The Cup That O'erflowed, An Outline by Will Lillibridge
In a room, half-lighted by the red rays of a harvest moon, a woman
lay in the shadow; face downward, on the bed. It was not the figure of
youth: the full lines of waist and hip spoke maturity. She was sobbing
aloud and bitterly, so that her whole body trembled.
The clock struck the hour, the half, again the hour; and yet she lay
there, but quiet, with face turned toward the window and the big, red
harvest moon. It was not a handsome face; besides, now it was
tear-stained and hard with the reflection of a bitter battle fought.
A light foot tapped down the hallway and stopped in front of the
door. There was gentle accompaniment on the panel to the query, Are
The woman on the bed opened her eyes wider, without a word.
The step in the hall tapped away into silence. The firm, round arm
in its black elbow-sleeve setting, white, beautiful, made a motion of
impatience and of weariness; then slowly, so slowly that one could
scarce mark its coming, the blank stupor that comes as Nature's panacea
to those whom she has tortured to the limit, crept over the woman, and
the big brown eyes closed. The moon passed over and the night-wind,
murmuring lower and lower, became still. In the darkness and silence
the woman sobbed as she slept.
In the lonely, uncertain time between night and morning she awoke;
her face and the pillow were damp with the tears of sleep. She was numb
from the drawing of tight clothing, and with a great mental pain and a
confused sense of sadness, that weighed on her like a tangible thing.
Her mind groped uncertainly for a moment; then, with a great rush, the
past night and the things before it returned to her.
Oh, God, Thy injustice to us women! she moaned.
The words roused her; and, craving companionship, she rose and lit
Back and forth she crossed the room, avoiding the furniture as by
instinctone moment smiling, bitter; the next with face moving,
uncontrollable, and eyes damp: all the moods, the passions of a woman's
soul showing here where none other might see. Tired out, at last, she
stopped and disrobed, swiftly, without a glance at her own reflection,
and returned to bed.
Nature will not be forced. Sleep will not come again. She can only
think, and thoughts are madness. She gets up and moves to her desk.
Aimlessly at first, as a respite, she begins to write. Her thoughts
take words as she writes, and a great determination, an impulse of the
moment, comes to her. She takes up fresh paper and writes sheet after
sheet, swiftly. Passion sways the hand that writes, and shines warmly
from the big, brown eyes. The first light of morning stains the east as
she collects the scattered sheets, and writes a name on the envelope, a
name which brings a tenderness to her eyes. Stealthily she tiptoes down
the stairs and places the letter where the servant will see, and mail
it in the early morning. A glad light, the light of relief, is in her
face as she steals back slowly and creeps into bed.
If it is wrong I couldn't help it, she whispers low. She turns her
face to the pillow and covers it with a soft, white arm. One ear alone
shows, a rosy spot against the white.
Nine o'clock at a down-town medical office. A man who walks rapidly,
but quietly, enters and takes up the morning mail. A number of business
letters he finds and a dainty envelope, with writing which he knows at
sight. He steps to the light and looks at the postmark.
Good-morning, says his partner, entering.
The man nods absently, and, tearing open the envelope, takes out
I don't know what you will think of me after this; anyway, I
cannot help telling you what to-night lies heavy on my heart and
mind. I've tried to keep still; God knows I've tried, and so
hard; but Nature is Nature, and I am a woman. Oh, if you men
only knew what that means, you'd forgive us much, and pity! You
have so much in life and we so little, and you torture us so
with that little, which to us is so great, our all; leading us
on against our will, against our better judgment, until we love
you, not realizing at first the madness of unrequited love. Oh,
the cruelty of it, and but for a pastime.
But I do not mean to charge you. You are not as other men; you
are not wrong. Besides, why should I not say it? I love you.
Yes, you; a man who knows not the meaning of the word; who meant
to be but a friend, my best friend. Oh, you have been blind,
blind all the years since first I knew you; since first you
began telling me of yourself and of your hopes. You did not know
what it meant to such as I to live in the ambition of another,
to hope through another's hope, to exult in another's success. I
am confessing, for the first timeand the last time. Know, man,
all the time I loved you. Forgive me that I tell you. I cannot
help it. I am a woman, and love in a woman's life is stronger
than will, stronger than all else together.
I ask nothing. I expect nothing. I could not keep quiet longer.
It was killing me, and you never saw. I did not mean to tell you
anything, till this momentleast of all, in this way. But it is
done, and I'm gladyes, happier than I have been for weeks. It
is our woman's nature; a nature we do not ourselves understand.
My friend, I cannot see you again. Things cannot go on as they
were. It was tortureyou know not what tortureand life is
short. If you would be kind, avoid me. The town is wide, and we
have each our work. Time will pass. Remember, you have done
nothing wrong. If there be one at fault it is Nature, for only
half doing her work. You are good and noble. Good-bye. I trust
you, for, God bless you, I love you.
The letter dropped, and the man stood looking out with unseeing
eyes, on the shifting street.
A patient came in and sat down, waiting.
He had read as in a dream. Now with a rush came thought,the past,
the present, mingled; and as by a great light he saw clearly the years
of comradery, thoughtless on his part, filled as his life had been with
work and with thought of the future. It all came home to him now, and
the coming was of brightness. The coldness melted from his face; the
very squareness of the jaw seemed softer; the knowledge that is joy and
that comes but once in a lifetime, swept over him, warm, and his heart
beat swift. All things seemed beautiful.
Without a word he took up his hat, and walked rapidly toward the
elevator. A smile was in the frank blue eyes, and to all whom he met,
whether stranger or friend, he gave greeting.
The patient, waiting for his return, grew tired and left, and
leaving, slammed the office door behind him.