out in[159] lawns and shrubbery, framing the great house of brick and stone that should dominate the town. Here would be the stables, there the gardens. There should be a boathouse on the lake, there should be a screen of rapidly-growing trees along the road, a splendid entrance with tall gates, a graveled drive leading to the house.

His face lit up as he eagerly explained it all to Mary, pointing with his whip, holding in the restive horses with a strong hand, turning the light buggy dexterously around the rough prairie hillocks and mud-holes. A bull came out of a group of cattle and looked at them sullenly with lowered head. The horses wheeled and started nervously. But Laurence with the lash of the whip and firm control, forced them to pass directly in front of the menacing animal, and continued his talk. Mary listened, wrapped up in her mantle, agreeing to all his suggestions....

It was a bright autumnal day, clear and crisp, with a strong breeze blowing. Yellow leaves from nut-trees and maples swirled in clouds along the ground and covered the road. Laurence wanted to drive a little further into the country; Mary assented, saying that she must be at home by six o'clock.

"You ought to get out more—even this little drive has done you good, you have some colour," Laurence said, leaning over to kiss her cheek.

She smiled, shut her eyes with pleasure, feeling the rush of the wind as they drove against it.

"Yes, I'd like to drive every day—you manage them so well."

"Then we will! I'll try to get away for an hour each[160] day, if you'll come, Mary.... But you always have some tiresome thing to keep you at home."

"Do you call the children tiresome things?" she asked, smiling.

"Well—I do, sometimes," he confessed. "They take so much of you.... I'd like to drive you away somewhere, now, away from all of it, for a while. I wish we could run away together. I hardly ever see you, Mary!"

"You see me every day, except when you're away—I should think you must be tired seeing me."

"I never see you alone, except at night and then you're always tired.... I want things arranged so you won't have so much to do, so that we can have an evening together sometimes—go out somewhere or be alone together, without your having to go and sit with some baby or other," said Laurence with sudden peevishness.

"Well, you know, bringing up a family isn't all pleasure," Mary reminded him with mild reproof.

"I should say it wasn't!... But there might be a little. You might think about me, once in a while, and put on a pretty dress and sing to me, the way you used to. You'll be getting old if you keep on this way!"

"With three children you can't expect me to look like a girl," Mary protested.

One of the trotters shied at a paper blown across the road, both horses reared and the light buggy rocked dangerously. Laurence lashed them, stinging blows, then checked their leap with a wrench, pulling them back on their haunches.

"Laurence! You shouldn't lose your temper with the horses," remonstrated Mary.


"They have to know who's master," he answered curtly. "But you make me angry, talking that way about yourself. You're not thirty yet, and you want to live like an old woman! Why don't you put on a cap and spectacles?"

"Well, my mother wore a cap when she was thirty. At thirty a woman can't pretend to be young," said Mary, smiling.

"Pooh, your mother! A woman with your looks, too! You'd be more beautiful than ever if you'd take care of yourself. You haven't ever worn that silk dress I brought you months ago."

"Oh, I haven't had it made up—it's much too gay, Laurence! You know I never wear colours."

"Well, you ought to.... I should think you might want to please me, once in a while.... But you women! All you think about is children, and a man can go hang himself, for all you care. You wouldn't even want him around, if you could have children without him!"

"How you talk! Anybody would think you didn't care about the children!"

"I care a lot more about you than I do about them—but it isn't the same with you. What's the use of having children if nobody's going to enjoy life—if everybody's just to go along doing their duty and raising up another generation to do the same thing? Hey, what's the use of it?"

"I don't think the use of it is enjoyment," said Mary. "It isn't meant to be."

"Just like you! How do you know what it's meant to be? Have you had any private revelation from God about it?... Well, I tell you that I don't see any use[162] in life if there isn't any pleasure in it—and that I'm going to enjoy my life, anyhow, and when I don't, it will be time to quit!"

"Laurence, you're a pagan," said Mary gravely.

"A pagan is better than a psalm-singing hypocrite, that wants to take all the pleasure out of life!"

"Do you mean me by that?" she enquired gently.

"No, I don't mean you! You're not a hypocrite, whatever else you are.... If you'd only unbend a little, once in a while, and let yourself have a good time, you'd be all right. But you got a lot of foolish ideas into your head when you were a girl—and I know who put them there too. And you hang onto them like grim death, you're so obstinate you won't ever give up an idea or anything else. You won't change—no matter if you see it makes me unhappy—"

He broke off suddenly, and for some moments they were both silent. They were now far beyond the town, out on the open prairie. Great fields of stubble from which the grain had been reaped, stretched on either side. In spite of the bright sun and the fresh wind, the outlook over these endless yellow-brown flats, broken by dull-green marsh or dark belts of new-turned soil, was not cheerful. Dreary, rather, and sombre was the prairie, its harvest yielded, waiting now for the sleep of winter. In the distance, a grey smudge on the horizon showed where lay the great sprawling smoky city. With his eyes fixed on this Laurence said:

"But I've known a long time that you don't really care anything about me."

"You shouldn't say such things—you know better.... It's only that we don't look at life in the same way."


"And you're contented to have it so! But I'm not. Why can't you see it more as I do, Mary? I think you would, if you cared about me."

"No, I can't, you are so personal about it. You want things so much for yourself, and you will always be disappointed, Laurence. Life isn't given us for our personal pleasure."

"You talk like a book or an old greyhead.... I don't think it's living at all to slide through life thinking about something else—not to want anything for fear you'll be disappointed! I think that's cowardly. It's better to try for things."

"Yes, but what things? I can't care much about worldly things—houses to live in and clothes to wear. I can't, Laurence."

"You seem to think that's all I care for," he said bitterly. "But you don't understand me and don't try to. What I wanted isn't houses and clothes! It was something very beautiful, to me. Something that would last for our whole life—and beyond it. But you couldn't see it. Even now you don't know what I mean."

The suffering in his voice touched her, she leaned toward him and laid her cheek to his.

"I wish I could be what you want—I wish you could be happy," she said.

"You could be, if you wanted to be!... No, I'm not happy, and I can't be contented this way, Mary, I warn you, I can't be!"

The menace of his suppressed violence left her silent and impassive. He too fell into moody silence, and so they returned to the house.


That night the whole town was roused from sleep, to see a red glare in the sky where by day hung the grey smudge over the city. The news came over the wires—Chicago was burning. A strong wind blew the smoke over the prairie, the town was enveloped in a dim haze. Trains came in, bringing refugees. Later, crowded into all sorts of vehicles, they poured in. The town opened its houses to the flood of terrified homeless people. All night blazed that red light in the sky. The wires went down, but each new arrival brought a story of more complete destruction, of whole streets of wooden houses bursting into flame at once, of brick buildings melting like wax in the furnace. By morning the city of half a million people was in ashes.



But the energy of youth does not stop long to mourn over destruction. Hardly had the ground cooled under that vast heap of ashes when it was torn up for new foundations. Almost overnight a new city began to rise, a prouder city where brick and stone largely took the place of wood. Ruin was swept away and forgotten, men toiled in the busy ant-hill to rebuild their fortunes, and within a year it was done. The city spread along the shore of the lake and far inland, bigger than ever, busier than ever, more splendid and prosperous.

At first, in the general ruin, Laurence had thought himself involved. His rent-producing buildings were gone, and the insurance companies prostrate. But the land remained, and by the outleap of energy and hope in the people, became more valuable than before. Long before the end of the year Laurence was at ease about his property. And so the new house that he had planned began to rise from its deep foundations.

The house became to Laurence a symbol, a personal expression. Indeed, it had been that, from his first idea of it. But as time went on, more of his constructive energy went into it. Checked in another way, an immaterial way, he must still be building something. The house at least was his creation, all his own, and it became a keen interest, almost a passion. The plans were drawn and redrawn till they suited him, he scruti[166]nized each detail, he spent all the time he could spare in watching the workmen. When from the stone foundation the walls began to grow, layer on layer of deep red brick, he sat or lounged about by the hour, smoking one thick cigar after another, impatient, already seeing in his mind the whole structure complete up to the spire on the cupola, and planning the decoration of the stately rooms.

Mary sometimes accompanied him. She made an effort to do so, and to join in his interest. But it was somewhat as she might have joined in a child's play, humoring him, and he saw this. Nevertheless, he was glad to have her there with him, to talk to her about it, to ask her advice. But the ideas were all his—she had not many suggestions to offer, and these were practical ones, about pantries, closets, and so forth. The scale of the house rather daunted her—sometimes she murmured that it was going to be hard to run it, with nothing but raw untrained servants to be had.

"Well, you can train them," said Laurence cheerfully.

He planned the entrance-hall with its stately stair, its niches for statues; the billiard-room on the top floor; the library, with long windows looking out on the lake and a chimney-piece of dark marble reaching to the ceiling.

He wanted the house to be gay, inviting, festive in appearance—yet his plan was rather sombre than gay, grandiose. In spite of himself, what he chose had this character. The wish to make a striking effect, to impress and dominate, was stronger than the desire to please. Perhaps this came from the poverty and bareness of his early life—perhaps from some lingering ancestral memories of the old world. He wanted splendour,[167] but he wanted it somehow aged and mellow, he did not like the appearance of newness. So the colour of the house was dark, dark wood was used in it. When it came to wall-papers and hangings, he chose them of heavy textures and deep colours. A sombre and dusky red was a favorite—he used that in the hall, the billiard-room and the library. He wanted Mary to choose the colour for the parlours, but in the end he decided that too, and it was a dark gold, with heavy double curtains of lace and silk subduing the faint gleam of the walls, and great chandeliers to light it up on festive occasions.

All this cost a great deal of money—how much, Mary did not enquire. She took it for granted that Laurence could manage his own affairs—and they both looked upon the fortune inherited from the Judge as his, though of course it was left in trust to the children. That was a formality, the money had been meant for Laurence. Naturally he would not impair the capital, but would rather increase it, by good investments. The house was an investment—what could be safer than that? The Judge had always laid stress on the value and safety of real estate. And already the value of his estate had increased largely. Values were going up everywhere. A wave of prosperity had overflowed the country. With the settling of political troubles, the new sense of security, a feeling of boundless wealth and opportunity sprang up and prevailed. The great west opening its riches, the quick growth of cities, fortunes made overnight almost, golden fortunes beckoning on every hand—the eyes of men were dazzled, the gold-fever ran in their veins. Gaining and spending went hand[168]-in-hand. A new luxury was spreading. Money-scandals spread too, and a cynical perception that those in high places were by no means above lining their pockets in alliance with the rising power of Wall street. Speculation was the note of the time. Merchant princes, railroad barons, money kings, made a new aristocracy, prodigal and flamboyant, and set the fashion for living.

These big splashes in the pool, spreading tumultuous waves, had subsided into ripples before they reached the inlet where Mary lived; but the quiet surface of her life was to some degree disturbed. The restlessness of the time reached even her, but as something to be resisted as far as possible. The few friends she had were staid people, rather older than herself, and with these or with her parents, she preferred to spend what leisure she had. Her household mainly absorbed her energies, not yet restored to their normal pitch. Even with Nora, the care of the children was a constant occupation. The delicate youngest child was Mary's special charge. He shared her room, sometimes banishing Laurence, who could not wake at night after working all day.

The other boys, now six and five years old, were handsome robust fellows, noisy and inventive of mischief. The question of their education troubled Mary. She herself taught them to read, and began their religious instruction. She did not want to send them to the town school, fearing profane influences. Her early passionate tenderness for them had become a grave solicitude. Nora petted and spoiled the boys, but Mary was their taskmaster and mentor. Nora often lost her temper with them, and slaps alternated with kisses. Mary was[169] calm and serious, severe with their moral lapses, such as fibbing and disobedience, rarely caressing them. She felt for them much more tenderness than she showed, believing that it was not good for them to be petted. On Hilary's advice, she had not taught her boys Greek, though by this time she could read it pretty well herself. But she taught them the Bible; they went to church with her, and on Sundays they had to learn and recite to her a certain number of verses; and she heard them say their prayers at night, encouraging original efforts.

For some time past she had felt that Nora was not a good influence. She was too much of a child herself, stormy, impetuous, without any authority over the boys. When she could not control them, she would threaten, scold and at times use physical violence, always repenting it, though, and making up with kisses and fond words. Mary had forbidden her to slap the children and sharply reproved her when she broke any of the rules laid down for them. Then Nora would sulk. In fact her temper had become noticeably bad.

One day in late September, after a week's absence, trying a case at the county seat, Laurence was expected home. Nora dressed both the boys in clean white suits, combed their curls with nervous fluttering fingers, set them on the porch with injunctions not to stir and ran up to her own room to put on some adornment. The carriage drove up. Mary met Laurence at the door, and after his usual warm greeting stood a moment in the hall while he took off his coat and brought in his bags. Suddenly piercing shrieks sounded from the shrubbery. Both parents rushed out, to find the boys,[170] just dragged out of a mud-puddle, daubed from head to foot and undergoing corporal punishment at the hands of Nora, whose angry shouts vied with their screams. Mary seized the children, ordered Nora away and received a rude answer; whereupon Laurence spoke sternly to Nora; and she turned white, trembled and fled to her room. Passing her door later Mary could hear her wild sobbing. She could hear too, while dressing the boys anew, that Laurence went in and spoke to Nora; could hear the firm curt tones of his voice.

Presently he came into the nursery, and she said:

"I really think I can't keep Nora. I can't have scenes like this."

"No, I've told her so," said Laurence, frowning. "I've told her that she can't speak to you like that, and that if she can't control herself she'll have to go."

He looked disturbed and distressed, and Mary said no more at the time. Nora stayed in her room, and Mary gave the boys their supper and put them to bed. They were angelically good. As she was hearing their prayers, Laurence came in, looked at the two little kneeling figures and at Mary, with a touched and tender smile. Prayers over, the boys wanted to romp with their father, whom they adored, who was always gay and playful with them, a radiant visitor bringing gifts. He played with them until dinner-time, tucked them into their cribs, and went downstairs with his arm around Mary, whistling boyishly. Nora did not appear to serve the dinner, but her absence was hardly noticed. Laurence had much to tell of his week away. He had won his case, and was jubilant. It was one of the few cases he took which would mean a big fee—a will contest, involving[171] a large estate. He had taken it because the personality of the defendants appealed to him, and he knew and disliked the man who was contesting the will. Laurence held that a man had a right to leave his money as he pleased, and to disinherit a son who had offended him. He felt that he had been defending the just cause, and the elation of his victory was without blemish.

"I shall charge them ten thousand—they're willing to pay more than that. So you see, Mary, you needn't worry about the price of carpets," he laughed.

After dinner he lounged in an easy-chair in the library, relaxed, tired but still talkative, smoking his big black cigar and watching with bright and contented eyes Mary at her sewing. He was always happy at returning home, the first hours at least were bright and cloudless. And Mary was always glad to have him come back. She missed him deeply when he was away. He often brought disturbance, but he brought too something that she needed. Life without him had a duller surface, a slower current, though it might be more peaceful.

He had forgotten the unpleasant incident of his arrival, but Mary had not. She thought of the children and presently laid down her work and said that she must see if they were covered properly—the night had turned cold. She went upstairs, with her firm slow step. A light was burning in the nursery. As she entered she saw Nora kneeling by one of the cribs, her face bowed, hidden. Nora raised her head and turned toward the door a look that startled Mary. What did that mean—that radiant face, eyes gleaming with tenderness, mouth half-opened and smiling? In a flash it changed. Nora dropped her eyes, all the light went out of her. She got[172] up, smoothed the coverlet over the sleeping child. And Mary with a glance at the other crib, went out of the room without speaking.

She returned to the library, took up her work again, listened to Laurence, responded to him, smiling tranquilly on him; after a time moved to sit beside him at his behest, and answered his caress. But all the time there was a puzzled question in her mind, something obscure, hauntingly unpleasant. Something that in a sinister way disturbed even the current of her blood, made her heart beat heavily. It was a kind of fear, a vague terror of—she knew not what exactly, but something there, close to her, that she loathed and shrank from.

She had never had a moment of jealousy or suspicion of Laurence. Nothing of that sort had existed for her, it had never entered her world for an instant. Now she hardly recognized it, except as a formless shadow of evil. Deceit, treachery—could she phrase such things, even to herself? But the shadow remained. It poisoned her sleep, it was there at her waking.... In spite of herself, not admitting it to herself, she suspected—she watched.



A wild November night. The wind tore furiously across the prairie, sweeping the rain in slanting sheets. It was growing colder; rain became sleet; before morning it would be snow.

It was nearly midnight when Mary shut the door behind her and gathering her shawl over her light dress, rushed out into the storm. She was not sure she had been seen, but she ran, fearful of being overtaken. The icy rain drove in her face, on her uncovered head, soaked her dress under the flapping shawl. She had not far to go, but she was drenched from head to foot before she reached Hilary's house. She met no one in the street, it was not a night to be abroad. The trees tossed wildly overhead, letting go their last yellow leaves, the street-lights flickered dimly in the gale. There was a light in Hilary's study. She opened the house-door and walked into his room without knocking.

He was writing at his table, and sprang up as she entered, with a startled exclamation. She held out her hands to him, dropping her wet shawl, clutched his arm, clung to him, unable to speak. For the first time Hilary held her in his arms, her head with dishevelled streaming hair lay on his shoulder. She would have fallen if he had not held her. He thought she had fainted. Half-lifting her, he put her on the sofa, where she sank limp, and knelt beside her, putting back the wet strands of[174] hair from her face. Her eyes were shut, but her eyelids flickered, her lips moved.

"Mary, for heaven's sake, can't you tell me what has happened?"

She heard him, nodded faintly, groped for his hand and clutched it as though to save herself from sinking. He waited while she fought to get back her hold on herself. For the first time in her life she had nearly lost consciousness, and she was terrified; it was like a black wave rearing over her head, threatening to engulf her. That feeling passed, slowly, Hilary's grasp sustained her, lifted her out of the dark flood.... She drew a long sobbing breath and opened her eyes.


She had never called him so before.

"Yes, I'm here."

"I came to you.... I came.... There was nobody else...."

"Yes, Mary, you're cold, you're shivering.... Lie there a minute while I stir up the fire."

"Yes, but don't go away!"

"No, I'm not going."

Reluctantly she let go his hand. He shook down the coals of the stove, put on some sticks of wood, brought coverlets to put over her.

"Mary, you're wet through.... Don't you want me to speak to Mrs. Lewis, get you some dry clothes?"

"No, no—no! I'll be warm in a minute...."

She sat up, gathered her loose hair together, trying to wind it into a knot.

"Look here, Mary, I have a warm dressing-gown. Take off your wet dress and put it on—go into my room[175] there. And take off your shoes—good heavens, you've only got thin slippers! Here, I'll get you my slippers.... I'll bring the things, you can change here."

"No, I'm all right now. I'll go in there."

She stood up and moved without faltering. When she came out, wrapped in the grey gown, her hair smoothed back and rolled into a heavy knot, she had regained something of her usual manner. But she was deadly pale and her eyes looked dull and dazed, as though she had received a heavy blow. She sat down before the fire. Hilary sat near her, and holding his hand tightly in both hers, she told him in broken sentences what she had discovered.

"You must tell me what to do.... I shall never go back to him."

Hilary was silent.

"What shall I do?" she repeated, looking imploringly at him.

"But if you have made up your mind already—" he hesitated.

"Not to go back? Oh, yes.... But where shall I go?"

"Why, I should think—to your parents. Where else could you go?"

Now she was silent, and an expression of profound dislike and unwillingness made her face sullen. She dropped Hilary's hand and sat looking at the fire. Then suddenly she began to weep violently.

It was long before she could control herself again. Then she was quiet, crouched before the fire, staring at it with a look of despair.


Indeed the foundations of her life seemed to have crumbled under her. She had a lost, helpless feeling. Something had been violently wrenched away from her—a support that she had thought secure. She had never thought that Laurence could fail her, she had been sure of him. But he had deceived, betrayed her confidence. He had wounded her pride in him and in herself, to the death. She hated his sin, she despised him for it. What she had seen filled her with loathing. Never would she forgive him.

But now—what could she do? How make her life over again? Take her children and go back to her parents, as Hilary suggested? A woman separated from her husband—what a humiliating position for her! A public confession of failure! How could she go to her parents and tell them that she had made a mistake, that their opposition to her marriage was justified? And the comments of her little world, how could she bear those, she who had always stood so proudly above criticism? No matter what the reason for the separation, a woman who left her husband was always criticized. And she did not want to give her reason—not to any one, not even to her parents. She wanted nobody to know. Rather would she bury the events of this night in darkness....

She looked at Hilary, who sat by her in silence. If he had uttered a word of pity or condolence, she would have regretted the impulse that brought her to him. But he met her look gravely; then glanced at the kettle he had set on the stove, which was now beginning to steam.


"I shall make you some coffee—you look exhausted," he said.

"Oh, don't bother—I don't care for it," she protested dully.

"No bother—I often make it when I'm up late. I have everything here."

He fetched the coffee-pot, poured on the boiling water, set it back on the stove. A pleasant aroma filled the room. He brought a tray, with a cup, and sugar, and crackers, and Mary took it with a murmur. The coffee was good—she drank two cups of it and felt revived.

"Won't you have some?" she said, with a faint smile.

"I haven't another cup—but I'll get a glass."

They drank together. It was warm before the fire, sitting there, hearing the wind roar and the rain beat against the windows.

"I'd like to stay here," said Mary dreamily.

"To stay ...?"

"Yes—tonight. Can I stay? It must be late."

Hilary looked at his watch.

"Nearly three o'clock ... of course you must stay, you can't go out in the rain. You can lie down on the sofa here—or take my bed. You ought to sleep."

"No, no, I don't want to sleep.... But I mustn't keep you up all night. You go to bed, Hilary, and I'll stay here by the fire. Please."

"Well, after a while.... But Mrs. Lewis gets up early and I want to see her—I'll have to tell her you're here—"

Mary's face darkened. For an instant she had lost the feeling of what had happened, now it swept back[178] upon her. The morning was coming—how was she to face it? Laurence would know of her absence, perhaps knew it now. He might go to her parents, he might come here to fetch her. She must decide something.

"Don't you think I ought to leave him?" she asked, looking at Hilary.

"I don't know. Do you mean—divorce him?" he replied with an effort.

"Divorce! No!" Mary exclaimed with a look of horror. "You don't believe in divorce!"

"I don't believe in it," said Hilary in a low voice. "Nor in separation."

"I know—I know you don't. But...."

"You know what I believe. That marriage is a sacrament ... that it can't be broken or annulled...."

"But if one has broken it—"

"One may sin against it—but another's sin does not—does not justify—"

Hilary got up, putting down his glass with a shaking hand, and walked to the window.

"I know. I believe as you do," said Mary darkly.

"But ... how can I go back there?"

Over the pallor of her face swept a flaming colour, her eyes flashed with rage.

"In my own house!" she cried hoarsely.

She set her teeth, clenched her hand. Hilary, with his back to her, did not see her face, but he heard her tone.

"You have your children, you have your—duty," he said in a trembling voice. "Just because it is hard, you can't—forsake it."


"No," said Mary blankly. "But ... I can't see ... I have been dutiful ... but now—I can't be the same. I can never be the same! What can I do?"

"Not the same ... but perhaps ... better," said Hilary from the window.

"Better?" she cried in a low tone of astonishment.

"Better—yes.... When one near to us fails ... must we not feel we have failed, too?... Can we stand aside, and condemn?... Are we not ... our brother's keeper?"

After these faltering yet firm words there was silence for a time. Then Mary said in a hard tone:

"I can't see where I have failed.... I have tried to do my duty, as I saw it.... I can't feel responsible for this ... and I can never forgive it."

"Only love can forgive."

"No, that's why I can't forgive!... I did love him, and he deceived me, insulted my love—I will never forgive him!"

"It's pride that speaks—not love."

"You know nothing about it! You can't know!"

"I do know, Mary."

Hilary turned and faced her.

"How can you say that? You know that I loved you for many years, that I loved you as any man loves a woman, that I wanted you for my own ... I can tell you now, because it has passed. It has changed. But I suffered what one can suffer from that feeling—and from jealousy. Yes, I do know.... And I know too that you have never loved any one."

"You are mistaken."


Her tone was proud and angry. But then all of a sudden she softened. She looked up at him and said with simplicity:

"I love you, Hilary. You are the best person I've ever known. You're like my brother ... only you're far, far above me. I always used to feel that way about you, and now I feel it more than ever. And I love you for it.... But there's another kind of love ... when you're bound to a person, and they hurt you, you can't love them just the same and forgive them—you can't, Hilary! Because your faith has been destroyed, and what bound you to the person is broken, and it can never be the same.... Even if I haven't always been perfect, I didn't break my faith, but he has broken it, and it's gone—gone forever!"

And she began to weep again, passionately. There was no pride about her now. She cried out her suffering and loss, with heartbroken sobs.

"I know I haven't always been good, I've been hard sometimes and took my own way and wouldn't give in—but I wouldn't have done what he has done.... I wouldn't have deceived him or hurt him as he has hurt me.... I wouldn't have broken our marriage, but he has done it.... It shows that he didn't care for it, it didn't mean much to him.... I thought he loved me, but because I wasn't everything he wanted, he took another woman ... there, in the same house with me.... And he doesn't love her either, I know he doesn't, he sinned from weakness, low temptation—oh, I wouldn't have believed it of him. I knew in some ways he was worldly, but I always thought he was honest and sincere, I was proud of him ... but now...."


When she grew quiet again, and raised her tear-blurred face, it was to see a dim light outside the windows—the stormy dawn.

"Oh, poor Hilary!" she cried. "I've kept you up all night—you haven't slept a wink!"

"That's nothing," he answered gently. "I often have sleepless nights."



Then, forgetting him, she stared at the dim light of the window, her eyes wide open and fixed, her lips parted with long shuddering sighs. Slowly her breathing grew quieter. Hilary watched her face.

"Mary," he said in low voice.

She started, turning her blank unseeing eyes upon him.

"Be careful what you do now.... You are hardening your heart.... Judge not, that you be not judged.... When pain comes to us, it is a symptom, a sign that something is wrong in our life. We must look through the pain to what caused it, and set it right. We must do it humbly, not setting ourselves up above the sinner. If another has sinned against us, let us see why. Are we free of blame for that sin? If we had been all that we should have been, would this have happened? Let us try to understand.... They that have eyes to see, let them see...."

There was no response in those blank eyes, no sign that she had heard. In her intense preoccupation she simply stared at him instead of at the window.

Mary was making up her mind. Something in her heard and registered Hilary's words; but they did not enter into the question that was absorbing her. This was a purely practical question. She had to decide what she was going to do now. And those well-known phrases uttered in Hilary's deep urgent voice as though they were new—they to all appearance passed by her like the idle wind.


She could see already what she was going to do. She was not going to make a scandal, nor have any one talking about her or pitying her. Enough, that she had complained to Hilary!... This thing should be as if it never had been, so far as her outward life went—no one should know. She would not "leave" her husband. But the sinner would not go unpunished.... She knew well how to punish him. She knew how to make him suffer....

Now, resolved, she rose to her feet.

"The baby! He always wakes about five—if I'm not there he'll be frightened. I must go back at once."

Hilary looked piercingly at her.

"You're going back then?"

"Yes, I'm going back. You told me to, didn't you?"

Her tone and look were cool, faintly mocking.

"It's snowing hard," said Hilary.

He put out the lamp—a grey light filled the room.

"No matter—it's only a little way."

"I'll get a carriage for you—"

"No—I'd rather go back as I came."

"But you can't—you haven't any dry clothes—"

"No matter—it's only for a moment."

She went quickly into the bedroom, and came back in her limp white dress and slippers. She took the heavy India shawl and drew it over her head. Its damp folds completely covered her. Only her face was visible, white, composed, with a curious sinister light in it.

She put her hand out of the folds to Hilary. With that gesture he felt her put him away. He knew he was included in her unforgivingness, he had become a part[184] of something she wanted to banish. She would hate him for knowing....

"Hilary," she said, "I want you to promise me something. Promise never to speak of this—not to any one else, I know you wouldn't—but not to me. Never speak of it to me again."

He dropped her hand, stood looking at her, and slowly his face became as inflexible as her own.

"You shut me out, then?... I count for nothing with you? You reject what you came here for—my help, my ... counsel...."

"No one can help me. You can't understand."

"You came to me, not for help or counsel. You came for sympathy, thinking I would stand with you against your husband. You counted on my feeling for you—you have always counted on it, though you would never admit it to yourself—"

"I don't know why I came.... But it was no use."

"No. Because you won't let it be. You'll go your own way ... repay evil for evil. I can see it in your face. I always knew you had it in you.... Oh, Mary, has it all gone for nothing—all that you said you believed in for so many years? Was it all on the surface—the first time life comes hard to you will you throw it all away?... No, I won't let you, I've cared too much for you—"

"What you say is no use, Hilary. You might as well promise."

"Of course not.... You know I won't."

"Then good-bye."

She looked at him indifferently and turned away.[185] Noiselessly she left the house. She hoped that she might return unseen to her home, and rejoiced that no one was apt to be out so early. The snow fell thickly, blindingly, and covered her footsteps. The air was sweet, less cold than in the night, the wind had gone down. Each branch and twig was ridged with snow; it lay in a broad unbroken sheet over all surfaces, and seemed to give out light in the dim dawn.

As she approached the house, she wondered how she was to get in; the street-door locked with a catch and she had no key. But as she went up on the steps she heard the baby crying, and barely noticed that the door opened to her touch; some one had turned the catch back.... She ran upstairs. Laurence was in the room, dressed, holding the child, trying to quiet it. She threw off her shawl, put out her arms for the boy, gathered him to her breast. His cries ceased.

A flash of surprise and relief had lit Laurence's face at her entrance, but now he stood, looking pale and gloomy.

"How long has he been crying?" she asked.

"I don't know—not very long."

Still holding the child, she tried to light a spirit-lamp to heat some milk; Laurence silently helped her. When she had laid the baby on the bed, with his bottle, she said:

"You know I went out?"

"Yes, and I know where you went, too!"

Laurence's voice trembled, and his lips; she had noticed when he was lighting the lamp how his hands shook. His face showed deep lines that made him[186] look ten years older. But Mary said with icy calmness:

"You didn't expect me to stay here, did you?"

"I know where you went," he repeated, his eyes dully flaming. "You ran to him, to—"

She was changing her dress for a warm wrapper, but suddenly she turned on him.

"Is that woman in the house?"

"No—she's gone."

"How is she gone—where?"

"What does it matter to you?... She went to the station, if you want to know. She meant to take the first train out."

"She can't go like that—like a thief in the night!... You are responsible toward her, Laurence."

"Don't worry about my responsibility. I'll take care of it."

"Yes, I suppose you will."

His harassed desperate eyes rested on Mary, searching, piercing.

"And you," he said thickly, "are responsible to me."

"For what?"

"For this whole thing—it's your fault."

"Is it indeed?"

"It is!... and your action tonight proves it. Flying out of the house—to your lover."

Mary was seated with her back to him, changing her wet shoes and stockings. She laughed—ironical laughter, deep with scorn.

"Yes, laugh! I know it's true!... Oh, I don't know what your actions have been, how can I know?... But I know your feeling, I know it hasn't been with me,[187] but with some one else. You married me with that feeling in your heart—you did me a great wrong. I couldn't stand it.... For what I've done that's wrong, by God, you're responsible!"

Mary put on her slippers and stood up, tying the cord of the dressing-gown round her waist. She looked at him with cutting contempt.

"I don't care what you think.... But if I were a man I wouldn't try to shift my responsibility for my own sins to some one else."

"Will you take your own responsibility? Do you see that you've been wrong toward me?"

"No. I see that you're trying to throw the wrong on me to save yourself. Perhaps you want me to ask your forgiveness?"

"Yes, by God, I do."

She looked at him, under her long lids, with a blue icy gleam. Silence fell—charged throbbing silence; all the bitterness of those spoken words, all their venom, distilled in it. Words that sting and burn like fire—that leave ineffaceable scars....

Laurence waited a moment, then with a look of rage and anguish at her as she stood with averted face, he went out of the room, and she heard him leave the house. She was standing by the window, she saw him pass, his hat pulled down over his eyes, his coat flapping open. He disappeared in the veil of snow. A sharp pang shot through her. But she stood motionless.

On the bed the baby lay sucking at his bottle, holding it lovingly with his frail hands, making gurgling contented sounds. And now she heard the other chil[188]dren in the nursery, she must attend to them, there was no one else now to do it.

She was busy with the children for some hours. Then, leaving them all together in the nursery, she went into the big bedroom which had been Laurence's as well as hers, and set about removing all his clothes and other belongings into the smaller room at the back of the house where he sometimes slept. This room she arranged carefully, with her accustomed neatness, putting everything in convenient order, seeing that the lamp was filled and a fire laid ready for lighting.

In going and coming she had to pass the closed door of Nora's room. At last she stopped at this door, hesitated a moment, then flung it open. The room was swept and empty of all personal belongings—only there lingered a faint stale scent—Nora had been given to cheap perfumes. A look of disgust contracted Mary's pale face. She took out the key, locked the door on the outside, opened a window in the hall and flung the key far out into the snow.

She went once more into the neighbouring room and took from the table something she suddenly recollected to have seen lying there among Laurence's papers. It was a little leather case, containing a daguerreotype of herself, done at the age of sixteen. She had given it to Laurence when they were betrothed, and he had carried it through the four years of the war. The case was worn and shabby. She opened it and looked at the picture—a charming picture it was. The graceful dress, with its full skirt, and frilled fichu covering the[189] girlish shoulders, the pure oval face framed in banded hair.... Laurence had loved it.

Mary took it into her room, and with tears running down her cheeks, she seized the fire-tongs, smashed the picture to pieces, and threw the whole thing into the waste-basket.





Lounging in an elegant attitude of ease against the stone balustrade, a tall youth of seventeen was smoking a cigarette in an amber holder, and languidly regarding the scene before him. There was not much to excite his interest. Passing vehicles were hidden from view by a thick screen of maple trees and shrubs. On the broad lawn some younger boys were playing croquet—he glanced at them with lofty scorn. A gardener was clipping the evergreen hedge which divided the lawn from the flower-garden. He was attended by a black puppy, which sometimes made a dash at the rolling croquet-balls and was driven away by shouts and brandished mallets.

An iron fence with sharp pickets surrounded the lawn on three sides. Tall iron gates, with lamps at the sides, stood open expectant. The two iron deer on either side of the driveway also stood in an expectant attitude, their heads raised and nostrils dilated.

Early frosts had touched with yellow and red the leaves of the maples. With every gust of the fresh breeze the leaves fell, littering the neatly trimmed bright green grass. The sun was low in a deep cloudless blue sky, the air brisk and crisp. Prairie mists and thick heat had been broken by this first breath of autumn.

An open carriage, drawn by a handsome pair of grey horses and driven by a coachman in a bottle-green coat,[194] turned in through the iron gates. The boys stopped their play to wave a greeting to the lady in mauve draperies, who lifted her white-gloved hand in reply. The youth on the steps hastily threw away his cigarette and concealed the holder, as he went down to assist his mother from the carriage. She laid her hand on his with a smile and stepped out with a rich rustle of silken skirts. He took her furred wrap and books and card case; and they mounted the long curving flight of stone steps together.

They were of the same height, and there was a strong resemblance between them, though the boy was much darker in colouring; with chestnut hair and dark grey eyes. His face was less delicately shaped, heavier, but had the same self-contained look; the eyes, under heavy lids, looked slumbering and secret.

Mary had grown more slender; her tall figure was girlish in line. Her auburn hair was less bright in colour, but as thick as ever, without a touch of grey. She wore it in the same fashion, parted and drawn down over her forehead, which now showed faint horizontal lines, the only mark of age in her calm face. Her handsome dress followed the fashion but a distance, with fewer frills and more amplitude. Her beauty had stood the test of time; the slight hollows under her high cheek-bones, her ivory pallor, only emphasized the fine modelling of her face.

"There's a telegram," said Jim.

He took it from a table in the hall. Mary opened and read it, standing at the foot of the stairs.

"From your father. He won't be back tonight—detained on business."


A look of relief crossed Jim's face.

"Well—it must be dinner-time," he said.

In fact the tall clock on the landing began to strike the hour of six.

"I'll be right down," said Mary. "Call the boys in."

When she entered the dining-room she found her three sons seated and the soup on the table, in its silver tureen. She ladled it out, and a middle-aged waitress in black dress and white apron distributed the plates. A discussion between the two elder boys had ceased on Mary's entrance; both now sat in silence, looking sulkily at their plates. The waitress left the room.

"Well, what's the trouble now?" Mary enquired with a touch of irony.

"I don't want Timothy to ride my horse, that's what!" declared Jim, in his slow heavy voice. "He doesn't know how to ride. Last time he nearly lamed—"

"No such thing—the old horse cast a shoe, that's all," interrupted Timothy angrily, glaring at his brother. "It isn't your horse any more than it's mine, anyway—"

"It is. Father gave it to me—"

"He said I was to learn to ride on it—"

"He didn't say you were to take it when I want it, and lame it—"

"I didn't lame it, confound you!"


Mary spoke sharply. The black-haired ruddy Timothy glanced at her resentfully.

"That will do, now. I won't have any such language here—or any quarrelling either."

Silence ensued. Timothy sent one flaming look across the table at Jim, who responded by a slight[196] superior smile. Jim was self-controlled and knew how to seem reasonable in his desires; while Timothy generally put himself impetuously in the wrong. The maternal decision was almost certain to be given on the side of Jim, and both boys knew this. Timothy bent his black brows, smarting under a familiar sense of injustice. But Jim's certainty of triumph was tempered by a shade of caution; Timothy, if their disputes came to a fight, had more than a chance to beat him. Timothy never knew when he was beaten.

At the head of the table, opposite Mary, stood Laurence's vacant chair—a stately carved armchair, like hers. A cover was laid for him, as always; for his presence was never certain, always possible. At the right of his place sat the youngest of the family, a boy of fourteen, blond and pale. His large grave blue eyes rested now on Jim's face, now on Timothy's, now sought his mother's, with a troubled wistful look. His face had a quivering sensitiveness; yet with its broad open brow and square chin, it had strength too.

The setting sun struck into the room between the heavy looped curtains of plush and lace, cast a red light over its dark walls and carpet, its shining mahogany, glittered on silver and crystal. In the centre of the table covered with heavy white damask stood a massive silver arrangement holding bottles of oil and vinegar, salt, pepper and spices, and serving also for decoration. Crystal decanters of sherry and claret were placed on either side.

The soup being removed, Mary carved roast-beef and dispensed vegetables with a liberal hand. The continued silence did not disturb her; it was usual at[197] meals, unless Laurence or a guest were present. She pursued her own thoughts, occasionally glancing with calm pride at her offspring. They were all handsome boys. Timothy was very like Laurence, Jim was like her. But the youngest, John, was unaccountable, he did not resemble either of his parents, or his brothers. He was like a stranger in the family; in mind and character too he was strange to them all. Yet with an unchildlike, almost uncanny sympathy, he seemed to know them better than they knew one another. Long illness—he had never grown strong—had perhaps given this delicacy to his mind as it had to his body. Yet he seemed built for strength too. His shoulders were broad, his large head nobly poised. His hands, with broad palms and long sensitive fingers, curiously united strength and delicacy.

He alone felt the silence. The others, absorbed in themselves, took it as a matter of course. But he, depressed by it, sighed, hardly touched the beef and heavy pudding, and more than once looked at his father's empty chair regretfully.

Mary's eye at length fell upon Jim in the act of filling his claret-glass for the third time. She frowned.

"I've told you that I don't want you to drink more than one glass of wine at meals," she said.

"Oh, this light wine—Father doesn't mind," said Jim easily.

"He doesn't want you to drink. And I won't have it. I won't have wine on the table at all if you can't do as I wish."

Jim shrugged his shoulders.


"Oh, well, let's not quarrel about it," he murmured, and pushed away the wine-glass.

His tone was amiable, he even smiled at her. But Mary knew that Jim was not so easily managed as that. He would seem always to yield to her wishes, would never openly oppose her, but he managed almost always to do as he pleased. He had an unsounded depth of quiet obstinacy. And he was secretive too, never explained himself. Timothy was much more frank, and more violent, hence was constantly getting into hot water and usually was in a state of revolt. Mary's rules were strict and not elastic to the needs and impulses of growing youth. She had felt strongly the duty of implanting good principles in her boys, and of repressing the ebullitions of the old Adam. While they were very young she had succeeded in teaching them to tell the truth, to respect other people's property rights, and to conform a good deal to her standards of behaviour. But as they grew out of childhood, she lost touch with them, gradually, unconsciously. She looked after their health, their schools; they found their amusements for themselves. Withdrawn in growing isolation, in a dumb struggle with growing unhappiness, her spirit had no youth, no buoyancy, to keep pace with theirs. While in infancy they depended completely upon her and she could suffice to all their wants, they had given her contentment. Now it was no longer a simple relation; she tried to banish or ignore its growing complexities; but they made her uneasy. She had a feeling that her duty was not done, but she did not know how to do it; her rule of life was too simple, too rigid, to meet its problems.


John's childhood had lasted longer than the others; his ill health had made him longer dependent on her physical care. But here a rival affection had taken John's love and interest away from her.... When John was ten he had scarlet fever, and Laurence insisted on nursing him, devoted himself day and night to the boy; and through the long convalescence, spent with him all the time he could wrest from his business. From that time, John had depended on his father in a way that, Mary felt acutely, he never had on her; with a feeling that grew as he grew. With passionate rejecting jealousy she stood apart; felt herself superseded; would not, could not, make an effort to recover her hold. John had been all hers; she would not share his love, though he made many timid efforts to draw her in. She felt her loss the more bitterly that he was the most beautiful of her children; he was, she knew, the flower of them all. There was something in him that hurt her by its beauty; the same thing that she had felt in her youth, sometimes in music, sometimes in a human expression. Something that called to her spirit, an appeal that she could not meet, that made her restless. Something that she had missed in life, had never been able to grasp, to realize.

She did not always feel this. Sometimes she had a surface contentment, a pride merely in being the mother of three fine lads and in the outward show of authority; in her worldly dignity too. Her position, as the wife of a man of distinction and power, commanded public respect. And then, she had made a place for herself in the life of the town. She was an intellectual leader among the women; president of their literary society;[200] a moving force in the work of the church and in charity. So long as proper deference was paid to her, she could be counted upon for faithful, even arduous work. But she would not suffer any rivals; would engage in no contest for power; and haughtily withdrew before opposition to her will. Whereupon, the value of her influence and activity being almost a tradition, any sister who might have dared approach the throne would be suppressed.

The meal being over, the family promptly dispersed. That is, the two elder boys vanished, to continue their disagreement about the horse. Mary walked absently into the library, having in mind the composition of a paper on the Greek dramatists for the literary club. She stood for a moment by one of the long windows, looking out on the lake.

The scene had changed, in these ten years. Instead of rough pastures and the loneliness of the prairie, she saw now green lawns sloping down to the dull-blue water; dotted on its banks were modern houses sheltered by clumps of trees; and a little fleet of pleasure-boats rode on its surface. The clear golden light of evening lay over all; the branches of the trees waved and the water rippled in the fresh breeze. Merry voices rose from the lake; some one in a boat was singing.

A faint stir beside her made Mary turn her head. John stood there, his footstep had made no noise on the thick carpet.

"It's such a beautiful evening. Don't you want to come out with me on the lake, Mother?" he asked in his rather nervous fluttering voice.


"I'd like to—but I have some work to do," she said quickly.

She seldom went out in the boat. She hated inactivity and mere contemplation of any scene, however lovely; indeed, the lovelier it was, the more painful. But now she saw John's wistful and disappointed look.

"Won't any of the boys go with you?" she asked gently.

"No, I don't think so, they've gone out to the stable.... Did Father say when he'd be home?" he asked, hesitatingly.

"No, he never does."

With this sharp answer, Mary walked away toward her desk. But then she stopped and with an effort said:

"I will go with you, John, if you want."

"No, never mind—I thought you might like it, it's such a nice evening—but you're busy—"

"No, I have time enough, I'll just get my cloak."

But now his sensitive face showed distress, and he protested:

"I'd rather not—really. I know you don't like the boat so very much, only I thought.... I'll go myself."

He moved toward the door.

"Perhaps Timothy would like to go—"

"No, he won't—but no matter, I rather like to drift around, alone, and look at the water."

"Shall I play to you a little, first?" asked Mary.

His face lighted up.

"Why, yes—if you have time—"

She led the way across the hall, where the lights had just been lit and gleamed on the dark-red walls and the[202] bronze statues of Mercury and the Venus of Milo. The grand piano stood in one of the parlours: its glossy lid was seldom raised. John drew a chair up beside it and listened with a rapt face while Mary played his favorite, the "Grand Sonata" of Beethoven, the only one she knew by heart. She made many mistakes, her fingers were stiff from lack of practice; but still she played conscientiously, with a feeling, a respect for the music. John sat facing the window and the fading golden light. She glanced at him. His face had a look of unearthly radiance and joy that shot a sharp pain through her. With difficulty she continued. At the last notes her head sank, bent over the keyboard, and she sat in silence. He drew a long breath.

"Thank you—that's wonderful, I love it," he said.

"I wish I could play it better," said Mary huskily. "I must practise."

"You play it beautifully. Thank you, Mother," he repeated softly. Then, hesitating, looking at her, he got up.

"I'll go out now and row a while."

She nodded, and he went.



She sat at her desk, looking over her notes on Æschylus, now and then writing a few words on a large sheet of paper. Then she would stop and look fixedly before her, trying to concentrate her thoughts. It was ten o'clock, the two younger boys were in bed. But Jim was off somewhere. And he had taken the black horse, Laurence's own horse, that the boys were forbidden to touch—a big powerful brute, hard to control. Lately Jim had often been out at night. She did not know where he went, and he would not tell. He would say easily, "Oh, I just went for a ride, there's nothing to do in this dead place." But she suspected that he found something to do; he might be getting into bad ways. She thought he smoked, in spite of her prohibition; certainly he showed a taste for drink; there were other vices, too. Her lips were compressed bitterly as she thought, such tendencies were inherited. Perhaps Jim couldn't help himself....

The big house was silent as the tomb. On the desk burned a shaded lamp, the rest of the room was in darkness. It was rather cold, the fires had not been lighted yet. The house with its thick walls of brick was almost always chilly unless the furnaces were going. She drew her black wrap closer round her shoulders, and bent over her notes.

Then she heard the door-bell faintly sounding. After a moment there was a knock and Anna came in, the[204] middle-aged woman who waited on the table and the door.

"Mrs. Carlin—there's somebody here that wants to see you. He asked for Judge Carlin, and says he'll wait to see him."

"Wait? But he may not be home for days! Who is it?" asked Mary impatiently.

"An old—an old gentleman. He didn't give his name. He says he'd like to see you," said Anna neutrally.

"Where is he? What does he want?"

"He didn't say. He's in the hall."

Mary rose and went out, stately in the black mantle that wrapped her from head to foot, its collar of black fur framing her face. The stranger stood, holding his hat in his hand, contemplating the bronze statue of Mercury. He was a small grey-haired man, in a shabby but neat dark suit. Some client of Laurence's, she thought. She spoke to him.

"Good evening. Did you want to see Judge Carlin?"

He turned and looked at her. His thin smooth-shaven face showed a rather shy, pleasant smile.

"Yes—I'm Laurence's father," he said, in a gentle laughing tone.

Mary stared at him.

"I don't wonder you're surprised.... I was passing through here, and thought I'd like to see you all," the old man said, without the slightest embarrassment. "But I hear Laurence isn't at home."

"No—but he may be—tomorrow, or almost any time," stammered Mary, at a loss.

"Well, then, I'll come again. I may be in town a day or so."


"But—why, you must stay here, of course," protested Mary blankly.

"Oh, I couldn't think of discommoding you—"

"Discommoding? Why, of course not. Come right in. I'll get a room ready for you at once."

"Please don't let me give any trouble," he pleaded, smiling. "I can stay at the hotel quite well."

"Hotel? Of course not," she said, bewildered.

What a queer old man, to drop from the skies like this—and so perfectly at his ease about it! Was he Laurence's father or an impostor? Was it right to take him in? He did not look as if he had money enough to stay at the hotel. Certainly she couldn't turn Laurence's father out!

"Come in," she repeated with an effort, turning toward the library doors, then stopping. "Wouldn't you like some supper?"

"No, thank you, I dined at the hotel."

"Is your baggage there? I'll send for it."

"No baggage. I haven't any," he said, with his whimsical smile. "I travel light."

In consternation Mary led the way into the library. No baggage! He must be a vagabond. To disappear for twenty-five years, and come back like this, as if it were yesterday! It was certainly not a respectable proceeding. He hadn't even an overcoat. Nothing but the worn felt hat, which he had still carried in his hand as he followed her—as if he were a casual visitor, come to stay half an hour....

She felt the chill of the big dimly-lit room, and went toward the chimney-place. "There's a fire all ready here—"


"Let me light it," he said.

Nimbly he laid down his hat, knelt on the rug, and in a moment had the fire going. The kindling blazed up, the dry wood caught. A more cheerful light brightened the dusky room. The fire-place was broad and deep, it held three-foot logs. Soon there was a glorious fire.

They sat down before it, in armchairs facing one another. The old man spread his hands to the blaze with enjoyment. His gaze rested on Mary with admiration, then wandered round the room.

"You have a fine place here," he said cheerfully. "How long have you lived here?"

"Ten years, Laurence built the house."

She was scrutinizing him with covert glances, trying to find some resemblance to Laurence.

"Yes, so I heard.... Laurence has certainly done well, remarkably well. I always thought he would—he was a smart boy," said this strange parent calmly.

No, he wasn't at all like Laurence, there was no resemblance in his spare light frame, his long clear-cut face to ... yet there was something familiar in his look. What was it? Something in the way his thick grey hair grew over his forehead, his eyebrows.... Why, yes, he looked like Jim—or was it Timothy? She had a sudden conviction, anyhow, that he was what he assumed to be.

With the assurance that this was a member of the family (however unworthy) the duty of hospitality became manifest. Again she urged him to have something to eat; he declined, but with a certain reservation of manner which led her to say, though unwillingly:

"Perhaps you will have a glass of wine?"

"Thank you—if it doesn't trouble you too much—[207]wine, or a little whiskey—whatever is most convenient."

Comprehending what he wanted, she brought from the dining-room a silver tray, with decanters of whiskey and water, a glass and some biscuits. The old man poured himself a modest drink, a third of a glass of whiskey with a little water, and bowed to her.

"I drink your good health.... Yes, Laurence is a fortunate man."

"He has been very successful," she said gravely.

"All the heart could desire—position, wealth, a fine family," he continued musingly. "I'm glad to find him so well off.... Circumstances have prevented me from knowing anything of it until today, when I reached town."

Circumstances! Mary gazed at him in mute astonishment. With an absent air he filled his glass again and gazing at the fire went on, in a tone of meditative detachment:

"I have been a wanderer for the last quarter of a century—a rolling stone. Much of the time I've been out on the coast—California and so on—I went out there in fifty-five.... But I've seen the whole country—a fine big country it is. I never liked to stay long in one place, I'll soon be moving on. But passing through Chicago, I thought I'd like to see what remained of my family.... Great changes—I didn't know till I reached here and enquired, that they were all gone, except Laurence.... Things change quickly, in this country. Chicago has grown to an immense city, since I saw it last—and this town too, has become very flourishing. I shouldn't have known it.... And all over the west, cities springing up, there is hardly a frontier any more, the old days[208] are gone, the rough pioneer life. The whole country, almost, is settled, civilized.... Yes, a great country, a great people."

He basked in the warmth and drank his whiskey with gentle enjoyment, gazing into the brilliant coals as though seeing there the whole vast panorama that had passed before his eyes. Mary listened to him and looked at him with a kind of fascinated surprise. He talked like a visitor from the moon—so aloof, contemplative, as if he had no concern in all this.... An old man who had deserted his family, run away, never had known whether they were alive or dead, nor cared, apparently. Disgraceful! A disreputable old man!... Yet there he sat, perfectly at his ease, with no shadow of guilt, remorse, or regret on his placid countenance. His grey eyes were clear and bright. His face was wise and experienced, but hardly at all wrinkled, it had a queer look of youth. His clothes were almost threadbare, but they were clean,—his boots cracked on the side, but well polished. His hands were those of a working-man, broad and stubby; but they showed no traces now of hard work, the fingernails were clean and carefully trimmed. He smiled at her.

"You are Laurence's wife—but I don't know your name," he said with a twinkle of amusement, but courteously. In spite of her disapproval, she could not but smile at him as she answered.

"Mary—a beautiful name, I always liked it. And you are Dr. Lowell's daughter—I remember you as a slip of a girl, with wonderful flowing hair.... And I remember your parents too. Are they living?"

"My mother died two years ago," said Mary.


"Ah, that was a loss, a great loss—I remember her, a strong woman, impressive.... And your father—he goes on with his work?"

"Oh, yes," Mary answered with astonishment.

Of course he went on with his work, why shouldn't he?... But it came to her with a shock that her father was really an old man, that people thought of him as old.

"I don't know what this town would do without Father," she said quickly. "People depend on him—"

She gazed pointedly and with a certain defiance at old Mr. Carlin, who waved any possible comparison aside with a smile and a word of hearty commendation of Dr. Lowell; and went on to enquire about other old residents of the town, showing an accurate memory. A third time he refilled his glass, and that emptied the decanter. The whiskey had not the least visible effect on him. His hand was as steady, his eye and speech as clear and unmoved, as Mary's own. She heard the clock strike eleven, then the half hour, but still he chatted on, and she was aware that she was entertained by him. Yes, he was an amusing, though a scandalous old man; and conducted himself with propriety, even grace, though all the time drinking whiskey as if it were water.

At length he spoke of his grandchildren. Among other information he had acquired this, that they were three in number and all boys. Now he politely asked their names. Mary repeated them.

"Timothy?" he questioned with surprise.

"Yes, we named him after you," said Mary gravely.

"After me!"

For the first time she saw a flicker of emotion in his[210] face. He set down his glass, and looked at her with eyes troubled by that gleam of feeling, almost distress.

"Why did you do that?" he asked abruptly.

"Why, James was named after my father, you see," Mary explained. "So it was only right that the second boy should be named after you. It's a matter of family feeling, it always has been so in my family. Our youngest boy is named for my grandfather."

"Family feeling," he repeated, mechanically. "Named after me.... So there's another Timothy Carlin! I never expected it. Well, I hope—" he stopped short, and after a moment took up his glass and drained it. "I appreciate your remembering me, though I didn't expect it in the least. I—I am touched by it. I should like to see the boys, and especially my—namesake." His voice was a little uneven.

"You will see them tomorrow.... But now, it's late, you must be tired. Shall I show you to your room?"

He followed in silence. Putting out the lights as she went, she led the way through the lofty entrance-hall, up the thickly-carpeted stairs, into the best spare-room, ready as always for a guest, since Laurence often brought one unexpected. Mary lighted the room, and the old man stood gazing round with a deprecating smile. It was a big room, with high ceiling, furnished rather elaborately with carved black walnut, enormous, heavy pieces.

"It's much too grand for me," he said, humorously. "I shall rattle around here like a dried kernel in a shell.... However, I thank you for your hospitality."


"Isn't there something I can get for you, something you need?"

"No, thank you, my dear, I don't need anything," said the old man, with his former manner of gentle cool composure.



The following day Laurence returned on the mid-afternoon train, but stopped at his office, sending on a friend he had brought with him in a hack with the valises. This was Horace Lavery, a Chicago lawyer, rather a frequent visitor at the house. Mary was in the garden when the hack drove up, and came round to see if it were Laurence. She gave Lavery a stately, somewhat cool greeting. He was a man of middle age, florid and rather stout, gay and talkative. Always a little dashed at first by Mary's manner, he would speedily recover himself and amuse himself in his own way. Now, a little embarrassed, he said, after dismissing the hackman:

"Well, here I am again. Laurence stopped down town, he'll be home by seven.... Can I go upstairs and brush off, it was rather a dusty ride."

"Yes, but not the usual room, we have another visitor—the one next to it."

"And shall I find you here when I come down?"

"I'm working in the garden."

"Perhaps I can help?"

"If you do, you'll get yourself all dusty again."

"Oh, I don't mind," he said effusively. "So long as it's in your service."

Mary laughed and turned away. She always laughed at Lavery's ponderous gallantry. But under the sen[213]timental surface that he presented to her there was another man, of whom she caught occasional glimpses that interested her. At present, however, she was vexed at his coming. She preferred to see Laurence alone, to break to him the news of his parent's reappearance. And what would Lavery, with his glossy freshness of apparel and man-of-the-world air, think of a shabby parent, suddenly produced? She didn't care, though, what Lavery thought, except that it might vex Laurence. She wished she had telegraphed him. She might send down to the office ... but no, he would be immersed in work, and only the more upset by it. She went slowly back into the garden, a favourite spot with her; it had been laid out years ago by her father, and he often came to help her with it.

Dr. Lowell had enjoyed having a good deal of money to spend on a garden. It was enclosed by a brick wall covered with creepers on two sides, the house on the third side, the other open, overlooking the lake. There were gravel-walks, white wooden benches and trellises, and in the centre, a sun-dial. The flower-beds had been touched by the frost; but still blooming were verbenas and many-coloured asters. The dead leaves had been raked up and smouldered here and there in blackened heaps, sending out a sweet pungent smoke. Mary, bare-headed, in a long black cloak, was down on her knees digging up bulbs when Lavery approached, freshly groomed and enveloped in a delicate scent of Florida-water.

"Let me do that," he urged, bending over her.

"What? In those immaculate clothes? You don't mean it."


"I do—I'll sacrifice the clothes. Please get up and let me dig the onions."

"Onions! These are very rare bulbs, of a Chinese lily—they have to be handled with great care and I always do it myself. So you may as well sit down there and smoke your cigar. Some people are made to be ornamental, you know, and others to be useful."

"And some are both," said Lavery, looking down on her heavy rippling hair. "And again, others are neither."

He seated himself rather sulkily on the bench near by.

"Of course I know I'm not handsome," he observed. "So that was rather a nasty dig of yours about being 'ornamental.' But you made one mistake. I am useful."

"Are you? For what?" enquired Mary, carefully separating bulbs. "I always thought you just a bright butterfly."

"You never thought about me at all," he declared with emphasis. "But I have thought a good deal about you."

He took out a cigar and a pearl-handled knife, cut the end of the cigar neatly, and lit it with a match from a gold box. Then clasping his broad white hands about his knee, he contemplated Mary's grave profile. She seemed absorbed in her work and did not look up at him, nor betray by the flicker of an eyelash any interest in what he thought. Still less did she enquire into it. The silence lasted until he broke it, petulantly.

"Mrs. Carlin, why do you dislike me?"

"I don't dislike you—at least I think not."

"You think not! Don't you know whether you do[215] or not?... You strike me as a person who would know her own mind!"

"Yes—but I'm not very quick about making up my mind. I don't feel I know you at all well."

"You've known me for two years.... How long does it take you to make up your mind?"

"Well, that depends—longer now than it used to. I don't feel that I know very much about anybody. I used to be more sure about things."

She lifted the last of the bulbs into the basket, and rose to her feet.

"Won't you sit here and talk to me a little?... I almost never have a chance to talk to you alone—that's why we don't know one another better."

She looked at him and smiled faintly, but the shadow of sadness and weariness did not lift from her face.

"I have some things to see to in the house—and then I must dress—"

"But it's hardly five now."


She sat down on the bench, brushing the dust off her black cloak.

"I like," said Lavery discontentedly, "to be friendly with people. I don't like to be held off at arm's length and looked at as if I were a queer beetle or something—or not looked at, that's even worse!"

"Do you think I do that?" Mary enquired.

"Yes, you do! You treat me as if I were hardly a human being!"

"Oh, how absurd!... You're a different kind of human being, that's all, you belong to a different world."


"How a different world? I'm Laurence's friend, why can't I be yours?"

A sudden sternness, a definite recoil, in her expression, warned him off this ground.

"How could you be my friend? There is nothing in common between you and me," she said coldly.

"Now, how do you know there isn't? You say yourself you don't know me!... But I think you've made up your mind that you don't want to ... you think I'm frivolous and ridiculous, because I manage to enjoy life, don't you now? A middle-aged butterfly, a mere sensualist—isn't that it?"

"Well—something like that," Mary admitted. "But it oughtn't to matter to you what I think.... I told you I don't understand people very well, the older I get the less I understand them, and I can't make friends."

This quiet statement had an air of finality. He was silent, looking at her thoughtfully, with a keen shrewdness, a questioning puzzled gaze.

"Well, friends or not, I admire you very much," he said abruptly. "I hate to have you think me such a poor creature."

"I imagine it won't disturb you very much, if I do. You wouldn't care much for any woman's opinion, you like to amuse yourself with women but you don't take them seriously, you look down on them. You think they're all alike and that a few compliments and pretty speeches are all they want or can understand. You like to take them in, and then laugh at them, it amuses you.... And men too—you like to play with people, try experiments. You're more cool-headed and sharp than most people, you think almost every one is a fool,[217] in some way or other, and you like to find out how—turn them inside out. That's how you enjoy life."

"Well, by Jove!" Lavery stared at her. "So you have given me some attention, after all—I wouldn't have guessed it! Now, do you know, you're right about some things, but that isn't the whole story—"

Mary stood up and took her basket.

"No, I suppose not, but I must go in now."

Reluctantly he rose, and walked with her to the door.

"You're a severe judge—you won't even let the criminal speak in his own defence," he said with some feeling. "'Give every man his deserts and who should 'scape hanging?' Don't you think you might show a little mercy?"

"I believe in justice," said Mary, with a sudden hardening of her face. "That's what we all get—not mercy."

The bitterness of her tone remained with him after she had gone.... He told himself that he would make her talk yet, he would find out what was the trouble in this household, the shadow that hung over it. He had tried to find out from Laurence, but in vain; even when he was drunk, Laurence wouldn't talk about his wife.

Mary was dressed and listening for Laurence long before he came. Her father-in-law had disappeared for the whole afternoon, and had not yet returned; he had told her that he was going for a long walk, and John had accompanied him. Mary perceived that the old man was very tactful. She had seen it in his meeting with his grandsons, the manner in which he at once took a certain place with them. He did not assert him[218]self in the least nor stress the relationship; he treated them not like children, but with the courteous interest due to new acquaintance, without familiarity. The two elder boys rather hung back from him; but John had at once been friendly; they were all in some way impressed by him.

It was dark, the lamps had been lighted, when Laurence came. Lavery was strolling about the lawn and met him; and they came upstairs together and went into Laurence's room, laughing. Mary waited impatiently till finally Lavery went to dress; then she knocked at Laurence's door and entered. He was in his dressing-room, splashing vigorously, and answered with surprise when she spoke to him. In a moment he came out, wrapped in a loose robe, his thick black hair and beard wet and rough.

"Laurence, something strange has happened. Some one is here—you haven't heard?—your father has come."

A look of apprehension on his face quickly gave place to astonishment as she ended.

"My father!... What the deuce!"

He looked dismayed; then as she went on to describe the new arrival, incredulous.

"I don't believe it's my father. He wouldn't turn up like this after twenty-five years without a word!... I've thought for a long time he was dead."

"Well, he isn't—it's your father, sure enough."

Laurence, with a blank look, towelled his head and neck.

"Jesus Christ!" he ejaculated.

He went and stared into the mirror, rubbing his hair till it stood up wildly all over his head. There were[219] threads of grey all through it, but the beard that covered his mouth and was cut square below his chin was intensely black, and so were his arched brows, beneath which the narrow eyes showed still their vivid blue. His broad shoulders, the joining of the massive neck, were strong, unbowed.

"What did you do with him?" he asked abruptly.

"Put him in the best bedroom and gave him your special whiskey," said Mary.

"The deuce you did!... Killed the fatted calf, eh?... Well, where is he now?"

"He went to walk with John—John took a great fancy to him."

"He did?" Laurence's face changed subtly, relaxed. "Well, that's something.... But, say—it's awkward about Lavery being here. I wish I'd known."

"I might have telegraphed, but I didn't know where you were," said Mary.

"You can always reach me at the hotel," he said sharply.

She moved toward the door.

"I wish to the deuce Lavery wasn't here," he muttered.

"I wouldn't care about that." There was an edge in Mary's tone, but with an effort she eliminated that touch of criticism. "Your father can take care of himself—he's quite as much a gentleman as Lavery."

"No, is he really?"

Laurence turned round, a hairbrush in either hand, and gazed at her.

"He's presentable, really?... I shouldn't have expected it."


"He isn't very well dressed," said Mary quietly. "But you needn't be at all ashamed of him. He's—there's something about him—well, I can't describe it, but he has much better manners than Mr. Lavery."

"Oh, you always have a knife up your sleeve for poor old Horace," said Laurence, turning back again to the mirror and brushing vigorously. "I'll be down in ten minutes—but I'd rather see him alone first, you know. Do you suppose he's come back?"

"I'll see."

In the mirror Laurence's eyes dwelt on her tall figure and white face shadowy in the background. He said slowly with an undertone of pain:

"You look very beautiful tonight."



Where Laurence sat was the head of the table; he dominated all by his vivid colour, his intense physical vitality, and he kept the talk going easily. He and Lavery were in evening dress, rather dandified, with soft plaited shirt-bosoms and diamond studs. Old Mr. Carlin, sitting between Timothy and John, appeared perfectly at ease in his well-brushed suit. His bright grey eyes contemplated the scene and the company with an aloof and philosophic interest.

Mary, in her usual dress for the evening, of plain black velvet, cut square at the neck, and with long close-fitting sleeves, was beautiful, as Laurence had said and Lavery's long gaze recognized. She wore no ornaments except a pair of heavy earrings of dull gold filagree. The light from the big cut-glass chandelier over the table fell unshaded upon her, bringing out the pale copper colour of her rippling hair and the whiteness of her skin. It emphasized too the hollows in her cheeks and at her temples, the lines of the forehead and of the neck below the ear. Her face, as in her youth, was like a mask; but now it was a mask of sorrow. Calm and unmoved in expression, it was yet an abstract of sad experience.

The years had left a more complex mark on Laurence. There were deeper furrows in his brow and running down from the nostrils to bury themselves in his black[222] beard. A passionate expressiveness, a restless irritability, spoke in his voice, his gestures, his constant flow of talk. "Carlin's temper" was a proverb by now. A racial inheritance came out strongly in him. He was "the black Irish"; dangerous at times. But there was another side to this temperament. Often when he smiled, and always when he looked at the boy who sat beside him, there was a deep sweetness in his eyes, a deep tenderness. John's place was always beside his father; he hung on Laurence's words and looks with hushed eagerness. And Laurence, keenly conscious of the sensitive boy, was careful what he said, instinctively suppressed anything that might shock or hurt a young idealistic spirit; and never drank more than a glass or two of wine, in his presence.

The wine was always on the dinner-table, however. It was Laurence's idea that the boys had better get used to seeing it, and to taking a little now and then. Mary never touched it, and hated the sight of it; but she had long since ceased to oppose Laurence in any detail of life. The house was managed as he wished, though he was away more than half the time. Now there were three kinds of wine on the table—sherry, claret and port. Laurence was proud of his wine-cellar, down in the deep foundations of the house.

Lavery drank delicately. He had guided Laurence's choice of the claret, and confined himself to that. He much preferred to remain perfectly sober; especially when other people were drunk; but in any case he disliked the least blurring of the fine edge of sensation and perception. He liked to watch the play of human feeling, and to guess what was going on below the[223] surface; and for this one must be alert and cool. He was immensely curious, for example, about the human situation under his eyes. Old Mr. Carlin had suddenly come in for a share of this interest. Lavery studied him across the table, and addressed frequent remarks to him, with amenity. He discovered that the old man, in point of quick wit, suavity and coolness, was by no means his inferior, although the elder had, from the beginning of the dinner, applied very steadily to each decanter in turn.

After the coffee Mary rose, as was her custom, leaving the men at the table. The three boys followed her; Jim with evident reluctance. His manly dignity was hurt at being classed with women and children; but he was quite aware that his company would not be longer desired in the room, where heavy drinking and free talk were apt to be the order of the evening. Lavery sprang up to open the door for Mary, and she passed out with a slight bow, the boys waiting till the edge of her long velvet train had ebbed over the threshold.

Timothy and John went upstairs to the billiard-room on the top floor; and Mary, slipping her hand through Jim's arm, led him into the parlour where the piano stood. She wanted to ask him about his excursion of the night before—he had been out till three o'clock—but more than that she wanted him to stay with her a little while. But Jim was restive, wouldn't sit down. He feared an inquisition, and also he wanted to get away to the stable and smoke. Mary, both irritated and hurt by his unwillingness, spoke more sharply than she had intended.


"Where were you all last night?"

"I went out for a long ride," said Jim sulkily.

"And were you riding from eight o'clock till three?"

"No—I stopped a while to see a friend."

"What friend?"

"Oh, somebody you don't know—a fellow."

Controlling himself, he answered more gently; his dark eyes met hers imperturbably.

"Well, you oughtn't to stay out all night!"

"I didn't," said Jim reasonably. "And a fellow has to do something in this dead place."

"You shouldn't have taken your father's horse either, without permission."

"Why, Mother, he was simply spoiling for exercise—you know he doesn't get ridden half enough."

"I don't like you to ride him, he's dangerous—"

"Oh, I can manage him, all right, don't you worry!" Jim smiled cheerfully. "But I've got to run out now and see to the pony—he's a bit lame still—"

She let him go, turning away from him and walking to the end of the long room. Yes, he wanted to escape—he had his own life now, was beginning to be a man and to take his secret way, like the rest of them. Her mouth curved bitterly. She did not believe Jim, about the friend—she suspected something else, and she recoiled jealously, miserably.... Yes, her son too—he was like the rest....

She stood by the open window, looking out blindly on the garden. The night was mild, it was moonlight, greenish, like a glowworm's light. The long lace curtains waved inward in the soft breeze. There were sounds of life astir all about. She heard a burst of[225] laughter from the dining-room; then the faint click of the billiard-balls and a shout from Timothy. Then, on the lake, some one began to sing Schubert's boat-song. A clear soprano trilled out joyously the song of love and youth....

A piercing sense of loneliness, of life passing by her, leaving her, stabbed to her very heart. She gave a long, shuddering sigh.... Youth, love—they had passed by. Like the song growing fainter, receding into distance. And the bitter thing was, one did not realize them till they were gone. The sweetness of life—all it was, might have been—one did not feel it till it had slipped away.... Gone, lost—then, in loneliness you felt it....

Some one came into the room. She turned, and at sight of her face, Lavery's gay apology dropped half-spoken. He came and stood beside her at the window.

"I hate music," she said abruptly. "Some one was singing out there. It makes one sad.... It makes one remember all the things—"

"I don't like it myself," said Lavery, when she stopped as abruptly. "Unless it's an opera—with gay dresses, lights, all that—then it distracts you."

"That's trying to shut it out, the sadness of life. Like making merry in a room, shut in, with a storm outside."

"Well, you know, that's the sensible thing to do. You have to shut it out."

"But supposing you can't?"

He met the misery of her eyes, her voice, with a gravity that he seldom showed to any one.

"We all have to go through that phase," he said[226] curtly. "A kind of despair. It comes—and passes, generally."

"Does it? Does it pass?"

"I think it does.... You see, it's natural. It comes to us at the end of youth—it's the end of some things—then we have to take stock, see what we've spent, what we've got left to go on with—"

"And supposing we've spent everything?"

"Well, that isn't likely—though it may look so. Most of us go through a kind of bankruptcy. The hopes and ambitions of youth are gone—our dreams are gone, as a rule. We face what we've actually done, what we're really capable of—it doesn't correspond to what we believed we could do, what we thought we were. The reality is hard, and we despair.... But then, we get our second wind, so to speak, and go on, somehow."

"Do we? But why? Why go on—"

"Well, most of us by that time have certain ties, responsibilities, we're necessary, or think we are—"

"But if we don't think we are? If we're not needed?"

Her lips quivered, her tone was hard and desperate.

"Well, then—there may be some work we're interested in. Or if not that, there's a good deal of pleasure to be got out of life, you know, if one understands how to do it."


"Yes, surely.... Youth doesn't appreciate the good things of life, it's too eager, too intent on its own purposes.... The real pleasures of the mind and the[227] senses come later—they're the consolation for what we were speaking of."

"No, no! That's no consolation! It's impossible to live that way!"

"You want to keep your youth," he said. "I think you're suffering from youth unlived."

"Youth unlived!" she repeated, in a low voice. "I didn't have it ... it went by me somehow—"

"Yes, and now you want it."

"I don't want anything!"

"That's what we say when we can't get what we want," observed Lavery. "But then, we take what we can get."

"No, I hate that!" she burst out. "That resignation, creeping into old age! No, I can't live that way. That's being beaten!"

"Well, most of us are beaten," Lavery said philosophically, showing his brilliant teeth in a smile. "But then, as I said, there are consolations—"

"No, there's no consolation for that."

She moved, sat down on one of the long sofas, looking straight before her with a fixed absent gaze. Lavery dropped into a chair beside her, contemplative, admiring.

Emotion was becoming to her. It called a faint colour to her cheeks and lips, gave light to her still grey eyes. In some ways she looked strangely young. The lines of her figure were wonderfully girlish.... But also she looked as though she had lived ... not happily, though. He judged a sympathetic silence best at the moment, though there were a lot of things he wanted to say. He would have liked to preach his own gospel of enjoyment, he thought he could be rather[228] eloquent on that theme. But still more he wanted her to talk, so he was quiet, glancing now and then about the big room, whose furniture had too much gilt to suit him. His own taste ran to very quiet though rich effects, and he thought the house "rococo" and out of date. Still, in a way, the gilding and light stuffs and long mirrors made a good setting for her tall figure in its sombre dress and her tragic face.... She sat there, looking into space, apparently forgetting that a pleasant confidant was at her elbow. She hadn't a touch of the ordinary agreeable coquetry, he reflected—didn't seem to realize that people of their age could still be agreeable to one another. Rather barbarous ... yes, both Carlin and his wife were a little uncivilized. They would fit better into a former, doubtless more heroic age, than into the present time. There was a slightly rough-hewn pioneer quality about them. But, perhaps from that very thing, they were both interesting, decidedly so. And he could wait indefinitely for the interest to develop. His calm pulses never hurried now for anything.

His thought reverted to Laurence and to the old gentleman whom he had left drinking whiskey. A queer fish, Laurence's father—he had never known Laurence had a father. A black sheep probably. Laurence was plainly nervous about him. It was the tactful thing to leave them together—even if there hadn't been Mrs. Carlin alone in here, needing somebody to talk to. Laurence neglected her, that was quite evident, and she felt it bitterly.... He wondered, with narrowed gaze, how much she knew about Laurence's life. He could tell her a good deal more than she knew, probably—but, naturally, he wouldn't.



The constraint that Laurence had felt from the moment of meeting his long lost parent—for their parting rose up before him, the memory of a blow—had vanished. The old man had brushed it away, as soon as they were alone, by a quiet net statement.

"You mustn't think, Laurence, that I've come back to fasten myself on you. I shall stay here only a day or so. I have my own life, and I don't need anything from you."

"That isn't what I was thinking of—"

"I know, but this is what I want to say, it would be ridiculous for me to act as if I had any claim on you, after everything. I don't feel any, don't expect anything. Naturally you couldn't have any affection for me, I wouldn't have any place here, even if I wanted it. And I don't need any money. I just wanted you to understand it."

"Of course you have a claim—"

"No, no, I gave all that up a long time ago, cut off that sort of thing, by my own will, you know. I wasn't made for family life. Couldn't stand it.... Of course I know you have a grudge against me, and quite right. I didn't do my duty by my family, that's a fact. Should never have had a family."

They were sitting before a fire in the library. The[230] old man had refused the cigar Laurence offered, and was smoking a short black pipe.

"I suppose we all feel that way at times," said Laurence moodily.

"Yes, but most struggle along with it. I did, for a good many years, not very well, though. It was against the grain. I got caught in the wheel of things, it was grinding me to pieces."

"The wheel of things," Laurence repeated absently.

"Yes, and of course through a woman. They get us into it. Your mother was a good woman, I've nothing to say against her. I fell in love with her, that wasn't her fault, nor mine either.... But 'twas she led me to the priest, and then over to this country. She was of better family than me, you see, her father was a squire; and she had a great ambition to get on in the world and be genteel. When she saw I couldn't do it, she got bitter to me. Oh, it was all natural, she wanted her children to be well off, educated. You can remember how we lived, nobody could blame your mother, I didn't myself, but she made it hell to me. I wanted to be my own master and have time to think.... So I cut loose from it."

Laurence nodded brusquely, but frowned, gazing at the neat, gentle-voiced old man.

"'Twas wrong, of course," old Timothy went on reflectively. "From the usual point of view. But I can't say I'm sorry I did it. I've had time to look about me and to learn some things. I always had a thirst for learning—books and ideas—"

"Yes, no doubt! But perhaps you don't know how my mother lived!" said Laurence bitingly.


"I couldn't have bettered it," the old man replied tranquilly. "I couldn't really, Laurence. The drink had got hold of me, I'd have gone from bad to worse. I couldn't help it ... 'twas because my life was miserable, I was only a dumb brute, like an ox, just living to work, feed and sleep. 'Twas no life for a man."

"It wasn't a life for my mother, either, was it?"

"No, but women can stand it better than we can, they don't like it but it doesn't kill their souls.... I'd have drunk myself to death in a few years. 'Tis they get us into it anyway—they're bound to the wheel, and they draw us in. They think of food and clothing and being respectable. A man has got other things to think of—he can't spend his life feeding a lot of hungry mouths.... Nine we had, but they mostly died when babies, the better for them."

The old man leaned forward to shake the ashes out of his pipe, and smiling, he added:

"Of course I don't expect you to think anything but ill of me. You always took your mother's part, and 'twas right.... And now you've got a family of your own and done well by them, and you've got up in the world—you'll feel accordingly and look down on me, naturally."

"I don't look down—!"

"Oh, maybe not because of the money and the fine house, I don't mean that. But you're in the big machine, I'm not. You're a success, I've been a failure, from a social point of view—"

"Success?" said Laurence.

Sunk deep in the big armchair, his head bent forward, he stared at the fire from under his bent brows.


"Surely. You're a big man here, Laurence, I found out—you've made a fine name for yourself. You've got wealth too, a real lady and a beautiful one for a wife, three fine boys—and this house you live in, why, it's a palace."

There was a faint veiled irony in the old man's voice.

"Your mother would have been proud to see you, Laurence."

"But you're not, eh?" Laurence smiled aggressively. "You've got something else in your mind."

"Well—yes ... I don't care much for all this. I find a man needs very little to live, and all the rest is waste, so I think."

"You've become a philosopher," growled Laurence.

"Yes," the old man chuckled. "Long ago I took to the road. Since then I've never owned anything nor had any care for the morrow. I travel like the birds and pick up my living as I go."

Laurence made no comment but continued to gaze into the fire, sunk deep in reverie. He looked very tired; his whole big frame relaxed, his eyelids drooped.

But he was thinking—or rather, whole scenes from the past were flashing by him, things long forgotten, it seemed.... After a rather long silence he said dreamily:

"You know Pat was killed at Shiloh, I suppose?"

"I heard he was killed, yes—that is, I didn't know it till I got back here."

"And you didn't know my mother was dead, either—or what had become of me?"


"No, Larry, no—how could I?"

The old man filled his pipe again from a bag of tobacco that he carried in his pocket.

"Well, you are an old bird," said Laurence sardonically.

"Family isn't the only thing," was old Timothy's calm response. "'Tisn't even the main thing."

"Oh, what is, in your opinion?"

"Why, a man's work—his ideas."

"Work? I thought you didn't work."

"I don't work for a boss, or for a society that only wants to exploit me, and I haven't these many years. I've gone hungry rather, lived with the lowest and off them too, rather than that. Once I got out of that hell, I wouldn't go back into it, sooner starve.... But I work for what I'm interested in."

"And what's that?"

"The big change that's coming, Larry. The day when there'll be real freedom for every man."

The old man paused, then said abruptly:

"You're your mother's son. It's her blood in you that's made you go the way you have.... On my side we go another way. Far back my people were all rebels. Hardly a man of 'em died in their beds.... There's a bigger war coming in this country, Laurence, than the one you fought in. There you were on the right side of the fence, but now you're not—you've gone over."

"Gone over? Gone over to what?"

"To the rich, to the capitalists, to the whole rotten system. You're a pillar of it now."

Laurence opened his eyes, looked interested.


"Do you think so, Dad?" he enquired, using for the first time the familiar address of long ago.

"Sure I think so!"

A pugnacious spark lit the old man's eye, his philosophic calm wavered.

"I'd been better pleased, Larry, if you'd stuck by your own class. It's men like you we need—you could have been a leader! But it's the old story, so soon as a man of ours shows the ability, the other side gets him—he goes after the fleshpots, and he's lost to us!"

"There are no classes in this country, you're thinking of the old world, Dad," said Laurence tolerantly.

"There's always two classes—them that have and them that want!" declared the old man curtly.

"You're for a class-war, then?"

"I'm for it!... Not for myself, thank God the day's long past, if it ever was, when I wanted anything for myself. But I belong to the Knights of Labour and I've travelled the country over, helping to organize here and there. I see the big fight coming. This country's changed. The rich get richer and the poor poorer. The big fortunes are piling up. You'll see ... you'll see."

"You're a true Irishman, Dad, always spoiling for a fight—always against the powers that be."

"And you come of the same stock, but you've gone back on it! Maybe you've sold yourself to the powers that be!"

"No," said Laurence coolly. "No man can say that of me. Look over my record, if you like to take the trouble. Ask what my reputation is.... You'll find I've stood for the poor and oppressed as much as you,[235] or maybe more—I've fought many a poor man's case against a rich corporation, and won it too."

"Then how did you get all this?"

The old man waved his hand, clasping the stubby black pipe, and fixed a shrewd sparkling glance on his son.

Laurence laughed abruptly.

"Partly by inheritance, by investments, speculation sometimes, not by bribery or corruption!... But it seems rather funny to me that you should drop down on me this way, all of a sudden, and accuse me! Yes, by George, it's funny! Life is certainly amusing, at times."

"You mean I haven't any right to call you to account," said the old man placidly. "But I don't do it because you're my son—but because you're a strong man that was born of us and ought to have stayed with us."

"Us? You mean I ought to have been a day-labourer?... You're a fanatic, Dad.... If you were so anxious to have me go the right way, why didn't you stay and train me up?"

"It was weakness, I know, but, as I told you, I couldn't stand your mother, God rest her soul.... But of course I didn't see as much then as I do now. I've picked up some education, I've studied Marx and the Internationalists...."

"And you're for revolution. I see. But it won't come, not in this country, not anyway in your lifetime or mine, and then only slowly, by degrees.... Oh, I've looked into those things as well as you. Social questions[236] interest me. I see the battle of opposing forces, and I'm on your side too, on the side of the advance, as I see it. But—it won't come by a sudden blow—not here. Little by little, as a man's frame changes. This country's built on the English model, little as you may like it, slow to change but yet changing.... And that's where I come in. Don't you see the cause needs a friend at court? You can batter away on the outside as much as you like, but you need somebody inside!"

"Maybe.... That wasn't what made you want to get inside, though, was it, Larry?" said the old man cynically.

"Oh, I don't know.... I don't know why I wanted to."

Laurence stood up, stretching his arms with a look of nervous fatigue.

"I promised the boys a game of billiards—come on up, will you?"

"All right, all right."

Laurence stood a moment with his back to the fire, looking about the room. Its length on two sides was filled nearly to the ceiling with books. There was Judge Baxter's private library in its stately bindings, and many of his law-books, huge bound volumes of reports, "commonplace" books filled with his neat crabbed writing, ponderous commentaries in calf. Laurence had done a good deal of work in this room....

"I wanted to count for something," he said absently. "Who doesn't?"

"Yes, but for what—that's the point! What's all this good for, that you've got? Loot!"

"I wanted," said Laurence, deep in his own thoughts[237] and oblivious of this condemnation, "I wanted—human happiness, more than anything. For myself, yes—and for other people.... I wanted life to be more interesting, richer than it was, with more pleasure in it.... Why not? Why can't it be?... I tried, here in this town—"

"Oh, I know!" broke in the old man impatiently. "Public improvements and all that. Suppose they have got cement sidewalks and lots of trees? Suppose ye did give 'em a library? I know they say you've done a lot for the town ... but you want to be a big man, the patron, the boss, and give it to 'em out of charity! That's the same old story, it doesn't interest me. Give the people justice, they won't want charity!"

"Justice!" murmured Laurence with an abstracted smile.

"Well, their rights, then, if you like it better. I don't mean the kind of justice that you deal them out, sitting up on your high seat!"

"I deal them out the best I can find," said Laurence gently. "The law gets re-made rather slowly, you know.... But I'll admit to you that I don't sleep well, the night after I've sentenced a man."

"I never thought to see that—you, Larry Carlin, sentencing people to prison!"

"No, I don't sleep well," said Laurence vaguely.

He rubbed his hand over his eyes and shrugged his shoulders with a look of weariness.

"Well, shall we go up?" he said shortly. "I'm mighty sorry, though, that you don't approve of me."

"Yes, yes, I understand!"

The old man laughed, and suddenly resumed his for[238]mer manner, his placidity, with an ease that indicated long practice in adapting himself to shifting scenes and moods.

"You're not responsible to me, God knows.... To each his own life, and I'm not to be the judge of yours!... Anyhow, Larry," he added as they went toward the door, "you got what you wanted."

"Oh, yes—yes, I got it,—in many ways."

"And now you've got it—you wouldn't say now, as many do, that it's vanity and vexation of spirit?"

"Oh, of course!" Laurence laughed abruptly. "Still, when you go after a thing it's better to get it.... Then you can see what it's worth."



The billiard-room, on a suggestion from the architect, taken up with amusement by Laurence, had been made to resemble a European café. It had a low ceiling, red-plush benches round the panelled walls, long mirrors, and small tables in the corners; there was even a miniature bar.

Laurence, with his coat off, moved quickly round the green table, leaning half-way across it sometimes to make a difficult shot, managing his cue deftly and surely. The two younger boys followed his motions eagerly. John, who was playing his first real game, had a flush of excitement in his cheeks; his big blue eyes shone, he bit his lips nervously and his hands trembled; he laughed gaily when he made an awkward play. Timothy hung at his elbow, jeering and waiting anxiously for his turn. In the doorway lounged Jim maintaining a slightly supercilious attitude. Mary and Lavery were sitting on one of the plush benches; and the senior Carlin, standing at a little distance, contemplated the group round the table with interest. The men were smoking, the air was a little hazy. With the bright lights reflected in the mirrors, the click of the balls, quick movements and laughing comments of the players, the others watching, all seemed drawn together for the moment in an atmosphere of pleasure.

Laurence's face had brightened, his eyes smiled. When John had made his last play, a terrible fumble,[240] and thrown down his cue angrily, he put his arm round the boy's shoulders and shook him with tender roughness.

"Be a good sport! You've got to lose before you win, you young monkey!"

John frowned, stamped his feet, and wrenched away, yet his eyes too smiled, and he hurried to fetch the chalk demanded by Timothy. Then when Timothy blundered John murmured a consoling word, little attended to, and when Timothy made a good stroke he applauded vigorously. Now and then he glanced happily at his mother, watching for her smile, or spoke to Jim, who only dropped his eyelids in answer; or went and stood beside his grandfather for a moment. He showed a quick consciousness of every one in the room, as though with infinitely delicate feelers touching them all. His physical motions were awkward, with the rapid growth of adolescence his arms and legs were somewhat out of control. He jostled Timothy at a critical point and received an impatient rebuff. Dashed by this, he stood apart for a while; and his face had its wistful, listening look, as if he sought among them all the human echo of some harmony heard far off.

After Timothy, it was Jim's turn. Jim had some pretensions to skill, but bore a smashing defeat with good grace, and complimented his father in an off-hand manly fashion, on which they shook hands with a cordiality rare between them. Jim as a rule irritated Laurence, either by obvious faults, laziness or extravagance, or else by silence and lack of response, a standing difference of temperament. But tonight Laurence looked at him affectionately, noting with pleasure his[241] dark good looks, his lithe youth. Jim was almost a man—next year he would be going to college, if he could manage to pass the examinations.... So time passes....

Laurence was aware of a dark whirl of thoughts, half-formed, somewhere at the back of his mind; and of a weight pressing on the nape of his neck. For some time he had slept little and had been conscious of an increasing fatigue, something that piled up day by day, and made increasing effort necessary to get through each day's activity. He would have to work tonight. Downstairs he had the papers of an important case in which he had reserved decision.... And then there were a lot of business matters to be gone over with Lavery....

But he was reluctant to leave this bright room, to break up the family gathering. It was rare that they were all together like this; Mary very seldom came up to the billiard-room. The occasion seemed to him significant, and searching for the reason, he wondered if his father's strange presence had anything to do with it, or with his own unusual mood. Perhaps so. Perhaps it was this that had, as it seemed, thrown him back into the past, had curiously removed him to a distance so that this present scene had a kind of unreality.... It was like a scene on the stage which he was watching as it were through a reversed glass, so that the figures of the actors, his own included, appeared very tiny and as if at an immense distance. He watched himself going through the motions of the game, talking, laughing, and the others moving about. It seemed that some drama was moving to an obscure[242] but deeply significant climax, but what was it all about?

At times he came to the surface of consciousness with what seemed like a crash, the lights and sounds smote his senses as if magnified, the actors became life-size or even bigger, and he waited for them or for himself to say or do some unheard-of thing.... All through he was conscious of an effort in himself to appear as usual, not to do anything extraordinary, not to lose touch with these human beings round him, all of whom seemed invested with some strange charm, newly felt, as though a hidden beauty in them had suddenly come into view....

At one moment he wondered if he were ill, or going to be; and put his hand on the back of his neck, where the dull pain pressed heavily. From across the room he saw John's eyes fixed on him earnestly; and smiled at him. The shadow of trouble in another person would trouble John. Strange boy! He was like a harp so delicately strung that a breath of air would stir it. What would happen to him in this world of harsh and jarring contacts?... The other two, he thought, would shoulder their way through well enough. They were strong normal boys with a good supply of egotism. The stock was sound....

He realized that he was looking at them all as though on the eve of departure, a farewell before a long journey.... The room swam in a dazzle of light. With an immense effort he pulled himself together, vanquished the momentary faintness, gave no other sign than a pallor, a rapid blinking of his eyes....

He found himself standing beside his father, before one of the long mirrors, and replying to some remark[243] half-heard. His vision cleared, he looked at the two figures in the glass, curiously. Would any one have taken those two for father and son?

No. In the first place, the elder looked absurdly young, with his smooth-shaven unwrinkled face and wiry figure. And then, he looked like a foreigner; the Irish was unmistakable. Old Timothy had never taken root in American soil, but floated like thistledown above it, for forty years.... And the other one there, the black-bearded one—with age the Irish came out in him too, unmistakably.... But he was an American, born here, with no dim shadow of allegiance elsewhere. A son of the soil, he had fought for its nationality—there was the sign, the old sabre-cut, a faint white line across his cheek. And those old American ideals, of liberty, equality—he had believed in them passionately, felt them a living current in his blood, would have given his life for them. He still believed in them—and surely nothing in his life had given the lie to that belief?

The old man there had questioned, doubted him, on the score of this material luxury, this big house he had built—which, for that matter, was as unsubstantial as a soap-bubble, he could almost feel it dissolving under him.... Why, that only proved the equality of opportunity here for every man, he had started empty-handed. Here in this country the stream of fortune ran swift, capricious.... Men were all like gold-washers on the banks of a river, today the current would wash the golden grains one way, tomorrow another.... Why, tomorrow this bubble of a house that he had amused himself blowing into shape, might vanish, and he be left empty-handed.... What matter? It was[244] all unreal, anyway, all a dream, what he had tried to build....

It seemed to him that he had been saying some of these things to his father, but he was not sure, there was a humming sound in his ears.... Again there was a flash of clear sight. John was there beside him, now there were three figures reflected in the mirror.

"Three generations!" said Laurence.

He spoke in his natural tone, the haggard pallor of his face changed suddenly; he felt that John had noticed it, was watching him.

"Look, Father, can you see any likeness among us three?" he asked.

The boy stood between them, straight as a young sapling, the radiance of his blond head like a beam of sunlight, a bow of promise across a cloud.

"No—no," said the old man thoughtfully. "I see it now in you and me, Larry—there's the same blood. But I don't see it in the boy."

"John isn't like any of us, anyhow," said Laurence, with the tender tones that he always had for this child. "He makes us look like a couple of scarred old logs, doesn't he?"

"Ah, youth—that's the pure gold," said the old man softly.

The boy smiled, deprecating, shrinking a little from their gentle scrutiny.

"It isn't that alone, there's something else, that's unaccountable," Laurence pondered, as if speaking to himself.

"It's the mother, perhaps—he's more like her. That's a different strain," said the old man.


Laurence turned and looked across the room. Mary had risen, was still talking to Lavery, but she was looking straight at them, at the group before the mirror.

"Mary, come here a minute," called Laurence.

She came, with her slow stately step, and Laurence put out his hand and drew her to his side.

"What is it?" she asked, with a faint tremulousness in her voice.

The old man, standing a step apart, and looking at the other three, replied.

"We were thinking of the likeness.... Yes, it's more on your side—yet I don't know—"

"Mary and I are different enough, eh?" said Laurence with a slight laugh. "That might account for almost anything. She's pure English, you see—English Puritan.... It was two enemy races mating when we married, eh, Father?"

"That makes the American, maybe," said the old man, still curiously intent on the boy.

But John, embarrassed by this prolonged attention, now broke away and left them.

"He's not like either of us," said Laurence abruptly, watching the boy's retreating figure. "That is, only a little. He's like a flower, sprung from heaven knows where."

Glancing again at the mirror he saw the quick response in Mary's face. In the mirror their eyes met with a deep flash of sympathy. Yes, this was something they both felt deeply and in common—the strange beauty of this child who had, nevertheless, sprung from them, from their two lives, however marred and[246] futile.... Their union had at least produced this thing of beauty....

They looked at one another with a deep sad gaze. Laurence, with a sharpened vision, saw something in Mary's face new to him. The physical change must have come slowly—Mary had not been ill for a long time, that sharpening of the contours that gave her beauty its new delicacy was perhaps only age. But what he saw was not physical. He saw suddenly that she was grieving, suffering, he did not know why; it gave him a quick throb of pain. He would have put his arm around her, but that she moved away sharply. At the same moment he felt again the clouding of his sight, the dizziness.... But, abruptly alleging that he must get to work, he was able to leave the room with only a slight unsteadiness of gait, which, he knew, might easily be attributed to another cause.



Mary watched him go; and thought exactly what he had guessed she would. She said it was time for the boys to go to bed. They all went downstairs. In her own room she lit her reading-lamp, but instead of undressing she stood for a time looking out the window on the lake. Then, when the house was quiet, she turned slowly, reluctantly, to her door, and stopping more than once she descended to the ground floor. The hall was dimly lit. The library door was shut; she heard the rustle of papers and the thud of a book falling. She opened the door noiselessly. There was Laurence, with a wet towel round his head, working at his desk.... And there was Lavery, in a deep chair beside him, looking over some papers. She retreated without a word, but the closing of the door betrayed her.

It was Lavery who came out and found her, wrapped in her long coat, undoing the chain of the front door. He picked up a coat and joined her, not doubting that she wished him to do so.

"Laurence oughtn't to work tonight," she said sharply. "He isn't fit to work."

"Well, I guess he has to—some papers he has to go over.... And he always says he works best at night," drawled Lavery. "Fact is, though, he's not looking well—complains of headache the last few days. Perhaps he ought to ease off a little—rest, if possible."


"Rest!" Mary said with a short laugh. "I never knew him to rest."

"No, that's so—he seems geared up to a certain speed.... But after all we have to relax a bit as we get older. The machine won't stand the speed. And Laurence burns the candle at both ends."

They were walking down a path toward the lake. Mary did not ask what he meant. But he insisted.

"I don't mind a man drinking anything in reason. But I think Laurence is getting to depend too much on it—he has to key himself up to his work. That wonderful natural energy seems to be failing him."

Still she was silent, and Lavery turned to her.

"Why don't you do something about it?" he asked abruptly.

"Nothing that any one could say would make any difference to Laurence," said Mary coldly. "He has always done exactly as he chose, and he always will."

"Oh, has he?" murmured Lavery. "It strikes me he would be more apt to do what you wanted him to."

Mary laughed. "What I wanted!" She turned angrily on Lavery. "You know that isn't true!"

At the same time she was amazed at herself—speaking like this, of Laurence and herself, to a stranger. And the reckless other self over-ruled this protest—it could speak to this man and it would.

"You know I never interfere in Laurence's life. He lives as he chooses."

"He lives the way he has to, I guess," said Lavery meditatively, "I don't know that there's much choice about it."


"Has to!" ejaculated Mary with contempt. "I should think you would be ashamed to say that."

They had approached the border of the lake, the breeze blew sweet and chill. Mary sat down on a bench, and Lavery, buttoning his coat, sat beside her. He knew he should catch cold, perhaps have an attack of lumbago, but no matter!

"Now why should I be ashamed?" he asked, puzzled.

"Why, because—that's no way for a man to talk.... We don't have to do what we don't choose to."

"Oh, don't we?" he murmured again. And after a moment, "Suppose there's a clash between two wills, two people—one has to go down, doesn't he, one has to submit, can't get what he wants, has to take what he doesn't want? How about that?"

"I'm not talking about what we want, of course we don't always get what we want. I'm talking about the way we live, whether we do what we know we ought to do or not—and I say we don't have to live and do what we know is wrong. I say a man ought to die rather than do that!"

"Well, what is wrong?" enquired Lavery mildly. "Now I'll tell you what I think.... I think the most important thing for a man is his work, his output. If he's got work that he believes in and loves, he's got the best thing on earth. And anything's right for him that helps him to do that work. And anything's wrong, for him, that prevents him from doing it. For that's what he's for, that's his reason for living, what he creates, that's why he's different from every other human being, so he can do just that thing.... As for[250] any other right and wrong, I don't believe in 'em. We don't get right and wrong handed to us, we have to make them as we go along."

"Well, I am surprised, to hear you feel that way about work," said Mary, showing her claws.

"You think I don't work?... Well, perhaps you wouldn't recognize it.... I admit the law isn't my work, as it's Laurence's, in the creative sense. He's been able to stick to that and do what he was meant to do—but he's had to pay for it. That's what the drink means, and—other things that you don't like, perhaps."

He paused a moment, he didn't want to seem malicious, but he went on: "Laurence is a strong man. He's taken what he could get, to help him do his work, and I say he was right. But it wasn't what he wanted. He didn't want drink and other women, not seriously. It was trouble with you that made him turn to them."

She sat marble-still, not an eyelash moving. Lavery added:

"I ought to say, he never said a word about that. It's my own observation, that's all."

Again he was silent, watching her still profile, barely visible; guessing at the tumult within her, the rage of offended pride. (If she was determined to dislike him, he would give her something to dislike him for.) He decided that it was time for her to speak now.

But Mary was struck dumb. Her outleap of rage against Lavery recoiled upon herself.... She deserved it, for talking to him in any sort of confidence, for breaking her reserve, compromising her personal dignity—of course he had taken advantage of this. She strove to re-establish her contempt of him. He[251] should not see that she had felt his treacherous attack.

It was some moments before she could say, coolly:

"If you think Laurence has done right, why did you ask me to 'do something about it'?"

He lost the thread of the discourse for a moment, in irritation.

"Why, I meant—I meant—that he had done the best he could, in the circumstances.... But it seems to me he's under a heavy strain—in fact, perhaps in danger of breaking down under it. I wonder if you couldn't ease it, somehow."

It was only partly a game. There was a sincere feeling in Lavery too. He admired—even though unwillingly—the more gifted man. Yes, and he had reluctant admiration for Mary too.

"You don't know anything about it," she said.

"No, perhaps I don't," he admitted.

"I can't see that it's your business, at all."

"Well, I suppose it isn't—unless on account of friendship."

"I don't believe in friendship."

"What do you believe in?" he asked.

"I don't believe in anything."

The words came out with violence. She was resisting the impulse to speak out, and yet she was speaking.

"I used to have faith—but now I haven't anything."

"Oh, yes, you have," he said. "You have faith—everything shows it."

"How? What?"

"Well, what you just said, that a man ought to die rather than do what is wrong—there's faith, in the ideal of what a man is, what he ought to be.... And[252] then you live without compromise, you don't forgive—that's faith."

"How do you know that—that I don't forgive?"

"Well, I can guess that you didn't."

"And you think that's good—not to forgive?"

"I didn't say it was good. It depends on how it works out. I said it showed faith. It means you have a standard and you can't condone an offence against it—at any cost."

"Yes, but it might be only—that I couldn't forgive an offence against me.... It might be only—pride. You see how I mean, that I've lost faith. I don't feel sure of anything."

"You've lost faith in yourself, you mean, but—"

"Oh, not only in myself—in everything else!"

"And you used to feel sure?"

"Oh, yes—I knew!"

"And how was it, that you ceased to be sure?"

"I think—people disappointed me—people I believed in—"

"But you believe in something that isn't people, don't you—some rule of right and wrong that is above human life—"

"I did—yes, I was very religious—I believed in a rule and measured people by it—"

"And when they didn't measure up to it, you—"

"Yes, I—didn't forgive. Even now I despise people, for all sorts of reasons—can't help it.... But now I think I was wrong. I don't think I was religious at all—because, you see, it didn't stand the test—I lost it—"

"And when was that—that you lost it?"


"I don't know. It seems as if it had been going on for a long time, dying.... I used to think that happiness didn't count, that we ought not to think of it. But now I think that was when I was really happy. It isn't so easy to live without it, really, for many years—it isn't so easy!"

She had lost all feeling of the personality of Lavery. It was like speaking out to the night-wind and the starlight. She had spoken the last sentences in a rush, passionately, and in her voice was the tremor of a sob. But she compressed her lips sharply, and sat silent. Lavery took her hand, and her fingers closed on his desperately.... All she cared for just then was not to cry.

"Well, it's true, we can't live without it," muttered Lavery. "You see, we lose faith in ourselves, without it—we feel we've been wrong, and we have been wrong—that's the sign.... Then if we can't get it back we take to dope—like me."

She heard what he said, but she did not answer. She was absorbed in the relief of her emotion, her confession, and the strange feeling of kinship with him, with this person she—didn't like. For she did not like him any better than before, only it didn't seem to matter now. What mattered was not to be entirely alone.

She was comforted, and keeping hold of his hand, she grew calmer, and breathed a deep sigh. Then she noticed that Lavery was shivering.

"Why, you'll catch your death of cold," she said, and got up.

They walked back silently to the house. In the hall[254] he put out his hand to her again and said anxiously:

"Look here now, you won't hate me more for this, will you? That wouldn't be fair."

"No!" she said with energy, smiling. "Not now.... I would, not long ago—but now I wouldn't be so mean as that."

"Well, that's good," he said wanly.



The next day, toward sunset, Mary was walking in to see her father. She went often at the time when he would be home for his solitary supper.

The Carlin place was no longer out of town. Past it stretched the paved street, with wide sidewalks and gas-lamps at frequent intervals. The maple trees now overarched it, a thinning cloud of pale yellow or red, and the leaves lay in thick drifts in the gutters and along the walks. They rustled under Mary's feet as she went holding up her long violet-coloured dress. She wore a mantle to match the dress, and a small bonnet made of violets and lace, tied under her chin with black velvet ribbons.

She walked at a good pace; there was a spring in her step, and unusual colour in her cheeks. She breathed in deeply the cool crisp air, she saw with pleasure the vivid colours of the leaves, the bright western sky: it was long since she had felt this pleasure in the world. It had zest to her; and she could not imagine why. All that had happened to her consciousness was that she had transgressed her own code; had forgotten her dignity and actually discussed her own most private affairs and feelings, with a stranger. But now she had a strange sense of freedom, of companionship in some impersonal way. She did not think more of Lavery because of it. He had gone to the city with Laurence[256] that morning, and she did not seem to care whether she ever saw him again or not. But if she saw him certainly she would talk to him again. She was less a prisoner now; some barrier had been pierced, and she looked out on the world.

As she drew near the house, she saw a once familiar figure, a slim black-coated figure, pushing a small baby-carriage. It was Hilary. He had married a buxom efficient widow, three years before; and in the carriage was his eighteen-months' old daughter, a small, very lively baby, with bright blue eyes. Mary stopped and held out her hand to Hilary, with a friendly warmth that she had not shown him for many years. She asked after his wife, bent to speak to the baby, who bounced up and down and fixed upon her eyes sparkling with energy. Hilary's eyes too were upon her, in surprise.

He had changed very little in ten years. His face was quieter, perhaps, less drawn. The wife took care of him, fed and clothed him properly. No one now thought that he would go into a decline. But his eyes showed the same ardour and intensity of life. He worked harder than ever, for his church had grown, and incidentally had become factious. Hilary had to meet opposition within the fold to his idea of the preaching of the gospel; the time would come when he would be forced to leave this church too, and go forth. Mary knew this, though she rarely went to church now. She smiled inwardly as she recalled how she had felt about his marriage; disenchantment, almost disgust, though she had long before that ceased her[257] intimacy with him. Her idea of him, as celibate, she now felt to have been merely romantic. Hilary was a man like other men. No, after all, he was better than most, he was more of a man. She smiled at him quite radiantly and said she was coming soon to see his wife.

"How well you are looking," he said as she started on, still with that surprised gaze at her.

"It must be this wonderful weather—it makes one feel so alive!" she called back, laughing at the white lie. In this mood she could tell all kinds of lies, without conscience! It was like a renewal of youth, no, it was a youth she had never had, rather mischievous, irresponsible. In this mood she wouldn't care what she did. Now why? She shook her head and gave it up—couldn't say why.

She opened the gate of the old place, and noticed that a hinge was loose; and that the pickets needed painting. The grass was long too in the front yard. She stopped a moment looking at it and at the low frame house. That too needed a coat of paint—why, it was shabby, it was all going to seed. Her brow wrinkled as she wondered why she hadn't noticed this before—how long had it been this way? Her father had been used always to keep the place trim and neat. Was he getting too old to look after it, or to care? She felt a pang.... She must send down a gardener to fix up the yard.

She opened the creaking front door and entered the narrow hall. The familiar odour met her—old wallpaper, old furniture, a slight closeness, a faint smell[258] of cooking. But she liked it—it was home. She went into the sitting-room, where the housekeeper was setting the table for Dr. Lowell's supper.

"Oh, Mrs. Hansen, isn't Father home yet?" she asked.

"Yes, Mrs. Carlin, he has just come. Out to the stable yet."

The rosy-faced Swedish woman, in crisp calico dress and white apron, went out into the kitchen. She came by the day to "do for" Dr. Lowell, and he lived alone in the old house. Mary glanced critically at the table, wrinkled her nose, and sat down in the rocker by the window, where streaks of gold and red glimmered, making a rosy light within. Nothing had been changed in this room, or for that matter in the house since her mother's death. In fact, she couldn't remember when it had not looked just this way.

The brown carpet was a little more worn, perhaps, the brown and gilt wallpaper a little more faded. There was dust on the furniture that would not have been there in her mother's time. But the old clock ticked to the same dreamy tune on the shelf, coals glowed in the open stove, the cat stretched itself and yawned in the armchair, the glass of cream stood as always by her father's plate. In this house it always seemed afternoon, verging on evening.... Yes, and there, in the grass under the window, the sound always associated with home—the faint wiry chirping of the crickets.... Short bright autumn days—long cold nights drawing on—was that why they were so plaintive?


She heard her father come into the kitchen, and then the splashing of water. Washing up in the kitchen—lazy father! Probably he even kept a comb out there, behind the looking-glass! Men get shiftless, living by themselves. Or perhaps he was just too tired to go upstairs. Yes, when he came in, she saw his thin hair had been freshly combed—and he did look very tired. And alas, how old he looked! Why hadn't she noticed that he was getting old?

He was delighted to see her, still more when she got up and kissed him with uncommon warmth.

"Well, now, this is nice! Can't you have supper with me?" he asked happily, lifting the cat out of his chair and sitting down. Mary drew up a chair opposite him and put her elbows on the table.

"I can't eat, because there's the family dinner, you know, but I'll sit with you anyway. What have you got?"

Mrs. Hansen put the supper on the table and retired behind a closed door.

"Cream-toast—dried beef—soda-biscuits—well, I don't call that a solid meal after a good day's work! That's an old lady's supper. Why don't you have a steak, Father, something substantial?"

"Can't, my dear," he said smiling. "Too heavy for me—can't eat much meat. This is just what I like."

He tucked the napkin under his thin beard, still auburn more than grey, and began to eat. Mary took a biscuit and broke it open.


"It's light," she conceded. "I guess she's a good enough cook."

"Oh, she's first-rate—I live in clover," smiled Dr. Lowell.

"Well, hardly that—"

"Oh, yes.... But say, how splendid you look, Mary! Been to some grand blowout?"

"No, I made some calls. Do you like this bonnet?"

"It's fine—what there is of it. Dress too—there's plenty of that. Why have that long tail on it?"

"Well, it's the fashion," said Mary indulgently.

"You look very nice indeed. Better than you have all summer."

"Well, Father, I can't say as much for you. You look tired out."

"I am, at night. But I get up like a lark in the morning."

"You work too hard. You ought to have a man to drive you now, and an assistant—and only go out on great occasions, when you get a big fee, you know!"

A faint uneasiness showed in Dr. Lowell's face.

"Now don't you go trying to take away my work. That's the quick way to break a man up.... I'm going to die in harness," he declared.

"Well, I'm afraid you will," and Mary's lips quivered. He was quick to notice and to soothe her.

"Don't you worry. There's a lot of work in the old man yet. I'm not seventy. And I don't go out much at night any more, you know, or in very bad weather—unless it's life or death.... Oh, they have to consider me now!"


"Well, it's time they did. You never considered yourself."

There was unwonted emotion in her face and voice. He was touched, and surprised.

"I should think you'd be proud of me," he said lightly. "All these smart young doctors in town—but they don't get my practice unless I want to give it to 'em.... People sending for me from all over the county—pay my expenses and anything I want to ask. They don't think I'm too old to work."

"I am proud of you. I never said you were too old. I think you're a great man."

He laughed. "I wasn't fishing to that extent."

"Well, I want you to know that I admire you. I think you've had the most successful life I know about."

"Sounds like my obituary," he commented.

But Mary was groping for something she wanted to say, something newly felt. Looking at his small bent figure, his face, so gentle yet with something hard and firm in its calmness, suddenly she seemed to see him, his long laborious life, in a flash of light.

"I think you're beautiful," she said solemnly.

It was a strange word, and Dr. Lowell was visibly abashed. He fidgeted, made a feeble joke, and then looked sharply at Mary's unwonted colour and bright eyes.

"What's the matter? You're not going to—sure you feel perfectly well, Mary?"

"Why, yes.... But Laurence isn't. I wish you'd drop in and see him. He'll be home tomorrow night. Suppose you come to dinner and take a look at him."

"What ails him?"


"He complains of headaches lately and he looks—well, you'll see. Keeps right on working, though. You'll come? The boys always want to see you too, you know."

"Well, they do. They drop in here quite often—especially Jim. I think maybe we might make a doctor of Jim."

"You do?" Mary's eyes opened wide. "Has he shown any interest that way? He never said a word to me about it."

"Yes, we've talked it over. He is interested. He takes to science. Has a good mind, that boy—kind of slow, but thorough. Likes to get to the bottom of things. He could work hard if he was interested."

"Well!" Mary pondered this. Then she said, "I've been worried about him—he runs around at night and won't tell me where he goes."

"I know where he goes," said Dr. Lowell placidly.

"You do? He tells you?"

"Oh, Jim and I are great friends. He's all right, Mary.... But you must realize—Jim's almost a man, and he's a strapping healthy fellow—you can't hold too tight a rein on him, if you do he'll kick over the traces."

Mary frowned, looked sullen. "I think I ought to know what he's doing."

"Well, I'd just as soon tell you, but you'd very likely make a row and it would be bad for Jim.... Use your imagination, Mary."

She pushed back her chair, rose and walked to the window. Dr. Lowell cast a shrewd glance at her and took a piece of custard pie.

"I think you ought to be proud of your output,[263] Mary—you ought to be a proud and happy woman."

"What, Father?"

"Those three boys—fine fellows, all of them. What more d'ye want? And you haven't spoiled them by petting. They think a lot of you. And you haven't nagged them—not very much."

Mary turned around. "Then you think—really—?"

"Oh, yes, you've done well.... One thing more you might do—but I doubt if you could—let them feel that they could tell you anything, whatever they do. They might not tell you, wouldn't probably, but if they felt they could, without you being horrified, it would be better for them.... But of course you can only do that if you feel that what they want or need is a lot more important than what they do.... Sometimes I think, Mary, that you care more for what people do than for what they are.... Think it over."

Dr. Lowell folded his napkin and put it in its ring, got up and took out his pipe, filled it from a leather bag and lit it. An acrid smoke issued from the old meerschaum as he sank into an easy-chair by the fire. Mary hated that pipe, but now though she coughed in the smoke she didn't notice it. She had stood absorbed in some difficult and displeasing thought—but turning and looking at her father she saw how bent and shrivelled he looked in the big chair.

"Father, aren't you awfully lonely here in the evenings?" she asked suddenly.

"No, no—I've got lots of reading to do, journals and new books—I try to keep up with my profession, you know. No, I'm never lonely."

"I should think you'd miss Mother a lot."


"I do—yes, I miss her.... But it's quieter this way."

"Father! The things you say!"

"Why shouldn't I say them.... Your mother and I got on very well indeed, and if I ever see her again I guess we'll get on just as well."

"If you do! Why, don't you think you will?"

"I don't know, my dear, I couldn't tell you." He puffed meditatively at his pipe. "And I don't think anybody else can tell you either."

"I don't see how you can bear to see so many people die if that's the way you feel, if you think there's nothing more!" cried Mary.

"I keep them from dying, if I can—that's my job.... I don't say there's nothing more. But I say we haven't begun to learn about this world—there's enough here to keep us busy for all the time we've got—we're just ignorant. Life ... it's mystery on mystery.... We can settle what death is when we get to it."

"You're not afraid of death?" she asked absently.

"No, child, no ... sometimes I feel I'd like a long rest ... or a new set of feelings, ideas ... or something. There's only one thing I'm afraid of, I confess—to live on when I'm no use any more and have to be taken care of." He made a wry face. "Don't see how I could stand that. I hope I die with my boots on."

"Well, don't you do it yet awhile." Mary bent down and kissed the top of his head. "We need you. I'll think over what you said—about the boys—and then I guess I'd like to talk to you again about it.... I must go now. You'll come tomorrow night?"

"Yes, I'll come."


On her way to the door she turned. "I declare! I forgot to ask you if you'd seen old Mr. Carlin."

"Yes, John fetched him in here yesterday. We had quite a chat."

"Did you ever hear of such a thing—walking in like that and telling me 'I'm Laurence's father!' Cool as a cucumber! I never saw such an old man!"

"How did Laurence take it?"

"Well, there never was any love lost between them, you know—he was taken aback at first, but they seemed to get on well enough."

"And he's gone?"

"The old gentleman? Yes—went to Chicago today. He said he'd drop in and see us again some time!"

She laughed quite gaily as she went out.

It had occurred to her to see if the garden at the back of the house was neglected too, so she went round that way. Yes, the grass-borders were unkempt, the only flowers were straggling marigolds and asters; dahlias blackened by frost drooped forlornly. No wonder, he hadn't strength now to keep it up. But she thought back and seemed to see that from the time of her mother's death the garden had been running down. "I guess he misses her more than he thinks," she reflected.

She stood looking into the orchard, where among almost bare boughs a few red apples still clung. She felt a desire to go on into the pasture and look at the deep still pool there, which she had not seen for long. She remembered the look of it well—how as a child it had fascinated and frightened her, even haunting her dreams.... But the pasture was trampled by cows, and in this dress and these thin shoes....


She turned to go home, wrapping her mantle round her. The wind was rising, blowing out of a bank of cloud that now covered the western sky. A few sunset embers glimmered there low down. In the wind sweeping over the prairie there was a low booming sound and when the gusts rose higher an ominous whistle. A storm was coming, out of those immense, endless stretches to the west.



All night long the wind roared round the house, dashing gusts of sleety rain against the western windows. At times even the thick walls shook. The lake rose into waves that pounded on the shore. Mary tried to read herself to sleep but in vain. At last she put out her light, and thoughts, images, questions, raced through her mind as she lay in darkness.

A happy woman ... proud and happy, she ought to be. But what had she to be proud of.... Men were more fortunate, they had their work, could really achieve something, could take anything they wanted.... Laurence took what he wanted, to help him do his work, and I say he was right.... Laurence went his own way, apart from her.... Of course apart, she had driven him away. No, he had begun it before that. But she hadn't done her duty by him, it was her duty to forgive.... No, she didn't believe in forgiveness, didn't believe in duty. It wouldn't have worked any better. He would have gone his own way anyhow. And now the boys were beginning too.... Use your imagination, Mary....

She didn't want to use her imagination, she was afraid of it. Yes, afraid.... All sorts of things that she had shut out in the dark, wouldn't look at, and now they were horrible to her.... Why should one have to look at the dark side of life, the animal side?... But suppose that was really life, suppose we were just[268] animals and nothing more—all the rest words. That might very well be.... Her father had spent his life taking care of the physical body, he didn't believe in anything else, didn't look forward.... Life ... it's mystery on mystery ... we're just ignorant.... What was it then that made him so calm and strong, not afraid of anything? She had thought that this was what religion did for you, but he had never had any religion, yet he had always been like this, since she could remember him. Hilary had it too, that same strength, and with him perhaps it was religion.... But she didn't believe in religion, heaven was empty, God had melted away completely, she didn't believe in him.

She tossed restlessly, the tumult without echoing the storm within. It seemed that the wind was driving through her head, her thoughts were like whirling leaves....

Why should she be proud of her sons? They were not hers, they were Laurence's as much as hers, perhaps more; they were distinct individuals, did not belong to her, she had almost no part in them. And she had not trained them in the way they should go ... how could she, when since the early days she had ceased to believe in any definite way? They had just grown up themselves.... You haven't nagged them, not very much.... Was that what her father thought of moral teaching? They had learned not to lie or steal, of course. But as they grew to be men they would begin again. Jim had already begun. He lied to her, and apparently told the truth to his grandfather.... Let them feel that they could tell you anything—they wouldn't tell you probably.... No, they would have[269] their lives apart, and she would be alone still—In her youth she had never felt lonely, but now....

Lavery knew what loneliness was, that was why she had talked to him. He had known how she was feeling before she spoke, otherwise she would never have spoken. He was worldly wise, but that was all, or nearly all—it wasn't much. His consolations—what use were they? Soft living, books, music, little adventures.... She would rather jump into the lake than live like that. Why not?... Nobody would miss her very much. The boys at first, it would be a shock, of course. And Laurence would have to find somebody to run the house. Her father would miss her, and it would be a town-scandal, a mystery.... Why on earth.... A woman with everything to live for.... Temporary insanity.... And then, prying and prowling gossip.

Why not? Well, of course she would never do it. Life was too strong in her—physical life. She would have to be inconceivably miserable before she could seek death. She was afraid of death, now that beyond it lay the void.

And it was still good to live, in some ways. Even today she had known pleasure, more than for a long time. Something had lifted her up. This was the reaction.... If only she could sleep! If the wind would stop howling like a lost soul round the house!

Why was it that she had lost the faith that in her girlhood had made her so strong and secure?... She had said to Lavery it was because people had disappointed her. But was that a reason for losing her faith in God? Wasn't there something above and beyond this human life, so often petty and sordid, these[270] weak human beings—something fixed, sure, always good and beautiful, a refuge?... No, there was nothing, or if there was, she could not find it. When she had thought she loved God, it was only that she loved people—Hilary in one way, Laurence in another—and believed in them. And then at one stroke she had lost both of them. They had been cut away from her—or was it that she had done it, cut them away, repelled and denied them both? If a man loves not his brother whom he hath seen, how shall he love God whom he hath not seen?... Then she had lost all that remained to her, the joy in her children, her content with herself, and that feeling of rightness.... From him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.... Now she would be glad to go away from everybody, even the children....

Toward morning she slept, and woke unwillingly at a knock on her door.

"Breakfast's ready—aren't you coming down?"

It was Jim. She said sleepily, "Oh, I'm tired, hardly slept all night. I guess I won't get up."

Jim looked aggrieved.

"It's rotten when you don't come down," he said. Then, turning away he enquired sulkily, "Well, shall I bring up your breakfast?"

How vigorous and vivid his young figure looked, in the grey morning light—his brown glowing colour, how pleasant to see!

"Yes—no, I'll get up," she said.

Still he lingered.


"Well, if you're very tired—I'll bring it up if you want me to."

"No, I say I'll get up. Run along."

"I'd just as soon bring it up—"

"Run along!"

She laughed as he shut the door, and sprang up, to see if she could make it in ten minutes. It was rather more than that, but she got down to find the three boys at the breakfast-table; and Jim rose and pulled out her chair for her, a mark of special favour. A bright fire crackled in the chimney, the silver coffee-urn hissed cheerfully in the middle of the table; the room was warm and pleasant, with the rain beating against the windows. The boys all smiled at her, and Jim, showing his big white teeth, passed his cup for more coffee. One cup was his allowance, but she filled it up.

"What a night!" she said. "Did you hear the wind? I couldn't sleep—could you?"

They had all slept like tops, hadn't noticed any wind, that is, only John had noticed it. "I like storms," he said. "I like a big storm, but it doesn't keep me awake. I'd like to be out on the lake in a big wind."

"Yes, you would," murmured Timothy sceptically.

"Ma, I wish you'd make Tim brush his hair," drawled the eldest. "Look at it."

"I have brushed it—it won't lie down, that's all. It's a cowlick or something."

"Yes, or something! You need a hair-cut."

"Yes, I guess you do," said Mary, looking at Timothy's thick disorderly black mop. "You can go after school and get one."


Jim picked up the silver hand-bell and rang it loudly.

"What's that for?"

"Pancakes. I told Hilda to make some and she's late as usual. It's half-past eight now."

The waitress brought in a big platter of cakes, and they vanished quickly, with no comment except, "Pass the butter.... Maple-syrup, please—I'll take a couple more, Mother." Then the three said, "Please excuse me," and bolted for the door. In the hall arose the usual hubbub. "That's my coat you've got.... Where's my cap?... Confound it, who took my rubbers?..."

Mary went out to say, "All your rubbers are on the shelf in the coat-closet," to make sure that nobody rushed off without his rubbers, to hear their shouted good-byes. The door banged behind them. She smiled and went back to her coffee and the newspaper. Cold bath and coffee made her feel fresh, full of energy, in spite of a bad night. The world always looked more cheerful in the morning, especially when the boys were about—they were so full of life, all of them, they were nice even when they squabbled. Yes, if one could always be young, things wouldn't be so bad. Life might be rather pleasant if you didn't look into it too much.

She finished her coffee and went into the big clean drab-coloured kitchen to interview the cook about the day's meals and write lists for the grocer and butcher. She ordered a good dinner—Laurence would be home, her father was coming, there might be other guests, for Laurence often brought some one. The cook stood by the table, rolling her hands in her apron and looking rather sullen, and when Mary rose for her usual quick inspection of pantries and ice-box, Hilda said:


"Mrs. Carlin, I think I be leaving the end of the month."

"Why?" asked Mary sharply.

"Oh—I think I be leaving."

"Is it the work—the wages?"

"No—no, I like the place, but ... I think I be leaving."

Mary gazed at her, and finally said, "I know what it is—you've been quarrelling with Anna."

The cook made no answer, but continued to look sullen.

"Now, Hilda," said Mary firmly, "you've been with me a year; in that time I've had three waitresses, and you've quarrelled with every one of them. I like Anna and I'm not going to let her go. I like you too, but you're hard to get along with. If you want to leave at the end of the month you can. I don't want to hear what you've been fighting about. I advise you to think it over, and remember you'll always quarrel, wherever you go, that's the way you're made. Let me know in a week."

She went her rounds, praised the good order she found, and departed sighing. Another raw cook to train, probably! It took just about a year to break them in, and then.... Anna was doing the dining-room as she passed through and looked suspiciously bottled-up, but Mary gave her no chance to complain. Of course they would fight, those two—any two would, they hadn't enough else to occupy their minds. She wished she could get along with one servant, but in this big house it was impossible, it was hard work for two.

The house felt cold—she must send for the furnace-man and have him start the fires. She went back to[274] tell Anna to tell the gardener to go for Mike at once. Then she wrapped a mantle about her and went into the parlours, two big connecting rooms. They were glacially cold.

It had occurred to her this morning that the house was gloomy. She didn't know why she hadn't noticed it before. Nothing had been changed since they had lived in the house, ten years. Perhaps that was the trouble. She had not been interested enough to want to change anything; had accepted it all, as Laurence and the decorators presented it, with indifference. She had never been interested in house-furnishings; if Laurence liked this, it was enough. But it took an enormous amount of work to keep all these heavy carpets and curtains clean, and all this light furniture. And in spite of perpetual cleaning there was always a musty smell when the windows were shut, as now. She frowned, looking critically about her.

The heavy cut-lace curtains covering the windows had turned yellow with age. The thick silk draperies over these inner curtains showed streaks where the sun had faded them. The figured satin upholstery of the carved and fretted couches and chairs was rather faded too.... All this expensive stuff—and now, after only ten years, it had to be replaced! And the bric-a-brac on the gilt tables and the mantelpieces,—the gilt clocks and all that fragile porcelain that took such a lot of dusting—there was not a single thing that she had selected, or liked. But when it came to replacing all this, her mind was a blank. Only she would like something quieter, not gilt stuff, satin, or little figures of shepherdesses, animals, boys riding[275] on goats, and so on.... Probably she would just have to get another decorator. How cold it all looked in this grey light, reflected in the two long mirrors at either end and the oblong mirrors over the mantelpieces!

The boys liked this house. She had discovered just lately how much they liked it. Its size—the big rooms—it was still the biggest house in town. They had a lordly feeling about it. They were secretly proud of their position, as sons of the town's most eminent citizen, and of this house, as the symbol of his superiority.... Well, if they liked it, there was no harm in making it a little more cheerful.

She crossed the hall into the library, where she usually read or wrote or received her visitors, for Laurence was never at home during the day. There was a roaring big fire in the grate. This room was all right. A library should be rather sombre, with big plain pieces of furniture, the walls covered with books. It had the look of being used, lived in; and its red hangings had kept their deep colour. Yes, this would do—besides, Laurence probably wouldn't want it changed. It was the only place in the house that seemed to belong to him.

She went over to her table, where she had left her unfinished paper on Æschylus. Her lips curled in a derisive smile. Æschylus! What did those women care about Greek tragedies?... They brought their knitting or fancy-work, sat and listened or didn't listen, while somebody lectured to them. They felt they were getting culture, keeping up with the times—or rather, it was the thing to belong to the Literary Society, they[276] didn't dare not to belong.... Before Mary had taken the presidency, they had had readings from the novels of the day; some lady who had travelled would read a paper on the Yosemite Valley; or there would be a written debate on the respective merits of Dickens and Thackeray. Oral discussion was unknown, the ladies had no practice in public speaking.... Well, she had made them work, anyway. She had made an elaborate program for the study of Greek civilization, and all this past year had driven or coaxed them through it. She had bought a list of books on Greece for the library; and insisted on the ladies reading and reporting on them. At the meetings she asked questions, stooped to flatter them a little and tried to make them talk. It was hard work. They didn't really want to get anything for themselves, preferred to be spoon-fed. There were not more than two women in town who had any intellectual interests, and she was the only one who knew even a little Greek.

Why bother them? They had their own absorbing interests—family, houses, friends, church. Most of them worked pretty hard at home too. She had done it for her own amusement and occupation, or out of vanity, to make them feel her superiority. They were afraid of her, and she had liked that. She had not one real friend among them.... Better resign, and let them have a good time.

She sat down, throwing off her cloak, and began to look over her manuscript. It represented a good deal of work. She had consulted many authorities, and read the plays, with Greek text and translation side by side. There were the books piled on the[277] table, full of little slips of paper with her notes. She had been conscientious, thorough, giving the best work she could do. No doubt to impress them with her scholarship. She smiled again sardonically as she listened to that inner impish voice that had been her companion now for a long time, commenting on everything she did, sneering....

Anna brought in a telegram. She took it, knowing in a flash what it was. Yes. "Sorry cannot get out tonight important case needs all my attention for several days will wire when I can get away Laurence."

Yes, the usual thing. Only this message was longer than usual, he had wasted several words. She crumpled up the paper and threw it into the fire.... She had intended to talk to him tonight about doing over the house. Then there was her father coming to see him. Well, he couldn't be ill if he was staying away indefinitely. He was just—busy.... She would send word to her father not to come, it was bad weather, a steady driving rain that threatened to last all day.

She took up her pen and looked at the page before her—sat a long time looking at it. In spite of the glowing fire her hands grew cold, too cramped finally to hold the pen, and she dropped it.

Why should she care? All that was over long ago—buried.

Only sometimes it seemed that nothing ever could be buried securely. It was as if the long grown-over ground should stir, and something that had been buried too soon, still alive....



Two days passed, without word from Laurence. He seldom stayed away as long as this without sending some message, except when he was on circuit. The third day, as Mary was driving back from the meeting where she had read her paper on Æschylus, she saw Jim on the street; he threw up his hand, came running and jumped into the carriage.

"I was coming for you, Mr. Lavery's at the house—Father's ill—he wants you to go to the city. They think it's typhoid." He leaned forward and told the coachman to drive faster. "You can get the six-thirty in if you hurry."

He could tell her no more in answer to her questions. He looked very sober. As they turned in through the gates he said, "Don't you think I'd better go with you? You'll want somebody besides that fellow."

"I don't know—wait," said Mary sharply.

Lavery was at the steps, came forward; but Jim sprang out and gave his hand to Mary. Lavery looked pale and worried.

"You'll just have the time to pack a bag.... The doctor isn't positive yet, but looks like typhoid—he's got a high fever."

The coachman was told to wait and they all hurried into the house.

"How long has he been ill?" demanded Mary.

"Well, since we went in, but—"


"Why didn't some one let me know?"

"He didn't want me to.... Now you better get ready. I'll talk to you on the train."

He turned away, perhaps to avoid further questions. Why had he come for her instead of telegraphing?... But she was already on her way upstairs, followed by the three boys and Anna. They stood about in her room and tried to help while she got out her leather bag and put the necessary things in it. She changed her silk dress for one of dark cloth, tied her bonnet with shaking fingers; it was hard for her to hurry. Jim went down and brought her a glass of sherry and some crackers.

"You'll miss your dinner, better drink this," he urged.

She drank the wine and smiled faintly at him.

"Can't I go with you?" he asked again. "Maybe you'll need me."

"I'll see—but now I want you to look after things here. You'll have to be the man of the house."

A pang shot through her at those words, she frowned and snapped her bag shut. She was ready. John, who had not uttered a word, took her hand as they went downstairs. His fingers were cold and trembling.

"Don't you worry," she said sharply. "I don't believe it's serious. I'll telegraph Jim tomorrow. Now you all be good, get your lessons, go to bed on time—and, Jim, you better go tell your grandfather—"

They all swarmed after her to the carriage. The cook came too, calling:

"We get along all right, Mrs. Carlin, don't worry about us—we do everything we can, Anna and me—"


The three boys kissed her, Jim the last, putting a manly arm around her; she thought how grave and strong his young face looked. Lavery stepped into the carriage, the coachman whipped up his horses; they just made the train.

After a few questions and brief answers Mary sat silent, staring blankly out of the window, during the hour's journey. She found that Laurence had not sent for her, Lavery had come on his own responsibility. The doctor had only this afternoon made the diagnosis of typhoid—he was a smart young man, the best in the city, Lavery thought. And Lavery had taken the tiresome journey instead of telegraphing because he had to explain that Laurence was not at a hotel or hospital, but staying at a friend's house, from which it was thought best not to move him. Laurence had some rooms at this house, it seemed, and—in fact generally stayed there when he was in the city. Mary did not know the name or address—she addressed Laurence when necessary at the Palmer Hotel. But she guessed whose house it was that she was going to. He must be very ill. Otherwise Lavery would hardly be taking her there.... When he had made his halting explanation she had listened, said gravely, "Yes, I see. You did quite right," and then turned away.

There was a long drive over the rough cobble-stones, through streets at first brightly lighted, then almost dark. They approached the lake shore. The carriage stopped before a dimly lighted house standing by itself, but not far from a block of houses of similar size.[281] Lavery helped Mary out and while he was paying the driver she took her bag and walked up to the narrow porch. The door opened above; a woman's figure appeared against the light in the hall. The gas-light had a red-glass shade and cast a rosy glow down on the thin woman in a tight-fitting black silk dress who stood aside to admit the visitor. Red hair, twisted in a thick rough coil on top of her head ... eyes inflamed with tears and now opened wide ... Mary recognized Nora. She bent her head with an inarticulate murmur. Nora simply looked at her. Then Lavery came in and shut the door.

"This way," he said, starting up the narrow stairs. Mary followed. He glanced down at Nora, and asked, "Any change since I left? Has the doctor been?"

She shook her head but did not speak, seemed unable to speak.

On the landing, lit by a dim gas-jet, opened two large connecting rooms. The one into which Lavery led the way was in some disorder. A big table with a student-lamp and sheaves of papers was pushed into a corner, easy-chairs littered with cigar-ashes stood in the middle of the floor; on a stand with decanters and glasses lay Laurence's gold repeater. The door into the farther room opened noiselessly and a young woman in a light dress and white apron came out.

"The nurse, Miss Macdonald," said Lavery in a low tone. "Mrs. Carlin. How is he?"

"About the same. Dr. Sayre will be in between eight and nine. He's very restless." As Mary went toward the other room she added: "I'm afraid he won't know you."


On a wide bed, high-topped with its impending weight of carving, dark as a catafalque, Laurence lay tossing, his hands grasping at the coverlet, his head rolling on the pillow. His eyes were half-open and he was murmuring faint hurried words. Sitting beside him, touching his burning hands and forehead, bending over him, Mary could hear no word clearly, only an inarticulate murmur of distress. He did not notice her presence nor give any sign when she spoke to him, urgently called his name. His face was dully flushed, his black hair rumpled wildly, his eyes glassy under the half-shut lids. He tossed away from her, moaning heavily. A dark-greenish shade had been pinned over the gas-globe; in this light he looked ghastly.

The nurse came in and stood at the foot of the bed. After a few moments Mary got up and beckoned her to the window.

"How long has he been like this?"

"Since I came this morning—only a little more restless toward night."

"He looks terribly ill."

"The doctor ought to be here very soon," said the nurse non-committally.

Mary turned away, stopped a moment at the bedside, then went back into the study. Lavery was there, sunk in a deep leather chair, smoking. Mary turned to close the connecting door and he got up, holding his cigar in his fingers. She walked up to him, her face deathly pale, and clutched his arm.

"Laurence is going to die!... I want to telegraph for my father!"

"He isn't going to die!" cried Lavery angrily. "I[283] didn't think you'd lose your head like this, first thing, or I wouldn't have gone for you."

But when he felt her hand shake, saw her whole body trembling, he softened somewhat. "Look here, you're too scared. Have you ever seen anybody very sick before?"

"No ... no...." she muttered. "My mother ... but not like this.... He's so strong...."

"Well, he's sick, but we're going to pull him through.... Now look here, are you going to help or not? When I went for you I said to myself, that woman's got good nerve, she'll be a help. But if you're going to be scared to death, first look at him—"

"No—I'll be all right—just a minute—he's never been sick before...."

"Well, I know, but you're going to pull yourself together.... And you come downstairs and eat a bit with me before the doctor gets here. You haven't had dinner and neither have I.... I told them to have something. About telegraphing your father, we'd better wait till you can speak to Sayre about it—that's etiquette and it won't hinder anything. I don't believe he could get a train in tonight, could he?"


"Well, it would be too bad to keep him up all night, if not necessary. You wait and see Sayre.... And now come down, you'll feel better when you've got some food."

She followed him down into the small brightly-lit dining-room, sat opposite him at the table, took soup, wine and coffee. She was aware of a black figure moving round the table, bringing dishes in and taking them[284] out.... Then suddenly, with an almost audible click of the machinery, her mind began to work in its usual way. Her vision cleared, she saw Lavery opposite drinking coffee and re-lighting his cigar. She looked round the room—solid oak furniture, reddish carpet and curtains, silver on the sideboard and rows of bright-coloured wine-glasses, green and red, a fine damask cloth on the table....

A noise of wheels and hoofs in the street. Lavery got up. As he went out one door, Nora came in the other, and stopped short. In a quick glance, Mary took in her whole appearance.



The girl Mary remembered had changed, more than the ten years accounted for. There was nothing left of her youth. Her body was painfully thin, a mere wisp, and the tight-fitting black dress emphasized each sharp angle. There were great hollows in her face under the high cheek-bones and in her neck, round which she wore a white lace collar fastened by a large cameo brooch. Earrings to match the brooch, too heavy for her face, brought out her dead pallor. Her brown eyes were dimmed and slightly bloodshot from weeping. But her hair kept its vivid colour and luxuriance.

Seeing Mary alone, she had stopped—stood there, looking sullen, biting her lips. They gazed at one another. Mary was conscious of a remote astonishment that Nora should look so angry.... Voices sounded in the hall.

"There's the doctor," said Mary hurriedly, getting up. "Nora, how long has—has he been ill exactly, do you know?"

"Since he came here Thursday afternoon—he was sick then but he wouldn't let me send for a doctor—I wanted to—"

Her voice died away, again she had that sullen defensive look.

"I know. It isn't your fault—I'm sure you did everything you could," Mary said quickly in a neutral tone, and went out into the hall. She felt extremely uncom[286]fortable in Nora's presence, but there was no time to think about that now.

Sayre was a young thickset man, with cool dark eyes, full of energy. After seeing the patient, he sat down in the study and talked with Mary. Finding her calm and alert, he explained the treatment he proposed to give, a new method—plenty of air and food, and cold baths. He cordially assented to calling Dr. Lowell, whom he had met professionally. He thought they would need another nurse, as the patient must be watched day and night. Mary eagerly asked if she could not take the night-duty, but he shook his head; he preferred a trained person, and it would take two of them to handle the baths. But she could be on hand—when her husband was conscious he would want her there. He was curt and grave and used no soothing phrases. Mary did not ask what he thought of the outcome; she could tell from his manner what he thought. He went away, saying that he would send for the night-nurse and would return himself about midnight. She might telegraph to Dr. Lowell if she wished.

Lavery had gone back to finish his dinner. When he came up Mary was in the sickroom. The nurse had to give some medicine; twice a restless movement of the patient had spilt it. Mary slipped her arm under Laurence's head and held him still while the medicine was given. She smoothed back his tumbled hair and laid her cool hand on his forehead. For a moment he was quieter; the low muttering ceased, his eyelids closed. She was on her knees by the bedside; and holding him[287] so, close to her, suddenly she felt stabbed to the heart, she could not breathe for the pain.... Then Lavery came in. Laurence began again that murmuring and tossed away from her. Presently she got up and went out.

She sank into one of the deep chairs in the study, leaned back and closed her eyes till she could control the nervous trembling that shook her. Lavery, lighting one of his thick black cigars, came and sat down near her. He moved stiffly and a half-stifled groan escaped him. She looked at his face, pale and puffy with bluish shadows under the eyes.

"You're tired out."

"Well, I'm tired—I was up last night a good deal," he admitted.

"You must go home now and rest, there's nothing more to do here. The doctor's sending another nurse and he'll be in again himself.... You've been very good."

"Oh," he said brusquely, "I guess it will be all right."

"Well, it may be a long illness, you know—weeks. Now—I want to ask you—" she frowned and gazed at him haughtily. "Here we all are, you see—the two nurses and me, and there'll be special cooking, and—Well, how will she manage? It's her house, I suppose. I don't see how we can all—"

"Nothing else to be done. She has a servant, I know, and you could hire another one if you want. But she'll want to do something herself, she,—oh, well, hang it, she's devoted to Laurence."

"I suppose so.... You know her, don't you, pretty well?"

"Oh, yes, I've been here a good deal. Laurence[288] has always had his rooms here ever since I've known him—it's quieter, you see, and—well, Mary, I guess you knew about it, didn't you?"

"I did, and I didn't," said Mary clearly. "Long ago I did."

"Well, yes—he never said much to me, only that it was an old—affair. Of course I could see how it was—more a responsibility, to him, than—"

"Oh, I understand, you needn't worry, so far as I'm concerned," said Mary, coldly. "I just want Laurence to get well, and everybody will have to do the best they can. It's—well, I can't talk to her tonight, she's so upset, but I don't want her to feel that I've just walked in and taken possession—after all, it's her house. She looks so—afraid, and angry at me too—I can't help it, she ought to know I have to be here. But I don't want to make it harder for her than—oh, well, I'll have to talk to her. It doesn't matter very much anyway, what she feels or what I feel. It doesn't seem very important."

"No, it doesn't," said Lavery absently.

They sat in silence for awhile. He pulled at his cigar, and brooded with half-shut eyes. Mary lay back in the big chair, relaxed ... and a feeling of the unreality of all about her made it seem that some bridge between her and the world had dropped suddenly.... There was only a tremendous vacancy, stillness, emptiness, pressed upon her....

Then into the void came a hoarse choking cry from the sick man. She started up.



By next day the routine of life in these new circumstances was arranged. Mary had a couch in the study, the two nurses having their rooms upstairs; she watched her chance to be useful in the sickroom. Dr. Lowell had come in, and concurred in the young doctor's diagnosis and proposed method of treatment. Alone with Mary, he said:

"Sayre is all right. Now it's a question of care—and of course, if Laurence has the vitality to pull through. I think he has. You can keep an eye on the nurses—the best will stand watching—careless, forget things—"


"And you'll see there's plenty of good food—nourishing soups, eggs and milk, meat jellies—"

"Yes." Then she said. "You know, for some years past Laurence has been drinking pretty steadily—a good deal. Do you think—?"

Dr. Lowell shook his head. "Doesn't make a bit of difference."

"Then you think he may—"

"I don't know a thing about it, Mary, that's the truth—and it generally is the truth. I think he has an even chance.... I suppose you have no idea where he may have picked this up? So far as I know, we haven't a case in town."

"No—he's always moving about, you know—he was in Springfield last week—"


"Yes. Well, I'll come in, say tomorrow evening, and stay overnight. Suit you? Got to get my train now."

He looked at her gravely, kissed her cheek, and departed. Mary was used to that look from him. It was the only commentary he had ever made on the course of her married life; and she had made no confidences to him. Now in this crisis, she knew what his perfectly cool unemotional manner meant: things were so serious that there was no use making a fuss. When the balance hung between life and death one had to be ready for either. No time for tears—a smile was a more natural thing—one could smile, long after tears were all wept away.

She was conscious of a definite irritation against Nora, because Nora's eyes were perpetually reddened and she always seemed on the point of crying. Even when discussing the preparation of soups, arranging for extra service, expenses, all the details of a household in state of siege, Nora had difficulty in controlling herself. Nerves!

Mary wondered if her father had seen Nora, recognized her. She thought it probable, otherwise he would have asked how Laurence came to be at this house. He had asked no questions.

She recalled the violence with which Nora had rejected her offer to get another servant. "We don't need anybody else, we can get along all right." Then under her breath, "Too many people here now!"

That sullen muttering of words meant to be heard had been an old habit of Nora's when her temper was roused. But this time she added hurriedly. "I'll do the cooking myself, I want to do it. You just tell me what you[291] want and I'll get it—night or day, it's all the same to me."

She had spoken with intensity, looking away from Mary, her cheeks had flushed hotly. For a moment she looked like the passionate girl of long ago.

Not once had she addressed Mary by name; she did not want to call her "Mrs. Carlin." Mary without thinking had called her Nora; she did not like that, perhaps.... Mary shrugged her shoulders with an ironical smile.

After her father had gone, she remained sitting in her chair in the study, her hands folded in her lap, her eyes fixed on the smouldering fire in the grate.... Her thoughts moved fast, flashing back through the years, turning a vivid light into dark corners, throwing out like sparks a crowd of scenes and images, covering a lifetime almost....

She was looking at herself, her life and actions, for the first time, as though they belonged to some one else. It seemed that a process, now suddenly completed, had been going on for a long time—a process of breaking, one by one, innumerable tiny threads that bound her to the self which she no longer felt to be hers.... Or rather, it was hers, that self, but it no longer represented her, contained her, it was not all of her. She could stand apart from it and criticize it without feeling.

She looked back to the time when she had been all one self, completely contained in a firm shell: when she had been sure she was right, and all other persons, when they differed, wrong. She saw an unbending pride, pride that had outlasted even her self-righteousness—pride that held fast to the form long after the substance of[292] feeling had gone.... Never had she been able to admit that she was wrong, even after she had seen it clearly. Was it the feeling of wrong that had caused her unhappiness—or was it only as unhappiness grew upon her that she had begun to feel wrong? Was it because of this wrong that she had lost her religion—or was it that her religion was a false shell, and only after breaking through it had she been able to see such light as this?

It seemed that all she had been, that self she had loved and taken pride in, had suffered a slow disintegration.... All that she could now feel as surely hers, was the aloof merciless intelligence that sat in judgment; and something else, that was suffering deeply, dumbly....

There was a dark chaos, into which she could hardly bear to look. Instinct, emotion, long denied, suppressed, was struggling passionately there for expression. This dark depth of feeling was common to the self she had rejected and to what she now was—it spread far out beyond either, it was limitless. It was a flood of pain, swelling to overwhelm her ... it was terror and grief, common to all the world, from which till now she had walled herself apart.... Only for a moment could she bear that.... She had to keep calm, keep her head clear—she was on guard. And she could do it, her nerve was good. If Laurence should die—go out perhaps without a word to her—then the flood would break over her. But till then she could hold it back.

Could a wrong done ever be atoned for? Would recognition that she had done it, a sincere wish to atone for it, be of any use?... Yes, to that self in which she[293] no longer felt any interest. It would be good for herself to repent—but she did not care now about being good or right. She would like to make up for what she had done. And that was no doubt impossible. By her own actions she had helped to fix the form of Nora's life, and of Laurence's. In a real sense then atonement was impossible, repentance was useless. One's acts were irrevocable. All she could do was to recognize her responsibility and pay that part of the price that was assessed against her; perhaps this would be, to see that others had paid far more heavily than she.

How differently that old self of hers would have looked upon this situation. There would have been two sinners and one righteous person judging them. The same house would hardly have held Nora and that other woman, who would have drawn aside her skirts lest she should touch pitch and be defiled.... She remembered Hilary's attitude about sin, and her own condemnation of it ... and reflected vaguely that she had lost her hatred for sin along with her religion. Now everything was mixed up together, she hardly knew black from white.... Only she regretted—yes, bitterly regretted—long empty years.... Her wrongs, and revenge, and hatred, clasped close and cherished, had eaten all the good out of life and she had starved....



A week passed. She watched Laurence's struggle, saw his strong body wasting away day by day, saw him weakening under the incessant fever. There had been no gleam of recognition for her; he was delirious or lay in a stupor. She tried to follow his wanderings in that strange borderland where the physical struggle was transmuted into fantasies reflecting his past life. Broken phrases told her he was fighting old battles over again.... He was contesting a field of war, leading his men into action; he shouted hoarse words of command, then cried out—he was down but the men must go on, take that position on the ridge.... Then he saw his brother fall, but he couldn't stop, must go on, on ... through the icy water, up that slope where the bullets sang.... A soldier's funeral. He beat time to the Dead March and the last bugle-call....

Or it was a courtroom scene. He was fighting hard for somebody's life, he pleaded passionately in low murmurs. The man hadn't meant to do wrong, Gentlemen of the Jury, he had meant well, only somehow things were against him and he had got into trouble.... Your Honour, before you pronounce sentence, I ask to be heard....

Then he was in a storm, the snow blinded him, he was freezing, couldn't go on ... or in a desert, lost,[295] crying for water. Always the struggle of mind and body against odds, it seemed, a desperate losing battle....

Mary would watch this, always calm, cool, alert for anything she could do to relieve or supplement the nurses. When she gave way it was after she had locked herself into a room alone, and then it was not an emotional breakdown but a drop into nothingness. She would lie with her eyes shut, feeling nothing, caring for nothing. Somewhere there was a dumb sense of injury, of injustice—but even this seemed not to matter, since there was no one to complain to.... Things were like this.

As the days went by, all outside the sickroom became more shadowy to her. Even Jim coming in to see her, grown suddenly a man in this trouble, stalwart and serious; her father's visits, the young doctor, Horace Lavery, her daily consultations with Nora—her mind, aloof and critical, received and registered all the detail of life, dealt with it, but it had the thin quality of shadow. The reality was there with Laurence. Sometimes he murmured her name, spoke to her; not recognizing her there beside him, but seeing her far in the past—tenderly. There seemed no harshness in his memory of her, no pain from those battles they had gone through or the long estrangement. His tone was appealing, it had a child-like pathetic demand. He wanted her to do something about this that was bothering him.

Then came a day when the fever broke. Instead of going up toward night it went down. The patient slept[296] quietly a good deal of the night, and woke in the dawn, conscious.

Mary too had slept soundly that night for the first time; waking she saw the beaming face of the nurse.

"You can go in, he's quite himself.... But don't let him talk, he's too weak."

He lay there, too weak indeed even to put out his hand toward her, but his eyes welcomed her. How young those eyes looked, vividly blue in his wasted face! The outline of his face under the black beard was that of his youth and his body was slender as in youth. He smiled at her faintly. She knelt beside him and kissed him lightly with deep tenderness, and whispered that he mustn't try to talk, thank God he was better, but he must be very quiet and get back his strength, everything was all right. His eyes smiled at her, rested on her face with the old warmth of youthful love. He whispered her name.

The nurse came in with some soup, and Mary fed him like a child, with deep solicitude, with delight. His eyes closed, he must sleep again; but when she moved he stirred to keep her there. She nodded and drew a chair to the bedside and sat motionless long after he slept.

In the early afternoon, when Laurence had waked and was again sleeping, with the fever still down, Horace Lavery insisted upon taking Mary out for an airing. When she objected, he took her by the arm and led her to a mirror. "Don't you think you need a change?" he enquired severely. She smiled at the pallid face[297] in the glass, looking certainly ten years older in this fortnight, with deep lines in it, the hair carelessly pushed back.

"You've got to keep up your strength, you know, and you haven't poked your nose outdoors since you came," Horace stated. "It's a lovely day. I'll get a carriage."

"Well," agreed Mary. "I feel like celebrating. But only an hour—Laurence might wake and want me there."

The whole atmosphere of the house was changed—a subdued rejoicing had filled it as the black shadow lifted. Nora even for the first time smiled at Mary coming downstairs in her long black cloak and bonnet. And Mary smiled back radiantly and clasped Nora's rather limp hand. Nora, by way of celebrating too, perhaps, had put on a lavender silk dress, more striking than becoming in contrast to her red hair, now neatly arranged. She had a visitor, at whom Mary just glanced in passing—a stout woman in black satin, with a large feathered bonnet and diamond earrings. Mary of course would never have thought of wearing diamond earrings on the street. She possessed a very handsome pair—she and Laurence always gave one another handsome presents on Christmas—but she had hollow gold balls made to fit over the diamonds for the street or in travelling.... Nora's visitor certainly looked vulgar ... and that dress Nora was wearing was a terrible colour, though it was very rich silk. Nora looked like a witch in it, with her thin face and carroty hair.... Had Nora also, perhaps, a pair of diamond earrings?...


Mary, with a high colour in her cheeks, swept haughtily out of the house.

The victoria drove slowly down the cobbled street, Mary and Lavery sitting side by side. With an effort she turned her attention toward her silent escort, and observed that he was attired in a frock-coat, light grey trousers and a silk hat.

"You're all dressed up!" she said with faint gaiety.

"Yes—usher at a wedding at five o'clock—up to today I didn't think I could do it—but now I don't mind. Why, today I'd hardly mind getting married myself!"

His smoothly-shaven face showed signs of the days of stress which, after forty, man nor woman can encounter with impunity. There was a tremor of the muscles round his mouth as he said abruptly:

"I don't know why I got tied up this way with you and Laurence. Awful mistake—and dead against my principles. Why, it spoils life, that's what it does. And it ain't that I'm so fond of you two either—that is, I don't think I am." He smiled uncertainly. "Old fool," he muttered.

Mary laid her hand on his arm.

"Don't do that, damn it," he said, drawing out a scented handkerchief. "Can't you see I'm about to cry?"

"Well, do, then," said Mary.

"At my time of life a nervous strain like this is no joke," he retorted peevishly. "I tell you I'm going to cut your acquaintance. I can't afford it."

"Well, do."

He scowled. "At forty-five a man has a right to think[299] of himself—consider his little comforts and so on. He can't afford emotions, they're simply ruinous.... And I might have known you and Laurence would let me in for them. You're that kind. I suspected it all along."

It was a warm misty day of Indian summer. The carriage turned into the drive on the shore of the lake. There trees were shedding softly their last golden leaves. The lake was a deep cloudy blue, lapping in ripples on the sand.

"I think I'd like to walk a ways," said Mary suddenly. "It seems years since I stepped foot on the ground."

She left her wrap in the carriage, which followed them slowly as they strolled along the shore, and halted when they sat down after a time on a bench facing the water. They were silent, relaxed and weary, each immersed in a separate stream of thought; but conscious too of companionship. When Lavery spoke finally it was as though he were thinking aloud.

"I believe we are not meant to go through such emotional strain—I mean, human beings simply aren't constructed for it," he meditated. "I think we've gone off on a tangent, a wrong turning. We've overdeveloped our emotions, and Nature penalizes us every time for it. When you consider it, the physical world being what it is, really hostile to us, so that we have to be always on guard, and with all our care we're liable to an accident any minute—why, it's not reasonable for us to care so much for life or death—our own or other people's. Is it now? We put a wrong emphasis there, I'm sure."

Mary remained silent, and he went on:


"Of course, you may say that what we think is our highest development is all, in a way, against Nature.... Nature works for the mass, for the average, she wants quantity, not quality—she's inclined, when she sees a head rising above the mass to hit it.... What does Nature do for the finer, more sensitive human beings? She knocks them, every chance she gets. Suppose we develop altruistic feelings, a disinterested love for some other human being, we get hit through it, every time. No, ma'am, it doesn't pay! This world is constructed for people with tough shells—all others pass at their own risk.... And I think maybe we'd do better by the world, and other people, and ourselves, if we recognized that—if we had a real philosophy of toughness, instead of what we've mistakenly developed.... The philosophy of tenderness is the fashion, of course—people profess it, are actually ashamed not to—and a few practise it. But what good is it? It doesn't fit the facts, that's all, doesn't work. Since we're flung out defenceless into a world that doesn't care a hang about us as individuals, we ought to grow a tough shell as quick as we can, and stay in it if we want to survive. The only philosophical solution is not to have personal feelings.... You must either not admit them at all, but live like a crab in your shell—or else you must transcend them. Mystics say this can be done—I've never tried it myself. They say you can merge your own individuality in the mass, so that you are simply a part of what is going on, and don't feel personal loss or pain much.... What say about that?"

He turned to Mary, and saw that she had not been listening. She was staring at the blue shimmering water[301]—and suddenly she flushed deeply, painfully, and looked distressed.

"What's the matter?" asked Lavery sharply. "What's bothering you now?"

"It's about Nora—"

"Nora? What about her?"

"Well, I just thought that I might have asked her to go up and see Laurence for a minute, now he's better.... She hasn't been near the room since I came.... And I took it that way, as if she had no business there...."

Lavery looked sideways at her, discomfited.

"Well, you couldn't have too many people running in—he isn't fit for it," he muttered.

"No, but I do feel badly about her.... You see, it goes back years. She was in our house, took care of the boys when they were little. She really loved them—and I guess she'd always been fond of Laurence, she knew him before I did. But I didn't notice it until ... well, I discovered it suddenly and ... she was turned out of the house practically.... I didn't concern myself about how she lived after that...."

"So that was the trouble," said Lavery, looking curiously at her. "I never knew that—I mean, that she was concerned in it.... And you were awfully angry?"

Mary frowned. "I don't know what I was.... It did something to me—I never got over it—couldn't."

"I suppose you were very much in love with Laurence then."

"I don't know whether I was or not, that wasn't the way I thought about it.... I didn't think about it[302] much anyway—I never liked thinking about my feelings ... or talking about them."

"You don't mind talking a little this way, do you?"

"No, not now—it seems so long ago, and then—I'm hardly the same person I was then."

"And so you turned her out.... But you didn't want to leave Laurence?"

Mary was silent for some moments.

"Perhaps I did, perhaps not.... I didn't leave him, in one way, and in another I did. It couldn't be the same."

"Oh, no ... but still in the course of time you might have forgiven him."

"It wasn't that.... I don't believe there's such a thing as forgiveness. We forget, that's all."

"And you didn't forget.... I wonder if you loved Laurence."

"I don't know. He always said I didn't.... But he's had his life anyway."

"No doubt. And you've had yours."

Mary shrugged her shoulders. "Oh, yes."

He waited, watching her curiously, and after a moment she broke out:

"I know this—the only times I've ever felt afraid—real fear—it was on account of Laurence—when he was in danger."

"You didn't exactly want him, then, but you didn't want to lose him either?... You wanted him in some way."

"Oh ... that's enough about that.... But I was talking about Nora. I can see she thinks she'll be[303] thrown out again. Any how she just hates me."

"Well, naturally."

"But I tell you, I'm sorry for what I did. I'd like her to know it. But I can't say anything to her. It seems, everything I could say would sound—patronizing, or forgiving, or—wrong, anyway."

"Of course. You're in possession, you see. She knows it, and that she hasn't got any real hold. You can't get around that. I don't see what you can do about it."

"But, you see, she really gave up her life—first to my children, and then.... She would have married and had children of her own."

"No doubt. She might yet. But not while Laurence is around. It's a real passion on her side."

"Well—that's my doing. I mean, that it lasted as long as it did. It was because I acted the way I did that he didn't break with her then."

"He'd have been glad to, many times since, I guess. She is as jealous as the devil, and makes scenes about any shadow of a woman. Naturally—she knows she hasn't got much of a hold on him, only he feels responsible.... I don't really see, Mary, why you should have made such a fuss about her.... It isn't as if he'd ever been in love with her.... Why couldn't you let him have his humble handmaiden ... or at any rate, not upset the whole apple-cart on account of it?"

"Oh, I know, you have no morality—hardly any man has. Anyhow it has nothing to do with that.... I want to know what to do now."

"Well, I don't see what you can do."


They had spoken in calm neutral tones and now were silent again. Lavery watched Mary; her face was intent, slightly frowning, baffled. He reflected that she had a concrete sort of mind, abstract questions, problems of character or conduct, did not interest her, she wanted to "do something." And really now, what could she do about this situation?

"You see," he said slowly, "things are changed now. Your being there—right there in the house—don't you see? I think, when he gets well, Laurence will want to break away for good and all from there. Of course she'd be looked after, materially, that's only right. And she'd probably have a chance to settle in life, it would be better, in the long run, for her.... I'm sort of taking it for granted," he added gravely, "that you want Laurence back."

Mary's face was an expressionless mask; lowered eyelids hid her eyes.

"I guess you want him back, and you don't want any other woman round. I sort of think you're human, after all."

"I'm afraid to say," she murmured.

"What? How?"

"I'm afraid.... It seems, I mustn't want anything now, I mustn't count on anything.... I must try to do right, to make up what I can, in any case, whether Laurence—" Suddenly she turned and cowered against Lavery, hiding her face on his shoulder, clutching his arm. "I'm afraid—I'm afraid!"

He sat silent and nodded his head slightly, looking blank, then became cheerful, expostulated:

"Oh, I know we're not out of the woods yet—but, I[305] say, you're not going to pieces, are you, the first good day we've had, and me with a wedding on my hands?... I say, this is unreasonable.... Poor girl, you're tired out, I know ... but what d'ye suppose the coachman thinks?"

"As if I cared!" But she sat up and straightened her bonnet. "We'd better go back now."

The sun was almost too warm on their bench.... And the water ... what a blue, soft and cloudy, a heavenly colour.... The softness and warmth of summer shed for a day over bare boughs and falling leaves....



They drove back rapidly. In the hall, Mary found Nora waiting for her. Nora, with flashing eyes and bright red spots on her cheek-bones, came up to her and said:

"There's a woman in there.... She wouldn't go away!"

"Where? A woman? What woman?"

"In the parlour. I don't know who she is.... She wants to see him."

"Wants to see ...?"

"I told her she couldn't, but she wouldn't go away. You better tell her!"

Lavery had come in and gone on upstairs. With a severe look at Nora, Mary opened the parlour door and went in. A woman who had been standing at the window turned to meet her. A woman, tall as herself, young and slender—dressed in plain black but richly dressed. A faint perfume was shaken out as she moved, from her silken clothes.

"Mrs. Carlin?... I've been waiting.... I wanted to know just how he is.... I'm a friend, I've been very anxious."

A hat with a drooping lace veil partly hid her face. She was striking, if not beautiful—a long narrow face, with intense dark eyes under straight brows, thick hair of a dark auburn colour. Her look was as direct and wilful as her words.


"He is better today—conscious for the first time, but very weak," said Mary evenly, with her stateliest manner.

"Could I see him?... Oh, I don't mean to speak to him, I know that wouldn't do.... But just to look at him for a minute?"

The request was uttered politely enough, but like a command.

"No. If he saw you it would disturb him perhaps. I can't risk it," said Mary calmly.

"You needn't. If he's awake I won't ask it. But if he isn't, it won't hurt him if I just stand at the door for a minute.... That's all I want, and I won't come again.... Won't you see? Please!"

The woman was breathing quickly, her voice was agitated, and those dark eyes burned.... Well, she was straightforward enough, anyway, no excuses, no beating about the bush. Here was a woman who would know what she wanted and wouldn't have any weak scruples about getting it.... Refuse her?... Well, after all, why? Perhaps she too had a right to be there....

"Come up with me.... I'll see how he is.... But you won't...."

"Oh, he shan't know I'm here, depend on me."

Mary led the way out into the hall and up the stairs. She saw Nora standing at the back of the hall, her face convulsed with anger.... At the head of the stairs was Lavery.

"Still sleeping—that's fine," he whispered.

Then as he saw the woman behind Mary on the stairs, utter amazement showed in his face. He stepped back,[308] bowed, and she acknowledged his recognition by a slight bend of her head.

"Come in this way," said Mary.

The visitor followed her into the study, and then, when Mary beckoned to her, to the door of the sickroom. She moved slowly, shrinkingly; clasping her hands over her breast, fixing her dark eyes on Laurence's face, just dimly visible. A look of terror came into those eyes, her lips parted, but without a sound.... In a few moments she moved noiselessly back. Hastily she dropped the veil over her face, turned to Mary, said in a choked voice, "Thank you," bowed as she passed.... In a moment she was down the stairs and out of the house.

Then the doctor came and went, much encouraged. And then Mary went down to her solitary supper. Nora came in to wait upon her, still incongruously attired in the lavender gown, but pale and lowering.

"Nora, have you been in to see Laurence?" asked Mary gently.

Nora shook her head sharply.

"You'd like to see him tomorrow, wouldn't you, if he keeps as well as today?"

"He hasn't asked to see me, I guess," said Nora coldly.

"No, he hasn't asked for anybody, he's too weak to talk. But I'm sure he'd like to see you," Mary said, still studiously kind.

"When he asks for me, I'll go," Nora flashed out. Her whole face was ablaze, her eyes flamed. "And you shouldn't have let that woman up there—she's always[309] after him, she writes to him, there's packs of letters from her—"

"How do you know?"

"Oh, I didn't open the letters ... but I know!... What right has she to come here and want to see him?"

"Well, I don't know.... She seemed very fond of him," said Mary calmly.

Nora rushed out of the room.

And then Mary repented her malice. That poor thing, it was a shame to torment her.... And how foolish to have made a fuss, as Lavery said, about Nora.... That other woman, that was the dangerous one, Nora was harmless, poor creature.... And heaven knows how many more there are.... Yes, Laurence had had his life.... Sometime perhaps she too would be angry about this, but not now.... Now she would prefer to be kind, even to Nora.

But perhaps Nora's instinct was right, and Lavery's. It might be useless for her to try to approach Nora, or to try to be reasonable. It might only make things worse. Nora was willing to do her best practically—that was all that could be asked of her. Her personal feelings were her own affair.

But Mary was obstinate. That feeling of deep injury, of bitterness, of hate perhaps which she had seen in Nora toward herself—how could she consent to have that remain, if there was anything she could do to soften it? She was willing to do anything possible, willing to admit that she had been unjust. Her pride, from the moment she felt herself in the wrong, was on the side of admitting it, practically forced her to do it.... But why was[310] it that she seemed to say or do just the wrong thing, why was it so hard for her to approach people, even when she wished them well—what stupidity in her made her offend? Was it deeper than that? Was it after all that she perhaps didn't feel kindly to Nora, didn't wish her well?... This incident tonight seemed to show it. She had had a chance to annoy Nora and she had done it.... Was she still bound then by the limitations of that old self, which she saw so clearly? Were one's faults and weaknesses inherent, not to be got rid of, even if one condemned them? Apparently....

No, one thing was different, her will. She willed to be different from what she had been—she would force that old self of hers to be different, at least to act in another way. And Nora should feel it too.

"Nora!" she called clearly.

She waited a few minutes, then got up to go in search. But Nora came in through the pantry-door and shut it behind her; leaning against it she looked at Mary with defiant eyes.

"Don't look at me like that. I'm not going to do anything against you. Do you think I want to hurt you? Don't you see?"

"It's no matter whether you do or not," Nora said in a hard tone.

"I want to tell you that I think I was wrong—long ago. I wasn't fair to you. I—"

"It's no matter now," Nora broke in again.

"Yes, it is. I want to say—"

"I don't want you to say anything!... I guess[311] you were fair enough, you treated me all right. Anybody would have...."

She stopped and her lowering gaze shifted.

"Well, I just want to say that I feel I owe you a good deal. I realized it afterwards. The children.... I knew you'd really loved them—"

Nora shrank at that and bit her lip.

"It's no use talking, I don't want to talk about it," she cried. "I've been a bad woman, and that's all there is to it."

"No! I never thought you were bad—not even then. I don't think I blamed you."

"Oh, I guess I was to blame," muttered Nora, "I knew it, all right."

"I want you to know that I don't blame you and that I don't think you're bad."

"I don't see that that's got anything to do with it. I guess I know if I'm bad or not.... I know that I can't go to confession, and I believe I'll go to hell ... and I don't care much if I do.... And I know what happened on account of me too."

Now it was Mary who changed colour, lost her composure.

"That—my fault more than yours—" she stammered.

And Nora grew more composed. There was even a strange air of dignity about her as she said after a moment:

"I don't want you to think about what's past, Mrs. Carlin. It won't do any good. I've done what I knew was wicked and—I don't know if I'm sorry or not. So you see I don't want you to forgive me, even if you wanted to. I don't ask anybody's forgiveness, because[312] what difference would it make? It wouldn't change anything."

Abruptly she retreated into the pantry and closed the door. Mary, with shaking hands, poured herself a cup of strong coffee and drank it black. Well, that was over. And Nora was right, it was no use talking and nothing she could do would make any difference.

She went slowly upstairs, thinking that she felt more respect and liking for Nora than ever before—felt it now perhaps for the first time. But it would be impossible to make Nora feel that—if she tried she would strike the wrong note somehow, she was made like that—clumsy—yes, and worse than that, with impulses to hurt, that came so suddenly she couldn't resist. She shrugged her shoulders. Best to drop it all. She had other things to think about anyway....

Laurence was lying quiet, his eyes open. She sat down beside him and took his hand. The light was dimmed, but she could see the glimmer of a smile on his face. His fingers closed round hers with a faint pressure. His eyes met hers, with a strange look, as if from a great distance.

"You feel a little better, don't you?" she said bending down.

"Yes," he answered, faintly.

"Don't make him talk," warned the nurse, "Tomorrow will be time enough."

"Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow," said Laurence's faint far-away voice. "Lighting fools the way to dusty death."

"Hush, you mustn't talk!" gasped Mary.


Again came that glimmer, like the reflection of a smile, on his face. And all the while that strange look in his eyes.

She clasped his inert hand, thin and shrunken. How these weeks of illness had wasted his strong body, withered him to a shadow. Man's flesh is grass—it is cut down and cast into the oven.... Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He cometh up as a flower....

But Laurence was better, surely better, they all said so.... Hardly any fever....

But his strength was gone—eaten up by that burning fire.... Was he drifting away, calm, without pain, like this, had he gone too far to come back? Surely he was far away, that was what his look meant.... Untroubled ... indifferent ... he didn't care, it seemed. He wasn't interested. Just looking on, a mere spectator, no emotion, perhaps a slight amusement.... His eyes closed, he was breathing evenly and quietly.

Strange to see him like this, his restless and passionate spirit stilled, so drawn away, so detached; it was not mere physical weakness, it was as though he were ceasing to be identified with this weakened body, deliberately withdrawing from it. This was not Laurence.... It was Laurence who had looked at her in that first return to consciousness, with eyes of love ... and then with that remote and passionless look, as though he had already said good-bye....

The wasted years.... Years that she had wasted ... when he had lived his life, near her but apart, when she had held him away—for what?... He had[314] loved life, had been so intensely living. Now it seemed he didn't care. He would make no effort to live—he was tired. They might try all they could to keep him. He would slip away, perhaps, through their fingers, with that glimmer of a smile at them.... She would be punished. It was just. She had no reason to feel injured, to complain. As she had sowed, she would reap.... A mortal chill was at her heart.

That night she could not sleep. The strong coffee she had taken keyed her up; her heart beat nervously, a stream of restless thoughts rushed through her brain. At intervals she would get up and look into the sickroom. The night-nurse would be moving about, or sitting in the large chair at the foot of the bed; all seemed quiet. Toward morning Mary fell into a doze; troubled, uneasy, with the feeling that some one was calling her, she must rouse herself. She woke suddenly in the dawn, and heard a low moaning in the next room. She sprang up and went in. The nurse said:

"I was just going to call you. I have to go down and get some ice. There's a little more fever. Will you see he doesn't get uncovered? Keep the blankets that way over his chest."

There was a dull flush again on his face, his hands were moving restlessly, and he kept up that low moan of distress. Mary kept the blankets over him, careful not to touch him, for her hands were icy cold. The nurse came back with the cracked ice and filled a rubber bag which she bound on his head.

"When did you notice this change?"


"About an hour ago he began to get restless."

"I'd better call Dr. Sayre."

"Not before seven o'clock, it wouldn't be any use. They won't wake him unless it's absolutely necessary. And this may not be anything serious—there's often a slight relapse. Don't worry, Mrs. Carlin. Yesterday was too good to last, that's all. We must expect ups and downs."

"But he's so weak...."

"Oh, I've seen them pull through, lots weaker than he is—he's got a good strong physique.... Now don't stand around, it's too cold. You better go and get dressed, if you want to be up."

With a shivering look at Laurence's dark face and half-open eyes, she went, dressed herself quickly, shook her long hair out of its braid and twisted it up roughly. She put on her bonnet and cloak. Then she started downstairs, careful to make no noise. She intended to get the doctor. The gas-light in the hall was burning, turned down to a point of light. As she fumbled with the chain on the door, Nora came into the hall, wrapped in a pink dressing-gown, her hair flowing thick over her shoulders.

"What is it? I heard the nurse come down. Where are you going?"

"To get the doctor. Laurence is worse."

"Don't you go, this time of night—I'll go!"

"No," said Mary, slipping the chain.

"Wait, I'll go with you—"

"No, I can't wait."

"Is he—very bad?" A sob.


"I don't know—the fever's up again."

She opened the door. But Nora suddenly clutched her arm.

"Don't you give up! Mrs. Carlin, don't look like that, don't give him up! Surely he can't be taken, God wouldn't take him away—"

"He's too weak ... he hasn't got strength to—"

"Don't say that, how do you know? Did you pray for him? I did—he got better—"

"Let me go! I must go, Nora!"

"Pray for him! Pray for him!"

Mary wrenched her arm away and swung the door wide. Then suddenly she bent and kissed Nora's cheek, wet with tears.

Then she was out in the dim grey dawn, hurrying along the empty street. A cold wind was blowing now from the lake, the air was thick with fog.

Pray? Was it prayer—this voiceless cry of anguish from her heart toward the unknown? She could cry, O God, don't take him from me, her lips uttered the words as she ran. But who would hear?... Far, far beyond reach or understanding, the force that moved this world of beauty and terror, that made these poor human beings going their ways in darkness, sinning and suffering they knew not why. Cold ... harsh ... bleak was human fate, like this dim steely light, this cutting wind, this stony street....