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The Indifference of Juliet
by Grace S. Richmond
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She turned her face a shade farther away.

"I am leaving to-morrow night for another year's absence." He spoke as simply as if he were discussing the most ordinary of subjects. "So I can see but one thing to do, and that is——"

He got up and came around behind her, standing in the shadow of the vines, where the light did not touch him—"and that is, to take you with me."

He had not said it doubtfully, although his inflection was very gentle. She moved quickly, startled.

"Doctor Barnes——"

"Yes, I'm ready for them. You can't raise an objection that I'm not ready for, not one that I can't meet—except one. And that you can't raise, Rachel."

She was silent, the words upon her lips held in check by this last bold declaration.

"You see you can't, being truthful," he said, smiling a little. "If I seem too confident, forgive me; but I've carried with me all these years that one look, when you forgot to veil your eyes away from me as you always had—and always have since then. When I get that look from you again——" He paused, drawing a long breath. "I don't dare dream of it. Rachel, will you go?"

She tried to glance at him, and managed it, but no higher than his shoulders.

"I am engaged to take the training for nurses at the Larchmont Memorial——" she began.

But he interrupted her joyfully. "You don't say, 'I don't love you'—it's only, 'I was intending to be a nurse.' I told you you couldn't say it, because it isn't true. You do love me, Rachel. Tell me so."

Her hurried breathing was plainly perceptible now. She rose quickly, as if she could not bear the telltale lamplight upon her face any longer, and went hurriedly across the porch and down upon the lawn, into the starlight. He followed her, his pulses bounding.

"Oh, give up to me," he said in her ear, his own breath coming fast. "You've been fighting it four years now—it's no use. We were made for each other, and we've known it from the first. You stood heroically by your first promise—you gave him all you could; but that's all over. You don't have to be true to anything or anybody now but me. Give up, dear, and let me know what it feels like to have you pull a man toward you instead of pushing him away."

They had reached the edge of the orchard—in deep shadow; and she stopped.

"I don't know what I came down here for," she said, in confusion.

"I do; you were running away. It's your instinct to run away—I love you for it—it's what first made me want to follow. But I can't stand your running away much longer. Look, Rachel, can you see? I'm holding out my arms. Rachel—I can't wait——"

For an instant longer she held out, while he stood silent, holding himself that he might have the long-dreamed-of joy of receiving her surrender. Then, all at once, he realised that it had been worth all his days of patient and impatient waiting, for turning to him at last she gave herself, with the abandon such natures are capable of showing when they yield after long resistance, into the arms which closed hungrily around her.

* * * * *

If anybody could have told what happened during the next twenty-four hours it would have been Juliet, for it was she who took the helm of affairs. She lay awake half the night, or what there was left of it after the doctor had come back with Rachel and told his friends what had happened and what was yet to happen, planning to make the hasty wedding as ideal as might be. She was a wonderful planner, and a most energetic and enthusiastic young matron as well, so by five in the afternoon she had accomplished all that had seemed to her good. Rachel's part was only to see that her trunk was packed, her explanations offered and good-byes said, and her choice made of several exquisite white gowns which Juliet had had sent out from town.

"But I can't be married in white, Mrs. Robeson," she had said protestingly when Juliet had opened the boxes.

"Yes, you can—and must. This is your only bridal, dear. The other—you know that was only what the doctor said of it once—'your hand in his to the last'—the hand of a friend. But this—isn't this different?"

Rachel had turned away her face. "Yes, this is different," she had owned. "But——"

"He asked me to beg you for him to have it so," Juliet urged, and Rachel was silent. So the simplest of the white frocks it was, and in it Rachel looked as Juliet had meant she should.

Only Judith and Wayne Carey were asked down to see them married. To humour the doctor the ceremony was performed in the orchard, near the entrance to the willow path. The time afterward was short, and before she knew it Juliet was bidding the two good-bye.

"I've got her," said the doctor, looking from Juliet to Rachel, who stood at his side. "She's mine—all mine. I have to keep saying it over and over to make sure."

"For your comfort," answered Juliet, smiling at them both, "I'll tell you that she looks as if she were yours."

"Does she?" he cried, laughing happily. "How does she look?" He turned and surveyed her. "She looks very proud and sweet and still—she's always been those things—and very beautiful—more beautiful than ever before. But do you think she really looks as if she were mine? Tell me how."

Juliet turned from him, big and eager like a boy, to his bride, "proud and sweet and still," as he had said. "I've never seen Rachel look absolutely happy before," she told him. "There's always been a bit of a shadow. But now—look down into her eyes, Roger; there's no shadow there now."

But when he would have looked Rachel's lashes fell. "Not yet? By-and-by then, Rachel," he whispered. Then he turned to Juliet—and Anthony, who had come up to stand beside her.

"If it hadn't been for you and your home-making this day would never have come for me," he said. "You have been good friends and true, to us both. Let us keep you so—and good-bye."



XXIX.—JULIET PROVES HERSELF STILL INDIFFERENT

On a July evening, a month later, Cathcart and a great roll of architects' paper arrived on the Robeson porch. For an hour Juliet looked and listened, while Anthony, as he had promised, said not a word to bias her decision. Cathcart laid before her plans for a new house which were—even Anthony could but admit to himself beyond praise. From every standpoint—the artistic, the domestic, the practical, even the economical, so far as the modern architect understands the meaning of the word—the plans were ideal. Juliet studied them absorbedly, showing plainly her appreciation of them.

"It would be a beautiful home," she said at length. "I can think of nothing more perfect than such a house."

Cathcart looked triumphant. Without glancing at Anthony he produced another set of plans.

"Just to please myself, Mrs. Robeson," he announced, "I have spent some interesting hours in trying to show what could be done with this old house, should any one care to lay out a reasonable sum upon it. Frankly, old houses never repay much expenditure of money, yet there is a certain satisfaction in working out the details of restoration and improvement which makes interesting study. Purely as a matter of that sort I have fancied such extensions as these."

He laid the plans before her. Juliet looked, bent over them, cried out with delight, and called upon Anthony to join her.

"Oh, Mr. Cathcart," she said eagerly, "before you proved yourself an exceedingly fine architect; but now you show yourself a master. To make this of the old house—why, it's far the higher art."

Anthony glanced, laughing, across at Cathcart, whose face had fallen so pronouncedly that Juliet would have seen it if she had been observing. But she was too absorbed in the new plans.

"If we could do this," she was saying, "it would satisfy my best ideals of a permanent home."

"But, my dear Mrs. Robeson," stammered the man of castles, "consider the location—the neighbourhood—the rural character of the surroundings."

"I do," she answered, still studying the plans. "I love them all—and the old home most of all. Ever since I knew"—how had she known? they wondered—"that a change of houses was a possible thing for us I have been homesick in anticipation of a change I couldn't bear to think of. Yet I wondered if we ought to go. But if you can make this of the old home——"

She lifted to her husband an enthusiastic face. His eyes met hers in a long look in which each read deep into the mind of the other. Then Anthony Robeson, like a man who hears precisely what he most wants to hear, turned smiling to Cathcart.

"I think you've lost, Steve," he said.

————————————————————————————————————-

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THE END

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