With these vague philosophizings, these morbid self-queryings, there came into conflict the sterner and more practical side of Franklin’s nature, itself imperious and positive in its demands. Thus he found himself, in his rude surroundings on the Plains, a man still unsettled and restless, ambitious for success, but most of all ambitious with that deadly inner ambition to stand for his own equation, to be himself, to reach his own standards; that ambition which sends so many broken hearts into graves whose headstones tell no history. Franklin wondered deliberately what it must be to succeed, what it must be to achieve. And he wondered deliberately what it must mean to love, to find by good fortune or by just deserts, voyaging somewhere in the weltering sea of life, in the weltering seas of all these unmoved stars, that other being which was to mean that he had found himself. To the searcher who seeks thus starkly, to the dreamer who has not yielded; but who has deserved his dream, there can be no mistaking when the image comes.
Therefore to Edward Franklin the tawdry hotel parlour on the morning after the ball at Ellisville was no mere four-square habitation, but a chamber of the stars. The dingy chairs and sofas were to him articles of joy and beauty. The curtains at the windows, cracked and seamed, made to him but a map of the many devious happinesses which life should thenceforth show. The noises of the street were but music, the voices from the rooms below were speech of another happy world. Before him, radiant, was that which he had vaguely sought. Not for him to marry merely the neighbour’s daughter! This other half of himself, with feet running far to find the missing friend, had sought him out through all the years, through all the miles, through all the spheres! This was fate, and at this thought his heart glowed, his eyes shone, his very stature seemed to increase. He wist not of Nature and her ways of attraction. He only knew that here was that Other whose hand, pathetically sought, he had hitherto missed in the darkness of the foregone days. Now, thought he, it was all happily concluded. The quotient was no indefinite one; it had an end. It ended here, upon the edge of the infinite which he had sought; upon the pinnacle of that universe of which he had learned; here, in this brilliant chamber of delight, this irradiant abode, this noble hall bedecked with gems and silks and stars and all the warp and woof of his many, many days of dreams!
Mr. and Mrs. Buford had for the time excused themselves by reason of Mrs. Buford’s weariness, and after the easy ways of that time and place the young people found themselves alone. Thus it was that Mary Ellen, with a temporary feeling of helplessness, found herself face to face with the very man whom she at that time cared least to see.