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Title: The Locusts' Years
Author: Fee, Mary Helen
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 "The Locusts' Years" ***

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                           THE LOCUSTS' YEARS

                                   By
                             MARY HELEN FEE

                               Author of
             A Woman's Impressions of the Philippines, etc.

                             Illustrated by
                             Charles Sarka



                                Chicago
                          A. C. McClurg & Co.
                                  1912



                             To my Brother



THE LOCUSTS' YEARS


CHAPTER I


When a man has reached the point where he can reflect, with cynical
satisfaction, upon the brutality of organized society, and can
contemplate unmoved one of its victims; and when the cause of his
reflections is a woman not over thirty, whose worth and refinement
are obvious to any reader of faces, that man either must possess a
coarse-grained and cruel nature, or he must be very highly civilized.

No shade of doubt could have entered Judge Alexander Barton's mind as
to which of these adjectives applied to him. He would have repudiated
the faintest hint that a taint of coarseness or cruelty could lie in
him. His was one of those eminent political personalities which bubble
up from the great caldron of American democracy. He had convictions
and principles of a high order. They appeared frequently in the shape
of addresses to young men's political and reading clubs, or in a "few
remarks" at church socials, where a programme of songs and recitations
was followed by the distribution of home-made cakes and candies,
and of uninspiriting beverages. It was sometimes remarked of him in
that other world which he frequented that his conscientiousness in
attending these mild-flavored symposia was the indisputable evidence
of his fitness to adorn the roster of the Philippine judiciary. For to
whom may we look for an example, if not to the interpreters of the law,
whose position vests them with dignity, social and official? From
whom may we demand the utterance of lofty principles and of high
convictions, if not from the very men whose business it is to punish
the unhappy wretches whose actions have declared their principles,
expressed or otherwise, of the flimsiest?

Judge Barton was also frequently extolled as the pattern of American
democracy, as, indeed, he was. Nothing could have been more catholic
than his handshake, nothing more finely measured than the appreciation
which it conveyed of the recipient's relation to himself: to the
veteran of the Army of the Philippines, it was hearty, and bespoke the
comrade in arms; to the struggling young civil-service employee, it was
encouraging, and it hinted, ever so delicately, that the inspiration
for great ambitions ought to lie in the example of living statesmen; to
the clergy and to the members of the Educational Department, who fairly
swarm in the Philippines, it was fraternal and spoke confidentially
of the tie which linked them in a great work; and to the effervescing
spume from the Pacific coast, which is knocking about Manila, loud in
vituperation of the change from democratic to bureaucratic society--to
that segment of Young America whose disposition to criticise existing
institutions led to the happy phrase "undesirable citizens"--the
Judge's democratic cordiality always embodied a hope that their mutual
relations might continue forever harmonious, and it even intimated
that no act on his part could make them otherwise.

The cause of the Judge's highly civilized musings was one of those
undesirable citizens of the feminine gender; and, if you ask how
anything proper in the feminine gender may be classed as an undesirable
citizen, there can only be cited an opinion from the Judge himself--one
of those ex-cathedra sentiments which he held as infallible--that any
one who refuses to accept pleasantly a situation which he is powerless
to remedy, and who continues a quarrel which is futile and which can
result only disastrously to its single champion, that person is,
primarily, inefficient, and, secondarily, insane; either of which
states is undesirable. Furthermore, there is nothing so repellent
to a man as the feminine weakness which enlists his sympathy, and,
at the same time, challenges the terms on which it is given. To find
the shivering wretch on whom you would bestow an alms repudiating
your charity and mutely reproaching you for the condition of things
which makes you donor and him recipient--in such a metaphor, perhaps,
the Judge might have condensed the musings which a month's illness
and the daily opportunity of studying Miss Ponsonby had bred.

The young woman who had received so much of His Honor's valuable
consideration did not look a very formidable antagonist in a quarrel
with organized society. She stood at an open window of the hospital,
gazing down on a convalescent-strewn lawn, where a military band was
delighting the sick with a Christmas Eve concert. Her tall figure
was very slender--so slender, in fact, as to make it quite evident
that the blue cotton nurse's dress which she wore was the survival
of a plumper epoch. She was not a beautiful woman, nor was she even
a pretty one, though she was far from being ugly. Her eyes were gray
and kind, with well arched brows. Her nose was slightly aquiline,
with sensitive nostrils. A rather low forehead, a broad mouth, and a
shapely head covered with brown hair, were attributes which she shared
with any number of women. What particularly marked her was a delicate
grace of manner, an emanation of fastidiousness in every glance and
movement, a reserve which at times became almost stiffness; in short,
a distinction which, in happier circumstances, might have made her
envied, but which in the mixture of a pioneer community served only
to isolate her.

For at least two weeks of convalescence, Judge Barton had amused
himself with the attempt to determine why Miss Ponsonby's charm and
distinction should be assets of so little practical value to her. His
decision was that, in appearance most distinguished, she was singularly
lacking in the unconscious self-confidence which usually accompanies
distinction; that, a most feminine creature in many respects, she
was unfemininely distrustful of her power over men. There was, in her
perfectly dignified attitude toward the other sex, and in the absence
of all coquetry, a sort of proud abdication of feminine rights. She
resigned all a woman's natural claim upon man's emotional nature; and
the keen analyst who had studied her so closely fancied that he could
detect a repressed challenge of man's superiority. He classified her
(with a kind of shrugging pity) as one of those women of whom all
men speak respectfully and many men admiringly, but who grow old and
plain and bitter, unsought among their more frivolous sisters. At
the same time, he admitted an attraction which had kept him bidding
indirectly for her notice.

Miss Ponsonby's impassive reserve with men was so wholly a confession,
and, at the same time, so proud a disclaimer of the usual meek
attitude of unpopular women, that it not only irritated the man
who could analyze her, but it provoked his curiosity and led him
into attempt after attempt to sting her into speech and unconscious
revelations. And whenever he did so and retired, foiled, with the
consciousness of having given an unmanly stab to weakness, his man's
desire to think well of himself made him put the blame upon her.

On the afternoon of that particular day, Miss Ponsonby's feminine
characteristics were in possession. She leaned rather languidly
against the window frame, and her bodily fatigue, and a self-conscious
forlornness which she strove habitually to conceal, were quite
evident. Every movement betrayed the woman pushed beyond her strength;
every sensitive, quivering line of her face hinted at emotions rioting
under a repressed exterior.

If her very apparent dejection aroused no compunction in the Judge
(he being so highly civilized) it evoked an ardent sympathy from the
young man in the next bed; for, in those days, not even the potency of
a Judge's title could have commanded a private room in the hospital. As
a next best expedient, Judge Barton had been placed in a small room
opening from the main ward, and containing but two beds. The exigencies
of an overcrowded surgical ward made it necessary that the second bed
should be occupied by a young pearl fisher, with a crushed chest,
who had been taken off a wrecked lorcha. His magnificent physique,
and the face of a Greek statue, would have lured from a woman a more
complimentary description than the term "young ruffian" which Judge
Barton had instantly but inaudibly fastened upon him. "Young ruffian"
is perhaps an exaggerated phrase to describe the beauty and insouciance
which, in a male, may be qualified by a hat too far on one side. The
Judge had never seen Collingwood in his hat, but he divined just the
angle which the young man's taste approved.

Collingwood was gradually recovering, but he was still unable to
move without the assistance of a nurse or of one of the Filipino
attendants. He had the black hair, the pink and white skin, and,
the cameo-cut profile of a Celtic ancestry, modified by his father's
union with a woman of Tennessee pioneer stock. His eyes, which should
have been the Irishman's blue, were a steadfast brown. His frame
was a little more massive than his father's had been; the Irishman's
blarney had merged into the chaff of the Westerner; but enough of Irish
humor remained to lend flavor to the practical, hard-headed sense
which he had inherited from the mountaineer side of the family. His
speech was cheery and careless, yet shrewd; lacking in polish, yet not
uncouth. He was not uneducated, and took an innocent satisfaction in
having credentials to show for that fact, being a graduate of a small
high-school in one of the Middle States. The Judge had found him a
not uninteresting companion, for he was outspoken, a born lover of
adventure, and a born money-maker, if the Judge ever knew one.

However, Collingwood himself interested Judge Barton far less than
did the growth of an emotion in the young man which the dignitary
had covertly watched enlarge from an expansive gratitude to absorbing
affection. The "young ruffian" had fallen head over ears in love with a
woman whose critical faculties and fastidious instincts might well have
shaken the courage of a more pretentious suitor; and he enjoyed the
ruffian's usual advantage of being sensitive to material difficulties
only. If he felt the distinction in Miss Ponsonby's manner, it was
not as something which separated her from him, but as something which
made her only more desirable. He mistook her reserve for shyness; her
proud detachment, for meekness. He was aflame to seize the woman who
not only appealed to his senses, but who stirred ambitions of which
he was hardly conscious, and to bear her away from her overtasked
life. He wished to play King Cophetua to the beggar maid; and he was
saved from appearing supremely ridiculous only by his sincerity and
by freedom from all self-consciousness in his desire.

It was so natural that a young ruffian should fall in love with
probably the first gentlewoman with whom he had come into frequent
association, that the Judge wasted no particular attention on
Collingwood's side of the case. What really interested that gentleman
was Miss Ponsonby's attitude. For, as he put it to himself, there was
a woman with an undeniable personality, engaged in a dumb squabble
with society because she could not obtain a recognition of that
personality; and the only admirer and partisan she could muster was
a young ruffian so far removed from atmospheric influences that he
had not recognized that she was a personality; a man who would not
have known what was meant by the word. She might have been the young
woman who despatches telegrams from the lobby of a first-class hotel,
so far as Collingwood's assumption that she belonged to his world was
concerned. Her nurse's apron and cap were to him the indisputable
evidences of his right to claim her for his friend or for his
sweetheart, provided, of course, that the attraction was mutual;
and that her taste might be influenced by any other standard than his
own, he had no suspicion. Judge Barton had even detected at times the
tacit overture for a class combination, the assumption that they of
the toilers needed no chance civility from one temporarily thrown
into their society. That the situation daily developing under his
observant eyes must be humiliating to Miss Ponsonby, Judge Barton had
not the least doubt. But he was sufficiently human to hope that the
hour of Collingwood's discomfiture (for of that also he had no doubt)
might be delayed until he, the Judge, was ready to leave the hospital,
and to find some other amusement than that of watching a proud woman's
struggle with her femininity.

Collingwood, quite unconscious of the Judge's observant eye, lay
watching Miss Ponsonby with an alertness which contrasted strangely
with his maimed body. There was, in his slightly dilated nostril and
in the glow of his eye, the suggestion of a horse which pricks forward
its ears and accelerates its pace as it nears home; and perhaps some
latent instinct of domesticity lay at the bottom of the man's rather
inexplicable fancy for Miss Ponsonby.

It was inexplicable, not only through the social gulf which actually
divided them, but through the fact that she had never been a man's
woman, and that all Collingwood's previous attachments had been for
the type of woman who is adored by the opposite sex. Miss Ponsonby
was not diffident under his advances, nor was she overwhelmed by a
man's favor, little as she had enjoyed of it. Attention of a sort
she had had, because the position of the relatives who had brought
her up was such that any member of their household had to be taken
into consideration; but from the time she had left the shelter of
their roof, she had received from men an indifference as profound as
it was respectful. Collingwood's very open admiration was the first
tracery upon a page which was humiliatingly blank.

It had begun--his admiration--on his first night in the hospital,
when he lay a bandaged mummy, racked with pain, a mounting fever
adding its torments to the closeness of a muggy, tropical night. There
were memories of its sufferings mingled with gentle ministrations,
of touches soothing to his worn body, of a feeling of helplessness
and dependence upon this gentleness, which carried him back to his
half-forgotten childhood, and washed, as clean as his school-boy's
slate, a philosophy of life acquired in numerous love affairs with
the young ladies of hotel lobbies, and of restaurant check stands.

The impression remained overnight and increased by reason of the
succession of another nurse, who prided herself upon her jollity,
and believed that her patients needed cheering up. Collingwood was
in such a condition that jollity was an affront to him. He endured
the cheerful lady as best he could, and counted the long hours till
four o'clock brought back his madonna.

The word had no part in Collingwood's vocabulary; but it is applicable
because it expresses the quality of worship which he had injected into
an otherwise very mundane emotion. Collingwood, who was as innocent as
a babe of social traditions, who was an American democrat through and
through, and believed that all men are equal, save as the possession
of "the price" enables one man to command more of this world's
goods than another, was unable to account for the elements in Miss
Ponsonby's nature which whetted his desires, by any of the threads
which contributed to the fabric of his philosophy; and he explained
them by imputing to the lady the rare and peculiar quality of goodness.

Goodness! There you have the weak point in the arch of man's
philosophical structure, the thing which at once embodies his
highest ideal and his most human distaste, the thing over which he
has rhapsodized in poetry, which he has exalted into a theology,
and which he has ruthlessly crucified whenever he has met it in the
flesh. Collingwood supposed that Miss Ponsonby's delicate rejection of
his advances (a rejection qualified by some feeling which a lover's
instinct had to interpret to his advantage) originated in goodness,
in a final struggle of the etherealized feminine nature before
it submitted to its incarnation and became bound in the flesh. He
thought the delicate self-restraint with which she met the caprices and
fretfulness of her wards was founded on heavenly patience. He imagined
that her occasional snubs of Judge Barton were the outcroppings of
an inward shrinking from a passion to which she could not respond;
for, loverlike, he assumed that all men must feel as he did about
his divinity and he could not perceive the undercurrent of patronage
in the Judge's not infrequent gallantries, which was like an acid on
Miss Ponsonby's quivering nerves.

It was a delicious situation. Judge Barton rubbed his hands in
enjoyment of it, and you must admit that he had some justification
in the lady's persistent refusal to make the best of his somewhat
generous efforts to establish friendly relations. Oh, yes, it was a
delicious situation; and the only one element in it which the Judge
never suspected was that secret response to the young man's tenderness
which the lover himself had divined, which whetted him in spite of
studied rebuffs, and which, his alleged democracy notwithstanding,
all Judge Barton's class instincts would have unhesitatingly pronounced
unseemly--as, indeed, the young woman herself regarded it.



CHAPTER II


Charlotte Ponsonby continued to lean against the window in an
abstraction which registered impressions very much as a flagellant's
ecstasy may note the pathway of his torment. The consciousness of her
own perturbation made it exceedingly difficult to turn around. She
was so unhappy that it seemed the fact must be evident to even
a casual observer. She was afraid of a kindly word, or of a mere
friendly glance, lest it should break through the self control she
had been exerting.

When at length the National Anthem had been played, and lucent
amber was fading into early dusk, the nurse had no further excuse
for turning her back on the two patients in her ward. She did not
glance at them as she moved away, but her quick return with a glass
of milk showed that one of them, at least, was in her thoughts. She
offered the refreshment to Collingwood with an explanation, in a dry,
professional tone, for its being three minutes late.

He sipped it, looking over the rim with his steadfast brown eyes.

"I'm tired," he said fretfully.

"I suppose you must be. I will move you when you have finished that."

"I wonder," Judge Barton mused, "if nurses do not sometimes feel like
saying 'So am I' when we fellows complain of being tired, or nervous,
or out of patience."

Miss Ponsonby threw him a smile of recognition for the courtesy of the
thought. "Very often they do," she replied, "but that thought would
not come in the case of Mr. Collingwood, because he is tired, and we
know that he suffers. Nurses seldom think of themselves so long as
they can reasonably think of their patients." Her outstretched hand
conveyed an intimation to the patient under discussion that he was
taking an unusual time to consume a glass of milk.

Collingwood was not a man to be hurried when he had an object in taking
time. He affected not to see her hand, when, in reality, he wanted
to caress it; and he continued to sip his milk very slowly indeed.

"Christmas Eve," he said lugubriously, "a bum Christmas if ever there
was one."

"Yes," said Judge Barton. "Collingwood has an epoch now in life--a
landmark. Hereafter he will class all events as before or after the
Christmas he spent in hospital."

"Oh, you," Collingwood threw at him, "you can afford to smile. You
have plenty of friends. It's not the same with you as with a poor
devil like me."

"My dear fellow," expostulated the Judge, "'at night all cats are
gray.' Friends do not make a Christmas. When one is away from one's
home and family at this season, there are no gradations. Ask Miss
Ponsonby."

"Is it true, Miss Ponsonby, what he says?" inquired Collingwood with
the air of one appealing to an infallible tribunal.

"I don't know, Mr. Collingwood. Judge Barton must look for his support
to someone who has passed through both experiences. I have passed
Christmas away from my family, but I have not passed one surrounded
by a host of friends."

"Ah, but you understand so much," the Judge murmured. Irritated by
her unresponsiveness, he grew almost impertinent. "The keenness of
your intelligence is only excelled by your kindness of heart."

Miss Ponsonby's cheek for an instant flew danger signals, but she
said nothing. She looked at the Judge a moment and subdued him. Then--

"I do not believe you give me credit for any great kindness of heart,"
she said simply.

"Then must I give you credit for the patience of Job."

"That you may do." She took the glass from Collingwood, who, after
an ineffectual effort to convince himself that it was not empty,
yielded it reluctantly.

The Judge, with a delicacy which he practised with almost ceremonial
observance, turned on his pillow and gave them the benefit of a wealth
of grizzled black hair, covering a massive head. He would not intrude
upon the act of changing the young man's wearied posture. His excess
of delicacy robbed the act of its naturalness, made it seem personal
and intimate.

Collingwood felt the nurse's hesitation. His heart thumped in glad
triumph. Let her rule her manner as she would, she could not make
that service impersonal. He saw her teeth catch her underlip as she
bent over him. Her eyes would not meet his, which glued themselves
appealingly upon her face. She slipped her arm under him, however,
while his own went about her neck.

In spite of her care, and the perfect training of her action, the
slight change which she made in his position wrenched a groan from
him. Yet as she laid him back and still stooped, drawing her arms
from under him, his own clinging arms tightened, and he pressed his
lips ardently against the cheek so near his own.

For a breath, the very shortest breath a man ever drew, he could have
sworn he felt a response to the caress, a womanly yielding to all
that affection and dependence may imply. Then her eyes, startled, met
his, and on the heels of a fawn-like timidity, a wave of fierceness
sent the red blood dyeing her cheek, set the high arched nostril
aquiver. The intuition flashed into his brain that it was the first
man's caress which had ever touched her soft cheek, and that she was
no less frightened than indignant. The joy of the thought drove his
blood leaping and stifled his cry of protest, as she drew hurriedly
back and left him. She moved rapidly toward the corridor, whence the
babble of a woman's voice, which grew louder as the owner advanced,
came floating in.

The lady, weighted with flowers, who had come to bring the season's
remembrances to the suffering dignitary, had paid him several previous
visits, was known to Charlotte, and was an object of no little
curiosity to Collingwood. She was a member of a very fashionable
set, and bore its stamp in dress and mannerisms. She was tall and
large-boned, with an ugly, intense face framed in a mass of the
then fashionable chestnut-red hair. Save for its haughty demand for
consideration, her countenance was not unlike those of her fallen
sisters in the suburbs of Manila. There were the same suggestions of
life drained to the dregs, the challenge, the hard look about the
eyes. She had the manner of an actress, a kind of studied, feline
grace which fell into postures and left the observer in doubt whether
her next move would be a purr or the stroke of a treacherous paw.

The lady took Miss Ponsonby's hand and held it during the course of
several honeyed utterances. Yet the effect of her courtesy was an
impression not of kindness, but of insolence. She managed to convey
the idea that civility to one's inferiors is an attribute of a great
lady, and that she was living up to the demands of her position. When
she passed to the bedside of the afflicted one, however, a warmth,
a glow of the magnetism which she could exert diffused itself like
an essence in the bare, ugly room. She addressed the Judge in the
abusive strain of intimacy.

"You fraudulent creature!" she reproached him, "lying here, pretending
to be ill when I want you at my dinner."

"Dear lady, don't." The Judge gestured away the phantom of that
dinner. Being shut out of paradise, he could not talk of its glories.

Mrs. Badgerly laughed in his face. Then she looked around the room
for the nurse. She wished her flowers arranged just so in the bowl
of old Chinese bronze which her husband and she hoped would keep them
green in a dear friend's memory. Would Miss Ponsonby put them in one
by one as she directed? She herself was afraid of ruining her frock,
which had already led to recrimination between herself and her husband.

"You do it beautifully, you know," she purred, as the nurse's deft
fingers planted sprays of green and white. "You must not mind my
comments. I am supposed to be a critic--really competent. I took
lessons in Japan. Nothing is so satisfying as to lie face down on
the floor, sticking cherry blossoms into a Satsuma vase."

"Speaking of Japan," remarked Judge Barton, "have those silks which
you promised to get for me come yet?"

"You are not to mention those silks. They are on a navy boat."

"Smuggling again," said the Judge. "I believe you women do it for
the sake of intrigue. You will never rest till you have gotten some
poor wretch cashiered and have driven me off the bench. I did not mind
the duty, and I do mind the delay. Why didn't you have them sent down
by mail?"

"I mind the duty. I shall oppose it on principle whenever I can. I
delight in evading customs duties. It is the greatest pleasure I have
in life."

"Badgerly votes a Republican ticket, doesn't he?"

"What ticket he votes is immaterial. So is what you say. Would you
find me guilty and sentence me to imprisonment if I came up for trial
in your august court?"

"I've no doubt I should cast about for extenuating circumstances,
though you would not deserve my doing so. So I am to be the purveyor
of smuggled goods, eh?"

"Oh, if you are too holy--" she rippled.

"Dear me, I hope I don't set up for being holy. I should almost
prefer the title of smuggler. Still, in my position, it might look
awkward. However, I've always been a pliant fool in a woman's hands,
and I haven't the backbone to rise up and protest. If you are
determined to smuggle, I suppose you must, but don't tell me about it."

"How you politicians do juggle with your consciences," she
retorted. "You would have liked me so much better if I hadn't told
you. You would have known, but you could have pretended not to." She
glanced up in time to catch a flicker of distaste in Miss Ponsonby's
eyes, as that lady hastily withdrew them after a covert scrutiny of
the Judge. "But how I run on!" she declared flippantly. "I am afraid
we are shocking your good nurse."

If Miss Ponsonby took note of the condescension in Mrs. Badgerly's
choice of adjectives, she did not betray the fact. She quite repudiated
any inclination to be shocked. "You could not do it," she declared
ambiguously, planting the last spray.

Mrs. Badgerly took Miss Ponsonby's measure deliberately. She had long
before admitted the personality. She now divined the quarrel. It gave
her a rapturous moment of triumph to realize that there was a woman
pulled down by the weight of material circumstances which buoyed her
up. The full flavor of her insolence rioted in her blood. What was
character, what was personality, to power?

She carried a swagger stick of Philippine camagon wood, tipped with a
rare piece of Chinese ivory carving. She swung one knee over the other,
revealing a mass of dainty petticoats, and silken hose, and a pair
of high-heeled slippers. She lolled back, her keen face supported by
one slender gloved hand, while she swished her voluminous draperies
with the swagger stick. Even Judge Barton, who knew her so well, was
stunned by her audacity. He felt as if each blow were a lash on the
shoulders of the woman facing her, who had turned to leave them. He
felt that Mrs. Badgerly wanted them so interpreted.

"So glad you are not narrow," said Mrs. Badgerly suavely, "I hate
cats, old feminine cats. I lunched with six of them yesterday. I tried
to propitiate them. 'I've been just as bad as bad can be,' I said,
'but I am not going to be so any more. I'm going to be good as gold
from now on. I've even told my husband so.'"

She paused to let the full audacity of her remarks sink into her
auditors' minds. Judge Barton held his breath. It was a masterly
inspiration to flaunt her impudence in the other's face. "What is your
purity worth? your delicacy? your refinement? your fastidiousness?" she
seemed to exult. "Will they win you notice or consideration? You
are not the companion, the friend of this man; I am that. You are
his menial. What does his secret opinion of either of us matter? His
deference is for me."

"Yes," went on Mrs. Badgerly, still blocking Miss Ponsonby's way with
her theatrically shod feet. "I made my little confession--wasn't it
dear of me?--in public, and they looked shocked. Nothing is more
vulgar than to be shocked. They sat and stared at one another in
helpless bewilderment. They had not a word to say."

If Mrs. Badgerly felt that the helpless indignation of six ladies
whose commercial and official relations with her husband through the
medium of their husbands had to be supported by civility to his wife;
if she felt that their action formed any precedent for the young
woman in a nurse's cap and apron, she made her first error then and
there. The very faintest suggestion of contempt swept across Miss
Ponsonby's aristocratic features. She made a little forward movement,
just sufficient to force Mrs. Badgerly to draw back her French slipper.

"Probably they did not believe you," she said gently; "and, as they
could not possibly say so, there was nothing else to be said."

The snigger with which Collingwood received this (he had been
listening, but it was Mrs. Badgerly's fault, she pitched her voice
too high) was drowned in an exclamation from the Judge.

"Ah-ha, Mrs. Badgerly, there you have your riposte. You must not
try fencing with Miss Ponsonby. Did I not tell you long ago that she
was clever, far too clever for you or me? But she is kind, too. She
is too generous to take you at your word, though she does not mind
countering with you for the pure skill of it."

Charlotte's response was a somewhat drawn smile as she moved
away. Mrs. Badgerly, though taken aback, was not routed. She still
felt that the sinews of war were in her hands, and, until the close
of her visit, she made a series of demands upon the nurse which could
not courteously be refused, but which kept that unfortunate always
waiting upon her. She reserved a few arrows till her departure.

"Dear nurse," she said, laying a hand on Miss Ponsonby's arm, "I have
been a dreadful nuisance, but I must be forgiven. People are so good
to me. They always do forgive me. You will--I know you will. You look
so tired, dear nurse. Won't you let me send the carriage for you some
evening when I am not going out? I am sure you ought to be rewarded in
Heaven for the sacrifices you make on earth. Are you always occupied
at this hour?--the only time when Manila is agreeable?"

Martin Collingwood, who was even more obtuse than the generality of
men in matters where women's finesse is concerned, took these feminine
taunts at their face value. They moderated the resentment which,
at first, the obvious prosperity and self-confidence of the visitor
had aroused. He had anathematized her with the favorite adjective
of democracy: he had mentally labelled her "stuck up." But the tenor
of the conversation went far to remove that impression. Its delicate
thrusts, its cruel taunts, he missed; but the unvarnished effrontery
of it reminded him, save for a flavor of smartness which he relished
but could not define, of the frankness of some of the young ladies
who had contributed to his discarded philosophy.

Nevertheless, he gloried somewhat inconsistently in Miss Ponsonby's
ill concealed reprobation. Her spunkiness (his own word, dear reader)
delighted him as a further evidence of that holiness which was
essential to his madonna. The remembrance of his stolen kiss flowed
back to him, and he lay alternately quaking and enraptured at the
thought of his own boldness.

Miss Ponsonby put aside Mrs. Badgerly's thanks and declined her
carriage. She went about her evening duties with a kind of startled
grace like some nerve-tense creature, ready to leap at a sound. Not
a single glance fell Collingwood's way.

But at nine o'clock, when lights were to go out, the necessity of
administering medicine to Judge Barton made her bear down on their
little ward with a tray. She was very self-possessed, so much so that
the keen man of the world guessed that her late encounter had been
more trying than she was willing for him to know.

Still, the motive which made him utter a word or two of apology for
his guest was not wholly kind. Miss Ponsonby had snubbed his friend,
and to do that was to impugn the greatness of the man himself.

"I am afraid that my caller gave you a great deal of trouble," he said.

Charlotte smiled. "It mattered little. I am here for that."

"A great deal of trouble," he repeated, detaining her by holding his
medicine untasted. "But, as she said, she must be forgiven. Ah! there
is nothing so perfect as the assurance of spoiled women!"

That hurt. It drew a contrast. She, Charlotte Ponsonby, was not
spoiled, and she had no assurance, and he could not forgive her for
it. Pain jarred an injudicious reply from her.

"Why are they spoiled?"

"My dear lady! Why is the earth scattered with the records of man's
folly? Because he feels, and they prey upon his miserable feelings. I
am not sure that you are mundane enough to understand."

"I am not certain that I do understand. But I am certain that my
stupidity does not originate in any ultramundane flights."

"Ah, you're clever," said the Judge, "dangerously clever."

"No woman is dangerously clever till she uses her wits for evil
purposes," she said, flushing. "I resent your choice of adjectives."

"A thousand pardons," he cried. "I was thinking of the effect of your
cleverness upon yourself, not upon others, and I cannot retract. It
is dangerous for any woman's happiness to analyze herself and all
the world as you do."

She gave a little shrug, and held out her hand for the glass.

"Bear with me," he pleaded. "I am not sleepy, and you wish to turn
out the lights and leave me in the darkness to ponder my sins."

"It is my solemn duty to turn them out at once if you are going to
do that."

"I protest. Hold on just a minute, and I'll swallow the nauseous
stuff. Seriously, Miss Ponsonby, don't you think--all advantages and
disadvantages taken into consideration--that it is a good thing for
a woman to be spoiled?"

"I am not certain. What do you mean by spoiled?"

"Oh, womanly will do for a definition."

"Is Mrs. Badgerly womanly?"

"Not in the completest sense, but womanly enough to be spoiled--to
base all her demands upon her charms, and not upon her rights."

"I will think that over. It presents a field for interesting
thought. But do drink your medicine."

"Not until you have told me what you really think."

"I think you leave no place for the women with no charms. Has she no
rights either?"

"The proper sort of woman does not want any rights. She values her
charms infinitely higher than all the rights that can be given her."

"That must be exceedingly pleasant for the women who are born
charming. But I insist that a sensible woman should value the
attainable more than the unattainable. Charm is unattainable by
any conscious process. The woman born without it had better make
few claims if, to use a commercial metaphor, she wants her drafts
honored. There is nothing for her to do but philosophically to make
the best of the situation, and to accept those things which are the
commonly admitted rights of her sex."

"Ah! you reason so clearly and practically. But don't be a
philosopher. Don't let philosophy creep upon you. Resist it. You
know the quotation, I am sure, 'That unloveliest of things in women,
a philosopher.'"

He set the glass to his lips, so that he did not see how she paled
under the thrust, nor how one hand went to her throat quickly as if
a sudden pain had gripped her. When he had finished drinking and had
set the empty glass upon her tray, she switched off the light without
her usual "good-night," and left him.

"Nurse--Miss Ponsonby," said a small voice in the gloom, a most abject
voice to issue from six feet of recumbent manhood, "won't you come
here a minute?"

Miss Ponsonby paused, but did not look back. "Are you awake?" she
inquired evenly. "I thought you were asleep hours ago. You must be
dreadfully tired. The attendant is here now, the one who handles you
so nicely. I will send him to you immediately."

A man cannot lie in the dark and cry for a nurse who will not
come. Collingwood submitted, though fear had taken possession of
him. His late audacity seemed madness.

The night wore on. Clouds obscured the sky, and a hot, choking darkness
blocked the windows, with solid blackness. The sounds of traffic grew
intermittent. Occasionally a carriage went past, full of drunken
soldiers or marines, shouting and singing. Once the ambulance went
out and came back with an emergency case.

Collingwood's bed commanded the door which opened into the main ward,
so that he had a perfect view of Miss Ponsonby, sitting at her desk
and working at her report. A thick green shade cut the light from
the room, but centred it like a halo around her shapely head.

By and by, though her features were composed, the watcher saw a glisten
of light which flashed at recurrent intervals as a tear dropped
downward. The sight filled him with repentance and perplexity. He
associated the tears, though he could not tell why, with his stolen
kiss. He had kissed more young women in his life than he had energy
at that moment to remember; and no one before had felt his caresses
a reasonable pretext for weeping. Here again was that mysterious
goodness mixing up a situation which ought to have been simple as day,
and yet he was glad that it was there to mix.

A faint sound from Judge Barton's couch told him that the Judge, too,
was wakeful and had seen the sparkling drops; but he could not hear
what that gentleman was saying to himself.

"Not a philosopher," he murmured, "not a philosopher, but
uncompromising. Why isn't she attractive! She ought to be
attractive." Then, quite gently, "Poor creature! Why doesn't she
surrender? Why doesn't she accept the situation and compromise
with life?"

There was no one to answer. Presently Miss Ponsonby, as if realising
that there might be wakeful eyes among the patients, got up and
went out into the corridor. A few minutes afterwards, the bells,
the whistles, and the revolvers of enthusiastic exiles flung out a
Christmas greeting, and her relief came.

Each man took unto himself a partial responsibility for
her tears. Judge Barton planned to wipe out the memory of his
unchivalrous conduct by his most deferential manner and his very best
conversation. Collingwood dreamed of abasing himself, and of settling
without delay all doubts as to his attitude. If he saw a rosy vision of
Miss Ponsonby reconciled to him and forgiving, he was not altogether
conceited. He had been a man decidedly popular with women. But when
the sixteen weary hours had passed away, and the afternoon shift of
nurses brought not Miss Ponsonby but the red-haired lady of cheerful
temperament, Judge Barton's instinctive sigh was speedily followed
by a rapt interest in Collingwood. That young man had allowed his
disappointment to express itself by an involuntary twist in bed,
so that he yelled in agony.



CHAPTER III


Some five or six weeks after the events narrated in the preceding
chapters, Judge Barton's Australian chestnuts were rattling their
silver-plated harness on the Luneta driveway at sunset, while their
owner was threading the mazes of a Sunday-night carriage jam. He had
that day returned from a short vacation in Japan, where he had gone
to recuperate after his attack of fever.

The hot season was coming on apace, and but little breeze disturbed
the waters of the bay, which were sombred by the reflections of
slate-colored clouds streaked across the zenith. The brilliancy of the
sunset seemed to have driven apart the clouds in the west, however,
where the sky was enamelled in hues of jade and amber and turquoise,
seamed here and there with gold, and occasionally with a fading line
of dark vapor. With the purple shapes of the mountains extending to
right and left, with the foreshortened sweep of the waters, and with
the motionless lines of the anchored vessels, the distant picture
flamed out like a theatre curtain, while the motley assemblage
which filled the oval around the bandstand was not unsuggestive of
a waiting audience.

As he was in the act of leaning forward to note the outline of a
great five-masted freighter, anchored abreast the bandstand, Judge
Barton caught sight of a profile which was vaguely familiar to him,
but which, for a moment, he quite failed to associate with a name. A
second later, he remembered that he had always seen Miss Ponsonby
in her nurse's cap, and he could not determine whether it was the
harmonious effect of imported millinery or some radical change in
herself which lent a charm to her face never found there before.

As for the man at her side, it was something of a triumph to perceive
the hat at just the angle at which the Judge's imagination had pictured
it, the angle affected by a very smart enlisted man.

It was not wholly in response to the political instinct which, in a
democracy, bestows handshakes in place of largesse, that Judge Barton
made his way to the carriage in which Miss Ponsonby sat. Since the
miserable Christmas Eve when he had succeeded in pricking her into a
fencing match, he had not seen her. On the following day, she was put
on day duty in another ward, in accordance with some mysterious system
of change pursued in the hospital. Within three or four days more,
the Judge was pronounced able to begin the journey up the China coast,
from which he had only that day returned. When he left the hospital,
Collingwood was convalescent, but was suffering from a moroseness
which his observant neighbor attributed to thwarted affection.

Miss Ponsonby greeted her quondam patient not with coldness, which
may imply an intentionally concealed interest, but lifelessly, with an
indifference almost impertinent. Judge Barton felt the indifference,
was chilled by it, and revenged himself by a guarded significance
of manner which did not amount to ill breeding, but which hinted
at an expectation gratified, and made her, as he was delighted to
perceive, self-conscious and ill at ease. The feeling with which
he had approached her was genial and kindly. To find himself
suddenly enveloped in the atmosphere of challenge, of reserve,
of dumb interrogation of the providential workings of this world,
stirred up in him the old desire to push her just a little bit closer
to the wall against which her back was so resolutely set. It was not
a chivalrous feeling, but it was a very human and natural one, which
might have been shared by millions of the Judge's fellow-citizens,
far more pretentious than he was in the matter of Christian charity
and brotherhood.

Miss Ponsonby was looking even paler and thinner than she had looked
at Christmas. There was a purpling thickness in her eyelids, there was
a depth of shadow beneath, which, to an attentive observer, hinted at
tears and vigils in the night. In her listlessness, and in a sweet
effort in her smile, the Judge found, in the further course of the
talk, the signs of conquest. It was as if, driven to bay, she sought
help even from her enemies to ease the agony of surrender. The Judge
was not hard-hearted. So long as she fought, he was willing to stab
and prick. At the first sign of feminine weakness, at the sight of her
beaten and shrinking, he was ready to forget that only a few weeks
before he had been rather eager to see her reduced to humility. His
concern for her finally found utterance in the hope that she was
going to indulge in a much needed rest. "You know I always said,
when I was in the hospital, that you needed nursing just as much as
Collingwood and I did, if not more," he added.

She thanked him rather formally, and he detected in her stiffness an
access of shyness. A faint color dyed her cheek.

Collingwood, whose resemblance to a pagan deity--or to a young
ruffian--was stronger than ever, broke in joyously:

"Oh, she's going to take a vacation, all right--a long one, in fact,
for the rest of her life--with me. You are quite right, Judge. She
does need care, and I'll see that she gets it."

Miss Ponsonby's face rivalled the afterglow into which the gorgeous
spectacle before them was beginning to melt like metals fused in a
crucible; but, after an instant, she lifted her eyes and gazed with
a remarkable intensity at Judge Barton. If her self-consciousness had
originated in a prescience of his astonishment, it was not more painful
than his own chagrin at having betrayed himself. He had certainly not
expected her to marry Martin Collingwood. He had taken a mild pleasure
in letting her perceive that he divined her struggles in a compromise
with her pride for the sake of a few passing attentions and pleasures;
but never had it occurred to him that she could possibly bridge the
distance between herself and Collingwood in marriage. To have exhibited
his utter amazement enraged him with himself. He recovered himself
promptly, however, and, in turn, tendered a firm white hand to each.

"Bless you, my children," he said blandly, "I showed some surprise,
but really I don't know why. The thing is obviously appropriate."

There was a dryness in Collingwood's reply which made him, for a
moment, almost as impressive as the Judge himself.

"I am glad you think so. That was my opinion from the first, but I
had considerable difficulty in getting Miss Ponsonby to take my view
of it, and even yet she has her moments of doubt."

Miss Ponsonby gave him a shy little smile, but at the end of the
fleeting movement, her eyes again sought the Judge's with the same
questioning intensity, so that he was amazed to find himself answering
aloud.

"Obviously appropriate," he repeated, "and for a hundred reasons:
first, my dear young lady, so charming a person as yourself has
no business rusting out in the fatigues of your profession; second,
because this young free-lance needs somebody to look after him; third,
because marriage is to be encouraged on general principles." At
this point he seemed to recognize the necessity of steering the
conversational bark into safer waters, and endeavored to divert it
by pleasantry at his own expense. "Although I have not been able to
induce any young woman to share my joys and sorrows, believe me,
it is not because I am opposed to the institution. If I am an old
bachelor, it is not for lack of trying to marry."

It was Collingwood who made the humanely frank rejoinder, "I guess
you haven't tried very hard since you have been on the bench, have
you, Judge?"

It is strange how a man may both resent a fact and take pride in
it. Six weeks before, when the Judge had wished to put a squabbling
young woman in her place, he had rather gloried in the material
advantages connected with his position. A hint that his position
might win him a wife when his personality unaided could not do so,
rasped his nerves. Charlotte saw him wince and returned good for evil.

"Ah! you are not sincere. You are too modern to believe in marriage."

"Is it in an ironical spirit, then, do you think, that I beg an
invitation to yours?"

"But it will be so very quiet--not even cards or cake; and only one
or two of Mr. Collingwood's friends, and one or two of mine, to give
us countenance."

"To keep us from feeling that we are eloping," said Collingwood
blithely.

"Am I not the very man to do that? If there is no other way, I must
be railroaded in in an official capacity. Does not Collingwood need a
best man? Does not the marriage ceremony call for a parent to give the
bride away--'Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?'--and
all that?"

This was pure advertising propaganda, a way to one of those newspaper
squibs which delight both the snobbishness and the sentimentality of
Americans. In the slight pause which ensued, the Judge had a momentary
sensation of being weighed in a very delicately balanced mind, and
of being found wanting. But Charlotte only said, "You may come if
you wish. But it is sooner than you anticipate--very soon."

"To-morrow morning at seven-thirty," interjected Collingwood. "We
are going out on the Coastguard boat at ten."

Here was a burning of bridges, a lover who wooed and a maid who did
not dally! The Judge asked where the ceremony would take place, and
was told to come to a certain church not far from the hospital. Once
more his over-restraint betrayed him, and Miss Ponsonby guessed
his surprise.

"We were both brought up Catholics," she said, "and though we have
neither of us clung very closely to the Mother Church, that is
where we naturally turn on such an occasion. We have not needed a
dispensation. The path has been easy." She smiled enigmatically.

"No, we haven't needed a dispensation from the Pope," said Collingwood,
"but apparently we cannot manage our own affairs without the help
of the Civil Government. I am not sure that we shall get through
to-morrow without the appearance of some of the gang declaring that
there are reasons why this woman should not be married to this man."

"The Civil Government?" repeated Judge Barton, mystified. Then a light
broke upon him. "Of course--you are under contract." He addressed
Miss Ponsonby.

"My service under contract was fulfilled five months ago," she
replied. "I am at liberty to leave Government employ any moment
I wish."

"But they are long on eminent medicos and short on nurses," went on
Collingwood, whose spirits were evidently riotous, "and when Miss
Ponsonby sent in her resignation, they informed her of the fact,
and, by the Lord! they had the effrontery to expect us to arrange our
affairs to suit their convenience. The letter has gone back and forth
till it has eighteen endorsements. It hove in sight a few days ago
in an extra large envelope. I told Charlotte to put on a nineteenth,
and to end the whole matter by telling the Civil Commission and the
Bureau of Health and the Marine Hospital Service all three to go to
the devil."

"Which it was manifestly impossible for me to do," added Miss Ponsonby,
blushing.

"Manifestly," assented the Judge, with a short laugh. To him whose
whole policy was diplomacy here was temerity in a twentieth century
citizen of the American Republic to mock the Civil Commission. As
well a Venetian in the twelfth had jeered at the Council of Ten.

"Manifestly is a good word," Collingwood went on. "It was, as you
say, manifestly impossible that Miss Ponsonby should tell the Bureau
of Health to go to the devil, but it was manifestly ordained that
I should write them a letter, telling them what I thought of them,
and telling them to go to the devil's place of residence; which I
did. Forthwith, Miss Ponsonby was fired, bag and baggage, from Civil
employ. They had not seen their way to releasing her for six months,
but when she crossed Their High-Mightinesses--or when I did it for
her--they could let her go in twenty-four hours. Well, what's one
man's meat is another man's poison. I don't know about their poison,
but I knew my meat when they put it in my hand, and I'm not the man
to let it go."

"I see." There was a falling off in Judge Barton's interest in the
romance, but he struggled to conceal his feelings. He fancied also
that Miss Ponsonby was embarrassed, almost annoyed, at her lover's
frankness. "To-morrow morning, you say, at seven-thirty? I'll be
there."

He turned away after his most impressive handshake, and still pondering
this inexplicable step on the lady's part, sought his own carriage. Was
she led by romance simply, by the belated desire for love-making and
mating which might easily seize upon a woman pushing rapidly away from
the age when romance is a right? Or had she, with a shrewdness which
belied her late folly, decided to accommodate herself to the rather
material atmosphere which prevails in Manila? Had she perceived that
Collingwood was of the stuff to win out in whatever he undertook? And
had she voluntarily embraced a temporary effacement with him in order
to return to the world better equipped for the struggle to impress
it with her personality? Whatever was her motive, she was not wholly
a happy bride, and yet,--there was something in that fleeting smile
which she had given Collingwood, something very tender, exquisitely
feminine, which touched the Judge and roused in him a grudging
spirit toward the man who had reached out his hand to take what he,
Alexander Barton, had never dreamed of taking. The Judge was baffled,
and was about to give up the problem, when the well-known figure of
his friend Mrs. Badgerly recalled her cleverness in analysis and her
unbounded effrontery in stating her conclusions. He went immediately
to submit his difficulty to her.

Collingwood and his betrothed continued listening to the evening
concert in a silence which may have expressed their entire proprietary
assumption of each other, but which, on the gentleman's part, was
permeated with the watchfulness of one handling an overfilled glass. He
was anxious not to joggle his companion's reserve, as if he feared
that the spilling of a drop or two of what was passing in her mind
might leave a few acid scars upon his complacency. There had been, as
you felt, no easy courtship. If, in the presence of others, he chose
to carry it off with a high hand, when he was left alone with her,
he betrayed that, until the final blessing should have been said over
them the next day, he was more or less in doubt of his captive. His
blurting out the news of their approaching marriage to Judge Barton had
been a stroke of policy as well as an overflow of pride. His lover's
watchfulness, combating with his lover's tenderness, told him that
every pressure must be brought to bear to keep her from halting even
at the last moment. He had realized from his earliest acquaintance
with her that she was overworked and at the point of a nervous and
physical breakdown. He knew from her own admissions that she had no
relatives to whom she was willing to apply for assistance. He had
had her shy confession of affection for him and no few glimpses at a
depth of feeling which she would not wholly reveal. His own rashness
in meddling in her dispute with the Government officials had cost
her her means of livelihood, in the islands, at least, and his own
business was pressing him. These reasons, even unsupported by the
ardor of his love for her, seemed to justify him in applying all the
pressure he could to hurry Charlotte into marriage; but he could not
be blind to her reluctance, to a timidity and foreboding which she
would not explain but which caused her no little unhappiness.

Miss Ponsonby sat on in a reverie not altogether pleasant, as one
or two changes in her sensitive countenance testified. She was so
preoccupied that she remained unconscious of the playing of the
national anthem, of the dispersal of the crowd, and of the threats
of a few spattering raindrops which were not followed by a shower,
but which sent the coachman to put up the hood of their victoria. The
darkness had quite closed down upon them, the lights on the shipping
were huddled like little suburban villages on the plain of waters,
and the flash-light on Corregidor was winking an occasional red eye
low down against the sea, when Collingwood laid an almost timorous
hand upon his betrothed's arm.

"Don't worry. Leave that to me. It is my side of the contract. Why
do you take this ridiculous quarrel so seriously? Besides, it was my
fault. I jumped in--oh! just because I felt so good that I wanted to
tackle the world."

"It is an omen. It is the recurrence of conditions that have always
weighed me down. Whatever I do, there is someone to be annoyed and
offended at the act. I am in disgrace. I have been unutterably lonely
in Manila, and I felt that in our marriage, at least, there would be
the compensation of having no one to object; and now these offended
dignitaries project themselves into the affair, trailing their forked
lightnings of displeasure. Why must combat hover over my head? Why
must I fight for what drops into the laps of other women?"

"You couldn't fight," said Collingwood. "You haven't fought. You have
only been wearied and discouraged and unhappy. When I came in and did
a little fighting for you, it paralyzed you. What is a row more or
less--and least of all, under the circumstances? It would take more
than exchanging compliments with the Bureau of Health to unsettle my
spirits to-night."

"It crushes me," replied Charlotte. "Besides, you have not had
my life."

Collingwood studied her through the gloom. Her last words were a
lifting of the veil which, she had assured him, hid much pain. He
had been able to account for her reluctance in being hurried into an
early marriage through reasons which reflected credit upon her and were
not uncomplimentary to himself. To marry a man who had come into her
life less than three months before and who was planning to carry her
off to a practically uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean might
well have daunted the enthusiasm of a much more daring spirit than
hers. Collingwood's social traditions were rudimentary beside hers;
but even he, pagan that he was, could make allowances for nervousness
on that score. What he could not account for was her evident misgiving
of the ultimate outcome of their romance. She was vexed by doubts
which she was unwilling to share with him, and yet a few frank words in
the early days of their engagement had sufficed to remove all thought
that she was concealing from him anything that he ought to know.

She had told him that she had been practically an orphan since
infancy; that till she was fourteen years of age, she had been
brought up in a convent; that at fourteen she went to live in the
family of her mother's cousin; that she had been educated at Smith
College, taking her bachelor's degree there; that she had found the
bread of dependence exceedingly hard to eat, and, in defiance of her
relatives' wishes, had taken her training as a nurse; and finally,
that she had come to the Philippines to put as great a distance as
possible between herself and them, to whom her career was a source of
humiliation. "There has never been, in my past life, one act of which
you or I should be ashamed. There have been no events, no episodes,
nothing but a series of petty humiliations, of wasted efforts, and of
thwarted ambitions which I cannot talk about even to you. I want to
forget them. They have almost overwhelmed me. I have been--I am--on
the verge of becoming morbidly introspective and retrospective. Help
me to put the past away, but not because there is one thing in it
that you ought to know."

To such an appeal a lover can make but one reply. After that, whenever
Collingwood saw her struggling with one of her moods of gloom, he
bent his energies to its conquest, none the less willingly that he
had discovered a ready charm for its exorcising in the caresses for
which his own affection was glad to find an excuse.

He had early learned the futility of argument against her despondent
moods, not only because her intelligence was better trained than his
own, but because, as he admitted to himself, she had all the argument
on her side. But he possessed, in the final appeal to tenderness,
a power before which she was invariably vanquished. There was, in her
shy acceptance of his caresses, an element of childishness, of a child
yielding to some forbidden pleasure, self-rebuking, fearing a price
to be paid, yet infinitely content in the moment. She was wonderfully
self-reliant in her thinking processes, and adorably dependent in
her emotions. She could think, and she was begging of the unseen
Fates to be spared thinking. She could decide, but she was grateful
to him for taking decision out of her hands. She loved him, but she
found unutterable difficulty in voicing her feelings. He had found,
in truth, what the coquette must skilfully feign--the woman's dread
of her own emotions, the alternate advance and retreat, the struggle
with her own nature, before she could submit to a master. She was
veritably a wild creature, striving to conceal the fact, a woman of
nearly thirty as timid as a girl in her teens. He was secretly amused
at the evident difficulty she experienced in recognizing her own
capacity for romance and affection; but her careful repression of her
emotions lent savor to a wooing which had in it some of the elements
of mediævalism. For the time when she would see fit to cease her own
struggle against the mysterious influences which he felt battling
against him, he could afford to wait. That such a time would come,
his natural optimism and his previous experiences with women made
him certain. In the meanwhile, he did not intend to risk a chance
word as he felt his hand so near closing on hers forever.

Protected by the darkness within the carriage hood, he threw an arm
about her and held her pressed to his side while he put his lips
against hers and finally pressed his face against her cheek in a
wordless caress.

"There is nothing to be said that we have not said," he murmured
at length. "But I entreat you, in God's name, put your fears aside
to-night. Are we the first man and woman who have dared risk and
calamity for the sake of loving? Oh! the word sticks in your throat,
I dare say. It is wonderful how you have coquetted with every reason
which may excuse our marriage except the only one that justifies it."

"Ah, if I only knew that we could be sure of ourselves," she
murmured. "But suppose it is a mistake; suppose you find me something
different from what you fancy me--I tell you every day that you
idealize me--that I cannot live up to your conception of me! Suppose
you come to hate me, as some men do hate women that are tied for life
to them, millstones around their necks!" She shuddered.

It was a line of thought so unnatural for a girl to indulge in on the
eve of her marriage, that Collingwood found time for a moment's wonder
what could have been the formative influences of her life to make her
look so despondently on her own powers of holding affection. But the
moment was not for indecision. Collingwood drew his face away from
hers although he still continued to encircle her with his arm.

"You may not be sure of yourself," he said. "The processes of your
education seem to have left you muddled on matters that you ought to
have been clear on before now. But I'm sure of myself. I'm marrying you
for love--for a consuming passion, if you like the term. I got it out
of a novel. I don't pretend to combat your reasons. All that you have
said may be in the light of prophecy. You may be right, but no power
on earth could make me give you up without the utmost struggle that I
am capable of. I believe that we have a happy life before us. But if
I believed that it was going to end in the blackest tribulation that
man ever entered into this side of the eternal torments, I would go
on and mortgage my life for the few weeks of joy I've had and the few
that may be ahead of us before the thing goes to smash. As for you, you
have resisted at every step, and I've felt every minute that you were
fighting yourself more than me." He crushed her against him suddenly,
and as suddenly dropped his arm from her waist. "There, now, you are
free. Do you mean to tell me that you like this better--that you are
not happy in my arms? Then something in you that isn't your tongue
lies. Why, I've felt it at every caress I've ever given you--the
struggle and the yielding and the gladness. Come! Stop coquetting
with yourself! Isn't it so?"

In the minute or two which intervened before her reply, he held
his breath for fear he had gone too far. Then the soundness of his
instinctive judgment was demonstrated to his entire satisfaction. For
a second or two Miss Ponsonby strained her clasped hands to her eyes,
then she deliberately nestled back to his side, and slipped an arm
around his neck. She began to cry, the first tears her lover had seen
her shed, though he suspected that she shed many, and he hushed her to
his breast as if she were a grieving child. She cried very quietly,
and he knew that she was ashamed of her weakness. She soon regained
control of herself, and she answered his question with an instinctive
sense of fairness which he had often noticed in her. Most women would
have taken advantage of the tears to evade an acknowledgment of defeat.

"You are right, Martin," she admitted. "I have coquetted with myself,
I have been pretending to myself that I meant ultimately to back out,
and in my heart of hearts I knew I would not, I knew I could not. I
have been selfish. I have spoiled your happiness, and refused to
accept my own for fear of the future. Yours is the only sensible
view. There are chances--but we cannot reason, we cannot think. We
must just take what life gives us; and if by and by comes sorrow, why,
we've had a little taste of joy. I am through coquetting, dear. I
am happy--now--here. I do not care what comes. I've been a wretched
prophet of evil, because secretly I meant to ride rough-shod over
whatever I summoned to oppose. I surrender. I throw myself on your
mercy. I don't deserve quarter, but I know you will give it."

There was a very long silence in the victoria. At the end of it,
Miss Ponsonby said with a little choking laugh, "But, Martin, I--I
distrust I'm marrying my master."

"Not the least doubt about it," said Collingwood. "But when masters
are the right sort--fellows like me, for instance--they are not a
bad thing for some women to have--women like you, for instance."



CHAPTER IV


What the buried archives are to the archæologist, the trunkful of old
letters is to the novelist. But before those light-giving documents are
brought forth, a little family history should be detailed as preface.

In the year 1872 the Civil War had been more generally forgotten in
the North than in the South. In the State of Massachusetts, however,
a goodly circle of antislavery agitators still kept up the fight in
favor of the black man. The Fourteenth Amendment had not then been
made, nor those celebrated discussions which fixed its interpretation
and application; but the reconstruction of the Southern States still
left plenty of ground for bitter speech and feeling.

Prominent among that circle and among the old Boston families of
that day was the widow of a man who had literally given his life to
the antislavery cause, for he had died during the War of overwork
upon an antislavery journal. His widow belonged to a family that for
two hundred years or more had been prominent in state and national
affairs. When her husband died and left her and a half-grown daughter
almost penniless among a wealthy kindred, she found little or no
difficulty in getting along; for their pride in the editorial victim
was great, and she had been always a family favorite.

But if the mother was everywhere sought, her daughter Charlotte found
a less ready welcome. A tall, superb beauty, singularly cold at times
and reserved, at others fiercely vehement, she was as utterly unlike
the descendant of a staid New England family as can be imagined. It
is regrettable that she found little favor in the family eyes; and in
the year 1872 she came to an out and out rupture with all her kindred
by eloping with Mountjoy Ponsonby, a Marylander, a Roman Catholic,
and an irreconcilable son of slave-holding parents.

Mrs. K---- took to her bed and died of chagrin. Four years later the
unhappy girl followed her mother to the grave, leaving behind her a
baby daughter six months old.

Of that marriage so soon ended, the best and the worst that can be
said is that it was unhappy. The two undisciplined natures who had
defied tradition, family sentiment, religious training, and political
inheritance for the sake of each other, had not the patience to work
out their common happiness when the infatuation which had drawn them
together died, as all such sudden and violent emotions must.

When Mrs. Ponsonby turned her back on life and on an impoverished
Southern home where her New England thrift had struggled ceaselessly
with the indolence and sluggish ways of a slave-holding household,
it was after almost all possible recrimination had been exhausted
over religion, politics, family inheritance, and ideals of life. Her
husband, having buried her with due ceremony and observance in the
Maryland family vaults, betook himself to travel, leaving the child
to be cared for by a distant female relative. When little Charlotte
was four, the relative died, and, as an ultimate act of defiance to
his wife's kindred, Ponsonby placed his daughter in a Roman Catholic
convent.

There the little girl remained till her fourteenth year. In that
period, she saw her father some six or eight times. Their interviews
were constrained affairs, for Mountjoy Ponsonby was not a man of
domestic or affectionate nature, and the child of the wife with whom he
had quarrelled bitterly made little appeal to him. He usually gave his
daughter much good advice, found her exceedingly docile, but equally
difficult, and was always embarrassed by an unspoken appeal in her
nature which he dumbly resented. He looked forward with repugnance
and dread to the days when she could be no longer stuffed away in a
convent, and he rather hoped that she would feel herself religiously
called upon to stay there.

Like many other men, he had formed the habit of looking on himself
as immortal, so that when he was instantly killed by being thrown
from his horse, he had made no provision for his child's future. On
his own side of the family there was no near kindred; and the Boston
relatives instantly put in a claim for the custody of little Charlotte.

The man who was most actively interested in the little girl's future
was one Cornelius Spencer, a dry, hard-working, quiet man, capable of
loving with singular intensity and equally capable of concealing his
emotions. He had paid a quiet court to the beautiful Charlotte K----,
and family gossip said that he took her elopement very seriously;
but it was all conjecture, for he kept his own counsel. A year later,
he married Martha Winston, her cousin, a lady who, furthermore said
family gossip, had been in love with him for several years.

The Spencer marriage turned out well; how nearly that well may be
translated happily, who can say? At least, Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius
Spencer were a decorous couple, he given to amassing this world's
goods, she devoted to a thrifty oversight of their expenditures
and to a calm enjoyment of their prosperity. Two daughters came to
them, handsome children whose education from the first was up to the
strictest standards of conservative Boston.

There was much sage wagging of heads among the Boston kin when
Cornelius Spencer came forward as the potential guardian of the orphan
immured in the convent. But though they conjectured again, Mrs. Spencer
kept her own counsel as her husband had kept his years before. Of
course, said the kinship, it was a bitter pill to her. Charlotte K----
had always outshone her in brains, in wit, in beauty. She had been
proud to marry the man whom Charlotte had refused; and to find that
man, eighteen years later, still cherishing sentimental memories
of her rival, determined to make himself a second father to that
rival's child,--ah, well, Martha was a remarkable woman to bear it
all so quietly!

It happened that, on the day the young girl appeared in charge of the
nun who brought her North, a very observant lady was calling upon
Mrs. Cornelius Spencer. The lady was the wife of an army officer,
and had a taste for letter-writing, in fact, felt that letter-writing
was her only gift. A few extracts from her epistle to her husband
will throw some light upon Charlotte Ponsonby's girlhood experiences.


    "--I have been visiting about for days among the K---- kin. They
    are as magnificently satisfied with themselves as ever, take
    themselves very seriously, are as proud of their money-making
    powers as of their blue blood; really it's wonderful how they all
    make money, and talk, as they have always done, from a very much
    higher plane than they really live on.

    "Among others, Martha Spencer asked me to luncheon, and I went
    there this morning. Really, Cornelius must have made oodles of
    money. The mere household accessories were simple enough; but the
    books, the pictures, and the curios were a joy. I feasted my soul,
    and I wished for you, my dear, to enjoy it with me.

    "But I'll talk of those things to you later. What I want to tell
    you about now is an incident that I am afraid may slip away from
    me, and I want to describe it while my impressions are fresh,

    "You remember I wrote you, in a previous letter, about the lawsuit
    and how old Dry-as-dust Cornelius has a real spark of romance
    in him after all, and of how he has disinterred his old love's
    child from a convent where she was to have been buried alive. It
    was my happy fate to see the sequel this morning.

    "Martha and I were sitting together just before lunch, when the
    bell rang. 'I think that must be the little relative whom we are
    expecting,' said Martha, and a second later the butler ushered
    in a nun and a fourteen-year-old girl.

    "I wish you could have seen Martha's greeting! It was exactly
    what she would have given a woman of the world, paying a morning
    call. She was concentrated extract of courtesy and breeding. The
    child, who was evidently nervous and expectant of a warmer welcome
    was instantly chilled by it. But she rose to it! She rose to it
    magnificently! She has rather fine eyes, her mother's eyes as
    I remember them, and a self-possessed manner for a child of her
    age. I tried to gush over her a bit, but she would have none of
    me. Having been rebuffed by her hostess, she had no intention of
    allowing an undetermined factor to the situation to make amends
    to her.

    "The nun would not remain, and departed immediately after formally
    handing over her charge. She kissed Charlotte (the child is named
    for her mother), and I rather fancied that, in spite of her cold
    welcome, the child is not reluctant to enter on a more brilliant
    life than the conventical one. At any rate, she did not shed
    any tears.

    "Charlotte was sent upstairs with a maid to make her toilette for
    luncheon. 'Your cousins regret not being here to welcome you,'
    said Martha suavely, 'but they went out to the country place of
    a friend for a day's skating. They will see you at dinner.'

    "'I am very glad they did not change their plans on my account,'
    said my little nun that might have been.

    "Cornelius came home for luncheon and was stiffer than Martha. He
    was self-conscious, that was apparent. We had the most perfect
    luncheon imaginable, but though Martha prides herself on her
    heating arrangements and their temperatures never vary a degree,
    I felt as if the outside air had crept through the whole house.

    "I am sorry for that girl from the bottom of my heart. Martha
    hates the sight of her, and the girl knew it before she had been
    twenty minutes in the house. She will have food and dress and
    every material luxury dealt out to her as lavishly as it is to
    Martha's own girls; but of good-will, kindness, human affection,
    not a drop. Instead, she will receive a courtesy measured by
    the most approved social standards. She will never be allowed
    to forget for one moment that it is given from a high sense of
    duty, and not from any sense of affection. I am not sure that
    Cornelius has done the child a kindness. She might have fared
    better in a boarding-school. At the same time, I have a great
    deal of sympathy for Martha. I shouldn't be at all nice about it,
    you know, if you raked up a dead and gone sweetheart's child and
    established her among our brood."


Within a few weeks after the writing of this epistle, Mrs. Spencer
expressed herself to an elderly relative perched in a very old colonial
home among the hills of Vermont.


    "Charlotte's little daughter is now with us. She is a very reserved
    child with beautiful manners--I suppose convent training does
    give that--and, her teachers think, has an exceptional mind. We
    have had private teachers for her this year because, though her
    elementary training is fair, she is greatly lacking in general
    information, though she has a curious accumulation of Roman
    Catholic religious lore.

    "She has a great deal of personality for a child of her age, which
    I have respected. I find myself constantly shrinking, however,
    from some undercurrent of feeling which she doesn't express. She
    gets on very well with my two girls, but they don't understand
    her any more than I do. Of course, she is treated exactly as they
    are--I really wouldn't get one a hair ribbon without buying its
    match for Charlotte.

    "For a convent-reared girl, she is not so difficult to deal with as
    might be. I send her to church every Sunday in the brougham with
    the parlor maid, who happens to be of her faith; and I called on
    the parish priest and commended her to his fatherly mercies. He
    is a rather robust person, clearly of Irish peasant origin,
    and speaks with a very decided brogue. She is plainly growing a
    bit fastidious about him, and I am inclined to feel that she is
    none too deeply enamored of her church. She has a curious gift
    of worldliness for a child brought up in a convent."


Eight years later Mrs. Spencer penned another brief note to this same
elderly relative's daughter.


    "I suppose it would be asking too much of you to run down to
    Smith and see Charlotte take her degree. I can't go--Natalie's
    engagement is just on--and somebody ought to appear from the
    family. She takes high honors, I understand. She wrote me a very
    pretty little note, saying it wasn't to be expected of any of us
    to get up, but I can see she is hurt. Do go if you can."


Six weeks later in that same year, the military lady found herself
at a very quiet and exclusive resort in the White Mountains, and once
more delivered herself to her husband of many impressions.


    "You remember that incident I told you of some years ago of seeing
    Charlotte K's daughter engulfed in the Spencer household. Well,
    they are all here for a brief stay, Martha engrossed in her
    two girls. Natalie's engagement to young X---- of the Navy
    has been announced. Charlotte Ponsonby is really a magnificent
    creature--from a woman's standpoint, that is. But the outcome of
    the affair is just what might have been expected. Somehow they
    have mortally wounded her, and to protect herself from them and
    their curiosity she has built a wall between herself and the
    whole world. I tried to cross it, and was most delicately and
    effectively rebuffed. She is the most solitary girl I have ever
    known, and yet she is not morbid. She moves among us in the most
    self-possessed, unasking spirit that was ever held by a girl of
    twenty-two. She is remarkably well bred, quite at ease outwardly,
    and is altogether too clever to please men--who are dreadfully shy
    of her, though they speak of her admiringly. I would not have you
    think that her cleverness is of that cheap type which sharpens
    its wits on others, and prides itself on its brilliancy. She is
    not in the least talkative, but she gives you the feeling of one
    who is weighing, sifting, analyzing, judging; who is using her
    brain to its best purposes at all times.

    "The pathetic part of it all is that she is playing up to a rôle
    that somebody--I don't know what idiot--assigned her. I find
    among all the kindred and all the family acquaintance the general
    opinion that Charlotte has no emotions, nothing but a brain;
    and the poor child is nothing but a bundle of emotions that she
    is desperately trying to conceal. I understand her perfectly. I
    never was so sorry for anyone in my life--anyone in our condition,
    that is. She has been tagged a girl of brains, and it has somehow
    been impressed upon her that, if she shows any feminine weakness,
    she will disgrace herself. So there she is, on her intellectual
    tiptoes, striving to conceal a very human disposition to come
    down on her heels, exiling herself from all that girlhood prizes.

    "Of course, you dear old goose, you are saying to yourself, 'Why
    don't you put her wise, then?' My dear, she has analyzed it all
    just as clearly as I have. She knows what is going on. She merely
    hasn't the courage to break through the convention and, on the
    whole, I don't wonder at it. It takes more courage to fight the
    accepted conception of oneself than it does to do any other sort
    of fighting in the world. Charlotte Ponsonby is a victim of the
    Spencer stupidity and of her own timidity and sensitiveness. There
    has grown up an impression that Charlotte doesn't care for dancing;
    and night after night she goes off to her room, pretending a
    desire to read when her heart is in her toes, where a normal
    girl's heart should be. If there is an expedition of any sort,
    Charlotte is always handed over to some elderly fossil because
    she is so intelligent and serious, and so entertaining to old
    gentlemen. If a man pays her the least attention, everybody notes
    it (and you know we pride ourselves an our breeding too); and so
    much interest, sympathy, and, yes, my dear, damnable curiosity,
    is openly shown in the matter that the girl's pride is outraged,
    and in sheer self-defence she snubs her admirer incontinently.

    "She lives and has always lived, as nearly as I can see,
    utterly without intimate companionship, confidence, or any of
    that wholesome dependence that belongs to girlhood. There is
    something infinitely pathetic in her isolation, which, much as I
    should like to, I dare not invade. There is a pride in life born
    of indigence as there is the pride of wealth. Charlotte Ponsonby
    is armored in the pride born of spiritual indigence. Her soul is
    hungering and thirsting for that thing for which all the world
    has decided she cares nothing. Mark my words, my dear, in the end,
    tragedy will come of it."


It was at the close of their stay in the mountains that Mrs. Spencer
again unburdened herself to the Vermont relative.


    "What do you think Charlotte is now bent on? She wants to be a
    trained nurse. I have felt for a long time that she had something
    revolutionary in her mind. It doesn't matter to me particularly,
    but Cornelius is grieved to the heart. However, we have no right
    to coerce her, and financial independence seems to be the one
    thing on which her mind is fixed."


Three years later she wrote again:


    "Charlotte has finished her training and is going to the
    Philippines. She came in from New York last week to break the
    news. I said little, and Cornelius said less. But we have talked
    it over, and have decided that she must judge for herself. I
    don't feel satisfied with the results of our care for Charlotte,
    and I don't know where the blame lies, but I do feel that she
    cherishes some bitterness of feeling in her heart, and that she
    is very unhappy.

    "Something in her nature wears clearer as she grows older, some
    ingrained romanticism which we did not suspect, and which repels
    me. However, it is too late to worry about now. She has taken
    her life into her own hands, and has decreed that it shall lie
    apart from ours; and I, for one, am thankful."


To these may be added a final word from Miss Ponsonby herself, written,
on her wedding eve after her return from the Luneta.


    "My dear Aunt:


    "This is the last letter I shall write you for some time, for
    to-morrow I am going to be married, and shall leave Manila for
    a remote island where the opportunity for correspondence is small.

    "The man I am going to marry, whose name is Martin Collingwood,
    is engaged in pearl-fishing in the seas south of Manila. He is a
    man, I believe, with the money-making gift. However that is not the
    reason that I am marrying him. With me it is absolutely a matter
    of the heart. I am marrying him because, as nearly as I can see,
    he is the one human being who has ever loved me in this world,
    and because I cannot live life without love.

    "It is hardly necessary to say that I am sacrificing my ambitions
    in this matter. To a woman brought up as I have been, a dependent,
    a brilliant marriage would represent the most successful thing,
    the most nearly compensating thing, that life could offer. It
    has not come to me, however, and I am making the best I can of
    what has offered.

    "You may wonder why this frankness at the end of the silence
    which has always existed between us. It is because my only hope in
    the future is based on the fact that, at last, I have courage to
    declare myself. To guard my every thought and feeling from your
    curiosity and criticism, I have separated myself from all the
    world, and in the beginning unknowingly, but in the end with full
    knowledge, have walked down a path which has ended here. I will
    not hamper myself in my new life by even the memory of my old
    cowardice. You may call me weak, call me sentimental, foolish,
    romantic, call me all the things which for years you have been
    trying to discover in me, and for which you have sought in vain
    beneath the mask I wore--I am going to have my share of living.

    "This is not written in bitterness toward you. I am grateful
    for all the care and the money lavished upon me, and I realize
    fully the sacrifice that you made in receiving me into your home
    and in treating me, as you did, with perfect justice. It was
    magnificent. I am simply one of those miserable beings who have
    come into this world unwelcome, born to be a worry and a trial to
    someone, and I have taken the only means I knew to escape from it.

    "Tell Uncle Cornelius that I am not ungrateful to him. Some day
    I'll write you again. For the present I want to put every memory
    of the past out of my life. If the day ever comes when I can go
    back to it without its influencing my life as it has always done,
    I'll write again.


        "Yours gratefully,

            "Charlotte Ponsonby."



CHAPTER V


Judge Barton had to cut short his morning ride in order to reach
the San Sebastian church at seven-thirty, but he admitted to himself
that he would have gone without his daily exercise rather than have
missed the wedding; and he was actually ten minutes early. He found
the edifice empty but pervaded with a general stir which hinted
at impending events. A dirty, bare-footed sacristan in marine
blue cotton drawers and a transparent shirt was opening windows
and lighting a few candles about the high altar. The early morning
sunlight streamed through the apertures, while the noise of street
traffic outside echoed hollowly through the dusty, empty silence
of the church. Sparrows flashed across the moted sunbeams and lost
themselves among the violet and orange shadows of the lantern. A
pobre shuffled in to mutter his devotions, and a widow and her two
daughters, who had been praying before one of the chapel altars,
lingered to discover the cause of the preparations.

Soon one or two men dropped in, strangers to the Judge, and friends,
as he instantly decided, of Collingwood. They stood about indecisively,
and stared up into the vaulted roof, and whispered to one another
in funereally regulated tones. Then came a group of five or six
women, whom the Judge recognized as fellow-nurses of Miss Ponsonby;
and almost immediately afterwards, without ceremonial or welcome
of the organ, the bride and groom appeared. Both were in white; he
in the military-cut blouse which is so popular in the Philippines,
she in a simple street dress of white muslin with a hat of white
embroidery. The marine sacristan went to summon the priest, while the
bridal pair waited quietly in the shadow of one of the Gothic pillars.

When the priest, a Spaniard of ascetic and noble countenance, had
arrived and was embarked upon the marriage ceremony, Judge Barton took
himself to task for the flutter of nervousness which, to his great
discomfiture, he found obtruding into his judicial reflections. He
had come to satisfy a very natural curiosity, and the affair had
taken his sympathies unaware. He had never before attended a wedding
in which the seriousness of matrimonial experiment appealed to him
so strongly. He never before had felt the solemn happiness which his
sympathy with that bride and groom awoke in him. He stole a glance at
the other witnesses; they were as preternaturally grave as he. There
was even a subdued air about Collingwood, full, however, of reserved
triumph. As for the bride, her pallor and fatigue were quite evident,
but she had an uplifted look which was most attractive. He caught
himself wondering if there would be any kissing the bride, and then
he decided it was time to rein in his imagination. "Emotions by
the quart!" he thought to himself. "Have I turned sentimental old
woman? Champagne wouldn't make me more maudlin."

He waited quite discreetly after the ceremony, till the young men
and the group of nurses had had their say, and it had been clearly
demonstrated that there would be no kissing. Then he went up and
offered Mrs. Collingwood his hand. There was a genuine friendliness
in his manner, a warmth and sincerity in his few words that touched
her. Her own reserve melted before them. He saw her eyes suffuse,
and a faint color glow in her cheek.

She was instantly aware, indeed, that she occupied a new plane in
his thoughts. She had gained upon him personally, and, as the wife
of a man engaged in developing one of the greatest resources of the
islands, and likely to become a factor of local commercial life, she
would receive consideration. She knew that he regarded her marriage as
a mésalliance, yet by making a mésalliance she had become a person to
be taken into account. Stranger situations than this happen frequently
in the world--in the governmental world--and Mrs. Collingwood did
not betray her intuitions.

"Well, Judge," said Martin jocosely, "the Bureau of Health did not
bear down on us after all."

"No; you are a Benedict, Collingwood, and 'whom the Lord hath
joined'--I don't know whether it is in your service or not. My Latin
is rusty."

"'Let no man, not even a Civil Commissioner, put asunder,'"
Collingwood finished for him. The Judge suspected that he felt some
relief in having the possibility of a change of mind on his bride's
part obviated, and the two men smiled at each other openly.

"I feel that my troubles are ended," said Collingwood.

His wife betrayed that she was still somewhat self-conscious. "It
remains for Judge Barton to be trite and to warn you that they have
just begun," she said, a little stiltedly.

"Nonsense! What does it matter whether your troubles are beginning
or ending? The point is that you have your present, your romance. I
dare say you will have your troubles--most of us do; but to-day--"
The speaker paused expressively.

"That is an extremely sensible view," replied Mrs. Collingwood. "He
has not your happy gift of expression, but it is Mr. Collingwood's
also. He told me as much yesterday. I had been foolish enough to
anticipate the future."

"Is that what made you look so solemn?" the Judge inquired playfully.

She blushed a little and shook her head reprovingly, "It is no joking
matter. Try it yourself and see how you feel. Why, even Martin looked
serious."

"Frankly, I was scared to death," Collingwood admitted. His wife
laughed softly. The Judge shook hands again with the newly made
husband in an access of geniality.

He declined an invitation to the hotel breakfast which was all they
could offer in the line of wedding festivity, but he found time later
to appear aboard their boat.

"Mind," he said as he wished Mrs. Collingwood good-by, "you have not
seen the last of me. I am going to appear in your island paradise
sometime when you least expect me. When things get unendurable here,
I shall flee to you and solitude."

"How long do you think you would endure it?" she inquired.

How long will you?"

"Ah! I must. I'm pledged. I shall have no excuse for repining. I took
the step with my eyes open."

"Well, I fancy you do not regret leaving Manila." In the wholeness of
his suddenly acquired sympathy with her, the Judge quite forgot that
he had been one of the many persons contributing to the experience
which had failed to endear Manila to her.

"No; my experiences here have not been altogether happy, but perhaps I
was partially to blame." She hesitated and looked over at the shining
roofs, at the patches of green shrubbery relieving them, and, in the
background, at the mountains where Lawton died. The launch whistled for
its passengers before Judge Barton could reply, but he wrung her hand
with the intensity of a lifelong friendship. And such is the perversity
of the human soul that his heart ached as the launch darted up the
Pasig. She had waited upon him with infinite patience and gentleness
through nearly a month of illness. He had seen her daily. She had been
so situated that the faintest effort of real kindness or of chivalry
on his part could have won her everlasting gratitude, and probably,
if he had desired it, her affection. He certainly fulfilled the ideal
which her social traditions demanded of her husband more nearly than
Collingwood did, and the Judge knew how to make himself liked when he
wanted to. But he had not tried to be kind to Miss Ponsonby. He had
been patronizing, and at times almost impertinent and unmanly. He had
not a shadow of right to the grudging sense of having something that
should have been his snatched away from him. He had even a feeling
of impatience with her, a thought that she had cheated him, that she
had chosen to hide her real self from him, and to reveal it cruelly
at the moment when Fate put an insurmountable barrier between them. He
could not stifle the miserable regrets, the sense of baffled yearning,
that took possession of him. He did his best to shake off the memory
of the wedding and of her face as he had seen it at the altar, but
he could not do so. Mrs. Collingwood became an obsession. Before the
coastguard cutter had pulled its anchor, he was wondering how soon and
by what means he could invent an excuse for visiting her at her home.

The coastguard steamer on the Puerta Princesa run, on which the
Collingwoods had elected to go as far as Cuyo where their own launch
would pick them up, drove a clean white furrow, and, as Collingwood
had predicted, passed Corregidor at noon. She went out through the
Boca Chica with Corregidor on the left; and Mrs. Collingwood, who
was resting in her steamer chair, smiled languidly as he glanced
back at the island. "Corregidor over the stern," she murmured as
if repeating some well-worn quotation, and then went on, "Have your
experiences here led you into contact with a type of man who has but
one iterated and reiterated wish,--he is, by the way, usually a major
in the United States army,--which wish is 'to see Corregidor over the
stern'? I do not know how many times my tongue has burned to suggest
that the wisher take a coasting steamer and see it."

"Oh, the army's sore on the Philippines," remarked Collingwood.

She eyed him reflectively. "And you, who have been in it, seem to be
'sore' on the army."

"That's right," he exclaimed heartily, "Any man who has once served his
country as a high private and has gotten out is 'agin the Government'
for the rest of his life. I came over on the troop deck of a transport,
and I swore I'd go home on a liner or leave my bones here."

"Which seems likelier to be attained?" she asked, smiling idly.

"Which do you think yourself? You've linked your fortunes with
mine. Why?" he added fixing her with a sudden intensity of glance
insistent for reply.

His wife crimsoned and looked across the glinting sea.

"I thought you answered that question to your satisfaction last night,"
she murmured.

"No; I tried to answer it for you. It was you that needed
convincing. Here is a case of temperament," he went on, half jocose,
half serious. "So long as you hesitated and I had my side to urge,
any old reason would do for me. I would clutch at a straw and hold on
to it as if it were a cable. But now everything is settled and final,
I want to understand. I want you to make yourself clear to me."

"But, my dear Martin! The idea is out of the question. Why, for a
month you have professed to be able to make me clear to myself."

Martin ruffled his hair with a puzzled hand. "Did I?" he murmured. "Did
it strike you as cheeky?"

"No; I was heartily grateful. You helped me."

"In what way?"

"In the way of common sense," Charlotte said, as simply as if the
remark were an everyday one, and her husband's somewhat startled
acceptance of the reply sent her into a ripple of laughter, in which,
after an instant, he joined heartily.

Their merriment attracted the attention of the only other passengers,
two enlisted men going out to join a hospital corps at Puerta
Princesa. It also drew upon them a frown of disfavor from the captain.

The captain was an old-time skipper from a tramp freighter, with
the freighter's contempt for passengers. He was not married, and he
had little sympathy with the billings and cooings of newly married
couples. As often as his eyes fell on the orchids and ferns and
potted plants which were hanging from stanchions and cumbering his
decks (Mrs. Collingwood was taking them down for the adornment of
her new home) he cursed picturesquely. To his second officer he had
expressed a desire for a typhoon that would roll the deadlights out
of his boat, and blow the hyphenated "garden truck" into the Sulu
Sea. He had emphasized his distaste for bridal society by setting a
table for himself and his officers on the forward deck behind the
steering apparatus, thus leaving the tiny dining-room entirely to
the despised passengers.

Yet there had been little enough sentimentality exhibited to arouse
his displeasure. Mrs. Collingwood spent her day in the steamer chair
while her husband walked the deck with his cigar or sat chatting at
her side. The hospital men, covertly watching them as everybody does
a bridal pair, opined that they were a "queer proposition" but quite
agreed that they seemed happy.

To Collingwood, the change in Charlotte's mood was an intense
relief. The hesitations and self-questionings with which she had
puzzled him for a month previous had apparently been quieted by the
finality of the marriage ceremony. That she was nervously worn out by
the strain of the previous weeks and by the disagreeable circumstances
of her quarrel with the Government he realized; and with a delicacy for
which she was thoroughly grateful, he refrained from the rather ardent
demonstrations of his courtship, and treated her with matter-of-fact
kindness and good fellowship. She was his, and she seemed contented and
at peace. It was a glorious summer day, the sea was waveless, the boat
was clean and quiet, and might almost have been their private yacht,
so completely were they alone. A chance observer beholding a lazy young
woman in a deck chair and a quiet young fellow pacing to and fro near
her might have taken them for a young married couple of some weeks'
or months' standing. He would hardly have suspected a bridal couple.

Yet the young man's mind, as they steamed past the beautiful wooded
heights of Mindoro, and looked up and up at the giant forests or
out over the gleaming water, was a tumult of joy and triumph and
wonder--the wonder being by no means in the smallest proportion. His
wife was not a beautiful woman, but his lover's eyes endowed her with
every beauty as she lay scanning the tree-clad mountains. That fine
quality of breeding in her which Collingwood was unable to define,
but which pleased him inordinately, was never more apparent. Moreover,
he had found her in times past a rather difficult person to deal with,
and behold! in the Scriptural "twinkling of an eye," her thorniness
had vanished and a docility as agreeable as it was unexpected had
given him fresh cause for self-gratulation.

Still, as he had confessed, his temperament inclined him to retroactive
investigation. So long as she proved obdurate and was not yet won,
Collingwood could not analyze. But with the struggle past he had time
to take up the contradictions of her attitude, and he found little to
justify his bold statement that he could read her better than she could
read herself. If, as he had somewhat daringly reminded her, she was
happy in his arms, it was a happiness, as he could not but realize,
of less ecstatic measure than that of many of the predecessors who,
with or without the sanction of an engagement, had yielded to their
pressure. She was a novice at love-making, as a man less experienced
than her husband would easily have guessed; and she was reticent,
not only in the voluntary expression of that fact, but in response
to his tentative overtures to her to confess it. Collingwood was no
less puzzled by the fact than by the philosophy of life which desired
its concealment. He had known many young women in his life who were
not novices at love-making, but who ardently desired to be thought so.

An ironical sense of his wife's power to baffle him tempered more
than one of the affectionate glances he cast upon her as he strolled
back and forth beside her chair. The consciousness of her mental
superiority, of her obedience to perceptions and convictions which were
only half formulated in his own mind, was literally seeping through
Collingwood's brain. He was inordinately proud of her. Her excellence
was a proof of his own good taste. He felt that she was a credit to
him. He did not associate her intelligence and her grace with a class
distinction. On the contrary, it was one of his sources of joy that
he would take her out of the masses and make her of the classes, only
Martin did not use those terms. In his simple philosophy, people with
money were important, and people without it were not. Miss Ponsonby had
been poor. She had earned her own living. Ergo, she was nobody. But he,
Martin Collingwood, would make her somebody, and when he had done so,
she would fill the position to his entire satisfaction. He did not ask
himself if he would come up to her expectations. He did not understand
that a woman can ask for more in a husband than for a lover, a master,
and a provider of the world's goods. In spite of his public-school
education, Martin Collingwood's philosophy of life was a very primitive
one, based upon a sense of sex superiority. He could realize that a
woman can be a man's inferior; but he supposed that the mere fact of
his sex makes any man the equal of the proudest woman who lives.

So Collingwood continued to walk the deck in a fool's paradise, and his
wife lounged away her day, if not in his blissful state of ignorance,
a happy and contented woman, nevertheless. There was a soundness in
that primitive philosophy of her husband's which she was proving. If
Collingwood did not have all the requisites of a woman's ideal of her
husband, he had at least three-fourths of them; and Mrs. Collingwood
was enough of a philosopher (little as she liked being told so) not
to cavil at the missing quarter when they were hurrying away from
the conditions that made that quarter vital.

The coastguard steamer skirted the coast of Mindoro and then turned
her nose westward. The next day, she crept up under the pinnacled
heights of Peñon de Coron in a jade-green sea, and entered the channel
between Coron and Bushuanga. There the water was like purple glass,
save where a rush of porpoises parted it in swift pursuit of the
flying-fish. Fairy islets dotted its dazzling surface while the land
masses on either hand were clothed in amethystine haze.

The boat lay half a day off the curving beach of Culion, and the
travellers stared up at the nipa houses of the leper colony, clinging
to the hillsides, and at the gray old church and the fort on the
left, speaking of the day when Moro paraos were no strangers to the
peaceful locality. On the third night, it anchored in Halsey Harbor,
"which is," said Collingwood, "the last place on earth except the
one we are going to live in."

To this somewhat discouraging remark, Mrs. Collingwood, who was leaning
over the rail, staring into darkness and the massed bulk of land
near, made no reply. Immediately after the dropping of the anchor,
the captain, accompanied by his third officer and the two hospital
corps men, had gone ashore to call upon the single American family
which was holding Halsey Harbor. He did not invite the Collingwoods to
go, glad apparently to be out of their sight for a time. They laughed
at their power to arouse his distaste, and agreed that they were the
gainers by his dislike. The fiery cigar tip of the officer on watch
was the only reminder that the boat was not wholly in their hands.

Collingwood, throwing away his cigar, slipped an arm around his wife,
who never objected to petting.

"It's wonderful," she said dreamily; "I never knew before that tree
toads made silence. I thought they made noise."

The night was one of those cloudy ones which occur so frequently in
the tropics, when the vapors hang low at dusk, to dissipate later. The
boat seemed to be at anchor in a bay shut in by low hills, for, at
one point, a rift in the clouds showed the pallor of the sky and
a single star, below which the solid blackness loomed in relief,
and against which a clump of bamboo teased the eye with its phantom
outline. A faint chorus of insects and tree toads and the insistent cry
of an iku lizard suggested that the boat must be fairly close to the
shore, but, as Mrs. Collingwood had said, the sounds only emphasized
the stillness. Low down in the gloom--so low as to suggest a valley
between the hills--a light burned steadily with a sweet and human
significance in the tremendous vagueness about them.

There was almost trepidation in Collingwood's inquiry if she found
it lonesome.

"Not in the least. Or rather, I find it tremendously lonely, and
enjoy it. Are you worrying about me when it is too late? Do not do
so. I shall find plenty to occupy me on the island."

"For a woman who held back as persistently as you did, you have
experienced a wonderful change of heart."

"Did you think I was afraid of loneliness?"

"Lord! I didn't know what you were afraid of, but I could see you
were afraid of something. I had to take it into consideration. It
was one of a lot of things working against me which I had to combat."

There came a long, long pause. Eight bells sounded. The second engineer
came out on the lower deck and cursed some of the Filipino crew who
had stretched themselves for a night's rest in such a manner as to
block the passage-way.

"Well," insisted Collingwood, "am I a good guesser or not?"

"About the island? No, dear. My imagination took hold of that at
once. The thought of living on a practically uninhabited island
stirred up all the romance there is in me."

"What was it, then? Come, we're married. Out with it!"

"You told me yourself in so many words that I was coquetting with
myself."

"I never said anything like that," declared Mr. Collingwood with
a vivacity inspired by a premonition of the resentment she might
feel. But Charlotte only laughed.

"Those were your exact words," she insisted. "They were quite true."

"That was not all," he persisted. "It was more serious than that. I
felt something mighty heavy in the atmosphere at times."

Mrs. Collingwood reflected a few minutes. "Don't you think," she
said then, "that any woman of mature age--of my age--would hesitate
to marry a man of whose family and antecedents she knew as little as
I did of yours?"

"No: I don't see what my family had to do with it. In the first
place I haven't any near relatives living now, as I told you; and if
I had, you wouldn't have married them. You have married me. As for
my antecedents (I suppose you mean my conduct), I told you myself
that I had been no saint. I'm just a good average citizen. I've
known better men than I am, and I have known worse. I have not
been married before; that's the main thing, after all; and no woman
ever had cause for a breach-of-promise suit against me. I had ----"
(he named a man locally prominent) "write to you and tell you that
he came from the same town with me, and he knew my record was what
I had told you. Besides, I didn't give a thought to your family,
and you have talked less about them than I have talked of mine."

"That is true. Do you think me secretive? There is nothing to be
secretive about. But my life with my relatives was too painful to
talk about, even to you."

"I saw that. I guessed it must have been hard to anybody so loving
and tender as you."

"Martin, when did you form the impression that I am loving and tender?"

"Well, ain't you?"

"I think so; but most people have not thought so, you know. What made
you decide differently?"

"Oh, that first night in the hospital after they had fixed me up
in the operating room, and the chloroform wore off, and my fever
came up. God! I can feel it all now! And just when I thought that
I could not stand things any longer, and must yell, you came along
with an ice bag and gave me a piece to suck." His wife smiled in
the darkness at his homely phraseology. "It seemed to me I had never
heard a woman's voice in my life as soft as yours was when you said,
'You are in great pain, I know.'"

"But that was what I should have done for anybody, Martin."

"I knew it. That's why I felt that you were gentle and loving. I would
have liked to put my arms around you and cry. I wanted to be babied. It
is strange, isn't it, how physical suffering can unman a fellow?"

Charlotte turned her eyes on him for an instant. He could just see
their gleam by the reflection of a ray streaming out on the water
from a light on the lower deck, and they were infinitely tender yet
mirthful. "You understand yourself thoroughly," she said. "You were
a brave baby and a good baby but you were a baby, Martin, a great
six-foot baby."

"Well, if it made you fall in love with me--

"Ah! but I didn't then. You bullied me into being in love with you. You
wouldn't give me a chance to make myself heard."

"What about that time I kissed you?" said Martin, referring to that
episode for the first time since his very formal and abject letter
of apology had met an equally formal but cold forgiveness from her.

To his consternation, she drew away from him in sudden
displeasure. "Perhaps we had better not speak of it."

"Why shouldn't we speak of it? Is it a crime for a man to kiss a
woman he loves? Did it contaminate you?"

"I had given you no right, no encouragement."

"I'd have done it if I had known I was to be kicked out of the
hospital, broken ribs and all. Besides, how is a man to know whether
he has any rights till he exercises them?"

Martin put the question seriously in all good faith. It was his
primitive philosophy again, the simple way in which he tested women
in his sphere of life. She was at a loss how to reply, and somewhat
sore put to hide her inexperience in affairs of the sort. She had been
brought up to believe that milkmaids kiss their young men over the
gate, but that, in refined society, men offer no caresses to girls whom
they respect, unless a troth has first been plighted. Had she chummed
more with girls and young women, she might have learned that even
in the best of society, young people pay little heed to the strong
statements of their elders, and that, wise heads to the contrary,
young blood will have its toll. But Charlotte had had no chums and
had never exchanged gossip over late bedroom fires. Her views on the
propriety of kissing were entirely theoretical. But that kiss was a
sore remembrance with her. It marked the beginning of the end. It was
an opening door which gave her an instant's glance into the kingdom
of love; and from its bestowal, she had known that she was confronted
with a mighty temptation to open it further and to go boldly into the
fair land. How hard she had fought with the inclination, she could
never tell Martin Collingwood; but she had fought, and she had lost.

She glanced up at him penitently after his last speech, and marked
the cessation of her involuntary resentment by slipping back into his
arm. He was emboldened to make a query which had been on his tongue
a dozen times, but which, up to that hour, not even the proprietary
sense of the husband had enabled him to regard as discreet.

"Charlotte, am I really the first man you ever cared about?"

"Absolutely the first to whom I ever gave a sentimental thought."

The delighted recipient of this compliment did not, in the joy of
hearing it, examine it too closely. When he did begin to speak, his
wife was pleased to note that he was less inclined to investigate
the cause of the phenomenon than to speculate upon its uncommonness.

"I don't know what you were about," he said. "It's mighty good luck
for me, but--not in an uncomplimentary sense--you must have been an
awful goose."

"That's it exactly. I was an awful goose; and, being so, I had an
inspiration to keep out of love."

"Why so?"

"Because I was afraid of being in love. Can you understand
that? Because love was altogether associated in my mind with pain--the
pain of losing, and the pain of loving and of not being loved, and
of being generally misunderstood."

"And all that because you were raised an orphan. I don't think you
had a fair show, old girl."

"I know I had not," said Mrs. Collingwood decisively. She added,
"But I had rather not talk about it. It makes me morbid."

"Were your folks well to do?"

"They were people of considerable wealth. I do not think they ever
grudged me anything I cost them. But I was in a false position in
their house, and I was conscious of it. The knowledge put me at a
disadvantage with all the world. It made me feel myself different
from everybody else. I was self-conscious, afraid of being an object
of pity. It was like failing to possess some essential article of
dress that everybody else has, and trying to cover up one's nakedness."

"That's it. I couldn't put it into words, but that is exactly how
you acted with Barton. You seemed to shrink away from him and to be
ready to fight him if he spoke pleasantly to you."

"Oh, dear! was it so bad as that?" Charlotte's heart sank. Her way
of expressing facts differed considerably from his, and the balance
of vividness and realism was in his favor.

"It was, just like that. But you were not that way to me. Why not?"

Her woman's wit, already quickened by her increased experience with
men, showed her how to be truthful, and, in so being, how to deceive
him most. "Ah! you were different," she murmured. But after he had led
her, in response to her request, back to her chair, and was pacing to
and fro beside her in quiet happiness, her heart reproached her. She
had not shrunk from him because she knew that he was blind, because,
to carry out her simile, he could perceive nothing lacking in her
raiment. But those keen eyes of Judge Barton's had questioned her,
had perceived every rag and tatter!

The captain returned and called Martin to deliver to him a message
from the Inhabitant of Halsey Harbor. Charlotte was left alone to
her musings.

She was very happy. The old saying, "Out of sight, out of mind"
was proving its appositeness in her case. No one was about her who
could read her, who could perceive the absence of any necessary
raiment, who would be conscious that there was anything odd in her
being Martin Collingwood's wife. She had, in one decisive action,
destroyed all that was holding her spirit in leash. A woman yet young,
whose emotions had been stifled for a lifetime, in whom the warmth of
love had been overlaid by the calculating egoism of a nature wounded
to the quick, she had emancipated herself at the fortuitous moment,
alive to the rapture of passion, of freedom from all the restraints
that had curbed her existence. She had thrown the admonitions and
the self-restraint of a life-time aside for a romance. She had (but
fortunately for a time she was able to put the fact out of mind) quite
justified a conventional assumption that a woman's nature is full of
primitive evil, and that you must pitch your maxims pretty strong if
you would have them believed at all, and that then, ten to one, she
will demolish all your precautions at a bound if an object in trousers
holds out his arms. She had profited by her husband's view. "Come what
may," she said, "I will have my romance and pay the price afterwards."

So far, the price seemed a remote contingency. With every revolution of
the steamer's screw, Manila and her distant relatives whose pride she
had outraged became the mere phantoms of memory, growing paler every
hour. Nothing was left but the delightful sense of being an absolute
necessity to Martin--she who had been a superfluity all her life!

As for Collingwood himself, his kindness, his shrewdness, his
strength were gaining constantly in her esteem. He had proved himself
innately delicate and refined. Of what possible importance were a
few deficiencies in speech, a too vivid phraseology, the lack of the
little courtesies which mark a man of the world? But (and here some
of her elation diminished) if they mattered so little, why had she
to convince herself so eagerly? If two negatives make an affirmative,
too passionate a denial sometimes constitutes an assertion. Whenever
she arrived at this stage of reflection, another cloud dimmed her
horizon. Was not her whole attitude a practical deception of the
man himself? Would Martin Collingwood have accepted her surrender so
joyfully, could he have read that it was weighted with the condition of
living with him on an uninhabited island? Would not all his self-esteem
repudiate such a proposition? She had not lied when she said that she
loved him, but would he content himself with a definition of love which
excluded all natural pride of choice, and put a compromise value upon
himself? As often as she found herself confronted with these thoughts,
Charlotte took refuge in a bit of casuistry. If she saw Martin with
clear eyes and underrated the proportional value of his attainments,
did he even see her clearly at all? Did she wrong him more in reserving
an opinion of his social worth than he wronged her in not perceiving
that she had any social worth? The fact that every person has a real
personal value and an accredited worldly value, and that most effort
is directed to making these two values coincide, or appear to do so,
put a convenient weapon in her hand. Since, in only a few cases, the
two values are really identical, happy marriages must be the result
of a marvellous luck or of a wonderful power of self-deception. Was
she to be taxed for not deceiving herself? Was her intelligence to
be punished when his ignorance was rewarded? As often as she thought
about it, it seemed that his incapacity to value certain qualities
of her own justified her in a few mental reservations.

Nevertheless she was afflicted with a sense of penitence in spite of
her sophistry, and when, after a long conversation with the captain,
her husband came back to her and bent over her, she put up her arms
and drew his face down to hers, giving him the first voluntary caress
which she had bestowed upon him since the hour of her surrender upon
the Luneta.

"Have you thought me a selfish, ungrateful wretch?" she asked him.

"Never! But I have worried a little. There's no getting around it--you
are daffy about some things, Charlotte."

"Daffy is such a beautiful word. It's so civil. I'll adopt it. You
are not daffy about anything but me, are you, Martin?"

"Kingsnorth says I'm daffy about anything that I really like."

"Tell me about Mr. Kingsnorth--all about him. Analyze him for me."

"I can't do that sort of thing. Besides, I want you to form your own
impressions. You will see him in thirty-six hours."

"So soon as that." She drew a long breath, and fell silent.

"The captain says he is going out at dawn. We ought to make Cuyo by
five to-morrow afternoon, and if Mac's there with the launch, as he
surely will be, we'll get our freight transhipped and make the run
over to-morrow night. That will bring us home by dawn the day after
to-morrow. Home," he repeated softly. "I've dreamed many dreams in
my life and some of them have come true, but I don't think anything
stranger could have happened to me than taking my wife home to an
uninhabited island in the Pacific."

"Nothing stranger could have happened to you than finding yourself
married at all. Isn't that it?"

"It's a fact," he admitted slowly. "I was not planning to marry for
many a year. I don't know that I thought seriously about doing it
at all. In fact, I was so afraid that I might be injudicious and get
married--or get myself married--" he smiled in the darkness--"that I
swore off even on flirtations some time before I came out here. But
when you came along with the ice-bag and your nice voice, and I got
a good look at you next day, all that went up in the air. I knew then
and there that I wanted to get married as quick as I could. I'd been in
love before a half dozen times, but I knew every time that it wasn't
a love I wanted to marry on. It don't matter how much a man loves a
woman, he don't love her in the right way unless she does him credit. I
felt that way about you. You were the kind of woman I could be proud
of all my life. 'That's the girl for me,' I said, and sure enough--"
his pause expressed the idea that the outcome had been foreordained.

His desire to compliment her was so unmistakable, his admiration was so
sincere, that Charlotte was able to stifle quickly the first instinct
to rebuke his unconscious patronage. His egoism, after all, was of an
inoffensive variety. He was not boasting himself as a connoisseur,
but was testifying to the completeness with which she satisfied his
ideal. The wife lay silent for a long time, studying his face, which
was just dimly visible in the glow of his cigar. When she spoke,
it was as she rose from her chair.

"I hope I'll always be able to live up to your conception of me,"
she said. "I mean to try."

"Nonsense," replied the man of common sense. "You just suit me
perfectly as you are. Why, you'd spoil it all if you even thought of
trying. What is there to try? You are you. I wouldn't have the biggest
fault or the smallest virtue in you altered by the ten-millionth of
an inch."

When Charlotte had shut the door of her stateroom and had snapped on
the light, she sank for an instant on the locker, with a face in which
pride, shame, and contrition were tumultuously mingled. For why had
she spent twenty-eight years acquiring tastes and criterions which,
at that moment, made her seem incredibly mean and ungenerous?



CHAPTER VI


It was well on in the afternoon of the next day when they anchored
off Cuyo, which, with its squat lighthouse and low shore, impressed
Charlotte as a dreary, lonesome spot. A launch, which was lying abreast
the lighthouse, saluted them with vociferous toots, and Collingwood
waved his hat in joyous response.

"That's Mac, all right," he said. "He'll be aboard directly. It's a
wonder he didn't hire the town band to welcome us."

Charlotte winced and secretly rejoiced that for once Mr. Maclaughlin's
initiative had failed to come up to its reputation. Yet when a boat
came alongside, and a grizzled Scotch-American stepped up the short
ladder, her greeting was warm enough to fully satisfy her husband.

"My soul!" said Mr. Maclaughlin, giving her a lengthy handshake and
a look of unqualified admiration, "but you could ha' knocked us down
with a feather the day the letter came saying that Martin would bring
back a wife. Kingsnorth nigh took to his bed on it."

Consternation was plainly written on Mrs. Collingwood's face. Her
sensitiveness was a-flutter, fearing a cold welcome from her husband's
friends.

"I'm sorry," she began, and then came to an awkward stop.

"No offence, I hope," said Maclaughlin, reading the signs, "He's
well over it by now. Kingsnorth is just one of those poor bodies we
call a woman-hater; and you'll notice, Mrs. Collingwood, that they
always begin life just the opposite. He thought he'd found a bunkie
for life in Martin, an' the lad fooled him! I don't say but we were
all surprised, but you'll find a hearty welcome at the island."

"Can we get out to-night?" asked Collingwood.

"Get out in an hour if we can get our freight transhipped, unless
Mrs. Collingwood is in a mind to stay and see the city by gaslight." He
jerked a derisive thumb in the direction of the iron and nipa roofs
ashore.

"All the light stuff is on deck now," said Martin whose instincts
to accomplish whatever was to be done mastered any tendency toward
conversation. He pointed, as he spoke, to a tarpaulin-covered heap
forward. "The heavy cases are stored where they can be hauled up in
a minute. I'll see the captain at once. He won't try to delay us,
not he. Get alongside right away, with the launch, can't you?"

"I doubt you've gone broke," remarked Maclaughlin, contemplating the
heap and smiling at Charlotte, who laughed.

"Not so had as that, I hope," she responded, "but some of the credit
is due me that he hasn't."

"That's a fact," her husband supplemented. "I wanted to buy out Manila
and wire additional supplies from Hong Kong. However, we can talk
about that later. Thank the Lord, there isn't any sea on. We would
have the devil's own time transhipping, if there were."

He dashed off, and Maclaughlin jumped into his boat with an order to
the native rowers to hurry. For an instant, Charlotte was annoyed by
their unceremonious departure, but her good sense soon rose superior
to her training. Martin alert, talking business, with his hat on the
back of his head, a long pencil emphasizing his gestures, was a very
different figure from the insouciant young pagan, alternately jocose
and pleading, that had wooed her. How quickly, too, the easy speech of
the husband had possessed him. "Devil's own time" came ripping out with
unconscious force. At first, Charlotte's fastidiousness revolted from
it. Then she decided that it was virile and that she liked it. Still,
she mused, if he felt the need of emphatic embellishment to point the
assertion of so simple a fact as that, what might he not do when an
occasion out of the ordinary arose?

Her question was answered before their goods and commissaries were
aboard the launch, and, for a time, she could not tell whether she
wanted to laugh or to cry. While she was still in doubt, her husband
came back, red and perspiring, with his coat off. He held out a collar
and necktie.

"Just look out for these things for me, won't you?" he said. "My! I'm
pretty well cussed out. Hope I didn't shock you, pet."

"You did, but it didn't matter; or rather, it passed the point of
shocking. You have the towering imagination in profanity, Martin,
of an architect of sky-scraping buildings."

Collingwood was able to extract a compliment from this, and looked
grateful, though he was evidently impressed by the form of its
expression. "I may have said a little too much," he apologized,
"but a man would have to be a saint not to lose his temper--Here!" he
roared, as three of the crew, having mounted to the upper deck and
having armed themselves with a flower pot apiece, started brazenly
off with their burdens, "take two of those at a time. How many trips
do you plan to make with this flower garden, anyway? You see that
everything is right in the stateroom, won't you?" he threw over his
shoulder as he darted off.

"Certainly," she replied, adding to herself, "for I shouldn't like
you to 'cuss' me."

She felt quite safe from any such dire possibility, or she could not
have joked about it even with herself. Nevertheless, she was very
thoughtful as she gathered up their belongings and put them in the
valises, leaving, however, the strapping and the pulling to be done
by Martin.

When she had done all that there was to be done, and had put on her
hat, she sank down on a locker, still holding her husband's discarded
collar, and let her thoughts dwell rosily on the part she could
play in the island life. A guilty conscience urged her to acts of
reparation. All that she could do to bring order and system and beauty
into her husband's home she was resolved to do. He had told her enough
to let her know that he had lived in an unlovely fashion, and that he
had aspirations for something better, though he could not define what
he objected to in the past, or just what he wanted in the future. He
was bent on making money, chiefly because he seemed to feel that there
was no way of obtaining his ideal without large expenditures; and yet
he was not ostentatious. He had been very liberal--extravagant, she
had laughingly told him--in the purchase of household belongings; and
she had told the truth when she said that she deserved the credit of
restraining him. He was going to become the typical American husband,
who labors unceasingly that his womankind may be decked in finery and
may represent him in the whirl of society; but his wife could see that,
until such a time as their prosperity should be at flood tide, he would
expect her to administer wisely and economically. He gave much--as
far as he was conscious of her needs--and he would ask proportionally
in return. Charlotte's head reared proudly to meet the thought. She
would not fail him. And then she vowed for the hundredth time, that
his unstinted devotion should meet with its just due, and that never,
never should Martin suspect how she had had to battle with herself
before she could conquer the feeling that her love was a shame to her.

Martin, coming to seek her in order to introduce her to the wife of
a local military officer, found her sunk in reverie with his crumpled
neck-wear pressed against her cheek. He put on a clean tie and collar
and they went on deck together.

The military officer's wife was a young woman, plainly of village
origin, who was carrying the wide-spreading sail which many Americans
in the Philippines elect to display in the exuberance of having
journeyed to foreign lands. Her appearance jarred on Mrs. Collingwood,
and her conversation, which was frivolous and full of assumption,
reinforced the unfavorable impression.

The lady had met Collingwood three or four times before, and had
treated him with scant courtesy, because he had been an enlisted
man. But when she heard that he was married, and that his wife was
aboard ship, her curiosity got the better of her exclusiveness--that
and her eagerness to hear the sound of her own voice, for there
were few Americans in Cuyo, and she was already on bad terms with
several families. She threw a gushing condescension into her manner
of greeting Charlotte, which put that young woman's nerves on edge at
once. But Mrs. Snodgrass ("What a name!" thought Charlotte, "I never
expected to meet it out of books!") was determined to make the best of
the conversational opportunity. After a somewhat ingenuous scrutiny,
she invited the Collingwoods to dinner. Charlotte was about to decline,
when Martin interrupted and said that their being delayed an hour or so
was of no importance; that it was evidently going to be a clear night,
and they had time enough to make the run over before dawn. Charlotte
supposed that some affection for Lieutenant Snodgrass--who had been
a captain of volunteers in the war, and Martin's officer--was the
cause of her husband's eagerness, and she accepted the invitation
at once. She went ashore with the Lieutenant's wife, while Martin
remained to see to a few last details, and to make some arrangements
with Maclaughlin.

Lieutenant and Mrs. Snodgrass (he had not been able to secure entrance
to the regular army with his volunteer rank) were comfortably
domiciled, and the meal was a good one, though Charlotte was made
uncomfortable by the hostess's repeated apologies both for her food
and her service. "The servants are such impossible creatures here,
don't you think?" fluttered the little woman who, before her marriage,
had been a stenographer working for twelve dollars a week, and who
had never enjoyed the luxury of a servant in her life till she came
to the Philippines.

Charlotte glanced at her in surprise. "I had not thought so," she
replied. "They need a great deal of training, of course, but I fancied
them ideal servants, so truly of the servant class, believing that
God ordained us to be masters, and them to serve. At home, I feel that
servants do not acquiesce in the situation, and the more intelligent
they are, the more sensitive I am to the undercurrent."

It was evident that Mrs. Snodgrass regarded this remark as
verbiage. "How funny!" she said. "I never felt that way."

"In other words," remarked Lieutenant Snodgrass, who was a self-made
man, but who was taking on his army training with great quickness,
"Mrs. Collingwood prefers an aristocratic social system to a democratic
one."

"I suppose so," Charlotte assented, "though theoretically I stand for
democracy like all good Americans. You inferred a condition of my mind
of which I was hardly conscious myself. But I suppose you are right."

"Do you hear that, Collingwood? You are the most rabid democrat I
know. Are you going to bring your wife over to your way of thinking?"

Martin was staring at Charlotte, who began to color with
embarrassment. Her view-point had seemed to her so natural and so
simple that she was quite unprepared for the comment it evoked.

"I'll have to coach you up before I turn you loose on people," he
said. "Why, I never thought it of you."

Lieutenant Snodgrass assumed the air of a man, the length of whose
matrimonial experience justifies him in extensive allusions to
feminine peculiarities.

"Oh, if she doesn't startle you any worse than that," he hinted darkly.

After dinner, Charlotte was left to a long hour of Mrs. Snodgrass's
company while their husbands reviewed war experiences and discussed
that never-ending theme of exiles, the Government's Philippine
policy. It was ten o'clock when the Collingwoods bade good-bye to
their hosts, with the usual promise of an exchange of visits. They
found Maclaughlin waiting for them at the landing with the boat. He
asked Mrs. Collingwood if she could steer and, being told that she
could, vacated his place in the stern for her.

The night was dark but not cloudy, like the previous one. The
moon would not rise till later, but the night azure of the sky
was unclouded, and all the constellations of the tropic belt were
glittering in its peaceful depths. The Southern Cross was there,
and the so-called False Cross, while, in the north, the "Big Dipper"
hung low and out of place. The water was phosphorescent, the oars
turning in green fire, which sent a million prickles flashing away
in the waves. When, now and then, a banca crept past them, its shape
was outlined in the same lurid radiance, and the noiseless paddles
dripped smears of unearthly flame. Charlotte pulled her tiller ropes
in silence, keeping a wary eye out for unlighted craft, and watching
the huddle of lights that was their launch. The coastguard cutter
had left half an hour before. She was a faint glimmer of dots on the
vague horizon; her smoke still lay a wavering, dark line across the
night sky.

Suddenly a tremor of deadly fear shook Charlotte. There went the chain
by which she had felt herself linked to the world and civilization. She
had put herself at the mercy of a man of whom she knew, after all,
next to nothing. Once aboard the launch, once out of Cuyo harbor,
she was as utterly in his power as any prisoner in a dungeon is in
the power of his captors. A wife may have rights and privileges in
the eye of the law, but they avail her little on an island where no
one of her own race save her husband's friends steps foot.

Her crowding thoughts sickened her, though she had enough will and
strength to guide the boat alongside the launch. Collingwood threw
away his cigar and held out his hands. "Up with you," he cried gayly.

The answer was a half movement and a groan as she dropped back with
her face in her hands.

"Charlotte, are you sick? My God! What's the matter?"

His vehemence and the fear in his voice reassured her. With indomitable
pride she raised herself. "My ankle turned; it was sickening pain
for an instant. It is all right, I think. The pain is growing less."

She hated herself for the lie. She despised herself for the little
pretence she still made at lameness as her husband would have picked
her up bodily. "I can walk," she said, and stepped over the thwarts.

Maclaughlin had clambered aboard ready to receive her as Martin lifted
her. They put her in the steamer chair which was to serve her as a
stateroom, and Martin hovered over, chafing her hands, offering her
brandy from his pocket flask. Mr. Maclaughlin, after making certain
that she was not seriously hurt, tactfully removed himself. Martin
called to him to wait a minute before pulling out; that it might be
necessary to get a doctor. Charlotte's face burned. She was grateful
for the darkness that hid it.

"It is not even sprained," she said truthfully. "There--see how I
can move it. It didn't amount to anything, only I am such a coward."

"You are sure now?" said Martin. She was only too glad to say that
she was.

An hour later, a waveless sea was gurgling musically as the launch cut
through it, and a tropical moon was scattering a pathway of brilliants
into which the little craft seemed desirous of plunging herself, but
which she could never quite attain. The Filipino steersman shifted
from foot to foot, a dim moving shape at his shadowed post. Mysterious
clanks and groans issued at intervals from the engine-room below. There
was no longer a wavering dark line across the night sky, though the
light on Cuyo was still visible. And in the exquisite peace a woman,
reared to luxury and social exclusiveness, lay in her deck chair
and listened to the talk of men who had known most of the shadows of
life and some of its pits of evil, took their homage, too, and found
it tasty.

Each had drawn up one of the three-legged, rattan stools which
are so common in the Philippines and they were seated one on each
side of her. Their talk wandered over many themes, but was always
terse and vivid. They agreed in damning the Government. All civilian
non-employees do that continually. They spoke of affairs on the island,
and discussed the administration of local justice with the simplicity
of men who do not quibble over political documents, but who have a
strong conviction that the powerful must rule the weak. One of the
Japanese divers was making trouble with the launch crew, preaching
the inferiority of the white race and the drubbing one part of it
was destined to receive. "I guess he's right on the Russians," said
Collingwood. "I believe the Japs will thrash them into the middle
of kingdom come; but if he goes to putting on any airs around me,
I'll kick him into the China Sea."

"No need," said Maclaughlin cheerily, "I did it for him last week. It
did him a world of good."

"How are findings?"

"None too good. We'll not make our fortunes this year, but we'll
make our keep, and a little to spare." The smile on the keen face
told Charlotte that the speaker was not dissatisfied.

"How's Kingsnorth?"

"Just himself."

"Poor devil," said Martin feelingly. Maclaughlin broke into a hearty
laugh. "Hear the married man," he cried, "an' if you could ha' heard
him six months gone, Mrs. Collingwood!"

"I probably shouldn't have liked it," said Charlotte dryly.

"Kingsnorth will snort when he hears that Mrs. Snodgrass asked us
to dinner," said Martin. "They don't like each other," he explained
to his wife. "I can't say I ever thought she liked me much till this
trip. She thinks I'm likelier to be a respectable member of society,
now I'm married. She thinks that because I was a soldier I went about
sowing wild oats by the cavan."

It happened that at the moment he finished the remark, Charlotte's
glance rested on Maclaughlin, whose face was fair in the moonlight. In
a flash--in just the instant's time that it took him to change his
expression--she read the man's judgment that Collingwood owed thanks to
his wife for any civility received from Mrs. Snodgrass. A man brought
up in the British empire has some sources of knowledge denied the
citizens of our great republic. Thirty years of kicking over American
frontiers had robbed the Scotchman of many a national trait. They
had not obscured his firm fixed impressions of gentility. He knew
Martin's wife for a gentlewoman.

"How did you like Mrs. Snodgrass?" Martin asked his wife.

Charlotte cast about for something truthful and non-committal. "I
thought she was very prettily dressed," she replied, "and that she
showed very good taste in her home. It was cosy, and the dinner
was excellent."

"Good heavens, Charlotte! I didn't ask you that. I asked you how you
liked her."

"She told you," said Maclaughlin with a short laugh.

"Of course I did," echoed Charlotte. "I put it in the most forcible
way I could. Don't pretend you did not understand."

"I understood well enough. I just wanted you to come out and out with
what you mean. Why don't you like her?"

"She is too commonplace and too assuming."

"What do you mean by commonplace?"

"I mean--I mean--" exasperation brought her to the point of unguarded
speech--"a woman who says 'Don't you know?' with every other breath, or
tacks on a sweet 'Isn't it so?' or 'Don't you think?' to qualify every
word she utters. I mean a woman of exactly Mrs. Snodgrass's type."

"Commonplace always means a woman then?"

But by that time Charlotte was laughing, partly at her flash of temper,
partly at the odd confusion of her definition, which Martin had so
quickly pointed out with his uncompromising finger.

"It doesn't mean a man like you," she said. "You are not commonplace,
but unique."

"The only one of my kind," said Martin yawning. She could see, under
his jocularity, his pride and pleasure in her (as he considered)
audacity. Her criticisms of the lady meant little to him, except as
they were the gauntlet thrown down, the laudable declaration that
Martin Collingwood's wife was not going to stand any patronizing from
the regular army. But she realized also that he was flattered by the
invitation they had received. To him Lieutenant and Mrs. Snodgrass
were people that counted. A pang of contrition shot through her that
what had been a sort of social triumph to him had been an unmitigated
bore to her. Then a sense of humor came uppermost. The boredom she
might conceal. But as well attempt to make water run up hill as to
make Charlotte Collingwood regard an acquaintance with Lieutenant
and Mrs. Snodgrass as a social triumph. Maclaughlin, who was to take
the first watch, went forward, and Collingwood curled himself up,
native fashion, on a mat at his wife's feet. Long after his deep
respirations told her that he was fast asleep, she lay with wide open
eyes, staring into the silvered pathway ahead of them, her thoughts
a blending of regret and of exquisite joy. When, at three o'clock,
Maclaughlin came to wake up Martin, she pretended to be asleep,
and shortly after she did fall into a slumber, from which she was
awakened by her husband's voice and the word "home."

She sprang to her feet with an instinctive movement of bewilderment,
and then caught her breath for sheer delight in what she saw.

The launch was riding a mile or more off the shore of a wedge-shaped
island perhaps three miles in length. Its backbone was a line of hills
which rose precipitously from the sea on the eastern side (as she later
discovered) but which, on the west sloped gently down to a level coast
plain, a quarter of a mile or more broad. The plain and the hills
were one huge cocoanut grove. In the foreground, the columned boles
and the graceful plumes made a great haunt of emerald shade, a dream
place of cool recesses and long cathedral aisles. Its rich, unvarying
greenness seemed the more vivid by contrast with the changing hues of
the shallow water, with the gleaming whiteness of the beach, and the
occasional overtopping of a wave like the dip of a sea-gull's wings.

At the northern apex of the island, situated where they not only
commanded the western sea, but looked eastward over a channel to the
coast line of Panay and a scarped mountain rearing its cloud-hung
flanks against a lustering sky, three steep nipa-roofed cottages
nestled among the palms. Southward, the beach line ran straight till
it curved out into a sharp point in front of one of the hills. There
stood a small nipa village.

Dawn flushes played across the sky behind the distant mountain, and
pearled the shining sea. A great fishing banca manned by at least
twelve oarsmen swept boldly past them. The naked backs were made
of rippling bronze. A lorcha, almost on the western horizon line,
showed in faint lines and in gleaming spots of mother of pearl. The
morning breeze was almost chill.

It came, a crowding of perceptions and sensations, but Charlotte's
pleasure was almost ecstatic.

"Beautiful, beautiful!" she murmured. "It is a veritable paradise."

"Is it?" said Maclaughlin's knowing voice behind her. "I'm glad you
think so, Mrs. Collingwood. My wife has been doubting you'd find
it dull. Martin and I will take ours with a bandstand and a few
trolley-cars and a chop-house thrown in, eh, Collingwood?"

"Oh, shut up, Mac, don't pour cold water on my wife's
enthusiasms. Besides, she's got a poetic soul, and you and I haven't."

Charlotte stared. "What will you endow me with next?" she asked. "A
poetic soul! Martin, who has been talking about poetry for the last
two months?"

"I don't mind admitting," said Mr. Collingwood shamelessly, "that
I have, or, at least, I've been dwelling on the poetry of love and
I found you responsive. Therefore I deduced a poetic soul--sort of
Sherlock Holmes. Sabe?"

She made no reply beyond one of those reproachful head shakes
which indicate the compromise between duty and inclination. Martin
grinned. He knew when she tried to be severe, but was yet secretly
pleased with him.

Charlotte did what she could to repair the dishevelled appearance
caused by sleeping dressed in the steamer chair. A few minutes
later, they were all in the boat, speeding straight for the nipa
cottages. Martin explained that the launch could go in no further
on account of the coral reef; but, he said, a mile or more to the
southward, where the hill jutted out, there was a channel cut through
the reef, and the launch could come close in and find anchorage in a
pool which lay under the cliff. A rude pier had been constructed there,
and there their freight would be landed and then dragged up to them
along the beach in a carabao cart; for they had one draft animal. He
further informed her that the launch lay down at the anchorage every
night, and came up abreast the cottages every morning to pick up the
fishers, for it was easier to be rowed out than to trudge down the
mile of sand.

As they drew near the shore, Charlotte perceived that, in spite of the
steep roofs, the cottages had something of an American air, having
broad verandas in front; while one, which she imagined must be the
Maclaughlin home, was covered with morning glory vines. The houses
sat back about fifty yards from the beach, just where the cocoanut
grove came to an end, and it was evident that the sea breeze made
them deliciously cool.

A man was pacing up and down the beach, and, as the boat grounded,
a woman emerged from the vine-wreathed cottage, and came swiftly
on, flapping a kitchen apron which she was wearing, and making
other gestures of welcome. Charlotte had little time to observe
either closely, for her attention was quite taken up with the novel
preparations for landing her and her companions. Full thirty feet of
water intervened between them and the dry sand, not deep enough to
drown in, but quite enough to spoil dress and shoes. The Filipino
oarsmen met the difficulty, however, by rolling up their trousers
and going overboard. They made a chair of their clasped hands, and
Charlotte, seating herself therein, was carried ashore and set down
in front of Mrs. Maclaughlin.

Mrs. Maclaughlin was tall and bony with iron-gray hair and a large
featured, strong face, characteristic of the pioneer. She was not
shy, and she seized Mrs. Collingwood by both hands and kissed her,
then held her off for inspection.

"Well, Martin Collingwood's a fool for luck," she remarked. "I never
thought he'd get a nice, peart, stylish girl like you to follow him
off to a place like this. You're either mad--and you don't look it--or
you're worse in love than any woman ever was before you."

The informality of the greeting took Charlotte's breath. As she stood
blushing, a large, brown, and well-made hand was extended to her.

"How do you do, Mrs. Collingwood?" said a voice in the refined accents
of the upper class Englishman. "I don't need to introduce myself,
do I? Martin has told you all about us, and there are not enough
of us to confuse. Don't let Mrs. Mac's plainness of speech annoy
you. When you are well acquainted, you'll rather like it. It breaks
the monotony of things."

She tried to make some trivial, laughing rejoinder; but the words
faltered on her lips, for, as she glanced up into his eyes, she saw
there the instant recognition of all that she was, the interrogation
flashing into quickly throttled life, as to why she was Martin
Collingwood's wife, and what she could possibly have to do with a
colony of fisher folk composed of one insouciant blade of fortune, two
typical bits of western flotsam, and a renegade from decent society.



CHAPTER VII


On a certain cloudless September morning eight months later, five
persons were merrily disporting themselves in the warm billows
that rolled upon the island beach. It was one of those radiantly
clear mornings which so often occur in the tropical rainy seasons
when every particle of dust has been washed out of the air, and the
morning breeze is of a spring-like freshness. The sun had not yet
peeped over the Antique coast range, but the mountain flanks were
outlined in soft mauve and gray against the glowing sky. A fishing
fleet off the coast showed tints of pearl, and thin threads of masts
above the quiet sea. Westward there was a sapphire expanse, and a
whole string of lorchas, every inch of canvas set to take advantage
of the fresh wind, standing across on a tack for San José or Cuyo.

Charlotte Collingwood, slipping out of the water, paused an instant to
breathe deeply and to feast her eyes upon the solitary beauty of the
scene, before she betook herself to housekeeping cares. Then hastening
across the short extent of ground between the beach and her cottage,
she sought her bathroom and the brisk dousing with fresh water that
would remove the sticky effects of the sea bath.

Half an hour later she emerged from her bedroom as hearty looking a
young woman as you could desire to see. Her shapely figure, clad in a
simple white piqué dress, was considerably fuller than it had been in
her hospital days, though it had not degenerated into stoutness. Her
skin was still colorless, for color once faded in the tropics is gone
forever; but her face was fuller, her eye brighter, her expression
one of happiness and content.

The room which she contemplated with a possessive and complacent
eye was one so typical of American housekeeping in the Philippines
that it merits description. It was a perfectly square apartment,
generous in its proportion. Two sides were almost entirely taken
up by windows opening on a deep-eaved veranda. The series of shell
lattices were pushed back to their fullest extent, and on the broad
window-seats were rows of potted ferns, rose geraniums, and foliage
plants, some in gleaming brass jardinières, some in old blue and
white Chinese jars. The walls were of the plaited bamboo in its
natural color called suali; but the woodwork of soft American pine
had been carefully burnt by Charlotte herself, and gave some richness
of coloring. The floor of close tied bamboo slats was covered with
blue and white Japanese mats. One inside wall was almost entirely
hidden by a great Romblon mat, upon which Collingwood's collection of
spears, bolos, and head axes was artfully displayed. Beneath this,
an army cot, a mattress, and some blue and white Japanese crêpe had
been combined into a tempting couch heaped with pillows. The other
inside wall held a very fair collection of hats, ranging from the
cheap sun-defence of the field laborer to the old-time aristocrat's
head-piece of tortoise-shell ornamented with silver. Below these were
some home-made shelves with Charlotte's books upon them. One corner
was occupied by a desk of carved teak inlaid with mother of pearl,
a veritable treasure which Kingsnorth had given to Charlotte as a
wedding present. Another corner held a tall, brass-bound Korean chest
of drawers, which Charlotte had picked up at an auction in Manila. A
suit of Moro armor in carabao horn and link copper hung beside this,
and everywhere there was brass--brass samovars from Manchuria, incense
burners from Japan, Moro gongs and betel-nut boxes, an Indian tea
table with its shining tray. Wherever there was room for them, framed
photographs decorated the walls. Rattan easy-chairs and rockers and a
steamer chair with gay cushions lent a homely comfort to the apartment.

As the room was living-room and dining-room combined, its centre was
occupied by a round narra-table--a beautiful piece of old Spanish
workmanship, the glories of which were hidden at that moment by
the whitest of cloths--and a service of Japanese blue and white
china. There, too, gleamed the remains of the Maryland silver which
had once been the pride of a county--the great breakfast tray with its
urn and attendant dishes, the heavy knives and forks and spoons. It had
lain for twenty years in chests, and Charlotte had brought it with her
to the Philippines, not so much anticipating a use for it, as making
it the evidence of final separation from all that her life had known.

Mrs. Collingwood never ceased to contemplate her living-room,
and especially her table, with satisfaction. The snowy linen, the
gleaming silver and glass, stood for her tastes. She could remember
vividly the depression she had experienced at meal times during her
first two weeks at the island, when the mess made its headquarters
with the Maclaughlins. Mrs. Maclaughlin's dream of table luxury
was a red and white checked cloth, much colored glass in the form
of tumblers, sugar bowl, cream pitcher, and vinegar cruets, a set of
brown and white "semi-porcelain" dishes, and knives and forks of German
silver. Charlotte had endured the meals for which Martin had half-way
prepared her, by the exercise of fortitude only; but she had waited
patiently for Mrs. Maclaughlin's own suggestion of a division of labor.

It happened that Mrs. Maclaughlin greatly desired to devote herself to
poultry and gardening. The islanders had to depend wholly upon poultry,
fish, pigs, and goats for meat, and upon tinned vegetables. Everybody
yearned for green foods and better meats, so that Mrs. Maclaughlin's
ambitions received a hearty support. A kitchen was added to the
Collingwood quarters, the stove and kitchen utensils were transferred,
and Charlotte found plenty of occupation in her new duties.

The work was naturally to her taste. She possessed an ample
home-making instinct, and she had had, in addition to the usual
"Domestic Science" course of a modern college, her nurse's training in
dietetics. Collingwood's exuberant delight in the changes she made in
their manner of living was just second to Kingsnorth's. For decency's
sake, that gentleman had refrained from comment in Mrs. Maclaughlin's
presence; but after their first meal he had taken Mrs. Collingwood
aside, and had assured her with unmistakable sincerity that she
was no less than a fairy godmother in their midst. He execrated
Mrs. Maclaughlin's cooking, her taste in foods, and her ideas of
table service; and his gratitude to Charlotte was profound.

Mrs. Collingwood was contemplating her breakfast table and smiling
softly at the memory, when her husband came out of their bedroom in
his working clothes--flannel shirt, khaki trousers, and sea boots. He
gave her a hearty kiss.

"You vain creature," he said, "looking at your housekeeping and
thinking how you can lay it over Mrs. Mac."

"That wouldn't be much to do. Do you remember that red and white
tablecloth?"

"Don't I? And how Kingsnorth used to curse it!" He eyed her
reflectively. "Kingsnorth is mighty grateful to you, Charlotte,
and mighty fond of you."

To this, at first, no answer was returned. Mrs. Collingwood fingered
a bowl which stood in the window, flushed slightly, and looked
embarrassed. At last, as if his continued silence demanded response,
she said perfunctorily:

"Well, of course, if I have made things pleasanter for him,
incidentally, in doing it for you, I'm glad."

"That's the only thing you've disappointed me in. I wanted you and him
to be good friends. I think he has tried, but you have been stubborn;
there's no denying that, pet."

"I've tried my very hardest. I'm sorry, Martin. You'll have to give
me time."

"Give you all the time you want," he cried gayly. "But you'll have to
come round in the end." She shrugged her shoulders half seriously,
half teasingly, but a reply was obviated by the entrance of the
Maclaughlins and of the person under discussion.

The Englishman, beak nosed, high nostrilled, fair, and tall, was
typical of his race. But drink had dulled his eye, his skin was
flabby, and an unspeakable air of degeneration hung about him. Even
the exaggerated deference of his manner to Mrs. Collingwood seemed
a travesty upon the once easy courtesy of the well-born Briton. As
for Charlotte, she stiffened perceptibly. Try as she would, she could
not overcome her proud resentment at being expected to associate with
John Kingsnorth.

"Any special plans for to-day, Mrs. Collingwood?" Kingsnorth demanded
as they sat down to breakfast.

"There never are any, I believe. I am going to make a lemon pie under
the direct supervision of Mrs. Maclaughlin. My husband has impressed
it upon me that I can never fulfil his ideal of a cook till I can
make such lemon pies as Mrs. Maclaughlin does."

In a second Kingsnorth's manner changed, just a fine hostile change
which implied that no pie made by Mrs. Maclaughlin's recipes could
interest him. "With limoncitos" he said slightingly, "or with those big
knotty yellow things that the women use in laundering their camisas?"

"Why, you are quite up in native customs," Charlotte exclaimed. "I
didn't know that. Are you sure?"

A faintly cynical smile played for an instant over Kingsnorth's
features. "Oh, yes, I'm sure," he replied.

Charlotte became suddenly aware of a changed atmosphere. Martin and
Maclaughlin were looking discreetly into their plates, Mrs. Maclaughlin
was gazing with a hostile eye at Kingsnorth.

"You certainly do know a great deal about Filipino customs," she
said meaningly.

"You keep still, Jenny," Maclaughlin threw in hastily. His wife tossed
her head scornfully, but subsided. Kingsnorth went on eating. His
expression was not agreeable. Charlotte threw herself into the silence
that followed.

"Martin, who is that bucolic looking Japanese that I saw strolling
up the beach this morning?"

"Bucolic! What do you mean by that long word? You are always springing
the dictionary upon me."

This charge was an indication that Collingwood was highly pleased. It
was the nearest open tribute he ever paid to his wife's education. She
made no reply but smiled at him, indulgent of his wit.

"Well, explain," Martin went on teasingly. "What does it mean?" But
Charlotte only went on smiling.

"Greek for hayseed," Kingsnorth put in lightly. "You know that word,
Collingwood?"

"Right you are. He is a hayseed. That is our new diver. He came down
on the lorcha last week, and we picked him up with the launch. Been
promenading around here, did you say?"

"In kimono and parasol," said Charlotte.

"Well, he goes to work to-morrow. He won't get much more time to
parade."

"Have you three divers, then?"

"No. The fellow that Mac kicked hasn't been able to get over it. He
resigned immediately, but I succeeded in convincing him that he
couldn't quit the job till I got a new man in his place. I believe
he wants to go to law about it."

"Can he make any trouble? Isn't that taking the law into your own
hands?"

Martin shrugged his shoulders. Kingsnorth laughed. "It would
be dangerous on British soil," he said, "but not under the great
republic. Who is going to tack back and forth across this channel in
a lorcha or a parao, because a Jap got kicked? His nearest magistrate
is a Filipino juez de paz on the Antique coast. I wish him joy of
all the law he can get there. When it comes to the island of Maylubi,
Martin, Mac, and I are the law. 'L'état, c'est nous.'"

Mrs. Collingwood smiled discreetly at the French, and pushed her chair
back. Kingsnorth often threw a phrase of French into his speech, and
she felt that it was aimed directly at her, and implied an exclusion
of the others from their superior plane of conversation. It was
not an act characteristic of an Englishman of his class, and she
realized that only the intensity of his desire to establish himself
on a footing of intimacy could induce him to use such methods.

They all walked down to the beach together, and after Charlotte
had watched their row-boat pull alongside the launch, she sat down
on a bit of sand grass beneath a cocoanut tree and revelled in the
morning breeze. It was a "four man breeze" as they say when four men
are needed on the outriggers of the paraos; and more than one deep-sea
fishing craft swept by with its four naked squatting outriders sitting
at ease on their well sprayed stations with the great sail bellying
above them. As the tide went out, troops of children wandered up the
beach, digging skilfully with their toes for clams, or pouncing with
shrieks of delight on some stranded jelly fish. From the field beyond
the house, their gardener could be heard hissing at their one draft
animal, and once in awhile Mrs. Maclaughlin's voice arose in a rain
of pigeon Spanish as she bent over her garden beds, or ranged through
her poultry yards.

It was very lonely, but Charlotte did not mind it. Barring
the discomforts of their experiences in the early days with
Mrs. Maclaughlin's food, and the difficulty of holding John Kingsnorth
in his place without betraying her feelings about him to Martin, she
might have said that her island life hardly boasted of the crumpled
rose leaf. Even Kingsnorth's evident determination to be accepted
as an intimate, did not imply a desire to establish any sentimental
relation to herself, nor could she explain to her whole satisfaction
just why she so vigorously thwarted him. She was only conscious of
feeling that to accept his tacit offer of good fellowship was a clearly
defined step downward, an open throwing over of standards which, if
she had endangered them by her marriage, she had still high hopes of
maintaining, and to which she hoped ultimately to win her husband.

On the whole, her thoughts were very sweet and wholesome as she sat
there in the growing warmth. More than once a sense of housekeeping
responsibility urged her to rise and betake herself indoors, but
she could not bring herself to disturb her reverie till a respectful
cough attracted her attention.

An old man and a young girl, carrying a child in her arms, stood a
few feet away. The man was dressed in spotless white trousers with
a Chinese shirt of white muslin. One sleeve was decorously adorned
with a black mourning band, and his white bamboo plaited hat was also
wreathed in sable. The girl was dressed in the deepest of Filipino
mourning--black calico skirt, black alpaca tapis, or apron, and a
camisa of thin barred black net, shiny and stiff with starch. Through
its gauzy texture her white chemise, trimmed with scarlet embroidery,
showed garishly, while the immense sleeves made no pretence of hiding
her plump, gold-colored arms. Her face, of a very Malaysian type, was
decidedly pretty, and the haughty column of her neck and a wealth of
jetty hair lent still further charm. As she caught Charlotte's eye,
she stepped forward, throwing back, as she did so, the black veil
which had hidden the child's face.

Charlotte's first exclamation of surprise and pity was followed by
an indignant flush. The child, which was evidently dying of anæmia,
was a mestizo. Its blue eye, its almost fair hair above a pasty skin
and something indefinably British in the stamp of its expression
betrayed its paternity at once.

The man spoke neither Spanish nor English, and the girl had only a
few phrases of each; but with Charlotte's command of the vernacular
she managed to get a few facts in some sort of sequence. For brevity
and to spare the reader an elliptical conversation in three languages
they can be set down as Charlotte summed them up afterwards.

The man was the child's grandfather; the girl, its aunt. Its mother had
died a week or so before at a village on the Antique coast. The woman
and her people had lived with Kingsnorth openly in his house up to the
morning of the señora Americana's arrival. At that time Kingsnorth had
come in in great excitement, had bundled them all off in short order,
and had established them in the coast village. As he was their only
source of income, they accepted his mandate without question.

But the mother had died, of what they could not make quite clear,
though the girl pressed her hands upon her heart and repeated "muy,
muy triste" more than once. After the mother's death, the baby lacked
nourishment, though its father gave money to buy milk. They had come
over on a fish parao to show it to its father, and had received orders
to keep out of Mrs. Collingwood's way; but hearing from the villagers
of that lady's skill in curing the sick and of her willingness to use
it, they could not forbear bringing the child to her. But with tears,
they besought her to keep the secret. The old man made a very fair
representation of bestowing a hearty kick, and the girl, weeping,
ejaculated "Pega, pega mucho," many times.

Charlotte had been interested during her hospital experience
in a series of experiments made by one of the surgeons in
infant-feeding. The mortality among Filipino children is enormous,
and much attention is given to infant care. It happened that she had
been trying the food process on one or two babies in the village,
and it was doubtless the news of that fact which had induced the
people to risk Kingsnorth's anger and appeal to her.

She led them homeward, gave the child some nourishment, and set to work
to show the girl how to prepare the canned milk for future use. It
was not till they had departed that she realized that they had not
said whether or not the mother had been legally married. Later she
decided that the fact was immaterial, but she was inclined to believe
the child illegitimate.

For the next ten days the girl presented herself with the child for
treatment. She watched carefully to see that the fishers had gone
each day, and that Mrs. Maclaughlin was not around. The child thrived,
and with returning health showed a somewhat engaging appearance.

Charlotte could never be quite certain of her reasons for keeping
silence to her husband on the subject. At first undoubtedly she desired
to avoid making trouble for the old man and the girl; but later, when
Mrs. Maclaughlin had met the girl face to face on Charlotte's veranda
steps, and she knew the fact had been retailed to Maclaughlin and
to the other men, she was still wordless. For a few days the sullen
demeanor of Kingsnorth showed that he dumbly resented her knowledge;
but in the end his protégés established themselves in the village,
and when Charlotte walked that way she often saw his taffy-colored
son, in a single garment, staring with incongruous blue eyes from
the floor of a nipa shack.

What was stranger, even, than anything else, Mrs. Maclaughlin showed
an eager desire to avoid the subject. Charlotte had anticipated, with
some dread, that the lady would break forth garrulously once the cat
was out of the bag; but she was most pleasantly disappointed. Between
herself and Martin the matter was never mentioned. There were times
when she would have liked to ask him what he had really expected
her to do before Kingsnorth saved the situation by packing off his
impedimenta; but she was afraid that, if the subject were ever opened
up between them, she would express herself too frankly, and she was
too thoroughly happy with her husband to care to risk disturbing their
satisfaction in each other. As time went on, she ceased to give the
matter any thought at all. After all, she reflected, had she not known
it all potentially the first time she ever saw Kingsnorth? What did
the addition of a few specific data matter? At that time all her will
was bent to the determination to make the best of her romance, to be
happy at any cost, and to postpone indefinitely, if not ultimately,
any hour of settlement.



CHAPTER VIII


"Want a paseo, Charlotte?" Martin called from his deck chair on the
vine-shaded veranda one Sunday afternoon. "It's not so very hot. I
feel like walking myself."

Mrs. Collingwood, who was dabbing a powder puff across her face
as a finish to her afternoon toilet, responded at once, from the
adjoining bedroom, that she was longing for a walk. In a few minutes,
she appeared, tying the strings of a great sun hat, and handed her
umbrella to Martin.

"Have I got to lug this thing?" he groaned; but even as he spoke,
he opened it and held it tenderly over her.

Kingsnorth, smoking on his own veranda, nodded and asked them where
they were going.

"Most anywhere. Up the hill, probably. Charlotte likes to go
there. Will you come along?"

Mrs. Collingwood did not second the invitation, though she had
time to do so before Kingsnorth replied. "I'm too lazy. I'll leave
hill-climbing to you adventurous young persons." To himself he added,
"You don't want me. You want to go up there and spoon. Oh, Lord! to
be young again!" He did not add, "and to love and be loved"; but the
words were bitter in his thoughts as he watched the young couple go
along the clean beach.

When they came to a path leading across the cocoanut grove to a spur
of hill on the eastern side of the island, they took it, followed it
through the shadowed green arcades, climbed a rather stiff hill, and,
at length, found themselves in the shade of a bamboo clump at the head
of a cleft filled with undergrowth. An outcropping of rock made a sort
of natural seat for Charlotte, and Collingwood stretched himself at her
feet. On the ridge above them a line of cocoanut trees drooped their
great leaves, while over their heads the long bamboo stems swayed to
every breath of air. Although the elevation was low--not more than
fifty or sixty feet above the water--it gave the loungers an extended
view. The sea rolled in long swells of deepest sapphire. Far away to
the north, the great plateau mountain of Tablas was a violet shadow
in the sky; but on the east the insistent sun searched out every
ravine and spur of the Antique coast range. From that grim mountain
king which lords it over them on the north to the far distance of the
south their weathered sides lay outlined in long lines of pink and
mauve, and in great patches of smoky-blue, where cloud shadows lay
soft upon them. Here and there a distant sail gleamed, a mere speck
of pearl against the lustre of sea and sky, and, in the north, a
steamer's smudge was plainly visible, though the vessel was hull down.

"May be a tramp freighter going north, which slipped through the
channel without our noticing her," said Martin. "This is not the
time for the Puerta Princesa steamer." Boats were always a source of
conversation at the island. They were charged with almost a romantic
significance, coming and going, ever the mute reminders that, beyond
the shining horizon line, people still lived and toiled, still built
and populated the great cities of which Martin loved to speak.

"I can't see a line of smoke without a pang of homesickness," he
said. "Let's see. We are thirteen hours ahead of Chicago time. It
is now about four o'clock; it's quiet enough in those empty streets
now. But about the time we were eating lunch, the theatres were just
emptying. I can see the carriages drive up, and the women with their
beautiful dresses showing under their opera cloaks; and the other
kind, the kind that don't go in carriages, hurrying off to catch a
car, buttoning up their jackets as they come out into the cool--it's
just frosty weather there now--and the lights in the big restaurants,
and the lamps flashing on carriages and automobiles. Meanwhile, we
are here frizzling, and here we bid fair to stay till we make money
enough to go home in style. I shall take you to the theatre some time
that way, Charlotte. You'll be in a low-necked dress with diamonds--do
you think you'll like diamonds?--and you shall have one of those long
coats with the hoods, and I'll be in my swallow-tail. We'll spin up
in an electric brougham, and rustle into our box. Then, after the
performance, we'll have a supper, and then I'll say 'Home' kind of
careless to the chauffeur. How does that strike your imagination?"

He lay at her feet, smiling, and Charlotte hardly knew what to
reply. How could she say to him that the experience on which his whole
imagination had fastened was a matter of fact detail of her past? She
had rarely entered a theatre except under the circumstances which had
made it a picture of delight to him. She did not deny that it would
be pleasant to go again, and she did not, for an instant, underrate
the pleasure which comes of knowing oneself among the envied few. But
how could she take from him the pleasure of anticipating for her as
well as for himself? Indeed, would not it make a perceptible rift
in his present joy if he knew that his innocent outburst could find
no echo in her breast? Would he not feel a little ridiculous? And
how uncomfortable it was that that coil of misunderstanding always
was most perceptible at Martin's most exalted moments! Why had he
chosen to assume that she was a stranger to luxury, and why had her
good taste so resolutely declined to give him even a hint, until
suddenly she found herself in a position where a hint would seem
like an insult? She would have liked to tell him, then and there,
a string of reminiscences, and to share half a hundred memories with
him, but it was too late. To say anything then would be to pour cold
water by the bucket over his enthusiasms. What she did say was:

"I shall enjoy that immensely if it ever comes; but until it does come,
I want you to understand that I am not discontented with our life here;
and that if it never comes, I shall not let myself repine over it."

"Thank God for that," he replied earnestly. And as she smiled at him
faintly, puzzled by his emphasis, he added, "I took my chances when
I brought you here, and there is no doubt that you are an unusual
woman to have stood it as you have done. The queer part of it is that
I knew what risks I was taking, but until it was too late to back out,
I couldn't own them to myself. One of the reasons that I wanted you so
badly was that I hated it so here, and it was so all-fired lonely. But
I kept on saying to myself that it wouldn't be lonely for you because
I would be here."

"Well," she conceded, willing to gloss over the selfishness of which
he stood ready to accuse himself, "so long as you are willing to
believe that you would not be lonely because I would be here, that
seems a fair exchange."

"No, it wasn't fair at any point, because I knew exactly what the
place was like and you were going into it blindfold. But a man can't
stop to look at things that way. If we did, nobody would ever get
anything in the world that he wanted. My mother used to say to me that
God helps those who help themselves. I've come to the conclusion that
He doesn't do anything of the kind, but that He sits back and doesn't
interfere with those who take."

After this burst of unusual eloquence, Mr. Collingwood closed his
eyes and puffed luxuriously at his cigar. But for the rhythm of the
surf, nature seemed steeped in afternoon slumber. In the accentuated
silence the voices of children digging clams far up the beach came
to them like drowsy music.

Collingwood smoked on, content with his own analysis of his conduct
and delighting in his wife's soft hand on his brow. Charlotte
thought he was going to sleep, and smiled tenderly at his closed
eyes. Martin not infrequently displayed his enjoyment of her society
by a willingness to nap in it; but she was not petty enough to grudge
him the indulgence. Besides, many of her tenderest thoughts, her
best inspirations had come to her as she mused, on lazy afternoons,
with his handsome profile in her lap. There seemed, at such times,
to be a reversal of their ordinary relations. She leaned tremendously
on Martin, not by making him a sharer in her domestic difficulties or
by wearying him, already weary with toil, by that demand for petty
services by which some women delight to vaunt their possession of a
slave. As far as she could be a buffer between him and all the little
cares and burdens of their daily life, Charlotte had kept her promise
to herself to make Martin Collingwood a good wife. And though she
measured his hourly joy in the pride of having her undivided affection,
she felt herself meanly stinting him of that secret hoard of gratitude
which lay so warm in her heart. Was he fairly treated, she asked
herself, in being denied the knowledge that he alone of all the world
had made her feel herself welcome in it? He thought her strong, when,
in reality, all her strength came from him. Deprived of that crown and
sceptre with which he had endowed her, would she be more than a poor
shrinking outcast again, a creature at bay, ready to snap without
discrimination at passing curiosity or at passing kindness. But
pride was still strong in her heart--love had not subdued that;
and there were some explanations that she could not force herself to
make. When he lay supine, as on that afternoon, his pagan beauty even
more markedly defined by a slumber that was like a child's, she had
an intuition of his unexpressed dependence on her. Was it possible
that Martin had reservations also? The thought bred another. Is it
possible for any soul to unbosom itself completely to another? Does
not the very wealth of confidence entrain some final reservations,
the inner sanctuary of that self-dignity with which the-gentlest spirit
is reluctant to part? She decided that, freely as he revealed himself
to her, Martin must carry deep in his heart, some feelings jealously
guarded from her--thoughts and feelings perhaps that he had recklessly
revealed to the young girls who at times had fired his imagination. It
is the instinct of the human soul to guard those weaknesses of which
it is self-conscious from those natures which cannot understand them,
and, not understanding, cannot sympathize. Of what weakness did she
make Martin self-conscious? She knew only too well the weaknesses of
which he made her self-conscious; knew, too, her desperate fear that
full cognizance of them might shake the foundations of his pride in
her. They had been married eight months, and in that time they had
hardly touched a jar in their lives. He had told her a thousand times
that she was all the world to him, and she had replied a thousand
times that she asked nothing more, and that, so long as she could be
that, she was willing to bear solitude, and endure even privation. Was
all her happiness hinged upon the chance dropping of a curtain in his
speech or hers? upon the revelation of another self hidden away behind
his merriment, behind her silence? She sighed and moved impatiently,
trying to shake off her thoughts. Then she remembered that he was
sleeping and glanced down to find him gazing at her quizzically.

"I've been awake all the while," he said, "watching your face. You
have been doing a sight of thinking all to yourself. You thought I
had dropped off, didn't you?"

"I've had reason to believe you capable of it, Martin."

"What I have done and what I am going to do this afternoon are two
distinct things, Mrs. C."

"Oh, Martin, I hate 'Mrs. C.' It sounds like Dickens."

"Do you mean the dickens?"

"No: if it comes to that, I'll use the other word--the one you are
so fond of using."

Mr. Collingwood almost sat up. "Say, you're coming on," he
ejaculated. "You'd never have said that when we were first married."

"That's true." Mrs. Collingwood's tone left open an inference which
her husband must have perceived, for he laughed contentedly.

"You were mealy-mouthed," he stated, with a genial retrospect in
his voice.

Charlotte looked at him demurely. "I was brought up to observe the
conventional limitations of feminine speech, dear; but if your heart
is set upon my enlarging upon them--"

"Heaven forbid!" Martin ejaculated piously, as she came to her
suggestive little pause. He added after a moment, "But I had a girl
once that used to swear. It never sounded bad in her. It was just
funny and cute."

If there was one habit of Martin Collingwood's that came near rousing
a visible resentment in his wife, it was his easy-going references
to his "girls." She knew that the term, as he used it, implied no
disrespect, that it was his equivalent for innamorata, and that each
affair with a girl had represented one of his tentative ventures
toward matrimony. She was not jealous of her predecessors in his
affections, for there was an overwhelming sincerity in his invariable
reassurance that none of them "came up to specifications"; that is,
conformed to his ideal of womanhood, as she herself did. Nor did he
hesitate to reveal that, in most cases, the breaking of sentimental
ties was largely the result of his own initiative. If his frankness
in these revelations had contained one element of personal vanity,
it would have strained dangerously his wife's respect for him. But
although he had a happy self-confidence, Collingwood was utterly
without self-conscious vanity. Charlotte realized, also, that his
good looks and his personal charm which she, with her critically
developed faculties, had been unable to withstand, must have made him
an exceedingly popular swain with the type of young woman whom he had
previously affected. But it was irritating to have him lump her with
them so carelessly. It implied that, though she was the only perfect
jewel according to his taste, the matter was, after all, one of taste
and not of kind. She was human enough, however, to suffer some pangs
of curiosity concerning her erstwhile rivals, and though she would not
have asked a question, she was not dissatisfied when Martin went on:

"It's funny what differences there are in people. You are not glum,
but you don't laugh much. Even when you seem happiest, you are rather
grave and quiet. But that girl giggled from morning till night, and she
made me laugh too. She saw the funny side of everything that happened,
and she was no fool either. She was quick as a flash. The last time
I saw her was at the close of the Spanish War. It was about ten days
before I enlisted. The Government sent a gunboat up the Mississippi
River just to show the backwoods people what a real live gunboat
that had been in the war looked like; and those blamed officers were
making love to every pretty girl on both banks of the river wherever
the boat lay long enough to have a reception for the officers or a
smoker for the men. This girl was dancing with a sandy-haired little
ensign, and he was piling it on thick as molasses on a hot cake. All
of a sudden, she began to giggle. He wanted to know why. "I'll bet
a horse you're married," she said over his shoulder; and the fellow,
like to split himself laughing, vowed he wasn't. But when he got to
St. Louis, there it was in the papers, how his wife had come out to
join him for that week. When his boat went back down the river the
next week, all the girls gave him the laugh. That little devil had
told it on him, and all the talk he had given her."

"I like that girl," said Charlotte. "What became of her? How did
it happen that you didn't make the best of your opportunities in
her case?"

"I did. She had me mighty anxious. But she played just a little too
bluff a game. She got hold of a long-legged sergeant of volunteers
and she let on that she didn't have a minute to give me after he came
along. I used to walk home from church with her pretty regularly,
but the first Sunday after she picked up with him, she turned me
down. I had to come along behind with her best friend: she was one
of those girls that always have neglected women friends and run
'em in and make you be civil to 'em. I hated this other girl, and I
was the maddest man that ever tagged up the street after his girl
and another man. All of a sudden, I saw that every time she took
a step, she turned the hem of her skirt with her heel. You know I
just came to myself. I got to wondering if I wanted to marry a girl
with a jay-bird heel like that, and I decided I didn't. I enlisted,
came out here, served my country in China, and took back talk from a
lot of West Point popinjays for two years--damn their souls--and that
was all the patriotism I had. She married her volunteer and he served
his three years and got a commission. I saw by a paper not very long
ago that they are in Samar now. She was a good fellow, that girl. I
should like to see her again. If the fool killer tried to kill her,
the gun wouldn't go off, sure."

"That is quite so," Charlotte replied gravely, and then, as Martin
relapsed into laziness again, she remained studying him and pondering
the somewhat irrelevant motives which had influenced his life.

"A jay-bird heel!" She looked with amused scrutiny at his somewhat
emphasized masculine beauty. What magnificence, what unconscious
arrogance of self-esteem lay unrebuked in this innocent youth; for
in spite of the fact that he had known sin as she had never known it,
that his unrestrained instincts had reached forth into experiments with
life from which not only her sex, but the inheritance of tradition and
of environment had eternally debarred her--in spite of these facts,
Charlotte had always a sense of cynical and satiated age beside
his debonair innocence. It had been her lot to be both player and
onlooker in that melodrama where the possession of ample means and
the development of critical and æsthetic faculties have frowned upon
the expression of a direct and creative ambition; and yet, where all
that is subtly ambitious, and all that is meanly jealous, and all that
is secretly arrogant, deprived of a natural and healthy expression,
underlie and taint the whole body of society. She had come to realize
that, in that world in which money must not be mentioned, money is
the most indispensable necessity; that every instinct tabooed as
vulgar has been so tabooed, because, when it is no longer recognized
in speech, it may be the more successfully pursued in action. She
had discovered that the exquisite charm of manner which is called
high-bred unconsciousness is the result of a self-consciousness so
unflagging that its possessor is incapable of losing herself utterly
in any emotion; and that the final result of the developing process
is an individuality whose utter selfishness and nullity are not patent
simply because all the arts of society and all the material advantages
of wealth are bent to the concealment of the truth. Collingwood was,
as he had said of his sweetheart, "no fool." He had a keen interest
in life, a rather broad knowledge of men and affairs as they are
judged by concrete results; but of that sense of social values which
amounts almost to a cult with our so-called aristocratic classes,
Martin was as ignorant as his primeval parents were of sin. Suddenly,
as she looked at him, a quotation flashed into Charlotte's mind. She
formed the words with her lips as her memory groped for them:


    The ancients set no value on that half feminine delicacy,
    that nervous sensibility which we call distinction, and on
    which we pride ourselves. For the distingué man of the present
    day, a salon is necessary; he is a dilettante and entertaining
    with ladies; although capable of enthusiasms, he is inclined to
    scepticism; his politeness is exquisite; he dislikes foul hands
    and disagreeable odors, and shrinks from being confounded with
    the vulgar. Alcibiades had no apprehension of being confounded
    with the vulgar.


Martin opened his eyes as she was breathing the words to herself,
but she did not stop. He stared at her, and when she paused, he asked:

"What kind of hoodoo was that?"

"That, O my Alcibiades, was a charm." She leaned forward and kissed
him--a half repentant, wholly tender little caress. It pleased him,
for while she was ready enough to be petted, Charlotte was slow to
offer endearments. Lifelong habit was stronger even than the impulses
of a naturally demonstrative nature.

"Who are you hoodooing? Me?"

"No: myself. It was I that needed the charm."

"Now you are getting mysterious again. Tell me what it was
about." Collingwood had, when he desired to wheedle, not only a
child's persistency but a child's alluringness. Charlotte had had
experience in plenty with him, and knew her own weakness in resisting
him. She cast a hasty glance around and perceived the steamer, the
smoke of which had been visible when they gained the hill. They had,
in seating themselves, half turned their backs in her direction,
and she had crept very close to the island.

"Martin, that boat seems to be coming nearer. She would not come this
close if she were heading for Cuyo."

"Eh! Here?" Collingwood raised himself alertly and stared. "That's
strange. Coastguard. She isn't making Iloilo, or she would not be
cutting across our bows; but it is a queer route for Cuyo. Why didn't
she cut over to the west after leaving Romblon?"

"You'll have to signal her for information, Martin."

"Information be blanked. I'll signal her for fresh beef if she gets
close enough. We may be able to exchange a bit of fish. Have you seen
the fish parao go in yet?"

"It went by a few minutes ago."

"That's good. Maybe we had better go down and be ready to trade if
she comes near enough. I'll send out a note with the launch. It looks,
though, as if she were heading straight for us."

"Would a coastguard steamer drop mail here?"

"No: catch a Government captain dropping an anchor to oblige
anybody. If she is coming in, it is either with somebody interested
in pearl fishery statistics, or some sort of survey, or--" he
turned suddenly, a teasing smile melting all his handsome features
to winningness--"your friend Barton. Didn't he promise us a visit
sometime?"

Martin had assumed a marital jocularity on the subject of the
Judge. Charlotte had honestly but vainly tried to dispel from his mind
his strong conviction that Judge Barton was a rival who had hardly
been allowed to approach the tentative stages of worship. Her quick
frown and "Impossible!" only made her husband grin more broadly. "That
was a mere civility at parting," she insisted. "Judge Barton hasn't
a particle of interest in us."

"He hasn't any in me, certainly; and he would be justified in not
having any in you. Snapped his nose off, you did, every time he opened
his mouth."

"Martin, you do not understand. I tried my best to be agreeable
to Judge Barton, just as any nurse ought to be to any patient; and
every time I 'snapped his nose off' as you express it, I did it in
self-defence. He was very often impertinent to me."

"Why Charlotte, I heard pretty near every word he ever said to you,
and I never heard anything out of the way."

They were going down hill by that time, Martin ahead, picking the
trail; and Charlotte made a quaintly affectionate grimace behind
his sturdy back. There were various reasons why she was unwilling
to make any effort to enlighten Martin's denseness. There was no
earthly danger of his appreciating unaided the delicate flavor of
Judge Barton's impertinence.

"Anyway," she remarked, deftly slipping from the discussion of facts
upon which disagreement was certain, "he will have forgotten both
of us completely by this time, and there is not one chance in a
hundred of his being on that boat if it does stop here." But Martin
had time to correct her. He was willing to admit that there was not
much certainty of the Judge's being on the boat unless she stopped;
and then he stood ready to back his judgment. By the time they had
crossed the cocoanut grove and had gained the beach, it was evident
that the boat was making for the island. Kingsnorth had sighted
her, and had sent out the launch, which was puffing busily toward
her. "Kingsnorth's got as good a nose for fresh beef as I have,"
Collingwood grunted approvingly. The Maclaughlins were on their
veranda with a pair of binoculars, and some excitement could be
perceived even in the distant village.

The steamer slowed up in reply to signals from the launch, and
evidently awaited advice about dropping anchor. When she did come to
a halt, however, and put a boat out, Martin counted the persons who
descended into it.

"Distinguished passengers," he remarked concisely. "The captain would
not put out the gang-way for his own use in that sea. Three men in
white suits; three rowers; and the skipper is coming along. We're in
for visitors, Charlotte. What is there for dinner?"

Charlotte was away on the instant. He heard her despatching boys--one
to the village, bidding him secure the very best of the afternoon's
catch; another to the poultry yard with orders to bring up the two
fattest capons, but not to slay them till further orders. Complaining
shrieks of the storeroom door, the hinges of which were exceedingly
rusty, bore testimony to repeated openings; and the voice of old
Pedro was audible, cursing the ice-machine.

By the time the boat was close in, the sun was fairly low and seemed
to be sucking up the whole Visaya Sea is shafts of splendor. As soon
as the narrowing distance permitted the little crafts' passengers
to be recognized, Collingwood cocked a humorous eye upon his wife
and went into silent ecstasies of laughter, much to the amazement of
Kingsnorth and the Maclaughlins. Charlotte blushed, bit her lips and
then she laughed also, at first in helpless embarrassment, and finally
with a sheer burst of merriment. She had barely time to recover her
gravity when the boat grounded, and Judge Barton, as an acquaintance,
took precedence of his fellow-passengers, and was carried ashore in
time to introduce them as they landed. All had to avail themselves
of the primitive transporting process by which Charlotte herself had
made her landing, and it was in no hateful spirit that she admitted
that dignity and such a progress are almost incompatible.



CHAPTER IX


This is an unexpected pleasure, murmured Mrs. Collingwood, giving to
Judge Barton a warm pressure of the hand. For though she was proud
and sensitive, she was not vindictive, and the Judge's conduct on
her wedding day had gone far to blot out the recollection of their
of their unamicable past. Also his presence was a compliment, an
assurance that his professions of interest were not wholly perfunctory.

"It should not be so," he replied. "What did I tell you on your wedding
day? You've forgotten. I haven't, you see, and here I am! Moreover,
I have brought you a commissioner and a gentleman interested in pearl
shells." By the time he had finished this long speech, the Judge had
shaken hands with both husband and wife, and stood ready to introduce
the men who followed him. They were respectively a member of the
Philippine Commission and an American agent for a button factory
in the United States, who was desirous of making arrangements for a
permanent supply of shells.

"The Commissioner is headed for Cuyo, and will go on there to-morrow,"
said Judge Barton. "Mr. Jones would like to stay and see the field
and talk business with Mr. Collingwood until the steamer returns, in
about a week; and I have wondered if you could put up with me that long
also. But nobody is to be inconvenienced. Knowing the limited resources
of islands in the Visaya Sea, each of us has come provided with an army
cot and bedding, and we have also a first-class shelter tent. Likewise,
remembering Mr. Collingwood's reminiscences in hospital, and being
minded of the scarcity of fresh beef, I ventured to bring along the
quarter of a cow--I believe a part of the hind quarter."

He got no further. Martin had again taken his hand between two bronzed
paws and was shaking it fervently.

"I understand, Judge," he declared, "just why you hold your eminent
position. A man can't be great these days without a head for detail,
and you have one. There are plenty of men who would have forgotten
all I said about this place, but you haven't. You remembered it
at the right time. Now, frankly, Judge, where is that beef at the
present moment?"

The Judge hooked a thumb in the direction of the steamer's boat. "That
beef is in that dinghey," he replied, "and, without desiring to advise
Mrs. Collingwood in her domestic arrangements, I should suggest
that the sooner it is eaten the better. The steamer's ice-carrying
facilities are limited, and it is by the grace of God that it has
'kept' till now."

"He means by the grace of Government coal, Mrs. Collingwood,"
interrupted the steamer's captain, who was standing by talking to
Kingsnorth, whom he knew. "I had nearly to ruin my engines getting that
beef down here, the Judge was so concerned about it." It came ashore
at that minute, a suggestively dead piece of beef in cheese-cloth
wrappings, but the fishers received it almost with rites of welcome.

Kingsnorth and the Maclaughlins having been presented, the group
wandered leisurely toward the Collingwood cottage. The newcomers
protested that there was no need of Mrs. Collingwood's giving herself
trouble about dinner; they could go back to the steamer for dinner;
it would be waiting for them. It was the stereotyped convention
throughout a land where hospitality is as catholic as is the necessity
for it. Martin and Charlotte, naturally, would hear nothing of the
visitors' returning to the steamer before bedtime.

"If you don't mind dinner's being a little late," Charlotte added,
while Mrs. Maclaughlin threw in, in response to a last weak protest,
"Trouble! Why we would cook for twenty people to get to talk to one."

So the boat went back for the tent, the cots, and the luggage of the
prospective guests, while the visitors sat on Charlotte's veranda,
enjoying the evening breeze and the sunset, as they drank tea and
consumed delicious little triangles of buttered toast, and slices of
sweet cake. The Commissioner wanted to know all about the island:
who owned it? what crops did it produce? was there an intelligent
teniente? "He obeys the orders that we give him," replied Martin
dryly, and the Commissioner smiled: Was there easy communication
with the mainland? What did Mr. Collingwood think of coprax in the
Visayas? Then, in an aside, to Charlotte, What a pity that he had
not brought Mrs. Commissioner! she would have enjoyed this. Such
a charming situation and such a delightful home! Mrs. Commissioner
would never cease to regret having missed it. "We hope that you will
have occasion to pass again, and will bring her with you," Charlotte
murmured politely, and the great man assured her that he should make
a point of it. "She loves atmosphere," he said. "We have more of that
than anything else," Kingsnorth interjected, and to the Commissioner's
hearty laugh, Martin added, "Specially when it is moving N.N.E. eighty
miles an hour."

Meanwhile Judge Barton was trying out his Grand Army manner with
Mrs. Maclaughlin, and privately taking stock of place and people.

"Chickens!" he said regretfully in response to her remark that
she guessed those chickens would live a day longer in view of that
quarter of beef. "Have I contributed, by my own unselfishness, to my
own undoing? The chickens of Manila are not chickens, they are merely
delusions in the form of blood, bones, and feathers, bought, killed,
and served, by a succession of inhuman Chinese cooks, for the sole
purpose of tantalizing the American stomach. Do I understand that
you feed your chickens, and that they are actually fat?"

"Fat as butter," said Mrs. Maclaughlin proudly.

The Judge sighed with anticipation. "I'm glad I'm going to stay a
week," he declared. "I'm fond of chicken--when it is chicken. But
tell me, are you never lonely here, Mrs. Maclaughlin?"

"I am. Charlotte ain't."

The Judge took note of the familiarity, but the laughing eye he turned
upon Mrs. Collingwood did not betray that fact. "Yes, we are talking
about you," he said in response to the glance she gave, hearing her
name used. "Mrs. Maclaughlin says that you are never lonely."

"Of course I am not. I have too many occupations. I am busy from
morning till night. There is no excuse for ennui."

"I thirst to know what you do. I know a score of ladies who are
suffering from nostalgia with far less excuse for loneliness than
you have."

"Well, there is the housekeeping, though our servants are quite
satisfactory, and it isn't onerous; and there is my mending and
Martin's, and my sewing, and I have an hour's school each day for the
children, and an hour's medical inspection, which usually runs into
two or three; and if you will look on our table, you will not find
it wholly empty of books and magazines. Then when Martin comes home,
there is tea and talk, and then dinner. Sometimes after dinner,
I read aloud, or Martin and I play a game of chess. We go to bed
early and get up early for we are working people."

"Heavens!" said the Judge. "I stand confounded. It is virtue past
all the known limits of exemplariness. I wish a few women of my
acquaintance could hear you."

Charlotte lifted her brows and smiled with kindly malice. "Your friend
Mrs. Badgerly is well?" she inquired sweetly.

"You are no less a mind reader than you formerly were, I perceive. My
friend Mrs. Badgerly is quite well. She was in my thoughts when I gave
utterance to my wish. My friend Mrs. Badgerly is one of your admirers,
Mrs. Collingwood."

"Since when?"

"Since that memorable day on which you so effectually snubbed her."

"I am glad I did it," Charlotte said emphatically, and they both
laughed.

"It has been done more brutally, I believe," said the Judge, "but
never more thoroughly. She appreciates your powers. She really does."

To this bit of by-talk the Commissioner and Martin had been paying a
desultory attention as they sipped their tea. At that point, Charlotte
brought the conversation back to something which would include the
other guests, and the Judge got no further opportunity to engross
her attention, till, the dark falling, a servant lit a lamp in the
sala, and Charlotte excused herself on the plea of a housekeeper's
duties. She left the group on the veranda enjoying the warm starlit
darkness, across which the steamer's lights gleamed cosily. Judge
Barton, glancing behind him, saw her superintending the laying of
the table in the living-room of the cottage, and he abruptly rose
and joined her.

"Can't I help?" he said by way of excuse for presenting himself. "I
have brought all this nuisance down upon you. I might be allowed to
make myself useful if I can." Then in reply to her assurance that there
was nothing that he could do, and that she regarded the occasion as a
treat and not as a nuisance, he went on, "Then can't I stay and talk
to you?" He took the permission for granted and without waiting for a
reply, glanced around the room, which, with its quaintly adorned walls,
its tasteful photographs and water-colors, its gleaming brass, and the
glancing lights on carved teak and inlaid blackwood, was full of charm.

"What an absolutely delightful room! and this old table! Where does
Collingwood pick up these things?"

Charlotte smilingly laid a finger upon her lips, glancing in the
direction of the Commissioner. "I think it's loot," she said.

"And I know this is," the Judge remarked, standing in front of the
desk. "I remember hearing Collingwood say he was in the Chinese affair
in 1900. Why wasn't it my fate to be there too? It's all very well to
talk about our superior civilization, but there is something in the
mere thought of looting treasures like these to make the mouth water."

"Martin did not loot these. Mr. Kingsnorth did. He gave them to me
for a wedding present."

"Lucky dog! either to loot or to give."

"I am ashamed to confess," Charlotte admitted, twitching a tablecloth
into better place as a servant laid it, "that I am getting dreadfully
mixed upon matters of right and wrong. When I came out here, my
principles were simple as day. There wasn't any doubt how I regarded
looters and people who would accept looted goods. I should as soon
have accepted a stolen ham. And here am I, the possessor of various
pieces of looted furniture, brazenly rejoicing in them, and all the
more because they were looted. I am degenerating hour by hour." She
shook her head plaintively as she put a massive brass candlestick of
old Chinese design into its place.

Judge Barton, leaning against the open casement, his two hands braced
behind on the sill, stood a picture of smiling content as he studied
her. His natural magnetism fairly radiated from him in his benignant
mood. His wealth of grizzling hair, his large-featured, intellectual
face, and one or two lines that bespoke the brute strength and will
of the man, made him look like some roughly but powerfully sketched
figure. His clothes were always fashionably cut and he wore them
well, but the sense of the well formed muscular-body beneath them
always dominated their lines. As he stood beaming upon her, it would
have taken a stronger-minded woman than Mrs. Collingwood to weigh
impartially the balanced charms of the powerful intellect and of the
powerful animal in the man. She relaxed her old suspicious guard,
which had revived for an instant when he followed her into the house,
so clearly bent upon a tête-à-tête. Without the faintest suggestion of
sentimental intimacy, they were encased in an atmosphere of congenial
interest. An onlooker would have pronounced them a pair of reunited
chums.

"I am dying to say something," said the Judge in response to her
lament over her decaying morals, "but I don't dare."

"Why?"

"You know why very well. 'I'm skeered o' you.'" He threw a fine negro
accent into the negro phrase.

"Is it something so impertinent?"

"If I may so express it, it is humanely impertinent. I know no other
woman to whom I should hesitate to propound it at once, for it is a
question. But I have been scathed by you before this, and I am not
absolutely foolhardy."

"Oh, go ahead," said Charlotte. "Impertinence acknowledged is
impertinence disarmed. Besides, I may owe you some amends. I could
never see how I did it, but my husband says I used to snap your head
off every time you spoke."

"You did, you did, indeed." This was said with fervor.

"Well, I promise not to snap this time."

"Don't you find it more comfortable, then--being degenerate, I mean?"

For an instant Mrs. Collingwood stared at him, and he broke into a
peal of laughter in which she presently joined.

"Indeed, I must be a formidable person if you were afraid to ask that,"
she said. "Well, then, I do. Does my answer content you?"

"Unspeakably. You know we all enjoy being degenerate, but I never
hoped to hear you admit it."

At this instant, Mrs. Collingwood's attention was diverted by the
servant, who came back with a tray of cutlery. She indicated several
places at which plates and silver were to be laid, but found time
for an abstracted smile at her guest, who stood waiting her pleasure
while she gave her directions.

"I daresay--" she returned briskly to the subject after this lapse of
time--"I was very priggish. Martin has humanized me--there is no doubt
of it--and I am grateful to him. He is so humorously practical. How
do you think he is looking?"

"Oh--fine!" Judge Barton was conscious of a restiveness suppressed. He
said to himself that he had not come two hundred and fifty miles to
talk about Martin Collingwood's looks.

"I am so glad you think so, because I think so myself. I fancy
Mrs. Maclaughlin did not feed him properly in the old days, and men
get so careless by themselves. He says I 'hold him up to the collar
beautifully' and I really try to, and regular food and physical
comfort will tell."

"Collingwood is the picture of health and of masculine good looks,"
said Judge Barton; "and as for you, it is a joy to see anyone looking
so healthy, so vital. You have changed immensely. I wonder, dear lady,
if you yourself realized how tired and nearly broken-down you were
in those old days."

"I was miserable, physically and nervously worn out, and I suppose
I looked it. But I have had a glorious rest and nothing in the world
to fret or worry about, and--" she raised her eyes to his, blushing
as she approached the topic which had been the source of so much
constraint between them--"and Martin and I have been ridiculously
happy in each other. I may as well be frank and admit that half that
was depressing me was sheer loneliness and wounded pride. Probably
the loneliness was much my own fault, for I hardly met people half
way; and the wounded pride was wholly my own fault, for I started
out to earn my own living in defiance of all my relatives' wishes. I
suppose I had not the philosophy to meet the situation, in spite of
that hateful little slap you gave me about 'the unloveliest thing in
women.'" The Judge started forward.

"Thank you for giving me my opportunity," he said in a low voice. "I
could not have referred to it otherwise. I have writhed with shame
every time I have thought of those words, Mrs. Collingwood. Will you
permit me to apologize for them and for numerous other unmanly stabs
that I have given you? I do not know why I did it; all the time I
was longing to be friends with you."

"I suppose I irritated you," Charlotte replied slowly, a little
surprised by his vehemence. "It is inexplicable to me also when I look
back upon it. I had really forgiven you long ago. You were very nice
to us on our wedding day, I remember, and I felt forlorn and deserted
enough on that occasion to be grateful to anyone who showed any signs
of human interest in us. But I am glad that you have apologized,
and am glad to express my forgiveness, and to regret that I was
so snappish. All of which may be expressed in that homely phrase,
'Let us bury the hatchet.'"

"We were always meant to be friends, I think." Some vibration in the
voice made Charlotte sheer off from an approach to intensity. "Martin
always liked you," she said; and thus, ten seconds after their
reconciliation, the Judge had cause to reflect with some irritation
that there is no woman in the world so unsatisfying at times as
one born without natural coquetry. He had a few minutes in which to
develop this idea, while Charlotte made a voyage of investigation
to the kitchen. She came back well satisfied. "I think we can count
on dinner in half an hour," she said, and carried him back with her
to the veranda, where she did her duty by the Commissioner and the
Honorable Mr. Jones, who was not expansive on any subject other than
oyster shells.

Kingsnorth, who had gone over to his own cottage and had donned the
English mess jacket, which is the standard evening attire in the
Orient, came back, an undeniable English gentleman in spite of his
degenerate countenance, and devoted himself to the judicial luminary,
who took stock of him as they chatted. Indeed, the Judge was profoundly
interested in Charlotte's island companions. The Maclaughlins were the
sort of people he would expect to find in company with Collingwood,
but the Englishman was a surprise. He said to himself that it must have
strained all Mrs. Collingwood's pride to accommodate herself to that
household, and he marvelled at her tremendous growth in self-control
and in social vagabondage. Six months before she would not have met
so unconcernedly such a situation as that in which she found herself.

At dinner the Commissioner, sitting on one side of Mrs. Collingwood
with the Judge on the other, was secretly amazed at the house, the
household, and the very agreeable woman who was his hostess. With
one laughing remark--"My dear, I am the housekeeper, and I won't be
apologized for"--she had silenced Martin, who was inclined to drift
into that apologetic and explanatory vein which demands continual
reassurance from the guests of their appreciation of their food;
and, picking up the conversational ball, she had sent it spinning
lightly here and there through all the courses of as perfectly
served a dinner as the Commissioner had ever sat through. She was
ably assisted by the two officials and Kingsnorth and even by Martin,
whose delight in his wife's grasp of the situation set his dry, keen
wits at bubbling effervescence. Maclaughlin, though not partial to
what he called "gentlefolk," was a hard-headed Scot, not likely to
rush in where angels tread lightly, and Mrs. Maclaughlin, who found
the general trend of conversation too agile for her, may be said to
have concentrated herself on the oyster-shell seeker and the Captain,
who suffered also from a slowness of abstract speech.

It was also, considering the fact that it was limited by the resources
of a comparatively unproductive island, a good dinner, even in
the opinion of two habitual diners-out. It began with a cocktail
of Martin's own mixing and was continued in a clear soup and in a
baked fish which must have weighed ten pounds and was of incomparable
flavor. "Never have I eaten such fish," declared Judge Barton, helping
himself the second time to the fish and its garnish of thin, sliced
cucumbers. Then there was a roast of beef highly relished by the fisher
folk, camote, or sweet potato, croquettes, a dish of bamboo sprouts
cooked after a savory native recipe, and green peppers stuffed with
force-meat. There was a crab salad, deliciously cold, and papaya ice.

"But how do you obtain ice?" said the Commissioner.

"We have a small machine which freezes one hundred pounds daily,"
replied Charlotte, "just enough for each cottage and the mess kitchen."

"I remember when Collingwood proposed having that machine made by
special order, how I pooh-poohed the idea," remarked Kingsnorth. "I
was not sufficiently Americanized to feel the need of it. But I am
as bad as the rest of them now. Frozen desserts are the only ones
fit for the tropics; and I've even learned to drink iced-tea."

A general chorus of assent went up. "You certainly make yourselves
comfortable," the Commissioner declared, "and, really, failing a fresh
beef supply, you seem to have all that we get in Manila, in addition
to a more charming situation. I suppose your only real difficulty is
the matter of medical aid."

"That is our only real fear," Collingwood replied. "We keep a supply of
coal on hand for emergencies, and we never let it get below a certain
point. We keep a reserve sufficient to take the launch over to Cuyo
or to Romblon. But if there came a sudden need in bad weather, we
should be in the deuce of a fix. It is the only thought that ever
keeps me awake at night."

The Commissioner nodded and murmured something appreciative of a
possible crisis. Certainly this very entertaining lady who sat beside
him--a lady who had seen something of the world if he was any judge
of personality--must feel herself strangely situated in that out of
the way spot, chancing the dangers of tidal waves, of storms, and
of illness without medical assistance. He fancied the situation was
explicable. The compromises which women make for matrimony had offered
him food for reflection long before he ever saw Mrs. Collingwood;
but what he could not understand was why she should have been among
those who have to make compromises. A woman of her grace and finish
ought to have a pretty wide field of selection, he thought; but then
one can never tell how circumstances force persons into unfortunate
positions. The Englishman was a dose; not that he had altogether lost
his breeding, but that the atmosphere of degeneration hung so palpably
about him. "How he must hate himself," thought the Commissioner,
"to make us all so conscious of his fall!" He removed his eyes from
Kingsnorth's face after arriving at this conclusion, just in time to
meet the clear gaze of his hostess, and to know, by her sudden blush
and momentary shrinking, that she had read him like an open book,
and to realize that she was self-conscious of her own situation.

She was enough mistress of herself, however, to hold the conversation
at its level. She asked with intelligent interest about those political
events in the islands, concerning which it is tactful to question
Commissioners. She drew the statesman out on the subject of his own
hopes and plans for the islands. He in turn asked information from the
fishers, and they, warming to the theme as men will when they talk
of things in which they are experienced, gave him their practical,
hard-headed views of men and conditions, spoke of native labor and
its capacities and incapacities, of resources and possibilities, and
of the disadvantages of political unrest to a people more primitive
than any that ever before held the reins of government.

Even an illiterate man is interesting when he talks of his craft,
and Martin Collingwood, however little natural development he had in
social subtilties, was anything but illiterate or even ill informed. To
his wife he seemed to gather new dignity as he took a leader's natural
position. It was plain that his business associates deferred to him;
and in ten minutes it was plain that the Commissioner knew he was
dealing with a man who would, in the financial world at least, make
himself felt. Commissioners never ignore financiers. There came into
the Commissioner's manner as the dinner progressed, something more
deferential than the mere civility of a guest to a host, something
which implied his acceptance of Mr. Collingwood as a man to be
considered.

It was, on the whole, a most successful dinner. The newcomers
had brought with them a current of the outer atmosphere, breathing
interest and exhilaration into the little colony of self-exiles; and
the exiles shared themselves so wholly with the outsiders that the
outsiders grew to feel much at home. When, at eleven o'clock, they
all walked down to the beach with the Commissioner and the Captain,
regrets and good-byes were as hearty as they would have been if the
acquaintance had been of long duration.

As he was pulled out to the steamer, the Commissioner remembered that,
on the way down, Barton had given him a hint of an odd situation,
to which he had paid but a cursory attention. Well it was for the old
gossip that he was safe ashore under the tent. "But I'll have it out
of him going back," reflected the Commissioner. "Fine woman! Fine
manly fellow, her husband; sort of man we need out here! He isn't
her equal socially, but I suppose women forget social differences
just as we do when they come under the attraction of good looks and
manly traits. Besides, if he makes money, she can float him with no
difficulty. A remarkably fine woman."



CHAPTER X


Judge Barton's servant, aided by Kingsnorth's boy and Martin's,
had put up the tents and had seen thoroughly to the comfort of the
visitors, so that there was nothing more to do than to bid the guests
good night and to warn them of the island habit of sea bathing every
morning. Jones had no bathing suit, but Kingsnorth said he would be
able to lend him one; while Judge Barton, showing his fine white
teeth in an appreciative smile, remarked that he never travelled
without one. "We shall see you in the morning, then," said Charlotte,
and she and Martin betook themselves to their own dwelling. Martin
sank lazily into his hammock on the veranda for a final cigar, while
Charlotte went to give some orders to her cook about breakfast. She
found that gentleman asleep on the kitchen table with his head on a
bread board. Rudely awakened and asked for explanations, he stated that
he had not gone to his quarters, because the Señora had sent him word
that she wished to speak with him; but finding the time pass slowly,
he had fallen asleep as she had found him. He asked her plaintively
why she had been so impatient with him for so small an offence,
and he held out the bread board to show that it had suffered no
harm. "Wash it with boiling water! Why not? but mañana, mañana! As
she could plainly see there was no boiling water at that time."

The situation being one in which racial intelligence beats itself
helplessly against racial unintelligence, Charlotte contented herself
with a note in her housekeeping tablets to remind her to superintend
the washing process the next morning, gave her orders, and returned
to her room. Martin was standing before her glass in his shirt and
trousers, a costume which always seemed to add to his stature.

"Now will you believe me?" he began teasingly. "What did I tell you
about the Judge?"

"I haven't a word to say, but I was surprised. What do you suppose
brought him down here?"

"I told you he wanted to see you."

"He said he wanted to see us, and we will treat him on that basis. That
means that you must do your share of the entertaining. I do not want
him on my hands all the time. He may just as well go with you each
day as stay around the house. Promise me, dear, that you will take
him on your shoulders."

There was an unmistakable earnestness about Charlotte's manner. She
was pulling hairpins out of her hair as she spoke, and she laid those
feminine accessories somewhat vigorously in a mother of pearl box,
which Martin, to honor his calling, had insisted on having made for
her. Her husband sank suddenly into a rocking chair and pulled her
down on his knee.

"You are the funniest woman I ever knew," he said reflectively, "the
first one I ever knew who wouldn't play on a man's jealousy. The truth
is I was just half inclined to be jealous, but you've disarmed me."

"I can't conceive myself, Martin, playing on your jealousy. The
whole idea is abhorrent to me. Jealousy implies distrust. Do you
think me capable of a flirtation with Judge Barton? Do you think I
should enjoy making you distrust me?"

Martin's face was a study. "You might not mean anything but a little
fun," he said apologetically. "Most women begin that way. And then
you might find that you liked him best. That happens. It happens
often. And the Judge is a big somebody, and I am a pearl-fisher."

His tone grew bitter as he pronounced the last words. It was almost
the first time that Charlotte had heard him refer to the worldly
distinctions that he affected to despise. But if he had expected his
self-disparagement to bring him a reward in a counter disparagement
of the Judge, he was disappointed. Charlotte sat on his knee, a very
earnest figure, her teeth nipping her lower lip, her brows frowning
with a very real perplexity. Her manner brought back to him his old
fear of her unexpectedness in thought and action. But even as he sat
wondering, she turned and smiled, and he drew a long breath of relief.

"We may as well have this out now," she said. "Perhaps I am making a
mistake in revealing myself to you frankly. I think men understand the
other sort of woman better, the one who plays upon their jealousy. I
believe they value her higher." She closed his protesting lips with
a gentle finger. "I am afraid that I do not belong wholly to the
twentieth century, Martin. They call it the age of individualism. But
I believe yet in those old tenets which were not individual opinions,
but the joint consensus of generations seeking a livable basis for
men and women. I believe in marriage and the family, and a lot of
old-fashioned things. I believe that what chastity is to a woman,
physical courage is to a man. I believe that women are born into
this world to bear children and that men are born to fight for woman
and child. The men of the present day seem to entertain a dream of
universal peace, so perhaps the women are excusable for entertaining
a dream of universal barrenness. However, that's irrelevant. We
can discuss that another time. But when I took you for my husband,
Martin, believing in all these old-fashioned ideas, I did it in the
consciousness that the choice was final, the determining factor of my
life. So long as you live, there is between me and every other man
in the world a barrier (I know not what it is) across which my mind
will never step, and across which no man will ever try to address
me twice. No, I won't be kissed--it is the first time I have ever
repelled a caress from you, but to me this moment is too serious for
caresses. You have the man's right to resent another man's possessive
thought of me; but you have no right to be jealous of me. I do not say
that I will always love you. There are offences which you could commit
against me which would turn my love to hatred. I do not pose as the
angelic, forgiving woman. I give fidelity. I demand it in return. If
you ever cease to love me, somehow, if it breaks my heart, I shall
cease to love you. I would not submit to personal brutality from you
or from any living being. But so long as you live there will be, in
a sentimental sense, but one man in the world for me. I want you to
know that, to understand it and feel it in every fibre of your being,
even though I know you hold me cheaper for so understanding it." Her
bosom heaved, her cheeks were fiery, and she would have sprung from
his knee only that he held her in a clasp that was iron. His own eyes
flashed a reply to hers.

"You had no cause to say that last," he said hotly.

"No cause, when ten minutes ago, you assured me of my unlikeness to
other women! Look into your heart of hearts and ask yourself if I am
a dearer possession now that you know that, come good or ill, with
you or apart from you, in love or in anger, I hold myself yours and
no other man's. And I do so not out of any false loyalty to you, for
there are conditions which might cancel your right to ask loyalty. No:
it is loyalty to myself. And this much I know of the whole male sex;
that while you are infinitely content to know that there are women
who can entertain such ideals and hold to them at any sacrifice,
you hold the individual woman cheaper for the knowledge."

She stared at him accusingly, and at first, half confounded, half
amused with her unusual intensity, he tried to stare back; but in
the end, his eyes fell and a dull shame burned in his cheek. For
he knew that what she said was true, and that in the very moment
of her assurances, he felt the loss of something to guard, felt
that easy-going surety which a man of his experiences with women
knows only too well how to diagnose. However, another emotion of a
very great pride in her capacity and in her frankness and a sense
of guilt made him very abject. He held her when she tried again to
slip from his arms; and when, to his consternation, she put her head
down on his shoulder and her body was shaken with noiseless sobs,
he was as comforting as she could have desired him to be, and she
felt a repentant tear mingle with her own.

She allowed herself no luxury of grief, and after a few convulsive
efforts got control of herself. But she lay with her head on his
shoulder for a long time, and when she spoke it was with a mournful
dignity.

"We have had our tragic moment," she said, "and I with my wretched love
of staring facts in the face have unearthed a family skeleton. Let's
put it back in the cupboard, Martin. Yours was a bogey skeleton,
and I was so anxious to show it up for a fraud, that I dragged
out the genuine one. That's singularly in keeping with my lifelong
habit. Don't look so long-faced, Martin. Are you angry?" She put her
face caressingly against his.

"Angry! Why should I be angry? I wish you didn't analyze things so
minutely, Lottie."

"I wish I didn't too, Martin, but I can't help it. That's my punishment
for being I. Oh, how I wish I were not I!" She looked at him with
eyes unfathomably tired and sad, eyes of that gentle appeal that went
straight to the depths of his masculine heart.

"All the same, I love you as you," he said. "I can't measure how
much more or less for being sure of you--but I'm mighty glad to be
sure of you--and I can't take my own insides to pieces as you can,
but all the same I love you, love you, Lottie."

But as he smoked a last cigar,--for he said that their talk had
driven sleep from him--Mr. Collingwood uttered but one phrase as he
monotonously paced back and forth across his veranda. Sometimes he
uttered it with irritation, sometimes he mouthed it slowly as if its
terse brevity were the outlet of profound conviction. Sometimes he
even smiled tenderly over it, as a memory of his wife's earnestness
brushed across his vision. But however he said it, he repeated it
again and again; and it was, "Well, I'll be damned!" For the lady he
had married had again said and done the unexpected thing.

Charlotte was still less inclined to sleep than her lord, though she
went through the semblance of courting slumber. She was infinitely
annoyed with herself for her own outburst, and was seeking what seemed
a reasonable cause for so much emotion, but could not find one. She
heartily wished Judge Barton had seen fit to wait for an invitation
before he invaded Maylubi; and, though she declined to admit that she
looked upon his coming as an omen, she was inclined to feel that he had
been altogether too mixed in her romance. He had been an unsympathetic
and amused onlooker at her courtship; he had been with them on that
last crucial evening before their marriage;--she wondered how much
his mere presence had influenced her in her subsequent speech with
Martin;--he had been present at the wedding; and now his coming was
contemporaneous with their nearest approach to a quarrel. As for what
she had eased her mind of to Martin, she knew that she was right, but
she added, self-accusingly, that her knowing it was all wrong. Quite
mournfully she arraigned herself, and she assented whole-heartedly
in what she knew must be Martin's secret verdict--that women have no
business with ideas of a philosophy on sex matters: that they should
be limited to instincts and to principles. Long after Martin had
ceased to pass upon his own condemnation, and was sleeping like an
exaggerated infant, she lay wide-eyed, fearing she knew not what,
but conscious of change impending. She had had eight months of a
happiness more nearly perfect than she had ever dreamed could be hers,
and it was not in the nature of things temporal as she knew them that
such happiness could be of long duration.

Judge Barton meanwhile had retired to his tent, but had him drawn
thence by a late-rising moon and his own cogitations. As he paced
slowly up and down the silvery beach, his thoughts rushed one after
another in confusing circles. First of all he anathematized himself
for daring to put to the test that lulled security of his own feelings
for Mrs. Collingwood. He had left her on her wedding day, himself a
prey to a charm that had struck him, as it were, between the eyes,
struck him with that force which emotion can attain only when it
is suddenly aroused for one who has played an unheeded part in the
subject's life up to the moment of its birth. It had been months since
he deemed that his sudden obsession for Mrs. Collingwood was dead,
killed by very weariness of itself, and by continual thwarting. For a
week or ten days after his parting with her, he had gone about with
her face constantly before him, with her voice in his ears. He had
started at the sight of a figure in the distance, resembling hers. His
appetite had failed him, zest in all things had departed from him. The
congratulations of his confrères on a brilliant decision had, it seemed
to him, been mockery. He wanted her approval, nobody else's. The
women of his acquaintance bored him to irritation. "I am in love,"
he admitted to himself, "in love with a married woman whom I probably
might have married myself had I so desired. I saw her every day for six
weeks, and far from entertaining any sentimental thoughts about her,
I deliberately set myself to tease and annoy her. I lost all sight
of her for six weeks, and in that time never gave her a thought; but
when I found her with her lover at her side and saw her vow herself
to him, for reasons only known to the imp of perversity I discovered
that she was my long lost affinity. My God! was ever man before such
an imbecile? How can a man conceive such an affection for a woman who
has given him one tremulous smile on her wedding day? What does this
thing feed on? Am I coming to my dotage?"

In such strain did the Judge berate himself through ten or twelve
weary days, and then the obsession left him as suddenly as it had
come. Interest and ambition returned, he found his women friends
as entertaining as ever, and though he thought often and kindly of
Mrs. Collingwood, his meditations were tinged with a strain of that
violet usually allotted to the dead. Past experience had taught
him that sentimental fancies about women, once chilled, are hard
to resuscitate, and he felt quite certain that Mrs. Collingwood's
ghost would trouble his musings no more. He fell into the habit of
thinking about the experience humorously, he spoke of it to himself as
"my tragedy," and once he nearly allowed a clever woman to worm the
story out of him. The accidental intrusion of a third person was all
that saved him from an access of garrulity; but having been saved,
he was able to contemplate with retrospective horror his nearness to
the brink and to avoid all subsequent promenadings on that path.

When by mere chance, he found himself invited to accompany the
Commissioner and the oyster-shell agent on their voyage of discovery,
he accepted the invitation with delight, regarding himself as a man
protected by inoculation. He owned up, however, to a frank curiosity
about the Collingwoods, and to a strong desire to see them together
in their home; but he had as little expectation of a revival of his
fancy for Mrs. Collingwood as he had of beholding so great a change
in the lady herself.

But it had revived! It was there in full force, bringing with it the
primitive man's sense that desire is right. From the moment he had
again beheld Charlotte's high-bred face with her soul shining through
the gray eyes, and had been again conscious of her fastidiousness and
of her intelligence,--in short, of all the overpowering emanations of
a unique personality,--his old passion to dominate her, to hold her
fascinated by his own powerful magnetism, burned like a fever within
him. It burned the more that in the lapsed months some new element
of charm had come to her, as if the enlarging of human experience had
fused and melted into softer lines those sturdy elements of character
which had repelled quite as often as they had attracted him. She was
not to be flirted with--that he knew only too well, and he had to put
on eyes and voice a guard that cost him dear; but he could not resist
following her when she went to supervise her dinner preparations,
he could not resist the grudging sense he had of every word addressed
to another than himself.

He cursed his folly in submitting himself to temptation. By his own
act he had put himself in this place and had burned his bridges
behind him. He had let himself in for a week of the society of a
woman, to associate with whom, on the terms on which he must meet
her, was sheer tantalization. She would not flirt with him, nor was
she of the ingenuously simple sort which can be flirted with without
knowing the fact. The Judge smiled ruefully as he tried to imagine
Charlotte Collingwood dominated by any emotion which she could not
analyze. Plainly, he had one course before him--to see as little as
possible of Mrs. Collingwood except in her husband's presence, and to
guard his eyes and tongue if by chance he should find himself alone
with her. He was rather proud of his virtuous resolutions, but he
dreaded the slow-going days--seven of them before the steamer would
return and he could put time and distance between him and Charlotte
Collingwood. The Judge had great faith in Time as a mender of all
things.



CHAPTER XI


The next morning at the matutinal swim the Judge affixed himself as
a satellite to Kingsnorth, and left the married pair to take their
morning recreation together. At breakfast, he talked business and
accepted with apparent eagerness an invitation to visit the fishing
grounds with the workers and the shell-purveyor. He went on that
day and on five other days, enduring a great many sights and smells
that he by no means enjoyed, but admitting to himself that anything
was better than battling with the continual temptation to bombard
Mrs. Collingwood with the declaration of his passion for her. He had
enough to do to watch his betraying eye and voice during those long
hours, from five o'clock till bedtime, during which the little colony
was perforce united; and at the end of each day's dragging torment,
he balanced a mental account in which he itemized on one side his
self-restraint, its pains and penances, and on the other Charlotte's
gradual revelation of all her hidden loveableness. At first, a shadow
of her old guard had hung about her, and she had been reserved; but
reassured by his frank geniality and his apparent desire to see as much
of Collingwood as possible, she gradually relaxed her watchfulness,
and admitted him to the place of a tried family friend.

One warm night, when the Maclaughlins, Kingsnorth, and the oyster-agent
had given themselves up to the delights of bridge, the other three
strolled along the beach till they came to an old banca lying bottom
up on the sand. There was no moon, but the stars burned steadily
overhead, their reflections rising and falling with each slow wave. A
ghostly thread of white fire outlined each breaker that toppled lazily
over, and the gentle succession of splashes was like a deep harmonic
accompaniment to the shrill chorus of insect life which burst from the
grove behind them. They sat and listened a long while, each under the
same charm, which was a different charm. It was Charlotte who first
broke the silence.

"In spite of the noise, isn't it still, isn't it lonely, isn't it
delightful?" she said. "It is like a sort of Truce of God thrown into
our lives of struggle and overstrain."

"I can never accustom myself to those sentiments from you,
Mrs. Collingwood," said the Judge. "To me you seem a woman so eminently
fitted to be a part of the great world, that I cannot understand your
getting along so well without it. It is like seeing a musician trying
to live without music, or an artist without pencils and brushes."

"Charlotte swam out into the big world and got a mouthful of salt
water, and it made her sick," Martin put it. He fancied the Judge's
words had reference to living in a city among hordes of fellow
beings. Of society as a fine art, Martin had no conception.

"That's quite true, Martin; but it isn't my only reason for liking
our present life. Your 'great world,' Judge Barton, means a continual
drain upon one's tact and patience, a continual smoothing over of
difficulties, of forcing oneself to adapt oneself to people with whom
one has no real sympathy. This life is a sort of moral drifting, with
the consciousness that the current moves in the right direction. The
other world is full of experiences. One passes from one perception
to another, one's being is wrung with the continual play of warring
emotions; but here one sits down quietly to digest and to let one's
soul feed on the food one has gathered in that plethora of emotions."

"I wonder if you know how aptly you illustrate your theory."

"Oh, yes, I have grown," she declared tranquilly. "It seems to me my
horizon has broadened infinitely while I have been here. When I was a
child living in a convent, we internes were given annually a week at
the seashore. Our unfailing recreation was to run about with a tin pail
and a spade, filling the pail with sea-shells, seaweed, and all the
other seashore treasures which children delight in. And when we went
home, I remember the joy I had in going through my pail. Things flopped
in so rapidly during the day that I hardly knew what was there. But
the ecstasy of the twilight hour when I sorted my treasures! My life
here has been something like that tin pail sorting-out. I have sat
down to review impressions, to throw away the valueless, to classify
and arrange the rest. It has been a priceless experience."

"Very good; but you don't want to keep it up forever," remarked
Collingwood.

"I fancy Mrs. Collingwood will begin constructing after she has
finished sorting."

"A philosophy! Remember you warned me against it. Besides I have my
doubts of a philosophy's ever being satisfactory to a woman. For myself
I have no hopes of ever being more than consistently inconsistent."

"Your demands are modest." This in rather an inscrutable voice from
the Judge.

"Do you really think so? Have you not learned that really modest
demands on life are like elegantly simple clothing, the most expensive
to be obtained? Get my husband to tell you his demands on life,
and you will hear something that really is modest."

"Out with it, Collingwood. I have never given you credit for modest
demands."

Collingwood puffed out two rings of smoke, and removed his cigar. He
was sitting at his wife's feet as she sat on the banca, and he leaned
his head back luxuriously against her knee.

"Above five millions as near as I can make it is my figure. I might do
with more if I could get it, but I don't see where I can do with less."

"And you call that modest!" said Judge Barton ironically to Charlotte.

"I call any demand on life modest which can be expressed in dollars
and cents. But Martin's only modest demand is for the five millions. He
has others not so modest."

"Name one," challenged Collingwood, sitting up in some surprise.

"I shall do nothing of the kind. Find them out for yourself."

"And how about me?" There was a tone almost of abject anxiety in
Judge Barton's voice.

"Ah, you! You know that you draw sight drafts on the universe daily."

"Which are seldom honored," the Judge remarked somewhat bitterly.

"This is all getting blamed mysterious to me," interrupted
Collingwood. "I wish you two would talk down to my level."

"Talk up to it, you mean," replied Charlotte good-naturedly. "For you
cannot believe for an instant that the irresponsible demands of two
persons asking for the impossible are to be put on a higher level than
a practical demand like yours that can be expressed in figures, even if
it runs into seven. You ask nothing of life, Martin, that isn't in it;
while those drafts of Judge Barton, as well as my own, are drawn on
an ideal universe. The Judge and I are not content with things as they
are. We do not own up often, but this seems a propitious moment. Deep
in his heart each of us is echoing that old refrain of Omar's.


        "Ah Love! could you and I with Him conspire
        To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
        Would not we shatter it to bits--and then
        Remould it nearer to the Heart's Desire!"


"That's pretty. Say that again," said Martin; and she repeated it. At
its end he said wistfully, "I thought you and I had our hearts'
desires." And Judge Barton broke into his short, ironical laugh.

"Don't tell me my husband can't make pretty speeches," said Charlotte.

"He clings to his commercial instincts," said the Judge, "for he
asked as much as he gave."

"Humph!" grunted Martin. "I am beginning to be proud of myself. I
didn't know I gave or asked. I thought I referred to things that are
understood. You are my heart's desire. All the rest is just working,
and being glad when I succeed, and angry when I fail. It's taking
hard knocks and gritting my teeth over them, and saying to myself
that I'll blast what I want out of this universe yet. That's just
living. But I don't want the world made over. It suits me all right,
and I thought it suited you."

Judge Barton's gaze was fixed on the vague moving mass of waters
before them, but Charlotte fancied she could detect a tense interest
in her answer.

"It does not suit me altogether," she replied slowly, "but if Judge
Barton will forgive an exchange of conjugal compliments, I'll admit
that it has come very near suiting me, since I married you. My little
burst of this evening is an echo of a former self. It's the sort of
thing I have said so much in my life, that it ripples off my tongue
through force of habit whenever anyone strikes a harmonious note. And
now I am going in. I am tired and sleepy, and I know that you both
want to talk business."

The Judge rose as she did. Martin remained on the upturned banca. "I'll
follow you before long," he said, and before she was out of earshot
she heard him say, "What do you think the administration is likely
to do?" The rest trailed off in an indistinct murmur; but she smiled,
knowing that Philippine policy was uppermost.

The next morning Judge Barton found his self-denying spirit in the
minority, and a very insistent small voice demanding a reward for
five days of self-immolation. Secure in the knowledge of his past
will-power, and confident that the next day would see him off the
island, he asked himself why there was any need of sacrificing himself
to the heat and smells of another day on the launch. He pleaded a
headache, ate little to bear evidence to his sincerity, and after
breakfast retired to his tent with the honest intention of keeping
it till noon at least for very consistency's sake. Through its open
sides, he could view Mrs. Collingwood at her daily routine.

She came out upon the broad veranda, made a minute examination of
the flower-pots, pulled a few dead fronds from a great air-fern which
hung in one of the windows, and cut a nosegay from the hedge of golden
cannas. Afterwards he saw her through the open casement, sitting at
her desk, and apparently making entries in an account book. At nine
o'clock, six or eight children between the ages of seven and fourteen
arrived and squatted down on the veranda. Charlotte came out with
an armful of books, which she distributed; and with the help of one
of the larger boys, she also brought out an easel on which was a
rude blackboard.

At this point the Judge's resolution weakened. He donned a coat and
ambled over to the veranda. To his hostess's somewhat suspicious,
"Better so soon?" he returned an honest confession.

"It was just one of my boyhood headaches," he admitted, "the kind
that used to keep me in bed till nine o'clock, when school had taken
up. Did you never have that sort of headache, Mrs. Collingwood?"

"Never. I was a conscientious child, though I am willing to admit
that it was doubtless a great mistake to be so. Rufino, begin." And
Rufino began chantingly:

"E see a cuf. A ball is in de cuf. Srow de ball to me." He paused
triumphantly.

"I see a cup," corrected Charlotte. "Say it after me--cup, cup"
and she pronounced the final consonant so distinctly that Rufino
proceeded without difficulty:--

"I see a cuppa. A ball is in de cuppa. Srow de ball to me." There was
no little difficulty in inducing Rufino to say throw, and he did not
succeed until Mrs. Collingwood made him take his tongue in his two
fingers and pull it through his teeth, preliminary to attacking the
word. His mates took exuberant joy in this feat, and the next boy,
Wenceslao de los Angeles, started out glibly: "I see a cuppa. A
ball is in de cuppa," and then dropped his book, gave his tongue a
convulsive jerk and spluttered, "Srow de cuppa to me."

The Judge gurgled as helplessly as the children did, blushed, tried to
save the situation, and looked exceedingly severe. Mrs. Collingwood, a
little flushed, threw him a protesting glance, smiled, bit her lip and
went on with the reading lesson. When every aspirant had had a chance
to see the cup and to pull his tongue, she proceeded to "develop"
the lesson. The Judge was bored. It was one of the miseries of his
strange infatuation for her that merely being with her or able to
watch her afforded him no satisfaction. He wanted to monopolize her,
to keep her attention constantly centred in himself. If this feeling
was Nature, working in its own blind way to accomplish what the man's
intellect told him could not be done, the Judge ruefully reflected
that Nature can sometimes keep a man very miserable, and that she
wastes a great deal of human effort. For whether her thoughts were
with him or away from him, he was secretly conscious of what she had
told her husband, that there was for her, in one sense, but one man in
the world. Her old suspicion of him was lulled, and she stood ready
for fair honest friendship; but there never had been, in one glance
of her eye, in her occasional merry laugh, or in her frank converse,
the faintest evidence of that sex consciousness which is in no wise to
be confounded with social self-consciousness, but which, as an element
in woman's entity, is the only possible excuse for the banalities
which men are usually eager to exchange with them by the hour.

The Judge was wearily awaiting the close of the reading lesson when
he received another disappointment in the sight of numerous physically
incommoded individuals who strolled up by detachments, and squatted at
the foot of the veranda steps. There was a consumptive in a talebon,
or hammock, in which the sick are carried about. There was a small
boy with a boil on his kneecap. He had plastered it with lime,
a disinfectant for almost all skin troubles in the Philippines;
and he alternately felt it gingerly, and glanced apprehensively, if
fascinatedly, in the direction of the "medequilla." There were ulcers,
and yellow jaundiced folk suffering with a seasonal fever. The Judge
decided that fully one-fifth of the island's population was represented
in the assemblage, and he gave a shrug of commiseration as he reflected
how they must have suffered unaided before the coming of Charlotte.

He was watching her somewhat closely as she struggled with the limited
understanding of one of her protégées, when she glanced down the
beach, and he saw a great tide of crimson rush to her cool, clear
skin. Naturally his eyes followed hers, but he saw approaching only
a rather young and comely girl carrying a young child in her arms. He
had barely time to perceive this when Mrs. Collingwood turned to him.

"I am going to dismiss my class and take these poor people next, and
I can't let you assist at that. I am dreadfully self-conscious about
it with any on-lookers. There isn't any evading the fact that it is
really daring on my part to attempt to play physician, and nurse,
too; but something has to be done for them. But I really couldn't
bear an audience."

"I'm off," said the Judge with a laugh. He did not, however, turn
toward his tent, which would have taken him away from the approaching
girl, but swung briskly down the sand in the direction from which
she was advancing.

She greeted him with the customary civility of Filipinos, and he
vouchsafed her a nod. He dared not stop and speak to her, but he
made directly for the native village, a mile away, where he asked
the headman who she was. When he had extracted the full details of
the story, he turned and strolled slowly back. But he did not rejoin
Mrs. Collingwood. He went, instead, to his tent, where he sat gazing
meditatively across the sea while he turned over and over the facts
that he had heard.

She had compromised with life with a vengeance! He felt that she had
gone far when he beheld the Maclaughlins and Kingsnorth. But to live
openly in daily converse with such a man, to sit at the table with
him, and to minister to the needs of his illegitimate child--that
was carrying tolerance or charity to a length unprecedented. He
made no allowance for the fact that she found herself confronted
with a situation in which to take action was to risk her domestic
happiness. What he scorned in her was the fact that she could be happy
under such circumstances. He knew very well that women put up with
worse in the very circles which he was struggling so desperately
to attain; but he knew also the veil of decent concealment which
those circles know so well how to assume. He had to admit, also,
that she had proved more of a philosopher than he had given her
credit for being, and she had dared to reprove him for his gibe,
and he had apologized with God knows what of contrition! The hunter
instinct that is so strong in all men rose up in him; and suddenly he
realized why he had so remorselessly wounded her and tormented her in
those early days of their acquaintance. It was that deep in his mind
had lain the desire for her, which still held, but which then he had
been unwilling to gratify by marriage; and proportionally as he had
felt that she was out of his reach and that he dared not insult her
by one sign of sentimentality unbacked by the desire of marriage, he
had hated her with the smouldering hatred of balked affection. Well,
he loved her still, and he was willing to marry her. If she could get
rid of Collingwood, he was willing to marry her. He hardly doubted that
she would do it. He felt pretty sure of the motives which had made her
marry the young ruffian, who had, he admitted, improved considerably
under her hands. She was a feminine creature in spite of her brains,
unable to face life without love, and she had been grateful to the
man who offered it to her, and had given her the shelter of his
roof. But that any woman of Charlotte Collingwood's breeding would
deliberately prefer Martin Collingwood to a man of her own class,
Judge Alexander Barton declined to believe. Nor was he altogether
wrong. She might not have taken Collingwood in the beginning, had the
Judge been his honest rival at that time. But having taken him, she
had no intention of questioning her bargain. The Judge read her very
correctly up to that point of secret loyalty and gratitude, which to
a man of his ambitions was outside the possibilities of human nature.

Why should she not, he asked himself, get rid of Collingwood without
scandal and marry him. She was a woman to be proud of. He had seen
her at her husband's table and knew that she graced it. There must
be somewhere in the United States an influential kindred who might
not care to make too much of her as a nurse, but who would be glad
to welcome the wife of an eminent jurist; and with proper family
backing, the Judge saw many things. Why not a commissionership, yes,
a governorship? And then (for everybody knows that a Governor of the
Philippines has a great chance to keep in the public eye) why not
something better by-and-by? The Judge's visions grew more rosy than
it is safe to chronicle here.

Strange it was that his week of intimate association had not shown him
the utter futility and madness of thinking to approach Mrs. Collingwood
with the audacious plan he had in mind. Partly, his own passion blinded
his judgment; partly, he had so long been accustomed to the society of
women to whom social preferment is the end of life that he had lost
sight of the stronger and nobler elements of character that can live
in the feminine breast. To be just to the society in which the Judge
moved, there was a very fair sprinkling of noble women within it,
but his restless ambition drove him into intimacy with those who could
understand him and sympathize without the necessity of explanations.

The result of his musings was that he went to luncheon in a dangerous
mood. It had full opportunity to show itself, for Mrs. Maclaughlin did
not appear. She sent word that she had been engaged in the poultry yard
all morning, had bathed late, and would prefer taking her luncheon
in her wrapper at home. As the Judge had caught a glimpse of her
drying her rather wiry gray tresses in the sunshine of a window,
he was able to corroborate her statement; and Charlotte laughed as
she gave orders for the preparation of the tray.

"You can be trusted to see all things that you are not wanted to see,"
she added.

Then the Judge went point-blank and very indiscreetly at the matter
in his mind. "Was that why you sent me away this morning?" he inquired.

For an instant her face flamed, and then the color left it white, with
an angry gleam in her eyes. She played with her teaspoon a minute,
and then she asked him a civil question about his impressions of her
school. It was his turn to flush. The rebuke was the more scathing
for its silence. His temper rose, and even in that instant he found
time to wonder why he should have such an infatuation for a woman
who had such power to enrage him.

"Why do you stand it?" he asked.

Charlotte was dumbfounded. She had her hospital patient on her hands
again, when she had imagined, for nearly a week, that she had found a
friend. Mechanically she pushed a dish of candied fruits (they were at
dessert) toward him. "These are quite fine," she said quietly. "You
had better try them and then have your cigar. Meanwhile I must ask
you to excuse me. My cook awaits dinner directions."

She was rising, but he reached a hand across and seized hers as it
rested on the table edge.

"Do you think you can put this scene off?" he demanded. "You have
got to listen. You had no business to marry Collingwood in the first
place. It is time the thing came to an end."

Mrs. Collingwood very quietly pulled her hand out of his grasp.

"So," she said. She had the air of one who finds herself incarcerated
with a madman. Judge Barton leaned far across the table, his eyes
gleaming, his rather large, powerful face flushed, all the brute
strength of the man dominating the urbane jurist who said clever
things in a rich, well-modulated voice.

"You had no business to marry him in the first place," he said. "But
that's done. Still you can change it."

"Yes," replied Mrs. Collingwood, a very level intonation of contempt
in her tone. It irritated the Judge, and his vehemence rose higher.

"Anything can be changed in these days," he went on. "I want you to
divorce Collingwood and to marry me."

"Well, I shan't," said Mrs. Collingwood. She did not offer to rise,
however. Her heart was swelling with anger, humiliation, and a dull
disappointment in the man in front of her. But some unaccountable
instinct held her listening to the end. She did want to hear what he
would say, she knew it would wound her, but she had a very strong
curiosity as to how far he would go; and a retrospect of all her
past association with him flashed through her mind. A faint smile
curved her lips as she remembered the weeks when he had been free,
had he so chosen, to make love to her. But he had not wanted to make
love to her, till, in the making, he violated all the laws of right
and loyalty. She sat very white and rigid, and the Judge felt in her
once again the woman who had challenged his old self-complacency.

"I suppose it was natural," he went on. "You were alone. You had to
have your romance. But what will it be to ours?--to ours? I'll be a
lover to rival the lovers of history--a husband--and we'll do some
of the things we want to do in this world. We have ambitions, both of
us. Dear--" his voice dropped like a violin note on the octave--"take
the same courage you had in hand to make this mistake, and remedy
it. You defied public opinion in marrying Collingwood. Defy it once
again to get rid of him. The world will understand you better. Yes,
by Jove! it will sympathize more."

"I shall not test it," said Mrs. Collingwood. This time she rose
definitely. "I thank God you are going away to-morrow. The very air
will be freer and cleaner after you have gone."

He stood looking after her, red-eyed, enraged, yet longing with
all the fierce strength of his nature to seize her in his arms and
conquer her as Martin Collingwood had once conquered her. When he
heard the snap of her closing door, he fell into a sort of stupor,
still sitting at the table, his head resting on his clasped hands.

The vehement forceful fury of his mood fell away from him, and
he sat staring haggardly at the white cloth. The act was final,
and having committed it, he had full opportunity to question its
discretion. Strange tragedy of temperament, forcing eye and voice to
utterance which no human power can revoke, though life itself would
be reckoned a fair price for revocation! Sitting there alone with
his thoughts, Alexander Barton was conscious of a shame that would
stay with him for life, of a futile hopeless anger and despair with
himself, of an ache that would take the taste out of life for many
a month and year to come.

Meanwhile, Charlotte had passed into her room, where she stood very
quietly looking out of the window. Her heart lay heavy within her,
and a dull, gripping pain tugged at her throat. She had a sense of
having been morally bruised and beaten. For she saw with painful
distinctness, that it was not only brute feeling which had carried
away Judge Barton's self-control; but that deeper, subtler was his
measurement of the compromise she had made with life. It was not
Charlotte Collingwood's personality, it was what she had done that
opened the way to his advances.

After a time she lay down, and she remained so for the rest of the
afternoon, with her face buried in her pillow. How was she to face
Martin with the wretched story? How was she to dissemble her own
misery? She was a fair actress to the world, taking refuge in a
kind of stoic dignity. But how was she to hide her embarrassment
and misery from the man who could measure her moods as a barometer
measures pressure?



CHAPTER XII


The evening meal passed off more easily than had seemed possible to
Mrs. Collingwood's disturbed imagination. Judge Barton managed to
appear perfectly at ease, and she played her own part better than she
had fancied that she could. Only one dread preyed upon her. There was
a readiness in Kingsnorth to devote himself to the entertainment of
the guests, and a tact on his part in holding the household together
which made her suspect that keen observer of a desire to aid her;
and such a desire could only lead to the inference that he had,
to some extent, grasped the situation. The thought was galling;
but its bitterness was, for the time, mitigated by her sense of need.

She slept little that night, but toward morning she fell into a doze
from which she was aroused by the sounds of breakfast preparations in
the next room. She jumped up hurriedly, only to behold the bathers
sporting in the sea, and the coastguard cutter lying a mile or so
off shore. Dressing as quickly as she could she hastened down to the
beach in time to meet the Commissioner as he came ashore.

The Commissioner's first rush of enthusiasm had had time to cool,
and he had thought much during his week's absence. Without in the
least abating his very high opinion of Mrs. Collingwood's personality
and attainments, he had had time to consider the possible attitude
of Mrs. Commissioner, and the difficulties attendant upon too close a
connection with the queer island ménage. The result of his reflections
was a self-conscious restraint, and a very bungling masculine attempt
to recede from a position without betraying himself in the act.

Charlotte read his self-consciousness aright, ignored the existence
of a Mrs. Commissioner, saved his feelings for him, and bore him
no grudge. She had accepted her husband's associates kindly for
his sake; but she had never ceased to look upon them with the clear
vision of her upbringing. Socially Kingsnorth and the Maclaughlins
were "impossible." It mattered little to her, because she had
turned her back forever upon society and all its works. She even
took satisfaction in playing her part gracefully. She enjoyed the
Commissioner's mystification, and the little access of deference in
his manner when he spoke to her.

She was saved the necessity of any direct speech with the Judge, till,
at the very last moment, he snatched a second while the others were
grouped around the Commissioner.

"I don't dare put out a hand," he said, "and I suppose you won't
believe me when I say that I am sorry, and that I didn't sleep last
night for execrating myself. I am sorry in the dullest, heart-sickest
way a man can be. I knew as well before I said those things as I
know now that it would not do me any good, and yet they had to come
out. Well, I've lost a friend. But do you suppose you can ever think
kindly of me again?"

She raised her eyes to him for one of those slow painful glances that
she sometimes gave, and she answered measuredly:

"I don't think unkindly of you on my own account. Somehow the thing
has no bearing on me. I have seen you in the proper light, and I do
not think you are worth thinking unkindly about. But for my husband's
sake I shall always feel a resentment. He gave you shelter under his
roof, and a seat at his table; and in turn you would have betrayed
him. On his account, I shall always feel anger, but for me you are
just--erased."

"You can say, at least, as bitter things as other women," the Judge
retorted with pale lips. She shrugged her shoulders lightly and
extended a very high hand.

"It has been such a pleasure to have you with us," she said quite
distinctly. Her eyes met his unflinchingly, but his own were bright
with moisture. He wrung her hand in spite of its high bent wrist.

"No, don't do that," he said. "Give me a good honest handshake. I'm
sorry. I shall be sorry for some time to come. Besides--" his
expressive pause said as plainly as words, "You have conducted yourself
admirably. The thing has done you no harm."

Collingwood saw the shrug, the look exchanged, and the handshake. He
perceived war in his wife's manner, and he wondered what it was
all about. But as the Commissioner was already seating himself in
the human chair to be carried out to the boat there was no time to
ask questions then. He was still more surprised when his wife came
up to him, and slipping a hand in his, stood watching the departing
dignitary. Charlotte had a horror of public demonstrations, and the act
was unlike her. He slipped an arm around her, glancing, as he did so,
somewhat sheepishly at his other guests; but the Judge was apparently
absorbed in the process of turning up the bottoms of an exceedingly
well made pair of trousers before embarking in turn; and, as he was
carried out, his anxiety to protect a pair of spotless shoes seemed
superior to every other consideration.

When the guests were once aboard their boat, the fishers made haste
to embark in their own; and Mrs. Collingwood, with a hasty wave of
her hand, turned immediately and went indoors.

She drew a long breath of relief as she entered her little
sitting-room. There was a sort of clearing in the atmosphere, a sense
of wholesomeness and content in having their lives to themselves. She
passed lovingly from one piece of furniture to another, giving a touch
here, making some slight change there. Her housekeeping cares became a
renewed pleasure. All day she busied herself about house and mending,
laying aside wholly the books and magazines which, for several hours
each day, had been her wonted entertainment. When Martin came home
at five o'clock, she met him, a radiant creature, eyes smiling, face
beaming content, her laugh spontaneous as a child's. He was inclined
to be lonely, and said as much at dinner. Mrs. Maclaughlin agreed with
him, but Maclaughlin and Kingsnorth went over to Charlotte's side,
and insisted that things were cosier with their own little family.

After dinner, husband and wife sat on their veranda steps while
Martin smoked a pipe or two. He was very thoughtful, she silently
content. Suddenly he broke out:

"Charlotte, did you and the Judge quarrel?"

Charlotte started perceptibly and answered after a decided pause:

"What makes you think we did?"

"I saw your handshake."

He felt rather than saw another little shrug. It was a reckless
gesture. Charlotte wanted very much to quarrel with her little gods
just then. She kept silence, however, and he was forced to go on
insistently.

"Did he try to make love to you?"

There was a miserable humor in her reply. "Not in your acceptance of
the term, Martin."

"Well, what is my acceptance of the term? I should like to know what
you mean by that."

"He did not put his arm around my waist or try to kiss me."

"Then what were you scrapping with him for?" said Martin with such
instant relief that Charlotte laughed helplessly, though the tears were
rolling down her cheeks. Martin studied her intently through the gloom.

"There's something behind all this," he remarked sententiously. "I
never before knew you to dodge a question, or to be in such a
mood. Now, see here, I've got some rights in this matter and I want
to know about it."

His tone brought her up sharp in her half-hysterical mirth. She
replied quickly.

"You will not like it, Martin."

"I'll have to decide that."

"Well, if nothing but the truth will do, he proposed to me that I
should get rid of you and marry him."

Collingwood threw down his cigar with an oath, and jumped, in the
sudden rush of his anger, quite clear of the steps. He made several
short, quick turns back and forth before he finally sat down again
at his wife's side.

"I suppose he had some reason for thinking you might entertain such
a proposition," he said bitterly.

Charlotte's pride sprang to arms. "He may have had one," she replied
laconically. "It was not in any glance or words I had given him. I
haven't been flirting with him. My conscience is clear."

"But men don't make propositions of that sort without a reason,
Charlotte."

Again she said nothing. The answer was burning on her lips. "You are
the reason. The associates you have given me here are the reasons." But
she maintained silence. Collingwood was angered by what he thought
her obstinacy.

"Well, what was the reason?" he demanded.

"He thought I might be ambitious."

It was an honest answer and as generous as it was frank. But
Collingwood was in no mood to measure generosity.

"And you let him get away without giving me a chance to kick him into
the Sulu Sea," he reproached her.

"I did. The greatest fear I had was that he would not get away without
your doing it. Suppose you had kicked him--as you are quite capable
of doing--and he had kicked back. One or the other would have been
hurt. Suppose it had been you, do you think I should have enjoyed
seeing you suffer? Or suppose you had hurt him, do you think it would
have been a satisfaction to me to know that you had fought for me,
and had to be punished for it? Do I want my husband in jail or maimed
for rebuking an insolence that I could handle myself? I defended
your dignity and mine, and Judge Barton has been a thousand times
more rebuked by my tongue than he would have been by your fists."

With this speech and with the memory of her shrug and handshake,
Martin's kindling jealousy had to be temporarily extinguished. He
returned with a more conciliating manner to the charge.

"I should like to know what you said to him."

But Charlotte could suffer no more. "Don't ask me, don't ask me,"
she implored. She rose and walked away. The action was the result of
lifelong habit. She had never allowed herself to indulge in emotion
before others, and she had exercised almost the will of a red Indian to
refrain from giving way to an overwhelming burst of tears; but when,
after she had regained some control of herself, her thoughts returned
to Collingwood, a sense of bitter disappointment in him mingled with
her self-pity.

He had not followed her! He had shown her no sympathy in her momentary
outburst of unhappiness. She was conscious of never having deserved
better of his loyalty and sympathy, and she had never received
less! She finally took up a book and endeavored to read, but her
heart was sick with wounded love and pride. She found old feelings
that she had believed scourged out of her being rising in tumultuous
violence. There was the feeling of outraged pride and sensibility,
the swelling sense of injustice, and a blind twisting and turning to
see a way out of the situation. Suddenly that which the Judge had
proposed leaped back into her mind. The ear which had been deaf to
him when he appealed to her ambitions became sensitively alive to
a whisper when that whisper promised succor from distaste. She was
frightened at her own attitude and took herself severely to task. She
said to herself that she was morbid, that Martin had every right to
be displeased with her, for she had denied him frankness; but even
as she ranged these weights in her mind's eye the scale tipped lower
and lower with the weight of his displeasure.

Live under the bane of his anger she could not. The tentative
overtures, the timid looks or glances, the humility with which
less spirited women propitiate an injured deity were foreign to
her nature; but equally she was not calloused, as many women are,
to conjugal frowns.

All the self-confidence which she had gained in months of happiness
was jolted out of her at Martin's first angry word. Another woman
might have turned his wrath away with a laugh, might have nestled
her hand into his with a whisper and a kind look; but it was not
in Charlotte Collingwood to offer a caress to an angry husband. It
would have been to her an act beyond the pale of decency. Her heart
harbored no revenge. Every moment as she sat listening for his step,
she justified his resentment, she told herself over and over that
she had no tact and no consideration, and that Martin was an abused
husband; but to have risen and sought him when he was plainly averse
to her society would have seemed to her the acme of unwomanliness.

Meanwhile Mr. Collingwood was pacing the sands. His temper was
seething. He did not understand the situation, and the more he
realized his inability to understand it, the higher rose his desire
to hold somebody accountable. There was no doubting the sincerity of
Charlotte's words, "I have not been flirting with him," but Martin
Collingwood thought there had to be a reason for such a radical step
on the part of so conservative a man as the Judge. Then there was the
fact that the Judge had departed without that closer acquaintance with
Martin Collingwood's footwear. To a man of Collingwood's temperament,
being balked of the physical pleasures of revenge was worse even
than the sting of the affront. Why had not Charlotte told him? She
had clearly not meant to tell him. She had meant to let him go on
shaking that viper by the hand when they met. But why? Ah, that why!

It was long after midnight when he entered his home. His wife was
asleep or pretended to be so; and when he awoke late, after a troubled
sleep, he found her dressed and gone. From the adjoining room, the
clinking of cups and saucers told him that breakfast was going on.

Collingwood dressed quickly and went in to breakfast wearing an
unpleasant face. After one quick glance, Charlotte gave him a smiling
good morning, to which he vouchsafed a surly reply.

Kingsnorth remarked: "I thought I should have to go to work without
you, old man. Mrs. Collingwood would not have you waked. She made us
talk in whispers and eat in parenthesis, as it were."

"All tom-foolishness," said Martin. "I am no six-weeks-old baby. You
let me oversleep like this again," he added, addressing the muchacho,
"and I'll beat you with a dog whip."

Then electrically everybody knew that something was wrong in the
Collingwood household. Mrs. Maclaughlin stole a frightened look at
Charlotte whose face flamed, Maclaughlin stared first at Collingwood
and then at his wife, and finally turned his wondering eyes on
Kingsnorth, who met his gaze with an eye about as intelligent as that
of an oculist's advertisement. A moment later Charlotte addressed some
trifling remark to Kingsnorth who answered with a suspicious readiness,
and they fell into conversation unshared by the rest of the table.

Collingwood continued to gloom after the Maclaughlins and
Kingsnorth, who had nearly finished when he appeared, had excused
themselves. Charlotte sat on profoundly uncomfortable. She had no words
in which to address his frowning majesty, but she was heartsick. She
rose at last, saying, "If you will excuse me, Martin, I will leave
you to finish alone, I forgot about those launch supplies;" and she
made her errand in the kitchen detain her until she saw the launch
puffing lazily across the blue, sparkling water.

She went back to her room and lay down half nauseated with the misery
surging within her. Nothing in her experience had prepared her to meet
the emergency she was confronting. She came of a family to whom the
scene which had taken place in her breakfast-room could be possible
only as a definite, final act of estrangement. She was as utterly
ignorant of those persons who alternately frown and smile and betray
joy or sorrow unthinkingly to the world as Martin was ignorant of
the jealous guarding of appearances which pertained to her world. It
never once occurred to her that Martin could publicly affront her at
breakfast and forget all about it before dinner.

Yet that is precisely what he did. The day's work restored his
natural sunny self. He dismissed the Judge from his mind with the
mental reservation of kicking him on sight; and when he came home
that night, he strode up the steps, caught his wife in his arms, and
kissed her as naturally as if they had not, that very morning, omitted
that lover's benediction for the first time since their marriage.

He made no apology for his late spleen. Truth is, he hardly thought
of it as affecting her. She clung to him as he kissed her, and he saw
that she was pale and her eyes heavily lidded; but he asked her no
questions. She had had, in truth, a hard day. As soon as the glowering
man body was safely out of the way, Mrs. Maclaughlin came over, bent
on extracting information. In her life and in the lives of most of
her friends, connubial difficulties meant neighborhood confidences
and lamentations. Charlotte parried her hints and, to a point-blank
question, returned a look so rebuking that Mrs. Maclaughlin went home
in high dudgeon. For the rest of the day, Charlotte struggled against
the tears that would have betrayed her--struggled till her eyeballs
ached and her weary head seemed drawn back upon her shoulders.

At dinner Kingsnorth stole one furtive glance, said to
himself "Thoroughbred, by Jove," and bent himself to seconding
Mrs. Collingwood's conversational efforts. After dinner they all
played bridge till eleven o'clock.

So the whole incident was passed over without speech between husband
and wife. But with it went the completeness, the golden, unreal
joy of their honeymoon. Though they walked and talked together,
and played at being lovers again, a sense of distrust hung over
their relations. Collingwood secretly nursed his why; his wife still
asked herself proudly if she had deserved public humiliation at his
hands. Led by an evil genius he could not have selected a more adroit
way to offend her and to arouse her critical faculties against him
than that he had chosen. Private reproaches she could have endured
with more fortitude than she could endure public sulking.

Nevertheless, she made a Spartan effort to clear him at her own
expense, and a no less loyal attempt to conceal from him that a wound
still rankled in her breast. But it did rankle, and, in the next
six weeks, it seemed to her that she and Martin grew steadily apart;
that in spite of every effort to stay the widening process, it went
on slowly and relentlessly, and that it was leading them gradually
but inevitably to that moment which she had so greatly dreaded before
her marriage.

It was the custom at the island for the three men to take turns in
going to Manila for commissaries, and to dispose of their pearls and
shells. Collingwood had been engaged in this work the year before,
when he met with the accident which landed him in the hospital;
the Maclaughlins had been up since Charlotte's marriage, and the
next trip was Kingsnorth's. But as the time drew near, he astounded
them all by the announcement that he did not want to go, and that
he wished Collingwood to take his place. When pressed for a reason
for his apparent insanity, he declared that if a man had to live in
purgatory or a worse place, he had better stay there all the time,
and not seek spots that would emphasize its drawbacks when he returned
to it. He insisted that Collingwood enjoyed Manila while to him it
was the extreme of boredom, and that Martin ought to take his wife
away for a change, that her spirits were drooping.

"Nonsense," said Charlotte. "I am absolutely contented. I don't
feel droopy."

But Collingwood had taken alarm. He stared at her. "But you are a
bit pale," he said. "I wonder why I had not noticed it. Besides, I
should like to be in Manila again with you. Let's accept. Kingsnorth
proposed it himself. He can't complain if we take him at his word."

At this point, Mrs. Maclaughlin put in a bomb. "Why can't I go too,
then?" she said.

"We need a housekeeper," cried Kingsnorth, while Maclaughlin remarked
hastily, "Don't talk of it."

"Fiddlesticks," Martin said. "You can get along by yourself a
while. It's just the thing. Charlotte will have somebody for company
while I am at business."

By this time, Charlotte was ready with a smile and an echo of
his remark. Kingsnorth grew morose while Mrs. Maclaughlin began
to enumerate the things which actually demanded her presence in
Manila. Maclaughlin gave her one or two frowns; but she had taken the
bit in her teeth; and it was soon decided that she was to have her way.

Charlotte's heart sank and her anticipation of pleasure subsided into
dread. Mrs. Maclaughlin was, at all times, a trial to her. She had
little sympathy with the self-complacent temperament which is not
subject to atmospheric influences; and Mrs. Maclaughlin's society
seemed to her several degrees less desirable in Manila than it did
in Maylubi. She made no objection, however, and even succeeded in
forcing herself to a half-hearted share in Martin's enthusiasm.



CHAPTER XIII


It was all finally settled, and preparations such as could be made
were begun. Charlotte found that, with a prospect of returning to the
world, a variety of interests which she had thought quite extinct
revived and grew clamorous. Memory was busy, too, with the days of
her courtship. That strange mingling of ecstasy and misery through
which she had passed seemed quite remote and, in retrospect, quite
unnecessary. A hundred times she asked herself why she had been such
a goose, why she had hesitated, why she had permitted the possible
opinion of the world at large to influence her. She went about almost
uplifted with the sense of new moral independence.

Collingwood was childishly eager for the change. His head, too,
was full of memories and of places--how they would revisit the place
where such and such a conversation had taken place,--did she remember
that wrestle of their two individualities,--or drive over the ground
where he had pleaded so fiercely for the right to take care of her,
to stand between her and the bread-and-butter struggle. Particularly
he looked forward to the Luneta evenings, for, of all moments in his
life, he held that moment on the Luneta when she had dropped her flag
the sweetest. He said as much to her, and she blushed like a girl. He
also said something to the same effect to Mrs. Mac when that lady
was sharpening her imagination one evening at dinner.

"We are going to run off and leave you just once, Mrs. Mac," he
said. "I've got one drive with my wife all planned out; it will be
a Sunday evening. I am going to take her to the Luneta that evening;
just she and I."

"Oh, I can understand," replied Mrs. Mac. "For that matter, Mac and
I were young once ourselves."

Kingsnorth, who had preserved a kind of displeased reticence ever
since it had been settled that Mrs. Mac was to go to Manila with the
Collingwoods, started to say something, bestowed upon the lady an
unfriendly glance, and somewhat pointedly asked Mrs. Collingwood if
she was going to join the bridge game after dinner.

Charlotte smiled across the table at her husband. "Not unless I'm
actually needed," she replied.

"You hate it so badly, you'll have to be excused," Collingwood
said. "Better let Kingsnorth take you for a stroll. You need exercise
and his temper needs sweetening. He has been in a devilish mood
all day."

"You make me feel like a prescription," said Charlotte,
laughingly. "Mr. Kingsnorth, if your temper does not improve after
a dose of my society, my husband's faith in me as a panacea for all
troubles of the mind will have gone forever."

"I note that fact," said Kingsnorth, gravely. "I commit myself now
to come back grinning like a Cheshire cat." But he knew, in spite of
her light manner, that Charlotte was displeased. It was seldom that
she permitted herself the least badinage with him; and he recognized
it nearly always as a cloak to cover some hasty and more aggressive
instinct.

Nevertheless, when they started away after dinner, she fell into a
more intimate tone with him than she generally used. The sunset was
just dying out, and its flaming radiance seemed to exaggerate the
wide sweep of the waters, the white stretch of sand, and the lithe,
swaying boles of the cocoanut groves. Charlotte paused to look about
her in a sudden rush of tenderness for the solitude.

"It is wonderful how contented one can be in such a situation as
this," she said. "I am amazed at myself. I am never sad, seldom even
lonely. I have a feeling, at times, that this could go on and on and
on in endless æons, and I could ask no more than one day's sunshine
and that same day's sunset. It is inexplicable and yet it is all in
myself; anything to upset that harmony between my soul and this could
make it a nightmare, an endless nightmare."

"As it is to me," Kingsnorth rejoined. "I don't know why I stand it
from day to day. I don't see how mere dollars and cents can compensate
for stagnating here. Yet I am such a slave to the dollar that I do
stay; the good Lord only knows when I shall go away."

"Yet you gave up your trip, you pretended to feel about this as you
don't feel. Why did you do it, Mr. Kingsnorth?"

"I wanted you and Martin to go. You can say what you please about
being satisfied and contented; some of your radiance and vitality
have disappeared in the last two or three weeks."

Charlotte flushed uncomfortably. She did not enjoy the thought that she
was so closely watched and studied. Kingsnorth, divining her thoughts,
went on hastily.

"Besides, I am as miserable there as here. I want the impossible. I'm
crying for the moon. I've cried for it--My God!--these twenty years. I
wonder, Mrs. Collingwood, if you can understand a mood of savage
self-dissatisfaction--a mood in which it seems indecent that you should
be alive yourself, and unjust that so many million fellow-beings
should find this world an agreeable place. There are times when
I should like to be an Atlas poised on the gulf of space! How I'd
send the old ball and all that dwell in it humming into the void,
to go on and on into darkness! You know that poem of Byron's--"

"Yes, I know the poem and the mood." She regretted the
statement as soon as she had made it, and bit her lips in silent
confusion. Kingsnorth stopped and faced her. They stood close to a
great clump of pandan bushes where a path, making a short cut from
the cottages to the point, led away through the bunched sand grass.

"Are you going to draw that line on me forever, Mrs. Collingwood?" he
demanded.

"I don't know what you mean, Mr. Kingsnorth."

"Oh, yes, you do. I am Martin's friend, Mrs. Collingwood. Am I never
going to be yours?"

"Just as far as it is a friendship including Martin, yes. But why
fence over the matter? The friendship which you would form with me
excludes him. I should have poor powers of analysis, Mr. Kingsnorth, if
I could not perceive that you have not been bidding for the friendship
of a friend's wife, as she is joined to his life and yours in the
present. What you want is a friendship based on the past. You want
to build something out of what we have both experienced and what he
has not experienced, and I will have nothing of it."

"I meant no disloyalty to him," Kingsnorth muttered.

"Disloyalty; no! But would he feel his position a dignified one? Would
he have no cause for complaint with both you and me?"

"You coddle him," said Kingsnorth, with a short bitter laugh.

"I am jealous for all that touches his dignity as well as mine."

Kingsnorth lost his head. "Why did you marry him?" he said.

"I married him because I was in love with him, Mr. Kingsnorth. I
haven't regretted it. I love him better to-day, if it were possible,
than I did then. I have answered your question because I was able to
answer it frankly; but, none the less, I resent its impertinence."

"I apologize. But you will admit, lady of the stony heart, that there
are situations that provoke human curiosity past the limits of all
good manners."

Charlotte stood tapping one foot on the ground a long while before
she spoke. She was thinking deeply, and the result of her meditations
was a sudden appeal.

"Mr. Kingsnorth," she said gently, "I should like to put this
matter honestly before you. You and I find ourselves in a peculiar
situation. When I first came here I was utterly taken aback by your
presence. You saw my confusion. You probably read it aright, and I
saw in your eyes, that first morning, the question which you have
just asked me. The answer is easy, and yet not easy to make. For
the sake of human affection in my life, to escape a loneliness and a
sense of isolation that were almost intolerable to me, I compromised
with my ambitions. I know how you and all the rest of the world--or,
at least, that part of it in which you and I were brought up--regard
my marriage. All the same, I do not regret it, and my life with Martin
has been full of happiness. I don't intend to jeopardize one drop of
that happiness. I have steadily refused to drift into any relations
with you that could startle Martin's mind into recognition of facts
which he is blind to, and which I choose to ignore. Are you so
selfish that, for the sake of a few idle hours, a few reminiscences,
perhaps, you would ask me to risk the dearest possession I have in
the world--my husband's unalloyed pleasure in our own relations, his
perfect confidence in himself?" She drew a long breath. "It would be
a sacrilege. I'll guard his happy self-confidence as I would guard
my own self-respect."

"That self-confidence of his is deuced irritating to the
onlooker." Then with a burst of anger, "You can't forgive me for being
myself, but you will forgive him for bringing you here and expecting
you to associate with me."

"The association has done me no harm, Mr. Kingsnorth."

"No, you're right. You've treated me like a leper."

"I have treated you with the courtesy and consideration which any
woman owes to her husband's friends."

"And you've measured it out drop by drop, as you would medicine in
a glass; just as you'll measure out courtesy to Mrs. Maclaughlin on
this trip. Good Lord! Mrs. Collingwood, you can't have that woman at
your heels in Manila. What is Martin thinking of? Let me give him a
hint for you."

"Don't you dare," she cried, her face crimsoning, her eyes beginning
to flash. Then with a sudden repression of her feelings, "What
evil genius inspires this desire to interfere? Why can you not
leave me to manage my own affairs? Martin is pleased at the idea of
Mrs. Maclaughlin's going, and that is enough for me." Then she began to
laugh softly. "Please, Mr. Kingsnorth, let this be the last time that
you and I discuss my personal affairs or Martin's. Martin and I have
a little Garden of Eden of our own, but I am no primitive Eve. With
my consent, he shall not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge."

Kingsnorth turned around with a shrug. "How long do you think you
can keep it up?"

"As long as we live in Maylubi, at the least. I hope forever."

"Not another day," said Collingwood's voice, as he stepped into
the path clear in view from behind the pandan bushes. "I've been
listening to this jargon for ten minutes. Now I should like to know
what it means?"

Kingsnorth did not start or utter a word; he only stared defiantly
at Collingwood. He was conscious of a low repressed sound from
Mrs. Collingwood, who stood as if turned to stone, her gaze fixed not
on her husband, but on Kingsnorth. She was nibbling a ratched edge of
pandan fibre which she had stripped as they talked; but her expression
was one of bitter accusation. Plainly she held him responsible for the
conversation he had forced upon her, and the betrayal which had ensued.

Collingwood was white and his brown eyes glittered with an uncanny
lustre. He was holding himself in with a strong hand.

It was Charlotte who spoke first. "At what point did you enter the
conversation, Martin?" she inquired suavely.

"I didn't enter. But I judge I heard from the beginning. Mrs. Mac found
she had something else to do, and Mac wanted to read; so I came across,
short cut, to join you. I waited a minute, intending to scare you,
and then what I heard made me want to hear more."

Charlotte gave a little reckless shrug, and turned her face
seaward. Her expression cut Kingsnorth to the heart.

"If you heard from the beginning, you must see that I forced a
conversation on Mrs. Collingwood that she disliked," he said slowly.

"Oh, yes, I got that all right. I'm not playing the jealous
husband. Charlotte's all right; so are you, for that matter. What
I'd like to have explained is this compromise talk."

Charlotte raised her eyes to his. A leaden pain seemed to make them
heavy and spiritless.

"You don't need explanations, Martin," she said. "Would to Heaven
you did; though I'd tear my tongue out by the roots before I would
give them, if you really did."

"I guess I gathered the point," Martin replied bitterly. "There isn't
much to be said. It makes a thousand things that have mystified me
plain as day. You've deceived me. You've played a nasty part. It does
you small credit."

Kingsnorth started to move away. "You needn't go," Martin said,
"I don't see any reason to be sensitive about discussing this thing
before you. You seemed to be admitted to things before I was."

"I learned what my eyes and wits told me. I give you my word of
honor that until to-night Mrs. Collingwood and I have never spoken
of you or of your and her private affairs. What she said to me was
in self-defence and only to parry an insistence that I sincerely
regret." He turned toward Charlotte appealingly, but she made a fierce
little movement as if to wave away anything apologetic he might say.

"It must have been a damned interesting comedy," Martin went on,
the words stinging like sleet.

"Stop!" cried Charlotte. She put up a hand. "I have never deceived you,
Martin. If you recall the day on which you left the hospital, and on
which you came to me and asked me to marry you, you will remember that
I spelt out with almost painful distinctness the things which have
been alluded to to-night. You simply refused to listen to them. You
would not understand. Every word fell on deaf ears."

"Well, they're sensitive enough now, I understand the situation. You've
simply reversed the squawman act. You wanted a home and somebody to
love you, and you took what you could get, not what you wanted. And
you said to yourself that it did not matter, for you never expected
to go home, and you wouldn't have to show me to your friends. That's
all very fine, from the squawman's view-point. It's practical. But by
the living God I'm no squaw, to be content with my position! You're
not proud of me, I see. Damnation! do you think I'll live with you,
or any woman that walks the earth, on those terms?"

There was an instant's silence. Collingwood somewhat relieved by his
own violence, glared at the woman, who, up to that hour, had never
known less than tenderness from him. Kingsnorth stood bowed with
shame and repentance. For an instant Charlotte's frozen glance met
her husband's. Then with an unconscious gesture she laid one hand
on her constricted throat, and, turning, took the path across the
grove. Her white figure moved so lightly that they could not realize
the difficulty with which she walked. But as the shadows of the tall
cocoanut trees closed around her, she grasped a slender bole with both
arms and leaned against it, panting. Nausea swept over her. Despair,
humiliation, hopelessness weighed her down. Her knees trembled beneath
her, and with a little moan, too soft to reach the ears of the two men,
who remained motionless, she sank at the foot of the tree.

She lay there a long time, unable to rise, though she was not
fainting. Weakness had fastened upon her. But under her breath she
kept on repeating one sobbing phrase:

"It isn't fair! It isn't fair--three men against one woman. They are
so hard. They aren't generous. It isn't fair."

At length Collingwood turned abruptly and walked down the
beach. Kingsnorth came out of his stupor and pursued him.

"Collingwood," he said earnestly, "if I were not such a blackguard
myself, I'd call you one, for your treatment of your wife. She's had
no chance between us."

"She can take care of herself, I think. My advice to you is to keep
out of the matter."

"How can I? I've been the cause of it."

"You the cause!" Martin stared an instant and broke into a short, ugly
laugh. "Do you suppose I care for that talk out there to-night? You
did me a favor. What I care about is the part I've played for the
last ten months. A devilish pretty dupe I've been."

Kingsnorth recognized the futility of argument with a man whose
self-love has been so sorely wounded. "You'll see this thing
differently when you cool down," he remarked. "Don't say anything more
to your wife. She's a noble woman, Martin, a damned sight too good for
you, if you want the truth; and you've half killed her to-night. Hold
in till you've had time to get your second thoughts. If you want to
beat my face in, I'll stand it. God! I'm certain it would be a relief."

Martin's reply was an inarticulate grunt, as he flung up the path to
his own cottage. He charged up the steps through the lighted sala,
and into the bedroom, expecting to find Charlotte there. The desire
to quarrel was strong in him.

The empty room surprised him, and for an instant jolted his thoughts
into a less combative vein. He went out and sat down on the veranda
steps, chewing the end of an unlighted cigar, and expecting each
minute to see her white-clad figure emerge from the dark line of the
cocoanut grove. Gloomy thoughts seized upon his mind.

The chiming of the sala clock brought him to a sudden realization that
it was eleven o'clock and Charlotte had not returned. Alarm overcame
his rage, and he started hastily up the path through the grove. He
almost stumbled over her before he saw her.

"What in the name of Heaven are you doing here?" he demanded. "Get
up and come home at once."

She tried to obey him, but it was with the third unassisted effort
only that she dropped her head with a moan that went to his heart. "I
can't get up. I would if I could." And Martin stooped and lifted her
to her feet.

"Can you walk?" he asked. His voice trembled.

She nodded and dragged herself along with his aid. Collingwood was
thoroughly frightened. He helped her to her room, where she fell on her
bed nerveless. No fury could have blinded him to her utter exhaustion,
to the set despair of her face. He went into the dining-room and
brought her a glass of whiskey. When she had drunk it, a bit of color
came back into her face and she looked at him appealingly.

"Don't say any more to-night, please, Martin. If you'll go out on the
veranda, I'll get myself to bed without assistance. I can't talk." Her
teeth chattered.

Collingwood, half sulky still, half compassionate, betook himself to
the veranda and a succession of cigars. Away from the sight of her
suffering, anger and humiliation sat again upon his shoulders. When
in the wee small hours, he sought his room, he asked her grouchily if
she had slept, or if he could do anything for her. To both questions
she uttered a denial. It was evident that she had not been crying
though she looked very pale and worn; and the next morning she was
unable to rise.



CHAPTER XIV


It seemed to Mrs. Collingwood that the next three days embodied the
quintessence of all that had ever fallen to her lot of discomfort
and misery. To lie physically helpless, a burden and a care to
the one person who, at that time, was most out of love with her,
was humiliation of the most cankering variety. Added to it was the
sense of loss, the consciousness of ruin and disaster, and a feeling
of shame that bowed her to the earth. Her husband's bitter words had
sunk deep into her soul. She saw herself as a creature degraded and
partaking of the instincts of the most depraved class. Her marriage
began to assume the complexion of an adventure. Was there an element of
the adventuress in her? she asked herself tremulously. In reply came
a wild rush of denial, an agony of revolt. As she envisaged herself
she could not but justify her own actions. The feminine weakness, and
dread of life's bread-and-butter struggle, alone justified them. And
she had loved Martin tenderly; she had been a good wife, loyal to
his interests, guarding his dignity as her own, literally pouring
her affection and her gratitude for all his tenderness toward her
into his carelessly outstretched palm. No mother ever more sedulously
stood between her child and the evil of the world than she had sought
to save Martin Collingwood the pain of knowing what he had come to
know. His ingratitude, though she would not use that word even to
herself, cut her to the depths of her heart.

But it was plain that their romance was ended; "the thing had gone to
smash," in Collingwood's forceful language. Time and time again she
went over that night on the Luneta before their marriage, and Martin's
words, and her own miserable doubts and fears. The worst had happened,
as she had feared it might, but Collingwood was not living up to his
philosophy. He was angry at her, held himself a man cheated, put all
the blame on her, wanted in a dumb, fruitless way to quarrel with her.

On the evening of her second day in bed, they attempted to thresh out
their difficulties, but it was soon evident that they had reached a
hopeless impasse. Charlotte ended what was a miserable controversy.

"What is your quarrel with me about, Martin?" she said. "Simply that
I am I, that I have lived through certain experiences, that I have
certain criterions of taste and judgment that you have not. I have
not obtruded them on you. I haven't made myself obnoxious by them. I
deny that I have ever deceived you, and I have tried honestly to
think and feel as you do. I haven't been playing a part. I have been
thoroughly happy. But you can't any more make me put your values
on life and people, than you can, because somebody wishes you to,
convince yourself that there is no America; that all your past life
has been a dream; that all you have known and felt and seen has been
mere imagination, a fancy on your part. I'll have no quarrel with you,
no reproaches. I married you of my own free will, and married you for
love. As for my philosophy of life or my views on worldly matters,
what actual part need they play in our life? If I am content to put
them out of sight, why cannot you do so?"

"I'll be damned if I'll live with any woman on earth on your terms,"
Collingwood reiterated.

She looked him steadily in the eyes. "Then the thing is finally
settled, and we can spare ourselves the pain of useless discussion. For
in the thing we are quarrelling with--not my actions, but my philosophy
of life--I shall not change. Nor can I fancy any woman with a spark
of modesty or decency in her, entreating a man to live with her. If
you will allow me to remain here during your stay in Manila, I'll go
before you get back."

"How do you think you are going to live?"

She gave a little reckless shrug. "I supported myself before we were
married. I suppose I can do so again. I'll make no demands on your
pocket book. I didn't marry you to be supported. I married you to
be loved by you, to feel that I gave in your life and home an order
and an assistance--yes, and a joy--to equalize what I cost you in
money. When there is no longer exchange, I refuse to accept."

"Big talk," said Martin. She did not reply, but turned away
wearily. The servant knocked at the door a minute after to say that
dinner was ready, and he went to his meal. After that, it seemed that
they had subsided into a tacit acceptance of their future as she had
outlined it.

Collingwood was quite as unhappy as his wife was. All his masculine
pride was chafing, but his masculine heart was aching. He wanted to be
set gloriously in the right, to ascend the pedestal from which he had
been ignominiously tumbled by a few incautious words overheard. He
wanted, though he hardly phrased it to himself, apologies for his
wife's daring to understand a thing that he had not understood. He
had literally eaten of the tree of knowledge and was enraged with
what lay patent to his seared vision.

The consciousness of what had been going on in Kingsnorth's mind,
in Judge Barton's, in the Commissioner's, burnt like acid on a
wound. He saw, with astonishing clearness, Judge Barton's viewpoint,
and he marvelled no more at that gentleman's temerity. His beggar
maid a princess! his throne a mésalliance!--the thought burned. His
tortured self-love yawned like an abyss which no heaping of prostrate
offenders could ever fill; and against his wife's quiet dignity his
thwarted will raged sullenly.

Yet it is doubtful if he ever really regarded their separation
as probable. Tacitly he accepted her statement that she was going
away. In reality he hardly thought of such a possibility. Alone with
his thoughts, all his will and his imagination bent itself to her
conquest. It was that hour of her final humiliation and confession
to which he looked forward. How long was she going to keep it up?

During her few days' illness, however, he showed her some courtesies
for which she returned a dignified, but not an affectionate,
gratitude. Indeed, she had been up and about the house two or three
days before her husband perceived that the door of her heart and mind,
which she had so shyly opened to him, had closed, and that he stood
outside of it, a part of that concourse which Charlotte Ponsonby
had always feared and distrusted. She had trusted him most of all the
world, and he had turned upon her and hurt her more cruelly than anyone
else had ever done. Without reproach or lamentation or any sign of
self-pity, she retired behind those invincible ramparts to which Martin
had been blind in hospital days, but to which he was now so much alive.

It would have been exceedingly difficult for him to tell in what the
change consisted. Her courtesy was finely measured, it is true, but
it was not an armed truce between belligerents. It was the refuge
of dignity, of one who feels his position false, but would save
appearances by outward grace, at least. She who had been his wife,
his dearest possession, became only a graceful hostess in his home--a
lady who stood ready to lend a deferential ear to his suggestions,
or carry out, to the best of her ability, his every wish, expressed or
unexpressed. She ignored his gloom, saw to all his needs, spoke to him
always kindly, though without humility or contrition; but for herself
she asked not one fraction of his time or his attention. The occasions
for little courtesies which he had been accustomed to offer her were
skilfully avoided; but were never rudely made conspicuous by their
avoidance. Her quiet pride was infinitely more than a match for his
aggressive self-love; her supreme naturalness, the most impregnable
armor she could have worn.

Kingsnorth beheld the transformation in her, was first astonished,
then interested, then moved to profound pity and contrition. With tact
equal to her own, he set himself to meet the situation, seconded
all her efforts to make their awkward meals natural and easy,
silenced Mrs. Mac's gaping curiosity, and managed, in doing it all,
to keep himself well in the background. With Collingwood he had
one conversation on the launch, but the sum and substance was that
gentleman's reiteration of the terms on which he would live.

"Damnation!" was Kingsnorth's irritable response, "you are simply
making an ass of yourself, Collingwood. I can't call you a brute,
because I've been too much of one myself. I live in glass houses--I
can't throw stones. You've married a jewel among women, and you're
going to make your ruffled dignity make smash of two lives that ought
to be happy. Moreover, you are not in earnest. This is all bluffing
and bad temper to bring Mrs. Collingwood to her knees, and to make
her put herself in the wrong when you know there isn't any wrong or
right about things. Now I'll give you a piece of advice, old man. You
are trying that game on the wrong woman: see that you don't carry it
too far, and turn her affection into dislike. I've learned one thing,
learned it tragically well in this life; and that is that one has
just one chance really in this world with one person. Now don't lose
your chance with your wife."

To this Martin vouchsafed a grunt. Hardly conscious of it, he had
set his will to bring Charlotte to his terms. He could not listen to
anything that crossed that strong desire.

The days went by slowly where they had once gone so fast, and
neither husband nor wife referred again to that tacit agreement of
separation. Yet Martin knew from the bundle of letters which he was to
carry up to Manila that Charlotte was making plans for business life
again; and once, when he came into the sitting-room unexpectedly,
he found her frowning over her bank book. He knew the balance it
contained, for, on their wedding journey, they had laughed at her
little savings; and he knew she could not long maintain herself upon
it. He smiled grimly at her flushed discomfiture when he found her
pondering ways and means, and somewhat brutally said to himself that
she would find that she had little rope to run upon.

Yet at the last moment it was he who wavered, he who rang down the
curtain on their make-believe. She had looked after his garments
and had packed his trunk with wifely solicitude; had prepared for his
launch trip, foods for which she knew his predilection, and had, at the
moment of farewell, saved the situation by putting out a friendly hand.

"I do hope you will have a pleasant trip," she said,--and what it cost
her to speak so easily and naturally, only she could have told,--"and
thank you for giving me the weeks here to get ready. I'll go over to
Cuyo when the launch goes up for you on your return trip, and will
leave a letter for you there. There are some things I can't say to
you, but I should like to write them. They will, perhaps, leave a
better feeling between us."

To these words Martin found, at the time, no answer. He wrung her hand,
muttered something, and hastened away. Yet when his belongings had
all been deposited in the boat, and the men were waiting to "chair"
him out, he turned on his heel, and strode back to the cottage.

He took her by surprise, for she had not stayed to watch him. Her
impulse had been to scream, to weep, to give some vent to the pain
that wrenched soul and body; and in the determination to keep hold
upon herself she had gone straight to the back of the house, and was
wrestling there with a refractory lock on a cupboard. She turned
at his step a face drawn, white, and frozen into lines of pain,
and looked at him with eyes that asked and yet were proudly defiant.

He went straight up to her and took her in his arms; and though she
relaxed and her head lay passive on his shoulder, there thrilled
through them both the sense of conflict, of individuality set against
individuality. Their embrace did not lessen the strain, and after an
instant, something of his own fierce grasp relaxed, and they stood,
the dumb victims of emotions that were stronger than their wills,
stronger than their aching desires to be at peace with each other.

She turned at length and looked at him with eyes of misery. "Oh,
go!" she said. "It's a hundred times worse than I ever thought anything
could be. Think kindly of me as I do of you. We can't help ourselves. I
knew this hour. I felt it when we were happiest. It had to be."

"What I want you to do," Martin said honestly, "is to take into
consideration my care for you and my protection. I can take care of
you--can do it well. That ought to count for something."

"O my poor boy, has it not always counted? I've leaned on you and
your love, Martin. I've told you so a thousand times."

"Yes, but you set against them a lot of trifles."

"But I don't set the trifles against them. I have never weighed one
against the other--never for an instant."

"But you know that you could." Poor Martin here uttered helplessly
what was, after all, at the bottom of his spleen.

"Ah," she sighed. "Don't judge me by what I know; judge me by what
I've done and thought."

"You've got to change," he muttered. "I can't. I'm right. You're
wrong."

"The things you have in mind can't be changed by will power, dear. They
are the results of education, association, environment. New environment
may change them gradually. What you ask I cannot give. 'I've done
all I can do, come as far to meet you as I can.' I'm not stubborn,
Martin. I would do anything in my power to meet your wishes. You are
quarrelling not with what I do, but with what I am."

The answer was a grunt of impatience as Martin flung away again. He
raged helplessly against the truth of her words.

When, at last, the launch was hull down on the sky line, Charlotte
went to bed, and shutting out Mrs. Maclaughlin's insistent curiosity,
permitted herself the luxury of nearly a week's retirement. Though
at times she wept, for the most part she tried to shut out the past,
and to concentrate her thoughts on the future. Collingwood's idea that
her dread of business life would outweigh her sense of humiliation
and her wounded self-love was entirely wrong. She shrank, it is true,
from the world; but the thought that there was an alternative never
suggested itself to her. Collingwood had said that he would not live
with her, or what had seemed to her the equivalent of that. She took
him at his word. The fact that legally he was her husband counted no
more in her summing up of the situation than if he had been a chance
stranger encountered in the street. Live for an hour more than was
absolutely necessary under the same roof with a man who entertained
such feelings for her? She turned sick at the thought.

When at last she emerged from her retirement she was the woman of
hospital days, the super-sensitive orphan, feeling herself unwelcome
to all the world, everybody's hand against her, her hand against
everybody; but she took them, as Kingsnorth phrased it to himself,
in the hollow of her own hand. In the presence of her reserve, even
Mrs. Maclaughlin's frank speech grew guarded. Kingsnorth merely looked
at her in a kind of mute apology. Again and again she caught his glance
with its furtive appeal; but each time her own eyes met it, not with
studied blankness, but with a naturalness that was almost histrionic.

Maclaughlin had returned with the launch before her seclusion was at
an end, and after a family discussion of what was patent to their eyes,
he went vigorously on her side. She was "gentle folks," he maintained,
a deal sight too good for Martin Collingwood; and Collingwood was
behaving like a fool. Mrs. Maclaughlin's democratic partiality,
naturally roused in Martin's favor, was somewhat rudely snubbed.



CHAPTER XV


It was at the end of a month, when Charlotte looked forward with
increasing dread to her husband's return and to her own departure,
that the lorcha Dos Hermanos, their tried friend, left cargo and
letters at the island. Collingwood wrote that he should delay his
return another month. He sent down their commissaries, and Maclaughlin
was to come up to Romblon harbor to meet the first June run of the
Puerta Princesa steamer. Most of these details were contained in a
letter to Maclaughlin. His letter to his wife, a very bulky epistle,
dwelt upon their own difficulties. It was the first letter he had
written to her, and Charlotte's face, as she read it, was a study.


    "My dearest Girl:


    "You are that, after all. I've been thinking over our affairs,
    and I am willing to admit that I was hasty. But I don't think
    that you treated me altogether fair. What I do see is that we
    haven't got any time to jaw over what is done and gone. You have
    been talking about leaving me and all that, but that is just
    talk. I don't suppose you ever really meant it, and I never
    took it seriously. We'll kiss and be friends when I get back,
    and you'll see that everything will come out all right.

    "I've been having a pretty fine time up here. About the first
    person I met was Barton. I had intended to kick him on sight,
    but I was still feeling pretty sore toward you, so I didn't. He
    took me up to his clubs and entered my name, and the next night
    took me to call on that Mrs. Badgerly. Lord! Lord! that woman is
    inquisitive! She dug at me like a lawyer at a witness. I never gave
    anything away: swore you wouldn't come along because you hated
    the sea trip so, and vowed I had come up on a sugar lorcha. Then
    this Mrs. Badgerly (she's a corker; I like her style), told me
    she wanted to take me to see old General ----'s wife, because the
    old lady knew you at home. She was a mighty nice old lady--real
    motherly,--and she told me a lot of things that you never told me,
    and made a good many things clear that I've never understood. Then
    I was invited out to the General's to a big dinner, where there
    were two or three other people who used to know you; and if I
    hadn't been so fond of you, it would have made me all-fired mad
    the way they rammed it into me that I had married into a fine
    family, and a fine woman, and all that sort of thing. I didn't
    need their verdict on you.

    "There was another old lady there who used to know you [here Martin
    named the mother of a very important civil officer], and both the
    old ladies took me to their hearts and purred over me. I bluffed
    the thing right through, invited everybody to Maylubi, and promised
    to bring you up some time this year. Barton was at the dinner too,
    and he piled it on thick about our island, made it quite romantic.

    "Well, the long and the short of the matter is that you call
    me. I'll admit that the crowd here is a little swifter than any
    I have ever known, and maybe you have some right to your private
    opinions that I didn't see before. And, as you said, you keep
    them to yourself, so I don't see why I should let them bother
    me. I'll stay another month or so, and by that time we will both
    have a chance to get over our grudges. You needn't think I'll let
    you go back to nursing; and as for me, I am willing to live with
    you on the old terms, and mighty anxious to get back to them.

    "I have put six dots here to represent six kisses (......). I'll
    give you sixty when I get home.


        "Your affectionate husband,

            "Martin Collingwood."


    "P. S. I am going to take both old ladies for a drive to-night. How
    am I getting on for a beau?"


When she had twice read this epistle, Mrs. Martin Collingwood was
startled by the realization of a great mental change in herself. For
six weeks she had schooled herself to feel that she must leave her
husband purely out of decent pride and self-respect. She had believed
that she was actuated by the desire to remove an obnoxious presence
from one who had ceased to take pleasure in it; and she had said to
herself a hundred times that her affection for her husband had never
wavered, but that to thrust it upon him was indecent.

But as she laid down the letter after a second perusal, she was aghast
to realize that she did not want to live again with Martin Collingwood:
that she recoiled passionately from his easy sense of possession;
that his taking her so completely for granted was an affront that
she could not pardon. She became conscious of a slow process that
had been going on in her mind during the dreary weeks, the death of
the feeling that had cast a glamour over Martin Collingwood and his
inability to understand her standards and traditions. He had lived
with her for a year, and had been unable to comprehend that she was
of different substance from Mrs. Maclaughlin or Mrs. Badgerly. He
had been grossly offensive at the bare suggestion that she might be
superior to one of them, but when she was ticketed with the other's
approval,--she drew an indignant breath,--he stood ready to exhibit
her to the world, and to call its attention to the superfine partner
whom he had drawn in the matrimonial lottery.

Well, he would be disappointed. He had yet to learn that she was no
readier to accept his terms than he had been to accept hers. She had
had her romance, and she would pay the price!

Her social knowledge told her, also, that the Spencer family had
taken steps to make its power felt across the Pacific, and that in
spite of her marriage and her bitter letter, they were behind her,
holding fast to the old tenet that blood is thicker than water. She
knew that from both the ladies who had impressed Martin as motherly old
dears she would have received at any time both courtesy and kindness;
but they would not have taken especial notice of Martin Collingwood
or have troubled themselves to introduce him without some sort of
urgent appeal from the Boston family.

The thought warmed her sad heart a little, for we are all grateful
for good-will, and the world looked a lonely place to Charlotte at
that time. She was very thoughtful, however, and she was inclined
to regret that old family friends had arrived so inopportunely in
Manila. It would make her lot harder, entail humiliating explanations
exceedingly difficult to make and--crowning agony--it would mean that
the disastrous outcome of her marriage would be immediately known and
discussed by the very persons whose knowledge of her affairs she most
desired to restrict.

She was sitting on her veranda, the letter upon her lap, her brows
frowning, her lips pain-drawn, when Kingsnorth approached from his
own cottage. He too had had a letter from Collingwood, and after
a bath and a change of garments, had come over to discuss it with
Mrs. Collingwood.

He advanced with the hesitating and apologetic air which he had
worn with her ever since that unfortunate evening on the beach. She
roused herself to a cold courtesy, gave him a cup of tea, and then
sat listlessly awaiting what she knew he had come to say.

"I have a letter from Martin," Kingsnorth began awkwardly, at length,
"which I thought you might want to see. He says in it that he did not
mention some of the business details to you and that I am to show it
to you."

She took it, glanced through it, flushed slightly, but handed it
back without comment. It was a characteristically brief but condensed
epistle, dealing wholly with business save in the last paragraph.


    "Better show this to my wife. I wrote her, but had something
    more interesting to talk about than these matters. You were
    quite right. I have been a damn fool, but I am all right now,
    and she and I are going to be happy ever after."


As Charlotte returned the epistle, Kingsnorth fixed her with a curious
eye, half interested, half apologetic. Then, as she said nothing,
he stammered.

"I hope it will be as Martin says, Mrs. Collingwood, and that no
lasting ill will come out of my stupidity and insistence."

A slight flush tinged Mrs. Collingwood's cheek. "Martin wrote what he
meant to be a kindly letter, and I am grateful for it. But it really
doesn't affect the matter in the least. I am going away. You will
have to know it sooner or later."

"You can't forgive him?"

"I can't forgive myself. I have no hard feeling against him. But he
showed me myself." Her face burned.

"Dear Mrs. Collingwood, don't feel that way. Martin did not mean what
he said."

She lifted her heavy eyes. "Wasn't it true?"

"No, it wasn't; or, at least, the coloring he gave it wasn't true. It
wouldn't be true unless--" he paused and broke off confused.

"Unless what?"

"You know." He looked at her steadily.

"I don't know."

"Unless you leave him. That's what they do; that's what I did when I
got tired. But if you stay by what you promised, no human being can
think of you with less than respect. It isn't the game, it's the way
you play the game that counts." His voice trembled with emotion.

Charlotte sat very still, her cheeks burning. It seemed
incomprehensible that she should be sitting there, listening to John
Kingsnorth's views on ethics. Where had she failed? What gradual
disintegration had taken place in her, that she should be willing,
nay, eager, to listen to moral advice from a man whose very presence
had once seemed polluting?

At the same time, she realized that his words had value. Is it, she
asked herself, the cut and dried opinion of those who walk safely
along a beaten path in company with myriads of their fellow beings,
which really counts in this world? or is it the knowledge that comes
of bitterness and experience? It is so easy to formulate high-sounding
phrases; but what do these phrases amount to when one is confronted
with life? In the past three years, what downward steps had she taken
upon that pathway--she whose whole ideal had been to keep herself
untainted from the common world and to walk serenely and gracefully
along those heights where all the training of childhood and the
instincts of heredity had made her believe that her path lay? When
had she missed it? And then, like a flash, she saw in retrospect her
conduct for years past; saw herself stopping here, twisting there,
trying, at every instant, to evade the fate and the suffering allotted
to her in life. Suddenly she realized how much she and John Kingsnorth
had in common, for each was a coward. Neither had strength to take
sorrow to his heart, and to bear it uncomplainingly. She was doing
what he had done, failing as he had failed.

The letter dropped from her shaking fingers, and she raised her eyes
to his with a look so hopeless, shamed, and grief-stricken, that he
shrank back and winced as if he had seen a gaping wound.

"I can't," she said. "Something has snapped. I have changed. I
can't be Martin Collingwood's wife again. If the weight of my own
self-contempt could crush me, I should be dead. Oh, why did they
destroy my faith? There would have been the religious life at least."

"You must not talk that way," Kingsnorth said. "Your path is as plain
as a pikestaff. You married Martin Collingwood,--why, only you and
your Maker know,--but you did marry him, and you have got to stay
with him. He needs you."

"Oh, you men!" she cried scornfully. "And if he did not need me--if
only I needed him--it would be equally my duty to leave him. However
you arrange the scale of duties, they are always to suit your own
interests."

"I am thinking of this from yours," Kingsnorth said firmly. "I tell
you, and I know, that the one thing the human soul can't stand is
to live on compromising with its own self-contempt. A woman of your
brains can't take the liberties with her conscience that her frivolous
sisters do. You can't stand the self-contempt. You'll disintegrate
under it. Convince yourself that you are a martyr if you can, and
hug your martyrdom. They got something out of it when it was boiling
oil, and melted lead, and crucifixion, and all the rest of those
horrors. Be a martyr if you must, but do not try living under the
weight of your own self-contempt. Of all failures that is the weakest,
saddest, most loathsome. Dear lady, I've carried mine with me like an
atmosphere. People have felt it; you did. I've seen you shrink from
me as if I were a leper. And you were right. I am loathsome to myself."

He stopped, wiped his brow, and settled back into his chair with a
heavy sigh. Charlotte sat on, her trembling fingers tightly clasped,
her eyes fixed on the sea. She turned at last and shook her head.

"I can't. I can't take up that thread of life. I don't know how I got
myself here--it is all a nightmare--but I must go away and work--by
myself again."

Kingsnorth leaned forward, his hands loosely clasped between his knees.

"Will you listen to the story of my life, Mrs. Collingwood?" he said
with more of sharpness in his tone than was characteristic of him.

Charlotte had little curiosity in anyone else's affairs; but she
would have listened to anything at that moment to slip away from the
discussion of her own. She nodded listlessly, and Kingsnorth began
speaking in a very judicial tone.

"I was what is called in England well born, though my people were not
rich. My father came of a very old and once distinguished family,
but was the owner of an impoverished estate. My mother was equally
well born, and possessed a small income of her own. You probably know
that, in England, the eldest son is the family; nobody else really
counts. In our family there were two girls, then my elder brother,
the 'heir,' then myself, and another girl. I cannot remember the time
when the rest of us were not all being pinched to keep things going
for the heir. Tom was, on the whole, a pretty good fellow, but that
sort of rearing would spoil the best nature that was ever born. He
got into the way of thinking that the rest of us ought to sacrifice
everything we had or could hope to have to his position. He was also
a devilish good-looking fellow, easy-going and selfish, as was natural.

"My two elder sisters were promptly married off, on the whole pretty
well. The difficulty came with Tom. He had to marry money, and he had
not enough in himself or the place to make money come begging for him.

"Tom was in an expensive regiment. My dream of life was also the
army, but the paternal pocketbook couldn't stand it, so I was put
in a bank instead. I promptly fell head-over-ears in love with the
banker's daughter.

"Her family was what we called 'new people'; but there was plenty
of money, and if Elena wanted me, why she must have me. Therefore no
objections were made to the engagement. I was in the seventh heaven
of happiness. I do not deny that I was glad she had plenty of money;
but I should have married her just the same if she had not had a cent.

"Elena paid a visit to my home in the early days of our betrothal,
and--well, she threw me over deliberately for my elder brother. Looking
back now, I can see some excuse for her. I was unimportant in my
family, of course, and Tom was its centre. He looked handsome in
his uniform, and he was the heir. The place had age and dignity,
and she knew its value.

"I give Tom the credit of being ashamed and of feeling some remorse;
but my father and mother planned--actually aided and abetted my
betrayal. They wanted the money for the heir.

"I made a row, naturally, but it was fruitless. Elena wept and declared
that she would have her own way. Tom looked ashamed, but his bringing
up had made him constitutionally selfish; and the parents on both
sides joined to suppress me.

"The end was that I cleared out, blind with rage and pain, cursing
Elena and my kin; and in the next three years in London I went to
what is commonly known as the dogs.

"My self-pity is justifiable in my eyes to-day; but I made a fatal
mistake. If I had had the right stuff in me, Elena couldn't have
driven me to the dogs. I might have hugged my griefs and have grown
embittered; but my worst mistake was the desire to 'drown sorrow'
with drink, with cards, with all the undesirable vices of men. If I
had hugged sorrow and warmed it to my heart, I might have suffered
more, but I should not have crumbled up morally like a gold ring
in quicksilver.

"England has always a frontier war or two on her hands, and I got into
one. A private, a 'gentleman ranker' has a magnificent opportunity
to sink in the English army. Afterwards I drifted over here, and got
into pearl-fishing. I liked the life and its adventures (we had to
fight a bit in the early days), and then when the Americans came,
I fell in with Collingwood. We fancied each other on sight. Then we
picked up Mac, and I lighted accidentally on this oyster bed, and we
settled here.

"Throughout all these years I have kept up a desultory correspondence
with my married sisters; but I have drifted out of their lives, and
I realize that I represent to them only a possible legacy. It is my
business to make some money, and one day to die and leave it to them;
and meanwhile a few gifts from the Orient are not unacceptable.

"Well, to shorten this tale, I settled here and married my wife. You
need not look so startled. She was my wife legally; bell, book,
and candle were all there. I lived openly with her in my house till
the morning when you landed on Maylubi. Then, after I had seen and
talked with you, I went home and ordered her out. She loved me, and
she obeyed me. Five months later she died." He stopped and wiped a
cold perspiration from his brow.

"But how could you have kept it from me?" cried Charlotte. "Why did
not Martin or Mrs. Maclaughlin tell me?"

"Mrs. Mac had her orders from Mac. She never disobeys him. Martin
was simply a good friend."

"But he brought me here." She stopped, crimsoning with indignation.

"Precisely. He brought you here to associate with me, a respectable
married man, as he considered me. He has never understood my
conduct. He doesn't understand why I preferred you to believe me a
profligate instead of a decent married man. He has never understood
why I should be willing to have my child pass for illegitimate. But
you understand, Mrs. Collingwood."

"Yes, I understand." Then with sudden passion she cried, "But it was
not my fault. I was trained to it."

"As I was. But, if I had had one spark of manhood in me, I should
have stood by the woman I had married, and should have taken my
child to my heart in the face of the world. But I did not have the
courage. I writhed and twisted to get out of facing the consequences
of my own actions; and since then the weight of my own self-contempt
has grown steadily heavier. Don't talk to me of reform," he added
savagely as she started to speak. "There isn't any reform for such as
I. I tell you the consciousness of my own moral cowardice is with me
day and night. It never leaves me. And it's the ungodly unfairness
of it all that kills me by inches. I see other men about me, living
lives not so very different from mine: Collingwood himself has been
no saint. But because I've wanted better things, because I drank my
cup, knowing that it was poor drink, it has not slaked my thirst,
and it has parched the last drop of sweetness out of my life.

"Don't you go another foot along this trail; you began it when you
married Collingwood. If you double and twist on your tracks again,
you are lost. Hug pain, hug misery, martyr yourself, if you will,
but don't try to indulge your own selfish will, and to square things
by saying that you despise yourself. God in Heaven! Do you know what
it is to despise yourself? You don't now; but you will some day." He
wiped the perspiration that stood in great drops on his brow.

Charlotte, who had turned very white, sat nerveless and trembling like
a leaf. All her pride was in arms that John Kingsnorth, degraded scion
of a decent family, should be giving advice to her; and then she saw,
with sudden horror, what a tremendous distance she had drifted with
the current before John Kingsnorth's words could be true.

For they were true! She had married Martin Collingwood, blaming herself
for the weakness that made human affection and the freedom from the
responsibility of self-support loom larger than all the traditions of
birth and breeding. She had wanted her romance as every other woman
in the world does; and romance, as it comes to most women, had been
denied her. She might have gone out and found one, as many a woman
does, and might, in time, have taken her flirtations lightly. But
she had been too timid and too proud to flirt. The doubt came to her
that it would have been better to play lightly at romance than to
purchase it at the sacrifice of the second essential factor that makes
a true marriage. Then came another throb of terror. She saw herself
bent wilfully again on her own way, doubling, twisting, as Kingsnorth
phrased it, trying to escape her conscience by saying that she despised
herself: but the fact stared her in the face that she was turning
on all the principles that had justified romance. She had married
Collingwood against her reason, justifying herself for being swayed by
human feeling by reiterating the finality of the action. For better,
for worse, she had said--but now that it was for worse, its finality
had somehow disappeared. Where was her mind--her will--her conscience?

She sat for a long time in bitter silence, but roused herself as
Kingsnorth, who had been furtively watching her, drew out his tobacco
pouch and extracted from its depths a little ball of tissue paper. He
unfolded it, and there appeared to her startled eyes a single pearl
of unusual size and luster.

"What a beauty!" she cried, bending forward to look at it.

"Yes, it's beautiful enough," said Kingsnorth. "I've carried it about
with me for three years. Even Collingwood has never seen it."

"I wish you had not--" she stopped, flushing.

"I didn't show it to you to tempt you. It's my moral slough. There
are times when I've felt that its hell luster was my soul, and that
I had nothing but the blackened shell in my body. It stood for the
dearest emotions a man can have--for love and vengeance."

"You are horrible," she cried, shrinking from him.

"I am better than I used to be," replied Kingsnorth. "I found this
bauble three years ago, before Martin and I went into business. I
never intended to sell it. Do you know what I wanted it for? To
buy her back, and to blacken the face of the man who stole her from
me. Yes, shrink! God help me, I love that woman still with a love
gone awry. Other women, yes, and better women, though they had not
her grace and training, have loved me; but, in my heart of hearts, I
have held them all cheap. It was she, the woman who jilted me before
all the world, that I wanted. It was he, whose heart I wanted to
wring. Poor cheap human nature! Twelve years I've roughed it in shacks
and junks, a flannel shirt to my back, and pork and beans or rice and
fish in my stomach; while he has sat beneath the oaks we played under
in our childhood, and has slept in the panelled rooms of our home,
and has held the woman he stole from me in his arms! Talk of family
affection! There isn't such a thing. What am I to the mother who bore
me? A derelict son, adrift in the South Seas, who is not to come home
without some money. What am I to the sisters who played with me and
fought with me over our nursery tea? A scape-grace brother, who, it
is hoped, will keep out of the way, but who ought to make some money
and leave it to their children. Money! I've toiled like a negro slave
for money, but not for them--not for them! It was for her. I wanted
to go back rich. She sold herself once; why not again? The pearl was
not enough in itself to tempt. It was the bauble, the outward sign."

"You hoped--that?" She could not help glancing at his seamed,
degenerate countenance.

"Never after you came. The look in your eyes told me what I had
become. Since then I have lived--with myself." He smiled a wretched,
drawn smile.

She pointed gingerly to the bauble. "Why don't you get rid of
it? sell it?"

"Sell my soul? Did I not tell you my soul is steeped in it? No,
bury it with me. Somehow I know I'll not last long. Take this word
from me. If you know anything of me when death comes, see that this
does not go to the women who betrayed me and pitied me not. Women are
selfish creatures. They sun themselves on their own cat premises. They
have no pity for the poor devils on the outside."

"Is it women alone? or isn't it men as well, who are pitiless? Or
isn't it just life? Yet it isn't pitiless to all. There are those
who dance through it on rose-strewn paths." She stopped, the sense
of the great differences in individual lives overwhelming her.

Kingsnorth rose. "Well, that hasn't been my life or yours. I have
seen that you suffer. But suffer! Don't change that look on your
face. Better poignant suffering than moral decay. I tell you, you
are facing it." He rose abruptly and walked away, leaving her like
a figure carved in ivory, looking out on the waste of waters, that
seemed the emblem of waste in her own life.



CHAPTER XVI


In the month that elapsed between her conversation with Kingsnorth and
the time set by Collingwood for his return, Charlotte had time for an
exhausting and (as it seemed to her) fruitless self-inquisition. She
was alternately the prey of a hopeless apathy and of a consuming
impatience, but in either mood there ran a strong undercurrent of
rebellion against all the formative influences of her life. At times
the future yawned before her like a bottomless gulf, into the darkness
and loneliness of which she must inevitably sink helpless. Out of
love as she was with her husband, the prospect of going back to her
forlorn, loveless state was one she could not contemplate. To get up
day after day, knowing that there was, in all this world, no human
being who took more than a casual interest in her; to go to bed at
night, knowing that, if ruin and disaster overtook the world, no human
thought would turn to her, no voice cry to hers out of the darkness,
no warm human hand reach for hers, seemed to her a fate infinitely
worse than death. Yet she had lived just that life for twenty-eight
years before she married Martin Collingwood to escape from it; and,
though she had been most unhappy in it, she certainly had not regarded
it as a tragedy. She remembered once having seen a young soldier come
forth from the court-room after he had received a life sentence for
shooting his corporal. The boy had lifted his hat with his manacled
hands and had raised a white face to the touch of the cool morning
wind. Something in the gesture had expressed his sense of helplessness
in the grasp of that terrible thing we call the law. He was looking
down the long vista of years at a living death ten thousand times
worse than death, at a life from which every human ambition, every
hope, every natural spring had been erased. His brother had followed
behind him, a short distance of twenty or thirty feet, already the
emblem of a separation that was to become complete. The brother was
weeping as strong men do when their hearts are wrung; but, as she
had looked at them, one so quiet, the other convulsed with grief,
she had recognized that, to the second man, life held comfort and
healing still. In the long years to come, new interests would take the
place of the old tie; a wife and babes would fill that life; healthy
toil allied to honorable ambition would make the years seem to fly;
and the memory of a convict brother would drop out of life, only to
be recalled tenderly at those seasons when a universal festival brings
back the old days and makes the rotting thread of memory seem new and
strong once more. But what of the other? Nothing new would come to
him, nothing to strive for, nothing to look forward to, nothing to
live upon but memories that would be very, very bitter. There would
be toil and food and rest, and renewed toil, and the awful knowledge
that long before he ceased to live he had ceased to be even to those
who had been his nearest and dearest.

Well, she had lived it once. She could live it again. As with the
soldier there would be toil and food and rest, and renewed toil. But
the heart cries loudly for more than these things in life, until
that heart is chastened into meekness. Would she ever be meek, she
wondered sadly. If she could have accepted her fate with submission
and sadness only, she would have felt herself indeed treated with
mercy by the unseen fates. But there was no element of submission
in her mood. As often as she contemplated the future, and said to
herself that these things must be, had to be, so often the wild will
rose within her to say that they must not be. She lay often for hours
at a time face downward on her bed, not a muscle moving, not a sound
escaping her tense lips; but her passivity was the physical expression
of an impotence that left her prostrate before the overwhelming fates.

Often there recurred to her mind a conversation which had taken place
between her and a fellow nurse, a young, joyous, magnetic creature for
whom she had formed a friendship more nearly approximating intimacy
than any other that had come into her life. It was in the last days
of her engagement, and she had spoken of a fear of what unhappiness
love might bring into her life. The other had looked at her with
amazement. "Love!" she said. "I can imagine it bringing a lot of joy,
but why unhappiness?"

"Why unhappiness?" Charlotte asked in vain for the reason; but the fact
stood stronger than any "why's," that there had been, in all her life,
some fundamental outrage of human sentiment. It had existed in that
strange paternal attitude of her father's; it had lived on in that
perfunctory kindness of the nuns who had found her an antipathetic
and incomprehensible child; and it had grown and intensified in
the curious, prying interest developed in those who had governed
her later years. That any such a condition could exist by a series
of fortuitous events was out of the question. There had to be cause
running through it all. Yet search her heart and mind as she would,
she found there no wells of bitterness or evil thought or envy or
malice to justify relations so peculiar as had finally established
themselves between her and human society.

The solution of the question came to her suddenly, when, on a
particularly dreary day, she had been trying to discipline herself and
to keep her thoughts from running on her own troubles. She had spent
two hours trying to read the story, written by a great modern author,
of three precocious school-boys. She had been a great admirer of the
author, and, up to that time, had found fascination in his pages;
but the three boys were little to her taste. As she mused sadly,
a flash of insight came, and another; and, little by little, she saw
clearly what had so long puzzled her.

The precocious child is abnormal, and inspires in his fellow men that
blind instinct to worry and torment which runs all through the animal
world. She had been a precocious child, made uncanny by perceptions
of the hidden currents and causes of life at a time when she should
have been gurgling over its toys. As she recalled her sensitiveness
to impressions, her powers of reading what was passing in others'
minds, and the singular growth of self-concealment and self-control
that had grown out of them, it seemed to her that her keen brain
had been her lifelong curse. Little by little, she went back to
her convent days and tried to put herself in the place of the good
sisters who had taught her. How distressing it must have been to them
to feel the dumb interrogation that was always so strong under outward
obedience! If she could have been unconscious of her father's mental
state and could have made a happy child's claim upon his affections,
would he not in time have come to love her? If, when she was a lonely
orphan, living on her cousin's sufferance, she had been able to
reveal to her relatives the suffering that she really underwent in
the strange ostracism which she had built up for herself, would not
pity have conquered their selfishness? She drew a long, pained sigh,
as she thought of what a difference might have been made in her life
by a little less brain and a little more moral courage.

She was lying in her steamer chair on the veranda of her house at
the time; and by her side, on a taboret, stood a glass of water. She
picked it up and smiled over it. It was full of microbes (dead, of
course, for Americans drink no unboiled water in the Philippines),
and she knew it, and cared little, for she could not see them. But had
she possessed an eye with the magnifying power of a strong microscope,
she could not have tasted the water for the sight of the dead organisms
would have made it unpalatable. She began to wonder what would be the
effect on society, if there were let loose upon it a body of persons
with microscopic eyes. They would shrink and exclaim and turn faint
at dishes that the epicure delights in. How they would upset dinners
and spoil little suppers and picnic luncheons! How eagerly would
their society be avoided, and how soon their name become anathema!

But though physically the microscopic eye does not yet exist,
the mental and spiritual microscopic eye does exist, and it has
about the same distressing effect upon its human brethren who do not
possess it as the other sort might have. She had had the microscopic
eye--nothing could blind her to facts--and her starts and shrinkings
had made her antipathetic to most of the persons with whom she had
come in contact. It had remained for Martin, the indomitably ignorant,
to be blind to her mental attitude, to assume her a normal woman of
the world in which he found her. What of gratitude did she not owe him?

The thought pricked her to her feet, set her to restless pacings of
the floor. Whatever of gratitude she owed him, she was preparing
ingratitude in the course she was still bent upon pursuing. Never
had she appreciated the stubborn inheritance of her own will
till she measured herself against it in this struggle. Whatever
the conscience and the intelligence might say, her will said "No"
as often as she contemplated forgiving Martin and going back to her
life with him. The feeling which had been warm in her heart for him
so long was dead--killed by his own brutal words, buried in her own
shame and self-reproach. She saw with unutterable sadness, that there
was no hope of its resuscitation. But did that break the tie that she
had of her own volition forged? Could not that same will of hers which
resisted so bitterly be schooled to duty and to right? For against
a year's tenderness and kindness, where was the justice of weighing
the utterances of a single hour of pain and disappointment? The one
ought not to balance the other. She had no right to think so for
an instant. Alas, though, one did balance the other, outweighed it
many times!

Her marriage had been all wrong. But had she been less conscious of
the fact on the day she married him than on the day when she vainly
struggled to convince herself that she ought to go on living with
him? Marriage can not be for love alone any more than it can be for
selfish material interest alone. In its appeal to human emotion
and in its relation to the family it may be, as the church calls
it, a sacrament; but marriage as a lifelong partnership must have
its material side. Love must enter in; but no healthy marriage can
exist, unless there be equally the consciousness of a good bargain,
of a legitimate exchange of values, added to the affection which
sanctifies it. Well, Collingwood had played fairly. It was she who
had entered into the alliance, knowing its weakness, knowing herself.

But did she know herself? What more that was disappointing and
agonizing was she to learn of herself? What was even then struggling in
her breast? Was there some secret hope holding itself in concealment
behind her oft repeated thought that life was ended for her? Did
some hidden ambition prompt her to take the step that she believed
came from self-respect? She had learned only too well her capacity
for self-deception. She had advanced step by step along the path by
which she had come to the church door with Martin Collingwood, denying
every motive which, in the end, had proved itself the stronger. Was
it possible that she was turning blindly, as women naturally turn,
to a second man to lift her from the wreck to which she had brought
her life with the first? Again she faced that truth which she had
long before discovered, that too passionate a denial constitutes an
assertion; and while every atom of her intelligence bade her distrust
her own sophistry, every throb of a strong emotional nature bade her
turn from the conclusions of her reason.

In these hours of agonizing inquisition when her soul seemed literally
torn in two, she contemplated with added despair, the loss of her early
religious faith. It did not come back to her in the least. No impulse
for prayer seized her. The conviction that the world is made up of
blind forces, and that there is no help outside of ourselves was very
strong in her. She might pray and pray, but when she arose from her
knees, the elements of struggle would be there still, tearing at her,
filling her soul with pain. Prayer would not bring sleep to her aching
eyeballs in the night, it would not silence the cry in her heart,
it would not keep the thronging thoughts from her weary brain. Time
alone could do that. Give her time--she smiled bitterly--and change
of circumstances, and she might put the experiences of the last three
years behind her, put even the man who had ruled her life and thought
for a year (and a happy year) behind her.

Of course she wrestled with the temptations which must present
themselves to the intelligent mind which has had the ways of the
world set before it. Intelligence said that nothing mattered except
the material. She could be good or bad, noble or contemptible, so
long as she played her game well and kept on good terms with that
thing we call the world. Little the world cares what we do or what
we are, said intelligence; the question with it is how much power
do we own in this vale of tears. Intelligence told her that with
the backing of her family and the successful use of her own powers,
and with Judge Barton's political influence, they two might make a
very comfortable place for themselves in this material universe. She
felt dangerously sure of the Judge. The knowledge had come to her (how
she knew not) that all she needed to insure her an absolute dominion
over the man's soul was a little less moral fastidiousness, a little
more worldliness. Indeed, a strange confidence in her own powers of
attraction was working itself out of all the miserable situation. She
realized how completely she had under-estimated her own charm. Less
conscience, less good taste, more charity (which is a much misused term
in these days, signifying lack of all social and moral tradition),
in fact, a general elimination of the best qualities of her nature
would constitute a humanizing process which would work decidedly to
her material advantage. But she was not willing to submit herself to
the process. She wanted her own way, and she wanted to remain her ideal
self. More and more clearly she saw the unreasonableness of her demand.

So the days slipped by one by one, and she marked them off on her
calendar. In the end, the time for the launch to go up to Romblon
arrived without her having taken any decisive steps toward the act
which she still declared to herself she was bent upon. She excused
herself on the ground of Martin's letter, saying to herself that
she owed him a personal interview and explanation for her refusal
to accept his offer of reconciliation. But in truth, she was pulling
away again from the uncomfortable. She could contemplate the action,
but until circumstances more disagreeable than those she was enduring
forced her into activity, she would not take a decisive step.

It had been the original intention that Kingsnorth should take
the launch over for Collingwood, but, as the time slipped
by, and the typhoon season was at hand this idea was deemed
impracticable. Maclaughlin was a licensed engineer, while Kingsnorth
was not, and the launch was not in the best of repair.

Maclaughlin left at daybreak on an exceedingly hot morning, when
the sea rolled lazily in long, metallic swells shining as if the
brilliant surface were oiled. All that day the heat was like a vapor,
but in mid-afternoon the clouds rolled up, showers fell at intervals,
and cool gusts of wind made the cocoanut trees writhe and their stiff
leaves to rattle. Once or twice Charlotte looked at the barometer,
which fell steadily.

At dinner their common anxiety made the three more companionable than
anyone had hoped to be. "We are going to have a baguio, that's flat,"
said Kingsnorth, "but it has been kind in holding off. Mac's safe
in Romblon harbor by this time, and that is landlocked, and shut in
by mountains. If Collingwood is there, they'll wait anyway to come
out. Mac's got sense enough not to leave port on a falling barometer,
though Collingwood might take the chances."

"I hope Martin isn't out on the ocean to-night," said Charlotte. "It
makes me ill to think of it." She shivered and glanced into the
darkness where the oily surf fell over in ghostly green fire, and
the wash rolled back pricked with millions of vanishing light points.

"Spooky, isn't it?" remarked Kingsnorth. He set down his coffee-cup
(they were just finishing dinner), and as his hostess rose, held
back the rattling shell curtain for her, then went to inspect the
barometer. He whistled.

"What is it?" inquired Mrs. Mac.

"Oh, just so-so." Something in his tone betrayed an effort to retrieve
the impression made by his bit of carelessness. Mrs. Maclaughlin went
over to the instrument.

"It's nearly 750," she said in a dismayed tone. [1] "I've never known
it to go that low without warning since I've lived on the island. I
wish Mac and Martin were here."

Charlotte said nothing, but in her heart she echoed the other's words.

"Can't be helped," replied Kingsnorth, curtly. "I hope that you will
not feel it presumptuous in me to suggest that Mrs. Maclaughlin stay
with you to-night, Mrs. Collingwood. I'll come over also if there is
anything very bad."

Both women were grateful for the suggestion. Each had been secretly
longing to broach the matter, and had felt ashamed to do so.

"I'll go over with you while you lock up your place," said Kingsnorth
to Mrs. Maclaughlin. They disappeared almost instantly in the profound
blackness of the night. Charlotte marvelled at it. The gloom was like
a solid substance save where the phosphorescence showed a glimpse
of foaming suds, and a few lights gleaming from the distant village
seemed golden by contrast with the green and blue fires.

The servants all begged leave to absent themselves for the night. Each
had discovered an ailing relative in the village to whom his presence
was an absolute necessity.

"Let 'em go," said Kingsnorth. "They are in a dead fright. They know
we'll probably have Tophet before the night is over, and they want
to get into their flock." Even as he spoke, a little moan of wind
came off the sea, and a pattering shower drenched the earth.

"Curtain rung up," said Kingsnorth. He had been standing tentatively,
hat in hand, after escorting back Mrs. Maclaughlin and some, as it
seemed to Charlotte, preposterously large bundles. Charlotte motioned
him to a chair. "We may as well watch the first act," she smiled,
humoring his metaphor.

"Just as well," he answered, "because I fancy we'll be on the second."

"Do you mean that there may be any actual danger?" Charlotte asked,
startled.

"Danger? no! At the worst we might have to spend a night under the
pandan bushes. But one of these big storms is a trying thing while
it lasts."

"Trying isn't the word," Mrs. Maclaughlin precipitated this
dictum into the conversation with her usual vigor. "It's just
nerve-wracking. Lord! Lord! what fools we women are! Here are two of
us out here likely to be swallowed up by a tidal wave or Heaven only
knows what, just because we were so tarnation ready to take up with
a man. I've traipsed around this world at Andrew Maclaughlin's heels
twenty-two years, and the good Lord only knows what he hasn't asked
me to go through with; and now he's left me unprotected in the face
of the biggest storm we're likely to have." She fairly choked with
fear and anger.

Mrs. Maclaughlin's untrammelled speech was at all times an affront
to Kingsnorth. The intimation that he was a poor substitute for
Maclaughlin as a protector stung him. When he spoke, his voice
had a quality of suave ugliness that grated like a rasped saw on
Charlotte's nerves.

"You're panicky," he said. "Why don't you pattern on Mrs. Collingwood
and me? We're ready for anything; are we not, dear lady?"

A heavy gust of wind and another downpour silenced them all for a
few seconds.

"This," said Kingsnorth to Charlotte, as the gust subsided, "is just
preliminary to the theme; it's the scale playing in the key with which
the virtuoso dazzles his audience before he rolls up his cuffs, runs
both hands through his hair, and gets into the first movement. Ah,
here's the theme."

"What's a virtuoso?" snapped Mrs. Maclaughlin.

"A virtuoso is a gentleman who can play the piano or some other
instrument exceedingly well," Kingsnorth replied, with the same
dangerous suavity.

"I hate the nasty long-haired things." It was quite evident that
Mrs. Mac's nerves had gone to splinters. Charlotte threw herself into
the breach.

"Well, don't hate this storm," she said, "even if Mr. Kingsnorth did
compare it to a sonata. It's beautiful. It's grand." Another howl
and downpour, and this time the framework of the house shivered under
its impact.

"Merely the andante," said Kingsnorth, shrugging his shoulders.

"You make my blood run cold," cried Mrs. Maclaughlin.

It was too dark to see him, but Charlotte knew that his lips were
apart and his teeth grinning in an evil smile.

"But why, Mrs. Maclaughlin?" said Charlotte suddenly. "If danger is
coming, it will come. No human power can stop it. The future is as
unreadable as the very sky. But why borrow trouble for what we are
powerless to resist? And if there is beauty and majesty in all this
conflict of the elements, surely it is better to see that, than to sit
dreading the unknown. Mr. Kingsnorth's comparisons are not unjust. It
is like a great piece of music, divided into movements. Whatever it
may come to later, it is glorious now."

"Spoken like a brave woman," Kingsnorth cried. "Let loose the dogs of
war and make Rome howl! Well, we don't care; do we, Mrs. Collingwood?"

"Not much," Charlotte assented, though somewhat coldly. Her manner
brought him to a sudden check.

"I forgot," he stammered. "Excuse me."

"Forgot what?" This point blank query about a remark not addressed
to herself emanated from Mrs. Maclaughlin.

"Dear Mrs. Mac," Kingsnorth said, and Charlotte winced at his tone,
"you do not realize how quickly you deteriorate once out of reach of
Mac's disciplining eye. Mac would never have permitted you to ask that
question. I often wonder if, had it been my good fortune to marry,
I should have been able to exert the strong guiding influence over
my wife that Mac evidently holds over you."

"Oh, you have," replied Mrs. Mac, while Charlotte sat in helpless
embarrassment at the scene. "Well, let me tell you that you wouldn't
have. You might have broken her heart, the Lord knows, as you'd
probably have broken your children's spirits, if you'd 'a' had 'em;
but no woman would ever be proud to be ruled by you as I'm proud to be
ruled by Mac. I'm disciplined. You hit the nail on the head there. And
maybe I fall back when Mac isn't around. But I love that old man of
mine. I've followed him over deserts and oceans. I may have let my
mind go once in a while; but no woman on God's green earth would have
married you and lived with you twenty-two years, and still have loved
you as I love Mac. I've been rebellious sometimes with the Almighty,
and it hasn't always seemed as if the powers above knew what they
were about. But the good Lord did a wise thing when He kept women
and children out of your hands, John Kingsnorth." She arose with a
snort of wrath and passed into the house. "Where's my Bible?" they
heard her saying to herself. "I brought it."

For a second or two, Charlotte remained like Kingsnorth, half
paralyzed by the outburst. Then a helpless, pitying embarrassment
settled upon her. It was all so terribly true, it was such a baring
of naked underfeelings. Would it ever be possible, she wondered,
to resume the island life after such an indecent exposure of what
simmered deep in Mrs. Maclaughlin's heart? Then, as the silence grew,
she cast about vainly for some change of subject. As if divining her
thoughts, Kingsnorth rose.

"Already the tempest has broken," he said. "It's been brewing three
years. I can't complain; and I know you think she told the truth."

A sudden impulse stirred Charlotte. "No, no," she said. "You must
not think that. I believe that, if you had married the right woman
(that's the stock phrase, isn't it?) you would have been a tender
husband, and if you had had children, a kind father. I don't know what
perversity of fate kept those influences out of your life, but all that
is wayward in you and bitter seems to have been caused by their lack."

She uttered the words with real warmth, and for an instant wondered
that he made no reply. Then, as the pause grew more marked, she heard
him breathing heavily, and it flashed into her mind that the man was
on the point of an utter breakdown. Her few sincere words had gone
straight through the armor that Mrs. Maclaughlin's blows had apparently
failed to affect. An absolute horror of such a possibility seized upon
her. They had had, she felt, an indecent exhibition of naked human
emotions. If more were to follow, what intimate revelations might not
take place? Yet the impossibility of uttering some banality was clear
to her mind. Anything short of the sincerity and earnestness demanded
by the situation would be insulting. So she remained as if transfixed,
in a kind of shivering expectation of what might be coming.

Kingsnorth, however, pulled himself together after a convulsive
movement or two of his chest. He stood for an instant without a word,
and then walked away to his own quarters, whence Charlotte soon heard
his voice shouting angrily for his servant.

Mrs. Maclaughlin, somewhat appeased by finding the Bible which she
had brought along for her usual nightly chapter, came out on the
piazza as the strident tones of Kingsnorth penetrated the sitting-room.

"Taking it out on his boy," she remarked. "Well, I've been aching to
tell the truth to John Kingsnorth for two years, and now I've done it."

"Do you feel any better for it?"

"Yes--no. I'm always sorry when I blurt out. He's right: Mac holds me
in." Her voice broke. "Oh, my Lord! My Lord! I wish I knew where he
was this minute. You're a strange woman, Charlotte Collingwood. You
sit here and watch them waves roll in and hear the wind blowing,
and you don't seem to give one thought to the man that you've lived
here with side by side for a year. Ain't you got no love for him?"

Charlotte put up a hand. "I can't discuss that with you,
Mrs. Maclaughlin. Surely I have made it plain before this."

"You've made a lot plain," replied Mrs. Maclaughlin. There was endless
reservation in her tone. It heaped such mountains of unuttered reproach
that Charlotte quite bowed under it.

"The rain is coming in strong," said Mrs. Maclaughlin, when she had
extracted sufficient healing from her companion's discomfort. "You'll
get drenched out here. I'm going to read my Bible. You had better
come in."

But Charlotte motioned her away. "I'm not religiously inclined
to-night," she replied.

"Charlotte Collingwood, do you defy your Maker?"

"I'm rebellious to-night, Mrs. Maclaughlin. There are His waves and
His winds, but still I'm rebellious. I'm not apologetic to-night,
not even in the face of a baguio."

"I'll speak for you," said Mrs. Maclaughlin earnestly. She went
inside, closed the doors and shell windows to keep out the storm,
and Charlotte heard her keeping her word. Mrs. Maclaughlin's prayers
were simple but fervent. They seemed to consist chiefly of a few
reiterated sentences. "O Lord, protect and save my old husband. You
know I love him, Lord; but it isn't all selfishness. O God, give me
back my Mac." At times she asked that the Divine Power might soften
the hardened heart of Mrs. Collingwood.



CHAPTER XVII


Meanwhile, the object of her solicitation sat on in a mood terribly
blended of recklessness and despair. No shadow of fear darkened the
almost ecstatic rebellion of her mood. As the tempest gathered force,
and gusts of savage violence hurtled themselves out of the crashing
void in front, the rain was driven like fine shot before them. In
the lulls the great organ of the surf filled the starless night with
crashing harmonies, and through sound or silence a snow field of
tumbling froth showed a spectral glimmering through the inky gloom. A
crimson glow came through the transparencies of Kingsnorth's shell
windows, a touch of warmth in the blinding convulsion of nature. In
the distant Filipino village no lights showed; and it was only after a
considerable time that Charlotte became aware that she missed them,
and missed seeing, too, the riding lights of the launch, which,
on cloudy night or clear, had shone out brightly against the dark
outline of the hills above the cove.

For three hours she remained in the storm, drenched, her wet hair torn
down by the blasts; her being full of tumultuous welcome to the mad
elements that seemed to threaten her. They were so harmonious with her
sense of desolation, of failure, of wrecked effort, that for a time it
hardly occurred to her that they could mean other than destruction. She
pictured herself hurled about in the seething waste before her; but no
thrill of fear entered her heart. She almost yearned for the struggle,
the helpless physical effort, the very pain of dissolution. The house
rocked under the blows of the wind, but she hardly noticed them. She
was joyfully expectant of the blow that should shatter and end all,
and should take forever from her the agony of deciding between two
evils. She rose and, grasping the rails of the piazza, tried to breast
the full force of the wind and shot driven rain, but it drove her back,
and knocked her flat upon the veranda floor.

She must have been slightly stunned by knocking her head against a
chair, for she was next conscious of blurred thoughts, of a spent,
chill body and of great mental and physical lassitude. Her mood
of elation had departed. She was confused, fearful of the crashing
thunder of surf and storm. In a lull, she dragged herself to her feet
and opened the door of her house.

The room, with its touches of refinement and beauty, looked hospitable
and attractive in spite of the fact that it was dripping where great
torn patches in the thatched roof let in the torrent. Mrs. Mac knelt
by the table, her eyes fixed, her lips moving. She uttered the one
phrase over and over in a heart-broken tone, "O God, keep my old
man. God take care of my Mac."

Charlotte, a wild, torn, drenched figure, stood contemplating her for
a moment, half in contempt; then, as the burden of the other's cry
pierced her brain, a sudden wave of pity and affection swept aside
the egoistic defiance of her mood.

"Martin," she said softly, and each word came like the musical
utterance of grief. "O Martin!" She turned again toward the sea and
its howling terrors just as a gust blew out the lamp. "O my husband! O
Martin!" The sea which had been a welcome enemy, a thing to fling
defiance to and to yield to in one last bout of struggle, seemed
suddenly an abyss of untold horrors; was that thing which would not
destroy her, but which might destroy him. She stood motionless, with
parted lips, staring into the blackness. Behind her a ship's lantern,
lighted earlier by Mrs. Maclaughlin in anticipation of the fact that
sooner or later the wind would put out the lamp, revealed dimly the
room and Mrs. Maclaughlin's kneeling figure, with its plain tear-worn
face, so fervently uplifted. But she saw neither room nor figure. Her
mind leaped into the waste and pictured Martin all alone in the
little white and gold dining-room of the coastguard steamer. She saw
the heaving panelled walls, heard the hum of the electric light motor
and the pounding of the engines, felt the staggering impact of waves,
and heard the wash of the water as it swept astern. Martin's face
was white and set. He sat by the table in one of the swivel chairs,
and she could see his eyes fixed on the tassels of the little green
silk curtains at the stern windows. He was thinking of her. Something
told her that no thought of his own danger had ever occurred to him;
that, in that crucial hour, he could feel only for her facing the
tempest alone in their home. His larger unselfishness made itself
felt. And for three hours she had been thinking of herself, playing
at melodrama, and mouthing heroic quotations, coquetting on dry land
with a tempest while the man she had loved was actually in its grasp
on the sea! Unutterable self-contempt seized upon her.

She turned and met Mrs. Maclaughlin's gaze. That lady had risen.

"Are you sane?" she inquired. "You've been a mad woman. I've tried
three times to drag you inside, You didn't seem awake."

"I'm awake now, Mrs. Maclaughlin. I've been mad, but I'm sane. My poor,
poor Martin."

But Mrs. Maclaughlin, though a woman of prayer, was practical. "You're
drenched," she said. She made Charlotte change into dry, warm
clothing. Still the storm waxed violent.

"We've got to get out of this," Mrs. Maclaughlin said. "Get your
mackintosh and Martin's pistols. I've put up a basket of food--enough
for two or three days. The house has got to go." Indeed, it swayed
perilously as they talked.

It was indeed strange to be belting on pistols and ammunition belts
at that hour of the night; but Charlotte saw that the older woman
had her wits about her. In a few minutes the two were ready to sally
forth. Charlotte looked back with a sob. "My dear little home," she
said. "I've been happy here--the only happy moments of my life have
been passed here." Mrs. Maclaughlin said nothing.

The wind lulled for a moment as they stepped outside. The glow of
Kingsnorth's light brought recollection back to Charlotte.

"But why hasn't Mr. Kingsnorth come to us?" she cried. "He promised."

Mrs. Mac lifted an accusing finger. "He promised," she said
bitterly. "What do a boozer's promises amount to? He's there now
sodden with drink--not Christian drink, but them French liqueurs. And
our men that ought to be here, God help 'em!"

The wind came back at that moment so violently that it knocked them
over. They lay gasping on their faces, but they heard the roar of
falling timbers behind them.

"My home!" Charlotte peered through the darkness, but could not see.

"Or mine! Well, we've got to get Kingsnorth out. His will go down
with him in it."

They struggled on--it seemed an interminable time--to Kingsnorth's
piazza. They realized instantly from its groanings and swayings that
the house was in immediate danger.

"The door is locked," said Charlotte. "We can't make him hear in
this rage."

Mrs. Mac took Mac's big .45, deftly unloaded it, and slipped the
cartridges into the pocket of her mackintosh. With the heavy butt she
struck two or three blows on the lattice work of Kingsnorth's shell
windows. The opening made was large enough to admit her hand. She
slipped up the wooden latch which falls into place when a Filipino
sliding window is drawn to, and opened a casement. The lamp was
burning brightly on a table, and Kingsnorth, aroused by the noise and
Mrs. Maclaughlin's repeated calls, was rubbing his eyes and staring
dully at their faces in the aperture.

"Are you mad?" said Mrs. Maclaughlin sharply. "Come out of here. This
house will go down in a minute."

"I'll come," said Kingsnorth stupidly. It was evident that he was
not fully awake, but he staggered to his feet and came to the open
casement. A new blast came from the sea, and they felt the floor
heave under their feet.

"Back!" cried Mrs. Maclaughlin, seizing Charlotte's hand and dragging
her backward along the veranda. "We have done what we could. O
man! man! the door! the door!" For Kingsnorth was still fumbling with
the window, pushing back another shutter with the evident intention
of getting out that way. In the outstreaming glow of light, they saw
the veranda supports sway and heave. Then came a shriek in the air,
a deafening roar, the snap of powerful supports strained to breaking;
and, as Kingsnorth clambered heavily through the window, the same
gust that tipped the cottage over like a child's house of blocks,
sent both women to their faces on the wet ground.

Charlotte never could remember how long it was before she was
struggling to her feet, clambering over wrecked bamboo flooring,
calling aloud to the man, who, she, knew, must have gone down with
the house. Mrs. Maclaughlin was by her side, saying "O my Lord!" at
intervals. They could see a crimson glow waxing brighter where the
overturned petroleum lamp had set fire to the wrecked house; but it
was not till its light grew brilliant, that they saw the man they
sought. He seemed to be wedged between an upheaval of the bamboo
flooring and the leaning wall of the house. His forehead was gashed
and he was unconscious.

Charlotte's training stood her well, and it was she who bent
over him and tried to lift him. She turned a white face, then, to
Mrs. Maclaughlin.

"A piece of bamboo has entered his side," she said. "We must break away
these pieces and free him. He will be roasted if we are not quick."

Fortunately the supports of the floor as well as the floor itself, were
of bamboo. At Charlotte's belt there hung her bunch of housekeeper's
keys, and a knife, not the ordinary penknife, but a real household
necessity, combining several domestic utensils. Mrs. Maclaughlin owned
one like it, and, in an instant, both women were hacking at the stiff
rattan fibres, working with frantic haste as the dry suali lining of
the house burst into roaring flame. They tore away the long bamboo
slats, but at the last, it was Charlotte who drew out the broken
piece which had entered Kingsnorth's breast. He moved and groaned.

"Is he coming to?" asked Mrs. Maclaughlin, peering but not
stopping. Charlotte shook her head. "I hope not, yet," she said. "We
must drag him back out of these ruins."

By the glow of the burning dwelling, the two women, now dragging,
now lifting, took Kingsnorth out of the wreckage, and succeeded in
carrying him some fifty feet along the path that led to Charlotte's
home. There a clump of pandan bushes made a shelter against the wind,
which, as if satisfied with the havoc it had wrought, ceased for fully
five minutes. The crimson radiance of the fire lighted the dripping
bushes, cast its demon flickers on the ocean's rage, and sent leaping
shadows among the broken-stemmed cocoanut trees. Charlotte gazed
wearily in the direction of the native village.

"They can't be asleep," she said. "Why don't they come?"

"Come!" echoed Mrs. Maclaughlin. "They'll not come; or, if they do,
it will be with evil in their hearts. They've got two Japanese rogues
to lead them, and they think Mac and Martin have gone to the bottom;
and when they find that this man is disabled--" She paused.

Charlotte took time only to groan as she bent over Kingsnorth,
wrapping a piece of cloth torn from her petticoat about his wounded
forehead, trying to pad the torn and bleeding breast. Blood and froth
stood upon his lips and at times convulsions of coughing seized him,
and more froth and blood were expelled.

"It is worse than disabled," said Charlotte slowly after what
examination she could make. "I think the lung has been penetrated. I
am afraid he is dying." Mrs. Maclaughlin pressed her lips together,
but said nothing.

When Charlotte had done what she could, she sat down and took
the wounded man's head in her lap. The fire, which had blazed up
so valiantly, died out as it reached the wet roof, and another
pattering shower extinguished it. The night closed about them again
in impenetrable darkness. Only once, as the clouds drove past, a rift
showed for an instant, and a star beamed down upon them as if reminding
them that the world of former days was still there. Little by little,
the wind moderated, the showers ceased, and the wild harmonies of
the sea subsided into a long rhythmic booming of surf. In spite of
its violence, the wind was soft and warm as velvet, and though they
were damp, chilled, and uncomfortable, what they had undergone could
not have been called suffering.



CHAPTER XVIII


The mental suffering was, however, far from small. As she strained
her eyes through the blackness, Charlotte felt that the weight of
ages lay on their aching pupils. Fatigue, despair, and fear all tore
at her heart. There rose always before her the vision of Martin as
she had imagined him in the little coastguard steamer's cabin, and
the cold dread clenched her heart that the waves had sucked him down
and down to the bottomless sea, a lonely, dead thing in the awful
vastness of it. Once only she spoke to Mrs. Maclaughlin.

"Do you think it can be near morning?" she asked; and Mrs. Maclaughlin
negatived the idea sharply.

"It was about midnight when we cleared out," she said, "and time goes
slowly in fixes like this.

It went infinitely worse than slowly. When, at last, the blackness
became a gloom filled with shapes, and a pallor showed in the east,
the two women, their hair in disorder, their faces drawn and haggard,
had hardly courage to look about them. Broad daylight revealed a scene
of desolation, with the sea running furiously against the strewn beach,
and with the cocoanut grove a ragged waste, its snapped boles standing
upright and the long plumy tops dragging on the ground. Kingsnorth's
charred structure, their own homes sprawling drunkenly, and the distant
village in ruins, presented a picture, which, to minds less engrossed
with even more heartrending possibilities, would have meant despair.

With the first clear light, Mrs. Maclaughlin hunted up her basket of
food and some water bottles which she had deposited at the side of
the path, and each woman made a pretence of swallowing a few tinned
biscuit, and eased her parched throat with drink. Charlotte moistened
Kingsnorth's lips, but he seemed unable to swallow. After awhile,
however, he opened his eyes, and she perceived that he was conscious.

He did not try to speak, but looked at her curiously, evidently
wondering how he came to be lying on the ground with his head in her
lap. He stared at her, nonplussed by her appearance, then slowly let
his eyes travel about him. The wrecked houses, the general devastation
had, apparently, significance but no recollection in his mind. He
made a faint movement, but the pain stopped him, and then she saw
that he desired to speak but could not.

Charlotte bent over him. "You are hurt, Mr. Kingsnorth. I don't think
you can remember all that happened. After you went home, the storm
grew much worse, and finally Mrs. Maclaughlin and I perceived that our
houses were doomed. We went to your house and broke in a window. You
were asleep with a lamp burning on the table beside you; we had some
difficulty in awakening you; and when we succeeded, and you roused
yourself to come out, another blast of wind came. We had barely time
to spring back; but you went down with the house. It caught fire from
the lamp--but we got you out and dragged you here. I have done what I
could for your wounds." She stopped, a slight vibration in her voice,
and glanced desperately across the still foaming sea. If help did
not come to them, there was no hope for Kingsnorth.

The man himself knit his brows in a forceful attempt at
remembrance. Little by little, the lines of effort gave way to
lines of bitterness. His nostrils dilated, a slow painful flush
deepened the pallor of his face, and his lips tightened in a smile
of self-contempt. Her own eyes suffused with pity as she looked down
on him, for she knew that he had pieced it all out, and that the
self-consciousness of ultimate failure and debasement was overwhelming
him. To be a man and yet to have been found wanting at the supreme hour
to those with whose protection he had been charged was exceedingly
bitter to John Kingsnorth. He closed his eyes, unable to look at
her, but presently a tear forced its lonely way out, then another,
and still another.

At the sight, the last shadow of her old distaste and resentment
vanished from Charlotte's mind. She saw in him only the creature maimed
and suffering, dignified by the near approach to the supreme hour,
a man weighted with the sense of failure, and the knowledge that
his last chance had come and gone, and that it, too, had passed him
unprofiting. With sudden tenderness,--a feeling that seemed to reach
forth to the uttermost confines of desolation,--she gently wiped away
the tears, and then, bending, kissed him on the brow. He smiled at
her gratefully and spoke with painful effort.

"Ah that's good. I've been lonely, I've wanted a human hand in mine,
a woman's of my own class. I'm not all hard and bad."

The words came with the utmost difficulty, and she gently pressed
her fingers on his lips to stop him. His hand sought hers weakly, and
held her fingers there. Then he turned his face to her like a chidden
child, and she spoke to him no more. Only occasionally she moistened
his fevered lips or wiped away the bloody froth that lay upon them
after a fit of coughing. His physical suffering was very great, great
enough, she hoped, to dull the consciousness of his dangerous state.

Mrs. Maclaughlin, as the day grew apace, busied herself in erecting a
low shelter over the dying man. She got some bamboo poles and stuck
them up, and laid on them a roof of banana leaves. She tried to get
a mattress out of one of the fallen houses, but was unable to do
so. She lighted a fire of leaves and old cocoanut husks, over which
she brewed a cup of strong coffee. Charlotte drank it gratefully
and afterwards ate one or two of the long fragrant bananas called
"boongoolan." Although she was greatly fatigued, the hot drink and
the food brought strength back to her, and new courage animated her.

Their servants and the village folk came in curious groups to inspect
the ruined houses; but--sinister omen--they did not approach the
whites, but eyed them curiously from a distance. Charlotte realized
that, helpless as he was, Kingsnorth was still a protection to them;
and he knew it too, for once, when the Japanese diver came too near,
he motioned feebly for the revolver strapped at Charlotte's waist. She
gave it to him, smiling faintly. The Jap, however, beat a retreat as
the revolver changed hands.

So the long morning wore away and the dying man still pillowed his
head in Charlotte's lap. Her mind, as she looked down upon him, was
a-surge with crowding thoughts. Pity was foremost. It was indeed
pitiful, this slow, painful ending, in desolation and loneliness,
of a life that should have closed in dignity and peace. As the face
grew whiter, and the pinched look of death stole upon his features,
the bitterness and the degeneracy seemed to yield to what had been
the once lofty spirit of manhood before the corroding acids of life
had preyed upon it. Step by step he had moved on the narrowing path
that ended in a cul de sac. He had declared that the fault was his,
and that if he had had the right stuff in him, he could not have made
the failure that he had made; but the poor fellow had not selected
the elements of his nature. They had been forged and linked upon him
by the wills and passions of others. Across the seas, the mother who
had contributed perhaps to the poorer elements of his character, and
who had chosen his father--that mother still lived an easy luxurious
life. Did she really think as little of him as he had declared she
did? Would no pangs of contrition for her selfishness strike deep at
the roots of her complacency, when she should learn that her son had
died an exile on the lonely island? The sisters who had played with
him, and the woman whose faithless hand had given the impetus to his
downward career--would no repentant pangs visit them when the news
should come that he had lived? There were other women, too, as he
had boasted; women who had loved him, in spite of his scorn. Where
were they? What were they doing as this final hour pressed upon John
Kingsnorth? Over in the Filipino village, the child who owed him life
sported with his playthings, ignorant of the father who would never
act a father's part to him; and on the sunny hillside mouldered the
remains of the broken-hearted girl who had been his wife. It was
such a waste, such a pitiable, useless, extravagant waste of human
desire, and of human happiness; a life that should have been filled
with decency and respect and honor, ending so meanly, so sordidly,
beneath the shelter of a mere leaf-roofed hutch. Her heart ached for
the sufferer, ached for his isolation, for the final hopeless ending
of what he had once hoped would be an honorable and happy career.

It was almost noon when Kingsnorth roused again and declared
weakly that he desired to make his will. In the pockets of the coat
which she had removed from him were a note book and pencil, and,
at his dictation, Charlotte scribbled down his wishes concerning
the child whom he at last stood ready to recognize. All his worldly
possessions were left to the orphan, and Collingwood was named as
guardian. Kingsnorth then signed the document, which both women
witnessed. At his request Charlotte once again pillowed his head in
her lap, and he kissed her hand feebly in gratitude.

Mrs. Maclaughlin after a last hopeless look at the sea, threw herself
down in the shade of the pandan bushes and went to sleep. Kingsnorth
watched her jealously and when he was certain that she was beyond
listening or seeing, asked Charlotte for his tobacco pouch. She
hunted it up in the pockets of his coat, and gave it into his weak,
trembling hands. He fumbled with it; and at last drew out the pearl,
wrapped in tissue paper, which he had shown her on the day they
discussed Martin's letter.

"For you," he said weakly; but at her flush, and sudden impulsive
gesture of protest, he went on more strongly; "I want you to have
it. It means something--a beginning--something between you and
want. You're right: you must not sacrifice yourself. You deserve
something of life. But take--take with the strong hand."

"But Mr. Kingsnorth," she replied, "I have not told you, but I am not
going away from Martin. I shall stay by him; he needs me, I think. At
any rate, there is some happiness in that thought."

He frowned slightly, and then smiled. "All the more need. A woman
ought not to be so utterly in a man's power. We're merciless
wretches--selfish." The effort of speech seemed to be too great.

Seeing that to refuse him would cloud his dying hours, Charlotte ceased
to argue and let him press the bauble into her palm. It lay there,
the visible token of Kingsnorth's final allegiance to the ideals of
the class which he had once renounced. It was, as he had declared,
a something to stand between her and want, a bridge perhaps in some
hour of need, that thing which might furnish her with temporary
support and independence if she chose to set Martin Collingwood and
her marriage vows aside.

But she did not intend to do so. As the slow hours dragged by,
that resolution shaped itself more and more definitely in her mind,
and with it there fell away her old self-consciousness about the
world's opinion of her actions. Through what throes this sense of
moral independence had come to her, she knew; through what it might
yet have to pass before it could obtain a perfect development, she
had some intuition; but in her ultimate victory over the weaker and
poorer elements of her nature she had perfect confidence.

As she sat on in the blinding heat, her life passed in retrospect
before her, and something half bitterness, half elation sprang up
in her soul as she gazed upon it. Too clearly she perceived that its
noblest features had been those which had most obstructed the happiness
she yearned for. Her ideals, those maxims which parent, teachers,
and guardians alike had dinned in her ears as the guide-marks of
life if she would be a lovely and loveable woman, had only served
to isolate her from human kind; and so far as love and tenderness
had come into her life at all they were owing to a quality which
all her training had taught her to regard as, at best, a weakness,
and at worst, a shame. A flush of humiliation stained her cheek as
she realized that her husband had not loved her for her intelligence,
for her truth, for her candor, for her fair judgment, for her human
charity, or for that final tenderness of soul and spirit which she
felt welling like some crystal stream in her bosom. No, it was for
her capacity for passion which his ruder instincts had assumed must
underlie the polished surface of her mind. Judge Barton, too, had
loved her, had striven to rouse in her an answering feeling to his own;
but though he had been able from the first to put a proper value upon
her breeding and intelligence, she could not blind herself to the fact
that these attributes were mere accessories to what really attracted
him--the development, in herself, of amorous possibilities which
only marriage could have brought about. She knew incontrovertibly,
that if, by a magician's stroke, she could be changed back into the
girl she was when Alexander Barton first met her, his interest in her
would fall flat in an instant. That girl had been neither priggish
nor puritanical, only intelligent, full of ideals, and emotionally
immature, dedicated to that vision of womankind which man himself
has consciously created, but from which unconsciously he turns away,
chilled and rebuked by its very perfection.

As she looked back, she wondered at herself and at her own temerity
in having dared to break with the teachings of a life-time; in having
set at defiance all that tremendous pressure which custom, social
usage, family pride, and selfishness bring to bear upon a girl and her
marriage. It had taken a certain amount of moral courage to do what
she had done; it had taken still more to bear what she had borne. But
if out of endurance there came knowledge,--not empty maxims and high
sounding phrases, but real knowledge of her own strength and of her
own weaknesses, and some true guiding sense of her own relationship
to the thing we call life,--she grudged it as little as the mother
grudges the birth-pains which give her her child.

Had she taken her courage in her hand with one splendid outburst of
defiance, much of sorrow and of humiliation might have been spared
her; but, on the whole, she was glad that she had not done so. That
sort of courage is seldom moral; it is, at bottom, emotionalism. She
had gone timidly inch by inch trying to fortify each step by her
intelligence. The way had led through devious windings: it had been a
trial of endurance for others as well as for herself; but in the end
it was she who had come out benefited. Poor Martin (her eyes lighted
tenderly) had trodden it side by side with her; but experience had
brought him no enlightenment.

No: the real value of all those weeks of pain and humiliation had
been for herself. They had been a preparation for the revelation
that had come upon her of the false ideals which modern society
gives women. It was incomprehensible that a woman of brains could
have clung tenaciously to the ideal which she had cherished for
twenty-eight years; and yet, all her training, all the influences
which surround a "well-brought-up girl" had contributed to it. What
she had asked for herself was a splendid nullity. She had expected to
draw her skirts daintily about her, and to pick her way through the
drawing-room of life, receiving all, giving nothing, too well-bred and
too intellectual to be tempted by its passions; and she had actually
supposed this egoistic solitude was moral elevation! She had thought
that trampling upon human love, setting aside the desire for home
and husband and children unless in their possession she gratified her
vanity and ambition, was self-respect! Well, she had not been alone
in her delusion. She knew that seventy per cent of her fellow women
would condemn her for having married Martin Collingwood, and that
more than that number would despise her for overlooking the crude
insults of his letter and of his speech by the pandan bushes. Her
face flamed as she recalled them. As long as she should live they
would be a thorn in her flesh, a scourge, an agony to be relived.

Yet no flagellant ever bent more meekly under his own blows than
Charlotte did as she resigned herself to bearing that cross. His
words had been but the irrepressible utterance of his own wounded
vanity; his letter but the masterful outcropping of the man's blind
egoism. His illusions versus her illusions!--after all, what more
had divided them than that? But greater than any illusion was life
itself, the mingling of distracting hopes, fears, emotions, out of
which only one thing is permanent and real, the consciousness of duty
and right, as they are forever separated from material advantages;
the expression of the human soul, which must move on struggling,
fainting, vanquished or triumphant, asking perhaps for sympathy here
or understanding there, but in the end recording its failures or its
victories, companionless and voiceless.

Often and often, during her weeks of torment, a phrase had crept into
her musings which she had repeated with God knows what of bitterness:
"The years that the locust hath eaten." In the clarity of her new-found
light, it was those other years which the locusts had eaten--those
long, empty, undeveloping years in which she had patterned herself
on a social ideal; but which had brought her nothing of strength or
of character.

She went slowly over the year of her life on the island. What had
her association with the Maclaughlins cost her? A possible intimacy
with a commissioner's wife. What had it brought her? Much that
was healthy in her viewpoint of life. That homely common sense of
Mrs. Maclaughlin, her outspoken dependence upon the man of her choice,
her frank admission of her sense of duty and obedience to him, had
a wholesome significance in these days, when women have thrown off
all the old maxims of subjection without finding any new self-imposed
obligations. What had her year's association with Kingsnorth, educated
reprobate, well-bred degenerate, cost her? An insulting proposition
from a worldly man; but what a wealth of human sympathy and charity
and compassion had it not injected into her moral and intellectual
exclusiveness! She felt the richening of her whole nature that had
come from putting aside her pride, from walking hand in hand with an
outcast upon the highway.

As for Judge Barton's little drama, it had not hurt her in the
least. Socially, it is true, it might be a stain. Even the semblance
of an "affair" with the respected dignitary might cause gossip. But
on her own soul that interview had left not one spot. It had soiled
nothing in her but her pride. She realized that it is not dodging
the temptations of life that makes character, but meeting them and
resisting them. She made up her mind that if fate should ever throw her
again into the society of Judge Barton, she would forgive him frankly;
nor would she seek to overwhelm him with her offended dignity, nor
press upon him the consciousness of his own sins. The man had had
his moment of temptation and had fallen. He had wronged no one but
himself. Far be it from her to decree his punishment.

Her thoughts turned then to Martin. The situation had its pathos
for him as well as for her, though perhaps he might never know it;
for there had come into the reality of her feeling for him the very
elements which his own egoism had most feared and hated. She had,
in the beginning loved him for loving's sake, caring nothing, so
far as she was concerned, for his faults and his weaknesses, only
too willing to ascribe to him the worth that he set upon himself;
afraid of the world, it is true, and hiding from its condemnation,
but secretly quarrelling with what she knew would be its contrary
judgment. She had married him because she needed him, because she
leaned weakly upon him. Now, when the experiences to which he had
subjected her had taught her to stand alone and to judge independently,
she was taking him back because he needed her.

He had declared that he would live with no woman on terms of pity or
of sufferance; but her heart was full of pity for him as it had never
been before; and for the first time the consciousness of her own real
superiority to Martin entered into her feeling for him. Up to that
hour, she had exalted him always at her own expense. There had been no
way of evading the weight of what she had felt to be the world's scorn
but determinedly to make Martin Collingwood into something which he
was not; in the moment of putting aside that world's verdict, he and
she swung as naturally into their normal relationships as a compass
needle swings back to its rest.

Henceforward she would see Collingwood as he was: the democrat whose
democracy is but the ladder of ambition, the raw, self-made man
reaching out an eager clutch for those finer things of life which
he knows only by their ticketed values. But that fact no longer
weighted him with a quality which needed apology or forgiveness;
she saw in it growth, the only enduring, magnificent thing in this
universal scheme. In all nature what is there but growth and decay,
what but the steady effort to arrive at perfection, and the ensuing
death out of which come new life and effort? Blind man, with Nature's
unvarying lesson spread before him, seeks to defy in his own being
the law which can never be successfully defied; would seize and
hold unchanged that moment of perfect development which precedes
decadence; would make use of artificial distinctions, would endeavor
to strengthen class differences; would invent caste systems, and sell
his very soul to gratify his vain hope of retaining in himself or in
his immediate descendants what he feels as the highest expression
of his own development. He has never done it, he can never do it;
but as instinctively as the flower reaches up to the sunlight, so
must he ever struggle for the prolongation of his best matured product.

The question of Collingwood's social status became in an instant
trivial. She saw in him the new growth, vigorous, wholesome, needing
but the right soil and nourishment to develop into a forest monarch;
and she had in her the power to aid that growth, and she had been
minded to turn her back upon him because he had not found out what
meed of consideration was due her, because he had sapped unconsciously
of her strength without asking himself why and whence it came!

The thought broke upon her like a splendor, that there might be more
joy in helping Martin Collingwood to his perfected state than there
would be in just loving him or in being loved by him. Many times she
had repeated, as women are fond of doing, that threadbare quotation,


        Man's love is of man's life a thing apart;
        'Tis woman's whole existence!


and she had accepted the common feminine view that the couplet is a
testimonial to man's coarser nature, and a subtle tribute to feminine
"soul" and superiority. She saw in it suddenly the whole story of
feminine weakness and selfishness. She honored Martin Collingwood
that love had not been his whole existence. There in her lap,
his head swathed in bloody bandages, was gasping out his life a
man who, however manly he might have been in other respects, had
been essentially feminine in his disposition to make love his whole
existence; and who had felt that the thwarting of the one natural
desire for the woman of his choice was sufficient to dull all the
normal manly instincts of ambition and accomplishment.

She glanced about her at the evidences of ruin, and she bowed her head
in gratitude that it had been her lot to come to this primitive land,
to know humiliation and sorrow and loneliness, and to free herself
in its solitudes from the false ideals of her training. She looked
down the long vista of years and saw herself always at Martin's side,
helping, working with him, bearing with his weaknesses, struggling
with her own; but the end of it all was life and character for
them both, something bigger than mere loving or being loved. If
she uttered a sigh or two for what was irrevocably gone, it was
not wholly in regret. It was no dream life she was going back to,
no Summer in Arcady (that was past), but plain, prosaic marriage,
with disappointments and misunderstandings and misconceptions to be
outlived and to make the best of; nor was there anything but health
in the thought that Martin might find just as much to overlook as she
might. Children would come to them, and she saw herself bearing them,
rearing them, guiding into intelligent and ethical expression the
forceful inheritance which would be theirs from him, finding in them
the realization of her own will and soul expression, rejoicing in his
pride in them. He would work and she would bear,--strange anomaly of
fate that carried back to its primitive beginnings the product of so
much effort and vanity and ambition!

The sunshine beat pitilessly on the leaf shelter; the fatigue of the
long vigil told upon her; her crowding thoughts wearied her. She held
herself upright with difficulty, and her eyelids drooped. Sitting
unsupported, she slept.

Her own body falling forward roused her after the briefest of naps. Her
quick movement to regain her balance jarred Kingsnorth, and he opened
his eyes. His face was half turned to the sea, whereas her back was
set squarely against it; and he instantly perceived the long trail
of a steamer's smudge borne ahead of the vessel which was still hull
down. He pointed feebly to call her attention to it.

"Good old Martin," he murmured weakly. "I knew--he--would come. He's
not--like-- me. He--doesn't fail."

Charlotte stared, her eyes aglow, her face aflame with hope. She lifted
her hand to her throat, choked by what was throbbing there. There were
hope and succor fast enough; but also what message of despair might
not that vessel bring? What if she, like Kingsnorth, had delayed too
long, and the Unseen Powers had decreed there should be no more chances
for her? Then as she glanced down, she met Kingsnorth's intent eyes,
puzzled, their keen intelligence slightly dimmed, but full of some
question that he dared not ask. A sudden impulse moved her.

"I want to tell you before it is too late," she said with difficulty,
"just how I feel. I glory in Martin Collingwood; I am glad I am
his wife. I have had the indecency to be ashamed of myself for
the most human and womanly thing I ever did in my life. Well, I'm
emancipated." She stopped, drew a long breath, and broke into a little,
low, nervous laugh. "There seems to be growing up a conviction among
women that the only door of emancipation is the divorce court, and that
the only way to assert their personality is in insurrection. I don't
want that door. I had the effrontery to marry Martin Collingwood to
be adored--as if either he or I or anybody else has the right to make
that the end of life. That is the cry of the effete, of the thing which
must soon fall into decay. But Heaven helping me, I'm going to make
myself into a woman, and I'm going to be the right influence in his
life. It's not going to be easy or free from heartache, but we'll do
it." A sudden recollection overcame her. Her bravery dropped from her,
the light vanished from her eye. "If it isn't too late," she whispered,
"if it isn't too late."

"No, no," Kingsnorth said, though some torment, physical or
mental, twisted his lips into uncouth shapes as he dragged out the
words. "He'll come. Almighty God wouldn't keep a man--from this." With
which words, of a poetic consistency with the weakness which had
been his undoing, the voice of John Kingsnorth fell into eternal
silence. For half an hour longer, perhaps, his eyes remained open,
staring curiously, wistfully, sometimes at her face, sometimes at the
deepening vapor line upon the sky. The steamer came full into view,
a coastguard boat, undoubtedly heading for the island. The day's heat
diminished; the shadows lengthened; the sea ran more and more gently;
and the light of late afternoon deepened to etherealized amber. Its
magic seemed to bring peace and resignation to the dying man. Once
again with a pathetic sigh he turned his face to hers and tried to
nestle closer to her as a penitent child clings to the mother who
has conquered him. She bent and kissed him again, this time upon the
lips. Shortly after, she perceived that he was unconscious.

Still the labored breathing went on and on a long time,--time enough
for their servants to gather, a meek and hospitable group some little
distance away, watching the vessel which would restore the whites to
their old status on the island; time enough for the steamer to drop her
anchor and to put out a boat; but at last, in a long shuddering sigh,
it ceased. John Kingsnorth, disreputable offspring of a proud family,
had gone to his reckoning. In time they would go to theirs.

For a few minutes, Charlotte made no attempt to move. Then she gently
laid him down, and without disturbing Mrs. Maclaughlin still in the
deep sleep of exhaustion, dragged herself painfully to her feet. The
movement dislodged the pearl, which had slipped unnoticed into her
lap. She picked it up and stood looking upon it meditatively. Its
luster had no sinister significance in spite of those rather revolting
confessions of Kingsnorth's about his musings over it. It was just
a beautiful bauble, one of those shining gauds for which women break
their hearts or with which they seek to break other women's. It had
no worth apart from human vanity. Back of all its commercial value,
lay a human weakness.

She did not care for it. She said to herself that she would keep it
long enough to learn the news that the boat brought her. If Martin
was alive, well she knew how quickly he would repudiate the gift, how
his man's pride would revolt at her having financial independence of
him. She could not but realize how utterly his own self-respect must
hang on his power to work for her, to give her the things he wanted for
her. Nor did she wish to repeat to him what Kingsnorth had told her. It
was a confession he would not willingly have made to Collingwood;
it was the woman in him crying out to the woman. But if Martin was
no more, then she would accept the gift, thankful for the help it
would give her, knowing well that Martin would not have grudged it.

Stiffly she made her way to the beach and shading her eyes, peered at
the approaching boat. The dazzle of the sunset was in them and the
boat was well out; but someone was standing, waving frantic arms at
her. Her heart gave one great throb as she realized that no one but
Martin would so energetically have welcomed the sight of her; and
then as it came nearer and she saw him plainly, the throbs settled
into steady, confident beating. Her chance had come, and would find
her ready to profit.

The sea was molten metal shot with undertones of steely blue and opal;
huge banks of cloud were massed on the distant horizon, the hidden
sun pouring down great shafts of light; cocoanut trees were yellow
green in the radiance; the worn, mouse-colored nipa roofs were turned
to gold. All nature was afire with beauty and promise. Yet there in
the dismantled homes lay a man's work to his hand; and in the general
devastation was written the story of wreck and of failure, the threat
of toil to restore. There, too, in the full light stood a woman ready
to help and to bear unflinchingly her share of the burden. Her dress
was disordered; her hair, that had grayed slightly in the suffering
of past weeks, had something of wildness in its untidiness. Her face
was white, and would never again be youthful; but in spite of fatigue
she stood erect, magnificent, a splendor of purpose in her eyes,
a woman entered into her heritage, tried, self-confident, sure of
herself. Though he would never know it, though he was destined to
go on to the end in his fool's paradise of indomitable ignorance,
Martin Collingwood, most masculine of masculine types, who had vowed
that no woman should ever rule him or patronize him, accepted, in that
hour, the terms he had repudiated, and thrust his neck rapturously,
for all time, beneath the yoke of petticoat government.

Collingwood and Maclaughlin were both on their feet, the one
feasting his eyes on the woman he loved, the other searching with
dread premonition of evil for the form dear to him. Neither at that
moment gave a thought to the destruction that had overtaken what
they had built, or to the tedious steps to be retraced, the effort
of accomplishment to be re-done. That was for later; that was life in
their sturdy acceptation of it. But just before the boat grounded they
saw Charlotte lift one hand with an easy graceful movement and toss
some gleaming object into the sea. They even heard the tiny splash
it made, and saw the ripples. Neither gave it a second thought;
it might have been a pebble picked from the beach, or some equally
valueless trifle. Little did Martin dream that it was the last fagot
she possessed laid upon the altar of his self-esteem.

As the boat's keel grated on the sands, however, both men sprang out
and splashed their way to her. She stood smiling clearly, steadfastly,
into her husband's eyes; and as he gathered her with a sob into his
arms, Maclaughlin, obedient to her slight gesture, tore past them to
the low-roofed shelter whither she motioned him. Collingwood, raising
his eyes as he lifted his lips from his wife's, saw the man's abrupt
halt and recoil; then beheld him uncover at the sight of the sleeping
woman and their dead comrade.



                                THE END



NOTE


[1] Barometric pressure in Philippines is measured in millimeters. In
typhoons where fifth signal is flown, about 742 is lowest pressure
recorded. In great storm of 1908, 739.8 was lowest. Generally the
falling of the barometer is gradual for several days during the
continuance of the storm. When it falls suddenly, as here indicated,
before a storm, it means that a storm of short duration but of terrific
violence is coming.





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