The Amateur

The Amateur
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第4章

"Maybe," she said, "you can understand.Maybe you can tell me what it means.I have thought and thought.I have gone over it and over it until when I go back to it my head aches.I have done nothing else but think, and I can't make it seem better.I can't find any excuse.I have had no one to talk to, no one I could tell.I have thought maybe a man could understand." She raised her eyes appealingly.

"If you can only make it seem less cruel.Don't you see," she cried miserably, "I want to believe; I want to forgive him.I want to think he loves me.Oh! I want so to be able to love him; but how can I? I can't! I can't!"In the week in which they had been thrown together the girl unconsciously had told Ford much about herself and her husband.

What she now told him was but an amplification of what he had guessed.

She had met Ashton a year and a half before, when she had just left school at the convent and had returned to live with her family.

Her home was at Far Rockaway.Her father was a cashier in a bank at Long Island City.One night, with a party of friends, she had been taken to a dance at one of the beach hotels, and there met Ashton.At that time he was one of a firm that was making book at the Aqueduct race-track.The girl had met very few men and with them was shy and frightened, but with Ashton she found herself at once at ease.That night he drove her and her friends home in his touring-car and the next day they teased her about her conquest.

It made her very happy.After that she went to hops at the hotel, and as the bookmaker did not dance, the two young people sat upon the piazza.Then Ashton came to see her at her own house, but when her father learned that the young man who had been calling upon her was a bookmaker he told him he could not associate with his daughter.

But the girl was now deeply in love with Ashton, and apparently he with her.He begged her to marry him.They knew that to this, partly from prejudice and partly owing to his position in the bank, her father would object.Accordingly they agreed that in August, when the racing moved to Saratoga, they would run away and get married at that place.Their plan was that Ashton would leave for Saratoga with the other racing men, and that she would join him the next day.

They had arranged to be married by a magistrate, and Ashton had shown her a letter from one at Saratoga who consented to perform the ceremony.He had given her an engagement ring and two thousand dollars, which he asked her to keep for him, lest tempted at the track he should lose it.

But she assured Ford it was not such material things as a letter, a ring, or gift of money that had led her to trust Ashton.His fear of losing her, his complete subjection to her wishes, his happiness in her presence, all seemed to prove that to make her happy was his one wish, and that he could do anything to make her unhappy appeared impossible.

They were married the morning she arrived at Saratoga; and the same day departed for Niagara Falls and Quebec.The honeymoon lasted ten days.They were ten days of complete happiness.No one, so the girl declared, could have been more kind, more unselfishly considerate than her husband.They returned to Saratoga and engaged a suite of rooms at one of the big hotels.Ashton was not satisfied with the rooms shown him, and leaving her upstairs returned to the office floor to ask for others.

Since that moment his wife had never seen him nor heard from him.

On the day of her marriage young Mrs.Ashton had written to her father, asking him to give her his good wishes and pardon.He refused both.As she had feared, he did not consider that for a bank clerk a gambler made a desirable son-in-law; and the letters he wrote his daughter were so bitter that in reply she informed him he had forced her to choose between her family and her husband, and that she chose her husband.In consequence, when she found herself deserted she felt she could not return to her people.She remained in Saratoga.There she moved into cheap lodgings, and in order that the two thousand dollars Ashton had left with her might be saved for his child, she had learned to type-write, and after four months had been able to support herself.Within the last month a girl friend, who had known both Ashton and herself before they were married, had written her that her husband was living in London.

For the sake of her son she had at once determined to make an effort to seek him out.

"The son, nonsense!" exclaimed the doctor, when Ford retold the story."She is not crossing the ocean because she is worried about the future of her son.She seeks her own happiness.The woman is in love with her husband."Ford shook his head.

"I don't know!" he objected."She's so extravagant in her praise of Harry that it seems unreal.It sounds insincere.Then, again, when I swear I will find him she shows a delight that you might describe as savage, almost vindictive.As though, if I did find Harry, the first thing she would do would be to stick a knife in him.""Maybe," volunteered the doctor sadly, "she has heard there is a woman in the case.Maybe she is the one she's thinking of sticking the knife into?""Well," declared the reporter, "if she doesn't stop looking savage every time I promise to find Harry I won't find Harry.Why should I act the part of Fate, anyway? How do I know that Harry hasn't got a wife in London and several in the States? How do we know he didn't leave his country for his country's good? That's what it looks like to me.How can we tell what confronted him the day he went down to the hotel desk to change his rooms and, instead, got into his touring-car and beat the speed limit to Canada.Whom did he meet in the hotel corridor? A woman with a perfectly good marriage certificate, or a detective with a perfectly good warrant?

Or did Harry find out that his bride had a devil of a temper of her own, and that for him marriage was a failure? The widow is certainly a very charming young woman, but there may be two sides to this.""You are a cynic, sir," protested the doctor.

"That may be," growled the reporter, "but I am not a private detective agency, or a matrimonial bureau, and before I hear myself saying, 'Bless you, my children!' both of these young people will have to show me why they should not be kept asunder."

Richard Harding Davis

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