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Title: A Furnace of Earth
Author: Rives, Hallie Ermine
Language: English
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A FURNACE OF EARTH



  A FURNACE OF EARTH

  BY

  HALLIE ERMINIE RIVES

  _Author of “Smoking Flax,” etc._

  As silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

                                                          --DAVID.

  [Illustration]

  INDIANAPOLIS
  THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY
  PUBLISHERS



  COPYRIGHT, 1900,
  BY THE CAMELOT COMPANY,
  NEW YORK.



  TO
  R. W.



  _Their first estate of joy they leave,
    So pure, impassioned and elate,
  And learn from Piety to grieve
    Because their hearts are passionate._

          --The Revelation of St. Love the Divine.



THE ELEMENTS.


EARTH, AIR AND WATER.

Along the wavering path which followed the twisting summit of the
cliffs toiled a little figure. His face was tanned, and from under a
brown tangle of hair looked eyes blue and fearless.

He had walked a mile, and home lay a mile further, where white-painted
cottages glowed against the close green velvet of the hills. The way
ran staggeringly, and the boy was tired.

A group of ragged children tossed up their caps and shouted from the
cluster of fishermen’s huts set further back from the sea; he did not
heed them, but seated himself on the tufted panic-grass and turned
his eyes seaward. The hot sun slanted silver-bright flashes from the
moody water, and whistling swallows, beyond the cliff-edge, soared and
dropped against the blue of the sky, like black balls from a juggler’s
hands. A light breeze, lifting, ruffled with a million ripples the gray
surge, played along the path in scurrying dust-whorls and cooled his
hot cheeks.

On its heels came stealthily a yellowish dimness; a sullen bank of
cloud crept swiftly along the northern horizon. From a thin, black
line, it grew to a pall, rising ominous and threatening. Quick flashes
pricked its jagged edge. Beneath it the sea turned to a weight of
liquid lead.

The boy Richard rose fascinated, his eyes upon the advancing squall,
his ears open to the rising breathing of the waves, troubled by
under-dreams. His lips were parted eagerly, and his browned hands
clutched at the brim of his hat. Often and often, from his window, he
had seen the power of the storm; now its near and intimate presence
throbbed through him.

The foremost gust struck him with sudden fury, turning him about as
though with strong hands upon his shoulders, and tearing his hat from
his grasp. He caught his breath with a sense of outraged dignity; then,
bending his head resolutely to the onslaught, he stumbled forward. The
air was full of scudding mist-streaks, and twisted roots caught at his
feet in the half-darkness. The fierce wind tore with its claws at the
little jacket, buttoned bravely, and tossed the damp, rebellious hair.
The fishermen’s huts lay just behind him, a dry and beckoning shelter;
before him, for a few paces, stretched the path leading into ghostly
obscurity. The boy bent low, bracing his legs doggedly against the
stubble, and foot by foot went on along that lone mile into the storm.

On a sudden the blurred sea-view was swallowed up. The wind swooped,
grasping at his ankles. It picked up pebbles and flung them, howling,
against his body. They stung like heavy hail. It snapped off unwilling
twigs from the cringing bushes and dashed them into the childish face.
But he did not retreat. What was the wind that it should force him
back! A mighty determination was in his little soul. His teeth were
tight clenched, and his legs ached with the strain. The blast caught
away his breath and he turned his back to it. At the moment it seemed
to lull, tempting him to go its way, but he would not yield.

Then the tempest gathered all its forces and hurled them spitefully,
hatefully against him, barring, lashing him cruelly, thrusting him
backward. He dropped upon his knees in the path, giving not an inch.
The wind, sopped with heavy rain, fell upon him bodily. He stretched
himself flat, winding his fingers among the roots of the wiry grasses,
struck down, bruised, but still unconquered.

A lone, pied gull, careening sidelong through the wind-rifts, roused
in him a helpless frenzy of anger and resentment. He clenched his tiny
fist and shook it at the sky, choking, gasping, sobbing, great tears of
impotent rage and mortification blown across his cheeks.


FIRE.

The red-gold of the sun still warmed the late summer dusk. The fading
light sifted between the curtains of the window and touched lovingly
the checkered coverlid, moulding into soft outline the rounded little
limbs beneath. The long hair spread goldenly across the pillow, and the
wide brown eyes were open.

Old Anne was going to die--old Anne with the ugly wrinkled face and
bony fingers from which all the children ran. She was going to die that
night. Margaret had heard it whispered among the servants. That very
same night while she herself was asleep in bed! Her soul was going to
leave her body and fly up to God.

She wondered how it would look, but she knew it would be very
beautiful. Its back would not be bent, nor its face drawn with
shining burn-scars. It would be young and straight, and it would
have wings--long, white wings, such as the angels had in the big
stained-glass window over the choir-box in the chapel. It would
have a ring of light around its head, such as the moon had on misty
evenings. It would go just at the moment when old Anne died, and those
who watched close enough might see. Would it speak? Or would it go so
swiftly that it could only smile for a good-by? She wondered if its
eyes would be kindly and blue, not dim and watery as Anne’s had been.
Her own face was smoother and prettier than Anne’s, but her eyes were
dark. Angels always had blue eyes. Its face would be turned up toward
heaven, where it was going, and its wings would make a soft, whispering
sound, like a pigeon’s when it starts to fly. One would have to be very
quick, but if one were there at just the right minute, one could see it.

Oh, if _she_ only could! She felt quite sure she would not be afraid
of Anne then, knowing that she was just going to be an angel! If they
would only let her! She was so little, and they would be watching, so
that maybe they would not notice her. Perhaps she could slip in quietly
on tiptoe, and then she would see a real shining soul, such as she
herself had inside of her, and which she loved to imagine sometimes
looked out of her eyes at her from the looking-glass. A breathless
eagerness seized her, and she sat up in the bed, hugging her knees and
resting her chin upon them.

She listened a moment; the house was very still. Then she threw down
the covers, and jumped in her bare feet to the floor. She sat down
on the rug in her white nightgown, and pulled on her stockings with
nervous haste, and her shoes, leaving them unbuttoned and flapping.
Then she slipped into her muslin dress, fastening it behind at the neck
and waist, and opened the door, tugging at the big brass knob, and
quaking at its complaining creaks. No one was in sight, and the little
figure, with its bright floating hair and rosy skin showing between
its shoulders like a belated locust, stole fearfully down the dim
stairway, along the deserted hall, and sidling through the half-opened
door, stepped out among the long-fingered glooms of the standing
shrubbery.

She hesitated a moment, frightened at the outdoor dark, and then,
catching her breath, ran quickly around the corner of the house,
and down the drive toward the low, clapboarded structure beside the
stables, where a lighted window-shade with moving shadows pointed out
the room of that solemn presence.

The night air was warm and heavy, and its door stood wide. She crept up
close and listened. Between low-muttered words of subdued conversation,
she heard a slow and labored breathing--a breathing now stopping,
now beginning again, and with a curious rattle in it which somehow
awed her. From where she crouched, she could see only the foot of the
bed, with its tall, bare posts. There seemed to be expectancy in the
hushed voices within, and a quick fear seized her lest she should miss
the wonderful sight. Quivering with eagerness, she rose to her feet,
and with her fascinated gaze seeking out the old face on the pillow,
stepped straight forward into the room.

She heard a rising murmur of astonishment, of protest, and before her
light-blinded eyes had found their way, felt herself seized roughly,
unceremoniously, lifted bodily off her feet and borne out into the
night. She heard, through the passionate resentment of her childish
mind, the soothing endearments of Jem the gardener, and she struggled
to loose herself, beating at his face with her hands and sobbing with
helpless suffocation of anger.

A frightened maid met them at the door and took her from him, carrying
her to her room to undress her and sit by her till she should fall
asleep. No assurance that old Anne would soon be happy in heaven
comforted her. No one understood, and she was too hurt to explain what
she had wanted.

So she lay through the long hours, the bitter tears of grief and
disappointment wetting her pillow.



I.


The air above the shelving stretches of sand-beach shimmered and
dilated with the heat of the August afternoon, as Margaret walked just
beyond the yeasty edge of the receding waves. There was little wind
stirring, and the cool damp was pleasant under her feet. She had left
the hotel behind, and the straggling line of bobbing, dark-blue specks,
which indicated the habitual bathers, was small in the distance.

A blue-and-silver bound book was in her hand, and her gray tweed skirt
and soft jacket, with a bunch of drooping crimson roses at the waist,
made a grateful spot upon the white glare. Summer sun and sea-wind had
given a clear olive to her face and a scarlet radiance to her full
lips, softly curved. Her hair, in waving masses of flush-brown, flowed
out from beneath her straw hat, tempting a breeze.

To her left were tumbled monotonous, low dunes, and beyond them the
torn clayey bank, gashed by storms; to her right, only barren stretch
of sea and sweep of sky.

At a bight of the shore, under the long, curved hole of a pine, leaning
to its fall from the high bank through which half its naked roots
struck sprangling, ran a zigzag footpath to a little grove, where
hemlock and stunted oak grew thickly. Up she climbed, poising lightly,
and drawing herself to the last step by grasping a sprawling creeper.
The green coolness refreshed her, and there was more movement in the
higher air.

She followed the twists of the path among the low bushes clustering in
front of a sparse clearing. Facing her, in the edge of the shade, where
the light fell in mottled shadows upon a soft, springy floor of dead
pine needles, with its wide arms laced in the rasping boughs of the
scrub-oaks around it, stood an unwieldy wooden cross, hewed roughly,
its base socketed in stone and its horizontal bar held in place by a
rust-red bolt. A cracked and crazy bench, also hewn, was set beneath,
and just above this was nailed a heavy board in which was deeply cut
this half-effaced inscription:

  Here Lies
  The Body of an Unknown Woman
  Drowned
  In the Wreck of the Schooner Bartlett,
  May 9, 1871.

and below it, in larger characters, now almost obliterated by
gray-and-yellow stains:

  Ora Pro Anima Sua.

This was Margaret’s favorite spot. She preferred its melancholy
solitude to the vivacious companionship of the cottage piazza, and
its quiet tones to the bizarre hues of the beach pavilion. It lay
removed from the usual paths, reached only by a wide detour, across
bush-tangled wastes or the long, uncomfortable walk up-shore on the
hot, yielding sand. Now she sank upon the seat with a deep sigh of
pleasure, letting her book fall open in her lap. Her eyes roved far
off across the gray-green heave where a buccaneering fish-hawk slanted
craftily.

A deeper light was in them as they fell upon the open printed leaf:

  “For Love is fine and tense as silver wire,
  Fierce as white lightning, glorious as drums
  And beautiful as snow-mountains. Swift she is
  As leaping flame and calm as winter stars.”

Its chaste beauty had long ago stamped the passage upon her memory;
to-day the lines hymned themselves to a subtle, splendid music.

Tossing the volume suddenly to one side, her hands loosed her belt.
She held the limp band movelessly a moment, and then bent her face
eagerly over it. Under her fingers the filigree of the clasp slid back,
disclosing a portrait. It was that of a man, young, resolute-faced,
with brown, wavy hair parted in the middle, and candid forehead. It was
rugged and masterful, but with a sweetness of lips and a tender, gray
softness of proud eyes that bespoke him not more a doer than a dreamer.

As she looked, her lips parted and a faint color crept up her neck,
showing brightly against the auburn hollows of her hair. She fondled
and petted the ivory with her hands, and then raised it to her lips,
kissing it, murmuring to it, and folding it over and over in the warm
moistness of her breath.

Holding it against her face, she walked up and down the open space
with quick, pushing steps, her free hand stripping the leaves from the
sweeping bush fronds, her hat fallen back, swaying from the knotted
streamers caught under the slipping coil between her shoulders.
Stopping at length in front of the bench, she hung the belt upon a
corner of the carven board, its violet weave tinging the weathered
grain and the painted circlet glowing like a jewelled period for the
massive lettering.

With one knee on the warped seat, she read again the fading sentences.

“An unknown woman.” Gone down into the cold green depths! Perhaps
with a dear, glowing secret in her heart, a one name bubbling from
her lips, a new quivering something in her soul, which the waters
could not still! That body buffeted and tossed by rearing breakers,
to lie nameless in a neglected grave; that soul, its earthly longing
forgotten, to go forever unregretful of what it had cried for with all
the might of its human passion!

Ah! but _did it_? If death touched her own soul to-day! “For love is
strong as death. * * * Many waters cannot quench love, neither can
the floods drown it!” In imagination she felt the numbing clasp of
the dragging under-deeps; she saw her soul wandering, wraith-like,
through shadowless, silent spaces and across infinite distances. Would
it bear with it a placid joy? Would it know no quicker heart-beat,
no tears that reddened the eyelid, no tender thrill in all its lucent
veins? Would nothing, nothing of that strange, sweet wildness that ran
imprisoned in all her blood cling to it still?

The thought bit her. She reached up and snatched down the belt,
pressing the clasp tightly with her cheek in the curve of her shoulder,
repeating dumbly to herself the pious “Ora pro anima sua” that stood
before her eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

A far crackling struck across her mood, and hastily drawing the belt
about her waist, she leaned sideways from the upright beam, raising her
hand quickly, as if to put back the lawless meshes of her hair. She
heard the sound of a confident step, crunching on the marly sand, and
the swish of bent-back bushes. It was coming in a direct line toward
her. There was a dry clatter of falling fence-rails, as though the
intruder, disdaining obstacles, preferred to walk through them.

She caught a glimpse of a familiar, bright-colored scarf between the
glimmering, leafy tangles, and then the thrust of a quick spring, and
an instant later the figure that had vaulted the heavy fence came
dropping, feet foremost, through the snapping screen of brambles, and
walked straight toward the spot where she had risen to her feet with a
little glad cry.



II.


“Give me your hand,” he said peremptorily. They were on a pebbly
spur of the descending path, and Daunt had leaped down below her. As
she stretched it out to him, he drew it sharply toward him. She felt
herself grasped firmly in his arms, swung off and lifted to the smooth
level beneath. She could feel his uneven breaths stirring in the roots
of her hair, and his wrists straining. Her head fell against his
shoulder and her look met his, startled. His sunburned face was pale,
and his gray eyes were hazed with a daring softness.

Then, as she lay passive in his arms, a fiery longing grew swiftly in
them, and he suddenly bent his head and kissed her--again and again.
She felt her unused mouth moulding to answering kisses beneath his
own, and her cheeks rushing into a flame. Through her closed lids the
sun hung like a rosy mist of woven sparkles.

“I love you!--_you!_--_you!_” he said, stammering and hoarsely. “I
_love_ you!”

The tumbling passion of the utterance pierced through her like a spear
of desperate gladness. Every nerve reached and quivered, tendril-like.
His deep breathing, toned with the dripping lap of the shingle seemed
to throb through her. She lay quiet, breathless, her lashes drooped,
her very skin tense under the lasting burn of his lips.

“Margaret! Ardee, dear! Look at me!”

Her eyes flowed into his. From a blur under cloud-pale eyelids, they
had turned to violet balls, shot through with a trembling light. The
look she gave him melted over him in a rage of love. Desire bordered
it, a smile dipped in it, promise made it golden, and he saw his own
longing painted in it as a pilgrim sees his reflection in a slumbering
pool.

She clasped her hands on his head, pushing back his cloth cap, and
framing his face in the long, sweeping oval of her arms. He could
feel little vibrant thrills in her fingers. He held her tightly,
masterfully, first at arm’s length, laughing into her wide eyes, and
then close, folding her, pressing her hair with his hands.

The leaves from the roses she wore fell in splotches of deep red,
sprinkling the brown-veined sand at their feet; the dense, bruised
odor, mixed with the salty breath of seaweed, seemed to fill and choke
all her swaying senses.

“It is like a storm!” she said. “I have dreamed of it coming at the
last gently, like a bright morning, but it isn’t like that! It seemed
as if that were the way it would come to me--like a still, small
voice--but it isn’t! It’s the wind and the earthquake and the fire!
Oh!” she said, drawing her breath in a long, shuddering inhalation.
“Do you smell that rose-scent? Did ever any roses smell like that?
They--they make me dizzy! Feel me tremble.”

Every pulsation of her frame ran through him with a swift, delicious
sensation, like the touching of rough velvet. Her curling hair, where
it sprang against his neck, ridged his skin with a creeping delight.

“Do you know,” he said, “you are like a great, tall, yellow lily.
Some gnome has drawn amber streaks in your hair--it shines like a
gold-stone--and rubbed your cheeks with a pink tulip leaf! And your
lips are like--no, they are like nothing but ripe strawberries! Nobody
could ever describe your eyes; they are most like a bed of purple
violets set in a brown cloud with the sun shining through it. Tell me!”
he said suddenly. “Do you love me? Do you? Do you?”

“Yes! yes! yes! Oh,” she breathed, “what is there in your hands? I want
them to touch me!”

He passed his palms lightly along the bow-like curve of her cheek.

“It is like fire and flowers and music,” she said, “all rolled into
one. And those roses! They are attar. The sand looks as if it were
bleeding!”

“Shall you think of me when I am on the train to-night?”

“All the time--every minute!”

“And to-morrow, while I am in the city?”

“Yes!”

“And Monday?”

“Then you will come back to me!”

He strained her to him in the white sunlight, and kissed her again, on
the lips and forehead and hands, and she clung to him, lifting her face
to him eagerly and passionately.

       *       *       *       *       *

Margaret stood watching the firm-knit figure as it crossed the sand
space. She saw the lift of his lithe shoulders as he pulled himself up
the bank, saw his form splashed against the sky, saw the flutter of his
handkerchief as he flung her a last signal.

She waved her hand in return, and he disappeared.

Then she ran to a slant spile rising lonely from the sand, and sank
down quivering. It seemed to her as if she could bear no more joy; her
body ached with it. She threw up her hands and laughed aloud in sheer
ecstasy.

Then she remembered that she had left her book in the grove, and she
stumbled up and walked back slowly, smiling and humming an air as she
went along.

The first shade of the dimming afternoon lay under the trees as
she climbed again to the little clearing, and the sunbeams glanced
obliquely from the crooked oak branches. The air was very still and
freighted only with the soft swish of the ebb-tide and the clean
fragrance of balsam. Her book lay open and face down on the plank seat.
She picked it up and sat down, leaning back.

She was still humming, low-voiced, and as she sat she began to
sing--not strongly, but hushed, as though for a drowsy ear--with her
face lifted and her dreamy eyes upon the sea margin.

  “Purple flower and soaring lark,
    Throbbing song and story bold,
  All must pass into the dark,
    Die and mingle with the mold.
      Ah, but still your face I see!
      Bend and clasp me; Sweet, kiss me!”

It was Daunt’s song, the one he most loved to hear her sing. But to-day
it had a new, rich meaning. She stretched her hands on either side,
grasping the seat, and sang on to the bending boughs, rubbing slowly
against the weather-stained beam arms above her head:

  “Dear, to-day shall never rust!
    What, are we to be o’erwise?
  All that doth not smell of dust
    Lieth in your lips and eyes.
      So, while loving yet may be,
      Bend and fold me; Sweet, kiss me!”

The shade grew darker as she sat. It deepened the brown of her eyes
and the sea-bloom in her cheeks, and the loitering lilac of the
west touched the coils of her hair, as they lay against the gray
board, blotting with their living bronze the half-effaced, forgotten
inscription:

_Pray for Her Soul._



III.


In the pause before the service began, Margaret’s eyes drifted
aimlessly about the dim body of the small but pretentious seaside
chapel. It held the same incongruous gathering so often to be seen
at coast resorts, a mingling of ultra-fashionable summer visitors,
and homely and uncomfortably well-dressed village folk. There was
Mrs. Atherton, whose bounty had elevated the parish from a threadbare
existence, with simple service and plain altar furniture, to a devout
adherence to High Church methods, with candles and rich vestments, and
a never-failing welcome for stylish visiting clergymen from the city;
there was the wife of the proprietor of the Beach Hotel, whose costumes
were always faithful second editions of Mrs. Atherton’s; there were
the rector’s two daughters and the usual sprinkling of familiar faces
that she had passed on the drive or the beach walk.

The lawn outside was shimmering with the heat that had followed an
over-night shower, and the pewed calm oppressed her. Her limbs were
nettled with teasing pricks of restlessness.

The open windows let in a heavy, drenched rose-odor, tinged with a
distant salt smell of sea. The air was weighted with it--it was the
same mingled odor that had filled her nostrils when she stood with
Daunt on the shore, with the wet wind in their faces and fluttering
petals of the crushed roses she had worn staining the dun sand and
crisp, strown seaweed like great drops of blood. It overpowered her
senses. She breathed it deeply, feeling a delicious intoxication, and
its suggested memory ran through her veins like an ethereal ichor,
tingling to her finger ends.

Her eyes, heavy and swimming, were full of the iridescent colors of the
stained-glass window opposite, with the dull yellow aureole about the
head of the central figure. The hues wove and blended in a background
of subdued harmony, lending life and seeming movement to the features.

“A man somewhat tall and comely, his hair the color of a ripe chestnut,
curling and waving.” The description recurred to her, not as though
written to the Roman Senate by Lentulus, Governor of Judea, but as if
printed in bossed letters about the rim of the picture. “In the middle
of his head a seam parteth it, after the manner of the Nazarites. His
forehead is plain and very delicate, his face without spot or wrinkle,
beautified with a lovely red; his nose and mouth of charming symmetry.
His look is very innocent and mature; his eyes gray, clear and quick.
His body is straight and well proportioned, his hands and arms most
delectable to behold.”

“His eyes gray, clear and quick.” From the window they followed
her--the eyes that had looked into hers on the beach, full of longing
light--the eyes that had charmed her and had seemed to draw up her soul
to look back at them.

She dragged her gaze away with a quick shudder, to a realization of
her surroundings. A paining recoil seized her at the temerity of her
thought, and her imaginings shrank within themselves. A vivid shame
bathed her soul. She felt half stifled.

The dulled and droning intonation of the reader came to her as
something banal and shop-worn. He was large and heavy-voiced.
His hair was sandy and thin, and his skin was of that peculiar
pallor and pursiness bred of lack of exercise and a full diet. It
reminded her irresistibly of pink plush. He had a double chin, and
he intoned with eyes cast down, and his large hands clasped before
him, after the fashion affected by the higher church. His monotonous
and nasal utterance glossed the periods with unctuous and educated
mispronunciation. The congregation was punctuated with nodding heads.

To Margaret, listening dully, there seemed to be an inexpressible
incongruity between the man and the office, between the face and
the robes, which should have lent a spirituality. She looked about
her furtively. Surely, surely she must see that thought reflected
from other faces; but her range of vision took in only countenances
overflowing with conscious Sabbath rectitude, heads nodding with
rhythmic sleepiness and eyes shining with churchly complacency.
Suddenly through the rolling periods the meaning struck through to
Margaret, and her wandering mind was instantly arrested.

  “_For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh;
  but they that are of the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be
  carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and
  peace._”

She heard the words with painful eagerness. Her mind seemed suddenly as
acute, as quick to record impressions as though she had just awakened
from a long sleep.

A woman in a pew to Margaret’s right dropped her prayer-book with a
smart crash onto the wooden floor. The smooth brows drew together
sharply and his voice, pauseless, took on a note of asperity, of
irritated displeasure. Reading was a specialty of his, and to be
interrupted spoiled the general effect and displeased him.

  “_Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not
  subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be._”

  “_So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God._”

An old man, bent and deaf, sat close up under the reader’s desk. He
leaned forward with elbow on knee and one open palm behind a hairy
ear. His eyes were raised, and his look was rapt. Margaret could see
his side-face from where she sat. He saw only the sanctified figure of
the priest and heard no human monotone, but the voice of God, speaking
through the lips of His anointed. He was a real worshipper. For her
the spiritual was swallowed up. That one bodily image stood before her
inner self. It had blotted out her diviner view; it had even thrust
itself behind the flowing robes and sandaled feet and had dared to
usurp the place of the eternal symbol of human spirituality!

She locked her hands about her prayer-book, pinching them between her
knees. The woman directly in front of her wore a hot, figured silk
and a drab mull boa that looked dreadfully like bunched caterpillars.
The riotous rose-odor made her faint and sick, and she had a horrible
feeling that the carved heads of the jutting stone work were laughing
evilly at her.

A strangling terror of herself seized her--a terror of this new and
hideous darkness that had descended upon her spirit--a terror of
this overmastering impulse which threatened her soul. It was part of
the dominance of the flesh that its senses should be opened only to
itself, only to the earthy and the lower. This penalty was already upon
her; of all in that congregation, she, only she, must see the bestial
lurking everywhere, even in God’s house, and in the vestments of His
minister.

  “_So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God._”

It was part of their punishment that they could no longer please
themselves. Out from every shape of nature and art, from the shadows
of grove and the sunshine of open plain, from the crowded street and
from the silent church must start forever this spectre, this unsightly
comrade of fleshly imagination. This was what it meant to be carnally
minded. Margaret’s soul was weak and dizzy with pain.

       *       *       *       *       *

For in some such way will every woman cry. The very purity of her
soul will rise to bar out the love that is of earth, earthy--the
beautiful human love so young, so tender-eyed and warm-fingered, and
with the lovely earth-light that is about its brows. And then, when
the soul grows weary of the pallid thoughts, when the chill of the
shadows strikes through--when the walls grow cold and the soul lifts
iron bar and chain to let in the human sunshine, then the pale images
that throng the house gather and are frightened at the very joy of the
sun, and they try to shut the door again against the shining, and sit
sorrowful in a trembling dark.

The cry of the woman is, “Give me soul! Give me spirituality!” Oh,
loved hand! Oh, eyes! Oh, kissed lips and fondled hair! The woman’s
love gives to each of you a soul. You will shine for her in her
nethermost heaven.

“Tell me not of my love,” she cries, “that it is corporeal and must
fade! Tell me only that it is of the spirit, a fond and heavenly light,
such as never was in earthly sunrise or in evening star! A soul, but
not a body! An essence, but no substance! It is too lovely to be of
earth, too sweet to be only of this failing human frame. Its speech is
the speech of angels, and its eyes are like the cherubim. Tell me not
that it is not all of the soul!” So, until she dreams the last dream of
love in earth-gardens, until she closes her soul’s eyes to dream of the
humanity of love, the dignity of human passion, until then she perfumes
the lily and paints the rose.

When the temperament that loves much and is oversensitive opens the
gates of its sense to human passion, if its spiritual side recoils,
it recoils with self-renunciation and with tears. The pain of such
renunciation makes woman’s soul weak. Its self-probings and the whips
of its conscience, made a very inquisitor, form for her a present
horror. She cries out for the old dream, the old ideal, the old faith!
It is the tears she sheds for this which drop upon the wall of the
world’s convention and temper it to steel.

   “_Therefore, brethren, we are debtors not to the flesh to live
  after the flesh. For, if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but
  if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall
  live._”

The droning voice of the reader hummed in Margaret’s ears. She came
to herself again, almost with a start, dimly conscious that the woman
in crêpe in the next pew was watching her narrowly. She must sit out
the service. She fell to studying the pattern of the embroidery on the
altar cloths. It was in curiously woven arabesques, grouped about the
monogram of Christ. Anything to withdraw her eyes from the face of the
reader, for which she was beginning to feel a growing and unreasoning
repulsion.

Throughout the remainder of the sermon she kept her gaze upon her open
Bible, turning up mechanically all the cross references to the word
“flesh.” She followed the contradistinction of flesh and spirit through
the New Testament. It was the _flesh_ lusting against the _spirit_, and
the _spirit_ against the _flesh_, contrary the one to the other. The
lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life--these
all of the world.

The voice of the priest ran along in pauseless flow. It seemed to
Margaret that he was repeating, with infinite variations, the same
words over and over: “So they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”

As she rose for the final benediction, her knees felt weak and she
trembled violently. She remembered what happened afterward only
confusedly. The next thing she really knew was the sense of a moist
apostolic palm pressed against her forehead as she half sat on the
stone bench to the right of the entrance, and a smooth, rounded voice
saying:

“Mrs. Atherton! Mrs. Starr! will you come back here a moment? This dear
young woman appears to be overcome with the heat!”



IV.


Daunt to Margaret.

                                              “NEW YORK, Sunday Morning.

“My Very Own!--Is that the way to begin a love letter? Anyhow, it is
what I want to say. It is what I have called you a thousand times,
to myself, since a one day far back--which I shall tell you about
some time--when I made up my mind that you should love me. Does that
sound conceited? Did you ever guess it? Over a year I have carried the
thought with me; you have loved me only half that time.

“How I have watched your love unfolding! How I have hugged and
treasured every new little leaf! I have been afraid so long to touch
it; I wanted every petal full-blown, before I picked it, to be
mine--mine, only mine, all mine, as long as I lived.

“Since I left you yesterday, to come up to this dismal city, I have
been so happy that I have almost pinched myself to see if I were not
asleep. To think that all my richest dreams have come true all at once!

“When I think of it, it makes me feel very humble. I shall be more
ambitious. I am going to write better and truer. I must make you proud
of me! I am going to work hard. No other man ever had such an incentive
to grow--to catch up with ideals--as I have, because no other man ever
had you to love.

“Yesterday I went directly from the train to the club. I pulled one of
the big chairs into a shaded corner and closed my eyes to feel over and
over again the deliciousness of the afternoon. I could feel your body
in my arms and your head hard against my shoulder and--that first kiss.
It has been on my lips ever since! I haven’t dared even to smoke for
fear it might vanish!

“All the while I had a curious, vivid, tumultuous sense as though I
were in especially close touch with you. It seemed almost as if you
wanted to tell me something, and that _I couldn’t quite hear_.

“After I went to bed I could not sleep for happiness; I wondered what
you had been doing, saying, thinking, dreaming--whether you thought
of me much, and, most of all, when you knelt down that night! Shall I
always be in the ‘Inner Room,’ and shall you look in often?

“A letter is such a pitiful makeshift! I could go on writing pages! I
want to put my arms around you and whisper it in your ear!

“The church-bells are ringing now. I can picture you sitting in the
chapel, just as you do every Sunday, and, maybe sometimes, just a
minute of course, stealing a little backward thought of me!

“Always in my mind, you will be linked with red roses, such as you wore
_then_. To-day I am sending you down a hamper of them. I should like
to think of you to-night as sleeping nestled up in them, and dreaming
their perfume. I am longing to see you. I feel as though I wanted to
roll the day up and push it away to get into to-morrow quicker.

“You will hardly be able to read this--my pen runs away with me; but
I know you can read what is written over it all and between every two
lines--that I love you, I love you wholly, unalterably.

“God keep you, safe and sound, dearest, always, always--for me!

                                                              “RICHARD.”


Margaret to Daunt.

                                                                “Monday.

“I am leaving this morning for a long visit. I cannot see you again. I
have made up my mind suddenly--since I saw you Saturday afternoon, I
mean. You will think this incomprehensible, I know, but, believe me, I
_must_ go.

“Think of me as generously as you can. This will hurt you, and to hurt
you is the hardest part of it. Do not think that I have treated our
association lightly. I could go upon my knees to beg you not to believe
that I have been deliberately heartless. Remember me, not as the one
who writes you this now, but as the girl who walked with you on the
beach and who, for that one hour, thought she saw heaven opened.

                                                     “MARGARET LANGDON.”


Daunt to Margaret.

“Dear:--You must let me write you. You _must_ listen! What does your
letter mean? What is the reason? If there had been anything that could
come between us, I know you well enough to believe you would have told
me before. How can you expect me to accept such a dismissal? I don’t
understand it. What is it that has changed you? What takes you from me?
Surely I have a right to know. Tell me! You can’t intend to stay away.
It’s monstrous! It’s unthinkable! Explain this mystery!

“I could not believe, when I received your letter to-day in the city,
that you had written it. It seemed an evil dream that I must wake up
from. Yet I have come back here to our summer haunt to find it true
and you gone. You have even left me no address, and I must direct this
letter to your city number, hoping it will be forwarded you.

“How can you ask me to submit to a final sentence like this? I feel
numbed and stung by the suddenness of it! I can’t find myself. I can do
nothing but wrestle with the unguessable why of your going. It’s beyond
me.

“After that one afternoon on the sands, after that delicious day of
realization that my hopes were true--that you loved me--to be flung
aside in a moment like an old glove, like a burnt-out match, with no
word of explanation, of reason--nothing! It shan’t stay so! You can’t
mean it! You are a woman, a true, sweet woman; you _shan’t_ make me
believe you a soulless flirt! There is something else--something I must
know!

“I feel so helpless, writing to you. Space is a monster. If I could
only see you for a single moment, I know it would be all right. Write
to me. Tell me what I want to know. Until I hear something from you, I
shall be utterly, endlessly miserable.

                                                                 “R. D.”


Margaret to Daunt.

“I cannot come back, Richard. I cannot even explain to you why. Don’t
humiliate me by writing me for reasons. You would not understand me.
What good would it do to explain, when I can hardly explain it to
myself? I only _feel_, and I am wretched.

“You must forget that afternoon! I am trying to do the right thing--the
thing that seems right to myself. I must believe in my instinct; that
is all a woman has. I know this letter doesn’t tell you anything--I
can’t--there is no use--I _can’t_!

“You know one thing. You must know that that last day, when I kissed
you, I did not think of this. I did not intend to go away then. That
was all afterward. I had no idea of hurting or wronging you--not the
slightest!

“I know this is incoherent. I read over what I have written and the
lines get all jumbled up. Somehow it seems to mean nothing. And yet it
means so much--oh, so horribly much!--to me.

                                                                    “M.”


Daunt to Margaret.

“Dearest:--Please, please let me reason with you. Don’t think me
ungenerous; bear with me a little. I _must_ make you see it my way!
I cheat myself with such endless guessing. Can I have grieved you or
disappointed you? Have I shocked those beautiful white ideals of yours
in any way? If that walk on the shore had been a month ago, if we had
been together since, I might believe this; but we have not. That was
the last, _and you loved me then_! I brought my naked heart to you that
afternoon--it had been yours for long!--and laid it in your hand. You
took it and kissed me, and I went away without it. Have you weighed it
in the balance and found it wanting? Do you doubt what it could give
you? Dear, let it try!

“To-day I walked up the old glen where the deserted cabin is. The very
breeze went whispering of you and the rustling of every bush sounded
like your name. The sky was duller and the grass less green. Even the
squirrels sat up to ask where you were with the chestnuts you always
brought them. Nothing is the same; I am infinitely lonely here, and
yet I stay on where everything means you! When I walk it seems as if
you must be waiting, smiling, just around every bend of the rock--just
behind every clump of ferns--to tell me it was all a foolish fancy,
that you love me and have not gone away! You are all things to me,
dear. I cannot live without you. I want you--I need you so! I never
knew how much before.

“Only tell me what your letters have not, that you do not love me--that
you were mistaken--that it was all a folly, a madness--and I will never
ask again! Ah, but I know you will not; you cannot. You do! _You do!_ I
have that one moment to remember when I held you in my arms, when your
throat throbbed against my cheek, when your lips were on mine, when
your arms went up around my head, and when I could feel your heart
beating quick against me. Your breath was trembling and your eyes were
like stars! Can you ask me to forget that, the moment that I seemed to
have always lived and kept myself for?

“It’s impossible! This must be a passing mood of yours which will
vanish. Love is a stronger thing than that! I don’t know the thing that
is troubling you--I can’t guess it--but I am sure of _you_. I know you
in a larger, deeper way, and in the end you will never disappoint me in
that!

“I am hoping, longing, waiting. Let me come to you! Let me see you face
to face, and read there what the matter is!

“Remember that I am still

                                                      “Your own,
                                                                    “R.”


Margaret to Daunt.

                                                  “‘THE BEECHES,’ WARNE.

“I have been touched by your last letter. I had not intended to write
again, yet somehow it seems as if I must. Can you read between these
lines that I am unhappy? I have been to blame, Richard, so much to
blame; but I didn’t know it till afterward.

“I can’t answer your question; it isn’t whether I love you--it’s _how_.
Doesn’t that tell you anything? I mustn’t be mistaken in the _way_. You
must not try to see me; it would only make me more wretched than I am
now, and that is a great deal more than I could ever tell you.

                                                                    “M.”


Daunt to Margaret.

“If you won’t have any pity for yourself, for heaven’s sake have some
for me! What am _I_ to do? _I_ haven’t any philosophy to bear on the
situation. I can’t understand your objections. Your way of reasoning
your emotions is simply ghastly. The Lord never intended them to be
reasoned with! We can’t think ourselves into love or out of it either.
At least _I_ can’t. I’ve gone too far to go backward. Since you went I
have been one long misery--one long, aching homesickness.

“You ask me not to ‘humiliate’ you by asking for your reasons. Don’t
you think _I_ am humiliated? Don’t you think _I_ suffer, too? And yet
it isn’t that; my love isn’t so mean a thing that it is my vanity that
is hurt most. If I believed you didn’t love me, that might be; but if
you could leave me as you have--without a chance to speak, with nothing
but a line or two that only maddened me--you wouldn’t hesitate to tell
me the truth now.

“You _do_ love me, Margaret! You’re torturing yourself and torturing
me with some absurd hallucination. Forgive me, dear--I don’t mean
that--only it’s all so puzzling and it hurts me so! I’m all raw and
bleeding. My nerves are all jangles.

“I can only see one thing clearly--that you are wrong, and you’ll see
it. Only somehow I can’t make you see it yet!

                                                                “DAUNT.”



V.


The warm October weather lay over the Drennen homestead at Warne. This
was a house gigantic and austere, its gray stone walls throwing into
relief its red brick porch, veined with ivy stems, like an Indian’s
face, whose warrior blood is raging, leant against a rock boulder.

Under the shade of the falling vine-fringe Margaret sat, passive and
quiet, on the veranda. From under drooping lids, long-lashed, her
brown eyes looked out with a sort of sweet and sober studiousness.
Her reddish-brown hair appeared the color of old metal beaten by the
hammer here and there into a lighter flick of gold, rolling back from
her straight forehead and caught in a loose, low knot. The corners of
her mouth were lifted a little, giving an extra fulness to sensitive
lips, and the long rise of her cheek, from chin to temple, was without
a dimple.

The haze hung an opal tint over the blue hillsides and lent to nearer
objects a dreamy unreality. The atmosphere reflected Margaret’s mood.
She was conscious of a certain tired numbness. Her acts of the past
few weeks had a sort of elusiveness in perspective, and the old house
at Warne, with its gloomy stables, taciturn servants, its familiar
occupants--even she herself--seemed to possess a curious unreality.

Across the field ran the wavering fringe of willow which marked the
little sluggish brook with the foot-log, where often she had waded,
slim-legged, as a child. There was the old stable loft from which she
had once fallen, hunting for pigeons’ eggs. There were the same gloomy
holes under the eaves, from which awful bat shapes had issued for her
childish shuddering. Only the master of the house was changed, and he
was Melwin Drennen, Lydia’s husband. As a child, he had carried her on
his shoulders over the fields when she had visited the place. She had
liked him unaffectedly, and the great sorrow of his life had hurt her
also.

She was a mere child then, and had heard it with a vague and wondering
pain. It had been a much-talked-of match--that between her cousin and
this man--and it was only a week after the wedding, at this same old
place, that the accident had happened. Lydia had been thrown from her
horse. She was carried back to a house of mourning. The decorations
were taken from the walls, and great surgeons came down from the city
to ponder, shake their heads, and depart. He, loving much, had hoped
against hope. Margaret remembered hearing how he had sat all one night
outside her door, silent, with his head against the wainscoting and his
hands tight together--the night they said she would die.

And that was twelve years ago! She had bettered slightly, grown
stronger, walked a little, then declined again. Now for five years past
her life had been a colorless exchange of bed and reclining-chair,
and, in this period, she had never left the house.

Margaret shivered in the sun as she thought. At intervals she had heard
of his life. “Such a _lovely_ life!” people said. She had thought
of his self-sacrifice and devotion as something very beautiful. It
had been an ever-present ideal to her of spiritual love. In her own
self-dissatisfaction she had flown to this haven instinctively, as to a
dear example. A strange desire to stab herself with the visual presence
of her own lack had possessed her. But in some way the steel had failed
her. She was conscious now of a vague self-reproach that her greater
sorrow was for Melwin and not for the invalid. Surely Lydia was the one
to be sorry for, and yet there was an awfulness about the life he led
that she was coming to feel acutely.

The crying incompletion, the negative hollowness of it, had smote her.
His full life had stopped, like a sluggish stream. His vitality, his
energies, could not go ahead. He was bound through all these years
to the body of this death. Love had broadened his gaze, lifted his
horizon, and then Fate had suddenly reared this crystal, impassable
wall, through which he must ever gaze and ever be denied. He was
condemned still to love her and to watch agonizedly the slender
gradations, the imperceptible stages by which she became less and less
of her old self to him.

Margaret gazed out across the velvet edge of the hills, and felt a
sense of dissatisfaction in the color harmony. A doubt had darkened the
windows of her soul and turned the golden sunlight to a duller chrome.
She was so absorbed that she caught a sharp breath as the French window
behind her clicked raspingly and swung inward on its hinges. It was
Melwin.

He came slowly forward through the window, holding his head slightly
on one side as though he listened for something behind him. She
found herself wondering how he had acquired the habit. His face was
motionless and set, with a peculiar absence of placidity--like a
graven image with topaz eyes. To Margaret it suggested a figure on an
Egyptian bas-relief, and yet he looked much the same, she thought,
as he had ten years before. Perhaps his beard was grayer and he was
more stoop-shouldered, and--yes, his temples looked somehow hollower
and older. He had a way of pausing just before the closing word of a
question, giving it a quaint and unnatural emphasis, and of gazing
above and past one when he spoke or answered. When he had first greeted
her on her arrival, Margaret had turned instinctively in the belief
that he had spoken to some one unperceived behind her.

“Will you go in to--Lydia?” he said, difficultly. “I think she wants
you.”

       *       *       *       *       *

As Margaret came down the stairway a moment later, tying the ribbons of
her broad hat under her chin, his look of inquiry met her at the door,
and the tinge of eagerness in his lack-lustre eyes faded back into
stolidity again as she told him it was only an errand for Lydia.

She jumped from the piazza and raced around the drive toward the
stables. Creed, the coachman, whose wool was growing gray in a lifetime
of allegiance to the Whiting stock, was standing by the window, holding
a harvest apple for the black, reaching lip and white, impatient teeth
of his favorite charge inside the stall. He dropped his currycomb as he
saw her.

“Mornin’, Miss Marg’et. Want me fur sump’n?”

“No, I only came for Mrs. Drennen to see how Sempire’s foot is. She
says he stepped on a stone.”

The black face puckered with a puzzled look, that broadened into a
smile the next instant.

“Marse Drennen done tole dat to Miss Liddy ez a skuse fo’ he not ridin’
mo’. She all de time tryin’ to mek he git out an’ gallavant. He ain’t
nuver gwine do dat no mo’. Miss Liddy, she al’ays worryin’ feared Marse
Drennen moutn’t joy heseff, an’ he al’ays worryin’ cause she worryin’.
She mek up all kinds ob things fur he to do dat way, an’ he jes humor
her to think he do ’em, an’ she nuver know no diffunce.”

Margaret had seated herself on the step and was looking up. “You’ve
always been with her, haven’t you?”

Creed smiled to the limit of his heavy lips. “’Deed I hev. When Miss
Liddy wuz married she purty nigh fou’t to fotch me wid her. Her ole
maid sister, she wantter keep me wid dee all back dar in New O’leens.
You see I knowed Miss Liddy when she warn’t a hour ole an’ no bigger’n
a teapot.

“Meh mammy wuz nussin’ de li’l mite in her lap wid a hank’cher ober
her, an’ I tip in right sorf to cyar a hick’ry lorg an’ drap on de
fiah. Dat li’l han’ upped an’ pull de hank’cher offen her face an’ look
at me till I git cl’ar th’oo de do’. She wuz de peartest, forward’st
young ’un! An’ she growed up lak she started, too. Marse Drennen he
proud lak a peacock when he come down dyar frum de Norf an’ cyared her
off wid he.”

“I remember how pretty she was.” Margaret spoke softly.

“Does yo’ sho ’nuff? She wuz jes ’bout yo’ age den. Her ha’r wuz de
color ob a gole dollar, an’ her eyes wuz blue ez a catbird’s aig. She
wuz strong as a saplin’, an’ she walk high lak a hoss whut done tuck de
blue ribbon et de fa’r.”

Sempire arched his shining neck and whinnied gently for another apple.
Creed stroked the intelligent face affectionately. “Whut mek yo’ go
juckin’ dat way?” he said. “Cyarn’t you see I’se talkin’ to de ledy?”

He looked into the fresh young face beneath the straw hat with its
nodding poppies and drew a deep breath.

“It do hurt me, honey, to see de change! Don’t keer how hard I wucks,
I feels lonesome to see how de laugh an’ song done died in her froat.
’Twuz jes one stumble dat done it. She an’ Marse Drennen wuz gallopin’
on befo’ de yuthers. Pres’n’y she look back to see ef I wuz comin’.
De win’ wuz blowin’ her purty ha’r ’bout ev’y way, an’ her eyes wuz
sparklin’ jes lak de sun on de ice in de waggin ruts. Jes dat minit de
hoss slip, an’ I holler an’ he done drap in er heap on he knees, an’
Miss Liddy she fall er li’l way off an’ lay still.

“Seem lak meh heart jump up in meh mouf. I wuz de fust one dyar. She
wuz layin’ wid her ha’r ober her face an’ her po’ li’l back all bent up
agin de groun’!

“Marse Drennen he go on turrible. He kneel down dyar in de road an’
kiss her awful, an’ beg her to open her eyes, an’ say he gwine kill
dat hoss sho’. Den we cyared her back to de house, an’ she nuver know
nuttin’ fo’ days an’ days. De gre’t doctors do nuttin’ fer her. She jes
lay an’ lay, an’ et seem lak she couldn’t move, only her haid. Marse
Drennen he nuver leabe her. He jes set in de cheer an’ rock heseff
back an’ forf lak a baby an’ look at her an’ moan same’s he feelin’ et
too.

“He don’ nuver git ober et no mo’. Peers lak she’d git erlong better
now ef he didn’t grieve so. He hole he haid up al’ays when he roun’
her. He wuz bleeged to do dat, to keep her from seein’ he disapp’inted,
’cause she wuz al’ays sickly an’ in baid to nuver rekiver. He face
sorter light up wid her lookin’ on, an’ he try to cheer her up, meckin’
out dat tain’ meek no diffunce. Hit did, do’! He git out o’ her sight,
he look so moanful; he ain’t jolly an’ laughin’ lak when he wuz down
Souf co’tin’, an’ I hole he hoss till way late.

“She al’ays thinkin’ ob him now, an’ he don’ keer fer nuttin’--jes sit
wid he chin in bofe han’s on de po’ch lookin’ down. He heart done got
numbed. Seems lak de blood done dried up in he veins an’ some time he
gwine to shribble up lak er daid tree whut nuver gwine show no red an’
yaller leabes no mo’. He jes live al’ays lak he done los’ sump’n he
couldn’ fin’ nowhar.”

Margaret arose from the step as he paused and turned his dusky face
away to pick up the fallen currycomb.

As she walked back to the house Melwin’s figure as she had seen him on
the porch rose before her memory--the face of a sleeper, with the look
of another man in another life. Before her misty eyes it hung like a
suspended mask against the background of the drab stone walls.



VI.


The frost scouts of the marshalling winter had fallen upon the woods
which skirted the Drennen estate, and the great beeches were crimsoning
in their death flush; the maples enchanting with their fickle foliage,
some still clinging to their green, and others brilliant with blushes
that they must soon stand naked before the cold stare of the sky. Here
and there on some aspiring knoll a slim poplar rose like a splendid
bouquet of starting yellow.

At a turn of the road, which wound leisurely between seamed tree-boles,
Margaret had seated herself upon a lichened slab of stone. Her loosely
braided hair lay against the hood of her scarlet cloak, slipping from
her shoulders, and she seemed, in her vivid beauty, the incarnate
spirit of the blazonry of fall. Her head was bare and her clasped
hands, dropped between her knees, held a slender book, a random
selection from the litter of the library table. It was the story of
Marpessa, and unconsciously she had folded down the leaf at the lines
she had just read:

                            “I love thee then
  Not only for thy body packed with sweet
  Of all this world, that cup of brimming June,
  That jar of violet wine set in the air,
  That palest rose, sweet in the night of life;
  Nor for that stirring bosom all besieged
  By drowsing lovers, or thy perilous hair;

         *       *       *       *       *

  Not for this only do I love thee, but
  Because Infinity upon thee broods,
  And thou art full of whispers and of shadows.
  Thou meanest what the sea has striven to say
  So long, and yearnèd up the cliffs to tell;
  Thou art what all the winds have uttered not,
  What the still night suggesteth to the heart.
  Thy voice is like to music heard ere birth,
  Some spirit lute touched on a spirit sea;
  Thy face remembered is from other worlds;
  It has been died for, though I know not when,
  It has been sung of, though I know not where.
  It has the strangeness of the luring West,
  And of sad sea-horizons; beside thee
  I am aware of other times and lands,
  Of birth far back, of lives in many stars.”

With the broadening half-smile upon her parted lips and that far
splendor in her eyes, she looked as might have looked the earthly
maiden for whom the fair god and the passionate human Idas pledged
their loves before great Zeus.

The deadened trampling of horse’s hoofs upon the soft, shaly road beat
in upon her reverie. The horse, moving briskly, was abreast of her
as she started to her feet. There was a sharp, surprised exclamation
from the rider, a snort of fear from the animal as he shied and
plunged sideways from the flaring apparition. Almost before she could
cry out--so quickly that she could never afterward recall how it
happened--the thing was done. The frantic brute reared white-eyed,
rose and pawed, wheeling, and the rider, with one foot caught and
dragging from the stirrup-iron, was down upon the ground. Margaret,
without reflection, acted instantly. With a single bending spring of
her lithe body she was beside the creature’s head, her slender arms,
like stripped willow branches, straining and tugging at his bit, until
the steel clamps cut into her flesh. She threw all the power of her arm
upon the heavy jaw, and with one hand reached and clasped tight just
above the great steaming, flame-notched nostrils. The fierce head shook
from side to side an instant, then the lifting hoofs became calm, and
he stood still, trembling. Slipping her hand to the bridle, she turned
her head for the first time and was face to face with Daunt.

She gazed at him speechless, with widening eyes. A leaping joy at the
sight of him mixed itself with a realization of his past peril. She
felt her face whiten under his steadfast gaze. A thousand times she had
imagined how they might meet, what she might say, how she would act,
and now, without a breath of warning, Fate had set him there beside
her. His hand lay next hers upon the rein of the animal, which a single
faltering of her finger, a drooping of her eyelash would have left to
drag him helpless to a terrible death. A breathless thanksgiving was in
her soul that she had not swerved in foot or hand.

Suddenly she noticed that his left hand hung limp, and her whole being
flamed into sympathy. “Oh, your poor wrist! You have hurt it!” Her
fingers drew his arm up to her sight. Her look caressed his hand.

“It’s nothing,” he said hastily, but with compressed lips. “I must have
wrenched it when I tumbled. How awkward of me!”

“It was I who frightened your horse; and no wonder, when I jumped up
right under his feet.”

“And in that cloak, too!” he said, his eye noting the buoyancy of her
beauty and its grace of curve.

The rebellious waves of her brown hair had filched rosy lustres from
her garb, and the blood painted her cheeks with a stain like wild
moss-berries. Her eyes chained his own. She had not yet released his
hand, but was touching it with the purring regard of a woman for an
injured pet. The allurement of her physical charm seemed to him to pass
from her finger-tips like pricklings of electricity from a Leyden jar.

Daunt shook off her hand with an uncontrollable gesture, and with his
one arm still thrust through the bridle, drew her close to him and
kissed her--kissed her hair, her forehead, her half-opened eyes, her
mouth, her throat, her neck.

She felt his lips scorch through her cloak. He dropped upon his knees,
still holding her, and showered kisses upon the rough folds of her gown.

“Margaret!” he cried, “you know why I have come! You know what I want!
I want you! Forgive me, but I couldn’t stay away. Do you suppose I
thought you meant what you said in those letters? Why should you run
away from me? Why did you leave me as you did? What is the matter?”

As he looked up at her, he saw that the light had died out of her eyes.
Her lips were trembling. Her face was marked by lines of weariness.
She repulsed him gently and went back a few steps, gazing at him
sorrowfully.

“You shouldn’t have come,” she said then. “You ought to have stayed
away! You make it so hard for me!”

“Hard?” His voice rose a little. “Don’t you love me? Have you quit
caring for me? Is that it?”

“No--not that.”

“Do you suppose,” he went on, “that I will give you up, then? You can’t
love a man one day and not love him the next! You’re not that sort!
Do you think I would have written you--do you think for one minute I
would have come here, if I hadn’t known you loved me? What _is_ this
thing that has come between us? What _is_ it takes you from me? Doesn’t
love mean anything? Tell me!” he said, as she was silent. “Don’t stand
there that way!”

“How can I?” she cried. “I tried to tell you in those letters.”

“Letters!” There was a rasp in Daunt’s voice. “What did they tell me?
Only that there was some occult reason--Heaven only knows what--why it
was all over; why I was not to see you again. Do you suppose that’s
enough for me? You don’t know me!”

“No, but I know myself.”

“Well, then, I know you better than you know yourself. You said you
didn’t want to see me again! That was a lie! You _do_ want to see me
again! You’re nursing some foolish self-deception. You’re fighting your
own instincts.”

“I’m fighting myself,” she said; “I’m fighting what is weak and
miserably wrong. I can’t explain it to you. It isn’t that I don’t know
what you think. I don’t know where I stand with myself.”

“You loved me!” he burst forth, in a tone almost of rage. “You _loved_
me! You know you did! Great God! you don’t want me to think you didn’t
love me that day, do you?” he said, a curiously hard expression coming
into his eyes.

“I don’t know.” She spoke wearily. “I--don’t--know. How _can_ I know?
Don’t you see, it isn’t what I thought then--it isn’t what I did.
It’s what was biggest in my thought. Oh--” she broke off, “you can’t
understand! You _can’t_! It’s no use. You’re not a woman.”

“No,” he said roughly, “I’m not a woman. I’m only a man, and a man
feels!”

“I know you think that of me,” she said humbly. “But, indeed, indeed, I
don’t mean to be cruel--only to myself.”

“No, I suppose not!” retorted Daunt bitterly. “Women never mean things!
Why should they? They leave that to men! Do you suppose,” he said with
quick fierceness, “that there is anything left in life for me? Is it
that I’ve fallen in your estimation? You thought I was strong, perhaps,
and now you have come to the conclusion that I’m weak! And the fact
that it was _you_ and that _you_ felt too makes no difference. I’ve
heard of women like that, but I never believed there were any! You wash
your feeling entirely out of your conscience, and I’m the one who must
hang for it. And in spite of it all, you’re human! Do you think I don’t
know that?”

She put out her hands as if to ward off a tangible blow. “Don’t,” she
said weakly, “please don’t!”

“Don’t?” he repeated. “Does it hurt to speak of it? Do you want to
forget it? Do you think I ever shall? I don’t want to. It’s all I shall
have to remind me that once you had a heart!”

“No! no!” she cried vehemently. “You _must_ understand me better than
that! Don’t you see that I want to do what you say? Don’t you see that
my only way is to fight it? It is I who am weak! Oh, it seems in the
past month I have learned so much! I am too wise!”

“Wait,” he said; “can you say truly in your heart that you do not love
me?”

“That--isn’t it,” she stammered.

“It is!” he flamed. “Tell me you don’t love me and I will go away.”

She was silent, twisting up her fingers with a still intensity.

“Tell me!”

“But there’s so much in loving. It has so many parts. We love so many
ways. We have more of us than our bodies. We have souls.”

“I’m not a disembodied spirit,” he broke in. “I don’t love you with
any sub-conscious essence. I don’t believe in any isms. I love you
with every fibre of my body--with every beat of my heart--with every
nerve and with every thought of my brain! I love you as every other
man in all the world loves every other woman in the world. I’m human;
and I’m wise enough to know that God made us human with a purpose. He
knows better than all the priests in the world. How do you _want_ to be
loved? I tell you I love you with all--_all_--body and mind and soul!
Now do you understand?”

“It’s not that!” she cried. “It’s how I love you. Oh, no; I don’t mean
that!”

“I don’t care how you love me!” he retorted. “I’ll take care of that!
You loved me enough that once.”

“Ah, that’s just it! I forgot everything. I forgot myself and you! I
wanted the touch of your hands--of your face! There was nothing else in
the whole world! Oh!” she gasped, “do you think I thought of my soul
then?”

“Listen!” he said, coming toward her so that she could feel his hot
breaths. “You’re morbid. You’re unstrung. You have an idea that one
ought to love in some subtle, supernatural, heavenly way. That’s
absurd. We are made with flesh-and-blood bodies. We have veins that run
and nerves that feel. You are trying to forget that you have a heart.
We are not intended to be spirits--not until after we die, at any rate.”

“But we _have_ spirits.”

“Yes,” he answered, “but it’s only through our hearts, through our
mind’s hopes, through our affections, that we know it. All our soul’s
nourishment comes through the senses. That’s what they were given us
for.”

“But one must rule--one must be master.”

Daunt leaned toward her and caught both her hands in his one. “Ardee,
dear,” he said more softly, “don’t push me off like this! Don’t resist
so! I love you--you know I do. This is only some unheard-of experiment
in emotion. Let it go! There’s nothing in the world worth breaking both
our hearts for this way. There can’t be any real reason! Come to me,
dear! Come back! Come back! Won’t you?”

At the softness of his tone her eyes had filled slowly with tears.

“I mustn’t! Oh, I mustn’t! The happiness would turn into a curse. You
mustn’t ask me!”

Daunt struggled between a rising pity for her suffering and a helpless
frenzy of irritation. Between the two he felt himself choking. There
seemed in her a resistance and an implacable hostility that he was
as powerless to combat as to understand. He began to comprehend the
terrible strength that lies in consistent weakness. There was something
far worse in her silent mood than there could have been in a storm of
reproaches or of vehement denial. He felt that if he spoke again he
could but raise higher the barrier between them, which would not be
beaten down by sheer force. He mounted, stumblingly and blindly, his
left hand awkwardly swinging, and, turning his horse’s head, spurred
him into a vicious trot.

A bit of golden-rod had dropped from his button-hole when he had
crushed her in his embrace, and as he disappeared down the curved road,
under the passionate foliage, Margaret slipped upon her knees and
caught the dusty blossom to her face in agonized abandon. Tears came
to her in a gusty whirl of longing, and strangling sobs tore at her
throat.



VII.


Nightshade and wistaria. The lusty poison-vine and the delicate
climbing tendrils. The evil and the pure. Their snake-like stems wound
about each other, twining in sinuous intimacy, the cardinal berries
flaunting alone where the fragrant purple blooms had long since fallen.
They clung to each other, the enmeshed and alien branches veiling a
sightless trunk, whose rotted limbs, barkless and neglected, projected
bare knobs complainingly from the vagrant tangle. It drew Margaret’s
steps, and she went closer. The dogs that had followed yelping at
her heels, after she had tired of throwing sticks for them to fetch,
now went nosing off across the orchard in canine unsympathy with her
reflective mood. She stood a monochrome, in roughish brown tweed,
under the dappling shadows.

“Miss Langdon, I believe?”

The deep, resonant voice recalled her. She saw a smooth-shaven face
with the rounded outline that belongs to youth, and is but rarely the
heritage of age, surmounted by the striking incongruity of perfectly
milk-white hair. His lips were thin and firm, suggesting at one
time strength and firmness, and the glance which met her from the
frank, hazel eyes was one of open friendliness. His clerical coat was
close-buttoned to his vigorous chin.

“I am Dr. Craig,” he said, “rector of Trinity parish. I heard that Mrs.
Drennen had a cousin visiting her, and I came out to ask you to come
to our Sabbath services. We haven’t as ambitious a choir, perhaps, as
you have in your city church,” he said, smiling, “--though we have
one tenor voice which I think quite remarkable--but we offer the same
message and just as warm a welcome.”

Her loneliness had wanted just such a greeting. “I shall be glad to
come!” she answered. “I passed the church only yesterday and sat awhile
in the porch to rest. It is so peaceful, set among the trees!”

“You seemed entirely out of the world as I walked up the path,” he
said. “I could almost see you think.”

“I was looking at this.” She pointed to the clustering vines.

“What an audacious climber! Its berries have the color of rubies. And a
wistaria, too!”

“I was thinking when you came,” she continued hesitatingly, “what a
pity it was that the two should have ever grown together. The wistaria
has an odor like far-away incense, and its leaves are tender and
delicate-veined, like a climbing soul. The nightshade is dark green and
its berries are sin-color. They don’t belong together, and now nobody
in the world could ever pull them apart without killing them both.
Isn’t it a pity?”

“Ah, there is where I think you err! That bold, aspiring sap is just
what the pallid wistaria needs. Its perfume is less insipid for the
mingling earth-smell of the other. It climbs higher and reaches further
for the other’s strength. The flora of nature follows the same great
law as humanity. Opposite elements combine to make the strongest men
and women. One of the most valuable, I think, of the suggestions we get
from the vegetable creation is the thought of its comprehensive good.
Nothing that is useful is bad, and there is nothing that has not its
use. What we know is, the higher grows and develops by means of the
lower.” His fine face lifted as he spoke with conscious dignity.

To Margaret, in the untiring challenge of her self-questionings, his
view brought an unworded solace. Her mind grasped eagerly at his
thought, puzzled by itself, yet reaching for the visible spirituality
of the man. His face, calm and with a tinge of almost priestly
asceticism, was a tacit reassurance. A wish to hear him speak, to talk
to him, came to her. He had lived longer than she, he knew so much
more! If she could only ask him! If she only knew how to begin! If some
instinct could only whisper to his mind’s ear the benumbing question
her whole being battled with, without her having to put it into words!
Even if she could--even if he could guess it--he might misunderstand.
No girl ever had such thoughts before! They were only hers--only hers,
to hide, to bury in silence! She blushed hotly to think that she had
ever thought of voicing it to the air. A guilty horror, lest her face
might betray what she was thinking, bathed her. She could never, never
tell it! There could be no help from outside. Her mind must struggle
with it alone.

She started visibly, with a feeling that she had been overheard, at a
crunching step behind them. Her companion greeted the arrival with the
heartiness of an old acquaintance.

“Ah, Condy,” he said, “much obliged for that salve of yours. It has
quite made a new dog of Birdo.”

“Thet so?” inquired the newcomer, with interest. “Et’s a powerful good
salve.” His straggling yellow beard and much-battered straw hat shed a
mellow lustre on his leathery, sun-tanned face, where twinkled clear
blue eyes.

“I’ve jest been up by th’ kennels,” he volunteered.

“I hope you found the family all well?” the rector inquired, with
gravely humorous concern.

“Toler’ble. Th’ ole mastiff won’t let me git clost ’nough t’ say more’n
howdy do. He’s wuss ’n a new town marshal!” He rasped a sulphur match
against his trouser-leg and lit his short clay pipe, hanging his head
awkwardly to do so, and disclosing the inquisitive muzzle and beady
eyes of a diminutive setter pup, which he carried under his butternut
coat, supported in his forearm. Margaret patted the cold nose, and its
owner displayed it pridefully.

“He ain’t but three weeks old,” he said, “en’ I’m a-bringin’ him up on
th’ bottle. Ef I fetch him eround he’ll make a fine setter one o’ these
days, fer he’s got good points. Look at th’ shape o’ his toes! Et goes
agin my grain t’ lose a puppy. Somehow et seems ez ef they hev ez much
right t’ live ez some other people.” His mouth relaxed broadly about
his pipe-stem, with a damp smile.

“What’s the matter with him?” asked the rector.

“Jest ailin’, puny like. Dogs ez a lot like babies; some on ’em could
be littered en’ grow up in a snowdrift, en’ others could be born in a
straw kennel en’ die ef you look at ’em. This one was so weakly thet
Bess, my ole setter, wouldn’t look at him. Jest poked him eround with
her nose, poor little devil! en’ wouldn’t give him ez much ez a lick.
Et’s a funny thing,” he continued, stuffing down the embers in his pipe
with a hard forefinger, “th’ difference there ez thet way between dogs
en’ folks. I never seen a woman yit thet wouldn’t take all kinds o’
keer fer a sick baby, but a dog puts all her nussin’ on her healthy
young uns en’ lets th’ ailin’ shift fer theirselves. Mebbe et’s because
she hez so many all at once, but I guess it’d be the same with women ef
they hed a dozen at once ez et ez now. The parson here”--he blinked at
Margaret with a suspicion of levity--“says ez how et’s because th’ dogs
ain’t got no souls. I don’t know how thet ez, but et looks ez ef et
might be so.”

The rector laughed good-humoredly as the decreasing figure silhouetted
itself against the field. “Condy’s a unique character,” he said, “but
immensely likable. He has a quaint philosophy that isn’t down in the
books, but it’s none the less interesting for that. I must be going
now,” he continued; “sermons in stones and books in running brooks
won’t do for my congregation.”

“You will go up to the house and see Lydia?”

“I have already seen her. She told me I should find you somewhere in
the fields, she thought. Your cousin is a great sufferer,” he added
gently. “She is a beautiful character--uncomplaining under a most
grievous affliction. I am deeply sorry for her, and yet”--there was
a note of perplexity in his voice--“sometimes I believe I pity her
husband even more! I am not well acquainted with him personally. I
wish I might know him better. She often speaks to me of him. Her love
for him is most exquisite; it always reminds me of the perfume of the
night-blooming-cereus.”

He took his leave of Margaret with grave courtesy and left her standing
on the leaf-littered grass, with the red berries of the nightshade
gleaming through the rank green foliage above her head.



VIII.


Lydia’s reclining chair had been rolled close to the window and
Margaret sat beside her, contemplating a melancholy drizzle, mingled
with sweeping gusts of rain. The chickens stood in huddled groups
under the garden shrubs, and the white and yellow chrysanthemums, from
their long, bordering beds, shook out their frowsy petals and drank
rejoicingly. Margaret loved to watch the splash of the shower upon the
fallen leaves. Her nature reflected no neutral tints; rain and gray
weather to her had never been coupled with sadness.

The emaciated hands by her side moved restlessly in the afghan. “What
a bad day for Mell,” she said. “He is fond of the saddle, and now he
will come home wet and cold, before his ride is half finished.”

Margaret looked at her curiously. She recalled Sempire’s stone-bruise
and Creed’s version of it. Melwin she had left only a few minutes
before, sitting statue-like in the library, with his chin upon his
hands. She felt with a smarting of her eyelids that the pathetic
deception was but a part of the consideration, the tender, watching
guard with which he surrounded the invalid’s every thoughtfulness of
him.

“Margaret!” Lydia spoke almost appealingly, laying a hand upon her
arm, “do you think Mell seemed happy to-day? You remember him when we
were married? I’ve seen him toss you many a time, as a little girl, on
his shoulder. Don’t you remember how he used to laugh when he would
pretend to let you fall over backward? Does he seem to you to be any
different now? Not older--I don’t mean that (of course he is some
older)--but soberer. He used to have friends out from the city, and
be always bird-hunting or playing polo. I could go with him then; he
liked to have me. He used to say he wanted to show me off. He seems to
be so much more alone now, and to care less for such things. At first
it made me happy to think that he couldn’t enjoy them any longer when
I couldn’t share them with him. That was very selfish, I know, and now
his not taking pleasure in them is a pain to me. I want him to. He is
so good to me! It seems sometimes as if I were a reproach to him. I am
so helpless, useless--such a hindering burden. I can’t do anything but
go on loving him. If I could only help him! If I could dust his desk,
or fill his pipe, or tend the primroses he loves, or put the buttons in
his shirts for him, or do any one of the thousand little foolish things
that a woman loves to do for her husband!”

Reaching over, Margaret patted her hand gently. The patient eyes looked
up at her hungrily.

“Oh, Margaret, if I could only know that he was happy! If I could only
fill his life wholly, completely, to the brim! I feel so bodiless lying
here. Other women must mean so much more to their husbands. I used to
pray to die--to be taken away from him. I thought that he would love me
better dead. Love doesn’t die that way--it’s living that kills love.
And I couldn’t bear to think that I might live to see it die slowly,
horribly, little by little; and I watched, oh, so jealously! for the
first sign. It’s a dreadful thing to be jealous of life! I have thought
that if it could be right for him to marry another woman while I was
still his wife--one who could give him all I lack--that I would even be
content, if he were only happy! There is just my mind left now for him
to love, and the mind, so denied, rusts away.”

“But your _soul_ is alive,” said Margaret softly, “and that is what
we love and love with. It seems to me that the most beautiful thing in
the world is a love like Melwin’s for you--one that is all spirit. It
is like the love of a child for a white star, that is not old and dusty
like the earth, but pure and shining and very, very far above its head.
When I was little I used to have one particular star that I called my
own. I wouldn’t have been happier to have touched it or to have had it
any nearer. I was contented just to look up to it and love it.”

“You’re a genuine comforter!” said Lydia, a smile of something more
nearly approaching joy than Margaret had yet seen there playing upon
her lips. “I am ungrateful. It is wicked of me to repine as I do! God
has given me Mell’s love, and every day it winds closer around me. And
he loves my soul. I ought to think how much more blest I am than other
women whose husbands do not care for them! I ought to spend my time
thinking of him and not of myself! Perhaps I could plan more little
pleasures for him. We used to make so many pretty surprises for each
other, and we got so much happiness out of them. It is the small things
in life that please us most. When we were first married, I studied all
the little ways. I wore the colors he was fond of, and did my hair as
he thought was most becoming. Why, I wouldn’t have put on a ribbon or
a flower that I thought he did not like! He set so much store by those
things. Do you see that big closet on the other side of the room? Open
the door. There are all the dresses that Mell liked me in when we were
married. Do you see that pearl liberty silk with the valenciennes? I
had that on the last night we ever danced together--the night before I
was hurt. He liked me best of all in that.”

She passed her hand caressingly over the shimmering lengths which
Margaret had spread out across her knees. “You would look well in such
a gown,” she said. “Your hair is like mine was, only a shade darker.
Put the skirt on. There! It fits you, too!”

A stir of anticipation, of excitement, overspread her languor. “I want
you to do me a favor; I don’t believe you’ll mind! Take dinner to-night
with Melwin downstairs. I am tired to-day and I shall go to sleep
early. Wear the dress; maybe it will remind him of the way I looked
then, when I had the same roses in my cheeks. He called them holly
berries. Will you wear it?”

Margaret turned away under pretense of examining the yellow lace. “Oh,
yes,” she said, “and I have a cameo pin that will just suit to clasp it
at the throat.”

“No, no!” Lydia had half raised herself on her elbow. “In my box on the
dresser is a string of pearls. Mell gave me them to go with it.”

She took the ornament and, with an exclamation of delight, unfastened
the neck of her nightgown and clasped it around her throat. Dropping
her chin to see how the lustreless spheres drooped across the pitiful
hollows of her neck, she gave them back with a sigh that was sadder
than any words and turned her head wearily on the pillow.

Margaret gathered up the garments tenderly, and bent over and left a
light kiss on the faded cheek as she went from the room.



IX.


Margaret stood before the cheval-glass in Lydia’s gown, smiling at the
quaint reflection. It showed a figure with slim, pointed waist between
billowy paniers, flounced with Spanish frill after the fashion of a
decade before. The neck was square-cut and the tight sleeves reached
to the elbow, ending in a fall of lace. It was not unbecoming to her.
Her brown eyes had borrowed from the pearl tint a misty violet and the
springing growth of her hair had taken on the shade of wet broom-straw.
A faint glow rose in her cheeks as she surveyed her own stirring image.
She clasped the close necklace of pearls about her throat. Poor Lydia!
Something as fair she must have looked in that old time so rudely
ended! Poor Melwin!

The wide dining-room doors stood open, and she did not pause, but
went directly in. The old butler stood in the hall, and she noticed
wonderingly that he gazed at her with a scared expression and moved
backward, his arms stretched behind him in an instinctive gesture of
fright which puzzled her. Were even the ancient servitors of the house
as incomprehensible as was their master?

Melwin stood leaning against the polished rosewood sideboard,
his unseeing gaze fixed on a glass-prismed candelabra of antique
workmanship, whose pendants vibrated ceaselessly. His lifted stare,
which went beyond, suddenly caught and fastened itself upon her in a
look of startled fascination. His lean fingers gripped the edge of the
wood and he stiffened all over like a wild animal couched to spring.
His shrunken features were marked with a convulsion of fearful anguish.
Margaret shrank back dismayed at the lambent fire that had leaped into
his colorless eyes.

“Lydia!” The cry burst from his lips as he made a quick step toward her.

“Why, Melwin!” she gasped, “what is the matter?”

The table was between them, but she could see that he was shaking.
His eyes turned from her to the opposite wall, then back again. Her
gaze followed his and rested upon a splendid full-length portrait.
She knew at once that it was Lydia. But she saw in that one instant
more than this; she saw her own face, radiant, sparkling, the same
lightened, straw-tinted hair, the same shadowy violet eyes, the same
gown, pearl gray, quaintly cut, that had faced her in the depths of the
cheval-glass.

“Melwin, don’t you know me? Why, it’s I--Margaret!”

His lips lifted from his teeth. Even through the strained agony of his
face, she could have imagined him about to laugh. It seemed a minute
before his voice came, and when it did it scourged her like a sting of
a lash. She cringed under its livid fury.

“How dare you? How _dare_ you come to me like that? Do you think a man
is a stone? Do you think he has no feeling, that you can torture him
like this? Do you think he never remembers or suffers? Is there nothing
in his past that’s too sacred to lay hands upon?”

“It was Lydia, Melwin,” cried Margaret, her fingers wandering
stumblingly along the low neck of the gown; “she asked me to do it. She
thought it would please you. She thought it would remind you of the way
she used to look.”

“She told you?” A softer expression came to his face. The hard lines
fell away; the weary ghost of an unborn smile hovered on his lips,
trembling and pathetic.

“Don’t care! Please, please don’t look so! I didn’t think! I will go
away at once and take the dress off.”

He laid his arms upon the back of a chair and dropped his head upon
them. “Don’t mind me, child,” he said brokenly; “you couldn’t help
it. You didn’t understand. When a man’s flesh has been bruised with
pincers, when his sinews have been wrenched and dragged as mine have,
he does not take kindly to the rack. You could have wrung my heart out
of my body to-night with your hands, and it would not have hurt so
much.”

“I am so sorry!” Margaret breathed, warm gushes of pity sweeping over
her. “You could never guess how sorry I am!”

“I suppose,” he said more calmly, “that I have been a puzzle to you.
You were too young to know me when I _lived_. I am only half alive now.
Life has gone by and left me stranded. Look at that picture, child.
That was Lydia--the Lydia of the best years of my life--the Lydia that
I loved and won and married! Twelve years! How long ago it seems!”

Margaret had seated herself opposite him and leaned forward, her
bare elbows on the table and her locked fingers against her cheek.
“I--understand now.” Her voice was a strenuous whisper.

“You will know what that is some time--to feel one nearer than all the
world--to tremble when her arm presses yours, to listen for the swish
of her skirt, to turn hot and cold at the smell of her hair or the
touch of her lips! She was beautiful--more beautiful to me than any
woman I had ever seen, or ever shall see. She filled every corner of
me! Life was complete. It had nothing left to give me. Can you think
what that means? You know what happened then. It came crashing in upon
my youth like a falling tower. Since then the years have gone by, but
they stopped for me that day.”

An intenser look was in Margaret’s eyes. “But you have Lydia--you love
her!”

He breathed sharply. “Have her!” he repeated. “I have her mind, her
soul, the intellect that answered mine, the soul that leaned to my
soul, but _her_--_her_--the body I held, the woman I caressed, the
fragrant life I touched--where is it? Where? I love her!” he cried with
abrupt passion. “I loved her then; I love her now. I have never loved
another woman! I never think a thought that is not of her. My very
dreams, my imagination are hers! I would rather die than love another
woman!

“I suppose people pity me and think how hard it was that Lydia’s
accident couldn’t have happened before we were married instead of
afterward. Fools! _Fools!_ As though that would make it different! If
it must have been, I wouldn’t have it otherwise. Not to possess wholly
the woman one loves is the cruelty of Love; the pain of knowing that no
other love can possess you is the mercy of Love. Such misery is dearer
than all other joys. She is _mine_, and with every breath that I curse
Fate with I thank God for her!”

“Isn’t that happiness?”

He laughed, a short, jarring, mirthless laugh that hurt her. “Do you
think,” he said, “that that is all a man craves? Can a man--a living,
breathing man--live on soul alone? Can you feed a starving human
being on philosophy? His stomach cries for bread! You can quench his
spiritual thirst while his heart dries up with physical drought. He
wants both sides. With one unsatisfied, he goes halting, crippled. I
live in my past and feed on the husks of it. Do you think they fill me?
I tell you, I go always hungry--always famishing for what other men
have!”

Margaret felt as if she were being wafted through some intangible
inferno of suffering. She felt smothered, as by the dust of some dead
thing into whose open grave she had unwittingly stumbled. The real
Melwin that she had waked terrified her. The glimpse through the torn
mask, into the distorted face, with its marks of branding, shook the
depths of her nature. She had always thought of Melwin abstractly, as
of a beautiful personality, crowned with spiritual stars and haloed
with pain; now she saw him as he was--a half-man, decrepit, moribund,
his passion no living glow, but a flitting and unreal fox-fire, which
he must follow, follow, grasping at, but never gaining. The dreadful
unfulfilment of his life’s promise sat upon his brow and cried to her
from every word and gesture. She felt as if she was gazing at some
mysterious and but half-indicated problem to which there could be no
answer.

       *       *       *       *       *

That was a meal which Margaret never afterward remembered without a
recoil. A chilling self-consciousness had fallen upon her and clogged
her tongue. Melwin ate hastily and almost fiercely, saying nothing, and
once half rising, it seemed in utter forgetfulness of her presence,
and then sitting down again. She excused herself before the coffee
and slipped away, running hastily up the stair to her room, her feet
catching in the unaccustomed tightness of the old-fashioned skirt.

As she turned the key in the lock, she fancied she heard a moan
through the thick walls of Lydia’s room, and she tore off the garments
with feverish haste, shutting them from her sight in the carved Dutch
chest which filled one corner, releasing, as she did so, a pungent odor
of cedar; not the fresh, resinous smell of sappy forest-growth, but
the dead-faint aroma of the past--the perfume that belonged to Lydia’s
gown, to Melwin, and to that gloomy house and all it contained.

She pushed open the heavy blinds and leaned across the window ledge,
questioning. Melwin was a man--but Lydia? Had she also this inner
buried side, which in him had been shocked into betrayal? Were men
and women alike? Were their longings and cravings the same? Was there
something in the one which felt and answered the every need of the
other? Was spiritual attraction forever dependent for its completion
upon physical love? The thought came to her that in the long years
Melwin had become less himself; that his brooding mind had perhaps
lost its balance; that what to a healthier mind would be but a shadow
had grown for him a threatening phantom. Her heart was full of a vague
protest against the suggestion which had thrust itself upon her.

Her spiritual side reached out groping hands for comfort and sustenance.

Drawing down the window, she turned into the room. A ponderous Bible
in huge blocked leathern covers lay on the low table, its antiquated
silver clasps winking in the light from the pronged candlestick. With
a sudden impulse, she threw it open, leaning forward, her fingers
nervously ruffling its edges. This was the soul-comforter of the ages.
It must help her.

  “Hadad died also. And the dukes of Edom were; duke Timnah, duke
  Aliah, duke Jetheth,

  “Duke Aholibamah, duke Elah, duke Pimon.”

The musty chronicle meant nothing. She turned again, parting the leaves
near to the end.

  “Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.

  “Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.”

She almost laughed at the banality of her haphazard choice. She knew
the pages full of condemnation for the unworthy thought. Now they
mocked her. Impatiently she opened the huge volume wide in the middle.
A new and intense eagerness illumed her face as her eyes rested on the
page:

  “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast
  doves’ eyes.

  “My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one,
  and come away.

  “By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him,
  but I found him not.

  “My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.

  “His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as
  a raven.

  “His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed
  with milk, and fitly set.

  “His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like
  lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh.* * *

  “His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely.”

She looked up startled, her breath struggling in her breast; a deep,
vivid blush spread over her face and neck, glowing crimson against the
whiteness of her apparel.

The room seemed suddenly dense with a dank, spicy smell of roses
mixed with salty wind. It spread from the pages of the book and hung
wreathing about her till the air was filled with fiery flowers. She
felt herself burning hot, as if a flame were scorching her flesh. In
the emptiness of the room, she caught her hands to her cheeks shamedly,
lest the world could see that tell-tale color. Even the dim candles’
light angered her, and she blew them out, creeping into the soft bed
hastily, as though into a hiding-place.



X.


For some days after her unforgettable meeting with Daunt in the woods,
Margaret had not left the house. She had spent much of her time reading
to Lydia. There was a never lessening sorrow in the invalid’s gaze that
affected her, full as was her mind of her own thoughts, and she had
been glad to sit with her to escape the slow-burning fires that haunted
her in Melwin’s opaque eyes.

She had almost a fear to venture beyond the shelter of this cheerless
home--a fear of what she longed for unspeakably and as unspeakably
dreaded. She told herself that Daunt was gone, that he had returned
to the city, that she would not see him again at Warne. And yet her
inmost wish belied the thought. He had gone away believing her cruel.
The memory tortured her. An instinctive modesty, as innate as her
conscience, had made it impossible for her to express in words the
distinction which her own sensitiveness had drawn. To think of it was
an intangible agony; to voice it was to penetrate the veiled sanctuary
of her woman-soul.

But the afternoon following Melwin’s outburst in the dining-room, her
flagging spirits and the smell of the cropped fields drew her out of
doors. She was sore with a sense of reproach at her own unthinking
blunder. Since then she had not seen Melwin. She felt how awkward would
be the next meeting.

The sunlight splintered against low-sailing clumps of vapor which
extended to the horizon, and the chill of the air prompted her to walk
briskly. She did not take the wood road, but kept to the open country,
following the maple-lined footpath that boarded the rusting hedgerows.
There was little promise in the drooping, despondent sky. A shiver
of wind was in the tall grasses and a far whistling of a flock of
marsh-birds came to her over the moist fallow.

A darting chipmunk made her turn her head, and she became conscious
that a figure was close behind her. An intuitive knowledge flashed upon
her that it was Daunt. A vibrant thrill shot through her limbs and she
felt her cheeks heating.

“Margaret! Margaret!”

She turned her head where he stood uncovered behind her. His left wrist
was bound tightly with a black band, and he carried his arm thrust
between the buttons of his jacket.

“I am disabled for riding, you see,” he said, smiling. “My wrist has
gone lame on me. You see I am stopping at Tenbridge, and I walked over
the hill.”

The ease and naturalness of his opening disarmed her. She caught
herself smiling back at him.

“I’m so sorry about your wrist,” she said. “Does it pain you much?”

“Only when I forget and use it. Did you think I would come back again?”
This with blunt directness.

She made him no answer.

“Do you know, I have been here every day since I saw you. I’ve spent
the hours haunting the road through the woods and tramping these paths
between the fields.”

“I have not been out of the house since then,” she answered.

“Why not?”

“Can’t you guess why?”

“Were you afraid you might see me?”

“I--I didn’t know.”

“Look here, dear,” he said, “you know I don’t want to persecute you.
If you will only tell me truly that you don’t love me, I will go away
at once and never see you again. But I believe that there is no other
thing in life worth setting against love. It means my happiness and
yours, and it would be cowardly for me to give you up for anything but
your happiness. Can’t we reason a little about it?”

She shook her head hopelessly. “It wouldn’t help. I have reasoned and
reasoned, and it only makes me wretched.”

His brows knit perplexedly. He stopped and faced her in the path. “Do
you think that I have come to you for any other reason than that I
want you, that you mean more to me now than you ever did? That I love
you more--_more_--since I know you love me wholly? You have loved me,
absolutely. Now you are refusing to marry me! Why? Why? Why?”

Margaret’s flush had deepened. While he had been speaking, she had
several times flung out her hand in mute protest. “Oh!” she said, “how
can I make you understand? Love is strange and terrible. It isn’t
enough to love with the earth-side of us! Why”--her voice vibrated with
a little tremor--“I would love you just the same if I knew you _had_
no soul--if there was only the human feel of you, and if I knew you
must die like a dumb beast and not go to my heaven. If I knew that I
should never see you again after this life, I would love you and long
for you, just the same, now and afterward! Oh, there must be something
wrong with my soul! That kind of a love is wrong. It’s the love of the
flesh! Don’t you see? Can’t you see it’s wrong?”

Daunt struck savagely at the wiry beard-grasses with the stick he
carried. This doubt was so irrational, so unwholesome to his healthy
mind that to argue it filled him with a dumb anger. He groaned
inwardly. She was impossible!

“You give no credit,” he slowly said at last, “to your humanity. In
a woman of your soul-sensitiveness, it is unthinkable that the one
should exist without the other. Soul and sense react upon each other.
Bodily love, in people who possess spirituality, who are not mere
clods, dependent upon their eyes and appetites for all life gives them,
presupposes spiritual affinity. The physical may be the lesser side of
us, but it is not necessarily the lower. Whatever there is in Nature
is there because it ought to be. If we cannot see its beauty or its
meaning, let us not blame Nature; let us blame ourselves.”

“Don’t think,” said Margaret, “that I haven’t thought all that! It is
so easy to reason around to what we _want_ to believe. It doesn’t make
me happy to think as I do, but I can’t help it! We can’t make ourselves
_feel_. _I_ can’t! What good would it do me to make myself _think_ I
believed that? You would soon see what I lacked, and I would know it,
and we would be chained to each other while our souls shrivelled. Oh,”
she ended with almost a sob, “I am so utterly miserable!”

Daunt felt a mad desire to take that near-by form in his arms, to
soothe her and comfort her. He felt as if she were squeezing his heart
small with her hands. He was silent. Then his resentful will rose in an
ungovernable flood.

“Do you suppose I intend to break my life in two for a quibble--for a
baseless fancy? I tell you, you’re wrong! You’re wrong! You’ve tangled
yourself up in a lot of sophistry! Don’t think I am going to give up. I
won’t! You shall come to yourself! You shall! You _shall_!”

Margaret felt the leap of his will as an unbroken pacer the unexpected
flick of a whip-thong. It was a new sensation. It had a tang of
mastery, of domination, that was strange to her. She was unprepared
for such a situation. She looked at him half stealthily. In the lines
of his mouth there was an unfamiliar sovereignty. She felt that
deliciousness of revolt which every strong woman feels at the first
contact with an overbearing masculinity. A swift suggestion of the
potentiality of his unyielding purpose stabbed her.

“And the rain descended and the floods came and the winds blew and beat
upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” A flitting
memory brought the parable to her mind. Could it be that the house of
her defence was built upon the sands? “And the rain descended and
the floods came and the winds blew”--the first promise of the tempest
was in his eyes. A fear of yielding insinuated itself darkly. The set
intentness of his obstinacy lingered after his words, hung about her
in the air and pressed upon her with the weight of an unescapable
necessity. Her breath strained her.

All at once she turned, speaking rapidly, incoherently. “Don’t--don’t
talk to me like that! Don’t argue with me! I can’t bear it--now!
I’m all at sea; I’m a ship without a captain. Don’t bend me; I was
never made to be bent. I have got to think for myself. You must go
away--indeed, you must! Somehow, to talk about it makes it so much
worse. I can’t discuss it! Don’t ask me any more! Oh, I know you think
I’m unreasonable. It sounds unreasonable sometimes, even to myself. I
wish you wouldn’t blame me, but I know you must. You can’t help it. I
blame myself, and I hurt myself, and the blame and the want and the
hurt are all mixed up together! If you care--if you care anything for
me, you will go away! You won’t come again. I hurt you when you do, and
I can’t bear to do it.”

Daunt nodded, took her hand, held it a moment, and then released it.
“Very well,” he said quietly and sadly. He did not offer to kiss
her. The fire had died out of his voice and there was left only a
constrained sorrow. But it had no note of despair. Its resignation was
just as wilful as had been its assertive passion. He looked at her a
moment lingeringly, then turned and vaulting the hedge, with squared
shoulders and swinging stride, struck off across the stubble of the
fields.

Margaret did not look back, but she knew he had not turned his head.
Then a long sigh escaped her.



XI.


Her blood coursed drummingly as she went back along the road, half
running, her hat fallen, held by the loose ribbon under her chin, her
hands opening and closing nervously. Her head was high and her mood
struck through her like the smell of turned earth to a wild thing of
the jungle. She wanted action, hard movement, and she ran with fingers
spread to feel the breeze. Her thoughts were a tumult--her feelings
one massing, striving storm of voices, through which ran constant,
vibrating, a single, insistent, dominant chord.

“You _shall_! You SHALL!” she repeated under her breath. “Why do I
like that? It’s sweeter than bells! I can hear him say it yet. It was
like a hand, pulling me!”

She stopped stock-still, suddenly, gazing at the fallen
purple-and-crimson autumn leaves, a poured-out glory of color at her
feet. “Splendid!” she said. She bent and swept up a great armful and
tossed the clean, wispy, crackling things in the air. They fell in a
whirling shower over her face, catching in her hair. In the midst of
them she laughed aloud, every chord of her body sounding. Then, with a
quick revulsion, she threw out her arms and sank panting on the selvage
of the field.

“What can I do? What can I do?” she said. “I’m afraid! I can’t go on
fighting this way! It--drags me so.” Her fingers were pulling up the
tapery grass-spears in a sinister terror. “I felt so strong the last
few weeks, and it’s gone--utterly gone! Why--it went when I first
looked at his face. If he had kissed me again, this time; if--if he had
held me as he did that other day--in the woods--oh, my heart’s water!
There’s something in me that _won’t_ fight. The ground goes from under
my feet. It’s dreadful to feel this way! His hair smelled like--roses!
If I had dared kiss it! I ought to be sorry and I’m--not! I’m ashamed
to be glad, and I’m glad to be ashamed!”

She felt herself shivering, resentful of the ecstasy of sweetness that
lapped and folded her. The dull glow of the sky irritated her with its
very serenity.

“If I only hadn’t seen him! If I had been strong enough not to! It’s
ungenerous of him. He ought to leave. He ought to have gone away after
that last time! He _ought_!”

But if he had! The thought obtruded itself. She had longed for him to
come; she knew, down in her soul, she had. Her heart had given her lips
the lie. The woman in her had betrayed her conscience.

“It’s the truth!” she cried, lifting her hand. “It’s the truth! Oh, if
he hadn’t come--_if--he--hadn’t_!” She muttered it to the wind by the
loneliness of the slashed hedges. “That would have been the one last
terrible thing. It would have crushed me! I could never have been glad
again. I’m sick now with desolation at the thought of it! It’s easier
not to be able to forgive myself than it would be not to be able to
forgive him! But he _did_ come! He wants me!” Her voice had a quiver of
exultation. “Nothing on earth ever can rob me of that!--nothing!”

She pressed her arm against her eyes till her sight blent in
golden-lettered flashes. The one presence was all about her; she could
even feel his breath against her hair. His eyes had been the color of
deep purple grapes under morning dew. The old hunger for him, for his
hand, his voice, swept down upon her, and she crouched closer to the
ground wet with fog-dew, striking the sod hard with her hands. He had
come. He was there. He never would go--she knew that. If he stayed, she
must yield. She had been perilously close to it that day.

       *       *       *       *       *

After a time she became quieter and drew from her skirt pocket a
crumpled letter, received that morning after three re-forwardings. It
was in a decisive feminine hand, and spreading it before her, Margaret
turned several pages and began to read:

“Your letter has somehow distressed me,” it read. “It seemed unlike
your old self. It seemed sad. I imagine that you are troubled about
something. Is it only that you are tired and dissatisfied? I have
wondered much about you since you left the city in the spring. What
have you been doing? How have you spent the time in the stale places
of idleness? I have been so busy here at the hospital that I have
seen none of our old friends. Time goes so quickly when you like your
work! And I enjoy mine. It has come to mean a great deal to me. Dr.
Goodno intends soon, he says, to put me in charge of the children’s
ward. Poor little things! They suffer so much more uncomplainingly
than grown folks. Dr. Goodno is our superintendent and Mrs. Goodno is
superintendent of nurses. She has been so dear and kind to me, one
could not help loving her. It hardly seems possible that I have been
here three whole years.

“Margaret, have you ever thought seriously of the last letter I wrote
you? There is a great deal of compensation in this life, and I have
thought sometimes (I know you’ll forgive me for saying it) that you
needed some experience like this. Every woman ought to be the better
for it. You are my dearest friend, and if I could only show you
something--some new satisfaction in living--something to take you out
of yourself more, I would be so glad.

“I have told Mrs. Goodno so much about you, and she would welcome you
here, I know. It might be just what you need. You know the nurses are
taken on three months’ probation, and there is no compulsion to stay.
If you did not like it, you could leave at any time, and you would be
the gainer by the experience. You need no preparation. Just telegraph
me at any time and come.”

A resolution had formed itself rapidly in Margaret’s mind. Thrusting
the letter deep into her pocket, she walked swiftly up the path to
the house. She sent Creed with a telegram before she entered the
library. Melwin was standing with his back to her, staring out through
the leaded diamonds of the window. He turned slowly, gazing over her
shoulder. His face had lapsed into its habitual neutral passiveness.
His pupils had contracted into their peculiar unrefracting dulness, and
his hands hung without motion.

“Melwin,” she said, “I’m going back to the city. I have received a
letter which makes it necessary. I think I will take the evening train.”

He turned again to the window. “Must you--go?” His voice was toneless
and dull.

“Yes,” she answered. “I will look in and say good-by to Lydia.” She
waited a moment uncertainly, but he did not speak, and she left him
standing there.

       *       *       *       *       *

Turning the knob of Lydia’s door softly, she pushed it open and
entered. Lydia lay with her face turned toward the wall; her regular
breathing showed that she slept. Margaret could not bear to awaken her.
A wavering smile was on her parted lips and gave a fragile loveliness
to the delicate transparency of her skin. Perhaps a happy dream had
come for awhile to beckon her from ever-present pain. Perhaps she was
dreaming that she was well and knew and filled a strong man’s yearning.

Margaret closed the door noiselessly. Going to her room, she pencilled
a little note, and tiptoeing cautiously back through the hall, slipped
the missive under Lydia’s door.

And this was her farewell.



XII.


Across the country Daunt strode, paying little heed to his direction.
He skirted one field, crossed another, swung through a gully, scrambled
along a gravel-pit, climbed a hilly slope, and cut across in a wide
circuit. He thought that physical weariness might bring mental relief.
He paused for a moment by the edge of a clayey bank, in which a
multitude of tiny sand-swallows--winged cliff-dwellers--had pecked them
vaulted homes. He thrust his stick gently into one of the openings and
smiled to see the bridling anger of its feathered inhabitant.

Seating himself upon a pile of split rails in a fence corner, he
dropped into reverie. He was conscious of an immense depression. The
past few weeks had brought him nearer to realizing how much Margaret
meant, not only to himself, but to his labor in the world, than he had
ever been before. His artistic temperament had pointed him a dreamer,
but his natural earnestness had made him a laborious one. His ideals
were fresh and strong, and the world of tangled interests and woven
ambitions had stood before him always, mute, importunate, a place
to make them real. In man’s ear there sound ever three voices: the
brazen-throated throng, the silver-throated few and the golden-throated
one. This last voice Daunt had learned to listen to. He had made
Margaret his unconscious motive. The best of his written work had been
done at the huge antique mahogany desk under her picture. What she had
been to his work, what she was then, showed him what her presence or
absence in his life must inevitably mean. He realized the truth of what
he had once scoffed at, that behind every man’s success lies the heart
of a woman.

He felt a profound disheartenment. His mind skimmed the waste of his
younger years. It saw his toils as little things and the work he had
praised in himself as that of a trifler. He knew now his capacities
for ambition. He saw inspiration for the first time as, on a twilit
highway, one sees a fancied bush, with a sudden movement, resolve
itself into a human figure. He saw his past, harvestless. Fate had
taken his youth, like a handful of sand, and fed it to the sea! Since
Margaret had gone, his work had been purposeless, barren--it wanted her
presence.

He had lighted his pipe mechanically, and through the blue-pale smoke
whorls, a near bush took on the outline of her clear profile, reclined
against a dusky cushion. His longing filled the silence with an inward
voice:

“You are the woman,” it said, “that I have always wanted! I want
you all! I want your childish shallows and your womanly deeps! I
want your weakness and your strength! I want you just as you are, no
different--you, yourself.”

She was sitting before him now in the firelight of her room, where
the tongues of the burning drift-wood and salt-dusted larch sprang
up, blue, magenta and purplish-green, prickling the brass-work of the
fireplace into a thousand many-colored points, and he was leaning
forward, speaking, with his bare heart behind set lips: “I love you.
All that I have for you that you will not own! All that you might be to
me that you will not give!”

He felt her present trouble vaguely and with the same impotent
resentment that he had felt in that far-off yet ridiculously near
child-life, when in all the lofty manhood of his eight years he had
defied the cliff-winds--that childhood which lived in his memory as a
stretch of sun-drowned sea-beach swept by wind; a dim background in a
frame of sharp outline, which held little images of delicate fragrance,
clear and sweet, on the retina of his memory. This woman met him in a
pain, measured by his added years, that he was powerless to appease.

Knocking the cold ashes from his pipe, Daunt rose and stretched his
arms wide along the topmost rail of the shambling fence and gazed out
across the evening hills, blurred by the blue of distance, into the
red sunset. Far to the left, glooming from encircling elms, lay the
house that sheltered Margaret. Down below him, in the railroad cut,
crawled a deliberate tank-train. From where he stood, he could see the
ungainly arm of the slung pipe, through which the thirsty engine drank
deep draughts. Sitting in the chill air had told him his fatigue, and
his wrist had grown stiff and painful. He felt unequal to the long walk
across to Tenbridge, and, consulting his watch, reflected that the
city-bound train, almost due, would carry him to the little Guthrie
junction, shortening his walk by half.

He pushed rapidly down the hill road, grateful for the heat of renewed
motion. The station was deserted. One shabby hack drowsed driverless
under the shed, and even the ticket agent had apparently forsaken his
grating.

Sauntering across the platform, Daunt leaned against the signal-post,
on whose swinging arm a round, fevered eye watched, unwinkingly and
angry, for the distant train, fast growing from a bright pin point to
a blazing blotch of yellow, between the spun-out rails. Its attenuated
rumbling had swelled to a trembling roar. His pre-occupation was so
deep that the clamorous iron thing was upon him almost before he heard
it. The surprise jarred him into sudden movement, and it was then that
his tired limbs lurched under him; the sucking vortex of the hurtling
mass threw him off his balance, he wavered, stumbled, fell--and the
pitiless armored monster, plunging, gigantic, regardless, caught him on
its mailed side and passed on, to shudder, to slow, to stop--too late!



XIII.


The gas lamps had been early lit and threw flaring streaks of white
across the dingy platform as Margaret reached the station. She had
stood on the top of the little slope, looking back across the fields,
grown dim and mysterious in the purpling dusk, with a tightening of
the throat. However unhappy she had been here, yet she had seen Daunt.
He had stood with her by those dwarfed hedges, he had pleaded with
her under the flaming boughs of those woods. She could still feel the
strong pressure of his lips upon her hand as he besought her for what
she could have given him so eagerly, so gladly, so joyously if she had
dared. She was leaving him there, and the parting now seemed so much
more than that other seaside flight, when she had been stung to action
by her own self-reproach. Making her mute farewell, she heard a shriek
of steam, as the train came shuddering into the station, drawing long,
labored breaths like some chained serpent monster, overtired, and she
hastened stumblingly, uncertainly over the stony road. When she reached
the platform, she was out of breath and panting, and did not notice the
knot of trainmen, with beckoning arms and dangling lanterns, by the
side of the track.

She sank into her Pullman seat wearily. Several windows were open and
inquiring heads were thrust forth. She was conscious of a subdued
excitement in the air. A conductor passed hurriedly through the coach
and swung himself deftly off the end. People about her asked each other
impatiently why the train did not start, and a sallow-faced woman with
a false front hoped nervously and audibly that nothing was the matter.
A sudden whisper spread itself from chair to chair, and a man came back
from the smoking compartment to seat himself beside his wife, and
pulled down the window-shade with low whisperings.

“An accident. A man hurt.”

Margaret heard it with a tremor. She tried to raise her window, but the
latch caught, and she placed her face close to the pane to peer out. Up
the platform tramped four trainmen, bloused and grimy with coal-dust,
carrying between them a board, covered with tarpaulin, under which
showed clearly the outlines of a human figure.

Margaret caught her breath and drew back with a sudden feeling of
faintness. There were a few tense moments of waiting. Then a quiver
ran through the heavy trucks, there was a sharp whistle, a snort of
escaping steam, and past her window moved slowly back the station
lamps. A porter went toward the baggage-car, his arms piled high with
white towels, which threw his ebony face into sharp contrast. The
forward conductor leaned over the occupant of the chair across from
Margaret to borrow his flask, and went out with it. She realized from
this that the injured one was on the train.

He was probably at that moment lying on the floor of the baggage-car,
amid a litter of trunks and bags. Men were bending over him to see if
he lived or died. Five minutes ago he had been as full of life and
strength and breath as she. Now he lay stricken and maimed and ghastly,
a huddle of bleeding flesh and torn sinew, perhaps never again to see
the smile of the sunlight, or, perhaps, to live mutilated and broken
and disfigured, his every breath a pain, his every pulse a pang.
Perhaps he had loved ones--a _one_ loved one, who had hung about his
neck and kissed him when he went away. What of that love when they
should bring this object back to her?

A hideous question of the lastingness of human love flung itself from
the darkness without in upon her brain. One could love when the face
was fair, when the form was supple and straight, when the eyes were
clear and the blood was young with the flush of life! One could still
love when age had grayed the hair and the kindly years had bowed the
back. Mutual love need not dim with time, but only mellow into the
peaceful content of fruition.

But let that straight form be struck down in its prime: a misstep, a
slip in the crowded street, a broken rail, an explosion in a chemist’s
shop, and in an instant the beauty is scarred, the symmetrical limb
is twisted, the tender face is seamed and gnarled. The loved form
has gone, and in its place is left a shape of pain, of repulsion, of
undelight. Ah! what of that love then?

Margaret shivered as if with cold. How could _she_ answer that? There
was a love that did not live and die in the beating of the heart, which
did not fade into darkness when its outer shell perished. That was the
spirit love. That was the love of the mother for the child, of the soul
for the kindred soul. That was the love that endured. It was the only
love which justified itself. It was this that God intended when He put
man and woman in the earth to cherish one another and gave them living
souls which spoke a common language. Better a million times crush
from the heart any lesser habitant! Better an empty soul, swept and
garnished, than a chamber of banqueting for a fleshly guest!

       *       *       *       *       *

Woman’s heart is the Great Questioner. When Doubt waves it from
natural interrogation of the world about it, it turns with fearful
and inevitable questionings upon itself, until the sky which had been
thronged with quiring seraphim flocks thick with sneering devils. “Do
you think,” insinuates the Tempter mockingly, “that this beautiful
dove-eyed love of yours can stand the ultimate test? Have you tried
it? You have seen loves just as beautiful, just as young, go down into
the pit. Do you dream that yours can endure? Strip from your love
the subtle magnetism of the body, take from it the hand-touch, the
lip-caress, the pride of the eye, and what have you left? The hand
grows palsied, the lips shrivel, the eye leadens, and love’s body
dies. What then? Ah, what then!

       *       *       *       *       *

The darkness had fallen more thickly without, and Margaret saw her face
reflected from the window-pane, as in a tarnished and trembling mirror.
Her own eyes gazed back at her. She put up her hands and rubbed them
against the glass, as though to erase the image she saw.

“Don’t look so,” she said, half aloud. “What right have you to look so
good? Don’t you know that if you had staid, if you had seen him again,
you would have thought as he did? You couldn’t have helped it! You
couldn’t! You had to run away! You didn’t want to come! You wish you
were back again now! You--you do! You want him. You want him just as
you did--then! That’s the worst of it.”

The face in the glass made her no answer. It angered her that those
eyes would offer no glance of self-defence, and, with a quick impulse,
she reached up and drew down the shade.

The whir and click of the flying wheels jarred through her brain. She
had a sense of estrangement from herself. She felt almost as though she
were two persons. The one Margaret riding in her pillowed chair, with
her mind a turmoil of evil doubts, and the other Margaret rushing on by
her side through the outer night, calm-eyed and untroubled, and these
two almost touching and yet separated by an infinite distance. They
could never clasp each other again. She had a vague feeling that there
was a deeper purpose of punishment in this. She herself had raised the
ghost which must haunt her.

She hardly noted the various stations as the train stopped and breathed
a moment, and then dashed on. Try as she would, her thoughts recurred
to the baggage-car and the burden it carried. She wondered whether they
would put it off quickly at the terminal, and what it would look like.
It was for such things that hospitals were built, and to a hospital
with all that it implied, she was bound. New and torturing doubts
of her own strength beset her. She was afraid. In her imagination
she already smelled the sickening sweet halitus of iodoform and saw
white-aproned nurses winding endless bandages upon bleeding gashes that
would not be stanched.

An engulfing rumbling told her that they were entering the city
tunnel, and near-by passengers began a deliberate assortment of wraps
and parcels. The porter passed through the train, loudly announcing
the last stop. There was almost a relief to Margaret’s overwrought
sensibilities in his sophisticated utterance. It was a part of the
great cube-jumbled, fish-ribbed metropolis, with its clanging noises
and its swirl of cañoned living for which during the past weeks she had
thirsted feverishly. She felt, without putting it into actual mental
expression, that surcharged thought might find relief in simple things.

Lois would be waiting there to meet her. She would be glad to see
her. It was pleasant to be loved and looked for. A moment or two more
and the white, smoky haze that blotted the car windows lifted, and
in place of the milky opaque squares appeared glimpses of wide-lit
spaces and springing ironwork. The car hesitated, shocked itself with a
succession of gentle jars, and came heavily to a halt. They were in the
station.

Margaret alighted on the platform with limbs numb and tired. The strain
of the day had given her a yearning for quiet, for the abandon of a
deep chair with soft cushions, and a cup of tea. She met Lois with
outstretched arms and a wan and uncertain smile against which her lips
feebly protested.

“Why, Margaret, dear, how tired you look!” said Lois, kissing her.
“Come, and we’ll get a cab just outside. Your train was very late. I
thought you never _would_ get here at all!”

Margaret clung to Lois’s hands. “O--h,” she said, falteringly, “do we
have to go up the whole length of the train?”

“Why, yes; are you so very tired?”

“No--but----” she stopped, ashamed of her weakness. She was coming to
be a nurse--to learn to care for sick people and to dress wounds. What
would Lois think of her? “Do--do they unload the baggage-car now?”

“Oh,” said Lois, cheerfully, “we’ll leave your checks here; it won’t be
necessary to wait for the trunks. Come, dear!” She led the way up the
thronged platform. “Hurry!” she said suddenly, “there is a case in the
baggage-car. I wonder where it’s going! Oh, you poor darling!”

Margaret had turned very pale and leaned against a waiting truck for
support.

“I forgot. That _is_ a rather stiff beginning for you, isn’t it? I’m
_so_ sorry! I hope you didn’t see; it looks like a bad one. Don’t watch
it, dear. That’s right! You won’t mind it a bit after a while. You’re
quite worn out now. Come, we’ll go around this other way.”

“It happened at Warne,” said Margaret, tremulously. “I saw them take
him on.”

“Poor dear! and you must have been worrying about it all the way in.
Do you see the ambulance at the curb? That’s ours. You see, they
telegraphed, and now he will be cared for sooner than you get your tea.
There goes the ambulance gong! They’re off. And now here’s the cab.”



XIV.


An hour later, Margaret, somewhat composed from her ride, waited in
the homelike bedroom for Lois to come and take her to Mrs. Goodno, the
Superintendent of Nurses. From her post at the window she could look
down upon the street.

It had begun to rain, and the electric lights hurled misshapen
Swedish-yellow splotches on the wet asphalt. The wind had risen,
rending the clouds into shaggy lines and made a dreary, disconsolate
singing in the web of telephone wires bracketed beneath the window.
Margaret felt herself to be in a state of unnatural tension. She gazed
out into the swathing darkness, trying desperately to make out the
landscape. Her eyes wandered from the clumps of wet and glistening
foliage to the starting lights in a far-off apartment house,
which thrust its massive top, fortress-like, and, with proportions
exaggerated by the lowering scud, up into the air. Do what she would,
her mind recurred, as though from some baleful necessity, to the
details of the long train-ride. The never-ending clack of the wheels
was in her ears. She clenched her hands as the landscape resolved
itself into the dim station at Warne, and she saw again the grimy
brakemen carrying something by covered with a dirty canvas.

She shut her eyes to drag them away from the window. How could she ever
stand it! It had been a mistake--a horrible, ghastly mistake! She had
turned cold and sick when they had carried it past the car window. How
could she ever bear to see things like that? Lois did. Lois liked it!
So did all of them. But they were different. There must be something
hideously wrong about her--it was part of her unwomanliness--part
of her guilty lack. The others saw the quivering soul beneath the
sick flesh; she could never see within the bodily tenement. She was
handcuffed to her lower side. She remembered the story of the criminal,
chained by wrist and ankle to a comrade; how he woke one day to find
the other dead--_dead_--and himself condemned to drag about with him,
day and night, that horrible, inert thing. She, Margaret Langdon,
was like this man. She must drag through life this corpse of a dead
spirituality, this finer comrade soul of hers which had somehow died!
Her life must be one long hypocrisy--one unending deceit. She was even
there under false pretences. They would not want her if they knew.

She turned toward the fireplace. Over it hung a sepia print of the
Madonna of the Garden. The glow touched the rounded chin and chubby
knees of the little St. John with a soft flesh-tint, and left in shadow
the quaint incongruity of the distant church-spire. Margaret’s whole
spirit yearned toward its placid purity. She had had the same print
hung in her bedroom at home, and it had looked down upon her when she
prayed. She gazed at it now with eyes of wretchedness, filmed with
tears. Her throat ached acutely with a repressed desire to sob. She
fancied that the downcast lids lifted and that the luminous, wide eyes
followed her wonderingly, reproachfully.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lois came in smiling. “She is in now,” she said, “and we will go down.”

Margaret exerted herself and tried to chat bravely as they went along
the corridor, and entered the cool silence of the room where Lois’s
friend waited to meet her. There was a restfulness in Mrs. Goodno’s
neat attire, and a dignity about her clear profile, full, womanly
throat and strong, capable wrists, that seemed to be an inseparable
part of her atmosphere. Her firm and unringed hands held Margaret’s
with a suggestion of tried strength and assured poise that bore
comfort. Her eyes were deep gray, smiling less with humor, one felt,
than with a constant inward reflection of welcome thoughts. Her hair
was a dull, toneless black, carried back under her lace cap in a
single straight sweep that left the hollows of her neck in deep shadow.

“And you are Miss Langdon?” she said. “Lois has told me so much about
you. Do sit down. Tea will be here directly, and I want to give you
some, for I know you have had a long, dreary ride.”

She busied herself renewing the grate fire, while Margaret watched her
with straying eyes.

“You know,” she said, returning, “we people who spend our lives taking
care of broken human bodies have to be strong ourselves. You are
strong; I see that, though your face has tired lines in it now. But we
must be more than that--our minds must be healthy. We can’t afford to
be morbid. We have to have cheerful hearts. We must see the beauty of
the great pattern that depends on these soiled and tangled threads we
keep straightening out here.”

“Oh,” said Margaret, “do you think we have to be happy to do any good
in the world? How can we be happy unless we work? And if we start
miserable----” she stopped, with an acute sense of wretchedness.

“No, not happy necessarily. There are things in some of our lives which
make that impossible; but we can be cheerful. Cheerfulness depends not
on our past acts, but on our wholesome view of life, and we get this by
learning to understand it and to understand ourselves.”

“But, do you think,” questioned Margaret, “do you think we always do in
the end?”

“Yes; I believe we do. It’s unfailing. I proved it to myself, for I
began life by being a very unnatural girl, and a very unhappy one.
I misunderstood my own emotions, as all young girls do. I didn’t
know how to treat myself. I didn’t even know I was sick. I had been
brought up in New England, and I tortured myself with religion. It
wasn’t the wickedness of the world that troubled me; I expected too
much of myself--we all do at a certain age. And, because I found
weakness where I hadn’t suspected it, I thought I was all wrong. You
know we New Englanders have a peculiar aptitude for self-torture,
and I wore my hair-cloth shirt and pressed it down on the sores. It
was the University Settlement idea that first drew me out of myself.
I went into that and worked at first only for my own sake; but, after
a while, for the work’s sake. It was only work I wanted, my dear, and
contact with real things. Out of the turmoil and mixture and pain I got
my first real satisfaction. In its misery and want and degradation I
learned that an isolated grief is always selfish. I learned the part
that our human bodies play in life. I began to see a meaning in the
plan and to understand the part in it of what I had thought the lower
things in us. Then I got into the hospital work, and you will soon see
what that is. It has shown me humanity. It has taught me the nobility
of the human side of us. It makes me broader to understand and quicker
to feel; and it isn’t depressing. There is a great deal in it that is
sunny. I hope you will like it. But we are not all made in the same
mould, and we regard your coming, of course, merely as an experiment.
So, if you feel at any time that it is not for you, come to me and tell
me. Come to me any time and talk with me.

“Now you have finished your tea, and I must go to the children’s ward.
I have put you with Lois till the strangeness of it wears off, and you
can have a separate room whenever you like.”

Leaning forward, she brushed Margaret’s cheek lightly with her lips and
went quickly out of the room.

In spite of her misery, a shy feeling of comfort had come into
Margaret’s heart. She rose and surveyed herself in the mirror over the
mantel, drawing a deep breath and raising her shoulders as she did so.
It was an unconscious trick of hers.

“Oh, no!” she said half aloud, “that is the temptation. I want to think
it, and it can’t be true. I _want_ to! The want in me is bad! How _can_
it be true?” “The nobility of the human side of us”--ah, that had come
from the calm poise of a wholesome understanding! It was noble--this
human side--but not king. What of this strange mastery that overflowed
her, the actual ache for the glow of his eyes, the pressure of his
fingers? The mere memory of it was like a live coal to her cheeks. It
burned her. The feel of his strong hair was in the fibrous touch of
her gown. His mouth, smiling at the corners, warmed her shoulder. His
bodily presence was all about her; it breathed upon her, and her soul
reeled and shut its eyes like a drunken man!

Margaret tossed her hands above her head, the wrists dropping crosswise
upon the shearing pillow of her flame-washed hair. In the mirror she
saw the pale oval of her face in this living setting. As she gazed, the
features warmed and changed; the eyes became Daunt’s eyes--the mouth,
Daunt’s mouth. It was Daunt’s face, as she had looked up into it framed
in her arms on the sun-brilliant beach. The wind was all about her,
fresh and odorous, and his kisses were falling upon her seasalt lips!

Still holding her arms raised, she leaned to the mirror and kissed the
glass hungrily. Her breath sighed the picture dim. The magic of it
was gone, and Margaret, glancing fearfully behind her, turned and ran
breathless to her room, where she locked the door and threw herself
upon the bed, pressing her face down into the soft pillow gaspingly, to
shut out the vivid passion-laden odor of bruised roses that seemed to
pursue her, filling all her senses like a far-faint smell of musk.



XV.


Margaret passed along through the light-freshened ward, following
Lois closely, and fighting desperately the active feeling of nausea
which almost overcame her. All her sensitive nature cringed in this
atmosphere. Through the brightness and cleanliness of wood and metal,
the absolute whiteness of the stamped bed-linen and the fresh smell
of antiseptics, she had a morbid sense of the ugliness of disease, of
the loathsomeness of contact with physical decrepitude that is one of
the selfishnesses of the artistic temperament. She felt the dread,
incubus-like, pressing upon her and sucking from her what force and
vitality she had. A feeling of despair of being able to cope with this
thrusting melancholy beset her and she fought it off with her strongest
strength.

At intervals, as they passed, was a cot shut off by screens of white
linen, fluted and ironed, as high as the eyes. These spotless blanks
stood out more awful to Margaret in intimation of hidden horror than
any open physical convulsion. Behind these screens was more often
silence, but sometimes came forth an indistinct and restless muttering,
and once a sharp, panging groan. A sick apprehension gripped her, and
she felt her palms growing moist with sweat. She was sickly sensible
of the sweet, pungent smell of carbolic and ether, sharpened by a
spicy odor of balsam-of-Peru. From the pillows curious eyes peered at
her, set in faces sharp-featured and hectic, or a shambling figure in
loose garments moved, bent and halting, across their path. She caught a
sidewise view, through a swing door, of a tiled operating-room, with a
glittering _mêlée_ of polished instruments. Here and there she thought
the lapping folds of bandages moved, showing blue glimpses of gaping
cuts and festering tissue. It seemed as if the long rows of white
coverlids and iron bed-bars would go on eternally.

As they came to the extreme end of the room, Margaret suddenly stopped,
gripping Lois’s arm with vise-close fingers. “What is that?” she
whispered.

“What is what?”

She stood listening, her neck bent sideways, and a flush of excitement
rising on her cheeks. “Didn’t you hear him call me?” she said.

“Hear him? Hear who?” said Lois.

But she did not answer. “Take me away; oh, take me away!” she said
weakly. “I want to go back to the room. I--I can’t tell you what I
thought I heard. It would sound such nonsense. I must have imagined it.
Oh, of course I imagined it! Oh, Lois, I don’t believe I will ever be
any good here, do you?”

Lois drew her into the outside corridor and up the hall. “I do believe
you are sick yourself!” she said. “Why, you have quite a fever. There
is something troubling you, dear, I’m sure. Can’t you tell me about it?”

“Oh, no! Indeed there is nothing!” cried Margaret. “Lois, I want to
see _all_ the patients--the worst ones. Promise me you’ll take me with
you when you go around to-night. Indeed, indeed, I must! You _must_
let me! I will be just as quiet! You will see! You think it wouldn’t
be best--that I’m too fanciful and sensitive yet--but indeed, it isn’t
that. Maybe it’s because I only look on from a distance. I don’t touch
it, actually. I’m only a spectator. If I could go quite close, or
do something to help with my hands, maybe they would seem more like
people, and the sickness of it would leave me. Do, dear, say I may
to-night!”

They had reached the room now, and Lois gently forced Margaret upon
the lounge. “Very well,” she said, “I will. I’m going through at nine
o’clock. I’m not afraid of your sensitiveness. It’s the sensitive
ones who make the best nurses, Dr. Goodno says. They can _feel_ their
diagnosis. But you must lie down till I can come for you.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Left alone, Margaret pressed her head into the cushions and tried to
think. She could not shake off the real impression of that cry. “Ardee!
Ardee!” It had come to her with such suddenness that every nerve had
jumped and jerked. Could she have dreamed it? Was the sound of that old
intimate name of hers, breathed in that peculiar voice, only a trick of
the imagination? Surely it must have been! Her nerves were overwrought
and frayed. She was hysterical. It was only the muttering of some
fever patient! And yet, she had felt that she must see. An indefinable
impulse had urged her to beg Lois to take her with her. And now the
same horror would seize her again, the same sickening repulsion, and
she would have the same fight over.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Lois came for her, Margaret prepared herself quickly and they
passed down. At the door of the surgical ward they met the house
surgeon, who nodded to Margaret at Lois’s introduction. “Just going in
to see Faulkner’s trephine case,” he said. “It’s a funny sort.”

“Is he coming through all right?” asked Lois. “That’s the one that was
brought in on your train the other night, Margaret,” she added.

“I’m afraid it’s going to be the very devil. He took a nasty
temperature this afternoon, and the nurse got worried and called me
up. I found we had a good old-fashioned case of sepsis--wound full of
pus and all that. What makes it bad is that he has hemiplegia. The
whole left side seems to be paralyzed. The operation didn’t relieve the
brain pressure, and with his temperature where it is now, we’ll have to
simply take care of that and let any further examination go. I’ve just
telephoned to Faulkner. It won’t be a satisfactory case, anyway. There
is possibly some deeper brain injury in the motor area, and if we beat
the poison out, he stands to turn out a helpless cripple. Some people
are never satisfied,” he continued, irritably. “When they start out to
break themselves up, they have to do it in some confounded combination
that’s the very devil to patch up. Coming in?”

He held the door open, and they followed him quickly to a nest of
screens at the upper end of the ward, passing in with him.

Margaret forced her unwilling eyes to regard the patient as the doctor
laid a finger upon his pulse, attentively examined the temperature
chart, and departed. He lay with his left side toward them. The head
was partly shaven, hideous with bandages, and in an ice-pack. The
side-face was drawn, distorted and expressionless. His left hand lay
quiet, but the fingers of the right picked and tumbled and drummed on
the coverlid unceasingly. He was muttering to himself in peculiar,
excitable monotone. On a sudden his voice rose to audible pitch:

“Now, then! you’ll come. Don’t say you won’t! Why--you can’t help
it! You _will_! Do you hear? * * * * Take the straight pike to the
crossroads, and then two miles further on. The Drennen place--yes, I
know!”

At the tone Margaret started in uncontrollable excitement. An
inarticulate cry broke from her. She ran to the foot of the bed, and,
her fingers straining on the bars, gazed with fearful questioning into
the features of the sick man. As she gazed, his head rolled feebly
on the pillow, displaying the right side of the face. Then a low,
terrible, choking, sobbing cry rose to her lips--a cry of pain, of
remonstrance, of desolation. “Why, it’s--it’s my--my--it’s Richard
Daunt!”

Lois reached her in a single step and held her, trembling. But after
that one bitter sob she was absolutely silent. She hardly breathed;
all her soul seemed to be looking out of her deep eyes. The uncouth
mumbling went on, uncertain but incessant.

“* * Drennen place. That’s where she is. I’ll find her! Let me go!
Quick, take this off my head! I tell you, I’ve _got_ to go! * * * Oh,
my dear, don’t you want to see me? You look like an autumn leaf in that
scarlet cloak. Come closer to me. Your hair is like flame and you’re
pale--pale--pale! Look at me! * * * How dare you treat me this way? How
dare you! You knew I’d come to you--you knew I couldn’t help it. Some
one told me you didn’t want me to come. * * * It was a letter, wasn’t
it? Some one wrote me a letter. But it was a lie!”

Lois readjusted the ice-pack, and the voice died down into broken
mutterings. Then he began again:

“Where’s Richard Daunt? You’ve got to make her understand! You’ve got
to, and you can’t. You’ve failed. She used to love you, and now she’s
gone away and left you. She won’t come back! You can go to the devil! *
* * Ardee! See how your hair shines against the old cross! Pray for her
soul! Pray--for--her--soul! * * Ardee!”

Margaret bowed her face on her hands, still clasping the bed-rail.
Great, clear tears welled up in her eyes and splashed upon the
coverlid. She saw, as if through a fleering maze of windy rain-sheets,
the dull, round, staring eyes, the yellow skin, the restless fingers
and unlovely lips. Then she stood upright, swaying back and putting
both hands to her temples as though something tense had snapped in her
brain.

A pained wonder was in the look she turned on Lois--something the look
of a furred wood-animal caught by the thudding twinge of a bullet.
The next moment she threw herself softly on her knees by the cot,
stretching her arms across the straightened figure, pressing her
lips to the rounded outline of the knees, and between these kisses,
lifting her face, swollen with sobless crying, to gaze at the rolling,
unrecognizing features beside her. Agony was in the puffed hollows
beneath her eyes, and her lips were drawn with the terrible yearning of
a mother for her ailing child.

Lois raised her forcefully, yet feeling a strange powerlessness, and
drew her away, with a finger on her lip and a warning glance beyond
the screens, and Margaret followed her with the tranced gaze of a
sleep-walker. There was no repugnance or distrust in it now, or fleshly
horror of sickness.

       *       *       *       *       *

In her room again, she stood before the window, her mind reaching out
for the new sweetness that had dropped around her. All that she had
thought strongest in her old love had shrunk to pitiful detail. Between
her young, lithe body and the broken and ravaged wreck she had seen,
there could then be no bond of bounding blood and throbbing flesh;
but love, masterful, undismayed, had cried for its own. Something was
dissolving within her heart--something breaking down and away of its
own weight. She felt the fight finished. It had not been fought out,
but the combatants who had gripped throat in the darkness had started
back in the new dawn, to behold themselves brothers. There was a primal
directness in the blow that had thrust her back--somewhere--back from
all self-questionings and the torture of mental misunderstanding, upon
herself. It was an appeal to Cæsar. Beneath the decree, the rigidity
of belief that had lain back of her determination turned suddenly
flexible. She did not try to reason--she felt. But this feeling was
ultimate, final. She knew that she could never doubt herself again.

The green glints from the grass-plots on the tree-lined street and the
sun on the gray asphalt filled her with a warm tenderness. Every bird
in all the world was piping full-throated; every spray on every bush
was hung with lush blossoms and drenched with fragrance. The swell
of filling lungs and tumultuous blood--the ecstasy of breathing had
returned to her. The joy-bitter gladness of the heart and the world,
the enfolding arms of the unforgot, clasped her round. It was for her
the Soul’s renaissance. The Great Illumination had come!

As Lois gazed at her, mystified, she turned, with both hands pressed
against her breast, and laughed.



XVI.


Closing the door, Margaret opened her trunk and from the very bottom
produced a slender bunch of letters. She lit the small metal lamp and
placed it on the wicker chair, kneeling beside it with an unreasoning
sense that there was a fitness in the posture. Her fingers trembled as
she touched the black ribbon which held the letters, and she stayed
herself, swaying against a chair, as she unknotted it. There were a
few folded sheets of paper--pencilled notes left for her--a telegram
or two, and four letters. Before she read the first letter, she laid
it against her face, lovingly, as though it were a sentient thing.
She read them one by one very slowly, sometimes smiling faintly with
a childish trembling of the lips--smiles that were followed quickly
by tears which gathered in her great eyes and rolled down her cheeks.
When she had finished reading the last one, she made a little pile
of them. Then, taking from her trunk writing paper, ink and pen, she
laid them upon the floor beside the pile of letters and stretched
herself full length upon the heavy rug. As she lay leaning upon her
elbows, with eyes gazing straight before her, she looked like some
desolate, wind-broken reed over which the storm had passed. She wrote
slowly, with careful fingers, forming her letters with almost laborious
precision, like a little child who writes for a special and fond eye:

  “My Beloved: Please forgive me. Please try to forget how cruel I was
  and think kindly of me. I have been so wretched. All through the
  slow days since I went away, I have longed so for you. All the many
  dark nights I have dreamed of you and cried for you. If you could
  only know now while you are suffering so. If you could only know
  how I longed for you all that time, I would not suffer so now. I
  want so much to tell you. I want to tell you that I love you every
  way and all ways. I loved you this way all the time, only I didn’t
  know it, and I wanted to love you the way I know I do now. I must
  have been mad, I think. I was so selfish and so cruel, and I thought
  I was trying to be so good. I could die when I think that it was I
  who brought all this suffering upon you. To think that you might
  have been killed and that I might never have been able to tell you!
  Richard, I have learned what love is. Do other women ever have to
  learn it as hardly, I wonder?

  “Do you know, it was not until to-day that I knew you were here--that
  you were hurt? And yet we came here on the same train together. If
  God had let me know it then, I think I should have died on that long,
  terrible journey. You did not know what you were saying, and I heard
  you call ‘Ardee! Ardee!’ just as you used to at the beach. That cry
  reached out of the dark and took hold of my heart as though it were
  an invisible hand drawing me to you.

  “And I had been running away from you when I came--running away from
  you and myself. I knew you meant to stay at Warne and see me again.
  And I knew if I saw you again, I could not struggle any longer--you
  were so strong. And you were right, too; I know that now, dear.

  “The last time I met you in the field, my heart leaped to tell you
  ‘yes.’ I was so hungry--hungry--hungry for you. And I was afraid of
  my own self. I distrusted my own heart, but it was only because I
  wanted to love you with my soul--with the other side of me--the side
  that I did not know, that I could not feel sure you filled. Oh, you
  must have thought me unnatural, abnormal, hateful. Dear, such doubts
  come to women, and they are terrible things. There is more of the
  elemental in men. The finer--the further passion of love they know,
  when women fail to grasp it. We have to learn it--it is one of the
  lessons which men teach us. When my heart was so full of doubt, I
  made up my mind to crucify my bodily sensibilities. It seemed to me
  that I must let my soul come uppermost.

  “Don’t you remember how I never could bear to look at your collie
  that was sick, and how terribly ill I got when I tried to tie up your
  hand the day you cut it? All through my life, I have never been able
  to look on suffering or pain. I always used to avoid it or shirk it.
  When I got to thinking, at Warne, of my own soul, it seemed to me
  that I had been unwomanly and selfish, cruelly, heartlessly selfish,
  and that I had dwarfed that soul that I must make grow again.

  “So I came down here.

  “All along I have had such a horror of this place. I could not
  overcome it. Every hour was full of misery.

  “To-day I went through the wards and I found you.

  “Dearest, I am so happy and I am so miserable--miserable because
  I have found you suffering. Every moment is a long agony to me.
  And happy because I have found myself. My soul and I are friends
  again. Some wonderful miracle was worked for me to-day, and it is
  so brilliant, so wonderful, that it has left no room in my mind for
  anything else.

  “It was not the old familiar face that I saw against the pillows
  to-night. It was not the old dear voice that called to me. It was not
  the old Daunt. The wavy hair is gone, and there is no color in your
  cheeks. But, dear, when I saw your poor face all drawn and your lips
  all cracked with fever, my heart came up in my throat so that I could
  not breathe. I wanted to kiss your face, your hands. I wanted to kiss
  even the bandages that were around your head. I wanted to put my arms
  around you. I felt strong enough to keep anything from you--even
  death. All in a moment it seemed to me that I was your mother,
  and you were my little child who was sick. And yet so much more
  so--infinitely much more than that. It came to me then like a flash,
  how wrong--wickedly wrong I had been. Everything disappeared but you
  and me. It was not your body that I loved. It was not the body that
  that broken thing had been that I loved, but it was you--_you_, the
  inner something for whose sake I had loved the Richard Daunt that I
  knew.

  “You could not speak to me. You did not know that I was there. You
  could not plead with me, but my own self pleaded. You’ll never have
  to beg me to stay or go with you again. You need me now--only I know
  how much. You cannot even know that I am near you, that I am talking
  to you, that I am telling you all about it. I know that you will
  never see this letter, and yet somehow it eases my heart a little to
  write it. I have read over all the letters that you have sent me,
  and they are such brave, such true letters. I understand them now.
  They have been read and cried over a great many times since you wrote
  them.

  “I am waiting now every day, every hour when I can tell you all this
  with my own lips, and when your dear eyes will open again and smile
  up into mine with the old boyish smile--and when you will put your
  arms around my neck and tell me that you know all about it, and that
  you forgive me.”

Her tears had been dropping fast upon the page, and she stopped from
time to time to wipe them with the draping meshes of her loose,
rust-colored hair. She did not even turn as she heard a hand at the
door.

“Why, Margaret!” said Lois, “it is two o’clock in the morning, and I
have just finished my last round. Come, child, you must go to bed at
once. I see that I have got to be a stern chaperon. What! writing?”

“It is a letter,” said Margaret. “I have just finished it.” She lifted
the tongs and poked the fire-logs until there was a crackling blaze,
then she gathered up the loose ink-stained sheets carefully, and,
leaning forward, laid them in a square white heap upon the red embers.
The flame sprang up and around them, reaching for them voraciously.
And Lois, seeing the action, but making no comment, came and sat down
on the rug beside Margaret, and wistfully and tenderly drew the brown,
bowed head into her sisterly arms.



XVII.


“Lois”--Mrs. Goodno, standing in the doorway, drew her favorite close
beside her--“look at the picture coming down the hall! Isn’t she
beautiful?” There was a spontaneous and genuine admiration in her tone
as she spoke.

A something indefinable, an atmosphere of loveliness, seemed to breathe
from Margaret’s every motion as she came toward them. Her cheeks had
a delicate flush, her glance was bright and roving, and her perfect
lips were tremulous. Her look had a new mystery in it--a brooding
tenderness, like the look of a young mother.

“All through the nurses’ lecture this morning,” said Lois, “I noticed
her. When she smiled it made one want to smile, too!”

As Margaret reached them and greeted Mrs. Goodno, Lois joined her, and
the two girls walked down the hall together to their room.

“Now,” said Lois, as she took a text-book from the drab-backed row on
the low corner shelf, and assumed a judicial demeanor, “I’m morally
certain that you haven’t studied your Weeks-Shaw this morning, and I’m
going to quiz you.”

Margaret broke into a laugh. “Try it,” she said gayly. “You’re going to
ask me to define health, and to show the difference between objective
and subjective symptoms, and tell you what is a mulberry-tongue. Health
is a perfect circulation of pure blood in a sound organism. How is
that?”

“Good!” Lois, sitting down by the window, was laughing, too. “When the
doctor quizzes you, you may not know it so well! Suppose you explain to
me the theory of counter-irritants.”

Margaret swooped down upon her, and kneeling by her chair, put both
hands over the page, looking up into her face. “Don’t!” she said.
“What do I care for it all to-day! Oh, Lois! Lois!” she whispered in
the hushed voice of a child about to tell a dear secret, “I am so
happy! I am so happy that I can’t tell it! To think that I can watch
him and nurse him, and take his temperature! I can help cure him and
see him get better and better every day. When he talks, he pronounces
queerly and his words get all jumbled up, and his sentences have no
ends to them, but I love to hear it--I know what they are trying to
say! He is so weak that I feel as if I were his mother. I know you’ve
told Mrs. Goodno; haven’t you, dear? Somehow I knew it just now when
she smiled at us! I don’t care if you did--not a bit--if she will only
let me stay by him.”

Lois patted the bronzing gloss of the uplifted head. “I did tell her,”
she said. “I thought I ought to--but she understands. Never fear about
that.”

“I wonder what makes me so happy! I love all the world, Lois! Did you
ever feel that way?”

The light wing of a shadow brushed the face above her, and deep in its
eyes darkled a something hidden there that was almost envy.

The voice went running on: “Suppose he should open his eyes suddenly
to-night--conscious! Do you know what I would do? I would slip off this
apron all in a minute, so he should see me and know me first of all. I
have my hair the way he likes it. I wish I could do more for him! Love
is service. I want to tire myself out doing things to help him. Why,
only think! It was my fault he was hurt. I sent him away when it was
breaking my heart to do it.”

“If he should know you to-day, dear,” Lois said, her face flashing into
a smile, “it ought to help him get well. There is joy bubbling out all
over you!”

“I’m so glad he’s not conscious now, for when he isn’t he doesn’t
suffer. Sometimes last night he seemed to, and then I ached all over
to suffer for him. I could laugh out loud through the pain, to think
that I was bearing it for him! Oh, Lois, I haven’t understood. I see
now what you love in this life here. It isn’t only bodies that you are
curing; it’s souls--that you’re making sound houses for.”

Drawing Lois’s arm through hers, Margaret pointed to where the huge
entrance showed, from the deep window. “Do you know, the first day we
came in there together, I was the unhappiest girl in the world. It
seemed as though I was being dragged into some dreadful black cave,
where there was no sun, no flowers, nothing but ghastly sights and
people that were dying! The first day I went with you through the wards
I hated it. I wanted to shut my eyes and run away as far as I could
from it!”

“I know that; I saw it.”

“But now that is all changed. I never shall see a body suffer again
without wanting to put my hands on it and soothe it. Life is so much
sweeter and deeper than I knew! It’s hard to be quiet. I’m walking to
music. I must go around all the time singing. It seems wicked of me
to be so happy when I know that it will be days and days yet before
he can even sit up and let me read to him. But I can’t help it. I was
so wretched all the time before, that the joy now seems to be a part
of me. It seems to be his joy, too. He would be glad if he could know
that, in spite of all I thought and everything I said, I love him now
as he wanted me to, and that nothing ever can come between us again!
Isn’t it time to go in yet? I can hardly wait for the hour!”

Lois looked at her watch. “It’s near enough,” she said. “Come. Dr.
Faulkner is somewhere in the ward now, and I must get instructions.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Daunt lay perfectly quiet, his restless hand still. An orderly was
changing the phials upon the glass-topped table and nodded to them.

Lois darted a quick glance at the face on the pillow, and her own
changed. A stealthy fear crept over her. Margaret’s head was turned
away toward the cot. How should she tell her? How let her know that
subtle change of the last few hours that her own trained eye noted?
How let out for her the strenuous agony that waited in that room? The
pitiful unconsciousness of evil in the graceful posture went through
her with a start of anguish.

The soft footfall of the visiting surgeon drew near, and with swift
prescience she moved close to Margaret. He bent over the figure in
rapid professional inquiry and consulted the chart, nodding his head as
he tabulated his observations in a running, semi-audible comment.

“H--m! well-developed septic fever. Delirium comes on at night, you
say, nurse. Eh? H--m! Pulse very rapid and stringy--hurried and
shallow breathing--eyes dull, with inequality of pupils. H--m! Face
flushed--lips blue--extremities cold. Lips and teeth covered with
sordes--typical case. H--m! Complete lethargy--clammy sweat--face
assuming a hippocratic type. Temperature sub-normal. H--m! Yes. Nurse,
please preserve all notes of this case. It’s interesting. Very. Like to
see it in the ‘Record.’”

“What are the probabilities, doctor?” It was the sentence. Lois’s lips
were trembling, and she put a hand on Margaret’s arm.

“Probabilities? H--m! Give him about twelve hours and that’s generous.
Never any hope in a case of this kind. Why, the man’s dying now. Look
at his face.”

A piteous, chalky whiteness swept like a wave over Margaret’s cheeks,
but she had made no sound. When the doctor was quite gone, she swerved
a little on her feet, as though her limbs had weakened, and her lips
opened and shut voicelessly, as if whispering to herself. Lois dreaded
a cry, but there was none; she only shut her eyes, and covered her poor
face, gone suddenly pinched and pallid, with her two hands.

“Wait, Margaret.” Lois held out a hand whose professional coolness was
touched with an unwonted tremor. “Wait a moment, dear.” She ran to the
hall to see that no one was in sight. Then running back and putting her
arm around Margaret’s shoulders, she led her, blind and unresisting, to
the stair.



XVIII.


The house surgeon stretched his long legs lazily in a corner of the
office and looked at the hospital superintendent through the purplish
haze from his cigar. “I wonder, Goodno,” he said, “that you have time
to get interested in any one case among so many. I’d like to see the
one you speak of pull through; it’s a rather unusual case, and a
trephine always absorbs me.”

Dr. Goodno lighted a companion cigar. “My interest in him isn’t wholly
professional,” he answered slowly. “It’s personal. In the first place,
he isn’t an Italian stevedore or a Pole peddler from Baxter street. He
is a man of a great deal of promise. He has published a book or two, I
believe. And in the second place, my wife is very much concerned.”

“Always seems to be the trouble, doesn’t it? Enter a romance!” Dr.
Irwin waved his hand widely.

“Yes, it’s a romance. To tell the truth, Irwin, Mrs. Goodno knows of
the young woman, and I can’t tell you how anxious she is about him.
There’s nothing sadder to me than a case like that.”

“Ah!” the other said, “that’s because you’re a married man. The rest of
us haven’t time to grow sympathetic. I should say that the particular
young woman would be a great deal better off, judging from present
indications, if he _did_ die.”

“Why?”

“Because, if he should recover from this septic condition, he’s more
than likely to be a stick for the rest of his life. It’s even chances
he never puts foot to the ground again. Such men are better dead, and
if you gave them their choice, most of them would prefer it.”

“I didn’t know it was as bad as that. Dr. Faulkner’s earlier prognosis
was more favorable.”

“Yes, but I don’t like his temperature of the last two days. He’s got
septic symptoms, and you know how quickly such a course ends. Well,
we’ll soon know, though that’s more consolation to us than it might
be to him, I suppose.” He drummed with his fingers on the arm of the
chair. “As for the girl,” he continued. “Love? Pshaw! She’ll get over
it. What sensible woman, when she’s got beyond the mooning age and the
foreign missionary age, wants a cripple for a husband? If this patient
should live in that way, this girl you speak of would probably get the
silly notion that she wanted to marry him--trust a woman, especially a
young woman, for that! If she’s beautiful or wealthy, or particularly
talented, it’s all the more likely she would insist on tying herself
up to him and nurse him and feed him gruel till her hair was gray. And
what would she get out of it?”

“There might be worse lives than that.” Dr. Goodno spoke reflectively.

“For her, I presume you mean?”

“Yes. Woman’s love is less of a physical affinity and more a
consciousness of spiritual attraction than man’s.”

“Teach your women that. It’s not without its merits as a working
doctrine. The time a woman isn’t thinking about servants or babies she
generally spends thinking about her soul. The word soul to her is as
fascinating as a canary to an Angora cat. She takes so much stock in
heaven only because she’s been told it isn’t material. Your material
philosophies were all invented and patented by men; it’s the women who
keep your spiritual religions running.”

“How would _you_ have it?”

“Oh, it’s all right as far as heaven goes! Let them believe anything
they want to. But when you bring the all-soul idea down into every-day
life, it’s mawkish. When you go about preaching that love is a
spiritual ‘affinity,’ for instance.”

“Well?”

“You may believe it, understand. But you gloss over the other side.
The general opinion is that ‘bodily’ isn’t a nice word to use when we
discuss love. You and I, as physicians, see every day the results of
this dislike to recognize the material side in what has been called the
‘young person.’ Women are taught from childhood to regard the immensely
human and emotional sensibilities as linked to sin. The sex-stirring
in them, they are led to imagine evil and a wrong to possess. They are
taught instinctively to condemn rather than to respect the growth and
indications of their own natures. The profound attraction of one sex
to the other which marks the purest and most ennobling passion--the
trembling delight in the merest touch or caress--the bodily thrill at
the passing presence or footfall of the one beloved--these they come to
believe a shame to feel and a death to confess. It is the teaching that
makes for the morbid. A great deal of mental suffering which leaves its
mark upon the growing woman might be avoided if men and women were more
honest with themselves. A soulless woman is just as much use in the
world as a bodiless one--or a man either, for that matter.”

Dr. Goodno regarded him musingly. “Granted there is a good deal of
truth in what you say,” he said. “When I spoke of woman’s love as more
of a spiritual and less of a material affinity than man’s, I meant
that it does not require so much from the senses to feed upon. Sex has
a psychology, and it is a fact which has been universally noted that
all that concerns the mental aspect of sex is exhibited in greater
proportionate force by women. Does not this seem to imply that love to
a woman is more of a mental element and less of a physical?”

“Nonsense! More of a mental, but only so because more of a physical,
too. All love’s mental delights come originally from the physical
side. How many women do you see falling in love with twisted faces and
crooked joints? A hand stands for a hand-clasp; a face for a kiss! Love
becomes a ‘spiritual’ passion only after it has blossomed on physical
expression. Not before.”

The other shook his head doubtfully.

“If your view were the correct one,” pursued Irwin, “women, in all
their habitual acts of fascination (which are Nature’s precursors of
love) would strive more to touch the mental, the spiritual side of
men. But they don’t. They apply their own self-learned reasoning to
the opposite sex. They decorate themselves for man with the feathers
of male birds (you’ll find that in your Darwin), which Nature gave the
male birds to charm the females. They strike at his senses, and they
hit his mental side, when he has any, through them.”

“You’re a sad misogynist, Irwin!” Dr. Goodno was smiling, but there was
a sub-note of earnestness beneath the lightness of his tone. “And you
forget that women have an imaginative and ideal side which is superior
to man’s. They can create the mental, possibly, where men are most
dependent upon sense-impression. Love involves more of the soul in
woman, Irwin.”

The house surgeon unwound his legs. “Or less,” he said tersely.
“Havelock Ellis says a good thing. He says that while a man may be
said to live on a plane, a woman is more apt to live on the upward
or downward slope of a curve. She is always going up or coming down.
That’s why a woman, when an artificial civilization hasn’t stepped in
to forbid it, is forever talking about her health. And, spiritually, as
well as physically, she is just as apt to be coming down as going up.
Her proportion is wrong. Your bad woman disrespects her soul; your good
woman disrespects her body. The wholesome woman disrespects neither and
respects both. But very few young women are wholesome nowadays. Their
training has been against it! The best way for a woman to treat her
soul is to realize that her soul and body belong together, and have to
live together the rest of her natural life. She needn’t forget this
just because she happens to fall in love! No woman can marry a man
whom accident has robbed of his physical side and not wrong herself.
She shuts off the avenues of her senses. There is no thrill of ear or
hand--no comeliness for her eye to dwell upon, and her spiritual love,
so beautiful to begin with, starves itself slowly to death!”

“Very good on general principles,” said Dr. Goodno. “That’s the
trouble. It’s easy enough to sermonize in the pulpit, or the clinic
either, but when we come to concrete examples, it’s difficult. The
particular instance is troublesome. Now, in the case of this man in the
surgical ward, if he recovered at all, but remained a hopeless cripple,
you would pack him off into a rayless solitude for the rest of his
life, and tell the girl who loves him to go and love somebody else. You
wouldn’t leave it to her--even if he was willing.”

“Wouldn’t _you_?”

“No! I would be afraid to arrogate to myself the judgment upon two
human souls. There are times when what we call consistency vanishes and
something greater and more noble stands up to make it ashamed. I’ll
tell you now, Irwin, if the one woman in the world to me--the woman I
loved--if my wife--had been brought where the case we’ve been speaking
of promises to be--if there were nothing but her eyes left and the
something that is back of them--I tell you, I’d have married her! Yes,
and I’d have thanked God for it!”

His companion tossed the dead butt of his cigar into the grate and rose
to go to the ward. “Goodno,” he said, and his voice was unsteady, “I
believe it! You would; and I wish to the Lord I knew what that meant!”

       *       *       *       *       *

The superintendent sat long thinking. He was still pondering when his
wife entered the room. “I’ve just been talking with Irwin,” he said,
“about the last trephine case--the one you spoke to me of. He doesn’t
seem too hopeful, I’m sorry to say.”

She did not answer.

“By the way,” he continued, “I saw your new nurse protégée to-day.
Langdon, I believe her name is. She is a lovely girl; I think I never
saw a brighter, sweeter face in my life.”

Mrs. Goodno had gone to the window and stood looking out. “Doctor,” she
said, “I’ve bad news. Dr. Faulkner has just seen Mr. Daunt, and--he is
dying.”

Something in her voice caught him. He rose and came beside her, and saw
that her eyes were full of tears. He drew her head to his shoulder and
smoothed her hair gently. He could feel her hands quiver against his
arm. His thoughts fled far away--somewhere--where the one for whose
sorrow she cried must be uncomforted. “Poor girl! Poor girl!” he said.



XIX.


As they entered the room, Lois turned the key in its lock and bent a
long, penetrating gaze on Margaret.

She lay huddled against the welter of bedclothes, silent, inert,
pearl-pale spots on her cheeks like gray-white smothers of foam over
fretting rocks. Her eyes were closed and her breath came chokingly,
like a child’s after a draught of strong medicine. Suddenly, as Lois
stood pondering, she kneeled upright on the bed, holding her arms out
before her.

“Oh, God!” she cried, “don’t let him die! Please don’t! He can’t--he
can’t die! Why, he’s Richard--Richard Daunt. It’s only an accident. He
can’t die that way. God--God!”

“Hush, dear! Oh, dear! What can I say?” cried Lois.

Margaret slipped to the floor, dragging the covers with her, and
burying her face in the fleecy cuddle. There she writhed like some
trodden thing.

“Oh, dear God!” she sobbed, “just when I knew. He can’t die now! It’s
just to punish me; I’ve been wicked, but I didn’t mean to be. I only
wanted his good! If he had only died before I knew it! Only let him
live till I can tell him, God. I’m not a wicked woman--you know how I
tried. A wicked woman wouldn’t have tried. Oh, God, he doesn’t even
know! I can’t tell him. I’ve suffered already. If he died, I couldn’t
feel worse than I have all this time. Let me think he’s going to die,
but don’t let him. _Don’t let him!_ I want him so! It isn’t for that
that I want him! I know now. I thought it was the other. But I wasn’t
so wicked as that. I’ve been selfish. I’ve been thinking I was good
to keep him away, but I wasn’t. I was cruel. He loved me the right
way. Oh, if I could only forget how he talked!--and he didn’t know
what he was saying. I’ve hated myself ever since. If he dies, I shall
hate myself forever! I don’t deserve that! I’m not so bad as that! I
_couldn’t_ be. I’m willing to be punished in other ways--in any other
way--but not this, God! I can’t stand it!

“I don’t ask for him as he was! I don’t care how he looks! Give him
to me just as he is. Give him to me crippled and helpless, and let me
care for him all my life. Oh, God, it isn’t so much that I ask! It’s
such a little thing for you to grant! Why, every day you let some one
get well, some one who isn’t half as much to anybody as he is to me. If
I were asking something I oughtn’t to--something sinful, it would be
different! But it can’t be bad to want him to get well! I’ll be better
all my life to have him. It isn’t much--I’ll never ask you anything
else as long as I live! Only let him live--don’t take him away! I don’t
care if he can never walk again, if he can only know me, and love me
still! God, his life is so precious to me; it’s worth more than all the
world. If he died, I would want to die, too. God! Hasn’t he suffered
enough? How can you watch him--how can you see what he is suffering
now and not let him live? You can if you want to! There are so many
millions and millions of people, and this is just one of them. Oh, for
Christ’s sake--for Christ’s sake!”

“Oh, Margaret! Margaret!” wailed Lois, falling beside her, as though
physical contact could soothe her. “Don’t go on like that! Don’t! Oh,
it’s too cruel! You break my heart! Darling, darling! He isn’t dead
yet. Maybe--maybe----” She stopped then, choking, but pressing her
hands hard on Margaret’s cheeks, on her hair, on her breast, her limbs,
as though to press back the nerves that she felt throbbed to bursting.

Margaret struggled to her feet, swaying with the paroxysm just passed.
Her eyes were unwet and bright, and her teeth were clenched tightly on
her under lip.

“No, he isn’t dead,” she said slowly, as though to force conviction
on herself. “He isn’t--dead. Doctors are mistaken sometimes, aren’t
they?” she asked dully. “Yes, I know! They are! Dr. Irwin told me so
himself. ‘The prognostications of surgery can in no case be considered
infallible.’ That’s what he said in the lecture yesterday. I wrote it
down in my note-book. That means that he may not die. Oh! I’ve got to
believe that. _I’ve got to!_ Can’t you see that I’ve got to? You don’t
believe he will live! I see it in your face. When the doctor said that
just now, you looked just as he did. He might have stabbed me just as
well. Why! I’d rather die myself a million times--but it wouldn’t do
any good! It wouldn’t do any good!”

Margaret moved to the fire and spread out her hands before the
blaze, as though her mind unconsciously sought relief from strain
in an habitual action. But her chattering teeth showed that she was
unconscious of its warmth.

She looked up at the countenance of La Belle Jardinière above the
fireplace. The mild gaze which had once held reproach now seemed to
bend down full of pitiful tenderness. Her bright, miserable eyes rested
on the placid figure.

“You don’t know,” she said slowly, “what I am praying for. If it were
a little child--_my_ little child--that I were asking for, you would
understand. You can only pity me, but you can never, never know!”

She turned and walked up and down the floor, her steps uneven with
anguish, her fingers laced and unlaced in tearless convulsion, and her
throat contracting with soundless sobs.

Lois watched her, her mind saying over and over to itself: “If she
would only cry! If she would only cry!” There was something more
terrible than tears in this inarticulate anguish. At last she went and
stood in Margaret’s way, clinging entreatingly to her. “Do let me help
you, dear! Lie down and let me cover you up and make you some tea! Do
please, dear!” She stopped, struck by the ashy pallor of her face.

“No, no, Lois. I can’t stay here! Think! He may be dying _now_! I
_must_ go to him! Oh, you have got to let me--they can’t forbid me
that. I was going to stay with him to-night, anyway. You know I was!
I can’t let him die! He _shan’t_! I’ll fight it off with him. I don’t
care what Dr. Faulkner says; I don’t care what you think! You mustn’t
say no, Lois! Oh, Lois, darling! I’ll die now, right here, if you
don’t.” She dropped on her knees at Lois’s feet, catching her hand and
kissing it in grovelling entreaty.

“You know I’ll have to let you, if you ask like that!” cried Lois. “I’m
only thinking of you--and of him,” she added. “You know if you should
break down----”

“But I won’t--I won’t!” A gulping hiccough strained her, and Lois
poured out a glass of water for her hastily, and stood over her while
she swallowed it in choking mouthfuls.



XX.


In the dimmed light Margaret bent above Daunt’s bed to wipe away the
creeping, beady sweat that lay on the forehead, and laid her fingers on
his wrist. Then she came close to Lois. She had bitten her lip raw and
her neck throbbed out and in above her close collar.

“It’s fluttering,” she whispered piteously, “and he’s so cold! See how
pinched and blue his nose is. Oh, God--Lois!”

The rustle and stir of the early waking city soaked in fine-filtered
sounds through the window. Of what use were its multitudinous
strivings, its tangled hopes, its varied suffering? The unending quiet
of softened noises beyond the spotless, ruffled screens hurt her. She
could have screamed, inarticulately, frantically, to scare away that
dreadful, stolid, lethargic thing that sprawled in the air. Her nails
left little, curved, purpled dents in her palms that smarted when she
unclenched her fingers. It would be easier to bear it if he cried
out--if he babbled unmeaningness, or hurled reproaches. Only--that
still prostration, that anxious expression about the lines of the
forehead, that silence, growing into---- No, no! Not that! Not--death!

Lois sat aching fiercely at the smouldering longing in the shadowy
depths of the other’s spaniel-like eyes. The tawny-brown surge of her
hair, swept back from her forehead, stood out against the white of the
blank wall, cameo-like. She suddenly crouched by Lois’s chair, grasping
at her. “Lois, Lois!” she said, low and with fearful intensity; “it’s
come! Help me to fight it! Help me!”

“What has come? What?”

“Fear! It’s looking at me everywhere. It’s looking between the
screens! I must keep it away. If I give up to it, he’ll die! Press my
hands--that’s good. Look at him! Didn’t he move then? Wasn’t his face
turned more? I’m--cold, Lois.”

An icy frost had silvered her soul. Gaunt arms seemed to stretch from
the dimness toward the bed. Then, with an effort which left her weak,
she thrust back her imaginings, rose, and sat down by the pillow.
Her eyes glanced fearfully from side to side, then above, as though
questioning from what direction would come this relentless foe.

Through her dazed brain rushed, clamorous, reiterating, a prayer-blent,
defiant appeal. She saw God sitting on a draped throne, but His
face was merciless. He would not help her! Of what virtue was this
all-filling love of hers if it could not save one little human life? He
was dying--dying--dying! And he _must not_ die! She remembered a night,
far back in her misty childhood, when she had crept through evening
shadows to see a soul take flight. The Death Angel then was a kindly
friend sent to set free a shining twin; now it was a ghastly monster,
lying in wait and chuckling in the silences.

She pressed Daunt’s nerveless hand between her warm palms and strove
to put the whole force of her being into a great passionate desire--a
desire to send along this human conductivity the extra current of
vitality which she felt throbbing and pressing in her every vein. It
seemed as though she must give--give of her own bounding life, to eke
out the fading powers of that dying frame. Again and again she breathed
out her longing, until the very intensity of her will made her feel
dizzy and weak. She would have opened her veins for him. Like the Roman
daughter, she would have given her breast to his lips and the warmth
from her limbs to aid him.

Once she started. “You shall! You shall!” seemed to patter in flying
echoes all about her. It was Daunt’s cry by the fields at Warne, that
had gone leaping from his lips to her heart like a vibrant, inspiring
fire. Did that virile will still lie living, overlapped with the wing
of disease, sending its stubborn strength out now to bolster her own?
She glanced at the waxy face, half expecting to see the bloodless lips
falling back from the words.

Daunt lay motionless. The ice-pack had been removed from his head, and
the shaven temple showed paste-like beneath the bandage-edge. From time
to time Lois poured between his lips a teaspoonful of diluted brandy,
and, at such times, Margaret would put her strong arms under his head
and raise it from the pillow, outwardly calm, but inwardly shuddering
with wrenching jerks of pain.

       *       *       *       *       *

So the slow, weary night dragged away. The house surgeon looked in
once, bent over the patient a moment, and, without examination, went
away.

The morning broke, and through the walls the dim, murmurous hum of
street traffic penetrated in a muffled whisper. Then the gray of the
late dawn crept about the room, noiseless-footed, like one walking
over graves. Suddenly Lois, who had been sitting with closed eyes, felt
a touch on her shoulder. It was Margaret, and she pointed silently to
Daunt. Lois started forward with a shrinking fear that the end had come
unperceived, but a glance reassured her. The rigid outlines of his
features seemed to have relaxed; an indefinable something, a warmth, a
tinge, a flexibility seemed to have fallen upon the drawn cheeks. It
was something scarce tangible enough to be noted; something evasive,
and yet, to Lois’s trained senses, unmistakable. It was a light
loosening of the grip of Death, a tentative withdrawing of the forces
of the destroyer.

Lois turned with a quick and silent gesture, and the two girls looked
at each other steadfastly. Into Margaret’s eyes sprang a trembling,
eager light of joy.

“We mustn’t hope too much, dear,” Lois whispered, “but I think--I
think that there is a little change. Wait until I call Dr. Irwin.”

The house surgeon bent over the cot with his finger upon Daunt’s pulse.
“This is another one on Faulkner,” he said. “It beats all how things
will go. Said he’d give him twelve hours, did he? Well, this patient
has his own ideas about that. He evidently has marvellous recuperative
powers or else the age of miracles isn’t past. Better watch this case
very carefully and report to me every hour or so. You can count,” he
smiled at Lois, “on being mighty unpopular with Faulkner. He doesn’t
like to have his opinions reversed this way, and he is pretty sure to
lay it on the nurse.”

As the doctor disappeared, all the strength which Margaret had summoned
to her aid seemed to vanish in one great wave of weakening which
overspread her spirit. Everything swam before her eyes. She sank upon
the chair and laid her arms outstretched upon the table. Then she
slowly dropped her head upon them.



XXI.


It was late afternoon. The fiery sun had just dipped below the jagged
Adirondack hill-peaks to the south, still casting a carmine glow
between the scattered and low-boughed pines. The square window of the
high-ceiled sanitarium room was specked with pale-appearing stars, and
the snow-draped slopes beneath showed dim in the elusive beauty that
lurks in soft color and low tones. Daunt lay silent, facing the window,
and Margaret, tired from romping with the doctor’s children, rested on
a low hassock beside his reclining chair. Slowly the carmine faded from
the snow, and the hastening winter-dark trailed its violescent gossamer
up and down the rock-clefts and across the purpling hollows.

He turned his eyes, all at once feeling her lifted gaze. He reached out
his right hand and touched the lace edge of her white nurse’s cap, with
a faint smile. Something in the smile and the gesture caught at her
heart. She leaned suddenly toward him, and taking his hand in both her
own, laid her face upon it.

He drew his hand away, breathing sharply.

“Dear!” she said. “Do you remember that afternoon on the sands? You
kissed me then! I am the same Margaret now--not changed at all.”

A shudder passed over him, but he did not reply.

Then she knelt beside him, quite close, laying her cheek by his face
on the pillow and drawing his one live hand up to her lips. “You are
everything to me,” she whispered--“everything, everything! That day
on the beach I was happy; but not more happy, dear, than I am now. You
were everything else in the world to me then, but now you are _me_,
myself! Don’t turn away; look at me!” Reaching over, she drew his
nerveless left arm across her neck.

He turned his face to her with an effort, his lips struggling to speak.

“Kiss me!” she commanded.

He tried to push her back. “No! No!” he cried vehemently, drawing away.
“That’s past.”

“Not even that! Just think how long I’ve waited!” She was smiling.
“Richard,” she said, “do you know what it means for a woman to kneel
to a man like this? I haven’t a bit of pride about it. Only think how
ashamed I will be if you refuse to take me! What does a woman do when a
man refuses her?”

A white pain had settled upon Daunt’s face. “Margaret,” he faltered,
“don’t; I can’t stand it! You don’t know what you say.”

She kissed his hand again. “Yes, I do! I am saying just as plainly as I
can that I love you; that I belong to you, and that I ask for nothing
else but to belong to you as long as I live.”

His hand made a motion of protest.

“I want you just as much as I did the day you first kissed me. I want
the right to stay with you always and care for you.”

He winced visibly. “‘Care for me!’” he repeated. “It would be _all_
care. I have nothing to bring you now but sorrow and regret. I’m not
the Daunt who offered himself to you at Warne. I’m only a fragment. I
had health and hopes then. I had beautiful dreams, Margaret--dreams of
work and a home and you. I shan’t ever forget those dreams, but they
can never come true!”

She smoothed his hand caressingly. “I have had dreams, too,” she
answered. “This is the one that comes oftenest of all. It is about you
and me.” She turned her head, with a spot of color in either cheek.
“Sometimes it is in the day. You are lying, writing away at a new book
of yours, and I am filling your pipe for you, while the tea is getting
hot. I see you smile up to me and say, ‘Clever girl! how did you know I
wanted a smoke?’ Then you read your last chapter to me, and I tell you
how I wouldn’t have said it the way the woman in the story does, and
you pretend you are going to change it, and don’t.

“Sometimes it is in the evening, and we are looking out at the sunset
just as we have been doing to-night.”

He would have spoken, but she covered his mouth with her hand. His
moist breath wrapped her palm.

“And then it is dark and there is a big red lamp on the table--the one
I had in my old room--and I am reading the latest novel to you, and
when we have got to the end, you are telling me how you would have done
it.”

While she had been speaking, glowing and dark-eyed, a mystical peace--a
divine forgetfulness had touched him. He lifted his hand to his
forehead, feeling her soft fingers. The pictures she painted were so
sweet!

Presently he threw his arm down with a swallowed sob. The dream-scene
faded, and he lay once more helpless and despairing, weighted with the
heaviness of useless limbs, a numb burden for whom there could be no
love, no joy, nothing but the inevitable rebuke of enduring pain. He
smoothed the wide dun-gold waves of her hair gently.

“You are not for such a sacrifice, Margaret,” he said sadly. “I am not
such a coward. You are a woman--a perfect, beautiful woman--the kind
that God made all happiness for.”

“But I couldn’t be happy without you!” she cried.

“Nor with me,” he answered. “No, I’ve got to face it! All the long
years I should watch that womanhood of yours growing dimmer and less
full, your outlook narrowing, your life’s sympathies shrinking. I
shall be shut up to myself and grow away from the world, but you shall
not grow away from it with me! It would be a crime! I should come to
hate myself. I want you to live your life out worthily. I would rather
remember you as you are now, and as loving me once for what I was!”

Margaret’s eyes were closed. She was thinking of Melwin and Lydia.

“Woman needs more to fill her life than the love of a man’s mind. She
wants more, dear. She wants the love of the heart-beat. She wants
home--the home I wanted to make for you--the kind I used to dream
of--the----” His voice broke here and failed.

The door pushed open without a knock. A tiny night-gowned figure stood
swaying on the sill, outlined sharply against the glare of lamp-light.

“Vere’s ’iss Mar’det?” he said in high baby key. “I yants her to tiss
me dood-night!”

Margaret’s hand still lay against Daunt’s cheek, and as she drew it
away, she felt a great hot tear suddenly wet her fingers.



XXII.


Snow had fallen in the night--a wet snow, mingled with sleet and
fleering rain. It had spread a flashing, silver sheen over the vast
wastes, and the sun glinted and laughed from a web of woven jewels.
It gleamed from every needle of the stalwart evergreens, which stood
around in dazzling ice-armor, keeping guard above the virgin snow
asleep, with its white curves dimpling beside the rough, bearish
mountains. Overhead the sky bent in tranquil baby-blue.

The beauty of the frozen morning hung cheerily about the row of
pillowed chairs wheeled before the glass sides of the long sun-parlor.
To some who gazed from these chairs it was a glimpse of the world into
which they would soon return; to others it was but the symbol of
another weary winter of lengthening waiting. But to each it brought a
comfort and a hope.

The same fair whiteness of the outdoors shone mockingly through
Daunt’s window. Its very loveliness seemed cruel, with that insidious
raillery with which Nature, be she gloomy or bright, fits our darker
moods. Through the night, while Margaret’s phantom touch lay upon his
forehead, and the ghosts of her kisses crept across his hand, he had
fought with his longing, and he had won. But it was a triumphless
victory. The pulpy ashes of his own denial were in his mouth. He had
asked so little--only to see her, to hear her step, and the lisping
movement of her dress, and the cadence of her voice--only to feel the
touch of her fingers and the drench of her warm, young life! She loved
him; his love, he told himself, incomplete as it was, would take the
place of all for her. And in his heart he told himself that he lied!

But the rayless darkness of that inner room cast no shadow in the cozy
sun-parlor. There, the doctor, with youthful step that belied his
graying hair, strode about among the patients, chatting lightly, and
full of good-natured badinage. Then, leaving them smiling, he went back
to his private office. As he entered, Margaret rose from the chair
where she waited, and came hurriedly toward him. She was pale, and her
slender hands were clasping nervously about her wrists.

“Doctor,” she began, and stopped an instant. Then stumblingly, “I have
just got your note. I came to ask you--I want to beg you to--not to
make me go back! I--want to stay so much! I know so well how to wait on
him. You know I wasn’t a regular nurse at the hospital. It was only a
trial. Dr. Goodno doesn’t expect me back.”

He drew out a chair for her and made her sit down, wiping his glasses
laboriously. “My dear child--Miss Langdon--” he said, “I know how you
feel. My good friend Mrs. Goodno wrote me of you when Mr. Daunt came
to us. She is a splendid, noble-hearted woman, and she wrote of you as
though you were her own daughter. You see,” he continued, “when you
first came, it was suspected that Mr. Daunt’s peculiar paralysis might
be of a hysteric type, and might yield naturally, under treatment, with
a bettering physical condition, or, possibly, under the impulse of some
extra nervous stimulus. Such cases are not unmet with.”

“Yes, yes,” she said anxiously.

He polished his glasses again. “I am sorry to say,” he went on, “that
we have long ago abandoned this hope, as you know. Such being the case,
it seems, under the peculiar circumstances, advisable--that is, it
would be better not to----” He stopped, feeling that he was floundering
in deeper water than he thought.

“Oh, if you only knew!” Margaret’s voice was shaking. “I came here
because I love him, doctor, and because he loved me! Surely I can at
least stay by him. I am experienced enough to nurse him. It’s the only
thing left now for me to be happy in. He wants me! He’s more cheerful
when I am with him. I know he doesn’t really need a special nurse,
but--I don’t have to earn the money for it. I do it because I like it.”

“My dear young lady,” the doctor said, wheeling, with suspicious
abruptness, in his chair, “be sure that it is only your own best good
that is considered. There are cruel facts in life that we have to face.
This seems very hard for you now, I know. It _is_ hard! He is a brave
man, and believe me, my child, he knows best.”

Margaret half rose from her seat. “‘He’?--_he_ knows best--Richard?
Does _he_ say--did Mr. Daunt----”

He took her hand as a father might. “It was not easy for him,” he said
simply.

She bowed her head in piteous acquiescence, and held his fingers a
moment, her lips striving courageously for a smile, and then went
silently out.

As she passed Daunt’s closed door on the way to her room, she stretched
out her arms and touched its dark panels softly, fearfully, and then
leaned forward, and once laid her lips against the hard grained wood.

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour later, from where he lay, Daunt could see the bulbous, ulstered
figure of the colored driver as he waited by the porch to take his
single passenger to the distant Lake station. He could see the rake of
the horses’ ears as the man swung his arms, pounding his sides to keep
the blood circulating. His steamy breath made a curdling smoke-cloud
about his peaked cap.

Daunt’s blood forged painfully as the square ormolu clock on the mantel
pointed near to the hour. There were lines of sleeplessness beneath his
eyes; his face was instinct with suffering. Through his open door came
the mingled tones of conversation in the rooms beyond.

He was sitting up, his vigorous hair, grown over-long during his
illness, blending its hue with that of the dark chair-cushion. The
white collar that he wore seemed to have lent its pallor to his cheeks.

He felt himself to have aged during the night. Through the long weeks
since his accident, he had hoped against hope. The doctors had talked
speciously of change of scene and bracing mountain air. He had been
glad enough to leave the foreboding atmosphere of the hospital for
this more cheery hill-top harbor. He had never known nor asked by what
arrangement Margaret was now with him; it had seemed only natural
that it should be so. His patches of delirium memories were every one
brightened by her face and touch, and this state had merged itself
gradually into the waking consciousness when she was always by. Without
questioning, he had come to realize that whatever might have risen
between them in the past was forever gone, and rested content in her
near presence and the promise of the future.

But as the weeks dragged themselves by he had come to know, with a
kind slowness of realization, that this hope must die. In their late
talks, both of them had tacitly recognized this. In the night of his
growing despair, she had been his one star. Now he must shut out that
ray with his own hands and turn his face to the intolerable dark.

When her head had been next his on the pillow, with his nostrils full
of the clean, grassy fragrance of her hair--when her hand had closed
his lips and her voice had plead with him, he had seen, as through
a lightning-rift, the enormity of the selfishness with which he had
let his soul be tempted. From that moment there was for him but one
way--_this_ way. And he had accepted it unflinchingly, heroically.

       *       *       *       *       *

The spring of the wide stairway broke and turned half way up, and from
where he sat his eye sighted the landing and that slim figure coming
slowly down. It was the old Margaret in street dress. Above the fur
of her close, fawn cloth coat, her hopeless eyes looked over the
balustrade along which her slight, gloved hand slid weakly, as though
seeking support for her limbs.

She crossed the threshold and came toward him, with her eyes half
closed, as though in a maze of grief. The hollows beneath them looked
bruised, and her features pinched like a child’s with the cold.
Gropingly and blindly, one hand reached out to him, the other she
pressed close to her throat. She was bathed in a wave of violent
trembling.

Every stretching fibre in Daunt’s being responded. He could feel the
shuddering palpitation through her suède glove. His self-restraint
hung about him like heavy chains, which the quiver of an eyelash, the
impulse of a sigh, would start into clamorous vibration.

He looked up and their eyes met once. Her gaze clung to him. His lips
formed, rather than spoke, the word “Good-by.” Then he put her hand
aside and turned his head from her, not to see her go.

His strained ear heard her uncertain footfalls, and the agony of his
mind counted them! Now she was by the table. Now her hand was on the
knob. Now---- He sprang around, facing her at the sound of a stumble
and a dulled blow; she had pitched forward against the opened door,
swaying--about to fall.

As her knees touched the floor, a scream burst shrill in the silence of
the room--a scream that pierced the drowsy quiet of the sun-parlor and
brought the doctor running through the hall.

“Margaret!”

Its intensity dragged her from the swoon. She turned her head. Daunt
was standing in the middle of the floor, his eyes shining with
fluctuant fire, his arms--_both_ arms--stretched out toward her.

“Margaret!” he screamed. “Margaret! I can walk!”

[Illustration]



TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES:


Italicized text is surrounded by underscores: _italics_.

Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

Inconsistencies in hyphenation have been standardized.

Archaic or alternate spelling has been retained from the original.





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About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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