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A short story by Margery Verner Reed

Two Had Lived

Title:     Two Had Lived
Author: Margery Verner Reed [More Titles by Reed]

Two Had Lived [to M. D. R.]


PASSIONATELY musical--Janet Knott had been sent abroad to study.

HOMESICK and weary she wandered about in a strange city, knowing not even the language.

THE gray sky--the grayer buildings. Was there not in this city a kindly soul--one she could talk to--confide in--

IN a narrow street--suddenly the rich deep tones of an organ reached her soul--

BUILT in among great buildings a small Church. There at least she could find comfort--and the organ.

WAS it a Requiem--minor chords--the keys seemed to sob under the pressure of withered hands.

JANET sobbed too. She was homesick. Lonely--

THE music stopped and the old organist came down and spoke with her. He asked why she was crying.

YOUR music is so sad, she whispered--

AH, my child, that is life--I am told to compose a Requiem--

WHAT youth, filled with the joy of living, could play these minor chords.

I TOO was young once--A student at the University. I loved life then--

I DANCED--composed only waltzes--sang love songs. But now--sorrow has played on the chords of my heart--to teach me these deeper tones--to teach me music for the Passion--for the Crucifixion.

YOU must learn, my child, that through sorrow men accomplish great things.

WHEN they weep they send out tones into the world that men remember and cherish.

BEETHOVEN lived and suffered--and has left to the world things of immortal greatness.

BUT now--go--else I shall sadden you beyond your years----

SLOWLY Janet walked through the darkening streets. The words of the organist filled her mind. She felt prophetically her heart must pass through fire.

WOULD she be strong enough--or would weakness--desire for joy--conquer and kill the power within.


THE homesick girl of seventeen has given place to a worldly wise young woman of twenty-five.

NO more longing for the land across the seas. The power within still sleeps--Paris. With its pleasure haunts, its lights, its theatres--

JANET KNOTT--the center of an admiring coterie--she plays light music--waltzes. The joy of being alive--the whirl of a great city--subdued laughter of groups of men and women walking in the moonlight--the flowering chestnut trees--the roses--

RACES of Longchamps--gay colors--a world of excitement.


ITS waves swept over her.

SHE had chosen between this and art--fulfillment of the Soul.

SOMETIMES shadows of her power rose--beckoned.

SHE consoled these moments with coquetry. A success--flowers

* * * * *

THE war broke out. Excitement still filled her. It would soon be over.


THEN--one by one all the men she had known, flirted, danced with, left for the front. To die. That the enemy should not pass.

PARIS in danger. Death and sorrow near.

THE best in Janet Knott gradually awakened. A desire to help grew until she could contain it no longer.

ONE Sunday evening she went to Notre-Dame for Benediction--Kneeling in the shadows of the pillars she heard the organ--sad agonizing chords

SORROW has played on the chords of my heart to teach me these deeper tones--

THE memory of the little church, of the old organist--of herself, the former Janet, the homesick child.

HER gift--was it dead or only sleeping? Could she awaken it--Spin a new life on the webs of war--

THE shadow of the Janet of seventeen wept over the wasted years.


THERE seemed to be no end. The war-filled years crept slowly onward, each day bringing more sorrow--more death.

JANET was torn in two.

THE human pleasure-loving side lay bleeding--dying inch by inch.

THE other, with tones of deepest beauty, rose above it, sighing that it must take such tragedy to break down its prison bars--that it might live.

IT rose--comforting Janet in many a weary hour--comforting the wounded, the dying. In a village church which had been turned into a base hospital she often played--and as they listened some pain was eased, some picture rose of happy fields, of homes. Would they see them again--

IN this tragedy of nations she had found herself. Found the purpose of her life. Her art had come into its own--had comforted.

DEATH from a shell might take her--as it took thousands each day--but she was fulfilling the mission of her soul.


ONE night the Church Hospital lay sleeping. Very softly Janet crept to the organ loft--softer still she played to the moonlight.

HE was rapidly improving. His wounds had not been serious. Something--very soft, faint--woke him. For a minute he could not recall his surroundings--and he rose up--but a sharp pain in his shoulder brought back the memory of the trenches, of the horror--

I MUST be dying--I hear faint music----

THE moon shone on something white--

AN angel--

FULLY awakening to his surroundings Hugh Brandon realized that it was not death--not an angel--

HE would go and find out for himself--

JANET barely touched the keys. Softer and softer grew the tones. He came nearer--fascinated as if by a magic presence.

THEIR eyes met--in the moonlight. They knew that no matter what happened to the rest of the world--no matter what happened to their own bodies--their souls were met for all Eternity.

IT was a flash from the unconscious--one of those strange illuminations which occur perhaps once in a hundred lifetimes.

PLAY on, he whispered. Play for me--for England--whose son I am

* * * * *

AT noon when they had eaten--Hugh and Janet slipped away. She played for him. The tones were richer than before. Into the sadness had been poured the burning heat of pure love.


THEY had both known what they had thought was love,--among flowers, dances, the lovely but artificial things of life--

BUT here--among the dying--blood, privation, life divested of its mantles and laid bare--the true love sprang up between these two. Something more than love. A perfect understanding of each--like the treble and the base of a symphony--

IN the still hours of twilight Hugh and Janet would sit in the organ loft together, speaking the enchanted language only lovers know--made dearer by the phantom of separation ever near them.

DEAREST, when the Regiment has called me back, play each day at twilight--the Miserere. If--in the trenches--I shall know your soul is calling to mine--if, beyond, my soul will drink from the depths of yours----

SNOW was falling.

GOODBYE, dear, he whispered--

NOW even the organ could not calm. She had tasted the sweet of life--and it had been torn away. For what--

SUDDENLY hate possessed her--hate for this man who would rule the world--causing whole nations to rise up against him to defend their soil--hatred for the power that had brought despair into unknown lives--

BROUGHT murder into peaceful souls.

THE days followed each other in bleak sameness.

SHE moved among the wounded--a shadow self--

BUT at twilight each day, Janet lived. She played the Miserere--with her soul. Then again--the moving dazed form would return to help the men lying on mattresses where once peasants had knelt in prayer--


HER music became divine. The Miserere sobbed out into the cold night air--cleansing her soul of hatred--even Peace--a joy--

THE air was rent by whistling shells--the organ throbbed under her touch--


* * * * *

THERE was left only a mass of charred stones--a blackened wall--

A CRUCIFIX still erect.

THE church had been unregarded by the enemy.

THEY had passed--leaving desolation--

DEATH had found Janet at the organ--a free soul--

* * * * *

SEVERAL months later in the casualty list of a London newspaper appeared the name of Hugh Brandon.

[The end]
Margery Verner Reed's short story: Two Had Lived