Read CHAPTER XXII - A CONFESSION of The Triflers , free online book, by Frederick Orin Bartlett, on ReadCentral.com.

Monte left Nice on the twentieth of July, to join as Peter supposed Madame Covington in Paris. Monte himself had been extremely ambiguous about his destination, being sure of only one fact: that he should not return inside of a year, if he did then. Peter had asked for his address, and Monte had given him the same address that he gave Marjory.

“I want to keep in touch with you,” Peter said.

Peter missed the man. On the ride with Marjory that he enjoyed the next day after Monte’s departure, he talked a great deal of him.

“I ’d like to have seen into his eyes,” he told her. “I kept feeling I ’d find something there more than I got hold of in his voice and the grip of his hand.”

“He has blue eyes,” she told him, “and they are clean as a child’s.”

“They are a bit sad?”

“Monte’s eyes sad?” she exclaimed. “What made you think so?”

“Perhaps because, from what he let drop the other night, I gathered he was n’t altogether happy with Mrs. Covington.”

“He told you that?”

“No; not directly,” he assured her. “He’s too loyal. I may be utterly mistaken; only he was rather vague as to why she was not here with him.”

“She was not with him,” Marjory answered slowly. “She was not with him because she was n’t big enough to deserve him.”

“Then it’s a fact there’s a tragedy in his life?”

“Not in his in hers,” she answered passionately.

“How can that be?”

“Because she’s the one who realizes the truth.”

“But she’s the one who went away.”

“Because of that. It’s a miserable story, Peter.”

“You knew her intimately?”

“A great many years.”

“I think Covington said he had known you a long time.”

“Yes.”

“Then, knowing her and knowing him, was n’t there anything you could do?”

“I did what I could,” she answered wearily.

“Perhaps that explains why he hurried back to her.”

“He has n’t gone to her. He’ll never go back to her. She deserted him, and now he’s going to make it permanent.”

“A divorce?”

“Yes, Peter,” she answered, with a little shiver.

“You’re taking it hard.”

“I know all that he means to her,” she choked.

“She loves him?”

“With all her heart and soul.”

“And he does n’t know it?”

“Why, he would n’t believe it if she told him. She can never let him know it. She’d deny it if he asked her. She loves him enough for that.”

“Good Lord!” exclaimed Peter. “There’s a mistake there somewhere.”

“The mistake came first,” she ran on. “Oh, I don’t know why I’m telling you these things, except that it is a relief to tell them to some one.”

“Tell me all about it,” he encouraged her. “I knew there was something on your mind.”

“Peter,” she said earnestly, “can you imagine a woman so selfish that she wanted to marry just to escape the responsibilities of marriage?”

“It is n’t possible,” he declared.

Her cheeks were a vivid scarlet. Had he been able to see them, she could not have gone on.

“A woman so selfish,” she faltered ahead, “that she preferred a make-believe husband to a real husband, because because so she thought she would be left free.”

“Free for what?” he demanded.

“To live.”

“When love and marriage and children are all there is to life?” he asked.

She caught her breath.

“You see, she did not know that then. She thought all those things called for the sacrifice of her freedom.”

“What freedom?” he demanded again. “It’s when we’re alone that we’re slaves slaves to ourselves. A woman alone, a man alone, living to himself alone what is there for him? He can only go around and around in a pitifully small circle a circle that grows smaller and smaller with every year. Between twenty and thirty a man can exhaust all there is in life for himself alone. He has eaten and slept and traveled and played until his senses have become dull. Perhaps a woman lasts a little longer, but not much longer. Then they are locked away in themselves until they die.”

“Peter!” she cried in terror.

“It’s only as we live in others that we live forever,” he ran on. “It is only by toiling and sacrificing and suffering and loving that we become immortal. It is so we acquire real freedom.”

“Yes, Peter,” she agreed, with a gasp.

“Could n’t you make her understand that?”

“She does understand. That’s the pity of it.”

“And Covington?”

“It’s in him to understand; only she lost the right to make him understand. She she debased herself. So she must sacrifice herself to get clean again. She must make even greater sacrifices than any she cowed away from. She must do this without any of the compensations that come to those who have been honest and unafraid.”

“What of him?”

“He must never know. He’ll go round and round his little circle, and she must watch him.”

“It’s terrible,” he murmured. “It will be terrible for her to watch him do that. If you had told him how she felt ”

“God forbid!”

“Or if you had only told me, so that I could have told him ”

She seized Peter’s arm.

“You would n’t have dared!”

“I’d dare anything to save two people from such torment.”

“You you don’t think he will worry?”

“I think he is worrying a great deal.”

“Only for the moment,” she broke in. “But soon in a week or two he will be quite himself again. He has a great many things to do. He has tennis and and golf.”

She checked herself abruptly. ("Damn golf!” Monte had said.)

“There’s too much of a man in him now to be satisfied with such things,” said Peter. “It’s a pity it’s a pity there are not two of you, Marjory.”

“Of me?”

“He thinks a great deal of you. If he had met you before he met this other ”

“What are you saying, Peter?”

“That you’re the sort of woman who could have called out in him an honest love.”

There, beside Peter who could not see, Marjory bent low and buried her face in her hands.

“You ’re the sort of woman,” he went on, “who could have roused the man in him that has been waiting all this time for some one like you.”

How Peter was hurting her! How he was pinching her with red-hot irons! It hurt so much that she was glad. Here, at last, she was beginning her sacrifice for Monte. So she made neither moan nor groan, nor covered her ears, but took her punishment like a man.

“Some one else must do all that,” she said.

“Yes,” he answered. “Or his life will be wasted. He needs to suffer. He needs to give up. This thing we call a tragedy may be the making of him.”

“For some one else,” she repeated.

Peter was fumbling about for her hand. Suddenly she straightened herself.

“It must be for some one else,” he said hoarsely “because I want you for myself. In time you must be mine. With the experience of those two before us, we must n’t make the same mistake ourselves. I I was n’t going to tell you this until I had my eyes back. But, heart o’ mine, I ’ve held in so long. Here in the dark one gets so much alone. And being alone is what kills.”

She was hiding her hand from him.

“I can’t find your hand,” he whispered, like a child lost in the dark.

Summoning all her strength, she placed her hand within his. “It is cold!” he cried.

Yet the day was warm. They were speeding through a sunlighted country of olive trees and flowers in bloom a warm world and tender.

He drew her fingers to his lips and kissed them passionately. She suffered it, closing her eyes against the pain.

“I’ve wanted you so all these months!” he cried. “I should n’t have let you go in the first place. I should n’t have let you go.”

“No, Peter,” she answered.

“And now that I’ve found you again, you’ll stay?”

He was lifting his face to hers straining to see her. To have answered any way but as he pleaded would have been to strike that upturned face.

“I I ’ll try to stay,” she faltered.

“I ’ll make you!” he breathed. “I ’ll hold you tight, soul of mine. Would you would you kiss my eyes?”

Holding her breath, Marjory lightly brushed each of his eyes with her lips.

“It’s like balm,” he whispered. “I’ve dreamed at night of this.”

“Every day I’ll do it,” she said. “Only for a little while you ’ll not ask for anything more, Peter?”

“Not until some day they open in answer to that call,” he replied.

“I did n’t mean that, Peter,” she said hurriedly. “Only I’m so mixed up myself.”

“It’s so new to you,” he nodded. “To me it’s like a day foreseen a dozen years. Long before I saw you I knew I was getting ready for you. Now what do a few weeks matter?”

“It may be months, Peter, before I’m quite steady.”

“Even if it’s years,” he exclaimed, “I’ve felt your lips.”

“Only on your eyes,” she cried in terror.

“I I would n’t dare to feel them except on my eyes for a little while. Even there they take away my breath.”