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- You Never Know Your Luck, Volume 3. - 2/14 -
"I've got a plan, and I believe--I know--it will work," Kitty continued. "I've been thinking and thinking, and if there's trouble between them; if he says he isn't going on with her till he's made his fortune; if he throws that unopened letter in her face, I'll bring in my invention to deal with the problem, and then you'll see! But all this fuss for a little tiny button of a thing like that in there--pshaw! Mr. Crozier is worth a real queen with the beauty of one of the Rhine maidens. How he used to tell that story of the Rhinegold--do you remember? Wasn't it grand? Well, I am glad now that he's going--yes, whatever trouble there may be, still he is going. I feel it in my heart."
She paused, and her eyes took on a sombre tone. Presently, with a slight, husky pain in her voice, like the faint echo of a wail, she went on: "Now that he's going, I'm glad we've had the things he gave us, things that can't be taken away from us. What you have enjoyed is yours for ever and ever. It's memory; and for one moment or for one day or one year of those things you loved, there's fifty years, perhaps, for memory. Don't you remember the verses I cut out of the magazine:
"'Time, the ruthless idol-breaker, Smileless, cold iconoclast, Though he rob us of our altars, Cannot rob us of the past.'"
"That's the way your father used to talk," replied her mother. "There's a lot of poetry in you, Kitty." "More than there is in her?" asked Kitty, again indicating the region where Mrs. Crozier was.
"There's as much poetry in her as there is in--in me. But she can do things; that little bit of a babywoman can do things, Kitty. I know women, and I tell you that if that woman hadn't a penny, she'd set to and earn it; and if her husband hadn't a penny, she'd make his home comfortable just the same somehow, for she's as capable as can be. She had her things unpacked, her room in order herself--she didn't want your help or mine--and herself with a fresh dress on before you could turn round."
Kitty's eyes softened still more. "Well, if she'd been poor he would never have left her, and then they wouldn't have lost five years--think of it, five years of life with the man you love lost to you!--and there wouldn't be this tough old knot to untie now."
"She has suffered--that little sparrow has suffered, I tell you, Kitty. She has a grip on herself like--like--"
"Like Mr. Crozier with a broncho under his hand," interjected Kitty. "She's too neat, too eternally spick and span for me, mother. It's as though the Being that made her said, 'Now I'll try and see if I can produce a model of a grown-up, full-sized piece of my work.' Mrs. Crozier is an exhibition model, and Shiel Crozier's over six feet three, and loose and free, and like a wapiti in his gait. If he was a wapiti he'd carry the finest pair of antlers ever was."
"Kitty, you make me laugh," responded the puzzled woman. "I declare, you're the most whimsical creature, and--"
At that moment there came a tapping at the door behind them, and a small, silvery voice said, "May I come in?" as the door opened and Mrs. Crozier, very precisely yet prettily dressed, entered.
"Please make yourself at home--no need to rap," answered Mrs. Tynan. "Out in the West here we live in the open like. There's no room closed to you, if you can put up with what there is, though it's not what you're used to."
"For five months in the year during the past five years I've lived in a house about half as large as this," was Mrs. Crozier's reply. "With my husband away there wasn't the need of much room."
"Well, he only has one room here," responded Mrs. Tynan. "He never seemed too crowded in it."
"Where is it? Might I see it?" asked the small, dark-eyed, dark-haired wife, with the little touch of nectarine bloom and a little powder also; and though she spoke in a matter-of-fact tone, there was a look of wistfulness in her eyes, a gleam of which Kitty caught ere it passed.
"You've been separated, Mrs. Crozier," answered the elder woman, "and I've no right to let you into his room without his consent. You've had no correspondence at all for five years--isn't that so?"
"Did he tell you that?" the regal little lady asked composedly, but with an underglow of anger in her eyes.
"He told the court that at the Logan Trial," was the reply.
"At the murder trial--he told that?" Mrs. Crozier asked almost mechanically, her face gone pale and a little haggard.
"He was obliged to answer when that wolf, Gus Burlingame, was after him," interposed Kitty with kindness in her tone, for, suddenly, she saw through the outer walls of the little wife's being into the inner courts. She saw that Mrs. Crozier loved her husband now, whatever she had done in the past. The sight of love does not beget compassion in a loveless heart, but there was love in Kitty's heart; and it was even greater than she would have wished any human being to see; and by it she saw with radium clearness through the veil of the other woman's being.
"Surely he could have avoided answering that," urged Mona Crozier bitterly.
"Only by telling a lie," Kitty quickly answered, "and I don't believe he ever told a lie in his life. Come," she added, "I will show you his room. My mother needn't do it, and so she won't be responsible. You have your rights as a wife until they're denied you. You mustn't come, mother," she said to Mrs. Tynan, and she put a tender hand on her arm.
"This way," she added to the little person in the pale blue, which suited well her very dark hair, blue eyes, and rose-touched cheeks.
KITTY SPEAKS HER MIND AGAIN
A moment later they stood inside Shiel Crozier's room. The first glance his wife gave took in the walls, the table, the bureau, and the desk which contained her own unopened letter. She was looking for a photograph of herself.
There was none in the room, and an arid look came into her face. The glance and its sequel did not escape Kitty's notice. She knew well--as who would not?--what Mona Crozier was hoping to see, and she was human enough to feel a kind of satisfaction in the wife's chagrin and disappointment; for the unopened letter in the baize-covered desk which she had read was sufficient warrant for a punishment and penalty due the little lady, and not the less because it was so long delayed. Had not Shiel Crozier had his draught of bitter herbs to drink over the past five years?
Moreover, Kitty was sure beyond any doubt at all that Shiel Crozier's wife, when she wrote the letter, did not love her husband, or at least did not love him in the right or true way. She loved him only so far as her then selfish nature permitted her to do; only in so far as the pride of money which she had, and her husband had not, did not prevent; only in so far as the nature of a tyrant could love--though the tyranny was pink and white and sweetly perfumed and had the lure of youth. In her primitive way Kitty had intuitively apprehended the main truth, and that was enough to justify her in contributing to Mona Crozier's punishment.
Kitty's perceptions were true. At the start, Mona was in nature proportionate to her size; and when she married she had not loved Crozier as he had loved her. Maybe that was why--though he may not have admitted it to himself--he could not bear to be beholden to her when his ruin came. Love makes all things possible, and there is no humiliation in taking from one who loves and is loved, that uncapitalised and communal partnership which is not of the earth earthy. Perhaps that was why, though Shiel loved her, he had had a bitterness which galled his soul; why he had a determination to win sufficient wealth to make himself independent of her. Down at the bottom of his chivalrous Irish heart he had learned the truth, that to be dependent on her would beget in her contempt for him, and he would be only her paid paramour and not her husband in the true sense. Quixotic he had been, but under his quixotism there was at least the shadow of a great tragical fact, and it had made him a matrimonial deserter. Whether tragedy or comedy would emerge was all on the knees of the gods.
"It's a nice room, isn't it?" asked Kitty when there had passed from Mona Crozier's eyes the glaze or mist--not of tears, but stupefaction-- which had followed her inspection of the walls, the bureau, the table, and the desk.
"Most comfortable, and so very clean--quite spotless," the wife answered admiringly, and yet drearily. It made her feel humiliated that her man could live this narrow life of one room without despair, with sufficient resistance to the lure of her hundred and fifty thousand pounds and her own delicate and charming person. Here, it would seem, he was content. One easy-chair, made out of a barrel, a couch, a bed--a very narrow bed, like a soldier's, a bed for himself alone--a small table, a shelf on the wall with a dozen books, a little table, a bureau, and an old-fashioned, sloping-topped, shallow desk covered with green baize, on high legs, so that like a soldier too he could stand as he wrote (Crozier had made that high stand for the desk himself). That was what the room conveyed to her--the spirit of the soldier, bare, clean, strong, sparse: a workshop and a chamber of sleep in one, like the tent of an officer on the march. After the feeling had come to her, to heighten the sensation she espied a little card hung under the small mirror on the wall. There was writing on it, and going nearer, she saw in red pencil the words, "Courage, soldier!"
These were the words which Kitty was so fond of using, and the girl had a thrill of triumph now as she saw the woman from whom Crozier had fled looking at the card. She herself had come and looked at it many times since Crozier had gone, for he had only put it there just before he left on his last expedition to Aspen Vale to carry through his deal. It had brought a great joy to Kitty's heart. It had made her feel that she had some share in his life; that, in a way, she had helped him on the march, the vivandiere who carried the water-bag which would give him drink when parched, battle-worn, or wounded.
Mona Crozier turned away from the card, sadly reflecting that nothing in the room recalled herself; that she was not here in the very core of his life in even the smallest way. Yet this girl, this sunny creature with the call of youth and passion in her eyes, this Ruth of the wheat-fields, came and went here as though she was a part of it. She did this and that for him, and she was no doubt on such terms of intimacy with him that they were really part of each other's life in a scheme of domesticity unlike any boarding-house organization she had ever known. Here in
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