Out of the Ashes
Ethel Watts Mumford
Part 4 out of 4
of his old desires. That was but withered leaves, spattered with the
blood of those who lost. He had turned from it, and now his steps sought
another conquest and another reward. He must strive for a goal unseen,
but more real and more worthy than the little crowns of little
His somber thoughts left him refreshed, as if from a bath of deep, clear
waters. His spirit felt clean and elated as it rose from the depths. It
was with a smile that he pushed back his chair and rose from the table
where, for a full hour, he had sat in silent self-communing. He still
smiled as he entered the motor and was driven to Mrs. Marteen's.
He found her awaiting him, with outstretched hands, and the look in her
eyes that he always longed for--the look he had divined rather than seen
on that day of days, when the Past had been renounced and consumed.
There was no embarrassment in their meeting. True, there had been daily
exchange of letters during the months of her enforced exile; but they
had been only friendly, surface tokens, giving no real hint of the
realities beneath. But they had grown toward one another, not apart. It
was as if they had never been sundered; as if all the experiences of all
the intervening days had been experiences in common.
He gazed at her happily now, rejoicing in the firmness of her step, the
brightness of her eyes, the healthy color of her skin. She came with him
gladly at his suggestion and they drove in silence through the crowded
streets and the silence was in truth, golden. At the door of the great
house he descended, gave her his hand and conducted her quickly through
the vast, soft-lighted hall to his own sanctum. He closed the door
quietly and pressed the electric switch. Instantly the mellow lights
glowed above the portrait, which throbbed in response, a glittering gem
of warmth and beauty.
Mrs. Marteen's body stiffened; the color receded from her face, leaving
it ashen. Her great eyes dilated.
"Do you know why it is there?" he asked at length in a whisper.
"Yes," she murmured. "We have traveled the same road--you and I. I
He took her hand and raised it to his lips. "You don't know all that
this picture recalls to me--and I hope you will never know; but you and
I," he said slowly, weighing his words, "are not of the breed of those
who cry out with remorse. We are of those who live differently. That is
the constant reminder of what _was_. I do not want to forget. I want to
remember. Every time the iron enters my soul I shall know the more
keenly that I have at last a soul."
Again they fell silent.
"According to the accepted code I suppose I should make a clean breast
of it, even to Dorothy, and go into retirement," she said at length. "I
have thought of that, too; but I cannot _feel_ it. I want to be active;
to be able to use myself for betterment; make of myself an example of
good and not of evil. What I did was because of what I was. I am that no
longer, and my expression must be of the new thing that has become me--a
soul!" she said reverently.
"A soul," he repeated. "It has come to me, too. And what is left to me
of life has no place for regrets. I have that which I must live up to--I
_shall_ live up to it."
"We have, indeed, traveled the same road; but you--have led me." She
looked at him with complete comprehension.
"We will travel the new road together," he said finally, "hand in hand."
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