Puslapio vaizdai

you 'd left?"

“I was

[ocr errors]

I meant to write to you, there 's the let- minute, too. Susy Suffern brought her up ter I'd begun."

to my room the last evening, after dinner, Ide followed her gesture, and then when all the others were at bridge. She turned his eyes back to her face. “You meant it kindly-but it was n't much use." did n't mean to see me, then, or even to “But what were you doing in your room let me know that you were going till in the evening after dinner?"

"Why, you see, when I found out my “I felt it would be easier to explain to mistake in coming, -how embarrassing it you in a letter_”

was for Leila, I mean, I simply told her “What in God's name is there to ex- that I was very tired, and preferred to stay plain?" She made no reply, and he up-stairs till the party was over." pressed on: “It can't be that you 're wor- Ide, with a groan, struck his hand ried about Leila, for Charlotte Wynn told against the arm of his chair. “I wonder me she 'd been there last week, and there how much of all this you simply imagwas a big party arriving when she left: ined !” Fresbies and Gileses, and Mrs. Lorin "I did n't imagine the fact of Harriet Boulger-all the board of examiners! If Fresbie's not even asking if she might see Leila has passed that, she's got her de- me when she knew I was in the house. gree."

Nor of Mary Giles's getting Susy, at the Mrs. Lidcote had dropped down into a eleventh hour, to smuggle her up to my corner of the sofa where she had sat during room when the others would n't know their talk of the week before.

where she'd gone; nor poor

Leila's ' stupid," she began abruptly. "I ought to ghastly fear lest Mrs. Lorin Boulger, for have gone to Ridgefield with Susy. I I whom the party was given, should guess I did n't see till afterward that I was ex- was in the house, and prevent her huspected to.”

band's giving Wilbour the second secre"You were expected to?"

taryship because she'd been obliged to Yes. Oh, it was n't Leila's fault. spend a night under the same roof with She suffered-poor darling; she was dis- his mother-in-law!" tracted. But she'd asked her party be- Ide continued to drum on his chair-arm fore she knew I was arriving."

with exasperated fingers. “You don't “Oh, as to that—" Ide drew a deep know that any of the acts you describe are breath of relief. “I can understand that due to the causes you suppose." it must have annoyed her dreadfully not Mrs. Lidcote paused before replying, to have you to herself just at first. But, as if honestly trying to measure the weight after all, you were among old friends or of this argument. Then she said in a low their children: the Gileses and Fresbies - tone: “I know that Leila was in an agony and little Charlotte Wynn." He paused lest I should come down to dinner the first a moment before the last name, and scru- night. And it was for me she was afraid, tinized her hesitatingly. "Even if they not for herself. Leila is never afraid for came at the wrong time, you must have herself.”' been glad to see them all at Leila's.”

“But the conclusions you draw are simShe gave him back his look with a faint ply preposterous.

There are

narrowsmile. “I did n't see them,” she replied. minded women everywhere, but the wo“You did n't see them?"

men who were at Leila's knew perfectly "No. That is, excepting little Char- well that their going there would give lotte Wynn. That child is exquisite. We her a sort of social sanction, and if they had a little talk before luncheon the day I were willing that she should have it, why arrived. But when her mother found out on earth should they want to withhold it that I was staying in the house, she tele- from you?" phoned her to leave immediately, and so "That's what I told myself a week ago, I did n't see her again.”

in this very room, after my first talk with The blood rushed suddenly to Ide's Susy Suffern.” She lifted a misty smile sallow face. “I don't know where you to his anxious eyes. “That 's why I lisget such ideas!”

tened to what you said to me the same She pursued, as if she had not heard evening, and why your arguments half him: “Oh, and I saw Mary Giles for a convinced me, and made me think that


what had been possible for Leila might not table now, I 'm used to it; but I 've lost be altogether impossible for me. If the any illusions I may have had as to an new dispensation had come, why 'not for angel's opening the door." me as well as for the others? I can't tell Ide again laughed impatiently. “Well, you the flight my imagination took !" if the door won't open, why not let an

Franklin Ide rose from his seat and other prisoner in? At least it would be crossed the room to a chair near her sofa- less of a solitude - " corner. "All I cared about was that it She turned from the dark window back seemed - for the moment-- to be carrying into the vividly lighted room. you toward me,” he said.

“It would be more of a prison. You “I cared about that, too. That 's why forget that I know all about that. We 're I meant to go away without seeing you." all imprisoned, of course-all of us midThey gave each other grave look for look. dling people, who don't carry our freedom “Because, you see, I was mistaken,” she in our heads. But we 've accommodated went on. “We were both mistaken. You ourselves to our different cells, and if say it 's preposterous that the women who we're moved suddenly into new ones, did n't object to accepting Leila's hospi- we 're likely to find a stone wall where we tality should have objected to meeting me thought there was thin air, and to knock under her roof. And so it is; but I begin ourselves senseless against it.

I saw to understand why. It 's simply that so- man do that once." ciety is much too busy to revise its own Ide, leaning with folded arms against judgments. Probably no one in the house the window-frame, watched her in silence with me stopped to consider that my case as she moved restlessly about the room, and Leila's were identical. They only re- gathering together some scattered books membered that I'd done something which, and tossing a handful of torn letters into at the time I did it, was condemned by so- the paper-basket. When she ceased, he ciety. My case has been passed on and rejoined: “All you say is based on preclassified: I 'm the woman who has been conceived theories. Why did n't you put cut for nearly twenty years. The older them to the test by coming down to meet people have half forgotten why, and the your old friends? Don't you see the inyounger ones have never really known: ference they would naturally draw from it 's simply become a tradition to cut me. your hiding yourself when they arrived ? And traditions that have lost their mean- It looked as though you were afraid of ing are the hardest of all to destroy." them-or as though you had n't forgiven

Ide had sat motionless while she spoke. them. Either way, you put them in the As she ended, he stood up with a short wrong, instead of waiting to let them put laugh and walked across the room to the you in the right. If Leila had buried herwindow. Outside, the immense, black self in a desert, do you suppose society prospect of New York, strung with would have gone to fetch her out? You myriads of lines of light, stretched away say you were afraid for Leila, and that she into the smoky edges of the night. He was afraid for you. Don't you see what showed it to her with a gesture.

all these complications of feeling mean? "What do you suppose such words as Simply that you were too nervous at the you 've been using-society,' 'tradition,' moment to let things happen naturally, just and the rest- mean to all the life out as you 're too nervous now to judge them there?"

rationally.” He paused and turned his She came and stood by him, and looked eyes to her face. “Don't try to just yet. out of the window. “Less than nothing, Give yourself a little more time. Give me of course. But you and I are not out a little more time. I 've always known it there. We 're shut up in a little, tight would take time." round of habit and association, just as He moved nearer, and she let him have we 're shut up in this room. Remember, her hand. With the grave kindness of I thought I'd got out of it once; but what his face so close above her she felt like a really happened was that the other people child roused out of frightened dreams and went out, and left me in the same little finding a light in the room. room. The only difference was that I "Perhaps you're right—" she heard was there alone. Oh, I 've made it habi- herself begin; then something within her


clutched her back, and her hand fell away “But you said they'd a young man of from him.

Charlotte's dining with them. Surely he “I know I'm right: trust me,” he urged. would n't have left by ten? At any rate, “We 'll talk of this in Florence soon." I'll go down with you and see. It takes so

She stood before him, feeling with de- long if one sends a servant first.” She put spair his kindness, his patience, and his him gently aside, and then paused as a unreality. Everything he said seemed like new thought struck her. "Or wait; my a painted gauze let down between herself maid 's in the next room. I 'll tell her to and the real facts of life; and a sudden go and ask if Margaret will receive me. desire seized her to tear the gauze into Yes, that 's much the best way.” shreds.

She turned back and went toward the She drew back a little and looked at door that led to her bedroom; but before him with a smile of superficial reassurance. she could open it she felt Ide's quick touch “You are right-about not talking any on her arm. longer now. I 'm nervous and tired, and “I believe-I remember now-Charit would do no good. I brood over things lotte's young man was suggesting that too much. As you say, I must try not to they should all go out-to a music-hall shrink from people." She turned away and or something of the sort. I 'm sureglanced at the clock. “Why, it 's only I 'm positively sure, that you won't find ten! If I send. you off, I shall begin to them.” brood again; and if you stay, we shall go Her hand dropped from the door, his on talking about the same thing. Why dropped from her arm, and as they drew should n't we go down and see Margaret back and faced each other she saw the Wynn for half an hour?"

blood rise slowly through his sallow skin, She spoke lightly and rapidly, her bril- redden his neck and ears, encroach upon liant eyes on his face. As she watched him, the edges of his beard, and settle in dull she saw it change, as if her smile had patches under his kind, troubled eyes. She thrown a too vivid light upon it.

had seen the same blush on another face, "Oh, no—not to-night!” he exclaimed. and the same impulse of compassion she

“Not to-night? Why, what other had then felt made her turn her gaze night have I, when I 'm off at dawn? Be- away again. sides, I want to show you at once that I A knock on the door broke the silence, mean to be more sensible—that I 'm not and a porter put his head into the room. going to be afraid of people any more. “It 's only just to know how many And I should really like another glimpse pieces there'll be to go down to the of little Charlotte." He stood before her, steamer in the morning." his hand in his beard, with the gesture he With the words she suddenly felt that had in moments of perplexity. “Come!" the veil of painted gauze was torn in tatshe ordered him gaily, turning to the door. ters, and that she was moving again among

He followed her and laid his hand on the grim edges of reality. the door-knob. “Don't you think-had n't "Oh, dear,” she exclaimed, “I never you better let me go first and see? They can remember! Wait a minute; I shall told me they'd had a tiring day at the have to ask my maid." dressmaker's. I dare say they have gone to She opened her bedroom door and bed."

called out briskly: “Annette!”






TESTLING among the hills of west- home with Philip's family. He was a

ern New York lies a little village strange, quiet man who seemed to shun of a thousand inhabitants, which for con- everybody. He was respected and feared venience I will call Rutledge. The Em- by the community. Men said that Jonapire State has many small towns like it, than Wendall's word was as good as his quiet, sleepy places, where the world note, but they never sought his company. moves on with scarcely a ripple, and the A girl once laughingly said of him that he people are well-to-do, with a few rich was Jus:ice personified- astride a tombfamilies, such as are usually found in stone, and the word tombstone clung to small towns.

him for ever after. The village contained three licensed In 1880, Rutledge celebrated its hunhotels; namely, the Ardmore, the New- dredth anniversary, everybody joining bury, and the Riverside. The Ardmore heart and hand to make it a success. Newswas called the “up-to-date" house, and papers advertised it far and wide, and inwas frequented by people making preten- vitations to come and bring their friends sion to fashion; the Newbury catered to were issued to former residents of the the traveling public, and was patronized town, wherever they could be found. by politicians; while the Riverside took The result was most gratifying. All what was left. It was a quaint, old-fash- summer long people were coming and ioned inn, the proprietor an old man, going. It was one long holiday, and good-natured and kindly. He was every- scarcely a home in the village was without body's friend, and here congregated the guests. male population of Rutledge. For there A great time of rejoicing it was, too, as was a large, old-fashioned bar-room, with friend greeted friend, and at every turn a little office back of it, where a man could one would meet some one not looked for, take a friend for a private talk, and to the and perhaps not seen for years. Old men left a large, sunny parlor, always open, sat in shady places and laughed over boywhere every one

was welcome. There ish pranks of fifty years before, and old every one met on an equal footing, and ladies talked softly together of the changes such a thing as caste was not thought of. the intervening years had wrought since There, too, everybody's affairs were dis- they were girls together. Graves almost cussed, for while in general peace and har- forgotten in the old cemetery were visited mony prevailed, the town was by no means and covered with flowers. exempt from gossip.

Among the strangers came an old woAmong the prominent men in the com

Who she was or where she came munity was Philip Wendall, whose farm from, none could tell. She was just a vile, lay so close to the village that his house drunken old hag, wearing a tattered, bluestood at the end of Main Street. It was calico dress, a dirty, gray jacket, heavy a fine property, with a spacious, old brick calfskin shoes tied at the top with a white house of Revolutionary date. At the cord. Over her white, unkempt locks, time of the event which I am about to which seemed to be of all lengths, was tied narrate the farm was owned by Jonathan a dirty, torn, blue veil. Her face was Wendall, Philip's father, who made his weather-beaten and hard from exposure, the blue eyes were bleared and of evil ex- side had tried in various way pression, the teeth broken and uneven- old woman tell who she wa altogether a picture that people shrank cessfully. Finally she said, i from looking at the second time. She was to help her, to send for Phi vicious to the last degree, and carried an He would know who her per old leather hand-bag, from which she was would give her money to g repeatedly seen to take a bottle and drink. where she came from. She slept under sheds, and begged her Accordingly a messeng food at back doors, and when refused, spatched, and in a short time broke into such a volley of oaths that peo- dall came. Crowds of peop ple were afraid, and nearly always called see the damage done by th her back and gave her something to eat. the word was passed fron


After a month had passed, and she other that Wendall knew seemed in no way ready to leave town, woman was. When he aske people grew afraid of her, and were about village doctor be summoned to see what could be done to rid the town at its height, and standing on of her presence, when one day late in Sep- ravages made by the storm v tember a terrific wind-storm, accompanied and all interest was center by hail and rain, struck the village. It jecture as to where the was one of the heaviest storms Rutledge might belong. had ever experienced. It came so sud- To the astonishment of denly that people were unprepared for it, report passed from mouth and there was much scurrying to reach Philip Wendall's mother w home before the full force of the storm it had generally been thou broke. Almost the first blast caught the years before had deserted he shed under which the old woman was baby son for another man v lying, turning it completely over, and giv- to the West, and it was sur ing her such a shock that she ran up Main was she; that she had come Street in great fright.

home, but to beg for mon Struggling against the wind, she at last

way without letting the reached the Ardmore, and tried to gain en- known. trance to the bar-room, but was promptly The crowd about the ejected. She then tried the Newbury, but persed as the Wendall was turned out there also. She staggered slowly up the street, driver down the street, the wind taking her al- but only went a short dista most off her feet, and sat down on the ering into small groups, wa curbstone in front of the Riverside, while When at last the do the rain fell in torrents on her back. opened, and Philip Wend When the proprietor noticed her, he beck- to the finger-tips, came out, oned her to come in, and helped her up the woman, wrapped in shaw steps and across the wide porch. Noticing the landlady, and, picking the smiles as he entered the bar-room with her gently in the carriage, her, he said: “Gentlemen, my mother was self beside her, drawing th a woman. For her sake, you will please her and placing an arm a omit remarks.” The smiles died away as ders to hold the wraps, p he took her to the kitchen, and told his ashamed of the tears that wife to make her comfortable, and try to their cheeks, and men sti learn who she was and where she might be heads, bowing reverently t going; but in her drunken condition noth- the man who thus publicl ing could be learned, so she was given a that degraded woman to b cot, where she slept heavily all night.

In the thirty years that All night the storm raged, unroofing dear old Rutledge celeb buildings, uprooting trees, and doing great dredth anniversary, we ha damage to the town. The morning deeds that were brave; but dawned bright and glorious, but the air have ever met who witnes was piercing. The landlady at the River- it was the bravest deed the

« AnkstesnisTęsti »