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CHAPTER XXIII._A Girl in Ten Thousand

 There come moments in the lives of all of us when we feel as if a restraining and powerful hand were pulling us up short. We have come to a full stop; we cannot go back, and we do not know how to proceed. These full stops in life's journey are generally awful places. We meet there, as a rule, the devil and his angels—they tear us and rend us, they shake us to our very depths with awful and overpowering temptation; if we yield, it is all over with us, we rush at headlong speed downhill.

But, on the other hand, if in this pause we turn our back upon the devil, good angels come in his place—they whisper of hope and a new chance in life even for us.

When Effie left George on that miserable evening, and when Lawson retired presently to his room, the young man found that he had come to such a fearful place of trial as I have just described. He was pulled179 up short, and the devil was tempting him. At one side was the devil, at the other he saw the face of his mother. It was impossible for him to lie down and sleep. He fought with the devil all night. In the morning there was neither victory nor defeat, but the young, smooth face looked haggard and gray, and the upright, well-knit figure was bowed.

Lawson came into the sitting room for a moment.

"I am sorry I can't stay with you, George," he said. "I am due at St. Joseph's at nine o'clock. Have you made any plans for yourself?"

"No—at least, yes. I've had an awful night, Lawson, and there seems to be but one end to it."

"What is that?"

"I must give myself up. I'm not the sort of fellow to play the hiding game successfully. I'm safe to be caught sooner or later. I deserve punishment, too—I've been doing badly for months. What I deserve, it seems likely I'll have. In short, I think I'd better make a clean breast of everything, and take my—my punishment like a man."

"Do sit down for a minute," said Lawson. "There's a good deal in what you say, and if you had only yourself to consider, I'd counsel you to do it—I would, truly; but there's your mother to be thought of."

"My mother! Don't you suppose I've been thinking of my mother all night? It is the thought of my mother that maddens me—maddens me, I say. Look here, Lawson, there's only one thing before me: I'll go first to mother and tell her everything straight out, and then I'll give myself up."

"You will?" said Lawson, with a start of sudden admiration. "Upon my word, George, old chap,180 I didn't think you had the grit in you—I didn't, truly."

"Then you approve?"

"It is the only thing to be done; she must hear it, sooner or later, and no one can tell it to her as you can."

"All right; I'll go to her before my courage fails me."

George left the room without even saying good-by to his friend.

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