The Rose-Red Glow

GRAY weather!

Henderson, getting back toward Penangton from a visit to a sick man down Weaver Road in the late afternoon of a cloudy day, talked to his mare for company, and glanced out from his buggy hood across the still fields with a peculiar, aching apprehension. He could feel the distance from house to house along the desolate country road, as though distance were a snakelike thing to twist out and sting a man, and he could feel the haunted loneliness of his thought, like the chilly, vaporish touch of spectral wings. All the land beyond the rail fences lay solemnly quiet. The chickens, ruffed up under the bushes, the mules at the five-barred gates, looked solemn; the cows, huddled neck to haunch under the sugar maples, the dogs on the porch mats, the droopy children at the doors, looked solemn. If a woman came to a door and peered out over the children, she did it solemnly. If a man came up across lots from the ploughing, he came in a sad saunter.

Gray! Gray!

Henderson put his head against the side of the buggy hood to observe the length and the breadth of it, but it was quickly too much for him. Slanting his lids far enough down to shut out a great deal of it, he tried to evade the rest of it and his loneliness by seeing how it would have been with him at this hour, on this kind of a homeward journey, if it had ever happened that his dream had come true. It could be gray like this, evening coming on, and he would be a little tired, — as he undoubtedly was now, — and he would be urging the mare forward, — as he did not do now, — until he could stop at a house that he had built once in the dream, and jump from the buggy, and look up, — he would not let the dream come fast now, he held it back a little, fastidiously careful with it, — and there, in the door, a rosered glow over her from a shaded lamp or something, She would be standing. “Waiting for me,” Henderson suggested to himself, his lips trembling over the beauty of the words. “Waiting — for me,”he repeated. And she would hold out her hand to him, hold out both her hands, and he would get to her in a hurry, — in the dream he could always get to her, — and he would take her hand, take both her hands, and they would go inside, and she would be his, while they talked and laughed a little and read a little and sang a little, the gray weather hanging futilely without, and, more likely than not, he would keep her hand in his all the time, — yes, surely, keep her hand, — ah-h-h! the dream-touch of that hand, lingering, confidential, woman-sweet!

He was back within Penangton’s gates, so he sat up and shook himself out of the dream: “Oh, you fool! ” he told himself sharply, “always dreaming up some smoke woman, some bachelor’s comfort, always teasing yourself away from the possible toward the ” — He stopped with that, and driving on down the street to Toplitz’s drug store, he turned his entire attention to the comfort of his mare, stabling her himself in the barn behind the store, petting her, half clinging to her, loath to go away from the little comfort of her soft kind eyes and her occasional affectionate snozzling at his neck.

When he left her and emerged from the stable, a slow fine rain was sifting down. He made his way through it, around to the front of the store, above which he had his office and living-rooms.

“Hi, Henderson! Ain’t seen you since you got back from your trip East; stop a minute. ” There were three or four men around the counter, each in approved corner-store attitude, one foot hitched back a little, the whole weight of the body slouched upon the other foot and upon the elbows that were flexed back upon the counter. They greeted Henderson cordially as he came through, asking questions, trying to get at his affairs, earnestly interested, after the fashion of corner-store men.

“Did n’t get married while you were away ? ”

“No, oh no, I was doing post-graduate surgical work, ” Henderson told them.

“ Well, glad you did n’t bring a Yankee girl home with you, Henderson; you are one of us now, — take a wife from our home girls.”

“Sure, Henderson, lots of nice girls in Penangton who can cook and housekeep. ”

Followed by a fire of suggestions of this kind, Henderson went on upstairs to his room. Arrived there, it first occurred to him that nothing under heaven can dishearten a sentimental man like the shifty talk of commonplace men who advise a sentimental thing, — marrying — for an unsentimental reason, — getting somebody to cook for you. And it next occurred to him that nothing under heaven can make a lonely man feel his loneliness as does the room that he insists upon arranging for himself, with a blank disregard of the consolation in color, in the softness of a hanging, in the readiness of a cushion. All Henderson’s stuff was stiff. His chairs were the kind of chairs whose arms seem to double away from you instead of toward you. Over in one corner stood his instrument cabinet, a glass-sided thing that twirled on a pivot and revealed knives, forceps, tenacula, scissors, probes on every side. The cold metallic gleam of the instruments was no colder than anything else in the room. His neat desk, — Henderson was orderly, — an operating chair and a hard, worn leather couch completed the furnishing of the outer room; and in the other room there was a carpet, a bed, a chair, a wardrobe, and a washstand. It could not have been worse. Henderson put his medicine case on the desk and walked to the window. The room had got on his nerves.

Outside the window the rain was coming down with increased volume and directness. Almost all the people who passed on the court-house side held their umbrellas gripped down closely ; but one girl who passed let hers fall back on her shoulder, when she was opposite Henderson’s office, and looked up. There was a smile on her face and a light in her eyes as she bowed to him. She was Miss Penang, the daughter of the lady with whom he took his meals, and, despite some disastrous turns of circumstances, entitled to especial consideration, according to her mother’s way of looking at it, because her father’s father’s father had founded and named Penangton. Henderson watched her as far as he could see her, her smile teasing him and cheering him for an interval. Then he went back and sat down on the leather couch.

So much alone! So much alone! The rain beat the consciousness of his aloneness at him in dull cold spats, the walls dripped it, the couch was slippery with it. Why did he insist upon it ? Why did not he marry some girl, with a nice smile and a light in her eyes, who could at least cheer him a little ? If he were married he would have somebody to work for; there would be some use in digging out his career, in developing his remarkable surgical abilities, if he had anybody to care about his success, to be benefited by it, to be glad about it. Why not marry? Why hold himself to the measure of a dream ? That was what he was doing. Because he had an ideal of a woman’s face, a woman’s form, a woman’s touch, her voice, her sympathetic intelligence, her vital effect upon him, he would look at and think of nothing else, nothing less. It was immensely stupid. He really needed a wife. It was high time that he looked at the question practically, as did other men who, having missed real romance through deficiency in sentiment or hostility of circumstances, hobble on to the recognition of the winter-bitten fact that they “ought to marry.” He, Henderson, “ought” to have a home, wife, children. Say that he could not get the ideal in touch, voice, intelligence, vital effect upon him, he could probably get eyes with some light in them, a nice smile, fair intelligence; other men rested with no more, and there was no gainsaying that it looked as though a man should be able to secure some large satisfactions out of the mere fact that he was settled and had somebody to care a little. Why, if he, to-night, here, now, had anybody, anybody on earth, to talk to, to let him lean his head against a minute, he would be happy, or if not happy, certainly cheered and soothed.

He lay back by the couch’s one fat silk pillow. Miss Penang had made that pillow for him, and there had been times in his life when, all stuck over with pin-feathers, he had hated it and hated Miss Penang for having made it. This evening, however, flattened beyond himself by his unlovely surroundings, he took the pillow into his arms and clung to it. It was better than nothing. It was a little podgy symbol that somebody had thought about him and his comfort for a minute. Its bright color was pleasing, and a fragrance stole out of it, the mystic fragrance on whose languorous wings women’s smiles, softness, whiteness, prettiness go floating by. He put it down rather affectionately after a while, rose from the couch, and made himself ready to go to Mrs. Penang’s for supper.

As he put by his umbrella in the hall in Mrs. Penang’s house he saw through the open door into the parlor. Lula Penang was in there, sitting under the rose-red light of a shaded piano lamp, idly turning some new music in her lap, and whistling and humming occasional snatches that appealed to her.

“ Oh, you ? ” she said as Henderson stopped in the doorway. She put her music on the piano and got up. “If you are going to supper, I ’ll come along, too; most everybody’s through, but I have n’t had mine yet. ” Henderson had sometimes been made restless by the other boarders’ insistence that Miss Penang rather systematically “came along, too, ” but to-night he felt glad that she had waited for him. It seemed kind. He stood looking at her for a moment in a questioning surprise, barring the door with his long slender body.

“ Do you know, I like you in that rose light, ” he said, his eyes about half shut as he said it. The thought that perhaps rose lights in general had more to do with it than the women who stood under them in particular had come into his mind with a little æsthetic shock.

“No, I did n’t know it,” the girl before him answered with a restrained fervor in her voice; “maybe I ’d better stay here in it then, and let you go on to supper alone ? ”

“Oh no, you don’t,” said Henderson quickly, that word “alone ” smiting him; “no, you come along, and we’ll have supper together and come back to the rose light.”

That was not much to say, yet Henderson had always kept the thought of the rose light so especially for Her that that much sounded like something to which he would have to accustom his ears forcefully and determinedly if they were ever to be accustomed to it. He was glad that there was no rose - red glow in the dining-room, and that Miss Penang sat opposite him in the direct light of the small gas chandelier overhead. It had occurred to him on the way to the dining-room that this was a practical question with him now, and that it would be better to consider it in direct lights only. In the direct light he could see that, though the girl was young and pretty, her lips were thin and purposeful, and as her mother, a hardfaced woman, came and went about the table, there was a constant disconcerting illustration of what that kind of lips made of a woman when she was no longer young. In the direct light, Henderson told himself, with a fine prevision of the amount of nuisance the wrong woman might be in a man’s life, Miss Penang had not one characteristic that, coming out subtly on her face or in her voice, appealed to him especially for her, as opposed to any other young and pretty girl, — unless, indeed, it were that light in her eyes. Shining from far back, liquidly, as though it came through the softness and sweetness of occasional tears, it was the best thing about her. Henderson had sometimes wondered if it were really in her eyes when he had first met her upon his installation in Penangton two or three years before; he had not noticed it until just before he went East; but then he had not noticed her at all, except for that unpleasant sensation that she was a little insistent in her attentions to him. Out in town she and her mother labored under an unfortunate reputation of being too anxious for her to marry well, and the other boarders, having made much of it for Henderson’s especial benefit, had influenced him into a man’s silent resentment about it. That was as far as he had ever got in any conscious consideration of Miss Penang, until there in the rose light and here in the direct light. His conclusion now was that it was a pity that she did not look the same under both illuminations; but just then Miss Penang got up and went into the kitchen for a moment, and when she returned with a plate of hot cakes that she had browned for him herself, the conclusion seemed less final. The cakes were exactly as he liked them.

“It’s such an awfully bad night, Doctor,” suggested Mrs. Penang, looking through the kitchen door; “why don’t you stay down here till bedtime? I should think you ’d be lonely over those shut-up stores, a rainy, blue evening like this. Stay down here with Lu and me.” They had invited him like that many times before, but beyond idling at the parlor fire for a minute on a few winter nights and sitting, unrelaxed and impatient, on the bench in the front yard for a minute on a few summer evenings, he had never profited by the invitation until to-night. Tonight, quitting the supper - table, he went into the parlor in the wake of Miss Penang, still a little uncertain; but when Mrs. Penang came to the door and said that, as the curtains would have to come down to be laundered next day any way, he could smoke if he wanted to, his misgiving began to leave him, and he felt more cheerful than he had felt in a long time.

“Yes, indeed, smoke away,” said Miss Penang. She selected a pillow from the array on the sofa where he had seated himself with his head against the wall, and insisted upon his putting it behind his shoulders. Then she stepped over to the piano stool and sat down in the rose-red glow of the piano lamp. She looked wonderfully better at once. “ Do you want me to sing to you ? ” she asked, her hands trailing on the keys, her young body half turned from him, her face twisted over her shoulder at him. Already great feathery wreaths of smoke lay between Henderson and her. Half shutting his eyes, he saw her through the fluff of smoke as through a veil, the rose-red glow toning her, the high light in her eyes, the smile on her lips. Seen in that way, he got from her a soothing, complementary sense of femininity without any worry about what she was and what she might become. She was just Woman. “Do you want me to sing to you ? ” she repeated.

“ Mh-hm, please. But low, sing low, ” he ordered. “I don’t know but what I ’d rather you ’d hum and whistle in that funny way of yours.”

She laughed docilely, not musician enough to resent the restrictions imposed and well enough satisfied with Henderson to meet the humor of his painstaking self-indulgence. Starting in obediently, she whistled a bar or two, then trilled off softly in a hushed lahde-dah-de-doo, but presently the words of the song stole out as well, a whole stanza about love generically, about the fact that birds and flowers and earth and sky thrilled with love harmonies, a long if simple diapason that sounded the making of worlds, until the songwriter, oppressed possibly by the eternity in the theme, ran away from it on the fleet-footed refrain, —

“ I love ! Love you, dear, none but you ! ”

Henderson noticed that the red glow on the girl began to radiate her toward him with wide, superficial recommendations. He noticed that her back was straight. He noticed that her own and her mother’s valuation of her showed rather adroitly in the tilt of her head. He noticed that her hair had a soft, babyish kink where it lifted, thick and brown, from the back of her neck. As he sat, he could not see her lips with their little hovering expression of purposefulness. He could not see any of the indications that, as soon as her youth was gone, she must necessarily become the sharp woman of small schemes that her mother was. He could see only her prettiness and the dimpling swell of her nature under the melody of her song. As she floated toward him, draped, as it were, by the dreamy roselight vibrations, Henderson floated to meet her, not because she was Miss Penang, but because she was Woman. Perhaps he would propose to her when she finished the song.

“Love you, dear, none but you — lab, lah-de-doo-lah-de-doo. ”

“That ’s it,” murmured Henderson; “leave out the words; give me just the lah-de-doo.”

“Don’t you care for the words?” asked the girl. “ I think they ’re sweet. I sing them as Lynn Penryn used to sing them, twisted right much. Lynn has a way of twisting things to suit herself, don’t you think so,—or do you know her well enough to know that?”

Henderson had about finished his cigar, and he now took the smouldering stub of it from between his teeth and sat up straight. The feathery fluff between him and the girl cleared away. As he made no reply, Miss Penang continued casually, “ Lynn was to come down from Kansas City on the evening train, so Mr. Penryn told me up at the bank a little bit ago. I wonder if she came ? Did you hear any one say at the drug store ? She and her husband were both coming; did you hear whether they came ? ” And when Henderson said no, he had not heard, Miss Penang added, “Well, I reckon she came,” nodding her head over it, and beginning to sing the refrain again, —

“ Love you, dear, none but you! ”

Henderson got to his feet. “I must be going,” he said in a slow, absent way. And when the girl, with a disappointed, troubled look on her face, glanced up at him and asked, “Oh, going now ? ” he answered, yes, he must. She went to the outer door with him, and recovering himself on the step sufficiently to be conscious of some obligation to her, he tried feebly to express to her his appreciation of her goodness in helping him get through a bad evening.

“ Oh, pshaw ! stay any time that you think the hum and whistle will amuse you, ” she told him, with a pleasant intonation, which, conquering her purpose and her disappointment, had an unconscious heroism in it. But Henderson, absorbed now in his own heart’s concern, missed this illustration of the tragedy of waste in Love’s economy.

He said that he was very much obliged, and put up his umbrella and went down the steps. At the gate he saw that she was still standing in the doorway. Through the parlor window the red light shone on under the halfdrawn blind rosily, but the girl, out beyond it in the shadow, looked unrelievedly drab. He started off up the street in the direction of his office, but as soon as he heard the Penangs’ front door shut he turned in his tracks and came past the house again, on his way to another house, which he did not reach until he had rounded two corners and traversed a long distance on a densely shaded street. He had been growing happier and happier all the way to the house, until, as he rang the bell on its front door, the very hand that he put forth seemed sentient in eagerness.

A servant opened the door, and in the hall beyond the servant a woman stopped as she was passing to the library. The globes of the hall chandelier were red, and as Henderson entered through the door their glow bathed her from head to foot, and made her fully and perfectly the picture, the whole right thing. No need to half shut one’s eyes so that the glow might tone her. Falling on her face, her throat, her firm, close-draped figure, the glow became at once a part of her, and at once seemed to burn delicately from within outward. She came toward him, with both her hands held out gladly, and he took her hands, and for one lying second everything was perfect, because of her touch, her voice, her sympathetic intelligence, her vital effect upon him.

“ Oh, good ! Hardin and I were wishing that you would find out to-night that we had come, ” she was saying, not letting his hands go at once, and looking up at him, that unnamable effect of hers getting into the air around her in broad, wavelike vibrations that were like low music. “Father says we come down to Penangton to see you quite as much as to see him. Hardin admits it. And I can’t deny it. What made you stay East so long? We have missed you.” Her voice rocked a little, and Henderson got from it an instant impression that she had needed him, too.

“Was it long? It was to me; but still, I thought very seriously of making it longer. I thought of not coming back to Missouri at all.”

“I knew it, I knew it! ” she cried, with that little grieving shake in her voice, which Henderson could not stand.

“But I came back all right. How ’s Hard ? ”

“Well, so he says. Come in here to him and father.”

That was all there was of it. Only one minute in the glow, with her hands in his. Then Henderson followed her into the library where two very different men greeted him. One, Lowry Penryn, was Penangton’s richest citizen, a thin, hatchet-faced man, whose small black eyes were noted as being the sharpest eyes in the state of Missouri, but who had a fashion of looking at his daughter when she was not looking at him, and of not looking at her when she was looking at him. The other man was Hardin Shore, a rich, self-made man, of a vigorous and expansive nature,whose ambitions,after leading him into the politics of his native place, Kansas City, were now, so it developed in his conversation, blazing a trail for him straight into the larger politics of the state. He had come down to Penangton on this occasion to consult with his father-in-law about his campaign fund for the governorship of Missouri, and also, ostensibly, to consult with Henderson, as his physician-friend, concerning the possible menace to his health should he enter into the excitement of politics. He was big and powerful to look at, but no stronger than most heavy-bodied, tightly strung men, and a malignant growth that Henderson had removed from his arm a year before had already told a story of constitutional dyscrasia. Shore, who was a precipitate man, set about talking over his purposes there in the library at once with Lowry and Henderson, and Henderson quickly noticed that as Shore talked his eyes avoided his wife’s eyes, — as though he recognized that he could hold more adequately to his own notions if he did not look at her, — and that he seemed possessed by a roughshod determination to have his own way which was unnatural in him and disturbing to him.

“And I ’m against it. That’s what he is really trying to tell you,” Mrs. Shore said to Henderson, as soon as Shore had finished his story of what the state leaders up at Jefferson and down at St. Louis expected of him and for him. Shore had talked in a dry-tongued voice that tinkled, half with elation over the flattering outlook, and half with sheer physical tension, and his wife, leaning back in her chair, looking from Shore to Henderson, from Henderson to her father, and back again to Shore, a little crinkling play about the corners of her eyes, seemed to have got supplementary evidence from Shore’s recital to strengthen her opposition without ever once manifesting any nervous alertness. “I’m against it,” she repeated.

Shore regarded her with his lips jerking humorously: “She thinks politics will corrupt me, Henderson.”

“Tsst! ” Henderson made one of his little demurring clicks behind his teeth, “if politics is corrupt, that’s a reason for going into it, not staying out of it. Mrs. Shore would have a more logical reason than that, ” he said waitingly, a little heliographic flash of understanding, swift and illuminative, playing from her to him.

“ Yes. More logical than that. ” She nodded, her eyes on Hardin Shore’s face.

“Well, now, what?” asked Shore, with that affectionate, badgering tone that men are apt to use when trying to draw their wives into admissions particularly pleasing to a husband.

“Well, it’s logical, but selfishly logical, ” she said evasively, yet Shore was insistent.

“Well, say what,” he urged.

She let her long lashes trail on her cheeks a moment with a hesitancy that looked essentially virginal, yet essentially wifely, and Henderson noticed how perfectly she stayed his dream-woman even here in the strong white light of the library, how entirely the woman he would have liked to have raise those lashes upon him in that virginal, wifely shyness. Only, when she raised the lashes, her eyes swept past him, — with some sort of hidden appeal, he thought, — and sought out the other man. She seemed to see nothing but the other man, with an insistent loyalty and in a foreboding comprehension that took in all his deceptive bigness, his unsafe tension, the bluish whiteness of his temples, the little flabbiness under his eyes, the strain that for months had held his mouth back from the expression of something — pain, or nervousness, or ambition — that distressed him. “Well,” she began again, haltingly still, “it’s that I don’t want to divide with the public. I don’t want a public man for a husband; I want my husband for myself,— Oh, Hard,you know it, you’ve known it all along.” Henderson knew that in saying this she had somehow doubled and turned on an original purpose to speak her entire mind, but her tone, the look on her face seemed to satisfy Shore utterly. The strain left his mouth for a moment, and he laughed a big, glad, complacent laugh. Though he said nothing, it was exactly as though he said, “Just see how she loves me, ” to Henderson and to her father. His satisfaction in what she had said seemed to treble by the presence of the other two men; he seemed to hear for himself, ardently, as her husband ; for Penryn, indulgently, as her father; and for Henderson, — well, pleasantly, as her friend. The fine, lasting romance of their relationship was heightened almost unendurably for Shore by this threefold apprehension of it. He got up yearningly, went over to her, touched her shoulders once with his hands lightly, then put the hands in his pockets and began to pace up and down in front of her, after a habit of his. His lips shook a little, and his brow tightened and relaxed, tightened, relaxed. Once, a keen pain twitched across his face, and Henderson, flat back in a chair, with his hands gripped to the chair arms to keep them from shaking, was not too self-concerned to notice it.

“Hard,” began Henderson finally in a well-ordered voice, “I think that as a friend I ought to say to you that you would better keep out of politics, and as a doctor I say that you have got to.” Henderson had long since come to the point where he could say things and do things because they were the things to say and do, but it sometimes seemed to him as though his lax voice and limp body must one day surely betray him; surely he must one day show the cheap automatism with which he went through the saying and the doing of the “right thing. ”

“Well, but now, Henderson,” commenced Shore, his unpersuaded thought finding expression in blunt, downward inflections as he phrased, “you ’re giving just an off-hand, snap-shot opinion, are n’t you? You don’t know any specific reason why my health won’t permit of my going into politics if I want to go into politics, do you now ? Of course you don’t. You’ve hardly looked at me. You’ve no real reason for warning me off, don’t you see? And, on the other hand, there are big reasons for my not being warned off this time, ” — Shore paused a moment, gathered up his forces and went on stubbornly,— “It’s a chance for a — oh, for a sort of good wind-up, —I mean a sort of crowning to a man’s career, — and my heart’s so set upon it that I can’t let you and Lynn twist me about the way you usually do, — especially when you have no reason, — you know you have no reason.” He was so vehemently reiterative that he seemed to be trying to push Henderson into a position by the sheer force of his insistence that Henderson was in the position; and he seemed, too, to be keeping a peculiar, watch-dog sort of guard on Henderson, on his wife, on himself, particularly on himself, as he walked and walked and walked. “Shucks! Just jumped into an assertion without any reason, did n’t you, Henderson, did n’t you? ”

That talkative stubbornness of the man brought to Henderson at last the complete significance of his stiff-necked turning from his wife’s counsel, his desperate clinging to his plan for a political career. With Shore politics was standing out as something that could be used to crowd and push him busily to the end, the end to which disease was remorselessly bearing him. That was Shore’s whole meaning, pitifully plain to the physician who faced him in the peculiar, conscious stillness that had settled upon the room.

“Hard,” said the physician slowly, “if you ’ll raise your left arm, straight up, like this, I ’ll tell you my specific reason.” It was a brutally kind fashion of heading Shore off, of letting him see that his deception about his condition did not deceive, but Henderson, bent only upon saving Shore for the woman beside him, risked it. He let his hand fall back, after stretching his arm up by way of illustration, and then sat quite still, waiting on Shore, his hands just touched together at the finger tips, his eyes narrowed upon Shore, his whole being conscious that the woman was meeting the blow exactly as he had relied upon her to meet it, as strongly and as quietly. Shore, attempting confusedly to turn the probe of Henderson’s insinuation, shot his arm up overhead foolhardily, only to sicken and blanch with pain. Half reeling, he turned upon Henderson, “You — you — you” — he began, speechlessly beyond control in his leaping, unreasoning resentment at the exposure and miscarriage of his plan to keep the recurrence of his disease to himself; but the woman sat on unflinchingly, until Shore dared look at her and move over to her.

“Did you think I did n’t know, Hard ? ” she whispered, her hand finding his. “Do you suppose I haven’t known all these weeks ? ”

For answer he went down on his knees beside her and clung to her and cried like a child. Lowry Penryn stole hastily from the room. Henderson got up and went over to the window. Outside the rain was still falling. Its cold spats alternated with the sobs of the kneeling man and the caressing, answering murmur of the woman: “To keep your sweet life so close to the shadow because mine’s got to keep there, — oh, I wanted to save you, —I wanted to keep it from you, — I thought if I got busy enough I could keep it back, — I wanted to fool you ! ” — his broken, tortured words were just audible to Henderson.

“But, Hard, that may have been strong, but was it fair, — not to count on me, shadow or no shadow ? ” Henderson could hear her words, too, their fierce loyalty, their strong, young maternalism, the choking hush of her own wild rebellion. He turned upon them purposefully, as they sat together under the bare white light that shone on remorselessly into their very hearts.

“ Hard, ” he said, in a plain voice that eased by its steady pulling back to the every-day level on which people drank coffee, kept house, bought and sold and chaffed, “Hard, I don’t understand what this is all for ? I can see that there are some dangers ahead, and that to avoid them you’ve got to follow the right course, but I can’t see what you mean with this morbid conviction that you are done for. Where did you get it? I ’m willing to bet that it’s autoinfection with you, — I ’ll bet that you have caught it from yourself, that you haven’t talked to a soul since I went away! But even if you have, and have been discouraged, I want to tell you that there is n’t the practitioner alive who can name the right time to quit hoping. What have you quit hoping for ? What are you taking yourself as a dead man for, when life reaches out fair and straight on half a dozen sides ? ” Henderson’s first perception that in his absence things had not gone well with Shore, that Shore had managed to get into the full swing of taking himself in the wrong way, was by now engulfed in the force of his intention to oppose this new current of discouragement, to stop the annihilating sweep of it, to get both Shore and his wife safely out of it.

“Oh, Henderson,” faltered Shore in his dull, beaten tone, “I got so tired of fighting. You were n’t here. I saw I was done for. I just decided to order my life to a busy finish and be done with it. ”

“Be done with it! ” retorted Henderson angrily. “You are n’t done with it. You don’t know the first toot of Gabriel’s horn, and you could n’t tell your summons from a dinner gong. Just because I left you to yourself a little while, just because I could n’t reassure you every time you got a pin scratch, you scare yourself into a lot of fool ideas ; you ’re nothing but a kid, any way ; get up here now and let me look at that arm again, —likely as not it’s nothing, some little sympathetic reflex. Even if it ’s recurrence, it ’s not final. Did n’t I warn you that we might run against snags of that kind for some time? Get up here.” He could hardly tell himself how much of what he said was true and how much was made to seem true by the vast force of that intention of his to create for them a mental atmosphere that would have a beneficent physiological effect. He always recognized himself in an effort of this kind with any patient, but especially with this patient, as an hypnotic force, a power of healing, not as a man. “Now, Hard,” he went on, when he was through with the examination of Shore’s arm, “I can fix that in just one little half hour. I admit I’d rather it had not lumped up there, but there ’s no death knell in the fact that it has lumped. Why in the dickens have you acted like this? Why did n’t you wait for me ? ”

“Henderson, ” — Shore turned from his wife to Henderson,— “I was afraid you were n’t coming back in the first place, — that got me uneasy, —you know I don’t believe that any other doctor has a teaspoonful of sense,— and in the next place, it began just like this before — and — and she’s been through the anxiety of one operation with me. I can’t, I won’t, let her life be spent in the strain of a long fight. When I found this thing coming back I — well, it just came to me that I’d get so busy with politics or something else that I would n’t notice the pain, or talk about it, so she would not have the trouble of it. ” His heroic thought of her now mingled queerly with an increasing relief. The morbidity that had hung over him for weeks had been broken up, and his response to the renewal of hope was ingenuous and childlike. “It was mostly because you went away, Henderson, ” he said, with a tremulous, shamefaced tearfulness. “Should n’t have got into this fool mess of conviction if you had been about. I ’ll be all right if you ’ll stay where I can feel you. What made you go away and leave us ? Can ’ t you stand us? ”

“Yes, I ’ll have to make up my mind to it,” smiled Henderson, the smile and the words being a sort of bond with himself as well as with Shore. “I ’ll not go away again. And I ’ll get you, and keep you, in shape. Only you ’ve got to do what I tell you to do. You have got, for one thing, to keep out of excitement. You can’t go into politics, for instance.”

O Lord! I don’t care a hang about politics except as a thought-killer, ” declared Shore, almost blithe in the reaction from his despair.

“Well, then, if that’s understood, if you ’re going to become good, I ’ll be off now, and come up and arrange about that arm in the morning.”

They followed him out into the hall, both showing their utter dependence upon him as physician and friend. “By George, Henderson! ” cried Shore at the hall door, “I don’t see how we could live without you, ” — one of Shore’s hands rested on his wife’s shoulder and the other pressed Henderson’s hand, — “honest to the Lord, I don’t see how we could live without you.”

“No, I don’t see,” she said, in a mystical voice, as she took Henderson’s hand, in her turn. The rose-red glow from the hall globes fell full upon her.

“ Oh, there are plenty of doctors, ” laughed Henderson.

“But only one Henderson,” said Shore earnestly,

“Only one Henderson,” she repeated, her lips trembling a little, but with that gaze of hers which expected so much of him fixed steadfastly upon him.

“ Well, if there were a dozen of me, I’d be yours, all yours, always rely on that.” He had both their hands and he was looking from one to the other as he spoke, and, as he spoke, he got a certain happiness. “ I ’d rather have my sense of her, her completeness, than another man’s ability to stand another woman’s incompleteness,” he told himself. On the veranda he looked back to smile at them before he stepped out into the rain, and saw her there, still in the glow, the other man’s arm still around her. “It is not the glow,” said Henderson softly, as though he had saved something, “it ’s the one woman. And I ’m glad of it.”

Then he went on in the rain.

R. E. Young.