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As a Man is Able


[ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.] As a Man is Able BY DORA LANGLOIS, Author of A Bolt from the Blue," The Crimson Slipper," &c. From a brown barn on the side of a hill Overlooking the Severn valley came the sound of whistling, no popular air massacred, but the waltz from "Faust" faultlessly rendered, accompanied by the grinding of a turnip- cutter. "A farmer's bJ7 with all that music in him," said one oi !he two men who stood out- side the barn listening, "and the waltz; not the soldiers' chorus, mark you! One could understand it better if it had been the sol- diers' chorus. I have locked the obstinate young ruffian in." "What for?" demanded the other, the taller and handsomer man of the two. "To punish him for telling lies, and deny- ing that he could whistle anything." The whistling ceascd, and the musical en- thusiast, left to hiinsalf, leaned comfortably against the fence. "My young friend will be getting uneasy presently," he mused. "Where did he hear the music, I wonder, and having memorised it, how did lie get in his pig-driv- ing experience the faintest inkling of the emotions he throws into it 1 He seems to know what I felt when the mother died—and the thing that is m a man when the world won't be driven. I'll swear that he has some idea, too, of what I shall feel when the one woman' arrives, and what I might experience if, having arrived, she departed with an- other.' Hullo! What's that? Yes; by jove! He has got out." Wincott was over the fence in a moment, and tearing down-bill in hot pursuit of an ordinary-looking boy in corduroys. The latter had a good start, however, and the chase was a fairly long one. "How did you get out of the barn?" Win- cott demanded, when he finally caught his man. "I wasn't in the barn," sobbed the youth. s'I was behind it, cutting turmuts. It ain't me as does the whistling, and I'll ask my father if you've a right to come making a fool o' me, and chasing me up hill i and down dalep There was such convincing sincerity about the disclaimer that after some further nego- tiations, in which half-a-crown played a pro- minent part, the would-be patron of youth- ful genius hurried up the hill again a sadder ■ and wiser man. "Wrong boy, of course!" he said, as he fitted the rusty key in the lock. "Tney are all as much alike as wild rabbits in these small villages.' Come along out, my lad! Hullo! Where are you?" There was no re- sponse from the musty interior of the barn, and after a moment's hesitation, the captor plunged into the darkness in search of his captive. The place was littered with swedes, Wincott trod on one, fell forward, caught a human wrist, and had unceremoniously pulled himself up by it before he discovered, to his horror, that there was a bracelet on it pulled himself up by it before he discovered, to his horror, that there was a bracelet on it. "Allow me to apologise for having tres- ) passed in your barn," a refined voice re- marked, in tones polite to the verge of sar- j casm. "It isn't even my barn," he stammered hopelessly. "I—it—it was all a mistake. "Then, if I am not to be detained for the Police, I should Me to go now." There was the slush of a silk-lined skirt, a trim figure, remarkably well carried, silhou- I. etted for a moment in the doorway, and Win- cott was alone in the interior, shamed al- most to the point of seeking sepulture under the swedes. "Can you tell me the right time? "Half-past seven," he replied, the ordinary query restoring his mental balance. Ttyen I shall miss the seven forty-fivt train?" "You might catch it by the short cut, he faltered guiltily. "I can'show you the way," and, his offer' being accepted, he plunged into a jerky explanation. "I had followed the boy twice to the barn, so- you see it was a very natural mistake," bo asserted. "Very natural!" was his compallion-s com- ment. Wincott hastily changed the subject. "Dc you often go there to practise," lie asked. I have been several times, but I am not likely to repeat the experiment." The unfortunate enthusiast was just given time to feel the full force of the sarcasm, and then the lady added: "I am not coming back here, you see." "What about your ticket? May I get it for you?" "I have a return half, thank you." "And your luggage?" "It is at the station, labelled. I need not trouble about it." He had put her into a carriage and closed the door, when she surprised him by saving in a voice that had no laughter in it, 1 do not thank you for your assistance, I had a right to it; but I do thank you for want- ing to pluck struggling genius out of the slough of poverty." From his holiday on the hills Wincott took back to the provincial city in which his work as a doctor lav a store of memories, out those that came oftenest and stayed longest had to do with a sparkle of mirth in dark eyes, and a note of earnestness in a soft voice. A green Christmas brought him the usual strese of work, and after a hard day he Went one evening to the local theatre to see the annual pantomime. "I I "What! Haven't you seen it yet?" an acquaintance of his demanded, as he took his seat. "The principal girl is splendid, I've seen the show five times." "Miss Jeanne Ayton, you mean?" queried the doctor. "I've not seen her, but her aunt, who is with her, is a patient of mine." "Lucky fellows you doctors!" ejaculated the young man. "I say, I've asked her to lunch with me to-morrow. She'll be on the in a minute. She's awfully pretty, and her singing and her whistling have taken the town by storm. Ah! 1lere, he comes." Wineott turned sharply towards the foot- lights, and in the white-robed figure that had stepped into the flood of limelight he recog- nised the lady of his adventure on the hills. t A couple of minutes later he was at the stage door. 1. 1 did not find it so easy to make acquaintance," he said to himself grimly. "It remains to be seen whether that Was due to the lady or to my methods." n local "Association" doctor he had 0 difficulty in passing the liall keeper, and ound himself in the wings just in time to eet Miss Avton as she came from the stage, «er arms full of flowers. CoT had 11 allowed his resolution time to .and -advaneing with the air of ail old quamtance he Mia.j?-Tltfi is an unexpected TKUr«' M "method" appafeMly accounted for everything; she shook hands with him and asked him to carry some of her flowers to her room. "You might have told me you were on the stage," he said, as soon as he found himself out of the crowd, in a stone-flagged passage. I "In order that you might take some such liberty as you took just now?" There was no mistaking the tone of voice, j and unable even to frame an excuse for him- self, Wincott stammered, "I thought you were lunching to-morrow with the fellow who sent those flowers." In spite of herself, the little lady's face dimpled with humour. What very excel- lent logic!" she said. "No, I'm afraid I can't tell you what I am going to do with him; and I'm afraid I can't spare you any more time." She turned as she spoke towards a work- man who was. approaching. "The handle has come off the property dagger," she said. I shall want another one for the next scene. Gibbs." I've brought the best I can do," the pro- perty man replied. I'm afraid it's a bit sharp, Miss." Sharp I" Wincott exclaimed, eyeing the substitute critically, It's a deadly sort of weapon. You surely will not use it?" "I'm afraid I must," Jeanne Ayton re- plied, "but I shall certainly be careful. Good-bye." The -meeting paved the way for a good deal of friendly intercourse with his patient and her niece. Had it lasted a week or a fortnight only it would have been a pleasant interlude doing neither any harm; but the panto' ran on with a success that seemed un I flagging, and the friendship of a very pretty woman with the saving grace of humour and a voice that is music spoken may not be quite sufficient. One day Wincott found her alone, trying over a bundle of the latest music. See, this is a tenor song," she said, a poem of Mrs. Browning's set to music. Let me play it for you to try." Both excellent sight-readers, they had glanced only at the title page. and a moment later he was singing words as new to him as the air itself. « "Love me sweet with all thou art. Feeling, thinking, seeing, Love me in the lightest part, Love me. in full being Love me with thine onen youth In its frank surrender, With the vowing of thy mouth, With its silence tender. "Love me with thy hand stretched out Freely, open minded, Love me wi::h thv loitering foot, Hearing one behind it Love me with thy thinking soul, Break it to love sighing, Love me with thy thoughts that roll On through living-dying. z, Love me in thy gorgeous airs, When the world has crowned thee j Love me, kneeling at thy prayers IVitit the angels round thee. Love me pure as musers do Up the woodlands shady, Love me gaily, fast and true, As a winsome lady. "Through all hopes that keep us brave Further off or nigher, I Love me for the house, and graver, And for something higher. Thus if thou will prove me dear, Wornm's love no fable, I I will Tove i7c'e--half a year, i As d' man Is■"■aUlb." He had sung well, but no praise came to Mm. I—I did not know it ended like | that," she said with a strange nervous laugh. [ He looked at her and saw tears in her i eyes. It would not end that way with me," he said in a low, hurried voice. s,a man is.aDie. she repeated. "It is a poor return for all—all that." "Don't let it frighten you, Jeanne," he urged. "Don't believe it. Only give me a chance-" "Stop! Wait one minute," she interrupted, drawing back and looking at him with startled eyes. We have been going very fast and very far haven't we? Let us get back to solid ground." „ "What solid ground is there for me?" he asked. Only what I have tried to show you from the first," she answered. I do appreciate my agreeable acquaintance. I do value my kind friend—but I do not want a lover." "Is that quite truer' he asked with a sud den pang of jealousy. "I will be frank with ray friend," she an- swered; "the whole truth is I do not want another lover." another lover." Now I understand," he said. Good- bye." That evening as Wincott sat alone trying,! to realise what had happened to his life, he was interrupted by a visit from the friend I with whom he had spent his holiday on the hills. "I suppose I am to congratulate you, Har- ngton, Ile remarked. with a fair assump- tion of cheerfulness. "They tell me you are just engaged to the handsome heiress" of one o our city magnates." "I am engaged to Miss Thorne," his visi- tor replied, but your congratulations are a trifle preinature for all that, I'm afraid." "What is it this time?" Wincott de- manded.. "Have you quarrelled already, or have yon just discovered that some other lady has your heart's devotion?" "The other lady has my letterq," was the disconsolate response, and that's a good deal more to tho point. I met her six months ago, Wincott; she is altogether charming, and I was very much in earnest at the time. But she is on the stage, you know, and as my uncle would certainly disapprove, it's very fortunate that I pulled up just in, time; ously, I enn't afford., to have my marriage broken off; my engagement will be an- nounced in the local papers to-morrow, and the worst of the business is that she is here; in this town, now." A sharp exclamation made the speaker pause. How on earth did you break that whisky glass and cut your hand?" he de- manded. "Don't stand staring at it/man. Surely you've got something to bind it up?" "It's nothing," Wincott replied, moving into his surgery. What were you saying about Miss Ayton, and how am I to" help you? Yon couldn't suggest any sort of private arrangement, could you?" "I certainly could not; and I should have a poor opinion of the intelligence of any man who tried to." "Wincott, if she took any public action she would absolutely ruin ma." "You quite misui-,derstaud me. the. doctor retorted, iiii more from the dp:ths ,of. his surgery. "My candid opinion is that when Miss Ayton knows she will leave you severely alone." The following morning the engagement was announced. "How will she get through her work to-night?" he asked himself., as he laid his paper down. "And there is, no es- cape for her, with her understudy ill and in her bed. What is Harrington writing to trouble me about now?" Breaking the envelope, he read the enclo- sure. 1 believe my fiancee has heard something. She insists on my taking her to the theatre tu-night. We arc to have the stage-box. Get them to put Miss Ayton's understudy on." "Her aunt must tell her," he siicio "We can do nothing but trust to her pride and courage." "Her fortitude and self-control are- won- derful," Wincott thought, as he watched Jeanne's entrance that evening from the stalls. "And Harrington is nearest the stage, and sitting well back." That which he almost instinctively ex pected happened as soon as the little actress was left alone upon the boards, for, as Jeanne came down to the footlights for her solo, Miss Thorne, 'touched her companion's arm, and forced him to show himself. Her sudden piteous pause, and the falling away from her. all in an instant, of the joy- ous carriage she had so far successfully as- sumed, told her anxious watcher only too plainly that half what he had praised was courage, the other was unconsciousness. Could she recover herself while the band played the introduction to, her whistling solo? With tense anxiety he waited for the beat—it came, and with it her first note full and clear; but the jealous woman in the box, not satisfied as yet with her display of power, burst into a little I" .1, as thougii at something irresistibly I ii i us, Ktid Harrington, intent on pleas- ing — or irom sheer nervousness laughed with hel', It was enough for Teq,nne;: she whistled no more. For one mo aent she stood still, as tiijagh i: I, n she turned a.vay from \V in.eott and steggereil towards the wings, but. before sh reached them she fell, and tlLJ darj. stain that appeared suddenly on her white draperies tù 1 d that the fairy's dagger had done some tragic work. was Vt incott who reached her first,. over the orchestra and footlights; it was on him the responsibility naturally fell, and behind the horror of not knowing if he had- skill enough to save her was the lurking horror of a, suspicion th,t the tiling had happened be- fore she dropped on the boards in. ai little huddled heap. When his work was done,, and science- had won at least a temporary victory, he went uut into the streets to find that at every corner they were discussing the thing, that troubled him. It does not 'matter one jot," Wincott cried, wrestling with his trouble in the watciies of the night, "if she did it she was mad and irresponsible." "Can't we forget the' past,. Jeanne," he asked on the eve of her departure. "I am willing never to think of it again, if you are willing to trust my wedding ring to make you forget it too." "That means," she said, "that you do not question, but you doubt." "You have not given me my answer," ha replied evasively. "That is my answer," she said. "People who daren't look back could not go forward happily. And you have no cause—no right. Why could you not remember that I knew I was deserted hours before this happened, and still faced my work. Can you not understand what the 'last straw' means? Was it so diffi- cult to believe that whatever happened when he laughed at lli2, I did not know I held any thing in my hand?" "It was ho answered," because 1 love you." 'As a man is able,' she retorted. "Oh I know—I know. It is a better love than his was, but not enough. I shall never quite for- get, and you will never quite forgive, and I dare not risk anything. Neither of us has as much to give as the other needs, so there is no help for it, we must part." After Jeanne was gone it seemed to Win- cott that the town was not big enough tohol-I both him and Harrington, and he sold his practice and went elsewhere. It was months later that he suddenly came face to face with the man he wished to avoid, and seeing him in deep mourning asked involuntarily, "Your wife?" "No, only my uncle," his some-time friend replied. "I'm staying here at the Northern. Spare me a minute, Wincott, if you can, for cld-times' sake." For a moment Wincott was inclined to re- fuse, but he conquered the impulse. "We will not discuss old times." he said steadily. "Your conduct to Miss Ayton al- tered the old-time feeling, and I can't pre- tend otherwise." "I like you all the better for that," was the careless reply. "I should never have acted as I did if I hadn't been driven into a corner. By the way, do you know that Miss Avton is eoming to this town the week after next?" "I would rather not discuss Miss Ayton with you," he said. "Then you are engaged to her?" "I am not, but I fail to see how that can interest you." Why, it's the very thing I came down here to find out," responded his unconscious tormentor. Didn't you guess that even at the time I thought more of Jeanne's little fin- ger than of Miss Thorne's whole body? What's the matter, man alive? Oh! Of course I ought to have told you that that afiairwas broken off.. There were difficulties over the settlement and, all that—yes, my dear fellow, I'm happy to say that Ada Thorne simply iilted me." H Yon tire more easily than you did, Jeanne," the elder Miss Ayton remarked a fortnight later as she and- her. niece drove to -their hotel after receiving the welcome and congratulations of certain leading townsmen at the station. I It was late in the afternopn when the townsman who had not beep at the station to welcome her was announced. Hej too, looked tired, a tired busy man making a duty call. No third party, therefore, would have been In the least surprised that the person, who greeted him was a graceful woman of the wori(l quite capable of ignoring awkward in- cidents in the past. cmght not to have disturbed you this afternoon," he said, "but I am the bearer of a, message that, Wight otherwise not have re-tchpd you, Miss Ayton." "The post brings most things safely," she answered. What is- it, Dr. Wincott F" "This parttcuIfMr message was trusted to thepos,t onpe," he explained, "and returned by you unopened." A slight pallor overspread her face. I have only, returned one letter in that way in ail my life," she paid. It follows then that that is the letter to which I refer," he' continued; "the sender thinks that had you, known the contents you might possibly have vouchsafed an answer. It wan a letter asking your forgiveness and renewiuJr "a former prcposnl for your hand." "n no ";edint'J kinrf of yt C-. &<' maker sure tls*. i th*?cAa lfuoW LbAk s'), said calmly. I X-4il4POtt looked across at hr sorely ^Vi-a \ls t, "I thought it right," he said. "May 1 ask if it is part of your miesiot* » tioiivey my answer," she queriedl "That will hardly be necessary," he a'O- swered uneasily. "He will not return an* j communication of yours unopened." I "Still I think I can hardly do better than leave this affair where he has placed it. in ▼our hands," she said. "I told you once before that I should never again risk any- but I will see Mr. Harrington and listen to what lie has to say if you accompany him." him." It was a shock to Wincott to hear her repeat so coolly words spoken with emotion I in the past. H Just as yon like," Tie answered. "Then bring him hore to-night," she said, "after I have finished my work." »»•*»» "It's an odd arrangement, Wincott," Har- I rington remarked, as they waited for Jeanne's return from the theatre. "it's ctrange that she should insist on having you I as a witness." "I told you that she said she would risk I nothing," Wincott explained. "Quite so! Quite so! It's unflattering in one sense, and takes the romance out of the thing, but, of course, in a way it's satis- factory." factory." The door opaned, and Jeanne came in Alone, a radiant, happy, triumphant Jeanne. If turned Wincott dumb and cold to see the change in her. She advanced towards them, wavinsr aside preliminaries; "T said that I-would listen to what you have to say," she began, address- > ing Harrington, "but it can't be easy under the conditions I have imposed; so to susre 11" -ill as np-'r,> pt p(>ih1 mav T it +nat J*ou are asking nie to become yotrr wife?" "That's- vry bald and "business like, Jeanne," Harrington answereu, iL is the sum and substance of it." She drew a deep breath. "Poor Arnold," she said. "I am sorry—sorry to hurt even you but you owe me i a great deal, and I can only hurt your vanity. Yon made havoc in my life with your first proposal, which f accepted. I» it any sort of consolation to know that you may have brought me huppi- ness with this last one, which I refuse. Arnold Harrington looked from her t.« Wincott iri' amazement; but if he lacked some high qualities, savoir faire was not one of them. "I think I am de froj) here," he said, after a momentary pause. "Good j night, Miss Ayton. H, "What does it mean, Jeanne?" Wincott demanded", as the door closed on him. j "Only that, you proved again to-day," she j ( answered, "how dreadfully difficult it was for you to forget that I had loved that man." j "And? you are now and always determined not to risk anything?" he asked. j "It seems I must." she answered, with • I return of her old gay laugh. "There is no escaping the conclusion that I shall never be loved except 'as- a man is able.' Well, I &m ready to give everything again—even mj carqor-provided you are the man."





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