AFTER that talk with Alan, Robert Steele had no doubt as to what he should do. That he still delayed to tell Miss Sally that he did not love her was not from any uncertainty as to his duty, but simply that the crushing misery of it made him incapable of action. He went as usual to see her ; listened absently to her gentle and aimless chatter, responded in his kindly way, and — waited. " Just one day more,” he told himself, again and again. More than once, while in her presence, he had tried to nerve himself to his duty, but her absolute trust in him made her unconscious of the direction of his thoughts, and overwhelmed Robert with the terror of what he had to do. In this way more than a fortnight passed, until the dawn of a wonderful May morning, whose beauty protested against the lie in his soul.

Alan had started out early, meaning to drop in at the major’s and look at Sidney’s carving, before he went to visit a patient; so Robert waited yet an hour longer, not caring to encounter the doctor when he went to proclaim his own shame.

Alan, meantime, was walking along in the sunshine towards the major’s, absorbed in his own happy imaginings. Soon, he said to himself, surely, soon, something must awake in Sidney Lee’s heart to which he might address himself ; as yet there had been nothing but meaningless friendship, and to that he had been silent.

He found her, that morning, in the garden. She was kneeling, with a trowel in her hand, beside a great bunch of day-lilies, looking at their broad leaves, and wondering what was the promise for August blossoming. When she saw Alan, she took him into her confidence in the frankest way in the world.

“ I thought it would be nice if they would bloom when aunt Sally is married, — she is so fond of them.”

“ Won’t she be married until August ? ” Alan inquired, looking down into her calm, upraised eyes.

“ I think,” she explained indifferently, pausing to lift the bending blossom of a crown imperial, and look down into its heart at the three misty tears which gather in the scarlet bell, — “I think that she wants to finish most of the preserving first.”

“Oh, Sidney ! ” he said. Her complete selfishness, here among the flowers, shocked him even through the glamour of his love. “ Is n’t it a pity to interfere with their happiness just for preserves? ” he demanded, laughing.

She had risen, and smiled, and then her face sobered. “ Miss Townsend and Mr. Paul are to be married then, too.”

” I am so glad ! But I thought it was to be sooner ? ”

Sidney looked at him curiously. “ Do people always say that they are glad ? Aunt Sally said it when she heard of Mr. Paul and Miss Townsend, and so did Mr. Steele ; and Mrs. Brown said it of aunt Sally.”

“ Well, yes, I think it is a matter of course to say one is glad,” Alan answered, lifting his eyebrows a little. “ I suppose it is civil to take happiness for granted.” Sidney waited. “I mean,” he explained, “ people may not be happy at all, you know ; they may quarrel awfully; but it’s civil to suppose they won’t.”

“ Quarrel! ”

“ Oh, they don’t quarrel where they really love each other, Sidney,” he declared ; “ never where there is real love.” This was an assertion which Alan would have been the first to find amusing if another man had made it.

“ But I thought you were speaking of people who loved each other,” she said simply, — “ married people ? ”

What young man in love could resist the temptation to instruct such ignorance ? Not, certainly, Alan Crossan. And yet, despite the eloquence with which he explained, Sidney still looked a little puzzled. " Oh,” he cried, at last, impatiently, " you are like a person from another world, — you don’t understand what I am saying ! ”

It was one of those perfect spring days, without a breath of wind to ruffle the silence of the sky, or a cloud to blur the sparkling blue in which the world was wrapped. There was the subtle fragrance of sunshine and freshly dug earth; a row of cherry-trees in Mrs. Paul’s garden stood white against the blue, and now and then a breath of their aromatic sweetness wandered through the still air. The young man and young woman, the young day, the first flowers, the twitter of birds swinging in the vines upon the wall, or whirling in and out among the cherry blossoms, — surely words were hardly needed !

Sidney and Alan had walked along the shadowy path towards the sun-dial in the evergreen circle, and there he begged her to sit down on the crescent-shaped bench. They were silent for a moment, listening to the murmur of the busy town outside the garden walls, and then Alan said. “ How strange it is, — this quiet spot in the middle of all that clamor ! How shut off we are from it all ! ”

Sidney had taken off her hat, and was leaning back, looking up between the points of the firs at the sky. “ Yes,” she answered, smiling.

“ It is like your life ; it is something apart, — something which does not belong to its time.”

“It is very pleasant, — I mean the garden.”

“ But it is not very great! ” cried the young man.

“ My life or the garden ? ” she questioned, with happy indifference in her face.

“ Of course — your life. It is neither happy nor unhappy, so it cannot be great.”

Sidney shook her head. “ I am perfectly happy,” she declared. " As for greatness, I don’t care for greatness ; I only want happiness.”

“ You will fail of either,” he said abruptly ; and then, having gone no further in his love-making than that point where a man falls readily into the vice of quotation, he began to say, his face radiant with the happiness of inexperience, —

“ ‘ Then welcome each rebuff
That turns earth’s smoothness rough,
Each sting that bids nor sit nor stand, but go !
Be our joys three parts pain!
Strive, and hold cheap the strain.’ ”

Sidney looked at him with a sparkle of laughter in her eyes. “ Now, Alan, what do you know about ‘ roughness ’ ? For my part, I confess I’m content with peace.” She smiled, with that serious sweetness which had always charmed him. The soft air, the sunshine, the flickering white of the cherry-trees, Alan’s presence, in a word, youth, gave her all she needed, while she was yet unaware that she had need of anything.

“ Such content is only ignorance ; you must have infinitely more to make life great, to make it worth having ! ”

“ What ? ” she asked lightly.

Alan drew a quick breath. He had not meant to tell her — yet; he had not meant even to generalize ; he had still lingering doubts about his responsibility to the major; more than all, he had declared that Sidney should not know his deepest life until she had herself begun to live, — he would not startle her into repulsion. But now he did not stop to say, Is it wise ? still less, Is it right ?

“What?” she asked again, turning to look at him.

Alan’s hand tightened upon his knee. “ Love,” he said.

Sidney Lee started ; a slow, fine color burned across her cheek, and was gone. There was a breathless moment between them ; for the first time she did not meet his eyes. But when she spoke her voice was as even as his had been shaken.

“ Greatness at such a cost ? I cannot see how any one can desire it, — greatness that grows out of unhappiness ! ”

“ You are wrong,” he said, in a low voice. “ It is n’t unhappiness, — love.”

“ It brings unhappiness,” she replied calmly.

“ It makes life glorious! ” he cried. The hope which had been hidden in his face, which had baffled Sidney and tormented Major Lee during these last few months, challenged her from his eyes. Not knowing why, she rose, trembling, breathless.

“ Yes — while it lasts ; but it does n’t last, you know.” She wanted to go away ; the tumult in her placid soul frightened her; there was a flying terror in her eyes.

“ But you don’t think of that; the joy ” —

“ Forgetfulness does not cheat death,” she interrupted ; " and the joy ? I should think that would make the calamity at the end greater for its greatness.”

“ Sidney ” — Alan began, and stopped. Some one was coming along the path towards the sun-dial. Sidney had grown very white, but now suddenly a flood of color mounted to her forehead ; her eyes stung with tears. She was conscious only of anger at this extraordinary embarrassment. Why should she want to hide her face as Robert Steele came upon them ? Why should her voice tremble when she answered his greeting ? She was dumfounded at herself. What did it mean ? She could hear, as though at a distance, Alan laughing at Robert’s anxious voice, as he asked where Miss Sally was. Alan was entirely himself, and good-naturedly matter of fact. Sidney’s confusion gave her a moment of positive faintness.

“ Sidney is neglecting her carving,” she heard him declare. “I have reproached her so that she vows she won’t have me for an instructor. No, I’m sure I don’t know where Miss Sally is, Bob ; probably delving in a tenement house after somebody’s soul.”

“ I ’ll — I ’ll wait, I think,” Robert answered ; and his voice seemed to grope like a blind man.

“ Oh, will you ? ” said Alan blankly.

Robert sat down beside them in silence. For a moment no one spoke. Then the doctor proposed, gayly, that Sidney should let him see her work. “ You must not be discouraged. I ’ll give you an easier design.” He rose. “ Come ! ” he entreated.

“Won’t you wait for aunt Sally in the house ? ” Sidney said, looking at Mr. Steele.

“ Yes,” he responded miserably. He would have followed them without this invitation; he had the human instinct to seek companionship in suffering. He even went into the lumber-room with them, and glanced with unseeing eyes at Sidney’s work, — a curious piece of deep carving, a bitter and evil face under a wreath of laurel leaves.

“ Why don’t you go and meet Miss Sally, Bob ? ” Alan suggested, for Sidney had recovered her voice enough to say that her aunt had gone in to Mrs. Paul’s.

Robert was incapable of suspecting Alan of diplomacy, so he only repeated dully, “ I will wait.”

“ You need her to cheer you up,” Alan commented ; “ you look awfully down in the mouth.”

Sidney, hearing his careless words, was bewildered by her own questions. What had it meant, that thrill in his voice, that wonderful light in his eyes, most of all that sudden storm in her own heart ? Yet now Alan was jesting with Mr. Steele, and she, too, was apparently quite composed, although beneath the surface she was stinging with sharp annoyance at herself. She lifted one of her tools, and saw with dismay that her hand was unsteady ; she was almost terrified,— her very body had played her false. Unreasoning anger made her answer Alan, shortly, that she would rather not carve that morning. She had put her hands behind her and held her head with a proud indifference ; she said to herself that she hated Alan, and she wished he would go away. The doctor, however, had no such intention; he took up a tool, and began to praise and criticise with as much discrimination as though he were not raging at his friend, who stood silently at his elbow. Even in his annoyance he felt vaguely that this silence of Robert’s was strange, and he looked at him once or twice keenly. “ Poor Boh! ” he said to himself. “ Confound him! ”

When Robert saw Miss Sally push open the door in the garden wall, he went with a heavy step into the parlor to await her. But by that time a subtile distance had come between Alan and the young woman. Sidney’s composure made it impossible to turn the conversation in the direction it had taken out in the sunshine. Those words belonged to the blue sky, and the white gleam of cherry blossoms, and the twitter of birds ; here, in the gloom of the lumber-room, with the murmur of voices from the parlor, nothing was possible but the business in hand, and so Alan talked about the carving, as long as he could endure the antagonism of Sidney’s silence, and then he went away.

Robert Steele only had to wait in the parlor for Miss Sally a moment or two ; when he heard her light, quick step in the hall, it seemed to him he could count his heartheats. Miss Sally had gone to Mrs. Paul’s that morning, although Sidney had promised to do so. “ But you know I must be out in the garden,” the girl had pleaded. So Miss Sally had read The Independent Press, and talked, or tried to, until Mrs. Paul’s patience gave way over some trifling exactness in her mild little visitor ; then she had cried sharply, —

“ Sally, you were an old maid when you were born ; and I don’t care how often you get married, you ‘ll be an old maid when you die ! ”

Miss Sally had been so earnest in her desire to be agreeable that she had laughed tremulously, which annoyed Mrs. Paul so much that she had ordered her to go home, and not be a goose. Miss Sally, still anxious to please, said, “Oh, yes, I think I must go,” — this to keep Mrs. Paul from any consciousness of rudeness. “ I ‘ll get ready at once.”

“ Oh, pray, Sally, don’t get ready ; be ready, for once in your life! ” returned the older woman. Then she had watched her impatiently while Miss Sally, with small, trembling fingers, buttoned her cloak, and wrapped her long white nubia round and round her face.

“ I’ve had neuralgia,” she explained. Miss Sally was always experimenting with human nature; it seemed to her that Mrs. Paul must be sympathetic. On the contrary, a retort upon the indecency of talking of one’s ailments sent the gentle soul home almost in tears. She had stopped under the cherry-trees to wipe her kind eyes, and then to bend down to smell the lilies of the valley, growing thick in the shadow of the wall; so that by the time she had reached the parlor and her lover she was her own cheerful self again.

But Robert’s haggard face brought an anxious look into her eyes. “ I hope you are very well, Mr. Steele ? ” she said. Miss Sally had never gone beyond “ Mr. Steele.”

He lifted her hand to his lips, but made no reply. Her affection seemed to him more than he could bear. (“ Love ” Robert called it, to himself.) Miss Sally did not dream of being hurt or surprised that he had not kissed her. If she had stopped to think of it at all, it would have been to wonder why he should ever kiss her: she could count upon her fingers the number of times that he had done so.

“ I am so glad to see you,” she said brightly, unwinding her nubia as she spoke. “ I want to ask you what you think would be nice to give that sweet Katherine for a wedding present. I know it is pretty far off, — August; but it is so pleasant to plan things. And you know they won’t have much money, unless dear Mrs. Paul will forgive John. Dear me, she couldn’t help it, if she would but consent to see Katherine. I tried to suggest it,” said Miss Sally, turning pale at the memory of Mrs. Paul’s fury ; “ but you know she has such a fine mind, she does n’t like to be dictated to, though I ’m sure I didn’t mean ” —

Robert had been absently holding her hand, but he dropped it, and began to walk restlessly about the room. Miss Sally looked puzzled. Then she remembered that she had not removed her overshoes, and, with a little hurried apology, ran out into the hall to take them off. When she came back, she was startled by his face. “ Why, is there anything the matter ? ”

Robert whitened under her kindly look. “ Yes, there is something the matter,” he almost groaned. Then he gathered all his manliness together: he must not think of himself, he must not even suffer, — the justice of pain was almost relief, and he did not deserve that: he must only think how to spare her, how to tell her the truth as tenderly and as faithfully as his unworthy lips might utter it. He came and sat down beside her on the yellow satin sofa, but he did not take her hand. There was an empty moment, in which they heard the voices in the room beyond; and then, through the open window, up out of the sunny street, came a wandering strain from Verdi, trailing off into silence as the itinerant musician moved further away.

“ I have come here,” Robert said slowly and distinctly, looking all the while at the portrait at the further end of the room, and noting, with that extraordinary faculty of the mind to observe trivial things in the extremest pain, how cruel was the curve of the beautiful lip, and vaguely aware that he was associating it with the white glitter of cherry blossoms and the careless sweetness of Sidney’s voice, — “ I have come here to tell you that I am an unworthy man; to tell you that my life is yours, that all that I have or hope is yours, but I am not worthy that you should look upon me. I have come here to tell you this.” Miss Sally was bewildered; there were tears in Robert’s eyes, and his lips were unsteady. “ I am unworthy that you should marry me,” he said.

“Nonsense! ” cried Miss Sally cheerfully. “ Of course you are worthy for anybody to marry. But you are not well, or you would not be so low-spirited. I saw that the moment I came in.” She looked at him with affectionate concern. His words were merely a symptom, in Miss Sally’s mind,—he had taken cold, he was overtired; and her solicitude suggested her manual, or, at the very least, Alan. She put her hand upon his arm, blushing a little at the boldness of a caress. “ You must be more careful of yourself.”

Robert stared at her blankly ; his face was full of helpless despair. As for Miss Sally, she reflected, with comfortable common sense, that when a man was in such a nervous state the only thing to do was to take his mind away from himself; and so, in her pleasant voice, she chattered of half a dozen pleasant things, never waiting for his replies, and ending, with a woman’s instinctive and happy interest in a wedding, with the assertion that she and Robert must give Katherine something practical.

“ Dear me,” declared Miss Sally, “ I suppose it’s sympathy, but I am perfectly delighted for them ! ”

Robert had been so flung back upon himself by her failure to understand him that, during all this talk, he could only struggle dumbly towards the point at which he had begun, and when at last he said, “ I cannot lie to you ; you must know how base I am, how dishonorable,” it was evident that he had not heard one word she had been saying. “ I want you to know what I am, and then, if you will trust me, if you will tell me that you will marry me, oh, I shall thank God — I ” — What else he said he never knew ; only that over and over again, after the truth was told, he implored her to let him devote his miserable life to her, to let him atone for his terrible mistake, to be his wife.

He did not look at her, but he felt that she was drawing herself away from him. The changes in the atmosphere of the soul are as unmistakable as they are intangible. The broken and humiliated man knew, before she spoke, that it was the sister of Mortimer Lee who answered him; little kindly Miss Sally had gone out of his life forever. She rose, and stood looking down at him for a moment ; when she spoke, her voice was perfectly calm, though her face was pale. Robert felt, although he dared not look at her, that she even smiled slightly.

“ Mr. Steele,” — he started, the tone was so like her brother’s, — “ pray do not be disturbed. Pray do not give it another thought.”

“ I honor you above any woman I have ever known ; your goodness makes it easier to believe in God’s goodness. But I could not deceive you ; I could not let you think I had given you what it is not in my weak, miserable nature to give to any one, — love such as you ought to receive. But take all I can give, Miss Lee ; take my life, and loyalty, and gratitude ; let things be as they have been.”

“ There has never been anything,” she answered, with such placid dignity that Robert dared not entreat her, " and, don’t you see, there never can be. There is nothing more to be said, please.” She looked at him, and then all the gentleness came back into her face and her eyes filled. " I am so sorry for you,” she said simply. Then, quietly, she left him.

Robert Steele did not move, even to follow her with his eyes; he sat there upon the yellow sofa, his head sunk upon his breast, his hands hanging listlessly between his knees. The shadows from the swinging branches of the ailantus-tree in the courtyard fell across a square of sunshine on the carpet at his feet; little by little the bar of light lifted and lifted, until it touched the calm eyes of Sidney’s mother.

He watched the silent, joyous dance of sun and shadows; he was incapable of thought.

He saw Alan cross the courtyard, and heard the iron gate creak on its rusty hinges, as he went out into the lane. A little later. Major Lee came up the steps ; and then he heard Sidney tell her father, carelessly, that her aunt had a headache, and would not be down to dinner. No one caught sight of him in the darker end of the parlor, half hidden by the open door. It must have been long after noon when he left the house ; he did not stay because he hoped to see Miss Sally again, but only because he had not the strength to go away.

It was nearly five o’clock when Alan Crossan entered his house. The day had been a good one to the doctor. The glory of the morning had touched every hour afterwards. He was still elate and joyous, but on the threshold of the library he stopped, appalled. In his absorption, these last few weeks, he had become perfectly accustomed to what he thought of as the meaningless distress in Robert’s face, and scarcely any accentuation of that pain could have startled him. But there was no distress in it now; only dull silence. He went over and touched him on the shoulder, in an authoritative way.

“You have taken morphine,” he said.


Mrs. Paul had not seen her son for nearly six weeks, when, the first Sunday evening that he was in Mercer after he had received Sidney’s message, he entered her drawing-room. During that time she had passed from rage to contempt, then to indifference, and now she had reached something like fright. Not that she feared losing John’s affection, — it was not credible to Mrs. Paul that she could lose the affection of any one; but she had an awful glimpse of a desolate old age. Who would play at draughts with her in the long evenings ? Who would listen patiently to her gibes and sneers ? Scarlett might do the latter, perhaps, — that was what she was paid for, — but there was no feeling in her silent endurance. Sidney might be summoned for the former, except that of late Mrs. Paul had found Sidney less interesting. Not from any change in the girl, but because her project concerning Mr. Steele had fallen through, and mostly because her own interests and disappointments pressed upon her and shut Sidney out. She was in a state of tremulous fierceness when at last the night came on which John Paul, with new and leisurely indifference, presented himself at her door.

“ Well,” she said, rapping the little table at her side sharply, “ you are here, are you ? I told Sidney that if you were sorry for your conduct you might come home.” John raised his eyebrows. " Yes,” Mrs. Paul declared, “I’m willing to overlook your behavior. Every man has in him the capacity of absolute idiocy at some time or other in his life, and that was your opportunity. Well, you improved it, Johnny, — you improved it. I ’m willing to forgive and forget,” she continued. “We’ll say no more about it. Just wind up this Independent Press folly as soon as you can. Do you want any money for it? ”

But there was something in her son’s look that troubled her. In spite of her bold words, her voice shook. In the brief answer that John made, Mrs. Paul heard her defeat announced; heard, but could not realize nor accept it. She grew so angry that her son bent his eyes upon the ground, and refused to look at her.

“ You shall not marry that woman! ” she cried; “ or, if you do, not a cent of my money shall you have, — do you hear me ? And she shall never enter my house, — do you understand me ? I will not see her.”

John had been standing silently all this time, frowning at the jug of lilacs in the fireplace; once he lifted from the mantelpiece a carved and fretted ball of ivory, which held another within its circling mystery, and looked at it critically; then he put it down, and waited for his mother to continue ; but he glanced at the clock in an absent, indifferent way.

“ You are a cruel and unnatural son ! ” she said, her voice breaking into tears.

John looked at her with attention. “ Yes, I think I am unnatural, but I can’t help it now; neither of us can help it now. I am what you have made me ; I suppose I am hard. I am sorry.”

“ Hard ? You are stone ! My only son ! ”

John sighed. Human nature is as helpless to restore as to create love. But had he ever loved his mother ? He had certainly never analyzed his feeling for her. Affection for one’s mother is a matter of course; it is a conventionality, in a way. But now something had snapped, something had broken ; he no longer took his affection for granted.

“ No,” he thought sadly, looking away from her convulsed face, “I do not love you ; and I shall never forgive you.” He knew quite well that, no matter what gloss of reconciliation might cover that awful scene when she had accused and condoned at once, he could never forget it.

Those promises of pardon which we bestow so readily are apt to be given without thought of this terrible and inescapable power of memory. The lover or the husband, the mother or the child, may love as deeply as before the quarrel or the crime, but the remembrance of one bad or cruel word, the color of a tone, the meaning in the glance of an eye, will too often linger in the soul; such a recollection will start up between two kisses, force itself beneath the hand that blesses, be renewed in vows of renewed tenderness. No assertions of forgiveness or of love can blot it out; it is as immortal as the soul.

Perhaps Mrs. Paul read the inexorable truth in her son’s face ; her anger was drowned in a new emotion. She looked up suddenly at Annette’s picture.

“ Oh, why did you die ? ” she said, half aloud. “It is your fault. I would have been different ” —

“ I must go,” John was saying constrainedly. “ Should you need me at any time, I will come at once. Mother, I wish you would let Katherine come to see you ? ”

But she burst out into such bitter insult to the woman he loved that, without another word, he left her.

She did not even ring for Scarlett when he had gone, and she was wonderfully quiet all that evening. Davids noticed that she left the tea-table without eating, and he hazarded the remark to Scarlett that he believed she cared more for Mr. John than she had ever let on. Scarlett’s response of silence made him, as usual, quite angry, but left him with that sense of her wisdom which the mystery of reserve is sure to produce.

“ Lord ! ” said Davids, “ if I could hold my tongue like her, she ‘d think me something great !”

Mrs. Paul was experiencing this same fear of silence. If John had argued, if he had attempted to explain, she could have had all the solace of her own rush of angry words. She felt, unanswered, like a flying brig, left suddenly to the waves without the driving force of the hurricane. Her own fury tossed and beat her, but without John’s anger she could make no progress.

She did not sleep much that night; she thought persistently of Miss Townsend. She wished, with hot resentment, that she could see her, at a distance, — that she could know what sort of a person it was who had wrought this change in her son; for through the calmest indifference she had been entirely ignorant of John’s possibilities. Alone in the darkness of her bedroom, the slow and scanty tears burned in her eyes and dropped upon her pillow; the old grief for the dead Annette, the grief which had railed at Heaven, but had hidden itself so completely that no one knew that it existed, was sobbed out again in despair and hatred of all the world. “Why did she die? Mortimer is right; it is not worth while to love any one. Oh, I wish she had never been born! ” The thought came to her at last, — it was towards dawn, and the furniture was beginning to shape itself out of the shadows, as the windows grew into oblongs of gray light, — the thought came to her that she might go to see this young woman ; yes, and tell her what she thought of her, and what would be the result if she married John, — which, of course, would end the matter, for all the girl wanted was money. Rage which can be expressed in action is almost pleasure. Mrs. Paul fell asleep when she had thought this all out; but Scarlett was startled by her white face and haggard eyes, when she brought in the coffee the next morning.

“ Tell Davids,” Mrs. Paul said, as she sat before the oval mirror of her dressing-table, and watched the woman puff her hair with delicate and gentle little fingers, — “tell Davids to go to the major’s, and say Mrs, Paul’s love, and will Miss Lee step over for a few minutes after breakfast ? ”

“ Miss Sally ? ” asked Scarlett, whose sense of justice always made this little protest for Miss Sally’s dignity.

“ Of course not! ” cried Mrs. Paul.

“ I said Miss Lee.”

Sidney came, and was asked, in the most casual way in the world, where “ that Townsend girl ” lived, although the desire for such information was not explained.

Mrs. Paul had ordered the carriage for two o’clock, and she drove towards Red Lane with a face which tried to hide its eagerness beneath the greatest indifference. She had been full of excuses all that morning, explaining to herself that this apparent weakening was only strength. Johnny should see he could not defy her; she would put a stop to his absurdities once for all. No fear that the young woman would want to marry him when she knew the facts of the case.

Miss Katherine Townsend, however, was away from home, and Mrs. Paul’s anger was for the moment restrained. “ I will wait,” she said, sweeping past Maria, who was very much overcome by the caller’s rustling silks, as well as by her impatient and disdainful eyes. It was curious that the servant’s vacant face and the plainness of the house should have aroused in Mrs. Paul, not anger at John, but the old indignation at what, long ago, she had called the “ low tastes ” of her husband. “ He gets it from his father,” she thought, her lip curling as she looked about at the severe but cheerful room.

The walls between the windows and doors were covered with bookshelves, so that there was no room for pictures; the piano was open, and sheets of music were scattered beside it; there was no carpet on the painted floor, “only,” said Mrs. Paul to herself, “ those detestable slippery rugs.” On the table was a great India china bowl full of locust blossoms. The shutters were bowed, for the day was warm, and one ray of sunshine fell between them, striking white upon the flowers, but the rest of the room was shadowy ; so dusky, indeed, that Mrs. Paul did not observe Ted standing in the doorway, his grave little head on one side and his hands behind him.

“ Who,” he observed at last, “ are you ? ”

“ Oh,” thought Mrs. Paul, “ this is the brother. Of course the child is pert and forward.”

“ Kitty says,” said Ted gently, “ ’at it’s polite to speak when you are spoken to.”

“You are an impertinent boy! ” Mrs. Paul assured him. She put her glasses on and inspected him.

“ No,” Ted corrected her, “ I’m not an impertinent boy. I ‘m Kitty’s big brother.”

“ I am Mrs. Paul,” explained his auditor, — “ now you can run away, please.”

“ Oh,” cried Ted, with evident delight, “ are you John’s sister ? We love John Kitty and Carrie, Louisa and me.”

Little Ted had no knowledge of any other relationship than brother and sister, so his remark had no flattery in it, but Mrs. Paul smiled involuntarily. “ I am his mother,” she said. (“ A scheming. ill-bred person,” she added, in her own mind, “ teaching the children to talk about Johnny in such a way, to please him, of course.”)

“ Should you like to see the pups ? ” Ted asked, anxious to be agreeable. “John gave ’em to me.”

“Oh, pray be quiet! ” returned Mrs. Paul impatiently. “ When is your sister coming home ? ”

“ Do you mean Kitty ? ” The child leaned his elbow confidingly on Mrs. Paul’s knee, and looked into her face. “You haven’t got such pretty eyes as John.”

There was no reply.

“ Kitty thinks his eyes are beautiful,” declared Ted calmly, “ an’ she’s coming home ’most any time. Kitty does just as she pleases, you know.”

Mrs. Paul’s face expressed only silent endurance.

“ Does John love you the same as I love Kitty ? ” Ted continued, after a pause, during which he inspected the lace upon Mrs. Paul’s wrap. A moment later, he exclaimed gayly, “ There she is ! Kitty, there’s somebody here ! ”

For once Katherine scarcely noticed him. She had guessed whose was the carriage at the door, and she had summoned all her happiness and her courage to her aid. She entered with a smile, in which there was the faintest gleam of amusement.

“ You are Mrs. Paul,” she said, with an outstretched hand, which, as Mrs. Paul did not notice it, began to wheel an easier chair forward. “ How good of you to come to see me ! But pray take a more comfortable seat.”

Words fluttered upon Mrs. Paul’s lips, and left her silent. This dignified young woman was so different from her expectations that she had to take a moment to adjust her anger to her circumstances.

Katherine, meanwhile, had drawn her little brother to her side. The old sofa upon which she sat, with its uncomfortable mahogany arms and its faded damask covering, had an air of past grandeur about it which impressed Mrs. Paul, although she did not know it. All the furniture in the room had this same suggestiveness, as well as the rows of leathercovered books upon the shelves.

“ She comes of People,” Mrs. Paul thought angrily. “ Her conduct is inexcusable ! ”

“ I trust you have not had to wait very long?” Katherine was saying. “ And, Ted, you have not been a bore, have you ? ”

“ Indeed,” said Mrs. Paul, " he has been quite — quite talkative.” She was furious at herself for ending her sentence in that way.

“ Had I known that you were coming, I should have been at home,” said Katherine.

But Mrs. Paul was not to be drawn into commonplace civilities. “ Miss Townsend, will you be so kind as to send this child away ? What I wish to say perhaps he had better not hear.”

“ Certainly,” answered Katherine gravely. But when Ted, with his usual reluctance, had left them, she said, with quiet dignity, that had in it a curious condescension, “ Mrs. Paul, I know very well that John’s engagement to me is a disappointment to you, and I appreciate with all my heart your coming here to see me.”

“ You are quite right,” returned Mrs. Paul; “ it is a disappointment. It is for that reason that I am here. Of course my son will do what he wishes with his future, but at the same time it is only proper that you should know what that future will be — if — if he displeases me.” Katherine’s slight, waiting smile, full of courteous and decent deference for her age, confounded Mrs. Paul. She was perhaps more puzzled than angry, and the sensation was so new that she was at a loss for words. Those which she had prepared for the upstart music teacher were not to be spoken to this young woman. “ Yes, it is a very great disappointment, I regret to say,” she ended.

“ I hope you will believe,” Katherine Townsend answered, " that I have realized perfectly that it might be so. I do not mean because I am poor, — that is something which neither you nor I could consider, — but I have the care of my brother and sisters, and it is a very serious thing for a man to marry when he must assume such responsibilities.”

“ I am glad to see that you appreciate that,” said Mrs. Paul. " I ” —

“ Yes,” interposed Miss Townsend quietly, " of course I know that. And yet I have felt that this very assumption would give him the strength which your strength has really withheld from him. He has had no responsibility in life, I think, has he ? I am sure you understand me. I do not mean to reproach your love for him, which has spared him, but surely responsibility will help him, too ? But I am talking too much of my own concerns.” She stopped, smiling in half apology. “ It is such a tiresome drive over from the hill ; will you not excuse me for one moment, and let me fetch you a cup of tea ? ” She rose, ignoring Mrs. Paul’s quick negative. “ Pray let me,” she said, and left the room.

In the hall she drew a long breath and set her lips; then she went into the kitchen, and with an intent haste, which silenced Maria, she made the tea herself, and arranged the small tray upon which she was to carry it to her guest. It was a bold stroke, she reflected, and the risk was great in leaving Mrs. Paul alone to collect her thoughts and her objections ; but it had been the only thing that had suggested itself to Katherine. The excitement and restraint made her eyes bright, and there was a little color in her cheeks ; and when, tranquilly and without haste, she came back to the parlor, she was almost handsome. Mrs. Paul could not help seeing that, nor the quiet way in which Katherine seemed to dismiss the subject of John and his engagement. She began, as she poured the tea, to talk, lightly, with cutting words, of this person or of that. Had Mrs. Paul heard of that absurd affair in Ashurst ? What a painful thing for the family such a scandal must be! And what did she think of that ridiculous love-story that, just now, every one was reading ? And that gave Katherine Townsend the chance to say things as bitter and as untrue as even her guest might have done.

“ A book,” Mrs. Paul was constrained, to say, “ which tries to denounce second marriage is silly, is immoral.”

“ Who is it that says a second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience ? ” queried Katherine gayly. “ Truly, I don’t like the idea myself, but it’s better than Major Lee’s theory.” This with a slight shrug. Even as she spoke, she was excusing herself by saying she would confess to Sidney Lee what she had said, never for a moment realizing how incapable Sidney was of understanding the situation, or approving of that temporary insincerity which is a weapon of society, and rarely implies a moral quality.

At that suggestion of a sneer, Mrs. Paul saw her anger slipping away from her. She made an effort to recover herself. “ At least, absurd as it is, Mortimer Lee’s view would prevent many unhappy marriages; and I am sure you will agree with me that no marriages are so unhappy as those which are unequal in — in any way. It is of this, Miss Townsend, that I wish to speak to you.”

Then Katherine, who had given away her warm and honest heart as loyally as any woman ever did, lifted her eyebrows a little and seemed to consider. “ Yes,” she said cynically, “ of course ; except that the reasons for an unequal marriage are always so apparent. No one ought to be deceived. Regard has very little to do with it. It is invariably personal advantage which is considered ; happiness is not expected.” She held her breath after that; perhaps she had gone too far ? Yet if it made Mrs. Paul feel that, in her own case, she acknowledged no inequality, much was gained, even at the expense of a slur upon love. (“This is bowing in the house of Rimmon,” she thought, with shame and elation together.)

But Mrs. Paul smiled. At least this young woman was no fool,—there was to be no love-talk, no tears ; and yet, as she tried to turn to that subject which she had come to discuss, she found such a discussion as difficult, although not as disagreeable, as though she had been answered by tears and protestations. She could not make her threat about money to this young person who treated money with such high-handed indifference ; indeed, so skillfully did Katherine parry the slightest hint of the disapprobation which Mrs. Paul was here to express that the older woman became aware that, although she was not to be allowed to say what was in her mind, Miss Townsend knew perfectly well all she wished to say.

There are few who are not more or less impressed by cleverness ; but Mrs. Paul respected it, even when it was to her cost. As for Katherine, she was exhilarated by her opportunity ; to anticipate Mrs. Paul’s sneers was like a game. That she was not sincere she was aware, but she silenced her conscience by a promise to repent as soon as her wrong-doing was ended. For the present, she must not lose the chance of assuring Mrs. Paul that, for her part, she believed that vanity was the beginning of most of the virtues, and expediency of the rest, — or any such flippant untruth as Mrs. Paul’s conversation might suggest; and Mrs. Paul’s conversation never lacked suggestion.

The older woman’s final reserve broke down. “My dear,” she cried, “you are delightful. The Providence that takes care of children and fools has guided Johnny. As for your brother and sisters, no doubt we can find a proper boarding-school ” — She ignored Miss Townsend’s laughing negative. Mrs. Paul was never half-way in anything; she was as charmed as she had been enraged.

“ But I am afraid,” Katherine said, — “I am afraid that I must beg you to excuse me. I have a lesson to give in just twenty minutes, and I must go. I am so sorry ! ” She rose as she spoke, extending her hand in very courteous and calm dismissal. “ It has been a pleasure to see you,”she said, with no more enthusiasm than politeness demanded.

Mrs. Paul was beaming. She glanced at Katherine keenly for a moment, as she took her arm. “ Where have you learned to walk ? ” she demanded. “ One does not expect deportment from Little Mercer. But what am I thinking of ? Your mother was a Drayton, of course! I remember now : young Steele told me so, and Sidney, but I had forgotten it. So foolish in Johnny not to remind me ! How could I suppose that anybody he would care for could have antecedents ? ”

“ But poor John,” said Katherine lightly, — “the was more concerned with living than with dead relatives. Four Townsends are bad enough, without a dozen Draytons too.”

“Oh,” Mrs. Paul assured her, “I have no doubt that they are very well, — the children; I assure you I sha’n’t mind them much.” They had reached the carriage, and a thought struck her. “ You are going out to give a lesson ? (Nonsense, all nonsense; we ’ll stop that at once !) Then just get right in with me, and I ’ll take you wherever you want to go. It has begun to rain, you see.”

“ That will be delightful! ” Katherine assented. She had not removed her bonnet when she entered the parlor, so without any delay she took the place by Mrs. Paul’s side. The enjoyment of leaning back among the carriage cushions, and directing the coachman to drive to one of those cheap suburban villas, which irritate the eyes and look as though they had been made with a jigsaw, was something Katherine never forgot.

“ You are to come to see me to-morrow morning.” commanded Mrs. Paul, more pleasantly excited and interested than she had been for many a day. " I shall send for Johnny, and we will wind up this nonsense of the paper.”

Katherine laughed and shook her head. " I am so sorry, but I am occupied to-morrow morning. I must not disappoint a pupil for my own pleasure, you know.” Under all her calm, Katherine was flushed with victory. She had triumphed, yet it was at the cost of her self-respect. She realized this when she stood at the carriage door saying good-by.

“ My dear, you are a clever woman, and I congratulate you. (No one can say I have not always appreciated cleverness.) You don’t make any sentimental pretenses, — I like that. As for Johnny, I dare say you will make the best of him ; he ’s only stupid, —that’s all.”

Katherine grew hot with shame; she could scarcely control her voice to thank Mrs. Paul for having carried her to her pupil’s door. She had succeeded too well.

Mrs. Paul, when she drove away, was in that state of radiant satisfaction which demands a spectator. So it was something to come across Miss Sally trudging home in the rain, and to stop and insist that she should get into the carriage.

“ Why in the world,” she cried, “ did n’t you tell me about Katherine Townsend ? ” She would not drive home immediately, “ for I want to talk to you,” she said. And so Miss Sally, sitting opposite, shivering a little in her damp skirts, listened with genuine pleasure to Mrs. Paul’s praises of Katherine. “ It is really a pleasure to talk to such a young woman ; and a great relief, after what I have endured these last few years. Why did nobody tell me what she was like ? Of course I could not know ; the fact that Johnny was in love with her made me think she could not amount to much. Johnny has no sense about women. I was always afraid he might think he was in love with you. But, thank the Lord, he never reached that state! So it was natural that I should object to her, not having seen her, and neither you nor Sidney having the sense to tell me what kind of a woman she was.”

“ I should think,” ventured Miss Sally, shivering a good deal, “ that you would have known she must be a sweet, good girl, just because John cared for her.”

“ Sweet? good ? ” repeated Mrs. Paul contemptuously. That ‘s like you, Sally. And it’s like you to say I must have known, because — Now that you are engaged yourself, you really are too silly.”

Miss Sally swallowed once or twice, and then looked out of the window. “ I am not engaged, Mrs. Paul.”

Mrs. Paul’s " What ? ” was explosive. “ When did you break it off ? What an idiot you were, Sally, to let him go ! You will never get the chance again. Why did you do it ? ”

“I — I did n’t break it off,” said the other simply; “ he told me he had made a mistake. So there was n’t anything to break off, you see.”


If Mrs. Paul had not been so absorbed in Katherine, she would have felt in Miss Sally’s broken engagement the collapse of a person who has lost a grievance. As it was, she thought of it only to repeat the news, two or three days later, to Robert’s astounded and dismayed friend, and to rail at Sally for a fool to have let young Steele slip through her fingers. When Alan Crossan really grasped the fact that Robert had thrown Miss Sally over, — it was thus Mrs. Paul expressed it, — he stood in shocked silence for a moment; it was too tremendous for comment. Then came the instant rebound : it was impossible ; it simply could not be; by believing such a slander he again had wronged his friend. Why, it was only a week ago that Robert had come to look for Miss Sally in the garden— Then, like a blow, came the remembrance of the evident return to morphine in the afternoon of that day, and since then Robert had been away from home.

The doctor scarcely heard Mrs. Paul’s triumphant talk of Katherine ; he only waited for a pause to say good-by, and then he went at once, not knowing why, to the major’s. There, at first, it seemed as though this terrible news was confirmed. Sidney met him, looking puzzled and half annoyed.

“ Aunt Sally is ill, I think. She has a cold. I was going to send for you, Alan, though you won’t mind if she keeps on taking her little pills too, will you ? ”

“ Is — is anything else wrong, Sidney ? ” he said. “ Does Mr. Steele know she is ill? Has he been here to-day ?”

Sidney shook her head. There is nothing wrong ; what could be wrong ? Aunt Sally is ill, and I can’t tell what she wants done downstairs. She is sleepy all the time.” She frowned ; she was troubled, and she was impatient of all trouble.

It was no time to ask questions ; Alan had to forget Robert. A physician’s private anxieties are out of place by the bedside of a patient, and Miss Sally was really sick. That walk in the rain, and then the long, shivering ride with Mrs. Paul, had come upon a little body which the new emotions of the last few months, and especially of the last week, had greatly taxed. Miss Sally was exhausted. Her pathetic desire to appear stronger and wiser than she was had been a continual strain ; but that desire had gone now, and she felt instead the old content, the old enjoyment of a narrow life. And yet such content was a mysterious pain to Miss Sally.

In the night of that day upon which Mr. Steele had told her he did not love her, she had cried as though her heart would break. She knew, vaguely, that her grief was not because she had lost her lover, yet she knew no more than that. She was incapable of finding the reason for her tears, or of understanding that there is no bitterer pain than the knowledge that the real grievance is the lack of grief.

There, in the dark, kneeling at the side of her high bed, she cried until, from weariness, she fell asleep ; sinking down upon the floor, her head resting against the carved bedpost. In the morning she awoke, stiff and chilled, and in a dazed way groped about in her mind to find her sorrow. She caught a glimpse in her mirror of her small anxious face, stained with last night’s tears, and pressed into wrinkles and creases where it had rested on the gathers of the valance. The tears were still very near the surface. She drew a little sobbing breath for pity of herself. But perhaps at that moment she dimly understood that really it was relief which had come to her, and not sorrow, and that the dear and commonplace little life was hers again. There would be no more effort, no new emotions. She cried as she smoothed her hair and bathed her tired eyes, because, without understanding it, she knew how soon her tears would be dried. It was a little soul’s appreciation of how impossible for it is greatness. But no one could have guessed this cause of grief, least of all Robert Steele, drowning his misery in the old familiar dreams of opium. He had shut himself up in a hotel in the city, and given all his thoughts to the contemplation of his own baseness; and when that grew too terrible to be borne, taking up that strange little instrument of heaven and hell, and by a prick in his arm forgetting. There was a fitness in such sinning, he said to himself, deliberately yielding to temptation. He had flung Miss Sally’s saving love away, so he had best fall back into the misery from which she had rescued him. Perhaps no one, not even Alan, could have appreciated the sincerity of a man allowing himself to sin, as a punishment to himself.

But the doctor, on that day, a week later, when he found Miss Sally ill, had no knowledge of Robert or his condition, and he could not spare a thought for him in concern for her. Alan looked worried when he rejoined Sidney in the library.

She was reading, and it was evidently not easy for her to leave her book.

“Yes,” he said, “Miss Sally is ill; but don’t be alarmed.” Sidney looked surprised ; evidently, nothing had been further from her thoughts than anything so unpleasant as alarm. “ So far as I can see, she has nothing on her mind. (Mrs. Paul was wrong ; I knew she was.) But I don’t like that room for her : there is no sunshine, and too much draught. The room across the hall would be better. I think she ought to be moved at once.”

“ But,” said Sidney, in consternation, and putting her book down, “ that is — is ” —

“ Your room ? ” Alan finished. “ Why, Sidney ! ” The selfishness which could admit of such a thought startled him for a moment.

Sidney did not speak. To put some one else before herself required an adjustment of ideas; but when that was done, the resulting consciousness was not altogether unpleasant.

“ I think,” said Alan slowly, “ I ’ll ask Miss Katherine Townsend to come in this afternoon, for a while. I’m sure she’s a capital nurse. And Miss Sally ought not to be alone.”

“Oh! ” Sidney answered blankly, so plainly distressed at her duty that Alan could not be silent.

“ Sidney, don’t you care for Miss Sally ? ”

“ Yes, of course I care,” she said ; but there was no offended affection in her face, nor did she say “ love.” In such matters the major had taught her to call things by their right names.

“ Then,” cried Alan. “ why don’t you want to be with her, and to give up your room to her ? ”

“ Because,” she explained, “ it is n’t pleasant, Alan.”

The doctor looked at her. “ But is this sort of thing pleasant, — this selfishly refusing to see what is painful ? ”

“ It is n’t unpleasant,” she replied. But she was troubled ; Alan seemed to disapprove of her, she thought.

“Oh, Sidney,” he said, “it distresses me to have you unwomanly and selfish. I cannot bear to see you selfish.” This was the first time that they had been alone since that morning in the garden.

She smiled. “ But look ; why do you want me to be different ? Because it is unpleasant to see what you call selfishness ? ”

“ And it is not right,” added the doctor.

“ What is ‘ right ’ ? ” she asked. “ Oh, Alan, you and I act from the same motive, — comfort ; only you are more subtle about it than I. You call ‘comfort’ ‘ right; ’ it’s expedient to be good, you know.” She laughed, and looked at him so frankly, with such entire absence of that beautiful consciousness which had filled him with hope, that Alan’s heart sank.

“ Sidney,” he said passionately, “ I told you that you needed love to make you really live. It is regeneration, as well as beauty ! Do you remember what I told you ? Oh, you could not be selfish if — you had love in your heart! ”

He stood close beside her; it seemed as though a wave of light quivered across his face as his eyes sought hers. Miss Sally, right and wrong, the subtleties of altruism and selfishness, were forgotten ; the woman he loved was looking into his face,

“ Oh, begin to live, Sidney, — begin to live, now ! ”

It was an extraordinary moment, which seemed to Alan an eternity, as, with her hand crushed in his, he demanded life from the frightened silence of her face. The scene stamped itself upon his brain : the sunshine streaming in through the long, open windows; the murmurs of the busy street; the Virginia creeper swaying from the eaves of the west wing ; the sudden sparkle of a crystal ball upon the writing - table ; and through all a wandering breath of mignonette from the garden, and the ripple of a song from little Susan, singing in the kitchen.

Alan’s voice sounded strangely in his ears. His individuality was swept into that Power of which each individual is but the fleeting expression. It was Life which called to Sidney; it was the Past, it was Humanity, it was all Nature,— nay, it was her own soul which entreated her from Alan’s lips.

“ Love is more than death ; it is life itself. I love you.”

She did not take her hand from his, nor turn her eyes away; she looked at him in absolute silence, dazed and uncomprehending. Alan had one moment of blankness, which was so intense that it seemed a physical shock ; it was as though he had uttered that “ Come forth ! ” into the ears of the dead.

“ Do you love me ? ” His tone compelled an answer.

Sidney, looking at him as though she could not take her eyes away from his, slowly shook her head. The spell of the moment was lifted; the sense of power was gone. The young man was no longer the creator, summoning life, but the lover, pleading, fearing, scarcely daring to hope.

“ Oh, you are not in earnest ? Think ! Don’t you, — a little ? ”

“ No,” she answered. Her voice was as the voice of one who dreams; but she knew, keenly and intensely, what she was doing and saying. It was this knowledge which brought the absorbed vacancy into her eyes. This, then, was love ? — this look in Alan’s face ; this strange earnestness, which was, she thought vaguely, like anger ; this breathless pain in his voice. How terrible was love ! “ Alan, Alan,” she said, “please do not be so unhappy, please do not love me.”

“ Not love you ? Why, I should not be alive if I did not love you, Sidney. It seems as if it were my very soul, this love. Don’t you care for me at all ? ”

But already he despaired; it did not need that she should answer him, trembling, “ Indeed, I do not; truly I do not,” to assure him that his entreaties fell upon ears which could not understand them. He felt, watching the dismay growing in her calm face, as though he had been telling his love to a marble woman. For a moment he did not feel the despair of a rejected lover. It seemed to him, looking at her passionless pity, as though the girl were incapable of emotion ; there was something unhuman about it, which gave him, at the heart of his love, a curious sense of repulsion.

“ I am so sorry for you, Sidney,” he heard himself say ; and then he burst out once more : “ Sidney, you don’t know what I am trying to tell you, you don’t know what love means ! But you must learn ; let me teach you ? ” He took her hand again, with a gentleness which may come when love is great enough to forget itself.

Sidney looked away, and sighed. “ Alan, don’t say anything more.” Her voice was so ultimate that the young man was silenced for a moment; then he said simply, —

“ Don’t you think you could learn to love me, Sidney ? ”

“ Truly I don’t,” she answered. There were tears in her eyes. Alan turned sharply away.

He went over to the window, and stood with his hands behind him, staring into the garden.

“ Alan ? ” Sidney said at last.

“ Yes ? ” he answered quietly, but he did not look at her.

“I — I think I must go to aunt Sally ” — she began, her voice unsteady.

He turned quickly. “ Wait one moment,” he said. “ I want to write a prescription for her.”

The crystal ball in its ebony circle still flashed in the sunshine ; the murmur of the bees and the scent of flowers came through the windows. Life and the day went on ; little Susan was still singing in the kitchen, and, like a green and flowing arras, the woodbine wavered in the wind. All was the same, and yet, to this young man and woman, how infinitely and eternally different!

“ Will you have this filled, please ? ” the doctor inquired, making queer cabalistic marks upon his prescription paper. He did not lift his eyes to hers; the repression of the moment made his face stern.

Sidney did not answer. A soul had revealed itself to her in this last half hour; all her twenty - five years had brought her no such wisdom as had come in these quick moments. What had been a word to her had flashed before her eyes, a living creature. Love had looked at her, had implored her. Sidney had that feeling of escape which comes to one who has seen another overwhelmed by a danger which he fears. Alan left her with a very brief farewell; but she sat there by the window, with the prescription paper in her hand, until long after the time her aunt should have taken her medicine, — sat there, in fact, until Katherine Townsend, entering, with an anxious look upon her face, asked her how Miss Sally was.

Katherine had seen Alan, and when she heard that Miss Sally was ill she said she would go to her at once. “ For I am afraid,” she added good-naturedly, “ that Miss Sidney Lee is too dreamy to be of much use in a sick-room ?”

Alan was apparently too absorbed to express an opinion. “ Doctors think of nothing but their patients,” Katherine complained to herself. She would have been glad to talk of Sidney, who interested her extremely, but Alan was silent, and she did not pursue the subject; she had an interest and anxiety of her own.

“ Dr. Crossan, I want to ask you something. Mrs. Paul told me that — that cousin Robert had broken his engagement, and now you say Miss Sally is ill; and it almost seems — But I would not believe Mrs. Paid ! ”

Alan came back with a start; he had forgotten Robert and Miss Sally too. “ Mrs. Paul told me the same thing, but it cannot be true. Miss Sally’s illness has nothing to do with any nervous condition. She has a cold, and she is feverish; pneumonia is what I fear. Miss Townsend, I would not believe such a thing of Robert, if he told me so himself ! ”

Katherine’s face brightened. “ I thank you for saying that. I don’t think I really believed it, only Mrs. Paul said — But never mind that. Then it is not broken off, you think ? ”

“ I don’t know,” Alan answered. “ It may be at an end ; Miss Sally may have broken it off, you know. I have n’t seen Bob for a week. But Mrs. Paul insinuated — if you will pardon the word — that Steele had asked to be released, and of course that is impossible. I wonder why Mrs. Paul always puts the worst construction upon everything?”

Then, with a comment upon the weather, he left her. It is odd what attention one can pay to the commonplace, with one’s soul in a tumult of pain. He thought of Robert again, only to declare to himself, briefly, that this thing Mrs. Paul had said was obviously false; and then he forgot him until later in the afternoon, when he reached home.

Robert Steele was waiting for him in their library. He was resting his elbows on the table, and his face was hidden in his hands. “Alan,” he said, “ how is Miss Sally ? I called there, and they told me she was ill.”

His manner confessed him. The doctor was flung out of his trust and confidence. “She is ill,” he said sternly. “She is very much prostrated, also. I suppose you know why that is? ”

“ Yes, I know,” answered the wretched man before him.

Alan stared at him with dismay. “ Steele, tell me what this means. Is your engagement broken ? ”

“ Yes.”

“ But it is not true that you did it ? That is what is said, but — but of course it’s a lie ! ”

“ It is true,” returned Robert, running his finger along the carving on the edge of the table, and not lifting his head.

“ Good heavens, Steele, what are you saying? I don’t believe it! You are an honorable man. It is some piece of insane folly which you have fastened upon yourself which has made her dismiss you. But then, why are you so miserable? Did you ” — he lowered his voice — “ did you love her, after all ? ”

“ No,” answered the other, “ I never loved her, and I told her so. I told her that it had been a mistake from the beginning.”

Alan did not speak.

Robert raised his head. “ Do you want me to go away ? ”

Alan looked at him speechlessly. Robert had not loved Miss Sally ? He had realized that he had made a mistake ? The doctor could easily believe all that, but — tell her! Was it not a sufficient injury to fail in love without adding the insult of telling her so ? His face grew darkly red. “ I am done with him,” he thought.

“ Do you want me to go away ? ” Robert repeated, in that dull, hopeless voice.

“ I do,” said the doctor.

Without a word, Robert Steele rose and left the room.

Margaret Deland.