THE INSISTENT PAST

As in death there takes place a loosening, a lifting, a withdrawing of
the spiritual part, so, too, in love. The soul, made daring through
love, seeks to support a separate existence; but the attempt is
pitiful, doomed to frustration; for clamorous and insistent, the
ordinary conditions of life make themselves felt. The descent in
Rachel’s case to the normal state, wherein duties and scruples play
their part, was realized at the moment Emil climbed into the boat.

Before starting for the beach she had put on her head a travelling cap
that belonged to Simon. It had been almost made way with by the wind;
but, still held by its long pin, it had slipped to her shoulders with
the mass of her hair. Now, with the oscillation of the skiff caused by
Emil’s movements as he drew himself from the water, the cap dropped to
the seat beside her, and thence was carried by a puff of wind to the
floor of the boat. Not a garment of Simon’s but closely resembled him;
this cap of hunter’s green with a tiny stripe of red in the flannel,
was instinct with his personality. As it lay before her, Rachel
shuddered and the expression that filled her eyes kept Emil from any
indiscretion into which the situation might otherwise have betrayed
him. Before the mute appeal of her look he was powerless.

She crouched in the end of the boat and with a motion of the hand
indicated that he was to put back to the land. Before obeying, he
wrung the water from the sleeves of his coat. He was trembling and as
she perceived the power of his love, perceived the amazing and
terrifying force leaping out upon her from under his scowling brows,–a
sudden pity took her; and she dared not look upon him because of that
tenderness which is more disarming to a woman than her fear.

“Well, that was a race!” he remarked unsteadily. “Are you tired?”

“Not very–a little.”

“I’ll row you home.”

“With one oar?”

“There’s another on the beach that you didn’t see.”

“I didn’t take the time to look.”

As the boat had drifted with the tide, the return to the shore was
accomplished with difficulty. When he was once more seated opposite
her, rowing with even strokes, he noticed that she shivered and a
gentleness softened his face.

“You are very cold, aren’t you?”

“The air has changed.”

“Here, take my coat; it’s soaking, but your dress is soaking too.”

“It’s–very heavy. I don’t see how you ever swam in it; it’s weighted
down,–” and from the pockets she drew forth first a coil of wire, then
a wrench, then several drills.

He watched her and delight shone in his face.

“I could have swum the Atlantic in armour to reach you. Do you know,
you look like a mermaid with your hair hanging down that way.” He was
laughing now and the old lazy fondness sounded in his voice. Leaning
toward her he rested on the oars. “Rachel, why did you run away from
me like that?” he asked, smiling confidentially, and suddenly one of
his hands went out to hers.

She drew back and for a moment enveloped herself in taciturnity, but
all at once, as if compelled, she brought a defiant glance around to
meet his.

“Why because you started to run–and I ran, too.”

“Well, it’s useless; you can never elude me again. Do you know,” he
continued, “it seems to me that this crazy race has been going on ever
since the first time I saw you in the mist? Do you remember the day?
You were perched on a rock, I recollect, and the cow–you were leading
a cow–pushed up behind you in such a way that her horns curved up
about your feet for all the world like a little crescent moon. I swear
it had that look. Lord, but you made a picture! Do you remember the
day?”

“Yes, I remember the time, but I didn’t know I looked like that.”

She opened her eyes very wide and her lips parted with the movement of
an expanding flower. Vanity kindled in her face as light kindles in a
jewel. There is in a woman’s inner nature a sensitive something that
constitutes the very essence of her charm, that informs her physical
features with vivacity, with seduction. The craving to have this
secret attribute recognized, causes her to discover in every compliment
a spiritual significance; causes her to wrap herself in its fancied
meaning, as in a shawl; causes her to live in it, breathe it in–in
short to discover in it an atmosphere of inspiration in which she
manages to exist for the briefest fraction of time. Indeed, the
longing for the caress of words addressed to her very soul, is as
natural to an imaginative and ardent woman, as the longing for the
caress of light is to a flower. And with Rachel, as with many another
young girl of New England traditions, the craving had never been
gratified. Now Emil’s praise of her was so alluring that she was
trapped into listening; had he paused for a word, involuntarily she
would have supplied it.

But he required no urging to finish his speech which dropped from his
lips with all the precipitancy of fruit from an overladen branch.

“You were just like a figure from some church altar,” he told her
fervently. “Your dress was blue, and the fog rolled about you in
clouds. All the same, you know, your expression wasn’t exactly
saintly; it was too–”

“Too what?” she whispered.

“Well, just what it is now,” and with that he looked at her until she
was obliged to avert her eyes.

“I mean that your face is very innocent,” he explained, “and at the
same time, it is all alive with–well, with a sort of curiosity. But
to-day you were Diana of the Chase with your skirts all ruffling around
your feet and blowing to the side in folds. However I’m not up in
mythology; all I know is, my own, you’ll never succeed in fencing
yourself off from me again. But don’t look at me like that!” And with
an indefinable glance at her as she sat, suddenly converted to
sternness, he took up the oars.

She observed complete silence, and for some moments all that was heard
about them was the ripple of the water as it met the sides of the boat.
The waves like a lover approached the boat, touching it lightly,
tentatively and timidly caressing it with eager lips. But occasionally
waves larger than the rest seized the skiff and upbore it as in the
powerful embrace of arms, dipped and sank with it; while a sound of
multiplied kisses ran over the surface of the glancing ocean, which was
tremulous as a breast heaving with love. And the influence of that
universal caress mounted to the air, which was like a stinging breath
crossed with tears of spray; even reached the low-stooping western
heavens where sailed largely great cloud masses, like huge embarrassed
lovers, that never the less, with a sudden darting of colour along
their edges, strange and fiery smiles, approached–melted softly and
completely into one.

The sea was a theatre and the play enacted on that broad expanse, in
the swiftly falling twilight, for the bewilderment of that pair of
human mites,–the play was Love. For Nature, the great scene shifter,
who causes the mists to rise above swamps that she may bring about the
love and mating of midges, is the artist incomparable when she sets out
to glamour and bend to her will the least significant of these
struggling, valiant creatures called men, these creatures that dare,
with a law opposed to hers, to defy her.

Rachel had crept to the extreme end of the skiff and when the water
rose to the edge it often dashed across her knees. Her head was flung
back, but for all that, she saw nothing. She was holding her emotions
well in leash and the effort drew from her now and then a sigh. Where
the fingers of one hand met the back of the other, for she had them
tight clasped, there were white marks on the flesh. She sat before him
with the impassive countenance of an image, though internally she was
consumed with flames.

Time passed imperceptibly, but all at once she pointed to the shore.

“Emil,” she said, in a muffled voice, “there’s Gray Arches among the
trees. The lamps are lighted. Make haste.”

He had been doubling on his course, and, unnoticed by her, even
striking out to sea, with the object of delaying the moment of landing.
Now the dusk, which had descended insidiously, was close about them.

At her words, he headed the boat for the shore. But after an instant
he leaned forward. “Before I take you in, I want you to tell me when
I’m to see you again.”

She drew herself up: “I don’t know when you’ll see me–never, I think.”
She spoke in a throbbing, suppressed way, exactly as if she were
forcing back from the edge of her lips and to the depths of her heart,
some secret. “There is the pier; don’t you see it?”

The young man nodded. “Yes, I see it all right. Rachel, I’m going to
Barbieri Brothers to-morrow to see how that marble-cutting device of
mine works. Come there in the afternoon and see the machine with me,
won’t you?”

She shook her head.

“Very well then,” and he began paddling out to sea.

“You think you’ll frighten me or annoy me,” she cried, moved to scorn,
“but you won’t succeed. I can swim as well as you.”

He laughed and the boat, quivering in a bewildered sort of way, once
more approached the land, noisily cleaving the water.

“Rachel, you’ll come and see that machine, won’t you? I’ll never ask
you again. But it’s an interesting thing, really it is, and they’re
cutting the figures for the Century Library with it. Can’t you
understand that I’d like to have you see my work? It isn’t much that I
ask, and you can get the five o’clock train out here if you like.
Promise me you’ll come.”

Through the gloom on the pier she saw a lonely figure intent on the
antics of the boat. She looked at Emil and the impulse of her
tenderness carried her beyond the barrier imposed by her will. In one
instant she had passed beyond the outworks of her usual self. When she
answered him in low, vibrant tones, it was a message, if he had but
understood, from the very depths of her heart:

“Yes, I’ll come–you’ve no business to ask me, and I’ve no business to
promise; I’ll come, but there must be no more of this; it’s ended.”
These words were at once an appeal and a command.

But Emil, ignoring the nervous shrinking that came over her, caught her
hand under cover of the gloom and held it to his cheek–his lips. Then
cleverly, easily, he brought the boat to the pier.

The next instant Rachel was confronted by her husband. Giving Emil his
coat, she stepped from the boat, refusing assistance. As she swayed on
gaining the pier, Simon took hold of her arm; then passed his hand over
her shoulders.

“Why you’re wet–you’re wet through,” he exclaimed, and as he turned to
Emil she noticed that he spoke in a manner unusually cordial and
spontaneous. “So you were caught in the rain? If you’ll just step to
the house, St. Ives, I’ll give you something to ward off a chill; a nip
of whiskey wouldn’t come amiss.”

But Emil, muttering something about returning the fisherman’s boat,
disappeared in the twilight and Rachel, stumbling like one who walks in
a dream, accompanied Simon to the house.

“The rain won’t harm you, my love,” he was saying as they gained the
porch, “if you change your clothing at once. It’s remaining in damp
garments that’s the imprudent thing.”

As they crossed the threshold Rachel caught his hand. “Simon, I–I
want to speak to you.” And half dragging, half pushing him, she urged
him into the front room.

This room was large and shadowy, with a row of French windows
commanding a view of the sea. The shades were drawn and the light from
a small fire on the hearth sparkled on a glass dome beneath which were
placed specimens of sea moss and shells. The dome stood at one end of
a long table and a candelabrum hung with glass prisms at the other end;
above one candle hung a red spark,–the wick needed snuffing. The room
was damp. As she spoke Rachel, passing her arm behind her, clasped the
glass knob of the door.

“Simon–I don’t want to stay here any longer.”

He confronted her in surprise: “Not stay here any longer? Why, Rachel,
you astonish me; I thought you loved the sea.”

“So I do–but this coast–it oppresses me. Simon, I want to go back to
the city at once, do you understand,–at once; can’t we move to-morrow?”

“But you’re irrational, my dear. In fact the doctor whom I saw only
yesterday, counselled just the opposite course. He said to me,
speaking of you, ‘the sea air is what she needs; she grew up in such a
climate. You keep her on the shore until late fall!”

For a moment Rachel dropped her head against the panels of the door and
closed her eyes; then raising her head, she looked intently at her
husband:

“Simon, you asked Mr. St. Ives to come here; you asked him without
consulting me and now–I want to go away.”

For an instant he studied her, then he crossed to her side and took her
hand.

“My dear Rachel,” he said, “I thought perhaps you understood without
anything being said. Rachel, believe me, I have not the feeling now
about your friendship with St. Ives that I once had. That feeling of
jealousy,–for it was jealousy–I do not deny it–was degrading to us
both, but particularly it was insulting to you. And during your
illness it left me; thank Heaven, it left me,” he repeated. “And now
be generous–don’t take from me the happiness I feel. You think I
objected to your being out with him, but when I saw you in the boat, I
was conscious only of a serene friendship for St. Ives.”

A flash of firelight illumined his face and she saw to her surprise
that his usually enigmatic eyes held a look that completely transformed
him. The explanation she had intended to make died on her lips. With
a bewildered gesture she turned as if to leave the room; and at that
moment they were interrupted. There was a knock, and the caretaker
questioningly opened the door.

“If you please, Mrs. Hart,” she began, “there’s a strange young man
down in the kitchen who is asking to see you.”

“A young man?”

“Yes, a lad. My husband thinks he ain’t just right, he’s so sort of
wild looking; but the boy says he’s from your old home and nothing for
it but he must see you.”

“Why it’s André!” Rachel cried in amazement, and, before the woman had
finished speaking, she darted from the room.

Simon’s voice pursued her: “Your clothing, change it first, I beg of
you.”

Rachel had vanished.

The next moment she was standing before André. Catching him by the
arms, she shook him; then pressed her head to his shoulder. “Oh,
André,” she whispered, “Is it you–is it really?” And passing her arms
about him, she clung to him.

The young fellow suffered the embrace and his hands hung motionless at
his sides, though in his great eyes a spark kindled as he looked down
at her.

“Tell me,” she asked breathlessly, “how did you ever manage to find
me–and what brings you, André dear? Explain–tell me everything, but
not here,” catching sight of the caretaker who had reëntered the
kitchen. “Come to the front room where there is a fire.–Simon, this
is André,” she cried as they encountered her husband on his way through
the hall. And taking the young fellow’s hand, she placed it in Simon’s.

“Yes, I’m going now,” she added. “I’m dying of curiosity, but I’ll
change my dress first. And do you make André comfortable. I’ll be
back in a minute,” she cried.

Rachel’s welcome of her childhood’s friend was all the more eager
because she looked to him to save her from the difficulties of her
situation and from herself. While she dressed, she thought only of
André and as she drew on a pair of dry shoes and tightened the crossed
lacings with excited jerks, she said his name over and over like a
child bubbling with joy.

“Now for the news?” she cried, entering the front room; and seating
herself beside André, she took his hand. “Something special brought
you, I know it. Now tell me.”

The story at any other time would have held her spellbound, but in her
present mood she had difficulty in grasping it. Constantly her
thoughts wandered, now to Emil, now to André. She drew such profound
comfort from the touch of André’s strong young fingers.

The facts as he related them were as follows: A man in the last stage
of consumption and calling himself, “John Smith” had made his
appearance in Old Harbour a few days before. Desiring news of Lavina
Beckett’s daughter, he had asked to be directed to André. When he
learned from André that Rachel was living in New York city, he had
burst into tears. He had declared he must see her before he died. He
had persuaded André to accompany him to the city as he feared to travel
farther alone. But before leaving Old Harbour he had deposited a sum
of money in the bank and had written a long letter which he addressed
to Rachel. On the journey he had read and reread this epistle. He was
very weak and when they reached their destination, collapsed in the
great bustling station. After much parley over the telephone, a
station attendant had arranged for his reception at a hospital.
Thither he had been taken. The physician who attended him assured him
he would be much stronger after a few hours’ rest, and on hearing this,
John Smith had begged André to find Rachel and bring her to the
hospital the following day. “Afternoon’s always my best time, bring
her then,” he had implored.

“I understand; it’s poor Father’s friend,” Rachel whispered dreamily,
when André concluded; “he didn’t send all the money Father gave him
that time, and now he wants to give me the rest. That’s the whole sad
story. But André, I can’t seem to think about it,” she murmured after
a moment. “I’ll go to the hospital without fail, but now let’s talk
about you. Do you know, I think you managed splendidly to ferret me
out in this way. You went to the house, first, of course, and Theresa
told you where I was.”

While André’s voice ran on detailing the news: how his mother and he
now performed every duty about the lighthouse as the Captain was in his
cups most of the time (Oh, but the Captain, he was a clever one at
concealing the state of things!) how Nora Gage had gone into the shop
with Katherine Fry, how Zarah Patch had increased the size of his
vegetable garden, and Lottie Loveburg had taken up with Jim Wright
after all–Rachel scarcely listened to him. A danger confronted her,
and, try as she would, she could think of nothing but the decisive
interview of the morrow,–that battle that must be waged in spite of
her own deadly weakness and overwhelming love.

She asked herself a question. Why at this time, rather than any other,
were the facts relating to her father’s life to be revealed to her?
And, as she sat by André’s side, she was conscious of a mysterious
influence, like a warning, reaching her from the insistent past.

Rachel’s mouth was now perfectly formed to express her emotions, as it
had not been in early youth. There had come a little added fulness in
the curves of the upper lip, a little added sensitiveness in the line
of the lower. With its well-defined corners, melting, when she smiled,
into a pair of will-o’-the-wisp dimples, this mouth of hers was worthy
to form the lure for many an exciting escapade on the part of her
lovers. In her intelligent, sometimes perfervid, often gloomy face, it
suggested a series of grace-notes introduced wilfully into a bit of
serious music. It destroyed the general harmony of her face and
increased its fascination. On the morning following the primitive race
across the sands, the grace-notes dominated the more serious expression
of her personality.

In the depths of her there was plenty of sadness, but the joy which is
inseparable from any confession of love, even the love which battles
against insurmountable barriers, glowed through her and informed every
fibre of her with sparkling animation. She laughed frequently for no
apparent cause.

The wide lawns about Gray Arches still glistened with dew and birds
sang in the branches of the trees. The notes mingled with the plash of
the waves on the distant beach, and with that infinite murmur of sounds
that came out of the sunshine, out of the grass, out of the shimmering
distances of that smiling country, checkered in light open fields and
in dark variegated woods. All around, everywhere, was vivid
palpitating life.

Rachel with a huge pair of shears that flashed in the sun, was snipping
dead roses from a bush of the late-blooming variety. Brown and
withered, they fell on the gravel path–mere ghosts of flowers; and, at
every onslaught, all the green leaves of the bush shook and all its
fresh blossoms trembled and poured forth an intoxicating perfume as if
to thank her for the service. Beside her, seated on the grass, André
was making the flowers they had gathered into a bouquet. He held in
his brown hands nasturtiums, gladioli and dahlias. Occasionally,
unable to resist an unusually perfect one, Rachel flung him still
another rose.

“There,” she said, “that’s enough; if I cut any more, I shan’t be able
to carry them, and the hospital nurse may not let John Smith have them
anyway.”

A thorn had scratched her wrist, and she lifted the hand to her lips.

André regarded her with a vigorous gaze. “Do you know,” he said at
last, “you look like a rose yourself.”

She threw him the shadow of a glance from between half-closed lids. In
her morning dress of delicate pink muslin, beneath a shade hat with a
flapping brim, she did look like a rose; and a wide collar, turned up
over her throat to protect it from the sun, heightened the illusion.
Against its colour her cheeks had taken a richer tinge and her eyes,
between their curling lashes, were unusually deep and liquid. She was
amazingly beautiful with a superadded beauty, with that fleeting and
ethereal grace, which, independent of features or contours, touches any
woman when she realizes that she is loved where she herself loves.
Now, as if anxious to divert André’s too curious gaze, she began
speaking rapidly and almost at random. The air and the sunlight
appeared to intoxicate her.

“Have you ever noticed, André,” she cried, “the boastfulness of Nature
when she has anything worth displaying? She is for all the world like
a woman who takes particular pride in showing off her children, like
that Mrs. Polestacker we both knew who was always calling attention to
her Katie’s teeth and curls. Take that rose bush,” she continued, “it
fairly swaggers with pride now that it is covered so finely with roses,
but once the flowering season is over, and see how meekly it will
obliterate itself; it will retire into the background like an old maid
at a dance. For who notices the larkspur when its time is past, or the
raspberry bush when it is no longer hung with its little crimson lamps?
It is the energy that a growing, living thing puts forth that it would
flaunt before us, saying, ‘See here, _I_ produced these flowers–these
berries!’ and it is that energy which attracts us–the immense energy
of being.” And throwing back her head, her neck on the strain, her
arms falling at her sides, with the shears in one hand, she gazed into
the deep blue of the sky which, bending down over the earth, was like
an inverted sea.

Unconsciously, as in the old days, she spoke her thoughts aloud to
André. He did not reply; if truth were told, he was in the dark as to
her meaning, but that only increased the enchantment.

André was Rachel’s senior by six years, but owing to his mind in which
the impressions were deep but few, he still looked a youth, almost a
child. His beauty, agile, simple, unsettled, with admirable
disposition of colouring, was that of a child. High on the cheek
bones, under the eyes, the blood came and went with his emotions, and
his arched lips under his tiny moustache stood a little open, which
gave him an innocent expression. He was difficult to resist, just as a
child is difficult to resist. Rachel’s feeling for him was almost
maternal; but for all that, her comprehension of him failed at one
point.

When he had first received word of her marriage, André had cast himself
on the ground, and the earth had seemed to respond with deep tremours
to his grief. He had told himself that he would never see her again.
As for her husband, he felt that it would be impossible for him to ever
meet Simon Hart without yielding to the desire to fly straight at his
throat. Yet, he had met him and experienced no emotion of the sort.
Something told him that Rachel was not in love with her husband. Still
there was that in her eyes which bewildered him. Now with his hands
clasped behind his head and his back against a tree, he regarded her
with a devotion, a tenderness, a desperation of which none but a pure
and youthful soul is capable, and the old agony began to stir again in
the depths of his breast.

Ceasing from her ecstatic contemplation of the sky, Rachel looked over
at the gardener’s cottage. As she did so, all her outlines went to
deeper softness. André, sensitively, felt the thrill through her of
some ineffable emotion.

“What are you thinking about, Rachel?” he demanded.

She started and the colour mounted.

“Thinking?”

“Yes; just now, when you turned and looked over yonder?”

“Oh! … I was thinking of Mr. St. Ives’s improvement of the organ.
It’s really extraordinary what he has accomplished, André; and by such
simple means. You must see it. He’s carrying on his work over there
in the gardener’s cottage. And I was comparing his invention and his
natural pride in it, to the rose bush and its roses, I suppose.”

“St. Ives?” André was sitting upright and rigid. “Is he–is he the one
who came to Pemoquod that time?”

“Yes. My husband formed a company to represent his inventions. I
always felt Mr. St. Ives had great promise,” she went on as frankly as
she could, “and I persuaded Simon to get up a company. Now he’s glad
he did.”

André was wretched. “And he’s here?

“Yes; for a few weeks. Mr. Hart was anxious that the work shouldn’t be
delayed, so he came here while the shop is being altered.”

André said no more. And Rachel exerted herself to dispel his gloom.
So contagious was the vitality of her mood that he apparently forgot
the incident.

Presently, bidding him gather up the withered roses that littered the
path, and taking into her own hands the bunch of fresh blossoms, she
led the way to the house and André followed. His old dream, in all its
simplicity, once more possessed his heart.

When Rachel arrived at the hospital, John Smith was expecting her. In
a clean shirt with his grey hair neatly brushed and his gaunt frame
arranged under a spotless sheet, he was eagerly awaiting her. The
floor nurse warned her that the interview must be a brief one; the
patient could not live more than a day or two.

John Smith’s story was substantially what Rachel had surmised it would
be, and as he told it with frequent interruptions when the cough racked
him, she had difficulty in fixing her thoughts upon him. The vital
moment of her own life called her, and try as she would, she could give
but a divided attention.

“The fact is, I ain’t done just the straight thing by you,” he rambled
on, “and I’m glad you’re as well fixed as you are. It ain’t quite the
same as if I’d found you in want. However, I’ve suffered for putting
this time off; I’ve been hectored in ways you wouldn’t dream of.
Needn’t tell me the dead don’t take their revenge if you pass over
their wishes! I don’t mean that they come back or anything of that
sort,” he interrupted himself, in response to a questioning glance,
“but they stick in your mind somehow–you can’t forgit how they looked
when they told you to do such and such a thing, and you don’t do it.
But I’ll say this much for myself, I meant as much as could be to give
you that money when I reached America seventeen years ago, a month or
two after your father’s death; but I had a hard run of luck, and I used
some of it, and then I used more, until it was about all gone. And it
was only when I got this cough about three years and a half ago, that I
began to think a good bit about Thomas Beckett. Funny too, so long
after his death; but I’d see him when I was droppin’ off to sleep, and
he’d look at me so! But your father didn’t do the straight thing
either,” he broke off with sudden resentment, “for he left your mother,
as far as I could gather, to shift for herself.

“As I was saying, perhaps it was my low state of health, but he gave me
no rest; seemed as if he was tryin’ to say that you needed that money.
And finally the thought come to me that perhaps I ought to give your
mother at least part of what was owin’ her; so I wrote to Old Harbour
and you know the rest. You see,” he concluded, “when I learned that
your mother had been dead more’n twenty years, I was afraid to make
myself known. I was fearful some relative or friend’d get after me on
your part. So I sent seven hundred dollars along, it was all I’d
saved, to that friend of yours whose name the postmaster gave me, and
then I left. I went away from the town in Massachusetts where I’d been
workin’ and I found a job as foreman in a mill in another town. And I
thought everything’d be all right then; but do you know, I still
dreamed of your father, and the upshot was, that I went to a priest and
made a clean breast of the story; and as he told me to do, I worked
hard and paid it all up. Yes, I’ve paid it all up,” he finished, “for
the balance, the eight hundred dollars that was comin’ to you, I
deposited in your name in the bank at Old Harbour;” and fumbling in the
pocket of his shirt, he handed her a sealed envelope. “There’s the
deposit slip, and the whole story written out ready to be mailed to you
in case I didn’t manage to see you,” he explained.

His face had grown brighter, had regained a faint expression of health,
as the load that had long oppressed his conscience was lifted.

Rachel left the invalid holding admiringly in his bony fingers her
bunch of flowers. She reached the door of the ward; then, with a
sudden eagerness, she retraced her steps.

“Was my Father a happy man?” she asked, “or did he seem to regret all
along what he had done in leaving my Mother?” She waited his answer
with bated breath.

But relief was manifest all over John Smith. Had he not triumphantly
passed through the ordeal of his confession? At her question his eyes
glistened; he laughed a weak, irresponsible laugh.

“No, I don’t think he worried much about it till he come to die. It
was far-away questions that touched your father more; he was always
reading and sometimes he’d argue and git angry. But barring those
times, he was pretty jolly as far as I can recollect. It was only when
he seen the last port just ahead, that same as me, he seemed to think
things over. But, I’ve done the right thing, and I’m going to git
well,” he proclaimed.

The same nurse she had seen on coming, met her in the corridor. Rachel
directed her to have John Smith moved to a private room with special
attendant; then she left the hospital.

For some reason she was relieved that her father had not regretted his
course sooner, that he had remained, almost to the last, a true
vagabond. As to her one-time hot defence of him on the score of his
loyalty to her mother, the point had lost significance.

All that was mettlesome in her character was aroused. Having promised
Emil to go to the marble works, she was going there, in the face of
fancied influences from the past; in the face, too, of the vigorous
warning of her own conscience. The coming interview was absolutely
necessary that she might, once and for all, make clear to him her
position. In this juggling with conscience most women are adept.
Rachel played the game so well as to be almost self-deceived. However,
as the moment of the meeting drew near, she grew faint and a tide of
irrepressible joy mingled with and almost dominated her misery. When
she quitted the hospital she was pale with determination, like a
soldier before battle, but her eyes, overflowing with light, were the
eyes of a woman in love. Her mind was too full of its own matter to
allow her to care about anything else. Does not the surge of passion
in one’s own breast drown the echo of death and despair from another’s
heart?

She stopped at one of the large shops where delicacies were for sale,
and ordered a basket of fruits and jellies sent to John Smith; then,
hailing a cab, she drove to the marble works, which lay in the
direction of the Bronx on the outskirts of the city.