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to her openly of his own prospects. He had a delightful personality, and as he always took it for granted that women are no less interested in the broader topics of life than men, he took the same pains to talk well to them.
When he had broken down the barriers of her reserve, and they were again on their old footing, he began to question her about herself. He approved her attitude: she had been dignified and yet she had won the sympathy of everyone, simply by making no bid for it. He found her distinctly improved, and told her so.
'You've grown up,' he told her; 'not old, you understand, because, as a matter of fact, you look younger than ever, but you strike one now as an intelligent adult being.'
'I'd like to strike you as an adult being,' she answered, making a little face at him; but she was not displeased to be again talking personalities with a man who was interested in her. She told him how keen she was to make up for all the time she had lost on things which had proved so deplorably worthless, and how eager she felt to reconstruct her life on more rugged lines.
'One part of life is so entirely over,' she said, 'and that's the only part I know anything about. It's rather hard to know where to begin afresh.'
'Meaning, I suppose,' Vane answered, 'that your career as a wife is closed? My dear Linda, you have only just learned how to be a wife for a man; not a boy, you understand, but a grown-up man who wants a grown-up woman. Not,' he added, 'that your present frame of mind is n't a very healthy one until the right man comes along. You can't afford a second mistake.'
This was going a little far, even for Leigh. Linda became intensely serious.
'I wish you would try to appreciate the situation,' she said. 'You say I seem to have grown up, and I assure
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you that it is true, if it is only in the way I look at the things which I accepted so lightly a few months ago. While I find myself happier to-day than I have been since I outgrew my infatuation for Harry and have seen him with the eyes of all the people, yourself included, who begged me not to marry him, I realize more than ever before the tragedy that has occurred, and I would rather go back to the hell which made up my life until six months ago than have had to make the explanation which I made to Philippa to-day. So there is no need, Leigh, for your kindly little warning about second mistakes.'
'My dear Linda,' he said, quite as serious as she, 'I don't want you to think that I, of all people, have taken this step of yours as anything but the very best way out of an intolerable situation, and I trust with all my heart that it is one which will prove to be for the happiness of everyone concerned; although I understand you perfectly when you say that to-day you feel that happiness is hardly an essential compared to your children's belief in the sanctity of marriage. Forgive me if I have offended by too great frankness in stating that I can't believe that life is over for anyone who has developed under it as magnificently as you.'
Compliments from Leigh were few and far between, and Linda treasured them correspondingly. She took his proffered hand.
'You will help me to go on, 'won't you?' she said. 'I am depending on you to keep me in touch with lots of big things, which are all around you and quite out of reach of a lone woman.'
'As a start, I'll send you some books which may be of interest,' he promised. 'At least, I hope they'll prove so involved you'll have to let me come often to explain them.'
In a few moments he took his departure, conscious that he felt more intense
sympathy for this old friend than he had in all the miserable years which had followed her rash disregard of his advice and the advice of all the people who had known both Linda and Mainwaring. To him, divorce was a very hideous thing; and the fact that it had become so to her made her more appealing than she had been before she had experienced it. Linda, on her side, felt that her friendship with Leigh had been put through the acid test and come out pure gold.
She began to pick up the broken threads again, and in the next few months, although she became intimate with no one, she resumed a normal intercourse with the people who had been lifelong friends and neighbors. But behind her outer life she continued to expand and develop within herself. The books which Leigh sent her she not only read, but studied; and soon he was coming, not only to expound their meanings, but to discuss and argue them with her. That summer they went deep into a comprehension of Socialism, and, strangely enough, it made a strong appeal both to the woman who had spent her whole life among the frivolous by-products of capitalism and to the man who was running for governor, the choice of serious capitalists. As the work of his campaign grew more engrossing, he found tremendous inspiration in Linda's freshly awakened mental responsiveness; and in meeting the demands of her eager mind for more and ever more facts and explanations, he developed a knowledge of the psychology of the people whom he wanted for his constituents.
It happened that year that there was no dearth of gubernatorial material for the Republicans to choose from, and the nomination of a candidate promised a more bitter fight than the election it
self. The state had suffered through a considerable period from a Democratic governor, who had been sustained in office by the labor vote and the Roman Church, of which he was a member. He had pushed representatives of that institution on every state board which had hitherto kept clear of sectarian differences; and he had been very much to the fore in advocating parochial schools to be supported by the unredeemed but tax-paying public.
But, although many people despised the Governor, his policies did not awaken enough antagonism in the country districts, where the Republicans must look for their strength, to defeat him, unless some defalcation should split his own ranks. Suddenly, when his enemies were despairing, he not only threw ammunition into their hands, but caused an explosion among his own adherents. Whether it was a question of real conviction, or pressure brought to bear by some political magnate who was in matrimonial difficulties, could not be ascertained; but without warning to the leaders of his party or his Church, the Governor announced himself in favor of more uniform and lenient divorce laws. The present laws, he was quoted as saying, entailed suffering only on the poor, while the rich evaded them by taking up residence in some other state. It was preposterous, if a person could obtain divorce from a criminal, that one could not from a lunatic; and if religious conviction made divorce and remarriage possible for one cause, it should do as much for several causes. He added that the state laws could not affect people to whom the Church denied divorce; that personally, as a Catholic, he deplored divorce, but as governor of a people of varying creeds, he invoked justice.
This last, which was obviously intended as a sop to his Church, failed to abate the antagonism that his position
aroused; and even the weight of such an influential politician as Mr. Henry McFarland was unable to crush the opposition which threatened to break the Democratic strength. The fact that McFarland's wife had been confined in an institution for the hopelessly insane earned for that gentleman the opprobrium of Henry the Eighth; and it was hinted, not only that the Governor had broken faith with his Church, but that his political honor was not above suspicion.
It was felt by Republican leaders that a crisis had presented itself which gave their party a chance for reinstate ment; for while McFarland and his colleagues were strong enough to keep a fresh candidate from acquiring control in their own party, they were unable to influence a number of individuals who loudly acclaimed their disapproval of the present Governor's pretension to another term. It therefore seemed not only possible, but highly probable that, should the Republican nominee prove popular personally, he would stand an excellent chance.
To men like Leigh Vane, the present opportunity led to a hope, not only that his party would win the coming election, but that a man of ideals and vision could do much more than hold down the office - he could lead the state back to the Republican majority which a fairly recent invasion of foreign labor had temporarily overthrown. But it would need a man who firmly believed in his party to accomplish this, not a mere opportunist, and it would take a man of great personal integrity and sincerity, quite apart from his political persuasion, to induce the wavering element to come over to his side. Of the present aspirants to the nomination, three names stood out more and more prominently as the date for decision approached. These were Bernard Fabian, Edward Joyce, and Leigh Vane.
Fabian was one of the largest employers of labor in the state; he was a self-made man, who had worked his way up in one of the woolen mills that he now controlled.
Joyce was the more usual type. He had been through the political mill, and had given up a profitable law practice to enter politics.
Though not a capitalist like Fabian, Vane came of people who had always belonged to the moneyed class. They were also people who had served their country in various branches. His grandfather had held the rank of colonel in the Civil War, where his name was still remembered in the homes of men who had composed his regiment. His son, Leigh's father, was concluding his useful if not brilliant term as United States Senator at the time of his death. Leigh himself had been brought up in the traditions of Republicanism, and several of the big men of the party had been his personal friends from childhood. But his present strength lay far less in these affiliations than in the esteem in which the influential men of his own state held him. Orphaned and well-to-do, he had chosen a life of rigorous work on a newspaper, where he had never attempted to score personally, but had given freely of himself to the good of the cause. A year before, he had been requested to contest the Congressional seat of his district, and for a while he had been greatly tempted; but he had proved himself big enough not to risk splitting the slim Republican majority; and he had done such excellent work in upholding the man who might have been his rival, that he was henceforth considered a definite political factor.
Linda had made a point of meeting both Fabian and Joyce, and assured herself that, quite apart from her affection for him, Leigh was far better qualified for the office than either of the
others. She was not the kind of woman who would ever be a direct factor in public life, but her influence could be none the less real. Men said things to her, when she expressed a wish to take politics seriously, which they might not have said to so casual a male acquaintance; and she was clever in using the information she received. She secured several bits of political gossip, which were of some value to Vane; and when he told her so, she was conscious of greater enthusiasm for life than she had felt for years. And it was not only in this way that she helped him. He had no one very near to him with whom to discuss the problems that his campaign presented; and not only did Linda's eager interest prevent him from feeling that he was imposing them upon her, but in putting them before her, he put them more clearly to himself. If Linda was a help to him, he proved himself invaluable to her, not only in stimulating her intellect, but in many little crises of her domestic life.
There were, of course, comparatively long stretches of time when they did not see each other at all, but these made them realize how closely their interests were attuned. Perhaps the fact that the whole situation was abnormal made both Linda and Vane slow to realize its normal consequence. Summer burned itself out, and the early autumn brought new political activities, which made frequent meetings impossible.
swarmed over him, showed him every new acquisition since his last visit, played a series of delightful games with him, and went reluctantly upstairs at their bedtime, bribed by the promise that he would come and help Mummy tuck them up. Linda had been more audience than participant in the games. She was conscious of a queer heartache when she saw Leigh with her childrena jealousy for them, and a knowledge that he filled a place in their lives she could never fill.
He stood up when they had gone, smoothing his hair with his hands, straightening his tie, which their last mad game had disarranged, and met Linda's eyes. The expression in them hurt him unbearably it made her look so detached, so apart from his own healthy, ambitious life.
'I should like some air before dinner,' he said. 'Is it too cold for a last look at the garden, do you think, before we say good-night to the children?'
'It's not very cold. This moon brought a frost, and there's nothing left in the garden, but it's delicious there, I know.'
She got up from her chair; he opened one of the long glass doors and followed her out on the terrace; they crossed, and descended some steps. It was dark save for the cold light of the young autumn moon, which cast hard, curious shadows. The garden, surrounded by a great hemlock hedge, had been a riot of color only a few days before; but tonight the flowers in the moonlight appeared dry husks, ghosts of a vanished loveliness.
They were both very quiet; she was thinking that once she had stolen out of the house and danced in this moonlit garden with a vine twisted in her hair, and a man had pursued her and kissed her in the shadow of the hemlock hedge, and she had thought she loved him. Vane was thinking what a little
their next meeting, to plan any detail of their future-the present was gloriously sufficient.
'I'll write you in the morning, Linda; to-night, perhaps, when I get to town. Good-night, my darling' And he was in the hall, struggling with the overcoat which her old butler was holding for him.
She watched him through a crack in the door, eager to see him, to see his face when he was not aware of her. He pulled a paper from his pocket and wrote upon it hastily. She saw him turn to the servant, and heard him speak.
'Mitten, here's a telegram- get it off for me to-night, will you? I meant to send it from the village, but I can't make my train if I do. You can send it over the telephone, but it must go at once. Thanks awfully.'
And he was gone, after handing the paper to the man. The noise of the motor became louder for a moment, and then died away in the distance.
Linda went back to her big chair beside the fire, almost unconscious of any movement she made. She had ceased to be mere flesh and blood; rather she was a sunlit beach flooded by warm waves of happiness.
The entrance of Mitten aroused her. 'Beg pardon, Miss Linda,' he said after Harry's departure, he could never bear to call her Mrs. Mainwaring, and had gone back to her girlhood appellation. 'Mr. Vane left a message for me to send over the telephone, but I can't 'ardly make hout 'is 'andwriting. I wondered would you mind, miss, being as 'ow 'e said hit was most himportant?'
thing a career was, compared to a woman with eyes like that; a woman who needed him more than state or party could ever need him; a woman he wanted far above the laurels of a statesman. They gazed into the blackness of the hemlocks as if they were visualizing there the things they were thinking ofuntil at last he broke the long silence. 'Linda, my dear my dear!' And she was in his arms, their lips together in their first communion. And with that kiss she was sealed his; with it she entered her kingdom, the kingdom that had never been hers before. The dancing girl who had been kissed in the garden was no part of the woman in Vane's arms. Harry Mainwaring had captured some excrescence, which her youth had thrown off, but he had never touched the seed of her soul that had matured under Leigh's companionship and blossomed at his kiss.
He held her until the children's insistent voices penetrated their fastness, when they retraced their steps to the house. Up in the nurseries, the little girls in their night-clothes were eager for another romp, but Leigh was in no mood for it. He was sweet with them, tender even; but it was he who stood apart, a spectator, while they crowded around Linda to say their prayers and be kissed good-night.
At dinner neither of them spoke much, their understanding was too deep, their content too complete, to need words. The dramatic touch, which no woman lacks, enabled Linda to start fitful topics of conversation when the servants were in the room, as their sense of convention led them to make a pretense of eating; but it was a relief to have the meal over and to find themselves again in the drawing-room, free from interruptions.
At half-past nine, when the motor came to take him to the train, they had not begun to say good-night, to discuss
'I'll send it, of course. You can put the lights out here, and I'll telephone the message from my room. night, Mitten.'
'Lord,' he thought as she went out,