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HOME > Short Stories > The Crux: A Novel > CHAPTER IX. CONSEQUENCES.
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 You may have a fondness for grapes that are green, And the sourness that greenness beneath;
You may have a right
To a colic at night—
But consider your children's teeth!
Dr. Hale from his grounds in too much displeasure to consider the question of dignity. One suddenly cause was the news given him by Vivian. The other was the sight of Morton Elder's face as he struck a match to light his cigarette.
Thus moved, and having entered and left his own grounds like a thief in the night, he proceeded to tramp in the high-lying of the town until every light in his house had gone out. Then he returned, let himself into his office, and lay there on a lounge until morning.
Vivian had come out so quickly to greet the doctor from obscure . She felt a sudden deep objection to being found there with Morton, a wish to appear as one walking about unconcernedly, and when that match glow made Morton's face shine out prominently in the dark shelter, she, too, felt a sudden displeasure.
Without a word she went swiftly to the house, excused herself to her Grandmother, who nodded understandingly, and returned to The Cottonwoods, to her room. She felt that she must be alone and think; think of that irrevocable word she had uttered, and its consequences.
She sat at her window, rather breathless, watching the rows of pink lanterns swaying softly on the other side of the street; hearing the lively music, seeing young couples leave the gate and stroll off homeward.
Susie's happiness came more to mind than her own. It was so freshly , so pure, so at rest. She could not feel that way, could not tell with decision exactly how she did feel. But if this was happiness, it was not as she had imagined it. She thought of that moonlit summer night so long ago, and the memory of its warm wonder seemed sweeter than the hasty and compulsion of to-night.
She was stirred through and through by Morton's intense emotion, but with a sort of reaction, a wish to escape. He had been so madly anxious, he had held her so close; there seemed no other way but to yield to him—in order to get away.
And then Dr. Hale had jarred the whole situation. She had to be polite to him, in his own grounds. If only Morton had kept still—that grating match—his face, and , Dr. Hale must have seen him. And again she thought of little Susie with almost envy. Even after that young lady had come in, bubbled over with confidences and , and finally dropped to sleep without Vivian's having been able to bring herself to return the confidences, she stole back to her window again to breathe.
Why had Dr. Hale started so at the name of Mrs. St. Cloud? That was puzzling her more than she cared to admit. By and by she saw his well-known figure, tall and erect,207 march by on the other side and go into the office.
"O, well," she sighed at last, "I'm not young, like Susie. Perhaps it is like this—"
Now Morton had been in no special need of that cigarette at that special moment, but he did not wish to seem to hide in the dusky , nor to emerge as if he had hidden. So he lit the match, more from habit than anything else. When it was out, and the cigarette well lighted, he heard the doctor's sudden on the other side of the fence and came out to rejoin Vivian. She was not there.
He did not see her again that night, and his were such that next day found him, as a lover, far more agreeable to Vivian than the night before. He showed real understanding, no triumph, no airs of possession; took no liberties, only said: "When I am good enough I shall claim you—my darling!" and looked at her with such restrained that she quite warmed to him again.
He held to this attitude, , quietly affectionate; till her sense of rebel208lion passed away and her real pleasure in his improvement reasserted itself. As they read together, if now and then his arm stole around her waist, he always withdrew it when so commanded. Still, one cannot put the same severity into a too often repeated. The constant, thoughtful attention of a man experienced in the art of pleasing women, the new and inexperienced efforts he made to meet her highest thoughts, to learn and share her preferences, both pleased her.
He was certainly good looking, certainly amusing, certainly had become a better man from her companionship. She grew to feel a sort of ownership in this newly arisen character; a sort of pride in it. Then, she had always been fond of Morton, since the time when he was only "Susie's big brother." That counted.
Another thing counted, too, counted heavily, though Vivian never dreamed of it and would have hotly the charge. She was a woman of full marriageable age, with all the unused powers of her woman's nature calling for expression, quite unrecognized.
He was a man who loved her, loved her more deeply than he had ever loved before, than he had even known he could love; who quite recognized what called within him and meant to meet the call. And he was near her every day.
After that one fierce outbreak he held himself well in check. He knew he had startled her then, almost lost her. And with every hour of their companionship he felt more and more how much she was to him. Other women he had pursued, overtaken, left behind. He felt that there was something in Vivian which was beyond him, giving a stir and lift of which he genuinely enjoyed.
Day by day he strove to win her full approval, and day by day he did not neglect the tiny, slow-lapping waves of little tendernesses, small affectionate liberties at well-chosen moments, always withdrawing when forbidden, but always beginning again a little further on.
Dr. Bellair went to Dr. Hale's office and sat herself down solidly in the patient's chair.
"Dick," she said, "are you going to stand for this?"
"Stand for what, my but fellow-practitioner?"
She eyed his calm, reserved with friendly . "You are an good fellow, Dick, but dull. At the same time dull and . Are you going to sit still and let that dangerous patient of yours marry the finest girl in town?"
"Your admiration for girls is always stronger than mine, Jane; and I have, if you will pardon the boast, more than one patient."
"All right, Dick—if you want it made perfectly clear to your understanding. Do you mean to let Morton Elder marry Vivian Lane?"
"What business is it of mine?" he demanded, more than brusquely—savagely.
"You know what he's got."
"I am a physician, not a detective. And I am not Miss Lane's father, brother, uncle or ."
"Or lover," added Dr. Bellair, eyeing him quietly. She thought she saw a second's of light in the deep gray eyes, a possible of set lips. "Suppose you are not," she said; "nor even a . You are a member of society. Do you mean to let a man whom you know has no right to marry, poison the life of that splendid girl?"
He was quite silent for a moment, but she could see the hand on the farther arm of his chair grip it till the nails were white.
"How do you know he—wishes to marry her?"
"If you were about like other people, you old , you'd know it as well as anybody. I think they are on the of an engagement, if they aren't over it already. Once more, Dick, shall you do anything?"
"No," said he. Then, as she did not add a word, he rose and walked up and down the office in big strides, turning upon her at last.
"You know how I feel about this. It is a matter of honor—professional honor. You women don't seem to know what the word means. I've told that good-for-nothing young that he has no right to marry212 for years yet, if ever. That is all I can do. I will not betray the confidence of a patient."
"Not if he had , or fever, or the bubonic plague? Suppose a patient of yours had the leprosy, and wanted to marry your sister, would you betray his confidence?"
"I might kill my sister," he said, glaring at her. "I refuse to argue with you."
"Yes, I think you'd better refuse," she said, rising. "And you don't have to kill Vivian Lane, either. A man's honor always seems to want to kill a woman to satisfy it. I'm glad I haven't got the feeling. Well, Dick, I thought I'd give you a chance to come to your senses, a real good chance. But I won't leave you to the of unavailing , you poor old goose. That young syphilitic is no patient of mine." And she marched off to perform a difficult duty.
She was very fond of Vivian. The girl's unselfish sweetness of character and the depth of courage and power she perceived behind the sensitive, almost timid , appealed to her. If she had had a daughter, perhaps she would have been like that. If213 she had had a daughter would she not have thanked anyone who would try to save her from such a danger? From that worse than deadly , because of which she had no daughter.
Dr. Bellair was not the only one who watched Morton's growing devotion with keen interest. To his aunt it was a constant joy. From the time her little nephew had come to rejoice her heart and upset her immaculate household arrangements, and had played, pleasantly though tyrannically, with the little girl next door, Miss Orella had dreamed this romance for him. To have it fail was part of her grief when he left her, to have it now so visibly coming to completion was a deep delight.
If she had been blind to his faults, she was at least vividly conscious of the present sudden growth of . She beamed at him with affectionate pride, and her manner to Mrs. Pettigrew was one of barely "I told you so." Indeed, she could not restrain herself altogether, but to that lady with tender triumph of how lovely it was to have Morton so gentle and nice.
"You never did like the boy, I know, but you must admit that he is behaving beautifully now."
"I will," said the old lady; "I'll admit it without reservation. He's behaving beautifully—now. But I'm not going to talk about him—to you, Orella." So she rolled up her knitting work and marched off.
"Too bad she's so prejudiced and opinionated," said Miss Elder to Susie, rather warmly. "I'm real fond of Mrs. Pettigrew, but when she takes a dislike——"
Susie was so happy herself that she seemed to walk in an aura of light. Her Jimmie was so evidently the incarnation of every masculine and charm that he lent a reflected to other men, even to her brother. Because of her love for Jimmie, she loved Morton better—loved everybody better. To have her only brother marry her dearest friend was wholly pleasant to Susie.
It was not difficult to from Vivian a fair knowledge of how things stood, for, though reserved by nature, she was unused to anything, and could not tell an efficient lie if she wanted to.
"Are you engaged or are you not, you dear old thing?" demanded Susie.
And Vivian admitted that there was "an understanding." But Susie absolutely must not speak of it.
For a wonder she did not, except to Jimmie. But people seemed to make up their minds on the subject with agreement. The general interest in the manifold successes of Mrs. St. Cloud gave way to this vivid personal interest, and it was discussed from two sides among their whole circle of acquaintance.
One side thought that a splendid girl was being wasted, sacrificed, thrown away, on a disagreeable, good-for-nothing fellow. The other side thought the "interesting" Mr. Elder might have done better; they did not know what he could see in her.
They, that important They, before whom we so deeply bow, were also much occupied in their mind by concerning Mr. Dykeman and two Possibilities. One quite patently possible, even probable, giving rise to the "Why, anybody could see that!" and the other a fascinatingly impossible Possibility of a sort which allows the even more complacent "Didn't you? Why, I could see it from the first."
Mr. Dykeman had been a leading citizen in that new-built town for some ten years, which constituted him almost the Oldest Inhabitant. He was reputed to be extremely wealthy, though he never said anything about it, and neither his clothing nor his cigars of . Perhaps
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