The Reef
Edith Wharton

Part 6 out of 7

her dream and forced her back to action. The dread of what
this flight might imply, and of the consequences that might
result from it, had roused her to the sense of her
responsibility, and from the moment when she had resolved to
follow her step-son, and had made her rapid preparations for
pursuit, her mind had begun to work again, feverishly,
fitfully, but still with something of its normal order. In
the train she had been too agitated, too preoccupied with
what might next await her, to give her thoughts to anything
but the turning over of dread alternatives; but Miss
Painter's imperviousness had steadied her, and while she
waited for the sound of the latch-key she resolutely
returned upon herself.

With respect to her outward course she could at least tell
herself that she had held to her purpose. She had, as
people said, "kept up" during the twenty-four hours
preceding George Darrow's departure; had gone with a calm
face about her usual business, and even contrived not too
obviously to avoid him. Then, the next day before dawn,
from behind the closed shutters where she had kept for half
the night her dry-eyed vigil, she had heard him drive off to
the train which brought its passengers to Paris in time for
the Calais express.

The fact of his taking that train, of his travelling so
straight and far away from her, gave to what had happened
the implacable outline of reality. He was gone; he would
not come back; and her life had ended just as she had
dreamed it was beginning. She had no doubt, at first, as to
the absolute inevitability of this conclusion. The man who
had driven away from her house in the autumn dawn was not
the man she had loved; he was a stranger with whom she had
not a single thought in common. It was terrible, indeed,
that he wore the face and spoke in the voice of her friend,
and that, as long as he was under one roof with her, the
mere way in which he moved and looked could bridge at a
stroke the gulf between them. That, no doubt, was the fault
of her exaggerated sensibility to outward things: she was
frightened to see how it enslaved her. A day or two before
she had supposed the sense of honour was her deepest
sentiment: if she had smiled at the conventions of others it
was because they were too trivial, not because they were too
grave. There were certain dishonours with which she had
never dreamed that any pact could be made: she had had an
incorruptible passion for good faith and fairness.

She had supposed that, once Darrow was gone, once she was
safe from the danger of seeing and hearing him, this high
devotion would sustain her. She had believed it would be
possible to separate the image of the man she had thought
him from that of the man he was. She had even foreseen the
hour when she might raise a mournful shrine to the memory of
the Darrow she had loved, without fear that his double's
shadow would desecrate it. But now she had begun to
understand that the two men were really one. The Darrow she
worshipped was inseparable from the Darrow she abhorred; and
the inevitable conclusion was that both must go, and she be
left in the desert of a sorrow without memories...

But if the future was thus void, the present was all too
full. Never had blow more complex repercussions; and to
remember Owen was to cease to think of herself. What
impulse, what apprehension, had sent him suddenly to Paris?
And why had he thought it needful to conceal his going from
her? When Sophy Viner had left, it had been with the
understanding that he was to await her summons; and it
seemed improbable that he would break his pledge, and seek
her without leave, unless his lover's intuition had warned
him of some fresh danger. Anna recalled how quickly he had
read the alarm in her face when he had rushed back to her
sitting-room with the news that Miss Viner had promised to
see him again in Paris. To be so promptly roused, his
suspicions must have been but half-asleep; and since then,
no doubt, if she and Darrow had dissembled, so had he. To
her proud directness it was degrading to think that they had
been living together like enemies who spy upon each other's
movements: she felt a desperate longing for the days which
had seemed so dull and narrow, but in which she had walked
with her head high and her eyes unguarded.

She had come up to Paris hardly knowing what peril she
feared, and still less how she could avert it. If Owen
meant to see Miss Viner--and what other object could he
have?--they must already be together, and it was too late to
interfere. It had indeed occurred to Anna that Paris might
not be his objective point: that his real purpose in leaving
Givre without her knowledge had been to follow Darrow to
London and exact the truth of him. But even to her alarmed
imagination this seemed improbable. She and Darrow, to the
last, had kept up so complete a feint of harmony that,
whatever Owen had surmised, he could scarcely have risked
acting on his suspicions. If he still felt the need of an
explanation, it was almost certainly of Sophy Viner that he
would ask it; and it was in quest of Sophy Viner that Anna
had despatched Miss Painter.

She had found a blessed refuge from her perplexities in the
stolid Adelaide's unawareness. One could so absolutely
count on Miss Painter's guessing no more than one chose, and
yet acting astutely on such hints as one vouchsafed her! She
was like a well-trained retriever whose interest in his prey
ceases when he lays it at his master's feet. Anna, on
arriving, had explained that Owen's unannounced flight had
made her fear some fresh misunderstanding between himself
and Miss Viner. In the interests of peace she had thought it
best to follow him; but she hastily added that she did not
wish to see Sophy, but only, if possible, to learn from her
where Owen was. With these brief instructions Miss Painter
had started out; but she was a woman of many occupations,
and had given her visitor to understand that before
returning she should have to call on a friend who had just
arrived from Boston, and afterward despatch to another
exiled compatriot a supply of cranberries and brandied
peaches from the American grocery in the Champs Elysees.

Gradually, as the moments passed, Anna began to feel the
reaction which, in moments of extreme nervous tension,
follows on any effort of the will. She seemed to have gone
as far as her courage would carry her, and she shrank more
and more from the thought of Miss Painter's return, since
whatever information the latter brought would necessitate
some fresh decision. What should she say to Owen if she
found him? What could she say that should not betray the one
thing she would give her life to hide from him? "Give her
life"--how the phrase derided her! It was a gift she would
not have bestowed on her worst enemy. She would not have
had Sophy Viner live the hours she was living now...
She tried again to look steadily and calmly at the picture
that the image of the girl evoked. She had an idea that she
ought to accustom herself to its contemplation. If life was
like that, why the sooner one got used to it the
better...But no! Life was not like that. Her adventure was
a hideous accident. She dreaded above all the temptation to
generalise from her own case, to doubt the high things she
had lived by and seek a cheap solace in belittling what fate
had refused her. There was such love as she had dreamed,
and she meant to go on believing in it, and cherishing the
thought that she was worthy of it. What had happened to her
was grotesque and mean and miserable; but she herself was
none of these things, and never, never would she make of
herself the mock that fate had made of her...

She could not, as yet, bear to think deliberately of Darrow;
but she kept on repeating to herself "By and bye that will
come too." Even now she was determined not to let his image
be distorted by her suffering. As soon as she could, she
would try to single out for remembrance the individual
things she had liked in him before she had loved him
altogether. No "spiritual exercise" devised by the
discipline of piety could have been more torturing; but its
very cruelty attracted her. She wanted to wear herself out
with new pains...


The sound of Miss Painter's latch-key made her start. She
was still a bundle of quivering fears to whom each coming
moment seemed a menace.

There was a slight interval, and a sound of voices in the
hall; then Miss Painter's vigorous hand was on the door.

Anna stood up as she came in. "You've found him?"

"I've found Sophy."

"And Owen?--has she seen him? Is he here?"

"SHE'S here: in the hall. She wants to speak to you."

"Here--NOW?" Anna found no voice for more.

"She drove back with me," Miss Painter continued in the tone
of impartial narrative. "The cabman was impertinent. I've
got his number." She fumbled in a stout black reticule.

"Oh, I can't--" broke from Anna; but she collected herself,
remembering that to betray her unwillingness to see the girl
was to risk revealing much more.

"She thought you might be too tired to see her: she wouldn't
come in till I'd found out."

Anna drew a quick breath. An instant's thought had told her
that Sophy Viner would hardly have taken such a step unless
something more important had happened. "Ask her to come,
please," she said.

Miss Painter, from the threshold, turned back to announce
her intention of going immediately to the police station to
report the cabman's delinquency; then she passed out, and
Sophy Viner entered.

The look in the girl's face showed that she had indeed come
unwillingly; yet she seemed animated by an eager
resoluteness that made Anna ashamed of her tremors. For a
moment they looked at each other in silence, as if the
thoughts between them were packed too thick for speech; then
Anna said, in a voice from which she strove to take the edge
of hardness: "You know where Owen is, Miss Painter tells

"Yes; that was my reason for asking you to see me." Sophy
spoke simply, without constraint or hesitation.

"I thought he'd promised you--" Anna interposed.

"He did; but he broke his promise. That's what I thought I
ought to tell you."

"Thank you." Anna went on tentatively: "He left Givre this
morning without a word. I followed him because I was

She broke off again and the girl took up her phrase. "You
were afraid he'd guessed? He HAS..."

"What do you mean--guessed what?"

"That you know something he doesn't...something that made
you glad to have me go."

"Oh--" Anna moaned. If she had wanted more pain she had it
now. "He's told you this?" she faltered.

"He hasn't told me, because I haven't seen him. I kept him
off--I made Mrs. Farlow get rid of him. But he's written me
what he came to say; and that was it."

"Oh, poor Owen!" broke from Anna. Through all the
intricacies of her suffering she felt the separate pang of

"And I want to ask you," the girl continued, "to let me see
him; for of course," she added in the same strange voice of
energy, "I wouldn't unless you consented."

"To see him?" Anna tried to gather together her startled
thoughts. "What use would it be? What could you tell him?"

"I want to tell him the truth," said Sophy Viner.

The two women looked at each other, and a burning blush rose
to Anna's forehead. "I don't understand," she faltered.

Sophy waited a moment; then she lowered her voice to say: "I
don't want him to think worse of me than he need..."


"Yes--to think such things as you're thinking now...I want
him to know exactly what happened...then I want to bid him

Anna tried to clear a way through her own wonder and
confusion. She felt herself obscurely moved.

"Wouldn't it be worse for him?"

"To hear the truth? It would be better, at any rate, for you
and Mr. Darrow."

At the sound of the name Anna lifted her head quickly. "I've
only my step-son to consider!"

The girl threw a startled look at her. "You don't mean--
you're not going to give him up?"

Anna felt her lips harden. "I don't think it's of any use
to talk of that."

"Oh, I know! It's my fault for not knowing how to say what I
want you to hear. Your words are different; you know how to
choose them. Mine offend you...and the dread of it makes me
blunder. That's why, the other day, I couldn't say
anything...couldn't make things clear to you. But now
MUST, even if you hate it!" She drew a step nearer, her
slender figure swayed forward in a passion of entreaty. "Do
listen to me! What you've said is dreadful. How can you
speak of him in that voice? Don't you see that I went away
so that he shouldn't have to lose you?"

Anna looked at her coldly. "Are you speaking of Mr. Darrow?
I don't know why you think your going or staying can in any
way affect our relations."

"You mean that you HAVE given him up--because of me? Oh,
how could you? You can't really love him!--And yet," the
girl suddenly added, "you must, or you'd be more sorry for

"I'm very sorry for you," Anna said, feeling as if the iron
band about her heart pressed on it a little less inexorably.

"Then why won't you hear me? Why won't you try to
understand? It's all so different from what you imagine!"

"I've never judged you."

"I'm not thinking of myself. He loves you!"

"I thought you'd come to speak of Owen."

Sophy Viner seemed not to hear her. "He's never loved any
one else. Even those few days...I knew it all the
while...he never cared for me."

"Please don't say any more!" Anna said.

"I know it must seem strange to you that I should say so
much. I shock you, I offend you: you think me a creature
without shame. So I am--but not in the sense you think! I'm
not ashamed of having loved him; no; and I'm not ashamed of
telling you so. It's that that justifies me--and him
too...Oh, let me tell you how it happened! He was sorry for
me: he saw I cared. I KNEW that was all he ever felt. I
could see he was thinking of some one else. I knew it was
only for a week...He never said a word to mislead me...I
wanted to be happy just once--and I didn't dream of the harm
I might be doing him!"

Anna could not speak. She hardly knew, as yet, what the
girl's words conveyed to her, save the sense of their tragic
fervour; but she was conscious of being in the presence of
an intenser passion than she had ever felt.

"I am sorry for you." She paused. "But why do you say this
to me?" After another interval she exclaimed: "You'd no
right to let Owen love you."

"No; that was wrong. At least what's happened since has
made it so. If things had been different I think I could
have made Owen happy. You were all so good to me--I wanted
so to stay with you! I suppose you'll say that makes it
worse: my daring to dream I had the right...But all that
doesn't matter now. I won't see Owen unless you're willing.
I should have liked to tell him what I've tried to tell you;
but you must know better; you feel things in a finer way.
Only you'll have to help him if I can't. He cares a great's going to hurt him..."

Anna trembled. "Oh, I know! What can I do?"

"You can go straight back to Givre--now, at once! So that
Owen shall never know you've followed him." Sophy's clasped
hands reached out urgently. "And you can send for Mr.
Darrow--bring him back. Owen must be convinced that he's
mistaken, and nothing else will convince him. Afterward
I'll find a pretext--oh, I promise you! But first he must
see for himself that nothing's changed for you."

Anna stood motionless, subdued and dominated. The girl's
ardour swept her like a wind.

"Oh, can't I move you? Some day you'll know!" Sophy pleaded,
her eyes full of tears.

Anna saw them, and felt a fullness in her throat. Again the
band about her heart seemed loosened. She wanted to find a
word, but could not: all within her was too dark and
violent. She gave the girl a speechless look.

"I do believe you," she said suddenly; then she turned and
walked out of the room.


She drove from Miss Painter's to her own apartment. The
maid-servant who had it in charge had been apprised of her
coming, and had opened one or two of the rooms, and prepared
a fire in her bedroom. Anna shut herself in, refusing the
woman's ministrations. She felt cold and faint, and after
she had taken off her hat and cloak she knelt down by the
fire and stretched her hands to it.

In one respect, at least, it was clear to her that she would
do well to follow Sophy Viner's counsel. It had been an act
of folly to follow Owen, and her first business was to get
back to Givre before him. But the only train leaving that
evening was a slow one, which did not reach Francheuil till
midnight, and she knew that her taking it would excite
Madame de Chantelle's wonder and lead to interminable talk.
She had come up to Paris on the pretext of finding a new
governess for Effie, and the natural thing was to defer her
return till the next morning. She knew Owen well enough to
be sure that he would make another attempt to see Miss
Viner, and failing that, would write again and await her
answer: so that there was no likelihood of his reaching
Givre till the following evening.

Her sense of relief at not having to start out at once
showed her for the first time how tired she was. The
bonne had suggested a cup of tea, but the dread of having
any one about her had made Anna refuse, and she had eaten
nothing since morning but a sandwich bought at a buffet.
She was too tired to get up, but stretching out her arm she
drew toward her the arm-chair which stood beside the hearth
and rested her head against its cushions. Gradually the
warmth of the fire stole into her veins and her heaviness of
soul was replaced by a dreamy buoyancy. She seemed to be
seated on the hearth in her sitting-room at Givre, and
Darrow was beside her, in the chair against which she
leaned. He put his arms about her shoulders and drawing her
head back looked into her eyes. "Of all the ways you do
your hair, that's the way I like best," he said...

A log dropped, and she sat up with a start. There was a
warmth in her heart, and she was smiling. Then she looked
about her, and saw where she was, and the glory fell. She
hid her face and sobbed.

Presently she perceived that it was growing dark, and
getting up stiffly she began to undo the things in her bag
and spread them on the dressing-table. She shrank from
lighting the lights, and groped her way about, trying to
find what she needed. She seemed immeasurably far off from
every one, and most of all from herself. It was as if her
consciousness had been transmitted to some stranger whose
thoughts and gestures were indifferent to her...

Suddenly she heard a shrill tinkle, and with a beating heart
she stood still in the middle of the room. It was the
telephone in her dressing-room--a call, no doubt, from
Adelaide Painter. Or could Owen have learned she was in
town? The thought alarmed her and she opened the door and
stumbled across the unlit room to the instrument. She held
it to her ear, and heard Darrow's voice pronounce her name.

"Will you let me see you? I've come back--I had to come.
Miss Painter told me you were here."

She began to tremble, and feared that he would guess it from
her voice. She did not know what she answered: she heard
him say: "I can't hear." She called "Yes!" and laid the
telephone down, and caught it up again--but he was gone.
She wondered if her "Yes" had reached him.

She sat in her chair and listened. Why had she said that
she would see him? What did she mean to say to him when he
came? Now and then, as she sat there, the sense of his
presence enveloped her as in her dream, and she shut her
eyes and felt his arms about her. Then she woke to reality
and shivered. A long time elapsed, and at length she said
to herself: "He isn't coming."

The door-bell rang as she said it, and she stood up, cold
and trembling. She thought: "Can he imagine there's any use
in coming?" and moved forward to bid the servant say she
could not see him.

The door opened and she saw him standing in the drawing-
room. The room was cold and fireless, and a hard glare fell
from the wall-lights on the shrouded furniture and the white
slips covering the curtains. He looked pale and stern, with
a frown of fatigue between his eyes; and she remembered that
in three days he had travelled from Givre to London and
back. It seemed incredible that all that had befallen her
should have been compressed within the space of three days!

"Thank you," he said as she came in.

She answered: "It's better, I suppose----"

He came toward her and took her in his arms. She struggled
a little, afraid of yielding, but he pressed her to him, not
bending to her but holding her fast, as though he had found
her after a long search: she heard his hurried breathing.
It seemed to come from her own breast, so close he held her;
and it was she who, at last, lifted up her face and drew
down his.

She freed herself and went and sat on a sofa at the other
end of the room. A mirror between the shrouded window-
curtains showed her crumpled travelling dress and the white
face under her disordered hair

She found her voice, and asked him how he had been able to
leave London. He answered that he had managed--he'd
arranged it; and she saw he hardly heard what she was

"I had to see you," he went on, and moved nearer, sitting
down at her side.

"Yes; we must think of Owen----"

"Oh, Owen--!"

Her mind had flown back to Sophy Viner's plea that she
should let Darrow return to Givre in order that Owen might
be persuaded of the folly of his suspicions. The suggestion
was absurd, of course. She could not ask Darrow to lend
himself to such a fraud, even had she had the inhuman
courage to play her part in it. She was suddenly
overwhelmed by the futility of every attempt to reconstruct
her ruined world. No, it was useless; and since it was
useless, every moment with Darrow was pure pain...

"I've come to talk of myself, not of Owen," she heard him
saying. "When you sent me away the other day I understood
that it couldn't be otherwise--then. But it's not possible
that you and I should part like that. If I'm to lose you, it
must be for a better reason."

"A better reason?"

"Yes: a deeper one. One that means a fundamental disaccord
between us. This one doesn't--in spite of everything it
doesn't. That's what I want you to see, and have the
courage to acknowledge."

"If I saw it I should have the courage!"

"Yes: courage was the wrong word. You have that. That's why
I'm here."

"But I don't see it," she continued sadly. "So it's
useless, isn't it?--and so cruel..." He was about to speak,
but she went on: "I shall never understand it--never!"

He looked at her. "You will some day: you were made to feel

"I should have thought this was a case of not feeling----"

"On my part, you mean?" He faced her resolutely. "Yes, it
was: to my shame...What I meant was that when you've lived a
little longer you'll see what complex blunderers we all are:
how we're struck blind sometimes, and mad sometimes--and
then, when our sight and our senses come back, how we have
to set to work, and build up, little by little, bit by bit,
the precious things we'd smashed to atoms without knowing
it. Life's just a perpetual piecing together of broken

She looked up quickly. "That's what I feel: that you ought

He stood up, interrupting her with a gesture. "Oh, don't--
don't say what you're going to! Men don't give their lives
away like that. If you won't have mine, it's at least my
own, to do the best I can with."

"The best you can--that's what I mean! How can there be a
'best' for you that's made of some one else's worst?"

He sat down again with a groan. "I don't know! It seemed
such a slight thing--all on the surface--and I've gone
aground on it because it was on the surface. I see the
horror of it just as you do. But I see, a little more
clearly, the extent, and the limits, of my wrong. It's not
as black as you imagine."

She lowered her voice to say: "I suppose I shall never
understand; but she seems to love you..."

"There's my shame! That I didn't guess it, didn't fly from
it. You say you'll never understand: but why shouldn't you?
Is it anything to be proud of, to know so little of the
strings that pull us? If you knew a little more, I could
tell you how such things happen without offending you; and
perhaps you'd listen without condemning me."

"I don't condemn you." She was dizzy with struggling
impulses. She longed to cry out: "I DO understand! I've
understood ever since you've been here!" For she was aware,
in her own bosom, of sensations so separate from her
romantic thoughts of him that she saw her body and soul
divided against themselves. She recalled having read
somewhere that in ancient Rome the slaves were not allowed
to wear a distinctive dress lest they should recognize each
other and learn their numbers and their power. So, in
herself, she discerned for the first time instincts and
desires, which, mute and unmarked, had gone to and fro in
the dim passages of her mind, and now hailed each other with
a cry of mutiny.

"Oh, I don't know what to think!" she broke out. "You say
you didn't know she loved you. But you know it now.
Doesn't that show you how you can put the broken bits

"Can you seriously think it would be doing so to marry one
woman while I care for another?"

"Oh, I don't know...I don't know..." The sense of her
weakness made her try to harden herself against his

"You do know! We've often talked of such things: of the
monstrousness of useless sacrifices. If I'm to expiate,
it's not in that way." He added abruptly: "It's in having to
say this to you now..."

She found no answer.

Through the silent apartment they heard the sudden peal of
the door-bell, and she rose to her feet. "Owen!" she
instantly exclaimed.

"Is Owen in Paris?"

She explained in a rapid undertone what she had learned from
Sophy Viner.

"Shall I leave you?" Darrow asked.

"" She moved to the dining-room door, with the
half-formed purpose of making him pass out, and then turned
back. "It may be Adelaide."

They heard the outer door open, and a moment later Owen
walked into the room. He was pale, with excited eyes: as
they fell on Darrow, Anna saw his start of wonder. He made a
slight sign of recognition, and then went up to his step-
mother with an air of exaggerated gaiety.

"You furtive person! I ran across the omniscient Adelaide
and heard from her that you'd rushed up suddenly and
secretly " He stood between Anna and Darrow, strained,
questioning, dangerously on edge.

"I came up to meet Mr. Darrow," Anna answered. "His leave's
been prolonged--he's going back with me."

The words seemed to have uttered themselves without her
will, yet she felt a great sense of freedom as she spoke

The hard tension of Owen's face changed to incredulous
surprise. He looked at Darrow.
"The merest luck...a colleague whose wife was ill...I came
straight back," she heard the latter tranquilly explaining.
His self-command helped to steady her, and she smiled at

"We'll all go back together tomorrow morning," she said as
she slipped her arm through his.


Owen Leath did not go back with his step-mother to Givre.
In reply to her suggestion he announced his intention of
staying on a day or two longer in Paris.

Anna left alone by the first train the next morning. Darrow
was to follow in the afternoon. When Owen had left them the
evening before, Darrow waited a moment for her to speak;
then, as she said nothing, he asked her if she really wished
him to return to Givre. She made a mute sign of assent, and
he added: "For you know that, much as I'm ready to do for
Owen, I can't do that for him--I can't go back to be sent
away again."


He came nearer, and looked at her, and she went to him. All
her fears seemed to fall from her as he held her. It was a
different feeling from any she had known before: confused
and turbid, as if secret shames and rancours stirred in it,
yet richer, deeper, more enslaving. She leaned her head
back and shut her eyes beneath his kisses. She knew now
that she could never give him up.

Nevertheless she asked him, the next morning, to let her go
back alone to Givre. She wanted time to think. She was
convinced that what had happened was inevitable, that she
and Darrow belonged to each other, and that he was right in
saying no past folly could ever put them asunder. If there
was a shade of difference in her feeling for him it was that
of an added intensity. She felt restless, insecure out of
his sight: she had a sense of incompleteness, of passionate
dependence, that was somehow at variance with her own
conception of her character.

It was partly the consciousness of this change in herself
that made her want to be alone. The solitude of her inner
life had given her the habit of these hours of self-
examination, and she needed them as she needed her morning
plunge into cold water.

During the journey she tried to review what had happened in
the light of her new decision and of her sudden relief from
pain. She seemed to herself to have passed through some
fiery initiation from which she had emerged seared and
quivering, but clutching to her breast a magic talisman.
Sophy Viner had cried out to her: "Some day you'll know!"
and Darrow had used the same words. They meant, she
supposed, that when she had explored the intricacies and
darknesses of her own heart her judgment of others would be
less absolute. Well, she knew now--knew weaknesses and
strengths she had not dreamed of, and the deep discord and
still deeper complicities between what thought in her and
what blindly wanted...

Her mind turned anxiously to Owen. At least the blow that
was to fall on him would not seem to have been inflicted by
her hand. He would be left with the impression that his
breach with Sophy Viner was due to one of the ordinary
causes of such disruptions: though he must lose her, his
memory of her would not be poisoned. Anna never for a
moment permitted herself the delusion that she had renewed
her promise to Darrow in order to spare her step-son this
last refinement of misery. She knew she had been prompted
by the irresistible impulse to hold fast to what was most
precious to her, and that Owen's arrival on the scene had
been the pretext for her decision, and not its cause; yet
she felt herself fortified by the thought of what she had
spared him. It was as though a star she had been used to
follow had shed its familiar ray on ways unknown to her.

All through these meditations ran the undercurrent of an
absolute trust in Sophy Viner. She thought of the girl with
a mingling of antipathy and confidence. It was humiliating
to her pride to recognize kindred impulses in a character
which she would have liked to feel completely alien to her.
But what indeed was the girl really like? She seemed to have
no scruples and a thousand delicacies. She had given
herself to Darrow, and concealed the episode from Owen
Leath, with no more apparent sense of debasement than the
vulgarest of adventuresses; yet she had instantly obeyed the
voice of her heart when it bade her part from the one and
serve the other.

Anna tried to picture what the girl's life must have been:
what experiences, what initiations, had formed her. But her
own training had been too different: there were veils she
could not lift. She looked back at her married life, and
its colourless uniformity took on an air of high restraint
and order. Was it because she had been so incurious that it
had worn that look to her? It struck her with amazement that
she had never given a thought to her husband's past, or
wondered what he did and where he went when he was away from
her. If she had been asked what she supposed he thought
about when they were apart, she would instantly have
answered: his snuff-boxes. It had never occurred to her
that he might have passions, interests, preoccupations of
which she was absolutely ignorant. Yet he went up to Paris
rather regularly: ostensibly to attend sales and
exhibitions, or to confer with dealers and collectors. She
tried to picture him, straight, trim, beautifully brushed
and varnished, walking furtively down a quiet street, and
looking about him before he slipped into a doorway. She
understood now that she had been cold to him: what more
likely than that he had sought compensations? All men were
like that, she supposed--no doubt her simplicity had amused

In the act of transposing Fraser Leath into a Don Juan she
was pulled up by the ironic perception that she was simply
trying to justify Darrow. She wanted to think that all men
were "like that" because Darrow was "like that": she wanted
to justify her acceptance of the fact by persuading herself
that only through such concessions could women like herself
hope to keep what they could not give up. And suddenly she
was filled with anger at her blindness, and then at her
disastrous attempt to see. Why had she forced the truth out
of Darrow? If only she had held her tongue nothing need ever
have been known. Sophy Viner would have broken her
engagement, Owen would have been sent around the world, and
her own dream would have been unshattered. But she had
probed, insisted, cross-examined, not rested till she had
dragged the secret to the light. She was one of the luckless
women who always have the wrong audacities, and who always
know it...

Was it she, Anna Leath, who was picturing herself to herself
in that way? She recoiled from her thoughts as if with a
sense of demoniac possession, and there flashed through her
the longing to return to her old state of fearless
ignorance. If at that moment she could have kept Darrow
from following her to Givre she would have done so...

But he came; and with the sight of him the turmoil fell and
she felt herself reassured, rehabilitated. He arrived
toward dusk, and she motored to Francheuil to meet him. She
wanted to see him as soon as possible, for she had divined,
through the new insight that was in her, that only his
presence could restore her to a normal view of things. In
the motor, as they left the town and turned into the high-
road, he lifted her hand and kissed it, and she leaned
against him, and felt the currents flow between them. She
was grateful to him for not saying anything, and for not
expecting her to speak. She said to herself: "He never
makes a mistake--he always knows what to do"; and then she
thought with a start that it was doubtless because he had so
often been in such situations. The idea that his tact was a
kind of professional expertness filled her with repugnance,
and insensibly she drew away from him. He made no motion to
bring her nearer, and she instantly thought that that was
calculated too. She sat beside him in frozen misery,
wondering whether, henceforth, she would measure in this way
his every look and gesture. Neither of them spoke again
till the motor turned under the dark arch of the avenue, and
they saw the lights of Givre twinkling at its end. Then
Darrow laid his hand on hers and said: "I know, dear--" and
the hardness in her melted. "He's suffering as I am," she
thought; and for a moment the baleful fact between them
seemed to draw them closer instead of walling them up in
their separate wretchedness.

It was wonderful to be once more re-entering the doors of
Givre with him, and as the old house received them into its
mellow silence she had again the sense of passing out of a
dreadful dream into the reassurance of kindly and familiar
things. It did not seem possible that these quiet rooms, so
full of the slowly-distilled accumulations of a fastidious
taste, should have been the scene of tragic dissensions.
The memory of them seemed to be shut out into the night with
the closing and barring of its doors.

At the tea-table in the oak-room they found Madame de
Chantelle and Effie. The little girl, catching sight of
Darrow, raced down the drawing-rooms to meet him, and
returned in triumph on his shoulder. Anna looked at them
with a smile. Effie, for all her graces, was chary of such
favours, and her mother knew that in according them to
Darrow she had admitted him to the circle where Owen had
hitherto ruled.

Over the tea-table Darrow gave Madame de Chantelle the
explanation of his sudden return from England. On reaching
London, he told her, he had found that the secretary he was
to have replaced was detained there by the illness of his
wife. The Ambassador, knowing Darrow's urgent reasons for
wishing to be in France, had immediately proposed his going
back, and awaiting at Givre the summons to relieve his
colleague; and he had jumped into the first train, without
even waiting to telegraph the news of his release. He spoke
naturally, easily, in his usual quiet voice, taking his tea
from Effie, helping himself to the toast she handed, and
stooping now and then to stroke the dozing terrier. And
suddenly, as Anna listened to his explanation, she asked
herself if it were true.

The question, of course, was absurd. There was no possible
reason why he should invent a false account of his return,
and every probability that the version he gave was the real
one. But he had looked and spoken in the same way when he
had answered her probing questions about Sophy Viner, and
she reflected with a chill of fear that she would never
again know if he were speaking the truth or not. She was
sure he loved her, and she did not fear his insincerity as
much as her own distrust of him. For a moment it seemed to
her that this must corrupt the very source of love; then she
said to herself: "By and bye, when I am altogether his, we
shall be so near each other that there will be no room for
any doubts between us." But the doubts were there now, one
moment lulled to quiescence, the next more torturingly
alert. When the nurse appeared to summon Effie, the little
girl, after kissing her grandmother, entrenched herself on
Darrow's knee with the imperious demand to be carried up to
bed; and Anna, while she laughingly protested, said to
herself with a pang: "Can I give her a father about whom I
think such things?"

The thought of Effie, and of what she owed to Effie, had
been the fundamental reason for her delays and hesitations
when she and Darrow had come together again in England. Her
own feeling was so clear that but for that scruple she would
have put her hand in his at once. But till she had seen him
again she had never considered the possibility of re-
marriage, and when it suddenly confronted her it seemed, for
the moment, to disorganize the life she had planned for
herself and her child. She had not spoken of this to Darrow
because it appeared to her a subject to be debated within
her own conscience. The question, then, was not as to his
fitness to become the guide and guardian of her child; nor
did she fear that her love for him would deprive Effie of
the least fraction of her tenderness, since she did not
think of love as something measured and exhaustible but as a
treasure perpetually renewed. What she questioned was her
right to introduce into her life any interests and duties
which might rob Effie of a part of her time, or lessen the
closeness of their daily intercourse.

She had decided this question as it was inevitable that she
should; but now another was before her. Assuredly, at her
age, there was no possible reason why she should cloister
herself to bring up her daughter; but there was every reason
for not marrying a man in whom her own faith was not


When she woke the next morning she felt a great lightness of
heart. She recalled her last awakening at Givre, three days
before, when it had seemed as though all her life had gone
down in darkness. Now Darrow was once more under the same
roof with her, and once more his nearness sufficed to make
the looming horror drop away. She could almost have smiled
at her scruples of the night before: as she looked back on
them they seemed to belong to the old ignorant timorous time
when she had feared to look life in the face, and had been
blind to the mysteries and contradictions of the human heart
because her own had not been revealed to her. Darrow had
said: "You were made to feel everything"; and to feel was
surely better than to judge.

When she came downstairs he was already in the oak-room with
Effie and Madame de Chantelle, and the sense of reassurance
which his presence gave her was merged in the relief of not
being able to speak of what was between them. But there it
was, inevitably, and whenever they looked at each other they
saw it. In her dread of giving it a more tangible shape she
tried to devise means of keeping the little girl with her,
and, when the latter had been called away by the nurse,
found an excuse for following Madame de Chantelle upstairs
to the purple sitting-room. But a confidential talk with
Madame de Chantelle implied the detailed discussion of plans
of which Anna could hardly yet bear to consider the vaguest
outline: the date of her marriage, the relative advantages
of sailing from London or Lisbon, the possibility of hiring
a habitable house at their new post; and, when these
problems were exhausted, the application of the same method
to the subject of Owen's future.

His grandmother, having no suspicion of the real reason of
Sophy Viner's departure, had thought it "extremely suitable"
of the young girl to withdraw to the shelter of her old
friends' roof in the hour of bridal preparation. This
maidenly retreat had in fact impressed Madame de Chantelle
so favourably that she was disposed for the first time to
talk over Owen's projects; and as every human event
translated itself for her into terms of social and domestic
detail, Anna had perforce to travel the same round again.
She felt a momentary relief when Darrow presently joined
them; but his coming served only to draw the conversation
back to the question of their own future, and Anna felt a
new pang as she heard him calmly and lucidly discussing it.
Did such self-possession imply indifference or insincerity?
In that problem her mind perpetually revolved; and she
dreaded the one answer as much as the other.

She was resolved to keep on her course as though nothing had
happened: to marry Darrow and never let the consciousness of
the past intrude itself between them; but she was beginning
to feel that the only way of attaining to this state of
detachment from the irreparable was once for all to turn
back with him to its contemplation. As soon as this desire
had germinated it became so strong in her that she regretted
having promised Effie to take her out for the afternoon.
But she could think of no pretext for disappointing the
little girl, and soon after luncheon the three set forth in
the motor to show Darrow a chateau famous in the annals of
the region. During their excursion Anna found it impossible
to guess from his demeanour if Effie's presence between them
was as much of a strain to his composure as to hers. He
remained imperturbably good-humoured and appreciative while
they went the round of the monument, and she remarked only
that when he thought himself unnoticed his face grew grave
and his answers came less promptly.

On the way back, two or three miles from Givre, she suddenly
proposed that they should walk home through the forest which
skirted that side of the park. Darrow acquiesced, and they
got out and sent Effie on in the motor. Their way led
through a bit of sober French woodland, flat as a faded
tapestry, but with gleams of live emerald lingering here and
there among its browns and ochres. The luminous grey air
gave vividness to its dying colours, and veiled the distant
glimpses of the landscape in soft uncertainty. In such a
solitude Anna had fancied it would be easier to speak; but
as she walked beside Darrow over the deep soundless flooring
of brown moss the words on her lips took flight again. It
seemed impossible to break the spell of quiet joy which his
presence laid on her, and when he began to talk of the place
they had just visited she answered his questions and then
waited for what he should say next...No, decidedly she could
not speak; she no longer even knew what she had meant to

The same experience repeated itself several times that day
and the next. When she and Darrow were apart she exhausted
herself in appeal and interrogation, she formulated with a
fervent lucidity every point in her imaginary argument. But
as soon as she was alone with him something deeper than
reason and subtler than shyness laid its benumbing touch
upon her, and the desire to speak became merely a dim
disquietude, through which his looks, his words, his touch,
reached her as through a mist of bodily pain. Yet this
inertia was torn by wild flashes of resistance, and when
they were apart she began to prepare again what she meant to
say to him.

She knew he could not be with her without being aware of
this inner turmoil, and she hoped he would break the spell
by some releasing word. But she presently understood that
he recognized the futility of words, and was resolutely bent
on holding her to her own purpose of behaving as if nothing
had happened. Once more she inwardly accused him of
insensibility, and her imagination was beset by tormenting
visions of his past...Had such things happened to him
before? If the episode had been an isolated accident--"a
moment of folly and madness", as he had called it--she could
understand, or at least begin to understand (for at a
certain point her imagination always turned back); but if it
were a mere link in a chain of similar experiments, the
thought of it dishonoured her whole past...

Effie, in the interregnum between governesses, had been
given leave to dine downstairs; and Anna, on the evening of
Darrow's return, kept the little girl with her till long
after the nurse had signalled from the drawing-room door.
When at length she had been carried off, Anna proposed a
game of cards, and after this diversion had drawn to its
languid close she said good-night to Darrow and followed
Madame de Chantelle upstairs. But Madame de Chantelle never
sat up late, and the second evening, with the amiably
implied intention of leaving Anna and Darrow to themselves,
she took an earlier leave of them than usual.

Anna sat silent, listening to her small stiff steps as they
minced down the hall and died out in the distance. Madame
de Chantelle had broken her wooden embroidery frame, and
Darrow, having offered to repair it, had drawn his chair up
to a table that held a lamp. Anna watched him as he sat with
bent head and knitted brows, trying to fit together the
disjoined pieces. The sight of him, so tranquilly absorbed
in this trifling business, seemed to give to the quiet room
a perfume of intimacy, to fill it with a sense of sweet
familiar habit; and it came over her again that she knew
nothing of the inner thoughts of this man who was sitting by
her as a husband might. The lamplight fell on his white
forehead, on the healthy brown of his cheek, the backs of
his thin sunburnt hands. As she watched the hands her sense
of them became as vivid as a touch, and she said to herself:
"That other woman has sat and watched him as I am doing.
She has known him as I have never known him...Perhaps he is
thinking of that now. Or perhaps he has forgotten it all as
completely as I have forgotten everything that happened to
me before he came..."

He looked young, active, stored with strength and energy;
not the man for vain repinings or long memories. She
wondered what she had to hold or satisfy him. He loved her
now; she had no doubt of that; but how could she hope to
keep him? They were so nearly of an age that already she
felt herself his senior. As yet the difference was not
visible; outwardly at least they were matched; but ill-
health or unhappiness would soon do away with this equality.
She thought with a pang of bitterness: "He won't grow any
older because he doesn't feel things; and because he
doesn't, I SHALL..."

And when she ceased to please him, what then? Had he the
tradition of faith to the spoken vow, or the deeper piety of
the unspoken dedication? What was his theory, what his inner
conviction in such matters? But what did she care for his
convictions or his theories? No doubt he loved her now, and
believed he would always go on loving her, and was persuaded
that, if he ceased to, his loyalty would be proof against
the change. What she wanted to know was not what he thought
about it in advance, but what would impel or restrain him at
the crucial hour. She put no faith in her own arts: she was
too sure of having none! And if some beneficent enchanter
had bestowed them on her, she knew now that she would have
rejected the gift. She could hardly conceive of wanting the
kind of love that was a state one could be cozened into...

Darrow, putting away the frame, walked across the room and
sat down beside her; and she felt he had something special
to say.

"They're sure to send for me in a day or two now," he began.

She made no answer, and he continued: "You'll tell me before
I go what day I'm to come back and get you?"

It was the first time since his return to Givre that he had
made any direct allusion to the date of their marriage; and
instead of answering him she broke out: "There's something
I've been wanting you to know. The other day in Paris I saw
Miss Viner."

She saw him flush with the intensity of his surprise.

"You sent for her?"

"No; she heard from Adelaide that I was in Paris and she
came. She came because she wanted to urge me to marry you.
I thought you ought to know what she had done."

Darrow stood up. "I'm glad you've told me." He spoke with a
visible effort at composure. Her eyes followed him as he
moved away.

"Is that all?" he asked after an interval.

"It seems to me a great deal."

"It's what she'd already asked me." His voice showed her how
deeply he was moved, and a throb of jealousy shot through

"Oh, it was for your sake, I know!" He made no answer, and
she added: "She's been exceedingly generous...Why shouldn't
we speak of it?"

She had lowered her head, but through her dropped lids she
seemed to be watching the crowded scene of his face.

"I've not shrunk from speaking of it."

"Speaking of her, then, I mean. It seems to me that if I
could talk to you about her I should know better----"

She broke off, confused, and he questioned: "What is it you
want to know better?"

The colour rose to her forehead. How could she tell him
what she scarcely dared own to herself? There was nothing
she did not want to know, no fold or cranny of his secret
that her awakened imagination did not strain to penetrate;
but she could not expose Sophy Viner to the base fingerings
of a retrospective jealousy, nor Darrow to the temptation of
belittling her in the effort to better his own case. The
girl had been magnificent, and the only worthy return that
Anna could make was to take Darrow from her without a
question if she took him at all...

She lifted her eyes to his face. "I think I only wanted to
speak her name. It's not right that we should seem so
afraid of it. If I were really afraid of it I should have
to give you up," she said.

He bent over her and caught her to him. "Ah, you can't give
me up now!" he exclaimed.

She suffered him to hold her fast without speaking; but the
old dread was between them again, and it was on her lips to
cry out: "How can I help it, when I AM so afraid?"


The next morning the dread was still there, and she
understood that she must snatch herself out of the torpor of
the will into which she had been gradually sinking, and tell
Darrow that she could not be his wife.

The knowledge came to her in the watches of a sleepless
night, when, through the tears of disenchanted passion, she
stared back upon her past. There it lay before her, her
sole romance, in all its paltry poverty, the cheapest of
cheap adventures, the most pitiful of sentimental blunders.
She looked about her room, the room where, for so many
years, if her heart had been quiescent her thoughts had been
alive, and pictured herself henceforth cowering before a
throng of mean suspicions, of unavowed compromises and
concessions. In that moment of self-searching she saw that
Sophy Viner had chosen the better part, and that certain
renunciations might enrich where possession would have left
a desert.

Passionate reactions of instinct fought against these
efforts of her will. Why should past or future coerce her,
when the present was so securely hers? Why insanely
surrender what the other would after all never have? Her
sense of irony whispered that if she sent away Darrow it
would not be to Sophy Viner, but to the first woman who
crossed his path--as, in a similar hour, Sophy Viner herself
had crossed it...But the mere fact that she could think such
things of him sent her shuddering back to the opposite pole.
She pictured herself gradually subdued to such a conception
of life and love, she pictured Effie growing up under the
influence of the woman she saw herself becoming--and she hid
her eyes from the humiliation of the picture...

They were at luncheon when the summons that Darrow expected
was brought to him. He handed the telegram to Anna, and she
learned that his Ambassador, on the way to a German cure,
was to be in Paris the next evening and wished to confer
with him there before he went back to London. The idea that
the decisive moment was at hand was so agitating to her that
when luncheon was over she slipped away to the terrace and
thence went down alone to the garden. The day was grey but
mild, with the heaviness of decay in the air. She rambled
on aimlessly, following under the denuded boughs the path
she and Darrow had taken on their first walk to the river.
She was sure he would not try to overtake her: sure he would
guess why she wished to be alone. There were moments when
it seemed to double her loneliness to be so certain of his
reading her heart while she was so desperately ignorant of

She wandered on for more than an hour, and when she returned
to the house she saw, as she entered the hall, that Darrow
was seated at the desk in Owen's study. He heard her step,
and looking up turned in his chair without rising. Their
eyes met, and she saw that his were clear and smiling. He
had a heap of papers at his elbow and was evidently engaged
in some official correspondence. She wondered that he could
address himself so composedly to his task, and then
ironically reflected that such detachment was a sign of his
superiority. She crossed the threshold and went toward him;
but as she advanced she had a sudden vision of Owen,
standing outside in the cold autumn dusk and watching Darrow
and Sophy Viner as they faced each other across the lamplit
desk...The evocation was so vivid that it caught her breath
like a blow, and she sank down helplessly on the divan among
the piled-up books. Distinctly, at the moment, she
understood that the end had come. "When he speaks to me I
will tell him!" she thought...

Darrow, laying aside his pen, looked at her for a moment in
silence; then he stood up and shut the door.

"I must go to-morrow early," he said, sitting down beside
her. His voice was grave, with a slight tinge of sadness.
She said to herself: "He knows what I am feeling..." and now
the thought made her feel less alone. The expression of his
face was stern and yet tender: for the first time she
understood what he had suffered.

She had no doubt as to the necessity of giving him up, but
it was impossible to tell him so then. She stood up and
said: "I'll leave you to your letters." He made no protest,
but merely answered: "You'll come down presently for a
walk?" and it occurred to her at once that she would walk
down to the river with him, and give herself for the last
time the tragic luxury of sitting at his side in the little
pavilion. "Perhaps," she thought, "it will be easier to
tell him there."

It did not, on the way home from their walk, become any
easier to tell him; but her secret decision to do so before
he left gave her a kind of factitious calm and laid a
melancholy ecstasy upon the hour. Still skirting the
subject that fanned their very faces with its flame, they
clung persistently to other topics, and it seemed to Anna
that their minds had never been nearer together than in this
hour when their hearts were so separate. In the glow of
interchanged love she had grown less conscious of that other
glow of interchanged thought which had once illumined her
mind. She had forgotten how Darrow had widened her world
and lengthened out all her perspectives, and with a pang of
double destitution she saw herself alone among her shrunken

For the first time, then, she had a clear vision of what her
life would be without him. She imagined herself trying to
take up the daily round, and all that had lightened and
animated it seemed equally lifeless and vain. She tried to
think of herself as wholly absorbed in her daughter's
development, like other mothers she had seen; but she
supposed those mothers must have had stored memories of
happiness to nourish them. She had had nothing, and all her
starved youth still claimed its due.

When she went up to dress for dinner she said to herself:
"I'll have my last evening with him, and then, before we say
good night, I'll tell him."

This postponement did not seem unjustified. Darrow had
shown her how he dreaded vain words, how resolved he was to
avoid all fruitless discussion. He must have been intensely
aware of what had been going on in her mind since his
return, yet when she had attempted to reveal it to him he
had turned from the revelation. She was therefore merely
following the line he had traced in behaving, till the final
moment came, as though there were nothing more to say...

That moment seemed at last to be at hand when, at her usual
hour after dinner, Madame de Chantelle rose to go upstairs.
She lingered a little to bid good-bye to Darrow, whom she
was not likely to see in the morning; and her affable
allusions to his prompt return sounded in Anna's ear like
the note of destiny.

A cold rain had fallen all day, and for greater warmth and
intimacy they had gone after dinner to the oak-room,
shutting out the chilly vista of the farther drawing-rooms.
The autumn wind, coming up from the river, cried about the
house with a voice of loss and separation; and Anna and
Darrow sat silent, as if they feared to break the hush that
shut them in. The solitude, the fire-light, the harmony of
soft hangings and old dim pictures, wove about them a spell
of security through which Anna felt, far down in her heart,
the muffled beat of an inextinguishable bliss. How could she
have thought that this last moment would be the moment to
speak to him, when it seemed to have gathered up into its
flight all the scattered splendours of her dream?


Darrow continued to stand by the door after it had closed.
Anna felt that he was looking at her, and sat still,
disdaining to seek refuge in any evasive word or movement.
For the last time she wanted to let him take from her the
fulness of what the sight of her could give.

He crossed over and sat down on the sofa. For a moment
neither of them spoke; then he said: "To-night, dearest, I
must have my answer."

She straightened herself under the shock of his seeming to
take the very words from her lips.

"To-night?" was all that she could falter.

"I must be off by the early train. There won't be more than
a moment in the morning."

He had taken her hand, and she said to herself that she must
free it before she could go on with what she had to say.
Then she rejected this concession to a weakness she was
resolved to defy. To the end she would leave her hand in
his hand, her eyes in his eyes: she would not, in their
final hour together, be afraid of any part of her love for

"You'll tell me to-night, dear," he insisted gently; and his
insistence gave her the strength to speak.

"There's something I must ask you," she broke out,
perceiving, as she heard her words, that they were not in
the least what she had meant to say.

He sat still, waiting, and she pressed on: "Do such things
happen to men often?"

The quiet room seemed to resound with the long
reverberations of her question. She looked away from him,
and he released her and stood up.

"I don't know what happens to other men. Such a thing never
happened to me..."

She turned her eyes back to his face. She felt like a
traveller on a giddy path between a cliff and a precipice:
there was nothing for it now but to go on.

"Had it...had it begun...before you met her in Paris?"

"No; a thousand times no! I've told you the facts as they

"All the facts?"

He turned abruptly. "What do you mean?"

Her throat was dry and the loud pulses drummed in her

"I mean--about her...Perhaps you knew...knew things about

She stopped. The room had grown profoundly still. A log
dropped to the hearth and broke there in a hissing shower.

Darrow spoke in a clear voice. "I knew nothing, absolutely
nothing," he said.

She had the answer to her inmost doubt--to her last shameful
unavowed hope. She sat powerless under her woe.

He walked to the fireplace and pushed back the broken log
with his foot. A flame shot out of it, and in the upward
glare she saw his pale face, stern with misery.

"Is that all?" he asked.

She made a slight sign with her head and he came slowly back
to her. "Then is this to be good-bye?"

Again she signed a faint assent, and he made no effort to
touch her or draw nearer. "You understand that I sha'n't
come back?"

He was looking at her, and she tried to return his look, but
her eyes were blind with tears, and in dread of his seeing
them she got up and walked away. He did not follow her, and
she stood with her back to him, staring at a bowl of
carnations on a little table strewn with books. Her tears
magnified everything she looked at, and the streaked petals
of the carnations, their fringed edges and frail curled
stamens, pressed upon her, huge and vivid. She noticed
among the books a volume of verse he had sent her from
England, and tried to remember whether it was before or

She felt that he was waiting for her to speak, and at last
she turned to him. "I shall see you to-morrow before you

He made no answer.

She moved toward the door and he held it open for her. She
saw his hand on the door, and his seal ring in its setting
of twisted silver; and the sense of the end of all things
came to her.

They walked down the drawing-rooms, between the shadowy
reflections of screens and cabinets, and mounted the stairs
side by side. At the end of the gallery, a lamp brought out
turbid gleams in the smoky battle-piece above it.

On the landing Darrow stopped; his room was the nearest to
the stairs. "Good night," he said, holding out his hand.

As Anna gave him hers the springs of grief broke loose in
her. She struggled with her sobs, and subdued them; but her
breath came unevenly, and to hide her agitation she leaned
on him and pressed her face against his arm.

"Don't--don't," he whispered, soothing her.

Her troubled breathing sounded loudly in the silence of the
sleeping house. She pressed her lips tight, but could not
stop the nervous pulsations in her throat, and he put an arm
about her and, opening his door, drew her across the
threshold of his room. The door shut behind her and she sat
down on the lounge at the foot of the bed. The pulsations
in her throat had ceased, but she knew they would begin
again if she tried to speak.

Darrow walked away and leaned against the mantelpiece. The
red-veiled lamp shone on his books and papers, on the arm-
chair by the fire, and the scattered objects on his
dressing-table. A log glimmered on the hearth, and the room
was warm and faintly smoke-scented. It was the first time
she had ever been in a room he lived in, among his personal
possessions and the traces of his daily usage. Every object
about her seemed to contain a particle of himself: the whole
air breathed of him, steeping her in the sense of his
intimate presence.

Suddenly she thought: "This is what Sophy Viner knew"...and
with a torturing precision she pictured them alone in such a
scene...Had he taken the girl to an hotel...where did people
go in such cases? Wherever they were, the silence of night
had been around them, and the things he used had been strewn
about the room...Anna, ashamed of dwelling on the detested
vision, stood up with a confused impulse of flight; then a
wave of contrary feeling arrested her and she paused with
lowered head.

Darrow had come forward as she rose, and she perceived that
he was waiting for her to bid him good night. It was clear
that no other possibility had even brushed his mind; and the
fact, for some dim reason, humiliated her. "Why not...why
not?" something whispered in her, as though his forbearance,
his tacit recognition of her pride, were a slight on other
qualities she wanted him to feel in her.

"In the morning, then?" she heard him say.

"Yes, in the morning," she repeated.

She continued to stand in the same place, looking vaguely
about the room. For once before they parted--since part
they must--she longed to be to him all that Sophy Viner had
been; but she remained rooted to the floor, unable to find a
word or imagine a gesture that should express her meaning.
Exasperated by her helplessness, she thought: "Don't I feel
things as other women do?"

Her eye fell on a note-case she had given him. It was worn
at the corners with the friction of his pocket and distended
with thickly packed papers. She wondered if he carried her
letters in it, and she put her hand out and touched it.

All that he and she had ever felt or seen, their close
encounters of word and look, and the closer contact of their
silences, trembled through her at the touch. She remembered
things he had said that had been like new skies above her
head: ways he had that seemed a part of the air she
breathed. The faint warmth of her girlish love came back to
her, gathering heat as it passed through her thoughts; and
her heart rocked like a boat on the surge of its long long
memories. "It's because I love him in too many ways," she
thought; and slowly she turned to the door.

She was aware that Darrow was still silently watching her,
but he neither stirred nor spoke till she had reached the
threshold. Then he met her there and caught her in his

"Not to-night--don't tell me to-night!" he whispered; and
she leaned away from him, closing her eyes for an instant,
and then slowly opening them to the flood of light in his.


Anna and Darrow, the next day, sat alone in a compartment of
the Paris train.

Anna, when they entered it, had put herself in the farthest
corner and placed her bag on the adjoining seat. She had
decided suddenly to accompany Darrow to Paris, had even
persuaded him to wait for a later train in order that they
might travel together. She had an intense longing to be
with him, an almost morbid terror of losing sight of him for
a moment: when he jumped out of the train and ran back along
the platform to buy a newspaper for her she felt as though
she should never see him again, and shivered with the cold
misery of her last journey to Paris, when she had thought
herself parted from him forever. Yet she wanted to keep him
at a distance, on the other side of the compartment, and as
the train moved out of the station she drew from her bag the
letters she had thrust in it as she left the house, and
began to glance over them so that her lowered lids should
hide her eyes from him.

She was his now, his for life: there could never again be
any question of sacrificing herself to Effie's welfare, or
to any other abstract conception of duty. Effie of course
would not suffer; Anna would pay for her bliss as a wife by
redoubled devotion as a mother. Her scruples were not
overcome; but for the time their voices were drowned in the
tumultuous rumour of her happiness.

As she opened her letters she was conscious that Darrow's
gaze was fixed on her, and gradually it drew her eyes
upward, and she drank deep of the passionate tenderness in
his. Then the blood rose to her face and she felt again the
desire to shield herself. She turned back to her letters
and her glance lit on an envelope inscribed in Owen's hand.

Her heart began to beat oppressively: she was in a mood when
the simplest things seemed ominous. What could Owen have to
say to her? Only the first page was covered, and it
contained simply the announcement that, in the company of a
young compatriot who was studying at the Beaux Arts, he had
planned to leave for Spain the following evening.

"He hasn't seen her, then!" was Anna's instant thought; and
her feeling was a strange compound of humiliation and
relief. The girl had kept her word, lived up to the line of
conduct she had set herself; and Anna had failed in the same
attempt. She did not reproach herself with her failure; but
she would have been happier if there had been less
discrepancy between her words to Sophy Viner and the act
which had followed them. It irritated her obscurely that
the girl should have been so much surer of her power to
carry out her purpose...

Anna looked up and saw that Darrow's eyes were on the
newspaper. He seemed calm and secure, almost indifferent to
her presence. "Will it become a matter of course to him so
soon?" she wondered with a twinge of jealousy. She sat
motionless, her eyes fixed on him, trying to make him feel
the attraction of her gaze as she felt his. It surprised
and shamed her to detect a new element in her love for him:
a sort of suspicious tyrannical tenderness that seemed to
deprive it of all serenity. Finally he looked up, his smile
enveloped her, and she felt herself his in every fibre, his
so completely and inseparably that she saw the vanity of
imagining any other fate for herself.

To give herself a countenance she held out Owen's letter.
He took it and glanced down the page, his face grown grave.
She waited nervously till he looked up.

"That's a good plan; the best thing that could happen," he
said, a just perceptible shade of constraint in his tone.

"Oh, yes," she hastily assented. She was aware of a faint
current of relief silently circulating between them. They
were both glad that Owen was going, that for a while he
would be out of their way; and it seemed to her horrible
that so much of the stuff of their happiness should be made
of such unavowed feelings...

"I shall see him this evening," she said, wishing Darrow to
feel that she was not afraid of meeting her step-son.

"Yes, of course; perhaps he might dine with you."

The words struck her as strangely obtuse. Darrow was to
meet his Ambassador at the station on the latter's arrival,
and would in all probability have to spend the evening with
him, and Anna knew he had been concerned at the thought of
having to leave her alone. But how could he speak in that
careless tone of her dining with Owen? She lowered her voice
to say: "I'm afraid he's desperately unhappy."

He answered, with a tinge of impatience: "It's much the best
thing that he should travel."

"Yes--but don't you feel..." She broke off. She knew how
he disliked these idle returns on the irrevocable, and her
fear of doing or saying what he disliked was tinged by a new
instinct of subserviency against which her pride revolted.
She thought to herself: "He will see the change, and grow
indifferent to me as he did to HER..." and for a moment
it seemed to her that she was reliving the experience of
Sophy Viner.

Darrow made no attempt to learn the end of her unfinished
sentence. He handed back Owen's letter and returned to his
newspaper; and when he looked up from it a few minutes later
it was with a clear brow and a smile that irresistibly drew
her back to happier thoughts.

The train was just entering a station, and a moment later
their compartment was invaded by a commonplace couple
preoccupied with the bestowal of bulging packages. Anna, at
their approach, felt the possessive pride of the woman in
love when strangers are between herself and the man she
loves. She asked Darrow to open the window, to place her
bag in the net, to roll her rug into a cushion for her feet;
and while he was thus busied with her she was conscious of a
new devotion in his tone, in his way of bending over her and
meeting her eyes. He went back to his seat, and they looked
at each other like lovers smiling at a happy secret.

Anna, before going back to Givre, had suggested Owen's
moving into her apartment, but he had preferred to remain at
the hotel to which he had sent his luggage, and on arriving
in Paris she decided to drive there at once. She was
impatient to have the meeting over, and glad that Darrow was
obliged to leave her at the station in order to look up a
colleague at the Embassy. She dreaded his seeing Owen again,
and yet dared not tell him so, and to ensure his remaining
away she mentioned an urgent engagement with her dress-maker
and a long list of commissions to be executed for Madame de

"I shall see you to-morrow morning," she said; but he
replied with a smile that he would certainly find time to
come to her for a moment on his way back from meeting the
Ambassador; and when he had put her in a cab he leaned
through the window to press his lips to hers.

She blushed like a girl, thinking, half vexed, half happy:
"Yesterday he would not have done it..." and a dozen
scarcely definable differences in his look and manner seemed
all at once to be summed up in the boyish act. "After all,
I'm engaged to him," she reflected, and then smiled at the
absurdity of the word. The next instant, with a pang of
self-reproach, she remembered Sophy Viner's cry: "I knew all
the while he didn't care..." "Poor thing, oh poor thing!"
Anna murmured...

At Owen's hotel she waited in a tremor while the porter went
in search of him. Word was presently brought back that he
was in his room and begged her to come up, and as she
crossed the hall she caught sight of his portmanteaux lying
on the floor, already labelled for departure.

Owen sat at a table writing, his back to the door; and when
he stood up the window was behind him, so that, in the rainy
afternoon light, his features were barely discernible.

"Dearest--so you're really off?" she said, hesitating a
moment on the threshold.

He pushed a chair forward, and they sat down, each waiting
for the other to speak. Finally she put some random
question about his travelling-companion, a slow shy
meditative youth whom he had once or twice brought down to
Givre. She reflected that it was natural he should have
given this uncommunicative comrade the preference over his
livelier acquaintances, and aloud she said: "I'm so glad
Fred Rempson can go with you."

Owen answered in the same tone, and for a few minutes their
talk dragged itself on over a dry waste of common-places.
Anna noticed that, though ready enough to impart his own
plans, Owen studiously abstained from putting any questions
about hers. It was evident from his allusions that he meant
to be away for some time, and he presently asked her if she
would give instructions about packing and sending after him
some winter clothes he had left at Givre. This gave her the
opportunity to say that she expected to go back within a day
or two and would attend to the matter as soon as she
returned. She added: "I came up this morning with George,
who is going on to London to-morrow," intending, by the use
of Darrow's Christian name, to give Owen the chance to speak
of her marriage. But he made no comment, and she continued
to hear the name sounding on unfamiliarly between them.

The room was almost dark, and she finally stood up and
glanced about for the light-switch, saying: "I can't see
you, dear."

"Oh, don't--I hate the light!" Owen exclaimed, catching her
by the wrist and pushing her back into her seat. He gave a
nervous laugh and added: "I'm half-blind with neuralgia. I
suppose it's this beastly rain."

"Yes; it will do you good to get down to Spain."

She asked if he had the remedies the doctor had given him
for a previous attack, and on his replying that he didn't
know what he'd done with the stuff, she sprang up, offering
to go to the chemist's. It was a relief to have something
to do for him, and she knew from his "Oh, thanks--would
you?" that it was a relief to him to have a pretext for not
detaining her. His natural impulse would have been to
declare that he didn't want any drugs, and would be all
right in no time; and his acquiescence showed her how
profoundly he felt the uselessness of their trying to
prolong their talk. His face was now no more than a white
blur in the dusk, but she felt its indistinctness as a veil
drawn over aching intensities of expression. "He knows...he
knows..." she said to herself, and wondered whether the
truth had been revealed to him by some corroborative fact or
by the sheer force of divination.

He had risen also, and was clearly waiting for her to go,
and she turned to the door, saying: "I'll be back in a

"Oh, don't come up again, please!" He paused, embarrassed.
"I mean--I may not be here. I've got to go and pick up
Rempson, and see about some final things with him."
She stopped on the threshold with a sinking heart. He meant
this to be their leave-taking, then--and he had not even
asked her when she was to be married, or spoken of seeing
her again before she set out for the other side of the

"Owen!" she cried, and turned back.

He stood mutely before her in the dimness.

"You haven't told me how long you're to be gone."

"How long? Oh, you see...that's rather vague...I hate
definite dates, you know..."

He paused and she saw he did not mean to help her out. She
tried to say: "You'll be here for my wedding?" but could not
bring the words to her lips. Instead she murmured: "In six
weeks I shall be going too..." and he rejoined, as if he had
expected the announcement and prepared his answer: "Oh, by
that time, very likely..."

"At any rate, I won't say good-bye," she stammered, feeling
the tears beneath her veil.

"No, no; rather not!" he declared; but he made no movement,
and she went up and threw her arms about him. "You'll write
me, won't you?"

"Of course, of course----"

Her hands slipped down into his, and for a minute they held
each other dumbly in the darkness; then he gave a vague
laugh and said: "It's really time to light up." He pressed
the electric button with one hand while with the other he
opened the door; and she passed out without daring to turn
back, lest the light on his face should show her what she
feared to see.


Anna drove to the chemist's for Owen's remedy. On the way
she stopped her cab at a book-shop, and emerged from it
laden with literature. She knew what would interest Owen,
and what he was likely to have read, and she had made her
choice among the newest publications with the promptness of
a discriminating reader. But on the way back to the hotel
she was overcome by the irony of adding this mental panacea
to the other. There was something grotesque and almost
mocking in the idea of offering a judicious selection of
literature to a man setting out on such a journey. "He
knows...he knows..." she kept on repeating; and giving the
porter the parcel from the chemist's she drove away without
leaving the books.
She went to her apartment, whither her maid had preceded
her. There was a fire in the drawing-room and the tea-table
stood ready by the hearth. The stormy rain beat against the
uncurtained windows, and she thought of Owen, who would soon
be driving through it to the station, alone with his bitter
thoughts. She had been proud of the fact that he had always
sought her help in difficult hours; and now, in the most
difficult of all, she was the one being to whom he could not
turn. Between them, henceforth, there would always be the
wall of an insurmountable silence...She strained her aching
thoughts to guess how the truth had come to him. Had he seen
the girl, and had she told him? Instinctively, Anna rejected
this conjecture. But what need was there of assuming an
explicit statement, when every breath they had drawn for the
last weeks had been charged with the immanent secret? As she
looked back over the days since Darrow's first arrival at
Givre she perceived that at no time had any one deliberately
spoken, or anything been accidentally disclosed. The truth
had come to light by the force of its irresistible pressure;
and the perception gave her a startled sense of hidden
powers, of a chaos of attractions and repulsions far beneath
the ordered surfaces of intercourse. She looked back with
melancholy derision on her old conception of life, as a kind
of well-lit and well policed suburb to dark places one need
never know about. Here they were, these dark places, in her
own bosom, and henceforth she would always have to traverse
them to reach the beings she loved best!

She was still sitting beside the untouched tea-table when
she heard Darrow's voice in the hall. She started up,
saying to herself: "I must tell him that Owen knows..." but
when the door opened and she saw his face, still lit by the
same smile of boyish triumph, she felt anew the uselessness
of speaking...Had he ever supposed that Owen would not know?
Probably, from the height of his greater experience, he had
seen long since that all that happened was inevitable; and
the thought of it, at any rate, was clearly not weighing on
him now.

He was already dressed for the evening, and as he came
toward her he said: "The Ambassador's booked for an official
dinner and I'm free after all. Where shall we dine?"

Anna had pictured herself sitting alone all the evening with
her wretched thoughts, and the fact of having to put them
out of her mind for the next few hours gave her an immediate
sensation of relief. Already her pulses were dancing to the
tune of Darrow's, and as they smiled at each other she
thought: "Nothing can ever change the fact that I belong to

"Where shall we dine?" he repeated gaily, and she named a
well-known restaurant for which she had once heard him
express a preference. But as she did so she fancied she saw
a shadow on his face, and instantly she said to herself: "It
was THERE he went with her!"

"Oh, no, not there, after all!" she interrupted herself; and
now she was sure his colour deepened.

"Where shall it be, then?"

She noticed that he did not ask the reason of her change,
and this convinced her that she had guessed the truth, and
that he knew she had guessed it. "He will always know what
I am thinking, and he will never dare to ask me," she
thought; and she saw between them the same insurmountable
wall of silence as between herself and Owen, a wall of glass
through which they could watch each other's faintest motions
but which no sound could ever traverse...

They drove to a restaurant on the Boulevard, and there, in
their intimate corner of the serried scene, the sense of
what was unspoken between them gradually ceased to oppress
her. He looked so light-hearted and handsome, so
ingenuously proud of her, so openly happy at being with her,
that no other fact could seem real in his presence. He had
learned that the Ambassador was to spend two days in Paris,
and he had reason to hope that in consequence his own
departure for London would be deferred. He was exhilarated
by the prospect of being with Anna for a few hours longer,
and she did not ask herself if his exhilaration were a sign
of insensibility, for she was too conscious of his power of
swaying her moods not to be secretly proud of affecting his.

They lingered for some time over the fruit and coffee, and
when they rose to go Darrow suggested that, if she felt
disposed for the play, they were not too late for the second
part of the programme at one of the smaller theatres.

His mention of the hour recalled Owen to her thoughts. She
saw his train rushing southward through the storm, and, in a
corner of the swaying compartment, his face, white and
indistinct as it had loomed on her in the rainy twilight.
It was horrible to be thus perpetually paying for her

Darrow had called for a theatrical journal, and he presently
looked up from it to say: "I hear the second play at the
Athenee is amusing."

It was on Anna's lips to acquiesce; but as she was about to
speak she wondered if it were not at the Athenee that Owen
had seen Darrow with Sophy Viner. She was not sure he had
even mentioned the theatre, but the mere possibility was
enough to darken her sky. It was hateful to her to think of
accompanying Darrow to places where the girl had been with
him. She tried to reason away this scruple, she even
reminded herself with a bitter irony that whenever she was
in Darrow's arms she was where the girl had been before her
--but she could not shake off her superstitious dread of
being with him in any of the scenes of the Parisian episode.
She replied that she was too tired for the play, and they
drove back to her apartment. At the foot of the stairs she
half-turned to wish him good night, but he appeared not to
notice her gesture and followed her up to her door.

"This is ever so much better than the theatre," he said as
they entered the drawing-room.

She had crossed the room and was bending over the hearth to
light the fire. She knew he was approaching her, and that
in a moment he would have drawn the cloak from her shoulders
and laid his lips on her neck, just below the gathered-up
hair. These privileges were his and, however deferently and
tenderly he claimed them, the joyous ease of his manner
marked a difference and proclaimed a right.

"After the theatre they came home like this," she thought;
and at the same instant she felt his hands on her shoulders
and shrank back.

"Don't--oh, don't!" she cried, drawing her cloak about her.
She saw from his astonished stare that her face must be
quivering with pain.

"Anna! What on earth is the matter?"

"Owen knows!" she broke out, with a confused desire to
justify herself.

Darrow's countenance changed. "Did he tell you so? What did
he say?"

"Nothing! I knew it from the things he didn't say."

"You had a talk with him this afternoon?"

"Yes: for a few minutes. I could see he didn't want me to

She had dropped into a chair, and sat there huddled, still
holding her cloak about her shoulders.

Darrow did not dispute her assumption, and she noticed that
he expressed no surprise. He sat down at a little distance
from her, turning about in his fingers the cigar-case he had
drawn out as they came in. At length he said: "Had he seen
Miss Viner?"

She shrank from the sound of the name. "No...I don't think
so...I'm sure he hadn't..."

They remained silent, looking away from one another. Finally
Darrow stood up and took a few steps across the room. He
came back and paused before her, his eyes on her face.

"I think you ought to tell me what you mean to do."
She raised her head and gave him back his look. "Nothing I
do can help Owen!"

"No; but things can't go on like this." He paused, as if to
measure his words. "I fill you with aversion," he

She started up, half-sobbing. "No--oh, no!"

"Poor child--you can't see your face!"

She lifted her hands as if to hide it, and turning away from
him bowed her head upon the mantel-shelf. She felt that he
was standing a little way behind her, but he made no attempt
to touch her or come nearer.

"I know you've felt as I've felt," he said in a low voice--"
that we belong to each other and that nothing can alter
that. But other thoughts come, and you can't banish them.
Whenever you see me you associate me with
things you abhor...You've been generous--immeasurably.
You've given me all the chances a woman could; but if it's
only made you suffer, what's the use?"

She turned to him with a tear-stained face. "It hasn't only
done that."

"Oh, no! I know...There've been moments..." He took her hand
and raised it to his lips. "They'll be with me as long as I
live. But I can't see you paying such a price for them.
I'm not worth what I'm costing you."

She continued to gaze at him through tear-dilated eyes; and
suddenly she flung out the question: "Wasn't it the Athenee
you took her to that evening?"


"Yes; I want to know now: to know everything. Perhaps that
will make me forget. I ought to have made you tell me
before. Wherever we go, I imagine you've been there with
her...I see you together. I want to know how it began,


Back to Full Books