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Meredith Nicholson.

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BROKEN BARRIERS 397

win you as it is a woman's right to be won, in the
world's eyes. I want you to bear my name; belong
to me truly, help me to find and keep the path of
happiness."

She did not understand herself as the days passed
and she felt no impulse to reply. She loved him still
there was no question of that but she tortured
herself with the idea that he had written only from
a chivalrous sense of obligation. Trenton was free;
but she too was free; and marriage was an uncertain
quantity. She encouraged in herself the belief that to
marry him would be only to invite unhappiness. While
she was still debating with herself, she learned from
Irene that Trenton was again in town and working
hard.

The new club for business girls, which Miss Rey-
nolds decided to name Friendship House, was in pro-
cess of furnishing and was to be opened on Thanks-
giving Day.

Nothing in the preparations had proved so embar-
rassing as the choice of the first occupants. It might
have seemed that all the young women in town were
clamoring for admission and only fifty could be ac-
commodated. Miss Reynolds and Grace spent many
hours interviewing applicants. Then, too, there was
the matter of working out a plan for the general
management of Friendship House until the club mem-
bers took hold of it for themselves.

"The girls can make their own rules," said Miss
Reynolds. "But I'm going to have one little rule
printed and put in every room and worked into all
the doormats and stamped into the linen just two
words Be Kind! If we'd all live up to that this
would be a lot more comfortable world to live in!"



398 BROKEN BARRIERS

Being so constantly at Miss Reynolds's Grace had
heard the Bob Cummingses mentioned frequently. The
merger had obliterated the name from the industrial
life of the city; the senior Cummings had gone West
to live with his eldest son and Miss Reynolds had
spoken frequently of the plight in which tie collapse
of the family fortunes had left Bob. Evelyn came
in one morning when Grace was alone in the impro-
vised office.

"We've sold our house," she announced, after they
had talked awhile. "It was mine, you know; a wed-
ding present from my uncle. And I've got about a
thousand a year. So I'm going to turn Bob loose
at his music. He's already got a job as organist
in Dr. Ridgley's church and he's going to teach and
do some lecturing on music. He can do that wonder-
fully."

"That's perfectly splendid!" said Grace warmly.
''But it's too bad the business troubles. I've wanted
to tell you how sorry I am."

"Well, I'm not so sure any one ought to be sorry
for us. Our difficulties have brought Bob and me
closer together, and our chances of happiness are
brighter than on our wedding day; really they are!
I'm saying this to you because you know Bob so well,
and I think you'll understand."

Grace was not sure that she did understand and
when Evelyn left she meditated for a long time upon
the year's changes. She had so jauntily gone out to
meet the world, risking her happiness in her confi-
dence that she was capable of directing her own des-
tiny; but life was not so easy! Life was an inexor-
able schoolmaster who set very hard problems indeed !

Irene, pretending to be jealous of Miss Reynolds,



BROKER BARRIERS 399

declared that there was no reason why Grace, in
becoming a philantrophist should forget her old
friends. This was on an afternoon when Grace, in
Shipley's to pick up some odds and ends for Friend-
ship House, looked into the ready-to-wear floor for
a word with Irene.

Hard-pressed to defend her neglect she accepted
an invitation to accompany Irene and John to a movie
that night.

"John will have to work for an hour or so but
can get in for the second show. You just come up
to Judge Sanders' office about eight and we can have
an old-fashioned heart-to-heart talk till John's ready.
You never take me into your confidence any more,"
she concluded with an injured air.

"I don't have any confidences; but if I had you
certainly wouldn't escape."

" You're not seeing, Ward, I suppose?" Irene asked
carelessly.

"No," Grace replied with badly feigned indiffer-
ence. "I haven't seen him and I have no intention
of seeing him again."

"I suppose it's all over," said Irene stifling a yawn.

"Yes, it's all over," Grace replied testily.

"Strange but Ward just can't get that idea! Of
course he's had a lot to do and think about but he'd
never force himself on you."

"No; he wouldn't do that," Grace assented.

"Ward's a free man," said Irene dreamily. "He'll
probably marry again."

"Irene! It was silly of me to be as crazy about
him as I was. That freedom I used to talk about
was all rubbish. We can't do as we please in this
world, you and I both learned that! And after



400 BROKEN BARRIERS

well after all that happened I could never marry
Ward. And it would be a mistake for him to marry
me a girl who "

"Grace Durland!" Irene interrupted with lofty
scorn, "you are talking like an idiot! You're insult-
ing yourself and you're insulting Ward. I know a
few things. He telephoned you at Miss Reynolds's
twice and asked to see you and you refused. Don't
let Miss Beulah Reynolds intimidate you! She took
you to Colorado hoping you'd forget Ward!"

"Miss Reynolds is perfectly fine!" Grace flared.
"She's never said a word against Ward!"

"Oh, she wouldn't need to say it! She's just trying
to keep you away from him. I'm not knocking Beu-
lah she's all right; but when there's a man in the
world who is eating his heart out about you, you just
can't stick your nose in the air and pretend you don't
know he's alive."

Grace had been proud of her strength in denying
Trenton the interview for which he had asked; but
she left Irene with an unquiet heart. Trenton was
lonely, and his letter had been written in a fine and
tender spirit. She knew that she was guilty
of dishonesty in trying to persuade herself that the
nature of their past association made marriage with
him impossible. He had said nothing that even re-
motely suggested this. On the other hand he had
declared plainly that sooner or later he would have
her, meaning, of course, through marriage. She de-
spised herself for her inconsistencies. She had told
him that she loved him; love alone could have justi-
fied their relationship; and yet she was viewing him
in the harshest light without giving him the hearing
for which he had asked at the earliest moment pos-
sible.



BROKEN BARRIERS 401

IX

She looked forward eagerly to the promised talk
with Irene and after supper she hurried down town
and was shot upward in the tall office building. She
found Irene and John sitting opposite each other at
a large flat top desk. Irene was helping John to
compare descriptions of property but she would be
free in a moment. He showed Grace into the big
library and laughingly gave her a law magazine to
read, saying it was the lightest literature the place
afforded.

The dingy volumes on the shelves impressed her
with a sense of the continuity of law through all the
ages. She glanced idly at the titles, Torts, Contracts,
Wills, Injunctions, there must, in this world, be or-
der, rule and law! Life, nobly considered, was im-
possible without law. It was the height of folly that
she had ever fancied herself a rebel, confident of her
right to do as she pleased. She had made her mis-
takes; henceforth she meant to walk circumspectly
in the eyes of all men. She envied Irene her happiness
with John; as for herself, love had brought her noth-
ing but sorrow and heartache.

Her speculations were interrupted by the rustle
of papers in the adjoining room. The door was half
ajar and glancing in she saw a man seated at a desk,
busily scanning formidable looking documents and
affixing his signature.

Absorbed in his work he was evidently unaware
that he was observed. Her heart beat wildly as she
watched him. She stifled a desire to call to him;
checked an impulse to run to him. Irene had played
a trick upon her in thus bringing her so near to
Trenton! She wondered whether he had seen her and



402 BROKEN BARRIERS

was purposely ignoring her. Or, he might think she
had suggested this to Irene. Her face burned; she
would escape somehow. As she watched him he lifted
his head with a sigh, threw himself back wearily in his
chair and stared at the wall. No; she would not
speak to him; never again would she speak to him.
Panic-stricken she turned and began cautiously tip-
toeing toward the hall door with no thought but to
leave the place at once.

But, the door gained, her heart beat suffocatingly;
she could not go; she did love him, and to run away

She stole into the room without disturbing his
reverie, and laid her hand lightly on his shoulder.

"I couldn't go I couldn't leave you "

Then she was on her knees beside him, looking up
into his startled eyes.

He raised her to her feet, tenderly, reverently, gaz-
ing eagerly into her face.

"How did you know?" he cried, his eyes alight.

"I didn't know; it just happened. I I saw you
and I just couldn't run awayl"

"Oh, say that again! I've missed you so! You
can't know how I've missed and needed you!"

"Do you do you love me," she asked softly, "as
you used to think you did?"

"Oh, more more than all the world!"



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Online LibraryMeredith NicholsonBroken barriers → online text (page 27 of 27)