The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number

Morton Blaine returned to New York from his brief vacation to find awaiting him a frantic note from John Schuyler, the man nearer to him than any save himself, imploring him to “come at once.”

The note was twenty-four hours old. Blaine, without changing his travelling clothes, rang for a cab and was driven rapidly up the Avenue. He was a man of science, not of enthusiasms, cold, unerring, brilliant; a superb intellectual machine, unremittingly polished, and enlarged with every improvement. But for one man he cherished an abiding sympathy; to that man he hastened on the slightest summons, as he hastened now.

As the cab rolled over the asphalt of the Avenue, Blaine glanced idly at the stream of carriages returning form the Park, lifting his hat to many of the languid pretty women. He owed his minor fame to his guardianship of fashionable nerves. He could calm hysteria with a pressure of his cool, flexible hand or a sudden modulation of his harsh voice. And women dreaded his wrath. There were those who averred that his eyes could smoke.

He leaned forward and raised his hat with sudden interest. She who returned his bow was as cold in her colouring as a winter night, but possessed a strength of line and depth of eye which suggested to the analyst her power to give the world a shock did Circumstance cease to run abreast of her. She was leaning back indolently in the open carriage, the sun slanting into her luminous skin and eyes. As her eyes met those of the doctor her mouth convulsed suddenly, and a glance of mutual understanding passed between them. Then she raised her head with a defiant, almost reckless movement.

Blaine reached his friend’s house in a moment. The man who had summoned him was walking aimlessly up and down his library. He was unshaven; his hair and his clothing were disordered. His face had the modern beauty of strength and intellect and passion and weakness. A flash of relief illuminated it as Blaine entered.

“She has been terrible!” he said. “Terrible! I have not had the courage to call in any one else, and I am worn out. She is asleep, and I got out of the room for half an hour. The nurse is exhausted. Do stay to-night.”

“I will stay. Let us go up-stairs.”

As they reached the second landing two handsome children romped across the hall and flung themselves upon their father.

“Where have you been?” they demand. “Why do you shut yourself up on the third floor with mamma all the time? When will she get well?”

Schuyler kissed them and bade them return to the nursery.

“How long can I keep it from them?” he asked bitterly. “What an atmosphere for children—my children!—to grow up in!”

“If you would do as I wish, and send her where she belongs—”

“No. She is my wife. Moreover, concealment then would be impossible.”

They had reached the third floor. He inserted a key in a door, hesitated a moment, then said abruptly: “I saw in a paper that she had returned. Can it be possible?”

“I saw her on the Avenue a few moments ago.”

Was it the doctor’s imagination, or did the goaded man at his side flash him a glance of appeal?

  By PanEris using Melati.

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