all the use he was to her

I daresay, but the people are so dreadfully unsympathetic. I suppose you’ll call me very old-fashioned; but I don’t think our novelists ought to rob us of all hope, all belief. . . . But come, everybody’s waiting to talk to you. Fynes sees that, and he hates it. Oh, I do hope I haven’t spoilt your chance of the prize!” She held out her hand. “You WILL come to see me, won’t you? Yes — at six some day. Will you come tomorro Cheap Louis Vuitton Bags/Shoes/Belts/Luggage/Sunglasses/Wallets UK Sale w?” she insisted, and drew him after her across the room.
Vance, in following, had his eyes on the small dreary man by the door. Of the many recent novels he had devoured very few had struck him as really important; and of these The Corner Grocery was easily first. Among dozens of paltry books pushed into notoriety it was the only one entitled to such distinction. Readers all over the country had felt its evident sincerity, and its title had become the proverbial epithet of the smalltown atmosphere. It did not fully satisfy Vance; he thought the writer left untouched most of the deeper things the theme implied; if he himself had been able to write such a book he would have written it differently. But it was fearless, honest, preternaturally alive; and these qualities, whic cheap louis vuitton h to Vance seemed the foundation of the rest, were those he most longed to acquire. “First stand your people on their feet,” Frenside had once enjoined him; “there’ll be time enough afterward to tell us where they went.” If only Tristram Fynes should be moved to say that the people in “Unclaimed” stood on their feet!
Vance’s heart thumped furiously as Mrs. Pulsifer paused near the great man. If it should really turn out that Fynes had read “Unclaimed,” and was here because of it!
“Oh, Mr. Fynes — what a surprise! I didn’t know you ever condescended . . . Oh, but you mustn’t say you’re going — not before I’ve introduced Mr. Weston! Vance Weston; yes; who wrote ‘Unclaimed.’ He’s simply dying to talk to you about . . .”
Mr. cheap louis vuitton handbagsFynes’s compressed lips snapped open. “About The Corner Grocery, eh? Well, there’s a good deal to be said about it that hasn’t been said yet,” he rejoined energetically, fixing his eyes on Vance. “You’re one of the new reviewers, aren’t you? Do ‘The Cocoanut Tree’ in the New Hour? Yes — I believe I saw something of yours the other day. Well, see here; this is no place for a serious talk, but I’d be glad if you’d come round some day and just let me tell you exactly what I want said about The Corner Grocery. . . . Much the best way, you know. The book’s a big book; no doubt about that. What I want people told is WHY it’slouis vuitton outlet big. . . . Come round tomorrow, will you? I’m going to cut it now . . . .”
He vanished, and Vance stood dazed. But not for long. Others claimed his attention, people who wanted to talk to him not about themselves but about “Unclaimed.” The room was not crowded; there were probably not more than thirty guests in the library and the dining room beyond, into which they wandered in quest of sandwiches and cocktails, cheap louis vuitton bags ukcoming back refreshment in hand, or lingering about the dining table. But to Vance the scene was so new that he seemed to be in a dense throng; and the fact of being in it not as an observer, but as the centre of attention and curiosity, filled him with the same heady excitement as when he had tossed off his first shellful of champagne.
These easy affable people wanted to know him and talk to him because he had written “Unclaimed,” because they had even heard (some of them) of his other story, that old thing Tarrant had fished out of a back number and spoke of republishing; they wanted to know what else he had written, what he was doing now, when he was going to start in on a novel, when he would have enough short stories for a volume, whether he had thought up any new subjects lately, whether he found it easier to write inlouis vuitton wholesale a big city or in his own quiet surroundings at home, whether Nature inspired him or he had to be with people to get a stimulus, what his best working hours were, whether he could force himself to write so many hours a day, whether he didn’t find that regular work led to routine, whether he didn’t think a real artist must always be a law unto himself (this from the two or three of the younger women), and whether he found he could dictate, or had to type out his own things . . . .
Vance had never before been confronted with so many exciting and stimulating questions. At first he tried to answer each in turn, going into the matter as fully as he felt it deserved, and seizing by the way on the new ideas it developed; but by the time he had said, with his slow shy drawl: “Why, I guess I haven’t got far enough yet to have workedcheap louis vuitton out any regular rules, but I seem to find . . .” or: “Well, sometimes I feel as if I had to have a lot of new faces and sights to start me going, and then again other times . . .” he noticed that his questioners either lost interest, or else, obeying some rule of behaviour unknown to him, felt they ought to give way to others with other riddles to propound. The result was that he had soon run the whole gauntlet of introductions, and found himself at a little table in the dining room, voraciously consuming cocktails and foie gras, and surrounded at last by familiar faces — as though he had swum through a bright tossing sea to a shore where old friends awaited him. Frenside was there, gruffly smoking and sipping, Eric Rauch, glossy and vivid in evening clothes, and Mrs. Spear, white-haired and affectionately wistful, murmuring: “How wonderful, Vance! To think the Willows scheap louis vuitton beltshould have led to this . . .” while Halo, flitting by, paused to introduce a new arrival, or to say, with a hand on his shoulder: “How does it feel to be It?”
Best of all was it, when everyone had gone but a few familiars, to draw up to the library fire, replenished with crackling logs, and listen to Tarrant and Rauch discussing the future of the New Hour, Frenside dropping his comments into the rifts of the talk, and Mrs. Spear saying, from the drowsy depths of her armchair: “But you simply mustn’t do what they tell you, Vance — you must just drop EVERYTHING and give yourself up to your novel. What’s it to be called? Loot — ah, there’s a whole panorama in that! Lewis, you must really give him his head; you mustn’t tie him down to dates. Let him have all the time he wants. Remember, the Spirit bloweth where it listeth . . . and genius IS the Spirit, isn’t it, Frenside?”
Icheap louis vuitton bagst was past one in the morning when Vance sprang to his feet in comic anguish. “Oh, say, what about my last train home?” They all laughed, and Tarrant said, glancing at his watch: “No hurry, my boy — it left an hour ago, and there’s no other till six-thirty,” whereat the group about the fire vanished from Vance’s eyes, displaced by Laura Lou’s white face peering through her window into the icy darkness. . . . “What a place to live in, anyhow!” he thought, exasperated at being thus forced back into reality; and when the party finally broke up he accepted Eric Rauch’s invitation to go on with him to “The Loafers’ Club,” an all-night affair where they could talk and drink till the dismal hour when the first train started for Paul’s Landing. After all, it wasn’t Vance’s fault if he had to live in the wilderness, and the minute he’d cleared off that Hayes debt he was going to bring Laura Lou back to New York, where there were people a fellow could talk to, and who understood what he was trying for. It filled him with sudden despair to think that of all he had heard and said that evening not a syllable would mean anything to his wife.
Chapter 25
At the “Loafers’” Vance had felt the relief of a familiar atmosphere. In the low-ceilinged noisy room he found several of the fellows to whom Rauch had introduced him at the Cocoanut Tree, and with them the sculptress girl, Rebecca Stram, in a dirty yellow sweater and a cloud of smoke. They all hailed him joyfully, the Stram girl besought him anew to sit for his bust, and the talk rambled on, much as it did in his father’s office at Euphoria on idle winter afternoons, go as you please, leaning back with your feet up and developing what you had in your mind while the others smoked and swung their legs and listened: all as easy and intelligible as could be.
Yet that was not the impression that lasted. What Vance carried back to Paul’s Landing was his bewildering adventure at the Tarrants’, where e verybody talked and nobody listened, or said anything particularly worth hearing, if you thought it over — but where the look of the rooms and the people had something harmonious and long-related, suggesting a mysterious intelligence between persons and things, an atmosphere as heavy with the Past as that of the library at the Willows.
Vance couldn’t, for the moment, define it more clearly; but it was something impossible to shake off, close and haunting as a scent or a cadence, like the perfume in Mrs. Pulsifer’s clothes, or her curious unfinished ejaculations. It made him want to lie and stare at the sky and dream, or else start up and write poetry; not a big sweeping thing, such as he had dreamed of by the winter ocean, but the wistful fragments that used to chant in his brain during his solitary sessions at the Willows. Yes . . . poetry: that was what was stirring and murmuring in him again.
When these impulses came they were overmastering. As he walked through the still-torpid town and out to Mrs. Tracy’s, lines and images rose in his glowing mind like sea gods out of a summer sea. He had forgotten where he was, or to whom he was returning. The morning was gray and cold, and when he got out of the town he started on a run, and reached the house out of breath. At the door he was met by Laura Lou, wide-eyed and trembling a little, but forcing a smile of welcome. “Oh, Vanny — ” He caught her to him, and cried out: “Give me some coffee quick, darling, and fix it up so I won’t be bothered for the rest of the day, can’t you? I’ve got to write a poem straight off . . . a long one . . . before the light fades.”
“Light fades? Why, it’s early morning,” she rejoined with bewildered eyes.
“Yes, but not that light,” he said, loosening her arms and smiling at her as if she were a remote memory, and not a sentient creature on his breast.
Mrs. Tracy emerged from the kitchen. “I’ll get your coffee for you. I guess you’ll need it, after one of your nights,” she said severely. “Laura Lou, you better go straight up now and try and get a little sleep,” she added in the same tone to her daughter.
They had not understood; they would never understand, these women. Mrs. Tracy, he was sure, was recalling that other night, his night of dissipation with Upton after the ball game; and Laura Lou perhaps had the same suspicion, though she would never own to it. And he knew he could never make either of them understand that what he was drunk with now was poetry. . . . Mrs. Tracy brought his coffee into the dining room (piping hot, he had to admit); then she poked up the fire, and left him at his writing table. His head dropped between his hands, and he murmured to himself: “Gold upon gold, like trumpets in the sunrise . . . .” It had sounded glorious as he crooned it over, drowsing in the train; but now he was not so sure. . . . When Mrs. Tracy, four hours later, came in to set the table for the midday dinner he started up out of a deep sleep on the springless divan. “No — she’s more beautiful than that . . . .” he stammered; and his mother-in-law admonished him, as she set down the plates: “Well, I guess you better not say anything more about that; and I’ll hold my tongue if you do.”
Vance stared and pushed back his rumpled hair. “It was somebody — in a poem . . . .” he said; and Mrs. Tracy responded with her mirthless laugh: “That what they call it in New York? I guess you better go up and get washed now,” she added; and looking at the blank sheets scattered over his desk, Vance saw that he must have fallen asleep directly after she had left him, without writing a line of his poem.
He had no difficulty in reassuring Laura Lou. She saw that, as one of the staff of the New Hour, he had to be present at the Tarrants’ party; he even coaxed a laugh from her about his having missed his train. She wanted to know where he had gone after leaving the Tarrants’, and whether he wasn’t worn out, waiting around so long in the station; and he said evasively, no, he hadn’t minded, feeling that the mention of the “Loafers’” would only unsettle her again. His own mind was unsettled enough. He was tormented with the poem he wanted to write, and exasperated at the thought of being chained up to his next monthly article (they had to be ready a month ahead), and then to a short story, and eventually to a novel, none of which, at the moment, he felt the least desire to write. How could he ever have been fool enough to run his head into such a noose? He remembered Frenside’s warning, and cursed himself for not having heeded it. What he earned at the New Hour (supposing he were able to fulfill his contract) wasn’t enough to keep him and his wife, if ever they had to leave Paul’s Landing — and to leave Paul’s Landing had become his overmastering desire. He wanted, worse than ever, to be back in New York, back among all those fellows he could talk to. He wanted to be able to spend an evening at the Tarrants’ — or at the “Loafers’,” for that matter — without being confronted at dawn by two haggard women who thought themselves magnanimous because they didn’t cross-examine him like a truant schoolboy. He wanted to see whom he pleased, go where he chose, write what he wanted — be free, free, free, in body as well as mind, yes, and in heart as well as soul. That was the worst of it: if life went on like this much longer his love for Laura Lou would fade to a pitying fondness, and then there would be no meaning in anything.
The afternoon trailed on. Vance could not write; the poem had vanished like a puff of mist. He sat staring at the paper, and smoking one cigarette after another. Suddenly he remembered that he had promised, that very afternoon, to call on Mrs. Pulsifer and on Tristram Fynes. And here he sat in Mrs. Tracy’s dining room, looking out on her frozen garden patch and the cold purple of the hills, and doing nothing and seeing no light ahead. Toward dusk he was seized with the impulse to sprint down to the station, jump into the first train for New York, and pay his two visits. Then he remembered that city people were always full of engagements, and could not be found without an appointment — or might be annoyed if a fellow barged in when he wasn’t expected. Besides, he didn’t particularly want to see either Fynes or the Pulsifer woman — what he really wanted was to breathe the atmosphere they breathed. But that was another difference that Laura Lou would never understand . . . .
The next morning was his regular day at the office. But an obscure reluctance kept him from going back to New York. When he got there Eric Rauch would ask him for his next article, of which he hadn’t written the first line, the subject of which he hadn’t yet chosen. And Tarrant would call him in to his sanctum, and want to know if they couldn’t announce the title of his next short story while “Unclaimed” was fresh in people’s minds. And he hadn’t even settled on a subject for his story either — there were so many to choose from, and none that he felt ready to tackle. Poetry . . . poetry was what he was full of now . . . .
He got up early from Laura Lou’s side, flung open the window, and leaned out quaffing the wintry gold and scarlet of the sunrise. The sky looked immeasurably far-off, pure and cold above the hills; but against their edge the gold and scarlet bubbled up in plumy clouds like the down from a fabulous bird’s breast. What had the city to give compared with that? Vance recalled the summer sunrise seen from Thundertop with Halo Spear. Then he had stood so high that he had seen the new day flood the earth below him in all its folds and depths and dimmest penetralia; and beauty had brimmed his soul with the same splendour. But now he could only look out through the narrow opening of a cottage window to a patch of currant bushes and a squat range of hills behind which the sun seemed imprisoned — as he himself was imprisoned by fate. Fate? Nonsense — by his own headlong folly. Only, when the sirens sang, could a fellow help listening? And how could he distinguish between the eternal beauty and its false images, the brief creatures it lit up in passing? Something whispered: “Create the eternal beauty yourself — then you’ll know . . .” and he shut the window and turned back into the low-ceilinged room where his life belonged.
But life was not always such a baffled business. The second night after Vance’s return there was a belated snowfall, and the next morning when he opened the shutters he looked out on a world of white ablaze under a spring sun. It was a Saturday, thank heaven, and there could be no question of going to the office. For forty~eight hours he and Laura Lou could range as they willed through this new world. The winter, so far, had been harsh but almost snowless; now, in early March, with the smell of buds in the air, Vance was seeing for the first time the magic of a snowstorm on the Hudson. If only they could climb to Thundertop! Was it possible, he wondered? The snow was not so deep, after all; it would be melting soon, under such a sun. What did Laura Lou think? She thought as he did: anything that seemed possible to him always seemed so to her. She had never before regarded a snowstorm as something to be admired, but merely as an opportunity for fun; staying away from school, sleighing, snowballing, and coasting. But now that he pointed out its beauties he could see she was ashamed of having looked upon them as created for her own amusement — as if she had stripped the hangings from a sanctuary to dress herself up in. Vance was touched by her compliance, her passionate eagerness to see what he saw, hear what he heard — and then, in spite of himself, irritated by her inability to be more than his echo. But today the glory was so searching and miraculous that he was sure she must feel it. “Come, wrap up warm and we’ll take some hot coffee and sandwiches, and see how high we can scramble up the mountain.” Mrs. Tracy had gone off to spend a night with Upton, and they had the freedom of the little house, and felt like lovers honeymooning again. Laura Lou filled the thermos with boiling coffee, made some sandwiches with the cold meat Mrs. Tracy had left for dinner, and got into her rubber boots and her thickest coat. Vance wanted to hire their neighbour’s cutter; but Laura Lou was frightened lest her mother should hear of this extravagance, so they set out on foot, laughing and swinging their joined hands like schoolchildren. The snow was soft — too soft for easy walking. But Vance’s feet were winged, as they had been when he first saw the sea; and Laura Lou sprang on after him, exulting and admiring. “Oh, Vanny — do look! Isn’t it just like powdered sugar? Or one of those lovely Christmas cards with the stuff that sparkles?” Luckily he hardly heard her, saw only the radiant oval of her face under the shaggy knitted cap pulled down over crimson ear-tips.
The snow clung downy to the hemlocks, rolled blinding white over meadow and pasture, gloomed indigo blue on the edges of the forest, flashed with prismatic lights where a half-caught brook fringed it with icicles. And bordering the lane, as they climbed, how each shoot of bracken, each bramble and dry branch glittered and quivered with white fire! How the blue air, purified by all the whiteness, soared over them on invisible wings! How the far-off sky curved a clear dome above an earth with all its sins and uglinesses blotted out, an earth renewed, redeemed in some great final absolution!
A man passed in a sleigh and offered them a lift. He was going to a farm up Thundertop way; and presently they were gliding by the gateposts of Eaglewood, and Vance remembered how he had passed them for the first time with Miss Spear, motoring up the mountain in the summer dawn. The sight of the padlocked gates, the snow-choked drive, the hemlocks trailing white branches with sapphire shadows, swept him back into that world to which Halo Spear had given him the key: the world of beauty, poetry, knowledge, of all the marvels now forever shut off from him. He was glad when they mounted higher, and the man, turning in at a farmyard, left them to scramble on alone. . . . “Better make the most of it — there’ll be a thaw by night!” he called back, his runners cutting black grooves in the whiteness.
They climbed on, laughing and chattering. It was so good to look at Laura Lou, and feel her warm hand in his, that Vance, as was his way when he was enjoying anything she could share, glowed with a sense of well-being. At length their ascent brought them to a deserted shed standing on a sunny ledge by the roadside. There was some hay on its dry floor, and in this shelter they unpacked their lunch, and comforted themselves with hot coffee. Laura Lou, curling up against the hay in the warmest corner, tossed off her cap, and Vance, stretched out at her feet, watched the sun turn her hair to golden filigree, and her lips to jewels. “Happy?” he queried; and her eyes rained down acquiescence . . . .
He had never spoken to her of Bunty Hayes’ visit; she had never spoken to him of the letter he had picked up and read. She had doubtless answered it, or in some way made the truth known to Hayes; that was probably the cause of the scene in the office. . . . Vance, as he looked up at her, was obscurely troubled by the thought that behind that low round forehead with its straying curls there lurked a whole hidden world. This little creature, who seemed as transparent as a crystal cup (his little cup, he had once called her) — this Laura Lou, like all her kind, was a painted veil over the unknown. And to her no doubt he was the same; and she knew infinitely less of him than he of her, if only because there was so much more to know. As he lay and brooded on these mysteries he wondered if this were not the moment to speak. He was not in the least sorry for what they had done to Bunty Hayes. In that respect neither Vance nor Laura Lou had been at fault; the pressure of destiny had been too strong for them. But the way they had treated him since was not pleasant to remember. Vance had never been able to get that poor love letter out of his head; and he wanted to find out if Laura Lou remembered it too. If he could have been sure that her silence was due to the same feeling as his, and not to some mean instinct of concealment, it would have drawn them so much closer. . . . But as he continued to lie there and to drink her drowsy smile, he felt in himself the same reluctance that he suspected in her . . . a reluctance to mar the perfect hour. Why not suffer the episode to bury itself? There were things in the lives of the most decent people that left raw edges, that gave you the feeling you had when you’d abandoned a wounded bird in a thicket . . . .
“Come along!” Vance cried, jumping up. “I’d like to get to the next ridge, wouldn’t you? We’d see all the world from there. . . . Let’s try.” And she sprang to her feet echoing joyfully: “Yes — let’s!”
After that the day seemed to rush by on silver wings. Such sparkling tumultuous hours, sunlit, shadow-flecked, whirling past like the spray of racing waves. . . . Vance could hardly believe it when the twilight shut in without a warning, the twilight with its bleak shadows and the deathlike pallor of unlit snow . . . .
Not till then did it occur to him that Laura Lou must be dreadfully tired. He ought to have thought of it before. He was dismayed to see how high they had climbed; but as they set out on the long descent her gay voice kept on assuring him that, no, she was feeling first-rate, that she’d loved every minute of it, she had, really . . . and, oh, Vanny, look, there was the new moon: did he see it? Like a diamond brooch, up in the branches there — and over their right shoulders too! What luck! . . . Her tone reassured him, and he laughed and kissed her, slipping his arm about her to help her down the endless windings. It was dark night when they reached the cottage, cold and hungry. Vance fumbled under the mat for the key and pushed her into the passage. How black the inside of the house was, and how cold! It had been fun, having the place all to themselves that morning; but now even Mrs. Tracy’s dry disapproval would have been bearable, for the sake of a fire and supper.
Vance struck a match and reached for the hall lamp. As he turned back after lighting it he saw on the floor a telegram which had been thrust under the door in their absence. Laura Lou bent to pick it up. “I guess it’s from Mother, to say what train she’ll be back by.” She opened the telegram, and stood looking at it with a puzzled frown. Then she read aloud: “‘Dreadfully upset not seeing you yesterday what happened waited till nine must see you count on you same hour Monday. Please telegraph. Jet.’ What a funny name!” she commented.
Vance put his hand out hastily. “Say — I guess that’s mine.”
“Who’s it from?”
“Oh, just somebody I had an appointment with. I guess I forgot.” She looked relieved, and he added: “Say — it’s colder than blazes. I guess I forgot to make up the fire too, before we went out.” He laughed at his own joke as he drew her into the kitchen. “There — you sit down and I’ll fix things up in no time.”
He pushed her into Mrs. Tracy’s rocking chair, lit the lamp, raked out the stove, shook in coal and kindlings, and rummaged for milk, while she leaned back and watched him with dusky burning eyes. She looked little and frail in the faint light, and the returning heat brought out on her cheekbones those scarlet spots which made the hollows underneath so wan. Why was it that whenever she and Vance attempted to do anything jolly together she got tired? That she seemed fated never to keep step with him? He poured out the milk and brought it to her. “Here — swallow this down quick. The matter with you is, you’re hungry,” he tried to jolly her; but she shook her head, and the smile on her gaunt little face turned into a grimace of weariness. “I guess I’m just tired — ” Always the same wistful refrain! “She’s sick,” Vance thought with sudden terror. Aloud he said: “Wait till I heat the milk up; then maybe it’ll tempt you.” He thought with a shiver of the cold bed upstairs, their fireless room, the time it would take to warm the house — and where on earth could he find a brick to heat and put at her feet when he got her undressed? He warmed the milk, pressed it to her lips again — but she pushed it away with feverish hands, and the eyes she lifted were dark with a sort of animal fright. “Vanny — I’m so tired. Darling, carry me upstairs!” She wound her arms about his neck, and her cheek burned on his. . . . Halfway up she clutched him closer, and he felt her whisper in his ear. “It wasn’t a woman who telegraphed you, Vanny?” “Woman? Hell no! The idea!” he lied back, stumbling up the steps, pressing her tight, and shrinking from the touch of her tears . . . .
He had had the vision of a big poem up there on the mountain — yes, he knew it was big. Line after line had sprung up like great snow eagles challenging the sun, soaring in inaccessible glory: he had only to lie back and wait, and one by one they planed down and shut their wings in his breast. And now, stumbling up the stairs in the darkness with this poor child, getting her undressed, trying to find something warm to wrap her feet in, wondering why her eyes were so fixed, her cheeks so scarlet, wondering how you felt a pulse, how you knew if anybody had fever . . . all the while, with another sense, he watched the crystal splinters of his poem melt away one after another, as the spring icicles were melting from the roof.
Chapter 26
Mrs. Tracy was not expected back till the following evening, and for twenty-four hours Vance struggled alone against the dark mystery of illness. As he watched through the night beside Laura Lou, watched her burning face and hollow eyes, and sought to quiet her tossings and soothe her incessant cough, he tried to recall what had been done for him during his own illness. He too had been consumed with fever day and night, week after week; and his mother and sisters had been always there, with cooling drinks, soft touches, ingenious ways of easing his misery — and here he sat by his wife, his hands all thumbs, his shoes creaking, his brain in a fog, unable to imagine what he ought to do for her.
At one moment her eyes, which had clung to his so anxiously, always asking for something he could not guess, suddenly became the eyes of a stranger. She looked at him in terror, and sitting up thrust him back. “Oh, go away — go away! You shan’t take Vanny from me . . . I say you shan’t!” For a while she rambled on, battling against the obduracy of some invisible presence; then she sank back, and tears of weakness forced their way through the lids she had shut against her husband . . . Vance threw himself down by her and held her in beseeching arms. “Laura Lou . . . Laura Lou . . . Vanny’s here; love, it’s Vanny holding you . . . .” With passionate murmurs he smoothed the hair from her forehead, and gradually her contracted face relaxed, and she opened her lids, and tried to smile. “Is it you, Vanny? Don’t go . . . you’ll never leave me any more, will you?” . . . She dozed off on his shoulder for a few minutes before the cough woke her again . . . .
When morning came she refused to touch the milk he had warmed, and lay tossing and coughing in parched misery. What was it? Bronchitis? His heart sank: what was it people did for bronchitis? There was no telephone, and no nearby neighbour except an old deaf woman who would probably not be of much use — even if Vance could absent himself long enough to summon her. He decided to run across to the deaf woman’s house, and bribe her grandson, a lazy fellow who was not on good terms with Mrs. Tracy, to bicycle to Paul’s Landing for a doctor; but whenever he tried to creep out of the room his shoes creaked or a board cried, and Laura Lou started up. “Don’t leave me, Vanny — you mustn’t leave me . . .” and the heavy hours dragged on . . . Vance rummaged out an old bottle of cough mixture, and gave her some; but it did not relieve her, and the hands she wound about his neck grew drier and more burning. It was as if the fever were visibly consuming her, so small and shrunken had her restless body become. As he sat there and watched it was her turn to become a stranger: this haggard changeling was not the tender creature whom he loved. This discovery of the frail limits of personality, of the transformation of what seemed closest and most cheap louis vuitton shoesfixed in the flux of life, dragged his brain down into a labyrinth of conjecture. What was she, this being so beloved and so unknown? Something in her craved for him and clung to him, yet when he tried to reach that something it was not there. Unknown forces possessed her, she was wandering in ways he could not follow. . . . Now and then he got up and replenished the stove; now and then he wet a handkerchief with cologne water and put it on her forehead, or clumsily shook up her pillows. . . . But he did it all automatically, as if he too were elsewhere, in ways as lonely as those she walked. . . . Was this why we were all so fundamentally alone? Because, as each might blend with another in blissful fusion, so, at any moment, the empty eyes of a stranger might meet us under familiar brows? But then, where was the real primordial personality, each man’s indestructible inmost self? Where did it hide, what was it made of, what laws controlled it? What WAS the Vance Weston who must remain himself though sickness and sorrow andlouis vuitton ruin destroyed the familiar surface of his being? Or was there no such unchangeable nucleus? Would he and Laura Lou and all their kind flow back finally into that vast impersonal Divinity which had loomed in his boyish dreams? . . . But, oh, those little hands with twining fingers, the deep-lashed eyes, the hollows under the cheekbones — those were Laura Lou’s and no other’s, they belonged to the bodlouis vuitton handbagsy he worshipped, whose lovely secrets were his . . . .
He started up with blinking eyes. The room was dark — the fire out. Had he fallen asleep in trying to soothe his wife to rest? He became dimly conscious of someone’s having come in; someone who groped about, struck a match, and held a candle in his face. “For God’s sake, Vance! Why are you here in the dark? What’s happened to my child?” Mrs. Tracy cried; and Vance, stumbling to his feet, brushed back his hair and stared at her.
But she had no time to deal with him. In a trice she had lit the lamp, revived the fire, thrust a thermometer between Laura Lou’s lips, and piled more blankets on her. “What is she taking? What does the doctor say?” she whispered over her shoulder.
“She hasn’t seen the doctor.”
“Not seen him? You mean he hasn’t been?”
“How long’s she been like this?”
“Since last night.”
“Last night? And she’s seen no doctor? When did you go for him?” She drew closer, deserting her daughter to approach her fierce whisper to his ear.
“I didn’t go. She wouldn’t let me leave her . . . .”
The withering twitch of Mrs. Tracy’s lips simulated a laugh. “I guess it’d be luckier for her if you’d leave her and never come back. And now,” she added scornfully, “go and get the doctor as quick as you can; and don’t show yourself here without him. It’s pneumonia . . . .”
Five anxious days passed before Vance could think of his writing or of the office. Mrs. Tracy had given him to understand that he’d better go back to work, for all the use he was to her or Laura Lou: cluttering up the house, and no more help to anybody than a wooden Indian. . . . But it seemed part of his expiation to sit there and let her say such things. He suspected that, though she railed at him for being in the way, it was a relief to have him there, to be scolded and found fault with; besides, now and then there was something for him to do: coals to carry up, provisions or medicines to fetch, tasks not requiring much quickness of wit or hand. . . . He knew that Mrs. Tracy was justified in blaming him for Laura Lou’s illness. The doctor said he had been crazy to drag her up the mountain through the snow, and expose her to the night air when her strength was lowered by fatigue. She hadn’t much stamina anyway; and the long climb had affected her heart. The doctor took Vance aside to tell him that this sort of thing mustn’t happen again; and Vance saw Mrs. Tracy gloating over the admonishment. Well, let her . . . he deserved it.

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