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THE -ARIZONA - REPUBLICAN, - SUNDAY MORNING, APRIL 20, 1 90S.
THE VALLEY OF OBLIVION Copyright, 1S08, ly Thomcu H. McKee. S'l'.lZ was a dear," Mrs: Osborne said, dealing the fards with a twist of deft white wrists, "lint so casual about her clothes. The artistic instinct, , I suppose. All the Nettleions are dowdy. I met her :;t Capri, before -the return of the Prodigal Husband, and she looted like an Englishwoman en tcv.r. which is the last word. But the whole story is thrilling and UEUsual, and Olive Nettleton was faithful enough to deserve to be happy. It is over to you, Caroline." The girl across looked at her cards languidly. She wts a very slender girl, with level brows and a direct gae. She named a trump at random, and put down her cards with a little sigh of relief. Past Mrs. Os borne's carefully coifed head, past Leila Dixon's satirical smile when she saw the exposed cards, she whether he uled or T.as kidnapped or voluntarily ef faced himself, everything that was worth having in Caroline Summers went with him. ' "Think of it"- Mrs. Baxter persisted. "The brides maids and men. the bishop, everybody well, 'Waiting at the Church! ' Bella Severance was there, and she said she never put in such a half-hour. Mrs. Summers in hysterics. Every one but Caroline sure he had funked it at the last minute." The man rose suddenly and the guitar sent a sharp discordant . jangle of piano keys through the room. "I would like to shoot him for her," he said. Mrs. Baxter smiled. "Don't threaten," she observed dryly. "You might happen to run across him, you know. Look at the Nettletons! . Greg Nettleton. Is lost in New York, searched tor from Alaska to Brazil, and is picked up in Rome,, looking as If .riotous living agreed with him.J, Oh, it's a mean little world after all. L 1 7$ 4 r - 1 4 , r Acs': ' j . -..I tl " t, f?4' r3 A -f ,f - r - f .- -. -4 ...... . "THE ' IIATER SENT OUT SOME TEA," - HE SAID. lroked through the long French window to where the ;.jsing clouds cast their shadows on the hills, and down ia the valley a loaded hay wason creaked along the road. Up here on the hilltop there was little enough air fctirring. The card talil" had loen moved to the music room Tor coolness; r.nd in the shadows of the alcove a youns man in white flannels picked querulously at a guitar, striking tn occasional inniutient note on the pijtio as a guide. His eyes sought the girl persistently. Mrs. Baxter, a languid shadow cf some b;lli:nt and devastating yesterday, had been -'sittins-cuf the rub ber. She picked up her heavy Jew?l?d purs" and trailed toward the man in the shadows. - "It is profanation to gamble or to gambol in a room like this." she said, looking dcv.u the length of the music room to where a dcen buzz of conver tatlon showed the end of the rubber. "A music room without music is a body without a soul. I feel as though I am being facetiois in the presence of a corpse." "It is pretty bad, isn't It?" Osborne Kingsley said idly, watching Caroline Summers' white-clad figure as she rose and went to the window. "The solemnity of those marble heads, and that funereal procession of black chairs against the wall four chairs and Brahms', four more and Chopin, four more and Liszt.'" "High against the wall, with all their poor weak nesses written in their marble faces for the ages to see. instead of being allowed to rot respectably in their graves. Ah, me. And speaking of marble, how do you progress with Caroline?" "I hardly see " he began stiffly. Mrs Baxter laughed. "Caroline is a husk," she de clared. "She's a sort of frozen fire, King. Whatever hardened to that man a year ago, wasn't it? King, and it shrinks every year. Look how the splen did isolation of twenty gives place to the rubbing of elbows of sixty." "And from that" King caught her mood "it is the merest step to the funeral urn of seventy, I suppose. .Tolly, aren't we, this afternoon!" "I cannot think of you matrimonially. King." said Mrs. Baxter. "What kind of a husband will you be? Will yoti be like the rest, cr will you be as you arj now, just a little different?" "I will love and honor the woman I marry," he said stilliy. "And marry a woman you love and honor! Hut you will he a loving hushuml. King, and the murrlu.e will be most successful, because in every happy inairiux there is one who cares, aud oae who decs not care so much." "And I will be " "The one who cares." Tea had come in, but no one wanted tea. There were decanters and tall glasses and ice, and the bridge game had given way to scraps of gossip. Mrs. Baxter got up and walked slowly down the room. Near the table she turned. "Caroline is on the veranda, King," she called back. "I am sure she wants her tea." "Caroline Is hopelessly temperate," Mrs. Osborne sighed as she put In the cream. "I do not know whether I am wicked or merely self-indulgent; al though I suppose we are always self-indulgent when we are wicked." "I don't agree with you," Leila Dixon said, acidly. "I think it is a lot of trouble to do what we ought not to do." "You would, naturally," agreed Mrs. Easter, nib bling at a stulk cf mint. During the ominous pause MARY ROBERTS RINEHARDT that followed, the small woman in blue, who had "I am coming in," the girl said wearily, and rose, made the fourth at the table, took up the thread of con- ' Mrs. Baxter looked past her at King's face. "Don't come," she said, more gently. "I'll take it in for you. Sit down like a good girl and make that gloomy person beside you happy." As Caroline opened her gold purse, something dropped to the floor and roiled under a chair. With a little cry the girl picked it up and clutched it jealously. Mrs. Baxter's smile was Inscrutable as she turned back into the room, and through the open window came again the voice of the little woman In blue. Not a word was lost to the two on the veranda, who listened because they must. "I shall always call Jt the greatest event I ever lived through," she said, "and when you remember that I was only an onlooker, you can understand the emotional pitch. Here was poor Olive Nettleton, in the heaviest kind of crepe, rushing all .over Europe after exhausting America, looking for a husband who had absolutely dropped out of existence, without leav ing a trace. You know what Olive ia, very much like Caroline Summers" she dropped her voice a little "very. Well-poised and self-reliant, so you can only guess what she feels. There must have been lots of rows when Olive's emotional temperament tried to climb the fence of her hereditary conscience. You know Cassldy, the Irish artist, who tried to make her marry him, whether poor Nettleton was dead or not? Well, she stuck It out and was faithful, and lost her good looks, partly, and all her cheeriness an attrac tive woman trying to be faithful to a memory has a, hard time, anyhow. "Olive had been touring the Riviera in a car, and Adelaide and I w ere to meet her at the Grand Hotel ia Rome. The day before she was due there came a cablegram for Olive, and Adelaide opened It, for fear it was urgent. Adelaide read it and fell back in a chair, and it was a full minute before she rallied enough to give it tc m?. It satdt 'Sailing next versation. "We were talking about Olive Nettleton " she began, but Mrs. Baxter raised a warning, slender fore finger. "No scandal until King gets out," she objected. "He has not yet learned that our feminine gossip Is pre cisely the same as his masculine sense of humor both treat of the other person's misfortunes. Only we take seriously what men treat as a joke." Outside on the wide stone veranda Caroline was standing with her slender arms behind her. erect, poised, outwardly cold and self-contained. If the ques tion in her eyes was almost an appeal, as she stood there alone if there was tragedy in the corners of her mouth, there waa an Instant relaxation when she heard King's step behind her. "The mater sent out some tea," he said, "and ihe says you look tired and are to be sure to drink it. If you don't care about it, I can pour it over the rail. Shall I trouble you If I stay here?" "You are a friendly light chasing away shadows," she said slowly. Kingsley stood by, made abaorbedly self-conscious by the unexpected reference to what was always in his mind. The girl sipped her tea slowly, looking down the straight path with Its flaunting bor ders to where the pergola, wreathed with trumpet vine and creeper, framed the valley below. "Dear hollyhocks and four o'clocka," she rhymed, "and the lady slippers and larkspur, and salvia each one as prim and spruce and bright as a little New England lady in her Sunday gown. Do you know," she said whimsically, "I am an anachronism. I am not a Calif ornian. King; not a truly bred-ln-the-bone one at all. I belong here In the East, I am sure. I have the Puritan conscience." "Then I like the Puritan conscience," he said, smiling at her. Some one's voice was raised in the music room. "Four years missing, my dear," the voice said, "aad Olive Nettleton wandering over the continent, looking Icto people's faces on the street, everywhere; Heme, St. Petersburg. Cairo! Oh. it was creepy!" "Well, It is Olive's affair," Mrs. Osborne's ron:'rta ble voice put In. "and they seem to be beginning thing! uil over again. But suppose she had married again!" "O'.lve had the Puritan conscience," came Leila Dixon's thin, clear voice. "Sho would never have mar ried agiln, unlesj she hid knewn he was deid." Caroline-had been listening, her head silshtly tent. Now she tooked up suddenly at the man beside her. "I wonder if you understand. King?" she said. "It's psychology, I suppose; the prctiiem of a s!aall pcu'.. at that. But I am like that woman they are speaking cf." Kingsley took the cup and saucer from her and rut it carefully on the rail. Then he sat down somewhat awkwardly beside her. "I'm glad you've given me a chance to speak," he ?a!d. "I'm not very 'ajrile mentally, and I can't fence with shadows. But I think I know how you feel. It's the not knowing how or why it's a sort of wound to your pride that wont heal. Don't tell me you still love him. I don't believe It I don't want to be brutal, butt people don't love the dead; they remember them you know that. Caroline and everything I', know of that awful time points to the one thing." "That he Is dead!" she breathed. "But I want to know; I'm like my old nurse at home, when her boy was drowned. She didn't cry; she Just stood by the river bank and waited, day and night, until they found him. And then she cried, and they knew her mind was saved." King leaned over and took one of her cold hands between his wmrm. brown ones. "You said a little while ago that Idrove away the shadows." he-said earnestly. "Caroliaie. can't we face this thing together? I love you Gofl knows. I don't want to dlvhle you with any one, nob even a memory: but It's come to the point where I'm. almost ready to throw myself on your pity. Caroline, let me drive the shadows away, always." The girl dropped her chin into hentwo palms and stared frownlngiy ahead. "Yoa are like him," she said at last."and he loved ne. too. Oh. yes. whatever people mayfchlnk, nothing can take that cway from me. He loved one. Kfcjg; am! v. liat if he should come back and find tiiat I have not been faithful? In there" she nodded toward th? house "they have been talking of soniei woman who haunted the continent, looking into thefares of the people she met. I sit here r.nd look out over the hills and I say, 'Which way? Which way?'" The young man had' folded' his arms, and, leaning back, he, too, gazed over the hills. He was baffled, discouraged, but not; beaten. "If you care about him, Caroline," he said after a silence, "he was not a scoundrel. I accept that as I accept the ghost that stands between us. But suppose I can laythe ghost? Would there be a clhance for me?" "Could you savetmy faith?" she askedisharply,, turn ing to him. "I will try," he pledged solemnly. dyliig, then we could spring Greg's cablegram, work ing her through one emotional climax to another. "But you can't do those things by rule. Just as Olive drew up at the Grand Hotel In her muddy car. with her face perfectly covered with dust and her hat on one side, of course, a carriage dashed up and Greg Nettleton jumped out What did they do? My dears, it was the most disappointing thing I ever heard cf. She didn't even faint. I think she had felt all along that some time she would meet him face to face, ju-:t as she did. In that instant she lost the queer, ques tioning look she had had for so long, and when she found Greg had little Helen in the carriage, she was illuminated! So Adelaide and I missed It after all. But we went around with Olive and helped her get some respectable gowns and sell her crepe." "What an alluring story!" Mrs. Baxter said, lightly. "And how did handsome Greg account for. bis four years' defection?" The lady in blue hesitated. "Well, be did explain," she said apologetically, "buf ' it was not what a more worldly woman would have called an explanation. He said he had lost four years, -that was all; dropped them out of his life. That the last ha remembered was walking across the links at the Country Club with a caddie and a bunch of clubs. ' You know that's where he was last seen. And the next thing he knew he waa on a train in California, ( with hit mustache gone and a ticket for Los Angeles in his pocket. And it was four years later." . "All the women loved Greg Nettleton," commented Mrs. Baxter with a drawl. "It would be Interesting to know If he had married In the Interval." "Titre w&3 something queer," coc&ded the narrator. "He was sitting with little Helen on hl3 knee, and 0ive beside him he wouldn't let har move out of his sight when he showed it to cie. He gave It to Helea' to play with while he told us, and it sesuic-d incon gruous, somehow. It seemed that he found on his xtl' i fx rvvM$ ''fa "f-v YwV' ' ltWi-ii E! ' ? rl SHE PUT DOWN HER CARD3 WITH A SIGH OP RELIEF. steamer. Explain everything. Love,' and was signed Gregory Nettleton. My dears, if Greg Nettleton had risen cut of his grave and fired his headstone at me, I bhould not hare been more shocked." As the voice paused for greater effect, Caroline turned to King. "You see, he came back." she said. "Olive stayed longer at Naples than Bhe meant to, and It was not until the day Greg was due that she came to Rome. Adelaide and I had talked all week of Mrs. Baxter came languidly to the window and held jj0W to Dreak it to her best, and Adelaide, who has the curtain asSde'wiih a sweeping gesture. more diplomacy than I have, suggested we work her "Dear me. how intense you look!" she mocked. ui to it gradually telling her first that there was "Caroline, you nave lest thirty dollars, and Carrie Oa- . news, and then, while Olive was thinking it was Helen borne says 'your lasUmake lost the rubber." -that's the child, you know-and that maybe she was finger one of those heavy old Egyptian rings with a dull red stone sunk lu it, and a 'C cut into the stoce. It was strange to know that he didn't remember at all where he got it." ThA ft rl nn ihe vp-anda had sat throueh it all and King had lost no single expression on her face. Sho sat quite still after the story was Hnished. then she turned to him suddenly and held out the hand that had been clcsed. On its palm lay a heavy gold ring of Efyptlan woTkmansbip with a dull re stone sunk into the metal. " - In an instant something had gone cut of the girl's face, and her mouth had lost its trareJy of uncer tainty. ' I have buried ray dead. King," she said at last.