The Parting of The Ways by Lucy Maud
Mrs. Longworth crossed the hotel piazza, descended the steps, and
walked out of sight down the shore road with all the grace of motion
that lent distinction to her slightest movement. Her eyes were very
bright, and an unusual flush stained the pallor of her cheek. Two men
who were lounging in one corner of the hotel piazza looked admiringly
"She is a beautiful woman," said one.
"Wasn't there some talk about Mrs. Longworth and Cunningham last
winter?" asked the other.
"Yes. They were much together. Still, there may have been nothing
wrong. She was old Judge Carmody's daughter, you know. Longworth got
Carmody under his thumb in money matters and put the screws on. They
say he made Carmody's daughter the price of the old man's redemption.
The girl herself was a mere child, I shall never forget her face on
her wedding day. But she's been plucky since then, I must say. If she
has suffered, she hasn't shown it. I don't suppose Longworth ever
ill-treats her. He isn't that sort. He's simply a grovelling
cad—that's all. Nobody would sympathise much with the poor devil if
his wife did run off with Cunningham."
Meanwhile, Beatrice Longworth walked quickly down the shore road, her
white skirt brushing over the crisp golden grasses by the way. In a
sunny hollow among the sandhills she came upon Stephen Gordon,
sprawled out luxuriously in the warm, sea-smelling grasses. The youth
sprang to his feet at sight of her, and his big brown eyes kindled to
Mrs. Longworth smiled to him. They had been great friends all summer.
He was a lanky, overgrown lad of fifteen or sixteen, odd and shy and
dreamy, scarcely possessing a speaking acquaintance with others at the
hotel. But he and Mrs. Longworth had been congenial from their first
meeting. In many ways, he was far older than his years, but there was
a certain inerradicable boyishness about him to which her heart
"You are the very person I was just going in search of. I've news to
tell. Sit down."
He spoke eagerly, patting the big gray boulder beside him with his
slim, brown hand. For a moment Beatrice hesitated. She wanted to be
alone just then. But his clever, homely face was so appealing that she
yielded and sat down.
Stephen flung himself down again contentedly in the grasses at her
feet, pillowing his chin in his palms and looking up at her,
"You are so beautiful, dear lady. I love to look at you. Will you tilt
that hat a little more over the left eye-brow? Yes—so—some day I
shall paint you."
His tone and manner were all simplicity.
"When you are a great artist," said Beatrice, indulgently.
"Yes, I mean to be that. I've told you all my dreams, you know. Now
for my news. I'm going away to-morrow. I had a telegram from father
He drew the message from his pocket and flourished it up at her.
"I'm to join him in Europe at once. He is in Rome. Think of it—in
Rome! I'm to go on with my art studies there. And I leave to-morrow."
"I'm glad—and I'm sorry—and you know which is which," said Beatrice,
patting the shaggy brown head. "I shall miss you dreadfully, Stephen."
"We have been splendid chums, haven't we?" he said, eagerly.
Suddenly his face changed. He crept nearer to her, and bowed his head
until his lips almost touched the hem of her dress.
"I'm glad you came down to-day," he went on in a low, diffident voice.
"I want to tell you something, and I can tell it better here. I
couldn't go away without thanking you. I'll make a mess of it—I can
never explain things. But you've been so much to me—you mean so much
to me. You've made me believe in things I never believed in before.
You—you—I know now that there is such a thing as a good woman, a
woman who could make a man better, just because he breathed the same
air with her."
He paused for a moment; then went on in a still lower tone:
"It's hard when a fellow can't speak of his mother because he can't
say anything good of her, isn't it? My mother wasn't a good woman.
When I was eight years old she went away with a scoundrel. It broke
father's heart. Nobody thought I understood, I was such a little
fellow. But I did. I heard them talking. I knew she had brought shame
and disgrace on herself and us. And I had loved her so! Then, somehow,
as I grew up, it was my misfortune that all the women I had to do with
were mean and base. They were hirelings, and I hated and feared them.
There was an aunt of mine—she tried to be good to me in her way. But
she told me a lie, and I never cared for her after I found it out. And
then, father—we loved each other and were good chums. But he didn't
believe in much either. He was bitter, you know. He said all women
were alike. I grew up with that notion. I didn't care much for
anything—nothing seemed worth while. Then I came here and met you."
He paused again. Beatrice had listened with a gray look on her face.
It would have startled him had he glanced up, but he did not, and
after a moment's silence the halting boyish voice went on:
"You have changed everything for me. I was nothing but a clod before.
You are not the mother of my body, but you are of my soul. It was
born of you. I shall always love and reverence you for it. You will
always be my ideal. If I ever do anything worth while it will be
because of you. In everything I shall ever attempt I shall try to do
it as if you were to pass judgment upon it. You will be a lifelong
inspiration to me. Oh, I am bungling this! I can't tell you what I
feel—you are so pure, so good, so noble! I shall reverence all women
for your sake henceforth."
"And if," said Beatrice, in a very low voice, "if I were false to your
ideal of me—if I were to do anything that would destroy your faith in
me—something weak or wicked—"
"But you couldn't," he interrupted, flinging up his head and looking
at her with his great dog-like eyes, "you couldn't!"
"But if I could?" she persisted, gently, "and if I did—what then?"
"I should hate you," he said, passionately. "You would be worse than a
murderess. You would kill every good impulse and belief in me. I would
never trust anything or anybody again—but there," he added, his voice
once more growing tender, "you will never fail me, I feel sure of
"Thank you," said Beatrice, almost in a whisper. "Thank you," she
repeated, after a moment. She stood up and held out her hand. "I think
I must go now. Good-bye, dear laddie. Write to me from Rome. I shall
always be glad to hear from you wherever you are. And—and—I shall
always try to live up to your ideal of me, Stephen."
He sprang to his feet and took her hand, lifting it to his lips with
boyish reverence. "I know that," he said, slowly. "Good-bye, my sweet
When Mrs. Longworth found herself in her room again, she unlocked her
desk and took out a letter. It was addressed to Mr. Maurice
Cunningham. She slowly tore it twice across, laid the fragments on a
tray, and touched them with a lighted match. As they blazed up one
line came out in writhing redness across the page: "I will go away
with you as you ask." Then it crumbled into gray ashes.
She drew a long breath and hid her face in her hands.