THAT WIFE of DUNCAN'S
CHARLES G. BOOTH
IT WAS the first time he had ever seen his son’s wife. Peering at her with his inscrutable eyes he searched for sign of that fear which he had decided she would show as did all others who sought his favors or his forbearance; for when they had named him “Iron Face” Foulds they had named him well. But to his intense surprise he found nothing but a serene courage in her dark eyes and a fearlessness in the^vivid outlines of her eager face that quite baffled him. Foulds was compelled to readjust some of his preconceived ideas of this daughter-in-law of his; and this is hard for one whose years have reached the allotted span —years filled with justified conclusions and victories that were other men’s defeats. His tall, heavy frame straightened. That look which men had learned to fear squared his features. His old face would have been ruthless had it not been relieved by a stern humanness that persistently haunted his gray eyes.
“You received Duncan’s telegram?” Margaret was saying.
Foulds’ mouth hardened. “Yes, I got it.” He smiled, grimly.
“And you will help him?” Her voice was quite steady, though it held a peculiar, enriching tenseness that told of the strain she was under. Her eyes, glistening like washed jewels, hung upon his lips. She was praying without consciously forming her supplications. She had been praying for hours.
“Duncan should have known better than to have sent you—of all people—on such an errand!” He shot this at her with a sort of inevitableness, suggesting sentences ready formed upon his lips. The savagery in his words quite hid the acute agony their utterance caused him.
Some of the color drained from Margaret’s face. She had to close her teeth tightly to stem the rising flood of her
“Why do you detest me so?” she asked presently. “You don’t know me. You haven’t given me a chance. You are unfair.”
“Why?” he flung at her. “He has told you often enough, I’ll warrant. Why?” he repeated, his old eyes flaming. “Because you married my son! If you had kept your paws off him and what you knew went with him, he
would still be my son! The boy’s mother died when he was born. He’s all I had left and you took him—my boy!”
For just a moment Margaret glimpsed the twisted love and the bitter hatred in Foulds’ heart. He went on again after a slight pause.
"I spent a lifetime building Foulds’ Engineering Company for him, and when I quit and gave it him, you came along and took him from me. Now you’ve ruined the concern and you come begging my help. Well, you don’t get it. You’ve steered on to the rocks together—you can complete your wreck together!”
Margaret was silent. His bitterness was harsher than she had expected. And so he thought she had stolen Duncan from him? Her lips twisted into a smile.
Her heart was full. She had come prepared to concede much, her dignity at least, but he was not giving her a chance. Yet at heart she knew he was good. Duncan had told her that. If he would only allow her to, she knew that she could love him. Just then his grim face was as unrelenting as that of a brazen god.
'T'HEY were in his garden. It was simple and beautiful —an old-fashioned garden in gay colors and dark cool greens with hidden nooks and shady seats that bobbed up in front of one unexpectedly, all but inviting one to linger in their cool recesses.
His words had hurt and Margaret walked away from him a pace or two to hide her pain. She could feel his bitter eyes boring into the back of her head. She turned to the gnarled old apple tree which she had found him pruning. Its fruit was reddening under the mid-afternoon sun. Its foliage stirred lazily in the slight breeze; its twisted boughs reached like venerable arms to the austere heavens. It seemed the personification of the sympathy she was seeking.
Then quickly Margaret turned and faced him.
“Duncan could not come himself.”
“Makes no difference, I’m through with him.” "You are his father—don’t you love him?”
“Love him?” The words leaped from Foulds’ lips.
A swift look swept his face but he composed himself. Then : “That’s none of your business!”
“He’s ill—that is why he did not come himself.”
Foulds looked at her sharply. “Ill, you say? What’s wrong?”
“You are interested?”
“It doesn’t matter.” Foulds shrugged his shoulders with ill-concealed interest.
“Pneumonia,” Margaret told him. “But he’s very
There was silence.
“Are you going to help him?” the girl ventured presently. “We—he needs fifty thousand to pass the crisis. You can lend it—easily. And it will save the business you were so proud of.”
His lips were twitching. He did not answer.
Margaret drew closer. She touched one of his arms, gently. “But more than he needs the money, more than he needs anything, he needs you. You are his father and he wants you. I don’t think you know just how much you are to him.” They were face to face but Margaret could see no sympathy in his hard eyes.
Foulds’ laugh was as hard as his eyes. “Don’t come tome whining. When he gets rid of you I’ll talk business, forgiveness, and the rest of it.”
The girl shivered as though the chill of night had suddenly struck. She knew that she had lost and the knowledge depressed her, but at that moment her sympathy was with Foulds rppre than with herself. At his refusal he seemed to shrivel before her eyes as though it had taken from him something that he held dearer than life.
“Then you won’t—”
“No, I’ll see him dead first!” he croaked. “And you too!” Margaret backed away from him. “Get out!” he barked at her. “Get out!”
And before she could answer he was stumbling towards his house which stood embowered in a nest of dark green ivy, Virginia creeper, and climbing roses that intoxicated one with their perfume. A cluster of fallen petals lay directly in his path. He trod upon it with vicious delight.
'y'OWARD evening Foulds’ passion had cooled. His 1 mind was more coherent.
Later on Benjamin Kerr joined him in Foulds’ study. Kerr was a small, gray-haired man, thoughtful of eyes and distinctive of feature. He had breasted life’s stream easily. Contact with the world had softened him even as it had hardened Foulds. At rare intervals, Foulds, his friend of years, glimpsed the emotional depths of Kerr’s character but only when Kerr permitted him to do so and on such occasions Foulds was amazed and humbled.
It was a dim, soft-toned room they were in, done in black leather and dark oak. Books lined the walls. A reading lamp dappled the heavy table with a soft colored light. Against one wall, and between tiered books, hung a large portrait in oils—a woman in the dress of another day, a queen among women, soft-eyed, tender-mouthed, disseminating into the meagre light the sweet personality which must have invested the original.
Kerr regarded his friend through the gray tobacco haze. "That is your fifth cigar to-day,” he admonished. "Binns limited you to two.”
“Curse Binns and his limitations!”
“Well, I suppose your curses won’t harm him; his premonitions are usually justified, though. But I don’t want to talk of Binns and his limits, but of that pretty child you had to see you to-day—your daughter-in-law.”
“Child! She must be twenty-five!”
“You and I are nearly seventy. Of course she is a child!”
“Have it your own way.”
“Youth is a glorious phase but after all it is only a phase with its laughs at age and its flirtations with ruin—”
“You are right there!”
“Unfortunately age gives it so much to laugh at. Why don’t you and Duncan make up and quit acting like a pair of fools at extreme ends of a tightrope?”
“He’s my son no longer! How many more—”
“Yes, yes, you have told me that almost as often as I have called you a pig-headed old fool. You are too rigid— always have been—to appreciate life. Dig down a little— you’ll find people and children more human than you expect. You have always made the means to life the end. Loosen up; your ideas are not made of steel; if you think they are, and if they don’t bend, they’ll break; you can’t keep still in a moving world. Give the boy and his wife a chance. Give them their fifty thousand—you Æon’t miss it. They make a fine pair from what I hear.”
“I’ll see ’em dead, first!”
“Yes, perhaps you will, but they are more likely to see you dead first.”
Foulds glared at his friend. “I’m good for ten years yet!”
Kerr ignored this. “Because the boy married before he got his business wind and without getting your O.K. you’re letting him smash. It’s beyond me.”
Foulds’ rage had been simmering. Now it boiled up from his unhappy heart. His old teeth clicked. “I’ll see him cleaned to his last dollar before I’ll lift a hand—and then I won’t!” he snarled. His fist crashed dully against the leathern arm of his chair.
Kerr got to his feet. ‘T guess I’ll move on. If you don’t get after those roses of yours Old Men’s Row won’t get even a measly third this year. Mine are hopeless and Green’s and Billings’ are worse! So long.”
FOULDS pulled himself to his feet. Then he sank back into his chair. That sharp cutting pain which had stabbed into him so often of late was at him again.
“If I keep still it’ll go,” he muttered to himself. “Five cigars! Binns said two! Guess he was right; always is.” Presently he felt easier. He leaned back in his chair. A slight noise occurred at the door. It was Landers, his man. “Are you all right, sir, I thought—”
“Why shouldn’t I be all right?” Confound the man. Everyone was determined to emphasize his age, his dependency.
His mind reverted. First had come the telegram from Duncan asking for help. Then, instead of the boy, that woman! How he hated her! Her slim beauty, her dark loveliness—he had to admit that. His boy! His boy! Oh, God, if there was a God. That woman’s beauty had taken his boy; stolen him!
What was that Kerr had said? “Old Men’s Row!” That was how they put it, was it? Green and Billings and Kerr and himself all growing roses in a row. He sneered to himself.
His boy! How he loved him. He admitted that to himself. Help him? Gladly—everything. Even his life, though everyone intimated that wasn’t worth much. Their actions did, anyway. But hadn’t the cub spurned his gifts? Married after a week’s courtship—and without a word? That had cut deep into his old heart.
His mind on the wings of memory slipped into the past Involuntarily his eyes sought the portrait on the wall. A queer hurt feeling gathered at the roots of his heart—not from cigars this time. His wife! She had come like the glow of dawn into the darkness of his solitude. For a brief year her mysterious spirituality had penetrated into the darkest corner of his materialistic heart, never to wholly leave. Then had come the boy. . . . the excruciating agony of uncertainty. . . . and her death. “Be good to him always,” she had said.
That sense of repose which always accompanied these flashes of reminiscence even though they stirred the old pain was missing this time. This puzzled him. Surely, surely it could not be that he was not playing fair with his dead. “Be good to him always.” The words persisted in his mind. Could it be possible that he had not played fair? Was it possible that he was wrong and that Kerr was right? Kerr had been a banker before he put off the harness, a successful one too, a man of judgment-, they said. But a man of loans and bonds and stocks, what could he know of the workings of a man’s soul.
“I wonder?” he muttered. “Perhaps—” He started abruptly to his feet. He had always been a man of quick decisions. “I’ll go—to-morrow—and take it over—until he’s well!” He ejaculated this out loud. Things would be upside down, he reflected, as he eased himself into his chair. “Too old at seventy, eh?” He chuckled grimly. He’d show ’em! Old Men’s Row! He’d make Kerr and those fellows sit up and take notice. Of course he wouldn’t have to see her—very often.
He began to feel better; presently he sought his bed.
TT WAS at eight-thirty the next morning that Foulds,
shaved and primly immaculate, entered what had been his own general office. He recognized none of the clerks who looked up at his entrance, and it struck him sharply as he made for his old private office that he had not been here for three years. The department heads would not be down until nine. He would give them the surprise of their lives.
A boy bobbed up in front of him, apparently from nowhere.
“Name, please?” the youngster demanded, barring the
Foulds glared at him. “Eh?” he grunted, not at once grasping the situation.
“Name?” the boy repeated, a rather comical grimness in
his voice. His blue eyes and freckled lace were set uncom promisingly.
“Name!” Foulds echoed. Then: “Get out of my way!’f
“Won’t!” said the boy thrusting his hands into his pockets. “Mrs. Foulds said—”
“Who?” bellowed Foulds.
“Mrs. Foulds said I wasn’t to let no one butt in like you are doin’,” the boy emphasized.
“Oh, she did, did she?” Foulds ejaculated after a moment. Then: “Well, tell Mrs. Foulds that Mr. Foulds, senior, is here.”
The boy disappeared into the private office to reappear immediately.
“She says to go right in.”
Each unit of the gleaming mahogany office was indelibly etched in his memory. But at sight of Margaret in the chair and before the desk that had so long been his, the heat in his heart began to simmer and bubble. Her presence there was desecration, a blow at the roots of his life.
“You wanted to see me?” Margaret’s voice was clear, a little cold. This stirred Foulds’ antagonism as he could not know that she was fighting to contain herself.
“To see you?” he grunted. “I’ve come to take things over until Duncan is well.” He was trying to read her eyes as he spoke, but beyond noting their steadiness he could make nothing of them.
“Then you are going to be friends again?” Margaret’s eyes were swimming as she said that.
“Friends!” There was a sneer on his lips. “Not if I know it! I don’t change my mind! But I built this company and I don’t want it ruined if I can help it. That is the reason I am here. The only reason, you understand!”
Margaret flushed at the sting in his tone, but she managed to keep her outward calm.
“Someone had to take things over and as I know more about the business than you perhaps think I do, Duncan gave me full charge. We have studied it together, Duncan and I, and I know every nook and cranny in it, so when he insisted that I take his place it seemed the best thing to do.”
“Fine mess the two of you have made of it!” snapped Foulds.
Margaret ignored the interruption. “And you say you have come to—to take my place?” She looked at him for a moment. “Is there nothing I could do that would bring you and Duncan together again—as you were before—I—I came?”
“Nothing!” he fired at her, emphasizing the word to down the uneasy twinge within his mind.
“Yet you ask me to—”
“I tell you to go!” he barked at her. His fist thudded on to the desk. “Go home to Duncan. Nurse him back to health. Binns says he’ll pull through. I’ll see to things
She was regarding him with tearfilled eyes. But as she spoke her words were almost precise.
“Duncan is well looked after— you would have known that had not your pride kept you from going to see him. His only anxiety is for the business. And as for turning things over to you, I can’t do that until Duncan tells me to. Why don’t you ask him yourself?” This was her last play. “If you really wanted to take charge you would go and ask him. You don’t know how much he needs you,” she pleaded. “If you would only be friends, we could be so happy together.”
“I’ll do nothing of the kind!” Foulds shot at her. “You’ll do as I say—”
“I won’t!” Her refusal cut like a knife into the tense atmosphere. “You are unreasonable. I have hoped and prayed that you might see reason—for Duncan’s sake, for yours, for mine? 1 shall go on hoping, of course, but I shall not do what you ask!”
F'OULDS was inarticulate for a moment. His neck swelled, his face reddened.
“You insolent—” he began.
“Be careful, Mr. Foulds, or 1 shall have you shown out! You are in my office, please remember!”
“Your office! Your office!” He caught himself up suddenly. He could feel that old pain at his heart. “Go!” he shouted. “Get out!” His voice was thick with hate.
Continued on page 36 Margaret trembled slightly. A quick wave of fear surged about her heart. “No!”
Continued from page 25
“You can’t go on—your credit’s gone!” he snarled.
“The Merchants’ National are giving us fifty thousand!”
This staggered him. “Fifty thousand! The Merchants! Nonsense!”
“They are, I tell you! They have faith in us!” Her voice held a triumphant ring. She was staring into his incredulous eyes.
“You are lying!” His rage was fast outstripping his control.
For answer she held a document to his face. “Read it!”
His teeth clicked; his eyes bulged. “That—that’s Kerr’s bank! He can’t know!” This more to himself than to her. Then to Margaret. “I’ll kill that—quick!”
Margaret shrank at his menacing tone.
“You wouldn’t dare—”
“If you do that,” she flamed at him, “it will end — everything! Duncan would never forgive that, nor could I!”
“Forgive—” began Foulds. Then his voice died into an inarticulate gurgle. His face had gone a purply red. The room was spinning around him in a sort of whirling ecstasy. He clutched at the desk to save himself from falling. He knew that Margaret was speaking to him, was conscious of her by his side, without actually hearing or seeing her. Then, by a supreme effort that drained his physical reserves, he beat back the pain and the weakness. His head steadied. Margaret was watching him anxiously.
“You are ill,” she was saying.
He pushed her aside and stumbled out of the office.
THAT evening Foulds was in his study waiting for Kerr, who usually dropped in. He was trying to get the day’s events straight in his mind before Kerr came.
To Foulds they had been a nightmare of which only the salient features remained in his memory, and these were so distorted as to reduce his mind to chaos. He had set out with concessions in mind, concessions such as he had never in all his life made to anyone. She had insulted him, rejected his offers, threatened to turn him out of the office—out of what had been his own office—which he still regarded as his own office! Then he had lost his temper, which was unwise, but could he be blamed? Then—his mind blurred. He could not recall things like he once could. His lips quivered.. Even his memory was conspiring to remind him of his age.
And the Merchants’ had advanced her fifty thousand and said they were going to stick to their promise even after he had taken the trouble to warn them of their risk! What fools these young bankers were! Giving credit to a chit of a girl! Credit was a responsibility that only years could carry. It was fortunate she had told him. He would still be able to squelch her plans. Kerr would see the folly of giving her more ships to pile on the rocks. Yes, Kerr with his wise eyes and his knowing ways would stop it!
HE MUST have nodded for a time for presently he became aware of Kerr in the opposite chair puffing contentedly at his pipe. Foulds came to himself with a
“Must have dropped off for a minute or two,” he confessed.
Kerr smiled gravely. “I’ve been her« half an hour.”
Foulds ignored this. His deep-set eyes began to glitter in the half fight. He straightened himself up.
“What’s the matter, Tom?” asked Kerr tactfully.
“Matter! Matter, man! Nothing. Everything—that cub of a son of mine—
“How is he, Tom? Have you seen
“Doing well! Why shouldn’t he be? Binns is a good man.” His brusqueness was rather a failure.
“What have they done?”
“Done? Everything, I tell you. A woman running my business! That wo-
“The young fool has given her full charge! She’s sitting there at my desk ... in my office. . . told me she would put me out! Me!” His fist smashed on to the table until it quivered. “The Merchants’ National—your bank—is giving her fifty thousand.”
Kerr appeared deep in thought. The smoke from his pipe wreathed his well shaped grayed head. “Go on.”
“I went there. . . saw that two-yearold they’ve put in your place and he re-
“To stop their credit! I told him to! He refused, I tell you! I told him they were going on the rocks. . .would take his fifty thousand along with them and pile it up! He grinned like an ape.. . twisted that eyebrow of a moustache of his and said the bank had decided to take the risk. I all but took him by the neck! Give these youngsters leeway and they’ll .wreck creation! You’re a director, Kerr. You must do something!”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Do? Do? Stop it! Unless you want to throw good money after bad. You’ve got influence—use it!’
_ “Do you want the whole thing to go to pieces when fifty thousand will save it?” “Ten times fifty thousand wouldn’t save it—in her hands! I can’t touch it myself, fool that I was ever to let it out of my reach! I—I wanted the boy to have a chance. That—that woman—• '
“You’re determined they shall have no chance?” There was a sudden ominous note in Kerr’s voice.
“What—what do you mean?”
“Blendon telephoned me after she was here yesterday morning.”
“He wanted my advice.”
“You gave it?”
“Ah!” Foulds relaxed for a moment. Then at the strained look in Kerr’s face he leaned forward. They were knee to knee. “What—you—”
“Yes. I said to give her a hundred thousand if she wanted it; that I would back her note if necessary. I know of her, indirectly of course. She’ll know how to use it. . . a good risk or I’m no judge. I—I’m sorry; I had hoped you would—”
Lj'OULDS’ hands were fastened like steel " claws on Kerr’s knees. The lines crisscrossing his face, eaten in by the years, seemed great chasms in the dim light.
“You—you—” he snarled.
Yes, I did!" Kerr’s voice was like a pronounced sentence. Then he made an effort at conciliation. “Give them a chance, Tom. Don’t be a fool. You’re eating your heart out for a sight of that boy! Call it off! We’re both too old for the game. Give the youngsters a chance, she thinks the world of you, boy—”
Foulds was staring at him with small, bloodshot eyes. He got to his feet, pointing to the door. “Go!” he said in a small
Then a quick change seemed to take place in Kerr. It was not physical—beyond the tightening of his mouth and the nicker of his spiritual nature so that in a moment he seemed to expand, to dominate the situation.
“Wait a minute, Tom,” he commenced quickly. “I’ll be going, but not before I ve said my say. First, I want to tell you what I think of you, and then I am going to tell you something else.”
For the moment Kerr’s cool tone stemmed Foulds’ rage.
“You are an egotistical fool, Tom, and what is more—this will surprise you— you’re a hypocrite. Wait, I’ll explain that if you’ll give me time. You’re guilty on the first count because you are trying to build your son a career out of the old beams of your own life. You’ve lived cleanly, but so has that half dead poplar in my garden and it is about as fit to make green lumber as you are to mould Duncan’s career. Instead of giving the boy the advice he needed and opening up to him your experiences, you have tried to flog him into accordance with your will, your pitiful dogmatic pride. And because he has refused to sacrifice his individuality you have let him drift on to the rocks. There is only one word for it—you’re a slacker!”
Foulds' eyes were bulging. He looked as though he was about to spring at Kerr. “You had better get out!” he snarled. “I don’t want to hear any more!”
“I don’t suppose you do,” agreed Kerr, “but I’m going to finish. I said you were a hypocrite and now I am going to tell you why. You profess love for your son— well, I don’t know. You seem to put your pigheaded pride before everything, everyone. Why, man, you haven’t been near Duncan since he was ill, you’ve treated his wife like a dog, and she’s got more real love in her little finger than you have in y°ur big body. _You talk about your love, man.” Kerr’s voice had risen, a queer light shone from his eyes. “You don’t know what it means. Love, real love, offers, yields, sacrifices everything, but your kind is a mouldy thing of pride and self—a thing of hypocrisy!”
The passion and fire in Kerr’s tone stung Foulds to action. He lurched out of his chair, reaching towards Kerr as though he meant to grapple with his friend, but Kerr caught at his arms.
“One minute and I’m through. When you cool down you’ll wonder why I’m butting into _ your affairs. I’ll tell you.” Kerr’s voice had taken on a rich full quality. His eyes were retrospective. He seemed hardly conscious of the other who had dropped back into his chair, impelled into it by Kerr’s manner. “I never married,” Kerr went on, “but you never knew why. I loved a woman once, though she did not know it.” Kerr’s voice trembled. Foulds was staring at him, transfixed by this turned page of Kerr’s life.
“Go on,” he whispered. His throat was dry. His rage of a moment before had withered as rage does before great emotion. By a sudden prescience he knew what Kerr was going to tell him.
“She was your wife, of course, Tom. When she died your sorrow was mine, and while the boy was growing, your pride and your love were mine, and now, and now—”
Kerr had risen and was going.
C'OULDS lay hunched up in the deep *• bulk of his chair, a crumpled, inert figure of a man. He had lost count of time. He was conscious only of his agony of mind and of the pain at his heart that had come upon him after Kerr had gone.
Once Landers had come in to go away trembling, not at Foulds’ whispered curse, but at what he saw in his master’s eyes.
Presently he stirred himself. His eyes wandered to the portrait of his wife—the woman whom Kerr had loved, silently, generously, through the years.v Her spirit
seemed to reach out to him. A shimmering of the substances of memory and her face unfolded before him.
Then it came over him with a rush, his pride, his stubbornness, his lack of vision. It was like the touch of cool, divine fingers to the eyes of his mind. How blind he had been that he could not see that he was sacrificing his boy to his own stiff-necked pride. He felt very like a prodigal. “Oh, God! Oh, God!” he moaned. Then: “Dunny, Dunny, boy!”
Tears trickled down the age lines in his face and tasted salt in his mouth. . Terrible old-man sobs shook his frame. It was like the shivering of a centuries-old oak under the blast of rushing winds.
Then because of the pain at his heart he became quiet.
The next morning when Landers came in, Foulds was still in his chair, his face like a gray mask.
“You are ill, sir,” began the servant.
“Never mind,” muttered Foulds. “Get Kerr as quickly as you can.”
His tone more than his words sent the man scurrying to obey.
Besides the agony of his pain but one thought persisted in Foulds’ mind: that it might be too late to get Margaret’s and Duncan’s pardon for what he had attempted. In trying to stop their credit he had sacrificed his reason to his pride and in his new frame of mind he could appreciate the baseness of what he had attempter. And Margaret had said that she and Duncan could never forgive that.
Just then Kerr came in.
Foulds got to the point with his customary directness, though it cost him something in self-esteem for he had yielded to few men in his life.
“You were right, Tom, and I was wrong. I am a fool, and a hypocrite, too, perhaps, but I want to square things. I want you to get Margaret—if she’ll come. I—I’m not sure that she will.” Foulds’ voice was husky. His eyes were dull, sunken in their sockets.
“You need a doctor more than anyone,” said Kerr, again the man of hidden forces. “Landers and I will get you to bed.”
“Bed!” snorted Foulds with a touch of his old fire. “I asked you to get Margaret!”
“Margaret may not come,” said Kerr coldly. “I wouldn’t blame her much if she didn’t.”
Foulds seemed to shrink a little.
“If you want me to look after things you had better do as I say.”
Landers and Kerr between them got him to bed at last. Then Kerr telephoned for Binns.
“Did you get Margaret?” asked Foulds wistfully towards noon.
“No,” admitted Kerr, “I didn’t. I want Binns to see you first.”
“You’ll get her for me, won’t you?”
“U’m!” Kerr was non-committal.
“Do—do you think she won’t come?”
“Would you blame her if she didn’t?” Kerr turned away.
THE pain was less severe now and Foulds sank into a sort of physical lethargy though his mind was busy enough. He was just beginning to realize that his career had been out of balance, that the things he had always taken and which he had thought were solid and sound, were
really phantoms, that had given him only bitterness and made life a series of materialistic sensations that had deprived him of the tendernesses, the human associations that the practice of tolerance, and love and human kindness only can bestow. He felt that he had cheated himself of everything worth while, simply because in demanding all he had received nothing. He had lost his son and the joy of reviving in his son. And the thought that it was too late thud-thudded in his brain.
Binns came in the afternoon. He was a little round man with mild blue eyes. He did the usual things to Foulds with his stethoscope and his blood pressure apparatus, and then he thumped over Foulds’ hard, old body with his forefinger.
“What’s wrong, Binns?” demanded the patient.
Over his glasses Binns looked at Kerr, who was maintaining a suspiciously grave
“Well,” explained the doctor. “You’re not unlike a clock that has been wound up too tightly and has nearly stopped. Do it too often and you are pretty sure to break the spring; otherwise the clock will run until it’s worn out. You are in fine shape for your age, Foulds, but don’t do it again.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean,” explained Binns, “don’t wind the clock up too tightly or it’ll stop.” Binns passed out of the room, Kerr after
“He wants me to send for Margaret,” Kerr told Binns. “He’s been after me all day. Thought I’d wait until you came. He’s not sure that she’ll come.”
Binns looked at Kerr shrewdly. “The wait has done him no harm—some good, perhaps. He’ll be all right as soon as his mind is at rest. What he needs is just— happiness, pure happiness. But he doesn’t know that girl of Duncan’s, Kerr, she’s one in a thousand—in a million!”
AND SO hours afterwards, when Foulds YA awoke from a troubled sleep,into which had poured in a bewildering torrent all his hopes and fears, until with the mad inconsistency of dream matter they had assumed fantastic shapes that gibbered at him and mocked him until his poor mind tottered, he saw her through a filmy mist, sitting by his bedside.
The spell of her presence and the forgiveness it portended held him in a queer, blissful trance. She was sewing and at first she did not notice him. Then she turned and saw that his eyes were open and then she smiled, a glorious, heartstirring smile.
He knew she was bending towards him but because of the tears in his eyes her form became an indefinite blur.
“Could you forgive, Margaret?” he managed to stammer in a voice that he hardly recognized as his own.
“Could I forgive?” she murmured. “Why there’s nothing to forgive—now— you did not know me, that was all.” Her voice seemed to come to him through vast distance that gave it glowing golden tone.
Dead weights were slipping from his heart; year^seemed to fall from him.
“I wonder,” he asked tremulously, “if you would mind calling me—calling me Dad, like Duncan did?”
“Dad! Dad! Dear, dear Dad!” tumbled in laughing, tearful gasps from her lips.
Then, very suddenly, Margaret bent down and kissed him.