Oldalképek
PDF

aroused; and even the weight of such an influential politician as Mr. Henry McFarland was unable to crush the opposition which threatened to break the Democratic strength. The fact that McFarland's wife had been confined in an institution for the hopelessly insane earned for that gentleman the opprobrium of Henry the Eighth; and it was hinted, not only that the Governor had broken faith with his Church, but that his political honor was not above suspicion.

It was felt by Republican leaders that a crisis had presented itself which gave their party a chance for reinstatement; for while McFarland and his colleagues were strong enough to keep a fresh candidate from acquiring control in their own party, they were unable to influence a number of individuals who loudly acclaimed their disapproval of the present Governor's pretension to another term. It therefore seemed not only possible, but highly probable that, should the Republican nominee prove popular personally, he would stand an excellent chance.

To men like Leigh Vane, the present opportunity led to a hope, not only that his party would win the coming election, but that a man of ideals and vision could do much more than hold down the office — he could lead the state back to the Republican majority which a fairly recent invasion of foreign labor had temporarily overthrown. But it would need a man who firmly believed in his party to accomplish this, — not a mere opportunist, — and it would take a man of great personal integrity and sincerity, quite apart from his political persuasion, to induce the wavering element to come over to his side. Of the present aspirants to the nomination, three names stood out more and more prominently as the date for decision approached. These were Bernard Fabian, Edward Joyce, and Leigh Vane.

Fabian was one of the largest employers of labor in the state; he was a self-made man, who had worked his way up in one of the woolen mills that he now controlled.

Joyce was the more usual type. He had been through the political mill, and had given up a profitable law practice to enter politics.

Though not a capitalist like Fabian, Vane came of people who had always belonged to the moneyed class. They were also people who had served their country in various branches. His grandfather had held the rank of colonel in the Civil War, where his name was still remembered in the homes of men who had composed his regiment. His son, Leigh's father, was concluding his useful if not brilliant term as United States Senator at the time of his death. Leigh himself had been brought up in the traditions of Republicanism, and several of the big men of the party had been his personal friends from childhood. But his present strength lay far less in these affiliations than in the esteem in which the influential men of his own state held him. Orphaned and well-to-do, he had chosen a life of rigorous work on a newspaper, where he had never attempted to score personally, but had given freely of himself to the good of the cause. A year before, he had been requested to contest the Congressional seat of his district, and for a while he had been greatly tempted; but he had proved himself big enough not to risk splitting the slim Republican majority; and he had done such excellent work in upholding the man who might have been his rival, that he was henceforth considered a definite political factor.

Linda had made a point of meeting both Fabian and Joyce, and assured herself that, quite apart from her affection for him, Leigh was far better qualified for the office than either of the others. She was not the kind of woman who would ever be a direct factor in public life, but her influence could be none the less real. Men said things to her, when she expressed a wish to take politics seriously, which they might not have said to so casual a male acquaintance; and she was clever in using the information she received. She secured several bits of political gossip, which were of some value to Vane; and when he told her so, she was conscious of greater enthusiasm for life than she had felt for years. And it was not only in this way that she helped him. He had no one very near to him with whom to discuss the problems that his campaign presented; and not only did Linda's eager interest prevent him from feeling that he was imposing them upon her, but in putting them before her, he put them more clearly to himself. If Linda was a help to him, he proved himself invaluable to her, not only in stimulating her intellect, but in many little crises of her domestic life.

There were, of course, comparatively long stretches of time when they did not see each other at all, but these made them realize how closely their interests were attuned. Perhaps the fact that the whole situation was abnormal made both Linda and Vane slow to realize its normal consequence. Summer burned itself out, and the early autumn brought new political activities, which made frequent meetings impossible.

It was in October, after an interval of some weeks, t hat Vane found an opportunity to dine and spend a quiet evening with Mrs. Mainwaring — the last before his immediate prospects would be determined.

He came down to the country rather early; he wanted to sec the children, he said; and they, enchanted to see him,

swarmed over him, showed him every new acquisition since his last visit, played a series of delightful games with him, and went reluctantly upstairs at their bedtime, bribed by the promise that he would come and help Mummy tuck them up. Linda had been more audience than participant in the games. She was conscious of a queer heartache •when she saw Leigh with her children— a jealousy for them, and a knowledge that he filled a place in their lives she could never fill.

He stood up when they had gone, smoothing his hair with his hands, straightening his tie, which their last mad game had disarranged, and met Linda's eyes. The expression in them hurt him unbearably — it made her look so detached, so apart from his own healthy, ambitious life.

'I should like some air before dinner,' he said. 'Is it too cold for a last look at the garden, do you think, before we say good-night to the children?'

'It's not very cold. This moon brought a frost, and there's nothing left in the garden, but it's delicious there, I know.'

She got up from her chair; he opened one of the long glass doors and followed her out on the terrace; they crossed, and descended some steps. It was dark save for the cold light of the young autumn moon, which cast hard, curious shadows. The garden, surrounded by a great hemlock hedge, had been a riot of color only a few days before; but tonight the flowers in the moonlight appeared dry husks, ghosts of a vanished loveliness.

They were both very quiet; she was thinking that once she had stolen out of the house and danced in this moonlit garden with a vine twisted in her hair, and a man had pursued her and kissed her in the shadow of the hemlock hedge, and she had thought she loved him. Vane was thinking what a little thing a career was, compared to a woman with eyes like that; a woman who needed him more than state or party could ever need him; a woman he wanted far above the laurels of a statesman. They gazed into the blackness of the hemlocks as if they were visualizing there the things they were thinking of— until at last he broke the long silence.

'Linda, my dear — my dear!' And she was in his arms, their lips together in their first communion. And with that kiss she was sealed his; with it she entered her kingdom, the kingdom that had never been hers before. The dancing girl who had been kissed in the garden was no part of the woman in Vane's arms. Harry Mainwaring had captured some excrescence, which her youth had thrown off, but he had never touched the seed of her soul that had matured under Leigh's companionship and blos^somed at his kiss.

He held her until the children's insistent voices penetrated their fastness, when they retraced their steps to the house. Up in the nurseries, the little girls in their night-clothes were eager for another romp, but Leigh was in no mood for it. He was sweet with them, tender even; but it was he who stood apart, a spectator, while they crowded around Linda to say their prayers and be kissed good-night.

At dinner neither of them spoke much, their understanding was too deep, their content too complete, to need words. The dramatic touch, which no woman lacks, enabled Linda to start fitful topics of conversation when the servants were in the room, as their sense of convention led them to make a pretense of eating; but it was a relief to have the meal over and to find themselves again in the drawing-room, free from interruptions.

At half-past nine, when the motor came to take him to the train, they had not begun to say good-night, to discuss

their next meeting, to plan any detail of their future—the present was gloriously sufficient.

'I 'll write you in the morning, Linda; to-night, perhaps, when I get to town. Good-night, my darling—' And he was in the hall, struggling with the overcoat which her old butler was holding for him.

She watched him through a crack in the door, eager to see him, to see his face when he was not aware of her. He pulled a paper from his pocket and wrote upon it hastily. She saw him turn to the servant, and heard him speak.

'Mitten, here's a telegram — get it off for me to-night, will you? I meant to send it from the village, but I can't make my train if I do. You can send it over the telephone, but it must go at once. Thanks awfully.'

And he was gone, after handing the paper to the man. The noise of the motor became louder for a moment, and then died away in the distance.

Linda went back to her big chair beside the fire, almost unconscious of any movement she made. She had ceased to be mere flesh and blood; rather she was a sunlit beach flooded by warm waves of happiness.

The entrance of Mitten aroused her.

'Beg pardon, Miss Linda,' he said — after Harry's departure, he could never bear to call her Mrs. Mainwaring, and had gone back to her girlhood appellation. 'Mr. Vane left a message for me to send over the telephone, but I can't 'ardly make hout 'is 'andwriting. I wondered would you mind, miss, being as 'ow 'e said hit was most himportant?'

'I 'll send it, of course. You can put the lights out here, and I'll telephone the message from my room. Good night, Mitten.'

'Good-night, miss.'

'Lord,' he thought as she went out, 'W 'appy she looks — the way she did before that skunk came foolin' round 'ere.'

Up in her room, Linda found it difficult to concentrate on the mechanical act of forwarding Leigh's message. She sat down by her telephone and smoothed out the paper; but it took several readings for his written words to connect with her mind, which happiness had temporarily drugged.

Then suddenly they and their purport became burned upon her brain. It was addressed to his campaign manager and left unsigned.

'Stop all activities to further my candidacy. Events have arisen which would render it impossible for me to accept the nomination. Throw any influence we can control to Joyce. Will see you to-morrow morning.'

If Linda had lost time through being unable to concentrate her thoughts, she made up for it now. Thoughts, unwelcome and at times confused, rushed through her mind, bearing her down with the weight of their evidence. Leigh was giving up his career because he was pledged to marry her, — Linda Mainwaring, — a divorced woman. She was that in the eyes of the world, though in her own she was divorced, not only from Mainwaring, but from the girl who had married Mainwaring. Had she known Leigh less well, she might have hesitated, might have seen less clearly that, should she marry him, his thwarted career would always prove a barrier between them that even their love could not surmount. But she knew him too intimately to deceive herself; she was fully aware of his ambitions, his convictions as to what a man in his circumstances owed to his country and to his tradition.

It was midnight when her course presented itself to her; so clearly did she see it, and so quickly must she act, that she was only dimly aware of her

emotions. Soon they would claim her, they would engulf her in utter misery and despair; but for the moment, the too swift reaction from her bliss had numbed them.

She opened the door that led from her fire and lamp-lit room to the dark spaciousness of the hall, felt her way along to the servant's portion of the house, and knocked on Mitten's door. The old man opened it cautiously, his gaunt figure and curious, lined face illumined in the dim light which burned on the service stairway.

'Miss Linda, — you're not hill?'

'No, — no, Mitten, — nothing is the matter. I mean, nothing with me. Something has happened which makes it necessary I should get a letter to Mr. Vane early to-morrow morning, — his message was very important, — an answer has come to it. I want you to go to town on the milk train and take it to him yourself; it is very important. Wake Henry and tell him he must take you to the station at five; I'll have the letter for you then, — the letter will be quite ready, — it's very important.'

She was aware that she was repeating herself, that her voice sounded flat and without emphasis; but she gathered from Mitten's concerned replies that he comprehended and would follow out her instructions.

Back in her own room she managed to control her voice sufficiently to send the telegram. Then she was confronted with the necessity for writing the letter — the terrible letter which would keep Leigh from her forever, the lying letter which was in itself a sin against love. She sat at her desk for hours, writing, destroying what she had written, rewriting, drawing aimless lines and little pictures of nothing. It was nearly five o'clock when she folded her completed missive into its envelope and reeled across the room in response to Mitten's knock.

Dear Leigh,

I think I must have been mad tonight — life has been so difficult that at times I have felt utterly defeated, and it was one of those moments, my dear, when you called to me in the garden. All at once it seemed to me possible, because of my deep affection for you, to lay the whole burden of my problems on you. But now I am alone again, I am sane. I care too much for you to be willing that the woman you marry should go to you defeated, wanting only rest and comfort; she shall go to you triumphant, wanting nothing but your love. That part of me is gone forever, burned out by the fire which destroyed my youth—what I gave once I shall never have to give again; and here in this house where so much of my drama has been enacted, I realize that the stage cannot be reset, or the play

ers recast for its conclusion. You have been a loyal, helpful, wonderful friend always; you will not, I am sure, ask me to relinquish that friendship because for a few short hours we mistook it for something else. You have made me more reliant, given me new confidence to meet situations as they arise in my path. It would be a poor return to give you the husk of love; forgive me for offering it, and forget that I once thought it could be made to satisfy you. It would be as impossible to find within myself anything more worthy of you as it would be to recapture summer in my frost-touched garden; but there will still be warm, pleasant days of Indian summer, when our friendship will ripen and deepen.

With every wish always for your success and happiness,

Linda Mainwaring.

PRIME

BY AMY LOWELL

Your voice is like bells over roofs at dawn

When a bird flies

And the sky changes to a fresher color.

Speak, speak, Beloved.

Say little things

For my ears to catch

And run with them to my heart.

« ElőzőTovább »