The last rehearsal was over,
a tedious dress rehearsal which
had lasted all day and exhausted
the patience of every one who
had to do with it. When Hilda
had dressed for the street and
came out of her dressing-room,
she found Hugh MacConnell waiting
for her in the corridor.
thicker than ever, Hilda. There
have been a great
many accidents to-day. It's positively
unsafe for you to be out alone.
Will you let me take you home?"
"How good of
you, Mac. If you are going
with me, I think I'd
rather walk. I've had no exercise
to-day, and all this has made
"I shouldn't wonder," said
MacConnell dryly. Hilda pulled
down her veil and they stepped
out into the thick brown wash
that submerged St. Martin's Lane.
MacConnell took her hand and
tucked it snugly under his arm. "I'm
sorry I was such a savage. I
hope you didn't think I made
an ass of myself."
"Not a bit
of it. I don't wonder you were
peppery. Those things
are awfully trying. How do you
think it's going?"
That's why I got so stirred
up. We are going
to hear from this, both of us.
And that reminds me; I've got
news for you. They are going
to begin repairs on the theatre
about the middle of March, and
we are to run over to New York
for six weeks. Bennett told me
yesterday that it was decided."
Hilda looked up delightedly
at the tall gray figure beside
her. He was the only thing she
could see, for they were moving
through a dense opaqueness, as
if they were walking at the bottom
of the ocean.
"Oh, Mac, how
glad I am! And they love your
things over there,
be glad for--any other reason,
MacConnell put his hand in
front of her to ward off some
dark object. It proved to be
only a lamp-post, and they beat
in farther from the edge of the
"What do you mean, Mac?" Hilda
"I was just thinking there
might be people over there you'd
be glad to see," he brought out
awkwardly. Hilda said nothing,
and as they walked on MacConnell
spoke again, apologetically: "I
hope you don't mind my knowing
about it, Hilda. Don't stiffen
up like that. No one else knows,
and I didn't try to find out
anything. I felt it, even before
I knew who he was. I knew there
was somebody, and that it wasn't
Oxford Street in silence, feeling
The busses had stopped running
and the cab-drivers were leading
their horses. When they reached
the other side, MacConnell said
suddenly, "I hope you are happy."
"Terribly, dangerously happy,
Mac,"-- Hilda spoke quietly,
pressing the rough sleeve of
his greatcoat with her gloved
thought me too old for you,
Hilda,--oh, of course
you've never said just that,--and
here this fellow is not more
than eight years younger than
I. I've always felt that if I
could get out of my old case
I might win you yet. It's a fine,
brave youth I carry inside me,
only he'll never be seen."
Mac. That has nothing to do
with it. It's because you
seem too close to me, too much
my own kind. It would be like
marrying Cousin Mike, almost.
I really tried to care as you
wanted me to, away back in the
we are, turning out of the
Square. You are not
angry with me, Hilda? Thank you
for this walk, my dear. Go in
and get dry things on at once.
You'll be having a great night
She put out
her hand. "Thank
you, Mac, for everything. Good-night."
trudged off through the fog,
and she went slowly
upstairs. Her slippers and dressing
gown were waiting for her before
the fire. "I shall certainly
see him in New York. He will
see by the papers that we are
coming. Perhaps he knows it already," Hilda
kept thinking as she undressed. "Perhaps
he will be at the dock. No, scarcely
that; but I may meet him in the
street even before he comes to
see me." Marie placed the tea-table
by the fire and brought Hilda
her letters. She looked them
over, and started as she came
to one in a handwriting that
she did not often see; Alexander
had written to her only twice
before, and he did not allow
her to write to him at all. "Thank
you, Marie. You may go now."
Hilda sat down by the table
with the letter in her hand,
still unopened. She looked at
it intently, turned it over,
and felt its thickness with her
fingers. She believed that she
sometimes had a kind of second-sight
about letters, and could tell
before she read them whether
they brought good or evil tidings.
She put this one down on the
table in front of her while she
poured her tea. At last, with
a little shiver of expectancy,
she tore open the envelope and
Boston, February-- MY DEAR
It is after twelve o'clock.
Every one else is in bed and
I am sitting alone in my study.
I have been happier in this room
than anywhere else in the world.
Happiness like that makes one
insolent. I used to think these
four walls could stand against
anything. And now I scarcely
know myself here. Now I know
that no one can build his security
upon the nobleness of another
person. Two people, when they
love each other, grow alike in
their tastes and habits and pride,
but their moral natures (whatever
we may mean by that canting expression)
are never welded. The base one
goes on being base, and the noble
one noble, to the end.
The last week has been a bad
one; I have been realizing how
things used to be with me. Sometimes
I get used to being dead inside,
but lately it has been as if
a window beside me had suddenly
opened, and as if all the smells
of spring blew in to me. There
is a garden out there, with stars
overhead, where I used to walk
at night when I had a single
purpose and a single heart. I
can remember how I used to feel
there, how beautiful everything
about me was, and what life and
power and freedom I felt in myself.
When the window opens I know
exactly how it would feel to
be out there. But that garden
is closed to me. How is it, I
ask myself, that everything can
be so different with me when
nothing here has changed? I am
in my own house, in my own study,
in the midst of all these quiet
streets where my friends live.
They are all safe and at peace
with themselves. But I am never
at peace. I feel always on the
edge of danger and change.
I keep remembering locoed horses
I used to see on the range when
I was a boy. They changed like
that. We used to catch them and
put them up in the corral, and
they developed great cunning.
They would pretend to eat their
oats like the other horses, but
we knew they were always scheming
to get back at the loco.
It seems that a man is meant
to live only one life in this
world. When he tries to live
a second, he develops another
nature. I feel as if a second
man had been grafted into me.
At first he seemed only a pleasure-loving
simpleton, of whose company I
was rather ashamed, and whom
I used to hide under my coat
when I walked the Embankment,
in London. But now he is strong
and sullen, and he is fighting
for his life at the cost of mine.
That is his one activity: to
grow strong. No creature ever
wanted so much to live. Eventually,
I suppose, he will absorb me
altogether. Believe me, you will
hate me then.
And what have you to do, Hilda,
with this ugly story? Nothing
at all. The little boy drank
of the prettiest brook in the
forest and he became a stag.
I write all this because I can
never tell it to you, and because
it seems as if I could not keep
silent any longer. And because
I suffer, Hilda. If any one I
loved suffered like this, I'd
want to know it. Help me, Hilda!