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Title: Robert Kimberly
Author: Spearman, Frank H. (Frank Hamilton), 1859-1937
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 "Robert Kimberly" ***

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[Illustration: Cover]



[Illustration: I despise your threats," she said choking with her own
words.  "I despise you."]



                                 ROBERT
                                KIMBERLY


                                   BY
                           FRANK H. SPEARMAN



                             ILLUSTRATED BY
                         JAMES MONTGOMERY FLAGG



                                TORONTO
                             McLEOD & ALLEN
                               PUBLISHERS



                          COPYRIGHT, 1911, BY
                        CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS

                        Published February, 1911



                               TO MY WIFE



                             ILLUSTRATIONS


I despise your threats," she said choking with her own words.  "I
despise you." . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

Kimberly placed it without hesitation on her shoulders

She sang for him "Caro Mio Ben"

An acolyte, entering in the gray of the early morning, saw on the last
of the kneeling benches a man resting with bowed head



                            Robert Kimberly



                               CHAPTER I


The dancing pavilion, separated from the Casino itself by an arched
passageway and affording another pretty view of the lake in the
moonlight, was filled with young people when Alice entered.

"It will be cool here, I think," suggested Dolly De Castro, leading the
way for her guest.  "The Hickories is by no means a gay place," she
continued, seating herself beside Alice where they could see the dancers
moving in and out of the long room.  "And it isn’t a club.  There is
just this Casino and the fields for golf and polo.  It is a neighborhood
affair--and really the quietest place of the kind in the Lake country.
Too bad you could not have been here three weeks ago for the Kermess."

"So Miss Venable said.  They are great fun."

"We revive one occasionally to preserve the Dutch traditions of the
family," continued Dolly. "Mrs. Charles Kimberly--Imogene--gave it this
year.  Last year I gave it.  You would have seen everybody, especially
the Sea Ridge people. Fritzie, dear?"  Dolly paused to stay a slender
young woman who was passing.  "Miss Venable," she explained, still
speaking to Alice, "is our favorite cousin and will make you acquainted
with every one."

Fritzie Venable whose lively, brown eyes escaped beauty only through a
certain keenness of expression, stopped with a smile and waited on
Dolly’s word.

"I want Mrs. MacBirney to go over to the Nelsons’ after a while.  This
dance is really a young people’s affair," Dolly went on, turning to
Alice.  "These are friends of Grace’s and Larrie’s and I don’t know half
of them.  Take care of Mrs. MacBirney a moment, Fritzie, will you, while
I find Arthur?" asked Dolly, rising and leaving the two together.

Alice looked after Dolly as she walked away. Dolly had the Kimberly
height and preserved it with a care that gave dignity to her carriage.
Her dignity, indeed, showed in her words as well as in her manner; but
in both it battled with a mental intensity that fought for immediate
expression.  Dolly persuaded and dictated unblushingly, though it could
not be said, unpleasingly.

"I know you are enjoying Mrs. De Castro and her lovely home," said
Fritzie to Alice.  "Of course," she added as Alice assented, "The Towers
is on a much grander scale.  But I think Black Rock is the ’homiest’
place on Second Lake.  I suppose since I saw you yesterday you have been
all around?"

"Not quite; but I’ve met many lovely people."

"You can’t help liking Second Lake people. They are a kind-hearted,
generous set--notably so for people of means."

"Aren’t such people usually generous?"

Fritzie looked doubtful: "People of large means, perhaps, yes.  Indeed,
the only trouble here is, there are too many of that sort.  Everybody is
prosperous and everybody, with, I think, two exceptions, contented.  I,"
laughed Fritzie, "am one of the exceptions.  There being no possibility
of preëminence in the line of means, I believe I have in my rôle of
discontent a certain distinction; and as far as I can see, as much fun
as anybody. In fact, I’ve often thought the only place where I should
care to be rich would be among the poor.  Where every one overflows with
luxury distinctions are necessarily lost--and I like distinctions.
Isn’t this pretty for dancing?"

"Everything over here is pretty," said Alice.

"The place takes its name, ’The Hickories,’ from the grove back of it.
You see there was nothing about the Lake itself to serve the purpose of
a country club--no golf course, no polo field. All this stretch of the
eastern shore is a part of The Towers estate, but Mr. Kimberly was good
enough to set it apart for the rest of us--you have met Mr. Robert
Kimberly?"

"Neither of the Mr. Kimberlys as yet."

"There is Charles now."  Fritzie indicated a smooth-faced,
youthful-looking man coming in through one of the veranda openings.
"That is he speaking to Dolly.  They call him the handsome Kimberly."

Alice smiled: "For a man that’s rather a severe handicap, isn’t it?"

"To be called handsome?"

"It suggests in a way that good looks are exceptional in the family, and
they are not, for their sister, Mrs. De Castro is very handsome, I
think. Which brother is this?"

"The married brother; the other is Robert. They call him the homely
Kimberly.  He isn’t really homely, but his face in repose _is_ heavy. He
is the bachelor."

"Mr. MacBirney tells me he is completely wrapped up in business."

"Rather--yes; of late years."

"That, I presume, is why he has never married."

"Perhaps," assented Fritzie with a prudent pause.  "Some men," she went
on somewhat vaguely, "get interested, when they are young, in women in
general.  And afterward never settle down to any one woman, you know."

"I should think that kind of a man would be tiresome."

Fritzie looked at young Mrs. MacBirney somewhat in surprise, but there
was nothing in Alice’s frank eyes to provoke criticism.  They met
Fritzie’s with an assurance of good-nature that forestalled hostility.
Then, too, Fritzie remembered that Mrs. MacBirney was from the West
where people speak freely.  "Robert is deliberate but not a bit
tiresome," was all Fritzie said in answer.  "Indeed, he is not
communicative."

"I didn’t mean in that way," explained Alice. "I should only be afraid a
man like that would take himself so seriously."

Fritzie laughed: "He wouldn’t know what that meant.  You had music at
your dinner to-night."

"Lovely music: the Hawaiian singers."

"I was sorry I couldn’t be there.  They always come out to sing for
Robert when they are in the States, and they are always in dreadful
financial straits when they get as far from home as this, and he is
always making up their deficits.  They used to sing at The Towers, from
barges on the lake. But The Towers is hardly ever opened nowadays for a
function.  The music over the water with the house illuminated was
simply superb. And the evening winding up with fireworks!" sighed
Fritzie in pleasing retrospect.

"There is Robert now," she continued..  "Do you see him?  With Mrs.
Charles Kimberly. They are devoted.  Isn’t she a slip?  And the
daintiest little thing.  Robert calls her his little Quakeress--her
people were Quakers.  She seems lost among the Kimberlys--though Robert
isn’t quite so tall as his brother, only more muscular and slower."

Robert Kimberly with Imogene on his arm entered from the opposite side
of the room and walked across the floor to take her to her husband. His
face was darker than that of Charles and heavier eyebrows rendered his
expression less alert. Fritzie waved a hand at Imogene, who answered
with her fan and greeted Alice.

"And there comes Mrs. Nelson--the pale brunette.  Heroic woman, I call
her.  She has been fighting her advancing weight for ten years.  Isn’t
she trim?  Heavens, she ought to be.  She lives in Paris half the time
and does nothing but dress and flirt."

"And who is it with her?"

"The stately creature with her is Dora Morgan. She is a divorcée.  She
likewise lives in Paris and is quite a singer.  I haven’t heard her
lately but she used to sing a little off the key; she dresses a little
off the key yet, to say nothing of the way she acts sometimes.  They are
going to dance."

A small orchestra of stringed instruments with a French horn, hidden
somewhere in a balcony, began the faint strains of a German waltz.  The
night was warm.  Young people in white strolling through dim veranda
openings into the softly lighted room moved at once out upon the floor
to the rhythm of the music.  Others, following, paused within the
doorways to spin out ends of small talk or persist in negligible
disputes.  The dancers wore the pretty Hawaiian leis in honor of the
Island singers.

"There were some interesting men at the dinner to-night," said Alice.

"You mean the German refiners?  Yes, they are Charles Kimberly’s
guests," remarked Fritzie as the floor filled.  "There they are now, in
that group in the archway with Mr. Nelson."

"But the smaller man was not at the dinner."

"No, that is Guyot, the French representative of the Kimberlys.  He and
George Doane, the bald, good-looking man next to him, have the party in
charge.  You met the immense man, Herr Gustav Baumann, at dinner.  He is
a great refiner and a Hawaiian planter.  They are on their way to
Honolulu now and leave within an hour or two in Robert Kimberly’s car
for San Francisco.  The Baumanns have known the Kimberlys for
generations.  Should you ever think Herr Baumann could dance?  He is as
light as a cat on his feet, but he waltzes in the dreadful European
round-and-round way.  The black-haired man with the big nose is Lambert,
a friend of his, a promoter and a particularly famous chemist whom
Robert Kimberly, by the way, hates--he is a Belgian.  I can’t bear him,
either--and, Heavens, Guyot is bringing him over here now to ask me to
dance!"

Fritzie’s fear proved true.  However, she accepted graciously as Lambert
was brought forward and bowed in making his request.  But she did not
fail to observe that though he bowed low, Lambert’s bold eyes were glued
on Alice even while he was begging Fritzie for the dance. Something in
Alice’s slender face, the white hardly touched enough with pink, except
under animation, held Lambert’s glance.  Alice, already prejudiced,
directed her eyes as far away as possible under the inspection and was
glad that Fritzie rose at once.

Robert Kimberly joined Baumann and Edward Nelson.  "You have not told me
yet, Robert," Baumann began, "how you put in your time here in the
country."

"I have a good secretary and do a great deal of my work here, Gustav."

"But one does not always work.  What else? I remember," he continued,
turning to Nelson, "the stories my father used to tell about the
Kimberlys--your father, Robert, and especially your Uncle John."
Baumann radiated interest in everything American.  "Those men were busy
men.  Not alone sugar-refining, but horses, steamboats, opera-houses,
women--always, always some excitement."

"Other times, other manners, Baumann," suggested Nelson.  "In those days
a fine horse had a national interest; to-day, everybody’s horse does his
mile in two minutes.  The railroads long ago killed the steamboats;
newsboys build the opera-houses now; sugar refines itself.  Mere
money-making, Baumann, has become so absorbing that a Kimberly of this
generation doesn’t have time to look at a woman."

"Nelson!" protested the good-natured and perspiring German, "no time to
look at a woman? That, at least, cannot be true, can it, Robert?"

"Not quite.  But I imagine the interest has waned," said Kimberly.
"When a man took his life in his hand on such a venture the excitement
gave it a double zest--the reflection that you were an outlaw but
prepared, if necessary, to pay the price with your life.  Nowadays, the
husband has fallen lower than the libertine.  If you break up his
home--he sues you.  There is nothing hair-raising in that.  Will you
dance, Gustav?"

"I want very much to dance.  Your women dance better than ours."

"Why, your women dance beautifully.  Nelson will find you a partner,"
suggested Kimberly. "I must hunt up Mrs. Nelson.  I have a dance with
her, myself."

Alice sat for a moment alone.  Among the dancers, Robert Kimberly moved
past her with Lottie Nelson on his arm.  Alice noticed how handsome and
well poised Lottie was on her feet; Kimberly she thought too cold to be
an attractive partner.

Within a moment Dolly came back.  "I can’t find Arthur anywhere."

"He isn’t on the floor, Mrs. De Castro."

"No matter, I will let him find me.  Isn’t it a pretty company?  I do
love these fresh faces," remarked Dolly, sitting down.  "The young
people complain of our being exclusive.  That is absurd.  We have to
keep quiet, otherwise why live in the country?  Besides, what would be
gained by opening the doors?"

Dolly had a pleasing way of appealing in difficulties, or what seemed
such, even to a stranger. "We don’t want ambitious people," she went on;
"they are killing, you know--and we certainly don’t want any more like
ourselves.  As Arthur says," Dolly laughed a little rippling laugh, "’we
have social liabilities enough of our own.’"

Arthur De Castro came up just in time to hear his name: "What’s that
Arthur says, Dolly?"

"Oh, here you are!" exclaimed his wife.  "No matter, dear, what it was."

"It is certain Arthur never said anything of the kind, Mrs. MacBirney,"
interposed De Castro. "If any one said it, it must have been you,
Dolly."

Alice laughed at the two.  "No matter who said it," remarked Dolly,
dismissing the controversy, "somebody said it.  It really sounds more
like Robert than anybody else."

"You will be aware very soon, Mrs. MacBirney," continued De Castro,
"that the Kimberlys say all manner of absurd things--and they are not
always considerate enough to father them on some one else, either."

Alice turned to her hostess with amused interest: "You, of course, are
included because you are a Kimberly."

"She is more Kimberly _than_ the Kimberlys," asserted her husband.  "I
am not a Kimberly." Arthur De Castro in apologizing bowed with so real a
deprecation that both women laughed.

"Of course, the young people rebel," persisted Dolly, pursuing her
topic, and her dark hair touched with gray somehow gave an authority to
her pronouncements, "young people always want a circle enlarged, but a
circle _never_ should be. What is it you want, Arthur?"

"I am merely listening."

"Don’t pretend that you leave the men just to listen to me.  You want
Mrs. MacBirney to dance."

"She is always like that," declared De Castro to Alice, whom he found
pleasing because her graciousness seemed to invite its like.  "Just such
bursts of divination.  At times they are overwhelming.  I remember how
stunned I was when she cried--quite before I could get my breath: ’You
want to marry me!’"

"Was she right?" laughed Alice, looking from one to the other.

"Absolutely."

"Is she right now?"

"Dolly is always right."

"Then I suppose I must dance."

"Not, of course, unless you want to."

Alice appealed to Dolly: "What did you do?"

"I said I wouldn’t marry him."

"But you did," objected her companion.

"He was so persistent!"

Alice laughingly rose: "Then it would be better to consent at once."

Dolly rose with her.  Two of the dancers stopped before them: a tall,
slender girl and a ruddy-faced, boyish young man.

"Grace," said Dolly to the blue-eyed girl, "I want you to meet Mrs.
MacBirney.  This is my niece, Grace De Castro."

The young girl looked with pretty expectancy into Alice’s face, and
frankly held out her hand.

"Oh, what a bloom!" exclaimed Alice, looking at the delicate features
and transparent skin. Grace laughed happily.  Alice kept her hand a
moment: "You are like a bit of morning come to life, Grace."

"And this is my cousin, Mrs. MacBirney--Mr. Morgan," said Grace shyly.

Larrie Morgan, a bit self-conscious, stood for an instant aloof.  Alice
said nothing, but her eyes in the interval worked their spell.  He
suddenly smiled.

"I’m mightily pleased to meet you, Mrs. MacBirney," he exclaimed with
heartiness.  "We’ve all heard about you.  Is Mr. MacBirney here?" he
continued, tendering the biggest compliment he could think of.

"He is somewhere about, I think."

"We shall lose our waltz, Mrs. MacBirney," urged Arthur De Castro.

"Oh, we mustn’t do that.  Let’s run," whispered Alice, taking his arm.

"Who is Mrs. MacBirney?" asked Grace of Larrie with an appealing look as
Alice moved away.

"Why, don’t you know?  Her husband owns some beet plants."

"What lovely manners she has."  Grace spoke under her breath.  "And so
quiet.  Where are their refineries, Larrie?"

"In the West."

"Where in the West?"

"Somewhere out toward the Rocky Mountains," hazarded Larrie.

"Denver?" suggested Grace doubtfully.

"I fancy that’s it.  Anyway," explained Larrie coldly, "we are buying
them."

"Are you?" asked Grace, lifting her soft eyes timidly.

To her, Larrie was the entire Kimberly sugar interest; and at the moment
of making the MacBirney purchase he looked, to Grace, the part.



                               CHAPTER II


Edward Nelson, the counsel, in some measure the political adviser and,
as to the public, the buffer of the Kimberly sugar interests, was fond
of entertaining.  Being naturally an amiable gourmet, his interests
suited his tastes. Moreover, his wife, Lottie Nelson, pleasing of face,
with a figure well proportioned and with distinction in her bright,
indolent eyes, loved to entertain.  And she loved to entertain without
working hard to do so.  Morningside, her country home at Second Lake,
though both attractive and spacious, and designed with a view to
entertaining, was already being replaced with a new home more attractive
and more spacious, and meant to be filled with still more guests.

Observation and experience had convinced Lottie that the easiest way to
keep people in hand is to feed them well.  And she quite understood that
a vital part of the feeding in such a philosophy is the drinking.  There
were difficulties, it is true, but which of us has not difficulties?

People--provided, they were people of consequence--diverted Lottie.  She
had no children--children had no place in her view of life--nor was she
vitally interested in her husband.  The companionship of those whom she
called her friends thus became a necessity; the annoyance being that not
always would the particular friends whom she wanted--men chiefly--gather
to her.

On the evening of the De Castro dinner and dance, Lottie was in better
than her usual spirits. She had brought home Charles Kimberly--who as a
yachtsman bore the title of Commodore--and his wife, Imogene.  Imogene,
the little Quakeress, did not like her, as Lottie was aware, but Charles
Kimberly was always in sorts and always tractable--different in that
respect from Robert. Charles and his wife took MacBirney and Fritzie
Venable to the Nelsons’ with them and Alice was to follow with the De
Castros.

When Lottie reached home, Dora Morgan had already come over with George
Doane, one of the Kimberly stock brokers.  These two assured the
evening.  In the dining-room only a few--of the right sort--were needed
for good company.

But more was in prospect for this evening--Robert Kimberly was expected.
Nelson came down from the library with MacBirney and left him with
Imogene while he followed Charles to a smoking-room.  Fritzie and Mrs.
Nelson joined Doane and Dora Morgan in the music-room. Cards were
proposed, but no one had the energy to get at them.

A servant passed in the hall to answer the door and Lottie Nelson at
once left the room.  When she reached the vestibule the footman was
taking Robert Kimberly’s coat.  She walked well up to Robert before she
spoke: "At last!"

"I went back to The Towers for a moment," said Kimberly in explanation.
"Are Charles and Nelson here?"

"And is that all after a month--’Are Charles and Nelson here?’!" echoed
Lottie patiently and with a touch of intimate reproach.

"We have a conference to-night, you know, Lottie.  How are you?"

She put back her abundant hair: "Why didn’t you call up last week when
you were home to find out?"

"I was home only overnight.  And I came late and left before you were
awake.  You know I have been at the new refinery for a week.  We began
melting yesterday."

"At the big one?"

"At the big one."

She took hold of the lei that he had worn over from the dance and in a
leisurely way made a pretence of braiding the stem of a loose rose back
into it.  "This is the prettiest I’ve seen," said Lottie.  "Who gave it
to you?"

"Grace.  What is the matter with it?" he asked looking down at her white
fingers.

"You are losing your decoration," she murmured with leisurely
good-nature.  "Nobody to do anything for you."

Kimberly looked at the parting lei with some annoyance, but if he
entertained doubts as to its needing attention he expressed none.
"These things are a nuisance anyway," he declared at length, lifting the
lei impatiently over his head and depositing it without more ado on a
console.  "We will leave it there."

"Where else have you been all this time?" demanded Lottie with an
indolent interest.

"All over the country--even across the Rockies."

"Across the Rockies!  And a whole big car to yourself!  You must love
solitude.  And now you are buying a lot of refineries."

"Not I--the companies are."

"Oh, it’s all the same."

"Not precisely; this MacBirney purchase is not by my advice or with my
approval."

"He is in there now, Imogene is talking with him."

"The trip was extremely tedious," said Kimberly, casting his eyes slowly
around for means of escape.

"How could it be anything else with no friends along?"

"With McCrea and two secretaries and a stenographer, I hadn’t time to
take any friends."

"What is time for?"

"I should say in the West it is valuable for getting home with."

"And when you do get home?"

"To build more; borrow more; control more; sell more; spend more.  I’m
speaking for all the rest of you, not for myself.  I’m just the
centrifugal to throw the money out."

"Never by any chance to live more, I suppose?"

"You mean to eat and drink more?  How could we?"

"I _don’t_ mean to eat and drink more.  I mean just what I say, to live
more!"

They were at the threshold of the music room. He laughed good-naturedly,
but Lottie declined to be appeased.

"Lord, but I’m sick of it all!" she exclaimed petulantly.

Kimberly used care not to offend, yet he always interposed a screen
between himself and her, and however delicate the barrier, Lottie Nelson
had never been able to penetrate it.

"No sicker of it than I am," he returned. "But I’m a part of the
machine; I can’t get out. I suppose you are, and you can’t get out.  But
you are too young to talk like that; wait till the new home is finished.
Then you will shine."

She uttered a contemptuous exclamation, not quite loud enough for the
others to hear, as she reëntered the room.  The others, in fact,
scarcely would have heard.  Fritzie, Doane, and Dora Morgan were
laughing immoderately.  Imogene at the piano was playing softly.
Kimberly stopped to speak to her.

"I forgot, by the way, to ask you when you sail, Imogene," he said.

She answered with one hand running over the keys: "That depends on you,
doesn’t it, Robert? I do hope you’ll get through soon."

"Anxious to get away, are you?"

"You know I always am."

"Where are you going this time?"

"To the Mediterranean, I suppose."

"You are fond of the Mediterranean."

"Every place else seems so savage after it."

"Lottie says you have been talking with MacBirney."

"Just a few minutes."

"How do you like him?" asked her brother-in-law.

Imogene laughed a little: "He is very intelligent. He confuses me a
little, though; he is so brisk."

"Is he entertaining?"

Imogene shrugged her shoulders: "Yes.  Only, he rather makes you feel as
if he were selling you something, don’t you know.  I suppose it’s hardly
fair to judge of one from the first interview.  His views are broad,"
smiled Imogene in retrospect. "’I can’t understand,’ he said ’why our
American men should so unceasingly pursue money.  What can more than a
million or two possibly be good for--unless to give away?’"  Imogene
looked with a droll smile into Kimberly’s stolid face.  "When he said,
’a million or two,’ I thought of my wretched brother-in-law struggling
along with thirty or forty that he hasn’t yet managed to get rid of!"

"You don’t think, then, he would accept a few of them?" suggested
Kimberly.

"Suppose you try him some time," smiled Imogene as she walked with
Kimberly to the card-table where Fritzie and Dora Morgan sat with Doane.

"Travelling agrees with you, Robert," observed Doane.

"The country agrees with you," returned Kimberly.  "Good company, I
suppose, George, is the secret."

"How is the consolidation getting along?"

"There isn’t any consolidation."

"Combination, then?"

"Slowly.  How is the market?"

"Our end of it is waiting on you.  When shall you have some news for
us?"

"You don’t need news to make a market," returned Kimberly indifferently,
as he sat down. He looked at those around the table.  "What are you
doing?"

"Tell your story again, Dora," suggested Doane.

Dora Morgan looked at Kimberly defiantly. "No," she said briefly.

"Pshaw, tell it," urged Doane.  "It’s about the Virgin Mary, Robert."

Dora was firm: "It’s not a bachelor’s story," she insisted.

"Most of your stories are bachelors’ stories, Dora," said Kimberly.

Dora threw away her cigarette.  "Listen to that!  Didn’t I tell you?"
she asked appealing to Doane.  "Robert is getting to be a real nice
man."

In an effort to appease both sides, Doane laughed, but somewhat
carefully.

"I got into trouble only the other day in telling that story," continued
Dora, with the same undercurrent of defiance.

Effectively dressed, though with a tendency to color, and with dark,
regular features, flushed a little at night, Dora Morgan had a promise
of manner that contrasted peculiarly with her freedom of tongue.

"Tell us about it, Dora?" said Lottie Nelson.

"It was over at The Towers.  I was telling the story to Uncle John.  His
blood is red, yet," she added without looking at Robert Kimberly to
emphasize her implication.

"Uncle John!" echoed Fritzie, at fault.  "Did Uncle John object?"

"Oh, no, you misunderstand.  It wasn’t Uncle John."  Every one but
Kimberly laughed.  "I was telling Uncle John the story, and his
nurse--your protégé, what’s his name?  I never can remember--Lazarus?
the queer little Italian," she said, appealing to Kimberly.

"Brother Francis," he answered.

"He’s not so awfully little," interposed Fritzie.

"Well, he was in the room," continued Dora, "and he got perfectly
furious the moment he heard it."

"Furious, Dora?  Why, how funny!" exclaimed Lottie Nelson, languidly.

"He turned on me like a thunder-cloud.  Poor Uncle John was still
laughing--he laughs on one side of his face since his stroke, and looks
so fiendish, you know--when Lazarus began to glower at me.  He was
really insulting in his manner.  ’Oh, I didn’t know you were here,’ I
said to hush him up.  ’What difference should that make?’ he asked, and
his eyes were flashing, I can tell you."

"’The Virgin Mary is no relation of yours, is she?’ I demanded frigidly.
You ought to have seen the man.  You know how sallow he is; he flushed
to the roots of his hair and his lips snapped like a trap.  Then he
became ashamed of himself, I dare say, and his eyes fell; he put his
hand on his breast and bowed to me as if I had been a queen--they
certainly have the prettiest manners, these poor Italians--haven’t they,
Imogene?"

"But what did he say?" asked Fritzie.

"’Madame,’ he exclaimed, as if I had stabbed him to the heart, ’the
Blessed Virgin is my mother.’  You really would have thought I had
insulted his own mother.  They have such queer ideas, these foreigners.
My, but he was mad! Then, what do you think?  The next day I passed him
walking up from the lake and he came over with such apologies!  He
prayed I would overlook his anger--he professed to have been so shocked
that he had forgotten himself--no doubt he was afraid he would lose his
job."

"George, you look sleepy," Lottie Nelson complained, looking at Doane.
"You need something to wake you up.  Suppose we adjourn to the
dining-room?"

Imogene returned to the piano.  Kimberly walked to the door of the
dining-room with the others.  "I will go upstairs," he said to Lottie
Nelson.

"Don’t stay all night," she returned peremptorily. "And come have
something before you go up."

"Perhaps when I come down."

Fritzie caught his arm, and walked with him into the hall.  They talked
for a moment.  "You must meet her," declared Fritzie at length, "she is
perfectly lovely and will be over after a while with Dolly."  Then she
looked at him suddenly: "I declare, I don’t believe you’ve heard a word
of what I’ve been saying."

"I’m afraid not, Fritzie, but no matter, listen to what I say.  Don’t go
in there and drink with that bunch."

"I won’t."

"Whiskey makes a fool of you."

Fritzie put up her hand: "Now don’t scold."

Upstairs, Nelson and Charles Kimberly, facing each other, were seated at
a big table on which lay a number of type-written sheets, beautifully
clear and distinct.  These they were examining.

"What are you going over?" asked Robert, taking the chair Nelson drew up
for him.

"The Colorado plants."

"Our own or the MacBirney?"

"Both."

Charles Kimberly with one hand in his pocket, and supporting his head
with the other as his elbow rested on the table, turned to Robert with a
question.

"You’ve seen the MacBirney figures.  What do you think of them?"

"They are high.  But I expected that."

"Do you really need the MacBirney plants to control the Western market?"
asked Charles Kimberly.  With eyes half closed behind his glasses he
studied his brother’s face, quite as occupied with his thoughts as with
his words.

Robert did not answer at once.  "I should hate to say so, personally,"
he remarked at length.

"McCrea," continued Charles, "contends that we do need them to forestall
competition.  That is, he thinks with the MacBirney crowd out of the
field we can have peace for ten years out there."

Nelson asked a question.  "What kind of factories have they got?"

"Old-fashioned," answered Robert Kimberly.

"What kind of influence?"

"In public affairs, I don’t know.  In trade they are not dangerous,
though MacBirney is ambitious and full of energy.  The father-in-law was
a fine old fellow.  But he died just before the reorganization.  I don’t
know how much money they’ve got now."

"They haven’t much," remarked Nelson.

"We bother them a good deal from San Francisco," continued Robert
Kimberly, reflecting, "but that is expensive.  Ultimately we must own
more factories in Colorado.  Of course, as far as that goes, I would
rather build new plants than remodel rat-hospitals."

Charles Kimberly straightened up and turned himself in his chair.  "Ten
years of peace is worth a good deal to us.  And if MacBirney can insure
that, we ought to have it.  All of this," he appealed to Robert, as he
spoke, "is supposing that you are willing to assent."

"I do not assent, chiefly because I distrust MacBirney.  If the rest of
you are satisfied to take him in, go ahead."

"The others seem to be, Robert."

"Then there is nothing more to be said.  Let’s get at the depreciation
charges and the estimates for next year’s betterments, so we can go over
the new capitalization."

While the conference went on, the muffled hum of gathering motor-cars
came through the open windows.

Robert Kimberly leaving the two men, walked downstairs again.  The rooms
were filling with the overflow from the dance.  They who had come were
chiefly of the married set, though boys and girls were among them.

After the manner of those quite at home, the dancers, still wearing
their flower leis, were scattered in familiar fashion about small tables
where refreshment was being served.

At one end of the music room a group applauded a clever young man, who,
with his coat cuffs rolled back, was entertaining with amateur
sleight-of-hand.

At the other end of the room, surrounded by a second group, Fritzie
Venable played smashing rag-time.  About the tables pretty, overfed
married women, of the plump, childless type, with little feet, fattening
hands, and rounding shoulders, carried on a running chatter with men
younger than their husbands.

A young girl, attended at her table by married men, was trying to tell a
story, and to overcome unobserved, her physical repugnance to the
whiskey she was drinking.

In the dining-room Lottie Nelson was the centre of a lively company, and
her familiar pallor, which indulgence seemed to leave untouched,
contrasted with the heightened color in Dora Morgan’s face.

Robert Kimberly had paused to speak to some one, when Fritzie Venable
came up to ask a question.  At that moment Arthur and Dolly De Castro,
with Alice on Dolly’s left, entered from the other end of the room.
Kimberly saw again the attractive face of a woman he had noticed dancing
with Arthur at the Casino.  The three passed on and into the hall.
Kimberly, listening to Fritzie’s question, looked after them.

"Fritzie, who is that with Dolly?" he asked suddenly.

"That is Mrs. MacBirney."

"Mrs. MacBirney?" he echoed.  "Who is Mrs. MacBirney?"

"Why, Mr. MacBirney’s wife, of course.  How stupid of you!  I told you
all about her before you went upstairs.  He has brought his wife on with
him.  Dolly knew her mother and has been entertaining Alice for a week."

"Alice!  Oh, yes.  I’ve been away, you know. MacBirney’s wife?  Of
course.  I was thinking of something else.  Well--I suppose I ought to
meet her.  Come, Fritzie."



                              CHAPTER III


They found Alice with the De Castros in the hall.  Dolly looked pleased
as her brother came forward.  Alice collected herself.  She felt a
momentary trepidation at meeting this man, from whom, she was already
aware, much of what she had seen and most of the people whom she had met
at Second Lake in some degree derived.

She had heard for years, since girlhood, indeed, of the house of
Kimberly.  Her own father’s struggle through life had been in the line
of their business, and the name of the Kimberlys could not but be haloed
wherever refiners discussed their affairs.  Moreover, at the moment her
own husband was seeking, and with prospects of success, an alliance with
them.

Yet in a moment she found it all very easy. Kimberly’s manner as he met
her was simplicity itself.  His words were few and did not confuse her,
yet they were sufficient to relieve the necessity of any effort on her
part to avoid embarrassing pauses.  She only noticed that the others
rather waited for Kimberly to speak; giving him a chance to say without
interruption whatever he pleased to say.  Beyond this, that the
conversation was now reserved for herself and Kimberly, she was at ease
and wondered why she had been a little afraid of him.  The surprise was
that he was younger than she had supposed.  She began to wonder that his
name should at times command so much of the public interest.  Nor could
any but those who knew him have realized that under his restraint Alice
was experiencing his most gracious manner.

But those who did know him saw instantly how interested he was in her
youth and inexperience. Her cheeks were already flooded with pink, as if
she realized she must do her best to please and was conscious that she
was not wholly failing. Timidity reflected itself in her answers, yet
this was no more than an involuntary compliment, pleasing in itself.
And whenever possible, Alice took refuge from the brother’s more direct
questions by appealing to his sister Dolly.  Kimberly was diverted to
see her seek escape in this fashion from his directness.

She expressed presently her admiration for the decorations at the Casino
and the talk turned upon the Hawaiian singers; from them to Hawaii and
Honolulu.  Word at that moment came from the music room that the singing
was beginning. Kimberly without any sign of giving up Alice, followed
Dolly and her husband down the hall to where the guests were gathering.

The group paused near the foot of the stairs. Alice asked an explanation
of the chant that they had heard at the Casino and Kimberly interpreted
the rhythm for her.  "But I should have thought," he added, "you would
be familiar with it."

"Why so?"

"Because you have been at the Islands."

"Pray, how did you know that?"

"By your pronunciations."

"Ah, I see.  But I was there only once, when I was quite young, with my
father."

"And yet you have no lei to-night?  That is hardly loyal, is it?"

"We came late and they had all been given out, I suppose."

"I have one in reserve.  You must show your good-will to the musicians.
Permit me."  He turned with dignity to the console where he had so
unceremoniously discarded his own lei and picked the garland up to lay
it upon Alice’s shoulders.

"But Robert," Fritzie cried, "you mustn’t! That is a rose lei."

"What is the difference?" asked Kimberly.

"There’s a superstition, you know, about a rose lei."

"Mercy, what is it?" demanded Alice, pink and smiling.

"If a man gives you a rose lei you must marry him or you will die."

"Fortunately," remarked Kimberly, lifting the decoration quickly above
Alice’s head and placing it without hesitation on her shoulders,
"neither Mrs. MacBirney nor I are superstitious.  And the roses
harmonize perfectly with your gown, Mrs. MacBirney.  Don’t you love the
Islands?"

"I’ve always wanted to go back to them to stay. I don’t think if I had
my choice I should ever leave them."

"Neither should I.  We must get up a party and have a yacht meet us in
San Francisco for the trip.  This fall would be a good time to get
away."

His decisive manner was almost startling; the trip seemed already under
way.  And his mannerisms were interesting.  A certain halting confidence
asserted itself under the affected indifference of his utterance.
Whatever he proposed seemed as easy as if done.  He carried his chin
somewhat low and it gave a dogmatism to his words.  While he seemed to
avoid using them obtrusively, his eyes, penetrating and set under the
straight heavy brows which contracted easily, were a barometer from
which it was possible to read his intent.

"You have been frequently at the Islands?" returned Alice.

"Years ago I knew them very well."

"Father and I," Alice went on, "spent a month at Honolulu."  And again
the softness of her long vowels fell agreeably on Kimberly’s ear.  Her
voice, he thought, certainly was pretty.  "It is like a paradise.  But
they have their sorrows, do they not?  I remember one evening," Alice
turned toward Fritzie to recount the incident, "just at the sunset of a
rarely perfect day.  We were walking along the street, when we heard the
most piercing cries from a little weeping company of women and children
who were coming down the esplanade. In front of them walked a man all
alone--he was a leper.  They were taking him away from his family to be
sent to Molokai.  It was the most distressing thing I ever saw."  She
turned to Kimberly.  "You have never been at Molokai?"

"I have cruised more or less around it.  Do you remember the windward
cliffs just above the leper settlement?  They are superb from the sea.
We put in once at Kalawao for a night and I called on the priest in
charge of the mission."

"It must have been very, very dreadful."

"Though like all dreadful places, disappointing at first; nothing,
apparently, to inspire horror. But after we had breakfasted with the
priest in the morning, we went around with him to see his people."
Kimberly’s chin sank and his eyes closed an instant as he moved his
head.  "I remember," he added slowly, "a freezing up around the heart
before we had gone very far." Then he dismissed the recollection.  "The
attendant at home who takes care of my uncle--Francis--" he continued,
"had a brother in the leper missions.  He died at Molokai.  Francis has
always wanted to go there."

[Illustration: Kimberly placed it without hesitation on her shoulders]

The conversation waited a few moments on the singing.  "Miss Venable
tells me," said Alice, presently, "these singers always come out to sing
for you when they visit this country."

"I have met most of them at one time or another in Hawaii.  You know
they are the gentlest, most grateful people in the world.  Sha’n’t we
have some refreshment, Mrs. MacBirney?"



                               CHAPTER IV


"I am hoping it will all be settled satisfactorily soon," said Dolly De
Castro to Alice one afternoon a few weeks afterward.  She had invited
Alice out from town for a fortnight at Black Rock while MacBirney, with
McCrea and the active partners of the Kimberly interests were working on
the negotiations for the purchase of the MacBirney factories.

"And when it is settled, I can congratulate you, I think, my dear, most
sincerely on any issue that associates your husband and his interests
with those of my brothers."

"Indeed, I realize that it would be a matter for congratulation, Mrs. De
Castro.  I hope if they do come to terms, your brothers will find Mr.
MacBirney’s Western acquaintance and experience of some value.  I am
sorry you haven’t seen more of my husband----"

"I understand perfectly how engaged he has been."

"He is an unceasing worker.  I told him yesterday, when he was leaving
home, that Mrs. De Castro would think I had no husband."

"Then," continued Dolly, pursuing her topic, "if you can secure the
little Cedar Lodge estate on the west shore--and I think it can be
arranged--you will be very comfortable."

Dolly had suggested a drive around the lake, and as she made an
admirable guide Alice looked forward with interest to the trip.  If it
should be objected that Dolly was not a good conversationalist, it could
be maintained that she was a fascinating talker.

It is true that people who talk well must, as a penalty, say things.
They can have no continued mental reserves, they must unburden their
inner selves.  They let you at once into the heart of affairs about
them--it is the price that the brilliant talker must pay.  Such a one
gives you for the moment her plenary confidence, and before Alice had
known Dolly a month, she felt as if she had known her for years.

On their drive the orders were to follow the private roads, and as the
villas around the entire lake connected with one another, they were
obliged to use the high-roads but little.  Each of the places had a
story, and none of these lost anything in Dolly’s dramatic rendering.

From the lower end of the lake they drove to Sunbury, the
village--commonplace, but Colonial, Dolly explained--and through it.
Taking the ridge road back of the hills, they approached another group
of the country places.  The houses of these estates belonged to an older
day than those of the lake itself.  Their type indicated the descent
from the earlier simplicity of the Colonial, and afforded a melancholy
reminder of the architectural experiments following the period of the
Civil War.

"Our families have been coming out here for a hundred years," observed
Dolly.  "These dreadful French roofs we have been passing, give you the
latest dates on this side of the ridge."  As she spoke they approached a
house of brown sandstone set in an ellipse of heavy spruces.

"This was the Roger Morgan place.  Mrs. Morgan, Bertha, was our
half-sister, dear, the only child of my father’s first marriage--she
died seven years ago.  This villa belongs to Fritzie Venable.  She was
Roger Morgan’s niece.  But she hasn’t opened it for years--she just
keeps a caretaker here and makes her home with Imogene.  To me, spruces
are depressing."

"And what is that?" asked Alice, indicating an ivy-covered pile of stone
in the midst of a cluster of elms at some distance to the left of the
house and on a hill above it.  "How odd and pretty!"

"That is the Morgan chapel."

"Oh, may we see it?"

"Of course," assented Dolly, less enthusiastically. "Do you really want
to see it?"

It was Alice’s turn to be interested: "Why, yes, if we may.  How
quaint-looking," she pursued, scrutinizing the façade.

"It is, in fact, a mediæval style," said Dolly.

The car was turned into the driveway leading up to the chapel.  When the
two women had alighted and walked up the steps to the porch, Alice found
the building larger than it had appeared from below the Morgan house.

Dolly led the way within.  "It really is a beautiful thing," she sighed
as they entered.  "A reproduction in part--this interior--of a little
church in Rome, that Mrs. Morgan was crazy about, Santa Maria in--dear
me, I never can remember, Santa Maria in something or other.  But I want
you to look at this balustrade, and to walk up into one of these
ambones.  Can’t you see some dark-faced Savonarola preaching from one on
the sins of society?"  Dolly ascended the steps of one ambone as she
spoke, while Alice walked up into the other.

"You look as if you might do very well there yourself on that topic,"
suggested Alice.

"But I don’t have to get into an ambone to preach.  I do well anywhere,
as long as I have an audience," continued Dolly as she swept the modest
nave with a confident glance.

They walked back toward the door: "Here’s a perfect light on the chancel
window," said Dolly pausing.  "Superb coloring, I think."

Alice, held by the soft rich flame of the glass, halted a moment, and
saw in a niche removed from casual sight the bronze figure of a knight
standing above a pavement tomb.  "Is this a memorial?"

"Poor Bertha," continued Dolly; "ordered most of these windows herself."

"But this bronze, Mrs. De Castro, what is it?"

"A memorial of a son of Bertha’s, dear."

The shield of the belted figure bore the Morgan arms.  An inscription
set in the tomb at his feet took Alice’s attention, and Dolly without
joining her waited upon her interest.

"And in whose memory do you say this is?" persisted Alice.

"In memory of one of Bertha’s sons, dear."

"Is he buried here?"

"No, he lies in Kimberly Acre, the family burial-ground on The Towers
estate--where we shall all with our troubles one day lie.  This poor boy
committed suicide."

"How dreadful!"

"It is too sad a story to tell."

"Of course."

"And I am morbidly sensitive about suicide."

"These Morgans then were relatives of the Mrs. Morgan I met last night?"

"Relatives, yes.  But in this instance, that signifies nothing.  These,
as I told you, were Fritzie’s people and are _very_ different."

They reëntered the car and drove rapidly down the ridge.  In the
distance, to the south and east, the red gables of a cluster of
buildings showed far away among green, wooded hills.

"That is a school, is it?" asked Alice.

"No, it is a Catholic institution.  It is a school, in a way, too, but
not of the kind you mean--something of a charitable and training school.
The Catholic church of the village stands just beyond there.  There are
a number of Catholics over toward the seashore--delightful people.  We
have none in our set."

The ridge road led them far into the country and they drove rapidly
along ribboned highways until a great hill confronted them and they
began to wind around its base toward the lake and home. Half-way up they
left the main road, turned into an open gateway, and passing a lodge
entered the heavy woods of The Towers villa.

"The Towers is really our only show-place," explained Dolly, "though
Robert, I think, neglects it.  Of course, it is a place that stands hard
treatment.  But think of the opportunities on these beautiful slopes for
landscape gardening."

"It is very large."

"About two thousand acres.  Robert, I fancy, cares for the trees more
than anything else."

"And he lives here alone?"

"With Uncle John Kimberly.  Uncle John is all alone in the world, and a
paralytic."

"How unfortunate!"

"Yes.  It is unfortunate in some ways; in others not so much so.  Don’t
be shocked.  Ours is so big a family we have many kinds.  Uncle John!
mercy! he led his poor Lydia a life.  And she was a saint if ever a wife
was one.  I hope she has gone to her reward.  She never saw through all
the weary years, never knew, _outwardly_, anything of his wickedness."

Dolly looked ahead.  "There is the house. See, up through the trees?  We
shall get a fine view in a minute.  I don’t know why it has to be, but
each generation of our family has had a brainy Kimberly and a wicked
Kimberly.  The legend is, that when they meet in one, the Kimberlys will
end."



                               CHAPTER V


To afford Alice the effect of the main approach to The Towers itself,
Dolly ordered a roundabout drive which gave her guest an idea of the
beauties of the villa grounds.

They passed glades of unusual size, bordered by natural forests.  They
drove among pleasing successions of hills, followed up valleys with
occasional brooks, and emerged at length on wide, open stretches of a
plateau commanding the lake.

A further drive along the bluffs that rose high above the water showed
the bolder features of an American landscape unspoiled by overtreatment.
The car finally brought them to the lower end of a long, formal avenue
of elms that made a setting for the ample house of gray stone, placed on
an elevation that commanded the whole of Second Lake and the southern
country for many miles.

Its advantage of position was obvious and the castellated effect, from
which its name derived, implied a strength of uncompromising pride
commonly associated with the Kimberlys themselves.

At Dolly’s suggestion they walked around through the south garden which
lay toward the lake.  At the garden entrance stood a sun-dial and Alice
paused to read the inscription:

    Per ogni ora che passa, im ricordo.
    Per ogni ora che batte, una felicità.
    Per ogni ora che viene, una speranza.


"It is a duplicate of a dial that Robert fancied in the garden of the
Kimberly villa on Lago Maggiore," Dolly explained.  "Come this way, I
want you to see the lake and the terrace."

From the terrace they looked back again at the house.  Well-placed
windows and ample verandas afforded views in every direction of the
surrounding country.  Retracing their way to the main entrance, they
ascended a broad flight of stone steps and entered the house itself.

Following Dolly into the hall, Alice saw a chamber almost severe in
spaciousness and still somewhat untamed in its oak ruggedness.  But
glimpses into the apartments opening off it were delightfully
satisfying.

They peeped into the dining-room as they passed. It was an old-day room,
heavily beamed in gloomy oak, with a massive round table and high
chairs. The room filled the whole southern exposure of its wing and at
one end Alice saw a fireplace above which hung a great Dutch mirror
framed in heavy seventeenth-century style.  Dolly pointed to it: "It is
our sole heirloom, and Robert won’t change it from the fireplace.  The
Kimberly mirror, we call it--from Holland with our first Kimberly. The
oak in this room is good."

Taken as a whole, however, Dolly frankly considered The Towers too
evidently suggestive of the old-fashioned.  This she satisfactorily
accounted for by the fact that the house lacked the magic of a woman’s
presence.

Alice, walking with her, slowly and critically, found nowhere any
discordant notes.  The carpets offered the delicate restraints of
Eastern fancy, and the wall pictures, seen in passing, invited more
leisurely inspection.

There was here something in marble, something there Oriental, but
nowhere were effects confused, and they had been subdued until
consciousness of their art was not aroused.

Alice, sensitive to indefinable impressions, had never seen anything
comparable to what she now saw, and an interior so restful should have
put her at ease.

Yet the first pleasing breath in this atmosphere brought with it
something, she could not have told what, of uneasiness, and it was of
this that she was vaguely conscious, as Dolly questioned the servant
that met them.

"Is Mr. De Castro here yet?" she asked.

"Yes, Mrs. De Castro.  He is with Mr. Kimberly. I think they are in the
garden."

"Tell them we are here.  We will go up and speak to Uncle John."

They were at the foot of the stairs: "Sha’n’t I wait for you?" suggested
Alice.

"By no means.  Come with me.  He is really the head of the family, you
know," Dolly added in an undertone, "and mustn’t be slighted."

Alice, amused at the importance placed upon the situation, smiled at
Dolly’s earnestness.  As she ascended the stairs with her hostess, a
little wave of self-consciousness swept over her.

On the second floor was a long gallery opening at the farther end upon a
western belvedere, lighted just then by the sun.  The effect of the
room, confusing at first in its arrangement, was, in fact, that of a
wide and irregular reception hall for the apartments opening on the
second floor. At the moment the two women reached the archway, a man
walked in at the farther end from the terrace.

"There is Robert, now!" Dolly exclaimed.  He was opening the door of a
room near at hand when he saw his sister with Alice, and came forward to
meet them.  As he did so, a door mid-way down the hall opened and a man
clad in a black habit crossed between Kimberly and Alice.

"That is Francis, who takes care of Uncle John," said Dolly.  Francis,
walked toward the balcony without seeing the visitors, but his ear
caught the tones of Dolly’s voice and she waved a hand at him as he
turned his head.  He paused to bow and continued his way through a
balcony door.

As Kimberly came forward his face was so nearly without a smile that
Alice for a moment was chilled.

"I brought Mrs. MacBirney in to see Uncle John a moment, Robert.  How
are you?" Dolly asked.

"Thank you, very well.  And it is a pleasure to see Mrs. MacBirney,
Dolly."

He looked into Alice’s eyes as he spoke.  She thanked him, simply.
Dolly made a remark but Alice did not catch it.  In some confusion of
thought she was absurdly conscious that Kimberly was looking at her and
that his eyes were gray, that he wore a suit of gray and that she now,
exchanging compliments with him, was clad in lavender.  The three talked
together for some moments.  Yet something formal remained in Kimberly’s
manner and Alice was already the least bit on the defensive.

She was, at any rate, glad to feel that her motoring rig would bear
inspection, for it seemed as if his eyes, without offensively appearing
to do so, took in the slightest detail of her appearance. His words were
of a piece with his manner.  They were agreeable, but either what he
said lacked enthusiasm or preoccupation clouded his efforts to be
cordial.

"They told us," said Dolly, at length, "you were in the garden."

"Arthur is down there somewhere," returned Kimberly.  "We will go this
way for Uncle John," he added.  "Francis is giving him an airing."

They walked out to the belvedere.  Facing the sunset, Alice saw in an
invalid chair an old man with a wrinkled white face.  Dolly, hastening
forward, greeted him in elevated tones.  Kimberly turned to Alice with a
suggestion of humor as they waited a little way from Dolly’s hand.  "My
sister, curiously enough," said he, "always forgets that Uncle John is
_not_ deaf.  And he doesn’t like it a bit."

"Many people instinctively speak louder to invalids," said Alice.  Uncle
John’s eyes turned slowly toward Alice as he heard her voice.  Dolly,
evidently, was referring to her, and beckoned her to come nearer.  Alice
saw the old man looking at her with the slow care of the paralytic--of
one who has learned to distrust his physical faculties. Alice disliked
his eyes.  He tried to rise, but Dolly frowned on his attempt: it looked
like a failure, anyway, and he greeted Alice from his chair.

"You are getting altogether too spry, Uncle John," cried Dolly.

His eyes turned slowly from Alice’s face to Dolly’s and he looked at his
talkative niece quizzically: "Am I?"  Then, with the mildly suspicious
smile on his face, his eyes returned to Alice. Kimberly watched his
uncle.

"They say you want to ride horseback," continued Dolly, jocularly.  He
looked at her again: "Do they?"  Then he looked back at Alice.

Kimberly, his hands half-way in the pockets of his sack-coat, turned in
protest: "I think you two go through this every time you come over,
Dolly."  Dolly waved her hand with a laugh. Uncle John this time did not
even take the trouble to look around.  He continued to smile at Alice
even while he returned to Robert his non-committal: "Do we?"

Alice felt desirous of edging away from Uncle John’s kind of Kimberly
eyes.  "You ought to get better here very fast, Mr. Kimberly," she said
to him briskly.  "This lovely prospect!" she exclaimed, looking about
her.  "And in every direction."

"It is pretty toward the lake," Robert volunteered, knowing that Uncle
John would merely look at Alice without response.

He led the way as he spoke toward the mirrored sheet of water and, as
Alice came to his side, pointed out the features of the landscape.
Dolly sat a moment with Uncle John and joined Kimberly and Alice as they
walked on.

They encountered the attendant, Brother Francis, who had retreated as
far as he could from the visitors.  Dolly, greeting him warmly, turned
to Alice.  "Mrs. MacBirney, this is Brother Francis who takes care--and
such excellent care!--of Uncle John."

Brother Francis’s features were spare.  His slender nose emphasized the
strength of his face. But if his expression at the moment was sober, and
his dark eyes looked as if his thoughts might be away, they were kindly.
His eyes, too, fell almost at the instant Dolly spoke and he only bowed
his greeting to Alice.  But with Francis a bow was everything.  Whether
he welcomed, tolerated, or disapproved, his bow clearly and sufficiently
signified.

His greeting of Alice expressed deference and sincerity.  But there was
even more in it--something of the sensible attitude of a gentleman who,
in meeting a lady in passing, and being himself an attendant, desires to
be so considered and seeks with his greeting to dismiss himself from the
situation.  To this end, however, Francis’s efforts were unsuccessful.

"He is the most modest man in the world," murmured Dolly, in concluding
a eulogium, delivered to Alice almost in the poor Brother’s face.

"Then why not spare his feelings?" suggested Kimberly.

"Because I don’t believe in hiding a light under a bushel," returned
Dolly, vigorously.  "There is so little modesty left nowadays----"

"That you want to be rid of what there is," suggested Kimberly.

"That when I find it I think it a duty to recognize it," Dolly
persisted.

Brother Francis maintained his composure as well as he could.  Indeed,
self-consciousness seemed quite lacking in him.  "Surely," he smiled,
bowing again, "Madame De Castro has a good heart.  That," he added to
Alice, italicizing his words with an expressive forefinger, "is the real
secret.  But I see danger even if one _should_ possess a gift so
precious as modesty," he continued, raising his finger this time in mild
admonition; "when you--how do you say in English--’trot out’ the modesty
and set it up to look at"--Francis’s large eyes grew luminous in
pantomime--"the first thing you know, pff!  Where is it? You search."
Brother Francis beat the skirt of his black gown with his hands, and
shook it as if to dislodge the missing virtue.  Then holding his empty
palms upward and outward, and adding the dismay of his shoulders to the
fancied situation, he asked: "Where is it?  It is gone!"

"Which means we shouldn’t tempt Brother Francis’s modesty," interposed
Alice.

Francis looked at Alice inquiringly.  "You are a Catholic?" he said,
"your husband not."

Alice laughed: "How did you know?"

Francis waved his hand toward his informant: "Mr. Kimberly."

The answer surprised Alice.  She looked at Kimberly.

There was an instant of embarrassment.  "Francis feels our pagan
atmosphere so keenly," Kimberly said slowly, "that I gave him the news
about you as a bracer--just to let him know we had a friend at court
even if we were shut out ourselves."

"He told me," continued Francis, with humor, "that a Catholic lady was
coming this afternoon, and to put on my new habit."

"Which, of course, you did not do," interposed Kimberly, regaining the
situation.

Brother Francis looked deprecatingly at his shiny serge.

Dolly and Alice laughed.  "Mr. Kimberly didn’t understand that you kept
on your old one out of humility," said Alice.  "But how did you know
anything about my religion?" she asked, turning to Kimberly.

Francis took this chance to slip away to his charge.

"Arthur De Castro is the culprit," answered Kimberly.  "He told me some
time ago."

"You have a good memory."

"For some things.  Won’t you pour tea for Mrs. MacBirney, Dolly?  Let us
go downstairs, anyway."

He walked with Alice into the house, talking as they went.

Dolly bent over Uncle John’s chair.  "Isn’t she nice?" she whispered,
nodding toward Alice as Alice disappeared with Kimberly.  "You know
Madame De Castro went to school in Paris with her mother, who was a De
Gallon, and her father--Alice’s grandfather--was the last man in
Louisville to wear a queue."

Uncle John seemed not greatly moved at this information, but did look
reminiscent.  "What was her father’s name?"

"Alice’s father was named Marshall.  He and her mother both are dead.
She has no near relatives."

"I remember Marshall--he was a refiner."

"Precisely; he met with reverses a few years ago."

Uncle John looked after Alice with his feeble, questioning grin.  "Fine
looking," he muttered, still looking after her much as the toothless
giant looked after Christian as he passed his cave.  "Fine looking."

Dolly was annoyed: "Oh, you’re always thinking about fine looks!  She is
nice."

Uncle John smiled undismayed.  "Is she?"



                               CHAPTER VI


Alice had been married five years--it seemed a long time.  The first
five years of married life are likely to be long enough to chart pretty
accurately the currents of the future, however insufficient to predict
just where those currents will carry one.

Much disillusioning comes in the first five years; when they have passed
we know less of ourselves and more of our consort.  Undoubtedly the
complement of this is true, and our consort knows more of us; but this
thought, not always reassuring, comes only when we reflect concerning
ourselves, which fortunately, perhaps, is not often.  Married people, if
we may judge from what they say, tend to reflect more concerning their
mates.

Alice, it is certain, knew less of herself.  Much of the confidence of
five years earlier she had parted with, some of it cruelly.  Yet coming
at twenty-five into the Kimberly circle, and with the probability of
remaining in it, of its being to her a new picture of life, Alice
gradually renewed her youth.  Some current flowing from this joy of
living seemed to revive in her the illusions of girlhood.  All that she
now questioned was whether it really was for her.

Her husband enjoyed her promise of success in their new surroundings
without realizing in the least how clearly those about them
discriminated between his wife and himself.  She brought one quality
that was priceless among those with whom she now mingled--freshness.

Among such people her wares of mental aptness, intelligence, amiability,
not to discuss a charm of person that gave her a place among women, were
rated higher than they could have been elsewhere.  She breathed in her
new atmosphere with a renewed confidence, for nothing is more gratifying
than to be judged by what we believe to be the best in us; and nothing
more reassuring after being neglected by stupid people than to find
ourselves approved by the best.

Walter MacBirney, her husband, representing himself and his Western
associates, and now looked on by them as a man who had forced
recognition from the Kimberly interests, made on his side, too, a
favorable impression among the men with whom his affairs brought him for
the first time in contact.

If there was an exception to such an impression it was with Robert
Kimberly, but even with him MacBirney maintained easily the reputation
accorded to Western men for general capacity and a certain driving
ability for putting things through.

He was described as self-made; and examined with the quiet curiosity of
those less fortunate Eastern men who were unwilling or unable to ascribe
their authorship to themselves, he made a satisfactory showing.

In the Kimberly coterie of men, which consisted in truth more of the
staff associates in the Kimberly activities than of the Kimberlys
themselves, the appearance of MacBirney on the scene at Second Lake was
a matter of interest to every one of the fledgling magnates, who, under
the larger wing of the Kimberlys, directed the commercial end of their
interests.

McCrea, known as Robert Kimberly’s right-hand man; Cready Hamilton, one
of the Kimberly bankers, and brother of Doctor Hamilton, Robert’s
closest friend; Nelson, the Kimberly counsel--all took a hand in going
over MacBirney, so to say, and grading him up.  They found for one thing
that he could talk without saying anything; which in conducting
negotiations was an excellent trait.  And if not always a successful
story-teller, he was a shrewd listener.  In everything his native energy
gave him a show of interest which, even when factitious, told in his
favor.

Soon after the call on Uncle John, Dolly arranged a dinner for the
MacBirneys, at which Charles Kimberly and his wife and Robert Kimberly
were to be the guests.  It followed a second evening spent at the
Nelsons’, whence Robert Kimberly had come home with the De Castros and
MacBirneys.  Alice had sung for them.  After accepting for the De Castro
dinner, Robert at the last moment sent excuses.  Dolly masked her
feelings.  Imogene and Charles complained a little, but Arthur De Castro
was so good a host that he alone would have made a dinner go.

MacBirney, after he and Alice had gone to their rooms for the night,
spoke of Robert’s absence. "I don’t quite understand that man," he
mused. "What do you make of him, Alice?"

Alice was braiding her hair.  She turned from her table.  "I’ve met him
very little, you know--when we called at his house, and twice at the
Nelsons’.  And I saw very little of him last night. He was with that
drinking set most of the evening."

MacBirney started.  "Don’t say ’that drinking set.’"

"Really, that describes them, Walter.  I don’t see that they excel in
anything else.  I hate drinking women."

"When you’re in Rome, do as the Romans do," suggested MacBirney, curtly.

Alice’s tone hardened a trifle.  "Or at least let the Romans do as they
please, without comment."

"Exactly," snapped her husband.  "I don’t know just what to make of
Kimberly," he went on.

"Charles, or the brother?"

"Robert, Robert.  He’s the one they all play to here."  MacBirney,
sitting in a lounging-chair, emphasized the last words, as he could do
when impatient, and shut his teeth and lips as he did when perplexed.
"I wonder why he didn’t come to-night?"

Alice had no explanation to offer.  "Charles," she suggested, tying her
hair-ribbon, "is very nice."

"Why, yes--you and Charles are chummy already.  I wish we could get
better acquainted with Robert," he continued, knitting his brows. "I
thought you were a little short with him last night, Alice."

"Short?  Oh, Walter!  We didn’t exchange a dozen words."

"That’s just the way it struck me."

"But we had no chance to.  I am sure I didn’t mean to be short.  I sang,
didn’t I?  And more on his account, from what Dolly had said to me, than
anybody else’s.  He didn’t like my singing, but I couldn’t help that.
He didn’t say a single word."

"Why, he did say something!"

"Just some stiff remark when he thanked me."

Alice, rising, left her table.  MacBirney laughed.

"Oh, I see.  That’s what’s the matter.  Well, you’re quite mistaken, my
dear."  Catching Alice in his arms as she passed, in a way he did when
he wished to seem affectionate, MacBirney drew his wife to him.  "He
_did_ like it.  He remarked to me just as he said good-night, that you
had a fine voice."

"That does not sound like him--possibly he was ironical."

"And when I thanked him," continued MacBirney, "he took the trouble to
repeat: ’That song was beautifully sung.’  Those were his exact words."

In spite of painful experiences it rarely occurred to Alice that her
husband might be deceiving her, nor did she learn till long afterward
that he had lied to her that night.  With her feelings in some degree
appeased she only made an incredulous little exclamation: "He didn’t ask
me to sing again," she added quietly.

MacBirney shrugged his shoulders.  "He is peculiar."

"I try, Walter," she went on, lifting her eyes to his with an effort,
"to be as pleasant as I can to all of these people, for your sake."

"I know it, Alice."  He kissed her.  "I know it.  Let us see now what we
can do to cultivate Robert Kimberly.  He is the third rail in this
combination, and he is the only one on the board of directors who voted
finally against taking us in."

"Is that true?"

"So Doane told Lambert, in confidence, and Lambert told me."

"Oh, Lambert!  That detestable fellow.  I wouldn’t believe anything he
said anyway."

MacBirney bared his teeth pleasantly.  "Pshaw! You hate him because he
makes fun of your Church."

"No.  I despise him, because he is a Catholic and ridicules his own."

Her husband knew controversy was not the way to get a favor.  "I guess
you’re right about that, Allie.  Anyway, try being pleasant to Kimberly.
The way you know how to be, Allie--the way you caught me, eh?"  He drew
her to him with breezy enthusiasm.  Alice showed some distress.

"Don’t say such things, please."

"That was only a joke."

"I hate such jokes."

"Very well, I mean, just be natural," persisted MacBirney amiably, "you
are fascinating enough any old way."

Alice manifested little spirit.  "Does it make so much difference to
you, Walter, whether we pay attention to _him_?"

MacBirney raised his eyebrows with a laughing start.  "What an innocent
you are," he cried in a subdued tone.  And his ways of speech, if ever
attractive, were now too familiar.  "Difference!" he exclaimed cheerily.
"When they buy he will name the figure."

"But I thought they had decided to buy."

"The executive committee has authorized the purchase.  But he, as
president, has been given the power to fix the price.  Don’t you see?
We can afford to smile a little, eh?"

"It would kill me to smile if I had to do it for money."

"Oh, you are a baby in arms, Allie," exclaimed her husband impatiently,
"just like your father! You’d starve to death if it weren’t for me."

"No doubt."

MacBirney was still laughing at the idea when he left his wife’s room,
and entering his own, closed the door.

Alice, in her room, lay in the darkness for a long time with open eyes.



                              CHAPTER VII


The test of Alice’s willingness to smile came within a brief fortnight,
when with the De Castros, she was the guest of Imogene Kimberly at The
Cliffs, Imogene’s home.

"This is all most informal," said Imogene, as she went downstairs
arm-in-arm with Alice; "as you see, only one-half the house is open."

"The open half is so lovely," returned Alice, "that I’m glad to take the
other half on faith."

"It was my only chance--this week, and as Dolly says, I ’jumped at it’!
I am sorry your husband has disappointed us."

"He was called to town quite unexpectedly."

"But Providence has provided a substitute. Robert Kimberly is coming."
Alice almost caught her breath.  "He is another of those men," continued
Imogene, "whom you never can get when you want them.  Fortunately he
telephoned a moment ago saying he _must_ see Charles.  I answered that
the only possible way to see him was to come over now, for he is going
fishing and leaves at midnight.  The guides wired this morning that the
ice is out.  And when the ice goes out," Imogene raised her hands,
"neither fire nor earthquake can stop Charles.  Here is Robert now.  Oh,
and he has Doctor Hamilton with him.  All the better.  If we can get
both we shall have no lack of men."

Robert Kimberly and Doctor Hamilton were coming down the hall.  "How
delightful!" cried Imogene, advancing, "and I am so glad _you_’ve come,
doctor."

Kimberly paused.  He saw Alice lingering behind her hostess and the De
Castros with Fritzie Venable coming downstairs.

"You have a dinner on," he said to Imogene.

"Only a small one."

"But you didn’t tell me----"

"Just to give you a chance to show your indifference to surprises,
Robert."

She introduced Doctor Hamilton to Alice. "These two are always
together," she explained to Alice, lifting her fan toward the doctor and
her brother-in-law.  "But any hostess is fortunate to capture them like
this, just the right moment."

Hamilton, greeting Alice, turned to Imogene: "What is this about your
husband’s going to Labrador to-morrow?"

"He is going to-night.  The salmon are doing something or other."

"Deserted Gaspé, has he?"

"Temporarily," said Imogene, pausing to give an order to a butler.
Robert waited a moment for her attention.  "I brought the doctor," he
explained, "because I couldn’t leave him to dine alone.  And now----"

"And now," echoed Imogene, "you see how beautifully it turns out.  The
Nelsons declined, Mr. MacBirney disappoints me, Charles goes fishing,
and can’t get home to-night in time to dine. But there are still seven
of us--what could be better?  Mrs. De Castro will claim the doctor.
Arthur won’t desert me, and, Robert, you may give an arm to Fritzie and
one to Mrs. MacBirney."

There was now no escape from a smile, and Alice resolved to be loyal to
her hostess.  The party moved into the drawing-room.

Fritzie Venable tried to engage Kimberly in answering her questions
about a saddle-horse that one of his grooms had recommended.  Kimberly
professed to know nothing about it.  When it became apparent that he
really did know nothing of the horse, Fritzie insisted on explaining.

Her spirited talk, whether concerning her own troubles or those of other
people, was not uninteresting.  Soon she talked more especially to
Alice.  Kimberly listened not inattentively but somewhat perfunctorily,
and the manner, noticeable at their second meeting, again impressed
Alice.

Whether it was a constraint or an unpleasing reserve was not clear; and
it might have been the abstraction of a busied man, one of that type
familiar in American life who are inherently interesting, but whose
business affairs never wholly release their thought.

Whatever the cause, Fritzie was sufficiently interested in her own
stories to ignore it and in a degree to overcome the effect of it.  She
was sure of her ground because she knew her distinguished connection had
a considerate spot in his heart for her.  She finally attacked him
directly, and at first he did not go to the trouble of a defence. When
she at length accused him, rather sharply, of letting business swallow
him up, Kimberly, with Alice listening, showed a trace of impatience.

"The old sugar business!" Fritzie exclaimed reproachfully, "it is taking
the spirituality completely out of the Kimberly family."

Robert looked at her in genuine surprise and burst into a laugh.
"What’s that?" he demanded, bending incredulously forward.

Fritzie tossed her head.  "I don’t care!"

"Spirituality?" echoed Kimberly, with a quiet malice.  His laugh annoyed
Fritzie, but she stuck to her guns: "Spirits, then; or gayety, or life!"
she cried.  "I don’t care what you call it. Anything besides
everlastingly piling up money.  Oh, these almighty dollars!"

"You tire of them so quickly, is it, Fritzie?  Or is it that they don’t
feel on familiar terms enough to stay long with you?" he asked, while
Alice was smiling at the encounter.

Fritzie summoned her dignity and pointed every word with a nod.  "I
simply don’t want to see _all_ of my friends--ossify!  Should you?" she
demanded, turning to Alice for approval.

"Certainly not," responded Alice.

"Bone black is very useful in our business," observed Kimberly.

Fritzie’s eyes snapped.  "Then buy it!  Don’t attempt to supply the
demand out of your own bones!"

It would have been churlish to refuse her her laugh.  Kimberly and Alice
for the first time laughed together and found it pleasant.

Fritzie, following up her advantage, asked Doctor Hamilton whether he
had heard Dora Morgan’s latest joke.  "She had a dispute," continued
Fritzie, "with George Doane last night about Unitarians and
Universalists----"

"Heavens, have those two got to talking religion?" demanded Kimberly,
wearily.

"George happened to say to Cready Hamilton that Unitarians and
Universalists believed just about the same doctrine.  When Dora insisted
it was not so, George told her she couldn’t name a difference.  ’Why,
nonsense, George,’ said Dora, ’Unitarians deny the divinity of Christ,
but Universalists don’t believe in a damned thing.’  And the funny part
of it was, George got furious at her," concluded Fritzie with merriment.

"I suppose you, too, fish," ventured Alice to Kimberly as the party
started for the dining-room.

"My fishing is something of a bluff," he confessed.  "That is, I fish,
but I don’t get anything. My brother really does get the fish," he said
as he seated her.  "He campaigns for them--one has to nowadays, even for
fish.  I can’t scrape up interest enough in it for that.  I whip one
pool after another and drag myself wearily over portages and chase about
in boats, and my guides fable wisely but I get next to nothing."

Alice laughed.  Even though he assumed incompetence it seemed assumed.
And in saying that he got no fish one felt that he did get them.

Arthur was talking of Uncle John’s nurse--whom the circle had nicknamed
"Lazarus."  He referred to the sacrifices made sometimes by men.

"It won’t do to say," De Castro maintained, "that these men are mere
clods, that they have no nerves, no sensitiveness.  The first one you
meet may be such a one; the next, educated or of gentle blood."

"’Lazarus,’" he continued, "is by no means a common man.  He is a
gentleman, the product of centuries of culture--this is evident from
five minutes’ talk with him.  Yet he has abandoned everything--family,
surroundings, luxuries--for a work that none of us would dream of
undertaking."

"And what about women, my dear?" demanded Dolly.  "I don’t say, take a
class of women--take any woman.  A woman’s life is nothing but
sacrifice.  The trouble is that women bear their burdens
uncomplainingly.  That is where all women make a mistake.  My life has
been a whole series of sacrifices, and I propose people shall know it."

"No matter, Dolly," suggested Imogene, "your wrongs shall be righted in
the next world."

"I should just like the chance to tell my story up there," continued
Dolly, fervently.

Kimberly turned to Alice: "All that Dolly fears," said he, in an aside,
"is that heaven will prove a disappointment.  But to change the subject
from heaven abruptly--you are from the West, Mrs. MacBirney."

"Do you find the change so abrupt? and must I confess again to the
West?"

"Not if you feel it incriminates you."

"But I don’t," protested Alice with spirit.

"Has your home always been there?"

"Yes, in St. Louis; and it is a very dear old place.  Some of my early
married life was spent much farther West."

"How much farther?"

"So much that I can hardly make anybody comprehend it--Colorado."

"How so?"

"They ask me such wild questions about buffalos and Indians.  I have
found one woman since coming here who has been as far West as Chicago,
once."

"In what part of Colorado were you?"

"South of Denver."

"You had beautiful surroundings."

"Oh, do you know that country?"

"Not nearly as well as I should like to.  It is beautiful."

Alice laughed repentantly as she answered: "More beautiful to me now,
I’m afraid, than it was then."

"Any town is quiet for a city girl, of course. Was it a small town?"

"Quite small.  And odd in many ways."

"I see; where the people have ’best clothes’----"

"Don’t make fun."

"And wear them on Sunday.  And there is usually one three-story building
in the town--I was marooned over Sunday once in a little Western town,
with an uncle.  I saw a sign on a big building: ’Odd Fellows’ Hall.’
Who are the Odd Fellows, uncle?’ I asked.  He was a crusty old fellow:
’Optimists, my son, optimists,’ he growled, ’They build three-story
buildings in two-story towns.’  What was your town, by the way?"

"Piedmont."

"Piedmont?"  Kimberly paused a moment. "I ought to know something of
that town."

Alice looked surprised.  "You?"

"The uncle I spoke of built a railroad through there to the Gulf.  Isn’t
there a town below Piedmont named Kimberly?"

"To be sure there is.  How stupid!  I never thought it was named after
your uncle."

"No, that uncle was a Morgan,", interposed Imogene, listening, "the town
was named after your next neighbor."

"How interesting!  And how could you make such fun of me--having me tell
you of a country you knew all about!  And a whole town named after you!"

"That is a modest distinction," remarked Kimberly.  "As a boy I was out
there with an engineering party and hunted a little.  My uncle gave me
the town as a Christmas present."

"A town for a Christmas present!"

"I suspected after I began paying taxes on my present that my uncle had
got tired of it.  They used to sit up nights out there to figure out new
taxes.  In the matter of devising taxes it is the most industrious,
progressive, tireless community I have ever known.  And their pleas were
so ingenious; they made you feel that if you opposed them you were an
enemy to mankind."

"Then they beguiled Robert every once in a while," interposed Fritzie,
"into a town hall or public library or a park or electric lighting
plant. Once they asked him for a drinking fountain."  Fritzie laughed
immoderately at the recollection. "He put in the fountain and afterward
learned there was no water within fifteen miles; they then urged him to
put in a water-works system to get water to it."

"I suggested a brewery to supply the fountain," said Arthur, looking
over, "and that he might work out even by selling the surplus beer.
There were difficulties, of course; if he supplied the fountain with
beer, nobody would buy it in bottles. Then it was proposed to sell the
surplus beer to the neighboring towns.  But with the fountain playing in
Kimberly, these would pretty certainly be depopulated.  Per contra, it
was figured that this might operate to raise the price of his Kimberly
lots.  But while we were working the thing out for him, what do you
think happened?"

"I haven’t an idea," laughed Alice.

"The town voted for prohibition."

"Fancy," murmured Imogene, "and named Kimberly!"

"And what became of the fountain?"

"Oh, it is running; he put in the water-works."

"Generous man!"

"Generous!" echoed Hamilton.  "Don’t be deceived, Mrs. MacBirney.  You
should see what he charges them for water.  I should think it would be
on his conscience, if he has one.  He is Jupiter with the frogs.
Whatever they ask, he gives them.  But when they get it--how they do get
it!"

"Don’t believe Doctor Hamilton, Mrs. MacBirney," said Robert Kimberly.
"I stand better with my Western friends than I do with these cynical
Easterners.  And if my town will only drink up the maintenance charges,
I am satisfied."

"The percentage of lime in the water he supplies is something fierce,"
persisted the doctor. "It is enough to kill off the population every ten
years.  I suggested a hospital."

"But didn’t Mr. MacBirney tell me they have a sugar factory there?"
asked Alice.

"They have," said De Castro.  "One of Robert’s chemists was out there
once trying to analyze the taxes.  Incidentally, he brought back some of
the soil, thinking there might be something in it to account for the tax
mania.  And behold, he found it to be fine for sugar beets!  Irrigation
ditches and a factory were put in.  You should see how swell they are
out there now."

"Robert has had all kinds of resolutions from the town," said Fritzie.

Kimberly turned to Alice to supplement the remark.  "Quite true, I
_have_ had all kinds--they are strong on resolutions.  But lately these
have been less sulphurous."

"Well, isn’t it odd?  My father’s ranch once extended nearly all the way
from Piedmont to the very town you are speaking of!" exclaimed Alice.

Kimberly looked at her with interest.  "Was that really yours--the big
ranch north of Kimberly?"

"I spent almost every summer there until I was fifteen."

"That must have been until very lately."

Alice returned his look with the utmost simplicity.  "No, indeed, it is
ten years ago."

Kimberly threw back his head and it fell forward a little on his chest.
"How curious," he said reflectively; "I knew the ranch very well."

When they were saying good-night, Imogene whispered to Alice: "I
congratulate you."

Alice, flushed with the pleasure of the evening, stood in her wraps.
She raised her brows in pleased surprise.  "Pray what for?"

"Your success.  The evening, you know, was in your honor; and you were
decidedly the feature of it."

"I really didn’t suspect it."

"And you made a perfect success with your unexpected neighbor."

"But I didn’t do anything at all!"

"It isn’t every woman that succeeds without trying.  We have been
working for a long time to pull Robert out of the dumps."  Imogene
laughed softly.  "I noticed to-night while you were talking to him that
he tossed back his head once or twice.  When he does that, he is waking
up!  Here is your car, Dolly," she added, as the De Castros came into
the vestibule.

"Arthur is going to take Doctor Hamilton and Fritzie in our car,
Imogene," explained Dolly. "Robert has asked Mrs. MacBirney and me to
drive home around the south shore with him."



                              CHAPTER VIII


Charles Kimberly was at The Towers the morning after the return from his
fishing trip, to confer with Uncle John and his brother upon the
negotiations for the MacBirney properties. In the consideration of any
question each of the three Kimberlys began with a view-point quite
distinct from those of the others.

John Kimberly, even in old age and stricken physically to an appalling
degree, swerved not a hair’s-breadth from his constant philosophy of
life.  He believed first and last in force, and that feeble remnant of
vitality which disease, or what Dolly would have termed, "God’s
vengeance," had left him, was set on the use of force.

To the extent that fraud is an element of force, he employed fraud; but
it was only because fraud is a part of force, and whoever sets store by
the one will not always shrink from the other.  Any disposition of a
question that lacked something of this complexion seemed to Uncle John a
dangerous one.

Charles had so long seen bludgeoning succeed that it had become an
accepted part of his business philosophy.  But in the day he now faced,
new forces had arisen.  Public sentiment had become a factor in
industrial problems; John was blind to its dangerous power; Charles was
quite alive to it.

New views of the problem of competition had been advanced, and in
advocating them, one of the Kimberlys, Robert, was known to be a leader.
This school sought to draw the sting of competitive loss through
understandings, coöperation, and peace, instead of suspicion, random
effort, and war.

Charles saw this tendency with satisfaction; Uncle John saw it
sceptically.  But Charles, influenced by the mastery of his uncle,
became unsettled in his conclusions and stood liable to veer in his
judgment to one side or the other of the question, as he might be swayed
by apprehensions concerning the new conditions or rested in confidence
in the policies of the old.

Between these two Kimberly make-ups, the one great in attack, the other
in compromise, stood Robert.  "Say what you please," Nelson often
repeated to McCrea, "John may be all right, but his day is past.
Charlie forgets every day more than the opposition know, all told.  But
I call Robert the devil of the family.  How does he know when to be
bold?  Can you tell?  How does he know when to be prudent?  I know men,
if I do anything, McCrea--but I never can measure that fellow."

Whatever Robert liked at least enlisted all of his activities and his
temperament turned these into steam cylinders.  John Kimberly influenced
Robert in no way at all and after some years of profanity and rage
perceived that he never should. This discovery was so astounding that
after a certain great family crisis he silently and secretly handed the
sceptre of family infallibility over to his nephew.

Left thus to himself, Robert continued to think for himself.  The same
faculties that had served John a generation earlier now served Robert.
John had forgotten that when a young man he had never let anybody think
for him, and the energy that had once made John, also made his younger
nephew.

The shrewdness that had once overcome competition by war now united with
competitors to overcome the public by peace.  The real object of
industrial endeavor being to make money, a white-winged and benevolent
peace, as Nelson termed it, should be the policy of all interests
concerned.  And after many hard words, peace with eighty per cent. of
the business was usually achieved by the united Kimberlys.

It had cost something to reach this situation; and now that the West had
come into the sugar world it became a Kimberly problem to determine how
the new interests should be taken care of.

On the morning that Charles called he found Uncle John in his chair.
They sent for Robert, and pending his appearance opened the conference.
At the end of a quarter of an hour Robert had not appeared.  Charles
looked impatiently at his watch and despatched a second servant to
summon his brother.  After twenty-five minutes a third call was sent.

During this time, in the sunniest corner of the south garden, sheltered
by a high stone wall crested with English ivy and overgrown with
climbing roses, sat Robert Kimberly indolently watching Brother Francis
and a diminutive Skye terrier named Sugar.

Sugar was one of Kimberly’s dogs, but Francis had nursed Sugar through
an attack after the kennel keepers had given him up.  And the little dog
although very sick and frowsy had finally pulled through.  The intimacy
thus established between Sugar and Francis was never afterward broken
but by death.

In this sunny corner, Kimberly, in a loose, brown suit of tweed, his
eyes shaded by a straw hat, sat in a hickory chair near a table.  It was
the corner of the garden in which Francis when off duty could oftenest
be found.  A sheltered walk led to the pergola along which he paced for
exercise. Near the corner of the wall stood an oak.  And a bench, some
chairs and a table made the spot attractive.  Sugar loved the bench,
and, curled up on it, usually kept watch while Francis walked. On cold
days the dog lay with one hair-curtained eye on the coming and going
black habit.  On warm days, cocking one ear for the measured step, he
dozed.

Francis, when Sugar had got quite well, expressed himself as scandalized
that the poor dog had never been taught anything.  He possessed, his new
master declared, neither manners nor accomplishments, and Francis amid
other duties had undertaken, in his own words, to make a man of the
little fellow.

Robert, sitting lazily by, instead of attending the conference call, and
apparently thinking of nothing--though no one could divine just what
might be going on under his black-banded hat--was watching Francis put
Sugar through some of the hard paces he had laid out for him.

"That dog is naturally stupid, Francis--all my dogs are.  They
continually cheat me on dogs," said Kimberly presently.  "You don’t
think so? Very well, I will bet you this bank-note," he took one from
his waistcoat as he spoke, "that you cannot stop him this time on
’two’."

"I have no money to bet you, Robert."

"I will give you odds."

"You well know I do not bet--is it not so?"

"You are always wanting money; now I will bet you the bank-note against
one dollar, Francis, that you cannot stop him on ’two’."

Francis threw an eye at the money in Kimberly’s hand.  "How much is the
bank-note, Robert?"

"One hundred dollars."

Francis put the temptation behind him.  "You would lose your money.
Sugar knows how to stop.  In any case, I have no dollar."

"I will bet the money against ten cents."

"I have not even ten cents."

"I am sorry, Francis, to see a man receiving as large a salary as you
do, waste it in dissipation and luxury.  However, if you have no money,
I will bet against your habit."

"If I should lose my habit, what would I do?"

"You could wear a shawl," argued Kimberly.

"All would laugh at me.  In any case, to bet the clothes off my back
would be a sin."

"I am so sure I am right, I will bet the money against your snuff-box,
Francis," persisted Kimberly.

"My snuff-box I cannot bet, since Cardinal Santopaolo gave it to me."

"Francis, think of what you could do for your good-for-nothing boys with
one hundred dollars."

Francis lifted his dark eyes and shook his head.

"I will bet this," continued the tempter, "against the snuff in your
box, that you can’t stop him this time on ’two’."

"Sugar will stop on ’two’," declared Francis, now wrought up.

"Dare you bet?"

"Enough!  I bet!  It is the snuff against the money.  May my poor boys
win!"

The sunny corner became active.  Kimberly straightened up, and Francis
began to talk to Sugar.

"Now tell me again," said Kimberly, "what this verse is."

"I say to him," explained Francis, "that the good soldier goes to
war----"

"I understand; then you say, ’One, two, three!’"

"Exactly."

"When you say ’three,’ he gets the lump?"

"Yes."

"But the first time you say the verse you stop at ’two.’  Then you
repeat the verse.  If the dog takes the lump before you reach the end
the second time and say ’three’----"

"You get the snuff!"  Francis laid the box on the table beside
Kimberly’s bank-note.

"Sugar!  Guarda!"  The Skye terrier sat upright on his haunches and
lifted his paws.  Francis gave him a preliminary admonition, took from a
mysterious pocket a lump of sugar, laid it on the tip of the dog’s nose,
and holding up his finger, began in a slow and clearly measured tone:

    "Buon soldato
    Va alia guerra,
    Mangia male,
    Dorme in terra.
    Uno, due--
    Buon soldato
    Va--"


But here Sugar, to Francis’s horror, snapped the lump into his mouth and
swallowed it.

"You lose," announced Kimberly.

Francis threw up his hands.  "My poor boys!"

"This is the time, Francis, your poor boys don’t get my money.  I get
your snuff."

"Ah, Sugar, Sugar!  You ruin us."  The little Skye sitting fast, looked
innocently and affectionately up at his distressed master.  "Why,"
demanded the crestfallen Francis, "could you not wait for the lump one
little instant?"

"Sugar is like me," suggested Kimberly lazily, "he wants what he wants
when he wants it."

Alice, this morning, had been deeply in his thoughts.  From the moment
he woke he had been toying indolently with her image--setting it up
before his imagination as a picture, then putting it away, then tempting
his lethargy again with the pleasure of recalling it.

He drew a cigar-case from his pocket and carefully emptied the snuff out
of the box into it. "When do you get more snuff, Francis?"

"On Saturday."

"This is Tuesday.  The box is nearly full.  It looks like good stuff."
He paused between each sentence.  "But you would bet."

Francis without looking busied himself with his little pupil.

"I have emptied the box," announced Kimberly. There was no answer.  "Do
you want any of it back?"

Francis waved the offer aside.

"A few pinches, Francis?"

"Nothing."

"That dog," continued Kimberly, rapping the box to get every grain out
and perceiving the impossibility of harrying Francis in any other way,
"is good for nothing anyway.  He wasn’t worth saving."

"That dog," returned Francis earnestly, "is a marvel of intelligence and
patience.  He has so sweet a temper, and he is so quick, Robert, to
comprehend."

"I fail to see it."

"You will see it.  The fault is in me."

"I don’t see that either."

Francis looked at Kimberly appealingly and pointed benevolently at
Sugar.  "I ask too much of that little dog.  He will learn.  ’Patience,
Francis,’ he says to me, ’patience; I will learn.’"

Summoning his philosophy to bridge over the disappointment, Francis, as
he stood up, absent-mindedly felt in his deep pocket for his snuff-box.
It was in difficulties such as this that recourse to a frugal pinch
steadied him.  He recollected instantly that the snuff was gone, and
with some haste and stepping about, he drew out his handkerchief
instead--glancing toward Kimberly as he rubbed his nose vigorously to
see if his slip had been detected.

Needless to say it had been--less than that would not have escaped
Kimberly, and he was already enjoying the momentary discomfiture. Sugar
at that moment saw a squirrel running down the walk and tore after him.

Francis with simple dignity took the empty snuff-box from the table and
put it back in his pocket.  His composure was restored and the incident
to him was closed.

Kimberly understood him so well that it was not hard to turn the talk to
a congenial subject.  "I drove past the college the other day.  I see
your people are doing some building."

Francis shrugged his shoulders.  "A laundry, Robert."

"Not a big building, is it?"

"We must go slow."

"It is over toward where you said the academy ought to go."

"My poor academy!  They do not think it will ever come."

"You have more buildings now than you have students.  What do you want
with more buildings?"

"No, no.  We have three hundred students--three hundred now."  Francis
looked at his questioner with eyes fiercely eager.  "That is the
college, Robert.  The academy is something else--for what I told you."

"What did you tell me?"  Kimberly lighted a cigar and Francis began
again to explain.

"This is it: Our Sisters in the city take now sixteen hundred boys from
seven to eight years old.  These boys they pick up from the orphan
courts, from the streets, from the poor parents. When these boys are
twelve the Sisters cannot keep them longer, they must let them go and
take in others.

"Here we have our college and these boys are ready for it when they are
sixteen.  But, between are four fatal years--from twelve to sixteen.  If
we had a school for _such_ boys, think what we could do.  They would be
always in hand; now, they drift away.  They must go to work in the city
filth and wickedness.  Ah, they need the protection we could give them
in those terrible four years, Robert.  They need the training in those
years to make of them mechanics and artisans--to give them a chance, to
help them to do more than drift without compass or rudder--do you not
see?

"Those boys that are bright, that we find ready to go further, they are
ready at sixteen for our college; we keep and educate them.  But the
others--the greater part--at sixteen would leave us, but trained to
earn.  And strengthened during those four critical years against evil.
Ah!"

Francis paused.  He spoke fast and with an intensity that absorbed him.

Kimberly, leaning comfortably back, sat with one foot resting on his
knee.  He knocked the ash of his cigar upon the heel of his shoe as he
listened--sometimes hearing Francis’s words, sometimes not.  He had
heard all of them before at one time or another; the plea was not new to
him, but he liked the fervor of it.

"Ah!  It is not for myself that I beg."  Brother Francis’s hands fell
resignedly on his knees.  "It is for those poor boys, to keep them,
Robert, from going to hell--from hell in this world and in the next.  To
think of it makes me always sorrowful--it makes a beggar of me--a
willing beggar."

Kimberly moved his cigar between his lips.

"But where shall I get so much money?" exclaimed Francis, helplessly.
"It will take a million dollars to do what we ought to do.  You are a
great man, Robert; tell me, how shall I find it?"

"I can’t tell you how to find it; I can tell you how to make it."

"How?"

"Go into the sugar business."

"Then I must leave God’s business."

"Francis, if you will pardon me, I think for a clever man you are in
some respects a great fool. I am not joking.  What I have often said
about your going into the sugar business, I repeat.  You would be worth
ten thousand dollars a year to me, and I will pay you that much any
day."

Francis looked at Kimberly as if he were a madman, but contented himself
with moving his head slowly from side to side in protest.  "I cannot
leave God’s business, Robert.  I must work for him and pray to him for
the money.  Sometime it will come."

"Then tell Uncle John to raise your wages," suggested Kimberly,
relapsing into indifference.

"Robert, will you not sometime give me a letter to introduce me to the
great banker who comes here, Hamilton?"

"He will not give you anything."

"He has so much money; how can he possibly need it all?"

"You forget, Francis, that nobody needs money so much as those that have
it."

"Ah!"

"Hamilton may have no more money than I have, and you don’t ask me for a
million dollars."

"It is not necessary to ask you.  You know I need it.  If you could give
it to me, you would."

"If I gave you a million dollars how should I ever get it back?"

Francis spoke with all seriousness.  "God will pay you back."

"Yes, but when?  That is a good deal of money to lend to God."

"It is a good deal."

"When do I get it back, and how?"

"He will surely pay you, Robert; God pays over there."

"That won’t do--over there.  It isn’t honest."

Francis started.  "Not honest?"

"You are offering deferred dividends, Francis. What would my
stockholders say if I tried that kind of business?  Gad, they would drag
me into court."

"Ah, yes!  But, Robert; you pay for to-day: he pays for eternity."

Kimberly smoked a moment.  "In a proposition of that kind, Francis, it
seems to me the question of guarantees is exceedingly important.  You
good men are safe enough; but where would the bad men come in on your
eternal dividends?"

"You are not with the bad men, Robert.  Your heart is not bad.  You are,
perhaps, cruel----"

"_What?_"

"But generous.  Sometime God will give you a chance."

"You mean, sometime I will give God a chance."

"No, Robert, what I say I mean--sometime, God will give you a chance."

Charles Kimberly’s impatient voice was heard from the pergola.

"Robert!  We’ve been waiting thirty minutes," he stormed.

"I am just coming."



                               CHAPTER IX


That afternoon MacBirney played golf with Charles Kimberly.  Toward five
o’clock, Alice in one of the De Castro cars drove around to The
Hickories after him.  When he came in, she was sitting on the porch with
a group of women, among them Fritzie Venable and Lottie Nelson.

"I must be very displeasing to Mrs. Nelson," Alice said to her husband
as they drove away. "It upsets me completely to meet that woman."

"Why, what’s the matter with _her_?" asked MacBirney, in a tone which
professing friendly surprise really implied that the grievance might
after all be one of imagination.

"I haven’t an idea," declared Alice a little resentfully.  "I am not
conscious of having done a thing to offend her."

"You are oversensitive."

"But, Walter, I can tell when people mean to be rude."

"What did Mrs. Nelson do that was rude?" asked her husband in his
customary vein of scepticism.

"She never does anything beyond ignoring me," returned Alice.  "It must
be, I think, that she and I instinctively detest each other.  They were
talking about a dinner and musicale Thursday night that Mr. Robert
Kimberly is giving at The Towers.  Miss Venable said she supposed we
were going, and I had to say I really didn’t know.  We haven’t been
asked, have we?"

"Not that I know of."

"Mrs. Nelson looked at me when Fritzie spoke; I think it is the first
time that she ever has looked at me, except when she had to say
’good-morning’ or ’good-evening.’  I was confused a little when I
answered, I suppose; at any rate, she enjoyed it.  Mr. Kimberly would
not leave us out, would he?"

"I don’t think so.  He was playing golf this afternoon with Cready
Hamilton, and he stopped to offer me his yacht for the week of the cup
races."

"Why, how delightful!  How came he ever to do that?"

"And I think he has made up his mind what he is going to do about
placing me on the board," continued MacBirney, resuming his hard, thin
manner and his eager tone of business.  "I wish I knew just what is
coming."

Alice had scarcely reached her room when she found the dinner
invitation.  She felt a little thrill of triumph as she read it.  Her
maid explained that the note had been laid in the morning with Mrs. De
Castro’s letters.

Late in the evening Kimberly came over with his sister-in-law, Imogene.
The De Castros were at the seashore overnight and the visitors’ cards
were sent up to the MacBirneys.  It was warm and the party sat on the
south veranda. Kimberly talked with Alice and she told him they hoped to
be present at his dinner.

"You are sure to be, aren’t you?" he asked. "The evening is given for
you."

"For us?"

"No, not for ’us,’ but for you," he said distinctly.  "Mr. MacBirney has
said he is fond of the water--you like music; and I am trying something
for each of you.  I should have asked you about your engagements before
the cards went out.  If there is any conflict the date can easily be
recalled."

"Oh, no.  That would be a pity."

"Not at all.  I change my arrangements when necessary every ten
minutes."

"But there isn’t any conflict, and I shall be delighted to come.  Pray,
how do you know I like music?"

"I heard you say so once to Arthur De Castro. Tell me what you are
amused about?"

"Have I betrayed any amusement?"

"For just about the hundredth part of a second, in your eyes."

They were looking at each other and his gaze though within restraint was
undeniably alive. Alice knew not whether she could quite ignore it or
whether her eyes would drop in an annoying admission of
self-consciousness.  She avoided the latter by confessing.  "I am sure I
don’t know at all what you are talking about----"

"I am sure you do, but you are privileged not to tell if you don’t want
to."

"Then--our dinner card was mislaid and until to-night we didn’t know
whether----"

"There was going to be any dinner."

"Oh, I knew that.  I was at the Casino this afternoon----"

"I saw you."

"And when I was asked whether I was going to the dinner at The Towers I
couldn’t, of course, say."

"Who asked you, Mrs. Nelson?"

"No, indeed.  What made you think it was she?"

"Because she asked me if you were to be there. When I said you were, she
laughed in such a way I grew suspicious.  I thought, perhaps, for some
reason you could not come, and now _I_ am confessing--I ran over
to-night expressly to find out."

"How ridiculous!"

"Rather ridiculous of me not to know before-hand."

"I don’t mean that--just queer little complications."

"A mislaid dinner-card might be answerable for more than that."

"It was Miss Venable who asked, quite innocently. And had I known all I
know now, I could have taken a chance, perhaps, and said yes."

"You would have been taking no chance where my hospitality is
concerned."

"Thank you, Mr. Kimberly, for my husband and myself."

"And you might have added in this instance that if you did not go there
would be no dinner."

Alice concealed an embarrassment under a little laugh.  "My husband told
me of your kindness in placing your yacht at our disposal for the
races."

"At his disposal."

"Oh, wasn’t I included in that?"

"Certainly, if you would like to be.  But tastes differ, and you and Mr.
MacBirney being two----"

"Oh, no, Mr. Kimberly; my husband and I are one."

"--and possibly of different tastes," continued Kimberly, "I thought
only of him.  I hope it wasn’t ungracious, but some women, you know,
hate the water.  And I had no means of knowing whether you liked it.  If
you do----"

"And you are not going to the races, yourself?"

"If you do, I shall know better the next time how to arrange."

"And you are not going to the races?"

"Probably not.  Do you like the water?"

"To be quite frank, I don’t know."

"How so?"

"I like the ocean immensely, but I don’t know how good a sailor I should
be on a yacht."

Imogene was ready to go home.  Kimberly rose.  "I understand," he said,
in the frank and reassuring manner that was convincing because quite
natural.  "We will try you some time, up the coast," he suggested,
extending his hand. "Good-night, Mrs. MacBirney."

"I believe Kimberly is coming to our side," declared MacBirney after he
had gone upstairs with Alice.

Annie had been dismissed and Alice was braiding her hair.  "I hope so; I
begin to feel like a conspirator."

MacBirney was in high spirits.  "You don’t look like one.  You look just
now like Marguerite."  He put his hands around her shoulders, and
bending over her chair, kissed her.  The caress left her cold.

"Poor Marguerite," she said softly.

"When is the dinner to be?"

"A week from Thursday.  Mr. Kimberly says the yacht is for you, but the
dinner is for me," continued Alice as she lifted her eyes toward her
husband.

"Good for you."

"He is the oddest combination," she mused with a smile, and lingering
for an instant on the adjective.  "Blunt, and seemingly
kind-hearted----"

"Not kind-hearted," MacBirney echoed, incredulously.  "Why, even Nelson,
and he’s supposed to think the world and all of him, calls him as cold
as the grave when he _wants_ anything."

Alice stuck to her verdict.  "I can’t help what Nelson says; and I don’t
pretend to know how Mr. Kimberly would act when he wants anything. A
kind-hearted man is kind to those he likes, and a cold-blooded man is
just the same to those he likes and those he doesn’t like.  There is
always something that stands between a cold-blooded man and real
consideration for those he likes--and that something is himself."

Alice was quite willing her husband should apply her words as he
pleased.  She thought he had given her ample reason for her reflection
on the subject.

But MacBirney was too self-satisfied to perceive what her words meant
and too pleased with the situation to argue.  "Whatever he is," he
responded, "he is the wheel-horse in this combination--everybody agrees
on that--and the friendship of these people is an asset the world over.
If we can get it and keep it, we are the gainers."

"Whatever we do," returned Alice, "don’t let us trade on it.  I shrink
from the very thought of being a gainer by his or any other friendship.
If we are to be friends, do let us be so through mutual likes and
interests.  Mr. Kimberly would know instantly if we designed it in any
other way, I am sure.  I never saw such penetrating eyes.  Really, he
takes thoughts right out of my head."

MacBirney laughed in a hard way.  "He might take them out of a woman’s
head.  I don’t think he would take many out of a man’s."

"He wouldn’t need to, dear.  A man’s thought’s, you know, are clearly
written on the end of his nose.  I wish I knew what to wear to Mr.
Kimberly’s dinner."



                               CHAPTER X


One morning shortly after the MacBirneys had been entertained at The
Towers John Kimberly was wheeled into his library where Charles and
Robert were waiting for him.  Charles leaned against the mantel and his
brother stood at a window looking across the lake toward Cedar Point.
As Francis left the room Uncle John’s eyes followed him.  Presently they
wandered back with cheerful suspicion toward his nephews, and he laid
his good arm on the table as they took chairs near him.

"Well?" he said lifting his eyebrows and looking blandly from one to the
other.

"Well?" echoed Charles good-naturedly, looking from Uncle John to
Robert.

"Well?" repeated Robert with mildly assumed idiocy, looking from Charles
back again to Uncle John.

But Uncle John was not to be committed by any resort to his own tactics,
and he came back at Charles on the flank.  "Get any fish?" he asked, as
if assured that Charles would make an effort to deceive him in
answering.

"We sat around for a while without doing a thing, Uncle John.  Then they
began to strike and I had eight days of the best sport I ever saw on the
river,"

Uncle John buried his disappointment under a smile.  "Good fishing, eh?"

"Excellent."

There was evidently no opening on this subject, and Uncle John tried
another tender spot.  "Yacht go any better?"

"McAdams has done wonders with it, Uncle John.  She never steamed so
well since she was launched."

"Cost a pretty penny, eh, Charlie?"

"That is what pretty pennies are for, isn’t it?"

Unable to disturb his nephew’s peace of mind, Uncle John launched
straight into business. "What are you going to do with those fellows?"

"You mean the MacBirney syndicate?  Robert tells me he has concluded to
be liberal with them."

"He is giving too much, Charlie."

"He knows better what the stuff is worth than we do."

Uncle John smiled sceptically.  "He will give them more than they are
worth, I am afraid."

Robert said nothing.

"Perhaps there is a reason for that," suggested Charles.

They waited for Robert to speak.  He shifted in his chair presently and
spoke with some decision.  His intonation might have been unpleasant but
that the depth and fulness of his voice redeemed it.  The best note in
his utterance was its open frankness.

"Uncle John understands this matter just as well as I do," he began,
somewhat in protest.

"We have been over the ground often.  These people have been an
annoyance to us; this is undeniable.  McCrea has complained of them for
two years.  Through a shift in the cards--this money squeeze--we have
them to-day in our hands----"

Uncle John’s eyes shone and he clasped the fingers of one hand tightly
in the other.  "That is what I say; trim them!" he whispered eagerly.

Robert went on, unmoved: "Let us look at that, too.  He wants me to trim
them.  I have steadily opposed buying them at all.  But the rest of you
have overruled me.  Very good.  They know now that they are in our
power.  They are, one and all, bushwhackers and guerillas.  To my mind
there isn’t a trustworthy man in the crowd--not even MacBirney.

"They have made selling agreements with McCrea again and again and left
him to hold the sack.  We can’t do business in that way.  When we give
our word it must be good.  They give their word to break it.  Whenever
we make a selling agreement with such people we get beaten, invariably.
They have cut into us on the Missouri River, at St. Paul, even at
Chicago--from their Kansas plants.  They make poor sugar, but it sells,
and even when it won’t sell, it demoralizes the trade.  Now they are on
their knees.  They want us to buy to save what they’ve got invested. At
a receiver’s sale they would get nothing.  But on the other hand Lambert
might get the plants. If we tried to bid them in there would be a howl
from the Legislature, perhaps."

Uncle John was growing moody, for the prey was slipping through his
fingers.  "It might be better to stand pat," he muttered.

Robert paid no attention.  "What I propose, and God knows I have
explained it before, is this: These people can be trimmed, or they can
be satisfied.  I say give them eleven millions--six millions cash--three
millions preferred and two millions in our common for fifty per cent of
their stock instead of sixteen millions for all of their stock."

Uncle John looked horror stricken.  "It is nothing to us," exclaimed
Robert, impatiently.  "I can make the whole capital back in twelve
months with McCrea to help MacBirney reorganize and run the plants.  It
is a fortune for them, and we keep MacBirney and the rest of them, for
ten years at least, from scheming to start new plants. Nelson says there
are legal difficulties about buying more than half their stock.  But the
voting control of all of it can be safely trusteed."

Uncle John could barely articulate: "Too much, it is too much."

"Bosh.  This is a case where generosity is ’plainly indicated,’ as
Hamilton says."

"Too much."

"Robert is right," asserted Charles curtly.

Uncle John threw his hand up as if to say: "If you are resolved to ruin
us, go on!"

"You will be surprised at the success of it," concluded Robert.
"MacBirney wants to come here to live, though Chicago would be the
better place for him.  Let him be responsible for the Western territory.
With such an arrangement we ought to have peace out there for ten years.
If we can, it means just one hundred millions more in our pockets than
we can make in the face of this continual price cutting."

Charles rose.  "Then it is settled."

Uncle John ventured a last appeal.  "Make the cash five and a half
millions."

"Very good," assented Robert, who to meet precisely this objection had
raised the figure well above what he intended to pay.  "As you like,
Uncle John," he said graciously.  "Charles, make the cash five and a
half millions."

And Uncle John went back to his loneliness, treasuring in his heart the
half million he had saved, and encouraged by his frail triumph in the
conference over his never-quite-wholly-understood nephew.

At a luncheon next day, the decision was laid by Charles and Robert
before the Kimberly partners, by whom it was discussed and approved.

In the evening Charles, with Robert listening, laid the proposal before
MacBirney, who had been sent for and whose astonishment at the
unexpected liberality overwhelmed him.

He was promptly whirled away from The Towers in a De Castro car.  And
from a simple after-dinner conference, in which he had sat down at ten
o’clock a promoter, he had risen at midnight with his brain reeling, a
millionaire.

Alice excused herself when her husband appeared at Black Rock, and
followed him upstairs. She saw how he was wrought up.  In their room,
with eyes burning with the fires of success, he told her of the
stupendous change in their fortunes. With an affection that surprised
and moved Alice, who had long believed that never again could anything
from him move her, he caught her closely in his arms.

Tears filled her eyes.  He wiped them away and forced a laugh.  "Too
good to be true, dearie, isn’t it?"

She faltered an instant.  "If it will only bring us happiness, Walter."

"Alice, I’m afraid I have been harsh, at times."  Her memory swept over
bitter months and wasted years, but her heart was touched.  "It is all
because I worry too much over business.  There will be no more worries
now--they are past and gone.  And I want you to forget everything,
Allie."  He embraced her fervently.  "I have had a good deal of anxiety
first and last.  It is over now.  Great God!  This is so easy here.
Everything is so easy for these people."

The telephone bell tinkled.  Through a mist of tears Alice felt her
husband’s kiss.  She rose to answer the bell.  Dolly was calling from
downstairs. "Come down both of you," she said.  "Charles and Imogene are
here with Fritzie and Robert."

With Charles and Imogene had come a famous doctor from the city,
Hamilton’s friend, Doctor Bryson.  Alice protested she could not come
down.  Dolly told her she "simply must."  The controversy upset Alice
but she had at last to give way.  She bathed her face in cold water and
her husband deceived her with assurances that her eyes showed no traces
of tears.

Very uncertain about them, she followed MacBirney down, taking refuge at
once in a corner with Imogene.

While the two were talking, Grace De Castro and Larrie Morgan came in,
bringing some young friends.  "Aren’t they the nicest couple?" exclaimed
Alice as they crossed the room.

"It is a blessing they are," said Imogene. "You see, Grace will probably
succeed to the De Castro fortune, and Larrie is likely sometime to have
the Kimberly burdens.  It crushes me to think that Charles and I have no
children."

"Are you so fond of children?" Alice asked wistfully.

"Why, of course, dear; aren’t you?"

"Indeed I am, too fond of them.  I lost my only child, a baby girl----"

"And you never have had another?"

"No."

"If Robert would marry, we should have a family hope there," continued
Imogene.  "But I am afraid he never will.  How did you enjoy your
evening at The Towers?"

"We had a delightful time."

"Isn’t Robert a good host?  I love to see him preside.  And he hasn’t
given a dinner before for years."

"Why is that?"

Imogene laid her hand gently on Alice’s.  "It is a long story, dear, a
tragedy came into his life--into all our lives, in fact.  It changed him
greatly."

Soon after the MacBirneys came down, the Nelsons arrived on the scene
and the company moved to a south room to get the breeze. Imogene talked
with Alice and MacBirney, but Kimberly joined them and listened, taking
part at intervals in the conversation.

When Imogene’s attention was taken by MacBirney, Robert, asking Alice if
she got the air from the cooling windows, moved her chair to where the
breeze could be felt more perceptibly. "I hope you haven’t had bad news
to-night," he said, taking a seat on a divan near her.

She understood instantly that her eyes had not escaped his scrutiny, but
concealed her annoyance as best she could.  "No, indeed.  But I had some
exciting news to-night."

"What was it?"

"Oh, I mayn’t tell, may I?  I am not supposed to know anything, am I?"

Her little uncertainty and appeal made her charmingly pretty, he
thought, as he watched her. The traces in her eyes of tears attracted
him more than anything he had seen before.  Her first little air of
annoyed defiance and her effort to throw him off the track, all
interested him, and her appeal now, made in a manner that plainly said
she was aware the secret of the news was his own, pleased him.

He was in the mood of one who had made his plans, put them through
generously, and was ready for the enjoyment that might follow.
"Certainly, you are supposed to know," said he graciously.  "Why not?
And you may tell if you like.  At any rate, I absolve you as far as
_I’m_ concerned.  I couldn’t conceive you guilty of a very serious
indiscretion."

"Then I suppose you know that we are very happy, and why--don’t you?"

"Perhaps; but that should be mere excitement. How about the tears?"

She frowned an impatient protest and rose. "Oh, I haven’t said anything
about tears.  They are going out on the porch--shall we join them?"  He
got up reluctantly and followed her.

Arthur De Castro and Charles Kimberly offered chairs to Alice.  They
were under a cluster of electric lamps, where she did not wish to sit
for inspection.  As she hesitated Robert Kimberly spoke behind her.
"Possibly it will be pleasanter over here, Mrs. MacBirney."

He was in the shadow and had drawn a chair for her near Nelson outside
the circle of light, from which she was glad to escape.  He took the
seat under the light himself.  When an ice was served, the small tables
were drawn together. Alice, occupied with Nelson, who inspired by his
vis-à-vis had summoned something of his grand air, lost the conversation
of the circle until she heard Doctor Bryson, and turned with Nelson to
listen.  He was thanking Mrs. De Castro for a compliment.

"I am always glad to hear anything kind of my profession."  He spoke
simply and his manner Alice thought engaging.  "It _is_ a high
calling--and I know of but one higher.  We hear the complaint that
nowadays medicine is a savagely mercenary profession.  If a measure of
truth lies in the charge I think it is due to the fact that doctors are
victims of the mercenary spirit about them. It’s a part of the very air
they breathe.  They can’t escape it.  The doctor, to begin with, must
spend one small fortune to get his degree.  He must spend another to
equip himself for his work. Ten of the best years of his life go
practically to getting ready.  His expense for instruments, appliances,
and new and increasingly elaborate appointments is continuous."

"But doctor," Fritzie Venable leaned forward with a grave and lengthened
face, "think of the fees!"

The doctor enjoyed the laugh.  "Quite true. When you find an ambitious
doctor, unless his energy is restrained by a sense of his high
responsibility, he may be possessed of greed.  If a surgeon be set too
fast on fame he will affect the spectacular and cut too much and too
freely.  I admit all of this.  My plea is for the conscientious doctor,
and believe me, there are many such.  Nor must you forget that, at the
best, half our lives we are too young to please and half our lives too
old."

"Hamilton said the other night," observed Robert Kimberly, filling in
the pause, "that a good doctor must spend his time in killing, not his
own patients, but his own business."

"No other professional man is called on to do that," observed Bryson.
"Indeed, the saddest of all possible proofs of the difficulties of our
calling is found in the fact that the suicide rate among doctors is the
highest in the learned professions."

MacBirney expressed surprise.  "I had no idea of such a thing.  Had you,
Mr. Kimberly?" he asked with his sudden energy.

"I have known it, but perhaps only because I have been interested in
questions of that kind."

Dolly’s attention was arrested at once by the mention of suicide.  "Oh,
dear," she exclaimed, "Don’t let us talk about suicide."

But Robert Kimberly could not always be shut off and this subject he
pursued with a certain firmness.  Some of the family were disturbed but
no one presumed to interfere.  "Suicide," he went on, "has a painful
interest for many people.  Has your study of it, doctor, ever led you to
believe that it presupposes insanity?" he asked of Bryson.

"By no means."

"You conclude then that sane men and women do commit suicide?"

"Frequently, Mr. Kimberly."

Kimberly drew back in his chair.  "I am glad to be supported in my own
conviction.  The fact is," he went on in a humorous tone, "I am forced
either to hold in this way or conclude that I am sprung from a race of
lunatics."

"Robert," protested Dolly, "can’t we talk about something else?"

Kimberly, however, persisted, and he now had, for some reason not clear
to Alice, a circle of painfully acute listeners.  "The insanity theory
is in many cases a comfortable one.  But I don’t find it so, and I must
stick to the other and regard suicide as the worst possible solution of
any possible difficulty."

Doctor Bryson nodded assent.  Kimberly spoke on with a certain
intensity.  "If every act of a man’s life had been a brave one," he
continued, "his suicide would be all the more the act of a coward.  I
don’t believe that kind of a man can commit suicide.  Understand, I am
considering the act of a man--not that of a youth or of one immature."

"Well, I don’t care what you are _considering_, Robert," declared Dolly
with unmistakable emphasis, "we will _talk_ about something else."



                               CHAPTER XI


The conversation split up.  Kimberly, unruffled, turned to Alice and
went on in an undertone: "I am going to tell you Francis’s views on the
subject anyway.  He has the most intense way of expressing himself and
the pantomime is so contributing.  ’Suicide, Mr. Kimberly,’ he said to
me one day, ’is no good.  What would a man look like going back to God,
carrying his head in his hand?  "Well, I am back, and here are the
brains you gave me."  "What did you do with them?"  "I blew them out
with a bullet!"  That is a poor showing I think, Mr. Kimberly, for
business.  Suicide is _no_ good.’"

"But who is this Brother Francis," asked Alice, "whom I hear so much of?
Tell me about him."

"He is one of the fixtures at The Towers.  A religious phenomenon whom I
personally think a great deal of; an attendant and a nurse.  He is an
Italian with the courtesy of a gentleman worn under a black gown so
shabby that it would be absurd to offer it to a second-hand man."

"Does the combination seem so odd?"

"To me he _is_ an extraordinary combination."

"How did you happen to get him?"

"That also is curious.  The Kimberlys are cantankerous enough when well;
when ill they are likely to be insupportable.  Not only that, but
kindness and faithfulness are some of the things that money cannot buy;
they give themselves but never sell themselves.  When my uncle fell ill,
after a great mental strain, we hired nurses for him until we were
distracted--men and women, one worse than another.  We tried all colors
and conditions of human kind without finding one that would suit Uncle
John.  I began to think of throwing him into the lake--and told him so.
He cried like a child the day I had the set-to with him.  To say the
truth, the old gentleman hasn’t many friends left anywhere, but early
impressions are a great deal to us, you know, and I remember him when he
was a figure in the councils of the sugar world.

"I recall," continued Kimberly, "a certain Black Friday in our own
little affairs when the wolves got after us.  The banks were throwing
over our securities by the wagon-load, and this old man who sits and
swears and shakes there, alone, upstairs, was all that remained between
us and destruction.  He stood in our down-town office with fifty men
fighting to get at him--struggling, yelling, screaming, and cursing, and
some who couldn’t even scream or curse, livid and pawing the air.

"He stood behind his desk all day like a field-marshal, counselling,
advising, ordering, buying, steadying, reassuring, juggling millions in
his two hands like conjuror’s balls.  I could never forget that.  I am
not answering your question----"

"But do go on!"  There were no longer tears in Alice’s eyes.  They were
alive with interest. "That," she exclaimed, "was splendid!"

"He won out, and then he set himself on vengeance.  That was the end of
our dependence on other people’s banks.  Most people learn sooner or
later that a banking connection is an expensive luxury.  He finally
drove off the street the two institutions that tried to save themselves
at our expense.  The father of Cready and Frank Hamilton, Richard
Hamilton, a rank outsider, helped Uncle John in that crisis and Uncle
John made Richard Hamilton to pillow his head on tens of millions.
Since that day we have been our own bankers; that is, we own our own
banks.  And I this is curious, never from that day to this has Uncle
John completely trusted any man--not even me--except this very man we
are talking about."

"Brother Francis?"

"Brother Francis.  You asked how I got him; it is not uninteresting; a
sort of sermon on good deeds.  Just before this big school in the valley
was started, the order to which he belongs had been expelled from
France--it was years ago; the reformers over there needed their
property. Half a dozen of the Brothers landed down here in the village
with hardly a coat to their backs.  But they went to work and in a few
years had a little school.  The industry of these people is
astonishing."

"One day they came to The Towers for aid. Old Brother Adrian, the head
Brother, came himself--as he long afterward told me--with a heavy heart,
indeed, with fear and trembling. The iron gates and the Krupp eagles
frightened him, he said, when he entered the grounds.  And when he asked
for the mistress of the house, he could hardly find voice to speak.  My
mother was away, so Aunt Lydia appeared--you have seen her portrait,
haven’t you?"

"No."

"You must; it is not unlike you.  Aunt Lydia and my mother were two of
the loveliest women I have ever known.  When she came down that day,
Brother Adrian supposing it was my mother begged a slight aid for the
work they had undertaken in the valley.  Aunt Lydia heard him in
silence, and without saying a word went upstairs, wrote out a cheque and
brought it down.  He glanced at the figures on it--fifty--thanked her,
gave it to the young Brother with him, and with some little compliment
to the beauty of The Towers, rose to go.

"While they were moving toward the door the young Brother, studying the
cheque grew pale, halted, looked at it again and handed it to his
superior.  Brother Adrian looked at the paper and at the young Brother
and stood speechless. The two stared a moment at each other.  Aunt Lydia
enjoyed the situation.  Brother Adrian had thought the gift had been
fifty dollars--it was fifty thousand.

"He fainted.  Servants were hurried in.  Even when he recovered, he was
dazed--he really for a year had not had enough to eat.  Aunt Lydia
always delighted in telling how the young Brother helped him down the
avenue after he could walk. This is a tediously long story."

"Do go on."

"When he again reached the big iron gates he turned toward the house and
with many strange words and gestures called down the mercies of Heaven
on that roof and all that should ever sleep under it----"

"How beautiful!"

"He blessed us right and left, up and down, fore and aft--he was a fine
old fellow, Adrian. When my mother heard the story she was naturally
embarrassed.  It looked something like obtaining blessings under false
pretences.  The only thing she could do to ease her conscience was to
send over a second cheque."

"Princely!"

"It came near killing Brother Adrian.  It seems odd, too, compared with
the cut-and-dried way in which we solemnly endow institutions nowadays,
doesn’t it?  They all three are dead, but we have always stood, in a
way, with Adrian’s people.

"The young man that made the exciting call with him is now the superior
over there, Brother Edmund.  After the trouble we had with Uncle John,
in finding some one he could stand and who could stand him, I went one
day in despair to Brother Edmund.  I allowed him to commit himself
properly on what they owed to Aunt Lydia’s goodness and the rest, and
then began to abuse him and told him he ought to supply a nurse for my
uncle.  He told me theirs was a teaching order and not a nursing order.
I redoubled my harshness. ’It is all very well when _you_ need
anything,’ I said, ’when _we_ need anything it is different. Did those
women,’ I thundered, ’ask what you were, when you were starving here?’

"It wasn’t precisely logical, but abuse should be vigorous rather than
logical, anyway, and I tried to be vigorous.  They got very busy, I can
tell you.  They held a conclave of some sort and decided that Uncle John
must be taken care of.  If he were a common pauper, they argued, they
would not refuse to take care of him; should they refuse because he was
a pauper of means?  They concluded that it was a debt they owed to Aunt
Lydia and by Heaven, next morning over came this sallow-faced, dark-eyed
Brother Francis, and there he is still with Uncle John."



                              CHAPTER XII


MacBirney’s personal efforts in effecting the combination with the
Kimberly interests were adjudged worthy of a substantial recognition at
the hands of the company and he was given charge of the Western
territory together with a place on the big directorate of all the
companies and made one of the three voting trustees of the syndicate
stock.  The two other trustees were, as a "matter of form," Kimberly
men--McCrea and Cready Hamilton.  This meant for MacBirney a settled
Eastern residence and one befitting a gentleman called to an honor so
unusual.  He was made to feel that his new circumstances entailed new
backgrounds socially as well as those that had been accorded him in a
monetary way, and through the Kimberlys, negotiations were speedily
concluded for his acquiring of the Cedar Lodge villa some miles across
the lake from The Towers.

At the end of a trying two months, the MacBirneys were in their new home
and Alice had begun receiving from her intimates congratulations over
the telephone.  Another month, and a busy one, went to finishing
touches.  At the end of that period there was apparently more than ever
to be done.  It seemed that a beginning had hardly been made, but the
new servants were at home in their duties, and Alice thought she could
set a date for an evening.  Her head, night and day, was in more or less
of a whirl.

The excitement of new fortunes had come very suddenly upon her and with
her husband she walked every day as if borne on the air of waking
dreams.  Dolly declared that Alice was working too hard, and that her
weary conferences with decorators and furnishers were too continual.
Occasionally, Dolly took matters into her own hands and was frequently
in consultation on domestic perplexities; sometimes she dragged Alice
abruptly from them.

Even before it had been generally seen, the new home, once thrown open,
secured Alice’s reputation among her friends.  What was within it
reflected her taste and discrimination.  And her appointments were not
only good, they were distinctive. To be able to drape the vestments of a
house so as to make of it almost at once a home was not a feat to pass
unnoticed among people who studied effects though they did not
invariably secure them.

Robert Kimberly declared that Alice, under many disadvantages, had
achieved an air of stability and permanence in her home.  Dolly told
Lottie Nelson that nothing around the lake among the newer homes
compared with it.  Lottie Nelson naturally hated Alice more cordially
than ever for her success.  She ventured, when the new house was being
discussed at a dinner, to say that Mr. MacBirney seemed to have
excellent taste; whereupon Charles Kimberly over a salad bluntly replied
that the time MacBirney had shown his taste was when he chose a wife.
"But," added Charles, reflectively, "perhaps a man doesn’t prove his
taste so much in getting a wife as in keeping one.

"Any man," he continued, "may be lucky enough to get a wife; we see that
every day.  But who, save a man of feeling, could keep, well, say
Imogene or Dolly, for instance?"

Robert agreed that if the MacBirney home showed anything it showed the
touch of an agreeable woman.  "Any one," he declared, paraphrasing his
brother, "can buy pretty things, but it takes a clever woman to combine
them."

One result of the situation was a new cordiality from Lottie Nelson to
the MacBirneys.  And since it had become necessary to pay court to them,
Lottie resolved to pay hers to Mr. MacBirney. She was resourceful rather
than deep, and hoped by this to annoy Alice and possibly to stir Robert
Kimberly out of his exasperating indifference.  The indifference of a
Kimberly could assume in its proportions the repose of a monument.

Lottie, too, was a mover in many of the diversions arranged to keep the
lake set amused.  But as her efforts did not always tend to make things
easy for Alice, Dolly became active herself in suggesting things.

One Saturday morning a message came from her, directing Alice to forbid
her husband’s going to town, drop everything, provide a lunch and join a
motoring party for the seashore.  MacBirney following the lines of
Robert Kimberly’s experience with cars had secured at his suggestion,
among others, a foreign car from which things might reasonably be
expected.

Imogene Kimberly and Charles took Alice with them and Dolly rode with
MacBirney, who had Robert Kimberly with him in the new car to see how it
behaved.  Kimberly’s own chauffeur drove for them.  Doane took Arthur De
Castro and Fritzie Venable.  The servants and the lunch followed with a
De Castro chauffeur.

As the party climbed toward Sea Ridge a shower drove them into the
grounds of a country club. While it rained, the women, their long veils
thrown back, walked through the club house, and the men paced about,
smoking.

Alice, seated at a table on the veranda, was looking at an illustrated
paper when Robert Kimberly joined her.  He told her what extravagant
stories he had heard from Dolly about the success of her new home.  She
laughed over his sister’s enthusiasm, admitted her own, and confessed at
length how the effort to get satisfactory effects had tired her.  He in
turn described to her what he had once been through in starting a new
refinery and how during the strain of six weeks the hair upon his
temples had perceptibly whitened, turning brown again when the mental
pressure was relieved.

"I never heard of such a thing," exclaimed Alice.

"I don’t know how unusual it is, but it has happened more than once in
our family.  I remember my mother’s hair once turned in that way.  But
my mother had much sadness in her life."

"Mrs. De Castro often speaks of your mother."

"She was a brave woman.  You have never seen her portrait?  Sometime at
The Towers you must.  And you can see on her temples just what I speak
of.  But your home-making will have just the opposite effect on you.  If
care makes the hair white, happiness ought to make it browner than
ever."

"I suppose happiness is wholly a matter of illusion."

"I don’t see that it makes much difference how we define it; the thing
is to be happy.  However, if what you say is so, you should cling to
your illusions.  Get all you can--I should--and keep all you can get."

"You don’t mean to say you practise that?"

"Of course I do.  And I think for a man I’ve kept my illusions very
well."

"For a _man_!"  Alice threw her head back. "That is very comfortable
assurance."

He looked at her with composure.  "What is it you object to in it?"

"To begin with," demanded Alice, "how can a man have any illusions?  He
knows everything from the very beginning."

"Oh, by no means.  Far from it, I assure you."

"He has every chance to.  It is only the poor women who are constantly
disillusionized in life."

"You mustn’t be disillusionized, Mrs. MacBirney. Hope unceasingly."

She resented the personal application.  "I am not speaking of myself."

"Nor am I speaking of you, only speaking through you to womankind.  You
’poor women’ should not be discouraged."  He raised his head as if he
were very confident.  "If we can hope, you can hope.  I hope every day.
I hope in a woman."

She bore his gaze as she had already borne it once or twice before,
steadily, but as one might bear the gaze of a dangerous creature, if
strengthened by the certainty of iron bars before its impassive eyes.
Kimberly was both too considerate and possessed too much sense of
fitness to overdo the moment.  With his hand he indicated a woman
walking along a covered way in front of them. "There, for instance, goes
a woman," he continued, following up his point.  "Look at her.  Isn’t
she pretty?  I like her walk.  And a woman’s walk! It is impossible to
say how much depends on the walk.  And all women that walk well have
good feet; their heels set right and there is a pleasure in watching
each sure foot-fall.  Notice, for instance, that woman’s feet; her walk
is perfect."

"How closely observant!"

"She is well gowned--but everybody is well gowned.  And her figure is
good.  Let us say, I hope in her, hope she will be all she looks.  I
follow the dream.  In a breath, an instant, a twinkling, the illusion
has vanished!  She has spoken, or she has looked my way and I have seen
her face.  But even then the face is only the dial of the watch; it may
be very fair.  Sometime I see her mind--and everything is gone!"

"Would it be impertinent to ask who has put women up in this way to be
inspected and criticised?" retorted Alice.

"Not in the least.  I am speaking only in illustration and if you are
annoyed with me I shall miss making my point.  Do I give up merely
because I have lost an illusion?  Not at all.  Another springs up at
once, and I welcome it.  Let us live in our illusions; every time we
part with one and find none to take its place we are poorer, Mrs.
MacBirney, believe me."

"Just the same, I think you are horridly critical of women."

"Then you should advise me to cultivate my illusions in their
direction."

"I should if I thought it were necessary.  As I have a very high opinion
of women, I don’t think any illusions concerning them are necessary."

"Loftily said.  And I sha’n’t allow you to think my own opinion any less
high.  When I was a boy, women were all angels to me; they are not quite
that, we know."

"In spite of illusions."

"But I don’t want to put them very much lower than the angels--and I
don’t.  I keep them up because I like to."

Her comment was still keen.  "Not because they deserve it."

"I won’t quarrel with you--because, then, they do deserve it.  It is
pleasant to be set right."

The shower had passed and the party was making ready to start.  Alice
rose.  "You haven’t said what you think of your own kind, as you call
them--menkind."

Kimberly held her coat for her to slip into. "Of course, I try not to
think of them."

When they reached the summit dividing the lake country from the sea the
sun was shining. To the east, the sound lay at their feet.  In the west
stretched the heavy forests and the long chain of lakes.  They followed
the road to the sea and after their shore luncheon relaxed for an hour
at the yacht club.  Driving back by the river road they put the new car
through some paces, and halting at intervals to interchange passengers,
they proceeded homeward.

Going through Sunbury at five o’clock the cars separated.  MacBirney,
with whom Robert Kimberly was again riding, had taken in Fritzie Venable
and Alice.  Leaving the village they chose the hill road around the
lake.  Brice, Kimberly’s chauffeur, took advantage of the long, straight
highway leading to it to let the car out a little. They were running
very fast when he noticed the sparker was binding and stopped for a
moment. It was just below the Roger Morgan place and Kimberly, who could
never for a moment abide idleness, suggested that they alight while
Brice worked.  He stood at the door of the tonneau and gave his hand to
Alice as she stepped from the car.  In getting out, her foot slipped and
she turned her ankle.  She would have fallen but that Kimberly caught
her.  Alice recovered herself immediately, yet not without an instant’s
dependence on him that she would rather have escaped.

Brice was slow in correcting the mechanical difficulty, and finding it
at last in the magneto announced it would make a delay of twenty
minutes.  Fritzie suggested that they walk through her park and meet the
car at the lower end. MacBirney started up one of the hill paths with
Alice, Kimberly and Fritzie following.  They passed Morgan house and
higher in the hills they reached the chapel.  Alice took her husband in
to see the beauty of the interior.  She told him Dolly’s story of the
building and when Fritzie and Kimberly joined them, Alice was regretting
that Dolly had failed to recollect the name of the church in Rome it was
modelled after.  Kimberly came to her aid. "Santa Maria in Cosmedin, I
think."

"Oh, do you remember?  Thank you," exclaimed Alice.  "Isn’t it all
beautiful, Walter? And those old pulpits--I’m in love with them!"

MacBirney pronounced everything admirable and prepared to move on.  He
walked toward the door with Fritzie.

Alice, with Kimberly, stood before the chancel looking at the
balustrade.  She stopped near the north ambone, and turning saw in the
soft light of the aisle the face of the boy dreaming in the silence of
the bronze.

Below it, measured words of Keats were dimly visible.  Alice repeated
them half aloud.  "What a strange inscription," she murmured almost to
herself.

Kimberly stood at her elbow.  "It is strange."

She was silent for a moment.  "I think it is the most beautiful head of
a boy I have ever seen."

"Have you seen it before?"

"I was here once with Mrs. De Castro."

"She told you the story?"

"No, we remained only a moment."  Alice read aloud the words raised in
the bronze: "’Robert Ten Broeck Morgan: ætat: 20.’"

"Should you like to hear it?"

"Very much."

"His father married my half-sister--Bertha; Charles and I are sons of my
father’s second marriage.  ’Tennie’ was Bertha’s son--strangely shy and
sensitive from his childhood, even morbidly sensitive.  I do not mean
unbalanced in any way----"

"I understand."

"A sister of his, Marie, became engaged to a young man of a Southern
family who came here after the war.  They were married and their wedding
was made the occasion of a great family affair for the Morgans, and
Alices and Legares and Kimberlys.  Tennie was chosen for groomsman. The
house that you have seen below was filled with wedding guests.  The hour
came."

"And such a place for a wedding!" exclaimed Alice.

"But instead of the bridal procession that the guests were looking for,
a clergyman came down the stairs with a white face.  When he could
speak, he announced as well as he could that the wedding would not take
place that night; that a terrible accident had occurred, and that Tennie
Morgan was lying upstairs dead."

Alice could not recall, even afterward, that Kimberly appeared under a
strain; but she noticed as she listened that he spoke with a care not
quite natural.

"You may imagine the scene," he continued. "But the worst was to
come----"

"Oh, you were there?"

"When you hear the rest you will think, if there is a God, I should have
been, for I might have saved him.  I was in Honolulu.  I did not even
hear of it for ten days.  They found him in his bathroom where he had
dressed, thrown himself on a couch, and shot himself."

"How terrible!"

"In his bedroom they found a letter.  It had been sent to him within the
hour by a party of blackmailers, pressing a charge--of which he was
quite innocent--on the part of a designing woman, and threatening that
unless he complied with some impossible demands, his exposure and news
of an action for damages should follow in the papers containing the
account of his sister’s wedding.  They found with this his own letter to
his mother.  He assured her the charge was utterly false, but being a
Kimberly he knew he should not be believed because of the reputation of
his uncles, one of whom he named, and after whom he himself was named,
and to whom he had always been closest.  This, he feared, would condemn
him no matter how innocent he might be; he felt he should be unable to
lift from his name a disgrace that would always be recalled with his
sister’s wedding; and that if he gave up his life he knew the charges
would be dropped because he was absolutely innocent.  And so he died."

For a moment Alice stood in silence.  "Poor, poor boy!" she said softly.
"How I pity him!"

"Do you so?  Then well may I.  For I am the uncle whom he named in his
letter."

Unable or unwilling to speak she pointed to the tablet as if to say:
"You said the uncle he was named after."

He understood.  "Yes," he answered slowly, "my name is Robert Ten Broeck
Kimberly."

Her eyes fell to the tessellated pavement.  "It is frightfully sad," she
said haltingly.  Then as if she must add something: "I am very sorry you
felt compelled to recall so painful a story."

"It isn’t exactly that I felt compelled; yet perhaps that expresses it,
too.  I have expected sometime to tell it to you."



                              CHAPTER XIII


The showers returned in the night.  They kept Alice company during
several sleepless hours.  In the morning the sun was out.  It was Sunday
and when Annie brought her mistress her rolls and chocolate Alice asked
the maid if she had been to church.

"Kate and I went to early church," said Annie.

"And what time is late church, Annie?"

"Ten thirty, Mrs. MacBirney."

"I am going myself this morning."

"And what will you wear?"

"Anything that is cool."

Alice was thinking less of what she should wear than of how she should
tell her husband that she had resolved upon going to church.  Painful
experience had taught her what ridicule and resource of conjugal
meanness to expect whenever she found courage to say she meant to go to
church. Yet hope, consoling phantom, always suggested that her husband
the next time might prove more amenable to reason.

When at last she managed casually to mention her momentous resolve,
MacBirney showed that he had lost none of his alertness on the subject.
He made use first of surprise to express his annoyance.  "To church?"
Then he gave vent to a contemptuous exclamation uttered with a semblance
of good-natured indifference.  "I thought you had got that notion pretty
well out of your head, Alice."

"You have got it pretty well out for me, Walter. Sometimes it comes
back.  It came this morning--after a wakeful night.  I haven’t been for
a long time."

"What church do you want to go to?"

His disingenuousness did not stir her.  "To my own, of course.  There is
a little church in the village, you know."

"Oh, that frame affair, yes.  Awfully cheap looking, isn’t it?  And it
threatens rain again. Don’t mind getting wet?"

"Oh, no, I’ll take the victoria."

"You can’t; Peters is going to drive me over to The Towers."

"Then give me one of the cars."

"I understand they are both out of order."

"Oh, Walter!  Can’t you have Peters drive you to The Towers after he
takes me to Sunbury?"

"I have an engagement with Robert Kimberly at eleven o’clock."

"Could you change it a little, do you think, Walter?"

"An engagement with Robert Kimberly!"

"Or be just a little late for it?"

MacBirney used his opportunity to advantage. "Keep _him_ waiting!
Alice, when you get an idea into your head about going to church you
lose your common-sense."

She turned to the window to look at the sky. "I can’t walk," she said
hopelessly.  Her husband made no comment.  As her eyes turned toward the
distant Towers she remembered that Robert Kimberly the evening before
had asked--and so insistently that it had been one of the causes of her
wakefulness--for permission to bring over in the morning some grapes
from his hot-houses.  He had wanted to come at eleven o’clock and she
had assured him she should not be at home--this because, during some
uneasy moments when they were close together in the car, she had
resolved that the next morning she should seek if only for an hour an
influence long neglected but quite removed from his.  It was clear to
her as she now stood at the window, that Kimberly had sought every
chance to be at her personal service at eleven o’clock, even though her
husband professed an engagement with him.

"Couldn’t Peters," she asked, turning again to MacBirney, "drive me down
half an hour earlier--before you go?  I can wait at the church till he
comes back after me?"

MacBirney was reading the stock-market reports in the morning paper.
"All right," he said curtly.

She was contained this time.  There had been occasions when scenes such
as this had brought hot tears, but five years of steady battering had
fairly subdued Alice.

At high mass, an hour later, villagers saw a fine lady--a Second Lake
lady, they shrewdly fancied from the carriage that brought her--kneeling
among them in a pew close to the altar, and quite oblivious of those
about her, kneeling, too, at times when they stood or sat; kneeling
often with her face--which they thought pretty--hidden in her hands as
if it somehow had offended; kneeling from the credo until the stragglers
in the vestibule and about the church door began to slip away from the
last gospel.  There was an unusual stir about the church because it was
a confirmation Sunday and an archbishop, a white-haired man who had once
been in charge of the little Sunbury parish himself, was present.

Alice followed the last of the congregation out of the door and into the
village sunshine.  She looked up and down the country road for her
horses but none were in sight.  Below the church where the farmers’ rigs
stood, a big motor-car watched by village boys was waiting.  They knew
that the car, with its black and olive trimmings, was from The Towers
because they were familiar with the livery of the villa grooms.

Their curiosity was rewarded when they saw the fine lady come out of the
church.  The instant she appeared a great gentleman stepped from the
black tonneau and, lifting his hat very high, hastened across the muddy
road to greet her--certainly she made a picture as she stood on the
church steps in her tan pongee gown with her brown hair curling under a
rose-wreathed Leghorn hat.

Her heart gave a frightened jump when she saw who was coming.  But when
the gentleman spoke, his voice was so quiet that even those loitering
near could not hear his words.  There was some discussion between the
two.  His slight gestures as they talked, seemed to indicate something
of explanation and something of defence.  Then a suggestion of urgency
appeared in his manner. The fine lady resisted.

From under her pongee parasol she looked longingly up the road and down
for her horses, but for a while no horses came.  At last a carriage
looking like her own did come down the lake road and she hoped for a
moment.  Then as the carriage drove rapidly past her face fell.

The great gentleman indicated his annoyance at the insolent mud that
spattered from the carriage wheel by a look, but he kept quite near to
the fine lady and his eyes fell very kindly on her pink cheeks.  Her
carriage did not come even after they had gone to his car and seated
themselves in the tonneau to await it.  He was too clever to hurry her.
He allowed her to wait until she saw her case was quite hopeless, then
she told him he might drive her home.

"I came," he explained, answering an annoyed note in a second question
that she asked, "because I understood you were going to church----"

"But I did not say I was."

"I must have dreamed it."

Brice, sitting at the wheel in front of them, smiled--but only within
his heart--when this came to his ears; because it was Brice who had been
asked during the morning where Mrs. MacBirney was and Brice who had
reported.  He was senior to Peters, senior to all the Second Lake
coachmen and chauffeurs, and usually found out whatever he wanted to
find out.

"At any rate," Kimberly laughed good-naturedly, "I have been waiting
here half an hour for you."

Brice knew that this was true to the minute, for in that half-hour there
had been many glances at two good watches and a hamper of hot-house
grapes.  Brice himself, since a certain missed train, involving language
that lingered yet in his ears, carried a good watch.

But to-day not even amiable profanity, which Brice recalled as normal
during extended waits, had accompanied the unusual detention.  No
messenger had been despatched to sound the young village priest with a
view of expediting the mass and the fine lady had been in nowise
interrupted during her lengthened devotions.  Kimberly, in this
instance, had truthfully been a model of patience.

"These are the grapes," Brice heard behind him, as he let the machine
out a bit and fancied the top of the hamper being raised.  "Aren’t they
exceptional?  I found the vines in Algeria.  There are lilies on this
side."

An expression of involuntary admiration came from the tonneau.
"Assumption lilies!  For your sister?"

"No, for you.  They are to celebrate the feast."

"The feast?  Why, of course!"  Then came a categorical question,
animated but delivered with keenness: "How did you know that to-day is
the feast of the Assumption?"

A bland evasion followed.  "I supposed that every one knew the fifteenth
of August is the feast of the Assumption.  Taste this grape."

"I am very sure _you_ didn’t know."

"But I _did_.  Taste the grape."

"Who told you?"

"Whence have you the faculties of the Inquisition? Why do you rack me
with questions?"

"I begin to suspect, Mr. Kimberly, that you belong on the rack."

"No doubt.  At least I have spent most of my life there."

"Come, please!  Who told you?"

"Francis, of course; now will you taste this grape?"



                              CHAPTER XIV


When MacBirney reached home with the victoria Alice had not yet taken
off her hat, and a maid was bringing vases for the lilies.  He had been
driving toward Sea Ridge and taken the wrong road and was sorry for his
delay in getting to the church.  Alice accepted his excuses in good
part.  He tried to explain his misunderstanding about the engagement
with Kimberly. She relieved his endeavors by making everything easy,
telling him finally how Kimberly had brought her home and had left the
grapes and lilies.  When the two sat down at luncheon, MacBirney noticed
Alice’s preoccupation; she admitted she had a slight headache.  She was
glad, however, to have him ask her to go for a long motor drive in the
afternoon, thinking the air would do her good, and they spent three
hours together.

When they got home it was dusk.  The dinner served on the porch was
satisfying and the day which had opened with so little of promise seemed
to do better at the close.  Indeed, Alice all day had sought quiet
because she had something to say which she was resolved to say this day.
After dinner she remained with her husband in the moonlight.  He was
talking, over his cigar, of an idea for adding a strip of woodland to
the lower end of their new estate, when she interrupted him.

"Should you be greatly shocked, Walter, if I said I wish we could go
away from here?"  She was leaning toward him on the arm of her chair
when she spoke and her hands were clasped.

His astonishment was genuine.  "What do you mean?"

"I don’t know.  Yet I feel as if we ought to go, Walter."

"What for?"

She was looking earnestly at him, but in the shadow he could not see,
though he felt, her eyes.

"It is hard to explain."  She paused a moment. "These people are
delightful; you know I like them as much as you do."

MacBirney took his cigar from his mouth to express his surprise.  "I
thought you were crazy about the place and the people and everything
else," he exclaimed.  "I thought this was just what you were looking
for!  You’ve said so much about refined luxury and lovely manners----"

"I am thinking of all that."  There was enough in her tone of an
intention to be heard to cause him to forget his favorite expedient of
drowning the subject in a flood of words.  "But with all this, or to
enjoy it all, one needs peace of mind, and my peace of mind is becoming
disturbed."

Quite misunderstanding her, MacBirney thought she referred to the
question of church-going, and that subject offered so much delicate
ground that Alice continued without molestation.

"It is very hard to say what I meant to say, without saying too little
or too much.  You know, Walter, you were worried at one time about how
Mr. Robert Kimberly would look at your proposals, and you told me you
wanted me to be agreeable to him.  And without treating him differently
from any one else here, I have tried to pay particular regard to what he
had to say and everything of that kind.  It is awfully hard to specify,"
she hesitated in perplexity.  "I am sure I haven’t discriminated him in
any way from his brother, or Mr. De Castro, for instance.  But I have
always shown an interest in things he had to point out, and he seemed to
enjoy--perhaps more than the others--pointing things out.  And----"

"Well?"

"It seems to me now as if he has begun to take an interest in everything
_I_ do----"

Her husband became jocular.  "Oh, has he?"

Alice’s words came at last bluntly.  "And it completely upsets me,
Walter."

MacBirney laughed again.  "Why so?"

She took refuge in a shade of annoyance. "Because I don’t like to think
about it."

"Think about what?"

"About any man’s--if I must say it--paying attention to me, except my
husband."

"Now you are hitting me, aren’t you, Alice? You are pretty clever, after
all," declared MacBirney still laughing.

She threw herself back in her chair.  "Oh, Walter, you don’t understand
at all!  Nothing could be further from what I am thinking.  I ought not
to say he has been attentive enough to speak of.  It is not that I
dislike Mr. Kimberly. But he does somehow make me uncomfortable. Perhaps
I don’t understand their way here."

"Why, that is all there is to it, Alice.  It’s merely their way.  Give
it no thought.  He is simply being agreeable.  Don’t imagine that every
man that sends you flowers is interested in you. Is that all, Allie?"

"Yes."  Her acuteness divined about what he would reply.  "And," she
added, "I think, however foolish it may sound, it is enough."

"Don’t worry about bridges you will never have to cross.  That’s the
motto I’ve followed."

"Yes, I know, but----"

"Just a moment.  All you have to do is to treat everybody alike."

"But, Walter----"

"You would have to do that anywhere--shouldn’t you?  Of course.  Suppose
we should go somewhere else and find a man that threatened to become an
admirer----"

"Don’t use such a word!"

"Call it what you please--we can’t keep moving away from that kind of a
possibility, can we?"

"Still, Walter, I feel as if we might get away from here.  I have merely
told you exactly what I thought."

"We can’t get away.  This is where everything is done in the sugar
business.  This is the little world where the big moves are decided
upon.  If you are not here, you are not in it.  We are in the swim now;
it took long enough to get in it, God knows.  Now let us stay.  You can
take care of yourself, can’t you?"

"How can you ask me!"

He pursued her with a touch of harshness. "How can I ask you?  Aren’t
you talking about running away from a situation?  _I_ don’t run away
from situations.  I call the man or woman that runs away from a
situation, a coward.  Face it down, work it out--don’t dodge it."

MacBirney finished without interruption.

In the living room the telephone bell rang.  He went in to answer it and
his wife heard him a moment in conversation.  Then on the garage wire he
called up the chauffeur and ordered a car. Coming out again on the porch
he explained: "Lottie wants us to come over."

"Lottie?"  There was a shade of resentment, almost of contempt, in
Alice’s echo and inquiry.

"Lottie Nelson."

"Don’t call her Lottie, Walter."

"She calls me Walter."

"She has no business to.  What did you tell her?  Don’t let us go out
to-night."

"It is a little celebration of some kind and I told her we would come."

"My head has ached all day."

"It will do your head good.  Come on.  I told her we were coming."



                               CHAPTER XV


They found a lively party at the Nelsons’. Guyot was there, with
Lambert, thick-lipped and voluble.  Dora Morgan with Doane and Cready
Hamilton had come, worn and bedraggled, from a New England motoring
trip. Dora, still quite hoarse, was singing a music-hall song when the
MacBirneys entered the room.

She stopped.  "My ears are crazy to-night--I can’t sing," she
complained, responding to Alice’s greeting.  "I feel as if there were a
motor in my head.  Tired?  Oh, no, not a bit.  But the dust!"  Her smile
died and her brows rose till her pretty eyes shone full.  She threw her
expiring energy into two husky words: "_Something_ fierce!"

Dolly and her husband with Imogene and Charles had responded to Lottie’s
invitation, and Robert Kimberly came later with Fritzie Venable. Dolly
greeted Alice with apologies.  "I am here," she admitted with untroubled
contempt, "but not present.  I wanted to see what Lambert looks like.
We hear so much about his discoveries. Robert doesn’t think much of
them."

Mrs. Nelson, languidly composed, led MacBirney to the men who were in an
alcove off the music room.  Near them sat Robert Kimberly talking to
Imogene.  Dora could not be coaxed to sing again.  But the hostess meant
to force the fighting for a good time.  Dora joined the men and Guyot,
under Nelson’s wing, came over to meet Alice, who had taken refuge with
Dolly.  At a time when the groups were changing, Nelson brought Lambert
over.  But neither Alice nor Dolly made objection when his host took him
away again.

Kimberly came after a while with Fritzie to Alice’s divan and, standing
behind it, tried by conversation and such attraction of manner as he
could offer, to interest Alice.  He failed to waken any response.  She
quite understood a woman’s refuge from what she wishes to avoid and
persevered in being indifferent to every effort.

Kimberly, not slow to perceive, left presently for the party in the
dining-room.  But even as he walked away, Alice’s attitude toward him
called to her mind a saying of Fritzie’s, that it is not pleasant to be
unpleasant to pleasant people, even if it is unpleasant to be pleasant
to unpleasant people.

"Were you tired after yesterday’s ride?" asked Dolly of Alice.

"Not too tired."

"Robert told you about Tennie Morgan’s death."

Alice looked at her inquiringly.  "How did you know?"

"You were in the Morgan chapel together. And you looked upset when you
came back.  I had promised to tell you the story sometime myself.  I
know how easy it is to get a false impression concerning family
skeletons.  So I asked Robert about it the minute you left the car, and
I was annoyed beyond everything when he said he had told you the whole
story."

"But dear Mrs. De Castro!  Why should you be annoyed?"

Dolly answered with decision: "Robert has no business ever to speak of
the affair."  Alice could not dispute her and Dolly went on: "I know
just how he would talk about it.  Not that I know what he said to you.
But it would be like him to take very much more of the blame on himself
than belongs to him.  Men, my dear, look at these things differently
from women, and usually make less of them than women do.  In this case
it is exactly the reverse.  Robert has always had an exaggerated idea of
his responsibility in the tragedy--that is why it annoys me ever to have
him speak about it.  I know my brother better, I think, than anybody
alive knows him, and I am perfectly familiar with all the circumstances.
I know what I am talking about."

Very much in earnest Dolly settled back.  "To begin with, Tennie was an
abnormal boy.  He was as delicate in his mental texture as cobweb lace.
His sensitiveness was something incredible and twenty things might have
happened to upset his mental balance.  No one, my dear, likes to talk
state secrets."

"Pray do not, then.  It really is not necessary," pleaded Alice.

"Oh, it is," said Dolly decidedly, "I want you to understand.  Suicide
has been a spectre to the Kimberlys for ages.  Two generations ago
Schuyler Kimberly committed suicide at sixty-six--think of it!  Oh!  I
could tell you stories.  There has been no suicide in this generation.
But the shadow," Dolly’s tones were calm but inflected with a burden of
what cannot be helped may as well be admitted, "seems only to have
passed it to fall upon the next in poor Tennie.  Two years afterward
they found his mother dead one morning in bed.  I don’t know what the
trouble was--it was in Florence.  Nobody knows--there was just a little
white froth on her lips.  The doctors said heart disease.  She was a
strange woman, Bertha, strong-willed and self-indulgent--like all the
rest of us."

"Don’t say that of yourself.  You are not self-indulgent, you are
generous."

"I am both, dear.  But I know the Kimberlys, men and women, first and
last, and that is why I do not want you to get wrong impressions of
them. My brother Robert isn’t a saint, neither is Charles. But compare
them with the average men of their own family; compare them with the
average men in their own situation in life; compare them with the
Nelsons and the Doanes; compare them with that old man that Robert is so
patient with! Compare them, my dear, to the men everywhere in the world
they move in--I don’t think the Kimberly men of this generation need
apologize particularly.

"Robert was so completely stunned by Tennie’s death that for years I did
not know what would happen.  Then a great industrial crisis came in our
affairs, though afterward it seemed, in a way, providential.  Poor old
Uncle John got it into his head he could make sugar out of corn and
ended by nearly ruining us all.  If things had gone on we should all
have been living in apartments within another year.  When we were so
deep in the thing that the end was in sight we went to Robert on our
knees, and begged him to take hold of the business and save the
family--oh, it had come quite to that.  He had been doing absolutely
nothing for a year and I feared all sorts of things about him.  But he
listened and _did_ take hold and made the business so big--well, dear
heart, you have some idea what it is now when they can take over a lot
of factories, such as those of your husband and his associates, on one
year’s profits.  I suppose, of course, these are state secrets--you
mustn’t repeat them----"

"Certainly not."

"And for years they have been the largest lenders of ready money in the
Street.  So you can’t wonder that we think a great deal of Robert.  And
he likes you--I can see that.  He has been more natural since you came
here than for years."

"Surely your brothers never can say they have not a devoted sister."

"I can’t account for it," persisted Dolly, continuing.  "It is just that
your influence is a good one on him; no one can explain those things.  I
thought for years he would never be influenced by any woman again.
You’ve seen how this one," Dolly tossed her head in disgust as she
indicated Lottie Nelson, then passing, "throws herself at him."  With
the last words Dolly rose to say she was going home.  Imogene was ready
to join her, and Lottie’s protests were of no avail. Charles was
upstairs conferring with Nelson and Imogene went up to get him.

Alice walked to the dining-room.  Her husband, in an uncommonly
good-humor, was drinking with their hostess.  In the centre of the room,
Hamilton, Guyot, Lambert, and Dora Morgan sat at the large table.  Guyot
offered Alice a chair. She sat down and found him entertaining.  He took
her after a time into the reception room where Lottie had hung a Degas
that Guyot had brought over for her.  Alice admired the fascinating
swiftness and sureness of touch but did not agree with Guyot that the
charm was due to the merit of color over line.  When the two returned to
the dining-room, Kimberly stood at a cellaret with Fritzie.

Lottie and MacBirney sat with the group at the big table.  "Oh, Robert,"
Lottie called to Kimberly as Alice appeared in the doorway, "mix me a
cocktail."

Turning, Kimberly saw Alice: "I am out of practice, Lottie," he said.

"Give me some plain whiskey then."

Kimberly’s shortness of manner indicated his annoyance.  "You have that
at your hand," he said sitting down.

"How rude, Robert," retorted Lottie, with assumed impatience.  She
glanced loftily around. "Walter," she exclaimed, looking across the
table at Alice’s husband and taking Alice’s breath away with the appeal,
"give me some whiskey."

"Certainly, Mrs. Nelson."

"No, stop; mix me a cocktail."

"Is your husband an expert, Mrs. MacBirney?" asked Guyot as MacBirney
rose.

"Not to my knowledge," answered Alice frankly. "I hope," she added, with
a touch of asperity as her husband stepped to a sideboard, "that Mrs.
Nelson is not fastidious."

"It is disgusting the way my friends are behaving," complained Lottie
turning to Lambert. "This is my birthday----"

"Your birthday!"

"That is why you are all here.  And whoever refuses now to drink my
health I cast off forever."

"Is this a regular birthday or are you springing an extra on us?"
demanded Fritzie.

"Go on, MacBirney, with your mixture," exclaimed Lambert, "I’ll serve at
the table.  You are going to join us, of course, Mrs. MacBirney?"

Alice answered in trepidation: "It must be something very light for me."

"Try whiskey, Mrs. MacBirney," suggested Dora Morgan benevolently, "it
is really the easiest of all."

Alice grew nervous.  Kimberly, without speaking, pushed a half-filled
glass toward her.  She looked at him in distress.  "That will not hurt
you," he said curtly.

The men were talking Belgian politics.  Lambert was explaining the
antiquated customs of the reactionaries and the battle of the liberals
for the laicizing of education.  He dwelt on the stubbornness of the
clericals and the difficulties met with in modernizing their following.

Kimberly either through natural dislike for Lambert or mere stubbornness
objected to the specific instances of mediævalism adduced and soon had
the energetic chemist nettled.  "What do you know about the subject?"
demanded Lambert at length.  "Are you a Catholic?"

"I am not a Catholic," returned Kimberly amiably.  "I am as far as
possible, I suppose, from being one.  The doors of the church are wide,
but if we can believe even a small part of what is printed of us they
would have to be broadened materially to take in American refiners."

"If you are not a Catholic, what are you?" persisted Lambert with heat.

"I have one serious religious conviction; that is, that there are just
two perfectly managed human institutions; one, the Standard Oil Company,
the other the Catholic Church."

There was now a chance to drop the controversy and the women together
tried to effect a diversion.  But Lambert’s lips parted over his white
teeth in a smile.  "I have noticed sometimes that what we know least
about we talk best about."  Kimberly stirred languidly.  "I was born of
Catholic parents," continued Lambert, "baptized in the Catholic Church,
educated in it.  I should know something about it, shouldn’t I? You, Mr.
Kimberly, must admit you know nothing about it."  Kimberly snorted a
little.  "All the same, I take priests’ fables for what they are worth,"
added Lambert; "such, for example, as the Resurrection of Christ."
Lambert laughed heartily.  Fritzie looked uneasily at Alice as the words
fell.  Her cheeks were crimsoned.

"Can a central fact of Christianity such as the Resurrection fairly be
called a priests’ fable?" asked Kimberly.

"Why not?" demanded Lambert with contemptuous brevity.  "None but
fossilized Catholics believe such nonsense!"

"There are still some Protestants left," suggested Kimberly mildly.

"No priest dictates to me," continued the chemist, aroused.  "No
superstition for me.  I want Catholics educated, enlightened, made free.
I should know something about the church, should I not?  You admit you
know nothing----"

"No, I did not admit that," returned Kimberly. "You admitted it for me.
And you asked me a moment ago what I was.  Lambert, what are you?"

"I am a Catholic--not a clerical!"  Lambert emphasized the words by
looking from one to another in the circle.  Kimberly spread one of his
strong hands on the table.  Fritzie watching him shrank back a little.

"You a Catholic?" Kimberly echoed slowly. "Oh, no; this is a mistake."
His hand closed. "You say you were born a Catholic.  And you ridicule
the very corner-stone of your faith.  The last time I met you, you were
talking the same sort of stuff.  I wonder if you have any idea what it
has cost humanity to give you the faith you sneer at, Lambert?  To give
you Catholic parents, men nineteen hundred years ago allowed themselves
to be nailed to crosses and torn by dogs. Boys hardly seven years old
withstood starvation and scourging and boys of fifteen were burned in
pagan amphitheatres that you might be born a Christian; female slaves
were thrown into boiling oil to give you the privilege of faith;
delicate women died in shameful agonies and Roman maidens suffered their
bodies to be torn to pieces with red-hot irons to give you a Christian
mother--and you sit here to-night and ridicule the Resurrection of
Christ!  Call yourself liberal, Lambert; call yourself enlightened; call
yourself Modern; but for God’s sake don’t call yourself a Catholic."

"Stop a moment!" cried Lambert at white heat.

Lottie put out her arm.  "Don’t let’s be cross," she said with
deliberate but unmistakable authority.  "I hate a row."  She turned her
languid eyes on MacBirney.  "Walter, what are these people drinking that
makes them act in this way? Do give Mr. Kimberly something else; he
began it."

Kimberly made no effort to soothe any one’s feelings.  And when Fritzie
and Alice found an excuse to leave the room he rose and walked leisurely
into the hall after them.

The three talked a few moments.  A sound of hilarity came from the music
room.  Alice looked uneasily down the hall.

"I never knew your husband could sing," said Fritzie.



                              CHAPTER XVI


It dawned only gradually on Alice that her husband was developing a
surprising tendency. He walked into the life that went on at the Nelson
home as if he had been born to it.  From an existence absorbed in the
pursuit of business he gave himself for the moment to one absorbed in
pursuit of the frivolous.  Alice wondered how he could find anything in
Lottie Nelson and her following to interest him; but her husband had
offered two or three unpleasant, even distressing, surprises within as
few years and she took this new one with less consternation than if it
had been the first.

Yet it was impossible not to feel annoyance. Lottie Nelson, in what she
would have termed an innocent way, for she cared nothing for MacBirney,
in effect appropriated him, and Alice began to imagine herself almost
third in the situation.

Tact served to carry the humiliated wife over some of the more flagrant
breaches of manners that Mrs. Nelson did not hesitate at, if they served
her caprice.  MacBirney became "Walter" to her everywhere.  She would
call him from the city in the morning or from his bed at night; no hour
was too early to summon him and none too late.  The invitations to the
Nelsons’ evenings were extended at first both to Alice and to him. Alice
accepted them in the beginning with a hopeless sort of protest, knowing
that her husband would go anyway and persuading herself that it was
better to go with him.  If she went, she could not enjoy herself.
Drinking was an essential feature of these occasions and Alice’s efforts
to avoid it made her the object of a ridicule on Lottie’s part that she
took no pains to conceal.

It was at these gatherings that Alice began to look with a degree of
hope for a presence she would otherwise rather have avoided.  Kimberly
when he came, which was not often, brought to her a sense of relief
because experience had shown that he would seek to shield her from
embarrassment rather than to expose her to it.

Lottie liked on every occasion to assume to manage Kimberly together
with the other men of her acquaintance.  But from being, at first,
complaisant, or at least not unruly, Kimberly developed mulish
tendencies.  He would not, in fact, be managed.  When Lottie attempted
to force him there were outbreaks.  One came about over Alice, she being
a subject on which both were sensitive.

Alice, seeking once at the De Castros’ to escape both the burden of
excusing herself and of drinking with the company, appealed directly to
Kimberly.  "Mix me something mild, will you, please, Mr. Kimberly?"

Kimberly made ready.  Lottie flushed with irritation.  "Oh, Robert!"
She leaned backward in her chair and spoke softly over her fan.  "Mix me
something mild, too, won’t you?"

He ignored Lottie’s first request but she was foolish enough to repeat
it.  Kimberly checked the seltzer he was pouring long enough to reply to
her: "What do you mean, Lottie?  ’Mix you something mild!’  You were
drinking raw whiskey at dinner to-night.  Can you never understand that
all women haven’t the palates of ostriches?"  He pushed a glass toward
Alice.  "I don’t know how it will taste."

Lottie turned angrily away.

"Now I have made trouble," said Alice.

"No," answered Kimberly imperturbably, "Mrs. Nelson made trouble for
herself.  I’m sorry to be rude, but she seems lately to enjoy baiting
me."

Kimberly appeared less and less at the Nelsons’ and the coolness between
him and Lottie increased.

She was too keen not to notice that he never came to her house unless
Alice came and that served to increase her pique.  Such revenge as she
could take in making a follower of MacBirney she took.

Alice chafed under the situation and made every effort to ignore it.
When matters got to a point where they became intolerable she uttered a
protest and what she dreaded followed--an unpleasant scene with her
husband.  While she feared that succeeding quarrels of this kind would
end in something terrible, they ended, in matter of fact, very much
alike.  People quarrel, as they rejoice or grieve, temperamentally, and
a wife placed as Alice was placed must needs in the end submit or do
worse.  MacBirney ridiculed a little, bullied a little, consoled a
little, promised a little, and urged his wife to give up silly,
old-fashioned ideas and "broaden out."

He told her she must look at manners and customs as other people looked
at them.  When Alice protested against Lottie Nelson’s calling him early
and late on the telephone and receiving him in her room in the
morning--MacBirney had once indiscreetly admitted that she sometimes did
this--he declared these were no incidents for grievance.  If any one
were to complain, Nelson, surely, should be the one.  Alice maintained
that it was indecent.  Her husband retorted that it was merely her way,
that Lottie often received Robert Kimberly in this way--though this, so
far as Robert was concerned, was a fiction--and that nobody looked at
the custom as Alice did.  However, he promised to amend--anything, he
pleaded, but an everlasting row.

Alice had already begun to hate herself in these futile scenes; to hate
the emotion they cost; to hate her heartaches and helplessness.  She
learned to endure more and more before engaging in them, to care less
and less for what her husband said in them, less for what he did after
them, less for trying to come to any sort of an understanding with him.

In spite of all, however, she was not minded to surrender her husband
willingly to another woman. She even convinced herself that as his wife
she was not lively enough and resolved if he wanted gayety he should
have it at home.  The moment she conceived the notion she threw the gage
at Lottie’s aggressive head.  Dolly De Castro, who saw and understood,
warmly approved.  "Consideration and peaceable methods are wasted on
that kind of a woman.  Humiliate her, my dear, and she will fawn at your
feet," said Dolly unreservedly.

Alice was no novice in the art of entertaining; it remained only for her
to turn her capabilities to account.  She made herself mistress now of
the telephone appointment, of the motoring lunch, of the dining-room
gayety.  Nelson himself complimented her on the success with which she
had stocked her liquor cabinets.

She conceived an ambition for a wine cellar really worth while and
abandoned it only when Robert Kimberly intimated that in this something
more essential than ample means and the desire to achieve were
necessary.  But while gently discouraging her own idea as being
impractical, he begged her at the same time to make use of The Towers’
cellars, which he complained had fallen wholly into disuse; and was
deterred only with the utmost difficulty from sending over with his
baskets of flowers from the gardens of The Towers, baskets of wines that
Nelson and Doane with their trained palates would have stared at if
served by Alice.  But MacBirney without these aids was put at the very
front of dinner hosts and his table was given a presage that surprised
him more than any one else.  As a consequence, Cedar Lodge invitations
were not declined, unless perhaps at times by Robert Kimberly.

He became less and less frequently a guest at Alice’s entertainments,
and not to be able to count on him as one in her new activities came
after a time as a realization not altogether welcome.  His declining,
which at first relieved her fears of seeing him too often, became more
of a vexation than she liked to admit.

Steadily refusing herself, whenever possible, to go to the Nelsons’ she
could hear only through her husband of those who frequented Lottie’s
suppers, and of the names MacBirney mentioned none came oftener than
that of Robert Kimberly. Every time she heard it she resented his
preferring another woman’s hospitalities, especially those of a woman he
professed not to like.

Mortifying some of her own pride she even consented to go at times to
the Nelsons’ with her husband to meet Kimberly there and rebuke him.
Then, too, she resolved to humiliate herself enough to the hateful woman
who so vexed her to observe just how she made things attractive for her
guests; reasoning that Kimberly found some entertainment at Lottie’s
which he missed at Cedar Lodge.

Being in the fight, one must win and Alice meant to make Lottie Nelson
weary of her warfare. But somehow she could not meet Robert Kimberly at
the Nelsons’.  When she went he was never there.  Moreover, at those
infrequent intervals in which he came to her own house he seemed ill
entertained.  At times she caught his eye when she was in high humor
herself--telling a story or following her guests in their own lively
vein--regarding her in a curious or critical way; and when in this
fashion things were going at their best, Kimberly seemed never quite to
enter into the mirth.

His indifference annoyed her so that as a guest she would have given him
up.  Yet this would involve a social loss not pleasant to face.  Her
invitations continued, and his regrets were frequent. Alice concluded
she had in some way displeased him.



                              CHAPTER XVII


One morning she called up The Towers to ask Kimberly for a dinner.  He
answered the telephone himself and wanted to know if he might not be
excused from the dinner and come over, if it were possible, in the
evening.

Alice had almost expected the refusal.  "I wish you would tell me," she
said, laughing low and pleasantly, "what I have done."

He paused.  "What you have done?"

"What I have done that you avoid coming to Cedar Lodge any more?"

"I don’t, do I?"  He waited for an answer but Alice remained silent.
His tone was amiable and his words simple, yet her heart was beating
like a hammer.  "You know I haven’t gone about much lately," he went on,
"but whenever you really want me for a dinner you have need only to say
so."

"I never ask a guest for dinner without wanting him."

It was his turn to laugh.  "Do you really manage that, Mrs. MacBirney?
I can’t; and yet I think myself fairly independent."

"Oh, of course, we are all tied more or less, I suppose, but--you know
what I mean."

"Then you do want me to appear?"

Alice suddenly found her tongue.  "We should never ask any one to whom
Mr. MacBirney and I are under so many obligations as we are to Mr.
Kimberly without ’wanting him,’ as you express it.  And we really want
you very much to-morrow night."

He laughed, this time with amusement.  "You are rather strong now on
third persons and plurals. But I think I understand that you really do
want me to come."

"Haven’t I just said so?" she asked with good-humored vexation.

"Not quite, but I shall arrive just the same."

Alice put up the receiver, agreeably stirred by the little tilt.  It was
a lift out of the ruck of uncomfortable thought that went to make up her
daily portion, and the elation remained with her all day.

She decided that some vague and unwillingly defined apprehensions
concerning Kimberly’s feeling toward her were after all foolish.  Why
make herself miserable with scruples when she was beset with actual
perplexities at home?  Walter himself was now more of what she wanted
him to be.  He perceived his wife’s success in her active hospitality
and applauded it, and Alice began to feel she could, after all, be safe
in a nearer acquaintance with Kimberly and thus lessen a little Lottie
Nelson’s pretensions.

It is pleasant to a woman to dress with the assurance that anticipates
success.  Alice went to her toilet the following afternoon with an
animation that she had not felt for weeks.  Every step in it pleased her
and Annie’s approbation as she progressed was very gratifying to her
mistress.

The trifles in finishing were given twice their time, and when Alice
walked into her husband’s room he kissed her and held her out at arm’s
length in admiration.  She hastened away to look at the table and the
stairs rose to meet her feet as she tripped down the padded treads.

Passing the drawing-room the rustle of her steps caused a man within it
to turn from a picture he was studying, and Alice to her surprise saw
Kimberly standing before a sanguine of herself.  She gave a little
exclamation.

"I asked not to be announced," he explained. "I am early and did not
want to hurry you."  He extended his hand.  "How are you?"

"I couldn’t imagine who it was, when I looked in," exclaimed Alice
cordially.  "I am glad to see you."

He held out his hand and waited till she gave him hers.  "You look
simply stunning," he answered quietly.  "There is something," he added
without giving her a chance to speak and turning from the eyes of the
portrait back again to her own, "in your eyes very like and yet unlike
this.  I find now something in them more movingly beautiful; perhaps
twenty-five years against eighteen--I don’t know--perhaps a trace of
tears."

"Oh, Mr. Kimberly, spare your extravagances. I hear you have been away."

"At least, I have never seen you quite so beautiful as you are this
moment."

"I am not beautiful at all, and I am quite aware of it, Mr. Kimberly."

"I would not wish you to think anything else. There the beauty of your
character begins."

Her repugnance was evident but she bore his eyes without flinching.
"You humiliate me exceedingly," was all she attempted to say.

"The truth should not humiliate you.  I----"

"Must I run away?"

"Not, I hope, because I tell you you are beautiful, for I shall continue
to tell you so every time I see you."

"Surely you will not take advantage of your hostess, Mr. Kimberly?"

"In what way?" he asked.

"By saying things most unpleasant for her to hear."

"I say things awkwardly, perhaps unpleasantly, but always sincerely."

Alice looked down at her fan, but spoke with even more firmness.  "If we
are to be good friends, you must excuse me even from sincerity on topics
of this kind."

"Don’t cut me from your friendship.  We must be the best of friends.  I
cannot conceive of you as being other than kind, even patient with me."

"Then do not say things I cannot listen to."

"I will never say anything you may not listen to.  But concede me the
privilege--for it is one--of paying honest tribute to your loveliness
when I can’t help it."

Without raising her eyes she spoke with decision. "I positively will not
listen."  With the word she caught up her gown and started away.  He
walked with her.  "I am afraid," he said regretfully, "you are sorry you
sent for me."

She turned with burning eyes.  "You should be the last to make me so,
Mr. Kimberly."

"I wish to be the last.  Yet I hate to sacrifice sincerity."

"There is something I put far above sincerity."

He looked mildly surprised.  "What can it be?"

"Consideration for the feelings of another--particularly if she be
somewhat helpless."

"Just a moment."  They were entering the hall and he stopped her.  "In
what way are you helpless?"

"Through consideration on my part for my guest to-night, for my
husband’s friend, for a friend to whom we both owe much----"

"You owe that friend nothing.  If you really think so, disabuse your
mind.  And I have never professed the slightest friendship for Mr.
MacBirney. Whatever we do, let us keep the facts clear.  If we speak of
consideration, what about my feelings?  And about helplessness--I am up
against a stone wall all the time in trying to say anything."

"You have no right to say anything!" exclaimed Alice energetically and
starting on as she spoke.

"Perhaps that is true.  One that can’t say things better than I do
shouldn’t attempt them. If one of us must be humiliated let it be me.
Where are you taking me?"

She stopped.  "Nowhere at all, Mr. Kimberly. Won’t you----"

"Where are you going?"

"To look at my table.  Mr. MacBirney will be right down.  Won’t you wait
for him in the library?"

"No."

"I should be most grateful."

"I want to see the table myself."

Alice tossed her head.  "This way then."

At the threshold of the dining-room, Kimberly paused.  The table was
dressed in yellow with the lowest tones in the fruits of the
centrepiece. The pears were russet, the grapes purple, and pomegranates,
apples, and golden plums supplied the tints of autumn.  The handles of
the old silver basket were tied with knots of broad, yellow ribbon.
Alice, touching the covers here and there, passed behind the chairs.

"You get your effects very simply," observed Kimberly.  "Only people
with a sure touch can do that."

"I thought there were to be no more compliments."

He looked at the sconces.  "Just one for the lighting.  Even Dolly and
Imogene sin in that way.  They overdo it or underdo it, and Mrs. Nelson
is impossible.  Where have you put me?"

She pointed with her fan.  "Next to Mrs. Nelson."

"Next to Mrs. Nelson?" he echoed in surprise.

"Why not?"

"Did you say humiliation?  Do I deserve so much?"

"At dinner one tries, of course, to group congenial people," suggested
Alice coldly.

"But we are not congenial."

"I supposed you were Mrs. Nelson’s most frequent guest."

"I have not been at Mrs. Nelson’s since the evening Guyot and Lambert
were there," said Kimberly.  "You, yourself, were there that night."

Alice betrayed no confusion but she was shocked a little to realize that
she believed him instantly. Kimberly, at least as to truthfulness, had
won her confidence.  Her own husband had forfeited it. The difficulty
now, she felt, would be ever to believe him at all.

"I remember," she assented with returning cordiality.  "I was very proud
to listen that night."

Kimberly stood with his hand on the back of a chair.  "Lambert is a
brilliant fellow."

"Possibly; my sympathies were not with his views.

"So I sit here?" continued Kimberly patiently. "Who sits next to you?"

"Your brother."

Kimberly spoke with resignation.  "Charles always had the luck of the
family."

A door opened and a butler entered the room. On seeing Kimberly he
attempted to withdraw.

"Come in, Bell," said Alice.  "What is it?"

"The juggler, Mrs. MacBirney; his assistant has telephoned they’ve
missed their train."

"Oh, Bell!" exclaimed his mistress in indignant protest.  "Don’t tell me
that."

"And it’s the last out, till ten-thirty o’clock."

Alice’s face fell.  "That ends my evening. Isn’t it _too_ exasperating.
Stupid jugglers!"

Kimberly intervened.  "What train did he miss, Bell?"

"The seven-ten, sir, from town."

"Why don’t you call up the division superintendent and ask his office to
stop the eight-ten?"

Bell looked at his mistress.  "I might do that, sir."

"Oh, can you?" cried Alice.

"You ought to have done it without being told, Bell," observed Kimberly.
"You’ve done such things before."

"Might I use your name, sir?"

"Use whatever is necessary to get him.  And ask them to hunt up the
juggler in the waiting-room and put him aboard.  Who is he?"

"A China boy, sir, I understand."

"In that case, they could not miss him."

The butler left the room.  "Do you think they will do it?" asked Alice
anxiously.

"Don’t give it further thought.  We could get him out on a special if
necessary."

Voices came from the front room.  Alice started forward.  "There are
guests."

"By-the-way," added Kimberly, pointing to the card on his cover and that
on his brother’s, "you don’t mind my correcting this mistake, do you?"

Alice looked very frankly at him, for the success of the dinner was
keenly on her mind.  "You will be of more assistance, Mr. Kimberly, if
you will not make any change.  Mrs. Nelson and Mrs. Morgan are my
difficulties and I hoped you would solve them for me."

"By all means."

Dolly’s voice was heard in the hall.  "Where are you, Alice?  Here are
the McCreas, from town, and Doctor Hamilton."

They sat down fourteen at the table--the Kimberlys, De Castros, Nelsons,
McCreas, Hamilton, Miss Venable, and Dora Morgan.

Alice was playing to the enemy and meant to demonstrate to the Nelson
coterie that she needed no assistance from them to establish herself as
a hostess at Second Lake.  If she wished, on this occasion, for a great
success it was hers.  The dinner was good, and the moment that Nelson
had assured himself of this he began good-naturedly to help things on.

A remark from some one about the gulf between law and justice gave him a
chance.  "Why associate the two at all?" he asked lazily.  "Law is
strictly a game of the wits.  It is played under the convention of an
appeal to justice, but justice is invoked merely to satisfy the
imagination.  If people understood this there would be no complaint
about a gulf between the two.  We imagine justice; we get law.
Similarly, we imagine heaven; we get--what we deserve.  If the
imagination be satisfied, man will endure the sweat of Sisyphus; most of
us suffer it in this world, anyway.  Law and justice are like chemical
incompatibles and there must be a gulf between them.  And law is no
better and no worse than other conventions of society.  Who that studies
human government in any form has ever been able to regard it otherwise
than with contempt?"

"Certainly," interposed Fritzie Venable, with formal irony.  "No one
that takes care of the Kimberly interests at Washington."

"The Kimberly interests at Washington," returned Nelson with
complaisance, "are so well behaved that they take care of themselves."

"Then I don’t see what contempt you should have for this government,"
retorted Fritzie vigorously.

"Only that it affords him no adequate exercise for his ingenuity,"
suggested Arthur De Castro.

"I don’t care," protested Fritzie; "I am an American and I won’t have
our government abused. I believe in sticking to your own."

"Well, if _we_ haven’t stuck to our own, I should like to know who has?"
observed Charles Kimberly benevolently.  "We’ve stuck for fifty years to
our tariff builders, as Mustard would to a stot. MacBirney’s farmers are
doing the work for us now," he continued.  "Our beet growers guard the
sugar schedule at Washington.  These wonderful Western States; lowest in
illiteracy, highest in political sagacity!  It is really a shame to take
the money."

"I don’t see how _you_ conscientiously can take it," declared Hamilton,
appealing to Robert Kimberly.

"I do it by educating my conscience, Doctor," responded Robert Kimberly.
"Every one that takes the trouble to inquire knows I am a free trader.
I abstain from the Reform Club, but that is out of deference to my
partners.  I contribute to both campaign funds; to the one for our
shareholders, to the other for my conscience; for as I say, personally I
am a free trader."

"And a tariff beneficiary," added Arthur De Castro.

"Why not, Arthur?  Wasn’t it Disraeli who said sensible men are all of
one religion?  He might better have said, sensible men are all of one
politics.  It is true, we are tariff beneficiaries, but this country is
doing business under a protective theory.  We are engaged, as we were
long before there was a tariff, in what is now a protected industry.  We
can’t change our business because the government changes its economic
policy.

"And if anybody _is_ to have protection here, Arthur, why shouldn’t we?
Who has a better right to it?  Our warrants of occupation were extorted
from the Iroquois.  We fought the Indian, we fought the French, we
fought the English----"

"Was there anybody you didn’t fight?"

"We put up our credit in Paris and Amsterdam for the colonies and for
the Federal Government when the colonies and the Federal Government had
none.  Then along comes a little coterie of steel men in our own day,"
Kimberly tossed his head with disdainful impatience, "who make the toil
of a hundred years look like a farce--out-Herod Herod in protection and
pile up hundreds of millions while we are up to our armpits in molasses
trying to grind out a mere living. Protection!  We don’t get half
enough.  Who has any better sanction for exercising that airy, invisible
pressure of a tariff tax?" he demanded, lifting a glass of wine to the
light.

"Picturesque old pirate," murmured Hamilton.

"And he needs the money," commented De Castro.  "Why quarrel with him?"

"I am sure you will all pledge the sugar business," continued Kimberly,
raising a refilled glass blandly, "and join me in welcoming anybody that
wants to go into it.  This is a free country, gentlemen."

"What do you use on competitors, the rack and dungeon?"

"Nothing that savors of them."

"But you take care of competition," persisted Hamilton.

Kimberly laughed.

"Certainly we do," interposed McCrea, quickly and frankly.  "But without
unnecessary cruelty, as Mr. Robert Kimberly puts it.  No man that ever
fought the company and had horse-sense has ever starved to death.  We
can use such a man’s talents better than he can, and very often he comes
into camp and becomes our teacher; that has happened.  Our system of
combination has brought comforts and luxuries into thousands of homes
that never would have known them under the waste of competition.
Hundreds and thousands of men have profited by uniting their efforts
with ours.  And no man that wasn’t a business lunatic has ever been the
worse for anything we’ve done."

"Your husband talks well, Mrs. McCrea," said Robert Kimberly, to a quiet
little woman near him.

"He has had able teachers," laughed Mrs. McCrea.

"No, it is because he believes in himself.  It’s a great thing to be
able to believe in yourself."

"Don’t you?"

"Far from it."

"You’ve made a good many others believe in you."

"Not always for their own best interests, I’m afraid."

"Yes, I know," Dolly was saying to those of the women who were listening
to her, "the weight of authority is against me.  But I have always held,
and hold yet, that a simple thing, such as lapis-lazuli, is best set in
gold--much better than in silver.  Talk with Castellani about it
sometime, or Viola."

"Yes, and they’ll tell you silver, every time," interrupted Fritzie
vigorously.

Dolly waved her hand as if to dismiss controversy.

"Gold is so common," objected Lottie Nelson.

"Not more so than lapis," retorted Dolly.

"But isn’t that the glory of gold," suggested Robert, "that it is
common?  It has the seal of approval of mankind; what higher sanction do
you want?  You are always safe in resting with that approval.  I believe
in common things--pearls for example and rubies.  I am just common
enough to like them."

Bell, passing behind his mistress, spoke in her ear.  Alice’s face
lighted and she caught Kimberly’s eye.  "He is here," she nodded
laughingly across the table.

The juggler had come and as the dessert was being served he followed a
butler into the room in his native robes and assumed his place as one of
Bell’s assistants.  The Chinaman was handsome and of great size and
strength.  Alice only hinted to her guests what awkwardness might be
looked for from the new footman, and the juggler smiling in Oriental
silence began to cajole the senses of his spectators.

After he had amused them with trifles he floated a gossamer veil of
yellow silk over a huge glass bowl filled with fruit from a serving
table.  With this in his hands he hastened to the fireplace at the end
of the room and turning heaved the bowl swiftly toward the ceiling,
catching it in his arms as it descended filled with quivering goldfish
swimming in water of crystal clearness.

He took oranges from the side tables and, splitting them, released
song-birds into the air.  The guests tossed fruit at him, and from
apples and pomegranates he cut favors for them--jewelled stick-pins,
belt agraffes and Florentine bonbonières.  When the evening was over
Alice thanked her guests for their compliments.  Lottie Nelson’s words
in particular left a flush of triumph in Alice’s cheeks and she looked
so happy that Kimberly paused before he spoke.

"Well?" said Alice questioningly.  And then: "If you have had a good
time, don’t be afraid to say so."

He looked at her as if pleased at her fervor. "Are you a little bit
sorry?" he asked quizzically.

Her brows rose with a pretty assumption of ignorance.  "I have nothing
to be sorry for."

"Then I suppose I must have."

She dropped her eyes for a moment to her sandalwood fan.  "Of course,
you will decide that."

"I presume," he continued, taking the fan without apology from her
hands, "I may come over when you are not at home and look at your
portrait?"

"I am sure you don’t realize how silly that sounds.  I hear you have a
new picture," she added, looking up.

"It is to be hung next week.  MacBirney is to bring you over to see it.
Are you sorry I came?"

"Oh, is _that_ what you meant?  Why, such a question!  You saved my
evening."

"But are you sorry?"

"I shouldn’t say so if I were, should I?"

"No, but answer, anyway."

Her expression of vexation was pleasing.  "How obstinate!  No, then.
And you saved my evening besides."

"You must take me as I am."

"You cannot, I know, be less than you should be."

"How about you?"

She drew herself up the least bit.  "I hope no friend of mine would wish
me anything less."

"We are both then to be all we should be."

"Don’t you think I am very patient?" she demanded impatiently.

"You are.  We are both to be, aren’t we?"

She did not conceal her annoyance.  "I sincerely trust so," she said
coldly.  "But there is a limit to all things."

He held out his hand.  "Thank you for a delightful evening."



                             CHAPTER XVIII


The new picture at The Towers made a topic of interest among Kimberly’s
friends, but Alice found excuses for not going to see it until MacBirney
would brook no further delays. They drove over one afternoon and found
Doctor Hamilton and Imogene in the library.  Robert Kimberly came
downstairs with Charles and greeted the MacBirneys.  Tea was brought
presently and Kimberly asked Alice to pour it.

"I haven’t seen you since your dinner," said he, sitting down after a
time by Alice.  "You were indisposed the day I called.  Imogene tells me
you intend spending the winter in town."

"Mr. MacBirney wants to."

"I hoped you would winter in the country."

"I like the country, but Mr. MacBirney likes the town.  I shall enjoy
it, too.  You know we are really country folk and haven’t had as much
town life as you have."

The others started for the east room.  "Come," said Dolly, beckoning
Alice, "you want to see the Rubens."

The new picture was hung as a panel between a smaller Rubens and an
unknown head of the Virgin, in the manner of Botticelli.  Kimberly
seated Alice apart from the others and stood behind her.

"You have been in this room before?" he said questioningly.

"Once before.  It is very much richer now."  She indicated the new
picture as she spoke, a large canvas of the Crucifixion.  "There are two
titles for it," explained Kimberly, "a Latin and a Dutch.  I like the
Dutch best: ’The Ninth Hour.’  This picture doesn’t appeal so much to my
friends as it has appealed to me.  But see what this master magician has
chosen here; the supreme moment of the Crucifixion."

Those with them were chatting apart.  Alice sat in silence while
Kimberly spoke and when he had done they were silent together.  "I hope
you are going to like it," he said after a pause.

MacBirney asked a question, and Kimberly walked to where he was seated.
When he came back he seemed unable to wait longer for Alice’s comment.
"What is the verdict?"

"Nothing I have ever seen of Rubens’s leaves me unmoved," she answered.
"This is almost overwhelming, terrible."

"Mrs. MacBirney likes my ’Crucifixion,’ Dolly," observed Kimberly after
another silence.

"Oh, you needn’t quote Alice," exclaimed Dolly from a window seat.  "So
do I like it.  All I said was, that it is a sin to pay so much for a
picture."

"No price is too great for a great inspiration. See," he pointed for
Alice to the face of a Roman soldier cowering in the foreground of the
canvas. "There is one man’s face.  Hamilton has studied a good many
pictures and watched unnumbered faces in every expression of suffering.
He has told me that, so far as he knows pictures, the emotion of fear
has never been depicted on the human countenance except in that face.
As a great surgeon, of a very wide experience, he may be said to know
what fear pictured on a human face should be.  And there it is before
us.  Conceive what a triumph for that man to have achieved this, so far
from us in the dead centuries, and yet so near to us in this magic of
his skill.  Observe what a background he has chosen to depict it
from--Jerusalem, bathed in the uncanny, terrifying light that
accompanies a convulsion of nature. The earth rent, the dead issuing
from their graves, nature prostrate, and everywhere--brooding over
everything, but stamped most of all on this one guilty face--fear.  How
it all builds up the agony of that death sweat on the cross!  By Heaven,
it is tremendous!  And Dolly says it is a sin to spend so much money for
it.  Brother Francis doesn’t agree with her; I found him in here early
one morning saying his prayers to it."

"Before it," said Alice instantly.

"I thought that no mean tribute.  Frankly, do you think me extravagant?"

"Did you really pay the price named in the newspapers?"

"Even then?"

"It does take one’s breath away--at least, it took mine."

"I have wanted this picture for years.  Hamilton made one trip over with
me to look at it--he told me of it first.  Then I had to wait all these
years for the opportunity to acquire it."

"What patience!"

His eyes were fixed on the picture.  "It must have taken patience to
paint it.  But patience gives us everything in this life."  Alice was
silent. "You don’t agree with me?"

"How do you know that?"

"I feel it; the air is thick with your dissent. But, Alice, I am right
and you are wrong."

Her name coming so suddenly and for the first time from his lips
astonished her.  Her heart sent its blood in protest to her very ears.
In a room with other people nothing could be said. But she rose and
turning from Kimberly called to her husband, asking if he were ready.

"Before you go I have a favor to ask," said Kimberly, intervening, and
Kimberly’s petitions had always something of the color of command. "I
told you," he said, speaking to Alice, "of my mother’s portrait.  It is
upstairs; will you come see it?"

"I should like very much to see it.  Come, Walter," she held out her
hand for her husband. "Mr. Kimberly wants us to see his mother’s
portrait."

Kimberly made no comment, but the manner with which he paused, waiting
for MacBirney to join them, sufficiently indicated that he was conscious
of waiting.  When MacBirney noticed his attitude he moved from those he
was with much more quickly than he would have done at his wife’s behest.
Dolly came with MacBirney and the four walked upstairs.  Kimberly’s
rooms opened to the south.  There were five in the apartment and while
Kimberly excused himself to take MacBirney in for a moment to speak to
his uncle, Dolly took Alice through Kimberly’s suite.

"These rooms are charming!" exclaimed Alice, when the men came in to
them.  "You must see them, Walter.  The breakfast room is dear."

They were standing in the library, which served as a writing room and a
conference room.  It was finished in oak and on the east the breakfast
room opened, in white and green.

Alice took her husband’s arm.  "See, Walter," she said passing through
the open door; "isn’t this darling?  These tones must be restful to wake
to!"

"I had lunch here once," announced MacBirney in his choppy way.  "With
you and your brother and McCrea," he added, turning to Kimberly.

"You never said a word to me about seeing such a pretty place," remarked
his wife.

"You’ve been in the west room?" asked Kimberly.

"Yes, Alice sang for me while you were with Uncle John," responded
Dolly.

"I thought I heard music," remarked Kimberly, looking at Alice.  "What
did you sing?"

"I only hummed an old air."

Kimberly tried to get her to go back to the piano but could not.  "I
miss music keenly," he said, "I wish I could make a contract with you to
sing here every day."

Alice laughed.

"You would be in very good company," interposed Dolly.  "Some famous
artistes have sung at that piano.  Robert," she added, as the two women
walked toward his dressing-room, "has everything here but what he ought
to have--a wife.  When mother lived, The Towers was more than a
habitation--it was a home."

In his bedroom, Kimberly indicated a portrait above the fireplace.
"This is my mother," he said to Alice.  "Sit down for just a moment--I
want you to like her."

"I like her very much, already," returned Alice. "But I should like to
sit a moment to enjoy the portrait.  I wish I could have known your
mother."

"This room I fancy best of them all," Dolly was saying to MacBirney as
they walked on.  "All of this wall panelling and ceiling was made from
one mahogany log brought up from Santo Domingo many years ago with a
cargo of sugar."

Kimberly, sitting with Alice before his mother’s picture, showed a
self-consciousness he did not often betray, a solicitude, seemingly,
that Alice should agree with his own estimate of his mother. "She was
the most tender, kindly woman in the world," he said after a moment.

"Such a mother ought to be an inspiration to you for everything high and
good, Mr. Kimberly."

"Yet I have never reached anything high and good."

"Sometime you will."

He looked at her curiously.  "Do you really think that?"

"Yes, I do.  And thank you for letting me see your mother."

"If you only could have met her!"  There was an intensity of regret in
his words.  "It was a tragedy for such a woman to die young.  I have
long wanted you to see her portrait; you constantly make me think of
her, Alice."

She turned calmly and frankly.  "It is most kind of you to say that, Mr.
Kimberly.  So kind that I am going to be bold enough to ask a favor."

"I know what you are going to ask, but I wish you wouldn’t.  I want very
much to do what you are about to ask me not to do----"

"It is almost nothing--only not to call me Alice."

"There is no use my asking a favor, is there?"  He turned with almost a
boyish humor in his manner.  His mother’s eyes seemed to look at her in
his eyes as he spoke.

"Not, Mr. Kimberly, this time.  I want you to oblige me."

"You are afraid of me."  There was no resentment in the words; nothing
beyond a regret.

Her answer was low but neither weak nor confused. "Is it quite generous,
Mr. Kimberly--here?"

"No," he answered in the same even voice, "it is not.  Unhappily, there
are times when generosity is weakness.  I’ve been trying ever since I
have known you to think of you just as I think of myself.  I believe I
have tried to give you a little the best of it--yet a selfish man can’t
always be sure of doing that."

"I trust you think of me," she responded, "only as one of the least
important among your friends."

"You are afraid of me.  And yet I want your confidence above everything
in this world--and I must in some way deserve and win it."

"I do wish you would not say these things.  I have to try very hard not
to dislike you exceedingly when you speak in this way."

"You do dislike me exceedingly when I speak in this way.  I know it
perfectly."

If her voice trembled the least bit it was with indignation.  "I
sometimes ask myself whether I should suffer it even for my husband’s
sake. You will force me to do something unpleasant, I fear."

"I never will force you to do anything.  I do want to call you Alice.
But don’t hate me for that."

She heard with relief Dolly talking to her husband in the doorway.  "It
was almost three years before Imogene saw Charles again," Alice heard
Dolly say, "and, would you believe it, he began exactly where he left
off.  After that Imogene decided it was of no use.  So, she is Mrs.
Kimberly!"

"By Jove!  He had patience," laughed MacBirney.

Dolly laughed a little, too.  "That is the only exasperating thing about
the Kimberly men--their patience."



                              CHAPTER XIX


MacBirney’s decision to spend the winter in town became very welcome to
Alice; the atmosphere within a wide radius of The Towers seemed too
charged with electricity for mental peace.  And her husband, having
tasted for the first time the excitement of the stock markets, desired
to be near his brokers.

Fritzie, who was an authority in town affairs, made it easy for Alice to
find acceptable quarters. In general the Second Lake people cared less
and less for opening their town houses.  Robert Kimberly’s house, while
nominally open, never saw its master.  Charles and Imogene Kimberly for
several years had spent their winters cruising and now made ready to
take Grace De Castro to the eastern Mediterranean.  Arthur and Dolly
were to winter at Biarritz and join Charles and Imogene in Sicily on
their return from the Levant.  Fritzie accepted Alice’s invitation to
spend the season in town with her.  Dora Morgan had already gone to
Paris for an indefinite stay and the Nelsons, Congress being in session,
were starting for Washington.

MacBirney came over to The Towers just before leaving with Alice for
town to see Robert Kimberly.  When Kimberly asked him what was on his
mind, "I would like to know," MacBirney answered frankly, "what I can
make some money in this winter."  It was the second time he had brought
the subject up and Kimberly who had once evaded his inquiries saw that
nothing was to be gained by further effort in that direction.

Kimberly regarded him gravely.  "Buy standard railway shares," he
suggested, "on a four-and-a-half-per-cent average."

"But I want to do better than four-and-a-half-per-cent. It costs
something to live."

"I mean, you would have your profit in the advances.  But your present
income ought to cover a very liberal scale of living," said Kimberly.

MacBirney squirmed in his chair.  Kimberly would have preferred he
should sit still.  "That is true," assented MacBirney, with smiling
candor, "but a poor man doesn’t want to spend all his money.  Isn’t
there a chance," he asked, coming to the point in his mind, "to make
some money in our own stock?  I have heard a rumor there would be, but I
can’t run it down."

"There are always chances if you are closely enough in touch with
general conditions.  Charles keeps better track of those things than I
do; suppose you talk with him."

"Charles sends me to you," protested MacBirney good naturedly.

"Our shares seem just now to be one of the speculative favorites,"
returned Kimberly.  "That means, as you know, violent fluctuations."

MacBirney was impatient of hazards.  "Put me next on any one of your own
plans, Mr. Kimberly, that you might feel like trusting me with," said
MacBirney, jocularly.

"I don’t often have any speculative schemes of my own," returned
Kimberly.  "However," he hesitated a moment; MacBirney leaned forward.
"Doane," continued Kimberly abruptly, "has a strong party interested now
in putting up the common.  They profess to think that on its earnings it
should sell higher.  In fact, they have sounded me about an extra
dividend.  I am opposed to that--until Congress adjourns, at any rate.
But the company is making a great deal of money.  I can’t uncover
Doane’s deal, but I can say this to you: I have agreed to help them as
much as I safely can.  By that, I mean, that their speculative interests
must always come second to the investment interests of our
shareholders."

"By Jove, I wish I could get in on a movement like that, Mr. Kimberly.
With you behind it----"

"I am not behind it--only not opposed to it. For my part, I never advise
any one to speculate in our securities.  I can’t do it.  I do business
with speculators, but I never speculate myself. You don’t credit that,
do you?  What I mean is this: I never take chances.  If it is necessary,
for cogent reasons, to move our securities up or down, I am in a
position to do so without taking any extreme chances.  That is natural,
isn’t it?"

MacBirney laughed and swayed in his chair. "I’d like to be fixed that
way for just one year of my life!" he exclaimed.

"If you were you would find plenty of other things to engage your
attention."

"Well, can you do anything for me on this present deal?"

Kimberly reflected a moment.  "Yes," he said finally, "if you will
operate through the brokers I name and do exactly as I say, and run the
risk of losing half the money you put up--I don’t see how you could lose
more than that.  But if you don’t do exactly as I tell you, without
question, you might lose a great deal more.  I am not supposing, of
course, that you would risk more than you could afford to lose."

"Not at all.  I want to play safe."

"Place your orders to-day and to-morrow then for what common you can
carry.  Hamilton will let you have what money you need--or he will get
it for you.  Then forget all about your investment until I tell you to
sell.  Don’t question the advice, but get out promptly at that moment no
matter what you hear or what the market looks like. Can you do that?
And keep your own counsel?"

"Trust me."

"Good luck then.  And if it should come bad, try not to feel incensed at
me," concluded Kimberly, rising.

"Surely not!" exclaimed MacBirney.

Kimberly smiled.  "But you will, just the same. At least, that is my
experience."

"What about the winter, Mr. Kimberly--are you going in town?"

"I haven’t decided."

But although Kimberly had made no decision he had made vague promises to
every one.  With Charles he talked about putting his own yacht into
commission, taking Larrie from the refineries for a breathing spell and
meeting Charlie’s party in February at Taormina.  He discussed with
Dolly a shorter vacation, one of taking passage to Cherbourg, motoring
with Arthur and herself across France and meeting Charles at Nice,
whence all could come home together.

The Nelsons left the lake last.  Lottie gave Kimberly a parting thrust
as she said good-by, delivering it in such a way that she hoped to upset
him.  "So you are in love with Alice MacBirney?" she said smilingly.

Kimberly looked frankly into her clear, sensuous eyes.  "What put that
into your head, Lottie?"

She laughed unsympathetically.  "I’m glad you’ve got some one this time
that will make you do the walking--not one like the rest of us poor
creatures."

"Why do you talk about ’this time,’ and ’us poor creatures’?  Let me
tell you something."

"Do, so I can tell it to Alice."

"You may at any time tell Mrs. MacBirney anything I say.  It is this: if
I should ever find a woman to love, I expect to do the walking.  Tell
her that, will you?  I respect Mrs. MacBirney very highly and admire her
very much--is that clear? But that is far from outraging her feelings by
coupling her name with mine or mine with hers. Don’t do that.  I will
never forgive it."  She had never seen him so angry.

He realized more than once during the long winter that the slighted
woman had told him only the truth.  But from her it was an impertinent
truth.  And it galled him to be forced to admit to the loose-thinking
members of his own set what he felt toward Alice.

Meantime, he spent the whole winter at The Towers with Uncle John, the
tireless Francis, and his own unruly thoughts.  His time went to
conferences with his city associates, infrequent inspections of the
refineries, horseback rides over the winter landscape, and to winter
sunsets watched alone from the great western windows.

In town Alice found Fritzie an admirable guide.

"I try," said Fritzie calmly, answering one of Alice’s jests at her wide
acquaintance, "to move with the best.  I suppose in heaven we shall
encounter all sorts.  And if we don’t cultivate the elect here we may
never have another chance to."

"You are far-sighted, Fritzie dear," smiled Alice.  "What I can’t
understand is, why you don’t marry."

"I have too many rich relations.  I couldn’t marry anybody in their
class.  I should have to pick up with some wretched millionaire and be
reduced to misery.  The Lord deliver us from people that watch their
incomes--they are the limit.  And it must, I have always thought, be
terrible, Alice, to live with a man that has made a million honestly.
He would be so mean.  Of course, we are mean, too; but happily a good
part of our meannesses are underground--buried with our ancestors."

Fritzie’s light words struck home with an unsuspected force.  Alice knew
Fritzie had no thought of painting MacBirney; it was only Alice herself
who recognized her husband’s portrait.

Fritzie certainly had, as she admitted, an appetite for the luxurious
and even MacBirney liked her novel extravagances.  In their few resting
hours the two women talked of Second Lake. "Fritzie," said Alice one
night when they were together before the fire, "the first time I met
you, you said every one at Second Lake was contented, with two
exceptions.  You were one; who was the other?"

"Robert, dear.  He is the most discontented mortal alive.  Isn’t it all
a strange world?"

Alice, too, had thoughts that winter, but they were confused thoughts
and not always to be tolerated.  She, likewise, was beginning to think
it a strange world.

MacBirney, guided by McCrea, followed the pool operations with sleepless
vigilance.  They reached their height when Congress adjourned early
without disturbing the tariff.  The street saw enormous gains ahead for
the crowd operating in the Kimberly stocks and with public buying
underway the upward movement in the shares took on renewed strength.

It was just at this moment of the adjournment of Congress that Kimberly
sent McCrea to MacBirney with directions to sell, and explicitly as to
how and through whom to sell.  MacBirney, to McCrea’s surprise, demurred
at the advice and argued that if he dropped out now he should lose the
best profits of the venture.

McCrea consented to talk to Kimberly again. Doane, the Hamilton banking
interests and their associates were still ostensibly buying and were
talking even higher prices.  It did not look right to MacBirney to sell
under such circumstances but McCrea came back the very next day with one
word: "Sell."  No reasons, no explanations were given, nothing
vouchsafed but a curt command.

MacBirney, doubtful and excited, consulted Alice, to whom indeed, in
serious perplexity, he often turned.  Knowing nothing about the
situation, she advised him to do precisely as Kimberly directed and to
do so without loss of time.  He was still stubborn.  No one but himself
knew that he was carrying twice the load of stock he had any right to
assume, and battling thus between greed and prudence he reluctantly
placed the selling orders.

Just as he had gotten fairly out of it, the market, to his
mortification, advanced.  A few days later it ran quite away.  Huge
blocks of stock thrown into it made hardly any impression.  The market,
as MacBirney had predicted, continued strong. At the end of the week he
felt sure that Kimberly had tricked him, and in spite of winning more
money than he had ever made in his life he was in bad humor.  Kimberly
himself deigned no word of enlightenment.  McCrea tried to explain to
MacBirney that the public had run away with the market--as it sometimes
did.  But MacBirney nursed resentment.

The Nelsons came over from Washington that week--it was Holy Week--for
the opera and the week-end, and MacBirney asked his wife to entertain
them, together with Lambert, at dinner on Friday night.

Alice fought the proposal, but MacBirney could not be moved.  She
endeavored to have the date changed to Easter Sunday; MacBirney was
relentless.  He knew it was Good Friday and that his wife was trying to
avoid entertaining during the evening.  But he thought it an opportunity
to discipline her.  Alice sent out her invitations and they were
accepted.  No such luck, she knew, as a declination would be hers.

Lottie, amusing herself for the winter with Lambert, was in excellent
humor.  But Alice was nervous and everything went wrong.  They rose from
the table to go to the opera, where Nelson had the Robert Kimberly box.
Alice seeking the retirement of an easy-chair gave her attention to the
stage and to her own thoughts.  In neither did she find anything
satisfying.  Mrs. Nelson, too talkative with the men, was a mild
irritation to her, and of all nights in the year this was the last on
which Alice would have wished to be at the opera. It was only one more
link in the long chain of sacrifices she wore for domestic peace, but
to-night her gyves lay heavy on her wrists.  She realized that she was
hardly amiable.  This box she was enjoying the seclusion of, brought
Kimberly close to her. The difference there would be within it if he
himself were present, suggested itself indolently to her in her
depression.  How loath, she reflected, Kimberly would have been to drag
her out when she wished to be at home.  It was not the first time that
she had compared him with her husband, but this was the first time she
was conscious of having done so.  All they were enjoying was his; yet
she knew he would have been indifferent to everything except what she
preferred.

And it was not alone what he had indicated in deferring to her wishes;
it was what he often did in deferring in indifferent things to the
wishes of others that had impressed itself upon her more than any trait
in his character.  How much happier she should be if her own husband
were to show a mere trace of such a disposition, she felt past even the
possibility of telling him; it seemed too useless.  He could not be made
to understand.

For supper the party went with Nelson.  The gayety of the others left
Alice cold.  Nelson, with the art of the practised entertainer, urged
the eating and drinking, and when the party left the buzzing café some
of them were heated and unrestrained.  At two o’clock, Alice with her
husband and Fritzie reached their apartment, and Alice, very tired, went
directly to her own rooms. MacBirney came in, somewhat out of humor.
"What’s the matter with you to-night?" he demanded. Alice had dismissed
Annie and her husband sat down beside her table.

"With me?  Nothing, Walter; why?"

"You acted so cattish all the evening," he complained, with an
irritating little oath.

Alice was in no mood to help him along.  "How so?" she asked tying her
hair as she turned to look at him.

An inelegant exclamation annoyed her further. "You know what I mean just
as well as I do," he went on curtly.  "You never opened your mouth the
whole evening.  Lottie asked me what the matter was with you----"

Alice repeated but one word of the complaining sentence.  "Lottie!" she
echoed.  Her husband’s anger grew.  "If Lottie would talk less,"
continued Alice quietly, "and drink less, I should be less ashamed to be
seen with her.  And perhaps I could talk more myself."

"You never did like anybody that liked me. So it is Lottie you’re
jealous of?"

"No, not ’jealous of,’ only ashamed of.  Even at the dinner she was
scandalous, I thought."

Her husband regarded her with stubborn contempt, and it hurt.  "You are
very high and mighty to-night.  I wonder," he said with a scarcely
concealed sneer, "whether prosperity has turned your head."

"You need not look at me in that way, Walter, and you need not taunt
me."

"You have been abusing Lottie Nelson a good deal lately.  I wish you
would stop it."  He rose and stood with one hand on the table.  Alice
was slipping her rings into the cup in front of her and she dropped in
the last with some spirit.

"I will stop it.  And I hope you will never speak of her again.  I
certainly never will entertain her again under any circumstances," she
exclaimed.

"You will entertain her the next time I tell you to."

Alice turned quite white.  "Have you anything else to say to me?"

Her very restraint enraged him.  "Only that if you try to ride your high
horse with me," he replied, "I will send you back to St. Louis some fine
day."

"Is that all?"

"That is all.  And if you think I don’t mean what I say, try it
sometime."  As he spoke he pushed the chair in which he had been sitting
roughly aside.

Alice rose to her feet.  "I despise your threats," she said, choking
with her own words.  "I despise you.  I can’t tell you how I despise
you."  Her heart beat rebelliously and she shook in every limb;
expressions that she would not have known for her own fell stinging from
her lips.  "You have bullied me for the last time.  I have stood your
abuse for five years.  It will stop now.  You will do the cringing and
creeping from now on.  That woman never shall sit down at a table with
me again, not if you beg it of me on your knees.  You are a cowardly
wretch; I know you perfectly; you never were anything else.  I have paid
dearly for ever believing you a man."  Her contempt burned the words she
uttered.  "Now drive me one step further," she sobbed wildly, "if you
dare!"

She snapped out the light above her head with an angry twist.  Another
light shone through the open door of her sleeping-room and through this
door she swiftly passed, slamming it shut and locking it sharply behind
her.

MacBirney had never seen his wife in such a state.  He was surprised;
but there could be no mistake.  Her blood was certainly up.



                               CHAPTER XX


If Alice or her husband apprehended a stormy sequel to the unpleasant
scene in her dressing room both were relieved that none followed.  Not a
word came up between them as a result of the breach.  There was the
usual silence that follows a tempestuous outbreak and the usual
indirect, almost accidental, resumption of speaking relations after the
acute suspicion of renewed hostilities had worn itself out.

MacBirney had the best of reasons for ignoring what had passed.  He had,
in fact, experienced the most surprising moments of his life and caution
advised against the stirring up of any further altercation.  Heretofore
he had always known just what his wife, when bullied, would do; but he
no longer knew and the uncertainty gave him pause.

He found matter for surprise, indeed for a series of surprises, in the
manner in which Alice stood newly revealed to him.  Dependence and
timidity seemed suddenly to have left her.  She walked a new path; not
one of complete indifference to her husband, but of decision complete in
itself.  Forced to cast aside his judgment and fall back on her own,
Alice accepted the alternative openly.  Her new attitude made itself
felt in unnumbered ways--sometimes in no more than arranging for a day
down-town with Fritzie, sometimes in discussing when Cedar Lodge should
be opened and how. MacBirney found himself no longer consulted; Alice
told him what she intended to do.  If he gave arbitrary or unreasonable
orders they were ignored. If he followed the subject further his
inquiries were ignored.

Alice realized it was not right to live in a home in this way, but
MacBirney himself had taught her so many ways of wrong living that
compunction had grown dull.  His pupil, long unwilling to accept his
debasing standards of married life, long suffering the cruelty of
finding them enforced upon her, had at last become all that he had made
her and something unpleasantly more--she made herself now complete
mistress of her own affairs.

Nor was Alice less surprised at the abject surrender of her husband.
She knew him in the end better than he knew himself, and cowardly though
he was, she felt the new situation would not endure forever--that worse
must surely follow. But those who learn to sleep on dumb reproach and
still for years the cry of waking apprehension, learn also not to look
with foreboding ahead.

There were, it is true, times in which Alice asked herself if in her new
attitude she were not walking in a dream; slumbers in which the old
shrinking fear returned; moments in which she could hardly realize her
own determination.  But the fear that had so long subdued her now served
to support her courage.  Go back she would not; the present she had made
her own, the future must account for itself.

Moreover, as the acuteness of the crisis passed everything looked
better.  The present tends always to justify itself.  And prosperous
skies opening on MacBirney’s speculative ventures consoled him for such
loss of prestige as he suffered in his own home.

He was again, curiously enough, Alice thought, in cordial touch with
Robert Kimberly.  She never asked a question and did not know for a long
time what could account for this change, since he had been abusing
Kimberly vigorously during the life of the market pool.  Kimberly had
never called at the town apartment and Alice heard of him only through
Fritzie, who visited The Towers on monetary errands and always spoke
interestingly of Robert’s affairs.

And now spring airs came even to town, and Alice, breathing them, with
the sudden sunshine and the morning song of birds, longed for her
country home.  She kept the telephone wire busy summoning her gardener
to conferences and laid out elaborate plans with him for making Cedar
Lodge more beautiful for the summer.  A number of things conspired to
keep her from getting out to Second Lake early.  But the servants had
been installed and the lodge put in readiness for her coming.

One night in May--a summer night, warm, lighted by the moon and
still--an impulse seized Alice to break away from everything for the
country.  Morning found her with Fritzie, and accompanied only by their
maids, in a big motor-car speeding over the ribbon roads toward Second
Lake.  A curious play of emotions possessed Alice as they whirled
through the dust of the village and swung into the hills toward The
Towers.  She had given no instructions to her chauffeur as to which road
he should take and he had chosen the southern road because the grades
were better.

It was months since Alice had seen Kimberly. But not until now did she
realize with some apprehension how much he had been in her mind all
winter.  The near prospect of meeting him disturbed her and she felt an
uneasiness at the thought. It was too late to change the route.  She
felt she had been wrong not to give orders for the north road in time.
Then the notion came that she must meet him sometime, anyway, and
whenever they met he must be kept within bounds she had set many times
since their last hour together.  She could see in the distance The
Towers gates and the lodge, sentinel-like, away up the road.  The mere
sight of the familiar entrance brought Kimberly up sharply.  The
chauffeur checked the car to ask whether he should drive through the
grounds.  Fritzie said, "Yes."

Alice corrected her, "No, no."

"Why, my dear," exclaimed Fritzie, "not stop to speak to Robert!"

"It will delay us, and I am crazy to get home."

"But it will cut off two miles!"

"And keep us an hour."

"It won’t keep us five minutes and the grounds are beautiful."

"We will see them to-morrow.  Drive straight ahead, Peters."

Fritzie protested as they flew past the lodge. "I feel like a heathen
going by The Towers in this way.  I hope Robert won’t hear of it."

"I will take all the blame," returned Alice, with a bravado she did not
feel.  Then she laid her hand on Fritzie’s arm.  "You may come back
right after luncheon."

When they reached the hill beyond Black Rock they saw Cedar Point lying
below in the sunshine of the lake.  Alice cried out at the beauty of it.
Her spirits rose with an emotion that surprised her. For an instant she
could not speak.  Her eyes moistened and the load that had oppressed her
a moment earlier took wings.  Before she had quite recovered, the car
was down the hill and speeding through the green gates, up the winding
avenue of maples, and swinging in an alarming ellipse around to the
front of the house.

She ran in through the open doors as if she had left it all but
yesterday.  Flowers were everywhere. She passed from room to room with
the bubbling spirits of a child and dropped at last into her own little
chair at her toilet table.  Annie, infected with the happiness of her
mistress, was wreathed in smiles as she took her hat, while Fritzie,
sitting in dusty veil and gloves, telephone in hand, was calling The
Towers and in the same breath begging her maid to prepare her bath.  No
response to Fritzie’s telephone message came until late in the
afternoon.  About four o’clock Robert Kimberly called her up.

"I hear you have arrived," he said.

"This is a pretty time for you to be answering, Robert.  Where have you
been all day?"

"Driving with Francis.  He hasn’t been very well lately.  I took him
over to the Sound.  How is Mrs. MacBirney, Fritzie?"

"Come over and see."

"Call her to the telephone."

Alice took the receiver.  "How do you do, Mr. Kimberly?"

"Glad to hear your voice.  Fritzie has been telling me stories about you
all winter."

Alice controlled the pleasant excitement that came with the familiar
sound of his own voice. "You mustn’t believe the stories you hear," she
laughed.  "How are you all?"

"One story to-day sounded pretty straight."

"Sometimes those are the least reliable.  How is your uncle?"

"Still I shall have to have it out with you--passing us by this
morning."

"But you weren’t at home."

"Worse and worse--you didn’t know that."

She laughed again happily.  "You may scold as much as you like, I’m so
happy to get home I’m walking on air."

"How do you manage that?  I never can get up any excitement over getting
home.  I wish I might come and see how it affects you."

"Do come."

"Unfortunately I am leaving to-night for the Southwest."

"For the Southwest?" she echoed in surprise. "But we heard of you just
back from the West."

"Yes, and with some stories for you.  This time it is New Orleans and a
terminal project."

"So busy a man!  I hope we shall see you when you return."

"I certainly hope so.  If I didn’t, I shouldn’t go.  By-the-way," he
added humorously, "I seem to have dropped something."

"What can it be?"

"The string you held out a minute ago."

Alice’s eyes danced but only the telephone receiver saw them.  "What
string?"

"About letting me come over.  A car was set in this afternoon at Sunbury
but the train doesn’t pick me up till eleven o’clock to-night.  I might
run over to see you on my way down----"

"Oh, by all means, do, Mr. Kimberly."

"--just to see how you look when you are happy."

"Do come; but I am always happy."

He hesitated a moment.  "If I were sure of that I might not come."

"You _may_ be ’sure,’ I assure you.  And why, pray, shouldn’t you come?"

He retreated easily.  "Because in that case I could see your happiness,
without intruding on you when you are tired--as you must be now.
However, I will run in for a few moments after dinner."

Kimberly appeared shortly before nine o’clock. Fritzie greeted him.
"Oh, aren’t you youthful to-night?" she exclaimed.  He was in a
travelling suit and his face was tanned from his Western trip.  "You
should never wear anything but gray, Robert."

"Has she been as agreeable as this all winter?" asked Kimberly turning
to greet Alice.

"All winter," declared Fritzie, answering for herself, "except once when
Lottie Nelson’s dog chewed up a lace hat for me, and Robert, I have
spent this whole winter saying good things about you--haven’t I Alice?
Even when we saw they were trying to put you in jail."

"Many worthy people seemed to sympathize with that effort," responded
Kimberly dryly.  "I trust you didn’t?" he added turning to Alice.

"I?  Not in the least.  If they had succeeded, I should have brought you
flowers."

The three sat down.  Kimberly looked at Alice. "What have you been doing
all winter?"

"Nothing."

"Listen to that!" exclaimed Fritzie.  "Why, we’ve been as busy as ants
all winter."

"Fritzie would never allow you to do nothing," said Kimberly.  "You met
a lot of people she tells me."

"I said ’nothing,’ because the time went so fast I found no time to do
anything I had intended to."

Fritzie objected again: "You kept at your singing all winter, didn’t
you?"

Kimberly showed interest at once.  "Good! Let us hear now how your voice
sounds in the country air."

"I haven’t any songs."

"You threw some into the wicker trunk," interposed Fritzie.

"Find them, Fritzie, do," said Kimberly.  "And what else did you do?" he
asked of Alice as Fritzie ran upstairs.

"Everything that country people do," responded Alice.  "And you’ve been
West?  Tell me all about it."

Kimberly looked very comfortable in a Roman chair as he bent his eyes
upon her.  "Hardly a spot in Colorado escaped me this time.  And I went
to Piedmont----"

"To Piedmont?" cried Alice.  "Oh, to see the little factory."

"To see the house you lived in when you were there."

"What possible interest could that poor cottage have for any one?  You
must have realized that we began housekeeping very modestly."

He brushed her suggestion away with a gesture.

"I wanted to see it merely because you had lived in it."  He waited a
moment.  "Can’t you understand that?"

"Frankly, I cannot."

"St. Louis was very interesting," he went on.

"Oh, I love St. Louis!" Alice exclaimed.

"So do I," assented Kimberly.  "And in St. Louis I went to see the house
you were born in. It was worth looking at; your father’s house was a
house of character and dignity----"

"Why, thank you!"

"--Like many of the older houses I ran across in searching it out----"

Alice seemed unable to rise quite above her embarrassment.  "I can
hardly believe you are not making fun of me.  What ridiculous quests in
St. Louis and in Piedmont!  Surely there must have been incidents of
more importance than these in a three-weeks’ trip."

He ignored her comment.  "I stood a long time staring at your father’s
house, and wishing I might have been born in that little old cottage
just across the street from where that rich little girl of sixteen
lived.  I would rather have known you then than lived all I have lived
since you were born there."

Alice returned his look with control of every feature.  "I did not live
there till I was sixteen, if you mean the old home.  And if you had been
born just across the street you would have had no absurd idea about that
little girl in your head. Little girls are not usually interested in
little boys across the street.  Little boys born thousands of miles away
have better chances, I think, of knowing them.  And it is better so--for
_they_, at least, don’t know what absurd, selfish little things girls
across the street are."

"That is all wrong----"

"It is not," declared Alice pointedly.

But the force of everything she said was swept away by his manner.
"Only give me the same street and the meanest house in it!"  His
intensity would not be answered.  "_I_ would have taken the chances of
winning."

"What confidence!"

"And I’d have done it or torn the house down."

Fritzie came back.  "I can’t find the music anywhere."

Kimberly rose to go to the music room.  "No matter," he persisted, "sing
anything you can remember, Mrs. MacBirney--just sing."

It seemed easier, as it always seemed when Kimberly persisted, to
consent than to decline. Alice sang an English ballad.  Then a
scrap--all she could remember--of a Moskowski song; then an Italian
ballad.  Kimberly leaned on the piano.

"Do you like any of those?" asked Alice with her hands running over the
keys.

"All of them.  But what was the last?"

"An Italian air."

"Yes, I remember it--in Italy.  Sing it again, will you?"

"Tell me about that song," he said when she had repeated it.  "It is
lovely."

"I don’t know much.  It is a very old song."

"Have I ever told you about a villa on Lago Maggiore?"

"Fritzie has told me.  She says it is a dream."

"I should like to hear you sing that song there sometime."

The moon was rising when Kimberly left for the train.  Fritzie objected
to his going.  "Give up your trip.  Stay over to-night.  What’s the
difference?"

"I can’t, Fritzie.  I’m going like a minstrel show, billed for one-night
stands.  I have engagements ahead of me all the way and if I miss a day
I upset the whole schedule."

"What’s it all about?"

"A railroad terminal and reorganization.  And I’ve just time to get
around and back for Charles’s return."

"And the country dance!" said Fritzie.

"Dolly’s country dance," explained Alice.

"Good.  I don’t want to miss that."

Fritzie caught his sleeve.  "You disappointed us last year."

"You may count on me," promised Kimberly.

Fritzie pouted.  "I know what that means, ’don’t count on me!’"

"This time," returned Kimberly as the door of his motor-car was opened
for him, "it isn’t going to mean that, Fritzie."



                              CHAPTER XXI


MacBirney followed his household to the country after two weeks.  The De
Castros were then back and Dolly enlisted Alice and Fritzie to make
ready for the dance at Black Rock barn which regularly signalized at
Second Lake what Nelson termed the "opening of navigation."

Alice, with Fritzie to help, was charged with the decorations for the
event, and two days before it, the available men about the place, under
their direction, were emptying the green-houses and laying the woods
under tribute.

The lighting scheme Alice pronounced ineffective. For years no one had
given the subject any attention.  At the last moment electricians were
brought out from town to work early and late and lights were installed
from which operators in elevated cages could throw sheets of color on
the dancers.

When Imogene and Charles got home--and they were late, arriving only the
evening before the party--Dolly, who met them at the train, drove them
directly to Black Rock, where Alice with her husband, Fritzie, and
Arthur De Castro was conducting a rehearsal of the electrical effects.
The kisses and embraces of the committee and the arrivals took place
under the rays of the new spot lights.

"Now if Robert were here," cried Fritzie impatiently, "everything would
be complete.  No one knows where he is.  Suppose he doesn’t come?"

"He is in town and will be out to-morrow." Imogene as she made the
announcement put her arm around Alice.  "Sweetheart, you must be dead."

Alice was sustained by the excitement.  "Nothing of the sort.  I haven’t
done anything but suggest," she said gayly.  "Fritzie has done all the
work.  In the morning we will bring in the apple blossoms and we are
through."

But when she had received all the enthusiasm and compliments she went
home tired.  MacBirney came to her room to talk, but he had no word for
the successful decorations and Alice pleading fatigue went directly to
bed.

She woke with the sun streaming through the east windows.  It was late
and though still tired she rose at once.  The morning was superb, and,
while dressing, Alice surprised Annie by singing to herself.

Fritzie drove over with her to Black Rock.  Alice running in to speak to
Dolly found her in bed. Dolly kissed her.  "You look so fresh, dear."
Alice drew herself up with a laugh.  "It’s the morning, Dolly."

"By-the-way, Robert is here.  He came late and he and Arthur talked so
long he stayed all night.  He is just across the hall in the blue room."

"Then every one is accounted for.  I must be off, Dolly."

"Where are you going?"

"To the woods with Fritzie to get the blossoms."

An old coaching brake had been sent up from the stables and Arthur De
Castro was waiting for the two women.  "I am going to drive you down the
field before I take my ride," he explained.

"You do need exercise.  You look sleepy, Arthur," remarked Fritzie,
critically.

"Robert kept me up all night."  Arthur turned to Alice.  "You knew he
was back?"

"Dolly told me."

"The lazy fellow isn’t up yet," said Fritzie.

Arthur corrected her.  "He is up and gone home.  But he will be over
again this morning."

The horses were fresh and took Arthur’s attention across the field and
the big wagon lurched as the team danced along.  In the woods they found
Grace De Castro with the men who were to work. Arthur’s saddle-horse was
in waiting.  The men began loading the brake with elder blossoms, brier
roses, and branches from the forest trees.  Arthur had meant to take his
groom with him, but found there would be nobody to drive the brake back
to the barn.

"No matter, Mr. De Castro," said Alice.  "Take him.  I will drive back."
Arthur demurred, but Alice insisted.  "I would rather drive the team
than not.  I drive our horses all the time."

Arthur and the groom rode away.  Fritzie and Grace looked at Alice in
astonishment when the wagon had been loaded and Alice took the driver’s
high seat, pulled her glove gauntlets back taut and a gardener handed
her the reins.

"Aren’t you afraid?" cried Grace.

"Not in the least," Alice answered, slipping her hands into the driving
loops and putting her foot on the wheel-brake.

"Really," declared Grace, "you have quite an air."

Fritzie was apprehensive.  "For Heaven’s sake, don’t let them run away,
Allie."

The men at the bridles stood aside, Alice spoke and the team leaped
swiftly ahead.  She gave them leeway for a few moments, but kept them
under control and her manner was so confident that Fritzie’s fears were
allayed before the brake had crossed the first hill.  As Alice made the
turn in the road and looked laughingly back the two girls waved approval
at her.  They saw the brim of her broad hat rising and falling like a
bird’s wings as she nodded to them; then she threw on the wheel-brake
and started down the hill.

For a moment the difficulty of holding the pair in check increased and
by the time the barn was in sight the struggle had stirred her blood.
It colored two little circles in her cheeks and had lighted fires of
animation in her gray eyes.  She saw the rising entrance to the barn and
only took heed that the doors were wide open.  Then she gave all her
strength to guiding the rushing horses up the long incline.  Just as
their heads shot under the doorway the off horse shied.  The front
wheels of the brake bounced over the threshold and Alice saw, standing
within, Robert Kimberly.

She gave an exclamation of surprise as she threw on the wheel-brake,
pulled with all her strength on the reins and brought her horses to a
halt.  Kimberly with one hand on the casement stood perfectly still
until she looked around.  Then he came forward laughing.  "You certainly
are a capital whip."

"You frightened me nearly to death!" exclaimed Alice with a long breath.
"Where, pray, did you come from?" she demanded, looking down from her
eminence.

"From almost everywhere.  And you?"

"From the woods."

He laid a hand on the foot-board.  "Really, I wonder whether there is
anything you can’t do."

"I am afraid there is one thing now.  I don’t see how I am going to get
down.  Aren’t there any men around to take the horses?"

"The horses will stand.  Just hook your lines and jump from the wheel."

Alice looked at the distance in dismay.  "That is easy to say."

"Not hard to do," returned Kimberly.  "I’ll break your flight."

"I’m a wretched jumper."

"Nonsense.  You can’t tell me you’re a wretched anything after that
drive."

"Step away then and I’ll jump.  Only, I don’t see just how I am going to
stop after I start."

"What do you want to stop for?  Come ahead."

She put her foot cautiously on the wheel; it was a very pretty foot.
Then she steadied herself and with her hand swept little ringlets of
hair from her eyes.

She knew he was waiting to receive her and, meaning to elude him, turned
at the last instant and jumped away from where he stood.  Kimberly, in
spite of her precaution, caught her as her feet struck the floor, and
leaned an instant over her.  "Beautifully done!" he exclaimed, and
drawing her suddenly into his arms he kissed her.

She pushed him back with all her strength. He met her consternation with
good humor.  "I couldn’t help it."

Alice, burning with angry blushes, retreated. He hoped it would end
there and ignored the outraged spirit in her eyes as she took her
handkerchief from her waist.

He tried to laugh again.  "Don’t be angry."  But Alice put both hands to
her face and walked quickly away.



                              CHAPTER XXII


Kimberly followed her through the open door.  "Where are you going?" he
asked. Her answer came in her quickened step.  He repeated his words
without eliciting any response. Then he stepped directly in front of her
in the path.  "Stop for one moment.  Alice, you can’t go any farther
while you are as angry at me as you are now."

"I am Alice to no one but my husband," she exclaimed controlling herself
as well as she could. "You shall not stop me, you have no right to."

"Where are you going?"

"I am going home."

"Listen; you are Alice to me--now, and forever; remember that."

Her knees trembled as she strove to escape him. She tried to pass
through the shrubbery and could not.  She felt faint and dizzy.  The
very world had changed with a kiss.  Everything in life seemed upset,
every safeguard gone.

He took her arm.  "Come back to the path, Alice.  We must walk it
together."

She paused an instant for breath and made an effort to speak as she put
his hand angrily away. "I insist," she cried, "that you do not continue
to insult me."

"If you wait for me to insult you, Alice, you will wait a long time.  I
should be as likely to insult my own mother."

"I have done nothing to deserve this," she sobbed, frantic with
confusion.

"You deserve more a thousand times than my devotion ever can bring you.
But all it can ever bring, from the moment I kissed you, is yours."

Her eyes blazed through her tears.  In her helpless wrath she stamped
her foot.  "You are shameless.  I detest your conduct.  If you are going
to the house I will stay here.  If you are not, let me go."

He met her denunciation with steadiness. "Nothing you can say will anger
me."

"You mean you have no respect for me."  She spoke so fast she could
scarcely frame the words. "Why don’t you say so?  Are you too cowardly?"

The imputation stung him.  He seemed to explode inwardly.  "I have
nothing _but_ respect for you, Alice," he insisted with terrifying
energy, "but this thing must be fought out----"

She attempted to speak.  His words drowned her.  "I want to say nothing
that will wound or offend you.  You make it very hard for me to speak at
all----"

"You have no right to speak----"

"But, Alice," he exclaimed, throwing all his force into the words, "you
don’t love that man. That is why I speak.  If you _did_ love him, if
even he loved you, I could be silent."

"I love my husband as a wife should," she cried, struggling vainly to
escape his accusation.

"You do not.  You cannot!"

They spoke at white heat, she fighting vainly to control her trembling
limbs and Kimberly pausing at times to deal better his sledge-hammer
blows at her pitiful strength.

"You do not love that man.  If I believed you did," he spoke with a
bitterness she had never heard before, "I should never want to see
another sun rise.  I respect you above all women that breathe; but in
that I am right, I can’t be wrong. I have suppressed and stifled and
smothered as long as I can and it will come out!"

"I will not hear you!"

"Sometime, somewhere, you will hear me. Don’t speak!" he exclaimed
vehemently.  The veins knotted upon his forehead.  "I forgot myself for
a moment.  If you knew what it costs me to remember!  But, Alice, for me
it is you--or nothing in this world.  Remember!  You or nothing!"

She searched his face for pity.  "I am sinking with shame.  What
further, what more humiliation do you want?  We are in plain view of the
house.  I am utterly helpless.  Will you not have the decency to leave
me?"

"I wish I could have said this better; I do nothing well.  If I have
hurt you, I am very, very sorry."  He strode away toward the garden.

Trying to compose herself, Alice walked to the house.  Providentially,
Dolly had already started for the field.  Summoning a servant, Alice
ordered her car and with her head whirling started for home.  As she was
hurried over the country road her mind gradually righted itself, and
strange thoughts ran like lightning flashes through her brain.  Reaching
home, she hastened upstairs and locked her door.

What startled her most painfully in her reflections was the unwelcome
conviction that there was nothing new, nothing surprising in her
situation. Nothing, at least, except this violent outburst which she now
realized she ought long ago to have foreseen.  She was suddenly
conscious that she had long known Kimberly loved her, and that one day
he would call her to account--for the crime of being loved in spite of
herself, she reflected bitterly.

She threw herself on her couch and held her hands upon her burning
temples.  He had caught her in his arms and forced a kiss upon her.  The
blood suffused her face at the recollection.  Again and again, though
she turned from the picture, imagination brought it back.  She saw his
eyes as he bent over her; the thought of the moment was too much to
support.  Her very forehead crimsoned as the scene presented itself.
And worse, was the realizing that something of fascination lingered in
the horror of that instant of amazement and fear and mad repulsion of
his embrace. She hid her face in her pillow.

After a time she grew calmer, and with her racing pulse quieted, her
emotion wore itself somewhat out.  Saner thoughts asserted themselves.
She felt that she could fight it out.  She searched her heart and found
no wantonness within it.  Strongly assailed, and not, she felt, through
her own fault, she would fight and resist.  He had challenged her when
he had said it should be fought out.  She, too, resolved it should be.

She bathed her forehead, and when she felt sure of herself, rang for
Annie.  Lunch was served in her room, but she could eat nothing.  At
moments she felt the comforting conviction of having settled her mind.
Unhappily, her mind would not stay settled.  Nothing would stay settled.
No mood that brought relief would remain.  The blood came unbidden to
her cheeks even while Annie was serving her and her breath would catch
at the opening of a door.

When she heard the hum of a motor-car on the open highway her heart
jumped.  She opened the porch doors and went out to where she could look
on the lake.  Her eyes fell upon the distant Towers and her anger
against Kimberly rose.  She resolved he should realize how he had
outraged her self-respect.  She picked from the troubled current of her
thought cutting things that she ought to have said.  She despised
herself for not having more angrily resented his conduct, and
determined, if he dared further persist, to expose him relentlessly to
the circle of their friends, even if they were his own relations.  There
should be no guilty secret between them; this, at least, she could
insure.

When the telephone bell rang, Annie answered it.  Dolly was calling for
Alice and went into a state when told that Alice had come home affected
by the heat, and had given up and gone to bed; she hoped yet, Annie
said, to be all right for the evening.  Fritzie took the wire at Black
Rock to ask what she could do, and Annie assured her there was nothing
her mistress needed but quiet and rest.

When the receiver had been hung up the first bridge was crossed, for
Alice was resolved above all things not to be seen that night at the
dance. When Fritzie came back to Cedar Lodge to dress, Alice was still
in bed.  Her room was darkened and Annie thought she might be sleeping.
At dinner-time, MacBirney, who had been in town all day, came in to see
how she was.  She told her husband that he would have to go to Dolly’s
with Fritzie.

MacBirney bent over his wife and kissed her, greatly to her mental
discomfort.  An unwelcome kiss from him seemed to bring back more
confusingly the recollection of Kimberly’s kiss, and to increase her
perplexities.  She detested her husband’s caresses; they meant no real
affection and she did not intend he should think she believed they did.
But she never could decide where to draw the line with him, and was
divided between a desire to keep him always at a distance and a wish not
to seem always unamiable.

Fritzie, after she was dressed, tiptoed in.  The room was lighted to
show Alice the new gown.  It was one of their spring achievements, and
Alice raised herself on her pillow to give a complete approval of the
effect.  "It is a stunning thing; simply stunning.  If you would only
stop running yourself to death, Fritzie, and put on ten pounds, you
would be absolute perfection."

"If I stopped running myself to death what would there be to live for?"
demanded Fritzie, refastening the last pin in her Dresden girdle. "We
all have to live for something."

Alice put her hand to her head.  "I wonder what I have to live for?"

Fritzie turned sharply.  "You?  Why nothing but to spend your money and
have a good time. Too bad about you, isn’t it?  You’ll soon have a
million a year for pin-money."

Alice shook her head.  "A dozen millions a year would not interest me,
Fritzie."

Fritzie laughed.  "Don’t be too sure, my dear; not too sure.  Well,"
Fritzie’s hands ran carefully over her hair for the last time, "there
are a lot of men coming over from the Sound to-night.  I may meet my
fate!"

"I wish you may with all my heart, Fritzie. Why is it fates always come
to people that don’t want them?"

"Don’t you believe it," cried Fritzie, "they do want them."

"They don’t--not always."

"Don’t you ever believe it--they only say they don’t or think they
don’t!" she exclaimed, with accustomed vehemence.

Alice moved upon her pillow in impatient disapproval. "I hope you’ll
have a good time to-night."

MacBirney was ready and Fritzie joined him. The house grew quiet after
they left.  Annie brought up a tray and Alice took a cup of broth. She
did not long resist the drowsiness that followed. She thought vaguely
for a moment of a prayer for safety.  But her married life had long
excluded prayer.  What good could come of praying to be kept unharmed
while living in a state that had in itself driven her from prayer?
That, at least, would be too absurd, and with a dull fear gnawing and
dying alternately at her heart she fell asleep.



                             CHAPTER XXIII


At noon next day MacBirney, seeking his wife, found her in her
dressing-room.  She had come from the garden and stood before a table
filled with flowers, which she was arranging in vases.

"I’ve been looking for you."  MacBirney threw himself into a convenient
chair as he spoke. "Robert Kimberly is downstairs."

"Mr. Kimberly?  To see you, I suppose."

"No, to see you."

"To see _me_?"  Alice with flowers in her hand, paused.  Then she
carried a vase to the mantel-piece.  "At this time of day?"

"Well--to see us, he says."

She returned to the table.  "What in the world does he want to see us
about?"

MacBirney laughed.  "He says he has something to say to both of us.  I
told him I would bring you down."

A breath would have toppled Alice over.  "I can’t dress to go down now,"
she managed to say. "It may be something from Dolly.  Ask him to give
you any message he has."

Walking hurriedly to the mantel with another jar of roses, she found her
fear extreme.  Could it be possible Kimberly would dream of saying to
her husband what he had said to her yesterday?  She smothered at the
thought, yet she knew his appalling candor and felt unpleasantly
convinced that he was capable of repeating every word of it.  The idea
threw her into a panic.  She resolved not to face him under such
circumstances; she was in no position to do so.  "Tell him," she said
abruptly, "that as much as I should like to hear what he has to say, he
will have to excuse me this morning."

"He offered to come this evening if you preferred."

"We have other guests to-night," returned Alice coldly.  "And I can’t be
bothered now."

"Bothered?" echoed MacBirney with sarcasm. "Perhaps I had better tell
him that."

"By all means, if you want to," she retorted in desperation.  "Tell him
anything you like."

Her husband rose.  "You are amiable this morning."

"No, I am not, I’m sorry to say.  I am not quite well--that is the real
truth and must be my excuse.  Make it for me or not as you like."

MacBirney walked downstairs.  After an interminable time, Alice,
breathing more freely, heard Kimberly’s car moving from the door.  When
she went down herself she watched narrowly the expression of her
husband’s face.  But he was plainly interested in nothing more serious
than Fritzie’s account of the country dance.  When Alice ventured to ask
directly what Kimberly’s messages were, he answered that Kimberly had
given none. With Fritzie, Alice took a drive after luncheon somewhat
easier in mind.  Yet she reflected that scarcely twenty-four hours had
passed and she already found herself in an atmosphere of suspense and
apprehension from which there seemed no escape.

While she was dressing that night, flowers from The Towers’ gardens were
brought to Cedar Lodge in boxfuls, just as they had regularly been sent
the year before--roses for the tables, violets for Alice’s rooms,
orchids for herself.  If she only dared send them back!  Not, she knew,
that it would make any difference with the sender, but it would at least
express her indignation.  She still speculated as to whether Kimberly
would dare to tell her husband and upon what would happen if he should
tell him.

And her little dream of publicity as an antidote!  What had become of it
already?  So far as Kimberly was concerned, she now firmly believed he
was ready to publish his attitude toward her to the world.  And she
shrank with every instinct from the prospective shame and humiliation.

The water about her seemed very deep as she reflected, and she felt
singularly helpless.  She had never heard of a situation just such as
this, never imagined one exactly like it.  This man seemed different
from every other she had ever conceived of; more frankly brutal than
other brutes and more to be dreaded than other men.

A week passed before Kimberly and Alice met. It was at Charles
Kimberly’s.  Doctor Bryson, the Nelsons, and Fritzie were there.

As Alice and her husband came down, Charles Kimberly and Robert walked
out of the library. Robert bowed to MacBirney and to Alice--who scarcely
allowed her eyes to answer his greeting.

"Are you always glad to get back to your own country, Mrs. Kimberly?"
asked MacBirney greeting his hostess.

Imogene smiled.  "Dutifully glad."

"Is that all?"

"At least, I come back with the same feeling of relief that I am getting
back to democracy."

"That is," suggested Lottie Nelson, "getting back to where you are the
aristocracy."

Dolly, who with her husband joined them in time to hear the remark,
tossed her head.  "I always thank Heaven, Lottie, that we have no
aristocracy here."

"But you are wrong, Dolly, we have," objected Robert Kimberly as the
party went into the drawing-room.  "Democracy is nothing but an
aristocracy of ability.  What else can happen when you give everybody a
chance?  We began in this country by ridding ourselves of an aristocracy
of heredity and privilege; and we have only succeeded in substituting
for it the coldest, cruelest aristocracy known to man--the aristocracy
of brains.  This is the aristocracy that controls our manufacturing, our
transportation, our public service and our finance; it makes our laws
and apportions our taxation.  And from this fell cause done our present
griefs arise."

"But you must rid yourself of the grossly material conception of an
aristocracy, Mr. Kimberly," said Nelson.  "Our real aristocracy, I take
it, is not our material one, as Robert Kimberly insists. The true
aristocrat, I hold, is the real but mere gentleman."

"Exactly right," assented De Castro.  "The gentleman and nothing else is
the thing."

"There is nothing more interesting than the gentleman," returned Robert
Kimberly, "except the gentleman plus the brute.  But the exception is
enormous, for it supplies our material aristocrat."

"You must remember, though, that ideas of superiority and inferiority
are very tricky," commented Imogene.  "And they persist for centuries.
To the Naples beggar, even to-day, the Germans are ’barbarians.’  And
whenever I encounter the two I never can decide which _is_ the
aristocrat, the traveller or the beggar."

"I read your speech at the New England dinner last night," said Imogene,
turning to Nelson, "and I saw all the nice things that were said about
it this morning."

"If credit were due anywhere it would be to the occasion," returned
Nelson.  "There is always something now in such gatherings to suggest
the discomforting reflection that our best native stock is dying out."

Dolly looked distressed.  "Oh, dear, are those unfortunate people still
dying out?  I’ve been worrying over their situation for years.  Can’t
any one do anything?"

"Don’t let it disturb you, Mrs. De Castro," said Bryson.

"But I am afraid it is getting on my nerves."

"Nothing dies out that doesn’t deserve to die out," continued Bryson.
"As to the people Nelson speaks of, I incline to think they ought to die
out.  Their whole philosophy of life has been bad.  Nature ought to be
ashamed, of course, to pass them by and turn to inferior races for her
recruits.  But since all races are inferior to them, what can she do but
take refuge with the despised foreigner?  The men and women that take
life on the light-housekeeping plan may do so if they will--for one
generation.  What may safely be counted on is that nature will find its
workers in the human hive even if it has to turn to the savage tribes."

"But the poor savages, doctor--they also are on the verge of extinction,
are they not?" demanded Dolly.

"Then nature will provide its workers from one unfailing source--from
those we have always with us, the poor and the despised.  And it can be
depended on with equal certainty to cast the satisfied, cultivated, and
intellectual drones into outer darkness."

"My dear, but the doctor is savage, isn’t he?" Lottie Nelson made the
appeal indolently to Imogene.  "We shall soon be asking, doctor," she
concluded languidly, "which tribe you belong to."

"He would answer, the medical tribe," suggested Fritzie.

"Speaking of savages," interposed Arthur De Castro, "Charles and I were
making a portage once on the York River.  On the trail I met two superb
little Canadian lads--straight, swarthy, handsome fellows.  They
couldn’t speak English. ’You must be French,’ I suggested, addressing
the elder by way of compliment in that tongue. Imagine my surprise when
he answered with perfect composure, ’Non, monsieur.  Nous sommes des
sauvages!’"

"For my part," said Imogene, "I am always glad to hear Doctor Bryson
defend families and motherhood.  I don’t care how savage he gets."

"I defend motherhood because to me it is the highest state of womanhood.
Merely as an instinct, its mysteries are a never-ending marvel."

Lottie Nelson looked patiently bored.  "Oh, tell us about them, do,
doctor."

"I will tell you of one," returned Bryson undismayed.  "Take the young
mother that brings her first child into the world; from the day of its
birth until the day of that mother’s death, her child is never wholly
out of her thought.  The child may die, may be forgotten by every one
else on earth, may be to all other conscious existence in this world as
a thing that never was.  But in its mother’s heart it never dies.  I
call that a mystery."

The doctor’s glance as he finished fell on Alice’s face.  He was sorry
at once that he had spoken at all.  Her eyes were fixed on him with a
look of acute pain.

Alice hardly knew Doctor Bryson, but what he saw in the sadness of her
face he quite understood.  And though they had never met, other than in
a formal way, he never afterward felt that they were wholly strangers.



                              CHAPTER XXIV


"By the way, Nelson," said De Castro, "what is there in this story in
the afternoon papers about Doane and Dora Morgan?"

"It is substantially true, I fancy.  They have eloped."

"From whom could they possibly be eloping?" asked Lottie.

"Why, you must know Doane has a wife and two little girls," exclaimed
Dolly indignantly.

"I supposed his wife was divorced," returned Lottie helplessly.  "Why
wasn’t she?"

"Perhaps," suggested Fritzie, "there wasn’t time."

"I don’t care; Dora’s life has been a very unhappy one," persisted
Lottie, "and frankly I am sorry for her."

"Even though she has run away with another woman’s husband," said
Imogene.

"Don’t _you_ think she deserves a great deal of sympathy, Robert?" asked
Lottie, appealing to Kimberly.

"I can’t say that I do," he answered slowly. "What moves one in any
consideration of a situation of that kind is, in the first place, the
standards of those that fall into it.  Who, for instance, can scrape up
any interest in the affairs of the abandoned?  Or of those who look on
irregular relations pretty much as they do on regular?  People to enlist
sympathy in their troubles must respect themselves."

The conversation drifted and Alice, within range of both tables, caught
snatches of the talk at each.  She presently heard Lottie Nelson
speaking petulantly, and as if repeating a question to Kimberly.  "What
_do_ men most like, Robert?"  Alice could not see Kimberly’s face, but
she understood its expression so well that she could imagine the brows
either luminously raised if Kimberly were interested, or patiently flat
if he were not.

"You ought to know," she heard Kimberly answer.  "You have been very
successful in pleasing them."

"And failed where I have most wanted to succeed. Oh, no.  I am asking
you.  What _do_ they like?"

The answer halted.  "I can’t tell you.  To me, of course, few men seem
worth pleasing."

"What should you do to please a man, if you were a woman?"

"Nonsense."

"I’m asking purely out of curiosity," persisted Lottie.  "I have failed.
I realize it and I shall never try again.  But at the end--I’d like to
know."

"You probably would not agree with me," answered Kimberly after a
silence, "most women would not.  Perhaps it would fail with most
men--but as I say, most men wouldn’t interest me, anyway.  If I had it
to try, I would appeal to a man’s highest nature."

"What is his highest nature?"

"Whatever his best instincts are,"

"And then?"

"That’s all."

"Oh, nonsense!"

"No, it isn’t nonsense.  Only I am not good at analyzing.  If I once
caught a man in that way I should know I had him fast forever.  There is
absolutely no use in flinging your mere temptations at him.  Keep those
quietly in the background.  He will go after them fast enough when you
have made sure of him on the higher plane. If you are compelled to
display your temptations at the start, the case is hopeless.  You have
surrendered your advantage of the high appeal. Trust him to think about
the other side of it, Lottie. You can’t suggest to him anything he
doesn’t know, and perhaps--I’m not sure--he prefers to turn to that side
when he thinks you are not looking. The difficulty is," he concluded,
speaking slowly, "even if you get him from the lower side, he won’t stay
hooked.  You know how a salmon strikes at a fly?  All human experience
shows that a man hooked from the side of his lower instincts, will
sooner or later shake the bait."

"It must be something even to have him on the hook for a while, Robert."

"But you don’t agree with me."

"No."

"No doubt, I’m wrong.  And it isn’t, I suppose, of much consequence
whether the men stay caught or not.  I look at it, probably, with a
business instinct.  When I do anything, I want it to stay done forever.
When I make a deal or fasten a point I want it to stay fastened for all
time.  That is my nature.  Now, that may not be a woman’s nature.  You
shouldn’t have asked me, don’t you see, because we ’begin’ differently."

"I fancy that’s it, Robert.  We ’begin’ differently."

"Try another seer--there is De Castro.  Here is Mrs. MacBirney.  Mrs.
MacBirney," Kimberly moved so he could command Alice’s attention, "Mrs.
Nelson is trying to find out what a man likes in a woman.  I haven’t
been able to tell her----"

"It isn’t that at all," smiled Lottie, wearily. "Mr. Kimberly can tell.
He won’t."

Kimberly appealed to Alice.  "It is a great mistake not to trust your
oracle when he is doing his best--don’t you think so, Mrs. MacBirney?"

"I suppose an oracle is consulted on his reputation--and it is on his
reputation that his clients should rely," suggested Alice.

"Anyway," declared Lottie, rising, "I am going to try another."

Kimberly turned his chair as she walked away so that he could speak to
Alice.  "Giving advice is not my forte.  Whenever I attempt it I
disappoint somebody; and this time I had a difficult subject.  Mrs.
Nelson wants to know what men like in women.  A much more interesting
subject would be, what women like in men.  I should suppose, in my
blundering way, that sincerity would come before everything else, Mrs.
MacBirney. What do you think?"

"Sincerity ought to be of value."

"But there is a great deal else, you imply."

"Necessarily, I should think."

"As, for instance?"

"Unselfishness among other things," said Alice.

He objected frankly to her suggestion.  "I don’t know about
unselfishness.  I have my doubts about unselfishness.  Are you sure?"

"Most ideals include it, I believe."

"I don’t know that I have any ideals--abstract ideals, that is.  Though
I once took quite an interest in the Catholic Church."

"An academic interest."

"No, no; a real and concrete interest.  I admire it greatly.  I tried
once to look into its claims. What in part discouraged me was the
unpleasant things Catholics themselves told me about their church."

"They must have been bad Catholics."

"I don’t know enough about them to discriminate between the good and the
bad.  What, by the way," he asked bluntly, "are you--a good Catholic or
a bad one?"

She was taken for an instant aback; then she regarded him with an
expression he did not often see in her eyes.  "I am a bad one, I am
ashamed to say."

"Then these I speak of must have been good ones," he remarked at once,
"because they were not in the least like you."

If he thought he had perplexed her he was soon undeceived.  "There are
varying degrees even of badness," she returned steadily.  "I hope I
shall never fall low enough to speak slightingly of my faith."

"I don’t understand," he persisted, musing, "why you should fall at all.
Now, if I were a Catholic I should be a good one."

"Suppose you become one."

He disregarded her irony.  "I may sometime. To be perfectly frank, what
I found most lacking when I looked into the question was some sufficient
inducement.  Of what use? I asked myself.  If by following Christianity
and its precepts a man could make himself anything more than he
is--prolong his years, or recall his youth. If he could achieve the
Titanic, raise himself to the power of a demigod!"  Kimberly’s eyes
shone wide at the thought, then they closed to a contrasting torpor.
"Will religion do this for any one?  I think not.  But fancy what that
would mean; never to grow old, never to fall ill, never to long for
without possessing!"  A disdainful pride was manifest in every word of
his utterance, but he spoke with the easy-mannered good-nature that was
his characteristic.

"A man that follows the dreams of religion," he resumed but with
lessening assurance, for Alice maintained a silence almost contemptuous
and he began to feel it, "is he not subject to the same failures, the
same pains, the same misfortunes that we are subject to?  Even as the
rest of us, he must grow old and fail and die."

"Some men, of course," she suggested with scant patience, "should have a
different dispensation from the average mortal."

Kimberly squirmed dissentingly.  "I don’t like that phrase, ’the average
mortal.’  It has a villainously hackneyed sound, don’t you think?  No,
for my part I should be willing to let everybody in on the greater, the
splendid dispensation."

"You might be sorry if you did."

"You mean, there are men that should die--some that should die early?"

"There are many reasons why it might not work."

He stopped.  "That is true--it might not work, if universally applied.
It would do better restricted to a few of us.  But no matter; since we
can’t have it at all, we must do the best we can. And the way to beat
the game as it must be played in this world at present," he continued
with contained energy, "is to fight for what we want and defend it when
won, against all comers. Won’t you wish me success in such an effort,
Alice?"

"I have asked you not to call me Alice."

"But wish me the success, won’t you?  It’s awfully up-hill work fighting
alone.  Two together can do so much better.  With two the power is
raised almost to the infinite.  Together we could be gods--or at least
make the gods envy us."

She looked at him an instant without a word, and rising, walked to an
anteroom whither MacBirney, Lottie Nelson, De Castro, and Fritzie had
gone to play at cards.



                              CHAPTER XXV


When the season was fairly open the Kimberlys made Alice the recipient
of every attention.  A solidarity had always seemed, in an unusual
degree, to animate the family.  They were happy in their common
interests and their efforts united happily now to make Alice a favored
one in their activities.

In everything proposed by Dolly or Imogene, Alice was consulted.  When
functions were arranged, guests lists were submitted to her.
Entertainment was decided upon after Alice had been called in.  The
result was a gay season even for Second Lake.  And Dolly said it was the
influx of Alice’s new blood into the attenuated strain at the lake that
accounted for the successful summer.  Alice herself grew light-hearted.
In social affairs the battalions inclined to her side. Even Lottie
Nelson could not stand out and was fain to make such peace as she could.

In all of this Alice found consolation for the neglect of her husband.
She had begun to realize that this neglect was not so much a slight,
personal to her, as a subordination of everything to the passion for
money-getting.  It is impossible to remain always angry and Alice’s
anger subsided in the end into indifference as to what her husband said
or did.

She had, moreover--if it were a stimulus--the continual stimulus of
Kimberly’s attitude. Without insincerity or indifference he accommodated
his interest in her to satisfactory restraint.  This gave Alice the
pleasure of realizing that her firmness had in nowise estranged him and
that without being turbulent he was always very fond of her. She knew he
could look to many other women for whatever he chose to ask of favor,
yet apparently he looked to her alone for his pleasure in womankind; and
in a hundred delicate ways he allowed her to feel this.

A handsome young Harvard man came to her at the lake seeking an opening
in the refineries. His people were former Colorado acquaintances whom
Alice was extremely desirous of obliging. She entertained her visitor
and tried vainly to interest her husband in him.  MacBirney promised but
did nothing, and one day Dolly calling at Cedar Lodge found Alice
writing a note to the college boy, still waiting in town on MacBirney’s
empty promises, telling him of the failure of her efforts and advising
him not to wait longer.

"But why worry?" asked Dolly, when Alice told her.  "Speak to Robert
about it.  He will place him within twenty-four hours."

"I can’t very well ask a favor of that kind from Mr. Kimberly, Dolly."

"What nonsense!  Why not?"

Alice could not say precisely why.  "After my own husband hasn’t found a
way to place him!" she exclaimed.

Dolly did not hesitate.  "I will attend to it. Give me his address.
Football, did you say? Very good."

Within a week the young man wrote Alice--from the Orange River
refineries, where he was, he picturesquely said, knee-deep in
sugar--that he had actually been before the sugar magnate, Robert
Kimberly himself, adding with the impetuous spelling of a football man,
that the interview had been so gracious and lasted so long he had grown
nervous about the time Mr. Kimberly was giving him.

Kimberly never referred to the matter nor did Alice ever mention it to
him.  It was merely pleasant to think of.  And in such evidences as the
frequent letters from her protégé she read her influence over the man
who, even the chronicle of the day could have told her, had she needed
the confirmation, extorted the interest of the world in which he moved;
and over whom, apparently, no woman other than herself could claim
influence.

She came tacitly to accept this position toward Kimberly.  Its nature
did not compromise her conscience and it seemed in this way possible
both to have and not have.  She grew to lean upon the thought of him as
one of the consoling supports in her whirling life--the life in which
reflection never reached conclusion, action never looked forward to
result, and denial had neither time nor place.

The pursuit of pleasure, sweetened by that philanthropy and the
munificent almsgiving which was so esteemed by those about her, made up
her life.  Alice concluded that those of her circle severely criticised
by many who did not know them, did much good.  Their failings,
naturally, would not condemn them with critics who, like herself, came
in contact with them at their best.

Some time after the placing of the young college man, Alice, running in
one morning on Dolly found her in tears.  She had never before seen
Dolly even worried and was at once all solicitude. For one of the very
few times in her life, it appeared, Dolly had clashed with her brother
Robert. Nor could Alice get clearly from her what the difference had
been about.  All that was evident to Alice was that Dolly was very much
grieved and mortified over something Kimberly had said or done, or
refused to say or do, concerning a distinguished actress who upon
finishing an American tour was to be entertained by Dolly.

Alice in the afternoon was over at Imogene’s. Robert Kimberly was there
with his brother. Afterward he joined Imogene and Alice under the elms
and asked them to drive.  While Imogene went in to make ready Alice
poured a cup of tea for Kimberly.  "I suppose you know you have made
Dolly feel very bad," she said with a color of reproach.

Kimberly responded with the family prudence. "Have I?"  Alice handed him
the tea and he asked another question.  "What, pray, do you know about
it?"

"Nothing at all except that she is hurt, and that I am sorry."

"She didn’t tell you what the difference was?"

"Except that it concerned her coming guest."

"I offered Dolly my yacht for her week.  She wanted me to go with the
party.  Because I declined, she became greatly incensed."

"She thought, naturally, you ought to have obliged her."

"I pleaded I could not spare the time.  She has the Nelsons and enough
others, anyway."

"Her answer, of course, is that your time is your own."

"But the fact is, her guest made the request. Dolly without consulting
me promised I would go, and now that I will not she is angry."

"I should think a week at sea would be a diversion for you."

"To tag around a week in heavy seas with wraps after a person of
distinction?  And pace the deck with her on damp nights?"

"That is unamiable.  She is a very great actress."

Kimberly continued to object.  "Suppose she should be seasick.  I once
went out with her and she professed to be ill every morning.  I had to
sit in her cabin--it was a stuffy yacht of De Castro’s--and hold her
hand."

"But you are so patient.  You would not mind that."

"Oh, no; I am not in the least patient.  The Kimberlys are described as
patient when they are merely persistent.  If I am even amiable,
amiability is something quite other than patience. Patience is almost
mysterious to me.  Francis is the only patient man I ever have known."

"In this case you are not even amiable.  We all have to do things we
don’t want to do, to oblige others.  And Dolly ought to be obliged."

"Very well.  If you will go, I will.  What do you say?"

"You need not drag me in.  I shall have guests of my own next week.  If
Dolly made a mistake about your inclination in the affair it would be
only generous to help her out."

"Very well, I will go."

"Now you are amiable."

"They can put in at Bar Point and I will join them for the last two
days.  I will urge McEntee, the captain, to see that they are all sick,
if possible, before I come aboard.  Then they will not need very much
entertaining."

"How malicious!"

"Not a bit.  Dolly is a good sailor.  Her guest cares nothing for me.
It is only to have an American at her heels."

"They say that no one can resist her charm. You may not escape it this
time."

A fortnight passed before any news came to Alice from the yachting
party.  Then Fritzie came home from Nelsons’ one day with an interesting
account of the trip.  Until the story was all told, Alice felt gratified
at having smoothed over Dolly’s difficulty.

"They were gone longer than they expected," said Fritzie.  "Robert was
having such a good time.  Lottie Nelson tells me Dolly’s guest made the
greatest sort of a hit with Robert.  He didn’t like her at first.  Then
she sang a song that attracted him, and he kept her singing that song
all the time.  He sat in a big chair near the piano and wouldn’t move.
The funny thing was, she was awfully bored the way he acted.  By the
way, you must not miss the golf to-morrow.  Everybody will be out."

Alice hardly heard the last words.  She was thinking about Kimberly’s
entertaining the celebrity.  Every other incident of the voyage had been
lost upon her.  When she found herself alone her disappointment and
resentment were keen.  Some unaccountable dread annoyed her.  He was
then, she reflected, like all other men, filled with mere professions of
devotion.

Something more disturbed her.  The incident revealed to her that he had
grown to be more in her thoughts than she realized.  Racks and
thumb-screws could not have dragged from her the admission that she was
interested in him.  It was enough that he professed to be devoted to her
and had been led away by the first nod of another woman.



                              CHAPTER XXVI


The golf course and the casino were crowded next day when Alice arrived.
Yet among the throng of men and women, her interest lay only in the
meeting of one, as in turn his interest in all the summer company lay
only in seeking Alice.  She had hardly joined Imogene and the lake
coterie when Kimberly appeared.

The players had driven off and the favorites, of whom there were many,
could already be trailed across the hills by their following.  When the
"out" score had been posted, De Castro suggested that the party go down
to the tenth hole to follow the leaders in.

A sea-breeze tempered the sunshine and the long, low lines of the
club-house were gayly decorated.  Pavilions, spread here and there among
the trees, gave the landscape a festival air.

On the course, the bright coloring of groups of men and women moving
across the fields made a spectacle changing every moment in brilliancy.

Kimberly greeted Alice with a gracious expectancy.  He was met with a
lack of response nothing less than chilling.  Surprised, though fairly
seasoned to rebuffs, and accepting the unexpected merely as a
difficulty, Kimberly set out to be entertaining.

His resource in this regard was not scanty but to-day Alice succeeded in
taxing his reserves.  In his half-mile tramp with her in the "gallery,"
punctuated by occasional halts, he managed but once to separate her from
the others.  The sun annoyed him.  Alice was aware of his lifting his
straw hat frequently to press his handkerchief to beads of perspiration
that gathered on his swarthy forehead, but she extended no sympathy.

In spite of his discomfort, however, his eyes flashed with their
accustomed spirit and his dogged perseverance in the face of her
coldness began to plead for itself.  When the moving "gallery" had at
last left them for an instant behind, Kimberly dropped on a bench under
the friendly shade of a thorn apple tree.

"Sit down a moment, do," he begged, "until I get a breath."

"Do you find it warm?"

"Not at all," he responded with negligible irony. "It is in some
respects uncommonly chilly."  He spoke without the slightest petulance.
"For Heaven’s sake, tell me what I have done!"

"I don’t know what you mean."

"I mean, you are not kind in your manner toward me.  I left you--I hoped
you would remember--to do a favor for you----"

"For me?"  Her tone was not in the least reassuring.

"At least, I conceived it to be for you," he replied.

"That is a mistake."

"Very good.  Let us call it mistake number one.  I spent five days with
Dolly and her guests----"

"Guests," repeated Alice, lingering slightly on the word, as she poked
the turf slowly with her sunshade, "or guest?"

"Guest!" he echoed, "Ah!"  He paused. "Who has put me wrong in so simple
a matter? What I did was no more than to be agreeable to Dolly’s guests.
I spent much time with the guest of honor at Dolly’s repeated requests.
She happened to sing a song that pleased me very much, for one
particular reason; it was your lovely little Italian air; I am not
ashamed to say it brought back pleasant moments.  Since she could do
nothing else that was so pleasing," he continued, "I kept her singing
the song.  She became bored and naturally ceased to be good-natured.
Then, Dolly asked me to run around by Nantucket, which we could have
done in two days.  Not to be churlish, I consented.  Then the coal gave
out, which took another day."

"What a mishap!  Well, I am glad to hear the trip went pleasantly."

"If you are, something has gone wrong with you----"

"Nothing whatever, I can assure you."

"You are offended with me."

"I assure you I am not."

"I assure you, you are."  He took the sunshade from her hand.  "You
remember the fable about the man that tried to oblige everybody?  He
wasn’t a refiner--he was a mere miller.  At the start I really did my
best for three days to entertain Dolly’s lovely vampire and at the end
of that time she made a face at me--and wound up by telling Dolly my
head was full of another woman. Then--to be quite shamefully frank--I
had to dodge Lottie Nelson’s apologies for her unpleasant temper on an
evening that you remember; altogether my lot was not a happy one.  My
head was full of another woman.  You remember you said nobody could
resist her charm?  I thought of it.  What is charm?  I often asked
myself.  I saw nothing of charm in that charming woman.  Who can define
it?  But penetration! She could read you like a printed book.  We talked
one night of American women.  I dared to say they were the loveliest in
the world.  She grew incensed.  ’They know absolutely nothing!’ she
exclaimed.  ’That is why we like them’ I answered.  ’They are innocent;
you are as corrupt as I am.’  Then she would call me a hypocrite."  He
stopped suddenly and Alice felt his eyes keenly upon her.  "Is it
possible you do not believe what I am saying?"

"Innocent women believe whatever they are told."

"I don’t deserve sarcasm.  I am telling the simple truth.  For once I am
wholly at fault, Alice.  I don’t know what the matter is.  _What_ has
happened?"

"Nothing has happened; only to-day I seem especially stupid."

"Are you as frank with me as I am with you?"

She made no answer.  He drew back as if momentarily discouraged.  "If
you no longer believe me--what can I do?"

"It isn’t at all that I do not believe you--what difference should it
make whether or no I believe you?  Suppose I were frank enough to admit
that something I heard of you had disappointed me a little.  What credit
should I have for commenting on what in no way concerns me?"

"Anything heard to my discredit should be carefully received.  Believe
the best of me as long as you can.  It will never be necessary, Alice,
for any one to tell you I am unworthy; when that day comes you will know
it first from me.  And if I ever am unworthy, it will not be because I
willed to be--only because through my baseness I never could know what
it means to be worthy of a woman far above me."

She reached out her hand for her sunshade but he refused to give it
back.  She tried to rise; he laid his hand on her arm.  "A moment!  It
was about me, was it?" he continued.  "Did you receive it cautiously?
Put me in your position. How do you think one would fare who came to me
with anything to your discredit?  Think of it, Alice--how do you think
one would fare--look at me."

She looked up only for an instant and as if in protest.  But in spite of
herself something in her own eyes of confidence in him, some tribute to
his honesty, stood revealed, and inspired him with a new courage.

"You say what you hear of me does not concern you.  Anything you hear of
me does concern you vitally."  His intensity frightened her, and
thinking to escape him, she still sat motionless.

"Everything I do, important or trivial, has its relation to you.  Do you
believe me?  Alice, you must believe me.  You do believe me.  How can
you say that anything you hear of me does not concern you?  It concerns
you above every living person.  It concerns your happiness----"

"Such wildness--such extravagance!" she exclaimed trying to control her
fear.

"I tell you I am neither wild nor extravagant. Our happiness, our very
lives are bound up together.  It isn’t that I say to you, you are
mine--I am yours."

The furious beating of her heart would not be stilled.  "How can you say
such things!"

"I say them because I can’t escape your influence in my life.  I only
want to come up to where you are--not to drag you down to where I am--to
where I have been condemned to be from the cradle. If what you hear of
me conflicts with what I say to you, believe nothing of what you hear."
His words fell like blows.  "If I could show you my very heart I could
not be more open.  It is you who are everything to me--you alone."

Breathless and rigid she looked away.  Hardly breathing himself,
Kimberly watched her.  Her lip quivered.  "Oh, my heart!" he murmured.
But in the words she heard an incredible tenderness.  It moved her where
intensity had failed. It stilled the final pangs of revolt at his words.
She drifted for an instant in a dream.  New and trembling thoughts woke
in a reluctant dawn and glowed in her heart like faint, far streamers of
a new day.

"Oh, my heart!"  The words came again, as if out of another world.  She
felt her hand taken by a strong, warm hand.  "Do you tremble for me?  Is
my touch so heavy?  How shall I ever safeguard the flower of your
delicacy to my clumsiness?"

She neither breathed nor moved.  "No matter. You will teach me how,
Alice.  Learning how you can be happiest, I shall be happiest.  I feel
beggared when I lay my plea before you.  What are all my words unless
you breathe life upon them?  A few things--not many--I have succeeded
in.  And I succeeded," the energy of success echoed in his confession,
"only because I let nothing of effort stand between me and the goal.
You have never been happy.  Let me try to succeed with your happiness."

A silence followed, golden as the moment. Neither felt burdened.  About
them was quiet and the stillness seemed to flow from the hush of their
thoughts.

"It is easy for you to speak," she faltered at last, "too easy for me to
listen.  I am unhappy--so are many women; many would be strong enough
never to listen to what you have said.  I myself should be if I were
what you picture me. And that is where all the trouble lies.  You
mistake me; you picture to yourself an Alice that doesn’t exist.  If I
could return your interest I should disappoint you.  I am not
depreciating myself to extort compliments--you would supply them easily,
I know.  Only--I know myself better than you know me."

"What you say," he responded, "might have point if I were a boy--it
would have keen point. While to me your beauty--do not shake your head
despairingly--your beauty is the delicacy of girlhood, you yourself are
a woman.  You have known life, and sorrow.  I cannot lead you as a fairy
once led you from girlhood into womanhood--would that I could have done
it!  He should be a very tender guide who does that for a woman.

"But I can lead you, I think, Alice, to everything in this world that
consoles a woman for what she gives to it.  Do not say I do not know
you--that is saying I do not know myself, men, women, life--it is saying
I know nothing.  Modest as I am," he smiled lightly, "I am not yet ready
to confess to that.  I do know; as men that have lived and tasted and
turned away and longed and waited, know--so I know you.  And I knew from
the moment I saw you that all my happiness in this world must come from
you."

"Oh, I am ashamed to hear you say that.  I am ashamed to hear you say
anything.  What base creature am I, that I have invited you to speak!"
She turned and looked quickly at him, but with fear and resolve in her
eyes.  "This you must know, here and now, that I can never be, not if
you kill me, another Dora Morgan."

He met her look with simple frankness.  "The world is filled with Dora
Morgans.  If you could be, Alice, how could I say to you what I never
have said, or thought of saying, to any Dora Morgan?"

"To be a creature would kill me.  Do not be deceived--I know."

"Or do worse than kill you.  No, you are like me.  There is no half-way
for you and me. Everything--or nothing!"

She rose to her feet.  He saw that she supported herself for a moment
with one hand still on the bench rail.  He took her other hand within
his own and drew her arm through his arm.

It was the close of the day.  The sun, setting, touched the hills with
evening, and below the distant Towers great copses of oak lay like
islands on the mirrored landscape.  They walked from the bench slowly
together.  "Just a little help for the start," he murmured playfully as
he kept her at his side.  "The path is a new one.  I shall make it very
easy for your feet."



                             CHAPTER XXVII


"I hope you rested well after your excitement," said Kimberly to Alice,
laughing reassuringly as he asked.  It was the day following their
parting at the golf grounds.  He had driven over to Cedar Lodge and
found Alice in the garden waiting for Dolly.  The two crossed the
terrace to a sheltered corner of the garden overlooking the bay where
they could be alone.  After Alice had seated herself Kimberly repeated
his question.

She regarded him long and thoughtfully as she answered, and with a
sadness that was unexpected: "I did not rest at all.  I do not even yet
understand--perhaps I never shall--why I let you talk to me in that
wild, wild way.  But if I did not rest last night, I thought.  I am to
blame--I know that--as much as you are.  Don’t tell me. I am as much to
blame as you are.  But this cannot go on."

His eyes were upon her hands as they lay across flowers in her lap.  He
took a spray from her while she spoke and bent his look upon it.  She
was all in white and he loved to see her in white. In it she fulfilled
to him a dream of womanhood. "I ought to ask you what you mean when you
say and think these fearful things," she went on, waiting for him to
lift his eyes.  "I ought to ask you; but you do not care what it means,
at least as far as you are concerned.  And you never ask yourself what
it means as far as I am concerned."

He replied with no hesitation.  "I began asking myself that question
almost the first time I ever saw you.  I have asked myself nothing else
ever since.  It means for both of us exactly the same thing; for you,
everything you can ask that I can give you; for me, everything I can
give you that you can ask."

"If there were no gulf between us--but there is. And even if what you
say were true, you can see how impossible it would be for me to say
those words back to you."

He looked at the spray.  "Quite true; you cannot.  But I shall ask so
little--less of you than of any woman in the world.  And you will give
only what you can, and when you can.  And you alone are to be the judge
of what you can give and when, until our difficulties are worked out.

"I shall only show you now that I _can_ be patient.  I never have
been--I have confessed to that.  Now I am going to the test.  Meantime,
you don’t realize, Alice, quite, how young you are, do you?  Nor how
much in earnest I am.  Let us turn to that for a while."

From a shrub at his side he plucked sprigs of rosemary and crushed them
with the spray. "Even love never begins but once.  So, for every hour
that passes, a memory; for every hour that tarries, a happiness; for
every hour that comes, a hope.  Do you remember?"

"I read it on your sun-dial."

"Every one may read it there.  Where I want you to read it is in my
heart."

"I wonder whether it is most what you say, or the way in which you say
it, that gets people into trouble?"

"On the contrary; my life has been spent in getting people out of
trouble, and in waiting to say things to you."

"You are improving your opportunity in that respect.  And you are losing
a still more delightful opportunity, for you don’t know how much relief
you can give me by leaving most of them unsaid."

"It is impossible, of course, to embrace all of our opportunities--often
impossible to embrace the cause of them."

"Don’t pick me up in that way, please."

He held his hands over hers and dropped the crushed rosemary on them.
"Would that I could in any way.  Since I cannot, let me annoy you."

Dolly appeared at a distance, and they walked down the terrace to meet
her.  She kissed Alice. "What makes you look so girlish to-day?  And
what is all this color around your eyes?  Never wear anything but white.
I never should myself," sighed Dolly.  "You know Alice and I are off for
the seashore," she added, turning to her brother.

"So I hear."

"Come along."

"Who is going?"

"Everybody, I suppose.  They all know about the trip."

"Where do you dine?"

"On the shore near the light-house.  Arthur is bringing some English
friends out from town; we are going to dance."

That night by the sea Kimberly and Alice danced together.  He held her
like a child, and his strength, which for a moment startled her, was a
new charm when she glided across the long, half-lighted floor within his
arm.  Her grace responded perfectly to the ease with which he led, and
they, stopped only when both were breathing fast, to stroll out on the
dark pier and drink in the refreshment of the night wind from the ocean.

They remained out of doors a long time, talking sometimes, laughing
sometimes, walking sometimes, sometimes sitting down for a moment or
kneeling upon the stone parapet benches to listen to the surf pounding
below them.  When they went in, he begged her again to dance.  Not
answering in words she only lifted her arm with a smile.  Making their
way among those about them they glided, he in long, undulating steps,
she retreating in swift, answering rhythm, touching the floor as lightly
as if she trod on air.

"This plume in your hat," he said as they moved on and on to the low,
sensuous strains of the music, "it nods so lightly.  Where do you carry
your wings?"

The very effort of speaking was exhilarating. "It is you," she answered,
"who are supplying the wings."

The gayety of the others drew them more closely together.  Little
confidences of thought and feeling--in themselves nothing, in their
unforbidden exchange everything--mutual confessions of early impressions
each of the other, compliments more eagerly ventured and ignored now
rather than resented.  Surprise read in each other’s eyes, dissent not
ungracious and denial that only laughingly denied--all went to feed a
secret happiness growing fearfully by leaps and bounds into ties that
never could be broken.

The dance with its exhilaration, the plunging of her pulse and her
quick, deep breathing, shone in Alice’s cheeks and in her eyes.  The two
laughed at everything; everything colored their happiness because
everything was colored by it.

The party drove home after a very late supper, Alice heavily wrapped and
beside Dolly in Kimberly’s car.  Entertainments for the English party
followed for a week and were wound up by Kimberly with an elaborate
evening for them at The Towers.  For the first time in years the big
house was dressed _en fête_ and the illuminations made a picture that
could be seen as far as the village.

Twenty-four sat at The Towers round table that night.  Alice herself
helped Dolly to pair the guests and philosophically assigned her husband
to Lottie Nelson.  Kimberly complimented her upon her arrangement.

"Why not?" she asked simply, though not without a certain bitterness
with which she always spoke of her husband.  "People with tastes in
common seem to drift together whether you pair them or not."

They were standing in an arbor and Kimberly was plucking grapes for her.

"He is less than nothing to me," she continued, "as you too well
know--or I should not be here now eating your grapes."

"Your grapes, Alice.  Everything here is yours. I haven’t spoken much
about our difficulties--’our’ difficulties!  The sweetness of the one
word blots out the annoyance of the other.  But you must know I shall
never rest until you are installed here with all due splendor as
mistress, not alone of the grapes, but of all you survey, for this is to
be wholly and simply yours.  And if I dare ask you now and here,
Alice--you whose every breath is more to me than the thought of all
other women--I want you to be my wife."

Her lips tightened.  "And I am the wife of another man--it is horrible."

He heard the tremor in her tone.  "Look at me."

"I cannot look at you."

"When you are free----"

"Free!"  Her voice rising in despair, fell again into despair.  "I shall
never be free."

"You shall, and that speedily, Alice!"  She could imagine the blood
surging into Kimberly’s neck and face as he spoke.  "I am growing
fearful that I cannot longer stand the thought of his being under the
same roof with you."

"He cannot even speak to me except before Annie."

Kimberly paused.  "I do not like it.  I want it changed."

"How can I change it?"

"We shall find a way, and that very soon, to arrange your divorce from
him."

"It is the one word, the one thought that crushes me."  She turned
toward him as if with a hard and quick resolve.  "You know I am a
Catholic, and you know I am ashamed to say it."

"Ashamed?"

"I have disgraced my faith."

"Nonsense, you are an ornament to any faith."

"Do not say that!"  She spoke with despairing vehemence.  "You don’t
realize how grotesque it sounds.  If what you say were true I should not
be here."

He drew himself up.  There was a resentful note in his tone.  "I did not
suppose myself such a moral leper that it would be unsafe for any one to
talk to me.  Other Catholics--and good ones--talk to me, and apparently
without contamination."

"It is only that _I_ have no right to.  Now you are going to be angry
with me."

He saw her eyes quiver.  "God forbid!  I misunderstood.  And you are
sensitive, dearest."

"I am sensitive," she said reluctantly.  "More than ever, perhaps, since
I have ceased practising my religion."

"But why have you ceased?"

Her words came unwillingly.  "I could not help it."

"Why could you not help it?"

"You ask terribly hard questions."

"You must have wanted to give it up."

"I did not want to.  I was forced to."

"Who could force you?"

He saw what an effort it cost her to answer. The words were dragged from
her.  "I could not live with my husband and practise it."

"So much the more reason for quitting him, isn’t it?"

"Oh, I want to.  I want to be free.  If I only could."

"Alice, you speak like one in despair.  There is nothing to be so
stirred about.  You want to be free, I want you to be, you shall be.
Don’t get excited over the matter of a divorce.  Your eyes are like
saucers at the thought.  Why?"

"Only because for me it is the final disgrace--not to be separated from
him--but to marry again with him alive!  It means the last step for me.
And the public scandal!  What will they say of me, who knew me at home?"

"Alice, this is the wildest supersensitiveness. The whole world lives in
divorced marriages. Public scandal?  No one will ever hear of your
divorce.  The courts that grant your plea will attend to suppressing
everything."

"Not everything!"

"Why not?  We abase them every day to so many worse things that their
delicate gorges will not rise at a little favor like that."

She looked at him gravely.  "What does the world say of you for doing
such things?"

"I never ask.  You know, of course, I never pay any attention to what
the world says of anything I do.  Why should I?  It would be difficult
for the world to despise me as much as I despise it.  You don’t
understand the world.  All you need is my strength.  I felt that from
the very first--that if I could give you my strength the combination
would be perfect.  That is why I am so helplessly in love with you--my
strength must be yours.  I want to put you on a throne.  Then I stand
by, see?--and guard your majesty with a great club.  And I can do it."

They laughed together, for he spoke guardedly, as to being heard of
others, but with ominous energy.  "I believe you could," murmured Alice.

"Don’t worry over your religion.  I will make you practise it.  I will
make a devotee of you."

"Robert!  Robert!"

He stooped for her hand and in spite of a little struggle would not
release it until he had kissed it.  "Do you know it is the first time my
name has ever passed your lips?" he murmured.

She was silent and he went on with another thought.  "Alice, I don’t
believe you are as bad a Catholic as you think.  I’ll tell you why.  I
have known Catholic women, and men, too, that have given up their
religion.  Understand, I know nothing about your religion, but I do know
something about men and women.  And when they begin elaborate
explanations they think they deceive me.  In matter of fact, they
deceive only themselves.  When they begin to talk about progress,
freedom of thought, decay of dogmas, individual liberty and all that
twaddle, and assume a distinctly high, intellectual attitude, even
though I don’t know what they have given up, I know what they are
assuming; I get their measure instantly.  I’ve sometimes thought that
when God calls us up to speak on judgment day He will say in the most
amiable manner: ’Just tell your own story in your own way.’  And that
our own stories, told in our own way, will be all the data He will need
to go ahead on.  Indeed, He would not always need divine prescience to
see through them; in most cases mere human insight would be enough.
Just listen to the ordinary story of the ordinary man and notice how out
of his own mouth he condemns himself.  I see that sort of posturing
every day in weak-kneed men and women who want to enlist large sums of
money to float magnificent schemes.  Now you are honest with yourself
and honest with me, and I see in this a vital difference."

They walked back through the garden and encountered Brother Francis who
was taking the air.  Kimberly stopped him.  Nelson and Imogene joined
the group.  "Ah, Francis!" exclaimed Imogene, "have they caught you
saying your beads?"

"Not this time, Mrs. Kimberly."

"Come now, confess.  What were you doing?"

Brother Francis demurred and protested but there was no escape.  He
pointed to The Towers. "I came out to see the beautiful illumination.
It is very beautiful, is it not?"

"But that isn’t all, for when we came along you were looking at the
sky."

"Ah, the night is so clear--the stars are so strong to-night----"

"Go on."

"I was thinking of Italy."



                             CHAPTER XXVIII


"I never can catch Brother Francis, thinking of anything but Italy,"
remarked Kimberly.

"Who can blame him?" exclaimed Imogene.

"Or the hereafter," added Kimberly.

Nelson grunted.  "I’m afraid he doesn’t find much sympathy here on that
subject," he observed, looking from one to another.

"Don’t be mistaken, Nelson," said Kimberly, "_I_ think about it, and
Francis will tell you so.  I have already made tentative arrangements
with him on that score.  Francis is to play Lazarus to my Dives.  When I
am in hell I am to have my cup of cold water from him.  And remember,
Francis, if you love me, the conditions.  Don’t forget the conditions;
they are the essence of the contract.  I am to have the water one drop
at a time.  Don’t forget that; one drop at a time. Eternity is a long,
long while."

Francis, ill at ease, took a pinch of snuff to compose himself.

"Your rôle doesn’t seem altogether to your liking, Francis," suggested
Imogene.

"His rôle!  Why, it’s paradise itself compared to mine," urged Kimberly.

Brother Francis drew his handkerchief and wiped his nose very simply.
"I pray, Robert," he said, "that you may never be in hell."

"But keep me in your eye, Francis.  Don’t relax your efforts.  A sugar
man is liable to stumble and fall in while your back is turned."

"We must get started for the lake," announced Imogene.  "Brother
Francis, we are all going down to see The Towers from the water.  Will
you come?"

Francis excused himself, and his companions joined the other guests who
were gathering at the water.  Oarsmen were waiting with barges and fires
burned from the pillars of the esplanade. As the boats left the shore,
music came across the water.  Alice, with Kimberly, caught a glimpse of
her husband in a passing boat.  "Having a good time?" he cried.  For
answer she waved her hand.

"Are you really having a good time?" Kimberly asked.  "I mean, do you
care at all for this kind of thing?"

"Of course, I care for it.  Who could help it? It is lovely.  Where are
we going?"

"Down the lake a mile or two; then the boats will return for the
fireworks."

"You don’t seem very lively yourself to-night. Are you bored?"

"No; only wondering whether you will go driving with me to-morrow."

"I said I would not."

"I hoped, of course, you might reconsider."

He did not again press the subject of the drive, but when they were
walking up the hill after the rockets and showers of gold falling down
the dark sky, she told him he might come for her the next day.  "I don’t
know how it is," she murmured, "but you always have your own way.  You
wind me right around your finger."

He laughed.  "If I do, it is only because I don’t try to."

"I realize it; that is what puzzles me."

"The real secret is, not that I wind you around my finger, but that you
don’t want to hurt my feelings.  I find something to wonder at, too.
When I am with you--even when you are anywhere near me, I am totally
different.  Alone, I am capable of withdrawing wholly within myself. I
am self-absorbed and concentrated.  With you I am never wholly within
myself.  I am, seemingly, partly in your consciousness."

Alice shook her head.  "It is true," he persisted. "It is one of the
consequences of love; to be drawn out of one’s self.  I have it."  He
turned to her, questioningly, "Can you understand it?"

"I think so."

"But do you ever feel it?"

"Sometimes."

"Never, of course, for me?"

"Sometimes."



                              CHAPTER XXIX


"This is a courtship without any spring," said Dolly one night to her
husband.  They were discussing her brother and Alice.  "At first it was
all winter, now it is all summer."

She thought they showed themselves together too much in public, and
their careless intimacy was, in fact, outwardly unrestrained.

Not that Dolly was censorious.  Her philosophy found refuge in fatalism.
And since what is to be must be--especially where the Kimberlys were
concerned--why worry over the complications? Seemliness, however, Dolly
held, was to be regarded, and concerning this she felt she ought to be
consulted.  The way to be consulted she had long ago learned was to find
fault.

But if she herself reproved Kimberly and Alice, Dolly allowed no one
else to make their affairs a subject of comment.  Lottie Nelson, who
could never be wholly suppressed, was silenced when occasion offered.
One afternoon at The Hickories, Alice’s name being mentioned, Lottie
asked whether Robert was still chasing her.

"Chasing her?" echoed Dolly contemptuously and ringing the changes on
the objectionable word, "Of course; why shouldn’t he chase her?  Who
else is there to chase?  He loves the excitement of the hunt; and who
else around here is there to hunt?  The other women hunt him.  No man
wants anything that comes tumbling after him. What we want is what we
can’t get; or at least what we’re not sure of getting."

Kimberly and Alice if not quite unconscious of comment were at least
oblivious of it.  They motored a great deal, always at their own will,
and they accounted to no one for their excursions.

"They are just a pair of bad children," said Imogene to Dolly.  "And
they act like children."

One of their diversions in their rambling drives was to stop children
and talk with them or ask questions of them.  One day near Sunbury they
encountered a puny, skeleton-faced boy, a highway acquaintance, wheeling
himself along in an invalid chair.

They had never hitherto talked with this boy and they now stopped their
car and backed up. Alice usually asked the questions.  "I thought you
lived away at the other end of the village, laddie?"

"Yes’m, I do."

"You haven’t wheeled yourself all this way?"

"Yes’m."

"What’s the matter with you that you can’t walk, Tommie?" demanded
Kimberly.

"My back is broken."

Alice made a sympathetic exclamation.  "My dear little fellow--I’m very
sorry for you!"

The boy smiled.  "Oh, don’t be sorry for me."

"Not sorry for you?"

"I have a pretty good time; it’s my mother--I’m sorry for her."

"Ah, indeed, your mother!" echoed Alice, struck by his words.  "I am
sorry for both of you then. And how did you break your back?"

"In our yard--climbing, ma’am."

"Poor devil, he’s not the first one that has broken his back climbing,"
muttered Kimberly, taking a note from his waistcoat.  "Give him
something, Alice."

"As much as this?" cried Alice under her breath, looking at the note and
at Kimberly.

"Why not?  It’s of no possible use to us, and it will be a nine-months’
wonder in that little household."

Alice folded the note up and stretched her white-gloved hand toward the
boy.  "Take this home to your mother."

"Thank you.  I can make little baskets," he added shyly.

"Can you?" echoed Alice, pleased.  "Would you make one for me?"

"I will bring one up to your house if you want me to."

"That would be too far!  And you don’t know where I live."

The boy looked at the green and black car as if he could not be
mistaken.  "Up at The Towers, ma’am."

Brice, who took more than a mild interest in the situation, grinned
inwardly.

Kimberly and Alice laughed together.  "Very well; bring it to The
Towers," directed Kimberly, "I’ll see that she gets it."

"Yes, sir."

"And see here; don’t lose that note, Tommie. By Heavens, he handles
money more carelessly than I do.  No matter, wait till his mother sees
it."

While they were talking to the boy, Dolly drove up in her car and
stopped a moment to chat and scold.  They laughed at her and she drove
away as if they were hopeless.

"Your sister is the dearest woman," remarked Alice as Dolly’s car
disappeared.  "I am so fond of her, I believe I am growing like her."

"Don’t grow too like her."

"Why not?"

"Dolly has too much heart.  It gets her into trouble."

"She says you have too much, yourself."

"I’ve paid for it, too; I’ve been in trouble."

"And I shall be, if you don’t take me home pretty soon."

"Don’t let us go home as long as we can go anywhere else," pleaded
Kimberly.  "When we go home we are separated."

He often attempted to talk with Alice of her husband.  "Does he
persecute you in any way?" demanded Kimberly, trying vainly to get to
details.

Alice’s answer was always the same.  "Not now."

"But he used to?" Kimberly would persist.

"Don’t ask me about that."

"If he ever should lay a hand on you, Alice----"

"Pray, pray," she cried, "don’t look like that. And don’t get excited;
he is not going to lay a hand on me."

They did not reach Cedar Lodge until sundown and when they drove up to
the house MacBirney, out from town, was seated on the big porch alone.
They called a greeting to him as they slowed up and he answered in kind.
Kimberly, without any embarrassment, got out to assist Alice from the
car.  The courtesy of his manner toward her seemed emphasized in
MacBirney’s presence.

On this night, it was, perhaps, the picture of Kimberly standing at the
door of his own car giving his hand to MacBirney’s wife to alight, that
angered the husband more than anything that had gone before.  Kimberly’s
consideration for Alice was so pronounced as completely to ignore
MacBirney himself.

The small talk between the two when Alice alighted, the laughing
exchanges, the amiable familiarity, all seemed to leave no place in the
situation for MacBirney, and were undoubtedly meant so to be understood.
Kimberly good-humoredly proffered his attentions to that end and Alice
could now accept them with the utmost composure.

Fritzie had already come over to Cedar Lodge from Imogene’s for dinner
and Kimberly returned afterward from The Towers, talking till late in
the evening with MacBirney on business affairs.  He then drove Fritzie
back to The Cliffs.

MacBirney, smarting with the stings of jealousy, found no outlet for his
feeling until he was left alone with his wife.  It was after eleven
o’clock when Alice, reading in her sitting-room, heard her husband try
the door connecting from his apartments.  Finding it bolted, as usual,
MacBirney walked out on the loggia and came into her room through the
east door which she had left open for the sea-breeze.  He was smoking
and he sat down on a divan.  Alice laid her book on her knee.

It was a moment before he spoke.  "You seem to be making Kimberly a
pretty intimate member of the family," he began.

"Oh, do you think so?  Charles or Robert?"

"You know very well who I mean."

"If you mean Robert, he is a familiar in every family circle around the
lake.  It is his way, isn’t it?  I don’t suppose he is more intimate
here than at Lottie’s, is he?  Or at Dolly’s or Imogene’s?"

"They are his sisters," returned MacBirney, curtly.

"Lottie isn’t.  And I thought you wanted me rather to cultivate Robert,
didn’t you, Walter?" asked Alice indifferently.

He was annoyed to be reminded of the fact but made no reply.

"Robert is a delightfully interesting man," continued Alice recklessly,
"don’t you think so?"

MacBirney returned to the quarrel from another quarter.  "Do you know
how much money you have spent here at Cedar Lodge in the last four
months?"

Alice maintained her composure.  "I haven’t an idea."

He paused.  "I will tell you how much, since you’re so very superior to
the subject.  Just twice as much as we spent the first five years we
were married."

"Quite a difference, isn’t it?"

"It is--quite a difference.  And the difference is reckless
extravagance.  You seem to have lost your head."

"Suppose it is reckless extravagance!  What do you mean to say--that I
spent all the money? This establishment is of your choosing, isn’t it?
And have you spent nothing?  How do you expect to move in a circle of
people such as live around this lake without reckless extravagance?"

"By using a little common-sense in your expenditures."

For some moments they wrangled over various details of the ménage.
Alice at length cut the purposeless recrimination short.  "You spoke of
the first five years we were married.  You know I spent literally
nothing the first five years of our married life.  You continually said
you were trying ’to build up.’  That was your cry from morning till
night, and like a dutiful wife, I wore my own old clothes for the first
two years.  Then the next three years I wore made-over hats and hunted
up ready-made suits to enable you to ’build up.’"

"Yes," he muttered, "and we were a good deal happier then than we are
now."

She made an impatient gesture.  "Do speak for yourself, Walter.  You
were happier, no doubt.  I can’t remember that you ever gave me any
chance to be happy."

"Too bad about you.  You look like a poor, unhappy thing--half-fed and
half-clothed."

"Now that you have ’built up,’" continued Alice, "and brought me into a
circle not in the least of my choosing, and instructed me again and
again to ’keep our end up,’ you complain of ’reckless extravagance.’"

"Well, for a woman that I took with a travelling suit from a bankrupt
father, and put at the head of this establishment, you certainly can
hold your ’end up,’" laughed MacBirney harshly.

"Just a moment," returned Alice, with angry eyes.  "You need not taunt
me about my father. When you were measuring every day the sugar and
coffee we were to use during the first five years of our married life,
you should have foreseen you couldn’t move as a millionaire among
multimillionaires without spending a lot of money."

MacBirney turned white.  "Thank you for reminding me," he retorted, with
shining teeth, "of the thrift of which you have since had the
advantages."

"Oh dear, no, Walter.  The advantages of that kind of thrift are purely
imaginary.  The least spark of loving-kindness during those years would
have been more to me than all the petty meannesses necessary to build up
a fortune.  But it is too late to discuss all this."

MacBirney could hardly believe his ears.  He rose hastily and threw
himself into another chair. "You’ve changed your tune mightily since
’the first five years of our married life,’" he said.

Alice tossed her head.

"But I want you to understand, _I_ haven’t."

"I believe that!"

"And I’ve brought you to time before now, with all of your high airs,
and I’ll do it again."

"Oh, no; not again."

"I’ll teach you who is master under this roof."

"How like the sweet first five years that sounds!"

He threw his cigar angrily away.  "I know exactly what’s the matter with
you.  You have run around with this lordly Kimberly till he has turned
your head.  Now you are going to stop it, now and here!"

"Am I?"

"You are."

"Hadn’t you better tell Mr. Kimberly that?"

"I will tell _you_, you are getting yourself talked about, and it is
going to stop.  Everybody is talking about you."

Alice threw back her head.  "So?  Where did you hear that?"

"Lambert told me yesterday."

"I hope you were manly enough to defend your wife.  Where did you see
Lambert?"

"I saw him in town."

"I shouldn’t listen to silly gossip from Lambert, and I shouldn’t see
Lambert again."

"How long have you been adviser as to whom I had better or better not
see?" asked MacBirney contemptuously.

"You will find me a good adviser on some points in your affairs, and
that is one."

"If you value your advice highly, you should part with it sparingly."

"I know what _you_ value highly; and if Robert Kimberly finds out you
are consorting with Lambert it will end your usefulness in _his_
combinations very suddenly."

The thrust, severe in any event, was made keener by the fact that it
frightened him into rage. "Since you come from a family that has made
such a brilliant financial showing--" he began.

"Oh, I know," she returned wearily, "but you had better take care."  He
looked at his wife astounded.  "You have insulted me enough," she added
calmly, "about the troubles of my father. The ’first five years’ are at
an end.  I have spoiled you, Walter, by taking your abuse so long
without striking back and I won’t do it any more."

"What do you mean?" he cried, springing from his chair.  "Do you think
you are to keep your doors bolted against me for six months at a time
and then browbeat and abuse me when I come into your room to talk to
you?  Who paid for these clothes you wear?" he demanded, pointing in a
fury.

"I try never to think of that, Walter," replied Alice, rising to her
feet but controlling herself more than she could have believed possible.
"I try never to think of the price I have paid for anything I have; if I
did, I should go mad and strip these rags from my shoulders."

She stood her ground with flashing eyes.  "_I, not you_," she cried,
"have paid for what I have and the clothes I wear.  _I_ paid for
them--not you--with my youth and health and hopes and happiness.  I paid
for them with the life of my little girl; with all that a wretched woman
can sacrifice to a brute.  Paid for them!  God help me! How haven’t I
paid for them?"

She stopped for sheer breath, but before he could find words she spoke
again.  "Now, I am done with you forever.  I am out of your power
forever.  Thank God, some one will protect me from your brutality for
the rest of my life----"

MacBirney clutched the back of a chair.  "So you have picked up a lover,
have you?  This sounds very edifying from my dear, dutiful, religious
wife."  Hardly able to form the words between his trembling lips, he
smiled horribly.

She turned on him like a tigress.  "No," she panted, "no!  I am no
longer your religious wife. It wasn’t enough that I should go shabby and
hungry to make you rich.  Because I still had something left in my
miserable life to help me bear your cruelty and meanness you must take
that away too.  What harm did my religion do you that you should
ridicule it and sneer at it and threaten and abuse me for it?  You
grudged the few hours I took from your household drudgery to get to
church.  You promised before you married me that our children should be
baptized in my faith, and then refused baptism to my dying baby."

Her words rained on him in a torrent.  "You robbed me of my religion.
You made me live in continual sin.  When I pleaded for children, you
swore you would have no children.  When I told you I was a mother you
cursed and villified me."

"Stop!" he screamed, running at her with an oath.

The hatred and suffering of years were compressed into her moment of
revolt.  They flamed in her cheeks and burned in her eyes as she cried
out her choking words.  "Stop me if you dare!" she sobbed, watching him
clench his fist.  "If you raise your hand I will disgrace you publicly,
now, to-night!"

He struck her.  She disdained even to protect herself and crying loudly
for Annie fell backward. Her head caught the edge of the table from
which she had risen.

Annie ran from the bedroom at the sound of her mistress’s voice.  But
when she opened the boudoir door, Alice was lying alone and unconscious
on the floor.



                              CHAPTER XXX


She revived only after long and anxious ministrations on Annie’s part.
But with the return of her senses the blood surged again in her veins in
defiance of her husband.  Her first thought was one of passionate hatred
of him, and the throbbing pain in her head from her fall against the
table served to sharpen her resentment.

MacBirney, possessed of enough craft to slip away from an unpleasant
situation, returned early to town, only hoping the affair would blow
over, and still somewhat dazed by the amazing rebellion of an enduring
wife.

He realized that a storm might break now at any moment over his head.
Always heavily committed in the speculative markets, he well understood
that if Kimberly should be roused to vengeance by any word from Alice
the consequences to his own fortune might be appalling.

It chanced that Kimberly was away the following day and Alice had
twenty-four hours to let her wrath cool.  Two days of reflection were
enough. The sense of her shame and her degradation as a woman at the
hands of a man so base as her husband were alone enough to suggest
moderation in speaking to Kimberly of the quarrel.

But more than this was to be considered.  What would Kimberly do if she
told him everything? A scandalous encounter, even a more serious issue
between the two men was too much to think of.  She felt that Kimberly
was capable in anger of doing anything immoderate and it was better by
far, her calmer judgment told her, to bury her humiliation in her own
heart than to risk something worse.  She was now, she well knew, with
this secret, a terror to her cowardly husband, just as he had been,
through a nightmare of wretched years, her own terror.

For the first time, on the afternoon of the second day, she found
herself awaiting with burning impatience some word from The Towers.  She
had resolved what to say to Kimberly and wanted now to say it quickly.
When the telephone bell rang promptly at four o’clock her heart dilated
with happiness; she knew the call came from one who never would fail
her.  Alice answered the bell herself and her tones were never so
maddening in Kimberly’s ears as when she told him, not only that he
might come, but that she was weary with waiting.  She stood at the
window when his car drove up and tripped rapidly downstairs. When she
greeted him he bent down to kiss her hand.

She did not resist his eagerness.  She even drew a deep breath as she
returned his look, and having made ready for him with a woman’s lovely
cunning, enjoyed its reward.

"I’ve been crazy to see you," he cried.  "It is two days, Alice.  How
can I tell you how lovely you are?"

Her eyes, cast down, were lifted to his when she made her confession.
"Do you really like this rig?  It is the first toilet I ever made with
the thought of nobody but you in my head.  So I told Annie" she
murmured, letting her hand rest on his coat sleeve, "to be sure I was
exactly right."

He caught her hands.

"Let’s go into the garden," she said as he held them.  "I have something
to say to you."

They sat down together.  "Something has happened since I saw you," she
began.

"Has the break come?" demanded Kimberly instantly.

"We had a very painful scene night before last," said Alice.  "The break
has come.  He has gone to town--he went yesterday morning.  I have asked
myself many questions since then.  My father and mother are dead.  I
have no home to go to, and I will not live even under the same roof with
him any longer.  I feel so strange.  I feel turned out, though there was
nothing of that in what he said--indeed, I am afraid I did most of the
talking."

"I wish to God I had heard you!"

"It is better not.  Every heart knoweth its own bitterness----"

"Let me help bear yours."

"I feel homeless, I feel so alone, so ashamed--I don’t know what I don’t
feel.  You will never know what humiliation, what pain I have been
through for two days.  Robert--" her voice faltered for an instant.
Then she spoke on, "I never can tell you of the sickness and shame I
have long felt of even pretending to live with some one I could not
respect."

"Close the book of its recollection.  I came into your life for just
such a moment, to be everything you need.  I am home, husband, and
protection--everything."

"If I could only make my senses believe my ears."  She paused.  "It
seems as if I am in a dream and shall wake with a horror."

"No, this is a dream come true.  I foresaw this time and I have provided
for it.  Only delicacy has kept me from asking you before about your
very personal affairs and your private purse, Alice.  Understand at
once," he took her hands vehemently, "everything I have is yours without
the least reserve.  Do you understand?  Money is the last thing to make
any one happy, I well know that, but in addition to the word of my heart
to your heart--the transfers to you, Alice, have long been made and at
this moment you have, merely waiting for you to draw upon them, more
funds than you could make use of in ten lifetimes. Everything is
provided for.  There are tears in your eyes.  Sit still for a moment and
let me speak."

"No, I must speak.  I am in a horrible position. I cannot at such a
juncture receive anything from you.  But there are matters to be faced.
Shall I stay here?  If I do, he must go.  Shall I go?  And if I do go,
where?"

"Let me answer with a suggestion.  My family are all devoted to us.
Dolly and Imogene are good counsellors.  I will lay the matter before
them. After a family council we shall know just what to do and how.  I
have my own idea; we shall see what the others say.  Dolly, you know,
has taken you under her wing from the first, and Dolly you will find is
a powerful protector.  If I tell you what I did to-day you will gasp
with astonishment. I cabled for a whole new set of photographs of the
Maggiore villa.  I want our first year together, Alice, to be in Italy."



                              CHAPTER XXXI


Accompanied by Imogene, Dolly hastened over to Cedar Lodge in the
morning. Alice met them in the hall.  "My dear," cried Dolly, folding
her impulsively in her arms, "you are charged with fate!"

Then she drew back, laid her hands on Alice’s shoulders and, bringing
her face tenderly forward, kissed her.  "How can I blame Robert for
falling in love with you?  And yet!"  She turned to Imogene.  "If we had
been told that first night that _this_ was the woman of our destiny!
How do you bear your new honors, dearie?  What! Tears!  Nonsense, my
child.  You are freighted with the Kimberly hopes now.  You are one of
us.  Tears are at an end.  I, too, cried when I first knew of it.  Come,
sit down.  Imogene will tell you everything."  And having announced this
much, Dolly proceeded with the telling herself.

"When you first knew of it?" echoed Alice. "Pray, when was that?"

"Oh, long, long ago--before ever you did, my dear.  But no matter now.
We talked last night, Arthur, Charles, Imogene, and Robert and I until
midnight.  And this is what we said: ’The dignity of your personal
position is, before everything else, to be rigidly maintained.’  Mr.
MacBirney will be required to do this.  He will be counselled on this
point--made to understand that the obligation to maintain the dignity of
his wife’s position is primary.  Robert, of course, objected to this.
He was for allowing no one but himself to do anything----"

"I hope you clearly understand, Dolly, I should allow Mr. Kimberly to do
nothing whatever at this juncture," interposed Alice quickly.

"I understand perfectly, dear.  But there are others of us, you know,
friends of your own dear mother, remember.  Only, aside from all of
that, we considered that the situation admitted of but one arrangement.
Charles will tell Nelson exactly what MacBirney is to do, and Nelson
will see that it is done.  The proper bankers will advise you of your
credits from your husband, for the present--and they are to be very
generous ones, my dear," added Dolly significantly.  "So all that is
taken care of and Mr. MacBirney will further be counselled not to come
near Cedar Lodge or Second Lake until further orders.  Do you
understand?"

"Why, yes, Dolly," assented Alice perplexed, "but Mr. MacBirney’s
acquiescence in all this is very necessary it seems to me.  And he may
agree to none of it."

"My dear, it isn’t at all a question of _his_ agreeing.  He will do as
he is advised to do.  Do you imagine he can afford breaking with the
Kimberlys?  A man that pursues money, dear heart, is no longer a free
agent.  His interests confront him at every turn.  Fledgling
millionaires are in no way new to us.  Mercy, they pass in and out of
our lives every day!  A millionaire, dear, is nothing but a million
meannesses and they all do exactly as they are told.  Really, I am sorry
for some of them.  Of all unfortunates they are nowadays the worst.
They are simply ground to powder between the multi-millionaires and the
laboring classes.  In this case, happily, it is only a matter of making
one do what he ought to do, so give it no thought."

Dolly proved a good prophet concerning MacBirney’s course in the
circumstances.  MacBirney, desirous of playing at once to the lake
public in the affair of his domestic difficulties, made unexceptional
allowances for his wife’s maintenance.  Yet at every dollar that came to
her from his abundance she felt humiliated.  She knew now why she had
endured so much at his hands for so long; it was because she had
realized her utter dependence on him and that her dreams of self-support
were likely, if she had ever acted on them, to end in very bitter
realities.

At the first sign of hot weather, Charles and Imogene put to sea with a
party for a coasting cruise; Dolly sailed for the continent to bring
Grace back with her.  Robert Kimberly unwilling to leave for any
extended period would not let Alice desert him; accordingly, Fritzie was
sent for and came over to stay with her.  The lake country made a
delightful roaming place and Alice was shown by Kimberly’s confidences
how close she was to him.

He confided to her the journal of the day, whatever it might be.
Nothing was held back.  His successes, failures, and worries all came to
her at night.  He often asked her for advice upon his affairs and her
wonder grew as the inwardness of the monetary world in which he moved
stood revealed to her.  She spoke of it one day.

"To be sought after as you are--to have so many men running out here to
find you; to be consulted by so many----"

Kimberly interrupted her.  "Do you know why they seek me?  Because I
make money for them, Alice.  They would run after anybody that could
make them money.  But they are wolves and if I lost for them they would
try to tear me to pieces.  No man is so alone as the man the public
follows for a day even while it hates or fears him.  And the man the
bankers like is the man that can make money for them; their friendship
is as cold and thin as autumn ice."

"But even then, to have the ability for making money and doing
magnificent things; to be able to succeed where so many men fail--it
seems so wonderful to me."

"Don’t cherish any illusions about it.  Everyone that makes money must
be guilty of a thousand cold-blooded things, a thousand sharp turns, a
thousand cruelties; it’s a game of cruelties. Fortunately, I’m not a
brilliant success in that line, anyway; people merely think I am.  The
ideal money-maker always is and always will be a man without a temper,
without a heart, and with an infusion, in our day, of hypocrisy.  He
takes refuge in hypocrisy because the public hates him and he is forced
to do it to keep from hating himself.  When public opinion gets too
strong for him he plays to it.  When it isn’t too strong, he plays to
himself.  I can’t do that; I have too much vanity to play to anybody.
And the recollection of a single defeat rankles above the memory of a
thousand victories.  This is all wrong--far, far from the ideal of money
getting; in fact, I’m not a professional in the game at all--merely an
amateur.  A very successful man should never be trusted anyway."

"Why not?"

"Because success comes first with him.  It comes before friendship and
he will sacrifice you to success without a pang."

She looked at him with laughing interest. "What is it?" he asked
changing his tone.

"I was thinking of how I am impressed sometimes by the most unexpected
things.  You could never imagine what most put me in awe of you before I
met you."

"There must have been a severe revulsion of feeling when you did meet
me," suggested Kimberly.

"We were going up the river in your yacht and Mr. McCrea was showing us
the refineries.  All that I then knew of you was what I had read in
newspapers about calculating and cold-blooded trust magnates.  Mr.
McCrea was pointing out the different plants as we went along."

"The river is very pretty at the Narrows."

"First, we passed the independent houses. They kept getting bigger and
bigger until I couldn’t imagine anything to overshadow them and I began
to get frightened and wonder what your refineries would be like.  Then,
just as we turned at the island, Mr. McCrea pointed out a perfectly huge
cluster of buildings and said those were the Kimberly plants.  Really,
they took my breath away.  And in the midst of them rose that enormous
oblong chimney-stack.  A soft, lazy column of smoke hovered over
it--such as hovers over Vesuvius."  She smiled at the remembrance. "But
the repose and size of that chimney seemed to me like the strength of
the pyramids.  When we steamed nearer I could read, near the top, the
great terra-cotta plaque: KIMBERLYS AND COMPANY.  Then I thought: Oh,
what a tremendous personage Mr. Robert Kimberly must be!"

"The chimney is yours."

"Oh, no, keep it, pray--but it really did put me wondering just what you
were like."

"It must have been an inspiration that made me build that chimney.  The
directors thought I would embarrass the company before we got the
foundations in.  I didn’t know then whom I was building it for, but I
know now; and if you got a single thrill out of it the expenditure is
justified. And I think mention of the thrill should go into the
directors’ minutes on the page where they objected to the bill--we will
see about that.  But you never expected at that moment to own the
chimney, did you?  You shall.  I will have the trustees release it from
the general mortgage and convey it to you."

"And speaking of Vesuvius, you never dreamed of a volcano lying in wait
for you beneath the lazy smoke of that chimney, did you?  And that
before very long you would not alone own the chimney but would be
carrying the volcano around in your vanity bag?"



                             CHAPTER XXXII


One afternoon in the early autumn Kimberly came to Cedar Lodge a little
later than usual and asked Alice, as he often did, to walk to the lake.
He started down the path with something more than his ordinary decision
and inclined for a time to reticence.  They stopped at a bench near an
elm overlooking the water.  "You have been in town to-day," said Alice.

"Yes; a conference this morning on the market. Something extraordinary
happened."

"In the market?"

"Market conditions are bad enough, but this was something personal."

"Tell me about it."

"MacBirney was present at the conference. After the meeting he came to
the head of the table where I was talking with McCrea--and sat down.
When McCrea joined the others in the lunchroom, MacBirney said he wanted
to speak to me a moment.  I told him to go ahead.

"He began at once about his differences with you.  His talk puzzled me.
I was on the defensive, naturally.  But as far as I could see, he
designed no attack on me; and of you he could utter nothing but
praise--it was rather trying to listen to.  I could not fathom his
purpose in bringing the matter before me in this singular way, but he
ended with an appeal----"

"An appeal!"

"He asked me to bring a message to you.  I told him I would deliver any
message entrusted to me.  He wants you to know that he is very sorry for
what has taken place.  He admits that he has been in the wrong----"

"It is too late!"  Alice in her emotion rose to her feet.

"And he asks you, through me," Kimberly spoke under a strain he did not
wholly conceal, "if he may come back and let the past bury itself."

"It is too late."

"He said," Kimberly rose and faced Alice, "there had been differences
about religion----"

"Ask him," she returned evenly, "whether I ever sought to interfere with
his religious views or practices."

"These, he promises, shall not come between you again."

"Wretched man!  His words are not the slightest guarantee of his
conduct."

Kimberly took his hat from his head and wiped his forehead.  "This was
the message, Alice; is he to come back to you?"

"Whatever becomes of me, I never will live again with him."

"That is irrevocable?"

"Yes."

"I have kept my word--that you should have his message as straight as I
could carry it."

"I believe you have.  He certainly could not, whatever his intentions,
have paid you a higher tribute than to entrust you with one for me."

"Then he does not and never can stand between you and me, Alice?"

"He never can."

The expression of his eyes would have frightened her at a moment less
intense.  Slightly paler than she had been a year earlier and showing in
her manner rather than in her face only indefinable traces of the
trouble she had been through, Alice brought each day to Kimberly an
attraction that renewed itself unfailingly.

He looked now upon her eyes--he was always asking whether they were blue
or gray--and upon her brown hair, as it framed her white forehead.  He
looked with tender fondness on the delicate cheeks that made not alone a
setting for her frank eyes but for him added to the appeal of her lips.
He sat down again, catching her hand to bring her close.

"Come," he urged, relaxing from his intensity, "sit down.  By Heaven, I
have suffered to-day! But who wouldn’t suffer for you?  Who but for the
love of woman would bear the cares and burdens of this world?"

Alice smiled oddly.  "We have to bear them, you know, for the love of
man."  She sat down on the bench beside him.  "Tell me, how have you
suffered to-day?"

"Do you want to know?"

"Of course, I want to know.  Don’t you always want to know how I have
suffered?  Though I used to think," she added, as if moved by unpleasant
recollections, "that nobody cares when a woman suffers."

"The man that loves her cares.  It is one of love’s attributes.  It
makes a woman’s sorrow and pain his, just as her joy and happiness are
his. Pleasure and pain are twins, anyway, and you cannot separate them.
Alice!"  He looked suddenly at her.  "You love me, don’t you?"

Her face crimsoned, for she realized he was bent on making her answer.

"Let us talk about something else, Robert."

He repeated his question.

"Don’t make me put it into words yet, Robert," she said at last.  "You
have so long known the answer--and know that I still speak as his wife.
Do I love you?"  She covered her face with her hands.

"Alice!"  His appeal drew her eyes back to his.  They looked speechless
at each other.  The moment was too much.  Instinctively she sprang in
fear to her feet, but only to find herself caught within his arm and to
feel his burning lips on her lips.  She fought his embrace in
half-delirious reproach.  Then her eyes submitted to his pleading and
their lips met with her soft, plunging pulse beating swiftly upon his
heart.

It was only for an instant.  She pushed him away.  "I have answered you.
You must spare me now or I shall sink with shame."

"But you are mine," he persisted, "all mine."

She led him up the path toward the house.

"Sometimes I am afraid I shall swallow you up, as the sea swallows up
the ship, in a storm of passion."

"Oh no, you will not."

"Why not?"

"Because I am helpless.  Was there more to your story?"

"You know then I haven’t told it all."

"Tell me the rest."

"When he had finished, I told him I, too, had something to say.  ’I
shall deliver your message to Alice,’ I said.  ’But it is only fair to
say to you I mean to make her my wife if she will accept me, and her
choice will lie between you and me, MacBirney.’

"You should have seen his amazement.  Then he collected himself for a
stab--and I tried not to let him see that it went deep.  ’Whatever the
outcome,’ he said, ’she will never marry you.’

"’You must recollect you have not been in her confidence for some time,’
I retorted.  He seemed in no way disconcerted and ended by disconcerting
me.  ’Remember what I tell you, Mr. Kimberly,’ he repeated, ’you will
find me a good prophet. She is a Catholic and will never marry you or
any other man while I live.’

"’You may be right,’ I replied.  ’But if Alice marries me she will never
live to regret it for one moment on account of her religion.  I have no
religion myself, except her.  She is my religion, she alone and her
happiness.  You seem to invoke her religion against me.  What right have
you to do this?  Have you helped her in its practice?  Have you kept the
promises you made when you married a Catholic wife?  Or have you made
her life a hell on earth because she tried to practise her religion, as
you promised she should be free to do?  Is she a better Catholic because
she believed in you, or a worse because to live in peace with you she
was forced to abandon the practice of her religion?  These are questions
for you to think over, MacBirney.  I will give her your message----’

"’Give her my message,’ he sneered.  ’You would be likely to!’

"’Stop!’ I said.  ’My word, MacBirney, is good.  Friend and foe of mine
will tell you that. Even my enemies accept my word.  But if I could
bring myself to deceive those that trust me I would choose enemies to
prey upon before I chose friends. I could deceive my own partners.  I
could play false to my own brother--all this I could do and more.  But
if I could practise deceits a thousand times viler than these, I could
not, so help me God, lie to a trusting girl that I had asked to be my
wife and the mother of my children!  Whatever else of baseness I stooped
to, _that_ word should be forever good!’

"Alice, I struck the table a blow that made the inkstands jump.  My
eye-glasses went with a crash.  Nelson and McCrea came running in;
MacBirney turned white.  He tried to stretch his lips in a smile; it was
ghastly.  Everybody was looking at me.  I got up without a word to any
one and left the room."

Alice caught his sleeve.  "Robert, I am proud of you!  How much better
you struck than you knew!  Oh," she cried, "how could I help loving
you?"

"Do you love me?"

"I would give my life for you."

"Don’t give it for me; keep it for me.  You will marry me; won’t you?
What did the cur mean by saying what he did, Alice?"

"He meant to taunt me; to remind me of how long I tried to live in some
measure up to the religion that he used every means to drive me
from--and did drive me from."

"We will restore all that."

"He meant I must come to you without its blessing."

He looked suddenly and keenly at her.  "Should you be happier with its
blessing?"

"Ah, Robert."

"But should you?"

She gazed away.  "It is a happiness I have lost."

"Then you shall have it again."

"I will trust to God for _some_ escape from my difficulties.  What else
can I do?  My husband!" she exclaimed bitterly--"generous man to remind
me of religion!"

Kimberly spoke with a quick resolve.  "I am going to look into this
matter of where you stand as a wife.  I am going to know why you can’t
have a chance to live your life with me.  If I give you back what he has
robbed you of, our happiness will be doubled."



                             CHAPTER XXXIII


When Kimberly reached The Towers it was dusk.  Brother Francis was
walking on the terrace.  Kimberly joined him.  "How is Uncle John
to-day, Francis?"

"Always the same.  It is an astonishing vitality in your family,
Robert."

"They need all they have."

"But all that need strength do not have it. How is your market to-day?"

"Bad," muttered Kimberly absently.

"I am sorry that you are worried."

"More than the market worries me, Francis. But the market is getting
worse and worse.  We met again to-day and reduced prices.  The outsiders
are cutting.  We retaliate to protect our customers.  When _we_ cut, the
cut is universal. Their warfare is guerilla.  They are here to-day,
there to-morrow."

"I have thought of what you said last night. Cutting you say, has
failed.  Try something else. To-morrow advance all of your standard
brands one quarter.  Be bold; cut with your own outside refineries.  The
profit from the one hand pays the cost of the war on the other."

Kimberly stopped.  "How childish of you to waste your life in a shabby
black gown, nursing people!  Absolutely childish!  If you will go into
the sugar business, I tell you again, Francis, I will pay you twenty
thousand dollars a year for ten years and set aside as much more
preferred stock for you."

"Nonsense, Robert."

"You are a merchant.  You could make a name for yourself.  The world
would respect you. There are enough to do the nursing, and too few
brains in the sugar business.  To-night I will give the orders and the
advance shall be made when the market opens."

"But your directors?"

"We will direct the directors.  They have had two months to figure how
to fight the scalpers; you show me in twenty-four hours.  Some monks
were in to see me this morning; I was too busy. They told my secretary
they were building an asylum for old men.  I told him to say, not a
dollar for old men; to come to me when they were building an asylum for
old women.  What do you say to my offer, Francis?"

"What do I say?  Ah, Robert, although you are a very big paymaster, I am
working for a Paymaster much bigger than you.  What do I say? I say to
you, give up this sugar business and come with me to the nursing.  I
will give you rags in place of riches, fasting in place of fine dinners,
toil in place of repose, but my Paymaster--He will reward you there for
all you endure here."

"Always deferred dividends.  Besides, I should make a poor nurse,
Francis, and you would make a good sugar man.  And you seem to imply I
am a bad man in the sugar business.  I am not; I am a very excellent
man, but you don’t seem to know it."

"I hope so; I hope you are.  God has given you splendid talents--he has
given you more reason, more heart, more judgment than he has given to
these men around you.  If you waste, you are in danger of the greater
punishment."

"But I don’t waste.  I build up.  What can a man do in this world
without power?  He must have the sinews of empire to make himself felt.
Francis, what would Cromwell, Frederick, Napoleon have been without
power?"

"Ah!  These are your heroes; they are not mine.  I give glory to no man
that overcomes by force, violence, and worse--fraud, broken faith,
misrule, falsehood.  What is more detestable than the triumph of mere
brains?  Your heroes, do they not tax, extort, pillage, slaughter, and
burn for their own glory?  Do they not ride over law, morality, and
justice, your world’s heroes? They are not my heroes.  When men shrink
at nothing to gain their success--what shall we say of them?  But to
hold law, morality, and justice inviolable; to conquer strength but only
by weakness, to vanquish with pity, to crush with mercy--that alone is
moving greatness."

"Where do you find it?" demanded Kimberly sharply.

"Never where you look for your heroes; often where I look for
mine--among the saints of God. Not in men of bronze but in men of clay.
It is only Christ who puts the souls of heroes into hearts of flesh and
blood."

"But you have, along with your saints, some very foolish rules in your
church, Francis.  Take the case of Mrs. MacBirney.  There is a woman who
has done evil to no one and good to every one. She finds herself married
to a man who thenceforth devotes himself to but one object in life--the
piling up of money.  She is forgotten and neglected.  That is not the
worst; he, with no religion of his own, makes it his business to harass
and worry her in the practice of hers.  He is filled with insane
jealousies, and moved by equally insane hatreds of whatever she desires.
I come into their lives.  I see this proud and unhappy woman struggling
to keep her trials hidden.  I break down the barriers of her
reserve--not easily, not without being repulsed and humiliated as I
never before have been by a woman--and at last make her, unwillingly,
tell me the truth. Meantime her husband, after a scene--of which I have
never yet learned the real facts--has left her. I say such a woman has
the right to free herself from a brute such as this; your church says
’no.’"

"Robert, I see what you are coming to.  But do not make the case harder
than it is.  She may free herself from him if she cannot live in peace
with him; she may leave him under intolerable conditions.  But not marry
again."

"Precisely.  And I offer her my devotion and a home and only ask to make
her truly my wife and restore to her the religion he has robbed her of.
And this very religion that he has trampled on and throttled, what does
it say?  ’No.’"

"You state a hard case.  Your reasoning is very plausible; you plead for
the individual.  There is no law, human or divine, against which the
individual might not show a case of hardship.  The law that you find a
hardship protects society. But to-day, society is nothing, the
individual everything.  And while society perishes we praise the
tolerant anarchism that destroys it."

"Francis, you invoke cruelty.  What do I care for society?  What has
society done for me?"

"No, I invoke responsibility, which none of us can forever escape.  You
seek remarriage.  Your care is for the body; but there is also the
soul."

"Your law is intolerant."

"Yours is fatal.  How often have you said to me--for you have seen it,
as all thoughtful men see it--that woman is sinking every day from the
high estate to which marriage once lifted her.  And the law that
safeguards this marriage and against which you protest is the law of
God.  I cannot apologize for it if I would; I would not if I could.
Think what you do when you break down the barrier that He has placed
about a woman.  It is not alone that the Giver of this law died a
shameful death for the souls of men.  You do not believe that Christ was
God, and Calvary means nothing to you.

"But, Robert, to place woman in that high position, millions of men like
you and me, men with the same instincts, the same appetites, the same
passions as yours and mine, have crucified their desires, curbed their
appetites, and mastered their passions--and this sacrifice has been
going on for nineteen hundred years and goes on about us every day.  Who
realizes it?

"Faith is ridiculed, fasting is despised, the very idea of self-denial
is as absurd to pagan to-day as it was nineteen hundred years ago to
pagan Rome. And with its frivolous marriages and easy divorces the world
again drags woman back to the couch of the concubine from which
Christianity with so much blood and tears lifted her up nineteen hundred
years ago."

"Francis, you are a dreamer.  Society is gone; you can’t restore it.  I
see only a lovely woman its victim.  I am not responsible for the
condition that made her one and I certainly shall not stand by and see
her suffer because the world is rotten--nor would you--don’t protest, I
know you, too. So I am going to raise her as high as man can raise a
woman.  She deserves it.  She deserves infinitely more.  I am only sorry
I can’t raise her higher.  I am going to make her my wife; and you,
Francis, shall dance at the wedding.  Oh, you needn’t throw up your
hands--you are going to dance at the wedding."

"Non posso, non posso.  I cannot dance, Robert."

"You don’t mean, Francis," demanded Kimberly severely suspicious, "to
tell me you would like me the less--that you would be other than you
have been to me--if you saw me happily married?"

"How could I ever be different to you from what I have been?  Every day,
Robert, I pray for you."

Kimberly’s brows contracted.  "Don’t do it."

Francis’s face fell.  "Not?"

"For the present let me alone.  I’m doing very well.  The situation is
delicate."

Francis’s distress was apparent, and Kimberly continued good-naturedly
to explain.  "Don’t stir God up, Francis; don’t you see?  Don’t attract
his attention to me.  I’m doing very well.  All I want is to be let
alone."



                             CHAPTER XXXIV.


"By the way, how does it seem to be quite a free woman?" said Kimberly
one evening to Alice.

"What do you mean?"

"Your decree was granted to-day."

She steeled herself with an exclamation.  "_That_ nightmare!  Is it
really over?"

He nodded.  "Now, pray forget it.  You see, you were called to the city
but once.  You spent only ten minutes in the judge’s chambers, and
answered hardly half a dozen questions.  You have suffered over it
because you are too sensitive--you are as delicate as Dresden.  And this
is why I try to stand between you and everything unpleasant."

"But sha’n’t you be tired of always standing between me and everything
unpleasant?"

He gazed into her eyes and they returned his searching look with the
simplicity of faith.  In their expression he felt the measure of his
happiness.  "No," he answered, "I like it.  It is my part of the job.
And when I look upon you, when I am near you, even when I breathe the
fragrance of your belongings--of a glove, a fan, a handkerchief--I have
my reward.  Every trifle of yours takes your charm upon itself."

He laid a bulky package in her lap.  "Here are the maps and
photographs."

"Oh, this is the villa."  Alice’s eye ran with delight over the views as
she spread them before her.  "Tell me everything about it."

"I have not seen it since I was a boy.  But above Stresa a pebbled Roman
highway winds into the northern hills.  It is flanked with low walls of
rotten stone and shaded with plane trees.  Half an hour above the town
an ilex grove marks a villa entrance."

He handed her a photograph.  "This is the grove, these are the
gates--they are by Krupp, and you will like them.  Above them are the
Dutch Kimberly arms--to which we have no right whatever that I can
discover.  But wasn’t it delightfully American for Dolly to appropriate
them?

"The roadway grows narrower as it climbs. Again and again it sinks into
the red hill-side, leaving a wall tapestried with ivy.  Indeed, it winds
about with hardly any regard for a fixed destination, but the air is so
bland and the skies at every turn are so soft, that pretty soon you
don’t care whether you ever get anywhere or not.  The hills are studded
with olives and oranges.

"When you have forgotten that you have a destination the road opens on a
lovely _pineto_. You cross it to a casino on the eastern edge and there
is the lake, two hundred feet below and stretching away into the Alps.

"Above the casino you lose yourself among cedars, chestnuts, magnolias,
and there are little gorges with clumps of wild laurel.  Figs and
pomegranates begin beyond the gorge.  The arbors are hidden by oleander
trees and terraces of camellias rise to the belvedere--the tree you see
just beside it there is a magnolia.

"Back of this lies the garden, laid out in the old Italian style, and
crowning a point far above the lake stands the house.  The view is a
promise of paradise--you have the lake, the mountains, the lowlands, the
walnut groves, yellow campaniles, buff villas, and Alpine sunsets."

"You paint a lovely picture."

"But incomplete; to-night you are free to tell me when I can take you.
Make it an early day, Alice.  The moment we are married, we start. We
will land at any little port along the Riviera that strikes your fancy,
have a car to meet us, and drive thence by easy stages to the lake. From
the moment we touch at Gibraltar you will fall in love with everything
anew; there is only one Mediterranean--one Italy, cara mia ben.  Let us
go in.  I want you to sing my song."

They walked into the house and to the dimly lighted music room.  There
they sat down together on the piano bench and she sang for him, "Caro
Mio Ben."

[Illustration: She sang for him "Caro Mio Ben"]



                              CHAPTER XXXV


Not every day brought unalloyed happiness. Moments of depression
asserted themselves with Alice and, if tolerated, led to periods of
despondency.  She found herself seeking a happiness that seemed to elude
her.

Even her depression, banished by recreation, left behind something of a
painful subconsciousness like the uneasy subsidence of a physical pain.
Activity thus became a part of her daily routine and she gained a
reputation for lively spirits.

Kimberly, whose perception was not often at fault, puzzled over the
strain of gayety that seemed to disclose a new phase in Alice’s nature.
Once, after a gay day at Sea Ridge, he surprised her at home in the
evening and found her too depressed to dissemble.

"Now," he said, taking both her hands, "you are going to tell me what
the matter is."

"Robert, nothing is the matter."

"Something is the matter," he persisted.  "Tell me what it is."

"It is less than nothing.  Just a miserable spectre that haunts me
sometimes.  And when I feel in that way, I think I am still his wife.
Now you are vexed with me."

"Not for an instant, darling; only perplexed. Your worries are mine and
we must work out some relief for them, that is all.  And when things
worry me you will help me do away with my spectres, won’t you?"

He soothed and quieted her, not by ridicule and harshness but by
sympathy and understanding, and her love for him, which had found a
timid foothold in the frailest response of her womanly reserve, now sent
its roots deep into her nature.

It was nothing to her that he was great in the world’s eyes; that in
itself would have repelled her--she knew what the world would say of her
ambition in marrying him.  But he grew in her eyes because he grew in
her heart as she came to realize more and more his solicitude for her
happiness--the only happiness, he told her, in which he ever should find
his own.

"I know how it will end, Robert."  They were parting after a moment the
most intense they had ever allowed themselves together.  She was putting
away his unwilling arms, as she looked in the darkness of the garden up
into his face.

"How will it end?" he asked.

"In my loving you as much as you love me."

Winter passed and the spring was again upon them before they realized
it.  In the entertaining around the lake they had been fêted until it
was a relief to run away from it all, as they often did. To escape the
park-like regularity of their own domains, they sought for their riding
or driving the neglected country below the village. Sometimes on their
horses they would explore the backwoods roads and attempt swampy lanes
where frogs and cowslips disputed their entry and boggy pools menaced
escape.

Alice, hatless and flushed with laughter and the wind, would lead the
way into abandoned wood-paths and sometimes they found one that led
through a forest waste to a hidden pond where the sun, unseen of men,
mirrored itself in glassy waters and dogwood reddened the margin where
their horses drank.

In the woods, if she offered a race, Kimberly could never catch Alice no
matter what his mount. She loved to thread a reckless way among sapling
trees, heedless of branches that caught her neck and kissed her cheeks
as she hurried on--riding gave them delightful hours.

They were coming into the village one May morning after a long
cross-country run when they encountered a procession of young girls
moving across the road from the parish school to the church and singing
as they went.  The church itself was _en fête_.  Country folk gathered
along the road-side and clustered about the church door where a priest
in surplice waited the coming procession.

Kimberly and Alice, breathing their horses, halted.  Dressed in white,
like child brides, the little maidens advanced in the sunshine, their
eyes cast down in recollection and moving together in awkward, measured
step.  From their wrists hung rosaries.  In their clasped hands they
carried prayer-books and white flowers, and white veils hung from the
rose wreaths on their foreheads.

"How pretty!" exclaimed Kimberly as the children came nearer.

"Robert," asked Alice suddenly, "what day is this?"

"Thursday, isn’t it?"

"It is Ascension Thursday."

The church-bells began to ring clamorously and the little girls, walking
slowly, ceased their song. The lovers waited.  Childhood, hushed with
expectancy and moving in the unconscious appeal of its own innocence,
was passing them.

The line met by the young priest reached the open door.  Kimberly noted
the wistful look in Alice’s eyes as the little band entered the church.
She watched until the last child disappeared and when she spoke to her
horse her eyes were wet. Her companion was too tactful to venture a
question.  They rode until his silence told her he was aware of her
agitation and she turned to him.

"Do you know," she said, slowly searching his eyes, "that you are
awfully good?"

"If I am," he responded, "it is a discovery. And the honor, I fear, is
wholly yours."

"It is something," she smiled, her voice very sweet, "to have lived to
give that news to the world."

They rode again in silence.  She felt it would be easier if he were to
question her, but it was only after some time that he said: "Tell me
what the little procession was about."

"I am ashamed to have acted in this way.  But this was the day of my
First Communion, Ascension Thursday.  It was only a coincidence that I
should see a First Communion class this morning."

"What is First Communion?"

"Oh, don’t you know?"  There was a sadness in the tone.  "You don’t, of
course, you dear pagan.  It is _you_ who should have been the Christian
and I a pagan.  You would never have fallen away."

"You only think you have fallen away, Alice. You haven’t.  Sometimes you
seem to act as if you had fallen from some high estate.  You have not;
don’t think it.  You are good enough to be a saint--do you give me
credit for no insight?  I tell you, you haven’t fallen away from your
religion.  If you had, you would be quite at ease, and you are very ill
at ease over it.  Alice," he turned about in his saddle, "you would be
happier if our marriage could be approved by your church."

"It never can be."

"I have led a number of forlorn hopes in my day.  I am going to try this
one.  I have made up my mind to see your archbishop--I have spoken with
Francis about it.  I am going to find out, if nothing more, exactly
where we stand."



                             CHAPTER XXXVI


In response to a request from Kimberly, Hamilton came out to spend the
night at The Towers.  Dolly was leaving just as the doctor arrived.  She
beckoned him to her car.

"You are to save the sixteenth for us, doctor; don’t forget to tell Mrs.
Hamilton," she said. "We have persuaded Robert to give a lawn fête for
Grace and Larrie and we want you.  Then, too--but this is a
secret--Robert’s own wedding occurs two weeks later.  That will be
private, of course, so the affair on the sixteenth will include all of
our friends, and we want you to be sure to be here."

When the doctor sat down with Kimberly in the library after dinner, the
latter spoke of his coming marriage.  "You know," he said briefly, as
the doctor took a book from the table, "I am going to make Mrs.
MacBirney my wife."

"I do.  I rejoice in it.  You know what I think of her."

"She has at last set the date and we are to be married on the thirtieth
of June.  It will be very quiet, of course.  And, by the way, save the
sixteenth of June for us, doctor."

"Mrs. De Castro has told me.  We shall be glad to come out."

"You, I know, do not approve of marriages made through divorce,"
continued Kimberly, bluntly.

"No, nor do you," returned the doctor.  "Not as a general proposition.
In this case, frankly, I look on it as the most fortunate thing that has
happened in the Kimberly family since your own mother married into it."

"She was a Whitney," muttered Kimberly, leaning back and lifting his
chest as he often did when talking.  "Arthur De Castro has a strain of
that blood.  He has all her refinement.  The Kimberlys are brutes.

"MacBirney," he went on abruptly, "complained to McCrea yesterday--among
other things that he wants to quarrel about--that I had broken up his
home.  I have not; I think you know that."

"A man came to me the other day"--the doctor laid aside his book--"to
say he was going to stand on his ’rights’ and sue for alienation a man
who had run off with his wife.  He asked me what I thought of it.  ’I
suppose you want my honest opinion,’ I replied.  ’Yet I am afraid it
won’t comfort you much.  What "rights" have you established in your
marriage that anybody is bound to respect?’  He looked at me astonished.
’The rights of a husband,’ he answered.  ’Doesn’t the law, doesn’t
society give them to me?’  ’A man that asks equity from society,’ said
I, ’ought to come into court with clean hands.’  I should like to know
whose hands are cleaner than mine,’ he replied, ’I married, made a home
for my wife and supported her.’"

Kimberly leaning further back let his chin sink on his breast, but his
eyes shining under his black brows showed that he followed the story.

"’But where are the fruits of your marriage?’ I asked," continued the
doctor, narrating.  "’Don’t stare at me--where are the children?  How
have you lived with your wife?  As nature and law and society intended
you should--or as a mere paramour?  Children would have protected your
wife as a woman; the care of children would have filled her life and
turned her mind from the distraction of listening to another man.  Why
didn’t you make a wife and mother of the woman you married instead of a
creature?  In that case you might have pleaded "rights."  But you
thought you could beat the game; and the game has beaten you.  You
thought you could take the indulgence of marriage without its
responsibilities.  Either you debased your wife to your level or allowed
her to debase you to hers.  Don’t talk about "rights," you haven’t
any.’"

Hamilton ceased.

"What did the fellow say?" asked Kimberly.

"What could he say?" demanded Hamilton.

They sat a moment in silence.

Kimberly broke it.  "It is a humiliating fact, Hamilton--I often think
of it," he said moodily--"that the only way in which we can determine
our own moral standing is by measuring the standards of our vicious
classes.  I mean by our vicious classes the social driftwood who figure
in the divorce courts and the scandal of the day and should be placed in
a social penitentiary.

"What is really alarming to-day is that our standards of what
constitutes vice have fallen so low.  We speak of husbands; has there
ever been a period in the history of our race when husbands have fallen
so low?  There was a time when the man that spoke the English tongue
would defend his home with his life----"

"In those days they had homes to defend."

"--when it meant death to the man that crossed the threshold of his
honor----"

"They had honor, too."

"But consider the baseness the American husband has reached.  When he
suspects his wife’s infidelity, instead of hiding his possible disgrace,
he employs detectives to make public the humiliating proofs of it.  He
advertises himself in the bill he files in the courts.  He calls on all
men to witness his abasement.  He proclaims his shame from the housetops
and wears his stripes as a robe of honor.  And instead of killing the
interloper he brands the woman that bears his name, perhaps the mother
of his children, as a public creature--isn’t it curiously infamous?  And
this is what our humane, enlightened, and progressive social views have
brought us to--we have fallen too low to shoot!

"However," concluded Kimberly, shaking himself free from the subject,
"my own situation presents quite other difficulties.  And, by the way,
Francis is still ailing.  He asked the superior yesterday for a
substitute and went home ill. You have seen Uncle John?"

"A moment, before dinner."

"Is he failing, Hamilton?"

"Mentally, no; physically, he loses ground lately."

"We die hard," said Kimberly, reflecting, "we can’t help it.  The old
gentleman certainly brightened up after he heard of my coming marriage.
Not that I told him--Dolly did so.  It pleased him marvellously.  I
couldn’t understand exactly why, but Dolly suggested it was one of the
natural instincts of Uncle John coming out.  His eyes sparkle when the
subject is mentioned," continued Kimberly dryly.  "I really think it is
the covetous instinct in him that is gratified.  He has always disliked
MacBirney and always itched to see him ’trimmed.’  This seems to
satisfy, heroically, Uncle John’s idea of ’trimming’ him.  He is as
elated as if he were doing the ’trimming’ himself."

Kimberly explained to Hamilton why he had sent for him and asked him for
a letter of introduction to the archbishop, whom he desired to meet.

"You are on one or two executive boards with him, I think," suggested
Kimberly.  "Do you know him well enough to oblige me?"

"I know him very well," returned Hamilton. "And you, too, ought to know
him."

The surgeon wrote the note at once.


"MOST REVEREND AND DEAR ARCHBISHOP:



                             CHAPTER XXXVII


Kimberly was lunching next day at the city office when MacBirney’s name
came in with a request for an interview.  He was admitted without delay
and while a valet removed the trays and the table, Kimberly greeted his
visitor and, indicating a chair, asked him to sit down.  He saw at a
glance the suppressed feeling in MacBirney’s manner; the latter, in
fact, carried himself as a man fully resolved to carry out a course yet
fearful of the results.

"I have come to give notice of my withdrawal from the June pool in
common," began MacBirney without preface.

"I am not the one to give notice to," returned Kimberly civilly,
"inasmuch as I am not in the June pool and not in touch with its
operations."

"Well, I’ve sold--I am selling," MacBirney corrected himself hastily,
"my allotment, no matter who is at interest."

"McCrea and my brother are the organizers----"

"I understand," interjected MacBirney, "that you made a good deal of
talk about my action in the December pool a year ago--I give you no
chance to say I haven’t served ample notice this time."

"On the contrary, I quieted a great deal of talk about your action a
year ago.  It was so grossly unfair to your associates that I ascribed
your unloading of your stock without notifying them to rank ignorance,
and was disposed to overlook it on that ground."

MacBirney smiled with some sarcasm.  "Though you were careful enough to
say publicly that you would never be caught in another pool with me."

"I never have been, have I?  And I did not ’say publicly’; I said so to
McCrea, who had my permission to tell you.  It cost me six hundred
thousand dollars at that time to support the market against you for
three days.  And while I like to see my associates make money, I object
to their making it out of me."

"You didn’t say so to poison my wife against me?"

"I have never, MacBirney, spoken of that or of any other of your
business affairs to your wife. I never have spoken even your name to
your wife, in praise or in blame, until you left her--except twice to
ask her if she loved you.  Even that she treated as an insult."

"You must have made some progress since then."

Kimberly’s head began to move slowly from side to side.  "I am told,"
added MacBirney, in a thin, hard voice, "you are getting ready to marry
her."

"Quite true, I am."

MacBirney’s rage forced him to his feet.  "I am beginning to understand
now, Kimberly," he framed the words slowly and carefully, "the way you
have plotted against me from the start.  I was warned before I ever saw
you that you had no respect for the law of God or man where a woman was
concerned.  I was warned that no woman was safe near you."

Kimberly eyed his enraged associate calmly. "You are travelling far in a
few words, MacBirney. I hope you understand, once for all, that certain
limits cover a situation even such as this.  I don’t like your last
phrase.  It might be made to apply unpleasantly to a woman now very dear
to me.  I am used to angry men, and what you say about me----"

"What I say about----"

"What you say about me is allowable, no matter what I think of it.  But
understand this, if you say one word about her--here or elsewhere, now
or hereafter--I will stop you, if I have to choke you with my own
hands."

"You can’t scare me, Kimberly."

"I don’t want to; I don’t want to choke you; but if you wish to see me
try it, pass that limit just once.  Now go on, MacBirney."

"I could have nothing to say against Alice."

Kimberly nodded heartily in approval.

"But I have something to say about a man who pretended to be my
friend----"

"I never pretended to be your friend."

"--And played traitor to me as you have done. But it’s of a piece with
your whole record.  First you got me down here----"

"I never got you down here."

"--Then you began to lay your plans to ruin my home."

"What were you doing all this time?  Trying to circumvent me by making
your home happy or trying to help me by neglecting it?"

MacBirney shook his finger at Kimberly in rage.  "You can’t escape with
smooth phrases. You broke up my home!"

Kimberly had regained his coolness.  "No, you broke it up.  Long before
I ever saw you, you broke up your home.  It was broken up and only
waiting for some one to save your wife from the wreck.  MacBirney, you
have made a success of your business; one one-hundredth of the effort
you have given to your business would have saved your home.  Yet you
thought you could treat your wife like a servant, humiliate and abuse
her and still hold her forth a figurehead for your ’home’!" muttered
Kimberly with scorn.

"You, yourself, put her up to the divorce. Deny that, will you?"

"No, I will not deny it," retorted Kimberly relapsing into indifference.
"After I came into her life she followed my advice.  I believe I have
advised her for the best."

"I see your finger trailing through every turn of my trouble now.  I saw
it too late.  But I’m not done with you.  And I’m not the only man that
understands your trickery.  Lambert will have you on your knees in the
sugar business before you are very much older.  Now, I have come to you
with a straight proposition.  I want the escrow control of the Western
refineries.  If you are ready to give it to me we will make a working
agreement and have peace.  If you are not, I will back Lambert in a
string of modern plants that will drive you out of the Western field.
We are ready; the question for you to consider is whether you want to
compromise."

At this threat Kimberly, so far as the words could be used of him, went
to pieces.  To be outfaced in his own headquarters by one whom he would
have termed a hare-brained upstart in the refining world was too much
for his poise.  The only outward indication of his surprise and disgust
was a smile; but it was a dangerous smile. "I am afraid I am not enough
of a business man to compromise, MacBirney," he responded in low tones.
"You can’t have the escrow control of the Western refineries."

"Very good.  That decision suits me.  I am now practically out of your
stock; we shall see what we shall see."

"One moment, MacBirney," said Kimberly, moved by some sudden impulse of
mercy following his rage, as if MacBirney were really too small fry to
pit himself against.  "You have brought a personal affair and a business
affair before me. The business affair, as you are still my associate, I
may say a word on.  Don’t put any money you can’t afford to lose behind
Lambert, for it will all go.  I myself have not got resources enough to
give that man a free hand.  He has a genius in one direction--that of
talking men out of their money.

"Moreover, in this case there is a personal friction of long standing
between him and me, and I will never let him lift his head in the sugar
business in this country while I am at the head of these companies, not
if I have to work twenty-four hours a day to clean him out.  But that
would not be necessary--for he will not only attend to ruining himself
but to ruining every man that goes with him.  If you want to quit us, do
so. Build as many refineries as you like and we will try to get on
peaceably with you--though I myself would not put a dollar into new
refineries to-day.  You are rich; you had eight hundred thousand dollars
when I paid you for your junk, and you made two million dollars in the
December pool alone--a good part of it out of me.  You will take from
these offices eight million dollars in less than three years."

MacBirney’s alarm at Kimberly’s intimate knowledge of his resources
showed in his face. "In railroads you might make it forty millions in
the next ten years, with even average prudence," continued Kimberly
calmly.  "Sugar will be a load, anyway you go into it; but sugar and
Lambert will beat you to a frazzle."

Charles Kimberly walked into the room as his brother concluded.  "Talk a
few moments with Charles about this," suggested Kimberly, coolly,
ringing for his office secretary.

"MacBirney," explained Robert Kimberly to his brother, "has sold out his
common and has a lot of money loose.  I am telling him to go in for
railroads."

The secretary entered.  Robert Kimberly after giving him some
directions, got into his car and was driven up-town to the residence of
the archbishop.  He alighted before a large, remodelled city house not
far from the cathedral.  A messenger had already delivered Hamilton’s
letter of introduction and Kimberly was presenting himself by
appointment.

At the door a man-servant took his card and he was met in the reception
room by a young clergyman, who conducted him to the second floor.  As
Kimberly entered the large room into which he was ushered he saw the
prelate rising from his table.  He was a grave man and somewhat spare in
his height, slightly stooped with the passing of seventy years, and
bearing in the weariness of his face an expression of kindliness and
intelligence.

"This is a pleasure, Mr. Kimberly," he said, extending his hand.

"It is a pleasure for me, your grace."

"Come this way," continued the archbishop, indicating a divan in one
corner of the room.

"I brought no letter of introduction other than that from Doctor
Hamilton, which I sent you," Kimberly began as the archbishop seated
himself.

"Surely, you did not consider even Doctor Hamilton’s note necessary,"
returned the archbishop, while his secretary withdrew.  "Your name and
that of your family have been familiar to me for many years.  And I fear
those of my people who venture in upon you with their petitions do not
always bring letters."

"You have occupied this see for many years," suggested Kimberly in
compliment.

"As priest and bishop I have lived in this diocese more than forty
years.  It seems a long time.  Yet the name of Kimberly was very old
here when I came, and without ever meeting one of your family, I have
heard much of you all since.  So if there were no other reason, I should
welcome your call as an opportunity to tell you how grateful I am, and
the charities of the archdiocese are, for your repeated generosities.
You know we are not blessed among our own people with many benefactors
of large means.  And the calls come upon us with surprising frequency."

"My father," responded Kimberly, "who was more of a philosopher than a
merchant, impressed me very early with the truth that your church was a
bulwark of social order--one which to that extent laid all thoughtful
men under a debt to it."

"You are a man of wide interests, Mr. Kimberly."

"The country grows too fast, your grace. There seems no escape from
expansion."

"Yet you find time for all of your work?"

Kimberly made a deprecatory gesture.  "My chief affair is to find men to
do my work for me. Personally, I am fairly free."

"From all save responsibility, perhaps.  I know how hard it is to
delegate that.  And you give all of your energy to business.  You have
no family?"

"No, and this brings me to the object of my visit."  Kimberly paused a
moment.  "I shall soon enter into marriage."

"Ah, I see!"

"And the subject is a difficult one to lay before your grace."

The archbishop saw an indefinable embarrassment in his visitor’s manner
and raised his thin hand.  "Then it has every claim to sympathetic
consideration.  Forget for a moment that I am almost a stranger--I am
certainly no stranger to difficulties.  And do no longer address me
formally.  I said a moment ago that I was glad to meet you if only to
thank you for your responses to our numerous needs.  But there is
another reason.

"When I was a young man, first ordained, my charge was the little
village of Sunbury up in the lake country.  You may imagine how familiar
the Kimberly estates became to me in my daily rounds of exercise.  I
heard much of your people.  Some of their households were of my
congregation.  Your mother I never met.  I used to hear of her as
exceedingly frail in health. Once, at least, I recall seeing her
driving.  But her servants at The Towers were always instructed not
alone to offer me flowers for the altar but diligently to see that the
altar was generously provided from her gardens and hot-houses.

"I once learned," the archbishop’s head drooped slightly in the
reminiscence and his eyes rested full upon his visitor, "that she was
passing through a dreaded ordeal, concerning which many feared for her.
It was on a Sunday before mass that the word came to me.  And at the
mass I told my little flock that the patroness to whom we owed our
constant offering of altar flowers was passing that morning through the
valley of the shadow of death, and I asked them to pray for her with me.
You were born on a Sunday, Mr. Kimberly."  Kimberly did not break the
silence and the archbishop spoke on.  "You see I am quite old enough
myself to be your father.  I remember reading an account of your
baptism."

Kimberly looked keenly into the clear, gray eyes.  Not a shade of
thought in the mind of the man before him was lost upon his penetration.
"Any recollection of my mother," he said slowly, "touches me deeply.  To
think that you recall her so beautifully is very grateful to me--as you
may well imagine.  And that was my birthday!  Then if my mother was, or
I have ever been, able to help you I am sure we are repaid in being so
remembered all these years.  I lost my father and my mother many years
ago----"

He paused.  "It is very pleasant to be remembered," he repeated
uncertainly, as if collecting himself.  "I shall never forget what you
have just told me.  And I thank you now for the prayers you said for my
mother when she brought me into the world.  Your grace," he added
abruptly, "I am greatly perplexed."

"Tell me frankly, how and why."

"I came here with some confidence of getting what I should ask for.  I
am naturally a confident man.  Yet my assurance deserts me.  It seems,
suddenly, that my mission here is vain, that my hopes have deluded me--I
even ask myself why I have come.  I could almost say I am sorry that I
have come."

The archbishop lifted his hand to speak.  "Believe me, it is not other
than for good that you have come," he said.

Kimberly looked at him questioningly.  "I cannot tell for what good,"
added the archbishop as if to say he could not answer the unspoken
question.  "But believe me, you have done right and not wrong in
coming--of that I am sure.  Tell me, first, what you came to tell me,
what it is in your heart that has brought you here."



                            CHAPTER XXXVIII


"I must tell you," began Kimberly, "that while seemingly in a wide
authority in directing the business with which I am connected I am not
always able to do just as I please.  Either voluntarily or
involuntarily, I yield at times to the views of those associated with
me.  If my authority _is_ final, I prefer not to let the fact obtrude
itself. Again, circumstances are at times too strong for any business
man to set his mere personal views against.  Yielding some years ago to
the representations of my associates I took into our companies a group
of Western factories controlled by a man whom I distrusted.

"To protect our interests it was necessary to move, in the premises, in
one of two ways.  I favored the alternative or driving him out of the
business then and there.  There were difficulties in either direction.
If we ruined him we should be accused of ’trust methods,’ of crushing a
competitor, and should thus incur added public enmity. On the other
hand, I contended if the man were untrustworthy he would grow more
dangerous with power.  I need hardly explain to an intelligent man,
regardless of his views on trusts, that any man of integrity, no matter
how threatening or violent a competitor he may be in the beginning, is a
man we welcome as an associate into our business.  We need him just as
he needs us--but that is aside.  We took the man in----"

"Against your judgment?"

"Against my judgment.  I never met him until he came East.  My estimates
of him were made wholly on his record, and I knew what is known to but
few--that he had ruined his own father-in-law, who died a bankrupt
directly through this man’s machinations, and without ever suspecting
him.  This seemed to me so unspeakable, so cannibalistic, that I never
needed to know anything further of the man.  Yet I took him in,
determined only to add a new care in watching him and still to keep him
in my power so that I could crush him if he ever played false.

"He came to us--and brought his wife.  I knew the man thoroughly the
instant I set eyes on him. His appearance confirmed my impression.  But
I met his wife, and found in her a woman to engage respect, homage, and
devotion, one with a charm of manner and person to me unequalled; with a
modesty coupled with spirit and humor that confounded my ideas of
women--a woman, in a word, like my own mother.  I am keeping nothing
from you----"

"Your confidence is safely bestowed."

"I was moved the moment I saw her.  But unhappy experiences had checked
and changed me somewhat.  I did not disclose my feelings though I
already knew how she affected me.  If I had misjudged her husband I
would make amends--on her account.  Then as I watched them the question
came to me--how is he treating her?  I will make, for her sake, a new
judgment of him, I said.  But I saw him as indifferent to her as if she
did not exist.  I saw him neglect her and go out of his way to humiliate
her with attentions to women of our circle that were not fit to be her
servants.  I asked myself whether she could be happy--and I saw that as
far as affection was concerned she sat at a hearthstone of ashes.

"Even her religion--she was a Catholic--with petty and contemptible
persecutions he had robbed her of.  She was wretched and I knew it
before I let even her suspect my interest.  After that I vacillated, not
knowing what I should do. I advanced and retreated in a way I never did
before.  But one day--it was an accident--her ankle turned as she
stepped out of her car and as she fell forward I caught her on my arm.
She repelled me in an instant.  But from that moment I determined to win
her for my wife."

The archbishop regarded him in silence.

"I am telling you the exact truth.  It would profit me nothing to
deceive you, nor have I ever deceived myself or her.  She fought my
persistence with all her strength.  I tried to make her see that I was
right and she was wrong, and my best aid came from her own husband.  I
knew it would be said I was to blame.  But this man never had made a
home in any sense for his wife.  And if it could be urged that he ever
did do so, it was he, long before I ever saw him, who wrecked it--not
his wife--not I."

"You say she was a Catholic.  Has this poor child lost her faith?"

Kimberly paused.  "I do not know.  I should say that whatever her faith
was, he robbed her of it."

"Do not say exactly that.  You have said we must not deceive ourselves
and you are right--this is of first importance.  And for this reason
alone I say, no one can deprive me of my faith without my consent; if I
part with it, I do so voluntarily."

"I understand, quite.  Whatever I myself might profess, I feel I should
have no difficulty in practising.  But here is a delicate woman in the
power of a brute.  There is an element of coercion which should not be
lost sight of and it might worry such a woman out of the possession of
her principles.  However, whatever the case may be, she does not go to
church.  She says she never can. But some keen unhappiness lies
underneath the reason--if I could explain it I should not be here."

"Has she left her husband?"

"No.  He, after one of his periodical fits of abuse, and I suspect
violence, left her, and not until he knew he had lost her did he make
any effort to claim her again.  But he had imperilled her health--it is
this that is my chief anxiety--wrecked her happiness, and made himself
intolerable by his conduct.  She divorced him and is free forever from
his brutality.

"So I have come to you.  I am to make her my wife--after I had thought
never to make any woman my wife--and for me it is a very great
happiness.  It is a happiness to my brother and my sister.  Through it,
the home and the family which we believed was fated to die with this
generation--my brother is, unhappily, childless--may yet live. Can you
understand all this?"

"I understand all."

"Help me in some way to reconcile her religious difficulties, to remove
if possible, this source of her unhappiness.  Is it asking too much?"

The archbishop clasped his hands.  His eyes fixed slowly upon Kimberly.
"You know, do you not, that the Catholic Church cannot countenance the
remarriage of a wife while the husband lives."

"I know this.  I have a profound respect for the principles that
restrain the abuses of divorce. But I am a business man and I know that
nothing is impossible of arrangement when it is right that it should be
arranged.  This, I cannot say too strongly, is the exceptional case and
therefore I believe there is a way.  If you were to come to me with a
difficult problem within the province of my affairs as I come to you
bringing one within yours, I should find a means to arrange it--if the
case had merit."

"Unhappily, you bring before me a question in which neither the least
nor the greatest of the church--neither bishop nor pope--has the
slightest discretionary power.  The indissolubility of marriage is not a
matter of church discipline; it is a law of divine institution.
Christ’s own words bear no other meaning.  ’What God hath joined
together let not man put asunder.’  He declared that in restoring the
indissolubility of marriage he only reëstablished what was from the
beginning, though Moses because of Jewish hardness of heart had
tolerated a temporary departure.  No consent that I could give, Mr.
Kimberly, to a marriage such as you purpose, would in the least alter
its status.  I am helpless to relieve either of you in contracting it.

"It is true that the church in guarding sacredly the marriage bond is
jealous that it shall be a marriage bond that she undertakes to guard.
If there should have been an impediment in this first marriage--but I
hardly dare think of it, for the chances are very slender.  A prohibited
degree of kindred would nullify a marriage.  There is nothing of this, I
take it.  If consent had clearly been lacking--we cannot hope for that.
If her husband never had been baptized----"

"What difference would that make?"

"A Christian could not contract marriage with a pagan--such a union
would be null."

"Would a good Catholic enter into such a union?"

"No."

Kimberly shook his head.  "Then she would not.  If she had been a
disgrace to her religion she might have done it.  If she had been a
woman of less character, less intelligence it might be. If she had been
a worse Catholic," he concluded with a tinge of bitterness, "she might
stand better now."

"Better perhaps, as to present difficulties; worse as to that character
which you have just paid tribute to; which makes, in part, her charm as
a woman--the charm of any good woman to a good man.  You cannot have and
not have. When you surrender character a great deal goes with it."

The archbishop’s words sounded a knell to Kimberly’s hopes, and his
manner as he spoke reflected the passing of his momentary encouragement.
"There is nothing then that you can do."

"If there be no defect--if this first marriage was a valid marriage--I
am powerless in the circumstances.  I can do nothing to allow her to
remarry while her husband lives."

Kimberly arose.  "We cannot, of course, _kill_ him," he said quietly.
"And I am sorry," he added, as if to close the interview, "not to be
able to relieve her mind.  I have made an effort to lay before you the
truth and the merit of the case as far as she is concerned.  I had hoped
by being absolutely unreserved to invoke successfully something of that
generosity which you find edifying in others; to find something of that
mercy and tolerance which are always so commendable when your church is
not called on to exercise them."

The archbishop, too, had risen.  The two men faced each other.  If the
elder felt resentment, none was revealed in his manner or in his answer.
"You said a few moments ago that you could not always do as you
pleased," he began; "I, too, am one under authority."  His fingers
closed over the cross on his breast.  "All generosity, all mercy, all
tolerance that lie within His law, nothing could prevent my granting to
you, and to less than you--to the least of those that could ask it.  I
know too much of the misery, the unhappiness of a woman’s life and of
the love she gives to man, to withhold anything within my power to
alleviate her suffering.

"I have wounded you, and you rebuke me with harsh words.  But do not
carry harshness against me in your heart.  Let us be sure that these
words mean the same thing to both of us.  If generosity and tolerance
are to override a law given by God, of what use am I?  Why am I here to
be appealed to?  On the other hand, if by generosity or tolerance you
mean patience toward those who do not recognize the law that binds me,
if you mean hesitancy in judging those whose views and practices differ
from my own, then I have the right to ask you to grant these qualities
to me.

"But if you appeal to the laws and principles of Catholic truth, they
_are_ intolerant, because truth cannot compromise.  My church, which you
rebuke with this intolerance, is the bearer of a message from God to
mankind.  If men already possessed this message there would be little
reason for the existence of such a church.  The very reason of her being
is to convince men of the truth of which they are not yet convinced.

"Either she is the divinely commissioned messenger of God or she is
not--and if not, her pretensions are the most arrogant the world has
ever seen and her authority is the cruelest mockery. And so you view the
church, so the world views it--this I well know.  It is painful
sometimes, it is at this moment, to insist upon a law that I have no
power to set aside--but to do less would be simply a betrayal of my
trust.  And if this were the price of what you term ’tolerance,’ I must
rest with my church under the stigmas you put upon us."

Kimberly’s anger rose rather than abated with the archbishop’s words.
"Of course," he retorted without trying to conceal his anger, "it makes
a difference who seeks relief.  Your church can find no relief for a
helpless woman.  As I remember, you accommodated Napoleon quickly
enough."

"Certain unworthy ecclesiastics of my church, constituting an
ecclesiastical court, pretended to find his marriage with Josephine
invalid; the church never confirmed their verdict.  Thirteen of its
cardinals suffered Napoleon’s penalties because of their protest against
his remarriage.  Let us parallel the case.  Suppose I could offer to
join with you in a conspiracy.  Suppose we should assure this suffering
soul that she is free to remarry. Assume that I could make myself a
party to deceiving her--would you be party with me, to it? Do I mistake,
if I believe you could not conspire in such a baseness?"

"I do not deal in deceptions."

"Do you admire Napoleon’s methods?"

"Not all of them."

"Let us, then, Mr. Kimberly, bear our burdens without invoking his
duplicity."

"We can do that, your grace," answered Kimberly coldly.  "But we shall
also be obliged to bear them without relief from where we had the most
right to look for it.  It was not for myself that I came to you.  I
sought to restore to your church one who has been driven from it by a
wretch.  I should have been better advised; I was too hopeful.  Your
policy is, as it always has been, hopelessly fixed and arbitrary.  You
encourage those who heap upon you the greatest abuse and contempt and
drive from your doors those disposed to meet you upon any reasonable
composition of a difficulty.  I should only wound you if I attempted to
answer your last rebuke."

"You are going----"

"Yes."

"And you go with bitterness.  Believe me, it is not pleasant to be
without the approbation of the well-disposed who think and believe
differently from ourselves.  But if as Catholics we regard it a
privilege to possess the truth we must be prepared to pay the price it
exacts.  The world will always think us wrong, a peculiar people and
with principles beyond its comprehension.  We cannot help it.  It has
always been so, it always must be so.  Good-by."

"Good-by."

"If dividing a burden lightens it, remember you have three now to bear
yours instead of two.  I shall not forget either of you in my prayers,
certainly not this dear soul of whom you have told me.  This is my poor
offering to you and to her for all you have done for those that come to
you in my name."



                             CHAPTER XXXIX


Following the visit to the archbishop, McCrea, who had been on nettles
to get hold of Kimberly for a trip of inspection, whisked him away for
two days among the seaboard refineries.

Instead, however, of the two days planned by McCrea, the inspection kept
Kimberly, much to his annoyance, for three days.  The date set for
Grace’s fête found him still inspecting, but growing hourly more
unmanageable, and before breakfast was over on the third morning McCrea
began to feel the violence of Kimberly’s protests.

By the most ingenious activity on the part of the alert McCrea and his
powerful railroad friends the day’s programme for the party was hastened
to completion and the indignant magnate was returned by train to Second
Lake in time for dinner.

He drove home by way of Cedar Point, and Alice, who had been constantly
in touch with him on the telephone, felt the elation of his presence
when she saw him alight from his car and walk across the terrace to
where she and Fritzie, dressed for the evening, were feeding the
goldfish.

Kimberly took her hands as she ran forward to meet him.  "I thought you
were never coming!" she exclaimed.

"For a while I thought so myself."

"And you saw the archbishop?" she murmured eagerly.  "He could do
nothing?"

He regarded her with affection.  "I had set my heart on bringing back
good news."

"I knew there was no chance," said Alice as if to anticipate a failure.
"But it was like you to try.  You are always doing unpleasant things for
me."

He saw the disappointment under her cheerfulness. "And though I did
fail--you love me just the same?"

She looked into his searching eyes simply.  "Always."

"And we marry two weeks from to-night?"

"Two weeks from to-night," she answered, smiling still, but with a
tremor in her steady voice. Then she clasped her hands.

"What is it?" he asked.

Standing in the sunset before him--and he always remembered her as she
stood then--Kimberly saw in her eyes the fires of the devotion he had
lighted.  "I hope," she whispered, "I can make you happy."

"You would make a stone happy," he murmured, breathing the fragrance of
her being as she looked up at him.

It was evening when he saw her again and he stood with Dolly and Imogene
who were receiving.

The night was warm and the guests sought the lawns, the garden, and the
groves.  When a horn blown across the terrace announced dancing, slight
and graceful women, whose draperies revealed mere delicate outlines of
breathing creatures, came like fairies out of the night.  The ballroom,
in candle-light, was cool, and only the ceiling frescoes, artfully
heightened by lights diffused under ropes of roses, were brighter than
the rest of the room.

As the last guests arrived from town--Cready Hamilton and his wife with
Doctor Hamilton and the Brysons--Kimberly walked into the ballroom. He
caught Alice’s eye and made his way toward her.

She smiled as he asked for a dance.  "Do you realize," said he as she
rose, "that this is your first--and your last--dance at The Towers as a
guest? Next time you will be hostess--won’t you?"

A sound of breaking glass crashing above the music of the violins took
Alice’s answer from her lips.  Every one started.  Women looked
questioningly at the men.  Alice shrank to Kimberly’s side.  "Merciful
Heaven!" she whispered, "what was that?"

He answered lightly.  "Something has smashed. Whatever it is, it is of
no consequence."

The music continuing without interruption reassured the timid.  There
was no sequence to the alarming sound, the flow of conversation
reasserted itself and in a moment the incident was forgotten.

But Kimberly perceived by Alice’s pallor that she was upset.  "Come out
into the air," he said, "for a moment."

"But don’t you want to see what it was?"

"Some one else will do that; come."

She clung to his arm as they passed through an open door.  "You don’t
seem just well, dearie," he said, taking her hand within his own.  "Let
us sit down."

He gave her a chair.  She sank into it, supporting her head on her other
hand.  "I haven’t been quite well for a day or two, Robert.  I feel very
strange."

Kimberly with his handkerchief wiped the dampness from her forehead.
Her distress increased and he realized that she was ill.  "Alice, let me
take you upstairs a moment.  Perhaps you need a restorative."

The expression on her face alarmed him.  They rose just as Dolly
hastened past.  "Oh, you are here!" she cried, seeing Kimberly.  "Why,
what is the matter with Alice?"

Alice herself answered.  "A faintness, dear," she said with an effort.
"I think that awful crash startled me.  What was it?"

Dolly leaned forward with a suppressed whisper. "Don’t mention it!
Robert, the Dutch mirror in the dining-room has fallen.  It smashed a
whole tableful of glass.  The servants are frightened to death."

"No one was hurt?" said Kimberly.

"Fortunately no one.  I must find Imogene."

She hurried on.  Alice asked Kimberly to take her back to the ballroom.
He urged her to go upstairs and lie down for a moment.

The music for the dance was still coming from within and against
Kimberly’s protest Alice insisted on going back.  He gave way and led
her out upon the floor.  For a few measures, with a determined effort,
she followed him.  Then she glided mechanically on, supported only by
Kimberly and leaning with increasing weakness upon his arm.

When he spoke to her, her answers were vague, her words almost
incoherent.  "Take me away, Robert," she whispered, "I am faint."

He led her quietly from the floor and assisted her up a flight of stairs
to his mother’s apartment.  There he helped her to lie down on a couch.
Annie was hurriedly summoned.  A second maid was sent in haste for
Doctor Hamilton and Dolly.

Alice could no longer answer Kimberly’s questions as he knelt.  She lay
still with her eyes closed.  Her respiration was hardly perceptible and
her hands had grown cold.  It was only when Kimberly anxiously kissed
her that a faint smile overspread her tired face.  In another moment she
was unconscious.



                               CHAPTER XL


When Hamilton hastily entered the room, Annie, frightened and helpless,
knelt beside her mistress, chafing her hands.  On the opposite side of
the couch Kimberly, greatly disturbed, looked up with relief.

Taking a chair at her side, the doctor lifted Alice’s arm, took her
pulse and sat for some time in silence watching her faint and irregular
respiration.

He turned after a moment to Kimberly to learn the slight details of the
attack, and listening, retracted the lids of Alice’s eyes and examined
the pupils.  Reflecting again in silence, he turned her head gently from
side to side and afterward lifted her arms one after the other to let
them fall back beside her on the couch.

Even these slight efforts to obtain some knowledge of Alice’s condition
seemed to Kimberly disquieting and filled him with apprehension. The
doctor turned to Annie.  "Has your mistress ever had an experience like
this before, Annie?"

"No, doctor, never.  She has never been in this way before."

Imogene came hurrying upstairs with Dolly to learn of Alice’s condition.
They looked upon her unconsciousness with fear and asked whispered
questions that intensified Kimberly’s uneasiness.

"Do you think we could take her home, doctor?" asked Annie, timidly.

The doctor paused.  "I don’t think we will try it to-night, Annie.  It
is quite possible for her to remain here, isn’t it?" he asked, looking
at Dolly and Kimberly.

"Certainly," returned Dolly.  "I will stay. Alice can have these rooms
and I will take the blue rooms connecting."

"Then put your mistress to bed at once," said Hamilton to Annie.

"And telephone home, Annie," suggested Dolly, "for whatever you need.  I
will see the housekeeper right away about the linen."

Kimberly listened to the concise directions of the doctor for immediate
measures of relief and followed him mechanically into the hall.  Only
one thought came out of the strange confusion--Alice was at least under
his roof and in his mother’s room.

When he returned with the doctor the lights were low and Alice lay with
her head pillowed on her loosened hair.  The maid and Dolly had hastened
away to complete their arrangements for the emergency and for a few
moments the two men were alone with their charge.

"Doctor, what do you make of this?" demanded Kimberly.

Hamilton, without taking his eyes from the sick woman, answered
thoughtfully: "I can hardly tell until I get at something of the
underlying cause. Bryson will be here in a moment.  We will hear what he
has to say."

Doctor Bryson appeared almost on the word. Hamilton made way for him at
Alice’s side and the two conferred in an undertone.

Bryson asked many questions of Hamilton and calling for a candle
retracted Alice’s eyelids to examine the pupils for reaction to the
light.  The two doctors lost not an unnecessary moment in deliberation.
Consulting rapidly together, powerful restoratives were at once prepared
and administered through the circulation.

Reduced to external efforts to strengthen the vital functions the two
medical men worked as nurses and left nothing undone to overcome the
alarming situation.  Then for an hour they watched together, closely,
the character and frequency of Alice’s pulse and breathing.

To Kimberly the conferences of the two men seemed unending.  Sometimes
they left the room and were gone a long time.  He walked to a window to
relieve his suspense.  Through the open sash came the suppressed hum of
motors as the cars, parked below the stables, moved up the hill to
receive departing guests and made their way down the long, dark avenue
to the highway.

On the eastern horizon a dull gray streak crossed a mirror that lay in
the darkness below.  Kimberly had to look twice to convince himself that
the summer night was already waning.

Annie came into the room and, he was vaguely conscious, was aiding the
doctors in a painstaking examination of their patient.  Through delicacy
Kimberly withdrew, as they persistently questioned the maid in the hope
of obtaining the much-needed information concerning her mistress’s
previous condition; for what Annie could not supply of this they knew
they must work without.

Plunged in the gloom of his apprehensions, he saw the doctors coming
down the hall toward him and stopped them.  "Speak before me," he said
with an appeal that was a command.  "You both know what I have at
stake."

The three retired to the library and Kimberly listened attentively to
every phase of the discussion between the two master clinicians as they
laid their observations before him.  The coma was undisguisedly a
serious matter.  It seemed to them already ingravescent and, taken in
connection with the other symptoms, was even ominous.  The two men,
without a satisfactory history, and without a hope of obtaining one from
the only available source--the suffering woman herself--discussed the
case from every side, only to return unwillingly to the conclusion to
which everything pointed--that a cerebral lesion underlay the attack.

Their words sent a chill to Kimberly’s heart. But the lines of defence
were mapped out with speed and precision; a third eminent man, an
authority on the brain, was to be sent for at once. Nurses, equal almost
in themselves to good practitioners, were to be called in, and finally
Hamilton and Bryson arranged that either one or the other should be at
the sick-bed every instant to catch a possible moment of consciousness.

Hamilton himself returned to his patient. Bryson at the telephone took
up the matter of summoning aid from town, and when he had done threw
himself down for a few hours’ sleep. Kimberly followed Hamilton and
returned to Alice’s side.  He saw as he bent over her how the expression
of her face had changed.  It was drawn with a profound suffering.
Kimberly sitting noiselessly down took her hand, waiting to be the first
to greet her when she should open her eyes.


All Second Lake knew within a day or two of Alice’s critical illness.
The third doctor had come in the morning and he remained for several
days.

Hamilton questioned Annie repeatedly during the period of consultations.
"Try to think, Annie," he said once, "has your mistress never at any
time complained of her head?"

"Indeed, sir, I cannot remember.  She never complained about herself at
all.  Stop, sir, she did last summer, too--what am I thinking of?  I am
so confused.  She had a fall one night, sir.  I found her in her
dressing-room unconscious.  Oh, she was very sick that night.  She told
me that she had fallen and her head had struck the table--the back of
her head.  For days she suffered terribly.  Could it have been that, do
you think?"

"Put your hand to the place on your head where she complained the pain
was."

"How did she happen," Hamilton continued, when Annie had indicated the
region, "to fall backward in her own room, Annie?"

"She never told me, doctor.  I asked her but I can’t remember what she
said.  It was the night before Mr. MacBirney left Cedar Lodge."

The doctors spent fruitless days in their efforts to overcome the
unconsciousness.  There was no longer any uncertainty as to the seat of
the trouble. It lay in the brain itself and defied every attempt to
relieve it.  Even a momentary interval of reason was denied to the dumb
sufferer.

Kimberly, on the evening of the third day, had summoned his medical
advisers to his own room and asked the result of their consultation.
The frail and eminent man whom Hamilton and Bryson had brought from town
told Kimberly the story.  He could grasp only the salient points of what
the specialist said: That in a coma such as they faced it was the
diagnosis of the underlying conditions that was always important.  That
this was often difficult; sometimes, as now, impossible. That at times
they encountered, as now, a case so obscure as to defy the resources of
clinical medicine. Kimberly asked them their judgment as to the issue;
the prognosis, they could only tell him, was doubtful, depending wholly
upon the gravity of the apoplectic injury.

The Kimberly family rose to the emergency. Aware of the crisis that had
come, through Alice, into Robert’s life, Imogene and Dolly, on hand day
and night, were mother and sister to him and to her.  Nowhere in the
situation was there any failure or weakening of support.

Hamilton, undismayed in the face of the physical catastrophe he had been
called upon so unexpectedly to retrieve, and painfully aware of what the
issue meant to his near and dear friend, never for an instant relaxed
his efforts.

Seconded by his nurses, reinforced by his counsel and strengthened by
Bryson’s close co-operation, Hamilton faced the discouragement steadily,
knowing only too well that the responsibility must rest, in the end, on
him alone.

Absorbed, vigilant, tireless--pouring the reserve energy of years into
the sustained struggle of the sleepless days and nights--he strove with
every resource of his skill and watched unremittingly for an instant’s
abatement of the deadly lethargy that was crushing the vitality of the
delicate woman before him.

Kimberly, following the slightest details of the sick-room hours, spent
the day and the night at the bedside or in pacing the long hall.  If he
slept it was for an hour and after leaving orders to summon him
instantly if Alice woke.  They who cared for her knew what he meant by
"waking."  They knew how long and mutely, sometimes in the day,
sometimes in the silence of the night, he watched her face for one
returning instant of reason.

They knew how when hope burned low in every other eye it shone always
steadily in his.  The rising of the sun and its setting meant to him
only another day of hope, another night of hope for her; every concern
had passed from him except that which was centered in the fight for her
life.

Considerate as he was to those about him they feared him, and his
instinctive authority made itself felt more keenly in his silence than
in his words.  The heavy features, the stubborn brow, the slow, steady
look became intensified in the long, taciturn vigil.  Every day Dolly
walked with him and talked with him.  She made a bond between him and
the world; but she saw how little the world meant when danger came
between him and the woman he loved.

One evening the nurses told him that Alice was better.  They hoped for a
return of consciousness and he sat all night waiting for the precious
instant.  The next day while he slept, wearied and heartsick, Alice
sank.  For ten minutes those about her endured a breathless, ageing
suspense that sapped their energy and strength, until it was known that
the doctor had won the fight and the weary heart had returned to its
faint and labored beat.  They told Kimberly nothing of it.  When he
awoke he still thought she was better.

When he came into the room he was so hopeful that he bent over her and
fondly called her name. To his consternation and delight her eyes opened
at the sound of his voice; it seemed as if she were about to speak.
Then her eyes closed again and she lay still.  The incident electrified
him and he spoke hopefully of it for hours.  At midnight he sent
Hamilton away, saying he himself was fresh and would be on duty with the
nurse until daylight.

The air was sultry.  Toward morning a thunder-storm broke violently.
Kimberly walked out into the hall to throw the belvedere doors open to
the fresh air.  As he turned to go back, his heart stopped beating.  In
the gloom of the darkened gallery a slender, white figure came from the
open door of the sick-room and Kimberly saw Alice, with outstretched
hands, walking uncertainly toward him.  He stood quite still and taking
her hands gently as they touched his own he murmured her name.

"Alice!  What is it, darling?"  She opened her eyes.  Their vacancy
pierced his heart.

"Baby is crying," she faltered; "I hear my baby.  Walter."  Her hands
groped pitifully within his own.  "Walter!  Let me go to her!"

She tried to go on but Kimberly restrained and held her for a moment
trembling in his arms. "Come with me," he said, leading her slowly back
to her pillow.  "Let us go to her together."



                              CHAPTER XLI


When the sun burst upon The Towers in the freshness of the morning,
Kimberly’s eyes wore another expression.  The pleading of her words
still rang in his ears.  The tears in her voice had cost him his
courage.  Before another night fell they told him but a slender hope
remained.  He seemed already to have realized it.

After the doctors had spoken and all knew, Annie crept into Kimberly’s
room.  His head was bowed on the table between his arms.  With her
little wet handkerchief and her worn beads crushed in her hands, she
ventured to his side.  Her sobs aroused him.  "What is it, Annie?"

"Oh, Mr. Kimberly; she is so sick!"

"Yes, Annie."

"Don’t you think you should call a priest for her?"

"A priest?"  He opened his eyes as if to collect his thoughts.

"Oh, yes, a priest, Mr. Kimberly."

"Go yourself for him, Annie."

Tears were streaming down the maid’s cheeks. She held out an ivory
crucifix.  "If her eyes should open, dear Mr. Kimberly, won’t you give
this to her?  It is her own."  Kimberly took the crucifix in silence and
as Annie hurried away he buried his head again in his arms.

The timid young clergyman from the village responded within half an
hour.  Hamilton spoke kindly to him and explained to him Alice’s
condition; for unless consciousness should return Hamilton knew that
nothing could be done.

After trying in vain to speak to her the priest asked leave to wait in
an adjoining room.  His youthfulness and timidity proved no detriment to
his constancy, for he sat hour after hour relieved only by Annie’s
messages and declining to give up. In the early morning finding there
had been no change he left, asking that he be sent for if consciousness
should return.

With a strength that the doctors marvelled at, Alice rallied after the
bad night.  She so held her improvement during the day that Hamilton at
nightfall felt she still might live.

While the doctors and the family were at dinner Kimberly was kneeling
upstairs beside Alice. She lay with her eyes closed, as she had lain the
night she was stricken, but breathing more quietly.  The racking pain no
longer drew her face.  Kimberly softly spoke her name and bent over her.
He kissed her parched lips tenderly and her tired eyes opened.  A
convulsion shook him. It seemed as if she must know him, but his
pleading brought no response.

Then as he looked, the light in her eyes began to fade.  With a sudden
fear he took her in his arms and called to Annie on the other side of
the bed. The nurse ran for Hamilton.  Annie with a sob that seemed to
pierce Alice’s stupor held up the ivory crucifix and the eyes of her
dying mistress fixed upon it.

Reason for an instant seemed to assert itself. Alice, her eyes bent upon
the crucifix, and trying to rise, stretched out her hands.  Kimberly,
transfixed, supported her in his arms.  Annie held the pleading symbol
nearer and Alice with a heart-rending little cry clutched it
convulsively and sank slowly back.



                              CHAPTER XLII


She died in his arms.  In the stillness they heard her name again and
again softly spoken, as if he still would summon her from the apathy of
death.  They saw him, in their sobbing, wait undiscouraged for his
answer from the lips that never would answer again.

If he had claimed her in her life he claimed her doubly in her death;
now, at least, she was altogether his.  He laid her tenderly upon the
pillow and covering her hands, still clasping the crucifix, in his own
hands he knelt with his face buried in the counterpane.

Day was breaking when he kissed her and rose to his feet.  When Dolly
went to him in the morning to learn his wishes she found him in his
room. Alice was to lie, he said, with the Kimberlys on the hill, in the
plot reserved for him.  His sister assented tearfully.  As to the
funeral, he asked Dolly to confer with the village priest.  He directed
that only Annie and her own women should make Alice ready for the burial
and forbade that any stranger’s hand should touch his dead.

She lay in the sunshine, on her pillow, after Annie had dressed her
hair, as if breathing. Kimberly went in when Annie came for him.  He saw
how the touch of the maid’s loving hands had made for her dead mistress
a counterfeit of sleep; how the calm of the great sleep had already come
upon her, and how death, remembering the suffering of her womanhood, had
restored to her face its girlish beauty.  Hamilton, who was with him,
followed him into the room.  Kimberly broke the silence.

"What _is_ First Communion, Hamilton?" he asked.

Hamilton shook his head.

"I think," Kimberly said, pausing, "it must be the expression upon her
face now."

During the day he hardly spoke.  Much of the time he walked in the hall
or upon the belvedere and his silence was respected.  Those of his
household asked one another in turn to talk with him.  But even his
kindness repelled communication.

In the early morning when the white couch had been placed to receive her
for the grave he returned to the room with Dolly and they stood beside
Alice together.

"This is my wedding day, Dolly.  Did you remember it?"

"Robert!"

"I tried for once to do better; to treat Alice as a woman should be
treated.  This is my reward--my wedding day."

He lifted her in his arms like a child and as he laid her in her coffin
looked at her stonily.  "My bride!  My Alice!"

Dolly burst into tears.  The harshness of his despair gave way as he
bent over her for the last time and when he spoke again the tenderness
of his voice came back.  "My darling!  With you I bury every earthly
hope; for I take God to witness, in you I have had all my earthly joy!"
He walked away and never saw her face again.

The unintelligible service in the church did not rouse him from his
torpor and he was only after a long time aware of a strange presence on
the altar.  Just at the last he looked up into the sanctuary.  Little
clouds of incense rising from a swinging thurible framed for an instant
the face of a priest and Kimberly saw it was the archbishop.

The prelate stood before the tabernacle facing the little church filled
with people.  But his eyes were fixed on the catafalque and his lips
were moving in prayer.  Kimberly watched with a strange interest the
slender, white hand rise in a benediction over the dead.  He knew it was
the last blessing of her whom he had loved.

Dolly had dreaded the scene at the grave but there was no scene.  Nor
could Kimberly ever recollect more than the mournful trees, the green
turf, and the slow sinking of a flowered pall into the earth.  And at
the end he heard only the words of the archbishop, begging that they who
remained might, with her, be one day received from the emptiness of this
life into one that is both better and lasting.



                             CHAPTER XLIII


In the evening of the day on which they had buried Alice, and the family
were all at The Towers, Dolly, after dinner, asked Doctor Hamilton to
walk with her.  Robert Kimberly had dined upstairs and Hamilton upon
leaving Dolly went up to Kimberly’s rooms.

The library door was closed.  Hamilton, picking up a book in an
adjoining room, made a place under the lamp and sat down to read.  It
was late when Kimberly opened the closed door.  "Do you want to see me,
doctor?" he asked abruptly.

"Not particularly.  I am not sleepy."

Kimberly sat down in the corner of a davenport.  "Nor am I, doctor.  Nor
am I talkative--you understand, I know."

"I have been reading this pretty little French story."  Hamilton had the
book in his hand. "Mrs. MacBirney gave it to you.  I have been thinking
how like her it seems--the story itself--elevated, delicate,
refined----"

"It happens to be the only book she ever gave me."

Hamilton looked again at the inscription on the fly-leaf, and read in
Alice’s rapid, nervous hand:

"From Alice, To Robert."

"What slight chances," the doctor went on, "contribute sometimes to our
treasures.  You will always prize this.  And to have known and loved
such a woman--to have been loved by her--so much does not come into
every man’s life."

Kimberly was silent.  But Hamilton had come to talk, and disregarding
the steady eyes bent suspectingly upon him he pursued his thought.  "To
my mind, to have known the love of one woman is the highest possible
privilege that can come to a man.  And this is the thought I find in
this book.  It is that which pleases me.  What surprises me in it is the
light, cynical view that the man takes of the responsibility of life
itself."

"All sensualists are cynical."

"But how can a man that has loved, or treasures, as this man professes
to treasure, the memory of a gifted woman remain a sensualist?"

Kimberly shrugged his shoulders.  "Men are born sensualists.  No one
need apologize for being a sensualist; a man should apologize for being
anything else."

"But no matter what you and I are born, we die something other."

"You mean, we progress.  Perhaps so.  But that we progress to any more
of respect for man or for life, I have yet to learn.  We progress from a
moment of innocence to an hour of vanity, and from an hour of vanity to
an eternity of ashes."

"You are quoting from the book."

"It is true."

"She did not believe it true.  She died clinging to a crucifix."

Kimberly shrank under the surgeon’s blade.

"A memory is not vanity," persisted Hamilton. "And the day some time
comes when it embodies all the claim that life has upon us; but it is
none the less a valid claim.  In this case," the surgeon held up the
book, "Italy and work proved such a claim."

"My work would be merely more money-getting. I am sickened of all
money-getting.  And my Italy lies to-night--up there."  His eyes rolled
toward the distant hill.  "I wish I were there with her."

"But between the wishing and the reality, Robert--you surely would not
hasten the moment yourself."

Kimberly made no answer.

"You must think of Alice--what would she wish you to do?  Promise me,"
Hamilton, rising, laid his hand on Kimberly’s shoulder, "that to-night
you will not think of yourself alone.  Suicide is the supreme
selfishness--remember your own words.  There was nothing of selfishness
in her. Tell me, that for to-night, you will think of her."

"That will not be hard to do.  You are very kind.  Good-night."

In the morning Kimberly sent for Nelson and later for Charles.  It was
to discuss details concerning their business, which Robert, conferring
with his brother, told him frankly he must now prepare to take up more
actively.  Charles, uneasy, waited until they had conferred some time
and then bluntly asked the reason for it.

Kimberly gave no explanation beyond what he had already given to Nelson,
that he meant to take a little rest.  The two worked until Charles,
though Robert was quite fresh, was used up.  He rose and going to an
open window looked out on the lake, saying that he did not want to work
any longer.

The brothers were so nearly of an age that there seemed no difference in
years between them. Robert had always done the work; he liked to do it
and always had done it.  To feel that he was now putting it off,
appalled Charles, and he hid his own depression only because he saw the
mental strain reflected in Robert’s drawn features.

Charles, although resolutely leaving the table and every paper on it,
looked loyally back after a moment to his brother.  "It’s mighty good of
you, Bob," he said slowly, "to explain these things all over again to
me.  I ought to know them--I’m ashamed that I don’t.  But, somehow, you
always took the load and I like a brute always let you take it.  Then
you are a lot brainier than I am."

Robert cut him off.  "That simply is not true, Charlie.  In matter of
fact, that man has the most brains who achieves happiness.  And you have
been supremely happy."

"While you have done the work!"

"Why not?  What else have I been good for? If I could let you live--if
even one of us could live--why shouldn’t I?"

The elder brother turned impulsively.  "Why? Because you have the right
to live, too.  Because sunshine and bright skies are as much for you as
they are for me."

They were standing at the window together. Robert heard the feeling in
the words.

"Yes," he answered, "I know the world is full of sunshine, and flowers
are always fresh and life is always young and new hands are always
caressing.  This I well know, and I do not complain. The bride and the
future are always new.  But Charlie," he laid his hand on his brother’s
shoulder, "we can’t all play the game of life with the same counters;
some play white but some must play black.  It’s the white for you, the
black for me.  The sun for you, the shadow for me.  Don’t speak; I know,
I have chosen it; I know it is my fault.  I know the opportunities
wasted.  I might have had success, I asked for failure.  But it all
comes back to the same thing--some play the white, some the black."



                              CHAPTER XLIV


A second shock within a week at The Towers found Kimberly still dazed.
In the confusion of the household Uncle John failed one morning to
answer Francis’s greeting.  No word of complaint had came from him.  He
lay as he had gone to sleep.

Hamilton stood in the room a moment with Kimberly beside his dead uncle.

"He was an extraordinary man, Robert," said the surgeon, breaking the
silence at last.  "A great man."

"He asked no compromise with the inevitable," responded Kimberly,
looking at the stern forehead and the cruel mouth.  "I don’t know"--he
added, turning mechanically away, "perhaps, there is none."

After the funeral Dolly urged Robert to take Hamilton to sea and the two
men spent a week together on the yacht.  Between them there existed a
community of mental interest and material achievement as well as a
temperamental attraction. Hamilton was never the echo of any expression
of thought that he disagreed with.  Yet he was acute enough to realize
that Kimberly’s mind worked more deeply than his own and was by this
strongly drawn to him.

Moreover, to his attractive independence Hamilton united a tenderness
and tact developed by long work among the suffering--and the suffering,
like children, know their friends.  Kimberly, while his wound was still
bleeding, could talk to Hamilton more freely than to any one else.

The day after their return to The Towers the two men were riding
together in the deep woods over toward the Sound when Kimberly spoke for
the first time freely of Alice.  "You know," he said to Hamilton,
"something of the craving of a boy’s imagination.  When we are young we
dream of angels--and we wake to clay.  The imagination of childhood sets
no bounds to its demands, and poor reality, forced to deliver, is left
bankrupt. From my earliest consciousness my dreams were of a little girl
and I loved and hungered for her. She was last in my sleeping and first
in my waking thoughts.

"It grew in me, and with me, this pictured companion of my life.  It was
my childish happiness. Then the time came when she left me and I could
not call her back.  An old teacher rebuked me once.  ’You think,’ said
he, ’that innocence is nothing; wait till you have lost it.’

"I believed at last, as year after year slipped away, that I had created
a being of fancy too lovely to be real.  I never found her--in all the
women I have ever known I never found her until one night I saw Alice
MacBirney.  Dolly asked me that night if I had seen a ghost.  She was my
dream come true.  Think of what it means to live to a reality that can
surpass the imagination--Alice was that to me.

"To be possessed of perfect grace; that alone means so much--and grace
was but one of her natural charms.  I thought I knew how to love such a
woman.  It was all so new to her--our life here; she was like a child.
I thought my love would lift me up to her.  I know, too late, it dragged
her down to me."

"You are too harsh.  You did what you believed right."

"Right?" echoed Kimberly scornfully.  "What _is_ right?  Who knows or
cares?  We do what we please--who does _right_?"

They turned their horses into a bridle-path toward the village and
Kimberly continued to speak.  "Sometimes I have thought, what
possibilities would lie in moulding a child to your own ideas of
womanhood.  It must be pleasing to contemplate a girl budding into such
a flower as you have trained her to be.

"But if this be pleasing, think what it is to find such a girl already
in the flower of her womanhood; to find in her eyes the light that moves
everything best within you; to read in them the answer to every question
that springs from your heart.  This is to realize the most powerful of
all emotions--the love of man for woman."

The horses stopped on the divide overlooking the lakes and the sea.  To
the left, the village lay at their feet, and beyond, the red roofs of
the Institute clustered among clumps of green trees. The sight of the
Institute brought to Kimberly’s mind Brother Francis, who, released from
his charge at The Towers, had returned to it.

He had for a time wholly forgotten him.  He reflected now that after
Hamilton’s departure the companionship of Francis might help to relieve
his insupportable loneliness.  The men rode together past the village
and parted when they reached the lake, Hamilton returning to The Towers
and Kimberly riding south to the Institute to take, if possible, Brother
Francis home with him.  He expected some objection, but was prepared to
overcome it as he dismounted at the door of the infirmary and rang.  A
tall, shock-haired brother answered.

"I have come to see Brother Francis."

"You mean Brother Francis, who was at The Towers?  He has gone, I am
sorry to say."

"Where has he gone?"

"Brother Francis has gone to the leper mission at Molokai."

Kimberly stared at the man: "Molokai!  Francis gone to Molokai?  What do
you mean?"

A wave of amazement darkening Kimberly’s features startled the
red-haired brother.  "Who sent him?" demanded Kimberly angrily.  "Why
was I not notified?  What kind of management is this?  Where is your
Superior?"

"Brother Ambrose is ill.  I, Mr. Kimberly, am Brother Edgar.  No one
sent Brother Francis. Surely you must know, for years he has wished to
go to the Molokai Mission?  When he was once more free he renewed his
petition.  The day after it was granted he left to catch the steamer.
He went to The Towers to find you to say good-by. They told him you had
gone to sea."

Kimberly rode slowly home.  He was unwilling to admit even to himself
how hateful what he had now heard was to him and how angrily and
inexplicably he resented it.

He had purposed on the day that he made Alice his wife to give Brother
Francis as a foundation for those higher schools that were the poor
Italian’s dream, a sum of money much larger than Francis had ever
conceived of.  It was to have been one of those gifts the Kimberlys
delighted in--of royal munificence, without ceremony and without the
slightest previous intimation; one of those overwhelming surprises that
gratified the Kimberly pride.

Because it was to have been in ready money even the securities had
previously been converted, and the tons of gold lay with those other
useless tons that were to have been Alice’s on the same day--in the bank
vaults.  And of the two who were to have been made happy by them, one
lay in her grave and the other with his own hand had opened the door of
his living tomb.

Kimberly in the weariness of living returned to the empty Towers.  Dolly
and her husband had gone home and Hamilton now returning to town was to
dine with Charles Kimberly.  Robert, welcoming isolation, went upstairs
alone.

His dinner was brought to his room and was sent down again untasted.  He
locked his doors and sat down to think.  The sounds about the house
which at best barely penetrated the heavy walls of his apartment died
gradually away.  A clock within the room chiming the hour annoyed him
and he stopped it.  His thoughts ran over his affairs and the affairs of
his brother and his sister and partners and turned to those in various
measure dependent upon his bounty.

His sense of justice, never wholly obscured, because rooted in his
exorbitant pride, was keenly alive in this hour of silent reckoning.  No
injustice, however slight, must be left that could be urged against his
memory, and none, he believed, could now thus be urged.  If there were a
shock on the exchanges at the news of his death, if the stocks of his
companies should be raided, no harm could come to the companies
themselves. The antidote to all uneasiness lay in the unnecessarily
large cash balances, rooted likewise in the Kimberly pride, that he kept
always in hand for the unexpected.

His servants, to the least, had been remembered and he was going over
his thought of them when, with a pang, he reflected that he had
completely forgotten the maid, Annie.  It was a humiliation to think
that of all minor things this could happen--that the faithful girl who
had been closer than all others to her who was dearest to him could have
been neglected.  However, this could be trusted to a letter to his
brother, and going to a table he wrote a memorandum of the provisions he
wished made for Annie.

Brother Francis and his years of servitude came to his mind.  Was there
any injustice to this man in leaving undone what he had fully intended
to do in providing for the new school?  He thought the subject over long
and loosely.  What would Francis say when he heard?  Could he, stricken
sometime with a revolting disease, ever think of Kimberly as unjust?

The old fancy of Francis in heaven and Dives begging for a drop of water
returned.  But the thought of lying for an eternity in hell without a
drop of water was more tolerable than the thought of this faithful
Lazarus’ accusing finger pointing to a tortured Dives who had been in
the least matter unjust.  If there were a hereafter, pride had something
at stake in this, too.

And thus the thought he most hated obtruded itself unbidden--was there a
hereafter?

Alice rose before him.  He hid his face in his hands.  Could this woman,
the very thought of whom he revered and loved more than life
itself--could she now be mere dissolving clay--or did she live?  Was it
but breathing clay that once had called into life every good impulse in
his nature?

He rose and found himself before his mother’s picture.  How completely
he had forgotten his mother, whose agony had given him life!  He looked
long and tenderly into her eyes.  When he turned away, dawn was beating
at the drawn shades. The night was gone.  Without even asking what had
swayed him he put his design away.



                              CHAPTER XLV


Kimberly took up the matters of the new day heavy with thought.  But he
sent none the less immovably for Nelson and the troublesome codicil for
the school was put under immediate way.  He should feel better for it,
he assured himself, even in hell.  And whether, he reflected, it should
produce any relief there or not, it would silence criticism.  With his
accustomed reticence he withheld from Nelson the name of the
beneficiaries until the final draught should be ready, and in the
afternoon rode out alone.

McCrea and Cready Hamilton came out later with the treasurer.  They had
brought a messenger who carried balance sheets, reports, and estimates
to be laid before Kimberly.  He kept his partners for dinner and talked
with them afterward of the affairs most on their minds.  He told them he
would go over the estimates that night alone and consult with them in
the morning.  The type-written sheets were spread with some necessary
explanations on his table in the library upstairs and after his usual
directions for their comfort for the night he excused his associates.

He closed his door when they had gone.  The table lamp was burning and
its heavy shade shrouded the beamed ceiling and the distant corners of
the sombre room.  But the darkness suited Kimberly’s mood.  He seated
himself in a lounging chair to be alone with his thoughts and sat
motionless for an hour before he moved to the table and the papers.  The
impressive totals of figures before him failed to evoke any possible
interest; yet the results were sufficient to justify enthusiasm or, at
least, to excite a glow of satisfaction.  He pushed the reports back and
as he stared into the gloom Alice’s deathbed rose before him.  He heard
her sharp little cry, the only cry during that fortnight of torture.  He
saw her grasp the crucifix from Annie’s hand and heard Annie’s answering
cry, "Christ, Son of God, have mercy!"

Christ, Son of God!  Suppose it were true? The thought urged itself.  He
walked to a window and threw it open.  The lake, the copses and fields
lay flooded with moonlight, but his eyes were set far beyond them.  What
if it were true?  He forced himself back to the lamp and doggedly took
up the figures.

Mechanically he went over and over them.  One result lost its meaning
the moment he passed to the next and the question that had come upon him
would not down.  It kept knocking disagreeably and he knew it would not
be put away until the answer was wrung from him.

The night air swept in cool from the lake and little chills crept over
him.  He shook them off and leaned forward on the table supporting his
head with his hands.  "It is not true," he cried stubbornly.  There was
a savage comfort in the words.  "It is not true," he muttered.  His
hands tightened and he sat motionless.

His head sank to the table, and supporting it on his forearm, with the
huge typewritten sheets crumpled in his hands, he gave way to the
exhaustion that overcame him.  "It is not true," he whispered.  "I never
will believe it.  He is not the Son of God.  There is no God."

Yet he knew even as he lost consciousness that the answer had not yet
come.



                              CHAPTER XLVI


When Charles came over in the morning, Robert made a pretence of
discussing the budget with his associates.  It was hardly more than a
pretence.  Figures had palled upon him and he dragged himself each day
to his work by force of will.

The city offices he ceased to visit.  Every matter in which his judgment
was asked or upon which his decision was needed was brought to The
Towers.  His horses were left to fret in the stables and he walked,
usually alone, among the villa hills.

Hamilton, even when he felt he could not penetrate the loneliness of
Kimberly’s moods, came out regularly and Kimberly made him to know he
was welcome.  "It isn’t that I want to be alone," he said one night in
apology to the surgeon. "The only subjects that interest me condemn me
to loneliness.  Charles asked me to meet a Chicago friend of his last
night--and he talked books to me and pictures!  How can I talk pictures
and books?  McCrea brought out one of our Western directors the other
day," as Kimberly continued his chin went down to where it sank when
matters seemed hopeless, "and he talked railroads!"

"Go back to your books," urged Hamilton.

"Books are only the sham battles of life."

"Will you forego the recreation of the intellect?"

"Ah!  The intellect.  We train it to bring us everything the heart can
wish.  And when our fairy responds with its gifts the appetite to enjoy
them is gone.  Hamilton, I am facing an insupportable question--what
shall I do with myself? Shall I stop or go on?  And if I go on, how?
This is why I am always alone."

"You overlook the simplest solution.  Take up life again; your
difficulties will disappear."

"What life?  The one behind me?  I have been over that ground.  I should
start out very well--with commendable resolutions to let a memory guide
me.  And I should end--in the old way. I tell you I will never do it.
There is a short cut to the end of that road--one I would rather take at
the beginning.  I loathe the thought of what lies behind me; I know the
bitterness of the flesh."  His hands were stretched upon the table and
he clenched them slowly as he drew them up with his words, "I never will
embrace or endure it again."

"Yet, for the average man," he went on, "only two roads lie
open--Christianity or sensuality--and I am just the average man.  I
cannot calmly turn back to what I was before I knew her.  She changed
me.  I am different.  Christians, you know," his voice dropped as if he
were musing, "have a curious notion that baptism fixes an indelible mark
on the soul.  If that is so, Alice was my baptism."

"Then your choice is already made, Robert."

"Why do you say that?  When I choose I shall no longer be here.  What I
resent is being forced to choose.  I hate to bow to law.  My life has
been one long contempt for it.  I have set myself outside every law that
ever interfered with my desires or ambitions.  I have scorned law and
ignored it--and I am punished.  What can a man do against death?"

"Even so, there is nothing appalling in Christianity. Merely choose the
form best adapted to your individual needs."

"What would you have me do?  Fill myself with sounding words and echoing
phrases?  I am doing better than that where I am.  There is only one
essential form of Christianity--you know what it is.  I tell you I never
will bow to a law that is not made for every man, rich or poor, cultured
or crude, ignorant or learned.  I never will take up the husks of a ’law
adapted to individual needs.’  That is merely making my own law over
again, and I am leaving that.  I am sick of exploiting myself.  I
despise a law that exploits the individual. I despise men in religious
thought that exploit themselves and their own doctrines.  I need wholly
another discipline and I shall never bring myself to embrace it."

"You are closer to it than you think.  Yet, for my part, I hate to see
you lose your individuality--to let some one else do your thinking for
you."

"A part of my individuality I should be gainer for losing.  A part of it
I wish to God some one had robbed me of long ago.  But I hate to see
you, Hamilton, deceive yourself with phrases. ’Let some one else do your
thinking for you,’" Kimberly echoed, looking contemptuously away. "If
empty words like that were all!"

"You are going a good way, Robert," said the surgeon, dryly.

"I wish I might go far."

"Parting company with a good many serious minds--not to say brilliant
ones."

"What has their brilliancy ever done for me? I am tired of this rubbish
of writing and words. Francis was worth libraries.  I esteem what he did
with his life more than I do the written words of ten thousand.  He
fought the real battle."

"Did he win?"

Kimberly’s hand shot out.  "If I knew!  If I knew," he repeated
doggedly.  And then more slowly.  "If I knew--I would follow him."



                             CHAPTER XLVII


Kimberly no longer concealed from his family the trend of his thinking
nor that which was to them its serious import.  Dolly came to him in
consternation.  "My dear brother!" she wept, sitting down beside him.

His arm encircled her.  "Dolly, there is absolutely nothing to cry
about."

"Oh, there is; there is everything.  How can you do it, Robert?  You are
turning your back on all modern thought."

"But ’modern thought,’ Dolly, has nothing sacred about it.  It is merely
present-day thought and, as such, no better than any other day thought.
Every preposterous thought ever expressed was modern when it first
reached expression.  The difficulty is that all such ’modern’ thought
delights in reversing itself.  It was one thing yesterday and is wholly
another to-day; all that can with certainty be predicated of it is, that
to-morrow it will be something quite else.  Present day modern thought
holds that what a man believes is of no moment--what he does is
everything.  Four hundred years ago ’modern’ thought announced that what
a man did was of no moment, what he believed was everything.  Which was
right?"

"Well, which was right?" demanded Dolly, petulantly.  "You seem to be
doing the sermonizing."

"If you ask me, I should say neither.  I should say that what a man
believes is vital and what he does is vital as well.  I know--if my
experience has taught me anything--that what men do will be to a
material degree modified by what they believe.  It is not I who am
sermonizing, Dolly. Francis often expressed these thoughts.  I have only
weighed them--now they weigh me."

"I don’t care what you call it.  Arthur says it is pure mediævalism."

"Tell Arthur, ’mediævalism’ is precisely what I am leaving.  I am
casting off the tatters of mediæval ’modern’ thought.  I am discarding
the rags of paganism to which the modern thought of the sixteenth
century has reduced my generation and am returning to the most primitive
of all religious precepts--authority.  I am leaving the stony deserts of
agnosticism which ’modern’ thought four hundred years ago pointed out as
the promised land and I am returning to the path trodden by St.
Augustine.  Surely, Dolly, in this there is nothing appalling for any
one unless it is for the man that has it to do."

Yet Kimberly deferred a step against which every inclination in his
nature fought.  It was only a persistent impulse, one that refused to be
wholly smothered, that held him to it.  He knew that the step must be
taken or he must do worse, and the alternative, long pondered, was a
repellent one.

Indeed, the alternative of ignoring a deepening conviction meant, he
realized, that he must part with his self-respect.  He went so far as
seriously to ask himself whether he could not face putting this away;
whether it was not, after all, a fanciful thing that he might do better
without.  He considered that many men manage to get on very well in this
world without the scruple of self-respect.

But honesty with himself had been too long the code of his life to allow
him to evade an unanswered question and he forced himself gradually to
the point of returning to the archbishop. One night he stood again, by
appointment, in his presence.

"I am at fault in not having written you," Kimberly said simply.  "It
was kind of you to remember me in my sorrow last summer.  Through some
indecision I failed to write."

"I understand perfectly.  Indeed, you had no need to write," returned
the archbishop. "Somehow I have felt I should see you again."

"The knot was cruelly cut."

The archbishop paused.  "I have thought of it all very often since that
day on the hill," he said.  "’Suppose,’ I have asked myself, ’he had
been taken instead.  It would have been easier for him.  But could he
really wish it?  Could he, knowing what she once had suffered, wish that
she be left without him to the mercies of this world?’"  The archbishop
shook his head.  "I think not.  I think if one were to be taken, you
could not wish it had been you.  That would have been not better, but
worse."

"But she would not have been responsible for my death.  I am for hers."

"Of that you cannot be certain.  What went before your coming into her
life may have been much more responsible."

"I am responsible for another death--my own nephew, you know, committed
suicide.  And I would, before this, have ended my mistakes and
failures," his voice rose in spite of his suppression "--put myself
beyond the possibility of more--but that she believed what you believe,
that Christ is the Son of God."

The words seemed wrung from him.  "It is this that has driven me to you.
I am sickened of strife and success--the life of the senses.  It is Dead
Sea fruit and I have tasted its bitterness. If I can do nothing to
repair what I have already done, then I am better done with life."

"And do not you, too, believe that Christ is the Son of God?"

"I do not know what I believe--I believe nothing.  Convince me that He
was the Son of God and I will kneel to him in the dust."

"My dear son!  It is not I, nor is it another, that can convince you.
God, alone, extends the grace of faith.  Have you ever asked for it?"

Kimberly started from his apathy.  "I?"  He relapsed again into
moodiness.  "No."  The thought moved him to a protest.  "How can I reach
a far-off thing like faith?" he demanded with angry energy---"a shadowy,
impalpable, evasive, ghostly thing?  How can I reach, how can I grasp,
what I cannot see, what I cannot understand?"

"You can reach it and you can grasp it.  Such questions spring from the
anger of despair; despair has no part in faith.  Faith is the death of
despair.  From faith springs hope.  It is despair that pictures faith to
you as a far-off thing."

"Whatever it may be, it is not for me.  I have no hope."

"What brought you to-night?  Can you not see His grace in forcing you to
come against your own inclination?  His hope has sustained you when you
least suspected it.  It has stayed your hand from the promptings of
despair.  Faith a far-off thing?  It is at your side, trembling and
invisible. It is within your reach at every moment.  You have but to put
forth your hand to touch it."

Kimberly shook his bowed head.

"Will you stretch forth your hand--will you touch the hem of His
garment?"

Kimberly sat immovable.  "I cannot even stretch forth a hand."

"Will you let me stretch forth mine?"  His silence left the archbishop
to continue.  "You have come to me like another Nicodemus, and with his
question, unasked, upon your lips.  You have done wrong--it is you who
accuse yourself, not I.  Your own words tell me this and they can spring
only from an instinct that has accused you in your own heart.

"Christianity will teach you your atonement--nothing else can or will.
You seem to picture this Christianity as something distant, something of
an unreal, shadowy time and place.  It is not. It is concrete, clear,
distinct, alive, all about you every day, answering the very questions
you have asked in your loneliness.  It is hidden in the heart of the
servant that waits at your call, locked in the breast of the man that
passes you in the street.  It is everywhere, unseen, unapprehended about
you. I am going to put it before you.  Stay with me to-night.  In that
room, my own little chapel," the archbishop rose as he indicated the
door, "spend the time until you are ready to sleep.  You have given many
years to the gratification of yourself.  Give one hour to-night to the
contemplation of God.  May I tell you my simple faith?  The night before
He suffered, He took bread and blessed and broke it, and gave it to His
disciples.  And He said, in substance, ’Take and eat of this, for this
is my body, broken for your sins.  And as often as ye shall do this, do
it in commemoration of me.’  And on these words I ground my faith in
this mystery of His presence; this is why I believe He is here to-night,
and why I leave you with Him in this tabernacle before you.  If you feel
that you have done wrong, that you want to atone for it, ask Him to
teach you how."

The archbishop opened the chapel door.  In the darkness of the cool
room, the red sanctuary lamp gleamed above the altar.  The archbishop
knelt for a moment beside his questioner; then he withdrew, closing the
door behind him, and the silence of the night remained unbroken.

An acolyte, entering in the gray of the early morning, saw on the last
of the kneeling benches a man resting with bowed head.  In the adjoining
room the archbishop himself had slept, within call, in his chair.  He
entered the chapel and an assistant robed him to say his mass before his
single auditor.  The service over, he made his thanksgiving, walked to
where the man knelt and, touching him on the shoulder, the two left the
room together.

[Illustration: An acolyte, entering in the gray of the early morning,
saw on the last of the kneeling benches a man resting with bowed head]



                             CHAPTER XLVIII


The apprehension that had long waited upon Robert Kimberly’s intentions
weighed upon his circle.  It was not enough for those about him to
assure themselves that their affairs of business or of pleasure must
move on whether Robert should determine to move on with them or not. His
aloofness carried with it an uncertainty that was depressing.

If he were wholly gone it would be one thing; but to be not gone and not
of them was quite another. When Nelson brought the codicil providing for
the school, satisfactorily framed, Kimberly had changed his intention
and resolved, instead of incorporating the foundation in his will, to
make immediate provision for an endowment.  When the details were worked
out, Nelson left to bring his wife home from Paris.  Lottie’s first
visit was to Dolly’s home, and there she found Imogene and Fritzie.  She
tiptoed in on the surprised group with a laugh.

They rose in astonishment, but Lottie looked so trim and charming in her
French rig that she disarmed criticism.  For a moment every one spoke at
once.  Then Dolly’s kind heart gave way as she mentally pronounced
Lottie faultless.

"You never looked so well in your life," she exclaimed with sincerity.
"I declare, Lottie, you are back to the sprightliness of girlhood.
Paris certainly agrees with you."

Lottie smiled.  "I have had two great rejuvenators this year--Paris and
a good conscience."

Fritzie could not resist.  "Do they go together, Lottie?" she asked.

Lottie responded with perfect ease: "Only when one is still young, dear.
I shouldn’t dare recommend them to mature persons."

"You felt no risk in the matter yourself?" suggested Fritzie.

"Not in the least," laughed Lottie, pushing down her slender girdle.
But she was too happy to quarrel and had returned resolved to have only
friends.  "You must tell me all about poor Robert."  She turned, as she
spoke to Dolly, with a sudden sympathy in her tender eyes.  "I have
thought so much about his troubles.  And I am just crazy to see the poor
fellow.  What is he doing?"

"He is in town for a few days, just now.  But he has been away for two
months--with the yacht."

"Where?"

"No one knows.  Somewhere along the coast, I suppose."

"With whom?"

"Alone."

Lottie threw her eyes upward.  "_What_ does he _mean_?  What do _you_
all mean by letting him get into such a rut?  Such isolation; such
loneliness!  He needs to be cheered up, poor fellow. Dolly, I should
think _you_ would be frightened to death----"

"What could I possibly do that I haven’t done?" demanded Dolly.  "No one
can do a thing with Robert when he is set.  I have simply _had_ to give
up."

"You _mustn’t_ give up," protested Lottie courageously.  "It is just the
giving up that ruins everything.  Personally, _I_ am convinced that no
one can long remain insensible to genuine and sincere sympathy.  And
certainly no one could accuse poor Robert of being unresponsive."

"Certainly not--if you couldn’t," retorted Fritzie.

Lottie turned with amiability.  "Now, Fritzie dear, you are _not_ going
to be unkind to me.  I put myself entirely out of the case.  It is
something we ought all to work for together.  It is our duty, I think."

She spoke very gently but paused to give the necessary force to her
words.  "Truly, it would be depressing to _any_ one to come back to a
gay circle and find it broken up in the way ours is. We can’t help the
past.  Its sorrows belong to it alone.  We must let the dead bury the
dead and all work together to restore the old spirit when everybody was
happy--don’t you feel so, Arthur?" she asked, making that sudden kind of
an appeal to Arthur De Castro to which it is difficult to refuse assent.

"Certainly we should.  And I hope you will be successful, Lottie, in
pulling things together."

"Robert is at home now, isn’t he?"

"He has been at home a fortnight," returned Arthur, "but shut up with
the new board of directors all the time.  MacBirney walked the plank,
you know, last fall when Nelson went on the board."

"I think it was very nice of Robert to confer such an honor on Nelson,"
observed Lottie simply, "and I intend to tell him so.  He is always
doing something for somebody," she continued, rising to go.  "And I want
to see what the constant kindness he extends to others will do if
extended to him."

"She also wants to see," suggested Fritzie to Imogene, as Dolly and
Arthur walked with Lottie to the door, "what Paris and a good
conscience, and a more slender figure, will do for him."

"Now, Fritzie!"

"If Robert Kimberly," blurted Fritzie hotly, "ever takes up again with
Lottie Nelson, I’ll never speak to him as long as I live."

"Again?  When did he ever take up with her?"

"I don’t care.  You never can tell what a man will do."

Imogene, less easily moved, only smiled.  "Dolly entertains the Nelsons
to-morrow evening, and Robert will be asked very particularly to come."

Kimberly did not return home, as was expected, that night.  At The
Towers they had no definite word as to whether he would be out on the
following day.  Dolly called up the city office but could only leave a
message for him.  As a last resort she sent a note to The Towers, asking
Robert to join them for the evening in welcoming Lottie. Her failure to
receive an answer before the party sat down to dinner rather led Dolly
to conclude that they should not see him and she felt no surprise when a
note was handed her while the coffee was being served.  She tore it open
and read:


"DEAR DOLLY:

"I am just home and have your note.  I am sorry not to be with you
to-night to join in welcoming the Nelsons.  I send all good wishes to
the little company, but what I have now to tell you will explain my
absence.

"I had already made an appointment before I learned of your arrangements
for the evening. Father Pauly, the village clergyman, sleeps to-night at
The Towers and I am expecting him as I write. He does not know of my
intention, but before he leaves I shall ask him to receive me into the
Roman Catholic Church.

"ROBERT."


Dolly handed the note to Arthur.  He asked if he should read it aloud.
She nodded assent.

Fritzie, next morning, crossing the lake with flowers for Alice, was
kneeling at her grave when Kimberly came up.  She rose hastily but could
not control herself and burst into tears. Kimberly took her hands as she
came to him.  "Dear Fritzie," he murmured, "_you_ haven’t forgotten."

"I loved you both, Robert."

They walked down the hill together.  Fritzie asked questions and
Kimberly met her difficulties one after another.  "What great difference
does it make, Fritzie, whether I work here or elsewhere?  I want a year,
possibly longer, of seclusion--and no one will bother me at the Islands.
Meantime, in a year I shall be quite forgotten."

Charles Kimberly was waiting at The Towers for a conference.  The
brothers lunched together and spent the afternoon in the library.  Dolly
came over as they were parting.  "Is it true, Robert," she asked
piteously, "that you are going to Molokai?"

"Not for weeks yet, Dolly.  Much remains to be arranged here."

"To the lepers?"

"Only for a year or two."  He saw the suffering in her face and bent
over her with affectionate humor.  "I must go somewhere for a while,
Dolly.  You understand, don’t you?"

She shook the tears from her long lashes. "You need not tell me.
Robert, you will never come back."

He laughed tenderly.  "My heart is divided, Dolly.  Part of it is here
with you who love me; part of it, you know, is with her.  If I come
back, I shall find you here.  If I do not come back, I shall find her
THERE."


In a distant ocean and amid the vastness of a solitude of waters the
winter sun shines warm upon a windward cliff.  From the face of this
gigantic shape, rising half a mile into the air, springs a tapestry of
living green, prodigal with blossoms and overhanging at intervals a
field of flowers.

On the heights of the crumbling peak the wild goat browses in cool and
leafy groves.  In its grassy chimneys rabbits crouch with listening
ears, and on the sheer face of the precipice a squirrel halts upon a
dizzy vine.  Above its crest a seabird poises in a majesty of flight,
and in the blue distance a ship sails into a cloudless sky.  This is
Molokai.

At the foot of the mountain the morning sun strikes upon a lowland,
thrust like a tongue of fire into the cooling sea, and where the lava
meets the wave, breakers beat restlessly.

On one shore of this lowland spit, and under the brow of the cliff, a
handful of white cottages cluster.  On the opposite shore lies a
whitewashed hamlet brightened by tropical gardens and shaded with
luxuriant trees; it is the leper port.  Near the sea stands a chapel
surmounted by a cross.  Beyond it a larger and solitary cross marks a
second village--the village of the leper dead.

An island steamer whistled one summer evening for the port, and a
landing boat put out from the pier.  It was the thirtieth of June.
Three passengers made ready to disembark, two of them women, Sisters of
St. Francis, who had offered themselves for the leper mission, and the
third a man, a stranger, who followed them over the steamer’s side and,
rearranging their luggage, made a place for the two women in the stern
of the weather-beaten craft.

It was the close of the day and the sun flowed in a glory of gold over
the sea.  On one edge of the far horizon a rain cloud drifted.  In the
east the moon was rising full and into a clear sky.  A heavy swell
lifted the boat from the steamer’s side.  The three passengers steadied
themselves as they rose on its crest, and the brown oarsmen, catching
the sweep of the sea, headed for the long line of foam that crawled upon
the blackened rocks.

On the distant beach a black-robed figure outlined against the evening
sky watched with straining eyes the sweep of the dripping oars and with
arm uplifted seemed to wait with beating heart upon their stroke for him
who was coming. Along the shore, cripples hastening from the village
crowded the sandy paths toward the pier. In the west, the steamer was
putting out again upon its course, and between the two the little boat,
a speck upon the waves, made its way stoutly through the heaving sea.



                                THE END



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