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Title: A candle in the wind

Author: Mary Imlay Taylor

Release date: January 30, 2024 [eBook #72828]
Most recently updated: February 18, 2024

Language: English

Original publication: United States: Moffat, Yard and Company, 1919

Credits: D A Alexander, David E. Brown, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This book was produced from images made available by the HathiTrust Digital Library.)



title page


Author of “The Impersonator,” “The Reaping,” “Caleb Trench,”
“The Man in the Street,” etc.

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Copyright, 1919, by



Chapter I 1
II 14
III 27
IV 34
V 42
VI 50
VII 56
IX 71
X 84
XI 96
XII 102
XIII 112
XIV 122
XV 127
XVI 132
XVII 140
XIX 161
XX 174
XXI 187[x]
XXII 193
XXIV 208
XXV 214
XXVI 226
XXIX 255
XXX 266
XXXI 276
XXXV 316





Diane controlled the secret distress which the mere mention of Overton’s name made immeasurably keen, and tried to give her undivided attention to the entertainment of her father’s guests. She had a fine discrimination in social matters, and she felt that this occasion, however simple and domestic, was made important by the presence of Arthur Faunce, the young hero of the recent antarctic expedition.

Faunce had not been expected at Mapleton so soon after his triumphant reception in New York, where, exalted into prominence by Overton’s tragic death, he had been hailed as the leading survivor of the brave band of explorers. But, with that infatuated zeal with which the moth seeks the candle, he had returned almost immediately to the place where he was sure to feel the radiant flame of Diane Herford’s charm.

However well aware she may have been in the past of the young man’s incipient infatuation, Diane had almost forgotten those early passages[2] in their lives when she had made a conquest of a college boy’s heart at a time when, with the sublime optimism of youth, he had worn it joyously upon his sleeve. Since then several years had intervened, rich in experience. Diane had traveled a good deal with her father, and had been received, both at home and abroad, with flattering attention. She had felt the force of a deeper emotion, suffered the actual pang of bereavement, seen a hope, beautiful and thrilled with an exquisite tenderness, lost forever with the gallant hero who had perished almost within sight of the goal that he had sought with such courage and such devotion.

That he had not spoken more definitely at parting, that their understanding was tacit rather than actual, only deepened her grief by depriving her of the right to indulge it. Since she was thus denied the privilege of openly mourning the loss of Overton, and must force herself to speak of him and to hear his death discussed with apparent composure, Diane was listening now to the becoming modesty with which Arthur Faunce was quietly assuming the dead man’s mantle.

She saw, too, that Faunce’s new honors, his youth, and his undoubted good looks had again enlisted her father’s good-will. Some feeling, almost an impulse of indignation, swept through her at the thought that a man’s fame, like his life, had no more permanence than the flame of one[3] of the delicately shaded candles that she had placed among the flowers upon the table. Her thought, poignant as it was with sadness, must have been winged, for it found an almost immediate echo in her father’s response to a tribute that Faunce had just paid to Overton.

“Yes, he was a brave fellow,” Judge Herford declared in his Olympian tones. “If he had lived, Faunce, you’d have had to look to your laurels. But what a tragic end—to fall by the way, almost in sight of the goal!”

“As Moses died in sight of the promised land!” sighed Mrs. Price, her host’s cousin, the plump and amiable wife of the dean of a neighboring theological seminary.

Thoroughly imbued with the precepts of her more gifted husband, Mrs. Price allowed herself to fall into a fatal way of applying scriptural similitudes, or, as Dr. Gerry irreverently phrased it, of “talking shop.”

The judge smiled involuntarily, leaning back in his chair, a massive figure, his fine head scantily covered with iron-gray hair, and his keen eye as bright at sixty-five as Faunce remembered it when he himself had been a lad of ten. He tossed back a reply now with a gleam of amusement.

“It takes your imagination, Cousin Julia, to clothe the antarctic in milk and honey. Poor fellow! As I understand it, Faunce, Overton perished as much from hunger and exhaustion as from[4] cold!” he added, turning toward the guest of honor.

Faunce seemed to flinch, and an expression of such keen distress passed over his handsome face that it awoke a glow of sympathy, almost of cordiality, in the breast of Diane Herford. There was a little silence. Mrs. Price, her daughter, Fanny, her husband, the dean, and Dr. Gerry all stopped talking to listen to the young man’s expected reply. It was the kind of hush that expressed not only sympathy, but something like awe of a great tragedy enacted in a distant and unknown clime, where even death has been obscured by the mystery and silence of those frozen solitudes.

Faunce had been admirable all the evening—brilliant, convincing, and yet becomingly modest; but now he stretched out an unsteady hand, lifted his wine-glass to his lips, tried in vain to swallow some liquor, and set it down with a gesture of despair.

“Don’t speak of it!” he exclaimed in a faltering voice. “We were together—I can never forget it, I——” He broke off, and recovered himself. “Pardon me if I can’t talk of it, can’t tell you about it yet. The time may come, but now——”

He ceased speaking and stared straight in front of him with unseeing eyes, his powerful but shapely[5] hand unconsciously clenched on the edge of the table.

Dr. Gerry, an old family friend and an eminent practitioner, suspended his dissection of the duck to cast a keen glance at Faunce. He had the searching eyes of the professional observer, set well back under heavy brows, a quantity of short red hair, and a square jaw that was somewhat relieved by the whimsical lines about his tight, thin-lipped mouth and the puckers at the corners of his eyes.

There was a significance in the doctor’s glance which did not escape the troubled eyes of Diane. When he turned it suddenly upon her, she averted her face, unable to meet its perfectly apparent suspicion. She knew that Dr. Gerry had long ago surmised her attachment to Overton, and her hand trembled slightly as she picked up her fork and tried once more to make a pretense of eating her dinner.

She was so completely absorbed in her own unhappiness, in the thrill of misery and pride that stirred her heart at the thought of the gallant man who had died as he had always lived, in her eyes, like a hero, that she awoke from her reverie to find that she had lost the thread of the conversation, which had been hastily resumed to cover Faunce’s collapse.

“We’re puny creatures,” her father was saying in the tone of a pessimist. “What do our efforts[6] amount to, after all? There’s a saying—and it’s true—that ‘a man’s life is like a candle in the wind, or hoar frost on the tiles.’ It’s blown away or melted off, and there’s nothing left!”

The little dean fired up.

“The immortal soul is left! What would life be worth if we didn’t believe that a young, enthusiastic spirit like Overton’s had in it the seed of immortality? ‘White-breasted, like a star fronting the dawn he moved.’ A soul like his can’t be compared to the flame of a candle, Herford, but rather to the light of a star that is kindled in the darkness of our impotent endeavors. He had the magnificent youth, the immortal courage, that always lead the world!”

“Well, well!” retorted the judge, unmoved. “He had, at least, the courage to meet the great adventure.”

“He had more than that, papa,” Diane commanded herself to say quietly, lifting her head with a recurrent thrill of pride. “No one could know him without realizing that he had supremely the courage to live—to live as he believed a man should.”

At the sound of her voice Faunce turned his head sharply, and his face flushed, but his eyes dwelt on her with such earnestness that Diane, suddenly meeting his look, stopped in confusion. Her embarrassment surprised no one more than herself, for she had long ago achieved that sort of[7] self-control which carries a woman through far more difficult moments than this. It was almost a relief to hear her father’s tranquil retort.

“Di’s a good friend,” he observed, throwing her a benevolent smile. “She always defends the absent. And she’s right this time. Overton had courage enough to have been allowed to live. It’s one of the mysteries why such men are cut off in their prime.”

“I had only one fault to find with him,” rejoined the dean, relapsing into his more usual formalism. “I said that to his face, and it saddens me now to recall it. He wasn’t what we call a Christian in the orthodox meaning of the word.”

“How can you say that?” exclaimed Diane warmly. “He was a Christian in the larger sense. Do you remember Abou Ben Adhem’s dream of peace? Of no man could it be said more truly than of Overton that ‘he loved his fellow men.’”

Dr. Gerry nodded.

“That’s so, Di. I fancy you can indorse her sentiments, Faunce?”

Again all eyes turned in the direction of the young explorer, and he roused himself with an evident effort.

“He was one of the best friends a man ever had,” he exclaimed with feeling. “I don’t know much about his religious beliefs. I’ll leave that to Dr. Price and to Miss Herford,” he added, inclining[8] his head to Diane; “but he had courage enough to stand by anything that he believed.”

“That only brings us back again to the original proposition,” rejoined Judge Herford. “It’s an affirmative verdict—we’ve established his courage!”

“Haven’t we got an example of that right before us?” cried Mrs. Price, with a little bubbling sound of enthusiasm like the pleasant hum of a teakettle. “Here’s Mr. Faunce!”

“That’s right—we haven’t forgotten you, Faunce,” smiled their host. “You can’t escape your rôle of hero here.”

Faunce murmured a confused acknowledgment, blushing suddenly like a schoolboy. Dr. Gerry, who had been listening attentively, his keen eye studying the young explorer with professional curiosity, interposed now, giving the conversation a new and unexpected turn.

“Courage takes on strange streaks sometimes,” he remarked slowly, leaning back in his chair in an apparently reminiscent mood. “I remember a queer case out in the Philippines. A young private—the fellow came somewhere from the big grain-fields of the Northwest, and had never seen service before—went into action out there and got honorable mention three times. One day he carried a wounded comrade off under fire, and some of the women heard of it and wrote home, trying to get the Carnegie medal for him. About ten days after[9] that the cholera broke out in a camp in Mindanao. I was down there with the regimental surgeon when Private Bruce was ordered on hospital duty. He begged to be excused, he turned as white as a sheet, and his teeth chattered. He wasn’t afraid of bullets, but he was afraid of cholera. Of course he didn’t get off. He had to go on duty, and he was sent out with a stretcher to bring in a dead comrade. A little Filipino, one of Uncle Sam’s new recruits, went with him. Presently the Filipino came back; he said he couldn’t do it alone, and the white man had run away. It was true, too. Bruce had bolted. He ran all the way to Manila, and they had to comb the place to find him for the court martial. He simply couldn’t face a quietly unpleasant death, and pestilence got on his nerves.”

Faunce, who had been listening with his eyes on his plate, looked up now, and his glance kindled with something akin to anger.

“Perhaps it wasn’t pure cowardice,” he exclaimed with feeling. “It’s easier to judge another man than to do the thing yourself. I——” He stopped short, aware of the silence around the table, and then ended lamely: “I’ve seen men do strange things under the stress of circumstance!”

The doctor chuckled.

“So have I. I once saw a burly blacksmith faint dead away at the mere sight of a tortoise-shell cat. He’d inherited a prenatal aversion to that kind of[10] a feline, and he’d never been able to conquer it.”

Faunce threw him a darkened glance.

“There you have it—prenatal influence!” he retorted, thrusting away his coffee-cup, the dinner having reached its final stage. “Mayn’t a prenatal influence excuse a sudden, an inexplicable and unconquerable impulse?”

“In a lunatic, yes.”

Diane looked quickly at the speaker. It seemed to her that he was purposely goading Faunce. He leaned back in his chair again, watching the younger man, his rugged face and upstanding reddish hair thrown into sharp relief in the midst of the group at the table. Across softly shaded lights and flowers, the gleam of snowy damask, and the sparkle of silver, she could see the white-haired, placid dean, comfortable, matronly Mrs. Price, her father’s massive, aggressive gray head, and Fanny’s bright youthfulness, which only served to accentuate the shrewd personality of Gerry and the grace and dignity of Faunce.

For the moment these two were pitted against each other. Then the younger man, perhaps aware that he was being baited, dropped the debate with a shrug.

“According to your idea, then, Private Bruce had an insane impulse, instead of simply losing his nerve, as I’ve seen men do a thousand times—and they weren’t cowards, either.”

“You’re not exactly the man we should expect[11] to defend any form of cowardice,” interposed Judge Herford, smiling.

“With his magnificent record,” chimed in Mrs. Price, in her amiable voice, “it’s simply fine to be so considerate toward the weaknesses of the rest of us poor mortals!”

“I suppose, madam, that’s to imply that I’m not charitable,” rejoined Dr. Gerry composedly. “As a matter of fact, I’ve the greatest sympathy for cowards myself.”

“So have I!” exclaimed Fanny Price, her young face turned radiantly, like a full moon, toward the hero of the evening. “I’m an awful coward!”

“She is,” agreed her father cheerfully. “She looks under her bed every night for a burglar.”

In the laugh that greeted Fanny’s blushes, the topic was turned. Diane asked Faunce some questions about his recent experience in New York.

“I had to lecture,” he replied with an uneasy laugh. “That’s one penalty we pay in America when we discover anything. I gave two lectures, and I’m booked for a third, worse luck!”

“I shall try to hear that,” she rejoined quietly, forcing herself to smile in a conventional way, though her eyes were still pathetic.

Faunce thought he had never seen her more beautiful. The delicate hollows in her cheeks, and the white brow under her dusky hair, made her charm assume an elusive and spiritual quality that[12] was rather enhanced by the simplicity of her low-cut, sleeveless black dress and the filmy draperies that floated about her shoulders and blended with the long, soft folds at her waist. The beautiful lines of her slender figure, and something in the grace and harmony of her whole aspect, reminded him of a splendid Reynolds that had once enthralled his eye.

“You would be an inspiration,” he began, in a tone intended for her ear alone; “but”—he hesitated for an instant, bending his dark eyes upon her—“I wonder if I could keep on making a fool of myself with you there to see me do it!”

Something in his tone brought the color to her cheeks, and she passed his remark over lightly.

“I’m sorry if I’m a discouraging listener. I think I’ll have to give you a chance to discuss that with the dean and papa. Dr. Gerry is too critical,” she added, laughing at the doctor as she rose from the table. “Come, Cousin Julia and Fanny dear, these men are pining to talk politics when we’re not here to insist on suffrage.”

“Oh, I’ll give it to you any time, Di!” flung back the doctor.

But she did not answer him; she was smiling at Faunce as he held open the door for her to pass out.

“Please come soon and give us a lecture,” she entreated.

[13]He made no reply, but his eyes were bent so intently on her that he entirely missed the girlishly admiring gaze of Fanny Price, who followed her mother and Diane out of the room.



Leading the way into the small, old-fashioned drawing-room, Diane seated her guests around the bright fire on the hearth, taking care to select a chair for herself that would put her face in the shadow.

Mrs. Price took the low seat opposite. Her plump, round little body spread out comfortably and settled into the cushions with the genial softness of a pudding. Her lustrous black silk, which the dean approved as “the most suitable and stately dress for a lady,” seemed to billow over the curved arms of the chair, and decorously veiled her white stockings and old-style, low shoes. Fanny, pretty and fair and barely eighteen, with only a suggestion of her mother’s button nose and her father’s tranquil brow under a fluffy mass of fair curls, dropped on a low cushion between the two.

“Isn’t he splendid?” she exclaimed rapturously, clasping her hands. “He’s so handsome—isn’t he, Di? He looks just as I’ve always imagined heroes did!”

“He’s very good-looking, my dear,” her mother admitted amiably. “I couldn’t help thinking of that picture at the seminary—you remember it,[15] Fanny—of David? You must know it too, Diane?”

“I don’t think I’ve noticed it very much,” Diane replied vaguely. “Of course, Mr. Faunce seems a hero just now, and people are making a great deal of his exploits. It’s right that they should; but what hurts me, what seems to me so strange, is the way they forget that Overton led the expedition, that he made all these great discoveries, that it isn’t right to forget him while they’re applauding the things he did.”

“My dear, nobody forgets him,” Mrs. Price reassured her. “He was tremendously real, I’m sure, and we all liked him, though, as Edward said at dinner, he seemed a little—a little——”

“Fogged on religion,” chimed in Fanny cheerfully. “So many men are, mama, and I’m sure Overton was as nice as he could be. When I was a child, he used to give me candy—didn’t he, Di?”

“A sure way to win your heart!” retorted Diane, smiling. “I don’t think I’m as orthodox as you are, Cousin Julia,” she added calmly. “There are greater things in heaven and earth than mere formalism.”

“Diane!” breathed her shocked relative.

“Oh, I sha’n’t dispute it with you!” Diane went on easily; “but you mustn’t think that a man like Simon Overton hadn’t a soul great enough to have its own faith. I know he had it.”

“I’m sure he did,” agreed Fanny warmly.[16] “Didn’t you hear what Mr. Faunce said—that Overton was one of the best friends a man ever had? Isn’t that a great tribute—from a man like Faunce, too?”

Diane assented, leaning farther back in her corner. At the moment she could not quite command her voice. Overton’s face seemed to rise before her as she had seen it last—manly and tender and kindled with high hope. How could she think of it veiled in the mist and chill of a frozen death, like a light suddenly quenched in a tempest, or a star receding into the clouds of the infinite?

“No, I’m not a formalist,” she said with sudden passion, as if her thoughts must find an outlet in words; “but I do believe in the immortal soul. It isn’t possible that a man’s life, going out as it does like—like a candle in the wind, leaves nothing whatever behind, nothing to reach up to the heights that he sought.”

“Of course you believe in the soul!” Mrs. Price was immeasurably startled. Her round eyes grew rounder than ever. “How can you express a doubt of it, Diane?”

“Di hasn’t really,” argued Fanny, interfering between the two. “She’s off on one of her tangents, that’s all. She can’t get the awful part of it out of her head. Wasn’t it touching, mama, the way Faunce couldn’t even speak of Overton’s death?”

“It’s perfectly natural, dear. Your father heard[17] that Faunce risked his life in trying to bring Overton’s body back, and was almost dead himself when he reached the cache.”

“It was the blizzard that overwhelmed them,” supplemented Diane’s rich, melancholy voice from the shadow. She was resting her head on her hand, and her face was completely obscured. “They had pushed far ahead, they had reached the farthest south, and then—Overton died. It seems terrible to think that the rescue ship was so near all the while. They had only to struggle a while longer, only to keep life in them for four days!”

“Their ship was completely crushed in the ice, wasn’t it?” Fanny asked softly, clasping her hands around her knee and gazing into the fire. “If it hadn’t been for that——”

“He would have been saved, yes!” Diane drew a long breath. “If it hadn’t been for that, the wrecking of the ship, the great storm, he would be here now with Faunce.”

“Well, for my part,” said Mrs. Price firmly, “I don’t think we should dwell on these things too much. They’re all appointed. ‘The wind bloweth where it listeth.’ We ought to cheer up Arthur Faunce. He’s been given back to us, and there must be a purpose in it. I always feel, when a man comes back from the dead, as it were, that he’s been spared for a reason. You mark my words, Arthur Faunce has been marked out for[18] a great work. He will be a kind of prophet in Israel!”

Diane made no immediate reply. Her mind was too deeply absorbed in thought. She realized more fully than Mrs. Price the great opportunity that had come to Faunce like a legacy from the dead. She remembered his emotion at the mention of Overton, the feeling tribute that he had paid to his friend, and the spirit, at once kindled but modest, that had breathed through many of his previous utterances.

He was like a man who had been following in the wake of genius, content to take up the fragments of success that fell to his share, but had suddenly found the gates flung wide open and seen the long road beyond—the road which he would henceforth travel alone, and to no uncertain goal. He had loved Overton. Their friendship was well known, and he had been faithful to the end. Even now he did not withhold the laurels that belonged to his leader; he only accepted them because there was no one left to dispute his claim.

She knew, too, that he had shown his ability, his power to command in an emergency. He had returned a far-different man from the uncertain youth who had set out two years before. Something in this, and in the optimism he had shown in the midst of disaster, touched her imagination.

If he had been more vainglorious, more eager to take the glory of the great work achieved by the[19] expedition, she would have hated him. But his tone when he had begged them not to speak of Overton’s death, the tribute he had paid to his dead comrade’s friendship, when his voice broke and his eyes filled—these things went to Diane’s heart.

The thought of them had taken such possession of her that she scarcely noticed the silence that had fallen on the little trio. Fanny’s blue eyes were gazing dreamily into the blaze, while the remote murmur of talk and the scent of tobacco came to them from the dining-room. Diane was startled by the awakening of her elder relative, who, apparently, had also been wrapped in dreamy meditation.

“Diane, did your cook make those delicious rolls that were served with the fish?” Mrs. Price asked abruptly.

Diane looked up blankly.

“Why, of course! She’s very proud of them, too. Haven’t you ever tasted them before?”

“I don’t think so, and I’m sure I should remember. They were so crisp! I’ve got a new cook—did Fan tell you? She’s dreadful. Poor Edward says she’s ruining his digestion, and I’d better try a fireless cooker instead. Can’t you let me have that recipe for her?”

“It wouldn’t do any good, mama. She’s a Norwegian, Di, and she understands so little English[20] that when she tries to talk it sounds like a turkey gobbling.”

Fanny began to give a practical illustration, but her mother protested.

“Hush! Here are the gentlemen, and they’ll think you’re crazy, child!”

Fanny stopped, with a queer little grimace that made Diane laugh. They were interrupted by the entrance of Dr. Gerry and Arthur Faunce, who were a little in advance of the judge and the dean. Diane found herself engaged in conversation by the old doctor, who began by remarking that she was too pale, and that he suspected she sat up half the night to read novels.

Diane, who knew that this was merely an excuse to give him an opportunity to probe her inmost mind, parried it lightly, and engaged him in an animated discussion of the latest best-seller.

“Advertisement—nothing but advertisement!” he declared bruskly. “In my young days a novel had to be good to be read. Now it’s an even thing between the man who’s written a book and the man who’s invented a bunion-eraser—it all depends on which gets the most advertising!”

“Iconoclast! Won’t you leave us the illusion of fame?” retorted Diane, laughing.

“It isn’t fame men want these days—it’s money!”

“Filthy lucre!” said the dean. “Don’t let that pessimist destroy your enjoyment of life,[21] Diane. Send him off to play billiards with your father. I’ve got to take my girls home. I’ve an engagement for seven o’clock to-morrow morning, and I need rest.”

As he spoke, Mrs. Price came up and bestowed a flattering kiss upon Diane’s cheek.

“Good-night, dear! Don’t forget about that recipe for rolls,” she murmured.

Diane promised to remember, and went up-stairs to help the two women into their wraps. Fanny was still blushing and confused. She had been talking to Faunce, and her blue eyes shone like two radiant aquamarines.

“He’s so splendid, Di, isn’t he?” she whispered, as her cousin fastened her cloak for her. “And his eyes—there’s something wonderful about them. They haunt you!”

Diane laughed as she kissed her good-night, and watched the two cloaked and hooded figures marshaled out by the little dean in his long black coat and high hat. Standing in the open door, she saw the three familiar figures walking in single file down the long path to the gate, not one of them keeping step with the others, but each bobbing up and down at a different gait, as curiously bundled and indiscriminate in the darkness as so many Indian papooses suddenly set on their feet and compelled to toddle.

As she closed the door and turned back toward[22] the drawing-room, she saw that Arthur Faunce was awaiting her there alone.

“I thought you were with papa and the doctor,” she said, apologizing for her neglect, as he drew a chair forward for her to sit again near the dying embers on the hearth.

“They went to play billiards, and I don’t know one ball from another,” he replied. “I told them I should wait for you.” He took the chair that Mrs. Price had vacated, and leaned forward, resting his elbows on the arms. “I wanted to speak to you alone.”

Diane looked up, and met his dark eyes bent on her with a melancholy and troubled gaze that sent a sad thrill of expectation to her heart. He meant to speak of Overton!

She said nothing. For a moment, indeed, she was quite incapable of speech. They both heard the distant click of the billiard-balls and her father’s deep voice speaking to Dr. Gerry.

“You know that I was with Overton—with Simon,” he said at last, “to the very end, and once or twice he—he talked to me of you.”

She looked up in surprise. She had felt that it was unlike Overton even to mention her name, so deep and almost sensitive was the reserve that he had always shown. Faunce met her look again, and this time his pale face flushed.

“I mean in the way that Overton always spoke of women—of his friends—with the truest and[23] most chivalrous regard. He was not well; the climate broke him up before the end, and I think he had a feeling that he might not live to come back. One day, after we had to abandon the ship, he showed me some photographs he had—pictures that he had taken himself—and he asked me to remember, if anything happened to him, that he wished you to have them. He said that you had cared so much for the whole expedition, and had cheered him so often in those hard days when he thought he could never get the thing started. After he—after that awful time in the snow, I found the case he had shown me, and I brought it with me.” He stopped and put his hand in his pocket, producing a large, square envelope. “As soon as I got to New York I had the plates developed. A few were spoiled, but there are some here, and I’ve brought them to you to-night.”

As he spoke, he held out the package. Diane compelled herself to take it with outward composure, but her hands were shaking, and she could not meet his eyes.

“I can’t tell you how much I thank you!” she murmured, opening the envelope and looking over the pictures in order to hide her emotion.

There were only a few of them—studies of sea and sky, a familiar view of the ill-fated ship, a group of sailors, and some impressive views of frozen straits and giant icebergs. It was a meager[24] glimpse of the world for which Simon Overton had laid down his life, but something in it, in his thought of her, of the things she would care to see, touched Diane to the soul. She restrained her tears with difficulty, and, although she continued to make a show of examining the prints, her eyes were too dim to see the details.

For a while Faunce was silent. He seemed to understand the emotion that prevented Diane from speaking. On the whole, he was thankful for it, since she did not have time to see the pain that distorted his own face. He felt that he was white and rigid, and that his eyes stared at the fire; but he had enough self-control to keep his hands steady on the arms of his chair, and after a while he commanded his voice.

“I’m sorry that there were so few things that we could bring,” he said slowly. “A great deal was lost in the wreck, and we had to sacrifice more still in our journey across the ice. There came a time when we couldn’t carry a load—we could scarcely carry ourselves.”

Diane folded the pictures carefully away before she replied.

“What you say makes me all the more grateful for these!”

He raised his head at that, and their eyes met. The sympathy, the kindling kindness of her glance went to his heart.

[25]“You don’t ask me about it all, and yet I’m sure you want to know.”

“I understood. I was deeply touched by what you said at dinner. I know you can’t talk of it yet—I don’t ask it.”

“I think I could talk to you; but perhaps I had better wait until another time.” Faunce paused; then, rising from his seat, he came over and stood beside her, resting his elbow on the mantel, with his face in the shadow, as hers had been. “I want you to feel that the end was painless. It always is, you know, in those awful solitudes. You knew Overton; you must know that he was a hero—to the end.”

She, too, rose involuntarily from her seat and faced him. Again her pale face, and her slight figure in its black draperies, recalled to his mind the charm and buoyant grace of that wonderful picture of long ago. It was, indeed, this charm of hers, so subtle and so poignant, that drew him on deeper and deeper into the shoals.

“I loved him,” Faunce continued, with a painful effort at self-control. “No one in the world could have suffered more bitterly than I at his loss. I don’t want you to feel that I purposely tried to take his place in this great achievement. I only fell heir to his glory.”

She was deeply touched. Again, even in the midst of her tender remembrance of Overton, this man, who had suffered with him and dared with[26] him, laid hold of her imagination. She raised her beautiful eyes to Faunce’s face, holding out her hand in an involuntary gesture of friendship and good-will.

“I think you’re more than his heir,” she said gently. “He was so large-hearted, so just, that I know he would feel, as I do, that you were his comrade and his partner in sacrifice and in fame.”

There was an instant of silence, one of those moments which become almost supreme in their effect upon two lives. Then, as Faunce seemed to have no words in which to reply, he took Diane’s hand in both of his and lifted it gently to his lips.



Half an hour later, Judge Herford stood on his front steps, bidding his last two guests good-night.

“Come again!” he called after them in his deep bass. “You’ll always find us prepared enough for the pair of you. By the way, Faunce, I suppose it’s too much to expect that any one so famous as you will hang around Mapleton long?”

“I don’t know any better place to hang around, judge,” Faunce replied. “When a man’s been in exile two years, the old places look good to him.”

“That’s right! Then be sure you don’t forget the way here.”

“He won’t!” Dr. Gerry flung back, as he plodded toward the gate. “You’re not the only attraction at this house, Hadley. For my part, I only come here to see Diane!”

They heard the judge’s laugh following them, and saw his large figure still outlined against the light, the big gray head and massive shoulders and long body looking a little too heavy for the short legs.

“If Hadley had been sawed off at the waist, they’d have said he was a perfect model for a[28] Roman emperor,” observed the doctor, as they passed out into the road and heard the judge shut his door for the night.

Faunce agreed with some amusement.

“It’s strange, isn’t it, how some men seem to lose their proportion when they stand up? They’re not put together in equal parts.”

“A good many who are put together right outside are out of joint inside.”

“How about the mental proportion—or shall we call it the spiritual?”

“That depends upon how much you follow the dean. A mental twist is pretty nearly certain to go hand in hand with moral lopsidedness, though.”

Faunce reflected on this for a moment, while they made their way under the interlacing branches of the big trees that arched over the country road. It was late in October, and the fall of the leaves had already stripped the big elms and left them in spectral outline against the moonlit sky.

“I take it, then, that you hold a moral shortcoming as a sign of an unbalanced mind?”

“I didn’t say that. That’s the other way around; but it’s true, too, though I shouldn’t cite it as a reason for getting off a criminal. We’ve had a little more of that lately than is good for us.”

“Then you don’t think that the mental condition palliates crime?”

[29]“I think a good many people commit murder or highway robbery, and then, about the time when they get caught, they decide that they must have been crazy.”

“You argue, then, that the insanity is synchronous with the discovery?”

The doctor nodded, trudging sturdily forward toward the turn in the road which led to his own house. The autumn air was chill with frost, and Faunce seemed to shiver as he buttoned up his coat. Dr. Gerry, observing the young man from the tail of his eye, remarked it.

“Feel a chill, eh? I shouldn’t think you’d mind it, after the south pole!”

“Any touch of cold that reminds me of that is enough to make me shiver. I can’t close my eyes now without seeing those livid wastes and hearing the wind. It’s a frozen hell!”

“It’s on your nerves. How many hours do you sleep at night?”

Faunce gave him an uneasy look, in which surprise and something like apprehension were strangely mingled; but the street lights were poor, and he could only half discern the old man’s face as it emerged above the heavy collar of his greatcoat.

“I don’t sleep at all. How did you find that out?”

“I’ve seen a good many in the same plight before,[30] for one thing, and you’re a pretty easy case to read.”

“Am I?” Faunce laughed harshly. “I didn’t know it. Perhaps you can tell me what to do, then?”

“Stop taking narcotics, to begin with, and then get control of your nerves.”

“So you’ve discovered that, too?”


“The narcotics. I had to try something. I haven’t had three continuous hours of sleep since—not for five months, anyway.”

“Humph!” The doctor stumbled on a stone and stopped to kick it out of the way. “That’ll lead you on the same road with old Henry Jersey, down in Featherbed Lane.”

“What’s the matter with him?”

“Well, there’s some divergence of opinion, but his neighbors call him bughouse, if you know what that is.”


“Pretty near it. He took drugs, too, for a while.”

“I’ve only taken small doses, enough to get a little sleep. I had to have it. Perhaps”—he laughed unsteadily—“perhaps you can tell me what I’ve taken?”

“Oh, it might be anything,” the doctor replied carelessly; “but I should call it chloral.”

[31]“You’ve hit it! I shall begin to think you’re a mind-reader.”

“I am, in a sense. The fact is, I can tell you what’s the matter with you now. It’s your nerves. You’ve got something on your mind, and you won’t be any better, you won’t sleep any sounder, until you get it off.”

Faunce was startled. He glanced around again, but could only make out a dim outline of Gerry’s blunt profile between the old man’s collar and the big soft hat he had pulled comfortably down to his ears. For a moment he reflected on the doctor’s words in silence.

It was evidently true that Gerry had an unaccountable way of hitting the nail on the head. Faunce wondered how much the old man had already divined of the trouble that was harassing his soul. If he was indeed so palpably easy to read, how could he screen it from the curious gaze of every inquiring eye that he met? They were almost in sight of the doctor’s white gate before he roused himself to reply.

“That sounds like saying that honest confession is good for the soul,” he said with his nervous laugh. “I should never have suspected you of commending that course.”

“I’ve been father confessor for a good many,” retorted the doctor crustily. “What I meant to say, though, was much simpler. You’ve got to free your mind. When a man lets anything bite in[32] as your trouble seems to be doing, he soon comes to the end of his tether. His nerves break down, he can’t sleep, and then he can’t eat. It’s an old story. I can give you something to ease up the body, but I can’t do anything for the mind. You’ll have to look after that for yourself.”

Faunce stopped at the gate.

“How about the soul?” he asked dryly.

“I’ll leave that to the dean—or to Mrs. Price. She’d have a quotation that would fit it to the letter. Will you come in?” he added, opening his gate.

“Not to-night. I’m going to tramp for a while. When I’m tired out, I sometimes sleep a little—without the chloral.”

The doctor grunted, went into his front yard, and let the old white gate swing to behind him.

“I suppose you know the risk you’re taking?”

Faunce nodded.

“Oh, I sha’n’t kill myself.” He laughed again, rather loudly this time. “I haven’t the courage!”

“It doesn’t take courage when you’ve got enough of the stuff. It’s as easy to slip off as it is for a frozen man to sink into the final stupor.”

For a moment they stood peering at each other through the night. A fitful moon vanished behind a cloud, and left each one in doubt of the other’s attitude; but the doctor was aware that Faunce pulled himself together and moved away from the fence.

[33]“So you think that’s easy?” he said in a hoarse voice.

“I know it is—at the end. There’s a limit, you see, to human endurance. When it’s reached and passed, coma ensues. That’s easy!”

Faunce took a step toward the gate, as if an impulse moved him to follow the doctor in. Then he turned with an inarticulate exclamation, waved an abrupt good-night, and walked rapidly away into the darkness.

Dr. Gerry watched him disappear before he turned and deliberately climbed the steps to his own front door, to find the cat rubbing herself against his ankles. He stooped down and caressed her, running his hand down the length of her sleek, gray back, and finally giving her tail a gentle tweak. Then he unlocked his door and entered, carrying her under his arm.



Meanwhile Faunce tramped steadily down the long lane. It led to the edge of the little river, scarcely more than a brook, which divided the village into two unequal parts. Just now, at flood from the recent rains, the stream tumbled noisily over the stones and rushed under the low bridge with a harsh, insistent murmur.

He stopped for a moment with his hand on the rail, and looked down at the black current below. Then the clouds broke, and he saw the moon reflected in the water, while the rising wind suddenly showered the falling leaves until they fell with a patter like rain. Beside him an ancient willow stood like a stricken giant. A summer thunderbolt had split the great trunk in twain, and half of it lay across the stream, while the other half still loomed up, grim and leafless, against the sky.

It was past midnight and in that rural community, where early hours prevailed, the feeling of solitude was as intense as if he had reached the end of the world and was alone in the October night, the last man. Such a feeling had come to him once before, fraught with such cruel terror,[35] such a sensation of disintegration, of the loss of all that was mortal, that Faunce could never forget it, could never feel even the reflection of it again without recalling those vast and terrifying wastes, that inexorable sky, that blinding, cruel, exterminating ice that had frozen its image on his soul.

He tried to drive the thought of it from his mind, and, by fixing his gaze on that intimately familiar scene, to recall the days when, as a lad, he had fished by that old bridge. He remembered his grandmother as she had looked to him then, the quaint cap she wore, and the little plaid shawl folded about her shoulders over the black bombazine dress. His mother had died when he was born, and his father had married again. Young Arthur, in the way of a gay stepmother, had been reared by a fond maternal grandmother.

No one had disciplined his childhood, and he knew that as a boy he had done some mean tricks, which a better-trained lad would have scorned. But he had ceased to be small and tricky when he fell in with Overton, his senior by three years in age and by ten in mental development. He realized now, as he looked back on the long perspective, that Overton had saved him.

Strong-willed and straight-thinking, Simon Overton had possessed that kind of spiritual force of which leaders and martyrs are made. He had been a leader even at school. His companions had followed him with the boyish devotion that always[36] surrounds the school hero with a halo of glory. It was not alone young Overton’s physical strength, and his skill in their favorite sports; it was a certain unfailing stanchness of character, a fearless square-dealing, that impressed the others, and Faunce had only followed the universal lead when he attached himself to him.

Faunce had been favored. Overton had seen that the lad was without a real friend, that his old grandmother could do little more than wrap him in a figurative blanket, spoiling and scolding by turns; and the elder boy suddenly took hold of the younger. A friendship was formed, protective on one side, almost adoring on the other, and from that time their fates had moved forward in an inseparable course.

When Overton went to Annapolis, he had helped Faunce to work his way through college. When Faunce’s father died and left his estate—a small one—to his widow and Arthur’s stepsisters, Overton had tided Arthur over, until he got a place, and his grandmother’s death left him the sole heir of her modest fortune. It was this old bond that had drawn him into the first expedition to the south pole.

Overton, as a lieutenant in the navy, had organized the great adventure, which was financed by an old friend of his father. He had selected Faunce to accompany him, and the trip had been successful up to a certain point. Then the inexorable conditions[37] of polar exploration had worsted their efforts, and they had been forced to turn back. Bitterly chagrined, Overton had returned for another year of preparation, and then, flushed with new hope, and with that kind of fateful vision which pursues the most difficult and dangerous chimeras, he had set out for the second time, determined to plant the Stars and Stripes at the farthest south.

In the interval between the two expeditions much had happened. Overton had become an acknowledged force in the world of adventure, and Faunce was aware that he had set his heart on the one girl who had remained to both of them the sweetest and most charming reminder of their young days at Mapleton. That Diane, too, had outgrown their early environment and matured into a gracious and accomplished woman of the world seemed only fitting and natural; and Faunce knew, long before the ill-fated ship sailed from New York, that the young leader had left his heart behind him.

Faunce had felt a thrill of satisfaction, too, that under that supreme test he had not failed to keep his faith with his comrade and benefactor. Loving Diane himself, he had stood aside and left the field free to his rival. Whatever misunderstanding had obscured their parting, he had not been at fault. He had found some consolation, in the midst of his discomfiture, in the fact that[38] he had demonstrated his own spiritual growth, and had proved to himself that he was now above those mean devices which, in his boyhood, had sometimes won for him immunity from punishment, or a reward that was not rightfully his.

The expedition had sailed amid the thunder of salutes from the war-ships in the harbor, and for the second time Overton followed the ill-omened star that led him toward the south pole. All these things came back to Faunce with fatal clarity as he leaned there, under the pallid October sky, his hand on the worn railing of the old bridge that he had crossed many a day on his way to school.

But at this point in his recollections—when the fated ship, brilliant with flags, receded slowly, like a fantom, into the mists which on that day had shrouded the Narrows—Faunce shuddered and passed his hand over his eyes. His reverie was broken. He could no longer recall the past without seeing the wraith that seemed to rise from the very mist over the brook and to shape itself before him, as it had shaped itself hundreds of times already, into a vision of Overton as he had seen him last.

There, in that secluded spot, under the fitful moon, that face—rugged, strong, beautiful with spiritual power—rose from the vapors. Faunce saw it as he had seen it last, stricken with the awful[39] look of death, pallid and calm, a smile on the lips, the eyes closed. Solitudes, vast, white, inexorable, the peaks of blue ice, the mirage that mocked and deluded, only the shriek of the wind to break the silence that drove men mad.

That drove men mad! That was it! That must be what possessed him now, Faunce thought—madness!

He could never escape that vision, never quite cast it out. All the laurels he had won, the applause, the eager friendships that seemed to await him, were but empty mockery when he had only to close his eyes to find himself in the presence of that terrible vision, to feel the deadly chill strike again to his heart, to hear the howl of the wind on those polar wastes.

What had tempted him to go there a second time? What infatuation had led him to follow Overton? Faunce had never shared his leader’s enthusiasm, had never had his courage; but he had followed him like a little dog at the heels of a big St. Bernard, led by admiration rather than love, held by fear rather than zeal.

He remembered what he had just said to Diane—his assurance of his devotion to Overton; and it seemed to him now like an attempt on his part further to imperil his own salvation by deliberately deceiving her. Yet he had really loved Overton. It was his love for the dead man, the remembrance[40] of his boyish gratitude, that was driving him on, goading him to misery.

Of what avail was the rescue that had brought him and his surviving comrades out of that frozen inferno, and had crowned him with the laurels that Overton had sought, if he could reap no reward, not even grasp the triumph of their success, their victory over a rival English expedition, without paying the price in a mortal agony that had all but extinguished the light in his soul? He had returned to find himself a hero, to be fêted and honored in New York and in Washington, to be mentioned with mingled envy and praise in London and Paris—and he could not sleep!

At first he had thought that he could conquer his weakness, that there was courage enough left in him to force forgetfulness; but there was not. The thing possessed him, pursued him, harried him, and he had come to the end of his endurance. He began to dread night as a condemned man must dread the final summons. In the daytime, and among his fellows, he believed that he bore himself almost with the air of a hero. He had, indeed, thought his performance perfect, but Dr. Gerry had discovered a cleft in the armor, had put his finger on a sore spot.

Was it possible, then, that others saw it, too? That Diane herself might have suspected it when she forbore to question Faunce? The thought, laying hold of him, added a fresh pang to his[41] misery. He turned with a gesture of disgust and plunged into the night. He could not sleep, and here, in this quiet spot, he could walk until the day broke, unseen and unsuspected.



In the weeks that followed Faunce drifted restlessly from Mapleton to New York, from New York to Washington, and then, assured of Diane’s continued presence there, back to Mapleton.

Meanwhile he had been signally honored, as the surviving leader of the successful expedition, both at home and abroad. A medal had been voted to him by Congress for his distinguished services, and he had been notified of his election, in London, as a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Praise and emolument poured in upon the young and handsome explorer, while only one man—the chief financier of Overton’s two expeditions—devoted any large sum to a memorial tablet for the lost leader.

Like the proverbial candle in the wind, Overton’s life and his reputation had been extinguished together in the eternal snows; but they had not been exiled from the mind of Faunce. He was fully aware that his honors rightfully belonged to his friend, that he was in much the same position as the mythical jay in the peacock’s plumes. He could think of no simile less trite to express his misery.

[43]If Overton had lived, Faunce might have been envious—he knew that he was not free from that taint; but he could at least have accepted any tribute that came his way with a light heart. As it was, his honors were so many millstones about his neck. He grew pale and thin, and the dark shadows under his eyes made their expression take on a haunted look; but his very modesty, his evident hesitation to accept the full measure of applause, and the growing melancholy in his handsome face, only served to increase the interest in a personality so attractive and so reserved.

It appealed most keenly, perhaps, to the imagination of Fanny Price. Her girlish fancy clothed the handsome explorer in all the attributes of the favorite heroes of romance. The fact that she perceived, only too clearly, his infatuation for Diane Herford whetted her admiration by removing its object from the proximity of her own possible adorers.

A pretty young thing and a great favorite, she had no lack of “beans,” to use the familiar language of the inhabitants of Mapleton; but none of them, in Fanny’s mind, could be compared to the hero of two antarctic expeditions and the probable commander of a third. Talk was already current that the same great financier who had furnished the sinews of the Overton expeditions was about to equip another and more perfect ship to be placed at the command of Arthur Faunce.

[44]There was another reason, too, which caused a little flutter in Fanny’s innocent breast. She was well aware that a heart is often caught on the rebound, and she knew that, next to Diane, she was an object of interest to Faunce. The question therefore resolved itself into the more complex problem of the state of Diane Herford’s heart. Did she, or did she not, care for Faunce?

If, as Fanny suspected, Diane had loved Overton, she might be unable to reconcile herself to a man who must inevitably recall a dead lover. On the other hand, this might also be Faunce’s strongest appeal—the fact that he was Overton’s chosen comrade, his closest friend, and the man who had last seen him alive.

The two girls were fairly intimate, but the younger had never dared to encroach on the quiet reserve with which the elder screened her inmost thoughts; and she could draw no positive conclusions from the vague glimpses that Diane’s rare moments of deep emotion gave her. Those moments indicated a strong but hidden feeling which might, at any moment, find an outlet in some fresh channel; and what could be more likely than the awakening of a new and living love? The probability of this termination of the affair chilled Fanny’s joy in her hero’s frequent reappearances in the quiet neighborhood of Mapleton.

“He would never come here at all,” she reasoned shrewdly, “if he wasn’t in love with somebody.[45] He isn’t in love with me—that’s certain—so it must be Diane!”

This conclusion, which seemed to overlook all the other charming girls in the suburb, was less self-centered than it appeared. Fanny knew that Faunce had practically ignored the rest of the world, and had concentrated his attentions upon the Herford house, when an occasional invitation did not divert him to the seminary. But those occasional moments when either an actual invitation, or the courtesy of a visit after one, brought him into the Prices’ dingy drawing-room were always fraught with a tremor of excitement for Fanny, not unpleasantly mingled with the refined tortures of hope deferred.

It was just about that agreeable hour which is devoted to drinking a sociable cup of afternoon tea that she actually saw Faunce coming up the broad driveway which led from the seminary gates to the dean’s modest Queen Anne cottage. She had thought him in Washington, and his sudden appearance, pale and tall and graceful, on his way to her own door, sent a thrill to her heart.

For a moment she leaned forward, with both hands on the sill of the bay window, and watched his unconscious approach. She was quite composed when he entered the room, a few moments later, and found her rearranging her little tea-table with deft and graceful hands, while a sudden shaft of afternoon sunshine touched the little[46] fair curls that clustered about her small, pink ears and nestled on the white nape of her neck.

She was very glad to see him. Her large blue eyes would have told him so, if he had not been so preoccupied; but it was not Fanny of whom he was thinking. He dropped into a comfortable chair beside her tea-table, accepted a cup of her tea, and began at once to talk about Diane. The irony of this almost made the girl smile; but she controlled herself, and turned a sympathetic face toward him, glad that her back was to the light, and that he seemed more occupied with staring absently at the fire on the hearth than in looking at her.

“I just heard that the Herfords might go to Florida this winter,” he observed, balancing his cup in a way that would have wrung Mrs. Price’s housewifely heart with anxiety for her best rug.

“I suppose Dr. Gerry told you?”

He nodded.

“It’s on account of the judge’s rheumatism, isn’t it?”

“I think Di likes to play golf.”

“She doesn’t seem to care for it here. I asked her to go to the links the last time I was home, and she refused.”

Fanny elevated her delicate brows.

“Perhaps she had another engagement. You know Di’s the most popular person in Mapleton.”

[47]He set the neglected cup down on the table and looked at her with preoccupied eyes.

“She’s perfectly charming, isn’t she? But—do you think—I mean, does she seem quite happy?”

Fanny temporized, aware of a sinking heart.

“She should be. She’s got everything, and the old judge adores her.”

He leaned back in his chair, toying with the spoons on the table.

“Has she got everything? That’s what I want to know. Do you think—you’re great pals, you and Diane—do you think she cared for Overton?”

Fanny was silent for a moment. Her hands were trembling a little, and she thrust them out of sight under the table.

“That’s not a fair question. I couldn’t answer it, could I, if I knew? And I don’t know. Diane never talks about herself like some other girls. She wraps herself up the way—I don’t know how to describe it, but you’ve seen some flowers, the more delicate ones, fold their petals together at nightfall and hide their golden hearts? I’ve always thought of them when—when I’ve tried to pry into Diane’s soul.”

He reflected, looking thoughtfully into the fire.

“That’s a beautiful idea, isn’t it?—that her heart’s like a delicate flower!”

The thought seemed to please him so much that[48] he remained silent, dwelling on it. Fanny, keenly aware of the cause of his preoccupation, poured out another cup of tea and tried to drink it. Then he returned to the subject.

“I know that Overton cared for her. I knew it before he went away. That’s why I—I——”

He stopped, the color mounting painfully to his hair.

“Why you didn’t speak?” she concluded gallantly.

He turned a flushed face toward her.

“I say, I didn’t mean to give myself away like that! Tea always makes me gossip like an old woman.”

“Old women aren’t always gossips,” Fanny corrected him, calmly looking at his full cup; “and, moreover, you’ve only just tasted your tea.”

“Then it’s your fault! You made me blurt out the truth. I felt your sympathy. Do you know, it’s a beautiful thing, the way you can sympathize? It’s a gift. You’ve made me feel that I have a real friend.”

Fanny lifted her cup firmly and drank a little tea before she managed to answer.

“That’s really a tremendous compliment,” she said, smiling at him. “I’m very proud of it!”

“Well, since I’ve let the cat out of the bag, I might as well tell you the whole truth, hadn’t I?” he exclaimed with that open and engaging manner that had so often won his way. “I’ve[49] been in love with her ever since I was a little shaver. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t in love with her.”

“And you stood aside because you were loyal to Overton?” she ventured.

He paled as suddenly as he had reddened.

“Yes, I knew he loved her. I owed him a great deal, you know. I let him have his chance first.”

She lifted her eyes bravely to his.

“I think that was magnificent!” she said in a low voice with a tremor of emotion.



The girl’s words had a strange effect on Faunce. They seemed to strike like a goad into his flesh. He sprang to his feet and began to pace the room with his head down. Fanny Price followed him with an astonished gaze, but she was too much concerned with her own emotion, her own folly in caring at all, to attempt to analyze his moods. It was enough for her that he loved Diane. She did not want to go beyond that, for it utterly crushed her hopes.

“Nothing I’ve ever done is magnificent!” he declared in a choked voice. “I’m not such a bounder as to let you think it. I would have tried as hard as Overton, I know I should, if I hadn’t been sure that she—she loved him!”

Fanny struggled with the last remnant of her self-love. Then she answered in a weak voice:

“Why does it matter to you so much if she did—then?”

He stopped short.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that he’s dead now.”

There was a profound pause. He stood staring at her with a strange expression, his hands hanging[51] clenched at his sides. Fanny had never seen him look so handsome, so tragically inspired; but she returned his gaze with a kind of defiance. She felt that she was at bay, and mast defend herself.

“You mean,” he said slowly, at length, “that his being dead opens the way for me? That perhaps she might care for me now—because of that?”

Fanny nodded.

“Good Heavens!” He drew a deep breath. “That—that would make it impossible. I couldn’t do that!”

“I don’t see why,” she said blankly.

He caught the amazement in her eyes, and was silent, but his face blanched, and his evident emotion was so unaccountable that it startled and puzzled her. She rose from her seat and went to the window, averting her face.

“It’s natural, isn’t it? I don’t think you should feel so dreadfully about it.”

But Faunce still seemed unable to master himself.

“I can’t help it. I—I——” he stammered again, relapsing into silence as he began to walk to and fro.

Fanny did not turn her head, but continued to look out of the window with unseeing eyes, which did not even recognize the boys who were playing football on the campus, not fifty yards away. She was aware of their plunging, dodging figures, of[52] a blur of multicolored sweaters and brown corduroys; but she was not thinking of them, and even their shouts came to dull ears.

Before her the long driveway to the gate was arched with naked elms, and even the hedgerows began to take on the somber hues of early winter. Far in the west a heavy cloud had broken, the widening rift showing a space of translucent light that shot out oblique shafts of glory, like a shower of golden arrows darting through the leaden sky. A sudden gust of wind sent the brown leaves scampering wildly across the lawn, and swept them at last into a frantic dance below the window.

Fanny’s mind remained absorbed in the exhibition of emotion that she had just witnessed. Her heart swelled with grief and mortification as she realized how little she mattered to Arthur Faunce, how useless it was for her to try to console him, when he cared only for Diane.

“I can’t tell you,” he managed to say at length, “how I feel about that terrific end to the expedition.” He threw out his arms with an almost frantic gesture. “I’d give not only my life, but the hope of her love, to bring him back!”

Fanny turned from the window with a strange look on her face.

“Hush!” she said in a low voice. “Here she is—here’s Diane.”

She gave him time to recover his composure;[53] then, going swiftly into the hall, she opened the door for her visitor.

“Papa has been out all day, and I was lonely,” Diane explained. “I thought I’d come in for a cup of your tea, Fanny.”

The two girls kissed each other, and Fanny whispered:

“Arthur Faunce is here.”

She thought Diane colored, but she was not sure. A moment later they entered the room together. Faunce was standing by the fire with his back to the door, but he turned as they came in. Fanny saw that he had entirely mastered his emotion, and his handsome face lit up with a ready smile as Diane greeted him.

“I was sorry to miss you this morning,” she said gravely; “but papa gave me the package. I—well, I haven’t tried to read it yet. I couldn’t!”

He gave her an eloquent look.

“I wanted you to read it first.”

She bent her head in graceful acknowledgment, and moved slowly across to the fire, drawing off her long, soft gloves. She was thin, but the long lines of her slight figure had the slender grace and delicate suppleness of the Reynolds portrait that haunted his memory. Her head, small and spirited and covered with a shadowy mass of soft, brown hair, was set on a slender, white throat which carried it proudly, with an air of[54] stateliness and pride that became her, even in the simple, dark dress she wore.

Faunce followed her with a glance that neglected Fanny as she bent over her little table again. Even Diane seemed for the moment to forget the younger girl. Her clear eyes turned on Faunce, and she made an evident effort to speak with ease.

“You kept his diary, too?”

He assented.

“A part of it. He gave it to me when we left the ship. The rest was lost with him.”

Diane turned sharply away, averting her face as she pretended to look into the fire.

“It’s wonderful that you—preserved so much! As soon as I can, I’ll read it.”

“Yours is the first copy—the author’s; the publishers sent it to me last night, and I took it over as soon as possible.”

She thanked him simply. Then, looking up, she saw Fanny’s flushed face as she bent over her table. Diane sat down beside her.

“Mr. Faunce brought me a copy of his diary,” she explained, “and I—can’t read it yet!”

The other girl put out her hand involuntarily, and Diane clasped it under the table. They looked at each other, and Fanny saw that Diane’s eyes were full of tears. She withdrew her fingers and turned to Faunce with a gay little smile.

“I wonder if you’ll drink that cup of tea now?”[55] she said lightly. “I’ve made another hot one. There are three cold ones standing around in different localities—one on the mantel, one on the cabinet, and the third somewhere beside the fender—I saw you put it there. Mr. Faunce is devoted to tea, Diane!”

They all laughed. Fanny bravely opened her little tea-caddy and began to measure out a fresh supply. She had a feeling that, having reached the last ditch, she was prepared to defend it with the courage of despair.



It was toward the end of the following month, when the winter had set in, that Judge Herford was seized with one of his bad attacks of lumbago.

Dr. Gerry, summoned by Diane, found his patient in the library. The judge’s figure, which had the habit of appearing so massive when seated, still retained its large dignity of pose, for the deep cushions of his chair concealed the humiliating twist which the disease had not failed to inflict on its victim’s aristocratic muscles; but his temper, never of an amiable turn, had gained nothing under the visitation. He did not hesitate to scowl openly as his old friend appeared carrying, as usual, the small black bag with which the rural practitioner arms himself for the worst emergencies.

“No pills for me!” he growled. “I’ve got a hot-water bag and a plaster—enough for any poor devil. I suppose Diane sent for you!”

“Diane has more sense than you have,” replied the doctor, taking off his greatcoat with the utmost composure.

“What are you staying for?” demanded the[57] judge savagely. “I tell you I won’t be pilled for a muscular twist!”

“Put out your tongue, Hadley,” responded his visitor, mounting his spectacles. “The color of it is more important just now than the way it wags.”

In spite of himself the judge laughed in a sour way. Then a twinge overtook him, and he swore under his breath.

“If you could cure this infernal disease, I’d give you ten thousand dollars!”

“Keep it for Diane. She’ll need the money about the time you kill yourself with hard work.”

The judge eyed him.

“Trying to intimidate me into taking your drugs, eh?”

“That’s my business,” replied the doctor, drawing his chair to the fire and looking over his open case for an appropriate dose.

The other man lay back in his cushioned chair, free for a moment of the teasing ache, and regarded Gerry in silence. His appearance of great strength, the florid flush on his skin, and his iron-gray hair, defied both age and weakness; but the doctor’s words had set him thinking, and he strummed on his chair-arms with angry fingers. A bright fire was burning on the hearth, and the flames made fitful shadows in the small, comfortable, book-lined room—a room that had an intimate air of having associated long with a man[58] of affairs, and of having acquired, even in its old, dilapidated bindings and its well-worn rug, the full measure of dignity and reserve which befitted a judge.

“I’ve got a great deal to do before I’m ready to go,” he remarked at length, in his deep voice. “They’ve mussed up the political situation in this State. If I died or resigned, they’d put in that fool, Henry Runes, as judge!”

Gerry selected a glass bottle, and, opening it deliberately, shook some pink pills into an envelope.

“Henry Runes? Isn’t he a cousin of Overton’s?” the doctor asked.

“Is there any one who isn’t a cousin of Overton’s, since he got famous?” snapped the judge.

“Has he got famous? I thought he had only died. It’s Faunce who’s famous.”

“That’s the way of the world. A man’s got to be very much alive nowadays to be famous overnight.”

“I hear that you have undertaken to be his political sponsor. They say he’s nursing a boom for Congress.”

“He’d better do that than go to his death like Overton, hadn’t he?”

“I don’t think I’ve ever confused him with Overton. He isn’t of the same mental caliber. What’s the idea, Hadley?”

[59]The judge twisted in his chair with a wry face.

“If he doesn’t take up a career here, they’ll put him in command of the new expedition. He’s booked for it, I believe. I’d rather have him settle down and go into politics here. There’s good stuff in him, and he’s got what the newspapers call personal magnetism.”

“He’s got a good many things besides that!” retorted the doctor dryly, adjusting his glasses as he started to write directions on three sets of envelopes. “You seem to take his affairs to heart. Got any special interest in the boy, Hadley?”

Herford was silent for a moment. In his large and more judicial aspect he seemed to be weighing an important question, and his eyes dwelt moodily on the fire. The doctor, without apparently observing him, finished his hieroglyphics, put back his little glass bottles, and closed his case with a snap. As he did it, he heard the judge’s voice in an unwonted key.

“The truth is he’s taken me into his confidence—not a word of this to Diane, Sam—and I know he wants to marry my daughter. I’ll admit that at first it was rather a shock. I’m selfish enough to want to keep her; but gradually I’ve reconciled my mind. I suppose it’s inevitable. Besides, if anything happened to me, she’d be alone, and—well, I haven’t any objection. I’ve been considering,[60] instead, some way to keep him out of that infernal south pole business.”

“Does Diane know?”

“That he’s in love with her? I suppose she does; girls do, as a rule, I think. But he hasn’t spoken to her yet—I know that—and I’ve held my tongue about it. He made me promise.”

The doctor whistled softly. His patient turned a suspicious eye on him.

“What’s your objection?” the judge asked.

“Why don’t you ask Diane if she has any? She’s the important person.”

“I think she likes him.”

The doctor laughed dryly.

“Take it from me that she has a mind of her own!”

The judge threw back his head haughtily.

“I’m not trying to push her.”

“Better not! She won’t stand for it. How did Faunce come to tell you?” The doctor’s large mouth crinkled at the corners. “Did he ask your consent?”

“Not quite. That’s not the fashion these days, is it? It was an accident. I found out a good deal, and he admitted it handsomely. Upon my word, I never liked a young man better than I did Faunce just then. I’ve never thought any man quite good enough for Di, but he’s won me over. I sha’n’t oppose it—if she wants him.”

“Hope she doesn’t!”


The doctor rose and pulled himself into his greatcoat.

“He isn’t fit to tie her shoe!”

“You’re prejudiced. You didn’t like his father.”

Gerry grinned.

“I remember you did like his mother!”

“Lily Blake?” The judge smiled reminiscently. “We were young sweethearts, but she threw me over to marry Henry Faunce.”

“Just so! Now you follow my advice and throw her son over. Diane can do better than that.”

The judge, taken with another twinge of lumbago, growled.

“It’s up to her; but I like Faunce.”

The doctor’s response was an inarticulate grunt. Then he pushed his medicine envelopes into a little row on the library table.

“I’ll send Diane in to dose you,” he remarked, moving toward the door.

“You can’t. She’s gone out with Faunce.”

The two old men looked at each other. Then they both laughed, the doctor without merriment.

“Hadley, if you weren’t a judge, I’d say you were——”

“An old fool!” concluded the judge grimly.

The doctor nodded and went out, shutting the door rather sharply behind him. On the front[62] steps he encountered Diane and Faunce, just returned from a long walk. It was a cold day, and the wind had brought a brightness into Diane’s face. Her eyes sparkled with something of the latent fire of her father’s, and her cheeks were aglow. Faunce, on the other hand, looked like a ghost of himself.

“How’s father?” Diane questioned as she came up.

“Cross as two sticks,” replied the doctor, and gave her some directions about his patient.

Her face sobered.

“You don’t think he’s really ill?”

The doctor shook his head grimly.

“I’d like to make him sick enough to keep still for six weeks. He’s overworked, Di, and the machinery needs oiling up.”

“I can’t make him mind,” she objected. “I wanted to take him to Florida for three months.”

“We may get him there yet. Don’t worry! Hello, Faunce; coming my way?”

Faunce shook his head smilingly.

“I’m going to see the judge,” he said.

For a moment Dr. Gerry stood staring at him. The young man winced.

“You won’t find the judge in a good humor,” the doctor warned him. “You’d better come along with me and test my cigars. Di’s got her hands full taking care of her father.”

Faunce turned involuntarily and looked at[63] Diane, who stood in the vestibule, listening, and smiling in an absent way, her eyes on the gloves that she was slowly unfastening. As Faunce turned, however, she looked up, and her face softened and glowed with a new and delicate embarrassment. She had never looked more charming, more desirable in his eyes, than at that moment. Dr. Gerry, following his glance, caught the look on her face, too, and his hand tightened its grip on his little black bag.

“I think I’ll stay for a while and risk the judge’s lumbago,” Faunce said without turning his head.

Gerry went slowly down the steps. At the foot he turned and looked at Faunce again.

“You’re risking a good deal more than that,” he observed dryly; and with this enigmatical remark he plodded steadily down to the gate without once glancing over his shoulder.

Diane laughed.

“The doctor’s so full of crotchets! I suppose he and papa have been quarreling again. They always do.”

Faunce, to whom Dr. Gerry’s look had conveyed a very different meaning, made no immediate reply. Instead, he followed Diane into the drawing-room, and waited there while she went to carry out the doctor’s instructions and administer a dose of medicine to the querulous patient.

Faunce moved over to the long French window[64] and stood looking out, aware of the judge’s voice in the distance, before Diane shut the door between. In a long vista between the hedgerows he saw the doctor’s sturdy figure trudging toward the automobile that he had left at the end of the lane.

He recalled the night, now nearly two months ago, when they had walked home together, and he had admitted his insomnia. Since then he had more or less avoided the older man. Gerry had been so quick to divine his use of drugs that he dreaded a more searching scrutiny, which might fathom yet another recess of his inner mind, or surprise some secret that he was still determined to hide.

Yet, as he stood there alone in the warm and fragrant room—a room that seemed to express so much of Diane’s rich personality, her refinement and taste and spirit—he recalled Dr. Gerry’s words:

“You’ve got something on your mind, and you won’t be any better, you won’t sleep any sounder, until you get it off.”

A sudden impulse gripped him, a potent longing to rush out of the house, bareheaded as he was, and, pursuing the older man down the lane, to pour out the misery that was destroying his soul. It seemed to him that the relief would be more than commensurate with the humiliation; that the very sound of his own voice unfolding his terrible[65] story would break the dread spell, release his spirit from thraldom, and expel the specter that haunted his brain.

The impulse had come to him before, but never with such compelling force as now—perhaps because there had never been so much reason for him to pause, to halt on the road he was following, before it was too late.



But even while the feeling—keen in itself, and searching—was passing through his mind, Arthur Faunce knew that he would not yield to it—not now. He could not, for he was moved by a greater and more compelling force—his passion for Diane Herford. Between that and his peace of mind, or something which he thought might help restore his peace of mind, he felt himself unable to choose.

It was this lack of moral stamina that had always been his trouble. He could not resist an impulse to secure his own happiness or his own life. He had nothing of the Spartan in him; he would have dropped the fox and denied all previous knowledge of it, rather than risk his vitals. He could not now jeopardize his chance with Diane for the mere sake of a confession which, however it might ease his mind, could not fail to raise the moral obstacle of Gerry’s opinion.

Faunce dismissed the thought. He resolved, as he had resolved a hundred times before, to keep his own counsel, to show himself “the captain of his soul.” If he was not strong enough to drive the miserable fantoms from his own mind, no[67] other man could expel them. It remained for him to live them down.

His eyes traveled over the winter landscape, the brown fields and hedgerows, the occasional roof of some neighboring house. Beyond the slope of the hill, where the land dipped suddenly, he saw a long strip of the Sound, its tranquil surface shimmering like burnished copper in the sunshine. The sight of it recalled the ship that was soon to sail on another expedition, and the choice that fate and circumstance were forcing on him.

He must return to those frozen fields, must face again the awful thing that held his soul in its grip, or he must renounce that part of his new fame that rested on his explorations, and, following Judge Herford’s lead, must plunge into the field of politics. He had thought the choice assured—home and easy preferment, the presence of Diane and the approval of her father; but of late, loving her as he did, he was still curiously aware of a mysterious power that had laid hold of him. He felt the lure of those frozen depths, the gray sky, the blue peaks of giant ice—and the soul of Overton! It was like an obsession, it drew him; but he would not go—he was resolved he would not go, if Diane——

At the thought he heard her coming through the hall. The soft rustle of her dress startled him away from the window. He turned and stood facing her as she came into the room.

[68]She had taken off her hat, and her soft hair, a little disordered by the wind, fell low over her small ears. There was still a delicate flush, a softness, about her face that made it at once more youthful and more charming.

“Papa is feeling better,” she announced as she went over to the fire, “and I’ve ordered tea. Won’t you stay and drink a cup with me?”

He did not reply, and she turned her head, looking over her shoulder at his tall figure outlined against the dark portière behind him. Something in his face arrested the words on her lips. She stood holding her hands out toward the blaze and looking back, the soft glow of the fire touching the fine oval of her cheek and the white curve of her full throat.

“Diane,” Faunce said in a low voice, urged on by an overmastering emotion which he tried in vain to control, “I love you! You know it. Is it fair to keep me waiting so long for an answer?”

She turned her head quickly, hiding her face from him. Deep and contending emotions swept over her; yet she was more tranquil than he was. She had realized long ago that her sorrow drew her nearer to the man who had been Overton’s comrade, who shared with her a deep and reverent tenderness for his memory. If any one had a right to her confidence, her friendship, her love, surely it was the man who had almost given his life to be with Overton to the end. But she said[69] nothing for a moment, and then she heard his voice again.

“Diane, they want me to go back to the antarctic, and lately I’ve felt the deepest, the most unaccountable impulse to go; but there’s one thing that holds me, that would make me give anything up—I mean the hope of your caring enough to want me to stay!”

She turned slowly toward him.

“Would you think that it meant something quite different if I said that I wanted you to go? That I felt that the work should be finished, the victory won?”

He hesitated; his face blanched.

“You want me to go? You don’t care enough to want me to stay here—where you are?”

“I didn’t say that. I want you to go because there’s a great work to finish, because it seems to me like rounding out your career, winning the greatest victory. I—I don’t want to help a man falter by the way or step back. I know he would never have faltered—I mean Overton.”

He looked at her blankly.

“No, he would never have faltered, but—you know, I’ve told you, Diane—I’m not as great as he was. I suppose that’s the reason—the reason you can’t feel as I do, you can’t accept all that I have to give—my love for you?”

“I want to tell you the truth,” she replied, looking up at him with clear eyes. “You know how[70] I’ve felt about Overton. I cared for him so much that it seemed to me I could never feel anything like that for any one else, but lately——”

“Yes?” he cried eagerly, bending toward her, his eyes searching her face.

“Lately I’ve begun to feel that I—I did care for you!”



It was late that evening before Faunce left the house. As the door finally closed behind him, a biting wind drove the first flakes of a snow-storm into his face. The touch of it, the sting of ice on his flushed cheek, roused him.

He had been, for a while, like a man in a trance, who sees through the golden mist the beautiful shapes of an Elysian vision, and hears the heavenly music of the spheres, while he lies there powerless alike to grasp the full joy of his translation or to confess his own unworthiness to bask in its heavenly sunshine. Only a moment before he had held Diane in his arms, the soft touch of her cheek was still warm on his, the fragrance of her shadowy hair lay still upon his shoulder; yet he felt the intensity of his moral solitude, the depth of the gulf that yawned between her warm faith in him and his hidden shame.

His love for her, his firm determination to wrest happiness from the depths of his misery—the primal instincts of a nature that could not resist temptation—had driven him on. He had won her; however reluctant, however spiritually blinded she had been to his moral attributes, she[72] had promised to be his wife. But his triumph was short-lived, for he knew already that his joy was like a beautiful, shimmering bubble, dancing before the wind. In an instant it would break, and his outstretched hand would grasp only the empty air.

A moment before he had been so happy, so passionately confident that his soul had at last risen above its dishonor. With the assurance of Diane’s love, he could shake off the shackles of fear and rise to such heights of courage, to such magnificent security, that not even the clutching hands of the Furies who had pursued him day and night could drag him down.

A moment ago—how different it had been! He thought of the warm old room with its mellowed air of age and comfort, the dark rug on the floor, the fire sparkling on the hearth, the somber but beautiful hangings, the few fine pictures—a Gainsborough that an ancestral Herford had brought from England as a family treasure, a small Greuze head, and a simple but lovely landscape by an American painter, who had loved the shaded dell and the dashing waterfall. He could see again the table with the lamp, the carved armchairs, and the figure of Diane in a pale house-gown that she had worn at dinner, its simple folds revealing the long, dryadlike lines of her slender form and the buoyant grace of her easy pose as she stood there, beside her own hearthstone, talking to him.

[73]The kindled loveliness of her eyes haunted him still. He had held her soft hands in his, and had felt the tremulous touch of her lips, believing himself one with the immortal lovers of old; but now the door had closed on him, and the night, wild and wintry and touched with snow, had engulfed him. He shuddered awake from his dream of bliss, and saw himself as a lost soul at the gate of paradise.

That was his fate. Happiness might be within his grasp, but it would elude him and mock him. He might attain, but he could never possess. A power greater than life itself had laid hold upon him, an invisible force was crushing him down, and his soul, like the proverbial candle in the wind, only leaped and flickered at the mercy of the gale.

A driving snow-storm swept across the open country, and the trees creaked and swayed in the tempest; but he walked on. The very tumult of it seemed to submerge the still more cruel tumult in his soul, and he breasted the rising storm with something akin to joy that there was endurance enough left in him to face it. For the time the need of physical exertion relieved his mental tension.

Leaving the highroad and climbing to the summit of a little hill, he stood looking down upon the distant city, shrouded in fog and cloaked in blinding snow, until its lights seemed to blend into[74] gigantic arches and semicircles, like broken rainbows in a bank of vapor. It was a familiar spectacle; he had seen it often before, but never in an aspect quite like this.

The strange effect of the lights in the sky, together with the snowflakes that were driving into his face and whitening his arms and shoulders, recalled the frozen wastes of the polar ice-fields, the curtain of deathlike fog that hung over those bleak solitudes. He remembered Diane’s words, her faith in his high endeavor, her hope that he would complete his task and win, at last, a certain claim to the glory that was now but the fallen mantle of a greater man.

He must go back! He recalled the impulse that had been so overwhelming, the keen desire to return. It had seemed to him sometimes as if unseen hands had grasped him and were drawing him back to those haunted seas. Diane had voiced his feeling; she, too, had urged him to go.

But now, alone in the night, he fell into one of his bitter moments of revulsion. The whole thing filled him with horror. It was strange, he told himself, that she should so insist upon it. It was unlike a woman to bid her lover go into such perils. He began to believe that she did not love him—it was Overton still who stood between! Jealousy laid hold of him and rent him.

A prey to contending feelings, he turned and fought again with the gale, plunging on into the[75] drifting snow. She had told him that she loved Overton. He was second in her heart, second in the great expedition, second in the very honors he had won!

Yet—a shudder ran through him—what right had he to be jealous of Overton? What right had he, indeed, to any honor, or to high repute, or to Diane’s love? An hour before he had lifted the cup of life to his lips and tasted joy; now he was draining the bitter dregs in a spiritual agony that laid bare his own soul.

He saw his course, as he had followed it in the long year that was drawing now to its close; and it was plain to him why the thought of it had haunted him night after night, even when he had tried to shut it out, until insomnia had driven him to the verge of madness. Like Orestes, he had been pursued by the Furies; but no tribunal of the gods would release him from their clutches. He could never sleep again without the deadly poison of some narcotic stealing into his veins.

He had walked blindly, without following the road, and he was almost out of his reckoning when, through the white folds of the storm, he saw the outlines of the Gerry house set low and solid amid its clustering cedars. A light burned in two windows in the rear, showing that Dr. Gerry was still up, keeping his usual vigil in his study. The fact that the rest of the house was dark suggested[76] that the household slept, and that the doctor was alone.

Faunce paused in his struggle with the wind and stood staring at the light. Again he was swept with an unaccountable impulse to cry aloud for help, to strip the veil from his soul, after the manner of those desperate ones who snatch at the wild hope that some other mortal may be able to apply a panacea that shall stay the devouring agony, heal the secret wound, before the sufferer bleeds to death.

As he stood there, uncertain, torn by his fears and his doubts, voices seemed to speak to him in the fury of the elements. As the storm beat upon him, he felt an unseen presence pressing against his garments. The Furies again pursued him!

He had reached the limit of his endurance. He pressed his hands over his eyes; and then, as he looked up, he saw a white world and a leaden sky. The horrible illusion was complete; his fate had overtaken him again, and he could not resist it. Trembling from head to foot, stricken with an overwhelming horror and dismay, he turned and made his way through the drifted snow to the old house, climbed the short flight of front steps, and knocked at the office door.

The doctor himself appeared in answer to the summons.

“Is that you, Faunce?” he asked, holding open the door. “I expected you—come in.”

[77]But the words fell on deaf ears. Faunce did not apparently heed them as he entered, still dazed by the long struggle with the storm, and his tall figure whitened with snow. He suffered himself to be stripped of his greatcoat and ordered to a seat by the fire.

The warmth of the room, the glow of the lamplight, the familiar aspect of the place, lined as it was with the doctor’s books and medicine cabinets, the slight aromatic odor of drugs that pervaded it, awoke him from his stupor. He leaned forward, and, stretching his hands out to the blaze, stared steadily into it.

The doctor, who had been watching him from the first, poured some cognac into a glass and brought it.

“You’d better drink that,” he advised gruffly. “Been trying to kill yourself?”

Faunce took the glass, drained it, and set it down on the table.

“No,” he replied in a low voice. “I don’t want to die. There’s nothing I dread more than death. I’ve always had a kind of physical abhorrence of it.”

His host quietly resumed his own seat on the opposite side of the fire.

“Most strong young men have a horror of it,” he remarked dryly, “as well as some old ones.”

Faunce looked up at him with a dazed face.

[78]“Have you ever been afraid—mortally afraid to die?” he asked hoarsely.

Gerry shook his head.

“I never had time.”

“Then you can’t understand!”

The exclamation was almost a cry. It seemed to be wrung from some agonized inner consciousness that had escaped his control, for Faunce leaned back in his chair, gripping the arms with his strong, nervous hands, and a slow, deep flush mounted over his pale face.

The doctor refilled his old pipe and lit it with elaborate preoccupation.

“Was that what ailed you down there at the pole?” he asked between whiffs.

Faunce, fully roused, started.

“How do you know that anything ailed me? Why have you hung on to that idea?”

“Because I’ve seen—for one thing—that you’ve got something on your mind. I told you so before.”

“And your theory is that—if I get it off—I’ll get rest?”

The doctor nodded.

Faunce rose from his chair and began to walk the floor, his arms hanging at his sides, his head bent. As he walked, he clenched and unclenched his fingers. Dr. Gerry followed the younger man with his eyes, but continued to pull away at his pipe, the intimate of his solitude. He noticed,[79] too, in his cool, observing way, that the cat avoided his nervous visitor, rising from his path with elevated back and moving to a place of security beside the hearth.

The doctor bent down and threw a log upon the fire. The sound of its fresh crackling brought Faunce back.

“By Jove, you’re right!” he said harshly. “I have got something on my mind!”

The doctor smiled grimly. Faunce dropped into his seat and, leaning forward, laid his hand on the older man’s knee.

“Do you know that this afternoon, after I saw you go, I asked Diane Herford to marry me?”

Gerry took his pipe out of his mouth and laid it down.

“You had no business to do it!” he retorted sharply. “You’re a dope-fiend already; what right have you to ask any woman to trust a man who can’t sleep without chloral?”

“Chloral?” Faunce swept that aside with a gesture of contempt. “That’s nothing—compared with the rest!”

The doctor eyed him, looking at him from under heavy brows. He saw the mounting passion in the other man’s mood, and waited. After a moment Faunce went on.

“I’ve been in hell for the last few hours! I’ve lived in it for months, or I thought I had; but the last of it has been too much! But I won’t give[80] her up—I wouldn’t give her up if Overton came back from the dead!”

He stopped and sat staring in front of him, his face distorted with emotion. The doctor, watching his visitor narrowly, nodded his head.

“Ah!” he commented slowly. “It’s Overton, then, who’s on your mind?”

Faunce turned and met Gerry’s eyes.

“Yes, it’s Overton!” he flung back. “You’ve read my book and his journal—you’ve read the story of the expedition?”

“I’ve read all that you let us read. I got an impression that you’d cut out a good deal.”

“Yes; I cut out a good deal. Do you remember the description of the loss of the ship? We had to take to the ice-fields, then, with the men and the dogs. You know the rest. The progress we made, our comparative success, and the shelter for the men—the cache that saved us? Then you remember that Overton, Rayburn, and I set out with one sled and some provisions to make a dash for the pole? How the storm overtook us, Rayburn and Overton died from exposure, and I was barely saved?”

The doctor nodded in an absent way, taking up his pipe, which he had let go out, and emptying it, without again looking in the direction of his guest. In a subconscious way, however, he was recalling Faunce as he stood on the steps with Diane, young, handsome, flushed with hope.

[81]“It’s all of it true, yet there’s more behind—more that I couldn’t tell. I never meant to tell it at all, but there’s something, some power inside of us, or above us, that drags things out. I don’t know what fiend it is, but it has pursued me night and day!”

“Some of us call it conscience,” remarked the doctor dryly.

“Call it by any name you choose, it has mastered me, broken me on the wheel!” Faunce paused again; then he collected his thoughts, and went on in a voice so level and cold that it seemed impossible that he was telling a story of his own life. “It’s true that we set out together, and it’s true that Rayburn died of exposure. By that time the storm had cut us off, and we were lost in that cruel wilderness of ice. We buried Rayburn in a drift, Overton repeating what he could remember of the burial service, the storm beating on us and the dogs howling against our feet. Then we pushed on. To stop was death, and we thought we could find the others. They were in the dugout, and had food enough; but we had been delayed by Rayburn, for Overton wouldn’t leave him until he was buried in the snow, and the blizzard had increased. In the midst of it Overton broke his ankle. We had only one sled, so I put him on it, and we pushed on. The food was gone—he had given the last of it to the dogs.

“About this time he began to get like Rayburn—out[82] of his head. I suppose his leg pained him, and he was exhausted. The wind kept howling over the ice, and the cold had frozen straight through my clothing. It seemed to be in my bones, it numbed my very soul. I had no feeling except the desire to live, to escape! But I felt that I was going—going the way Rayburn had gone, the way Overton was surely going. I could feel a kind of madness creeping into my blood. I began to be afraid of death. There was nothing there but blinding ice and snow and the screech of the wind. It sounded as if the Furies were let loose. Once I thought I saw figures in the distance, that help was near; but it was the mirage, and I fancied I was going crazy. I saw, too, that Overton was failing fast. It came over me then that I should die, too, like that! We had to stop to rest the dogs, and I gave him the last pull out of my flask; but he lay in a stupor in the snow. The dogs began to howl. I was born in the country, and I’ve heard it said, when I was a boy, that a dog’s howl meant death. It made me furious, and I remember that I struck at the poor brutes. The cold was fiendish. I could scarcely breathe the freezing air. Overton became unconscious, and didn’t answer me.”

For a moment Faunce stopped, breathing hard.

“I was seized with a sickening fear,” he went on. “I shook—not with cold, but with terror. I tried to lift him on the sled again, but I was no[83] longer strong enough, and it terrified me still more to find that my strength was failing. He was as helpless as a log of wood, and I heard the howl of the rising gale. If I stayed there, in twelve hours, in less than twelve hours, I should be like him, or worse! I couldn’t face it; it wasn’t human to face it!”

Faunce stopped again, and then went on in a monotonous voice:

“I didn’t look at him again. I got on the sled and made the dogs drag me away. I had to whip them; they didn’t want to leave him. We went a long way before we struck the trail, and as we did so another storm, worse than the first, broke; but the dugout was in sight, the men saw us, and I was saved.”

“And you left Overton out there—alone—in that waste—alive?”




There was a terrible pause. For a moment a breathless silence seemed to prevail, both outside the house and inside. Then they heard the wind leap up and come howling back, rattling the windows. Faunce began to talk again with a dry throat:

“He was dying. If I had stayed, I should have died, too. I tell you I couldn’t stand it! A mortal terror had seized me, and I simply couldn’t stand up against it. I had to go!”

The doctor leaned forward in his chair, his eyes fixed on his visitor, but he did not interrupt. He was, in fact, at the moment too much astonished to speak.

“I asked you, a while ago, if you had ever been afraid of death,” Faunce went on. “It wasn’t a fair question. You couldn’t answer it, because you’ve never faced a death like that. I had never been a coward before, but it seized me then—fear, naked, hideous fear! It ground me and tore me. I tell you I couldn’t resist it. I—I had to go!” he repeated again.

“You left him; you got to the cache,” Dr. Gerry managed to say at last; “and then you and[85] the men returned—you must have returned—to find his body!”

“Yes, I went back—oh, God!” Faunce shrank with a gesture of horror. “Why do you ask me? Of course, we went back as soon as we could. But what did we find? Drifted snow-banks, ice—ice—ice! There was no trace of the body—he lay deep down in that awful waste!”

The doctor had pulled himself still farther forward in his chair, peering at the younger man curiously.

“Do you think you found the place?”

Faunce swept the thing from him with a gesture that expressed almost physical pain.

“I—I’ve sometimes feared we didn’t, that I had forgotten. There couldn’t be any track, you know; but—he was dead!” He paused again, still breathing hard. Then he turned a haggard look on his auditor. “You’re a doctor; you can help me; you can tell me the truth,” he pleaded in an altered voice. “Answer me—does it take long to freeze to death?”

“Not long—in such a case.”

“He wasn’t conscious—I know he wasn’t conscious; he didn’t know when I went!” Faunce protested, as if the fact of Overton’s numbness to his desertion established an excuse. “When that terrible storm broke, there wasn’t a hope of saving him. We barely saved ourselves. I told the[86] others to come with me to find the body. We found no trace!”

Faunce’s voice broke at last, and he hid his face in his hands. Without comment, the doctor leaned back in his chair again and gazed at him.

There was another pause, and then Gerry rose hastily and left the room, apparently on some urgent errand. When he returned, after an interval of several minutes, he brought a large, flat book with him. He found his visitor as he had expected, still sitting before the fire. Faunce had picked up the poker, and was idly adjusting a fallen log, as if he had at least partially recovered from his emotion; but the vacant expression in his eyes betrayed his total self-absorption. The doctor came to a chair opposite, and, opening the book he had brought, pointed to a rough map or diagram showing the progress of the Overton expedition.

“Now, tell me where you left him.”

Dropping the poker, Faunce leaned over and put his finger on the page.

“About there, as near as I can tell you.”

“Beyond hope of rescue?”


The doctor closed the book.

“You knew he loved Diane Herford?”

“I had supposed so; he never told me.”

“Well, he did; and it’s fair to assume that she cared for him. He was the kind of a man a woman[87] would care for. But you left him there and came back to ask her to marry you?”

Faunce flushed, and then broke out resentfully:

“I love her!”

The old man leaned back in his chair with a strange grimace, as if a nauseous draft had been offered to him and he had refused to taste it. Faunce, turning at the moment, saw the doctor’s expression, and it kindled his anger again.

“I told you that I love her, that I wouldn’t give her up if Overton came back from the dead!”

“You knew he couldn’t come back,” retorted the doctor. “You saw to that!”

Faunce stared at him in blank dismay.

“My God, do you think I killed him? Do you imagine that?”

“There are some fine shades, then, between abandoning him to die and actually killing him?”

“I’m not a murderer!”

Dr. Gerry laughed bitterly.

“I may be a coward,” Faunce pursued with rising passion, “but I’m no murderer! I swear to you, on my soul, that I never thought of Diane there. I never thought of anything but flight. It was a kind of madness. If it had been my brother, I should have had to do the same thing. I was mad, mad with fear!”

The doctor uttered an inarticulate sound, stooped, and, seizing the tongs, picked up a smoking log that had rolled out to the fender and[88] pitched it back into the fire. The physical action seemed to relieve the tension of his feelings. He settled back in his chair and waited for Faunce to go on with his confession.

Dr. Gerry’s view of the tragedy seemed to have destroyed some remaining stronghold in the younger man’s mind. Faunce kept reiterating his protest in one form or another.

“Listen—I’m not a murderer! If I had killed him, I never should have returned here.”

“Oh, yes, you would! Ninety-nine men out of a hundred return to the scene of their crimes.”

“But I tell you I didn’t hurt a hair of his head! It was a choice between his life and mine, and I left him. It might not even have been a choice, for we should both have perished. If I had stayed, I should have died with him. It would have been heroic—but I didn’t. How many men would?”

“Did he leave Rayburn?”

Faunce reddened.

“No. He had a kind of bull-headed obstinacy—he would stay.”

“Ah! You tried to dissuade him?”

“I told him that we were risking all three lives, instead of one, by staying.”

“But he stayed?”

“He offered to stay alone. I stayed with him.”

“Had you the means to leave him? How about the dog-train?”

“We were short—one of the dogs had died;[89] but the madness hadn’t seized me then. I helped him to the last. We were together when we buried Rayburn.”

“I remember you paid a tribute to his friendship when we were talking with Judge Herford. Do you think he would have left you?”

Faunce lifted his head at that, staring off into space with an unseeing look, his hands twitching nervously.

“No!” he said at last, hoarsely. “No, I can’t say so. He was a brave man, and I—is there any way of escaping a seizure like that? I’m ashamed of it. I’ve suffered horribly; but I—I have a horrible feeling that I might do it again, if I had to face it like that. I couldn’t have stood up to a fight. You—did you suspect me when you told that story of the soldier in the Philippines?”

The doctor was sitting with the tips of his fingers nicely fitted together. He seemed, at the moment, to be deeply engaged with them.

“I can’t say I did. I don’t think I had ever imagined just your situation, though I saw that you had something weighing on your mind.”

“It has nearly driven me mad! I can’t tell you why I did it. I obeyed an impulse, a madness. If I hadn’t we should both be down there now. My staying wouldn’t have saved him. You see how it was? You understand?”

“I understand that you obeyed a pretty universal instinct of self-preservation.”

[90]“That was it!” cried Faunce eagerly. “It was an impulse. I wanted to live—God knows I wanted to live! I was willing to fight to live!”

The doctor nodded, silently watching him with a kind of curiosity that suggested a naturalist’s minute interest in a noisome insect.

“I wanted to live,” Faunce repeated. “It didn’t seem to be wrong to want to save myself.”

“Does it seem so now?”

Faunce raised a haggard face.

“It’s no longer a question of right or wrong with me. It’s no longer a question of life or death. I’m haunted!”

Gerry gave him a keen glance.

“I see—it has reached a point that’s worse than staying behind to die?”

Faunce rose and began to walk the floor again. The lamp on the table had nearly burned out, and the corners of the room were gloomy. The odd bits of pottery and an old skull—brought from some ancient excavations—gleamed uncannily in the shadows. The doctor, before the fire, refused to look in his direction now, and Faunce came back at last with a cry of desperation.

“It haunts me!” he repeated with a smothered groan. “I’ve told you in hope that I could exorcise the demon. I had to tell you! When I sleep I dream of it; when I’m awake I can still see it—that frozen waste and—Overton!”

[91]Gerry nodded his head thoughtfully.

“It’s killing me!” Faunce went on. “I can’t sleep naturally. I’ve increased the dose, but I can’t sleep long. Look at my hands now!”

As he held them out, they were shaking like the hands of a palsy patient. Dr. Gerry eyed them; then he looked up keenly into the haggard face and wild eyes.

“And you’ve just asked a young girl to marry you!”

Faunce was silent. The older man’s tone was tinged with a contempt that stung him. He seemed to rally his forces, to pull himself together.

“I was a fool to tell you all this—a fool! It got hold of me—I don’t know what I’m doing when it gets hold of me. I came here to ask for something to make me sleep, and I’ve—I’ve stripped my soul naked!”

He was shaking again. The doctor rose and put his hand on the younger man’s shoulder.

“Go over there and lie down on the lounge. I’ll give you something. If you don’t sleep, you’ll presently go to a madhouse. Lie down!”

Faunce stared, at first unyieldingly; but he was exhausted, and long hours of sleeplessness had wrecked his nerves. He turned without a word and threw himself on the lounge, burying his head in his arms. A smothered sob shook him from head to foot.

The doctor, measuring out a dose and approaching[92] him, touched his shoulder sharply. Faunce groaned.

“My God!” he cried wildly. “Why did I do it? Why did I do it?”

The doctor bent down and held the glass to his lips.

“Drink this!” he commanded sharply.

Faunce looked up with glazed eyes, took the cup, and swallowed the narcotic. For a long while afterward he lay there, tossing restlessly. Once or twice he uttered a hoarse exclamation, of which Gerry took no notice.

The doctor sat by the fire, feeding it and listening. After a while he heard the sound of heavy and measured breathing. The narcotic had done its work—the tortured man slept.

Gerry rose quietly, extinguished the lamp, and pulled aside the curtains. It was morning. The storm had passed, and the earth lay under a white mantle. Every tree and every branch bore its feathery burden of snow. Through an exquisite lacework of sparkling ice he could see the wonder of a magnificent sky, still pink with sunrise.

He turned back and looked at the sleeper on the lounge. Faunce lay with one arm above his head, the other across his breast, an elaborate seal-ring on one of the white fingers. His face was slightly flushed, and the beauty of his regular features and fine head had never been more keenly revealed. He might easily pose as a hero of romance.[93] He had all the outer attributes—physical strength, unusual beauty of features, and grace of manner—and he had won distinction by his service in the antarctic.

The doctor turned with a gesture of bewilderment and started to go up-stairs. As he did so, he heard some one at the door. Concluding that it must be an early patient, or perhaps a more or less urgent call, he went back, and, shutting the door of his study, locked Faunce in. Then he went himself to answer the ring.

On his door-step, muffled in furs, radiant and sparkling, stood Diane Herford. The doctor was guilty of a start of surprise. She saw it and smiled.

“The storm has torn down the wires, and I couldn’t phone,” she explained. “I want you to come over to breakfast. Papa’s not so well.”

He was aware of a feeling that was almost panic. Nothing on earth could be worse than that she should suspect Arthur Faunce’s state at that moment.

“I can’t come over to breakfast, Di,” he replied gruffly, drawing her out of the frosty air into the little entry. “What’s wrong with the judge? He was better yesterday.”

“He got excited and tried to do too much. He’s all bent over, and you know how he hates that. You’ve really got to come!”

She was standing in the hall, almost leaning[94] against the study door, her dark furs enhancing the beauty of her bright skin and the charm of her eyes.

“I’ll come over presently. Put a hot-water bag on his back,” advised the doctor, with a haunting subconsciousness of the man on the lounge.

“Oh, but I want you to come to breakfast!” she argued. “Why can’t you come?”

He pretended to be angry.

“Why can’t I? I’ve been up all night, my girl, and I want my own way this morning?”

She commiserated him.

“I’m so sorry—what a shame! Of course you must rest. Papa isn’t really so ill, only I—I”—she hesitated with a charming smile—“I’ve got something to tell you!”

He turned a searching look on her.


“I’m engaged to be married.”

She paused, waiting for him to guess her fiancé; but he remained obstinately silent.

“To Arthur Faunce,” she told him.

The doctor forced himself to hold out both hands to meet hers.

“You want me to congratulate you?” he demanded bruskly. “I sha’n’t! I’m going to congratulate him, instead. That’s the way to look at it.”

She laughed.

“Papa’s pleased, and I’m so glad that he is![95] But I won’t keep you from your rest now. Come over to lunch, instead of breakfast.”

She moved toward the door, her eyes smiling at him. There was something about her that seemed, to the doctor, not wholly happy. There was a tremulous note in her voice, and her eyes were too bright. They were at the door, and he suddenly laid his fatherly hand on her shoulder.

“Diane, do you love him? Are you following your heart?”

She did not answer immediately. Her gaze dwelt on the wide, snowy landscape before them. Then she looked up, and an exquisite blush softened her face.

“Yes,” she replied slowly, but with an engaging candor. “I couldn’t marry for any reason but that. I—I’m following my heart.”



Diane left Dr. Gerry’s house with a feeling that something had happened there—something apart from the commonplace fact that the overworked physician had been up all night. There had been a hint of it in the doctor’s face as he stood in the doorway watching her departure, his shrewd old eyes peering at her from behind his spectacles, while his close-shut lips seemed to be withholding something.

She wished that he had spoken out, that he had said a little more than the usual things that are said to a newly engaged girl. She did not know that if he could have told her anything, if it had not been part of the code of his profession to keep silence, her very admission of love for Faunce would have made it an impossibility for him to speak. His lips could never have framed the words that must destroy her happiness. To him she was still a child, and he could never have wilfully wounded a child.

The mysterious something in his face, however, had arrested her flow of spirits and checked the joy with which she had set out. As she turned to make her way back in an almost untrodden sheet[97] of snow, the brilliant sparkle of sunshine on the frozen crust dazzled her sight so much that she stopped for a moment and pressed her gloved hands over her eyes to shut it out. Then she walked on rapidly, feeling the crisp cold, and aware that nothing had traveled that road before her but the milk-wagon, which had left deep ruts in the snow.

The atmosphere was translucently brilliant. It sparkled and scintillated, cutting out clear outlines and sharp shadows. Beyond the wide slope of the snow a long, dark line of woodland formed a background against the intense blue of the sky. On either hand the houses, large and old, were set well back from the road, with an independent detachment that gave an impression of stately indifference to the passer-by. But Diane knew that they had never been indifferent to her. She was Judge Herford’s daughter, and she had shown herself more than worthy of certain social traditions that had made her family an important one in the county and the State.

Some members of it, indeed, had achieved international distinction, and it had been rather expected that the beautiful daughter of a distinguished lawyer would make a brilliant marriage. It could scarcely be said that she was doing this in marrying Arthur Faunce; but there was a glamour about the young explorer, a prophecy of still greater achievement, that made him[98] perhaps the most picturesque figure of the day. It was not this notoriety, however, nor even the promise of his success, that had won Diane. It was some subtler, more complex influence that had swayed her mind, while her heart had been touched at first by the very bond that had made him Overton’s comrade and the heir of Overton’s greatness.

As she walked homeward along the frozen road, she was trying to collect her thoughts, to bring herself fairly face to face with this new crisis in her life, to find the real key to that sudden emotion which had swept her into the arms of Faunce.

As she had looked about her in the brilliant morning, on her way to Dr. Gerry’s, she had felt so sure of her love that she could allow herself to dwell on the memory of Overton as something at once beautiful and sacred, but remote. She had told herself that he had never been an actual lover, only a figure that her girlish imagination had clothed in those attributes. He had left her free, and she had a right to suppose that he would not have greatly cared if she married a man who loved her so much that he had told her he could never be happy without her. She knew, of course, that such a declaration was exaggerated; yet she could feel the positiveness of Faunce’s actual devotion, as she had felt the charm of his good looks and his winning ways.

[99]But now, as she slowly and soberly returned, with the chilly memory of Dr. Gerry’s face, she began to question herself a little. She wondered if she had indeed followed her heart so faithfully, or had only yielded to a love that had touched her very deeply at a moment when she felt solitary and bereaved.

Her eyes followed the long, unbroken reaches of snow until they rested on the dark-blue line of the distant water. As she sensed the intense cold and saw the sparkle of ice, her mind went back to the polar wastes, and she found her eyes filling with tears as she thought of the man who had fallen exhausted and alone. The face of Overton, so unlike the face of Faunce, rose before her. The strong, irregular features, the clear, dark-blue eyes under the straight, slightly frowning brows, the decisive mouth and chin—how well she remembered them! Though they lacked Faunce’s classic beauty, they possessed an absolute assurance of strength and repose.

Where the more facile and graceful Faunce would break or yield, Overton had exemplified those granite qualities of soul and body that belong by right to the leaders of men. He would always be that to her, Diane thought pensively as she walked more slowly, prolonging her return journey. He would always be a splendid figure at the horizon of her imagination.

If he had not loved her—and perhaps he had[100] not, after all—she could think of him more openly, sure that Faunce would understand. For Faunce had loved him, too. It was that, she remembered with a thrill of relief; it was that which had drawn them together. She could still hear the touching tone in Arthur’s fine voice when he paid his tribute to Overton that first night at the dinner, which seemed now so long ago.

“The best friend man ever had!”

How it had touched her sore heart then; how it touched her now! How beautifully he had accepted the fact that she had cared for Overton first; how splendidly he had shown himself above the meanness of jealousy of the dead!

She was glad that she had told him. Some girls would have been silent when there had been no actual engagement; but she could not deceive a man who loved her as Arthur Faunce did. When she gave him her heart, she gave him the right to know that she had loved Overton first. Yet did he, could he, really understand how much—how very much—it had mattered to her? In the midst of her walk Diane stopped short.

“What am I doing?” she cried to herself. “What am I doing? I’ve just promised to marry one man, and—and I’m crying out here in broad daylight over another!”

“But you told him, you warned him!” replied an inner voice. “You have a right to go on feeling just the same as you did before.”

[101]“But I’ve no right to marry Faunce if I love another man more!” she cried again, arguing with the unseen ego.

Then, in the rustle of the wind in the bare trees, and the crash of ice falling from their boughs, she seemed to hear an answer—a sublime voice that reassured her. Overton was dead. He was only a dim and glorious presence now. He had entered that sphere where they neither marry nor are given in marriage; how could it matter to him what she did?

She went on, quickening her steps, trying to reassure herself. She recalled Faunce, the warm certainty of his affection, the nearness of his presence. She told herself that she was happy, that she was right, that she had followed her heart.



That assurance remained with her later on, when she and the judge sat down to a slightly belated breakfast. It had so far tranquilized her mood that she could chat with him across the table about Dr. Gerry’s sleepless night and the storm, while she poured out his coffee and put in the requisite amount of sugar and cream with a firm and graceful hand.

“I saw two telegraph-poles down,” she said. “The drifts have completely filled the hollow below Skerry’s Hill.”

The judge looked up sharply from his breakfast.

“Faunce had to cross that bridge. I wonder if he got home all right!”

She was a little startled, and then she smiled reassuringly.

“Why, of course, papa! It was early when he left. It was only snowing a little then; don’t you remember?”

“How did I know?” her father retorted with something like a growl. “This lumbago keeps me doubled up like a jack-in-the-box!”

“It’s too bad! I did hope Dr. Gerry had got[103] the better of it, or had helped you to get the better of it; but I suppose this dreadful weather is sure to retard the case.”

“There isn’t any cure for it. I’ve told Gerry so a dozen times. If it stayed continuously, I should only be fit for a menagerie; but it’s intermittent, thank Heaven! By the way, Di, where’s the newspaper?”

“It hasn’t come; I suppose the trains are stalled. They said something about trouble on the line between here and New York. When I was passing Sidney’s, on my way this morning, I heard the men talking at the door. You had last night’s paper, papa, didn’t you?”

“As if I wanted stale news!” he retorted, going on with his breakfast. “I saw something about the English expedition returning from the antarctic. They must have had some delays, but they’ll crow over the venture, I suppose. They seem to have made good. If only Overton had lived!”

She pushed her plate aside, though she had scarcely tasted her food, and clasped her hands on the edge of the table, suddenly aware that her fingers were not quite steady.

“I didn’t notice the article. What did it say? I’m sure, quite sure, that Arthur did all he could to finish the work, even after—their fearful loss.”

“Very likely he did, my dear; but if these Englishmen got ahead of him—steal a march on him, as it were—he hasn’t won much. Besides, they’ve[104] saved their ship. I saw there would be a great reception for them in London. There’s nothing but disappointment in that polar business. I want Faunce to give it up. I’ll put him in politics here.”

She looked thoughtfully across the table at her father’s gray head, his massive face, and his keen eyes bent on the table, while his strong hands plied his knife and fork. The stooping of his big frame suggested nothing of the weakness of age. His personality, dominant and resourceful, seemed as immovable as rock.

“I’d rather you didn’t, papa,” she said quietly. “I want him to go on—to finish the work he’s begun. He’s put his hand to the plow, as it were, and he mustn’t turn back.”

Herford again looked up sharply.

“That’s a strange sentiment from a girl who’s supposed to be in love! Don’t you know it’s a terrible risk for a man? Have you forgotten Overton so soon?”

She rose from the table and went to the window, standing there, looking out. He could see only the slender grace of her young figure and the slight droop of her brown head.

“I shall never forget him,” she replied without looking at her father. “I remember so well what he was, what he did, what he surely would have become had he lived, that I don’t want Arthur to remain in his shadow, to be so much less[105] than he was. If there’s anything great in a man’s soul, I think it’s wrong to choke it with weeds, and—and——”

“You think the political weed is very suffocating?” her father commented dryly. “As far as that goes, you’re right, my dear; but I’ve managed to keep a little above the worst growth all these years, and it’s possible that Arthur might do some weeding out. Reform is not only a fad—it’s a fact.”

“You’re made for that kind of a life, papa; you can stand like a rock in the midst of the tempest. You have the instinct and the prestige and the great traditions that go to make a man safe in politics; but Arthur has none of these things to give him a raison d’être in your world. I feel sure it would dwarf him and spoil him. I want him to go on, to finish his own work.”

“And if he gets killed on the way, you’ll still have the glory, eh?”

She turned with a shocked face.

“As if I cared for anything more than Arthur’s life!”

The judge strummed on the table with his fingers. His lumbago was rending him to the point of incivility.

“Exactly! But you’re sending him to the pole to die as Overton died, without reaping any reward but—death.”

She listened in silence, her eyes fixed on his[106] angry face, but her mind seemed to be far away. In fact, she was again questioning herself. This recurrent mention of Overton shocked her new sense of security, and seemed like a return of the moment when Dr. Gerry’s question had broken the spell of her joy. After all, was it meant that she should not forget? Must she try out and search her heart yet further?

“I want you to drop this nonsense,” her father went on more composedly. “Faunce will give up the idea if you will let him. I want him here. I may not live long—I’m getting old, Diane, and I want you married and settled.”

“Is that why you’re angry at the thought of the new expedition?”

He nodded.

“I want you to get married soon—before spring, anyway.”

She was startled.

“That would be too hurried, papa! You must give me more time than that.”

“Why do you need time? It’s settled, isn’t it? You’ve followed your own heart, haven’t you?”

There it was again, the same question!

“I want you married,” the judge repeated with some force. “I like Faunce; you like him—very good! I’m opposed to long engagements, and a lot of fuss and feathers. Make it short and plain, my girl.”

[107]Diane looked at her father a little reproachfully.

“I didn’t know you wanted to get rid of me so much, papa!”

“I don’t mean to get rid of you,” he retorted crustily. “I mean to break up these polar follies and to keep Faunce here.”

She smiled faintly, a little flush on her face. Then she glanced out of the window again.

“There’s Fanny Price. I’ll go and let her in. She has tramped over through the snow.”

“Don’t bring her in here, then!” snapped the judge sharply. “My back hurts like the devil. I want to finish my meal in peace.”

Diane reassured him and stepped out of the room, thankful enough to be released. She began to see vaguely, and with some little alarm, that her father had been quietly bending her to his will; that he had purposely thrown Faunce in her way; that he was, in fact, making the match. The thought of it, in this light, was so distasteful that she was glad to go to the door to let in her visitor.

Fanny, muffled in furs and submerged under a big hat, was not as visible to the eyes as usual. She seemed to evade observation by withdrawing into the recesses of fur and felt; but she pounced upon Diane with a swift, birdlike motion, and kissed her.

“I came right over,” she said in a rather high-pitched,[108] nervous tone, “to wish you joy, dear!”

Diane looked amazed.

“How in the world did you know?”

Fanny laughed softly.

“Your father phoned to papa last night—before the wires were down—that you and Mr. Faunce were engaged.”


There was a low note of surprise and dismay in the exclamation, but Diane said no more. She drew Fanny into the sitting-room, where a fire had been kindled on the hearth.

“Mama sent her love,” Fanny went on, trying to appear cordial, “and of course papa must have said something over the phone; but, you know, papa has to think twice before he says just the right thing.”

Diane was trying to remove Fanny’s hat and furs, but the latter resisted.

“Oh, no, I can’t stay, really! I just ran over to—to wish you joy, dear Diane!”

There was a suspicion of a quiver in the girlish voice which, at another time, would not have failed to attract her friend’s attention; but, at the moment, Diane’s mind was occupied with the vexatious thought of her father’s haste. She knew him so well, knew how skilled and subtle he was in his political manipulations, and she experienced a new and unpleasant dread that he had used his skill and subtlety on Arthur.

[109]Was it possible that Arthur’s haste was due to her father? A deep blush mounted to Diane’s hair, transforming and beautifying her face so much that Fanny was startled.

“How beautiful you look, Di! Are you—is it because you’re so happy?”

“I don’t think that’s just what I feel, Fanny. It’s too new to think of like that. It only seems to pervade everything, and to change my point of view. I’m—I’m not used to it yet, and I can’t think why papa was in such a hurry to announce it!”

Fanny hesitated, looking down at the fire so as to keep the brim of her hat between her eyes and Diane’s.

“Well, you know they’re great gossips, papa and your father. I suppose he called up for something else, and then added that. Men are awfully casual about our dearest concerns! Papa’s been asking the judge’s advice about the changes at the seminary, you see.”

“Perhaps that was it,” Diane admitted with a feeling of relief. “He’s anxious to have me settled down, too. It seems I’ve been on his mind,” she added with an odd little laugh.

There was a second of hesitation before Fanny answered, and this time Diane noticed a strange tone in the girl’s voice.

“You’re going to be married soon, then?”

Diane busied herself rearranging two old bronze[110] vases on the high colonial mantel. The storks and the coiled dragons that surrounded them in high relief had been among the wonders of her childhood.

“I don’t know—how should I? You see, Fanny, Mr. Faunce is going to be made the head of the new expedition, but papa doesn’t want him to go. He wants him to stay here and go into politics.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Fanny, just above her breath.

“But I want him to go.”

“Oh!” her visitor gasped again. “Why, he might die, too! If I were you, I’d never let him go!”

Diane’s eyes kindled with the look of one who visions far-off glories.

“I would gladly go with him!”

There was a little pause, and then Fanny spoke with an effort.

“I hadn’t thought of that. Of course you could, Di, you’re so heroic! You measure up to all this great endeavor. That’s what I told him just now.”

“You told him? Where did you see him, Fanny?”

“I met him as I came past the Gerry house. He and the doctor were just coming out together, and I congratulated him.”

Diane stopped her play with the bric-à-brac and stood with one hand still on the tallest vase, looking down on the top of Fanny’s big hat.

[111]“Was he with Dr. Gerry this morning? How did he manage in the snow, I wonder? Did they have the sleigh?”

Fanny looked up, and their eyes met.

“He said he knew very little about the storm. He spent the night with Dr. Gerry.”

Diane made no reply. In the ensuing silence she turned to the mantel and, lifting down the vase, began to wipe a little dust from the elaborate design at its mouth. It was quite a long time before she replaced it.



Diane’s engagement created a stir of pleasure and pride in Mapleton, but very little surprise. It was said on all sides that it had been expected. New York and Washington would find it news, and it might do to cable to London and Paris, where Faunce was already recognized; but Mapleton had been anticipating it for weeks. Of course, both young people were overwhelmed with felicitations. Faunce, flushed with a new kind of pride and a joy that disguised his secret pain, appeared even more winning than usual, while Diane, if her happiness was more subdued, was equally charming.

As soon as Judge Herford’s lumbago relaxed its grip, he gave a little dinner to announce his daughter’s engagement, and it proved a great success. Even Fanny Price, pretty and studiously gay, helped to keep the ball rolling, while Diane, in a simple gown that exactly suited her, had never looked more lovely. No one could blame Faunce for the infatuation that he was at no pains to conceal. Their happiness found a response in nearly every heart, recalling the ancient apothegm that “all the world loves a lover.”

[113]Almost immediately after this occasion, too, there began to be a report that the marriage would take place within a few weeks, for Arthur Faunce, in spite of his recent engagement and Judge Herford’s political dreams, had accepted the command of the new antarctic expedition. He was to succeed not only to Overton’s work, but to Overton’s honors.

If it seemed strange that he should elect to leave his prospective bride so soon, all gossip was silenced by Diane’s own enthusiasm. It was her wish, she said, that Arthur should complete the great task that he had undertaken, and should carry the expedition through to a final triumph. She believed in it. Her soul seemed to rise above fear and doubt, and her beautiful eyes were fixed on the visionary glory of a finished achievement.

It was an open secret that her father had consistently opposed the expedition, and had tried to induce his future son-in-law to enter politics; but Diane had overruled him, people whispered, and it was her inspiration that had fired Faunce to renewed effort. It was an open secret, too, that she was planning to accompany him for at least part of the journey. They would be married just before the ship sailed, and she would go with her husband, sharing his hardships and his dangers as far as a woman could follow in the perilous path of the explorers.

“I can’t bear to let her go,” the irate judge told[114] Dr. Gerry; “but she’s set her heart on it, and I’ve told Arthur that it’s up to him to see that she’s kept out of danger. We can do that without her finding us out until the last moment. When he comes back”—the judge smiled grimly—“then comes my turn—politics and a safe road to fame!”

Dr. Gerry refrained from comment. He was the only one who had not expressed enthusiastic approval. All the other neighbors and old friends seemed to consider it an occasion for great rejoicing, an honor and distinction to Mapleton, since Faunce was already an international character, and was so soon to lead another important expedition.

It remained for the dean, however, to disturb Mrs. Price’s satisfaction in an engagement so poetic and distinguished, as she herself described it.

Dr. Price, called to New York on various occasions, returned by late trains, and one night, delayed beyond reason, he arrived after the household had retired. His entrance roused Mrs. Price from her dreams, and, while the dean was preparing to go to bed, they carried on a disjointed conversation through the open door of his dressing-room, made up of questions on her part and abstracted answers on his. But he had something on his mind, and finally emerged to plunge into the topic that had so recently absorbed the village.

“My dear, I’m not sure that Diane’s making[115] such a fine match,” he remarked. “It’s the second or third time that I’ve met Faunce prancing around in lonely places at all hours.”

Mrs. Price sat up in bed.

“My dear Edward, do you suppose he drinks?”

The dean shook his head thoughtfully.

“I spoke to him, and I don’t think he knew me at first. His wits seemed to be wool-gathering.”

“Perhaps, Edward, he’s—he’s seeking a light!” she whispered in an awed tone.

The dean looked unconvinced.

“He’s a young man, Julia, and not religious. There’s something odd about it. You remember Overton? You could feel his strength—he seemed fairly to give it out. If he’d been a professing Christian, I believe he could have led a host; but Faunce——” Dr. Price stopped and stared meditatively into space.

“But he’s so handsome, Edward, and so much in love! I’ve often thought he looked inspired, like that picture—you remember it?—Andrea del Sarto’s young St. John. I think it’s very touching if his grief for Overton has unbalanced his mind. It’s such a perfect instance of friendship, I suppose the judge would call it a case of Orestes and Pylades, but I can only think of David and Jonathan. I hate heathen analogies! You take my word for it, he’s grieving for Overton.”

The dean was skeptical.

“I’ve lived a long time, Julia,” he remarked[116] dryly, “and I’ve never known a young man to die of grief for his friend—or to lose his reason, either.”

“Oh, Edward, you remember what is said about ‘greater love’?”

“Julia, Faunce didn’t lay down his life for his friend, and”—the dean put out the light with a jerk, and his wife heard a decisive note in his voice, as if his idea had gained momentum in the darkness—“I don’t believe he’s got the courage to, either!”

“Edward!” she exclaimed with indignation.

The dean, however, refused to modify his opinion, and cut short the conversation by promptly falling asleep.

Dr. Price had not been the only one to observe these nocturnal wanderings of Arthur Faunce. They began to appear in certain vague rumors that were afloat on the countryside. Two or three other belated wayfarers had encountered the young explorer on his midnight rambles, and his haggard looks attracted attention. That he was not well showed in his brilliant eyes and the habitual pallor of his face, which was flushed only in moments of excitement or pleasure.

Recently he had been forced to frame excuses to Diane, who had observed the change in him, his forced gaiety, his frequent fits of abstraction. He had attributed all this to the difficulties he was encountering in his preparations for the new expedition,[117] and he had succeeded in so far enlisting her interest in his description of his plans that her anxiety had apparently been disarmed.

He was aware, too—and the thought stung him—that Diane’s love had none of that intimate tenderness which enables one mind almost intuitively to understand the other, and one soul to feel the overshadowing of its mate. He tried to comfort himself with the assurance that it was best so, that he would not have it otherwise, since he must keep his own secrets. Yet it cost him a pang to feel that here, as everywhere else, the shade of Overton came between him and perfect happiness. Even the triumph of his successful love was chilled by the thought that in Diane’s heart he was second, and that her girlish imagination clung to the memory of the lost leader who had fallen, like the hero he was, on the road to glory.

His confession to Dr. Gerry, and the doctor’s subsequent efforts to break the chloral habit, had effected only a temporary relief. He was face to face with the shame of having laid bare his soul to another, of having disclosed the mortal secret that ground his heart, to see only contempt and condemnation in the eyes of his father confessor.

Nor had the doctor been content with secret adjurations. He had tried his utmost to make Faunce release Diane, and, by some act of self-immolation, to offer a kind of spiritual expiation for his crime. To the sturdy old man the whole[118] matter was intolerable. He had no sympathy with complex natures like that of Faunce. He would have declared that the possibilities of such a soul had to bear some proportionate relation to the general economies of value; that to try to expand Arthur’s spiritual horizon would be attended with the difficulties encountered by the frog of the ancient story, which lost its life in trying to expand its dimensions to the size of the neighboring cow.

As for Faunce, the frantic impulse that had carried him to the height—or the depth—of confession had expired almost as soon as the words were uttered. It had seemed to him that confession would ease his conscience, that the mere act of telling of his cowardice would wipe out some of the score against him; but it had not proved so. He was still haunted, and he had the added humiliation of the doctor’s knowledge, the uneasy fear that an accident might lead to betrayal.

All these months his silence—so easy and so secure, since there was no living man to contradict him—had covered his error. That was what he called it to himself—an error. He could not call it a crime. Dr. Gerry’s idea that it was like murder was inexpressibly shocking.

Faunce told himself that he was incapable of murder, that Overton had been as good as dead, and that he left him—sorely against his own will—to save himself from the same fate. Was it[119] necessary that both should die when one could be saved? Was it right that a young, strong man should lay down his life rather than desert a frozen comrade, who had barely enough vigor left in him to keep his heart beating an hour? The idea seemed monstrous, when he thought of it. At the time he had not thought of it; he had merely obeyed an overwhelming instinct and fled for his life.

It was not his fault that Overton’s honors had fallen upon him like a mantle of glory, that he had succeeded to Overton’s command. He knew that old Dr. Gerry condemned him still more for grasping these honors—which would never have come his way if he had returned with the bare story of his flight; but he was not strong enough to decline them. He knew that he would have been ruined forever had the truth been known, but he had succeeded in saving himself. He had chosen to let the snow and ice cover his desertion, and out of the wreck of his peace of mind he had snatched at the mundane honors that came to him. They were all he had, for his conscience was in agony, and the face of Overton haunted him.

Sometimes, when he wandered at night, unable to sleep, he recalled the torments of Macbeth. There were moments, dark and secret ones, when the chloral was slow in taking effect, and his mind was clouded with lurid visions. He felt himself one with the company of those who have followed,[120] through all the ages, in the bloody footprints of Judas Iscariot. It was after such moments as these that he nearly yielded to Dr. Gerry’s admonition.

“Go break off your engagement!” the doctor thundered in his ear. “What right have you to marry a girl like Diane? If she knew, she’d never forgive you. I tell you you’ve got to break it—you shall!”

But he did not. Instead, he pursued his course with a peculiar obstinacy, a tenacity of purpose that amazed his counselor. He loved Diane. It was the strongest passion he had left in the wreck of his moral consciousness. He meant to snatch at happiness as he snatched at honors and high repute, and to hold them almost by force.

He was tortured, too, by the thought that delay might in some inexplicable way result in disaster, and he urged on Judge Herford’s inclination toward an early marriage. They had planned, at first, that it should take place just before the new expedition sailed. It was welcome news when he was informed that the ship would be ready a month earlier than had been expected, and that it remained for him either to change the date of departure or to wait until the time originally set.

The message sent the blood to his heart with a mad rush of joy. He would make Diane consent to an earlier wedding. Then he would feel secure—secure of her at last—and he could set out as[121] soon as possible. Alone, he would dread the frozen wastes, but with her—courage and high endeavor must be inspired by a love like his. He would rise to the height of achievement, would expiate his past failures in brilliant success. Then his conscience would surely absolve him for not having uselessly laid down his own life because another man had to die!



Faunce hurried to Diane at once with his tidings. As he approached the house, he let his eyes rest on it with almost a feeling of ownership, not unpardonable in a man who was soon to be united to the only child of the owner. It might be said that after that he, too, would have a claim upon it.

The house was old; it had been in the Herford family for two hundred years. Looking at it, Faunce could distinguish the older portions, the slant of the wide gables from the high ridge-pole, the small, diamond-paned windows, and the stoop, which suggested a Dutch origin. One of the ancient chimneys still towered high between the main building and the sprawling extension; but modern taste and increased family fortunes had added a bay window or two, and a wide Southern veranda had increased the dignity and importance of Judge Herford’s “mansion,” as it was called among the townspeople when they remembered to drop the more familiar synonym—“the old Herford house on Broad Street.”

Faunce liked it He liked its air of dignity behind trim hedgerows, its embowered vines, and[123] the wide-spread branches of the elm before the door. He went up the path with the feeling that here, at last, there were peace and security for him.

He found Diane in the library, bending over some sewing, which she put away as he entered. She laughed softly as he bent to kiss her.

“You mustn’t come so often,” she chided, “if you want me to be ready two months from now!”

He held her, looking down into her eyes.

“I want it sooner! Diane, the ship is ready. Can’t we be married in two weeks?”

She did not reply. Instead, her eyes sank under his, and he felt a quiver run through her. He thought of Overton again, with a pang of jealousy, and tightened his hold.

“Diane, you’ll say yes? I must go, but I can’t go without you. You—you’re not going to refuse?” he pleaded urgently, clasping her with one arm, while with his other hand he lifted one of hers and pressed it fervently against his cheek.

She did not withdraw her hand, but he felt that it lay cold and still in his clasp. She was a long time in replying.

“Of course you’ll go, Arthur, but—not so soon! I couldn’t go so soon! It seems too horribly hasty, as if I were in such a hurry to get married that I couldn’t wait for any kind of dignity and ceremony!”

“It’s I who am in a hurry,” he rejoined quickly.[124] “My darling, I can’t feel secure! I keep thinking that you don’t really love me, and that you’ll slip off and leave me at the eleventh hour.”

She laughed softly, a little tenderly. The warmth of his affection seemed to enfold her in such a new security that she could not understand what seemed to be, on his part, a haunting fear.

“I’m not like that, Arthur. I’ve always tried to be rather a loyal person, dear; but I don’t like haste—in weddings!”

“But you must in ours,” he pleaded. “The ship can sail so much sooner. I mean that it shall never sail without you, Diane! You don’t want to make me more unhappy than I am?”

She withdrew herself a little from his embrace, looking up into his face with serious eyes.

“Are you unhappy?” Then something that she saw there moved her deeply. “Arthur, you’re not well! What’s wrong? Tell me!”

He hesitated; then he thought of using her evident anxiety to further his purpose.

“I’m sick for the sea, dear, and to be off again—finishing the work. Every day of delay tells on me; but I vow I sha’n’t go without you!”

She looked at him then, a light in her eyes, the charm of her face, so delicate, so elusive, lending it a peculiar softness and glow.

“I don’t want you to go without me; but you must give me a little time. Why, Arthur, I was[125] working on wedding-finery when you came in!” she admitted with a shy little laugh, glancing at the mass of fluff and lace in the basket beside her.

“You don’t need it. You’re too charming for finery. Diane”—he caught her hands again and drew her, half resisting, toward him—“make it Wednesday at the latest!”

She shook her head.

“Shocking! I couldn’t!”

Then something in his look, in the troubled, handsome face bending toward her, swept away her scruples. If she meant to marry him at all, why quibble for delay, why beg off? She softened, and he read her yielding in her eyes.

“Wednesday?” he repeated eagerly.

“Wednesday week,” she corrected.

Nor could he coax her to advance that day. She declared that she was ashamed of such haste. They might as well run away and be done with it!

“That would be heavenly—no fuss, no feathers! I’m ready. Will you come, Diane? There’s a parson across the road!”

She smiled absently, her eyes still on his face.

“Arthur, you’re not well, or you’re worried,” she declared irrelevantly. “Won’t you tell me? I can see that there’s something on your mind.”

He was startled, and reddened under her look.

“There’s nothing on my mind now, except Wednesday[126] week!” he protested steadily. “That’s far enough off to weigh upon me, isn’t it?”

She shook her head, not altogether reassured. She began to feel vaguely that there was something between them, an impenetrable veil which seemed to screen his inner self, and that not even the love which he protested with such passion could dispel that impalpable reserve; but a certain pride in her kept her from pursuing her questions, and she let the matter drop.



In the hastened preparations for the wedding, Fanny Price came over to give her help. She and Diane directed the cards of invitation, and sorted out and arranged the presents that were to be displayed to the few intimates who could now witness the ceremony.

“You certainly have some lovely things,” was Fanny’s comment; “but it’s strange, isn’t it, the way people’s minds seem to run to oyster-forks? You’ve got eighteen dozen.”

Diane laughed.

“At least I can serve oysters! Here’s a beautiful fish-knife and fork, too. Perhaps they connect us with things from the sea because Arthur’s going to sail so soon!”

“I should think you were going to marry Neptune. Here are some fish-plates!”

“They ought to have added something especially for the expedition!”

Fanny occupied herself in arranging the silver.

“Aren’t you a little afraid of it, Diane? The thought of that frozen solitude frightens me. I’ve no courage!”

Diane made no immediate reply, and Fanny,[128] giving her a sidelong look, discovered that she had stopped work and was looking out of the window with an absent air, her face quite colorless. The girl’s heart beat fast with a sensation almost of anger. She was sure, with her keen, girlish insight into such things, that at the moment Diane was thinking, not of Faunce, but of Overton.

Fanny’s heart leaped up in defense of her hero. She remembered him at her own fireside, with no eyes, no thought, for any one except Diane. She made a deliberate tinkle in spreading out more spoons and ladles.

“I should think he would hate to go. I’m sure he does, at heart—because of Overton,” she said a little sharply. “He loved Overton so much that I know he’ll feel it when he follows again in the same trail. He can’t help it!”

Diane turned slowly and resumed her own task of undoing endless packages.

“I thought, at first, he wouldn’t go,” she admitted quietly in a colorless voice; “but then something seemed to draw him back. I suppose it’s the lure of the pole. And I—I felt he had to go to finish the work.”

“But it wasn’t his work!”

“You mean——”

“It’s Overton’s. When he’s done it, he won’t get the credit of it. It’ll be finishing the work of Overton’s expedition, won’t it?”

“I—I suppose it will, in a way.”

[129]Fanny laid down some teaspoons.

“You’ve got thirty-six dozen spoons and two soup-ladles. Yes, it’ll be finishing Overton’s work.” She looked up and met Diane’s eyes squarely. “Is that why you wanted him to go?”

Diane colored deeply, working hard at the knotted ribbon on another bundle.

“I hadn’t thought of it in that way, Fanny. I wanted Arthur Faunce to be something more than a—a second in the expedition. When a man is as great as Overton was, he overshadows everything.”

“I don’t see how you can feel that way when Mr. Faunce is so great himself. I don’t believe you really see it as it is, Di!”

“Oh, yes, I do! But then it wouldn’t do for me to say so much, would it?”

Fanny reflected.

“I think I should, if I were you,” she replied stubbornly.

Diane smiled.

“There’s one thing I’ve always loved in you, Fanny, and that’s your loyalty to your friends.”

“Oh, I get that from papa. It’s inherited, and hasn’t any original virtue. I’ve always said that papa would stick up for Satan himself if he happened to be an old acquaintance!”

It gave Diane a feeling of relief to laugh.

“I’m so glad,” she remarked, after a pause, which they spent in arranging the gifts, “that it’s[130] your father who is going to marry us, Fan! I should hate to have a stranger do it. It seems to bring us all so close together, because I know your father loves us.”

“He loves you,” retorted Fanny with unconscious emphasis. “Diane, do you ever think about your father? What will he do when you’re away? Sometimes it seems so strange that we younger ones go off and make our lives as if they hadn’t mothered and fathered us so long.”

“It’s like birds going out of the nest, isn’t it, Fanny? I suppose it’s the law of life—what the scientists call evolution. But I do think of father. I hate to leave him. I shouldn’t leave him, if I didn’t know he would be well cared for. You know old Martha understands just how to cook for him. She knows what he likes better than I do—better, I think, than mama used to know; and old Henry takes care of him as faithfully as Dr. Gerry does. Besides, you’re all so near. It seems to me as if he would be better off. Arthur and I are going into a new land—a land of mist and mirage. I feel”—she was looking across at Fanny without seeming to see her—“that I am indeed setting out on a long journey. I’m taking with me the man who loves me; but I’m not sure—I’m not at all sure what’s beyond the soft, impalpable cloud that hangs like a veil just above the open sea of my dreams!”

Fanny was silent. After a moment Diane turned[131] and went on with her work; but, as she picked up another package, she added in a more natural tone:

“Why don’t you answer me, Fan? Don’t you understand?”

“Yes, I think I do; but if I were you, I’m certain that I should know. I mean, if I were going to marry the man I loved, I’d be sure that the sun was shining behind that cloud!”

Diane slowly and carefully unwrapped the tissue that enclosed an ancient Venetian vase. It was a beautiful thing in design and workmanship, but she made no comment on its perfection as she set it carefully down on the table.

“But I’m not sure,” she confessed softly.

Fanny had now reached the limit of her endurance, and her silence left Diane free to pursue her own train of thought. It was this, perhaps, which led her, later on, to her talk with her father.



It was the night before her wedding, and the judge, after a long day of busy arrangements, which had included a settlement of business matters with Faunce, at last found himself at rest in the old armchair beside his study fire. He had been too occupied and too ambitious to forward the fortunes of his future son-in-law to feel that the moment was drawing nearer and nearer when he must give up his daughter; but now, alone at his own fireside, he remembered that, and was amazed at the rush of keen regret that softened his mood.

Diane was very dear to him. He had been a busy man, a man beset with cares and ambitions, but the girl, who had come to him instead of the son for whom he had prayed, held a warm place in his heart. He would miss her—he confessed that to himself, with a kind of pride in his own tenderness. He had, indeed, planned to keep her near him, to set his son-in-law on the path that he had already made a beaten track to political success; but Diane herself had held Faunce to his infatuation—she was actually leading him in this wild venture in the antarctic seas.

[133]Vaguely, but with a certain pride of blood, Judge Herford began to recognize the instinct of race in her. She had sprung from a long line of adventurers on sea and land. A Herford had been with Sir Francis Drake; a Herford had fought at Marston Moor; a Herford had followed the star of empire westward across wintry seas and founded the family fortunes in the colonies. The judge himself had retrieved the losses of his father and his grandfather, and now, in his strong middle age, saw himself nearly at the top rung of the ladder he had set himself to climb. He could afford to take the future in an easier frame of mind, to slacken his gait a little, but he had lacked a son to follow in his footsteps. His fancy, fixing itself on Faunce, on the brilliant promise that seemed to dawn in the young man’s career, began to build new castles in the air.

He felt a certain satisfaction in knowing that he had furthered Arthur Faunce’s fortunes, and had been a factor in the making of the marriage that was to take place on the morrow. Faunce was neither so famous nor so wealthy as the judge could have wished, but he was young, able, and already surrounded with the heroic halo of his hardships and his services to science and his country.

In a recent public address an eminent man had said that America was proud of mothering such sons as Overton and Faunce. That Arthur was[134] placed second seemed, after all, a graceful tribute to the dead, and Faunce had succeeded now to the full leadership in place of Overton. On the whole, the judge felt satisfied and even happy. Thoughts of tenderness and regret added only a gentler shading to a mood that might otherwise have been too unctuous and self-satisfied.

His friends, too, had sustained his judgment; all but Dr. Gerry. He was aware that Gerry challenged it; but he remembered, with a reminiscent smile, that Gerry had always been a “crank.” It was not to be supposed that any one so eminently human and young as Faunce could please the crusty old doctor.

“He’s too healthy,” the judge had declared, laughing.

“Oh, is he?” the doctor flung back, and muttered his objections. “Let him go, Hadley! He isn’t fit to tie Diane’s shoe. Send her to a convent!”

There had been more, in the doctor’s most pessimistic vein; but, when challenged for a real objection, he refused to state his views. The matter had dropped at last, and only Diane noticed that the old man sent no wedding-gift. The judge had brushed Gerry’s opposition aside as he now brushed aside his own tenderness.

He sat back comfortably in his chair, filling the big bowl of his favorite pipe. He was just lighting it when he heard a rustle in the hall, and Diane stood on the threshold, a slight figure in a[135] floating gown of flowered silk, her long hair unbound and shadowing her face.

The judge looked around at her, a smile in his judicial eyes.

“It’s twelve o’clock, Di. You’ll certainly see the dawn of your wedding-day, at this rate!”

“I couldn’t sleep, papa, so I came to sit with you a while.”

He made room for her to bring a low seat to the fire by his side. With a new paternal aspect, he laid his arm gently around her shoulders.

“I was just thinking of you, Di, and of Arthur. I wish I’d had my way and put him into politics.”

“So that we should be near you? I should have loved that, of course; but we’ll come back. I don’t want him in politics, ever!”

“And why not, miss? If it’s good enough for your dad, it should be good enough for your husband, eh?”

She shook her head.

“I don’t think I can make you understand. You’re—you’re different!”

“Humph! Not so valuable, perhaps?”

She laughed softly; then her face sobered.

“You’ve stood like granite, papa, in the midst of all the storm. You were made to be among the captains and the shouting. It’s fine—it has been fine to see you. I’ve always been proud of you, and I’ve heard men say that they were proud of you. Don’t you remember Governor Belt? He[136] told me that you were a wonder, that not a muckraker living could fling ill-report at you! But Arthur? It seems to me that as he stands to-day—young and unsoiled and on the verge of great adventure—he’s at his best; he’ll be always at his best. If you pull him back into the turmoil of the city and State, fling him into politics, he won’t be the same. He won’t stand as you do, like a rock; he would bend and yield. It might spoil him, spoil the fineness in him.”

“My child, if he’s so brittle, life will break him, and he won’t be worth the breaking!”

“I don’t mean just that. I mean that I want to keep the fineness in him, to see him follow the shining trail. If it wasn’t for the fineness in him I couldn’t love him, papa, and if I didn’t believe I loved him I wouldn’t marry him.”

“That’s your test, I know.” The judge leaned back, pulling at his pipe, amused at Diane’s view, which seemed to him to be merely that of untried girlhood. “There’s been many a marriage without love, my dear, that’s turned out well enough.”

“I couldn’t do it! To me the woman who marries that way, for money, for position, or just to be married, is”—her voice dropped to a low note, touched with ineffable scorn—“is no better than the worst!”

The judge patted her shoulder.

“A high view, Di. I’ll agree with you thus far—if he wasn’t fine and honest, I’d never let you[137] marry him if I could help it. In these days we fathers can’t help much, in my opinion; but I’ll help you out of it, my child, if ever he shows himself less than we think him—an honest man!”

“We’re alike in that, papa. That’s the unalterable test—his honesty. I couldn’t live, day after day, with a man whom I knew to be a liar and a thief, as Mabel Gardner does. Yet it’s noble in her, too. She stayed with her husband to try to hold him up, to keep him from falling to the lowest level.”

“It was sentiment and womanish feeling,” the judge retorted sternly. “There was nothing noble in it. She shielded him so that some of his creditors let him off a little for her sake. Goffery, the greatest creditor of all, who could have sent him to prison, wouldn’t testify, because he was in love with Mabel himself. She knew it—she played on him. That’s not noble; it’s mere knavery.”

“You mean that she should have sent him to prison rather than let Goffery save him for love of her?”

The judge nodded.

“Trading—mere trading! Not in the bare, ugly fact, as low people trade, but in sentiment and honor—making a wronged man save another because he still loves that other’s wife. She’ll get a divorce next and marry Goffery.”

“I can’t think that!” exclaimed Diane, gazing[138] thoughtfully into the fire. “That would be degradation, papa, and Mabel’s a lady.”

“What’s a lady?” the judge snorted angrily. “Nothing, unless you’re a little better bred and nobler and more virtuous than the rest of womankind. If Mabel marries Goffery—after she gets a divorce—it’ll be paying him for all that he’s done, won’t it? There’s nothing ladylike in that! You’re a lady, Di—not so much by right of birth and breeding and all that, but because you’re an honest woman, and you wouldn’t do the kind of shabby, cowardly things that Mabel Gardner has done.”

“Poor Mabel! You’re a hard judge sometimes, papa! I pity Mabel. I’ve thought of her once or twice to-day, because I was so happy. You remember she was married three years ago to-morrow? She was happy then—but he’s turned out such a rogue! I think, perhaps, that’s why I said what I did just now. I want to keep Arthur as he is, a follower of the shining trail.”

The judge reflected a while on this, smoking quietly.

“I’ll tell you what Arthur said to me,” he rejoined at last. “He told me that your love for him would lead him higher than any ambition that he had ever cherished, or any hope that he’d ever had. It’s a good deal for a man to say, my girl!”

She was leaning against his knee, her cheek resting on her hand, and he could see only the[139] soft, brown arch of her head and the cloud of hair that cloaked her shoulders.

“It’s a great deal to say,” she admitted. “It makes it harder for me to fill the place he’s set for me in his life; but I’ll try to do it. Meanwhile, papa, I hate to leave you! When I came in here to-night I came to tell you that, but we’ve been talking of Arthur. I’ve tried to be a good daughter. I hope I’ve succeeded half-way, papa?”

He patted her head again.

“The best man ever had!”

The words brought back those words of Faunce about Overton. “The best friend man ever had!” The thought thrust itself suddenly into Diane’s heart, and took her unawares. Her tense nerves quivered. She laid her head down on her father’s knee and burst into bitter, inexplicable tears.



Early the following morning, with the rain and sleet driving against the window-panes, in the fury of a late winter storm—the wild harbinger, in fact, of spring itself—Diane was married to Arthur Faunce.

“The handsomest couple I ever saw!” Mrs. Price whispered to Dr. Gerry, dabbing the moisture from her eyes with the handkerchief that she had already wept into a ball.

Dr. Gerry moved an eye around to look at her without moving his head, much as the drowsy crocodile views curious observers at the aquarium; but he made no comment. He had spent the night in trying to force Faunce to tell Diane the truth before she married him. He had failed, and was therefore an unwilling witness at the ceremony.

The quaint old library, the room Diane had chosen, was scarcely altered from its every-day aspect. Above the low book-shelves that lined the walls were fine examples of pottery and bronze, which gleamed warmly in the light of the fire in the great fireplace. A few moss-roses and tall[141] ferns, sent from a New York conservatory, were the only ornaments.

Dr. Price, small, precise, and placid, in his white surplice and black cassock, his white hair smoothed back with what Horace Walpole would have called “a soupçon of curls behind,” performed the ceremony before a group of old friends and neighbors, the only witnesses. Mrs. Price lifted her plump, wrinkled face and kissed the bride on both cheeks.

“My dear, I wish you every blessing! You remind me of Rachel, and Ruth, and all the brides of the Bible. And, dear Diane, he’s so handsome! It seems almost wicked for nature to waste so much beauty on a mere man, even if he is a hero!”

Diane glanced smilingly at Faunce.

“Isn’t it splendid for me, Cousin Julia? I don’t need to shine when he’s near, do I?”

The little woman plunged in deeper, and was still babbling along when her daughter, a little pale and nervous, came to tell Diane it was time to change her dress for the journey. Glad to escape, the two girls ran up-stairs together, and Fanny and the maid made haste to help transform a white-and-silver bride into a trim, tailor-made young woman ready for the train. While the transformation was in progress, Diane grew more composed, and helped with her deft fingers in the[142] knotting and unknotting of ribbons and laces and flowers.

“It went off beautifully, Di!” Fanny felt that she could say this with safety, as she plunged into a new hat-box after the bride’s traveling-hat. “That cake from New York was fine. I left dear papa eating it, and he’ll be ill to-morrow.”

“I noticed the flowers, Fan,” Diane said, fastening fresh hooks, while she sent the maid on an errand. “I’m glad I didn’t have too many. Is that hat becoming? It seems to me too—too flamboyant. The styles are dreadful!”

“It suits you exactly. What a lovely color you’ve got, Di! A minute ago you looked like a ghost. You were——”

Diane stopped her with a gesture.

“What’s that?”

They listened. A newsboy was shouting an extra edition, and they could hear his shrill pipe above the storm. Fanny’s eyes widened.

“What can it be? No one sells extras out here, in a storm!”

Diane went to the door and listened.

“Some one’s called him. Fanny, go and find out what it is. There’s nothing for me to do now but to work on my gloves.”

The little bridesmaid, glad to hide her telltale face, ran out. Diane stood listening in strange anxiety, unaware that she was frightened. Why should she be? she argued. Why should she[143] worry at all? They were all together and all well—what could be better, more reassuring, than that thought?

Then Arthur’s face came back to her as he had looked when he put the ring on her finger—the feverish light in his eyes, the triumph and the happiness. A feeling, deep and inexplicable, disturbed her; there had been something wanting—some element of strength, fortitude, or poise. At that moment, the supreme moment of the ceremony, she had experienced a new sensation of loss, of shipwreck, as if she had survived the failure of some fine and inarticulate hope and confidence in him.

Standing there now, for the last time in her own room, the new wedding-ring on her finger, her wedding-finery thrown across the bed, she shivered, she was afraid. Then she heard Fanny coming slowly back up-stairs. The girl seemed to halt for an instant on her way to the door. Diane turned and saw her at the threshold. She was holding the newspaper unfolded in her hands, her eyes fixed on the front page, her face expressionless.

“What is it, Fanny?”

The question was almost a cry of alarm. Fanny made no reply, and Diane went to her, taking the paper from her. As she did so, Fanny pointed to the headlines of an article that filled the head[144] of a column. It was a cablegram, printed in large type that seemed to stare:

H. M. S. Pelican arrived safely at Southampton to-day, with Lieutenant Blackford and the other members of his antarctic expedition. They brought with them the well-known American explorer, Simon Overton, U. S. N. Having barely recovered from desperate illness and exposure, Overton refused to be interviewed.

Diane let the paper fall to the floor, and the two girls stood looking at each other in speechless amazement.

Down-stairs there was a moment of poignant silence in the library when the judge read the newspaper despatch in an incredulous voice that was a little deeper than usual. As he read, a sudden burst of sunshine, almost as violent as the storm, flooded the room. It shone on the smooth surfaces of the ancient vases and on the rich and multicolored bindings of the judge’s books. It warmed the moss-roses that had bloomed for the wedding, and shone still more keenly, with almost a cruel concentration, on the white face of Arthur Faunce.

It revealed Faunce’s countenance at a moment when his inner self seemed to be receding, in mortal panic, from the vision of his friends. He stood, with his hand gripped like a vise on the back of a tall chair and his eyes fixed on his father-in-law. He was like a man overtaken by sudden calamity and rooted to the spot, with no[145] more power to escape it than the victim of a nightmare.

The judge threw back his big head and looked at him.

“What can this mean, Arthur?”

Faunce gasped. His mind was still reeling, and his voice sounded a long way off to his own ears.

“It must be a mistake,” he replied slowly; “a mere newspaper story—or the wrong name. Overton is dead!”

The judge looked again at the paper, and then cast another searching look at Faunce.

“It’s strange,” he remarked, “that a thing like that should be cabled from London—from the correspondent of this paper, too; and they think it important enough for an extra.”

“Anything is important enough to make an extra penny on!” the little dean remarked caustically, coming to the rescue.

Dr. Gerry, standing back by the mantel, was watching Faunce. Knowing the story, he was convinced that in some miraculous way Overton had been rescued, and that Faunce must know it, too.

Rallying from the first shock, Faunce was facing it with some self-control.

“I think I can speak with more authority than the newspaper,” he managed to say. “I was there!”

“But—oh, Mr. Faunce, don’t you think it’s—it’s[146] just possible?” pleaded Mrs. Price, clasping her hands. “A miracle may have happened. It would be so beautiful! It would make Diane so happy, it would make us all so happy, if dear Simon Overton could come back!”

Her little bubbling voice, like the pleasant singing of a teakettle, brought relief to a tense situation.

“That’s the way to look at it,” rejoined Dr. Gerry. “Let’s rejoice in the hope.”

Judge Herford bent his heavy brows.

“There can’t be any hope, Gerry,” he said flatly, “if Faunce has told us the truth.”

Faunce smiled, but with a wince.

“It’s not a thing about which any man would want to jest,” he replied slowly, purposely misunderstanding Herford’s speech. “We believed him dead. If a miracle has happened, the body must have been recovered and resuscitated. I can’t believe a word of this!”

Herford, however, pursued his questions, the lawyer in him roused to ignore his new position as a father-in-law.

“Then you admit that his body might have been found?”

Faunce hesitated.

The others—his father-in-law, Gerry, who knew the truth, Dr. Price, and the wedding-guests—all waited. The moment before he had been the hero of the occasion, the bridegroom at his own wedding.[147] Now, strangely enough, he stood alone in the center of the room facing them, much as a prisoner might stand at the bar.

He looked up and met Dr. Gerry’s eye, and it revealed the full force of the situation. Gerry believed that Overton lived!

Faunce experienced again the terrible sensation of the world falling to pieces around him while he still survived. If Overton lived, he was delivered from the hideous remorse that gnawed at his heart; but he was ruined. No power on earth could save him from public shame.

He rallied his forces again.

“There was a terrific blizzard; we were rescued from an avalanche of packed ice and snow. How is it possible that these Englishmen could find and resuscitate a dead man? If they did, where were they? Why didn’t we meet them? The thing’s absurd!” he climaxed, with an actual thrill of relief as he remembered the situation.

Yes, it was absurd! No living man could have reached Overton after he left him.

The dean nodded his head slowly and thoughtfully.

“Of course, of course! You must be right, Faunce; you were with him when he died. This is a cruel mistake!”

“It’s more than cruel—it’s a mockery of death,” Faunce declared with renewed force.

He was determined not to believe it. He was[148] convincing himself, and he was regaining his control of the others.

Judge Herford folded the paper and put it down.

“We’ll hear more of it to-morrow—or they’ll contradict it. Of course, if you were with him until the last minute, you know, Arthur!”

“Yes, I know!” Faunce returned, a feverish light in his eyes. “I——”

He stopped abruptly, looking toward the door, and they all turned and followed his eyes.



Fanny Price, a pale-faced little creature, in her bridesmaid’s finery, stood there looking at them. Conversation had begun again in a faint-hearted way, but it hushed as she spoke.

“Diane wants to know—is it true about Overton?”

Faunce crossed the room and took Fanny’s hand in his, trying to reply to the challenge of her eyes. She was shaken, horribly shaken, with the remembrance of his book and Overton’s, and of that black gap in the narrative which could easily be filled with Overton’s death.

“Tell Diane that it’s a story, a mere newspaper story,” he said firmly. “It couldn’t be true—you know that.”

She assented, drew her hand hastily out of his, and ran back up-stairs.

The dean exchanged a meaning look with his wife. They had both seen Faunce flinch under Fanny’s glance, and Mrs. Price tried to divert the thoughts of the guests. She touched Herford’s arm and whispered:

“Take them all into the dining-room, Cousin[150] Hadley. She wants to get off without a shower of rice!”

The judge nodded, rousing himself from the unpleasant break in the festivities.

“Come!” he said in a genial tone. “Let’s go back and drink to the health and happiness of the bride and groom for the last time!”

They followed him through the wide folding doors, with the little flutter of excitement that remained after the interruption. They felt as if they had been for a moment over the edge of an abyss, and were still hanging there, suspended by a very thin thread.

Faunce, however, obeyed Fanny’s signal and went toward the door, only to be halted by Dr. Gerry in the hall.

“It’s true, Faunce—you know it’s true. What d’you mean to do?” he demanded grimly.

Faunce leaned back against the door of the drawing-room, shielding himself by holding out a portière on a rigid arm, that the girls might not see his face as they came down-stairs.

“It can’t be true!” he reiterated passionately. “It can’t be true! It’s some horrid story, an attempt to ruin me.”

Gerry shook his head.

“I’ll wager it is true. Didn’t you think you saw figures? You supposed it was a mirage. It’s true, and it’s up to you!”

Faunce put his hand to his throat with a helpless[151] gesture, like a man struggling to breathe.

“I tell you he was stark and freezing,” he gasped. “I swear it. He can’t have come back!”

The doctor laid his hand on Faunce’s shoulder.

“Be a man!” he whispered sharply. “I warned you not to marry Diane, I warned you to keep away from this; but now you’re in it. For God’s sake, shield her! Be a man!”

Faunce shook off the old man’s touch.

“Let me alone! I tell you she’s safe. It’s false, every word of it; he simply can’t have come back!”

The doctor said no more, but made a sign, warning him. Diane and Fanny came down-stairs together, the bride in her traveling-dress. Her filmy veil, floating on the edge of her wide-brimmed hat, obscured the pallor of her face. The doctor took her hand, patting it benignly.

“Good-by, my dear! Your father’s got the enemy in the dining-room, rice and all. You’ll have to run for it!”

He felt the quivering of her fingers in his clasp, and saw the unnatural brightness in her eyes.

“You never wished me joy!” she whispered back.

“Haven’t I? Then I do, my dear, I do—a thousand times!”

He went down with her to the motor, and he and Fanny stood watching it go off. Then they turned and looked at each other. “Do—do you[152] think it’s true?” she whispered in an awed voice.

The doctor fenced.

“My child, has it occurred to you that we’re all acting as if we had not only wanted Overton to die, but to stay dead?”

She gave him a strange look.

“I—I wasn’t thinking of that. I—why, yes, you’re right, it’s true. It’s just as if we did want him to stay dead!”

Gerry took her by the arm.

“Come into the house, child! You’re standing out here in the wet, in a ridiculously flimsy dress and slippers.”

She went, her arm still in his grasp, but she did not even smile.

“It’s true—how awful of us! Just as if we wanted him to be dead, because——”

“Because of Faunce,” concluded the doctor dryly. “Don’t worry, my dear—not about that, anyway, for I’ve an idea it’s true.”

“You mean——”

“That Overton isn’t dead at all.”


It was a little syllable, but it voiced Fanny’s awful thought—a thought which had, as she had said, nothing to do with Overton, but all to do with Faunce.

Faunce himself, on the way to New York with Diane, found the situation almost beyond endurance. The long strain had so racked his nerves[153] that he flinched at this crisis. His belief in Overton’s death still survived. He had too keen and harrowing a memory of that awful climax in the ice and snow to be easily persuaded that there could have been a rescue; yet the mere fact that such a rescue meant his certain ruin overwhelmed him.

Even while he assured Diane that it was a mere newspaper story, his heart sank with sickening fear. Racked by conscience in the long months since he had left Overton to die in the polar snows, he had again and again cried out to the night and the solitude that he would give his soul to feel that Overton lived, that he had not abandoned his leader and friend to death, that his conscience was clear. Now, when the thought of Overton’s return was weighed in the balance with his personal disgrace, he was not strong enough to face it.

He saw, in a flash, all it would mean to him—the personal shame, the ruin, the loss of his new-won honors and of Diane’s love. He felt certain that she could never love a man stained, as he was, with a cowardice that was in itself a crime.

A feeling of terror seized him. He had put himself outside the pale of mercy. He knew not only that no word could ever be spoken in his defense, but that the world would be eager to revile him, the veriest wastrel in the street would find an excuse to fling a curse at his cowardice.

[154]He had abandoned a prostrate comrade, leaving him to face death alone. Worse than that, he had taken the only means of rescue—the sledge and the dogs—to secure his own escape. He had sacrificed Overton to save himself whole and without a scratch. If Overton had survived, if he knew anything, he must know this. If he had had the strength to live to be rescued, he might know much more. He could not have been so far gone as Faunce had thought!

Day after day, night after night, the horror of that frozen waste had haunted him. The deathlike face of Overton had appeared to him at nightfall and at daybreak. When Faunce, against his own better judgment, had undertaken the new command, he had merely yielded to the mysterious lure that draws a murderer back to the scene of his crime. He had felt as if unseen hands clutched at him and drew him; as if a shadowy presence, standing at his elbow, demanded this sacrifice, this hideous march back on the trail; as if Overton, dead or alive, held his very soul in thrall.

And now, if some miracle had happened, if the grave was about to give up its dead, Faunce could not escape! He was facing a shame that would be more terrible than the death he had fled. Coward as he had proved himself to be at that supreme moment, he might better die now than[155] face the truth—the truth that Overton would be sure to reveal, if he lived.

On the reality of his death, then, hung Faunce’s only hope. Once more he tried to brace himself up with the thought that it was impossible for Overton to have survived. Yet it was in perfect unison with what he had already endured that this renewed horror should quench his new happiness and make his wedding-day a nightmare. If the shade of Overton, athirst for mortal vengeance, still haunted him, this last exquisite torture was its supreme accomplishment. His broken spirit quivered under the visitation.

It was a mockery of fate to have to act the bridegroom at such a moment, to protest his happiness and reply to Diane’s questions. She had spoken to him about the newspaper story almost at once, and had expressed her amazement that such a despatch could have been sent from London. Then she had let the matter drop; but her very acquiescence awakened a keen alarm in the mind of Faunce.

He suspected that she, too, was suffering, that the thought of Overton had broken in on her agitated mind like a blow from the unseen. She was marrying a man who had declared to her that Overton was dead, that he had stood beside him while he was dying; yet, at the very moment when she had finally ratified her belief in him, the[156] doubt took shape and clothed itself in an almost visible semblance.

As the train rushed on, Faunce watched her. He observed the pale outline of her profile against the rosy light of a sunset sky, illumined and touched with glory, like a face carved from the delicately tinted pearl of the abalone shell. Something in the averted eyes, the softly parted lips, and the slight, scarcely perceptible quiver in the white throat, suggested an emotion too deep and too sorrowful for such a moment.

Again he had the curious sensation that the shade of Overton stood between them, its outstretched hand thrusting Faunce away from his bride and slowly but surely toward the edge of that frozen precipice where he had left his comrade’s mortal body, abandoned without pity and without help. At a moment when he should have been supremely happy, Faunce was miserable. He had lifted the cup at Circe’s banquet, and felt as if he had been transformed into some hideous monster that must return to his lair.

Sitting beside Diane on the train, their close proximity accentuated by the soft touch of her sleeve against his and by the faint, elusive perfume of her hair, aware that his ring gleamed on the slender finger of her left hand, he felt no thrill of exultation, only an intense bitterness of soul. He could never look his wife in the face without fear[157] that she would read his soul, find the hideous secret hidden there, and scorn him.

If some trick of fate, inexplicable as it was inexorable, had indeed brought Overton back from the dead, Faunce could already foresee the end. He began to thrash it over in his brain, to piece together every fragment of news he had of the English expedition, and to try to convince himself that it was humanly impossible for any of its members to have been so near that they could have reached Overton before he died. His own knowledge of the vast spaces of those frozen regions went to strengthen his hope that he was safe. He told himself, almost wildly, that it was not a hope that Overton was dead, but that he himself was safe from public shame.

Diane, unaware of her bridegroom’s agony of mind, sat looking deeply into the glow upon the far horizon. She had proudly accepted his word; if he said that Overton was dead she must believe him. She had not forced the issue by asking questions; she had assented to what he said. As she looked out in silence, she was not thinking of Faunce.

Then she became aware that he moved restlessly, and she turned and met his eyes. The agony in them was so intense that she started; but before she could speak, she saw it retreating, as if he withdrew his soul from her sight. It struck a chill to her heart. The look had been distraught,[158] like a wild animal peeping out, and at the alarm, rushing backward into its hiding-place.

“What is it, Arthur?” she exclaimed involuntarily.

Before he could reply a porter came through the train, holding up a telegram and calling out the name—“Arthur Faunce!”

Faunce took the envelope nervously and tore it open, his face changing perceptibly as he read the despatch.

“Our holiday is prolonged, Diane,” he said, turning to her with a forced smile. “There’s been an accident in the shipyard, the ship won’t be ready to sail for months. Instead of three weeks, it may be three months.”

They had planned three weeks or so in Florida—a touch of the tropical atmosphere before they began the long, hard voyage to the antarctic. To his surprise she showed regret.

“I’m sorry, Arthur, I really want to go soon. To me it’s the great adventure, and now we’ve months to wait! Shall you stay all that time in Florida? I think I’m really a little sorry—even for that!”

He was not. Secretly he had long dreaded the arduous expedition, the overwhelming presence that he must face—face with courage, too, or fall forever in her eyes.

“For my part I’ll be glad of the rest. You see, I’ve been in those frozen wastes, Diane, and[159] I know we’ll need a stock of sunshine to carry with us. And three months in Florida with you seems to me pretty near Paradise!” As he spoke he smiled, and his dark eyes softened with that charm which had gone so far to win her heart. Then he added:—“But if you don’t want warm weather all the time, we’ll come back north before we go. Wasn’t there some place—I think your father suggested a cottage—where we could have at least ten days of peace?”

She thought a moment, her eyes looking dark and dreamy under their black lashes.

“It’s a little house of father’s. We could go there, of course, and I’ll keep house. Yes, I think it would do you good, Arthur. You need rest—I’ve seen how fagged you were. After the heat and sunshine that bit of cool mountain air will brace you up. I should like it, too.”

Again he looked around at her. “Would you rather go there now?”

She shook her head. “I want our bit of Florida—and then this. We can go quite easily, and not be out of reach of your last arrangements, it’s in the Catskills, you know.”


She named a small place where the Herfords had long owned property.

He hesitated, regarding her absently. She turned as she spoke, and smiled. Her face seen thus, in the partial shadow of the car, between[160] daylight and dusk, had a peculiar charm, and her eyes held a tenderness that went to his head.

“We’ll go, Diane!” he whispered softly, laying his hand over hers with the first loverlike gesture he had used since they started.

“That’s settled then!”

She sank back in her corner, her face again shaded by her hat.

He was still thinking of their northern retreat.

“That name sounds familiar. Just where have I heard it before? I’ve never been much in the Catskills.”

She did not answer for a moment, and he looked round at her; but he could not make out the expression of her eyes, for they were bent intently on the hand that he had just released.

“You know the name—very well, I fancy. Think a moment, Arthur!”

“I can’t remember.”

“I thought you would,” she said softly. “It’s only a little place, but—Simon Overton was born there.”

Faunce made no reply at all. He sat quite still, looking steadily before him at the people in the car. For the moment it was impossible to meet her eyes.



With Diane things had reached a climax long before that culminating moment when she found that she had married not the man of her imagination, but a strange, abstracted, sleepless creature whose soul seemed to be retreating deeper and deeper into some hidden recess of his being. Following out their early plans they had spent months of waiting in Florida, but now the ship being nearly ready to sail, they had come north and gone to the Catskills. During their long stay at the south Diane had written occasionally to her father and heard from him at even rarer intervals. The judge was a poor correspondent and she noticed that he avoided any mention of the continued rumors that Overton still lived. Now, in this last retreat, even these rare letters stopped. Faunce had asked her to let their last brief week in their sylvan cottage be uninterrupted, and they had left no address behind them. They had spent six or seven days together in the solitude of the mountains. The splendor of the sky, which was already softening with the promise of summer, and the soft purple of the infolding hills, had[162] soothed her spirit, but they seemed to have only increased a deep disquietude in Faunce.

He tried to hide it from her. She could see a kind of furtive watchfulness in him that defeated any effort on her part to surprise his confidence. The subtle feeling of distrust that had crept into her reluctant heart leaped up whenever she saw his pale face opposite her, even at table, and found that his eyes, handsome and luminous as ever, avoided hers, or only met them with a sidelong glance from under his long, girlish lashes. It was a glance that had an indescribable effect of retreat, of slipping away, as if his soul evaded daylight and the open, as some hunted animal might shun the fellowship of its kind.

In this desire for isolation, he would not even allow a newspaper to find its way to the house, and she was as completely cut off from the world as if his love had marooned her on a desert island.

At first she had acquiesced in this peculiarity of his, had tried to adjust her own keen and active mind to a period of quietude, to a dropping away of the universe, that they might learn how to adjust their own temperaments to each other and find a common ground on which to establish their life together; but the longer she faced the problem, the more difficult was its solution. She could not reconcile herself to characteristics which she recognized as wholly divergent from her own conception of the man.

[163]He was not frank, as he had seemed to be, nor cordially disposed, nor courageously bent on high endeavor. He was secret, complex, and perilously evasive. He had never once, since their arrival in the mountains, spoken the name of Overton; yet by the swift and unerring instinct that comes to a woman at such moments, Diane knew that his former leader was never out of her husband’s mind. Overton it was who loomed between them, his shadowy arm outstretched, as if, even from the bourn of the undiscovered country, his spirit had arisen with new power and new divination.

Diane had accepted Faunce’s word. She had declared that she would believe her husband; and no whisper from the world beyond those shadowed hills had yet broken her resolution. But there were moments—in the depth of night, or in the solitude of some early-morning stroll—that made her heart sink. When she had hoped to find candor and stability, she had encountered a silence as perplexing as it was evasive.

It was a relief to her when, on the eighth or ninth day, he announced his intention of returning to the city. They were sitting over a belated breakfast, which Diane herself had prepared, with scant assistance from the little mountain maid who had come to the Herford cottage to help in their haphazard housekeeping.

The small dining-room, built for summer uses, jutted out from the house, and was almost part[164] of the large veranda which overlooked a magnificent prospect. The scene, flooded with sunshine and touched with the peculiar beauty of morning, lay before them in a panorama of spring. The distant mountains, outlined against a brilliant sky, were blocked out in every shade of violet and ocher, while near at hand the brown woods of winter were exquisitely veiled in a delicate haze of pale green and rose.

Here and there a wide glimpse showed a fallen tree spanning a mountain brook; or some tall pine raised its dark-green shaft, like a forest spire, pointing the way. In the wonderful clarity of the atmosphere even the most distant objects stood out in vivid outline, as if the whole scene had been painted by some Titan artist who had used the universe for his canvas and the colors of heaven for his brush. It had a fascination for Diane; it even comforted her, and she sat looking at it, forgetful of the neglected meal.

She was a little startled when Faunce spoke.

“I think we’ve reached the end of it, Diane. We’ll have to begin to face our great expedition. I’ve got to go to New York to-day.”

She looked up with a feeling of relief, but she met again that retreating glance of his.

“I knew we couldn’t put it off much longer, Arthur. I’ve expected you would be growing impatient as the days passed. But why to-day? It’s[165] such short notice! I shall have to close up everything at once.”

He pushed his cup aside, and she noticed for the first time that his coffee was untasted.

“I got a telegram last night. I didn’t tell you.”

“I thought no one knew where we were,” she replied slowly, averting her own eyes from the confusion that she could not help seeing in his face.

“No one but Asher.” This was the man who was to serve under Faunce in the new expedition. “I had to except him, of course. Last night I got a despatch, and I must go to New York to-day; but you needn’t be hurried, dear. I’ll come back to-night or to-morrow morning, and we’ll have a day or two more together before we start.”

Diane understood now his frequent lonely strolls at nightfall. He had gone to the post-office for mail that he had concealed from her. She had a strange sensation, which involved no jealousy of her husband’s private affairs. She felt as if the universe moved beneath her feet, confirming her feeling, too, that there was some new and impalpable barrier between them; but she made no sign of it. Instead, she put her elbow on the table and rested her chin in the hollow of her hand, while she regarded him with a quiet gaze.

“I wish you had told me!”

He moved restlessly in his chair.

“Why should I? It was such a simple thing[166] to do—so obviously necessary. I had to keep in touch with Captain Asher. Except for that, you’ve been the whole world to me,” he added, with that subtle gentleness which no man knew better how to use.

She smiled almost tremulously.

“I’m not jealous! Only——”

She rose abruptly and went to the window, looking out again on the hills. He followed her and put his arm around her.

“Only what, sweetheart?”

She hesitated; then she turned and met his eyes. Their faces were so close together that she felt his breath warm on her cheek.

“Only that I’ve felt, almost from the first, that there was no confidence between us, Arthur. We’re not starting right. We can’t stand still—we shall keep on growing either together or apart. You know it, I know it; but there’s something—it’s like a veil, impalpable and yet impenetrable—between us. What is it? Help me”—she half withdrew herself from his arms and laid her hand lightly on his shoulder—“help me to solve this riddle, dear, or——”

He was a little pale, but for the first time his eyes held hers, and she was less conscious of the retreat in them.

“Or what?” he asked.

His tone seemed expressionless, yet her quick ear caught a guarded note.

[167]“Or we shall lose each other,” she finished bravely. “Don’t you see? We’re two souls reaching out to each other through this thing that we call love; but if we can’t find any meeting-point, we shall pass—our two souls, I mean—like ships in the night! I’m not jealous, I’m not curious, but I want to feel that you and I stand face to face in spiritual confidence, that I know your heart as fully as I’ll try to make you know mine!”

He snatched at the chance she gave him—a chance for evasion.

“Oh, I know it, Diane—it’s a heart of gold! Beside it mine seems as commonplace as lead or pewter; but I love you—never doubt that—I love you with all my soul!”

As he spoke, he folded her close with a reiterated protest of his devotion. There was a moment of silence. Diane hid her face on his shoulder.

It was useless to try to reach him. She knew it now—knew that in protesting his affection with kisses and vows he had used the commonest weapon of defense against a jealous woman. She slipped out of his arms after a moment, and went back to the table, quietly putting aside the little tray on which she had previously set the samovar. He looked at his watch.

“I’ll have to go at once, dear, to get my train. No, I sha’n’t need any bag, I’m coming back so soon.”

[168]She looked over her shoulder.

“That’s all right, Arthur—don’t delay. I’ve got to see to so many things, if we’re to break up in two days. But—you don’t mind now if I write to father? You know I’ve kept the pact and remained in mysterious retreat, but since your breaking it to-day I can, of course, break it, too.”

She saw his hesitation, saw his face redden as he reached for his hat and coat, but she waited quietly, offering no assistance of any kind.

“Why, of course, Di, but”—he laughed weakly—“couldn’t you wait until I come back?”

“Until to-night? Oh, if you wish it! But then I think I’ll call him up on the long-distance. I should like to know just how he is.”

“Of course!” He came across the room to bid her an affectionate good-by. “I hate to go—to break it up—but I must.”

She assented, and stood in the doorway, watching him walk rapidly down the lane. At the end of it he turned and raised his hat, waving it to her.

She returned to her housewifely duties, gave a few directions to the little maid, and began to pack the few belongings that she had brought with her. She was amazed at her own eagerness to go. They had imagined much happiness in this quiet spot, but it had eluded them. She knew that it had eluded Faunce, for he had scarcely slept since they had been there, and his restlessness, his[169] uneasy, haunted look, had utterly broken down her own effort to be happy at any cost.

She paused in her thoughts with a shock of feeling which flooded her consciousness with a lucidity, an insight, that appalled her. Had they both been disappointed? Had the torch of Psyche been lifted by unsteady hands and fallen into an abyss between them?

Unable to endure her own thoughts, Diane thrust aside her work and went out. She needed to escape the thraldom of four walls and try—in the open—to vanquish the haunting spirits that might well have escaped from the secret caverns of those lovely hills to assail her with a fantom host of doubts.

She walked rapidly, avoiding the road to the little hamlet, and turning into a path that led her past the old house where Overton was born. At the moment she had not thought of it, but, as she approached, her mind returned to him and to the strange report which had so startled her wedding-guests. She thrust that away with an unconscious gesture of pride. She would not distrust Faunce; and to believe that Overton might still survive was to doubt his word. She battled against that with all her remaining strength, and tried to concentrate her thoughts on the beauty about her.

Summer was in the air, and the forces of nature, surviving the long conflict with the bitter winter, had gathered themselves together in a new[170] and beautiful conquest of the earth. At her feet young blades of grass thrust themselves up through the black loam with been new life. The same rebirth seemed to breathe, too, in the tremulous swinging of delicate boughs and the tasseling of magnificent foliage. Overhead the crows flew by twos and tens and twenties, uttering their harsh cries.

It was not tranquil, for the wind stirred restlessly in the branches. Far off she heard the rush of a waterfall, and she could see the dark ring of the encircling hills. It seemed to her that a great, unseen army moved about her, and a mighty conflict was in progress. The dead earth had reawakened; birth, not death, was here. The sap was in the trees, and in the warm moss beneath her feet a myriad living things were struggling up toward the sun.

She stopped suddenly and stood still. Below her, ascending the same path, was the figure of a man. He was still a long way off, but she caught the big outline, the deliberate but easy step, the peculiar erectness of the head and shoulders.

She could not stir, but stood rooted to the spot, all the forces of life suspended. It was impossible either to doubt her own vision or to imagine that it was an apparition. The certainties of her own life dissolved before this solution of the riddle that had tormented her soul; for she knew, even before he approached her, that she stood face to face,[171] not with a specter from the frozen pole, but with the living Overton.

A strange sensation, as if of personal guilt, overwhelmed her, and she shrank back with an involuntary feeling of panic. He did not observe it. He looked up, recognized her, and came forward with outstretched hands.


She commanded herself with a supreme effort.

“It’s—it’s really you?”

He was holding her hands now, smiling down at her, deeply moved.

“Did you think me a spook?” he laughed unsteadily. “It does seem almost impossible. I’ve fairly come back from the dead! Did you get my letter? I wrote you from London.”

“No—no, I’ve had no letter. I could scarcely believe that you had come back!”

She was trembling; she saw the look in his eyes and knew that he loved her. And how wasted he was, how pale! Here was a man who had indeed been near to death. She fought for time.

“I had given up all hope long ago,” she faltered. “The others were rescued; they believed you had been lost.”

As she spoke, she again raised her eyes to his, trying to find some reassurance there, something that would refute the horrible fear that wrung her heart; but what she saw made her look down, and[172] a deep flush mounted slowly and painfully over her pale face.

“I was as nearly dead as a man could be and live,” he answered soberly. “I can feel the frozen horror of it now, the creeping drowsiness—can see that bleak, inexorable wilderness where I was deserted and left to die!”

He paused, as if the mere thought of it made utterance impossible, as if he had faced a crisis so terrible and so deathlike that it must remain forever inarticulate.

“Left to die!” she repeated in a broken voice, feeling that the very earth sank beneath her feet. “Deserted! What can you mean?”

She was trying to be calm, but a nervous chill shook her from head to foot. He saw it; he caught her hands in his again.

“Diane, you care!” he breathed with deep emotion. “What does anything matter, then. I’ve come back and I’ve found you, my love, my love!”

She swayed and he caught her in his arms, holding her, his wasted face changed and lit with joy.

“Diane, I’ve come back to you!” he cried.

She pushed him away from her with both hands and stood, still shaking, supporting herself against the vine-clad trunk of an ancient oak.

“Don’t!” she gasped in a low voice. “You’ve made a mistake—I’m married!”

There was a moment of intense silence. He[173] straightened himself with a shudder, like a man who had been shot but could still keep on his feet.

“You’re married? And your—your husband, Diane—who is he?”

She watched him. She felt as if life itself hung on the look that she would see in his eyes when she answered.

“Arthur Faunce,” she murmured in a low voice.


It was a cry of horror, of dismay—she could not mistake that. Overton stood still, a deep color flaming up in his face. He was apparently incapable of speech, but the look in his eyes, as they met hers, was a revelation. It showed neither anger nor jealousy, but only a deep and horrified consternation.



It was a long time before they left the spot where they had met. Unconsciously and unbidden, he turned back with her. They were silent. She could hear with extraordinary keenness every pebble that crunched under his feet but she dared not look at him. She had a strange sensation of suffocating in the open air. A rending fear shook her, yet even at that supreme moment she had a rush of lucidity, a remembrance of every word that Faunce had said.

He had been with Overton when he died—that much had been clearly understood by all; and now, when they knew that Overton was not dead, but had been rescued by the gallant English sailors who had followed so closely on his track, what explanation remained, what defense for Faunce?

“Where I was deserted and left to die!”

Overton’s words rang in Diane’s ears. Suspense was intolerable; she must know the truth, even if the truth meant ruin. She forced herself to speak.

“You said just now that you were deserted and left to die. Please tell me what you meant!”

[175]There was a perceptible pause before he answered.

“Did I say that? I”—he hesitated—“I’ve nearly forgotten what I said.”

She managed to raise her eyes to his face, and was relieved to find that he was not looking at her. She felt like one lost in a trackless desert. She must find a way out of it; she could not give up, could not believe herself lost. If she did, she would perish. She forced herself to speak again.

“But I haven’t forgotten. How could I? Will you tell me?”

He shook his head.

“Not now—give me a little time to think, please. You must know that it’s all confused—I’ve been so ill and delirious. You mustn’t ask too much of a sick man’s memory,” he ended lamely, trying to smile as he turned at last and faced her.

She met his eyes and felt the full power of their love and their renunciation. Their message was so clear that it made her feel faint. She put her hand out involuntarily and caught at an intervening branch, steadying herself.

He started toward her.

“What is it? You’re ill!”

She shook her head, recovering herself with an effort. She knew that he was hiding from her something ruinous to her husband. There was a second in which she still struggled with herself;[176] then a strange vicarious acceptance of guilt made her face burn. She had cloaked herself with the iniquity of Faunce, if iniquity it was, and she could no longer speak or act as a separate entity.

They began to descend the steep path again. This time the pebbles tumbled ahead of them in a little shower as they scrambled down. Diane tried to talk casually, not looking at Overton again.

“How is it you’re here, in this out-of-the-way place, so soon after your return?”

“My aunt, my mother’s only sister, is living over there. She’s nearly eighty, and she wanted to see me. I found her still in the black she’d worn for me for months. It’s a strange thing to return from the dead! I needed rest, too, just for a day or so.”

“You—look ill.”

He smiled.

“I’ve just pulled through; and yet it’s strange, isn’t it, the fever that possesses me to go back! The lure is on me. It draws men back, I suppose, to their doom!”

“It does—my husband is going again.”

“So they told me in New York. I was there a few hours. Of course the newspapers besieged me, and I heard that much. Then I escaped. That’s why I didn’t hear of—of your marriage.”

[177]He was unable to maintain his tone, and his voice broke on the word. She winced.

“It was a quiet wedding; not much was said about it. My father has been ill.”

He expressed his regret, and asked for the latest news of the judge’s health. She colored deeply.

“We haven’t written. It was agreed, when Arthur and I came up here, that no one should write to us. You see, he’s been so much pursued about everything! I’ve been shut up here, out of the world, and I know nothing.”

He turned quickly, and their eyes met with a shock of feeling. She knew intuitively that there was a reason why she had been kept in the dark, and that he fathomed it and was indignant for her.

Once, when Overton was a lad, he had thrashed a comrade for maltreating a lame dog. She had seen him do it, and she remembered the look in his eyes. She saw the same look now, flaming up in tranquil depths like a torch in the dusk.

She hurried on. A little ahead of him she could command herself; to meet his look just now was more than she could bear.

“Shall you go down to Mapleton?” she managed to ask him. “The Prices and Dr. Gerry will want so much to see you. So will papa—you know that!”

“I did intend to go there at once; but now—yes, I suppose I shall. A man goes home, doesn’t[178] he, for the same reason that a cat returns to the old house? It’s habit.”

“They’ll all be so glad to see you—you shouldn’t call it just habit to go back there. It was—it is your home, isn’t it?”

He laughed a little bitterly.

“I haven’t a home in the sense that you mean. I think I’ll be henceforth a nomadic creature. I’ve been away too long!”

She understood the bitterness in his tone, and she fought against the wave of feeling that submerged her being. She had scarcely dreamed that his voice could mean so much to her. The sound of it brought back those old days when she had listened for it—the days when Faunce had had no place in her thoughts, though now she was his wife!

As she walked blindly on, hearing Overton’s step behind her once more, feeling his presence, it seemed incredible that they were separated forever, that her own act had made an impassable gulf between them. She struggled with herself. She had believed in her love for Faunce; she believed in it still. If she did not love him, why should she suffer so deeply at the horrible doubt of him that had assailed her? She loved him, she must believe in him, and—if she could not believe in him—she must suffer with him.

They had reached a turn in the path. Below them lay a wild ravine where a mountain stream[179] tumbled over the rocks, lashed itself to foam in its descent, and then dropped placidly into a wide pool, where in summer the speckled trout darted in lovely shallows and the water-lilies bloomed. Beyond, the hills rose one above another until they darkened into the purple distance, piled like a mass of heavy clouds against the deepening splendor of the western sky.

Near at hand, rising above some clustering evergreens, was the roof of the little cottage that Judge Herford had built for an occasional summer vacation. A white plume of smoke rose from the single chimney in the center, and they could see the sun shining on the window-panes.

“There’s the house,” Diane said, as lightly as she could. “I think papa built it before you went away, didn’t he? It’s only a rambling affair, but we’ve done very well there, and it’s really cozy and warm.”

“I knew it was here, but”—he hesitated—“it’s strange, isn’t it, that my aunt never spoke of your being here?”

“Perhaps she didn’t know it. We’ve been very quiet.” She colored again as she turned toward him. “Won’t you come in and take a cup of tea? I can give you that—though we’re roughing it.”

He hesitated; then, aware, perhaps, that the moment was an awkward one for both, he assented, and followed her down the last slope to[180] the road. They crossed the little bit of lawn together, and Diane’s mountain maid opened the door for them. While she and her mistress went to make tea for him, Overton entered the living-room, and stood looking down at the few logs that were smoldering in the big, open fireplace.

The room was quaint, planned much in the style of a shooting-lodge that Judge Herford had visited abroad. A gun and a rod swung high over the stone mantel-shelf. An old Turkey rug covered the floor, and a couch in the corner suggested that it was sometimes used for an unexpected guest.

On the table Overton saw an elaborate cigarette-case with the initials of Arthur Faunce, and on the mantel, almost under his hand, was a pipe that Faunce must have left there. Nearer, on a chair, were tossed a bit of Diane’s needlework and her work-basket. They had been sitting there together by that fireplace, husband and wife, the woman whom Overton loved and the coward who had left him to perish in those awful wastes!

The touch of intimacy, of actuality, drove the naked reality home. Overton turned from the fireplace with a smothered groan and began to pace the room.

The scene, warm, familiar, poignantly suggestive of her presence, suddenly receded from his mental vision, and the illimitable snows took its place. He saw again a slate-colored sky, a white[181] and dazzling waste, lofty peaks of bluish ice, and the face of Faunce bending over his, distorted with sheer terror, the shrinking eyes avoiding his, the lips blue. The howl of the antarctic blast seemed to sweep over his very soul. He remembered the moment, fraught with the bitterness of death, when, half-rousing from his stupor, he had seen the coward go, when he had realized that the last means of escape had been snatched from him, and that, helpless and wounded, he must perish there alone.

Overton recalled his rage, his hatred of the man who had deserted him, the violence of the spiritual struggle that had torn and wounded his soul until, in one wild moment, he had almost cursed his Maker. It was then, when he had nearly lost his hope of heaven, that he had felt the rush of penitence, of faith. In that illimitable space a Greater Presence had been revealed, and he had felt the gripping power of things unseen and eternal. He had known that, though forsaken, he was not alone; that a Spirit greater than the universe itself was with him. He had cried aloud to God; and surely it was God who had answered him.

Out of the stupor, the terrible frozen mist that had at last benumbed him, body and soul, had come the rescue—the sound of human voices, the touch of strong human hands—and he was saved. But his anger against Faunce, his scorn of the traitor, had survived. Now, as he tried to clear[182] his recollection of it, Overton felt sore that he had not spared him, but had told his rescuers the truth. He remembered their indignation—the indignation that brave men feel against a coward and a weakling.

Later, when the illness had left him, he had said less, had been reserved in his references to Faunce, and he knew that on his landing in New York he had refrained from describing the details of his narrow escape from death. It was a chance, perhaps, that he had not betrayed more, and he was thankful—thankful that, so far at least, he had spared Diane; for Diane, as Faunce’s wife, must be the one to suffer.

But could he do more to spare her? His mind was confused with the horror of it. The loss of the woman he loved was bad enough, but to see her the wife of such a man!

It was significant that even in that moment of despair his thought was for her, and not for himself. He must shield her if he could. He must save, if he could, her faith in the wretched man she had married; for, if she loved Faunce, it would be the shipwreck of her life to see him dishonored and exposed.

Presently he heard her returning, followed by the maid with the tea-tray and the samovar. They came in together. Diane had removed her hat and coat, and in her simple house-gown, her brown hair rumpled by the wind, she looked almost[183] as when Overton had seen her last. There was the same delicate color in her cheeks, the same elusive charm in her soft eyes under their straight, thick lashes, the same white throat and brow, and yet how changed she was! He saw it when she made tea for him and raised her eyes as she handed him the cup.

“You’ll have to take cream and sugar,” she said with forced lightness. “We’re truly ‘twelve miles from a lemon’ here!”

He took the cup with a smile, and sat down in a low chair by her tea-table. The little maid threw another log on the fire and vanished. For a moment there was no sound in the room but the crackle of the flame as it licked up the dry bark of the new log. He looked at it thoughtfully as he absently tasted his tea.

“It’s good to see a fire again. I don’t believe I’ll ever get past the joy of feeling warm!” He forced a laugh. “Do you remember that late autumn when we were all on the shore in Connecticut, and you and I gathered driftwood?”

“Yes, and it was beautiful. What flames shot out! And have you forgotten Mrs. Price and the ghost-story?”

They both laughed.

“She thought it wasn’t scriptural! How’s Fanny? She was in school when I left.”

“She’s been out nearly two seasons, and she’s a very pretty girl. Nothing could be more amusing[184] than to see her with the dean and her mother. They flutter behind her like two proud, fat sparrows watching a fledgling.”

“The dean’s all right; he was good to me when I was a boy. How’s Dr. Gerry?”

“Just the same!”

Diane stopped to offer more tea, but Overton refused it and set his cup down. She intuitively felt the effort he was making to skim the surface of talk. The strain was too much for her. She rose and went to the fire, kneeling on a low cushion by the hearth, and pretending to watch the blaze, that he might not see her face. There was a brief pause, and then she spoke without looking around.

“Shall you go back?”

“To the antarctic? God knows!”

“The new expedition sails very soon—in a week, I think.”

“Oh, no! I heard this morning that it had been put off.”

He spoke without thinking. Diane turned, her face flushed.

“Arthur went to New York to-day. I—why, it’s because you’ve come, isn’t it?”

He was on his guard again.

“I hope not. I’ve nothing to do with it. I shouldn’t go now, of course.”

“Do you mean you wouldn’t go with—Arthur?”

“I didn’t say that!”

[185]“But you meant it.” She rose slowly to her feet. “I know you meant it!”

She stopped, for he had risen, too.

“Perhaps I did mean that; but can’t you understand there may be other reasons why I can’t go? I——” His face flushed no less deeply than hers, but he raised his head, and she was again aware of the fineness of his presence, his air of strength. “There are many reasons why I can’t bear to go,” he went on slowly. “There are reasons which—at this moment—are doubly painful. You must forgive me, have a little patience with me.”

She did not answer. She was trying to control herself, but she could not; tears suddenly rained down her cheeks.

“Diane!” he exclaimed in dismay.

She put her hand up, as if to ward off a blow.

“Oh, if you feel like that—if you still feel so, I entreat you——” she stretched out her clasped hands toward him in a gesture of supplication—“I beg of you to tell me the truth! I can’t bear it any longer. I’ve tried not to speak, but I can’t help it—I must! Tell me the truth—what is this thing? What happened? Who deserted you?”

He averted his face, but she was aware of the struggle in his mind. He spoke at last with an effort.

“I can’t—I mustn’t! What there is to tell, Faunce must tell you himself. Say to him that[186] I have been here and I want to see him. He may want to come to me—tell him that I’ll wait until he does come. He’ll understand that!”

She did not speak again, but stood looking at him, the color slowly leaving her face. She held herself very erect, with her head up, as if she saw a battle before her and would not give it up.

It was a moment so pregnant with feeling, so tragic in discovery, that neither of them could bridge it with mere words. Overton did not even take her hand, but turned with a mute gesture of farewell and walked slowly out of the room and out of the house, his head bent and his shoulders bowed, like a man who carried a burden.



It was late in the evening, long past their usual dinner-hour, when Diane heard Faunce coming up the path to the front door. Ever since that bitter moment with Overton, she had been trying to steady her mind for this meeting. It seemed to her that she must be ready for it—ready to force the climax, to make Faunce tell her the truth.

If she had failed to get the whole story from Overton, his very silence and his omissions had made it easy for her imagination to fill up the gaps. She shuddered now before the vision that her tortured mind had conjured from the frozen silence. What had happened behind the gray curtain of the mist and snow? What deep and tragic drama had been enacted? She did not know, yet she shuddered. She felt the weight of it upon her. The shadow of it lay across her path, between her and her husband.

She sat alone before the big fireplace, almost in the very spot where Overton had stood, and listened. She could not move, she could not even go to open the door. She was listening to the step—a little hurried and uncertain—that came[188] up the steps and across the porch, and halted at the door. There was a moment’s pause, and then Faunce thrust his latch-key into the lock. She dragged herself to her feet and stood facing the door, incapable of action or speech.

He came in very pale and haggard, but his preoccupation had gained upon him, and he was not even startled to see his wife standing there, motionless, before the fire. He saw her, saw the long, graceful lines of her figure, the small, uplifted head; but he was too much absorbed in the struggle within to recognize the change in her.

“I’ve kept you waiting!” he exclaimed hurriedly. “You must forgive me this time, dear! I hope you haven’t waited dinner?”

As he spoke, he came over and kissed her cheek, without apparently perceiving the anguish in her eyes. She yielded, let him caress her soft hair a moment, but she was trying, all the while, to shape the questions that rushed to her lips.

Something in his face, in its stricken look, stopped her. She drew back and went to the table. It had been set for two by the maid, and the belated dinner announced itself by the savory odor of cooking from the kitchen.

“Of course I waited,” Diane said in a dull voice. She herself was startled at the sound of it, it seemed so changed; and yet he did not notice it. “We’d better sit down at once. I know[189] Annie wants to go home before it gets any later.”

He assented readily, still unobservant, and they were already seated when the maid brought in the soup and busied herself serving them. While she was there, Diane felt the need of seeming as gay as usual. She inquired for news of New York, and asked if he had telephoned to her father.

“I left that for you. I felt sure the judge wouldn’t want me to do it for you,” he replied without looking up. “For the rest—I saw Asher. The expedition has been delayed. If you wish it, Diane, we can stay here a little longer.”

She hesitated, and then, as the girl removed the tureen, she managed to say in a natural voice:

“I think I’d rather not. If—if we’re going at all, I want to stay with papa a while before we sail.”

He looked up for the first time.

“Why do you say ‘if’? What makes you uncertain?”

She met his eyes squarely, a slow flush staining her cheeks.

“Because I think there may be some change. Simon Overton has come back. He was here this afternoon.”

There was a sharp pause. Faunce met her gaze steadily for an instant longer; then he looked down at his plate, deliberately took his knife and fork, and began to eat like a man who had been suddenly relieved of a terrible suspense.

[190]“Yes, I know he’s come back. I heard the details to-day; but I didn’t know he was here. I suppose he came here to see—you?”

She could not follow his example and try to eat, though she was aware that the little maid was watching them again with bright, curious eyes.

“He came up here to see his old aunt,” she replied with another effort. “I met him accidentally in the woods, and he came here to tea this afternoon. He left a message for you.”


“He said he wanted to see you, and would wait—until you came.”

Faunce seemed to consider this and weigh it carefully; but he continued to eat his dinner with more appetite, Diane thought, than usual. Again she had a vague impression that he was relieved. The tension seemed less, and there was even a little color in his usually pale face.

“If you’ll excuse me, then, dear, I’ll go to see him as soon as we’ve finished dinner,” he said at last.

She caught her breath quickly, a wild hope leaping up in her heart. Had she wronged him? Would Arthur be so ready to face Overton, so apparently eager to meet him, if he had been the one to forsake him? A feeling of intense relief swept over her, and she sank back weakly in her chair.

[191]“It seemed a miracle that he has come back—I couldn’t understand it!” she faltered.

He glanced at her without apparent comprehension. His mind seemed to have withdrawn itself again into the limbo of forgetfulness, and she saw that he was despatching his food with all the haste he could without seeming to hurry her too much.

The little maid, having served the coffee, retired to the kitchen, leaving them alone. Diane tried again, seeking wildly for some reassurance, some certainty that he was innocent.

“He didn’t tell me much about that awful time when he so nearly perished,” she said slowly, choosing her words; “but what he said—horrified me. I can’t forget it!”

Faunce raised his eyes reluctantly to her face, and she saw a strange expression in them—an expression that baffled her.

“Such things aren’t easy to describe, Diane. It’s like anything else that’s terrible and awe-inspiring—it leaves one speechless. There’s something about the polar wastes that makes a man’s soul numb and mute. I can imagine that any one lost there might become—well, just a brute!”

As he spoke, he rose from his chair, went to the mantel, and, opening his cigarette-case, selected a cigarette and lit it. Diane, watching him with her heart throbbing heavily, noticed that the hand which held the match shook a little; but[192] when the light flared up on his face, it seemed to her unusually composed. He picked up his overcoat and pulled it on, talking to her in an evasive tone.

“I’ll go over at once. I may be late, for we shall have a good deal to say. Don’t sit up for me—you look tired.”

She had remained seated at the table, and she busied herself pouring out another cup of coffee.

“I hope you won’t be too late. You’re so restless, Arthur, and you sleep so little! I don’t see how you live.”

“I think I shall sleep to-night.”

Again his tone had in it the suggestion of relief that had reassured her. She watched him as he went out, and then mechanically lifted the cup to her lips and drank the coffee. It seemed to steady her nerves a little. She rose and, going to the hearth, knelt down and stretched her hands out to the blaze. She had not been aware before that she was cold, but she was shaking with a chill that reached her very heart.



Meanwhile Faunce pursued his way along the road that led to Overton’s stopping-place with a steadiness that would have amazed no one more than it amazed himself. He had come to the end of his rope; or, to change the analogy, the game was played out, he had lost, and he must pay.

He had believed himself safe. No matter how much the hidden shame corroded his soul, he had believed that his secret was as safe as death and the polar snows could make it. Like a mantle the inexorable ice had covered his cowardice, and he had returned, not a craven in men’s eyes, but a hero.

In his own eyes he had become a thing so miserable and so dishonest that his daily life had been filled with exquisite torture. The love that had driven him on to make Diane his wife had, in the end, been only a knife to cut deeper into his quivering flesh. Every word of hers, every caress, every evidence of her character, had only served to reveal the light in which she would be sure to regard him if she knew the truth.

She had married the hero of her imagination; if some untoward fate ever revealed the actual[194] man to her, she would recoil in dismay, perhaps in horror. Faunce had seen this from the first, but he had believed that he had a right to keep his secret, to live it down, to “let the dead past bury its dead.”

Now, when a miracle had happened, and the grave had given up its dead, there was no power on earth that could save him. She must know the truth—she might know it even now! He recalled the look in her eyes, her coldness and abstraction. She might know it already from Overton, and only be waiting for him to enlighten Faunce. If she did not know it now, she would know it to-morrow or the day after. It could not be long delayed; the end was close at hand.

As Faunce realized this, he drew a long breath. He was amazed to feel relief. In spite of all it meant to him, his first feeling had been almost one of dizziness, like a man from whom a weight has suddenly fallen, and who reels back light-headed and unable to adjust himself to the change in his equilibrium.

If Overton lived, Faunce was no longer responsible for his death. No man could brand him with the mark of Cain. He was liberated from the thing that had hung upon him as fearfully as the slaughtered albatross once hung upon the neck of the Ancient Mariner.

There was relief, then—a relief that sent the blood rushing to his heart and the fire to his brain;[195] but with the relief came the awful certainty of ruin. He could never hold up his head again among the men who had so lately hailed him as a friend and a hero. It might be worse to be a confessed craven than a secret felon. There could be no delay, no escape; his fate had passed out of his own control, and the God whom he had ignored in the polar wastes would shape his destiny now. Faunce was powerless; he could neither hasten nor delay it.

His very impotence, in relieving him of the decision, was almost a blessing. All that he could do was to give in, to yield, to let things take their course. The feeling of numbness that follows a great disaster possessed him—a kind of apathy which was in itself a relief to a man who had not slept without the use of drugs for so long a time that sleep without them had become impossible.

He walked steadily on, and at last he became aware of the scene about him. It was a wild night. A wind had risen, and the sky was full of driving clouds, with now and then a moment when the full moon flashed out and clothed the hills with spectral beauty. The creaking of the trees, bent by the gale, and the occasional snapping of a bough, filled the air with sound. Here and there a light shone in the scattered houses, and far off a dog bayed incessantly.

Faunce climbed a sharp ascent, and, turning into a wider path, suddenly found himself before[196] the house where Overton was visiting his old relative. As he rang and stood waiting, his apathy suddenly left him. A feeling of staggering humiliation succeeded it, and he had difficulty in controlling an almost overwhelming impulse of flight.

Then the door opened, and he found himself asking for Overton. The servant, a gaunt, pale-faced woman, evidently an old standby, led him down a long, narrow hall to a portion of the house which had been added as unexpectedly and unreasonably as some perverse imp might add an extra wing to a chicken or a fifth leg to a cow. Being lightly built, it was to-night nearly as tremulous and uncertain in the wind as the pendulum of the ancient clock in the entry.

The woman, preceding Faunce, opened a door, and asked him to sit down and wait in the library while she went to announce him. He entered reluctantly, aware of a brilliant light from the reading-lamp on the low table in the center, and looked about him, glad of a few moments’ added reprieve.

The room was low-ceiled and rather narrow. Heavy crimson curtains covered the windows, while a straggling arrangement of book-shelves and an ancient desk suggested that it had once been the sanctuary of the master of the house—the old aunt’s husband, who had died, if Faunce remembered right, about ten years before. Above the shelves stood a bust of Shakespeare, a little[197] crude in outline, and on the wall hung an engraving of Webster, making one of his famous speeches. The low mantel was covered with a hideous hanging of crewel-work, which suggested another generation as keenly as did the crocheted tidies still on the backs of the armchairs.

On the table, amid a litter of books and papers, an old pipe lay beside the open ink-well. Near it, lying open, was the book that Faunce himself had published, which contained the rescued sheets from Overton’s diary and Faunce’s frenzied efforts to patch together the broken record, to force one and two to make four.

The sight of it there, the evidence that Overton must have been reading his version of that fateful journey, affected Faunce deeply. He moved slowly to the table and looked down at the open page, sure before he saw it that it must be the one on which he had inscribed his own story of Overton’s death—had lied, in black and white, to save himself from shame!


He was not mistaken—it was the very page, and a deep pencil-mark accentuated the most damning paragraph. He straightened himself with a sickening feeling of shame, and drew back, trying to steady himself.

At that moment he heard a step outside in the hall, and Overton entered, shut the door behind him, and stood looking at Faunce.



It seemed an interminable moment to Faunce that they stood thus, looking at each other. He had time to note the terrible change and waste in Overton’s face—the face that had haunted him so long with the veil of frozen mist upon it, fixed and unconscious in its awful tranquillity. Now that he saw it alive and hollowed with suffering, it gave him a strange feeling—or, rather, a confusion of feelings, in which relief was for the moment uppermost. However he had failed, however he had played the craven, the man lived, he had no death on his soul!

But his feeling of relief was succeeded by swift and overwhelming humiliation, which increased when Overton amazed him by advancing calmly across the room and holding out a hand.

“Well, Faunce, I’m glad you came—although I suppose you had very little wish to come!”

Faunce colored deeply, his hand falling away from Overton’s with a growing feeling of shame.

“It was hard to come—for I don’t know what to say. Indeed, there’s nothing for me to say. I know, of course, what you think of me!”

[199]The other man put this aside with a significant gesture of weariness.

“Let it go, Faunce—I’m tired of it. For a while I believed I hated you and reviled you in my thoughts; but afterward, looking back at it, I couldn’t blame a man for wanting to live. That was, of course, the size of it.”

As he spoke, he sat down in the armchair by the table, signing to Faunce to take the seat opposite. His manner was easy and unaffected. He had evidently prepared himself for this meeting. Besides, he had the immeasurable advantage of being the injured party.

Faunce, who had expected reproaches and condemnation, was staggered by Overton’s attitude. He could not fathom it, and he tried to face it with a shrewdness and acumen that might cover his confusion and discover the other man’s motives.

“I don’t believe you feel like that!” he said harshly. “You can’t! I’ve often pictured it to myself, and felt that in your place I should have cursed the man who left me. To use a sailor’s phrase, you’ve taken a strange tack—what are you driving at? What do you want of me?”

Overton smiled a little grimly, but he opened a box of cigars and pushed them across the table.

“Have a cigar? Here’s a light—we’ll talk it over. I’m not driving at anything. I can only say—with truth—that having been so near death down there, and knowing the horror of it, I can[200] understand that you wanted to live. It’s merely an elemental instinct, anyway.”

Faunce, who had not lit the cigar he had selected, sat staring in speculative silence. His first thought had been that Overton must want something—must wish to make some deal about the new expedition, or he could not have helped reproaching the man who had deserted him and left him to die. But, looking at the other’s face, ennobled and spiritualized by suffering, Faunce began to realize that Overton was still too great to fall to the level to which he himself had fallen.

His own feeling of humiliation swept back on him, wave upon wave, until he felt like a man who was slowly drowning and knew that little by little the water would rise above his head. He sank back in his chair with a shudder.

“It may have been that,” he admitted reluctantly. “It came over me with such a rush of horror that I couldn’t stay. I never meant to leave you, Overton. I meant to behave like a man, to stay by you as we’d both stood by Rayburn; but I had seen him die, I thought I saw you going the same way, and suddenly it seized me—that feeling—God knows what it was! It was impossible for me to stay. I don’t try to excuse myself—I had to go!”

Overton nodded.

“That’s panic. I know the feeling. I’ve had it myself once or twice, in those solitudes; but”—he[201] hesitated, carefully holding his cigar over the little ash-tray on the table, and knocking the ashes from it with a deliberation that hid his eyes from Faunce—“well, I haven’t yielded to it, that’s all!”

“I did. I don’t want to excuse myself; I know well enough that you’re not the man to excuse—what I did. I’ve often thought that I must have been mad—stark, staring mad!”

Overton smoked for a while in a silence that seemed to Faunce a good deal worse than speech.

“Suppose we let that drop, eh!” he said at length. “It’s over and done with, and if we’re to go on at all we’ve got to forget it. But there’s another side to it—a side that I wanted to see you about. You’re married. There’ll be some danger of this—this thing injuring you. Now, what I wanted to say, and to say strongly, is this—we mustn’t let it hurt your wife!”

Faunce raised his head with a look of such sudden anguish that it astonished Overton. He had not been considering Arthur, only Diane; but now he turned in his chair and looked attentively at the man himself. Faunce, meanwhile, forced himself to speak.

“You saw her to-day. Did you tell her?”

“Of course not! I’m not cad enough for that.”

“You might well tell her without being a cad. There’s no reason for you to spare me. I didn’t spare you!”

[202]“There are a great many reasons why I should spare her, though!” Overton retorted dryly.

Faunce bit his lip. The implication was plain—Overton had more consideration for Faunce’s wife than Faunce had himself.

“It’s useless!” he said bitterly. “She’s sure to know, now that you’re back.”

“Is she? That’s just what I wanted to know. I’ve been trying to recall all that I said when I first regained consciousness—how far I gave it all away. Lately I’ve said nothing. How much has got out already! How much can we suppress? We must spare her if we can—you must see that!”

Faunce stared in sheer incredulity. He had come to face recrimination, to deal with an angry and righteously offended man. He found, instead, a hand stretched out to help him cover his own shame; but the price of it would be a moral obligation as great as the shame. He shuddered.

“You mean”—he spoke slowly, haltingly—“that you want this to go on! That instead of avenging yourself on me, you’re disposed to help me hide what—what I did, and that I’m to keep on as I am—to save my wife?”

Overton assented, stopping to look attentively at his half-smoked cigar, that he might again avoid looking at Faunce.

“My God, I can’t do it!”

Faunce’s cry seemed to be wrung from an inner agony too great to bear. Overton started and[203] looked up as the other man rose from his chair and began to pace the room with disordered steps, his head down.

“I tell you I can’t do it!” Faunce continued in a choked voice. “I’ve been in hell for months. I came back here with a lie on my lips, and I’ve lived a lie ever since. I thought that you were dead, and that I should have to go on doing it; but when I knew you had come back I felt as if a stone had fallen from my neck. You were alive, thank God, and I was free. I was ruined, but I was free from my own tower of lies—free to slink into a corner and grovel there in shame. I’ve known for months that if it ever came out I was ruined, and I was prepared to face it. I’d rather face it!”

He stopped in the center of the room and looked at Overton in a kind of mad defiance.

“I tell you, I haven’t slept, not through a night, since I left you. You’ve haunted me! I can still hear the crunch of the snow under my feet, I can see that frozen desert. And they were going to send me back. Diane wanted me to go back—she believed I had a mission! I was going—I felt like a whipped dog that has to go home to be whipped again. I’m a coward. I haven’t the courage to go on lying. Tell them the truth and let me suffer, but set me free!”

Overton tossed his cigar-stump into the fire and rose slowly to his feet, facing him.

[204]“I can’t, nor can you. You can’t disgrace your wife. You know as well as I know—what would happen. It would ruin you. You can’t do it. You’ve married her, and—you’ve got to protect her. I’ll make you!”

Faunce drew back, meeting Overton’s eyes sullenly, his face distorted.

“Oh, I know! You love her. She’ll think I did it all to—to put you out of the way. She’ll despise me, too!”

Overton returned his look steadily.

“She’d have a right to despise you, if you let this thing disgrace her. It’s not out yet, and we must hide it.”

“Impossible!” Faunce threw out both hands with a gesture of repugnance. “I was in New York to-day, and I was asked a thousand questions. They’re on the trail—they’ll run it down!”

“They can’t run it down if we’re determined to hide it, to stand pat about it. That’s why I wanted to see you. I’ve been over the ground, and I think we can do it. Here’s this book of yours. I see you’ve used my diary and my notes as if I had died sure enough; but you’ve left a gap here.” He put his finger on the page. “We needn’t fill it. We can leave it shrouded in a nebulous haze. You speak of our being separated, but you don’t precisely state that we came together again before I broke my ankle. It has, by the way, lamed me[205] a little. Now, think—think hard. Who knows the truth? Any one besides ourselves?”

Faunce thought, steadying himself.

“Yes; I think Asher knows enough to guess the rest. Asher was going with me on the new expedition, and he knows that the news of your return delayed it. He may be able to piece out the facts. I told them little enough. I’ve hidden the truth—I had cause!”

Overton nodded understandingly.

“I thought so. Then I’ll see Asher; he’s a friend of mine, and I think I can answer for him. We’ve something to fear from England; but there, too, I’ll use my influence, and we’ll hush it up.”

“And I’m to spend the rest of my life supporting the intolerable burden of your magnanimity—your greatness? I can’t understand your feeling toward a fellow who—who treated you as I did. I might as well have murdered you!”

Overton gave him a hard look.

“Understand me, Faunce, I’m human. I don’t care a hang about your feelings, but I’m willing to do my utmost, to give my utmost, to save the woman you’ve dared to marry!”

Faunce drew a tense breath. The accumulated fury of shame and humiliation leaped up. The strain was too much for his taut nerves, and he took a quick step forward.

“I see!” he said in a low voice. “You’re putting me under an obligation because you love my[206] wife! I may have been a craven—I admit that I was a craven—but I have never tried to make any woman hate her husband!”

Like a flash Overton’s right arm shot out, and his fist struck Faunce full in the face. The blow was as sharp as it was unexpected. With the same violent impulse, Faunce leaped at him and hurled him back against the wall. Overton, who was still broken in health, reeled before the assault, and kept his feet only by snatching at the mantel-shelf, while he turned deadly pale. Faunce saw it, let go his hold, and drew back with an inarticulate sound of mingled rage and remorse.

“Good Heavens, you’re making me a coward again! I left you to die once, and now I’ve tried to kill you! Let me go! We two can’t live on the same planet without an intolerable conflict. Take your revenge, expose me—and be hanged!”

Overton, however, had recovered his self-control.

“I was wrong,” he said bluntly. “I had no right to bring your wife into it. We can’t insult her by a fight like this. As you say, we can’t get on, Faunce, but we can agree to silence—we must. To speak now does no man any good, and it will bring misery to—to some.”

“To my wife!” Faunce straightened himself. The violent flush of anger faded out of his face. He turned wearily, picked up his hat, and tossed Overton’s cigar—which he had never lit—upon the table. “Do as you like! To force me to go[207] on is about the worst punishment you can inflict. I’ve reached the limit!”

Overton, bent on saving Diane the humiliation of her husband’s disgrace, followed him to the door.

“I’ll speak to Asher, and I’ll write to England. Let the thing die out. It’s agreed, eh?”

Faunce, who was already on the little old-fashioned stoop, looked back, and Overton got an impression of a white face and haggard eyes; but Faunce made no reply in words. He merely nodded his head and disappeared into the shadows that were gathered thick under the cedars in the path.

Overton stood a moment longer in the door, staring blankly into the night, which was again fitfully lit up by the moon, and listening to those retreating footsteps. They weirdly recalled the moment when he half revived from his frozen stupor and saw the one human figure that he had clung to receding in a white mist. It cost him again a supreme effort to control the rush of his contempt and hatred for the man who had just left him.



As Overton went in and shut the door, Faunce found himself once more in the road, and turned mechanically to go back to the cottage. He had almost lost his mental bearings, and for the moment he was incapable of coherent thought. The march of events had been too swift, the revulsion of feeling too strong.

In his soul, at that instant, there was neither hatred, nor contempt, nor even shame. He was numb. He had passed through a long agony, and had paid—in his heart’s blood—for his craven act. He was still paying, doubtless he would pay until the day of his death; but a strange apathy had come over him. His emotion had spent itself in his attack upon Overton, and now shame had drowned him so completely that it had submerged even his resistance, and he was only intensely weary.

The physical man, worn down by want of sleep, racked by tortured nerves, keyed up to defend himself from discovery, to keep the place at which he had snatched with desperate hands, was ready to give up. He felt an intolerable longing for[209] sleep; he could have thrown himself down by the way and slept like a dog.

Even about Diane he was troubled no longer. He believed that she had loved Overton best, he knew that she would side with Overton; but he had no more strength to battle for her. He was ready to surrender.

He stumbled blindly along with the drowsy feeling surging over him again and again, weighing down his heavy eyelids. He had only one desire—to get home, find a spot to lie down and to sleep at last in peace. Overton lived, and henceforth, if any one had to suffer, he would be the sufferer, not Overton. The shackles had fallen off, and he could sleep.

He found his way by instinct, ascended the steps, and unlocked the door. He knew it was late, and he hoped Diane had gone to bed; but, as he opened the door, he saw that the lamp still burned brightly on the table in the living-room.

He took off his coat and left it on the settle by the door, occupying himself with trifles in the vain hope of delaying, even for a little while, the moment when he must begin again to act a part; but he heard her rise from her seat by the fire. When he entered the room, she was standing near the door, swathed in a delicate pink-silk kimono, her soft, dark hair falling about her shoulders. Her eyes, feverishly bright, looked dark and almost wild in her pale face.

[210]“I sat up for you,” she explained brokenly. “I couldn’t sleep. I can’t bear it any longer, Arthur. Tell me what it is! What are you hiding from me—about the south pole?”

He did not reply at once, for he was, in a measure, taken by surprise. He came slowly into the room and walked past her to the fire, his head bent. He was trying to rally his thoughts. She turned back with him and stood watching him, scarcely daring to breathe. At last he threw back his head.

“I think I’ll tell you,” he said deliberately. “Overton thinks it can be kept a secret, and perhaps he’s right, but I say that you have a right to know, to decide for yourself. Anyway, I can’t go on. I’ve got to a place where I can’t go on!”

She was breathing quickly, a horrible fear dragging at her heart.

“What do you mean by keeping a secret? What has Overton to do with it?”

He turned and looked at her. She thought she had never seen such a strange expression on any man’s face—a look as if he had let go of everything, as if he no longer cared. But he spoke collectedly, even coldly.

“You were wrong in marrying me, Diane. You married a coward. Overton’s a great man, a greater man than even you have thought. He’s willing to cloak your husband’s craven fear to save you—to hush it all up for your sake.”

[211]She gasped.

“To hush it up? What—oh, Arthur, tell me, tell me what it is! I don’t know what you’re saying!”

Then he told her, slowly, deliberately, not sparing himself, as he had told Dr. Gerry months before.

“I left him to die,” he ended in a hard voice. “He was alive, I knew he was alive, but I was afraid to die like that. I didn’t see a hope of saving us both, so I saved myself.”

She drew away with a shudder, her large eyes fixed on his face. He saw the recoil, the outraged incredulity in her face.

“You—you couldn’t have done that, Arthur—it’s impossible! You’re ill, you’re not telling me the truth—it can’t be!”

He saw how she took it, saw that he had struck a death-blow at her love for him. Something seemed to give way in his heart. He turned and sank into a seat by the hearth with a groan.

“It’s true. You know it’s true, Diane. Overton’s here, isn’t he? You’ve seen him, and you remember that I told you myself that I was with him when he died? He isn’t dead. Don’t you see it was a lie? I tell you I’m a coward!” He seemed possessed to make a clean breast of it, to hide nothing, to get the relief of cauterizing the wound. “You married a coward.”

She put her hand out blindly and caught at the[212] table. She felt that she was falling, and she clung to the support.

“It’s incredible,” she said, almost in a whisper. “It’s incredible. How could you do such a thing and then endure the thought of it?”

“I haven’t endured the thought of it. It’s been torture; and now he wants it to go on, wants me to keep on—to hide it for your sake. But I see how you feel!”

She swept him a look in which scorn and horror mingled with a kind of fear.

“I don’t see how I could feel any other way! I—why, think of it, they’ve made a hero of you; you were going in his place to the south pole. I’ve—I’ve wanted you to go—I was so proud of you! But now—I don’t see how you could have even thought of going back. It—it would have driven me mad, if I’d done what—you did!”

He met her wild reproach with a hard look of endurance.

“It was driving me mad. I haven’t slept, you know that. But, Diane”—his voice suddenly thrilled with passion—“for God’s sake don’t look at me like that—I love you!”


It was a cry not so much of surprise as of dismay—dismay that he should dare, being the craven that he admitted he was, to speak of love to her. It was unmistakable, he could not misunderstand it; her tone and her look destroyed his last hope.[213] He recalled Overton’s insult—“the woman you dared to marry”—and he covered his face with his hands.

Diane stood looking at him, outraged and terrified by his confession. All her natural integrity in arms, she had no pity for him. Then, as he did not speak again or even look up, she turned slowly and walked to the door of her own room.

There she paused again, turned, looked at him with the same pitiless expression, and, unmoved by his stricken attitude, his evident repentance, she went in, shut the door behind her, and bolted it with hands that not only shook with dismay, but almost with fear.



Judge Herford rose from his chair and began pacing the room with every sign of anger and impatience. Dr. Gerry, on the other hand, kept his seat by the table without any apparent perturbation. He had stopped in after dinner to smoke a cigar with his old friend, and had found him much in the mood of a tiger who has lost his favorite scrap of meat through the bars of his cage and cannot reach it with his paws.

“I tell you there must be an explanation,” the judge growled. “It’s impossible to make head or tail of it as it is. If Overton wasn’t dead, why did Faunce come back with such a story?”

The doctor stopped smoking long enough to answer:

“You saw Overton’s explanation this morning. He was lost in the snow, his comrades supposed him dead; the Englishmen, coming over the other trail, found him unconscious; the two parties missed each other, and so forth.”

“I read that, of course. It’s no explanation, and you know it. It was their business to find him. What was Faunce doing? He was second in command.”

[215]“Well, you can ask him. He’s your son-in-law.”

“Precisely! My son-in-law, and the two idiots have gone off and left no address. We haven’t heard a word in weeks. It’s absurd! Meanwhile, every paper in the country has been blazing with the news of Overton’s return. The whole business is in a muddle—the expedition delayed, and talk—this morning—of putting Overton in command instead of Faunce. A pretty howdy-do!”

“Natural enough. Overton’s the hero of the great discovery; he’s returned with the halo of romance; and he’s sure to get all the honors. Nothing strange about that!”

“There’s a great deal strange about the whole thing!” retorted the judge, resuming his seat and thrusting some fresh tobacco into his pipe with an indignant thumb. “But I’ll get to the bottom of it! As it is, I don’t like it. Any way you can fix it, there’s a shade on Faunce. If he’d done his duty, he’d have brought Overton back—I stick to that. What’s more, I’ll tell him so!”

“Better not,” counseled the doctor dryly. “He’s Diane’s husband—you can’t get around that; and as long as you made the match——”

“As long as I what?” thundered the judge.

The doctor laughed grimly.

“I said you made the match.”

“Nonsense! Do you take me for an old woman? The girl made it herself. She’s competent to select[216] a husband. She’s got high ideals, too. She’ll hold him to account—I can tell you that!”

The doctor mused.

“I wonder if she will?”

“She will! We had a talk the night before the wedding. It touched me, Sam—touched me to the heart! She came down here and sat with me by the fire, and told me how she felt, how absolutely she demanded truth, honor, high purpose. It was young, of course, and girlish, but it was beautiful. She said she couldn’t marry a man who hadn’t the qualities she believed in. She thought Faunce had them all.”

Gerry stopped smoking. He quietly laid down the stump of his cigar, and, leaning forward, his elbows on his knees, gazed thoughtfully into the empty fireplace, for it was too warm now for a fire.

“It’s a pity,” he remarked at last, “that girls have such an amount of imagination. It’s likely to make trouble later on.”

“What d’you mean?” snapped the judge, with a suspicious glance across the table.

The doctor rose.

“Nothing but generalities, Hadley. I’ve got to go now; there’s an old woman down with sciatica, and I’m on my way over to her. You let me know when you hear from Diane.”

The judge watched his friend, his heavy brows down.

[217]“I remember that you were opposed to the marriage. You said something about his not being fit to tie her shoe. What did you mean, Sam?”

The doctor was working himself into his coat. He did it vigorously, flapping his arms up and down until the garment settled into place. Then he hunted for his hat.

“Can’t say what I may have meant. It’s too late now, anyhow. You put your shoulder to the wheel, Hadley, and see that Faunce gets his command. He’s got to make his own way now, or Overton’s big start will wipe him off the slate. You don’t want Diane’s husband sponged out.”

“By Godfrey, it’s his business to survive the sponging! I can’t make him over. I believed in him; this thing’s staggered me, and now it’s up to him to put us all straight. He’ll have to clear himself to me—that’s flat!”

Dr. Gerry shrugged his shoulders and made for the door. The situation was fraught with dangers for him. He could not make a clean breast of it without violating what he would have called his professional honor. He was, in fact, more disturbed than Herford, for he knew more, and he had been unable to find a clue to Overton’s action.

A solution had flashed in on him. Overton loved Diane. Was he shielding her? The doctor, trudging along the country road in the dark, found it impossible to decide, but he was disturbed with[218] the thought of Diane. Had she found out the truth?

Meanwhile Diane’s father, left alone to his reflections, found the problem too hard to solve. He flung his work aside without even looking at it, too nervous for its dull routine. Going to his book-shelves, he took down one of his favorite classics, a volume of Æschylus. Turning over the leaves, he tried to absorb his mind in the beautiful opening lines of the “Agamemnon,” and to vision with his usual zest the far-off beacon that greeted the watcher at Argos; but the noble words of the great tragedy made no appeal to-night. He tried to submerge his mind in them, but he could not, he could not even read. He found himself staring at the printed page with no more idea of the familiar Greek than a bewildered student in his first effort to unravel Sanskrit.

He recalled the doctor’s cryptic comments and coupled them with Gerry’s previous opposition to Diane’s marriage.

“He’s got something up his sleeve,” the judge decided at last, with a kind of futile anger. “I’d like to know just what it is!”

Then he suddenly remembered Faunce—remembered him as he had sat in the vacant chair opposite, young, graceful, peculiarly charming in manner, with the uplifted look of a young enthusiast. The judge knew that Diane loved him. Why, then, rake up this trouble? Why doubt him?

[219]Judge Herford resumed his determined efforts to read, and began at last to lose himself in the return of Agamemnon. The evening was so hot that he had left his window open; but a rising wind disturbed him. He got up impatiently, slammed down the sash, and returned to his book.

He had been reading half an hour longer when he heard a carriage stopping at his door, and then a step on the porch outside. It was too late for visitors, and something familiar in the sound made him start up and go himself to answer the bell. He threw open the door and peered out into the night. There was an exclamation that was like a cry, and Diane flew into his arms.

“Oh, papa, make the man bring in my luggage, please, and pay him. I—I can’t bear any more!”

The amazed judge looked over his daughter’s shoulder.

“Where’s Faunce?” he demanded.

But she slipped out of his arms and ran on toward the library. Her father paid the man, who was dragging up the trunk and some bags, and who stared curiously at the judge as he pocketed his fare. Mapleton was small, and Herford knew him—he was Steve Lentz, the son of a local butcher who had gone into the livery business. It would be all over town to-morrow that Diane Faunce had come home alone and in tears.

The judge slammed the door on Steve, the unoffending, and, hot with displeasure, made his[220] way toward his sanctum. Diane was there, standing in the center of the room. She had torn off her hat and tossed it on the lounge. She stood there, a slender creature in a dark, clinging dress that made her wild face look white, while her eyes shone in the lamplight with a glow that was like a flame. All the pent-up passion of her soul seemed to have leaped up in them, and her lips were shaking like a child’s who had wept until it can weep no more.

The judge came in and shut the door.

“What does this mean?” he demanded. “What’s wrong? Why are you crying?”

“I’m not—I can’t any more!” was her reply, as she pushed the hair back from her temples and pressed her hands against her eyes. “I’m blind with it now. I—oh, papa, how can I tell you?”

“I don’t know what you want to tell. Where’s your husband?”

Diane’s hands dropped at her sides with a helpless gesture, but she held her head up, meeting her father’s eyes with a flash of spirit.

“I’ve left him.”

The judge was silent. He seemed to be dumb with sheer amazement, for he did not move, but stood, as he had entered, near the door, with his eyes fixed on her.

Diane, forced to take the initiative, tried to control herself. She had been passing through a fiery ordeal, and she felt too bruised and broken[221] in spirit to battle any longer; but she knew that her father was as inexorable as she was. She would have to make it clear to him, to make him see it with her eyes, or he would take sides against her. But she knew that he would not do so if she told him the whole truth. He would feel as she did; there was no other way to feel.

She took a step forward, laid hold of the high back of the chair he had just quitted, and began to speak in a tone that was almost natural:

“Do you remember that night before I was married, when we sat here together, and I told you how I felt?”

He nodded, his eyes still holding hers.

“I told you that the one supreme test of a man, to me, was his honesty, that I—I couldn’t go on as Mabel Gardner did, living with a man I knew to be false. I can’t! It’s—it’s just that, papa, I can’t go on. I had to come home to you!”

“You mean that Faunce is dishonest?” he managed to ask, after another moment of silence.

She caught her breath, her eyes dilating with pain.

“Yes, it’s—it’s worse than that. Oh, papa, how can I tell you?” She held out her arms to him with a cry like a child in pain.

But he held her off with his uplifted hand, still searching her face.

“Is it about Overton?”

“Yes—yes!” She turned and sank down in[222] the chair, hiding her face in her hands. “I’ll try to tell you,” she went on in a choked voice. “Overton came back; he came up to the Catskills. We went—I didn’t tell you, Arthur didn’t want any letters—we went up to the lodge two weeks ago; you know I had the keys. While we were there, Overton came to see his aunt, who lives near by. We met, and as soon as I saw him I knew that something was wrong. He wouldn’t tell me, but I knew. A woman knows those things about her husband. That night Arthur came home; he had been down in New York, and he went to see Overton. When he came back he told me. He——”

She stopped, choked with her sense of shame. Her father, greatly moved and changed, came slowly across the room and stood beside her, his hand on her shoulder.

“Go on, Diane. I must know it all.”

She stopped and lifted her white face toward his, twisting her handkerchief with frantic hands.

“Papa, I can’t—I can’t tell you all; but Overton and Arthur were alone together. Overton broke his ankle; he couldn’t walk. Arthur took the sledge and the dogs and escaped, leaving Overton in the blizzard, helpless, to freeze to death!”

The judge made no response. He stood looking down at his daughter without the power to reply. She seemed to think he had not understood, and she repeated her story with a kind[223] of agony which showed him that she felt a vicarious participation in her husband’s act.

“He left him—helpless—to die. Overton wasn’t even entirely unconscious; he—he lay there and saw Arthur go!”

The judge could not believe it. Whatever his fears had been, the fact was past belief.

“You must be mistaken; you can’t have understood it all. He must have left him to go for help, and then returned.”

She shook her head.

“I asked him—he never went back until it was too late.”

“Faunce admits this? He told you this himself?”

She nodded; she could not speak. Her father groaned aloud.

“My child—my poor child!”

She looked up at him, saw the grief and anger and sympathy in his face, and her lip quivered pitifully. She tried to speak again, but words utterly failed her, and she flung herself into his arms, weeping dreadfully. The judge clasped her and held her close, stroking her brown hair, tears scalding his own eyes. What had he done! Married his child, his daughter, the pride of his heart, to a coward?

“The rascal!” he said below his breath. “The craven rascal!”

She clung to him sobbing.

[224]“I loved him! Oh, papa, I loved him! It’s—it’s broken my heart!”

He tried to quiet her, but his indignation kept breaking out in angry mutterings and threats against Faunce. Apparently she did not hear them. She was satisfied to feel his arms around her, to be sure that she was safe in that harbor. She only turned her head a little as she nestled closer, clinging to him with hands that still shook.

“I was afraid you’d be angry with me, that you’d want me to—to go back, because he’s—he’s my husband!”

“Go back!” The judge’s pent-up wrath broke out with some of his old thunderous bass. “Go back to that coward? If you did, Di, I’d—I’d go after you and pry you out of his house with a writ of habeas corpus. I’d sooner see you dead than the wife of a coward. I’ll free you, if it takes my last cent to do it!”

She shivered. The assurance was what she wanted. She had craved it for hours; she had prayed for it ever since she ran away from the little mountain house in the dark and stormy night, and braved a midnight journey to come to her father; yet it did not comfort her now. She shook from head to foot, and a feeling of sheer loneliness and desolation—a feeling that might have come to Hagar when she was driven out into the desert—came to her.

She was at home, in her father’s arms, safe[225] in the old familiar room. The same warm light shone from the shaded lamp on the multicolored bindings. His old pipe lay on the table, and the old clock that she had loved as a child drummed out the hour; but it could never be the same again. She had passed through an immortal crisis of agony and shame. She could never take up the old life again at the same place, for the subtle change that had taken place in all the relations of that life had dissolved the very foundations of it beneath her feet and left her adrift.



It was soon after this—in fact, no later than the following afternoon—that Mrs. Price hurried up the long driveway to the seminary. She was going home, and, being small and round and oldish, she panted and bubbled a little in her haste. Even her exactly appropriate garb, patterned closely on “correct and distinctive styles for more mature figures,” and her very sober little hat, shaped like a sugar-bowl, palpitated with undue excitement.

She burst in upon the dean and Fanny, who were quietly enjoying a cup of tea in the sunny little sitting-room, where a yellow rose showered its golden buds against the wide stone sills of the bay window. Fanny, looking up as she entered, recognized something amazing in the expression of her mother’s round face and rounder eyes.

“Why, mamma, what’s the matter?” she exclaimed, suspending the cream-pitcher over her father’s second cup of tea.

Mrs. Price dropped into the nearest chair, and, stretching out a plump hand, gave the dean a sudden prod in the arm that happened to be within easy reach.

[227]“Edward, do you remember what you said—that night—about Faunce?”

The dean, still waiting for his cup of tea, looked around at her with an absent air.

“What night—what?”

“Just before he was married. You said he was prowling around at all hours of the night.”

“Oh, yes, I remember! He was. Give me that tea, please, Fanny, before you upset the cream-pitcher into it.”

Fanny recovered herself and hastily passed the cup over to her father, while Mrs. Price resumed.

“You were right, Edward—you always are! There’s something wrong. Diane has come home—alone!”

“Humph! What of that? He’s probably in New York, closing up his business before they sail.”

“She’s left him!”


The dean jerked around in his chair and gazed at his wife in open-mouthed incredulity, while Fanny suddenly reddened and then paled. Only Mrs. Price, having recovered her breath, remained mistress of the situation.

“I said, she’s left him.”

“Nonsense! Your imagination always runs away with you, Julia. They haven’t been married six months.”

[228]“I know it, but it’s true—the judge told me so himself.”

“Oh, mamma!”

Fanny’s exclamation did not express incredulity so much as dismay. She had given up all effort to drink her tea, and leaned back in her chair, her trembling hands hidden in her lap.

The dean continued to regard his wife over the tops of his big tortoise-shell spectacles. His mild face and pale-blue eyes behind the heavy brown rims made him look like a pallid but speculative beetle.

“What’s the matter? Did the judge tell you?”

Mrs. Price shook her head.

“He said: ‘My daughter came home last night to stay, and she has my entire approval and support.’ That’s exactly the way he worded it, Edward, and I—really, I was afraid to say a word. The atmosphere seemed to be thick—charged, you know. I can tell you I was glad to get out. I almost ran all the way home!”

“Did you see Diane, mamma?” Fanny managed to ask in a voice which at another time would have arrested her mother’s attention; but at the moment Mrs. Price was absorbed.

“Just for a few minutes, dear. She went right up-stairs and left me to the judge. You know I never am at home with him. I always feel—well, just the way I did when I was a little girl and my father made me fire off a Roman candle.[229] I was so frightened when it exploded! You know I went over there to return those books papa borrowed, and I got right into it. As soon as Di went up-stairs, he began. I saw there was something the matter before. She looks as if she’d been drawn through a knot-hole. I was just thinking that I never saw a bride look like that when she got up and left me with him. Of course, I began to get ready to leave, too, but he made me sit down and sprang this thing on me—just like that! Somehow I felt as if I’d done it myself. I know David never felt a bit worse when Nathan said unto him, ‘Thou art the man!’ I felt as if I were either Faunce or Faunce’s mother, and I got up and ran!”

The dean smiled grimly.

“You’re not to blame, my dear, unless you want to shoulder a vicarious responsibility because I married them.”

“It’s an awful responsibility, Edward, to marry people these days! Fanny, give me a cup of tea. I feel a little faint. Was that water boiling, child, when you made it? Some of the tea-leaves are floating.”

“Elfrida brought it, mamma. I suppose it was.”

“Very likely it wasn’t, if she brought it. These Norwegians will be the death of me yet. I’ve no doubt that they made perfectly beautiful vikings—so crude and bloody, you know—but they’re[230] deadly cooks! Edward, don’t you think you ought to do something, or say something? It’s so unscriptural.”

“What—the Norwegian?”

His wife stared at him in exasperation.

“You know perfectly what I mean. It’s shocking, the way people act. You really ought to talk to Diane.”

“Or to Faunce,” retorted the dean dryly. “Very likely he’s to blame.”

“Oh, no!” Fanny’s cry was so sharp that both parents looked at her, amazed, and she blushed painfully. “He was so much in love with Diane,” she faltered. “He told me so. We used to talk about her, and I know how he feels. He couldn’t—he simply couldn’t mean to quarrel with her!”

“So that’s what you were talking about, was it?” her father said in a relieved tone. “I sometimes thought, Fan, that he was trying to flirt with you at the same time that he was making love to Diane.”

“Oh, no!”

This time Fanny’s negative was low and a little tremulous. Mrs. Price glanced meaningly at her husband, but the dean, placidly spreading butter on a toasted muffin, was oblivious to the warning.

“I never believed in him, Fan—he’s too handsome. Personally I have more confidence in little plain old men, getting slightly bald and wearing spectacles.”

[231]“Don’t talk nonsense, Edward! We all know you. But it’s—it’s really terrible. Do you suppose Diane intends to get a divorce?”

The dean shook his head helplessly.

“Search me!”

“Edward! Those horrid boys are teaching you slang!”

“Of course they are, my dear. Slang is an expression of the age. I’m making a study of it, but I haven’t used much. If I did, I should say that I heard your news without even batting an eye.”

Mrs. Price rose and set her empty cup on the table.

“I think it’s time for me to go up-stairs and take off my things. I really do wish, Edward, you’d think it over. Something ought to be done. The judge is going to let that child ruin her whole life right at the start. You’re a minister of the gospel, as well as the dean of a seminary, and it’s your duty—it certainly is your duty—to preach the word. There’s nothing in it to favor divorce, and you know it!”

“My dear Julia—” the dean began, but she was already at the stairs, and she only called back something to him about David and Uriah’s wife as she disappeared.

The dean chuckled.

“The trouble with your mother’s quotations, my dear, is that she gets them misapplied. What[232] do you think of it, Fan? You know Faunce better than we do.”

Fanny was looking intently out of the window at the buds of the yellow rose.

“I don’t think I do know him very well, papa. You see, he was so much in love with Diane that he talked about her more than anything else. I felt, after a while, as if I stood on the outer edge. You understand, don’t you? It was as if I knew him quite well as my friend, but his real inner self, his soul, was a long way off. I—I thought it was because he was in love with—with some one else.”

The dean mused.

“I’m not so sure, my child. I think that was the way he made most of us feel—as if his soul was a long way off, as if he had something on his mind. Perhaps Diane has just found out what it is, and it’s given her a shock.”

Fanny started, turning her blue eyes on him.

“You mean you think he’s done something wrong?”

“I don’t think I meant anything as concrete as that, Fan. I was thinking that the inner self of some men is a shock to the average woman. That’s why we get these surprises, my dear. We don’t know people as they are, and when we find out their hidden characteristics we sometimes get a jar. It takes time to settle down and find that we can’t make the world over to suit our own[233] ideas. Diane’s a bit headstrong; she’ll take it hard.”

“I don’t think she cared much for him, papa. She—she was in love with Overton before he went away.”

“Sh! My child, don’t say a word; that road leads to scandal. We don’t know yet how Overton was saved. I suppose, if this goes on, I’ll have to speak to Diane or to Faunce.”

“It’s not his fault, papa,” Fanny protested firmly, as she rose. “He loves her!”

The dean shook his head.

“Youth,” he remarked, “is optimistic. There’s Ferdie Farrar trying to bat that ball right into the seminary window, and I’ve warned him twice!” he added, springing up and making for the door, his eyes intent on the plunging figures on the distant campus.

Fanny heard him go out with his usual impetuosity; then she sat down weakly, poured herself another cup of lukewarm tea, and drank it. She was very glad that she had been so completely mistress of herself. She felt sure that her father had no suspicions. She was aware that Mrs. Price had, but she could depend on her mother.

Mrs. Price had her failings, but she was loyal to her little girl, as she still called her daughter. If she knew that Fanny had suffered when Faunce married Diane, she would not betray her knowledge, even by sympathizing with her. There was[234] relief in that; it would be all the harder to drag her poor little secret out and dissect it, when it was a plain duty to let it die of inanition.

But it was like turning the knife in the wound to see that Diane could not get on with Faunce. Of course, they would patch this quarrel up, unless it was about some vital matter; but they could not go on as they had begun. At least Fanny could not believe it possible.

She had, besides, an intuitive knowledge of Diane’s frame of mind. Diane had loved Overton, and had been drawn to Faunce because of his association with Overton. He had won her consent to the marriage, but Fanny did not believe that he had ever completely won her heart. And now Overton had come back.

Fanny started as the thought took shape. Overton’s inexplicable return, the questions that it had raised about Faunce, the gossip and the scandal were synchronous with Diane’s flight. Was this the meaning of it?

Fanny rose slowly from the tea-table and went to the window. She felt a little giddy with the rush of troubled thoughts, and she blinked as the sunshine flashed full into her eyes. The window faced west, and the day was nearly done. Against a yellow mist she saw the striped and barred figures of the ball-players on the distant field. Their lithe forms etched against the orange tint of the[235] horizon reminded her of the Greek figures on one of Judge Herford’s glazed porcelains.

The trees were scantier here than in the hills, but their green leafage formed a graceful screen between their lawn and the campus. A mass of day lilies bloomed under the window, and she could see the little stars of the blue-eyed grass. She leaned forward, both hands resting on the sill, and looked out, the summer air touching her hot cheek and moving the delicate tendrils of fair hair on her forehead.



She was still leaning there with a dumb kind of resistance to her inner restlessness, when she saw a visitor coming up the walk. Looking more closely at the tall figure, she recognized Overton with a shock of feeling. She knew that it was not unnatural for him to come to Mapleton, but the unexpected sight of him made her mind flash back to Diane, and she experienced a sensation akin to panic.

He had seen her, and she could not escape. She had to stand there bravely until the Norwegian maid opened the door and led him clumsily to the sitting-room, her square, peasant figure appearing in the background as he entered.

Fanny greeted him, trying to say something correct and conventional. She was secretly appalled at the thought that his resurrection from the polar snows had in it almost an element of tragedy. He seemed to have lost his place among mortal men, and to have assumed the guise of the departed. His return had put their little world all out of joint.

She felt as if he must know it, must feel awkward and out of place, even when she invited him[237] to be seated and offered to despatch the hovering Norwegian for some hot tea. He shook his head at this, however, and Fanny disposed of the attendant by sending her away with the tea-tray. Then she came over to a seat nearer the window.

“Papa’s just gone over to the seminary,” she explained. “I’m sure he’ll want to see you very much.”

“Not as much as I want to see him,” Overton replied warmly. “It’s very good to be here and to see my friends again!”

Fanny felt a pang of guilt, and looked up at him for the first time with a seeing eye. He was, indeed, greatly changed. His strong face was worn, his eyes hollowed; but there remained the old look of genius that had glorified all he did. It was, indeed, accentuated. There was something in his tranquil, unstirred gaze that reassured her, and she felt at home with him again.

“We all thought you were lost,” she said simply. “Your coming back seems like a miracle, and no one quite understands.”

He was at once on his guard.

“That seems to be the trouble. There has been a great deal of misapprehension. I was lost in the ice, given up for dead, and finally rescued by my English friends. I can’t tell you how good they were to me,” he hurried on. “I was so nearly gone that they had no hope at first, and I was so ill and delirious afterward that they didn’t[238] know who I was. I had left my papers with my men, and I happened to have one of poor Rayburn’s diaries on me. They thought I was Rayburn—that’s why no word came back about me. It wasn’t until I recovered enough to know myself that the English nurses found out who I was.”

Fanny turned uneasily and broke off a spray of yellow buds that lay at the window-ledge.

“Mr. Faunce told us how terrible it all was. He couldn’t bear to speak of the worst of it. He said you were the best friend a man ever had. I think”—she looked at him—“the thought of your death nearly crazed him at first.”

She caught the expression in Overton’s eyes, but she could not fathom it; only the tension in his face increased.

“I’ve just seen Faunce. They were up in the Catskills when I went there to visit my old aunt.”

“Oh!” She pulled the yellow buds off one by one. “Then you’ve just seen Diane, too? We didn’t know where they went.”

“Yes, I saw her. When I met her I didn’t know that she was married. You see, we’d had no news.”

Fanny sank back in her chair.

“I never thought of that!”

He smiled grimly.

“It’s like being dead, you know,” he remarked, thinking how pretty she had grown to be, how slender and graceful. He noticed how prettily[239] her fair hair grew on her forehead and on the nape of her white neck. He was the more surprised when she turned a strangely searching look on him, and her face flushed.

“Did you know that Diane had left him?”


She nodded.

“It’s true—the judge told mama.”

Overton made no reply at first; he seemed incapable of speech, and Fanny saw the blood rush up to his forehead.

“Are you sure?” he managed to gasp out at last.

“Oh, yes; mama just heard it from the judge. I—I shouldn’t have told. Please don’t tell her that I did!”

He commanded himself again with difficulty.

“She wouldn’t mind your telling me, Fanny. Of course, I sha’n’t give you away, though. You and I were always good pals, weren’t we? The trouble is that I—I can’t quite believe it. I saw them both only two days ago, and I know he’s in New York now.”

“She’s here with her father.”

He rose from his seat and began to walk about the room. Apparently he did not care what she might think of his agitation, which had returned with full force.

“You’re fond of her, you know her well—has she told you what’s the matter?”

[240]“I haven’t seen her.”

He stopped short.

“Has her father anything to do with it?”

Fanny hesitated.

“I suppose he has; you know he’s always so domineering. I don’t know anything about it, but there’s been talk about the expedition. I believe they had set their hearts on Faunce commanding it, and—and, of course, it’s yours. It couldn’t go to any one but you now.”

“Yes, it can, for I’ve refused it.”

She gave him a startled look, her heart warming toward him. She knew well enough why he had refused.

“I’ve asked to have Faunce go,” he went on. “There’s no question of that, if she—if she——”

“It isn’t that with her!” Fanny interrupted.

“I thought you said you hadn’t seen her?”

“I haven’t, but I’m a woman, and I—I know that much myself!”

He stood looking at her, a little reassured, but with a keen subconsciousness that recalled Diane’s white face and her outstretched hands when she pushed him away. He had believed then that she loved Faunce. On that belief, to shelter her, he had tried to shield Faunce, and had surrendered his chance to command the new expedition, only to find that Diane had left her husband!

It was inexplicable, but his heart leaped up with a sudden and unchastened hope. He had[241] been plunged into misery, he had given up, and now, suddenly, as if a window had been opened in a dark room and the light of day let in, he caught a glimpse of the horizon. It awoke hopes that he had extinguished, it renewed thoughts that he had tried to drive out. After attaining the bleak immunity of despair, he was plunged back again into the turmoil of passion.

He could not find words to answer Fanny, and he was glad to see the black-clad figure of the little dean emerging from the golden glow on the campus and approaching at a rapid gait. It meant a resumption of the commonplace and a little while to recover the equilibrium he had lost.



It was with a feeling of intense bewilderment that Overton finally left the seminary. Dr. Price had refrained from any reference to Diane, but in his very caution in avoiding the subject there was something that made his visitor more eager to fathom the little dean’s innocent reservations. Fanny, having fired her shot at random, had become as quiet as a mouse, scarcely responding to her father’s efforts to draw her into the conversation; but there was a subtle suggestion of something important, of some tragic climax, in the very atmosphere.

Overton felt it, felt that even his efforts to shield Faunce for Diane’s sake had in some mysterious way been forestalled and stultified. He was aware, too, of Fanny’s watchful eyes, of her air of divination. Hitherto he had looked upon her as a mere child, and had never credited her with much perspicacity. Now he felt a sudden leaning toward her, a vague sympathy that made him look to her for help; but she gave him no help at all, and let him go at last with a limp handshake and a half-reproachful glance, which seemed, to his aroused perception, to express his own[243] thought that his return was unfortunate and inopportune. Having apparently died, he had no business to come to life again, to the inconvenience and discomfiture of his friends.

As he made his way through the seminary gates and turned westward along the quiet road, he was still possessed with these conflicting impressions. He suffered, too, from a revival of the keener and more poignant feelings that had overwhelmed him when he knew that Diane was not only lost to him, but was the wife of the coward who had left him to perish. He had subdued this suffering once, he had even risen to the heights of self-sacrifice to shield her from the shame of her husband’s exposure; but it was only after he had convinced himself that there had never been any real foundation for his hopes, that Diane had never cared for him.

But now a new and amazing crisis completely reversed the situation, apparently making his sacrifice futile, for he had no reason to shield Faunce unless he did it to save the woman he loved. He recalled Diane’s face, the anguish in her eyes, her gesture that seemed to thrust him away. He had taken these things for a final dismissal, when another man might have seen in them a far more significant revelation. He began to dimly recognize it now.

Staggered as his higher moral sense was by this new turn of his thoughts, his heart leaped up[244] at the change, as if the dark shadow of disappointment had dropped its grisly shape and become a guiding light. He felt, indeed, much like the ancient Cretan mariners when the monster that had terrified them suddenly became a star-crowned god, ready to guide their storm-tossed ship safely into port.

As Overton plodded along, however, his strongest feeling was one of sheer perplexity. It was like entering a fair garden by the way of the front gate and the sloping lawn, and suddenly losing oneself in a labyrinth.

A determination to solve the riddle drove him toward the one person who, he thought, might furnish a clue. If any one could point a way in the maze, it was Dr. Gerry; but, as Overton turned in that direction, a sudden slope in the hill gave him a wider prospect and a far glimpse of the roof and chimneys of Judge Herford’s house. He paused and looked toward it, his eye taking in the exquisite shading of the landscape, the deep blue and orange of the sky, still pulsing with the afterglow, the faint violet line of the distant hills, the nearer stretch of woodland, with here and there a blooming althea showering its pale blossoms against the green, or half veiling the red-tiled roof of some house set low in the dense growth of shrubbery.

The sweet, keen air had in it that subtle fragrance which is summer. Near at hand a robin[245] whistled with a soft, throaty sound, sweet as Apollo’s lute. Overton let his eyes rest for a moment on the broad, slated roof that sheltered Diane. He had the keenest desire to see her again, to know the worst or the best—which was it?

Had she ceased to love Faunce and left him, shocked by some revelation of his character? Or had his own return—revealing the falsehood of his death—broken her happiness? This thought stirred him with profound emotion, and he turned and went on.

It happened to be the hour at which Dr. Gerry was usually at leisure, and in a few moments Overton found himself following the doctor’s man down the narrow hall to the study door. He remembered the place well—the old striped paper on the walls, and the two or three ancient prints in narrow black frames. They had been there when, as a boy, he had tiptoed reluctantly down the hall to have the doctor look at his tongue and administer some unpalatable dose.

Nothing that he had seen since his return had done so much to recall him to himself, to the familiar surroundings, to the people he had known from boyhood. The horrors of his experience in the antarctic, the nearness of death, and the desertion of Faunce, became unreal. He was at home again!

He was not surprised when the door opened on the old scene—the small, stuffy room, smelling[246] of drugs; the lamp on the table; the doctor, in a flowered dressing-gown and slippers, reading a novel. It had been Gerry’s favorite den since his wife’s death years before, and it was the one place in which he seemed to fit exactly.

As Overton entered, he looked up over his spectacles, took in the big, gaunt lines of his visitor’s figure, and held out a cordial hand. The greeting had in it a moment of intimate feeling. The old man quickly detected the ravages in Overton’s face, and his eyes filled with tears, of which he was immediately ashamed. He bustled about and thrust forward a chair to hide his own emotion.

“Sit down, my boy,” he said bruskly. “Have a cigar? Now tell me all about it. Had a close shave, I know. I was told so a long while ago.”

Overton started with surprise.

“What do you mean?”

“Faunce told me. There’s no use making a secret of it to you, I reckon.”

His visitor gazed at him blankly.

“What possessed him to do that?”

“Conscience, maybe. Personally I should call it nerves. He couldn’t sleep, and he got to the point where he had to speak; he was too pent-up to endure it any longer. It’s the kind of thing doctors and ministers run against occasionally—a sort of almost hysterical desire to get it all out, to make a clean breast of it, and to lighten the load[247] in that way. It’s about on a par with sending conscience-money to the Treasury.”

Overton slowly lit his cigar.

“I’m amazed! Faunce said nothing about this when we talked together the other night. I wonder if he’s told any one else!”

The doctor shook his head with a dry laugh.

“Not a bit of it. He kept still and married Diane Herford. I advised him against it, I tried to stop it, but he wouldn’t listen. The result has been just what I expected.”

“You mean——”

“She’s found it all out and left him.”

The hand that held the cigar shook so badly that Overton quietly lowered it out of sight.

“I knew she’d left him,” he said huskily. “Fanny Price just told me.”

“Oh, yes, the judge isn’t making a secret of her home-coming. He consented to hush up the rest—about Faunce, I mean—until he sees you. There’s no need, is there, to make the scandal any worse? How do things stand? Are you going to expose him?”

Overton shook his head.

“I thought we had come to an agreement about that—to save his wife; but I can’t understand why he told her. It changes everything. Meanwhile, I’ve refused the command of the new expedition and urged them to retain Faunce.”

“So as to bolster him up for her sake?” the[248] doctor mused. “That’s like you, Simon, but she’ll know that, too, and it’ll only make her think more of you. I’m afraid the cat’s out of the bag to stay!”

Overton turned troubled eyes upon him.

“Why in the world did it come off? Who let it be? She never should have married him!”

The doctor picked up an old stump of a pencil from his table and began to whittle it to a fine point.

“For one thing, I think she was a little in love with him. He’s very handsome, and has a way that wins with women. Then the judge was set on it. He believed that Faunce was going to be a great man, cut on your pattern, you see——”

Overton interrupted him in a tone of sharp impatience.

“I’m not great!”

“Well, we’ll let it go at that, anyway. Diane has imagination, and she married Faunce; now, her imagination being rudely shocked into realities, she’s left him. The judge is frantic. He’s seen his son-in-law to-day, and Faunce tells him he’ll offer no opposition to a divorce. That means that Diane ought to be free before a great while.”

Overton jumped up and began to walk about excitedly.

“It’s incredible—I happen to know that he loves her!”

Gerry nodded.

[249]“Just so! If he didn’t love her, he’d refuse to let her go. It’s the supreme test, isn’t it?”

Overton was apparently deaf to this; his mind was absorbed with his own problems.

“It was an agreement—I understood it as an agreement—that nothing should be said. I’ve hushed up Asher. He was the one who might have known that I couldn’t have been even near death when Faunce left me. It never occurred to me—never—that he’d tell her! It’s—it’s incredible!”

“No, it isn’t. I know the man. He’s crazed with remorse. He was probably glad to be relieved from his secret. The thing has preyed on him, and weighed him down like a yoke on his shoulders. He was glad to get it off, I’ll wager!”

“He had no right to consider himself,” Overton broke out. “She was the only one to be considered.”

The doctor sank back in his chair musingly.

“I think he’s considered her in the best way at last. She had to know. What was wrong was not telling her at first; but he’s willing to right it, and he has righted it as far as he could, by confessing. The judge is bent on freeing her, and she’ll be free in a few months. That’s the only way out of it, except death.”

Overton came back to the chair opposite and sat down. He was strongly moved. Nothing that Gerry had said had taken much hold upon him but[250] the bare fact that Diane would be wonderfully set free again. It seemed to restore the old order of things, to put him back where he had been before she told him that she was married. His heart leaped up in a new and keen desire for happiness. Then he became aware of the doctor’s voice.

“It’s just as well you let him go in your place. It’ll hush up scandal, and make people think the separation is only a lovers’ quarrel. The question is, can you keep it quiet? Won’t these Englishmen tell the story?”

“They don’t know much of it; I’ve thought of that. I took some measures, too, as soon as—as I knew.”

“That he’d married Diane?”

Overton assented without looking up.

“It’s strange to me—strange and perplexing,” Dr. Gerry remarked thoughtfully. “I knew when I first saw him that he had something on his mind. Then I discovered that he tramped all night—some of the boys thought he was a spook! He was taking chloral to make him sleep. I guess he’s taking it still. One night he came in here and told me.”

Overton took up another cigar and lit it mechanically, without seeming to be aware of what he did.

“I hated him for it at first. I kept seeing him go off through the snow with the sledge and the[251] dogs; but afterward—I couldn’t blame him altogether. It was a question of being willing to die with me, I suppose, and I had no right to ask it. Yet, at the time, numb as I was, it amazed me, for I had thought he was fond of me.”

“He was. It was one of those curious cases where a man is seized with panic. It may be as much physical as moral. Practically speaking, he had lost his mind. He was of no more use than a frightened child. When he first told me, I thought it was one of the most cowardly things I’d ever heard of; but he’s suffered for it—he’s suffered the tortures of the damned!”

Overton was silent. He did not say he pitied Faunce. In fact, he was grimly recalling that terrific moment when he had been abandoned to die. Like Faunce, he visioned the polar wastes, and, unlike Faunce, he felt the drowsy approach of a frozen death again steal over him.

“I suppose there’s no reason,” he said, hesitating, “why I shouldn’t go to see Judge Herford?”

“You’re the best judge of that.”

Overton looked up.

“I see no reason why I shouldn’t, unless—unless you think she—she would rather I didn’t go.”

A quizzical light showed in the doctor’s eyes.

“Are you still in love with her, my son? Are you going there to—help matters along?”

“I’m still in love with her,” Overton replied,[252] coloring deeply. “I told her so when we met. That’s the worst of it! I had no idea she was married; and she let me know she didn’t care for me.”

“Because she was married?”

Overton thought deeply.

“I’m afraid it was because she couldn’t.”

“Then I should think you have no reason to stay away—if the judge wants to see you.”

“I want to see him, but I want to see her more—that’s the truth! It’s an infatuation, of course—without excuse, too. She let me know that when I saw her in the mountains.”

The doctor sat up in his chair.

“She saw you just before she left him?”


The two men looked at each other for a moment, and the older one smiled grimly.

“Then it seems to me that you can cry quits with Faunce,” Dr. Gerry said. “You’ve hurt him nearly as badly as he hurt you. You’ve made his wife see the truth about him.”

“You know I should scorn to do that!”

“You couldn’t help it. You can tell her all about it after the divorce.”

“I don’t see what you mean!”

The doctor smiled enigmatically this time.

“The judge is so angry that he’ll probably blazon the whole story out anyway, and ruin Faunce.”

[253]Overton rose abruptly to his feet.

“That won’t do! It’s useless. Besides, it would be like—like vengeance on my part, as if I had come home to ruin him.”

“You can’t shoulder the blame of it; you’ve nothing to do with the judge.”

“I’ve got this much to do—I’ve come back!”

The old man eyed him thoughtfully.

“I see! You’re taking up the load because you were disobliging enough to live to contradict Faunce. That’s a new way to look at it, my son!”

Overton glanced kindly at the old doctor. The familiar address fell pleasantly on his ear, for at the moment he felt peculiarly desolate.

“It’s the only way to shield her. I’ve got it arranged; but I shall have to see the judge.”

The doctor nodded.

“That’s right—I advise you to see him. He’s as hard to manage as a bull in a china-shop—always was; but you’re right, it’ll shield her. As for Arthur Faunce—well, he’s paying!”

“He’s paying—what?”

Overton stopped with his hand on the door, looking back at the old figure in the armchair.

“The piper!” The doctor laid down his pipe. “He’s paying with his heart’s blood, Simon, and I don’t know that he can do anything more than that. It’s the way some men pay a debt of honor, isn’t it?”

“Brave men!”

[254]Gerry nodded his head slowly.

“Of course, he’s a coward,” he admitted slowly. “Judge Herford calls him a damned coward.”

“I don’t intend to bring up that subject. I’m simply going to ask the judge to let matters stand as I’ve fixed them. Faunce keeps the command and the story—my story is never known.”

“You’re going to tell him that you give up the command to Faunce?”

“Of course!”

“That’s right, my boy, that’s right; but Faunce is giving up Diane.”

Overton, aware of something at work in the back of the old man’s mind, looked at him curiously.

“I don’t see what you’re driving at.”

The doctor got up and went down the hall to the front door with Overton, one arm flung affectionately across the younger man’s shoulders.

“I’m not driving at anything, Simon. I was weighing it—that’s all. You were immeasurably ahead of him in the race when you forgave him and gave up the command to shield him; but now, when he’s ready to give his wife her freedom—well, he’s almost caught up with you, hasn’t he? As I said, my boy, it’s his heart’s blood, and he’s offering it as bravely as a brave man might. Let’s give the devil his due—he’s paying up!”



It was dark by this time, and Overton consulted his watch, to be sure that it was not too near the judge’s dinner-hour for his errand. He was astonished to find that it was almost half-past eight. He had not felt the need of food. He dismissed it entirely from his calculations, and tramped steadily on in the moonlit mist. Through it he could see the lights twinkling in distant houses, while the trees loomed up in feathery, indistinct outlines, downy with foliage. Something in the effect—the weird brightness of the white sky and the elusive lights—reminded him of the mirage that had so often mocked him in his polar quest. He recalled it with a keen recollection of Faunce’s receding figure, and he thought grimly of the task that lay before him—the task of persuading Judge Herford to spare his own son-in-law for his daughter’s sake.

But the thought uppermost in Overton’s mind, as he opened the old gate that had stood for so much in his life, was the prospect of seeing Diane again. No matter how she regarded his return, even if she felt that it was his hand that had destroyed her house of cards, his heart leaped up[256] with hope. The insistent demand for personal happiness is not only a primal instinct of human nature, and as much a constituent part of it as the flowers and birds and bees are evidences of springtime and summer, but it is also the hardest aspiration to kill, surviving blows that would destroy the strongest impulse of endeavor or ambition.

In the words of the sage, “the veriest whipster of us all desires happiness.” Overton, who had actually stood upon the bourn of the undiscovered country, craved it the more keenly because of his long starvation.

He noticed every familiar object as he walked up the path. The old cedar was there, where he had put up the squirrel-house for Diane when she was a child in short skirts and pigtails. There, too, was the old worn seat around the oak, where they had read Tennyson together. He remembered with a smile Diane’s cry to him that he must go in quest of the Holy Grail. Had her insistence, her inspiration, indeed, sent him on that quest which had led to this fatal climax?

He went slowly up the steps, rang, and stood waiting, almost expecting that she would open the door with the same inspired look she used to wear, the same mystic charm of girlhood and dream-land which had always clothed her, to his imagination, in a beauty more spiritual than mundane.

But she did not come. A servant ushered him[257] in, and, after a moment’s delay, conducted him to the judge’s library.

The room was vacant when he entered, and he had an opportunity to look about him, to recall the familiar objects, the rich old bindings, and the glow of the ancient bronzes. The fireplace was not empty to-night; a large porcelain jar stood inside the fender, filled with a profusion of blossoms, their pink and white sprayed delicately against the dark chimney-place, and their fragrance, subtle and sweet, pervading the room. The old reading-lamp was burning on the table, and the judge’s big shell-rimmed spectacles lay on the open pages of the “Eumenides.”

Overton stood still, keenly moved by a rush of recollections. He might have left the room yesterday, it was so unchanged; yet, between his last sight of it and now, the whole world had changed to him. The interval had been filled to the brim with suffering and emotion; the gap was not even bridged. On one side of it stood Diane; on the other he found himself condemned to wait in the uncertain ground, no longer possessing a right to cross over and resume his old place at the fireside.

Presently he heard a heavy step outside, and the judge opened the door. He seemed to Overton much changed. His face was grim; his gray hair showed more white. His eyes, however, retained their intense warmth—the inner flame which at a[258] word might flash up into a conflagration. He held out his hand with a grim smile.

“It’s good to see you again, Simon Overton,” he said in his deep voice; “and it’s good of you to come here. We must seem to you to be part and parcel with—with the coward who left you to die!”

“You’re one of the best friends I ever had, Judge Herford, and one of the very best my mother left to me. I’ve been looking about this room and feeling—well, like a boy who’s been long from home. I’m glad indeed to be here again.”

The judge motioned to an old armchair opposite his own.

“Sit down—I’m glad you’ve come. There’s nothing else clear in my mind except the shock I’ve had. I believed in Faunce! It’s about used me up to think I’ve married my girl to—to a craven like that!”

He sat down as he spoke, and fell into an attitude of dejection so new to him that he seemed another and an older man. Overton, taking the seat opposite, hesitated. It was difficult to frame what he had to say. Meanwhile, the judge broke out again with great bitterness:

“The shame of it! I’d rather take a whipping than have Diane exposed to all this talk!”

The opening was obvious, and Overton took it, his face flushing deeply as he met the old man’s troubled eye.

[259]“I came to speak to you of that, judge. There’s no need of publicity. I’ve arranged with Faunce and with certain other people. My return needn’t upset everything. The trouble can be so glossed over that no one will know of it. I think I can fairly say that I’ve succeeded in arranging that much already.”

The judge eyed him keenly.

“You mean that you’ve arranged all this—to shield Faunce, to hush it up, to let the public think you were found in some mysterious way? I can’t quite follow you.”

“We needn’t go into detail, need we?” Overton replied steadily. “We can leave so much in doubt that there’ll never be any certainty. In those ice-fields a thousand men might well be lost—why not one? The only danger is in what he’s already said. There are gaps—I’ve been over them, I’ve filled in some bad breaks. I believe we can save much talk, and hush it up.”

The judge leaned forward, his strong hands clenched on his knees, looking at Overton.

“You’re trying to shield him—for what?”

“For your sake, Judge Herford, and—for hers.”

“You can’t hide a fire. The smoke gets out, people smell burning. No more can you hide a coward! That’s what it is, Simon. The expedition has been held up; they’re not going to give him the command; questions will be asked.”

[260]Overton shook his head.

“I’ve arranged that. They offered me the command. I refused to take it from him. He’ll go.”

The judge bent his brows.

“You’ve no right to do that! It’s paying a premium on falsehood. He came back here a jay in peacock’s plumes, and fooled us all; now you’re letting him carry off the prize. You’ve no right to shelter him.”

“I have the right that comes to the injured party. If I have no mind to enforce publicity, no one else should complain. You see that, judge?”

“I see you’re trying to spare him because”—he looked at his visitor keenly again—“because of Diane?”

Overton’s face changed sharply.


“She has left him—you know that?”

“Dr. Gerry told me. It doesn’t constitute a reason for me to ruin him. Talk about him will involve her in the scandal.”

The judge sank back in his chair, strumming on the arms with nervous fingers.

“You propose, then, to shield him, to set him up in your place—because he has married Diane?”

Overton smiled as grimly as the judge himself.

“Not quite in my place. I’ve simply arranged to keep it quiet. After all, it’s a personal question, judge. It’s true that he abandoned me; but[261] remember that to stay was to court death. He had no reason to die with me or for me. We mustn’t expect too much.”

“I’ve noticed you didn’t leave Rayburn. I’ve read the account, and he told us so himself. I could forgive him”—the old man laughed harshly—“I could forgive sheer fright—Gerry says it was physical panic—but I’ll never forgive him for marrying my daughter!”

“I don’t ask that.”

There was something in Overton’s tone which made the judge wheel around in his chair and look his visitor sharply in the face. What he found there gave him a shock. He got up, went to the mantel, found his old pipe, and thrust some tobacco into it. While he was fumbling for a match, he spoke over his shoulder.

“I’m going to get a divorce for her. At first I thought we should have to fight for it, but he’s willing to let her get it. He has that much grace in him. I’ll take her out West, establish a residence, and get a divorce for her. We’re done with him—she and I!”

Overton did not trust himself to reply. He rose, instead, to say good-night. The judge swung around.

“Stay, my boy, stay! I want to talk to you, to hear more of your great adventure.”

“Not now, judge. To tell you the truth, I haven’t dined yet.”

[262]The judge broke out.

“What a fool I am! Sit down and let me order something. We’ve dined, but you mustn’t leave my house hungry!”

Overton laughed.

“No, I must be off. But it’s understood—we’ll let this matter remain hushed up?”

The judge thought, standing on the hearth-rug, his feet wide apart and his head down, the big pipe thrust into his mouth. After a while he took it out and answered.

“I’d like to expose him. I meant to do it, to set Diane right; but there might be reasons why silence would be best. I know she wants it. She shrinks with horror from the whole thing, poor child!”

His tone had in it a note of tenderness that was new to Overton. He looked up and again met the older man’s dark eyes resting searchingly upon him. It affected him strongly. There was a subtle suggestion of hope in it, a reassurance.

He turned hastily, and made his way out with an abruptness that surprised his host. He had a craving for air and space; the sudden change, the revival of hope after his despair, seemed to take his breath away. He forgot his appetite for his delayed meal, and set out for a long walk in the weird light of the half-clouded moon.

Having closed the door on his visitor, Judge Herford stood for a moment with his hand on[263] the knob, listening to the young man’s footsteps until they finally reached the open road. He had received a new and, to him, amazing impression, and it staggered him so much that for the time being he forgot his wrath against his son-in-law. It was a new impression, but it furnished the key to situations that had previously seemed vague and perplexing. Now he understood them all, and in this new light he thought he understood his daughter.

While he stood there, before he could clear up the ponderous machinery of his judicial mind and set it in motion, he heard the swish of skirts on the staircase and became aware of her presence.

“Papa, who was it?” she demanded tremulously. “Who went out just now?”

He looked up and saw Diane leaning on the banisters. The strong light on the landing made a luminous nimbus behind her small, spirited head and outlined her slender figure in a loose evening gown, the full, short sleeves falling away from delicate forearms and slender wrists. Her whole attitude suggested suspense and trepidation, and her father felt her eyes fixed on him, feverishly bright.

“Don’t worry, my dear—it wasn’t Faunce.”

“Oh!” There was a suggestion of extreme relief in the tone, coupled with some curiosity. “Then who was it?”

“Simon Overton.”

[264]“Oh!” It was the same sound, but with a different note—a note that spoke volumes to her father’s awakened ear.

“He came here—guess what for!”

She relaxed her hold on the banisters and sat down on the steps, her face in the shadow, but her large eyes shining luminously through it and making her face seem singularly white.

“I can’t guess. I give it up—unless he came to see you?”

The judge moved slowly over and stood near the foot of the stairs, watching her.

“He came to ask me to keep silence, to shield Faunce. He’s determined never to tell the true story.”

She did not say anything for a while. When she spoke, it was in an awed tone.

“How noble of him!”

Her father nodded, his hand on the pillar at the foot of the banisters, as he looked up at her.

“He had seen Faunce and arranged for silence. He wants to let the whole thing blow over; he’s afraid of injuring you with the scandal.”

She seemed to shrink a little, and she was no longer looking steadily at him.

“Is that all, papa?”

“No, not all. You know they’ve wanted to take the command of the new expedition from Faunce and give it to Overton?”

“Yes, I suppose they will.”

[265]“They won’t, for Overton has refused to accept it. He has asked them to let Faunce keep it.”

She made no reply to this, but put her hand up and pushed back the soft, loose hair from her forehead with a perplexed air.

“It’s a fine thing, Di, a noble thing for a man to do. It can mean only one thing!”

She still said nothing, but leaned against the banisters, watching him.

“He’s in love with you, Diane. There’s no other reason on God’s earth for a man to do a thing like that, to shield another from the blame that’s coming to him by rights. Did you know”—he stopped and looked at her again—“before this that he cared for you?”

“I used to think he did,” she answered weakly, her head leaning against the rail.

“It’s too bad, Diane!” the judge broke out. “It’s too bad that you didn’t care for him!”

His tone, as well as his words, disarmed her. She did not even suspect him of a ruse; but, in her pent-up state, it was too much, and she broke down utterly, quite off her guard.

“Oh, I did!” she sobbed. “I did!”

She turned her head and hid her face on her arm, bursting suddenly into wild tears and sobs.



Diane staggered to her feet and went up-stairs. Her strongest feeling was one of keen humiliation. She had made a confession that she had never intended to make, and it did not matter if her father had been the only listener. The actual admission, the spoken words, had clothed a dim specter with reality. She had heard her own voice making an admission that seemed to establish a motive—a motive at once primal and unjustifiable—for her desertion of her husband.

It frightened her. She felt as if Overton must have heard her, through the intervening night and the distance, that he must at last put the true interpretation upon the terror with which she had thrust him away when they met on the lonely mountain road. Then, as now, it had come to her with a revealing shock that she still loved him, and not the man she had married. Yet she must love Faunce, she argued wildly to herself. She did love him, she had loved him when she had married him, and it agonized her now to think of him as one who was so totally different from the man she had imagined him to be.

She found herself in the most inexplicable tangle[267] of emotions. She did not know which way to turn. She had fled from her father, afraid to meet his pitying eyes, afraid, most of all, to hear his reassuring voice, for she knew what that meant!

She fled into her own room, and, locking the door, threw herself down before the open window, her head on the sill, the soft night air stirring the dusky hair on her forehead. It was a night for a love-dream, not for such shrinking and terror as now harassed her.

When Faunce had confessed to her, when he had torn away the last shred of her illusion about him, she had left him, overwhelmed with horror and dismay. The revulsion of feeling had been so intense that it had carried her home and swept her along in the current of her father’s rage against her husband. She had been as eager as he to get Faunce to consent to a divorce. She did not wish to bear the name of a man who had so deeply disgraced himself.

When he had assented to Herford’s demands, when he had declared that, if she wished it, she could have her freedom, the tension had snapped, and she had collapsed. She had been ready for conflict, ready to fight for her liberty; but when she found that there was to be no opposition, she experienced a sudden feeling of helplessness. She was adrift on a shoreless sea.

A beacon, indeed, shone across it—the beacon of Overton’s love, which sometimes seemed to[268] beckon her home to the harbor of safety and happiness, but now there was this thing—this thing that had risen out of the night, unasked and unheralded, and it was pressing close upon her. She had discerned it from afar, and even in the midst of her wild revulsion, her determination to escape, it had filled her with awe and with dread.

It was imperceptible, yet it was with her. It held her back with strong hands, though it was invisible—as invisible as the angel who wrestled with Jacob. But she had no need to ask its name; she knew the name by which men called it—unless, indeed, they called it God. She felt it gaining upon her and threatening her, yet she would not yield.

She lay across the sill of her open window, exhausted and prone, but not beaten. She was fighting still, fighting for happiness, trying to guide her shipwrecked bark into that safe harbor where the beacon of love shone bright. She would not surrender, she would not admit that there was no room for her there—not yet! But she wished that she had not spoken, had not voiced her emotion. It seemed to give this impalpable thing, this invisible angel, so much more power for battle.

Then, suddenly as if the unseen wrestler had successfully thrown her in the conflict, she saw herself as the type of woman she most abhorred—the[269] woman who divorces one man because she is in love with another.

But that could not be true, the inner voice cried; for though she loved Faunce, she had left him because she had found him to be a creature so unworthy, so cowardly, so cruel, that her soul had risen up and driven her from him. Overton had had nothing to do with it. It was Faunce himself who had torn away the thin veil that had obscured her idol’s feet of clay.

As she tried to force herself to think of her husband, to recall him in his better aspect, she could only remember his face as he had lifted it, haggard and ashamed, to confess that he had left a brave man, his friend and his commander, to die, that he might be sure to save himself, be sure to reap the profit and the glory of the fallen leader’s labor and sacrifice. She could never forget it. It had slain her love for him so completely that not even a spark lingered in the ashes.

It was not that she loved Overton now. It was her remembrance of the fact that she had loved him. The thought of what he was, compared with the man she had married, had plunged her into deeper self-abasement.

It was a fine distinction, a spiritual difference between the grosser facts of life and the old, sweet memories that were dead. She understood it; she would not forget it, but would her father understand it? She knew that he could not.

[270]He had the hard legal acumen, the keen discernment, but his strength had the quality of granite and not of crystal. It was tremendous and solid, but not transparent enough to reflect the more exquisite emotions. He had not understood her, and he would not understand if she tried to explain away that broken and inarticulate cry of regret for the past. He would believe not only that he was doing what was just and right for his daughter, but that he was seeking her happiness, when there could be no happiness for her at all.

She could never set him straight, never convince him that she had not meant every word she said. He could not know about the invisible wrestler who still held her from the temptation of that distant happiness, who even now had made her feel that she must forego it. No one knew this but herself!

It was the feeling of helplessness, of the futility of argument, that made her unwilling to face her father again. It was with her during the long night, in her troubled snatches of sleep; it was the motive that made her plead headache in the morning, and thus escape the ordeal of another tête-à-tête breakfast by having hers brought up to her room; and later it drove her out of doors for a long and solitary walk.

It was a relief to be out in the open air again, to tramp down the familiar road to the seminary,[271] to notice the rapidity with which the leaves were changing even on the late trees and shrubs, and how many of the early autumn blossoms had thrust their way up through the earth, which was moist and dark with recent rains. A storm had come up before daybreak, and the sky was still softly clouded, while fitful bursts of rain and wind drove through the narrow lane. Diane had a moment of exhilaration, of the joy of conflict, as the boughs swayed and creaked overhead and the leaves rained down at her feet.

This feeling was still with her, stiffening her power of resistance, when she finally turned into the seminary gates and made her way to the dean’s house, with no stronger motive than a vague longing to feel that some one understood.

A little later, however, sitting in Fanny’s room, she was not sure that even another girl did quite understand the perplexity of her situation, its hopelessness and its futility. Fanny had been ready enough in her expressions of sympathy, but there was something between them that hushed confidence. There was a shy reluctance on the younger girl’s part that reminded Diane of a similar restraint when Fanny had been her bridesmaid. They talked a while in meaningless commonplaces. Then, as Fanny looked up suddenly, Diane caught the quiver of the girl’s lip and leaned forward, laying her ungloved hand on her friend’s knee.

[272]“Fanny, do you know?” she whispered.

Fanny’s eyes sank involuntarily to the hand on her knee, and rested on the new wedding-ring. Diane saw the glance, and drew her hand back with a significant gesture of pain and repugnance.

“Do I know what?” Fanny flushed with embarrassment. “You mean that you’ve—you’ve left him, Di, or—or what he did?”

Diane, busily covering her left hand with its glove, was aware that her fingers were shaking.

“I mean both,” she replied.

“Yes, papa told us. Oh, Diane, I’m so sorry—so sorry about him!”

“You mean you’re more sorry for him than for me?”

Fanny raised her blue eyes steadily.

“Yes, I think I am. He’s lost everything, even himself!”

Diane rose to her feet and began to walk about the room. It was small and bright, with two windows looking out on the campus. It contained a book-shelf, some pretty chintz-covered furniture, and a little white bed that looked like a convent cot. There were also unnumbered girlish belongings—favors, bonbon-boxes, photographs, and knickknacks.

Diane walked about restlessly, lifting up and setting down first one thing and then another, unaware of what she did.

“I—I couldn’t stay, Fanny!”

[273]The other girl did not follow her with her eyes. Instead, Fanny sat looking out of the window at a shower that was driving across the campus, the sun breaking through the clouds in time to make it a rain of gold.

“I suppose you couldn’t, Di. I think I know just how you felt, but—well, it makes me pity him the more!”

Diane faced her passionately.

“How can you, Fanny? How can you pity him more than I do? I loved him!”

“Yes, I know; but when you knew what he’d done, you ceased to love him. Wasn’t that it, Di? You see I—I suppose I’m a weaker mortal. I couldn’t do that. I should keep on loving him—well, just because I should feel he needed it so much!”

“Would you?” Diane came slowly nearer, looking at her friend imploringly, her face colorless. “Fanny, do you think that’s it? That’s what I’ve asked myself a hundred times. Do you think I—I never really loved him?”

“Oh, that’s too much to say! I couldn’t judge for you, Di, we’re—we’re so different. I suppose I’m like—like the dog that keeps going back to lick the hand that’s struck him. If I loved any one, I couldn’t—I simply couldn’t turn on them like that!”

“I didn’t think I could, either; but when he told me what he’d done—Fanny, I can’t tell you how[274] I felt. I felt as if something had died in my heart. I couldn’t even look at him again without seeing him in flight and—and Overton alone, deserted in the snow and ice, left to die!” She covered her face with her hands, shuddering. “I could have forgiven him a sin against myself far more easily. I could have forgiven even dishonesty, but that—Fanny, I—I couldn’t, I can’t!”

Fanny averted her eyes. The response that rose to her lips was too pertinent.

“It’s because you always loved Overton!” she longed to cry out. Instead, she rose and put her arms around Diane. “If you feel like that, dear,” she said, “there’s only one way out.”

Diane clung to her trembling.

“You mean——”

“Your father’s way,” Fanny said firmly. “Papa told us the judge meant to get a divorce for you.”

Diane held her, looking into her eyes. The two seemed to have suddenly changed places; Fanny was the more composed and confident now.

“Then you—you don’t think it would be wrong?” Diane implored.

Fanny shook her head.

“I think it’s better than to feel as you do. I know mama’s fearfully opposed to divorce, and papa is, of course. But, no, Di, I think it would be right for you—and for him, too.”

Diane’s hands fell from Fanny’s shoulders, and[275] she walked slowly over to the window and stood looking out. For a while they were both silent. Fanny felt that instead of reassuring her friend, she had only added to her distress. Through her very words of encouragement Diane must have felt the subtle suggestion of Fanny’s mind—her belief that Diane’s love for Overton made her marriage not only intolerable but impossible.

She was conscious, too, that her own emotion dictated her pity for Faunce, that even now she could not quite forget the hold he had always had upon her mind and heart. She was flushed and tremulous when Diane turned suddenly and kissed her.

“Good-by, dear,” she said softly. “I can’t stay here now and face your father. I know what he’d think. Oh, Fanny, I—I wish I had never been born!”

The two girls clung to each other for another moment, neither of them quite able to be coherent. Then Diane ran down-stairs and made her way out into the rain.



It seemed to Diane that her emotion, like the storm, had nearly spent itself, and the few fresh rain-drops that fell on her face helped to cool its feverishness, just as a sudden revival of pride and strength helped to quiet the tumult within.

Torn by conflicting emotions, she had stretched out blindly for guidance—or, at least, for some sort of sympathy that would steady her purpose and point a way in the maze. Fanny had furnished it, not so much by what she had said as by what she left unsaid; and Diane felt the sting of mortification at her own weakness. She had gone out like a mendicant asking the alms of sympathy, and she had received not bread, but a stone.

Suddenly, too, she perceived a fact that had long been only a vague idea in the back of her mind. Fanny had been fond of Faunce! She saw it plainly now, with a passionate feeling of rebellion. If love awaited him elsewhere, why had fate delivered him into her hands? It was all confused, all at cross-purposes.

If he had married Fanny, there would, perhaps, have been no question of his confession. Fanny would have helped him where she had failed. That[277] was the cruelty of it—a cruelty that involved him as well as herself. Why had he been so blind? she cried angrily to herself. Why had he passed Fanny by to pursue her? If he had only left her alone—

She stopped short and stood still. Again she saw herself going over the edge of the abyss. She tried to steady herself, to find the guiding light, the lamp to show her the way out.

Then, just at the very moment when she was least able to endure it, least able to battle any longer, she saw Overton himself just ahead of her. He was walking fast. As he turned he caught sight of her, and, swinging around, came rapidly toward her, his face as white as hers was red with embarrassment.

As he drew nearer, she stopped, more because she did not know what else to do than from any wish to see him. Her first impulse, indeed, had been one of flight, and she suspended it only because, in the hedged lane, there was no convenient way to flee. Something of what she felt—her trepidation, which almost amounted to sheer fright—showed in her eyes and her reluctant attitude, and he saw it. He halted a few yards away and stood looking at her.

“You don’t wish to see me?”

The note of pain in his voice sent a thrill of answering pain through her heart. Unconsciously she held out her hand.

[278]“I do—only it’s hard—after all I’ve been told!”

Her broken words touched him deeply. He realized that she felt a vicarious share in her husband’s guilt toward him, and he caught her hand in both of his.

“He should never have told you. I tried to save you that!” he exclaimed.

She drew her hand gently away.

“You did wrong, then. He was right to tell me—I had to know.”

“But why?”

He had turned with her, and they walked on through the light rain. She looked up, her mind clearing.

“It was wrong of you to urge silence on him. If he’s ever to be anything, he mustn’t be silent. A thing like that must be confessed and atoned for. Besides, he knew that I should know in the end. I couldn’t help it. I’ve felt that there was something wrong, something terrible behind it all!”

“And it has made you wretched—I see that. Why can’t you forget it? I should never have come back. It’s I who have ruined your happiness.”

“Oh, no, no! Think how infinitely worse it would have been if you had perished and I had known too late that he—that he had left you! I couldn’t have borne that.”

The passion of her tone moved him again, and[279] for a moment he did not reply. He was keenly aware of her presence at his side, her delicate profile against the light mist that was rising like vapor about them, the curve of her brow and the oval of her pale cheek under the dusky sweep of the brown hair that waved upward under her wide hat, the meticulous simplicity of her dark dress, her grace and slightness.

She seemed so young, so girlish, and she was facing a situation so tragic and humiliating! Overton was himself a proud man, and he felt her humiliation, felt that he must lighten it.

“I’ve wanted to speak to you about this,” he managed to say at last. “You mustn’t think that he did something do unpardonable. It isn’t unpardonable to any one who’s ever been at the pole. No man has a right to expect too much from his fellows there, and”—he hesitated—“when a man drops behind, why, he’s got to perish. The stakes are too great, the price too much, to lose all for one life. I fell in my tracks, and it’s only fair to him to think that I should have stayed where I dropped. The expedition couldn’t be imperiled just for me. I wasn’t worth so much. He did what—well, what nine out of ten would have done in his place.”

She stopped and faced him, her large eyes dark with emotion.

“Did you leave Rayburn?”

He flushed under her eyes.

[280]“That was different. Faunce was with me—there were three of us. It was different, of course.”

“I can’t see the difference.”

“It was different, though. Besides, there was no blizzard impending. In my case the storm made it doubly perilous to stay.”

“It made the going worse!” she retorted in a hard voice.

He turned his head, and their eyes met; he felt almost as keen a shame as if he, and not Faunce, had done this thing. He saw that to her it was unpardonable. She would never see any reason or excuse for it. If she had loved her husband, then Overton’s return had wrecked her life.

“I’ve made you wretched!” he exclaimed with profound emotion. “It’s come to me again and again, since my return, that it must be dreadful for a man to come back from the dead. When we die—or people think we’re dead—our places close over our graves; there’s no niche left for us any more. To come back is to disrupt the tranquillity of the life that’s begun to flow in new courses over the surface of the grave. That’s what I’ve done—I’ve come back and wrecked your happiness!”

She shook her head vehemently, tears rising in her eyes.

“No, I never had it. I know now I only imagined. I never had any happiness at all!”


Her cry had gone to his heart. It was more than he could bear. He caught her hands in his again and held them.

“Don’t say that, for I can’t bear it—no man who loved you could bear to hear you say that!”

She did not answer him, but stood still, her hand quivering in his grasp. They were alone under the trees, and the sun, breaking suddenly through the clouds again, illumined the moist atmosphere until it seemed shot with golden motes.

“I’ve no right to say it,” he went on passionately; “but I’m human, and I can’t keep silence! Diane, I’d rather have died down there in the ice and snow, where he left me, than to have come back to lose you!”

Still she said nothing, but her head drooped, and she could no longer look up. She knew now why she had left her husband. Her whole subconscious being cried out:

“It was this—this! You loved this man, and not your husband!”

“I’ve always loved you, Diane!” he went on madly. The restraint he had set on himself had broken, and nothing now could stem the current of his emotion. “I loved you before I went away, but I wasn’t sure of you; I didn’t dare to risk too much. Diane, if I had spoken then, would you have listened, would all this have been saved?”

She broke down herself.

[282]“Don’t ask me—don’t—it’s no use! It’s done—don’t you see it’s no use to ask me now?”

“It’s not done, if you’ve left him! Your father says you’ve left him. If you have, if you’re going to be free, Diane, it’s not wrong for me to speak. I can’t be silent; I’m human. I’m as bad as he is—I’m worse, for you’re his wife. But I——” He stopped, and then went on in a low voice: “Will you answer me, Diane, just one word. Did you then—before I went away—did you care?”

She looked up into his face and saw it transfigured with deep emotion—the face of the man she loved, for whom she had left her husband. She was trembling, but his eyes held hers, and she yielded.

“Yes!” she sobbed below her breath.

They swayed toward each other in the golden mist, he holding her hands in a grip that thrilled with passionate hope.

“Diane, my love!” he cried.

If she heard him, she did not answer, though she closed her eyes and her lips moved. He seemed to feel, through the impalpable veil between their two souls, that hers was struggling away from his and trying to rise by its own agony to a supreme height of renunciation. But he would not let her go.

“Then—then, if you cared once, you care—you must care again. I can’t have you speak as you did just now—about there being no happiness[283] for you. I can’t bear that, for I’d give all that I have, the best that’s in me, to make you happy. Speak to me! It’s not wrong—I know what you think, but it’s not wrong if you’re going to begin life over again. It’s not wrong for me to try to win you again, to make you happy!”

With a sudden effort she dragged her hands from his and moved on blindly, hurrying away from him.

“Don’t!” she sobbed. “Don’t make it worse. It’s all wrong; I know it; I see it; I—I left him because——”

He had caught up with her now and walked beside her, as pale as she was.

“Because what? Tell me; I must know; I have a right to know!”

She staggered again; her hand going to her throat with a strange little gesture, as if she felt strangled.

“Because I loved you! I see it now—and it’s wicked. I hadn’t any right to judge him, for I was worse than he was. It’s one of those things that make it wrong, Simon—that make it wrong even to have cared once!”

“No, it’s not wrong! We’ll get you free. He—I’ll say it now, Diane—he had no right to marry you!”

“I was the one who did wrong—as much as he did,” she managed to say. “I—I thought I loved[284] him; I told him I loved him. I must have. If I didn’t, I—I could never have married him!”

“But you were mistaken! That’s common; it happens often. You were mistaken—you didn’t love him!”

She stopped again, and the misty sunlight illumined her face until it appeared to him to have a purity as luminous and fragile as an alabaster lamp. Her spirit, tried beyond endurance, seemed to be shining through it, darkening her eyes and softening her lips.

“Oh, I’m not sure!” she cried. “Don’t you see how I feel? There are two roads, and I stand at the crossing. I’m bewildered; I can’t see; I can only feel——”

“But I know!” he returned with profound emotion. “I know! My love is strong enough to find the way for us both. It’s not wrong to love you, for you’ve given him up!”

For a moment, as she clung to him, he felt the slight weight of her body against him, the fragrance of her hair upon his cheek. Then she had slipped out of his arms and left him alone in the mist.



In a tumult of feeling deeper and more complex than ever, Diane made her way through a meadow that furnished a short cut to her own door. She was vaguely aware that the grass was long, and that she was getting drenched nearly to her knees, when she saw, in a half-conscious way, a cluster of asters blooming happily just at the spot where a lowered fence-rail made it possible for her to scramble into the end of her father’s garden.

She was scarcely conscious of what she did, and she had a new feeling of guilt. Until now she had felt that she was as supremely in the right as Faunce was supremely in the wrong; but the whole attitude of her mind was breaking down. She felt a tremor of fear, though even at that moment she could not have told what it was she feared.

Shaken as she was, she tried to let herself in without attracting attention, for she had as little courage as ever for an interview with the judge. However, she was not to escape. He heard the rear door open, and, looking out of his library, espied her at the foot of the stairs.

“Is that you, my child?” he said in the deep[286] bass that always presaged something important. “Come in here a moment before you go up-stairs. I have something to tell you.”

She turned reluctantly and followed him into the old room, which was so full of memories that it made her shiver. Her father resumed his seat by the table, but she remained standing just inside the door, where a bit of sunshine from the window touched the edge of her wet skirt, but left her face in shadow. The judge mounted his spectacles and looked over some papers, refreshing his memory.

“My dear, of course we’ll employ counsel; you know that! I’ve just got a letter from Holt and Hickson, which seems satisfactory on the whole. Mr. Hickson—he’s the junior partner—advises us to wait until the expedition sails. He’s seen Faunce, and, as far as he can ascertain, there’ll be no opposition. Faunce has modified his first assurance to me a little, but I suppose we’ll have to expect that—to expect changes and vacillations in a man like him!”

Diane tried to steady her voice.

“What did he say—I mean, what does he say now, papa?”

The judge consulted the letter again.

“He told Hickson that it depended upon you. He has the greatest faith in you, and won’t oppose divorce if you ask it; but he wants you to ask it in writing. It’s absurd—knowing, as he does,[287] that you’ve left him; but he seems determined, so Hickson says, to know just what you want. Of course, if that is really all he wants to know, it’s easy. You can make a statement here; I’ll have it typed and witnessed, and Hickson can let him see it.”

“And if I didn’t want to write anything, what would happen then?”

Her father looked up in amazement.

“Not want to write anything? Of course you do! The sooner you’re free of that—that coward the better. That’s what I called you in for. You can decide just what you want to say, and I’ll have it prepared for your signature.”

She lifted her head at that, looking at him, a singular expression on her face.

“But that’s just it. I—I can’t! You see, I don’t know what I want to say at all.”

Her father suppressed an exclamation of impatience.

“I should think you’d know well enough! You’ve got to say something, or else let it go, and after a while he’ll sue you for desertion; but no one knows how long it would take him to get his courage screwed up to that. I wish”—the judge let his hand fall heavily on the papers before him—“I wish we had a clean case against him to sue on at once.”

“You mean—we haven’t any case?”

He frowned.

[288]“We’ve got case enough, in one way; but against you—well, he’s done nothing against you but to dare to marry you, knowing what a coward he was!”

Diane continued to look at him, her eyes dilating a little, but she was silent. The judge, aware of it, looked up and encountered her expression. He pulled off his spectacles and gazed at her steadily.

“What’s the matter, Di? You look ill—I’ll have to send for Gerry.”

“Oh, no! It’s nothing but the scent of those tuberoses on the table—it’s so strong, it makes me feel faint.”

She moved away as she spoke and put herself a little out of the range of his vision. The judge took the glass of tuberoses and set it on the window-ledge.

“I thought you had a craze for all kinds of weeds. This thing has been too much for you; that’s what’s the matter.”

“No, no!” she gasped weakly. “I’m strong enough to stand a great deal more than this. I——” She hesitated, beginning to walk about on the other side of the room, her figure outlined against the rich bookbindings, but her face still in shadow. “Papa, what would you say if I—if I decided to go back to my husband?”

There was a sharp little pause before the judge’s bass boomed across the table.

[289]“I’d disown you! A woman that could go back to such a coward wouldn’t deserve recognition.”

She laughed hysterically.

“But I married him!”

“You didn’t know it, did you?”

“You know I didn’t.”

“Nor did I!” The judge controlled his anger. “I beg your pardon, Di, for my share in it. Gerry thinks I helped make the match. If I did, I’ll help unmake it. I’ll have a statement drawn up for you, and you’ll only need to sign it. I should hate to feel the marriage was my fault.”

“It’s no one’s fault—unless it’s mine. I—I had no right to think I loved him if—if I didn’t!”

“You didn’t—that’s it, my child. Mistakes like that make half the marriages. I’ve seen enough of it in my day, and I don’t mean to have your life ruined at the start. You’re getting hysterical, that’s all. I’ll see that you get out of it and have a chance to make your life over. You can trust me for that, my girl!”

“But if—if I shouldn’t feel that I wanted to—to have you do it, papa?”

He turned sharply.

“What’s the matter? Have you seen that fellow?”

“My husband? Oh, no, no!” Her face flushed painfully. “I don’t believe he wants to see me after the way I left him.”

The judge started to retort, but hesitated and[290] reflected. He had been on the point of telling her that Faunce did want to see her, but he thought better of it.

“It was enough to cure him—I’ll admit that, my dear,” he finally replied.

Diane moved to the nearest cabinet, and lifting a little jar of ancient pottery, began to examine it as if she had never seen it before.

“Do you think that any one—that any woman who’s been through what I’ve been through can start over again!”

“Of course she can! Why not? A man can fail and fall, for that matter, and then get up and start fresh.”

“Oh, but that’s different; the man’s not the question. I’m a woman. It’s not the same thing at all!”

“You’re getting back now to the fundamental question—the double standard of morals. It’s not relevant. You’re not doing anything immoral to refuse to live with a coward.”

“I didn’t even stop to think!” she cried. “When he told me what he’d done, I”—she shuddered—“I couldn’t stay!”

“Of course you couldn’t! What’s more, I won’t let you go back to him. You understand that, Di? You’re nervous and broken down, and he may try to persuade you, but I’ll never let you go back!”

“But if—if I went, papa?”

[291]He struck his hand down on the table.

“Understand me. If you went I’d never speak to you again as long as I lived! Don’t you see what he did? He wasn’t only a coward; he would have been Overton’s murderer if the English party hadn’t come along. It was a miracle that saved Overton; Faunce as good as left him purposely to die.”

“Yet”—she spoke with an effort—“yet Overton doesn’t blame him as you do. He tries to excuse him.”

“You’ve seen Overton?”

“Ye-es; just now. I met him on the way home,” she stammered.

A look of relief softened the judge’s face. He rose from his chair and, crossing the room, took his daughter in his arms.

“My child, you’re half sick! You’ve worried too much. Don’t talk in this way again. You know you long to be free.”

His softened tone disarmed her again. She clung to him, trembling, tears in her eyes.

“Oh, I do—I do!” she sobbed. “I long to be my old self again!”

The judge gathered her up in his arms, as he had often gathered her up as a child, and carried her up-stairs to her room. He put her on the lounge and covered her up; then he went down, and sent the old maid servant up with a cup of hot tea. It was the only thing he could think of[292] that seemed to fill the peculiar demands of a case like this—a case which, to his mind, was nothing but hysteria. Then he set himself to framing the reply to Faunce that Diane was to sign.

He had made up his mind to settle her affairs for her. He was convinced now that she loved Overton. Sternly as he might have viewed such a case where others were involved, he could see only one side of it for his own daughter—her right, the inalienable right of youth and love, to happiness. He did not permit the finer and more ethical questions to disturb his fixed determination to wrest her from the craven who had been capable of a crime as near to murder as anything short of actual killing could be. Indeed, to his own stalwart mind, it was even worse than murder.

Meanwhile Diane, up-stairs in her own room, drank the hot tea, and permitted the maid to help her with some dry clothing; but she was still shaking like a person who had been suddenly smitten with ague. All the while she seemed to see, through a mist shot with golden rain-drops, the face of Overton, transfigured with his love for her. She wrung her hands together and hid her face in them, oblivious of the pitying eyes of the old servant who had come to take away the tea-things.

She was still sitting there, with her head in her hands, when she heard her father leave the[293] library and go out, and knew herself to be alone in the house. She breathed more freely when she was not in immediate danger of being rushed into some new and terrible decision—a decision that might make her as wretched as that other one which had led to her marriage. She rose weakly from the lounge and went down-stairs.

It was now late afternoon, and the sun had come out with extraordinary splendor. It was flooding the western windows and dappling the lawn with a lovely lacework of rain-gemmed cobwebs that sparkled like frosted fairy veils.

Diane went slowly across the hall, and saw the evening mail lying on the little table in the corner. It recalled with a sharp pang the days long ago when she had looked there in vain for a letter from Overton, then on his way to the south pole. There were some letters there now, however, and she turned them over and started violently when she recognized her husband’s handwriting on an envelope addressed to her.

For a moment she leaned forward, her hands on the table, unable to make up her mind to open it. The aversion she had felt at his confession swept back over her in wave on wave of futile passion and shame. Then she took up the letter and, opening it, moved to the window to read more clearly the few lines that he had written in an unsteady hand:

[294]Your father told me you wanted a divorce, Diane, and now his lawyers insist upon it; but it’s hard for me to believe it of you. I know how you felt when you left me, but now—I’ve done nothing against you, and I trusted you to help me to do better things. I ask you to come back, I entreat you to come; but I’ll never try to force you. I have told them that you must answer me yourself. If you don’t, I shall refuse to let it go on, for I love you still. I will not take an answer from any one but you. If you still ask it, I will set you free. But even then I shall love you.

The letter fell from Diane’s hand and fluttered to the floor. She could see him as he had looked that night in the cottage; she could hear his voice making the confession. The letter was like him. It seemed to fall short; it had not even the courage of his love; and yet she knew he loved her. His very weakness in this hour, when he so needed strength, touched her woman’s heart. Her abhorrence of his deed had clouded her own perception of his misery, but now, in a flash, she saw it. It was as great as hers.

She was still standing there, her head bowed, when she heard steps on the piazza and her father’s latch-key in the door. He came in, bringing with him a young man whom Diane recognized as the village notary. She stooped quickly, picked up her husband’s letter, and stood, holding it behind her, as they entered.

The judge looked at her gravely, unable to discern her expression as she stood with her back to the light.

“That paper’s ready, Diane,” he said briefly,[295] “and Mr. Mackay’s come with me to witness it. All we need now, my dear, is your signature.”

Diane turned and acknowledged the young man’s bow with a deep blush. She felt that all the world now knew of her flight from her husband.

The judge went to the library door and opened it, young Mackay waiting at a respectful distance. Diane did not move, and her father looked around.

“Are you ready, my child?” he demanded sharply.

She hesitated an instant, and then turned and followed him into the room.

He went to his table and spread out a type-written sheet, dipping his pen in the ink, and holding it ready in one hand, as he pulled out a chair for Diane with the other.

“Read that, my dear,” he said briefly, “and then sign here.”

His daughter came slowly over to the table and sank into the chair he offered, drawing the paper toward her. The powerful sunshine in the room seemed to flood the document with light, and she could read it at a glance. It was a brief reply to her husband’s demands and a plain statement of her determination to sue for divorce at once.

She read it, aware of the impatient hand at her elbow clenching the pen, and of young Mackay opposite. From the time when she read her husband’s[296] letter until now she had acted mechanically, scarcely conscious of what was going on around her; and she was only half aware of the curiosity and concern in young Mackay’s eyes. She read the paper slowly through, and then, drawing a long breath, she took the pen from her father’s hand.

He spoke sharply to the witness:

“Come over here and see her sign it, John!”

The notary obeyed, and they both stood waiting, their eyes on Diane; but she did not sign the paper. She rose suddenly, turning a white face toward her father.

“I—I’m sorry, papa, but I really can’t sign it!”

As she spoke she looked up, encountered the amazement and fury and repudiation in his eyes, and swayed under it—but only for a moment. She steadied herself, and, turning back again with a gesture of finality, laid the pen down on the table.



Five minutes later the judge had closed the door behind the young notary, and stood alone in the hall. He had shut the door sharply, with almost a bang, but now he stood—with his hand still on the knob—thinking. His first fury against his daughter was scarcely subsiding, it had gained force in those moments of mortification—when he had to dismiss the young man whom he had brought to witness her signature—and now it rose in a hot wave of anger against her and against Faunce. He suspected that Faunce had written to her, he was trying to drag the poor girl back against her will. And she—Diane Herford, his own daughter—had not the force of character to resist that craven!

The judge turned with a black brow and tramped back to the library door.

“Diane,” he said in a voice of thunder, “what do you mean by this?”

She was still standing beside the table, in fact she was clinging to the edge of it, and her face was deathly pale. She did not move, she did not even raise her eyes, and her father, still enraged, became alarmed.

[298]“Did you hear me?” he shouted. “What is it, Diane, are you ill? Are you mad?”

At that she turned her head, and slowly and reluctantly lifted her eyes to his.

“I think I’ve been mad, father,” she replied in a low voice, “mad and wicked.”

The judge came into the room, he moved over to get a nearer look at her, peering across the table—where the paper still lay, with the pen flung across the face of it, a mute witness of her indecision, or her change of heart. Diane did not meet his eyes this time, she averted her face and her lips trembled.

“You’re ill, that’s what ails you!” her father exclaimed sharply. “I was a fool not to see it, you’re too hysterical to sign this paper to-day, I”—he stamped over to the telephone—“I’ll call up Gerry. I ought to have done it before——”

She stopped him. “Papa!”

He swung around at the sound of her voice, and, for an instant, they looked at each other. She was trembling, but a little color came back into her face.

“I’m not ill,” she said slowly, with an effort, “and I’m not mad now. I’m sorry, papa, I can’t sign it because——” she stopped, her eyes fell, the color rose softly from chin to brow, her whole face seemed transformed and softened and strangely beautiful—“because it would be wrong for me to sign it.”

[299]His eyes sparkled with anger. “Wrong for you to sign it? Do you mean to tell me that I—your father—would ask you to do anything wrong?”

“No, no! You don’t understand—I—I can’t tell you, papa, I can’t tell any one—just what I feel. It’s something a woman can’t tell—I mean she can’t make any one else understand the change that comes into her heart and her soul when she’s been tried—as I’ve been tried!”

“Pshaw! Any fool could understand it—you’re hysterical!”

Diane gave him a strange look, a look that was not only appealing, it was mystical and remote, it seemed to the angry old man that his daughter’s soul was withdrawing itself into some shadowy region, as obscure to his robust mind as the mists and the snows that had enveloped the fatal delinquency of her husband. But the suspicion that had shot through his mind at the door, came back now with sudden and convincing force.

“That fellow’s been writing to you!” he exclaimed, “he’s been trying to make you come back!”

Diane, full of the fresh consciousness of Arthur’s letter, averted her eyes.

“Yes, he’s written me,” she confessed simply; “he has a right to do that, he’s—my husband.”

The judge gave utterance to an inarticulate sound. He was, in reality, choking with anger.

[300]Diane saw it; she felt an almost intolerable longing to escape, to be alone to order her thoughts, but she could not bear to incur her father’s anger, he had been so good to her! She had fled to him in her darkest hour and he had sheltered her. She hated to offend him, she stood irresolute, unable to voice her thoughts.

Meanwhile, the old man swallowed the lump in his throat.

“I knew it!” he exclaimed bitterly. “He’s been trading on your pity, on your woman’s heart—confound him! Di, you want to be free, you’ve said so—why did you mortify me just now? You made that boy think I was trying to force you to sign a paper against your will. You made a fool of your father because that—that coward’s been begging off!”

“No, no!” she cried sharply, “it wasn’t that—he’s said nothing cowardly, papa, nothing that—that he shouldn’t say to his wife. It is I—I have changed, I——” she stopped, breathing quickly, and then she added more quietly: “you know what I said, papa—what would you do if I went back to my husband?”

The judge stood looking at her for a long time in silence, his face flushing darkly. Then he broke out with passion.

“I’ve told you that, too! I’d disown you.”

She put her hand to her side with a quick gesture[301] of pain, and all the soft color left her face, even her lips grew white.

“Do you mean that?”

The judge, still regarding her with smouldering eyes, bent his head slowly.

“I do. I told you so before I got Mackay. I mean it! What did that fellow write you, what did he say, to make my daughter behave like this?”

She stood her ground firmly now, though she was still very pale.

“It wasn’t Arthur’s letter, it was—something else.”

“What else?”

The judge’s words snapped like a whip; his rage against Faunce was deepening to fury now. It was too much to see the power that coward had to make his daughter wretched. He meant to break it, he would break it, but first—he must break Diane’s will, he saw that!

“I told you I had seen Overton,” she replied slowly, speaking with an effort, as if the words were painful. “It was Overton—who made me see it all, see it so plainly that I couldn’t think why I’d—I’d ever been blind!”

“Overton?” the judge was bewildered. “Why, the man’s in love with you, Di!”

She bent her head at that, tears in her eyes.

“I know it,” she spoke so low that her words were almost inaudible, “that’s why I—I saw it all so plainly. I’m not that kind of a woman!”

[302]“What kind of a woman? What do you mean?” cried the judge with impatience.

“The kind of woman who leaves her husband to go with another man.”

“Good Lord!” cried the judge furiously, “you came to me! It’s not your fault if Overton kept on loving you, is it? You haven’t run away with Overton, have you?”

“If I signed that paper it—it would be almost the same thing!”

He scowled at her, trying to think, seeing at last one side of the question which was not his side.

“You mean you left Faunce because you loved Overton?”

“No!” she cried sharply. “But he loves me, he wants me free. If—if I signed that paper it would be as if I wanted to be free to—to marry him!”

For the second time that day, the judge thought that he saw the light; he softened his tone.

“You do love Overton, Di, and you think it’s wrong, so your idea is to make a martyr of yourself, to refuse a divorce?”

Suddenly her face quivered; an emotion stronger and deeper than any that he had ever seen in her before, shook her from head to foot.

“Oh,” she cried brokenly, “don’t ask me, papa, I—I can’t make you understand, you—you’re a man, you can’t! I—I wish I had a—a mother!”[303] she sobbed, covering her face with her hands.

The judge was profoundly touched. He felt that his girl was ill in body and mind, and he had driven her too hard, he had tried to force her to act before she was ready, he had seemed to fling her into the arms of her lover. That cry for her mother—he had never heard her utter it before, it reached his heart. He went over to her quickly and took her in his arms.

“I’ve been too hasty, my child,” he said kindly. “You must rest—then we’ll talk it over. You——” he hesitated before he added grimly: “I know how you feel, but you’re not to blame. Overton has always loved you. It’s not his fault now, it’s not yours. If you can’t live with your husband you’ve got a right to be free, and I’m going to set you free. You leave it to me, Diane!”

This time his tenderness did not disarm her, she did not yield to his caress, instead she gave him a strange look, a look that was full of sadness, and slipped quietly out of his arms.

“I—I feel tired,” she said in her low voice, “I can’t argue now, papa, I——” she turned suddenly and lifted her face to his and kissed him—“I’m going up to my room to—to think!”

He stood watching her, taken by surprise. She was walking slowly, almost unsteadily, toward the door and he saw that she was weeping. Something in the way in which she had parted from him, something, too, in the whole attitude of her[304] figure, alarmed him. He called to her sharply.


She stopped at the door and looked back, her face colorless again, and tears in her eyes.

“Understand me,” said the judge sternly, “I’ve told you before. There’s but one thing for you to do—or for me to do for you. To get free of that coward. If you’re dreaming of going back, if he’s worked on you to go back—remember! I’ll disown you.”

His tone, more than his words, sent a chill to her heart, but she said nothing. She only gave him a look so full of a mute appeal, and that mysticism, that withdrawal, which had so perplexed him a moment ago, that he could not fathom her purpose. Then, without a word, she turned slowly and left the room and he heard her step—still slow but more resolute—ascending the stairs.

He was sorry that he had been so sharp with her, he began to perceive that the trouble had gone deeper than he thought. Or that man, Faunce, had worked upon her—the judge’s choler rose up in his throat again and nearly choked him. He sat down at his table and tried twice to write a letter to Faunce, a letter that should be a quietus, and then, thinking better of it, he tore the sheets into fragments and tossed them into his waste-paper basket.

Meanwhile, Diane, having reached her own room, locked the door with shaking hands. It[305] seemed to her that she had spent all her strength in this conflict of wills, that it had cost her much to resist her father. And yet——?

She recalled the moment when she had lifted the pen, when she had almost signed that paper, with a shudder. It was true that the whole attitude of her mind had broken down. She had seen herself on the brink of separation from her husband because of Overton!

She stood now, just inside her own door, motionless, her unseeing eyes fixed on the window opposite. The long swaying bough of a tree swept across her vision of the sky, and it seemed to her that the leaves trembled and quivered as if some unseen hand had set them to shaking, as an unseen power had set her own heart to trembling at the thought of her own act. Had she fled from her husband—not because she abhorred his deed, but because she loved Overton? The thought was hideous, unbelievable!

Diane lifted her hot hands and pressed them against her eyes, to shut out the light. In the darkness she could think. She tried to recall all the old arguments that had seemed so plausible, that Faunce himself had destroyed her faith in him, that he had hurled her idol down from its pedestal. But she could not; she began to see that there was no argument that she could use to wholly excuse her act. Faunce had confessed to her, he had told her the truth, it was his plea for[306] mercy, for forgiveness, and she had only thought of Overton. But now, in the solitude of her own room, in this moment when even her father had failed her, she felt her spiritual isolation. There was no one on earth who could help her solve the problem of life that confronted her but the man she had married. The bond was unbroken, neither her will, nor the cribbling of lawyers could break it, for a power greater than these had laid hold of her soul. She felt again the strength of it, the invisible power that wrestled with her.

She walked slowly across her room again to the window and knelt down, resting her hands on the sill, and looking out toward the western sky. The sun had set and above the red cloud at the horizon she discerned a solitary star, keen and white and quivering, a spearhead of glory. She lifted her face toward it, the soft wind stirring the tendrils of hair on her white forehead, and touching her feverish cheeks and lips.

Gradually, silently, with infinite beauty, the afterglow touched the soft sky with all the colors of rose and violet, and the earth below sank gently and deeply into the shadow, as if it had dropped from sight. It seemed to Diane that, in that silence, in the tenderness, the infinite beauty of that moment between sunset and twilight, the spiritual struggle ceased. A new thought came to her, or rather her inner consciousness shaped itself into a concrete form. She realized that she[307] stood on the edge of an abyss while the power that had held her back had been within her own soul, hidden deep in her heart, at the mainspring of life itself. She was a woman, it was her province to build up and not to break down, she saw it now with a spiritual insight that sent a shudder through her—she had so nearly forgotten it! So nearly failed to fulfill the destiny that had come down to her through the ages. To-day when she had been with Overton, when she had heard his impassioned plea, when she had almost signed the paper that was to separate her from her husband, she had suddenly awakened from her dream. The tie that bound her to Arthur Faunce was the primitive bond of all the ages. She had chosen him, he was her husband. What could her father do? What could Overton, or any other man do? “Those whom God hath joined together,” the words came to her with a new meaning, a meaning which shook her to her soul. For surely no man could put them asunder! The tie was too deep, it was rooted now in her heart, and she knew it. It was as deep as the instinct which was awakening slowly but surely within her, the primal instinct of life, of mating time, of the birds of the air, of the lioness calling to her mate in the jungle.

Diane lifted her eyes slowly and steadily toward that keen star. It seemed to her that it penetrated the mists that had obscured her soul, as the star[308] of old which guided the wise men to the cradle in the manger. The star was guiding her, too, guiding her into the tender mists and the soft glory of an unknown but beautiful land. Tenderness was born in her at last, a tenderness new and beautiful—as the beginnings of life in the springtime, the budding of flowers, and the song of the bird to its mate. Alone on her knees in the twilight, Diane lifted her soul to that distant star, the thought of Overton passed away from her, the struggle ceased, even her father and his anger were forgotten, she remembered only her husband, and the eternal purposes of the Creator who had made them man and woman in the Garden of Eden.



It was not until he got a clear look at Arthur Faunce’s face under the strong light of the reading-lamp that Dr. Gerry realized the full effect of the crisis, moral and physical, upon the younger man. The old doctor had come in to New York on business connected with his practise, and in the evening, on his way to the station, he had looked up the apartment-house from which Faunce had phoned to him on more than one occasion. He had found him alone, completing his arrangements for the departure of the expedition to the south pole. Faunce had been glad to see him, had furnished some cigars and a light, and the two men sat on opposite sides of the table, both facing the open windows that looked out over a crowded thoroughfare not far from the heart of the city.

Even at this late hour the clamor of traffic came up to them, and the variegated lights of the flashing signs revolved, flashed, and receded and flashed again with all the colors of a kaleidoscope. But the steady light of the lamp on the table revealed Faunce’s face, its wasted look, the dark rings under the somber eyes, the drawn lines about the tight lips, the threads of white in the thick, dark[310] hair that still curled slightly on the temples. The doctor’s practised eye traveled lower and rested on the lean, blue-veined hand that held the cigar. It was unsteady; even the fingers twitched occasionally.

They had been talking, ever since Dr. Gerry’s entrance, of the expedition. Faunce threw into what he said of it a show of force and even of enthusiasm, and the doctor had listened without showing that his own thoughts recurred persistently to that night long ago when this man had confessed to him in the old office at home. In his heart he pitied Faunce, as he noticed the feverish eagerness with which he talked of the new ship and his own plans.

“I’ve got one thing pretty well shaped in my mind,” Faunce said. “The last time I couldn’t have a free hand, of course, and I always thought some of our mistakes could have been avoided. But Overton wouldn’t yield; he has the kind of obstinacy that won’t give up.” He paused long enough to light another cigar, and then went on: “I’ve been pestered by some of the old men. I didn’t want them, but there’s one——” He stopped abruptly, began to pull at his cigar, and seemed embarrassed.

“Well, there’s one——”

Gerry gave him a keen glance. A dull red mounted in the white face, and Faunce frowned.

“He knows, or thinks he knows, something[311] about the other expedition, and suspects that I can’t afford to risk his telling it.”

“I thought, at one time, that you dreaded the secret; yet you’ve let Overton keep back the truth. You’re up to your neck in his debt.”

Faunce leaned forward in his chair, his shoulders bent like an old man’s, and his clasped hands hanging between his knees.

“I feel the same way now, but we agreed to keep it quiet—there didn’t seem to be any other way.”

“And he gave up the command to you, too. It seems to me you’re getting a good deal more out of it than he is—on the face of it, at least.”

“You think he’s paying a big price for a broken potsherd? Well, he isn’t doing it for my sake!” Faunce sank back again in his seat, the spark of his half-smoked cigar dying out between his fingers. Then he turned his head quickly and fixed his haggard eyes on the doctor. “Have you seen my wife lately?”

Gerry shook his head.

“Not for some days—a week, I think.”

“I wrote to her, asking her to answer me herself. If she really wants a divorce, she shall have it; but I want her to answer me, and she hasn’t. I’ve been wondering if she ever got my letter.”

“You mean, you think the judge has kept it from her? He isn’t capable of that. He would give it to her in any case.”

[312]“That’s what I thought; but he has insulted me, I can’t go to the house, and she hasn’t answered my letter.”

The doctor picked up an ivory paper-knife from the table and began to run it back and forth between his fingers.

“It would be natural enough, wouldn’t it, for any woman to expect you to come to the house and ask such a question as that in person?”

“You think I haven’t the courage?”

“I think you’re taking chloral to an extent that’ll soon send you on the long expedition. It’s a dangerous drug, young man. A bit too much, and you’ll travel the common road. Perhaps that’s your idea?”

Faunce laughed bitterly.

“You forget I’m a coward!”

“Sometimes cowards take that way—it’s easy.”

“Don’t be alarmed, I sha’n’t! I’ve always had a tenacious wish for life. If I hadn’t had it, I’d never have done—the thing I did. I simply couldn’t risk dying.”

“Yet you’re going back down there!”

Faunce gazed at the doctor a little wildly, his eyes shining.

“It draws me—I can feel it! But I’ll take no risks; don’t be afraid of that. I know—know perfectly—that I’ll never risk my own skin, no matter how I risk others’.”

The doctor looked at him curiously. “There[313] are two men in you, Faunce. Dose out the one with heroic medicine, and the other would have room to grow. You’d find yourself a hero!”

Faunce turned a haggard face on him.

“When she left me—when I saw the look she gave me—if I’d dared, if I’d had a white man’s courage, I’d have hung myself!” He spoke with such passion and force that it shook him out of his apathy. He stretched out a shaking hand toward the doctor. “For God’s sake, man, give me a dose that’ll deaden my nerves, so that I’ll have the courage to kill myself!”

Dr. Gerry grunted.

“You’ll do that without my help, at the rate you’re going.”

Faunce laughed bitterly again.

“You mean with chloral? I stopped it for a while, but I couldn’t sleep. I can’t, with this thing pursuing me. I thought I would pay off the score, and get free of it; but there’s my wife—I had to think of her. If she stays away, if she will have a divorce, then”—he threw back his head and drew a long breath—“then I’ll cut loose!”

“You mean, you’ll give it all away, and bear the odium, rather than stay bound to Overton?”

Faunce nodded, rising, and tossing his dead cigar out of the window. As he did so, he stood for a moment staring out, his view commanding the long street, closely flanked with great buildings,[314] which narrowed in the far perspective until the high walls seemed to meet in a blur of blazing lights. It was as if he looked into the wide mouth of a funnel, lined with jewels, and it seemed that all these living, moving atoms, brute and human, must either be crowded or pushed through a tiny opening at the farther end or strangle in it.

Faunce was aware of it, aware of the clamor and the struggle of it, of the leap with which that crowd would launch itself upon the fallen, as a pack of wolves upon a wounded comrade, tearing and trampling the man who failed under its eager, cruel, predatory feet. He turned with a gesture of disgust.

“At the price I’m paying, life isn’t worth living!” he exclaimed.

Gerry rose from his seat and began to potter around the room. He did not even look toward Faunce, but he was aware of it when the younger man went to the table to take another cigar. While his back was turned, the doctor picked up a small, dark bottle from the dresser and dropped it into his pocket; then he found his hat.

“Don’t pay the price,” he said, as he held out his hand to Faunce.

Faunce stared at him for a moment without speaking, wrung his hand nervously, and went back to the task of lighting a new cigar.

“There are two ways of taking that,” he commented, as the doctor reached the door.

[315]“There’s only one—live and get free of it.”

Faunce laughed bitterly.

“Free of it? How? I’ll never be free of it until I give my life for his. That’s the price they’re asking!”

The doctor shook his head, but he offered no argument. He had, in fact, a vague feeling of uncertainty. Between the two, Overton and this man, which? That was it—if Overton took Faunce’s wife, which?

The doctor was unable to answer it. Instead, he went down in the elevator with his hand over the bottle in his pocket.



Left alone, Faunce moved restlessly about the room, still smoking. He had almost completed the business that had occupied him before the doctor’s visit. Everything was, in fact, in good order; the ship would sail soon, and, in spite of a certain veiled objection on the part of the promoters of the enterprise, there was no real opposition to Faunce as the leader.

The greatest difficulty was in his own mind. At first he had longed for it as a chance to vindicate himself, to assure himself that he was not wholly a coward, that he could earn the honors he had worn before Overton’s return. He had felt the lure of those frozen solitudes almost as keenly as Overton himself. But now it was only one more shackle to bind his obligations to the man who had survived in spite of his cowardly desertion. He was aware of the feeling of superiority that seemed to emanate from Overton’s personality with the sure touch of pride and conscious victory; and the obligation had become intolerable.

In a moment of mortal agony, in the stress of a terror that freezes men’s souls, Faunce had failed. He had sunk to the level of the veriest[317] coward that shambled in the street below. By that one act, that one fall from the full stature of his manhood, he had slipped his neck under the yoke, he was Overton’s bondsman! It was intolerable.

As he reflected upon it, the alternative seemed almost merciful. What was shame compared to his present burden? He had suffered the worst, the mortal blow, when he had read his shame in his wife’s eyes. Diane’s abhorrence, her scorn, had shattered his last frail hold on hope. He could never retrieve himself, never come back absolved—not even by courage, by sacrifice, by self-denial. He doubted if death could wipe it out in her eyes, yet he loved her. The fact of his love for her had made him write to her, made him demand her own decision, not her father’s; but he was well aware what that decision would be. He had lost her!

There was a futility in his agony, a helplessness. There was nothing that he could do. Dr. Gerry was right—he should never have married Diane. He had never been happy with her, for he had felt always that this thing—his cowardice—lay between them, that he was trading upon her belief in him, taking a love from her that belonged, not to him, but to the man she imagined him to be.

Now, deeper than that, plunged the thought that it was Overton she had always loved, it was Overton who had taken her away, Overton whom[318] she would marry in the end—if Faunce set her free.

It was in moments like this—moments of intolerable anguish and jealousy—that he vowed he would not give her up. Surely he had a right to demand her loyalty! There was nothing right or fine in what she had done; she was as bad as he was, if she left him for Overton. He even found some relief in the thought, in letting his jealousy loose, his pent-up rage, and in railing at her.

What kind of a wife had she been to him? How had she kept her vows? Overton had returned, the man who had been—she had confessed it—her first love; and at a word, a nod from him, she had left her husband!

Looked at in this light, it was black enough. Faunce felt that he had no need to feel so abased. He had not killed Overton—he had left him to return to steal his wife from him!

It was bitter, it was degrading! Diane deserved no mercy at his hands. A hundred times, since that night when she had left him, he had lashed himself to a fury like this, only to succumb at last to fresh misery, to fresh remorse. He loved her, he could not blame her, for she had done only what any brave woman would do—she had deserted a coward, left him to his shame, and he deserved it!

It was the old argument, and it brought the old answer.

[319]Faunce stopped in his restless pacing to look at the clock. It was late, and he had not dined. He had long since ceased to heed meal-times, but to-night he had a curious feeling of faintness. Perhaps he had better go out for food, and then, when he returned, he would drug himself and get a night’s sleep.

He had not slept for a long time. He had, indeed, been trying to break an ugly habit, but the horror of sleeplessness was greater than the horror of sleep. Sleep had its horror, for it brought dreams. Either he dreamed of the ice and snow and fog, of the unforgettable face of Overton, or he dreamed of sunshiny fields and the scent of spring flowers, and saw Diane coming to him, holding out her hands, with her eyes shining, as he had seen them shine once with love—as he would never see them again!

Good God, what a price to pay for one act of cowardice, one break in the fair, clean record of his life! Nothing he had done before, nothing that he could do now, would wipe it out—nothing but death! It was too much to bear. He would go out, and he would get sleep when he got back.

Then he remembered his chloral bottle. Was it full? He went to the drawer and reached for it. It was not there. He tried the dresser, the mantel, the table, the cabinet, finally his bedroom. It had gone.

He felt like a child robbed of its favorite toy,[320] or a drunkard denied his dram. Some one had taken it, and he began to plan a tirade for the chambermaid or the bellboy. Then he remembered Dr. Gerry, and reddened with anger. Of course, the doctor had taken it!

The thought made Faunce stop short, sick with shame. Gerry was treating him like a bad child, or a sick man who had lost control of his will. Small as the thing was, it gave him a shock. It did more to rally him than a thousand arguments. It was a delicate way of making a lesson perceptible even to a diseased brain. He knew now how he had craved a drug that would deaden his pain, lessen his resistance, go on making him a coward.

He straightened himself and stood staring vacantly into the mirror over the dresser. It was a long while before he became aware of his own image, and then he was shocked by it. His face was white and lined, the face of a man who had aged ten years. A new kind of agony that was half self-pity shot through him. He was a forsaken man, a man who was existing by the sufferance of another, whose very honors were at the mercy of another, who had lost all and saved nothing, not even love.

It was a moment of mortal anguish, but it passed. He turned abruptly, opened a drawer, and, slipping his hand back in the corner, laid it upon his pistol. As he did so, a slight sound startled him. Some one had opened the door in[321] the outer room. He remembered now that he had not locked it.

He withdrew his hand quickly and shut the drawer. Then he walked to the arch between the two rooms. The lamp was still burning brightly on the table in the center, and his cigarette-case lay open beside it; beyond that circle of light the room was less brilliant. It seemed to be pervaded by the varied colors of the lights in the street below, by a breath of fresh air, and the clamor of the life outside.

Beyond this, on the threshold of the outer door, stood a figure which seemed to him, at first, part of his own imaginings, a specter of his dreams.

“Diane!” he said blankly.

At the sound of his voice she came slowly into the room and closed the door behind her, outlining the slender grace of her somberly clad figure, the delicate pallor of her face under her black hat. She seemed to hesitate, and lifted her eyes slowly, almost reluctantly, to his.

He did not speak, and she clasped her trembling hands against her breast, her eyes holding his, though tears trembled on the lashes.

“Arthur,” she began slowly, her tone almost inaudible—“Arthur, I’ve come back to you. I’ve come back to you to stay, if—if you want me!”

He answered her with a sound that was almost like a sob, broken and inarticulate, and sank into a chair, covering his face with his hands.

[322]She stood looking at him, startled, amazed; then she saw that his whole frame was shaken by his emotion, that he was trembling like a grief-stricken child, speechless with tears of relief. She went slowly across the room, and, kneeling beside his chair, put her arms around him and lifted her pale face to his.



The judge looked up heavily from his desk, his glance taking in the faces of both his guests—the men he had summoned to hear his news.

“Diane has left me—broken with me forever,” he announced sternly. “Last night she went back to Faunce.”

Unconsciously the little dean glanced at Overton’s pale profile, outlined cameo-like against the dark hangings behind him; but he answered Herford:

“You mean she’s gone back to her husband? And she’s right, too!”

“I suppose I had to expect that from you!” retorted the judge bitterly. “It’s orthodox, isn’t it? It may be right, but she’s given me up. I shall never forgive her!”

The dean fired up with a passion that transfigured his thin face.

“She can do better without your forgiveness than without God’s!”

The judge eyed him a moment in heavy silence.

“Did you meddle with her, Price?”

“No, more shame to me! I was afraid of you, Hadley, that’s the truth.” In spite of himself[324] the judge smiled grimly. “I was afraid to speak. I waited my opportunity, a plain call to interfere, but all the while I hoped, I prayed, that she’d see the light—and she has! She’s a fine woman. God bless her!”

Herford turned slowly around in his chair and faced Overton.

“You, at least, will be on my side!”

A deep flush mounted slowly over Overton’s pale face. He felt both pairs of eyes upon him, and he had found it difficult, from the first, wholly to master his emotion; but he lifted his head now.

“No!” He spoke slowly and with an effort. “I’m not on your side, judge. She’s done the high thing, the noble thing, that we should have expected—knowing her.”

“You mean that it’s noble to be a martyr? It’s nothing but martyrdom to force a brave woman—and she’s a brave woman—to live with—with that man!”

“She’ll make him over. The believing wife shall save the unbelieving husband. She’s done right!” the dean cried again.

The judge looked from one to the other in open disgust.

“She’s my daughter, and I’m—ashamed of her!” he thundered.

“Good Heavens, judge, what an impossible thing to say of her!” Overton was on his feet; it seemed to the other two men that he towered,[325] tall and gaunt and still haggard from his visit with death. He saw the look in their eyes and reached for his hat. “I beg your pardon,” he said to the judge with all his natural courtesy, “but I can’t stay. You must excuse me, feeling as I do.”

As he spoke, he held out his hand. The judge wrung it. Then, as Overton disappeared through the portières, Herford turned to Dr. Price.

“He loved her—she might have been happy yet, and she’s gone back to that—that craven!”

The little dean looked at him with a shocked face.

“You’re a judge, Hadley, and a father—don’t you know you were doing something wrong, immoral and wrong, hideously so? You’ve fed yourself too much on the old Greek idolatry. What right had you to put them asunder—you?”

The judge stared back at him, coloring deeply, angrily.

“You can’t change me—I told her so. I won’t forgive her! You’re all very well, Edward, but you can’t preach to me. I sha’n’t listen. I’m an old man, as you say——”

“I didn’t!” interrupted the dean. “And I’m older than you.”

“It doesn’t matter. I’m an old man, and she’s all I’ve got. I felt I had influenced her, I had helped along the match; to get her free would have been to free my conscience of a load, too, and she[326] knew it. She knew it so well that she ran off without saying good-by. Ran off to go to him, and—she doesn’t love him!”

“She married him; I think she does.”

The judge shook his head.

“She doesn’t,” he insisted. “She admitted as much to me.”

Receiving no reply to this, the judge rose and threw open another window. He felt oppressed for breath.

“If it comes out—if it all comes out—and it may—it’ll break her heart. If I’d had any idea of what he was, of how he was lying to us, trading on another man’s achievements, playing on us, I’d—I’d have shot him dead before I’d have let him cross my threshold! Oh! I know what you’ve got to say, but you can save yourself the trouble. I sha’n’t listen!”

The little dean got up. Like Overton, he sought his hat. Unlike Overton, however, he stopped to look mildly at the judge.

“She’s done right,” he persisted. “At the first sign of trouble, you’ll forgive her.”

Herford turned slowly. He looked aged and shaken.

“I’ll never forgive her—while he lives!” he declared with finality.

Dr. Price shook his head. They did not shake hands, and the dean went out with a curious feeling of failure and helplessness. He had failed in[327] his Master’s business; he had failed to go to Diane with any remonstrance, and his remonstrance with the judge had fallen flat. He hurried down the steps and out into the country road.

As he got to the top of the hill, he saw Overton. Strangely enough, Overton was standing on the little bridge where Dr. Price had once seen Faunce stand at midnight. There was something in the attitude of the tall figure below him that made the little dean take the other path, for he knew he was not wanted there. He hurried home, instead, and Fanny opened the door for him. He noticed that she, too, was a little pale and shaken.

“What is it, papa?” she asked excitedly. “What did the judge want? Where’s Diane?”

Her father put down his hat and walking-stick and started for the library, holding his daughter’s hand.

“I’m glad you’re not married yet, Fan!” he remarked irrelevantly. Then he told her: “Diane’s gone back to her husband, my child. The thing’s over and done with, I hope.”

To his amazement he felt her hand trembling in his, and turned, to find her lip quivering like a child’s. She was trying to keep back tears.

“Oh, papa!” she cried softly, with a little sob. “I’m so glad—I’m so glad! I know how he loved her!”

The dean looked helplessly toward the dining-room,[328] where the Norwegian was moving heavily around the table.

“Please give me my dinner, my dear. I’m—I’m a little done up!”

At that hour of the day the sun had got down a little behind the tree-tops, and was casting feathery and delicate shadows on the smooth water below the bridge. The flicker of light between them, the slender grace of the tall flags that thrust pale blossoms up through the lush grass at the edge, and the whistling call of a catbird, who was darting from twig to twig over his head, held Overton. He watched it all, tried to concentrate his attention upon it, until he should be able to wrestle with the foe within.

Over and over again he told himself, as he had told Judge Herford, that Diane was right; yet his heart leaped up in fierce rebellion against the fate that had overtaken him. He could not forget the look in her eyes, the tender beauty of her face, as she leaned toward him through the mist. He felt again the tremor of her hands in his, and he knew now that it had been the tremor of flight.

She had been stronger than he. She had seen their danger, and she had turned her back upon it. She was right—right in the higher moral sense, right in the eyes of the world, and yet—he loved her! He must give her up, too, to a man whom he despised, a man who was, at that very[329] hour, trading upon his generosity, his forebearance, climbing upon his shoulders to a command that was not rightfully his, and doing it because his wife was shielding him.

Contempt, deep-seated and remorseless, took possession of Overton’s mind. He wondered what manner of man Faunce was—what manner of man that she could love him, go back to him! But did she love him? Ah, that tormenting question again!

Overton left the bridge and sat down upon a stone, his big figure hunched over in a strange attitude, his chin in his hands. He fixed his eyes upon the catbird again. It was a delicate creature, gray-coated and black-capped. Its bright eyes had discovered him, and regarded him in a friendly way. It hopped from twig to twig again, its twitching tail accentuating its nervous little jerks. It screamed plaintively, like a kitten crying for its mother, but its eyes were keen.

Overhead the soft blue sky was dappled with pink clouds, for the sun was setting. The trees began to rustle with a faint breeze, and he could smell the salt of the sea as the tide changed. It was very clear, yet he heard a far-off fog-horn beginning to moan; there must be a fog outside.

The thought brought back to him the longing for adventure, the lure of the sea. It had been in his blood from boyhood. If he had been born[330] of poorer parents, he would have followed the sea—would perhaps have been a sailor before the mast. As it was, the very tang of salt in the air, the sound of the fog-horn, stirred his blood as a bugle-note stirs a soldier in his sleep.

He longed to go back, to follow the trail, to finish his work! The expedition was ready, and he had only to raise his finger to take the command; but he would not. For her sake he was still willing to give up; for her sake he was covering her husband’s cowardice with a cloak, giving him a share of the glory that his craven spirit had shamed.

His love for her was so strong and so deep that he was willing to pay the price, to pay any price to save her; but she had fled from him, fled from him after he had told her how deeply he loved her. He felt a kind of shame, now, that he had argued with her and tried to make her give up her husband. He remembered, oddly enough, some broken lines of Browning’s. He could not have placed them, but they came back to him like a message and steadied him:

Were it not worthier both than if she gave
Herself—in treason to herself—to me?

He repeated the words persistently, and in a way they helped him to compose his thoughts, to recall his conviction that she was right, that she had done the one thing that a good woman—brought[331] up as she had been in the close hedge of conventions—would have done. No matter how her heart might have misled her for a moment, she could do nothing else but return to the man she had married, whose sin—if it had been a sin at all—was not against herself, but against another man—a man who also loved her.

This feeling, this conviction—which was not new, but had all along been lurking in his heart—helped him to calm himself finally. He rose from his stone, which might well have been called a seat of repentance, and made his way back to the old lodgings that he always used on his visits to Mapleton.

The house was kept by a widow, a woman whom his mother had long ago befriended, and she always set his room in order and kept his belongings together. In a way it was like going home. It was the only home he had known for years, and was likely to be the only one he would ever know now, he reflected, as he approached it. As soon as this expedition was under way, as soon as he felt free of the necessity of shielding Faunce, he would find some way to set out himself, he would plunge again into the mist and the mirage of the polar seas.

It was reflections like these that made it almost startling to open the old gate, which had an annoying habit of coming off one hinge—a habit that had clung to it ever since his boyhood—and[332] to feel that it was admitting him again into the commonplace existence that he had left behind him when he started out. There were the same old piazza, the same old dog still asleep on the door-mat, the two porcelain jardinières, with the same straggling begonias that he had seen there spring after spring. There, too, was the parrot that Overton had brought from South America.

He went in, and was half-way up-stairs when a messenger-boy’s sudden arrival on the front porch aroused the dog and the parrot. The boy had brought a telegram, and wanted fifteen cents for carrying it over from the station. Overton paid the money and tore open the yellow envelope. The message was from Faunce.

You are needed to see party about expedition. Can you come at once?

Overton stared at the telegram in some amazement. He had purposely concluded his own connection with the expedition to give Faunce a free hand; he could not imagine what had occurred to bring such a summons. He had arranged with Asher to silence all questions about his own rescue. The English accounts had been too vague, so far, to arouse active suspicions, and the very fact that he had given over the command to Faunce had silenced all rumors. What, then, was the necessity for his immediate presence—a necessity[333] so great that Faunce had summoned him? Undoubtedly there was something unexpected.

He thrust the despatch into his pocket and looked at his watch. He could easily catch an evening train; but, if he did, he might have to see Faunce at his apartment, and he could scarcely hope to avoid seeing Diane also. It was more than he felt able to do at the moment. It would be better for both of them if they did not meet, he thought—at least not now.

He decided to wait until morning, and wrote a reply to the telegram, sending it back by the boy, after paying a further subsidy. Thus fate, playing strange havoc with the affairs of mice and men, held him back a moment when his very presence might have turned the scale, when the flame of that candle in the wind which has been likened unto the life of a man might have been shielded a little longer in the hollow of his hand.



Every time Diane tried to pour out a cup of coffee for Arthur Faunce she experienced a feeling of awkwardness. It seemed as if she had thrust herself back into a place that was closed to her. She could not recover the habitude of the tête-à-tête breakfast-table. The man sitting opposite to her did not seem so much her husband as some specter of the man she had married.

Perhaps, she reflected, it was because she had never really known him, because his revelation of himself had destroyed the old order of things, and she had not yet had time to accustom herself to the new. She kept viewing him from a new standpoint all the time, as if she had discovered a stranger. No matter how hard she tried she could not get back to the old angle, the angle that had showed him as a hero and her lover. She was not even sure that he loved her any more, for she saw that the old confidence could not be reestablished.

He, in turn, regarded her as an outsider, a hostile critic at his own fireside, not his helpmeet and his best friend. As she realized this, she felt the shock of it—felt that he, too, had reason to complain.[335] It was harder because they could not speak out and get it over, and find some common ground on which to build up their lives. It was always a relief when they could get away from each other. She felt it so, and she was sure that he did.

If it went on like this, either it would grow to be intolerable, or they would sink into the kind of apathy that she had seen so often—the apathy of a badly mated pair, when neither of them has the courage to find a way of escape. She tried to avoid it, she tried to throw into her manner something of her repentance, her will to do better; but he did not meet her half-way. After the first burst of feeling, the relief of getting her back, he had relapsed into a kind of sullen reserve. He had had a terrible experience in confessing to her, and she felt sure that he had determined never to risk it again; but she ventured, now and then, on commonplace questions, if only for the sake of keeping up conversation.

“I suppose you’re about ready now?” she asked politely, retiring behind the coffee-urn and pretending to be busy with her own cup. “I saw that you and Captain Asher seemed to be quite sure of your arrangements.”

He nodded without looking up from his plate.

“We’ve been ready almost a week. There are only one or two things to delay us now—some changes in the crew at the last minute.”

[336]“You don’t have to see to that, surely?”

She spoke idly, for something to say, and she was surprised when he raised his eyes quickly to hers and she caught a look of furtive alarm in them.

“No, I don’t have to see to that; but some of the old men have been troublesome. They wanted their berths back with more pay; and then we’ve lost two we tried to get. It’s hard to get tried men to volunteer for the sort of trip we’re making.”

She assented to that, and tried to finish her breakfast. Having no appetite, the pretense of eating was difficult. She saw him looking again at his watch—the third time since they had sat down at their meal.

“Have you an appointment?” she asked gently. “You seem in a hurry.”

He thrust his watch back into his pocket. “I’m not in a hurry, I—can you remember what time the trains are due from Mapleton, Di?”

She was startled. Her thoughts leaped to her father, and she felt a queer tightening in her throat.

“There was one due at a quarter to eight, and”—she looked up at the clock on the mantel—“if that’s right, there’s one due now.”

“Perhaps he’s coming on that!” he exclaimed, rising from his seat and going to the window.

His tall figure and wide shoulders rather obscured[337] the light as he stood there, and she viewed him with a return of the feeling that she did not know him.

“Are you expecting any one from home?” she asked weakly, laying down her fork.

He answered without looking around.

“I wired for Overton last night—he’s up there.”

She gasped, but the sound was so slight and so soft that he did not hear her. For a moment she was overwhelmed with a rush of feeling. It seemed impossible that he could have sent for Overton on any business that did not involve her, for her thoughts had been filled with Overton. She had struggled against it, but it had been too strong for her.

She kept contrasting the two, and always, in the end, she seemed to vision that moment of terrible cowardice, the flight of a strong man who was leaving an injured comrade to die. Now, as she looked at him, she saw it again, and it overwhelmed her. She clutched at the edge of the table and held herself erect in her place, but her face was ashen.

“What’s the matter?” she managed to ask at last. “I—I thought he’d given over the command long ago.”

“So he has.” Faunce swung around from the window suddenly and looked at her. He saw, at a glance, the struggle in her mind. “This is[338] about something else—something I thought he’d like to do—for your sake.”

The color came back into her face; she blushed up to her hair.

“What do you mean?”

He continued to regard her, his haggard eyes seemed to cling to her face, but there was an expression of bitterness about his lips.

“Oh, you know! He’s been keeping this whole thing quiet to shelter you. There’s something new come up—I’ve tried to deal with it, and perhaps I’ve failed; I can’t tell yet. But I wasn’t willing to take any risk, so I wired for him.”

“Do you mean you’re asking him to do something more—to sacrifice something more for my sake?”

“My dear girl, don’t worry. He answered the telegram, but he hasn’t come.”

She had risen from her seat, but now she sank back into it again with a sigh of relief.

“I’m so glad!”

He began to walk about the room in his usual restless way.

“You won’t be later on!” he muttered.

She forced herself to speak then.

“If you mean it’s about that—about what happened down there—I think I’d rather it were known. I’d rather pay for it in some way, Arthur, than to feel that any one was protecting us, saving us as an act of mercy.”

[339]“You didn’t do it!” he retorted dryly.

“But it’s mine now—don’t you see?” she went on courageously. “It’s mine, because I’ve taken it up. I’m your wife—I share it all.”

He gave her a strange look. She thought that he was going to break down the barrier at last and speak, that there might yet be hope for them, but he was interrupted. Some one rang the bell in the little outside vestibule, and he started at once to answer it, believing that Overton had come.

Diane thought so, too, and sprang from her chair, looking about for a way to escape without crossing the room where she was sure to come face to face with the visitor. As she reached the door that led into her bedroom, she saw that the caller was a rough-looking man dressed like a sailor, and that he and Faunce stood talking—apparently bargaining—near the hall entrance. It was simpler for her to return to her seat at the table and wait until the stranger was gone.

She went back with such a feeling of relief that she found courage to pour out another cup of coffee, and to drink it slowly, while she was trying to think. She was going to accompany Faunce on the expedition, and she had already packed. There was little or nothing left for her to do, except to write a last letter to her father, entreating him to think of her while she was away, and to try to forgive her for doing what she felt it[340] was right for her to do—for returning to her husband.

She was thinking of this, trying to frame it in her mind, when Faunce suddenly returned. She looked up as he entered, and saw that his usually pale face was deeply flushed, and his eyes had the feverish look that she had noticed when she first came back. Something in his expression made her turn in her seat and exclaim:

“What is it? What’s the matter?”

He came over to the table and stood leaning on it with both hands, his expression heavy with some pent-up emotion.

“I want to borrow some money immediately,” he said slowly. “I’ve put about all my spare cash in—can you lend me anything, Diane?”

She saw his embarrassment and rose quickly.

“I’ll get my check-book. I haven’t got much, Arthur. You know papa’s angry, and he’ll give me nothing but my mother’s; but I can spare you five hundred dollars, I think.”

He hesitated.

“That’ll do,” he said after a moment.

She left him, and returned almost immediately with her check-book. There was a desk in the corner, and she went to it and sat down, looking hastily over her accounts. Her heart sank, for she had a sudden swift intuition that the man in the next room wanted it. Was it blackmail? She dared not ask, but she looked up.

[341]“I can spare you six hundred.”

Faunce did not reply and she turned in her chair, looking back at him over her shoulder. He was standing erect beside the table, his arms folded on his breast and his head bent. She could not make out the expression of his face, and she thought that he had not heard her.

She repeated her statement. He roused himself and raised his head.

“Never mind about it now,” he said. “I’ve thought better of it. I’ve decided I can do without it.”

She turned completely around, facing him.

“Of course I should be glad to help you, Arthur.”

He thanked her, turning toward her with a look that suddenly softened her mood, for his smile was tender and sad.

“I don’t want it,” he repeated. “I—I’ve just made up my mind. I’m going out but I’ll be back as soon as I can. If Overton comes here, tell him to go down to the pier; he’ll probably find me on the ship.”

She tried to stop him, to tell him that she would not be there to see Overton, that she must go out on some errands; but apparently he did not hear her. He left the room, and she heard some sharp talk outside before he went out with his visitor and left her alone.

It was some time before she got control of herself[342] and decided what to do. The thought that she must face Overton again so soon was almost intolerable; at the moment her sensation was one of sheer panic, and she determined to escape it at any cost.

There had been no time since her return to secure a maid, and she had been putting the apartment in order and setting aside the breakfast things before the caretaker came to wash the dishes; but she did not stop now even for such simple tasks as these. She hurried back to her room and put on an outdoor dress and hat. Having picked up her parasol and gloves, she was on her way to the outer door when it opened suddenly and Overton himself stood on the threshold.

They stood speechless for a moment, looking at each other. Strange as it seemed to her then, she was the first to recover her self-command.

“Arthur had to go out, but he wanted me to tell you that he’d gone to the ship, and you might find him by going at once to the pier.”

His face changed and flushed deeply.

“I’ll go there immediately. I understand that I’m wanted, though I don’t know why. But”—he hesitated—“before I go I want to ask—your forgiveness.”

She was aware of a strange sensation, as if the universe moved under her feet and the room was darkening before her eyes; but she rallied all her strength as she tried to answer him.

[343]“There’s—there’s nothing to forgive.”

“There’s so much to forgive that I feel—and I want you to know that I feel—that the score between us, between your husband and myself, is wiped out—or, rather, that it’s against me. I did him an injury greater than his injury to me, and I was more cowardly—I tried to take you away from him!”

“When you say that, you accuse me, too!” she replied, her voice breaking a little. “I—it was worse for me than for you and——”

“No, no—not worse for you! I was the man, and I saw more plainly the consequences to you, the ruin of your high purpose, of that beautiful soul that I had worshiped in you. I tried”—he drew a long breath, his eyes dark with emotion—“I tried to drag you down to my level, to play upon your tenderness and your memories of our youth together. But when your father told me—after I’d got over some of the anguish of losing you, I—I thanked God that I’d done nothing worse, that I could come here still and beg your pardon!”

“Don’t speak to me like that!” she exclaimed. “Don’t bring it back. Let’s forget it, let’s forget there was ever a moment when we seemed so—so near to each other, because it couldn’t be! There’s nothing for me to forgive that I oughtn’t to ask you to forgive, too. And for me—it was worse than for you. Besides that, we,[344] my husband and I, feel that we’re bound to you, that you’ve given up so much to shelter him. I suppose I ought to thank you for that, too, but I can’t—I can’t now!”

“There’s nothing to thank me for, nothing that I haven’t been glad to do for your sake.”

As she spoke, he turned back toward the door. The edge of emotion was worn so thin that a touch might break through, and he dared not stay longer. But to Diane the moment had come with a revelation; she felt her strength coming back to her with almost a feeling of relief. She had passed through a great crisis, and she had returned to her husband. It seemed to her that that bare fact suddenly armed her with a power of resistance which she had never suspected she possessed, and her voice was almost tranquil when she answered him.

“Whether it’s for my sake or for his, I do thank you! And there’s one thing more I want to ask you. You’ve seen my father—do you think he’ll ever be willing to forgive me?”

“I’m sure he will; he must. For the moment—you know how violently he feels at first; but you’re all he’s got!”

Her eyes filled with tears, and Overton saw them.

“I must go,” he said gently. “For the last time—Diane, good-by!”

[345]She held out her hand, and he clasped it warmly. There was a moment of deep emotion, and she stood watching him as he turned and went slowly out of the room.



It was late in the afternoon before Diane returned to the apartment. After Overton’s departure she had found it impossible to stay there alone all through the hours that must pass while she waited her husband’s return. The crowd and hurry and noise in the streets had helped her to pass through that inward crisis which had meant so much to her. Silence and solitude would have beaten down upon her like rain and drenched her with misery; but out in the open air, with that upward glimpse of the sun which is all that the narrow streets permit to a New Yorker, she began to rouse herself to face the days and weeks that would lengthen out into years before her, if she lived, and would bring no material uplift, unless—the thought shot through her mind as a ray of sunshine sometimes penetrates a black forest—unless her husband suffered some change of heart.

Something in him, something vague and elusive, but still tantalizing her with a fleeting vista of change, had perplexed her. But his attitude had been the same; it had been the same up to the moment when he had decided that he would not use the loan.

[347]The remembrance of that stung her with apprehension. Was there still to be something to hide, something to fear? It would be intolerable if it went on like that! She tried not to think of it, she tried to think only of Overton’s reassurance about her father, and of the one thing that gave her comfort—the fact that she had returned to her husband. Her duty in that was now so clear to her that she wondered that she had ever faltered, and the very fact that she had done so shamed her. Yet she had been strong enough at last to see the right way and return to it, and that was a reassurance.

It carried her through the day, and brought her back at last without the shiver of dread that had shaken her the first time she found her way to her husband’s quarters—a dread that she had never been able to shake off after his confession. But now she came quietly back, stopping for a moment where Overton had stood, and looking about her.

She was surprised that she felt none of the tumult and storm of the day when he had held her hands in the golden mist, the day when she had almost yielded, almost followed the call of her old love for him. She was aware of a new quietude, an aloofness of spirit, and a great throb of relief shot through her. She knew that her task would be easier, that the way was smoothing before her feet.

[348]She began to long keenly for the moment that she had dreaded—the moment when they would embark for the antarctic, when she could plunge into the dangers and fascinations of that perilous trail. By her very presence she could lift and inspire the soul of Faunce until it rose at last above that awful moment when he had fallen—a coward in the face of death. The thrill of that thought made her turn quickly when she heard his step outside. When he entered, she was standing by a table, where she had just laid her hat and gloves.

But the sight of his face dashed all her newly acquired serenity to the ground. She gave a strange little cry.

“Arthur, what is it?”

He did not reply for a moment, but, opening a couple of evening papers that he had brought in his hand, he laid them down on the table in front of her, sweeping his hand across some big headlines on the first columns.

“It has all come out, Diane,” he said in a voice that was strangely self-contained and emotionless. “See, it’s in the papers—you can read it yourself.”

She gave one glance downward, caught the drift of the announcement, and thrust the papers away. She was trembling now, but she spoke quietly.

“Please tell me how it all happened.”

He stood in front of her, his haggard face showing[349] its wasted lines, and his eyes still peculiarly brilliant.

“It didn’t happen; I told them.”

She made an inarticulate sound, which he supposed to be an expression of horror and dismay, and the lines of his face hardened a little as he went on, like a man forcing himself to a repugnant but necessary task.

“You remember the man who came here this morning?” She nodded without speaking, and he went on: “I saw you thought he was trying to levy blackmail, and you were right, he was. He’s one of the sailors who belonged to the last expedition—one of those who met me on my return—and he found out, in some way, more than the others. He felt that I was a coward, and he built on it. He’s been bleeding me now for nearly two months—ever since Overton returned. But this morning I made up my mind, and, before he could use the little he did know, I went to the men who have financed this expedition and told them exactly what I did. I didn’t try to palliate it, and I don’t mean to; I’ve got to suffer for it. I told them the truth, resigned my command, and saw that it was given to Overton. He’s been made to accept it. The evening papers got the story—you’ll find it there in all its details.”

As he finished speaking, he called her attention again to the papers, pointing out the flaring headlines, which magnified the facts. Then, as[350] she made no reply, and he became convinced that her horror of his deed had returned to reenforce the shame she must feel at his disgrace, he went on steadily, without looking at her.

“Of course, I know how you feel—that I hadn’t the right to disgrace you. That’s been Overton’s argument. When he came back, I thought that the misery I’d endured was over, that the whole thing would come out, and—since he was alive—I had only to face the humiliation and begin life again. But he shackled me; he insisted on silence to save you, he gave up his command to me, he yoked me until I felt that I was no better than his slave, subject to his dictates, and—I knew he loved you! It was intolerable. It’s best for a man to suffer his punishment, and I’m going to take mine. For months I haven’t slept without a drug. I’ve been a slave to chloral; but to-night I shall sleep, I’ve nothing to hide, I’m no man’s slave, I can suffer, and I can stand up again. But you”—his voice broke suddenly—“I’ve thought of you all day, and I’ve come here to-night, Diane, to tell you that I can’t ask you to bear my shame. There’s been a time when I felt you wouldn’t have to bear it long, and I couldn’t help remembering what your father said long ago about a man’s life being like a candle in the wind. I thought mine might go out and free you, but it may not. I’m young and strong—it may not!”

[351]He paused, but still she did not speak. He looked around into her face, his own twitching with pain.

“I couldn’t endure to see you unhappy. I’d—I’d rather set you free!”

She lifted her head then and met his eyes, and hers were beautiful.

“But—suppose I won’t take it, suppose I wouldn’t take it if I could?”

“I don’t understand. You know that this will ruin me. It’ll take years for me to wipe it out, if I can ever do it.” He turned with a poignant gesture and sank into a chair. “I’ve no right to pull you down. I know how you despise my—my cowardice!”

“Yes,” she replied steadily, “I did; but now, Arthur, can’t you see that you have done a very brave thing? You’ve paid—in your heart’s blood—for it; you’ve given him what’s more to you than your life—your hopes, your ambition, your reputation! When you said that about the candle in the wind you mustn’t think of it as if it meant all that. It’s a man’s life, not his soul—the flame of that may burn low and flicker, but when it springs up, as yours has sprung up, in on act of sacrifice and atonement, it lights the whole way upward and onward. It’s—it’s like a power of growth, of immortal life!”

She stopped for a moment; then she took a step nearer and stood looking at him, a light on her[352] face that was clearer and purer than the light of the setting sun, which shone in through the windows opposite and was reflected on her slender figure and the soft, light color of her gown.

“I—I can’t tell you,” she went on, “how thankful I am—how thankful that you’ve done it, that you’ve atoned, and, as you say, that you’re free—free to begin again, to live it all down!”

As he turned his head slowly and looked up at her his face changed and flushed deeply.

“I—your coming back saved me,” he said in a voice that thrilled with feeling. “I wanted to kill myself, but you came back to me, and in some way—I can’t tell how, but as simply as the coming of daybreak, the change came into my heart. But I’ve had one thing to torture me, to drive me on—I’ve felt—Diane, do you love him still?”

She came slowly toward him and knelt beside his chair, lifting her eyes steadily to his.

“I thought I did, and there was once—when I was away from you—that I was tempted. I thought my happiness lay that way, but now——”

He bent over her, his hands clasped hers and held them, his eyes searched hers.

“But now, Diane?” he whispered hoarsely.

She smiled.

“Now I know that you’ve expiated it all, that you’ve come back to me in the semblance that I knew and——” she paused, and a beautiful look came into her face, a look of such tenderness, such[353] faith, that it touched him to the soul, he would have drawn her closer, clasped her in his arms, but her eyes still held his and he waited until she went on softly, with infinite gentleness: “you’re my husband—it was that, Arthur, the bond that I couldn’t break. That, and the hope which has come to me, the hope that I’m not long to be the only one to love you—because—because there may be sometime, before very long now, a great change! Out of those beautiful vague clouds—that I seem to see at the horizon of our lives—coming as surely as the sun rises and the day dawns—a little child is coming to us, Arthur!”



Diane awoke the next morning with a sensation that was so new to her that it seemed almost unreal. She felt at peace—at peace with herself and with the world. She was willing now to accept her share of the public disgrace, even her share of the unpleasant notoriety that was sure to come to Faunce. It was the price of his redemption, it was the earnest of his return to the semblance that she had loved, and she was willing to pay it. She was willing to face any sacrifice that meant that her husband, the man she loved, had completed his atonement, that he had had the supreme courage to tell the truth and bear his punishment.

As she lay there—unaware that it was late and that she had overslept—she thought of him with a new and beautiful tenderness. She had left him, she had treated him with scorn and cruelty, and he had borne no ill will toward her, he had continued to love and to trust her. Whether she had deserved it or not, he had trusted her! In their long talk the night before, in that moment when she had told him her secret, that the dawn of a deeper love in her heart had revealed the truth[355] to her—that the bond between them was too strong for her to break—he had not failed her. It had seemed to her that his joy and his relief at the assurance of her love had crystallized into a sterner purpose, a resolution to wrest something still from the exigencies of his confession, to rise above it and, for her sake, and the sake of the child who was yet unborn—to reclaim his life, to win back the laurels he had lost, to come back to her, indeed, in the semblance that she had loved. She had seen the purpose rise in him, it had shone in his pale face and his kindling eyes, she had heard it in his voice, although he had given it no form in words. It was as if she had seen the soul of the man rise—at the call of her love and her faith—from the ashes of his despair. She had rekindled the flame of the candle, and her heart was thrilled with a new and exquisite tenderness. The instinct of maternity, the love that lies dormant in the heart of every good woman, was slowly but surely unfolding in hers, and it reached out toward her husband, it brooded over him in his sorrow and his suffering, it was ready to forgive him, to lift him up. It had kindled in her, too, the instinct of defense, the instinct to battle for those she loved—as the leopardess in the jungle will battle to save her young. The thought that the world was against him made him more than ever her own. It was her portion now, not to fly from him, as she had in the mountains,[356] but to stand by him, to fight for him, to help him to that moment—which she no longer doubted—the moment when he should redeem himself, not only in her eyes, but in the eyes of the world.

It seemed to her now, as she lay there, that these thoughts had been with her through the night, that they had, indeed, possessed her with a new gift, a kind of clairvoyance. She seemed to see into the mists of the future and behold there—not the man who had failed at the supreme test in the desert of ice and snow—but the soul of her husband, purified by suffering and lifted to a courage greater than death.

The room was shaded. The curtains, drawn the night before, still shut out that feeble gleam of sunrise that shot down into the well-like court of the city building. Diane turned her head on her pillow and looked toward it, she could see a gleam of the sunlight striking, like the golden head of an arrow, upon the dull wall opposite. It was the herald of a new day—not only in the world, but in her life, the day that she was to begin with her husband the greatest task of all, the task of building up, of making his life over, of snatching back from defeat and disgrace the career that he had chosen. That was the thing she most keenly desired; he must not give up, he would not now, she knew that. In the face of[357] opposition, in the very teeth of scandal, he would make good.

She rose slowly and went to the window. Looking up through the half-drawn shutters she saw the sky, perfect and radiant and ineffable. It lifted her heart, it reassured her. She began to dress hastily, suddenly aware that she was late. Then she heard voices, Arthur must have an early caller, she had been caught napping. She hurried, half aware that the voices drew nearer, as if the speakers had entered the room next her own. Then she was startled, she recognized the voice which answered her husband—it was Overton’s!

For a moment it gave her a shock, it was still impossible to ignore that instant of emotion when they had stood together in the golden mist of the rain, and her heart throbbed at the thought that Overton must have believed that she had left her husband only for him. He had a right to believe it! A deep blush rose to Diane’s brow and she stood, wholly dressed now and ready to go to breakfast, but unable to move. After last night it seemed strange to her that she could ever have ignored the natural and spiritual law which bound her to Arthur. Something had changed in her heart, or a new and deeper emotion, an instinct as old as the world, had stirred within her. Was it that, was it because—for the first time—she began to realize the dawn of a new experience, of a tenderness[358] so deep and so vital that it had sanctified the bond between them, that she could no longer even imagine the thought of deserting her husband? It might be that she no longer tried to fathom it, but it was strong enough to steady her now, she could go and meet Overton again without the emotion of yesterday. To-day she was Arthur’s wife—beyond that there was nothing!

She had taken a step toward the door and stopped, arrested by the thought that the two men might have something to say to each other about Arthur’s confession that they would not want her to hear. She hesitated; there was nothing that she could not hear now, for her husband had told her all. Yet——?

She was still standing there, when there was a soft knock at the door and Faunce entered. His face was slightly flushed and his eyes shone, but there was behind that a certain new strength that reassured her. He came in quietly, and closed the door behind him.

“Diane,” he said in a low voice, “Overton is here. He’s come to tell me something which seems—well, it seems almost unbelievable after yesterday——” he paused and his flush deepened, but his eyes held hers steadily. “He’s been sent—by the very men to whom I confessed yesterday—to offer me the supreme command of the expedition. He has finally refused it.”

[359]For a moment Diane was unable to speak. The thought that the chance had come to him—come at the moment when she had seemed to foresee it—sent a thrill of joy through her. It was, indeed, almost unbelievable. In the visions of the night, in her half waking dreams, her very soul had cried out for this chance for him—and that supreme but invisible Power who orders the fates of men had answered her! She did not move, she stood still. With a half groping gesture she put out her hand and Faunce took it, holding it close. They said nothing, but he understood her, he knew that this, this chance of redemption, had been the one desire of her heart.

“There’s one thing more, Diane,” he said softly, “Overton has told the newspapers that he asked me to go, that he’s not strong enough yet to assume command of an expedition. He wants to convince them that my conduct wasn’t criminal, he has faced the terrors of ice and snow and he knows—as I do—the terrible chance that both might be lost when only one could be saved. He wants them to understand that we still stand as friends, that he—he hasn’t condemned me as the papers did last night! He’s done again the noble thing, the expedition is to be mine, the chance is to be mine—to show you——” his voice broke a little, but he smiled—“that your husband is no longer a coward, that he’d rather die than to fail you again!”

[360]Still she said nothing, but her hand quivered in his and he saw that her dark lashes were wet with tears. There was no longer even a shadow of doubt between them, he drew her slightly toward him, watching her beautiful downcast face.

“I came to ask you,” he said quietly. “I’ll do nothing now that can make you feel that I’m not willing to expiate, to make good. I came to ask you, then, if I should take the command—after I gave up, take it in the teeth of the clamor and the scandal? Take it—not as Overton’s gift, but as my right, my right to earn my own chance to live or to die doing my duty? Or would it nullify my expiation—must I suffer more?”

Again her hand quivered in his, but this time she lifted her eyes to his, and he saw in them that new and exquisite tenderness, that tranquillity which not even her tears could veil.

“I want you to go,” she replied softly. “I want it—because I have faith in you, Arthur, I know that this time there is no power on earth that can make you fail!”

In the days that followed, days in which the expedition was briefly delayed while Faunce resumed his duties, he wrote to Gerry. Much as he wanted Diane to go with him, he began to fear the hardships for her. This new phase of their lives which was unfolding gradually before their vision, made him anxious for her. Would it be[361] well with her if the child was born in that land of mist and snow? Could she face the cold and the terrors, the possible hardships, even the chance of privations? He said nothing of this to her, he knew her longing to go, but he wrote to Gerry. Two days before the ship sailed he received a letter from the doctor, and Diane received one from her father.

The sight of his handwriting gave her a shock of mingled fear and pleasure. Had he written to quarrel with her? It was not like him, there was always too much finality about his rages. Or had he relented? She remembered Overton’s words, that the judge would forgive her. Did this mean that Overton had again intervened? Her cheek reddened, but her eyes softened, after all, it was her father’s way to do violent things violently. She opened the letter.

“Dear Diane,” the judge wrote; “Gerry has told me all that your husband has written to him about you. Gerry and I are of one mind, we can’t bear to have you face those hardships now. I said I’d disown you. I’ve tried it, I can’t, you’re all I’ve got! I know how you feel. Very well, I’ll forgive him, too. I’m down, I’m an old beggar alone in the world. If I’m to have a grandchild I want it born in my house. Will you come now, Diane, come to your old father?”

The letter rustled in her hands, she stood holding it and looking out into the street. It was twilight,[362] and one by one the lamps sprang up, here and there and everywhere they twinkled and flashed and danced, while long tiers of them on either side of the seemingly endless street flashed and receded, light by light, until they converged into a glow and brightness that made the hazy distance seem like a spangled veil.

Diane was still standing there when Faunce rose from the table, where he had read his letter, and came over to her side.

“Diane,” he said gently, “I wrote to Gerry, I told him. I’ve been afraid the hardships were too great for you. Here’s his answer. He admits the hardships, but he says you can face them if you will. You’re young and strong. But still he wants you to stay, he wants to take care of you himself.”

Diane turned quietly and gave him her father’s letter. She did not look at him while he read it, for she knew he had suffered much at her father’s hands, that she had been guilty of setting her father against him. For the first time since that moment of confidence, of complete reunion, she dreaded to look at him. Presently, however, he handed it back to her and she met his eyes. They were calm, they had, indeed, that new look of strength in them that nothing seemed to dash. She knew the chloral habit had been absolutely broken, that with a strength of will which amazed his doctor, he had let the drug go. Now she saw[363] that the moral change had been as great as the physical.

“Will you stay?” he asked gently, his eyes holding hers.

She did not answer at once. It seemed as if she took that moment to think, to concentrate all her powers of mind and heart on the one supreme choice that was so vital to them both, the choice between the risks and the hardships of the frozen pole and the safety of her father’s house—without her husband. There was no question of a quarrel now, the judge had forgiven him, he would stand by his word. In his brusque way, Herford was holding out his hand to Faunce. To go to him would not be an insult to her husband, but, if she left him now, he must face the struggle alone and she had pledged herself to face it with him. She had pledged herself, and she desired it more than anything else in the world—except the safety of that little life which might come in peril and cold and mist, like a pledge of their faith to each other, and her belief that her husband would redeem himself!

It seemed a long moment before she answered, and then, with a mute, adorable gesture, she laid her cheek against his sleeve.

“I’m not afraid,” she said in her low, vibrating, beautiful voice, “I’m going with you, Arthur.”

He made no answer in words, an inarticulate murmur was all that escaped him. But he held[364] her close and she seemed to feel the thrill that her assurance gave him. She was no longer an outsider, no longer a hostile critic at his fireside, they were united, their marriage was no longer merely a physical, it was a spiritual union. Henceforth she must share not only his victories, but his defeats, and in both, in one as much as in the other, he would be dear to her, for she no longer doubted him, she knew the worst that he had done, and she knew, too, that he had repented and that now, purged by his long spiritual conflict, he was in reality stronger than she was.

In the days which followed, days in which she wrote fully and lovingly to her father, she was again conscious of a new and great tranquillity. She had passed through the fiery furnace of her trial, she had drained the cup of doubt to its dregs, and now she looked calmly into that future that held for her the greatest of all trials, and the most tender of all hopes.

The same thought was with her the day the ship sailed. It had been a day of conflict for Faunce, a day of trial, for he had had to face the publicity and the questions, but he had shown a strength and composure that amazed himself. As he had told Diane, his confession had freed him, he was no man’s slave, he had nothing to fear, and he faced the future with a courage so high that it transformed him. Diane saw it. She stood beside him as the ship, slipping its moorings in[365] the North River, dropped down the bay. It was a day of clouds, and a light fog hung like a veil about the great city, it made the distant streets appear like deep incisions between the towering sky-scrapers, and the crowded battery was lightly touched with mist. Above the gray clouds drifted, below the dark water lapped, but Diane lifted her eyes to the face of her husband. Faunce was calm; he was very pale but his eyes glowed and his lips closed firmly. There was power in the face and conflict and hope.

Suddenly, the gray clouds parted and showed a rift of exquisite blue, like a window in heaven, and a shaft of sunlight shot across the sky, it touched the clouds with gold and it glinted on the towering figure of Liberty bearing aloft her torch to light the world.

In the far distance the mists over the narrows grew soft and luminous as Diane looked into them. She did not look back, she looked forward. Out of that future, out of those clouds and that golden glory, she seemed to see the form of her husband—no longer fallen and defeated, but coming back to her in the semblance that she had dreamed, clothed with powers at once mortal and spiritual, and wearing the laurels of victory.



Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

Inconsistencies in hyphenation have been standardized.

Archaic or variant spelling has been retained.