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. "*. 

V I." * * ! I I .*" * 

She had meant to wait for him on the Terrace. 







5 5 3 







IT is not often that youth allows itself 
to feel undividedly happy: the sensa 
tion is too much the result of selection and 
elimination to be within reach of the awak 
ening clutch on life. But Kate Orme, for 
once, had yielded herself to happiness, let 
ting it permeate every faculty as a spring 
rain soaks into a germinating meadow. 
There was nothing to account for this sud 
den sense of beatitude ; but was it not this 
precisely which made it so irresistible, so 
overwhelming ? There had been, within the 
last two months since her engagement to 
Denis Peyton no distinct addition to the 
sum of her happiness, and no possibility, 
she would have affirmed, of adding per 
ceptibly to a total already incalculable. In 
wardly and outwardly the conditions of her 


life were unchanged; but whereas, before, 
the air had been full of flitting wings, now 
they seemed to pause over her and she 
could trust herself to their shelter. 

Many influences had combined to build 
up the centre of brooding peace in which 
she found herself. Her nature answered to 
the finest vibrations, and at first her joy 
in loving had been too great not to bring 
with it a certain confusion, a readjusting 
of the whole scenery of life. She found her 
self in a new country, wherein he who had 
led her there was least able to be her guide. 
There were moments when she felt that 
the first stranger in the street could have in 
terpreted her happiness for her more easily 
than Denis. Then, as her eye adapted itself, 
as the lines flowed into each other, open 
ing deep vistas upon new horizons, she be 
gan to enter into possession of her king 
dom, to entertain the actual sense of its 
belonging to her. But she had never before 


felt that she also belonged to it; and this 
was the feeling which now came to com 
plete her happiness, to give it the hallow 
ing sense of permanence. 

She rose from the writing-table where, 
list in hand, she had been going over the 
wedding-invitations, and walked toward the 
drawing-room window. Everything about 
her seemed to contribute to that rare har 
mony of feeling which levied a tax on every 
sense. The large coolness of the room, its 
fine traditional air of spacious living, its out 
look over field and woodland toward the 
lake lying under the silver bloom of Sep 
tember; the very scent of the late violets 
in a glass on the writing-table; the rosy- 
mauve masses of hydrangea in tubs along 
the terrace ; the fall, now and then, of a leaf 
through the still air all, somehow, were 
mingled in the suffusion of well-being that 
yet made them seem but so much dross 
upon its current. 



The girl s smile prolonged itself at the 
sight of a figure approaching from the lower 
slopes above the lake. The path was a short 
cut from the Peyton place, and she had 
known that Denis would appear in it at 
about that hour. Her smile, however, was 
prolonged not so much by his approach as 
by her sense of the impossibility of com 
municating her mood to him. The feeling 
did not disturb her. She could not imagine 
sharing her deepest moods with any one, 
and the world in which she lived with 
Denis was too bright and spacious to ad 
mit of any sense of constraint. Her smile 
was in truth a tribute to that clear-eyed 
directness of his which was so often a refuge 
from her own complexities. 

Denis Peyton was used to being met 
with a smile. He might have been pardoned 
for thinking smiles the habitual wear of the 
human countenance; and his estimate of 
life and of himself was necessarily tinged 


by the cordial terms on which they had al 
ways met each other. He had in fact found 
life, from the start, an uncommonly agree 
able business, culminating fitly enough in 
his engagement to the only girl he had 
ever wished to marry, and the inheritance, 
from his unhappy step-brother, of a fortune 
which agreeably widened his horizon. Such 
a combination of circumstances might well 
justify a young man in thinking himself 
of some account in the universe; and it 
seemed the final touch of fitness that the 
mourning which Denis still wore for poor 
Arthur should lend a new distinction to 
his somewhat florid good looks. 

Kate Orme was not without an amused 
perception of her future husband s point of 
view ; but she could enter into it with the 
tolerance which allows for the inconscient 
element in all our judgments. There was, 
for instance, no one more sentimentally 
humane than Denis s mother, the second 
[7 ] 


Mrs. Peyton, a scented silvery person whose 
lavender silks and neutral-tinted manner 
expressed a mind with its blinds drawn 
down toward all the unpleasantnesses of 
life ; yet it was clear that Mrs. Peyton saw 
a "dispensation" in the fact that her step 
son had never married, and that his death 
had enabled Denis, at the right moment, 
to step gracefully into affluence. Was it 
not, after all, a sign of healthy-mindedness 
to take the gifts of the gods in this reli 
gious spirit, discovering fresh evidence of 
"design" in what had once seemed the sad 
fact of Arthur s inaccessibility to correc 
tion ? Mrs. Peyton, beautifully conscious of 
having done her "best" for Arthur, would 
have thought it unchristian to repine at the 
providential failure of her efforts. Denis s 
deductions were, of course, a little less di 
rect than his mother s. He had, besides, 
been fond of Arthur, and his efforts to 
keep the poor fellow straight had been less 


didactic and more spontaneous. Their re 
sult read itself, if not in any change in 
Arthur s character, at least in the revised 
wording of his will ; and Denis s moral sense 
was pleasantly fortified by the discovery 
that it very substantially paid to be a good 

The sense of general providentialness on 
which Mrs. Peyton reposed had in fact 
been confirmed by events which reduced 
Denis s mourning to a mere tribute of re 
spect since it would have been a mockery 
to deplore the disappearance of any one 
who had left behind him such an unsavory 
wake as poor Arthur. Kate did not quite 
know what had happened : her father was 
as firmly convinced as Mrs. Peyton that 
young girls should not be admitted to any 
open discussion of life. She could only 
gather, from the silences and evasions amid 
which she moved, that a woman had turned 
up a woman who was of course "dread- 


ful," and whose dreadfulness appeared to 
include a sort of shadowy claim upon Ar 
thur. But the claim, whatever it was, had 
been promptly discredited. The whole ques 
tion had vanished and the woman with it. 
The blinds were drawn again on the ugly 
side of things, and life was resumed on 
the usual assumption that no such side 
existed. Kate knew only that a darkness 
had crossed her sky and left it as unclouded 
as before. 

Was it, perhaps, she now asked herself, 
the very lifting of the cloud remote, un- 
threatening as it had been which gave 
such new serenity to her heaven? It was 
horrible to think that one s deepest security 
was a mere sense of escape that happi 
ness was no more than a reprieve. The per 
versity of such ideas was emphasized by 
Peyton s approach. He had the gift of re 
storing things to their normal relations, of 
carrying one over the chasms of life through 


the closed tunnel of an incurious cheerful 
ness. All that was restless and questioning 
in the girl subsided in his presence, and she 
was content to take her love as a gift of 
grace, which began just where the office 
of reason ended. She was more than ever, 
to-day, in this mood of charmed surrender. 
More than ever he seemed the keynote of 
the accord between herself and life, the 
centre of a delightful complicity in every 
surrounding circumstance. One could not 
look at him without seeing that there was 
always a fair wind in his sails. 

It was carrying him toward her, as usual, 
at a quick confident pace, which never 
theless lagged a little, she noticed, as he 
emerged from the beech-grove and struck 
across the lawn. He walked as though he 
were tired. She had meant to wait for him 
on the terrace, held in check by her usual 
inclination to linger on the threshold of 
her pleasures ; but now something drew her 


toward him, and she went quickly down 
the steps and across the lawn. 

"Denis, you look tired. I was afraid 
something had happened." 

She had slipped her hand through his 
arm, and as they moved forward she glanced 
up at him, struck not so much by any new 
look in his face as by the fact that her ap 
proach had made no change in it. 

"I am rather tired. Is your father in?" 

"Papa?" She looked up in surprise. "He 
went to town yesterday. Don t you re 

"Of course I d forgotten. You re 
alone, then?" She dropped his arm and 
stood before him. He was very pale now, 
with the furrowed look of extreme physi 
cal weariness. 

"Denis are you ill ? Has anything hap 

He forced a smile. "Yes but you 
need n t look so frightened." 


She drew a deep breath of reassurance. 
He was safe, after all! And all else, for a 
moment, seemed to swing below the rim 
of her world. 

"Your mother ?" she then said, with 
a fresh start of fear. 

"It s not my mother." They had reached 
the terrace, and he moved toward the house. 
"Let us go indoors. There s such a beastly 
glare out here." 

He seemed to find relief in the cool ob 
scurity of the drawing-room, where, after 
the brightness of the afternoon light, their 
faces were almost indistinguishable to each 
other. She sat down, and he moved a few 
paces away. Before the writing-table he 
paused to look at the neatly sorted heaps 
of wedding-cards. 

"They are to be sent out to-morrow?" 


He turned back and stood before her. 

"It s about the woman," he began ab- 
t 13 ] 


ruptly "the woman who pretended to be 
Arthur s wife." 

Kate started as at the clutch of an un 
acknowledged fear. 

"She was his wife, then?" 

Peyton made an impatient movement 
of negation. "If she was, why didn t she 
prove it? She hadn t a shred of evidence. 
The courts rejected her appeal." 

"Well, then ?" 

"Well, she s dead." He paused, and the 
next words came with difficulty. "She and 
the child." 

"The child? There was a child?" 


Kate started up and then sank down. 
These were not things about which young 
girls were told. The confused sense of hor 
ror had been nothing to this first sharp 
edge of fact. 

"And both are dead?" 




"How do you know? My father said 
she had gone away gone back to the 

"So we thought. But this morning we 
found her." 

"Found her?" 

He motioned toward the window. "Out 
there in the lake." 



She drooped before him shudderingly, 
her eyes hidden, as though to exclude the 
vision. "She had drowned herself?" 


"Oh, poor thing poor thing!" 

They paused awhile, the minutes delv 
ing an abyss between them till he threw a 
few irrelevant words across the silence. 

"One of the gardeners found them." 

"Poor thing!" 

"It was sufficiently horrible." 

"Horrible oh!" She had swung round 


again to her pole. "Poor Denis! You were 
not there you didn t have to ?" 

"I had to see her." She felt the instant 
relief in his voice. He could talk now, could 
distend his nerves in the warm air of her 
sympathy. "I had to identify her." He rose 
nervously and began to pace the room. 
"It s knocked the wind out of me. I my 
God! I couldn t foresee it, could I?" He 
halted before her with outstretched hands 
of argument. "I did all I could it s not 
my fault, is it?" 

"Your fault? Denis!" 

"She wouldn t take the money " He 
broke off, checked by her awakened glance. 

"The money? What money?" Her face 
changed, hardening as his relaxed. "Had 
you offered her money to give up the case ? " 

He stared a moment, and then dismissed 
the implication with a laugh. 

"No no; after the case was decided 
against her. She seemed hard up, and I 
[ 16 J 

sent Hinton to her with a cheque." 

"And she refused it?" 


"What did she say?" 

"Oh, I don t know the usual thing. 
That she d only wanted to prove she was 
his wife on the child s account. That 
she d never wanted his money. Hinton said 
she was very quiet not in the least ex 
cited but she sent back the cheque." 

Kate sat motionless, her head bent, her 
hands clasped about her knees. She no 
longer looked at Peyton. 

"Could there have been a mistake?" she 
asked slowly. 

"A mistake?" 

She raised her head now, and fixed her 
eyes on his, with a strange insistence of 
observation. "Could they have been mar 

"The courts didn t think so." 

"Could the courts have been mistaken?" 


He started up again, and threw himself 
into another chair. " Good God, Kate ! We 
gave her every chance to prove her case 
why did n t she do it ? You don t know what 
you re talking about such things are kept 
from girls. Why, whenever a man of Ar 
thur s kind dies, such such women turn 
up. There are lawyers who live on such 
jobs ask your father about it. Of course, 
this woman expected to be bought off " 

" But if she would n t take your money ? " 

"She expected a big sum, I mean, to 
drop the case. When she found we meant 
to fight it, she saw the game was up. I sup 
pose it was her last throw, and she was 
desperate ; we don t know how many times 
she may have been through the same thing 
before. That kind of woman is always trying 
to make money out of the heirs of any man 
who who has been about with them." 

Kate received this in silence. She had a 
sense of walking along a narrow ledge of 


consciousness above a sheer hallucinating 
depth into which she dared not look. But 
the depth drew her, and she plunged one 
terrified glance into it. 

"But the child the child was Ar 
thur s?" 

Peyton shrugged his shoulders. "There 
again how can we tell ? Why, I don t sup 
pose the woman herself I wish to heaven 
your father were here to explain ! " 

She rose and crossed over to him, laying 
her hands on his shoulders with a gesture 
almost maternal. 

"Don t let us talk of it," she said. "You 
did all you could. Think what a comfort 
you were to poor Arthur." 

He let her hands lie where she had placed 
them, without response or resistance. 

"I tried I tried hard to keep him 

"We all know that every one knows 
it. And we know how grateful he was 


what a difference it made to him in the end. 
It would have been dreadful to think of 
his dying out there alone." 

She drew him down on a sofa and seated 
herself by his side. A deep lassitude was 
upon him, and the hand she had possessed 
herself of lay in her hold inert. 

" It was splendid of you to travel day and 
night as you did. And then that dreadful 
week before he died ! But for you he would 
have died alone among strangers." 

He sat silent, his head dropping forward, 
his eyes fixed. "Among strangers," he re 
peated absently. 

She looked up, as if struck by a sudden 
thought. "That poor woman did you 
ever see her while you were out there?" 

He drew his hand away and gathered 
his brows together as if in an effort of re 

"I saw her oh, yes, I saw her." He 
pushed the tumbled hair from his forehead 
[ 20 ] 


and stood up. "Let us go out," he said. 
"My head is in a fog. I want to get away 
from it all." 

A wave of compunction drew her to her 

"It was my fault! I ought not to have 
asked so many questions." She turned and 
rang the bell. "I ll order the ponies we 
shall have time for a drive before sunset." 


WITH the sunset in their faces they swept 
through the keen-scented autumn air at 
the swiftest pace of Kate s ponies. She 
had given the reins to Peyton, and he had 
turned the horses heads away from the 
lake, rising by woody upland lanes to the 
high pastures which still held the sunlight. 
The horses were fresh enough to claim his 
undivided attention, and he drove in si 
lence, his smooth fair profile turned to his 
[21 ] 


companion, who sat silent also. 

Kate Orme was engaged in one of those 
rapid mental excursions which were forever 
sweeping her from the straight path of the 
actual into uncharted regions of conjecture. 
Her survey of life had always been marked 
by the tendency to seek out ultimate rela 
tions, to extend her researches to the limit 
/of her imaginative experience. But hith 
erto she had been like some young captive 
brought up in a windowless palace whose 
painted walls she takes for the actual world. 
Now the palace had been shaken to its base, 
and through a cleft in the walls she looked 
out upon life. For the first moment all 
was indistinguishable blackness; then she 
began to detect vague shapes and confused 
gestures in the depths. There were people 
below there, men like Denis, girls like her 
self for under the unlikeness she felt the 
strange affinity all struggling in that aw 
ful coil of moral darkness, with agonized 

r 22 ] 


hands reaching up for rescue. Her heart 
shrank from the horror of it, and then, in a 
passion of pity, drew back to the edge of 
the abyss. Suddenly her eyes turned toward 
Denis. His face was grave, but less dis 
turbed. And men knew about these things ! 
They carried this abyss in their bosoms, 
and went about smiling, and sat at the feet 
of innocence. Could it be that Denis- 
Denis even Ah, no! She remembered 
what he had been to poor Arthur ; she un 
derstood, now, the vague allusions to what 
he had tried to do for his brother. He had 
seen Arthur down there, in that coiling 
blackness, and had leaned over and tried 
to drag him out. But Arthur was too deep 
down, and his arms were interlocked with 
other arms they had dragged each other 
deeper, poor souls, like drowning people 
who fight together in the waves ! Kate s vis 
ualizing habit gave a hateful precision and 
persistency to the image she had evoked 


she could not rid herself of the vision of 
anguished shapes striving together in the 
darkness. The horror of it took her by the 
throat she drew a choking breath, and 
felt the tears on her face. 

Peyton turned to her. The horses were 
climbing a hill, and his attention had 
strayed from them. 

"This has done me good," he began ; but 
as he looked his voice changed. "Kate! 
What is it? Why are you crying? Oh, for 
God s sake, don t f" he ended, his hand clos 
ing on her wrist. 

She steadied herself and raised her eyes 
to his. 

"I I could n t help it," she stammered, 
struggling in the sudden release of her pent 
compassion. "It seems so awful that we 
should stand so close to this horror that 
it might have been you who 

"I who what on earth do you mean?" 
he broke in stridently. 


" Oh, don t you see ? I found myself ex 
ulting that you and I were so far from it 
above it safe in ourselves and each 
other and then the other feeling came 
the sense of selfishness, of going by on the 
other side; and I tried to realize that it 
might have been you and I who who were 
down there in the night and the flood 

Peyton let the whip fall on the ponies 
flanks. "Upon my soul," he said with a 
laugh, "you must have a nice opinion of 
both of us." 

The words fell chillingly on the blaze of 
her self-immolation. Would she never learn 
to remember that Denis was incapable of 
mounting such hypothetical pyres? He 
might be as alive as herself to the direct 
demands of duty, but of its imaginative 
claims he was robustly unconscious. The 
thought brought a wholesome reaction of 

"Ah, well," she said, the sunset dilating 


through her tears, "don t you see that I 
can bear to think such things only because 
they re impossibilities ? It s easy to look 
over into the depths if one has a rampart 
to lean on. What I most pity poor Arthur 
for is that, instead of that woman lying 
there, so dreadfully dead, there might have 
been a girl like me, so exquisitely alive be 
cause of him ; but it seems cruel, does n t 
it, to let what he was not add ever so little 
to the value of what you are? To let him 
contribute ever so little to my happiness 
by the difference there is between you?" 

She was conscious, as she spoke, of stray 
ing again beyond his reach, through intri 
cacies of sensation new even to her ex 
ploring susceptibilities. A happy literalness 
usually enabled him to strike a short cut 
through such labyrinths, and rejoin her 
smiling on the other side ; but now she be 
came wonderingly aware that he had been 
caught in the thick of her hypothesis. 


" It s the difference that makes you care 
for me, then?" he broke out, with a kind 
of violence which seemed to renew his 
clutch on her wrist. 

"The difference?" 

He lashed the ponies again, so sharply 
that a murmur escaped her, and he drew 
them up, quivering, with an inconsequent 
"Steady, boys," at which their back-laid 
ears protested. 

" It s because I m moral and respectable, 
and all that, that you re fond of me," he 
went on; "you re you re simply in love 
with my virtues. You couldn t imagine 
caring if I were down there in the ditch, 
as you say, with Arthur?" 

The question fell on a silence which 
seemed to deepen suddenly within herself. 
Every thought hung bated on the sense 
that something was coming : her whole con 
sciousness became a void to receive it. 

"Denis!" she cried. 



He turned on her almost savagely. "I 
don t want your pity, you know," he burst 
out. "You can keep that for Arthur. I had 
an idea women loved men for themselves 
through everything, I mean. But I wouldn t 
steal your love I don t want it on false 
pretenses, you understand. Go and look into 
other men s lives, that s all I ask of you. 
I slipped into it it was just a case of 
holding my tongue when I ought to have 
spoken but I I for God s sake, don t 
sit there staring! I suppose you ve seen 
ah 1 along that I knew he was married to 
the woman." 


THE housekeeper s reminding her that Mr. 
Orme would be at home the next day for 
dinner, and did she think he would like the 
venison with claret sauce or jelly, roused 
Kate to the first consciousness of her sur- 


roundings. Her father would return on the 
morrow : he would give to the dressing of 
the venison such minute consideration as, 
in his opinion, every detail affecting his 
comfort or convenience quite obviously 
merited. And if it were not the venison it 
would be something else ; if it were not the 
housekeeper it would be Mr. Orme, charged 
with the results of a conference with his 
agent, a committee-meeting at his club, 
or any of the other incidents which, by 
happening to himself, became events. Kate 
found herself caught in the inexorable con 
tinuity of life, found herself gazing over a 
scene of ruin lit up by the punctual recur 
rence of habit as nature s calm stare lights 
the morrow of a whirlwind. 

Life was going on, then, and dragging 
her at its wheels. She could neither check 
its rush nor wrench loose from it and drop 
out oh, how blessedly! into darkness 
and cessation. She must go bounding on, 


racked, broken, but alive in every fibre. 
The most she could hope was a few hours 
respite, not from her own terrors, but from 
the pressure of outward claims : the midday 
halt, during which the victim is unbound 
while his torturers rest from their efforts. 
Till her father s return she would have the 
house to herself, and, the question of the 
venison despatched, could give herself to 
long lonely pacings of the empty rooms, and 
shuddering subsidences upon her pillow. 

Her first impulse, as the mist cleared 
from her brain, was the habitual one of 
reaching out for ultimate relations. She 
wanted to know the worst ; and for her, as 
she saw in a flash, the worst of it was the 
core of fatality in what had happened. She 
shrank from her own way of putting it 
nor was it even figuratively true that she 
had ever felt, under her faith in Denis, any 
such doubt as the perception implied. But 
that was merely because her imagination 


had never put him to the test. She was fond 
of exposing herself to hypothetical ordeals, 
but somehow she had never carried Denis 
with her on these adventures. What she 
saw now was that, in a world of strangeness, 
he remained the object least strange to her. 
She was not in the tragic case of the girl 
who suddenly sees her lover unmasked. No 
mask had dropped from Denis s face: the 
pink shades had simply been lifted from 
the lamps, and she saw him for the first 
time in an unmitigated glare. 

Such exposure does not alter the fea 
tures, but it lays an ugly emphasis on the 
most charming lines, pushing the smile to 
a grin, the curve of good-nature to the 
droop of slackness. And it was precisely 
into the flagging lines of extreme weak- 
ness that Denis s graceful contour flowed. 
In the terrible talk which had followed his 
avowal, and wherein every word flashed a 
light on his moral processes, she had been 
[31 ] 


less startled by what he had done than 
by the way in which his conscience had 
already become a passive surface for the 
channelling of consequences. He was like 
a child who has put a match to the cur 
tains, and stands agape at the blaze. It was 
horribly naughty to put the match but 
beyond that the child s responsibility did 
not extend. In this business of Arthur s, 
where all had been wrong from the begin 
ning where self-defence might well find 
a plea for its casuistries in the absence of 
a definite right to be measured by it had 
been easy, after the first slip, to drop a lit 
tle lower with each struggle. The woman 
oh, the woman was well, of the kind 
who prey on such men. Arthur, out there, 
at his lowest ebb, had drifted into living 
with her as a man drifts into drink or 
opium. He knew what she was he knew 
where she had come from. But he had 
fallen ill, and she had nursed him nursed 


him devotedly, of course. That was her 
chance, and she knew it. Before he was out 
of the fever she had the noose around him 
he came to and found himself married. 
Such cases were common enough if the 
man recovered he bought off the woman 
and got a divorce. It was all a part of the 
business the marriage, the bribe, the di 
vorce. Some of those women made a big 
income out of it they were married and 
divorced once a year. If Arthur had only 
got well but, instead, he had a relapse 
and died. And there was the woman, made 
his widow by mischance as it were, with 
her child on her arm whose child? and 
a scoundrelly black-mailing lawyer to work 
up her case for her. Her claim was clear 
enough the right of dower, a third of his 
estate. But if he had never meant to marry 
her? If he had been trapped as patently 
as a rustic fleeced in a gambling-hell? Ar 
thur, in his last hours, had confessed to the 


marriage, but had also acknowledged its 
folly. And after his death, when Denis 
came to look about him and make inqui 
ries, he found that the witnesses, if there 
had been any, were dispersed and undis- 
coverable. The whole question hinged on 
Arthur s statement to his brother. Suppress 
that statement, and the claim vanished, 
and with it the scandal, the humiliation, 
the life-long burden of the woman and 
child dragging the name of Peyton through 
heaven knew what depths. He had thought 
of that first, Denis swore, rather thart of 
the money. The money, of course, had 
made a difference, he was too honest not 
to own it but not till afterward, he de 
clared would have declared on his honour, 
but that the word tripped him up, and sent 
a flush to his forehead. 

Thus, in broken phrases, he flung his de 
fence at her: a defence improvised, pieced 
together as he went along, to mask the 


crude instinctiveness of his act. For with 
increasing clearness Kate saw, as she lis 
tened, that there had been no real struggle 
in his mind; that, but for the grim logic of 
chance, he might never have felt the need 
of any justification. If the woman, after 
the manner of such baffled huntresses, had 
wandered off in search of fresh prey, he 
might, quite sincerely, have congratulated 
himself on having saved a decent name 
and an honest fortune from her talons. It 
was the price she had paid to establish 
her claim that for the first time brought 
him to a startled sense of its justice. His 
conscience responded only to the concrete 
pressure of facts. 

It was with the anguish of this discov 
ery that Kate Orme locked herself in at 
the end of their talk. How the talk had 
ended, how at length she had got him from 
the room and the house, she recalled but 
confusedly. The tragedy of the woman s 
[35 ] 


death, and of his own share in it, were as 
nothing in the disaster of his bright irre- 
claimableness. Once, when she had cried 
out, "You would have married me and 
said nothing," and he groaned back, "But 
I have told you," she felt like a trainer with 
a lash above some bewildered animal. 

But she persisted savagely. "You told 
me because you had to ; because your nerves 
gave way; because you knew it couldn t 
hurt you to tell." The perplexed appeal of 
his gaze had almost checked her. "You told 
me because it was a relief; but nothing will 
really relieve you nothing will really help 
you till you have told some one who 
who will hurt you." 

"Who will hurt me ?" 

"Till you have told the truth as as 
openly as you lied." 

He started up, ghastly with fear. "I 
don t understand you." 

"You must confess, then publicly 


openly you must go to the judge. I don t 
know how it s done." 

"To the judge? When they re both 
dead? When everything is at an end? 
What good could that do?" he groaned. 

"Everything is not at an end for you 
everything is just beginning. You must 
clear yourself of this guilt; and there is 
only one way to confess it. And you 
must give back the money." 

This seemed to strike him as conclusive 
proof of her irrelevance. " I wish I had never 
heard of the money! But to whom would 
you have me give it back? I tell you she 
was a waif out of the gutter. I don t believe 
any one knew her real name I don t be 
lieve she had one." 

"She must have had a mother and fa 

"Am I to devote my life to hunting for 
them through the slums of California ? And 
how shall I know when I have found them ? 


It s impossible to make you understand. I 
did wrong I did horribly wrong but 
that is not the way to repair it." 

"What is, then?" 

He paused, a little askance at the ques 
tion. "To do better to do my best," he 
said, with a sudden flourish of firmness. " To 
take warning by this dreadful 

"Oh, be silent," she cried out, and hid 
her face. He looked at her hopelessly. 

At last he said : " I don t know what good 
it can do to go on talking. I have only one 
more thing to say. Of course you know that 
you are free." 

He spoke simply, with a sudden return 
to his old voice and accent, at which she 
weakened as under a caress. She lifted her 
head and gazed at him. "Am I?" she said 

"Kate!" burst from him; but she raised 
a silencing hand. 

"It seems to me," she said, "that I am 


imprisoned imprisoned with you in this 
dreadful thing. First I must help you to get 
out then it will be time enough to think 
of myself." 

His face fell and he stammered : "I don t 
understand you." 

"I can t say what I shall do or how I 
shall feel till I know what you are going 
to do and feel." 

"You must see how I feel that I m half 
dead with it." 

"Yes but that is only half." 

He turned this over for a perceptible 
space of time before asking slowly: "You 
mean that you 11 give me up, if I don t do 
this crazy thing you propose?" 

She paused in turn. "No," she said; "I 
don t want to bribe you. You must feel the 
need of it yourself." 

"The need of proclaiming this thing 




He sat staring before him. "Of course 
you realize what it would mean ?" he began 
at length. 

"To you?" she returned. 

"I put that aside. To others to you. I 
should go to prison." 

"I suppose so," she said simply. 

"You seem to take it very easily I m 
afraid my mother would n t." 

"Your mother?" This produced the ef 
fect he had expected. 

"You had n t thought of her, I suppose? 
It would probably kill her." 

"It would have killed her to think that 
you could do what you have done!" 

"It would have made her very unhappy; 
but there s a difference." 

Yes : there was a difference ; a difference 
which no rhetoric could disguise. The secret 
sin would have made Mrs. Peyton wretched, 
but it would not have killed her. And she 
would have taken precisely Denis s view of 


the elasticity of atonement: she would have 
accepted private regrets as the genteel 
equivalent of open expiation. Kate could 
even imagine her extracting a " lesson " from 
the providential fact that her son had not 
been found out. 

"You see it s not so simple," he broke 
out, with a tinge of doleful triumph. 

"No: it s not simple," she assented. 

" One must think of others," he continued, 
gathering faith in his argument as he saw 
her reduced to acquiescence. 

She made no answer, and after a moment 
he rose to go. So far, in retrospect, she could 
follow the course of their talk ; but when, 
in the act of parting, argument lapsed into 
entreaty, and renunciation into the passion 
ate appeal to give him at least one more 
hearing, her memory lost itself in a tumult 
of pain, and she recalled* only that, when 
the door closed on him, he took with him 
her promise to see him once again. 
[41 ] 



SHE had promised to see him again ; but the 
promise did not imply that she had rejected 
his offer of freedom. In the first rush of 
misery she had not fully repossessed herself, 
had felt herself entangled in his fate by a 
hundred meshes of association and habit; 
but after a sleepless night spent with the 
thought of him that dreadful bridal of 
their souls she woke to a morrow in which 
he had no part. She had not sought her 
freedom, nor had he given it; but a chasm 
had opened at their feet, and they found 
themselves on different sides. 

Now she was able to scan the disaster 
from the melancholy vantage of her inde 
pendence. She could even draw a solace 
from the fact that she had ceased to love 
Denis. It was inconceivable that an emo 
tion so interwoven with every fibre of con 
sciousness should cease as suddenly as the 


flow of sap in an uprooted plant; but she 
had never allowed herself to be tricked by 
the current phraseology of sentiment, and 
there were no stock axioms to protect her 
from the truth. 

It was probably because she had ceased 
to love him that she could look forward 
with a kind of ghastly composure to seeing 
him again. She had stipulated, of course, 
that the wedding should be put off, but 
she had named no other condition beyond 
asking for two days to herself two days 
during which he was not even to write. She 
wished to shut herself in with her misery, 
to accustom herself to it as she had accus 
tomed herself to happiness. But actual se 
clusion was impossible : the subtle reactions 
of life almost at once began to break down 
her defences. She could no more have 
her wretchedness to herself than any other 
emotion: all the lives about her were so 
many unconscious factors in her sensations. 


She tried to concentrate herself on the 
thought as to how she could best help 
poor Denis; for love, in ebbing, had laid 
bare an unsuspected depth of pity. But she 
found it more and more difficult to consider 
his situation in the abstract light of right 
and wrong. Open expiation still seemed to 
her the only possible way of healing; but 
she tried vainly to think of Mrs. Peyton as 
taking such a view. Yet Mrs. Peyton ought 
at least to know what had happened : was 
it not, in the last resort, she who should 
pronounce on her son s course ? For a mo 
ment Kate was fascinated by this evasion 
of responsibility; she had nearly decided 
to tell Denis that he must begin by con 
fessing everything to his mother. But al 
most at once she began to shrink from the 
consequences. There was nothing she so 
dreaded for him as that any one should 
take a light view of his act : should turn its 
irremediableness into an excuse. And this, 


she foresaw, was what Mrs. Peyton would 
do. The first burst of misery over, she 
would envelop the whole situation in a 
mist of expediency. Brought to the bar of 
Kate s judgment, she at once revealed her 
self incapable of higher action. 

Kate s conception of her was still under 
arraignment when the actual Mrs. Peyton 
fluttered in. It was the afternoon of the 
second day, as the girl phrased it in the 
dismal re-creation of her universe. She had 
been thinking so hard of Mrs. Peyton that 
the lady s silvery insubstantial presence 
seemed hardly more than a projection of 
the thought; but as Kate collected her 
self, and regained contact with the outer 
world, her preoccupation yielded to sur 
prise. It was unusual for Mrs. Peyton to 
pay visits. For years she had remained en 
throned in a semi-invalidism which pro 
hibited effort while it did not preclude 
diversion; and the girl at once divined a 


special purpose in her coming. 

Mrs. Peyton s traditions would not have 
permitted any direct method of attack ; and 
Kate had to sit through the usual prelude 
of ejaculation and anecdote. Presently, 
however, the elder lady s voice gathered 
significance, and laying her hand on Kate s 
she murmured: "I have come to talk to 
you of this sad affair." 

Kate began to tremble. Was it possible 
that Denis had after all spoken? A rising 
hope checked her utterance, and she saw 
in a flash that it still lay with him to re 
gain his hold on her. But Mrs. Peyton went 
on delicately: "It has been a great shock 
to my poor boy. To be brought in contact 
with Arthur s past was in itself inexpress 
ibly painful ; but this last dreadful business 
that woman s wicked act " 

"Wicked?" Kate exclaimed. 

Mrs. Peyton s gentle stare reproved her. 
"Surely religion teaches us that suicide is 


a sin? And to murder her child! I ought 
not to speak to you of such things, my 
dear. No one has ever mentioned anything 
so dreadful in my presence : my dear hus 
band used to screen me so carefully from 
the painful side of life. Where there is so 
much that is beautiful to dwell upon, we 
should try to ignore the existence of such 
horrors. But nowadays everything is in the 
papers ; and Denis told me he thought it 
better that you should hear the news first 
from him." 

Kate nodded without speaking. 

"He felt how dreadful it was to have to 
tell you. But I tell him he takes a morbid 
view of the case. Of course one is shocked 
at the woman s crime but, if one looks a 
little deeper, how can one help seeing that 
it may have been designed as the means 
of rescuing that poor child from a life of 
vice and misery? That is the view I want 
Denis to take: I want him to see how all 


(the difficulties of life disappear when one 
has learned to look for a divine purpose in 
human sufferings." 

Mrs. Peyton rested a moment on this 
period, as an experienced climber pauses 
to be overtaken by a less agile companion ; 
but presently she became aware that Kate 
was still far below her, and perhaps needed 
a stronger incentive to the ascent. 

"My dear child," she said adroitly, "I 
said just now that I was sorry you had 
been obliged to hear of this sad affair ; but 
after all it is only you who can avert its 

Kate drew an eager breath. "Its conse 
quences?" she faltered. 

Mrs. Peyton s voice dropped solemnly. 
"Denis has told me everything," she said. 


"That you insist on putting off the mar 
riage. Oh, my dear, I do implore you to 
reconsider that!" 



Kate sank back with the sense of hav 
ing passed again into a region of leaden 
shadow. "Is that all he told you?" 

Mrs. Peyton gazed at her with arch rail 
lery. "All? Isn t it everything to him?" 

"Did he give you my reason, I mean?" 

" He said you felt that, after this shock 
ing tragedy, there ought, in decency, to be 
a delay; and I quite understand the feel 
ing. It does seem too unfortunate that the 
woman should have chosen this particular 
time! But you will find as you grow older 
that life is full of such sad contrasts." 

Kate felt herself slowly petrifying under I 
the warm drip of Mrs. Peyton s platitudes. | 

"It seems to me," the elder lady contin 
ued, "that there is only one point from 
which we ought to consider the question 
and that is, its effect on Denis. But for 
that we ought to refuse to know anything 
about it. But it has made my boy so un 
happy. The law-suit was a cruel ordeal to 


him the dreadful notoriety, the revela 
tion of poor Arthur s infirmities. Denis is 
as sensitive as a woman; it is his unusual 
refinement of feeling that makes him so 
worthy of being loved by you. But such 
sensitiveness may be carried to excess. He 
ought not to let this unhappy incident 
prey on him: it shows a lack of trust in 
the divine ordering of things. That is what 
troubles me: his faith in life has been 
shaken. And you must forgive me, dear 
child you will forgive me, I know but 
I can t help blaming you a little " 

Mrs. Peyton s accent converted the accu 
sation into a caress, which prolonged itself 
in a tremulous pressure of Kate s hand. 

The girl gazed at her blankly. "You 
blame me . ? " 

"Don t be offended, my child. I only fear 

that your excessive sympathy with Denis, 

your own delicacy of feeling, may have led 

you to encourage his morbid ideas. He tells 



me you were very much shocked as you 
naturally would be as any girl must be 
I would not have you otherwise, dear 
Kate ! It is beautiful that you should both 
feel so ; most beautiful ; but you know re 
ligion teaches us not to yield too much to 
our grief. Let the dead bury their dead ; the 
living owe themselves to each other. And 
what had this wretched woman to do with 
either of you ? It is a misfortune for Denis 
to have been connected in any way with 
a man of Arthur Peyton s character; but 
after all, poor Arthur did all he could to 
atone for the disgrace he brought on us, 
by making Denis his heir and I am sure 
I have no wish to question the decrees 
of Providence." Mrs. Peyton paused again, 
and then softly absorbed both of Kate s 
hands. "For my part," she continued, "I 
see in it another instance of the beautiful 
ordering of events. Just after dear Denis s 
inheritance has removed the last obstacle 


to your marriage, this sad incident conies 
to show how desperately he needs you, how 
cruel it would be to ask him to defer his 

She broke off, shaken out of her habit 
ual placidity by the abrupt withdrawal of 
the girl s hands. Kate sat inertly staring, 
but no answer rose to her lips. 

At length Mrs. Peyton resumed, gather 
ing her draperies about her with a tenta 
tive hint of leave-taking: "I may go home 
and tell him that you will not put off the 
wedding ? " 

Kate was still silent, and her visitor 
looked at her with the mild surprise of an 
advocate unaccustomed to plead in vain. 

"If your silence means refusal, my dear, 
I think you ought to realize the respon 
sibility you assume." Mrs. Peyton s voice 
had acquired an edge of righteous asperity. 
"If Denis has a fault it is that he is too 
gentle, too yielding, too readily influenced 


by those he cares for. Your influence is 
paramount with him now but if you turn 
from him just when he needs your help, 
who can say what the result will be?" 

The argument, though impressively de 
livered, was hardly of a nature to carry 
conviction to its hearer ; but it was perhaps 
for that very reason that she suddenly and 
unexpectedly replied to it by sinking back 
into her seat with a burst of tears. To Mrs. 
Peyton, however, tears were the signal of 
surrender, and, at Kate s side in an instant, 
she hastened to temper her triumph with 

"Don t think I don t feel with you; but 
we must both forget ourselves for our boy s 
sake. I told him I should come back with 
your promise." 

The arm she had slipped about Kate s 
shoulder fell back with the girl s start. Kate 
had seen in a flash what capital would be 
made of her emotion. 



"No, no, you misunderstand me. I can 
make no promise," she declared. 

The older lady sat a moment irresolute ; 
then she restored her arm to the shoulder 
from which it had been so abruptly dis 

"My dear child," she said, in a tone of 
tender confidence, "if I have misunderstood 
you, ought you not to enlighten me? You 
asked me just now if Denis had given me 
your reason for this strange postponement. 
He gave me one reason, but it seems hardly 
sufficient to explain your conduct. If there 
is any other, and I know you well enough 
to feel sure there is, will you not trust 
me with it? If my boy has been unhappy 
enough to displease you, will you not give 
his mother the chance to plead his cause? 
Remember, no one should be condemned 
unheard. As Denis s mother, I have the 
right to ask for your reason." 

"My reason? My reason?" Kate stam- 


mered, panting with the exhaustion of the 
struggle. Oh, if only Mrs. Peyton would 
release her ! " If you have the right to know 
it, why doesn t he tell you?" she cried. 

Mrs. Peyton stood up, quivering. "I will 
go home and ask him," she said. "I will 
tell him he has your permission to speak." 

She moved toward the door, with the 
nervous haste of a person unaccustomed 
to decisive action. But Kate sprang before 

"No, no; don t ask him! I implore you 
not to ask him," she cried. 

Mrs. Peyton turned on her with sudden 
authority of voice and gesture. "Do I un 
derstand you?" she said. "You admit that 
you have a reason for putting off your 
marriage, and yet you forbid me me, 
Denis s mother to ask him what it is? 
My poor child, I need n t ask, for I know 
already. If he has offended you, and you 
refuse him the chance to defend himself, I 


need n t look farther for your reason : it is 
simply that you have ceased to love him." 

Kate fell back from the door which she 
had instinctively barricaded. 

"Perhaps that is it," she murmured, let 
ting Mrs. Peyton pass. 

MR. ORME S returning carriage- wheels 
crossed Mrs. Peyton s indignant flight ; and 
an hour later Kate, in the bland candle 
light of the dinner-hour, sat listening with 
practised fortitude to her father s comments 
on the venison. 

She had wondered, as she awaited him 
in the drawing-room, if he would notice 
any change in her appearance. It seemed 
to her that the flagellation of her thoughts 
must have left visible traces. But Mr. Orme 
was not a man of subtle perceptions, save 
where his personal comfort was affected: 


though his egoism was clothed in the finest 
feelers, he did not suspect a similar surface 
in others. His daughter, as part of himself, 
came within the normal range of his solici 
tude ; but she was an outlying region, a sub 
ject province ; and Mr. Orme s was a highly 
centralized polity. 

News of the painful incident he often 
used Mrs. Peyton s vocabulary had 
reached him at his club, and to some extent 
disturbed the assimilation of a carefully 
ordered breakfast ; but since then two days 
had passed, and it did not take Mr. Orme 
forty-eight hours to resign himself to the 
misfortunes of others. It was all very nasty, 
of course, and he wished to heaven it had n t 
happened to any one about to be connected 
with him ; but he viewed it with the tran 
sient annoyance of a gentleman who has 1 
been splashed by the mud of a fatal runa- ! 

Mr. Orme affected, under such circum- 


stances, a bluff and hearty stoicism as re 
mote as possible from Mrs. Peyton s de 
precating evasion of facts. It was a bad 
business; he was sorry Kate should have 
been mixed up with it; but she would be 
married soon now, and then she would see 
that life wasn t exactly a Sunday-school 
story. Everybody was exposed to such dis 
agreeable accidents : he remembered a case 
in their own family oh, a distant cousin 
whom Kate wouldn t have heard of a 
poor fellow who had got entangled with 
just such a woman, and having (most pro 
perly) been sent packing by his father, had 
justified the latter s course by promptly 
forging his name a very nasty affair alto 
gether; but luckily the scandal had been 
hushed up, the woman bought off, and the 
prodigal, after a season of probation, safely 
married to a nice girl with a good income, 
who was told by the family that the doc 
tors recommended his settling in California. 


Luckily the scandal was hushed up: the 
phrase blazed out against the dark back 
ground of Kate s misery. That was doubt 
less what most people felt the words 
represented the consensus of respectable 
opinion. The best way of repairing a fault 
was to hide it: to tear up the floor and 
bury the victim at night. Above all, no 
coroner and no autopsy ! 

She began to feel a strange interest in 
her distant cousin. "And his wife did 
she know what he had done?" 

Mr. Orme stared. His moral pointed, 
he had returned to the contemplation of 
his own affairs. 

"His wife? Oh, of course not. The secret 
has been most admirably kept; but her 
property was put in trust, so she s quite 
safe with him." 

Her property! Kate wondered if her 
faith in her husband had also been put in 
trust, if her sensibilities had been protected 

from his possible inroads. 

"Do you think it quite fair to have de 
ceived her in that way?" 

Mr. Orme gave her a puzzled glance : he 
had no taste for the by-paths of ethical 

"His people wanted to give the poor 
fellow another chance: they did the best 
they could for him." 

"And he has done nothing dishonour 
able since?" 

"Not that I know of: the last I heard 
was that they had a little boy, and that 
he was quite happy. At that distance he s 
not likely to bother us, at all events." 

Long after Mr. Orme had left the topic, 
Kate remained lost in its contemplation. 
She had begun to perceive that the fair sur 
face of life was honeycombed by a vast 
system of moral sewage. Every respectable 
household had its special arrangements for 
the private disposal of family scandals ; it 


was only among the reckless and improvi 
dent that such hygienic precautions were 
neglected. Who was she to pass judgment 
on the merits of such a system ? The social 
health must be preserved: the means de- 
vised were the result of long experience 
and the collective instinct of self-preserva 
tion. She had meant to tell her father that 
evening that her marriage had been put 
off; but she now abstained from doing so, 
not from any doubt of Mr. Orme s acquies 
cence he could always be made to feel the 
force of conventional scruples but be 
cause the whole question sank into insig 
nificance beside the larger issue which his 
words had raised. 

In her own room, that night, she passed 
through that travail of the soul of which 
the deeper life is born. Her first sense was 
of a great moral loneliness an isolation 
more complete, more impenetrable, than 
that in which the discovery of Denis s act 
[61 ] 


had plunged her. For she had vaguely 
leaned, then, on a collective sense of justice 
that should respond to her own ideas of 
right and wrong: she still believed in the 
logical correspondence of theory and prac 
tice. Now she saw that, among those near 
est her, there was no one who recognized 
the moral need of expiation. She saw that 
to take her father or Mrs. Peyton into her 
confidence would be but to widen the circle 
of sterile misery in which she and Denis 

moved. At first the aspect of life thus re- 

vealed to her seemed simply mean and 

base a world where honour was a pact 
of silence between adroit accomplices. The 
network of circumstance had tightened 
round her, and every effort to escape drew 
its meshes closer. But as her struggles sub 
sided she felt the spiritual release which 
comes with acceptance : not connivance in 
dishonour, but recognition of evil. Out of 
that dark vision light was to come, the 


shaft of cloud turning to the pillar of fire. 
For here, at last, life lay before her as it 
was : not brave, garlanded and victorious, 
but naked, grovelling and diseased, drag 
ging its maimed limbs through the mud, 
yet lifting piteous hands to the stars. Love 
itself, once throned aloft on an altar of 
dreams, how it stole to her now, storm- 
beaten and scarred, pleading for the shelter 
of her breast ! Love, indeed, not in the old 
sense in which she had conceived it, but 
a graver, austerer presence the charity 
of the mystic three. She thought she had 
ceased to love Denis but what had she 
loved in him but her happiness and his? 
Their affection had been the garden en 
closed of the Canticles, where they were to 
walk forever in a delicate isolation of bliss. 
But now love appeared to her as something 
more than this something wider, deeper, 
more enduring than the selfish passion of 
a man and a woman. She saw it in all its 


far-reaching issues, till the first meeting of 
two pairs of young eyes kindled a light 
which might be a high-lifted beacon across 
dark waters of humanity. 

All this did not come to her clearly, con 
secutively, but in a series of blurred and 
shifting images. Marriage had meant to her, 
as it means to girls brought up in ignorance 
of life, simply the exquisite prolongation 
of wooing. If she had looked beyond, to 
the vision of wider ties, it was as a travel 
ler gazes over a land veiled in golden haze, 
and so far distant that the imagination de 
lays to explore it. But now through the 
blur of sensations one image strangely per 
sisted the image of Denis s child. Had 
she ever before thought of their having a 
child? She could not remember. She was 
like one who wakens from a long fever: 
she recalled nothing of her former self or 
of her former feelings. She knew only that 
the vision persisted the vision of the child 


whose mother she was not to be. It was 
impossible that she should marry Denis 
her inmost soul rejected him . . . but it was 
just because she was not to be the child s 
mother that its image followed her so plead 
ingly. For she saw with perfect clearness 
the inevitable course of events. Denis would 
marry some one else he was one of the 
men who are fated to marry, and she needed 
not his mother s reminder that her aban 
donment of him at an emotional crisis 
would fling him upon the first sympathy 
within reach. He would marry a girl who 
knew nothing of his secret for Kate was 
intensely aware that he would never again 
willingly confess himself he would marry 
a girl who trusted him and leaned on him, 
as she, Kate Orme the earlier Kate Orme 
had done but two days since ! And with 
this deception between them their child 
would be born : born to an inheritance of 
secret weakness, a vice of the moral fibre, 


as it might be born with some hidden phy 
sical taint which would destroy it before 
the cause could be detected. . . . Well, and 
what of it ? Was she to hold herself respon 
sible ? Were not thousands of children born 
with some such unsuspected taint ? . . . Ah, 
but if here was one that she could save? 
What if she, who had had so exquisite a 
vision of wifehood, should reconstruct from 
its ruins this vision of protecting maternity 
if her love for her lover should be, not 
lost, but transformed, enlarged, into this 
passion of charity for his race ? If she might 
expiate and redeem his fault by becoming 
a refuge from its consequences ? Before this 
strange extension of her love all the old 
limitations seemed to fall. Something had 
cleft the surface of self, and there welled 
up the mysterious primal influences, the 
sacrificial instinct of her sex, a passion of 
spiritual motherhood that made her long 



to fling herself between the unborn child 
and its fate. . . . 

She never knew, then or after, how she 
reached this mystic climax of effacement; 
she was only conscious, through her an 
guish, of that lift of the heart which made 
one of the saints declare that joy was the 
inmost core of sorrow. For it was indeed 
a kind of joy she felt, if old names must 
serve for such new meanings; a surge of 
liberating faith in life, the old credo quia 
absurdum which is the secret cry of all su 
preme endeavour. . 





DOES it look nice, mother?" 
Dick Peyton met her with the ques 
tion on the threshold, drawing her gaily 
into the little square room, and adding, 
with a laugh with a blush in it : " You know 
she s an uncommonly noticing person, and 
little things tell with her." 

He swung round on his heel to follow his 
mother s smiling inspection of the apart 

"She seems to have all the qualities," 
Mrs. Denis Peyton remarked, as her cir 
cuit finally brought her to the prettily ap 
pointed tea-table. 

"^//," he declared, taking the sting from 
her emphasis by his prompt adoption of 
it. Dick had always had a wholesome way 
of thus appropriating to his own use such 
small shafts of maternal irony as were now 
[71 ] 


and then aimed at him. 

Kate Peyton laughed and loosened her 
furs. " It looks charmingly," she pronounced, 
ending her survey by an approach to the 
window, which gave, far below, the oblique 
perspective of a long side-street leading to 
Fifth Avenue. 

The high-perched room was Dick Pey 
ton s private office, a retreat partitioned off 
from the larger enclosure in which, under a 
north light and on a range of deal tables, 
three or four young draughtsmen were 
busily engaged in elaborating his architec 
tural projects. The outer door of the office 
bore the sign : Peyton and Gill, Architects; 
but Gill was an utilitarian person, as unob 
trusive as his name, who contented himself 
with a desk in the work-room, and left Dick 
to lord it alone in the small apartment to 
which clients were introduced, and where 
the social part of the business was carried 


It was to serve, on this occasion, as the 
scene of a tea designed, as Kate Peyton was 
vividly aware, to introduce a certain young 
lady to the scene of her son s labours. Mrs. 
Peyton had been hearing a great deal lately 
about Clemence Verney. Dick was natu 
rally expansive, and his close intimacy with 
his mother an intimacy fostered by his 
father s early death if it had suffered some 
natural impairment in his school and col 
lege days, had of late been revived by four 
years of comradeship in Paris, where Mrs. 
Peyton, in a tiny apartment of the Rue de 
Varennes, had kept house for him during 
his course of studies at the Beaux Arts, j 
There were indeed not lacking critics of 
her own sex who accused Kate Peyton of 
having figured too largely in her son s life ; 
of having failed to efface herself at a period 
when it is agreed that young men are best 
left free to try conclusions with the world. 
Mrs. Peyton, had she cared to defend her- 


self, might have said that Dick, if commu 
nicative, was not impressionable, and that 
the closeness of texture which enabled him 
to throw off her sarcasms preserved him also 
from the infiltration of her prejudices. He 
was certainly no knight of the apron-string, 
but a seemingly resolute and self-sufficient 
young man, whose romantic friendship with 
his mother had merely served to throw a 
veil of suavity over the hard angles of youth. 

But Mrs. Peyton s real excuse was after 
all one which she would never have given. 
It was because her intimacy with her son 
was the one need of her life that she had, 
with infinite tact and discretion, but with 
equal persistency, clung to every step of 
his growth, dissembling herself, adapting 
herself, rejuvenating herself, in the passion 
ate effort to be always within reach, but 
never in the way. 

Denis Peyton had died after seven years 
of marriage, when his boy was barely six. 


During those seven years he had managed 
to squander the best part of the fortune he 
had inherited from his step -brother ; so that, 
at his death, his widow and son were left 
with a scant competence. Mrs. Peyton, dur 
ing her husband s life, had apparently made 
no effort to restrain his expenditure. She 
had even been accused, by those judicious 
persons who are always ready with an esti 
mate of their neighbours motives, of hav 
ing encouraged poor Denis s improvidence 
for the gratification of her own ambition. 
She had in fact, in the early days of their 
marriage, tried to launch him in politics, 
and had perhaps drawn somewhat heavily 
on his funds in the first heat of the contest; 
but the experiment ending in failure, as 
Denis Peyton s experiments were apt to 
end, she had made no farther demands on 
his exchequer. Her personal tastes were in 
fact unusually simple, but her outspoken in 
difference to money was not, in the opinion 


of her critics, designed to act as a check 
upon her husband ; and it resulted in leav 
ing her, at his death, in straits from which 
it was impossible not to deduce a moral. 

Her small means, and the care of the 
boy s education, served the widow as a pre 
text for secluding herself in a socially re 
mote suburb, where it was inferred that she 
was expiating, on queer food and in ready- 
made boots, her rash defiance of fortune. 
Whether or not Mrs. Peyton s penance 
took this form, she hoarded her substance 
to such good purpose that she was not only 
able to give Dick the best of schooling, but 
to propose, on his leaving Harvard, that he 
should prolong his studies by another four 
years at the Beaux Arts. It had been the 
joy of her life that her boy had early shown 
a marked bent for a special line of work. 
She could not have borne to see him re 
duced to a mere money -getter, yet she was 
not sorry that their small means forbade 


the cultivation of an ornamental leisure. In 
his college days Dick had troubled her by 
a superabundance of tastes, a restless flit 
ting from one form of artistic expression 
to another. Whatever art he enjoyed he 
wished to practise, and he passed from 
music to painting, from painting to archi 
tecture, with an ease which seemed to his 
mother to indicate lack of purpose rather 
than excess of talent. She had observed 
that these changes were usually due, not 
to self-criticism, but to some external dis 
couragement. Any depreciation of his work 
was enough to convince him of the useless- 
ness of pursuing that special form of art, 
and the reaction produced the immediate 
conviction that he was really destined to 
shine in some other line of work. He had 
thus swung from one calling to another 
till, at the end of his college career, his 
mother took the decisive step of trans 
planting him to the Beaux Arts, in the 


hope that a definite course of study, com 
bined with the stimulus of competition, 
might fix his wavering aptitudes. The re 
sult justified her expectation, and their four 
years in the Rue de Varennes yielded the 
happiest confirmation of her belief in him. 
Dick s ability was recognized not only by 
his mother, but by his professors. He was 
engrossed in his work, and his first successes 
developed his capacity for application. His 
mother s only fear was that praise was still 
too necessary to him. She was uncertain 
how long his ambition would sustain him 
in the face of failure. He gave lavishly 
where he was sure of a return; but it re 
mained to be seen if he were capable of 
production without recognition. She had 
brought him up in a wholesome scorn of 
material rewards, and nature seemed, in 
this direction, to have seconded her train 
ing. He was genuinely indifferent to money, 
and his enjoyment of beauty was of that 


happy sort which does not generate the 
wish for possession. As long as the inner 
eye had food for contemplation, he cared 
very little for the deficiencies in his sur 
roundings ; or, it might rather be said, he 
felt, in the sum-total of beauty about him, 
an ownership of appreciation that left him 
free from the fret of personal desire. Mrs. 
Peyton had cultivated to excess this dis 
regard of material conditions ; but she now 
began to ask herself whether, in so doing, 
she had not laid too great a strain on a 
temperament naturally exalted. In guard 
ing against other tendencies she had per 
haps fostered in him too exclusively those 
qualities which circumstances had brought 
to an unusual development in herself. His 
enthusiasms and his disdains were alike too 
unqualified for that happy mean of char 
acter which is the best defence against 
the surprises of fortune. If she had taught 
him to set an exaggerated value on ideal 


rewards, was not that but a shifting of the 
danger-point on which her fears had always 
hung? She trembled sometimes to think 
how little love and a lifelong vigilance had 
availed in the deflecting of inherited ten 

Her fears were in a measure confirmed 
by the first two years of their life in New 
York, and the opening of his career as a 
professional architect. Close on the easy 
triumphs of his studentship there came 
the chilling reaction of public indifference. 
Dick, on his return from Paris, had formed 
a partnership with an architect who had 
had several years of practical training in a 
New York office ; but the quiet and indus 
trious Gill, though he attracted to the new 
firm a few small jobs which overflowed 
from the business of his former employer, 
was not able to infect the public with his 
own faith in Peyton s talents, and it was 
trying to a genius who felt himself capable 


of creating palaces to have to restrict his 
efforts to the building of suburban cot 
tages or the planning of cheap alterations 
in private houses. 

Mrs. Peyton expended all the ingenui 
ties of tenderness in keeping up her son s 
courage ; and she was seconded in the task 
by a friend whose acquaintance Dick had 
made at the Beaux Arts, and who, two 
years before the Peytons, had returned to 
New York to start on his own career as 
an architect. Paul Darrow was a young 
man full of crude seriousness, who, after 
a youth of struggling work and study in 
his native northwestern state, had won a 
scholarship which sent him abroad for a 
course at the Beaux Arts. His two years 
there coincided with the first part of Dick s 
residence, and Darrow s gifts had at once 
attracted the younger student. Dick was 
unstinted in his admiration of rival talent, 
and Mrs. Peyton, who was romantically 
[81 ] 


given to the cultivation of such generosi 
ties, had seconded his enthusiasm by the 
kindest offers of hospitality to the young 
student. Darrow thus became the grateful 
frequenter of their little salon; and after 
their return to New York the intimacy be 
tween the young men was renewed, though 
Mrs. Peyton found it more difficult to coax 
Dick s friend to her New York drawing- 
room than to the informal surroundings of 
the Rue de Varennes. There, no doubt, 
secluded and absorbed in her son s work, 
she had seemed to Darrow almost a fellow- 
student; but seen among her own associ 
ates she became once more the woman of 
fashion, divided from him by the whole 
breadth of her ease and his awkwardness. 
Mrs. Peyton, whose tact had divined the 
cause of his estrangement, would not for 
an instant let it affect the friendship of the 
two young men. She encouraged Dick to 
frequent Darrow, in whom she divined a 


persistency of effort, an artistic self-con 
fidence, in curious contrast to his social 
hesitancies. The example of his obstinate 
capacity for work was just the influence 
her son needed, and if Darrow would not 
come to them she insisted that Dick must 
seek him out, must never let him think 
that any social discrepancy could affect a 
friendship based on deeper things. Dick, 
who had all the loyalties, and who took 
an honest pride in his friend s growing suc 
cess, needed no urging to maintain the inti 
macy ; and his copious reports of midnight 
colloquies in Darrow s lodgings showed 
Mrs. Peyton that she had a strong ally in 
her invisible friend. 

It had been, therefore, somewhat of a 
shock to learn in the course of time that 
Darrow s influence was being shared, if 
not counteracted, by that of a young lady 
in whose honour Dick was now giving 
his first professional tea. Mrs. Peyton had 


heard a great deal about Miss Clemence 
Verney, first from the usual purveyors of 
such information, and more recently from 
her son, who, probably divining that ru 
mour had been before him, adopted his 
usual method of disarming his mother by 
taking her into his confidence. But, ample 
as her information was, it remained per 
plexing and contradictory, and even her 
own few meetings with the girl had not 
helped her to a definite opinion. Miss Ver 
ney, in conduct and ideas, was patently of 
the "new school " : a young woman of fever 
ish activities and broad-cast judgments, 
whose very versatility made her hard to 
define. Mrs. Peyton was shrewd enough 
to allow for the accidents of environment; 
what she wished to get at was the resi 
duum of character beneath Miss Verney s 
shifting surface. 

"It looks charmingly," Mrs. Peyton re 
peated, giving a loosening touch to the 


chrysanthemums in a tall vase on her son s 

Dick laughed, and glanced at his watch. 

"They won t be here for another quarter 
of an hour. I think I ll tell Gill to clean 
out the work-room before they come." 

"Are we to see the drawings for the com 
petition ? " his mother asked. 

He shook his head smilingly. "Can t 
I Ve asked one or two of the Beaux Arts 
fellows, you know; and besides, old Dar- 
row s actually coming." 

"Impossible!" Mrs. Peyton exclaimed. 

"He swore he would last night." Dick 
laughed again, with a tinge of self-satis 
faction. "I Ve an idea he wants to see Miss 

"Ah," his mother murmured. There was 
a pause before she added: "Has Darrow 
really gone in for this competition?" 

"Rather! I should say so! He s simply 
working himself to the bone." 


Mrs. Peyton sat revolving her muff on a 
meditative hand ; at length she said : " I m 
not sure I think it quite nice of him." 

Her son halted before her with an incred 
ulous stare. "Mother!" he exclaimed. 

The rebuke sent a blush to her forehead. 
" Well considering your friendship and 

"Everything? What do you mean by 
everything? The fact that he has more 
ability than I have and is therefore more 
likely to succeed? The fact that he needs 
the money and the success a deuced sight 
more than any of us? Is that the reason 
you think he oughtn t to have entered? 
Mother! I never heard you say an ungen 
erous thing before." 

The blush deepened to crimson, and she 
rose with a nervous laugh. "It was ungen 
erous," she conceded. "I suppose I m jeal 
ous for you. I hate these competitions ! " 

Her son smiled reassuringly. "You 


needn t. I m not afraid: I think I shall 
pull it off this time. In fact, Paul s the 
only man I m afraid of I m always afraid 
of Paul but the mere fact that he s in 
the thing is a tremendous stimulus." 

His mother continued to study him with 
an anxious tenderness. " Have you worked 
out the whole scheme ? Do you see it yet ?" 

"Oh, broadly, yes. There s a gap here 
and there a hazy bit, rather it s the 
hardest problem I ve ever had to tackle; 
but then it s my biggest opportunity, and 
I ve simply got to pull it off!" 

Mrs. Peyton sat silent, considering his 
flushed face and illumined eye, which were 
rather those of the victor nearing the goal 
than of the runner just beginning the race. 
She remembered something that Darrow 
had once said of him: "Dick always sees 
the end too soon." 

"You haven t too much time left," she 



"Just a week. But I shan t go anywhere 
after this. I shall renounce the world." He 
glanced smilingly at the festal tea-table and 
the embowered desk. "When I next ap 
pear, it will either be with my heel on 
Paul s neck poor old Paul or else 
or else being dragged lifeless from the 
arena ! " 

His mother nervously took up the laugh 
with which he ended. "Oh, not lifeless," 
she said. 

His face clouded. "Well, maimed for 
life, then," he muttered. 

Mrs. Peyton made no answer. She knew 
how much hung on the possibility of his 
winning the competition which for weeks 
past had engrossed him. It was a design 
for the new museum of sculpture, for which 
the city had recently voted half a million. 
Dick s taste ran naturally to the grandiose, 
and the erection of public buildings had 
always been the object of his ambition. 


Here was an unmatched opportunity, and 
he knew that, in a competition of the kind, 
the newest man had as much chance of 
success as the firm of most established repu 
tation, since every competitor entered on 
his own merits, the designs being submitted 
to a jury of architects who voted on them 
without knowing the names of the con 
testants. Dick, characteristically, was not 
afraid of the older firms ; indeed, as he had 
told his mother, Paul Darrow was the only 
rival he feared. Mrs. Peyton knew that, to 
a certain point, self-confidence was a good 
sign ; but somehow her son s did not strike 
her as being of the right substance it 
seemed to have no dimension but extent. 
Her fears were complicated by a suspi 
cion that, under his professional eagerness 
for success, lay the knowledge that Miss 
Verney s favour hung on the victory. It 
was that, perhaps, which gave a feverish 
touch to his ambition; and Mrs. Peyton, 


surveying the future from the height of 
her maternal apprehensions, divined that 
the situation depended mainly on the girl s 
view of it. She would have given a great 
deal to know Clemence Verney s concep 
tion of success. 


Miss VERNE Y, when she presently appeared, 
in the wake of the impersonal and exclam 
atory young married woman who served as 
a background to her vivid outline, seemed 
competent to impart at short notice any 
information required of her. She had never 
struck Mrs. Peyton as more alert and effi 
cient. A melting grace of line and colour 
tempered her edges with the charming haze 
of youth ; but it occurred to her critic that 
she might emerge from this morning mist 
as a dry and metallic old woman. 

If Miss Verney suspected a personal ap 
plication in Dick s hospitality, it did not 


call forth in her the usual tokens of self- 
consciousness. Her manner may have been 
a shade more vivid than usual, but she pre 
served all her bright composure of glance 
and speech, so that one guessed, under the 
rapid dispersal of words, an undisturbed 
steadiness of perception. She was lavishly 
but not indiscriminately interested in the 
evidences of her host s industry, and as 
the other guests assembled, straying with 
vague ejaculations through the labyrinth of 
scale drawings and blue prints, Mrs. Pey 
ton noted that Miss Verney alone knew 
what these symbols stood for. 

To his visitors requests to be shown his 
plans for the competition, Peyton had op 
posed a laughing refusal, enforced by the 
presence of two fellow-architects, young 
men with lingering traces of the Beaux 
Arts in their costume and vocabulary, who 
stood about in Gavarni attitudes and daz 
zled the ladies by allusions to fenestration 
[91 ] 


and entasis. The party had already drifted 
back to the tea-table when a hesitating 
knock announced Darrow s approach. He 
entered with his usual air of having blun 
dered in by mistake, embarrassed by his 
hat and great-coat, and thrown into deeper 
confusion by the necessity of being intro 
duced to the ladies grouped about the urn. 
To the men he threw a gruff nod of fellow 
ship, and Dick having relieved him of his 
encumbrances, he retreated behind the shel 
ter of Mrs. Peyton s welcome. The latter 
judiciously gave him time to recover, and 
when she turned to him he was engaged in 
a surreptitious inspection of Miss Verney, 
whose dusky slenderness, relieved against 
the bare walls of the office, made her look 
like a young St. John of Donatello s. The 
girl returned his look with one of her clear 
glances, and the group having presently 
broken up again, Mrs. Peyton saw that she 
had drifted to Darrow s side. The visitors 


at length wandered back to the work-room 
to see a portfolio of Dick s water-colours; 
but Mrs. Peyton remained seated behind 
the urn, listening to the interchange of talk 
through the open door while she tried to 
coordinate her impressions. 

She saw that Miss Verney was sincerely 
interested in Dick s work : it was the nature 
of her interest that remained in doubt. As 
if to solve this doubt, the girl presently 
reappeared alone on the threshold, and 
discovering Mrs. Peyton, advanced toward 
her with a smile. 

"Are you tired of hearing us praise Mr. 
Peyton s things?" she asked, dropping into 
a low chair beside her hostess. "Unintelli 
gent admiration must be a bore to people 
who know, and Mr. Darrow tells me you 
are almost as learned as your son." 

Mrs. Peyton returned the smile, but 
evaded the question. "I should be sorry to 
think your admiration unintelligent," she 


said. "I like to feel that my boy s work is 
appreciated by people who understand it." 

"Oh, I have the usual smattering," said 
Miss Verney carelessly. "I think I know 
why I admire his work ; but then I am sure 
I see more in it when some one like Mr. 
Darrow tells me how remarkable it is." 

"Does Mr. Darrow say that?" the mo 
ther exclaimed, losing sight of her object 
in the rush of maternal pleasure. 

" He has said nothing else : it seems to be 
the only subject which loosens his tongue. 
I believe he is more anxious to have your 
son win the competition than to win it him 

"He is a very good friend," Mrs. Peyton 
assented. She was struck by the way in 
which the girl led the topic back to the spe 
cial application of it which interested her. 
She had none of the artifices of prudery. 

"He feels sure that Mr. Peyton will 
win," Miss Verney continued. " It was very 


interesting to hear his reasons. He is an 
extraordinarily interesting man. It must 
be a tremendous incentive to have such a 

Mrs. Peyton hesitated. "The friendship 
is delightful ; but I don t know that my son 
needs the incentive. He is almost too am 

Miss Verney looked up brightly. "Can 
one be?" she said. "Ambition is so splen 
did! It must be so glorious to be a man 
and go crashing through obstacles, straight 
up to the thing one is after. I m afraid I 
don t care for people who are superior to 
success. I like marriage by capture!" She 
rose with her wandering laugh, and stood 
flushed and sparkling above Mrs. Peyton, 
who continued to gaze at her gravely. 

"What do you call success?" the latter 
asked. " It means so many different things." 

"Oh, yes, I know the inward approval, 
and all that. Well, I m afraid I like the 


other kind: the drums and wreaths and 
acclamations. If I were Mr. Peyton, for 
instance, I d much rather win the com 
petition than than be as disinterested as 
Mr. Darrow." 

Mrs. Peyton smiled. "I hope you won t 
tell him so," she said half seriously. "He is 
over-stimulated already; and he is so easily 
influenced by any one who whose opin 
ion he values." 

She stopped abruptly, hearing herself, 
with a strange inward shock, reecho the 
words which another man s mother had 
once spoken to her. Miss Verney did not 
seem to take the allusion to herself, for she 
continued to fix on Mrs. Peyton a gaze of 
impartial sympathy. 

"But we can t help being interested!" 
she declared. 

"It s very kind of you; but I wish you 
would all help him to feel that this com 
petition is after all of very little account 


compared with other things his health 
and his peace of mind, for instance. He is 
looking horribly used up." 

The girl glanced over her shoulder at 
Dick, who was just reentering the room 
at Darrow s side. 

"Oh, do you think so?" she said. "I 
should have thought it was his friend who 
was used up." 

Mrs. Peyton followed the glance with 
surprise. She had been too preoccupied 
to notice Darrow, whose crudely modelled 
face was always of a dull pallour, to which 
his slow-moving grey eye lent no relief ex 
cept in rare moments of expansion. Now the 
face had the fallen lines of a death-mask, 
in which only the smile he turned on Dick 
remained alive; and the sight smote her 
with compunction. Poor Darrow! He did 
look horribly fagged out: as if he needed 
care and petting and good food. No one 
knew exactly how he lived. His rooms, ac- 


cording to Dick s report, were fireless and 
ill kept, but he stuck to them because his 
landlady, whom he had fished out of some 
financial plight, had difficulty in obtaining 
other lodgers. He belonged to no club, and 
wandered out alone for his meals, myste 
riously refusing the hospitality which his 
friends pressed on him. It was plain that 
he was very poor, and Dick conjectured 
that he sent what he earned to an aunt 
in his native village; but he was so silent 
about such matters that, outside of his pro 
fession, he seemed to have no personal life. 
Miss Verney s companion having pre 
sently advised her of the lapse of time, 
there ensued a general leave-taking, at 
the close of which Dick accompanied the 
ladies to their carriage. Darrow was mean 
while blundering into his great-coat, a pro 
cess which always threw him into a state 
of perspiring embarrassment ; but Mrs. Pey 
ton, surprising him in the act, suggested 


that he should defer it and give her a few 
moments talk. 

"Let me make you some fresh tea," she 
said, as Darrow blushingly shed the gar 
ment, "and when Dick comes back we ll all 
walk home together. I Ve not had a chance 
to say two words to you this winter." 

Darrow sank into a chair at her side and 
nervously contemplated his boots. " I Ve 
been tremendously hard at work," he said. 

" I know : too hard at work, I m afraid. 
Dick tells me you have been wearing your 
self out over your competition plans." 

" Oh, well, I shall have time to rest now," 
he returned. "I put the last stroke to them 
this morning." 

Mrs. Peyton gave him a quick look. 
"You re ahead of Dick, then." 

" In point of time only," he said smiling. 

"That is in itself an advantage," she 
answered with a tinge of asperity. In spite 
of an honest effort for impartiality she 


could not, at the moment, help regarding 
Darrow as an obstacle in her son s path. 

"I wish the competition were over!" she 
exclaimed, conscious that her voice had be 
trayed her. "I hate to see you both looking 
so fagged." 

Darrow smiled again, perhaps at her 
studied inclusion of himself. 

"Oh, Dick s all right," he said. "Hell 
pull himself together in no time." 

He spoke with an emphasis which might 
have struck her, if her sympathies had not 
again been deflected by the allusion to her 

" Not if he does n t win," she exclaimed. 

Darrow took the tea she had poured for 
him, knocking the spoon to the floor in his 
eagerness to perform the feat gracefully. 
In bending to recover the spoon he struck 
the tea-table with his shoulder, and set the 
cups dancing. Having regained a measure 
of composure, he took a swallow of the hot 
[ 100] 


tea and set it down with a gasp, precari 
ously near the edge of the tea-table. Mrs. 
Peyton rescued the cup, and Darrow, ap 
parently forgetting its existence, rose and 
began to pace the room. It was always 
hard for him to sit still when he talked. 

"You mean he s so tremendously set on 
it?" he broke out. 

Mrs. Peyton hesitated. "You know him 
almost as well as I do," she said. "He s 
capable of anything where there is a possi 
bility of success ; but I m always afraid of 
the reaction." 

"Oh, well, Dick s a man," said Dar 
row bluntly. " Besides, he s going to suc 

" I wish he did n t feel so sure of it. You 
must n t think I m afraid for him. He s a 
man, and I want him to take his chances 
with other men ; but I wish he did n t care 
so much about what people think." 


[101 ] 


"Miss Verney, then: I suppose you 

Darrow paused in front of her. "Yes: 
he s talked a good deal about her. You 
think she wants him to succeed?" 

"At any price!" 

He drew his brows together. "What do 
you call any price?" 

"Well herself, in this case, I believe." 

Darrow bent a puzzled stare on her. 
"You mean she attaches that amount of 
importance to this competition?" 

"She seems to regard it as symbolical: 
that s what I gather. And I m afraid she s 
given him the same impression." 

D arrow s sunken face was suffused by 
his rare smile. "Oh, well, he ll pull it off 
then! "he said. 

Mrs. Peyton rose with a distracted sigh. 
"I half hope he won t, for such a motive," 
she exclaimed. 

"The motive won t show in his work," 
[ 102 ] 


said Darrow. He added, after a pause prob 
ably devoted to the search for the right 
word: "He seems to think a great deal of 

Mrs. Peyton fixed him thoughtfully. "I 
wish I knew what you think of her." 

"Why, I never saw her before." 

"No; but you talked with her to-day. 
You ve formed an opinion: I think you 
came here on purpose." 

He chuckled joyously at her discern 
ment : she had always seemed to him gifted 
with supernatural insight. "Well, I did 
want to see her," he owned. 

"And what do you think?" 

He took a few vague steps and then 
halted before Mrs. Peyton. "I think," he 
said, smiling, "that she likes to be helped 
first, and to have everything on her plate 
at once." 

[ 103 ] 



AT dinner, with a rush of contrition, Mrs. 
Peyton remembered that she had after all 
not spoken to Darrow about his health. He 
had distracted her by beginning to talk 
of Dick; and besides, much as Darrow s 
opinions interested her, his personality had 
never fixed her attention. He always seemed 
to her simply a vehicle for the transmission 
of ideas. 

It was Dick who recalled her to a sense 
of her omission by asking if she hadn t 
thought that old Paul looked rather more 
ragged than usual. 

"He did look tired," Mrs. Peyton con 
ceded. "I meant to tell him to take care 
of himself." 

Dick laughed at the futility of the mea 
sure. "Old Paul is never tired : he can work 
twenty -five hours out of the twenty-four. 
The trouble with him is that he s ill. 
[ 104 ] 


Something wrong with the machinery, I m 

"Oh, I m sorry. Has he seen a doctor?" 

"He would n t listen to me when I sug 
gested it the other day ; but he s so deuced 
mysterious that I don t know what he may 
have done since." Dick rose, putting down 
his coffee-cup and half-smoked cigarette. 
"I Ve half a mind to pop in on him tonight 
and see how he s getting on." 

"But he lives at the other end of the 
earth; and you re tired yourself." 

"I m not tired ; only a little strung-up," 
he returned, smiling. "And besides, I m 
going to meet Gill at the office by and by 
and put in a night s work. It won t hurt 
me to take a look at Paul first." 

Mrs. Peyton was silent. She knew it 
was useless to contend with her son about 
his work, and she tried to fortify herself 
with the remembrance of her own words 
to Darrow : Dick was a man and must take 
[ 105 ] 


his chance with other men. 

But Dick, glancing at his watch, uttered 
an exclamation of annoyance. "Oh, by 
Jove, I shan t have time after all. Gill is 
waiting for me now; we must have dawdled 
over dinner." He bent to give his mother 
a caressing tap on the cheek. "Now don t 
worry," he adjured her; and as she smiled 
back at him he added with a sudden happy 
blush : " She does n t, you know : she s so 
sure of me." 

Mrs. Peyton s smile faded, and laying a 
detaining hand on his, she said with sud 
den directness: "Sure of you, or of your 

He hesitated. "Oh, she regards them as 
synonymous. She thinks I m bound to get 

"But if you don t?" 

He shrugged laughingly, but with a slight 
contraction of his confident brows. "Why, 
I shall have to make way for some one 

else, I suppose. That s the law of life." 

Mrs. Peyton sat upright, gazing at him 
with a kind of solemnity. "Is it the law of 
love?" she asked. 

He looked down on her with a smile that 
trembled a little. "My dear romantic mo 
ther, I don t want her pity, you know 1 " 

Dick, coming home the next morning 
shortly before daylight, left the house again 
after a hurried breakfast, and Mrs. Peyton 
heard nothing of him till nightfall. He had 
promised to be back for dinner, but a few 
moments before eight, as she was coming 
down to the drawing-room, the parlour 
maid handed her a hastily pencilled note. 

"Don t wait for me," it ran. "Darrow is 
ill and I can t leave him. I ll send a line 
when the doctor has seen him." 

Mrs. Peyton, who was a woman of rapid 
reactions, read the words with a pang. She 
was ashamed of the jealous thoughts she 


had harboured of Darrow, and of the sel 
fishness which had made her lose sight of 
his troubles in the consideration of Dick s 
welfare. Even Clemence Verney, whom she 
secretly accused of a want of heart, had 
been struck by Darrow s ill looks, while 
she had had eyes only for her son. Poor 
Darrow! How cold and self-engrossed he 
must have thought her ! In the first rush of 
penitence her impulse was to drive at once 
to his lodgings ; but the infection of his own 
shyness restrained her. Dick s note gave no 
details : the illness was evidently grave, but 
might not Darrow regard her coming as an 
intrusion ? To repair her negligence of yes 
terday by a sudden invasion of his privacy 
might be only a greater failure in tact; and 
after a moment of deliberation she resolved 
on sending to ask Dick if he wished her to 
go to him. 

The reply, which came late, was what 
she had expected. "No; we have all the 
[ 108] 


help we need. The doctor has sent a good 
nurse, and is coming again later. It s pneu 
monia, but of course he does n t say much 
yet. Let me have some beef-juice as soon 
as the cook can make it." 

The beef -juice ordered and dispatched, 
she was left to a vigil in melancholy con 
trast to that of the previous evening. Then 
she had been enclosed in the narrow limits 
of her maternal interests; now the barriers 
of self were broken down, and her personal 
preoccupations swept away on the current 
of a wider sympathy. As she sat there in 
the radius of lamp-light which, for so many 
evenings, had held Dick and herself in a 
charmed circle of tenderness, she saw that 
her love for her boy had come to be merely 
a kind of extended egotism. Love had nar 
rowed instead of widening her, had rebuilt 
between herself and life the very walls 
which, years and years before, she had laid 
low with bleeding fingers. It was horrible, 


how she had come to sacrifice everything to 
the one passion of ambition for her boy. . . . 

At daylight she sent another messenger, 
one of her own servants, who returned with 
out having seen Dick. Mr. Peyton had 
sent word that there was no change. He 
would write later ; he wanted nothing. The 
day wore on drearily. Once Kate found 
herself computing the precious hours lost 
to Dick s unfinished task. She blushed at 
her ineradicable selfishness, and tried to 
turn her mind to poor Darrow. But she 
could not master her impulses; and now 
she caught herself indulging the thought 
that his illness would at least exclude him 
from the competition. But no she re 
membered that he had said his work was 
finished. Come what might, he stood in the 
path of her boy s success. She hated herself 
for the thought, but it would not down. 

Evening drew on, but there was no note 
from Dick. At length, in the shamed re- 


action from her fears, she rang for a car 
riage and went upstairs to dress. She could 
stand aloof no longer: she must go to 
Darrow, if only to escape from her wicked 
thoughts of him. As she came down again 
she heard Dick s key in the door. She has 
tened her steps, and as she reached the hall 
he stood before her without speaking. 

She looked at him and the question died 
on her lips. He nodded, and walked slowly 
past her. 

"There was no hope from the first," he 

The next day Dick was taken up with 
the preparations for the funeral. The dis 
tant aunt, who appeared to be Darrow s 
only relation, had been duly notified of his 
death ; but no answer having been received 
from her, it was left to his friend to fulfil 
the customary duties. He was again ab 
sent for the best part of the day ; and when 


he returned at dusk Mrs. Peyton, looking 
up from the tea-table behind which she 
awaited him, was startled by the deep- 
lined misery of his face. 

Her own thoughts were too painful 
for ready expression, and they sat for a 
while in a mute community of wretched 

"Is everything arranged?" she asked at 

"Yes. Everything." 

"And you have not heard from the 

He shook his head. 

" Can you find no trace of any other re 
lations ? " 

"None. I went over all his papers. There 
were very few, and I found no address but 
the aunt s." He sat thrown back in his 
chair, disregarding the cup of tea she had 
mechanically poured for him. "I found 
this, though," he added after a pause, 


drawing a letter from his pocket and hold 
ing it out to her. 

She took it doubtfully. "Ought I to 
read it?" 


She saw then that the envelope, in 
Darrow s hand, was addressed to her son. 
Within were a few pencilled words, dated 
on the first day of his illness, the morrow 
of the day on which she had last seen him. 

"Dear Dick," she read, "I want you to 
"use my plans for the museum if you can 
"get any good out of them. Even if I pull 
"out of this I want you to. I shall have 
"other chances, and I have an idea this 
"one means a lot to you." 

Mrs. Peyton sat speechless, gazing at the 
date of the letter, which she had instantly 
connected with her last talk with Darrow. 
She saw that he had understood her, and 
the thought scorched her to the soul. 

"Was n t it glorious of him?" Dick said. 


She dropped the letter, and hid her face 
in her hands. 


THE funeral took place the next morning, 
and on the return from the cemetery Dick 
told his mother that he must go and look 
over things at Darrow s office. He had 
heard the day before from his friend s aunt, 
a helpless person to whom telegraphy was 
difficult and travel inconceivable, and who, 
in eight pages of unpunctuated eloquence, 
made over to Dick what she called the 
melancholy privilege of winding up her 
nephew s affairs. 

Mrs. Peyton looked anxiously at her son. 
" Is there no one who can do this for you ? 
He must have had a clerk or some one who 
knows about his work." 

Dick shook his head. "Not lately. He 
hasn t had much to do this winter, and 



these last months he had chucked every 
thing to work alone over his plans." 

The word brought a faint colour to Mrs. 
Peyton s cheek. It was the first allusion 
that either of them had made to Darrow s 

"Oh, of course you must do all you 
can," she murmured, turning alone into 
the house. 

The emotions of the morning had stirred 
her deeply, and she sat at home during the 
day, letting her mind dwelt in a kind of 

/ * ^5 ^^^^ * 

retrospective piety, oiroie thought of poor 
Darrow s devotion. She had given him too 
little time while he lived, had acquiesced 
too easily in his growing habits of seclusion ; 
and she felt it as a proof of insensibility that 
she had not been more closely drawn to 
the one person who had loved Dick as she 
loved him. The evidence of that love, as 
shown in Darrow s letter, filled her with a 
vain compunction. The very extravagance 


of his offer lent it a deeper pathos. It was 
wonderful that, even in the urgency of 
affection, a man of his almost morbid 
rectitude should have overlooked the re 
strictions of professional honour, should 
have implied the possibility of his friend s 
overlooking them. It seemed to make his 
sacrifice the more complete that it had, 
unconsciously, taken the form of a subtle 

The last word arrested Mrs. Peyton s 
thoughts. A temptation ? To whom ? Not, 
surely, to one capable, as her son was capa 
ble, of rising to the height of his friend s 
devotion. The offer, to Dick, would mean 
simply, as it meant to her, the last touching 
expression of an inarticulate fidelity: the 
utterance of a love which at last had found 
its formula. Mrs. Peyton dismissed as mor 
bid any other view of the case. She was 
annoyed with herself for supposing that 
Dick could be ever so remotely affected 


by the possibility at which poor Darrow s 
renunciation hinted. The nature of the 
offer removed it from practical issues to the 
idealizing region of sentiment. 

Mrs. Peyton had been sitting alone 
with these thoughts for the greater part of 
the afternoon, and dusk was falling when 
Dick entered the drawing-room. In the 
dim light, with his pallour heightened by 
the sombre effect of his mourning, he came 
upon her almost startlingly, with a revival 
of some long-effaced impression which, for 
a moment, gave her the sense of struggling 
among shadows. She did not, at first, know 
what had produced the effect ; then she saw 
that it was his likeness to his father. 

"Well is it over? "she asked, as he threw 
himself into a chair without speaking. 

"Yes: I Ve looked through everything." 
He leaned back, crossing his hands behind 
his head, and gazing past her with a look 
of utter lassitude. 



She paused a moment, and then said 
tentatively: "To-morrow you will be able 
to go back to your work." 

"Oh my work," he exclaimed, as if to 
brush aside an ill-timed pleasantry. 

"Are you too tired?" 

"No." He rose and began to wander up 
and down the room. "I m not tired. 
Give me some tea, will you?" He paused 
before her while she poured the cup, and 
then, without taking it, turned away to 
light a cigarette. 

"Surely there is still time?" she sug 
gested, with her eyes on him. 

"Time? To finish my plans? Oh, yes 
there s time. But they re not worth 

"Not worth it?" She started up, and 
then dropped back into her seat, ashamed 
of having betrayed her anxiety. "They are 
worth as much as they were last week," 
she said with an attempt at cheerfulness. 


"Not to me," he returned. "I hadn t 
seen Darrow s then." 

There was a long silence. Mrs. Peyton 
satwith her eyes fixed on her clasped hands, 
and her son paced the room restlessly. 

"Are they so wonderful?" she asked at 


She paused again, and then said, lifting a 
tremulous glance to his face: "That makes 
his offer all the more beautiful." 

Dick was lighting another cigarette, and 
his face was turned from her. "Yes I 
suppose so," he said in a low tone. 

"They were quite finished, he told me," 
she continued, unconsciously dropping her 
voice to the pitch of his. 


"Then they will be entered, I suppose?" 

"Of course why not?" he answered 
almost sharply. 

"Shall you have time to attend to all 

that and to finish yours too?" 

"Oh, I suppose so. I Ve told you it is n t 
a question of time. I see now that mine are 
not worth bothering with." 

She rose and approached him, laying 
her hands on his shoulders. "You are tired 
and unstrung; how can you judge? Why 
not let me look at both designs to-mor 

Under her gaze he flushed abruptly and 
drew back with a half- impatient gesture. 

"Oh, I m afraid that would n t help me; 
you d be sure to think mine best," he said 
with a laugh. 

"But if I could give you good reasons?" 
she pressed him. 

He took her hand, as if ashamed of his 
impatience. "Dear mother, if you had any 
reasons their mere existence would prove 
that they were bad." 

His mother did not return his smile. 
"You won t let me see the two designs 
[ 120 ] 


then?" she said with a faint tinge of in 

"Oh, of course if you want to if you 
only won t talk about it now! Can t you 
see that I m pretty nearly dead-beat?" he 
burst out uncontrollably; and as she stood 
silent, he added with a weary fall in his 
voice, " I think I 11 go upstairs and see if I 
can t get a nap before dinner." 

Though they had separated upon the as 
surance that she should see the two designs 
if she wished it, Mrs. Peyton knew they 
would not be shown to her. Dick, indeed, 
would not again deny her request; but had 
he not reckoned on the improbability of her 
renewing it ? All night she lay confronted 
by that question. The situation shaped it 
self before her with that hallucinating dis 
tinctness which belongs to the midnight 
vision. She knew now why Dick had sud- j 
denly reminded her of his father: had she- 


not once before seen the same thought 
moving behind the same eyes ? She was sure 
it had occurred to Dick to use Darrow s 
drawings. As she lay awake in the darkness 
she could hear him, long after midnight, 
pacing the floor overhead: she held her 
breath, listening to the recurring beat of his 
foot, which seemed that of an imprisoned 
spirit revolving wearily in the cage of the 
same thought. She felt in every fibre that 
a crisis in her son s life had been reached, 
that the act now before him would have 
a determining effect on his whole future. 
The circumstances of her past had raised 

to clairvoyance her natural insight into 
human motive, had made of her a moral 

barometer responding to the faintest fluc 
tuations of atmosphere, and years of anx 
ious meditation had familiarized her with 
the form which her son s temptations were 
likely to take. The peculiar misery of her 
situation was that she could not, except 


indirectly, put this intuition, this foresight, 
at his service. It was a part of her discern 
ment to be aware that life is the only real 
counsellor, that wisdom unfiltered through 
personal experience does not become a part 
of the moral tissues. Love such as hers had 
a great office, the office of preparation and 
direction; but it must know how to hold 
its hand and keep its counsel, how to at 
tend upon its object as an invisible influ 
ence rather than as an active interference. 
All this Kate Peyton had told herself 
again and again, during those hours of 
anxious calculation in which she had tried 
to cast Dick s horoscope; but not in her 
moments of most fantastic foreboding had 
she figured so cruel a test of her courage. 
If her prayers for him had taken precise 
shape, she might have asked that he should 
be spared the spectacular, the dramatic ap 
peal to his will-power : that his temptations 
should slip by him in a dull disguise. She 
[ 128 ] 


had secured him against all ordinary forms 
of baseness; the vulnerable point lay higher, 
in that region of idealizing egotism which 
is the seat of life in such natures. 

Years of solitary foresight gave her mind 
a singular alertness in dealing with such 
possibilities. She saw at once that the peril 
of the situation lay in the minimum of risk 
it involved. Darrow had employed no as 
sistant in working out his plans for the 
competition, and his secluded life made it 
almost certain that he had not shown them 
to any one, and that she and Dick alone 
knew them to have been completed. More 
over, it was a part of Dick s duty to ex 
amine the contents of his friend s office, 
and in doing this nothing would be easier 
than to possess himself of the drawings 
and make use of any part of them that 
might serve his purpose. He had Darrow s 
authority for doing so ; and though the act 
involved a slight breach of professional 
[ 124 ] 


probity, might not his friend s wishes be 
invoked as a secret justification? Mrs. Pey 
ton found herself almost hating poor Dar- 
row for having been the unconscious in 
strument of her son s temptation. But what 
right had she, after all, to suspect Dick of 
considering, even for a moment, the act of 
which she was so ready to accuse him ? His 
unwillingness to let her see the drawings 
might have been the accidental result of 
lassitude and discouragement. He was tired 
and troubled, and she had chosen the wrong 
moment to make the request. His want of 
readiness might even be due to the wish 
to conceal from her how far his friend had 
surpassed him. She knew his sensitiveness 
on this point, and reproached herself for 
not having foreseen it. But her own argu 
ments failed to convince her. Deep be 
neath her love for her boy and her faith 
in him there lurked a nameless doubt. She 
could hardly now, in looking back, define 
[ 125] 


the impulse upon which she had married 
Denis Peyton: she knew only that the 
deeps of her nature had been loosened, and 
that she had been borne forward on their 
current to the very fate from which her 
heart recoiled. But if in one sense her mar 
riage remained a problem, there was an 
other in which her motherhood seemed to 
solve it. She had never lost the sense of 
having snatched her child from some dim 
peril which still lurked and hovered; and 
he became more closely hers with every ef 
fort of her vigilant love. For the act of res 
cue had not been accomplished once and 
for all in the moment of immolation : it had 
not been by a sudden stroke of heroism, but 
by ever-renewed and indefatigable effort, 
that she had built up for him the miraculous 
shelter of her love. And now that it stood 
there, a hallowed refuge against failure, she 
could not even set a light in the pane, but 
must let him grope his way to it unaided. 
[ 126] 


MRS. PEYTON S midnight musings summed 
themselves up in the conclusion that the 
next few hours would end her uncertainty. 
She felt the day to be decisive. If Dick 
offered to show her the drawings, her fears 
would be proved groundless ; if he avoided 
the subject, they were justified. 

She dressed early in order not to miss 
him at breakfast; but as she entered the 
dining-room the parlour-maid told her that 
Mr. Peyton had overslept himself, and had 
rung to have his breakfast sent upstairs. 
Was it a pretext to avoid her? She was 
vexed at her own readiness to see a por 
tent in the simplest incident; but while she 
blushed at her doubts she let them govern 
her. She left the dining-room door open, 
determined not to miss him if he came 
downstairs while she was at breakfast ; then 
she went back to the drawing-room and 


sat down at her writing-table, trying to 
busy herself with some accounts while she 
listened for his step. Here too she had left 
the door open ; but presently even this slight 
departure from her daily usage seemed a 
deviation from the passive attitude she had 
adopted, and she rose and shut the door. 
She knew that she could still hear his step 
on the stairs he had his father s quick 
swinging gait but as she sat listening, 
and vainly trying to write, the closed door 
seemed to symbolize a refusal to share in 
his trial, a hardening of herself against his 
need of her. What if he should come down 
intending to speak, and should be turned 
from his purpose? Slighter obstacles have 
deflected the course of events in those in 
determinate moments when the soul floats 
between two tides. She sprang up quickly, 
and as her hand touched the latch she 
heard his step on the stairs. 

When he entered the drawing-room she 


had regained the writing-table and could 
lift a composed face to his. He came in 
hurriedly, yet with a kind of reluctance be 
neath his haste: again it was his father s 
step. She smiled, but looked away from 
him as he approached her; she seemed to 
be re-living her own past as one re-lives 
things in the distortion of fever. 

"Are you off already?" she asked, glan 
cing at the hat in his hand. 

"Yes; I m late as it is. I overslept my 
self." He paused and looked vaguely about 
the room. "Don t expect me till late 
don t wait dinner for me." 

She stirred impulsively. "Dick, you re 
overworking you 11 make yourself ill." 

"Nonsense. I m as fit as ever this morn 
ing. Don t be imagining things." 

He dropped his habitual kiss on her fore 
head, and turned to go. On the threshold 
he paused, and she felt that something 
in him sought her and then drew back. 


"Good-bye," he called to her as the door 
closed on him. 

She sat down and tried to survey the 
situation divested of her midnight fears. 
He had not referred to her wish to see the 
drawings: but what did the omission sig 
nify? Might he not have forgotten her 
request? Was she not forcing the most 
trivial details to fit in with her apprehen 
sions? Unfortunately for her own reassur 
ance, she knew that her familiarity with 
Dick s processes was based on such minute 
observation, and that, to such intimacy as 
theirs, no indications were trivial. She was 
as certain as if he had spoken, that when 
he had left the house that morning he was 
weighing the possibility of using Darrow s 
drawings, of supplementing his own in 
complete design from the fulness of his 
friend s invention. And with a bitter pang 
she divined that he was sorry he had shown 
her Darrow s letter. 



It was impossible to remain face to face 
with such conjectures, and though she had 
given up all her engagements during the 
few days since Darrow s death, she now 
took refuge in the thought of a concert 
which was to take place at a friend s house 
that morning. The music-room, when she 
entered, was thronged with acquaintances, 
and she found transient relief in that dis 
persal of attention which makes society an 
anaesthetic for some forms of wretched 
ness. Contact with the pressure of busy 
indifferent life often gives remoteness to 
questions which have clung as close as the 
flesh to the bone ; and if Mrs. Peyton did 
not find such complete release, she at least 
interposed between herself and her anxiety 
the obligation to dissemble it. But the re 
lief was only momentary, and when the 
first bars of the overture turned from her 
the smiles of recognition among which she 
had tried to lose herself, she felt a deeper 
[131 ] 


sense of isolation. The music, which at an 
other time would have swept her away on 
some rich current of emotion, now seemed 
to island her in her own thoughts, to cre 
ate an artificial solitude in which she found 
herself more immitigably face to face with 
her fears. The silence, the recueillement, 
about her gave resonance to the inner 
voices, lucidity to the inner vision, till she 
seemed enclosed in a luminous empty ho 
rizon against which every possibility took 
the sharp edge of accomplished fact. With 
relentless precision the course of events 
was unrolled before her: she saw Dick 
yielding to his opportunity, snatching vic 
tory from dishonour, winning love, happi 
ness and success in the act by which he 
lost himself. It was all so simple, so easy, 
so inevitable, that she felt the futility of 
struggling or hoping against it. He would 
win the competition, would marry Miss 
Verney, would press on to achievement 


through the opening which the first suc 
cess had made for him. 

As Mrs. Peyton reached this point in 
her forecast, she found her outward gaze 
arrested by the face of the young lady who 
so dominated her inner vision. Miss Ver- 
ney, a few rows distant, sat intent upon 
the music, in that attitude of poised mo 
tion which was her nearest approach to 
repose. Her slender brown profile with its 
breezy hair, her quick eye, and the lips 
which seemed to listen as well as speak, 
all betokened to Mrs. Peyton a nature 
through which the obvious energies blew 
free, a bare open stretch of consciousness 
without shelter for tenderer growths. She 
shivered to think of Dick s frail scruples 
exposed to those rustling airs. And then, 
suddenly, a new thought struck her. What 
if she might turn this force to her own use, 
make it serve, unconsciously to Dick, as 
the means of his deliverance? Hitherto she 


had assumed that her son s worst danger 
lay in the chance of his confiding his diffi 
culty to Clemence Verney; and she had, 
in her own past, a precedent which made 
her think such a confidence not unlikely. 
If he did carry his scruples to the girl, 
she argued, the latter s imperviousness, her 
frank inability to understand them, would 
have the effect of dispelling them like mist ; 
and he was acute enough to know this and 
profit by it. So she had hitherto reasoned; 
but now the girl s presence seemed to clar 
ify her perceptions, and she told herself 
that something in Dick s nature, some 
thing which she herself had put there, 
would resist this short cut to safety, would 
make him take the more tortuous way to 
his goal rather than gain it through the 
privacies of the heart he loved. For she 
had lifted him thus far above his father, 
that it would be a disenchantment to him 
to find that Clemence Verney did not share 
[ 134 ] 


his scruples. On this much, his mother now 
exultingly felt, she could count in her pas 
sive struggle for supremacy. No, he would 
never, never tell Clemence Verney and 
his one hope, his sure salvation, therefore 
lay in some one else s telling her. 

The excitement of this discovery had 
nearly, in mid-concert, swept Mrs. Peyton 
from her seat to the girl s side. Fearing to 
miss the latter in the throng at the en 
trance, she slipped out during the last num 
ber and, lingering in the farther drawing- 
room, let the dispersing audience drift her 
in Miss Verney s direction. The girl shone 
sympathetically on her approach, and in 
a moment they had detached themselves 
from the crowd and taken refuge in the per 
fumed emptiness of the conservatory. 

The girl, whose sensations were always 
easily set in motion, had at first a good deal 
to say of the music, for which she claimed, 
on her hearer s part, an active show of 


approval or dissent ; but this dismissed, she 
turned a melting face on Mrs. Peyton and 
said with one of her rapid modulations of 
tone : " I was so sorry about poor Mr. Par- 


Mrs. Peyton uttered an assenting sigh. 
"It was a great grief to us a great loss 
to my son." 

"Yes I know. I can imagine what you 
must have felt. And then it was so unlucky 
that it should have happened just now." 

Mrs. Peyton shot a reconnoitring glance 
at her profile. "His dying, you mean, on 
the eve of success?" 

Miss Verney turned a frank smile upon 
her. "One ought to feel that, of course 
but I m afraid I am very selfish where 
my friends are concerned, and I was think 
ing of Mr. Peyton s having to give up his 
work at such a critical moment." She spoke 
without a note of deprecation : there was a 
pagan freshness in her opportunism. 
[ 136] 


Mrs. Peyton was silent, and the girl 
continued after a pause: "I suppose now 
it will be almost impossible for him to fin 
ish his drawings in time. It s a pity he 
had n t worked out the whole scheme a lit 
tle sooner. Then the details would have 
come of themselves." 

Mrs. Peyton felt a contempt strangely 
mingled with exultation. If only the girl 
would talk in that way to Dick ! 

"He has hardly had time to think of 
himself lately," she said, trying to keep the 
coldness out of her voice. 

"No, of course not," Miss Verney as 
sented; "but is n t that all the more reason 
for his friends to think of him? It was very 
dear of him to give up everything to nurse 
Mr. D arrow but, after all, if a man is go 
ing to get on in his career there are times 
when he must think first of himself." 

Mrs. Peyton paused, trying to choose 
her words with deliberation. It was quite 


clear now that Dick had not spoken, and 
she felt the responsibility that devolved 
upon her. 

"Getting on in a career is that always 
the first thing to be considered?" she asked, 
letting her eyes rest musingly on the girl s. 

The glance did not disconcert Miss Ver- 
ney, who returned it with one of equal com 
prehensiveness. "Yes," she said quickly, and 
with a slight blush. " With a temperament 
like Mr. Peyton s I believe it is. Some peo 
ple can pick themselves up after any num 
ber of bad falls : I am not sure that he could. 
I think discouragement would weaken in 
stead of strengthening him." 

Both women had forgotten external con 
ditions in the quick reach for each other s 
meanings. Mrs. Peyton flushed, her mater 
nal pride in revolt; but the answer was 
checked on her lips by the sense of the girl s 
unexpected insight. Here was some one 
who knew Dick as well as she did should 
[ 138] 


she say a partisan or an accomplice? A 
dim jealousy stirred beneath Mrs. Peyton s 
other emotions: she was undergoing the 
agony which the mother feels at the first 
intrusion on her privilege of judging her 
child; and her voice had a flutter of re 

"You must have a poor opinion of his 
character," she said. 

Miss Verney did not remove her eyes, but 
her blush deepened beautifully. "I have, at 
any rate," she said, "a high one of his talent. 
I don t suppose many men have an equal 
amount of moral and intellectual energy." 

"And you would cultivate the one at 
the expense of the other?" 

"In certain cases and up to a certain 
point." She shook out the long fur of her 
muff, one of those silvery flexible furs which 
clothe a woman with a delicate sumptuous- 
ness. Everything about her, at the moment, 
seemed rich and cold everything, as Mrs. 
[ 139] 


Peyton quickly noted, but the blush linger 
ing under her dark skin; and so complete 
was the girl s self-command that the blush 
seemed to be there only because it had been 

"I dare say you think me strange," she 
continued. "Most people do, because I 
speak the truth. It s the easiest way of con 
cealing one s feelings. I can, for instance, 
talk quite openly about Mr. Peyton under 
shelter of your inference that I should n t 
do so if I were what is called interested 
in him. And as I am interested in him, my 
method has its advantages!" She ended 
with one of the fluttering laughs which 
seemed to flit from point to point of her 
expressive person. 

Mrs. Peyton leaned toward her. "I be 
lieve you are interested," she said quietly; 
"and since I suppose you allow others the 
privilege you claim for yourself, I am go 
ing to confess that I followed you here in 
[ 140 ] 


the hope of finding out the nature of your 

Miss Verney shot a glance at her, and 
drew away in a soft subsidence of undulat 
ing furs. 

"Is this an embassy ? " she asked smiling. 

"No: not in any sense." 

The girl leaned back with an air of re 
lief. "I m glad; I should have disliked 
She looked again at Mrs. Peyton. "You 
want to know what I mean to do?" 


"Then I can only answer that I mean 
to wait and see what he does." 

"You mean that everything is contin 
gent on his success ? " 

"/am if I m every thing, "she admitted 

The mother s heart was beating in her 
throat, and her words seemed to force 
themselves out through the throbs. 

"I I don t quite see why you attach 

such importance to this special success." 

"Because he does," the girl returned in 
stantly. "Because to him it is the final 
answer to his self-questioning the ques 
tioning whether he is ever to amount to 
anything or not. He says if he has anything 
in him it ought to come out now. All the 
conditions are favourable it is the chance 
he has always prayed for. You see," she 
continued, almost confidentially, but with 
out the least loss of composure "you see 
he has told me a great deal about himself 
and his various experiments his phases 
of indecision and disgust. There are lots 
of tentative talents in the world, and the 
sooner they are crushed out by circum 
stances the better. But it seems as though 
he really had it in him to do something 
distinguished as though the uncertainty 
lay in his character and not in his talent. 
That is what interests, what attracts me. 
One can t teach a man to have genius, but 


if he has it one may show him how to use 
it. That is what I should be good for, you 
see to keep him up to his opportunities." 

Mrs. Peyton had listened with an inten 
sity of attention that left her reply unpre 
pared. There was something startling and 
yet half attractive in the girl s avowal of 
principles which are oftener lived by than 

"And you think," she began at length, 
"that in this case he has fallen below his 

"No one can tell, of course; but his dis 
couragement, his abattement, is a bad sign. 
I don t think he has any hope of succeed 

The mother again wavered a moment. 
"Since you are so frank," she then said, 
"will you let me be equally so, and ask how 
lately you have seen him?" 

The girl smiled at the circumlocution. 
"Yesterday afternoon," she said simply. 


"And you thought him " 

"Horribly down on his luck. He said 
himself that his brain was empty." 

Again Mrs. Peyton felt the throb in her 
throat, and a slow blush rose to her cheek. 
"Was that all he said?" 

"About himself was there anything 
else?" said the girl quickly. 

"He didn t tell you of of an oppor 
tunity to make up for the time he has 

"An opportunity? I don t understand." 

" He did n t speak to you, then, of Mr. 
Barrow s letter?" 

"He said nothing of any letter." 

"There was one, which was found after 
poor D arrow s death. In it he gave Dick 
leave to use his design for the competition. 
Dick says the design is wonderful it would 
give him just what he needs." 

Miss Verney sat listening raptly, with a 
rush of colour that suffused her like light. 
[ 144 ] 


"But when was this? Where was the 
letter found? He never said a word of it!" 
she exclaimed. 

"The letter was found on the day of 
Darrow s death." 

"But I don t understand! Why has he 
never told me? Why should he seem so 
hopeless?" She turned an ignorant appeal 
ing face on Mrs. Peyton. It was prodigious, 
but it was true she felt nothing, saw 
nothing, but the crude fact of the oppor 

Mrs. Peyton s voice trembled with the 
completeness of her triumph. "I suppose 
his reason for not speaking is that he has 


"He feels that to use the design would 
be dishonest." 

Miss Verney s eyes fixed themselves on 
her in a commiserating stare. "Dishonest? 
When the poor man wished it himself? 


When it was his last request? When the 
letter is there to prove it? Why, the design 
belongs to your son ! No one else has any 
right to it." 

"But Dick s right does not extend to 
passing it off as his own at least that is 
his feeling, I believe. If he won the com 
petition he would be winning it on false 

"Why should you call them false pre 
tenses ? His design might have been better 
than Darrow s if he had had time to carry 
it out. It seems to me that Mr. Darrow 
must have felt this must have felt that 
he owed his friend some compensation for 
the time he took from him. I can imagine 
nothing more natural than his wishing to 
make this return for your son s sacrifice." 

She positively glowed with the force of 

her conviction, and Mrs. Peyton, for a 

strange instant, felt her own resistance 

wavering. She herself had never considered 



the question in that light the light of 
Darrow s viewing his gift as a justifiable 
compensation. But the glimpse she caught 
of it drove her shuddering behind her re 

" That argument," she said coldly, " would 
naturally be more convincing to Darrow 
than to my son." 

Miss Verney glanced up, struck by the 
change in Mrs. Peyton s voice. 

"Ah, then you agree with him? You 
think it would be dishonest?" 

Mrs. Peyton saw that she had slipped 
into self-betrayal. " My son and I have not 
spoken of the matter," she said evasively. 
She caught the flash of relief in Miss Ver 
ney s face. 

"You have n t spoken ? Then how do you 
know how he feels about it?" 

"I only judge from well, perhaps from 
his not speaking." 

The girl drew a deep breath. "I see," 


she murmured. "That is the very reason 
that prevents his speaking." 

"The reason?" 

"Your knowing what he thinks and 
his knowing that you know." 

Mrs. Peyton was startled at her subtlety. 
" I assure you," she said, rising, "that I have 
done nothing to influence him." 

The girl gazed at her musingly. "No," 
she said with a faint smile, "nothing except 
to read his thoughts." 


MRS. PEYTON reached home in the state 
of exhaustion which follows on a physical 
struggle. It seemed to her as though her 
talk with Clemence Verney had been an 
actual combat, a measuring of wrist and 
eye. For a moment she was frightened at 
what she had done she felt as though she 
had betrayed her son to the enemy. But 



before long she regained her moral balance, 
and saw that she had merely shifted the 
conflict to the ground on which it could 
best be fought out since the prize fought 
for was the natural battlefield. The reac 
tion brought with it a sense of helpless 
ness, a realization that she had let the issue 
pass out of her hold; but since, in the last 
analysis, it had never lain there, since it 
was above all needful that the determin 
ing touch should be given by any hand 
but hers, she presently found courage to 
subside into inaction. She had done all she 
could even more, perhaps, than prudence 
warranted and now she could but await 
passively the working of the forces she 
had set in motion. 

For two days after her talk with Miss 

Verney she saw little of Dick. He went 

early to his office and came back late. He 

seemed less tired, more self-possessed, than 



during the first days after Darrow s death; 
but there was a new inscrutableness in his 
manner, a note of reserve, of resistance al 
most, as though he had barricaded him 
self against her conjectures. She had been 
struck by Miss Verney s reply to the anx 
ious asseveration that she had done no 
thing to influence Dick "Nothing," the 
girl had answered, "except to read his 
thoughts." Mrs. Peyton shrank from this 
detection of a tacit interference with her 
son s liberty of action. She longed how 
passionately he would never know to 
stand apart from him in this struggle be 
tween his two destinies, and it was almost 
a relief that he on his side should hold 
aloof, should, for the first time in their re 
lation, seem to feel her tenderness as an 

Only four days remained before the date 
fixed for the sending in of the designs, and 
still Dick had not referred to his work. Of 
[ 150 1 


Darrow, also, he had made no mention. 
His mother longed to know if he had 
spoken to Clemence Verney or rather if 
the girl had forced his confidence. Mrs. 
Peyton was almost certain that Miss Ver 
ney would not remain silent there were 
times when Dick s renewed application to 
his work seemed an earnest of her having 
spoken, and spoken convincingly. At the 
thought Kate s heart grew chill. What if 
her experiment should succeed in a sense 
she had not intended? If the girl should 
reconcile Dick to his weakness, should 
pluck the sting from his temptation? In 
this round of uncertainties the mother re 
volved for two interminable days; but the 
second evening brought an answer to her 

Dick, returning earlier than usual from 

the office, had found, on the hall-table, a 

note which, since morning, had been under 

his mother s observation. The envelope, 

[151 ] 


fashionable in tint and texture, was ad 
dressed in a rapid staccato hand which 
seemed the very imprint of Miss Verney s 
utterance. Mrs. Peyton did not know the 
girl s writing; but such notes had of late 
lain often enough on the hall-table to make 
their attribution easy. This communication 
Dick, as his mother poured his tea, looked 
over with a face of shifting lights ; then he 
folded it into his note-case, and said, with 
a glance at his watch: "If you haven t 
asked any one for this evening I think 1 11 
dine out." 

"Do, dear; the change will be good for 
you," his mother assented. 

He made no answer, but sat leaning 
back, his hands clasped behind his head, his 
eyes fixed on the fire. Every line of his body 
expressed a profound physical lassitude, but 
the face remained alert and guarded. Mrs. v 
Peyton, in silence, was busying herself with 
the details of the tea-making, when sud- 
[ 152 ] 


denly, inexplicably, a question forced itself 
to her lips. 

"And your work ?" she said, strangely 
hearing herself speak. 

"My work ?" He sat up, on the defen 
sive almost, but without a tremor of the 
guarded face. 

"You re getting on well? You Ve made 
up for lost time ? " 

"Oh, yes: things are going better." He 
rose, with another glance at his watch. 
" Time to dress," he said, nodding to her as 
he turned to the door. 

It was an hour later, during her own 
solitary dinner, that a ring at the door was 
followed by the parlour-maid s announce 
ment that Mr. Gill was there from the 
office. In the hall, in fact, Kate found her 
son s partner, who explained apologetically 
1 that he had understood Peyton was dining 
at home, and had come to consult him 
about a difficulty which had arisen since he 


had left the office. On hearing that Dick 
was out, and that his mother did not know 
where he had gone, Mr. Gill s perplexity 
became so manifest that Mrs. Peyton, after 
a moment, said hesitatingly: "He may be 
at a friend s house; I could give you the 

The architect caught up his hat. "Thank 
you; 1 11 have a try for him." 

Mrs. Peyton hesitated again. "Perhaps," 
she suggested, "it would be better to tele 

She led the way into the little study be 
hind the drawing-room, where a telephone 
stood on the writing-table. The folding doors 
between the two rooms were open : should 
she close them as she passed back into the 
drawing-room? On the threshold she wa 
vered an instant ; then she walked on and 
took her usual seat by the fire. 

Gill, meanwhile, at the telephone, had 
"rung up" the Verney house, and inquired 
[ 154 ] 


if his partner were dining there. The reply 
was evidently affirmative; and a moment 
later Kate knew that he was in communi 
cation with her son. She sat motionless, her 
hands clasped on the arms of her chair, her 
head erect, in an attitude of avowed at 
tention. If she listened she would listen 
openly: there should be no suspicion of 
eavesdropping. Gill, engrossed in his mes 
sage, was probably hardly conscious of her 
presence; but if he turned his head he 
should at least have no difficulty in seeing 
her, and in being aware that she could hear 
what he said. Gill, however, as she was 
quick to remember, was doubtless igno 
rant of any need for secrecy in his com 
munication to Dick. He had often heard 
the affairs of the office discussed openly 
before Mrs. Peyton, had been led to regard 
her as familiar with all the details of her 
son s work. He talked on unconcernedly, 
and she listened. 

[ 155 ] 


Ten minutes later, when he rose to go, 
she knew all that she had wanted to find 
out. Long familiarity with the technicalities 
of her son s profession made it easy for her 
to translate the stenographic jargon of the 
office. She could lengthen out all Gill s ab 
breviations, interpret all his allusions, and 
reconstruct Dick s answers from the ques 
tions addressed to him. And when the door 
closed on the architect she was left face to 
face with the fact that her son, unknown 
to any one but herself, was using Darrow s 
drawings to complete his work. 

Mrs. Peyton, left alone, found it easier 
to continue her vigil by the drawing-room 
fire than to carry up to the darkness and 
silence of her own room the truth she had 
been at such pains to acquire. She had no 
thought of sitting up for Dick. Doubtless, 
his dinner over, he would rejoin Gill at the 
office, and prolong through the night the 
[ 156 ] 


task in which she now knew him to be en 
gaged. But it was less lonely by the fire than 
in the wide-eyed darkness which awaited 
her upstairs. A mortal loneliness enveloped 
her. She felt as though she had fallen by 
the way, spent and broken in a struggle of 
which even its object had been unconscious. 
She had tried to deflect the natural course 
of events, she had sacrificed her personal 
happiness to a fantastic ideal of duty, and 
it was her punishment to be left alone with 
her failure, outside the normal current of 
human strivings and regrets. 

She had no wish to see her son just then : 
she would have preferred to let the inner 
tumult subside, to repossess herself in this 
new adjustment to life, before meeting his 
eyes again. But as she sat there, far adrift 
on her misery, she was aroused by the turn 
ing of his key in the latch. She started up, 
her heart sounding a retreat, but her facul 
ties too dispersed to obey it ; and while she 


stood wavering, the door opened and he was 
in the room. 

In the room, and with face illumined : a 
Dick she had not seen since the strain of 
the contest had cast its shade on him. Now 
he shone as if in a sunrise of victory, hold 
ing out exultant hands from which she 
hung back instinctively. 

"Mother! I knew you d be waiting for 
me!" He had her on his breast now, and 
his kisses were in her hair. "I ve always 
said you knew everything that was happen 
ing to me, and now you Ve guessed that I 
wanted you to-night." 

She was struggling faintly against the 
dear endearments. "What has happened?" 
she murmured, drawing back for a dazzled 
look at him. 

He had drawn her to the sofa, had 
dropped beside her, regaining his hold of 
her in the boyish need that his happiness 
should be touched and handled. 


"My engagement has happened!" he 
cried out to her. "You stupid dear, do you 
need to be told?" 


SHE had indeed needed to be told : the sur 
prise was complete and overwhelming. She 
sat silent under it, her hands trembling in 
his, till the blood mounted to his face and 
she felt his confident grasp relax. 

"You didn t guess it, then?" he ex 
claimed, starting up and moving away from 

"No; I did n t guess it," she confessed in 
a dead-level voice. 

He stood above her, half challenging, 
half defensive. "And you haven t a word 
to say to me? Mother!" he adjured her. 

She rose too, putting her arms about him 
with a kiss. "Dick! Dear Dick!" she mur 

"She imagines you don t like her; she 


says she s always felt it. And yet she 
owns you Ve been delightful, that you Ve 
tried to make friends with her. And I 
thought you knew how much it would 
mean to me, just now, to have this uncer 
tainty over, and that you d actually been 
trying to help me, to put in a good word 
for me. I thought it was you who had 
made her decide." 


"By your talk with her the other day. 
She told me of your talk with her." 

His mother s hands slipped from his 
shoulders and she sank back into her seat. 
She felt the cruelty of her silence, but only 
an inarticulate murmur found a way to her 
lips. Before speaking she must clear a space 
in the suffocating rush of her sensations. 
For the moment she could only repeat in 
wardly that Clemence Verney had yielded 
before the final test, and that she herself 
was somehow responsible for this fresh en- 


tanglement of fate. For she saw in a flash 
how the coils of circumstance had tight 
ened; and as her mind cleared it was filled 
with the perception that this, precisely, was 
what the girl intended, that this was why 
she had conferred the crown before the vic 
tory. By pledging herself to Dick she had 
secured his pledge in return : had put him 
on his honour in a cynical inversion of the 
term. Kate saw the succession of events 
spread out before her like a map, and the 
astuteness of the girl s policy frightened 
her. Miss Verney had conducted the cam 
paign like a strategist. She had frankly 
owned that her interest in Dick s future 
depended on his capacity for success, and 
in order to key him up to his first achieve 
ment she had given him a foretaste of its 

So much was almost immediately clear 
to Mrs. Peyton ; but in a moment her in 
ferences had carried her a point farther. For 
[161 ] 


it was now plain to her that Miss Verney 
had not risked so much without first trying 
to gain her point at less cost: that if she 
had had to give herself as a prize, it was 
because no other bribe had been sufficient. 
This then, as the mother saw with a throb 
of hope, meant that Dick, who since Dar- 
row s death had held to his purpose un 
waveringly, had been deflected from it by 
the first hint of Clemence Verney s con 
nivance. Kate had not miscalculated : things 
had happened as she had foreseen. In the 
light of the girl s approval his act had taken 
an odious look. He had recoiled from it, 
and it was to revive his flagging courage 
that she had had to promise herself, to take 
him in the meshes of her surrender. 

Kate, looking up, saw above her the 
young perplexity of her boy s face, the 
suspended happiness waiting to brim over. 
With a fresh touch of misery she said to 
herself that this was his hour, his one irre- 


coverable moment, and that she was dark 
ening it by her silence. Her memory went 
back to the same hour in her own life : she 
could feel its heat in her pulses still. What 
right had she to stand in Dick s light ? Who 
was she to decide between his code and 
hers ? She put out her hand and drew him 
down to her. 

"She 11 be the making of me, you know, 
mother," he said, as they leaned together. 
"She 11 put new life in me she 11 help me 
get my second wind. Her talk is like a fresh 
breeze blowing away the fog in my head. 
I never knew any one who saw so straight 
to the heart of things, who had such a grip 
on values. She goes straight up to life and 
catches hold of it, and you simply can t 
make her let go." 

He got up and walked the length of the 
room ; then he came back and stood smil 
ing above his mother. 

"You know you and I are rather com- 


plicated people," he said. " We re always 
walking around things to get new views 
of them we re always rearranging the 
furniture. And somehow she simplifies life 
so tremendously." He dropped down be 
side her with a deprecating laugh. "Not 
that I mean, dear, that it has n t been good 
for me to argue things out with myself, as 
you Ve taught me to only the man who 
stops to talk is apt to get shoved aside 
nowadays, and I don t believe Milton s 
archangels would have had much success 
in active business." 

He had begun in a strain of easy confi 
dence, but as he went on she detected an 
effort to hold the note, she felt that his 
words were being poured out in a vain at 
tempt to fill the silence which was deep 
ening between them. She longed, in her 
turn, to pour something into that mena 
cing void, to bridge it with a reconciling 
word or look ; but her soul hung back, and 
[ 164 ] 


she had to take refuge in a vague murmur 
of tenderness. 

"My boy! My boy!" she repeated; and 
he sat beside her without speaking, their 
hand- clasp alone spanning the distance 
which had widened between their thoughts. 

The engagement, as Kate subsequently 
learned, was not to be made known till 
later. Miss Verney had even stipulated that 
for the present there should be no recogni 
tion of it in her own family or in Dick s. 
She did not wish to interfere with his final 
work for the competition, and had made 
him promise, as he laughingly owned, that 
he would not see her again till the draw 
ings were sent in. His mother noticed that 
he made no other allusion to his work ; but 
when he bade her good-night he added that 
he might not see her the next morning, as 
he had to go to the office early. She took 
this as a hint that he wished to be left 
[ 165] 


alone, and kept her room the next day till 
the closing door told her that he was out 
of the house. 

She herself had waked early, and it seemed 
to her that the day was already old when 
she came downstairs. Never had the house 
appeared so empty. Even in Dick s long 
est absences something of his presence had 
always hung about the rooms : a fine dust 
of memories and associations, which wanted 
only the evocation of her thought to float 
into a palpable semblance of him. But now 
he seemed to have taken himself quite 
away, to have broken every fibre by which 
their lives had hung together. Where the 
sense of him had been there was only a 
deeper emptiness : she felt as if a strange 
man had gone out of her house. 

She wandered from room to room, aim 
lessly, trying to adjust herself to their soli 
tude. She had known such loneliness be 
fore, in the years when most women s hearts 


are fullest ; but that was long ago, and the 
solitude had after all been less complete, 
because of the sense that it might still 
be filled. Her son had come: her life had 
brimmed over; but now the tide ebbed 
again, and she was left gazing over a bare 
stretch of wasted years. Wasted! There 
was the mortal pang, the stroke from which 
there was no healing. Her faith and hope 
had been marsh-lights luring her to the 
wilderness, her love a vain edifice reared 
on shifting ground. 

In her round of the rooms she came at 
last to Dick s study upstairs. It was full of 
his boyhood: she could trace the history 
of his past in its quaint relics and survi 
vals, in the school-books lingering on his 
crowded shelves, the school-photographs 
and college-trophies hung among his later 
treasures. All his successes and failures, 
his exaltations and inconsistencies, were 
recorded in the warm huddled hetero- 


geneous room. Everywhere she saw the 
touch of her own hand, the vestiges of her 
own steps. It was she alone who held the 
clue to the labyrinth, who could thread a 
way through the confusions and contradic 
tions of his past; and her soul rejected the 
thought that his future could ever escape 
from her. She dropped down into his 
shabby college armchair and hid her face 
in the papers on his desk. 


THE day dwelt in her memory as a long 
stretch of aimless hours: blind alleys of 
time that led up to a dead wall of inaction. 
Toward afternoon she remembered that 
she had promised to dine out and go to the 
opera. At first she felt that the contact of 
life would be unendurable ; then she shrank 
from shutting herself up with her misery. 
In the end she let herself drift passively 


on the current of events, going through 
the mechanical routine of the day without 
much consciousness of what was happen 

At twilight, as she sat in the drawing- 
room, the evening paper was brought in, 
and in glancing over it her eye fell on a 
paragraph which seemed printed in more 
vivid type than the rest. It was headed, 
The New Museum of Sculpture, and un 
derneath she read: "The artists and archi 
tects selected to pass on the competitive 
designs for the new Museum will begin 
their sittings on Monday, and to-morrow 
is the last day on which designs may be 
sent in to the committee. Great interest 
is felt in the competition, as the conspic 
uous site chosen for the new building, and 
the exceptionally large sum voted by the 
city for its erection, offer an unusual field 
for the display of architectural ability." 

She leaned back, closing her eyes. It 


was as though a clock had struck, loud and 
inexorably, marking off some irrecoverable 
hour. She was seized by a sudden longing 
to seek Dick out, to fall on her knees and 
plead with him: it was one of those physi 
cal obsessions against which the body has 
to stiffen its muscles as well as the mind 
its thoughts. Once she even sprang up to 
ring for a cab; but she sank back again, 
breathing as if after a struggle, and grip 
ping the arms of her chair to keep herself 

"I can only wait for him only wait 
for him " she heard herself say; and the 
words loosened the sobs in her throat. 

At length she went upstairs to dress for 
dinner. A ghost-like self looked back at 
her from her toilet-glass: she watched it 
performing the mechanical gestures of the 
toilet, dressing her, as it appeared, without 
help from her actual self. Each little act 
stood out sharply against the blurred back- 


ground of her brain : when she spoke to her 
maid her voice sounded extraordinarily 
loud. Never had the house been so silent; 
or, stay yes, once she had felt the same 
silence, once when Dick, in his school-days, 
had been ill of a fever, and she had sat up 
with him on the decisive night. The silence 
had been as deep and as terrible then; and 
as she dressed she had before her the vision 
of his room, of the cot in which he lay, of 
his restless head working a hole in the pil 
low, his face so pinched and alien under the 
familiar freckles. It might be his death- 
watch she was keeping: the doctors had 
warned her to be ready. And in the silence 
her soul had fought for her boy, her love 
had hung over him like wings, her abun 
dant useless hateful life had struggled to 
force itself into his empty veins. And she 
had succeeded, she had saved him, she had 
poured her life into him ; and in place of 
the strange child she had watched all night, 


at daylight she held her own boy to her 

That night had once seemed to her the 
most dreadful of her life; but she knew 
now that it was one of the agonies which 
enrich, that the passion thus spent grows 
fourfold from its ashes. She could not have 
borne to keep this new vigil alone. She 
must escape from its sterile misery, must 
take refuge in other lives till she regained 
courage to face her own. At the opera, 
in the illumination of the first entracte, 
as she gazed about the house, wondering 
through the numb ache of her wretched 
ness how others could talk and smile and 
be indifferent, it seemed to her that all the 
jarring animation about her was suddenly 
focussed in the face of C lenience Verney. 
Miss Verney sat opposite, in the front of 
a crowded box, a box in which, continu 
ally, the black-coated background shifted 
and renewed itself. Mrs. Peyton felt a 
[ 172 ] 


throb of anger at the girl s bright air of 
unconcern. She forgot that she too was 
talking, smiling, holding out her hand to 
newcomers, in a studied mimicry of life, 
while her real self played out its tragedy 
behind the scenes. Then it occurred to her 
that, to Clemence Verney, there was no 
tragedy in the situation. According to the 
girl s calculations, Dick was virtually cer 
tain of success; and unsuccess was to her 
the only conceivable disaster. 

All through the opera the sense of that 
opposing force, that negation of her own 
beliefs, burned itself into Mrs. Peyton s 
consciousness. The space between herself 
and the girl seemed to vanish, the throng 
about them to disperse, till they were face 
to face and alone, enclosed in their mortal 
enmity. At length the feeling of humilia 
tion and defeat grew unbearable to Mrs. 
Peyton. The girl seemed to flout her in 
the insolence of victory, to sit there as the 


visible symbol of her failure. It was bet 
ter after all to be at home alone with her 

As she drove away from the opera she 
thought of that other vigil which, only a 
few streets away, Dick was perhaps still 
keeping. She wondered if his work were 
over, if the final stroke had been drawn. 
And as she pictured him there, signing 
his pact with evil in the loneliness of the 
conniving night, an uncontrollable impulse 
possessed her. She must drive by his win 
dows and see if they were still alight. She 
would not go up to him, she dared not, 
but at least she would pass near to him, 
would invisibly share his watch and hover 
on the edge of his thoughts. She lowered 
the window and called out the address to 
the coachman. 

The tall office-building loomed silent and 

dark as she approached it; but presently, 

high up, she caught a light in the familiar 



windows. Her heart gave a leap, and the 
light swam on her through tears. The car 
riage drew up, and for a moment she sat 
motionless. Then the coachman bent down 
toward her, and she saw that he was asking 
if he should drive on. She tried to shape a 
yes, but her lips refused it, and she shook 
her head. He continued to lean down per 
plexedly, and at length, under the inter 
rogation of his attitude, it became impos 
sible to sit still, and she opened the door 
and stepped out. It was equally impossible 
to stand on the sidewalk, and her next steps 
carried her to the door of the building. She 
groped for the bell and rang it, feeling still 
dimly accountable to the coachman for 
some consecutiveness of action, and after a 
moment the night watchman opened the 
door, drawing back amazed at the shining 
apparition which confronted him. Recog 
nizing Mrs. Peyton, whom he had seen 
about the building by day, he tried to 


adapt himself to the situation by a vague 
stammer of apology. 

"I came to see if my son is still here," 
she faltered. 

"Yes, ma am, he s here. He s been here 
most nights lately till after twelve." 

"And is Mr. Gill with him?" 

"No: Mr. Gill he went away just after 
I come on this evening." 

She glanced up into the cavernous dark 
ness of the stairs. 

"Is he alone up there, do you think?" 

"Yes, ma am, I know he s alone, be 
cause I seen his men leaving soon after 
Mr. Gill." 

Kate lifted her head quickly. "Then I 
will go up to him," she said. 

The watchman apparently did not think 
it proper to offer any comment on this un 
usual proceeding, and a moment later she 
was fluttering and rustling up through the 
darkness, like a night-bird hovering among 


rafters. There were ten flights to climb: 
at every one her breath failed her, and she 
had to stand still and press her hands 
against her heart. Then the weight on her 
breast lifted, and she went on again, up 
ward and upward, the great dark building 
dropping away from her, in tier after tier 
of mute doors and mysterious corridors. 
At last she reached Dick s floor, and saw 
the light shining down the passage from 
his door. She leaned against the wall, her 
breath coming short, the silence throbbing 
in her ears. Even now it was not too late 
to turn back. She bent over the stairs, 
letting her eyes plunge into the nether 
blackness, with the single glimmer of the 
watchman s light in its depths; then she 
turned and stole toward her son s door. 

There again she paused and listened, 

trying to catch, through the hum of her 

pulses, any noise that might come to her 

from within. But the silence was unbroken 



it seemed as though the office must be 
empty. She pressed her ear to the door, 
straining for a sound. She knew he never 
sat long at his work, and it seemed unac 
countable that she should not hear him 
moving about the drawing-board. For a 
moment she fancied he might be sleeping; 
but sleep did not come to him readily after 
prolonged mental effort she recalled the 
restless straying of his feet above her head 
for hours after he returned from his night 
work in the office. 

She began to fear that he might be ill. 
A nervous trembling seized her, and she 
laid her hand on the latch, whispering 

Her whisper sounded loudly through the 
silence, but there was no answer, and after 
a pause she called again. With each call 
the hush seemed to deepen : it closed in on 
her, mysterious and impenetrable. Her heart 
was beating in short frightened leaps: a 


moment more and she would have cried 
out. She drew a quick breath and turned 
the door-handle. 

The outer room, Dick s private office, 
with its red carpet and easy-chairs, stood in 
pleasant lamp-lit emptiness. The last time 
she had entered it, Darrow and Clemence 
Verney had been there, and she had sat 
behind the urn observing them. She paused 
a moment, struck now by a faint sound 
from beyond ; then she slipped noiselessly 
across the carpet, pushed open the swing 
ing door, and stood on the threshold of the 
work-room. Here the gas-lights hung a 
green-shaded circle of brightness over the 
great draughting-table in the middle of the 
floor. Table and floor were strewn with a 
confusion of papers torn blue-prints and 
tracings, crumpled sheets of tracing-paper 
wrenched from the draughting-boards in a 
sudden fury of destruction ; and in the cen 
tre of the havoc, his arms stretched across 


the table and his face hidden in them, sat 
Dick Peyton. 

He did not seem to hear his mother s 
approach, and she stood looking at him, 
her breast tightening with a new fear. 

"Dick!" she said, "Dick!" and he 
sprang up, staring with dazed eyes. But 
gradually, as his gaze cleared, a light spread 
in it, a mounting brightness of recognition. 

" You ve come you ve come " he said, 
stretching his hands to her ; and all at once 
she had him in her breast as in a shelter. 

"You wanted me?" she whispered as she 
held him. 

He looked up at her, tired, breathless, 
with the white radiance of the runner near 
the goal. 

"I had you, dear!" he said, smiling 
strangely on her ; and her heart gave a great 
leap of understanding. 

Her arms had slipped from his neck, and 
she stood leaning on him, deep-suffused in 


the shyness of her discovery. For it might 
still be that he did not wish her to know 
what she had done for him. 

But he put his arm about her, boyishly, 
and drew her toward one of the hard seats 
between the tables ; and there, on the bare 
floor, he knelt before her, and hid his face 
in her lap. She sat motionless, feeling the 
dear warmth of his head against her knees, 
letting her hands stray in faint caresses 
through his hair. 

Neither spoke for awhile ; then he raised 
his head and looked at her. "I suppose you 
know what has been happening to me," he 

She shrank from seeming to press into 
his life a hair s-breadth farther than he was 
prepared to have her go. Her eyes turned 
from him toward the scattered drawings on 
the table. 

"You have given up the competition?" 
she said. 

[181 ] 


"Yes and a lot more." He stood up, 
the wave of emotion ebbing, yet leaving 
him nearer, in his recovered calmness, than 
in the shock of their first moment. 

" I did n t know, at first, how much you 
guessed," he went on quietly. " I was sorry 
I d shown you Darrow s letter ; but it did n t 
worry me much because I did n t suppose 
you d think it possible that I should take 
advantage of it. It s only lately that I Ve 
understood that you knew everything." He 
looked at her with a smile. "I don t know 
yet how I found it out, for you re won 
derful about keeping things to yourself, 
and you never made a sign. I simply felt 
it in a kind of nearness as if I couldn t 
get away from you. Oh, there were times 
when I should have preferred not having 
you about when I tried to turn my back 
on you, to see things from other people s 
standpoint. But you were always there 
you would n t be discouraged. And I got 
[ 182] 


tired of trying to explain things to you, of 
trying to bring you round to my way of 
thinking. You would n t go away and you 
would n t come any nearer you just stood 
there and watched everything that I was 

He broke off, taking one of his restless 
turns down the long room. Then he drew 
up a chair beside her, and dropped into it 
with a great sigh. 

"At first, you know, I hated it most 
awfully. I wanted to be let alone and to 
work out my own theory of things. If you d 
said a word if you d tried to influence ^^ 
me the spell would have been broken. 
But just because the actual you kept apart 
and didn t meddle or pry, the other, the 
you in my heart, seemed to get a tighter 
hold on me. I don t know how to tell you, 
it s all mixed up in my head but old 
things you d said and done kept coming 
back to me, crowding between me and what 
[ 183 ] 


I was trying for, looking at me without 
speaking, like old friends I d gone back on, 
till I simply could n t stand it any longer. 
I fought it off till to-night, but when I came 
back to finish the work there you were 
again and suddenly, I don t know how, 
you were n t an obstacle any longer, but a 
refuge and I crawled into your arms as 
I used to when things went against me at 

His hands stole back into hers, and he 
leaned his head against her shoulder like a 

" I m an abysmally weak fool, you know," 
he ended ; " I m not worth the fight you ve 
put up for me. But I want you to know 
that it s your doing that if you had let 
go an instant I should have gone under 
and that if I d gone under I should never 
have come up again alive." 



Return to desk from which borrowed. 
This book is DUE on the last date stamped below. 






DEC 1 1964 

LD 21-100m-9, 47(A5702sl6)476 





0V 1 4 1965 5 
OE C126761 

YB 69817