On the last
Saturday in April, the New
York "Times" published
an account of the strike complications
which were delaying Alexander's
New Jersey bridge, and stated
that the engineer himself was
in town and at his office on
West Tenth Street.
On Sunday, the day after this
notice appeared, Alexander worked
all day at his Tenth Street rooms.
His business often called him
to New York, and he had kept
an apartment there for years,
subletting it when he went abroad
for any length of time. Besides
his sleeping-room and bath, there
was a large room, formerly a
painter's studio, which he used
as a study and office. It was
furnished with the cast-off possessions
of his bachelor days and with
odd things which he sheltered
for friends of his who followed
itinerant and more or less artistic
callings. Over the fireplace
there was a large old-fashioned
gilt mirror. Alexander's big
work-table stood in front of
one of the three windows, and
above the couch hung the one
picture in the room, a big canvas
of charming color and spirit,
a study of the Luxembourg Gardens
in early spring, painted in his
youth by a man who had since
become a portrait-painter of
international renown. He had
done it for Alexander when they
were students together in Paris.
Sunday was a cold, raw day
and a fine rain fell continuously.
When Alexander came back from
dinner he put more wood on his
fire, made himself comfortable,
and settled down at his desk,
where he began checking over
estimate sheets. It was after
nine o'clock and he was lighting
a second pipe, when he thought
he heard a sound at his door.
He started and listened, holding
the burning match in his hand;
again he heard the same sound,
like a firm, light tap. He rose
and crossed the room quickly.
When he threw open the door he
recognized the figure that shrank
back into the bare, dimly lit
hallway. He stood for a moment
in awkward constraint, his pipe
in his hand.
"Come in," he said to Hilda
at last, and closed the door
behind her. He pointed to a chair
by the fire and went back to
his worktable. "Won't you sit
He was standing behind the
table, turning over a pile of
blueprints nervously. The yellow
light from the student's lamp
fell on his hands and the purple
sleeves of his velvet smoking-jacket,
but his flushed face and big,
hard head were in the shadow.
There was something about him
that made Hilda wish herself
at her hotel again, in the street
below, anywhere but where she
"Of course I know, Bartley," she
said at last, "that after this
you won't owe me the least consideration.
But we sail on Tuesday. I saw
that interview in the paper yesterday,
telling where you were, and I
thought I had to see you. That's
all. Good-night; I'm going now." She
turned and her hand closed on
toward her and took her gently
by the arm. "Sit
down, Hilda; you're wet through.
Let me take off your coat --and
your boots; they're oozing water." He
knelt down and began to unlace
her shoes, while Hilda shrank
into the chair. "Here, put your
feet on this stool. You don't
mean to say you walked down--and
Hilda hid her
face in her hands. "I
was afraid to take a cab. Can't
you see, Bartley, that I'm terribly
frightened? I've been through
this a hundred times to-day.
Don't be any more angry than
you can help. I was all right
until I knew you were in town.
If you'd sent me a note, or telephoned
me, or anything! But you won't
let me write to you, and I had
to see you after that letter,
that terrible letter you wrote
me when you got home."
her, resting his arm on the
him, and began to brush the sleeve
of his jacket. "Is this the way
you mean to answer it, Hilda?" he
She was afraid
to look up at him. "Didn't--didn't you mean
even to say goodby to me, Bartley?
Did you mean just to-- quit me?" she
asked. "I came to tell you that
I'm willing to do as you asked
me. But it's no use talking about
that now. Give me my things,
please." She put her hand out
toward the fender.
down on the arm of her chair. "Did you think
I had forgotten you were in town,
Hilda? Do you think I kept away
by accident? Did you suppose
I didn't know you were sailing
on Tuesday? There is a letter
for you there, in my desk drawer.
It was to have reached you on
the steamer. I was all the morning
writing it. I told myself that
if I were really thinking of
you, and not of myself, a letter
would be better than nothing.
Marks on paper mean something
to you." He paused. "They never
did to me."
up at him beautifully and put
her hand on his sleeve. "Oh,
Bartley! Did you write to me?
Why didn't you telephone me to
let me know that you had? Then
I wouldn't have come."
his arm about her. "I didn't know it before,
Hilda, on my honor I didn't,
but I believe it was because,
deep down in me somewhere, I
was hoping I might drive you
to do just this. I've watched
that door all day. I've jumped
up if the fire crackled. I think
I have felt that you were coming." He
bent his face over her hair.
"And I," she whispered,--"I
felt that you were feeling that.
But when I came, I thought I
had been mistaken."
Alexander started up and began
to walk up and down the room.
"No, you weren't mistaken.
I've been up in Canada with my
bridge, and I arranged not to
come to New York until after
you had gone. Then, when your
manager added two more weeks,
I was already committed." He
dropped upon the stool in front
of her and sat with his hands
hanging between his knees. "What
am I to do, Hilda?"
I wanted to see you about,
Bartley. I'm going
to do what you asked me to do
when you were in London. Only
I'll do it more completely. I'm
going to marry."
"Oh, it doesn't
matter much! One of them. Only
not Mac. I'm
too fond of him."
you joking, Hilda?"
"Then you don't
know what you're talking about."
"Yes, I know
very well. I've thought about
it a great deal,
and I've quite decided. I never
used to understand how women
did things like that, but I know
now. It's because they can't
be at the mercy of the man they
love any longer."
it's better to be at the mercy
of a man you don't love?"
There was a flash in her eyes
that made Alexander's fall. He
got up and went over to the window,
threw it open, and leaned out.
He heard Hilda moving about behind
him. When he looked over his
shoulder she was lacing her boots.
He went back and stood over her.
better think a while longer
before you do that.
I don't know what I ought to
say, but I don't believe you'd
be happy; truly I don't. Aren't
you trying to frighten me?"
She tied the
knot of the last lacing and
put her boot-heel
down firmly. "No; I'm telling
you what I've made up my mind
to do. I suppose I would better
do it without telling you. But
afterward I shan't have an opportunity
to explain, for I shan't be seeing
Alexander started to speak,
but caught himself. When Hilda
rose he sat down on the arm of
her chair and drew her back into
"I wouldn't be so much alarmed
if I didn't know how utterly
reckless you CAN be. Don't do
anything like that rashly." His
face grew troubled. "You wouldn't
be happy. You are not that kind
of woman. I'd never have another
hour's peace if I helped to make
you do a thing like that." He
took her face between his hands
and looked down into it. "You
see, you are different, Hilda.
Don't you know you are?" His
voice grew softer, his touch
more and more tender. "Some women
can do that sort of thing, but
you--you can love as queens did,
in the old time."
Hilda had heard
that soft, deep tone in his
voice only once
before. She closed her eyes;
her lips and eyelids trembled. "Only
one, Bartley. Only one. And he
threw it back at me a second
She felt the strength leap
in the arms that held her so
"Try him again,
Hilda. Try him once again."
She looked up into his eyes,
and hid her face in her hands.