Part 6 out of 6
"For her sake, it seems to me you must," his friend urged.
"Stop talking, Adolph; I want to think!" Stefan exclaimed. He walked in
silence for a minute.
"No," he said at last, "if my marriage is to go on, it must be on a basis
of truth. I can't go back to Mary and act and live a lie. If she will
have me back, she must know I've made some sacrifice to come, I'll go, if
she says so, because I care for her, but I _can't_ go as a faithful,
loving husband--it would be too grotesque."
"Consider her health, my friend," implored Adolph, still with his
bewildered, shocked air; "it might kill her!"
"Can't! She's as strong as a horse--she can face the truth like a man."
"Then think of the other woman; you must protect her."
"Pshaw! she doesn't need protection! You don't know Felicity; she'd be
just as likely as not to tell Mary herself."
"I always thought you so honorable, so generous," Adolph murmured,
"Oh, cut it, Adolph. I'm being as honorable and generous as I know how.
I'll write to Mary now, and offer to come back if she says the word, and
never see Felicity again. I can't do more."
He flung himself down at the desk, and snatched a pen.
"My dearest girl:" he wrote rapidly, "your brave letter has
come to me, and I can answer it only with the truth. All that
you feared when you heard of F.'s being with me is true. I
found her here two months ago, and we have been together
most of the time since. It was not planned, Mary; it came to
me wholly unexpectedly, when I thought myself cured of love.
I care for you, my dear, I believe you the noblest and most
beautiful of women, but from F. I have had something which
a woman of your kind could never give, and in spite of the
pain I feel for your grief, I cannot say with truth that I regret
it. There are things--in life and love of which you, my
beautiful and clear-eyed Goddess, can know nothing--there is
a wild grape, the juice of which you will never drink, but which
once tasted, must ever be desired. Because this draught is so
different from your own milk and honey, because it leaves my
tenderness for you all untouched, because drinking it has assuaged
a thirst of which you can have no knowledge, I ask you
not to judge it with high Olympian judgment. I ask you
to forgive me, Mary, for I love you still--better now than when
I left you--and I hold you above all women. The cup is still
at my lips, but if you will grant me forgiveness I will drink
no more. I agonize over your grief--if you will let me I will
return and try to assuage it. Write me, Mary, and if the word
is forgive, for your sake I will bid my friend farewell now and
forever. I am still your husband if you will have me--there
is no woman I would serve but you.
He signed his name in a dashing scrawl, blotted and folded the letter
without rereading it, addressed and stamped it, and sprang hatless down
the stairs to post it.
An enormous weight seemed lifted from him. He had shifted his dilemma to
the shoulders of his wife, and had no conception that in so doing he was
guilty of an act of moral cowardice. Returning to the studio, he pulled
out a clean canvas and began a vigorous drawing of two fauns chasing each
other round a tree. Presently, as he drew, he began to hum.
It was the fourth of August.
Stefan and Felicity sat at premier dejeuner on the balcony of her
apartment. About them flowers grew in boxes, a green awning hung over
them, their meal of purple fruit, coffee, and hot brioches was served
from fantastic green china over which blue dragons sprawled. Felicity's
negligee was of the clear green of a wave's concavity--a butterfly of
blue enamel pinned her hair. A breeze, cool from the river, fluttered
under the awning.
It was an attractive scene, but Felicity's face drooped listlessly, and
Stefan, hands deep in the pockets of his white trousers, lay back in his
wicker chair with an expression of nervous irritability. It was early,
for the night had been too hot for late sleeping, and Yo San had not yet
brought in the newspapers and letters. Paris was tense. Germany and
Russia had declared war. France was mobilizing. Perhaps already the axe
Held by the universal anxiety, Stefan and Felicity had lingered on in
Paris after her return from Biarritz, instead of traveling to Brittany as
they had planned.
Stefan had another reason for remaining, which he had not imparted to
Felicity. He was waiting for Mary's letter. It was already overdue, and
now that any hour might bring it he was wretchedly nervous as to the
result. He did not yet wish to break with Felicity, but still less did he
wish to lose Mary. Without having analyzed it to himself, he would have
liked to keep the Byrdsnest and all that it contained as a warm and safe
haven to return to after his stormy flights. He neither wished to be
anchored nor free; he desired both advantages, and the knowledge that he
would be called upon to forego one frayed his nerves. Life was various
--why sacrifice its fluid beauty to frozen forms?
"Stefan," murmured Felicity, from behind her drooping mask, "we have had
three golden months, but I think they are now over." "What do you mean?"
he asked crossly.
"Disharmony"--she waved a white hand--"is in the air. Beauty--the arts--
are to give place to barbarity. In a world of war, how can we taste life
delicately? We cannot. Already, my friend, the blight has fallen upon
you. Your nerves are harsh and jangled. I think"--she folded her hands
and sank back on her green cushions--"I shall make a pilgrimage to
"All of which," said Stefan with a short laugh, "is an elaborate way of
saying you are tired of me."
Her eyebrows raised themselves a fraction.
"You are wonderfully attractive, Stefan; you fascinate me as a panther
fascinates by its lithe grace, and your mind has the light and shade of
Stefan looked pleased.
"But," she went on, her lids still drooping, "I must have harmony. In an
atmosphere of discords I cannot live. Of your present discordant mood, my
friend, I _am_ tired, and I could not permit myself to continue to
feel bored. When I am bored, I change my milieu."
"You are no more bored than I am, I assure you," he snapped rudely.
"It is such remarks as those," breathed Felicity, "which make love
impossible." Her eyes closed.
He pushed back his chair. "Oh, my dear girl, do have some sense of
humor," he said, fumbling for a cigarette.
Yo San entered with a folded newspaper, and a plate of letters for
Felicity. She handed one to Stefan. "Monsieur Adolph leave this," she
Disregarding the paper, Felicity glanced through her mail, and abstracted
a thick envelope addressed in Constance's sprightly hand. Stefan's letter
was from Mary; he moved to the end of the balcony and tore it open. A
banker's draft fell from it.
"Good-bye, Stefan," he read, "I can't forgive you. What you
have done shames me to the earth. You have broken our marriage.
It was a sacred thing to me--now it is profaned. I ask
nothing from you, and enclose you the balance of your own
money. I can make my living and care for the children, whom
you never wanted."
The last three words scrawled slantingly down the page; they were in
large and heavier writing--they looked like a cry. The letter was
unsigned, and smudged. It might have been written by a dying person. The
sight of it struck him with unbearable pain. He stood, staring at it
Felicity called him three times before he noticed her--the last time she
had to raise her voice quite loudly. He turned then, and saw her sitting
with unwonted straightness at the table. Her eyes were wide open, and
"I have a letter from Connie." She spoke almost crisply. "Why did you not
tell me that your wife was enceinte?"
"Why should I tell you?" he asked, staring at her with indifference.
"Had I known it I should not have lived with you. I thought she had let
you come here alone through phlegmatic British coldness. If she lost you,
it was her affair. This is different. You have not played fair with us."
"Mary was never cold," said Stefan dully, ignoring her accusation.
"That makes it worse." She sat like a ramrod; her face might have been
ivory; her hands lay folded across the open letter.
"What do you know--or care--about Mary?" he said heavily; "you never even
"Your wife bored me, but I admired her. Women nearly always bore me, but
I believe in them far more than men, and wish to uphold them."
"You chose a funny way of doing so this time," he said, dropping into his
chair with a hopeless sigh.
She looked at him with distaste. "True, I mistook the situation.
Conventions are nothing to me. But I have a spiritual code to which I
adhere. This affair no longer harmonizes with it. I trust--" Felicity
relaxed into her cushions--"you will return to your wife immediately."
"Thanks," he said ironically. "But you're too late. Mary knows, and has
thrown me over."
There was silence for several minutes. Then Stefan rose, picked up the
draft from the floor, looked at it idly, refolded it into Mary's letter,
and put both carefully away in his inside pocket. His face was very pale.
"Adieu, Felicity," he said quietly. "You are quite right about it." And
he held out his hand.
"Adieu, Stefan," she answered, waving her hand toward his, but not
touching it. "I am sorry about your wife."
Turning, he went in through the French window.
Felicity waited until she heard the thud of the apartment door, then
struck her hands together. Yo San appeared.
"A kirtle, Yo San. I must dance away a wound. Afterwards I will think. Be
prepared for packing. We may leave Paris. It is time again for work."
Stefan, walking listlessly toward his studio, found the streets filled
with crowds. Newsboys shrieked; men stood in groups gesticulating; there
were cries of "Vive la France!" and "A bas l'Allemagne!" Everywhere was
seething but suppressed excitement. As he passed a great hotel he found
the street, early as it was, blocked with departing cabs piled high with
"War is declared," he thought, but the knowledge conveyed nothing to his
senses. He crossed the Seine, and found himself in his own quarter. At
the corner of the rue des Trois Ermites a hand-organ, surrounded by a
cosmopolitan crowd of students, was shrilly grinding out the
Marseillaise. The students sang to it, cheering wildly.
"Who fights for France?" a voice yelled hoarsely, and among cheers a
score of hands went up.
"Who fights for France?" Stefan stood stock still, then hurried past the
crowd, and up the stairs to his attic.
There, in the midst of gaping drawers and fast emptying shelves, stood
Adolph in his shirt sleeves, methodically packing his possessions into a
hair trunk. He looked up as his friend entered; his mild face was alight;
tears of excitement stood in his eyes.
"Ah, my infant," he exclaimed, "it has arrived! The Germans are across
the frontier. I go to fight for France."
"Adolph!" cried Stefan, seizing and wringing his friend's hand. "Thank
God there's something great to be done in the world after all! I go with
"But your wife, Stefan?"
Stefan drew out Mary's letter. For the first time his eyes were wet.
"Listen," he said, and translated the brief words.
Hearing them, the good Adolph sat down on his trunk, and quite frankly
cried. "Ah, quel dommage! quel dommage!" he exclaimed, over and over.
"So you see, mon cher, we go together," said Stefan, and lifted his
Gladstone bag to a chair. As he fumbled among its forgotten contents, a
tiny box met his hand. He drew out the signet ring Mary had given him,
with the winged head.
"Ah, Mary," he whispered with a half sob, "after all, you gave me wings!"
and he put the ring on. He was only twenty-seven.
* * * * *
Later in the day Stefan went to the bank and had Mary's draft endorsed
back to New York. He enclosed it in a letter to James Farraday, in which
he asked him to give it to his wife, with his love and blessing, and to
tell her that he was enlisting with Adolph Jensen in the Foreign Legion.
That night they both went to a vaudeville theatre. It was packed to the
doors--an opera star was to sing the Marseillaise. Stefan and Adolph
stood at the back. No one regarded the performance at all till the singer
appeared, clad in white, the French liberty cap upon her head, a great
tricolor draped in her arms. Then the house rose in a storm of applause;
every one in the vast audience was on his feet.
"'_Allons, enfants de la patrie_,'" began the singer in a
magnificent contralto, her eyes flashing. The house hung breathless.
"'_Aux armes, citoyens!_'" Her hands swept the audience.
"'_Marchons! Marchons!_'" She pointed at the crowd. Each man felt
her fiery glance pierce to him--France called--she was holding out her
arms to her sons to die for her--
"'_Qu'un sang impur abreuve nos sillons!_'"
The singer gathered the great flag to her heart. The tears rolled down
her cheeks; she kissed it with the passion of a mistress. The house broke
into wild cheers. Men fell upon each other's shoulders; women sobbed. The
singer was dumb, but the drums rolled on--they were calling, calling. The
folds of the flag dazzled Stefan's eyes. He burst into tears.
* * * * *
The next morning Stefan Byrd and Adolph Jensen were enrolled in the
Foreign Legion of France.
It was spring once more. In the garden of the Byrdsnest flowering shrubs
were in bloom; the beds were studded with daffodils; the scent of lilac
filled the air. Birds flashed and sang, for it was May, high May, and the
nests were built. Mary, warm-cheeked in the sun, and wearing a broad-
brimmed hat and a pair of gardening gloves, was thinning out a clump of
cornflowers. At one corner of the lawn, shaded by a flowering dog-wood,
was a small sand-pit, and in this a yellow-haired two-year-old boy
diligently poured sand through a wire sieve. In a white perambulator lay
a pink, brown-haired, baby girl, soundly sleeping, a tiny thumb held
comfortably in her mouth. Now and then Mary straightened from her task
and tiptoed over to the baby, to see that she was still in the shade, or
that no flies disturbed her.
Mary's face was not that of a happy woman, but it was the face of one who
has found peace. It was graver than of old, but lightened whenever she
looked at her children with an expression of proud tenderness. She was
dressed in the simplest of white cotton gowns, beneath which the lines of
her figure showed a little fuller, but strong and graceful as ever. She
looked very womanly, very desirable, as she bent over the baby's
Lily emerged from the front door, and set a tea-tray upon the low porch
table. She lingered for a moment, glancing with pride at the verandah
with its green rocking chairs, hammock, and white creeping-rug.
"My, Mrs. Byrd, don't our new porch look nice, now it's all done?" she
"Yes," said Mary, dropping into a rocking-chair to drink her tea, and
throwing off her hat to loosen the warm waves of hair about her forehead,
"isn't it awfully pretty? I don't know how we should have managed without
it on damp mornings, now that Baby wants to crawl all the time. Ah, here
is Miss Mason!" she exclaimed, smiling as that spinster, in white
shirtwaist and alpaca skirt, dismounted from a smart bicycle at the gate.
"Any letters, Sparrow?"
Miss Mason, extracting several parcels from her carrier, flopped
gratefully into a rocker, and drew off her gloves.
"One or two," she said. "Here, Lily; here's your marmalade, and here's
the soap, and a letter for you. There are a few bills, Mary, and a couple
of notes--" she passed them across--"and here's an afternoon paper one of
the Haven youngsters handed me as I passed him on the road. He called out
something about another atrocity. I haven't looked at it. I hate to open
the things these days."
"I know," nodded Mary, busy with her letters, "so do I. This is from Mr.
Gunther, from California. He's been there all the winter, you know. Oh,
how nice; he's coming back! Says we are to expect a visit from him soon,"
Mary exclaimed, with a pleased smile. "Here's a line from Constance," she
went on. "Everything is doing splendidly in her garden, she says. She
wants us all to go up in June, before she begins her auto speaking trip.
Don't you think it would be nice!"
"Perfectly elegant," said the Sparrow. "I'm glad she's taking a little
rest. I thought she looked real tired this spring."
"She works so frightfully hard."
"Land sakes, work agrees with _you_, Mary! You look simply great. If
your new book does as well as the old one I suppose porches won't satisfy
you--you'll be wanting to build an ell on the house?"
"That's just what I do want," said Mary, smiling. "I want to have a spare
room, and proper place for the babies. We're awfully crowded. Did I tell
you Mr. Farraday had some lovely plans that he had made years ago, for a
"You don't say!"
"Yes, but I'm afraid we'll have to wait another year for that, till I can
increase my short story output."
"My, it seems to me you write them like a streak."
Mary shook her head. "No, after Baby is weaned I expect to work faster,
and ever so much better."
"Well, if you do any better than you are doing, Frances Hodgson Burnett
won't be in it; that's all I can say."
"Oh, Sparrow!" smiled Mary, "she writes real grown-up novels, too, and I
can only do silly little children's things."
"They're not silly, Mary Byrd, I can tell you that," sniffed Miss Mason,
shaking out her paper.
"My gracious!" She turned a shocked face to Mary. "What do you suppose
those Germans have done now? Sunk the Lusitania!"
"The Lusitania?" exclaimed Mary, incredulously.
"Yes, my dear; torpedoed her without warning. My, ain't that terrible? It
says they hope most of the passengers are saved--but they don't know
"Let me see!" Mary bent over her shoulder. "The Lusitania gone!" she
"No, no!" exclaimed the Sparrow suddenly, hurrying off the porch. "Ellie
not pour sand over his head! No, naughty!"
Mary sank into her chair with the paper. There was the staring black
headline, but she could hardly believe it. The Lusitania gone? The great
ship she knew so well, on which she and Stefan had met, gone! Lying in
the ooze, with fish darting above the decks where she had walked with
Stefan. Those hundreds of cabins a labyrinth for fish to lose their way
in--all rotting in the black sea currents. The possible loss of life had
not yet come home to her. It was inconceivable that there would not have
been ample time for every one to escape. But the ship, the great English
ship! So swift--so proud!
Dropping the paper, she walked slowly across the garden and the lane, and
found her way to a little seat she had made on the side of the bluff
overlooking the water. Here, her back to a tree trunk, she sat immobile,
trying to still the turmoil of memories that rose within her.
The Lusitania gone!
It seemed like the breaking of the last link that bound her to the past.
All the belief, all the wonder of that time were already gone, and now
the ship, her loveship, was gone, too, lost forever to the sight of men.
She saw again its crowded decks, saw the lithe, picturesque figure of the
young artist with the eager face bending over her--
"Won't you be perfectly kind, and come for a walk?"
She saw the saloon on her engagement night when she
sang at the ship's concert. What were the last words she had sung?
"Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty--
Love's a stuff will not endure."
Alas, how unconsciously prophetic she had been. Nothing had endured,
neither love, nor faith, nor the great ship of their pilgrimage herself.
Other memories crowded. Their honeymoon at Shadeham, the sweet early days
of their studio life, her glorious pride in his great painting of love
exalted.... The night of Constance's party, when, after her singing, her
husband had left his place by Miss Berber and crossed the room so eagerly
to her side. Their first weeks at the Byrdsnest--how happy they had been
then, and how worshipfully he had looked at her the morning their son was
born. All gone. She had another baby now, but he had never seen it--never
would see it, she supposed. Her memory traveled on, flitting over the
dark places and lingering at every sunny peak of their marriage journey.
Their week in Vermont! How they had skated and danced together; how much
he seemed to love her then! Even the day he sailed for France he seemed
to care for her. "Why are we parting?" he had cried, kissing her. Yes,
even then their marriage, for all the clouds upon it, had seemed real
--she had never doubted in her inmost heart that they were each other's.
With a stab of the old agony, Mary remembered the day she got his letter
admitting his relations with Felicity. The unbelievable breakdown of her
whole life! His easy, lightly made excuses. He, in whose arms she had
lain a hundred times, with whom she had first learnt the sacrament of
love, had given himself to another woman, had given all that most close
and sacred intimacy of love, and had written, "I cannot say with truth
that I regret it." How she had lived through the reading of those words
she did not know. Grief does not kill, or surely she would have died that
hour. Her own strength, and the miracle of life within her, alone stayed
her longing for death. It was ten months ago; she had lived down much
since then, had schooled herself daily to forgetfulness; yet now again
the unutterable pang swept over her--the desolation of loss, and the
incapacity to believe that such loss could be.
She rebelled against the needlessness of it all now, as she had done
then, in those bitter days before her little Rosamond came to half-
assuage her pain.
Well, he had redeemed himself in a way. The day James Farraday came to
tell her that Stefan had enlisted, some part of her load was eased. The
father of her children was not all ignoble.
Mary mused on. How would it end? Would Stefan live? Should she--could
she--ever see him again? She thanked God he was there, serving the
country he loved. "The only thing he ever really loved, perhaps," she
thought. She supposed he would be killed--all that genius lost like so
much more of value that the world was scrapping to-day--and then it would
all be quite gone--
Through the trees dropped the insistent sound of a baby's cry to its
mother. She rose; the heavy clouds of memory fell away. The past was
gone; she lived for the future, and the future was in her children.
* * * * *
The next morning Mary had just bathed the baby, and was settling her in
her carriage, when the Sparrow, who, seated on the porch with Elliston,
was engaged in cutting war maps from the papers and pasting them in an
enormous scrapbook, gave a warning cough.
"Here comes Mr. McEwan," she whispered, in the hushed voice reserved by
her simple type for allusions to the afflicted.
"Oh, poor dear," said Mary, hurrying across the lawn to meet him. She
felt more than ever sympathetic toward him, for Mac's wife had died in a
New Hampshire sanitarium only a few weeks before, and all his hopes of
mending her poor broken spirit were at an end. Reaching the gate, she
gave an involuntary cry.
McEwan was stumbling toward her almost like a drunken man. His face was
red, his eyes bloodshot; a morning paper trailed loosely from his hand.
"Mary," he cried, "I came back from the station to see ye--hae ye heard,
"Wallace!" she exclaimed, frightened, "what is it? What has happened?"
She led him to a seat on the porch; he sank into it unresisting. Miss
Mason pushed away her scrapbook, white-faced.
"The Lusitania! They were na' saved, Mary. There's o'er a thousand gone.
O'er a hundred Americans--hundreds of women and little bairns, Mary--like
yours--Canadian mithers and bairns going to be near their brave lads
--babies, Mary." And the big fellow dropped his rough head on his arms and
sobbed like a child.
"Oh, Wallace; oh, Wallace!" whispered Mary, fairly wringing her hands;
"it can't be! Over a thousand lost?"
"Aye," he cried suddenly, bringing his heavy fist down with a crash on
the wicker table, "they drooned them like rats--God damn their bloody
His face, crimson with rage and pity, worked uncontrollably. Mary covered
her eyes with her hands. The Sparrow sat petrified. The little Elliston,
terrified by their strange aspects, burst into loud wails.
"There, darling; there, mother's boy," crooned Mary soothingly, pressing
her wet cheek to his.
"Little bairns like that, Mary," McEwan repeated brokenly. Mary gathered
the child close into her arms. They sat in stunned horror.
"Weel," said McEwan at last, more quietly. "I'll be going o'er to enlist.
I would ha' gone long sine, but that me poor girl would ha' thocht I'd
desairted her. She doesna' need me now, and there's eno' left for the
lad. Aye, this is me call. I was ay a slow man to wrath, Mary, but now if
I can but kill one German before I die--" His great fist clenched again
on the table.
"Oh, don't, dear man, don't," whispered Mary, with trembling lips, laying
her cool hand over his. "You're right; you must go. But don't feel so
His grip relaxed; his big hand lay under hers quietly.
"I could envy you, Wallace, being able to go. It's hard for us who have
to stay here, just waiting. My poor sister has lost her husband already,
and I don't know whether mine is alive or dead. And now you're going!
Elliston's pet uncle!" She smiled at him affectionately through her
"I'll write you if I hear aught about the Foreign Legion, Mary," he said,
under his breath.
She pressed his hand in gratitude. "When shall you go?" she asked.
"By the next boat."
"Go by the American Line."
His jaw set grimly. "Aye, I will. They shall no torpedo me till I've had
ae shot at them!"
Mary rose. "Now, Wallace, you are to stay and lunch with us. You must let
us make much of the latest family hero while we have him. Eh, Sparrow?"
"Yes," nodded Miss Mason emphatically, "I've hated the British ever since
the Revolution--I and my parents and my grandparents--but I guess I'm
with them, and those that fight for them, from now on."
On the Monday following the sinking of the Lusitania, James Farraday
received a letter from the American Hospital in Paris, written in French
in a shaky hand, and signed Adolph Jensen.
New York was still strained and breathless from Saturday's horror. Men
sat idle in their offices reading edition after edition of the papers,
rage mounting in their hearts. Flags were at half mast. Little work was
being done anywhere save at the newspaper offices, which were keyed to
the highest pitch. Farraday's office was hushed. Those members of his
staff who were responsible for The Child at Home--largely women, all
picked for their knowledge of child life--were the worst demoralized. How
think of children's play-time stories when those little bodies were being
brought into Queenstown harbor? Farraday himself, the efficient, the
concentrated, sat absent-mindedly reading the papers, or drumming a slow,
ceaseless tap with his fingers upon the desk. The general gloom was
enhanced by their knowledge that Mac, their dear absurd Mac, was going.
But they were all proud of him.
By two o'clock Farraday had read all the news twice over, and Adolph's
letter three times.
Telephoning for his car to meet him, he left the office and caught an
early afternoon train home. He drove straight to the Byrdsnest and found
Mary alone in the sitting room.
She rose swiftly and pressed his hand:
"Oh, my dear friend," she murmured, "isn't it terrible?"
He nodded. "Sit down, Mary, my dear girl." He spoke very quietly,
unconsciously calling her by name for the first time. "I have something
to tell you."
She turned white.
"No," he said quickly, "he isn't dead."
She sat down, trembling.
"I have a letter from Adolph Jensen. They are both wounded, and in the
American Hospital in Paris. The Foreign Legion has suffered heavily.
Jensen is convalescent, and returns to the front. He was beside your
husband in the trench. It was a shell. Byrd was hit in the back. My dear
child--" he stopped for a moment. "Mary--"
"Go on," she whispered through stiff lips.
"He is paralyzed, my dear, from the hips down."
She stared at him.
"Oh, no, James--oh, no, James--oh, no!" she whispered, over and over.
"Yes, my poor child. He is quite convalescent, and going about the wards
in a wheeled chair. But he will never be able to walk again."
"Why," said Mary, wonderingly, "he never used to be still--he always ran,
and skipped, like a child." Her breast heaved. "He always ran, James--"
she began to cry--the tears rolled down her cheeks--she ran quickly out
of the room, sobbing.
James waited in silence, smoking a pipe, his face set in lines of
inexpressible sadness. In half an hour she returned. Her eyes were
swollen, but she was calm again.
"I'm sorry to have kept you waiting so long," she said, with a pitiful
attempt at a smile. "Please read me the letter, will you?"
James read the French text. Stefan had been so brave in the trenches,
always kept up a good heart. He used to sing to the others. A shell had
struck the trench; they were nearly all killed or wounded. Stefan knew he
would walk no more, but he was still so brave, with a smile for every
one. He was drawing, too, wonderful pencil drawings of the front. Adolph
thought they were much more wonderful than anything he had ever done. All
the nurses and wounded asked for them. Adolph would be going back in a
month. He ventured to ask Mr. Farraday to lay the affair before Mrs.
Byrd. Stefan had no money, and no one to take care of him when he left
the hospital. He, Adolph, would do all that was possible, but he was sure
that his friend should go home. Stefan often, very often, spoke of his
wife to Adolph. He wore a ring of hers. Would Mr. Farraday use his good
James folded the letter and looked at Mary.
"I must go and fetch him," she said simply.
"Mrs. Byrd--Mary--I want you to let me go. Mac has offered to do it
before enlisting, but I don't think your husband cared for Mac, and he
always liked me. It wouldn't be fair to the baby for you to go, and it
would be very painful for you. But it will give me real happiness--the
first thing I've been able to do in this awful business."
"Oh, no, James, I couldn't let you. Your work--it is too much
"The office can manage without me for three weeks. I want you to let me
do this for you both--it's such a small thing."
"I feel I ought to go, James," she reiterated, "I ought to be there."
"You can't take the baby--and she mustn't suffer," he urged. "There will
be any amount of red tape. You really must let me go."
They discussed it for some time, and at last she agreed, for the sake of
the small Rosamond. She began to see, too, that there would be much for
her to do at this end. With her racial habit of being coolest in an
emergency, Mary found herself mentally reorganizing the regime of the
Byrdsnest, and rapidly reviewing one possible means after another of
ensuring Stefan's comfort. She talked over her plans with James, and
before he left that afternoon their arrangements were made. On one point
he was obliged to give way. Stefan's money, which he had returned to Mary
before enlisting, was still intact, and she insisted it should be used
for the expenses of the double journey. Enough would be left to carry out
her plans at this end, and Stefan would know that he was in no sense an
object of charity.
James, anxious as he was to help his friends in all ways, had to admit
that she was right. He was infinitely relieved that the necessity for
practical action had so completely steadied her. He knew now that she
would be almost too busy in the intervening weeks for distress.
The next day James engaged his passage, sent a long cable to Adolph, and
performed prodigies of work at the office. By means of some wire-pulling
he and Mac succeeded in securing a cabin together on the next American
Meanwhile, Mary began her campaign. At breakfast she expounded her plans
to Miss Mason, who had received the news overnight.
"You see, Sparrow," she said, "we don't know how much quiet he will need,
but we couldn't give him _any_ in this little cottage, with the
babies. So I shall fit up the studio--a big room for him, a small one for
the nurse, and a bath. The nurse will be the hardest part, for I'm sure
he would rather have a man. The terrible helplessness"--her voice
faltered for a second--"would humiliate him before a woman. But it must
be the right man, Sparrow, some one he can like--who won't jar him--and
some one we can afford to keep permanently. I've been thinking about it
all night and, do you know, I have an idea. Do you remember my telling
you about Adolph Jensen's brother?"
"The old one, who failed over here?"
"Yes. Stefan helped him, you know, and I'm sure he was awfully grateful.
When the Berber shop changed hands in January, I wondered what would
become of him; I believe Miss Berber was only using him out of kindness.
It seems to me he might be just the person, if we could find him."
"You're a smart girl, Mary, and as plucky as they make 'em," nodded the
"Oh, Sparrow, when I think of his helplessness! He, who always wanted
wings!" Mary half choked.
"Now," said Miss Mason, rising briskly, "we've got to act, not think.
Come along, child, and let's go over to the barn." Gratefully Mary
Enquiries at the now cheapened and popularized Berber studio elicited
Jensen's old address, and Mary drove there in a taxi, only to find that
he had moved to an even poorer quarter of the city. She discovered his
lodgings at last, in a slum on the lower east side. He was out, looking
for a job, the landlady thought, but Mary left a note for him, with a
bill inside it, asking him to come out to Crab's Bay the next morning.
She hurried back to Rosamond, and found that the excellent Sparrow had
already held lively conferences with the village builders and plumbers.
"I told 'em they'd get a bonus for finishing the job in three weeks, and
I guess I got the whole outfit on the jump," said she with satisfaction.
"Though the dear Lord knows," she added, "if the plumbers get through on
schedule it'll be the first time in history."
When Henrik Jensen arrived next day Mary took an instant liking to him.
He was shabbier and more hopeless than ever, but his eyes were kind, his
mouth gentle, and when she spoke of Stefan his face lighted up.
She told him the story of the two friends, of his brother's wound and
Stefan's crippling, and saw that his eyes filled with tears.
"He was wonderful to me, Mrs. Byrd, he gave me a chance. I was making
good, too, till Miss Berber left and the whole scheme fell to pieces. I'm
glad Adolph is with him; it was very gracious of you to let me hear about
"Are you very busy now, Mr. Jensen?"
He smiled hopelessly.
"Yes, very busy--looking for work. I'm down and out, Mrs. Byrd."
She unfolded her scheme to him. Stefan would need some one near him night
and day. He would be miserable with a servant; he would--she knew--feel
his helplessness more keenly in the presence of a woman. She herself
could help, but she had her work, and the children. Mr. Jensen would be
one of the family. She could offer him a home, and a salary which she
hoped would be sufficient for his needs--
"I have no needs, Mrs. Byrd," he interrupted at this point, his eyes
shining with eagerness. "Enough clothes for decency, that's all. If I
could be of some use to your husband, to my friend and Adolph's, I should
ask no more of life. I'm a hopeless failure, ma'am, and getting old--you
don't know what it is like to feel utterly useless."
Mary listened to his gentle voice and watched his fine hands--hands used
to appraising delicate, beautiful things. The longer they talked, the
more certain she felt that here was the ideal person, one bound to her
husband by ties of gratitude, and whose ministrations could not possibly
She rang up Mrs. Farraday, put the case to her, and obtained her offer of
a room to house Mr. Jensen while the repairs were making. She arranged
with him to return next day with his belongings, and advanced a part of
his salary for immediate expenses. Mary wanted him to come to her at
once, both out of sympathy for his wretched circumstances, and because
she wished thoroughly to know him before Stefan's return.
Luckily, the Sparrow took to Jensen at once, so there was nothing to fear
on that score. For the Sparrow was now a permanent part of Mary's life.
She had a small independent income, but no home--her widowed sister
having gone west to live with a daughter--and she looked upon herself as
the appointed guardian of the Byrdsnest. Not only did she relieve Mary of
the housekeeping, and help Lily with the household tasks, which she
adored, but she had practically taken the place of nurse to the children,
leaving Mary hours of freedom for her work which would otherwise have
The competency of the two friends achieved the impossible in the next few
weeks, as it had done on the memorable first day of Mary's housekeeping.
Mr. Jensen, with his trained taste, was invaluable for shopping
expeditions, going back and forth to the city with catalogues, samples,
In a little over three weeks Stefan's old studio had been transformed
into a bed-sitting-room, with every comfort that an invalid could desire,
and the further end of it had been partitioned into a bathroom and a
small bedroom for Mr. Jensen, with a separate outside entrance.
"Oh, if only I had the new wing," sighed Mary.
"This will be even quieter for him, Mrs. Byrd, and the chair can be
wheeled so quickly to the house," replied Mr. Jensen.
The back window of Mary's sitting room had been enlarged to glass doors,
and from these a concrete path ran to the studio entrance. Mary planned
to make it a covered way after the summer.
The day the wheeled chair arrived it was hard for her to keep back the
tears. It was a beautifully made thing of springs, cushions, and rubber
tires. It could be pushed, or hand-propelled by the occupant. It could be
lowered, heightened, or tilted. It was all that a chair could be--but how
to picture Stefan in it, he of the lithe steps and quick, agile
movements, the sudden turns, and the swift, almost running walk? Her
heart trembled with pity at the thought.
They had already received an "all well" cable from Paris, and three weeks
after be had sailed, James telegraphed that they were starting. He had
waited for the American line--he would have been gone a month.
As the day of landing approached, Mary became intensely nervous. She
decided not to meet the boat, and sent James a wireless to that effect.
She could not see Stefan first among all those crowds; her instinct told
her that he, too, would not wish it.
The ship docked on Saturday. The day before, the last touches had been
put to Stefan's quarters. They were as perfect as care and taste could
make them. Early on Saturday morning Mr. Jensen started for the city,
carrying a big bunch of roses--Mary's welcome to her husband. While the
Sparrow flew about the house gilding the lily of cleanliness, Mary, with
Elliston at her skirts, picked the flowers destined for Stefan's room.
These she arranged in every available vase--the studio sang with them.
Every now and then she would think of some trifle to beautify it further
--a drawing from her sitting room--her oldest pewter plate for another
ashtray--a pine pillow from her bedroom. Elliston's fat legs became so
tired with ceaselessly trotting back and forth behind her that he began
to cry with fatigue, and was put to bed for his nap. Rosamond waked,
demanding dinner and amusement.
The endless morning began to pass, and all this while Mary had not
At lunch time James telephoned. They would be out by three o'clock.
Stefan had stood the journey well, was delighted with the roses, and to
see Jensen. He was wonderfully brave and cheerful.
Mary was trembling as she hung up the receiver. He was here, he was on
the way; and still, she had not thought!
Both children asleep, the last conceivable preparation made, Mary settled
herself on the porch at last, to face what was coming.
The Sparrow peeped out at her.
"I guess you'd as soon be left alone, my dear," she said, tactfully.
"Yes, please, Sparrow," Mary replied, with a nervous smile. The little
spinster slipped away.
What did she feel for Stefan? Mary wondered. Pity, deep pity? Yes. But
that she would feel for any wounded soldier. Admiration for his courage?
That, too, any one of the war's million heroes could call forth.
Determination to do her full duty by this stricken member of her family?
Of course, she would have done that for any relative. Love? No. Mary felt
no love for Stefan. That had died, nearly a year ago, died in agony and
humiliation. She could not feel that her lover, her husband, was
returning to her. She waited only for a wounded man to whom she owed the
duty of all kindness.
Suddenly, her heart shook with fear. What if she were unable to show him
more than pity, more than kindness? What if he, stricken, helpless,
should feel her lack of warmth, and tenderness, should feel himself a
stranger here in this his only refuge? Oh, no, no! She must do better
than that. She must act a part. He must feel himself cared for, wanted.
Surely he, who had lost everything, could ask so much for old love's
sake? ... But if she could not give it? Terror assailed her, the terror of
giving pain; for she knew that of all women she was least capable of
insincerity. "I don't know how to act," she cried to herself, pitifully.
A car honked in the lane. They were here. She jumped up and ran to the
gate, wheeling the waiting chair outside it. Farraday's big car rounded
the bend--three men sat in the tonneau. Seeing them, Mary ran suddenly
back inside the gate; her eyes fell, she dared not look.
The car had stopped. Through half-raised lids she saw James alight. The
chauffeur ran to the chair. Jensen stood up in the car, and some one was
lifted from it. The chair wheeled about and came toward her. It was
through the gate--it was only a yard away.
"Mary," said a voice. She looked up.
There was the well-known face, strangely young, the eyes large and
shadowed. There was his smile, eager, and very anxious now. There were
his hands, those finely nervous hands. They lay on a rug, beneath which
were the once swift limbs that could never move again. He was all hers
now. His wings were broken, and, broken, he was returning to the nest.
She made one step forward. Stooping, she gathered his head to her breast,
that breast where, loverlike, it had lain a hundred times. Her arms held
him close, her tears ran down upon his hair.
"My boy!" she cried.
Here was no lover, no husband to be forgiven. Cradled upon her heart
there lay only her first, her most wayward, and her best loved child.
Mary never told Stefan of those nightmare moments before his arrival.
From the instant that her deepest passion, the maternal, had answered to
his need, she knew neither doubt nor unhappiness.
She settled down to the task of creating by her labor and love a home
where her three dependents and her three faithful helpmates could find
the maximum of happiness and peace.
The life of the Byrdsnest centered about Stefan; every one thought first
of him and his needs. Next in order of consideration came Ellie and
little Rosamond. Then Lily had to be remembered. She must not be
overworked; she must take enough time off. Henrik, too, must not be over-
conscientious. He must allow Mary to relieve him often enough. As for the
Sparrow, she must not wear herself out flying in three directions at
once. She must not tire her eyes learning typewriting. But at this point
Mary's commands were apt to be met with contempt.
"Now, Mary Byrd," the Sparrow would chirp truculently, "you 'tend to your
business, and let me 'tend to mine. Anybody would think that we were all
to save ourselves in this house but you. As for my typing, it's funny if
I can't save you something on those miserable stenographers' bills."
Mary was wonderfully happy in these days--happier in a sense than she had
ever been, for she had found, beyond all question, the full work for
hands to do. And to her love for her children there was added not merely
her maternal tenderness for Stefan, but a deep and growing admiration.
For Stefan was changed not only in the body, but in the spirit. Everybody
remarked it. The fierce fires of war seemed to have burnt away his old
confident egotism. In giving himself to France he had found more than he
had lost; for, by a strange paradox, in the midst of death he had found
belief in life.
"Mary, my beautiful," he said to her one day in September, as he worked
at an adjustable drawing board which swung across his knees, "did you
ever wonder why all my old pictures used to be of rapid movement, nearly
all of running or flying?"
"Yes, dearest, I used to try often to think out the significance of it."
They were in the studio. Mary had just dropped her pencil after a couple
of hours' work on a new serial she was writing. She often worked now in
Stefan's room. He was busy with a series of drawings of the war. He had
tried different media--pastel, ink, pencils, and chalks--to see which
were the easiest for sedentary work.
"It's good-bye to oils," he had said, "I couldn't paint a foot from the
Now he was using a mixture of chalk and charcoal, and was in the act of
finishing the sixth drawing of his series. The big doors of the barn were
opened wide to the sunny lawn, gay with a riot of multicolored dahlias.
"It's odd," said Stefan, pushing away his board and turning the wheels of
his chair so that he faced the brilliant stillness of the garden, "but I
seem never to have understood my work till now. I used always to paint
flight partly because it was beautiful in itself but also, I think, with
some hazy notion that swift creatures could always escape from the
ugliness of life."
Mary came and sat by him, taking his hand.
"It seems to me," he went on, "that I spent my life flying from what I
thought was ugly. I always refused to face realities, Mary, unless they
were pleasant. I fled even from the great reality of our marriage because
it meant responsibilities and monotony, and they seemed ugly things to
me. And now, Mary," he smiled, "now that I can never shoulder
responsibilities again, and am condemned to lifelong monotony"--she
pressed his hand--"neither seems ugly any more. The truth is, I thought I
fled to get away from things, and it was really to get away from myself.
Now that I've seen such horrors, such awful suffering, and such
unbelievable sacrifice, I have something to think about so much more real
than my vain, egotistical self. I know what my work is now, something
much better than just creating beauty. I gave my body to France--that was
nothing. But now I have to give her my soul--I have to try and make it a
voice to tell the world a little of what she has done. Am I too vain,
dearest, in thinking that these really say something big?"
He nodded toward his first five drawings, which hung in a row on the
"Oh, Stefan, you know what I think of them," she said, her eyes shining.
"Would you mind pinning up the new one, Mary, so that we can see them all
She rose and, unfastening the drawing from its board, pinned it beside
the others. Then she turned his chair to face them, and they both looked
silently at the pictures.
They were drawings of the French lines, and the peasant life behind them.
Dead soldiers, old women by a grave, young mothers following the plow
--men tense, just before action. The subjects were already familiar enough
through the work of war correspondents and photographers, but the
treatment was that of a great artist. The soul of a nation was there
--which is always so much greater than the soul of an individual. The
drawings were not of men and women, but of one of the world's greatest
races at the moment of its transfiguration.
For the twentieth time Mary's eyes moistened as she looked at them.
The shadows began to lengthen. Shouts came from the slope, and presently
Ellie's sturdy form appeared through the trees, followed by the somewhat
disheveled Sparrow carrying Rosamond, who was smiting her shoulder and
"I'll come and help you in a few minutes, Sparrow," Mary called, as the
procession crossed the lawn, her face beaming love upon it.
"Can you spare the few minutes, dear?" Stefan asked, watching her.
"Yes, indeed, they won't need me yet."
The light was quite golden now; the dahlias seemed on fire under it.
"Mary," said Stefan, "I've been thinking a lot about you lately."
"Have you, dear?"
"Yes, I never tried to understand you in the old days. I had never met
your sort of woman before, and didn't trouble to think about you except
as a beautiful being to love. I was too busy thinking about myself," he
smiled. "I wondered, without understanding it, where you got your
strength, why everything you touched seemed to turn to order and
helpfulness under your hands. I think now it is because you are always so
true to life--to the things life really means. Every one always approves
and upholds you, because in you the race itself is expressed, not merely
one of its sports, as with me."
She looked a little puzzled. "Do you mean, dearest, because I have
"No, Beautiful, any one can do that. I mean because you have in perfect
balance and control all the qualities that should be passed on to
children, if the race is to be happy. You are so divinely normal, Mary,
that's what it is, and yet you are not dull."
"Oh, I'm afraid I am," smiled Mary, "rather a bromide, in fact."
He shook his head, with his old brilliant smile.
"No, dearest, nobody as beautiful and as vital as you can be dull to any
one who is not out of tune with life. I used to be that, so I'm afraid I
thought you so, now and then."
"I know you did," she laughed, "and I thought you fearfully erratic."
He laughed back. They had both passed the stage in which the truth has
power to hurt.
"I remember Mr. Gunther talking to me a little as you have been doing,"
she recalled, "when he came to model me. I don't quite understand either
of you. I think you're just foolishly prejudiced in my favor because you
"What about the Farradays, and Constance, and the Sparrow and Lily and
Henrik and McEwan and the Havens and Madame Corriani and--"
"Oh, stop!" she laughed, covering his mouth with her hand.
"And even in Paris," he concluded, holding the hand, "Adolph, and--yes,
and Felicity Berber. Are they all 'prejudiced in your favor'?"
"Why do you include the last named?" she asked, rather low. It was the
first time Felicity had been spoken of between them.
"She threw me over, Mary, the hour she discovered how it was with you,"
he said quietly.
"That was rather decent of her. I'm glad you told me that," she answered
after a pause.
"All this brings me to what I really want to say," he continued, still
holding her hand in his. "You are so alive, you _are_ life; and yet
you're chained to a half-dead man."
"Oh, don't, dearest," she whispered, deeply distressed.
"Yes, let me finish. I shan't last very long, my dear--two or three
years, perhaps--long enough to say what I must about France. I want you
to go on living to the full. I want you to marry again, Mary, and have
more beautiful, strong children."
"Oh, darling, don't! Don't speak of such things," she begged, her lips
"I've finished, Beautiful. That's all I wanted to say. Just for you to
remember," he smiled.
Her arms went round him. "You're bad," she whispered, "I shan't
"Here comes Henrik," he replied. "Run in to your babies."
He watched her swinging steps as, after a farewell kiss, she sped down
the little path.
Stefan's moods were not always calm. He had his hours of fierce
rebellion, when he felt he could not endure another moment with his
deadened carcass; when, without life, it seemed so much better to die. He
had days of passionate longing for the world, for love, for everything he
had lost. Mary fell into the habit of borrowing the Farradays' car when
she saw such a mood approaching, and sending Stefan for long drives
alone. The rushing flight seldom failed to carry him beyond the reach of
his black mood. Returning, he would plunge into work, and the next day
would find him calm and smiling once again. He suffered much pain from
his back, but this he bore with admirable patience.
"It's nothing," he would say, "compared to the black devils."
Stefan's courage was enormously fortified by the success of his drawings,
which created little less than a sensation. Reproductions of them
appeared for some weeks in The Household Review, and were recopied
everywhere. The originals were exhibited by Constantine in November.
"Here," wrote one of the most distinguished critics in New
York, himself a painter of repute, "we have work which outranks
even Mr. Byrd's celebrated Danae, and in my judgment
far surpasses any of the artist's other achievements. I have
watched the development of this young American genius with
the keenest interest. I placed him in the first rank as a technichian,
but his work--with the exception of the Danae--appeared
to me to lack substance and insight. It was brilliant,
but too spectacular. Even his Danae, though on a surprising
inspirational plane, had a quality high rather than profound,
I doubted if Mr. Byrd had the stuff of which great art is made,
but after seeing his war drawings, I confess myself mistaken.
If I were to sum up my impression of them I should say that
on the battlefield Mr. Byrd has discovered the one thing his
Stefan read this eulogy with a humorous grin.
"I expect the fellow's right," he said. "I don't think my soul was as
strong on wings in the old days as my brush was. Without joking, though,"
he went on, suddenly grave, "I don't know if there is such a thing as a
soul, but if there is, such splendid ones were being spilled out there
that I think, perhaps, Mary, I may have picked a bit of one up."
"Dearest," said Mary, with a kiss of comprehension, "I'm so proud of you.
You are great, a great artist, and a great spirit." And she kissed him
again, her eyes shining.
If the Byrdsnest was proud in November of its distinguished head, it
positively bristled with importance in December, when Constantine
telephoned that the trustees of the Metropolitan were negotiating for
Stefan's whole series. This possibility had already been spoken of in the
press, though the family had not dared hope too much from the suggestion.
The Museum bought the drawings, and Stefan took his place as one of
America's great artists.
"Mary, I'm so glad I can be useful again, as well as ornamental," he
grinned, presenting to her with a flourish a delightfully substantial
His courage, and his happiness in his success, were an increasing joy to
Mary. She blossomed in her pride of him, and the old glowing look came
back to her face.
Only one thing--besides her anxiety for his health--troubled her. With
all his tenderness to her, and his renewed love, he still remained a
stranger to his children. He seemed proud of their healthy beauty, and
glad of Mary's happiness in them; but their nearness bored and tired him,
and they, quick to perceive this, became hopelessly unresponsive in his
presence. Ellie would back solemnly away from the approaching chair, and
Rosamond would hang mute upon her mother's shoulder. "It's strange,"
Mary said to the Sparrow, who was quick to notice any failure to
appreciate her adored charges; "they're his own, and yet he hasn't the
key to them. I suppose it's because he's a genius, and too far apart from
ordinary people to understand just little human babies."
The thought stirred faintly the memory of her old wound.
That Christmas, for the first time in its history, the Byrdsnest held
high festival. House and studio were decorated, and in the afternoon
there was a Christmas-tree party for all the old friends and their
The dining-room had been closed since the night before in order to
facilitate Santa Clans' midnight spiritings.
When all the guests had arrived, and Stefan had been wheeled in from the
studio, the mysterious door was at last thrown open, revealing the tree
in all its glory, rooted in a floor of glittering snow, with its topmost
star scraping the ceiling.
With shouts the older children surrounded it; Ellie followed more slowly,
awed by such splendor; and Rosamond crept after, drawn irresistibly by a
hundred glittering lures.
Crawling from guest to guest, her tiny hands clutching toys as big as
herself, her dark eyes brilliant, her small red mouth emitting coos of
rapture, she enchanted the men, and drew positive tears of delight from
"Oh, Walter!" she cried, shaking her son with viciousness, "how could you
have been so monotonous as to be born a boy?"
After a time Mary noticed that Stefan was being tired by the hubbub, and
signaled an adjournment to the studio for tea and calm. The elders
trooped out; the children fell upon the viands; and Miss Mason caught
Rosamond by the petticoat as she endeavored to creep out after Gunther,
whose great size seemed to fascinate her.
The sculptor had given Mary a bronze miniature of his now famous
"Pioneers" group. It was a beautiful thing, and Constance and James were
anxious to know if other copies were to be obtained.
"No," Gunther answered them laconically, "I have only had three cast. One
the President wished to have, the second is for myself, and Mrs. Byrd, as
the original of the woman, naturally has the third."
"Couldn't you cast one or two more?" Constance pleaded.
"No," he replied, "I should not care to do so."
Stefan examined the bronze with interest, his keen eyes traveling from
the man's figure to the woman's.
"It's very good of you both," he said, looking from Gunther to Mary, with
a trace of his old teasing smile. Mary blushed slightly. For some reason
which she did not analyze she was a trifle embarrassed at seeing herself
perpetuated in bronze as the companion of the sculptor.
When the guests began to leave, Mary urged the Farradays to remain a
little longer. "It's only five o'clock," she reminded them.
Mrs. Farraday settled herself comfortably, and drew out her khaki-colored
knitting. James lit his pipe, and Stefan wheeled forward to the glow of
the fire, fitting a cigarette into his new amber holder.
"I have a letter from Wallace," said James, "that I've been waiting to
read you. Shall I do so now?"
"Oh, do!" exclaimed Mary, "we shall love to hear it. Wait a moment,
though, while I fetch Rosamond--the Sparrow can't attend to them both at
once _and_ help Lily."
She returned in a moment with the sleepy baby.
"I'll have to put her to bed soon," she said, settling into a low rocking
chair, "but it isn't quite time yet. I suppose Jamie has heard his
"Oh, yes," said James, "and has dozens of his own, too."
"He's such a dear boy," Mary continued, "he's playing like an angel with
Ellie in there, while the Sparrow flits."
James unfolded Mac's closely written sheets, and read his latest accounts
of the officers' training corps with which he had been for the last six
months, the gossip that filtered to them from the front, and his
expectation of being soon gazetted to a Highland Regiment.
"The waiting is hard, but when once I get with our own
lads in the trenches I'll be the happiest man alive," wrote Mac.
"Meanwhile, I think a lot of all you dear people. I'm more
than happy in what you tell me of Byrd's success and of the
bairns' and Mary's well being. Give them all my love and
James turned the last page, and paused. "I think that's about all," he
But it was not all. While the others sat silent for a minute, their
thoughts on the great struggle, Farraday's eyes ran again down that last
"Poor Byrd," Mac wrote, "so you say he'll not last many
years. Well, life would have broken him anyway, and it's
grand he's found himself before the end. He's not the lasting
kind, there's too much in him, and too little. She wins, after
all, James; life won't cheat her as it has him. She is here just
to be true to her instincts--to choose the finest mate for her
nest-building. She'll marry again, though the dear woman
doesn't know it, and would be horrified at the thought. But
she will, and it won't be either of us--we are too much her kind.
It will be some other brilliant egoist who will thrill her, grind
her heart, and give her wonderful children. She is an instrument.
As I think I once heard poor Byrd say, she is not merely
an expression of life, she is life."
James folded the letter and slipped it into his pocket.
"Come, son, we must be going," murmured Mrs. Farraday, putting up her
"Rosamond is almost asleep," smiled Mary.
"Don't rise, my dear," said the little lady, "we'll find our own way."
"Good-bye, Farraday," said Stefan, "and thank you for everything."
Mary held out her hand to them both, and they slipped quietly out.
"What a good day it has been, dearest. I hope you aren't too tired," she
said, as she rocked the drowsy baby.
"No, Beautiful, only a little."
He dropped his burnt-out cigarette into the ash-tray at his side. The
rocker creaked rhythmically.
"Mary, I want to draw Rosamond," said Stefan thoughtfully.
"Oh, do you, dearest? That _will_ be nice!" she exclaimed, her face
breaking into a smile of pleasure.
"Yes. Do you know, I was watching the little thing this afternoon, when
Gunther and all the others were playing with her. It's very strange--I
never noticed it before--but it came to me quite suddenly. She's exactly
like my mother."
"Is she really?" Mary murmured, touched.
"Yes, it's very wonderful. I felt suddenly, watching her eyes and smile,
that my mother is not dead after all. Will you--" he seemed a little
embarrassed--"could you, do you think, without disturbing her, let me
hold the baby for a little while?"