All her tender lures, inherent and acquired, had shattered themselves futilely against the reserve he had set between them. Why had he offered her that kiss on board The Tigress? Perhaps that had been his hour of disenchantment. She hadn’t measured up; she had been stupid; she hadn’t known how to make love.
Loneliness. Here was an appalling fact: all her previous loneliness had been trifling beside that which now encompassed her and would for years to come.
If only sometimes he would grow angry at her, impatient! But his tender courtesy was unfailing; and under this would be the abiding bitterness of having mistaken gratitude for love. Very well. She would meet him upon this ground: he should never be given the slightest hint that she was unhappy.
She still had her letter of credit. She could run away from him, if she wished, as she had run away from her father; she could carry out the original adventure. But the cases were not identical. Her father—man of rock—had never needed her, whereas Hoddy, even if he did not love her, would always be needing her.
Love stories!... A sob rushed into her throat, and to smother it she buried her face in a pillow.
Spurlock, filled with self-mockery, sat in a chair on the west veranda. The chair had extension arms over which a man might comfortably dangle his legs. For awhile he watched the revolving light on Copeley’s. Occasionally he relit his pipe. Once he chuckled aloud. Certain phases of irony always caused him to chuckle audibly. Every one of those four stories would be accepted. He knew it absolutely, as if he had the check in his hand. Why? Because Howard Spurlock the author dared not risk the liberty of Howard Spurlock the malefactor; because there were still some dregs in this cup of irony. For what could be more ironical than for Howard Spurlock to see himself grow famous under the name of Taber? The ambrosia of which he had so happily dreamt!—and this gall and wormwood! He stood up and rapped his pipe on the rail.
“All right,” he said. “Whatever you say—you, behind those stars there, if you are a God. We Spurlocks take our medicine, standing. Pile it on! But if you can hear the voice of the mote, the speck, don’t let her suffer for anything I’ve done. Be a sport, and pile it all on me!”
He went to bed.
There is something in prayer; not that there may be any noticeable result, any definite answer; but no human being can offer an honest prayer to God without gaining immeasurably in courage, in fortitude, in resignation, and that alone is worth the effort.
On the morrow Spurlock (who was unaware that he had offered a prayer) let down the bars to his reserve. He became really companionable, discussed the new story he had in mind, and asked some questions about colour. Ruth, having decided a course for herself—that of renunciation—and having the strength to keep it, met these advances in precisely the mood they were offered. So these two young philosophers got along very well that day; and the succeeding days.