MAN AND WIFE
A Romantic Story of Quebec
C. W. STEPHENS
Third and Concluding Ins ta I rn en t
THE project for taking back the Campbell Mine dropped as quickly as it had arisen. Campbell was frankly disappointed, and with no one more than his old associate Williams. From the day of the interview with Hugh the attitude of Williams had changed. He openly advised Campbell to give up the idea of opposing his son-in-law.
Whether it was owing to the manner in which he gave the advice or the craft with which he slipped the drop of poison into the medicine would be difficult to decide, but it appeared that he had definitely resolved that there was little nourishment in antagonizing the camp’s big man, and that he intended to put his money, henceforth, on the right horse.
Campbell openly stated that Williams had “sold” him—had withdrawn his encouragement and promise of financial association— for some consideration that Lyttleton had only been too glad to pay. When he heard that Hugh had given to young Williams a position in one of the smaller mines, he was certain of his conclusion. The situation was not a responsible one, but the salary paid was a great advance on anything that Williams had received before. So, declared Campbell, the victor made of his foes his servants, treated them, when they came in, with some consideration and honor, finding it wiser to use them than to break them.
The Williams people, women and men, had boxed the compass, so far as their ancient enemy was concerned.
Hugh had done more to win their favor by giving the son a place in which he could be called “manager,” though in a pit employing less than a score men, than if he had paid him twice the salary to be an under-strapper. Henceforth Lyttleton could do no wrong in the sight of his new subjects. It was something to hang on to the tail of a big man’s kite, to be on the band-wagon, to run with the rout.
If Lyttleton was-king and autocrat, who brooked no rival in rule, he did well by his followers. His wages were the biggest in the district, his mines were safest. He never risked a man’s life to save a handful of dollars in precautionary provisions, never failed to do the just and more than just thing to a man out of luck, or a woman whose bread-winner had been taken from her. He ruled in the pits like a king, but he was a just king, one who knew his work better than the best of his men, said what he meant an.d meant what he said. When he fought it was to a finish, but he never fought for fighting’s sake, and never carried a grudge after the bill had been paid. He could get men when other employers had to scour the country for them, and when through feebleness of age or sickness a man had to leave the hard labor of the pit bottom, he never went on the parish. Lyttleton was the first man in that country to have compulsory pensioning in his mines. It was a rule of the Mines that each man’s pay was docked for his pension fund, and for every cent the man paid the master added two. If he became unable to work he was pensioned, if he died, his family received what had been coming to him. Other employers said Lyttleton spoiled his men, but Hugh knew that it paid. What others called his unfair pampering added not inconsiderably to the mine man’s profit balance every year.
So when young Williams, out of a job, had asked for employment, he got it from the man whose rival he had been for a short day in the business world, and he felt it to be no humiliation to work for the big chief. Thus far had Lyttleton’s supremacy been acknowledged.
TIE was in New York little more than a week. While he was away Mary had taken careful note of the situation, and had arrived at a decision. The fault had been in the departure they had made from their first intention. She had allowed the proximity of an attractive man, who had been boundlessly generous, more in spirit than even in action, to affect her unduly, to assert its influence over her. Henceforward there were
to be no misunderstandings, no trivial jealousies. It should be none of her business to scrutinize the lists of his friends, women or men.
She should think no more of censoring his conduct than a man would the morals of his man friend. It should be enough for her to be the woman whom he admired—W’hat for, she could not imagine— his official wife.
When he returned she met him with all the gracious friendliness that was her charm. He had not been away long, but the brief absence had broken the continuity of their acquaintance so that he was enabled to see her against a background of change. He saw her in the light of a new’ revelation. Hitherto she had been the girl of the Sunday morning outside the grey church wdth the crow'd, streaming from Mass, hemming her in.
Now she was a woman, with the charm of winsome girlhood enhanced by the gracious gravity of riper knowledge and experience. And the new woman he saw' was net the girl he had known, who had slipped her hand within his arm, and in a score of little alluring w'ay’s, insignificant enough in themselves, but of vast moment to him, had shown that she was coming, of her own will, to make the great surrender. The touch of the hand, the glance of the eye, the expression on her face when her mind was not occupied w’ith thought of influx of foreigners
hirn, the kiss of the epochal night, had been slow’, sure steps in the girl’s advance over the plain of indifference to the open fortress of the man’s heart.
Now she was changed. She was no less pleasant, and delightsome, but sometimes it seemed to him that she had halted suddenly on her way tow ard him, hesitant; at others he thought she was receding, not by active, positive steps, but as if, in some strange w'ay, the distance appeared to be widening, mists and darkness enshrouding her. Her touch was rarely laid upon him, friendly kindness took the place of tenderness. She was comradely, the broad-minded, far-visioned woman, engrossed in his schemes, kindled by his business ambition, wholly w’ith him in his determination to make a place in the wider world of social and political life.
Tw’ice he suggested that they should resume their outings, for spring had come, and the world of death had leaped from its sepulchi’e to warm-pulsing repeated life. In the whisper of the w’inds, the bursting of the bud, the vibrant music of air and sky, lake and sea, was a new', haunting, intoxicating thrill, to which the heart sang in ecstatic response. On both occasions she made some excuse, compensating him by accompanying him more frequently on his small trips about the town, and attending church occasionally with him. He came less often to the house, and rarely stayed long. She understood, of course, that her father’s half-veiled hostility made his visits difficult.
“What has happened to your husband?” Mr. Campbell asked Mary brusquely one Sunday at lunch. “I suppose it is all Williams these days? He has young Jack eating out of his hand, and he and Alice seem to be on great terms. Only yesterday I saw them talking and laughing on the street. I notice that she doesn’t come here very often now.”
“If anybody else had made such a malicious little speech I should have thought he w’ished to make me jealous,” she laughed. “Fathers really ought not to seek to protect their married daughters from their husbands, especially one who is as attentive as Hugh. He has been clamoring for me to go flying all over the country with him, but I have been unusually busy’ lately’.”
“People are talking,” he said, gloomily. “It was a fool arrangement.”
ARY made no reply. It was true that Alice w’as rarely seen at the house. Only once since Christmas had she been there, whereas before it had been rare for a w’eek to pass without a visit. The girls had never been intimate friends, but rather agreeable acquaintances, thrown much together by the scarcity of society’ in the town. Mary recently had put her own construction on the apparent estrangement. On the occasions W'hen she had met the girl she had noticed an absence of the old vivacity, a seeming reserve and shyness.
During the following weeks Mary noticed a change in Hugh. He was more silent and reserved on the few’ occasions she saw him, and spoke less of his business affairs. Outide his .mines he had developed wide interests in lumber and pulp mills. She gathered from the little he told her that these occupied a great deal of time and attention, since they’ were not yet on a satisfactory profitable basis. From him she learned that her father had suddenly revived his desire to take back the mine. After Williams had drawn out of the project. everyone had supposed that it had been definitely' abandoned. Now Campbell had told his son-in-law that he thought he could secure the financial aid he required to handle it. Hugh had agreed to accept a mortgage for the repurchase price, as he had provisionally promised.
“I think he is making a mistake,” said Hugh. “The financial situation generally is rather gloomy, and there is the threat of labor troubles for the first time in our experience. We’ve had in recent years a great Germans, Austrians, and Russians. More than half the men in the pits are of this class, and they’ve introduced a troublesome element into labor here. There are a few men in the lot more gifted with tongue than working ability, and they’re preaching anarchy. It’s a bad time to start. You know that I say this in your father’s interest. I spoke to him of it, but he always appears to suspect my motive. If he wants to take the mine he can have it, now or at any time, but this is no day to begin what would practically be a new concern.”
“He has not mentioned it to me,” said Mary. “I don’t want to see him enter business again. He’s not fit for it. I wonder who it can be who is to help him?”
“I haven’t the least idea,” Hugh replied. “However, he won’t listen to me. In his mind I’m always acting with ulterior motive. I’m afraid I put my foot into it with him in another way. It seemed to me he felt his want of independence. Of course he’s always been master on his own account before, and I thought if he had some responsible position he would be happier. I offered him the vice-presidency of one of my lumber companies. There would have been a little office oversight to keep him occupied—no real hard work though —and a small salary, say round $2,500 a year, but he didn’t take it as I meant him to. It seemed to him a sort of bribe to keep him out of competition with me, so he refused it almost as if I’d insulted him.”
“You mustn’t take any notice of his whims,” said Mary. “I don’t know why it should be so, Hugh. You are endlessly good to us, and we give you the meanest return.”
“I wasn’t asking for that, Mary,” he answered. “I’ll make a good thing out of it one of these days. I’m an invincible optimist where you and yours are concerned.”
She made no answer, fearing her own weakness. Whenever there came into their conversation an intimate personal tone, she was afraid of herself, and her only refuge was in silence.
/YN the evening of the same day she was in her room, when there came a tap on the door. In response to her call her father entered and took a seat. He chatted for some time on casual topics, and then brought up the matter of the repurchase of the mine. Lyttleton, he told her, had agreed to re-sell to him, taking a mortage for the money. The business could be upbuilt at once and put on a profitable basis. All he needed was working capital. The banks were tightening their policies, and, with his place mortgaged up to the hilt, he was not in a position to borrow from them.
“You have what Lyttleton set aside for you,” he said. “It was a hundred thousand dollars, was it not?”
“Yes,” she replied.
“Not a great deal spent, I guess? “he suggested.
“No, the principal is intact. I have used only part of the interest,” she said.
“I could use $50,000,” he told her. “That sum would put me in an absolutely secure position. I should be indebted to no one, and would soon be able to pay you back, and get rid of Lyttleton’s hold on the land and mill. Of course you would get your interest—more than the bank pays you.”
“But, father, you couldn’t expect me to do that,” she answered. “Anything that belonged to me you could have, as you know, but that is not mine.”
“Whose then is it?” he demanded. “Was it a pretended gift? Something to brag about? Has he put strings to it?”
“It is mine, absolutely,” she replied. “Hugh doesn’t brag of his gifts, nor does he put strings to them. He has never spoken to me of his gift from the day I received it.”
“Then why can’t you lend part of it to me?” He asked.
“Because I don’t regard it as mine,” she told him. “I take what is needed for the house and myself out of the interest, that I ought to do, in justice to my husband who wishes me to be supported by him. The principal I won’t touch.”
“Not even to help your father gain his ’independence?” he demanded.
“Not even for that,” she said. “Why can’t you content yourself with the comfort we have, father? There’s no need for you to enter business. The interest earned by the money I regard as mine, and you may have anything you want for your comfort. The upkeep of the house is less than two thousand a year. Mother and I are not extravagant personally, and you’re heartily welcome to the two thousand a year that is left when everything else is paid for. No one would know of it but the two of us, not even Hugh.”
“If you have the soul of a pensioner, I have not,” he replied and left the room.
T N the early autumn the storm fell on the mining and A financial worlds. Though there had been some fear and foreboding, the crash came with the furious suddenness of a tornado. Banks, growing panicky at the sight of gathering clouds in the larger world, shut up their coffers. They were not lending any more. Securities, deemed good as gold before, were worthless as collateral. Canvas was hastily hauled down, and financial instiutions awaited the hurricane snugged down, and with bare poles.
In the little mining town two of the smaller companies went into receiver’s hands the first day of the storm. Before the week was out tradesmen here and there were following suit. Businesses began to topple like houses of cards, the fali of one bringing others down in ruin. Lyttleton’s mines were the only ones on which the general disaster seemed to have no effect.
One would have thought that amid the widespiead ruin, the pitmen would have rallied about the one stable firm in the district, whose payroll kept a thousand families in comfort. He was regarded as impregnable, and perhaps on this account there was less compunction in attacking him. Nevertheless the strike that Lyttleton had sometimes feared actually came. One day the men presented demands that he could not meet and, on receiving his refusal, walked out in a body.
Then came a black day when the rumor ran through the town that the man who had been thought invincible was faltering. It was regarded, at first, as a silly tale spread by malicious foes. Louder became the whisper. The big man had his funds all sunk in investments, the mines, mills, timber limits, pulp and lumber mills. The compulsory shutting down of the mines had cost him heavily. Inability to fulfil contracts had damaged him. He might be a millionaire in ordinary times, but millionaires were dropping on every hand, the bigger they were the heavier their fall. The financial world had buttoned up its pockets, hidden its gold under the bed. The old peasant instinct had come back. It was every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.
IT was a few days before Christmas. The storm of rumor had swelled and died away, to burst out again with redoubled energy.
“I guess your man is going the way of the rest,” said Campbell to Mary, one dreary morning. “His was a short day. People fancied he was too big to be downed, but I tell you there never was a man so mighty that he couldn’t be humbled. Things may turn out to prove that you were a wise woman. You have your money, fast and tight. Nobody can touch it, no matter what happens to him. The house is yours and all in it, and you have just yourself, neither chick nor child to carry his name.”
“What has happened to Hugh?” she asked, knowing little of the tales that had been widespread.
“Getting pounded from every side, the men out on strike, his contracts cancelled on all sides, his lumber and pulp interests choked in their costly beginnings. He’s a rich man—but property poor. They say it’s only a short time off when he’ll have to walk the plank,” said Campbell almost exultantly.
“Is it true, mother?” asked Mary, when her father had left the room.
“That’s the general report,” answered Mrs. Campbell. “It’s said that his interests are so involved that he’s embarrassed. Much of his outside business is only in the beginning stage in which money has to be outlaid heavily. Then there is this wretched strike, and, I understand he has had losses owing to the collapse of other firms. I sincerely hope he’ll be able to weather the storm.”
Mary went up to her room and called Hugh on the telephone. After some time one of the watchmen replied and told her that Mr. Lyttleton had gone away and would not be back until the following day. The call had been a sudden one and he had left by car at almost a moment’s notice. Mary felt a little depressed. It was the first time he had gone away without calling her up to tell her of his intention. Little by little the gap was widening, and all her philosophy did not make the contemplation of it any more agreeable. The day passed away drearily, one of those grey, lowering days when the dark, massed clouds seemed to lean their weight on one’s spirits.
CHE went to bed early to relieve a weariness that ^ neither book nor music, nor the affairs of the house could dispel. She woke soon after midnight. The night was bitter cold, following an evening’s snowfall, the stars burning frostily, a keen wind blowing from the West. She switched on a lamp near the bed and took up a book. One o’clock boomed from the great
grandfather clock in the hall, its note throbbing on the heavy stillness and echoing through the hall and long corridors. The w'orld outside slept its heavy, winter sleep. She shuddered at the whimpering of the wind—its occasional little shrill shrieks sounded like the dream troubles of the slumberer. Now and again the trees snapped and crackled in the keen frosty air, as if the sleeper had turned impatiently on his bed. The following silence was the more impressive. It had unfathomable profundity that was crowded with the spectral things of the night, felt rather than visible or heard. Then the heavy air shook, the house trembled as if shaken by an earthquake, a dish fell from the shelves in the kitchen below, and the dull crash of a deep thunderous roar rolled over the valley—a second and third—then a deeper silence, broken presently by the sound of a runner speeding along the road. Mary turned off the light, and a faint red glare showed through the windows. She sprang from bed and ran to pull the curtains aside. The sky eastward was filled with red flame, its tongues leaping high into the fireshot blackness.
“They’ve blown up and fired the mill,” she heard her father exclaim. “It has been long enough threatened, and they’ve done it.”
He dressed hurriedly, took horse and sleigh from the stable and was driving furiously along the road within five minutes.
Helpless, the two women sat through the night and watched the fire extend until the whole block of Lyttleton’s mills, save the offices, were a roaring geyser of fire. They saw through glasses the buildings dissolve, the roofs crash downward, the clouds of sparks and flying embers spread over the land, the walls fall in, and the whole place, Lyttleton’s pride, a heap of glowing, smoking ruins.
U/HEN day broke the tall white mill and storehouses ' * were a black, smoking offense upon the face of the snow-white landscape. It was nine o’clock when Campbell returned with the story. An attack had been made on the buildings by the foreign strikers at midnight. The two guards had been seized, the dynamite stores raided, the derricks smashed and thrown into the pits, the engine house dynamited, the mill with its costly machinery blown up and fired. The establishment—the finest in that part of the land—had been made a useless scrap heap. Aid had come too late. By the time the police had arrived from their distant quarters, the evil work had been done. Before the greatness of the catastrophe even Campbell was awed.
“A quarter of a million won’t make good the loss this night’s work has caused,” he said. “Not half covered by insurance. It will be the finishing punch for Lyttleton. Even if the men were to go back to-morrow, it would be late spring before he could get going, and if he was money pinched before, what will he be now?”
IT was late in the evening when Mary received word that Hugh was back. She called the stable boy, bade him get out her sleigh, and drive her into town. The nine o’clock convent bell was ringing as she went again, on foot, up the lonely steep and turned into the dismal lane, its snow blackened by smoke and dead embers from the fire. She stood for some moments to look upon the piled up ruin, a gaunt skeleton of vanished greatness. The edges of the pit were bare and more ominous-looking than ever, the derricks gone, the huts swept away, and nothing left of the multitude of buildings and appliances but the offices. The big main office was in darkness, but there was a light in the private room.
She glanced through the window. Hugh was there, seated at his desk, a sheet of calculations before him. As she looked, he sat up, leaned back, deep in thought. She was proud of him with a new pride.
Whatever he had done was forgotten, banished, forgiven. The fault was hers. If he had wandered away because of her coldness, she would win him back. Not for an instant did she doubt her power. She would ask no question of him, accept all that was past, take the blame on her own shoulders; but he was hers and none should ever take him away from her again. Had he shown signs of brokenness she would have pitied him, but on his face was no sign of despair, no trace of wincing before the blows that had been rained upon him. He was still the fighting man—his back hard against the wall and fighting with all the mighty power of him. Then what mattered loss, wreckage, black ruin? The man was infinitely bigger than the calamity. If he was being driven back, it was a retreat more glorious than victory, for it had in it the promise that he would come again. He fell back that he might launch his smashing drive at the over-confident foe the more irresistibly.
Continued on page 73
Man and Wife
Continued from page 32
She tapped on the door. There was no response. Again she knocked. He came and flung it wide. She walked in, past him, a wondrous vision, a little fur cap on her head, her fur coat about her slight, gracious figure, her face glowing —for the night was cold, the climb steep —the red lips smilingly parted, showing the pretty white teeth.
“Mary!” he exclaimed. “You, Mary?” “I heard you were back, Hugh. All day I’ve been waiting for you to come back. Oh, Hugh! How I’ve longed to see you, so that you might know how my heart is all with you in these awful troubles. Of course you knew it was, but I wanted to be with you and tell you.” He moved a chair toward her, but she still stood by the side of his desk, he facing her. “I didn’t know of the difficulties you had been passing through. You should have told me. In future you will, won’t you, Hugh? I may not be able to do much, but, now and again, it might help a little, if I knew—and it would teach us more of each other.”
“It is worth going through it all, Mary, to have you come to me in this way,” he said, his voice a little husky. “It means everything—just everything. You remember what I told you, that with you, standing with me, I’d take all other loss and count myself winner? I never fancied it would come to the test, but I have to take my share of the punishment with the rest. I'm not beaten yet, but I was just figuring things up there, and when it looked pretty black you came in, and the gloominess vanished. Sit down, Mary, here near to me. Let’s talk about it.”
SHE removed her coat and cap. and came over to his side, the fairest vision the room had ever known. He told her of the big money strain, the locking up of his capital, the sudden temporary stringency that had made securities for the moment almost valueless, and money invisible. There was no adequate reason for it. It was panic, folly, but in the wild running amuck, many a sound, fine business would be slaughtered. He had been successful, after a long battle, in safeguarding his lumber and pulp interests. That meant he was in no danger of losing them, but it might be a year or two before he would begin to reap from his investment. The most formidable difficulty was in connection with the mine. Now that it was almost too late, the men had come back; that evening a deputation had been to see him, promising to return to the pits whenever he wanted them. The disturbing element had already been virtually driven out of the town.
“And I shall begin again to-morrow,” he said. “If I have to go down to the pit floor and work alone with pick and shovel.
“I made the business from the ground up, and I can do it again. It’ll take time to get a mill up and assemble machinery. Much of it will have to be earned, and it may be a few months before matters right but there will be the sure comeback. I’ll start in with a handful of men, put up a makeshift place, and grow as I do.”
“Would that help out much, Hugh?” she asked, slipping her cheque before him on the desk. It was for the hundred thousand dollars that were in the bank to her credit.
He picked it up, frowned as he glanced at it, folded and returned it.
“I don’t get out of my troubles with my wife’s money,” he said. “That’s mighty good of you, Mary. I’ll never forget it, but I can’t use that. That is yours, and I won’t borrow from you.” “Hugh,” she said. “Why may I not show my—my love for you, as you showed yours for me, when I was in trouble? When you offered me money, I took it. There was one thing that made me take it—beside wishing to aid my people —and that was I knew, that while I did not love you, you did love me. I don’t know why that should have helped me to
cross a-well, a terrible stile, but it
did. I never intended to use that money —at least not until there was some
change. The interest I’ve spent, as you would have wished me to do, but the principal has not been mine until now. Now I cal] it mine that I may give it you, Hugh, as a cheap little token—for it is really yours—of the love I have for you. Why may I not love you as you have loved me? You won’t refuse, Hugh, the first gift I’ve been able to make you? You’ve always been so strong, so rich, so powerful, and I had nothing I could give you. You’ve been always giving to me. Now give me a little fair-play, Hugh. I’ll think that you have no love left for me, if you are too proud to take what 1 offer.”
She stood again facing him, holding out the little slip of paper. “It is not onlythe bit of paper, Hugh, but all that goes with it. It is moneys and with it the respect, the honor, the friendship, the love—all I am capable of—the heart of your wife. If you refuse the one I shall take it for granted that you d~n’t want the other. Here it is, take it, take —them.”
TTE took the slip from her hand, laid it down on the desk. He put his hands on her shoulders, looked into her eyes that sparkled like diamond dewdrops on the leaf of a rose. Then his arms swept about her, lifting her from her feet, folding her close to his heart, and his kisses rained on her upturned face.
“Come,” he said, ages later. “I’ll take you home. It is late.” He picked up her coat and held it for her, but she shook her head, and the crimson deepened again in her face.
“I didn’t send for you, but I came,” she told him. “Will I be very much in the way if I stay here in my home? That is why I came to-night, to take possession of my home. Oh, Hugh, it was a foolish bargain I made—it threw all the responsibility on me—all you have to do is to listen—and I have to do all the advancing and love-making. Break the wretched old promise, and tell me that you want me, that I must come, because, Hugh, you are everything to me, everything I care for, want, love. Now I have done all I bargained to, so now—make love to me, Hugh—just as if I wasn’t your wife, just as if you wanted to win me, just as if you really loved me as much as I love you.”
IT is to be feared that Hugh Lyttleton said something the least bit improper, that is for a man to utter in the presence of his wife. However, it could not have been very atrocious, for so dignified a lady as Mary only laughed. They were in their little apartment upstairs—intended only for a bachelor, and they were eating bread and cheese, and drinking tea out of the same cup, in quite a homey way. The stove was burning brightly, a kettle singing merrily, there was even the office cat who had promptly adopted them and was manifesting the utmost approval of their arrangement by purring at top capacity. Then, in the midst of this domestic peace, a rap came on the door. No wonder Hugh said, “Damn!” before he realized that he was at home, and not in the bachelor diggings of a few hours before.
Then he got up, kissed Mary as if he were going to the North Pole for some four or five years, and went down to see who the malefactor was.
In two or three minutes he called upstairs to her.
“Mary! A visitor to see you!”
She went to the door at the head of the staircase, to encounter a feminine whirlwind, that swept about her, and held her fast in demonstrative affection.
I have always thoroughly enjoyed MacLean'» Magazine and have recom mended it to othar* who are now subscriber». I have always subscribed to two or more American magazine», but never again so long a» MacLean’» is published in Canada.
G. M. H.
‘I didn’t know that you were here, Mary,” said Alice Williams: “Oh, it’s
just splendid. What a perfect little duck of an apartment, and what a delightful duck of a wife you look! A real cat—a real stove with a steaming kettle on it! You must think you are in heaven. I always said you were the luckiest girl. I’ve just got to hug you again.”
“Jack is downstairs with Hugh,” she said, nibbling bread and cheese. “He’s got a gang of men together all ready for the morning. The other fellow isn’t going to have it all his own way. Jack is all for Hugh these days.”
Then her vivacious face sobered.
“Hugh has been wonderfully good to Jack and to me,” she said. “I can tell you about it now. Before I didn’t like to talk about it. I wanted to see if Jack made good first. I suppose you never heard about it, did you? Well, Jack made a slip some time back. It was just about last Christmas time, and the people were going to make a lot of trouble. It might have meant prison for Jack, and I was just frantic with fear, for Jack and I have always been great chums. There was just nobody in the world to help, that is in the world of those we thought were our friends. They had lots of regrets and heaps of sound advice—you know the kind? I tried everywhere, but it was of no use. Never did I imagine that six hundred dollars would be so hard to find. Father wouldn’t help. He had been fairly liberal to Jack before and had just shut down. I didn’t know what to do. Then one night I was desperate, for we feared action would be taken the following day. Then I thought of Hugh. I was right out in the street one night, when the inspiration came to me. It was quite late in the evening, but I went up to the offices. It was terribly hard work to have to ask, for Hugh had never liked Jack, and I wasn’t much more than an acquaintance, but he made it so easy for me. Everybody else had listened getting gradually petrified, but Hugh just said: ‘I’m glad you came up, Alice. Why on earth didn’t you come before? Sure I’ll do anything I can.’
“The people who wanted the money were pretty stiff before, but he went down with me to see them, and settled things up inside five minutes. Then he just said good-night to me as if he had been buying me a plate of ice-cream. And I am going to tell you what I did, Mrs. Mary Lyttleton, whether you like it or not. Outside the house I just grabbed that husband of yours and kissed him. There, you know it, and I’m not one bit penitent.”
“I would have been ashamed of you. Alice, if you hadn’t,” laughed Mary, with exultation in her heart that the speaker had no knowledge of.
“And not only that,” continued Alice. “But he took Jack on when everybody else was blackening him, and I’m glad to know that Jack has made good. You’ll see. All the town will be pulling for Hugh and he’ll win out yet.”
THE two did not stay long. After they had taken their departure, Hugh said to Mary:
“I generally have a look round at night. Will you come?” She put on her wraps, and they went about the place, now lying tragically silent in the white moonlight—the quarries choked with wreckage—the shattered sheds—the wrecked engine houses—the vast ruins of the mill—-a cheerless prospect on the snowy hillside.
The solitary note of cheer and comfort shone out from the little apartment upon the bleakness.
So they turned away from the ruin— the black desolation, and took their way toward the spot upon which the altar fire had burst into glorious flame. He put his arm about her.
“Home, Mary, home!” he said.
She stood with him in the tiny hall as he shut out the bleak bitterness of the night. To both it seemed that beyond the door lay dead sorrow, misunderstanding, doubt. He locked the door. Then he laid his arm about her waist, and they climbed together the flight of stairs leading into light.