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The Wheel of Life By Ellen Anderson Gholson Glasgow Characters: 7530

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

Did he possess the strength as well as the love that she needed? Adams asked himself a little later as he walked back under the stars. He saw her as he had just left her-wan, despairing; so bloodless that the light seemed shining through her features, and then he remembered the radiant smile which she had lost, the glorious womanhood obscured now by humiliation. An assurance, in which there was almost exultation, flooded his thoughts, and he was aware that the passion he felt for her had been suddenly strengthened by an emotion of equal power-by the longing born in his heart to afford protection to whatever suffered within his sight.

Never for an instant, since he had entered the room where she retreated before him, had he doubted either his appointed mission or his power of renewal. His whole experience, he understood now, had directed him to this hour which he had not foreseen, and the worldly success for which he had once struggled meant to him at last only that he might bring hope where there was failure. Even Connie-her love, her tragic history, her pitiable reliance upon him at the end-showed to him in the aspect of a human revelation-for his fuller understanding of Connie had confirmed him in the patience by which alone he might win back Laura to the happiness which she had lost.

The road stretching ahead of him was no longer obscured, but shone faintly luminous out of the surrounding darkness. Not the future alone but the desert places through which he had come had blossomed, and the beauty which was revealed to him at last was the beauty in all things that have form or being-in the earth no less than in the sky, in the flesh no less than in the spirit, for were not earth and flesh, after all, only sky and spirit in the making? The perfect plan, he had learned, in the end, is not for any part but for the whole.

Across the ferry, he found a cab which took him to Gerty's house, and in response to his message, she came down immediately, looking excited and perturbed, in an evening gown of black and silver.

"Have you brought me news of Laura?" she asked breathlessly. "Perry's dragging me to a dinner, but if she's ill, I can't go-I won't."

"Don't go," he answered, "she's not ill, but if she were it would be better. Will you come with me now and bring her back with you?"

Without replying to his question, she ran from the room and returned, in a moment, wearing a hat and a long coat which covered her black and silver dress.

"The carriage is waiting now," she said, "we can take it and let Perry go to his dinner in a cab."

"But-good Lord, Gerty-what am I to say to them?" demanded Perry while he shook hands with Adams. "I never could make up an excuse in my life, you know."

Then his eyes blinked rapidly and he fell back with merely a muttered protest, for Gerty shone, at the instant, with a beauty which neither he nor Adams had ever seen in her before. The wonderful child quality softened her look, and they watched her soul bloom in her face like a closed flower that expands in sunlight.

"I don't know, my dear," she responded gently, and with her hand on Adams's arm, she ran down the steps and into the carriage before the door. As they drove away, she looked up at him with a tender little smile.

"I am so glad that she has you," she said.

"In having you, she has a great deal more."

"It is you who have done it all-you expected me to have courage, so I have it. Had you expected me to be cowardly, I should have been so."

"Well, I expect you to save her," he answered quietly.

"Does she need it? What was it? What does it mean?"

"You'll know to-night, perhaps. I shall never know, but what does it matter?"

"I saw Arnold to-day," she said, "he is terribly-t

erribly-" she hesitated for a word, "cut up about it. Yet he swears he can't for the life of him see that he was to blame. Had he been to blame, he says, he would have shot himself."

"Would he?" he remarked indifferently.

"He sails for Europe on Saturday-if he hears she's found."

He bit back an exclamation of anger.

"What, under heaven, has he to do with it?" he asked.

"A great deal, one would think. But have you seen her? Tell me of her."

"Be good to her," he answered, "she is in a hard place and needs a great deal of love."

"And we can give it to her, you and I?"

"Mine is hers already, if it's any help."

"Was it hers before she knew Arnold even?"

"Long before-before he or you or I were born."

"And does she understand?"

"She doesn't know-but what difference does that make?"

Her eyes, in the flickering light, gave him an impression of remoteness as of dim stars.

"I wonder how it feels to be loved like that?" she said, a little wistfully.

"You would never have cared for it," he answered, with a flash of his penetrating insight, "for the kind of man who could have loved you in that way you couldn't have loved."

"You mean that I was born to adore the god in the brute?" she asked.

"Oh, well, so long as it's the god!" he retorted laughing.

But she paid no heed to his remark, and drawing her coat about her as if she were cold, she sat in silence until the carriage was driven upon the ferry and they began the trip across.

"She came this way all alone and at night?" she said.

"How or why we shall probably never know entirely," he answered. "I doubt if she realised herself where she was going."

"It looks meaningless from a distance, but, I suppose, in reality, it was a courageous flight?"

"Yes, I think there was courage in it," he responded quietly.

She turned her eyes away, looking out as they drove through the open country upon the black fields and the stars. Neither of them spoke again until the carriage stopped and the footman jumped down to ask for some directions. Then as they drew up presently before the little gate, Adams helped her out and along the path into the house.

"She is in there," he said, pointing to a closed door, "when you see her you will understand."

"But you will come, too?" she asked, hesitating.

He shook his head. "Her heart is bleeding-it's a woman that she wants."

Then he opened the door, and pushing her gently inside, closed it after her.

At first Gerty could see but faintly by the light of a lamp which smoked, but as she went quickly forward, Laura rose from the sofa upon which she had been lying, and came a step to meet her.

"Why did you come? I didn't want you-I didn't want anyone," she said.

Before the hard tones of her voice, Gerty stood still, shrinking slightly away in her baffled splendour. Her heart strained toward her friend, yet when she tried to think of some comforting word that she might utter, she found only a vacancy of scattered phrases. What would words mean to Laura now? What word among all others was there that she could speak to her?

For a moment, groping blindly for light, she hesitated; then her arms opened, and she caught Laura into them in spite of her feeble effort at resistance.

"Dearest! dearest! dearest!" she repeated, for she had found the word at last.

Partly because she was a woman and partly because of her bitter triumphs, she had understood that the wisdom in love is the only wisdom which avails in the supreme agony of life. Neither philosophy nor religion mattered now, for presently she felt that her bosom was warm with tears, and when Laura lifted her head, the two women kissed in that intimate knowledge which is uttered without speech.

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