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ham, vigilant and expectant, produced hot-water bottles and tea.
Moment by moment the gray pallor something wrong with her shoulder?" of Kitty's face lightened.
Mr. Costrelle continued to regard Anthony with defensive passivity.
"It 's been such a jolly day, Tony," she whispered. "I had n't any idea Kew would be such fun. Go and see papa now; don't forget to tell him about the lunch."
"Certainly I do," he agreed. "Most doctors think there is something wrong with somebody-a most disconcerting profession."
Mr. Costrelle was always to be seen between four and eight o'clock at his club. He
Bridge was his inflexible habit. found the element of chance, he explained, purer in cards than in women, and nothing ever held Mr. Costrelle permanently except the element of chance. He told Anthony immediately that he could spare him only ten minutes.
"Well," said Anthony, impatiently, "in this case I happened to be right; there was a growth below the shoulder which threw it a little out of place. It has increased rapidly. I saw Hilton Laurence with her this morning; we both think we ought to operate immediately.
"However," he added reassuringly, "most things can be said in ten minutes. Will you have a whisky and soda?"
Anthony not only consented, but poured himself out a very stiff glass.
"Rattled!" thought Mr. Costrelle. "Kitty! What a mistake it is not to diffuse one's sentiments!"
"I don't know if you have any idea," Anthony began after a short pause, "that I care for Kitty."
"You spent the larger part of six weeks in my daughter's company last year," said Mr. Costrelle. "I never ask questions, but salient facts rarely escape me."
"I want to marry her," Anthony said, leaning forward, "immediately, within three days."
you remember," Anthony began again, "that I thought last summer there was
Mr. Costrelle's long, white face lifted for a moment; his blue eyes passed rapidly over Anthony, and then returned to his glass.
"Thursday," he said, "I think that brings us to Thursday. People with superstitions, I believe, avoid Friday. I always respect superstitions; there seems as much reason to believe in them as to believe in anything else. I am glad you have avoided Friday." "Unfortunately," pursued Anthony, "this is not all I have to tell you." He hesitated for a moment. Mr. Costrelle screwed his eye-glass into his eye and waited patiently. He disliked sentences beginning with "unfortunately," especially if they referred to Kitty. "Do
Mr. Costrelle drew out a slim cigarcase, took out a cigar, lit in, and leaned back in his chair.
"What is the nature of the growth," he asked when he completed this arrangement, "and what will be the effect of the operation if it is successful?"
"We are not absolutely certain of its nature," replied Anthony, "but all the symptoms point to its being malignant. It is probably a fibroid cancer. The operation will prolong her life. She could not live six weeks if we left her as she is, and the pain-"
stopped abruptly. The memory of Kitty lying motionless in his arms choked him. He could not speak to Mr. Costrelle of Kitty's pain. Mr. Costrelle finished his sentence for him.
"Naturally," he observed, "the pain will be considerable in either case. Well, it's a very disagreeable subject, and as I suppose you know all there is to be known about it, I leave it entirely in your hands.”
Anthony drew a deep breath. He had not known what to expect from Mr. Costrelle, but this entire detachment left him with a sense of its not having been necessary to expect anything. He realized what Kitty had always had to face, a responsibility from which in every emergency Mr. Costrelle invariably withdrew.
Mr. Costrelle wished to be quite friendly and nice about it, and as he met Anthony's astonished eyes, it occurred to him that possibly he had not entirely fulfilled his future son-in-law's expectations,
"I'm quite pleased about the marriage," he added cordially. "The point of it, under the circumstances, entirely evades me, but I am sure it's an admirable thing for Kitty. Marriage always suits women. Did she send me any message?"
It hardly seemed a convenient moment to suggest a luncheon party, but Anthony, remembering that it was Kitty's wish, made the suggestion a little tentatively. Mr. Costrelle's consent was as spontaneous as if the idea was a relief.
"Certainly she shall have luncheon at the Carlton," he said. "I could have arranged, perhaps, a more perfect meal elsewhere, but women like other things besides food. Shall we say lunch at two o'clock? I shall arrange to bring my own wine. I have a Château Yquêm which is tolerably well known. Our ten minutes is up I think."
Mr. Costrelle's self-possession was complete. He shook hands with Anthony loosely and briefly, and joined his bridge four with his usual long-limbed, lounging gait. But despite Mr. CosBut despite Mr. Costrelle's impassivity, his ten minutes had taken the zest from his life.
Sorrow could not disarrange his habits, but it could devitalize a failing taste. Mr. Costrelle knew that he would never enjoy his bridge so much again. Anthony thought his future father-inlaw did not know the meaning of grief. He did not realize that the grief which the mind evades is a grief which dogs a man's footsteps to the end of his days.
Anthony plunged into the short concentrated time which lay before the operation with a queer sense of relief. He had gained no support from Mr. Costrelle, but he would have Kitty all the more to himself.
WHEN Anthony informed Henry of his impending marriage over the telephone, Henry exclaimed, "Good God!" but he was very useful afterward. He gave Anthony the address of a house in Duke Lane that belonged to friends of his who wanted to go abroad immediately and were willing to let it as it stood; and he volunteered to go down to l'an
nell for Anthony to break the news to his parents.
Henry knew that a great deal of manipulation was necessary if the marriage was to be accepted by the family, and he thought it had better be accepted, because, after a talk with Hilton Laurence, he had come to the conclusion that he could n't prove Anthony mad, and that the marriage was n't a permanent disaster.
"Insane acts are seldom certifiable," Hilton Laurence explained rather dryly to Henry, "and in any case you won't have long to put up with it."
Henry felt very strongly that a thing that could n't be stopped and would n't last long had better not be looked into at all.
It was unfortunate that Anthony insisted his parents should be told the truth before they decided whether they would receive Kitty or not, but Henry, in whose hands the truth had been deposited, felt that it was open to him to deal with it economically.
Powder in sufficient quantities may destroy an empire, but readjusted, and with the explosive elements left out, it is said to give a beneficial appearance to overheated complexions.
Henry told his father that he probably would n't consider the marriage suitable. Miss Costrelle came from a good old Essex family, but she was poor and had lived a long time abroad. She had n't any particular home, and Anthony was marrying her before the operation in order to look after her himself.
"Of course it's quixotic," Henry continued swiftly before Mr. Arden was fairly launched upon his first negative. "Poor old Tony has had a bee in his bonnet ever since he returned to England. It is n't an ordinary marriage, and you know I feel with you, sir, that ordinary marriages are always the best; but I do think he might have done worse. If the girl recovers, which is, I fear, extremely improbable, she 'll make him more normal; and if she does n't, he'll have had his head, and be free again, without much damage done."
Mr. Arden listened to Henry with some consideration. He knew that Henry, with very little help from him,
had carved out a successful legal career. His father appreciated success and respected the law. It was true the law was not always amenable to force, but on the whole it usually protected the rights of those who had most of them and you could not override it when it went against you. Mr. Arden listened to Henry, even when he differed from him, with more patience than he usually found convenient.
"If she comes from a good family, she must have relatives," he said severely; "all good families have relatives. It 's pure nonsense for Tony to make himself responsible for an invalid bride. I don't approve of it at all. You may tell him so from me. I sha'n't accept it. Why should I? It's not the kind of thing an eldest son should do. What 's to become of the place? Tony is as selfish as if he were a scatter-brained young fool, and he has n't the excuse of being one. Does n't he know at his age he ought to have children?"
But when tea-time came Mr. Arden had had a further conversation with his wife a conversation in which, after a good deal of heated repetition, on Mr. Arden's part, a few suggestions on Mrs. Arden's, which he had come to feel were his own, had softly permeated the repetitions. They ran as follows: Anthony was of age, he could really do what he liked; therefore opposition was useless, particularly as it had never been known to answer with Anthony. It was almost certain the girl would die, and dead girls are not aggressive. They need not
say anything very definite until after the operation. If it was successful, and the girl got better, she did belong to a good family; if she did n't get better, she would n't belong to any family.
Anthony was not asking them for money. He had said nothing about settlements. The squire hated settlements. You had to tie up your money and then keep your hands off it. He would n't have to do this in the circumstances, and he could n't have got out of doing it in any other. A message founded on these facts was produced at tea-time, which could easily be presented to Anthony in the light of acquiescence.
"He's of age," Mr. Arden said reluctantly, "and I can't stop him making a fool of himself. Tell him from me that we sha'n't come to the marriage,—the whole thing is very disagreeable and odd, but if the girl gets better, she can come here to convalesce. Pannell 's his home, and I sha'n't keep him or his wife out of it."
Mrs. Arden hid in the shrubbery and preceded Henry to the dog-cart.
"I remember Miss Costrelle quite well," she said, with a curious little flush on her face; "I thought her quite fascinating. Of course I know she 's not suitable for Tony's wife, poor dear. It's a pity she is so-so French, but I can't help feeling sorry she is ill. Give them both my love, Henry."
Henry did not give the whole of this message, either; he thought it was rash. He seldom gave the whole of any message.
He offered to write to Daphne, but Anthony had done this for himself. He wrote:
I know you once understood and loved Kitty. I did n't when I was with you; I only saw what the world had done to her and I blamed her for it. It 's so hard not to blame people for their scars. Anyway, you'll forgive her now if she hurt you, for she is under the harrow. I can't lift it off; I can stand by her, that is all.
I have found a way of doing it which perhaps you won't understand; but if anybody can understand, you will. I dare n't look ahead at any future, but I suppose instinct, or whatever it is that pushes us forward to help each other, will keep me up to the mark. Laurence operates on Friday; I shall assist,
Henry settled all the details of the marriage. Bishops and chaplains in his hands were as malleable as butter. There were no impediments.
Kitty had been so exhausted after her day at Kew that Anthony had insisted on her remaining in bed until the morning of her marriage. He had succeeded in keeping her out of pain.
Kitty enjoyed the rest of lying in bed and looking at her new room. It was a quiet, pretty room. The windows overlooked the Carmelites' garden on the other side of the narrow street.
It was not a large garden, but there were trees in it, and Kitty took a great interest in the Carmelites.
"Monks are the kind of men I don't know," she explained to Anthony. "I do so wish I could have one to talk to! I want to ask them what it feels like to live all day long under a rule and never to know what God made the world for. For I suppose He did rather mean it for men and women to live in, did n't He? And yet I admire them; it 's rather fine to shut yourself behind a wall into a stone church because you think it pleases anybody, even God. I wonder if there 's some kind of trick about prayer. Do you think there is, and that's why they can go on for such an awfully long time and not mind being bored? Peckham prays, too; but she takes off her stays first, and prays in her dressing-gown. Do you think God hears her and the monks as well? It must be rather nice for Him, I should think, that some people don't pray. Peckham expects to get answers. Do the monks?"
Anthony said he thought they did, but probably not the same kind of an
tion come from? outside as well as an inside, is n't there? And if God made the outside, He could put the idea into you from it, could n't He? You must start a ball of wool somewhere."
There's always an
Anthony wanted to go on with the subject, for it surprised him to see that Kitty had lit on a connected form of reasoning. But she broke off immediately, as if she was afraid of anything deeper than a chance question.
"I'm so glad you like Peckham," she said softly. "I think I 've got an awfully nice family now-you and Peckham and Henry. Henry came to ask me this morning if I wanted a red carpet. He said I could n't have a carpet without a carriage or a carriage without a carpet. I do like Henry's mind. I told him we were going to walk down the little alley to the church, so he said we could n't have a carpet, but we might have bells afterward, if we liked."
The walk to St. Mary Abbotts was a mere stone's-throw from Duke Lane, but Kitty's strength was only in her mind. Her eyes laughed, and she pretended that when she paused to look into the tiny square or at the quaint shop-windows of Church Walk she was doing it for fun and not because her breath had failed her.
She had wanted to walk, because she said it would seem more like the country. She lingered as they came to the open doorway of the church beneath the trees. They could look up the long nave of the church toward the altar.
Henry had had it beautifully decorated with lilies and white lilac. Kitty had not thought of the actual marriage before. She had thought of her dress, which was the color of autumn leaves, of lunch at the Carlton, and the fun of the way Henry had dealt with the bishop; but the grave service under its white shrine of flowers came to her unexpectedly. She had a wave of sudden fear; her face remained impassive, and the gravity that settled down upon her seemed merely appropriate to the hour, but her heart beat against her side like an imprisoned bird.
It was the emptiness of the church which disconcerted Kitty. There was
no one there but Peckham and Henry in a seat in front of the altar. A verger with a duster stood in a distant corner, and an expectant curate put his head round the door from the vestry to see if they had arrived.
Peckham was on her knees, and her black bonnet, with its single red rose, looked as if it were being shaken byconcealed emotion. Henry's face was a blank. He was prepared for anything, and his entire consciousness rose to hide the signs of his preparation. Kitty might faint, Anthony might start some dreadful skeptical fad. They might be late; they ought not to have walked in together. The situation bristled with irregularities, and it depended upon Henry's face to make it look as regular as possible.
Anthony was entirely preoccupied with how much Kitty could stand and whether he could n't persuade her afterward to give up lunching at the Carlton. The service passed over his head without any significance whatever except that of length.
As Kitty turned toward him to make her answering troth, her eyes widened a little, and her lips stiffened. She had forgotten the great words, but they raised suddenly in her heart a storm of memory. Dick had said them to her, long ago, by the bridge he had built across their gardens: "For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health."
Anthony wavered and disappeared before her eyes, and Dick came in his place, Dick, who was all her early life, -and held in his hands her rich, untouched, and perfect memories.
Anthony stood only for broken things, for hours of pain and indecision, for her incomplete and torturing emergencies, and for her blind hours of shame. She laid her small hand firmly on the rails until the pain shot up her arm into her shoulder. The pain brought back the figure of Anthony. He stood looking down at her with reassuring, watchful eyes.
Death and innocence and Dick took no part in this marriage, but a love that was stronger than youth and innocence stood by her and would stand by her to the end.
Kitty had given Dick her riches without counting the cost. She turned now with an unflinching spirit to give to Anthony her poverty; and for this gift, too, though it was all she had, she did not count the cost.
ANTHONY felt that he knew Kitty in the church; she was there in his world, a part of the act that bound them. He was not sure of her thoughts, but he was sure of her attitude. Outside the church she ceased to belong to him. When he suggested under his breath that they should give up the Carlton, her amazed eyes met his in a flash of hostility.
"Give up lunching with papa?" she exclaimed. "But he 's ordered it!"
Anthony had touched by accident on one of Kitty's laws. She had so few that it was not surprising he should have failed to recognize their existence. But the law of pleasure is at least as strong in its compulsion to its votaries as any other law. Business appointments never disturbed Kitty. You kept them if you remembered them and if you had nothing better to do; but social engagements, which were meant to be an exchange of pleasure, were inviolate. Inconvenience, suffering, fate even, bowed before a luncheon party. You could n't put off what was meant to amuse. It might even bore you; but if you 'd promised, you 'd promised.
The intention was, after all, there, and the intention was sacred.
Henry understood this immediately. "If you had thought it would be too much for her," he said a little reproachfully to Anthony, "you should have telephoned overnight to Mr. Costrelle."
"It won't be too much for me," said Kitty, impatiently; "I shall like it. It will be great fun after that stuffy, old, black church. The flowers were charming, Henry. I like to be drenched in lilies. I could get drunk on the scent of them, could n't you? They 're the leastinnocent flower in the world, and yet every one gets taken in by them, especially in church. The curate had adenoids. I dare say he could n't help it, but I hate men with adenoids. This is