Out Of The Night





"There is but one remedy for your complaint." Doctor Suydam settled

deeper into his chair. "Marry the girl."



"That is the only piece of your professional advice I ever cared to

follow. But how?"



"Any way you can--use force if necessary--only marry her. Otherwise I

predict all sorts of complications for you--melancholia, brain-fag,

bankruptcy--"



Austin laughed. "Could you write me a prescription?"



"Oh, she'll have you, Bob. You don't seem to realize that you are a

good catch."



Austin finished buckling his puttee before rising to his full height.

"That doesn't mean anything to her. She doesn't need to make a catch."



"Nonsense! She's just like all the others, only richer and nicer. Go

at her as if she were the corn-market; she won't be half so hard to

corner. You have made a name for yourself, and a blamed sight more

money than you deserve; you are young--comparatively, I mean."



The elder man stroked his shock of iron-gray hair for answer.



"Well, at any rate you are a picturesque personage, even if you can't

wear riding-clothes."



"Doesn't a man look like the devil in these togs?" Austin posed

awkwardly in front of a mirror.



"There's only one person who can look worse in riding-clothes than a

man--that's a woman."



"What heresy, particularly in a society doctor! But I agree with you.

I learned to ride on her account, you know. As a matter of fact, I

hate it. The sight of a horse fills me with terror."



Doctor Suydam laughed outright at this. "She tells me that you have a

very good seat."



"Really!" Austin's eyes gleamed suddenly. "You know I never had

a chance to ride when I was a youngster--in fact, I never had an

opportunity to do anything except work. That's what makes me so crude

and awkward. What I know I have picked up during the last few years."



"You make me tired!" declared the former. "You aren't--"



"Oh, I don't skate on waxed floors nor spill tea, nor clutch at my

chauffeur in a tight place, but you know what I mean. I feel lonesome

in a dress-suit, a butler fills me with gloom, and--Well, I'm not one

of you, that's all."



"Perhaps that's what makes a hit with Marmion. She's used to the other

kind."



"It seems to me that I have always worked," ruminated the former

speaker. "I don't remember that I ever had time to play, even after

I came to the city. It's a mighty sad thing to rob a boy of his

childhood; it makes him a dull, unattractive sort when he grows up.

I used to read about people like Miss Moore, but I never expected to

know them until I met you. Of course, that corn deal rather changed

things."



"Well, I should rather say it did!" Suydam agreed, with emphasis.



"The result is that when I am with her I forget the few things I have

done that are worth while, and I become the farm-hand again. I'm

naturally rough and angular, and she sees it."



"Oh, you're too sensitive! You have a heart like a girl underneath

that saturnine front of yours, and while you look like the Sphinx,

you are really as much of a kid at heart as I am. Where do you ride

to-day?"



"Riverside Drive."



"What horse is she riding?"



"Pointer."



The doctor shook his head. "Too many automobiles on the Drive. He's a

rotten nag for a woman, anyhow. His mouth is as tough as a stirrup,

and he has the disposition of a tarantula. Why doesn't she stick to

the Park?"



"You know Marmion."



"Say, wouldn't it be great if Pointer bolted and you saved her life?

She couldn't refuse you then."



Austin laughed. "That's not exactly the way I'd care to win her.

However, if Pointer bolted I'd probably get rattled and fall off my

own horse. I don't like the brutes. Come on, I'm late."



"That's right," grumbled the other, "leave me here while you make

love to the nicest girl in New York. I'm going down to the office and

amputate somebody."



They descended the single flight to the street, where Austin's groom

was struggling with a huge black.



"It's coming pretty soft for you brokers," the doctor growled, as his

companion swung himself into the saddle. "The next time I get a friend

I'll keep him to myself."



Austin leaned forward with a look of grave anxiety upon his rugged

features and said: "Wish me luck, Doc. I'm going to ask her to-day."



"Good for you, old fellow." There was great fondness in the younger

man's eyes as he wrung the rider's hand and waved him adieu, then

watched him disappear around the corner.



"She'll take him," he mused, half aloud. "She's a sensible girl even

if all New York has done its best to spoil her." He hailed a taxicab

and was hurried to his office.



It was perhaps two hours later that he was called on the telephone.



"Hello! Yes, yes! What is it?" he cried, irritably. "Mercy Hospital!

What?" The young physician started. "Hurt, you say? Run-away? Go on,

quick!" He listened with whitening face, then broke in abruptly: "Of

course he sent for me. I'll be right up."



He slammed the receiver upon its hook and, seizing his hat, bolted out

through a waiting-room full of patients. His car was in readiness, and

he called to his chauffeur in such tones that the fellow vaulted to

his seat.



"Go up Madison Avenue; there's less traffic there. And for God's sake

hurry!"



During two years' service with New York's most fashionable physician

the driver had never received a command like this, and he opened up

his machine. A policeman warned him at Thirty-third Street and the car

slowed down, at which Suydam leaned forward, crying, roughly:



"To hell with regulations! There's a man dying!"



The last word was jerked from him as he was snapped back into his

seat. Regardless of admonitory shouts from patrolmen, the French

car sang its growing song, while truck-drivers bellowed curses

and pedestrians fled from crossings at the scream of its siren. A

cross-town car blocked them, and the brakes screeched in agony, while

Doctor Suydam was well-nigh catapulted into the street; then they were

under way again, with the car leaping from speed to speed. It was the

first time the driver had ever dared to disregard those upraised,

white-gloved hands, and it filled his joy-riding soul with exultation.

A street repair loomed ahead, whereupon, with a sickening skid, they

swung into a side street; the gears clashed again, and an instant

later they shot out upon Fifth Avenue. At the next corner they lay

motionless in a blockade, while the motor shuddered; then they dodged

through an opening where the mud-guards missed by an inch and were

whirling west toward Broadway. At 109th Street a bicycle officer

stared in amazement at the dwindling number beneath the rear axle,

then ducked his head and began to pedal. He overhauled the speeding

machine as it throbbed before the doors of Mercy Hospital, to be

greeted by a grinning chauffeur who waved him toward the building and

told of a doctor's urgency.



Inside, Doctor Suydam, pallid of face and shaking in a most

unprofessional manner, was bending over a figure in riding-clothes,

the figure of a tall, muscular man who lay silent, deaf to his words

of greeting.



They told him all there was to tell in the deadly, impersonal way

of hospitals, while he nodded swift comprehension. There had been a

runaway--a woman on a big, white-eyed bay, that had taken fright at an

automobile; a swift rush up the Driveway, a lunge over the neck of

the pursuing horse, then a man wrenched from his saddle and dragged

beneath cruel, murderous hoofs. The bay had gone down, and the woman

was senseless when the ambulance arrived, but she had revived and

had been hurried to her home. In the man's hand they had found the

fragment of a bridle rein gripped with such desperation that they

could not remove it until he regained consciousness. He had asked

regarding the girl's safety, then sighed himself into oblivion again.

They told Suydam that he would die.



With sick heart the listener cursed all high-spirited women and

high-strung horses, declaring them to be works of the devil, like

automobiles; then he went back to the side of his friend, where other

hands less unsteady were at work.



"Poor lonely old Bob!" he murmured. "Not a soul to care except Marmion

and me, and God knows whether she cares or not."



* * * * *



But Robert Austin did not die, although the attending surgeons said

he would, said he should, in fact, unless all the teachings of their

science were at fault. He even offended the traditions of the hospital

by being removed to his own apartments in a week. There Suydam, who

had watched him night and day, told him that Miss Moore had a broken

shoulder and hence could not come to see him.



"Poor girl!" said Austin, faintly. "If I'd known more about horses I

might have saved her."



"If you'd known more about horses you'd have let Pointer run,"

declared his friend. "Nobody but an idiot or a Bob Austin would have

taken the chance you did. How is your head?"



The sick man closed his eyes wearily. "It hurts all the time. What's

the matter with it?"



"We've none of us been able to discover what isn't the matter with it!

Why in thunder did you hold on so long?"



"Because I--I love her, I suppose."



"Did you ask her to marry you?" Suydam had been itching to ask the

question for days.



"No, I was just getting to it when Pointer bolted. I--I'm slow at such

things." There was a moment's pause. "Doc, what's the matter with my



eyes? I can't see very well."



"Don't talk so much," ordered the physician. "You're lucky to be here

at all. Thanks to that copper-riveted constitution of yours, you'll

get well."



But it seemed that the patient was fated to disappoint the predictions

of his friend as well as those of the surgeons at Mercy Hospital. He

did not recover in a manner satisfactory to his medical adviser, and

although he regained the most of his bodily vigor, the injury to his

eyes baffled even the most skilled specialists.



He was very brave about it, however, and wrung the heart of Doctor

Suydam by the uncomplaining fortitude with which he bore examination

after examination. Learned oculists theorized vaporously about optic

atrophies, fractures, and brain pressures of one sort and another; and

meanwhile Robert Austin, in the highest perfection of bodily vigor, in

the fullest possession of those faculties that had raised him from an

unschooled farm-boy to a position of eminence in the business world,

went slowly blind. The shadows crept in upon him with a deadly,

merciless certainty that would have filled the stoutest heart with

gloom, and yet he maintained a smiling stoicism that deceived all but

his closest associates. To Doctor Suydam, however, the incontestable

progress of the malady was frightfully tragic. He alone knew the man's

abundant spirits, his lofty ambitions, and his active habits. He alone

knew of the overmastering love that had come so late and was

destined to go unvoiced, and he raved at the maddening limits of his

profession. In Austin's presence he strove to be cheerful and to

lighten the burden he knew was crushing the sick man; but at other

times he bent every energy toward a discovery of some means to check

the affliction, some hand more skilled than those he knew of. In time,

however, he recognized the futility of his efforts, and resigned

himself to the worst. He had a furious desire to acquaint Marmion

Moore with the truth, and to tell her, with all the brutal frankness

he could muster, of her part in this calamity. But Austin would not

hear of it.



"She doesn't dream of the truth," the invalid told him. "And I don't

want her to learn. She thinks I'm merely weak, and it grieves her

terribly to know that I haven't recovered. If she really knew--it

might ruin her life, for she is a girl who feels deeply. I want to

spare her that; it's the least I can do."



"But she'll find it out some time."



"I think not. She comes to see me every day--"



"Every day?"



"Yes. I'm expecting her soon."



"And she doesn't know?"



Austin shook his head. "I never let her see there's anything the

matter with my sight. She drives up with her mother, and I wait for

her there in the bay-window. It's getting hard for me to distinguish

her now, but I recognize the hoofbeats--I can tell them every time."



"But--I don't understand."



"I pretend to be very weak," explained the elder man, with a guilty

flush. "I sit in the big chair yonder and my Jap boy waits on her. She

is very kind." Austin's voice grew husky. "I'm sorry to lose sight of

the Park out yonder, and the trees and the children--they're growing

indistinct. I--I like children. I've always wanted some for myself.

I've dreamed about--that." His thin, haggard face broke into a wistful

smile. "I guess that is all over with now."



"Why?" questioned Suydam, savagely. "Why don't you ask her to marry

you, Bob? She couldn't refuse--and God knows you need her."



"That's just it; she couldn't refuse. This is the sort of thing a

fellow must bear alone. She's too young, and beautiful, and fine to be

harnessed up to a worn-out old--cripple."



"Cripple!" The other choked. "Don't talk like that. Don't be so blamed

resigned. It tears my heart out. I--I--why, I believe I feel this more

than you do."



Austin turned his face to the speaker with a look of such tragic

suffering that the younger man fell silent.



"I'm glad I can hide my feelings," Austin told him, slowly, "for that

is what I have to do every instant she is with me. I don't wish to

inflict unnecessary pain upon my friends, but don't you suppose I know

what this means? It means the destruction of all my fine hopes, the

death of all I hold dear in the world. I love my work, for I am--or I

was--a success; this means I must give it up. I'm strong in body and

brain; this robs me of my usefulness. All my life I have prayed that

I might some time love a woman; that time has come, but this means

I must give her up and be lonely all my days. I must grope my way

through the dark with never a ray of light to guide me. Do you know

how awful the darkness is?" He clasped his hands tightly. "I must go

hungering through the night, with a voiceless love to torture me. Just

at the crowning point of my life I've been snuffed out. I must fall

behind and see my friends desert me."



"Bob!" cried the other, in shocked denial.



"Oh, you know it will come to that. People don't like to feel pity

forever tugging at them. I've been a lonely fellow and my friends are

numbered. For a time they will come to see me, and try to cheer me up;

they will even try to include me in their pleasures; then when it is

no longer a new story and their commiseration has worn itself out they

will gradually fall away. It always happens so. I'll be 'poor Bob

Austin,' and I'll go feeling my way through life an object of pity, a

stumbling, incomplete thing that has no place to fill, no object to

work for, no one to care. God! I'm not the sort to go blind! Where's

the justice of it? I've lived clean. Why did this happen to me? Why?

Why? I know what the world is; I've been a part of it. I've seen the

spring and the autumn colors and I've watched the sunsets. I've looked

into men's faces and read their souls, and when you've done that you

can't live in darkness. I can't and--I won't!"



"What do you mean?"



"I'm going away."



"When? Where?"



"When I can no longer see Marmion Moore and before my affliction

becomes known to her. Where--you can guess."



"Oh, that's cowardly, Bob! You're not that sort. You mustn't! It's

unbelievable," his friend cried, in a panic.



Austin smiled bitterly. "We have discussed that too often, and--I'm

not sure that what I intend doing is cowardly. I can't go now, for the

thing is too fresh in her memory, she might learn the truth and hold

herself to blame; but when she has lost the first shock of it I shall

walk out quietly and she won't even suspect. Other interests will come

into her life; I'll be only a memory. Then--" After a pause he went

on, "I couldn't bear to see her drop away with the rest."



"Don't give up yet," urged the physician. "She is leaving for the

summer, and while she is gone we'll try that Berlin chap. He'll be

here in August."



"And he will fail, as the others did. He will lecture some clinic

about me, that's all. Marmion will hear that my eyes have given out

from overwork, or something like that. Then I'll go abroad, and--I

won't come back." Austin, divining the rebellion in his friend's

heart, said, quickly: "You're the only one who could enlighten her,

Doc, but you won't do it. You owe me too much."



"I--I suppose I do," acknowledged Suydam, slowly. "I owe you more than

I can ever repay--"



"Wait--" The sick man raised his hand, while a sudden light blazed up

in his face. "She's coming!"



To the doctor's trained ear the noises of the street rose in a

confused murmur, but Austin spoke in an awed, breathless tone, almost

as if he were clairvoyant.



"I can hear the horses. She's coming to--see me."



"I'll go," exclaimed the visitor, quickly, but the other shook his

head.



"I'd rather have you stay."



Austin was poised in an attitude of the intensest alertness, his

angular, awkward body was drawn to its full height, his lean face was

lighted by some hidden fire that lent it almost beauty.



"She's getting out of the carriage," he cried, in a nervous voice;

then he felt his way to his accustomed arm-chair. Suydam was about to

go to the bay-window when he paused, regarding his friend curiously.



"What are you doing?"



The blind man had begun to beat time with his hand, counting under his

breath: "One! Two! Three!--"



"She'll knock when I reach twenty-five. 'Sh! 'sh!" He continued his

pantomime, and Suydam realized that from repeated practice Austin had

gauged to a nicety the seconds Marmion Moore required to mount the

stairs. This was his means of holding himself in check. True to

prediction, at "Twenty-five" a gentle knock sounded, and Suydam opened

the door.



"Come in, Marmion."



The girl paused for the briefest instant on the threshold, and the

doctor noted her fleeting disappointment at seeing him; then she took

his hand.



"This is a surprise," she exclaimed. "I haven't seen you for ever so

long."



Her anxious glance swept past him to the big, awkward figure against

the window's light. Austin was rising with apparent difficulty, and

she glided to him.



"Please! Don't rise! How many times have I told you not to exert

yourself?"



Suydam noted the gentle, proprietary tone of her voice, and it amazed

him.



"I--am very glad that you came to see me." The afflicted man's voice

was jerky and unmusical. "How are you to-day, Miss?"



"He shouldn't rise, should he?" Miss Moore appealed to the physician.

"He is very weak and shouldn't exert himself."



The doctor wished that his friend might see the girl's face as he saw

it; he suddenly began to doubt his own judgment of women.



"Oh, I'm doing finely," Austin announced. "Won't you be seated?" He

waved a comprehensive gesture, and Suydam, marveling at the manner

in which the fellow concealed his infirmity, brought a chair for the

caller.



"I came alone to-day. Mother is shopping," Miss Moore was saying.

"See! I brought these flowers to cheer up your room." She held up a

great bunch of sweet peas. "I love the pink ones, don't you?"



Austin addressed the doctor. "Miss Moore has been very kind to me; I'm

afraid she feels it her duty--"



"No! No!" cried the girl.



"She rarely misses a day, and she always brings flowers. I'm very fond

of bright colors."



Suydam cursed at the stiff formality in the man's tone. How could any

woman see past that glacial front and glimpse the big, aching

heart beyond? Austin was harsh and repellent when the least bit

self-conscious, and now he was striving deliberately to heighten the

effect.



The physician wondered why Marmion Moore had gone even thus far in

showing her gratitude, for she was not the self-sacrificing kind. As

for a love match between two such opposite types, Suydam could not

conceive of it. Even if the girl understood the sweet, simple nature

of this man, even if she felt her own affections answer to his, Suydam

believed he knew the women of her set too well to imagine that she

could bring herself to marry a blind man, particularly one of no

address.



"We leave for the mountains to-morrow," Marmion said, "so I came to

say good-by, for a time."



"I--shall miss your visits," Austin could not disguise his genuine

regret, "but when you return I shall be thoroughly recovered. Perhaps

we can ride again."



"Never!" declared Miss Moore. "I shall never ride again. Think of the

suffering I've caused you. I--I--am dreadfully sorry."



To Suydam's amazement, he saw the speaker's eyes fill with tears. A

doubt concerning the correctness of his surmises came over him and he

rose quickly. After all, he reflected, she might see and love the real

Bob as he did, and if so she might wish to be alone with him in this

last hour. But Austin laughed at his friend's muttered excuse.



"You know there's nobody waiting for you. That's only a pretense to

find livelier company. You promised to dine with me." To Miss Moore he

explained: "He isn't really busy; why, he has been complaining for an

hour that the heat has driven all his patients to the country, and

that he is dying of idleness."



The girl's expression altered curiously. She shrank as if wounded; she

scanned the speaker's face with startled eyes before turning with a

strained smile to say:



"So, Doctor, we caught you that time. That comes from being a

high-priced society physician. Why don't you practise among the

masses? I believe the poor are always in need of help."



"I really have an engagement," Suydam muttered.



"Then break it for Mr. Austin's sake. He is lonely and--I must be

going in a moment."



The three talked for a time in the manner all people adopt for a

sick-room, then the girl rose and said, with her palm in Austin's

hand:



"I owe you so much that I can never hope to repay you, but you--you

will come to see me frequently this season. Promise! You won't hide

yourself, will you?"



The blind man smiled his thanks and spoke his farewell with

meaningless politeness; then, as the physician prepared to see her to

her carriage, Miss Moore said:



"No! Please stay and gossip with our invalid. It's only a step."



She walked quickly to the door, flashed them a smile, and was gone.



Suydam heard his patient counting as before.



"One! Two! Three--!"



At "Twenty-five" the elder man groped his way to the open bay-window

and bowed at the carriage below. There came the sound of hoofs and

rolling wheels, and the doctor, who had taken stand beside his friend,

saw Marmion Moore turn in her seat and wave a last adieu. Austin

continued to nod and smile in her direction, even after the carriage

was lost to view; then he felt his way back to the arm-chair and sank

limply into it.



"Gone! I--I'll never be able to see her again."



Suydam's throat tightened miserably. "Could you see her at all?"



"Only her outlines; but when she comes back in the fall I'll be as

blind as a bat." He raised an unsteady hand to his head and closed his

eyes. "I can stand anything except that! To lose sight of her dear

face--" The force of his emotion wrenched a groan from him.



"I don't know what to make of her," said the other. "Why didn't you

let me go, Bob? It was her last good-by; she wanted to be alone with

you. She might have--"



"That's it!" exclaimed Austin. "I was afraid of myself; afraid I'd

speak if I had the chance." His voice was husky as he went on. "It's

hard--hard, for sometimes I think she loves me, she's so sweet and so

tender. At such times I'm a god. But I know it can't be; that it is

only pity and gratitude that prompts her. Heaven knows I'm uncouth

enough at best, but now I have to exaggerate my rudeness. I play

a part--the part of a lumbering, stupid lout, while my heart is

breaking." He bowed his head in his hands, closing his dry, feverish

eyes once more. "It's cruelly hard. I can't keep it up."



The other man laid a hand on his shoulder, saying: "I don't know

whether you're doing right or not. I half suspect you are doing

Marmion a bitter wrong."



"Oh, but she can't--she can't love me!" Austin rose as if

frightened. "She might yield to her impulse and--well, marry me, for

she has a heart of gold, but it wouldn't last. She would learn some

time that it wasn't real love that prompted the sacrifice. Then I

should die."



The specialist from Berlin came, but he refused to operate, declaring

bluntly that there was no use, and all during the long, hot summer

days Robert Austin sat beside his open window watching the light

die out of the world, waiting, waiting, for the time to make his

sacrifice.



Suydam read Marmion's cheery letters aloud, wondering the while at the

wistful note they sounded now and then. He answered them in his own

handwriting, which she had never seen.



One day came the announcement that she was returning the first week in

October. Already September was partly gone, so Austin decided to sail

in a week. At his dictation Suydam wrote to her, saying that the

strain of overwork had rendered a long vacation necessary. The doctor

writhed internally as he penned the careful sentences, wondering if

the hurt of the deliberately chosen words would prevent her sensing

the truth back of them. As days passed and no answer came he judged it

had.



The apartment was stripped and bare, the trunks were packed on the

afternoon before Austin's departure. All through the dreary mockery of

the process the blind man had withstood his friend's appeal, his stern

face set, his heavy heart full of a despairing stubbornness. Now,

being alone at last, he groped his way about the premises to fix them

in his memory; then he sank into his chair beside the window.



He heard a knock at the door and summoned the stranger to enter, then

he rose with a gasp of dismay. Marmion Moore was greeting him with

sweet, yet hesitating effusiveness.



"I--I thought you were not coming back until next week," he stammered.



"We changed our plans." She searched his face as best she could in the

shaded light, a strange, anxious expression upon her own. "Your letter

surprised me."



"The doctor's orders," he said, carelessly. "They say I have broken

down."



"I know! I know what caused it!" she panted. "You never recovered from

that accident. You did not tell me the truth. I've always felt that

you were hiding something from me. Why? Oh, why?"



"Nonsense!" He undertook to laugh, but failed in a ghastly manner.

"I've been working too hard. Now I'm paying the penalty."



"How long will you be gone?" she queried.



"Oh, I haven't decided. A long time, however." His tone bewildered

her. "It is the first vacation I ever had; I want to make the most of

it."



"You--you were going away without saying good-by to--your old

friends?" Her lips were white, and her brave attempt to smile would

have told him the truth had he seen it, but he only had her tone to go

by, so he answered, indifferently:



"All my arrangements were made; I couldn't wait."



"You are offended with me," Miss Moore said, after a pause. "How have

I hurt you? What is it; please? I--I have been too forward, perhaps?"



Austin dared not trust himself to answer, and when he made no sign the

girl went on, painfully:



"I'm sorry. I didn't want to seem bold. I owe you so much; we were

such good friends--" In spite of her efforts her voice showed her

suffering.



The man felt his lonely heart swell with the wild impulse to tell her

all, to voice his love in one breathless torrent of words that would

undeceive her. The strain of repression lent him added brusqueness

when he strove to explain, and his coldness left her sorely hurt.

His indifference filled her with a sense of betrayal; it chilled the

impulsive yearning in her breast. She had battled long with herself

before coming and now she repented of her rashness, for it was plain

he did not need her. This certainty left her sick and listless,

therefore she bade him adieu a few moments later, and with aching

throat went blindly out and down the stairs.



The instant she was gone Austin leaped to his feet; the agony of death

was upon his features. Breathlessly he began to count:



"One! Two! Three--!"



He felt himself smothering, and with one sweep of his hand ripped the

collar from his throat.



"Five! Six! Seven--!"



He was battling like a drowning man, for, in truth, the very breath of

his life was leaving him. A drumming came into his ears. He felt that

he must call out to her before it was too late. He was counting aloud

now, his voice like the moan of a man on the rack.



"Nine! Ten--!"



A frenzy to voice his sufferings swept over him, but he held himself.

Only a moment more and she would be gone; her life would be spared

this dark shadow, and she would never know, but he--he would indeed be

face to face with darkness.



Toward the last he was reeling, but he continued to tell off the

seconds with the monotonous regularity of a timepiece, his every power

centered on that process. The idea came to him that he was counting

his own flickering pulse-throbs for the last time. With a tremendous

effort of will he smoothed his face and felt his way to the open

window, for by now she must be entering the landau. A moment later

and she would turn to waft him her last adieu. Her last! God! How the

seconds lagged! That infernal thumping in his ears had drowned the

noises from the street below. He felt that for all time the torture of

this moment would live with him.



Then he smiled! He smiled blindly out into the glaring sunlight, and

bowed. And bowed and smiled again, clinging to the window-casing to

support himself. By now she must have reached the corner. He freed one

hand and waved it gaily, then with outflung arms he stumbled back into

the room, the hot tears coursing down his cheeks.



Marmion Moore halted upon the stairs and felt mechanically for her

gold chatelaine. She recalled dropping it upon the center-table as she

went forward with hands outstretched to Austin; so she turned back,

then hesitated. But he was leaving to-morrow; surely he would

not misinterpret the meaning of her reappearance. Summoning her

self-control, she remounted the stairs quickly.



The door was half ajar as she had left it in her confusion. Mustering

a careless smile, she was about to knock, then paused. Austin was

facing her in the middle of the room, beating time. He was counting

aloud--but was that his voice? In the brief instant she had been gone

he had changed astoundingly. Moreover, notwithstanding the fact that

she stood plainly revealed, he made no sign of recognition, but merely

counted on and on, with the voice of a dying man. She divined that

something was sadly amiss; she wondered for an instant if the man had

lost his senses.



She stood transfixed, half-minded to flee, yet held by some pitying

desire to help; then she saw him reach forward and grope his way

uncertainly to the window. In his progress he stumbled against a

chair; he had to feel for the casing. Then she knew.



Marmion Moore found herself inside the room, staring with wide,

affrighted eyes at the man whose life she had spoiled. She pressed her

hands to her bosom to still its heavings. She saw Austin nodding down

at the street below; she saw his ghastly attempt to smile; she heard

the breath sighing from his lungs and heard him muttering her name.

Then he turned and lurched past her, groping, groping for his chair.

She cried out, sharply, in a stricken voice:



"Mr. Austin!"



The man froze in his tracks; he swung his head slowly from side to

side, as if listening.



"What!" The word came like the crack of a gun. Then, after a moment,

"Marmion!" He spoke her name as if to test his own hearing. It was the

first time she had ever heard him use it.



She slipped forward until within an arm's-length of him, then

stretched forth a wildly shaking hand and passed it before his

unwinking eyes, as if she still disbelieved. Then he heard her moan.



"Marmion!" he cried again. "My God! little girl, I--thought I heard

you go!"



"Then this, this is the reason," she said. "Oh-h-h!"



"What are you doing here? Why did you come back?" he demanded,

brutally.



"I forgot my--No! God sent me back!"



There was a pause, during which the man strove to master himself; then

he asked, in the same harsh accents:



"How long have you been here?"



"Long enough to see--and to understand."



"Well, you know the truth at last. I--have gone--blind." The last word

caused his lips to twitch. He knew from the sound that she was weeping

bitterly. "Please don't. I've used my eyes too much, that is all. It

is--nothing."



"No! No! No!" she said, brokenly. "Don't you think I understand? Don't

you think I see it all now? But why--why didn't you tell me? Why?"

When he did not answer she repeated: "God sent me back. I--I was not

meant to be so unhappy."



Austin felt himself shaken as if by a panic. He cried, hurriedly:

"You see, we've been such good friends. I knew it would distress you.

I--wanted to spare you that! You were a good comrade to me; we were

like chums. Yes, we were chums. No friend could have been dearer to me

than you, Miss Moore. I never had a sister, you know. I--I thought of

you that way, and I--" He was struggling desperately to save the girl,

but his incoherent words died on his lips when he felt her come close

and lay her cheek against his arm.



"You mustn't try to deceive me any more," she said, gently. "I was

here. I know the truth, and--I want to be happy."



Even then he stood dazed and disbelieving until she continued:



"I know that you love me, and that I love you."



"It is pity!" he exclaimed, hoarsely. "You don't mean it."



But she drew herself closer to him and turned her tear-stained face up

to his, saying, wistfully, "If your dear eyes could have seen, they

would have told you long ago."



"Oh, my love!" He was too weak to resist longer. His arms were

trembling as they enfolded her, but in his heart was a gladness that

comes to but few men.



"And you won't go away without me, will you?" she questioned,

fearfully.



"No, no!" he breathed. "Oh, Marmion, I have lost a little, but I have

gained much! God has been good to me."





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