- The Alaska Widow
She handed him the papers she had prepared for service. He took them, signed them in the firm’s name, and was about to leave the office, when she reminded him that there were pleadings in another case to be filed at the Court House, and if he would wait a few moments he could attend to all in one trip.
While he stood beside her desk, watching her slender white hands fluttering about, backing this Plea and fastening that Answer, it was borne in upon him that he and she were not only office comrades, but were a man and woman, young—and one was beautiful.
There was an influence in the air which compelled her to glance his way when he returned from the Court House, and it happened that their eyes met. She was flushing slightly as she turned back to her work, and he sat down before his desk; but not to study. There are moments in one’s life when “Ambition’s less than nothingness.”
One day the senior member of his firm, who was a politician, also a friend of his dead father’s, called him into his office and informed him that it was within his power to have him appointed to an important Governmental position in the Philippines. This appointment was being sought by many, as it was a stepping stone to a governorship, and Howard Crathern had scarcely dared to hope that the opportunity would be his. Now that it was within his grasp, he hesitated before formally accepting it, and said that he would like a little time in which to think it over.
“Very well, my boy,” replied his friend with a smile. “I suppose there’s some girl in the case.”
And there was a girl. Howard Crathern was in love with Nora Leslie, she with the slender white hands. Since that afternoon of revelations, he had several times overtaken her as she walked to her lodging house in the evenings, and together they had pursued the rest of the way. Once they had diverted their course to a park bordering on Lake Washington, and spent some hours watching the shadows in the water and the snow-crowned mountains, rosy in the glow of the setting sun.
But whatever may have been looked and sighed on the part of Howard Crathern, their conversations had been limited entirely to that of ordinary acquaintances. Nora Leslie’s short life experience had taught her a lesson, which, though not as baneful as it might have been, somewhat obscured and rendered reserved a naturally frank and open nature.
It was after five o’clock when he left the politician’s private office. Miss Leslie had already gone. He was hurriedly closing his desk, hoping that as he was just a few minutes behindhand he might overtake her on the road, when the second stenographer, who lacked Nora Leslie’s brightness and beauty, but who was nevertheless a very observant young person, asked him if it were a fact that he was going to the Philippines. [End Page 164]
“I believe so,” he answered with boyish frankness, “but before making it positive I want to discuss the matter with a friend.”
“Ah, I see!” replied the girl with a meaning smile, then added, “Mr. Van Houter called for Miss Leslie this evening.”
Howard Crathern began strapping some books together. There was no need now for hurry. His fingers seemed clumsy.
“Let me help you,” volunteered Miss Martin. They left the office together, the girl chatting perseveringly, the young man replying somewhat absently. “Were you aware that Miss Leslie was an Alaska widow?” asked the girl.
“What!” exclaimed Crathern.
“An Alaska widow,” repeated she. “That is a woman, whose husband, instead of being dead, is in Alaska. If you weren’t but a short while out from Boston, you’d know that.”
“Ah, yes,” said young Crathern, recovering himself. “I have heard of some such cases. But Miss Leslie. You are surely mistaken. She is Miss Leslie!”
“True,” replied the girl. “But that does not prevent her from being what I have told you. She has been divorced...