|Rights||No Copyright - United States (NoC-US)|
|Publisher||Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah|
|Article Title||Sinners in Heaven|
i SINNERS IN HEAVEN Barbara, watching him, halt held oat her hand. "You must not think hardly o( Alan," she appealed wistfully. "If he had not behaved honorably, I should not have loved him as I did. Surely you believe that, Hugh?" Mechanically he took her hand, "Oh, lord!" he ejaculated. "What a mess It all la!" "It's hell for me!" she exclaimed, a bitter agony In her voice that startled him. He looked at her strangely, amazed. Thin trnglc-eyed woman who had suffered ho much, learning to lova with such fierce Intensity, was far removed re-moved from his old girlish companion. He felt In a turmoil: full of pity for her, though still half Incredulous, chaotically uncertain of his feelings toward Croft. Dropping her hand, he picked up the photograph once morn. Then the full realization of his own loss to he faced for the second time-surged time-surged up In his heart, as he looked at the pictured face. He put It down hurriedly, hur-riedly, and passed Ills hard across his forehead. "It's a d d world now for us hoh, Bab! I I'd hotter go It has rather bowled me over " lie turned away, stumbling a little. "It will be such n blow to the old people," he muttered I PART FOUR Continued. 17 IV To Barbara, that evening seemed never-ending, her false position Intol-erabl Intol-erabl She craved yet dreaded, the morrow when she could talk with Hugh. Once by themselves, the women's tongues buzzed over their coffee cups concerning the latest local scandal. Mrs, Rochdale proceeded with a garrulous gar-rulous account of a housemaid treasure, treas-ure, possessing all the virtues. In whose room four empty whisky bottles had been found, during her absence on holiday 1 As she had been a frequenter of temperance meetings and had taken the pledge, this was In Itself a terrible sin. even though she had never been seen drunk. Whether to allow her to return, or to write and denounce her forthwith, exercised her mistress' simple sim-ple mind to the exclusion of sleep. . . . After much discussion. It was decided to ask the vlcor. By CLIVE ARDEN Copyright by Tha Bobba-Marrlll Co. turea. all the past rose up and enveloped en-veloped her: the comfortable Kngllsh room faded. . . . Once more. In a far-away hat, she prepared strange food for her mate, ever and anon running run-ning to look for his return, seeing little black figures at play on the sand. . . . And presently he came striding down the sunny slope, fresh from a dip In the river, laden with fruit, his dear eyes searching for her. . . , She hurried to meet hi in, taking some of his burden. . . . Again she felt the warm touch of his lips, heard the laughter In his voice as he made some teasing remark. . . , The ringing of a bell brought her sharply back to reality, the sudden cruel contrast cutting her like a whip. With a low moan she sank upon a couch, throwing herself face downward down-ward among the cushions, her lips then claimed her for bis own, by the only bonds which constitute real possession pos-session of a woman. There may be other lawful ties, honorably recognized and adhered to; but, whether near In physical presence, or sundered by countless miles of sea and land, even by death Itself, only the man to whom a woman's heart belongs holds her In true possession. None other can turn the key which unlocks the real fountains foun-tains of her soul. Hugh did not tear the cardboard to fragments. After a few moments' pregnant silence, he laid It upon a table and followed the girl to the window. win-dow. His face was pale, and his voice toneless. "You mean, Bab that" "I I can never marry you." He caught at a chair, but said nothing. noth-ing. "I care for you as much as ever," she went on hurriedly, swing the look on his face. "But It was never love! I have learned that, Hugh. I know now " "You mean " he asked again huskily. The girl watched him, helplessly, with aching heart. As he reached the door, she caught the suspicious glint of misery In his eyes which seemed to break down all barriers. Her defensive attitude melted Into sympathy, as Ice melts at the touch of hot coals. In her Impulsive way she ran to hltn and seized the lapels of bis tweed coat. "Hughle!" she cried, tears raining unheeded down her cheeks. "Forgive me! I couldn't help It. It It breaks my heart to hurt you like this." His hands closed upon her arms, but he could not speak. "I couldn't bear to betray your trust." she sobbed. "Believe me. Hiighie, I tried not to I tried to keep loyal to you" "Oh!" he Interrupted vehemently, "don't make It harder. D'you suppose I should have wanted you to marry me from duty? out of loyalty?" He paused, regarding her thoughtfully for a moment. "There's one thing, Bab" "Yes?" "When you tell your mother or anybody of things being over be- presseil to the unresponsive portrait. Despair again clutched her In Its remorseless re-morseless claws. , . , She lay Inert in her blind tearless abandonment, oblivious to all things. . , . The opening door and quick footsteps foot-steps crossing the room did not disturb dis-turb her. At the touch of an arm about her shoulders she started violently vio-lently and raised a drawn face. Hugh stood beside her, consternation In his eyes. "Bab!" he exclaimed, shocked by her expression. "My dearest! what ever is the matter?" Sbo sat slowly upright, the portrait still clasped with both arms, regarding him dumbly. "I managed to get away this morning morn-ing Martha said you were here ' he stammered. "What Is It, Bab? I I thought something was wrong" It occurred to her that anybody less stupidly dense and unimaginative would have guessed the truth long ago. Then, swiftly chasing the thought, came the knowledge that it was bis genuine simple trust In her and all The girl shrank Into her chair, sick at heart, old talks with Alan in her mind. What key, she wondered, did these people use In substitution for the true one given to the world and lost again? "Churity suffereth long and Is kind." they read glibly; or "He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone." What did half the righteous souls, Judging everybody In their own smug conception of Christianity, Chris-tianity, know of temptation, sin. the meaning of the word love with all Its manifold sub-keys: consideration, understanding, un-derstanding, sympathy. . . . "My dear," broke In old Mr. Koch-dale's Koch-dale's voice, as he seated himself beside be-side her, "we must bring back the rows Into your cheeks!" He took her hand and patted It. "Y'ou mustn't brood over the past. It was a terrible experience terrible! But It's all over now. Forget It, Barbara, like a bad dream, and clieer up again." The words were, to the girl, like blades of steel thrust Into sore bleeding bleed-ing wounds. "Over. . . . Forget !" They seemed to reverberate In her mind, and her very soul turned sick huskily, as her voice faltered. "Croft?" She nodded. The color ebbed still more from his cheeks, and he laid a band on her arm. "But my poor Bab! he is dead " "Oh, I know ! I know !" She clasped her bands In anguish. "But you shall hear all the truth, Hugh It Is your due. He I he was my husband." Hugh started violently and dropped his band. She stood motionless before him. For several long moments the ticking of a little clock and the crackling crac-kling of the tire were the only audible sounds. In his slow fashion, the man was trying, gropingly, to adjust facts. "But" he began at last. "I don't understand! You were only together a few weeks before the wreck. Where did you get married? Why didn't somebody write? I don't understand." he repeated, bewildered. "I thought you disliked him." She looked silently Into bis agitated face; It was evident that the truth was still far from his grasp. "Hughle," she sold very quietly, "It was Impossible to write. We were not married during the trip not until and faint as, gripping the arms of her chair, she heard her mother's voice: "Her time will soon be full again until her wedding, with all her old duties" Then Hugh came up and chatted, in bis usual cheery way, and somebody played and sang. . . . But all the time those two words beat upon her brain. God! was It true? Was this net once more to capture her? Was this nightmare to become the reality, and the splendid real all the very essence es-sence of life to fade Into the dream? The morning wus cold and bright. After a pretense at breakfast, she put on her coat, Hugh not being expected before lunch, and her mother not yet down. A craving for freedom from stone walls, for vigorous action, had seized her. The cold air stinging her face, the wind buffeting her skirts, dulled momentarily the agony within. The lake glistened In the sunshine; here and there sprigs of ling still showed purple amid the russet of dead heather and bracken upon the common ; the white sandy paths were crisp with frost. we had been on the Island for over a year." He gazed at her, speechless, his bewilderment be-wilderment gradually changing to dismay dis-may and dawning horror. "On the Island? For a year?" he echoed. "But how on earth could you get married " Suddenly the blood rushed to his temples and the horror grew and deepened. He cuught her arm, grlppln; it fiercely. "You my God ! Barbara ! you don't mean that you you, of all people and Croft" Abruptly he swung her arm free, his face blazing as she had never seen It. "The swine! the the rotten swine!" he choked, at a loss for words. "I trusted him. He gave me his word " "And he kept it," she cried quickly. He faced her, something nearer to a sneer than she had ever seen curling his good-natured lips. "In what way? By betraying the greatest trust one man can put In another? By dragging ytm down " "Be quiet, Hugh!" The anger In her voice silenced him. He turned away, dazed. Sinking upon the couch, be covered bis face with bis iween us, oon t mention your marriage! mar-riage! They won't understand, and It will he rough for you." She threw hack her head, with something some-thing of Alan's old arrogance, and drew away. "I know you mean that kindly, Hugh; but it's Impossible! It would seem as if I were ashamed. It would be implying that our convictions were wrong." "People are not overcharitahle about here, as you know," he urged. "You may both have acted according to your convictions, and they may have been right; hut all the same It was unorthodox, unor-thodox, and They will simply throw mud at you and especially him I Bab," he came buek to her, speaking with unusual Insistence, "I can't bear to think of you facing that ! For my sake, as well as your own and his, don't tell them." She remained silent. The truth r.f his words, as appliMd to Alan, struck her forcibly. The contemplation of his name suffering calumny had already, that morning, proved unbearable. "It would be an awful trouble to your mother and my old people," he At the corner where the lane Joined the main road, she paused. Here, she and that other had first met. With exquisite pain, memories of those far-off far-off first encounters seethed Into her mind. She saw again the half-mocking smile upon his lips; remembered his teasing words and her own annoyance, annoy-ance, after speaking of her heart's de- added, with his usual thouglitfulness. "They will be upset, as It Is. And they couldn't understand." She suddenly turned and caught his shoulders. "Hughle! do you?" she asked earnestly. earn-estly. "Ah! you must! I can't lose your faith, too." Then he acted In a manner that astonished as-tonished them both. Passion and a sense of the dramatic had ever been far from his nature. Involuntarily, however, his fingers closed around her wrists. liaising her hands, he pressed his lips upon them. "Heaven know1 what was right or w rong," he declared hurriedly. "But oh, my dear! God help you!" The door slummed, nnd he was gone from her life this man who had been j friend and brother, playmate or lover, hands. The girl was trembling with Indignation. Indig-nation. Her back to the room, she struggled with the hot anger seething within until her woman's understanding understand-ing won the victory. Then she turned round. "It was my doing," she said. "Your doing?" He sprang to his feet and walked about agitatedly. "Whnt d'you mean? You were not the sort of girl to encourage For God's sake, explain everything !" "lie kept his word to you," she repeated. re-peated. "He saved my life at the risk of his own. In every possible way he looked after my safety and comfort: nobody could have done more. Although Al-though he cared all the time, I never even guessed It 1 He he thought I belonged to you." She paused, shading shad-ing her eyes. "Then" Then Hugh Came Up and Chatted. his fellow-creatures which blinded blm. Suspicion was as foreign to his honest nature as subtle changes were beyond his ken. She recognized, with a warm rush of sympathy, that her affection for this old companion remained unchanged un-changed ; she alone was to blame for mistaking It for anything more, with the Inevitable suffering she was about to cause. She stretched out her hand ; and he took It In both of his. "Hughle! Everything Is wrong." "Tell me nil about It," he urged, sitting sit-ting beside her. "We can probably put things right between us." She shook her head, with a cntch of her breath; then drew her hand gently free again. nil her youth. . . . She stood gaz'ng drearily through the window at the desolate tennis court, whore they had played so often together, ond an extra wave of lonely bitterness swept into her heart. . . . She saw Hugh, with bent head, cross the grass to the garden gar-den gate. . . . Then she sank Ir.to a chair before the fire, crushed by an overpowering sense of physical weakness. weak-ness. (TO BE CONTINUED.) "Months went by, and no rescue came. Then 1 oh, Hughle, I couldn't help It I realized I loved him. and and he knew It, too. . . . We meant to wait nnd tell you. But months passed again, and the position became impossible. You can't understand under-stand here. But there we had to face facts quite differently from ordinary standpoints to make our own laws. He left the decision to me. ... At sire. . . . fcne understood, as she turned hurriedly away, how, from the first, those keen eyes had read Into her heart, penetrating to what she was but vaguely conscious of herself. , . . Her heart's desire? Ah, bow changed It nil was now how changed. . . . Since treading last these familiar, heathery paths, a lifetime seemed to have elapsed. She looked back with wonder upon the Inexperienced girl dimly yearning after an Intangible something beyond the daily horizon. hori-zon. . . . Presently she turned her steps to the house where so many happy hours had been spent. The garden looked deserted now, the tennis court frost-bound frost-bound and dreary. But the housekeeper house-keeper welcomed her wnrmly; and the few school teachers Installed there for Christmas holidays looked at her with Ill-concealed curiosity. She hurried away, up to Mrs. Field's little den. Its owner being one of those whose arrivals ar-rivals ever had the charm of unexpectedness, unexpect-edness, the room bad a cheerful fire and was fragrant with hothouse flowers. flow-ers. As Barbara looked round at the buff walls nnd deep-blue velvet curtains, cur-tains, the soft chairs built for comfort, and shelves stacked with books, other memories of confidential chats and cozy teas caused her again to realize the gulf yawning between herself nnd the girl of long ago. She turned to the book shelves, then walked restlessly back to the fire. . . . All at once she caught, with a little cry. at the hack of a chair, ns her glance fell upon he writing table. For the eyes she loved and had lost met her own. with the old straight penetrating pen-etrating look. . . , She ran forward and picked up the photograph. He wore tfie uniform of an air force officer, and hta face was set In the lines of dogged stubbornness when unpleasant business wns afoot, which she knew well. . . . The vivid likeness was Bittersweet. "It's s d d nuisance get It done!" Bbe could almost hear the thought she read behind tb grim lips. . . . Then, as she gazed upon the familiar fea- "I'm I've got to hurt you horribly. Oh! my dear! I can't bear doing It." Rising Impulsively, she walked to the window and back, her face working with emotion. "Can't you guess, Hugh? Can't you realize that that everything Is different, now?" she cried, looking straight Into his bewildered face. Apprehension wns spreading over his features. His brown eyes, with their dawning sense of trouble, resembled that of a faithful dog not understanding understand-ing the meaning of some unexpected chastisement. The girl could not bear to see it. She looked Involuntarily down at what was still clasped to her breast. Ills glance followed hers, and the apprehension deepened. "Guess what?" he muttered. "What's that. Bab? A photograph?" She nodded. He suddenly stepjied toward her. "Whose? What I oh, lord! Tell me straight!" It was the cry of one upon the borderland bor-derland of tragic discovery. Feeling like an old-time executioner who let the ax fall upon the quivering neck of his victim, ending the hopes and affections affec-tions of a lifetime, she silently handed him the photograph, and again turned to the window. Looking with unseeing eyes at the frosty landscape, her thoughts reverted to a curiously similar scene in the past, wherein the situation was reversed. Hugh's portrait hnd played Its part In that little drama. Alan, she remembered, remem-bered, had. with characteristic vehemence, ve-hemence, torn (t Into shreds. . , . last, after months again of struggle and uncertainty I became convinced that It would be right to make our own marriage, too " She touched her finger. "This was the only ring he had." Her words went Into silence. A faint relief replaced the look of horror in Hugh's face. To an essentially clean-living British sportsman, the idea of wantonness between the girl he loved and the man he had trusted was unbearable. That hasty judgment was contradicted by her words. He could not, as she surmised, clearly comprehend compre-hend the magnitude of the forces to be contended with upon the Island, any more than a man learning swimming strokes in still water can realize the difficulties to be encountered, by the same movements, out In the open sea. But the simplicity of her explanation, offering no excuses, brought with It the force of truth. Kvldently. however how-ever Incomprehensibly, each had acted in accordance with deeply weighed convictions. . . . This was Hughs first plunge Into such complications: be was utterly lost, adrift from every mooring.