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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 353 pages of information about O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories of 1920.

“It’s much better for him,” she said with pleasure, and quite deceived me; herself, too, perhaps.

Yet even I, for all my blindness, felt some uneasiness the year Rose’s son was born.  I do not think the desire for offspring had ever taken up a great deal of room in Julian’s consciousness, but of course Anne had wanted children, and I felt very cruel, sitting in her little apartment in Paris, describing the baby who ought to have been hers.  How different her position would have been now if she had some thin-legged little girl to educate or some raw-boned boy to worry over; and there was that overblessed woman at home, necessary not only to Julian but to Julian’s son.

It was this same year, but at a later visit, that I first became aware of a change in Anne.  At first the charm of her surroundings, her pretty clothes, even to the bright little buckles on her shoes, blinded me to the fact that she herself was changed.  I do not mean that she was aged.  One of the delightful things about her was that she was obviously going to make an admirable old lady; the delicate boniness of her face and the clearness of her skin assured that.  This was a change more fundamental.  Even in her most distracted days Anne had always maintained a certain steadiness of head.  She had trodden thorny paths, but she had always known where she was going.  I had seen her eyelids red, but I had never failed to find in the eyes themselves the promise of a purpose.  But now it was gone.  I felt as if I were looking into a little pool which had been troubled by a stone, and I waiting vainly for the reflection to re-form itself.

So painful was the impression that before I sailed for home I tried to convey to her the dangers of her mood.

“I think you are advising me to be happy,” she said.

“I am advising no such thing,” I answered.  “I am merely pointing out that you run the risk of being more unhappy than you are.  My visits—­or rather the news I bring you—­are too important to you.  You make me feel as if it were the only event of the year—­to you who have always had such an interesting life of your own.”

“I have not had a life of my own since I was twenty,” she returned.  It was at twenty she had married.

“Then think of Julian,” I said, annoyed not only at my own clumsiness but at the absence of anything of Anne’s old heroic spirit.  “For his sake, at least, you must keep your head.  Why, my dear woman, one look at your face, grown as desperate as it sometimes appears now, would ruin Julian with the whole world.  Even I, knowing the whole story, would find it hard to forgive him if you should fail to continue to be the splendid triumphant creature whom we know you were designed to be.”

She gave me a long queer look, which meant something tremendous.  Evidently my words had made an impression.

They had, but not just the one I intended.

III

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