He was a fugitive from disaster; she, a golden voice singing in the morning— This, the moving story of their love
LOUIS ARTHUR CUNNINGHAM
IN THE dream world where Michel Caron struggled, the sound of the bells was like a tide engulfing him, and he fought against it into wakefulness and still the waves rolled all about him. He swam on a sea of sound. He blinked his eyes, stretched wearily in the great feather bed and flung an arm across his forehead. The vibrations of the bells seemed to fill the room, to flood into the room and whirl about and eddy madly.
“Poe’must have lived in this place,” he muttered. “Bells —that gfeat booming fellow now, must belong to the parish church of St. Gudule, and only the good God knows how many lowly peasants he has routed from bed and sped to their weary toil. That lighter, quicker onethat belongs to the convent—sounds like a sweet soprano, a nun’s, while the big lad sounds like Chaliapin singing ‘Boris Godunov.’ And those lesser bells—ah, yes, they belong to cows. What a symphony; what a motif for the life of Michel Caron!” Six o’clock of a spring morning and a great sun splashing pale gold over the Acadian hills and marshland, drying swiftly the dew on the shingle and slate rooftops of the village of St. Gudule. Michel Caron’s brown forearm still covered his eyes, shutting out the light, shutting in the dull ache of his thoughts. His fine lips moved silently as to himself he went over the dark litany:
“Series of unsuccessful operations, Dr. Caron. The reputation as a throat specialist you brought from Paris has certainly not been lived up to in Montreal. Your record of failures may be entirely due to ill luck, monsieur le docteur; it is, none the less, a record of failures. You are finished in Montreal, Caron; better try elsewhere. I think we’d better call off our engagement, Michel. For a doctor to be intoxicated while driving a motor ...”
“I was not! I was not!” Caron spoke aloud. He sat up, his dark eyes wild, as if again he was facing that stupid, stolid descendant of Gascon peasants; that fat, moon-faced magistrate in St. Botolphe, the little suburb of Montreal where Caron, after being all night with a patient, had cracked up his car. “I had but a mouthful of cognac. I fell asleep not from that . . .” He stopped his speech. He shook his head and grinned. “I’ll go nuts if I keep that up— living over the last two years ...” He stopped, the shadow left his face and the anger fled from his eyes. The bells had ceased, the Angelus finished, but now there came another sound, sweeter, lovelier than any tone of bell or lute or lyre —a girl’s voice singing below his window:
DELIGHTED, he leaped out of bed —no small stunt, for it was a very Everest of feathers, that bed—and dashed to the window. He looked out as the song trailed off into silence, caught only a glimpse of a slender girl in a knitted suit of homespun green and white, a flash of light more yellow golden than the sun, from under a green beret, a suggestion of the gay and gallant in her walk.
“I should have liked,” he said, grinning, “to hear her sing the part about, ‘I have lost my mistress without deserving it.’ Well, Yvette would hardly marry what she considered a failure; and that, I fear ...” He shrugged, grabbed up soap, towel and razor and slippered off to astonish the good galvanized-iron bathtub of the St. Gudule Inn by filling it with cold water at six, thereabouts, in the morning and getting into it. At six-thirty he astonished Madame Lavoie, the landlady, by coming down for breakfast; she had always believed city folk slept till noon. At nine o’clock, after a brisk walk over the meadows, he was himself astonished by finding that she who opened to him the door of Dr. Hippolyte Breau’s house was a girl in green and white homespun, with a voice that most surely had been the one that breathed o’er Eden and a face whose beauty made him stammer and flush.
“I—I am Dr. Michel Caron.” His hat brim suffered in his hand.
“Ah, yes !” The sun-colored waves of her hair shimmered as she bent her head; and, oh, the life, the warmth, the wonder of her eyes! A small, cool hand rested in Michel’s for a moment that was electric, a moment in which he thought gaily, boyishly, “What price failure at fixing throats and sinuses! Compared with her, all else seems petty and ugly and ...”
She smiled at him with a strange gentleness older far than herself. “So you are the new doc tor of St. Gudule. I am poor Dr. Hippolyte Breau’s niece—Ursule Laflamme. Come in, please, m'sieur le docteur.”
SHE LED the way into what had been the old doctor’s study -a shabby, cosy, well-used, well-loved man’s room, where many pipes were, and books that liad been read and chairs that had been sat in. A country doctor’s study and consulting room, thought Michel Caron; merely that and beautifully that. Here came the great peasants
with their cuts and bruises, the brown-faced, black-eyed women with their ailments and complaints.
“It’s not much like Mo’real.” She seemed to read his thoughts.
“CÖ ne fait rieni It makes no difference.” He smiled. “It could be heaven. Here the good mothers of St. Gudule can bring Jeanneton’s croup and Charleroi’s measles, Melusine’s whooping cough and Theodule’s mumps—and Michel Caron, bringing to them the skill of long years in Paris and Vienna, will do his best to cure them!”
“One heals.” The violet-blue eyes appraised him. “Whether here or in Westmount, doctor, and whether it is Lord Astonham or Johnny Gautreau, the relief from pain is sweet to the one relieved, and the relieving is a noble thing.” “I believe you. I know it. But ...” He resented a little the preaching of this pretty peasant. What did she know about it, about anything, this country doctor’s lovely niece?
“Why did you come here?” she asked suddenly. “Because”—Michel flushed —“I was a bit of a coward, I suppose; because here I could be lost, forgotten; because here people can’t point and whisper, ‘That’s the Doctor Caron who loses every case, who got drunk and ran his car into a telephone ¡X)le, whose fiancée threw him over’.” “Oh!” She looked at him coolly, sensing some discouragement, some weariness too old for him in his tone. “One runs from the battle ...”
His chin jerked up. He stared at her, his brows furrowed, but he smiled at length as if it didn’t matter. He spoke gently. “I do not know why I talk of it, why I should bother you or anyone. What do you know about battles, who accuse me of running away from one? How can you know what it means to lose what you’ve set your heart upon, worked for and lived for; to find all your fruit turn ashes? What do you know, you or these peasants ...”
He regretted it as he spoke, but the quick flash of her eyes, the stiffening of her mouth, challenged him. Her cheeks were flushed under the golden tan. “Bien, m'sieur! We shall arrange what few details remain of the transfer of my uncle’s practice to you. That, 1 fancy, is all there is.’
She sat at the flat-topped desk. There was something fine and queenly, most unpeasantlike, in the set of her white throat, the lift of her jxiinted chin. Such coloring, such silky yellowish hair and vivid eyes, Caron had never before seen. She concentrated on the pajier before her, finished writing, handed it to him. “There. I have signed. It is now for you to sign.”
“Where do you go?” he asked jienitently as he wrote his name.
“I own another cottage at Pré d'en haut. I shall go there. I am ready.” She stood up, held out her hand. He took it.
“Forgive my raving,” he said. “I forgot myself. You were right to say I ran from the battle—jierhajis.”
“It was not for me to say.” A certain note that was an echo of what had been in his tone, came into hers. “We all have our battles from which we run. Perhaps here you will find a greater fight, and win it.”
“Here! In St. Gudule !”
“Everywhere there are battles. Good luck, doctor. I have my bags packed.”
“My car is at the inn—”
“Thank you. I have a car. Good-by.”
For a moment she gave him the warmth, the wonder of her smile. She went ujistairs then, came down shortly and got her car from the garage. From the verandah he watched her drive away—a bright figure, he thought, with something of mystery about her. She didn’t look like one of these jieople, these good Normandais of St. Gudule; yet he knew well that often a rose is born among the sturdiest jieasant sunflowers. “Anyway, it is nothing to me— nothing. She wouldn’t be interested in watching me eating out my heart. I picked a good jilace.”
He looked at the sleepy, straggling little village—the white cottages, the neat garden, the windmills high on their spidery legs, wheeling slowly in the cool breeze. From the convent hard by his new home came the busy hum of children’s voices reciting their devoir. The eternal bells tinkled on the distant prés, rolling, dike-ribbed, to the sea, serpentined by a wide river bright in the sun. Here was a
vast jieace and a beauty infinite, but to the one his heart was slow to ojien though his eyes saw the other.
G'ANLY THE shabby little house, the white paint jieeling from its clapboards, only the weather-beaten sign, Hipjxilyte Breau. Médecin, soon to be replaced by a bright new one with his name; only the lowly farms and cottages and the brown-cheeked countrymen who drove by in jolting carts —only these were real and solid, these that he had come to live among. Well, he mused, there are much worse things than being a country doctor. After all, one becomes a doctor not so much for glory as for service. “Michel, mon gars, you were forgetting that. The lovely Lallamme saw with those violets of eyes that you had forgotten it and put you down for a sjxiiled and selfish puppy.”
But it was hard, so new and so different was everything here, for him to forget the life he had known. The metrojxilitan pajxrs that came to him told of what this one of his former colleagues had accomplished, what that one was engaged ujion.
“All they can do,” he said stubbornly, “is relieve pain, their utmost feat is to save a life—and that I can do here.” He worked hard, worked earnestly, gave of his best. But to these jieople, used for decades to the grand old fellow who had jireceded this silent young Quebeçois, he was very much of a stranger, slow to ojien his heart to them, relying too much on the keenness and jiower of his knowledge. He did not know how much old Doctor Hipjiolyte had been their friend and counsellor, how he took jilace second only to the curé in their simple hearts. And how, they said, could he, so quick, so marked with the great hospitals and the ways of the city, ever mean to them what they thought a doctor should mean? But this, for quite a weary while, he did not know.
A June evening, filled with beauty that pained the very heart of one -dark jiurjile hills and a jiale jiink sky. and the Acadian land mantled with the lovely cloak of the apple blossoms in a thousand orchards, shedding sweetness and delight. Michel Caron, walking down the hill toward the
village after a long and lonely tramji in the woods, met Ursule walking toward the sunset that was a glory on her face and in her hair. The deeji bells of St. Gudule were ringing the Angelus, from the convent chapel the unearthly sopranos of the little children sang an ancient hymn of Lambillote, a peasant hymn of the land:
“The shadows deejien o’er the earth Thy children are returning ...”
They stojijxd. He bowed. He had not seen her since the day of his coming, but he had tlxiught of her -yes, thought of her and been jiiqued by her, as even now, admiring, wondering at her beauty, he was puzzled by what he saw in her eyes. A great elm stretched over the road there and its shadow crejit slowly, slowly over them as they stcxxl.
“How goes the battle now, Dr. Caron? Are you losing this one too -or are you waging one?”
He looked at her earnestly. She was so forthright, though jiossessed, he felt sure, of a great power of finesse. “I should say there is a battle. 1 do what 1 have to do.”
“Without heart or life or humanity. You have a trust here, you know, among these ‘peasants.’ ”
“I have regretted ever using that word.”
She was not ajijieased. “Because they are not your grandes dames of Mount Royal or your noble lords of St. James Street, is no reason they should not merit all your care. They, too, have hearts to suffer with, sensibilities to lie hurt and frightened.”
“But I do not seek to hurt or frighten them. What would you have me do?”
“Unlock your heart, m’sieur. Ojx'n it to them. Ojien it to kindness and warmth and love, and let those things come from it. They fear you, the jxxir jxxijile. They try to cure themselves. The mothers try to heal their sick children with the jioor herbs and nostrums of their own preparing. That little Hudon was all but dead of the fever because his mother delayed, through fear of you, to call you.”
“I cannot helji their ignorance.”
“Nor can they.” She looked at him and away over the
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Tantramar where the hills on the far side were splotched with the opalescence of the blossoming orchards. “They have only you and the curé to look to; him for the ills of their soul and you for those of their bodies. How can you heal, really heal, without love? And you—just because your ambitions were thwarted, because you were afraid ...” She stopped, seemed to think of something that gave her no pleasure. “Try—try to be kind to the people, Dr. Caron. Believe me, it’s not such a little thing as you might think, to win a ix>or woman’s blessing or a poor man’s gratitude. My uncle’s, the old doctor’s, career was written more gloriously in the hearts of the people here than that of many a great scientist that you find bound in vellum.”
“Which means nothing to him now',” said Michel, “and probably meant little then. How could any doctor be content to give all his life, his skill ”
“How, especially, the great Michel Caron, light of the Sorbonne, Aesculapius of the Royal Victoria!”
HER WORDS cut him. Yet he had tried. 1 íe had done all he could do for these people. Perhaps, as she had said, his heart, his soul were not in the w-ork. He felt defeated by her anger, yet pleased that she should care even to be angry with him. But he saw no unbending from her. and his own amour propre held him from humbling himself further before her.
He bowed to her slowly. “Thank you for your advice, Ma’m’selle Laflamme,” he said. “From now on I shall adapt the bedside manner to good Jacques and stout Madelon, kiss all the children and become that most noble and most tragic figure in the world—the country doctor.”
“You would be a better man, m’sieur, and a happy one. Bon soir.”
She walked by him and beauty passed him by there in the darkling lane beneath the elm, and for a moment his whole impulse was to reach out and take her to him and press his cheek against her hair. Surely to touch that hair must give a sensation different from any other he had known. But she passed and he thought he hated her, though, try as he would, her w’ords, her reproaches, w'ould not go out of his heart.
He went back to his house, to his supper, prepared by his housekeeper, Jeanne Langlois, whom l\e had hired because she was deaf and all but dumb. And tonight his solitary repast w'as more dismal than ever. Was there, perhaps, some other happiness, even peace, to be gained?
There in the slow dusk, in Dr. Ilippolyte’s old chair on the verandah, young Michel Caron sat, watched the million little stars blossom out in the pale blue sky, and the slender sickle of the new moon cut a swath among them. And this thinking brought some new emotion, some inchoate stirring in his heart, so that when a dusty wagon rattled up to his door and a breathless fellow, a giant fellow, Alderic Marson, the smith, prayed the doctor for the love of the good God to come to his wife, he did not, as before, say jokingly, “Isn’t a dozen enough w'ithout adding more?” but jumped up with alacrity and said, “I’ll be there in good time, mon ami. Don’t be afraid. Think— think, it might be six at once and you would be the most famous man in the world.”
He went gladly to the smith’s house. 1 íe was kind and quick, and the women there looked at him with round, adoring eyes, and the children lost their fear when he spoke to them and told them what a fine little brother had just been sent to them. Alderic Marson’s mighty hand almost squashed his fingers when he was going away; but he did not mind. He drove home almost gaily under the stars. He drove home by Pré d’en haut, and slowed his
car by Ursule Laflamme’s cottage and watched for a brief while the light from her window.
“Ursule. It is a lovely name. And what of her? Old Dr. Hippoiyte’s niece. One did not know he had a niece till she came here shortly before he died. From where? i And why? Why, to be light shining in darkness for Michel Caron. Perhaps. If 1 make a success here I might be able to go j back to Mo’real, might be able to win my place. Ah. sapree, what would those great j ones, those doctors of Mo’real, care for what I do here; what does it matter to them if the smith’s wife dies and her child with her!”
The dark fits would always come to him. even though in following Ursule’s advice he found happiness that astounded him, and could forget his young disappointments, could take pride in a neat bit of surgery or a clever diagnosis and think, "Eh bien, it is only a difference in the fee and in the j notoriety, and what is that? An api^endix is the same in St. Gudule as in Murrav Bay.”
AND EACH morning now when he 4 Y. awakened to the chiming of the bells, he felt no longer the loneliness, the sense of being out of things, which had tormented his soul the day of his arrival. He had no friends in the little village on the green Westmorland hillside that sloped down to the great marshes that stretched to the sea. There was, in fact, only the old curé, l’Abbé Gendron, who cared more for his good Bordeaux and his books than for the callow company of a young medico. Once Michel dined with him and once the curé called at his house; no more.
But there was Ursule, with whom, each time they met. he seemed at sword’s-point, yet who drew him to her and intrigued him with her utter aloofness, her solitude; for she, no more than himself, had friends in j St. Gudule. In the little cottage at Pré d'en haul there was a piano and there were many books, but Michel, though he passed often by the cedar hedge in front of lier door, never heard her playing. She ¡ spent most of her days walking over the marshes, across the dikes, along the quiet woodland roads around the village.
“You know, you puzzle me,” he said one afternoon in late summer when he dropped in to have tea with ner. “You do indeed.”
He set down the gay, pretty pieces of j harlequin china and clasped his long thin hands in front of him. He studied her, so detached, so poised, where she sat by the little table. She wore a blue woollen frock, her soft hair shone in the sunlight and the violet of her eyes seemed deepened by the hue of her dress. “What do you do here?” “Oh!” She shrugged, arched her brows comically. “I gnaw out my soul, m’sieur le docteur.”
“You mock me now, Ursule. You are so real, so warm, so lovely.”
“You think so?” She was grave. “You have then found some beauty here? You think that you can find here compensation for what there you lost?”
“1 have found so much thanks to you.
I feel that I lost nothing really. But you purposely avoid talking of yourself.”
“Maybe I do talk of myself.”
“But you you are not here because you - as you tell me, ran away from a battle?” “Who shall say? Not I.”
“But are you happy here - really happy?” He stood up, walked over and sat on the cushioned bench beside her. SI* did not move. Their shoulders touched.
I íe took the teacup from her hand and held both her hands in his. “You are the loveliest girl I have ever seen, Ursule. Who are you? What are you?”
“What does it matter—if I am the loveliest girl you ever saw?” Then swiftly her arms went about his neck. She lifted her lips to his. They kissed in some strange, I
some queerly sweet, communion. They gazed at each other for a moment, silent.
“Do you feel it, Michel?” she whispered, her lips close to his.
“You mean thatemdash;that this does not seem as love should seememdash;like victory?” “You do feel it then ! We are driven to each other by defeat, you and 1, and it is a dark union that should be light, light as a thousand suns.”
“Even so.” He kissed her again, held her for a moment dose to him, rested, as he had longed to rest, his cheek against her hair. “1 love you. Ursule. Perhaps together we could ...”
“Yes. Perhaps we could.”
“You make me very happy.” He stood up. He walked to the window, gazed out for a moment, returned to her and stood looking down at her. “It was you who made this place, this life, good for me. When I came, to my shame I admit it, I came prepared to hate it. I was spoiled, occupied only with myself. I had let the life I knew take too great a hold on me and I had forgotten wherein true happiness lies in doing, in caring for what one does, in loving life not for what it can give but for what one can give to it.”
She nodded. “You have altered much, Michel, from that rather sullen and selfsufficient doctor who came to Uncle Hippolyte’s house that morning. If I have helped, I am glad.”
“Then be glad. And you love meemdash;love me.” He shook his head slowly. “I found heaven unawares. And you will marry me —and you I need not ask it—will be happy here?”
She did not answer for a moment, then, “I think, yes.” She smiled up at him. reached for his hand and held it. “Why should I not be? But all that we can talk about—that and many other things. I fear I am not being your good angel now. Did you not tell me you were going to Moncton to do a mastoid there?”
“Ah !” He started, glanced at his watch, turning his hand in hers. “Yes. I must go. I love you.” He bent and kissed her.
From her window she watched him stride down the garden path, get into his car and drive away.
TLJE RETURNED late that night. He -*• came to her, as she had hoped he would. She had sat late by her window, reading, knowing he must pass that way. He came to her and her heart stopped, skipped a beat and there was a sorrow in her bosom, for all the joy had gone from his eyes. He looked tired, looked like a boy who has been whipped and does not know why.
“I lost him, Ursule,” he said. “Lost him.” His hands wrere clenched. “I—I thought I could not fail. You had given me back all my confidence, my belief in myself—every tiling I thought 1 had lost. I did everything—everything.”
“Then why reproach yourself, Michel? You are not to blame.”
He did not seem to hear her. “But it seemed—I could have sworn the man would come through all right. I put my very heart’s blood into it—and he went— he went—he slipped from under my hands. I think I shall never operate again, never where anything precious depends upon my success. I seem foredoomed to failure. Anyway, people who know of my ill-success will not have me.”
“It was just luck, Michel —only that. If—if you could not save the man, no other doctor could. I know it.”
He looked at her gratefully. He touched her hair and she took his hand and kissed it. There was a brightness, a light deep in her eyes, like the light of far-off stars, and ¿íe peered closely into her eyes.
“Lovely Ursule ! You know, I have adored you since that first morning I came here. You got into my heart then. I heard you singing 'A la < Iaire fontaine,’ as you passed by my window.”
“And you liked my singing?”
“It was sweeter than any sound I had ever heard. The village bells had just finished ringing and then I heard your
voice, so gay, so dear, there in the early morning. I jumped out of bed and ran to the window in time to catch a glimpse of you.”
“I am so glad I sang that morning. I was gay that morning. I seldom sing. I have something wrong with my throat— some weakness.”
“So!” His eyes widened. “I did not know that, Ursule. Why did you not tell me? Why did you not come to me?”
“I did not.”
“But you will come now? You will let me examine your throat. I—well—I would not be afraid of failure. With you I could not fail.”
“I know. Michel,” she said gently. “You were good on such tilings—a genius. You are still good. I’ll come to you tomorrow.” She smiled at him and in her eyes was a new look of love and trust, of brightness and something that shone like the light of hope.
“And I will fight failure!” he said, walking nervously up and down the room. “I will make something of myself—for you. Ill luck can’t always stop me.” He stood and looked at her. “Nothing can stop me. When I look at you and think of this love, this strange love, I feel that now I must win. I shall not be nervous, I shall not be afraid of failure.”
“You must not be afraid, not ever. You have nothing to fear. But who am I to tell you this? I have been a coward. I was, but I am not now.”
“You!” He smiled at her. “What have you ever done, a little girl like you?”
“Some time you will know.” She stood up. He came to her and took her hand and kissed it. “I must go now. I am happier than I have been since I came here. You have made me happy.”
“And that other girl —there was another girl—in Mo’real?”
“I think,” he said, unsmiling, “her name was Yvette. You will come to me tomorrow at two?”
“I will come, m’sieur.” She stood on tiptoe and kissed him and something of defeat had already gone from their love, something of victory crept in. as when the tide of battle begins to turn but no man yet can say what the event will be.
A/f ICHEL CARON was himself again at least for a while. With quick and clever eye, with the expert’s touch, he examined that slender lovely throat of hers. His dark eyes shone, he was almost gay, like some great master long shut away from the practice of his art, finding at last material worthy of his skill.
“I can see what is wrong. I can remedy it. It is it is a most delicate thing.” He spoke almost lovingly. “You will trust me to—”
“With my life, Michel.”
He laughed. “Oh, it is not a matter of your life, chère. Success or failure”—he barely hesitated over the word—“would mean the improvement or deterioration of your voice merely that.”
“Merely that?” The slim shoulders shrugged, the violet eyes looked quizzically into his. “Then you will operate? When?” “Tomorrow. In Moncton. I shall arrange for it and I can drive you tnere.” “And I do not need to askyou are not afraid?”
“Afraid!” He looked puzzled. “Why, no! 1 have the knowledge, the skill.”
“And then it is onlv a jieasant girl; not one of the haut monde."
I le flushed. “You are not a peasant girl, Ursule.”
She laughed. “Tomorrow, then, hein?” She shivered. He did not notice. “I shall be ready.”
In Moncton they had heard much of Dr. Michel Caron. Doctors and internes and nurses, one and all looked curiously at nim, at the girl who accompanied him. There was some strange excitement quickly born there. Michel, intent on the work in hand, did not notice. He met the young doctor, Pichón, who was to assist him; Dr. Raiche, the anesthetist. Nor was he
conscious of their wondering looks, their agitation. Not until Ursule was wheeled into the silent operating room, until Michel was making his final preparations, did he detect anything untoward.
“What is it?” he said then impatiently to Pichón. “Why make the big eyes at me? Have you never before had an operation like this?”
“Never before, m’sieur!” The pale, young doctor’s eyes blinked behind his glasses. “Surely you make fun of me ! You know very well we have never before had such an operation, nor had you in Mo’real, no, nor in Paris.”
“Bon dieu!" Caron dropped the hand on which he was drawing a glove. “What is this then? You have me utterly at a disadvantage, doctor. Ma’m’selleLaflamme has, of course, a delicate throat condition, but it is no matter of life and death.”
Dr. Pichón stared at him in silent wonderment, and Michel stared back. “Well,” said Michel, “one cannot wait forever. Come. Let me tell you one thing, mon vieux. I love this girl and she loves me, and where love is—”
“I think,” said Pichón, “you are a verybrave man or a mad one.”
“Let us go.”
Michel’s hands were steady as a rock, and his spirit was strong, and the love that was in his heart seemed to flow in a stream of life from fingertips to instrument to her who lay so silent there. Deft, godlike, beautiful, were the movements of his hands. Cold, dispassionate, mechanical, he seemed to those, save the wise ones, who watched. Suppose—suppose, came the haunting thought; to be driven away in an instant by his heart telling him, “I must; I have to.”
IT WAS done. It was done, they knew, as sublimely as ever it could be done. There was homage in the eyes of the doctors who had looked askance at this fellow sent in near-disgrace from Montreal. “M’sieur Caron,” said Pichón as they
crowded around, “the world owes you a debt and the world already begins to know about it. There are reporters; there are words being sent around.”
“What is this? I did only—”
“You did only what the greatest surgeons in the world—in Paris, in London, everywhere, hesitated to do—just as she herself feared to run the risk of even a i partial failure. You have given Anna j Femald’s voice back to the world.”
“Anna . . . ” He gazed, unseeing, from one to the other. Anna Femald—no lovelier voice in all the world than Anna Femald’s. And she—she had entrusted to him, a failure, a man who seemed starred by ill-luck, this gift more precious than gold or gems. He sawin that moment how much she must have loved him, believed in him.
Anna Femald—Ursule singing, “A la claire fontaine" as she walked along the village street; Ursule saying that she, too, might have fled the battle. Anna Femald —risking what was the wonder of the world to give a poor cowardly fellow like him his chance, and restore to him his confidence. Tomorrow it would be around the world. For him it had meant fame or the oblivion of oblivions; for her, the same. Victory or defeat. She had been brave—so brave. And he . . .
“I am glad you told me,” he said quietly.
“Merci! I must go to her.”
He waited for her eyes to open. It was his finger that closed her lips. She did not need to speak ; he could read questions and answers in her eyes.
“I won—as you won, Ursule—when you j entrusted me with what is more precious to you perhaps than life.”
She shook her head. “You are more precious to me than life—and only you,” her eyes said. His lips came down to hers. “In St. Gudule, in Mo’real—anywhere— now we can be happy. There is Victory now in our love—in our kiss—”
Her eyes smiled : “Victory !”