Infomotions, Inc.From the Housetops / McCutcheon, George Barr, 1866-1928



Author: McCutcheon, George Barr, 1866-1928
Title: From the Housetops
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): braden; simmy; tresslyn; thorpe; lutie; anne; templeton thorpe; braden thorpe; wade; george tresslyn; george; anne tresslyn
Contributor(s): Cootes, F. Graham [Illustrator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 133,262 words (average) Grade range: 6-9 (grade school) Readability score: 75 (easy)
Identifier: etext18612
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Title: From the Housetops

Author: George Barr McCutcheon

Illustrator: F. Graham Cootes

Release Date: June 17, 2006 [EBook #18612]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK FROM THE HOUSETOPS ***




Produced by Roger Frank and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net





FROM THE HOUSETOPS

BY
GEORGE BARR McCUTCHEON

Author of "Ghaustark," "The Hollow of Her Hand,"
"The Prince of Graustark," etc.

With Illustrations by
F. GRAHAM COOTES




Copyright, 1916
By DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY, INC.
_All rights reserved_
Made in U.S.A.




[Illustration: "Stop!" he cried eagerly. "Would you give up
everything--everything, mind you,--if I were to ask you to do so?"]




Contents
========

CHAPTER I                                       1
CHAPTER II                                      9
CHAPTER III                                    16
CHAPTER IV                                     27
CHAPTER V                                      39
CHAPTER VI                                     57
CHAPTER VII                                    76
CHAPTER VIII                                   90
CHAPTER IX                                    101
CHAPTER X                                     120
CHAPTER XI                                    137
CHAPTER XII                                   155
CHAPTER XIII                                  169
CHAPTER XIV                                   185
CHAPTER XV                                    197
CHAPTER XVI                                   213
CHAPTER XVII                                  230
CHAPTER XVIII                                 247
CHAPTER XIX                                   260
CHAPTER XX                                    273
CHAPTER XXI                                   292
CHAPTER XXII                                  310
CHAPTER XXIII                                 329
CHAPTER XXIV                                  345
CHAPTER XXV                                   359
CHAPTER XXVI                                  376
CHAPTER XXVII                                 391
CHAPTER XXVIII                                405
CHAPTER XXIX                                  421
CHAPTER XXX                                   431




FROM THE HOUSETOPS




CHAPTER I


Mr. Templeton Thorpe was soon to be married for the second time. Back in
1860 he married a girl of twenty-two, and now in the year 1912 he was
taking unto himself another girl of twenty-two. In the interim he had
achieved a grandson whose years were twenty-nine. In his seventy-seventh
year he was worth a great many millions of dollars, and for that and no
other reason perhaps, one of the newspapers, in commenting on the
approaching nuptials, declared that nobody could now deny that he was a
philanthropist.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I daresay you are right, Mrs. Tresslyn," said old Templeton Thorpe's
grandson, bitterly. "He hasn't many more years to live."

The woman in the chair started, her eyes narrowing. The flush deepened in
her cheeks. It had been faint before and steady, but now it was ominous.

"I fear you are again putting words into my mouth," she said coldly. "Have
I made any such statement?"

"I did not say that you had, Mrs. Tresslyn," said the young man. "I merely
observed that you were right. It isn't necessary to put the perfectly
obvious into words. He is a very old man, so you are right in believing
that he hasn't many years left to live. Nearly four times the age of
Anne,--that's how old he is,--and time flies very swiftly for him."

"I must again remind you that you are in danger of becoming offensive,
Braden. Be good enough to remember that this interview is not of my
choosing. I consented to receive you in--"

"You knew it was inevitable--this interview, as you call it. You knew I
would come here to denounce this damnable transaction. I have nothing to
apologise for, Mrs. Tresslyn. This is not the time for apologies. You may
order me to leave your house, but I don't believe you will find any
satisfaction in doing so. You would still know that I have a right to
protest against this unspeakable marriage, even though it should mean
nothing more to me than the desire to protect a senile old man against
the--"

"Your grandfather is the last man in the world to be described as senile,"
she broke in, with a thin smile.

"I could have agreed with you a month ago, but not now," said he savagely.

"Perhaps you would better go now, Braden," said she, arising. She was a
tall, handsome woman, well under fifty. As she faced her visitor, her
cold, unfriendly eyes were almost on a level with his own. The look she
gave him would have caused a less determined man to quail. It was her way
of closing an argument, no matter whether it was with her butcher, her
grocer, of the bishop himself. Such a look is best described as imperious,
although one less reserved than I but perhaps more potently metaphorical
would say that she simply looked a hole through you, seeing beyond you as
if you were not there at all. She had found it especially efficacious in
dealing with the butcher and even the bishop, to say nothing of the effect
it always had upon the commonplace nobodies who go to the butcher and the
bishop for the luxuries of both the present and the future life, and it
had seldom failed to wither and blight the most hardy of masculine
opponents. It was not always so effective in crushing the members of her
own sex, for there were women in New York society who could look straight
through Mrs. Tresslyn without even appearing to suspect that she was in
the range of vision. She had been known, however, to stare an English duke
out of countenance, and it was a long time before she forgave herself for
doing so. It would appear that it is not the proper thing to do. Crushing
the possessor of a title is permissible only among taxi-drivers and
gentlemen whose daughters are already married.

Her stony look did not go far toward intimidating young Mr. Thorpe. He was
a rather sturdy, athletic looking fellow with a firm chin and a well-set
jaw, and a pair of grey eyes that were not in the habit of wavering.

"I came here to see Anne," he said, a stubborn expression settling in his
face. "Is she afraid to see me, or is she obeying orders from you, Mrs.
Tresslyn?"

"She doesn't care to see you," said Mrs. Tresslyn. "That's all there is to
be said about it, Braden."

"So far as I am concerned, she is still engaged to me. She hasn't broken
it off by word or letter. If you don't mind, I'd like to have it broken
off in the regular way. It doesn't seem quite proper for her to remain
engaged to me right up to the instant she marries my grandfather. Or is it
possible that she intends to remain bound to me during the lifetime of my
grandparent, with the idea of holding me to my bargain when he is gone?"

"Don't be ridiculous," was all that Mrs. Tresslyn said in response to this
sarcasm, but she said it scathingly.

For a full minute they stood looking into each other's eyes, each
appraising the other, one offensively, the other defensively. She had the
advantage of him, for she was prepared to defend herself while he was in
the position of one who attacks without strategy and leaps from one
exposed spot to another. It was to her advantage that she knew that he
despised her; it was to his disadvantage that he knew she had always liked
him after a manner of her own, and doubtless liked him now despite the
things he had said to her. She had liked him from his boyhood days when
report had it that he was to be the sole heir to his grandfather's
millions, and she had liked him, no doubt, quite as sincerely, after the
old man had declared that he did not intend to ruin a brilliant career by
leaving a lot of uninspiring money to his ambitious grandson.

In so many words, old Templeton Thorpe had said, not two months before,
that he intended to leave practically all of his money to charity! All
except the two millions he stood ready to settle upon his bride the day
she married him! Possibly Mrs. Tresslyn liked the grandson all the more
for the treasures that he had lost, or was about to lose. It is easy to
like a man who will not be pitied. At any rate, she did not consider it
worth while to despise him, now that he had only a profession to offer in
exchange for her daughter's hand.

"Of course, Mrs. Tresslyn, I know that Anne loves me," he said, with
forced calmness. "She doesn't love my grandfather. That isn't even
debatable. I fear that I am the only person in the world who does love
him. I suspect, too, that if he loves any one, I am that one. If you think
that he is fool enough to believe that Anne loves him, you are vastly
mistaken. He knows perfectly well that she doesn't, and, by gad, he
doesn't blame her. He understands. That's why he sits there at home and
chuckles. I hope you will not mind my saying to you that he considers me a
very lucky person."

"Lucky?" said she, momentarily off her guard.

"If you care to hear exactly how he puts it, he says I'm _damned_ lucky,
Mrs. Tresslyn. Of course, you are not to assume that I agree with him. If
I thought all this was Anne's doing and not yours, I should say that I am
lucky, but I can't believe--good heavens, I will not believe that she could
do such a thing! A young, beautiful, happy girl voluntarily--oh, it is
unspeakable! She is being driven into it, she is being sacrificed to--"

"Just one moment, Braden," interrupted Mrs. Tresslyn, curtly. "I may as
well set you quite straight in the matter. It will save time and put an
end to recriminations. My daughter does not care the snap of her fingers
for Mr. Thorpe. I think she loves you quite as dearly now as she ever did.
At any rate, she says she does. But that is neither here nor there. She is
going to marry Mr. Thorpe, and of her own volition. I have advised her to
do so, I will admit, but I have not driven her to it, as you say. No one
but a fool would expect her to love that old man. He doesn't ask it of
her. He simply asks her to marry him. Nowadays people do not always marry
for love. In fact, they frequently marry to avoid it--at least for the time
being. Your grandfather has told you of the marriage settlement. It is to
be two million dollars, set apart for her, to be hers in full right on the
day that he dies. We are far from rich, Anne and I. My husband was a
failure--but you know our circumstances quite well enough without my going
into them. My daughter is her own mistress. She is twenty-three. She is
able to choose for herself. It pleases her to choose the grandfather
instead of the grandson. Is that perfectly plain to you? If it is, my boy,
then I submit that there is nothing further to be said. The situation is
surely clear enough for even you to see. We do not pretend to be doing
anything noble. Mr. Thorpe is seventy-seven. That is the long and short of
it."

"In plain English, it's the money you are after," said he, with a sneer.

"Obviously," said she, with the utmost candour. "Young women of twenty-
three do not marry old men of seventy-seven for love. You may imagine a
young girl marrying a penniless youth for love, but can you picture her
marrying a penniless octogenarian for the same reason? I fancy not. I
speak quite frankly to you, Braden, and without reserve. We have always
been friends. It would be folly to attempt to delude you into believing
that a sentimental motive is back of our--shall we say enterprise?"

"Yes, that is what I would call it," said he levelly. "It is a more
refined word than scheme."

"The world will be grateful for the opportunity to bear me out in all that
I have said to you," she went on. "It will cheerfully, even gleefully
supply any of the little details I may have considered unnecessary or
superfluous in describing the situation. You are at liberty, then, to go
forth and assist in the castigation. You have my permission,--and Anne's, I
may add,--to say to the world that I have told you plainly why this
marriage is to take place. It is no secret. It isn't improbable that your
grandfather will consent to back you up in your denunciation. He is that
kind of a man. He has no illusions. Permit me to remind you, therefore,
that neither you nor the world is to take it for granted that we are
hoodwinking Mr. Thorpe. Have I made myself quite clear to you, Braden?"

The young man drew a deep breath. His tense figure relaxed. "I did not
know there were such women in the world as you, Mrs. Tresslyn. There were
heartless, soulless women among the Borgias and the Medicis, but they
lived in an age of intrigue. Their acts were mildly innocuous when
compared with--"

"I must ask you to remember that you are in my home, Braden," she
interrupted, her eyes ablaze.

"Oh, I remember where I am, perfectly," he cried. "It was in this very
room that Anne promised to become my wife. It was here that you gave your
consent, less than a year ago."

He had been pacing the floor, back and forth across the space in front of
the fireplace, in which logs were blazing on this raw February afternoon.
Now he stopped once more to face her resolutely.

"I insist that it is my right to see Anne," he said. His eyes were
bloodshot, his cheek pallid. "I must hear from her own lips that she no
longer considers herself bound to me by the promise made a year ago. I
demand that much of her. She owes it to me, if not to herself, to put an
end to the farce before she turns to tragedy. I don't believe she
appreciates the wickedness of the thing she is about to do. I insist that
it is my right to speak with her, to urge her to reconsider, to point out
to her the horrors of--"

"She will not see you, Braden," broke in the mother, finality in her
voice.

"She _must_ see me," he shouted. "If not to-day, to-morrow; if not then,
some other day, for, by the Eternal, Mrs. Tresslyn, I intend to speak with
her if I have to wait until the accursed day you have selected,--at the
very altar, if necessary. She shall not go into this thing until she has
had the final word with me, and I with her. She does not know what she is
doing. She is carried away by the thought of all that money--Money! Good
God, Mrs. Tresslyn, she has told me a hundred times that she would marry
me if I were as poor as the raggedest beggar in the streets. She loves me,
she cannot play this vile trick on me. Her heart is pure. You cannot make
me believe that she isn't honest and fair and loyal. I tell you now, once
and for all, that I will not stand idly by and see this vile sacrifice
made in order to--"

"Rawson," interrupted Mrs. Tresslyn, looking beyond him in the direction
of the door, "Doctor Thorpe is going. Will you give him his hat and coat?"
She had pressed a button beside the mantelpiece, and in response to the
call, the butler stood in the doorway. "Good day, Braden. I am sorry that
Anne is unable to see you to-day. She--"

"Good day, Mrs. Tresslyn," he choked out, controlling himself with an
effort. "Will you tell her that I shall call to-morrow?"

She smiled. "When do you expect to return to London? I had hoped to have
you stay until after the wedding."

His smile was more of an effort than hers. "Thanks. My grandfather has
expressed the same hope. He says the affair will not be complete without
my presence at the feast. To-morrow, at this hour, I shall come to see
Anne. Thank you, Rawson."




CHAPTER II


His gaze swept the long, luxurious drawing-room, now filled with the
shadows of late afternoon. A sigh that ended in an unvoiced imprecation
escaped him. There was not an object in the room that did not possess for
him a peculiar claim of intimacy. Here he had dreamed of paradise with
Anne, and here he had built upon his hopes,--a staunch future that demanded
little of the imagination. He could never forget this room and all that it
had held for him.

But now, in that brief, swift glance, he found himself estimating the cost
of all the treasures that it contained, and the price that was to be paid
in order that they might not be threatened. These things represented
greed. They had always represented greed. They had been saved out of the
wreck that befell the Tresslyn fortunes when Anne was a young girl
entering her teens, the wreck that destroyed Arthur Tresslyn and left his
widow with barely enough to sustain herself and children through the years
that intervened between the then and the now.

He recalled that after the wreck had been cleared up, Mrs. Tresslyn had a
paltry twenty-five thousand a year on which to maintain the house that,
fortuitously, had been in her name at the time of the smash. A paltry sum
indeed! Barely enough to feed and clothe one hundred less exacting
families for a year; families, however, with wheelbarrows instead of
automobiles, and with children instead of servants.

Ten years had elapsed since the death of Arthur Tresslyn, and still the
house in the east Seventies held itself above water by means of that
meagre two thousand a month! These rare, almost priceless objects upon
which he now gazed had weathered the storm, proof against the temptations
that beset an owner embarrassed by their richness; they had maintained a
smug relationship to harmony in spite of the jangling of discordant
instruments, such as writs and attachments and the wails of insufferable
creditors who made the usual mistake of thinking that a man's home is his
castle and therefore an object of reprisal. The splendid porcelains, the
incomparable tapestries and the small but exquisite paintings remained
where they had been placed by the amiable but futile Arthur, and all the
king's men and all the king's horses could not have removed them without
Mrs. Tresslyn's sanction. The mistress of the house subsisted as best she
could on the pitiful income from a sequestered half-million, and lived in
splendour among objects that deluded even the richest and most arrogant of
her friends into believing that nothing was more remote from her
understanding than the word poverty, or the equally disgusting word
thrift.

Here he had come to children's parties in days when he was a lad and Anne
a child of twelve, and here he had always been a welcome visitor and
playmate, even to the end of his college years. The motherless, fatherless
grandson of old Templeton Thorpe was cherished among heirlooms that never
had had a price put upon them. Of all the boys who came to the Tresslyn
house, young Braden Thorpe was the heir with the most potent possibility.
He did not know it then, but now he knew that on the occasion of his
smashing a magnificent porcelain vase the forgiving kiss that Mrs.
Tresslyn bestowed upon his flaming cheek was not due to pity but to
farsightedness. Somehow he now felt that he could smash every fragile and
inanimate thing in sight, and still escape the kiss.

Not the least regal and imposing object in the room was the woman who
stood beside the fireplace, smiling as she always smiled when a situation
was at its worst and she at her best. Her high-bred, aristocratic face was
as insensitive to an inward softness as a chiseled block of marble is to
the eye that gazes upon it in rapt admiration. She had trained herself to
smile in the face of the disagreeable; she had acquired the _art_ of
tranquillity. This long anticipated interview with her daughter's cast-
off, bewildered lover was inevitable. They had known that he would come,
insistent. She had not kept him waiting. When he came to the house the day
after his arrival from England, following close upon a cablegram sent the
day after the news of Anne's defection had struck him like a thunderbolt,
she was ready to receive him.

And now, quite as calmly and indifferently, she was ready to say good-bye
to him forever,--to this man who until a fortnight before had considered
himself, and rightly too, to be the affianced husband of her daughter. He
meant nothing to her. Her world was complete without him. He possessed her
daughter's love,--and all the love she would ever know perhaps,--but even
that did not produce within her the slightest qualm. Doubtless Anne would
go on loving him to the end of her days. It is the prerogative of women
who do not marry for love; it is their right to love the men they do not
marry provided they honour the men they do, and keep their skirts clear
besides.

Mrs. Tresslyn felt, and honestly too, that her own assurances that Anne
loved him would be quite as satisfactory as if Anne were to utter them
herself. It all came to the same thing, and she had an idea that she could
manage the situation more ably than her daughter.

And Mrs. Tresslyn was quite sure that it would come out all right in the
end. She hadn't the remotest doubt that Anne could marry Braden later on,
if she cared to do so, and if nothing better offered; so what was there to
worry about? Things always shape themselves after the easiest possible
fashion. It wasn't as if she was marrying a young man with money. Mrs.
Tresslyn had seen things shape themselves before. Moreover, she rather
hated the thought of being a grandmother before she was fifty. And so it
was really a pleasure to turn this possible son-in-law out of her house
just at this time. It would be a very simple matter to open the door to
him later on and invite him in.

She stood beside her hearth and watched him go with a calm and far from
uneasy eye. He would come again to-morrow, perhaps,--but even at his worst
he could not be a dangerous visitor. He was a gentleman. He was a bit
distressed. Gentlemen are often put to the test, and they invariably
remain gentlemen.

He stopped at the door. "Will you tell Anne that I'll be here to-morrow,
Mrs. Tresslyn?"

"I shall tell her, of course," said Mrs. Tresslyn, and lifted her lorgnon.

He went out, filled to the throat with rage and resentment. His strong
body was bent as if against a gale, and his hands were tightly clenched in
his overcoat pockets. In his haste to get away from the house, he had
fairly flung himself into the ulster that Rawson held for him, and the
collar of his coat showed high above the collar of the greatcoat,--a most
unusual lapse from orderliness on the part of this always careful dresser.

He was returning to his grandfather's house. Old Templeton Thorpe would be
waiting there for him, and Mr. Thorpe's man would be standing outside the
library door as was his practice when his master was within, and there
would be a sly, patient smile on the servant's lips but not in his sombre
eyes. He was returning to his grandfather's house because he had promised
to come back and tell the old man how he had fared at the home of his
betrothed. The old man had said to him earlier in the afternoon that he
would know more about women than he'd ever known before by the time his
interview was over, and had drily added that the world was full to
overflowing of good women who had not married the men they
loved,--principally, he was just enough to explain, because the men they
loved preferred to marry other women.

Braden had left him seated in the library after a stormy half-hour; and as
he rushed from the room, he found Mr. Thorpe's man standing in the hall
outside the door, just as he always stood, waiting for orders with the
sly, patient smile on his lips.

For sixty years Templeton Thorpe had lived in the house near Washington
Square, and for thirty-two of them Wade had been within sound of his
voice, no matter how softly he called. The master never rang a bell, night
or day. He did not employ Wade to answer bells. The butler could do that,
or the parlour-maid, if the former happened to be tipsier than usual. Wade
always kept his head cocked a little to one side, in the attitude of one
listening, and so long had he been at it that it is doubtful if he could
have cocked it the other way without snapping something in his neck. That
right ear of his was open for business twenty-four hours out of the day.
The rest of his body may have slept as soundly as any man's, but his ear
was always awake, on land or sea. It was his boast that he had never had a
vacation.

Braden, after his long ride down Fifth Avenue on the stage, found Wade in
the hall.

"Is my grandfather in the library, Wade?" he asked, surprised to find the
man at the foot of the stairs, quite a distance from his accustomed post.

"He is, sir," said Wade. "He asked me to wait here until you arrived and
then to go upstairs for a little while, sir. I fancy he has something to
say to you in private." Which was a naive way of explaining that Mr.
Thorpe did not want him to have his ear cocked in the hall during the
conversation that was to be resumed after an advisable interval. Observing
the strange pallor in the young man's usually ruddy face, he solicitously
added: "Shall I get you a glass of--ahem!--spirits, sir? A snack of brandy
is a handy thing to--"

"No, thank you, Wade. You forget that I am a doctor. I never take
medicine," said Braden, forcing a smile.

"A very good idea, sir," said Wade.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Tresslyn had reported to Anne, in the cosy little boudoir
at the top of the house in the Seventies.

"It is just as well that you insisted on me seeing him, dear," she said on
entering the room. "He would have said things to you that you could not
have forgiven. As it is, you have nothing to forgive, and you have saved
yourself a good many tears. He--but, my dear, what's this? Have you been
crying?"

Anne, tall and slender, stood with her back to the window, her exquisite
face in the shadows. Even in the dim, colourless light of the waning day,
she was lovely--lovely even with the wet cheeks and the drooped, whimpering
lips.

"What did he say, mother?" she asked, her voice hushed and broken. "How
did he look?" Her head was bent and she looked at her mother from beneath
pain-contracted brows. "Was he angry? Was he desperate? Did--did he say
that he--that he loved me?"

"He looked very well, he was angry, he was desperate and he said that he
loved you," replied Mrs. Tresslyn, with the utmost composure. "So dry your
eyes. He did just what was to have been expected of him, and just what you
counted upon. He--"

"He honestly, truly said that he loved me?" cried the girl, lifting her
head and drawing a deep breath.

"Yes,--truly."

Anne dried her eyes with a fresh bit of lace.

"Sit down, mother, and tell me all about it," she said, jerking a small
chair around so that it faced the couch. Then she threw herself upon the
latter and, reaching out with a slender foot, drew the chair closer. "Sit
up close, and let's hear what my future grandson had to say."




CHAPTER III


Braden Thorpe had spent two years in the New York hospitals, after
graduation from Johns Hopkins, and had been sent to Germany and Austria by
his grandfather when he was twenty-seven, to work under the advanced
scientists of Vienna and Berlin. At twenty-nine he came back to New York,
a serious-minded, purposeful man, wrapped up in his profession and
heterodoxically humane, to use the words of his grandfather. The first day
after his return he confided to his grim old relative the somewhat
unprofessional opinion that hopelessly afflicted members of the human race
should be put out of their misery by attending physicians, operating under
the direction of a commission appointed to consider such cases, and that
the act should be authorised by law!

His grandfather, being seventy-six and apparently as healthy as any one
could hope to be at that age, said that he thought it would be just as
well to kill 'em legally as any other way, having no good opinion of
doctors, and admitted that his grandson had an exceptionally soft heart in
him even though his head was a trifle harder and thicker than was
necessary in one so young.

"It's worth thinking about, anyhow, isn't it, granddaddy?" Braden had
said, with great earnestness.

"It is, my boy," said Templeton Thorpe; "especially when you haven't got
anything serious the matter with you."

"But if you were hopelessly ill and suffering beyond all endurance you'd
welcome death, wouldn't you?"

"No, I wouldn't," said Mr. Thorpe promptly. "The only time I ever wanted
to shuffle off was when your grandmother first refused to marry me. The
second time she refused me I decided to do something almost but not quite
so terrible, so I went West. The third time I proposed, she accepted me,
and out of sheer joy I very stupidly got drunk. So, you see, there is
always something to live for," he concluded, with his driest smile.

"I am quite serious about it, grandfather," said Braden stiffly.

"So I perceive. Well, you are planning to hang out your sign here in New
York pretty soon, and you are going to become a licensed physician, the
confrere and companion of a lot of distinguished gentlemen who believe
just as you do about putting sufferers out of their misery but who
wouldn't think of doing it, so I'd advise you to keep your opinions to
yourself. What do you suppose I sent you abroad for, and gave you an
education that few young men have received? Just to see you kicked out of
your profession before you've fairly well put a foot into it, or a knife
into a plutocrat, or a pill into a pauper? No, sirree, my boy. You sit
tight and let the hangman do all the legal killing that has to be done."

"Oh, I know perfectly well that if I advanced this theory,--or scheme,--at
present, I'd be kicked out of the profession, notwithstanding the fact
that it has all been discussed a million times by doctors in every part of
the world. I can't help having the feeling that it would be a great and
humane thing--"

"Quite so," broke in the old man, "but let us talk of something else."

A month later Braden came to him and announced that he and Anne Tresslyn
were betrothed. They had known each other for years, and from the time
that Anne was seventeen Braden had loved her. He had been a quiet, rather
shy boy, and she a gay, self-possessed creature whose outlook upon life
was so far advanced beyond his, even in those days of adolescence, that he
looked upon her as the eighth wonder of the world. She had poise, manner,
worldly wisdom of a pleasantly superficial character that stood for
sophistication in his blissful estimate of her advantages over him, and
she was so adroit in the art of putting her finger upon the right spot at
precisely the right moment that he found himself wondering if he could
ever bring himself up to her insuperable level.

And when he came home after the two years in Europe, filled with great
thoughts and vast pretentions of a singularly unromantic nature, he found
her so much lovelier than before that where once he had shyly coveted he
now desired with a fervour that swept him headlong into a panic of dread
lest he had waited too long and that he had irretrievably lost her while
engaged in the wretchedly mundane and commonplace pursuit of trifles. He
was intensely amazed, therefore, to discover that she had loved him ever
since she was a child in short frocks. He expected her to believe him when
he said to her that she was the loveliest of all God's creatures, but it
was more than he could believe when she declared that he was as handsome
as a Greek god. That, of course, to him was a ludicrous thing to say, a
delusion, a fancy that could not be explained, and yet he had seen himself
in a mirror a dozen times a day, perhaps, without even suspecting, in his
simplicity, that he was an extremely good-looking chap and well worth a
second glance from any one except himself.

The announcement did not come as a surprise to old Mr. Thorpe. He had been
expecting it. He realised that Braden's dilatory tactics alone were
accountable for the delay in bringing the issue to a head.

"And when do you expect to be married?" he had inquired, squinting at his
grandson in a somewhat dubious manner.

"Within the year, I hope," said Braden. "Of course, I shall have to get a
bit of a start before we can think of getting married."

"A bit of a start, eh? Expect to get enough of a practice in a year to
keep Anne going, do you?"

"We shall live very economically."

"Is that your idea or hers?"

"She knows that I have but little more than two thousand a year, but, of
course, it won't take much of a practice to add something to that, you
know."

"Besides, you can always depend upon me to help you out, Braden,--that is,
within reason," said the other, watching him narrowly out of his shrewd
old eyes.

Braden flushed. "You have done more than enough for me already,
grandfather. I can't take anything more, you see. I'm going to fight my
own way now, sir."

"I see," said Mr. Thorpe. "That's the way to talk, my boy. And what does
Anne say to that?"

"She thinks just as I do about it. Oh, she's the right sort, granddaddy,
so you needn't worry about us, once we are married."

"Perhaps I should have asked what her mother has to say about it."

"Well, she gave us her blessing," said his grandson, with a happy grin.

"After she had heard about your plan to live on the results of your
practice?"

"She said she wasn't going to worry about that, sir. If Anne was willing
to wait, so was she."

"Wait for what?"

"My practice to pick up, of course. What do you mean?"

"Just that, of course," said the old man quickly. "Well, my boy, while I
daresay it isn't really necessary, I give my consent. I am sure you and
Anne will be very happy in your cosy little five-room flat, and that she
will be a great help to you. You may even attain to quite a fashionable
practice,--or clientele, which is it?--through the Tresslyn position in the
city. Thousand dollar appendicitis operations ought to be quite common
with you from the outset, with Anne to talk you up a bit among the people
who belong to her set and who are always looking for something to keep
them from being bored to death. I understand that anybody who has an
appendix nowadays is looked upon as exceedingly vulgar and is not even
tolerated in good society. As for a man having a sound liver,--well, that
kind of a liver is absolutely inexcusable. Nobody has one to-day if he can
afford to have the other kind. Good livers always have livers,--and so do
bad livers, for that matter. But, now, let us return to the heart. You are
quite sure that Anne loves you better than she loves herself? That's quite
important, you know. I have found that people who say that they love some
one better than anybody else in the world, usually forget themselves,--that
is to say, they overlook themselves. How about Anne?"

"Rather epigrammatic, aren't you, granddaddy? I have Anne's word for it,
that's all. She wouldn't marry me if she loved any one more than she does
me,--not even herself, as you put it. I am sure if I were Anne I should
love myself better than all the rest of the world."

"A very pretty speech, my boy. You should make an exceptionally
fashionable doctor. You will pardon me for appearing to be cynical, but
you see I am a very old man and somewhat warped,--bent, you might say, in
my attitude toward the tender passion as it is practised to-day. Still, I
shall take your word for it. Anne loves you devotedly, and you love her.
The only thing necessary, therefore, is a professional practice, or, in
other words, a practical profession. I am sure you will achieve both. You
have my best wishes. I love you, my boy. You are the only thing left in
life for me to love. Your father was my only son. He would have been a
great man, I am sure, if he had not been my son. I spoiled him. I think
that is the reason why he died so young. Now, my dear grandson, I am not
going to make the mistake with his son that I made with my own. I intend
that you shall fight your own battles. Among other things, you will have
to fight pretty hard for Anne. That is a mere detail, of course. You are a
resolute, determined, sincere fellow, Braden, and you have in you the
making of a splendid character. You will succeed in anything you
undertake. I like your eye, my boy, and I like the set of your jaw. You
have principle and you have a sense of reverence that is quite uncommon in
these days of ours. I daresay you have been wicked in an essential sort of
way, and I fancy you have been just as necessarily honourable. I don't
like a mollycoddle. I don't like anything invertebrate. I despise a
Christian who doesn't understand Christ. Christ despised sin but he didn't
despise sinners. And that brings us back to Mrs. Tresslyn,--Constance Blair
that was. You will have to be exceedingly well fortified, my boy, if you
expect to withstand the clever Constance. She is the refinement of
maternal ambition. She will not be satisfied to have her daughter married
to a mere practice. She didn't bring her up for that. She will ask me to
come and see her within the next few days. What am I to say to her when
she asks me if I expect you and Anne to live on what you can earn out of
your ridiculous profession?"

"I think that's all pretty well understood," said Braden easily. "You do
Mrs. Tresslyn an injustice, granddaddy. She says it will be a splendid
thing for Anne to struggle along as we shall have to do for a while.
Character building, is the way she puts it."

"Just the same, I shall expect a message from her before the engagement is
announced," said the old man drily.

A hard glitter had come into his eyes. He loved this good-looking, earnest
grandson of his, and he was troubled. He lay awake half the night thinking
over this piece of not unexpected news.

The next morning at breakfast he said to Braden: "See here, my boy, you
spoke to me recently about your desire to spend a year in and about the
London hospitals before settling down to the real business of life. I've
been thinking it over. You can't very well afford to pay for these
finishing touches after you've begun struggling along on your own hook,
and trying to make both ends meet on a slender income, so I'd suggest that
you take this next year as a gift from me and spend it on the other side,
working with my good friend, Sir George Bascombe, the greatest of all the
English surgeons. I don't believe you will ever regret it."

Braden was overjoyed. "I should like nothing better, grandfather. By jove,
you are good to me. You--"

"It is only right and just that I should give to the last of my race the
chance to be a credit to it." There was something cryptic in the remark,
but naturally it escaped Braden's notice. "You are the only one of the
Thorpes left, my boy. I was an only son and, strange as it may appear, I
was singularly without avuncular relatives. It is not surprising,
therefore, that I should desire to make a great man out of you. You shall
not be handicapped by any failure on my part to do the right thing by you.
If it is in my power to safeguard you, it is my duty to exercise that
power. Nothing must be allowed to stand in the way or to obstruct your
progress. Nothing must be allowed to check your ambition or destroy your
courage. So, if you please, I think you ought to have this chance to work
with Bascombe. A year is a short time to a chap of your age and
experience, and it may be the most valuable one in a long and successful
life."

"If I can ever grow to be half as wise and half as successful as you,
grandfather, I shall have achieved more than--"

"My boy, I inherited my success and I've been more of a fool than you
suspect. My father left me with two or three millions of dollars, and the
little wisdom that I have acquired I would pass on to you instead of money
if it were possible to do so. A man cannot bequeath his wisdom. He may
inherit it, but he can't give it away, for the simple reason that no one
will take it as a gift. It is like advice to the young: something to
disregard. My father left me a great deal of money, and I was too much of
a coward to become a failure. Only the brave men are failures. They are
the ones who take the risks. If you are going to be a surgeon, be a great
one. Now, when do you think you can go to London?"

Braden, his face aglow, was not long in answering. "I'll speak to Anne
about it to-night. If she is willing to marry me at once, we'll start
immediately. By Jove, sir, it is wonderful! It is the greatest thing that
ever happened to a fellow. I--"

"Ah, but I'm afraid that doesn't fit in with my plan," interrupted the old
man, knitting his brows. "It is my idea that you should devote yourself to
observation and not to experimentation,--to study instead of honeymooning.
A bride is out of the question, Braden. This is to be my year and not
Anne's."

They were a week thrashing it out, and in the end it was Mrs. Tresslyn who
settled the matter. She had had her talk with Mr. Templeton Thorpe, and,
after hearing all that he had to say, expressed herself in no uncertain
terms on the advisability of postponing the wedding for a year if not
longer. Something she said in private to Anne appeared to have altered
that charming young person's notions in regard to an early wedding, so
Braden found himself without an ally. He went to London early in the fall,
with Anne's promises safely stowed away in his heart, and he came back in
the middle of his year with Sir George, dazed and bewildered by her
faithlessness and his grandfather's perfidy.

Out of a clear sky had come the thunderbolt. And then, while he was still
dazed and furious, his grandfather had tried to convince him that he had
done him a deuce of a good turn in showing up Anne Tresslyn!

In patience the old man had listened to his grandson's tirade, his
ravings, his anathemas. He had heard himself called a traitor. He had
smiled grimly on being described as a satyr! When words and breath at last
failed the stalwart Braden, the old gentleman, looking keenly out from
beneath his shaggy brows, and without the slightest trace of resentment in
his manner, suggested that they leave the matter to Anne.

"If she really wants you, my boy, she'll chuck me and my two-million-
dollar purse out of the window, so to speak, and she'll marry you in spite
of your poverty. If she does that, I'll be satisfied. I'll step down and
out and I'll praise God for his latest miracle. If she looks at it from
the other point of view,--the perfectly safe and secure way, you
understand,--and confirms her allegiance to me, I'll still be exceedingly
happy in the consciousness that I've done you a good turn. I will enter my
extreme old age in the race against your healthy youth. I will proffer my
three or four remaining years to her as against the fifty you may be able
to give her. Go and see her at once. Then come back here to me and tell me
what she says."

And so it was that Braden Thorpe returned, as he had agreed to do, to the
home of the man who had robbed him of his greatest possession,--faith in
woman. He found his grandfather seated in the library, in front of a half-
dead fire. A word, in passing, to describe this remarkable old man. He was
tall and thin, and strangely erect for one of his years. His gaunt, seamed
face was beardless and almost repellent in its severity. In his deep-set,
piercing eyes lurked all the pains of a lifetime. He had been a strong,
robust man; the framework was all that remained of the staunch house in
which his being had dwelt for so long. His hand shook and his knee
rebelled against exertion, but his eye was unwavering, his chin
unflinching. White and sparse was the thatch of hair upon his shrunken
skull, and harsh was the thin voice that came from his straight,
colourless lips. He walked with a cane, and seldom without the patient,
much-berated Wade at his elbow, a prop against the dreaded day when his
legs would go back on him and the brink would appear abruptly out of
nowhere at his very feet. And there were times when he put his hand to his
side and held it there till the look of pain softened about his mouth and
eyes, though never quite disappeared.




CHAPTER IV


It was Templeton Thorpe's contention that Braden was a family investment,
and that a good investment will take care of itself if properly handled.
He considered himself quite capable of making a man of Braden, but he did
not allow the boy to think that the job was a one-sided undertaking.
Braden worked for all that he received. There was no silver platter, no
golden spoon in Mr. Thorpe's cupboard. They understood each other
perfectly and Templeton Thorpe was satisfied with his investment.

That is why his eyes twinkled when Braden burst into the library after his
fruitless appeal to Mrs. Tresslyn. He smiled as one smiles with relief
when a craft he is watching glides safely but narrowly past a projecting
abutment.

"Calm yourself," he remarked after Braden's somewhat wild and incoherent
beginning. "And sit down. You will not get anywhere pacing this twenty by
thirty room, and you are liable to run into something immovable if you
don't stop glaring at me and watch out where you are going instead."

"Sit down?" shouted Braden, stopping before the old man in the chair, his
hands clinched and his teeth showing. "I'll never sit down in your house
again! What do you think I am? A snivelling, cringing dog that has to lick
your hand for--"

"Now, now!" admonished the old man, without anger. "If you will not sit
down, at least be kind enough to stand still. I can't understand half you
say while you are stamping around like that. This isn't a china shop.
Control yourself. Now, let's have it in so many words and not so many
gesticulations. So Anne declined to see you, eh?"

"I don't believe Anne had a voice in the matter. Mrs. Tresslyn is at the
back of all this. She is the one who has roped you in,--duped you, or
whatever you choose to call it without resorting to profanity. She's
forcing Anne into this damnable marriage, and she is making a perfect fool
of you. Can't you see it? Can't you see--but, my God, how can I ask that
question of you? When a man gets to be as old as you, he--" He broke off
abruptly, on the point of uttering the unforgivable.

"Go on, my boy," said Templeton Thorpe quietly. "Say it. I shan't mind."

"Oh, what's the use?" groaned the miserable lover. "I cannot say anything
more to you, sir, than I said early this afternoon. I told you then just
what I think of your treachery. There isn't anything more for me to say,
but I'd like you to know that Anne despises you. Her mother acknowledges
that much at least,--and, curse her, without shame!"

"I am quite well aware of the fact, Braden," said the old man. "You
couldn't expect her to love me, could you?"

"Then, why in God's name are you marrying her? Why are you spoiling my
life? Why are you--"

"Is it spoiling your life to have the girl you love turn to and marry an
old wreck such as I am, just because I happen to be willing to pay her two
million dollars,--in advance, you might say? Is that spoiling your life or
saving it?"

Mr. Thorpe had dropped the cynical, half-amused air, and was now speaking
with great intensity. Braden, struck by the change, turned suddenly to
regard the old man with a new and puzzled light in his lowering eyes.

"See here, my lad, you've had your chance. I knew what I was about when I
sent you to see her. I knew precisely what would happen. She wants to
marry you, but she prefers to marry me. That isn't as ambiguous as it
sounds. Just think it over,--later on, not now, for I have something else
to say to you. Do me the honour to be seated. Thank you. Now, you've got
quite a good-sized, respectable nose upon your face. I submit that the
situation is quite as plain as that nose, if you look at it in the broad
light of understanding. If you think that I am marrying Anne because I
love her, or because I am in my dotage and afflicted with senility, you
are very much mistaken. If you think I am giving her two million dollars
as a wedding gift because I expect it to purchase her love and esteem, you
do my intelligence an injustice. If you think that I relish the prospect
of having that girl in my house from now till the day I die, worrying the
soul out of me, you are too simple for words. I am marrying her, not
because I love her, my lad, but--but because I love _you_. God forbid that
I should ever sink so low as to steal from my own flesh and blood.
Stealing is one thing, bartering another. I expect to convince you that I
have not taken anything from you that is of value, hence I am not a
malefactor."

Braden, seated opposite him, his elbows on the arms of the chair, leaned
forward and watched the old man curiously. A new light had come into his
eyes when Mr. Thorpe uttered those amazing words--"but because I love
_you_." He was beginning to see, he was beginning to analyse the old man's
motives, he was groping his way out of the fog.

"You will have hard work to convince me that I have not been treated most
unfairly, most vilely," said he, his lips still compressed.

"Many years ago," said Mr. Thorpe, fixing his gaze on the lazy fire, "I
asked Anne's grandmother to marry me. I suppose I thought that I was
unalterably in love with her. I was the very rich son of a very rich man,
and--pardon my conceit--what you would call an exceedingly good catch. Well,
in those days things were not as they are now. The young lady, a great
beauty and amazingly popular, happened to be in love with Roger Blair, a
good-looking chap with no fortune and no prospects. She took the advice of
her mother and married the man she loved, disdaining my riches and me as
well. Roger wasn't much of a success as a husband, but he was a source of
enlightenment and education to his wife. Not in the way you would suspect,
however. He managed in very short order to convince her that it is a very
ignorant mother who permits her daughter to marry a man without means.
They hadn't been married three years when his wife had learned her lesson.
It was too late to get rid of Roger, and by that time I was happily
married to a girl who was quite as rich as I, and could afford to do as
she pleased. So, you see, Anne's grandmother had to leave me out of the
case, even though Roger would have been perfectly delighted to have given
her sufficient grounds for divorce. I think you knew Anne's grandmother,
Braden?" He paused for an answer, a sly, appraising look in his eyes.
Receiving no response except a slight nod of the head, he chuckled softly
and went on with the history.

"Poor soul, she's gone to her reward. Now we come to Anne's mother. She
was an only child,--and one was quite enough, I assure you. No mother ever
had greater difficulty in satisfactorily placing a daughter than had Mrs.
Blair. There was an army of young but not very dependable gentlemen who
would have married her like a flash, notwithstanding her own poverty, had
it not been for the fact that Mrs. Blair was so thoroughly educated by
this time that she couldn't even contemplate a mistake in her
calculations. She had had ample proof that love doesn't keep the wolf from
the door, nor does it draw five per cent, as some other bonds do. She
brought Constance up in what is now considered to be the most approved
fashion in high society. The chap who had nothing but health and ambition
and honour and brains to offer, in addition to that unprofitable thing
called love, was a viper in Mrs. Blair's estimation. He was very properly
and promptly stamped upon by the fond mother and doubtless was very glad
to crawl off into the high grass, out of danger. He--"

"What has all this got to do with your present behaviour?" demanded Braden
harshly. "Speaking of vipers," he added, by way of comment.

"I am coming to that," said Mr. Thorpe, resenting the interruption but not
its sting. "After a careful campaign, Arthur Tresslyn was elected. He had
a great deal of money, a kind heart and scarcely any brains. He was an
ideal choice, everybody was agreed upon that. The fellow that Constance
was really in love with at the time, Jimmy Gordon, was a friend of your
father's. Well, the gentle Arthur went to pieces financially a good many
years ago. He played hob with all the calculations, and so we find
Constance, his wife, lamenting in the graveyard of her hopes and cursing
Jimmy Gordon for his unfaithfulness in marrying before he was in a
position to do so. If Jimmy had remained single for twelve years longer
than he did, I daresay Arthur's widow would have succeeded in nabbing him
whether or no. Arthur managed to die very happily, they say, quite well
pleased with himself for having squandered the fortune which brought him
so much misery. Now we come to Anne, Arthur's daughter. She became deeply
enamoured of a splendid, earnest young chap named Braden Thorpe, grandson
of the wealthy and doddering Templeton Thorpe, and recognised as his sole
heir. Keep your seat, Braden; I am coming to the point. This young Thorpe
trusted the fair and beautiful Anne. He set out to make a name and fortune
for himself and for her. He sought knowledge and experience in distant
lands, leaving his poor old grandfather at home with nothing to amuse
himself with except nine millions of dollars and his dread of death. While
Braden was experimenting in London, this doddering, senile old gentleman
of Washington Square began to experiment a little on his own account. He
set out to discover just what sort of stuff this Anne Tresslyn was made of
and to prove to himself that she was worthy of his grandson's love. He
began with the girl's mother. As soon as possible, he explained to her
that money is a curse. She agreed that money is a curse if you haven't got
it. In time, he confessed to her that he did not mean to curse his
grandson with an unearned fortune, and that he intended to leave him in
his will the trifling sum of fifty thousand dollars, thereby endowing him
with the ambition and perhaps the energy to earn more and at the same time
be of great benefit to the world in which he would have to struggle. Also,
he let it be known that he was philanthropically inclined, that he
purposed giving a great many millions to science and that his death would
be of untold value to the human race. Are you attending, Braden? If you
are not, I shall stop talking at once. It is very exhausting and I haven't
much breath or time to waste."

"I am listening. Go on," said Braden, suddenly sitting up in his chair and
taking a long, deep breath. The angry, antagonistic light was gone from
his eyes.

"Well, the clever Mrs. Tresslyn was interested--deeply interested in my
disclosures. She did not hesitate to inform me that Anne couldn't begin to
live on the income from a miserable fifty thousand, and actually laughed
in my face when I reminded her of the young lady's exalted preference for
love in a cottage and joy at any price. Biding my time, I permitted the
distressing truth to sink in. You will remember that Anne's letters began
to come less frequently about four months ago, and--"

"How do you happen to know about that?" broke in the young man, in
surprise.

"Where she had been in the habit of writing twice and even three times a
week," went on Mr. Thorpe, "she was content to set herself to the task of
dropping you a perfunctory letter once in a fortnight. You will also
recall that her letters were not so full of intensity--or enthusiasm: they
lacked fervour, they fell off considerably in many ways. I happen to know
about all this, Braden, because putting two and two together has always
been exceedingly simple for me. You see, it was about three months ago
that Anne began to reveal more than casual interest in Percy Wintermill.
She--"

"Percy Wintermill!" gasped Braden, clutching the arms of his chair. "Why,
she has always looked upon him as the stupidest, ugliest man in town. His
attentions have been a standing joke between us. He is crazy about her, I
know, but--oh, well, go on with the story."

"To be sure he is crazy about her, as you say. That isn't strange. Half
the young men in town think they are in love with her, and most of them
believe she could make them happy. Now, no one concedes physical beauty or
allurement to Percy. He is as ugly as they grow, but he isn't stupid. He
is just a nice, amiable, senseless nincompoop with a great deal of money
and a tremendous amount of health. He--"

"I like Wintermill. He is one of my best friends. He is as square as any
man I know and he would be the last person to try to come between Anne and
me. He is too fond of me for that, sir. You--"

"Unfortunately he was not aware of the fact that you and Anne were
engaged. You forget that the engagement was to be kept under cover for the
time being. But all this is beside the question. Mrs. Tresslyn had looked
the field over pretty carefully. No one appeared to be so well qualified
to take your place as Percy Wintermill. He had everything that is
desirable in a husband except good looks and perhaps good manners. So she
began fishing for Percy. Anne was a delightful bait. Of course, Percy's
robust health was objectionable, but it wasn't insurmountable. I could see
that Anne loathed the thought of having him for a husband for thirty or
forty years. Anybody could see that,--even Percy must have possessed
intelligence enough to see it for himself. Finally, about six weeks ago,
Anne rose above her environment. She allowed Percy to propose, asked for a
few days in which to make up her mind, and then came out with a point-
blank refusal. She defied her mother, openly declaring that she would
marry you in spite of everything."

"And that is just what she shall do, poor girl," cried Braden joyously.
"She shall not be driven into--"

"Just a moment, please. When I discovered that young Wintermill couldn't
be depended upon to rescue his best friend, I stepped into the arena, so
to speak," said Mr. Thorpe with fine irony. "I sensed the situation
perfectly. Percy was young and strong and enduring. He would be a long
time dying in the natural order of things. What Anne was looking for--now,
keep your seat, my boy!--what she wanted was a husband who could be
depended upon to leave her a widow before it was too late. Now, I am
seventy-seven, and failing pretty rapidly. It occurred to me that I would
be just the thing for her. To make the story short, I began to dilate upon
my great loneliness, and also hinted that if I could find the right sort
of companion I would jump at the chance to get married. That's putting it
rather coarsely, my boy, but the whole business is so ugly that it doesn't
seem worth while to affect delicacy. Inside of two weeks, we had come to
an understanding,--that is, an arrangement had been perfected. I think that
everything was agreed upon except the actual day of my demise. As you
know, I am to set aside for Anne as an ante-nuptial substitute for all
dower rights in my estate, the sum of two million dollars. I may add that
the securities guaranteeing this amount have been submitted to Mrs.
Tresslyn and she has found them to be gilt-edged. These securities are to
be held in trust for her until the day I die, when they go to her at once,
according to our contract. She agrees to--"

"By gad, sir, it is infamous! Absolutely infamous!" exclaimed young
Thorpe, springing to his feet. "I cannot--I will not believe it of her."

"She agrees to relinquish all claims to my estate," concluded the old man,
with a chuckle. "Inasmuch as I have made it quite clear that all of my
money is to go to charity,--scientific charity,--I imagine that the
Tresslyns feel that they have made a pretty good bargain."

"I still maintain that she will renounce the whole detestable--"

"She would go back on her contract like a shot if she thought that I
intended to include you among my scientific charities," interrupted the
old man.

"Oh, if I could only have an hour--half an hour with her," groaned Braden.
"I could overcome the vile teaching of her mother and bring her to a
realisation of what is ahead of her. I--"

"Do you honestly,--in your heart, Braden,--believe that you could do that?"
demanded Mr. Thorpe, arising from his chair and laying his hand upon the
young man's shoulder. He forced the other's eyes to meet his. "Do you
believe that she would be worthy of your love and respect even though she
did back out of this arrangement? I want an honest answer."

"God help me, I--I don't know what to think," cried Braden miserably. "I am
shocked, bewildered. I can't say what I believe, grandfather. I only know
that I have loved her better than my own soul. I don't know what to think
now."

"You might also say that she loves herself better than she loves her own
soul," said the old man grimly. "She will go on loving you, I've no doubt,
in a strictly physical way, but I wouldn't put much dependence in her
soulfulness. One of these fine days, she will come to you and say that she
has earned two million dollars, and she will ask you if it is too late to
start all over again. What will you say to that?"

"Good Lord, sir, what would you expect me to say?" exploded Braden. "I
should tell her to--to go to hell!" he grated between his teeth.

"Meanwhile, I want you to understand that I have acted for your best
interests, Braden. God knows I am not in love with this girl. I know her
kind, I know her breed. I want to save you from--well, I want to give you a
fighting chance to be a great, good man. You need the love of a fine,
unselfish woman to help you to the heights you aspire to reach. Anne
Tresslyn would not have helped you. She cannot see above her own level.
There are no heights for her. She belongs to the class that never looks up
from the ground. They are always following the easiest path. I am doing
you a good turn. Somewhere in this world there is a noble, self-
sacrificing woman who will make you happy, who will give strength to you,
who will love you for yourself and not for _herself_. Go out and find her,
my boy. You will recognise her the instant you see her."

"But you--what of you?" asked Braden, deeply impressed by the old man's
unsuspected sentiment. "Will you go ahead and--and marry her, knowing that
she will make your last few years of life unhappy, un--"

"I am under contract," said Templeton Thorpe grimly. "I never go back on a
contract."

"I shall see her, nevertheless," said Braden doggedly.

"It is my desire that you should. In fact, I shall make it my business to
see that you do. After that, I fancy you will not care to remain here for
the wedding. I should advise you to return to London as soon as you have
had it out with her."

"I shall remain here until the very hour of the wedding if it is to take
place, and up to that very hour I shall do my best to prevent it,
grandfather."

"Your failure to do so will make me the happiest man in New York," said
Mr. Thorpe, emotion in his voice, "for I love you dearly, Braden."




CHAPTER V


A conspicuous but somewhat unimportant member of the Tresslyn family was a
young man of twenty-four. He was Anne's brother, and he had preceded her
into the world by the small matter of a year and two months. Mrs. Tresslyn
had set great store by him. Being a male child he did not present the
grave difficulties that attend the successful launching and disposal of
the female of the species to which the Tresslyn family belonged. He was
born with the divine right to pick and choose, and that is something that
at present appears to be denied the sisters of men. But the amiable
George, at the age of one and twenty and while still a freshman in
college, picked a girl without consulting his parent and in a jiffy put an
end to the theory that man's right is divine.

It took more than half of Mrs. Tresslyn's income for the next two years,
the ingenuity of a firm of expensive lawyers, the skill of nearly a dozen
private detectives, and no end of sleepless nights to untie the loathsome
knot, and even then George's wife had a shade the better of them in that
she reserved the right to call herself Mrs. Tresslyn, quite permanently
disgracing his family although she was no longer a part of it.

The young woman was employed as a demonstrator for a new brand of mustard
when George came into her life. The courtship was brief, for she was a
pretty girl and virtuous. She couldn't see why there should be anything
wrong in getting married, and therefore was very much surprised, and not a
little chagrined, to find out almost immediately after the ceremony that
she had committed a heinous and unpardonable sin. She shrank for a while
under the lashings, and then, like a beast driven to cover, showed her
teeth.

If marriage was not sanctuary, she would know the reason why. With a
single unimposing lawyer and not the remotest suggestion of a detective to
reinforce her position, she took her stand against the unhappy George and
his mother, and so successful were her efforts to make divorce difficult
that she came out of chambers with thirty thousand dollars in cash, an
aristocratic name, and a valuable claim to theatrical distinction.

All this transpired less than two years prior to the events which were to
culminate in the marriage of George's only sister to the Honourable
Templeton Thorpe of Washington Square. Needless to say, George was now
looked upon in the small family as a liability. He was a never-present
help in time of trouble. The worst thing about him was his obstinate
regard for the young woman who still bore his name but was no longer his
wife. At twenty-four he looked upon himself as a man who had nothing to
live for. He spent most of his time gnashing his teeth because the pretty
little divorcee was receiving the attentions of young gentlemen in his own
set, without the slightest hint of opposition on the part of their
parents, while he was obliged to look on from afar off.

It appears that parents do not object to young women of insufficient
lineage provided the said young women keep at a safe distance from the
marriage altar.

It is interesting to note in this connection, however, that little Mrs.
George Tresslyn was a model of propriety despite her sprightly
explorations of a world that had been strange to her up to the time she
was cast into it by a disgusted mother-in-law, and it is still more
interesting to find that she nourished a sly hope that some day George
would kick over the traces in a very manly fashion and marry her all over
again!

Be that as it may, the bereft and humiliated George favoured his mother
and sister with innumerable half-hours in which they had to contend with
scornful and exceedingly bitter opinions on the iniquity of marriage as it
is practised among the elect. He fairly bawled his disapproval of the sale
of Anne to the decrepit Mr. Thorpe, and there was not a day in the week
that did not contain at least one unhappy hour for the women in his home,
for just so often he held forth on the sanctity of the marriage vows.

He was connected with a down-town brokerage firm and he was as near to
being a failure in the business as an intimate and lifelong friend of the
family would permit him to be and still allow him to remain in the office.
His business was the selling of bonds. The friend of the family was the
head of the firm, so no importance should be attached to the fact that
George did not earn his salt as a salesman. It is only necessary to report
that the young man made frequent and determined efforts to sell his wares,
but with so little success that he would have been discouraged had it not
been for the fact that he was intimately acquainted with himself. He knew
himself too well to expect people to take much stock in the public
endeavours of one whose private affairs were so far beneath notice. Men
were not likely to overlook the disgraceful treatment of the little
"mustard girl," for even the men who have mistreated women in their time
overlook their own chicanery in preaching decency over the heads of others
who have not played the game fairly. George looked upon himself as a
marked man, against whom the scorn of the world was justly directed.

Strange as it may appear, George Tresslyn was a tall, manly looking
fellow, and quite handsome. At a glance you would have said that he had a
great deal of character in his make-up and would get on in the world. Then
you would hear about his matrimonial delinquency and instantly you would
take a second glance. The second and more searching look would have
revealed him as a herculean light-weight,--a man of strength and beauty and
stature spoiled in the making. And you would be sorry that you had made
the discovery, for it would take you back to his school days, and then you
would encounter the causes.

He had gone to a preparatory school when he was twelve. It was eight years
before he got into the freshman class of the college that had been
selected as the one best qualified to give him a degree, and there is no
telling how long he might have remained there, faculty willing, had it not
been for the interfering "mustard girl." He could throw a hammer farther
and run the hundred faster than any youth in the freshman class, and he
could handle an oar with the best of them, but as he had spent nearly
eight years in acquiring this proficiency to the exclusion of anything
else it is not surprising that he excelled in these pursuits, nor is it
surprising that he possessed a decided aversion for the things that are
commonly taught in college by studious-looking gentlemen who do not even
belong to the athletic association and have forgotten their college yell.

George boasted, in his freshman year, that if the faculty would let him
alone he could easily get through the four years without flunking a single
thing in athletics. It was during the hockey season, just after the
Christmas holidays, that he married the pretty "mustard girl" and put an
abrupt end to what must now be regarded as a superficial education.

He carried his athletic vigour into the brokerage offices, however. No one
could accuse him of being lazy, and no one could say that he did not make
an effort. He possessed purpose and determination after a fashion, for he
was proud and resentful; but he lacked perspective, no matter which way he
looked for it. Behind him was a foggy recollection of the things he should
have learned, and ahead was the dark realisation that the world is made up
principally of men who cannot do the mile under thirty minutes but who
possess amazing powers of endurance when it comes to running circles
around the man who is trained to do the hundred yard dash in ten seconds
flat.

A few minutes after Braden Thorpe's departure from the Tresslyn drawing-
room, young George entered the house and stamped upstairs to his
combination bed-chamber and sitting-room on the top floor. He always went
upstairs three steps at a time, as if in a hurry to have it over with. He
had a room at the top of the house because he couldn't afford one lower
down. A delayed sense of compunction had ordered Mrs. Tresslyn to insist
upon George's paying his own way through life, now that he was of age and
working for himself.

When George found it impossible to pay his week's reckoning out of his
earnings, he blithely borrowed the requisite amount--and a little over--from
friends down-town, and thereby enjoyed the distinction of being uncommonly
prompt in paying his landlady on the dot. So much for character-building.

And now one of these "muckers" down-town was annoying him with persistent
demands for the return of numerous small loans extending over a period of
nineteen months. That sort of thing isn't done among gentlemen, according
to George Tresslyn's code. For a month or more he had been in the
humiliating position of being obliged to dodge the fellow, and he was
getting tired of it. The whole amount was well under six hundred dollars,
and as he had made it perfectly plain to the beggar that he was drawing
ten per cent. on the loans, he couldn't see what sense there was in being
in such a hurry to collect. On the other hand, as the beggar wasn't
receiving the interest, it is quite possible that he could not look at the
situation from George's point of view.

Young Mr. Tresslyn finally had reached the conclusion that he would have
to ask his mother for the money. He knew that the undertaking would prove
a trying one, so he dashed up to his room for the purpose of fortifying
himself with a stiff drink of benedictine.

Having taken the drink, he sat down for a few minutes to give it a chance
to become inspirational. Then he skipped blithely down to his mother's
boudoir and rapped on the door,--not timidly or imploringly but with
considerable authority. Receiving no response, he moved on to Anne's
sitting-room, whence came the subdued sound of voices in conversation. He
did not knock at Anne's door, but boldly opened it and advanced into the
room.

"Hello! Here you are," said George amiably.

He was met by a cold, disapproving stare from his mother and a little gasp
of dismay from Anne. It was quite apparent that he was an intruder.

"I wish you would be good enough to knock before entering, George," said
Mrs. Tresslyn severely.

"I did," said George, "but you were not in. I always knock at your door,
mother. You can't say that I've ever forgotten to do it." He looked
aggrieved. "You surely don't mean that I ought to knock at Anne's door?"

"Certainly. What do you want?"

"Well," he began, depositing his long body on the couch and preparing to
stretch out, "I'd like to kiss both of you if you'll let me."

"Don't be silly," said Anne, "and don't put your feet on that clean
chintz."

"All right," said he cheerfully. "My, how lovely the bride is looking to-
day! I wish old Tempy could see you now. He'd--"

"If you are going to be disagreeable, George, you may get out at once,"
said Mrs. Tresslyn.

"I never felt less like being objectionable in my life," said he, "so if
you don't mind I'll stay awhile. By the way, Anne, speaking of
disagreeable things, I am sure I saw Brady Thorpe on the avenue a bit ago.
Has your discarded skeleton come back with a key to your closet?"

"Braden is in New York," said his mother acidly. "Is it necessary for you
to be vulgar, George?"

"Not at all," said he. "When did he arrive? I hope you don't see anything
vulgar in that, mother," he made haste to add.

"He reached New York to-day, I think. He has been here to see me. He has
gone away. There is nothing more to be said, so please be good enough to
consider the subject--"

"Gee! but I'd like to have heard what he had to say to you!"

"I am glad that you didn't," said Anne, "for if you had you might have
been under the painful necessity of calling him to account for it, and I
don't believe you'd like that."

"Facetious, eh? Well, my mind is relieved at any rate. He spoke up like a
little man, didn't he, mother? I thought he would. And I'll bet you gave
him as good as he sent, so he's got his tail between his legs now and
yelping for mercy. How does he look, Anne? Handsome as ever?"

"Anne did not see him."

"Of course she didn't. How stupid of me. Where is he stopping?"

"With his grandfather, I suppose," said Mrs. Tresslyn, as tolerant as
possible.

"Naturally. I should have known that without asking. Getting the old boy
braced up for the wedding, I suppose. Pumping oxygen into him, and all
that sort of thing. And that reminds me of something else. I may give
myself the pleasure of a personal call upon my prospective brother-in-law
to-morrow."

"What?" cried his mother sharply.

"Yep," said George blithely. "I may have to do it. It's purely a business
matter, so don't worry. I shan't say a word about the wedding. Far be it
from me to distress an old gentleman about--"

"What business can you have with Mr. Thorpe?" demanded his mother.

"Well, as I don't believe in keeping secrets from you, mother, I'll
explain. You see, I want to see if I can't negotiate the sale of a
thousand dollar note. Mr. Thorpe may be in the market to buy a good, safe,
gilt-edge note--"

"Come to the point. Whose note are you trying to sell?"

"My own," said George promptly.

Anne laughed. "You would spell gilt with a letter u inserted before the i,
in that case, wouldn't you?"

"I give you my word," said George, "I don't know how to spell it. The two
words sound exactly alike and I'm always confusing them."

His mother came and stood over him. "George, you are not to go to Mr.
Thorpe with your pecuniary difficulties. I forbid it, do you understand?"

"Forbid it, mother? Great Scot, what's wrong in an honest little business
transaction? I shall give him the best of security. If he doesn't care to
let me have the money on the note, that's his affair. It's business, not
friendship, I assure you. Old Tempy knows a good thing when he sees it. I
shall also promise to pay twenty per cent. interest for two years from
date. Two years, do you understand? If anything should happen to him
before the two years are up, I'd still owe the money to his estate,
wouldn't I? You can't deny that--"

"Stop! Not another word, sir! Am I to believe that I have a son who is
entirely devoid of principle? Are you so lacking in pride that--"

"It depends entirely on how you spell the word, princi_pal_ or with a
_ple_. I am entirely devoid of the one ending in pal, and I don't see what
pride has to do with it anyway. Ask Anne. She can tell you all that is
necessary to know about the Tresslyn pride."

"Shut up!" said Anne languidly.

"It's just this way, mother," said George, sitting up, with a frown. "I've
got to have five or six hundred dollars. I'll be honest with you, too. I
owe nearly that much to Percy Wintermill, and he is making himself
infernally obnoxious about it."

"Percy Wintermill? Have you been borrowing money from him?"

"In a way, yes. That is, I've been asking him for it and he's been lending
it to me. I don't think I've ever used the word borrow in a single
instance. I hate the word. I simply say: 'Percy, let me take twenty-five
for a week or two, will you?' and Percy says, 'All right, old boy,' and
that's all there is to it. Percy's been all right up to a few weeks ago.
In fact, I don't believe he would have mentioned the matter at all if Anne
hadn't turned him down on New Year's Eve. Why the deuce did you refuse
him, Anne? He'd always been decent till you did that. Now he's perfectly
impossible."

"You know perfectly well why I refused him," said Anne, lifting her
eyebrows slightly.

"Right-o! It was because you were engaged to Brady Thorpe. I quite forgot.
I apologise. You were quite right in refusing him. Be that as it may,
however, Percy is as sore as a crab. I can't go around owing money to a
chap who has been refused by my sister, can I? One of the Wintermills,
too. By Jove, it's awful!" He looked extremely distressed.

"You are not to go to Mr. Thorpe," said his mother from the chair into
which she had sunk in order to preserve a look of steadiness. A fine
moisture had come out upon her upper lip. "You must find an honourable way
in which to discharge your debts."

"Isn't my note as good as anybody's?" he demanded.

"No. It isn't worth a dollar."

"Ah, but it _will_ be if Mr. Thorpe buys it," said he in triumph. "He
could discount it for full value, if he wanted to. That's precisely what
makes it good. I'm afraid you don't know very much about high finance,
mother dear."

"Please go away, George," complained Anne. "Mother and I have a great deal
to talk about, and you are a dreadful nuisance when you discover a reason
for coming home so long before dinner-time. Can't you pawn something?"

"Don't be ridiculous," said George.

"Why did you borrow money from Percy Wintermill?" demanded Mrs. Tresslyn.

"There you go, mother, using that word 'borrow' again. I wish you
wouldn't. It's a vulgar word. You might as well say, 'Why did you _swipe_
money from Percy Wintermill?' He lent it to me because he realised how
darned hard-up we are and felt sorry for me, I suppose."

"For heaven's sake, George, don't tell me that you--"

"Don't look so horrified, mother," he interrupted. "I didn't tell him we
were hard-up. I merely said, from time to time, 'Let me take fifty,
Percy.' I can't help it if he _suspects_, can I? And say, Anne, he was so
terribly in love with you that he would have let me take a thousand any
time I wanted it, if I'd had occasion to ask him for it. You ought to be
thankful that I didn't."

"Don't drag me into it," said Anne sharply.

"I admit I was fooled all along," said he, with a rueful sigh. "I had an
idea that you'd be tickled to death to marry into the Wintermill family.
Position, money, family jewels, and all that sort of thing. Everything
desirable except Percy. And then, just when I thought something might come
of it, you up and get engaged to Brady Thorpe, keeping it secret from the
public into the bargain. Confound it, you didn't even tell me till last
fall. Your stupid secretiveness allowed me to go on getting into Percy's
debt, when a word from you might have saved me a lot of trouble."

"Will you kindly leave the room, George?" said his mother, arising.

"Percy is making himself fearfully obnoxious," went on George ominously.
"For nearly three weeks I've been dodging him, and it can't go on much
longer. One of these fine days, mother, a prominent member of the
Wintermill family is going to receive a far from exclusive thrashing.
That's the only way I can think of to stop him, if I can't raise the money
to pay him up. Some day I'm going to refrain from dodging and he is going
to run right square into this." He held up a brawny fist. "I'm going to
hold it just so, and it won't be too high for his nose, either. Then I'm
going to pick him up and turn him around, with his face toward the
Battery, and kick just as hard as I know how. I'll bet my head he'll not
bother me about money after that--unless, of course, he's cad enough to sue
me. I don't think he'll do that, however, being a proud and haughty
Wintermill. I suppose we'll all be eliminated from the Wintermill
invitation list after that, and it may be that we'll go without a
fashionable dinner once in awhile, but what's all that to the preservation
of the family dignity?"

Mrs. Tresslyn leaned suddenly against a chair, and even Anne turned to
regard her tall brother with a look of real dismay.

"How much do you owe him?" asked the former, controlling her voice with an
effort.

"Five hundred and sixty-five dollars, including interest. A pitiful sum to
get thrashed for, isn't it?"

"And you were planning to get the money from Mr. Thorpe to pay Percy?"

"To keep Percy from getting licked, would be the better way to put it. I
think it's uncommonly decent of me."

"You are--you are a bully, George,--a downright bully," flared Anne,
confronting him with blazing eyes. "You have no right to frighten mother
in this way. It's cowardly."

"He doesn't frighten me, dear," said Mrs. Tresslyn, but her lips quivered.
Turning to her son, she continued: "George, if you will mail a check to
Percy this minute, I will draw one for you. A Tresslyn cannot owe money to
a Wintermill. We will say no more about it. The subject is closed. Sit
down there and draw a check for the amount, and I will sign it. Rawson
will post it."

George turned his head away, and lowered his chin. A huskiness came
quickly into his voice.

"I'm--I'm ashamed of myself, mother,--I give you my word I am. I came here
intending to ask you point-blank to advance me the money. Then the idea
came into my head to work the bluff about old Mr. Thorpe. That grew into
Percy's prospective thrashing. I'm sorry. It's the first time I've ever
tried to put anything over on you."

"Fill in the check, please," she said coldly. "I've just been drawing a
few for the dressmakers--a few that Anne has just remembered. I shan't in
the least mind adding one for Percy. He isn't a dressmaker but if I were
asked to select a suitable occupation for him I don't know of one he'd be
better qualified to pursue. Fill it in, please."

Her son looked at her admiringly. "By Jove, mother, you are a wonder. You
never miss fire. I'd give a thousand dollars, if I had it, to see old Mrs.
Wintermill's face if that remark could be repeated to her."

A faint smile played about his mother's lips. After all, there was honest
tribute in the speech of this son of hers.

"It would be worse than a bloody nose for Percy," said Anne, slipping an
arm around her mother's waist. "But I don't like what you said about _me_
and the dressmakers. I must have gowns. It isn't quite the same as
George's I.O.U. to Percy, you know."

"Don't be selfish, Anne," cried George, jerking a chair up to the
escritoire and scrambling among the papers for a pen. "You won't have to
worry long. You'll soon be so rich that the dressmakers won't dare to send
you a bill."

"Wait a moment, George," said Mrs. Tresslyn abruptly. "If you do not
promise to refrain from saying disagreeable things to Anne, I shall
withdraw my offer to help you out of this scrape."

George faced her. "Does that mean that I am to put my O.K. upon this
wedding of Anne's?" His look of good-nature disappeared.

"It means that you are not to comment upon it, that's all," said his
mother. "You have said quite enough. There is nothing more that you can
add to an already sufficiently distasteful argument."

George swallowed hard as he bent over the checkbook. "All right, mother,
I'll try to keep my trap closed from now on. But I don't want you to think
that I'm taking this thing pleasantly. I'll say for the last time,--I
hope,--that it's a darned crime, and we'll let it go at that."

"Very well. We will let it go at that."

"Great Scot!" burst from his lips as he whirled in the fragile chair to
face the women of the house. "I just can't help feeling as I do about it.
I can't bear to think of Anne,--my pretty sister Anne,--married to that old
rummy. Why, she's fit to be the wife of a god. She's the prettiest girl in
New York and she'd be one of the best if she had half a chance. A fellow
like Braden Thorpe would make a queen of her, and that's just what she
ought to be. Oh, Lord! To think of her being married to that burnt-out,
shrivelled-up--"

"George! That will do, sir!"

His sister was staring at him in utter perplexity. Something like wonder
was growing in her lovely, velvety eyes. Never before had she heard such
words as these from the lips of her big and hitherto far from considerate
brother, the brother who had always begrudged her the slightest sign of
favour from their mother, who had blamed her for securing by unfair means
more than her share of the maternal peace-offerings.

Suddenly the big boy dug his knuckles into his eyes and turned away,
muttering an oath of mortification. Anne sprang to his side. Her hands
fell upon his shoulders.

"What are you doing, George? Are--are you crazy?"

"Crazy _nothing_," he choked out, biting his lip. "Go away, Anne. I'm just
a damned fool, that's all. I--"

"Mother, he's--he's crying," whispered Anne, bewildered. "What is it,
George?" For the first time in her life she slipped an affectionate arm
about him and laid her cheek against his sleek, black hair. "Buck up,
little boy; don't take it like this. I'll--I'll be all right. I'll--oh, I'll
never forget you for feeling as you do, George. I didn't think you'd
really care so much."

"Why,--why, Anne, of course I care," he gulped. "Why shouldn't I care?
Aren't you my sister, and I your brother? I'd be a fine mess of a thing if
I didn't care. I tell you, mother, it's awful! You know it is! It is a
queer thing for a brother to say, I suppose, but--but I _do_ love Anne. All
my life I've looked upon her as the finest thing in the world. I've been
mean and nasty and all that sort of thing and I'm always saying rotten
things to her, but, darn it, I--I do love my pretty sister. I ought to hate
you, Anne, for this infernal thing you are determined to do--I ought to, do
you understand, but I can't, I just can't. It's the rottenest thing a girl
can do, and you're doing it, I--oh, say, what's the matter with me?
Sniffling idiot! I say, where the devil _do_ you keep your pen?"
Wrathfully he jerked a pile of note paper and blotters off the desk,
scattering them on the floor. "I'll write the check, mother, and I'll
promise to do my best hereafter about Anne and old Tempy. And what's more,
I'll not punch Percy's nose, so you needn't be afraid he'll turn it up at
us."

The pen scratched vigorously across the check. His mother was regarding
him with a queer expression in her eyes. She had not moved while he was
expressing himself so feelingly about Anne. Was it possible that after all
there was something fine in this boy of hers? His simple, genuine outburst
was a revelation to her.

"I trust this may be the last time that you will come to me for money in
this way, George," she said levelly. "You must be made to realise that I
cannot afford such luxuries as these. You have made it impossible for me
to refuse you this time. I cannot allow a son of mine to be in debt to a
Wintermill. You must not borrow money. You--"

He looked up, grinning. "There you go again with that middle-class word,
mother. But I'll forgive you this once on condition that you never use it
again. People in our walk of life never _borrow_ anything but trouble, you
know. We don't borrow money. We arrange for it occasionally, but God
forbid that we should ever become so common as to borrow it. There you
are, filled in and ready for your autograph--payable to Percy Reginald Van
Alstone Wintermill. I put his whole name in so that he'd have to go to the
exertion of signing it all on the back. He hates work worse than poison.
I'm glad you didn't accept him, Anne. It would be awful to have to look up
to a man who is so insignificant that you'd have to look down upon him at
the same time."

Mrs. Tresslyn signed the check. "I will have Rawson post it to him at
once," she said. "There goes one of your gowns, Anne,--five hundred and
sixty-five dollars."

"I shan't miss it, mother dear," said Anne cheerfully. She had linked an
arm through one of George's, much to the surprise and embarrassment of the
tall young man.

"Bully girl," said he awkwardly. "Just for that I'll kiss the bride next
month, and wish her the best of luck. I--I certainly hope you'll have
better luck than I had."

"There's still loads of luck ahead for you, George," said she, a little
wistfully. "All you've got to do is to keep a sharp lookout and you'll
find it some day--sooner than I, I'm sure. You'll find the right girl
and--zip! Everything will be rosy, old boy!"

He smiled wryly. "I've lost the right girl, Anne."

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Mrs. Tresslyn sharply. Her eyes narrowed as she
looked into his. "You ought to get down on your knees and thank God that
you are not married to that--"

"Wait a second, mother," he broke in. "I'm afraid I shall have to ask you
to let her alone, now that you're rid of her, just as I'm expected to let
old Tempy slide by without noticing him."

"Nonsense," again said Mrs. Tresslyn, but this time with less confidence
in her voice. She looked intently into her son's set face and fear was
revived in her soul, an ever-present fear that slept and roused itself
with sickening persistency.

"We'll hang her up in the family closet, if you don't mind, alongside of
Brady Thorpe, and we'll never mention her again if I can help it. I must
say, though, that our skeletons are uncommonly attractive, aren't they,
Anne? No dry, rattling bones in our closets, are there?" He squeezed her
arm playfully, and was amazed when she jerked it away.

"I was nice to you, George, and this is the way you--"

"Forgive me, please. I didn't mean it in an offensive way. I just took it
for granted that we'd understand each other. At any rate, we've got one
thing to be thankful for. There are no Wintermill skeletons hanging in our
closets. We've both succeeded in dodging them, praise the Lord."

It so happened that Percy's excessively homely sister had been considered
at one time as a most desirable helpmate for the rapidly developing
George, and it is barely possible that the little mustard girl upset a
social dynasty.




CHAPTER VI


Mr. Thorpe was as good as his word. He arranged for the meeting between
Braden and Anne, but with characteristic astuteness laid his plans so that
they were to come upon each other unexpectedly. It happened on the second
day after his talk with Braden.

Mr. Thorpe's plan involved other people as well as the two most vitally
interested. There was to be a meeting at his house late in the afternoon
for the purpose of signing the ante-nuptial contract already agreed upon.
Five o'clock was the hour set for the gathering. Lawyers representing both
parties were to be there, with Mrs. Tresslyn, George and Anne, and Mr.
Thorpe's private secretary, who, with Dr. Bates, was to serve as a witness
to the instrument.

At noon Wade delivered a letter to Miss Tresslyn in which Mr. Thorpe said
that he would be pleased if she would accompany him to Tiffany's for the
purpose of selecting a string of pearls. He made it quite clear that she
was to go alone with him, playfully mentioning his desire to be the only
witness to her confusion when confronted by the "obsequious salesman and
his baubles from the sea." If quite agreeable to her he would make an
appointment with the jeweller for 3.30 and would call for her in person.
After that, he continued, the signing of a contract for life would not
seem such a portentous undertaking, and they could go to the meeting with
hearts as light as air. It was a cheerful, even gay little missive, but
she was not for an instant blind to the irony that lay between the lines.

Anne selected the pearls that he had chosen in advance of their visit to
Tiffany's. He did not tell her that he had instructed the jeweller to make
up a string of pearls for her inspection, with the understanding that she
was to choose for herself from an assortment of half-a-dozen beautiful
offerings, no price to be mentioned. He was quite sure that she would not
even consider the cost. He credited her with an honest scorn for
sentimentality; she would make no effort to glorify him for an act that
was so obviously a part of their unsentimental compact. There would be no
gushing over this sardonic tribute to her avarice. She would have herself
too well in hand for that.

They were about her neck when she entered the house near Washington Square
almost an hour before the time appointed for the conference. In her secret
but subdued pleasure over acquiring the costly present, she had lost all
count of time. That was a part of Mr. Thorpe's expensive programme.

All the way down in the automobile she had been estimating the value of
her new possession. On one point she was satisfied: there were few
handsomer strings in New York than hers. She would have to keep them in a
safe place,--a vault, no doubt. Nearly every matron of her acquaintance
made a great deal of the fact that she had to buy a safe in which to store
her treasures. There was something agreeable--subtly agreeable--in owning
jewels that would have to be kept in one of those staunch, opulent looking
safes. She experienced a thrill of satisfaction by describing herself in
advance, as one of the women with pearls. And there was additional
gratification in the knowledge that she could hardly be called a matron in
the strict sense of the word. She was glad that she was too young for
that. She tried to recall the names of all the women who possessed pearls
like these, and the apparent though undeclared age of each. There was not
one among them who was under forty. Most of them had endured many years of
married life before acquiring what she was to have at the outset. Mrs.
Wintermill, for instance: she was sixty-two or three, and had but recently
come into a string of pearls not a whit more valuable than the one that
now adorned her neck and lay hidden beneath the warm fur collar of her
coat.

Her calculations suddenly hit upon something that could be used as a
basis. Mrs. Wintermill's pearls had cost sixty-five thousand dollars.
Sixty-five thousand dollars! She could not resist the impulse to shoot a
swift, startled look out of the corners of her eyes at the silent old man
beside her. That was a lot of money! And it was money that he was under no
obligation to expend upon her. It was quite outside the contract. She was
puzzled. Why this uncalled for generosity? A queer, sickening doubt
assailed her.

"Are--are these pearls really and truly to be mine?" she asked. "Mine to
keep forever?"

"Certainly, my dear," he said, looking at her so oddly that she flushed.
He had read the thought that was in her mind. "I give and bequeath them to
you this day, to have and to hold forever," he added, with a smile that
she could not fail to understand.

"I wanted to be sure," she said, resorting to frankness.

When they entered the Thorpe home, Wade was waiting in the hall with the
butler. His patient, set smile did not depart so much as the fraction of
an inch from its habitual condition. His head was cocked a little to one
side.

"Are we late, Wade?" inquired Mr. Thorpe.

"No, sir," said Wade. "No one has come." He glanced up at the tall clock
on the landing. "It is a quarter past four, sir. Mrs. Tresslyn telephoned
a few minutes ago, sir."

"Ah! That she would be late?"

"No, sir. To inquire if--ahem!--if Mr. Braden was likely to be here this
afternoon."

Anne started violently. A quick, hunted expression leaped into her eyes as
she looked about her. Something rushed up into her throat, something that
smothered.

"You informed her, of course, that Mr. Braden declines to honour us with
his presence," said Mr. Thorpe suavely.

"Yes, sir, in a way."

"Ahem! Well, my dear, make yourself quite at home. Go into the library,
do. You'll find a roaring fire there. Murray, take Miss Tresslyn's coat.
Make her comfortable. Come, Wade, your arm. Forgive me, Anne, if I leave
you to yourself for a few minutes. My joy at having you here is shorn of
its keenness by a long-established age that demands house-boots, an eider-
down coat and--Murray, what the devil do you mean by letting the house get
so cold as all this? It's like a barn. Are the furnaces out. What am I
paying that rascally O'Toole for? Tell him to--"

"It is quite comfortable, Mr. Thorpe," said Anne, with a slight shiver
that was not to be charged to the defective O'Toole.

The long, wide hall was dark and grim. Wade was dark and grim, and Murray
too, despite his rotundity. There were lank shadows at the bottom of the
hall, grim projections of objects that stood for ornamentation: a suit of
armour, a gloomy candlestick of prodigious stature, and a thin Italian
cabinet surmounted by an urn whose unexposed contents might readily have
suggested something more sinister than the dust of antiquity. The door to
the library was open. Fitful red shadows flashed dully from the fireplace
across the room, creeping out into the hall and then darting back again as
if afraid to venture. The waning sunlight struggled through a curtained
window at the top of the stairs. There was dusk in the house. Evening had
fallen there.

Anne stood in the middle of the library, divested of her warm fur coat.
Murray was poking the fire, and cheerful flames were leaping upward in
response to the call to wake. She had removed one of her gloves. With the
slim, bared fingers she fondled the pearls about her neck, but her
thoughts were not of baubles. She was thinking of this huge room full of
shadows, shadows through which she would have to walk for many a day,
where night would always be welcome because of the light it demanded.

It was a man's room. Everything in it was massive, substantial. Big
chairs, wide lounges, and a thick soft carpet of dull red that deprived
the footfall of its sound. Books mounted high,--almost to the
ceiling,--filling all the spaces left unused by the doors and windows.
Heavy damask curtains shut out the light of day. She wondered why they had
been drawn so early, and whether they were always drawn like this. Near
the big fireplace, with its long mantelpiece over which hung suspended the
portrait of an early Knickerbocker gentleman with ruddy, even convivial
countenance, stood a long table, a reading lamp at the farther end. Books,
magazines, papers lay in disorder upon this table.

She recalled something that Braden once had told her: his grandfather
always "raised Cain" with any one who happened to be guilty of what he
called criminal orderliness in putting the table to rights. He wanted the
papers and magazines left just as they were, so that he could put his hand
upon them without demanding too much of a servant's powers of divination.
More than one parlour-maid had been dismissed for offensive neatness.

She closed her eyes for a second. A faint line, as of pain, appeared
between them. In this room Braden Thorpe had been coddled and scolded, in
this room he had romped and studied--She opened her eyes quickly.

"Murray," she said, in a low voice; "you are quite sure that Mr. Braden
is--is out?"

The old butler straightened up from his task, his hand going to his back
as if to keep it from creaking. "Yes, Miss Tresslyn, quite sure." He
hesitated for a moment. "I think he said that he intended to give himself
the pleasure of a call--ahem! I beg pardon. Yes, he is quite out--I should
say, I'm quite sure he is out." He was confused, a most unheard of thing
in Murray.

"But he will return--soon?" She took a step or two nearer the door,
possessed of a sudden impulse to run,--to run swiftly away.

"I think not, miss," said he. "He is not expected to be here during
the--er--you might say, the--ahem!"

"I'll have a look about the room," said Anne softly. She felt that she was
going to like Murray. She wanted him to like her. The butler may have
caught the queer little note in her voice, or he may have seen the hunted
look in her eyes before she turned them away. At any rate, he poked the
fire vigorously once more. It was his way of saying that she might depend
upon him. Then he went out of the room, closing the door behind him.

She started violently, and put her hand to her heart. She had the queer,
uncanny feeling that she was locked in this sombre room, that she would
never be free again.

In a room upstairs, Mr. Templeton Thorpe was saying to Wade:

"Is my grandson in his room?"

"Yes, sir. He came in at four and has been waiting for you, as you
directed, sir."

"Tell him that I would like to see him at once in the library," said Mr.
Thorpe.

"Yes, sir," said Wade, and for the first time in years his patient smile
assumed the proportions of a grin. He did not have to be told that Anne's
presence in the house was not to be made known to Braden. All that he was
expected to do was to inform the young man that his grandfather wanted to
see him in the library,--at once.

And so it came to pass that three minutes later, Braden and Anne were face
to face with each other, and old Mr. Thorpe had redeemed his promise.

Of the two, Braden was the more surprised. The girl's misgivings had
prepared her for just such a crisis as this. Something told her the
instant she set foot inside the house that she was to be tricked. In a
flash she realised that Mr. Thorpe himself was responsible for the
encounter she had dreaded. It was impossible to suspect Braden of being a
party to the scheme. He was petrified. There could be no doubt that he had
been tricked quite as cleverly as she.

But what could have been in the old man's design? Was it a trap? Did he
expect her to rush into Braden's arms? Was he lurking behind some near-by
curtain to witness her surrender? Was he putting her to the test, or was
it his grandson who was on trial?

Here was the supreme crisis in the life of Anne Tresslyn: the turning
point. Her whole being cried out against this crafty trick. One word now
from Braden would have altered the whole course of her life. In eager
silence she stood on the thin edge of circumstance, ready to fall as the
wind blew strongest. She was in revolt. If this stupefied, white-faced
young man had but called out to her: "Anne! Anne, my darling! Come!" she
would have laughed in triumph over the outcome of the old man's test, and
all the years of her life would have been filled with sweetness. She would
have gone to him.

But, alas, those were not the words that fell from his lips, and the fate
of Anne Tresslyn was sealed as she stood there watching him with wide-
spread eyes.

"I prefer to see you in your own home," he said, a flush of anger
spreading over his face; "not here in my grandfather's house."

There was no mistaking his meaning. He thought she had come there to see
him,--ay, conceivably had planned this very situation! She started. It was
like a slap in the face. Then she breathed once more, and realised that
she had not drawn a breath since he entered the room. Her life had been
standing still, waiting till these few stupendous seconds were over. Now
they were gone and she could take up life where it had left off. The
tightness in her throat relaxed. The crisis was over, the turning point
was behind her. He had failed her, and he would have to pay. He would have
to pay with months, even years of waiting. For it had never occurred to
Anne Tresslyn to doubt that he would come to her in good and proper time!

She could not speak at once. Her response was not ready. She was
collecting herself. Given the time, she would rise above the mischief that
confounded her. To have uttered the words that hung unuttered on her lips
would have glorified him and brought shame to her pride forever more. Five
words trembled there awaiting deliverance and they were good and honest
words--"Take me back, Braden darling!" They were never spoken. They were
formed to answer a different call from him. She checked them in time.

"I did not come here to see you," she said at last, standing very straight
beside the table. He was just inside the door leading to the hall. "Whose
trick is this,--yours or Mr. Thorpe's?"

Enlightenment flashed into his eyes. "By Jove!" he exclaimed. "He said he
would do it, and he has made good. This is his way of--" He broke off in
the middle of the sentence. In an instant he had whirled about and the
door was closed with a bang.

She started forward, her hand pressed to her quick-beating heart, real
fear in her eyes. What was in his mind? Was this insanity? She had read of
men driven mad by disappointment who brutally set upon and killed--But he
was facing her now, and she stopped short. His jaw was set but there was
no insane light in the eyes that regarded her so steadily. Somehow--and
suddenly--her composure was restored. She was not afraid of him. She was
not afraid of the hands and arms that had caressed her so tenderly, nor
was she afraid of the words that were to fall from the lips that had
kissed hers so many times. He was merely going to plead with her, and she
was well prepared for that.

For weeks and weeks she had been preparing herself for this unhappy
moment. She knew that the time would come when she would have to face him
and defend herself. She would have to deny the man she loved. She would
have to tell him that she was going for a higher price than he could pay.
The time had come and she was ready. The weakness of the minute before had
passed--passed with his failure to strike when, with all her heart and
soul, she wanted him to strike.

"You need not be frightened," he said, subduing his voice with an effort.
"Let us take time to steady ourselves. We have a good deal to say to each
other. Let's be careful not to waste words, now that we're face to face at
last."

"I am quite calm," she said, stock-still beside the table. "Why should I
be frightened? I am the last person in the world that you would strike,
Braden." She was that sure of him!

"Strike? Good God, why should that have entered your head?"

"One never knows," she said. "I was startled. I was afraid--at first. You
implied a moment ago that I had arranged for this meeting. Surely you
understand that I--"

"My grandfather arranged it," he interrupted. "There's no use beating
about the bush. I told him that I would not believe this thing of you
unless I had it from your own lips. You would not see me. You were not
permitted to see me. I told him that you were being forced into this
horrible marriage, that your mother was afraid to let me have a single
word with you. He laughed at me. He said that you were going into it with
your eyes open, that you were obeying your mother willingly, that you--"

"Pardon me," she interrupted coldly. "Is your grandfather secreted
somewhere near so that he may be able to enjoy the--"

"I don't know, and I don't care. Let him hear if he wants to. Why should
either of us care? He knows all there is to know about you and he
certainly appreciates my position. We may as well speak freely. It will
not make the slightest difference, one way or the other, so far as he is
concerned. He knows perfectly well that you are not marrying him for love,
or respect, or even position. So let's speak plainly. I say that he
arranged this meeting between us. He brought you here, and he sent
upstairs for me to join him in this room. Well, you see he isn't here. We
are quite alone. He is fair to both of us. He is giving me my chance and
he is giving you yours. It only remains for us to settle the matter here
and now. I know all of the details of this disgusting compact. I know that
you are to have two million dollars settled upon you the day you are
married--oh, I know the whole of it! Now, there's just one thing to be
settled between you and me: are you going ahead with it or are you going
to be an honest woman and marry the man you love?"

He did not leave her much to stand upon. She had expected him to go about
it in an entirely different way. She had counted upon an impassioned plea
for himself, not this terse, cold-blooded, almost unemotional summing up
of the situation. For an instant she was at a loss. It was hard to look
into his honest eyes. A queer, unformed doubt began to torment her, a
doubt that grew into a question later on: was he still in love with her?

"And what if I do not care to discuss my private affairs with you?" she
said, playing for time.

"Don't fence, Anne," he said sternly. "Answer the question. Wait. I'll put
it in another form, and I want the truth. If you say to me that your
mother is deliberately forcing you into this marriage I'll believe you,
and I'll--I'll fight for you till I get you. I will not stand by and see
you sacrificed, even though you may appear to--"

"Stop, please. If you mean to ask _that_ question, I'll answer it in
advance. It is I, not my mother, who expects to marry Mr. Thorpe, and I am
quite old enough and wise enough to know my own mind. So you need not put
the question."

He drew nearer. The table separated them as they looked squarely into each
other's eyes through the fire-lit space that lay between.

"Anne, Anne!" he cried hoarsely. "You must not, you shall not do this
unspeakable thing! For God's sake, girl, if you have an atom of self-
respect, the slightest--"

"Don't begin that, Braden!" she cut in, ominously. "I cannot permit you or
any man to _say_ such things to me, no matter what you may think. Bear
that in mind."

"Don't you mind what I think about it, Anne?" he cried, his voice
breaking.

"See here, Braden," she said, in an abrupt, matter-of-fact manner, "it
isn't going to do the least bit of good to argue the point. I am pledged
to marry Mr. Thorpe and I shall do so if I live till the twenty-third of
next month. Provided, of course, that he lives till that day himself. I
have gone into it with my eyes open, as he says, and I am satisfied with
my bargain. I suppose you will hate me to the end of your days. But if you
think that I expect to hate myself, you are very much mistaken. Look! Do
you see these pearls? They were not included in the bargain, and I could
have gone on very well without them to the end of my term as the mistress
of this house, but I accepted them from my fiance to-day in precisely the
same spirit in which they were given: as alms to the undeserving. Your
grandfather did not want me to marry you. He is merely paying me to keep
my hands _off_. That's the long and the short of it. I am not in the least
deceived. You will say that I could--and should have told him to go to the
devil. Well, I'm sorry to have to tell you that I couldn't see my way
clear to doing that. I hope he _is_ listening behind the curtains. We
drove a hard bargain. He thought he could get off with a million. You must
remember that he had deliberately disinherited you,--that much I know. His
will is made. It will not be altered. You will be a poor man as wealth is
reckoned in these days. But you will be a great man. You will be famous,
distinguished, honoured. That is what he intends. He set out to sacrifice
me in order that you might be spared. You were not to have a millstone
about your neck in the shape of a selfish, unsacrificing wife. What rot!
From the bottom of my heart, Braden,--if you will grant me a heart,--I hope
and pray that you may go to the head of your profession, that you may be a
great and good man. I do not ask you to believe me when I say that I love
you, and always--"

"For God's sake, don't ask me to believe it! Don't add to the degradation
you are piling up for yourself. Spare yourself that miserable confession.
It is quite unnecessary to lie to me, Anne."

"Lie? I am telling you the truth, Braden. I do love you. I can't help
that, can I? You do not for an instant suspect that I love this doddering
old man, do you? Well, I must love some one. That's natural, isn't it?
Then, why shouldn't it be you? Oh, laugh if you will! It doesn't hurt me
in the least. Curse me, if you like. I've made up my mind to go on with
this business of marrying. We've had one unsuccessful marriage in our
family of late. Love was at the bottom of it. You know how it has turned
out, Braden. It--"

"I believe I know how it might have turned out if they had been left to
themselves," said he bluntly.

"She would have been a millstone, nevertheless," she argued.

"I don't agree with you. George found his level in that little nobody, as
you all have called her. Poor little thing, she was not so lucky as I. She
did not have her eyes opened in time. She had no chance to escape. But
we're not here to talk about Lutie Carnahan. I have told my grandfather
that I intend to break this thing off if it is in my power to do so. I
shall not give up until I know that you are actually married. It is a
crime that must not--"

"How do you purpose breaking it off?" she inquired shrilly. Visions of a
strong figure rising in the middle of the ceremony to cry out against the
final words flashed into her mind. Would she have that to look forward to
and dread?

"I shall go on appealing to your honour, your decency, your self-respect,
if not to the love you say you bear for me."

She breathed easier. "And will you confine your appeals to me?"

"What do you mean?"

"I thought you might take it into your head to appeal to Mr. Thorpe's
honour, decency, self-respect and love for you," she said, sullenly. "He
is quite as guilty as I, remember."

"He has quite a different object in view. He seems to feel that he is
doing me a good turn, not an evil one."

"Bosh!" She was angry. "And what will be your attitude toward me if you
_do_ succeed in preventing the marriage? Will you take me back as I was
before this thing came up? Will you make me your wife, just as if nothing
had happened? In view of my deliberate intention to deny you, will you
forget everything and take me back?"

He put his hand to his throat, and for a moment appeared to be struggling
against himself. "I will take you back, Anne, as if nothing had happened,
if you will say to me here and now that you will marry me to-morrow."

She stared at him, incredulous. Her heart began to beat rapidly once more
and the anger died away. "You would do that, knowing me to be what I am?"

"Knowing you to be what you _were_," he amended eagerly. "Oh, Anne, you
are worth loving, you are pure of heart and--"

"If I will marry you to-morrow?" she went on, watching his face closely.

"Yes. But you must say it now--this instant. I will not grant you a
moment's respite. If you do not say the word now, your chance is gone
forever. It has to be now, Anne."

"And if I refuse--what then?"

"I would not marry you if you were the only woman on earth," he said
flatly.

She smiled. "Are you sure that you love me, Braden?"

"I will love you when you become what you were,--a month ago," he said
simply. "A girl worth the honour of being loved," he added.

"Men sometimes love those who are not worth the honour," she said, feeling
her way. "They cannot help themselves."

"Will you say the word _now_?" he demanded hoarsely.

She sighed. It was a sigh of relief,--perhaps of triumph. He was safe for
all time. He would come to her in the end. She was on solid ground once
more.

"I am afraid, Braden, that I cannot play fast and loose with a man as old
as Mr. Thorpe," she said lightly.

He muttered an oath. "Don't be a fool! What do you call your treatment of
me? Fast and loose! Good Lord, haven't you played fast and loose with me?"

"Ah, but you are young and enduring," she said. "You will get over it. He
wouldn't have the time or strength to recover from the shock of--"

"Oh, for God's sake, don't talk like that! What do you call yourself?
What--" He checked the angry words and after a moment went on, more
quietly: "Now, see here, Anne, I'm through parleying with you. I shall go
on trying to prevent this marriage, but succeed or fail, I don't want to
see your face again as long as I live. I'm through with you. You _are_
like your mother. You are a damned vampire. God, how I have loved and
trusted you, how I have believed in you. I did not believe that the woman
lived who could degrade herself as you are about to degrade yourself. I
have had my eyes opened. All my life I have loved you without even knowing
you. All my life I--"

"All my life I have loved you," she broke in cringingly.

He laughed aloud. "The hell you have!" he cried out. "You have allowed me
to hold you in my arms, to kiss you, to fondle you, and you have trembled
with joy and passion,--and now you call it love! Love! You have never loved
in your life and you never will. You call self-gratification by the name
of love. Thank God, I know you at last. I ought to pity you. In all
humanity I ought to pity a fellow creature so devoid of--"

"Stop!" she cried, her face flaming red. "Go! Go away! You have said
enough. I will hate you if you utter another word, and I don't want to
hate you, Braden. I want to go on loving you all my life. I _must_ go on
loving you."

"You have my consent," he said, ironically, bowing low before her.
"Humanity compels me to grant you all the consolation you can find in
deceiving yourself."

"Wait!" she cried out, as he turned toward the door. "I--I am hurt, Braden.
Can't you see how you have hurt me? Won't you--"

"Of course, you are hurt!" he shouted. "You squeal when you are hurt. You
think only of yourself when you cry 'I am hurt'! Don't you ever think of
any one else?" His hand grasped the big silver door-knob.

"I want you to understand, if you can, why I am doing this thing you
revile me for."

"I understand," he said curtly.

She hurried her words, fearful that he might rush from the room before she
could utter the belated explanation.

"I don't want to be poor. I don't want to go through life as my mother has
gone, always fighting for the things she most desired, always being behind
the game she was forced to play. You can't understand,--you are too big and
fine,--you cannot understand the little things, Braden. I want love and
happiness, but I want the other, too. Don't you see that with all this
money at my command I can be independent, I can be safe for all time, I
can give more than myself in return for the love that I must have? Don't
you understand why--"

She was quite close to him when he interrupted the impassioned appeal. His
hand shook as he held it up to check her approach.

"It's all over, Anne. There is nothing more to be said. I understand
everything now. May God forgive you," he said huskily.

She stopped short. Her head went up and defiance shone in her face.

"I'd rather have your forgiveness than God's," she said distinctly, "and
since I may not ask for it now, I will wait for it, my friend. We love
each other. Time mends a good many breaks. Good-bye! Some day I hope
you'll come to see your poor old granny, and bring--"

"Oh, for the love of heaven, have a little decency, Anne," he cried, his
lip curling.

But her pride was roused, it was in revolt against all of the finer
instincts that struggled for expression.

"You'd better go now. Run upstairs and tell your grandfather that his
scheme worked perfectly. Tell him everything I have said. He will not
mind. I am sorry you will not remain to see the contract signed. I should
like to have you for a witness. If you--"

"Contract? What contract?"

"Oh," she said lightly, "just a little agreement on his part to make life
endurable for me while he continues to live. We are to sign the paper at
five o'clock. Yes, you'd better run along, Braden, or you'll find yourself
the centre of a perplexed crowd. Before you go, please take a last look at
me in my sepulchre. Here I stand! Am I not fair to look upon?"

"God, I'd sooner see you in your grave than here," he grated out. "You'd
be better off, a thousand times."

"This is my grave," she said, "or will be soon. I suppose I am not to
count you among the mourners?"

He slammed the door behind him, and she was alone.

"How I hate people who slam doors," she said to herself.




CHAPTER VII


A fortnight passed. Preparations for the wedding went on in the Tresslyn
home with little or no slackening of the tension that had settled upon the
inmates with the advent of the disturber. Anne was now sullenly determined
that nothing should intervene to prevent the marriage, unless an unkind
Providence ordered the death of Templeton Thorpe. She was bitter toward
Braden. Down in her soul, she knew that he was justified in the stand he
had taken, and in that knowledge lay the secret of her revolt against one
of the commands of Nature. He had treated her with the scorn that she knew
she deserved; he had pronounced judgment upon her, and she confessed to
herself that she was guilty as charged. That was the worst of it; she
could pronounce herself guilty, and yet resent the justice of her own
decision.

In her desperation, she tried to hold old Mr. Thorpe responsible for the
fresh canker that gnawed at her soul. But for that encounter in his
library, she might have proceeded with confidence instead of the
uneasiness that now attended her every step. She could not free herself of
the fear that Braden might after all succeed in his efforts to persuade
the old man to change his mind. True, the contract was signed, but
contracts are not always sacred. They are made to be broken. Moreover, by
no stretch of the imagination could this contract be looked upon as sacred
and it certainly would not look pretty if exposed to a court of law. Her
sole thought now was to have it all safely over with. Then perhaps she
could smile once more.

In the home of the bridegroom, preparations for the event were scant and
of a perfunctory nature. Mr. Templeton Thorpe ordered a new suit of
clothes for himself--or, to be quite precise, he instructed Wade to order
it. He was in need of a new suit anyway, he said, and he had put off
ordering it for a long, long time, not because he was parsimonious but
because he did not like going up town for the "try-on." He also had a new
silk hat made from his special block, and he would doubtless be compelled
to have his hair trimmed up a bit about the nineteenth or twentieth, if
the weather turned a trifle warmer. Of course, there would be the trip to
City Hall with Anne, for the licence. He would have to attend to that in
person. That was one thing that Wade couldn't do for him. Wade bought the
wedding-ring and saw to the engraving; he attended to the buying of a gift
for the best man,--who under one of the phases of an all-enveloping irony
was to be George Dexter Tresslyn!--and in the same expedition to the
jewellers' purchased for himself a watch-fob as a self-selected gift from
a master who had never given him anything in all his years of service
except his monthly wage and a daily malediction.

Braden Thorpe made the supreme effort to save his grandfather. Believing
himself to be completely cured of his desire for Anne, he took the stand
that there was no longer a necessity for the old gentleman to sacrifice
himself to the greed of the Tresslyns. But Mr. Thorpe refused to listen to
this new and apparently unprejudiced argument. He was firm in his
determination to clip Anne's claws; he would take no chances with youth,
ultimate propinquity, and the wiles of a repentant sinner.

"You can guard against anything," said he in his wisdom, "except the
beautiful woman who repents. You never can tell what she'll do to make her
repentance satisfactory to everybody concerned. So we'll take no chances
with Anne. We'll put her in irons, my boy, so to speak."

And so it was that Braden, worn and disspirited, gave up in despair and
prepared for his return to London. He went before an examining board in
New York first and obtained his licence to become a practising physician
and surgeon, and, with a set expression in his disillusioned eyes, peered
out into the future in quest of the fame that was to take the place of a
young girl's love.

He met his first patient in the Knickerbocker Cafe. Lunching alone there
one day, a week before the date selected for sailing, he was accosted by
an extremely gay and pretty young woman who came over from a table of four
in a distant corner of the room.

"Is this Dr. Braden Thorpe?" she inquired, placing her hands on the back
of the chair opposite and leaning forward with a most agreeable, even
inviting smile.

Her face was familiar. "Since day before yesterday," he replied, rising
with a self-conscious flush.

"May I sit down? I want to talk to you about myself." She sat down in the
chair that an alert waiter pulled out for her.

"I am afraid you are labouring under a misapprehension," he said. "I--I am
not what you would call a practising physician as yet."

"Aren't you looking for patients?" she inquired. "Sit down, please."

"I haven't even an office, so why should I feel that I am entitled to a
patient?" he said. "You see, I've just got my licence to practice. As
things go, I shouldn't have a client for at least two years. Are you
looking for a doctor?"

"I saw by the papers this morning that the grandson of Mr. Templeton
Thorpe was a regular doctor. One of my friends over there pointed you out
to me. What is your fee for an appendicitis operation, Dr. Thorpe?"

"Good--ahem! I beg your pardon. You really startled me. I--"

"Oh, that's all right. I quite understand. Hard to grasp at first, isn't
it? Well, I've got to have my appendix out sooner or later. It's been
bothering me for a year, off and on. Everybody tells me I ought to have it
out sometime when it isn't bothering me and--"

"But, my dear young lady, I'm not the man you want. You ought to go to
some--"

"You'll do just as well as any one, I'm sure. It's no trick to take out an
appendix in these days. The fewer a doctor has snipped off, the less he
charges, don't you know. So why shouldn't I, being quite poor, take
advantage of your ignorance? The most intelligent surgeon in New York
couldn't do any more than to snip it off, now could he? And he wouldn't be
one-tenth as ignorant as you are about prices."

She was so gay and naive about it that he curbed his amazement, and, to
some extent, his embarrassment.

"I suppose that it is also ignorance on my part that supplies me with
office hours in a public restaurant from one to three o'clock," he said,
with a very unprofessional grin.

"What hospital do you work in?" she demanded, in a business-like tone.

Humouring her, he mentioned one of the big hospitals in which he had
served as an interne.

"That suits me," she said. "Can you do it to-morrow?"

"For heaven's sake, madam, I--are you in earnest?"

"Absolutely. I want to have it done right away. You see, I do a good deal
of dancing, and--now, listen!" She leaned farther across the table, a
serious little line appearing between her brows. "I want you to do it
because I've always heard that you are one of the most earnest, capable
and ambitious young men in the business. I'd sooner trust you than any one
else, Dr. Thorpe. It has to be done by some one, so if I'm willing to take
a chance with you, why shouldn't you take one with me?"

"I have been in Europe for nearly three years. How could you possibly have
heard all this about me?"

"See that fellow over there facing us? The funny little chap with the baby
moustache? He--"

"Why, it's Simmy Dodge," cried Braden. "Are--are you--"

"Just a friend, that's all. He's one of the finest chaps in New York. He's
a gentleman. That's Mr. and Mrs. Rumsey Fenn,--the other two, I mean. You
can't see them for the florist shop in between. They know you too, so--"

"May I inquire why one of my friends did not bring you over and introduce
me to you, Miss--er--"

"Miss, in a sort of way, Doctor, but still a Missus," she said amiably.
"Well, I told them that I knew you quite well and I wouldn't let them come
over. It's all right, though. We'll be partially related to each other by
marriage before long, I understand; so it's all right. You see, I am Mrs.
George Dexter Tresslyn."

"You--you are?" he gasped. "By Jove, I thought that your face was familiar.
I--"

"One of the best advertised faces in New York about two years ago," she
said, and he detected a plaintive note in the flippant remark. "Not so
well-known nowadays, thank God. See here, Dr. Thorpe, I hope you won't
think it out of place for me _to_ congratulate you."

"Congratulate me? My dear Mrs. Tresslyn, it is not I who am to be married.
You confuse me with--"

"I'm congratulating you because you're not the one," said she, her eyes
narrowing. "Bless your soul, I know what I'm talking about. But say no
more. Let's get back to the appendix. Will you do the job for me?"

"Now that we are acquainted with each other," he said, suppressing a
natural excitement, "may we not go over and join Simmy and the Fenns?
Don't you think you'd better consult with them before irrevocably
committing yourself to me?"

"Fine! We'll talk it over together, the whole lot of us. But, I say, don't
forget that I've known you for years--through the family, of course. I want
to thank you first for one thing, Dr. Thorpe. George used to tell me how
you took my part in the--the smash-up. He said you wrote to him from Europe
to be a man and stand by me in spite of everything. That's really what
I've been wanting to say to you, more than the other. Still, I've got to
have it out, so come on. Let's set a day. Mrs. Fenn will go up to the
hospital with me. She's used to hospitals. Says she loves them. She's
trying her best to have Mr. Fenn go in next week to have his out. She's
had five operations and a baby. I'm awfully glad to know you, Dr. Thorpe.
I've always wanted to. I'd like better than anything I know of to be your
first regular patient. It will always be something to boast about in years
to come. It will be splendid to say to people, 'Oh, yes, I am the first
person that ever had her appendix removed by the celebrated Dr. Thorpe.'
It will--"

"But I have removed a great many," he said, carried away by her sprightly
good humour. "In my training days, so to speak."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that," she cried, disappointed. Then her face
brightened: "Still, I suppose you had to learn just where the thing is. It
wouldn't do to go about stabbing people in the wrong place, just as if the
appendix might be any little old where, would it?"

"I should say not," said he, arising and bowing very profoundly. Then he
followed close behind her trim, smart figure as they threaded their way
among the tables.

So this was the "pretty little mustard girl" that all fashionable New York
had talked about in the past and was dancing with in the present. This was
the girl who refused to go to the dogs at the earnest behest of the
redoubtable Mrs. Tresslyn. Somehow he felt that Fate had provided him with
an unexpected pal!

And, to his utter astonishment, he was prevailed upon to perform the
operation! The Fenns and Simeon Dodge decided the matter for him.

"I shall have to give up sailing next week," he said, as pleased as Punch
but contriving to project a wry face. "I can't go away and leave my first
bona-fide patient until she is entirely out of the woods."

"I have engagements for to-morrow and Wednesday," said Mrs. Rumsey Fenn,
after reflection. She was a rather pallid woman of thirty-five who might
have been accused of being bored with life if she had not made so many
successful efforts to prolong it.

"It doesn't happen to be your appendix, my dear," said her husband.

"Goodness, I wish it were," said she, regretfully. "What I mean is that I
can't go to the hospital with Lutie before,--let me see,--before Thursday.
Can you wait that long, dear?"

"Ask Dr. Thorpe," said young Mrs. Tresslyn. "He is my doctor, you know."

"Of course, you all understand that I cannot go ahead and perform an
operation without first determining--"

"Don't you worry," said the patient. "My physician has been after me for a
year to have it out. He'll back me up. I'll telephone him as soon as I get
back home, and I'll have him call you up, Dr. Thorpe. Thanks ever so much.
And, before I forget it, what is the fee to be? You see, I pay my own
bills, so I've got to know the--the worst."

"My fee will be even more reasonable than you hope, Mrs. Tresslyn," said
Braden, smiling. "Just guess at the amount you'd feel able to pay and then
divide it by two, and you'll have it."

"Dear me," cried Mrs. Fenn, "how perfectly satisfactory! Rumsey, you
_must_ have yours out this week. You're always talking about not being
able to afford things, and here's a chance to save money in a way you
never would have suspected."

"Good Lord, Madge," exclaimed her husband, "I've never had a pain in my
life. I wish you wouldn't keep nagging at me all the time to have an
operation performed, whether I need it or not. Let my appendix alone. It's
always treated me with extreme loyalty and respect, so why the deuce
should I turn upon the poor thing and assassinate it?"

"See here, Rumsey," said Simmy Dodge sagely, "if I were in your place I'd
have a perfectly sound tooth pulled some time, just to keep it from aching
when you're an old man. Or you might have your left leg amputated so that
it couldn't be crushed in a railroad accident. You ought to do something
to please Madge, old chap. She's been a thoughtful, devoted wife to you
for twelve or thirteen years, and what have you ever done to please her?
Nothing! You've never so much as had a crick in your neck or a pain that
you couldn't account for, so do be generous, Rumsey. Besides, maybe you
haven't got an appendix at all. Just think how you could crow over her if
they couldn't find one, even after the most careful and relentless search
over your entire system."

"She's always wanting me to die or something like that," growled Fenn;
"but when I talked of going to the Spanish War she went into hysterics."

"We'd only been married a month, Rumsey," said his wife reproachfully.

"But how could I have known that war was to be declared so soon?" he
demanded.

Braden and Simeon Dodge left the restaurant together. They were old
friends, college-mates, and of the same age. Dodge had gone into the law-
school after his academic course, and Thorpe into the medical college.
Their ways did not part, however. Both were looked upon as heirs to huge
fortunes, and to both was offered the rather doubtful popularity that
usually is granted to affluence. Thorpe accepted his share with the
caution of the wise man, while Dodge, not a whit less capable, took his as
a philanderer. He now had an office in a big down-town building, but he
never went near it except when his partner took it into his head to go
away for a month's vacation at the slack season of the year. At such
periods Mr. Dodge, being ages younger than the junior member of the firm,
made it his practice to go down to the office and attend to the business
with an earnestness that surprised every one. He gave over frolicking and
stuck resolutely to the "knitting" that Johnson had left behind. Possessed
of a natural though thrifty intelligence,--one that wasted little in
public,--and a latent energy that could lift him occasionally above a
perfectly normal laziness, he made as much of his opportunities as one
could expect of a young man who has two hundred thousand a year and an
amiable disposition.

No one in the city was more popular than Simmy Dodge, and no one more
deservedly so, for his bad qualities were never so bad that one need
hesitate about calling him a good fellow. His habits were easy but
genteel. When intoxicated he never smashed things, and when sober,--which
was his common condition,--he took extremely good care of other people's
reputations. Women liked him, which should not be surprising; and men
liked him because he was not to be spoiled by the women who liked him,
which is saying a great deal for an indolent young man with money. He had
a smile that always appeared at its best in the morning, and survived the
day with amazing endurance. And that also is saying a great deal for a
young man who is favoured by both sexes and a _supposedly_ neutral Dame
Fortune at the same time. He had broken many of the laws of man and some
of those imposed by God, but he always paid without apology. He was
inevitably pardoned by man and paroled by his Maker,--which is as much as
to say that he led a pretty decent sort of existence and enjoyed
exceedingly good health.

He really wasn't much to look at. Being a trifle under medium height,
weighing less than one hundred and twenty pounds stripped, as wiry as a
cat and as indefatigable as a Scotch terrier, and with an abnormally large
pair of ears that stood out like oyster shells from the sides of a round,
sleek head, he made no pretentions to physical splendour,--unless, by
chance, you would call the perky little straw-coloured moustache that
adorned his long upper lip a tribute to vanity. His eyes were blue and
merry and set wide apart under a bulging, intellectual looking forehead,
and his teeth were large and as white as snow. When he laughed the world
laughed with him, and when he tried to appear downcast the laughter went
on just the same, for then he was more amusing than ever.

"I didn't know you were a friend of hers," said he as they stood in front
of the hotel waiting for the taxi that was to take Thorpe to a hospital.

Thorpe remembered the admonition. "I tried to put a little back-bone into
George Tresslyn at the time of the rumpus, if that's what you'd call being
a friend to her," he said evasively.

"She's a nice little girl," said Simmy, "and she's been darned badly
treated. Mrs. Tresslyn has never gotten over the fact that Lutie made her
pay handsomely to get the noble Georgie back into the smart set. Plucky
little beggar, too. Lot of people like the Fenns and the Roush girls have
taken her up, primarily, I suppose, because the Tresslyns threw her down.
She's making good with them, too, after a fashion all her own. Must be
something fine in a girl like that, Brady,--I mean something worth while.
Straight as a string, and a long way from being a disgrace to the name of
Tresslyn. Quaint, isn't she?"

"Amazingly so. I think George would marry her all over again if she'd have
him, mother or no mother."

"Well, she's quaint in another respect," said Dodge. "She still considers
herself to be George Tresslyn's wife."

"Religion?"

"Not a bit of it. She just says she is, that's all, and what God joined
together no woman can put asunder. She means Mrs. Tresslyn, of course. By
the way, Brady, I wonder if I'm still enough of a pal to be allowed to say
something to you." The blue eyes were serious and there was a sort of
caressing note in his voice.

"We've always been pals, Simmy."

"Well, it's just this: I'm darned sorry things have turned out as they
have for you. It's a rotten shame. Why don't you choke that old
grandparent of yours? Put him out of his misery. Anne has told me of your
diabolical designs upon the hopelessly afflicted. She used to talk about
it for hours while you were in London,--and I had to listen with shivers
running up and down my back all the time. Nobody on earth could blame you
for putting the quietus on old Templeton Thorpe. He is about as hopelessly
afflicted as any one I know,--begging your pardon for treading on the
family toes."

"He's quite sane, Simmy," said Braden, with a smile that was meant to be
pleasant but fell short of the mark.

"He's an infernal old traitor, then," said Simmy hotly. "I wouldn't treat
a dog as he has treated you,--no kind of a dog, mind you. Not even a
Pekinese, and I hate 'em worse than snakes. What the devil does Anne mean?
Lordy, Lordy, man, she's always been in love with you. She--but, forgive
me, old chap, I oughtn't to run on like this. I didn't mean to open a
sore--"

"It's all right, Simmy. I understand. Thanks, old boy. It was a pretty
stiff blow, but--well, I'm still on my pins, as you see."

Dodge was hanging onto the door of the taxi, impeding his friend's
departure. "She's too fine a girl to be doing a rotten thing like this. I
don't mind telling you I've always been in--er--that is, I've always had a
tender spot for Anne. I suppose you know that?"

"I know that, Simmy."

"Hang it all, I never dreamed that she'd look at any one else but you, so
I never even peeped a word to her about my own feelings. And here she
goes, throwing you over like a shot, and spilling everything. Confound it,
man, if I'd thought she could possibly want to marry anybody else but you,
I'd have had my try. The good Lord knows I'm not much, but by thunder, I'm
not decrepit. I--I suppose it was the money, eh?"

"That's for you to say, Simmy; certainly not for me."

"If it's money she's after and not an Adonis, I don't see why the deuce
she didn't advertise. I would have answered in a minute. I can't help
saying it, old man, but I feel sorry for Anne, 'pon my soul, I do. I don't
think she's doing this of her own free will. See what her mother did to
George and that little girl in there? I tell you there's something nasty
and--"

"I may as well tell you that Anne _is_ doing this thing of her own free
will," said Braden gravely.

"I don't believe it," said Dodge.

"At any rate, Simmy, I'm grateful to you for standing clear while there
was still a chance for me. So long! I must be getting up to the hospital,
and then around to see her doctor."

"So long, Brady. See you on Thursday." He meant, good soul, that he would
be at the hospital on that day.




CHAPTER VIII


An hour later, Mr. Simeon Dodge appeared at the home of Anne Tresslyn. In
place of his usual care-free manner there now rested upon him an air of
extreme gravity. This late afternoon visit was the result of an
inspiration. After leaving Thorpe he found himself deeply buried in
reflection which amounted almost to abstraction. He was disturbed by the
persistency of the thoughts that nagged at him, no matter whither his
aimless footsteps carried him. For the life of him, he could not put from
his mind the conviction that Anne Tresslyn was not responsible for her
actions.

He was convinced that she had been bullied, cowed, coerced, or whatever
you like, into this atrocious marriage, and, of course, there could be no
one to blame but her soulless mother. The girl ought to be saved. (These
are Simmy's thoughts.) She was being sacrificed to the greed of an
unnatural mother. Admitting, for the sake of argument, that she was no
longer in love with Braden Thorpe, there still remained the positive
conviction that she could not be in love with any one else, and certainly
not with that treacherous old man in Washington Square. That, of course,
was utterly impossible, so there was but the one alternative: she was
being forced into a marriage that would bring the most money into the
hands of the designing and, to him, clearly unnatural parent.

He knew nothing of the ante-nuptial settlement, nor was he aware of the
old man's quixotic design in coming between Braden and the girl he loved.
To Simmy it was nothing short of brigandage, a sort of moral outlawry. Old
Templeton Thorpe deserved a coat of tar and feathers, and there was no
word for the punishment that ought to be meted out to Mrs. Tresslyn. He
tried to think of what ought to be done to her, and, getting as far as
boiling oil, gave up in despair, for even that was too much like
compassion.

Money! The whole beastly business was money! He thought of his own
unestimated wealth. Nothing but money,--horrible, insensate, devastating
money! He shuddered as he thought of what his money was likely to bring to
him in the end: a loveless wife; avarice in place of respect; misery
instead of joy; destruction! How was he ever to know whether a girl was
marrying him for himself or for the right to lay hands upon the money his
father had left to him when he died? How can any rich man know what he is
getting into when he permits a girl to come into his home? To burglarise
it with the sanction of State and Church, perhaps, and to escape with the
connivance of both after she's got all she wants. That's where the poor
man has an advantage over the unprotected rich: he is never confronted by
a problem like this. He doesn't have to stop and wonder why the woman
marries him. He knows it's love, or stupidity, or morality, but it is
never duplicity.

Before he got through with it, Simmy had worked himself into a state of
desperation. Regarding himself with unprejudiced eyes he saw that he was
not the sort of man a girl would choose for a husband unless he had
something besides a happy, loving disposition to offer. She would marry
him for his money, of course; certainly he would be the last to suspect
her of marrying him for his beauty. He had never thought of it in this
light before, and he was wet with the sweat of anguish. He could never be
sure! He could love a woman with all his heart and soul, and still never
be sure of her! Were all the girls he had loved in his college days--But
here he stopped. It was too terrible to even contemplate, this unmerited
popularity of his! If only one of them had been honest enough to make fun
of his ears, or to snicker when he became impassioned, or to smile
contemptuously from her superior height when he asked her to dance,--if
only one of them had turned her back upon him, then he would have grasped
the unwelcome truth about himself. But, now that he thought of it, not one
of them had ever turned a deaf ear to his cajoleries, not one had failed
to respond to his blandishments, not one had been sincere enough to frown
upon him when he tried to be witty. And that brought him to another
sickening standstill: was he as bright and clever and witty as people made
him out to be? Wasn't he a dreadful bore, a blithering ass, after all? He
felt himself turning cold to the marrow as he thought of the real value
that people placed upon him. He even tried to recall a single thing that
he had ever said that he could now, in sober judgment, regard as bright or
even fairly clever. He couldn't, so then, after all, it was quite clear
that he was tolerated because he had nothing but money.

Just as he was about to retire from his club where he had gone for solace,
an inspiration was born. It sent him forthwith to Anne Tresslyn's home,
dogged, determined and manfully disillusioned.

"Miss Tresslyn is very busy, Mr. Dodge," said Rawson, "but she says she
will see you, sir, if you will wait a few moments."

"I'll wait," said Simmy, and sat down.

He had come to the remarkable conclusion that as long as some one had to
marry him for his money it might as well be Anne. He was fond of her and
he could at least spare her the ignominy and horror of being wedded to old
Templeton Thorpe. With his friend Braden admittedly out of the running,
there was no just cause why he should not at least have a try at saving
Anne. She might jump at the chance. He was already blaming himself for not
having recognised her peril, her dire necessity, long before this. And
since he had reached the dismal conclusion that no one could possibly love
him, it would be the sensible thing on his part to at least marry some one
whom he loved, thereby securing, in a way, half of a bargain when he might
otherwise have to put up with nothing at all. At any rate, he would be
doing Anne a good turn by marrying her, and it was reasonably certain that
she would not bring him any more unhappiness than any other woman who
might accept him.

As he sat there waiting for her he began to classify his financial
holdings, putting certain railroads and industrials into class one, others
into class two, and so on to the best of his ability to recollect what
really comprised his fortune. It was rather a hopeless task, for to save
his life he could not remember whether he had Lake Shore stock or West
Shore stock, and he did not know what Standard Oil was selling at, nor any
of the bank stocks except the Fifth Avenue, which seldom went below forty-
five hundred. There might be a very awkward situation, too, if he couldn't
justify his proposal with facts instead of conjectures. Suppose that she
came out point blank and asked him what he was worth: what could he say?
But then, of course, she wouldn't have to ask such a question. If she
considered it possible to marry him, she would _know_ how much he was
worth without inquiring. As a matter of fact, she probably knew to a
dollar, and that was a great deal more than he knew.

Half an hour passed before she came down. She was wearing her hat and was
buttoning her gloves as she came hurriedly into the room. Simmy had a
startling impression that he had seen a great many women putting on their
gloves as they came into rooms where he was waiting. The significance of
this extraordinary custom had never struck him with full force before. In
the gloom of his present appraisal of himself, he now realised with
shocking distinctness that the women he called upon were always on the
point of going somewhere else.

"Hello, Simmy," cried Anne gaily. He had never seen her looking more
beautiful. There was real colour in her smooth cheeks and the sparkle of
enthusiasm in her big, dark eyes.

He shook hands with her. "Hello," he said.

"I can spare you just twenty minutes, Simmy," she said, peering at the
little French clock on the mantelpiece with the frankest sort of
calculation. "Going to the dressmaker's at five, you know. It's a great
business, this getting married, Simmy. You ought to try it."

"I know I ought," said he, pulling a chair up close to hers. "That's what
I came to see you about, Anne."

She gave a little shriek of wonder. "For heaven's sake, Simmy, don't tell
me that _you_ are going to be married. I can't believe it."

He made note of the emphasis she put upon the pronoun, and secretly
resented it.

"Depends entirely on you, Anne," he said. He looked over his shoulder to
see if any one was within the sound of his voice, which he took the
precaution to lower to what had always been a successful tone in days when
he was considered quite an excellent purveyor of sweet nothings in dim
hallways, shady nooks and unpopulated stairways. "I want you to marry me
right away," he went on, but not with that amazing confidence of yester-
years.

Anne blinked. Then she drew back and stared at him for a moment. A merry
smile followed her brief inspection.

"Simmy, you've been drinking."

He scowled, and at that she laughed aloud. "'Pon my soul, not more than
three, Anne. I rarely drink in the middle of the day. Almost never, I
swear to you. Confound it, why should you say I've been drinking? Can't I
be serious without being accused of drunkenness? What the devil do you
mean, Anne, by intimating that I--"

"Don't explode, Simmy," she cried. "I wasn't intimating a thing. I was
positively asserting it. But go on, please. You interest me. Don't try to
look injured, Simmy. You can't manage it at all."

"I didn't come here to be insulted," he growled.

"Did you come here to insult me?" she inquired, the smile suddenly leaving
her eyes.

"Good Lord, no!" he gasped. "Only I don't like what you said a minute ago.
I never was more serious or more sober in my life. You've been proposed to
a hundred times, I suppose, and I'll bet I'm the only one you've ever
accused of drinking at the time. It's just my luck. I--"

"What in the world are you trying to get at, Simmy Dodge?" she cried. "Are
you really asking me to marry you?"

"Certainly," he said, far from mollified.

She leaned back in the chair and regarded him in silence for a moment. "Is
it possible that you have not heard that I am to be married this month?"
she asked, and there was something like pity in her manner.

"Heard it? Of course, I've heard it. Everybody's heard it. That's just
what I've come to see you about. To talk the whole thing over. To see if
we can't do something. Now, there is a way out of it, dear girl. It may
not be the best way in the world but it's infinitely--"

"Are you crazy?" she cried, staring at him in alarm.

"See here, Anne," he said gently, "I am your friend. It will not make any
difference to you if I tell you that I love you, that I've loved you for
years. It's true nevertheless. I'm glad that I've at last had the courage
to tell you. Still I suppose it's immaterial. I've come up here this
afternoon to ask you to be my wife. I don't ask you to _say_ that you love
me. I don't want to put you in such a position as that. I know you don't
love me, but--"

"Simmy! Oh, Simmy!" she cried out, a hysterical laugh in her throat that
died suddenly in a strange, choking way. She was looking at him now with
wide, comprehending eyes.

"I can't bear to see you married to that old man, Anne," he went on. "It
is too awful for words. You are one of the most perfect of God's
creations. You shall not be sacrificed on this damned altar of--I beg your
pardon, I did not mean to begin by accusing any one of deliberately
forcing you into--into--" He broke off and pulled fiercely at his little
moustache.

"I see now," she said presently. "You are willing to sacrifice yourself in
order that I may be spared. Is that it?"

"It isn't precisely a sacrifice. At least, it isn't quite the same sort of
sacrifice that goes with your case as it now stands. In this instance, one
of us at least is moved by a feeling of love;--in the other, there is no
love at all. If you will take me, Anne, you will get a man who adores you
for yourself. Isn't there something in that? I can give you everything
that old man Thorpe can give, with love thrown in. I understand the
situation. You are not marrying that old man because you love him. There's
something back of it all that you can't tell me, and I shall not ask you
to do so. But listen, dear; I'm decent, I'm honest, I'm young and I'm
rich. I can give you everything that money will buy. Good Lord, I wish I
could remember just what I've got to offer you in the way of--But, never
mind now. If you'd like it, I'll have my secretary make out a complete
list of--"

"So you think I am marrying Mr. Thorpe for his money,--is that it, Simmy
dear?" she asked.

"I know it," said he promptly. "That is, you are marrying him because some
one else--ahem! You can't expect me to believe that you love the old
codger."

"No, I can't expect that of any one. Thank you, Simmy. I think I
understand. You really want to--to save me. Isn't that so?"

"I do, Anne, God knows I do," he said fervently. "It's the most beastly,
diabolical--"

"You have been fair with me, Simmy," she broke in seriously, "so I'll be
fair with you. I am marrying Mr. Thorpe for his money. I ought to be
ashamed to confess it openly in this way, but I'm not. Every one knows
just why I am going into this thing, and every one is putting the blame
upon my mother. She is not wholly to blame. I am not being driven into it.
It's in the blood of us. We are that kind. We are a bad lot, Simmy, we
women of the breed. It goes a long way back, and we're all alike. Don't
ask me to say anything more, dear old boy. I'm just a rotter, so let it go
at that."

"You're nothing of the sort," he exclaimed, seizing her hand. "You're
nothing of the sort!"

"Oh, yes, I am," she said wearily.

"See here, Anne," he said earnestly, "why not take me? If it's a matter of
money, and nothing else, why not take me? That's what I mean. That's just
what I wanted to explain to you. Think it over, Anne. For heaven's sake,
don't go on with the other thing. Chuck it all and--take me. I won't bother
you much. You can have all the money you need--and more, if you ask for it.
Hang it all, I'll settle a stipulated amount upon you before we take
another step. A million, two millions,--I don't care a hang,--only don't
spoil this bright, splendid young life of yours by--Oh, Lordy, it's
incomprehensible!"

She patted the back of his hand, gently, even tremblingly. Her eyes were
very bright and very solemn.

"It has to go on now, Simmy," she said at last.

For a long time they were silent.

"I hope you have got completely over your love for Braden Thorpe," he
said. "But, of course, you have. You don't care for him any more. You
couldn't care for him and go on with this. It wouldn't be human, you
know."

"No, it wouldn't be human," she said, her face rigid.

He was staring intently at the floor. Something vague yet sure was forming
in his brain, something that grew to comprehension before he spoke.

"By Jove, Anne," he muttered, "I am beginning to understand. You wouldn't
marry a _young_ man for his money. It has to be an old man, an incredibly
old man. I see!"

"I would not marry a young man, Simmy, for anything but love," she said
simply. "I would not live for years with a man unless I loved him, be he
poor or rich. Now you have it, my friend. I'm a pretty bad one, eh?"

"No, siree! I'd say it speaks mighty well for you," he cried
enthusiastically. His whimsical smile returned and the points of his
little moustache went up once more. "Just think of waiting for a golden
wedding anniversary with a duffer like me! By Jove, I can see the horror
of that myself. You just couldn't do it. I get your idea perfectly, Anne.
Would it interest you if I were to promise to be extremely reckless with
my life? You see, I'm always taking chances with my automobiles. Had three
or four bad smash-ups already, and one broken arm. I _could_ be a little
more reckless and _very_ careless if you think it would help. I've never
had typhoid or pneumonia. I could go about exposing myself to all sorts of
things after a year or two. Flying machines, too, and long distance
swimming. I might even try to swim the English Channel. North Pole
expeditions, African wild game hunts,--all that sort of thing, Anne. I'll
promise to do everything in my power to make life as short as possible, if
you'll only--"

"Oh, Simmy, you are killing," she cried, laughing through her tears. "I
shall always adore you."

"That's what they all say. Well, I've done my best, Anne. If you'll run
away with me to-night, or to-morrow, or any time before the twenty-third,
I'll be the happiest man in the world. You can call me up any time,--at the
club or at my apartment. I'll be ready. Think it over. Good-bye. I wish I
could wish you good luck in this other--but, of course, you couldn't expect
that. We're a queer lot, all of us. I've always had a sneaking suspicion
that if my mother had married the man she was truly in love with, I'd be a
much better-looking chap than I am to-day."

She was standing beside him at the door, nearly a head taller than he.

"Or," she amended with a dainty grimace, "you might be a very beautiful
girl, and that would be dreadful."




CHAPTER IX


The day before the wedding, little Mrs. George Dexter Tresslyn,
satisfactorily shorn of her appendix and on the rapid road to recovery
that is traveled only by the perfectly healthy of mankind, confided to her
doctor that the mystery of the daily bunch of roses was solved. They
represented the interest and attention of her ex-husband, and, while they
were unaccompanied by a single word from him, they also signified
devotion.

"Which means that he is still making love to you?" said Thorpe, with mock
severity.

"Clandestinely," said she, with a lovely blush and a curious softening of
her eyes. She was wondering how this big, strong friend of hers would take
the information, and how far she could go in her confidences without
adventuring upon forbidden territory. Would he close the gates in the wall
that guarded his own opinions of the common foe, or would he let her
inside long enough for a joint discussion of the condition that confronted
both of them: the Tresslyn nakedness? "He has been inquiring about me
twice a day by telephone, Doctor, and this morning he was down stairs. My
night nurse knows him by sight. He was here at half-past seven. That's
very early for George, believe me. This hospital is a long way from where
he lives. I would say that he got up at six or half-past, wouldn't you?"

"If he went to bed at all," said Thorpe, with a grim smile.

"Anyhow, it proves something, doesn't it?" she persisted.

"Obviously. He is still in love with you, if that's what you want me to
say."

"That's just what I wanted you to say," she cried, her eyes sparkling.
"Poor George! He's a dear, and I don't care who hears me say it. If he'd
had any kind of a chance at all we wouldn't be--Oh, well, what's the use
talking about it?" She sighed deeply.

Braden watched her flushed, drawn face with frowning eyes. He realised
that she had suffered long in silence, that her heart had been wrung in
the bitter stretches of a thousand nights despite the gay indifference of
the thousand days that lay between them. For nearly three years she had
kept alive the hungry thing that gnawed at her heart and would not be
denied. He was sorry for her. She was better than most of the women he
knew in one respect if in no other: she was steadfast. She had made a
bargain and it was not her fault that it was not binding. He had but
little pity for George Tresslyn. The little he had was due to the belief
that if the boy had been older he would have fought a better fight for the
girl. As she lay there now, propped up against the pillows, he could not
help contrasting her with the splendid, high-bred daughter of Constance
Tresslyn. That she was a high-minded, honest, God-fearing girl he could
not for an instant doubt, but that she lacked the--there is but one word
for it--_class_ of the Tresslyn women he could not but feel as well as see.
There was a distinct line between them, a line that it would take
generations to cross. Still, she was a loyal, warm-hearted enduring
creature, and by qualities such as these she mounted to a much higher
plane than Anne Tresslyn could ever hope to attain, despite her position
on the opposite side of the line. He had never seen George's wife in
anything but a blithe, confident mood; she was an unbeaten little warrior
who kept her colours flying in the face of a despot called Fate. In fact,
she was worthy of a better man than young Tresslyn, worthy of the steel of
a nobler foe than his mother.

He was eager to comfort her. "It is pretty fine of George, sending you
these flowers every day. I am getting a new light on him. Has he ever
suggested to you in any way the possibility of--of--well, you know what I
mean?"

"Fixing it up again between us?" she supplied, an eager light in her eyes.
"No, never, Dr. Thorpe. He has never spoken to me, never written a line to
me. That's fine of him too. He loves me, I'm sure of it, and he wants me,
but it _is_ fine of him not to bother me, now isn't it? He knows he could
drag me back into the muddle, he knows he could make a fool of me, and yet
he will not take that advantage of me."

"Would you go back to him if he asked you to do so?"

"I suppose so," she sighed. Then brightly: "So, you see, I shall refuse to
see him if he ever comes to plead. That's the only way. We must go our
separate ways, as decreed. I am his wife but I must not so far forget
myself as to think that he is my husband. I know, Dr. Thorpe, that if we
had been left alone, we could have managed somehow. He was young, but so
was I. I am not quite impossible, am I? Don't these friends of yours like
me, don't they find something worth while in me? If I were as common, as
undesirable as Mrs. Tresslyn would have me to be, why do people of your
kind like me,--take me up, as the saying is? I know that I don't really
belong, I know I'm not just what they are, but I'm not so awfully
hopeless, now am I? Isn't Mrs. Fenn a nice woman? Doesn't she go about in
the smart set?"

She appeared to be pleading with him. He smiled.

"Mrs. Fenn is a very nice woman and a very smart one," he said. "You have
many exceedingly nice women among your friends. So be of good cheer, if
that signifies anything to you." He was chaffing her in his most amiable
way.

"It signifies a lot," she said seriously. "By rights, I suppose, I should
have gone to the devil. That's what was expected of me, you know. When I
took all that money from Mrs. Tresslyn, it wasn't for the purpose of
beating my way to the devil as fast as I could. I took it for an entirely
different reason: to put myself where I could tell other people to go to
him if I felt so inclined. I took it so that I could make of myself, if
possible, the sort of woman that George Tresslyn might have married
without stirring up a row in the family. I've taken good care of all that
money. It is well invested. I manage to live and dress on the income.
Rather decent of me, isn't it? Surprisingly decent, you might say, eh?"

"Surprisingly," he agreed, smiling.

"What George Tresslyn needs, Dr. Thorpe, is something to work for,
something to make work an object to him. What has he got to work for now?
Nothing, absolutely nothing. He's merely keeping up appearances, and he'll
never get anywhere in God's world until he finds out that it's a waste of
time working for a living that's already provided for him."

Thorpe was impressed by this quaint philosophy. "Would you, in your
wisdom, mind telling me just what you think George would be capable of
doing in order to earn a living for two people instead of one?"

She looked at him in surprise. "Why, isn't he big and strong and hasn't he
a brain and a pair of hands? What more can a man require in this little
old age? A big, strapping fellow doesn't have to sit down and say 'What in
heaven's name am I to do with these things that God has given me?' Doesn't
a blacksmith earn enough for ten sometimes, and how about the carpenter,
the joiner and the man who brings the ice? Didn't I earn a living up to
the time I burnt my fingers and had to be pensioned for dishonourable
service? It didn't take much strength or intelligence to demonstrate
mustard, did it? And you sit there and ask me what George is capable of
doing! Why, he could do _anything_ if he had to."

"You are really a very wonderful person," said he, with conviction. "I
believe you could have made a man of George if you'd had the chance."

She looked down. "I suppose the world thinks I made him what he is now, so
what's the use speculating? Let's talk about you for awhile. Miss McKane
won't be back for a few minutes, so let's chat some more. Didn't I hear
you tell her yesterday that you expect to leave for London about the
first?"

"If you are up and about," said he.

She hesitated, a slight frown on her brow. "Do you know that you are pale
and tired-looking, Dr. Thorpe? Have you looked in the glass at yourself
lately?"

"Regularly," he said, forcing a smile. "I shave once a day, and I--"

"I'm serious. You don't look happy. You may confide in me, Doctor. I think
you ought to talk to some one about it. Are you still in love with Miss
Tresslyn? Is that what's taking the colour out--"

"I am not in love with Miss Tresslyn," he said, meeting her gaze steadily.
"That is all over. I will confess that I have been dreadfully hurt,
terribly shocked. A man doesn't get over such things easily or quickly. I
will not pretend that I am happy. So, if that explains my appearance to
you, Mrs. Tresslyn, we'll say no more about it."

Her eyes filled with tears. "Oh, I'm sorry if I've--if I've meddled,--if
I've been too--"

"Don't worry," he broke in quickly. "I don't in the least mind. In fact,
I'm glad you gave me the opportunity to say in so many words that I do not
love her. I've never said it before. I'm glad that I have said it. It
helps, after all."

"You'll be happy yet," she sniffled. "I know you will. The world is full
of good, noble women, and there's one somewhere who will make you glad
that this thing has happened to you. Now, we'll change the subject. Miss
McKane may pop in at any moment, you know. Have you any new patients?"

He smiled again. "No. You are my sole and only, Mrs. Fenn can't persuade
Rumsey to have a thing done to him, and Simmy Dodge refuses to break his
neck for scientific purposes, so I've given up hope. I shall take no more
cases. In a year I may come back from London and then I'll go snooping
about for nice little persons like you who--"

"Simmy Dodge says you are not living at your grandfather's house any
longer," she broke, irrelevantly.

"I am at a hotel," he said, and no more.

"I see," she said, frowning very darkly for her.

He studied her face for a moment, and then arose from the chair beside her
bed. "You may be interested to hear that while I am invited to attend the
wedding to-morrow afternoon I shall not be there," he said, divining her
thoughts.

"I didn't like to ask," she said. The nurse came into the room. "He says
I'm doing as well as could be expected, Miss McKane," she said glibly,
"and if nothing unforeseen happens I'll be dodging automobiles in Fifth
Avenue inside of two weeks. Good-bye, Doctor."

"Good-bye. I'll look in to-morrow--afternoon," he said.

       *       *       *       *       *

The marriage of Anne Tresslyn and Templeton Thorpe took place at the home
of the bridegroom at four o'clock on the afternoon of the twenty-third. A
departure from the original plans was made imperative at the eleventh hour
by the fact that Mr. Thorpe had been quite ill during the night. His
condition was in no sense alarming, but the doctors announced that a
postponement of the wedding was unavoidable unless the ceremony could be
held in the Thorpe home instead of at Mrs. Tresslyn's as originally
planned. Moreover, the already heavily curtailed list of guests would have
to be narrowed to even smaller proportions. The presence of so many as the
score of selected guests might prove to be hazardous in view of the old
gentleman's state of nerves, not to say health. Mr. Thorpe was able to be
up and about with the aid of the imperturbable Wade, but he was
exceedingly irascible and hard to manage. He was annoyed with Braden. When
the strange illness came early in the night, he sent out for his grandson.
He wanted him to be there if anything serious was to result from the
stroke,--he persisted in calling it a stroke, scornfully describing his
attack as a "rush of blood to the head from a heart that had been squeezed
too severely by old Father Time." Braden was not to be found. What annoyed
Mr. Thorpe most was the young man's unaccountable disposition to desert
him in his hour of need. In his querulous tirade, he described his
grandson over and over again as an ingrate, a traitor, a good-for-nothing
without the slightest notion of what an obligation means.

He did not know, and was not to know for many days, that his grandson had
purposely left town with the determination not to return until the ill-
mated couple were well on their way to the Southland, where the ludicrous
honeymoon was to be spent. And so it was that the old family doctor had to
be called in to take charge of Mr. Thorpe in place of the youngster on
whom he had spent so much money and of whom he expected such great and
glorious things.

He would not listen to a word concerning a postponement. Miss Tresslyn was
called up on the telephone by Wade at eight o'clock in the morning, and
notified of the distressing situation. What was to be done? At first no
one seemed to know what _could_ be done, and there was a tremendous flurry
that for the time being threatened to deprive Mr. Thorpe of a mother-in-
law before the time set for her to actually become one. Doctors were
summoned to revive the prostrated Mrs. Tresslyn. She went all to pieces,
according to reports from the servants' hall. In an hour's time, however,
she was herself once more, and then it was discovered that a postponement
was the last thing in the world to be considered in a crisis of such
magnitude. Hasty notes were despatched hither and thither; caterers and
guests alike were shunted off with scant ceremony; chauffeurs were
commandeered and motors confiscated; everybody was rushing about in
systematic confusion, and no one paused to question the commands of the
distracted lady who rose sublimely to the situation. So promptly and
effectually was order substituted for chaos that when the clock in Mr.
Thorpe's drawing-room struck the hour of four, exactly ten people were
there and two of them were facing a minister of the gospel,--one in an arm
chair with pillows surrounding him, the other standing tall and slim and
as white as the driven snow beside him....

Late that night, Mr. George Tresslyn came upon Simmy Dodge in the buffet
at the Plaza.

"Well, you missed it," he said thickly. His high hat was set far back on
his head and his face was flushed.

"Come over here in the corner," said Simmy, with discernment, "and for
heaven's sake don't talk above a whisper."

"Whisper?" said George, annoyed. "What do I want to whisper for? I don't
want to whisper, Simmy. I never whisper. I hate to hear people whisper. I
refuse to whisper to anybody."

Simmy took him by the arm and led him to a table in a corner remote from
others that were occupied.

"Maybe you'd rather go for a drive in the Park," he said engagingly.

"Nonsense! I've been driven all day, Simmy. I don't want to be driven any
more. I'm tired, that's what's the matter with me. Dog-tired, understand?
Have a drink? Here, boy!"

"Thanks, George, I don't care for a drink. No, not for me, thank you.
Strictly on the wagon, you know. Better let it alone yourself. Take my
advice, George. You're not a drinking man and you can't stand it."

George glowered at him for a moment, and then let his eyes fall. "Guess
you're right, Simmy. I've had enough. Never mind, waiter. First time I've
been like this in a mighty long time, Simmy. But don't think I'm
celebrating, because I ain't. I'm drowning something, that's all." He was
almost in tears by this time. "I can't help thinking about her standin'
there beside that old--Oh, Lord! I can't talk about it."

"That's right," said Simmy, persuasively. "I wouldn't if I were you. Come
along with me. I'll walk home with you, George. A good night's rest will
put--"

"Rest? My God, Simmy, I'm never going to rest again, not even in my grave.
Say, do you know who I blame for all this business? Do you?"

"Sh!"

"I won't shoosh! I blame myself. I am to blame and no one else. If I'd
been any kind of a man I'd have put my foot down--just like that--and
stopped the thing. That's what I'd have done if I'd been a man, Simmy. And
instead of stoppin' it, do you know what I did? I went down there and
stood up with old Thorpe as his best man. Can you beat that? His best man!
My God! Wait a minute. See, he was sittin' just like you are--lean back a
little and drop your chin--and I was standing right here, see--on this side
of him. Just like this. And over here was Anne--oh, Lord! And here was
Katherine Browne,--best maid, you know,--I mean maid of honour. Standin'
just like this, d'you see? And then right in front here was the preacher.
Say, where do all these preachers come from? I've never seen that feller
in all my life, and still they say he's an old friend of the family. Fine
business for a preacher to be in, wasn't it? Fi-ine bus-i-ness! He ought
to have been ashamed of himself. By Gosh, come to think of it, I believe
he was worse than I. He might have got out of it if he'd tried. He looked
like a regular man, and I'm nothing but a fish-worm."

"Not so loud, George, for heaven's sake. You don't want all these men in
here to--"

"Right you are, Simmy, right you are. I'm one of the fellers that talks
louder than anybody else and thinks he's as big as George Washington
because he's got a bass voice." He lowered his voice to a hoarse, raucous
whisper and went on. "And mother stood over there, see,--right about where
that cuspidor is,--and looked at the preacher all the time. Watchin' to see
that he kept his face straight, I suppose. Couple of old rummies standin'
back there where that table is, all dressed up in Prince Alberts and
shaved within an inch of their lives. Lawyers, I heard afterwards. Old
Mrs. Browne and Doc. Bates stood just behind me. Now you have it, just as
it was. Curtains all down and electric lights going full blast. It
wouldn't have been so bad if the lights had been out. Couldn't have seen
old Tempy, for one thing, and Anne's face for another. I'll never forget
Anne's face." His own face was now as white as chalk and convulsed with
genuine emotion.

Simmy was troubled. There was that about George Tresslyn that suggested a
subsequent catastrophe. He was in no mood to be left to himself. There was
the despairing look of the man who kills in his eyes, but who kills only
himself.

"See here, George, let's drop it now. Don't go on like this. Come along,
do. Come to my rooms and I'll make you comfortable for the--"

But George was not through with his account of the wedding. He
straightened up and, gritting his teeth, went on with the story. "Then
there were the responses, Simmy,--the same that we had, Lutie and I,--just
the same, only they sounded queer and awful and strange to-day. Only young
people ought to get married, Simmy. It doesn't seem so rotten when young
people lie like that to each other. Before I really knew what had happened
the preacher had pronounced them husband and wife, and there I stood like
a block of marble and held my peace when he asked if any one knew of a
just cause why they shouldn't be joined in holy wedlock. I never even
opened my lips. Then everybody rushed up and congratulated Anne! And
kissed her, and made all sorts of horrible noises over her. And then what
do you think happened? Old Tempy up and practically ordered everybody out
of the house. Said he was tired and wanted to be left alone. 'Good-bye,'
he said, just like that, right in our faces--right in mother's face, and
the preacher's, and old Mrs. Browne's. You could have heard a pin drop.
'Good-bye,' that's what he said, and then, will you believe it, he turned
to one of the pie-faced lawyers and said to him: 'Will you turn over that
package to my wife, Mr. Hollenback?' and then he says to that man of his:
'Wade, be good enough to hand Mr. Tresslyn the little acknowledgment for
his services?' Then and there, that lawyer gave Anne a thick envelope and
Wade gave me a little box,--a little bit of a box that I wish I'd kept to
bury the old skinflint in. It would be just about his size. I had it in my
vest pocket for awhile. 'Wade, your arm,' says he, and then with what he
probably intended to be a sweet smile for Anne, he got to his feet and
went out of the room, holding his side and bending over just as if he was
having a devil of time to keep from laughing out loud. I heard the doctor
say something about a pain there, but I didn't pay much attention. What do
you think of that? Got right up and left his guests, his bride and
everybody standing there like a lot of goops. His bride, mind you. I'm
dead sure that so-called stroke of his was all a bluff. He just put one
over on us, that's all. Wasn't any more sick than I am. Didn't you hear
about the stroke? Stroke of luck, I'd call it. And say, what do you think
he gave me as a little acknowledgment for my services? Look! Feast your
eyes upon it!" He turned back the lapel of his coat and fumbled for a
moment before extracting from the cloth a very ordinary looking scarf-pin,
a small aqua-marine surrounded by a narrow rim of pearls. "Great, isn't
it? Magnificent tribute! You could get a dozen of 'em for fifty dollars.
That's what I got for being best man at my sister's funeral, and, by God,
it's more than I deserved at that. He had me sized up properly, I'll say
that for him."

He bowed his head dejectedly, his lips working in a sort of spasmodic
silence. Dodge eyed him with a curious, new-born commiseration. The boy's
self-abasement, his misery, his flouting of his own weakness were not
altogether the result of maudlin reaction. He presented a combination of
manliness and effectiveness that perplexed and irritated Simeon Dodge. He
did not want to feel sorry for him and yet he could not help doing so.
George's broad shoulders and splendid chest were heaving under the strain
of a genuine, real emotion. Drink was not responsible for his present
estimate of himself; it had merely opened the gates to expression.

Simmy's scrutiny took in the fine, powerful body of this incompetent
giant,--for he was a giant to Simmy,--and out of his appraisal grew a fresh
complaint against the Force that fashions men with such cruel
inconsistency. What would not he perform if he were fashioned like this
splendid being? Why had God given to George Tresslyn all this strength and
beauty, to waste and abuse, when He might have divided His gifts with a
kindlier hand? To what heights of attainment in all the enterprises of man
would not he have mounted if Nature had but given to him the shell that
George Tresslyn occupied? And why should Nature have put an incompetent,
useless dweller into such a splendid house when he would have got on just
as well or better perhaps in an insignificant body like his own?
Proportions were wrong, outrageously wrong, grieved Simmy as he studied
the man who despised the strength God had given him. And down in his
honest, despairing soul, Simmy Dodge was saying to himself that he would
cheerfully give all of his wealth, all of his intelligence, all of his
prospects, in exchange for a physical body like George Tresslyn's. He
would court poverty for the privilege of enjoying other triumphs along the
road to happiness.

"Why don't you say something?" demanded George, suddenly looking up. "Call
me whatever you please, Simmy; I'll not resent it. Hang it all, I'll let
you kick me if you want to. Wouldn't you like to, Simmy?"

"Lord love you, no, my boy," cried the other, reaching out and laying a
hand on George's shoulder. "See here, George, there's a great deal more to
you than you suspect. You've got everything that a man ought to have
except one thing, and you can get that if you make up your mind to go
after it."

"What's that?" said George, vaguely interested.

"Independence," said Simmy. "Do you know what I'd do if I had that body
and brain of yours?"

"Yes," said George promptly. "You'd go out and lick the world, Simmy,
because you're that kind of a feller. You've got character, you have.
You've got self-respect, and ideals, and nerve. I ought to have been put
into your body and you into mine."

Simmy winced. "Strike out for yourself, George. Be somebody. Buck up,
and--"

George sagged back into the chair as he gloomily interrupted the speaker.
"That's all very fine, Simmy, that sort of talk, but I'm not in the mood
to listen to it now. I wasn't through telling you about the wedding. Where
was I when I stopped? Oh, yes, the scarf-pin. Hey, waiter! Come here a
second."

A waiter approached. With great solemnity George arose and grasped him by
the shoulder, and a moment later had removed the nickel-plated badge from
the man's lapel. The waiter was tolerant. He grinned. It was what he was
expected to do under the circumstances. But he was astonished by the next
act of the tall young man in evening clothes. George proceeded to jam the
scarf-pin into the fellow's coat where the badge of service had rested the
instant before. Then, with Simmy looking on in disgust, he pinned the
waiter's badge upon his own coat. "There!" he said, with a sneer. "That is
supposed to make a gentleman of you, and this makes a man of me. On your
way, gentleman! I--"

"For heaven's sake, George," cried Simmy, arising. "Don't be an ass." He
took the tag from Tresslyn's coat and handed it back to the waiter. "Give
him the scarf-pin if you like, old man, but don't rob him of his badge of
honour. He earns an honest living with that thing, you know."

George sat down. He was suddenly abashed. "What an awful bounder you must
think I am, Simmy."

"Nonsense. You're a bit tight, that's all." He slipped the waiter a bank-
note and motioned him away. "Now, let's go home, George."

"Yes, sir; he turned and walked out of the room, leaving all of us
standing there," muttered George, with a mental leap backward. "I'll never
forget it, long as I live. He simply scorned the whole lot of us. I went
away as quickly as I could, but the others beat me to it. I left mother
and Anne there all alone, just wandering around the room as if they were
half-stunned. Never, never will I forget Anne's white, scared face, and
I've never seen mother so helpless, either. Anne gripped, that big
envelope so tight that it crumpled up into almost nothing. Mother took it
away from her and opened it. Nobody was there but us three. I shan't tell
you what was in the envelope. I'm not drunk enough for that."

"Never mind. It's immaterial, in any event." Simmy had called for his
check.

George's mind took a new twist. Suddenly he sprang to his feet. "By the
way, before I forget it, do you know where I can find Braden Thorpe?"

A black scowl disfigured his face. There was an ugly, ominous glare in his
fast clearing eyes. Simmy, coming no higher than his shoulder, linked his
arm through one of George's and started toward the door with him. He was
headed for the porters' entrance.

"He's out of town, George. Don't bother about Braden."

"I'm going to kill Brady Thorpe, Simmy," said George hoarsely. Simmy felt
the big right arm swell and become as rigid as steel.

"Don't talk like a fool," he whispered.

"He didn't act right by Anne," said George. "He's got to account to me.
He's--"

They were in the narrow hallway by this time. Simmy called to a porter.

"Get me a taxi, will you?"

"I say he didn't act right by Anne. It's his fault that she--Let go my arm,
Simmy!" He gave it a mighty wrench.

"All right," said Simmy, maintaining his equilibrium with some difficulty
after the jerk he had received. "Don't you want me to be your friend,
George?"

George glared at him, and then broke into a shamed, foolish laugh.
"Forgive me, Simmy. Of course, I want you as my friend. I depend upon
you."

"Then stop this talk about going after Braden. In heaven's name, you kid,
what has he done to you or Anne? He's the one who deserves sympathy and--"

"I've got it in for him because he's a coward and a skunk," explained
George, lowering his voice with praiseworthy consideration. "You see, it's
just this way, Simmy. He didn't do the right thing by Anne. He ought to
have come back here and _made_ her marry him. That's where he's to blame.
He ought to have gone right up to the house and grabbed her by the throat
and choked her till she gave in and went with him to a justice-of-the-
peace or something. He owed it to her, Simmy,--he was in duty bound to save
her. If he hadn't been a sneakin' coward, he'd have choked her till she
was half-dead and then she would have gone with him gladly. Women like a
brave man. They like to be choked and beaten and--"

Simmy laughed. "Do you call it bravery to choke a woman into submission,
and drag her off to--"

"I call it cowardice to give up the woman you love if she loves you," said
George. "I know what I'm talking about, too, because I'm one of the
sneakingest cowards on earth. What do you think of me, Simmy? What does
everybody think of me? Wouldn't call me a brave man, would you?"

"The cases are not parallel. Braden's case is different. He couldn't force
Anne to--"

"See here, Simmy," broke in George, wonderingly, "I hadn't noticed it
before, but, by giminy, I believe you're tipsy. You've been drinking,
Simmy. No sober man would talk as you do. When you sober up, you'll think
just as I do,--and that is that Brady Thorpe ought to have been a man when
he had the chance. He ought to have stuck his fist under Anne's nose and
said 'Come on, or I'll smash you,' and she'd have gone with him like a
little lamb, and she'd have loved him a hundred times more than she ever
loved him before. He didn't do the right thing by her, Simmy. He didn't,
curse him, and I'll never forgive him. I'm going to wring his neck, so
help me Moses. I've been a coward just as long as I intend to be. Take a
good look at me, Simmy. If you watch closely you may see me turning into a
man."

"Get in," said Simmy, pushing him toward the door of the taxi-cab. "A
little sleep is what you need."

"And say, there's another thing I've got to square up with Brady Thorpe,"
protested George, holding back. "He took Lutie up there to that beastly
hospital and slashed her open, curse him. A poor, helpless little girl
like that! Call that brave? Sticking a knife into Lutie? He's got to
settle with me for that, too."

And then Simmy understood.




CHAPTER X


Much may happen in a year's time. The history of the few people involved
in the making of this narrative presents but few new aspects, and yet
there is now to be disclosed an unerring indication of great and perhaps
enduring changes in the lives of every one concerned.

To begin with, Templeton Thorpe, at the age of seventy-eight, is lying at
the edge of his grave. On the day of his marriage with Anne Tresslyn, he
put down his arms in the long and hopeless conflict with an enemy that
knows no pity, a foe so supremely confident that man has been powerless to
do more than devise a means to temporarily check its relentless fury. The
thing in Mr. Thorpe's side was demanding the tolls of victory. There was
no curbing its wrath: neither the soft nor the harsh answer of science had
served to turn it away. The hand with the gleaming, keen-edged knife had
been offered against it again and again, but the stroke had never fallen,
for always there stood between it and the surgeon who would slay the
ravager, the resolute fear of Templeton Thorpe. Time there was when the
keen-edged knife might have vanquished or at least deprived it of its
early venom, but the body of a physical coward housed it and denied
admittance to all-comers. Templeton Thorpe did not fear death. He wanted
to die, he implored his Maker to become his Destroyer. The torture of a
slow, inevitable death, however, was as nothing to the horror of the knife
that is sharp and cold.

When he went upstairs with Wade on that memorable twenty-third of March,
he said to his enemy: "Be quick, that's all I ask of you," and then
prepared to wait as patiently as he could for the friendly end.

From that day on, he was to the eyes of the world what he had long been to
himself in secret: a sick man without hope. Weeks passed before his bride
recognised the revolting truth, and when she came to know that he was
doomed her pity was _so_ vast that she sickened under its weight. She had
come prepared to see him die, as all men do when they have lived out their
time, but she had not counted on seeing him die like this, with suffering
in his bleak old eyes and a smile of derision on his pallid lips.

Old Templeton Thorpe's sufferings were for himself, and he guarded them
jealously with all the fortitude he could command. His irascibility
increased with his determination to fight it out alone. He disdained every
move on her part to extend sympathy and help to him. To her credit, be it
said, she would have become his nurse and consoler if he had let down the
bars,--not willingly, of course, but because there was in Anne Thorpe,
after all, the heart of a woman, and of such it must be said there is
rarely an instance where its warmth has failed to respond to the call of
human suffering. She would have tried to help him, she would have tried to
do her part. But he was grim, he was resolute. She could not bridge the
gulf that lay between them. His profound tolerance did not deceive her; it
was scorn of the most poignant character.

Braden was in Europe. He was expected in New York by the middle of March.
His grandfather would not consent to his being sent for, although it was
plain to be seen that he lived only for the young man's return.

Anne had once suggested, timorously, that Braden's place was at the
sufferer's bedside, but the smile that the old man bestowed upon her was
so significant, so full of understanding, that she shrank within herself
and said no more. She knew, however, that he longed for the sustaining
hand of his only blood relation, that he looked upon himself as utterly
alone in these last few weeks of life; and yet he would not send out the
appeal that lay uppermost in his thoughts. In his own good time Braden
would come back and there would be perhaps' one long, farewell grip of the
hand.

After that, ironic peace.

He could not be cured himself, but he wanted to be sure that Braden was
cured before he passed away. He knew that his grandson would not come home
until the last vestige of love and respect for Anne Tresslyn was gone; not
until he was sure that his wound had healed beyond all danger of bleeding
again. Mr. Thorpe was satisfied that he had served his grandson well. He
was confident that the young man would thank him on his death-bed for
turning the hand of fate in the right direction, so that it pointed to
contentment and safety. Therefore, he felt himself justified in forbidding
any one to acquaint Braden of the desperate condition into which he had
fallen. He insisted that no word be sent to him, and, as in all things,
the singular power of old Templeton Thorpe prevailed over the forces that
were opposed. Letters came to him infrequently from the young
man,--considerate, formal letters in which he never failed to find the
touch of repressed gratitude that inspired the distant writer. Soon he
would be coming home to "set up for himself." Soon he would be fighting
the battle of life on the field that no man knew and yet was traversed by
all.

Dr. Bates and the eminent surgeons who came to see the important invalid,
discussed among themselves, but never in the presence of Mr. Thorpe, the
remarkable and revolutionary articles that had been appearing of late in
one of the medical journals over the signature of Braden Thorpe. There
were two articles, one in answer to a savage, denunciatory communication
that had been drawn out by the initial contribution from the pen of young
Thorpe.

In his first article, Braden had deliberately taken a stand in favour of
the merciful destruction of human life in cases where suffering is
unendurable and the last chance for recovery or even relief is lost. He
had the courage, the foolhardiness to sign his name to the article,
thereby irrevocably committing himself to the propaganda. A storm of
sarcasm ensued. The great surgeons of the land ignored the article,
amiably attributing it to a "young fool who would come to his senses one
day." Young and striving men in the profession rushed into print,--or at
least tried to do so,--with the result that Braden was excoriated by a
thousand pens. Only one of these efforts was worthy of notice, and it
inspired a calm, dispassionate rejoinder from young Thorpe, who merely
called attention to the fact that he was not trying to "make murderers out
of God's commissioners," but was on the other hand advocating a plan by
which they might one day,--a far-off day, no doubt,--extend by Man's law,
the same mercy to the human being that is given to the injured beast.

Anne was shocked one day by a callous observation on the lips of old Dr.
Bates, a sound practitioner and ordinarily as gentle as the average family
doctor one hears so much about. Mr. Thorpe was in greater pain than usual
that day. Opiates were of little use in these cruel hours. It was now
impossible to give him an amount sufficient to produce relief without
endangering the life that hung by so thin a thread.

"I suppose this excellent grandson of his would say that Mr. Thorpe ought
to be killed forthwith, and put out of his misery," said the doctor,
discussing his patient's condition with the young wife in the library
after a long visit upstairs.

Anne started violently. "What do you mean by that, Dr. Bates?" she
inquired, after a moment in which she managed to subdue her agitation.

"Perhaps I shouldn't have said it," apologised the old physician, really
distressed. "I did it quite thoughtlessly, my dear Mrs. Thorpe. I forgot
that you do not read the medical journals."

"Oh, I know what Braden has always preached," she said hurriedly. "But it
never--it never occurred to me that--" She did not complete the sentence. A
ghastly pallor had settled over her face.

"That his theory might find application to the case upstairs?" supplied
the doctor. "Of course it would be unthinkable. Very stupid of me to have
spoken of it."

Anne leaned forward in her chair. "Then you regard Mr. Thorpe's case as
one that might be included in Braden's--" Again she failed to complete a
sentence.

"Yes, Mrs. Thorpe," said Dr. Bates gravely. "If young Braden's pet theory
were in practice now, your husband would be entitled to the mercy he
prescribes."

"He has no chance?"

"Absolutely no chance."

"All there is left for him is to just go on suffering until--until life
wears out?"

"We are doing everything in our power to alleviate the
suffering,--everything that is known to science," he vouchsafed. "We can do
no more."

"How long will he live, Dr. Bates?" she asked, and instantly shrank from
the fear that he would misinterpret her interest.

"No man can answer that question, Mrs. Thorpe. He may live a week, he may
live six months. I give him no more than two."

"And if he were to consent to the operation that you once advised, what
then?"

"That was a year ago. I would not advise an operation now. It is too late.
In fact, I would be opposed to it. There are men in my profession who
would take the chance, I've no doubt,--men who would risk all on the
millionth part of a chance."

"You think he would die on the operating table?"

"Perhaps,--and perhaps not. That isn't the point. It would be useless,
that's all."

"Then why isn't Braden's theory sound and humane?" she demanded sharply.

He frowned. "It is humane, Mrs. Thorpe," said he gravely, "but it isn't
sound. I grant you that there is not one of us who would not rejoice in
the death of a man in Mr. Thorpe's condition, but there is not one who
would deliberately take his life."

"It is all so cruel, so horribly cruel," she said. "The savages in the
heart of the jungle can give us lessons in humanity."

"I daresay," said he. "By the same reasoning, is it wise for us to receive
lessons in savagery from them?"

Anne was silent for a time. She felt called upon to utter a defence for
Braden but hesitated because she could not choose her words. At last she
spoke. "I have known Braden Thorpe all my life, Dr. Bates. He is sincere
on this question. I think you might grant him that distinction."

"Lord love you, madam, I haven't the faintest doubt as to his sincerity,"
cried the old doctor. "He is voicing the sentiment of every honest man in
my profession, but he overlooks the fact that sentiment has a very small
place among the people we serve,--in other words, the people who love life
and employ us to preserve it for them, even against the will of God."

"They say that soldiers on the field of battle sometimes mercifully put an
end to the lives of their mutilated comrades," she mused aloud.

"And they make it their business to put an end to the lives of the
perfectly sound and healthy men who confront them on that same field of
battle," he was quick to return. "There is a wide distinction between a
weapon and an instrument, Mrs. Thorpe, and there is just as much
difference between the inspired soldier and the uninspired doctor, or
between impulse and decision."

"I believe that Mr. Thorpe would welcome death," said she.

Dr. Bates shook his head. "My dear, if that were true he could obtain
relief from his suffering to-day,--this very hour."

"What do you mean?" she cried, with a swift shudder, as one suddenly
assailed by foreboding.

"There is a very sharp razor blade on his dressing-table," said Dr. Bates
with curious deliberation. "Besides that, there is sufficient poison in
four of those little--But there, I must say no more. You are alarmed,--and
needlessly. He will not take his own life, you may be sure of that. By
reaching out his hand he can grasp death, and he knows it. A month ago I
said this to him: 'Mr. Thorpe, I must ask you to be very careful. If you
do not sleep well to-night, take one of these tablets. If one does not
give you relief, you may take another, but no more. Four of them would
mean certain, almost instant death.' For more than a month that little box
of tablets has lain at his elbow, so to speak. Death has been within reach
all this time. Those tablets are still there, Mrs. Thorpe, so now you
understand."

"Yes," she said, staring at him as if fascinated; "they are still there. I
understand."

The thick envelope that Mr. Hollenback handed to Anne on the day of her
wedding contained a properly executed assignment of securities amounting
to two million dollars, together with an order to the executors under his
will to pay in gold to her immediately after his death an amount
sufficient to cover any shrinkage that may have occurred in the value of
the bonds by reason of market fluctuations. In plain words, she was to
have her full two millions. There was also an instrument authorising a
certain Trust Company to act as depository for these securities, all of
which were carefully enumerated and classified, with instructions to
collect and pay to her during his lifetime the interest on said bonds. At
his death the securities were to be delivered to her without recourse to
the courts, and were to be free of the death tax, which was to be paid
from the residue of the estate. There was a provision, however, that she
was to pay the state, city and county taxes on the full assessed value of
these bonds during his lifetime, and doubtless by premeditation on his
part all of them were subject to taxation. This unsuspected "joker" in the
arrangements was frequently alluded to by Anne's mother as a "direct slap
in the face," for, said she, it was evidently intended as a reflection
upon the Tresslyns who, as a family, it appears, were very skilful in
avoiding the payment of taxes of any description. (It was a notorious fact
that the richest of the Tresslyns was little more than a mendicant when
the time came to take his solemn oath concerning taxable possessions.)

Anne took a most amazing stand in respect to the interest on these bonds.
Her income from them amounted to something over ninety thousand dollars a
year, for Mr. Thorpe's investments were invariably sound and sure. He
preferred a safe four or four and a half per cent, bond to an "attractive
six." With the coming of each month in the year, Anne was notified by the
Trust Company that anywhere from seven to eight thousand dollars had been
credited to her account in the bank. She kept her own private account in
another bank, and it was against this that she drew her checks. She did
not withdraw a dollar of the interest arising from her matrimonial
investment!

Mrs. Tresslyn, supremely confident and self-assured, sustained the
greatest shock of her life when she found that Anne was behaving in this
quixotic manner about the profits of the enterprise. At first she could
not believe her ears. But Anne was obdurate, She maintained that her
contract called for two million dollars and no more, and she refused to
consider this extraneous accumulation as rightfully her own. Her mother
berated her without effect. She subjected her to countless attacks from as
many angles, but Anne was as "hard as nails."

"I'm not earning this ninety thousand a year, mother," she declared hotly,
"and I shall not accept it as a gift. If I were Mr. Thorpe's wife in every
sense of the term, it might be different, but as you happen to know I am
nothing more than a figure of speech in his household. I am not even his
nurse, nor his housekeeper, nor his friend. He despises me. I despise
myself, for that matter, so he's not quite alone in his opinion. I've sold
myself for a price, mother, but you must at least grant me the privilege
of refusing to draw interest on my infamy."

"Infamy!" gasped Mrs. Tresslyn. "Infamy? What rot,--what utter rot!"

"Just the same, I shall confine myself to the original bargain. It is bad
enough. I shan't make it any worse by taking money that doesn't belong to
me."

"Those bonds are yours," snapped Mrs. Tresslyn. "You are certainly
entitled to the interest. You--"

"They are _not_ mine," returned Anne decisively. "Not until Mr. Thorpe is
dead, if you please. I am to have my pay after he has passed away, no
sooner. That was the bargain."

"You did not hesitate to accept some rather expensive pearls if I remember
correctly," said Mrs. Tresslyn bitingly.

"That was his affair, not mine," said Anne coolly. "He despises me so
thoroughly that he thought he could go beyond his contract and tempt me
with this interest we are quarrelling about, mother. He was sure that I
would jump at it as a greedy fish snaps at the bait. But I disappointed
him. I shall never forget the look of surprise,--no, it was wonder,--that
came into his eyes when I flatly refused to take this interest. That was
nearly a year ago. He began to treat me with a little respect after that.
There is scarcely a month goes by that he does not bring up the subject. I
think he has never abandoned the hope that I may give in, after all.
Lately he has taken to chuckling when I make my monthly protest against
accepting this money. He can't believe it of me. He thinks there is
something amusing about what I have been foolish enough to call my sense
of honour. Still, I believe he has a little better opinion of me than he
had at first. And now, mother, once and for all, let us consider the
matter closed. I will not take the interest until the principal is
indisputably mine."

"You are a fool, Anne," said her mother, in her desperation; "a simple,
ridiculous fool. Why shouldn't you take it? It is yours. You can't afford
to throw away ninety thousand dollars. The bank has orders to pay it over
to you, and it is deposited to your account. That ought to settle the
matter. If it isn't yours, may I enquire to whom does it belong?"

"Time enough to decide that, mother," said Anne, so composedly that Mrs.
Tresslyn writhed with exasperation. "I haven't quite decided who is to
have it in the end. You may be sure, however, that I shall give it to some
worthy cause. It shan't be wasted."

"Do you mean to say that you will give it away--give it to charity?"
groaned her mother.

"Certainly."

Words failed Mrs. Tresslyn. She could only stare in utter astonishment at
this incomprehensible creature.

"I may have to ask your advice when the time comes," went on Anne,
complacently. "You must assist me in selecting the most worthy charity,
mother dear."

"I suppose it has never occurred to you that there is some justice in the
much abused axiom that charity begins at home," said Mrs. Tresslyn
frigidly.

"Not in our home, however," said Anne. "That's where it ends, if it ends
anywhere."

"I have hesitated to speak to you about it, Anne, but I am afraid I shall
now have to confess that I am sorely pressed for money," said Mrs.
Tresslyn deliberately, and from that moment on she never ceased to employ
this argument in her crusade against Anne's ingratitude.

There was no estrangement. Neither of them could afford to go to such
lengths. They saw a great deal of each other, and, despite the constant
bickerings over the idle money, there was little to indicate that they
were at loggerheads. Mrs. Tresslyn was forced at last to recognise the
futility of her appeals to Anne's sense of duty, and contented herself
with occasional bitter references to her own financial distress. She
couldn't understand the girl, and she gave up trying. As a matter of fact,
she began to fear that she would never be able to understand either one of
her children. She could not even imagine how they could have come by the
extraordinary stubbornness with which they appeared to be afflicted.

As for George Tresslyn, he was going to the dogs as rapidly and as
accurately as possible. He took to drink, and drink took him to cards. The
efforts of Simmy Dodge and other friends, including the despised Percy
Wintermill, were of no avail. He developed a pugnacious capacity for
resenting advice. It was easy to see what was behind the big boy's
behaviour: simple despair. He counted himself among the failures. In due
time he lost his position in Wall Street and became a complaining
dependent upon his mother's generosity. He met her arguments with the
furious and constantly reiterated charge that she had ruined his life.
That was another thing that Mrs. Tresslyn could not understand. How, in
heaven's name, had she ruined his life?

He took especial delight in directing her attention to the upward progress
of the discredited Lutie.

That attractive young person, much to Mrs. Tresslyn's disgust, actually
had insinuated her vulgar presence into comparatively good society, and
was coming on apace. Blithe, and gay, and discriminating, the former
"mustard girl" was making a place for herself among the moderately smart
people. Now and then her name appeared in the society columns of the
newspapers, where, much to Mrs. Tresslyn's annoyance, she was always
spoken of as "Mrs. George Dexter Tresslyn." Moreover, in several
instances, George's mother had found her own name printed next to Lutie's
in the alphabetical list of guests at rather large entertainments, and
once,--heaven forfend that it should happen again!--the former "mustard
girl's" picture was published on the same page of a supplement with that
of the exclusive Mrs. Tresslyn and her daughter, Mrs. Templeton Thorpe,
over the caption: "The Tresslyn Triumvirate," supplied by a subsequently
disengaged art editor.

George came near to being turned out into the street one day when he so
far forgot himself as to declare that Lutie was worth the whole Tresslyn
lot put together, and she ought to be thankful she had had "the can tied
to her" in time. His mother was livid with fury.

"If you ever mention that person's name in this house again, you will have
to leave it forever. If she's worth anything at all it is because she has
appropriated the Tresslyn name that you appear to belittle. You--"

"She didn't appropriate it," flared George. "I remember distinctly of
having given it to her. I don't care what you say or do, mother, she
deserves a lot of credit. She's made a place for herself, she's decent,
she's clever--"

"She hasn't earned a place for herself, let me remind you, sir. She made
it out of the proceeds of a sale, the sale of a husband. Don't forget,
George, that she sold you for so much cash."

"A darned good bargain," said he, "seeing that she got me at my own
value,--which was nothing at all."

Lutie went on her way serenely, securely. If she had a thought for George
Tresslyn she succeeded very well in keeping it to herself. Men would have
made love to her, but she denied them that exquisite distraction. Back in
her mind lurked something that guaranteed immunity.

The year had dealt its changes to Lutie as well as to the others, but they
were not important. Discussing herself frankly with Simmy Dodge one
evening, she said:

"I'm getting on, am I not, Simmy? But, after all, why shouldn't I? I'm a
rather decent sort, and I'm not a real vulgarian, am I? Like those people
over there at the next table, I mean. The more I go about, the more I
realise that class is a matter of acquaintance. If you know the right sort
of people, and have known them long enough, you unconsciously form habits
that the other sort of people haven't got, so you're said to have 'class.'
Of course, you've got to be imitative, you've got to be able to mimic the
real ones, but that isn't difficult if you're half way bright, don't you
know."

"Lord love you, Lutie, you don't have to imitate any one," said Simmy.
"You're in a class by yourself."

"Thanks, Simmy. Don't let any one else at the table hear you say such
things to me, though. They would think that I'd just come in from the
country. Why shouldn't I get on? How many of the girls that you meet in
your day's walk have graduated from a high-school? How many of the great
ladies who rule New York society possess more than a common school
education, outside of the tricks they've learned after they put on long
frocks? Not many, let me tell you, Simmy. Four-fifths of them can't spell
Connecticut, and they don't know how many e's there are in 'separate.' I
graduated from a high school in Philadelphia, and my mother did the same
thing before me. I also played on the basket-ball team, if that means
anything to you. My parents were poor but respectable, God-fearing people,
as they say in the novels, and they were quite healthy as parents go in
these days, when times are hard and children so cheap that nobody's
without a good sized pack of them. I was born with a brain that was meant
to be used."

"What are you two talking about so secretively?" demanded Mrs. Rumsey
Fenn, across the table from them.

"Ourselves, of course," said Lutie. "Bright people always have something
in reserve, my dear. We save the very best for an extremity. Simmy
delights in talking about me, and I love to talk about him. It's the
simplest kind of small talk and doesn't disturb us in the least if we
should happen to be thinking of something else at the time."

"Have you heard when Braden Thorpe is expected home, Simmy?"

"Had a letter from him yesterday. He sails next week. Is there any
tinkering to be done for your family this season, Madge? Any little old
repairs to be made?"

"I'm afraid not," said Mrs. Fenn desolately, "Rumsey positively refuses to
imagine he's got a pain anywhere, and the baby's tonsils are disgustingly
healthy."

"Old Templeton Thorpe's in a critical condition, I hear," put in Rumsey
Fenn. "There'll be a choice widow in the market before long, I pledge
you."

"Can't they operate?" inquired his wife.

"Not for malignant widows," said Mr. Fenn.

"Oh, don't be silly. I should think old Mr. Thorpe would let Braden
operate. Just think what a fine boost it would give Braden if the
operation was a success."

"And also if it failed," said one of the men, sententiously. "He's the
principal heir, isn't he?"

Simmy scowled. "Brady would be the last man in the world to tackle the
job," he said, and the subject was dropped at once.

And so the end of the year finds Templeton Thorpe on his death bed, Anne a
quixotic ingrate, George among the diligently unemployed, Lutie on the
crest of popularity, Braden in contempt of court, and Mrs. Tresslyn sorely
tried by the vagaries of each and every one of the aforesaid persons.

Simmy Dodge appears to be the only one among them all who stands just as
he did at the beginning of the year. He has neither lost nor gained. He
has merely stood still.




CHAPTER XI


When Dr. Braden Thorpe arrived in New York City on the fourteenth of March
he was met at the pier by a horde of newspaper men. For the first time, he
was made to appreciate "the importance of being earnest." These men,
through a frequently prompted spokesman, put questions to him that were so
startling in their boldness that he was staggered by the misconception
that had preceded him into his home land.

He was asked such questions as these: "But, doctor, would you do that sort
of thing to a person who was dear to you,--say a wife, a mother or an only
child?" "How could you be sure that a person was hopelessly afflicted?"
"Have you ever put this theory of yours into practice on the other side?"
"How many lives have you taken in this way, doctor,--if it is a fair
question?" "Do you expect to practise openly in New York?" "And if you do
practise, how many patients do you imagine would come to you, knowing your
views?" "How would you kill 'em,--with poison or what?" And so on, almost
without end.

He was to find that a man can become famous and infamous in a single
newspaper headline, and as for the accuracy of the interviews there was
but one thing to be said: the questions were invariably theirs and the
answers also. He did his best to make them understand that he was merely
advancing a principle and not practising a crime, that his hand had never
been brought down to kill, that his heart was quite as tender as any other
man's, and that he certainly was not advocating murder in any degree. Nor
was he at present attempting to proselyte.

When he finally escaped the reporters, his brow was wet with the sweat of
one who finds himself confronted by a superior force and with no means of
defence. He knew that he was to be assailed by every paper in New York.
They would tear him to shreds.

Wade was at the pier. He waited patiently in the background while the
returned voyager dealt with the reporters, appearing abruptly at Braden's
elbow as he was giving his keys to the inspector.

"Good morning, sir," said Wade, in what must be recorded as a confidential
tone. He might have been repeating the salutation of yesterday morning for
all that his manner betrayed.

"Hello, Wade! Glad to see you." Braden shook hands with the man. "How is
my grandfather?"

"Better, sir," said the other, meaning that his master was more
comfortable than he had been during the night.

Wade was not as much of an optimist as his reply would seem to indicate.
It was his habit to hold bad news in reserve as long as possible,
doubtless for the satisfaction it gave him to dribble it out sparingly. He
had found it to his advantage to break all sorts of news hesitatingly to
his master, for he was never by way of knowing what Mr. Thorpe would
regard as bad news. For example, early in his career as valet, he had
rushed into Mr. Thorpe's presence with what he had every reason to believe
would be good news. He had been sent over to the home of Mr. Thorpe's son
for an important bit of information, and he supplied it by almost shouting
as he burst into the library: "It's a fine boy, sir,--a splendid ten-
pounder, sir." But Mr. Thorpe, instead of accepting the good news gladly,
spoiled everything by anxiously inquiring, "And how is the poor little
mother getting along?"--a question which caused Wade grave annoyance, for
he had to reply: "I'm sorry, sir, but she's not expected to live the hour
out."

All of which goes to show that Mr. Thorpe never regarded any news as good
without first satisfying himself that it wasn't bad.

"I have the automobile outside, sir," went on Wade, "and I am to look
after your luggage."

"Thank you, Wade. If you'll just grab these bags and help the porter out
to the car with them, I'll be greatly obliged. And then you may drop me at
the Wolcott. I shall stop there for a few days, until I get my bearings."

Wade coughed insinuatingly. "Beg pardon, sir, but I was to fetch you
straight home."

"Do you mean to my grandfather's?" demanded the young man sharply.

"Yes, sir. Those were the orders."

"Orders to be disobeyed, I fear, Wade," said Braden darkly. "I am not
going to Mr. Thorpe's house."

"I understand, sir," said Wade patiently. "I quite understand. Still it is
my duty to report to you that Mr. Thorpe is expecting you."

"Nevertheless, I shall not--"

"Perhaps I should inform you that your grandfather is--er--confined to his
bed. As a matter of fact, Mr. Braden, he is confined to his death-bed."

Braden was shocked. Later on, as he was being rushed across town in the
car, he drew from Wade all of the distressing details. He had never
suspected the truth. Indeed, his grandfather had kept the truth from him
so successfully that he had come to look upon him as one of the fortunate
few who arrive at death in the full possession of health, those who die
because the machinery stops of its own accord. And now the worst possible
death was stalking his benefactor, driving,--always driving without pity.
Braden's heart was cold, his face pallid with dread as he hurried up the
steps to the front door of the familiar old house.

He had forgotten Anne and his vow never to enter the house so long as she
was mistress of it. He forgot that her freedom was about to become an
accomplished fact, that the thing she had anticipated was now at hand. He
had often wondered how long it would be in coming to her, and how she
would stand up under the strain of the half score of years or more that
conceivably might be left to the man she had married. There had been times
when he laughed in secret anticipation of the probabilities that attended
her unwholesome adventure. Years of it! Years of bondage before she could
lay hands upon the hard-earned fruits of freedom!

As he entered the hall Anne came out of the library to greet him. There
was no hesitation on her part, no pretending. She came directly to him,
her hand extended. He had stopped stock-still on seeing her.

"I am glad you have come, Braden," she said, letting her hand fall to her
side. Either he had ignored it or was too dismayed to notice it at all.
"Mr. Thorpe has waited long and patiently for you. I am glad you have
come."

He was staring at her, transfixed. There was no change in her appearance.
She was just as he had seen her on that last, never-to-be-forgotten
day,--the same tall, slender, beautiful Anne. And yet, as he stared, he saw
something in her eyes that had not been there before: the shadow of fear.

"I must see him immediately," said he, and was at once conscious of a
regret that he had not first said something kind to her. She had the
stricken look in her eyes.

"You will find him in his old room," she said quietly. "The nurse is a
friend of yours, a Miss McKane."

"Thank you." He turned away, but at the foot of the staircase paused. "Is
there no hope?" he inquired. "Is it as bad as Wade--"

"There is only one hope, Braden," she said, "and that is that he may die
soon." Curiously, he was not shocked by this remark. He appreciated the
depth of feeling behind it. She was thinking of Templeton Thorpe, not of
herself.

"I--I can't tell you how shocked, how grieved I am," he said. "It
is--terrible."

She drew a few steps nearer. "I want you to feel, Braden, that you are
free to come and go--and to stay--in this house. I know that you have said
you would not come here while I am its mistress. I am in no sense its
mistress. I have no place here. If you prefer not to see me, I shall make
it possible by remaining in my room. It is only fair that I should speak
to you at once about--about this. That is why I waited here to see you. I
may as well tell you that Mr. Thorpe does not expect me to visit his
room,--in fact, he undoubtedly prefers that I should not do so. I have
tried to help him. I have done my best, Braden. I want you to know that.
It is possible that he may tell you as much. Your place is here. You must
not regard me an obstacle. It will not be necessary for you to communicate
with me. I shall understand. Dr. Bates keeps me fully informed." She spoke
without the slightest trace of bitterness.

He heard her to the end without lifting his gaze from the floor. When she
was through, he looked at her.

"You _are_ the mistress of the house, Anne. I shall not overlook the fact,
even though you may. If my grandfather wishes me to do so, I shall remain
here in the house with him--to the end, not simply as his relative, but to
do what little I can in a professional way. Why was I not informed of his
condition?" His manner was stern.

"You must ask that question of Mr. Thorpe himself," said she. "As I have
told you, he is the master of the house. The rules are his, not mine; and,
by the same token, the commands are his."

He hesitated for a moment. "You might have sent word to me. Why didn't
you?"

"Because I was under orders," she said steadily. "Mr. Thorpe would not
allow us to send for you. There was an excellent purpose back of his
decision to keep you on the other side of the Atlantic until you were
ready to return of your own accord. I daresay, if you reflect for a
moment, you will see through his motives."

His eyes narrowed. "There was no cause for apprehension," he said coldly.

"It was something I could not discuss with him, however," she returned,
"and so I was hardly in a position to advise him. You must believe me,
Braden, when I say that I am glad for his sake that you are here. He will
die happily now."

"He has suffered--so terribly?"

"It has been too horrible,--too horrible," she cried, suddenly covering her
eyes and shivering as with a great chill.

The tears rushed to Braden's eyes. "Poor old granddaddy," he murmured.
Then, after a second's hesitation, he turned and swiftly mounted the
stairs.

Anne, watching him from below, was saying to herself, over and over again:
"He will never forgive me, he will never forgive me." Later on, alone in
the gloomy library, she sat staring at the curtained window through which
the daylight came darkly, and passed final judgment upon herself after
months of indecision: "I have been too sure of myself, too sure of him.
What a fool I've been to count on a thing that is so easily killed. What a
fool I've been to go on believing that his love would survive in spite of
the blow I've given it. I've lost him. I may as well say farewell to the
silly hope I've been coddling all these months." She frowned as she
allowed her thoughts to run into another channel. "But they shall not
laugh at me. I'll play the game out. No whimpering, old girl. Stand up to
it."

Wade was waiting outside his master's door, his ear cocked as of old. The
same patient, obsequious smile greeted Braden as he came up.

"He knows you are here, Mr. Braden. I sent in word by the nurse."

"He is conscious?"

"Yes, sir. That's the worst of it. Always conscious, sir."

"Then he can't be as near to death as you think, Wade. He--"

"That's a pity, sir," said Wade frankly. "I was in hopes that it would
soon be all over for him."

"Am I to go in at once?"

"May I have a word or two with you first, sir?" said Wade, lowering his
voice to a whisper and sending an uneasy glance over his shoulder. "Come
this way, sir. It's safer over here. Uncommonly sharp ears he has, sir."

"Well, what is it? I must not be delayed--"

"I shan't keep you a minute, Mr. Braden. It's something I feel I ought to
tell you. Mr. Thorpe is quite in his right mind, sir, so you'll appreciate
more fully what a shock his proposition was to me. In a word, Mr. Braden,
he has offered me a great sum of money if I'll put four of those little
pills into a glass of water to-night and give it to him to drink. There's
enough poison in them to kill three men in a flash, sir. My God, Mr.
Braden, it was--it was terrible!" The man's face was livid.

"A great sum of money--" began Braden dumbly. Then the truth struck him
like a blow in the face. "Good God, Wade,--he--he wanted you to _kill_ him!"

"That's it, sir, that's it," whispered Wade jerkily. "He has an envelope
up there with fifty thousand dollars in it. He had me count them a week
ago, right before his eyes, and hide the envelope in a drawer. You see how
he trusts me, sir? He knows that I could rob him to-night if I wanted to
do so. Or what's to prevent my making off with the money after he's gone?
Nobody would ever know. But he knows me too well. He trusts me. I was to
give him the poison the night after you got home, and I would never be
suspected of doing it because the pills have been lying on his table for
weeks, ready for him to take at any time. Every one might say that he took
them himself, don't you see?"

"Then, in God's name, why doesn't he take them,--why does he ask you to
give them to him?" cried Braden, an icy perspiration on his brow.

"That's the very point, sir," explained Wade. "He says he has tried to do
it, but--well, he just can't, sir. Mr. Thorpe is a God-fearing man. He will
not take his own life. He--he says he believes there is a hell, Mr. Braden.
I just wanted to tell you that I--I can't do what he asks me to do. Not for
all the money in the world. He seems to think that I don't believe there
is a hell. Anyhow, sir, he appears to think it would be quite all right
for me to kill a fellow man. Beg pardon, sir; I forgot that you have been
writing all these articles about--"

"It's all right, Wade," interrupted Braden. "Tell me, has he made this
proposition to any one else? To the nurses, to Murray--any one?"

Wade hesitated. "I'm quite sure he hasn't appealed to any one but me, sir,
except--that is to say--"

"Who else?"

"He told me plainly that he couldn't ask any of the nurses to do it,
because he thought it ought to be done by a friend or a--member of the
family. The doctors, of course, might do it unbeknownst to him, but they
won't, sir."

"Whom else did he speak to about it?" insisted Braden.

"I can't be sure, but I think he has spoken to Mrs. Thorpe a good many
times about it. Every time she is alone with him, in fact, sir. I've heard
him pleading with her,--yes, and cursing her, too,--and her voice is always
full of horror when she says 'No, no! I will not do it! I cannot!' You
see, sir, I always stand here by the door, waiting to be called, so I
catch snatches of conversation when their voices are raised. Besides,
she's always as white as a sheet when she comes out, and two or three
times she has actually run to her room as if she was afraid he was
pursuing her. I can't help feeling, Mr. Braden, that he considers her a
member of the family, and so long as I won't do it, he--"

"Good God, Wade! Don't say anything more! I--" His knees suddenly seemed
about to give way under him. He went on in a hoarse whisper: "Why, I--I am
a member of the family. You don't suppose he'll--you don't suppose--"

"I just thought I'd tell you, sir," broke in Wade, "so's you might be
prepared. Will you go in now, sir? He is most eager to see you."

Braden entered the room, sick with horror. A member of the family! A
member of the family to do the killing!

He was shocked by the appearance of the sick old man. Templeton Thorpe had
wasted to a thin, greyish shadow. His lips were as white as his cheek, and
that was the colour of chalk. Only his eyes were bright and gleaming with
the life that remained to him. The grip of his hand was strong and firm,
and his voice, too, was steady.

"I've been waiting for you, Braden, my boy," said Mr. Thorpe, some time
after the greetings. He turned himself weakly in the bed and, drawing a
little nearer to the edge, lowered his voice to a more confidential tone.
His eyes were burning, his lips drawn tightly across his teeth,--for even
at his age Templeton Thorpe was not a toothless thing. They were alone in
the room. The nurse had seized upon the prospect of a short respite.

"I wish I had known, granddaddy," lamented Braden. "You should have sent
for me long ago."

"That is the fifth or sixth time you've made that remark in the last ten
minutes," said Mr. Thorpe, a querulous note stealing into his voice.
"Don't say it again. By the way, suppose that I had sent for you: what
could you have done? What good could you have done? Answer me that."

"There is no telling, sir. At least, I could have done my share of
the--that is to say, I might have been useful in a great many ways. You may
be sure, sir, that I should have been in constant attendance. I should
have been on hand night and day."

"You would have assisted Anne in the death watch, eh?" said Mr. Thorpe,
with a ghastly smile.

"Don't say that, sir," cried Braden, flinching.

"I may not have the opportunity to speak with you again,
Braden,--privately, I mean,--and, as my time is short, I want to confess to
you that I have been agreeably surprised in Anne. She has tried to do her
best. She has not neglected me. She regards me as a human being in great
pain, and I am beginning to think that she has a heart. There is the bare
possibility, my boy, that she might have made you a good wife if I had not
put temptation in her way. In any event, she would not have dishonoured
you. It goes without saying that she has been wife to me in name only. You
may find some comfort in that. In the past few weeks I have laid even
greater temptations before her and she has not fallen. I cannot explain
further to you, but--" here he smiled wanly--"some day she may tell you in
the inevitable attempt to justify herself and win back what she has lost.
Don't interrupt me, please. She _will_ try, never fear, and you will have
to be strong to resist her. I know what you would say to me, so don't say
it. You are horrified by the thought of it, but the day will come when you
must again raise your hand against the woman who loves you. Make no
mistake, Braden; she loves you."

"I believe I would strike her dead if she made the slightest appeal to--"

"Never mind," snapped the old man. "I know you well enough to credit you
with self-respect, if not self-abnegation. What I am trying to get at is
this: do you hold a grudge against me for revealing this girl's true
character to you?"

"I must ask you to excuse me from answering that question, grandfather,"
said Braden, compressing his lips.

The old man eyed him closely. "Is that an admission that you think I have
wronged you in saving you from the vampires?" he persisted ironically.

"I cannot discuss your wife with you, sir," said the other.

Mr. Thorpe continued to regard his grandson narrowly for a moment or two
longer, and then a look of relief came into his eyes. "I see. I shouldn't
have asked it of you. Nevertheless, I am satisfied. My experiment is a
success. You are qualified to distinguish between the Tresslyn greed and
the Tresslyn love, so I have not failed. They put the one above the other
and so far they have trusted to luck. If Anne had spurned my money I
haven't the slightest doubt that she would have married you and made you a
good wife. The fact that she did not spurn my money would seem to prove
that she wouldn't make anybody a good wife. I know all this is painful to
you, my boy, but I must say it to you before I die. You see I am dying.
That's quite apparent, even to the idiots who are trying to keep me alive.
They do not fool me with their: 'Aha, Mr. Thorpe, how are we to-day?
Better, eh?' I am dying by inches,--fractions of inches, to be precise." He
stopped short, out of breath after this long speech.

Braden laid his hand upon the bony fore-arm. "How long have you known,
granddaddy, that you had this--this--"

"Cancer? Say it, my boy. I'm not afraid of the word. Most people are. It's
a dreadful word. How can I answer your question? Years, no doubt. It
became active a year and a half ago. I knew what it was, even then."

"In heaven's name, sir, why did you let it go on? An operation at that
time might have--"

"You forget that I could afford to wait. When a man gets to be as old as I
am he can philosophise even in the matter of death. What is a year or two,
one way or the other, to me? An operation is either an experiment or a
last resort, isn't it? Well, my boy, I preferred to look upon it as a last
resort, and as such I concluded to put it off until the last minute, when
it wouldn't make any difference which way it resulted. If it had resulted
fatally a year and a half ago, what would I have gained? If it should take
place to-morrow, with the same result, haven't I cheated Time out of
eighteen months?"

"But the pain, the suffering," cried Braden. "You might at least have
spared yourself the whole lifetime of pain that you have lived in these
last few months. You haven't cheated pain out of its year and a half."

"True," said Mr. Thorpe, his lips twitching with the pain he was trying to
defy; "I have not been able to laugh at the futility of pain. Ah!" It was
almost a scream that issued from between his stretched lips. He began to
writhe....

"Come in again to-night," he said half an hour later, whispering the words
with difficulty. The two nurses and the doctor's assistant, who had been
staying in the house for more than a week, now stood back from the
bedside, dripping with perspiration. The paroxysm had been one of the
worst he had experienced. They had believed for a time that it was also to
be the last. Braden Thorpe, shaking like a leaf because of the very
inactivity that was forced upon him by the activity of others, wiped the
sweat from his brow, and nodded his head in speechless despair. "Come in
to-night, after you've talked with Anne and Dr. Bates. I'm easier now. It
can't go on much longer, you see. Bates gives me a couple of weeks. That
means a couple of centuries of pain, however. Go now and talk it over with
Anne."

With this singular admonition pounding away at his senses, Braden went out
of the room. Wade,--the ever-present Wade,--was outside the door. His
expression was as calmly attentive as it would have been were his master
yawning after a healthy nap instead of screaming with all the tortures of
the damned. As Braden hurried by, hardly knowing whither he went, the
servant did something he had never done before in his life. He ventured to
lay a detaining hand upon the arm of a superior.

"Did he ask you to--to do it, Master Braden?" he whispered hoarsely. The
man's eyes were glazed with dread.

Braden stopped. At first he did not comprehend. Then Wade's meaning was
suddenly revealed to him. He drew back, aghast.

"Good Lord, no! No, no!" he cried out.

"Well," said Wade deliberately, "he will, mark my words, sir. I don't mind
saying to you, Mr. Braden, that he _depends_ upon you."

"Are you crazy, Wade?" gasped Braden, searching the man's face with an
intentness that betrayed his own fear that the prophecy would come true.
Something had already told him that his grandfather would depend upon him
for complete relief,--and it was that something that had gripped his heart
when he entered the sick-room, and still gripped it with all the infernal
tenacity of inevitableness.

He hurried on, like one hunted and in search of a place in which to hide
until the chase had passed. At the foot of the stairs he came upon Murray,
the butler.

"Mrs. Thorpe says that you are to go to your old room, Mr. Braden," said
the butler. "Will you care for tea, sir, or would you prefer something a
little stronger?"

"Nothing, Murray, thank you," replied Braden, cold with a strange new
terror. He could not put aside the impression that Murray, the bibulous
Murray, was also regarding him in the light of an executioner. Somewhere
back in his memory there was aroused an old story about the citizens who
sat up all night to watch for the coming of the hangman who was to do a
grewsome thing at dawn. He tried to shake off the feeling, he tried to
laugh at the fantastic notion that had so swiftly assailed him. "I think I
shall go to my room. Call me, if I am needed."

He did not want to see Anne. He shrank from the revelations that were
certain to come from the harassed wife of the old man who wanted to die.
As he remounted the stairs, he was subtly aware that some one opened a
door below and watched him as he fled. He did not look behind, but he knew
that the watcher was white-faced and pleading, and that she too was
counting on him for support.

An hour later, a servant knocked at his door. The afternoon was far gone
and the sky was overcast with sinister streaks of clouds that did not
move, but hung like vast Zeppelins over the harbour beyond: long, blue-
black clouds with white bellies. Mournful clouds that waited for the time
to come when they could burst into tears! He had been watching them as
they crept up over the Jersey shores, great stealthy birds of ill-omen,
giving out no sound yet ponderous in their flight. He started at the
gentle tapping on his door; a strange hope possessed his soul. Was this a
friendly hand that knocked? Was its owner bringing him the word that the
end had come and that he would not be called upon to deny the great
request? He sprang to the door.

"Dr. Bates is below, sir," said the maid. "He would like to see you before
he goes."

Braden's heart sank. "I'll come at once, Katie."

There were three doctors in the library. Dr. Bates went straight to the
point.

"Your grandfather, Braden, has a very short time to live. He has just
dismissed us. Our services are no longer required in this case, if I--"

"Dismissed you?" cried Braden, unbelievingly.

Dr. Bates smiled. "We can do nothing more for him, my boy. It is just as
well that we should go. He--"

"But, my God, sir, you cannot leave him to die in--"

"Have patience, my lad. We are not leaving him to die alone. By his
express command, we are turning the case over to you. You are to be his
sole--"

"I refuse!" shouted Braden.

"You cannot refuse,--you will not, I am sure. For your benefit I may say
that the case is absolutely hopeless. Not even a miracle can save him. If
you will give me your closest attention, I will, with Dr. Bray's support,
describe his condition and all that has led up to this unhappy crisis. Sit
down, my boy. I am your good friend. I am not your critic, nor your
traducer. Sit down and listen calmly, if you can. You should know just
what is before you, and you must also know that every surgeon who has been
called in consultation expresses but one opinion. In truth, it is not an
opinion that they venture, but an unqualified decision."

For a long time Braden sat as if paralysed and listened to the words of
the fine old doctor. At last the three arose and stood over him.

"You understand everything now, Braden," said Dr. Bates, a tremor in his
voice. "May God direct your course. We shall not come here again. You are
not to feel that we are deserting you, however, for that is not true. We
go because you have come, because you have been put in sole charge. And
now, my boy, I have something else to say to you as an old friend. I know
your views. Not I alone, but Dr. Bray and thousands of others, have felt
as you feel about such things. There have been countless instances, like
the one at hand, when we have wished that we might be faithless to the
tenets of a noble profession. But we have never faltered. It is not our
province to be merciful, if I may put it in that way, but to be
conscientious. It is our duty to save, not to destroy. That is what binds
every doctor to his patient. Take the advice of an old man, Braden, and
don't allow your pity to run away with your soul. Take my advice, lad. Let
God do the deliberate killing. He will do it in his own good time, for all
of us. I speak frankly, for I know you consider me your friend and well-
wisher."

"Thank you, Dr. Bates," said Braden, hoarsely. "The advice is not needed,
however. I am not a murderer. I could not kill that poor old man upstairs,
no matter how dreadfully he suffers. I fear that you have overlooked the
fact that I am an advocate, not a performer, of merciful deeds. You should
not confuse my views with my practice. I advocate legalising the
destruction of the hopelessly afflicted. Inasmuch as it is not a legal
thing to do at present, I shall continue to practise my profession as all
the rest of you do: conscientiously." He was standing before them. His
face was white and his hands were clenched.

"I am glad to hear you say that, Braden," said Dr. Bates gently. "Forgive
me. One last word, however. If you need me at any time, I stand ready to
come to you. If you conclude to operate, I--I shall advise against it, of
course,--you may depend upon me to be with you when you--"

"But you have said, Dr. Bates, that you do not believe an operation would
be of--"

"In my opinion it would be fatal. But you must not forget that God rules,
not we mortals. We do not know everything. I am frank to confess that
there is not one among us who is willing to take the chance, if that is a
guide to you. That's all, my boy. Good-bye. God be with you!"

They passed out of and away from the house.




CHAPTER XII


In the course of the evening, desolated by the ugly responsibility that
had been thrust upon him, Braden put aside his scruples, his antipathy,
and sent word to Anne that he would like to discuss the new situation with
her. She had not appeared for dinner, which was a doleful affair; she did
not even favour him with an apology for not coming down. Distasteful as
the interview promised to be for him, he realised that it should not be
postponed. His grandfather's wife would have to be consulted. It was her
right to decide who should attend the sick man. While he was acutely
confident that she would not oppose his solitary attendance, there still
struggled in his soul the hope that she might, for the sake of appearances
at least, insist on calling in other physicians. It was a hope that he
dared not encourage, however. Fate had settled the matter. It was ordained
that he should stand where he now stood in this unhappy hour.

He recalled his grandfather's declaration that she still loved him. The
thought turned him sick with loathing, for he believed in his heart that
it was true. He knew that Anne loved him, and always would love him. But
he also knew that every vestige of love and respect for her had gone out
of his heart long ago and that he now felt only the bitterness of
disillusionment so far as she was concerned. He was not afraid of her. She
had lost all power to move a single drop of blood in his veins. But he was
afraid _for_ her.

She came downstairs at nine o'clock. He had not gone near the sick-room
since his initial visit, earlier in the day, literally obeying the command
of the sick man: to talk matters over with Anne before coming again to see
him.

"I am sorry to have kept you waiting," she said simply, as she advanced
into the room. "I have been talking over the telephone with my mother. She
does not come here any more. It has been nearly three weeks since she last
came to see me. The dread of it all, don't you know. She is positive that
she has all of the symptoms. I suppose it is a not uncommon fault of the
imagination. Of course, I go to see her every afternoon. I see no one
else, Braden, except good old Simmy Dodge. He stops in nearly every day to
inquire, and to cheer me up if possible."

She was attired in a simple evening gown,--an old one, she hastily would
have informed a woman visitor,--and it was hard for him to believe that
this was not the lovely, riant Anne Tresslyn of a year ago instead of the
hardened mistress of Templeton Thorpe's home. There was no sign of
confusion or uncertainty in her manner, and not the remotest indication
that her heart still owned love for him. If she retained a spark of the
old flame in that beautiful body of hers, it was very carefully secreted
behind a mask of indifference. She met his gaze frankly, unswervingly. Her
poise was perfect,--marvellously so in the face of his ill-concealed
antipathy.

"I suppose you know that I have been left in sole charge of the case," he
said, without preface.

"Oh, yes," she replied calmly. "It was Mr. Thorpe's desire."

"And yours?"

"Certainly. Were you hoping that I would interpose an objection?"

"Yes. I am not qualified to take charge of--"

"Pardon me, Braden, if I remind you, that so far as Mr. Thorpe's chances
for recovery are concerned, he might safely be attended by the simplest
novice. The result would be the same." She spoke without a trace of irony.
"Dr. Bates and the others were willing to continue, but what was the use?
They do not leave you a thing to stand on, Braden. There is nothing that
you can do. I am sorry. It seems a pity for you to have come home to
this."

He smiled faintly, whether at her use of the word "home" or the prospect
she laid down for him it would be difficult to say.

"Shall we sit down, Anne, and discuss the situation?" he said. "It is one
of my grandfather's orders, so I suppose we shall have to obey."

She sank gracefully into a deep chair at the foot of the library table,
and motioned for him to take one near-by. The light from the chandelier
fell upon her brown hair, and glinted.

"It is very strange, Braden, that we should come into each other's lives
again, and in this manner. It seems so long ago--"

"Is it necessary to discuss ourselves, Anne?"

She regarded him steadily. "Yes, I think so," she said. "We must at least
convince ourselves that the past has no right to interfere with or
overshadow what we may choose to call the present,--or the future, for that
matter, if I may look a little farther ahead. The fact remains that we are
here together, Braden, in spite of all that has happened, and we must make
the best of it. The world,--our own little world, I mean,--will be watching
us. We must watch ourselves. Oh, don't misconstrue that remark, please. We
must see to it that the world does not judge us entirely by our past." She
was very cool about it, he thought,--and confident.

"As I said before, Anne, I see no occasion to--"

"Very well," she interrupted. "I beg your pardon. You asked me to see you
to-night. What is it that you wish to say to me?"

He leaned forward in the chair, his elbows on the arms of it, and regarded
her fixedly. "Has my grandfather ever appealed to you to--to--" He stopped,
for she had turned deathly pale; she closed her eyes tightly as if to shut
out some visible horror; a perceptible shudder ran through her slender
body. As Braden started to rise, she raised her eye-lids, and in her
lovely eyes he saw horror, dread, appeal, all in one. "I'm sorry," he
murmured, in distress "I should have been more--"

"It's all right," she said, recovering herself with an effort. "I thought
I had prepared myself for the question you were so sure to ask. I have
been through hell in the past two weeks, Braden. I have had to listen to
the most infamous proposals--but perhaps it would be better for me to
repeat them to you just as they were made to me, and let you judge for
yourself."

She leaned back in the chair, as if suddenly tired. Her voice was low and
tense, and at no time during her recital did she raise it above the level
at which she started. Plainly, she was under a severe strain and was
afraid that she might lose control of herself.

It appeared that Mr. Thorpe had put her to the supreme test. In brief, he
had called upon his young wife to put him out of his misery! Cunningly, he
had beset her with the most amazing temptations. Her story was one of
those incredible things that one cannot believe because the mind refuses
to entertain the utterly revolting. In the beginning the old man, consumed
by pain, implored her to perform a simple act of mercy. He told her of the
four little pellets and the glass of water. At that time she treated the
matter lightly. The next day he began his sly, persistent campaign against
what he was pleased to call her inhumanity; he did not credit her with
scruples. There was something Machiavellian in the sufferer's scheming. He
declared that there could be no criminal intent on her part, therefore her
conscience would never be afflicted. The fact that he consented to the act
was enough to clear her conscience, if that was all that restrained her.
She realised that he was in earnest now, and fled the room in horror.

Then he tried to anger her with abuse and calumny to such an extent that
she would be driven to the deed by sheer rage. Failing in this, he resumed
his wheedling tactics. It would be impossible, he argued, for any one to
know that she had given him the soothing poison. The doctors would always
believe that he had overcome his prejudice against self-destruction and
had taken the tablets, just as they intended and evidently desired him to
do. But he would not take his own life. He would go on suffering for years
before he would send his soul to purgatory by such an act. He believed in
damnation. He had lived an honourable, upright life and he maintained that
his soul was entitled to the salvation his body had earned for it by its
resistance to the evils of the flesh. What, said he, could be more
incompatible with a lifelong observance of God's laws than the commission
of an act for which there could be no forgiveness, what more terrible than
going into the presence of his maker with sin as his guide and advocate?
His last breath of life drawn in sin!

Day after day he whispered his wily arguments, and always she fled in
horror. Her every hour was a nightmare, sleeping or waking. Her strength
was shattered, yet she was compelled to withstand his daily attacks. He
never failed to send for her to sit with him while the nurse took her
exercise. He would have no one else. Ultimately he sought to tempt her
with offers of gold! He agreed to add a codicil to his will, giving her an
additional million dollars if she would perform a "simple service" for
him. That was the way he styled it: a simple service! Merely the dropping
of four little tablets into a tumbler of water and holding it to his lips
to drain! Suicide with a distinction, murder by obligation! One of his
arguments was that she would be free to marry the man she loved if he was
out of the way. He did not utter the name of the man, however.

Anne spoke to no one of these shocking encounters in the darkened sick-
room. She would not have spoken to Braden but for her husband's command
given no later than the hour before that she should do so.

"Twice, Braden, I was tempted to do what he asked of me," she said in
conclusion, almost in a whisper. "He was in such fearful agony. You will
never know how he has suffered. My heart ached for him. I cannot
understand how a good and gentle God can inflict such pain upon one of his
creatures. Why should this Christian be crucified? But I must not say such
things. Twice I came near to putting those tablets in the glass and giving
it to him to drink, but both times I shrank even as I took them up from
the table. I shall never forget the look of joy that came into his eyes
when he saw me pick them up, nor shall I ever forget the look he gave me
when I threw them down and put my fingers to my ears to shut out the sound
of his moans. It would have been so easy to end it all for him. No one
could have known, and he would have died thanking me for one good deed at
least. Yesterday when I failed him for the second time, he made the most
horrible confession to me. He said that when he married me a year ago he
knew that this very crisis would come and that he had counted on me then
as his deliverer! He actually said to me, Braden, that all this was in his
mind when he married me. Can't you understand? If the time ever came when
he wanted to die, who would be more likely to serve his purpose than the
young, avaricious wife who loved another man? Oh, he was not thinking of
your good, my friend,--at least, not entirely. He did not want you to throw
yourself away on me, that's true, but your preservation was not his sole
object, let me assure you. He planned deeper than we knew. He looked ahead
for one year and saw what was coming, and he counted on me,--he counted on
the wife he had bought. Once he asked me if I had the faintest idea how
many wives have killed strong and healthy husbands in order that they
might wed the men they loved better. If murderesses can do that, said he,
why should I hesitate, when there could be no such thing as murder in
my--oh, it was too terrible! Thank God, he thinks better of me now than he
did on the day he married me. Even though he is your grandfather, Braden,
I can say to you frankly that if taking his own life means going to hell
for him, I would see him in hell before I would--"

"Anne, Anne!" cried he, shaken. "Don't say it! It is too horrible. Think
of what you were about to say and--"

"Oh, I've thought, my friend," she broke in fiercely. "It is time for you
to think of what he would have done for me. He would have sent me to hell
in his place. Do you understand? Do you suppose that if I had killed him,
even with mercy and kindness in my heart, I could ever have escaped from a
hell on earth, no matter what God's judgment may have been hereafter?
Would heaven after death affect the hell that came before?"

"Do you believe that there is life beyond the grave?" he demanded. "Do you
still believe that there is a heaven and a hell?"

"Yes," she said firmly, "and down in your soul, Braden, you believe it
too. We all believe it, even the scientists who scoff. We can't help
believing it. It is that which makes good men and women of us, which keeps
us as children to the end. It isn't honour or nobility of character that
makes us righteous, but the fear of God. It isn't death that we dread. We
shrink from the answer to the question we've asked all through life. Can
you answer that question now?"

"Of course not," he said, "nor can I solve the riddle of life. That is the
great mystery. Death is simple. We know why we die but we don't know why
we live."

"The same mystery that precedes life also follows it," she said
stubbornly. "The greatest scientist in the world was once a lifeless atom.
He acknowledges that, doesn't he? So, my friend, there is something even
vaster than the greatest of all intelligences, and that is ignorance. But
we are wasting time. I have told you everything. You know just what I've
been through. I don't ask for your sympathy, for you would be quite right
in refusing to give it me. I made my bed, so there's the end of it. I am
glad that you are here. The situation is in your hands, not mine."

"What is there for me to do except to sit down, like you, and wait?" he
groaned, in desperation.

She was silent for a long time, evidently weighing her next remark. "What
have you to say for your pet theory now, Braden?" she inquired, haltingly.

"You may rest assured, Anne, that even were it legally possible, I should
not put it into practice in this instance," he said coldly.

Her face brightened. "Do you really mean it?"

"I wish you and all the rest of them would understand that I am not
setting myself up as a butcher--" he began hotly.

"That is all I want to know," she cried, tremulously. "I have been
dreading the--I have found myself wondering if _you_ would give him those
tablets. Look me straight in the eye, Braden. You will not do that, will
you?"

"Never!" he exclaimed.

"You don't know what that means to me," she said in a low voice. Again
there was a long silence. He was studying her face, and queer notions were
entering his brain. "Another question, please, and that is all. Can his
life be prolonged by an operation?"

"I am assured that he could not survive an operation."

"He may ask you to--to perform one," she said, watching him closely.

He hesitated. "You mean that he is willing to take the chance?"

"I mean that he realises it will make no difference, one way or the other.
The other doctors have refused to operate."

"He will not ask me to operate," said Braden, but his soul shook within
him as he spoke.

"We shall see," said she strangely, and then arose. She came quite close
to him. "I do not want you to operate, Braden. Any one but you. You must
not take the--the chance. Now you would better go up to him. Tell him you
have talked with me. He will understand. He may even speak a good word for
me. Good night. Thank you for--for letting me speak with you to-night."

She left the room. He stood quite still for a full minute, staring at the
closed door. Then he passed his hand over his eyes as if to shut out the
vision that remained. He knew now that his grandfather was right.

In the hall upstairs he found Wade.

"Time you were in bed," said Braden shortly. "Get a little rest, man. I am
here now. You needn't worry."

"He's been asking for you, sir. The nurse has been out here twice within
the last ten minutes. Excuse me, Mr. Braden; may I have another word with
you?" He did not lower his voice. Wade's voice was of a peculiarly
unpenetrating character. Unless one _observed_ his speech it was scarcely
audible, and yet one had a queer impression, at a glance, that he was
speaking a little above the ordinary tone of voice. "Did Mrs. Thorpe tell
you that her brother has been here to see Mr. Thorpe three times within a
week?"

Braden started. "She did not, Wade."

"Why didn't she tell you, sir?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, sir, it is just this way: Mr. Thorpe sent for young Mr. Tresslyn
last Friday afternoon. Considerable difficulty was had in finding him. He
was just a wee bit tipsy when he got here at eight o'clock. Mrs. Thorpe
did not see him, although Murray went to her room to tell her of his
arrival. Young Mr. Tresslyn was in Mr. Thorpe's room for ten or fifteen
minutes, and then left the house in a great hurry, sir. He came again on
Saturday evening, and acted very queerly. Both times he was alone with Mr.
Thorpe. Again he fairly rushed out of the house as if he was pursued by
devils. Then he came on Sunday night, and the same thing happened. As he
was going out, I spoke to him, and this is what he said to me,--scared-like
and shaking all over, sir,--'I'm not coming here again, Wade. No more of it
for me. Damn him! You tell my sister that I'm not coming again!' Then he
went out, mumbling to himself. Right after that I went up to Mr. Thorpe.
He was very angry. He gave orders that Mr. Tresslyn was not to be admitted
again. It was then, sir, that he spoke to me about the money in the
envelope. I have had a notion, sir, that the money was first intended for
Mr. George Tresslyn, but he didn't like that way of earning it any more
than I did. Rather strange, too, when you stop to think how badly he needs
money and how low he's been getting these past few months. Poor chap, he--"

"Now, Wade, you are guessing," interrupted Braden, with a sinking heart.
"You have no right to surmise--"

"Beg pardon, sir; I was only putting two and two together. I'm sorry. I
dare say I am entirely wrong, perhaps a little bit out of my head because
of the--Please, sir, do not misunderstand me. I would not for the world
have you think that I connect Mrs. Thorpe with the business. I am sure
that she had nothing whatever to do with her brother's visits
here,--nothing at all, sir."

Braden's blood was like ice water as he turned away from the man and
entered his grandfather's room. The nurse was reading to the old man. With
the young man's entrance, Mr. Thorpe cut her off brusquely and told her to
leave the room.

"Come here, Braden," he said, after the door had closed behind the woman.
"Have you talked with Anne?"

"Yes, grandfather."

"She told you everything?"

"I suppose so. It is terrible. You should not have made such demands--"

"We won't go into that," said the other harshly, gripping his side with
his claw-like hand. His face was contorted by pain. After a moment, he
went on: "She's better than I thought, and so is that good-for-nothing
brother of hers. I shall never forgive this scoundrel Wade though. He has
been my servant, my slave for more than thirty years, and I know that he
hasn't a shred of a conscience. While I think of it, I wish you would take
this key and unlock the top drawer in my dressing table. See if there is
an envelope there, will you? There is, eh? Open it. Count the bills,
Braden."

He lay back, with tightly closed eyes, while Braden counted the package of
five hundred dollar bank-notes.

"There are fifty thousand dollars here, grandfather," said the young man
huskily.

"'Pon my soul, they are more honest than I imagined. Well, well, the world
is getting better."

"What shall I do with this money, sir? You shouldn't have it lying around
loose with all these--"

"You may deposit it to my account in the Fifth Avenue Bank to-morrow. It
is of absolutely no use to me now. Put it in your pocket. It will be quite
safe with you, I dare say. You are all so inexcusably honest, confound
you. Sit down. I want to tell you what I've finally decided to do. These
surgeons say there is about one chance in a million for me, my boy. I've
decided to take it."

"Take it?" muttered Braden, knowing full well what was to come.

"I have given you the finest education, the finest training that any young
man ever had, Braden. You owe a great deal to me, I think you will admit.
Never mind now. Don't thank me. I would not trust my one chance to any of
these disinterested butchers. They would not care a rap whether I pulled
through or not. With you, it is different. I believe you would--"

"My God, grandfather, you are not going to ask me to--"

"Sit still! Yes, I am going to ask you to give me that one chance in a
million. If you fail, I shall not be here to complain. If you
succeed,--well, you will have performed a miracle. You--"

"But there is no possible chance,--not the slightest chance of success,"
cried Braden, the cold sweat running down his face. "I can tell you in
advance that it means death to--"

"Nevertheless, it is worth trying, isn't it, my boy?" said Templeton
Thorpe softly. "I demand it of you. You are my flesh and blood. You will
not let me lie here and suffer like this for weeks and months. It is your
duty to do what you can. It is your time to be merciful, my lad."

Braden's face was in his hands. His body was shaking as if in convulsions.
He could not look into the old man's eyes.

"Send for Bates and Bray to-morrow. Tell them that you have decided to
operate,--with my consent. They will understand. It must be done at once.
You will not fail me. You will do this for your poor old granddaddy who
has loved you well and who suffers to-day as no man in all this world has
ever suffered before. I am in agony. Nothing stops the pain. Everything
has failed. You _will_ do this for me, Braden?"

The young man raised his haggard face. Infinite pity had succeeded horror
in his eyes.




CHAPTER XIII


Simmy Dodge emerged from Sherry's at nine-thirty. He was leaving Mrs.
Fenwick's dinner-dance in response to an appeal from Anne Thorpe, who had
sent for him by messenger earlier in the evening. Simmy was reluctant
about going down to the house off Washington Square; he was constituted as
one of those who shrink from the unwholesomeness of death rather than from
its terrors. He was fond of Anne, but in his soul he was abusing her for
summoning him to bear witness to the final translation of old Templeton
Thorpe from a warm, sensitive body, into a cold, unpleasant hulk. He had
no doubt that he had been sent for to see the old man die. While he would
not, for the world, have denied Anne in her hour of distress, he could not
help wishing that she had put the thing off till to-morrow. Death doesn't
appear so ugly in the daytime. One is spared the feeling that it is
stealing up through the darkness of night to lay claim to its prey.

Simmy shivered a little as he stood in front of Sherry's waiting for his
car to come up. He made up his mind then and there that when it came time
for him to die he would see to it that he did not do it in the night. For,
despite the gay lights of the city, there were always sombre shadows for
one to be jerked into by the relentless hand of death; there was something
appalling about being dragged off into a darkness that was to be
dissipated at sunrise, instead of lasting forever.

He left behind him in one of the big private diningrooms a brilliant,
high-spirited company of revellers. One of Mrs. Fenwick's guests was Lutie
Tresslyn. He sat opposite her at one of the big round tables, and for an
hour he had watched with moody eyes her charming, vivacious face as she
conversed with the men on either side of her. She was as cool, as self-
contained as any woman at the table. There was nothing to indicate that
she had not been born to this estate of velvet, unless the freshness of
her cheek and the brightness of her eye betrayed her by contrast with the
unmistakable haggardness of "the real thing."

She was unafraid. All at once Simmy was proud of her. He felt the thrill
of something he could not on the moment define, but which he afterwards
put down as patriotism! It was just the sort of thrill, he argued, that
you have when the band plays at West Point and you see the cadets come
marching toward you with their heads up and their chests out,--the thrill
that leaves a smothering, unuttered cheer in your throat.

He thought of Anne Tresslyn too, and smiled to himself. This was Anne
Tresslyn's set, not Lutie's, and yet here she was, a trim little warrior,
inside the walls of a fortified place, hobnobbing with the formidable army
of occupation and staring holes through the uniforms of the General Staff!
She sat in the Tresslyn camp, and there were no other Tresslyns there. She
sat with the Wintermills, and--yes, he had to admit it,--she had winked at
him slyly when she caught his eye early in the evening. It was a very
small wink to be sure and was not repeated.

The night was cold. His chauffeur was not to be found by the door-men who
ran up and down the line from Fifth to Sixth Avenue for ten minutes before
Simmy remembered that he had told the man not to come for him until three
in the morning, an hour at which one might reasonably expect a dance to
show signs of abating.

He was on the point of ordering a taxi-cab when his attention was drawn to
a figure that lurked well back in the shadows of the Berkeley Theatre down
the street--a tall figure in a long ulster. Despite the darkness, Simmy's
intense stare convinced him that it was George Tresslyn who stood over
there and gazed from beneath lowered brows at the bright doorway. He
experienced a chill that was not due to the raw west wind. There was
something sinister about that big, motionless figure, something portentous
of disaster. He knew that George had been going down the hill with
startling rapidity. On more than one occasion he had tried to stay this
downward rush, but without avail. Young Tresslyn was drinking, but he was
not carousing. He drank as unhappy men drink, not as the happy ones do. He
drank alone.

For a few minutes Simmy watched this dark sentinel, and reflected. What
was he doing over there? What was he up to? Was he waiting for Lutie to
come forth from the fortified place? Was there murder and self-murder in
the heart of this unhappy boy? Simmy was a little man but he was no
coward. He did not hesitate long. He would have to act, and act promptly.
He did not dare go away while that menacing figure remained on guard. The
police, no doubt, would drive him away in time, but he would come back
again. So Simmy Dodge squared his shoulders and marched across the street,
to face what might turn out to be a ruthless lunatic--the kind one reads
about, who kill their best friends, "and all that sort of thing."

It was quite apparent that the watcher had been observing him. As Simmy
came briskly across the street, Tresslyn moved out of his position near
the awning and started westward, his shoulders hunched upward and his chin
lowered with the evident desire to prevent recognition. Simmy called out
to him. The other quickened his steps. He slouched but did not stagger, a
circumstance which caused Simmy a sharp twinge of uneasiness. He was not
intoxicated. Simmy's good sense told him that he would be more dangerous
sober than drunk, but he did not falter. At the second shout, young
Tresslyn stopped. His hands were thrust deep into his overcoat pockets.

"What do you want?" he demanded thickly, as the dapper little man came up
and extended his hand. Simmy was beaming, as if he suddenly had found a
long lost friend and comrade. George took no notice of the friendly hand.
He was staring hard, almost savagely at the other's face. Simmy was
surprised to find that his cheeks, though sunken and haggard, were cleanly
shaved, and his general appearance far from unprepossessing. In the light
from a near-by window, the face was lowering but not inflamed; the eyes
were heavy and tired-looking--but not bloodshot.

"I thought I recognised you," said Simmy glibly.

"Much obliged," said George, without the semblance of a smile.

Simmy hesitated. Then he laid his hand on George's arm. "See here, George,
this will not do. I think I know why you are here, and--it won't do, old
chap."

"If you were anybody else, Dodge, I'd beat your head off," said George
slowly, as if amazed that he had not already done so. "Better go away,
Simmy, and let me alone. I'm all right. I'm not doing any harm, am I,
standing out here?"

"What do you gain by standing here in the cold and--"

"Never mind what I gain. That's my affair," said George, his voice shaking
in spite of its forced gruffness.

Simmy was undaunted. "Have you been drinking to-night?"

"None of your damned business. What do you mean by--"

"I am your friend, George," broke in Simmy earnestly. "I can see now that
you've had a drink or two, and you--"

"I'm as sober as you are!"

"More so, I fear. I've had champagne. You--"

"I am not drunk all of the time, you know," snarled George.

"Well, I'm glad to hear it," said Simmy cheerfully.

"I hate the stuff,--hate it worse than anything on earth except being
sober. Good night, Simmy," he broke off abruptly.

"That dance in there won't be over before three o'clock," said Simmy
shrewdly. "You're in for a long wait, my lad."

George groaned. "Good Lord, is it--is it a dance? The papers said it was a
dinner for Lord and Lady--"

"Better come along with me, George," interrupted Simmy quietly. "I'm going
down to Anne's. She has sent for me. It's the end, I fancy. That's where
you ought to be to-night, Tresslyn. She needs you. Come--"

Young Tresslyn drew back, a look of horror in his eyes. "Not if I know
myself," he muttered. "You'll never get me inside that house again.
Why,--why, it's more than I could stand, Simmy. That old man tried--but,
never mind. I can't talk about it. There's one thing sure, though: I
wouldn't go near him again for all the money in New York,--not I."

"I sha'n't insist, of course. But I do insist on your getting away from
here. You are not to annoy Lutie. She's had trouble enough and you ought
to be man enough to let her alone."

George stared at him as if he had not heard aright. "Annoy her? What the
devil are you talking about?"

"You know what I'm talking about. Oh, don't glare at me like that. I'm not
afraid of you, big as you are. I'm trying to put sense into your head,
that's all, and you'll thank me for it later on, too."

"Why, I--I wouldn't annoy her for all the world, Simmy," said George,
jerkily. "What do you take me for? What kind of a--"

"Then, why are you here?" demanded Simmy "It looks bad, George. If it
isn't Lutie, who is it you're after?"

The other appeared to be dazed. "I'm not after any one," he mumbled.
Suddenly he gripped Simmy by the shoulders and bent a white, scowling face
down to the little man's level. "My God, Simmy, I--I can't help it. That's
all there is to it. I just want to see her--just want to look at her. Can't
you understand? But of course you can't. You couldn't know what it means
to love a girl as I love her. It isn't in you. Annoy her? I'd cut my heart
out first. What business is it of yours if I choose to stand out here all
night just for a glimpse of her in all her happiness, all her triumph, all
that she's got because she deserves it? Oh, I'm sober enough, so don't
think it's that. Now, you let me alone. Get out of this, Simmy. I know
what I'm doing and I don't want any advice from you. She won't know I'm
over here when she comes out of that place, and what she doesn't know
isn't going to bother her. She doesn't know that I sneak around like this
to get a look at her whenever it's possible, and I don't want her to know
it. It would worry her. It might--frighten her, Simmy, and God knows I
wouldn't harm her by word or deed for anything on earth. Only she wouldn't
understand. D'you see?" He shook Simmy as a dog would have shaken a rat,
not in anger but to emphasise his seriousness.

"By Jove, George,--I'd like to believe that of you," chattered Simmy.

"Well, you can believe it. I'm not ashamed to confess what I'm doing. You
may call me a baby, a fool, a crank or whatever you like,--I don't care.
I've just got to see her, and this is the only way. Do you think I'd spoil
things for her, now that she's made good? Think I'd butt in and queer it
all? I'm no good, I'm a rotter, and I'm going to the devil as fast as I
know how, Simmy. That's my affair, too. But I'm not mean enough to
begrudge her the happiness she's found in spite of all us damned
Tresslyns. Now, run along, Simmy, and don't worry about anything happening
to her,--at least, so far as I'm concerned. She'll probably have her work
cut out defending herself against some of her fine gentlemen, some of the
respectable rotters in there. But she'll manage all right. She's the right
sort, and she's had her lesson already. She won't be fooled again."

Simmy's amazement had given way to concern. "Upon my word, George, I'm
sorry for you. I had no idea that you felt as you do. It's too darned bad.
I wish it could have been different with you two."

"It could have been, as I've said before, if I'd had the back-bone of a
caterpillar."

"If you still love her as deeply as all this, why--"

"Love her? Why, if she were to come out here this instant and smile on me,
Simmy, I'd--I'd--God, I don't know what I'd do!" He drooped his head
dejectedly, and Simmy saw that he was shaking.

"It's too bad," said Simmy again, blinking. For a long time the two of
them stood there, side by side, looking at the bright doorway across the
street. Simmy was thinking hard. "See here, old fellow," he said at last,
profoundly moved, "why don't you buck up and try to make something of
yourself? It isn't too late. Do something that will make her proud of you.
Do--"

"Proud of me, eh?" sneered George. "The only thing I could do would be to
jump into the river with my hands tied. She'd be proud of me for that."

"Nonsense. Now listen to me. You don't want her to know that you've been
put in jail, do you?"

"What am I doing that would get me into jail?"

"Loitering. Loafing suspiciously. Drinking. A lot of things, my boy.
They'll nab you if you hang around here till three o'clock. You saw her go
in, didn't you?"

"Yes. She--she happened to turn her face this way when she got to the top
of the steps. Saying something to the people she was with. God, I--she's
the loveliest thing in--" He stopped short, and put his hand to his eyes.

Simmy's grip tightened on George's arm, and then for five minutes he
argued almost desperately with the younger man. In the end, Tresslyn
agreed to go home. He would not go to Anne's.

"And you'll not touch another drop to-night?" said Dodge, as they crossed
over to the line of taxi-cabs.

George halted. "Say, what's on your mind, Simmy? Are you afraid I'll go
off my nut and create a scene,--perhaps mop up the sidewalk with some one
like Percy Wintermill or--well, any one of those nuts in there? That the
idea you've got? Well, let me set you right, my boy. If I ever do anything
like that it will not be with Lutie as the excuse. I'll not drag her name
into it. Mind you, I'm not saying I'll never smash some one's head, but--"

"I didn't mean that, at all," said Simmy.

"And you needn't preach temperance to me," went on George. "I know that
liquor isn't good for me. I hate the stuff, as a matter of fact. I know
what it does to a man who has been an athlete. It gets him quicker than it
gets any one else. But the liquor makes me forget that I'm no good. It
makes me think I'm the biggest, bravest and best man in the world, and God
knows I'm not. When I get enough of the stuff inside of me, I imagine that
I'm good enough for Lutie. It's the only joy I have, this thinking that
I'm as decent as anybody, and the only time I think I'm decent is when I'm
so damned drunk that I don't know anything at all. Tell him to take me to
Meikelham's hotel. Good night. You're all right, Simmy."

"To Meikelham's? I want you to go home, George."

"Well, that's home for me at present. Rotten place, believe me, but it's
the best I can get for a dollar a day," grated George.

"I thought you were living with your mother?"

"No. Kicked out. That was six weeks ago. Couldn't stand seeing me around.
I don't blame her, either. But that's none of your business, Simmy, so
don't say another word."

"It's pretty rough, that's all."

"On me--or her?"

"Both of you," said Simmy sharply. "I say, come over and see me to-morrow
afternoon, George,--at three o'clock. Sober, if you don't mind. I've got
something to say to you--"

"No use, Simmy," sighed George.

"You are fond of Anne, aren't you?"

"Certainly. What's that got to do with it?"

"She may need you soon. You must be ready, that's all. See what I mean?"

"Moral support, eh?" scoffed George.

"You are her brother."

"Right you are," said the other soberly. "I'll be on hand, Simmy, if I'm
needed. Tell Anne, will you? I'll stick it out for a few days if it will
help her."

"There is a lot of good in you, George," said Simmy, engagingly. "I don't
mind telling you that Lutie says the same thing about you. She has said to
me more than once that--"

"Oh, don't lie to me!" snarled young Tresslyn, but Simmy did not fail to
note the quickening of interest in his sullen eyes.

"More than once," he went on, following up the advantage, "she has
expressed the opinion that with half a chance you would have been more
than half a man."

"'Gad," said George, wonderingly, "I--I can almost believe you now. That's
just the way she would have put it. God knows, Simmy, you are not smart
enough to have said it out of your own head. She really thinks that, does
she?"

"We'll talk it over to-morrow," said the other, quite well pleased with
himself. Young Tresslyn was breathing heavily, as if his great lungs had
expanded beyond their normal capacity. "Move along now."

"If I thought--" began George, but Simmy had slammed the door and was
directing the chauffeur where to take his fare.

Half an hour later, Mrs. Fenwick's tables were deserted and the dance was
on. Simmy Dodge, awaiting the moment of dispersion, lost no time in
seeking Lutie. He had delayed his departure for Anne's home, and had been
chafing through a long half-hour in the lounge downstairs. She was dancing
with Percy Wintermill.

"Hello, Dodge," said that young man, halting abruptly and somewhat
aggressively when Simmy, without apology, clutched his arm as they swung
by; "thought you'd gone. What d'you come back for?"

"I haven't gone, so I couldn't come back," answered Simmy easily. "I want
a word or two with Mrs. Tresslyn, old boy, so beat it."

"Oh, I say, you've got a lot of cheek--"

"Come along, Mrs. Tresslyn; don't mind Percy. _This_ is important." With
Lutie at his side, he made his way through the crowd about the door and
led her, wondering and not a little disturbed, into one of the ante-rooms,
where he found a couple of chairs.

She listened to his account of the meeting with her former husband, her
eyes fixed steadily on his homely little face. There was alarm at first in
those merry eyes of hers, but his first words were reassuring. He
convinced her that George was not bent on any act of violence, nor did he
intend to annoy or distress her by a public encounter.

"As a matter of fact," he said, "he's gone off to bed, and I am quite
certain that he will not change his mind. I waited here to tell you about
him, Lutie, because I felt you ought to be prepared in case he does come
back and you happen to see him skulking around in--"

"This isn't news to me, Simmy," she said seriously. "A half dozen times in
the past two weeks I have caught sight of him, always in some convenient
spot where he could watch me without much prospect of being seen. He seems
to possess an uncanny knowledge of my comings and goings. I never see him
in the daytime. I felt sure that he would be outside this place to-night,
so when I came in I made it a point to look up and down the
street,--casually, of course. There was a man across the street. I couldn't
be sure, but I thought it was George. It has been getting on my nerves,
Simmy." Her hand shook slightly, but what he had taken for alarm was gone
from her eyes. Instead they were shining brightly, and her lips remained
parted after she had finished speaking.

"Needn't have any fear of him," said he. "George is a gentleman. He still
worships you, Lutie,--poor devil. He'll probably drink himself to death
because of it, too. Of course you know that he is completely down and out?
Little more than a common bum and street loafer."

"He--he doesn't like whiskey," said she, after a moment.

"One doesn't have to like it to drink it, you know."

"He could stop it if he tried."

"Like a flash. But he isn't going to try. At least, not until he feels
that it's worth while."

She looked up quickly. "What do you mean by that?" Without waiting for him
to answer, she went on: "How can you expect me to do anything to help him?
I am sorry for him, but--but, heavens and earth, Simmy, I can't preach
temperance to a man who kicked me out of his house when he was sober, can
I?"

"You loved him, didn't you?"

She flushed deeply. "I--I--oh, certainly."

"Never have quite got over loving him, as a matter of fact," said he,
watching her closely.

She drew a long breath. "You're right, Simmy. I've never ceased to care
for him. That's what makes it so hard for me to see him going to the dogs,
as you say."

"I said 'going to the devil,'" corrected Simmy resolutely.

She laid her hand upon his arm. Her face was white now and her eyes were
dark with pain.

"I shiver when I think of him, Simmy, but not with dread or revulsion. I
am always thinking of the days when he held me tight in those big, strong
arms of his,--and that's what makes me shiver. I adored being in his arms.
I shall never forget. People said that he would never amount to anything.
They said that he was too strong to work and all that sort of thing. He
didn't think much of himself, but I _know_ he would have come through all
right. He is the best of his breed, I can tell you that. Think how young
he was when we were married! Little more than a boy. He has never had a
chance to be a man. He is still a boy, puzzled and unhappy because he
can't think of himself as anything but twenty,--the year when everything
stopped for him. He's twenty-five now, but he doesn't know it. He is still
living in his twenty-first year."

"I've never thought of it in that light," said Simmy, considerably
impressed. "I say, Lutie, if you care so much for him, why not--" He
stopped in some confusion. Clearly he had been on the point of trespassing
on dangerous ground. He wiped his forehead.

"I can finish it for you, Simmy, by answering the question," she said,
with a queer little smile. "I want to help him,--oh, you don't know how my
heart aches for him!--but what can I do? I am his wife in the sight of God,
but that is as far as it goes. The law says that I am a free woman and
George a free man. But don't you see how it is? The law cannot say that we
shall not love each other. Now can it? It can only say that we are free to
love some one else if we feel so inclined without being the least bit
troubled by our marriage vows. But George and I are still married to each
other, and we are still thinking of our marriage vows. The simple fact
that we love each other proves a whole lot, now doesn't it, Simmy? We are
divorced right enough,--South Dakota says so,--but we refuse to think of
ourselves as anything but husband and wife, lover and sweetheart. Down in
our hearts we loved each other more on the day the divorce was granted
than ever before, and we've never stopped loving. I have not spoken a word
to George in nearly three years--but I know that he has loved me every
minute of the time. Naturally he does not think that I love him. He thinks
that I despise him. But I don't despise him, Simmy. If he had followed his
teachings he would now be married to some one else--some one of his
mother's choosing--and I should be loathing him instead of feeling sorry
for him. That would have convinced me that he was the rotter the world
said he was when he turned against me. I tell you, Simmy, it is gratifying
to know that the man you love is drinking himself to death because he's
true to you."

"That's an extraordinary thing to say," said Simmy, squinting. "You are
happy because that poor devil is--"

"Now don't say that!" she cried. "I didn't say I was happy. I said I was
gratified--because he is true to me in spite of everything. I suppose it's
more than you can grasp, Simmy,--you dear old simpleton." Her eyes were
shining very brightly, and her cheeks were warm and rosy. "You see, it's
my husband who is being true to me. Every wife likes to have that thing
proved to her."

"Quixotic," said Simmy. "He isn't your husband, my dear."

"Oh, yes, he is," said Lutie earnestly. "Just as much as he ever was."

"The law says he is not."

"What are you trying to get me to say?"

"I may as well come to the point. Would you marry him again if he were to
come to you,--now?"

"Do you mean, would I live with him again?"

"You couldn't do that without marrying him, you know."

"I am already married to him in the sight of God," said she, stubbornly.

"Good Lord! Would you go back to him without a ceremony of--"

"If I made up my mind to live with him, yes."

"Oh, I see. And may I inquire just what your state of mind would be if he
came to you to-morrow?"

"You have got me cornered, Simmy," she said, her lip trembling. There was
a hunted look in her eyes. "I--I don't know what I should do. I want him,
Simmy,--I want my man, my husband, but to be perfectly honest with you, I
don't believe he has sunk low enough yet for me to claim the complete
victory I desire."

"Victory?" gasped Simmy. "Do you want to pick him out of the gutter? Is
that your idea of triumph over the Tresslyns? Are you--"

"When the time comes, Simmy," said she cryptically, "I will hold out my
hand to him, and then we'll have a _real_ man before you can say Jack
Robinson. He will come up like a cork, and he'll be so happy that he'll
stay up forever."

"Don't be too sure of that. I've seen better men than George stay down
forever."

"Yes, but George doesn't want to stay down. He wants me. That's all he
wants in this world."

"Do you imagine that he will come to you, crawling on his knees, to plead
for forgiveness or--"

"By no means! He'd never sink so low as that. That's why I tell you that
he is a man, a real man. There isn't one in a thousand who wouldn't be
begging, and whining, and even threatening the woman if he were in
George's position. That's why I'm so sure."

"What do you expect?"

"When his face grows a little thinner, and the Tresslyn in him is drowned,
I expect to ask him to come and see me," she said slowly.

"Good Lord!" muttered Simmy.

She sprang to her feet, her face glowing. "And I don't believe I can stand
seeing it grow much thinner," she cried. "He looks starved, Simmy. I can't
put it off much longer. Now I must go back. Thank you for the warning. You
don't understand him, but--thank you, just the same. I never miss seeing
him when he thinks he is perfectly invisible. You see, Simmy, I too have
eyes."




CHAPTER XIV


The next afternoon but one Templeton Thorpe was on the operating table. In
a private sitting-room on the third floor of the great hospital, three
people sat waiting for the result--two women and a man. They were the
Tresslyns, mother, son and daughter. There were unopened boxes of flowers
on the table in the middle of the room. The senders of these flowers were
men, and their cards were inside the covers, damp with the waters of
preservation. They were for Anne Thorpe, and they were from men who looked
ahead even as she had looked ahead. But the roses and orchids they sent
were never to be seen by Anne Thorpe. They were left in the boxes with
their little white envelopes attached, for Anne was not thinking of roses
as she sat there by the window, looking down into the street, waiting for
the word from upstairs,--the inevitable word. Later on the free wards would
be filled with the fragrance of American Beauties, and certain smug
gentlemen would never be thanked. No one had sent flowers to Templeton
Thorpe, the sick man.

There had been a brief conference on the day before between Anne and
Braden. The latter went to her with the word that he was to operate,
provided she offered no objection.

"You know what an operation will mean, Anne," he said steadily.

"The end to his agony," she remarked. Outwardly she was calm, inwardly she
shivered.

"It is absurd to say that he has one chance in a million to pull through.
He hasn't a single chance. I appreciate that fact and--so does he."

"You are willing to do this thing, Braden?"

"I am willing," he said. His face was like death.

"And if I should object, what then?" she asked, almost inaudibly.

"I should refuse to operate. I cannot pretend that an operation is the
only means left to save his life. It is just the other way round. We are
supposed to take extreme measures in extreme cases, but always with the
idea of prolonging human life. In this instance, I am bound to tell you,
that I don't believe there is a chance to save him. We must look the
matter squarely in the face."

"You said that there was absolutely no chance." She leaned heavily against
the table.

"I believe there is no chance, but I am not all-seeing, Anne. We never
know,--absolutely. Miracles happen. They are not performed by man,
however."

"Have you spoken to Dr. Bates?"

"Yes. He is coming to the hospital, to--to be with me."

"He will not attempt to prevent the operation?"

"No. He does not advise or sanction it, but he--understands."

"And you will be held responsible for everything?"

"I suppose so," said he bitterly.

She was silent for a long time. "I think I shall object to the operation,
Braden," she said at last.

"For my sake and not for his, I take it," he said.

"I may as well give him the tablets myself, as to consent to your method
of--of--" She could not finish the sentence.

"It isn't quite the same," he said. "I act with the authority of the law
behind me. You would be violating the law."

"Still you would be killing a fellow creature," she protested. "I--I cannot
allow you to sacrifice yourself, Braden."

"You forget that I have no false notions as to the question of right and
wrong in cases of this kind. I assure you that if I undertake this
operation it will be with a single purpose in mind: to save and prolong
the life of my patient. The worst you can say of me is that I am convinced
beforehand that I shall fail. If I were to act upon the principles I
advocate, I should not feel obliged to go through the travesty of an
operation. The time may come when cases of this sort will be laid before a
commission, and if in their judgment it is deemed humane to do so, a drug
will be administered and the horrors that are likely to attend my efforts
of to-morrow will be impossible. There is no such law to sustain me now,
no commission, no decision by experts and familiars to back me up, so I
can only obey the commands of the patient himself,--and do the best I can
for him. He insists on having the operation performed--and by me. I am one
of the family. I am his only blood relative. It is meet and just, says he,
that I should be the one, and not some disinterested, callous outsider.
That is the way he puts it, and I have not denied him."

"It is horrible," she moaned, shuddering. "Why do you ask me to consent?
Why do you put it up to me?"

"You now place me in the position of the surgeon who advises a prompt--I
mean, who says that an operation is imperative."

"But that isn't the truth. You do not advise it."

He drew a long breath. "Yes, I do advise it. There is no other way. I
shall try to save him. I _do_ advise it."

She left him and went over to the fireplace, where she stood with her back
toward him for many minutes, staring into the coals. He did not change his
position. He did not even look at her. His eyes were fixed on the rug near
the closed door. There was a warm, soft red in that rare old carpet.
Finally she turned to him.

"I shall not let you take all of the responsibility, Braden," she said.
"It isn't fair. I shall not oppose you. You have my consent to go on with
it."

"I assume all responsibility," he said, abruptly, almost gruffly.

"You are wrong there, Braden," she said, slowly. "My husband assumes the
responsibility. It is his act, not yours. I shall always regard it in that
light, no matter what may happen. It is his command."

He tried to smile. "Perhaps that is the right way to look at it," he said,
"but it is a poor way, after all." For a full minute they stood looking
into each other's eyes. "Then I shall go ahead with the--arrangements," he
said, compressing his lips.

She nodded her head.

"Before I go any farther, Anne, I want to tell you what happened this
morning when his lawyer was here. I sent for him. There is a clause in my
grandfather's will bequeathing to me the sum of one hundred thousand
dollars. I insisted that a codicil be added to the instrument, revoking
that clause. My grandfather was obstinate at first. Finally he agreed to
discuss the matter privately with Judge Hollenback. A couple of hours ago
Wade and Murray witnessed the codicil which deprives me of any interest in
my grandfather's estate. I renounce everything. There will be no contest
on my part. Not a penny is to come to me."

She stared at him. "You refuse to take what rightfully belongs to you? Now
that _is_ quixotic, Braden. You shall not--"

"The matter is closed, Anne. We need not discuss it," he said firmly. "I
had to tell you, that's all. The reason should be obvious. You know, of
course, that the bulk of his estate, apart from the amount to be paid to
you--" She winced perceptibly--"aside from that amount is to go to various
charities and institutions devoted to the betterment of the human race. I
need not add that these institutions are of a scientific character. I
wanted you to know beforehand that I shall profit in no way by the death
of my grandfather." After a significant pause he repeated distinctly: "I
shall profit _in no way_."

She lowered her eyes for an instant. "I think I understand, Braden," she
said, looking up to meet his gaze unwaveringly. Her voice was low, even
husky. She saw finality in his eyes.

"He seemed to feel that I ought to know of the clause I mention,"
explained Braden dully. "Perhaps he thought it would--it might be an
inducement to me to--to go ahead. God! What a thought!"

"He allowed you to read it?"

"A copy, last night. The real instrument was produced to-day by Judge
Hollenback at my request, and the change was made in the presence of
witnesses."

"Where is it now?"

"Judge Hollenback took it away with him. That's all I know about it."

"I am sorry," she said, a queer glint in her eyes. "Sorry he took it away
with him, I mean. There is nothing I can do--now."

She sent for her mother that night. The next morning Simmy Dodge came down
with George Tresslyn, who steadfastly refused to enter the house but rode
to the hospital with his mother and sister in Simmy's automobile. Anne did
not see Braden again after that momentous interview in the library. He had
effaced himself.

Now she sat in the window looking down into the street, dull and listless
and filled with the dread of the future that had once looked so engaging
to her. The picture that avarice and greed had painted was gone. In its
place was an honest bit of colour on the canvas,--a drab colour and
noteless.

Mrs. Tresslyn, unmoved and apparently disinterested, ran idly through the
pages of an illustrated periodical. Her furs lay across a chair in the
corner of the room. They were of chinchilla and expressed a certain
arrogance that could not be detached by space from the stately figure with
the lorgnon. The year had done little toward bending that proud head. The
cold, classic beauty of this youngish mother of the other occupants of the
room was as yet absolutely unmarred by the worries that come with
disillusionment. If she felt rebellious scorn for the tall disappointment
who still bore and always would bear the honoured name of Tresslyn she
gave no sign: if the slightest resentment existed in her soul toward the
daughter who was no longer as wax in her hands, she hid the fact securely
behind a splendid mask of unconcern. As for the old man upstairs she had
but a single thought: an insistent one it was, however, and based itself
upon her own dread of the thing that was killing him.

George Tresslyn, white-faced and awed, sat like a graven image, looking at
the floor. He was not there because he wanted to be, but because a rather
praiseworthy allegiance to Anne had mastered his repugnance. Somewhere in
his benumbed intelligence flickered a spark of light which revealed to him
his responsibility as the head of the family. Anne was his sister. She was
lovely. He would have liked to be proud of her. If it were not for the
millions of that old man upstairs he could have been proud of her, and by
an odd reasoning, even more ashamed of himself than he was now. He was not
thinking of the Thorpe millions, however, as he sat there brooding; he was
not wondering what Anne would do for him when she had her pay in hand. He
was dumbly praising himself for having refused to sell his soul to
Templeton Thorpe in exchange for the fifty thousand dollars with which the
old man had baited him on three separate occasions, and wishing that Lutie
could know. It was something that she would have to approve of in him! It
was rather pitiful that he should have found a grain of comfort in the
fact that he had refused to kill a fellow man!

Anne took several turns up and down the room. There was a fine line
between her dark, brooding eyes, and her nostrils were distended as if
breathing had become difficult for her.

"I told him once that if such a thing ever happened to me, I'd put an end
to myself just as soon as I knew," she said, addressing no one, but
speaking with a distinctness that was startling. "I told him that one
would be justified in taking one's life under such circumstances. Why
should one go on suffering--"

"What are you saying, Anne?" broke in her mother sharply. George looked
up, astonishment struggling to make its way through the dull cloud on his
face.

Anne stopped short. For a moment she appeared to be dazed. She went paler
than before, and swayed. Her brother started up from his chair, alarmed.

"I say, Anne old girl, get hold of yourself!" he exclaimed. "None of that,
you know. You mustn't go fainting or anything like that. Walk around with
me for a couple of minutes. You'll be all right in--"

"Oh, I'm not going to faint," she cried, but grasped his arm just the
same.

"They always walked us around on the football field when we got woozy--"

"Go out and see if you can find out anything, George," said she, pulling
herself together. "Surely it must be over by this time."

"Simmy's on the lookout," said George. "He'll let us know."

"Be patient, my dear," said Mrs. Tresslyn, wiping a fine moisture from her
upper lip, where it had appeared with Anne's astounding observation. "You
will not have to wait much longer. Be--"

Anne faced her, an unmistakable sneer on her lips. "I'm used to waiting,"
she said huskily.

"She has waited a year and more," said George aggressively, glowering at
his mother. It was a significant but singularly unhappy remark.

For the first time in their lives, they saw their mother in tears. It was
so incomprehensible that at first both Anne and her brother laughed, not
in mirth, but because they were so stupefied that they did not know what
they were doing, and laughter was the simplest means of expressing an
acute sense of embarrassment. Then they stood aloof and watched the
amazing exposition, fascinated, unbelieving. It did not occur to either of
them to go to the side of this sobbing woman whose eyes had always been
dry and cold, this mother who had wiped away their tears a hundred times
and more with dainty lace handkerchiefs not unlike the one she now pressed
so tightly to her own wet cheeks. They could not understand this thing
happening to her. They could not believe that after all their mother
possessed the power to shed tears, to sob as other women do, to choke and
snivel softly, to blubber inelegantly; they had always looked upon her as
proof against emotion. Their mother was crying! Her back was toward them,
evidence of a new weakness in her armour. It shook with the effort she
made to control the cowardly spasmodic sobs. And why was she in tears?
What had brought this amazing thing to pass? What right had she to cry?

They watched her stupidly as she walked away from them toward the window.
They were not unfeeling; they simply did not know how to act in the face
of this marvel. They looked at each other in bewilderment. What had
happened? Only the moment before she had been as cold and as magnificently
composed as ever she had been, and now! Now she was like other people. She
had come down to the level of the utterly commonplace. She was just a
plain, ordinary woman. It was unbelievable.

They did not feel sorry for her. A second time, no doubt, would find them
humanly sympathetic, troubled, distressed, but this first time they could
only wonder, they could only doubt their senses. It would have been most
offensive in them to have let her see they noticed anything unusual in her
behaviour. At least that is the way they felt about it in their failure to
understand.

For five minutes Mrs. Tresslyn stood with her back to them. Gradually the
illy-stifled sobs subsided and, as they still looked on curiously, the
convulsive heaving of her shoulders grew less perceptible, finally ceasing
altogether. Her tall figure straightened to its full, regal height; her
chin went up to its normal position; her wet handkerchief was stuffed,
with dignified deliberateness, into the gold mesh bag. A minute more to
prove that she had completely mastered her emotions, and then she faced
her children. It was as if nothing had happened. She was the calm and
imperious mother they had always known. Involuntarily, Anne uttered a deep
sigh of relief. George blinked his eyes and also fell to wondering if they
had served him honestly, or if, on the other hand, he too had merely
imagined something incredible.

They did not question her. The incident was closed. They were never to ask
her why she had wept in their presence. They were never to know what had
moved her to tears. Instinctively and quite naturally they shrank from the
closer intimacy that such a course would involve. Their mother was herself
once more. She was no longer like other women. They could not be in touch
with her. And so they were never to know why she had cried. They only knew
that for a brief space she had been as silly as any ordinary mortal could
be, and they were rather glad to have caught her at it.

Years afterward, however, George was to say to Anne: "Queer thing, wasn't
it, that time she cried? Do you remember?" And Anne was to reply: "I've
never forgotten it. It _was_ queer."

Nor did Mrs. Tresslyn offer the slightest explanation for her conduct. She
did not even smile shamefacedly, as any one else certainly would have done
in apology. She was, however, vaguely pleased with her children. They had
behaved splendidly. They were made of the right stuff, after all! She had
not been humbled.

Apathy was restored. George slumped down in his chair and set his jaws
hard. Mrs. Tresslyn glanced idly through the pages of a magazine, while
Anne, taking up her position once more at the window, allowed her thoughts
to slip back into the inevitable groove. They were not centred upon
Templeton Thorpe as an object of pity but as a subject for speculation:
she was thinking of the thing that Braden was doing, and of his part in
this life and death affair. She was trying to picture him up there in that
glaring little room cutting the life out of a fellow creature under the
very eyes of the world.

The door was opened swiftly but softly. Simmy Dodge, white as a sheet,
came into the room.... Mrs. Tresslyn went over to the window, where Anne
was sitting, white and dry-eyed.

"It is no more than we expected, dear," said she quietly. "He had no
chance. You were prepared. It is all over. You ought to be thankful that
his sufferings are over. He--"

Anne was not listening. She broke in with a question to Simmy.

"What was it that you said happened while you were in the room? Before the
ether, I mean. Tell me again,--and slowly."

Simmy cleared his throat. It was very tight and dry. He was now afraid of
death.

"It was awfully affecting," he said, wiping the moisture from his brow.
"Awfully. That young interne fellow told me about it. Just before they
gave the ether, Mr. Thorpe shook hands with Brady. He was smiling. They
all heard him say 'Good-bye, my boy,--and thank you.' And Brady leaned over
and kissed him on the forehead. The chap couldn't quite hear, but says he
thinks he whispered, 'Good-bye, granddaddy.' Awfully affecting scene--"

"'Good-bye, granddaddy,'" Anne repeated, dully. Then she covered her eyes
with her hands.

Simmy fidgeted. He wanted to help, but felt oddly that he was very much
out of place. George's big hand gripped his arm. At any other time he
would have winced with pain, but now he had no thought for himself.
Moreover, there was something wonderfully sustaining in the powerful hand
that had been laid upon his.

"She ought not to take it so hard, George," he began.

"They told you he never came out of the anaesthetic," said George, in a
half-whisper. "Just died--like that?"

"That's what he said. Little chap with blond hair and nose-glasses. You
remember seeing him--Yes, he told me. He was in there. Saw it all. Gosh, I
don't see how they can do it. This fellow seemed to be very much upset, at
that. He looked scared. I say, George, do you know what the pylorus is?"

"Pylorus? No."

"I wish I knew. This fellow seemed to think that Brady made some sort of a
mistake. He wouldn't say much, however. Some sort of a slip, I gathered.
Something to do with the pylorus, I know. It must be a vital spot."




CHAPTER XV


The day after the funeral, George Tresslyn called to see his sister. He
found that it required a new sort of courage on his part to enter the
house, even after his hesitation about pressing the door-bell. He was not
afraid of any living man, and yet he was oppressed by the uncanny fear
that Templeton Thorpe was still alive and waiting somewhere in the dark
old house, ready to impose further demands upon his cupidity. The young
man was none too steady beforehand, and now he was actually shaking. When
Murray opened the door, he was confronted by an extremely pallid visitor
who shot a furtive look over his head and down the hall before inquiring
whether Mrs. Thorpe was at home.

"She is, Mr. George," said Murray. "You telephoned half an hour ago, sir."

"So I did," said George nervously. He was not offended by Murray's obvious
comment upon his unstable condition, for he knew--even though Murray did
not--that no drop of liquor had passed his lips in four days.

"Mrs. Thorpe is expecting you."

"Is she alone, Murray?"

"Yes, sir. Would you mind stepping inside, sir? It's a raw wind that is
blowing. I think I must have taken a bit of a cold yesterday during--ahem!
Thank you, sir. I will tell Mrs. Thorpe that you are here." Murray was
rather testy. He had been imbibing.

George shivered. "I say, Murray, would you mind giving me a drop of
something to warm me up? I--"

The butler regarded him fixedly, even severely. "You have had quite enough
already, sir," he said firmly, but politely.

"Oh, come now! I haven't had a drink in God knows how long. I--but never
mind! If that's the way you feel about it, I withdraw my request. Keep
your darned old brandy. But let me tell you one thing, Murray; I don't
like your impertinence. Just remember that, will you?"

"I beg your pardon, sir," said Murray, unoffended. He was seeing with a
clearer vision. "You are ill. I mistook it for--"

"No, I'm not ill. And I'll forgive you, too, Murray," he added
impulsively. "I daresay you were justified. My fame has preceded me. Tell
Mrs. Thorpe I'm here, will you? Run along; the decanter is quite safe."

A few minutes later he was ushered into Anne's sitting-room upstairs. He
stopped short just inside the door, struck by the pallor, the haggardness
of his sister's face.

"Oh, I say, Anne!" he exclaimed. "You're not taking it so hard as all
this, I hope. My Lord, girlie, you look--you look--why, you can't possibly
feel like this about him. What the deuce are--"

"Close the door, George," she commanded. Her voice sounded hollow,
lifeless to him. She was sitting bolt upright on the huge, comfortable
couch in front of the grate fire. He had dreaded seeing her in black. She
had worn it the day before. He remembered that she had worn more of it
than seemed necessary to him. It had made her appear clumsy and over-fed.
He was immensely relieved to find that she now wore a rose-coloured
pignoir, and that it was wrapped very closely about her slim, long figure,
as if she were afflicted by the cold and was futilely trying to protect
her shivering flesh. He shuffled across the room and sat down beside her.
"I'm glad you came. It is--oh, it is horribly lonely here in this dreadful
house. You--"

"Hasn't mother been down to see you?" he demanded. "She ought to be here.
You need her. Confound it, Anne, what sort of a woman is--"

"Hush! She telephoned. I said that I preferred to be alone. But I'm glad
you came, George." She laid her hand on his. "You are able to feel sorry
for me. Mother isn't."

"You're looking awfully seedy, Anne. I still say she ought to be here to
look after you. It's her place."

"I'm all right. Of course, I look like the dickens, but who wouldn't? It
has been terrible. Weeks and weeks of it. You'll never know what--" She
shuddered so violently that he threw his arm about her and drew her close.

"Well, it's all over now, girlie. Brace up. Sunshine from now on. It was a
bad day's work when you let yourself in for it, but that's all over now."

"Yes, it's all over," she said slowly. "Everything's all over." Her wide,
sombre eyes fixed their gaze upon the rippling blue flames in the grate.

"Well, smile a little. It's time some one of us Tresslyns had a chance to
grin a little without bearing it."

She raised her eyes and slowly inspected this big brother of hers.
Seemingly she had not taken him in as a whole up to that moment of
consideration. A slight frown appeared on her brow.

"I've been hearing rather bad things about you, George," she said, after a
moment. "Now that I look at you, you do look pretty shaky,--and pretty well
threshed out. Is it true? Have you been as bad as they say?"

He flushed. "Has Simmy Dodge been talking?"

"Simmy is your friend, George," she said sharply.

"It's always a fellow's friends who do the most talking," said he, "and
that's what hurts. You don't mind what your enemies say."

"Simmy has not mentioned your name to me in weeks."

"Well, I don't call that being friendly. He knows everything. He ought to
have told you just how rotten I've been, because you could believe Simmy.
You can't believe every one, Anne, but I know Simmy would give it to you
straight. Yes, I've been all that could be expected. The only thing I
haven't been is a liar."

"Can't you brace up, George? You are really the best of the lot, if you
only knew it. You--"

"I don't drink because I like it, you know, Anne," he said earnestly.

"I see," she said, nodding her head slowly. "You drink because it's the
surest way to prove to Lutie that you are still in love with her. Isn't
that it?" She spoke ironically.

"When I think how much you would have liked Lutie if she'd had a chance
to--"

"Don't tell it to me, George," she interrupted. "I didn't in the least
care whom you married. As a matter of fact, I think you married the right
girl."

"You do?" he cried eagerly.

"Yes. But she didn't marry the right man. If you had been the right man
and had been taken away from her as you were, she would have died of a
broken heart long before this. Logic for you, isn't it?"

"She's got too much sense to die of a broken heart. And that isn't saying
she wasn't in love with me, either."

"Oh, well," she sighed, "it doesn't matter. She didn't die, she didn't go
to the bad, she didn't put on a long face and weep her eyes out,--as I
recall them they were exceedingly pretty eyes, which may account for her
determination to spare them,--and she didn't do anything that a sensible
woman would have done under the circumstances. A sensible woman would have
set herself up as a martyr and bawled her eyes out. But Lutie, being an
ignoramus, overlooked her opportunities, and now see where she is! I am
told that she is exasperatingly virtuous, abstemious and exceedingly well-
dressed, and all on an income derived from thirty thousand dollars that
came out of the Tresslyn treasure chest. Almost incomprehensible, isn't
it? Nothing sensible about Lutie, is there?"

"Are you trying to be sarcastic, Anne?" demanded George, contriving to sit
up a little straighter on the sofa. He was not in the habit of exerting
himself in these days of unregeneration. Anne was always smarter than he;
he never knew just how much smarter she was but he knew when to feel
apprehensive.

"You wanted to see me, George," she said abruptly. "What is it you want?
Money?"

He scowled. "I might have known you would ask that question. No, I don't
want money. I could have had some of old man Thorpe's money a couple of
weeks ago if I'd been mean enough to take it, and I'm not mean enough to
take it now--from you. I want to talk to you about Braden Thorpe."

For a moment or two Anne looked into his frowning eyes, and then she drew
back into the corner of the couch, a queer shudder running through her
body.

"About Braden?" she asked, striving to make her voice sound firm and
unstrained.

"Where is he? Staying here in the house?"

"Of course not. I don't know where he is. He has not been near me
since--since the day before--" She spoke rapidly, jerkily, and did not deem
it necessary to complete the sentence.

George had the delicacy to hesitate. He even weighed, in that brief
instant, the advisability of saying what he had come to say to her. Then a
queer sense of duty, of brother to sister, took the place of doubt. She
was his sister and she needed him now as never before, needed him now
despite his self-admitted worthlessness.

"See here, Anne, I'm going to speak plainly," he blurted out, leaning
forward. "You must not see Brady Thorpe again. If he comes here, you must
refuse to receive him."

Her eyes were very dark and lustreless against the increased pallor of her
cheeks. "He will not come here, George," she said, scarcely above a
whisper. She moistened her lips. "It isn't necessary to--to warn me."

"Mind you, I don't say a word against him," he made haste to explain.
"It's what people will say that troubles me. Perhaps you don't know what
they are going to say, Anne, but I do."

"Oh, I know what they will say," she muttered. She looked straight into
his eyes. "They will say that he killed his grandfather--purposely."

"It doesn't matter that they say he killed his grandfather, Anne," said he
slowly, "so much as that he killed your husband. That's the point."

"What have you heard, George?" she asked, in dread of his reply.

"Barely enough to let me understand that where one man is talking now, a
hundred will be talking next week. There was a young doctor up there in
the operating room. He doesn't say it in so many words, but he suspects
that it wasn't an accidental slip of the--don't look like that, Anne! Gee,
you looked awfully scary just then." He wiped his brow. "I--I thought you
were about to faint. I say, we'll drop the matter this instant if--"

"I'm not going to faint," she exclaimed. "You need not be afraid. What is
it that this young doctor says? And how do you happen to have heard--"

"It's what he said to Simmy," interrupted George, quickly. "Simmy let it
slip last night. I was in his apartment. Then I made him tell me the whole
thing. He says it is certain that if this young fellow saw anything wrong,
the others also did. And you know there were three pretty big surgeons
there looking on. Bates and those other fellows, you remember. It--it looks
bad, Anne. That's why I tell you that you must not see Brady again."

"And what has all this to do with my not seeing Braden again?" she
demanded steadily.

He stared. "Why,--why, you just mustn't, that's all. Can't you understand?"

"You mean that I ought not to be put in the position of sharing the blame
with him. Is that it?"

"Well, if there should be a--er--criminal investigation, you'd be a blamed
sight better off if you kept out of it, my girl. And what's more to the
point, you can't afford to have people say that you are determined to do
the thing they believe you set out to do in the beginning,--and that is to
marry Braden as soon as--"

"Stop right there, George!" she cried hotly. "Other people may say what
they please, but the same privilege is not extended to you. Don't forget
that you are my brother."

"I'm sorry, Anne. I didn't mean it in that way. Of course, I know that
it's all over between you and Brady. Just the same, I mean what I say when
I advise you to see nothing of him. I've given you the hint, that's all."

"And I am sorry I spoke as I did just now," she said listlessly. "Thanks,
George. You are looking out for me, aren't you? I didn't expect it.
Somehow, I've always felt that nobody cared whether I--"

"I'll look out for you as long as I'm able to stand," said he, setting his
jaw. "I wish you could love me, Anne. I think we'd be pretty good pals,
after all, if we got to thinking more about each other and less about
ourselves. Of course, I'm a down-and-outer and don't deserve much in the
way of--"

"You don't deserve sympathy," she interrupted, laying a firm hand upon
his, "and I know you are not asking for it. Encouragement is what you
need." Her voice shook slightly. "You want some one to love you. I
understand. It's what we all want, I suppose. I'll try to be a real, true
sister from now on, George. It--it will not be very hard for me to love
you, I'm sure," she concluded, with a whimsical little smile that went
straight to his sore, disfigured heart. A lump came into his throat and
his eyes began to smart so suddenly that a mist came over them before he
could blink his lids. He was very young, was George Tresslyn, despite the
things that go to make men old.

"Gee!" he said, astonished by his own emotions. Then he gripped her
slender, ringless hand in his huge palm,--and was further surprised to
discover that she did not wince. "We're not acting like Tresslyns at all,
Anne. We're acting just like regular people."

"Do you know that you are a very lucky person, George?" she said abruptly.
He blinked. "You don't know it, but you are. I wish I had the same chance
that you have."

"What are you talking about?" he demanded.

"I wish I had the same chance to be happy that you have."

"Happy? Good Lord, I'll never be happy without Lutie, and you know it," he
groaned.

"That is just the chance you still have, Buddy. It isn't inconceivable
that you may get Lutie back, while I--well, you know how it is with me. I'm
done for, to put it plainly."

"Lutie wouldn't wipe her feet on me," he said, struggling between hope and
conviction. "I'd let her do it like a flash if she wanted to, but--Oh,
what's the use! You and I have queered ourselves forever, you with Brady
and I with Lutie. It's an infernal shame you didn't take Brady when you--"

"Yes, we've queered ourselves," said she, struck by the phrase that fell
from his lips. It was not Anne's habit to use slang, but somehow George's
way of putting the situation into words was so aggravatingly complete that
she almost resented his prior use of an expression that she had never used
before in her life. It _did_ sum up the business, neatly and compactly.
Strange that she had never thought of that admirable word before! "And of
the two of us, George, I am the worst offender. I went about my mistake
deliberately. I suppose it is only right that I should pay the heavier
price."

"If I thought there was a chance to get Lutie back, I'd--" But there he
stopped as he always stopped. He had never been able to end that sentence,
and he had got just that far with it a million times or more.

"Have you tried to get her back?" she demanded suddenly, a flash of
interest in her eyes. It was to grow into genuine enthusiasm. The impulse
at the back of her mind was to develop into an idea, later into a strong,
definite purpose. It had for its foundation a hitherto unsuspected desire
to do good.

"Great Scot, no!"

"Then _try_, George," she cried, a new thrill in her voice.

He was bewildered. "Try what?"

"I would stake my life on it, George, if you set about it in the right way
you can win Lutie all over again. All you have to do is to let her see
that you are a man, a real man. There's no reason in the world why she
shouldn't remember what love really is, and that she once had it through
you. There's a lot in love that doesn't come out in a couple of months and
she has the sense to know that she was cheated out of it. If I am not
greatly mistaken she is just like all other women. We don't stop loving
before we get our fill of it, or until we've at least found out that it
bores us to be loved by the man who starts the fire going. Now, Lutie must
realise that she never got her full share. She wasn't through loving you.
She had barely begun. It doesn't matter how badly a woman is treated, she
goes on loving her man until some other man proves that she is wrong, and
he cannot prove it to her until she has had all of the love that she can
get out of the first man. That's why women stick to the men who beat them.
Of course, this doesn't apply to unmoral women. You know the kind I mean.
But it is true of all honest women, and Lutie appears to be more honest
than we suspected. She had two or three months of you, George, and then
came the crash. You can't tell me that she stopped wanting to be loved by
you just as she was loving you the hardest. She may some day marry another
man, but she will never forget that she had you for three months and that
they were not enough."

"Great Scot!" said George once more, staring open-mouthed at his
incomprehensible sister. "Are you in earnest?"

"Certainly."

"Why, she ought to despise me."

"Quite true, she should," said Anne coolly. "The only thing that keeps her
from despising you is that uncompleted honeymoon. It's like giving a
starving man just half enough to eat. He is still hungry."

"Do you mean to say that you'd like to see me make it up again with Lutie?
You'd like to have me marry her again?"

"Why not? I'd find some happiness in seeing you happy, I suppose. I dare
say it is self interest on my part, after all. In a way, it makes for my
happiness, so therein I am selfish."

"Bosh! You'll be happy, Anne, but not through me. You are the prettiest
girl in New York, one of the richest, one of the smartest--"

"See here, George," she said, a hard note stealing into her voice, "you
and I are pretty much alike in one respect. Surprising as it may seem, we
have been able to love some one besides ourselves. And still more
surprising, we appear to be constant. You are no more constant in your
love for Lutie than I am in my love for the man I shall never have. My man
despises me. Your woman merely pities you. You can retake what you have
lost. I cannot. But why shouldn't I go on loving my man, just as you are
loving your woman? Why shouldn't I?" she cried out fiercely.

He gulped. "Oh, I say, Anne, I--I didn't dream that it meant so much to
you. I have always thought of you as--as--er--sort of indifferent to--But,
that just shows how little a fellow knows about his sister. A sister never
seems to be given the same flesh and blood feelings that other women have.
I'm sorry I said what I did a little while ago. I take it back, Anne. If
you've got a chance to get Brady back--"

"Stop! I spoke of your affairs, George, because they are not altogether
hopeless. We cannot discuss mine."

"And as for that story, who is going to prove that Braden intentionally--"
He checked the words, and switched off along another line. "Even though he
did put a merciful end to Mr. Thorpe's suffering, what selfish motive can
be charged to him? Not one. He doesn't get a dollar of the estate, Simmy
says. He alone loved that old man. No one else in the world loved him. He
did the best he could for him, and he doesn't care what any one thinks
about it. I came here to warn you, to tell you to be careful, but now that
I know what it means to you, I--"

She arose. Facing him, she said slowly, deliberately: "I believe that
Braden tried to save his grandfather's life. He asked my consent to the
operation. I gave it. When I gave it, I was morally certain that Mr.
Thorpe was to die on the operating table. I wanted him to die. I wanted an
end put to his suffering. But I did not want Braden to be the one. Some
day I may have the courage to tell you something, George, that will shock
you as nothing on earth has ever shocked you. I will tell you the real
reason why Templeton Thorpe married me. I--but not now. I wish that the
whole world could know that if Braden did take his own way to end the
suffering of that unhappy old man, I have no word of condemnation for him.
He did the humane thing."

George remained seated, watching her with perplexed, dubious eyes. It was
a matter that deserved mental concentration. He could best achieve this by
abstaining from physical indulgence. Here was his sister, the wife of the
dead man, actually condoning an act that was almost certain to be
professionally excoriated,--behind the hand, so to say,--even though there
was no one to contend that a criminal responsibility should be put upon
Braden Thorpe. He was, for the moment, capable of forgetting his own
troubles in considering the peril that attended Anne.

"Oh, I say, Anne, you'll have to be careful what you say. It's all right
to say it to me, but for heaven's sake don't go telling these things to
other people." He was serious, desperately serious. "No one will
understand. No one will see it as you do. There has been a lot of talk
about Brady's views and all that. People are not very charitable toward
him. They stick to the idea that God ought to do such jobs as Brady
advocates, and I don't know but they are right. So now you just keep your
mouth closed about all this. It is Braden's affair, it's his lookout, not
yours. The least said, the better, take it from me. You--"

"We will talk of something else, George, if you don't mind," she said,
relaxing suddenly. She sat down beside him once more, rather limply and
with a deep, long-drawn sigh, as if she had spent herself in this single
exposition of feeling. "Now what do you intend to do in regard to Lutie?
Are you ready to straighten up and make the effort to--to be something
creditable to yourself and to her?"

"Oh, I've tried to hold down a good many respectable jobs," he scoffed.
"It's no good trying. I'm too busy thinking of her to be able to devote
much of my remarkable intelligence to ordinary work."

"Well, you've never had me behind you till now," she said. "I am perfectly
able to think for you, if you'll let me. Simmy Dodge is interested in you.
He can get you a berth somewhere. It may be a humble one, but it will lead
to something better. You are not a drunkard, you are not a loafer. Now, I
will tell you what I intend to do. If, at the end of a year, you can show
me that you--"

"Hold on! You are not thinking of offering me money, are you?" he
demanded, flushing angrily.

Her eyes brightened. "You would not accept it?"

"No," he said flatly.

"You must remember one thing, George," she said, after a moment. "You
cannot take Lutie back until you have paid mother in full for all that
your freedom cost her. It wouldn't be fair to take both the girl and the
money she received for giving you up that time. She was paid in full for
returning you to the family circle. If she takes you back again, she
should refund the money, even though she is accepting damaged and well-
worn goods. Now, Lutie should not be called upon to make restitution. That
is for you to do. I fancy it will be a long time before you can amass
thirty or forty thousand dollars, so I make you this offer: the day you
are _good_ enough for Lutie to marry all over again, I will pay to mother
for you the full amount that Lutie would owe her in violating the
contract. You will not receive a cent of it, you see. But you understand
how rotten it would be for you and Lutie to--"

"I see, I see," cried he, striking his knee with his clenched hand. "We
couldn't do it, that's all. It's awfully good of you, Anne, to do this for
me. I'll--I'll never forget it. And I'll pay you back somehow before we're
through, see if I don't." He was already assuming that the task of winning
back Lutie was joyously on the way to certain consummation.

"I am a rich woman," said Anne, compressing her lips. "I sha'n't miss a
few dollars, you know. To-morrow I am to go with Mr. Hollenback to the
safety vaults. A fortune will be placed in my hands. The deal will be
closed."

"It's a lot of money," said George, shaking his head gloomily. It was as
if he had said that it was money she shouldn't speak of with pride. "I
say, Anne, do you know just how mother is fixed for money? Last winter she
told me she might have to sell the house and--"

"I know," said Anne shortly. "I intend to share the spoils with her, in a
way, even though she can't share the shame with me. She brought us up,
George, and she made us the noble creatures that we are. We owe her
something for that, eh? Oh, I am not as bitter as I appear to be, so don't
look shocked. Mother has her ideals, and she is honest about them. She is
a wonderful woman, a wonderful mother. She did her best for us in every
way possible. I don't blame her for what has happened to me. I blame
myself. She is not half as mean as I am, George, and she isn't one-tenth
as weak-kneed as you. She stood by both of us, and I for one shall stand
by her. So don't you worry about mother, old boy. Worry about the honest
job you are expected to get--and hold."

Later on she said to him: "Some day I shall make it a point to see Lutie.
I will shake hands with her. You see, George dear," she went on
whimsically, "I don't in the least object to divorcees. They are not half
as common as divorces. And as for your contention that if you and Lutie
had a child to draw you together, I can only call your attention to the
fact that there are fewer divorces among people who have no children than
among those who have. The records--or at least the newspapers--prove that to
be a fact. In nine-tenths of the divorce cases you read about, the custody
of children is mentioned. That should prove something, eh? It ought to put
at rest forever the claim that children bind mismated people together.
They don't, and that is all there is about it."

George grinned in his embarrassment. "Well, I'll be off now, Anne. I'll
see Simmy this afternoon, as you suggest, and--" he hesitated, the worried
look coming into his eyes once more--"Oh, I say, Anne, I can't help
repeating what I said about your seeing Braden. Don't--"

"Good-bye, George," she broke in abruptly, a queer smile on her lips.




CHAPTER XVI


Braden Thorpe realised that he would have to pay, one way or another, for
what had happened in the operating room. Either his honour or his skill
would be attacked for the course his knife had taken.

The day after his grandfather's death, he went to the office of Dr. Bates,
the deposed family physician and adviser. He did not go in a cringing,
apologetic spirit, but as one unafraid, as one who is justified within
himself and fears not the report of evil. His heart was sore, for he knew
he was to be misjudged. Those men who looked on while he worked so
swiftly, so surely, so skilfully in that never-to-be-forgotten hour, were
not to be deceived. He knew too well that he had performed with the most
noteworthy skill, and, if he had any other feeling than that of grief for
the death of one who had been dear to him, it was that of pride in the
consciousness that he deserved the praise of these men for the manner in
which he performed the most delicate of operations. He knew that they
knew, quite as well as he, that but for the fatal swerving of half an inch
of the instrument in his steady fingers, Templeton Thorpe would not only
be alive at that moment but conceivably might be expected to survive for
many days.

They had seen everything and they understood. He did not seek to conceal
the truth from himself. He had heard the sharply drawn breath that was
taken through the parted lips of his tense observers as that admirably
handled blade slid from its true course and spoiled what might have been
heralded as a marvellous feat in surgery. It was as if something had
snapped in the minds of these three men who watched. They had looked,
however, upon all that was before him as he worked. They had seen, as he
saw, the thing that no human skill could conquer. He felt their eyes upon
him as he turned the knife quickly, suddenly, surely, and then they had
looked into his eyes as he raised them for a second. He had spared his
grandfather another month of agony, and they had seen everything. It was
not unlikely that the patient might have survived the anaesthetic, and it
was equally probable that subsequent care on the part of the doctor and
the nurse might have kept him alive long enough to permit his case to be
recorded by virtue of his having escaped alive from the operating table,
as one of those exasperatingly smug things known to the profession as a
"successful operation,"--sardonic prelude to an act of God!

There seems to be no such thing as an unsuccessful operation. If God would
only keep his finger out of the business, nothing could go wrong. It is
always the act of God that keeps a man from enjoying the fruits of an
absolutely successful operation. Up to the instant that Braden's knife
took its sanguinary course, there was every indication that the operation
would be successful, even though Mr. Thorpe were to breathe his last while
the necessary stitches were being taken.

He had slept soundly throughout the night just past. For the first night
in a week his mind and body took the rest that had been denied them for so
long. The thing was behind him. It was over. He had earned his right to
sleep. When he laid his head upon the pillow there was no fear of evil
dreams, no qualms, no troubled conscience to baffle the demands of
exhaustion. He had done no wrong. His sleep was long, sweet, refreshing.
He had no fear of God in his soul that night, for he had spoken with God
in the silence of the long night before and he was at peace with Him. No
man could say that he had not tried to save the life of Templeton Thorpe.
He had worked with all the knowledge at his command; he himself felt that
he had worked as one inspired,--so much so, in fact, that he now knew that
never again in all his life would he be able to surpass or even equal the
effort of that unforgettable day. But he had recognised the futility of
skill even as it was being exerted to its utmost accomplishments. The
inevitable was bared to his intelligence. He had done his best for
Templeton Thorpe; no man could have done more than that. With the eyes of
other men upon him, eyes that saw all that he saw, he took it upon himself
to spare his grandfather the few days that might have been added to his
hell by an act less kind,--though no doubt more eminently professional.

And as he performed that final act of mercy, his mind and heart were on
the handshake, and the word of farewell that his benefactor had murmured
in his ear. Templeton Thorpe was at rest; he had thanked his grandson in
advance.

So it was that Braden slept the night through without a tremor. But with
his waking came the sense of responsibility to others. Not to the world at
large, not to the wife of the dead man, but to the three sincere and
honourable members of his profession, who, no doubt, found themselves in a
most trying position. They were, in a way, his judges, and as such they
were compelled to accept their own testimony as evidence for or against
him. With him it was a matter of principle, with them a question of
ethics. As men they were in all probability applauding his act, but as
doctors they were bound by the first and paramount teachings of their
profession to convict him of an unspeakable wrong. It was his duty to
grant these men the right to speak of what they had seen.

He went first to see Dr. Bates, his oldest friend and counsellor, and the
one man who could afterwards speak freely with the widow of the man who
had been his lifelong patient. Going down in the elevator from his room at
the hotel, Braden happened to glance at himself in the narrow mirror. He
was startled into a second sharp, investigating look. Strange that he had
not observed while shaving how thin his face had become. His cheeks seemed
to have flattened out leanly over night; his heavy eyes looked out from
shadowy recesses that he had failed to take account of before; there were
deeper lines at the corners of his mouth, as if newly strengthened by some
artful sculptor while he slept. He was older by years for that unguarded
sleep. Time had taken him unawares; it had slyly seized the opportunity to
remould his features while youth was weak from exhaustion. In a vague way
he recalled a certain mysterious change in Anne Tresslyn's face. It was
not age that had wrought the change in her, nor could it be age that had
done the same for him.

The solution came to him suddenly, as he stepped out into the open air and
saw the faces of other men. It was strength, not weakness, that had put
its stamp upon his countenance, and upon Anne's; the strength that
survives the constructive years, the years of development. He saw this
set, firm strength in the faces of other men for the first time. They too
no doubt had awakened abruptly from the dream of ambition to find
themselves dominated by a purpose. That purpose was in their faces.
Ambition was back of that purpose perhaps, deep in the soul of the man,
but purpose had become the necessity.

Every man comes to that strange spot in the dash through life where he
stops to divest himself of an ideal. He lays it down beside the road and,
without noticing, picks up a resolve in its place and strides onward,
scarcely conscious of the substitution. It requires strength to carry a
resolve. An ideal carries itself and is no burden. So each of these men in
the street,--truckman, motorman, merchant, clerk, what you will,--sets forth
each day with the same old resolution at his heels; and in their set faces
is the strength that comes with the transition from wonder to earnestness.
Its mark was stamped upon the countenances of young and old alike. Even
the beggar at the street corner below was without his ideal. Even he had a
definite, determined purpose.

Then there was that subtle change in Anne. He thought of it now, most
unwillingly. He did not want to think of her. He was certain that he had
put her out of his thoughts. Now he realised that she had merely lain
dormant in his mind while it was filled with the intensities of the past
few days. She had not been crowded out, after all. The sharp recollection
of the impression he had had on seeing her immediately after his arrival
was proof that she was still to be reckoned with in his thoughts.

The strange, elusive maturity that had come into her young, smooth
face,--that was it. Maturity without the passing of Youth; definiteness,
understanding, discovery,--a grip on the realities of life, just as it was
with him and all the others who were awake. A year in the life of a young
thing like Anne could not have created the difference that he felt rather
than saw.

Something more significant than the dimensions of a twelve-month had added
its measure to Anne's outlook upon life. She had turned a corner in the
lane and was facing the vast plain she would have to cross unguided. She
had come to the place where she must think and act for herself,--and to
that place all men and all women come abruptly, one time or another, to
become units in the multitude.

We do not know when we pass that inevitable spot, nor have we the power to
work backward and decide upon the exact moment when adolescence gave way
to manhood. It comes and passes without our knowledge, and we are given a
new vision in the twinkling of an eye, in a single beat of the heart. No
man knows just when he becomes a man in his own reckoning. It is not a
matter of years, nor growth, nor maturity of body and mind, but an
awakening which goes unrecorded on the mind's scroll. Some men do not note
the change until they are fifty, others when they are fifteen.
Circumstance does the trick.

He was still thinking of Anne as he hurried up the front door-steps and
rang Dr. Bates' bell. She was not the same Anne that he had known and
loved, far back in the days when he was young. Could it be possible that
it was only a year ago? Was Anne so close to the present as all that, and
yet so indefinably remote when it came to analysing this new look in her
eyes? Was it only a year ago that she was so young and so unfound?

A sudden sickness assailed him as he waited for the maid to open the door.
Anne had been made a widow. He, not God, was responsible for this new
phase in her life. Had he not put a dreadful charge upon her conscience?
Had he not forced her to share the responsibility with him? And, while the
rest of the world might forever remain in ignorance, would it ever be
possible for her to hide the truth from herself?

She knew what it all meant, and she had offered to share the consequences
with him, no matter what course his judgment led him to pursue. He had not
considered her until this instant as a partner in the undertaking, but now
he realised that she must certainly be looking upon herself as such. His
heart sank. He had made a hideous mistake. He should not have gone to her.
She could not justify herself by the same means that were open to him.

From her point of view, he had killed her husband, and with her consent!

He found himself treating the dead man in a curiously detached fashion,
and not as his own blood-relation. Her husband, that was the long and the
short of his swift reflections, not his grandfather. All her life she
would remember that she had supported him in an undertaking that had to do
with the certain death of her husband, and no matter how merciful, how
sensible that act may have been, or how earnestly he may have tried to see
his way clear to follow a course opposed to the one he had taken, the fact
remained that she had acknowledged herself prepared for just what
subsequently happened in the operating room.

Going back to the beginning, Templeton Thorpe's death was in her mind the
day she married him. It had never been a question with her as to how he
should die, but _when_. But this way to the desired end could never have
been included in her calculations. _This_ was not the way out.

She had been forced to take a stand with him in this unhappy business, and
she would have to pay a cost that he could not share with her, for his
conscience was clear. What were her thoughts to-day? With what ugly crime
was she charging herself? Was she, in the secrecy of her soul, convicting
herself of murder? Was _that_ what he had given her to think about all the
rest of her life?

The servant was slow in answering the bell. They always are at the homes
of doctors.

"Is Dr. Bates at home?"

"Office hours from eight to nine, and four to six."

"Say that Dr. Thorpe wishes to see him."

This seemed to make a difference. "He is out, Dr. Thorpe. We expect him in
any moment though. For lunch. Will you please to come in and wait?"

"Thank you."

She felt called upon to deliver a bit of information. "He went down to see
Mrs. Thorpe, sir,--your poor grandmother."

"I see," said Braden dully. It did not occur to him that enlightenment was
necessary. A queer little chill ran through his veins. Was Dr. Bates down
there now, telling Anne all that he knew, and was she, in the misery of
remorse, making him her confessor? In the light of these disturbing
thoughts, he was fast becoming blind to the real object of this, the first
of the three visits he was to make.

Dr. Bates found him staring gloomily from the window when he came into the
office half an hour later, and at once put the wrong though obvious
construction upon his mood.

"Come, come, my boy," he said as they shook hands; "put it out of your
mind. Don't let the thing weigh like this. You knew what you were about
yesterday, so don't look back upon what happened with--"

Braden interrupted him, irrelevantly. "You've been down to see Mrs.
Thorpe. How is she? How does she appear to be taking it?" He spoke
rapidly, nervously.

"As well as could be expected," replied the older man drily. "She is glad
that it's all over. So are we all, for that matter."

"Did she send for you?"

"Yes," said Dr. Bates, after an instant's hesitation. "I'll be frank with
you, Braden. She wanted to know just what happened."

"And you told her?"

"I told her that you did everything that a man could do," said the other,
choosing his words with care.

"In other words, you did not tell her what happened."

"I did not, my boy. There is no reason why she should know. It is better
that she should never know," said Dr. Bates gravely.

"What did she say?" asked Braden sharply.

Dr. Bates suddenly was struck by the pallor in the drawn face. "See here,
Braden, you must get a little rest. Take my advice and--"

"Tell me what she had to say," insisted the young man.

"She cried a little when I told her that you had done your best, and
that's about all."

"Didn't she confess that she expected--that she feared I might have--"

"Confess? Why do you use that word?" demanded Dr. Bates, as the young man
failed to complete his sentence. His gaze was now fixed intently on
Braden's face. A suspicion was growing in his mind.

"I am terribly distressed about something, Dr. Bates," said Braden,
uneasily. "I wish you would tell me everything that Anne had to say to
you."

"Well, for one thing, she said that she knew you would do everything in
your power to bring about a successful result. She seemed vastly relieved
when I told her that you had done all that mortal man could do. I don't
believe she has the faintest idea that--that an accident occurred. Now that
I think of it, she did stop me when I undertook to convince her that your
bark is worse than your bite, young man,--in other words, that your
theories are for conversational and not practical purposes. Yes, she cut
me off rather sharply. I hadn't attached any importance to her--See here,
Braden," he demanded suddenly, "is there any reason why she should have
cut me off like that? Had she cause to feel that you might have put into
practice your--your--Come, come, you know what I mean." He was leaning
forward in his chair, his hands gripping the arm-rests.

"She is more or less in sympathy with my views," said Braden warily. "Of
course, you could not expect her to be in sympathy with them in this case,
however." He put it out as a feeler.

"Well, I should say not!" exclaimed Dr. Bates. "It's conceivable that she
may have been in some doubt, however, until I reassured her. By George, I
am just beginning to see through her, Braden. She had me down there to--to
set her mind at rest about--about _you_. 'Pon my soul, she did it neatly,
too."

"And she believes--you think she believes that her mind is at rest?"

"That's an odd question. What do you mean?"

"Just that. Does she believe that you told her the truth?"

"Oh! I see. Well, a doctor has to tell a good many lies in the course of a
year. He gets so that he can tell them with a straighter face than when
he's telling the truth. I don't see why Mrs. Thorpe should doubt my
word--my professional word--unless there is some very strong reason for
doing so." He continued to eye Braden keenly. "Do you know of any reason?"

Thorpe by this time was able to collect himself. The primal instinct to
unburden himself to this old, understanding friend, embraced sturdy,
outspoken argument in defence of his act, but this defence did not
contemplate the possible inclusion of Anne. He was now satisfied that she
had not delivered herself into the confidence of Dr. Bates. She had kept
her secret close. It was not for him to make revelations. The newly
aroused fear that even this good old friend might attach an unholy design
to their motives impelled him to resort to equivocation, if not to actual
falsehood. This was a side to the matter that had not been considered by
him till now. But he was now acutely aware of an ugly conviction that she
had thought of it afterwards, just as he was thinking of it now, hence her
failure to repeat to Dr. Bates the substance of their discussion before
the operation took place.

He experienced an unaccountable, disquieting sensation of guilt, of
complicity in an evil deed, of a certain slyness that urged him to hide
something from this shrewd old man. To his utter amazement, he was saying
to himself that he must not "squeal" on Anne, his partner! He now knew
that he could never speak of what had passed between himself and Anne. Of
his own part in the affair he could speak frankly with this man, and with
all men, and be assured that no sinister motive would be attributed to
him. He would be free from the slightest trace of suspicion so long as he
stood alone in accounts of the happenings of the day before. No matter how
violent the criticism or how bitter the excoriation, he would at least be
credited with honest intentions. But the mere mention of Anne's name would
be the signal for a cry from the housetops, and all the world would hear.
And Anne's name would sound the death knell of "honest intentions."

"As I said a moment ago, Dr. Bates, Mrs. Thorpe is fully aware of my
rather revolutionary views," he said, not answering the question with
directness. "That was enough to cause some uneasiness on my part."

"Um! I dare say," said Dr. Bates thoughtfully. Back in his mind was the
recollection of a broken engagement, or something of the sort. "I see.
Naturally. I think, on the whole, my boy, she believes that I told her the
truth. You needn't be uneasy on that score. I--I--for a moment I had an idea
that you might have _said_ something to her." It was almost a question.

Braden shook his head. His eyes did not flicker as he answered steadily:
"Surely you cannot think that I would have so much as mentioned my views
in discussing--"

"Certainly not, my boy," cried the other heartily. Braden did not fail to
note the look of relief in his eye, however. "So now you are all right as
far as Mrs. Thorpe is concerned. I made a point of assuring her that
everything went off satisfactorily to the three of us. She need never know
the truth. You needn't feel that you cannot look her in the eyes, Braden."

"'Gad, that sounds sinister," exclaimed Thorpe, staring. "That's what they
pay when they are talking about thieves and liars, Dr. Bates."

"I beg your pardon. I meant well, my boy, although perhaps it wasn't the
nice thing to say. And now have you come to tell me that it was an
accident, an unfortunate--"

"No," said Braden, straightening up. "I come to you first, Dr. Bates,
because you are my oldest friend and supporter, and because you were the
lifelong friend of my grandfather. I am going also to Dr. Bray and Dr.
Ernest after I leave here. I do not want any one of you to feel that I
expect you to shield me in this matter. You are at liberty to tell all
that you know. I did what I thought was best, what my conscience ordered
me to do, and I did it openly in the presence of three witnesses. There
was no accident. No one may say that I bungled. No one--"

"I should say you didn't bungle," said the older man. "I never witnessed a
finer--ahem! In fact, we all agree on that. My boy, you have a great future
before you. You are one of the most skilful--"

"Thanks. I didn't come to hear words of praise, Dr. Bates. I came to
release you from any obligation that you may--"

"Tut, tut! That's all right. We understand--perfectly. All three of us. I
have talked it over with Bray and Ernest. What happened up there yesterday
is as a closed book. We shall never open it. I will not go so far as to
say that we support your theories, but we do applaud your method. There
isn't one of us who would not have _felt_ like doing the thing you did,
but on the other hand there isn't one of us who could have done it. We
would have allowed him a few more days of life. Now that it is all over, I
will not say that you did wrong. I can only say that it was not right to
do the thing you did. However, it is your conscience and not mine that
carries the load,--if there is one. You may rest assured that not one of us
will ever voluntarily describe what actually took place."

"But I do not want to feel that you regard it your duty to protect me from
the consequences of a deliberate--"

"See here, my lad, do you want the world to know that you took your
grandfather's life? That's what it amounts to, you know. You can't go
behind the facts."

Thorpe lowered his head. "It would be ridiculous for me to say that I do
not care whether the world knows the truth about it, Dr. Bates. To be
quite honest, sir, I do not want the world to know. You will understand
why, in this particular instance, I should dread publicity. Mr. Thorpe was
my grandfather. He was my benefactor. But that isn't the point. I had no
legal right to do the thing I did. I took it upon myself to take a step
that is not now countenanced by the law or by our profession. I did this
in the presence of witnesses. What I want to make clear to you and to the
other doctors is that I should have acted differently if my patient had
been any one else in the world. I loved my grandfather. He was my only
friend. He expected me to do him a great service yesterday. I could not
fail him, sir. When I saw that there was nothing before him but a few
awful days of agony, I did what he would have blessed me for doing had he
been conscious. If my patient had been any one else I should have adhered
strictly to the teachings of my profession. I would not have broken the
law."

"Your grandfather knew when he went up to the operating room that he was
not to leave it alive. Is that the case?"

"He did not expect to leave it alive, sir," amended Braden steadily.

"You had talked it all over with him?"

"I had agreed to perform the operation, that is all, sir. He knew that his
case was hopeless. That is why he insisted on having the operation
performed."

"In other words, he deliberately put you in your present position? He set
his mind on forcing this thing upon you? Then all I have to say for
Templeton Thorpe is that he was a damned--But there, he's dead and gone
and, thank God, he can't hear me. You must understand, Braden, that this
statement of yours throws an entirely new light upon the case," said Dr.
Bates gravely. "The fact that it was actually expected of you makes your
act a--er--shall we say less inspirational? I do not believe it wise for you
to make this statement to my colleagues. You are quite safe in telling me,
for I understand the situation perfectly. But if you tell them that there
was an agreement--even a provisional agreement--I--well, the thing will not
look the same to them."

"You are right, Dr. Bates," said Braden, after a moment. "Thank you for
the advice. I see what you mean. I shall not tell them all that I have
told you. Still, I am determined to see them and--"

"Quite so. It is right that you should. Give them cause to respect you, my
boy. They saw everything. They are sound, just men. From what they have
said to me, you may rest assured that they do not condemn you any more
than I do. The anaesthetician saw nothing. He was occupied. That young
fellow--what's his name?--may have been more capable of observing than we'd
suspect in one so tender, but I fancy he wouldn't know _everything_. I
happen to know that he saw the knife slip. He mentioned it to Simeon
Dodge."

"To Simmy Dodge!"

"Yes. Dodge came to see me last night. He told me that the boy made some
queer statement to him about the pylorus, and he seemed to be troubled. I
set him straight in the matter. He doesn't know any more about the pylorus
than he knew before, but he does know that no surgeon on earth could have
avoided the accident that befell you in the crisis. Simmy, good soul, was
for going out at once and buying off the interne, but I stopped him. We
will take care of the young man. He doesn't say it was intentional, and we
will convince him that it wasn't. How do you stand with young George
Tresslyn?"

"I don't know. He used to like me. I haven't seen--"

"It appears that Simmy first inquired of George if he knew anything about
the pylorus. He is Mrs. Thorpe's brother. I should be sorry if he got it
into his head that--well, that there was anything wrong, anything that
might take him to her with ugly questions."

"I shall have to chance that, Dr. Bates," said Braden grimly.

"Mrs. Thorpe must never know, Braden," said the other, gripping his hands
behind his back.

"If it gets out, she can't help knowing. She may suspect even now--"

"But it is not to get out. There may be rumours starting from this
interne's remark and supported by your avowed doctrines, but we must
combine to suppress them. The newspapers cannot print a line without our
authority, and they'll never get it. They will not dare to print a rumour
that cannot be substantiated. I spoke of George a moment ago for a very
good reason. I am afraid of him. He has been going down hill pretty fast
of late. It wouldn't surprise me to hear that he had sunk low enough to
attempt blackmail."

"Good heaven! Why--why, he's not that sort--"

"Don't be too sure of him. He is almost in the gutter, they say. He's
_that_ sort, at any rate."

"I don't believe George ever did a crooked thing in his life, poor devil.
He wouldn't dream of coming to me with a demand for--"

"He wouldn't come to you," said the other, sententiously. "He would not
have the courage to do that. But he might go to Anne. Do you see what I
mean?"

Braden shook his head. He recalled George's experiences in the sick-room
and the opportunity that had been laid before him. "I see what you mean,
but George--well, he's not as bad as you think, Dr. Bates."

"We'll see," said the older man briefly. "I hope he's the man you seem to
think he is. I am afraid of him."

"He loves his sister, Dr. Bates."

"In that case he may not attempt to blackmail her, but it would not
prevent his going to her with his story. The fact that he does love her
may prove to be your greatest misfortune."

"What do you mean?"

"As I said before, Anne must never know," said Dr. Bates, laying his hand
on the young man's shoulder and gripping it suddenly. "Your grandfather
talked quite freely with me toward the end. No; Anne must never know."

Braden stared at the floor in utter perplexity.




CHAPTER XVII


Wade went through the unnecessary form of "giving notice" a day or two
after his old master was laid to rest. On the day that Templeton Thorpe
went to the hospital he abandoned an almost lifelong habit of cocking his
head in an attitude of listening, and went about the house with the
corners of his mouth drooping instead of maintaining their everlasting
twist upward in the set smile of humility.

He had been there for thirty years and more, and now he was no longer
needed. He would have to get out. He had saved a little money,--not much,
but enough to start a small business of some sort,--and he was complaining
bitterly to himself of the fate that deprived him of Mr. Thorpe's advice
just when it was imperative that he should know what enterprise would be
the safest for him to undertake. It nettled him to think that he had
failed to take advantage of his opportunities while this shrewd, capable
old man was alive and in a position to set him on the right path to
prosperity. He should have had the sense to look forward to this very day.

For thirty years he had gone on believing that he knew so much more than
Mr. Thorpe that Mr. Thorpe couldn't possibly get along without him, and
now he was brought up sharply against the discovery that he couldn't get
along without Mr. Thorpe. For thirty years he had done only the things
that Mr. Thorpe wanted him to do, instructed him to do, or even drove him
to do. Suddenly he found himself with absolutely nothing to do, or at any
rate with no one to tell him what to do, and instead of a free and
independent agent, with no one to order him about, he wasn't anything,--he
wasn't anything at all. This was not what he had been looking forward to
with such complacency and confidence. He was like a lost soul. No one to
tell him what to do! No one to valet! No one to call him a blundering
idiot! No one to despise except himself! And he had waited thirty years
for the day to come when he could be his own man, with the power to tell
every one to go to the devil--and to do so himself if he saw fit. He hardly
recognised himself when he looked in the mirror. Was that scared, bleak,
wobegone face a reflection? Was he really like that?

He was filled with a bitter rage against Mr. Thorpe. How he hated him for
dying like this and leaving him with nothing to do after all these years
of faithful service. And how shocked he was, and frightened, to discover
himself wanting to pause outside his master's door with his head cocked to
hear the voice that would never shout out to him again.

He knew to a penny just how much he had in the Savings Banks about town,--a
trifle over twelve thousand dollars, the hoardings of thirty years. He had
gone on being a valet all these years without a single thought of being
anything else, and yet he had always looked forward to the day when he
could go into some nice, genteel little business for himself,--when he
could step out of service and enjoy life to the full. But how was he to go
about stepping out of service and into a nice, genteel little business
without Mr. Thorpe to tell him what to do? Here was he, sixty-five years
old, without a purpose in life. Beginning life at sixty-five!

Of course, young Mrs. Thorpe would have no use for a valet. No doubt she
would marry again,--Wade had his notions!--but he couldn't think of
subjecting himself to the incompetency of a new master, even though his
old place were held open for him. He would not be able to adjust himself
to another master,--or to put it in his own words, it would be impossible
to adjust another master to himself. Young Master Braden might give him
something to do for the sake of old times, but then again Mrs. Thorpe
would have to be taken into consideration. Wade hadn't the slightest doubt
that she would one day "marry into the family again." As a matter of fact,
he believed in his soul that there was an understanding between the young
people. There were moments when he squinted his eyes and cringed a little.
He would have given a great deal to be able to put certain thoughts out of
his mind.

And then there was another reason for not wanting to enter the service of
Dr. Braden Thorpe. Suppose he were to become critically ill. Would he, in
that event, feel at liberty to call in an outside doctor to take charge of
his case? Would it not be natural for Dr. Braden to attend him? And
suppose that Dr. Braden were to conclude that he couldn't get well!

He gave notice to Murray, the butler. He hated to do this, for he despised
Murray. The butler would not have to go. He too had been with Mr. Thorpe
for more than a quarter of a century, and death had not robbed him of a
situation. What manner of justice was it that permitted Murray to go on
being useful while he had to go out into the world and become a burden to
himself?

"Murray informs me, Wade, that you have given notice," said Anne, looking
up as he shuffled into an attitude before her. "He says that you have
saved quite a lot of money and are therefore independent. I am happy to
hear that you are in a position to spend the remainder of your life in
ease and--why, what is the matter, Wade?"

He was very pale, and swayed slightly. "If you please, madam, Murray is
mistaken," he mumbled. An idea was forming in his unhappy brain. "I--I am
leaving because I realise that you no longer have any use for my services,
and not because I am--er--well off, as the saying is. I shall try to get
another place." His mind was clear now. The idea was completely formed.
"Of course, it will be no easy matter to find a place at my age,
but,--well, a man must live, you know." He straightened up a bit, as if a
weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

She was puzzled. "But you have money, Wade. You have worked hard. You have
earned a good rest. Why should you go on slaving for other people?"

"Alas," said Wade, resuming the patient smile that had been missing for
days and cocking his head a little, "it is not for me to rest. Murray does
not know everything. My savings are small. He does not know the uses to
which I have been obliged to--I beg pardon, madam, you cannot, of course,
be interested in my poor affairs." He was very humble.

"But Mr. Thorpe always spoke of you as an exceedingly thrifty man. I am
sure that he believed you to be comfortably fixed for life, Wade."

"Quite so," agreed Wade. "And I should have been had it been possible to
lay by with all these unmentioned obligations crowding upon me, year in,
year out."

"Your family? I did not know that there was any one dependent upon you."

"I have never spoken of my affairs, ma'am," said Wade. "It is not for a
servant to trouble his employer with--ahem! You understand, I am sure."

"Perfectly. I am sorry."

"So I thought I would give notice at once, madam, so that I might be on
the lookout as soon as possible for a new place. You see, I shall soon be
too old to apply for a place, whilst if I manage to secure one in time I
may be allowed to stay on in spite of my age."

"Have you anything in view?"

"Nothing, madam. I am quite at a loss where to--"

"Take all the time you like, Wade," she said, genuinely sorry for the man.
She never had liked him. He was the one man in all the world who might
have pitied her for the mistake she had made, and he had steeled his heart
against her. She knew that he felt nothing but scorn for her, and yet she
was sorry for him. This was new proof to her that she had misjudged her
own heart. It was a softer thing than she had supposed. "Stay on here
until you find something satisfactory. Mr. Thorpe would have wished you to
stay. You were a very faithful friend to him, Wade. He set great store by
you."

"Thank you, madam. You are very kind. Of course, I shall strive to make
myself useful while I remain. I dare say Murray can find something for me
to do. Temporarily, at least, I might undertake the duties of the furnace
man and handy-man about the house. He is leaving to-morrow, I hear. If you
will be so good as to tell Murray that I am to take O'Toole's
place,--temporarily, of course,--I shall be very grateful. It will give me
time to collect my thoughts, ma'am."

"It will not be necessary, Wade, for you to take on O'Toole's work. I am
not asking you to perform hard, manual labor. You must not feel that my--"

"Pardon me, madam," interrupted he; "I very much prefer to do some sort of
regular work, if I may be permitted."

She smiled. "You will find Murray a hard task-master, I am afraid."

He took a long breath, as of relief--or could it have been pleasure? "I
quite understand that, madam. He is a martinet. Still, I shall not mind."
The same thought was in the mind of each: he was accustomed to serving a
hard task-master. "If you don't mind, I shall take O'Toole's place until
you find some one else. To-morrow I shall move my belongings from the room
upstairs to O'Toole's room off the furnace-room. Thank--"

"No!" she exclaimed. "You are not to do that. Keep your old room, Wade.
I--I cannot allow you to go down there. Mr. Thorpe would never forgive me
if he knew that--" He lifted his eyes at the sudden pause and saw that she
was very white. Was she too afraid of ghosts?

"It's very good of you," he said after a moment. "I shall do as you wish
in everything, and I shall let you know the instant I find another place."
He cleared his throat. "I fear, madam, that in the confusion of the past
few days I have failed to express to you my sympathy. I assure you the
oversight was not--"

She was looking straight into his eyes. "Thank you, Wade," she interrupted
coldly. "Your own grief would be sufficient excuse, if any were necessary.
If you will send Murray to me I will tell him that you have withdrawn your
notice and will stay on in O'Toole's place. It will not be necessary for
him to engage another furnace-man at present."

"No, ma'am," said Wade, and then added without a trace of irony in his
voice: "At any rate not until cold weather sets in."

And so it was that this man solved the greatest problem that had ever
confronted him. He went down into the cellars to take orders from the man
he hated, from the man who would snarl at him and curse him and humiliate
him to the bitter end, and all because he knew that he could not begin
life over again. He wanted to be ordered about, he wanted to be snarled at
by an overbearing task-master. It simplified everything. He would never be
called upon to think for himself. Thorpe or Murray, what mattered which of
them was in command? It was all the same to him. His dignity passed, away
with the passing of his career as a "Man," and he rejoiced in the belief
that he had successfully evaded the responsibilities that threatened him
up to the moment he entered the presence of the mistress of the house. He
was no longer without a purpose in life. He would not have to go out and
be independent.

Toward the end of the second week Templeton Thorpe's will was read by
Judge Hollenback in the presence of "the family." There had been some
delay on account of Braden Thorpe's absence from the city. No one knew
where he had gone, nor was he ever to explain his sudden departure
immediately after the funeral. He simply disappeared from his hotel,
without so much as a bag or a change of linen in his possession, so far as
one could know. At the end of ten days he returned as suddenly and as
casually as he had gone away, but very much improved in appearance. The
strange pallor had left his cheeks and his eyes had lost the heavy, tired
expression.

At first he flatly refused to go down for the reading of the will. He was
not a beneficiary under the new instrument and he could see no reason for
his attendance. Anne alone understood. The old vow not to enter the house
while she was its mistress,--that was the reason. He was now in a position
to revive that vow and to order his actions accordingly.

She drooped a little at the thought of it. From time to time she caught
herself wishing that she could devise some means of punishing him, only to
berate herself afterward for the selfishness that inspired the thought.

Still, why shouldn't he come there now? She was the same now that she was
before her marriage took place,--a year older, that was all, but no less
desirable. That was the one thing she could not understand in him. She
could understand his disgust, his scorn, his rage, but she could not see
how it was possible for him to hold out against the qualities that had
made him love her so deeply before she gave him cause to hate her.

As for the operation that had resulted in the death of her husband, Anne
had but one way of looking at it. Braden had been forced to operate
against his will, against his best judgment. He was to be pitied. His
grandfather had failed in his attempt to corrupt the souls of others in
his desire for peace, and there remained but the one cowardly alternative:
the appeal to this man who loved him. In his extremity, he had put upon
Braden the task of performing a miracle, knowing full well that its
accomplishment was impossible, that failure was as inevitable as death
itself.

The thought never entered her mind that in persuading Braden to perform
this strange act of mercy her husband may have been moved by the sole
desire to put the final touch to the barrier he had wrought between them.
The fact that Braden was responsible for his death had no sinister meaning
for her. It was the same as if he had operated upon a total stranger with
a like result and with perhaps identical motives.

She kept on saying to herself that she had given up hope of ever regaining
the love she had lost. She tried to remember just when she had ceased to
hope. Was it before or after that last conversation took place in the
library? Hope may have died, but he was alive and she was alive. Then how
could love be dead?

It was Simmy Dodge who prevailed upon Braden to be present at the reading
of the will. Simmy was the sort of man who goes about, in the goodness of
his heart, adjusting matters for other people. He constituted himself in
this instance, however, as the legal adviser of his old friend and
companion, and that gave him a certain amount of authority.

"And what's more," he said in arguing with the obdurate Braden, "we'll
probably have to smash the will, if, as you say, you have been cut off
without a nickel. You--"

"But I don't want to smash it," protested Braden.

"And why not?" demanded Simmy, in surprise. "You are his only blood
relation, aren't you? Why the deuce should he leave everything away from
you? Of course we'll make a fight for it. I've never heard of a more
outrageous piece of--"

"You don't understand, Simmy," Braden interrupted, suddenly realising that
his position would be a difficult one to explain, even to this good and
loyal friend. "We'll drop the matter for the present, at any rate."

"But why should Mr. Thorpe have done this rotten, inconceivable thing to
you, Brady?" demanded Dodge. "Good Lord, that will won't stand a minute in
a court of--"

"It will stand so far as I'm concerned," said Braden sharply, and Simmy
blinked his eyes in bewilderment.

"You wouldn't be fighting Anne, you know," he ventured after a moment,
assuming that Braden's attitude was due to reluctance in that direction.
"She is provided for outside the will, she tells me."

"Are you her attorney, Simmy?"

"Yes. That is, the firm represents her, and I'm one of the firm."

"I don't see how you can represent both of us, old chap."

"That's just what I'm trying to get into your head. I couldn't represent
you if there was to be a fight with Anne. But we can fight these idiotic
charities, can't we?"

"No," said Braden flatly. "My grandfather's will is to stand just as it
is, Simmy. I shall not contest for a cent. And so, if you please, there's
no reason for my going down there to listen to the reading of the thing. I
know pretty well what the document says. I was in Mr. Thorpe's confidence.
For your own edification, Simmy, I'll merely say that I have already had
my share of the estate, and I'm satisfied."

"Still, in common decency, you ought to go down and listen to the reading
of the will. Judge Hollenback says he will put the thing off until you are
present, so you might as well go first as last. Be reasonable, Brady. I
know how you feel toward Anne. I can appreciate your unwillingness to go
to her house after what happened a year ago. Judge Hollenback declares
that his letter of instruction from Mr. Thorpe makes it obligatory for him
to read the document in the presence of his widow and his grandson, and in
the library of his late home. Otherwise, the thing could have been done in
Hollenback's offices."

In the end Braden agreed to be present.

When Judge Hollenback smoothed out the far from voluminous looking
document, readjusted his nose glasses and cleared his throat preparatory
to reading, the following persons were seated in the big, fire-lit
library: Anne Thorpe, the widow; Braden Thorpe, the grandson; Mrs.
Tresslyn, George Tresslyn, Simmy Dodge, Murray, and Wade, the furnace-man.
The two Tresslyns were there by Anne's request. Late in the day she was
overcome by the thought of sitting there alone while Braden was being
dispossessed of all that rightfully belonged to him. She had not intended
to ask her mother to come down for the reading. Somehow she had felt that
Mrs. Tresslyn's presence would indicate the consummation of a project that
had something ignoble about it. She knew that her mother could experience
no other sensation than that of curiosity in listening to the will. Her
interest in the affairs of Templeton Thorpe ended with the signing of the
ante-nuptial contract, supplemented of course by the event which
satisfactorily terminated the agreement inside of a twelve-month. But
Anne, practically alone in the world as she now found herself to be, was
suddenly aware of a great sense of depression. She wanted her mother. She
wanted some one near who would not look at her with scornful, bitter eyes.

George's presence is to be quickly explained. He had spent the better part
of the week with Anne, sleeping in the house at her behest. For a week she
had braved it out alone. Then came the sudden surrender to dread, terror,
loneliness. The shadows in the halls were grim; the sounds in the night
were sinister, the stillness that followed them creepy; the servants were
things that stalked her, and she was afraid--mortally afraid in this home
that was not hers. She had made up her mind to go away for a long time
just as soon as everything was settled.

As for the furnace-man, Judge Hollenback had summoned him on his arrival
at the house. So readily had Wade adapted himself to his new duties that
he now felt extremely uncomfortable and ill-at-ease in a room that had
been like home to him for thirty years. He seemed to feel that this was no
place for the furnace-man, notwithstanding the scouring and polishing
process that temporarily had restored him to a more exalted office,--for
once more he was the smug, impeccable valet.

Braden was the last to arrive. He timed his arrival so that there could be
no possibility of an informal encounter with Anne. She came forward and
shook hands with him, simply, unaffectedly.

"You have been away," she said, looking straight into his eyes. He was
conscious of a feeling of relief. He had been living in some dread of what
he might detect in her eyes. But it was a serene, frank expression that he
found in them, not a question.

"Yes," he said. "I was tired," he added after a moment.

She hesitated. Then: "I have not seen you, Braden, since--since the twenty-
first. You have not given me the opportunity to tell you that I know you
did all that any one could possibly do for Mr. Thorpe. Thank you for
undertaking the impossible. I am sorry--oh, so sorry,--that you were made to
suffer. I want you to remember too that it was with my sanction that you
made the hopeless effort."

He turned cold. The others had heard every word. She had spoken without
reserve, without the slightest indication of nervousness or compunction.
The very thing that he feared had come to pass. She had put herself
definitely on record. He glanced quickly about, searching the faces of the
other occupants of the room. His gaze fell upon Wade, and rested for a
second or two. Something told him that Wade's gaze would shift,--and it
did.

"I did everything, Anne. Thank you for believing in me." That was all. No
word of sympathy, no mawkish mumbling of regret, no allusion to his own
loss. He looked again into her eyes, this time in quest of the motive that
urged her to make this unnecessary declaration. Was there a deeper
significance to be attached to her readiness to assume responsibility? He
looked for the light in her eye that would convince him that she was
taking this stand because of the love she felt for him. He was
immeasurably relieved to find no secret message there. She had not stooped
to that, and he was gratified. Her eyes were clouded with concern for him,
that was all. He was ashamed of himself for the thought,--and afterwards he
wondered why he should have been ashamed. After all, it was only right
that she should be sorry for him. He deserved that much from her.

An awkward silence ensued. Simmy Dodge coughed nervously, and then Braden
advanced to greet Mrs. Tresslyn. She did not rise. Her gloved hand was
extended and he took it without hesitation.

"It is good to see you again, Braden," she said, with the bland,
perfunctory parting of the lips that stands for a smile with women of her
class. He meant nothing to her now.

"Thanks," he said, and moved on to George, who regarded him with some
intensity for a moment and then gripped his hand heartily. "How are you,
George?"

"Fine! First stage of regeneration, you know. I'm glad to see you, Brady."

There was such warmth in the repressed tones that Thorpe's hand clasp
tightened. Tresslyn was still a friend. His interest quickened into a keen
examination of the young man who had pronounced himself in the first stage
of regeneration, whatever that may have signified to one of George's type.
He was startled by the haggard, sick look in the young fellow's face.
George must have read the other's expression, for he said: "I'm all
right,--just a little run down. That's natural, I suppose."

"He has a dreadful cold," said Anne, who had overheard. "I can't get him
to do anything for it."

"Don't you worry about me, Anne," said George stoutly.

"Just the same, you should take care of yourself," said Braden. "Pneumonia
gets after you big fellows, you know. How are you, Wade? Poor old Wade,
you must miss my grandfather terribly. You knew him before I was born. It
seems an age, now that I think of it in that way."

"Thirty-three years, sir," said Wade. "Nearly ten years longer than
Murray, Mr. Braden, It does seem an age."

The will was not a lengthy document. The reading took no more than three
minutes, and for another full minute after its conclusion, not a person in
the room uttered a word. A sort of stupefaction held them all in its
grip,--that is, all except the old lawyer who was putting away his glasses
and waiting for the outburst that was sure to follow.

In the first place, Mr. Thorpe remembered Anne. After declaring that she
had been satisfactorily provided for in a previous document, known to her
as a contract, he bequeathed to her the house in which she had lived for a
single year with him. All of its contents went with this bequest. To
Josiah Wade he left the sum of twenty-five thousand dollars, to Edward
Murray ten thousand dollars, and to each of the remaining servants in his
household a sum equal to half of their earnings while in his service.
There were bequests to his lawyer, his doctor and his secretary, besides
substantial gifts to persons who could not by any chance have expected
anything from this grim old man,--such as the friendly doorman at his
favourite club, and the man who had been delivering newspapers to him for
a score of years or more, and the old negro bootblack who had attended him
at the Brevoort in the days before the Italian monopoly set in, and the
two working-girls who supported the invalid widow of a man who had gone to
prison and died there after having robbed the Thorpe estate of a great
many thousands of dollars while acting as a confidential and trusted
agent.

Then came the astounding disposition of the fortune that had accumulated
in the time of Templeton Thorpe. There were no bequests outright to
charity, contrary to all expectations. The listeners were prepared to hear
of huge gifts to certain institutions and societies known to have been
favoured by the testator. Various hospitals were looked upon as sure to
receive splendid endowments, and specific colleges devoted to the
advancement of medical and surgical science were also regarded as
inevitable beneficiaries. It was all cut and dried, so far as Judge
Hollenback's auditors were concerned,--that is to say, prior to the reading
of the will. True, the old lawyer had declared in the beginning, that the
present will was drawn and signed on the afternoon of the day before the
death of Mr. Thorpe, and that a previous instrument to which a codicil had
been affixed was destroyed in the presence of two witnesses. The
instrument witnessed by Wade and Murray was the one that had been
destroyed. This should have aroused uneasiness in the mind of Braden
Thorpe, if no one else, but he was slow to recognise the significance of
the change in his grandfather's designs.

With his customary terseness, Templeton Thorpe declared himself to be
hopelessly ill but of sound mind at the moment of drawing his last will
and testament, and suffering beyond all human endurance. His condition at
that moment, and for weeks beforehand, was such that death offered the
only panacea. He had come to appreciate the curse of a life prolonged
beyond reason. Therefore, in full possession of all his faculties and
being now irrevocably converted to the principles of mercy advocated by
his beloved grandson, Braden Lanier Thorpe, he placed the residue of his
estate in trust, naming the aforesaid Braden Lanier Thorpe as sole
trustee, without bond, the entire amount to be utilised and expended by
him in the promotion of his noble and humane propaganda in relation to the
fate of the hopelessly afflicted among those creatures fashioned after the
image of God. The trust was to expire with the death of the said Braden
Lanier Thorpe, when all funds remaining unused for the purposes herein set
forth were to go without restriction to the heirs of the said trustee,
either by bequest or administration.

In so many words, the testator rested in his grandson full power and
authority to use these funds, amounting to nearly six million dollars, as
he saw fit in the effort to obtain for the human sufferer the same mercy
that is extended to the beast of the field, and to make final disposition
of the estate in his own will. Realising the present hopelessness of an
attempt to secure legislation of this character, he suggested that first
of all it would be imperative to prepare the way to such an end by
creating in the minds of all the peoples of the world a state of common
sense that could successfully combat and overcome love, sentimentality and
cowardice! For these three, he pointed out, were the common enemy of
reason. "And in compensation for the discharge of such duties as may come
under the requirements of this trusteeship, the aforesaid Braden Lanier
Thorpe shall receive the fees ordinarily allotted by law and, in addition,
the salary of twenty-five thousand dollars per annum, until the terms of
this instrument are fully carried out."

Anne Tresslyn Thorpe was named as executrix of the will.




CHAPTER XVIII


Simmy Dodge was the first to speak. He was the first to grasp the full
meaning of this deliberately ambiguous will. His face cleared.

"By Jove!" he exclaimed, without respect for the proprieties. He slapped
Braden on the back, somewhat enthusiastically. "We sha'n't have to smash
it, after all. It's the cleverest thing I've ever listened to, old man.
What a head your grandfather had on his--"

Braden leaped to his feet, his face quivering. "Of course we'll smash it,"
he stormed. "Do you suppose or imagine for an instant that I will allow
such a thing as that to stand? Do you--"

"Go slow, Brady, go slow," broke in his excited, self-appointed lawyer.
"Can't you see through it? Can't you see what he was after? Why, good
Lord, man, he has made you the principal legatee,--he has actually given
you _everything_. All this rigmarole about a trust or a foundation or
whatever you want to call it amounts to absolutely nothing. The money is
yours to do what you like with as long as you live. You have complete
control of every dollar of it. No one else has a thing to say about it.
Why, it's the slickest, soundest will I've--"

"Oh, my God!" groaned Braden, dropping into a chair and covering his face
with his hands.

Judge Hollenback was smiling benignly. He had drawn the will. He knew that
it was sound, if not "slick," as Simmy had described it. The three
Tresslyns leaned forward in their chairs, bewildered, dumbfounded. Their
gaze was fixed on the shaking figure of Braden Thorpe.

As for Wade, he had sunk helplessly into a chair. A strange, hunted look
appeared in his eyes. His chin sank lower and lower, and his body
twitched. He was not caring what happened to Braden Thorpe, he was not
even thinking about the vast fortune that had been placed at the young
man's disposal. His soul was sick. In spite of all that he could do to
prevent it, his gaze went furtively to Murray's rubicund jowl, and then
shifted to the rapt, eager face of his young mistress. Twenty-five
thousand dollars! There was no excuse for him now. With all that money he
could not hope to stay on in service. He was rich. He would have to go out
into the world and shift for himself. He could not go on 'tending furnace
for Mrs. Thorpe,--he couldn't take the bread out of some deserving
wretch's mouth by hanging onto the job with all that money in his
possession. Mrs. Thorpe would congratulate him on the morrow, and turn him
out. And no one would tell him where to go,--unless it might be Murray, in
a fit of anger.

"Mr. Thorpe was not moved by any desire to circumvent certain--perhaps I
should say that he intended you, Dr. Thorpe, to act in strict accordance
with the provisions of the will," said Judge Hollenback. "He did not lose
sight of the fact that he had promised to leave you out of his will
completely. This money is not yours. It is in your hands as trustee. Mr.
Dodge is wrong. Your grandfather was very deeply in earnest when he
authorised the drawing of this instrument. You will discover, on reading
it carefully and thoughtfully, that he does not give you the right to
divert any of this money to your own private uses, but clearly says that
it is to be employed, under your sole direction and as you see fit, for
the carrying out of your ideas along certain lines. He has left a letter
for you, Dr. Thorpe, which I have been privileged to read. You will find
it in this envelope. For the benefit of future beneficiaries under this
instrument, I may say that he expresses the hope and desire that you will
not permit the movement to languish after your death. In fact, he
expressly instructs you to establish during your life time a systematic
scheme of education by reason of which the world eventually may become
converted to the ideas which you promulgate and defend. He realised that
this cannot he brought about in one generation, nor in two, three or four.
Indeed, he ventures the opinion that two centuries may pass before this
sound and sensible theory of yours,--the words are his, not mine,--becomes a
reality. Two centuries, mind you. So, you will see, he does not expect you
to perform a miracle, Braden. You are to start the ball rolling, so to
speak, in a definite, well-supported groove, from which there can be no
deviation. By this will, you are to have free and unhampered use of a vast
sum of money. He does not bind you in any particular. So much for the
outward expression of the will. Inversely, however, as you will find by
reading this letter, you are not so completely free to exercise your own
discretion. You will find that while he gives to you the undisputed right
to bequeath this fortune as you may see fit at the expiration of your term
as trustee--in short, at your death,--he suggests that,--being an honourable
and conscientious man to his certain knowledge,--you will create a so-
called foundation for the perpetuation of your ideas--and his, I may add.
This foundation is to grow out of and to be the real development of the
trust over which you now have absolute control. But all this, my friend,
we may discuss later on. The real significance of Mr. Thorpe's will is to
be found in the faith he reposes in you. He puts you on your honour. He
entrusts this no inconsiderable fortune to your care. It rests entirely
with you as to the manner in which it shall be used. If you elect to
squander it, there is no one to say nay to you. It is expressly stated
here that the trust comprehends the spread of the doctrines you advocate,
but it does not pretend to guide or direct you in the handling of the
funds. Mr. Thorpe trusts you to be governed by the dictates of your own
honour. I have no hesitancy in saying that I protested against this
extraordinary way of creating a trust, declaring to him that I thought he
was doing wrong in placing you in such a position,--that is to say, it was
wrong of him to put temptation in your way. He was confident, however. In
fact, he was entirely satisfied with the arrangement. I will admit that at
the time I had a queer impression that he was chuckling to himself, but of
course I was wrong. It was merely the quick and difficult breathing of one
in dire pain. The situation is quite plain, ladies and gentlemen. The will
is sound. Mr. Dodge has observed,--somewhat hastily I submit,--that he
believes it will not have to be smashed. He says that the money has been
left to Dr. Thorpe, and that the trust is a rigmarole, or something of the
sort. Mr. Dodge is right, after a fashion. If Dr. Thorpe chooses to
violate his grandfather's staunch belief in his integrity, if he elects to
disregard the suggestions set down in this letter--which, you must
understand, is in no sense a legal supplement to the will,--he may justify
Mr. Dodge's contention that the fortune is his to do with as he pleases."
He turned to Anne. "I beg to inform you, Mrs. Thorpe, that your duties as
executrix will not prove onerous. Your late husband left his affairs in
such shape that there will be absolutely no difficulty in settling the
estate. It could be done in half an hour, if necessary. Everything is
ship-shape, as the saying is. I shall be glad to place myself at the
command of yourself and your attorneys. Have no hesitancy in calling upon
me."

He waited. No one spoke. Braden was looking at him now. He had recovered
from his momentary collapse and was now listening intently to the old
lawyer's words. There was a hard, uncompromising light in his eyes,--a
sullen prophecy of trouble ahead. After a moment, Judge Hollenback
construed their silence as an invitation to go on. He liked to talk.

"Our good friend Dodge says that no one else has a thing to say about the
manner in which the trustee of this vast fund shall disperse his dollars."
(Here he paused, for it sounded rather good to him.) "Ahem! Now does Mr.
Dodge really believe what he says? Just a moment, please. I am merely
formulating--er--I beg pardon, Mrs. Thorpe. You were saying--?"

"I prefer not to act as executrix of the will, Judge Hollenback," said
Anne dully. "How am I to go about being released from--"

"My dear Mrs. Thorpe, you must believe me when I say that your
duties,--er--the requirements,--are practically _nil_. Pray do not labour
under the impression that--"

"It isn't that," said Anne. "I just don't want to serve, that's all. I
shall refuse."

"My daughter will think the matter over for a few days, Judge Hollenback,"
said Mrs. Tresslyn suavely. "She _does_ feel, I've no doubt, that it would
be a tax on her strength and nerves. In a few days, I'm sure, she will
feel differently." She thought she had sensed Anne's reason for
hesitating. Mrs. Tresslyn had been speechless with dismay--or perhaps it
was indignation--up to this moment. She had had a hard fight to control her
emotions.

"We need not discuss it now, at any rate," said Anne. She found it
extremely difficult to keep from looking at Braden as she spoke. Something
told her that he was looking hard at her. She kept her face averted.

"Quite right, quite right," said Judge Hollenback. "I hope you will
forgive me, Braden, for mentioning your--er--theories,--the theories which
inspired the somewhat disturbing clause in your grandfather's will. I feel
that it is my duty to explain my position in the matter. I was opposed to
the creation of this fund. I tried to make your grandfather see the utter
fallacy of his--shall we call it whim? Now, I will not put myself in the
attitude of denying the true humanity of your theory. I daresay it has
been discussed by physicians for ages. It was my aim to convince your
grandfather that all the money in the world cannot bring about the result
you desire. I argued from the legal point of view. There are the insurance
companies to consider. They will put obstacles in the way of--"

"Pardon me, Judge Hollenback," interrupted Braden steadily. "I do not
advocate an illegal act. We need not discuss my theories, however. The
absurdity of the clause in my grandfather's will is as clear to me as it
is to you. The conditions cannot be carried out. I shall refuse to accept
this trusteeship."

Judge Hollenback stared. "But, my dear friend, you must accept. What is to
become of the--er--money if you refuse to act? You can't possibly refuse.
There is no other provision for the disposition of the estate. He has put
it squarely up to you. There is no other solution. You may be sure, sir,
that I do not care what you do with the money, and I fancy no one else
will undertake to define your--"

"Just the same, sir, I cannot and will not accept," said Braden, finality
in his tone. "I cannot tell you how shocked, how utterly overwhelmed I am
by--"

Simmy interrupted him. "I'd suggest, old fellow, that you take Mr.
Thorpe's letter to your rooms and read it. Take time to think it all out
for yourself. Don't go off half-cocked like this."

"You at least owe it to yourself and to your grandfather--" began Judge
Hollenback soothingly, but was cut short by Braden, who arose and turned
to the door. There he stopped and faced them.

"I'm sorry, Judge Hollenback, but I must ask you to consider the matter
closed. I shall leave you and Mr. Dodge to find a satisfactory solution.
In the first place, I am a practising physician and surgeon. I prefer to
regulate my own life and my life's work. I need not explain to you just
how deeply I am interested in the saving of human life. That comes first
with me. My theories, as you call them, come second. I cannot undertake
the promotion of these theories as a salaried advocate. This is the only
stupid and impractical thing that my grandfather ever did, I believe. He
must have known that the terms of the will could not be carried out. Mr.
Dodge is right. It was his way of leaving the property to me after
declaring that he would not do so, after adding the codicil annulling the
bequest intended for me. He broke a solemn compact. Now he has made the
situation absolutely impossible. I shall not act as trustee of this fund,
and I shall not use a penny of the fortune 'as I see fit,' Judge
Hollenback. There must be some other channel into which all this money can
be diverted without--"

"There is no provision, sir, as I said before," said Judge Hollenback
testily. "It can only be released by an act of yours. That is clear, quite
clear."

"Then, I shall find a way," said Braden resolutely. "I shall go into court
and ask to have the will set aside as--"

"That's it, sir, that's it," came an eager voice from an unexpected
quarter. Wade was leaning forward in his chair, visibly excited by the
prospect of relief. "I can testify, sir, that Mr. Thorpe acted
strangely,--yes, very queerly,--during the past few months. I should say
that he was of unsound mind." Then, as every eye was upon him, he subsided
as suddenly as he had begun.

"Shut up!" whispered Murray, murderously, bending over, the better to
penetrate his ear. "You damn fool!"

Judge Hollenback indulged in a frosty smile. "Mr. Wade is evidently
bewildered." Then, turning to Braden, he said: "Mr. Dodge's advice is
excellent. Think the matter over for a few days and then come to see me."

"I am placed in a most unhappy position," said Braden, with dignity. "Mrs.
Thorpe appreciates my feelings, I am sure. She was led to believe, as I
was, that my grandfather had left me out of his will. Such a thing as this
subterfuge never crossed my mind, nor hers. I wish to assure her, in the
presence of all of you, that I was as completely ignorant of all this--"

"I know it, Braden," interrupted Anne. "I know that you had nothing to do
with it. And for that reason I feel that you should accept the trust that
is--"

"Anne!" cried out Braden, incredulously. "You cannot mean it. You--"

"I do mean it," she said firmly. "It is your greatest justification. You
should carry out his wishes. He does not leave you the money outright. You
may do as you please with it, to be sure, but why should you agree with
Simmy that it may be converted solely to your own private uses? Why should
you feel that he intended you to have it all for your own? Does he not set
forth explicitly just what uses it is to be put to by you during your
lifetime? He puts you on your honour. He knew what he was about when he
overruled Judge Hollenback's objection. He knew that this trust would be
safe in your hands. Yes, Braden, he knew that you would not spend a penny
of it on yourself."

He was staring at her blankly. Mrs. Tresslyn was speaking now, but it is
doubtful if he heard a word that she uttered. He was intent only upon the
study of Anne's warm, excited face.

"Mr. Thorpe assured me a little over a year ago," began Anne's mother, a
hard light in her eyes, "that it was his determination to leave his
grandson out of his will altogether. It was his desire,--or at least, so he
said,--to remove from Braden's path every obstacle that might interfere
with his becoming a great man and a credit to his name. By that, of
course, he meant money unearned. He told me that most of his fortune was
to go to Charitable and Scientific Institutions. I had his solemn word of
honour that his grandson was to be in no sense a beneficiary under his
will. He--"

"Please, mother!" broke in Anne, a look of real shame in her eyes.

"And so how are we to reconcile this present foolishness with his very
laudable display of commonsense of a year ago?" went on Mrs. Tresslyn, the
red spot darkening in her cheek. "He played fast and loose with all of us.
I agree with Braden Thorpe. There was treachery in--"

"Ahem!" coughed Judge Hollenback so loudly and so pointedly that the angry
sentence was not completed.

Mrs. Tresslyn was furious. She had been cheated, and Anne had been
cheated. The old wretch had played a trick on all of them! He had bought
Anne for two millions, and now _nothing_,--absolutely _nothing_ was to go
to Charity! Braden was seven times a millionaire instead of a poor but
ambitious seeker after fame!

In the few minutes that followed Judge Hollenback's cough, she had time to
restore her equanimity to its habitual elevation. It had, for once,
stooped perilously near to catastrophe.

Meanwhile, her son George had arrived at a conclusion. He arose from his
chair with a wry face and a half uttered groan, and crossed over to
Braden's side. Strange, fierce pains were shooting through all the joints
and muscles of his body.

"See here, Brady, I'd like to ask a question, if you don't mind."

"I don't mind. What is it?"

"Would you have operated on Mr. Thorpe if you'd known what was in this
will?"

Braden hesitated, but only for a second. "Yes. My grandfather asked me to
operate. There was nothing else for me to do under the circumstances."

"That's just what I thought. Well, all I've got to say is that so long as
you respected his wishes while he was alive it seems pretty rotten in you
to take the stand you're taking now."

"What do you mean?"

"He virtually asked you to make an end of him. You both knew there was no
chance. You operated and he died. I'm speaking plainly, you see. No one
blames you. You did your best. But it seems to me that if you could do
what he asked you to do at that time, you ought to do what he asks of you
now. As long as you were willing to respect his last wish alive, you ought
not to stir up a rumpus over his first wish dead."

The two men were looking hard into each other's eyes. George's voice shook
a little, but not from fear or nervousness. He was shivering with the
chill that precedes fever.

Anne drew a step or two nearer. She laid an appealing hand on George's
arm.

"I think I understand you, George," said Thorpe slowly. "You are telling
me that you believe I took my grandfather's life by design. You--"

"No," said George quietly, "I'm not saying that, Brady. I'm saying that
you owe as much to him now as you did when he was alive. If you had not
consented to operate, this will would never have been drawn. If you had
refused, the first will would have been read to-day. I guess you are
entirely responsible for the making of this new will, and that's why I say
you ought to be man enough to stand by your work."

Thorpe turned away. His face was very white and his hands were clenched.

Anne shook her brother's arm. "Why,--oh, why did you say that to him,
George? Why--"

"Because it ought to have been said to him," said George coolly; "that's
why. He made old Mr. Thorpe see things from his point of view, and it's up
to him to shoulder the responsibility."

Mrs. Tresslyn spoke to Murray. "Is there any reason why we shouldn't have
tea, Murray? Serve it, please." She turned to Judge Hollenback. "I don't
see any sense in trying to settle all the little details to-day, do you,
Judge Hollenback? We've done all that it is possible to do to-day. The
will has been read. That is all we came for, I fancy. I confess that I am
astonished by several of the provisions, but the more I think of them the
less unreasonable they seem to be. We have nothing to quarrel about. Every
one appears to be satisfied except Dr. Thorpe, so let us have tea--and
peace. Sit down, Braden. You can't decide the question to-day. It has too
many angles."

Braden lifted his head. "Thank you, Mrs. Tresslyn; I shall not wait. At
what hour may I see you to-morrow, Judge Hollenback?"

"Name your own hour, Braden."

"Three o'clock," said Braden succinctly. He turned to George. "No hard
feelings, George, on my part."

"Nor on mine," said George, extending his hand. "It's just my way of
looking at things lately. No offence was meant, Brady. I'm too fond of you
for that."

"You've given me something to think about," said Thorpe. He bowed stiffly
to the ladies and Judge Hollenback. George stepped out into the hall with
him.

"I intend to stick pretty close to Anne, Brady," he said with marked
deliberation. "She needs me just now."

Thorpe started. "I don't get your meaning, George."

"There will be talk, old man,--talk about you and Anne. Do you get it now?"

"Good heaven! I--yes, I suppose there will be all sorts of conjectures,"
groaned Braden bitterly. "People remember too well, George. You may rest
easy, however. I shall not give them any cause to talk. As for coming to
this house again, I can tell you frankly that as I now feel I could almost
make a vow never to enter its doors again as long as I live."

"Well, I just thought I'd let you know how I stand in the matter," said
George. "I'm going to try to look out for Anne, if she'll let me. Good-
bye, Brady. I hope you'll count me as one of your friends, if you think
I'm worth while. I'm--I'm going to make a fresh start, you know." He
grinned, and his teeth chattered.

"You'd better go to bed," said Braden, looking at him closely. "Tell Anne
that I said so, and--you'd better let a doctor look you over, too."

"I haven't much use for doctors," said George, shaking his head. "I wanted
to kill you last winter when you cut poor little Lutie--Oh, but of course
you understand. I was kind of dotty then, I guess. So long."

Simmy came to the library door and called out: "I'll be with you in a
second, Brady. I'm going your way, and I don't care which way you're
going. My car's outside." Re-entering the room, Mr. Dodge walked up to
Anne and actually shook her as a parent would shake a child. "Don't be
silly about it, Anne. You've got to accept the house. He left it to you
without--"

"I cannot live up to the conditions. The will says that I must continue to
make this place my home, that I must reside here for--Oh! I cannot do it,
that's all, Simmy. I would go mad, living here. There is no use discussing
the matter. I will not take the house."

"'Pon my soul," sighed Judge Hollenback, "the poor man seems to have made
a mess of everything. He can't even give his property away. No one will
take it. Braden refuses, Mrs. Thorpe refuses, Wade is dissatisfied--Ah,
yes, Murray seems to be pleased. One lump, Mrs. Tresslyn, and a little
cream. Now as for Wade's attitude--by the way, where is the man?"

Wade was at the lower end of the hall, speaking earnestly in a tremulous
undertone to Braden Thorpe.

"Yes, sir, Mr. Braden, there's only one thing to do. We've got to have it
set aside, declared void. You may count on me, sir. I'll swear to his
actions. Crazy as a loon, sir,--? crazy as a loon."




CHAPTER XIX


Two days later George Tresslyn staggered weakly into Simmy Dodge's
apartment. He was not alone. A stalwart porter from an adjacent apartment
building was supporting him when Dodge's man opened the door.

"This Mr. Dodge?" demanded the porter.

"Mr. Dodge's man. Mr. Dodge isn't at 'ome," said Baffly quickly.

"All right," said the porter, pushing past the man and leading George
toward a couch he had observed from the open door. "This ain't no jag,
Johnny. He's sick. Out of his head. Batty. Say, don't you know him? Am I
in wrong? He said he wanted to come here to--"

George had tossed himself, sprawling, upon the long couch. His eyes were
closed and his breathing was stertorous.

"Of course I know him. What--what is the matter with him? My Gawd, man,
don't tell me he is dying. What do you mean, bringing 'im 'ere? There will
be a coroner's hinquest and--"

"You better get a doctor first. Waste no time. Get the coroner afterward
if you have to. You tell Mr. Dodge that he came into our place half an
hour ago and said he wanted to go up to his friend's apartment. He was
clean gone then. He wanted to lick the head porter for saying Mr. Dodge
didn't live in the buildin'. We saw in a minute that he hadn't been
drinkin'. Just as we was about to call an ambulance, a gentleman in our
building came along and reckonised him as young Mr. Tresslyn. Friend of
Mr. Dodge's. That was enough for us. So I brings him around. Now it's up
to you guys to look after him. Off his nut. My name's Jenks. Tell it to
Mr. Dodge, will you? And git a doctor quick. Put your hand here on his
head. Aw, he won't bite you! Put it _here_. Ever feel anything as hot as
that?"

Baffly arose to the occasion. "Mr. Dodge 'as been hexpecting Mr. Tresslyn.
He will also be hexpecting you, Mr. Jenks, at six o'clock this evening."

"All right," said Mr. Jenks.

Baffly put George Tresslyn to bed and then called up Mr. Dodge's favourite
club. He never called up the office except as a last resort. If Mr. Dodge
wasn't to be found at any one of his nine clubs, or at certain
restaurants, it was then time for calling up the office. Mr. Dodge was not
in the club, but he had left word that if any one called him up he could
be found at his office.

"Put him to bed and send for Dr. Thorpe," was Simmy's order a few minutes
later.

"I've put 'im to bed, sir."

"Out of his head, you say?"

"I said, 'Put 'im to bed, sir,'" shouted Baffly.

"I'll be home in half-an-hour, Baffly."

Simmy called up Anne Thorpe at once and reported that George had been
found and was now in his rooms. He would call up later on. She was not to
worry,--and good-bye!

It appears that George Tresslyn had been missing from the house near
Washington Square since seven o'clock on the previous evening. At that
hour he left his bed, to which Dr. Bates had ordered him, and made off in
the cold, sleety night, delirious with the fierce fever that was consuming
him. As soon as his plight was discovered, Anne called up Simmy Dodge and
begged him to go out in search of her sick, and now irresponsible brother.
In his delirium, George repeatedly had muttered threats against Braden
Thorpe for the cruel and inhuman "slashing of the most beautiful, the most
perfect body in all the world," "marking for life the sweetest girl that
God ever let live"; and that he would have to account to him for "the
dirty work he had done."

Acting on this hint, Simmy at once looked up Braden Thorpe and put him on
his guard. Thorpe laughed at his fears, and promptly joined in the search
for the sick man. They thought of Lutie, of course, and hurried to her
small apartment. She was not at home. Her maidservant said that she did
not know where she could be found. Mrs. Tresslyn had gone out alone at
half-past seven, to dine with friends, but had left no instructions,--a
most unusual omission, according to the young woman.

It was a raw, gusty night. A fine, penetrating sleet cut the face, and the
sharp wind drove straight to the marrow of the most warmly clad. Tresslyn
was wandering about the streets, witless yet dominated by a great purpose,
racked with pain and blind with fever, insufficiently protected against
the gale that met his big body as he trudged doggedly into it in quest
of--what? He had left Anne's home without overcoat, gloves or muffler. His
fever-struck brain was filled with a resolve that deprived him of all
regard for personal comfort or safety. He was out in the storm, looking
for some one, and whether love or hate was in his heart, no man could
tell.

All night long Dodge and Thorpe looked for him, aided in their search by
three or four private detectives who were put on the case at midnight. At
one o'clock the two friends reappeared at Lutie's apartment, summoned
there by the detective who had been left on guard with instructions to
notify them when she returned.

It was from the miserable, conscience-stricken Lutie that they had an
account of George's adventures earlier in the night. White-faced, scared
and despairing, she poured out her unhappy tale of triumph over love and
pity. The thing that she had longed for, though secretly dreaded, had
finally come to pass. She had seen her former husband in the gutter,
degraded, besotted, thoroughly reduced to the level from which nothing
save her own loyal, loving efforts could lift him. She had dreamed of a
complete conquest of caste, and the remaking of a man. She had dreamed of
the day when she could pick up from the discarded of humanity this
splendid, misused bit of rubbish and in triumph claim it as her own, to
revive, to rebuild, to make over through the sure and simple processes of
love! This had been Lutie Tresslyn's notion of revenge!

She saw George at eight o'clock that night. As she stood in the shelter of
the small canvas awning protecting the entrance to the building in which
she lived, waiting for the taxi to pull up, her eyes searched the swirling
shadows up and down the street. She never failed to look for the distant
and usually indistinct figure of _her man_. It had become a habit with
her. The chauffeur had got down to crank his machine, and there was
promise of a no inconsiderable delay in getting the cold engine started.
She was on the point of returning to the shelter of the hallway, when she
caught sight of a tall, shambling figure crossing the street obliquely,
and at once recognised George Tresslyn. He was staggering. The light from
the entrance revealed his white, convulsed face. Her heart sank. She had
never seen him so drunk, so disgusting as this! The taxi-cab was twenty or
thirty feet away. She would have to cross a wet, exposed space in order to
reach it before George could come up with her. She realised with a quiver
of alarm that it was the first time in all these months that he had
ventured to approach her. It was clear that he now meant to accost her,--he
might even contemplate violence! She wanted to run, but her feet refused
to obey the impulse. Fascinated she watched the unsteady figure lurching
toward her, and the white face growing more and more distinct and
forbidding as it came out of the darkness. Suddenly she was released from
the spell. Like a flash she darted toward the taxi-cab. From behind came a
hoarse cry.

"Lutie! For God's sake--"

"Quick!" she cried out to the driver. "Open the door! Be quick!"

The engine was throbbing. She looked back. George was supporting himself
by clinging to one of the awning rods. His legs seemed to be crumbling
beneath his weight. Her heart smote her. He had no overcoat. It was a bare
hand that gripped the iron rod and a bare hand that was held out toward
her. Thank heaven, he had stopped there! He was not coming on.

"Lutie! Oh, Lutie!" came almost in a wail from his lips. Then he began to
cry out something incoherent, maudlin, unintelligible.

"Never mind him," said the driver reassuringly. "Just a souse. Wants to
make a touch, madam. Streets are full of 'em these cold nights. He won't
bone you while I'm here. Where to?" He was holding the door open.

Lutie hesitated. Long afterwards she recalled the strange impulse that
came so near to sending her back to the side of the man who cried out to
her from the depths of a bottomless pit. Something whispered from her
heart that _now was her time_,--_now_! And then came the loud cry from her
brain, drowning the timid voice of the merciful: "Wait! Wait! Not now! To-
morrow!"

And while she stood there, uncertain, held inactive by the two warring
emotions, George turned and staggered away, reeling, and crying out in a
queer, raucous voice.

"They'll get him," said the driver.

"Who will get him?" cried Lutie, shrilly.

"The police. He--"

"No! No! It must not be _that_. That's not what I want,--do you hear,
driver? Not that. He must not be locked up--Oh!" George had collapsed. His
knees went from under him and he was half-prostrate on the curb. "Oh! He
has fallen! He has hurt himself! Go and see, driver. Go at once." She
forgot the sleet and the wind, and stood there wide-eyed and terrified
while the man shuffled forward to investigate. She hated him for stirring
the fallen man with his foot, and she hated him when he shook him
violently with his hands.

"I better call a cop," said the man. "He's pretty full. He'll freeze if--I
know how it is, ma'am. I used to hit it up a bit myself. I--"

"Listen!" cried Lutie, regaining the shelter of the awning, where she
stopped in great perturbation. "Listen; you must put him in your cab and
take him somewhere. I will pay you. Here! Here is five dollars. Don't mind
me. I will get another taxi. Be quick! There is a policeman coming. I see
him,--there by--"

"Gee! I don't know where to take him. I--"

"You can't leave him lying there in the gutter, man," she cried fiercely.
"The gutter! The gutter! My God, what a thing to happen to--"

"Here! Get up, you!" shouted the driver, shaking George's shoulder. "Come
along, old feller. I'll look out for you. Gee! He weighs a ton."

Tresslyn was mumbling, half audibly, and made little or no effort to help
his unwilling benefactor, who literally dragged him to his feet.

"Is--is he hurt?" cried Lutie, from the doorway.

"No. Plain souse."

"Where will you take him?"

The man reflected. "It wouldn't be right to take him to his home. Maybe
he's got a wife. These fellers beat 'em up when they get like this."

"A wife? Beat them up--oh, you don't know what you are saying. He--"

At this juncture George straightened out his powerful figure, shook off
the Samaritan and with a loud, inarticulate cry rushed off down the
street. The driver looked after the retreating figure in utter amazement.

"By Gosh! Why--why; he ain't any more drunk than I am," he gasped. "Well,
can you beat that? All bunk! It beats thunder what these panhandlers will
do to pick up a dime or two. He was--say, he saw the cop, that's what it
was. Lord, look at him go!"

Tresslyn was racing wildly toward the corner. Lutie, aghast at this
disgusting exhibition of trickery, watched the flying figure of her
husband. She never knew that she was clinging to the arm of the driver.
She only knew that her heart seemed to have turned to lead. As he turned
the corner and disappeared from view, she found her voice and it seemed
that it was not her own. He had swerved widely and almost lost his feet as
he made the turn. He _was_ drunk! Her heart leaped with joy. He _was_
drunk. He had not tried to trick her.

"Go after him!" she cried out, shaking the man in her agitation. "Find
him! Don't let him get away. I--"

But the policeman was at her elbow.

"What's the matter here?" he demanded.

"Panhandler," said the driver succinctly.

"Just a poor wretch who--who wanted enough for--for more drink, I suppose,"
said Lutie, warily. Her heart was beating violently. She was immensely
relieved by the policeman's amiable grunt. It signified that the matter
was closed so far as he was concerned. He politely assisted her into the
taxi-cab and repeated her tremulous directions to the driver. As the
machine chortled off through the deserted street, she peered through the
little window at the back. Her apprehensions faded. The officer was
standing where she had left him.

Then came Thorpe and Simmy Dodge in the dead hour of night and she learned
that she had turned away from him when he was desperately ill. Sick and
tortured, he had come to her and she had denied him. She looked so
crushed, so pathetic that the two men undertook to convince her that she
had nothing to fear,--they would protect her from George!

She smiled wanly, shook her head, and confessed that she did not want to
be protected against him. She wanted to surrender. She wanted _him_ to
protect her. Suddenly she was transformed. She sprang to her feet and
faced them, and she was resolute. Her voice rang with determination, her
lips no longer drooped and trembled, and the appeal was gone from her
eyes.

"He must be found, Simmy," she said imperatively. "Find him and bring him
here to me. This is his home. I want him here."

The two men went out again, half an hour later, to scour the town for
George Tresslyn. They were forced to use every argument at their command
to convince her that it would be highly improper, in more ways than one,
to bring the sick man to her apartment. She submitted in the end, but they
were bound by a promise to take him to a hospital and not to the house of
either his mother or his sister.

"He belongs to me," she said simply. "You must do what I tell you to do.
They do not want him. I do. When you have found him, call me up, Simmy,
and I will come. I shall not go to bed. Thank you,--both of you,--for--for--"
She turned away as her voice broke. After a moment she faced them again.
"And you will take charge of him, Dr. Thorpe?" she said. "I shall hold you
to your promise. There is no one that I trust so much as I do you."

Thorpe was with the sick man when Simmy arrived at his apartment. George
was rolling and tossing and moaning in his delirium, and the doctor's face
was grave.

"Pneumonia," he said. "Bad, too,--devilish bad. He cannot be moved, Simmy."

Simmy did not blink an eye. "Then right here he stays," he said heartily.
"Baffly, we shall have two nurses here for a while,--and we may also have
to put up a young lady relative of Mr. Tresslyn's. Get the rooms ready. By
Jove, Brady, he--he looks frightfully ill, doesn't he?" His voice dropped
to a whisper. "Is he likely to--to--you know!"

"I think you'd better send for Dr. Bates," said Braden gravely. "I believe
his mother and sister will be better satisfied if you have him in at once,
Simmy."

"But Lutie expressly--"

"I shall do all that I can to redeem my promise to that poor little girl,
but we must consider Anne and Mrs. Tresslyn. They may not have the same
confidence in me that Lutie has. I shall insist on having Dr. Bates called
in."

"All right, if you insist. But--but you'll stick around, won't you, Brady?"

Thorpe nodded his head. He was watching the sick man's face very closely.

Half an hour later, Lutie Tresslyn and Anne Thorpe entered the elevator on
the first floor of the building and went up together to the apartment of
Simeon Dodge. Anne had lifted her veil,--a feature in her smart tribute to
convention,--and her lovely features were revealed to the cast-off sister-
in-law. For an instant they stared hard at each other. Then Anne,
recovering from her surprise, bowed gravely and held out her hand.

"May we not forget for a little while?" she said.

Lutie shook her head. "I can't take your hand--not yet, Mrs. Thorpe. It was
against me once, and I am afraid it will be against me again." She
detected the faintest trace of a smile at the corners of Anne's mouth. A
fine line appeared between her eyes. This fine lady could still afford to
laugh at her! "I am going up to take care of my husband, Mrs. Thorpe," she
added, a note of defiance in her voice. She was surprised to see the
smile,--a gentle one it was,--deepen in Anne's eyes.

"That is why I suggested that we try to forget," she said.

Lutie started. "You--you do not intend to object to my--" she began, and
stopped short, her eyes searching Anne's for the answer to the uncompleted
question.

"I am not your enemy," said Anne quietly. She hesitated and then lowered
the hand that was extended to push the button beside Simmy's door. "Before
we go in, I think we would better understand each other, Lutie." She had
never called the girl by her Christian name before. "I have nothing to
apologise for. When you And George were married I did not care a pin, one
way or the other. You meant nothing to me, and I am afraid that George
meant but little more. I resented the fact that my mother had to give you
a large sum of money. It was money that I could have used very nicely
myself. Now that I look back upon it, I am frank to confess that therein
lies the real secret of my animosity toward you. It didn't in the least
matter to me whether George married you, or my mother's chambermaid, or
the finest lady in the land. You will be surprised to learn that I looked
upon myself as the one who was being very badly treated at the time. To
put it rather plainly, I thought you were getting from my mother a great
deal more than you were worth. Forgive me for speaking so frankly, but it
is best that you should understand how I felt in those days so that you
may credit me with sincerity now. I shall never admit that you deserved
the thirty thousand dollars you took from us, but I now say that you were
entitled to keep the man you loved and married. I don't care how unworthy
you may have seemed to us, you should not have been compelled to take
money for something you could not sell--the enduring love of that sick boy
in there. My mother couldn't buy it, and you couldn't sell it. You have it
still and always will have it, Lutie. I am glad that you have come to take
care of him. You spoke of him as 'my husband' a moment ago. You were
right. He _is_ your husband. I, for one, shall not oppose you in anything
you may see fit to do. We do not appear to have been capable of preserving
what you gave back to us--for better or for worse, if you please,--so I
fancy we'd better turn the job over to you. I hope it isn't too late. I
love my brother now. I suppose I have always loved him but I overlooked
the fact in concentrating my affection on some one else,--and that some one
was myself. You see I do not spare myself, Lutie, but you are not to
assume that I am ashamed of the Anne Tresslyn who was. I petted and
coddled her for years and I alone made her what she was, so I shall not
turn against her now. There is a great deal of the old Anne in me still
and I coddle her as much as ever. But I've found out something new about
her that I never suspected before, and it is this new quality that speaks
to you now. I ask you to try to forget, Lutie."

Throughout this long speech Lutie's eyes never left those of the tall
young woman in black.

"Why do you call me Lutie?" she asked.

"Because it is my brother's name for you," said Anne.

Lutie lowered her eyes for an instant. A sharp struggle was taking place
within her. She had failed to see in Anne's eyes the expression that would
have made compromise impossible: the look of condescension. Instead, there
was an anxious look there that could not be mistaken. She was in earnest.
She could be trusted. The old barrier was coming down. But even as her
lips parted to utter the words that Anne wanted to hear, suspicion
intervened and Lutie's sore, tried heart cried out:

"You have come here to _claim_ him! You expect me to stand aside and let
you take him--"

"No, no! He is yours. I _did_ come to help him, to nurse him, to be a real
sister to him, but--that was before I knew that you would come."

"I am sorry I spoke as I did," said Lutie, with a little catch in her
voice. "I--I hope that we may become friends, Mrs. Thorpe. If that should
come to pass, I--am sure that I could forget."

"And you will allow me to help--all that I can?"

"Yes." Then quickly, jealously: "But he _belongs_ to me. You must
understand that, Mrs. Thorpe."

Anne drew closer and whispered in sudden admiration. "You are really a
wonderful person, Lutie Carnahan. How _can_ you be so fine after all that
you have endured?"

"I suppose it is because I too happen to love myself," said Lutie drily,
and turned to press the button. "We are all alike." Anne laid a hand upon
her arm.

"Wait. You will meet my mother here. She has been notified. She has not
forgiven you." There was a note of uneasiness in her voice.

Lutie looked at her in surprise. "And what has that to do with it?" she
demanded.

Then they entered the apartment together.




CHAPTER XX


George Tresslyn pulled through.

He was a very sick man, and he wanted to die. That is to say, he wanted to
die up to a certain point and then he very much wanted to live. Coming out
of his delirium one day he made a most incredible discovery, and at that
very instant entered upon a dream that was never to end. He saw Lutie
sitting at his bedside and he knew that it must be a dream. As she did not
fade away then, nor in all the mysterious days that followed, he came to
the conclusion that if he ever did wake up it would be the most horrible
thing that could happen to him. It was a most grateful and satisfying
dream. It included a wonderful period of convalescence, a delightful and
ever-increasing appetite, a painless return voyage over a road that had
been full of suffering on the way out, a fantastic experience in the
matter of legs that wouldn't work and wobbled fearfully, a constant but
properly subdued desire to sing and whistle--oh, it was a glorious dream
that George was having!

For six weeks he was the uninvited guest of Simmy Dodge. Three of those
weeks were terrifying to poor Simmy, and three abounded with the greatest
joy he had ever known, for when George was safely round the corner and on
the road to recovery, the hospitality of Simmy Dodge expanded to hitherto
untried dimensions. Relieved of the weight that had pressed them down to
an inconceivable depth, Simmy's spirits popped upward with an
effervescence so violent that there was absolutely no containing them.
They flowed all over the place. All day long and most of the night they
were active. He hated to go to bed for fear of missing an opportunity to
do something to make everybody happy and comfortable, and he was up so
early in the morning that if he hadn't been in his own house some one
would have sent him back to bed with a reprimand.

He revelled in the establishment of a large though necessarily
disconnected family circle. The nurses, the doctors, the extra servants,
Anne's maid, Anne herself, the indomitable Lutie, and, on occasions, the
impressive Mrs. Tresslyn,--all of these went to make up Simmy's family.

The nurses were politely domineering: they told him what he could do and
what he could not do, and he obeyed them with a cheerfulness that must
have shamed them. The doctors put all manner of restrictions upon him; the
servants neglected to whisper when discussing their grievances among
themselves; his French poodle was banished because canine hospitality was
not one of the niceties, and furthermore it was most annoying to recent
acquaintances engaged in balancing well-filled cups of broth in transit;
his own luxurious bath-room was seized, his bed-chambers invested, his
cosy living-room turned into a rest room which every one who happened to
be disengaged by day or night felt free to inhabit. He had no privacy
except that which was to be found in the little back bedroom into which he
was summarily shunted when the occupation began, and he wasn't sure of
being entirely at home there. At any time he expected a command to
evacuate in favour of an extra nurse or a doctor's assistant. But through
all of it, he shone like a gem of purest ray.

At the outset he realised that his apartment, commodious when reckoned as
a bachelor's abode, was entirely inadequate when it came to accommodating
a company of persons who were not and never could be bachelors. Lutie
refused to leave George; and Anne, after a day or two, came to keep her
company. It was then that Simmy began to reveal signs of rare strategical
ability. He invaded the small apartment of his neighbour beyond the
elevator and struck a bargain with him. The neighbour and his wife rented
the apartment to him furnished for an indefinite period and went to Europe
on the bonus that Simmy paid. Here Anne and her maid were housed, and here
also Mrs. Tresslyn spent a few nights out of each week.

He studied the nurses' charts with an avid interest. He knew all there was
to know about temperature, respiration and nourishment; and developing a
sudden sort of lordly understanding therefrom, he harangued the engineer
about the steam heat, he cautioned the superintendent about noises, and he
held many futile arguments with God about the weather. Something told him
a dozen times a day, however, that he was in the way, that he was "a
regular Marceline," and that if Brady Thorpe had any sense at all he would
order him out of the house!

He began to resent the speed with which George's convalescence was marked.
He was enjoying himself so immensely in his new environment that he hated
to think of going back to the old and hitherto perfect order of existence.
When Braden Thorpe and Dr. Bates declared one day that George would be
able to go home in a week or ten days, he experienced a surprising and
absolutely inexplicable sinking of the heart. He tried to persuade them
that it would be a mistake to send the poor fellow out inside of a month
or six weeks. That was the trouble with doctors, he said: they haven't any
sense. Suppose, he argued, that George were to catch a cold--why, the damp,
spring weather would raise the dickens--Anne's house was a drafty old barn
of a place, improperly heated,--and any fool could see that if George _did_
have a relapse it would go mighty hard with him. Subsequently he sounded
the nurses, severally, on the advisability of abandoning the poor, weak
young fellow before he was safely out of the woods, and the nurses, who
were tired of the case, informed him that the way George was eating he
soon would be as robust as a dock hand. An appeal to Mrs. Tresslyn brought
a certain degree of hope. That lady declared, quite bitterly, that
inasmuch as her son did not seem inclined to return to _her_ home he might
do a great deal worse than to remain where he was, and it was some time
before Simmy grasped the full significance of the remark.

He remembered hearing Lutie say that she was going to take George home
with her as soon as he was able to be moved!

What was he to do with himself after all these people were gone? For the
first time in his life he really knew what it meant to have a home, and
now it was to be broken up. He saw more of his home in the five or six
weeks that George was there than he had seen of it all told in years. He
stayed at home instead of going to the club or the theatre or to stupid
dinner parties. He hadn't the faintest idea that a place where a fellow
did nothing but sleep and eat bacon and eggs could be looked upon as a
"home." He had thought of it only as an apartment, or "diggings." Now he
loved his home and everything that was in it. How he would miss the
stealthy blue linen nurses, and the expressionless doctors, and the odour
of broths and soups, and the scent of roses, and the swish of petticoats,
and the elevating presence of pretty women, and the fragrance of them, and
the sweet chatter of them--Oh my, oh me-oh-my! If George would only get
well in a more leisurely fashion!

Certain interesting events, each having considerable bearing upon the
lives of the various persons presented in this narrative, are to be
chronicled, but as briefly as possible so that we may get on to the
results.

Naturally one turns first to the patient himself. He was the magnet that
drew the various opposing forces together and, in a way, united them in a
common enterprise, and therefore is of first importance. For days his life
hung in the balance. Most of the time he was completely out of his head.
It has been remarked that he thought himself to be dreaming when he first
beheld Lutie at his bedside, and it now becomes necessary to report an
entirely different sensation when he came to realise that he was being
attended by Dr. Thorpe. The instant he discovered Lutie he manifested an
immense desire to live, and it was this desire that sustained a fearful
shock when his fever-free eyes looked up into the face of his doctor.
Terror filled his soul. Almost his first rational words were in the form
of a half-whispered question: "For God's sake, can't I get well? Is--is it
hopeless?"

Braden was never to forget the anguish in the sick man's eyes, nor the
sagging of his limp body as if all of his remaining strength had given way
before the ghastly fear that assailed him. Thorpe understood. He knew what
it was that flashed through George's brain in that first moment of
intelligence. His heart sank. Was it always to be like this? Were people
to live in dread of him? His voice was husky as he leaned over and laid
his hand gently upon the damp brow of the invalid.

"You are going to get well, George. You will be as sound as a rock in no
time at all. Trust me, old fellow,--and don't worry."

"But that's what they always say," whispered George, peering straight into
the other's eyes. "Doctors always say that. What are you doing here,
Brady? Why have you been called in to--"

"Hush! You're all right. Don't get excited. I have been with you from the
start. Ask Lutie--or Anne. They will tell you that you are all right."

"I don't want to die," whined George. "I only want a fair chance. Give me
a chance, Brady. I'll show you that I--"

"My God!" fell in agonised tones from Thorpe's lips, and he turned away as
one condemned.

When Lutie and Anne came into the room soon afterward, they found George
in a state of great distress. He clutched Lutie's hand in his strong
fingers and drew her down close to him so that he could whisper furtively
in her ear.

"Don't let any one convince you that I haven't a chance to get well,
Lutie. Don't let him talk you into anything like that. I won't give my
consent, Lutie,--I swear to God I won't. He can't do it without my consent.
I've just got to get well. I can do it if I get half a chance. I depend on
you to stand out against any--"

Lutie managed to quiet him. Thorpe had gone at once to her with the story
and she was prepared. For a long time she talked to the frightened boy,
and at last he sank back with a weak smile on his lips, confidence
partially restored.

Anne stood at the head of the bed, out of his range of vision. Her heart
was cold within her. It ached for the other man who suffered and could not
cry out. _This_ was but the beginning for him.

In a day or two George's attitude toward Braden underwent a complete
change, but all the warmth of his enthusiastic devotion could not drive
out the chill that had entered Thorpe's heart on that never-to-be-
forgotten morning.

Then there were the frequent and unavoidable meetings of Anne and her
former lover. For the better part of three weeks Thorpe occupied a room in
Simmy's apartment, to be constantly near his one and only patient. He
suffered no pecuniary loss in devoting all of his time and energy to young
Tresslyn. Ostensibly he was in full charge of the case, but in reality he
deferred to the opinions and advice of Dr. Bates, who came once a day. He
had the good sense to appreciate his own lack of experience, and thereby
earned the respect and confidence of the old practitioner.

It was quite natural that he and Anne should come in contact with each
other. They met in the sick-room, in the drawing-room, and frequently at
table. There were times during the darkest hours in George's illness when
they stood side by side in the watches of the night. But not once in all
those days was there a word bearing on their own peculiar relationship
uttered by either of them. It was plain that she had the greatest
confidence in him, and he came, ere long, to regard her as a dependable
and inspired help. Unlike the distracted, remorseful Lutie, she was the
source of great inspiration to those who worked over the sick man. Thorpe
marvelled at first and then fell into the way of resorting to her for
support and encouragement. He had discovered that she was not playing a
game.

Templeton Thorpe's amazing will was not mentioned by either of them,
although each knew that the subject lay uppermost in the mind of the
other. The newspapers printed columns about the instrument. Reporters who
laid in wait for Braden Thorpe, however, obtained no satisfaction. He had
nothing to say. The same reporters fell upon Anne and wanted to know when
she expected to start proceedings to have the will set aside. They seemed
astonished to hear that there was to be no contest on her part. She could
not tell them anything about the plans or intentions of Dr. Thorpe, and
she had no opinion as to the ultimate effect of the "Foundation" upon the
Constitution of the United States or the laws of God!

As a matter of fact, she was more eager than any one else to know the
stand that Braden intended to take on the all-absorbing question.
Notwithstanding her peculiar position as executrix of the will under which
the conditions were created, she could not bring herself to the point of
discussing the salient feature of the document with him. And so there the
matter stood, unmentioned by either of them, and absolutely unsettled so
far as the man most deeply involved was concerned.

Then came the day when Thorpe announced that it was no longer necessary
for him to impose upon Simmy's hospitality, and that he was returning that
evening to his hotel. George was out of danger. It was then that he said
to Anne:

"You have been wonderful, Anne. I want to thank you for what you have done
to help me. You might have made the situation impossible, but--well, you
didn't, that's all. I am glad that you and that poor little woman in there
have become such good friends. You can do a great deal to help her--and
George. She is a brick, Anne. You will not lose anything by standing by
her now. As I said before, you can always reach me by telephone if
anything goes wrong, and I'll drop in every morning to--"

"I want you to know, Braden, that I firmly believe you saved George for
us. I shall not try to thank you, however. You did your duty, of course.
We will let Lutie weep on your neck, if you don't mind, and you may take
my gratitude for granted." There was a slightly satirical note in her
voice.

His figure stiffened. "I don't want to be thanked," he said,--"not even by
Lutie. You must know that I did not come into this case from choice. But
when Lutie insisted I--well, there was nothing else to do."

"Would you have come if I had asked you?" she inquired, and was very much
surprised at herself.

"No," he answered. "You would have had no reason for selecting me, and I
would have told you as much. And to that I would have added a very good
reason why you shouldn't."

"What do you mean?"

"I may as well be frank, Anne. People,--our own friends,--are bound to
discuss us pretty thoroughly from now on. No matter how well we may
understand each other and the situation, the rest of the world will not
understand, simply because it doesn't want to do so. It will wait,--rather
impatiently, I fear,--for the chance to say, 'I told you so.' Of course,
you are sensible enough to have thought of all this, still I don't see why
I shouldn't speak of it to you."

"Has it occurred to you that our friends may be justified in thinking that
I _did_ call upon you to take this case, Braden?" she asked quietly.

He frowned. "I daresay that is true. I hadn't thought of it--"

"They also believe that I summoned you to take charge of my husband a few
weeks ago. No one has advised the world to the contrary. And now that you
are here, in the same house with me, what do you suppose they will say?" A
queer little smile played about her lips, a smile of diffidence and
apology.

He gave her a quick look of inquiry. "Surely no one will--"

"They will say the Widow Thorpe's devotion to her brother was not her only
excuse for moving into good old Simmy's apartment, and they will also say
that Dr. Thorpe must be singularly without practice in order to give all
of his time to a solitary case."

"Oh, for heaven's sake, Anne," he cried impatiently, "give people credit
for having a little commonsense and charity. They--"

"I don't give them credit for having anything of the kind," she said
coolly, "when it comes to discussing their fellow creatures. I hope you
are not distressed, Braden. As you have said, people will discuss us. We
cannot escape the consequences of being more or less public institutions,
you and I. Of course they will talk about our being here together. I knew
that when I came here three weeks ago."

"Then why did you come?" he demanded.

She replied with a directness that shamed him. "Because I do not want
people to talk about Lutie. That is one reason. Another is that I wanted
to do my share in looking after George." Suddenly her eyes narrowed.
"You--you do not imagine that I--I--you couldn't have thought _that_ of me,
Braden."

He shook his head slowly. "If I had thought _that_, Anne, I should not
have told you a moment ago that you were wonderful," he said.

Few women would have been content to let it go at that. It is the
prerogative of woman to expect more than a crumb, and, if it is not
forthcoming from others, to gratify the appetite by feeding confidently
upon herself. In this instance, Anne might have indulged herself in the
comfort of a few tremulous words of self-justification, and even though
they drew nothing in exchange, she would at least have had the pleasure of
uttering them, and the additional satisfaction of knowing that he would
have to listen to them, whether or no. But she was far too intelligent for
that. Her good sense overcame the feminine craving; she surprised him by
holding her tongue.

He waited for a second or two and then said: "Good-bye. I shall drop in
to-morrow to see George."

She held out her hand. "He swears by you," she said, with a smile.

For the first time in more than a year, their hands touched. Up to this
moment there had not been the remotest evidence of an inclination on the
part of either to bridge the chasm that lay between them. The handclasp
was firm but perfunctory. She had herself under perfect control. It is of
importance to note, however, that later on she pressed her hand to her
lips, and that there were many times during the day when she looked at it
as if it were something unreal and apart from her own physical being.

"Thank heaven he doesn't feel toward me as he did last week," he said
fervently. "I shall never get over that awful moment. I shall never forget
the look of despair that--"

"I know," she interrupted. "I saw it too. But it is gone now, so why make
a ghost of it? Don't let it haunt you, Braden."

"It is easy to say that I shouldn't let it--"

"If you are going to begin your life's work by admitting that you are
thin-skinned, you'll not get very far, my friend," she said seriously.
"Good-bye."

She smiled faintly as she turned away. He was never quite sure whether it
was encouragement or mockery that lay in her dark eyes when she favoured
him with that parting glance. He stood motionless until she disappeared
through the door that opened into the room where George was lying; his
eyes followed her slender, graceful figure until she was gone from sight.
His thoughts leaped backward to the time when he had held that lovely,
throbbing, responsive body close in his arms, to the time when he had
kissed those, sensitive lips and had found warmth and passion in them, to
the time when he had drunk in the delicate perfume of her hair and the
seductive fragrance of her body. That same slender, adorable body had been
pressed close to his, and he had trembled under the enchantment it held.

He went away plagued and puzzled by an annoying question that kept on
repeating itself without answer; was it in his power now to rouse the old
flame in her blood, to revive the tender fires that once consumed her
senses when he caressed her? Would she be proof against him if he set out
to reconquer? She seemed so serene, so sure of herself. Was it a pose or
had love really died within her?

By no means the least important of the happenings in Simmy's house was the
short but decisive contest that took place between Lutie and Mrs.
Tresslyn. They met first in the sick-room, and the shock was entirely one-
sided. It was George's mother who sustained it. She had not expected to
find the despised "outcast" there. For once her admirable self-control was
near to being shattered. If she had been permitted to exercise the right
of speech at that crucial moment, she would have committed the
irretrievable error of denouncing the brazen creature in the presence of
disinterested persons. Afterwards she thanked her lucky stars for the
circumstances which compelled her to remain angrily passive, for she was
soon to realise what such an outburst would have brought upon her head.

She took it out on Anne, as if Anne were wholly to blame for the outrage.
Anne had the temerity,--the insolence, Mrs. Tresslyn called it,--to advise
her to make the best of a situation that could not be helped. She held
forth at some length for her daughter's benefit about "common decency,"
and was further shocked by Anne's complacency.

"I think she's behaving with uncommon decency," said Anne. "It isn't every
one who would turn the other cheek like this. Let her alone. She's the
best thing that can happen to George."

"My dear!" exclaimed Mrs. Tresslyn, aghast. "Of course, I shall not come
to this apartment while she is here. That is out of the question."

"Inasmuch as Lutie was here first and means to stay, I am afraid you will
have to reconsider that decision, mother,--provided you want to be near
George."

"Did you speak of her as 'Lutie'?" demanded Mrs. Tresslyn, staring.

"I don't know what else to call her," said Anne.

"Simeon Dodge will appreciate my feelings,--my position--"

"Simmy is very much on her side, so I'd advise you to steer clear of him,"
said Anne impatiently. "Now, mother dear, don't upset things here. Don't
make a fuss. Don't--"

"A fuss?" cried her mother, trying hard not to believe her ears.

"Don't make it any harder for poor old Simmy. He is in for a rough time of
it. Tresslyns everywhere! It isn't a lovely prospect, you know. He will be
fed up with us before--And, mother, don't overlook the fact that George is
very ill. He may not pull through. He--"

"Of course he will get well. He's as strong as an ox. Don't be silly."

The next day she and Lutie met in the library and had it out,--briefly, as
I said before, but with astounding clarity. Mrs. Tresslyn swept into the
library at four in the afternoon, coming direct from her home, where, as
she afterwards felt called upon to explain in self-defence, the telephone
was aggravatingly out of order,--and that was why she hadn't called up to
inquire!--(It is so often the case when one really wants to use the stupid
thing!) She was on the point of entering the sick-room when Lutie came up
from behind.

"I'm afraid you can't go in just now, Mrs. Tresslyn," she said, firmly and
yet courteously.

George's mother started as if stung. "Oh!" she exclaimed, and her tone was
so declaratory that it was not necessary to add the unspoken--"it's _you_,
is it?"

"He is asleep," said Lutie gently. "They won't even allow _me_ to go in."

This was too much for Mrs. Tresslyn. She transfixed the slight, tired-eyed
young woman with a look that would have chilled any one else to the
bone--the high-bred look that never fails to put the lowly in their places.

"Indeed," she said, with infinite irony in her voice. "This is Miss
Carnahan, I believe?" She lifted her lorgnon as a further aid to
inspection.

"I am the person you have always spoken of as Miss Carnahan," said Lutie
calmly. Throughout the brief period in which she had been legally the wife
of George Tresslyn, Lutie was never anything but Miss Carnahan to her
mother-in-law. Mrs. Tresslyn very carefully forbore giving her daughter-
in-law a respectable name. "I was afraid you might have forgotten me."

"You will forgive me if I confess that I have tried very hard to forget
you, Miss Carnahan," said the older woman.

"It isn't my fault that you haven't been able to do so," said Lutie.
"Please! you are not to go in." Mrs. Tresslyn's hand was turning the door-
knob.

"I fear you are forgetting who I am," said she coldly.

"Oh, I know you're his mother, and all that," said Lutie, breathlessly. "I
do not question your right to be with your son. That isn't the point. The
nurse has ordered your daughter and me out of the room for awhile. It is
the first wink of sleep he has had in heaven knows how long. So you cannot
go in and disturb him, Mrs. Tresslyn."

Mrs. Tresslyn's hand fell away from the knob. For a moment she regarded
the tense, agitated girl in silence.

"Has it occurred to you to feel--if you can feel at all--that you may not be
wanted here, Miss Carnahan?" she said, deliberately cruel. She towered
above her adversary.

"Will you be kind enough to come away from the door?" said Lutie, wholly
unimpressed. "It isn't very thick, and the sound of voices may penetrate--"

"Upon my soul!" exclaimed Mrs. Tresslyn, staring. "Do you presume to--"

"Not quite so loud, if you please. Come over here if you want to talk to
me, Mrs. Tresslyn. Nurse's orders, not mine. I don't in the least mind
what you say to me, or what you call me, or anything, but I do entreat you
to think of George."

Greatly to her own surprise, Mrs. Tresslyn moved away from the door, and,
blaming herself inwardly for the physical treachery that impelled her to
do so, sat down abruptly in a chair on the opposite side of the room,
quite as far removed from the door as even Lutie could have desired.

Lutie did not sit down. She came over and stood before the woman who had
once driven her out. Her face was white and her eyes were heavy from loss
of sleep, but her voice was as clear and sharp as a bell.

"We may as well understand each other, Mrs. Tresslyn," she said quietly.
"Or, perhaps I'd better say that you may as well understand me. I still
believe myself to be George's wife. A South Dakota divorce may be all
right so far as the law is concerned, but it will not amount to
_that_"--she snapped her fingers--"when George and I conclude to set it
aside. I went out to that God-forsaken little town and stayed there for
nearly a year, eating my heart out until I realised that it wasn't at all
appetising. I lived up to my bargain, however. I made it my place of
residence and I got my decree. I tore that hateful piece of paper up last
night before I came here. You paid me thirty thousand dollars to give
George up, and he allowed you to do it. Now I have just this to say, Mrs.
Tresslyn: if George gets well, and I pray to God that he may, I am going
back to him, and I don't care whether we go through the form of marrying
all over again or not. He is my husband. I am his wife. There never was an
honest cause for divorce in our case. He wasn't as brave as I'd have liked
him to be in those days, but neither was I. If I had been as brave as I am
now, George wouldn't be lying in there a wreck and a failure. You may take
it into your head to ask why I am here. Well, now you know. I'm here to
take care of my husband."

Mrs. Tresslyn's steady, uncompromising gaze never left the face of the
speaker. When Lutie paused after that final declaration, she waited a
moment for her to resume.

"There is, of course," said she levelly, "the possibility that my son may
not get well."

Lutie's eyes narrowed. "You mean that you'd rather see him die than--"

"Miss Carnahan, I am compelled to speak brutally to you. I paid you to
give up my son. You took the money I proffered and the divorce I arranged
for. You agreed to--"

"Just a moment, please. I took the money and--and _got out_ in order to
give George a chance to marry some one else and be happy. That was what
you wanted, and what _you_ promised me. You promised me that if I gave him
up he would find some one else more worthy, that he would forget me and be
happy, and that I would be forgotten inside of six months. Well, none of
these things has happened. He hasn't found any one else, he still loves
me, and he isn't happy. I am going back on my bargain, Mrs. Tresslyn,
because you haven't carried out your part of it. If you think it was easy
for me to give him up when I did, you are very much mistaken. But that
wouldn't interest you, so I'll say no more about it. We'll come down to
the present, if you don't mind, and see where we stand; George needs me
now, but no more than he has needed me all along. I intend to stick to him
like a leech from this time on, Mrs. Tresslyn. You had your chance to make
_your_ kind of a man out of him, and I guess you'll admit that you failed.
Well, I'm going to begin where you were content to leave off. You treated
me like a dog, and God knows you've treated George but little better,
although perhaps you didn't know what you were doing to him. He is down
and out. You didn't expect things to turn out as they have. You thought
I'd be the one to go to the devil. Now I'll put it up to you squarely. I
still have the thirty thousand you gave me. It is nicely invested. I have
lived comfortably on the income. A few years ago I sold George to you for
that amount. Well, I'll buy him back from you to-morrow."

"Buy my son from me?" gasped Mrs. Tresslyn.

"You made it a business proposition three years ago, so I'll do the same
now. I want to be fair and square with you. I'm going to take him back in
any event, but I shall be a great deal better satisfied if you will let me
pay for him."

Mrs. Tresslyn had recovered herself by this time. She gave the younger
woman a frosty smile.

"And I suppose you will expect to get him at a considerably reduced
price," she said sarcastically, "in view of the fact that he is damaged
goods."

"You shall have back every penny, Mrs. Tresslyn," said Lutie, with
dignity.

"How ingenuous you are. Do you really believe that I will _sell_ my son to
you?"

"I sold him to you," said the other, stubbornly.

Mrs. Tresslyn arose. "I think we would better bring this interview to an
end, Miss Carnahan. I shall spare you the opinion I have formed of you
in--"

"Just as you please, Mrs. Tresslyn," said Lutie calmly. "We'll consider
the matter closed. George comes back to me at my own price. I--"

"My son shall never marry you!" burst out Mrs. Tresslyn, furiously.

Lutie smiled. "It's good to see you mad, Mrs. Tresslyn. It proves that you
are like other people, after all. Give yourself a chance, and you'll find
it just as easy to be glad as it is to be mad, now that you've let go of
yourself a little bit."

"You are insufferable! Be good enough to stand aside. I am going in to my
son. He--"

"If you are so vitally interested in him, how does it happen that you wait
until four o'clock in the afternoon to come around to inquire about him?
I've been here on the job since last night--and so has your daughter. But
you? Where have you been all this time, Mrs. Tresslyn?"

"God in heaven!" gasped Mrs. Tresslyn, otherwise speechless.

"If I had a son I'd be with him day and night at--"

"The telephone was out of order," began Mrs. Tresslyn before she could
produce the power to check the impulse to justify herself in the eyes of
this brazen tormentor.

"Indeed?" said Lutie politely.

"My son shall never marry you," repeated the other, helplessly.

"Well," began Lutie slowly, a bright spot in each cheek, "all I have to
say is that he will be extremely unfair to your grandchildren, Mrs.
Tresslyn, if he doesn't."




CHAPTER XXI


A ground-floor window in an apartment building in Madison Avenue, north of
Fifty-ninth street, displayed in calm black lettering the name "Dr. Braden
L. Thorpe, M.D." On the panel of a door just inside the main entrance
there was a bit of gold-leaf information to the effect that office hours
were from 9 to 10 A.M. and from 2 to 4 P.M. There was a reception room and
a consultation room in the suite. The one was quite as cheerless and
uninviting as any other reception room of its kind, and the other
possessed as many of the strange, terrifying and more or less
misunderstood devices for the prolongation of uncertainty in the minds of
the uneasy. During office-hours there was also a doctor there. Nothing was
missing from this properly placarded and admirably equipped
office,--nothing at all except the patients!

About the time that George Tresslyn fared forth into the world again,
Thorpe hung out his shingle and sat himself down under his own gates to
wait for the unwary. But no one came. The lame, the halt and even the
blind had visions that were not to be dissipated by anything so trivial as
a neat little sign in an office window. The name of Braden Thorpe was on
the lips of every one. It was mentioned, not with horror or disgust, but
as one speaks of the exalted genius whose cure for tuberculosis has
failed, or of the man who found the North Pole by advertising in the
newspapers, or of the books of Henry James. He was a person to steer clear
of, that was all.

Every newspaper in the country discussed him editorially, paragraphically,
and as an article of news. For weeks after the death of Templeton Thorpe
and the publication of his will, not a day passed in which Braden Thorpe's
outlandish assault upon civilisation failed to receive its country-wide
attention in the press. And when editorial writers, medical sharps, legal
experts and grateful reporters failed to avail themselves of the full
measure of space set apart for their gluttony, ubiquitous "Constant
Reader" rushed into print under many aliases and enjoyed himself as never
before.

In the face of all this uproar, brought about by the posthumous utterance
of old Templeton Thorpe, Braden had the courage,--or the temerity, if that
is a truer word,--to put his name in a window and invite further attention
to himself.

The world, without going into the matter any deeper than it usually does,
assumed that he who entered the office of Dr. Thorpe would never come out
of it alive!

The fact that Thorpe advocated something that could not conceivably become
a reality short of two centuries made no impression on the world and his
family. Dr. Thorpe believed that it was best to put sufferers out of their
misery, and that was all there was to be said about the matter so far as
Mr. Citizen was concerned.

It would appear, therefore, that all of Templeton Thorpe's ideas, hopes
and plans concerning the future of his grandson were to be shattered by
his own lack of judgment and foresight. Without intending to do so he had
deprived the young man of all that had been given him in the way of
education, training and character. Young Thorpe might have lived down or
surmounted the prejudice that his own revolutionary utterances created,
but he could never overcome the stupendous obstacle that now lay in his
path.

If Mr. Thorpe had hoped to create, or believed sincerely that it was
possible to create, a force capable of overpowering the natural instincts
of man, he had set for himself a task that could have but one result so
far as the present was concerned, and it was in the present that Braden
Thorpe lived, very far removed from the future that Mr. Thorpe appeared to
be seeing from a point close by as he lay on his death-bed. He had
completely destroyed the present usefulness of his grandson. He had put a
blight upon him, and now he was sleeping peacefully where mockery could
not reach him nor reason hold him to account.

The letter that the old man left for his grandson's guidance was an
affectionate apology, very skilfully worded, for having, in a way, left
the bulk of his fortune to the natural heir instead of to the great,
consuming public. True, he did not put this in so many words, but it was
obvious to the young man, if not to others who saw and read, that he was
very clear in his mind as to the real purport and intention of the clause
covering the foundation. He was careful to avoid the slightest expression
that might have been seized upon by the young man as evidence of treachery
on his part in view of the solemn promise he had made to leave to him no
portion of his estate. On the surface, this letter was a simple, direct
appeal to Braden to abide by the terms of the will, and to consider the
trust as sacred in spite of the absence of restrictions. To Braden, there
was but one real meaning to the will: the property was his to have, hold
or dispose of as he saw fit. He was at liberty either to use every dollar
of it in carrying out the expressed sentiments of the testator, or to sit
back luxuriously and console himself with the thought that nothing was
really expected of him.

The Foundation that received such wide-spread notice, and brought down
upon his head, not the wrath but the ridicule of his fellow beings, was
not to serve in any sense as a memorial to the man who provided the money
with which the work was to be carried on. As a matter of fact, old
Templeton Thorpe took very good care to stipulate plainly that it was not
to be employed to any such end. He forbade the use of his name in any
capacity except as one of the _supporters_ of the movement. The whole
world rose up at first and heaped anathemas on the name of Templeton
Thorpe, and then, swiftly recovering its amiable tolerance of fools,
forgot the dead and took its pleasure in "steering clear of the man who
was left to hold the bag of gold," as some of the paragraphers would have
it.

The people forgot old Templeton, and they also became a bit hazy about the
cardinal principle of the Foundation, much as they forget other disasters,
but they did not forget to look upon Braden Thorpe as a menace to mankind.

And so it was that after two months of waiting, he closed his office for
the summer and disappeared from the city. He had not treated a solitary
patient, nor had he been called in consultation by a single surgeon of his
acquaintance, although many of them professed friendship for and
confidence in him.

Six weeks later Simmy Dodge located his friend in a small coast town in
Maine, practically out of the reach of tourists and not at all accessible
to motorists. He had taken board and lodging with a needy villager who was
still honest, and there he sat and brooded over the curse that his own
intelligence had laid upon him. He had been there for a month or more
before he lifted his head, figuratively speaking, to look at the world
again,--and he found it still bright and sparkling despite his desire to
have it otherwise in order that he might be recompensed for his mood. Then
it was that he wrote to Simmy Dodge, asking him to sell the furnishings
and appliances in his office, sublet the rooms, and send to him as soon as
possible the proceeds of the sale. He confessed frankly and in his
straightforward way that he was hard up and needed the money!

Now, it should be remembered that Braden Thorpe had very little means of
his own, a small income from his mother's estate being all that he
possessed. He had been dependent upon his grandfather up to the day he
died. Years had been spent in preparing him for the personal achievements
that were to make him famous and rich by his own hand. Splendid ability
and unquestioned earning power were the result of Templeton Thorpe's faith
in the last of his race. But nothing was to come of it. His ability
remained but his earning power was gone. He was like a splendid engine
from which the motive power has been shut off.

For weeks after leaving New York he had seen the world blackly through
eyes that grasped no perspective. But he was young, he was made of the
flesh that fights, and the spirit that will not down. He looked up from
the black view that had held his attention so long, and smiled. It was not
a gay smile but one in which there was defiant humour. After all, why
shouldn't he smile? These villagers smiled cheerfully, and what had they
in their narrow lives to cause them to see the world brightly? He was no
worse off than they. If they could be content to live outside the world,
why shouldn't he be as they? He was big and strong and young. The fellows
who went out to sea in the fishing boats were no stronger, no better than
he. He could do the things that they were doing, and they sang while they
went to and from their work.

It was the reviving spirit in him that opened his eyes to the lowly joys
surrounding him. He found himself thinking with surprising interest that
he could do what these men were doing and do it well, and after all what
more can be expected of a man than that he should do some one thing well?
He did not realise at the time that this small, mean ambition to surpass
these bold fishermen was nothing less than the resurrection of dead hopes.

And so, when Simmy Dodge walked in upon him one day, expecting to find a
beaten, discouraged skulker, he was confronted by a sun-browned, bare-
armed, bright-eyed warrior whose smile was that of the man who never
laughs,--the grim smile of him who thinks.

The lines in his face had deepened under the influence of sun and wind;
there was a new, almost unnatural ruggedness about the man Simmy had seen
less than two months before. The cheeks had the appearance of being sunken
and there was an even firmer look to the strong chin and jaws than in the
so recent past. Simmy looked at this new, hardy face and wondered whether
two months in the rough world would do as much in proportion for his own
self-despised countenance.

Thorpe had been up since five o'clock in the morning. For two weeks he had
started off every morning at that hour with his landlord for the
timberlands above the town, where they spent the day hewing out the sills
and beams for a new boat-house. Unskilled at such labor, his duties were
not those of the practised workman, but rather those of the "handy man"
upon whom falls the most arduous tasks as a rule. Thorpe's sinews were
strained to the utmost in handling the long, unwieldy trunks of the fallen
trees; his hands were blistered and his legs bruised, but the splendid
muscles were no longer sore, nor was he so fatigued at day's-end that he
could have "dropped in his tracks" right joyfully,--as he had felt like
doing in the first week of his toiling.

"Well, I'll be jiggered," said Simmy, still holding Thorpe's hand as he
backed away from him the better to take in this new and strange creature
in overalls. Thorpe and his grizzled host had just come down from the
woods with a load of pine logs, and had found the trim, immaculate little
New Yorker waiting for them at the breakwater, directed thither by the
housewife in the winding lane that was called High Street. "By the way, is
your name Thorpe?" he added quizzically.

"Yep," said the graduate of three great universities, gripping the little
man's hand a trifle harder. "All that is left of me is named Thorpe,
Simmy."

"Have you--hired out as a--Good Lord, Brady, you're not as hard up as all
that, are you?" Simmy's face was bleak with concern.

"I'm doing it for the fun of the thing," said Thorpe. "Next week I'm going
out with the boats. I say, Simmy, have you a cigarette about your person?
I haven't had a--"

Half an hour later, Simmy was seated in the cool little front porch with
its screen of vines, the scent of the sea filling his sensitive nostrils,
and he was drinking buttermilk.

"Now, see here, Brady, it's all damned tommyrot," he was saying,--and he
had said something of the kind several times before in the course of their
earnest conversation. "There's just one course open to you, and that's the
right one. You've got to come back to New York and look people in the eye
and tell 'em to go to Gehenna if they don't like what you're doing. You
can't go on living like this, no matter how much you love it now. You're
not cut out for this sort of thing. Lordy, if I was as big and brutal
looking as you are at this minute I'd stand up for myself against--"

"But you will not understand," repeated Thorpe doggedly. "If my
attainments, as you call them, are to be of no value to me in helping
mankind, what is there left for me to do but this? Didn't I have enough of
it in those horrible two months down there to prove to me that they hate
me? They--"

"You weren't so thin skinned as all this when you were writing those
inspired articles of yours, were you? Confound you, Brady, you invited all
of this, you brought it down upon your head with all that nonsense
about--why, it was you who converted old Templeton Thorpe and here you are
running away like a 'white-head.' Haven't you any back-bone?"

"That's all very well, Simmy, but of what value is a back-bone in a case
like mine? If I had ten back-bones I couldn't compel people to come to me
for treatment or advice. They are afraid of me. I am a doctor, a surgeon,
a friend to all men. But if they will not believe that I am their friend,
how can I be of service to them?"

"You'll get patients, and plenty of 'em too, if you'll just hang on and
wait. They'll come to know that you wouldn't kill a cockroach if you could
help it. You'll--what's the matter?" He broke off suddenly with this sharp
question. A marked pallor had come over Thorpe's sunburnt face.

"Nothing--nothing at all," muttered the other. "The heat up there in the
woods--"

"You must look out for that, old boy," said Simmy anxiously. "Go slow.
You're only a city feller, as they'd say up here. What a God-forsaken
place it is! Not more than two hundred miles from Boston and yet I was a
whole day getting here."

"It is peaceful, Simmy," said Thorpe.

"I grant you that, by Jove. A fellow could walk in the middle of the
street here for a solid year without being hit by an automobile. But as I
was saying, you can make a place for yourself--"

"I should starve, old fellow. You forget that I am a poor man."

"Rats! You've got twenty-five thousand dollars a year, if you'll only be
sensible. There isn't another man in the United States who would be as
finicky about it as you are, no matter how full of ideals and principles
he may be stuffed."

Thorpe looked up suddenly. His jaw was set hard and firm once more. "Don't
you know what people would say about me if I were to operate and the
patient died?--as some of them do, you know. They would say that I did it
deliberately. I couldn't afford to lose in a single instance, Simmy. I
couldn't take the chance that other surgeons are compelled to take in a
great many cases. One failure would be sufficient. One--"

"See here, you've just got to look at things squarely, Braden. You owe
something to your grandfather if not to yourself. He left all that money
for a certain, definite purpose. You can't chuck it. You've got to come to
taw. You say that he took this means of leaving the money to you, that the
trust thing is all piffle, and all that sort of thing. Well, suppose that
it is true, what kind of a fool would you be to turn up your nose at six
million dollars? There are all kinds of ways of looking at it. In the
first place, he didn't leave it to you outright. It _is_ a trust, or a
foundation, and it has a definite end in view. You are the sole trustee,
that's the point on which you elect to stick. You are to be allowed to
handle this vast fortune as your judgment dictates, _as a trustee_, mind
you. You forget that he fixed your real position rather clearly when he
stipulated that you were to have a salary of twenty-five thousand dollars
a year, and fees as a trustee. That doesn't look as though he left it to
you without strings, does it?"

For an hour they argued the great question. Simmy did not pretend that he
accepted Braden's theories; in fact, he pronounced them shocking. Still,
he contended, that was neither here nor there. Braden believed in them,
and it wasn't any affair of his, after all.

"I don't believe it is right for man to try to do God's work," said he, in
explaining his objections. "But it doesn't matter what I think about it,
old chap, so don't mind me."

"Can't you understand, Simmy, that I advocate a simple, direct means of
relieving the--"

"Sure, I understand," broke in Simmy agreeably.

"Does God send the soldiers into battle, does he send the condemned man to
the gallows? Man does that, doesn't he? If it is God's work to drop a
small child into a boiling vat by accident, and if He fails to kill that
child at once, why shouldn't it be the work of man to complete the job as
quickly as possible? We shoot down the soldiers. Is that God's work? We
hang the murderer. Is that God's work? Emperors and kings conduct their
wars in the name of God and thousands of God's creatures go down to death.
Do you believe that God approves of this slaughter of the strong and
hardy? God doesn't send the man to the gallows nor the soldier to the
fighting line. Man does that, and he does it because he has the power to
do it, and he lives serene in the consolation that the great, good God
will not hold him to account for what he has done. We legalise the killing
of the strong; but not for humane reasons. Why shouldn't we legalise the
killing of the weak for humane reasons? It may interest you to know,
Simmy, that we men have more merciful ways of ending life than God Himself
directs. Why prolong life when it means agony that cannot be ended except
by the death that so certainly waits a few days or weeks beyond--"

"How can you be sure that a man is going to die? Doctors very frequently
say that a person has no chance whatever, and then the fellow fools 'em
and gets well."

"I am not speaking of such cases. I only speak of the cases where there
can be no doubt. There are such cases, you see. I would let Death take its
toll, just as it has always done, and I would fight for my patient until
the last breath was gone from his body. Two weeks ago a child was gored by
a bull back here in the country. It was disembowelled. That child lived
for many hours,--and suffered. That's what I mean, in substance. I too
believe in the old maxim,--'while there's life there's hope.' That is the
foundation on which our profession is built. A while ago you spoke of the
extremely aged as possible victims of my theories. I suppose you meant to
ask me if I would include them in my list. God forbid! To me there is
nothing more beautiful than a happy, healthy, contented old age. We love
our old people. If we love them we do not think of them as old. We want
them to live,--just as I shall want to live, and you, Simmy. And we want
them to die when their time comes, by God's hand not man's, for God does
give them a peaceful, glorious end. But we don't want them to suffer, any
more than we would want the young to suffer, I loved my grandfather. Death
was a great boon to him. He wanted to die. But all old men do not want to
die. They--"

"We're not getting anywhere with this kind of talk," interrupted Simmy.
"The sum and substance is this: you would put it in the power of a few men
to destroy human life on the representation of a few doctors. If these
doctors said--"

"And why not? We put it into the power of twelve men to send a man to the
gallows on the testimony of witnesses who may be lying like thieves. We
take the testimony of doctors as experts in our big murder trials. If we
believe some of them we hang the man because they say he is sane. On the
other hand we frequently acquit the guilty man if they say he's insane."

Simmy squinted a half-closed eye, calculatingly, judicially. "My dear
fellow, the insane asylums in this country to-day hold any number of
reasonably sane inmates, sent there by commissions which perhaps
unintentionally followed out the plans of designing persons who were
actuated solely by selfish and avaricious motives. Control of great
properties falls into the hands of conspiring relatives simply because it
happened to be an easy matter to get some one snugly into a madhouse." He
said no more. Braden was allowed to draw his own conclusions.

"Oh, I dare say people will go on putting obstacles out of their way till
the end of time," said he coolly. "If I covet your wife or your ass or
your money-bags I put poison in your tea and you very obligingly die, and
all that the law can do is to send me after you as soon as the lawyers
have got through with me. That is no argument, Simmy. That sort of thing
will go on forever."

Finally Thorpe settled back in his chair resignedly, worn out by the
persistent argument of his tormentor.

"Well, suppose that I agree with all you say,--what then? Suppose that I
take up my burden, as you say I should, and set out to bring the world
around to my way of thinking, where am I to begin and how?"

Simmy contrived to suppress the sigh of relief that rose to his lips. This
was making headway, after all. Things looked brighter.

"My dear fellow, it will take you a good many years to even make a
beginning. You can't go right smack up against the world and say: 'Here,
you, look sharp! I'm going to hit you in the eye.' In the first place, you
will have to convince the world that you are a great, big man in your
profession. You will have to cure ten thousand people before you can make
the world believe that you are anybody at all. Then people will listen to
you and what you say will have some effect. You can't do anything now.
Twenty years from now, when you are at the top of your profession, you
will be in a position to do something. But in the meantime you will have
to make people understand that you can cure 'em if anybody can, so that
when you say _you_ can't cure 'em, they'll know it's final. I'm not asking
you to renounce your ideas. You can even go on talking about them and
writing to the newspapers and all that sort of thing, if you want to, but
you've got to build up a reputation for yourself before you can begin to
make use of all this money along the lines laid down for you. But first of
all you must make people say that in spite of your theories you are a
practical benefactor and not a plain, ordinary crank. Go on sowing the
seed if you will, and then when the time comes found a college in which
your principles may be safely and properly taught, and then see what
people will say."

"It sounds very simple, the way you put it," said Thorpe, with a smile.

"There is no other way, my friend," said Simmy earnestly.

Thorpe was silent for a long time, staring out over the dark waters of the
bay. The sun had slipped down behind the ridge of hills to the south and
west, and the once bright sea was now cold and sinister and unsmiling. The
boats were stealing in from its unfriendly wastes.

"I had not thought of it in that light, Simmy," he said at length. "My
grandfather said it might take two hundred years."

"Incidentally," said Simmy, shrewdly, "your grandfather knew what he was
about when he put in the provision that you were to have twenty-five
thousand dollars a year as a salary, so to speak. He was a far-seeing man.
He knew that you would have a hard, uphill struggle before you got on your
feet to stay. He may even have calculated on a lifetime, my friend. That's
why he put in the twenty-five. He probably realised that you'd be too
idiotic to use the money except as a means to bring about the millennium,
and so he said to himself 'I'll have to do something to keep the damn'
fool from starving.' You needn't have any scruples about taking your pay,
old boy. You've got to live, you know. I think I've got the old
gentleman's idea pretty--"

"Well, let's drop the subject for to-night, Simmy," said Thorpe, coming to
his feet. His chin was up and his shoulders thrown back as he breathed
deeply and fully of the new life that seemed to spring up mysteriously
from nowhere. "You'll spend the night with me. There is a spare bed and
you'll--"

"Isn't there a Ritz in the place?" inquired Simmy, scarcely able to
conceal his joy.

"Not so that you can notice it," replied Thorpe gaily. He walked to the
edge of the porch and drank in more of that strange, puzzling air that
came from vast distances and filled his lungs as they had never been
filled before.

Simmy watched him narrowly in the failing light. After a moment he sank
back comfortably in the old rocking chair and smiled as a cat might smile
in contemplating a captive mouse. The rest would be easy. Thorpe would go
back with him. That was all that he wanted, and perhaps more than he
expected. As for old Templeton Thorpe's "foundation," he did not give it a
moment's thought. Time would attend to that. Time would kill it, so what
was the use worrying. He prided himself on having done the job very
neatly,--and he was smart enough to let the matter rest.

"What is the news in town?" asked Braden, turning suddenly. There was a
new ring in his voice. He was eager for news of the town!

"Well," said Simmy naively, "there is so much to tell I don't believe I
could get it all out before dinner."

"We call it supper, Simmy."

"It's all the same to me," said Simmy.

And after supper he told him the news as they walked out along the
breakwater.

Anne Thorpe was in Europe. She closed the house as soon as George was able
to go to work, and went away without any definite notion as to the length
of her stay abroad.

"She's terribly upset over having to live in that old house down there,"
said Simmy, "and I don't blame her. It's full of ghosts, good and bad. It
has always been her idea to buy a big house farther up town. In fact, that
was one of the things on which she had set her heart. I don't mind telling
you that I'm trying to find some way in which she can chuck the old house
down there without losing anything. She wants to give it away, but I won't
listen to that. It's worth a hundred thousand if it's worth a nickel. So
she closed the place, dismissed the servants and--"

"'Gad, my grandfather wouldn't like that," said Braden. "He was fond of
Murray and Wade and--"

"Murray has bought a saloon in Sixth Avenue and talks of going into
politics. Old Wade absolutely refused to allow Anne to close up the house.
He has received his legacy and turned it over to me for investment.
Confound him, when I had him down to the office afterwards he as much as
told me that he didn't want to be bothered with the business, and actually
complained because I had taken him away from his work at that hour of the
day. Anne had to leave him there as caretaker. I understand he is all
alone in the house."

"Anne is in Europe, eh? That's good," said Thorpe, more to himself than to
his companion.

"Never saw her looking more beautiful than the day she sailed," said
Simmy, peering hard in the darkness at the other's face. "She hasn't had
much happiness, Brady."

"Umph!" was the only response, but it was sufficient to turn Simmy off
into other channels.

"I suppose you know that George and Lutie are married again."

"Good! I'm glad to hear it," said Thorpe, with enthusiasm.

"Married two weeks after George went to work in that big bank note
company's plant. I got the job for him. He starts at the bottom, of
course, but that's the right way for a chap like George to begin. He'll
have to make good before he can go up an inch in the business. Fifteen a
week. But he'll go up, Brady. He'll make good with Lutie to push from
behind. Awful blow to Mrs. Tresslyn, however. He's a sort of clerk and has
to wear sleeve papers and an eye-shade. I shall never forget the day that
Lutie bought him back." Simmy chuckled.

"Bought him back?"

"Yes. She plunked thirty thousand down on the table in my office in front
of Mrs. Tresslyn and said 'I sha'n't need a receipt, Mrs. Tresslyn. George
is receipt enough for me.' I'd never seen Mrs. Tresslyn blush before, but
she blushed then, my boy. Got as red as fire. Then she rose up in her
dignity and said she wouldn't take the money. How was her son to live, she
said, if Lutie deprived him of his visible means of support? Lutie replied
that if George was strong enough to carry the washing back and forth from
the customers', she'd manage to support him by taking in dirty linen. Then
Mrs. Tresslyn broke down. Damme, Brady, it brought tears to my eyes. You
don't know how affecting it is to see a high and mighty person like Mrs.
Tresslyn humble herself like that. She didn't cry. I was the only one who
cried, curse me for a silly ass. She just simply said that Lutie was the
best and bravest girl in the world and that she was sorry for all that she
had done to hurt her. And she asked Lutie to forgive her. Then Lutie put
her arm around her and called her an old dear. I didn't see any more on
account of the infernal tears. But Lutie wouldn't take back the money. She
said that it didn't belong to her and that she couldn't look George in the
face if she kept it. So that's how it stands. She and George have a tiny
little apartment 'way up town,--three rooms, I believe, and so far she
hasn't taken in anybody's washing. Anne wants to refund the money to
Lutie, but doesn't know how to go about it. She--er--sort of left it to me
to find the way. Lordy, I seem to get all of the tough jobs."

"You are a brick, Simmy," said Thorpe, laying his arm across the little
man's shoulders.

"Heigh-ho!" sighed Simmy. Later on, as they returned through the fog that
was settling down about them, he inquired: "By the way, will you be ready
to start back with me to-morrow?"

"Lord love you, no," cried Thorpe. "I've agreed, to help old man Stingley
with the boat house. I'll come down in three weeks, Simmy."

"Lordy, Lordy!" groaned Simmy, dejectedly. "Three weeks in this God-
forsaken place? I'll die, Brady."

"You? What are you talking about?"

"Why, you don't suppose I'm going back without you, do you?"




CHAPTER XXII


Anne Thorpe remained in Europe for a year, returning to New York shortly
before the breaking out of the Great War. She went to the Ritz, where she
took an apartment. A day or two after her arrival in the city, she sent
for Wade.

"Wade," she said, as the old valet stood smirking before her in the little
sitting-room, "I have decided not to re-open the house. I shall never re-
open it. I do not intend to live there."

The man turned a sickly green. His voice shook a little. "Are--are you
going to close it--for good,--madam?"

"I sent for you this morning to inquire if you are willing to continue
living there as caretaker until--"

"You may depend on me, Mrs. Thorpe, to--" he broke in eagerly.

"--until I make up my mind what to do with the property," she concluded.

He hesitated, clearing his throat. "I beg pardon for mentioning it, ma'am,
but the will said that you would have to live in the house and that you
may not sell it or do anything--"

"I know," she interrupted shortly. "I sha'n't sell the house, of course.
On the other hand, I do not intend to live in it. I don't care what
becomes of it, Wade."

"It's worth a great deal of money," he ventured.

She was not interested. "But so am I," she said curtly. "By the way, how
have you fared, Wade? You do not look as though you have made the best of
your own good fortune. Are you not a trifle thinner?"

The man looked down at the rug. "I am quite well, thank you. A little
older, of course,--that's all. I haven't had a sick day in years."

"Why do you stay on in service? You have means of your own,--quite a handy
fortune, I should say. I cannot understand your willingness, to coop
yourself up in that big old house, when you might be out seeing something
of life, enjoying your money and--you are a very strange person, Wade."

He favoured her with his twisted smile. "We can't all be alike, madam," he
said. "Besides, I couldn't see very much of life with my small pot of
gold. I shall always stick to my habit, I suppose, of earning my daily
bread."

"I see. Then I may depend upon you to remain in charge of the house?
Whenever you are ready to give it up, pray do not hesitate to come to me.
I will release you, of course."

"I may possibly live to be ninety," he said, encouragingly.

She stared. "You mean--that you will stay on until you die?"

"Seeing that you cannot legally sell the house,--and you will not live in
it,--I hope to be of service to you to the end of my days, madam. Have you
considered the possibility of some one setting up a claim to the property
on account of your--er--violation of the terms of the will?"

"I should be very happy if some one were to do so, Wade," she replied with
a smile. "I should not oppose the claim. Unfortunately there is no one to
take the step. There are no disgruntled relatives."

"Ahem! Mr. Braden, of course, might--er--be regarded as a--"

"Dr. Thorpe will not set up a claim, Wade. You need not be disturbed."

"There is no one else, of course," said he, with a deep breath of relief.

"No one. I can't even _give_ it away. I shall go on paying taxes on it all
my life, I daresay. And repairs and--"

"Repairs won't be necessary, ma'am, unless you have a complaining tenant.
I shall manage to keep the place in good order."

"Are your wages satisfactory, Wade?"

"Quite, madam." Sometimes he remembered not to say "ma'am."

"And your food, your own personal comforts, your--"

"Don't worry about me, madam. I make out very well."

"And you are all alone there? All alone in that dark, grim old house? Oh,
how terribly lonely it must be. I--" she shivered slightly.

"I have a scrub-woman in twice a month, and Murray comes to see me once in
awhile. I read a great deal."

"And your meals?"

"I get my own breakfast, and go down to Sixth Avenue for my luncheons and
dinners. There is an excellent little restaurant quite near, you
see,--conducted by a very estimable Southern lady in reduced circumstances.
Her husband is a Northerner, however, and she doesn't see a great deal of
him. I understand he is a person of very uncertain habits. They say he
gambles. Her daughter assists her with the business. She--but, I beg
pardon; you would not be interested in them."

"I am glad that you are contented, Wade. We will consider the matter
settled, and you will go on as heretofore. You may always find me here, if
you desire to communicate with me at any time."

Wade looked around the room. Anne's maid had come in and was employed in
restoring a quantity of flowers to the boxes in which they had been
delivered. There were roses and violets and orchids in profusion.

Mrs. Thorpe took note of his interest. "You will be interested to hear,
Wade, that my sister-in-law is expecting a little baby very soon. I am
taking the flowers up to her flat."

"A baby," said Wade softly. "That will be fine, madam."

After Wade's departure, Anne ordered a taxi, and, with the half dozen
boxes of flowers piled up in front of her, set out for George's home. On
the way up through the park she experienced a strange sense of exaltation,
a curious sort of tribute to her own lack of selfishness in the matter of
the flowers. This feeling of self-exaltation was so pleasing to her, so
full of promise for further demands upon her newly discovered nature, that
she found herself wondering why she had allowed herself to be cheated out
of so much that was agreeable during all the years of her life! She was
now sincerely in earnest in her desire to be kind and gentle and generous
toward others. She convinced herself of that in more ways than one. In the
first place, she enjoyed thinking first of the comforts of others, and
secondly of herself. That in itself was most surprising to her. Up to a
year or two ago she would have deprived herself of nothing unless there
was some personal satisfaction to be had from the act, such as the
consciousness that the object of her kindness envied her the power to
give, or that she could pity herself for having been obliged to give
without return. Now she found joy in doing the things she once
abhorred,--the unnecessary things, as she had been pleased to describe
them.

She loved Lutie,--and that surprised her more than anything else. She did
not know it, but she was absorbing strength of purpose, independence, and
sincerity from this staunch little woman who was George's wife. She would
have cried out against the charge that Lutie had become an Influence! It
was all right for Lutie to have an influence on the character of George,
but--the thought of anything nearer home than that never entered her head.

As a peculiar--and not especially commendable--example of her present state
of unselfishness, she stopped for luncheon with her pretty little sister-
in-law, and either forgot or calmly ignored the fact that she had promised
Percy Wintermill and his sister to lunch with them at Sherry's. And later
on, when Percy complained over the telephone she apologised with perfect
humility,--surprising him even more than she surprised herself. She did
not, however, feel called upon to explain to him that she had transferred
his orchids to Lutie's living-room. That was another proof of her
consideration for others. She knew that Percy's feelings would have been
hurt.

Lutie was radiantly happy. Her baby was coming in a fortnight.

"You shall have the very best doctor in New York," said Anne, caressing
the fair, tousled head. Her own heart was full.

"We're going to have Braden Thorpe," said Lutie.

Anne started. "But he is not--What you want, Lutie, is a specialist. Braden
is--"

"He's good enough for me," said Lutie serenely. Possibly she was
astonished by the sudden, impulsive kiss that Anne bestowed upon her, and
the more fervent embrace that followed.

That afternoon Anne received many callers. Her home-coming meant a great
deal to the friends who had lost sight of her during the period of
preparation that began, quite naturally, with her marriage to Templeton
Thorpe, and was now to bear its results. She would take her place once
more in the set to which she belonged as a Tresslyn.

Alas, for the memory of old Templeton Thorpe, her one-time intimates in
society were already speaking of her,--absently, of course,--as Anne
Tresslyn. The newspapers might continue to allude to her as the beautiful
Mrs. Thorpe, but that was as far as it would go. Polite society would not
be deceived. It would not deny her the respectability of marriage, to be
sure, but on the other hand, it wouldn't think of her as having been
married to old Mr. Thorpe. It might occasionally give a thought or two to
the money that had once been Mr. Thorpe's, and it might go so far as to
pity Anne because she had been stupid or ill-advised in the matter of a
much-discussed ante-nuptial arrangement, but nothing could alter the fact
that she had never ceased being a Tresslyn, and that there was infinite
justice in the restoration of at least one of the Tresslyns to a state of
affluence. It remains to be seen whether Society's estimate of her was
right or wrong.

Her mother came in for half an hour, and admitted that the baby would be a
good thing for poor George.

"I am rather glad it is coming," she said. "I shall know what to do with
that hateful money she forced me to take back."

"What do you mean, mother?"

Mrs. Tresslyn lifted her lorgnon. "Have you forgotten, my dear?"

"Of course I haven't. But what _do_ you mean?"

"It is perfectly simple, Anne. I mean that as soon as this baby comes I
shall settle the whole of that thirty thousand dollars upon it, and have
it off my mind forever. Heaven knows it has plagued me to--"

"You--but, mother, can you afford to do anything so--"

"My dear, it may interest you to know that your mother possesses a great
deal of that abomination known as pride. I have not spent so much as a
penny of Lutie Car--of my daughter-in-law's money. You look surprised. Have
you been thinking so ill of me as that? Did you believe that I--"

Anne threw her arms about her mother's neck, and kissed her rapturously.

"I see you _did_ believe it of me," said Mrs. Tresslyn drily. Then she
kissed her daughter in return. "I haven't been able to look my daughter-
in-law in the face since she virtually threw all that money back into
mine. I've been almost distracted trying to think of a way to force it
back upon her, so that I might be at peace with myself. This baby will
open the way. It will simplify everything. It shall be worth thirty
thousand dollars in its own right the day it is born."

Anne was beaming. "And on that same day, mother dear, I will replace the
amount that you turn over to--"

"You will do nothing of the kind," said Mrs. Tresslyn sharply. "I am not
doing this thing because I am kind-hearted, affectionate, or even
remorseful. I shall do it because it pleases me, and not for the sake of
pleasing any one else. Now we'll drop the subject. I do hope, however,
that if George doesn't take the trouble to telephone me within a
reasonable time after his child comes into the world--say within a day or
two--I hope you will do so."

"Really, mother, you are a very wonderful person," said Anne, rather wide-
eyed.

"No more wonderful, my dear, than Lutie Carnahan, if you will pause for a
moment to think of what _she_ did."

"She is very proud, and very happy," said Anne dubiously. "She and George
may refuse to accept this--"

"My dear Anne," interrupted her mother calmly, "pray let me remind you
that Lutie is no fool. And now, tell me something about your plans. Where
are you going for the summer?"

"That depends entirely on where my nephew wants to spend the heated term,"
said Anne brightly. "I shall take him and Lutie into the country with me."

Mrs. Tresslyn winced. "It doesn't sound quite so terrible as grandson, at
any rate," she remarked, considering the first sentence only.

"I do hope it will be a boy," mused Anne.

"I believe I could love her if she gave us a boy," said the other. "I am
beginning to feel that we need more men in the family."

One of the last to drop in during the afternoon to welcome Anne back to
the fold was the imposing and more or less redoubtable Mrs. Wintermill,
head of the exclusive family to which Percy belonged. Percy's father was
still alive but he was a business man, and as such he met his family as he
would any other liability: when necessary.

Mrs. Wintermill's first remark after saying that she was glad to see Anne
looking so well was obviously the result of a quick and searching glance
around the room.

"Isn't Percy here?" she inquired.

Anne had just had an uncomfortable half minute on the telephone with
Percy. "Not unless he is hiding behind that couch over there, Mrs.
Wintermill," she said airily. "He is coming up later, I believe."

"I was to meet him here," said Mrs. Wintermill, above flippancy. "Is it
five o'clock?"

"No," said Anne. Mrs. Wintermill smiled again. She was puzzled a little by
the somewhat convulsive gurgle that burst from Anne's lips. "I beg your
pardon. I just happened to think of something." She turned away to say
good-bye to the last of her remaining visitors,--two middle-aged ladies who
had not made her acquaintance until after her marriage to Templeton Thorpe
and therefore were not by way of knowing Mrs. Wintermill without the aid
of opera-glasses. "Do come and see me again."

"Who are they?" demanded Mrs. Wintermill before the servant had time to
close the door behind the departing ones. She did not go to the trouble of
speaking in an undertone.

"Old friends of Mr. Thorpe's," said Anne. "Washington Square people. More
tea, Ludwig. How well you are looking, Mrs. Wintermill. So good of you to
come."

"We wanted to be among the first--if not the very first--to welcome you
home, Jane. Percy said to me this morning before he left for the office:
'Mother, you must run in and see Jane Tresslyn to-day.' Ahem! Dear me, I
seem to have got into the habit of dropping things every time I move.
Thanks, dear. Ahem! As I was saying, I said to Percy this morning: 'I must
run in and see Jane Tresslyn to-day.' And Percy said that he would meet me
here and go on to the--Do you remember the Fenns? The Rumsey Fenns?"

"Oh, yes. I've been away only a year, you know, Mrs. Wintermill."

"It seems ages. Well, the Fenns are having something or other for a French
woman,--or a man, I'm not quite sure,--who is trying to introduce a new
tuberculosis serum over here. I shouldn't be the least bit surprised to
see it publicly injected into Mr. Fenn, who, I am told, has everything his
wife wants him to have. My daughter was saying only a day or two ago that
Rumsey Fenn,--we don't know them very well, of course,--naturally, we
wouldn't, you know--er--what was I saying? Ah, yes; Percy declared that the
city would be something like itself once more, now that you've come home,
Jennie. I beg your pardon;--which is it that you prefer? I've quite
forgotten. Jennie or Jane?"

"It doesn't in the least matter, Mrs. Wintermill," said Anne amiably.
"There isn't much choice."

"How is your mother?"

"Quite well, thank you. And how is Mr. Wintermill?"

"As I was saying, Mrs. Fenn dances beautifully. Percy,--he's really quite
silly about dancing,--Percy says she's the best he knows. I do not pretend
to dance all of the new ones myself, but--Did you inquire about Mr.
Wintermill? He's doing it, too, as they say in the song. By the way, I
should have asked before: how is your mother? I haven't seen her in weeks.
Good heavens!" The good lady actually turned pale. "It was your husband
who died, wasn't it? Not your--but, of course, _not_. What a relief. You
say she's well?"

"You barely missed her. She was here this afternoon."

"So sorry. It _is_ good to have you with us again, Kate. How pretty you
are. Do you like the Ritz?"

A bell-boy delivered a huge basket of roses at the door at this juncture.
Mrs. Wintermill eyed them sharply as Ludwig paused for instructions. Anne
languidly picked up the detached envelope and looked at the card it
contained.

"Put it on the piano, Ludwig," she said. "They are from Eddie Townshield,"
she announced, kindly relieving her visitor's curiosity.

"Really," said Mrs. Wintermill. She sent a very searching glance around
the room once more. This time she was not looking for Percy, but for
Percy's tribute. She was annoyed with Percy. What did he mean by not
sending flowers to Anne Tresslyn? In her anger she got the name right.
"Orchids are Percy's favourites, Anne. He never sends anything but
orchids. He--"

"He sent me some gorgeous orchids this morning," said Anne.

Mrs. Wintermill looked again, even squinting her eyes. "I suppose they
_aren't_ very hardy at this time of the year. I've noticed they perish--"

"Oh, these were exceedingly robust," interrupted Anne. "They'll live for
days." Her visitor gave it up, sinking back with a faint sigh. "I've had
millions of roses and orchids and violets since I landed. Every one has
been so nice."

Mrs. Wintermill sat up a little straighter in her chair. "New York men are
rather punctilious about such things," she ventured. It was an inquiry.

"Captain Poindexter, Dickie Fowless, Herb. Vandervelt,--oh, I can't
remember all of them. The room looked like Thorley's this morning."

Mrs. Wintermill could not stand it any longer. "What have you done with
them, my dear?"

Anne enjoyed being veracious. "I took a whole truckload up to my sister-
in-law. She's going to have a baby."

Her visitor stiffened. "I was not aware that you had a sister-in-law. Mr.
Thorpe was especially free from relatives."

"Oh, this is George's wife. Dear little Lutie Carnahan, don't you know?
She's adorable."

"Oh!" oozed from the other's lips. "I--I think I do recall the fact that
George was married while in college. It is very nice of you to share your
flowers with her. I loathed them, however, when Percy and Elaine were
coming. It must be after five, isn't it?"

"Two minutes after," said Anne.

"I thought so. I wonder what has become of--Oh, by the way, Jane, Percy was
saying the other day that Eddie Townshield has really been thrown over by
that silly little Egburt girl. He was frightfully gone on her, you know.
You wouldn't know her. She came out after you went into retirement. That's
rather good, isn't it? Retirement! I must tell that to Percy. He thinks I
haven't a grain of humour, my dear. It bores him, I fancy, because he is
so witty himself. And heaven knows he doesn't get it from his father. That
reminds me, have you heard that Captain Poindexter is about to be
dismissed from the army on account of that affair with Mrs. Coles last
winter? The government is very strict about--Ah, perhaps that is Percy
now."

But it was not Percy,--only a boy with a telegram.

"Will you pardon me?" said Anne, and tore open the envelope. "Why, it's
from Percy."

"From--dear me, what is it, Anne? Has anything happened--"

"Just a word to say that he will be fifteen or twenty minutes late," said
Anne drily.

"He is the most thoughtful boy in--But as I was saying, Herbie Vandervelt's
affair with Anita Coles was the talk of the town last winter. Every one
says that he will not marry her even though Coles divorces her. How I hate
that in men. They are not all that sort, thank God. I suppose the business
in connection with the estate has been settled, hasn't it? As I recall it,
the will was a very simple one, aside from that ridiculous provision that
shocked every one so much. I think you made a great mistake in not
contesting it, Annie. Percy says that it wouldn't have stood in any court.
By the way, have you seen Braden Thorpe?" She eyed her hostess rather
narrowly.

"No," was the reply. "It hasn't been necessary, you know. Mr. Dodge
attended to everything. My duties as executrix were trifling. My report,
or whatever you call it, was ready months ago."

"And all that money? I mean, the money that went to Braden. What of that?"

"It did not go to Braden, Mrs. Wintermill," said Anne levelly. "It is in
trust."

Mrs. Wintermill smiled. "Oh, nothing will come of that," she said. "Percy
says that you could bet your boots that Braden would have contested if
things had been the other way round."

"I'm sure I don't know," said Anne briefly.

"I hear that he is hanging on in spite of what the world says about him,
trying to get a practice. Percy sees him quite frequently. He's really
sorry for him. When Percy likes a person nothing in the world can turn him
against--why, he would lend him money as long as his own lasted. He--"

"Has Braden borrowed money from Percy?" demanded Anne quickly.

"I did not say that he had, my dear," said the other reprovingly. "I
merely said that he would lend it to him in any amount if he asked for it.
Of course, Braden would probably go to Simmy Dodge in case of--they are
almost inseparable, you know. Simmy has been quite a brick, sticking to
him like this. My dear,"--leaning a little closer and lowering her voice on
Ludwig's account,--"do you know that the poor fellow didn't have a patient
for nearly six months? People wouldn't go near him. I hear that he has
been doing better of late. I think it was Percy who said that he had
operated successfully on a man who had gall stones. Oh, yes, I quite
forgot that Percy says he has twenty-five thousand dollars a year as wages
for acting as trustee. I fancy he doesn't hesitate to use it to the best
advantage. As long as he has that, I dare say he will not starve or go
naked."

Receiving no response from Anne, she took courage and playfully shook her
finger at the young woman. "Wasn't there some ridiculous talk of an
adolescent engagement a few years ago? How queer nature is! I can't
imagine you even being interested in him. So soggy and emotionless, and
you so full of life and verve and--Still they say he is completely wrapped
up in his profession, such as it is. I've always said that a daughter of
mine should never marry a doctor. As a matter of fact, a doctor never
should marry. No woman should be subjected to the life that a doctor's
wife has to lead. In the first place, if he is any good at all in his
profession, he can't afford to give her any time or thought, and then
there is always the danger one runs from women patients. You never could
be quite sure that everything was all right, don't you know. Besides, I've
always had a horror of the infectious diseases they may be carrying around
in their--why, think of small-pox and diphtheria and scarlet fever! Those
diseases--"

"My dear Mrs. Wintermill," interrupted Anne, with a smile, "I am not
thinking of marrying a doctor."

"Of course you are not," said Mrs. Wintermill promptly. "I wasn't thinking
of that. I--"

"Besides, there is a lot of difference between a surgeon and a regular
practitioner. Surgeons do not treat small-pox and that sort of thing. You
couldn't object to a surgeon, could you?" She spoke very sweetly and
without a trace of ridicule in her manner.

"I have a horror of surgeons," said the other, catching at her purse as it
once more started to slip from her capacious lap. She got it in time.
"Blood on their hands every time they earn a fee. No, thank you. I am not
a sanguinary person."

All of which leads up to the belated announcement that Mrs. Wintermill was
extremely desirous of having the beautiful and wealthy widow of Templeton
Thorpe for a daughter-in-law.

"I suppose you know that James,--but naturally you wouldn't know, having
just landed, my dear Jane. You haven't seen Braden Thorpe, so it isn't
likely that you could have heard. I fancy he isn't saying much about it,
in any event. The world is too eager to rake up things against him in view
of his extraordinary ideas on--"

"You were speaking of James, but _what_ James, Mrs. Wintermill?"
interrupted Anne, sensing.

Mrs. Wintermill lowered her voice. "Inasmuch as you are rather closely
related to Braden by marriage, you will be interested to know that he is
to perform a very serious operation upon James Marraville." There was no
mistaking the awe in her voice.

"The banker?"

"The great James Marraville," said Mrs. Wintermill, suddenly passing her
handkerchief over her brow. "He is said to be in a hopeless condition,"
she added, pronouncing the words slowly.

"I--I had not heard of it, Mrs. Wintermill," murmured Anne, going cold to
the very marrow.

"Every one has given him up. It is terrible. A few days ago he sent for
Braden Thorpe and--well, it was announced in the papers that there will be
an operation to-morrow or the next day. Of course, he cannot survive it.
That is admitted by every one. Mr. Wintermill went over to see him last
night. He was really shocked to find Mr. Marraville quite cheerful
and--contented. I fancy you know what that means."

"And Braden is going to operate?" said Anne slowly.

"No one else will undertake it, of course," said the other, something like
a triumphant note in her voice.

"What a wonderful thing it would be for Braden if he were to succeed,"
cried Anne, battling against her own sickening conviction. "Think what it
would mean if he were to save the life of a man so important as James
Marraville,--one of the most talked-of men in the country. It would--"

"But he will not save the man's life," said Mrs. Wintermill significantly.
"I do not believe that Marraville himself expects that." She hesitated for
an instant. "It is really dreadful that Braden should have achieved so
much notoriety on account of--I _beg_ your pardon!"

Anne had arisen and was standing over her visitor in an attitude at once
menacing and theatric. The old lady blinked and caught her breath.

"If you are trying to make me believe, Mrs. Wintermill, that Braden would
consent to--But, why should I insult him by attempting to defend him when
no defence is necessary? I know him well enough to say that he would not
operate on James Marraville for all the money in the world unless he
believed that there was a chance to pull him through." She spoke rapidly
and rather too intensely for Mrs. Wintermill's peace of mind.

"That is just what Percy says," stammered the older woman hastily. "He
believes in Braden. He says it's all tommyrot about Marraville paying him
to put him out of his misery. My dear, I don't believe there is a more
loyal creature on earth than Percy Wintermill. He--"

Percy was announced at that instant. He came quickly into the room and,
failing utterly to see his mother, went up to Anne and inquired what the
deuce had happened to prevent her coming to luncheon, and why she didn't
have the grace to let him know, and what did she take him for, anyway.

"Elaine and I stood around over there for an hour,--an hour, do you get
that?--biting everything but food, and--"

"I'm awfully sorry, Percy," said Anne calmly. "I wouldn't offend Elaine
for the world. She's--"

"Elaine? What about me? Elaine took it as a joke, confound her,--but I
didn't. Now see here, Anne, old girl, you know I'm not in the habit of
being--"

"Here is your mother, Percy," interrupted Anne coldly.

"Hello! You still waiting for me, mother? I say, what do you think Anne's
been doing to your angel child? Forgetting that he's on earth, that's all.
Now, where were you, Anne, and what's the racket? I'm not in the habit of
being--"

"I forgot all about it, Percy," confessed Anne deliberately. She was
conscious of a sadly unfeminine longing to see just how Percy's nose
_could_ look under certain conditions. "I couldn't say that to you over
the phone, however,--could I?"

"Anne's sister-in-law is expecting a baby," put in Mrs. Wintermill
fatuously. This would never do! Percy ought to know better than to say
such things to Anne. What on earth had got into him? Except for the
foregoing effort, however, she was quite speechless.

"What's that got to do with it?" demanded Percy, chucking his gloves
toward the piano. He faced Anne once more, prepared to insist on full
satisfaction. The look in her eyes, however, caused him to refrain from
pursuing his tactics. He smiled in a sickly fashion and said, after a
moment devoted to reconstruction: "But, never mind, Anne; I was only
having a little fun bullying you. That's a man's privilege, don't you
know. We'll try it again to-morrow, if you say so."

"I have an engagement," said Anne briefly. The next instant she smiled.
"Next week perhaps, if you will allow me the privilege of forgetting
again."

"Oh, I say!" said Percy, blinking his eyes. How was he to take that sort
of talk? He didn't know. And for fear that he might say the wrong thing if
he attempted to respond to her humour, he turned to his mother and
remarked: "Don't wait for me, mother. Run along, do. I'm going to stop for
a chat with Anne."

As Mrs. Wintermill went out she met Simmy Dodge in the hall.

"Would you mind, Simmy dear, coming down to the automobile with me?" she
said quickly. "I--I think I feel a bit faint."

"I'll drive home with you, if you like," said the good Simmy,
solicitously.




CHAPTER XXIII


She saw by the evening papers that the operation on Marraville was to take
place the next day. That night she slept but little. When her maid roused
her from the slumber that came long after the sun was up, she immediately
called for the morning papers. In her heart she was hoping, almost praying
that they would report the death of James Marraville during the night.
Then, as she read with burning eyes, she found herself hoping against hope
that the old man would, at the last moment, refuse to undergo the
operation, or that some member of his family would protest. But even as
she hoped, she knew that there would be no objection on the part of either
Marraville or his children. He was an old man, he was fatally ill, he was
through with life. There would be no obstacle placed in the way of Death.
His time had come and there was no one to ask for a respite. He would die
under the knife and every one would be convinced that it was for the best.
As she sat up in bed, staring before her with bleak, unseeing eyes, she
had an inward vision of this rich man's family counting in advance the
profits of the day's business! Braden Thorpe was to be the only victim. He
was to be the one to suffer. Two big tears grew in her eyes and rolled
down her cheeks. She had never loved Braden Thorpe as she loved him now.

She knew that he was moved by honest intentions. That he confidently
believed he could preserve this man's life she would not for an instant
doubt. But why had he agreed to undertake the feat that other men had
declared was useless, the work that other men had said to be absolutely
unnecessary? A faint ray of comfort rested on the possibility that these
great surgeons, appreciating, the wide-spread interest that naturally
would attend the fate of so great a man as James Marraville, were loth to
face certain failure, but even that comfort was destroyed by an
intelligence that argued for these surgeons instead of against them. They
had said that the case was hopeless. They were honest men. They had the
courage to say: "This man must die. It is God's work, not ours," and had
turned away. They were big men; they would not operate just for the sake
of operating. And when they admitted that it was useless they were
convincing the world that they were honourable men. Therefore,--she almost
ground her pretty teeth at the thought of it,--old Marraville and his
family had turned to Braden Thorpe as one without honour or conscience!

She had never been entirely free from the notion that her husband's death
was the result of premeditated action on the part of his grandson, but in
that instance there was more than professional zeal in the heart of the
surgeon: there was love and pity and gentleness in the heart of Braden
Thorpe when he obeyed the command of the dying man. If he were to come to
her now, or at any time, with the confession that he had deliberately
ended the suffering of the man he loved, she would have put her hand in
his and looked him in the eye while she spoke her words of commendation.
Templeton Thorpe had the right to appeal to him in his hour of
hopelessness, but this other man--this mighty Marraville!--what right had he
to demand the sacrifice? She had witnessed the suffering of Templeton
Thorpe, she had prayed for death to relieve him; he had called upon her to
be merciful, and she had denied him. She wondered if James Marraville had
turned to those nearest and dearest to him with the cry for mercy. She
wondered if the little pellets had been left at his bedside. She knew the
extent of his agony, and yet she had no pity for him. He was not asking
for mercy at the hands of a man who loved him and who could not deny him.
He was demanding something for which he was willing to pay, not with love
and gratitude, but with money. Would he look up into Braden's eyes and
say, "God bless you," when the end was at hand?

Moved by a sudden irresistible impulse she flung reserve aside and decided
to make an appeal to Braden. She would go to him and plead with him to
spare himself instead of this rich old man. She would go down on her knees
to him, she would humble and humiliate herself, she would cry out her
unwanted love to him....

At nine o'clock she was at his office. He was gone for the day, the little
placard on the door informed her. Gone for the day! In her desperation she
called Simmy Dodge on the telephone. He would tell her what to do. But
Simmy's man told her that his master had just gone away in the motor with
Dr. Thorpe,--for a long ride into the country. Scarcely knowing what she
did she hurried on to Lutie's apartment, far uptown.

"What on earth is the matter, Anne?" cried the gay little wife as her
sister-in-law stalked into the tiny drawing-room and threw herself
dejectedly upon a couch. Lutie was properly alarmed and sympathetic.

It was what Anne needed. She unburdened herself.

"But," said Lutie cheerfully, "supposing he should save the old codger's
life, what then? Why do you look at the black side of the thing? While
there's life, there's hope. You don't imagine for an instant that Dr.
Thorpe is going into this big job with an idea of losing his patient, do
you?"

Anne's eyes brightened. A wave of relief surged into her heart.

"Oh, Lutie, Lutie, do you really believe that Braden thinks he can save
him?"

Lutie's eyes opened very wide. "What in heaven's name are you saying? You
don't suppose he's thinking of anything else, do you?" A queer, sinking
sensation assailed her suddenly. She remembered. She knew what was in
Anne's mind. "Oh, I see! You--" she checked the words in time. An instant
later her ready tongue saved the situation. "You don't seem to understand
what a golden opportunity this is for Braden. Here is a case that every
newspaper in the country is talking about. It's the chance of a lifetime.
He'll do his best, let me tell you that. If Mr. Marraville dies, it won't
be Braden's fault. You see, he's just beginning to build up a practice.
He's had a few unimportant cases and he's--well, he's just beginning to
realise that pluck and perseverance will do 'most anything for a fellow.
Now, here comes James Marraville, willing to take a chance with
him--because it's the only chance left, I'll admit,--and you can bet your
last dollar, Anne, that Braden isn't going to make a philanthropic job of
it."

"But if he fails, Lutie,--if he fails don't you see what the papers will
say? They will crush him to--"

"Why should they? Bigger men than he have failed, haven't they?"

"But it will ruin Braden forever. It will be the end of all his hopes, all
his ambitions. _This_ will convict him as no other--"

"Now, don't get excited, dear," cautioned the other gently. "You're
working yourself into an awful state. I think I understand, Anne. You poor
old girl!"

"I want you to know, Lutie. I want some one to know what he is to me, in
spite of everything."

Then Lutie sat down beside her and, after deliberately pulling the pins
from her visitor's hat, tossed it aimlessly in the direction of a near-by
chair,--failing to hit it by several feet,--and drew the smooth, troubled
head down upon her shoulder.

"Stay and have luncheon with George and me," she said, after a half hour
of confidences. "It will do you good. I'll not breathe a word of what
you've said to me,--not even to old George. He's getting so nervous
nowadays that he comes home to lunch and telephones three or four times a
day. It's an awful strain on him. He doesn't eat a thing, poor dear. I'm
really quite worried about him. Take a little snooze here on the sofa,
Anne. You must be worn out. I'll cover you up--"

The door-bell rang.

Lutie started and her jaw fell. "Good gracious! That's--that's Dr. Thorpe
now. He is the only one who comes up without being announced from
downstairs. Oh, dear! What shall I--Don't you think you'd better see him,
Anne?"

Anne had arisen. A warm flush had come into her pale cheeks. She was
breathing quickly and her eyes were bright.

"I will see him, Lutie. Would you mind leaving us alone together for a
while? I must make sure of one thing. Then I'll be satisfied."

Lutie regarded her keenly for a moment. "Just remember that you can't
afford to make a fool of yourself," she said curtly, and went to the door.
A most extraordinary thought entered Anne's mind, a distinct thought among
many that were confused: Lutie ought to have a parlour-maid, and she would
make it her business to see that she had one at once. Poor, plucky little
thing! And then the door was opened and Thorpe walked into the room.

"Well, how are we this morning?" he inquired cheerily, clasping Lutie's
hand. "Fine, I see. I happened to be passing with Simmy and thought I'd
run in and see--" His gaze fell upon the tall, motionless figure on the
opposite side of the room, and the words died on his lips.

"It's Anne," said Lutie fatuously.

For a moment there was not a sound or a movement in the little room. The
man was staring over Lutie's head at the slim, elegant figure in the
modish spring gown,--it was something smart and trig, he knew, and it was
not black. Then he advanced with his hand extended.

"I am glad to see you back, Anne. I heard you had returned." Their hands
met in a brief clasp. His face was grave, and a queer pallor had taken the
place of the warm glow of an instant before.

"Three days ago," she said, and that was all. Her throat was tight and
dry. He had not taken his eyes from hers. She felt them burning into her
own, and somehow it hurt,--she knew not why.

"Well, it's good to see you," he mumbled, finding no other words. He
pulled himself together with an effort. He had not expected to see her
here. He had dreamed of her during the night just past. "Simmy is waiting
down below in the car. I just dropped in for a moment. Can't keep him
waiting, Lutie, so I'll--"

"Won't you spare me a few moments, Braden?" said Anne steadily. "There is
something that I must say to you. To-morrow will not do. It must be now."

He looked concerned. "Has anything serious--"

"Nothing--yet," she broke in, anticipating his question.

"Sit down, Braden," said Lutie cheerfully. "I'll make myself scarce. I see
you are down for a big job to-day. Good boy! I told you they'd come your
way if you waited long enough. It is a big job, isn't it?"

"Ra-_ther_," said he, smiling. "I daresay it will make or break me."

"I should think you'd be frightfully nervous."

"Well, I'm not, strange to say. On the contrary, I'm as fit as a fiddle."

"When do you--perform this operation?" Anne asked, as Lutie left the room.

"This afternoon. He has a superstition about it. Doesn't want it done
until after banking hours. Queerest idea I've ever known." He spoke in
quick, jerky sentences.

She held her breath for an instant, and then cried out imploringly: "I
don't want you to do it, Braden,--I don't want you to do it. If not for my
sake, then for your own you must refuse to go on with it."

He looked straight into her troubled, frightened eyes. "I suppose you are
like the rest of them: you think I'm going to kill him, eh?" His voice was
low and bitter.

She winced, half closing her eyes as if a blow had been aimed at them.
"Oh, don't say that! How horrible it sounds when you--_speak it_."

He could see that she was trembling, and suddenly experienced an odd
feeling of contentment. He had seen it in her eyes once more: the love
that had never faltered although dragged in the dirt, discredited and
betrayed. She still loved him, and he was glad to know it. He could gloat
over it.

"I am not afraid to speak it, as you say," he said curtly. Then he pitied
her. "I'm sorry, Anne. I shouldn't have said it. I think I understand what
you mean. It's good of you to care. But I am going ahead with it, just the
same." His jaw was set in the old, resolute way.

"Do you know what they will say if you--fail?" Her voice was husky.

"Yes, I know. I also know why they finally came to me. They haven't any
hope. They believe that I may--well, at least I will not say _that_, Anne.
Down in their hearts they all hope,--but it isn't the kind of hope that
usually precedes an operation. No one has dared to suggest to me that I
put him out of his misery, but that's what they're expecting,--all of them.
But they are going to be disappointed. I do not owe anything to James
Marraville. He is nothing to me. I do not love him as I loved my
grandfather."

He spoke slowly, with grave deliberation; there was not the slightest
doubt that he intended her to accept this veiled explanation of his
present attitude as a confession that he had taken his grandfather's life.

She was silent. She understood. He went on, more hurriedly:

"I can only say to you, Anne, that my grandfather might have gone on
living for a few weeks or even months. Well, there is no reason why
Marraville shouldn't go on living for awhile. Do you see what I mean? He
shall not die to-day if I can help it. He will hang on for weeks, not
permanently relieved but at least comforted in the belief that his case
isn't hopeless. I shall do my best." He smiled sardonically. "The
operation will be called a success, and he will merely go on dying instead
of having it all over with."

She closed her eyes. "Oh, how cruel it is," she murmured. "How cruel it
is, after all."

"He will curse me for failing to do my duty," said he grimly. "The world
will probably say that I am a benefactor to the human race, after all, and
I will be called a great man because I allow him a few more weeks of
agony. I may fail, of course. He may not survive the day. But no one will
be justified in saying that I did not do my best to tide him over for a
few weeks or months. And what a travesty it will be if I do succeed! Every
one except James Marraville will praise me to the skies. My job will be
done, but he will have it all to do over again,--this business of dying."

She held out her hand. Her eyes had filled with tears.

"God be with you, Braden." He took her hand in his, and for a moment
looked into the swimming eyes.

"You understand _everything_ now, don't you, Anne?" he inquired. His face
was very white and serious. He released her hand.

"Yes," she answered; "I understand everything. I am glad that you have
told me. It--it makes no difference; I want you to understand that,
Braden."

It seemed to her that he would never speak. He was regarding her
thoughtfully, evidently weighing his next words with great care.

"Three doctors know," he said at last. "They must never find out that you
know."

Her eyes flashed through the tears. "I am not afraid to have the world
know," she said quickly.

He shook his head, smiling sadly.

"But I am," he said. It was a long time before she grasped the full
significance of this surprising admission. When, hours afterward, she came
to realise all that it meant she knew that he was not thinking of himself
when he said that he was afraid. He was thinking of her; he had thought of
her from the first. Now she could only look puzzled and incredulous. It
was not like him to be afraid of consequences.

"If you are afraid," she demanded quickly, "why do you invite peril this
afternoon? The chances are against you, Braden. Give it up. Tell them you
cannot--"

"This afternoon?" he broke in, rather violently. "Good God, Anne, I'm not
afraid of what is going to happen this afternoon. Marraville isn't going
to die to-day, poor wretch. I can't afford to let him die." He almost
snarled the words. "I have told these people that if I fail to take him
through this business to-day, I'll accept no pay. That is understood. The
newspapers will be so informed in case of failure. You are shocked. Well,
it isn't as bad as it sounds. I am in deadly earnest in this matter. It is
my one great chance. It means more to me to save James Marraville's life
than it means to him. I'm sorry for him, but he has to go on living, just
the same. Thank you for being interested. Don't worry about it. I--"

"The evening papers will tell me how it turns out," she said dully. "I
shall pray for you, Braden."

He turned on her savagely. "Don't do that!" he almost shouted. "I don't
want your support. I--" Other words surged to his lips but he held them
back. She drew back as if he had struck her a blow in the face. "I--I beg
your pardon," he muttered, and then strode across the room to thump
violently on the door to Lutie's bed-chamber. "Come out! I'm going. Can't
keep the nation waiting, you know."

Two minutes later Anne and Lutie were alone. The former, inwardly shaken
despite an outward appearance of composure, declined to remain for
luncheon, as she had done the day before. Her interest in Lutie and her
affairs was lost in the contemplation of a reviving sense of self-
gratification, long dormant but never quite unconscious. She had recovered
almost instantly from the shock produced by his violent command, and where
dismay had been there was now a warm, grateful rush of exultation. She
suspected the meaning of that sudden, fierce lapse into rudeness. Her
heart throbbed painfully, but with joyous relief. It was not rudeness on
his part; on the contrary he was paying tribute to her. He was dismayed by
the feelings he found himself unable to conquer. The outburst was the
result of a swift realisation that she still had the power to move him in
spite of all his mighty resolves, in spite even of the contempt he had for
her.

She walked to the Ritz. It was a long distance from George's home, but she
went about it gladly in preference to the hurried, pent-up journey down by
taxi or stage. She wanted to be free and unhampered. She wanted to think,
to analyse, to speculate on what would happen next. For the present she
was content to glory in the fact that he had unwittingly betrayed himself.

She was near the Plaza before the one great, insurmountable obstacle arose
in her mind to confound her joyous calculations. What would it all come
to, after all? She could never be more to him than she was at this
instant, for between them lay the truth about the death of Templeton
Thorpe,--and Templeton Thorpe was her husband. Her exaltation was short-
lived. The joy went out of her soul. The future looked to be even more
barren than before the kindly hope sprang up to wave its golden prospects
before her deluded eyes.

He would never look at the situation from her point of view. Even though
he found himself powerless to resist the love that was regaining strength
enough to batter down the wall of prejudice her marriage had created in
his mind, there would still stand between them his conviction that it
would be an act of vileness to claim or even covet the wife of the man
whose life he had taken, not in anger or reprisal but in honest devotion.

Anne was not callous or unfeeling in her readiness to disregard what he
might be expected to call the ethics of the case. She very sensibly looked
at the question as one in which the conscience had no part, for the simple
reason that there was no guilty motive to harass it. If his conscience was
clear,--and it most certainly was,--there could be no sound reason for him
to deny himself the right to reclaim that which belonged to him by all the
laws of nature. On her part there was not the slightest feeling of
revulsion. She did not look upon his act as a barrier. Her own act in
betraying him was far more of a barrier than this simple thing that he had
done. She had believed it to be insurmountable. She had long ago accepted
as final the belief that he despised her and would go on doing so to the
end. And now, in the last hour, there had been a revelation. He still
loved her. His scorn, his contempt, his disgust were not equal to the task
of subduing the emotion that lived in spite of all of them. But this other
thing! This thing that he would call _decency_!

All through the afternoon his savage, discordant cry: "Don't do that!"
rang in her ears. She thrilled and crumpled in turn. The blood ran hot
once more in her veins. As she looked back over the past year it seemed to
her that her blood had been cold and sluggish. But now it was warm again
and tingling. Even the desolating thought that her discovery would yield
no profit failed to check the riotous, grateful warmth that raced through
her body from crown to toe. Despair had its innings, but there was always
compensation in the return of a joy that would not acknowledge itself
beaten. Joy enough to feel that he could not help loving her! Joy to feel
that he was hungry too! No matter what happened now she would know that
she had not lost all of him.

After a while she found herself actually enjoying the prospect of certain
failure on Braden's part in the case of Marraville. Reviled and excoriated
beyond endurance, he would take refuge in the haven that she alone could
open to him. He would come to her and she would go with him, freely and
gladly, into new places where he could start all over again and--But even
as she conjured up this sacrificial picture, this false plaisance, her
cheeks grew hot with shame. The real good that was in Anne Tresslyn leaped
into revolt. She hated herself for the thought; she could have cursed
herself. What manner of love was this that could think of self alone? What
of him? What of the man she loved?

She denied herself to callers. At half-past five she called up the
hospital and inquired how Mr. Marraville was getting along. She had a
horrid feeling that the voice at the other end would say that he was dead.
She found a vast relief in the polite but customary "doing very nicely"
reply that came languidly over the wires. Anne was not by way of knowing
that the telephone operators in the hospitals would say very cheerfully
that "Mr. Washington is doing very nicely," if one were to call up to
inquire into the condition of the Father of his Country! An "extra" at six
o'clock announced that the operation had taken place and that Mr.
Marraville had survived it, although it was too soon to,--and so on and so
forth.

Then she called Simmy Dodge up on the telephone. Simmy would know if
anybody knew. And with her customary cleverness and foresightedness she
called him up at the hospital.

After a long delay Simmy's cheery voice came singing--or rather it was
barking--into her ear. This had been the greatest day in the life of Simeon
Dodge. From early morn he had gone about in a state of optimistic unrest.
He was more excited than he had ever been in his life before,--and yet he
was beatifically serene. His brow was unclouded, his eyes sparkled and his
voice rang with all the confidence of extreme felicity. There was no
question in Simmy's mind as to the outcome. Braden would pull the old
gentleman through, sure as anything. Absolutely sure, that's what Simmy
was, and he told other people so.

"Fine as silk!" he shouted back in answer to Anne's low, suppressed
inquiry. "Never anything like it, Anne, old girl. One of the young doctors
told me--"

"Has he come out of the ether, Simmy?"

"What say?"

"Is he conscious? Has the ether--"

"I can't say as to that," said Simmy cheerfully. "He's been back in his
room since five o'clock. That's--let's see what time is it now? Six-
fourteen. Nearly an hour and a quarter. They all say--"

"Have you see Braden?"

"Sure. He's fagged out, poor chap. Strain something awful. Good Lord, I
wonder what it must have been to him when it came so precious near to
putting me out of business. I thought I was dying at half-past four. I
never expected to live to see Mr. Marraville out of the operating-room.
Had to take something for medicinal purposes. I knew all along that Braden
could do the job like a--"

"Where is he now?"

"Last I heard of him he was back in his room with the house doctor and--"

"I mean Braden."

"What are you sore about, Anne?" complained Simmy. Her voice had sounded
rather querulous to him. "I thought you meant the patient. Brady is up
there, too, I guess. Sh! I can't say anything more. A lot of reporters,
are coming this way."

The morning papers announced that James Marraville had passed a
comfortable night and that not only Dr. Thorpe but other physicians who
were attending him expressed the confident opinion that if he continued to
gain throughout the day and if nothing unforeseen occurred there was no
reason why he should not recover. He had rallied from the anaesthetic, his
heart was good, and there was no temperature. Members of the family were
extremely hopeful. His two sons-in-law--who were spokesmen for the other
members of the family--were united in the opinion that Dr. Thorpe had
performed a miracle. Dr. Thorpe, himself, declined to be interviewed. He
referred the newspaper men to the other surgeons and physicians who were
interested in the case.

There was an underlying note of dismay, rather deftly obscured, in all of
the newspaper accounts, however. Not one of them appeared to have
recovered from the surprise that had thrown all of their plans out of
order. They had counted on James Marraville's death and had prepared
themselves accordingly. There were leading editorials in every office, and
columns of obituary matter; and there were far from vague allusions to the
young doctor who performed the operation. And here was the man alive! It
was really more shocking than if he had died, as he was expected to do. It
is no wonder, therefore, that the first accounts were almost entirely
without mention of the doctor who had upset all of their calculations. He
hadn't lived up to the requirements. The worst of it all was that Mr.
Marraville's failure to expire on the operating table forever deprived
them of the privilege of saying, invidiously, that young Doctor Thorpe had
been called in as the last resort. It would take them a day or two, no
doubt, to adjust themselves to the new situation, and then, if the
millionaire was still showing signs of surviving, they would burst forth
into praise of the marvellous young surgeon who had startled the entire
world by his performance!

In the meantime, there was still a chance that Mr. Marraville might die,
so it was better to hesitate and be on the safe side.




CHAPTER XXIV


James Marraville called Thorpe a coward and a poltroon. This was a week
after the operation. They were alone in the room. For days his wondering,
questioning eyes had sought those of the man on whom he had depended for
everlasting peace, and always there had been a look of reproach in them.
Not in words, but still plainly, he was asking why he still lived, why
this man had not done the thing that was expected of him. Every one about
him was talking of the marvellous, incredible result of the operation;
every one was looking cheerful and saying that he would "soon be as good
as new." And all the while he was lying there, weak and beaten, wondering
why they lied to him, and why Man as well as God had been so cruel to him.
He was not deceived. He knew that he had it all to live over again. He
knew what they meant when they said that it had been very successful! And
so, one day, in all the bitterness of his soul, he cursed the man who had
given him a few more months to live.

But there were other men and women who did not want to die. They wanted
very dearly to live, and they had been afraid to risk an operation. Now
that the world was tumbling over itself to proclaim the greatness of the
surgeon who had saved James Marraville's life, the faint-hearted of all
degrees flowed in a stream up to his doors and implored him to name his
own price.... So goes the world....

The other doctors knew, and Braden knew, and most thoroughly of all James
Marraville knew, that while the operation was a wonderful feat in surgery,
it might just as well have remained undone. The young doctor simply had
done all that was in the power of man to do for a fellow creature. He had
cheated Death out of an easy victory, but Death would come again and sit
down beside James Marraville to wait for another day.

Down near Washington Square, Wade blinked his eyes and shook his head, and
always re-read the reports from the sick-room. He was puzzled and
sometimes there was a faraway look in his eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lutie's baby came. He came long after midnight, and if he had been given
the power at birth to take intelligent notice of things, he would have
been vastly astonished to hear that his grandmother had been sitting up in
an adjoining room with her son and daughter, anxiously, even fearfully,
awaiting his advent into the world. And he would have been further
astonished and perhaps distressed if any one had told him that his granny
cried a little over him, and refused to go to her own home until she was
quite sure that his little mother was all right. Moreover, he would have
been gravely impressed by the presence of the celebrated Dr. Thorpe, and
the extraordinary agony of that great big tall man who cowered and
shivered and who wouldn't even look at him because he had eyes and thought
for no one but the little mother. Older and wiser persons would have
revealed considerable interest in the certificate of deposit that his
grandmother laid on the bed beside him. He was quite a rich little boy
without knowing it. Thirty thousand dollars is not to be sneezed at, and
it would be highly unjust to say that it was a sneeze that sent his
grandmother, his aunt and his father into hysterics of alarm.

They called him Carnahan Tresslyn. He represented a distinct phase in the
regeneration of a proud and haughty family.

A few weeks later Anne took a house up among the hills of Westchester
County, and moved Lutie and the baby out into the country. It did not
occur to her to think that she was making a personal sacrifice in going up
there to spend the hot months.

Percy Wintermill informed her one day that he was going to ask her to
marry him when the proper time arrived. It would be the third time, he
reminded her. He was being forehanded, that was all,--declaring himself in
advance of all others and thereby securing, as he put it, the privilege of
priority. She was not very much moved by the preparation of Percy. In
fact, she treated the matter with considerable impatience.

"Really, you know, Percy," she said, "I'm getting rather fed up with
refusing you. I'm sure I've done it more than three times. Why don't you
ask some girl who will have you?"

"That's just the point," said he frankly. "If I asked some girl who would
have me, she'd take me, and then where would you come in? I don't want any
one but you, Anne, and--"

"Sorry, Perce, but it's no use," said she briefly.

"Well, I haven't asked you yet," he reminded her. After some minutes,
spent by him in rumination and by her in wondering why she didn't send him
away, he inquired, quite casually: "Anybody else in mind, old girl?" She
merely stared at him. "Hope it isn't Brady Thorpe," he went on. "He's one
of my best friends. I'd hate to think that I'd have to--"

"Go home, Percy," she said. "I'm going out,--and I'm late already. Thanks
for the orchids. Don't bother to send any more. It's just a waste of
money, old fellow. I sha'n't marry you. I sha'n't marry any one except the
man with whom I fall desperately, horribly in love,--and I'm not going to
fall in love with you, so run away."

"You weren't in love with old man Thorpe, were you?" he demanded, flushing
angrily.

"I haven't the right to be offended by that beastly remark, Percy," she
said quietly; "and yet I don't think you ought to have said it to me."

"It was meant only to remind you that it won't be necessary for you to
fall desperately, horribly in love with me," he explained, and was
suddenly conscious of being very uncomfortable for the first time in his
life. He did not like the expression in her eyes.

Her shoulders drooped a little. "It isn't very comforting to feel that any
one of my would-be husbands could be satisfied to get along without being
loved by me. No doubt I shall be asked by others besides you, Percy. I
hope you do not voice the sentiments of all the rest of them."

"I'm sorry I said it," he said, and seemed a little bewildered immediately
afterwards. He really couldn't make himself out. He went away a few
minutes later, vaguely convinced that perhaps it wouldn't be worth while
to ask her, after all. This was a new, strange Anne, and it would hurt to
be refused by her. He had never thought of it in just that way--before.

"So that is the price they put upon me, is it?" Anne said to herself. She
was regarding herself rather humbly in the mirror as she pinned on her
hat. "I am still expected to marry without loving the man who takes me. It
isn't to be exacted of me. Don't they credit me with a capacity for
loving? What do they think I am? What do they think my blood is made of,
and the flesh on my bones? Do they think that because I am beautiful I can
love no one but myself? Don't they think I'm human? How can any one look
at me without feeling that I'd rather love than be loved? The poor fools!
Any woman can be loved. What we all want more than anything else is to
_love_. And I love--I _do_ love! And I _am_ beloved. And all the rest of my
life I shall love; I shall gloat over the fact that I love; I shall love,
love, _love_ with all that there is in me, all that there is in my body
and my soul. The poor fools."

And all that was in her body and her soul was prepared to give itself to
the man who loved her. She wanted him to have her for his own. She pitied
him even more than she pitied herself.

Anne had no illusions concerning herself. Mawkish sentimentality had no
place in her character. She was straightforward and above board with
herself, and she would not cheapen herself in her own eyes. Another woman
might have gone down on her knees, whimpering a cry for forgiveness, but
not Anne Tresslyn. She would ask him to forgive her but she would not lie
to herself by prostrating her body at his feet. There was firm, noble
stuff in Anne Tresslyn. It was born in her to know that the woman who goes
down on her knees before her man never quite rises to her full height
again. She will always be in the position of wondering whether she stayed
on her knees long enough to please him. The thought had never entered
Anne's head to look anywhere but straight into Braden's eyes. She was not
afraid to have him see that she was honest! He could see that she had no
lies to tell him. And she was as sorry for him as she was for herself....

She saw him often during the days of Lutie's convalescence, but never
alone. There was considerable comfort for her in the thought that he made
a distinct point of not being alone with her. One day she said to him:

"I have my car outside, Braden. Shall I run you over to St. Luke's?"

It was a test. She knew that he was going to the hospital, and intended to
take the elevated down to 110th Street. His smile puzzled her.

"No, thank you." Then, after a moment, he added: "If people saw me driving
about in a prosperous looking touring-car they'd be justified in thinking
that my fees are exorbitant, and I should lose more than I'd gain."

She flushed slightly. "By the same argument they might think you were
picking up germs in the elevated or the subway."

"I shun the subway," he said.

Anne looked straight into his eyes and said--to herself: "I love you." He
must have sensed the unspoken words, for his eyes hardened.

"Moreover, Anne, I shouldn't think it would be necessary for me to remind
you that--" he hesitated, for he suddenly realised that he was about to
hurt her, and it was not what he wanted to do--"that there are other and
better reasons why--"

He stopped there, and never completed the sentence. She was still looking
into his eyes and was still saying to herself: "I love you." It was as if
a gentle current of electricity played upon every nerve in his body. He
quivered under the touch of something sweet and mysterious. Exaltation was
his response to the magnetic wave that carried her unspoken words into his
heart. She had not uttered a sound and yet he heard the words. How many
times had she cried those delicious words into his ear while he held her
close in his arms? How many times had she looked at him like this while
actually speaking the words aloud in answer to his appeal?

They were standing but a few feet apart. He could take a step forward and
she would be in his arms,--that glorious, adorable, ineffably feminine
creation,--in his arms,--in his arms,--

It was she who broke the spell. Her voice sounded far off--and exhausted,
as if it came from her lips without breath behind it.

"It will always be just the same, Braden," she said, and he knew that it
was an acknowledgment of his unfinished reminder. She was promising him
something.

He took a firm grip on himself. "I'm glad that you see things as they are,
Anne. Now, I must be off. Thanks just the same for--"

"Oh, don't mention it," she said carelessly. "I'm glad that you see things
too as they are, Braden." She held out her hand. There was no restraint in
her manner. "I'm sorry, Braden. Things might have been so different. I'm
sorry."

"Good God!" he burst out. "If you had only been--" He broke off, resolutely
compressing his lips. His jaw was set again in the strong old way that she
knew so well.

She nodded her head slowly. "If I had only been some one else instead of
myself," she said, "it would not have happened."

He turned toward the door, stopped short and then turned to face her.
There was a strange expression in his grey eyes, not unlike diffidence.

"Percy told me last night that you have refused to marry him. I'm glad
that you did that, Anne. I want you to know that I am glad, that I
felt--oh, I cannot tell you how I felt when he told me."

She eyed him closely for a moment. "You thought that I--I might have
accepted him. Is that it?"

"I--I hadn't thought of it at all," he said, confusedly.

"Well," she said, and a slight pallor began to reveal itself in her face,
"I tried marrying for money once, Braden. The next time I shall try
marrying for love."

He stared. "You don't mince words, do you?" he said, frowning.

"No," she said. "Percy will tell you that, I fancy," she added, and
smiled. "He can't understand my not marrying him. He will be worth fifteen
or twenty millions, you know." The irony in her voice was directed
inwardly, not outwardly. "Perhaps it would be safer for him to wait before
taking too much for granted. You see, I haven't actually refused him. I
merely refused to give him an option. He--"

"Oh, Anne, don't jest about--" he began, and then as her eyes fell suddenly
under his gaze and her lip trembled ever so slightly,--"By Jove, I--I
sha'n't misjudge you in that way again. Good-bye." This time he held out
his hand to her.

She shook her head. "I've changed my mind. I'm never going to say good-bye
to you again."

"Never say good-bye? Why, that's--"

"Why should I say good-bye to you when you are always with me?" she broke
in. Noting the expression in his eyes she went on ruthlessly,
breathlessly. "Do you think I ought to be ashamed to say such a thing to
you? Well, I'm not. It doesn't hurt my pride to say it. Not in the least."
She paused for an instant and then went on boldly. "I fancy I am more
honest with myself than you are with yourself, Braden."

He looked steadily into her eyes. "You are wrong there," he said quietly.
Then bluntly: "By God, Anne, if it were not for the one terrible thing
that lies between us, I could--I could--"

"Go on," she said, her heart standing still. "You can at least _say_ it to
me. I don't ask for anything more."

"But why say it?" he cried out bitterly. "Will it help matters in the
least for me to confess that I am weak and--"

She laughed aloud, unable to resist the nervous excitement that thrilled
her. "Weak? You weak? Look back and see if you can find a single thing to
prove that you are weak. You needn't be afraid. You are strong enough to
keep me in my place. You cannot put yourself in jeopardy by completing
what you started out to say. 'If it were not for the one terrible thing
that lies between us, I could--I could--' Well, what could you do? Overlook
my treachery? Forget that I did an even more terrible thing than you did?
Forgive me and take me back and trust me all over again? Is that what
you would have said to me?"

"That is what I might have said," he admitted, almost savagely, "if I had
not come to my senses in time."

Her eyes softened. The love-light glowed in their depths. "I am not as I
was two years ago, Braden," she said. "I'd like you to know that, at
least."

"I dare say that is quite true," he said harshly. "You got what you went
after and now that you've got it you can very comfortably repent."

She winced. "I am not repenting."

"Would you be willing to give up all that you gained out of that
transaction and go back to where my grandfather found you?" he demanded?

"Do you expect me to lie to you?" she asked with startling candour.

"No. I know you will not lie."

"Would it please you to have me say that I would willingly give up all
that I gained?"

"I see what you mean. It would be a lie."

"Would it please you to have me give it all up?" she insisted.

He was thoughtful. "No," he said candidly. "You earned it, you are
entitled to it. It is filthy, dirty money, but you earned it. You do not
deny that it was your price. That's the long and the short of it."

"Will you let me confess something to you? Something that will make it all
seem more despicable than before?"

"Good Lord, I don't see how that can be possible!"

"I did not expect to lose you, Braden, when I married Mr. Thorpe. I
counted on you in the end. I was so sure of myself,--and of you. Wait! Let
me finish. If I had dreamed that I was to lose you, I should not have
married Mr. Thorpe. That makes it worse, doesn't it?" There was a note of
appeal in her voice.

"Yes, yes,--it makes it worse," he groaned.

"I was young and--over-confident," she murmured. "I looked ahead to the day
when I should be free again and you would be added to the--well, the gains.
Now you know the whole truth about me. I was counting on you, looking
forward to you, even as I stood beside him and took the vows. You were
always uppermost in my calculations. I never left you out of them. Even to
this day, to this very moment, I continue to count on you. I shall never
be able to put the hope out of my mind. I have tried it and failed. You
may despise me if you will, but nothing can kill this mean little thing
that lurks in here. I don't know what you will call it, Braden, but I call
it loyalty to you."

"Loyalty! My God!" he cried out hoarsely.

"Yes, loyalty," she cried. "Mean as I am, mean as I have been, I have
never wavered an instant in my love for you. Oh, I'm not pleading for
anything. I'm not begging. I don't ask for anything,--not even your good
opinion. I am only telling you the truth. Mr. Thorpe knew it all. He knew
that I loved you, and he knew that I counted on having you after he was
out of the way. And here is something else that you never knew, or
suspected. He believed that my love for you, my eagerness, my longing to
be free to call you back again, would be the means of releasing him from
the thing that was killing him. He counted on me to--I will put it as
gently as I can--to free myself. I believe in my soul that he married me
with that awful idea in his mind."

For a long time they were silent. Braden was staring at her, horror in his
eyes. She remained standing before him, motionless. Lutie's nurse passed
through the little hall outside, but they did not see or hear her. A door
closed softly; the faint crying of the baby went unheard.

"You are wrong there," he said at last, thickly. "I happen to know what
his motives were, Anne."

"Oh, I know," she said wearily. "To prove to you how utterly worthless I
am,--or was. Well, it may have been that. I hope it was. I would like to
think it of him instead of the other thing. I would like to think of him
as sacrificing himself for your sake, instead of planning to sacrifice me
for his sake. It is a terrible thought, Braden. He begged me to give him
those tablets, time and again. I--I couldn't have done that, not even with
you as the prize." She shuddered.

A queer, indescribable chill ran through his veins. "Do you--have you ever
thought that he may have held you out as a prize--for me?"

"You mean?" She went very white. "God above us, no! If I thought _that_,
Braden, then there would be something lying between us, something that
even such as I could not overcome."

"Just the same," he went on grimly, "he went to his death with a word of
praise on his lips for you, Anne. He told me you were deserving of
something better than the fate he had provided for you. He was sorry.
It--it may have been that he was pleading your cause, that--"

"I would like to think that of him," she cried eagerly, "even though his
praise fell upon deaf ears."

She turned away from him and sank wearily into a chair. For a minute or
two he stood there regarding her in silence. He was sorry for her. It had
taken a good deal of courage to humble herself in his eyes, as she had
done by her frank avowal.

"Is it any satisfaction to your pride, Anne," he said slowly, after
deliberate thought, "to know that I love you and always will love you, in
spite of everything?"

Her answer was a long time in coming, and it surprised him when it did
come.

"If I had any pride left I should hate you for humbling it in that manner,
Braden," she said, little red spots appearing on her cheeks. "I am not
asking for your pity."

"I did not mean to--" he cried impulsively. For an instant he threw all
restraint aside. The craving mastered him. He sprang forward.

She closed her eyes quickly, and held her breath.

He was almost at her side when he stopped short. Then she heard the rush
of his feet and, the next instant, the banging of the hall door. He was
gone! She opened her eyes slowly, and stared dully, hazily before her. For
a long time she sat as one unconscious. The shock of realisation left her
without the strength or the desire to move. Comprehension was slow in
coming to her in the shock of disappointment. She could not realise that
she was not in his arms. He had leaped forward to clasp her, she had felt
his outstretched arms encircling her,--it was hard to believe that she sat
there alone and that the ecstasy was not real.

Tears filled her eyes. She did not attempt to wipe them away. She could
only stare, unblinking, at the closed door. Sobs were in her throat; she
was first cold, then hot as with a fever.

Slowly her breath began to come again, and with it the sobs. Her body
relaxed, she closed her eyes again and let her head fall back against the
chair, and for many minutes she remained motionless, still with the
weakness of one who has passed through a great crisis.... Long
afterward,--she did not know how long it was,--she laid her arms upon the
window-sill at her side and buried her face on them. The sobs died away
and the tears ceased flowing. Then she raised her eyes and stared down
into the hot, crowded street far below. She looked upon sordid, cheap,
ugly things down there, and she had been looking at paradise such a little
while ago.

Suddenly she sprang to her feet. Her tall, glorious figure was extended to
its full height, and her face was transformed with the light of
exaltation.

A key grated noisily in the hall door. The next instant it swung violently
open and her brother George strode in upon her,--big, clear-eyed, happy-
faced and eager.

"Hello!" he cried, stopping short. "I popped in early to-day. Matter of
great importance to talk over with my heir. Wait a second, Anne. I'll be
back--I say, what's the matter? You look posi-_tive_-ly as if you were on
the point of bursting into grand opera. Going to sing?"

"I'm singing all over, Georgie,--all over, inside and out," she cried
joyously.

"Gee whiz!" he gasped. "Has the baby begun to talk?"




CHAPTER XXV


She did not meet him again at Lutie's. Purposely, and with a cunning
somewhat foreign to her sex, she took good care that he should not be
there when she made her daily visits. She made it an object to telephone
every day, ostensibly to inquire about Lutie's condition, and she never
failed to ask what the doctor had said. In that way she knew that he had
made his visit and had left the apartment. She would then drive up into
Harlem and sit happily with her sister-in-law and the baby, whom she
adored with a fervour that surprised not only herself but the mother,
whose ideas concerning Anne were undergoing a rapid and enduring
reformation.

She was shocked and not a little disillusioned one day, however, when
Lutie, now able to sit up and chatter to her heart's content, remarked,
with a puzzled frown on her pretty brow:

"Dr. Braden must be terribly rushed with work nowadays, Anne. For the last
week he has been coming here at the most unearthly hour in the morning,
and dashing away like a shot just as soon as he can. Good gracious, we're
hardly awake when he gets here. Never later than eight o'clock."

Anne's temple came down in a heap. He wasn't playing the game at all as
she had expected. He was avoiding _her_. She was dismayed for an instant,
and then laughed outright quite frankly at her own disenchantment.

Lutie looked at her with deep affection in her eyes. "You ought to have a
little baby of your own, Anne," she said.

"It's much nicer having yours," said Anne. "He's such a fat one."

Two weeks later they were all up in the country, and George was saying
twice a day at least that Anne was the surprise and comfort of his old
age. She was as gay as a lark. She sang,--but not grand opera selections.
Her days were devoted to the cheerful occupation of teaching young
Carnahan how to smile and how to count his toes.

But in the dark hours of the night she was not so serene. Then was her
time for reflection, for wonder, for speculation. Was life to be always
like this? Were her days to be merry and confident, and her nights as full
of loneliness and doubt? Was her craving never to be satisfied? Sometimes
when George and Lutie went off to bed and left her sitting alone on the
dark, screened-in veranda, looking down from the hills across the sombre
Hudson, she almost cried aloud in her desolation. Of what profit was love
to her? Was she always to go on being alone with the love that consumed
her?

The hot, dry summer wore away. She steadfastly refused to go to the cool
seashore, she declined the countless invitations that came to her, and she
went but seldom into the city. Her mother was at Newport. They had had one
brief, significant encounter just before the elder woman went off to the
seashore. No doubt her mother considered herself entitled to a fair share
of "the spoils," but she would make no further advances. She had failed
earlier in the game; she would not humble herself again. And so, one hot
day in August, just before going to the country, Anne went up to her old
home, determined to have it out with her mother.

"Why are you staying in town through all of this heat, mother dear?" she
asked. Her mother was looking tired and listless. She was showing her age,
and that was the one thing that Anne could not look upon with complacency.

"I can't afford to go junketing about this year," said her mother, simply.
"This awful war has upset--"

"The war hasn't had time to upset anything over here, mother. It's only
been going on a couple of weeks. You ought to go away, dearest, for a good
long snooze in the country. You'll be as young as a debutante by the time
the season sets in."

Mrs. Tresslyn smiled aridly. "Am I beginning to show my age so much as all
this, Anne?" she lamented. "I'm just a little over fifty. That isn't old
in these days, my dear."

"You look worried, not old," said her daughter, sympathetically. "Is it
money?"

"It's always money," admitted Mrs. Tresslyn. "I may as well make up my
mind to retrench, to live a little more simply. You would think that I
should be really quite well-to-do nowadays, having successfully gotten rid
of my principal items of expense. But I will be quite frank with you,
Anne. I am still trying to pay off obligations incurred before I lost my
excellent son and daughter. You were luxuries, both of you, my dear."

Anne was shocked. "Do you mean to say that you are still paying off--still
paying up for _us_? Good heavens, mamma! Why, we couldn't have got you
into debt to that--"

"Don't jump to conclusions, my dear," her mother interrupted. "The debts
were not all due to you and George. I had a few of my own. What I mean to
say is that, combining all of them, they form quite a handsome amount."

"Tell me," said Anne determinedly, "tell me just how much of it should be
charged up to George and me."

"I haven't the remotest idea. You see, I was above keeping books. What are
you trying to get at? A way to square up with me? Well, my dear, you can't
do that, you know. You don't owe me anything. Whatever I spent on you, I
spent cheerfully, gladly, and without an idea of ever receiving a penny in
the shape of recompense. That's the way with a mother, Anne. No matter
what she may do for her children, no matter how much she may sacrifice for
them, she does it without a single thought for herself. That is the best
part of being a mother. A wife may demand returns from her husband, but a
mother never thinks of asking anything of her children. I am sure that
even worse mothers than I will tell you the same. We never ask for
anything in return but a little selfish pleasure in knowing that we have
borne children that are invariably better than the children that any other
mother may have brought into the world. No, you owe me nothing, Anne. Put
it out of your mind."

Anne listened in amazement. "But if you are hard-up, mother dear, and on
account of the money you were obliged to spend on us--because we were both
spoiled and selfish--why, it is only right and just that your children, if
they can afford to do so, should be allowed to turn the tables on you. It
shouldn't be so one-sided, this little selfish pleasure that you mention.
I am rich. I have a great deal more than I need. I have nearly a hundred
thousand a year. You--"

"Has any one warned you not to talk too freely about it in these days of
income tax collectors?" broke in her mother, with a faint smile.

"Pooh! Simmy attends to that for me. I don't understand a thing about it.
Now, see here, mother, I insist that it is my right,--not my duty, but my
right--to help you out of the hole. You would do it for me. You've done it
for George, time and again. How much do you need?"

Mrs. Tresslyn regarded her daughter thoughtfully. "Back of all this, I
suppose, is the thought that it was I who made a rich girl of you. You
feel that it is only right that you should share the spoils with your
partner, not with your mother."

"Once and for all, mother, let me remind you that I do not blame you for
making a rich woman of me. I did not have to do it, you know. I am not the
sort that can be driven or coerced. I made my own calculations and I took
my own chances. You were my support but not my _commander_. The super-
virtuous girls you read about in books are always blaming their mothers
for such marriages as mine, and so do the comic papers. It's all bosh.
Youth abhors old age. It loves itself too well. But we needn't discuss
responsibilities. The point is this: I have more money than I know what to
do with, so I want to help you out. It isn't because I think it is my
duty, or that I owe it to you, but because I love you, mother. If you had
forced me into marrying Mr. Thorpe, I should hate you now. But I don't,--I
love you dearly. I want you to let me love you. You are so hard to get
close to,--so hard to--"

"My dear, my dear," cried her mother, coming up to her and laying her
hands on the tall girl's shoulders, "you have paid me in full now. What
you have just said pays off all the debts. I was afraid that my children
hated me."

"You poor old dear!" cried Anne, her eyes shining. "If you will only let
me show you how much I can love you. We are pretty much alike, mother, you
and I. We--"

"No!" cried out the other fiercely. "I do not want you to say that. I do
not want you to be like me. Never say that to me again. I want you to be
happy, and you will never be happy if you are like me."

"Piffle!" said Anne, and kissed her mother soundly. And she knew then, as
she had always known, that her mother was not and never could be a happy
woman. Even in her affection for her own children she was the spirit of
selfishness. She loved them for what they meant to her and not for
themselves. She was consistent. She knew herself better than any one else
knew her.

"Now, tell me how much you need," went on Anne, eagerly. "I've hated to
broach the subject to you. It didn't seem right that I should. But I don't
care now. I want to do all that I can."

"I will not offend you, or insult you, Anne, by saying that you are a good
girl,--a better one than I thought you would ever be. You can't help me,
however. Don't worry about me. I shall get on, thank you."

"Just the same, I insist on paying your bills, and setting you straight
once more for another fling. And you are going to Newport this week. Come,
now, mother dear, let's get it over with. Tell me about _everything_. You
may hop into debt again just as soon as you like, but I'll feel a good
deal better if I know that it isn't on my account. It isn't right that you
should still have George and me hanging about your neck like millstones.
Come! I insist. Let's figure it all up."

An hour afterward, she said to her mother: "I'll make out one check to you
covering everything, mother. It will look better if you pay them yourself.
Thirty-seven thousand four hundred and twelve dollars. That's everything,
is it,--you're sure?"

"Everything," said Mrs. Tresslyn, settling back in her chair. "I will not
attempt to thank you, Anne. You see, I didn't thank Lutie when she threw
her money in my face, for somehow I knew that I'd give it all back to her
again. Well, you may have to wait longer than she did, my dear, but this
will all come back to you. I sha'n't live forever, you know."

Anne kissed her. "You are a wonder, mother dear. You wouldn't come off of
your high-horse for anything, would you? By Jove, that's what I like most
in you. You never knuckle."

"My dear, you are picking up a lot of expressions from Lutie."

The early evenings at Anne's place in the country were spent solely in
discussions of the great war. There was no other topic. The whole of the
civilised world was talking of the stupendous conflict that had burst upon
it like a crash out of a clear sky. George came home loaded down with the
latest extras and all of the regular editions of the afternoon papers.

"By gemini," he was in the habit of saying, "it's a lucky thing for those
Germans that Lutie got me to reenlist with her a year ago. I'd be on my
way over there by this time, looking for real work. Gee, Anne, that's one
thing I could do as well as anybody. I'm big enough to stop a lot of
bullets. We'll never see another scrap like this. It's just my luck to be
happily married when it bursts out, too."

"I am sure you would have gone," said Lutie serenely. "I'm glad I captured
you in time. It saves the Germans an awful lot of work."

The smashing of Belgium, the dash of the great German army toward Paris,
the threatened disaster to the gay capital, the sickening conviction that
nothing could check the tide of guns and men,--all these things bore down
upon them with a weight that seemed unbearable. And then came the battle
of the Marne! Von Kluck's name was on the lips of every man, woman and
child in the United States of America. Would they crush him? Was Paris
safe? What was the matter with England? And then, the personal element
came into the situation for Anne and her kind: the names of the officers
who had fallen, snuffed out in Belgium and France. Nearly every day
brought out the name of some one she had known, a few of them quite well.
There were the gallant young Belgians who had come over for the horse-
shows, and the polo-players she had known in England, and the gay young
noblemen,--their names brought the war nearer home and sickened her.

As time went on the horrors of the great conflict were deprived, through
incessant repetition, of the force to shock a world now accustomed to the
daily slaughter of thousands. Humanity had got used to war. War was no
longer a novelty. People read of great battles in which unprecedented
numbers of men were slain, and wondered how much of truth was in the
reports. War no longer horrified the distant on-looker. The sufferings of
the Belgians were of greater interest to the people of America than the
sufferings of the poor devils in the trenches or on the battle lines. A
vast wave of sympathy was sweeping the land and purses were touched as
never before. War was on parade. The world turned out en masse to see the
spectacle. The heart of every good American was touched by what he saw,
and the hand of every man was held out to stricken Belgium, nor was any
hand empty. Belgium presented the grewsome spectacle, and the world paid
well for the view it was having.

It was late in November when Anne and the others came down to the city,
and by that time the full strength of the movement to help the sufferers
had been reached. People were fighting for the Belgians, but with their
hearts instead of their hands. The stupendous wave of sympathy was at its
height. It rolled across the land and then across the sea. People were
swept along by its mighty rush. Anne Thorpe was caught up in the maelstrom
of human energy.

Something fine in her nature, however, caused Anne to shrink from public
benefactions. She realised that a world that was charitable to the
Belgians was not so apt to be charitable toward her. While she did not
contribute anonymously to the fund, she let it be distinctly understood
that her name was not to be published in any of the lists of donors,
except in a single instance when she gave a thousand-dollars. That much,
at least, would be expected of her and she took some comfort in the belief
that the world would not charge her with self-exploitation on the money
she had received from Templeton Thorpe. Other gifts and contributions were
never mentioned in the press by the committees in charge. She gave
liberally, not only to the sufferers on the other side of the Atlantic but
to the poor of New York, and she steadfastly declined to serve on any of
the relief committees.

Never until now had she appreciated how thin-skinned she was. It is not to
be inferred that she shut herself up and affected a life of seclusion. As
a matter of fact, she went out a great deal, but invariably among friends
and to small, intimate affairs.

Not once in the months that followed the scene in Lutie's sitting-room did
she encounter Braden Thorpe. She heard of him frequently. He was very
busy. He went nowhere except where duty called. There was not a moment in
her days, however, when her thoughts were not for him. Her eyes were
always searching the throngs on Fifth Avenue in quest of his figure; in
restaurants she looked eagerly over the crowded tables in the hope that
she might see actually the face that was always before her, night and day.
Be it said to her credit, she resolutely abstained from carrying her quest
into quarters where she might be certain of seeing him, of meeting him, of
receiving recognition from him. She avoided the neighbourhood in which his
offices were located, she shunned the streets which he would most
certainly traverse. While she longed for him, craved him with all the
hunger of a starved soul, she was content to wait. He loved her. She
thrived on the joy of knowing this to be true. He might never come to her,
but she knew that it would never be possible for her to go to him unless
he called her to him.

Then, one day in early January, she crumpled up under the shock of seeing
his name in the headlines of her morning newspaper.

He was going to the front!

For a moment she was blind. The page resolved itself into a thick mass of
black. She was in bed when the paper was brought to her with her coffee.
She had been lying there sweetly thinking of him. Up to the instant her
eyes fell upon the desolating headline she had been warm and snug and
tingling with life just aroused. And then she was as cold as ice,
stupefied. It was a long time before she was able to convince herself that
the type was really telling her something that she would have to believe.
He was going to the war!

Thorpe was one of a half-dozen American surgeons who were going over on
the steamer sailing that day to give their services to the French. The
newspaper spoke of him in glowing terms. His name stood out above all the
others, for he was the one most notably in the public eye at the moment.
The others, just as brave and self-sacrificing as he, were briefly
mentioned and that was all. He alone was in the headlines, he alone was
discussed. No one was to be allowed to forget that he was the clever young
surgeon who had saved the great Marraville. The account dwelt upon the
grave personal sacrifice he was making in leaving New York just as the
world was beginning to recognise his great genius and ability. Prosperity
was knocking at his door, fame was holding out its hand to him, and yet he
was casting aside all thought of self-aggrandisement, all personal
ambition in order to go forth and serve humanity in fields where his name
would never be mentioned except in a cry for help from strong men who had
known no fear.

Sailing that day! Anne finally grasped the meaning of the words. She would
not see him again. He would go away without a word to her, without giving
her the chance to say good-bye, despite her silly statement that she would
never utter the words again where he was concerned.

Slowly the warm glow returned to her blood. Her brain cleared, and she was
able to think, to grasp at the probable significance of his action in
deserting New York and his coveted opportunities. Something whispered to
her that he was going away because of his own sufferings and not those of
the poor wretches at the front. Her heart swelled with pity. There was no
triumph in the thought that he was running away because of his love for
her. She needed no such proof as this to convince her that his heart was
more loyal to her than his mind would have it be. She cried a little ...
and then got up and called for a messenger boy.

This brief message went down to the ship:

"God be with you. I still do not say good-bye, just God be with you
always, as I shall be. Anne."

She did not leave the hotel until long after the ship had sailed. He did
not telephone. There were a dozen calls on the wire that morning, but she
had her maid take the messages. There was always the fear that he might
try to reach her while some one of her idle friends was engaged in making
a protracted visit with her over the wire. About one o'clock Simmy Dodge
called up to ask if he could run in and have luncheon with her.

"I've got a message for you," he said.

Her heart began to beat so violently that she was afraid he would hear it
through the receiver at his ear. She could not trust herself to speak for
a moment. Evidently he thought she was preparing to put him off with some
polite excuse. Simmy was, as ever, considerate. He made haste to spare her
the necessity for fibbing. "I can drop in late this afternoon--"

"No," she cried out, "come now, Simmy. I shall expect you. Where are you?"

He coughed in some embarrassment. "I'm--well, you see, I was going past so
I thought I'd stop in and--What? Yes, I'm downstairs."

She joined him in the palm room a few minutes later, and they went in to
luncheon. Her colour was high. Simmy thought he had never seen her when
she looked more beautiful. But he thought that with each succeeding
glimpse of her.

"'Pon my word, Anne," he said, staring at her across the table, "you
fairly dazzle me. Forgive me for saying so. I couldn't help it. Perfect
ass sometimes, you see."

"I forgive you. I like it. What message did Braden send to me?"

He had not expected her to be so frank, so direct. "I don't know. I wish I
did. The beggar wrote it and sealed it up in this beastly little
envelope." He handed her the square white envelope with the ship's emblem
in the corner.

Before looking at the written address, she put her next question to him. A
good deal depended on his answer. "Do you know when he wrote this note,
Simmy?"

"Just before they pushed me down the gang-plank," he said. A light broke
in upon him. "Did you send him a message?"

"Yes."

"Well, I don't know whether it is the right thing to say, but I can tell
you this: he wrote this note before reading your letter or telegram or
whatever it was. He had a score of things like that and he didn't open one
of 'em until she'd cast off."

She smiled. "Thank you, Simmy. You have said the right thing,--as you
always do." One glance at the superscription was enough. It was in his
handwriting. For the first time she saw it in his hand: "Anne Tresslyn
Thorpe." A queer little shiver ran through her, never to be explained.

Simmy watched her curiously as she slipped the missive, unopened, into her
gold mesh bag. "Don't mind me," he said. "Read it."

"Not now, Simmy," she said simply. And all through luncheon she thrilled
with the consciousness that she had something of Braden there with her,
near her, waiting for her. His own hand had touched this bit of paper; it
was a part of him. It was so long since she had seen that well-known,
beloved handwriting,--strong like the man, and sure; she found herself
counting the ages that had passed since his last love missive had come to
her.

Simmy was rattling on, rather dolefully, about Braden's plans. He was
likely to be over there for a long time,--just as long as he was needed or
able to endure the strain of hard, incessant work in the field hospitals.

"I wanted to go," the little man was saying, and that brought her back to
earth. "The worst way, Anne. But what could I do? Drive an automobile,
yes, but what's that? Brady wouldn't hear to it. He said it was nonsense,
me talking of going over there and getting in people's way. Of course, I'd
probably faint the first time I saw a mutilated dead body, and that
_would_ irritate the army. They'd have to stop everything while they gave
me smelling salts. I suppose I'd get used to seeing 'em dead all over the
place, just as everybody does,--even the worst of cowards. I'm not a
coward, Anne. I drive my racing-car at ninety miles, I play polo, I go up
in Scotty's aeroplane whenever I get a chance, I can refuse to take a
drink when I think I've had enough, and if that doesn't prove that I've
got courage I'd like to know what it does prove. But I'm not a fighting
man. Nobody would ever be afraid of me. There isn't a German on earth who
would run if he saw me charging toward him. He'd just wait to see what the
dickens I was up to. Something would tell him that I wouldn't have the
heart to shoot him, no matter how necessary it might be for me to do so.
Still I wanted to go. That's what amazes me. I can't understand it."

"I can understand it, you poor old simpleton," cried Anne. "You wanted to
go because you are _not_ afraid."

"I wish I could think so," said he, really perplexed. "Brady is different.
He'd be a soldier as is a soldier. He's going over to save men's lives,
however, and that's something I wouldn't be capable of doing. If I went
they'd expect me to kill 'em, and that's what I'd hate. Good Lord, Anne, I
couldn't shoot down a poor German boy that hadn't done a thing to me--or to
my country, for that matter. If they'd only let me go as a spy, or even a
messenger boy, I'd jump at the chance. But they'd want me to kill
people,--and I couldn't do it, that's all."

"Is Braden well? Does he look fit, Simmy? You know there will be great
hardships, vile weather, exposure--"

"He's thin and--well, I'll be honest with you, he doesn't look as fit as
might be."

She paled. "Has he been ill?"

"Not in body, but--he's off his feed, Anne. Maybe you know the reason why."
He looked at her narrowly.

"I have not seen him in months," she said evasively.

"I guess that's the answer," he said, pulling at his little moustache.
"I'm sorry, Anne. It's too bad--for both of you. Lordy, I never dreamed I
could be so unselfish. I'm mad in love with you myself and--oh, well!
That's an old tale, so we'll cut it short. I don't know what I'm going to
do without Brady. I've got the blues so bad that--why, I cried like a nasty
little baby down there at the--everybody lookin' at me pityingly and saying
to themselves 'what a terrible thing grief is when it hits a man like
that,' and thinkin' of course that I'd lost a whole family in Belgium or
somewhere--oh, Lordy, what a blithering--"

"Hush!" whispered Anne, her own eyes glistening. "You are an angel, Simmy.
You--"

"Let's talk sense," he broke in abruptly. "Braden left his business in my
hands, and his pleasures in the hands of Dr. Cole. He says it's a pleasure
to heal people, so that's why I put it in that way. I've got his will down
in our safety vault, and his instructions about that silly foundation--"

"You--you think he may not come back?" she said, gripping her hands under
the edge of the table.

"You never can tell. Taking precautions, that's all, as any wise man would
do. Oh, I'm sorry, Anne! I should have known better. Lordy, you're as
white as--Sure, he'll come back! He isn't going to be in the least danger.
Not the least. Nobody bothers the doctors, you know. They can go anywhere.
They wear plug hats and all that sort of thing, and all armies respect a
plug hat. A plug hat is a _silk_ hat, you know,--the safest hat in the
world when you're on the firing line. Everybody tries to hit the hat and
not the occupant. It's a standing army joke. I was reading in the paper
the other day about a fellow going clear from one end of the line to the
other and having six hundred and some odd plug hats shot off his head
without so much as getting a hair singed. Wait! I can tell what you're
going to ask, and I can't, on such short notice, answer the question. I
can only say that I don't know where he got the hats. Ah, good! You're
laughing again, and, by Jove, it becomes you to blush once in a while,
too. Tell me, old lady,"--he leaned forward and spoke very seriously,--"does
it mean a great deal to you?"

She nodded her head slowly. "Yes, Simmy, it means everything."

He drew a long breath. "That's just what I thought. One ordinary dose of
commonsense split up between the two of you wouldn't be a bad thing for
the case."

"You dear old thing!" cried Anne impulsively.

"How are Lutie and my god-son?" he inquired, with a fine air of
solicitude.

Half an hour later, Anne read the brief note that Braden had sent to her.
She read it over and over again, and without the exultation she had
anticipated. Her heart was too full for exultation.

"Dear Anne," it began, "I am going to the war. I am going because I am a
coward. The world will call me brave and self-sacrificing, but it will not
be true. I am a coward. The peril I am running away from is far greater
than that which awaits me over there. I thought you would like to know.
The suffering of others may cause me to forget my own at times." He signed
it "Braden"; and below the signature there was a postscript that puzzled
her for a long time. "If you are not also a coward you will return to my
grandfather's house, where you belong."

And when she had solved the meaning of that singular postscript she sent
for Wade.




CHAPTER XXVI


Anne Thorpe had set her heart on an eventuality. She could see nothing
else, think of nothing else. She prayed each night to God,--and
devoutly,--not alone for the safe return of her lover, but that God would
send him home soon! She was conscious of no fear that he might never
return at all.

To the surprise of every one, with the approach of spring, she announced
her determination to re-open the old Thorpe residence and take up her
abode therein. George was the only one who opposed her. He was seriously
upset by the news.

"Good heaven, Anne, you don't _have_ to live in the house, so why do it?
It's like a tomb. I get the shivers every time I think about it. You can
afford to live anywhere you like. It isn't as if you were obliged to think
of expenses--"

"It seems rather silly _not_ to live in it," she countered. "I will admit
that at first I couldn't endure the thought of it, but that was when all
of the horrors were fresh in my mind. Besides, I resented his leaving it
to me. It was not in the bargain, you know. There was something high-
handed, too, in the way I was _ordered_ to live in the house. I had the
uncanny feeling that he was trying to keep me where he could watch--but, of
course, that was nonsense. There is no reason why I shouldn't live in the
house, Georgie. It is--"

"There is a blamed good reason why you should never have lived in it," he
blurted out. "There's no use digging it up, however, so we'll let it stay
buried." He argued bitterly, even doggedly, but finally gave it up.
"Well," he said in the end, "if you will, you will. All the King's horses
and all the King's men can't stop you when you've once made up your mind."

A few days later she called for Lutie in the automobile and they went
together to the grim old house near Washington Square. Her mind was made
up, as George had put it. She was going to open the house and have it put
in order for occupancy as soon as possible.

She had solved the meaning of Braden's postscript. She would have to prove
to him, first of all, that she was not afraid of the shadow that lay
inside the walls of that grim old house. "If you are not also a coward you
will return to my grandfather's house, where you belong." It was, she
honestly believed, his way of telling her that if she faced the shadow in
her own house, and put it safely behind her, her fortitude would not go
unrewarded!

It did not occur to her that she was beginning badly when she delayed
going down to the house for two whole days because Lutie was unable to
accompany her.

The windows and doors were boarded up. There was no sign of life about the
place when they got down from the limousine and mounted the steps at the
heels of the footman who had run on ahead to ring the bell. They waited
for the opening of the inner door and the shooting of the bolts in the
storm-doors, but no sound came to their ears. Again the bell jangled,--how
well she remembered the old-fashioned bell at the end of the hall!--and
still no response from within.

The two women looked at each other oddly. "Try the basement door," said
Anne to the man. They stood at the top of the steps while the footman
tried the iron gate that barred the way to the tradesmen's door. It was
pad-locked.

"I asked Simmy to meet us here at eleven," said Anne nervously. "I expect
it will cost a good deal to do the house over as I want--Doesn't any one
answer, Peters?"

"No, ma'am. Maybe he's out."

Lutie's face blanched suddenly. "My goodness, Anne, what if--what if he's
dead in--"

"Oh, for heaven's sake, Lutie," cried Anne impatiently, "don't go to
imagining--Still it's very odd. Pound on the door, Peters,--hard."

She shivered a little and turned away so that Lutie could not see the
expression in her eyes. "I have had no word from him in nearly two weeks.
He calls up once every fortnight to inquire--You are not pounding hard
enough, Peters."

"Let's go away," said Lutie, starting down the steps.

"No," said Anne resolutely, "we must get in somehow. He may be ill. He is
an old man. He may be lying in there praying for help, dying for lack of--"
Then she called out to the chauffeur. "See if you can find a policeman. We
may have to break the door down. You see, Lutie, if he's in there I must
get to him. We may not be too late."

Lutie rejoined her at the top of the steps. "You're right, Anne. I don't
know what possessed me. But, goodness, I _hope_ it's nothing--" She
shuddered. "He may have been dead for days."

"What a horrible thing it would be if--But it doesn't matter, Lutie; I am
going in. If you are nervous or afraid of seeing something unpleasant,
don't come with me. Wade must be nearly seventy. He may have fallen
or--Look! Why,--can _that_ be him coming up the--" She was staring down the
street toward Sixth Avenue. A great breath of relief escaped her lips as
she clutched her companion's arm and pointed.

Wade was approaching. He was still half way down the long block, and only
an eye that knew him well could have identified him. Even at closer range
one might have mistaken him for some one else.

He was walking rather briskly,--in fact, he was strutting. It was not his
gait, however, that called for remark. While he was rigidly upright and
steady as to progress, his sartorial condition was positively staggering.
He wore a high, shiny silk hat. It was set at just the wee bit of an angle
and quite well back on his head. Descending his frame, the eye took in a
costly fur-lined overcoat with a sable collar, properly creased trousers
with a perceptible stripe, grey spats and unusually glistening shoes that
could not by any chance have been of anything but patent leather. Light
tan gloves, a limber walking stick, a white carnation and a bright red
necktie--there you have all that was visible of him. Even at a great
distance you would have observed that he was freshly shaved.

Suddenly his eye fell upon the automobile and then took in the smart
looking visitors above. His pace slackened abruptly. After a moment of
what appeared to be indecision, he came on, rather hurriedly. There had
been a second or two of suspense in which Anne had the notion that the
extraordinary creature was on the point of darting into a basement door,
as if, unlike the peacock, he was ashamed of his plumage.

He came up to them, removing his high hat with an awkwardness that
betrayed him. His employer was staring at him with undisguised amazement.
"I just stepped out for a moment, Mrs. Thorpe, to post a letter," said
Wade, trying his best not to sink back into servility, and quite miserably
failing. He was fumbling for his keys. The tops of the houses across the
street appeared to interest him greatly. His gaze was fixed rather
intently upon them. "Very sorry, Mrs. Thorpe,--dreadfully sorry. Ahem! Good
morning. I hope you have not been waiting long. I--ah, here we are!" He
found the key in the pocket of his fancy waistcoat, and bolted down the
steps to unlock the gate. "Excuse me, please. I will run in this way and
open the door from the--"

"Wade," cried out Mrs. Thorpe, "is it really you?"

He looked astonished--and a trifle hurt. "Who else could I be, Mrs.
Thorpe?" Then he darted through the gate and a moment later the servants'
door opened and closed behind him.

"I must be dreaming," said Anne. "What in the world has come over the
man?"

Lutie closed one eye slowly. "There is only one thing under heaven that
could make a man rig himself out like that,--and that thing is a woman."

"A woman? Don't be foolish, Lutie. Wade couldn't even _think_ of a woman.
He's nearly seventy."

"They think of 'em until they drop, my dear," said Lutie sagely. "That's
one thing we've got to give them credit for. They keep on thinking about
us even while they're trying to keep the other foot out of the grave. You
are going to lose the amiable Wade, Anne dear. He's not wearing spats for
nothing."

Some time passed before the key turned in the inner door, and there was
still a long wait before the bolts in the storm doors shot back and Wade's
face appeared. He had not had the time to remove the necktie and spats,
but the rest of his finery had been replaced by the humble togs of
service--long service, you would say at a glance.

"Sorry to keep you waiting, ma'am, but--" He held the doors open and the
two ladies entered the stuffy, unlighted hall.

"Turn on the lights, please," said Anne quickly. Wade pushed a button and
the lights were on. She surveyed him curiously. "Why did you take them
off, Wade? You looked rather well in them."

He cleared his throat gently, and the shy, set smile reappeared as if by
magic. "It isn't necessary for me to say that I was not expecting you this
morning."

"Quite obviously you were not," said Anne drily. She continued to regard
him somewhat fixedly. Something in his expression puzzled her. "Mr. Dodge
will be here presently. I am making arrangements to open the house."

He started. "Er--not to--er--live in it yourself, of course. I was sure Mr.
Dodge would find a way to get around the will so that you could let the
house--"

"I expect to live here myself, Wade," said she. After a moment, she went
on: "Will you care to stay on?"

He was suddenly confused. "I--I can't give you an answer just at this
moment, Mrs. Thorpe. It may be a few days before I--" He paused.

"Take all the time you like, Wade," she interrupted.

"I fancy I'd better give notice now, ma'am," he said after a moment. "To-
day will do as well as any day for that." He seemed to straighten out his
figure as he spoke, resuming a little of the unsuspected dignity that had
accompanied the silk hat and the fur-lined coat.

"I'm sorry," said Anne,--who was not in the slightest sense sorry. Wade
sometimes gave her the creeps.

"I should like to explain about the--ah--the garments you saw me
wearing--ah--I mean to say, I should have brought myself to the point of
telling you a little later on, in any event, but now that you have caught
me wearing of them, I dare say this is as good a time as any to get it
over with. First of all, Mrs. Thorpe, I must preface my--er--confession by
announcing that I am quite sure that you have always considered me to be
an honest man and above deception and falsehood. Ahem! That _is_ right,
isn't it?"

"What are you trying to get at, Wade?" she cried in surprise. "You cannot
imagine that I suspect you of--anything wrong?"

"It may be wrong, and it may not be. I have never felt quite right about
it. There have been times when I felt real squeamish--and a bit
underhanded, you might say. On the other hand, I submit that it was not
altogether reprehensible on my part to air them occasionally--and to see
that the moths didn't--"

"Air them? For goodness' sake, Wade, speak plainly. Why shouldn't you air
your own clothes? They are very nice looking and they must have cost you a
pretty penny. Dear me, I have no right to say what you shall wear on the
street or--"

Wade's eyes grew a little wider. "Is it possible, madam, that you failed
to recognise the--er--garments?"

She laid her hand upon Lutie's arm, and gripped it convulsively. Her eyes
were fixed in a fast-growing look of aversion.

"You do not mean that--that they were Mr. Thorpe's?" she said, in a low
voice.

"I supposed, of course, you would have remembered them," said Wade, a
trifle sharply. "The overcoat was one that he wore every day when you went
out for your drive with him, just before he took to his bed. I--"

"Good heaven!" cried Anne, revolted. "You have been wearing his clothes?"

"They were not really what you would call cast-off garments, ma'am," he
explained in some haste, evidently to save his dignity. "They were rather
new, you may remember,--that is to say, the coat and vest and trousers. As
I recall it, the overcoat was several seasons old, and the hat was the
last one he ordered before taking to the comfortable lounge hat--he always
had his hats made from his own block, you see,--and as I was about to
explain, ma'am, it seemed rather a sin to let them hang in the closet,
food for moths and to collect dust in spite of the many times I brushed
them. Of course, I should never have presumed to wear them while he was
still alive, not even after he had abandoned them for good--No, that is a
thing I have never been guilty of doing. I could not have done it. That is
just the difference between a man-servant and a woman-servant. Your maid
frequently went out in your gowns without your knowledge. I am told it is
quite a common practice. At least I may claim for myself the credit of
waiting until my employer was dead before venturing to cover my back with
his--Yes, honest confession is good for the soul, ma'am. These shoes are my
own, and the necktie. He could not abide red neckties. Of course, I need
not say that the carnation I wore was quite fresh. The remainder of my
apparel was once worn by my beloved master. I am not ashamed to confess
it."

"How _could_ you wear the clothes of a--a dead person?" cried Anne,
cringing as if touched by some cold and slimy thing.

"It seemed such a waste, madam. Of late I have taken to toning myself up a
bit, and there seemed no sensible reason why I shouldn't make use of Mr.
Thorpe's clothes,--allow me to explain that I wore only those he had used
the least,--provided they were of a satisfactory fit. We were of pretty
much the same size,--you will remember that, I'm sure,--and, they fitted me
quite nicely. Of course, I should not have taken them away with me when I
left your employ, madam. That would have been unspeakable. I should have
restored them to the clothes presses, and you would have found them there
when I turned over the keys and--"

"Good heavens, man," she cried, "take them away with you when you go--all
of them. Everything, do you hear? I give them all to you. Of what use
could they be to me? They are yours. Take everything,--hats, boots,
linen,--"

"Thank you, ma'am. That is very handsome of you. I wasn't quite sure that
perhaps Mr. Braden wouldn't find some use for the overcoat. It is a very
elegant coat. It cost--"

"Wade, you are either very stupid or very insolent," she interrupted
coldly. "We need not discuss the matter any farther. How soon do you
expect to leave?"

"I should say that a week would be sufficient notice, under the
circumstances," said he, and chuckled, much to their amazement. "I may as
well make a clean breast of it, ma'am. I am going to be married on the
seventeenth of next month. That's just six weeks off and--"

"Married! You?"

"Ah, madam, I trust you will not forget that I have lived a very lonely
and you might say profitless life," he said, rubbing his hands together,
and allowing his smile to broaden into a pleased grin. "As you may know in
the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,--and so
on. A man is as old as he feels. I can't say that I ever felt younger in
my life than I have felt during the past month."

"I wish you joy and happiness, Wade," said Anne dumbly. She was staring at
his smirking, seamed old face as if fascinated. "I hope she is a good
woman and that you will find--"

"She is little more than a girl," said he, straightening his figure still
a little more, remembering that he had just spoken of his own youthful
feelings. There may have been something of the pride of conquest as well.
"Just twenty-one last December."

Lutie laughed out loud. He bent his head quickly and they saw that his
lips were compressed.

"I beg your pardon, Wade," cried George's wife. "It--it really isn't
anything to laugh at, and I'm sorry."

"That's all right, Mrs. George," he muttered.

"Only twenty-one," murmured Anne, her gaze running over the shabby old
figure in front of her. "My God, Wade, is she--what can she be thinking
of?"

He looked straight into her eyes, and spoke. "Is it so horrible for a
young girl to marry an old man, ma'am?" he asked sorrowfully, and so
respectfully that she was deceived into believing that he intended no
affront to her.

"They usually know what they are doing when they marry very old men," she
replied deliberately. "You must not overlook that fact, Wade. But perhaps
it isn't necessary for me to remind you that young girls do not marry old
men for love. There may be pity, or sentiment, or duty--but never love.
More often than not it is avarice, Wade."

"Quite true," said he. "I am glad to have you speak so frankly to me,
ma'am. It proves that you are interested in my welfare."

"Who is she, Wade?" she inquired.

Lutie had passed into the library, leaving them together in the hall. She
had experienced a sudden sensation of nausea. It was impossible for her to
remain in the presence of this shattered old hulk and still be able to
keep the disgust from showing itself in her eyes. She was the wife of a
real man, and the wife of a man whom she could love and caress and yield
herself to with a thrill of ecstasy in her blood.

"The young lady I was speaking to you about some weeks ago, madam,--the
daughter of my friend who conducts the _delicatessen_ just below us in
Sixth Avenue. You remember I spoke to you of the Southern lady reduced to
a commercial career by--"

"I remember. I remember thinking at the time that it might be the mother
who would prevail--I am sorry, Wade. I shouldn't have said that--"

"It's quite all right," said he amiably. "It is barely possible--ay, even
probable,--that it was the mother who prevailed. They sometimes do, you
know. But Marian appears to have a mind of her own. She loves me, Mrs.
Thorpe. I am quite sure of that. It would be pretty hard to deceive me."

Through all of this Anne was far from oblivious to the sinister
comparisons the man was drawing. She had always been a little afraid of
him. Now an uneasy horror was laying its hold upon her. He had used her as
an example in persuading a silly, unsophisticated girl to give herself to
him. He had gone about his courtship in the finery his dead master had
left behind him.

"I thank you for your good wishes, Mrs. Thorpe," he went on, smoothly. "If
it is not too much to ask, I should like to have you say a few good words
for me to Marian some day soon. She would be very greatly influenced by
the opinion of so great a lady as--"

"But I thought you said it was settled," she broke in sharply.

"It is settled," he said. "But if you would only do me the favour
of--er--advising her to name an earlier day than the seventeenth, I--"

"I cannot advise her, Wade," said she firmly. "It is out of the question."

"I am sorry," he said, lowering his gaze. "Mr. Thorpe was my best friend
as well as my master. I thought, for his sake, you might consent to--"

"You must do your own pleading, Wade," she interrupted, a red spot
appearing in each cheek. Then rashly: "You may continue to court her in
Mr. Thorpe's clothes but you need not expect his wife to lend her
assistance also."

His eyes glittered. "I am sorry if I have offended you, ma'am. And I thank
you for being honest and straightforward with me. It is always best."

"I did not mean to hurt your feelings, Wade," she began, half-sorry for
her remark.

"Not in the least, ma'am. Nothing can hurt my feelings. You see, I lived
with Mr. Thorpe a great deal longer than you did. I got quite beyond being
hurt."

She drew a step nearer. "Wade," she said quietly, "I am going to advise
you, not this wretched girl who is planning to marry you. How old are
you?"

"Two score and a half and five," he answered promptly. Evidently he had
uttered the glib lie before, and as on another occasion he waited for his
listener to reduce the words to figures.

"Fifty-five," said Anne, after some time. She was not good at mathematics.
"I thought you were older than that. It doesn't matter, however. You are
fairly well-off, I believe. Upwards of fifty thousand dollars, no doubt.
Now, I shall be quite frank with you. This girl is taking you for your
money. Just a moment, if you please. I do not know her, and I may be doing
her an injustice. You have compared her to me in reaching your
conclusions. You do not deceive yourself any more than Mr. Thorpe deceived
himself. He knew I did not love him, and you must know that the same
condition exists in this affair of yours. You have thanked me for being
honest. Well, I was honest with Mr. Thorpe. I would have been as true as
steel to him, even if he had lived to be an hundred. The question you must
ask of yourself is this, Wade: Will this girl be as true as steel to you?
Is there no other man to be afraid of?"

He listened intently. A certain greyness crept into his hollow cheeks.

"Was there no other man when you married Mr. Thorpe?" he asked levelly.

"Yes, there was," she surprised him by replying. "An honest man, however.
I think you know--"

She scarcely heard Wade as he went on, now in a most conciliatory way. "It
may interest you to know that I have arranged to buy out the delicatessen.
We expect to enlarge and tidy the place up just as soon as we can get
around to it. I believe I shall be very happy, once I get into active
business. Mrs. Gadscomb,--that's the present mother,--I mean to say, the
present owner, Marian's mother, has agreed to conduct the place as
heretofore, at a very excellent salary, and I have no fear as to--But
excuse me for going on like this, ma'am. No doubt you would like to talk
about your own affairs instead of listening to mine. You said something
about opening the house and coming back here to live. Of course, I shall
consider it my duty to remain here just as long as I can be of service to
you. There will be a little plumbing needed on the third floor, and I
fancy a general cleaning--"

"Thank heaven, there is Mr. Dodge at last," cried Anne, as the bell
jangled almost over her head, startling her into a little cry of alarm.

As Wade shuffled toward the front door, once more the simple slave of
circumstance, she fled quickly into the library.

"Oh, Lutie," she cried, sinking into a chair beside the long, familiar
table, and beating with her clenched hands upon the surface of it, "I know
at last just how I look to other people. My God in heaven, what a _thing
I_ must seem to you."

Lutie came swiftly out of the shadows and laid her hands upon the
shoulders of her sister-in-law.

"You ought to thank the Lord, dear old girl, for the revelation," she said
gently. "I guess it's just what you've needed." Then she leaned over and
pressed her warm, soft cheek to Anne's cold one. "If I owned this house,"
she said almost in a whisper, "I'd renovate it from top to bottom. I'd get
rid of more than old Wade and the old clothes. The best and cheapest way
to renovate it would be to set fire to a barrel of kerosene in the
basement."

"Oh, how horrible for that girl to marry a dreadful, shrivelled old man
like Wade. The skin on his hands is all wrinkled and loose--I couldn't help
noticing it as I--"

"Hello!" called out Simmy from the doorway, peering into the darkened
room. "Where the deuce are you? Ah, that's better, Wade." The caretaker
had switched on the lights in the big chandelier. "Sorry to be late, Anne.
Morning, Lutie. How's my god-son? Couldn't get here a minute sooner. You
see, Anne, I've got other clients besides you. Braden, for instance. I've
been carrying out his instructions in regard to that confounded
trusteeship. The whole matter is to be looked after by a Trust Company
from now on. Simplifies matters enormously."

Anne started up. "Isn't--isn't he coming back to America?" she cried.

"Sure,--unless they pink him some day. My goodness, you don't suppose for
an instant that he could manage the whole of that blooming foundation and
have any time to spare for _hopeful_ humanity,--do you? Why, it will take a
force of half a dozen men to keep the books straight and look after the
ever-increasing capital. By the time old Brady is ready to start the ball
rolling there will be so much money stored up for the job that Rockefeller
will be ashamed to mention the pitiful fortune he controls. In the
meantime he can go on saving people's lives while the trust company saves
the Foundation."




CHAPTER XXVII


Thorpe returned to New York about the middle of May, in the tenth month of
the war. The true facts concerning the abrupt severance of his connections
with the hospital corps in France were never divulged. His confreres and
his superiors maintained a discreet and loyal silence. It was to Simmy
that he explained the cause of his retirement. Word had gone out among the
troops that he was the American doctor whose practices were infinitely
more to be feared than the bullets from an enemy's guns.... It was
announced from headquarters that he was returning to the United States on
account of ill-health. He had worked hard and unceasingly and had exposed
himself to grave physical hardships. He came home with a medal for
conspicuous and unexampled valour while actually under fire. One report
had it that on more than one occasion he appeared not only to scorn death
but to invite it, so reckless were his deeds.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile James Marraville died in great agony. Those nearest to him said,
in so many words, that it was a great pity he did not die at the time of
the operation.

       *       *       *       *       *

"But," began one of the reporters at the dock, "you are said to have
risked your own life, Dr. Thorpe, on at least half a dozen occasions when
you exposed yourself to the fire of the enemy by going out in front after
men who had fallen and were as good as dead when you got to them. In every
case, we are told the men died on the stretchers while they were being
carried to the rear. Do you mind telling us why you brought those men back
when you knew that they were bound to die--"

"You have been misinformed," interrupted Thorpe. "One of those men did not
die. I did all that was possible to save the lives as well as the bodies
of those wretched fellows. Not one of them appeared to have a chance. The
one who survived was in the most hopeless condition of them all. He is
alive to-day, but without legs or arms. He is only twenty-two. He may live
to be seventy. The others died. Will you say that they are not better off
than he? And yet we tried to save them all. That is what we were there
for. I saw a man run a bayonet through the heart of his own brother one
day. We were working over him at the time and we knew that our efforts
would be useless. The brother knew it also. He merely did the thing we
refused to do. You want to know why I deliberately picked out of all the
wounded the men who seemed to have the least chance for recovery, and
brought them back to a place of safety. Well, I will tell you quite
frankly, why I chose those men from among all the others. They were being
left behind. They were as good as dead, as you say. I wanted to treat the
most hopeless cases that could be found. I wanted to satisfy myself. I
went about it quite cold-bloodedly,--not bravely, as the papers would have
it,--and I confess that I passed by men lying out there who might have had
a chance, looking for those who apparently had none. Seven of them died,
as you say,--seven of the 'hopelessly afflicted.' One of them lived. You
will now say that having proved to my own satisfaction that no man can be
'hopelessly afflicted,' I should be ready to admit the fallacy of my
preachings. But you are wrong. I am more firmly intrenched in my position
than ever before. That man's life should not have been saved. We did him a
cruel wrong in saving it for him. He wanted to die, he still wants to die.
He will curse God to the end of his days because he was allowed to live.
Some day his relatives will exhibit him in public, as one of the greatest
of freaks, and people will pay to enter the side shows to see him. They
will carry him about in shawl straps. He will never be able to protest,
for he has lost the power of speech. He can only _see_ and _hear_. Will
you be able to look into the agonised eyes of that man as he lies propped
up in a chair, a mere trunk, and believe that he is glad to be alive? Will
you then rejoice over the fact that we saved him from a much nobler grave
than the one he occupies in the side-show, where all the world may stare
at him at so much per head? An inglorious reward, gentlemen, for a brave
soldier of the Republic."

"We may quote you as saying, Dr. Thorpe, that you have not abandoned your
theories?"

"Certainly. I shall go on preaching, as you are pleased to call my
advocacy. A great many years from to-day--centuries, no doubt,--the world
will think as I do now. Thank you, gentlemen, for your courtesy in--"

"Have you heard that James Marraville died last week, Dr. Thorpe?" broke
in one of the reporters.

"No," said he, quite unmoved. "I am not surprised, however. I gave him
five or six months."

"Didn't you expect him to get entirely well?" demanded the man, surprised.

Braden shook his head, smiling. "No one expected that, gentlemen,--not even
Mr. Marraville."

"But every one thought that the operation was a success, and--"

"And so it was, gentlemen," said Thorpe unsmilingly; "a very terrible
success."

"Gee, if we print that as coming from you, Dr. Thorpe, it will create the
biggest sensation in years."

"Then I haven't the least doubt that you will print it," said Thorpe.

There was a short silence. Then the spokesman said: "I think I speak for
every man here when I say that we will not print it, Dr. Thorpe. We
understand, but the people wouldn't." He deliberately altered the
character of the interview and inquired if German submarines had been
sighted after the steamship left Liverpool. The whole world was still
shuddering over the disaster to the _Lusitania_, torpedoed the week
before, with the loss of over a thousand souls.

Thorpe drove uptown with Simmy Dodge, who would not hear of his going to
an hotel, but conducted him to his own apartment where he was to remain as
long as he pleased.

"Get yourself pulled together, old chap, before you take up any work,"
advised Simmy. "You look pretty seedy. We're going to have a hot summer,
they say. Don't try to do too much until you pick up a bit. Too bad
they're fighting all over the continent of Europe. If they weren't, hang
me if I wouldn't pack you onto a boat and take you over there for a good
long rest, in spite of what happened to the _Lusitania_. We'll go up into
the mountains in June, Brady,--or what do you say to skipping out to the
San Francisco fair for a few--"

"You're looking thin and sort of pegged out, old boy," began Simmy
soothingly.

"I'm all right, Simmy. Sound as anything. I don't mind telling you that it
wasn't my health that drove me out of the service,--and that's what hurts.
They--they didn't want me. They thought it was best for me to get out."

"Good Lord!" gasped Simmy, struggling between amazement and indignation.
"What kind of blithering fools have they got over--"

"They are not blithering fools," said Thorpe soberly. "The staff would not
have turned me out, I'm sure of that. I was doing good work, Simmy," he
went on rapidly, eagerly, "even though I do say it myself. Everybody was
satisfied, I'm sure. Night and day,--all the time,--mind you, and I was
standing up under it better than any of them. But, you see, it wasn't the
staff that did it. It was the poor devil of a soldier out there in the
trenches. They found out who I was. Newspapers, of course. Well, that
tells the story. They were afraid of me. But I am not complaining. I do
not blame them. God knows it was hard enough for them to face death out
there at the front without having to think of--well, getting it anyhow if
they fell into my hands. I--But there's no use speaking of it, Simmy. I
wanted you to know why I got out, and I want Anne to know. As for the
rest, let them think I was sick or--cowardly if they like."

Simmy was silent for a long time. He said afterwards that it was all he
could do to keep from crying as he looked at the pale, gaunt face of his
friend and listened to the verdict of the French soldiers.

"I don't see the necessity for telling Anne," he said, at last, pulling
rather roughly at his little moustache. They were seated at one of the
broad windows in Simmy's living-room, drinking in the cool air that came
up from the west in advance of an impending thunderstorm. The day had been
hot and stifling. "No sense in letting her know, old man. Secret between
you and me, if you don't--"

"I'd rather she knew," said Thorpe briefly. "In fact, she will have to
know."

"What do you mean?"

Thorpe was staring out over the Park, and did not answer. Simmy found
another cigarette and lighted it, scorching his fingers while furtively
watching his companion's face.

"How is Anne, Simmy?" demanded Thorpe abruptly. There was a fierce, eager
light in his eyes, but his manner was strangely repressed. "Where is she?"

Simmy took a deep breath. "She's well and she's at home."

"You mean,--down there in the old--"

"The old Thorpe house. I don't know what's got into the girl, Brady. First
she swears she won't live in the house, and then she turns around,--just
like that,--and moves in. Workmen all over the place, working overtime and
all that sort of thing,--with Anne standing around punchin' 'em with a
sharp stick if they don't keep right on the job. Top to bottom,--renovated,
redecorated, brightened up,--wouldn't recognise the place as--"

"Is she living there--alone?"

"Yes. New lot of servants and--By the way, old Wade has--what do you think
he has done?"

"How long has she been living down there?" demanded the other,
impatiently. His eyes were gleaming.

"Well, old Wade has gone and got married," went on Simmy, deliberately
ignoring the eager question. "Married a girl of twenty or something like
that. Chucked his job, bloomed out as a dandy,--spats and chamois gloves
and silk hats,--cleared out three weeks ago for a honeymoon,--rather pretty
girl, by the way,--"

Braden's attention had been caught at last and held. "Wade married? Good
Lord! Oh, I say, Simmy, you _can't_ expect me to believe--"

"You'll see. He has shaken the dust of Thorpe house from his person and is
gallivanting around in lavender perfumes and purple linen."

"My God! That old hulk and--twenty years, did you say? Why, the damned old
scoundrel! After all he has seen and--" His jaws closed suddenly with a
snap, and his eyes narrowed into ugly slits.

"Be careful, Brady, old top," said Simmy, shaking his head. "It won't do
to call Wade names, you know. Just stop and think for a second or two."

Thorpe relaxed with a gesture of despair. "You are right, Simmy. Why
should I blame Wade?"

He got up and began pacing the floor, his hands clenched behind his back.
Simmy smoked in silence, apparently absorbed in watching the angry clouds
that blackened the western sky.

Presently Thorpe resumed his seat in the window. His eyes did not meet
Simmy's as the latter turned toward him. He look straight out over the
tops of the great apartment houses on the far side of the Park.

"How long has she been living down there alone?" he asked again.

"Five or six weeks."

"When did you last see her?"

"Yesterday. She's been dreadfully nervous ever since the blowing up of the
_Lusitania_. I asked her to go to the pier with me. She refused. See here,
Brady," said Simmy, rising suddenly and laying his hand on the other's
shoulder, "what are you going to do about Anne?"

"Nothing. Anne can never be anything to me, nor I to her," said Thorpe,
white-faced and stern. His face was rigid.

"Nonsense! You love her, don't you?"

"Yes. That has nothing to do with it, however."

"And she loves you. I suppose that hasn't anything to do with it, either.
I suppose it is right and proper and natural that you both should go on
loving each other to the end of time without realising the joys of--"

"Don't try to argue the--"

"It's right that you should let that glorious, perfect young creature
wither and droop with time, grow old without--oh, Lordy, what a damn fool
you are, Brady! There isn't the slightest reason in this world why you
shouldn't get married and--"

"Stop that, Simmy!"

"Here you are, two absolutely sound, strong, enduring specimens of
humanity,--male and female,--loving each other, wanting each other,--and yet
you say you can never be anything to each other! Hasn't nature anything to
do with it? Are you going to sit there and tell me that for some
obstinate, mawkish reason you think you ought to deprive her of the one
man in all this world that she wants and must have? It doesn't matter what
she did a couple of years ago. It doesn't matter that she was,--and still
may be designing,--the fact remains that she is the woman you love and that
you are her man. She married old Mr. Thorpe deliberately, I grant you. She
doesn't deny it. She loved you when she did it. And you can't, to save
your soul, hate her for it. You ought to do so, I admit. But you don't,
and that solves the problem. You want her now even more than you did two
years ago. You can't defy nature, old chap. You may defy convention, and
honour, and even common decency, but you can't beat nature out of its due.
Now, look me in the eye! Why can't you marry Anne and--be everything to
her, instead of nothing, as you put it? Answer me!"

"It is impossible," groaned Thorpe. "You cannot understand, Simmy."

"Nothing is impossible," said Simmy, the optimist. "If you are afraid of
what people will say about it, then all I have to say is that you are
worse than a coward: you are a stupid ass. People talked themselves black
in the face when she married your grandfather, and what good did it do
them? Not a particle of good. They roasted her to a fare-you-well, and
they called her a mean, avaricious, soulless woman, and still she
survives. Everybody expects her to marry you. When she does it, everybody
will smile and say 'I told you so,'--and sneer a little, perhaps,--but, hang
it all, what difference should that make? This is a big world. It is
busier than you think. It will barely take the time to sniff twice or
maybe three times at you and Anne and then it will hustle along on the
scent of something new. It's always smelling out things, but that's all it
amounts to. It overlooks divorces, liaisons, murders,--everything, in fact,
except disappointments. It never forgives the man or woman who disappoints
it. Now, I know something else that's on your mind. You think that because
you operated--fatally, we'll say,--on your grandfather, that that is an
obstacle in the way of your marriage with Anne. Tommy-rot! I've heard of a
hundred doctors who have married the widows of their patients, and their
friends usually congratulate 'em, which goes to prove something, doesn't
it? You are expected by ninety per cent. of the inhabitants of greater New
York to marry Anne Tresslyn. They may have forgotten everything else, but
that one thing they _do_ expect. They said it would happen and it must.
They said it when Anne married your grandfather, they said it when he died
and they say it now, even though their minds are filled with other
things."

Thorpe eyed him steadily throughout this earnest appeal. "Do you think
that Anne expects it, Simmy?" he inquired, a harsh note in his voice.

Simmy had to think quickly. "I think she does," he replied, and always was
to wonder whether he said the right thing. "She is in love with you. She
wants you, and anything that Anne wants she expects to get. I don't mean
that in a disparaging sense, either. If she doesn't marry you, she'll
never marry any one. She'll wait for you till the end of her days. Even if
you were to marry some one else, she'd--"

"I shall not marry any one else," said Thorpe, almost fiercely.

"--She'd go on waiting and wanting you just the same, and you would go on
wanting her," concluded Simmy. "You will never consider your life complete
until you have Anne Tresslyn as a part of it. She wants to make you happy.
That's what most women want when they're in love with a man."

"I tell you, Simmy, I cannot marry Anne. I love her,--God knows how
terribly I want her,--in spite of everything. It _is_ nature. You can't
kill love, no matter how hard you try. Some one else has to do the
killing. Anne is keeping it alive in me. She has tortured my love, beaten
it, outraged it, but all the time she has been secretly feeding it,
caressing it, never for an instant letting it out of her grasp. You cannot
understand, Simmy. You've never been in love with a woman like Anne. She
may have despaired at times, but she has never given up the fight, not
even when she must have thought that I despised her. She knew that my love
was mortally hurt, but do you think she would let it die? No! She will
keep it alive forever,--and she will suffer, too, in doing so. But what's
that to Anne? She--"

"Just a second, old chap," broke in Simmy. "You are forgetting that Anne
wants you to be happy."

"God, how happy I could have been with her!"

"See here, will you go down there and see her?" demanded Simmy.

"I can't do that,--I can't do it. Simmy--" he lowered his voice to almost a
whisper,--"I can't trust myself. I don't know what would happen if I were
to see her again,--be near her, alone with her. This longing for her has
become almost unbearable. I thought of her every minute of the time I was
out there at the front--Yes, I had to put the heaviest restraint upon
myself at times to keep from chucking the whole thing and dashing back
here to get her, to take her, to keep her,--maybe to kill her, I don't
know. Now I realise that I was wrong in coming back to America at all. I
should have gone--oh, anywhere else in the world. But here I am, and,
strangely enough, I feel stronger, more able to resist. It was the
distance between us that made it so terrible. I can resist her here, but,
by heaven, I couldn't over there. I could have come all the way back from
France to see her, but I can't go from here down to Washington Square,--so
that shows you how I stand in the matter."

"Now I know the real reason why you came back to little old New York,"
said Simmy sagely, and Thorpe was not offended.

"In the first place I cannot marry her while she still has in her
possession the money for which she sold herself and me," said Thorpe,
musing aloud. "You ought to at least be able to understand that, Simmy? No
matter how much I love her, I can't make her my wife with that accursed
money standing--But there's no use talking about _that_. There is an even
graver reason why I ought not to marry her, an insurmountable reason. I
cannot tell you what it is, but I fear that down in your heart you
suspect."

Simmy leaned forward in his chair. "I think I know, old man," he said
simply. "But even that shouldn't stand in the way. I don't see why you
should have been kind and gentle and merciful to Mr. Thorpe, and refuse to
be the same, in a different way, to her." His face broke into a whimsical
smile. "Anne is what you might call hopelessly afflicted. Dammit all, put
her out of her misery!"

Thorpe stared at him aghast. The utter banality of the remark left him
speechless. For the first time in their acquaintance, he misjudged Simmy
Dodge. He drew back from him, scowling.

"That's a pretty rotten thing to say, Simmy," he said, after a moment.
"Pretty poor sort of wit."

"It wasn't meant for wit, my friend," said Simmy seriously. "I meant every
word of it, no matter how rotten it may have sounded. If you are going to
preach mercy and all that sort of silly rot, practise it whenever it is
possible. There's no law against your being kind to Anne Tresslyn. You
don't have to be governed by a commission or anything like that. She's
just as deserving as any one, you know."

"Which is another way of saying that she _deserves_ my love?" cried Thorpe
angrily.

"She's got it, so it really doesn't matter whether she deserves it or not.
You can't take it away from her. You've tried it and--well, she's still got
it, so there's no use arguing."

"Do you think it gives me any happiness to love her as I do?" cried the
other. "Do you think I am finding joy in the prospect of never having her
for my own--all for my own? Do you--"

"Well, my boy, do you think she is finding much happiness living down
there in that old house all alone? Do you think she is getting much real
joy out of her little old two millions? By the way, why is she living down
there at all? I can tell you. She's doing it because she's got nerve
enough to play the game out as she began it. She's doing it because she
believes it will cause you to think better of her. This is a guess on my
part, but I know darned well she wouldn't be doing it if there wasn't some
good and sufficient reason."

Thorpe nodded his head slowly, an ironic smile on his lips. "Yes, she _is_
playing the game, but not as she began it. I am not so sure that I think
better of her for doing it."

"Brady, I hope you'll forgive me for saying something harsh and
disrespectful about your grandfather, but here goes. He played you a
shabby trick in taking Anne away from you in the first place. No matter
how shabbily Anne behaved toward you, he was worse than she. Then he
virtually compelled you to perform an operation that--well, I'll not say
it. We can forgive him for that. He was suffering. And then he went out of
his way to leave that old house down there to Anne, knowing full well that
if she continued to live in it, it would be a sort of prison to her. She
can't sell it, she can't rent it. She's got to live in it, or abandon it
altogether. I call it a pretty mean sort of trick to play on her, if
you'll forgive my--"

"She doesn't have to live in it," said Thorpe doggedly.

"She is going to live there until you take her out of it, bodily if you
please, and you are going to become so all-fired sorry for her that
you'll--"

"Good Lord, Simmy," shouted Thorpe, springing to his feet with a bitter
imprecation, "don't go on like this. I can't stand it. I know how she
hates it. I know how frightened, how miserable she is down there. It _is_
a prison,--no, worse than that, it is haunted by something that you cannot
possibly--My God, it must be awful for her, all alone,--shivering,
listening,--something crawly--something sinister and accusing--Why, she--"

"Here, here, old fellow!" cried Simmy in alarm. "Don't go off your nut.
You're talking like a crazy man,--and, hang it all, I don't like the look
in your eye. Gosh, if it gives you the creeps--who don't have to be down
there of nights,--what must it be for that shrinking, sensitive--Hey! Where
are you going?"

"I'm going down there to see her. I'm going to tell her that I was a cur
to write what I did to her the day I sailed. I--" He stopped short near the
door, and faced his friend. His hands were clenched.

"I shall see her just this once,--never again if I can avoid it," he said.
"Just to tell her that I don't want her to live in that house. She's got
to get out. I'll not know a moment's peace until she is out of that
house."

Simmy heard the door slam and a few minutes later the opening and closing
of the elevator cage. He sat quite still, looking out over the trees. He
was a rather pathetic figure.

"I wonder if I'd be so loyal to him if I had a chance myself," he mused.
"Oh, Lordy, Lordy!" He closed his eyes as if in pain.




CHAPTER XXVIII


The storm burst in all its fury when Thorpe was half way down the Avenue
in the taxi he had picked up at the Plaza. Pedestrians scurried in all
directions, seeking shelter from the wind and rain; the blackness of night
had fallen upon the city; the mighty roar of a thousand cannon came out of
the clouds; terrifying flashes rent the skies. The man in the taxi neither
saw nor heard the savage assault of the elements. He was accustomed to the
roar of battle. He was used to thinking with something worse than thunder
in his ears, and something worse than raindrops beating about him.

He knew that Anne was afraid of the thunder and the lightning. More than
once she had huddled close to him and trembled in the haven of his arms,
her fingers to her ears, while storms raged about them. He was thinking of
her now, down there in that grim old house, trembling in some darkened
place, her eyes wide with alarm, her heart beating wildly with terror,--ah,
he remembered so well how wildly her heart could beat!

He had forgotten his words to Simmy: "I can't trust myself!" There was but
one object in his mind and that was to retract the unnecessary challenge
with which he had closed his letter to her in January. Why should he have
demanded of her a sacrifice for which he could offer no consolation? He
now admitted to himself that when he wrote the blighting postscript he was
inspired by a mean desire to provoke anticipation on her part. "If you
also are not a coward, you will return to my grandfather's house, where
you belong." What right had he to revive the hope that she accounted dead?
She still had her own life to live, and in her own way. He was not to be a
part of it. He was sure of that, and yet he had given her something on
which to sustain the belief that a time would come when their lives might
find a common channel and run along together to the end. She had taken his
words as he had hoped she would, and now he was filled with shame and
compunction.

The rain was coming down in sheets when the taxi-cab slid up to the curb
in front of the house that had been his home for thirty years. His home!
Not hers, but _his_! She did not belong there, and he did. He would never
cease to regard this fine old house as his home.

He was forced to wait for the deluge to cease or to slacken. For many
minutes he sat there in the cab, his gaze fixed rigidly on the streaming,
almost opaque window, trying to penetrate the veil of water that hung
between him and the walls of the house not twenty feet away. At last his
impatience got the better of him, and, the downpour having diminished
slightly, he made a sudden swift dash from the vehicle and up the stone
steps into the shelter of the doorway. Here he found company. Four
workmen, evidently through for the day, were flattened against the walls
of the vestibule.

They made way for him. Without realising what he did, he hastily snatched
his key-ring from his pocket, found the familiar key he had used for so
many years, and inserted it in the lock. The door opened at once and he
entered the hall. As he closed the door behind him, his eyes met the
curious gaze of the four workmen, and for the first time he realised what
he had done through force of habit. For a moment or two he stood
petrified, trying to grasp the full significance of his act. He had never
rung the door-bell of that house,--not in all the years of his life. He had
always entered in just this way. His grandfather had given him a key when
he was thirteen,--the same key that he now held in his fingers and at which
he stared in a sort of stupefaction.

He was suddenly aware of another presence in the hall,--a figure in white
that stood near the foot of the staircase, motionless where it had been
arrested by the unexpected opening of the door,--a tall, slender figure.

He saw her hand go swiftly to her heart.

"Why--why didn't you--let me know?" she murmured in a voice so low that he
could hardly hear the words. "Why do you come in this way to--"

"What must you think of me for--for breaking in upon you--" he began,
jerkily. "I don't know what possessed me to--you see, I still have the key
I used while I lived--Oh, I'm sorry, Anne! I can't explain. It just seemed
natural to--"

"Why did you come without letting me know?" she cried, and now her voice
was shrill from the effort she made to suppress her agitation.

"I should have telephoned," he muttered. Suddenly he tore the key from the
ring. "Here! It does not belong to me. I should not have the key to your--"

"Keep it," she said, drawing back. "I want you to keep it. I shall be
happier if I know that you have the key to the place where I live. No! I
will not take it."

To her infinite surprise, he slipped the key into his pocket. She had
expected him to throw it upon the floor as she resolutely placed her hands
behind her back.

"Very well," he said, rather roughly. "It is quite safe with me. I shall
never forget myself again as I have to-day."

For the first time since entering the door, he allowed his gaze to sweep
the lofty hallway. But for the fact that he knew he had come into the
right house, he would have doubted his own senses. There was nothing here,
to remind him of the sombre, gloomy place that he had known from
childhood's earliest days. All of the massive, ugly trappings were gone,
and all of the gloom. The walls were bright, the rugs gay, the woodwork
cheerfully white. He glanced quickly down the length of the hall and--yes,
the suit of mail was gone! He was conscious of a great relief.

Then his eyes fell upon her again. A strange, wistful little smile had
appeared while his gaze went roving.

"You see that I am trying not to be a coward," she said.

"What a beast I was to write that thing to you," he cried. "I came down
here to tell you that I am sorry. I don't want you to live here, Anne. It
is--"

"Ah, but I am here," she said, "and here I shall stay. We have done
wonders with the place. You will not recognise it,--not a single corner of
it, Braden. It was all very well as the home of a lonely old man who loved
it, but it was not quite the place for a lonely young woman who hated it.
Come! Let me show you the library. It is finished. I think you will say it
is a woman's room now and not a man's. Some of the rooms upstairs are
still unfinished. My own room is a joy. Everything is new and--"

"Anne," he broke in, almost harshly, "it will come to nothing, you may as
well know the truth now. It will save you a great deal of unhappiness, and
it will allow you to look elsewhere for--"

"Come into the library," she interrupted. "I already have had a great deal
of unhappiness in that room, so I fancy it won't be so hard to hear what
you have come to say to me if you say it to me there."

He followed her to the library door, and there stopped in amazement,
unwilling to credit his eyes. He was looking into the brightest, gayest
room he had ever seen. An incredible transformation had taken place. The
vast, stately, sober room had become dainty, exquisite, enchanting. Here,
instead of oppressive elegance, was the most delicate beauty; here was
exemplified at a glance the sweet, soft touch of woman in contrast to the
heavy, uncompromising hand of man. Here was sweetness and freshness, and
the sparkle of youth, and gone were the grim things of age. Here was light
and happiness, and the fragrance of woman.

"In heaven's name, what _have_ you done to this room?" he cried. "Am I in
my right senses? Can this be my grandfather's house?"

She smiled, and did not answer. She was watching his face with eager,
wistful eyes.

"Why, it's--it's unbelievable," he went on, an odd tremor in his voice. "It
is wonderful. It is--why, it is beautiful, Anne. I could not have dreamed
that such a change,--What has become of everything? What have you done with
all the big, clumsy, musty things that--"

"They are in a storage warehouse," said she crisply. "There isn't so much
as a carpet-tack left of the old regime. Everything is gone. Every single
thing that was here with your grandfather is gone. I alone am left. When I
came down here two months ago the place was filled with the things that
you remember. I had made up my mind to stay here,--but not with the things
that I remembered. The first thing I did was to clean out the house from
cellar to garret. I am not permitted to sell the contents of this house,
but there was nothing to prevent me from storing them. Your grandfather
overlooked that little point, I fear. In any event, that was the first
thing I did. Everything is gone, mind you,--even to the portrait that used
to hang over the mantelpiece there,--and it was the only cheerful object in
the house. I wish I could show you my boudoir, my bedroom, and the rooms
in which Mr. Thorpe lived. You--you would love them."

He was now standing in the middle of the room, staring about him at the
handiwork of Aladdin.

"Why, it isn't--it will not be so dreadful, after all," he said slowly.
"You have made it all so lovely, so homelike, so much like yourself
that--you will not find it so hard to live here as I--"

"I wanted you to like it, Braden. I wanted you to see the place,--to see
what I have done to make it bright and cheerful and endurable. No, I
sha'n't find it so hard to live here. I was sure that some day you would
come to see me here and I wanted you to feel that--that it wasn't as hard
for me as you thought it would be. I have been a coward, though. I confess
that I could not have lived here with all those things about to--to remind
me of--You see, I just _had_ to make the place possible. I hope you are not
offended with me for what I have done. I have played havoc with sentiment
and association, and you may feel that I--"

"Offended? Good heavens, Anne, why should I be offended? You have a right
to do what you like here."

"Ah, but I do not forget that it is _your_ home, Braden, not mine. It will
always be home to you, and I fear it can never be that to me. This is not
much in the way of a library now, I confess. Thirty cases of books are
safely stored away,--all of those old first editions and things of that
sort. They meant nothing to me. I don't know what a first edition is, and
I never could see any sense in those funny things he called missals, nor
the incunabula, if that's the way you pronounce it. You may have liked
them, Braden. If you care for them, if you would like to have them in your
own house, you must let me _lend_ them to you. Everybody borrows books,
you know. It would be quite an original idea to lend a whole library,
wouldn't it? If you--"

"They are better off in the storage warehouse," he interrupted, trying to
steel himself against her rather plaintive friendliness.

"Don't you intend to shake hands with me?" she asked suddenly. "I am so
glad that you have come home,--come back, I mean,--and--" She advanced with
her hand extended.

It was a perilous moment for both of them when she laid her hand in his.
The blood in both of them leaped to the thrill of contact. The impulse to
clasp her in his arms, to smother her with kisses, to hold her so close
that nothing could ever unlock his arms, was so overpowering that his head
swam dizzily and for an instant he was deprived of vision. How he ever
passed through that crisis in safety was one of the great mysteries of his
life. She was his for the taking! She was ready.

Their hands fell apart. A chill swept through the veins of both,--the ice-
cold chill of a great reaction. They would go on loving each other,
wanting each other, perhaps forever, but a moment like the one just past
would never come again. Bliss, joy, complete satisfaction might come, but
that instant of longing could never be surpassed.

He was very white. For a long time he could not trust himself to speak.
The fight was a hard one, and it was not yet over. She was a challenge to
all that he tried to master. He wondered why there was a smile in her
lovely, soft eyes, while in his own there must have been the hardness of
steel. And he wondered long afterward how she could have possessed the
calmness to say:

"Simmy must have been insane with joy. He has talked of nothing else for
days."

But he did not know that in her secret heart she was crying out in
ecstasy: "God, how I love him--and _how he loves me_!"

"He is a good old scout," said he lamely, hardly conscious of the words.
Then abruptly: "I can't stay, Anne. I came down to tell you that--that I
was a dog to say what I did in my note to you. I knew the construction you
would put upon the--well, the injunction. It wasn't fair. I led you to
believe that if you came down here to live that sometime I would--"

"Just a moment, Braden," she interrupted, steadily. "You are finding it
very difficult to say just the right thing to me. Let me help you, please.
I fear that I have a more ready tongue than you and certainly I am less
agitated. I confess that your note decided me. I confess that I believed
my coming here to live would result in--well, forgiveness is as good a word
as any at this time. Now you have come to me to say that I have nothing to
gain by living in this house, that I have nothing to gain by living in a
place which revolts and terrifies me,--not always, but at times. Well, you
may spare yourself the pain of saying all that to me. I shall continue to
live here, even though nothing comes of it, as you say. I shall continue
to sit here in this rather enchanting place and wait for you to come and
share it with me. If you--"

"Good God! That is just what I am trying to tell you that I cannot--"

"I know, I know," she broke in impatiently. "That is just what you are
trying to tell me, and this is just what I am trying to tell you. I do not
say that you will ever come to me here, Braden. I am only saying to you
that I shall wait for you. If you do not come, that is your affair, not
mine. I love you. I love you with every bit of selfishness that is in my
soul, every bit of goodness that is in my heart, and every bit of badness
that is in my blood. I am proud to tell you that I am selfish in this one
respect, if no longer in any other. I would give up everything else in the
world to have you. That is how selfish I am. I want to be happy and I
selfishly want you to be happy--for my sake if not for your own. Do you
suppose that I am glorifying myself by living here? Do you suppose that I
am justifying myself? If you do, you are very greatly mistaken. I am here
because you led me to believe that--that things might be altered if I--" Her
lips trembled despite the brave countenance she presented to him. In a
second she had quelled the threatened weakness. "I have made this house a
paradise. I have made it a place in which you may find happiness if you
care to seek for it here. At night I shudder and cringe, because I am the
coward you would try to reform. I hide nothing from myself. I am afraid to
be alone in this house. But I shall stay--I shall stay."

"Do you think that I could ever find happiness in this house--now?" he
demanded hoarsely.

"Do you expect to find happiness anywhere else, Braden?" she asked, a
little break in her voice.

"No. I shall never find happiness anywhere else,--real happiness, I mean. I
cannot be happy without you, Anne."

"Nor I without you," she said simply. "I don't see that it makes very much
difference _where_ we choose to be unhappy, Braden, so I shall take mine
here,--where it is likely to be complete."

"But that is just what I don't want you to do," he cried angrily. "I don't
want you to stay here. You must leave this place. You have had hell
enough. I insist that you--"

"No use arguing," she said, shaking her head. "I can love you here as well
as anywhere else, and that is all I care for,--just my love for you."

"God, what a cruel thing love is, after all. If there was no such thing as
love, we could--"

"Don't say that!" she cried out sharply. "Love is everything. It conquers
everything. It is both good and evil. It makes happiness and it makes
misery. Braden,--oh, my dearest!--see what it has made for us? Love! Why,
don't you know it is Love that we love? _We love Love._ I would not love
you if you were not Love itself. I treated you abominably, but you still
love me. You performed an act of mercy for the man you loved, and he loved
you. You cursed me in your heart, and I still love you. We cannot escape
love, my friend. It rules us,--it rules all of us. The thing that you say
stands between us--that act of mercy, dearest,--what effect has it had upon
either of us? I would come to you to-morrow, to-day,--this very hour if you
asked me to do so, and not in all the years that are left to me would I
see the shadow you shrink from."

"The shadow extends back a great deal farther, Anne," he said, closing his
eyes as if in pain. "It began long before my grandfather found the peace
which I have yet to find. It began when you sold yourself to him."

She shrank slightly. "But even that did not kill your love for me," she
cried out, defensively. "I did not sell my love,--just my soul, if you must
have a charge against me. I've got it back, thank God, and it is worth a
good deal more to me to-day than it was when Mr. Thorpe bargained for it.
Two million dollars!" She spoke ironically, yet with great seriousness.
"If he could have bought my love for that amount, his bargain would have
been a good one. If I were to discover now that you do not care for me,
Braden, and if I could buy your love, which is the most precious thing in
the world to me, I would not hesitate a second to pay out every dollar I
have in--"

"Stop!" he cried eagerly, drawing a step nearer and fixing her with
a look that puzzled and yet thrilled her. "Would you give up
everything--everything, mind you,--if I were to ask you to do so?"

"You said something like that a few months ago," she said, after a
moment's hesitation. There was a troubled, hunted look in her eyes, as of
a creature at bay. "You make it hard for me, Braden. I don't believe I
could give up everything. I have found that all this money does not give
me happiness. It does provide me with comfort, with independence, with a
certain amount of power. It does not bring me the thing I want more than
anything else in the world, however. Still I cannot say to you now that I
would willingly give it up, Braden. You would not ask it of me, of course.
You are too fair and big--"

"But it is exactly what I would ask of you, Anne," he said earnestly, "if
it came to an issue. You could not be anything more to me than you are now
if you retained a dollar of that money."

She drew a long, deep breath. "Would you take me back, Braden,--would you
let me be your wife if I--if I were to give up all that I received from Mr.
Thorpe?" She was watching his face closely, ready to seize upon the
slightest expression that might direct her course, now or afterwards.

"I--I--Oh, Anne, we must not harass ourselves like this," he groaned. "It is
all so hopeless, so useless. It never can be, so what is the use in
talking about it?"

She now appeared to be a little more sure of her ground. There was a note
of confidence in her voice as she said: "In that event, it can do no harm
for me to say that I do not believe I could give it up, Braden."

"You _wouldn't_?"

"If I were to give up all this money, Braden dear, I would prove myself to
be the most selfish creature in the world."

"Selfish? Good Lord! It would be the height of self-denial. It--"

"When a woman wants something so much that she will give up everything in
the world to get it, I claim that she is selfish to the last degree. She
gratifies self, and there is no other way to look at it. And I will admit
to you now, Braden, that if there is no other way, I will give up all this
money. That may represent to you just how much I think of _self_. But,"
and she smiled confidently, "I don't intend to impoverish myself if I can
help it, and I don't believe you are selfish enough to ask it of me."

"Would you call Lutie selfish?" he demanded. "She gave up everything for
George."

"Lutie is impulsive. She did it voluntarily. No one demanded it of her.
She was not obliged to give back a penny, you must remember. My case is
different. You would demand a sacrifice of me. Lutie did not sell herself
in the beginning. She sold George. She bought him back. If George was
worth thirty thousand dollars to her, you are worth two millions to me.
She gave her _all_, and that would be my _all_. She was willing to pay. Am
I? That is the question."

"You would have to give it up, Anne," said he doggedly.

He saw the colour fade from her cheeks, and the lustre from her eyes.

"I am not sure that I could do it, Braden," she said, after a long
silence. Then, almost fiercely: "Will you tell me how I should go about
getting rid of all this money,--sensibly,--if I were inclined to do so? What
could I do with it? Throw it away? Destroy it? Burn--"

"There isn't much use discussing ways and means," he said with finality in
his manner. "I'm sorry we brought the subject up. I came here with a very
definite object in view, and we--well, you see what we have come to."

"Oh, I--I love you so!" came tremulously from her lips. "I love you so,
Braden. I--I don't see how I can go on living without--" She suppressed the
wild, passionate words by deliberately clapping her hands, one above the
other, over her lips. Red surged to her brow and a look of exquisite shame
and humiliation leaped into her eyes.

"Anne, Anne--" he began, but she turned on him furiously.

"Why do you lie to me? Why do you lie to yourself? You came here to-day
because you were mad with the desire to see me, to be near me, to--Oh, you
need not deny it! You have been crying out for me ever since the day you
last held me in your arms and kissed me,--ages ago!--just as I have been
crying out for you. Don't say that you came here merely to tell me that I
must not live in this house if it leads me to hope for--recompense. Don't
say that, because it is not the real reason, and you know it. You would
have remained in Europe if you were through with me, as you would have
yourself believe. But you are not through with me. You never will be. If
you cannot be fair with yourself, Braden, you should at least be fair with
me. You should not have come here to-day. But you could not help it, you
could not resist. It will always be like this, and it is not fair, it is
not fair. You say we never can be married to each other. What is there
left for us, I ask of you,--what will all this lead to? We are not saints.
We are not made of stone. We--"

"God in heaven, Anne," he cried, aghast and incredulous. "Do you know what
you are saying? Do you think I would drag you down, despoil you--"

"Oh, you would be honest enough to marry me--_then_," she cried out
bitterly. "Your sense of honour would attend to all that. You--"

"Stop!" he commanded, standing over her as she shrank back against the
wall. "Do you think that I love you so little that I could--Love? Is that
the kind of love that you have been extolling to the skies?"

She covered her flaming face with her hands. "Forgive me, forgive me!" she
murmured, brokenly. "I am so ashamed of myself."

He was profoundly moved. A great pity for her swept through him. "I shall
not come again," he said hoarsely. "I will be fair. You are right. You see
more clearly than I can see. I must not come to you again unless I come to
ask you to be my wife. You are right. We would go mad with--"

"Listen to me, Braden," she interrupted in a strangely quiet manner. "I
shall never ask you to come to me. If you want me you must ask me to come
to you. I will come. But you are to impose no conditions. You must leave
me to fight out my own battle. My love is so great, so honest, so strong
that it will triumph over everything else. Listen! Let me say this to you
before I send you away from me to-day. Love is relentless. It wrecks
homes, it sends men to the gallows and women to the madhouse. It makes
drunkards, suicides and murderers of noble men and women. It causes men
and women to abandon homes, children, honour--and all the things that
should be dear to them. It impoverishes, corrupts and--defiles. It makes
cowards of brave men and brave men of cowards. The thing we call love has
a thousand parts. It has purity, nobility, grandeur, greed, envy,
lust--everything. You have heard of good women abandoning good husbands for
bad lovers. You have heard of good mothers giving up the children they
worship. You have heard of women and men murdering husbands and wives in
order to remove obstacles from the path of love. One woman whom we both
know recently gave up wealth, position, honour, children,--everything,--to
go down into poverty and disgrace with the man she loved. You know who I
mean. She did it because she could not help herself. Opposed to the evil
that love can do, there is always the beautiful, the sweet, the pure,--and
it is that kind of love that rules the world. But the other kind _is_
love, just the same, and while it does not govern the world, it is none
the less imperial. What I want to say to you is this: while love may
govern the world, the world cannot govern love. You cannot govern this
love you have for me, although you may control it. Nor can I destroy the
love I have for you. I may not deserve your love, but I have it and you
cannot take it away from me. Some other woman may rob me of it, perhaps,
but you cannot do it, my friend. I will wait for you to come and get me,
Braden. Now, go,--please go,--and do not come here again until--" she smiled
faintly.

He lowered his head. "I will not come again, Anne," he said huskily.

She did not follow him to the door.




CHAPTER XXIX


Anne left town about the middle of June and did not return until late in
September. She surprised every one who knew her by going to Nova Scotia,
where she took a cottage in one of the quaint old coast towns. Lutie and
George and the baby spent the month of August with her. Near the close of
their visit, Anne made an announcement that, for one day at least, caused
them to doubt, very gravely, whether she was in her right mind. George,
very much perturbed, went so far as to declare to Lutie in the seclusion
of their bedroom that night, that Anne was certainly dotty. And the queer
part of it all was that he couldn't, for the life of him, feel sorry about
it!

The next morning they watched her closely, at times furtively, and waited
for her to either renounce the decision of the day before or reveal some
sign that she had no recollection of having made the astounding statement
at all,--in which case they could be certain that she had been a bit
flighty and would be in a position to act accordingly. (Get a specialist
after her, or something like that.) But Anne very serenely discoursed on
the sweetest sleep she had known in years, and declared she was ready for
_anything_, even the twelve-mile tramp that George had been trying so hard
to get her to take with him. Her eyes were brighter, her cheeks rosier
than they had been for months, and, to George's unbounded amazement, she
ate a hearty breakfast with them.

"I have written to Simmy," said she, "and James has posted the letter. The
die is cast. Congratulate me!"

"But, hang it all," cried George desperately, "I still believe you are
crazy, Anne, so--how can I congratulate you? My Lord, girl--"

He stopped short, for Lutie sprang up from the table and threw her arms
around Anne. She kissed her rapturously, all the time gurgling something
into her ear that George could not hear, and perhaps would not have
understood if he had. Then they both turned toward him, shining-eyed and
exultant. An instant later he rushed over and enveloped both of them in
his long, strong arms and shouted out that he was crazy too.

Anne's letter to Simmy was a long one, and she closed it with the
sentence: "You may expect me not later than the twentieth of September."

       *       *       *       *       *

Thorpe grew thin and haggard as the summer wore away; his nerves were in
such a state that he seriously considered giving up his work, for the time
being, at least. The truth was gradually being forced in upon him that his
hand was no longer as certain, no longer as steady as it had been. Only by
exercising the greatest effort of the will was he able to perform the
delicate work he undertook to do in the hospitals. He was gravely alarmed
by the ever-growing conviction that he was never sure of himself. Not that
he had lost confidence in his ability, but he was acutely conscious of
having lost interest. He was fighting all the time, but it was his own
fight and not that of others. Day and night he was fighting something that
would not fight back, and yet was relentless; something that was content
to sit back in its own power and watch him waste his strength and
endurance. Each succeeding hour saw him grow weaker under the strain. He
was fighting the thing that never surrenders, never weakens, never dies.
He was struggling against a mighty, world-old Giant, born the day that
God's first man was created, and destined to live with all God's men from
that time forth: Passion.

Time and again he went far out of his way to pass by the house near
Washington Square, admittedly surreptitious in his movements. On hot
nights he rode down Fifth Avenue on the top of the stages, and always cast
an eye to the right in passing the street in which Anne lived, looking in
vain for lights in the windows of the closed house. And an hundred times a
day he thought of the key that no longer kept company with others at the
end of a chain but lay loose in his trousers' pocket. Times there were
when an almost irresistible desire came upon him to go down there late at
night and enter the house, risking discovery by the servants who remained
in quarters, just for a glimpse of the rooms upstairs she had
described,--her own rooms,--the rooms in which she dreamed of him.

He affected the society of George and Lutie, spending a great deal of his
leisure with them, scorning himself the while for the perfectly obvious
reason that moved him. Automobile jaunts into the country were not
infrequent. He took them out to the country inns for dinner, to places
along the New Jersey and Long Island shores, to the show grounds at Coney
Island. There were times when he could have cursed himself for leading
them to believe that he was interested only in their affairs and not in
this affair of his own; times when he realised to the full that he was
_using_ them to satisfy a certain craving. They were close to Anne in
every way; they represented her by proxy; they had letters from her
written in the far-off town in Canada; she loved them, she encouraged
them, she envied them. And they talked of her,--how they talked of her!

More than all else, George and Lutie personified Love. They represented
love triumphant over all. Their constancy had been rewarded, and the odds
had been great against it. He was contented and happy when near them, for
they gave out love, they radiated it, they lived deep in the heart of it.
He craved the company of these serene, unselfish lovers because they were
brave and strong and inspiring. He fed hungrily on their happiness, and he
honestly tried to pay them for what they gave to him.

He was glad to hear that George was going into a new and responsible
position in the fall,--a six thousand dollar a year job in the office of a
big manufacturing company. He rejoiced not because George was going ahead
so splendidly but because his advancement was a justification of Anne's
faith in her seemingly unworthy brother,--and, moreover, there was
distinctly something to be said for the influence of love.

When George's family departed for the north, Thorpe was like a lost soul.
In the first week of their absence, he found himself more than once on the
point of throwing everything aside and rushing off after them. His
scruples, his principles, his resolutions were shaken in the mighty grasp
of despair. There were to be no more letters, and, worse than all else,
she would not be lonely!

       *       *       *       *       *

One day late in August Simmy Dodge burst in upon him. He had motored in
from Southampton and there was proof that he had not dallied along the
way. His haste in exploding in Thorpe's presence was evidence of an
unrestrained eagerness to have it over with.

"My God!" he shouted, tugging at his goggles with nervous hands from which
he had forgotten to remove his gloves. "You've got to put a stop to this
sort of thing. It can't go on. She must be crazy,--stark, raving crazy. You
must not let her do this--"

"What the devil are you talking about?" gasped Thorpe, acutely alarmed by
the little man's actions, to say nothing of his words, which under other
circumstances might have been at least intelligent.

"Anne! Why, she's--What do you think she's going to do? Or maybe you know
already. Maybe you've put her up to this idiotic--Say, what _do_ you know
about it?" He was glaring at his friend. The goggles rested on the floor
in a far corner of the consultation-room.

"In heaven's name, Simmy, cool off! I haven't the remotest idea of what
you are talking about. What has happened?"

"Nothing has happened yet. And it mustn't happen at all. You've got to
stop her. She has threatened to do it before, and now she comes out flat-
footed and says she's going to do it,--absolutely, irrevocably, positively.
Is that plain enough for you? Absolutely, irrev--"

"Would you mind telling me what she is going to do?"

Simmy sat down rather abruptly and wiped his moist, dust-blackened brow.

"She's going to give away every damned nickel of that money she got from
old Mr. Thorpe,--every damned nickel of it, do you hear? My God! She _is_
crazy, Brady. We've got to put her in a sanitarium--or torium--as soon as we
can get hold of--Hi! Look out!"

Thorpe had leaped forward and was shaking him furiously by the shoulders.
His eyes were wide and gleaming.

"Say that again! Say it again!" he shouted.

"Say it, damn you, Simmy! Can't you see that I want you to say it again--"

"Say--it--again," chattered Simmy. "Let go! How the dickens can I say
anything with you mauling me all over the--"

"I'm sorry! I will--try to be sensible--and quiet. Now, go on, old
chap,--tell me all there is to tell." He sank into a chair and leaned
forward, watching every expression that crossed his friend's face--watching
with an intensity that finally got on Simmy's nerves.

"She wrote me,--I got the letter yesterday,--Lordy, what did I do with it?
Never mind. I'll look for it later on. I can remember nearly every word,
so it doesn't matter. She says she has made up her mind to give all that
money to charity. Some darned nonsense about never knowing happiness as
long as she has the stuff in her possession. Absolute idiocy! Wants me to
handle the matter for her. Lawyer, and all that sort of thing, you see. I
know what the game is, and so do you. She'd sooner have you than all that
money. By Gosh! I--here's something I never thought of before." He paused
and wiped his brow, utter bewilderment in his eyes. "It has just occurred
to me that I'd sooner have Anne than all the money I've got. I've said
that to myself a thousand times and--But that has nothing to do with the
case. Lordy, it gave me a shock for a second or two, though. Seems to
knock my argument all to smash. Still there _is_ a difference. I didn't
_earn_ my money. Where was I? Oh, yes,--er--she's got the idea into her head
that she can never be anything to you until she gets rid of that money.
Relief fund! Red Cross! Children's Welfare! Tuberculosis camps! All of
'em! Great snakes! Every nickel! Can you beat it? Now, there's just one
way to stop this confounded nonsense. You can do it, and you've got to
come to the mark."

Thorpe was breathing fast, his eyes were glowing. "But suppose that I fail
to regard it as confounded nonsense. Suppose--"

"Will you marry Anne Thorpe if she gives up this money?" demanded Simmy
sharply.

"That has nothing to do with Anne's motives," said Thorpe grimly. "She
wants to give it up because it is burning her soul, Simmy."

"Rats! You make me sick, talking like that. She is giving it up for your
sake and not because her soul is even uncomfortably hot. Now, I want to
see you two patch things up, cut out the nonsense, and get married,--but I
don't intend to see Anne make a fool of herself if I can help it. That
money is Anne's. The house is hers. The--By the way, she says she intends
to _keep_ the house. But how in God's name is she going to maintain it if
she hasn't a dollar in the world? Think the Red Cross will help her when
she begins to starve down there--"

"I shall do nothing to stop her, Simmy," said Thorpe firmly. "If she has
made up her mind to give all that money to charity, it is her affair, not
mine. God knows the Red Cross Society and the Relief Funds need it now
more than ever before. I'll tell you what I think of Anne Tresslyn's
sacri--"

"Anne Thorpe, if you please."

"She _hates_--do you hear?--_hates_ the money that my grandfather gave to
her. It hurts her in more ways than you can ever suspect. Her honour, her
pride, her peace of mind--all of them and more. She sold me out, and she
hates the price she received. It is something deeper with her than mere--"

"You are wrong," broke in Simmy, suddenly calm. He leaned forward and laid
his hand on Thorpe's knee. "She wants you more than anything else in the
world. You are worth more to her than all the money ever coined. It is no
real sacrifice, the way she feels about it now, but--listen to me! I am not
going to stand idly by and see her make herself as poor as Job's turkey
unless I know--positively know, do you hear,--that she is not to lose out
entirely. You've just got to say one thing or the other, Brady, before
it's too late. If she does all this for you, what will you do for her?"

Thorpe got up from his chair and began pacing the office, his lips
compressed, his eyes lowered. At last he stopped in front of Simmy.

"If I were you, Simmy, I would tell her at once that--it will be of no
avail."

Simmy glowered to the best of his ability. "Have you never asked her to
make this sacrifice? Have you never given her a ray of hope on which--"

"Yes,--I will be honest with you,--I asked her if she _could_ give it up."

"There you are!" said Simmy triumphantly. "I was pretty sure you had said
something--"

"My God, Simmy, I--I don't know what to do," groaned Thorpe, throwing
himself into a chair and staring miserably into the eyes of his friend.

"There is just one thing you are not to do," said the other gently. "You
are not to let her do this thing unless you are prepared to meet her half-
way. If she does her half, you must do yours. I am looking out for her
interests now, old chap, and I mean to see that she gets fair play. You
have no right to let her make this sacrifice unless you are ready to do
your part."

"Then say to her for me that she must keep the money, every penny of it."

Simmy was staggered. "But she--she doesn't want it," he muttered, lamely.
His face brightened. "I say, old boy, why let the measly money stand in
the way? Take her and the money too. Don't be so darned finicky about--"

"Come, come, old fellow," protested Thorpe, eyeing him coldly.

"All right," said Simmy resignedly. "I'll say no more along that line. But
I'm going to make you give her a square deal. This money is hers. She
bargained for it, and it belongs to her. She sha'n't throw it away if I
can help it. I came here to ask you to use your influence, to help me and
to help her. You say that she is to keep the money. That means--there's no
other chance for her?"

"She knows how I feel about it," said Thorpe doggedly.

"I'll tell her just what you've said. But suppose that she insists on
going ahead with this idiotic scheme of hers? Suppose she really hates the
money and wants to get rid of it, just as she says? Suppose this is no
part of a plan to reconcile--Well, you see what I mean. What then? What's
to become of her?"

"I don't know," said Thorpe dully. "I don't know."

"She will be practically penniless, Brady. Her mother will not help her.
God, how Mrs. Tresslyn will rage when she hears of this! Lordy, Lordy!"

Thorpe leaned back in the chair and covered his eyes with his hands. For a
long time he sat thus, scarcely breathing. Simmy watched him in
perplexity.

"It would be awful to see Anne Tresslyn penniless," said the little man
finally, a queer break in his voice. "She's a fair fighter, my boy. She
doesn't whimper. She made her mistake and she's willing to pay. One
couldn't ask more than that of any one. It means a good deal for her to
chuck all this money. I don't want her to do it. I'm fond of her, Brady.
I, for one, can't bear the thought of her going about in rummy old clothes
and--well, that's just what it will come to--unless she marries some one
else."

The hands fell from Thorpe's eyes suddenly. "She will not marry any one
else," he exclaimed. "What do you mean? What have you heard? Is there--"

"My Lord, you don't expect the poor girl to remain single all the rest of
her life just to please you, do you?" roared Simmy, springing to his feet.
"You must not forget that she is young and very beautiful and she'll
probably be very poor. And God knows there are plenty of us who would like
to marry her!" He took a turn or two up and down the room and then stopped
before Thorpe, in whose eyes there was a new and desperate anxiety, born
of alarm. "She wants me to arrange matters so that she can begin turning
over this money soon after she comes down in September. She hasn't touched
the principal. If she sticks to her intention, I'll have to do it. Here is
her letter. I'll read it to you. George and Lutie know everything, and she
is writing to her mother, she says. Not a word about you, however. Now,
listen to what she says, and--for God's sake, _do something_!"




CHAPTER XXX


Anne's strictest injunction to Simmy Dodge bore upon the anonymity of the
contributions to the various specified charities. Huge sums were to be
delivered at stated intervals, covering a period of six months. At the end
of that period she would have contributed the whole of her fortune to
charity and, through its agencies, to humanity. The only obligation
demanded in return from any of these organisations was a pledge of
secrecy, and from this pledge there was to be no release until such time
as the donor herself announced her willingness to make public the nature
and extent of her benefactions. It was this desire to avoid publicity that
appealed most strongly to Thorpe. As for poor Simmy,--he could not
understand it at all.

Grimly, Anne's lover refused to interfere with her plans. He went about
his work from that day on, however, with a feverish eagerness and zest,
and an exaltation that frequently lifted him to a sort of glory that he
could neither define nor deny. There were moments when he slipped far back
into the depths, and cursed himself for rejoicing in the sacrifice she was
apparently so willing to make. And at such times he found that he had to
resist an impulse that was almost overwhelming in its force: the impulse
to rush down to her and cry out that the sacrifice was not necessary!

Mrs. Tresslyn came to see him shortly after Anne's return to the city. She
was humble. When she was announced, he prepared himself for a bitter
scene. But she was not bitter, she was not furious; on the contrary, she
was gentler than he had ever known her to be.

"If you do not take her now, Braden," she said in the course of their
brief interview, "I do not know what will become of her. I blame myself
for everything, of course. It was I who allowed her to go into that
unhappy business of getting Mr. Thorpe's money, and I _am_ to blame. I
should have allowed her to marry you in the beginning. I should not have
been deceived by the cleverness of your amiable grandfather. But, you see
I counted on something better than this for her. I thought,--and she
thought as well,--that she could one day have both you and the money. It is
a pretty hard thing to say, isn't it? I saw her to-day. She is quite
happy,--really it seems to me she was radiantly happy this morning. Simmy
has arranged for the first instalment of five hundred thousand dollars to
be paid over to-morrow. She herself has selected the securities that are
to make up this initial payment. They are the best of the lot, Simmy tells
me. In a few months she will be penniless. I don't know what is to become
of her, Braden, if you do not take her when all this absurd business is
over. You love her and she loves you. Both of you should hate me, but
Anne, for one, does not. She is sorrier for me than she is for herself. Of
course, you are to understand one thing, Braden." She lifted her chin
proudly. "She may return to me at any time. My home is hers. She shall
never want for anything that I am able to give her. She is my daughter
and--well, you are to understand that I shall stand by her, no matter what
she does. I have but one object in coming to see you to-day. I need not
put it into words."

A few days later Simmy came in, drooping. "Well, the first half-million is
gone. Next month another five hundred thousand goes. I hope you are happy,
Brady."

"I hope Anne is happy," was all that Thorpe said in response.

       *       *       *       *       *

No word came to him from Anne. She was as silent as the sphinx. Not a day
passed that did not find him running eagerly,--hopefully,--through his mail,
looking for the letter he hoped for and was sure that eventually she would
write to him. But no letter came. The only news he had of her was obtained
through Simmy, who kept him acquainted with the progress of his client's
affairs, forgetting quite simply the admonition concerning secrecy.

Thorpe virtually abandoned his visits to the home of the young Tresslyns.
He had them out to dinner and the theatre occasionally. They talked quite
freely with him about the all-important topic, and seemed not to be
unhappy or unduly exercised over the step Anne had taken. In fact, George
was bursting with pride in his sister. Apparently he had no other thought
than that everything would turn out right and fair for her in the end. But
the covert, anxious, analysing look in Lutie's eyes was always present and
it was disconcerting.

He avoided the little flat in which he had spent so many happy, and in a
sense profitable hours, and they appreciated his reason for doing so. They
kept their own counsel. He had no means of knowing that Anne Thorpe's
visits were but little more frequent than his.

Anne's silence, her persistent aloofness, began to irritate him at last.
Weeks had passed since her return to the city and she had given no sign.
He had long since ceased his sly pilgrimages to the neighbourhood of
Washington Square. Now as the days grew shorter and the nights infinitely
longer, he was conscious, first, of a distinct feeling of resentment
toward her, and later on of an acute sense of uneasiness. The long, dreary
hours of darkness fed him with reflections that kept him awake most of the
night, and only his iron will held his hand and nerves steady during the
days between the black seasons. The theatre palled on him, books failed to
hold his attention, people annoyed him. He could not concentrate his
thoughts on study; his mind was forever journeying. What was she doing?
Every minute of the day he was asking that question of himself. It was in
the printed pages of the books he read; it was on the lips of every
lecturer he listened to; it was placarded on every inch of scenery in the
theatre,--always: "Where is she to-night? What is she doing?"

And then, at last, one cold, rainy night in late November he resumed his
stealthy journeys to lower Fifth Avenue atop of the stage, protected by a
thick ulster and hidden as well as he could be in the shelter of a rigidly
grasped umbrella. Alighting in front of the Brevoort, he slunk rather than
sauntered up the Avenue until he came to the cross-town street in which
she lived,--in which he once had lived. It was a fair night for such an
adventure as this. There were but few people abroad. The rain was falling
steadily and there was a gusty wind. He had left his club at ten o'clock,
and all the way down the Avenue he was alone on the upper deck of the
stage. Afterwards he chuckled guiltily to himself as he recalled the odd
stare with which the conductor favoured him when he jestingly inquired if
there was "any room aloft."

Walking down the street toward Sixth Avenue, he peered out from beneath
the umbrella as he passed his grandfather's house across the way. There
were lights downstairs. A solitary taxi-cab stood in front of the house.
He quickened his pace. He did not want to charge himself with spying. A
feeling of shame and mortification came over him as he hurried along; his
face burned. He was not acting like a man, but as a love-sick, jealous
school-boy would have behaved. And yet all the way up Sixth Avenue to
Fifty-ninth Street,--he walked the entire distance,--he wondered why he had
not waited to see who came forth from Anne's house to enter the taxi-cab.

For a week he stubbornly resisted the desire to repeat the trip down-town.
In the meantime, Simmy had developed into a most unsatisfactory informant.
He suddenly revealed an astonishing streak of uncommunicativeness, totally
unnatural in him and tantalising in the extreme. He rarely mentioned
Anne's name and never discussed her movements. Thorpe was obliged to
content himself with an occasional word from Lutie,--who was also painfully
reticent,--and now and then a scrap of news in the society columns of the
newspapers. Once he saw her in the theatre. She was with other people, all
of whom he knew. One of them was Percy Wintermill. He began on that night
to hate Wintermill. The scion of the Wintermill family sat next to Anne
and there was nothing in his manner to indicate that he had resigned
himself to defeat in the lists.

If Anne saw him she did not betray the fact. He waited outside for a
fairer glimpse of her as she left the theatre. What he saw at close range
from his carefully chosen position was not calculated to relieve his mind.
She appeared to be quite happy. There was nothing in her appearance or in
her manner to indicate that she suffered,--and he _wanted_ her to suffer as
he was suffering. That night he did not close his eyes.

He had said to her that he would never marry her even though she gave up
the money she had received from his grandfather, and she had said--how well
he remembered!--that if George was worth thirty thousand dollars to Lutie,
which was her _all_,--he was worth two millions to her, and her _all_. She
was paying for him now, just as Lutie had paid for George, only in Lutie's
case there was the assurance that the sacrifice would bring its own
consolation and reward. Anne was going ahead blindly, trusting to an
uncertainty. She had his word for it that the sacrifice would bring no
reward through him, and yet she persisted in the vain enterprise. She had
likened herself, in a sense, to Lutie, and now he was beginning to think
of himself as he had once thought of George Tresslyn!

He recalled his pitying scorn for the big, once useless boy during that
long period of dog-like watchfulness over the comings and goings of the
girl he loved. He had felt sorry for him and yet pleased with him. There
was something admirable in the stubborn, drunken loyalty of George
Tresslyn,--a loyalty that never wavered even though there was no such thing
as hope ahead of him.

As time went on, Thorpe, the sound, sober, indomitable Thorpe,--began to
encourage himself with the thought that he too might sink to the
extremities through which George had passed,--and be as simple and as firm
in his weakness as the other had been! He too might stand in dark places
and watch, he too might slink behind like a thing in the night. Only in
his case the conditions would be reversed. He would be fighting conviction
and not hope, for he knew he had but to walk into Anne's presence and
speak,--and the suspense would be over. She was waiting for him. It was he
who would have to surrender, not she.

He fought desperately with himself; the longing to see her, to be near
her, to test his vaunted self-control, never for an instant subsided. He
fought the harder because he was always asking himself why he fought at
all. Why should he not take what belonged to him? Why should he deny
himself happiness when it was so much to be desired and so easy to obtain?

But always when he was nearest to the breaking point, and the rush of
feeling was at flood, there crept up beside him the shadow that threatened
his very existence and hers. He had taken the life of her husband. He had
no right to her. Down in his heart he knew that there was no moral ground
for the position he took and from which he could not extricate himself. He
had committed no crime. There had been no thought of himself in that
solemn hour when he delivered his best friend out of bondage. Anne had no
qualms, and he knew her to be a creature of fine feelings. She had always
revolted against the unlovely aspects of life, and all this despite the
claim she made that love would survive the most unholy of oppressions.
What was it then that _he_ was afraid of? What was it that made him hold
back while love tugged so violently, so persistently at his heart-strings?

At times he had flashes of the thing that created the shadow, and it was
then that he grasped, in a way, the true cause of his fears. Back of
everything he realised there was the most uncanny of superstitions. He
could not throw off the feeling that his grandfather, in his grave, still
had his hand lifted against his marriage with Anne Tresslyn; that the
grim, loving old man still regarded himself as a safeguard against the
connivings of Anne!

His common sense, of course, resisted this singular notion. He had but to
recall his grandfather's praise of Anne just before he went to his death.
Surely that signified an altered opinion of the girl, and no doubt there
was in his heart during those last days of life, a very deep, if puzzled,
admiration for her. And yet, despite the conviction that his grandfather,
had he been pressed for a definite statement would have declared himself
as being no longer opposed to his marriage with Anne, there still remained
the fact that he had gone to his grave without a word to show that he
regarded his experiment as a failure. And he had gone to his grave in a
manner that left no room for doubt that his death was to stand always as
an obstacle in the path of the lovers. There were times when Braden Thorpe
could have cursed his grandfather for the cruel cunning to which he had
resorted in the end.

He could not free himself of the ridiculous, distorted and oft-recurring
notion that his grandfather was watching him from beyond the grave, nor
were all his scientific convictions sufficient to dispel the fear that men
live after death and govern the destinies of those who remain.

But through all of these vain struggles, his love for Anne grew stronger,
more overpowering. He was hollow-eyed and gaunt, ravenous with the hunger
of love. A spectre of his former self, he watched himself starve with
sustenance at hand. Bountiful love lay within his grasp and yet he
starved. Full, rich pastures spread out before him wherein he could roam
to the end of his days, blissfully gorging himself,--and yet he starved.
And Anne, who dwelt in those elysian pastures, was starving too!

Once more he wavered and again he fell. He found himself at midnight
standing at the corner above Anne's home, staring at the darkened
unresponsive windows. Three nights passed before he resumed the hateful
vigil. This time there were lights. And from that time on, he went almost
nightly to the neighbourhood of Washington Square, regardless of weather
or inconvenience. He saw her come and go, night after night, and he saw
people enter the house to which he held a key,--always he saw from obscure
points of vantage and with the stealth and caution of a malefactor.

He came to realise in course of time that she was not at peace with
herself, notwithstanding a certain assumption of spiritedness with which
she fared into the world with others. At first he was deceived by
appearances, but later on he knew that she was not the happy, interested
creature she affected to be when adventuring forth in search of pleasure.
He observed that she tripped lightly down the steps on leaving the house,
and that she ascended them slowly, wearily, almost reluctantly on her
return, far in the night. He invariably waited for the lights to appear in
the shaded windows of her room upstairs, and then he would hurry away as
if pursued. Once, after roaming the streets for two hours following her
return to the house, he wended his way back to the spot from which he had
last gazed at her windows. To his surprise the lights were still burning.
After that he never left the neighbourhood until he saw that the windows
were dark, and more often than otherwise the lights did not go out until
two or three o'clock in the morning. The significance of these nightly
indications of sleeplessness on her part did not escape him.

Bitterly cold and blustering were some of the nights. He sought warmth and
shelter from time to time in the near-by cafes, always returning to his
post when the call became irresistible. It was his practice to go to the
cheap and lowly cafes, places where he was not likely to be known despite
his long residence in the community. He did not drink. It had, of course,
occurred to him that he might find solace in resorting to the cup that
cheers, but never for an instant was he tempted to do so. He was too
strong for that!

Curiosity led him one night to the restaurant of Josiah Wade. He did not
enter, but stood outside peering through the window. It was late at night
and old Wade was closing the place. A young woman whom Thorpe took to be
his wife was chatting amiably with a stalwart youth near the cash
register. He did not fail to observe the furtive, shifty glances that Wade
shot out from under his bushy eyebrows in the direction of the couple.

He knew, through Simmy, that the last of Templeton Thorpe's money would
soon pass from Anne's hands. A million and a half was gone. The time for
the last to go was rapidly approaching. She would soon be poorer than when
she entered upon the infamous enterprise. There would still remain to her
the house in which she lived. It was not a part of the purchase price. It
was outside of the bargain she had made, and the right to sell it was
forbidden her. But possesion of it was a liability rather than an asset.
He wondered what she would do when it came down to the house in which she
lived.

Again and again he apostrophized himself as follows: "My God, what am I
coming to? Is this madness? Am I as George Tresslyn was, am I no nobler
than he? Or was he noble in spite of himself, and am I noble in the same
sense? If I am mad with love, if I am weak and accursed by consequences,
why should not she be weaker than I? She is a woman. I am--or was--a man.
Why should I sink to such a state as this and she remain brave and strong
and resolute? She keeps away from me, why should I not stay away from her?
God knows I have tried to resist this thing that she resists, and what
have I come to? A street loafer, a spy, a sneak, a dog without a master.
She is doing a big thing, and I am doing the smallest thing that man can
do. She loves me and longs for me and--Oh, what damned madness is it that
brings me to loving her and longing for her and yet makes of me a thing so
much less worthy than she?" And so on by the hour, day and night, he
cursed himself with questions.

       *       *       *       *       *

The end came swiftly, resistlessly. She paused at the bottom of the steps
as the automobile slid off into the chill, windy night. For the first time
in all his vigil, he noted the absence of the footman who always ran up
the steps ahead of her to open the door. She was alone to-night. This had
never happened before. Mystified, he saw her slowly ascend the steps and
pause before the door. Her body drooped wearily. He waited long for her to
press the electric button which had taken the place of the ancient knob
that jangled the bell at the far end of the hall. But she remained
motionless for what seemed to him an interminable time, and then, to his
consternation, she leaned against the door and covered her face with her
hands.

A great weight suddenly was lifted from his soul; a vast exaltation drove
out everything that had been oppressing him for so long. He was free! He
was free of the thing that had been driving him to death. Joy, so
overwhelming in its rush that he almost collapsed as it assailed him,
swept aside every vestige of resistance,--and, paradox of paradoxes,--made a
man of him! He was a man and he would--But even as his jaw set and his body
straightened in its old, dominant strength, she opened the door and passed
into the dim hall beyond.

He was half across the street when the door closed behind her, but he did
not pause. His hand came from his pocket and in his rigid fingers he held
the key to his home--and hers.

At the bottom of the steps he halted. The lights in the drawing-room had
been switched on. The purpose that filled him now was so great that he
waited long there, grasping the hand rail, striving to temper his new-
found strength to the gentleness that was in his heart. The fight was
over, and he had won--the man of him had won. She was in that room where
the lights were,--waiting for him. The moment was not far off when she
would be in his arms. He was suffocating with the thought of the nearness
of it all!

He mounted the steps. As he came to the top, the door was opened and Anne
stood there in the warm light of the hall,--a slender, swaying figure in
something rose-coloured and--and her lips were parted in a wondering,
enchanted smile. She held out her arms to him.

THE END




TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES

1. Punctuation has been normalized to contemporary standards.
2. Frontispiece relocated after copyright page.
3. Table of Contents added.
4. Typographic errors corrected in original:
   p. 102 heared to hearted ("loyal, warm-hearted, enduring creature")
   p. 193 snovel to snivel ("choke and snivel softly")
   p. 215 unforgetable to unforgettable ("that unforgettable day")
   p. 439 "Her saw her" to "He saw her" ("He saw her come and go")
   p. 440 possesion to possession ("possession of it was a liability")





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