by Mary Tappan Wright

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LIVINGSTON was dead, and for Adams the light of life had faded.
     Hitherto few had taken heed of Adams’s existence; but during the long funeral progress across the country, when he had brought the dead statesman to his last home, Adams made himself felt as an individual. Lurid fires had heralded their approach by night; patient, mournful crowds had silently awaited them by day; and often, when the people surged forward in the hope of gaining some word that should bring them into more personal contact with their hero, Adams spoke; and when these outbursts of uncontrollable sorrow were flashed to every corner of the land, men who looked up from reading caught a fleeting expression of awe in the eyes of those who listened; for an echo of the incomparable eloquence of Livingston sounded through the words of the one man who had known and loved him best.
     Livingston, notwithstanding his popularity, had always been a difficult man to approach, invariably placing barriers in the way of his followers, and, with apparent unconsciousness, closing the doors of his intimacy in the faces of those who regarded themselves as entitled to enter; in fact, all his movements betrayed a species of personal wilfulness which had been a source of constant trouble to his political advisers.
     “See here, Leonard, your friend had better be a little more careful,” Adams’s family physician had said one day as they were coming away from a mass-meeting.
     “What do you mean?”—Adams was always on the defensive in regard to Livingston.
     “If you don’t know, he will,” said the doctor. “Tell him he’d better pull up a bit; he’s in danger of an utter collapse;–and one not altogether to his—”
     Although Adams ‘cut the prediction short by moving onward, he still took care that it should reach its destination.
     Livingston had .laughed. “Astonishing fellows, these specialists!” he had said, lightly.
     Yet, three weeks later, at the close of one of the most remarkable speeches that he had ever delivered, Livingston—stricken down as if by a thunderbolt—had come crashing to the earth like some tall tree; and as he lay in death, men lost in the bewildering branches of his widespread reputation proclaimed him greater than they had dreamed.
     That autumn Adams threw himself into the work of preparing Livingston’s essays and speeches for publication. All of the notes, private memoranda, books and papers, had been bequeathed to him; but he seemed to have inherited, at the sane time, something more vital: Livingston’s dogged perseverance, and that astonishing tenacity which so often caused his return to a policy he had definitely and even publicly forsworn, survived undiminished in Adams. Two bulky volumes were finished and in the hands of the publishers before the end of the winter; but a serious illness followed, and, early in March, Adams was compelled to go South for his health.
     Towards the middle of June, however, the heat drove him to the coast of Maine, and one night on the deck of the steamer from Portland he caught sight of his cousin Nancy hurrying towards him.
     “Leonard!” she said. “When did you get back? I saw Sarah and Henderson in the saloon, and they tell me you are going down to open the house at Cape Roget; I hoped to see you at the Lawrences’.”
     “No; the Lawrences are too gay for a man who has work to do.”
     “A man who so lately has been at death’s door oughtn’t to have work to do,” said Nancy. “And I don’t like the idea of your going down there with only the two servants to take care of you. Sarah’s all well enough; but something’s wrong with Henderson.”
     “Henderson has had a great shock,” said Adams; “the loss of—”
     “Can’t we go over there by the stern and sit down?” interrupted Nancy. “You’ve dined, I suppose.”
     She was leading the way as she spoke, and Adams followed, smiling at the familiarity of the situation. Nancy had always led the way, and when they had seated themselves in the moonlight, it seemed but natural that she should begin at once to find fault with him.
     “What do you mean by saying that you have work to do?”
     “I ought to begin the biography at once, you know.”
     “The biography? Whose, now?”
     “Livingston’s.” He spoke with the patience of one who gives an obvious answer.
     “But you have done it! What are these two fat volumes I see in all the shop windows ?”
     “If you had seen them anywhere else you would have known they were only the speeches and occasional essays.”
     “Ah!” said Nancy, vaguely. “So he wrote essays?—And have you collected much—material for your biography?”
     “Of course! I have collected nearly all of it. But”—he sighed wearily— “something is lacking.”
     “And you don’t know what?”
     “The key is lacking; but what that key is,—who can say?”
     “You mean you haven’t understood him?”
     “I can’t explain him! With other great men you find something—a heterodoxy, a profound and unexpected faith, or even an adorable domestic fault—something, large or small, that simplifies and unifies the whole character. With—him” (Adams always made a slight reverent pause when he spoke of Livingston), “I can’t find it;—yet it must have been there!”
     “You haven’t looked in the most obvious place.”
     “I have searched all places, obvious and the reverse; but there are no intimate revelations. Not the faintest explanation of the processes, for example, by which the speeches were evolved; it almost seems as if I understood the construction of them myself far better than he.”
     Nancy’s face did not change, and yet it was as if she smiled.
     “For instance,” Adams continued, “there was no adequate report of the St. Louis speech,—the one that cost him his life. I could find no preparation; nothing whatever that led up to it; I had to write the whole from memory. As you know, he and I differed; I was lacking in his foresight, his self-control: I always clamored for a more active policy and a more definite expression of opinion, and so I was constantly compelled to eliminate; to modify; to—no, not to temporize; but—I can give you no idea of the difficulties! And yet, later, when some one who had reported the speech sent it to me, I found I had got it almost word for word!”
     “Livingston was incredibly careless of his own fame,” Adams went on; “once delivered, he never gave those speeches a second thought. They were tools: when they had done their work, he threw them away.”
     “How like him,” murmured Nancy.
     “He was a most sagacious statesman!”
     “You have always said so.”
     “The speeches are there to prove it.”
     “Oh! Yes, the speeches! Up to a certain point they undoubtedly are there; but beyond that,—” Nancy shrugged her shoulders.
     “You can’t deny that he had a tremendous influence for good!”
     “Who else?”
     “How should I know? To me he was like an instrument, a voice, a splendid violin,—or, better, an orchestra, composed of intelligent parts, and helpless without outside inspiration and an interpretative leader.”
     “I don’t think you understood him!”
     “Perhaps not—he was an instrument, and I hadn’t enough talent to become proficient.”
     “Then you never felt that attraction, that magnetism, he had for others?”
     “I never was near him without feeling it. I detested it!”
     “You never liked him!” Adams faced her, with the air of one goaded into making a damaging accusation.
     “He was a magnificent creature,” she said, indifferently.
     “And you can speak thus of—Livingston?”
     “Of Livingston.”
     “You have taken this attitude ever since we were children together.” Adams spoke slowly, conscious of putting a strong restraint upon himself. “You have always had the air of keeping something back!”
     “In that, am I not like himself? Did he ever give any one—even you, for example—fully all?”
     “He was a big man, and I—a little one; my small measure was inadequate.”
     Nancy leaned forward and seemed to be absorbed in watching the moonlit wake of the steamer. “Have you never suspected the source of Livingston’s power?” she said at last.
     “The source of Livingston’s power was Livingston himself!”
     Nancy did not turn her head.
     “If you know better, speak!”
     “Two words, two very simple words, would explain the whole thing,—shall I say them?” She bent towards Adams, her eyes shining clear and threatening, on a level with his. “Shall I say them?” she repeated.
     “I think you had better not,” he answered, gently. “We have been pretty close friends all our lives, Nancy, and it is possible that you might say something I could not forgive, now. My grief is too new; I am like a man who has been bereft of his arms and legs, even of his tongue, for I seem to have no mode of expression left; if I had, I should have made you understand what he meant to me.”
     Nancy turned away again. “You are very wise,” she murmured.
     “I refuse to hear for your sake, not for his!” Adams exclaimed.
     “You have always balanced us one against the other,” cried Nancy. “This is the last time I mean to endure it. You never yet have been willing to hear me say what I feel in regard to him; I believe you dare not!”
     “Nancy, try to be fair! Promise me that when I have made a little more progress with the biography you will let me—”
     “You shall not attempt that biography!” interrupted Nancy. “Hasn’t enough been sacrificed? Must you still go on allowing the life-blood to be sucked from your veins?—Anyhow, where is your material? He never left a scrap of paper he could help.”
     “I have my own notes and journals.”
     “Those are you—not Livingston!”
     “But for Livingston they wouldn’t have existed!”
     Nancy broke into a low, half-angry laugh; but, all the while, her troubled eyes were scanning Adams’s frail figure and thin, transparent features. “It is suicide,” she whispered; “you will die!”
     “Even so; I shall not have lived in vain!” He rose and stood by the rail, looking down at the water. For a long time neither of them spoke. “Nancy,” he said at last, “do you remember that spring, more than twenty-five years ago, when my mother took us down to the seashore?”
     “What made you think of it?”
     “I have just come from there. I wonder if you can recall your twelfth birthday,—we were caught in a storm, and came home through the dunes in the rain.”
     “Yes, I remember,” said Nancy. “You had been ill, and I wrapped you all about in my red cloak for fear you might take cold. You insisted on my coming in under it with you, and we staggered along together.”
     “I believe I suggested that we should stagger on together through life.”
     Nancy leaned far over the railing, and turned her head away from him.
     “You surely haven’t forgotten that at the end of the road we met Livingston! I remember the overwhelming emotion I felt at seeing him. It seems to me that even in those days he showed signs of all that we found in him later.”
     “I quite agree with you.”
     “He was a manly fellow; his laugh at the effeminacy of that red cloak rings still in my ears.”
     “Yes, you threw it off and strode along without any protection whatever,—and were ill again for your carelessness.”
     “And you gave up everything, Nancy, and stayed with me in the house during the whole fortnight.”
     “I was your guest.”
     “We were too well trained. As I look back, I see occasions when our politeness seems to have altered the whole course of the future.”
     “You are right. I have always been sorry for it.”
     Adams tried to see her face, but she kept it persistently turned from him. ‘‘Don’t regret that you made a sick boy so happy!”
     “If I had only been able to make myself a little more disagreeable to your friend,” Nancy proceeded, smoothly, “he would have gone out of our—of your life. That spring sowed the seeds—”
     “Of an unfair dislike and opposition to Livingston that you were never able to overcome!” interrupted Adams.
     “I never made the slightest effort to overcome it.”
     “And yet—you could have done so if you had cared to try.”
     Adams waited; but Nancy was looking down at the foaming, seething water, and did not speak; the noise and dash of it shut them alone together.
     “Do you see the phosphorescence in that big wave?” she said at last. “It gleams up at us from below like a bad soul; there is fascination, of a kind, in watching for it.”
     Adams leaned on the rail beside her. “You might have saved him, Nancy;” his voice was very low.
     “From what?”
     “Leonard! Have you heard something about him?”
     “There is nothing to hear! He needed your help. Why did you refuse?”
     “I never liked him—”
     “But you could have loved him.”
     “Why do you say that?”
     “Because I want the truth.”
     Nancy turned her head and looked into Adams’s face. “You have never before wanted the truth, in regard to him, Leonard.”
     “This concerns you and me. You could have loved Livingston, and yet you would not. Why? Was it my fault? What unconscious, subtle treachery was I guilty of?”
     “Leonard, Leonard, Leonard!” cried Nancy. “Do you torture yourself often this way? What excuse would there have been for me if I had let the attraction of that magnetism—oh, he had it, undoubtedly!—charm me into choosing darkness instead of light?—But I am tired,” she said, with a sudden change of voice; “I am going below.”
     “Then I shall not see you again. I leave the boat at four to-morrow morning.”
     “If I stayed on deck all night we should be no nearer agreement than we are now,” said Nancy, moving away.
     “You will not forget that you have promised to listen to my notes for the biography?”
     “I didn’t promise.”
     He followed her to the door of her stateroom. “You will come if I send for you?” he persisted.
     “Oh yes,” she said, with a little laugh that was half bitter, “1 shall come; you know I shall. Good night.”

     Nancy did not hear from Adams again until shortly after her return to the city in September, when she received a note from him begging her to come to him that evening after dinner.
     It had been oppressively hot all day, but a dry harsh wind sprang up in the course of the afternoon; and when Nancy entered her carriage it was blowing almost a gale; the lights in the streets were swinging, casting wild, dancing shadows, and, for a moment, she hesitated; for Adams was staying at the old family place, which was a mile or two beyond the city limits; but something in the tone of his note overcame her reluctance, and she went on.
     Out in the country the hot, enervating blast roved over the fields and gardens, with rain in its breast; and as they sped through the night, the trees, blue, ghostly, and tragic, raced beside them. Nancy, clutching her wraps to her throat, leaned forward to watch their swaying branches.
     Adams’s man servant was watching for them when they drove up the avenue, and as he came out to the step of the carriage, the lamps shone directly into his face. For a moment Nancy, who had known him for years, did not recognize him; some process of disintegration had been going on in the man; his formerly plump face was thin and worn, his bright color completely gone; and his eyes, thickened and opaque, stared at her mournfully.
     “Why, Henderson!” said Nancy, taken off her guard. “What is the matter?”
     “Nothing, Miss Nancy. Mr. Leonard is waiting in the library.” Henderson led the way down the hall and opened the door to let her go by; a look of strong dislike settled on his face as he watched her advance towards Adams, who rose, and stood a moment rearranging his papers before he came towards her.
     “Ah, Nancy!” he said, “I gave you up when it began to blow.”
     Nancy scanned his face. The hollows about his eyes were cavernous, and his thin, small hand felt dry and burning, even through her glove.
     “Perhaps you are not ready for me?”
     “Yes, I am ready,—only—will you take this place?”
     Nancy came forward and seated herself in the light of the large lamp that was standing on the writing-table. “You have done your best to kill yourself!” she said, but her glance did not meet his.
     “Oh, I shall pull through!” He looked over his shoulder as he spoke, following the direction of her eyes that were roaming uneasily over the enormous dark room which had been added to the main part of the building at the time when Livingston, as Governor of the State, had made it his headquarters. “What is it?” he said.
     “You can’t believe he isn’t here somewhere!” she whispered. “No wonder the newspapers thought it all belonged to him! This room is so like him; it is full of him!”
     A streak of color dyed Adams’s cheek.
     “Forgive me!” Nancy murmured. “I am always stumbling on things that way, and the—impression was so unexpectedly vivid,—I—”
     “After all, it was good of you not to avoid him,” said Adams. “Others come in here and behave as if he had never been. Each time they do it he dies anew!—I thought I should like to show you what I’ve done,” lie went on after a short pause. “Some of these are my own journals, —I always had a habit of jotting things down. Others are” —Adams hesitated—”are notes, mainly in the form of—Livingston’s journals.”
     “You know that he never wrote anything of the kind!”
     Adams stretched out his hand impatiently. “When I was gathering the material for the St. Louis speech I made notes, here and there, of the manner in which his thoughts had probably been marshalled. I knew the workings of his mind better than I did my own, for I cared more about them; and I made these notes, partly to beguile my sorrow, as if he had written them himself.—Do not speak, Nancy! It is a fiction and a fairy-tale; I know it; but at the same time it is the truth. I have made him live again; these pages breathe of the man himself even to the turn of a phrase! In all essentials he has been with me, in actual vital communication, for the last six months. Listen to this.”
     Nancy dropped her hands in her lap and leaned back in her chair, closing her eyes against the glare of the lamp. Adams began to read. He seemed to have reconstructed the whole of Livingston’s life; no touch was lacking to the vivid reality of the portraiture; faults were there in all their original ugliness, neither palliated nor excused; weaknesses were given in simple nakedness, with no kindly veil of explanation; traits that no one had suspected were most daringly revealed; but, always, behind this bristling rampart of apparently unlovely truths, the figure of Livingston towered, convincingly colossal.
     As the narrative approached later years it became less specific; but for every great speech that Livingston had delivered, and for every famous essay that he had written, a quantity of marvellous notes had been collected,—golden thoughts, perfect in expression and arrangement; agonizing aspirations; titanic spiritual struggles,—and Adams read them, pleading and arguing at once, with a passionate intensity.
     At last he stopped. Nancy was leaning forward eagerly; she did not turn her face away, and he saw that her eyes were running over with tears.
     “What though you couldn’t love him!” he cried. “You needn’t refuse him, now, the cold balm of appreciation. Why, even to me you gave that!”
     Nancy’s tears stopped; she smiled faintly, ironically. “Even to you,” she repeated, in a low voice. “And have you ever asked for more, Leonard?”
     Adams walked down the room to where a dim light burned in front of a tall portrait of Livingston, and stood looking up at it. “You are not convinced,” he said, raising his voice slightly. “All my work goes for nothing.”
     For a few minutes Nancy made no answer; then she spoke: “What are you going to do with it?”
     “I shall write the greatest biography that ever was written.”
     “About whom?”
     “About a thinker, a statesman, a patriot, a poet!”
     “Yes.” Nancy’s voice was faint, yet clear. “All that!”
     “Confess that you loved him! It is not too late now to make that poor reparation; you haven’t the right to withhold it.”
     “I always loved him.”
     He wheeled and ran towards her with his hands outstretched. “Forgive me! I should never have dragged it from you. But why did you conceal it from him all these years?” There was something piteous in his tones. “Tell me why.”
     Nancy rose, drawing her long carriage-wrap about her. “Why?” she repeated. “The man about whom you have written never cared to know!”
     “Never cared! What could he have done more than he did? Would you ask Livingston to grovel?”
     “Livingston did grovel,—quite; but that is not Livingston.”
     “Who, then?”
     Nancy drew her cloak closer. “I must go.”
     “Who is it?” he repeated. “Nancy! Stay!”
     She turned back. “Do you really want to know? The last time I offered to tell you, you refused to hear.”
     “I must hear now.”
     “Are you sure?”
     He bent his head.
     “Then—then—it is you, Leonard, you! Who else? Look and you will see. From the time that you were boys together you have been the real Livingston, brought down to the flesh of our comprehension by passing through the grosser alembic of his. You were his soul and his inspiration, and all that you have done, there, is to write an account of that soul and that inspiration; unconscious that it was your own.”
     “And is it true,” whispered Adams, “that you—”
     “Don’t mind that!”
     “Is it true?”
     “Yes,” she said; “there never has been any one but you, Leonard; for me—Livingston did not exist! But don’t let that worry you; it has been a sorrow, of course, but a happy sort of sorrow.”
     She was gone. He made a step to follow her, and then sank down upon a chair.
     He did not know how long he had remained there, dazed, and not quite understanding what had happened, when Henderson appeared with wine and biscuit. “Shall you want anything more, sir?” he said, leaning his hand heavily upon the table.
     “No,” said Adams.
     “Don’t you think you have worked enough for one while, sir?” suggested Henderson.
     Adams looked up in surprise.
     Henderson took his hand from the table and balanced himself unsteadily upon his feet; his eyes were wild in his reddened face. “When do you expect to have the—story done, sir?” he asked.
     “It may take a year.”
     Henderson’s muscles seemed to stiffen and grow firmer. “And may I ask, sir, if you are counting on following out the lines you have sketched—in these here?” he waved his hand towards the note-books on the table.
     Adams pushed back his chair. “What do you know about it?”
     “I have read them, sir!”
     “And I would like to say, sir, that they’re lies!”
     “Have you lost your senses?”
     “He was a man,” persisted Henderson; “that there’s an angel;—him and me didn’t hold with angels! You used to pretend you didn’t know it; and because you didn’t see anything with your bodily eyes, or hear anything with your bodily ears, you think you can write what you please about him; but I knew Mr. Livingston,—I was the only one who did,—and he was a man! There was enough go in him to supply the world; I felt I was human so long as he was around. I was that amused I never had an ache or a pain. I know what I’m talking about—those journals and things you’ve written are lies! If you don’t believe me, ask Miss Nancy; she’s known the truth from the beginning; there’s no deceiving that devil of a woman!”
     “Henderson, you are drunk; go to your room.”
     “I’m not so drunk as I was, sir,” said Henderson; “I’ve scared myself sober!—But, Master Leonard, if you’re going to publish that, I give you notice: you’ll have to get another man.” He walked unsteadily to the study door.
     Adams stood in front of the table. Six months of unceasing labor and of intense creative energy lay before him. Never once had he faltered; his touch from the beginning had been sure; and he had put on his colors with the certainty of an expert and the confidence of genius.
     “But I did not know!” He cried out suddenly. “I do not know! This is the truth,”—he struck his own papers heavily with his hand. “I have drawn the immortal, underlying Good! Drawn it as Livingston embodied it;—and Nancy says it is not Livingston. I—not Livingston,” he repeated, mechanically; and then his own thoughts, running far ahead, seemed to turn on him and cry back:
     “Not Livingston!”
     “If this is not Livingston,” returned Adams, “who, then, is it?”
     “‘You, Leonard! Who else? Look again and you will see.’”
     Could it be true?
     He turned back to his papers as if in search of explanation, and as he did so, looked up with surprise to see Henderson standing again near the table.
     “I think you ought to know, sir,” said the man, “that I have a couple of journals of my own.”
     “You have journals?”
     “I kept a record. Mr. Livingston was very particular about expenses,—and I’d like you to know, sir, that certain things were never charged to you.” Henderson spoke defiantly.
     “Will you give me those records?”
     “No, sir.”
     “Will you sell them?”
     Henderson flushed angrily, and turned to leave the room.
     “Come back!” Adams commanded. “What are you keeping them for?”
     “I suppose you wouldn’t believe me, sir, but I am keeping them because they’re all I have left of him. I go over them from day to day,—it’s like being with him again, sir. I don’t think you can understand, sir, what his death means to me!”
     “I?” said Adams.
     “What would you do with the books, sir, if you could get them?”
     “I should burn them.”
     “Suppose I wanted to publish them ?” said Henderson.
     “You shall not! But, even if you did, you would not be believed.—Is there any use in appealing to you on account of the harm you might do?”
     “Not a bit.”
     “Very well, then, all that the friends of Mr. Livingston would say is that your journals were an attempt to extort blackmail, and that, failing, you had resort to publication.”
     “Why do you take it for granted that my journals would be no credit to Mr. Livingston?” said Henderson, deliberately. “You’ve not even seen them; I haven’t told you a thing that’s in them?” He spoke slowly, picking his words. “These here journals of mine,” he went on, “are nothing but a plain man’s account of the plain dealings between a master and his servant. Sometimes there’ll be not more than a line a day for weeks together; but they’re true, and I won’t sell. I’ll give you your choice of two ways, though: if you take mine and burn them without looking into them, you’ve got to burn these of yours; but if you’ll agree to read mine, you may have them to do with as you choose. And I’ll not even ask you, sir, to tell me what you decide.”
     “Where are your papers?”
     “Get them.”
     Henderson left the room, and came back in a few minutes with a couple of dingy black morocco diaries in his hand. Silently, he reached them towards Adams, who motioned him to put them down upon the table.
     “Are these all?”
     Henderson snatched the books back again. “I trusted you, sir,” he said, respectfully.”
     I beg your pardon.”
     Henderson silently laid the diaries on the table, and left the room. Adams sat staring at them. What course was open to him? To burn these papers of Henderson’s was an acknowledgment of unbelief: a faithless act!
     “I must read them!” Adams spoke aloud, and put out his hand to draw the records towards him; but suddenly catching up a paper-knife, he pushed them far from him with the end of it, flung it into the corner of the room, and then buried his head in his arms. “Ah, no! No! No!” he sobbed, “I dare not!”
     A great roll of thunder startled him. He lifted his head and listened; rain was lashing the windows, and the air had suddenly become colder. Adams shivered, and going to the open fireplace, thrust a lighted match beneath the pile of wood and kindlings on the hearth. He stood for a moment thinking, and then quietly gathering his papers together, he laid them on top of the flames.
     The thick books and sheaves of manuscript began to burn slowly.
     Livingston was passing! The Livingston in whom he had believed, for whom he had sacrificed life and love, to whom he had given everything, even his soul. He stooped, and with his own breath blew at the glowing coals.

     “Leonard! We could hear this fire roaring in the room overhead—what are you doing?”
     He rose, dizzy from the stooping posture and the violent exertion.
     Nancy was standing behind him. “I came back,” she said. “The storm—”
     “Why didn’t you come in here?” asked Adams anxiously. “Were the horses frightened?”
     “No—I have been sitting in the housekeeper’s room with Sarah.—Henderson said you couldn’t see me; I told him to order the close carriage, and it is waiting now.” Her eyes turned towards the fire. “You have been burning your papers!” she cried. “How could you? Oh, if I had only turned back before! I knew that you would do this! I wanted them so! And now they are gone!” A sob caught her breath.
     “You wanted them!” He put his hands upon her shoulders. “Why did you want them? Was it for my sake or—for his?”
     “Oh, Leonard! Leonard! How can you be so stupid?” She pulled herself from his light hold and almost ran down the room. Adams hurried after her, but the long train of her gown seemed to twist before him wilfully, baffling his progress.
     “Tell me!”
     “I have told you already and you don’t believe it.”
     Adams leaped the impeding barrier and caught her in his arms.
     “No! No! Not now, not here!”
     “No! Good night. To-morrow is all my own; come to-morrow; this day has been divided!”
     He released her at once, and following her to the carriage, saw her depart in the pelting, joyous rain. To-morrow! His step was light as he entered the library again; a new presence pervaded the great room—the presence of Nancy. Musing, half smiling, he came forward slowly, and then stopped.
     Henderson was standing by the mantelpiece, staring intently at the two little black books which he held in his hand.
     The day was indeed divided! All Adams’s pain and sorrow rushed back upon him. He sat down at his table, and there was a long silence. “Well, Henderson?” he said at last.
     The man started. “You burned your papers, sir, and left mine, then—you haven’t read them, sir?”
     Adams’s eyes answered him.
     Henderson bent forward, and resting his forehead on the mantel-shelf, stared into the blaze. “That means, sir,” he said at last, and his voice had grown very hoarse, “that you have allowed me to do this for him, myself.” As he spoke, he thrust the records far down into a shimmering bed of red-hot coals.
     Again there was silence.
     “As to my leaving, sir,” Henderson haltingly resumed, “I’ll never again be the man I was—”
     “Neither shall I, Henderson,” said Adams.

“Vox” by Mary Tappan Wright was originally published in Harper's Monthly Magazine v. 107, no. 641, October 1903; reprinted in Dead Letters, and Other Pieces by Mary Tappan Wright, edited by Brian Kunde, Mountain House, Fleabonnet Press, 2008.

The work of Mary Tappan Wright here reproduced is in the public domain. All other material in this edition is ©2008 by Brian Kunde.

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1st web edition posted 4/2/2008
This page last updated 4/2/2008.

Published by Fleabonnet Press.