Kismet by Lucy Maud Montgomery
The fifth heat in the free-for-all was just over.
"Lu-Lu" had won, and the crowd on the grand stand and
the hangers-on around the track were cheering themselves
hoarse. Clear through the noisy clamour shrilled a woman's
"Ah—I have dropped my scorecard."
A man in front of her turned.
"I have an extra one, madame. Will you accept it?"
Her small, modishly-gloved hand closed eagerly on it
before she lifted her eyes to his face. Both started convulsively.
The man turned very pale, but the woman's ripe-tinted
face coloured darkly.
"You?" she faltered.
His lips parted in the coldly-grave smile she remembered
"You are not glad to see me," he said calmly, "but that,
I suppose, was not to be expected. I did not come here to
annoy you. This meeting is as unexpected to me as to you.
I had no suspicion that for the last half-hour I had been
standing next to my—"
She interrupted him by an imperious gesture. Still
clutching the scorecard she half-turned from him. Again
he smiled, this time with a tinge of scorn, and shifted his
eyes to the track.
None of the people around them had noticed the little
by-play. All eyes were on the track, which was being
cleared for the first heat of another race. The free-for-all
horses were being led away blanketed. The crowd cheered
"Lu-Lu" as she went past, a shapeless oddity. The backers
of "Mascot", the rival favourite, looked gloomy.
The woman noticed nothing of all this. She was small,
very pretty, still young, and gowned in a quite unmistakable
way. She studied the man's profile furtively. He
looked older than when she had seen him last—there
were some silver threads gleaming in his close-clipped dark
hair and short, pointed beard. Otherwise there was little
change in the quiet features and somewhat stern grey eyes.
She wondered if he had cared at all.
They had not met for five years. She shut her eyes and
looked in on her past. It all came back very vividly. She
had been eighteen when they were married—a gay, high-spirited
girl and the season's beauty. He was much older
and a quiet, serious student. Her friends had wondered
why she married him—sometimes she wondered herself,
but she had loved him, or thought so.
The marriage had been an unhappy one. She was fond
of society and gaiety, he wanted quiet and seclusion. She
Was impulsive and impatient, he deliberate and grave. The
strong wills clashed. After two years of an unbearable sort
of life they had separated—quietly, and without scandal
of any sort. She had wanted a divorce, but he would not
agree to that, so she had taken her own independent
fortune and gone back to her own way of life. In the
following five years she had succeeded in burying all remembrance
well out of sight. No one knew if she were
satisfied or not; her world was charitable to her and she
lived a gay and quite irreproachable life. She wished that
she had not come to the races. It was such an irritating
encounter. She opened her eyes wearily; the dusty track,
the flying horses, the gay dresses of the women on the
grandstand, the cloudless blue sky, the brilliant September
sunshine, the purple distances all commingled in a glare
that made her head ache. Before it all she saw the tall
figure by her side, his face turned from her, watching the
She wondered with a vague curiosity what induced him
to come to the races. Such things were not greatly in his
line. Evidently their chance meeting had not disturbed
him. It was a sign that he did not care. She sighed a little
wearily and closed her eyes. When the heat was over he
turned to her.
"May I ask how you have been since—since we met last?
You are looking extremely well. Has Vanity Fair palled in
She was angry at herself and him. Where had her careless
society manner and well-bred composure gone? She felt
weak and hysterical. What if she should burst into tears
before the whole crowd—before those coldly critical grey
eyes? She almost hated him.
"No—why should it? I have found it very pleasant—and
I have been well—very well. And you?"
He jotted down the score carefully before he replied.
"I? Oh, a book-worm and recluse always leads a placid
life. I never cared for excitement, you know. I came down
here to attend a sale of some rare editions, and a well-meaning
friend dragged me out to see the races. I find it
rather interesting, I must confess, much more so than I
should have fancied. Sorry I can't stay until the end. I must
go as soon as the free-for-all is over, if not before. I have
backed 'Mascot'; you?"
"'Lu-Lu'" she answered quickly—it almost seemed
defiantly. How horribly unreal it was—this carrying on
of small talk, as if they were the merest of chance-met
acquaintances! "She belongs to a friend of mine, so I am
"She and 'Mascot' are ties now—both have won two
heats. One more for either will decide it. This is a good
day for the races. Excuse me."
He leaned over and brushed a scrap of paper from her
grey cloak. She shivered slightly.
"You are cold! This stand is draughty."
"I am not at all cold, thank you. What race is this?—oh!
the three-minute one."
She bent forward with assumed interest to watch the
scoring. She was breathing heavily. There were tears in her
eyes—she bit her lips savagely and glared at the track
until they were gone.
Presently he spoke again, in the low, even tone demanded
"This is a curious meeting, is it not?—quite a flavor of
romance! By-the-way, do you read as many novels as ever?"
She fancied there was mockery in his tone. She remembered
how very frivolous he used to consider her novel-reading.
Besides, she resented the personal tinge. What
right had he?
"Almost as many," she answered carelessly.
"I was very intolerant, wasn't I?" he said after a pause.
"You thought so—you were right. You have been happier
since you—left me?"
"Yes," she said defiantly, looking straight into his eyes.
"And you do not regret it?"
He bent down a little. His sleeve brushed against her
shoulder. Something in his face arrested the answer she
meant to make.
"I—I—did not say that," she murmured faintly.
There was a burst of cheering. The free-for-all horses
were being brought out for the sixth heat. She turned
away to watch them. The scoring began, and seemed likely
to have no end. She was tired of it all. It didn't matter a
pin to her whether "Lu-Lu" or "Mascot" won. What did
matter! Had Vanity Fair after all been a satisfying exchange
for love? He had loved her once, and they had been
happy at first. She had never before said, even in her own
heart: "I am sorry," but—suddenly, she felt his hand on
her shoulder, and looked up. Their eyes met. He stooped
and said almost in a whisper:
"Will you come back to me?"
"I don't know," she whispered breathlessly, as one half-fascinated.
"We were both to blame—but I the most. I was too
hard on you—I ought to have made more allowance. We
are wiser now both of us. Come back to me—my wife."
His tone was cold and his face expressionless. It was on
her lips to cry out "No," passionately.
But the slender, scholarly hand on her shoulder was
trembling with the intensity of his repressed emotion. He
did care, then. A wild caprice flashed into her brain. She
"See," she cried, "they're off now. This heat will probably
decide the race. If 'Lu-Lu' wins I will not go back to
you, if 'Mascot' does I will. That is my decision."
He turned paler, but bowed in assent. He knew by
bitter experience how unchangeable her whims were, how
obstinately she clung to even the most absurd.
She leaned forward breathlessly. The crowd hung silently
on the track. "Lu-Lu" and "Mascot" were neck and neck,
getting in splendid work. Half-way round the course "Lu-Lu"
forged half a neck ahead, and her backers went mad.
But one woman dropped her head in her hands and dared
look no more. One man with white face and set lips
watched the track unswervingly.
Again "Mascot" crawled up, inch by inch. They were on
the home stretch, they were equal, the cheering broke out,
then silence, then another terrific burst, shouts, yells and
clappings—"Mascot" had won the free-for-all. In the
front row a woman stood up, swayed and shaken as a leaf
in the wind. She straightened her scarlet hat and readjusted
her veil unsteadily. There was a smile on her lips and tears
in her eyes. No one noticed her. A man beside her drew
her hand through his arm in a quiet proprietary fashion.
They left the grand stand together.