Puslapio vaizdai

sharpened into incredulity. He turned from Kitty to Anthony. Anthony met and returned his hard critical gaze.

The two men measured each other, and Kitty, leaning back in her chair, watched them with unconcealed amusement.

Mr. Costrelle poured out a glass of wine imperturbably. The situation appealed to him; he liked to watch Kitty handle a difficult moment.

Henry cleared his throat. He was not sure that everything was quite comfortable, and he was annoyed that Sir Frederick had apparently forgotten playing bridge with him some time ago at the club.

"Oh," said Sir Frederick at last, with his eyes still on Anthony, "we have n't run across each other before, I think?"

"We have not been particularly likely to," said Anthony, a little dryly. "I spent most of the war in a German prison."

"I was in Egypt," said Sir Frederick. "A good deal going on there one way or another. Where does one find you now, Mrs. Arden? I can't afford to have you disappear again. But perhaps you will be more permanent now that you 're married?"

"I don't think I shall ever be awfully permanent," said Kitty, closing her long eyelashes together and then opening them suddenly. "We 're just passing through town."

Sir Frederick's eyebrows shot up. He was being dismissed, and he had not expected dismissal. Kitty smiled at him. Her smile was reassuring to his pride.

Stupid things, her kind eyes said, had intervened. She did n't like dismissing him, either; but still she dismissed him.

"I was fortunate," he said politely, "to have caught even this glimpse." Kitty gave him her hand. Mr. Costrelle mentioned his club.

Sir Frederick threw back a very fine pair of shoulders, bowed stiffly to Anthony, and walked away.

He had been perfectly polite and he had shown Kitty no sign of disrespect; perhaps he had been a shade more respectful than a man need be to a woman for whom no other idea had ever occurred.

"An odd coincidence," said Mr. Cos trelle. "Stair turning up to-day. I shall now open the Château Yquêm.”

He took up a small napkin and the best type of corkscrew in silence, and with great precaution he first held and then detached the cork, handing it round to each one in turn to catch the perfume which clung to it; then with unfaltering gravity he poured out the four glasses. The wine was golden and soft as honey; the dry fire in it had blended with the ripening touch of time.

They drank in silence and without a toast. Anthony raised his eyes to Kitty, but she was not looking at him. She was smiling, but her lips were grave. Some memory or perhaps some premonition held her.

"I don't think," said Mr. Costrelle, slowly and gravely, "that you can beat this wine now in England."

"The war has done a dreadful lot of harm," agreed Henry, sympathetically. "Priceless wine has been parted withI believe rashly-to Americans."

"People who can take wine like this across the Atlantic," said Mr. Costrelle, "deserve to drink nothing but their own raw grapes."

"It's been simply awfully jolly, Papa dear," said Kitty, drawing on her gloves; "but I suppose we must be off. I've enjoyed myself immensely."


Kitty lingered in the lounge. liked watching the throngs of people passing in and out. The veiled admiration of the men, the covert glances of the women, eased her heart. After all, it was her world. She had succeeded in it.

She said good-by laughingly to Henry and her father. Henry's appreciation of the lunch had brought Mr. Costrelle to offering him one of his best cigars.

"I'll see you next week, I dare say," Mr. Costrelle observed to Kitty. "That dead pink is a good shade, especially with sable." And to Anthony he added, "You might perhaps ring me up some time."

Henry shook hands warmly with them both. Anthony had, after all, done nothing out of the way, and Kitty had been perfect-as another man's wife. For Henry himself she would have had to be a little toned down.

When they were alone in the motor, Kitty turned to Anthony with appealing eyes.

"You did n't mind awfully, did you?" she asked quickly. "You see, after all, Tony, it is the only kind of thing I know how to do."


FOR the last three days before the operation Anthony had succeeded in warding off from Kitty any fresh attack of pain. He had studied her with an absorption as acute as the absorption of personal consciousness in the presence of mortal danger. All his senses had been alert to forewarn and protect Kitty, and he had accomplished the temporary miracle.

After the luncheon party, Anthony noticed with alarm that she showed that peculiar physical restlessness which is often the forerunner of severe pain. He made Kitty go to bed, and sat beside her hour after hour, soothing and quieting her. Peckham had been invaluable; she had brought out various garments of Kitty's for correction and comparison. She had been full of stories of Kitty's childhood, and questions about their going abroad. It had been settled that as soon as Kitty recovered from the operation they were to go to Spain.

At last Anthony had left her quiet and apparently asleep. He went into the dressing-room next to hers, leaving the door open so that he could hear her turn or sigh. He felt that he must be alone for an hour. All these days his mind had been taking bitter account of the symptoms ranged against him.

This was his hour of reckoning. He knew that he had done all that was in his power; he had given Kitty a respite before the operation, but he could do no more: the disease was progressive and inexorable. Anthony saw with a terrific clarity the force of all that was against him. The symptoms of Kitty's case came on against his mind like the resistless impact of waves. If he succeeded in beating the first line of breakers, the limitless ocean heaved up a further challenge. His puny strength would spend itself against them in vain;

sooner or later the sea would overwhelm them both.

It was too late to save Kitty. Anthony did not need Hilton Laurence's verdict; something in his own heart suddenly failed him. He saw that he had done his uttermost in the last few days, and that his uttermost was worth nothing. He wondered fearfully, if he had been a younger man, untried and undaunted by experience, could he by mere audacity and blindness have snatched Kitty back from disease? Suffering is not a school of strength; it is a school in which one learns one's weakness.

Anthony knew what he could bear, and to that extent knowledge freed his mind; he was not surprised by the weight of pain. He was too used to it, but he was incapable in his turn of surprising pain. He had learned not only his powers, but his limitations. Facts entrapped and hampered him. He was aware of the frailness of his mind, strung to too high a pitch; it would not give him any reassurance of its capacity.

Ever since the early days of Anthony's captivity darkness had broken in upon him from time to time and shaken the steadiness of his mind. He knew the only thing to do was to wait till it passed, to keep before his eyes the fact that the darkness was from outside and impermanent, and to hold to the integrity of his unflinching will.

In the long run, what Anthony had decided to do he could do; he could not attain the desired result, but he could force himself step by step to take the right direction toward the result. He held to his will now, but he was aware that the struggle was harder. He needed more for Kitty than he had ever needed for himself.

He steadied his mind to confront the future. He wanted to envisage the whole course of Kitty's case. He had to put out of his mind the insistent pictures of the operating-table, the arrangements he had made with Hilton Laurence, the minute preparations and precautions for the actual hour. The details kept rushing at him like delusive lists of uncompleted purchases. He knew there was no need for him to

keep them in his mind, but they flickered to and fro, taunting him with his fallibility.

Suppose he forgot something important, something vital? Kitty depended on his memory, and his memory was outrageously tired. It played Anthony tricks to show him how tired he was, and then with a gloomy clearness it reiterated a string of details none of which he needed or could control. He did not want to use his memory now. He wanted to get beyond it to some point of decision. If he could not save Kitty, what should he do?

If he let things take their course, Anthony saw exactly what would take place. There would be the operation, a tedious, dangerous business, which must in the nature of the case be left incomplete. Moment by moment Kitty's life would hang by a thread. Hilton Laurence would hold the threads. Anthony could trust the task to him; he was a masterly operator with a thorough, placid mind. He had been known in moments of great tension to hold the ends of a severed artery together and tell a funny story to relieve the nerves of his audience. Probably Hilton Laurence would safely disentangle and keep together the threads of Kitty's life. She would, what is called, get over the operation.

Her left arm would be powerless for a long time. She would suffer again regularly and without strength the onslaughts of atrocious pain. Kitty would very gradually get better up to a certain point; then she would stick for perhaps two or three months; then the little innocuous-seeming, deadly signs of a return would start up. The disease would be very quick on its returning pathway, and, short of the mercy of an accident, it would be very dreadful.

Words from "The Duchess of Malfi" haunted Anthony's mind: "her death a hideous storm of terror." Was that all he could do for Kitty?

It was n't any use fighting for her life. The question was a smaller one than that he was only fighting for time. Fighting for life, with every symptom opposed, was only fighting for a convention, an idea. But this convention was a sacred one to Anthony.

It was a professional necessity, a point of honor, to prolong menaced existences. It was not a real necessity; because, unlike real necessities, he had in his hands the power to evade it. Nor could Anthony delude himself with the mercy of an accident. He had no talent for self-delusion, and he had seen too many cases where there were no accidents.

If all he wanted was to save Kitty, why could n't he still save her by letting her go? Why force her through a year of misery, with its shadowed horror at the end? Why not now, on the top of the course of her momentary security, grant her freedom?

But had he the right to let her go? She would have let herself go without a qualm; it was only her confidence in his love, her pity for him, which held her back. But who was he to judge what was best for Kitty? He could not see the sky for the stars, nor her body for her soul. All his being was invaded by his tenderness for Kitty; there was no desire in her which did not meet in him with a passion of response. He did not know what she most wanted now; her reticent, shy spirit was buried under all the haphazard promiscuities of her life. Kitty had fenced it away not only from Anthony, but from herself. She had snatched at the trivial to cover the eternal.

He longed desperately at this moment of her great ordeal to stand by her spirit, as he stood by her beleaguered body, and help it forth upon the chartless seas. Was it fair to set this child soul free? Fear of her anguish and her mortal struggle bit deep into his heart, but he had a deeper fear, a deeper question, to which he found no


He sat torn with his indecision; then he heard her voice murmuring, "Tony! Tony!" and went back into the lighted circle of her room.

The room was full of flowers and shaded wax candles. Kitty sat up in bed with long plaits of dark hair down her back. She looked like a child of ten, a very frightened child.

"Tony," she said "Tony, it's the pain coming-"

Her eyes fastened themselves on his

with a look of shaken entreaty; then they left him, to wander restlessly about the room, as if to hold and keep all the safety of the inanimate things beside which her own existence was so fugitive and insecure.

Anthony gave her a slight sedative, and lay down beside her, taking her hand in his. He felt his old power flow back into him to meet her emergencies. He fixed his mind steadily upon Kitty's pain, and held it as the one point upon which his whole conscious being hung. He meant to take her pain away, reduce it, and keep it from her.

He had never yet succeeded in moving pain by his will; he had only helped by his actual service to relinquish the grip of it. The experiment he tried now was different. He determined literally to take Kitty's pain. He felt as if in the room beside them there was another strength more formidable than his own fighting for Kitty.

He did not know what the power was, but he was aware of it to his finger-tips. It seemed to be tearing at Kitty as desperate hands tear at a wall between themselves and safety. It was as if the power in the room wanted to take Kitty's life to pieces in order that something behind her life might escape.

It did not occur to Anthony that this was a benevolent power, for Anthony did not believe that there was anything behind Kitty's life; he was concerned only with what he saw, the inert and pain-stricken body beside him. Kitty spoke no word; only her eyes moved, moved as the eyes move of some one who is searching for something which they cannot find.

It was an unhurried, insistent search. Kitty herself knew nothing of it. She lay still with her small, stubborn mouth set to bear her pain, and all her faith centered upon Anthony.

For an hour the fight went on between Anthony and his unseen opponent, and then suddenly he felt it relax; the power, whatever it was, had withdrawn. Anthony knew instinctively that he had not conquered. This had been a voluntary retreat; but it was Anthony, and not the retreating power. who was exhausted.

"I'm better," Kitty said in a thin,

flickering voice; "much better, Tony. I 've not been better so quickly for a long time."

Anthony did not answer at once. He was too aware of a swift, massive pain set like a vise upon his arm and shoulder. He was astonished at the violence of this sensation, but his reason quickly supplied a cause. He had removed Kitty's pain by hypnosis, and had weakened himself too much in the process to be able to defend himself against the hysterical reaction of his own body.

He assured himself that he could not really have taken Kitty's pain, but he could, of course, really think he had taken it. This was the true explanation, and not the delusion which suggested itself to Anthony, that the power he had felt himself struggling against had agreed to transfer the pain in answer to his own intensity.

"Lie quite still, Kitty," he said, "while I make you a cup of tea. You want something to make you warm and . comfortable after that attack."

"You 're awfully clever, Tony," she murmured. "I want to ask you something rather queer. You won't mind, will you? What is there ahead of me to-morrow if - if things don't go right?"

"They will go right," said Anthony, quietly, lighting the spirit-lamp. "I am positive of it, or I should n't have suggested the operation. What is it you mean exactly by-'ahead of you"?"

"Well," Kitty explained, "you know when you set out on a railway journey, how quickly everything changes, and you don't. What I mean is, what will happen if nothing else changes, and you do? Or shall I just be dead?"

Anthony's mind shot back to Tom. It was curious how he and Kitty claimed with the same simplicity and without dread a prospect beyond mortality.

Tom had felt it more solidly than Kitty, but neither of them had had Anthony's blank incredulity in the face. of the invisible. How could he believe what nobody could prove or see? And yet, since he had answered Tom's question, he had felt his skepticism shaken over and over again. He was no longer sure that there was nothing else.

"I used to think," said Anthony, slowly, watching Kitty's face as he chose his words to meet her need, "that there was nothing beyond death, that all our struggles and our troubles ceased automatically. I am not so sure now. When I thought like that I had n't been in love. There was nothing in my life that felt it wanted to reach beyond it. I can imagine now something stronger than death. I don't say there is something stronger, but I can imagine it. You see, I don't know how to put it quite, but since I 've known you, I 've cared, cared all round a lot more for everybody. Before I only knew things from the outside. My work was as good as I could make it, but I always stood outside it. Since I cared for you, lots of me gets inside. It is n't only liking to make a success; it 's caring for a person. It's you, Kitty, who have given me that feeling."

"Have I really?" asked Kitty, incredulously. "How nice of you to tell me, Tony! I should have thought I'd put you off. I've put off most people. I'm awfully glad you care more because of me. I care, too; that 's what rather upsets me just now. I'm not afraid a bit, but I do feel sorry. I see now I must have done such a lot of harm not caring. I don't believe my doing all the things I ought n't really matters, do you?

“But not having cared enough about the people I did them with, that's all wrong, and having hurt poor women who loved their men, that 's rather awful, is n't it? I don't like to think of hurting people now I know what being hurt is like. Besides, if there is a God, I suppose we 're all in the same boat and part of Him; so the worst thing we can do is to hurt each other, is n't it?"

Anthony nodded. He did not attempt to evade Kitty's scruples. Brushing aside truth did not seem to him a kindness.

"We all do it," he said gently, "some of us from being too strict with our lives, so that we feel better than other people, and are worse, and perhaps those who have n't been strict enoughhurt as well. Because, if you have n't counted the cost, other people have to

pay as well as you. Still, you 've paid a good deal by now, Kitty, and I suppose, if there is a God, what matters most, is to have learned love and courage. I don't see anything else I want to carry on myself into another world, and you 've had plenty of those. If you do go out anywhere, you'll take them both with you."

Kitty drew his hand against her cheek.

"I'll take love with me," she said, "now, Tony."

They were silent while Kitty drank her tea, then she said:

"I'm awfully sleepy, Tony, but it seems such a waste of time to go to sleep."

He bent over her and kissed her.

"Go to sleep," he said. "There 's plenty of time really for everything, and it will make to-morrow better."

"To-morrow," said Kitty after a little pause, "is just a sort of adventure, is n't it, Tony? It'll be awfully funny if you and the monks and Peckham and I all come out some day in the same place. Can you hear the bell? They go and pray in the church at two o'clock."

Anthony listened from the open window. He heard very faintly the signal of the monks for their first prayers.

Kitty turned toward him smiling, and she was still smiling when Anthony saw that she was asleep. Anthony's mind stilled itself, and turned once more to meet its new ordeal.

He had determined what to do. Just as he had taken her pain, so he would take her life; he would take everything that menaced her, and dispose of it. It did not matter what the consequences were or what the risk; they would fall upon him and upon him alone. Kitty should go forth upon that great adventure freed of her pain and of the long year's waiting.

Anthony was intensely sure of himself now, and he was aware of nothing else with which he had to reckon.


KITTY slept placidly till six o'clock. She was not conscious of Anthony's leaving her or of his whispered conversation with Peckham at her door. She woke

« AnkstesnisTęsti »