The passionate utterance went into a sound that resembled a laugh, but it was a sound of such bitterness that Crowther was strongly moved.
He put his hand on Piers’ shoulder and gave it an admonitory shake. “My dear lad, don’t be a fool!” he said, with slow force. “You’re consuming your own happiness—and hers too. You can’t measure a woman’s feelings like that. They are immeasurable. You can’t even begin to fathom a woman’s restraint—a woman’s reserve. How can she offer when you are always demanding? As to her love, it is probably as infinitely great, as infinitely deep, as infinitely selfless, as yours is passionate, and fierce and insatiable. There are big possibilities in you, Piers; but you’re not letting ’em grow. It would have done you good to have been kept waiting ten years or more. You’re spoilt; that’s what’s the matter with you. You got your heart’s desire too easily. You think this world is your own damn playground. And it isn’t. Understand? You’re put here to work, not play; to develop yourself, not batten on other people. You won her like a man in the face of desperate odds. You paid a heavy price for her. But even so, you don’t deserve to keep her if you forget that she has paid too. By Heaven, Piers, she must have loved you a mighty lot to have done it!”
He paused, for Piers had made a sharp, involuntary movement as of a man in intolerable pain. He almost wrenched himself from Crowther’s hand, and walked to the low wall of the terrace. Here he stood for many seconds quite motionless, gazing down over the quiet garden.
Finally he swung round, and looked at Crowther. “Yes,” he said, in an odd tone as of one repeating something learned by heart. “I’ve got to remember that, haven’t I? Thanks for—reminding me!” He stopped, seemed to collect himself, moved slowly forward. “You’re a good chap, Crowther,” he said. “I wonder you’ve never got married yourself, what?”
Crowther waited for him quietly, in his eyes that look of the man who has gazed for long over the wide spaces of the earth.
“I never married, sonny,” he said, “because I had nothing to offer to the woman I cared for, and so—she never knew.”
“By gad, old chap, I’m sorry,” said Piers impulsively.
Crowther held out a steady hand. “I’m happy enough,” he said simply. “I’ve got—all I want.”
“All?” echoed Piers incredulously.
Crowther was smiling. He lifted his face to the night sky. “Yes,—thank God,—all!” he said.
THE SWORD FALLS
As Miss Whalley had predicted, Ina Rose’s wedding was a very grand affair indeed. Everyone who was anyone attended it, and a good many besides. It took place in the midst of a spell of sultry weather, during which the sun shone day after day with brazen strength and the heat was intense.