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"She also wants to see," suggested Fritzie toImogene, as Dolly and Arthur walked with Lottieto the door, "what Paris and a good conscience, and a more slender figure, will do for him."
"If Robert Kimberly," blurted Fritzie hotly,"ever takes up again with Lottie Nelson, I'llnever speak to him as long as I live."
"Again? When did he ever take up with her?"
"I don't care. You never can tell what a manwill do."
Imogene, less easily moved, only smiled. "Dollyentertains the Nelsons to-morrow evening, andRobert will be asked very particularly to come."
Kimberly did not return home, as was expected, that night. At The Towers they had no definiteword as to whether he would be out on the followingday. Dolly called up the city office but couldonly leave a message for him. As a last resortshe sent a note to The Towers, asking Robert tojoin them for the evening in welcoming Lottie.Her failure to receive an answer before the partysat down to dinner rather led Dolly to concludethat they should not see him and she felt nosurprise when a note was handed her while the coffeewas being served. She tore it open and read:
"I am just home and have your note. I amsorry not to be with you to-night to join inwelcoming the Nelsons. I send all good wishes tothe little company, but what I have now to tellyou will explain my absence.
"I had already made an appointment before Ilearned of your arrangements for the evening.Father Pauly, the village clergyman, sleeps to-nightat The Towers and I am expecting him as I write.He does not know of my intention, but before heleaves I shall ask him to receive me into theRoman Catholic Church.
Dolly handed the note to Arthur. He asked ifhe should read it aloud. She nodded assent.
Fritzie, next morning, crossing the lake withflowers for Alice, was kneeling at her grave whenKimberly came up. She rose hastily but couldnot control herself and burst into tears.Kimberly took her hands as she came to him. "DearFritzie," he murmured, "you haven't forgotten."
"I loved you both, Robert."
They walked down the hill together. Fritzieasked questions and Kimberly met her difficultiesone after another. "What great difference does itmake, Fritzie, whether I work here or elsewhere? Iwant a year, possibly longer, of seclusion-and noone will bother me at the Islands. Meantime, ina year I shall be quite forgotten."
Charles Kimberly was waiting at The Towersfor a conference. The brothers lunched togetherand spent the afternoon in the library. Dollycame over as they were parting. "Is it true,Robert," she asked piteously, "that you are goingto Molokai?"
"Not for weeks yet, Dolly. Much remains tobe arranged here."
"To the lepers?"
"Only for a year or two." He saw the sufferingin her face and bent over her with affectionatehumor. "I must go somewhere for a while,Dolly. You understand, don't you?"
She shook the tears from her long lashes."You need not tell me.Robert, you will nevercome back."
He laughed tenderly. "My heart is divided,Dolly. Part of it is here with you who love me; part of it, you know, is with her. If I come back,I shall find you here. If I do not come back, Ishall find her THERE."
In a distant ocean and amid the vastness of asolitude of waters the winter sun shines warm upona windward cliff. From the face of this giganticshape, rising half a mile into the air, springs atapestry of living green, prodigal with blossomsand overhanging at intervals a field of flowers.
On the heights of the crumbling peak the wildgoat browses in cool and leafy groves. In itsgrassy chimneys rabbits crouch with listening ears, and on the sheer face of the precipice a squirrelhalts upon a dizzy vine. Above its crest aseabird poises in a majesty of flight, and in the bluedistance a ship sails into a cloudless sky. Thisis Molokai.
At the foot of the mountain the morning sunstrikes upon a lowland, thrust like a tongue offire into the cooling sea, and where the lava meetsthe wave, breakers beat restlessly.
On one shore of this lowland spit, and underthe brow of the cliff, a handful of white cottagescluster. On the opposite shore lies a whitewashedhamlet brightened by tropical gardens and shadedwith luxuriant trees; it is the leper port. Near thesea stands a chapel surmounted by a cross. Beyondit a larger and solitary cross marks a secondvillage-the village of the leper dead.
An island steamer whistled one summer eveningfor the port, and a landing boat put out fromthe pier. It was the thirtieth of June. Threepassengers made ready to disembark, two of themwomen, Sisters of St. Francis, who had offeredthemselves for the leper mission, and the thirda man, a stranger, who followed them over thesteamer's side and, rearranging their luggage, madea place for the two women in the stern of theweather-beaten craft.
It was the close of the day and the sun flowedin a glory of gold over the sea. On one edge of thefar horizon a rain cloud drifted. In the east themoon was rising full and into a clear sky. A heavyswell lifted the boat from the steamer's side. Thethree passengers steadied themselves as they roseon its crest, and the brown oarsmen, catching thesweep of the sea, headed for the long line of foamthat crawled upon the blackened rocks.
On the distant beach a black-robed figureoutlined against the evening sky watched withstraining eyes the sweep of the dripping oars and witharm uplifted seemed to wait with beating heartupon their stroke for him who was coming.Along the shore, cripples hastening from thevillage crowded the sandy paths toward the pier.In the west, the steamer was putting out againupon its course, and between the two the littleboat, a speck upon the waves, made its waystoutly through the heaving sea.
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