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V I." * * ! I I .*" *
She had meant to wait for him on the Terrace.
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY
WALTER APPLETON CLARK
CHARLES SCRIBNER S SONS
NEW YORK I MDCCCCIII
COPYRIGHT, 1903, BY CHARLES SCRIBNER S SONS
PUBLISHED, OCTOBER, 1903
5 5 3
THE MERRYMOUNT PRESS, BOSTON
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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? 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
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."
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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.
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
" 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 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
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
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
His face fell and he stammered : "I don t
"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
"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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"^//," 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
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
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
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
"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,"
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
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
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
"But we can t help being interested!"
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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."
"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,"
"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
[ 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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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 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
"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
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.
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
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.
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
"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
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.
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
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
"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!"
"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
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."
"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,
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
"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
"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
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
"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
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 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,"
"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
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 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
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
He looked up at her, tired, breathless,
with the white radiance of the runner near
"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
"You have given up the competition?"
"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
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."
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARY
Return to desk from which borrowed.
This book is DUE on the last date stamped below.
REC D LD
DEC 1 1964
LD 21-100m-9, 47(A5702sl6)476
REC D LD
0V 1 4 1965 5