“Peter,” she said gravely, “I must prepare my outfit. I go to America.”
“Alone, Peter, to work, to be very good, to be something. I am very happy, although—Peter, may I kiss you?”
“Certainly,” said Peter, and took her caress gravely, patting her thin shoulder. His thoughts were in the garden with Harmony, who had cared enough to come back.
“Life,” said Peter soberly, “life is just one damned thing after another, isn’t it?”
But Marie was anxiously examining the hem of a skirt.
The letter from Anita reached Stewart the following morning. She said:—
“I have been thinking things over, Walter, and I am going to hurt you very much—but not, believe me, without hurting myself. Perhaps my uppermost thought just now is that I am disappointing you, that I am not so big as you thought I would be. For now, in this final letter, I can tell you how much I cared. Oh, my dear, I did care!
“But I will not marry you. And when this reaches you I shall have gone very quietly out of your life. I find that such philosophy as I have does not support me to-night, that all my little rules of life are inadequate. Individual liberty was one—but there is no liberty of the individual. Life—other lives—press too closely. You, living your life as seemed best and easiest, and carrying down with you into shipwreck the little Marie and—myself!
“For, face to face with the fact, I cannot accept it, Walter. It is not only a question of my past against yours. It is of steady revolt and loathing of the whole thing; not the flash of protest before one succumbs to the inevitable, but a deep-seated hatred that is a part of me and that would never forget.
“You say that you are the same man I would have married, only more honest for concealing nothing. But—and forgive me this, it insists on coming up in my mind—were you honest, really? You told me, and it took courage, but wasn’t it partly fear? What motive is unmixed? Honesty—and fear, Walter. You were preparing against a contingency, although you may not admit this to yourself.
“I am not passing judgment on you. God forbid that I should! I am only trying to show you what is in my mind, and that this break is final. The revolt is in myself, against something sordid and horrible which I will not take into my life. And for that reason time will make no difference.
“I am not a child, and I am not unreasonable. But I ask a great deal of this life of mine that stretches ahead, Walter—home and children, the love of a good man, the fulfillment of my ideals. And you ask me to start with a handicap. I cannot do it. I know you are resentful, but—I know that you understand.
The little Georgiev was in trouble those days. The Balkan engine was threatening to explode, but continued to gather steam, with Bulgaria sitting on the safety-valve. Austria was mobilizing troops, and there were long conferences in the Burg between the Emperor and various bearded gentlemen, while the military prayed in the churches for war.