AN old-fashioned, low-bodied carriage wound slowly uphill between the spreading cotton fields of Heartsease plantation. On the backward-facing seat were Judge Courteney and his daughter Joyce ; opposite to them sat his wife and his sister-in-law, Miss Mathilde Dabney. The older ladies were dressed in dimly flowered lawns, according with the Indian summer of their years, and with the warm, hazy, autumn sunshine. Joyce — Joy, they called her — was in white, a thin white through which her rounded arms showed as through a mist, and above which her face rose clear, dark, impatient, touched with suffering, and out of all keeping with her name.

Mrs. Courteney smoothed her soft mauve and smoke-colored draperies, and let her hand stray across and rest for a moment on her daughter’s knee, just as a plump, timid brown bird settles tentatively upon a twig in full view of the world, and then flutters away again.

“Joy, daughter,” she ventured, “you must try to be cheerful. It must be very hard for Robert to give this dinner. Don’t you reckon you might possibly act just — just as usual ? ”

The girl withdrew her troubled gaze from the cotton fields, and looked at her mother with a curious blending of petulance and curiosity, as if she realized that this good woman’s mental processes would be interesting if they had presented themselves more opportunely.

Mrs. Courteney flushed and took away her hand. “ I know,” she apologized, “ it’s just as hard for you as it is for Robert, but — but you must try.”

“ Why does Robert give this dinner if it is so hard for him?” the girl asked. “ Is n’t it bad enough for him to lose Heartsease without giving a dinner ? ”

“ Now — er — Joyce,” the judge said, fanning his broad red face with his Panama, “ it strikes me that Robert intends the dinner as — er — a palliation.”

One of the girl’s slippered feet kept tapping on the carriage floor. “ Palliation ! ” she echoed. “ Why could n’t he have come to us simply and said, ‘ Heartsease is gone,’ — without dragging us all to a dinner on the ashes ?”

“Why, Joy ! ” Mrs. Courteney’s dismay was almost querulous. “I — I hope you ’ll not speak like this to Robert or — or to any one. If a stranger were to hear you he would never surmise that you and Robert had been engaged six years.”

“ And do I care what a stranger would surmise ? ” the girl asked sharply. She turned and met her aunt’s gaze fixed upon her. “ Well ? ” she challenged, as if inviting Miss Mathilde to take a turn at harrying her.

Miss Mathilde was slender and sallow, and haunted by the shadow of lost beauty. Her dark hair, just turning to gray, was drawn back severely, scorning any effort to hide the ravages of time about her sunken temples, and her eyes had a look of unerring insight as if something in their physical clearness helped her intuitions. She smiled and shook her head, but did not withdraw her gaze.

Joyce flushed slowly. “Well?” she demanded a second time.

“ I was wondering,” Miss Mathilde said, “ if I shall ever forgive this Eliot Rand for taking Heartsease away from Robert.”

More quickly than the color had risen in the girl’s cheeks it paled, leaving only her eyes wonderfully afire. She caught her breath. “And I,” she said, “am wondering if I can ever forgive Robert for losing Heartsease to Mr. Rand.”

She turned toward the broad white cotton fields, while silence took possession of the carriage, and her father and mother questioned each other uneasily, without words. Mrs. Courteney opened her lips, and closed them again in alarm, but silence and the judge were sworn enemies.

He looked all around him for a subject, and finally out of the carriage window past his daughter. “ Robert has — er — an unusually fine yield of cotton this fall,” he commented.

Miss Mathilde leaned back against the cushions and closed her eyes. “You forget,” she said wearily ; “ this is not Robert’s yield of cotton now; this is Mr. Rand’s.”

“Why — er — yes, I did forget,” the judge acknowledged. He gave a side glance at Joyce, shifted his position, and yielded to the wisdom of saying nothing for the remainder of the drive.

Sunlight and the shadow of vine leaves played over the red brick walls of the house at the summit of the hill, and over the white columns of its gallery. “ Heartsease,” — the name had come down with the plantation from owner to owner, and, according to the man and to his mood, it had expressed or mocked at his feeling toward the broad fields. The first Robert Linson, embittered, and seeking for comfort in the wilderness, but failing to find it, had christened his disappointment ironically, pleased to think that the word “ Heartsease ” would at some time turn and taunt each one of his successors. And now, through various Robert Linsons, the place had reached one who had backed a speculation with it and lost, and, if he found its losing as bitter as his ancestor had found its acquisition, he had too much of the old ironist’s spirit to complain.

As he stood on the gallery steps, waiting for the carriage, he showed to its occupants as a tall, broad-shouldered young fellow, with restless, laughing eyes, set in a memorable face. Every feature was rugged with daring. To know the world, to play high with it and brazen out his disappointments, to love passionately, yet to stand ready for risking his love or his life as lightly as he had risked the home which had been Heartsease to him in more than name, — such were his longings and his possibilities. A man to win a girl’s soul, he had been called, and to hold it through the strangest vicissitudes, and yet, as he helped his guests from their carriage, it was the eyes of the older women which met his with unquestioning fondness, while Joyce, with her face softened from its impatience, greeted him with such gently reserved solicitude that he laughed outright to cover his discomfort.

Judge Courteney did not notice that the laugh was harsh with escaping bitterness. His large troubled face relaxed. “ Robert sets us a good example in gayety,” he said, looking pointedly at Joyce. “Such an example is — er — most well timed.”

The dinner was a bad hour. Linson had insisted on giving many dinners to the Courteneys during the six years of his engagement to Joyce, and he would not even acknowledge, on her challenge, that they bored him ; they were part of the bravado with which he courted the full consequence of everything he undertook. Joyce might rebel and ridicule him, threatening to refuse his invitations, but he held to the custom doggedly ; the old judge and Mrs. Courteney and Miss Mathilde loved him for it, although in the third year Miss Mathilde told him, with lurking humor in her dark eyes, that he had already earned his way into the kingdom of heaven and could afford to give one dinner a year instead of one a month for the rest of his life. Miss Mathilde enjoyed the dinners, as she did everything else that was human, in the capacity of acute spectator, — a capacity which does not prevent the heart from being warmed by the very attention to which the mind is giving impartial analysis; but Judge and Mrs. Courteney took their pleasure without ulterior thoughts. The judge was the chief figure of the occasions, overbearing any general conversation with endless political and agricultural discussions. He monopolized Linson shamelessly, leaving the ladies of the party only such crumbs of attention as their host could fling them over his shoulder while firmly held by the actual buttonhole if necessary. Mrs. Courteney accepted the situation as natural, and talked to her sister in soft, unobtrusive tones about domestic matters ; she wished no greater excitement than a furtive discussion of the methods of aunt Tempy, Linson’s cook, as compared with those of aunt Candicia, her own. Miss Mathilde lent herself with apparent enthusiasm to these interests, but Joyce remained silent and remote, eating her dinner as if it were sawdust, and escaping out of doors from the parlor or the gallery where the others settled themselves for further discussion at its close.

Being able to formulate her convictions as to soups and pastry, and yet have mind for other things, Miss Mathilde often glanced across at Linson and saw his eyes following Joy’s white figure down the garden path, with the look in them which marks the great love in a man’s life; but the judge never heeded that look and never relaxed his tenure. And Miss Mathilde’s heart misgave her. Quixotic generosity is not the surest means of keeping a girl’s fancy, and she questioned if all Linson’s daring and headlong charm, if his unfailing devotion during twentynine days of every month, could atone for this recurrent sacrifice of the monthly dinner. If there had been other people to vary its monotony there would have been less danger in it, but Heartsease and Oak Hall, the Courteney place, were the only congenially occupied plantations within convenient reach of each other, so there was seldom a new face at the table. This had been going on for six years. Linson and Joyce had been engaged since Joyce was fourteen, and Judge Courteney had decreed that they should not marry until she was twenty-one.

“ A woman rarely knows her own mind before that age,” he announced steadfastly, and so the uneventful time passed, marked by its dinners, and all the seven years of probation had gone by but one, when Linson, speculating wildly out of restlessness and to afford new luxuries for Joyce after their marriage, lost Heartsease. He talked lightly of regaining it within the year, but nobody expected him to do so, and, as he was too proud to marry until he had regained it or its equivalent, the time of waiting appeared to stretch indefinitely forward.

On this last day, before Linson gave up the plantation and went North to try his fortune, every one, even Mrs. Courteney, thought that the judge would relinquish him to the company at dinner and to Joyce afterwards. Probably the judge himself looked forward to some such course, but a question of finance happened to come up, and if there was one thing on which Linson needed to have sound ideas to take away with him, it was finance. The judge’s views proved not only sound but broad, at least in the amount of time which they covered. The party entered the dining room and came out on to the gallery again before he had half expressed himself, and the golden peace of approaching sunset found him barely beginning to recapitulate.

Joyce had wandered into the garden long before ; her face was still inscrutable in the gentleness which had come to it when she met Linson, and her head drooped a little, as if she were a flower on which the sun had shone too long. For a while she walked between the flower beds, where nearly everything looked a trifle weary of the sunshine, but finally she passed round the house and out of view.

Some time afterward, Miss Mathilde caught the gleam of a white dress entering a bit of distant woodland which stood untouched between the cultivated fields. For a half hour she waited to catch sight of it again ; then she crossed the gallery and interrupted the judge’s discourse.

“ Robert,” she said, “ it will soon be time for us to start home, and Joy has roamed clear off into your woods. Unless you bring her back, she ’ll delay us.”

Linson jumped to his feet. " If you ’ll excuse me,” he began, and was off down the gallery steps before the older man could put out a ponderous hand to detain him.

“ Why — er — really ! ” the judge exclaimed. He looked at his sister-inlaw with slowly gathering offense and surprise. “ Er — really, Mathilde, you seem to forget that this is Robert’s last day with us. You might have sent a servant for Joy.”


In spite of omens and premonitions, a man’s real disaster usually falls out of a clear sky. It comes swiftly, wasting no time in explanations, sent thus, perhaps, to give the rest of his life the comfortless, unfailing interest of thinking out its cause. If he tells you of it while his hurt is sharpest he will use few words.

Linson’s disaster was not the loss of Heartsease. It was something that happened in the bit of woods where he went for Joyce, and to the end of his life he knew no more of its causes than he would have known if it had been a dream. For months, unknown to him, events had been preparing for it. He was ignorant of them ; it happened, and in the wreck of his love he asked no questions. Night found him, as he had planned, on his way to try new fortunes in the North.

Pine needles are soft under the feet, but it was more a foolish, lover-like impulse to come upon Joyce unaware that made his steps so light as he hurried between the trees. He might have called to her; instead, he peered to right and left for the glint of her white dress. The level sunlight passed between the tree trunks with him, searching for her; it touched her first and gleamed back, giving him a strange thrill and elation. He almost called out, but checked himself and drew back.

She was not alone. Eliot Rand, the new owner of Heartsease, stood beside her, looking down into her face.

Linson found himself trembling so that the stiff leaves of the gaulberry bushes around him rattled, but neither of them heard him.

Joyce was almost as white as her dress. “ Don’t! ” she said. “ If it were not for Heartsease — if you had not taken his place away. Ah, can’t you see that you are cruel to me as well as to him ? ”

“ The place has nothing to do with us,” Rand declared. “ It did not come to me from him, but from others to whom he had lost it. I had nothing to do with his losses — you understand that ? ”

“ I understand nothing except my promise to him ! ” she cried hopelessly. “ God knows what I should do if he were not in trouble, but now when he has lost everything — to do him such a wrong ” — She raised her hand slowly to her heart and pressed it there, taking a deep breath. “ He has loved me for six years — since we were children,” she went on. “ I must keep my promise. I — I must forget.”

As if to beg his help or to bid him farewell, she put out her hand to him, but he disregarded it. “ Can you forget ? ” he asked. “ Or is the wrong already done ? ”

For a moment her eyes met his in a desperate endeavor as if she were trying to blind them to his face. He drew her close to him and kissed her.

It was then that Linson came forward. He had squared his shoulders, his eyes were sparkling, and there was a futile effect of gayety in his voice. “It is scarcely necessary to wish you joy,” he said, “ but I can bid you goodby.”


Rand was the opposite of Linson in almost every way, and, at first glance, that was the only explanation of Joyce’s preference for him, — or at least so her people thought, — realizing that even change for the worse may fascinate. Yet Rand was not inferior to Linson, and was far from the typical usurper. Gentle, reserved, and in the main almost over-scrupulous, he lacked vivacity and outward fire, but gradually gave an impression of a strong nature well controlled. Indeed, he seemed so considerate, and at the same time so cool, that it was hard to give credit to the underlying forces of his nature, or to understand that in his quieter way he was as bent as Linson upon following events to their full consequence. More slender in figure, fairer and less noticeable in face than his predecessor, he had deep-set blue eyes which showed a steadiness and a gleam of assertion, proclaiming him very much a man. Where Linson threw back his head and laughed in the world’s face, Rand seemed unaware that a world was in sight. Those who once took account of him grew more and more certain that he would never be a pawn in any game where he figured, but any one with a good eye for the future might have seen that he was entering a game in which he could scarcely be looked on as the player.

Joyce was married to him on her twenty-first birthday. She would have delayed her wedding or hastened it, to avoid a date which had been tacitly set seven years before, but her father had had it fixed in his mind too long to think of changing it without graver cause. Here was Joyce, and here was a man eager to marry her, and here was the appointed hour; he held, too, that it was just as unwise for a girl to enter matrimony after twenty-one as before, and perhaps he was influenced by the fact that the year of the new engagement had been a dull one. Joyce had been moody, Rand was always quiet, and the Courteneys had not been invited to Heartsease. Considering how frankly Joyce had condemned the family dinners, there would have been small cause for wonder if she had never given one, yet she insisted on reinstating the old custom after her marriage.

“ Child,” Miss Mathilde said when the first invitation was given, “ you don’t want us.”

“ Yes,” Joyce declared, “ I do want you.”

And Mrs. Courteney added with a touch of her husband’s manner, “ It would be very unnatural, sister, if she did not wish to entertain her own family.”

Miss Mathilde gave one of those cruelly clear looks of which she had been prodigal since the broken engagement. “ Have you ordered your sackcloth gown ? ” she asked.

Joyce was learning to meet her aunt’s eyes without a change of color. “ It is not necessary,” she said. “ Papa will be there.”

“ Papa will be there ! ” Mrs. Courteney echoed. “ Why, daughter, papa would be the last to decline.”

It was true that the judge had made no secret of a desire for all the old manifestations of good feeling. After expressing much surprise and displeasure, he had accepted Rand as an alternate for Linson, and was beginning to grow fond of him, discovering that Rand, too, had a listening ear.

“ Let there be no — er — stiffness,” he admonished his wife and his sister-inlaw as they drove up the hill to the first dinner of the new series. “ Robert — I mean — er — Eliot is going to find this a very trying day.”

“ I ’m afraid he will,” Miss Matliilde assented. She had not forgiven Rand.

When they reached the top of the hill, although Joyce was on the gallery waiting for them, as she had not been of old, it seemed oddly natural to be alighting there from the carriage, and to catch a whiff of aunt Tempy’s soup, borne by a stray breeze through the long hall.

The judge went beaming up the steps to hiss his daughter. “ This seems like the good old times,” he declared genially, and, in unconscious proof of it, he called his son-in-law “ Robert ” almost continuously during the meal. It was useless for Miss Mathilde to dart him warning glances, or for his wife to touch him timidly under the table. If he became aware of a mistake, his effort at amends only served to lift and flaunt it. Out of sheer helplessness the older women fell back into their old way of absenting themselves by discussing household matters in an undertone. Rand captured the judge’s attention and kept him from making the conversation general as he was attempting for the first time in his life, and Joyce sat out the meal isolated, her thin dark face showing none of the old-time impatience, but held in lines as unyielding as those of a mask.

When it was over, and the Courteneys had gone, Rand came to her as she stood at the edge of the gallery looking across the great broken valley in which the wealth of Heartsease lay outspread. Declining sunlight filled it to the brim with gold, through which shimmered field after field of cotton. It was autumn ; all the memorable days of Heartsease fell at that time of the year.

“ Joy,” he said, “ we must not try this again.”

“ Why ? ” she demanded, flashing the question into his eyes with a sudden light through the unrelaxed lines of her face.

“ It ’s too hard for you and no pleasure to them.”

“ They ’ll soon he used to it. Papa enjoyed himself to-day, mamma will enjoy it next time, and aunt Mathilde, — I think aunt Mathilde likes to see me in pain.”

“ But why bear a needless pain ? They may grow used to it, but will you ? I’m afraid you are too sensitive; I’m afraid you will always need shielding ” —

“ Shielding! ” she broke in ; she looked at him with her old supercilious curiosity as she might have looked at her mother. “ I wonder,” she questioned, “ if you think it makes a great difference to have papa here saying things when all the time we are living in Robert’s house, looking at Robert’s land ? ” She paused and controlled the impatience of her voice. “You were a stranger before the property came to you,” she went on. “ You can scarcely realize how everything I see speaks to me.”

“ Shall I sell the place ? ” he asked. “ Shall we go away ? ”

She shook her head. “ Not until you can sell my memory. After all, perhaps it’s not the place. Aunt Mathilde asked me if I had bought my sackcloth gown. I told her there was no need. She knows I’m wearing it.”

Rand was silent awhile.

“ You regret our marriage ? ” he asked finally.

“Yes,” she cried out sharply, “yes, I do! ”

After all Rand did not know her very well. He did not understand that she was still a spoiled child storming at the punishment which life held over her, as she had once stormed at her mother’s threats, and with a vague feeling that life, like her mother, would remit the chastisement. Linson might have understood, perhaps ; at least he would have hidden his pain. Rand was too much appalled.

“ Is it,” he asked with difficulty, — “ have you found that you care more for Linson ? ”

She gave him another glance of cold, far-removed interest, and said nothing. He made an abrupt motion as if excusing her from answer, and turned away.

Through the silence, from some distant plantation, came the peaceful ringing of a bell. The bell of Heartsease clanged out near at hand, full-toned and sweet, but too insistent. The negroes came trooping from the fields, happy at leaving their work and unconcerned by yesterday or to-morrow. For them, each day had its account apart, or its lack of account; each night gave them absolution.

Joyce started to follow her husband. “ Eliot,” she began, “ if I could only feel forgiven, — if I could only stop remembering ” —

Rand did not turn back. Her outspoken regret had raised a barrier between them which it would be hard to cross. Joyce followed him as far as the gallery steps, then suddenly she sat down and buried her face in her hands. It had occurred to her that she had no right to cross it, no right to a stolen happiness. The idea of penance was new, and she caught it to her heart in a passion. The old, old road of forfeiture opened before her as a new way by which she could escape from pain.


For the fourteenth time since Robert Linson bade them good-by the fields of Heartsease glimmered white. It was exactly thirteen years since Rand had married Joyce, and, as usual on all epochmarking days at the plantation, the Courteneys were coming to dinner.

Joyce stood on the gallery waiting for them. The sunlight shone full into her face, showing deep lines of brooding and morbid resolution. It had been said of her that she looked as if she saw sorrow over her shoulder all the while. Rand stood by, realizing the change in her the more clearly because of the day. He had changed also. Though his expression had still greater reserve and strength, his features fell easily into lines of harshness ; but as he looked at his wife they were full of yearning. The years of their marriage passed before him, years of widening estrangement in which Linson had seemed to walk between them, holding their happiness and giving them, in exchange for it, only memories. For his part Rand could not tell whether his wife loved Linson or loved him or had lost her love of both in morbidness. At times he was full of pity for her, at times bitter, at times jealous, and now that so many years had passed without changing her, he reproached himself for not having sold Heartsease in the beginning and taken her away.

“ Joyce,” he said at last.

“ I caught a glimpse of the carriage,” she answered, without looking at him.

He went nearer to her and put his hand on hers. “ Joyce,” he said again.

Her glance ranged across the white fields which billowed in every direction from the house. The plantation was all in cultivation now ; there was not a foot of woodland left on it. “ I have heard that the first owner of this place named it in bitterness,” she murmured. The words seemed irrelevant, but she gave him a glance as if warning him, and a smile such as the first Robert Linson must have foreseen stirred her lips.

Rand’s thought was too single for irony. “ Are we to go on so till we die ? ” he asked.

She only answered by a slight motion such as one uses in staying an impatient child. “ Yes, there is the carriage,” she announced. “ Papa will have ransacked the garden to bring me roses, — a great bunch of red roses with his regrets that they ’re not white.”

“Wait,” he begged almost under his breath. “You were standing down yonder, and I rode up beside you and jumped down from my horse ” —

“ Let us forget it,” she broke in.

“ Wait,” he repeated. His hand clasped hers in petition. She could not refuse to turn toward him.

Tears rose in her eyes and she tried to withdraw. For a long moment they gazed at each other, then he released her hand and turned away.

“ Can’t you feel that it is wrong ? ” she said at last. “We have no right to love each other.”

“ We are man and wife.”

“We have no right to be.”

“ If we have no right,” he began slowly, “ there is but one reason ” — He paused, choking back what he had meant to say. “ Is the past never to end ? ” he asked in another tone. “ Is n’t there such a thing as forgiveness, as beginning over, as making the best of a mistake ? ”

“I — I have been trying to do that,” she said.

He sighed, looking out over the shimmering fields. She had been engaged to Linson for six years, but now for thirteen years she had been Rand’s wife. He wondered if his own sense of proportion was as strange as hers. Had she felt but one duty in the world ? To him the past seemed something upon which to build the present, a foundation defective and unchangeable, yet never too poor to support a better structure than remorse. Was it remorse, or was it love for Linson that estranged them ? The carriage came in sight again, winding between the snowy knolls, and he wondered what new tale of his predecessor it was bringing up the hill. Usually the tale was a recollection ; once in a long while it was a rumor. Linson had prospered, rumor declared once, and Rand had been obliged to listen while the judge reiterated, " Robert — er — deserves it. I have always looked upon Robert as — as a son.” Linson had married, — such tidings should have given peace to Joyce if her trouble were remorse. Mrs. Courteney had gazed at her daughter wistfully while wondering if Robert’s wife were dark or fair. And, also, Linson had a son who was named for him. Rand had no child. It scarcely seemed that Linson had been dealt with unfairly, after all. Rand’s eyes narrowed. He could see Linson, somewhere in the shadowy environment of his unknown home, smiling into his wife’s eyes and meeting an answering smile, — perhaps tossing up his boy. “ Poor Robert,” they all said in speaking of him, — poor Robert with the gay laugh and the fond wife and the boy to hand down his name. “ Poor Robert — er — Eliot,” fate may have said.

“ They are bringing some one with them!” Joyce exclaimed. “I see a child looking out of the carriage window. Who can it be ? ”

“ I’m sure I can’t tell.” He straightened himself. The coming of the Courteneys was like the falling of the drop of water in the old torment, a small thing, but so sure never to miss; and they were almost up the hill. Their having a child with them mattered very little to Rand.

“ I don’t understand it,” Joyce said nervously. “ Where can they have found a child ? ”

The carriage stopped and Joyce and Rand went to meet it. The judge stepped out and helped his wife. Miss Mathilde followed leading a travelstained little boy who looked about him and gripped a dog-eared letter in his hand. He resembled no one whom Joyce or Rand had ever seen.

The Courteneys had changed little, but their manner was unusual. Miss Mathilde had been weeping, and Mrs. Courteney’s eyes were still wet.

“ Joyce — daughter,” she fluttered, coming ahead of the others and stretching out her plump, timid hands.

“ What is it ? ” Joyce asked. Her breath was short, though there seemed little material in her life for ill news.

The older woman’s lips began to quiver, and she turned back toward her husband.

“ Let me — er — break it,” the judge offered. “Er—Joyce, daughter, Robert Linson has passed away.”

Joyce turned sharply and went up the steps. The others stood looking after her.

“ And this child ? ” Rand inquired.

“ This is — er little Robert. We found him at the station as we passed. The agent called us in. It seems—er — that Robert directed him to be sent here with a letter to you.”

The boy came forward, wide-eyed, but pathetically prompt, as if this were an interview long arranged.

Rand took the letter from him and opened it.

SIR [The simplicity of the address was like a challenge. He drew back a little from the curious group and read], — In your enjoyment of my home and of the love of the woman who had promised to be my wife, perhaps you will have charity to extend to a dying man. I am leaving a little boy whose mother is already dead, and as the end comes near my heart turns back with torturing desire toward my old home. I have not been a happy man. You took my happiness, but I have been too busy to think all the while. Now, in this terrible leisure while I wait to die, I do nothing but think. I see the old house with its white columns and the bricks, sunny warm, and the open hall door, and the vista of light through the shadow of the hall. “ Heartsease ! ” what a perfect name for it. I see the sunshine brooding over the cotton fields, and the boles opening, oh, so much whiter than this Northern snow which has killed me. And Rand, I see her, — God ! man, I’ve never stopped seeing her, though she is not the mother of my boy. They are all I have, these memories. I should have died sooner than this without them ; I fight death still for fear I shall forget, and my heart almost bursts with pity when I think of my poor little boy who knows nothing of it all. Why should I have brought him into the world if he cannot have what is best in it ? And for him to be left — here away from home — Rand, take this letter to her and take the boy to her. Let her look at him and read the letter. Then look in each other’s eyes, you two in your great happiness, and you will not refuse to let my son grow up under your care in the home I loved.

Yours, with a trust which outweighs all I have suffered through you,


The sheets of the letter rattled together as Rand folded it. He opened it again and looked at the date. It had been written nine months before. He refolded it in silence, although he felt the eyes of the others upon him, waiting for an explanation. He had scarcely been conscious of reading, the words seemed to enter his consciousness in Robert Linson’s voice. They had been written with a dying man’s license of free speech, and yet he found it impossible to realize that the hand which had written them, the voice which might have spoken them, were no longer alive. He reached down to the little boy.

“ Come,” he said.

“Er — Eliot,” the judge began, but Miss Mathilde laid her hand on his shoulder. In her clear eyes lurked the shadow of more than one lost joy. “ Stop,” she said. “ We will stay outside. This is for them, alone.”

In the house, in her own room, Joyce sat by an open window with locked hands. Rand brought the boy in to her. “ Look at him,” he said simply, “ and read the letter.”

Joyce drew the child toward her and looked at him a long time. The little fellow flushed under her gaze and stood by her, expectant, docile, grave. He was one of those wan children who seem to hide the subtlest wisdom behind their innocence, yet are not eager to show it to the world. “ There is nothing in his face to remember,” she said at last.

Then she opened the letter. Rand crossed the room while she read it, but the little boy stood close beside her, like a conscious suppliant, watching her with his wide blue eyes. Suddenly a tear splashed on the paper.

She rose and went across to Rand.

“ Is this forgiveness ? ” she asked.

He looked at her white face, marveling at the tenacity of her thought. “ If trust is forgiveness ” — he began.

But she had outstripped him. “ Robert would not have sent him if he had thought we were unhappy,” she broke in. “ A child could not be happy in — in a cheerless home. He says, ' in your great happiness.’ ” She turned and held out her arms to the boy ; but when he came to her and she lifted him, she looked into her husband’s face. Her eyes held their old love for him.

“ ' You two, in your great happiness,’ ” she repeated tremulously. For a moment their hearts spoke together, pledging the unappalled endeavor which life asks.

Then Rand took the wondering boy out of her arms.

Mary Tracy Earle.