In The Valley Of The Shadow
by Josephine Daskam
IN THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW
By Josephine Daskam
Copyright, 1903, by Charles Scribner's Sons
TO Belden, pacing the library doggedly, the waiting seemed
interminable, the strain unnecessarily prolonged. A half-hour ago quick
feet had echoed through the upper halls, windows had opened, doors all
but slammed, vague whisperings and drawn breaths had hovered impalpably
about the whole place; but now all was utterly quiet. His own regular
footfall alone disturbed the unnatural stillness of a large house.
Outside, the delicious October sun poured down through an atmosphere
of faultless blue. The foliage was thick yet, and the red-and-yellow
leaves danced heartlessly in the wind. A year ago they had gone on a
nutting-party, and Clarice had raced with the children and picked up
more than anybody else. Noweven to think of her brought that faint
odor of salts-of-lavender and beef-tea that disheartened him so,
somehow, when he sat by her bed coaxing her into sipping the stuff.
Some one was coming down the stairs. It was Peter's stephis new
one since last Friday, when they had all, it seemed, begun to walk and
talk and breathe a little differently. Belden hurried across the room
and caught him at the foot of the steps.
Well, old man, how goes it? he demanded, with a determined
His brother-in-law stared at him emptily.
It's to-morrow, he said, gripping the newel-post, to-morrow
afternoon. Jameson is comingthey'll do it here. Jameson brings his
special nurse for thethe operation, but the other one is due at five,
and you get her just the same. I told Henry to put up the dog-cart. I
don't know, thoughmaybe the runaboutno, the tire's loose. Still, it
For heaven's sake, Peter, don't bother about it! I'll find a rig.
What else does he say?
He says there's a good fighting chancea very good one. He says
her grit aloneOh, Belden, what shall we do? What shall we do?
Peter sat down heavily on the lowest stair.
Only last week she was so welland yet she really wasn't. I
suppose he knows. But it doesn't seem possibleI can't get it through
my head. Poor little Caddy! She never had a sick day in her life. No
headaches, like most Women, evenno nonsenseOh, Belden, what
shall we do?
Brace up, Peter; think what a good fighting chance means, think of
that! It's not as if Caddy were old; she has that on her side. She's
seven years behind me, you know.
Peter scowled. You're fifty, aren't you?
Not a bit. Only forty-eight, and just that, too. Now you go out and
get the nurse, and I'll stay here. It'll do you a lot of good. Don't
mope around in the house all daywhat's the use?
I can't leave the house. Honestly, Belden, I can't. I've tried
twice, and I just walk right back. It's no good. There's the cartand
you won't be long, will you?
Belden took up the reins with a vague sense of momentary relief: it
was something to do. Under the influence of the fresh autumn air his
spirits rose; he found himself enjoying the swift rattle of the cart
and the beat of the horse's feet. After all, think of Caddy's grit;
think of her fine constitution! A fighting chancethat was little
enough to say, though. Why couldn't he have put it a little stronger?
Hitchcock always was a pessimist.
At the station the usual crowd of well-dressed suburbanites quieted
their horses and waited impatiently for the express. As Belden drew up
into line, they greeted him with a subdued interest; coachmen left
their seats to ask how Mrs. Moore was to-day, and when could one see
her? A sudden mist came over his eyes as he answered briefly, Very
The train thundered in; in an incredibly short time all the guests
and commuters were hurried off toward townwhere was that nurse?
As his glance wandered through the thinning crowd, it was met
suddenly and squarely by two brown eyes set in a fresh pink face framed
by dark hair lightly sprinkled with gray. The second that he looked
into that woman's eyes taught him her character, absolutely, as finally
as if he had grown up with her. One could trust her to the last ditch,
She walked straight up to the cart. I am the nurse sent for by Dr.
Hitchcock. Are you Mr. Moore?
I am Mrs. Moore's brotherMr. Belden, he explained. Have you
That is all arranged, she returned briefly. I am all ready. May I
ask you to hurry? Dr. Hitchcock was anxious for me to see her before
six, when the fever begins.
His nerves were more sharply edged than he knew: an instant
irritation seized him.
There is plenty of room in the back of the cart, he insisted, the
express people are very uncertain. Would you not better give me the
She swung herself up beside him with a firm, assured motion; for a
heavily built woman she carried herself very lightly.
I think not, she said decidedly, the man has started, I am sure.
I would rather lose no time.
He bowed and started the horse: he disliked her already. To a
deep-seated, involuntary disgust that any woman should have to earn her
living he added a displeased wonder that one should choose this method
of doing it. There must be disagreeable details connected with it,
embarrassments, absolute indignities: why did they not marry? This
woman was good-looking enough. She was very obstinatealmost
dictatorial. His idea of womanhood was hopelessly confused with clouds
of white tulle, appealing eyes, and a desire for guidance. It was
impossible to connect any of these characteristics with the woman
For a while they drove in silence. Then compunction seized him and
he remarked on the beauty of the foliage. She assented easily, but
seemed no more relieved by the speech than embarrassed by the silence.
It was impossible to treat her as a hired servant: one felt a strong
personality in her. Before they reached the house he was searching for
conversation that should not bore her.
As they stepped into the wide hall, where he observed with a shade
of displeasure that her luggage had come before them, Dr. Hitchcock met
Ah, Miss Strong, glad to see you. Come right up. On time, as usual,
of course! I was afraid you couldn't make it. Jameson comes to-morrow,
They were up the stairs; Belden stood idly in the hall where they
had left him. He had had an idea of showing her the house, stating some
of the facts of Clarice's sudden and terrible need of her, indicating
that in a family so jarred from the very foundations it would be wiser
to look to him than to the bewildered master of the establishment; but
this was not necessary.
Evidently she persisted in dispensing with his services.
His hand slipped to his vest pocket, but he replaced the cigar
uncertainly: it seemed not quite the thing to smoke. Ought he to go to
Peter? In his mind's eye he saw the poor fellow haunting the landing by
Caddy's door; he had an idea that in some way he kept things quiet by
doing this. And how could one be sure that the troubled creature wanted
There was a violent ring at the bell, a jarring of wheels on the
asphalt. The door flew open and the prettiest little woman imaginable,
all fluffy ends and scarlet flowers and orris scent, rushed toward him.
Oh, Will! Oh, Will! she gasped, isn't it terrible? Where is
Peter? Can I see her? Oh, Will!
Instinctively he took her in his armsone always did that with
Peter's sisterand she put her head on his shoulder and cried a
little, while he patted her and murmured, There, there!
She was so manifestly comforted, and it was so pleasant to comfort
herthis was what a woman should be. He felt a renewed sense of
capacity, of readiness for even the most terrible emergency. He led her
gently to the great cushioned window-seat and listened sympathetically
to her excited babblings.
It will kill Peterit will kill him! Inin a great m-many ways,
you know, Will, Peter isn't soso c-calm as Caddy. He is just bound up
in her. SupposeOh, Will!
Don't cry, Sue dear, don't! he said soothingly. She has a good
chancea fine chance, really. These things are mostly resisting power,
you know, and grit, and think what a lot of grit Caddy's got!
Oh, I know, I know! Don't you know when the baby diedthat first
babyand s-she was so weak she could hardly speak? 'Never mind,
P-Peter, we'll have another!' Oh, dear, she was so pl-plucky, Will! And
now to think
He choked a little. I know, I know, he murmured, Caddy's a brick.
She always was.
She sat up, not wholly withdrawing from his arm, and patted her
eyes, breathing brokenly. Little gusts of orris floated toward him.
Where are the children? she asked, almost herself now.
They're herePeter wants them one minute and sends them away the
next. I should send them to grandmother's, but he won't hear of it.
A light step sounded on the stair. The nurse appeared on the lower
landing. She was dressed in cool blue gingham; the straps of her white
apron marked the firm, broad lines of her bust and shoulder.
Is this Mrs. Wylie? she said in her clear, assured voice. Mrs.
Moore would like to see her a moment. Will you come with me?
I will come directly, and Sue gathered together her gloves and
She's very good-lookingit's a pity her hair is so gray, she
breathed in his ear. As the two women stood together a moment on the
landing he realized, not for the first time, that Sue was a little too
small. But he had never thought her sallow before.
Peter came in by the greenhouse door, walking slowly, his hands
behind his back. He looked old for the first time in his jolly,
persistently boyish life.
Those chrysanthemums are all drying up, he complained fretfully;
not one of the blamed servants has done a thing sincesinceO Lord,
Will, what shall we be doing this time tomorrow? Where are the
children? Where's Miss Strong? There's a woman for you! Caddy took to
her directly. She's there now. She's talking to her about the children.
Oh, my God!
Belden grasped his hand and they walked silently up and down the
Aunt Lucia's coming to-night, Peter resumed nervously. She will
drive me mad. Take care of her, will you? If I could have choked her
offbut when you think she was just like a mother to Cad all these
years, what can you do? She's got a right. You'd think she'd have got
some sense from living with Cad so long. I told Henry to go for
herand there you are, he added, as the cart drew up before the open
Belden went slowly down the steps; he detested Aunt Lucia, and
Clarice had always stood between them.
How do you do? he began, assisting her from the high seat. Her
long crape veil caught in the wheel, and the numberless black and
floating ends of her costume wound themselves about him as he bent down
to disentangle her.
Oh, Wilmot, this is a terrible day for us all, is it not? Be
careful of the hem of that veil, please. When I kissed Clarice good-by
last Christmas I little thought what a good-by it was! Is she
conscious? You have muddied the boa, I think, but never mind. Can I see
her once more?
For Heaven's sake, Aunt Lucia, anybody would think Caddy was in her
grave! She's a long way from it yet, thank God! Of course she's
conscious, and spunky as theas ever. I don't think you really needed
My dear Wilmot, I prepared Clarice for her confirmation, I dressed
her for her wedding, and I was here when the children were born. If you
think that I would fail her in this crisis you have a very poor idea of
my character. But then, I am perfectly aware that you always had. Oh,
there is Peter! My poor Peter! She rushed toward him, and Belden
smiled sardonically as his brother-in-law planted a perfunctory kiss on
This may comfort you, Peter, as it has me so often in such
circumstances. So short, so true, so helpful. 'Underneath are the
everlasting arms!' Do you feel that, Peter?
IIyes, indeed, Aunt Luciayou must want a bite of something,
I'm sure, driving so far.
Peter writhed miserably in Aunt Lucia's crape-and-jet arms.
Not till I have seen her, Peter. Afterwards I shouldn't mind. I
have brought such a beautiful address by Bishop Hunter. It was
delivered on the occasion of the death of Governor -, unless I
forgot to put it in with my knitted shawl. I believe I did. I will send
for it directly. When my dear husbandhe was so fond of Claricedied,
I read it more than anything else, except the Prayer-book, of course.
You will surely find it a help.
Yes, Aunt Lucia. Your room is ready, and
Not till I have seen her, Peter.
Susy is there now, and Miss Strong says nobody else this evening.
Aunt Lucia drew away.
Do I understand that Susy Wylieno relation at allis preferred
before the only mother Clarice has had for all these years?
Peter winced. But you weren't here, Aunt Lucia, he argued wearily.
Who is Miss Strong?
Here she is! There was great relief in Peter's voice. Miss
Strong, my aunt, Mrs. Wetherly.
Mrs. Moore sends you her best love, and wants you to get thoroughly
rested, so that you can see her the first thing in the morning, Mrs.
Wetherly. She says you are not to let them frighten you.
As if by magic the formidable frown faded from Aunt Lucia's
forehead. She smiled approvingly at the nurse.
Very well. I should like to ask you a few questionsClarice was
They moved away together. The two men stared at each other.
How do you account for that? Belden queried.
Oh, it's her calm way and her voice. You want to do everything she
says. Norah says she's sure Mrs. Moore will get well now, with her to
take care of her. By George, Will, if she pulls Caddy through it'll be
worth her while, I tell you.
Oh, they always do their best. And they all have that habit, I
fancy. It's part of the training.
Peter looked up surprised.
You don't like her, eh?
How absurd. I never considered her particularly. I don't care for
masculine, dictatorial women, on general principles
Oh, nonsense! I tell you you've taken a grudge against her, and you
want to get rid of it as soon as possible.
I suppose I have a right to my opinion, Belden began hotly, but a
wave of remorse surged over him at sight of the other man's drawn,
Any one would think we had nothing to do but scrap over a trained
nurse, he said lightly. She's all you say, I haven't a doubt, old
man, and if she pulls Caddy through, I'll sing her praises louder than
any of you.
They sat in silence. A burst of laughter from the kitchen-garden
startled them, and Belden started up as if to check it.
Don't stop 'emit's the servants. Why shouldn't they laugh? said
Peter quietly. I've been thinking it all over. If Caddyifif she
doesn't get well, she doesn't want a lot of black and all that. It's
bad for the children. And she said the children oughtn't to grow up
without a motherthink of that!
I guess that's all right, said Belden sadly. Look at my boy
A slender, stoop-shouldered lad slouched by the long hall-window,
his hands in his pockets, an unlighted cigarette in his mouth.
Well, well, we all have our load! Peter's mood had changed
utterly, to the other's astonishment. He seemed gentler, more
thoughtful, controlled beyond belief.
I don't see why we shouldn't smoke, he added, and they lighted
You see, we talked it all over, he said, half to himself, and
she's so reasonable and calm, herself.... She says Margaret's going to
grow up just like her. That's a comfort.. And there's the boy.
Suddenly the cigar dropped from his lips to the floor.
Good God, Belden! he shouted, I kept thinking she'd be here, too!
I forgotIOh, what rot! Do you think I'll stand it? Do you think
I'll put up with it? Why didn't Hitchcock know before? It was his
business to know! I tell you I'll ruin that man if it takes every
dollar I've got!
Belden stared at him helplessly. Was this Peter, this red-faced,
scowling menace? As he watched him silently the nurse came in from the
Mrs. Moore wants to say good night to you, Mr. Moore, she said,
her deep, clear voice echoing strangely after the hoarse passion of
Peter's rage. I found these all pickedwere you going to take them to
Peter drew a deep breath and put out a shaking hand for the flowers.
I don't know what's the matter with me, WillI talk like a fool,
he half whispered. I can't get used to this damned see-saw. First I'm
all ready for it, and then I'm nearly wild. And so it goesup and
down, up and down.
How is she? Is it all settled for to-morrow? Hitchcock said that
Mrs. Moore is doing very wellreally very well. She was a little
excited when Mrs. Wylie was with her, but she is nicely sleepy now. I
think it will be better to stay only a moment. She will get a good
night's rest to-night, it is so cool. The weather is on our side.
She smiled into his eyes and nodded gravely. He brightened and
squared his shoulders. As he went quickly up the stairs, Belden stopped
Tell me, he said authoritatively, how is my sister, really? What
do you consider her chance?
She looked him easily in the eyes. It is impossible to say, she
returned gravely. Your sister is a very brave, self-possessed woman,
and seems to have a good constitution. That is, of course, half the
battle. But her case is very complicated, and until the operation, no
one can tell. You may have every confidence in Dr. Jameson. He is a
Before her non-committal eyes his own fell baffled. He was more
irritated than he cared to own. Could she not see that he was prepared
for anything, that his self-control was as great as her own? She
treated him like a child; those professional reserves, necessary,
doubtless, in the case of Peter and his excitable sister, were wasted
on him. Why could she not see it?
I am quite aware of Dr. Jameson's skill, he said coldly, but I
had hoped that you would find yourself able to break through the
professional attitude sufficiently to give me your real opinion, which,
of course, you must have formed.
She threw him a quick glance. Ah, my friend, he thought
exultingly, you have a temper, then! But in an instant it was gone.
I have told you all I was able to tell, she said evenly. I have
been here but a short time, you know.
She turned and left the hall, and he, chafing under a sense of
merited rebuke, conscious of a foolish petulance, went discontentedly
into the library. He seemed to be continually at fault with Miss
Strong, but unable to resist the effort to master her.
The evening was very lonely and still. Peter had gone to his room
early, and the children had effaced themselves: Susy was with them.
Aunt Lucia read the Imitation of Christ, by the fire. Bel-den's mind
turned unconsciously to the old days when Caddy and he dreamed out
their future in the nursery. It had all come out just as she had
planned, except this. Poor little Caddya fighting chance!
The next morning seemed to fly by them: it was nine o'clock, ten,
At this hour a feverish activity suddenly spread through the house.
They met and passed each other, hurrying, troubled, secretive; the
servants stumbled and quarrelled in their purposeless haste. To Belden,
quieting when he could, sternly optimistic everywhere, at heart heavy
and uncertain, it seemed that the one anchor of their hopes was this
calm, clear-eyed woman in her uniform of authority!
Peter hung pathetically on her lightest word; the children, dazed
and terrified, ate and exercised at her command; his own boy, a strange
hard look in his furtive eyes, followed her like a dog, and Aunt Lucia
submitted with unprecedented meekness to an abrupt curtailment of her
interview with Clarice. He himself went into the bedroom for a moment,
half uncertain of the reality of the experience. It was absurd to
remember that he might never see her, conscious, againhis own little
He sat awkwardly on the side of the bed.
Well, little woman, how goes it?
Queen's taste, Will!
Good for you! I'm proud of the Beldens, CaddyBilly acts like a
Her eyes softened.
The dear boy, she murmured. Their eyes met. Look after him, hers said, and his, As long as I live! He stooped and kissed
her lightly. Mind you look as well as this to-morrow!
Oh, I shall be all right. Miss Strong will take care of me. When I
think how I have the best of everythingsuch careI've been a very
happy woman, Will dear.
His eyes filled. He threw her a kiss and went out blindly.
A hand touched his arm. You've done her good, said the nurse
softly. You stayed just long enough. She'll take her nap now.
He went heavily into his own room. Below him a little porch led out
from the smoking-room, and as he sat lost in a miserable reverie,
voices rose from it to his window.
Nobody knows what she's been to me. As much like a mother as I'd
let her. I did everything but the cigarettes, and I meant to tell her
I'd do that too, next monththat's her birthday.
Was this his boy, that pleading, shaken voice? He looked out: the
lad was fingering Miss Strong's white apron nervously. She leaned over
the railing of the little porch, her hand on his shoulder.
You tell her about itI'll never smoke another one. It was the
last thing she asked me.
I'll tell hershe will be so pleased, I know. She asked about you
yesterday. I'll let you know as soon as I can.
Belden, a little later, hurried downstairs, with a confused idea of
thanking her. On the threshold of the library he paused, amazed. Dr.
Hitchcock sat before a small green baize table, studying five
playing-cards held fan-shape in his left hand. Opposite him sat Miss
Strong, holding the pack expectantly.
You can give me two, my dear, I think, he said as Belden entered.
Looking up, he smiled apologetically.
I dare say you are surprised, he suggested, but I have been much
exasperated, Mr. Belden, and a long experience has taught me that
nothing so quickly clears the mind as throwing a few hands of poker.
Miss Strongan invaluable personis kindly assisting me. Did I say
three? Yes, of course. Thank you. We are playing for beans only, you
Belden watched them curiously. She sat as imperturbably as by
Caddy's bedside, her eyes fixed thoughtfully on her cards.
And raise you three, she said.
Five more. You will excuse me, Belden, but your aunt, Mrs.
Wetherly, is a somewhat unusually irritating woman. I'll see you, Miss
Strongah, yes, two pair, queens up.
What has she done?
She insists that Mrs. Moore shall not only see Mr. Burchard, to
which I have not the least objection, but that he shall hold a
communion service, directly, there. Now, if your sister had asked for
this herself, it would be another matter, but unless this is the case I
always regard it as a depressing agent. It is a strain, in any case.
I think Mrs. Moore will go through with it very easily, doctor,
Miss Strong interposed, slipping the cards into their leather envelope
and gathering up the beans. She will be fresh from her nap, and it
will be very short. She has promised Mrs. Wetherly, you know, and it
would distress her more to break it
All right, all right. Have it your way. Much obliged.
He took the cards from her and went out.
My aunt is very trying, Belden began.
Oh, many people feel so about it, she assured him, especially
High Church people. She only did what she thought right.
He drew a breath of relief.
You'll see she's not too tired? he asked; and as he went to
luncheon he wondered at the comfort he derived from her mute nod.
He was roused from the table, where the dishes left by them were
untouched for the most part, by a disturbance in the hall.
It's the priest, the waitress murmured, and with a frown he
checked her rising tears.
Aunt Lucia bustled through the room.
You must come, Wilmot, she whispered eagerly, she asked for you.
Peter is locked into his room, and neither of the children has been
confirmed. Susy, of course, is a Presbyterian. Not that dear Mr.
Burchard would objecthe is so broad. But you have no excuse. Oh, it
is beautiful, Wilmot! She looks so lovely!
He followed her wearily. What did it matter? It seemed to him
ominous, terriblebut it would please Caddy. She sat propped up in the
bed. Her cheeks were crimson, her eyes bright. White chrysanthemums
stood in silver vases, candles burned softly on the white-draped
dresser. Mr. Burchard, in the hall just beyond, was slipping his
surplice over his head. A faint odor of wine mingled with the flowers.
Belden dared not look at her. She was to him, in that moment,
mystic, holy, a thing apart. He dropped on his knees beside a silvery
white apron, his eyes on the floor, his heart beating hard.
The clergyman entered slowly, the service began. It was all a
murmured maze to him. Aunt Lucia sobbed quietly beside him, but as he
glanced at her he caught a light on her wet, uplifted face that
thrilled him strangely. Her deep responses spoke a faith and surety
that swallowed for the moment all her little sillinesses and
The solemn words grew in intensity, the candles flickered audibly in
the sacred hush. The clergyman moved toward the bed, and they heard
Caddy's breath draw out in a deep, shuddering sob; her teeth chattered
against the cup.
Belden set his jaw; it was cruel, brutal! They were killing her. His
clinched fist moved blindly toward his neighbor: he touched her hand
and gripped it fiercely.
In front of him on the wall hung a large photograph of Billy's
base-ball nine in full uniform. He could have drawn it from memory,
afterwards. Billy, he remembered, was a great catcher. He held hard to
that cool, firm hand.
be amongst you and remain with you always. Amen. There was a
little stir. The hand was drawn from his.
Come, now, whispered Aunt Lucia, and he walked, stumbling and
stiff from kneeling, from the room. At the door he glanced a second
backward, but only Dr. Hitchcock was to be seen, bending over the bed.
Miss Strong had already taken away candles and flowers, and Caddy's
triple mirror was back on the dresser.
Mr. Burchard, in his long black cassock, offered his hand cordially.
I am glad you could be with us, Mr. Belden, he began, but the
other broke in:
If you have tired her, if thismakes a difference he muttered
fiercely, you will have me to settle with. Mind that!
He hurried down the stairs, his hands still clinched. Peter was
starting off with the road-wagon. They nodded shortly at each other.
From then the time raced on incredibly. The great surgeon, with his
two assistants, was in the hall; he was on the stairs; he was lost to
sight. There was a momentary rush and bustle, the closing of a door.
Peter came out, whispering to himself, and disappeared somewhere. The
others, clustered in the library, spoke fitfully.
They carried her on a cot into the west room, somebody murmured
close to Belden. It was little Margaret. I saw her. She waved her hand
at me! I threw her a kiss. Miss Strong smiled at meI love Miss
Aunt Lucia sobbed. Susy bit her lip and played with Billy's
Where's my father? Where's he gone? he demanded. Who's that other
woman with the apron?
Miss Strong appeared at the door. She has taken the ether very well
indeed; they are much pleased, she said softly. They hung on her
words, they overwhelmed her with questions. She soothed them like
It grew suddenly clear to Belden that Caddy would die. It must be
so. He wondered that they had hoped for anything else. He was sorry for
them all. He watched indifferently while Miss Strong led the children
awayhe knew she was taking them to their father. Later, while Aunt
Lucia, on her knees, read through streaming eyes from her prayer-book,
and Susy talked nervously to him, he watched the firm, full figure of
the woman pacing up and down the piazza outside, her arm drawn through
his restless boy's.
God bless her! he said aloud.
Afterwards he could never recall the consecutive happenings of the
end. He saw only separate pictures.
In one, a strange young man opened the door and said the words that
frightened them with delight.
In another, a drawn, old, white-faced mansurely not Dr.
Jamesonleaned weakly in a chair, while a woman handed him a tiny
glass of colored liquid.
In yet another, a father hid his face in his little daughter's bosom
and sobbed, with shaking shoulders; his tall son smiled bravely over
the bent head.
In the last picture he himself bore a part; for when he came upon
his shy, suspicious boy clasped in the kind arms of the woman whose
brown eyes, once seen, had haunted his thoughts ever since, he gathered
them both to him irresistibly. As he laid his cheek against hers, he
felt that it was wet with tears.
It lies with you now, he whispered in her ear, to give her back
to us, well and strong. He says you can. Afterwards
She drew away from him.
II must go. I am so gladI will do my best, she answered
He caught her hand. And afterwards? he repeated, a growing mastery
in his voice. She tried to meet his eyes, but her own fell, conquered.