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Title: Where the Path Breaks
Author: Créspigny, Charles de
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Where the Path Breaks" ***

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WHERE THE PATH BREAKS

By CAPTAIN CHARLES de CRÉSPIGNY

"Only the dark, where the path breaks off and the milestones end."

S. B. GUNDY--TORONTO

PUBLISHER IN CANADA FOR HUMPHREY MILFORD



Copyright, 1916, by

The Century Co.

Published, March, 1916



TO THE

WONDERFUL EYES

NEVER FORGOTTEN



PART I

THE AWAKENING



WHERE THE PATH BREAKS

CHAPTER I


In dim twilight a spark of life glittered, glinted like a bit of mica
catching the sun, on a vast face of gray cliff above a dead gray sea.
There was nothing else in the world but the vastness and the grayness
of the cliff and the sea, till the spark felt the faint thrill of
warmth which gave to it the knowledge of its own life. "I am alive,"
the whisper stirred, far down in the depths of consciousness. Next the
question came, "What am I?"

At first just that infinitesimal bright glint lived where all the rest
was dead, or creation not yet begun. Then slowly the answer followed
the question: "I am I. A man. I was a man. I am dead. This is the
twilight between worlds. I must dream back. I must know myself as I
was. Later I shall wake and know what I am."

The soul was very still, tired after an all-but-forgotten struggle. It
was beginning to remember that it had suffered infinitely. It was
patient, with all the patience of eternity before it. There was no
hurry. Hurry and turmoil seemed strange and remote, part of some
outworn experience. Lying still, it passively waited for the dream to
begin. For a moment--or perhaps years--there remained only the gray
blankness of the empty world; but the spark of life grew in brightness
as a star grows to visibility in the pallor of an evening sky. Then,
suddenly, a face flashed into existence--a girl's face.

"I knew her. I loved her," the soul remembered with a thrill, like a
shooting ray of the star that was itself. "Where? Who was she? What
were we to each other?"

The dream began to take on definiteness. The soul groped back to find
its body and its lost place in the world. Not this gray limbo, but the
sad and happy, the glorious and terrible world whence it had somehow
passed.

The girl's face faded away for an instant, and the face of a man seemed
to be reflected in a blurred mirror. The eyes of the soul looked into
the man's eyes and knew them. They were his own. He was that man, or
had been. "What a dull dog you are," he heard himself say, as if he had
said it long ago, said it often, and the echo had followed him to this
twilit place beyond death. He thought the face was rather like a dog's,
an ugly mongrel dog's. The girl could not possibly care for him! Yet
some one had told him that she did care, and that she would marry him
if he asked. "I'm her mother. I ought to know!" As he heard the woman's
voice speaking the words, he saw the face that belonged to the voice:
the face of a pretty woman, young looking till the girl came near....
The girl had come now! The cream-and-rose tints of her youth made the
other face old. This was rather pathetic. He remembered that it had so
impressed him more than once. Yet he had never been able to like the
mother.

The dream was growing in distinctness. They three--he and the girl and
the woman--were in a house. It was a beautiful old house, in the
country. Outside it was black and white, with elaborate patterns of oak
on plaster. A sheet of water lay so near that the black and white front
was reflected in it, like a dream within a dream. The calm water was
asleep, and dreaming the house; and some great dark trees and clumps of
rhododendrons were dreaming also, which seemed very confusing, and made
him doubt whether there were any such soul as his, or whether after all
he were only the spirit of the water or the trees, and had never known
this girl who was walking with the ugly man. Yet it seemed to be the
ugly man's house, and he knew what the man was thinking. They were one
and the same, at all events in the dream. And though he was out of
doors with the girl, he could see every room in the house as plainly as
he could see the lake and the trees and the pink rhododendrons. He
seemed to pass through each room, one after another, because the girl
was extolling the charm of the house, and his mind moved here and there
following her words, picturing her, white and flower-like against a
dark oak paneling, or old brocade, or hanging of faded tapestry.

Yes, it was a beautiful house. He had that to offer her, and money too.
There were women who would take him because of what he had to give. And
there was something else. What was it? Oh, a title. Not much of a
title. He couldn't believe she would be influenced by a trifle like
that. She was too perfect, too wonderful. A great many men with nobler
titles and more money must have asked her to marry them, or they would
ask her in future; for she was still very young. So far she had never
fallen in love. She had told him so.

"Not seriously in love," she had said, half laughing, and half in
earnest. "There was only my cousin. I adored him when I was child. But
I haven't seen him since I was sixteen. And now I'm twenty-one. He was
most awfully good looking, and I thought he was a knight and a hero.
Perhaps if he came back from India I should be disappointed in him."

Queer that the groping soul should hold an echo of these chance words
about India, though there was none for the name of the cousin, nor even
of the girl herself. This made the awakening man wonder again if the
girl had existed, or whether she lived only in his dreams. It was a
vaguely sweet, vaguely sad dream, which seemed to have ended before it
was fairly begun, with a very sorrowful ending which he couldn't quite
recall yet. He wished to go on dreaming, and to change the end if he
could.

The girl and her mother were visiting the ugly man at the old black and
white house. He--whoever he was--had to go away. He was begging the
girl to stop until he came back. "If I do come back," he added. "Your
mother is willing to stay if you are. It would make me happy to think
of you in my house, and if anything happens to me...."

"Oh, don't speak of such things!" she broke in. "It's terrible that you
must go."

This was very kind of her, because it was not reasonable that she could
really care much--such a girl--for such a man, who had never been able
to interest her, he felt. But she looked at him, looked up mistily with
her dear eyes of smoke-blue. There was some message in them, behind a
glaze of tears.

Drowned in those eyes, he heard himself stammering out things he had
not thought that he would ever dare to say. "If you could marry me ...
I don't suppose you could ... but if...."

Her answer did not come into the dream. Perhaps she had not answered.
But he could see the ugly man holding out his hands, and the girl
putting her hands into them. He could see her looking up at him again,
and in the beautiful eyes there was that message she wanted him to
read. There, at that place, was the end of the dream-picture; it never
went further, though he tried over and over to carry it on; the girl
looking up, a tall slender shape in white, with the afternoon sun
burnishing her hair, and giving to it the color of a copper beech tree
under which she stood. He knew that he had thought, "I shall never
forget her as she is now, not even when I'm dead." He had kept his
word. He was dead; hovering on the borderland of the unknown: and he
had not forgotten. But just where the dream ended, before he could read
the girl's look and hear what she had to say, her mother had come
quickly out of the house, with an open book in her hand. That seemed to
be the reason why the picture broke.

It seemed afterwards too, though there was no clear vision, that the
girl was willing to marry him, just barely willing. Her mother took it
for granted that she had said "yes" when he asked her, and the girl let
it go as if it were true; though he could not be sure it was what she
had meant when she looked up with the strange light in her eyes, and
tried to speak. He would have given years of the future he hoped for
then, to have been sure, without any doubts.

When he stammered out his questions he had not thought of anything
better than an engagement, to end in marriage if he came home safely
after the war.... The war!... Dim remembrance of hideous suffering
suddenly stirred the slow current of his dream. There had been war.
That was how it had happened! He had been killed in battle. Or else,
none of the dream was true! There had been no such man, no such girl,
no such black and white house reflected in a crystal lake. This was a
dream of things that had never been. A veil of unreality began to fall
between him and the picture he had seen. No, it couldn't have been true
of his life, of course, because the dream had begun again, and was
carrying him on to a wedding. The church in the village ... (he knew
that church well, and the way to it from the big gates and the little
gates; the long way and the short cut) ... The girl, and a man in khaki
were standing together ... the same ugly man, uglier than ever in his
soldier clothes, he thought. He heard the words which a clergyman in a
white surplice was reading out of the prayer book. "To have and to
hold, till death do you part." And he saw himself putting a ring on the
girl's finger. She held her left hand out to him--the long, slim hand
he used to think must be like St. Cecilia's, because of the genius of
music in its finger tips. He could see no following picture of her
alone with him. He saw himself going away, waving good-by: then a train
and a boat, and a train again, with a crowd of other men, all soldiers.

He was an officer. (He had left the army before that dream-time, he
could not remember why, but it had something to do with money--and with
the black and white house: and he had offered himself again for the
war.) In the dream he rode a horse along a straight sunlit road, with
poplars on either side that gave no shade. There were days of marching
in furnace heat. Then came a night of silver moonlight reddened by
fire; a village burning. There was a noise as of hell let loose: and
since he had been dead he hated noise. It was the one unbearable thing.
Hearing noise in his dream, the star which was his soul shattered
itself into a thousand sparks, each spark a red-hot nerve of pain. All
round him in the crowded dream there was fighting. Smoke stung his
eyelids. He breathed it in, and choked. His horse trampled men down.
Their cries were in his ears. Some voice he knew called to him for
help. He pulled a man up on his horse; a friend, he thought it was,
some one he cared for. Now the horse stopped, reared, and fell. By and
by the man whose soul dreamed, struggled to his feet, dazed, but
remembering his friend dragged him from under the hurt animal. Helmets
glittered in the moonlight. Eyes glinted red in the copper glare. He
fought with a sword and kept off men that pressed on him and his
friend, trying to kill them both. A stab of pain shot through his hand.
A bugle sounded. Men were running away. He thought they were men of the
enemy; a stream of helmets going. He heard his own voice shout an
order, but before it could be obeyed a din as of mountains rent asunder
roared his voice down. His whole being was swallowed up as a raindrop
is swallowed in a cataract. A huge round shape rushed towards him,
black against moonlight and flame. Then the world burst and tore him in
a million fragments....

His soul coming back to knowledge of its continuance held the
impression that this rending anguish of death had been long, long ago,
thousands of years ago in time: and that he was now or soon would be
waking into eternity. The breaking of the dream and the pain he had
suffered ought not to seem important. It ought not to matter to a
disembodied spirit. Yet it did matter terribly. Most of all did it
matter that the girl with the smoke-blue eyes and copper-beech hair had
been swept away from him forever. She was somewhere in the world he had
left behind. He did not even know her name, or whether indeed she had
really been in his life. Henceforth he would have to wander through
space and eternity without finding her again.

The man groaned.

"He's coming round at last!" a woman's voice said.

The voice sounded muffled, and far off. It sounded harsh, too. It was
not a sweet voice, and it was not speaking his language. Through the
gray dimness which hung over him like a cloud, trickled this
impression. He wondered why, if the language were not his, he should
understand what the voice said.

"G-erman," he struggled to say, and succeeded with pain in whispering
the word.

Somebody laughed. "He knows he's in German hands!" chuckled the same
voice.

An agony of regret fell upon him like an ice avalanche. He was alive,
then, whoever he was, and there had never been a girl with smoke-blue
eyes and copper-beech hair! She was only a dream. That must be so,
because the words she had said to him were all gone from his mind. He
could no longer remember anything about her except her face--and those
eyes. Those eyes! His interest in past and present abruptly ceased. He
let himself slide away into blank oblivion.



CHAPTER II


Hours or years later he waked up with a start, and stared at the light.
It was daylight, and he was in an immense room. It seemed big enough
for a theater. Perhaps it was a theater. The walls had red panels
painted on them, and on each panel one or two cupids danced and threw
flowers: repulsive, stout cupids. The ceiling was very far up above his
eyes, and there was a dome in the center. From this dome depended a
huge crystal chandelier like a bulbous stalactite. There were a great
many high windows, with panes here and there opened for ventilation.
The windows had no curtains, and the room had no furniture except
beds--beds--endless rows of beds, surely hundreds of beds.

He lay in one of these. All were occupied. He could see heads of men
whose bodies looked extraordinarily flat. On some of the heads were
bandages. Others were shaved, so that they appeared quite bald. They
were very pale heads in the bleak, grayish light filtering dimly
through the high windows. A number of bunks were hidden by screens. He
wished dully that he had this privacy, but his narrow bed had been
given no such protection.

A man was slowly walking down an aisle between rows of narrow cots all
exactly alike. Beside the man, who had a remarkably large head with a
shock of rough, straw-colored hair, was a woman dressed as a nurse. The
newly awakened one knew she was a nurse, though she was not dressed in
the costume familiar to him in some vague past. There were many in the
room wearing the same sort of cap and apron and prim gown that she
wore: young women, middle-aged women, old women. They had kind faces,
but the watcher saw no beautiful ones. Not that he cared for that, or
anything.

He had not been awake long when a big girl came towards him, paused,
peered, and went away again. She stopped the nurse who walked with the
shock-headed man, and spoke to her. The woman's cap and the man's
tousled hair turned from the direction they had been taking, and
approached his bed. They bent over it, and he gazed up stupidly at
their faces. The shock-headed man had a beard even lighter than his
hair. He smoothed it with a white, strong-looking hand, a capable hand,
the hand of the born surgeon. The woman had hard features, but soft
eyes, wistful, and pathetic.

"You see, he is getting along finely," she said to her companion. "I
think we shall have no more trouble with him now."

The man in bed remembered that he had heard her voice before, and that
she had spoken German then, as now. He did not wonder this time why he
understood what she said, though the language was not his own. He
remembered that he had learned German when he was a boy, and had hated
learning it because of the verbs.

"How do you feel?" the surgeon enquired, in English.

The man in bed tried to answer. His voice came in a weak whisper. This
surprised him, and made him ashamed. "Very--well," he heard himself
say, as he had seemed to hear himself speak in the dream which was gone
now, far away, out of reach.

"Good!" said the surgeon. "Can you tell me your name?"

The sick man thought for a moment, and the question went echoing
through his brain as a voice calling one who is absent echoes through a
deserted house. Knowledge of his helplessness brought a sense of
physical disintegration, as if the marrow of his bones was melting.

"Never mind!" the shock-headed surgeon said, in a quiet, reassuring
tone. "It's all right. You'll remember by and by, when you're stronger.
Don't worry about yourself. I've performed an operation on you, which
is known as trepanning. That was some days ago. It has been a success.
But we will let you rest a while longer before we bother you with
questions. The only thing is, the sooner we learn your name the sooner
we can take steps to let your people hear that you're alive. It's a
long time since you were wounded: eight months. We couldn't operate on
your head till now. There were too many other things to mend about you!
_Somebody_ must be anxious. Go to sleep again when you've had your
food, and perhaps the past will all come back to your mind. But if it
doesn't, don't make an effort. That will do you harm."

The sick man expressed his thanks with the faint ghost of a smile. When
the nurse had fed him with warm liquid, which he drank through a tube
without lifting his bandaged head from the pillow, he closed his eyes
and tried to find his way into the dream again. But the door of the
dream was shut. He could see only the face of the girl. She alone
remained to him, as if she had lingered and found herself locked out
when the dream-door shut. She had no name, and he had none. But that
seemed to be of little importance. It was easy to obey the surgeon and
not make an effort. The difficult thing would have been to struggle
toward any end. He felt that to do so would shatter his brain. And as
he was very sure nobody cared what had become of him, there was no
need. Why he was so sure of this, he could not tell. But something
inside him, which remembered things _he_ had forgotten, was absolutely
sure.

How long his lethargy of mind and body lasted, he did not know. Days
faded grayly into nights, and nights brightened grayly into days.
Neither the surgeon nor the two nurses who had charge of him asked
further questions. He took no real interest in anything except the
effort to find his way back into the lost dream, which he could never
do; and sometimes even the beloved face was blotted out. But at last,
the objective began to dominate the subjective in the man. He gave a
little thought to his surroundings. He noticed his neighbors who
occupied the beds near him, and listened dully when they talked to the
nurses. They were all Germans. One day he asked the nurse with the
patient eyes, if there were any other Englishmen besides himself in her
charge. And as he spoke the word, with confidence which he could not
analyze, it sent a faint thrill through his veins, a sense of unity
with something. "Englishmen!" He was an Englishman.

He had to speak in German, for the nurse had no other language. Oddly
enough, it seemed easy to make her understand.

"We had four Englishmen with you when you came," she replied. "They
are--gone now."

He understood that they were dead, and that she did not like to tell
him so. He smiled faintly, but asked no more questions then.

Next, he wanted to know where the hospital was, and how long he had
been in it.

"You are in Brussels," the nurse told him. "This used to be a
restaurant. All the hospitals were full. You have been here only a few
weeks, but we had heard of you, for yours was a wonderful case. Many
doctors have talked about it. Just before your operation, you came to
us. You were brought to Herr Doctor Schwarz for that. He is a great man
for the brain. You were lucky to have him to operate. It was thought
you might be an officer, because you spoke both German and French, when
you didn't know what you were saying. A bit of bone pressed on the
brain. Your head had been hurt. And you had many other wounds, which
another great surgeon had cured, when every one else said you would
surely die. That was why they waited so long before operating on your
brain. You had suffered so much already. You had to grow strong after
what you had gone through, and get over the nerve-shock, which was
worst of all."

"Let me see, how long did Dr. Schwarz tell me it was, before they
operated?" he asked.

"Eight months," the nurse answered reluctantly, as if she feared to
excite him, yet saw no real reason why, now that he was getting well,
he might not hear all the truth about himself. Besides, it might help
him to remember the past. She knew that Dr. Schwarz was anxious for him
to do so now. He had always been an extremely interesting and rather
mysterious "case," sent from a distance by a brother surgeon to
Schwarz, and specially recommended to his attention. "Eight months,"
the woman repeated. "I think you were wounded in some battle early in
August. We have the record that came from the first hospital where you
were. Now it is the 15th of April."

"Eight months," the man counted dreamily with his fingers. "Why don't
they know whether or not I was an officer?"

"It was like this," the nurse explained, with her stolid yet kindly and
truthful look; "it was like this: Your cavalry and our cavalry fought.
That is the account we have, though it is not very clear. You were
getting the better of us, but our artillery came up and our Uhlans were
ordered to retreat. When they were safely out of the way, your lancers
were shelled. I think they were cut to pieces. Nobody on either side
could get at the dead and wounded for days. When they did go to help
the living, it was our Germans who went. Most of the English were
killed. You and the others who lived (unless a few escaped), were
brought to a hospital of ours, in the north of France. Our soldiers
would not do such a thing, so it must have been prowling
people--thieves--who stripped off your clothes. One reason why our
doctors thought you might be an officer, even before you spoke, was
because the little finger of your left hand had been partly cut off. It
had been done with a knife. That seemed as if you must have worn a
valuable ring, so tight it couldn't be got off in a hurry."

"My mother's ring," muttered the man. The words spoke themselves.
Again, it was not he who remembered, but something which seemed to be
separate and independent, hiding inside him, though not in his brain.
It knew all about him, but would not give up the secret. Impishly, it
threw out a sop of knowledge now and then, just as it pleased. The
nurse tried to encourage this Something to go on, but it would not be
coaxed. When she repeated the conversation to Schwarz afterwards,
however, he said, "That's encouraging. Don't press him too much. Let
body and brain recover tone. Then we'll try more suggestions. It's the
most interesting case we've had. What is it to me that he's friend or
enemy? Nothing. He's a man. I shall think of a way to set up the right
vibrations."

The way he thought of was to commandeer a bundle of English papers
which had been passing from hand to hand in Brussels. These papers had
been smuggled into the town by a German who had escaped from a
concentration camp in England. He was a doctor, and had got into
Belgium through Holland. Such newspapers as he had were very old ones,
but that did not matter, because the man in whom Schwarz, the surgeon,
was interested had lost touch with the world since a day soon after the
breaking out of war. He must have been among the first troops sent over
from England to France, and rushed straight to the front.

For a few days he had been very silent, asking no questions. He seemed
always to be thinking. By Schwarz's orders he was left alone. Then, one
morning, he was surprised by the news that he was well enough to sit
up. When he had been propped with pillows, the nurse he liked best--the
one with the hard features and soft eyes--slipped a roll of dilapidated
newspapers under the listless hands that lay on the turned-over sheet.

"English," she said, and saw that his eyes brightened.

       *       *       *       *       *

His left hand, with the tell-tale mutilated finger, began painfully to
open out the heavy roll. He could not help much with the other hand,
for his right arm had been so injured that it had been strapped to his
side for weeks, and the muscles had withered. They would recover tone,
and the arm its strength, Schwarz prophesied, but he was only just
beginning again to use his right hand.

This was the first time he had read anything except the notices posted
up on the hospital walls, which forbade loud talking and other
offenses. To see the _Illustrated London News_ and the _Daily Mail_ and
the _Chronicle_, dated on days of September, made him feel more than
ever that he had died, and come back to earth on sufferance as a ghost.
For him there had been no autumn nor winter. The world had ended on a
hot night in August. There had been summer, and then blackness. Now it
was spring.

September 10th. September 11th. September 13th.

The _Illustrated London News_ lay on top. He laid back the cover. There
was a battle scene on the first page. It looked vaguely familiar.
British lancers and helmeted German Uhlans were fighting furiously
together. Apparently it was night. The background was lit by flames
from a burning village. It was an impressionist effect, well presented.
The man felt very tired and old as he looked at the picture. Pains
throbbed through his head and body and limbs, reminding him of each
wound now healed. He turned over the page and several others. Near the
middle of the paper he opened to one entirely given up to small
photographs of officers. "Dead on the Field of Honor," he read. Under
each portrait were a few lines of fine print. He began with the
left-hand side, at the top. Faces of strangers. Then two he recognized,
with a leap of the heart. One had been an acquaintance, one an old
friend. Their names rushed back to him, as if spoken by their own
voices, even before he had time to read. Human interests surged round
him as he lay, every-day interests of life as he had laid it down.
"Dear old Charley Vance. Dead! And Willoughby...."

A photograph in the middle of the page seemed to tear itself from the
paper and jump at his eyes. It was larger than the others grouped round
it.... "Good God!" broke from his lips.

He glanced around, startled. He was afraid that he had screamed the
words. But evidently he had not made any sound. No one was noticing
him. Most of the men near by, all surgical cases, were resting quietly.
Several nurses were talking at a distance, their broad, reliable backs
turned his way.

It was his own photograph he was looking at ... the face of the ugly
man he had seen in the lost dream, as in a dim mirror. Underneath was a
name. He would _know_, now--his own name, and--the rest. All his blood
seemed to pour away from his heart. A queer mist swam before his eyes.
He tried to wink it away, but could not, and had to wait till it faded,
leaving a slow shower of silver sparks.

"Killed in action, on the night of August 18th, Sir John Denin, 16th
baronet, Captain --th Lancers, aged 32. See paragraph on following
page."

The man turned the leaf over. There was the paragraph.

"Captain Sir John Richard Stuart Denin, killed in the fatal night
fighting near ----, where his regiment was caught by the enemy's
artillery fire in a wood, was a well-known figure in the world. It will
be remembered that on the death of his uncle, Sir Stuart Denin, from
whom the title passed to him, the unentailed estates were left by will
to a distant cousin and favorite of the late baronet. Sir John was
advised by his friends to contest the will, but refused to do so,
saying his uncle had every right to dispose of his property as he
chose. This generosity was considered quixotic, but had a romantic
reward a few months later when an aunt of the new baronet's mother
bequeathed him one of the most beautiful and historic of the ancient
black and white houses in Cheshire, Gorston Old Hall, and half a
million pounds. On receiving this windfall of fortune which was
entirely unexpected, it will be recalled that Sir John resigned from
the army, he being at the time a first lieutenant in the --th Lancers.
Two years later, on the outbreak of the war, he at once offered his
services, which were accepted, and he was given a captaincy in his old
regiment, leaving for the front with the first of our Expeditionary
Force, and he was, unhappily, also among the first to fall. On the day
of his departure Sir John was quietly married at his own village church
in Gorston, Cheshire, to Miss Barbara Fay of California, U.S.A., who is
thus left a widow without having been a wife. Everything he possessed,
including Gorston Old Hall, passes by the will of the deceased officer
to his widow. As Miss Fay, Lady Denin was considered one of the most
beautiful American girls ever presented to their Majesties, she having
made her début at an early court in the spring of 1913, or a little
over a year before her wedding and widowhood. The mother of Lady Denin,
though married to an American professor of Egyptology who died some
years ago, has English blood in her veins; and is a near relative of
Captain Trevor d'Arcy of the--th Gurkhas, now on the way to France with
his gallant regiment. Captain d'Arcy's photograph taken with his men at
the time of the Durbar, appears on the following page, also that of the
newly widowed Lady Denin. In the battle where Captain Sir John Denin
met his death, he greatly distinguished himself by gallant conduct, and
to him would have been due a signal success had not the German
artillery rescued the defeated Uhlans and followed up their flight with
a withering fire. Sir John succeeded in saving the life of his first
lieutenant, the Honble. Eric Mantell, who was one of the few to escape
this massacre, and who had the sad privilege of identifying his
preserver's mutilated body on the battlefield. Sir Eric had recovered
sufficiently from his wounds to be present at the funeral, the remains
of the dead hero having after some unavoidable delay been brought to
England and buried in Gorston churchyard. Had Sir John lived, it is
said that he would have been recommended for the Victoria Cross."

The man who had died and been buried, whose body had been identified by
his friend and taken home, fell back on the thin hospital pillow, and
closed his eyes. He felt as if he had come to a blank wall, stumbled
against it, and fallen. Then, suddenly, he realized that by turning
over a page, he could see _her_ face--the face of his wife.



CHAPTER III


He turned the page, but for a moment it was a blank, blurred surface,
as if everything on it had been blocked out by order of the censor. He
found himself counting his own heart-beats, and it was only as they
slowed down that the page cleared, and the eyes he had seen in the lost
dream looked up at him from the paper.

They gave him back himself. A thousand details of the past rushed upon
him in a galloping army.

"Lady Denin, widow of Captain Sir John Denin," he read. "She is shown
in this photograph in her presentation dress, as Miss Barbara Fay."

Barbara had disliked the photograph. He could see it now, in a silver
frame on her mother's writing desk, in the drawing-room of the little
furnished house taken for the season in London. He had been shown into
that room when he made his first call. Mrs. Fay had asked him to come,
just when he was wondering how to get the invitation. And Mrs. Fay had
given him one of those photographs. It occurred to him that she must
also have given one to the newspaper. Barbara would not have wished it
to be published. But he had thought it beautiful, and he thought it
more than ever beautiful now.

His wife--no, his widow! That was what the paper said: "Lady Denin,
widow of Captain Sir John Denin." What would she do, what would she
say, if she could see the wreck of John Denin, in a German hospital in
Belgium, staring hungrily at her picture?

He asked himself this, and answered almost without hesitation. She was
so loyal, so fine, that she would not grudge him his life. She would
even try, perhaps, to think she was glad that he lived. Yet she could
not in her secret heart, be glad. Such gladness would not be natural to
human nature. She had been hurried into marrying him, partly because he
loved her and was going away to fight, partly because her mother urged
it as the best solution of her difficulties. Now, all things Mrs. Fay
had wanted for the girl were hers without the one drawback; the plain,
dull fellow who had to be taken with them--the fly in the ointment, the
pill in the jam. Barbara had dearly loved the old black and white
house. She had said so a dozen times. She had never once said that she
loved John Denin. She had only smiled and been kind, and looked at him
in a baffling way, with that mysterious message in her eyes which he
had been too stupid to read. Mrs. Fay had loved the house too, and the
whole place; and it was hard to believe in looking back, that she had
not loved the money, and the idea of a title for her beautiful girl.

John Denin, who ought to have died and had not died, asked himself what
was now the next best thing to do. Also he asked the eyes in the
photograph, but they seemed gently to evade his eyes, just as they had
often evaded them in life.

Next on the page to Barbara's picture was the portrait of her cousin,
Captain d'Arcy, of whom she had spoken more than once, the "hero and
knight" of her childhood. He looked a handsome enough fellow in his
uniform, though hardly of the "hero and knight" type. He was too
full-fleshed for that: a big, low-browed, thick-lipped man of
thirty-six or seven, who would think a great deal of himself and his
own pleasure. Evidently he had changed since the days when he was the
ideal hero of a sixteen-year-old girl. Denin, scarred and wrecked, a
bit of human driftwood, was dimly shocked at the mean pleasure had in
this thought. Barbara--wife or widow--was unlikely to feel her old love
rekindle at sight of her cousin, and Denin was glad--glad. Barbara was
not a girl to fall in love easily. But, if she believed herself free,
she might some day....

A spurt of fire darting up his spine seemed to burn the base of his
brain. It struck him almost with horror that the question he had been
asking a few minutes ago had answered itself. No matter how undesirable
he might be as a husband, he must for Barbara's own sake force the fact
of his continued existence upon her.

"As soon as I can control my hand enough to hold a pencil, I'll write
to her--or her mother. Or perhaps I'll try to telegraph, if that's
possible from here," he thought. Poor Barbara! Poor Mrs. Fay! It would
be a blow to them, and--yes, by Jove, to Frank Denin, his cousin. Poor
Frank, too! He had got the Denin estates and the money which ought to
have gone with the baronetcy, and then by an extra stroke of luck the
title had fallen to him, on top of all the rest. It would be a wrench
for him to give it up after more than eight months of enjoyment. Then
there was that pretty American girl, Miss VanKortland, to whom poor old
Frank had proposed time after time. All his money and the two big
places had made no difference to her. She had plenty of money of her
own. She had seemed to like Frank Denin, but she was a desperate flirt
and had always said that if she ever married out of her own country, it
would be a man with a title. It was Kathryn VanKortland who had
introduced Sir John Denin to Barbara Fay at a dance, not long after
Barbara's presentation. John had felt grateful to Kathryn for that, and
indirectly grateful to Frank because if it hadn't been for him he would
not have been invited to Miss VanKortland's dance. How strangely,
vividly, yet dreamily those days and everything that had happened in
them came back to him, while the people whose faces he called up
thought of him in his grave! He wondered how it was that Eric Mantell
had escaped, and how Eric came to believe that he had identified John
Denin's body. He wondered also whether, now that Frank Denin was "Sir
Frank," Kathryn VanKortland had changed her mind.

"I wish I could make the title over to Frank," the man in the hospital
cot said to himself. "God knows I don't value it for myself, and I
don't believe Barbara does. But it can't be. And there's just one thing
to be done."

There seemed to the weary brain of the invalid, however, no great hurry
about doing the one thing. Barbara was certainly not grieving for him.
There was no one else to care very much except some of the old
servants, and he had remembered all of them in his will before going to
the front. As for Frank, in a way it would be a good thing for him if
he could secure Kathryn before the news came bereaving him of the
baronetcy. The girl could not leave him if they were married, or even
throw him over with decency if they were engaged. Besides, Denin wanted
to write the letter himself. He would not trust the task to one of the
nurses, and had confided to no one yet the fact that memory of his past
had come back. He was only just beginning to use his right hand for a
few minutes at a time. It would be a week at the least, before he could
write even a short letter without help.

Two days went by, and the surgeon's orders to "let him alone," so that
he might "come round of his own accord," were still observed. Nobody
questioned the invalid about himself, though the nurses said to each
other that he had "begun to think."

On the third day, a wounded British aviator was brought into his ward.
The news ran about like wildfire, and Denin soon learned that a fellow
countryman of his had arrived. The aviator, it seemed, had been in the
act of dropping bombs on some railway bridge which meant the cutting of
important communications, when he had been brought down with his
monoplane, by German guns. Both his legs were broken, but otherwise he
was not seriously hurt.

Denin enquired of a nurse who the man was, and heard that he was Flight
Commander Walter Severne.

The sound of that name brought a faint thrill. Denin did not know
Walter Severne, but he had met an elder brother of his, who was one of
the first and cleverest military airmen of England. It was probable
that Walter Severne might have seen John Denin somewhere, or his
photograph--if only the photograph in that copy of the _Illustrated
London News_, which had labeled him as "dead on the field of honor." If
his scars had not changed him past casual recognition, Severne would be
likely to know him again, and it occurred to Denin that to be
identified in such a way would not be a bad thing. Besides, if the
aviator had not been away from England long, he might possibly have
news to give of Barbara--and Frank--and Kathryn VanKortland.

They were more or less in the same set, in the normal days of peace
which seemed so long ago. He asked permission, when he was got up for
his hour out of bed, to talk to the wounded Englishman, and was told
that he might do so, provided that an English-speaking nurse was near
enough to hear everything they said to each other.

Denin's progress along the ward was slow. He had not been an invalid
eight months for nothing, and the mending of his splintered bones and
torn muscles was hardly short of a miracle, as surgeons and nurses
reminded him frequently, with glee. He moved with a crutch, and one
foot could not yet be allowed to touch ground, though Schwarz gaily
assured him that some fine day he might be as much of a man as ever
again, thanks to his enemies' skill and care. Severne had been told
that an Englishman who had lost his memory through injuries to the
head, and forgotten his own name, was coming to talk to him. Lying flat
on his back with both legs in plaster-of-Paris, the aviator looked up
expectantly; but no light of recognition shone in his eyes when the
tall form in hospital pajamas hobbled into his range of vision.

Denin did not know whether to be relieved or disappointed. Certainly he
was not surprised, for he had asked for a mirror that morning, and had
studied his marred face during a long, grim moment. From temple to jaw
on the left side it was scarred with a permanent red scar. A white seam
where stitches had been, ran through the right eyebrow. A glancing bit
of shrapnel had cleft his square chin precisely in the center, giving a
queer effect as of a deep dimple which had not been there before August
18th; and his thick black hair was threaded with gray at both temples.

A chair was given to him, in which to sit by the newcomer's bedside.
Severne was very young and, it seemed to Denin in contrast with that
new vision of himself, as beautiful as a girl. Warned that the other
man had lost his memory, the wounded aviator was pityingly careful not
to ask questions. He talked cheerfully about his own adventures, and
said that he had been "at home" on leave only a week ago.

"At home!" Denin echoed. "What was it like--over there?"

"Awfully jolly," said Severne. "Not that they don't care, or aren't
thinking about us, every minute, night and day. But you know how our
people are. They make the best of things; they have their own kind of
humor--and we understand. Fact is, I--went over to get married. I
suppose--er--you never knew the Lacy-Wilmots of Devonshire? They're
neighbors of ours. I married the second daughter, Evelyn. I--we had two
days together."

"You were lucky," said Denin.

"Think so? Well, we didn't look at it like that. I wrote to her this
morning. Hope she'll get the letter."

"Some fellows had only an hour or two with their brides, I heard,"
Denin said, almost apologetically.

"That's true," said Severne. "Jove! There are shoals of war brides,
poor girls, and as brave as they make 'em, every one!"

"What about--the war widows?" Denin ventured, stumbling slightly over
the words.

"They're brave too, all right. But I expect there are some broken
hearts. Not all, though, by any means. Damn it, no! Lady Denin, for
instance. Did you ever hear of her? I mean, did you ever hear of John
Denin? _They_ had about an hour of being married before he went off
with the first lot in August, poor chap."

"What about Denin?"

"Oh, you didn't know him, then? Why should you? I didn't myself, but he
belonged to one or two clubs with my brother Bob. I may have seen him
myself. Awfully fine chap. Everybody liked him, though he was close as
a clam--no talker. Came into a ripping place and piles of oof a few
years ago. Not much on looks, though he was an A1 sportsman and
athlete. Girls thought him a big catch. I've heard plenty say so. Well,
he married an American girl, a beauty, the day he left for the front,
and about a fortnight later she was a widow with everything he had,
made over to her. That wasn't much above eight months ago. But the day
Evie and I were tied up, the first of last week, Lady Denin married her
cousin, d'Arcy of the --th Gurkhas. Quick work--what? No heartbreak
there!"

As there came no answer, Severne supposed that his visitor felt no
interest in this bit of gossip apropos of war widows. He glanced up
from his hard, flat pillow at the other man, and saw what he took for a
far-away look on the scarred face. To change the subject to one more
congenial, the aviator began to chat of things at the front; but almost
instantly the English-speaking nurse intervened. The two invalids had
talked long enough. Both must rest. They could see each other again
next day.

Without any protest, and scarcely saying good-by, Denin dragged himself
back to his own part of the ward. "'Nobody home!' The poor fellow looks
as if he wasn't all there yet." Severne excused the seeming rudeness of
the nameless one.

Denin had not had his full hour of freedom from bed, but he declared
that he was tired and that his head ached, so he was allowed to lie
down. He turned his face to the wall, and appeared to sleep, but never
had he been more vividly awake.

His plan had fallen into ruin with one bewildering crash. The
corner-stone had been torn out from the foundation. His duty--or what
he had seen as his duty--was changed. After all, Barbara had not been
disappointed in her cousin. She had found him her "knight and her hero"
as of old. She had loved the man so passionately that she had given
herself to him after only eight months of widowhood. If he had heard
this thing of a woman other than Barbara, Denin would have been
revolted. It could only have looked like an almost defiant admission
that there was no love in the first marriage--nothing but interest. He
could not, would not, however, think that Barbara's act was a proof of
hardness. Lying on his bed, with his face to the blank white wall, he
began to make desperate excuses for the girl.

She had married him by special license at three days' notice eight
months ago, hurried into a decision by his love, and perhaps the
glamour of war's red light. Her mother, too, had given her no peace
until she made up her mind. For the hundredth time he assured himself
of that fact. And as for the well-nigh indecent haste of the second
wedding; why, after all, was it so much worse than the first?

Her marriage with him, John Denin, had been a marriage only in name.
She was left a girl, with no memories of wifehood. No doubt this new
giving of herself had been another "war wedding." Trevor d'Arcy in his
picture looked like a man who would do his best to seize whatever he
wanted. He had of course been going away, perhaps after being wounded
and nursed by Barbara. It would be natural, very natural, for her to
feel that she would be happier when d'Arcy was at the front, if they
belonged to each other. Denin told himself savagely that it would be
brutal to blame the girl. She had a right to love and joy, and she
should have both, unspoiled. He would be damned sooner than snatch
happiness from Barbara, and drag her through the dust of shame, a woman
claimed as wife by two men.

"This decides things for me, then, forever and ever," he thought, a
strange quietness settling down upon him, like a cloud in which a man
is lost on a mountain-top. "She's free as light. John Denin died last
August in France."



CHAPTER IV


But the man in the German hospital did not die. He could not, unless he
put an end to his own life, and to do that had always seemed to Denin
an act of cowardice and weakness. He remembered reading as a boy, how
Plato said that men were "prisoners of the gods" and had no right to
run away from fate. For some reason those words had made a deep imprint
upon his mind at the time, and the impression remained. His soul dwelt
in his body as a prisoner of the gods, a prisoner on parole.

Life--mere physical life--rose again in his veins as the days went on,
rose in a strong current, as the sap rises in trees when winter changes
to spring. He was discharged from the hospital as cured, and interned
in a concentration camp in Germany not far from the Dutch frontier.
Though he had given his parole to the gods, he would not give it to the
Germans. He meant to escape some day if he could. He limped heavily,
and had not got back the full strength of his once shattered right
hand, so there was no hope of returning to fight under a new name. Had
there been a chance of that, he would have wished to join the French
Foreign Legion, where a man can be of use as a soldier, while lost to
the world. As it was, he made no definite plans, but set about earning
money in order not to be penniless if the day ever came when he could
snatch at freedom.

He had always had a marked talent for quick character-sketches and a
bold kind of portraiture. He could catch a likeness in a moment. With
charcoal he dashed off caricatures of his fellow prisoners, on the
whitewashed wall of the room which he shared with several British
soldiers. The striking cleverness of the sketcher was noticed by the
man in charge who spoke to some one higher in authority; and officers
came to gaze gravely at the curious works of art. Denin had
rechristened himself by this time "John Sanbourne." Sanbourne seemed to
him an appropriate name for one without an aim in life, and as for
"John," without that standby he would have felt like a man who has
thrown away his clothes. Sanbourne's charcoal sketches, therefore,
began to be talked about; and officers brought him paper and colored
chalks, bargaining with him for a few German war notes, to take their
portraits. By the end of May he had saved up two hundred marks,
accumulated in this way, charging from five to twenty marks for a
sketch, according to size and detailed magnificence of uniform.

Not having given his parole, he was carefully watched at first, but as
time went on his lameness, his exemplary conduct, and air of stoical
resignation deceived his guards. One dark night he slipped away,
contrived to pass the frontier, bribed a Dutch fisherman to sell him
clothing, and after a week of starvation and hardship limped boldly
into Rotterdam. There he parted with the remainder of his earnings
(save a few marks) for a third-class ticket to New York, trusting to
luck that he might earn money on board as he had earned money in camp,
enough at least to be admitted as an emigrant into the United States.
Those few marks which he kept, he invested in artist's materials, and
on shipboard soon made himself something of a celebrity in a small way.
He was nicknamed "the steerage Sargent," and with an hour or two of
work every day put together nearly sixty American dollars during the
voyage. That sum satisfied him. He refused further commissions, for a
great new obsession dominated his whole being, preoccupying every
thought. Absorbed in it, he found his portrait-making exasperating
work. Something within him that he did not understand but was forced to
obey, commanded the writing of a book--the book, not of his life or of
his outside experiences, but of his heart.

He had no idea of publishing this book after it was written. Indeed, at
the beginning, such an idea would have been abhorrent to him. It would
have been much like profaning a sanctuary. But there were thoughts
which seemed to be in his soul, rather than in his brain, so intimate a
part of himself were they; and these thoughts beat with strong wings
against the barrier of silence, like fierce wild birds against the bars
of a cage.

So ignorant was John Denin of book-writing that he did not know at all
how long it would take to put on paper what he felt he had to give
forth. He knew only that he must say what was in him to say; and every
moment when he was not writing he chafed to get back to his book again.
Indeed, it was but his body which parted from the manuscript even when
he ate, or walked, or slept. His real self was writing on and on, every
instant, after he had gone to bed, and most of all, while he dreamed.
The idea for the book, when it sprang into his mind, was full-grown as
Minerva born from the brain of Jove. Denin felt as if he were a
sculptor who sees his statue buried deep in a marble block, and has but
to hew away the stone to set the image free. He got up each morning at
dawn, bathed, dressed hurriedly, and worked till breakfast time, when a
cup of tea and a piece of bread were all he wanted or felt he had time
to take. Then, in some out-of-the-way, uncomfortable corner where his
fellow travelers of the steerage were not likely to interrupt him, he
wrote on often till evening, without stopping to eat at noon. He used
ship's stationery begged from the second class, sheets off his own
drawing pads, and small blank books that happened to be for sale in the
wonderful collection of things ships' barbers always have. Sometimes he
scribbled fast with one pencil after another: sometimes he scratched
painfully along with a bad pen. But nothing mattered, if he could
write. And nothing disturbed him; no noise of yelling laughter, no
shouting game, no crying of babies, nor blowing of bugles.

"When that chap's got his nose to his paper, he wouldn't hear Gabriel's
trump," one man said of him to another. Everybody asked everybody else
what he was doing when he suddenly stopped his traffic of portraits;
but nobody dared put such a question to him. Some people guessed that
he was a journalist in disguise, who had been in the war-zone, and was
working against time to get his experiences onto paper before the ship
docked at New York. But, as a matter of fact, it did not occur to Denin
to wonder when he should finish until, suddenly and to his own
surprise, the strange story he had been writing--if it could be called
a story--came to its inevitable climax. His message was finished. There
was no more that he wished to say.

This was at twelve o'clock one night, and the next morning at six the
ship passed the Statue of Liberty.

Denin felt dazed among his fellow emigrants, all of whom were of a
different class in life from his, and all of whom seemed to have
something definite to expect, something which filled them with
excitement or perhaps hope, making them talk fast, and laugh as the
immense buildings of New York loomed picturesquely out of the silver
mist.

"Othello's occupation's gone," he found himself muttering as he leaned
on the rail, a lonely figure among those who had picked up friendships
on the voyage. He realized that he had been almost happy while he was
writing his story. Now that it was finished and had to be put aside, he
had nothing to look forward to. He was indeed _sans bourne_.

What the other steerage passengers did on landing, he did also. Vaguely
it appealed to his sense of humor (which had slept of late) that he,
Sir John Denin, should have his tongue looked at and questions put to
him concerning his means, character, and purpose in coming from Europe
to the United States. He went through the ordeal with good nature, and
passed doctors and inspectors without difficulty. When he was free, he
joined a couple of elderly Belgians to whom he had talked on shipboard,
and with them set forth in search of a cheap lodging-house, where he
might stay until he made up his mind what work he was fit to try for,
and do. He was a poor man now, and could not afford to live in idleness
for more than a few days. He realized this, also that a "job" of any
kind was hard to get, and doubly hard for him since he was not trained
for clerical work or strong enough at the moment to undertake manual
labor. Still, he could not resist the intense desire he had to shut
himself up and read the book which, when he thought of it, seemed to
have written itself. He had always gone on and on, never stopping to
glance back or correct; and he had a queer feeling that the story would
be a revelation to him, that help and comfort and strength would come
to him from its pages.

The Belgians remained in the lodging-house only long enough to unpack a
few things. They then went out together to see New York, and visit an
agency which had been recommended to them. But Denin shut himself up as
he had longed impatiently to do, in the tiny back room he had engaged,
on the top floor of a dreary house. There he took from the cheap bag
bought in Rotterdam--his one piece of luggage--the oddly assorted pages
of manuscript which made up a thick packet. With the moment that he
began to read, the stained walls and the dirty window with a
fire-escape outside vanished as if some genie had rubbed a lamp.

The story was of a soldier and his love for a girl who did not greatly
care for him. She married him rather than send him away empty-hearted
to the front, cold with disappointment, when it was in her power to arm
him with happiness. They parted on the day of the wedding. The soldier
went to France and was killed in his first fight. The girl grieved
because it had not been possible to love the man with her whole heart,
and because he had had no time (so she believed) to taste the joy she
had sacrificed herself to give. But the man, going into battle and
afterwards dying on the battlefield, was divinely happy and content. He
saw clearly that his love for her had been the great thing in his life,
its crown and its completion; that the thought of her as his wife was
worth being born for; that it made death only a night full of stars
with a promise of sunrise. The story did not end with the ending of the
soldier's life. The part before his death was no more than a prelude.
The real story was of the power of love upon the spirit of a man after
his passing, and his wish that the adored woman left behind might know
the vital influence of a few hours' happiness in shaping a soul to face
eternity. The book was supposed to be written in the first person, by
the man, and was in four parts. The first told of the courtship and
marrying; the second, of the man's going away from his wife-of-an-hour,
to the front, and his fall on the battlefield; the third described the
regret of the girl that she had not been able to give more, and her
resolve to atone by denying herself love if it came to her in future;
the fourth, the dead soldier's attempt to make her feel the truth; that
she was free of obligation because those few last hours had been a gift
of joy never to be taken from his soul.

Denin had dashed down a title on the first page of his manuscript
before beginning the book. There had seemed to him only one name for
it: "The War Wedding." Now that he came to read it all over, he still
had the feeling that something in him more powerful than himself had
done the writing; and suddenly he began to wish intensely that Barbara
might see the testament of his heart.

He wished this not because he was proud of his work, or thought it
superlatively good, but because he hoped that it might comfort her. She
had been strangely reserved with him, invariably baffling, almost
mysterious, during the latter half of their acquaintance, yet he had
felt that he knew the truth of her nature, deep down under the girlish
concealments. He had believed her tender-hearted. If she had not been
so, why had she married him? And he thought that a girl of her strong
character and sensitive spirit might be stabbed with remorse sometimes
after gathering the flower of happiness for herself so near a new-made
grave. He could not bear to think that Barbara might torture her
conscience for his sake. He wanted her to be happy, wanted it more than
anything else now. Not that he was naturally a marvel of unselfishness,
but that he loved Barbara Fay better than he had ever loved himself. If
this story which he had written--like, yet unlike, her own
story--should happen to fall into Barbara's hands, she might find
consolation through all the coming years, because of certain thoughts
from the man's point of view, thoughts that would almost surely be new
to her. And what joy for Denin, even lying in the gulf of
forgetfulness, if his hand could reach out from the shadows to give her
a thornless white rose of peace!

He wondered eagerly if he could find a publisher in New York--a
publisher who produced books in England as well as America--to accept
his manuscript.

Now that the wish was born, it seemed too good to be true that anything
could come of it. Still, he determined to try, and try at once. Full of
excitement he went out into a noisy street, and bought several
newspapers and magazines. There were a number of publishers'
advertisements in them all, some with familiar names, but one he had
known ever since he was old enough to read books. It was a name of
importance in the publishing world, but there was no harm in aiming
high. He had brought the manuscript out with him, because he could not
bear to leave it alone in a strange house. Now he decided to take the
parcel to the publisher himself. Nothing would have induced him to
trust it to the post.



CHAPTER V


Four-thirty in the afternoon was Eversedge Sibley's hour for leaving
his office. If he had cared about escaping earlier he could easily have
got away, for since his father's death he stood at the head of the old
publishing house; but to him business was the romance, poetry, and
adventure of life. He passionately loved the champ and roar of the
printing-presses as many people love a Wagner opera. There were never
two days alike. Something new was always happening. Yet just because he
was young for his "job," and knew that he was a man of moods and
temperament, he forced himself to be bound by certain rules. One of
these rules was, even if he chose to linger a few minutes after
four-thirty, that no caller need hope to be admitted. That was a
favorite regulation of Sibley's. It made him feel that, after all, he
was very methodical. One afternoon, however, he did a worse thing than
break this rule. He went back from the elevator, the whole length of
the corridor to the outer office, simply to enquire about a man he had
met at the lift door.

They almost collided as the man was stepping out and as Sibley was
about to step in. But he did not step in. He let the lift shoot down
without him, while he paused to stare after the man.

"Strange-looking customer!" he thought.

Sibley himself was a particularly immaculate person. Being somewhat of
the Latin type, black eyed and olive skinned, he was shamefacedly
afraid of looking picturesque. He dressed, therefore, as precisely as a
fashion-plate. The man who had got out of the lift might have bought
his clothes at a junk-shop, and a foreign junk-shop at that. They were
not clothes a gentleman could wear--yet Sibley received a swift
impression that a gentleman was wearing them at that moment: a
remarkably tall fellow, so thin that his bones looked somehow too big
for him.

He walked past Sibley with no more than a glance, yet it was partly the
glance which impelled Sibley to stop short and gaze at the back of a
badly made tweed coat, the worst sort of a "reach-me-down" coat.

The quick mind of the publisher was addicted to similes. (He had once
written a book himself, under a _nom de guerre_. It had failed.) The
thought sprang to his mind that the glance was like the sudden opening
of a dingy box, which let out a flash of secret jewels.

In spite of his shocking clothes, the man had the air and bearing of a
soldier. Sibley noticed this, in criticizing the straight back, and it
aroused his curiosity more than ever in connection with the scarred
face.

Any one who got out at the tenth floor of the Sibley building must want
to see Eversedge Sibley or one of his partners, so evidently this
person intended to ask for some member of the firm. He looked the last
man on earth to be a budding author; yet Eversedge Sibley had caught
sight of a paper-wrapped roll of manuscript. One who was not of the
publishing or editorial world might have mistaken it for something
else; but no manuscript would disguise itself from eyes so trained to
fear and avoid it.

"Looks more like a heavy-weight champion invalided after a desperate
scrap, than a writer; or like Samson betrayed by Delilah," thought
Sibley, rather pleased with the fancy.

He put out his hand to touch the bell for the lift to come up again,
but did not touch it. Instead, he turned and walked back along the
marble-walled corridor to the door of the reception room. The tall man
had just arrived and was talking to a wisp of a creature facetiously
known in the office as "the chucker out."

"Mr. Sibley has gone, sir," little McNutt was insisting, with dignity.
"He doesn't generally receive strangers. Mr. Elliot is in, though, and
might see you if you could wait--"

As he spoke, McNutt caught sight of his "boss" at the door, and by
looking up a pair of thick gray eyebrows, he made a distressful signal
of warning. It would be awkward for Mr. Sibley to be trapped and
buttonholed here, just as he had been officially described as out.
McNutt could not remember the boss ever coming back after he had gone
for the day, and appearing in the publicity of the reception room. If
he had forgotten something, why didn't he let himself in at the door of
his own private office, which was only a little further along the hall?
But, there he was, and must be protected.

"Who is Mr. Elliot?" enquired the stranger.

Eversedge Sibley spent a short holiday in England every summer, and
knew that the vilely dressed man had the accent of the British upper
classes. His curiosity grew with what it fed on.

"Mr. Elliot is the third partner in the firm," explained McNutt, to
whom such ignorance appeared disgraceful.

"Thank you, I'd rather wait until to-morrow and try to see Mr. Sibley
himself," said Denin.

"I am Mr. Sibley," the publisher confessed, on one of his irresistible
impulses. "I've just come back for something forgotten. I can give you
a few minutes if you like."

The man's face lit. It could never have been anything but plain, almost
ugly, even before the scars came; yet it was singularly arresting.
"That's very good of you," he said.

Sibley ushered the odd visitor into his own private office, but before
he could even be invited to sit down, Denin got to his errand.

"You must have thousands of manuscripts sent to you," he began, with a
shyness which appealed to Sibley. "I--suppose you hardly ever read one
yourself? You have men under you to do that. But I felt I shouldn't be
satisfied unless I could put the--the stuff I've written into your own
hands. Probably all amateurs feel like that!"

"Manuscripts which our readers pronounce on favorably I always go
through myself before accepting them," Sibley assured his visitor. "But
of course, there are a good many that--er--they don't think worth
bothering me with."

"There's no reason for me to hope that mine will deserve a better
fate," Denin said. "All the same it would--be a great thing for me if
you should bring it out--publish it on both sides of the water. It
isn't as if I expected money for my work. I don't. I shouldn't even
_want_ money. On the contrary--"

Sibley cut him short with a warning. "We're not the sort of publishers
who print books that authors have to bribe us to put on the market. If
a book's worth our while to publish, it's worth our while to pay for it."

Denin laughed. "I wasn't going to suggest any arrangement of that
kind," he apologized. "I'm too poor for such a luxury. I've just come
to New York, third class, and I must 'hustle' to make my living. But I
wrote this on shipboard, while I had the time--"

"You wrote a whole book on shipboard!" exclaimed Sibley.

Denin was taken aback by the publisher's surprise. "Well, it was a slow
boat--twelve days. And my mind was full of this story. I had to write
it. I kept at it night and day. But for all I know there mayn't be
enough to make a book. That would be a bit of a blow! I'm as ignorant
as a child of such things."

"About how many thousand words does your manuscript amount to?" Sibley
asked, glancing at the rather thin brown packet tied with a string.

"I haven't the remotest idea!" Denin admitted. "It didn't occur to me
to count words."

"H'm!" muttered the publisher. "You say it's a story--a novel?"

"It's a sort of a story," its writer explained. "I may as well
mention--you're sure to guess if you glance over my work--that I've
been fighting in France. I was pretty badly knocked out--some months
ago. And you can see from the look of me that I can't be of use as a
soldier while the war lasts, if ever. Otherwise I shouldn't be in New
York now. One doesn't chuck fighting in these days unless one's unfit.
While I was in hospital, I got to thinking how a man might feel in
certain circumstances--(not like my own, of course; but one imagines
things)--and--well, the idea rather took hold of me. Here it is. I
don't expect you to read the thing yourself. It's not likely that--"

"I promise you so much," said Sibley, with suppressed eagerness. "I
_will_ read it myself before handing it over to any one else."

The scarred face flushed; and again came that sudden light as from a
secret glitter of jewels. "I can't thank you enough!" Denin almost
stammered.

"Don't thank me yet. That would be very premature!" Sibley smiled
generously; but even if he had wished to do so, he couldn't have
patronized the fellow. "You mustn't be too impatient. I'm a busy man,
you know. I'll have a go at your manuscript as soon as I can, but you
mustn't be disappointed if you don't hear for a week or ten days. By
the way, you'd better give me a card with your name and address."

Denin laughed again, a singularly pleasant laugh, Sibley thought it. "I
haven't such a thing as a card! My name is--John Sanbourne. And if I
may have a scrap of paper, I'll write down my address. I forgot to put
it on the manuscript. I mayn't be at the same place when you're ready
to decide. But I'll tell them to forward the letter, and then I'll call
on you. I'd rather do that than let the story go through the post. I've
got--fond of it in a way--you see!"

Sibley did see. And the man being what he was, the fondness struck the
publisher as pathetic, like the love of Picciola for his pale
prison-flower. Reason told Sibley that the ten or twelve days work of
an amateur (one who had lived to thirty or so, without being moved to
write) would turn out mere twaddle. Yet instinct contradicted reason,
as it often did with Sibley. He had a strong presentiment that he
should find at least some remarkable points in the work of this scarred
soldier, whose square-jawed face seemed to the secretly romantic mind
of Sibley a mask of hidden passions.

Only a few times since he became head of the house had Eversedge Sibley
consented to see a would-be author whose fame was all to make. The few
he had received had been fascinating young women of society with
influence among his friends, famous beauties, or noted charmers; but he
had never taken so deep an interest in one of them as in the
poverty-stricken, steerage passenger. He went as far as the reception
room in showing his guest out; and then instead of going down to his
motor, which would be waiting for him, let it wait. He returned to his
office, and looked again at the address which the author had laid on
his parcel of manuscript.

"John Sanbourne!" Eversedge Sibley said to himself, aloud. The man's
face was as sincere as it was plain, nevertheless Sibley was somehow
sure that his real name was not Sanbourne. He was sure that the inner
truth of the man, if it could but be known, was a contradiction of the
rough and strange outside; and he wished so intensely to get at the
hidden inner side that he could not resist opening the parcel there and
then.

Never had Eversedge Sibley seen such a manuscript. He was used to
clearly typed pages of uniform size, as easy to read as print. This was
written partly with pencil, partly with pen and ink, apparently three
or four different kinds of pens, each worse than the other. The paper,
too, consisted of odds and ends. The whole thing suggested poverty and
the meager condition of a steerage passenger. But this squalor, which
in most circumstances would have caused Sibley to fling down the stuff
in fastidious disgust, sent a thrill through him. No ordinary man with
ordinary things to say could have had the courage to struggle through
such difficulties, to any desired end. The longing to tell this story,
whatever it was, must have been strong in the man's soul as the urge of
travail in the body of a woman.

In spite of the mean materials, the writing was clear, and
suggested--it seemed to the mood of Sibley--something of the man's
strength and intense reserve.

"'The War Wedding,'" he read at the top of the first page. "Heavens, I
hope it's not going to be in blank verse!"

It was not in blank verse. He had to read only the first lines to
assure himself of that.

The story began with the description of a garden. It was simply done,
but it painted a picture, and--praise be to the powers, there were no
split infinitives nor gush of adjectives! Eversedge Sibley saw the
garden. He was the man who walked in it, and met the girl who came down
the stone steps between the blue borders of lavender. The story became
his story. For an hour he forgot his office, his waiting chauffeur, and
everything else that belonged to him.

So he might have gone on forgetting, if Stephen Eversedge, his junior
partner and cousin, had not peeped anxiously in at the door. "They said
you'd gone away and then come back. I thought I'd just ask if anything
was the matter," he excused himself to the master mind.

"The matter is, we've got hold of the most wonderful human
document--good God, yes, and _soul_ document!--that any house in this
country or any other has ever published!" The words burst out from
Sibley like bullets from a _mitrailleuse_.



CHAPTER VI


Denin hardly knew what to think of the telegram which came next
morning. It asked him to call at once on Mr. Sibley; but Denin, warned
that the manuscript story could not be read for a week or more, did not
dream that the publisher had already raced through it. His fear was
that a mere glance at the first page had been enough, showing the
skilled critic that the work lacked literary value; or else that the
bulk was insufficient to make a book. Mr. Sibley might, in kindness,
wish to end the author's suspense, and put him out of misery.

When the message arrived, Denin was reading and marking newspaper
advertisements. He meant to go without delay to several places of
business that offered more or less suitable work; but he was ready to
risk missing any chance, no matter how good, when the fate of his ewe
lamb was at stake. He was too despondent at the thought of its
rejection to plan placing it elsewhere, but he could not bear to lose
time in reclaiming it.

He felt, as he was led once more into Sibley's private office, as if he
had to face a painful operation without anesthetics, so sensitive had
he come to be on the subject of his story--the manuscript of his heart,
written in the blood of his sacrifice. There lay the familiar pages on
the desk, all ready, he did not doubt, to be wrapped up and handed back
to him. He had so schooled himself to a refusal that the publisher's
first words made his head swim. He could not believe that he heard
aright.

"Well, Mr. Sanbourne, I congratulate you!" Sibley said, getting up from
his desk-chair and holding out a cordial hand. "We congratulate
ourselves on the chance of publishing your book."

Denin took the hand held out and moved it up and down mechanically, but
did not speak. Following the publisher's extreme graciousness his
silence might have seemed boorish, but Sibley knew how to interpret it.
He realized that the other was struck dumb, and he felt a thrill of
romantic delight in the situation, in his own august power to confer
benefits. He was not conducting himself as a business man in this case,
but he knew by sureness of instinct that the strange amateur would take
no mean advantage of his confessed enthusiasm.

"We think," he went on, "that you have written something very original
and very beautiful. Without being sentimental, it's full of that kind
of indescribable sentiment which goes straight to the heart. It will be
a short book, only about fifty thousand words, or even less; but that
doesn't matter, because a word added or a word left out would make a
false note. The thing's an inspiration. You've got a big success before
you. You ought to be a happy man, Mr. Sanbourne."

"You make me feel as if I were in a dream," said Denin.

"That's the way your story has made _me_ feel," said Sibley. "Really,
your method has an extraordinary effect. Talking of dreams, it's almost
as if you'd written the whole story in some strange, inspired dream."

"Perhaps I did write it so," Denin said, more as if he spoke to himself
than to another. "I had no method--consciously. The story just came."

"One feels that, and it's the most compelling part of its charm," said
Sibley. "Well, now I've paid you your due of appreciation. Sit down,
and let us talk business."

"Business?" Denin echoed, rather stupidly. But he accepted the chair
his host offered, and Sibley too sat down.

"Yes, business," the publisher cheerily repeated. "We should like to
rush the book out as soon as possible. It's too late to have it set up
and given to our spring travelers to take round and show to the
trade--which is one of the most valuable ways of advertising, I assure
you. But in an immense country like America that means months of
traveling before a book appears. Yours has a specially poignant
interest at the moment, and I have so much faith in its power that I
believe it can advertise itself. Of course I don't mean that we won't
give it big publicity in the newspapers. We shall spread ourselves in
that way, and spend a lot of money."

"And can you get the book out soon in England, too?" asked Denin.

"Oh, yes. We'll produce here and there simultaneously, and do it in a
record rush, if you can promise to stay on the spot and read proofs."

"I'll do whatever you wish," said Denin.

"Now about the question of money," Sibley went on, exquisitely and
literally "enjoying himself." "Some people call me hard as nails, a
regular skinflint. And so I am, with those who try to squeeze me. I
don't think you'll have any such complaint to make. Your name is
unknown, but I believe in your book and I want to be generous with you.
What do you say to an advance payment of three thousand dollars, with
fifteen per cent. royalty for the first ten thousand sales, and twenty
per cent. after that?"

"But," stammered Denin, astounded. "I told you yesterday I didn't want
payment. That was true, what I said then. It would seem a kind of
sacrilege to take money for such a book--a book I wrote because I
wanted to--"

"I don't see that at all," Sibley cut in dryly. "You are the first
author I--or any other publisher, I should think--ever had to urge to
accept hard cash. But you're probably an exception to a good many
rules! We can't take your book as a present, you know! So if you want
it published you'll have to come round to our terms."

"You mean that?" asked Denin. "You won't bring out my story if I refuse
your money?"

"I do mean that, though I should hate to sacrifice the book. And I
honestly believe that many people would be happier for reading it."

"Very well then," Denin answered. "I'll accept the money and thank you
for it. I want my book to come out, more than I want anything
else--that--that can possibly happen."

To a man who had lived from hand to mouth as John Sanbourne had since
Sir John Denin died, three thousand dollars seemed something like a
fortune. He had lost his old sense of proportion in life, and had
almost forgotten how it felt to have all the money he wanted. Perhaps
he forgot more easily than most men of his class, for he had never
cared greatly for the things which money alone can buy. His tastes had
always seemed to his friends ridiculously simple, so simple as to be
dangerously near affectation; and as a small boy he had announced
firmly that he would "rather be a gardener in a beautiful garden, than
one of those millionaires who have to do their business always in
towns." Now, when he had recovered from the first shock of accepting
money for the book of his heart, he began to reflect how to plan his
life. The thought that he could have a garden was a real incentive, for
working in a garden would save him from the unending desolation of
uselessness, when the last proofs were corrected and there was no
longer any work to do on his story.

Barbara and Mrs. Fay had both talked to John Denin about their old home
in California, and with the knowledge that he could afford it a keen
wish was suddenly born in John Sanbourne to make some kind of a home
for himself in the country where Barbara had lived. She was named, her
mother had told him, after Santa Barbara. The girl had been born near
Santa Barbara, and had grown up there to the age of thirteen, when her
father had died and their place had been sold. After that, the mother
and daughter had gone to Paris. Denin recalled with crystal clearness
all the girl's warm, eager picturing of her old home, for he remembered
scenery and even descriptions of scenery with greater distinctness than
he remembered faces. He had often thought (until he met Barbara, and
fell in love) that he cared more for nature and places and things than
he could ever care for people, except those of his very own flesh and
blood. He knew differently now, but it seemed to him that he would be
nearer finding peace in Barbara's home-country than anywhere else in
the world.

There was no danger that she or her mother might some day appear and
meet him face to face, to the ruin of Barbara's dream of happiness with
Trevor d'Arcy. Mother and daughter had said that they never wished to
go back, now that the old ties were broken. When occasionally they
returned to America, they spent their time in Washington and New York;
but with Barbara married to Trevor d'Arcy, and mistress in her own
right of Gorston Old Hall, all interests would combine to keep mother
and daughter in England. John Denin's ghost might, if it chose, safely
haunt the birthplace of his lost love.

The day that the last proof-sheet of "The War Wedding" was corrected,
Sanbourne said good-by to Eversedge Sibley and started for California.
He could not afford to travel by the Limited or any of the fast trains,
so there were many changes and waits for him, and he was nearly a week
on the way; but when a man has lost or thrown over the best things in
his life there is the consolation that none of its small hardships seem
to matter. Besides, he had Santa Barbara to look forward to; and Denin
told himself that, things being as they were, he was lucky to have
anything to look forward to at all.

When he reached the end of the journey at last it was almost like
coming to a place he had known in dreams, so clearly did he recognize
the mountains whose lovely shapes crowded towards the sea. Barbara had
all their names by heart and treasured their photographs. He remembered
her stories of the islands, too, floating on the horizon like boats at
anchor; and the trails of golden kelp seen through the green
transparence of the waves, like the hair of sleeping mermaids. In the
same way he knew the big hotel with its mile-long drive bordered with
flaming geraniums; he knew the old town and--without asking--how to go
from there to the Mission. Also he knew that, on the way to the
Mission, he would find the place which Barbara had cared for most until
she fell in love--not with him--but with Gorston Old Hall.

He limped perceptibly still, and could not walk far without pain, so he
decided to be extravagant for the first time since "coming into his
money" and hire a small, cheap motor-car. It was driven by its small,
cheap owner, a young man with a ferocious fund of information about
Santa Barbara, and every one who had ever lived there.

"Heard of the Fay place?" he echoed Denin's first question. "Well, I
should smile! Why, me and Barbie Fay are about the same age," he
plunged on, so violently that no interruption could have stopped him.
"Not that we were in the same _set_. Not much! But a cat can look at a
king. And any boy can look at any girl, I guess. Gee! That little girl
was some _worth_ lookin' at! Her mother thought she was too good for us
plain Americans, so she took her off to Europe and clapped her in a
convent, after the old man died. They've never been back this way
since, nor won't be now. The girl's been married twice, I was readin'
in the papers. Once to some English lord or other who left her the same
day, and got himself killed in France; and the second time, just a few
weeks ago, to a cousin on her mother's side--a Britisher, too. There
was an interview with the mother in the _San Francisco Call_, I saw.
One of our California journalists over there in the war-zone got
it--quite a good scoop. Mrs. Fay said it was an old romance between
Barbie and this Captain-What's-his-name. But we never seen him here. I
guess he's English, root and branch. Good thing for that 'old romance'
they could make sure the other chap was killed all right, all right,
wasn't it? Some of them poor fellows gets blown to bits so you can't
tell one from t' other, they say. But the girl's mother mentioned to
our _Call_ reporter, that they knew the husband's body by a stylograph
pen in a gold case, which was her own last present to him. If it hadn't
been for that little thing, found in a rag or two left of the feller's
coat, Barbie wouldn't have dast married again, I bet. Say, that's one
of them anecdotes they put under the heading of 'Too Strange not to be
True!' ain't it?"

"Yes, it is strange," Denin repeated mechanically. It was strange,
too--above all strange--that he should have had to come to Barbara's
birthplace to learn this detail casually. A thousand times he had
wondered how they had identified John Denin's body with enough
certainty to take it back to England and give it a funeral with
military honors. Perhaps, if he had not come to Santa Barbara and in
Santa Barbara happened to stumble upon this loquacious fellow with the
motor-car to hire, he might have gone through all the rest of his life
without knowing. And another strange thing was that he had lent the
stylographic pen--Mrs. Fay's last present--to a man who wanted to write
a letter just before the battle. That man, who had been killed, was
possibly still reported "missing," while John Denin's wife, assured of
his death by a peculiarly intimate clue, had been able to take her
happiness without fear. If Barbara's mother had not given him the pen,
he would not now be numbered among the dead, but would have been free
to go back to his wife of an hour, and perhaps even teach her to love
him in the end.

Well, all that didn't bear thinking of now! He tried, as he had tried a
hundred times--but never so poignantly--to hold in his heart the memory
of flaming happiness worth all the pain of living through the burnt-out
years: the happiness he had put into the pages of his "War Wedding."

With some people who had known Barbara he would have liked to talk of
her, but not with this crude youth who spouted her praises from a mouth
full of chewing gum. Denin answered a pointed question of the
chauffeur's by saying that he had enquired about the Fay place because
he heard it was worth seeing. He might like to buy a little property
somewhere near if it could be got.

"You bet it can be got!" was the prompt answer. "That is, if you want
something little _enough_, you can get a bit of the old Fay property
itself."

"Really?" said Denin. "I thought it was all disposed of years ago."

"So it was. Eight years ago and a bit. I remember because I made an
errand to sneak down to the depot and see Barbie go off in the train,
as pretty as a white rose, dressed in black for her pa. I was only a
cub of fourteen. An old feller from the East, staying at the Potter,
went crazy about the place and bought it at Mrs. Fay's own price.
(Lucky for her! They say she'd nothing else to live on!) Feller by the
name of Samuel Drake. He was out in California for his bronchitis or
something, and took a fancy to the country. He wanted his married son
with a young bride to live with him, so he got a real bright idea. I
suppose the folks who told you about the Fay place never said nothing
about a kind of little playhouse called the Mirador (Spanish for
view-place or look-out, I guess), built at one end of the property that
fronts to the sea?"

"I--rather think they did mention something of the kind," said Denin.
The first time he had ever seen Barbara, at a dance soon after she was
presented, she had happened to speak of the Mirador. It was a miniature
house which her father had built for her at her favorite view point, as
a birthday surprise, when she was ten. There was an "upstairs and a
downstairs," a bath, and a "tiny, tiny kitchen" where she had been
supposed to do her own cooking. In the sitting-room she had had lessons
with her governess. The one upstairs room, with its wonderful view of
the bay and the islands, had been turned into a bedroom for her, when
she had scarlet fever and had to be isolated with a nurse. She had
"loved getting well there, and lying in her hammock on the balcony with
curtains of roses."

"Old man Drake had the smart notion of putting on a couple more rooms
in a wing at the back, and offering it to his son and his son's bride,"
the driver of the car was explaining, over the motor's cheap clatter.
"But while the work was going on, the new beams caught fire one night
(I guess some tramp could tell why) and the whole addition and a bit of
the original burnt down. Just then the son changed his plans anyhow,
and decided to go into business with his wife's folks in the East. That
sort of sickened the old man, so he let the Mirador fall into rack and
ruin; and now he spends about three quarters of his time in Boston with
the son. I guess he's sorry he was in such a hurry to buy the Fay
place. Anyways, he won't spend money on the Mirador, but rather than it
should stay the way it is, he'll sell it in its present condition with
enough ground to make a garden. The thing looks like a burnt bird's
nest--except for the flowers, and the house ain't much bigger than a
baby doll's house. I suppose it wouldn't suit you, would it?"

"Perhaps it might," answered Denin, trying to speak calmly. But in his
heart he meant to have Barbara's Mirador if it cost him every penny he
had left from his advance on "The War Wedding." It was almost as if, to
atone for taking herself out of his life, Barbara had given him this
dear plaything of her childhood to remember her by.

"Well, you'll be able to make up your mind," said his guide, slowing
down the rattletrap car. "Here we are at the Fay place, now--or the
Drake place, as maybe I ought to call it--and there's the Mirador. No
wonder old Drake wants to get it fixed up again! The way it is now, it
spoils the look of the whole property."

The "Fay place" gave a first impression of having been an orange
plantation transformed into a vast garden. There were acres and acres
of land, Denin could not guess how many. In the midst of orange trees
in fruit and blossom, and pepper trees shedding coral, and tall palm
trees with long gray beards which were last year's fronds, stood the
big, rambling pink bungalow that had been Barbara's home. Its tiled
roof and wide loggias were just visible from the road; but the Mirador,
to which the driver pointed, was in plain sight. Denin's heart bounded.
He almost expected to see a young girl with smoke-blue eyes and
copper-beech hair (it had been red in those days, she'd told him) open
one of the shuttered windows and look out with a smile.

Once, while she and her mother were staying at Gorston Old Hall, he had
tried to teach Barbara chess. In the midst of a game which she hoped to
win, she suddenly saw herself facing defeat. "Let's begin again, and
play it all over!" she had cried out, laughing.

Ah, if they could do that now: begin again, and play the game all over!

Well, the ghost of John Denin could begin to play hero with the ghost
of Barbara Fay's childhood, when he came to have his home in her old
playhouse. He knew that this must and should be his home, now that he
had come and seen the place and felt its influence even more subtly
than he had thought to feel it. He could not get through his shorn life
anywhere else.

The Mirador was distant at least four acres from the house. It too was
pink, like the parent bungalow, or it had once been pink, before the
fire which destroyed the addition for servants at the back had marred
the rose color of its plastered adobe walls. A roof of Spanish tiles
dropped low like a visor, giving cover to the balcony of the upper
story; and the floor of that balcony roofed the one below. On each of
these balconies only one window--which was also a door--looked out; but
it was a huge window, with green exterior shutters; and the stout,
square columns of the two verandas were almost hidden with roses,
passion-flower, and convolvulus which had either survived the fire or
grown up since. Though the front was so nearly intact, from each side
of the little house could be seen the blackened wreck of burnt beams;
and to screen the parent bungalow from any possible glimpse of this
eyesore, a high barrier of trellis-work had been erected about two
hundred feet distant from the Mirador. Over this barrier some
quick-climbing creepers had been trained, and they had grown in such
thick masses that an almost impenetrable green wall had already grown
up between the big house and the tiny one.

"This will suit me exactly," said Denin, trying to speak coolly. "We'll
drive back at once, please, to the agent who has the selling of the
Mirador."

       *       *       *       *       *

He was almost afraid to hear the price, lest his last dollar might not
suffice to secure the treasure. But the agent in whose hands "old
Drake" had put his business named the sum of two thousand dollars.
This, he said, was a mere song for land so near Santa Barbara; and, no
doubt, he was right. But it was a large slice of John Sanbourne's
capital, and left him only a small remnant for repairing the place, as
he must agree to do before the contract could be signed.

The journey from New York had cost a good deal, and--he must live
somehow, unless he could get work fitted for a "lame dog" to do. Mr.
Sibley had talked vaguely of "royalties," but it seemed impossible to
Denin that many people should actually care to _buy_ his book--the
strange little book written for himself, and sent wandering out into
the world to find Barbara. Even if people did buy it, the sales could
surely never go beyond the three thousand dollars Eversedge Sibley had
recklessly pressed upon him in advance! However, Denin did not hesitate
for any of these reasons. "I'll buy the Mirador and the acre and a half
of ground Mr. Drake is willing to sell with it," he said to the agent.
"And I'd like to pay for it if possible and settle up everything
to-day. Then I could move into the house at once."

The agent stared. "There's no furniture," he said.

"I can get in enough to begin with, in an hour or two, surely," Denin
persisted. "I'm used to roughing it."

The other could well believe that, from the look of the queer fellow!
As a business man, he would certainly not accept a check, and would be
inclined to ask expert opinion even on bank notes, paid by an unknown
client with such scars, and such clothes, and in such a hurry!

"You could hardly live in the house while the repairs you must agree to
are being made," the agent reminded the would-be buyer. "Don't you
think you had better--"

"I can manage all right," Denin cut short the advice. "As for the
repairs, I shall make them of course. What Mr. Drake asks is for the
house to be restored to its former appearance (aren't those the words?)
not enlarged. Well, I must tell you frankly that I can't afford to pay
for labor. I will guarantee to make the Mirador look just as it used to
look, and do it all with my own hands. I can't work very fast,
because--you can see, I've been disabled. But I shall have an incentive
to finish as soon as possible, if I'm actually living in the house."

"You had a severe accident, I suppose?" the curious agent could not
resist suggesting.

"It was--in a way--an accident," said Denin, and his smile was rather
grim.

When he had paid for the place, had bought materials for restoring the
house and improving the garden, had collected a few bits of furniture
and added some other necessaries, the owner of the Mirador had only
seven hundred dollars left out of his fortune. Nor did he at that time
know how he was to earn more dollars. Nevertheless he had come as near
to be being content as he could ever hope to be in this world. He had
given his own old home to Barbara, and there was no place for memories
of him there. But she had given her old home to him (unconsciously, it
was true; yet it seemed to be her gift) and memories of Barbara would
be his companions each hour of the day. Besides, he had the task of
restoring every marred feature of the little Mirador exactly as she had
described it to him. He bought a ladder and plaster and paint, and did
mason's work and painter's work with a good will. In the four rooms
which were more or less intact--bedroom, sitting-room, miniature
kitchen and bath--he put a few odds and ends of second-hand furniture,
enough for a hermit. And when his labor of love on the house was
accomplished, he set to work in the garden. Some day, he told himself,
he should find in the garden the greatest solace of all.

In his deep absorption, he forgot the book for days on end. Even in his
dreams he did not remember it, for in the room where Barbara had lain
ill with scarlet fever, dreams lent her to him, a childish Barbara,
very kind and sweet. He knew the date on which the book was to come
out, but he had lost count by a day or two, therefore it was a shock of
surprise to open a parcel which arrived one morning by post, and to see
six purple volumes. On each cover, in gold lettering, was printed "The
War Wedding: John Sanbourne."

His hand shook a little as he opened the front page, and began to read.
Strange, how poignantly real the story was in this form, more real even
than when he had written it, or read it over in manuscript that first
day in New York many weeks ago now. He went on and on, and could not
stop. There was no servant in the Mirador to look after his wants, and
so he had no food till evening; none until he had finished the book,
and had walked for a long time in the garden, thinking it all over with
passionate revival of interest. After that night the book again shared
his dreams with Barbara. Sometimes in dreaming, he saw Barbara reading
the story; but when he waked, he said to himself there were ten chances
against one that she would ever hear of it.

When "The War Wedding" in volume form was about a fortnight or three
weeks old, a thick envelope full of American press cuttings arrived for
"Mr. John Sanbourne," from Eversedge Sibley and Company. Every critic,
even those of the most important newspapers; praised the work of the
unknown author with enthusiasm. A notice signed by a famous name said,
"In reading this story, told with a limpid simplicity almost unique in
the annals of story-writing, one forgets the printed page and feels
that one is listening to a voice: not an ordinary voice, but the voice
of a disembodied soul which has forgotten nothing of this existence and
has already learned much about the next: a philosopher of crystal
clearness and inspiring serenity."

Nearly all the criticisms had something in them of the same curious
exaltation of mood. The writers asked: "Who is John Sanbourne, that he
can work this spell upon us?" And one said, "Whoever he is, he is bound
to get post-bags full of 'appreciations' from half the women in the
world, and a good many men."

A letter from Sibley was enclosed with the cuttings, congratulating the
author. "This is only the first batch," he wrote, "but it's a
phenomenally big one for this short time. Evidently these hardened
critics shared my weakness. When they began the book they couldn't put
it down till the end, and then they had to relieve their pent-up
feelings by dashing them onto paper at white heat. Many of these
reviews, as you'll see by the date, appeared on the day after
publication, most of the others on that following. Such opinions by
such critics in such papers have sold the book like hot cakes. Luckily
we expected a huge demand, or we should already be unable to supply it.
Thanks to our foresight we have a second and third big edition ready,
and an immense fourth one in the press. We have heard by cable that our
history over here is repeating itself in England. The exact wording is,
'Reviews and orders unprecedented.' You will be getting offers from all
the publishers for your next work, but we hope you'll be true to us. I
am in earnest when I speak of this, for if I am interviewed, I should
like to be able to say, 'Mr. Sanbourne has already an idea for another
book which we hope to publish about a year from now.' That will keep
them remembering you! Not that they're likely to forget for awhile.
They'll be too busy crying--the women, I mean, and I shouldn't consider
a man safe without his handkerchief. Please wire about the new book.
Also whether we are at liberty to answer the numerous journalistic
questions we're getting about you, with any personal details, or
whether you prefer to hide behind a veil of mystery. I'm not sure
myself which is preferable."

But Sanbourne was very sure. He left his garden work to walk to Santa
Barbara and send a telegram.

"Say nothing about me to any one, please, except that I shall never
write another book."



PART II

THE LETTERS



CHAPTER VII


John Sanbourne had smiled when he read the critic's prophecy that he
was "bound to get letters of appreciation from half the women in the
world," and he had thought no more of the comic suggestion until the
letters began to come. But the letters were not comic.

They were forwarded in large packets by Sibley and Company, and there
were many, incredibly many of them; some from men, but mostly from
women. The writers felt impelled to tell the author of "The War
Wedding" what a wonderful book they thought it was, or how much good it
had done them in their different states of mind. These states the
readers of Sanbourne's book described almost as penitents confessing to
a priest detail their sins. And the strange confidences, or pitiful
pleadings for advice and help from one who "seemed to know such
glorious truths about life and death," were desperately pathetic to
Denin. He was utterly amazed and overwhelmed by this phase of his
unlooked-for success, and knew not how to cope with it.

The first thousand and more letters were all from people in the United
States. Then letters from Canada began drifting in. At last, when "The
War Wedding" had been on sale and selling edition after edition for
eight weeks, a rather smaller parcel than usual arrived from the
publishers. Denin, who was in the garden, took it from the postman, at
the new gate which led to the Mirador. It was in the morning, and he
had been gathering late roses; for every day he decorated with her
favorite blossoms the two principal rooms of the house which
child-Barbara had loved. He had a big pair of scissors in his hand; and
sitting down on a bench, in the cool strip of shade that ran the length
of the lower balcony, he cut the string which fastened the packet. This
he did, not because he was impatient to see what it contained, but
because he was warm and tired after two hours of garden work and wanted
an excuse to rest. The letters of so many sad women who begged for
counsel that he knew not how to give, were having a shattering effect
upon his nerves. He had not supposed that there were so many tragic
souls of women in the world, outside the war-zone, and he dreaded the
details of their lives. Sometimes he was half tempted to put the
letters away or destroy them, unread.

There was a vague hope in his mind that this parcel might have
something other than letters in it: but as the shears bit the tightly
tied string, the stout linen envelope burst open and began to disgorge
its contents: letters--letters--letters!

Between his feet John Sanbourne had placed the basket of roses; and the
letters, falling out of the big envelope, began to drop onto the green
leaves and crêpy-crisp blooms of pink and white and cream.

"English stamps!" he said aloud--for the habit had grown upon him of
talking to himself. Bending down to pick up the letters, a dark flush
streamed to his forehead. There was one envelope of the same texture,
the same gray-blue tint, and the same long, narrow shape that Sir John
Denin had liked and always used at Gorston Old Hall. It had fallen face
downward; and as he rescued it from a fragrant bath of dew, he slowly
turned it over. There was an English stamp upon this envelope also, and
it was addressed to "John Sanbourne, Esq., care of Messrs. Eversedge
Sibley and Company," in Barbara's handwriting.

For an instant everything went black, just as it had done months ago
when he had got on his feet too suddenly in hospital. He shut his eyes,
and leaned back with his head against the house wall--the wall of
Barbara's Mirador. It was as if he could hear her voice speaking to him
across six thousand miles of land and sea. But it spoke to John
Sanbourne, not to John Denin.

"My God--she's read the book. _She's written!_"

He had to say the words over to himself before he could make the thing
seem credible.

And even then he did not open the letter. He dreaded to open it, and
sat very still and rigid, grasping the envelope as if it were an
electric battery of which he could not let go.

What if she hated the book? What if she wrote, as a woman who had been
twice a war bride, to say that a subject such as he had chosen was too
sacred to put into print? What if she felt bound to reproach the author
for treading brutally on holy ground?

If that was what the letter had to say to him, his message of peace had
failed, and all his patched-up scheme of existence broke down in that
one failure.

The thought that he was a coward shrinking from a blow nerved him to
open the letter. He was on the point of tearing the envelope, but he
could not be rough with a thing Barbara had touched, nor could he
deface it. He took up the scissors and cut off one end of the envelope,
then drew out a sheet of the familiar gray-blue paper. Unfolding it,
his hands trembled. All the rest of his life, such as it was, he felt,
hung on what he was about to read.

The letter began abruptly. "You must have many letters from strangers,
but none will bring you more gratitude than this. If you are like your
book, you are too generous to be bored by grateful words from people
whose sore hearts you helped to heal, so I won't apologize. You could
not write as you do, I think, if you didn't want to do good to others.
Will you then help me, even more than you have helped me already, by
answering a question I am going to ask? Will you tell me whether the
wonderful things you say, to comfort those of us who are losing our
dearest in battle, are just inspired _thoughts_, or whether you have
yourself been very near death, so near that you caught a vision from
the other side? If you answer me, and if you say that actual experience
gave you this knowledge, your book--which has already been like a
strong hand dragging me up from the depths--will become a beautiful
message meant especially for me out of all the whole world, making all
my future life bearable.

"Every night for months I've gone to bed unable to sleep, because I've
felt exactly as if my brain were a battlefield, full of the agony and
hopelessness of brave men dying violent and dreadful deaths, cut off in
the midst of youth, with the stories of their lives tragically
unfinished. But since I read in your book that marvelous scene with
those suddenly released spirits--young men of both sides, friends and
enemies, meeting and talking to each other, saying, 'Is this all?' 'Is
this the worst that death can do to us?' why, I seem to pass beyond the
battlefield! I go with those happy, surprised young men who are seeing
for the first time the great 'reality behind the thing' and a feeling
of rest and immense peace comes to me. I don't keep it long at a time.
I can't, yet. But if you write and say you _know_, I think I may some
day learn to keep it.

"I have the English edition of your book, but I have read in a
newspaper an extract from the interview a journalist had with the
publisher in New York. You see, everybody who has some one dear in the
war, or has lost some one beloved, is reading and talking of the book.
They all want to know things about you, but perhaps not all for as
_real_ a reason as mine. Some people have said that perhaps the author
may be a woman, who chooses to write under a man's name. I felt sure
from the first it couldn't be so, for only a man could say those things
as you say them; but I was glad of your publisher's assurance that you
are a man, and that your home now is in the far West in America.
Perhaps I shouldn't have dared write you if you were in this country,
because--but no, I needn't explain.

"My name can be of no interest to you, yet I will sign it.

"Yours gratefully, Barbara Denin."

"Barbara Denin." ... _She had kept his name!_

Many a woman did (he was aware) after a second marriage continue to use
the name of her first husband, in order to retain a title. But all he
knew of the girl Barbara Fay made it amazing to him that she should
hold to the name of a man she had never loved, after becoming the wife
of a man she had loved since childhood.

A wild doubt set his brain on fire. Could there have been some terrible
misunderstanding? Was it possible that after all she had never married
Trevor d'Arcy? ... Carried away on the flame of passion fanned by her
letter, Denin told himself that it might be so, and that if she were
free he would still have the right to go back to her. If she had not
given herself to another man she belonged to him, to him alone, and she
would not hate him if he explained the sacrifice he had made for her
sake.

He was on his feet before he knew what he was doing. The blinding hope
lit body and soul as with some curative ray beyond the ultra violet. It
shot, through his worn frame, life and abounding health, making of him
for a magical moment more than the man he had been a year ago. But it
was only a moment; indeed, less than a moment. For it did not take him
sixty seconds to remember _how_ he had heard of Barbara's marriage to
her cousin Captain d'Arcy. Walter Severne the airman had said that her
wedding had taken place on the same day with his own. Severne had
blamed her. Every word he had said was branded on Denin's brain. There
could be no mistake. Whatever the motive might be for signing herself
Barbara Denin, she was in all certainty d'Arcy's wife.

With the violent reaction of feeling came a sense of physical
disintegration. A heavy fatigue that weighted his heart and turned his
bones to iron followed the brief buoyancy of spirit. Yet he could not
rest. He had to walk, to keep in constant movement, to escape some
tidal wave which threatened suddenly to engulf his soul. He passed out
from the cool shadow of the balcony into the blaze of sunlight and
drank in the hot perfume of the flowers. At the end of a path a tall
cypress held its black, burnt-out torch high against the sky. Denin
went and leaned against it; doubly glad of his loneliness in this
refuge he had found, and thankful that none but the trees and flowers
of his garden could see him in his weakness and his pain.

The dark cypress he looked up to seemed to have gone through fire and
to have triumphed over death. Denin felt a kind of kinship with it,
wishing that from the tree and from all nature calmness and strength
might pass into his spirit. He imagined that he could hear the rushing
of sap deep under the rough bark. Generations of joys and sorrows had
come and gone since the tree was young, and had vanished, leaving no
more trace than sun or storm. So it would be with what he was suffering
now. The things that mattered in the life of this earth were strength
and steadfastness. Denin prayed for them, a voiceless prayer to Nature.

When he grew calmer he walked again, and lifted up his face to the sun.
"I'll answer her letter," he thought. It seemed strange to him now,
after the shock of what had happened, that when the letters began to
come, he had never imagined himself receiving one from Barbara. He had
had the book published in order that it might have some chance of
reaching her, of helping her; yet the proof that she had been reached
and helped had come upon him like a thunderbolt.

Of course he was thankful, now that he put it to himself in such a way.
He ought to be almost happy, he tried to think; but he was at the
world's end from happiness. A hurricane had swept through his soul, and
it would take him a long time to build up again the miserable little
refuge which had been his house of peace. Still, it didn't matter about
himself. He would write to Barbara, and give her the assurance she
asked for. He was glad now of a whim that had led him to learn
typewriting two or three years ago, for he could not trust to
disguising his hand so well that she might not recognize it. It was
many months since he had practiced typing, but he thought that in a few
hours he might again pick up the trick which he could not quite have
lost.

Rather than let himself think any longer, he went out at once, walking
to the town, where he bought a small typewriter of a new make. Its
lettering was in script, which seemed less offensive and coldly
businesslike for a letter than print. Back again at the Mirador he
tried the machine, and sooner than he had expected the old facility
returned. Then he was ready to begin his answer to Barbara; but for a
long time he sat with his fingers on the keys, his eyes fixed upon them
aimlessly. It was not that he could find nothing to say. He could find
too many things, and too many ways of saying those things. But all were
expressions of thoughts which he might not put on paper for Barbara to
read.

Even after he began to type, he took page after page out of the machine
and tore up each one. Vaguely he felt that the right way was to be
laconic; that he ought to show no emotion, lest he should show too
much. Finally he finished a few paragraphs which he knew to be lame and
halting, like himself, stiff and altogether inadequate. Yet he was sure
that he would be able to do no better, and so he determined to send his
letter off as it was.

"You say you are grateful to me," Denin began as abruptly as Barbara
had begun in writing to him, "but it is for me to be grateful to you
really, for speaking as you do of my story, 'The War Wedding.' I am
answering your letter the day it has reached me, because you are
anxious to have a reply to your question. It is what you wished it
might be. I _have_ been very near to death, so near that I seemed to
see across, to the other side of what _we_ think of as a gulf. If I saw
aright, it is not a gulf.... Those voices of young men passing suddenly
over in crowds, I thought, I believed, and still believe I heard. I can
almost hear them now, because one does not forget such things _if one
comes back_. I trust this answer may be of some comfort to you; and if
you can feel, as you say you will feel, that my book has a message
especially for you, I shall be very glad and proud.

"Yours sincerely, John Sanbourne."

When he re-read the typed letter, one point struck him which had not so
sharply pierced his intelligence before. The effect of the appeal from
Barbara, the miracle of its coming, and the poignant obligation it
thrust upon him had been too overpowering at first. He had not stopped,
after breaking short his wild hope of her freedom, to dwell on the
strangeness of one part of her letter above another. But now, in
judging his own phrases, he came to a stop at a sentence towards the
end of the page: "I trust this may be of some comfort to you."

"Won't that way of putting it sound conceited?" he asked himself. But
no; she had used that very word "comfort" in her letter. As he
remembered this, the thought suddenly woke in him that she had written
as a woman might write who was in deep sorrow. Yet she could not be in
deep sorrow. She had her heart's desire, and at worst, her feeling for
the man who was gone--John Denin--could only be a mild, impersonal
grief that his life had to be the price of her happy love.

He had longed, in writing the story of "The War Wedding," to show
Barbara why even that mild grief was not needed, because in giving
great joy to another soul a woman earned the right to her own
happiness. Denin could not bear to think that pity for him might shadow
Barbara's sunshine, but he had not dreamed until to-day that the shadow
could be dark. Now, the more intently he studied her appeal to the
author of the book, the more difficult he found it to understand her
state of mind.

Barbara spoke of herself as one of the many women whose "sore hearts"
ached for healing because they were losing their "dearest" in battle.
And she said that, if he could give her the assurance she asked for,
the story of "The War Wedding" would seem to hold a personal message,
making her "future life bearable."

What a generous and sensitive nature she had, and what beautiful
loyalty, to mourn sincerely for a man she had never loved, but to whom
she owed a few material advantages! It was wonderful of the girl, and
he worshiped her for it. His sacrifice for her was easier because of
this warm sense of her gratitude, and he kissed the paper he had just
written on for her, because some day it would be touched by her hands.

"If I only dared to say more to comfort her, and beg her to be happy!"
he thought. But the one safe way had been to make his answer to her
calmly impersonal, perhaps even a little cold. For fear he might be
seized with an irresistible desire to add something more, something
from his heart instead of his head, Denin put the letter into an
envelope and sealed it.

Then, however, he stumbled upon a new difficulty which had not occurred
to him before. He was in the act of addressing her as "Lady Denin"
(since she chose to keep his name), when his heart stood still in the
face of a danger he had barely escaped.

How was a stranger like John Sanbourne to know that she was _Lady_
Denin?

If, inadvertently, he had written the name thus, and sent the letter to
the post, even so slight a thing might have made her guess the truth.
Instead of comforting, he might have plunged her into humiliation and
despair.

Barbara had not spoken of herself in the letter as being married. For
all John Sanbourne was supposed to know, she might be a girl, mourning
a brother or a lover. At last he addressed her as "Mrs. or Miss Denin,
Gorston Old Hall." And with several other letters which he forced
himself to write, he enclosed the stamped envelope in a note to
Eversedge Sibley. "Please post these in New York," he begged. "I don't
care to have every one know where I live."



CHAPTER VIII


It was the day he finished re-plastering the house-wall, that the
celebrity was "discovered" by Santa Barbara.

Denin stood half way up a ladder with a trowel in his hand, when a
young man in a Panama hat and a natty suit of gray flannels came
swinging jauntily along the path: altogether, a "natty" looking young
man. He would probably have chosen the adjective himself.

"Good morning!" he confidently addressed the lanky, shirt-sleeved
figure on the ladder. "Do you happen to know if Mr. John Sanbourne is
at home?"

"I am John Sanbourne," said Denin, making no move to descend the
ladder. He wanted to get on with his work, and expected the newcomer's
errand, whatever it might be, would be over and done with in a minute.
He thought that the young man had probably come to sell him an
encyclopedia or a sewing machine, because the only other visitors he
had had--except the postman, and the boy from the grocer--had
pertinaciously urged that the Mirador was incomplete without these
objects.

The young man looked horrified for an instant, but being a journalist
and used to rude shocks, he was able hastily to marshal his features
and bring them stiffly to attention. He had already learned that the
Mirador's new owner was "peculiar," a sort of hermit whom nobody called
on, because he did his own work, wore shabby clothes, and made no
pretense of having social eminence. Indeed, it had never occurred to
any one (until the idea jumped into the reporter's brilliant brain)
that a person who could buy and inhabit that half ruined "doll's house"
could be of importance in the outside world. The journalist it was who,
happening to meet the postman near the Drake place that morning, saw a
huge envelope addressed to "John Sanbourne." He flashed out an eager
question: "Is there a John Sanbourne living near here?" He was
answered: "Yes, a fellow by that name's bought the Mirador"; quickly
elicited a few further details, and, abandoning another project,
arrived when the postman was out of the way, at the Mirador gate. It
was a blow--severe if not fatal--to romance to find John Sanbourne
splashed with whitewash and looking as a self-respecting mason would be
ashamed to look. But perhaps he was a socialist. That would at least
make an interesting paragraph.

"Are you _the_ John Sanbourne, the man who wrote 'The War Wedding'?"
the visitor persisted.

Denin was surprised and disconcerted. "Why do you ask?" he sharply
answered one question with another; then added, still more sharply,
"And who are you?"

"My name's Reid. I work for a San Francisco paper, and I'm
correspondent for one in New York. If you wrote the book that's made
such a wonderful boom, my papers want to get a story about you."

"Thank you. That's very kind of you and of them," said Denin coolly.
"But I haven't a 'story' worth any newspaper's getting. I'm sorry you
should give yourself trouble in vain. Yet so it must be."

"When I say 'a story,' I mean an article--an interview," Reid explained
to the amateur intelligence. "I think," he went on, beginning to find
possibilities in the hermit and his surroundings (voice with charm in
it: fine eyes: striking height: peculiar fad for solitude, etc.)--"I
think I see my way to something pretty good."

"I'm afraid," Denin insisted, speaking with great civility, because he
had suffered too much to inflict the smallest pin-prick of pain upon
any living thing if it could be avoided. "I'm afraid I must ask you not
to rout me out of my burrow with any searchlight. You can see for
yourself I'm no figure for a newspaper paragraph. If the public really
takes the slightest interest in me, for Heaven's sake leave them to
their illusions. Please write nothing about me at all. But I can't let
you go without asking you to rest and drink a glass of lemonade. I'm
ashamed to confess"--and he laughed--"that I've nothing stronger to
offer you. I lead the simple life here!"

As he spoke he came down from the ladder, trying not to show
inhospitable reluctance, and invited the reporter to sit in the shade
of the veranda. Reid, seeing that the man was in earnest, not merely
"playing to the gallery," showed his shrewd journalistic qualities by
acquiescence. He accepted the situation and the lemonade, and kept his
eyes open. He did not abuse the hermit's kindness by outstaying his
welcome, but took leave at the end of fifteen or twenty minutes. At the
gate, he held out his hand and Sanbourne had to shake it with a good
grace. Noticing for future reference, that the author of "The War
Wedding" had a hand as attractive as his scarred face was plain, Reid
said resignedly, "Well, Mr. Sanbourne, thank you for entertaining me.
But I'm sorry you don't want me to write about you. Sure you won't
change your mind?"

"Sure," echoed Sanbourne, and went thankfully back to put the last
touches on the house-wall. About half an hour later the work was
finished, and he had time to remember that several letters and papers,
brought by the postman, were lying unopened. Standing on his ladder, he
had asked to have the budget left on the balcony table. Then he had
forgotten it, for he dreaded rather than looked forward to the letters
of his unknown correspondents; and even if Barbara acknowledged his
answer (which seemed to him unlikely) it would be many days before he
could expect to hear from her.

This time there was the usual fat envelope, stuffed with smaller ones,
forwarded by Eversedge Sibley; also there was a letter from Sibley
himself. Denin put off delving into the big envelope, and opened
Sibley's. Quite a friendship had developed between them, and he liked
hearing from the publisher, who wrote about the great events of the
world or advised the reading of certain new books, which he generally
sent in a separate package. Sometimes he sent newspapers, too, fancying
that Sanbourne saw only the local ones. They were having a discussion
through the post, the American trying to instruct the Englishman in the
intricacies of home politics; but the letter which Denin now opened did
not refer to that subject, nor did it finish with the usual appeal:
"When will the call to work get hold of you again, or when will the
spirit move you to think of writing me another book?"

"Dear Sanbourne," Sibley began. "This is an interlude, to the air of
'Money Musk'! Our custom, as you may vaguely have noticed in the
contract I forced you to sign, is to make royalty payments to our
authors twice a year. But you have bought a house and land, and Heaven
knows what all, out of your advance, you tell me. Seems to me you can't
have left yourself much margin. You mentioned the first day we met that
you were a poor man; so I have unpleasant visions of what our latest
star author may have reduced himself to, while the men whose job it is
to sell his masterpiece are piling up dollars for his publishers. The
check I lay between these pages (so as to break it to you gently) is
only a small part of what we know the 'Wedding' to have made up to
date. Never in all my experience has a book advertised _itself_ as
yours seems to have done. One reader tells a dozen others to buy it.
Each one of that dozen spreads the glad tidings among his or her own
dozen. So it goes! The 'Wedding' has now been out three months and is
in its tenth edition, the last six whacking big ones. It won't stop
short of at least a million, I bet, with Canada, England, and the
Colonies as well as our immense public here. With this assurance, you
can afford to use the present check as pin money. Yours ever, E. S."

Denin turned the page, and saw a folded slip of yellow paper: a check
payable to John Sanbourne for two thousand five hundred dollars.

He thought no more about the journalist. But the journalist was busily
thinking about him. Mr. Reid was not writing an "interview" with Mr.
Sanbourne, because he had promised he would not do that. Sanbourne had,
luckily for Reid, let his request stop there. Reid considered himself
morally free to write something else, which did not compose itself on
the lines of an interview. He wrote what he called "A Study of John
Sanbourne, Author and Hermit," making it as photographic, yet at the
same time as picturesque, as he knew how. Just as an "artist
photographer" takes dramatic advantage of high lights and shadows, so
did Reid the reporter put to their best use the splashes of whitewash
on his celebrity's black hair and scarred brown face, and spots of pink
paint on his shirt sleeves. He described the Mirador as it had been
after the fire, and as it had become since John Sanbourne bought the
little ruined "doll house" with its patch of garden walled off from the
Drake (once the Fay) place, near Santa Barbara. He mentioned his own
surprise at finding so famous a man voluntarily hidden from the world,
in these quaint surroundings, when, if he chose, he could be fêted by
"everybody who was anybody" for miles around.

When Reid had finished his "study," he was as proud of it as his victim
was of the plaster and paint on the Mirador walls. It was too good,
thought the journalist, for a local paper. Why, it was a regular
"scoop"! He would send it "on spec." to the _New York Comet_ which
occasionally accepted an article from him. This, he had no doubt, would
not only be accepted but snapped at, for the great Sunday supplement
which the _Comet_ brought out. In that case, he would get a good price
for his work, far better than local pay, to say nothing of the kudos;
and as a queer fish like Sanbourne wasn't likely to "run to" the Sunday
_Comet_, or to a press-cutting subscription, he would probably never
see the "stuff." This thought relieved Reid of his one anxiety.
Sanbourne had trusted him. And the difference between an "interview"
and a "study" was perhaps too subtle for an outsider to understand.

As it happened, Mr. Reid was right in all three of his suppositions.
The New York _Comet_ did approve his manuscript: theirs was a dignified
cross between accepting and snapping. John Sanbourne did not see the
Sunday supplement, nor did he take in any of the many newspapers which
quoted it. He did not subscribe to a press-cutting bureau; and the
agencies which had applied for his patronage, being discouraged by his
silence, did not send to him.

Eversedge Sibley, on the other hand, always saw the Sunday supplement
of the _Comet_, which specialized on literary subjects. He read the
"Study of John Sanbourne, Author and Hermit," and was astonished that
so retiring, almost mysterious a person, had granted it. On further
deliberation, however, Sibley decided that material for the article
must have been got on false pretenses. He read the "stuff" through
again, and felt that, though interesting to the public, Sanbourne would
think it hateful. If a journalist had caught him unawares, he would be
distressed to find his privacy so violated; and Eversedge Sibley did
not want Sanbourne to be distressed. Consequently he did not forward
the supplement, nor the cutting his firm afterwards received of it; and
as no one else thought of sending, Sanbourne continued peacefully to
forget his morning visit from a journalist. Even the fact that he was
stared at in the street more intently than he had been at first, when
an errand took him into town, did not remind him of the call or cause
him to put two and two together. He did not indeed know that he was
being stared at. He did not look much at people, because he did not
wish to be looked at. And his thoughts were more for the place and the
scenery which Barbara had loved and he was learning to love than for
his fellow creatures, who seemed infinitely remote from him.

"How wonderful that that John Sanbourne who wrote 'The War Wedding'
should be here, and none of us even dare try to get to know him!" some
women said, when they had seen extracts from Reid's "study" in
newspapers they took in. These women thought Sanbourne's scars actually
attractive. Others announced that they didn't believe the man _was_ the
real John Sanbourne. There must be some mistake. _This_ one didn't look
like a gentleman. At least his clothes didn't. And _anybody_ could
pretend to be John Sanbourne if they liked. Lots of frauds did that
sort of thing when a novel by an unknown author made a great success.

John Sanbourne felt richer with his new check and the astonishing
prospect held out by Sibley than Sir John Denin had ever felt at
Gorston Old Hall with his big income. But his one extravagance was to
buy some books and shelves to put them on. In that way he soon
collected all his old, best friends around him; for that was the one
joy of having books for friends. No matter where you went, you could
always send for them and have them with you. You could never be
entirely alone in the world.

When the time came that Denin might receive a letter from Barbara, he
tried not to think of it. He said to himself that he knew it would not
come, that he ought not to want it to come, that if it did come, it
would only prolong the agony. He read hard, and worked hard in the
garden, and took long walks, though he limped slightly still, for he
was losing the worst of his lameness and might actually hope to become
in the end (as the German surgeon had prophesied) as "good a man as he
had ever been." Perhaps in some ways--ways of the mind and spirit--he
was better. But there was no soul-doctor to judge of such improvement.
Certainly Denin was unable to do so himself.

Nothing on earth or in heaven could distract his thoughts from the
letter, however, when it began to loom before him as a possibility.
Constantly he found himself saying, "To-morrow it might come." And
then, "To-day."

When it was "to-day," he began courageously to plan an excursion which
for some time he had been meaning to make. If he left early in the
morning--long before the postman was due--he need not get back till
night. But his strength failed at the moment of starting. He went no
farther than the gate. _Should_ there be a letter while he was away,
the postman must leave it on the table outside the house, for the door
would be locked. Then, Denin argued, if any mischievous person should
slip in and steal it, he would never know what he had missed. And he
was rewarded for staying. The letter did come. It was only when he held
it in his hand that he realized how desperately he had wanted it, what
a black dungeon the beautiful summer day of sunshine would have been
without it.

"Thank you more than I can say for answering me!" he read. "You wrote
me on the very day you had my letter, and I am doing the same with
yours, for it has just arrived. Now, since you have told me you _heard
the voices with the ears of your own spirit_, the book can be mine--my
own message, meant for me. Perhaps others say this very same thing to
you--though it seems that no one can need such a message as much as I
need it. I wonder if it would be wrong to tell you why?

"Maybe your first thought when I ask that question, will be--why should
I _want_ to tell you? But if I do tell you, then you will see why. We
are strangers to each other, living thousands of miles apart, and we
shall never meet; yet because you have written this book, I feel that
you are my friend. You have helped me as no one else could. And I have
no one else to help me at all--_no one_.

"Yes, I must tell you!--for in one way I and the girl in your story
have lived through the same experience. Only there is one great
difference between us. She didn't love the man she married, and that
hurt her, in thinking of him afterwards when he was dead. I loved the
man I married so much that it is killing me because I didn't tell him.
There was a reason why I didn't tell. It seemed then that I could not.
But oh, do you, who know so much, think he understands now, and does he
still care, or is he too far away? Could he understand my having done a
thing since he went, a thing that looks like disloyalty--treason--to
his memory, though indeed it was not that. It was done to save a life.
You will say, 'This is a mad woman who asks me such questions.' But I
almost wish I were mad. If I were, I mightn't realize how I suffer.
Yours--Barbara Denin."

He was stunned by the letter, and its revelation. She had _loved him_.



CHAPTER IX


The thought filled the man's soul and surrounded it as water fills and
surrounds a ring fallen into the sea. Barbara had loved him. There was
nothing in the world outside that thought.

At first, it caught him up to heaven, and then just as he saw the
light, it flung him down to hell.

Fool that he had been, never to see the truth under her reserve, while
seeing would have meant standing by her, keeping her forever! But he
had let her go, and it was too late now, even for explanations. He had
shut an iron door between them; and standing with her on the other side
of that door was a man who called her his wife. There was the
situation; and he, by his silence, had created it. He was condemned to
perpetual silence; for it was the wildest, most hopeless mockery of all
which brought to John Sanbourne a knowledge of Barbara's love for John
Denin.

Fate had been laughing at him while he wrote his book with a message of
peace for her, laughing wicked and cruel laughter, because through the
message he was to come into touch with Barbara and learn the tragic
failure of his sacrifice. That seemed to Denin a vile trick for life to
play upon a man, and whipped by the seven devils of thwarted love which
had entered into him he cursed it; cursed life and fate, himself and
Trevor d'Arcy, and was ready to deny Justice, even Justice blindfolded.

His heaven lasted for a moment at best. For many hours Cain and Abel in
him fought each other in hell. But he had been down in depths well nigh
as black, and had struggled out to the light. Remembering this, he
struggled out once more, at last, and perceived that, somehow, to his
own wondering surprise, he had stumbled up to a higher level and a
stronger footing than before. Within distant sight he visioned those
serene mountain tops where light is, the light that never shines on sea
or land for those who have not suffered.

Only a short time ago he had begun daily to realize and tell himself
that strength and steadfastness alone really mattered; that suffering
was but a flame which passed. This was still true, as true as it had
ever been. A man could choose whether the flame should consume or
purify him in its passing; and here and now the immediate hour of his
choice was on the stroke. At the end of that day of turmoil, Denin
seemed still to be looking down at himself, as a crouching prisoner in
a dark underground cell. Yet he knew that he was his own prisoner, not
really a helpless captive of the Fate he had cursed. Fate had no power
after all to make men prisoners. It was their business to find this
out, and to prove that they had only to release themselves, in order to
be free. He felt this to be an abstract fact of life; and if he meant
to live he must make it concrete.

The underground hole where he so miserably crouched was but the cellar
of his darkest self. If he but thought so, he had strength enough in
him to fight his way up into the high, bright tower which was also
himself, a tower with a wide view on every side, over the sunlit
mountains from whose peaks he could already catch some glimmering
vision.

Even the thought of the mountain tops--that they were there, shining,
and always had been and always would be--made Denin lift his head and
draw deep breaths into his lungs. That part of him which had yearned to
write the book for Barbara and had conquered difficulties to write it,
came like a strong brother to the rescue of a weak brother and pulled
him up by main force out of the dark. He tried to reassure himself,
over and over, that he need never again crawl back into the darkness.
He had seen the view from the tower, and the tower was his to reach.

Denin had not worked out for his own guidance any clear-cut philosophy
of life. He had just stumbled along with strength for his goal mark,
trying now and then to recall some whisper or note of music he had
caught from the other side before he came back. He had written down in
his book, for Barbara, all that had been tangible under his pen. But
now, knowing she had loved him, he saw how much more help she needed
than he had given, and how much more--how very much more--he owed her.

Not that he had deliberately stood aside and left the girl unprotected.
When in the German hospital he had drifted back to a knowledge of
realities past and present, he had seen almost at once that, even if
the news were unwelcome, he must not let his wife live in ignorance
that she was still bound. It was only after hearing from Severne of
Barbara's marriage to d'Arcy, that he had said, "John Denin is dead and
buried, and his ghost laid." He had meant to make the supreme sacrifice
for Barbara's good, and there had been no shadow of doubt in his mind
that he was right in making it. Now he asked himself if even then it
might not have been best to let the truth come out. No one was to blame
for the mistake in a dead man's identity, nor for what had happened
afterwards through that mistake. Barbara would have had a hard choice
before her; yet she might, if she possessed strength and courage
enough, have chosen from the two men who had come into her life, the
one she loved. The whole world would have rung with the tragic story,
but at the end Barbara might have lived down the tragedy. If he had
been her choice, he would have helped her to live it down, by the gift
of such love as no man had ever given to a woman.

As it was, he had dared to play the potter. He had taken the clay of
Barbara's destiny into his own awkward hands, to shape it as he thought
best, and he had let the vase break in the furnace. He could never make
it what, but for his meddling, it might have been; yet he must piece
the delicate fragments together if he could, not caring for--not
thinking of--his bleeding hands.

This, then, was the debt Denin owed to Barbara. And to pay it he saw
that he must begin by remaking himself, before he could give her
anything worth the having. He must become a thing of value, in order to
be of value to her. Those faint whispers and snatches of music from the
other side of the hidden river, which he had jumbled into "The War
Wedding," confusedly, hurriedly, fearing to lose their echoes, he must
now carefully gather up again and sort out with method. He must dip
into his brain where half-remembered thoughts seethed in solution. He
must see the rainbow in every tear drop, and crystallize it into a
jewel for Barbara. Thus developing himself, he might have some worthy
offering for her at last.

He could not write that day, nor the next, for it seemed that the only
things worth saying were the things which would not let themselves be
said, things which swept through the background of his mind like a
flight of chiming bells in the night, elusive as waiting souls for
which no bodies have yet been made. But though he could not write, he
called thoughts, which he had once seen and let go, to come again to
him. He sent himself back along the road he had traveled beyond the
milestones. He searched by the wayside for beautiful memories he had
dropped there, and some of them he found grown up tall and white as
lilies in moonlight. Whatever he found was for Barbara.

On the third night after the revelation, he had gathered something to
give her, and strength enough to feel sure he would not put into his
letter the question which must not be asked: "What was the reason you
couldn't tell your husband that you loved him?"

Denin wrote with a typewriter, as he had written before, on blank paper
with no address, because it was better for Barbara to come in touch
with him only through his publishers. In that way, she would be spared
any sense of constraint she might have to feel in knowing that he lived
among her neighbors of long ago. She had given him her name frankly,
and she might fear some inadvertent mention of it to people she had met
as a child. If he were to be of real use to her, he thought, he must be
known only as a distant Voice, an Ear, a Sympathy, almost impersonal
outside his letters.

Denin wrote to her that he was sure, entirely sure, the man she loved
was "not too far away to know."

"You will only have to send him a thought, and it must reach him behind
that very thin wall we call death. The way I imagine it, such a message
goes where it's directed, just as when we call 'Central' through the
telephone. They, whom we speak of as dead, have their own work to do
and their own life to live, so perhaps they don't think of us every
moment. But surely we've only to call. They may not see us in the
flesh, any more than we can see them in the spirit; but it came to me
when I was very close to the other side, that our bodies don't enclose
us quite. We're half-open jewel-boxes, that let out flashes of emerald,
or sapphire, or diamond light, according to the strength of our
vibrations--or aspirations, if you like (I begin to realize that these
are much the same thing!). It is the flashes of light which are seen
and recognized by the ones who have passed farther on. The lights are
our images, as well as messages for them. But when I say 'farther on,'
it's only a figure of speech. They are not far off.

"We can see the rain. We can't see the wind, even when it is so close
we can lean on it like a wall. And so we can lean on their love, strong
as a wall, stronger than anything visible to us, because love is the
strongest thing there is. You see, life wouldn't be worth living for
any of us--it wouldn't have been worth creating--if the dead really
died. The glory of the deathless dead lights our way, with the bright
deeds they have done, till we come where we can see for ourselves that
there's no dividing line. 'The milestones end.' That's all. They're not
needed any more.

"I heard other people talking of these things when I went where the
milestones end. Since then I've wondered why I didn't know the things
before. _Listen to your hopes_, and _you_ can know without waiting;
because hope is the voice of instinctive knowledge, and soul-instinct
is what we were _born_ knowing. Believe this, and you won't have to
stumble slowly up, as I did, with a hod full of old precepts on my
back. You can plane down from the sky with your arms full of stars, and
live with them, as I live with the flowers in my garden.

"The accident which put me into close touch with what we call 'death,'
put me out of touch--mentally--with life on this side for a while. An
operation brought me back. Just as, hovering between the known and the
unknown, I let my past drop, so on my return to it I had for a while no
memories of the borderland. My brain busied itself picking up lost
threads. I recalled the instant when I thought I was meeting death: a
great shock when all supports fell away as from under a ship that is
launched, and I plunged into measureless depths. Beyond that sensation,
there was blankness. By and by glimpses of something bright came and
went, oftenest in dreams. The effort to seize their meaning waked me
with a start. It is only now that I am beginning to hold some of the
best meanings, I think. I have come back with a little star-dust, even
I; and by its glimmer, in good moments, I try to interpret my own
dreams.

"If I read them rightly, I've told you only an old, old truth in saying
that there should be no such word as death, or grief for it among the
living. We've only to lift the veil of Death to see the face of Life--a
wonderful, shining face with no pain in its smile. Looking into its
eyes, what we do, instead of 'dying,' is to flow over our own narrow
limitations as growing vines flow over the high wall of a little
garden. We escape out of bounds into the boundless and are part of it.

"Don't, then, let the life of the man you have loved be darkened by
feeling that he has darkened yours. Stand up, lift your head, and
you'll see how your sorrow will have to lie down at your feet as
shadows lie."

When Denin ended his letter, he found that in trying to help Barbara,
he had helped and heartened himself. He had unfolded a flag and waved
it to the sky.

He went out, though it was after midnight, and posted the letter.
Later, he was able to sleep as he had not slept since the night he
wrote the last words of his book. As usual he dreamed of Barbara, but
this time it was a new dream. He saw himself painting her portrait; and
when he waked in the sunrise he wondered why he had never tried to
paint such a likeness from memory. He could see her as clearly before
him as though she had come to the door, opened it, and looked at him.

The thought gave him something more to live for. He would do the
picture, and so bring Barbara herself to the Mirador where, guessing
nothing of the truth, she sent her thoughts to John Sanbourne.



CHAPTER X


It seemed to Denin that he knew the day and even the moment when his
letter reached Barbara.

He was working on her portrait, to which he gave every instant of his
spare time between dawn and dusk. A strange, elusive impression of a
girl it was; a girl in white looking through a half-open door. She
stood in shadow, but leaning forward a little so that her eyes and hair
and a long fold of her dress caught the light. Denin's portrait work
before had been done with charcoal or colored chalk. Such mediums were
too crude, however, for this labor of his love. He was trying pastels,
and had expected to make many false starts and failures. But he had
only to open the door to see the girl standing just outside, looking
straight at him with smoke-blue eyes under level brows and warm shadow
of copper-beech hair; so after all he could not go wrong with his work.
He had but to paint what he saw, and the picture took life quickly, as
his book had taken life, because it was easier to go on than to stop.
One evening, he was straining his eyes for the last ray of daylight,
when a blue flash seemed to leap from the eyes of the portrait. He
could hardly believe that it was only an illusion of an overworked
optic nerve. It was as if Barbara had somehow found out about the
portrait, and compelled it to speak for her, to tell him something she
wished to say.

"She has got the letter!" was the thought that compelled his mind to
accept it. And then--"She will answer at once."

The difference in time between Santa Barbara and Gorston Old Hall was
about twelve hours; and fifteen days ago, he had posted his letter. It
was just possible, even in war-time delays, that it had reached her, he
calculated, as the eyes of the portrait held him spellbound.

When the picture was finished, he took its measurements and ordered a
glass to protect the fragile colors, delicate as the microscopic plumes
of a moth's wing. But he could not content himself with any design for
a frame. He went to shop after shop, and even traveled as far as Los
Angeles, in the hope of finding the right thing. But nothing was right
as a frame for Barbara. The handsomer a frame was, the more
conventional and banal it looked in Denin's eyes, when he tried to
associate it with her. At last he decided to carve out the frame with
his own hands, from the beautiful fluted redwood of the great sequoias
of California: wonderful, ruddy wood with an auburn sheen and a wave
running through it like that of Barbara's hair.

The idea seized him and brought extraordinary delight. He took three
lessons from an astonished cabinet-maker of whom he was able to buy the
redwood, and then with confidence and joy began his work. In two days
it was finished, and the picture in place. It was almost as if he had
built a house for Barbara, and she had come to live in it, and look out
of the door at him.

The portrait was half life-size; and rimmed in its rich fluted setting
of redwood a thousand years old, it was of exactly the right length and
shape to hang on the door of child-Barbara's bedroom--his bedroom now.
It was for that place he had planned it, because in these days he had
lost the unbroken privacy of his first weeks at the Mirador. John
Sanbourne had been "discovered," and without churlishness was unable to
remain any longer a hermit. He went nowhere, except for the long,
solitary walks he loved, and refused all invitations, but he could not
lock his gate against the three or four kindly persons who ventured
with the best intentions, to "dig him up" and "keep him from being
lonely." His memory-portrait of Barbara was too strikingly like her, in
its strange impressionist way, not to be in danger of recognition by
some old acquaintance of her childhood. Besides, a picture of his love,
even if unrecognized, was far too sacred to be seen by stranger eyes.
In Denin's bedroom the smiling visitant was safe. No one but himself
ever went there. And with the heavy frame firmly clamped to the door
panels, the effect of the girl gazing out into the room was thrillingly
intensified for Denin. Thus hung, the portrait was opposite his camp
bed; and when he waked at sunrise, Barbara and he looked at each other.

The picture had been in its place for a day when her letter came, a
very thick letter; and with the envelope uncut he went up to sit before
her likeness and read what she had to say to John Sanbourne.

"You are a lifeline thrown to me!" he read. "I grasp it thankfully. I
wonder if you will think me a silly, sentimental creature, if I tell
you that even before I opened your letter a strong golden current
seemed to come out through the envelope into my fingers, and up my arm?
If you were just an ordinary friend, a man, living near me, I shouldn't
be able to say this to you, or tell you that I put your letter like a
talisman inside my dress, so as to keep it near me, and not lose the
sense of its influence after I had read it three times over. But to
_you_ at your distance I can tell many things that are sacred, because
I'm only a shadow to you, not a flesh-and-blood woman, with all my
faults and foolishnesses under your eyes to be judged. I'm a shadow to
you, and I don't mind being a shadow, because it gives me freedom and
liberty. Yet I mustn't abuse that liberty, and deceive you, my friend
so far off--and so near. I'm afraid that I have deceived you already,
and asked for your sympathy, your help, under false pretenses. Perhaps
if you'd known the real truth about me and my life, you would have
written me a terribly different letter. Whenever I am feeling the
comfort of it most, suddenly that thought pierces through me, very cold
and deadly, like a spear of ice. I _want_ the comfort--oh, how I want
it!--and so, to make sure whether I have the right to take it or not, I
am going to tell you everything. You will not be bored, or think me
egotistic. I know you well enough, through your book and your letters,
to be sure of that. When you have read this, you will be able to judge
whether I can dare to claim the consolation you offer me, and whether I
have a right to comfort myself with those thoughts, about the only man
I have loved or shall ever love. Because, I have given another man a
place in my outer life.

"What thought comes into your mind when you read those
words--cold-hearted, horrible, disloyal words? Do you slam the door of
your sympathy in my face, and turn me away? No, please, please don't do
that--anyhow don't do it quite yet. Wait till I've explained as well as
I can--if any explanation is possible.

"I want you to know all the truth and understand entirely, so I must
even tell you a thing that seems absurd to tell. It would be absurd, if
it were not for the thing's consequences. When I was fourteen my mother
and I came away from America, where we'd lived ever since I was born,
came to live in Paris, though she is English by birth. A cousin of
hers, an officer in the British army, was on leave from his regiment
just then. He ran over to Paris, to amuse himself, not to see us; but
as he knew we were there, he called. He was twenty-seven--thirteen
years older than I--and I thought he was like all the heroes of all the
novels I'd ever read, in the form of one perfectly handsome, perfectly
fascinating man. He treated me like a child, and teased me a little
about being a 'flapper,' but that only made me look up to him more,
because he seemed so high above me, and wonderful and unattainable,
like a prince.

"Perhaps he saw how I felt, and gloried in it as great fun. He gave me
his picture in uniform, and I worshiped it humbly, as a little Eastern
girl might worship an idol. Soon he went to India, but I saw him once
again, nearly two years afterwards, when I was almost sixteen. I had
never forgotten my 'prince,' and after he came back he flirted with
me--rather cruelly, I think. When I realized--just as he was saying
good-by, that he'd only been playing a little, it all but broke my
heart--what I thought was my heart. I used actually to _enjoy_ being
miserable, and telling myself I should never love again--just as if I'd
been a grown-up woman. I was even angry with my frivolous self when I
found that I was getting over it. For I did get over it very soon, and
before I was seventeen I could look back and laugh at my childish
silliness. That was over five years ago, for I am twenty-two now; and
all my real life has come since then.

"My mother and I were poor, until a little while ago. She is very good
really and very charming, and absolutely unselfish, so I'm not picking
flaws in her if I have to explain to you that she was selfish for _me_.
Being English herself, she has always thought--in spite of marrying an
American and going to live in America--that there's nothing quite so
good in the world as the best kind of English life. By the 'best kind,'
she means life among the aristocracy, in country houses, and in London
in the season. She made up her mind before I was eighteen that she
wanted me some day to marry a man who could give me just that life. I
used to laugh then, when she mapped out my future. It seemed only
funny, not vulgar and horrid to talk about marrying some vague,
imaginary man for his title and money; but when Mother took a house in
London--a better house than we could afford--and went into debt to buy
me heaps of lovely clothes, and fussed and schemed to get me presented
and dragged into the 'right set,' I began to be ashamed.

"Before we had been in London very long I met a man who was different
from any one I had ever seen before. From the first night, when we were
introduced at a dance, I could think about no one else. I wish I could
make you understand what he was like, for then you would see how a
woman who cared about him could never stop caring, even when he was
dead; for no other man could at all take his place. He wasn't handsome,
not even what people would call 'good looking,' I suppose, and he
didn't talk very much. But somehow, when he came into a room with lots
of other men in it, all the rest simply ceased to count. He was very
tall, and a great athlete. Maybe that was one thing that pleased a
woman, for we do like strength--we can't help it. But there was so much
more about him, magnetic and sincere and splendid, which would somehow
have made one feel that he was near, if one were _blind!_ He could do
all the things other men do better than any of the others, yet he had
thoughts such as none of the others had. One knew that a woman could
have no moods or imaginings beyond his power to understand, if he cared
enough, because he was _fine_--'fine' in the French meaning of the
word--as well as strong. I shall never forget the first time he looked
at me. We had just been introduced. There was something wonderful about
his eyes--I could hardly tell you what it was. But one suddenly felt
caught and drawn into them, as into a vortex in deep, still water,
clear and pure, though dark.

"I saw that he rather liked me, and even that meant a good deal from
him, because he was a man's man, and didn't care much about laughing
and talking with lots of girls. Perhaps he was shy of them. Mother saw,
too, that he was interested; and that was what began all the trouble,
because he was exactly what she had set her heart on for me. She
wouldn't leave him alone to make up his mind whether he really wanted
to see more of me or not. She tried to _force_ him to want me. She did
all she could to bring us together. She left no stone unturned. To me
it was sickening. I don't know whether he saw it or not, but I was so
afraid he might, and be disgusted with us both, that it made me feel
absolutely ill. I could never be at ease with him. It was hateful,
hateful that he should think my mother and I were trying to 'catch'
him, because of his title and money, and his beautiful old house which
every one admired and talked about, and heaps of women wanted.

"After we had known him for awhile, mother hinted and hinted for us to
be invited to stay at his place. It was almost like asking him to marry
me--at least I felt it was. He was obliged to get up a house-party for
us, so that we shouldn't be alone, for he had no mother or aunt or any
one to entertain for him. We and the others were invited for a week,
but the day everybody was going on somewhere else, mother was taken
ill, so she and I had to stay. I was sure she was pretending, though
she wouldn't confess, and I was almost wild with misery and shame, I
loved him so _dreadfully_.

"For days mother kept her room, and when she came down she seemed so
weak, that of course he begged us not to think of going. A fortnight
more passed like that. Then the first rumors of war began; and we were
still with him when war was declared. That same day, out in a garden by
a lake we both loved, he told me he _cared_, and asked if I would marry
him before he went off to fight. If only I could have been sure that he
did really care, and hadn't been drawn on by things mother had said, I
should have been divinely happy. But I wasn't sure. I wasn't at all
sure. And the shame and suffering I felt, and the fear of showing that
I adored the ground he walked on, when perhaps he was only being
chivalrous to me, made me behave like a _beast_. I was just a sullen
lump. I said yes, I would marry him, if he was quite, quite sure he
wanted me to; and then mother came out of the house, and straight to
us, as if she had known exactly what was going on and could hardly wait
to make certain of him.

"He had to go so soon, to rejoin his old regiment, and leave for the
front, that he got a special license, and we were married when we had
been engaged just two days. If he did love me--and looking back I
almost believe now that he did, for he was too true as well as strong
to be 'trapped' by any woman--I must have hurt him by keeping him so at
a distance. He couldn't have understood, not even with the wonderful
power he had of seeing deep into people, all the way through to their
souls. But now I have explained to you about mother, _you_ will
understand. We were hardly alone together, he and I, for more than five
minutes at a time. I always made some excuse to escape. I was afraid if
I were with him for long I should break down and be a fool. And I
thought if he didn't love me I should certainly disgust him by crying.
Mother had told me often, when she was training me to 'come out' in
society, that a man must love a woman _very_ much, not to be irritated
with her when she cries, and her face crinkles up and her nose gets red.

"After our wedding he was with me for about an hour, but mother was
with us too, for half the time, and even when she left us alone in an
ostentatious sort of way, I could think of nothing to say to him,
nothing at all. There were a thousand things in my brain,
will-o'-the-wisp things, but my tongue could not catch up with them. I
let him go. And then it was too late.

"Three weeks afterwards, he died, saving the life of a friend. So now
you see what your book meant to me, very specially, and why I begged
you to tell me whether you had found out these wonderful things by
going down close to death yourself. You know why it wasn't enough even
when you answered as you did at first. I longed to hear whether you
thought _he_ would know the truth about me. Your answer to that
question is all I hoped for, and more. But I don't deserve it, for I am
married now to my cousin--the one I so childishly made an idol of when
I was a little girl.

"You are shocked. You think of me with horror. You are sorry you have
troubled with me at all. When you read at the beginning of this letter
that I had given another man a 'place in my life,' you didn't dream
that I had _married him_. But so it is. Eight months after my love
died, and my youth died with him, I was my cousin's wife.

"I won't tell you much about that. Only this: a month after I was a
widow, this cousin came to England, wounded. My mother and I were
helping the nurses as best we knew how, in the private hospital of a
friend. My cousin arranged to be sent there. He wasn't seriously hurt,
and we saw something of him, of course. He was immensely changed from
the old days. Because he might have been a stick or a stone instead of
a man for all I cared, he was piqued, I suppose. He told mother that he
meant to make me fall in love with him and marry him when the war was
over. And when he had gone back to the front again, she repeated what
he had said to me. You see, she didn't know how I had loved _the
other_, so she was surprised at the way I took the message. I couldn't
help showing that I was angry because he had _dared_. He wrote to me
later, more than once, but I didn't answer his letters.

"Months afterwards, he was horribly wounded. As he had no near
relatives, he asked to have us sent for, to Boulogne. He was supposed
to be dying, and we couldn't refuse to go. We never thought of
refusing. It seemed to do him good to see us, and he grew better. His
one wish, he said, was to die in England. We brought him back--a
dreadful journey. He grew worse again on the way, and we were obliged
to stop at Folkestone for two weeks. Then we got him to London, to see
a great specialist for spinal operations. The surgeon said that such an
operation as would have to be made--if any--might kill, and could not
cure. At best, if he lived, my cousin would be an invalid for the rest
of his life. Still, without an operation, he must surely die. It would
be just a question of a few weeks. My cousin had to be told this by
some one, and the surgeon thought the news of such a verdict had better
be broken to him by a person he cared for. Mother felt unable to bear
the strain, after all she had gone through. She isn't strong, and since
last August she has changed very much. It seems as if, now that I'm
'provided for' (as she says), she had let herself go. That day, when
she asked if I would tell my cousin what the surgeon said, I was
frightened about her, she trembled so much and suddenly turned so
deathly pale, with bluish lips, and blue circles round her eyes.
Without an instant's hesitation I promised to speak to my cousin. But I
didn't realize what the scene would be like, or I could hardly have
faced it. In his weakness he broke down, as I never saw any one else
break down. He said, if there was no hope of his being made into a man
again, what good would it bring him to be cut up and hacked about by a
surgeon? Besides, the specialist was the most expensive operator in
England, and he couldn't afford such a costly experiment. The simplest
thing would be to put a revolver to his head, or take an overdose of
some sleeping draft, and so to be out of his misery once and for all.

"I was unnerved, and begged him to keep up hope and courage--not to
think about the money, but to let us lend it. My beloved one left
everything to me; and I was sure, if he were alive, he would wish me to
make that offer to a brother soldier. I felt, even while I was
speaking, that if _I_ were in my cousin's place, I should refuse the
operation because I'd rather die than live on as a helpless invalid, a
burden to myself and others. But it wouldn't have been _human_ not to
encourage that poor sufferer to endure existence, if he could. So I
tried my best, and I was very excited and worked up by the sight of his
emotion. Suddenly he spoke again. He said that without an incentive to
live, he wouldn't trouble about the operation, and the only incentive
he could possibly have would be my marrying him, before he went under
the anesthetic. Besides, he couldn't accept money from me, when he saw
no way of repaying it, unless I were his wife. I would rather he had
killed me than force me to make such a decision as that!

"Perhaps if I'd been calmer, I might have dared to refuse, realizing
that his love of life was very strong indeed, and that when he had
thought things over, he would surely consent to the operation without
the horrible sacrifice he asked of me. But I was at the point of
breaking down, myself. I couldn't see anything clearly. It seemed to me
that I had to save a life, if it could be saved, at any cost. And then,
my future mattered so little to me then. The thought in my mind at the
time was, that to be the nurse of a broken soldier who'd given himself
for his country, was at least a mission in life. As it was, I had none
left. Also, it may be that deep down under my conscious thought was
another: that according to the surgeon's expert opinion, my cousin was
most unlikely to live. Why not give him the incentive he asked for, to
face the ordeal, and let him die happy--since that one thing seemed to
mean happiness for him? Almost before I knew what I was doing, I
promised. Then it was sprung upon me the next day, that if the
operation were to be done at all, it must be done soon. I had to keep
my word. And what followed was a nightmare: a second wedding by special
license, a bedside marriage with a dying man, words of farewell, and
the surgeon and anesthetist arriving in their white robes--like
undertakers.

"When I heard that he had come through the operation with his life, I
knew instantly what wicked hope must have been hiding in my heart. A
sickening disappointment crept like poison through my blood. I had to
do my duty, though, and live up to the obligations I'd undertaken so
recklessly. After a few weeks, mother and I brought the invalid
home--to the home my beloved one had given me! My life seems to have
been one long series of mistakes, but I don't think I've sinned enough
to deserve the punishment I have to endure now. It is too much for me.
How am I to bear it, and keep my soul's honor? The memory of my love,
his ways, and his looks follow me from room to room of his house, and
walk with me by the dear lake, and in the garden paths. I might have
found peace if I'd left myself a right to live with that memory. But I
haven't. I've put a man in _his_ place, a man whose body is helpless as
that of a little child, yet whose soul is a giant of hateful jealousy.
He is jealous of the dead. I hadn't guessed a man could be like that. I
must tell you no more. I must try not to be cruel or utterly disloyal
both to living and dead--and to my own self-respect, such as I have
left.

"I have kept my love's name. I bargained for that, before I promised my
cousin to marry him. It was the one possession I couldn't consent to
give up. If you will stand by me as my friend after all this that I've
told you--if you can say that, in spite of everything, I have any right
to the comfort you've given, address your next letter to Lady Denin.

"Yours gratefully, from the heart, whatever your decision may be. B. D."



CHAPTER XI


If he would "stand by her, as her friend"?

Denin could not wait to write. He cabled recklessly. "You have done no
wrong. Take all the comfort you need. What you suffer is not
punishment. It is martyrdom."

"God help her!" he prayed. "And let me help her, too--my Barbara!"

He thought of the girl yearningly, as of a tortured child with the
heart of a woman. His pain was peace compared to hers; and it was
he--the blind man he called "clear-seeing"--who had thrown her to the
wolves. If he had not been too blind to see her love, he would have
shown his for her as he had not dared to show it, that day in the old
garden. Their marriage would have been a real marriage, binding Barbara
so indissolubly to him that not to save a life could she have broken
the bond. By this time, they would have been together in their home,
and not his memory but himself would follow her through the rooms and
by the dreamy lake at Gorston Old Hall. Yet even so, could he ever have
known the girl from tip to tip of her soul's wings, as he saw himself
destined to know her now, with six thousand miles of sea and land and
one man's death and another man's life between them? Would he have
learned from her lips and eyes the delicate truth of an exquisite
worship, as he had learned it to-day from her written tribute to a dead
soldier?

"My God! She's more mine than she could ever have been if I hadn't died
for her!" he heard himself think aloud. After all, life hadn't been
laughing behind his back, while he wrote the book for Barbara. Though
Fate snatched her away from him with one hand, with the other it gave
her back, irrevocably and forever. It seemed to Denin that, though
nothing could bring them together in body, nothing could ever separate
them in spirit.

When he wrote that same day, he assured her again, as he had assured
her in his cable, that she had a right to every one of the words of
comfort he had sent. "And you have a right to lean on that unseen wall
of love I told you about," he repeated. "It is close to you, and meant
to lean on. There can be no disloyalty to any one in resting against
it. The love that exists for you on the other side of the Great Sea is
too vast to be selfish. It asks nothing from you that you ought not to
give. It only begs you to be happy, for there's a kind of happiness
without which we fall out of tune with the universe. Don't say you can
have no happiness of any kind. Don't think it, or that it would be
'wrong' or light-minded to be happy if you could. You have seen life
draped in black. But black is a concentration of all colors. No opal
has such lights as a black opal. The great adventure of life is
learning the terror and the beauty and the splendor of it all as one
and inseparable.

"I have to confess that I'm no guide for you or any other. I am just
groping my way up, out of my own dark places; but I believe that great
secrets reveal themselves in flashes, just as--in some mysterious,
inspired moments--a sunrise or a sunset tells you the truth of a thing
you've been groping for years to find out. This obligation to your own
soul (and Heaven knows how many others), the obligation of
_happiness_--is one secret which has been opened for me by a magic key.
That key is my strong wish to be of use to you. It helps me to feel
that I may help you. Perhaps you'll care to know that? And you can help
me, and yourself, and the man who has passed on, by trying to gain the
kind of happiness I speak of. It's the kind that makes you one with the
sunlight, a true note in the great music, ringing in tune with the
universe.

"I wonder if you happen to remember about the music which the man in my
book (the man who was passing) heard over the battlefield, the music of
life for which the music of war and death was only the bass, the
necessary undertone? I caught just a few snatches of that life music,
but once heard it goes on echoing in the ears, teaching you the harmony
of all things, if you listen deeply enough. Those young soldiers I
tried to write about, who had thrown off their bodies, and even their
enmities, with the rags and dirt and blood they left on the
battlefield--they were listening to the great music, and hearing in it
the call to some special mission which only they were fitted to fulfil,
going to it in the summer of their youth, before they had grown tired
of anything. I do believe that was more than a dream of mine; that this
torrent of splendid youth, this vast crowd of ardent souls suddenly
rushed from one plane to another, has some wonderful work to do, which
can be done only by souls who go out with the wine of courage on their
lips. But we others, we have our mission too. We can't perform it if we
make false notes in the music for the passing souls to hear. And we
_shall_ make false notes if we let our high vibrations drop down weakly
to depression's minor tones.

"Perhaps you'll turn away from this idea of mine. But it's one that
interests me, as you know, because you've honored my little book by
caring for it. In the dreams I had of things on the other side of sight
and hearing, I thought that I saw the real meaning of the war--the
hidden cause of this landslide of civilization. I saw a whole nation
scintillating with dull red vibrations of fear: fear of attack by other
nations, fear of letting neighbors grow stronger than they. Then I saw
the dull red glowing brighter with vibrations of anger, a furious
desire to grow strong at the expense of others, and to kill and conquer
at any cost. Beautiful blue vibrations of intellect, and clear green
vibrations of hope and successful perseverance were lost, swallowed up
by the all-pervading blood-red. I saw the heavy crimson flood spreading
into and lowering the golden vibrations of other great peoples, who had
not yet fallen; and in the strange dream of colors pulsing through the
ether of earth and heaven, I realized the immensity of the fight; how
it reached far beyond the forces we know, being in truth a battle
between the light of cosmic day and the darkness of cosmic night. I saw
that the danger was defeat of the golden vibrations by the red which
would lower the life-force of the whole world; but something told
me--some snatch of the great music which interprets secrets--that
progress is an integral, unalterable part of evolution; that evil,
which is only negative good, can never conquer; and that the gold
vibrations must win in the end. In the dream, that knowledge gave me
rest. It seemed a pronouncement from the tribunal of the Power which
causes all worlds and all beings to take form and exist by vibrations.

"That's a long homily on my dreams and the theories I'm clumsily
founding on them. But I am trying hard myself to vibrate and resound in
tune, because each vibration and each note count quite as much as
individual soldiers count in war. In this time of earth stress, and
after, when civilization is remaking itself in men's minds, with the
loyal 'spirit of the time' we must all _think gold and blue_, the gold
of the sun by which our bodies live, blue of the sky when inspirations
come. You'll believe me a 'mystic' (whatever that misused word may
mean!), but I'm only trying to see the Reality behind the Thing upon
which I've harped to you already. We are needing to know the Reality as
we never needed such knowledge before.

"Be happy then, in the way that unites you with everything in heaven
and on earth, all the sweet, kind children of Nature close around you,
so that you may learn the different languages of flowers from their
perfumes, and what the trees say in the wind. You can't feel alone in
the world if the trees talk to you, and they will if you open your
heart to them. You will get to know the oak language, the pine, the
elm, the beech languages; and next you will learn how they and the sea
and the rivers and brooks, and everything else that makes up the music
of nature, give out the same message in a thousand different ways: _Be
happy._ To be happy with your soul, no matter what has hurt your body
and tried to spoil your life, is to be strong. Go into your garden, and
walk by the lake you tell me of, and don't be afraid to call the Memory
you love to walk with you there or anywhere. The one you have loved
understands all, and so there could never be even a question of
forgiveness."

Denin longed to add to his letter the request that she would write
often; but he would not ask that of Barbara. He must be ready to give
all that she wanted, and beg for nothing in return. Perhaps if she
found any small comfort in what he had written this time, she would be
satisfied, and feel that nothing more was left to be said on either
side. This possibility he tried to keep before his mind, and to think
of even as a probability, in order to soften the blow of disappointment
if he never heard again. But in his heart he knew that she would write.
It seemed to him when he walked in the little garden of the Mirador, or
stretched his long body on the warm grass under a big olive tree he
loved, that he could hear her thoughts in the garden of Gorston Old
Hall. With his ear close to the earth the message Barbara would send by
and by seemed to come to him before it had left her mind and taken form
on paper.

She answered his cable without waiting for the letter that followed.

"Thank you a thousand times," she said. "I have always something new to
thank you for. What should I have done if your book hadn't come to me,
and given me you for my friend? For a little while, I almost stopped
believing in God, for life looked so cruel, not only to me but to every
one--or nearly every one--I know, since the war began. Far and wide as
I looked, I could find no mercy, no pity. How ungrateful I was, when
all the time God was putting it into your mind to write that book, and
sending your friendship to me when I needed it as one needs air to
breathe!

"Do you know, you are teaching me to _think?_ I feel now as if I had
never really _thought_ before. I just dreamed, or brooded. If _he_ had
lived, I should have learned from him. That is, I should, if our souls
hadn't gone on forever being shy of one another. When I had him with
me, I was too busy loving him and being afraid that he wouldn't love
me, to think about anything outside, though his mind had given my mind
a great lift, even then. And another thing I want to tell you. Your way
of thinking reminds me of him. I believe you must be a little like
him--mentally, I mean. Believing this will make me trust and turn to
you, as one who knows the things I long to know. You have his name,
too, 'John.' And I am going to sign my name always after this, not a
mere impersonal initial.

"I am yours, oh, so gratefully, Barbara Denin.

"P.S. Strange, I didn't notice at first where your cable was dated! I
suppose, like the help you send me, it seemed just to come out of
space! But reading the message again, I broke open the envelope I had
already sealed, to tell you what a throb of the heart I had in seeing
'Santa Barbara.' Can it be that you live at Santa Barbara? I was
christened after that dear old place, because I was born there, or very
near. It's good--it's _wonderful_ to have your words come to me from
_home_."

It was a direct question which she asked. Did he live at Santa Barbara?
But Denin thought best not to answer it. She would forget, maybe, or
would suppose that he had been staying for a short time in California.
Each of his letters to her before, though posted not far from the
Mirador itself, had been enclosed in an envelope to Eversedge Sibley.
In all but one case, other letters to correspondents brought the author
by his book had been sent off in the wrapper with Barbara's. Denin had
taken pains to settle the difficulty of writing to Gorston Old Hall in
this way, in order that neither the name of the woman nor the name of
the place should be remarked by Sibley. He kept this rule with the
letter which followed Barbara's question, but her next broke the plan
in pieces. It crossed one from him, and was written after receiving his
letter about the garden.

"Dear Friend," she named him. "Before I say anything else--and I feel
that there are a thousand things, each pressing forward to be said
first--I must tell you what I have found out. I've learned that you are
living in the house my father built for me. Of course that won't be
important to you. Why should it be so? I have to remind myself over and
over that I am surely just one of many women who have written to you
after reading your book; one of many women you are kind to, out of the
goodness of your heart, and the knowledge that's in it. Can knowledge
be in a _heart?_ Yes, yours is there, I think, even more than in your
brain. I am nothing to you except a poor drowning creature to whom you
have held out a firm hand. But the drowning creature feels that your
living in a place she knew and loved gives her a kind of personal right
in you.

"I read this very morning in a London paper an extract from a New York
one--an article about John Sanbourne. Perhaps you never even knew it
was written? I'm sure you gave no permission to have it done. I think
you would not like the way the man wrote about you; but I felt, in
reading, that he tried hard to bring his work up to a high level and
make it worthy of the subject. If you realized the good it has done me
to know that you cared enough for my dear little Mirador to want it for
your own, and to restore it from ruin, why, you _could_ not be so very
angry with the newspaper man!

"That time in California, when I was a little girl, seemed a hundred
years ago, or even in another state of existence, till I read the
description of you in your garden--once my garden. Then that part of my
life came back as if it were yesterday. I can see the big olive tree,
which had been let grow as it liked, with all sorts of flowing, dancing
gestures of its branches and twisting of its trunk, the way olives grow
in Italy and the south of France. I used to call it my 'silver
fountain.' And under it there was always a look of moonlight, even in
the brightest noon. I do hope nothing has happened to the tree? Say
kind things to the silver fountain from its little friend Barbara.
Write me about it, and tell me, please, if it means anything fairylike
to you as it did to me. But I know it must, because of what you say
about your garden. How little I thought when the letter came four days
ago, that my long-ago garden and your garden of now, were one and the
same!

"That letter was more than a letter. It was a saving force. Because it
was so much to me, and I wanted to think it all over and over, I
couldn't have dared to answer at once in any case. But it came on an
anniversary, August 18th, the day of his passing. I can't say or write
the word 'death,' since I have begun to learn from you. It was always a
dreadful word, like a bludgeon. But now it's impossible. For me it has
gone out of the language.

"As you walk in your little California garden of the Mirador, will it
please you at all to know that you have given me back the joy of the
English garden, the beautiful garden and the lake, and the sweet, old,
history-haunted house which _he_ left to be mine? Because you, who know
so much, say that he understands and doesn't even need to forgive me, I
take your word. I am not afraid to walk with his memory now. I can
speak to it as I shouldn't have had the courage to with him, when he
was here in the flesh. And because of your letter, August 18th was not
a terrible day. It was more like the wedding day of two spirits than
the anniversary of a great grief, and one of the spirits--mine--just
released from prison. Not that it can stay out of prison forever. It's
too weak, yet, to feel its freedom for long at a time. I've had
horrible hours, ever since that day. I shall have them often, I know,
for the thing I have done has made daily life a torture. But at worst I
can steal away by myself sometimes to read your letters over. They, and
my new thoughts, will be for me the tonic of courage; and so I can go
on from day to day, not looking too far ahead, into the dark.

"If I haven't trespassed upon your time and imposed upon your great
kindness too much already, will you write me little things about the
Mirador and your life there? Will you, if you take photographs, send a
snapshot of the wee house as it is now, and perhaps the silver
fountain, to--Your grateful friend, Barbara Denin?

"P. S. You will think I am very old-fashioned and early Victorian about
my postscripts, and I suppose I am, though I don't remember tacking
many onto other letters, only those to you. This one is just a thought
put into my head by some of the last things you said. It is about the
war, and it came to me in the garden on August 18th.

"In a world war like this, with all its anguish, can it be meant for
the nations, each one that suffers and strives, to develop by and by a
new individuality, a great unselfish, selfless Self? Can it be that the
Power behind the worlds throws this one now into the furnace because
development must come for progress' sake? When the earth was first
created, every least thing that lived fought for itself, and there was
no holding together in a large way, anywhere. When civilizations came,
they brought no real improvement, for politics and greed divided
nations against themselves as well as against each other. Is the true
excuse for creation unity, with all the experience of ages to give it
value? If it is so, and if each nation can attain to unity through
sacrifice and heroism, won't the next thing to follow be the unity of
the whole world? Can this be coming to pass, slowly yet surely, not
only with our grain of sand, but with all the worlds, while the Power
who created watches through the cosmic days you spoke of? It would make
one's own tears of sorrow seem small, if one could believe this; and
yet if we did not grudge the tears, they might count as pearls, poured
into a golden cup, to brim it full of jewels worthy of God's
acceptance.

"Perhaps this isn't much of a thought. But such as it is, there has
been light in it for me, on dark days. And as I owe it to you, I felt I
should like to tell you about it. It is going to make me realize more
than I could before, the brotherhood of all men in war time, even the
ones we call the enemy. Why, I used to be stupid and unseeing as a
mole! I hardly thought about common people, pasty-faced waiters and
weedy under-gardeners and grocer's boys, as _men_ at all. Now, out of
every town and village they are marching with their faces turned to the
front, brave and smiling. They are as glorious soldiers as any, and I
pray for them as I would pray for my own brothers. Is that a step for
me towards the great unity? I wonder--and hope.

"You see, I begin to warm myself at the fire your friendship has
kindled. Each letter you write will be a fresh log piled on to feed the
flame."



CHAPTER XII


When Denin wrote again he ventured to give Barbara the name that she
had given him, "Dear Friend." And he enclosed photographs of the
Mirador, with its flower-draped balcony, and of the "silver fountain."

"What you say about my helping you is wonderful to hear, and makes me
feel like a comet stuffed with stars," he wrote. "It is a great honor
for me that you care for my letters. It's true, as you surmise, that
others have written and do write to the author of 'The War Wedding,'
and that is an honor too, in its way. But it's an altogether different
way. I can't explain why. I won't try to explain why the call you have
sent half across the world is different from any other call. Yet I want
you to believe that it is so, that I count it an immense privilege to
write to you, and an immense delight to get your answers. What you call
your 'gratitude' is the highest compliment ever paid to me. In trying
to study out your problems, I have solved some of my own. In advising
you to be happy, I've found a certain happiness for myself; so you see
that I have far more cause to be grateful to you than you could
possibly have to me.

"For one thing--just a small instance--I had never taken a photograph
in my life, until you asked me for snapshots of the Mirador garden. In
order to make them for you myself, I learned how. Now I am deep in it.
Do you remember the little room that is half underground, yet not quite
a cellar? I've turned it into a dark room for developing my negatives.
I was up all one night watching the birth of my first work. But I don't
tell you that to bid for thanks. I did it because I was too infatuated
with the work itself to think of going to bed. These things I send are
crude. I am going to try to become what they call--don't they?--an
'artist photographer.' When I can give myself a medal for my
achievements, I'll take some better pictures for you, of the house and
garden, and of the Mission and other places in the neighborhood of your
old home if you would like to have them. Of course it interests me
immensely to know that you once lived here."

The last sentence Denin added after a long moment of hesitation. It
seemed brutal not to protest against that humble supposition of
Barbara's that her past ownership of the Mirador would be unimportant
to him. But what he burned to say was so much more, that the few
conventional words he dared to dole out looked churlish in black and
white. Still, he had to let them stand.

After these letters, which crossed, the woman in England and the man in
California caught the habit of writing to one another oftener than
before--and differently. They did not wait for something definite to
answer, for their thoughts so rushed to meet each other that it seemed
as if they knew by wireless what was best to say each time. Often what
they said might have read commonplacely to an outsider, for now they
told each other the little things of every-day life. After her first
outburst of confidence and confession, Barbara did not again for many
weeks refer directly to Trevor d'Arcy. But Denin thought that he
understood, and felt his veins fill full with a sudden jerk, as do
those of a man electrocuted, when he read, "I am rather desperate
to-day:" or, "To keep myself from going all to pieces, just now, I
turned my thoughts off my own life, as you turn a tap, and sent them to
your garden--my old garden of the Mirador. I strolled there with you,
and you consoled me. It was evening. We were in the pergola (Father's
old head gardener used to call it the 'paragolla'), and I forgot the
iron grayness here that weighs down my spirit. Over you and me, as we
talked, glittered my old, loved stars of California. And the pergola
with its velvet drapery of leaves and flowers, and the three dark
cypresses barring the sea view at one end, was like a corridor hung
with illuminated tapestry 'come alive.' You can't think how real it was
for a few minutes, walking there and hearing your generous words of
comfort, like magic balm on a wound that only magic balm could heal.
I've decided that when things are very bad with me here, I'll try that
way of escape again. I will send my thoughts to the Mirador garden, and
the comfort that nobody but you--who understand so marvelously--can
even be _asked_ to give. Do you mind my flying to you? Will you
'pretend' too, sometimes in those starlit nights, that I have come to
ask your advice and help? Will you feel as if I were actually there,
and will you put the advice into words? Maybe they'll reach me so. I do
believe they will. And I am needing such words more than ever lately. I
can hardly wait for them to come in letters. Though I have the
'invisible wall of love' to lean against, that you told me of (and I
_do_ lean hard!), there is an influence which tries always to drag me
away from that dear support, making it seem not to belong to me after
all. There's a voice which tells me I was never really loved by the one
whose memory I worship; that he asked me to marry him only because
mother practically forced him to do so. This isn't an _inner_ voice.
It's the voice of a person whose jealousy and cruelty I _must_ forgive,
or be as cruel myself. The voice says it has reason to be sure that all
it tells me is true; that it's useless for me to ask mother, because
she would deny it; besides, she is too ill to be troubled or reproached
about anything. You know, I have two invalids now, so I can't do much
for any one outside, except send money--_his_ money, to the poor and
the wounded.

"The terrible voice hammers constantly on my heart, and is breaking it
to pieces, in spite of your help. For even you can't help me there. How
could you, when about that one thing--that principal thing of all, it
seems now--you have no knowledge? You can't know whether _he_ ever
loved me as a man loves one woman, or whether he was simply willing to
spread his generous protection round me for the future, when he was
going away to risk his life. It would have been like him to do that, I
have to admit in some moods. And I hate the moods, and hate the voice
for putting the idea--which mercifully hadn't struck me before--into my
head. I oughtn't to hate the voice, because it may be that its
wickedness--almost fiendish at times--is caused only by hopeless
suffering. I strive to say to myself, as I think you would wish me to
say, 'Could a bird who had been blinded and thrown into a cage where it
never saw sunshine, do better than croak, or peck the hand that tried
to feed it?'

"I need to walk with you in your garden, you see! Send me kind thoughts
from there, without waiting to write. Then, if I send you questions in
the same way, I shall feel that you hear and answer. I shall _listen_
for the answers. Tell me, first of all, do you, as a man, think another
man would ask a girl to marry him just because she was poor and without
prospects, and he was going away to face death? Of course it's true
that you can't know, but what do you think? Remember, I'm not speaking
of an ordinary man, but one almost too generous and chivalrous for
these days. Do you think such an one might have done that?"

Denin wrote back, "I think no man would have done that. You need have
no fear that you were married for any motive but love. A man--even such
a man as you describe--must have argued that a young, attractive girl
would have plenty of chances in life, at least as good as that which he
could offer. She would have no need of his protection, and he would
have no right to press it upon her, unless he gave all his love as
well."

This assurance Denin tried to send Barbara in the way she asked, as
well as by the letter which would take weeks to reach its destination.
He made of his ardent thought for her a carrier pigeon with golden
wings, which could travel swiftly as the light. Thus he rushed to her
the answers to many questions,--questions which seemed to come to him
from far off, as he walked in the garden. He could hear her voice
calling, when the wind came over the sea, from the east where England
lay.

Denin had bought the Mirador and begun his life there, with some echo
of Ernest Dowson's words in his mind:

  Now will I take me to a place of peace:
  Forget my heart's desire,
  In solitude and prayer work out my soul's release.

But his heart's desire was with him, as it could have been nowhere
else, so vividly, flamingly with him, that there could be no thought of
finding peace. He no longer even wished for peace. He would not have
exchanged a peace pure as the crystal stillness of a mountain lake, for
the dear torture of seeing Barbara's soul laid bare. He was never in a
state calm enough to analyze his feelings. He could only feel. Yet the
strangeness of his position and hers swept over him sometimes, as with
a hot gust from the tropics. John Denin had had to die, in order to
learn that his wife adored him. The price would not have been too big,
if he alone had to pay, but she was paying too. He could not take the
payment all upon himself; yet he could help to make it less of a strain
for her, and all his life was poured into the giving of this help.
Every thought, every heart-beat was for Barbara. He lived to give
himself to her, and to take what she had for him in return. With each
day that passed he realized how much more they were to each other at
this vast distance--these two, parted forever--than most men and women
living side by side in legal union. He knew that John Sanbourne was
absolutely necessary to Barbara Denin, as she was to him; and all the
incidents of their daily lives, big and small, though lived separately,
drew them together when recounted, as pearls are drawn together on a
lengthening string.

Now that the secret was out, and Lady Denin knew where John Sanbourne
had made his home, without suspecting any hidden mystery in the
coincidence, he was thankful that she had learned the truth. A barrier
was down, and they seemed to gaze straight into each other's eyes,
across the space where it had been. In return for his snapshots of the
Mirador and its garden, Barbara sent photographs taken by herself of
Gorston Old Hall. One of these showed the lake, with a bow-windowed
corner of the black and white house mirrored in it--the very spot where
Sir John Denin had asked Barbara Fay to be his wife. "The place I love
best," she said. Though she did not say why, it thrilled him to guess.
And in the same letter she sent faintly fragrant specimens from the
"Shakespeare border."

How the sweetness of the dear old-fashioned things, whose very names
distilled a perfume, floated back to Denin from the garden he had given
to his love!

"My husband had the border planted," Barbara explained. "Don't you
think it a delicious idea? Not a single flower or herb mentioned by
Shakespeare has been forgotten, and you can hardly imagine what a noble
company has been brought together. Once we walked in the garden, he and
I, on a moonlight night, when a breeze came up and drove the evening
mists slowly, slowly along the paths and borders like a procession of
spirits in silver cloaks. We played that it had driven away the ghosts
of Shakespeare's people, kings and queens and knights and ladies called
back to earth by the perfume--which, you say, is the voice--of those
well-remembered flowers. That's one of the memories I cherish now, when
I walk past the Shakespeare borders in the moony dusk. And thanks to
you--who have helped me literally _to move into my dreams and live
there_--I don't seem to walk alone. For a few moments then, I am
neither lonely nor sad. The moonlight still drips into my heart, like
water into a fountain, as it dripped on that night I remember: and my
thoughts lead me along a beautiful, mysterious road that nobody else
can see--a road to wonderful things I've never known, but have always
longed for, such a road as certain music seems to open out before you."

The pressed leaves and petals in Barbara's letter were those of
pansies, rosemary, and rue: the dark blue pansies he had once thought
like her eyes at night; rosemary for the never-absent remembrance of
them; rue for an ever aching regret, because of what might have been
and could not be.

She asked him to tell her what he had done inside as well as outside of
the Mirador since he had taken it, and how he had furnished the rooms.
This was a difficult question to answer, because Denin had surrounded
himself with everything she had described in her old environment: white
dimity curtains, rag-woven rugs of pale, intermingled tints, the
"Mission" made chairs and tables, and copies of her old pictures on the
walls. If he detailed his chosen surroundings, would not the added
coincidence strike her as almost incredibly strange?

Denin ignored the request in his following letter, but Barbara repeated
it in her next. "After all, it isn't possible that she should suspect
the truth," he argued, and at last took what risk there was, rather
than appear secretive. Not that there _was_ a risk, he assured himself
over and over again; yet when a letter came which must be a reply to
his, the man's fingers trembled on the envelope. In a revealing flash
like lightning which shows a chasm to a traveler by night, he glimpsed
a hidden side of his own nature. He saw that it would be a
disappointment, not a relief to him, if Barbara passed over his
description of the new-born Mirador without stumbling on any vague
suspicion. He realized that he must have been hoping for her to guess
at the truth, and so break the thin crust of lava on that crater's
brink where they both stood, gathering flowers.

"Good God, I thought I had gained a little strength!" he said, and
opened the letter quickly, though with all accustomed tenderness of
touch. Then he tried to be glad, and remind himself that he had known
it would be so, when he read that she wondered only, without
suspecting.

"If I hadn't been certain of it before," she wrote, "I should believe
now that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of
in our philosophy. It _must_ indeed be that our thoughts do travel far,
and impress themselves upon the thoughts of others, for it can't be a
mere coincidence--as your taking the Mirador was--that you have made
the place over again just as I had it. I must have gone there in a
dream, and told you things in your sleep. Then you waked up, and
supposed that the ideas were all your own original fancies. The
strangest part is about the pictures. _I_ had Rossetti's 'Annunciation'
in my bedroom. I chose it myself, because of the lilies, and the little
flames on the angel's feet. I chose 'La Gioconda' too, because it
seemed to me that I should some day discover what made her smile so
secret, yet so enchanting, just as if, could one listen long enough,
one might catch the tune in the music of a brook or river. I used to
stand before the mirror of my dressing-table at the right of the big
window, and practise smiling like her, but I could never manage it. I
thought, if I could, when I grew up I should be able to make a man I
loved fall in love with me, even if he didn't care at first. Poor child
Me! I remembered that wish, when I wanted the One Man to love me, and
yet was too proud and ashamed to try and make him do it.

"Downstairs I had Carpaccio's dreaming St. Ursula, with the tiny dog
asleep, and the little slippers by the bedside. And you have that
picture hanging almost in the same place! Yes, I must unknowingly have
cast some influence upon you. That seems exquisite to me. I hope you do
not mind? If you don't, I shall try again in other ways. Indeed, I
shall begin at once by influencing you to do me a favor, I've been
waiting a long time to ask, and never quite found the courage to put
into words. Send me a photograph of yourself. I want it very much, to
make sure that my mental picture of you is right."

It was hard to refuse the first request she had ever spoken of as a
"favor." Denin was half tempted to buy the portrait of some
decent-looking fellow and label it "John Sanbourne"; but only half
tempted. He could not lie to Barbara, and was reduced to the excuse
that he "took a bad photograph." It would be better for her to keep the
friendly mental picture she had painted, rather than be disillusioned.
"This sounds as if I were vain," he added, "but unfortunately I have
every reason not to be."

"Either she won't care at all about not getting the photograph, or else
she'll be offended," Denin prophesied gloomily. "Time will show." And
when the day to which he had looked forward for an answer burst upon
him like a thunderclap, bringing no letter, he thought that time had
shown. She was angry, or worse still, hurt, feeling that like Psyche
with the oil-dropping lantern, she had been rebuked for curiosity. He
saw himself losing her again, through this small and miserable
misunderstanding which he could not, must not, set right. A second loss
would be a thousand times worse than the first, because this time her
soul had belonged to his soul. Their letters, their need of each other,
had circled them as if in a magic ring, or under a glass case which,
transparent to invisibility, had housed them warmly together. A
spiritual nausea of fear, fear of loss, turned his heart to water, so
that over and over again he asked himself what to do, without having
power to answer.

He remembered the old fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast, and how the
Beast lay down despairingly, to die in his garden, because Beauty, who
had made his life bearable, even happy, went away voluntarily and for a
long time forgot her promise to come back.

The Mirador garden lost something of its old spell for Denin. A
glowworm which had come to live at the end of the pergola, and
evidently believed in itself as a permanent family pet, was no longer
an intelligent and charming companion. He had valued it only, he saw
now, because he had meant to amuse Barbara by describing it to her, as
his newest friend. On nights when letters from her had come, all the
passion and romance of the world since its beginning had streamed along
the sea to his eyes, by the path of the moon. But now the white light
had a hard, steely radiance that dazzled his eyes.

While the link held between him and Barbara, it had been easy for Denin
to feel kinship with nature, with the world and worlds beyond. His mind
had traveled hand in hand with hers over the whole earth and on, on to
unknown immensities, as rings from a dropped stone spread endlessly on
the surface of water.

Expecting answers from Barbara, he had had an incentive to live, and
had looked eagerly forward to each new day, as to opening the door of a
room he had never seen before, a room full of beautiful things, made
ready for him alone. Now, when day after day passed, bringing no word
from her, the rooms of the House of the Future were empty.

He had advised her, when she needed counsel, to look and listen inside
herself, for a voice. But now, no such voice spoke to him, except to
say, "You have been a fool. You must unconsciously have expressed
yourself in some blundering way that disgusted her, broke the statue
she'd set up on a pedestal. She is 'disillusioned' indeed!"

A week dragged itself on into a fortnight after the day when Barbara's
answer ought to have come. Still Denin had done nothing but wait,
because it appeared to him that no explanation of his seeming
ungraciousness was possible. If Barbara did not want him any more, he
could not make her want him.

Had he not loved her so much, he might have thought her silence due to
illness; but he was sure that he should know if she were ill. She had
let him walk into the home of her soul and its secret garden of
thought; she had offered him the flowers of her childhood and girlhood
which no one else had ever seen; and if a blight had fallen upon her
body, he was so near that he would feel the chill of it in his own
blood. No, he told himself, Barbara was not ill. She had shut herself
away from him, that was all; and the very nature of his relationship
with her forbade his claiming anything which she did not wish to give.

He lost all hope of hearing again, at the end of a month, yet would not
let himself accuse her of injustice. Had she not a right to drop him if
she chose? He had no cause for complaining. He had received from the
"tankard of love" those two drafts which are said to recompense a man
for the pains of a lifetime, and he could expect no more. Yet he seemed
always to be listening, as if for some sound to come to him through
space, or even the faint echo of a sound, like the murmur in a bell
after it has ceased to chime.

One day, when five weeks lay between him and hope, a telegram was
brought to the Mirador. Denin opened it indifferently, for his
publisher often wired to him when a new edition of "The War Wedding"
came out, or if anything of special interest happened in connection
with the book. But this time the message was from England. It was
unsigned, yet he knew that it was from Barbara. She said, "My mother
has been at death's door for many weeks. Now she is gone. I am
writing."

"Thank God!" Denin heard himself gasp, and then was struck with remorse
for his hard-heartedness. He had thanked God because Barbara had not
taken herself away from him, and in the rush of joy had forgotten what
it would mean for her to be without her mother.

She was alone now with Trevor d'Arcy, at Gorston Old Hall.



CHAPTER XIII


Denin cabled an answer to Barbara, and then began a letter to her. He
was in the midst of it, when he was disturbed by a caller, a man he had
never seen before. Expecting no one, the hermit of the Mirador had been
writing out of doors, in the pergola, and so was caught without a
chance of escape. He sprang up and stood in front of the little table
on which were his paper and ink, as if to protect the letter from the
touch of a stranger's eyes. But the visitor, who had caught sight of
John Sanbourne through the network of leaves and flowers, appeared
blissfully ignorant that he was unwelcome.

He was tall, almost as tall as Denin himself, though he looked less
than his height, because of a loose stoutness which hung upon him as if
his clothes were untidily padded. His large face, and the whites of his
eyes, and his big teeth, were all of much the same shade of yellow; and
his hair, turning gray, had streaks of that color under the Panama hat
which he did not remove.

"Good afternoon. I suppose you are Mr. Sanbourne?" he remarked, in a
throaty voice, with a certain air of condescension which told that here
was no author-worshiping pilgrim. "My name is Carl Pohlson Bradley."

"Ah! How do you do?" replied Denin aloofly. He wanted to go on with his
letter.

"I'm pretty well, thank you," responded the other, accepting the
suggested solicitude for his health as fact, not a fiction of
politeness. "I got here this morning. Staying at the Potter, of course.
I been taking a look round the place."

"Ah!" said Denin again. He could not think--and did not much care to
think--of anything else to say. But the large yellow face changed
slightly, in surprise. "I expect you heard I was likely to come, didn't
you?"

"No," said Denin. "Not to my recollection." Then more kindly, "I'm
rather a hermit. I go out very little, and have only a few callers. I
don't get much news, except what I see in the papers."

"It _was_ in the papers." The tone in which Mr. Carl Pohlson Bradley
gave this piece of information suggested that his prominence was
international as well as physical.

"Can he be a New York reporter?" thought Denin, his heart sinking.

But the caller had pulled from a pocket of his brown tweed coat a
newspaper, folded in such a way as to make conspicuous a marked
paragraph in the middle column. This he handed to Denin as if it had
been a visiting card.

The paper was a local one, and the very first line of the paragraph
mentioned Mr. Carl Pohlson Bradley as a St. Louis millionaire. It went
on to state that, having retired from business with a great fortune at
the early age of fifty-nine, Mr. Bradley intended to buy an estate in
California, as a winter residence for his family. Having read so far,
Denin supposed that he had sufficiently informed himself, and offered
to give the paper back.

Bradley, however, waved it away. "Read the rest," he advised.

Denin did so, and with a shock learned that his tall yellow visitor had
become the owner of what was still known as "the old Fay place."

"This is a surprise," he said, not making any attempt to look pleased.
"I didn't even know the place was for sale."

"Most places are, if the price is big enough to be tempting. When I
want a thing I'm willing to pay for it. And that brings us to my call
on you, sir. I hear you're an author, and have written a story that's
sold about a million copies or some other big figure which makes a lot
of folks want to come here and see what you're like. But that isn't
what _I'm_ here for. I don't read stories. I've called on business. I
want to know how much you'll take to sell me this bit of land you've
bought on my place?"

Denin's nerves had been on edge for the last few weeks, and he felt an
unreasonable impulse of anger against the fat, self-complacent man. "I
won't sell," he said. "I'm sorry if you don't like having so near a
neighbor, but I was on the spot first."

"I don't see what that's got to do with it," said Bradley. "To my
notion, this bit walled off from my place is a regular eyesore. The
Mirador, or whatever they call it, is a rotten little den anyhow, if
you'll excuse my saying so, more fit for a child's playhouse than a
gentleman."

"I believe it was built for a child's playhouse," said Denin. "But it
happens to suit me, though I've never thought of dignifying it by the
name of 'residence.'"

"Well, anyhow, if you like a little bungalow, you can buy a better one
than this with more ground around it, without troubling yourself to
move a mile," Bradley persisted. "I'm no bargainer. As I said just now,
when I want a thing I'm willing to pay for it. I'll tell you what I'll
do, Mr. Sanbourne. I'll give you, for this little corner lot, as you
might call it, not only twice what it's worth, but the price of any
other bungalow within reason you choose to select. And I'll pay your
moving expenses, too. Now, what do you say to that?"

"Just what I said before. I don't wish to sell."

"Say, this is a holdup!" blustered the St. Louis millionaire.

Suddenly Denin's good temper came back, with a laugh.

"So you think I'm trying to 'hold you up' for a higher price!" he
exclaimed. "I assure you I'm not. If you offered me twenty thousand
dollars I wouldn't accept."

"What!" gasped Mr. Bradley. "Twenty thousand dollars for this little
rabbit hutch in a back yard? Good Lord, it ain't worth a thousand, at
top price."

"Not to you, but it is to me. So, don't you see, it's useless to argue
further?" asked Denin, his eyes still laughing at the big man's ruffled
discomfiture and surprise that such things could happen between a poor
author and a millionaire.

"Argue! I didn't come here expecting to argue!" spluttered Bradley,
looking like a bull stopped at full gallop by a spider web. "I came
here to--to--"

"I quite understand, and I'm sorry to be disobliging, but I'm afraid I
must," Denin cut in. "Anyhow, I needn't be inhospitable too. Will you
lunch with me, Mr. Bradley? I can't offer you much, but if we're to be
neighbors--"

"Great Scott, man, I'm staying at the Potter!" exploded Bradley, with
a glance almost of horror at the little table in the pergola where
writing materials had pushed aside dishes on a white cloth already
laid. The look contrasted John Sanbourne's hospitality so frankly with
the fare awaiting him at Santa Barbara's biggest hotel, that Denin
laughed again.

"Well, then," he said, "if ever I change my mind I'll send you word.
We'll let it stand at that."

With a reluctance pathetic in a man so large and yellow, Bradley saw
himself forced for the present to swallow the humble author's dictum.
His jaundiced eyes traveled over the little pink house, with its
balcony shaded by pepper trees, over the garden which he had called a
"corner lot," and over the simple pergola which for its owner was a
"corridor of illuminated tapestry." It seemed to Denin that the man
could have burst out crying, like a spoiled child suddenly thwarted.

"I think you're da-- mighty foolish!" Bradley amended, remembering the
need to be conciliatory. "But I'm sure you'll think better of it. I'm
sure you _will_ change your mind. I only hope for your sake I won't
have changed _mine_ when that time comes!"

On that he made a dramatic exit, with a mixture of stride and waddle
suited to one who felt that he had had the last word.

When he had gone, Denin finished his letter and forgot all about Mr.
Carl Pohlson Bradley. Also he forgot about luncheon. But that did not
matter, for his meals were movable feasts. He had them, or did not have
them, according to his mood, like the hermit he was becoming. Mr.
Bradley, however, he was forced to remember at short intervals, nearly
every day, while he lived through the time of waiting for the letter
promised in Barbara's cable. "Changed your mind yet?" the new owner of
the "Fay place" would yell from his huge automobile, spraying dust over
John Sanbourne on the white road to Santa Barbara. Or he would prowl,
grumbling, on the other side of the flower-draped barrier which
separated the Mirador garden from his newly acquired property. At last
he sent a lawyer to his irritating neighbor with a definite offer of
twenty thousand, five hundred dollars--just temptingly over the price
Sanbourne had said that he would not take. But Denin answered, "The
Mirador is my ewe lamb."



CHAPTER XIV


"When my mother was taken so desperately ill," Barbara wrote, "every
moment had to be for her, except those I could spare now and then for
the other invalid. I wanted to wire you; but to do that seemed to be
conceited, as if I took your personal interest in me very much for
granted. I knew you would be too kind to laugh at anything I did; but
perhaps, in spite of yourself, the idea might flash through your mind,
'Poor thing, she telegraphs because she has no time to write. She must
think I value her letters a lot!' This was just after you had said that
you wouldn't send me your photograph, you may remember. But no, why
_should_ you remember? You will recall it now, though, when I bring it
up to you again. And if you do, please don't think I was foolish and
small enough to be offended or piqued. I wasn't--oh, not for a moment.
I was only disappointed and a little--_let down_, if you know what I
mean. I felt as if I had been taking a liberty with the best and
kindest friend a girl or woman ever had, and laying myself open to be
misunderstood. I felt, if I followed up that request by cabling to you
that you mustn't expect letters for some time, it would be another
blunder. But oh, how I missed my friend!

"Two letters from you came to me, after I had been obliged to stop
writing, but because I'd been able to send none, nothing seemed right.
I felt as if I had lost hold upon you. I groped for you in the
darkness, but because I had dropped your hand, I was punished by not
finding it again.

"Mother suffered so much that I could not wish to keep her. For two
days and nights after she went, I lay in a kind of stupor. You see, I
hadn't slept more than an hour out of the twenty-four, for weeks, so I
suppose I had to make up somehow, or break. I was hardly conscious at
all, and they let me lie without rousing me up to eat or drink. But at
last I waked of my own accord, out of a dream, it must have been,
though I don't remember the dream. I remember only that I thought you
were calling me, though the voice sounded like _his_. Immediately
after, I seemed to hear the words, 'John Sanbourne believes you've
stopped writing to him because you were vexed at his refusal of the
photograph.' I started up, tingling all over with shame, for I saw that
it might easily be true. I didn't go to sleep again. I asked for a
telegraph form, and sent the cable to you which I know you received
next day, because of the date of your answer.

"I beg of you not to take your friendship away from me. I shall need it
more than ever now, if possible, because my mother is gone. I don't
feel that she will come back to me in spirit, because she was unhappy
here, and at the end was glad to go. She loved me, I'm sure, but not in
the way which makes one spirit indispensable to the other. I think
after the war gloom of this world, and her own pain, she will want to
be very quiet and peaceful for a while in beautiful surroundings, where
she can feel young and gay again, and not trouble herself to remember
that she was the mother of a grown-up, sad woman down on earth. I want
her spirit to be happy in its own way, so I'm not even going to try and
call her to me.

"She looked no more than seventeen in her white dress, in a white-lined
coffin; and seeing her like that, so young and almost coquettishly
pretty, made me realize why she had so bitterly regretted the passing
of her youth, and had clung desperately to its ragged edges. I gave her
a bed and a covering of her favorite flowers, though they were not
those I care for most: gardenias and camellias and orchids. I associate
them always with hot-houses and florists' shops, which seem to me like
the slave markets of the flower world--don't they to you?

"I beg of you not to believe that I forgot, or did not keep turning in
thought to my friend, in those long days and nights when I hadn't time
to write, or couldn't risk the rustle of a sheet of paper, or the
scratch of a pen. I thought of you constantly, especially in the night
when I sat beside mother, not daring to stir or draw a long breath if
she slept. I reviewed all the past, since August 18th, 1914, and as if
I had been an outsider, saw myself as I was before I read your
book--before I wrote to you, and gained your friendship for my strong
prop.

"I was a child in those days. I couldn't face grief and realize that it
must be borne. All the small, dear, warm, cushiony things of life as I
had lived it, seemed the only ones which ought to be real. I clung to
them. I wanted to shut out sorrow and hide away from it by drawing
rose-colored blinds across my windows. I was a shivering creature who
had been caught in a sleety rain and soaked through to the skin. I ran
home out of the sleet, thinking to pull those rose-colored curtains and
put on dry clothes and warm myself at the fire. But the curtains had
been ripped away. There were no dry clothes, and no fire. There was no
help or comfort anywhere. The world marched in an army against me. Only
misery was real; in vain to writhe away from it; it was everywhere.
Horror and anguish poured through me, as water pours into a leaking
ship. My soul was withering in the cold. The bulwarks of my character
were beaten down. Then you came into my life. You didn't give me back
my rose-colored curtains to hide the face of sorrow, but you taught me
how to look into sorrow's eyes, and find beauty and wonder beyond
anything I had ever known. You let me creep into a temple you had
built, and learn great truths which you had found out through your own
suffering. I knew you had written your book with your heart's blood, or
you couldn't have made my heart fill with life and beat again. You
couldn't have reached me where I was cowering, far, far below
tear-level.

"Even when I could see by your letters that you hadn't quite been able
to shake off chains of depression from yourself, you had the power to
release others. What a splendid power! Did you realize that you had it,
when you wrote your book, I wonder?

"You showed me what to do with the strange forces I could feel blindly
groping in my soul. You showed me that philosophy shouldn't be a brew
of poppies to drown regrets, but a tonic, a stimulant. You taught me
that hope must live in the heart, because hope is knowledge wrapped up
in our subconsciousness, and spilling rays of light through the
wrappings. You gave me the glorious advice not to waste life, which
must be lived, by trying to kill Time, making him die a dull death at
bedtime every night, but to run hand in hand with him--run wherever he
might be going, because things worth while might be ready to happen
round the very next bend of the future.

"This was the lesson I needed most, because I'd forgotten that if there
was no intimate personal joy left for me in this world, there was for
others; and even I might help them to find it, by having the bright
courage of my imagination, instead of the dull courage of convictions.

"You made me believe (even though I can't always live up to the belief)
that when we are horribly unhappy, we're only seeing a beautiful,
bright landscape reflected gray-green, in our own little cracked and
dusty mirror, distorted in its cramped frame. While Mother was ill, and
other troubles pressed on me heavily, I often reminded myself of those
words of yours, in a many-times-read letter; and I tried to turn my
eyes away from the poor cracked mirror, dim with the dust which I had
stupidly thought was the dust of my own destiny; tried to look instead
at the clear truth of things.

"In the same letter (one of those I treasure most; for I've kept all,
and always shall keep them) you gave me another thought that has done
me good. You said it had only just come to you as you wrote to me. Do
you remember? You were wondering if our Real Selves (the 'realities
behind the Things' you've spoken of so often) exist uninterruptedly on
the Etheric Plane, to be joined there by the souls of the earthbound
selves, each time they finish with their bodies. 'Imagine the soul
arriving from earth, pouring its new experiences into the mind of its
Real Self,' you said, 'and receiving in return memories of all it had
ever lived through, learning the reason _why_ of every sorrow and joy,
and never quite forgetting, though it might think it had forgotten.'

"Oh, I thank you, my friend, for every mental growing pain you have
given me! Instead of forgetting what I owed you, in those weeks of
silence, I realized it all more and more, and resolved to be worthier
of my lessons when the strain on my new strength increased, as it is
bound to do, with mother gone. I shall try, that's all I can say. I
don't know how I shall win through. And I shall have more to thank you
for, if you tell me that our friendship hasn't been disturbed by my
seeming ingratitude.

"Did you ever see those queer little dried-up Japanese flowers which
seem utterly dead till you throw them into water? Then they expand and
remember that they are alive. I am one of them. Don't pour off the
water. I'm afraid if you did, I might be weak enough to dry up again."



CHAPTER XV


To get back the jewel he had thought lost, was to be born into a new
life in a new world. Denin had to tell the portrait in the redwood
frame, what he felt, for he dared not tell Barbara herself. To have
given her a glimpse of his heart would have been to show that its fire
had not been kindled by friendship. His answer to her letter was so
tame, so lifeless compared to the song of his soul, that it seemed
something to laugh at--or to weep over. But there was a line he must
not pass. He knew this well, and that his only happiness could be in
the Mirador and in Barbara's friendly letters, as long as she cared to
write. Mr. Carl Pohlson Bradley might go on bidding for the Mirador up
to a million if he liked. There was no chance of his getting it! Denin
was as sure of that, as he was of the shape of the world, or perhaps a
little surer. Then, one day, a thunderbolt fell in the garden. It was
dropped by the postman, in the form of a letter.

Barbara wrote, "Everything is changed since I wrote you six days ago. I
can't live here any longer, under the same roof with a man whose one
pleasure is to torture and insult me. I haven't spoken about him to you
lately. There was no need, but things grew no better between us--worse,
rather, for he resented the calmness I was finding through you. It made
him furious apparently, that he had no longer the same power over me as
at first, to drive me away from him, crying, or shaking all over with
shame and anger at the dreadful things he said. I hardly cared at all
of late days, when he called me a hypocrite, or a liar, or a damned
fool, or other names far worse. I paid him a visit morning and evening,
or at other times if he sent for me, and went out motoring or driving
with him when he felt well enough to go. He refused to move without me,
and so, as the doctor ordered fresh air for him, I couldn't refuse.
When he was at his worst--or what I thought the worst then--I could
look straight ahead, and think of things you said, hardly bearing his
abuse.

"'This is my "bit" to do in the war days,' I reminded myself, and
thought maybe my kind of fighting was almost as hard to do as the
fighting in the trenches. Besides, I never lost sight of what you
answered when I first told you how hard it was, living up to
obligations I'd taken on myself. You said, 'We're all sparks of the one
Great Fire, some brighter than others. We can't hate each other for
long without finding out that it's as bad as hating ourselves.' Truly,
I quite brought myself to stop hating him. I only pitied, and tried to
help, as much as he would let me. But I see now that it was all in
vain. I can't do him any good by staying, and--well, I just simply
can't bear it! He is too ill to be moved. This dear old house will have
to be his home while he drags on his death in life--which may mean
years. So I, not he, must go.

"Lest you should blame me too much, I will tell you what happened,
though I wasn't sure I would do so when I began to write.

"His valet is a trained nurse, a repellent person, though competent,
with dull eyes and a face which looks as if it had petrified under his
skin, because his soul--if any--belongs to the Stone Age. The
creature's name happens to be Stone, too; and if he has any feeling it
is love of money. His master has been bribing him, it seems, to spy
upon me. While I was away from the house, at my mother's funeral, Stone
was searching the drawers of my desk in the octagon study I've told you
about, where I like to sit because it was my dearest one's favorite
room.

"I had never thought of hiding your letters. There was nothing in them
which needed to be hidden. Besides, it never occurred to me that cruel
suspicions and disgusting ideas of baseness were wriggling round me,
like little snakes that peep out from between the rough stones in a
ruined wall. There they all were, bound together in a packet, the kind,
brave letters that have been my salvation! Stone took them to his
master, who sent for me when I came home after the funeral.

"As soon as I saw him, I knew that something unusual had happened. He
flung his 'discovery' of the letters into my face. He told me that he
had burnt all but a few which he would keep to 'use' against me, and
tried to frighten me into promising never to write to 'this John
Sanbourne' again. Of course I gave no promise. Instead, I told him that
what he had done and said freed me from him forever. Then I went out of
the room and left him there, helpless on his sofa. For the first time I
felt no pity for him whatever--not so much as I should feel for a
crushed wasp who had stung me. I haven't seen him since. I don't intend
to see him again. But when I could get my thoughts in order after the
fire of fury had cooled a little, I wrote to him. I said that I was
sending for a lawyer, and would make some arrangement so that he should
want for nothing. I told him that he might stay at Gorston Old Hall as
long as he wished, but that I was going away almost immediately. Once
gone, I should never return while he was in the house. I have always
thought divorce very dreadful; but now I see how one's point of view
changes when one's own interest is at stake. If I could, I would
divorce this man, with whom my marriage has been a tragic farce. But I
have no case against him legally. I knew when I consented to call
myself his wife, that I should never be his wife really, and so, my
solicitor says, I could not even sue for nullity of marriage. It wasn't
I who thought of that. I don't remember having heard the term
mentioned, though perhaps I have, without noticing, when such things
seemed as far from my life as the earth from Mars. It was the lawyer
who brought up the subject, but added the instant after, that nothing
could be done, in the way of legal separation of any kind. He advised
me to send the man away from Gorston Old Hall, saying that I should be
more than justified. But I wouldn't agree to do that. For one thing, it
would be like physical cruelty to a wounded animal. For another
thing--even a stronger reason--the _temptation_ to send him away
was--and is--terribly strong.

"I could feel myself trying to justify the idea to my own soul, as if I
were pleading a case before a tribunal. I could hear myself argue that
it was unfair to let such a man enjoy the home of my Dearest, whom he
had already superseded too long. But I knew, deep within myself, that
my Dearest would be the very one of all others to say, 'Let him stay
on,' if he could come back and speak to us. In that same deep down,
hidden place, was the knowledge of my real reason for wanting the man
to go. To move him might easily break off the thread of his life.
_That_ was the temptation: to do a thing which might seem just to every
one who heard the circumstances, and to get rid of the intolerable
burden--to be absolutely free of it as I could be in no other way.

"Of my own self, I'm afraid I couldn't have resisted the temptation. I
should probably have thrown all responsibility on my solicitor, and let
him settle everything as he thought best. The strength to resist has
come through you, and what you have taught me. So it is that this man
who has insulted you, and burned your letters, owes his comforts and
perhaps his life itself, to you.

"There are many things which it is hard to forgive him, but I think the
hardest of all is the loss of the letters. To lose them is like losing
my talisman. But the ones he was keeping as a threat, I shall have
again. The solicitor says he will force the man to give them up.

"Now that my leaving this dear house is settled, the next question is,
What shall I do with my life, since my services as an untrained nurse
are no longer pledged here? Already, though only a few days have
passed, I've decided how to answer that question. I shall go into some
hospital as a probationer, and as soon as I am qualified, I shall offer
my services to the Red Cross. That may be sooner than with most
amateurs, for already I've learned almost as much about nursing as
hospital training of a year could have taught me. Wherever I'm sent,
I'm willing to go. But before I take up this new work, I have a plan to
carry out. Oh, how I wonder what you will say to it!

"Only a few weeks before she went out of the world, a cousin of my
father's left Mother some property in California, quite valuable
property, near Bakersfield. I don't know if you have ever been there,
but of course you've heard that it is a great oil country. There are
big wells on this property. If it had come to Mother earlier, she would
have been overjoyed, because it would have made all the difference
between skimping poverty and comparative riches. It came too late for
her, and for me it isn't very important, so far as the money is
concerned. There's another thing that makes it important, though. The
place is in California! It seems like mending a link in a broken chain,
to own land in dear California again.

"Mother always said she would hate to go back, but I never felt like
that. Now, it seems to be rather necessary for me to go--or to send
some one, to look into things which concern the property. We hear there
has been mismanagement--perhaps dishonesty. Of course I know nothing
about business myself, and should be of no use. But if I went to
California, I would engage some good lawyer on the spot, to take care
of my interests: and, _I could meet you_, my friend. That is, I could
if you were willing. Would you be? Would you welcome me if I came one
day to the gate of the little garden, and begged, 'Dear Hermit of the
Mirador, will you give a poor tired traveler lunch in your pergola?'

"You see now that the legacy is only an excuse. I confess it. I
shouldn't go to California just to straighten out things at the oil
fields--no, not even if I lost the property by not going. But to see my
friend who has given me back life, and love in the sweetness of memory
and hope of future usefulness, I would travel with joy across the whole
world instead of half.

"I know you refused to send your photograph, because I 'might be
disillusioned.' But I _couldn't_ be disillusioned, because there's no
illusion. Do I care what your looks may be? If you are ugly, I'm sure
it's a beautiful, brave ugliness. Anyhow, _I_ should think it so.
Please, therefore, don't put me off for any such reason as you gave
about the photograph. It isn't really worthy of you, or even of me. Let
us dare to be frank with each other. I've told you how much I want to
see you and what it would mean to me. In return you must tell me
whether you want me to come, or whether, because of some _real_ reason
(which you may or may not choose to explain) you wish me to stay away.

"When you get this, there will be only time to telegraph to--Yours ever
in unbreakable friendship, Barbara Denin."



PART III

BEYOND THE MILESTONES



CHAPTER XVI


There was a great wind wailing over the sea, on the day that Barbara's
letter was brought to Denin. The wind seemed to come from the four
corners of the earth, laden with all the stormy sorrow of the world
since men and women first loved and lost each other. The voice was old
as death and young as life, and the heartbreak of unending processions
of lovers was the message it brought to the Mirador garden. Denin knew
because he had heard through the fire-music of life, that there was
another voice and another message for those who would listen. He knew
that higher than tragedy rang the notes of endless triumph; that the
message of love went on forever beyond the break of the note of loss.
He knew the lesson he had so hardly taught himself and Barbara: that
happiness is stronger than sorrow, as all things positive are stronger
than all negative things. But the big truths of the universe were too
big for him that day. The thought that he might see Barbara, and yet
must not see her, shut out all the rest.

There had been, it seemed, only one honorable course open when he had
decided to sacrifice his place in life to save Barbara from scandal and
to let her keep her happiness. It was very different now. Her marriage
with Trevor d'Arcy had not been a marriage of love. It had been worse
than a failure. She had loved only one man, John Denin. Why not let her
come and find him?

But no, the trial would be too great. It would not be fair to put the
girl, still almost a child, to such a test. Her love for Denin had been
a delicate poem. He had died, and his memory was cherished in her
heart, as a rose of romance. There was no human passion in such a
gentle love, and only the strongest passion could pass through the
ordeal he proposed. She might hate him for his long silence, and blame
him for deceit. She would see herself disgraced in the eyes of the
world, and nothing that he could give would repay her for all that she
must lose. No love could be expected to stand such a test, much less
the love of a child for an ideal which had never, in truth, existed. It
would break her heart to fail, and break his to have her fail. The
memory of a meeting and a parting would be for him a second
death--death by torture. The temptation to let things take their course
was overcome. Indeed, he no longer felt it as a temptation;
nevertheless he suffered.

Some reason for putting her off must be alleged, but there was time to
think of that afterwards, between the telegram and letter which would
follow. The great thing was to prevent her from coming to the Mirador,
and finding out what a tragic tangle she had made of her life.

When he had sent the cable, and was at home again, Denin read once more
all of Barbara's closely written pages. At the end he kissed the dear
name with a kiss of mingled passion and renunciation.

"She'll think I have no more heart than a stone," he said to himself.
"Her friendship for Sanbourne will crumble to pieces." Ineffably he
longed to keep it--all that he had in life of sunshine. Yet he could
not see how to account for his refusal without lying, and without
appearing in her eyes cold as a block of marble. He looked at the
letter--which might be her last--as a man might look at a beloved face
about to be hidden in a coffin: and suddenly the date sprang to his
eyes.

For all his reading and re-reading he had not noticed it before. There
had been a delay. The letter had been several days longer than usual in
reaching him. What if she had grown tired of awaiting the asked-for
cable, and had chosen to take silence for consent?

The certainty that this was so seized upon Denin. He was suddenly as
sure that Barbara was on the way to him, as if he had just heard the
news of her starting. If, honestly and at the bottom of his heart he
wanted to save her a tragic awakening from dreams, he must leave
nothing to chance. He must be up and doing. It was not impossible, even
if she had waited four days for a cable, and started impulsively off on
the fifth, that she might walk in at the gate of the Mirador garden, a
week from that night, so Denin hastily calculated. How was he to be
gone before she came--if she did come--without humiliating the dear
visitor by seeming deliberately to avoid her? How could John
Sanbourne's absence be accounted for in some reasonable and impersonal
way, if Lady Denin arrived at Santa Barbara enquiring for him?

In his need of a pretext, he recalled the offer which he had laughed
at; Carl Pohlson Bradley's offer to buy the Mirador in its garden. The
man would snap at the chance to get his way so soon. In a few days the
business could be settled, and Sanbourne could be gone. But where? And
Denin sought anxiously to provide the "good reason" at which he had
hinted to Barbara, in his cable forbidding her to come.

Even if he had sold the Mirador before receiving his friend's letter,
he might have waited to see her. He could have stayed on in a hotel, if
the new owner of the place had been impatient. No, selling his house
was but one step of the journey. What should the next one be?

Almost instantly the solution of the whole difficulty presented itself
to his mind. A few days before, he had sent a subscription to a fund
for organizing a relief expedition to Serbia. The appeal had come to
John Sanbourne through his publisher. And even as he wrote his check,
he had thought, if it were not for the exquisite bond of friendship
which tied him to a fixed address--the address of the Mirador--how easy
it would be to give himself as well as his money, to the cause of
Serbia in distress. Not only doctors and nurses were wanted for the
expedition, but men of independent means, able to act as hospital
orderlies and in other ways.

Physically, Denin had not yet got back the full measure of his old
strength. After all these months, he would be of no use as a fighting
man. He limped after a hard walk; and often with a change of weather he
suffered sharp pain, as if his old wounds were new. But he could stand
a long journey, and surely he would be equal to the work of an orderly,
perhaps something better. If there were dangers to meet in Serbia, he
would welcome them, whatever they might be. To die would be to adjust
things as they could be adjusted in no other way. Since August 18,
1914, John Denin had had no right to live.

The more he thought of it, the wiser seemed the Serbian plan. With
Bradley's money, he could do five times more for the Red Cross fund
than he had hoped to do. What mattered the wrench of parting from the
Mirador? The only thing that really mattered, as before, was saving
Barbara from pain. She would not be hurt if she came and found him gone
on such an errand as this, for it was one which could not wait. Later,
she would understand even more clearly, for he would write a letter and
send it to Gorston Old Hall, where some servant would have been given a
forwarding address. Thus he need not quite lose his friend. She would
forgive his going away, and write to him in Serbia.

Denin calculated that Barbara could not have sailed from England until
at least five or six days after sending her letter to him. Probably she
would not have sailed so soon. Apparently, when writing, she had only
just made up her mind that Gorston Old Hall was unbearable. There would
have been many things to arrange, and business to settle with her
solicitor, friends to say good-by to. She could not possibly reach
Santa Barbara even if she traveled with the most unlikely haste, until
the end of the week. That she should arrive on Saturday would be almost
a miracle. It was Monday now, and Thursday might see him away from the
place where he had dreamed of passing all his days. Now that he had
thrown off the dream, he saw it a fantastic vision. As vigor of body
and mind came back to him, the boundaries of the Mirador garden would
soon, in any case, have become too narrow for his energies. He would
have found it necessary to shoulder some useful burden, and work with
the rest of the world. The hour had struck for him now, and John
Sanbourne had got his marching orders, as John Denin had got them long
ago.

He sent word to Bradley through his lawyer, that the Mirador was for
sale, after all. Next, he telegraphed to the leader of the Serbian
Relief Expedition, in New York, and asked if there was a place for him.
Because the name of John Sanbourne was known, an enthusiastic answer
came back with great promptness. This stirred Denin's heart, which,
despite his firm resolution, felt heavy and cold. He thought of Barbara
coming to the Mirador, only to find Mr. Bradley's workmen engaged in
tearing down the barrier between the big garden and the little one. But
now that his course of action was decided, he supplemented his first
cable to her with another. This was in case his "presentiment" were
wrong, and she had not started. He told her what his "good reason" was:
that he had sold the Mirador and was starting at once for Serbia.
Further explanations, he added, would be given when he wrote.

Never had a letter to Lady Denin been so difficult for John Sanbourne
to compose, for he could say only the things he least wished to say;
and so the result of his labor was, in the end, very short.
Nevertheless, it took hours to write.

The day after the sending of the letter was largely taken up by a visit
from Carl Pohlson Bradley and his man of business. Denin held the
millionaire to the last price named by himself, for he intended to use
the money largely for the benefit of the Serbian Red Cross. At last a
contract was signed, and the check paid into John Sanbourne's bank at
Santa Barbara. He had still all Wednesday and part of Thursday for
packing and disposing of his treasures. The task was easy, for the
treasures were few. He could "fold his tent like an Arab, and silently
steal away."

Denin did not expect ever to return to Santa Barbara. Having loved the
Mirador, and given it up, there was no longer anything tangible to call
him back. More likely than not, death which had come close to him in
France, would come closer still in Serbia. He would cast off his body
like an outworn cloak, and free of it, would knock once more at the
gate where, once, he had heard voices singing.

The one possession which Denin could not bear to give up, yet knew not
how to take, was the portrait of Barbara which he had made, and framed
in redwood. It was large, and the delicate tints of its pastels had to
be carefully protected. He could not possibly include it in his slender
"kit" for Serbia. At last he decided to pack frame and all with
precaution, carry the case to New York, and leave it in charge of
Eversedge Sibley. There would be time for a visit to Sibley before the
sailing of the expedition; and Denin would make his friend promise to
burn the wooden box unopened, if he died abroad.

Everything else, with the exception of some favorite books which could
be slipped into his luggage, he determined to give away. Gossip about
the sale of the Mirador, and Sanbourne's intended departure for Serbia,
ran like quicksilver, in all directions. The acquaintances he had
made--or rather acquaintances who had fastened upon him--began calling
to enquire if the news were true, and their question answered itself
before it was asked. The hermit of the Mirador and his faithful dumb
companion, a pipe, were surrounded with the aimless confusion of a
hasty flitting. Souvenirs of John Sanbourne had their value, but he did
not appear to know that. He offered his Lares and Penates recklessly,
to any one who would accept. The parson's daughter, to whom--all
unconsciously--he was an ideal hero, took away the pictures, copies of
those the child Barbara had loved. The parson himself got a valuable
contribution of books for his library. The furniture was given to a
young couple who had taken a bungalow not far off, and were getting it
ready with an eye to economy. Dishes and linen went the same way,
excepting a cup and saucer and teapot which were clamored for with
tears by an old lady for whom "The War Wedding" ranked with the Bible.

Denin had allowed no one to enter the balconied bedroom, for he had
left Barbara's portrait until the last minute, and no eyes but his were
to see that sacred thing. Once the picture was shut away and nailed up
between layers of cotton and wood, it might be that he should never
again be greeted by the dear, elusive smile. The furniture from
upstairs he had added to the confusion of the sitting-room below, and
early in the afternoon of Thursday everything had been carted away by
the new owners. To strip the house while Sanbourne was still in it
seemed heartless, they had protested; but he had begged them to do so.
Mr. Bradley was to claim possession of the place next day.

When all those who called themselves his friends had bidden him
good-by, a curious sense of peace, of pause between storms, fell upon
the departing hermit of the Mirador. Because the little house was
almost as empty and echoing as on the day when he had seen it first,
that day lived again very clearly in Denin's mind. He had sought a
refuge, and had found happiness. The spirit of Barbara had come to him
in the garden, and had brought him love. That love he was taking away
with him, though he had to leave behind much that was very sweet; and
now the time had come to say farewell to the memories of months. In
three hours the motor car was due, which Denin had ordered to take him
and his luggage to the station. The most important piece of that
luggage was Barbara's portrait, and it had still to be put into its
case. But he was leaving the farewell to her eyes, till the last
moment, the last second even.

Meanwhile he walked in the garden, and in the jeweled green tunnel of
the pergola. There, in the pergola, he had read most of Barbara's
letters, and answered them. He was glad that no one was ever likely to
stroll or sit in the corridor of illuminated tapestry after to-day.
Carl Pohlson Bradley intended to have the pergola pulled down, and the
whole place torn to pieces in order to carry out the grandiose scheme
of a "garden architect" whom he had employed.

After the arrival of Barbara's first letter, and the one in which she
confessed her love for the dead John Denin, his sweetest association
with the pergola was the companionship of a little child--only a dream
child, but more real, it seemed, than any living child could be. It was
the child-Barbara who had walked day after day, hand in hand with him
in the pergola. She had welcomed him to the Mirador when he had come as
its owner; but after a certain letter from England, she had changed in
a peculiarly thrilling way. The letter was among the first half dozen;
but in the growing packet, Denin kept it near the top. It was one of
those which he re-read oftenest. In it Barbara had said to her friend,
John Sanbourne, "If my dear love had lived, to make me his wife,
perhaps by this time we should have had a baby with us. I think often
of that little baby that might have been--so often, that I have made it
seem real. It is a great comfort to me. I can almost believe that its
_soul_ really does exist, and that it comes to console me because its
warm little body can never be held in my arms. I see the tiny face, and
the great eyes. They are dark gray, like its father's. And when mine
fill with tears, it lays little fingers on them, fingers cool and light
as rose petals. Oh, it _must_ exist, this baby soul, for it is so
loving, and it has such strong individuality of its own! I couldn't
spare it now. Already, since it first came and said, 'I am the child
who ought to be yours and his,' it seems to have grown. It is the
_realest_ thing! Its hair is darker and longer and curlier than it used
to be. Perhaps this baby will always stay with me, and I shall see it
grow into boyhood, then, at last, into manhood. It's wonderful to have
this dream-baby! Tell me, have you ever had one? I know you are alone
in life, for you have said so. But the more alone in life one was, the
dearer a dream-baby might be."

After that letter, which pierced Denin's heart and then poured balm
into the wound, the child-Barbara who haunted the Mirador had changed
for him, except in name; or rather another child-Barbara had come, not
a child of ten or twelve, but a baby thing with smoke-blue eyes and
little satin rings of ruddy hair. The elder Barbara did not go away,
but loved the baby as he did, helping him teach it how to walk, and
talk, and think.

He wrote to Lady Denin after that letter of hers: "Yes, I too have a
dream-child, but mine is a little girl. I hardly know how I got on
without her before she came."

"Thank Heaven for memory!" he said to himself now, as he took his last
look at the tunnel of greenery starred with passion-flowers. "After
all, does it so much matter whether we had a beloved thing one minute
ago, or ten years ago, if it lives always in our hearts? Each tick of
the watch turns the present into the past. But in our hearts there is
no past."

So he bade good-by to the pergola, and the garden he had made out of a
tangled wilderness. Then he turned towards the house; for in the house
he had to take leave of the portrait.



CHAPTER XVII


"I'll get out here, please!" said a woman in black, stopping the
automobile which had brought her from the railway station within sight
of the Fay place. She was tall and slender, and apparently young, but
her mourning veil was so thick that it lay like drifting coal-smoke
between her face and the curious stare of the chauffeur.

"It's a quarter of a mile to the gate yet. And I shan't charge any more
to take you right to it," he explained.

"I know--thank you!" his passenger said. "But I want to walk the rest
of the way."

She had a pretty way of speaking, though rather a foreign sort of
accent, he thought. Perhaps it was English. Her luggage had been left
at the station, so she was free to do as she pleased, if it amused her
to spoil her shoes with the white dust of the road. She paid the price
agreed upon, and a dollar over, which the chauffeur acknowledged with a
"Thank you, miss!" As he turned and drove away, however, he wondered if
he ought to have called her "miss." To be sure, she had the air of a
girl; but her manner was grave. He didn't know one sort of mourning
from another; but being a foreigner like as not she was one of them war
widows over there.

The tall young woman walked fast at first, as if she were in a hurry.
Through the dark fog of her veil she looked at everything, gazing at
each tree as if she recognized it, and at each flowering creeper that
flooded the wall of the "Fay place" with color. She passed the main
gateway, and went on without hesitation; but as she came near the small
gate of the Mirador garden, her pace slackened. She moved very slowly;
then fast again; and just outside the gate she stopped, the bosom of
her black dress rising and falling as if she were out of breath. It was
as though she were afraid to go in at the gate. But after a minute of
breathing hard she recovered herself, and opened it, almost
noiselessly.

The path on the other side was arched over with pepper trees. The woman
in black closed the gate and latched it very gently, almost tenderly. A
few berries, like beads of pink coral from a child's necklace, lay on
the old gold of the path. She tiptoed along to avoid treading on them.
Presently the path was interrupted by a short flight of old brick
steps, and at the top it went on again. In a moment the little pink
house was in sight, backed by a great jade-green olive tree, touched
with silver in the slanting light of afternoon. The garden was a lovely
riot of flowers. It looked sweet and welcoming, with an old-fashioned
welcome, but no one was there.

The woman's heart beat, then missed a beat. She threw back her veil,
and her face shone out white and beautiful as the moon shines suddenly
through a torn black cloud. It was the face of a girl, but the eyes
were the eyes of a woman. They wandered over the garden, then focussed
on the house. The open windows were curtainless. There were no chairs
under the balcony which gave a shady roof to the front door. Instead, a
few odds and ends of broken crockery and disorderly wisps of straw lay
scattered here and there. Despite the welcoming charm of the garden,
there was an air of desolation about the place, which struck at the
woman's heart. Hesitating no longer, she walked quickly up the path,
and paused only at the open door of the little pink house.

Even there she stopped only for a few seconds. The room inside was
stripped of furniture. There was no need to knock. The woman walked in
and looked through the door of the "parlor" into the kitchen where a
child had once cooked dinners for her dolls. It also was empty.

"Gone!" The word dropped from her lips. She did not know that she had
spoken until a whispering echo of emptiness answered. Suddenly she
realized that she was very tired, more tired than she had ever been in
her life before. She seemed to have come to the end of the world, and
to have found nothing there but a stone wall.

"Oh!" she said, and covered her face with her hands, shivering, though
the sun outside the deserted house was warm. When her hands fell, there
were no tears in her eyes, but they were like blind eyes yearning for
sight.

It seemed to her that the house was trying to tell the secret of what
had happened. Stripped as it was, she had the impression that it was
full of intelligence and kindness. She listened at the foot of the
stairs. Perhaps the owner of the house had not really gone yet. Perhaps
he was up there. Perhaps for some reason he had to leave this place,
but was waiting for Some One he expected. Surely that must be so!
Surely he would not go away, just at this time?

When she had listened, and heard nothing, she called his name, softly
at first, then more loudly. But there was no answer. If he were in the
room above, he must have heard. Oh, the poor little room with the
balcony, where a child had looked out over the garden, and played that
fairies lived in the olive trees!

The girl was slightly made and light of foot, but she went up the steep
steps heavily, like a weary woman who feels herself old, very old. The
door of the balconied bedroom was shut. Maybe, after all, he might not
have heard her call! She knocked, once, twice, then turned the knob and
timidly pushed open the door. She could see nothing inside the room but
a packing-case, with a wooden cover propped against it, and a box of
bright new nails beside it on the bare, tiled floor.

The intruder stepped over the threshold, and saw that, at the further
end of the room out of sight from the door, stood a small leather
portmanteau--pathetically small, somehow--and a still smaller suitcase.
He had not gone, then!--and she had no right to be here, in his room.
She turned hastily to go out, and facing the door--blown partly shut by
the breeze from an open window, she also faced a portrait framed in a
wonderful frame of ruddy, rippled wood, like the auburn hair of a
woman. The eyes of the portrait--smoke-blue eyes--looked straight into
hers. And as she looked back into them, it was like seeing herself in a
mirror, a mysterious mirror which refused to reflect her mourning
clothes, and gave her instead a white dress.

This was so strange a thing, that the girl could not believe she really
saw it. She thought that she must be asleep in the train, on the way to
Santa Barbara, and that in her eager impatience she had dreamed ahead.
This would explain the deserted house. She was only dreaming that she
had walked up the garden path, and had found her friend gone--gone to
avoid her. How _like_ a dream!--the strain to succeed, and then failure
and vague disappointment wherever one turned! How like a dream that her
portrait should be found hanging in a marvelous frame, in the house of
a man who had never seen her, never even had her description! She would
wake up presently, of course, and find herself shaking about in the
train. How glad, how glad she must be that this was a dream, because
when she did indeed come to the Mirador, there would be curtains and
furniture and pictures and books, such as John Sanbourne had written
about, and John Sanbourne himself would be there expecting her! Still,
it was astonishing that the dream went on and on being so vivid. She
could not wake up!

As she stared at the eyes of the portrait, hypnotized by them, a
stronger breeze slammed the door shut. Now she would surely wake!
Noises always waked one. They had no place in dreams. But no. The scene
remained the same, except that the handle of the door was being slowly
turned. Some one was opening it from the outside. The dream was to go
on, to another phase. The girl clasped her hands, and pressed them
against her breast. So she stood when the door opened wide, and a man,
stopped by the sight of her, stepped back in crossing the threshold.

"Barbara!"

The name sprang to Denin's lips, but he did not utter it.

He had meant to go away in time. He had tried to spare her this; yet he
had in his secret heart thought that, if she did come, it would be
heaven to see her. But now it was not so. There was one brief flash of
joy in her beauty; then horror of himself overpowered it. Her very
loveliness seemed to make his guilt more hateful--a lifetime of guilt!
He saw himself as the murderer of this girl's youth and happiness. It
seemed to him that no man had ever sinned as he had sinned. He had
crept away and hidden in the dark when she most needed him.
Defenseless, she had in all good faith married another man. And because
of his weakness she had sinned against the law. She had done a thing
which, if known, would ruin her life in the world she knew. It was his
fault, not hers, yet she had suffered for it, and now she would suffer
more than she had suffered yet. If she had thought she loved the dead
man, from this moment she would hate the living one, who had deceived
her.

Yet there was one hope. Perhaps he was even more changed than he had
supposed, and if he went away instantly without speaking, she might not
recognize him. He stepped back, on the impulse, but she held out her
hands, as he turned to go, and cried to him piteously.

"Oh, if you are a dream," she said, in a low, strange voice, "stay! I
beg of you to stay."

Still he did not speak. He could not, now. He waited.

"It's all a dream," she whispered. "I know that. Coming here--to the
empty house--finding my own picture--and then--then--when I looked for
John Sanbourne, seeing you--my love! O God, let me never wake up in
this world. If this could only be--what they call death!"

The word broke, to a sob, and she swayed towards him, deathly white.
Denin sprang forward, and caught her in his arms--his wife--the first
time he had ever held her so. Then, because he could think no longer,
but only feel, he kissed her on hair and eyes and lips, and strained
her to him with every worshiping name he had given her in his heart
since their wedding and parting day.

She lay so still against him, that it seemed she must have fainted; but
her eyes opened, drowned in his, as he kissed her on the lips. He saw
the blue glitter, as if two sapphires blocked his vision, and suddenly
his face was wet with Barbara's tears. "Have I died?" she whispered.
And the tears which were damp on his face were salt on his lips as he
whispered back, "No."

He remembered how he, too, had once thought himself dead, and then had
crept slowly back to life. He had seen Barbara then, as in a dream
within a dream. Now she, too, was passing through this experience. He
held her tight. He could not let her suffer as he had suffered when he
came back to life! Yet what could he do for her, after all? The sense
of his helplessness was heavy upon him.

"Forgive me," he said, "Barbara, darling! I never meant this to happen.
The first I heard of you--after--was that you'd married--your cousin. I
believed you loved him. I was in a German hospital--broken to
pieces--disfigured. I ought to have died, but somehow I couldn't die. I
had to live on. Later, I escaped. I came here--where _you_ had lived.
God knows, all through I tried to do for the best--your best. Nothing
else mattered. I wrote that book--for you, only for you! And you know
the rest. You turned my hell to heaven. I was--almost happy, except for
what you suffered. But I dared not have you come here. I cabled. I was
going away--"

She pressed her head back against his shoulder, and looked up at him.
"You were going--" The words burst from her on a high note of sharp
reproach, but she caught them back with a sigh of joy. "You didn't go!"
she breathed. "God wouldn't have let you go. He put it in my heart to
leave England the day after I wrote. Ah, we're not dreaming, and we're
not dead! We're alive, and we love each other better than all the
world. I know now that you do love me, or you couldn't hold me and kiss
me so. You couldn't have made such a sacrifice--the sacrifice of your
very life and self for me. It was like you--like you! The mistake was
my fault, not yours. But I'll make up to you for it all, and you will
make up to me. We'll never part for an hour again."

"You don't know what you're saying, Barbara," he reminded her. "John
Denin's dead. We can't bring him back to life. Too many interests are
involved, yours first of all, but others, too. It would be selfish and
cruel for me to take you so--"

"You don't take me," she said. "I give myself, I give myself to John
Sanbourne, as I gave myself to John Denin."

"But we'll be poor," he told her. "John Denin's money can't come to
us--"

"I have enough of my own now. And if I hadn't, I'd beg with you. We
could be tramps together."

Denin laughed out joyously, almost roughly, and clasped her tight. "It
won't come to that, my darling! Perhaps I can write another book. Yes,
I can! It shall be called 'The Honeymoon.'"

"Let us go away somewhere," Barbara implored, "where nobody will know
us, and we can love each other in peace till we die: for we belong to
one another in God's sight and our own. Yes, till we die. And
afterwards--afterwards! Oh, you have taught me that!"

"I have pledged myself to go to Serbia," Denin said.

"Then I'll go to Serbia with you, that's all! What does it matter
where?"

"And the world--and Gorston Old Hall?" he heard himself asking.

"Neither do they matter. Nothing matters but you. And God will
understand--because I am _your_ wife, and belong to no one else, or
ever, ever did."

"You are right," Denin answered, holding her very close. "God will
understand. You're mine, and I'm yours, and nothing shall part us
again."

The portrait with the smoke-blue eyes smiled at them from the door.
They saw only each other: but the eyes in the picture Denin had painted
seemed to see beyond the place where the milestones end.

THE END





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