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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesTogether - Part Seven - Chapter 75
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Together - Part Seven - Chapter 75 Post by :Jay_White Category :Long Stories Author :Robert Herrick Date :May 2012 Read :1669

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Together - Part Seven - Chapter 75

PART SEVEN CHAPTER LXXV

Isabelle waited in the carriage outside the station for her husband and Molly. The New York train was late as usual. She had driven in from Bryn Mawr, where she had spent most of the ten days since Lane's departure. She was steeped now in the atmosphere of that suburban house covered by the April mist, with the swelling bushes and trees all about it. There had been an operation, decided on after consultation with the eminent surgeons that Isabelle had summoned. After the operation hope had flickered up, as the sick man breathed more easily, was able to articulate a few intelligible words, and showed an interest in what was going on about him. But it had waned again to-day, and when Isabelle left, Alice was holding her husband's large hand, talking to him cheerfully, but there was no response.... How wonderful she was,--Alice! That picture of her filled Isabelle's thought as she waited in the carriage. Never a tear or a whimper all these anxious days, always the calm, buoyant voice, even a serene smile and little joke at her husband's bedside, such as she had used to enliven him with, --anything to relax his set, heavy features. "How she loves him!" thought Isabelle, almost with pain.

When she left that afternoon, Alice had sent a grateful message to John. "He will come out to-morrow if he can?" she had asked. She knew now that the hours were numbered without being told so by the doctors. And never a tear, a self-pitying cry! Oh, to be like that,--sturdy in heart and soul,--with that courage before life, that serene confidence in face of the worst fate can offer! Alice was of the faith of Renault.

Lane came down the platform, followed by Molly and her governess. As he raised his hat in greeting, Isabelle noticed the deep lines at the corners of his mouth, and the line above his broad, straight nose. When they were in the carriage, she realized that her husband had been living these ten days in another world from the one she had inhabited, and in spite of his questions about Steve and Alice, he was preoccupied, still held by the anxieties and perplexities of his business in New York, still in the close grip of his own affairs, his personal struggle. So she talked with Molly, who was almost articulately joyful over her escape from the country, at the sight of streets and motor carriages.

As they were going to dinner a servant brought word that a reporter wished to speak to John. Usually Lane refused to see reporters outside his office, and there turned them over to his secretary, who was skilled in the gentle art of saying inoffensive nothings in many words. But to her surprise John after slight hesitation went into the library to see the man, and it was a long half hour before he returned to his dinner. The evening was another one of those torturing periods when Isabella's heart was full and yet must be carefully repressed lest she make a false step. After a little talk about Molly, her mother, the Johnstons, Lane turned to open his mail that had been sent up for him from the office. Isabelle left him absorbed in this task, but she could not sleep, and when at last she heard him go to his room, she followed him. Laying her hands on his arms, she looked at him pleadingly, longing now not so much to know the facts, to reason and judge, as to understand, perhaps comfort him,--at least to share the trouble with him.

"Can't you tell me all about it, John?"

"About what?" he demanded dryly, his dislike of effusiveness, emotionalism, showing in the glitter of his gray eyes.

"Tell me what is troubling you! I want to share it,--all of it. What has happened?"

He did not answer at once. There was an evident struggle to overcome his habitual reserve, the masculine sense of independence in the conduct of his affairs. Also, there was between them her prejudice, the woman's insufficient knowledge, and the barrier of the long years of aloofness. But at last, as if he had reflected that she would have to know soon in any case, he said dryly:--

"The Board has voted to relieve me of my duties as general manager of traffic. I am assigned to St. Louis for the present, but the duties are not specified. A polite hint--which I have taken!"

"Did Mr. Beals do that?"

"Beals went to Europe on his vacation when the coal cases first came up.... Besides, it would have made no difference. I think I see in it the fine hand of our good friend the Senator,--smug-faced old fox!"

Isabelle felt how much this action by the directors had stung him, how severely he was suffering.

"It was ... because of the verdict?"

"Oh, the general mess, the attacks in the press, complaints from stockholders! They want to get under cover, show the public they are cleaning house, I suppose. They thought to shelve me until the row fizzles out, then drop me. But I am not the sort of man to sit around as a willing sacrifice, to pose for the papers as a terrible example. They will know, to-morrow!"

Isabelle understood why he had consented to see the reporter. Hitherto, he had refused to speak, to make any public defence of himself or comment on the trial. But after this action on the part of the directors, after the long smouldering hours on the train, he had decided to speak,--at length. It would not be pleasant reading in certain quarters near Wall Street, what he said, but it would make good copy.

Biting fiercely at his cigar, which had gone out, he struck a match sharply and talked on:--

"I am not a back number yet. There is not another road in the country that has shown such results, such gain in traffic, as the A. and P. since I was put in charge of traffic five years ago. There are others who know it, too, in New York. I shan't have to twiddle my thumbs long when my resignation is published. The prejudiced trial out here won't stand in the way."

In the storm of his mood, it was useless to ask questions. Isabelle merely murmured:--

"Too bad, too bad,--I am so sorry, John!"

Instead of that dispassionate groping for the exact truth, justice between her husband and the public, that she had first desired, she was simply compassionate for his hurt pride. Innocent or guilty, what right had she to judge him? Even if the worst of what had been charged was literally true, had she not abandoned him at the start,--left him to meet the problems of the modern battle as he could,--to harden his soul against all large and generous considerations? Now when he was made the scapegoat for the sins of others, for the sin of his race, too,--how could she sit and censure! The time would come for calm consideration between them. There was that something in her heart which buoyed her above the present, above the distress of public condemnation,--even disgrace and worldly failure. Coming close to him again, she said with ringing conviction:--

"It can make no difference to you and me, John!"

He failed to see her meaning.

"The money doesn't matter,--it isn't that, of course. We shan't starve!"

"I didn't mean the money!"

"Sensible people know what it amounts to,--only the mob yaps."

"I didn't mean criticism, either," she said softly.

"Well, that New York crowd hasn't heard the last of me yet!"

His lips shut tight together. The spirit of fight, of revenge, was aroused. It was useless to talk further. She drew his arm about her.

"You will go out to see Steve to-morrow, won't you?"

"Yes, of course,--any time in the afternoon."

She kissed him and went back to her room.

One precept out of Renault's thin book of life was hard to acquire,--Patience. But it must be acquired,--the power to abide the time calmly, until the right moment should come. The morrows contain so many reversals of the to-days!

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PART SEVEN CHAPTER LXXIVThe newsboys were crying the verdict up and down the wet street. Across the front page of the penny sheet which Isabelle bought ran in broad, splotched letters: GUILTY; RAILROAD GRAFTERS FINED; and in slightly smaller type: _Atlantic and Pacific found guilty of illegal discrimination in famous coal cases--Fined eighty-five thousand dollars. Vice-president Lane, General Traffic Manager of Road, fined thirteen thousand six hundred and eighty dollars_, etc. Isabelle crumpled the paper into her muff and hurried home. As she walked numbly, she thought, 'Why six hundred and eighty dollars? why so exact?' As if the precise measure
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