“I am a brute, Ada,” he said, “or, at least, I have to be brutal. We do care for each other in a certain way, and we have found together many of the good things in living, but we are not lovers in the greater sense. We never could be. It means much. It means a knitting together of lives, a oneness, a confluence of soul and heart and passions, and a disposition to sacrifice, if need be. We have not been that way, and are not. We have been more like two chess-players. We have had a mutual pleasure in the game, but we have been none the less antagonists. The playing is over, that is all. It doesn’t matter who has won the game. We will call it drawn, or you may have it. But it is ended!”
She stood with one hand upon her breast. There came a shadow of pain to her face, and a hard look followed.
“It is nonsense talking about the game. The playing ended a year ago, and you were the winner. Now you are careless about the prize! Well” (bitterly), “it may not be worth much—to you.”
“It is worth a great deal. It has been worth a great deal to me. But I must relinquish it.”
“Why did you make me care for you?” she demanded, fiercely, again.
“I did not do more than you did. As I said before, we played the game together. It is but the usual way of a flirting man and woman. We should have each been more on guard.”
The woman was silent for a little time, and it was evident that she was making an effort at self-control. She succeeded. She had half-turned her back to Harlson, and when she again faced him, she had assumed her dignity.
“You are right, after all,” she said. “I did not consider your own character well enough. You tire of things. You will tire of the woman you love now. And you will come back to me, just because I have been less sentimental, and, so, less monotonous than some others. Whether or not I shall receive you time will determine. Is that the way you want me to look at it?”
He bowed. “That is perhaps as good a way as any. It doesn’t matter. Will you shake hands, Ada?”
She reached out her hand listlessly, and he took it. A minute later and he was on the street. And so the last link of one sort with the past was broken. It was long—though he had no concealments from her—before he told Jean of this interview. And then he did not tell the woman’s name, nor did she care to know.
AS TO THOSE OTHERS.
Time passes, even with an impatient lover, and so there came an end at last to Grant Harlson’s season of probation. There was nothing dramatic about the wedding.
To him the ceremony was merely the gaining of the human title-deed to the fortune which was his on earth, and to Jean Cornish it was but the giving of herself fully to the man—that which she wished to do with herself. There were few of us present, but we were the two’s closest friends. They were a striking pair as they stood together and plighted their faith calmly: he big and strong, almost to the point of burliness, and she slight, sweet and lissom. There was no nervousness apparent in either, perhaps because there was such earnestness. And then he carried her away from us.