After a time, as David sat silent and thoughtful, he said: "After
all, what right had I to expect anything else? When you think that,
a few days ago, I was actually shaken at the thought of seeing
another woman, you can hardly blame her."
"She waited a long time."
Later Dick made what was a difficult confession under the
"I know now - I think I knew all along, but the other thing was
like that craving for liquor I told you about - I know now that
she has always been the one woman. You'll understand that, perhaps,
but she wouldn't. I would crawl on my knees to make her believe it,
but it's too late. Everything's too late," he added.
Before the hour for the services he went in again and sat by Lucy's
bed, but she who had given him wise counsel so many times before
lay in her majestic peace, surrounded by flowers and infinitely
removed. Yet she gave him something. Something of her own peace.
Once more, as on the night she had stood at the kitchen door and
watched him disappear in the darkness, there came the tug of the
old familiar things, the home sense. Not only David now, but the
house. The faded carpet on the stairs, the old self-rocker Lucy
had loved, the creaking faucets in the bathroom, Mike and Minnie,
the laboratory, - united in their shabby strength, they were home
to him. They had come back, never to be lost again. Home.
Then, little by little, they carried their claim further. They
were not only home. They were the setting of a dream, long
forgotten but now vivid in his mind, and a refuge from the dreary
present. That dream had seen Elizabeth enshrined among the old
familiar things; the old house was to be a sanctuary for her and
for him. From it and from her in the dream he was to go out in
the morning; to it and to her he was to come home at night, after
he had done a man's work.
The dream faded. Before him rose her face of the morning,
impassive and cool; her eyes, not hostile but indifferent. She
had taken herself out of his life, had turned her youth to youth,
and forgotten him. He understood and accepted it. He saw himself
as he must have looked to her, old and worn, scarred from the last
months, infinitely changed. And she was young. Heavens, how
young she was!...
Lucy was buried the next afternoon. It was raining, and the quiet
procession followed Dick and the others who carried her light body
under grotesquely bobbing umbrellas. Then he and David, and Minnie
and Mike, went back to the house, quiet with that strange emptiness
that follows a death, the unconscious listening for a voice that
will not speak again, for a familiar footfall. David had not gone
upstairs. He sat in Lucy's sitting-room, in his old frock coat and
black tie, with a knitted afghan across his knees. His throat
looked withered in his loose collar. And there for the first time
they discussed the future.
"You're giving up a great deal, Dick," David said. "I'm proud of
you, and like you I think the money's best where it is. But this
is a prejudiced town, and they think you've treated Elizabeth badly.
If you don't intend to tell the story - "
"Never," Dick announced, firmly. "Judson Clark is dead." He smiled
at David with something of his old humor. "I told Bassett to put up
a monument if he wanted to. But you're right about one thing.
They're not ready to take me back. I've seen it a dozen times in
the last two days."
"I never gave up a fight yet." David's voice was grim.
"On the other hand, I don't want to make it uncomfortable for her.
We are bound to meet. I'm putting my own feeling aside. It doesn't
matter - except of course to me. What I thought was - We might go
into the city. Reynolds would buy the house. He's going to be
But he found himself up against the stone wall of David's opposition.
He was too old to be uprooted. He liked to be able to find his way
around in the dark. He was almost childish about it, and perhaps a
trifle terrified. But it was his final argument that won Dick over.
"I thought you'd found out there's nothing in running away from
"You're right," he said. "We'll stay here and fight it out together."
He helped David up the stairs to where the nurse stood waiting,
and then went on into his own bedroom. He surveyed it for the
first time since his return with a sense of permanency and intimacy.
Here, from now on, was to center his life. From this bed he would
rise in the morning, to go back to it at night. From this room he
would go out to fight for place again, and for the old faith in him,
for confiding eyes and the clasp of friendly hands.
He sat down by the window and with the feeling of dismissing them
forever retraced slowly and painfully the last few months; the
night on the mountains, and Bassett asleep by the fire; the man
from the cabin caught under the tree, with his face looking up,
strangely twisted, from among the branches; dawn in the alfalfa
field, and the long night tramp; the boy who had recognized him
in Chicago; David in his old walnut bed, shrivelled and dauntless;
and his own going out into the night, with Lucy in the kitchen
doorway, Elizabeth and Wallace Sayre on the verandah, and himself
across the street under the trees; Beverly, and the illumination
of his freedom from the old bonds; Gregory, glib and debonair,
telling his lying story, and later on, flying to safety.
All that, and now this quiet room, with David asleep beyond the
wall and Minnie moving heavily in the kitchen below, setting her
bread to rise. It was anti-climacteric, ridiculous, wonderful.
Then he thought of Elizabeth, and it became terrible.
After Reynolds came up he put on a dressing-gown and went down the
stairs. The office was changed and looked strange and unfamiliar.
But when he opened the door and went into the laboratory nothing
had been altered there. It was as though he had left it yesterday;
the microscope screwed to its stand, the sterilizer gleaming and
ready. It was as though it had waited for him.
He was content. He would fight and he would work. That was all
a man needed, a good fight, and work for his hands and brain. A
man could live without love if he had work.
He sat down on the stool and groaned.
One thing Dick knew must be done and got over with. He would have
to see Elizabeth and tell her the story. He knew it would do no
good, but she had a right to the fullest explanation he could give
her. She did not love him, but it was intolerable that she should
He meant, however, to make no case for himself. He would have to
stand on the facts. This thing had happened to him; the storm had
come, wrought its havoc and passed; he was back, to start again as
nearly as he could where he had left off. That was all.
He went to the Wheeler house the next night, passing the door twice
before he turned in and rang the bell, in order that his voice might
be calm and his demeanor unshaken. But the fact that Micky, waiting
on the porch, knew him and broke into yelps of happiness and ecstatic
wriggling almost lost him his self-control.
Walter Wheeler opened the door and admitted him.
"I thought you might come," he said. "Come in."
There was no particular warmth in his voice, but no unfriendliness.
He stood by gravely while Dick took off his overcoat, and then led
the way into the library.
"I'd better tell you at once," he said, "that I have advised
Elizabeth to see you, but that she refuses. I'd much prefer - "
He busied himself at the fire for a moment. "I'd much prefer to
have her see you, Livingstone. But - I'll tell you frankly - I
don't think it would do much good."
He sat down and stared at the fire. Dick remained standing. "She
doesn't intend to see me at all?" he asked, unsteadily.
"That's rather out of the question, if you intend to remain here.
An unexpected feeling of sympathy for the tall young man on the
hearth rug stirred in Walter Wheeler's breast.
"I'm sorry, Dick. She apparently reached the breaking point a week
or two ago. She knew you had been here and hadn't seen her, for
one thing." He hesitated. "You've heard of her engagement?"
"I didn't want it," her father said drearily. "I suppose she knows
her own business, but the thing's done. She sent you a message," he
added after a pause. "She's glad it's cleared up and I believe you
are not to allow her to drive you away. She thinks David needs you."
"Thank you. I'll have to stay, as she says."
There was another uncomfortable silence. Then Walter Wheeler burst
"Confound it, Dick, I'm sorry. I've fought your battles for months,
not here, but everywhere. But here's a battle I can't fight. She
isn't angry. You'll have to get her angle of it. I think it's
something like this. She had built you up into a sort of superman.
And she's - well, I suppose purity is the word. She's the essence
of purity. Then, Leslie told me this to-night, she learned from
him that you were back with the woman in the case, in New York."
And, as Dick made a gesture:
"There's no use going to him. He was off the beaten track, and he
knows it. He took a chance, to tell her for her own good. He's
fond of her. I suppose that was the last straw."
He sat still, a troubled figure, middle-aged and unhandsome, and
"It's a bad business, Dick," he said.
After a time Dick stirred.
"When I first began to remember," he said, "I wanted whisky. I
would have stolen it, if I couldn't have got it any other way.
Then, when I got it, I didn't want it. It sickened me. This other
was the same sort of thing. It's done with."
"I understand. But she wouldn't, Dick."
"No. I don't suppose she would."
He went away soon after that, back to the quiet house and to David.
Automatically he turned in at his office, but Reynolds was writing
there. He went slowly up the stairs.
Ann Sayre was frankly puzzled during the next few days. She had
had a week or so of serenity and anticipation, and although things
were not quite as she would have had them, Elizabeth too impassive
and even Wallie rather restrained in his happiness, she was
satisfied. But Dick Livingstone's return had somehow changed
It had changed Wallie, too. He was suddenly a man, and not, she
suspected, a very happy man. He came back one day, for instance,
to say that he had taken a partnership in a brokerage office, and
gave as his reason that he was sick of "playing round." She rather
thought it was to take his mind off something.
A few days after the funeral she sent for Doctor Reynolds. "I
caught cold at the cemetery," she said, when he had arrived and
was seated opposite her in her boudoir. "I really did," she
protested, as she caught his eye. "I suppose everybody is sending
for you, to have a chance to talk."
"You can't blame us. Particularly, you can't blame me. I've got
to know something, doctor. Is he going to stay?"
"I think so. Yes."
"Isn't he going to explain anything? He can't expect just to walk
back into his practise after all these months, and the talk that's
been going on, and do nothing about it."
"I don't see what his going away has to do with it. He's a good
doctor, and a hard worker. When I'm gone - "
"You're going, are you?"
"Yes. I may live here, and have an office in the city. I don't
care for general practise; there's no future in it. I may take a
special course in nose and throat."
But she was not interested in his plans.
"I want to know something, and only you can tell me. I'm not
curious like the rest; I think I have a right to know. Has he
seen Elizabeth Wheeler yet? Talked to her, I mean?"
"I don't know. I'm inclined to think not," he added cautiously.
"You mean that he hasn't?"
"Look here, Mrs. Sayre. You've confided in me, and I know it's
important to you. I don't know a thing. I'm to stay on until the
end of the week, and then he intends to take hold. I'm in and out,
see him at meals, and we've had a little desultory talk. There is
no trouble between the two families. Mr. Wheeler comes and goes.
If you ask me, I think Livingstone has simply accepted the situation
as he found it."
"He isn't going to explain anything? He'll have to, I think, if he
expects to practise here. There have been all sorts of stories."
"I don't know, Mrs. Sayre."
"How is Doctor David?" she asked, after a pause.
"Better. It wouldn't surprise me now to see him mend rapidly."
He met Elizabeth on his way down the hill, a strange, bright-eyed
Elizabeth, carrying her head high and a bit too jauntily, and with
a sort of hot defiance in her eyes. He drove on, thoughtfully.
All this turmoil and trouble, anxiety and fear, and all that was
left a crushed and tragic figure of a girl, and two men in an old
house, preparing to fight that one of them might regain the place
he had lost.
It would be a fight. Reynolds saw the village already divided into
two camps, a small militant minority, aligned with Dick and David,
and a waiting, not particularly hostile but intensely curious
majority, who would demand certain things before Dick's
reinstatement in their confidence.
Elizabeth Wheeler was an unconscious party to the division. It was,
in a way, her battle they were fighting. And Elizabeth had gone
over to the enemy.
Late that afternoon Ann Sayre had her first real talk with Wallie
since Dick's return. She led him out onto the terrace, her
shoulders militant and her head high, and faced him there.
"I can see you are not going to talk to me," she said. "So I'll
talk to you. Has Dick Livingstone's return made any change between
Elizabeth and you?"
"She's just the same to you? You must tell me, Wallace. I've been
building so much."
She realized the change in him then more fully than ever for he
faced her squarely and without evasion.
"There's no change in her, mother, but I think you and I will both
have to get used to this: she's not in love with me. She doesn't
pretend to be."
"Don't tell me it's still that man!"
"I don't know." He took a turn or two about the terrace. "I don't
think it is, mother. I don't think she cares for anybody, that way,
certainly not for me. And that's the trouble." He faced her again.
"If marrying me isn't going to make her happy, I won't hold her to
it. You'll have to support me in that, mother. I'm a pretty weak
That appeal touched her as nothing had done for a long time. "I'll
help all I can, if the need comes," she said, and turned and went
heavily into the house.
David was satisfied. The great love of his life had been given to
Dick, and now Dick was his again. He grieved for Lucy, but he
knew that the parting was not for long, and that from whatever
high place she looked down she would know that. He was satisfied.
He looked on his work and found it good. There was no trace of
weakness nor of vacillation in the man who sat across from him at
the table, or slammed in and out of the house after his old fashion.
But he was not content. At first it was enough to have Dick there,
to stop in the doorway of his room and see him within, occupied
with the prosaic business of getting into his clothes or out of
them, now and then to put a hand on his shoulder, to hear him
fussing in the laboratory again, and to be called to examine divers
and sundry smears to which Dick attached impressive importance and
more impressive names. But behind Dick's surface cheerfulness he
knew that he was eating his heart out.
And there was nothing to be done. Nothing. Secretly David watched
the papers for the announcement of Elizabeth's engagement, and each
day drew a breath of relief when it did not come. And he had done
another thing secretly, too; he did not tell Dick when her ring came
back. Annie had brought the box, without a letter, and the
incredible cruelty of the thing made David furious. He stamped into
his office and locked it in a drawer, with the definite intention of
saving Dick that one additional pang at a time when he already had
enough to hear.
For things were going very badly. The fight was on.
It was a battle without action. Each side was dug in and entrenched,
and waiting. It was an engagement where the principals met
occasionally the neutral ground of the streets, bowed to each other
and passed on.
The town was sorry for David and still fond of him, but it resented
his stiff-necked attitude. It said, in effect, that when he ceased
to make Dick's enemies his it was willing to be friends. But it
said also, to each other and behind its hands, that Dick's absence
was discreditable or it would be explained, and that he had behaved
abominably to Elizabeth. It would be hanged if it would be friends
It looked away, but it watched. Dick knew that when he passed by
on the streets it peered at him from behind its curtains, and
whispered behind his back. Now and then he saw, on his evening
walks, that line of cars drawn up before houses he had known and
frequented which indicated a party, but he was never asked. He
never told David.
It was only when the taboo touched David that Dick was resentful,
and then he was inclined to question the wisdom of his return.
It hurt him, for instance, to see David give up his church, and
reading morning prayer alone at home on Sunday mornings, and to
see his grim silence when some of his old friends were mentioned.
Yet on the surface things were much as they had been. David rose
early, and as he improved in health, read his morning paper in his
office while he waited for breakfast. Doctor Reynolds had gone,
and the desk in Dick's office was back where it belonged. In the
mornings Mike oiled the car in the stable and washed it, his old
pipe clutched in his teeth, while from the kitchen came the sounds
of pans and dishes, and the odor of frying sausages. And Dick
splashed in the shower, and shaved by the mirror with the cracked
glass in the bathroom. But he did not sing.
The house was very quiet. Now and then the front door opened, and
a patient came in, but there was no longer the crowded waiting-room,
the incessant jangle of the telephone, the odor of pungent drugs
When, shortly before Christmas, Dick looked at the books containing
the last quarter's accounts, he began to wonder how long they could
fight their losing battle. He did not mind for himself, but it was
unthinkable that David should do without, one by one, the small
luxuries of his old age, his cigars, his long and now errandless
rambles behind Nettie.
He began then to think of his property, his for the claiming, and
to question whether he had not bought his peace at too great a
cost to David. He knew by that time that it was not fear, but
pride, which had sent him back empty-handed, the pride of making
his own way. And now and then, too, he felt a perfectly human
desire to let Bassett publish the story as his vindication and
then snatch David away from them all, to some luxurious haven
where - that was the point at which he always stopped - where David
could pine away in homesickness for them!
There was an irony in it that made him laugh hopelessly.
He occupied himself then with ways and means, and sold the car.
Reynolds, about to be married and busily furnishing a city office,
bought it, had it repainted a bright blue, and signified to the
world at large that he was at the Rossiter house every night by
leaving it at the curb. Sometimes, on long country tramps, Dick
saw it outside a farmhouse, and knew that the boycott was not
limited to the town.
By Christmas, however, he realized that the question of meeting
their expenses necessitated further economies, and reluctantly at
last they decided to let Mike go. Dick went out to the stable with
a distinct sinking of the heart, while David sat in the house,
unhappily waiting for the thing to be done. But Mike refused to
"And is it discharging me you are?" he asked, putting down one of
David's boots in his angry astonishment. "Well, then, I'm telling
you you're not."
"We can't pay you any longer, Mike. And now that the car's gone - "
"I'm not thinking about pay. I'm not going, and that's flat.
Who'd be after doing his boots and all?"
David called him in that night and dismissed him again, this time
very firmly. Mike said nothing and went out, but the next morning
he was scrubbing the sidewalk as usual, and after that they gave
Now and then Dick and Elizabeth met on the street, and she bowed
to him and went on. At those times it seemed incredible that once
he had held her in his arms, and that she had looked up at him with
loving, faithful eyes. He suffered so from those occasional
meetings that he took to watching for her, so as to avoid her.
Sometimes he wished she would marry Wallace quickly, so he would
be obliged to accept what now he knew he had not accepted at all.
He had occasional spells of violent anger at her, and of resentment,
but they died when he checked up, one after the other, the inevitable
series of events that had led to the catastrophe. But it was all
nonsense to say that love never died. She had loved him, and there
was never anything so dead as that love of hers.
He had been saved one thing, however; he had never seen her with
Wallie Sayre. Then, one day in the country while he trudged afoot
to make one of his rare professional visits, they went past together
in Wallie's bright roadster. The sheer shock of it sent him against
a fence, staring after them with an anger that shook him.
Late in November Elizabeth went away for a visit, and it gave him
a breathing spell. But the strain was telling on him, and Bassett,
stopping on his way to dinner at the Wheelers', told him so bluntly.
"You look pretty rotten," he said. "It's no time to go to pieces
now, when you've put up your fight and won it."
"I'm all right. I haven't been sleeping. That's all."
"How about the business? People coming to their senses?"
"Not very fast," Dick admitted. "Of course it's a little soon."
After dinner at the Wheelers', when Walter Wheeler had gone to a
vestry meeting, Bassett delivered himself to Margaret of a highly
indignant harangue on the situation in general.
"That's how I see it," he finished. "He's done a fine thing. A
finer thing by a damned sight than I'd do, or any of this town.
He's given up money enough to pay the national debt - or nearly.
If he'd come back with it, as Judson Clark, they wouldn't have
cared a hang for the past. They'd have licked his boots. It
makes me sick."
He turned on her.
"You too, I think, Mrs. Wheeler. I'm not attacking you on that
score; it's human nature. But it's the truth."
"Perhaps. I don't know."
"They'll drive him to doing it yet. He came back to make a place
for himself again, like a man. Not what he had, but what he was.
But they'll drive him away, mark my words."
Later on, but more gently, he introduced the subject of Elizabeth.
"You can't get away from this, Mrs. Wheeler. So long as she stands
off, and you behind her, the town is going to take her side. She
doesn't know it, but that's how it stands. It all hangs on her.
If he wasn't the man he is, I'd say his salvation hangs on her. I
don't mean she ought to take him back; it's too late for that, if
she's engaged. But a little friendliness and kindness wouldn't do
any harm. You too. Do you ever have him here?"
"How can I, as things are?"
"Well, be friendly, anyhow," he argued. "That's not asking much.
I suppose he'd cut my throat if he knew, but I'm a
straight-to-the-mark sort of person, and I know this: what this
house does the town will do."
"I'll talk to Mr. Wheeler. I don't know. I'll say this, Mr.
Bassett. I won't make her unhappy. She has borne a great deal,
and sometimes I think her life is spoiled. She is very different."
"If she is suffering, isn't it possible she cares for him?"
But Margaret did not think so. She was so very calm. She was so
calm that sometimes it was alarming.
"He gave her a ring, and the other day I found it, tossed into a
drawer full of odds and ends. I haven't seen it lately; she may
have sent it back."
Elizabeth came home shortly before Christmas, undeniably glad to
be back and very gentle with them all. She set to work almost
immediately on the gifts, wrapping them and tying them with