The Breaking Point
Mary Roberts Rinehart
Part 6 out of 8
It was as well perhaps that he had no time for brooding, but he
gained sleep at the cost of superhuman exertion all day.
A feeling of unreality began to obsess him, so that at times he
felt like a ghost walking among sweating men, like a resurrection
into life, but without life. And more than once he tried to sink
down to the level of the others, to unite himself again with the
crowd, to feel again the touch of elbows, the sensation of
fellowship. The primal instinct of the herd asserted itself, the
need of human companionship of any sort.
But he failed miserably, as Jud Clark could never have failed. He
could not drink with them. He could not sink to their level of
degradation. Their oaths and obscenity sickened and disgusted him,
and their talk of women drove him into the fresh air.
The fact that he could no longer drink himself into a stupor puzzled
him. Bad whiskey circulated freely among the hay stacks and bunk
houses where the harvest hands were quartered, and at ruinous
prices. The men clubbed together to buy it, and he put in his
share, only to find that it not only sickened him, but that he had
a mental inhibition against it.
They called him the "Dude," and put into it gradually all the class
hatred of their wretched sullen lives. He had to fight them, more
than once, and had they united against him he might have been killed.
But they never united. Their own personal animosities and angers
kept them apart, as their misery held them together. And as time
went on and his muscles hardened he was able to give a better
account of himself. The time came when they let him alone, and
when one day a big shocker fell off a stack and broke his leg and
Dick set it, he gained their respect. They asked no questions, for
their law was that the past was the past. They did not like him,
but in the queer twisted ethics of the camp they judged the secret
behind him by the height from which he had fallen, and began slowly
to accept him as of the brotherhood of derelicts.
With his improvement in his physical condition there came, toward
the end of the summer, a more rapid subsidence of the flood of the
long past. He had slept out one night in the fields, where the
uncut alfalfa was belled with purple flowers and yellow buttercups
rose and nodded above him. With the first touch of dawn on the
mountains he wakened to a clarity of mind like that of the morning.
He felt almost an exaltation. He stood up and threw out his arms.
It was all his again, never to lose, the old house, and David and
Lucy; the little laboratory; the church on Sunday mornings. Mike,
whistling in the stable. A wave of love warmed him, a great
surging tenderness. He would go back to them. They were his and
he was theirs. It was at first only a great emotion; a tingling
joyousness, a vast relief, as of one who sees, from a far distance,
the lights in the windows of home. Save for the gap between the
drunken revel at the ranch and his awakening to David's face
bending over him in the cabin, everything was clear. Still by an
effort, but successfully, he could unite now the two portions of
his life with only a scar between them.
Not that he formulated it. It was rather a mood, an impulse of
unreasoning happiness. The last cloud had gone, the last bit of
mist from the valley. He saw Haverly, and the children who played
in its shaded streets; Mike washing the o1d car, and the ice cream
freezer on Sundays, wrapped in sacking on the kitchen porch. Jim
Wheeler came back to him, the weight of his coffin dragging at his
right hand as he helped to carry it; he was kneeling beside
Elizabeth's bed, and putting his hand over her staring eyes so
she would go to sleep.
The glow died away, and he began to suffer intensely. They were
all lost to him, along with the life they represented. And already
he began to look back on his period of forgetfulness with regret.
At least then he had not known what he had lost.
He wondered again what they knew. What did they think? If they
believed him dead, was that not kinder than the truth? Outside of
David and Lucy, and of course Bassett, the sole foundation on which
any search for him had rested had been the semi-hysterical
recognition of Hattie Thorwald. But he wondered how far that
search had gone.
Had it extended far enough to involve David? Had the hue and cry
died away, or were the police still searching for him? Could he
even write to David, without involving him in his own trouble? For
David, fine, wonderful old David - David had deliberately obstructed
the course of justice, and was an accessory after the fact.
Up to that time he had drifted, unable to set a course in the fog,
but now he could see the way, and it led him back to Norada. He
would not communicate with David. He would go out of the lives at
the old house as he had gone in, under a lie. When he surrendered
it would be as Judson Clark, with his lips shut tight on the years
since his escape. Let them think, if they would, that the curtain
that had closed down over his memory had not lifted, and that he
had picked up life again where he had laid it down. The police
would get nothing from him to incriminate David.
But he had a moment, too, when surrender seemed to him not strength
but weakness; where its sheer supineness, its easy solution to his
problem revolted him, where he clenched his fist and looked at it,
and longed for the right to fight his way out.
When smoke began to issue from the cook-house chimney he stirred,
rose and went back. He ate no breakfast, and the men, seeing his
squared jaw and set face, let him alone. e worked with the strength
of three men that day, but that night, when the foreman offered him
a job as pacer, with double wages, he refused it.
"Give it to somebody else, Joe," he said. "I'm quitting."
"The hell you are! When?"
"I'd like to check out to-night."
His going was without comment. They had never fully accepted him,
and comings and goings without notice in the camp were common. He
rolled up his bedding, his change of under-garments inside it, and
took the road that night.
The railroad was ten miles away, and he made the distance easily.
He walked between wire fences, behind which horses moved restlessly
as he passed and cattle slept around a water hole, and as he walked
he faced a situation which all day he had labored like three men
He was going out of life. It did not much matter whether it was
to be behind bars or to pay the ultimate price. The shadow that
lay over him was that he was leaving forever David and all that he
stood for, and a woman. And the woman was not Elizabeth.
He cursed himself in the dark for a fool and a madman; he cursed
the infatuation which rose like a demoniac possession from his
early life. When that failed he tried to kill it by remembering
the passage of time, the loathing she must have nursed all these
years. He summoned the image of Elizabeth to his aid, to find it
eclipsed by something infinitely more real and vital. Beverly in
her dressing-room, grotesque and yet lovely in her make-up; Beverly
on the mountain-trail, in her boyish riding clothes. Beverly.
Probably at that stage of his recovery his mind had reacted more
quickly than his emotions. And by that strange faculty by which
an idea often becomes stronger in memory than in its original
production he found himself in the grip of a passion infinitely
more terrible than his earlier one for her. It wiped out the
memory, even the thought, of Elizabeth, and left him a victim of
its associated emotions. Bitter jealousy racked him, remorse and
profound grief. The ten miles of road to the railroad became ten
miles of torture, of increasing domination of the impulse to go to
her, and of final surrender.
In Spokane he outfitted himself, for his clothes were ragged, and
with the remainder of his money bought a ticket to Chicago. Beyond
Chicago he had no thought save one. Some way, somehow, he must get
to New York. Yet all the time he was fighting. He tried again and
again to break away from the emotional associations from which his
memory of her was erected; when that failed he struggled to face
reality; the lapse of time, the certainty of his disappointment, at
the best the inevitable parting when he went back to Norada. But
always in the end he found his face turned toward the East, and her.
He had no fear of starving. If he had learned the cost of a dollar
in blood and muscle, he had the blood and the muscle. There was a
time, in Chicago, when the necessity of thinking about money
irritated him, for the memory of his old opulent days was very
clear. Times when his temper was uncertain, and he turned surly.
Times when his helplessness brought to his lips the old familiar
blasphemies of his youth, which sounded strange and revolting to
He had no fear, then, but a great impatience, as though, having
lost so much time, he must advance with every minute. And
Chicago drove him frantic. There came a time there when he made a
deliberate attempt to sink to the very depths, to seek forgetfulness
by burying one wretchedness under another. He attempted to find
work and failed, and he tried to let go and sink. The total result
of the experiment was that he wakened one morning in his
lodging-house ill and with his money gone, save for some small
silver. He thought ironically, lying on his untidy bed, that even
the resources of the depths were closed to him.
He never tried that experiment again. He hated himself for it.
For days he haunted the West Madison Street employment agencies.
But the agencies and sidewalks were filled with men who wandered
aimlessly with the objectless shuffle of the unemployed. Beds had
gone up in the lodging-houses to thirty-five cents a night, and the
food in the cheap restaurants was almost uneatable. There came a
day when the free morning coffee at a Bible Rescue Home, and its
soup and potatoes and carrots at night was all he ate.
For the first time his courage began to fail him. He went to the
lakeside that night and stood looking at the water. He meant to
fight that impulse of cowardice at the source.
Up to that time he had given no thought whatever to his estate,
beyond the fact that he had been undoubtedly adjudged legally dead
and his property divided. But that day as he turned away from the
lake front, he began to wonder about it. After all, since he meant
to surrender himself before long, why not telegraph collect to the
old offices of the estate in New York and have them wire him money?
But even granting that they were still in existence, he knew with
what lengthy caution, following stunned surprise, they would go
about investigating the message. And there were leaks in the
telegraph. He would have a pack of newspaper hounds at his heels
within a few hours. The police, too. No, it wouldn't do.
The next day he got a job as a taxicab driver, and that night and
every night thereafter he went back to West Madison Street and
picked up one or more of the derelicts there and bought them food.
He developed quite a system about it. He waited until he saw a
man stop outside an eating-house look in and then pass on. But
one night he got rather a shock. For the young fellow he accosted
looked at him first with suspicion, which was not unusual, and
later with amazement.
"Captain Livingstone!" he said, and checked his hand as it was
about to rise to the salute. His face broke into a smile, and he
whipped off his cap. "You've forgotten me, sir," he said. "But
I've got your visiting card on the top of my head all right. Can
you see it?"
He bent his head and waited, but on no immediate reply being
forthcoming, for Dick was hastily determining on a course of action,
he looked up. It was then that he saw Dick's cheap and shabby
clothes, and his grin faded.
"I say," he said. "You are Livingstone, aren't you? I'd have
known - "
"I think you've made a mistake, old man," Dick said, feeling for
his words carefully. "That's not my name, anyhow. I thought, when
I saw you staring in at that window - How about it?"
The boy looked at him again, and then glanced away.
"I was looking, all right," he said. "I've been having a run of
It had been Dick's custom to eat with his finds, and thus remove
from the meal the quality of detached charity. Men who would not
take money would join him in a meal. But he could not face the
lights with this keen-eyed youngster. He offered him money instead.
"Just a lift," he said, awkwardly, when the boy hesitated. "I've
been there myself, lately."
But when at last he had prevailed and turned away he Was conscious
that the doughboy was staring after him, puzzled and unconvinced.
He had a bad night after that. The encounter had brought back his
hard-working, care-free days in the army. It had brought back,
too, the things he had put behind him, his profession and his joy
in it, the struggles and the aspirations that constitute a man's
life. With them there came, too, a more real Elizabeth, and a
wave of tenderness for her, and of regret. He turned on his
sagging bed, and deliberately put her away from him. Even if this
other ghost were laid, he had no right to her
Then, one day, he met Mrs. Sayre, and saw that she knew him.
Wallie stared at his mother. His mind was at once protesting the
fact and accepting it, with its consequences to himself. There
was a perceptible pause before he spoke. He stood, if anything,
somewhat straighter, but that was all.
"Are you sure it was Livingstone?"
"Positive. I talked to him. I wasn't sure myself, at first. He
looked shabby and thin, as though he'd been ill, and he had the
audacity to pretend at first he didn't know me. He closed the
door on me and - "
"Wait a minute, mother. What door?"
"He was driving a taxicab."
He looked at her incredulously.
"I don't believe it," he said slowly. "I think you've made a
mistake, that's all."
"Nonsense. I know him as well as I know you."
"Did he acknowledge his identity?"
"Not in so many words," she admitted. "He said I had made a mistake,
and he stuck to it. Then he shut the door and drove me to the
station. The only other chance I had was at the station, and there
was a line of cabs behind us, so I had only a second. I saw he
didn't intend to admit anything, so I said: 'I can see you don't
mean to recognize me, Doctor Livingstone, but I must know whether
I am to say at home that I've seen you.' He was making change for
me at the time - I'd have known his hands, I think, if I hadn't
seen anything else-and when he looked up his face was shocking.
He said, 'Are they all right?' 'David is very ill,' I said.
The cars behind were waiting and making a terrific din, and
a traffic man ran up then and made him move on. He gave me the
strangest look as he went. I stood and waited, thinking he would
turn and come back again at the end of the line, but he didn't.
I almost missed my train."
Wallie's first reaction to the news was one of burning anger and
"The blackguard!" he said. "The insufferable cad! To have run
away as he did, and then to let them believe him dead! For that's
what they do believe. It is killing David Livingstone, and as for
Elizabeth - She'll have to be told, mother. He's alive. He's
well. And he has deliberately deserted them all. He ought to
"You didn't see him, Wallie. I did. He's been through something,
I don't know what. I didn't sleep last night for thinking of his
face. It had despair in it."
"All right," he said, angrily pausing before her. "What do you
intend to do? Let them go on as they are, hoping and waiting;
lauding him to the skies as a sort of superman? The thing to do
is to tell the truth."
"But we don't know the truth, Wallie. There's something behind it
"Nothing very creditable, be sure of that," he pronounced. "Do you
think it is fair to Elizabeth to let her waste her life on the
memory of a man who's deserted her?"
"It would be cruel to tell her."
"You've got to be cruel to be kind, sometimes," he said oracularly.
"Why, the man may be married. May be anything. A taxi driver!
Doesn't that in itself show that he's hiding from something?"
She sat, a small obese figure made larger by her furs, and stared
at him with troubled eyes.
"I don't know, Wallie," she said helplessly. "In a way, it might
be better to tell her. She could put him out of her mind, then.
But I hate to do it. It's like stabbing a baby."
He understood her, and nodded. When, after taking a turn or two
about the room he again stopped in front of her his angry flush
"It's the devil of a mess," he commented. "I suppose the square
thing to do is to tell Doctor David, and let him decide. I've got
too much at stake to be a judge of what to do."
He went upstairs soon after that, leaving her still in her chair,
swathed in furs, her round anxious face bent forward in thought.
He had rarely seen her so troubled, so uncertain of her next move,
and he surmised, knowing her, that her emotions were a complex of
anxiety for himself with Elizabeth, of pity for David, and of the
memory of Dick Livingstone's haggard face.
She sat alone for some time and then went reluctantly up the
stairs to her bedroom. She felt, like Wallie, that she had too
much at stake to decide easily what to do.
In the end she decided to ask Doctor Reynolds' advice, and in the
morning she proceeded to do it. Reynolds was interested, even a
little excited, she thought, but he thought it better not to tell
David. He would himself go to Harrison Miller with it.
"You say he knew you?" he inquired, watching her. "I suppose
there is no doubt of that?"
"Certainly not. He's known me for years. And he asked about David."
"I see." He fell into profound thought, while she sat in her chair
a trifle annoyed with him. He was wondering how all this would
affect him and his prospects, and through them his right to marry.
He had walked into a good thing, and into a very considerable content.
"I see," he repeated, and got up. "I'll tell Miller, and we'll get
to work. We are all very grateful to you, Mrs. Sayre - "
As a result of that visit Harrison Miller and Bassett went that
night to Chicago. They left it to Doctor Reynolds' medical judgment
whether David should be told or not, and Reynolds himself did not
know. In the end he passed the shuttle the next evening to Clare
"Something's troubling you," she said. "You're not a bit like
yourself, old dear."
He looked at her. To him she was all that was fine and good and
sane of judgment.
"I've got something to settle," he said. "I was wondering while
you were singing, dear, whether you could help me out."
"When I sing you're supposed to listen. Well? What is it?" She
perched herself on the arm of his chair, and ran her fingers over
his hair. She was very fond of him, and she meant to be a good
wife. If she ever thought of Dick Livingstone now it was in
connection with her own reckless confession to Elizabeth. She
had hated Elizabeth ever since.
"I'll take a hypothetical case. If you guess, you needn't say.
Of course it's a great secret."
She listened, nodding now and then. He used no names, and he said
nothing of any crime.
"The point is this," he finished. "Is it better to believe the
man is dead, or to know that he is alive, but has cut himself off?"
"There's no mistake about the recognition?"
"Somebody from the village saw him in Chicago within day or two,
and talked to him."
She had the whole picture in a moment. She knew that Mrs. Sayre
had been in Chicago, that she had seen Dick there and talked to him.
She turned the matter over in her mind, shrewdly calculating,
planning her small revenge on Elizabeth even as she talked.
"I'd wait," she advised him. "He may come back with them, and in
that case David will know soon enough. Or he may refuse to, and
that would kill him. He'd rather think him dead than that."
She slept quietly that night, and spent rather more time than usual
in dressing that morning. Then she took her way to the Wheeler
house. She saw in what she was doing no particularly culpable
thing. She had no great revenge in mind; all that she intended
was an evening of the score between them. "He preferred you to me,
when you knew I cared. But he has deserted you." And perhaps,
too, a small present jealousy, for she was to live in the old
brick Livingstone house, or in one like it, while all the village
expected ultimately to see Elizabeth installed in the house on
She kept her message to the end of her visit, and delivered her
"I have something I ought to tell you, Elizabeth. But I don't know
how you'll take it."
"Maybe it's something I won't want to hear."
"I'll tell you, if you won't say where you heard it."
But Elizabeth made a small, impatient gesture. "I don't like
secrets, Clare. I can't keep them, for one thing. You'd better
not tell me."
Clare was nearly balked of her revenge, but not entirely.
"All right," she said, and prepared to depart. "I won't. But you
might just find out from your friend Mrs. Sayre who it was she saw
in Chicago this week."
It was in this manner, bit by bit and each bit trivial, that the
case against Dick was built up for Elizabeth. Mrs. Sayre, helpless
before her quiet questioning, had to acknowledge one damning thing
after another. He had known her; he had not asked for Elizabeth,
but only for David; he looked tired and thin, but well. She stood
at the window watching Elizabeth go down the hill, with a feeling
that she had just seen something die before her.
On the night Bassett and Harrison Miller were to return from
Chicago Lucy sat downstairs in her sitting-room waiting for news.
At ten o'clock, according to her custom, she went up to see that
David was comfortable for the night, and to read him that prayer
for the absent with which he always closed his day of waiting.
But before she went she stopped before the old mirror in the hall,
to see if she wore any visible sign of tension.
The door into Dick's office was open, and on his once neat desk
there lay a litter of papers and letters. She sighed and went
up the stairs.
David lay propped up in his walnut bed. An incredibly wasted and
old David; the hands on the log-cabin quilt which their mother had
made were old hands, and tired. Sometimes Lucy, with a frightened
gasp, would fear that David's waiting now was not all for Dick.
That he was waiting for peace.
There had been something new in David lately. She thought it was
fear. Always he had been so sure of himself; he had made his
experiment in a man's soul, and whatever the result he had been
ready to face his Creator with it. But he had lost courage. He
had tampered with the things that were to be and not he, but Dick,
was paying for that awful audacity.
Once, picking up his prayer-book to read evening prayer as was her
custom now, it had opened at a verse marked with an uneven line:
"I will arise and go to my Father, and will say unto Him, Father,
I have sinned against Heaven and before Thee, and am no more worthy
to be called Thy son."
That had frightened her
David's eyes followed her about the room.
"I've got an idea you're keeping something from me, Lucy."
"I? Why should I do that?"
"Then where's Harrison?" he demanded, querulously.
She told him one of the few white lies of her life when she said:
"He hasn't been well. He'll be over to-morrow." She sat down and
picked up the prayer-book, only to find him lifting himself in the
bed and listening.
"Somebody closed the hall door, Lucy. If it's Reynolds, I want to
She got up and went to the head of the stairs. The light was low
in the hall beneath, and she saw a man standing there. But she
still wore her reading glasses, and she saw at first hardly more
than a figure.
"Is that you, Doctor Reynolds?" she asked, in her high old voice.
Then she put her hand to her throat and stood rigid, staring down.
For the man had whipped off his cap and stood with his arms wide,
Holding to the stair-rail, her knees trembling under her, Lucy went
down, and not until Dick's arms were around her was she sure that
it was Dick, and not his shabby, weary ghost. She clung to him,
tears streaming down her face, still in that cautious silence which
governed them both; she held him off and looked at him, and then
strained herself to him again, as though the sense of unreality
were too strong, and only the contact of his rough clothing made
him real to her.
It was not until they were in her sitting-room with the door closed
that either of them dared to speak. Or perhaps, could speak. Even
then she kept hold of him.
"Dick!" she said. "Dick!"
And that, over and over.
"How is he?" he was able to ask finally.
"He has been very ill. I began to think - Dick, I'm afraid to tell
him. I'm afraid he'll die of joy."
He winced at that. There could not be much joy in the farewell that
was coming. Winced, and almost staggered. He had walked all the
way from the city, and he had had no food that day.
"We'll have to break it to him very gently," he said. "And he
mustn't see me like this. If you can find some of my clothes and
Reynolds' razor, I'll - " He caught suddenly to the back of a
chair and held on to it. "I haven't taken time to eat much to-day,"
he said, smiling at her. "I guess I need food, Aunt Lucy."
For the first time then she saw his clothes, his shabbiness and
his pallor, and perhaps she guessed the truth. She got up, her
face twitching, and pushed him into a chair.
"You sit here," she said, "and leave the door closed. The nurse
is out for a walk, and she'll be in soon. I'll bring some milk and
cookies now, and start the fire. I've got some chops in the house."
When she came back almost immediately, with the familiar tray and
the familiar food, he was sitting where she had left him. He had
spent the entire time, had she known it, in impressing on his mind
the familiar details of the room, to carry away with him.
She stood beside him, a hand on his shoulder, to see that he drank
the milk slowly.
"I've got the fire going," she said. "And I'll run up now and get
your clothes. I - had put them away." Her voice broke a little.
"You see, we - You can change in your laboratory. Richard, can't
you? If you go upstairs he'll hear you."
He reached up and caught her hand. That touch, too, of the nearest
to a mother's hand that he had known, he meant to carry away with
him. He could not speak.
She bustled away, into her bright kitchen first, and then with
happy stealth to the store-room. Her very heart was singing within
her. She neither thought nor reasoned. Dick was back, and all
would be well. If she had any subconscious anxieties they were
quieted, also subconsciously, by confidence in the men who were
fighting his battle for him, by Walter Wheeler and Bassett and
Harrison Miller. That Dick himself would present any difficulty
lay beyond her worst fears.
She had been out of the room only twenty minutes when she returned
to David and prepared to break her great news. At first she thought
he was asleep. He was lying back with his eyes closed and his hands
crossed on the prayer-book. But he looked up at her, and was
instantly roused to full attention by her face.
"You've had some news," he said.
"Yes, David. There's a little news. Don't count too much on it.
Don't sit up. David, I have heard something that makes me think he
is alive. Alive and well."
He made a desperate effort and controlled himself.
"Where is he?"
She sat down beside him and took his hand between hers.
"David," she said slowly, "God has been very good to us. I want to
tell you something, and I want you to prepare yourself. We have
heard from Dick. He is all right. He loves us, as he always did.
And - he is downstairs, David."
He lay very still and without speaking. She was frightened at
first, afraid to go on with her further news. But suddenly David
sat up in bed and in a full, firm voice began the Te Deum Laudamus.
"We praise thee, 0 God: we acknowledge thee to he the Lord. All
the earth doth worship thee, the Father everlasting."
He repeated it in its entirety. At the end, however, his voice broke.
"0 Lord, in thee have I trusted - I doubted Him, Lucy," he said.
Dick, waiting at the foot of the stairs, heard that triumphant paean
of thanksgiving and praise and closed his eyes.
It was a few minutes later that Lucy came down the stairs again.
"You heard him?" she asked. "Oh, Dick, he had frightened me. It
was more than a question of himself and you. He was making it one
of himself and God."
She let him go up alone and waited below, straining her ears, but
she heard nothing beyond David's first hoarse cry, and after a
little she went into her sitting-room and shut the door.
Whatever lay underneath, there was no surface drama in the meeting.
The determination to ignore any tragedy in the situation was strong
in them both, and if David's eyes were blurred and his hands
trembling, if Dick's first words were rather choked, they hid their
"Well, here I am, like a bad penny!" said Dick huskily from the
"And a long time you've been about it," grumbled David. "You young
He held out his hand, and Dick crushed it between both of his. He
was startled at the change in David. For a moment he could only
stand there, holding his hand, and trying to keep his apprehension
out of his face.
"Sit down," David said awkwardly, and blew his nose with a terrific
blast. "I've been laid up for a while, but I'm all right now. I'll
fool them all yet," he boasted, out of his happiness and content.
"Business has been going to the dogs, Dick. Reynolds is a fool."
"Of course you'll fool them." There was still a band around Dick's
throat. It hurt him to look at David, so thin and feeble, so sunken
from his former portliness. And David saw his eyes, and knew.
"I've dropped a little flesh, eh, Dick?" he inquired. "Old bulge
is gone, you see. The nurse makes up the bed when I'm in it, flat
as when I'm out."
Suddenly his composure broke. He was a feeble and apprehensive old
man, shaken with the tearless sobbing of weakness and age. Dick put
an arm across his shoulders, and they sat without speech until
David was quiet again.
"I'm a crying old woman, Dick," David said at last. "That's what
comes of never feeling a pair of pants on your legs and being
coddled like a baby." He sat up and stared around him ferociously.
"They sprinkle violet water on my pillows, Dick! Can you beat that?"
Warned by Lucy, the nurse went to her room and did not disturb them.
But she sat for a time in her rocking-chair, before she changed
into the nightgown and kimono in which she slept on the couch in
David's room. She knew the story, and her kindly heart ached
within her. What good would it do after all, this home-coming?
Dick could not stay. It was even dangerous. Reynolds had confided
to her that he suspected a watch on the house by the police, and
that the mail was being opened. What good was it?
Across the hall she could hear Lucy moving briskly about in Dick's
room, changing the bedding, throwing up the windows, opening and
closing bureau drawers. After a time Lucy tapped at her door and
she opened it.
"I put a cake of scented soap among your handkerchiefs," she said,
rather breathlessly. "Will you let me have it for Doctor Dick's
She got the soap and gave it to her.
"He is going to stay, then?"
"Certainly he is going to stay," Lucy said, surprised. "This is
his home. Where else should he go?"
But David knew. He lay, listening with avid interest to Dick's
story, asking a question now and then, nodding over Dick's halting
attempt to reconstruct the period of his confusion, but all the
time one part of him, a keen and relentless inner voice, was saying:
"Look at him well. Hold him close. Listen to his voice. Because
this hour is yours, and perhaps only this hour."
"Then the Sayre woman doesn't know about your coming?" he asked,
when Dick had finished.
"Still, she mustn't talk about having seen you. I'll send Reynolds
up in the morning."
He was eager to hear of what had occurred in the long interval
between them, and good, bad and indifferent Dick told him. But he
limited himself to events, and did not touch on his mental battles,
and David saw and noted it. The real story, he knew, lay there,
but it was not time for it. After a while he raised himself in
"Call Lucy, Dick."
When she had come, a strangely younger Lucy, her withered cheeks
flushed with exercise and excitement, he said:
"Bring me the copy of the statement I made to Harrison Miller, Lucy."
She brought it, patted Dick's shoulder, and went away. David held
out the paper.
"Read it slowly, boy," he said. "It is my justification, and God
willing, it may help you. The letter is from my brother, Henry.
Read that, too."
Lucy, having got Dick's room in readiness, sat down in it to await
his coming. Downstairs, in the warming oven, was his supper. His
bed, with the best blankets, was turned down and ready. His
dressing-gown and slippers were in their old accustomed place. She
drew a long breath.
Below, Doctor Reynolds came in quietly and stood listening. The
house was very still, and he decided that his news, which was after
all no news, could wait. He went into the office and got out a
sheet of note-paper, with his name at the top, and began his nightly
letter to Clare Rossiter.
"My darling," it commenced.
Above, David lay in his bed and Dick read the papers in his hand.
And as he read them David watched him. Not once, since Dick's
entrance, had he mentioned Elizabeth. David lay still and pondered
that. There was something wrong about it. This was Dick, their
own Dick; no shadowy ghost of the past, but Dick himself. True, an
older Dick, strangely haggard and with gray running in the brown of
his hair, but still Dick; the Dick whose eyes had lighted at the
sight of a girl, who had shamelessly persisted in holding her hand
at that last dinner, who had almost idolatrously loved her.
And he had not mentioned her name.
When he had finished the reading Dick sat for a moment with the
papers in his hand, thinking.
"I see," he said finally. "Of course, it's possible. Good God, if
I could only think it."
"It's the answer," David said stubbornly. "He was prowling around,
and fired through the window. Donaldson made the statement at the
inquest that some one had been seen on the place, and that he
notified you that night after dinner. He'd put guards around the
"It gives me a fighting chance, anyhow." Dick got up and threw
back his shoulders. "That's all I want. A chance to fight. I
know this. I hated Lucas - he was a poor thing and you know what
he did to me. But I never thought of killing him. That wouldn't
have helped matters. It was too late."
"What about - that?" David asked, not looking at him. When Dick
did not immediately reply David glanced at him, to find his face
set and pained.
"Perhaps we'd better not go into that now," David said hastily.
"It's natural that the readjustments will take time."
"We'll have to go into it. It's the hardest thing I have to face."
"It's not dead, then?"
"No," Dick said slowly. "It's not dead, David. And I'd better
bring it into the open. I've fought it to the limit by myself.
It's the one thing that seems to have survived the shipwreck. I
can't argue it down or think it down."
"Maybe, if you see Elizabeth - "
"I'd break her heart, that's all."
He tried to make David understand. He told in its sordid details
his failure to kill it, his attempts to sink memory and conscience
in Chicago and their failure, the continued remoteness of Elizabeth
and what seemed to him the flesh and blood reality of the other
woman. That she was yesterday, and Elizabeth was long ago.
"I can't argue it down," he finished. "I've tried to, desperately.
It's a - I think it's a wicked thing, in a way. And God knows all
she ever got out of it was suffering. She must loathe the thought
David was compelled to let it rest there. He found that Dick was
doggedly determined to see Beverly Carlysle. After that, he didn't
know. No man wanted to surrender himself for trial, unless he was
sure himself of whether he was innocent or guilty. If there was a
reasonable doubt - but what did it matter one way or the other?
His place was gone, as he'd made it, gone if he was cleared, gone
if he was convicted.
"I can't come back, David. They wouldn't have me."
After a silence he asked:
"How much is known here? What does Elizabeth know?"
"The town knows nothing. She knows a part of it. She cares a great
deal, Dick. It's a tragedy for her."
"Shall you tell her I have been here?"
"Not unless you intend to see her."
But Dick shook his head.
"Even if other things were the same I haven't a right to see her,
until I've got a clean slate."
"That's sheer evasion," David said, almost with irritation.
"Yes," Dick acknowledged gravely. "It is sheer evasion."
"What about the police?" he inquired after a silence. "I was
registered at Norada. I suppose they traced me?"
"Yes. The house was watched for a while; I understand they've
given it up now."
In response to questions about his own condition David was almost
querulous. He was all right. He would get well if they'd let him,
and stop coddling him. He would get up now, in spite of them. He
was good for one more fight before he died, and he intended to make
it, in a court if necessary.
"They can't prove it, Dick," he said triumphantly. "I've been over
it every day for months. There is no case. There never was a case,
for that matter. They're a lot of pin-headed fools, and we'll show
them up, boy. We'll show them up."
But for all his excitement fatigue was telling on him. Lucy tapped
at the door and came in.
"You'd better have your supper before it spoils," she said. "And
David needs a rest. Doctor Reynolds is in the office. I haven't
told him yet."
The two men exchanged glances.
"Time for that later," David said. "I can't keep him out of my
office, but I can out of my family affairs for an hour or so."
So it happened that Dick followed Lucy down the back stairs and ate
his meal stealthily in the kitchen.
"I don't like you to eat here," she protested.
"I've eaten in worse places," he said, smiling at her. "And
sometimes not at all." He was immediately sorry for that, for
the tears came to her eyes.
He broke as gently as he could the news that he could not stay, but
it was a great blow to her. Her sagging chin quivered piteously,
and it took all the cheerfulness he could summon and all the
promises of return he could make to soften the shock.
"You haven't even seen Elizabeth," she said at last.
"That will have to wait until things are cleared up, Aunt Lucy."
"Won't you write her something then, Richard? She looks like a
ghost these days."
Her eyes were on him, puzzled and wistful. He met them gravely.
"I haven't the right to see her, or to write to her."
And the finality in his tone closed the discussion, that and
something very close to despair in his face.
For all his earlier hunger he ate very little, and soon after he
tiptoed up the stairs again to David's room. When he came down to
the kitchen later on he found her still there, at the table where
he had left her, her arms across it and her face buried in them.
On a chair was the suitcase she had hastily packed for him, and a
roll of bills lay on the table.
"You must take it," she insisted. "It breaks my heart to think
- Dick, I have the feeling that I am seeing you for the last time."
Then for fear she had hurt him she forced a determined smile. "Don't
pay any attention to me. David will tell you that I have said, over
and over, that I'd never see you again. And here you are!"
He was going. He had said good-bye to David and was going at once.
She accepted it with a stoicism born of many years of hail and
farewell, kissed him tenderly, let her hand linger for a moment on
the rough sleeve of his coat, and then let him out by the kitchen
door into the yard. But long after he had gone she stood in the
doorway, staring out...
In the office Doctor Reynolds was finishing a long and carefully
"I am not good at putting myself on paper, as you know, dear heart.
But this I do know. I do not believe that real love dies. We may
bury it, so deep that it seems to be entirely dead, but some day it
sends up a shoot, and it either lives, or the business of killing
it has to be begun all over again. So when we quarrel, I always
know - "
The evening had shaken Dick profoundly. David's appearance and Lucy's
grief and premonition, most of all the talk of Elizabeth, had
depressed and unnerved him. Even the possibility of his own
innocence was subordinated to an overwhelming yearning for the old
house and the old life.
Through a side window as he went toward the street he could see
Reynolds at his desk in the office, and he was possessed by a
fierce jealousy and resentment at his presence there. The
laboratory window was dark, and he stood outside and looked at it.
He would have given his hope of immortality just then to have been
inside it once more, working over his tubes and his cultures, his
slides and microscope. Even the memory of certain dearly-bought
extravagances in apparatus revived in him, and sent the blood to
his head in a wave of unreasoning anger and bitterness.
He had a wild desire to go in at the front door, confront Reynolds
in his smug complacency and drive him out; to demand his place in
the world and take it. He could hardly tear himself away.
Under a street lamp he looked at his watch. It was eleven o'clock,
and he had a half hour to spare before train-time. Following an
impulse he did not analyze he turned toward the Wheeler house. Just
so months ago had he turned in that direction, but with this
difference, that then he went with a sort of hurried expectancy,
and that now he loitered on the way. Yet that it somehow drew him
he knew. Not with the yearning he had felt toward the old brick
house, but with the poignancy of a long past happiness. He did not
love, but he remembered.
Yet, for a man who did not love, he was oddly angry at the sight
of two young figures on the doorstep. Their clear voices came to
him across the quiet street, vibrant and full of youth. It was
the Sayre boy and Elizabeth.
He half stopped, and looked across. They were quite oblivious of
him, intent and self-absorbed. As he had viewed Reynolds'
unconscious figure with jealous dislike, so he viewed Wallace Sayre.
Here, everywhere, his place was filled. He was angry with an
unreasoning, inexplicable anger, angry at Elizabeth, angry at the
boy, and at himself.
He had but to cross the street and take his place there. He could
drive that beardless youngster away with a word. The furious
possessive jealousy of the male animal, which had nothing to do
with love, made him stop and draw himself up as he stared across.
Then he smiled wryly and went on. He could do it, but he did not
want to. He would never do it. Let them live their lives, and let
him live his. But he knew that there, across the street, so near
that he might have raised his voice and summoned her, he was leaving
the best thing that had come into his life; the one fine and good
thing, outside of David and Lucy. That against its loss he had
nothing but an infatuation that had ruined three lives already, and
was not yet finished.
He stopped and, turning, looked back. He saw the girl bend down
and put a hand on Wallie Sayre's shoulder, and the boy's face
upturned and looking into hers. He shook himself and went on.
After all, that was best. He felt no anger now. She deserved
better than to be used to help a man work out his salvation. She
deserved youth, and joyousness, and the forgetfulness that comes
with time. She was already forgetting.
He smiled again as he went on up the street, but his hands as he
buttoned his overcoat were shaking.
It was shortly after that that he met the rector, Mr. Oglethorpe.
He passed him quickly, but he was conscious that the clergyman had
stopped and was staring after him. Half an hour later, sitting in
the empty smoker of the train, he wondered if he had not missed
something there. Perhaps the church could have helped him, a good
man's simple belief in right and wrong. He was wandering in a
gray no-man's land, without faith or compass.
David had given him the location of Bassett's apartment house, and
he found it quickly. he was in a state of nervous irritability by
that time, for the sense of being a fugitive was constantly
stressed in the familiar streets by the danger of recognition. It
was in vain that he argued with himself that only the police were
interested in his movements, and the casual roundsman not at all.
He found himself shying away from them like a nervous horse.
But if he expected any surprise from Bassett he was disappointed.
He greeted him as if he had seen him yesterday, and explained his
lack of amazement in his first words.
"Doctor Livingstone telephoned me. Sit down, man, and let me look
at you. You've given me more trouble than any human being on earth."
"Sorry," Dick said awkwardly, "I seem to have a faculty of involving
other people in my difficulties."
"Want a drink?"
"No, thanks. I'll smoke, if you have any tobacco. I've been afraid
to risk a shop."
Bassett talked cheerfully as he found cigarettes and matches. "The
old boy had a different ring to his voice to-night. He was going
down pretty fast, Livingstone; was giving up the fight. But I fancy
you've given him a new grip on the earth." When they were seated,
however, a sort of awkwardness developed. To Dick, Bassett had been
a more or less shadowy memory, clouded over with the details and
miseries of the flight. And Bassett found Dick greatly altered. He
was older than he remembered him. The sort of boyishness which had
come with the resurrection of his early identity had gone, and the
man who sat before him was grave, weary, and much older. But his
gaze was clear and direct.
"Well, a good bit of water has gone over the dam since we met,"
Bassett said. "I nearly broke a leg going down that infernal
mountain again. And I don't mind telling you that I came within
an ace of landing in the Norada jail. They knew I'd helped you get
away. But they couldn't prove it."
"I got out, because I didn't see any need of dragging you down with
me. I was a good bit of a mess just then, but I could reason that
out, anyhow. It wasn't entirely unselfish, either. I had a better
chance without you. Or thought I did."
Bassett was watching him intently.
"Has it all come back?" he inquired.
"Practically all. Not much between the thing that happened at the
ranch and David Livingstone's picking me up at the cabin."
"Did it ever occur to you to wonder just how I got in on your
"I suppose you read Maggie Donaldson's confession."
"I came to see you before that came out."
"Then I don't know, I'm afraid."
"I suppose you would stake your life on the fact that Beverly
Carlysle knows nothing of what happened that night at the ranch?"
Dick's face twitched, but he returned Bassett's gaze steadily.
"She has no criminal knowledge, if that is what you mean.
"I am not so sure of it."
"I think you'd better explain that."
At the cold anger in Dick's voice Bassett stared at him. So that
was how the wind lay. Poor devil! And out of the smug complacence
of his bachelor peace Bassett thanked his stars for no women in his
"I'm afraid you misunderstand me, Livingstone," he said easily.
"I don't think that she shot Lucas. But I don't think she has ever
told all she knows. I've got the coroner's inquest here, and we'll
go over it later. I'll tell you how I got onto your trail. Do you
remember taking Elizabeth Wheeler to see "The Valley?'"
"I had forgotten it. I remember now."
"Well, Gregory, the brother, saw you and recognized you. I was
with him. He tried to deny you later, but I was on. Of course he
told her, and I think she sent him to warn David Livingstone. They
knew I was on the trail of a big story. Then I think Gregory
stayed here to watch me when the company made its next jump. He
knew I'd started, for he sent David Livingstone the letter you got.
By the way, that letter nearly got me jailed in Norada."
"I'm not hiding behind her skirts," Dick said shortly. "And there's
nothing incriminating in what you say. She saw me as a fugitive,
and she sent me a warning. That's all."
"Easy, easy, old man. I'm not pinning anything on her. But I want,
if you don't mind, to carry this through. I have every reason to
believe that, some time before you got to Norada, the Thorwald woman
was on my trail. I know that I was followed to the cabin the night
I stayed there, and that she got a saddle horse from her son that
night, her son by Thorwald, either for herself or some one else."
"All right. I accept that, tentatively."
"That means that she knew I was coming to Norada. Think a minute;
I'd kept my movements quiet, but Beverly Carlysle knew, and her
brother. When they warned David they warned her."
"I don't believe it."
"If you had killed Lucas," Bassett asserted positively, "the
Thorwald woman would have let the Sheriff get you, and be damned
to you. She had no reason to love you. You'd kept her son out of
what she felt was his birthright."
He got up and opened a table drawer.
"I've got a copy of the coroner's inquest here. It will bear
going over. And it may help you to remember, too. We needn't
read it all. There's a lot that isn't pertinent."
He got out a long envelope, and took from it a number of typed
pages, backed with a base of heavy paper.
"'Inquest in the Coroner's office on the body of Howard Lucas,'"
he read. "'October 10th, 1911.' That was the second day after.
'Examination of witnesses by Coroner Samuel J. Burkhardt. Mrs.
Lucas called and sworn.'" He glanced at Dick and hesitated. "I
don't know about this to-night, Livingstone. You look pretty well
shot to pieces."
"I didn't sleep last night. I'm all right. Go on."
During the reading that followed he sat back in his deep chair, his
eyes closed. Except that once or twice he clenched his hands he
made no movement whatever.
Q. "What is your name
A. "Anne Elizabeth Lucas. My stage name is Beverly Carlysle."
Q. "Where do you live, Mrs. Lucas?"
A. "At 26 East 56th Street, New York City."
Q. "I shall have to ask you some questions that are necessarily
painful at this time. I shall be as brief as possible.
Perhaps it will be easier for you to tell so much as you know
of what happened the night before last at the Clark ranch."
A. "I cannot tell very much. I am confused, too. I was given
a sleeping powder last night. I can only say that I heard a
shot, and thought at first that it was fired from outside.
I ran down the stairs, and back to the billiard room. As I
entered the room Mr. Donaldson came in through a window. My
husband was lying on the floor. That is all."
Q. "Where was Judson Clark?"
A. "He was leaning on the roulette table, staring at the - at
Q. "Did you see him leave the room
A. "No. I was on my knees beside Mr. Lucas. I think when I got
up he was gone. I didn't notice."
Q. "Did you see a revolver?"
A. "No. I didn't look for one."
Q. "Now I shall ask you one more question, and that is all. Had
there been any quarrel between Mr. Lucas and Mr. Clark that
evening in your presence?"
A. "No. But I had quarreled with them both. They were drinking
too much. I had gone to my room to pack and go home. I was
Witness excused and Mr. John Donaldson called.
Q. "What is your name
A. "John Donaldson."
Q. "Where do you live?"
A. "At the Clark ranch."
Q. "What is your business?"
A. "You know all about me. I'm foreman of the ranch."
Q. "I want you to tell what you know, Jack, about last night.
Begin with where you were when you heard the shot."
A. "I was on the side porch. The billiard room opens on to it.
I'd been told by the corral boss earlier in the evening that
he'd seen a man skulking around the house. There'd been a
report like that once or twice before, and I set a watch. I
put Ben Haggerty at the kitchen wing with a gun, and I took
up a stand on the porch. Before I did that I told Judson,
but I don't think he took it in. He'd been lit up like a
house afire all evening. I asked for his gun, but he said
he didn't know where it was, and I went back to my house and
got my own. Along about eight o'clock I thought I saw some
one in the shrubbery, and I went out as quietly as I could.
But it was a woman, Hattie Thorwald, who was working at the
"When I left the men were playing roulette. I looked in as
I went back, and Judson had a gun in his hand. He said; 'I
found it, Jack.' I saw he was very drunk, and I told him to
put it up, I'd got mine. It had occurred to me that I'd
better warn Haggerty to be careful, and I started along the
verandah to tell him not to shoot except to scare. I had
only gone a few steps when I heard a shot, and ran back. Mr.
Lucas was on the floor dead, and Judson was as the lady said.
He must have gone out while I was bending over the body."
Q. "Did you see the revolver in his hand?"
Q. "How long between your warning Mr. Clark and the shot?"
A. "I suppose I'd gone a dozen yards."
Q. "Were you present when the revolver was found?"
A. "No, sir.
Q. "Did you see Judson Clark again?"
A. "No, sir. From what I gather he went straight to the corral
and got his horse."
Q. "You entered the room as Mrs. Lucas came in the door?"
A. "Well, she's wrong about that. She was there a little ahead
of me. She'd reached the body before I got in. She was
stooping over it."
Bassett looked up from his reading.
"I want you to get this, Livingstone," he said. "How did she reach
the billiard room? Where was it in the house?"
"Off the end of the living-room."
"A large living-room?"
"Forty or forty-five feet, about."
"Will you draw it for me, roughly?"
He passed over a pad and pencil, and Dick made a hasty outline.
Bassett watched with growing satisfaction.
"Here's the point," he said, when Dick had finished. "She was there
before Donaldson, or at the same time," as Dick made an impatient
movement. "But he had only a dozen yards to go. She was in her
room, upstairs. To get down in that time she had to leave her room,
descend a staircase, cross a hall and run the length of the
living-room, forty-five feet. If the case had ever gone to trial
she'd have had to do some explaining."
"She or Donaldson," Dick said obstinately.
Bassett read on:
Jean Melis called and sworn.
Q. "Your name?"
A. "Jean Melis."
Q. "Have you an American residence, Mr. Melis?"
A. "Only where I am employed. I am now living at the Clark
Q. "What is your business?"
A. "I am Mr. Clark's valet."
Q. "It was you who found Mr. Clark's revolver?"
Q. "Tell about how and where you found it."
A. "I made a search early in the evening. I will not hide from
you that I meant to conceal it if I discovered it. A man who is
drunk is not guilty of what he does. I did not find it. I went
back that night, when the people had gone, and found it beneath
the carved woodbox, by the fireplace. I did not know that the
Sheriff had placed a man outside the window."
"Get that, too," Bassett said, putting down the paper. "The
Frenchman was fond of you, and he was doing his blundering best.
But the Sheriff expected you back and had had the place watched,
so they caught him. But that's not the point. A billiard room
is a hard place to hide things in. I take it yours was like the
"All right. This poor boob of a valet made a search and didn't
find it. Later he found it. Why did he search? Wasn't it the
likely thing that you'd carried it away with you? Do you suppose
for a moment that with Donaldson and the woman in the room you hid
it there, and then went back and stood behind the roulette table,
leaning on it with both hands, and staring? Not at all. Listen to
Q. "You recognize this revolver as the one you found?"
. "You are familiar with it?"
A. "Yes. It is Mr. Clark's."
Q. "You made the second search because you had not examined the
A. "No. I had examined the woodbox. I had a theory that - "
Q. "The Jury cannot listen to any theories. This is an inquiry
"I'm going to find Melis," the reporter said thoughtfully, as he
folded up the papers. "The fact is, I mailed an advertisement to
the New York papers to-day. I want to get that theory of his. It's
the servants in the house who know what is going on. I've got an
idea that he'd stumbled onto something. He'd searched for the
revolver, and it wasn't there. He went back and it was. All that
conflicting evidence, and against it, what? That you'd run away !"
But he saw that Dick was very tired, and even a little indifferent.
He would be glad to know that his hands were clean, but against the
intimation that Beverly Carlysle had known more than she had
disclosed he presented a dogged front of opposition. After a time
Bassett put the papers away and essayed more general conversation,
and there he found himself met half way and more. He began to get
Dick as a man, for the first time, and as a strong man. He watched
his quiet, lined face, and surmised behind it depths of tenderness
and gentleness. No wonder the little Wheeler girl had worshipped him.
It was settled that Dick was to spend the night there, and such
plans as he had Bassett left until morning. But while he was
unfolding the bed-lounge on which Dick was to sleep, Dick opened a
line of discussion that cost the reporter an hour or two's sleep
before he could suppress his irritation.
"I must have caused you considerable outlay, one way and another,"
he said. "I want to defray that, Bassett, as soon as I've figured
out some way to get at my bank account."
Bassett jerked out a pillow and thumped it.
"Forget it." Then he grinned. "You can fix that when you get your
estate, old man. Buy a newspaper and let me run it!"
He bent over the davenport and put the pillow in place. "All you'll
have to do is to establish your identity. The institutions that got
it had to give bond. I hope you're not too long for this bed."
But he looked up at Dick's silence, to see him looking at him with a
faint air of amusement over his pipe.
"They're going to keep the money, Bassett."
Bassett straightened and stared at him.
"Don't be a damned fool," he protested. "It's your money. Don't
tell me you're going to give it to suffering humanity. That sort
of drivel makes me sick. Take it, give it away if you like, but
for God's sake don't shirk your job."
Dick got up and took a turn or two around the room. Then, after
an old habit, he went to the window and stood looking out, but
"It's not that, Bassett. I'm afraid of the accursed thing. I
might talk a lot of rot about wanting to work with my hands. I
wouldn't if I didn't have to, any more than the next fellow. I
might fool myself, too, with thinking I could work better without
any money worries. But I've got to remember this. It took work
to make a man of me before, and it will take work to keep me going
the way I intend to go, if I get my freedom."
Sometime during the night Bassett saw that the light was still
burning by the davenport, and went in. Dick was asleep with a
volume of Whitman open on his chest, and Bassett saw what he had
'You broken resolutions, you racking angers, you short-lived ennuis;
Ah, think not you shall finally triumph, my real self has yet to come forth.
It shall march forth over-mastering, till all lie beneath me,
It shall stand up, the soldier of unquestioned victory."
Bassett took the book away and stood rereading the paragraph. For
the first time he sensed the struggle going on at that time behind
Dick's quiet face, and he wondered. Unquestioned victory, eh?
That was a pretty large order.
Leslie Ward had found the autumn extremely tedious. His old
passion for Nina now and then flamed up in him, but her occasional
coquetries no longer deceived him. They had their source only in
her vanity. She exacted his embraces only as tribute to her own
charm, her youth, her fresh young body.
And Nina out of her setting of gaiety, of a thumping piano, of
chattering, giggling crowds, of dancing and bridge and theater
boxes, was a queen dethroned. She did not read or think. She
spent the leisure of her mourning period in long hours before her
mirror fussing with her hair, in trimming and retrimming hats, or
in the fastidious care of her hands and body.
He was ashamed sometimes of his pitilessly clear analysis of her.
She was not discontented, save at the enforced somberness of their
lives. She had found in marriage what she wanted; a good house,
daintily served; a man to respond to her attractions as a woman,
and to provide for her needs as a wife; dignity and an established
lace in the world; liberty and privilege.
But she was restless. She chafed at the quiet evenings they spent
at home, and resented the reading in which he took refuge from her
"For Heaven's sake, Nina, sit down and read or sew, or do something.
You've been at that window a dozen times."
"I'm not bothering you. Go on and read."
When nobody dropped in she would go upstairs and spend the hour or
so before bedtime in the rites of cold cream, massage, and in
placing the little combs of what Leslie had learned was called a
But her judgment was as clear as his, and even more pitiless; the
difference between them lay in the fact that while he rebelled, she
accepted the situation. She was cleverer than he was; her mind
worked more quickly, and she had the adaptability he lacked. If
there were times when she wearied him, there were others when he
sickened her. Across from her at the table he ate slowly and
enormously. He splashed her dainty bathroom with his loud, gasping
cold baths. He flung his soiled clothing anywhere. He drank
whisky at night and crawled into the lavender-scented sheets
redolent of it, to drop into a heavy sleep and snore until she
wanted to scream. But she played the game to the limit of her
Then, seeing that they might go on the rocks, he made a valiant
effort, and since she recognized it as an effort, she tried to meet
him half way. They played two-handed card games. He read aloud to
her, poetry which she loathed, and she to him, short stories he
hated. He suggested country walks and she agreed, to limp back
after a half mile or so in her high-heeled pumps.
He concealed his boredom from her, but there were nights when he
lay awake long after she was asleep and looked ahead into a future
of unnumbered blank evenings. He had formerly taken an occasional
evening at his club, but on his suggesting it now Nina's eyes would
fill with suspicion, and he knew that although she never mentioned
Beverly Carlysle, she would neither forget nor entirely trust him
again. And in his inner secret soul he knew that she was right.
He had thought that he had buried that brief madness, but there
were times when he knew he lied to himself. One fiction, however,
he persisted in; he had not been infatuated with Beverly. It was
only that she gave him during those few days something he had not
found at home, companionship and quiet intelligent talk. She had
been restful. Nina was never restful.
He bought a New York paper daily, and read it in the train. "The
Valley" had opened to success in New York, and had settled for a
long run. The reviews of her work had been extraordinary, and
when now and then she gave an interview he studied the photographs
accompanying it. But he never carried the paper home.
He began, however, to play with the thought of going to New York.
He would not go to see her at her house, but he would like to see
her before a metropolitan audience, to add his mite to her triumph.
There were times when he fully determined to go, when he sat at his
desk with his hand on the telephone, prepared to lay the foundations
of the excursion by some manipulation of business interests. For
months, however, he never went further than the preliminary movement.
But by October he began to delude himself with a real excuse for
going, and this was the knowledge that by a strange chain of
circumstance this woman who so dominated his secret thoughts was
connected with Elizabeth's life through Judson Clark. The
discovery, communicated to him by Walter Wheeler, that Dick was
Clark had roused in him a totally different feeling from Nina's.
He saw no glamour of great wealth. On the contrary, he saw in
Clark the author of a great unhappiness to a woman who had not
deserved it. And Nina, judging him with deadly accuracy, surmised
That he was jealous of Judson Clark, and of his part in the past,
he denied to himself absolutely. But his resentment took the form
of violent protest to the family, against even allowing Elizabeth
to have anything to do with Dick if he turned up.
"He'll buy his freedom, if he isn't dead," he said to Nina, and
he'll come snivelling back here, with that lost memory bunk, and
they're just fool enough to fall for it."
"I've fallen for it, and I'm at least as intelligent as you are."
Before her appraising eyes his own fell.
"Suppose I did something I shouldn't and turned up here with such
a story, would you believe it?"
"No. When you want to do something you shouldn't you don't appear
to need any excuse."
But, on the whole, they managed to live together comfortably enough.
They each had their reservations, but especially after Jim's death
they tacitly agreed to stop bickering and to make their mutual
concessions. What Nina never suspected was that he corresponded
with Beverly Carlysle. Not that the correspondence amounted to much.
He had sent her flowers the night of the New York opening, with the
name of his club on his card, and she wrote there in acknowledgment.
Then, later, twice he sent her books, one a biography, which was a
compromise with his conscience, and later a volume of exotic love
verse, which was not. As he replied to her notes of thanks a
desultory correspondence had sprung up, letters which the world
might have read, and yet which had to him the savor and interest
of the clandestine.
He did not know that that, and not infatuation, was behind his
desire to see Beverly again; never reasoned that he was
demonstrating to himself that his adventurous love life was not
necessarily ended; never acknowledged that the instinct of the
hunter was as alive in him as in the days before his marriage.
Partly, then, a desire for adventure, partly a hope that romance
was not over but might still be waiting around the next corner,
was behind his desire to see her again.
Probably Nina knew that, as she knew so many things; why he had
taken to reading poetry, for instance. Certain it is that when he
began, early in October, to throw out small tentative remarks about
the necessity of a business trip before long to New York, she
narrowed her eyes. She was determined to go with him, if he went
at all, and he was equally determined that she should not.
It became, in a way, a sort of watchful waiting on both sides.
Then there came a time when some slight excuse offered, and Leslie
took up the shuttle for forty-eight hours, and wove his bit in the
pattern. It happened to be on the same evening as Dick's return
to the old house.
He was a little too confident, a trifle too easy to Nina.
"Has the handle of my suitcase been repaired yet?" he asked. He
was lighting a cigarette at the time.
"I'll have to run over to New York to-morrow. I wanted Joe to go
alone, but he thinks he needs me." Joe was his partner. "Oh. So
"That's what I said."
She was silent. Joe's going was clever of him. It gave authenticity
to his business, and it kept her at home.
"How long shall you be gone?"
"Only a day or two." He could not entirely keep the relief out of
his voice. It had been easy, incredibly easy. He might have done
it a month ago. And he had told the truth; Joe was going.
"I'll pack to-night, and take my suitcase in with me in the morning."
"If you'll get your things out I'll pack them." She was still
thinking, but her tone was indifferent. "You won't want your dress
clothes, of course
"I'd better have a dinner suit."
She looked at him then, with a half contemptuous smile. "Yes," she
said slowly. "I suppose you will. You'll be going to the theater."
He glanced away.
"Possibly. But we'll be rushing to get through. There's a lot to
do. Amazing how business piles up when you find you're going
anywhere. There won't be much time to play."
She sat before the mirror in her small dressing-room that night,
ostensibly preparing for bed but actually taking stock of her
situation. She had done all she could, had been faithful and loyal,
had made his home attractive, had catered to his tastes and tried
to like his friends, had met his needs and responded to them. And
now, this. She was bewildered and frightened. How did women hold
She found him in bed and unmistakably asleep when she went into the
bedroom. Man-like, having got his way, he was not troubled by
doubts or introspection. It was done.
He was lying on his back, with his mouth open. She felt a sudden
and violent repugnance to getting into the bed beside him. Sometime
in the night he would turn over and throwing his arm about her, hold
her close in his sleep; and it would be purely automatic, the
mechanical result of habit.
She lay on the edge of the bed and thought things over.
He had his good qualities. He was kind and affectionate to her
family. He had been wonderful when Jim died, and he loved Elizabeth
dearly. He was generous and open-handed. He was handsome, too, in
a big, heavy way.
She began to find excuses for him. Men were always a child-like
prey to some women. They were vain, and especially they were
sex-vain; good looking men were a target for every sort of advance.
She transferred her loathing of him to the woman she suspected of
luring him away from her, and lay for hours hating her.
She saw Leslie off in the morning with a perfunctory good-bye while
cold anger and suspicion seethed in her. And later she put on her
hat and went home to lay the situation before her mother. Mrs.
Wheeler was out, however, and she found only Elizabeth sewing by
Nina threw her hat on the bed and sat down dispiritedly.
"I suppose there's no news?" she asked.
Nina watched her. She was out of patience with Elizabeth,
exasperated with the world.
"Are you going to go on like this all your life?" she demanded.
"Sitting by a window, waiting? For a man who ran away from you?"
"That's not true, and you know it."
"They're all alike," Nina declared recklessly. "They go along well
enough, and they are all for virtue and for the home and fireside
stuff, until some woman comes their way. I ought to know."
Elizabeth looked up quickly.
"Why, Nina!" she said. "You don't mean - "
"He went to New York this morning. He pretended to be going on
business, but he's actually gone to see that actress. He's been
mad about her for months."
"I don't believe it."
"Oh, wake up," Nina said impatiently. "The world isn't made up of
good, kind, virtuous people. It's rotten. And men are all alike.
Dick Livingstone and Les and all the rest - tarred with the same
stick. As long as there are women like this Carlysle creature
they'll fall for them. And you and I can sit at home and chew our
nails and plan to keep them by us. And we can't do it."
In spite of herself a little question of doubt crept that day into
Elizabeth's mind. She had always known that they had not told her
all the truth; that the benevolent conspiracy to protect Dick
extended even to her. But she had never thought that it might
include a woman. Once there, the very humility of her love for Dick
was an element in favor of the idea. She had never been good enough,
or wise or clever enough, for him. She was too small and unimportant
to be really vital.
Dismissing the thought did no good. It came back. But because she
was a healthy-minded and practical person she took the one course
she could think of, and put the question that night to her father,
when he came back from seeing David.
David had sent for him early in the evening. All day he had thought
over the situation between Dick and Elizabeth, with growing pain and
uneasiness. He had not spoken of it to Lucy, or to Harrison Miller;
he knew that they would not understand, and that Lucy would suffer.
She was bewildered enough by Dick's departure.
At noon he had insisted on getting up and being helped into his
trousers. So clad he felt more of a man and better able to cope
with things, although his satisfaction in them was somewhat modified
by the knowledge of two safety-pins at the sides, to take up their
superfluous girth at the waistband.
But even the sense of being clothed as a man again did not make it
easier to say to Walter Wheeler what must be said.
Walter took the news of Dick's return with a visible brightening.
It was as though, out of the wreckage of his midd1e years, he saw
that there was now some salvage, but he was grave and inarticulate
over it, wrung David's hand and only said:
"Thank God for it, David." And after a pause: "Was he all right?
He remembered everything?"
But something strange in the situation began to obtrude itself into
his mind. Dick had come back twenty-four hours ago. Last night.
And all this time-
"Where is he now?"
"He's not here, Walter."
"He has gone away again, without seeing Elizabeth?"
David cleared his throat.
"He is still a fugitive. He doesn't himself know he isn't guilty.
I think he feels that he ought not to see her until - "
"Come, come," Walter Wheeler said impatiently. "Don't try to find
excuses for him. Let's have the truth, David. I guess I can
Poor David, divided between his love for Dick and his native honesty,
threw out his hands.
"I don't understand it, Wheeler," he said. "You and I wouldn't, I
suppose. We are not the sort to lose the world for a woman. The
plain truth is that there is not a trace of Judson Clark in him
to-day, save one. That's the woman."
When Wheeler said nothing, but sat twisting his hat in his hands,
David went on. It might be only a phase. As its impression on
Dick's youth had been deeper than others, so its effect was more
lasting. It might gradually disappear. He was confident, indeed,
that it would. He had been reading on the subject all day.
Walter Wheeler hardly heard him. He was facing the incredible fact,
and struggling with his own problem. After a time he got up, shook
hands with David and went home, the dog at his heels.
During the evening that followed he made his resolution, not to tell
her, never to let her suspect the truth. But he began to wonder if
she had heard something, for he found her eyes on him more than once,
and when Margaret had gone up to bed she came over and sat on the
arm of his chair. She said an odd thing then, and one that made it
impossible to lie to her later.
"I come to you, a good bit as I would go to God, if he were a
person," she said. "I have got to know something, and you can tell
He put his arm around her and held her close.
"Go ahead, honey."
"Daddy, do you realize that I am a woman now?"
"I try to. But it seems about six months since I was feeding you
hot water for colic."
She sat still for a moment, stroking his hair and being very careful
not to spoil his neat parting.
"You have never told me all about Dick, daddy. You have always
kept something back. That's true, isn't it?"
"There were details," he said uncomfortably. "It wasn't necessary -"
"Here's what I want to know. If he has gone back to the time - you
know, wouldn't he go back to caring for the people he loved then?"
Then, suddenly, her childish appeal ceased, and she slid from the
chair and stood before him. "I must know, father. I can bear it.
The thing you have been keeping from me was another woman, wasn't it?"
"It was so long ago," he temporized. "Think of it, Elizabeth. A
boy of twenty-one or so."
"Then there was?"
"I believe so, at one time. But I know positively that he hadn't
seen or heard from her in ten years."
"What sort of woman?"
"I wouldn't think about it, honey. It's all so long ago."
"Did she live in Wyoming?"
"She was an actress," he said, hard driven by her persistence.
"Do you know her name?"
"Only her stage name, honey."
"But you know she was an actress!"
"All right, dear," he said. "I'll tell you all I know. She was
an actress, and she married another man. That's all there is to it.
She's not young now. She must be thirty now - if she's living," he
added, as an afterthought.
It was some time before she spoke again.
"I suppose she was beautiful," she said slowly.
"I don't know. Most of them aren't, off the stage. Anyhow, what
does it matter now?"
"Only that I know he has gone back to her. And you know it too."
He heard her going quietly out of the room.
Long after, he closed the house and went cautiously upstairs. She
was waiting for him in the doorway of her room, in her nightgown.
"I know it all now," she said steadily. "It was because of her he
shot the other man, wasn't it?"
She saw her answer in his startled face, and closed her door quickly.
He stood outside, and then he tapped lightly.
"Let me in, honey," he said. "I want to finish it. You've got a
wrong idea about it."
When she did not answer he tried the door, hut it was locked. He
turned and went downstairs again...
When he came home the next afternoon Margaret met him in the hall.
"She knows it, Walter."
"Knows he was back here and didn't see her. Annie blurted it out;
she'd got it from the Oglethorpe's laundress. Mr. Oglethorpe saw
him on the street."
It took him some time to drag a coherent story from her. Annie had
told Elizabeth in her room, and then had told Margaret. She had
gone to Elizabeth at once, to see what she could do, but Elizabeth
had been in her closet, digging among her clothes. She had got out
her best frock and put it on, while her mother sat on the bed not
even daring to broach the matter in her mind, and had gone out.
There was a sort of cold determination in her that frightened
Margaret. She had laughed a good bit, for one thing.
"She's terribly proud," she finished. "She'll do something reckless,
I'm sure. It wouldn't surprise me to see her come back engaged to
Wallie Sayre. I think that's where she went."
But apparently she had not, or if she had she said nothing about it.
>From that time on they saw a change in her; she was as loving as
ever, but she affected a sort of painful brightness that was a
little hard. As though she had clad herself in armor against
For months Beverly Carlysle had remained a remote and
semi-mysterious figure. She had been in some hearts and in many
minds, but to most of them she was a name only. She had been the
motive behind events she never heard of, the quiet center in a
tornado of emotions that circled about without touching her.
On the whole she found her life, with the settling down of the
piece to a successful, run, one of prosperous monotony. She had
re-opened and was living in the 56th Street house, keeping a simple
establishment of cook, butler and maid, and in the early fall she
added a town car and a driver. After that she drove out every
afternoon except on matinee days, almost always alone, but sometimes
with a young girl from the company.
She was very lonely. The kaleidoscope that is theatrical New York
had altered since she left it. Only one or two of her former
friends remained, and she found them uninteresting and narrow with
the narrowness of their own absorbing world. She had forgotten that
the theater was like an island, cut off from the rest of the world,
having its own politics, its own society divided by caste, almost
its own religion. Out of its insularity it made occasional
excursions to dinners and week-ends; even into marriage, now and
then with an outlander. But almost always it went back, eager for
its home of dressing-room and footlights, of stage entrances up
dirty alleys, of door-keepers and managers and parts and costumes.
Occasionally she had callers, men she had met or who were brought to
see her. She saw them over a tea-table, judged them remorselessly,
and eliminated gradually all but one or two. She watched her dignity
and her reputation with the care of an ambitious woman trying to live
down the past, and she succeeded measurably well. Now and then a
critic spoke of her as a second Maude Adams, and those notices she
kept and treasured.
But she was always uneasy. Never since the night he had seen Judson
Clark in the theater had they rung up without her brother having
carefully combed the house with his eyes. She knew her limitations;
they would have to ring down if she ever saw him over the footlights.
And the season had brought its incidents, to connect her with the
past. One night Gregory had come back and told her Jean Melis was
in the balcony.
The valet was older and heavier, but he had recognized him.
"Did he see you?" was her first question.
"Yes. What about it? He never saw me but once, and that was
at night and out of doors."
"Sometimes I think I can't stand it, Fred. The eternal suspense,
the waiting for something to happen."
"If anything was going to happen it would have happened months ago.
Bassett has given it up. And Jud's dead. Even Wilkins knows that."
She turned on him angrily.
"You haven't a heart, have you? You're glad he's dead."
"Not at all. As long as he kept under cover he was all right. But
if he is, I don't see why you should fool yourself into thinking
you're sorry. It's the best solution to a number of things."
"What do you suppose brought Jean Melis here?"
"What? To see the best play in New York. Besides, why not allow
the man a healthy curiosity? He was pretty closely connected with
a hectic part of your life, my dear. Now buck up, and for the
Lord's sake forget the Frenchman. He's got nothing."
"He saw me that night, on the stairs. He never took his eyes off
me at the inquest."
She gave, however, an excellent performance that night, and nothing
more was heard of the valet.
There were other alarms, all of them without foundation. She went
on her way, rejected an offer or two of marriage, spent her mornings
in bed and her afternoons driving or in the hands of her hair-dresser
and manicure, cared for the flowers that came in long casket-like
boxes, and began to feel a sense of security again. She did not
intend to marry, or to become interested in any one man.
She had hardly given a thought to Leslie Ward. He had come and
gone, one of that steady procession of men, mostly married, who
battered their heads now and then like night beetles outside a
window, against the hard glass of her ambition. Because her
business was to charm, she had been charming to him. And could not
always remember his name!
As the months went by she began to accept Fred's verdict that
nothing was going to happen. Bassett was back and at work. Either
dead or a fugitive somewhere was Judson Clark, but that thought she
had to keep out of her mind. Sometimes, as the play went on, and
she was able to make her solid investments out of it, she wondered
if her ten years of retirement had been all the price she was to
pay for his ruin; but she put that thought away too, although she
never minimized her responsibility when she faced it.
But her price had been heavy at that. She was childless and alone,
lavishing her aborted maternity on a brother who was living his
prosperous, cheerful and not too moral life at her expense. Fred
was, she knew, slightly drunk with success; he attended to his
minimum of labor with the least possible effort, had an expensive
apartment on the Drive, and neglected her except, when he needed
money. She began to see, as other women had seen before her, that
her success had, by taking away the necessity for initiative, been
extremely bad for him.
That was the situation when, one night late in October, the trap of
Bassett's devising began to close in. It had been raining, but in
spite of that they had sold standing room to the fire limit. Having
got the treasurer's report on the night's business and sent it to
Beverly's dressing-room, Gregory wandered into his small, low-ceiled
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