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   Chapter 39 No.39

Through stained glass By George Agnew Chamberlain Characters: 10630

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


LEIGHTON'S heart ached for his boy as he watched him go, and during the next few weeks Iris pity changed into an active anxiety. In setting that trap-he could call it nothing else-for Lew, he and H lne had put forces into conflict that were not amenable to any light control. Lewis had passed his word. Leighton knew he would never go back on it. On the other hand, for the first time in all her life Folly's primal instinct was being balked by a denial she could comprehend only as having its source in Leighton rather than in Lew.

Folly was being eaten away by desire. She was growing desperate. So were Marie and the masseuse. When a morning came that found Folly with purple shadows under her eyes their despair became terror.

"Madame," cried Marie, "why don't you marry him? You've got to stop it. You've got to stop it. Anyway, all ways, you've got to stop it. It's a-eating of you up. If you're a loving of him that much, why don't cher?"

"Loving of him!" sneered Folly. "I-I hate him. No, no, that's not true.

I don't hate Lew, poor dear. It's them I hate. And I won't be

beaten." She pounded her doubled knee with her fist. "I don't want to

marry him; but if they push me, if they keep on pushing me--"

It can be seen from the above that Lew was beginning to get on Folly's nerves. She had long since begun to get on his. When they were with others it was all right; Folly was her old self. But whenever they were alone, the same wordy battle began and never ended. Lew grew morose, heavy. He avoided his father, but he could do no work; so time hung on his hands, and began to rot away his fiber as only too much time can.

One day H lne sent for Leighton.

"Glen," she said, "we've been playing with something bigger than merely

Folly. I saw her to-day, just a flash in Bond Street. I saw her face. If

Lew holds out another week, she's going to marry him, and yet, somehow,

I don't believe she loves him. Something tells me you weren't wrong when

you said she could love nothing but just herself."

Leighton sighed.

"I know I wasn't wrong," he said. "But you are right: she's going to marry him. And I'll have to stand by and see him through. Watch her break him up and throw him off. And I'll have to pick up the pieces and stick them together. One doesn't like to have to do that sort of thing twice. I did it with my own life. I don't want to do it with Lew's. There are such a lot of patched lives. I wanted him-I wanted him-"

H lne crossed the room quickly, and put her arms around Leighton, one hand pressing his head to her.

"Glen," she said softly, "why, Glen!"

Leighton was not sobbing. He was simply quivering from head to toe-quivering so that he could not speak. His teeth chattered. H lne smoothed his brow and his crisp hair, shot with gray. She soothed him.

"H lne," he said at last, "he's my boy."

"Glen," said H lne, "if you love him-love him like that, she can't break him up. Don't be frightened. Go and find him. Send him to me."

Leighton did not have to look for Lew. He had scarcely reached the flat when Lew came rushing in, a transformed Lew, radiant, throbbing with happiness.

"Dad," he cried, "she's said 'Yes.' She's going to marry me. Do you hear, Dad?"

"Yes, I hear," said Leighton, dully. Then he tossed back his head. He would not blur Lew's happy hour. He held out his hand. "I hear," he repeated, "and I'll-I'll see you through."

Lewis gripped the extended hand with all his strength, then he sat down and chatted eagerly for half an hour. He did not see that his father was tired.

"Go and tell H lne," he said when Lewis at last paused. "Telephone her that you want to talk to her."

H lne was on the point of going out. She told Lewis to come and see her at ten the next morning. He went, and as he was standing just off the hall, waiting to be announced, the knocker on the great front door was raised, and fell with a resounding clang. Before the doorman could open, it fell again.

Lewis, startled, looked around. The door opened. A large man in evening dress staggered in. His clothes were in disorder. His high hat had been rubbed the wrong way in spots. But Lewis hardly noticed the clothes. His eyes were fastened on the man's face. It was bloated, pouched, and mottled with purple spots and veins. Fear filled it. Not a sudden fear, but fear that was ingrown, that proclaimed that face its habitual habitation. The man's eyes bulged and stared, yet saw nothing that was. He blundered past the doorman.

Lewis caught a glimpse of a tawdry woman peering out from a hansom at the disappearing man. "Thank Gawd!" he heard her say as the cab drove off.

With one hand on the wall the man guided himself toward the stairs at the end of the hall. On the first step he stumbled and would have fallen had it not been for a quick footman. The man recovered his balance and struck viciously at the servant. Then he clutched the baluster, and stumbled his way up the stairs.

Lewis was frightened. He turned and hurried through the great, silent drawing-rooms, through the somber library, to the little passage to H lne's room. He met the footman who had gone to announce him. He did not stop to hear what he said. He pushed by him and knocked at H lne's door.

"Come in," she cried.

Le

wis stood before her. He was excited.

"H lne," he said, "there's a man come in-a horrible man. He pushed by the servants. He's gone upstairs. I think-well, I think he's not himself. Do you want me to do anything?"

H lne was standing. At Lewis's first words she had flushed; then she turned pale, deathly pale, and steadied herself with one hand on the back of a chair. She put the other hand to the side of her head and pressed it there.

"That's it," she said; "he's-he's not himself." Then she faced Lewis.

"Lew, that's my-that's Lord Derl that you saw."

"H lne!" cried Lew, putting out quick hands toward her. "Oh, I'm sorry-I'm sorry I said that!"

His contrition was so deep, so true, that H lne smiled, to put him at his ease.

"It's all right, Lew; it's all right that you saw," she said evenly.

"Come here. Sit down here. Now, what have you got to tell me?"

Lewis was still frowning.

"It seemed," he said, "such a big thing. Now, somehow, it doesn't seem so big. I just wanted to tell you that Folly has come around at last. We're going to be married."

For a long moment there was silence, then H lne said: "You love her,

Lew? You're sure you love her?"

Lewis nodded his head vehemently.

"And you're sure she loves you?" asked H lne.

"Yes," said Lewis, not so positively. "In her way she does. She says she's wanted me from the first day she saw me."

H lne sat down. She held one knee in her locked hands. Her face was half turned from Lewis. She was staring out through the narrow, Gothic panes of the broad window. Her face was still pale and set. Lewis's eyes swept over her. Her beauty struck him as never before. Something had been added to it. H lne seemed to him a girl, a frail girl. How could he ever have thought this Woman worldly! Her fragrance reached him. It was a fragrance that had no weight, but it bound him-bound him hand and foot in its gossamer web. He felt that he ought to struggle, but that he did not wish to. He waited for H lne to speak.

"Love," she said at last, "is a terrible thing. Young people don't know what a terrible thing it is. We talk about the word 'love' being so abused. We think we abuse it, but it's love that abuses itself. There are so many kinds of love, and every big family is bound to include a certain number of rotters. Love isn't terrible through the things we do to it; it's terrible for the things it does to us."

H lne paused.

"I'm glad you saw what you did to-day because it will make it easier for you to understand. Tour father loves me, and I love him. It's not the love of youth. It's the love of sanity. The love of sanity is a fine, stalwart love, but it hasn't the unnamable sweetness or the ineffaceable bitterness of the love of youth. Years ago your father wanted to take me away from-from what you saw. There did not seem to be any reason why we should not go. He and I-we're not wedded to any place or to any time. We have a World that's ours alone. We could take it with us wherever we went."

"H lne," whispered Lewis, "why didn't you go?"

"H lne unlocked her hands, put them on the lounge at her sides, and stayed herself on them. She stared at the floor.

"We didn't go," she said, "because of the terrible things that love-bitter love-had done to us."

She turned luminous eyes toward Lewis.

"You say you love Folly; you think she loves you. Lew, perhaps, she is your pal to-day. Will she be your pal always? You know what a pal is. You've told me about that little girl Natalie. A pal is one who can't do wrong, who can't go wrong, who can't grow wrong. Your pal is you-your blood, your body, your soul. Is Folly your blood, your body, your soul? If she is, she'll grow finer and finer and you will, too, and years and time and place will fade away before the greatest battle-cry the world has ever known-'We're partners.'"

H lne turned her eyes away.

"But if you're not really pals for always, the one that doesn't care will grow coarse. If it's Folly, her past will seize upon her. She'll run from your condemning eyes, but you-you can't run from your own soul.

"Lew, I know. I'm awake. Every woman has a right to an awakening, but most of them by good fortune miss it. There's one in ten that doesn't. I didn't. The tenth woman-that's what I'm coming to, and whether it's the tenth woman or the tenth man, it's all the same in bitter love."

H lne's eyes took on the far-away look that blots out the present world, and clothes a distant vision in flesh and blood.

"You saw what you saw to-day," she went on in a voice so low that Lewis leaned forward to catch her words. "Remember that, and then listen. The love that comes to youth is like the dawn of day. There is no resplendent dawn without a sun, nor does the flower of a woman's soul open to a lesser light. The tenth woman," she repeated, "the one woman. To her awakening comes with a man, not through him. He is part of the dawn of life, and though clouds may later hide his shining face, her heart remembers forever the glory of the morning."

The tears welled from her eyes unheeded. Lewis leaped forward with a cry.

"H lne! H lne!"

She held him off.

"Don't touch me!" she gasped. "I only wanted you to see the whole burden of love. Now go, dear. Please go. I'm-I'm very tired."

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