By Wm. McKendree Bangs Edit

This entertaining story describes an unexpected event, and its consequences. Written for Short Stories (1893). 

Richard Hayes lay, extended at full length, upon the lounge in the room he had chosen to call his library. Upon the floor were scattered the newspapers he had thrown there carelessly as he had finished reading them. They had occupied his attention for some time — there were many of them; but now with his hands behind his head he was staring at nothing. Presently he rose, and walking toward the fire-place, looked for a minute or so at the generous open fire burning there. He acted as a very lazy man might have; but he was tall and muscular and spare as only a man so near middle age would have been who had lived an active life. But he was very much bored. He walked slowly to the window and looked out upon the quiet street. 

"Phew!" he said to himself as he finished a yawn. " Where could one find a sleepier place than this? Or less to do? If I had overwrought me out temper, I dare say the hoi be good for me; but as it is — 

He turned impatiently from t1 and sat down before the fire, struck the coals with the po almost angrily. 

"I suppose," he continued to himself after a few minutes, " I suppose this is only a part of the tribute a do-nothing bachelor with no object in life must pay for his liberty. But I never wanted liberty. If Helen—" 

He stopped abruptly as though the subject in his mind was one on which he would not permit himself to speak even to himself; but in spite of himself, however, his thoughts ran on in the same direction. He remembered that he had not found the city where his mother lived, and where their home bad always been, so dull in his younger years; and he remembered that it had seemed a paradise when he loved Helen and thought that she loved him. But all that was so long ago, and it was long ago, too, that he had found, as he thought, evidence that her love was for another. He grew presently angry that he had permitted himself to recall unpleasant or unhappy memories, and then he flung himself down upon his lounge again and tried to forget the past in sleep ; but there was a noise in the hall without, and he heard the maid directing someone toward his door. He was one of the least patient of men, and he said aloud, as he arose :  " Confound that girl ! I ought to kill her!" 

“ Yes, do please. It would be so pleasant and diverting," a lady said, who entered in time to overhear him. She said this calmly, but she really was embarrassed by the unexpected meeting and his words. To his astonishment he saw at once that the intruder was Miss Warren.) He saw, too, that she was handsomer than ever, and a little more stately ; but he did not see, as a woman would have seen, that her gown, if not quite shabby, was no longer in its first youth. He thought himself equal to any situation ; but now he was ill at ease, and he felt a disturbing consciousness that his face was very red as they stood facing each other in silence. 

" But where is Mrs. Hayes? " Miss Warren asked at length, regaining her composure. “ The maid told me I should find her here. And — ^and I ought not to intrude upon you. " 

" The maid is stupid. Yes, it is a way she has," Hayes replied. “ButI beg that you won't think of yourself as an intruder. Pray sit down," he continued as he ofiFered her a chair. " You will find it more comfortable here than anywhere else, and mother will be home soon, I am sure. You have changed very little in all these years," he went on. 

" Hush! They are not so very many," she replied, as she raised her hands with a little gesture of protest. 

“Do the little vanities last forever, Helen?" 

“But, Richard," she cried, "that is not a little vanity. We are not old people yet; at least, I am not. Do I look so very old?" she asked, in a half serious way. 

“No; I don't think you do," he said slowly as he looked at her, a great pretense of care in his manner. “ You always did care mightily for appearances, I remember." 

 “ I did, and I do. I could be very eloquent in defense of a care for them. Have you never been governed in some important matter by appearances alone ? " 

“ I ? " he asked as he looked at her closely. Then without replying further to her question he went on, “But sit down and tell me all that has happened to you during all these ." 

“ Years?" she interrupted. “You are determined to think them so many then ? " 

With willful persistence he reminded her of the year it was in which he had gone to the war, and of the many years which had passed since then. It was, indeed, a long time since they had seen each other. 

“ I am convinced,*' she said, as he paused. “ But why did you want to convince me ? Never mind, though, and never mind what has happened to me. I should so like to hear about yourself." Then, as if repenting of the warmth with which she had said this, she asked in an important tone. 

“ But where is your mother ? " 

Hayes looked at her keenly, and smiled a little quizzically. He could remember, easily enough, a time when, even though she did not love him, she yet was not unwilling to be alone with him. 

" Please do not worry," he said simply. “ She will not be long now," he added, as he looked at his watch. 

*' But I came to see her on business, and I ought not to be wasting time." 

“ Wasting time ? " he asked her. “ Whose, then? Is yours so valuable ? " 

“ Certainly it is." 

“ Indeed ! I envy you. Mine is not." 

“ Oh, but it ought to be. Captain Hayes." 

“I will admit," he returned, “ there can be no question of that. " 

“It makes me so angry," she went on, impetuously, "to hear any one speak so of time when there is so much to be done in the world. And you thought as I do, in the old days, Richard. " 

It pleased Hayes to learn that she remembered what his views had been so long ago, and he hoped that she would continue, although there was some reproach in her voice and manner that he had lost his youthful enthusiasm in any measure. She was silent, however, and, at length he said ; 

“ You won't mind if I change the subject? You know my letters from home have been rather intermittent, so to speak. Are you as you used to be?" 

And Richard Hayes as he spoke came unpleasantly near to blushing again. 

As I used to be?" Helen asked in genuine wonder. Are you Miss Warren yet?" Hayes asked in an explosive way, as though he found it hard to ask the question, but yet was determined to know the truth, whatever it might be. 

“ Certainly, yes," Helen answered, and a very certain blush covered her face. “Why need you ask? I rather like my name, and I don't know that I could have bettered it any by changing it. " 

'' I had no wish to be indiscreet," he said as she paused; “but I understood that you were about to be married when I went away. " 

“Oh, yes," she answered, not altogether succcessfully hiding a sigh. ''So many people understood that I was to be married to Mr. Archer, but it was all a mistake. I ought not to trouble you too much with my afifairs ; but perhaps it is well that you should know, that is, if you want to. " 

Hayes was unmistakably very much moved. He rose from his chair and for a minute or two he walked to and fro. But the sadness in her voice struck him and he looked at her sharply. He wondered if Archer had behaved badly to her. 

“ You must not speak of it, if it hurts you," he said. It does not hurt — much," she answered impulsively. 

It ought not to hurt at all, now. I thought that there would be no one more to tell — ^but we are such old friends, you and I. Neither was to blame. I wonder that your mother did not write to you about it." 

“ I missed a lot of letters," Hayes replied angrily; “ and very important ones, some of them, too. I am very glad to have you confide in me. " 

'*Oh, I am not at all confidential, " she returned. He smiled a little grimly as he felt that he had been rebuffed and rebuked; but she continued at once. “ Everyone who cares knows all about it. " 

"All right, of course; but I am sorry that you should have had to open any old wounds." 

“ Thank you!" she responded simply; but she did not persist in her attempt at explanation. Almost suddenly, as it seemed to Hayes, she turned to him and said : " But you're going away? Tell me about that. Do you know how strange it seemed to me — to all of us — " she corrected herself quickly. *' It was so sudden and unexpected. No one even knew that you meant to go. You were one of us and then you were not. It was very sad, really it was. Why did you go so suddenly?” 

" Love of adventure if you like," he answered, carelessly. "And patriotism was a very saving virtue just then, too. But tell me," he went on as though he wished to talk no longer of himself, “ this business. You know that now my mother will leave all such matters to me. Don't let me urge you ; but if I can be of any service to you I hope you will command me. " 

“You are very kind," Helen returned; but really I do not think I ought to trouble you in the matter. Yet I am afraid that if I don't tell you, you will think it a much more serious matter than it is. " 

“Pray, don't put it in that way," he said. “I am not curious, and I will promise to think of it as you would like to have me. " 

"Well," she responded, "it is only that I wanted your mother to help me to sell some jewelry I have no use for. The money would be of more use to us than this jewelry we can't wear can be." 

“ My experience in that line is rather limited, Helen; but I daresay there is some easily found way to do that sort of thing. What is there of the jewelry? " 

“ Oh, some rings — I hardly suppose that altogether they can be very valuable, — and other things, and a scarf-pin. We were richer when they were bought " 

"Yes," Hayes replied, musingly. "I know there has been a change. Perhaps you had better let me send for them. " 

" The scarf-pin I have with me," Miss Warren said, and without more ado she handed it to him. He weighed it in his hand, scarcely looking at it after the first quick glance. 

“ I might have known," he said. 

"Might have known," she repeated. "Why? I do not understand. Surely you have never seen it before? " 

"Yes," he answered, "I have seen it before. I remember that pin better than any bit of jewelry in the world, and I have seen many a famous gem, too.” 

*' You make me very curious," Miss Warren returned. “ I wish you would explain. Why should you remember it? It certainly is not extraordinary; at least," she added, “ I never knew that it was. " 

Hayes pulled himself together, but the effort it cost him was evident enough. Then he tried to speak in his usual manner of careless indifference. 

“ Perhaps," he said, “ I should not remember it. It is a good many years ago that I saw it last ; — ^but I forget, — ^you do not want me to speak of many years at once." 

*• Pray forget the number of years," Miss Warren said impatiently, " and tell me when you saw it last." 

“I have seen it twice before; indeed, I saw you buy it. Then I saw it again a day or two before I went away ; but my recollections won't enhance its value any. But can you bear to sell it? " 

“ Bear? Why not, pray? " Miss Warren asked in astonishment, and then continued quickly, '' You don't think there is any sentiment about it, do you? " 

“Why think when I saw it last," Hayes responded, puzzled in his turn. 

“ Please don't talk enigmas. Do tell me what you mean." 

''As I said, I saw you buy it. I happened that day to want to make a purchase myself," Hayes explained. He spoke quite in the tone and manner of one who had to speak of the most commonplace matter in the world instead of what had been of so great importance to him. “ Afterwards," he went on, "I saw it in Archer's scarf, and — that is all." 

Helen was pleased. She did not know why ; but behind the calm manner of Hayes she saw or felt the evidence of his feeling. She, too, was strongly moved. 

“It was that pin that made all the trouble," she went on calmly, and simply enough, however. 

"Indeed it was," Hayes responded under his breath; and then continued to her: “ Trouble for you, do you mean?" 

“ Yes," she answered sadly, “and for Harry Archer, too. Poor fellow, it really was pitiful !" 

“ How was it?" Hayes asked. 

“ I gave it to him on his birthday. It was an extravagant gift, maybe," she said slowly; “but he had been very kind to us all just then, and we were such old friends." 

* ' I do not see any trouble in all that, " Hayes responded. He was bitterly angry with himself ; but yet lighter in heart than he had been for many a day. “Go on," he added, impatiently, for now he felt he could not hear too soon all the explanation she might have to make. 

*' Somebody told that I had given it to him and that we were engaged. And we never were, and never thought of being." 

“ How did you get the pin back?" Hayes asked, too impatient to wait for her to tell the story in her own way. 

“ You must not interrupt me," she said, as she laughed a little. “ The story made us both angry, and he gave it back to me. Then someone said he had jilted me, and that was ten times harder to bear ; it hurts yet. " 

Hayes walked to the window, opened it, and flung the pin far into the street. 

“ Captain Hayes!" Miss Warren began in expostulation. 

“That has given me trouble enough," Hayes interrupted. "You asked me why I went to the war so suddenly. That was the reason. That had more to do with sending me away than all the love of adventure, patriotism, love of country, I ever had or ever man could have. " 

“ Richard — " she began again. 

“ Wait, " he said, almost fiercely ; * * it will be over soon. I, too, thought you were engaged. I heard that you were ; and I saw the pin in his scarf and knew that you had given it. Did you not see, did you not know how much I loved you?" 

“ You never told me — " she began ; but again he interrupted her. 

“ I thought it had all been killed, and that I had buried it; but now ! Look at me, Helen. Do you not see, do you not know how much I love you now ?" 

She made no pretense of coyness. She took his hand and said to him : 

“ Richard, it almost broke my heart when you went away." 

“ And you have loved me all this long time ? " 

“I would have loved you forever," she answered. He kissed her and took her in his arms. 

" But what a faint heart you had ?" she said. 

“ I was so sure," he answered; “ but can you ever forgive me ? Think of the years of happiness we have lost." 

“We will be all the happier now," she responded, “now we know how much we need each other.“ 

“ Do you know," Hayes asked, “I thought the pin was being bought for me that day ?" 

“ Oh," she returned in the old mischievous way he remembered and liked so well; ^^then it was wounded vanity rather than disappointed love that sent you away ?" 

“ Both, my dear, maybe; but think how much of a man is hurt when his vanity is wounded at twenty-four." 

“ Then does a man's vanity grow less as the years come to him ?" she asked. 

''I would have said yes, a minute ago; but now that I know you love me and have for so long, I am very vain and proud. " 

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.