Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Other Things Being Equal by Emma Wolf

Part 5 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

"Oh," gasped Levice, his eyes falling upon her, "I wanted to get home; but
it is all right now. Is the child in bed, Esther?"

"Here she is; lie still, Jules; you know you are ill."

"But not now. Ah, Kemp, I can get up now; I am quite well, you know."

"Wait till morning," he resisted, humoring this inevitable idiosyncrasy.

"But it is morning now; and I feel so light and well. Open the shutters,
Ruth; see, Esther; a beautiful day."

It was quite dark with the darkness that immediately precedes dawn; the
windows were bespangled with the distillations of the night, which gleamed
as the light fell on them.

Mrs. Levice seated herself beside him.

"It is very early, Jules," she said, smiling with hope, not knowing that
this deceptive feeling was but the rose-flush of the sinking sun; "but if
you feel well when day breaks you can get up, can't he Doctor?"

"Yes."

Levice lay back with closed eyes for some minutes. A quivering smile
crossed his face and his eyes opened.

"Were you singing that song just now, Ruth, my angel?"

"What son, Father dear?"

"That--'Adieu, --adieu--pays--amours'--we sang it--you know--when we left
home together--my mother said--I was too small--too small--and--too--"

Ruth looked around wildly for Kemp. He had left the room; she must go for
him. As she came into the hall, she saw him and Louis hurriedly advancing
up the corridor. Seeing her, they reached her side in a breath.

"Go," she whispered through pale lips; "he is breathing with that--"

Kemp laid his hand upon her shoulder.

"Stay here a second; it will be quite peaceful."

She looked at him in agony and walked blindly in after Louis.

He was lying as they had left him, with Mrs. Levice's hand in his.

"Keep tight hold, darling," the rattling voice was saying. "Don't take it
off till--another takes it--it will not be hard then." Suddenly he saw
Louis standing pale and straight at the foot of the bed.

"My good boy," he faltered, "my good boy, God will bless--" His eyes closed
again; paler and paler grew his face.

"Father!" cried Ruth in agony.

He looked toward her smiling.

"The sweetest word," he murmured; "it was--my glory."

Silence. A soul is passing; a simple, loving soul, giving no trouble in
its passage; dropping the toils, expanding with infinity. Not utterly
gone; immortality is assured us in the hearts that have touched ours.

Silence. A shadow falls, and Jules Levice's work is done; and the first
sunbeams crept about him, lay at his feet a moment, touched the quiet
hands, fell on the head like a benediction, and rested there.

Chapter XXVII

I thought you would be quiet at this hour," said Rose Delano, seating
herself opposite her friend in the library, the Thursday evening after the
funeral. They looked so different even in the waning light, --Ruth in soft
black, her white face shining like a lily above her sombre gown, Rose, like
a bright firefly, perched on a cricket, her cheeks rosy, her eyes sparkling
from walking against the sharp, cold wind.

"We are always quiet now," she answered softly; "friends come and go, but
we are very quiet. It does me good to see you, Rosebud."

"Does it?" her sweet eyes smiled happily. "I was longing to drop in if
only to hold your hand for a minute; but I did not know exactly where to
find you."

"Why, where could I be but here?"

"I thought possibly you had removed to your husband's home."

For a second Ruth looked at her wonderingly; then the slow rich color
mounted, inch by inch, back to her little ears till her face was one rosy
cloud.

"No; I have stayed right on."

"I saw the doctor to-day," she chatted. "He looks pale; is he too busy?"

"I do not know, --that is, I suppose so. How are the lessons, Rose?"

"Everything is improving wonderfully; I am so happy, dear Mrs. Kemp, and
what I wished to say was that all happiness and all blessings should, I
pray, fall on you two who have been so much to me. Miss Gwynne told me
that to do good was your birthright. She said that the funeral, with its
vast gathering of friends, rich, poor, old, young, strong, and crippled of
all grades of society, was a revelation of his life even to those who
thought they knew him best. You should feel very proud with such sweet
memories."

"Yes," assented Ruth, her eyes quickly suffused with tears.

They sat quietly thus for some time, till Rose, rising from her cricket,
kissed her friend silently and departed.

The waning light fell softly through the lace curtains, printing quaint
arabesques on the walls and furniture and bathing the room in a rich yellow
light. A carriage rolled up in front of the house. Dr. Kemp handed the
reins to his man and alighted. He walked slowly up to the door. It was
very still about the house in the evening twilight. He pushed his hat back
on his head and looked up at the clear blue sky, as if the keen breeze were
pleasant to his temples. Then with a quick motion, as though recalling his
thoughts, he turned and rang the bell. The latchkey of the householder was
not his.

Ruth, sitting in the shadows, had scarcely heard the ring. She was
absorbed in a new train of thought. Rose Delano was the first one who had
clearly brought home to her the thought that she was really married. She
had been very quiet with her other friends, and every one, looking at her
grief-stricken face, had shrunk from mentioning what would have called for
congratulation. Rose, who knew only these two, naturally dwelt on their
changed relations. Her husband! Her dormant love gave an exultant bound.
Wave upon wave of emotion beat upon her heart; she sprang to her feet; the
door opened, and he came in. He saw her standing faintly outlined in the
dark.

"Good-evening," he said, coming slowly toward her with extended hand; "have
you been quite well to-day?" He felt her fingers tremble in his close
clasp, and let them fall slowly. "Bob sent you these early violets. Shall
I light the gas?"

"If you will."

He turned from her and rapidly filled the room with light.

"Where is your mother?" he asked, turning toward her again. Her face was
hidden in the violets.

"Upstairs with Louis. They had something to arrange. Did you wish to see
her?" To judge from Ruth's manner, Kemp might have been a visitor.

"No," he replied. "If you will sit down, we can talk quietly till they
come in."

As she resumed her high-backed chair and he seated himself in another
before her, he was instantly struck by some new change in her face. The
faraway, impersonal look with which she had met him in these sad days had
been what he had expected, and he had curbed with a strong will every
impulse for any closer recognition. But this new look, --what did it mean?
In the effort to appear unconcerned the dark color had risen to his own
cheeks.

"I had quite a pleasant little encounter to-day," he observed; "shall I
tell it to you?"

"If it will not tire you."

Keeping his eyes fixed on the picture over her head, he did not see the
look of anxious love that dwelt in her eyes as they swept over him.

"Oh, no," he responded, slightly smiling over the recollection. "I was
coming down my office steps this afternoon, and had just reached the foot,
when a bright-faced, bright-haired boy stood before me with an eager light
in his eyes. 'Aren't you Dr. Kemp?' he asked breathlessly, like one who
had been running. I recollected him the instant he raised his hat from his
nimbus of golden hair. 'Yes; and you are Will Tyrrell,' I answered
promptly. 'Why, how did you remember?' he asked in surprise; 'you saw me
only once.' 'Never mind; I remember that night,' I answered. 'How is that
baby sister of yours?' "Oh, she's all right,' he replied dismissing the
subject with the royalty that brotherhood confers. 'I say, do you ever see
Miss Levice nowadays?' I looked at him with a half-smile, not knowing
whether to set him right or not, when he finally blurted out, 'She's the
finest girl I ever met. Do you know her well, Doctor?' 'Well,' I
answered, 'I know her slightly, --she is my wife.'"

He had told the little incident brightly; but as he came to the end, his
voice gradually lowered, and as he pronounced the last word, his eyes
sought hers. Her eyelids fluttered; her breath seemed suspended.

"I said you were my wife," he repeated softly, leaning forward, his hands
grasping the chair-arms.

"And what," asked Ruth, a little excited ring in her voice, --"what did
Will say?"

"Who cared?" he asked, quickly moving closer to her; "do you?" He caught
her hand in his, scarce knowing what he said, and interlaced his fingers
with hers.

"Ruth," he asked below his breath, "have you forgotten entirely what we are
to each other?"

It was such a cruel lover's act to make her face him thus, her bosom
panting, her face changing from white to red and from red to white.

"Have you, sweet love?" he insisted.

"No," she whispered, trying to turn her head from him.

"No, who?"

With an irrepressible movement she sprang up, pushing his hand from hers.
He rose also, his face pale and disturbed, and indescribable fear
overpowering him.

"You mean," he said quietly, "that you no longer love me, --say it now and
have it over."

"Oh," she cried in exquisite pain, "why do you tantalize me so--can't you
see that--"

She looked so beautiful thus confessed that with sudden ecstacy he drew her
to him and pressed his lips in one long kiss to hers.

A little later Mrs. Levice and Louis came down. Mrs. Levice entered first
and stood still; Louis, looking over her shoulder, saw too--nothing but
Ruth standing encircled by her husband's arm; her lovely face smiled into
his, which looked down at her with an expression that drove every drop of
blood from Arnold's face. For a moment they were unseen; but when Ruth,
who was the first to feel their presence, started from Kemp as if she had
committed a crime, Arnold came forward entirely at his ease.

Kemp met Mrs. Levice with outstretched hands and smiling eyes.

"Good-evening, Mother," he said; "we had just been speaking of you." Mrs.
Levice looked into his deep, tender eyes, and raising her arm, drew his
head down and kissed him.

Ruth had rolled forward a comfortable chair, and stood beside it with shy,
sweet look as her mother sat down and drew her down beside her. Sorrow had
softened Mrs. Levice wonderfully; and looking for love, she wooed everybody
by her manner.

"What were you saying of me?" she asked, keeping Ruth's hand in hers and
looking up at Kemp, who leaned against the mantel-shelf, his face radiant
with gladness.

"We were saying that it will do you good to come out of this great house to
our little one, till we find something better."

Mrs. Levice looked across at Louis, who stood at the piano, his back half
turned, looking over a book.

"It is very sweet to be wanted by you all now," she said, her voice
trembling slightly; "but I never could leave this house to strangers,
--every room is too full of old associations, and sweet memories of him.
Louis wants me to go down the coast with him soon, stopping for a month or
so at Coronado. Go to your cottage meanwhile by yourselves; even I should
be an intruder. There, Ruth, don't I know? And when we come back, we
shall see. It is all settled, isn't it, Louis?"

He turned around then.

"Yes, I feel that I need a change of scene, and I should like to have her
with me; you do not need her now."

Ruth looked at his careworn face, and said with tender solicitude, --

"You are right, Louis."

And so it was decided.

Book of the day: