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"But if you appeal to the laws and principles ofCatholic truth, they are intolerant, because truthcannot compromise. My church, which yourebuke with this intolerance, is the bearer of amessage from God to mankind. If men alreadypossessed this message there would be little reasonfor the existence of such a church. The veryreason of her being is to convince men of thetruth of which they are not yet convinced.
"Either she is the divinely commissionedmessenger of God or she is not-and if not, herpretensions are the most arrogant the world has everseen and her authority is the cruelest mockery.And so you view the church, so the world viewsit-this I well know. It is painful sometimes,it is at this moment, to insist upon a law that Ihave no power to set aside-but to do less wouldbe simply a betrayal of my trust. And if thiswere the price of what you term 'tolerance,' Imust rest with my church under the stigmas youput upon us."
Kimberly's anger rose rather than abated withthe archbishop's words. "Of course," heretorted without trying to conceal his anger, "itmakes a difference who seeks relief. Your churchcan find no relief for a helpless woman. As Iremember, you accommodated Napoleon quicklyenough."
"Certain unworthy ecclesiastics of my church, constituting an ecclesiastical court, pretended tofind his marriage with Josephine invalid; the churchnever confirmed their verdict. Thirteen of itscardinals suffered Napoleon's penalties because oftheir protest against his remarriage. Let usparallel the case. Suppose I could offer to join withyou in a conspiracy. Suppose we should assurethis suffering soul that she is free to remarry.Assume that I could make myself a party todeceiving her-would you be party with me, to it?Do I mistake, if I believe you could not conspirein such a baseness?"
"I do not deal in deceptions."
"Do you admire Napoleon's methods?"
"Not all of them."
"Let us, then, Mr. Kimberly, bear our burdenswithout invoking his duplicity."
"We can do that, your grace," answeredKimberly coldly. "But we shall also be obliged tobear them without relief from where we had themost right to look for it. It was not for myselfthat I came to you. I sought to restore to yourchurch one who has been driven from it by awretch. I should have been better advised; Iwas too hopeful. Your policy is, as it alwayshas been, hopelessly fixed and arbitrary. Youencourage those who heap upon you the greatestabuse and contempt and drive from your doorsthose disposed to meet you upon any reasonablecomposition of a difficulty. I should only woundyou if I attempted to answer your last rebuke."
"You are going-"
"And you go with bitterness. Believe me, it isnot pleasant to be without the approbation of thewell-disposed who think and believe differentlyfrom ourselves. But if as Catholics we regard ita privilege to possess the truth we must beprepared to pay the price it exacts. The world willalways think us wrong, a peculiar people and withprinciples beyond its comprehension.Wecannot help it. It has always been so, it alwaysmust be so. Good-by."
"If dividing a burden lightens it, remember youhave three now to bear yours instead of two. Ishall not forget either of you in my prayers, certainly not this dear soul of whom you have toldme. This is my poor offering to you and to herfor all you have done for those that come to youin my name."
Following the visit to the archbishop,McCrea, who had been on nettles to get holdof Kimberly for a trip of inspection, whisked himaway for two days among the seaboard refineries.
Instead, however, of the two days planned byMcCrea, the inspection kept Kimberly, much tohis annoyance, for three days. The date set forGrace's f?te found him still inspecting, but growinghourly more unmanageable, and before breakfastwas over on the third morning McCrea began tofeel the violence of Kimberly's protests.
By the most ingenious activity on the part ofthe alert McCrea and his powerful railroad friendsthe day's programme for the party was hastenedto completion and the indignant magnate wasreturned by train to Second Lake in time for dinner.
He drove home by way of Cedar Point, and Alice, who had been constantly in touch with him on thetelephone, felt the elation of his presence when shesaw him alight from his car and walk across theterrace to where she and Fritzie, dressed for theevening, were feeding the goldfish.
Kimberly took her hands as she ran forward tomeet him. "I thought you were never coming!"she exclaimed.
"For a while I thought so myself."
"And you saw the archbishop?" she murmuredeagerly. "He could do nothing?"
He regarded her with affection. "I had set myheart on bringing back good news."
"I knew there was no chance," said Alice asif to anticipate a failure. "But it was like youto try. You are always doing unpleasant thingsfor me."
He saw the disappointment under her cheerfulness."And though I did fail-you love me justthe same?"
She looked into his searching eyes simply. "Always."
"And we marry two weeks from to-night?"
"Two weeks from to-night," she answered, smiling still, but with a tremor in her steady voice.Then she clasped her hands.
"What is it?" he asked.
Standing in the sunset before him-and healways remembered her as she stood then-Kimberlysaw in her eyes the fires of the devotion hehad lighted. "I hope," she whispered, "I canmake you happy."
"You would make a stone happy," he murmured, breathing the fragrance of her being asshe looked up at him.
It was evening when he saw her again and hestood with Dolly and Imogene who were receiving.
The night was warm and the guests sought thelawns, the garden, and the groves. When a hornblown across the terrace announced dancing, slightand graceful women, whose draperies revealed meredelicate outlines of breathing creatures, came likefairies out of the night. The ballroom, incandle-light, was cool, and only the ceiling frescoes, artfully heightened by lights diffused under ropes ofroses, were brighter than the rest of the room.
As the last guests arrived from town-CreadyHamilton and his wife with Doctor Hamilton andthe Brysons-Kimberly walked into the ballroom.He caught Alice's eye and made his way toward her.
She smiled as he asked for a dance. "Do yourealize," said he as she rose, "that this is yourfirst-and your last-dance at The Towers as a guest?Next time you will be hostess-won't you?"
A sound of breaking glass crashing above themusic of the violins took Alice's answer from herlips. Every one started. Women lookedquestioningly at the men. Alice shrank to Kimberly'sside. "Merciful Heaven!" she whispered, "whatwas that?"
He answered lightly. "Something has smashed.Whatever it is, it is of no consequence."
The music continuing without interruptionreassured the timid. There was no sequence tothe alarming sound, the flow of conversationreasserted itself and in a moment the incidentwas forgotten.
But Kimberly perceived by Alice's pallor thatshe was upset. "Come out into the air," he said,"for a moment."
"But don't you want to see what it was?"
"Some one else will do that; come."
She clung to his arm as they passed through anopen door. "You don't seem just well, dearie,"he said, taking her hand within his own. "Letus sit down."
He gave her a chair. She sank into it, supportingher head on her other hand. "I haven't been quitewell for a day or two, Robert. I feel very strange."
Kimberly with his handkerchief wiped thedampness from her forehead. Her distressincreased and he realized that she was ill. "Alice, let me take you upstairs a moment. Perhaps youneed a restorative."
The expression on her face alarmed him. Theyrose just as Dolly hastened past. "Oh, you arehere!" she cried, seeing Kimberly. "Why, whatis the matter with Alice?"
Alice herself answered. "A faintness, dear,"she said with an effort. "I think that awfulcrash startled me. What was it?"
Dolly leaned forward with a suppressed whisper."Don't mention it! Robert, the Dutch mirror inthe dining-room has fallen. It smashed a wholetableful of glass. The servants are frightened todeath."
"No one was hurt?" said Kimberly.
"Fortunately no one. I must find Imogene."
She hurried on. Alice asked Kimberly to takeher back to the ballroom. He urged her to goupstairs and lie down for a moment.
The music for the dance was still coming fromwithin and against Kimberly's protest Aliceinsisted on going back. He gave way and led herout upon the floor. For a few measures, with adetermined effort, she followed him. Then sheglided mechanically on, supported only byKimberly and leaning with increasing weakness uponhis arm.
When he spoke to her, her answers were vague, her words almost incoherent. "Take me away,Robert," she whispered, "I am faint."
He led her quietly from the floor and assistedher up a flight of stairs to his mother'sapartment. There he helped her to lie down on acouch. Annie was hurriedly summoned. Asecond maid was sent in haste for Doctor Hamiltonand Dolly.
Alice could no longer answer Kimberly'squestions as he knelt. She lay still with her eyesclosed. Her respiration was hardly perceptibleand her hands had grown cold. It was onlywhen Kimberly anxiously kissed her that a faintsmile overspread her tired face. In anothermoment she was unconscious.
When Hamilton hastily entered the room,Annie, frightened and helpless, kneltbeside her mistress, chafing her hands. On theopposite side of the couch Kimberly, greatlydisturbed, looked up with relief.
Taking a chair at her side, the doctor liftedAlice's arm, took her pulse and sat for some time insilence watching her faint and irregular respiration.
He turned after a moment to Kimberly to learnthe slight details of the attack, and listening, retracted the lids of Alice's eyes and examined thepupils. Reflecting again in silence, he turned herhead gently from side to side and afterward liftedher arms one after the other to let them fall backbeside her on the couch.
Even these slight efforts to obtain someknowledge of Alice's condition seemed to Kimberlydisquieting and filled him with apprehension.The doctor turned to Annie. "Has yourmistress ever had an experience like this before,Annie?"
"No, doctor, never. She has never been inthis way before."
Imogene came hurrying upstairs with Dolly tolearn of Alice's condition. They looked upon herunconsciousness with fear and asked whisperedquestions that intensified Kimberly's uneasiness.
"Do you think we could take her home, doctor?"asked Annie, timidly.
The doctor paused. "I don't think we willtry it to-night, Annie. It is quite possible for herto remain here, isn't it?" he asked, looking atDolly and Kimberly.
"Certainly," returned Dolly. "I will stay.Alice can have these rooms and I will take theblue rooms connecting."
"Then put your mistress to bed at once," saidHamilton to Annie.
"And telephone home, Annie," suggested Dolly,"for whatever you need. I will see thehousekeeper right away about the linen."
Kimberly listened to the concise directions ofthe doctor for immediate measures of relief andfollowed him mechanically into the hall. Onlyone thought came out of the strange confusion-Alicewas at least under his roof and in his mother's room.
When he returned with the doctor the lightswere low and Alice lay with her head pillowedon her loosened hair. The maid and Dolly hadhastened away to complete their arrangementsfor the emergency and for a few moments thetwo men were alone with their charge.
"Doctor, what do you make of this?" demandedKimberly.
Hamilton, without taking his eyes from the sickwoman, answered thoughtfully: "I can hardly telluntil I get at something of the underlying cause.Bryson will be here in a moment. We will hearwhat he has to say."
Doctor Bryson appeared almost on the word.Hamilton made way for him at Alice's side andthe two conferred in an undertone.
Bryson asked many questions of Hamilton andcalling for a candle retracted Alice's eyelids toexamine the pupils for reaction to the light. Thetwo doctors lost not an unnecessary moment indeliberation. Consulting rapidly together, powerful restoratives were at once prepared andadministered through the circulation.
Reduced to external efforts to strengthen thevital functions the two medical men worked asnurses and left nothing undone to overcomethe alarming situation. Then for an hour theywatched together, closely, the character andfrequency of Alice's pulse and breathing.
To Kimberly the conferences of the two menseemed unending. Sometimes they left the roomand were gone a long time. He walked to awindow to relieve his suspense. Through the opensash came the suppressed hum of motors as thecars, parked below the stables, moved up the hillto receive departing guests and made their waydown the long, dark avenue to the highway.
On the eastern horizon a dull gray streak crosseda mirror that lay in the darkness below. Kimberlyhad to look twice to convince himself thatthe summer night was already waning.
Annie came into the room and, he was vaguelyconscious, was aiding the doctors in a painstakingexamination of their patient. Through delicacyKimberly withdrew, as they persistentlyquestioned the maid in the hope of obtaining themuch-needed information concerning her mistress'sprevious condition; for what Annie could not supplyof this they knew they must work without.
Plunged in the gloom of his apprehensions, hesaw the doctors coming down the hall toward himand stopped them. "Speak before me," he saidwith an appeal that was a command. "You bothknow what I have at stake."
The three retired to the library and Kimberlylistened attentively to every phase of thediscussion between the two master clinicians as theylaid their observations before him. The coma wasundisguisedly a serious matter. It seemed to themalready ingravescent and, taken in connection withthe other symptoms, was even ominous. The twomen, without a satisfactory history, and without ahope of obtaining one from the only availablesource-the suffering woman herself-discussedthe case from every side, only to return unwillinglyto the conclusion to which everything pointed-thata cerebral lesion underlay the attack.
Their words sent a chill to Kimberly's heart.But the lines of defence were mapped out withspeed and precision; a third eminent man, anauthority on the brain, was to be sent for at once.Nurses, equal almost in themselves to goodpractitioners, were to be called in, and finallyHamilton and Bryson arranged that either one or theother should be at the sick-bed every instant tocatch a possible moment of consciousness.
Hamilton himself returned to his patient.Bryson at the telephone took up the matter ofsummoning aid from town, and when he had donethrew himself down for a few hours' sleep.Kimberly followed Hamilton and returned to Alice'sside. He saw as he bent over her how theexpression of her face had changed. It was drawnwith a profound suffering. Kimberly sittingnoiselessly down took her hand, waiting to be thefirst to greet her when she should open her eyes.
All Second Lake knew within a day or twoof Alice's critical illness. The third doctor hadcome in the morning and he remained for several days.
Hamilton questioned Annie repeatedly duringthe period of consultations. "Try to think,Annie," he said once, "has your mistress neverat any time complained of her head?"
"Indeed, sir, I cannot remember. She nevercomplained about herself at all. Stop, sir, shedid last summer, too-what am I thinking of? Iam so confused. She had a fall one night, sir. Ifound her in her dressing-room unconscious. Oh, she was very sick that night. She told me thatshe had fallen and her head had struck thetable-the back of her head. For days she sufferedterribly. Could it have been that, do you think?"
"Put your hand to the place on your headwhere she complained the pain was."
"How did she happen," Hamilton continued, when Annie had indicated the region, "to fallbackward in her own room, Annie?"
"She never told me, doctor. I asked her butI can't remember what she said. It was the nightbefore Mr. MacBirney left Cedar Lodge."
The doctors spent fruitless days in their effortsto overcome the unconsciousness. There was nolonger any uncertainty as to the seat of the trouble.It lay in the brain itself and defied every attemptto relieve it. Even a momentary interval ofreason was denied to the dumb sufferer.
Kimberly, on the evening of the third day, hadsummoned his medical advisers to his own roomand asked the result of their consultation. Thefrail and eminent man whom Hamilton andBryson had brought from town told Kimberly thestory. He could grasp only the salient points ofwhat the specialist said: That in a coma such asthey faced it was the diagnosis of the underlyingconditions that was always important. That thiswas often difficult; sometimes, as now, impossible.That at times they encountered, as now, a case soobscure as to defy the resources of clinical medicine.Kimberly asked them their judgment as to theissue; the prognosis, they could only tell him, was doubtful, depending wholly upon the gravityof the apoplectic injury.
The Kimberly family rose to the emergency.Aware of the crisis that had come, through Alice, into Robert's life, Imogene and Dolly, on handday and night, were mother and sister to himand to her. Nowhere in the situation was thereany failure or weakening of support.
Hamilton, undismayed in the face of the physicalcatastrophe he had been called upon so unexpectedlyto retrieve, and painfully aware of whatthe issue meant to his near and dear friend, never for an instant relaxed his efforts.
Seconded by his nurses, reinforced by hiscounsel and strengthened by Bryson's closeco-operation, Hamilton faced the discouragementsteadily, knowing only too well that theresponsibility must rest, in the end, on him alone.
Absorbed, vigilant, tireless-pouring thereserve energy of years into the sustained struggleof the sleepless days and nights-he strove withevery resource of his skill and watchedunremittingly for an instant's abatement of the deadlylethargy that was crushing the vitality of thedelicate woman before him.
Kimberly, following the slightest details of thesick-room hours, spent the day and the night at thebedside or in pacing the long hall. If he sleptit was for an hour and after leaving orders tosummon him instantly if Alice woke. They who caredfor her knew what he meant by "waking." Theyknew how long and mutely, sometimes in the day, sometimes in the silence of the night, he watchedher face for one returning instant of reason.
They knew how when hope burned low in everyother eye it shone always steadily in his. Therising of the sun and its setting meant to him onlyanother day of hope, another night of hope for her; every concern had passed from him except thatwhich was centered in the fight for her life.
Considerate as he was to those about him theyfeared him, and his instinctive authority madeitself felt more keenly in his silence than in hiswords. The heavy features, the stubborn brow, the slow, steady look became intensified in thelong, taciturn vigil. Every day Dolly walkedwith him and talked with him. She made abond between him and the world; but she sawhow little the world meant when danger camebetween him and the woman he loved.
One evening the nurses told him that Alice wasbetter. They hoped for a return of consciousnessand he sat all night waiting for the preciousinstant. The next day while he slept, wearied andheartsick, Alice sank. For ten minutes those abouther endured a breathless, ageing suspense thatsapped their energy and strength, until it wasknown that the doctor had won the fight and theweary heart had returned to its faint and laboredbeat. They told Kimberly nothing of it. Whenhe awoke he still thought she was better.
When he came into the room he was so hopefulthat he bent over her and fondly called her name.To his consternation and delight her eyes openedat the sound of his voice; it seemed as if she wereabout to speak. Then her eyes closed again andshe lay still. The incident electrified him and hespoke hopefully of it for hours. At midnight hesent Hamilton away, saying he himself was freshand would be on duty with the nurse until daylight.
The air was sultry. Toward morning athunder-storm broke violently. Kimberly walked outinto the hall to throw the belvedere doors open tothe fresh air. As he turned to go back, his heartstopped beating. In the gloom of the darkenedgallery a slender, white figure came from the opendoor of the sick-room and Kimberly saw Alice, with outstretched hands, walking uncertainlytoward him. He stood quite still and taking her handsgently as they touched his own he murmured her name.
"Alice! What is it, darling?" She opened hereyes. Their vacancy pierced his heart.
"Baby is crying," she faltered; "I hear mybaby. Walter." Her hands groped pitifullywithin his own. "Walter! Let me go to her!"
She tried to go on but Kimberly restrainedand held her for a moment trembling in his arms."Come with me," he said, leading her slowly backto her pillow. "Let us go to her together."
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