The book closed suddenly. The father leaned across the table and looked into the son’s eyes.
“Phil, are you sure of what you just have said?”
“Do you think you are in any condition to decide to-night?”
“Death cannot return to life, father. My love for Edith Carr is dead. I hope never to see her again.”
“If I thought you could be certain so soon! But, come to think of it, you are very like me in many ways. I am with you in this. Public scenes and disgraces I would not endure. It would be over with me, were I in your position, that I know.”
“It is done for all time,” said Philip Ammon. “Let us not speak of it further.”
“Then, Phil,” the father leaned closer and looked at the son tenderly, “Phil, why don’t you go to the Limberlost?”
“Why not? No one can comfort a hurt heart like a tender woman; and, Phil, have you ever stopped to think that you may have a duty in the Limberlost, if you are free? I don’t know! I only suggest it. But, for a country schoolgirl, unaccustomed to men, two months with a man like you might well awaken feelings of which you do not think. Because you were safe-guarded is no sign the girl was. She might care to see you. You can soon tell. With you, she comes next to Edith, and you have made it clear to me that you appreciate her in many ways above. So I repeat it, why not go to the Limberlost?”
A long time Philip Ammon sat in deep thought. At last he raised his head.
“Well, why not!” he said. “Years could make me no surer than I am now, and life is short. Please ask Banks to get me some coffee and toast, and I will bathe and dress so I can take the early train.”
“Go to your bath. I will attend to your packing and everything. And Phil, if I were you, I would leave no addresses.”
“Not an address!” said Philip. “Not even Polly.”
When the train pulled out, the elder Ammon went home to find Hart Henderson waiting.
“Where is Phil?” he demanded.
“He did not feel like facing his friends at present, and I am just back from driving him to the station. He said he might go to Siam, or Patagonia. He would leave no address.”
Henderson almost staggered. “He’s not gone? And left no address? You don’t mean it! He’ll never forgive her!”
“Never is a long time, Hart,” said Mr. Ammon. “And it seems even longer to those of us who are well acquainted with Phil. Last night was not the last straw. It was the whole straw-stack. It crushed Phil so far as she is concerned. He will not see her again voluntarily, and he will not forget if he does. You can take it from him, and from me, we have accepted the lady’s decision. Will you have a cup of coffee?”
Twice Henderson opened his lips to speak of Edith Carr’s despair. Twice he looked into the stern, inflexible face of Mr. Ammon and could not betray her. He held out the ring.