Page images


known her ever since they were children and selected a single rose, half-blown and together. He should stay on as a neighbor, firm-stemmed, and set it in the middle of not as a rejected suitor. So she had ac- the table. The great bowl was removed quiesced with a smile, and had ordered to the side of the room. dinner for them in her sitting-room. The Her eyes studied the effect happily - the thought of taking him into the din of single flower in its straight glass. dishes and voices that made up the college Suddenly she glanced at him with a dining-room was not to be contemplated. half-embarrassed smile.

The little maid set out the table before "I know you think I am silly to care the fire and laid the cloth and brought in about a little thing like that." the tray and disappeared; and Gabrielle "Why should n't you care? The world Eaton found herself facing her suitor is made up of little things." He spoke across the table with a curious sense of with a serene common sense, the tolerance domestic intimacy she had not counted on. of a man who allows for foibles, and she

She had put out a sign that would pre- felt he had not a glimmer of understandvent their being disturbed for the half- ing of the feeling that had urged her. He hour he might stay. She had assured her- accepted the change courteously, as he self it could not be longer than half an would accept anything she chose to do; hour. She counted on his being safely out but he would never know the fierce insistof the way before her girls came for the ence for perfection that had driven her to evening talk by the fire.

it, that drove her always. He liked her She was aware of a desire to free the room, she knew. She had noted the quiet room of his presence. There was some- glance he threw about him as he came in. thing disturbing in the big man who sat But he could never comprehend the seso easily opposite her, looking apprecia- vere, almost religious zeal that had gone tively about the room, at the book-lined to make it what it was, so perfect that walls and the bits of soft color and the not a line could be altered without mar.

ring it. Sometimes, it is true, there were even now days of upheaval; but they had become rare. Almost the only things that changed from day to day were the flowers her girls sent her, or a parcel of new books from the shop; and even these must keep

their place for the beauty of the whole. E

All this played like an undercurrent beneath the surface of talk. She was subtly aware of a force stirring in her room. Something seemed to break and give a little, and she found herself looking anxiously behind her. All her familiar

treasures were safe in place. "They had gone for a long walk”

They talked of life in Dalton, the home

town where they had grown up together, great dish of roses in the center of the and of acquaintances and friends; and the table. He moved a hand to them.

little maid reappeared and carried away "Wonderful color!” he said.

the great tray; and still John Fairchild “Yes; one of my girls brought them. had made no move to go. They are really too many for this small Voices were sounding in the hall; they table.” She looked at them critically. paused outside her door, and came softly "If you don't mind my getting up?" through the closed panels. He nodded with amused glance.

"She 's engaged! What a shame!" She brought a slender, clear-glass vase Then the voices drifted away, and John Fairchild's eye twinkled a little. His fin- “I should like to take you away from gers had barely touched the end of the it all," he said. cigar that rested in his waistcoat pocket. “From this !” She made a quick moveHe glanced about him with a little shake ment, almost a gesture of protection, to

ward the room. "I thought we had settled all that." She spoke a little stiffly.

"No,"-he removed his cigar and looked thoughtfully at the tip,-"we did n't settle everything, did we?"

“But you understood—” She lifted a swift look to him.

"I understood, yes. You will not marry



“Selected a single rose”

The fire blazed suddenly, and a crash of sparks went scurrying up the chimney. She leaned forward to adjust the sticks. It surprised her to see that her hand, reaching to the tongs, was trembling.

“Let me do it,” he said.

She relinquished the tongs, and he replaced the wood, busying himself with building a skilful pyre of sticks through which the flames played. He kept the tongs in his hands, bending forward to the hearth, his back a little turned.

“I meant what I said,” he remarked quietly.


"Just now. I want to get you out of this.” He was studying the fire thoughtfully

of the head and settled more comfortably in his chair.

Her quick glance noted the movement with a look of surprise. He was evidently expecting to stay! But the quiet restfulness in his face touched some chord in her, and she moved the drop-light a little and took up the knitting that lay beside it.

“Would you like to smoke?” she asked casually.

“Here?" He cast a humorous glance behind him, and she smiled.

"It is permitted," she said dryly.

"Gracious lady!” He leaned forward with a match to the hearth, and the smoke from his lighted cigar drifted slowly up.

It touched the books, brushing carelessly along the leather bindings and obscuring gilt letters and titles; it circled about Gabrielle Eaton and even seemed to tangle itself in the needles and the light wool that played about them in the firelight; and mounting to the ceiling, it grew tenuous and disappeared.

And John Fairchild watched it with a quiet smile.

The drop-light shadowed her face; but the firelight was playing on it as it bent above her needles.

Presently she looked up.
He nodded quietly.


"She's engaged! What a shame!”

Her work dropped to her lap.
"What do you mean, John?”

"I don't see why I have left you here so long," he said impatiently.



She stared her surprise, and a little fear She motioned to the door. "When I think of him had come into her look.

of them it seems worth while. You could The man's strong face had turned and never guess the waste there is in a place was watching her. Then he seemed to like this—the wicked waste of it!" She put himself and his wishes aside.

caught her breath. "Do you like it? Do you like all this?"

" "Tell me," he said gently. He waved his hand at the self-contained And while she told him he listened with room, and the gesture seemed to include close attention, smoking thoughtfully. the campus and the college world outside. And his thought ran ahead and seemed to "Do you like it?” he demanded. “Does meet her at every turn. His comprehenit satisfy you?"

sion startled her. She shook her head with a smile. Some


"You do understand !" she cried. thing that had frightened her for a mo- "I understand business. I know when ment in his face had disappeared.

a plant is behind the times," he said dryly. “No, I don't like it-altogether; but I "And there is nothing I can do, so I do not know anything I should like bet- live with my girls. That at least is worth ter."

while - what I give and receive from "Think!” he said. "Be a sport! What them." would you choose, in all the world, if you They were silent a little. could have it?"

"You might start one of your own,” he She leaned forward.

suggested. "In all the world !” she repeated softly. "One what?" He nodded.

“College." “Would

like to travel ?”

She laughed shortly. "Travel? No." She

"Why not? I will brushed it aside.

finance it. If I cannot "Well, then, what?

have you, my money is You won't marry me,

of no particular value. nor any man, I suppose."

All you can do with He was watching her

money is to buy pictures face. “What is it you

or endow a hospital or a want?"

college. I'd rather enShe moved vaguely.

dow you." "Why should I tell

She gazed at the you?" she murmured.

vision a minute. Then "Because I love you,"

she shook her head. he retorted in a matter

"It would n't be fair." of-fact tone.

“Oh, I am not altoShe flushed slightly.

gether unselfish." “That is n't a

She cast a swift look

at him. Again the voices hov

"You would make ered outside her door,

terms?” with a sound of protest, * Bending forward to the hearth, "Don't most millionand moved away.

his back a little turned”

aires make terms?" "You don't even have

"Yes, unless they 're an evening you can call your own." He dead. Sometimes they do even then," she motioned to the closed door.

said regretfully. Her lips parted.

“I 'll make only one term. This insti"You don't understand."

tution" “I am trying to."

She held up her hands, protesting. "They are all that makes it endurable." "Well, school, college, whatever you










choose to call it, must be located in Dal- "Oh, no, not in the least like it!" she

cried. Her breath came with a cry of pleasure. He looked up, surprised. She caught "But I should love that!"

herself. "So should I. So that 's settled." He “It was reading it that gave me an idea. beamed on her, and she felt strangely And when I went to get it just now I had shaken from the things about her. She - another idea." seemed to be gazing through some win- "Yes?” He was feeling absently in his dow into a serene bit of country where pocket for a pencil. through the trees a little river went its She watched his fingers nervously. glimmering way.

Only the memory She turned and looked at the man across

of the mirror held the hearth.

her. She threw "You really love me, don't you?" she

out her hands a litsaid wonderingly.

tle impatiently. "I really do," he replied in a matter

"I did n't know of-fact tone. "Have you thought out

you cared-like your plans? Do you know what you

that!" she said. want--buildings, laboratories, and all

She crossed to

her chair and sat She seemed still wrapped in the dream.

down, facing him "I don't know-yes. I was reading

almost sternly. something the other day -" She got up

He stared at her. and crossed to a stand for a book. She

Then he got up knew where it lay, and her hand reached

and out to it, and paused. Her back was to

slowly. the man by the fire. But as she lifted her

“What do you eyes to the Florentine mirror above the

Caught a glimpse

mean, Gabrielle ?" stand she caught a glimpse of his face of his face"

He seemed very turned to her. There was hunger in it,

tall as she looked and a look of quick suffering; all the busi

She put up a hand. nesslike indifference was swept away. She “I'd like a school of my own better stood for a moment staring at it. Then than this,”—she moved her hand a little, her glance dropped to the book in her - "but more than anything in the world hand, and she stood turning the leaves I want love." She said it swiftly under idly. Wave after wave of unknown feel- her breath. ing swept over her, lifting her, engulfing "But I-I-love you!" He was clearly her. The look in his face! She longed to bewildered. He held himself in check. take it in her hands and smooth it away- "I love you," he repeated. “I have n't all the pain and repression in it. Not one done anything but tell you so for the last of her girls, with eager questing for life, month. ” had stirred her as that glimpse of a man's “Oh-telling!" It was a little assent face in the mirror on her wall.

of scorn. She turned slowly, and faced the suc- Again the swift look she had seen becessful man of business.

fore swept his face, and she felt the grip She crossed to him quietly.

of his hands on her shoulders. "This is the book,” she said.

She winced a little. Then she smiled, He reached out a hand for it.

and the grip lightened. With new eyes she saw that it was "I am hurting you,” he cried. not quite steady as it reached to her.

Don't you know I want to be hurt? You want something like this?" he What is life for ?" asked absently.

She reached up to his face and drew it


up to him.


down to her, and all the wontedness of foolish !" She said it with a little restful life seemed breaking up. She brushed a sigh. swift hand across her eyes.

“So you don't want your school ?" His His own searched them, unbelieving. face was turned to her. "You-care!” he said under his breath. “Of course I want it-more than ever!

She nodded. A little smile came to her We will have it together. I need you for eyes.

it." A sudden thought touched her, and "You-slow-incomprehensible crea- she looked at him. ture !” she murmured.

"Do you know, I think I have been im"I! Slow! Well!" He was looking mensely selfish," she said slowly. "I have down at her with humorous eyes as he not for one moment thought of anything drew her toward him.

but myself and what I want!" "And I might never have known!" she His answer was not perhaps what she said softly. She glanced toward the mir- expected. He bent to her and kissed her. ror on the wall. "Looking-glass, looking- Then his glance traveled about the perglass, that hangeth on the wall"

fect room and he smiled. “Whom in the wide world do love "Now you will be selfish for me," he best of all?" he quoted slowly. "I used said. “I may not always be able to live to read it to you, Gabrielle, when we were up to your selfishness; but I want it." children.”

And all the perfect room seemed a little She nodded.

shocked. But Gabrielle Eaton laughed "All children love it. I have been so quietly.


[graphic][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »