K. saw Sidney for only a moment on Christmas Day. This was when the gay
little sleigh had stopped in front of the house.
Sidney had hurried radiantly in for a moment. Christine's parlor was gay
with firelight and noisy with chatter and with the clatter of her tea-cups.
K., lounging indolently in front of the fire, had turned to see Sidney in
the doorway, and leaped to his feet.
"I can't come in," she cried. "I am only here for a moment. I am out
sleigh-riding with Dr. Wilson. It's perfectly delightful."
"Ask him in for a cup of tea," Christine called out. "Here's Aunt Harriet
and mother and even Palmer!"
Christine had aged during the last weeks, but she was putting up a brave
"I'll ask him."
Sidney ran to the front door and called: "Will you come in for a cup of
"Tea! Good Heavens, no. Hurry."
As Sidney turned back into the house, she met Palmer. He had come out in
the hall, and had closed the door into the parlor behind him. His arm was
still in splints, and swung suspended in a gay silk sling.
The sound of laughter came through the door faintly.
"How is he to-day?" He meant Johnny, of course. The boy's face was always
"Better in some ways, but of course--"
"When are they going to operate?"
"When he is a little stronger. Why don't you come into see him?"
"I can't. That's the truth. I can't face the poor youngster."
"He doesn't seem to blame you; he says it's all in the game."
"Sidney, does Christine know that I was not alone that night?"
"If she guesses, it is not because of anything the boy has said. He has
Out of the firelight, away from the chatter and the laughter, Palmer's face
showed worn and haggard. He put his free hand on Sidney's shoulder.
"I was thinking that perhaps if I went away--"
"That would be cowardly, wouldn't it?"
"If Christine would only say something and get it over with! She doesn't
sulk; I think she's really trying to be kind. But she hates me, Sidney.
She turns pale every time I touch her hand."
All the light had died out of Sidney's face. Life was terrible, after
all--overwhelming. One did wrong things, and other people suffered; or one
was good, as her mother had been, and was left lonely, a widow, or like
Aunt Harriet. Life was a sham, too. Things were so different from what
they seemed to be: Christine beyond the door, pouring tea and laughing with
her heart in ashes; Palmer beside her, faultlessly dressed and wretched.
The only one she thought really contented was K. He seemed to move so
calmly in his little orbit. He was always so steady, so balanced. If life
held no heights for him, at least it held no depths.