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OUR SHORT STORY. I

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OUR SHORT STORY. I THE TEST OF LOVE. I By SYLVIA LONG. "I'm not very good at love-making, but— I'll be good to you, Nan." The man looked steadily Across the table. His eyes were bhre.wz and domiiMnt: his fwe suggested strength. There was tenderness, too, in his eyes as they rested on the womaji. She looked away, and in. the silence that fell between the in the noises of the little ltaliaai restaurant swelled out. At each table a separate group chattered in Italian: or drawled in English, oblivious of any but themselves. Brand had known that there 1 would be more privacy here in the blaze of light and the rasp of voices than in any solitude. He knew that the surroundings were the best ally he could have. Brand was a good business man. He looked steadily at the woman. She was a tense, quivering creature, quiet now before a decision. Her mouth nas mobile and her whole face full of fire. She was a petite woman, with deep eyes r..nd firm-set mouth; a woman, one would say, who had bought hard battles, but who was a little tired, perhaps, to-night. As he watched her, -the look of indecision in her face softened into utter weariness. She roused herbelf to answer his remark. I know it, Hjirvcj she said, with a quiok note of softness in her voice. "And I'm really wanting someone to be good to me. In the shop to-day— "The place is killing you," he interjected in angry masterfulness. "You in a depart- ment with winter coming on—and you know ,what winter is in the citv-" I've got a good position, and I'm lucky to have it." Her head went iip. "It's Beven years since I left the little home and came to town. And I've made good—made good so far as work goes. But—God, the loneli. ne!¡ The man covered her nervous hand with m'i own in a quick caress. She looked down in a detached sort of way at their two hands, but did not take hers away. "You'll never be lonely again. And I can give you .all the things women want out of life—you'll have drosses, motors, and be able to travel—I know those thing6 don't in. fluence you-" "But they do." Nan looked at him witlt wide, honest eyes. "I've told you, Harve, 1;hat I don't really love you—and now I'll tell vou more. I know I never can." She looked far past the noisy group at the next table, far past the dirty wall of the little restaurant, out to the little country home; and a smile, a tender smile with all the tiredness rubbed out, curved her lips into giirlidhness again. "I suppose I might as ■well tell you," she said. "Love comes to every woman once, and my turn came. It was before I ever left the country. One of the boys on the farm—well, there's no use telling VOlt about him—I loved him, but -when he urged me I wouldn't, marry him, for I saw wirat my future wouid be, just grubbing along, and never knowing what real life was. So I told him so, and came here to try my fortune. And he told me to Tememiber, whenever I was ready, there was <a man waiting for nic- And the trouble is I have remembered! Tex, they called him-" "But you were riglvti—you "wouloji t have been happy that wny. Besides, how can you The sure it was love? The woman Qroke in passionately. "That's it! That's what I am always ask- ing myself. How can I know? How can I know for ,,iI re" Isn't there some test? How cain I know what man .it is I love? The man looked at her steadily. "Nan he said, and into his voice had come the low hoarse note that a. woman's heart- strings thrill to. "Nan, you know." She pulled her hand from under his, and Bat up straight, her body vibrant. The quick red came into her cheeks, and her e- .Te.s looked unflinchingly into his with frank honesty. Her voico was quick and passionate. Y,& she said tensely, I know. I know What I've. felt sometimes when we've been dancing together. I know how sometimes the sense of completeness, of wholeness, of oneness, whatever you want to call it, seemed so miraculous that I felt myself go- ing, that I almost lost ontrol of myself, and had to stop, and go out of reach of the music. But I might have felt th-a-t with any man. I know you could make me thrill to your kisses, I know that you could intoxi- cate my heart, perhaps more than any other man I have ever seen. But is that love? I don't know. There ought to be some way of knowing. There ought to be some test! Marrying is 6o much more than a kiss to music. There's something beneath it all, some way to tell for certain—if I only knew What it is." Nan, won't vou take a chance?" ".No. No. I wont take a. chance. When I .give any ma-n that promise it'll be because I know for certain. It'll be because I've found out what the test is." "You respect me, and trust me?" Yes. And you could kib's me and buy my dinners and railway ticketR for the rest of my life. I could talk to you, and enjoy things with you, and go to places with you, but-I don't know wh4:t it is. God knows I'm not domestic, but I want to darn one man's.' socks. And, Harve, I don't think you're that man." "Nan, look here." He took both her hands now, and leaned across the table to look straight into her eyes. "I'm going to make you love me. I'm going to make you sure. I'm going to take care of you-for good. No more lonely evenings in your room, no more Nan wrenched her hamta away, but she could not take her eyes from his. She tried to answer him, to refuse, to fight it out; but suddenly something seemed to snap in her, the resistance went out of her eyes, her shoulders drooped, and her hands went blindly seeking his again. It's not the time when there's hard work to do," she said, "that does us women in. It's when we're tired and lonesome. The gods that made us ought to supply a home wLbh everv one of us. They didn't provide for us old maids." He patted her hands kindly, with the awkward gentleness of a man who means it too much to do it with art. "There, there," he said slowly and soothingly, "it's all right now, it's all right now." Nan leaned towards him with a tender light in her eyes, but just as she started to speak she was interrupted by a street-hoars- ened treble. PaperP At her elbow w,s a ragged little black-eyed child of about five who had been allowed to enter the cafe. He looked at her with a shy smiile and there was something in the motherliness of her answer- ing smile that made the man watching her catch his breath in surprise. Nan's eyes fol- lowed the little newsboy as he made the round of the tables on the left side of the room. and rejoined his mother at the door. She was a bent little woman, with a ker- chief over her head and a sheaf of news- papers under her arm. There was all the pathos of the foreigner in her eye, but they lit up with a smile of pride for the child, and as they went out she passed her hand over his curls in an ashamed caress. After the door closed N aJl sat staring at it with eyes that saw visions. Then she turned slowly back to Brand, shoulders up, her whole body poised and radiant with sureness and strength. Her eyes met his like a self-confident conqueror, not like a tired woman' s, and her voice when she spoke had a triumphant ring. "It's funny what things will change a girl, isn't it? And just what pin-prick it is tha.t starts a reait in the veil-alld how you suddenly know! She flung her handa out in abandon. "It's good to know!" Her voice wae like a prayer. "God it's good to I know!" Then she looked at him with re- membering tenderne-ss. "I'm sorry," she 931d. Then he and his hopes were out of her world again, and he was only a chance confidant for her happiness. She looked at him, and all the tiredness had gone out of her face, and t;he was only very young and girlish and shy. 0 gi When I s&w that mother's eyes," she ex- plained softly, "I knew suddenly what the test was after all. And I knew what the an- swer to the test was for me, too. I Her voice was low with embarrassment, dhe found something hard to say, so she evaded :it, and found relief in a. matter-of-fact state- ment. "I'm going new—no, don't come with me—I'm going now to send a Trirc to Devon. You see," the embarrassment came into her low tone again, and she looked over his shoulder, "you see, some day I want-a little boy that locks like Tex."

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