Albany Democrat-Herald from Albany, Oregon on May 16, 1936 · Page 16
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Albany Democrat-Herald from Albany, Oregon · Page 16

Albany, Oregon
Issue Date:
Saturday, May 16, 1936
Page 16
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Page 16 article text (OCR)

Lat" Train at Midnight" By Katherine Gorman must go away together," said, desperately, at last. taking up again of his career. Happiness1 again. Happiness with Arden. To Martha it would mean He shivered. With the psychic clarity afforded by her love, Arden read his mind. Desperately, she spread a rail schedule on the table. "The last train leaves at midnight," she read from the printed sheet. Slowly her eyes came up to his. "I shall wait for you until then." They gazed at each other. "1 can no longer reason," he said thickly, against her lips. "There is no wrong or right any more. 1 know only that I am a man in love." MARTHA was sitting up in bed as he entered, a book lying open and unread on the coverlet. In a strange, breathless son ut way she said: "So you have decided. And I lose." She lay back against the pillow, musing as though reading aloud from a mental page: " 'Famous beauty loses in love battle . . .' " She uncoiled herself like a snake, and sai on the edge of the bed, smiling up at him. "Funny, isn't it? Imagine the story it will make! And I what shall I be doing, do you think? Hiding myself in some out-of the way pension in Europe, the prey of every predatory male? Discarded " She stood erect, drawing her lovely body to its fullest height. "I think not!" Without another word she went into her dressing room. Methodically, he started packing a grip. Collars. Clean shirts. The clock struck eight. He paused, listening. How slow the hours! Unable to content himself, he decided he would go out on the beach for one lasr look at the sea. One last look ... Something deep in him stirred. He, who had been exiled would soon be freed! Arden how dared he hope for such joy loved him. Out of the ruins, they would build a new, better structure that nothing could destroy. As though she felt the pull of his desire, he saw her coming toward him over the silvered dunes. He was close enough to see her smile when they caught the cry above the snarling surf. Martha's cry, already growing fainter in the hungry sea. "That was what she meant, then." Amazingly, it was his own voice speaking. They stared at each other in the moonlight. Martha was drowning ... He remembered to kick off his shoes. HE laid her on the beach. Was it the moonlight? Or was there a glacial twist to her lips as though she smiled? "She is dead," Arden breathed, as, after what seemed an eternity, he raised his head from Martha's breast. There was no pulse, no heart beat. His eyes went slowly up to Ardcn's. "Will you help me? See hands here compress, then release. Rythmically, without ceasing. Until I get my breath. Thanks. " She knelt over Martha's sodden figure, hei own face scarcely less grey than the other woman's. Hands under her ribs . . . compress, release. Without ceasing ... "Just a little while a half hour more. Just thirty minutes " . Thirty minutes? How long had they worked, in actual time? Crazily, she wondered Two hours, probably. And still that sodden limpness. ... "She is dead," she breathed. Martha was dead and she would take them both with her into eternity. Livid with exhaustion, he panted, ' Fiflcrn minutes . . . Oh, God, just fifteen minutes more and then I will know I have done my best !" Fifteen minutes ... "She is dead!" She wondered, did she scream it? And at that moment she saw in the expression of his face that Martha lived. THEY stared at each other in the moonlight. She ll hold and hold forever," she said like a sleep-walker. His fingers, as though still working occi Martha, opened and closed spasmodically. She whispered: "There is only one way.'' Her face went slowly more grey. "A clean stroke of the scalpel, Karl. No Scars no memories." She turned away. "There is still tune for me to take the last train," she said passionless)-. "We must forget each other utterly. We will never meet again." And the newspapers held the following announcement: Aden Bancroft, uije of Dr. Kati Urn-emft, has as last brought sun for da -me. This revues the old icandat uhen Or. Bancroft, uith a growing reputation a modern miracle man of bloodless smeiy, eloped u :lb the beautiful Martha Winters, to drop from light for almost five iaim. 1 DON'T believe you'll need me any more, Arden," he said a few days later. He wondered, replacing the bandage on the superficial wounds she had suffered, if she saw that his hands were trembling. He dared to raise his eyes. In hers, unguarded, he read the reflection of what, unknowingly, had been in his. Hunger grown insupportable and terror at the full realization of their need of each other. "Ah," it was little more than a sigh, so soundless was her cry in the silence, "I love you. I think it must have really begun when I looked up to see you in the headlights, your eyes pitying me so. No, please " as he stared whitely at her, "I have no designs on you. I want nothing, Karl. Nothing, that is, but to have you hold me close in your arms, to have you kiss me." When he made an inarticulate sound, her lids closed down over her unguarded eyes. "Lie to me, Karl," she whispered. "Tell me that you love me. My spirit has so long wallowed in the despair of a woman unwanted that it will believe any lie you care to manufacture." Lie? Her white face in the hollow of his arm, he realized then why he had come here daily. Lie? When he wanted nothing else in life but to keep her against his heart forever. He was inarticulate as Martha opened the door and saw them in each other's arms. Her eyes ran around the room, rested on the sculptured figure that seemed to dominate the room, shuddered away, and ran back to Karl and Arden. Amazingly, she had read the meaning of t)iat figure. "So it's you!" She brought it out like an epithet. "That explains Karl's solicitude for his new patient. I was beginning to wonder." A frigid smile moved coldly over her perfect face. "He is not badly enough disgraced. He must set the town talking again!" "Please " Arden fought for calm sanity. "Karl, tell me . . Do you love Martha ?" He straightened his wide shoulders. Simply, as though Martha were not there, he said: "No. All that whatever it was I felt for her is gone. Long ago." "And Martha?" It was almost a whisper, as though only they two were present. He made that odd, bewildered gesture of his hands peculiar to him. "She never loved me, I think. I don't know why we stick it out, except it is the impulse of two trapped bcists to torture each other." Martha stirred like a lifeless figure sluggishly reanimated. "You may try me and judge me and convict me as you will. But " her beautiful lips were livid . . . "I'll never give him up to you!" "Or " Karl took up where he had paused as though there had been no interruption "her pride. You have no idea what her pride is like, Arden." Arden shuddered. "The pride of a beautiful woman who knows she has nothing when that beauty goes. Nothing." She turned to Martha supplicatingly. "But what of us? Surely you would not wish mere bodily possession?" Martha's smile was glacial in its scorn. "The new liberalism. An easy way out for a man, but the end of everything for a woman! Do you think me a fool ? shall never give him up to ).'" "But why? You do not lose him " Martha struck like an asp. her beautiful body darting toward her victim. To have people point their fingers at me the abandoned ? To hear their jeers as long as I live, no matter where 1 might hide myself? You had that!" Her eyes flashed to the white figure of the nude woman in the shadows. "How did you like it ?" Her laugh was not good to hear. Karl tried, miserably, to construct a seemly garment out of the shoddy sniff that was her mind. "I do owe her something. Arden." lie aid. desperately reasoning. "Met name in the papers . . ." He shuddered. She will grovel. "Die initiative must come from het. Don't you see, my dearest? You who are so generous, try to help me be fair!" BUT," asked Arden later, what ot us, Karl? I shall go to her, humble myself. See. Love," her breath came in eager little gasps, "we will lake up life again. All those little broken threads that, in our cowardice, we let slip out of our hands. You will take up your career, Karl. A trust fund will provide for Martha. "Oh," desperately, "she must see!" But it was hopeless. Martha fed on then despair as flics poise oer a horrid least. "There is nothing to do bui thai we must go away together," Arden said, desperately, at last. Go gyvay together! The words, and the things they represented went tolling through him like a bell. It would mean Arden. and feeing from this fog bound shore, and . the "I can no longer reason," he an swered thickly, against her lips. "There is no wrong or right any more. I know only that I am a man in love." " Ah but there had been a wrong, and it stood now ready to damn him. they died I was free for a while to do the thing I wanted. Now " He did not finish, his dark eyes meeting hers. "There are other debts to consider?" she took him up. He did not answer, but she nodded as though satisfied, a wry smile twisting her lips. The conflict was all too evident in him as he dropped awkwardly into a chair. There was really no excuse for his staying .... "Tell me," he begged, "you who have come from Vienna and all the other places where life moves forward tell me, what are they doing there? All the important people Books arc such bloodless things when a man is famishing." The naked need of the exile was in his face and she smiled one-sidedly. "You mean the important men in your profession?" Almost humbly he nodded. She talked, her voice lucent in the flickering light of the fire, and hands gripped between his knees, he listened. ... IT was odd, the pull it required to take himself away. Odd, the acuteness of his disappointment to observe Martha's light still lit. "Where on earth were you so long?" she asked irritably. Her eyes, grey and chill, were on him. He thought, irrelevantly, that if he lived with her a hundred years he would never get used to the breath-taking beauty of her face. She held all the contoured perfection of a sculptor's dream materialized in marble. He wondered if he should tell her. Carefully, he said: "There was an accident on the road. Those ruts should have been fixed long before this. Someone was sure to get injured." Odd how difficult it was to get it out. . . "The woman who has taken the Winthrop cottage for the winter " She swung around as though on a pivot. "Hut artist!" It was an awed breath. "They say that her husband deserted her for anothet woman. She hid herself in Europe and " With an awful sense ol certainty he knew then the meaning ol thai sculptured figure. The fragments of a poem Hashed before his mind s eve. hell io deep . . . to know ont's self abandoned. ... "She wasn t badly iniurcd," he said. "I'll lock up (or the night." But she would not let him escape, her thin tongue clicking on as he went toward the door. "Was she pretty?" she askeil with the obscene greediness of one whose beaury has, up to now, been unmatched by any interloper. He paused in the act of snapping ort the switch. Vividly, the outlines of her face sprang out of the shadows. Her voice filled the room, low. warm, yet drjpping the scorn which he had long grown inured to in others. "A discredited surgeon . . doling out pills." Slowly, he snapped oft the light and went into his ow n room. How many visits must be conscientiously made before he Q'uld pronounce her well? Three? Five? He stirred restlessly in the darkness. Martha opened the door and jaw them in tach other's arms. "So it's you!" She brought II out like an epithet. SOMETIMES, as now, watching die wild geese floating over his stretch ot island beach, Karl wondered how he could stand it another clay. Somewhere, beyond the isolated island where he was buried alive, there was the career he had planned for himself as a surgeon. Like the low call of a fog-bound craft, invisible yet ever present, the voices of the men and women and children he had never seen called him from the place where he had hidden himself. Renewing in his blood the fever he had thought allayed. It peered out of his eyes unexpectedly, sometimes, startling the beholder unaccountably. It appeared occasionally when lie went on a bender that lasted a week or longer, leaving him sapless, bereft. Hut always there was the alter-math when peace was only lethargy. And always there was Martha. She called to him now, her voice, the one unlovely thing about her, issuing thinly from the open iloor before which he stood. "Karl Bancroft! Arc you deaf? There's wood needed for the iircs. Don't you see there's a storm coming up?" Yes, there was a storm coming up. He could feel it in the whip of the beach grass against his legs. He knew it by the swirl ol w uid that carried to his nostrils a puff of smoke from the chimney of a cottage among the dunes to the north of his own. The cottage was rented, he had heard in town. The tenant had arrived early in the morning. "I'll go and make sure the boat's light," he aaid lifelessly. "Boat! Boat!" Her words climbed in chill annoyance. "1 said we need wood!" He scooped up the driftwood he had gathered on the beach and set it in a neat pile on the covered porch. As he went out to anchor his fishing-bout more securely the wind suddenly sent a gust of sand into his face, blinding him. The darkness fell like a c loud-burst. Out ol the scream of wind and surf he thjuglu he heard new sound. His long legs tltccd through the baybcrry brush and suddenly he came upon her a huddle of garments at the side of the road. A few feet away a little roadster lay tilted, wheels spinning with darkening velocity. CAREFULLY, he turned ttv woman ovei, brought her farther into the illumination from the headlights. His breath paused, then went on more quickly. Unbelievably long l.i lus like gold-dusted fringe against thin rhe-tks. Full lips, colorless now and already twisting in the pain of returning consciousness. VI' .is it possible that she was the new occupant ol the house among the dunes? She sighed as he ran his hands undet hei armpits and knees to lift her. He saw then 111 t her eyes w ere open, staring at him as th nigh he were a ghost come out ot the stotm. Something deep in his soul rustled uneasily. I'm taking you to your cottage to se what damage has been done to you," he xplaird ' T.vidently, you were thrown clear ' She still stared at him. "You-a tw the physician they told me lives K1 house," she said faintly. His smile was one-sided. "Did they tell you, too, that you couldn't trust a sick hound to me? That I drink and am altogether of no account?" Her expression revealed that they had. lie remembered then the things they had told him about her. She was a sculptor who lived like a hermit. No one knew anything about her except that she was reputed to have exhibited in the art centres of Europe. Now she had leased the cottage among the dunes for the winter. Something queer in that, they decided. He wondered, now, himself. Oddly enough she answered before he could voice his question, even had he wished to. "I rented the Winthrop cottage, because it seemed that here in this lonely place I might find the peace and oblivion that has escaped me so far." He nodded. "How strange that we both should seek peace and oblivion in this same place." Her body was light in his arms and he carried her the short space to her cottage, kicking open the door with his foot. He laid her on a couch in the room she evidently intended to use as her studio, for, near the fireplace, the half-finished figure of a nude woman stared enigmatically at him. He saw then that she had used herself as a model. Almost without his own volition his gaze returned to that figure. A groveling, shrinking body with one upraised arm half concealing a tortured face. He lore his eyes away with an etlort. METHODICALLY, he went over her foi injuries and for the first lime since his student days he felt his senses drumming at the touch of a patient's body. "There's a dislocation," he said at last. Not much else that is of any moment other than some superficial lacerations. Put the dislocation will you relax, please? I'll replace the bone. I " his lips moved in something that might have been a smile, "I used to be rather clever at that sort of thing " She lay quietly, making no sound, her eyes on his face. Ugly. . Powerful. Ruthless in his ability to send pairt through her like fire. She found her voice at last, fighting het way out of the valley of agony into which he had forced her. "A discredited surgeon," she breathed, scorning. "You, who can do that, doling out pills and potions for inconsequential ills!" He paused in his work of bandaging to stare at her. He voiced, then, something that had been hitherto inarticulate. "I hate it!" he breathed with a restrained vehemence that was vaguely terrifying. "I hated that end ol it esen in my training days." "Then why " She paused, bitjng het lip. "Do I do it?" He made a helpless sort ol ge-iure that as infinitely revealing. In the tortirtairvj texause of my parents, who o W flat me through. Aren't then always debts to pay this life? But after Copyright, CD O o

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