He walked and walked

nd those are the things I never could have found out if you hadn’t told me.”
“Oh, yes, you would. . . . You were destined to . . . .”
“I guess I was destined to YOU,” h nike free 3.0 sale e rejoined, half laughing.
She echoed the laugh; then she pushed back her chair with a sigh. “It’s late — I must be going. But you’re all right now; you’ve got all the material you need, and you know what to do with it. I’m glad to go away feeling certain of that.”
Still deep in his dream, he protested: “But you’re not going away? It’s not late, really; and there are two or three things more . . .”
She stood u nike free running shoes p with a gesture of negation. “Oh, you’ll have to write nike free run 3.0 me about those, or drop in some day when you come to New York — ”
He sat crouched over the table, his chin sunk in his locked hands, and stared up uncomprehendingly. “Write to you? What do you mean? Can’t you come back tomorrow?”
“No, nor the next day. Our holiday’s over, Vance — didn’t you know?”
“Over — why?”
“Because my husband’s arriving; I’m going back nike free 5.0 v4 to New York to join him.”
The words fell on his excited brain like little blows from some deadly instrument. At first he hardly felt them — then his head reeled with the shock, and for a moment he found no word to say.
“But you’re all right now; I mean the book’s all right — you can see your way ahead; can’t you, Vance?”
He still looked up at her incredulously. “I can’t see anything but you.”
“Oh — ” she murmured, and sat down once more, facing him across the familiar table. “Well, no wonder: we’ve looked at each other like this nearly every day for two months now . . . . cheap nike free run
Vance was not listening. He had reached the same degree of absorption which, the day he had met Laura Lou in the rubberneck car, had made it impossible to fix his attention on what she was saying. He sat looking at Halo Tarrant with a concentration as re cheap nike free run 2 mote as possible from that April ecstasy, yet as intense. “I feel as if I’d never looked at you before,” he blundered out.
“I don’t believe you ever did!” she said. Her lips began a smile; then they became grave, and her slow colour mounted. She sat motionless, giving him back his gaze so steadfastly that hers seemed to enter into his eyes and slip down their long windings to his very soul. She dropped her lids after a while, and made a motion to rise again. “But you’ll know me now, won’t you, the next time we meet?”
He made no answer. Her banter hung in a meaningless dazzle somewhere outside of him; all his real self was within, centred in the effort of holding her image fast, of tracing it, line by line, curve by curve, with the passionate hands of memory. She who had seemed nike free trainers uk to him but a disembodied intelligence was now stealing into every vein and fibre like wine, like wind, like all the seed~bearing currents of spring. He looked at her hands, which lay folded before her on the table, and wondered what their hidden palms were like, and the dimpled recess of her inner arm at the elbow. “No, I’ve never known you,” he repeated stupidly.
“Oh, but we’ve been . . . but we’ve been . . . . nike free run plus ” She broke off, and began again, in a more decided tone: “Your book has reached a point now when it will be all the better for you to go on with it alone. A writer oughtn’t to get too dependent on anybody’s advice. If I’ve been able to help you . . .”
“Oh, curse the book,” he broke in, burying his face in his hands. The tears choked in his throat and burnt his close-pressed eyeballs. He hadn’t known — why hadn’t he known? — that it would be like this. . . . The room grew still. He heard a fly bang against the window and drop to the sill from the shock of its own impact. Outside was the confused murmur of the summer afternoon. Presently Mrs. Tarrant moved. She walked around the table, he felt the stir of her nearness, her hand rested on his shoulder. “Vance — don’t. Remember, you’ve got your job; and you belong to it.”
He did not move lest he should lose the shock of her li nike free ght touch running through him like his blood. But to himself he groaned: “It’s always the same way with you, you fool. You see only one thing at a time, and get into a frenzy about that, and nine times out of ten it’s not the real thing you’re chasing after but only something your brain has faked up.”
Mrs. Tarrant went on in the same even tone. “Vance, are you listening to me? You must listen. Of course you must go on with your work here. You mustn’t be disturbed — and you must have this atmosphere about you; I’ll see to that — I’ll arrange it.” Still he did not answer; did not drop his hands or turn his head when he heard a slight click on the table at his elbow. “See, Vance, I’m leaving you the keys. Don’t forget them. You can return them to me in New York when you bring me the finished book.”
He did not move. She too was silent for a moment; then her hand was withdrawn. nike free run 2 review “Come — we must say good-bye, Vance.”
He dropped his hands and leaned back, looking up at her. “I never thought about its ending,” he muttered.
“But it isn’t ending; why should it? You must stick to your job and carry it through; and then, when it’s done, you’ll be coming back regularly to the office — and I shall see you often, I hope . . . .”
“Not like this.”
“This had been good, hasn’t it? But when your book’s done, that will be lots better; that will be the best that could happen . . . .”
“I don’t care a curse about the book.”
She stood looking down at him, and a faint smile stole to her lips. “You ought to, if you say we’ve done it together.”
Again the tone of banter! She was determined to force that tone on him then. She was teasing him, ridiculing him, condescending to him from the height of all her superiorities: age, experience, education, worldly situation; and he, this raw boy, had sat there, forgetting these differences, and imagining that because he had suddenly discovered what she was to him, he could hope to be as much to her! He ached with the blow to his vanity, and a fierce pride forced him to feel no other ache. If she thought of him as a blundering boy, to be pitied and joked with, to hell with dreams and ambitions, and all he had believed himself to be!
“I guess I don’t know how to talk,” he grumbled out. “Better tie up to my writing — that your idea?”
She sat down beside him again, and while he covered his eyes from the glare of his own blunder he heard her, on another plane of consciousness, with other ears, as it were — heard her talking to him reasonably, wisely, urgently of his work, of the opportunities ahead of him, of what he was justified in hoping, of what his effort and ambition ought to be: all in an affectionate “older friend” voice, a voice so cool and measured that every syllable fell with a little hiss on the red-hot surface of his humiliation.
“You know how I’ve always believed in you, Vance. Oh, but that’s nothing . . . I’m nobody. But my husband believes in you too . . . believed in you from the first, before I’d read anything of yours; he’s proved his belief, hasn’t he? And Frenside — Frenside, who’s never pleased, never satisfied . . . And when they see what you’ve done now they’ll feel they were justified — I know they will. . . . Vance, you know artists always have these fits of discouragement . . . often just when they’ve done their best; it’s the reaction after successful effort. And this is your best so far, oh, so much your best! I’m sure something still bigger and better will follow; but meanwhile, dear boy, for your soul’s sake you must believe in this, you must believe in yourself . . . .”
For his soul’s sake he could not have looked up or changed his attitude. Her friendly compassion crushed him to earth, her incomprehension held him there. “If she’d only go,” he thought, “if only it was over . . . .”
The stillness was broken by the scraping of her pushed-back chair. He felt a stir of air as she moved, and heard, through interlocked hands, her footfall sink into the bottomless silence of the old house. A door closed. She had gone; it was over . . . .
Chapter 31
Vance continued to sit there. He had imagined he had suffered on the day when he had seen his grandfather down by the river with Floss Delaney: poor simpleton! That was a wound to his raw senses. He had escaped from it by writing it out and selling it to an editor. But now there was not a vein of his body, not a cell of his brain, not a dream or a vision of his soul, that was not hurt, disabled. . . . This woman who had kindled in him the light by which he lived had sat there complacently telling him that she believed in his work, that her husband and old Frenside believed in it . . . and had thought she was leaving him comforted!
But did she really think so? Or was all she had said only a protective disguise, the conscientious effort to repress emotions corresponding to his own? He had an idea she would be very conscientious, full of scruples he wasn’t sure he wholly understood. For if she hadn’t cared as much as he did, why should she have devoted all those hours to helping him? If it was just for the good of the New Hour, she was indeed the ideal wife for an editor! But no: those afternoons had been as full for her as for him. What was that phrase she had pointed out, in the volume of Keats’s Letters she had given him — about loading every rift with gold? That was what they had done to their hours together: both of them.
Suddenly, as he sat brooding, he heard a door open: then, after a moment’s delay, a step coming through the empty rooms. The carpets muffled it, the stealing twilight seemed to envelop it; but it was hers, hers surely — who else would have business there? She was returning, coming back to say all the things that were surging in his heart. . . . He sat still, not daring to look up.
The step drew nearer, reached the threshold, clicked on the parquet of the library. He started up and saw Mrs. Tracy. In the faint light her face looked so drawn and wretched that he thought she had been taken ill again, and went toward her hurriedly.
“Why, what’s the matter?”
“Matter? It IS a woman you come to meet here then!” She had reached the table, and with a quick pounce picked up a glove which lay there. “That’s what you call your literary work, is it?” she triumphed venomously.
Vance stood silent. His mind was still so charged with ardent and agonizing thoughts that he could not grasp what she was saying. What was she talking about, what was she trying to insinuate, what had she come for? Once more he caught in her face the gleam of animosity he had been conscious of, just below the surface, ever since he had gone with Upton to the ball game.
“Well, haven’t you got anything to say? No, I don’t suppose you have!” Mrs. Tracy taunted him.
“I don’t know what you expect me to say. I don’t know what you’re talking about. That glove is Mrs. Tarrant’s — she left here only a few minutes ago.”
Mrs. Tracy’s sallow face grew sallower. He saw that she was unprepared for the answer and not wholly inclined to believe it. “Mrs. Tarrant — what was she doing here?”
“She came to see me.”
“And what were you doing here?”
“Writing, as you see.”
Mrs. Tracy was silent for a moment, her eyes fixed incredulously on the piled-up pages before her. “I’d like to know who it is lets you in,” she said at length.
“Why, Mrs. Tarrant let me in today, of course.”
“Today! Maybe she did. I’m not talking only about today. It’s not the only day you’ve been here.”
Vance hesitated. He had expected to silence his mother-in-law, and dispel her suspicions, by naming Mrs. Tarrant — one of the few persons who had the undisputed right to come and go in that house. But it would be a different matter, he instantly felt, to let Mrs. Tracy associate Halo’s name with the frequent and clandestine visits of which she evidently suspected him. He was convinced now that she had come on purpose to surprise him, as the result of information received; and he was never ready-witted in emergencies.
“Well, I don’t know’s I need ask who lets you in,” she pursued. “You had plenty of time to have duplicate keys made while I was sick.”
“Certainly I had — if it had occurred to me to do anything so low~down.”
“Low-down? I guess it isn’t that would have prevented you, if you’d been set on coming here, whether it was to steal books or to meet women . . . maybe both . . .” she flung back, trembling.
Her agitation had a steadying effect on Vance. “Why not both, as you say?” he rejoined impartially, beginning to gather up his papers. He was sure she was not there without a definite purpose, and it was obviously safer to leave the burden of explanation on her shoulders. After all, he had nothing to reproach himself with but the venial wrong of concealing from Laura Lou that he did his writing at the Willows, and not at the New Hour office. He had been slaving all summer to pay off the money Mrs. Tracy had accepted from Bunty Hayes, and the women had better leave him alone, or he’d know why. . . . Silently he crammed his papers into their usual storing-place and walked toward the door.
Mrs. Tracy stepped in front of him. “Where are you going?”
“Home? It’s a place you don’t often trouble. Why don’t you do your writing there — if it’s writing you say you come here for?”
“Because I’m never left alone,” he said, his anger rising again. Mrs. Tracy saw her chance and laughed. “Not with the right woman, you mean?”
Vance halted in front of her. After all, if there was a scene coming — and he saw she was not to be cheated out of it — better have it out here than wait and risk Laura Lou’s being drawn in. “What is it you’re driving at? I can’t answer till I know,” he said sullenly.
“Well, answer me this, then. Who’s the woman you come here to meet?”
The blood rose to his face. “Nonsense. I told you Mrs. Tarrant came here today. You’d better give me her glove and I’ll take it back to her.”
Mrs. Tracy paid no attention to this. She hesitated a moment; then she said: “You haven’t answered my question yet. It’s no good beating round the bush. The neighbours all know about what’s been going on here. Laura Lou’s had a letter warning her. You say, what am I driving at? Well, I’m here to find out what you propose to do, now we’ve caught you. That’s plain enough, isn’t it?” She flung the words out in a kind of shrill monotone, as if she had learned them from someone else and were afraid of not getting them in the right order.
Vance was speechless. His mind had seized on one phrase: “Laura Lou’s had a letter,” and he turned sick with an unformed apprehension. “What nonsense are you talking? What kind of letter? I’ve got nothing to hide and nothing to explain. If you have the letter with you, you’d better let me see it, and if I can find the sneak who wrote it I’ll go and break his neck.”
Mrs. Tracy laughed. “Well, you’ll have some trouble doing that, I guess. But the letter isn’t here — it’s locked up at home. It’s done enough harm to my poor child already — ”
“Who wrote it?” Vance interrupted.
“It’s not signed.”
“I thought as much. That kind never is. And you’ve come here to spy on me on the strength of a rag of paper with God knows what anonymous slander on it?” He took his hat up again, and as he did so, his eye lit on the keys which Halo, in leaving, had laid beside him. They were no good to him now; he would never use them again, never come back here without her. He would take them back to Eaglewood this very night, with the glove . . . .
He put them in his pocket and turned again to his mother-in-law. “I come here to work, not to meet women.” This sounded impressive, and in a way was true — yet he didn’t care for the ring of it. He cleared his throat, and began again: “If you’ll give me Mrs. Tarrant’s glove I’ll send it back.”
For all answer Mrs. Tracy opened her handbag (it was the very one the bridal couple had bought for her on their return to Paul’s Landing), and put the glove in it, snapping shut the imitation ivory clasp.
“See here — give me that glove,” Vance burst out; then crimsoned at his blunder. Mrs. Tracy tucked the bag under her arm. “I’ll see to returning it,” she said.
He affected indifference. “Oh, very well — ” There was a pause, and then he added. “If that’s all, I’ll be off.”
Mrs. Tracy, however, continued to oppose him from the threshold. “It’s not all — nothing like. I guess it’s for me to decide about that.”
Vance waited a moment: angry as he was, he had the sense to want to check Mrs. Tracy’s recriminations. “If there’s anything else to be said, I guess it’s for Laura Lou to say it. I’m going back home now to give her the chance,” he declared.
Mrs. Tracy raised her hand in agitation. “No, Vance — no! You won’t do that. The letter’s half killed her, anyway. And you know she can’t stand anything that excites and worries her . . . .” She paused a moment, and added with a certain dignity: “That’s why I came here — it was to spare her.”
Vance pondered. “Was it her idea that you should come?”
“No, she doesn’t even know I’m here. I told her we’d have to take steps to find out — but she was so upset she wouldn’t listen. My child’s a nervous wreck, Vance. That’s what you’ve made of her.”
“If I’ve made her a nervous wreck, is it your idea that it’s going to quiet her if you go back and report — as you apparently mean to do — that I come here to meet other women?”
The reasoning of this was a little too close for Mrs. Tracy’s flurried brain. She considered it for a while, and then said: “I didn’t come here to go back and report to her.”
Vance looked at her in astonishment. “Then what on earth did you come for? Your imagination is so worked up against me that all my denials wouldn’t convince you — I see that. But if Laura Lou’s to be left out of the question — ”
His mother-in-law moved nearer to him, with a look of appeal in her face that made it human again. “It all depends on you, Vance.”
“Well, you don’t suppose — ”
“I don’t suppose you want to hurt Laura Lou more than you can help — any more than I do,” she continued, with an effort at persuasiveness. “And what I’m here for is to ask you to spare her . . . give her a chance . . . before it’s too late . . . .” She lifted her hands entreatingly. “For God’s sake, Vance, let her go without a fight. It’s her chance now, and I mean she shall take it; but if you’ll let it be easy for her, I’ll let it be easy for you — on my sacred word. Vance . . . See here; I’ve got you where I can make my own terms with you . . . I’ve got my proofs . . . I’ve got the whip hand of as they say . . .” She broke off, and went on in an altered voice: “But that’s not the way I want to talk to you, Vance. I just want to say: Why not recognize it’s all been a failure and a mistake from the first, and set my child free before it’s too late?”
“Too late for what?”
“For her to get back her health — to enjoy her youth as she ought to . . . .”
Vance’s brain was still so confused with the shock of Mrs. Tarrant’s abrupt leave-taking that this fresh assault on his emotions left him dazed. Mrs. Tracy hated him; had always hated him. He had long been carelessly aware of that, and had instantly seen how eagerly she must have caught at this chance of getting the whip hand of him, as she called it; of finding herself justified in all her disappointments and resentments. But he had not suspected that she might have a more practical object in mind, that what she wanted was not to injure him but to free Laura Lou. It was dull of him, no doubt, it was incomprehensible even, that, having lived all his life in a world of painless divorce, where a change of mate was often a mere step in social advancement, it should never have occurred to him that he and Laura Lou could part. But though he had often chafed at the bondage of his unconsidered marriage, though he had long since ceased to think of his wife as the companion of his inner life, and had stooped to subterfuges to escape her fond solicitude . . . yet now her mother’s proposal filled him with speechless wrath. He and Laura Lou divorced! . . . He turned to Mrs. Tracy. “Are you talking seriously?”
Of course she was, she said. Wouldn’t he try and understand her and listen to her, and not get all worked up, and make her so nervous she couldn’t get out what she had to say . . .?
“HAVE to say?” he interrupted. “Who obliges you? You say Laura Lou doesn’t know you’re here.”
Mrs. Tracy’s embarrassment increased. When Vance flew out at her like that, she said, she couldn’t keep her wits together; and what was to be gained by making a fuss, anyhow? She was determined, whatever he said, that her child should be free to make a fresh start, and get back her health and spirits. . . . She talked on and on in the same half scared yet obstinate tone. They’d been married too young, she said; that had always been her chief objection to the match. And Vance with no fixed prospects . . . or not enough to support a wife on, anyhow . . . and his parents doing nothing . . . and Laura Lou’s health so delicate, and her lungs threatened since that crazy climb up the mountain in the snow, and no way, as far as her mother knew, for her to get to a mild climate for the winter, as the doctor said she ought to, if she was to get her lungs healed. . . . Mrs. Tracy paused, breathless and drawn. “It all depends on you, Vance,” she began again, still panting a little. “You’ve got your own life — your own ambitions. I don’t say but what you’ll go a great way yet, and maybe get onto a big newspaper job some day. But meantime, how are you going to get ahead with a sick wife on your hands — and your own family not doing anything to help? . . . Let her go, Vance; I say it in your own interest as well as hers; for pity’s sake, let her go. Think what it would be to you to be free yourself.”
He stood with bent head, her last words resounding strangely in his ears. “Think what it would be to be free yourself.” He had not thought of that.
“Let her go — go where?”
South, Mrs. Tracy hurriedly explained — to California somewhere. That was what the doctor said. She’d worked it all out with Upton. Upton had had the offer of a job in a big California nursery, and he would make up his mind to take it if his mother would go out and keep house for him; and Mrs. Tracy would sell the little place at Paul’s Landing for whatever it would bring, if only they could get Laura Lou away before the cold weather. . . . And out there, in some of those western states, folks said you could get a divorce as easy as you get a cake of yeast at the grocer’s. Just walk in and ask for it; and nothing said against either party . . . no question about other women or anything . . . so that if Vance wanted to marry again he’d have a clean slate . . . absolutely. . . . “Oh, Vance, if you only would — if you’d only agree to part as friends, and let my child have her chance!” Mrs. Tracy broke off in a spasm of dry sobbing.
Vance did not afterward recall how the discussion ended. He only knew that dusk had fallen when he and Mrs. Tracy at length left the house. As they turned down the lane they saw the lights of the high road, and the illuminated trolleys jogging by. Mrs. Tracy got into one and disappeared.
Vance sat down under a road lamp and pulled a scrap of paper from his pocket. He wrote on it: “I don’t want these; I’ll never go back there,” wrapped the keys in the paper, and addressed it to Mrs. Tarrant. Then he caught the next trolley, and was carried as far as it went in the direction of Eaglewood. He meant to walk up there and leave the keys for her; after that he would see. The late August night was hushed but not oppressive; the stars already seemed to hang higher than in midsummer, as if receding to autumn altitudes; as he climbed there was a stir of air in the upper branches. The walk might help to clear the confusion from his brain; at any rate, it was out of the question to follow Mrs. Tracy home. First of all he had to be by himself, and in the open . . . .
The Eaglewood gate was unlatched, and he walked along the drive to the house. It lay low and spreading under mysterious tree shadows, and he thought of the day when he had been caught asleep in the broken-down motor, and brought there, a bewildered culprit, by the scandalized Jacob. Every step was thick with memories which in the making had worn no special look of happiness, but were now steeped in it. He remembered how ashamed and angry he had been when Jacob had shoved him into the hall among those unknown people . . . .
Through the canopy of foliage one or two lights peeped from the upper panes, but the lower floor was dark, the shutters were not closed. Perhaps everybody was still out. Silence and night seemed stealing unnoticed into the empty rooms, and Vance would have liked to open one of the windows and enter too. . . . But as he stood on the lawn, a little way off, a light appeared in one of the drawing room windows, and he heard a few chords struck on the piano, and voices rising and falling. Without looking to see who was in the room he hurried back nike free review into the shade of the drive, and dropped the keys into the letter box by the front door. They were all strangers to him, those people — he did not belong up there, in the light and music and ease, any more than he did in the dismal Tracy house below. He walked away heavy with that sense of inexorable solitude which sometimes oppresses young hearts. From all the gloriou s worlds he could imagine he seemed equally shut out . . . .
Where did he belong then? Why, with himself! The idea came like a flash of light. What did he want with other people’s worlds when he would create universes of his own? What he wanted was independence, freedom, solitude — and they cost less than houses and furniture, and much less than human ties. Mrs. Tracy’s words came back to him: “Think what it would be to you to be free yourself.”
Out in the lane again, he continued to climb. Through pearly clouds the moon of late summer climbed with him, lighting the way capriciously, as it had been lit by Halo’s motor lamps that morning before daylight when they had mounted to Thundertop. He had been free then, the world had lain befo nike free 3.0 review re him in all its conquerable glory. And a few months of discouragement and the unexpected sight of a fresh face had annihilated everything, and reduced him to the poor thing he now was. He walked and walked, unconscious of the way, driven by the need of being alone and far from the realities to which he must so soon come back. At length he threw himself down on a ledge from which he could catch a first twist of the moon~silvered Hudson, remote and embosomed in midnight forest.

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