**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


Those Who Wait
by [?]

“Depends what you call going under,” protested Palliser. “I’ve been down a good many times, Heaven knows. And I’ve had to wait–as you have–all the best years of my life.”

“Your best years are to come,” rejoined Conyers. “Mine are over.”

“Oh, rot, man! Rot–rot–rot! Why, you are just coming into your own! Have another drink and give me the toast of your heart!” Hugh Palliser sprang impulsively to his feet. “Let me mix it! You can’t–you shan’t be melancholy to-night of all nights.”

But Conyers stayed his hand.

“Only one more drink to-night, boy!” he said. “And that not yet. Sit down and smoke. I’m not melancholy, but I can’t rejoice prematurely. It’s not my way.”

“Prematurely!” echoed Hugh, pointing to the official envelope.

“Yes, prematurely,” Conyers repeated. “I may be as rich as Croesus, and yet not win my heart’s desire.”

“Oh, I know that,” said Hugh quickly. “I’ve been through it myself. It’s infernal to have everything else under the sun and yet to lack the one thing–the one essential–the one woman.”

He sat down again, abruptly thoughtful. Conyers smoked silently, with his face in the shadow.

Suddenly Hugh looked across at him.

“You think I’m too much of an infant to understand,” he said. “I’m nearly thirty, but that’s a detail.”

“I’m forty-five,” said Conyers.

“Well, well!” Hugh frowned impatiently. “It’s a detail, as I said before. Who cares for a year more or less?”

“Which means,” observed Conyers, with his dry smile, “that the one woman is older than you are.”

“She is,” Palliser admitted recklessly. “She is five years older. But what of it? Who cares? We were made for each other. What earthly difference does it make?”

“It’s no one’s business but your own,” remarked Conyers through a haze of smoke.

“Of course it isn’t. It never has been.” Hugh yet sounded in some fashion indignant. “There never was any other possibility for me after I met her. I waited for her six mortal years. I’d have waited all my life. But she gave in at last. I think she realized that it was sheer waste of time to go on.”

“What was she waiting for?” The question came with a certain weariness of intonation, as though the speaker were somewhat bored; but Hugh Palliser was too engrossed to notice.

He stretched his arms wide with a swift and passionate gesture.

“She was waiting for a scamp,” he declared.

“It is maddening to think of–the sweetest woman on earth, Conyers, wasting her spring and her summer over a myth, an illusion. It was an affair of fifteen years ago. The fellow came to grief and disappointed her. She told me all about it on the day she promised to marry me. I believe her heart was nearly broken at the time, but she has got over it–thank Heaven!–at last. Poor Damaris! My Damaris!”

He ceased to speak, and a dull roar of thunder came out of the night like the voice of a giant in anguish.

Hugh began to smoke, still busy with his thoughts.

“Yes,” he said presently, “I believe she would actually have waited all her life for the fellow if he had asked it of her. Luckily he didn’t go so far as that. He was utterly unworthy of her. I think she sees it now. His father was imprisoned for forgery, and no doubt he was in the know, though it couldn’t be brought home to him. He was ruined, of course, and he disappeared, just dropped out, when the crash came. He had been on the verge of proposing to her immediately before. And she would have had him too. She cared.”

He sent a cloud of smoke upwards with savage vigour.

“It’s damnable to think of her suffering for a worthless brute like that!” he exclaimed. “She had such faith in him too. Year after year she was expecting him to go back to her, and she kept me at arm’s length, till at last she came to see that both our lives were being sacrificed to a miserable dream. Well, it’s my innings now, anyway. And we are going to be superbly happy to make up for it.”