Jewel Weed by Alice Ames Winter
ALICE AMES WINTER
Author of The Prize to the Hardy
With Illustrations by Harrison Fisher
[Illustration: Surely you must have read it long agoPage 360]
Grosset &Dunlap Publishers New York
Copyright 1906 The Bobbs-Merrill Company October
MY FATHER AND MOTHER
CHARLES G. AND FANNY B. AMES
CHAPTER I. A
LIGHT FROM THE
MOTHER AND SON
CHAPTER III. AN
CHAPTER IV. AT
CHAPTER V. SALAD
CHAPTER IX. AN
CHAPTER XII. AN
CHAPTER XIII. AN
CHAPTER XIV. THE
RETURN OF RAM
CHAPTER XV. THE
CHAPTER XX. A
LIGHT FROM THE
EAST GOES OUT
CHAPTER XXI. A
LIGHT IN THE
WEST GOES DOWN
CHAPTER I. A LIGHT FROM THE FAR EAST
In the mists of the infinite, events poise invisible, awaiting their
opportunity to incarnate themselves. They fasten, each after his kind,
on these human lives of ours, as germs find the culture soil they love;
so it follows that to the commonplace comes a life of dull routine,
foolish happenings seek out the sentimentalist, sordid events seek the
sordid and on the mystic dawns the mysterious. Calamities wait there,
too, until Fate points out a weak spot in character on which they may
pounce relentless with the temptation that pierces it. As there are
certain things that would scarcely dare to happen to certain people, so
other greater events would hardly condescend to those whom they
recognize as being their own inferiors.
Once in a while, particularly when a man is young or beginning a new
phase of life, there come times when the things that are to be seem
almost tangible. They press until he feels them crowd, while he waits
with tense expectation for them to become visible to the crude eye of
Perhaps it was due to a certain occultism in the atmosphere that
Ellery Norris felt this pressure of the future on the afternoon of Mr.
Early's reception to Ram Juna. Norris was a new young man in a new
young city, and he had come West to live. However short and futile life
may look to the old, it appears a big and long thing to twenty-three.
Here in St. Etienne he was to work and work hard; among these people,
now all strangers, he was to find the friends of his lifetime; here
were to come all the experiences of struggle, failure, success, perhaps
He turned and glanced with a little sense of relief at Richard
Percival seated beside him. Dick was the one stanch thing out of his
past; Dick he had known and loved at college; Dick was even now showing
himself a friend; and all these other folk were but the ghosts of
things to come. Then he laughed lightly at himself for his own fantasy,
and returned to the survey of his surroundings.
The vast new hall in which they sat, a hall young in years but old
Gothic in pretense, might have suggested a possessor of the stately and
knightly type rather than a little cockatoo like Mr. Early; but man has
this advantage over the snail, that, whereas, the snail is obliged to
construct a home around its slimy little body, man may build his
habitation to match his imagination and ambition. In the West,
moreover, it is the custom to leave the low-vaulted past and build more
stately mansions as fast as the increasing purse will permit.
The great room was cool, even on a glowing summer day. Its heavy
walls shut out the heat and its narrow windows gave but a creeping
light which lost itself in the vaulted spaces above. It was archaic in
a modern fashion, too archaic to be quite convincing when combined with
present-day ornaments and luxuries, too splendid to belong to any one
except Mr. Early, and yet, withal, a satisfying place, dim and fragrant
on this July afternoon. The pale summery gowns of the women and the
sprinkling of dark coats of the few men present modified its
To-day Mr. Early surely had reason to congratulate himself on his
amplitude of space, for if ever a big background was needed, it was
when the public had come in its hundreds to look upon the huge Hindu
who stood beside the host, dwarfing him as well as the throng in front.
Swami Ram Juna overtopped them all in inches, as in serenity.
Mr. Early, whose physique was of the Napoleonic order, just as much
body as was necessary to incase a mighty soul, had, in spite of his few
inches, an air of distinction which demanded and received attention.
Ram Juna, on the other hand, betrayed no expectation of adulation.
Rather was he utterly oblivious of it. Over the heads of those to whom
he had been speaking his far-seeing eyes gazed into that nothingness
which is popularly supposed to be full of spiritual significance. He
was oblivious of the earth.
Here, then, before the group of guests, in fine contrast, like a
tropical bird caught among thrushes, stood this big bronze creature,
magnificently gowned in a long flame-colored garment touched upon its
borders with strange embroideries and girdled about its ample waist
with a wide sash of dull oriental red. The polished face was set off by
a turban of snowy white, in whose center blazed, like a bloodshot eye,
a single enormous ruby. Everything about Ram Juna was superlativehis
size, his raiment, his rapt gaze, his doctrine.
But after all, though the Hindu occupied the position of honor in
the social stage, Norris found it hard to keep his attention fixed on
that bird of paradise, who, at best, was sure to be but a temporary
interest in these western states of America, where facts, not theories,
loom large. The new young man's eyes wandered to the audience, made up
of people like himself. The unknown catches us for an instant, but our
own kind are perennially absorbing. Since he and Dick were perched on a
deep window-sill, which brought them at right angles to the row of
chairs, he began to study the faces on this side and that.
A little in front of them a woman of thirty or more, exquisitely
dressed in summer white, pretty and complacent, leaned back in her
chair. Happening to catch Percival's eye he looked inquiry.
Mrs. Appleton, whispered that young man, and lifted his eyebrows
as if to express astonished admiration, then made a wry face. Norris
smiled his understanding and glanced back at the self-satisfied
prosperity beneath her filmy hat. Then, suddenly, at the far end of the
room, another face caught hima profile of a girl's head, outlined
against a high bench-back, her dreamy eyes fixed on the speaker. It was
a cameo-like face, not animated, but delicate and finely lined. Norris
knew her in a flash. This was the girl whose photograph had stood on
Dick's mantel at college and of whom Dick had sometimes spoken in those
rare intimate hours when he talked of his mother or of his purposes in
life. Ellery forgot the rest of the room and watched her until a sudden
forward lunge of Mrs. Appleton's hat shut her off, and brought him back
to consciousness of the place and the supposed interests of the day. He
turned back with a sigh to Ram Juna, telling himself with some
amusement that other minds than his own were wandering far afield, and
that the attitude of polite interest came as much from the conviction
that Esoteric Buddhism was the thing, as from any real absorption.
Already the Hindu had been talking to them for an hour. His speech
had that precision and purity both of word and of enunciation by which
a foreigner, trained in our classics, often shames our slovenly
every-day English. He spoke, not as one who wishes to convert others to
his own point of view, but, rather, as though unconscious of their
presence, he poured out the fullness of his meditations in
self-communion. The upward-turned eyes were half closed. Occasionally
there was a flicker of the eyelids or a touch of scorn when he
contrasted the eastern ideal of eternal repose with the western reality
of endless struggle. Then for a moment he seemed to realize the
presence of his auditors, ashamed now of their telephones, their public
schools and even of their philanthropies, in the face of this supreme
contempt for the things that fade.
Suddenly he opened wide his great eyes.
And you, he said, you, with your guns, your armies and your
ignorances, you think to rule us. Well, so be it! We grant to you
dominion as a man gives to a child the sticks and straws for which it
loudly clamors in its petty plays. But our treasures are the higher
thoughts which alone are worthy of the man. These we reserve.
The great oriental ruby above his forehead seemed to burn more
brilliantly than ever as if to shame the frivolous occidental jewels
that twinkled before it.
Yes, he went on, these gems we do not submit to force. They are
not to be ravished by blood and iron. Yet even these, our sacred
treasures, we gladly share with those who, in humility and in the life
of meditation, seek with us the universal truths. And truth, what is
it? It eludes the scalpel of reason. It is the master and not the
servant of logic. The only truths worthy to be known are those which
are to be experienced by the soul in her hours of solitude. Then does
she cease to think. Then does she cease to reason. Then does she know.
He was dogmatic and they fell under his sway. A hush deeper than
silence lay upon his audience as the Swami stood for a moment as though
lost in himself. Recalling his surroundings he spoke again.
My friends in this land, who are coming to understand with us, and
we are not numerous even in Indiathe land of inspirationmy friends,
whom you call by some long name which I have forgotten, ask me to tell
you a little of what we know concerning the order of the universe. I
will unfold. As though giving instruction in elementary arithmetic,
Swami Ram Juna began to sketch the adventures of the soul as it flies
from one existence to another. His words were vivid and definite.
At this point Dick Percival's lips began to move with the cynical
amusement of youth.
Pretty positive, isn't he, about the things no mortal knows? he
whispered to Norris.
Softly spoken though the words were, Ram Juna instantly fixed his
eyes upon the guilty youth. It was a habit of the Hindu to hear
everything that rose above the sound of a thought.
You think I speak of mysteries! he demanded, suddenly breaking his
discourse and leaning like a pine tree toward Percival. You think that
in a closet some one weaves a fantastic theory of life and lives. But
no! What have I told you? What I speak, that has my soul known, as has
many another soul. I tell of astral bodies. I have acquaintance with
them as have you with the body of the young friend who sits beside you.
I could show youeven you, whose eyes are covered with a filmI could
show you! But no! It is too petty to demonstrate by a show.
He moved a step backward and looked in a half-questioning way at the
silent group in front.
Perhaps, he murmured hesitatingly, perhaps it is by childish
methods that one must teach the child.
He muttered a few unknown words with his eyes still fixed on guilty
Dick Percival, then he turned to Mr. Early.
My kind host, he said with a courteous gesture, will you permit
that I show to the unbelieving young gentleman an astral body?
He turned and strode away toward dimness dimmer than that of the
great hall, in the direction of that wing where rooms had been assigned
him. A little rustle of pleased anticipation ran through the petticoats
of the room. Interest ceased to be perfunctory and became genuine. This
was more fun than doctrine, after all. Who wouldn't be gratified at the
chance of meeting an astral bodyat least in a crowd? Alone, in a dark
room, at midnight, it might prove less enjoyable.
Presently the Hindu returned, carrying in his hand a strangely
twisted retort and something that looked like a primitive brazier.
Look, he said, let us take some simple thing. I shall destroy the
body of flesh and show you the body of shadow. I see roses in the
strange jar yonder. You call them American beauties? Yes. Very well, I
shall show you the ghost of an American beauty. Perhaps the unbelieving
young gentleman will pluck one for me.
Dick rose, pulled one of the flowers from among its fellows and
handed it across heads to the Swami, who took it gravely.
Even this simple form of life, he explained, has its astral
existence. With seeing eyes it would be visible to you now, hidden
inside the flesh of the flower. In order to make it the plainer, I
shall destroy the body of the blossom and leave its spirit. That spirit
you shall see. Look, I lay this beautiful rose upon this metal plate
and cover it that the heat may be more intense. I consume it with the
flame until the fire devours its shape and leaves only its ashes.
A tense silence fell upon the waiting room, as Ram Juna thrust the
covered rose into the brazier. At last he lifted the cover and
displayed a little gray shapeless heap.
The rose is dead, he observed quietly. He turned now toward the
glass phial, in the bottom of which lay a few grains of pinkish dust.
Into this he poured the ashes of the burned flower. He lifted it high
in air and surveyed it.
The rose is dead, he repeated, but under the right conditions you
shall see what we may call its ghost. See. A gentle warmth. I hold it
not too close to the devouring flame. A gentle warmth.
Those at the back of the room were rising now to peer over the hats
of the more fortunate in front, but the hush remained unbroken. The
dark eyes of the Hindu were bent on the glass before him, and a
mystical smile played about his mouth.
In the bottom of the retort, in the bluish heap, began a movement,
as though something alive were striving to free itself from bonds and
rise. It heaved and struggled in the dusty mass, grew stronger, and
instead of a shapeless writhing there came an upshooting pyramid, which
gradually took upon itself form. A ghostly apparition of stem, of
leaves, of a dusky red rose, grew more and more distinct until it
glowed from its prison of glass, and Ram Juna smiled.
The rose is dead! he said for the third time.
A gasp of appreciation and awe passed through the room. The Swami
turned to Dick Percival.
That which I know, I speak, he said simply.
Then with a sudden abrupt movement he shook the phial away from the
warmth and held it up.
Now only the poor body of ashes is within, he went on. The spirit
is truly fled, until it shall find itself another incarnation, and we
say that the flower is for ever dead. What then is this death with
which we play and which plays with us? But I weary you with my too long
discourse. Give me your pardon. I shall no more.
There rose the sound of moving skirts and loosening tongues. The
spell of oriental mysticism was broken and this became but one of many
entertaining things to be chattered about in moods that varied from
credulity to amusement. The ordinary reception atmosphere took
possession, and the tinkle of animated feminine voices filled the air.
On the outskirts of the throng, which pressed forward to greet the
host and to press the fingers of the seer, lingered the two young men,
one of whom had stirred the unstirable. Norris looked vaguely around as
at unknown faces, and Dick nodded in this or that direction in that
offhand manner which invites people to keep their distance rather than
to seek further intercourse, but the woman who was handsome and thirty
refused to be held at arm's length.
How-do, Mr. Percival? Glad to see you back. You have the genius of
distinction, even in small things. How natural that the Swami should
single you out for notice and so announce your home-coming to the
Is this the world?
Our little world, Mrs. Appleton laughed; and as she spoke she
peered curiously at Norris with the air of a naturalist who needs as
many specimens of young men as possible for her collection. Dick
smiled, whether with amusement or with cordiality it would be
impossible to say.
Mrs. Appleton, may I introduce Mr. Norris, who has come here as a
new citizen. Apart from other considerations, we are grateful to
anybody that swells the census, aren't we?
So glad! she murmured. Mr. Percival must bring you to my
lawn-party next week.
But even while Norris expressed his thanks, Dick's eyes wandered,
until, with a cheerful start, he caught his companion's arm.
There she is, Ellery, he said. This way.
Norris knew in his heart that he was waiting for that summons, and
he turned and followed as Percival began a slow progress through the
crowd toward that uncompromising stiff-lined bench of the kind that Mr.
Early affected, where sat the girl like a cameo, beside a woman
somewhat older than herself.
The younger woman lifted her eyes and caught from afar the greeting
of the advancing men. That there should be no sudden illumination, no
swift blush in her nod of recognition, gave Dick a slight feeling of
irritation. He had regarded a little polite display of delight as in
some way his right. But if she was undemonstrative, she had the virtues
of her failing, for there was a certain serenity even in the broad
curve with which her hair clung to her temples, and in the over-crowded
room her smile was as refreshing as a draft from a cool spring. Both of
these women were marked by a repose of manner which distinguished them
from the eager crowd that was pushing toward the latest new apostle. It
was the elder who put out a welcoming hand.
Ah, Dick, she said, you are at home at last. How good it is to
see you! When did you come?
Last night. Mother sent me over here to-day with the promise that I
should see youand Madeline. His eyes traveled to the girl beyond.
And this, Mrs. Lenox, Miss Elton, is my good friend, Norris. You
already know that we were lovely together in college, and in life we
hope not to be divided. You'll be good to him, won't you?
In Mrs. Lenox's greeting there was that mixture of kindliness with
shrewd instant analysis that becomes a habit with women of the world,
and Norris stiffened with fresh realization that he was raw and
unaccustomed to her suave atmosphere. He would have liked to be his
best self before Percival's friends, and he felt like an oyster. Even
the gentle eyes of Miss Elton seemed to measure him. Fortunately they
thought chiefly of Dick, and when did Dick's facile tongue fail him?
Of course this would be the first spot on which to reappear. No one
but Mr. Early would dare to give a reception in July, Mrs. Lenox
And the absurd thing, Dick retorted, is that you all comeback
into town, leaving birds and watersat Mr. Early's bidding.
Yes, my respect for my sex rises when I see them so eager to
prostrate themselves before a simple seeker after truth with a turban
and a ruby. A turban and a ruby do so illuminate the search for truth!
You are a scoffer, laughed Dick. Why are you here?
Foolish one, I came to scoff. I must see all there is to be seen.
If there is an apple to be bitten, I must bite. I have floated in with
the flood and out with the ebb of almost every fad from crystal-gazing
to bridge. I always hope that one of them is going to be worth while.
But you can't call the Swami's philosophy 'a fad', objected
No, perhaps that wasn't fair. Ram Juna is really very celestial in
a ponderous kind of way, isn't he? When he talked the simple old truths
I liked him, but not in the esoteric explanations and profounder
mysteries. I have chased Mystery for more years than I shall own, and,
so far as I can see, whenever you open the door on her secret chamber,
she shuts a door on the other side and is gone into a further holy of
holies. I've come to disbelieve in those who tell me that they have
caged her at last.
That's what I say, exclaimed Dick. A man knows too much when he
tells you that Mystery is five feet three, weighs a hundred and
twenty-six pounds and eats no meat.
It's too much like a mixture of legerdemain and theology.
I always liked juggling! exclaimed Miss Elton. And I like the
ruby. See it now, gleaming over the ranks of war-paint and hats.
I believe the ruby interests you both more than the search for
truth, Dick laughed.
And well it may! Mrs. Lenox flashed back. Once it belonged to a
magnificent rajah ancestor, who hugged it to his soul, and held it too
precious to be worn by his favorite wife. But now Swami Ram Juna has
renounced the pomps and indulgences of courts and become, as I said, an
humble seeker. He, too, loves the rubynot from any vulgar love of
displaybut because to his soul it is a mystic symbol of
Adhidaivathe life-giving energy, refulgent as the sun behind dark
clouds. Isn't that a pointer for those of us who want diamonds and
things? I believe I'll ask Mr. Lenox for a symbol or two this very
You seem well-informed.
Oh, Mr. Early posted me. It's humiliating to think that perhaps he
designed that as an easy way of getting the facts spread abroad and so
preparing a way for the truth-seeker. And he also told me that they
have very good copies of the Bagavad Gita at McClelland's for a
quarter, so you may keep up with the advance guard at small expense. I
have to know things in order to keep my husband posted with
entertaining gossip. Men always want to know every little thing and
then lay the blame of gossip at the door of women.
I doubt if it is a difficult task for you to keep Mr. Lenox
amused, said Norris, smiling at her.
Moreover, added Percival, I understand that when your frivolities
cease to amuse, Mr. Lenox can divert himself by helping your father in
the building of a new little railroad or something of that kind.
True, but building new railroads, beguiling though it be, proves
more wearing to the nerves than does my conversation, so I must still
practise the art of rattling. But I needn't practise it on you, she
went on, glancing at Miss Elton under her eyelids. Now, Dick, I am
going to give you my very uncomfortable seat on this bench and let you
and Madeline talk over old times, and new times which are to be still
better. Perhaps Mr. Norris will go about with me and meet some of the
peoplebeard the western prairie-dog in his den, so to speak.
Now that is really good of you, Mrs. Lenox. You know this is the
first time Madeline and I have come together since we got through
college and have been recognized as grown up. In fact, I'm not used to
her in long dresses yet.
He glanced at the smiling girl as Mrs. Lenox nodded and turned.
How lovely Miss Elton is! exclaimed Norris as they moved away
together. Of course I've seen her picture in Dick's room, but it did
not do her justice.
Lovely, indeed! Mrs. Lenox answered heartily. You have chosen the
one word to be applied to Madeline Elton, both to her spirit and to her
facenot thrilling, perhaps, but satisfying, which is better. She and
Dick were inseparables through their childhood. It is rather a
taken-for-granted affair, you know.
I guessed as much, though Dick never said anything.
There was something so confidential and kindly in her manner that
Norris forgot his awkwardness and felt moved to confidence in return.
Dick was born to all good things, he went on. I sometimes wonder
how that feels. Then, seeing that she glanced at him inquiringly:
Dick always seems to me one who needs only to stand still, and Fortuna
takes pains to hunt him up and offer him her choicest wares. Life looks
to him more like a birthday party than like a battle-field. I say it
not in envy, but with the awe of one who has had to scrabble and who
sees endless scrabbling ahead. But I believe part of the charm that I
feel about Dick is his manifest predestination to good luck.
One piece of his luck, if I am not mistaken, is in your coming
here. There is no friend like a college friend for every-day wear, she
Well, I owe my position here to him, Norris went on. When he
found that I had an uncle back in Connecticut who owned a share in the
St. Etienne Star, he began to pull wires both at that end and this
to get me a place on the editorial staff. I'm afraid that nothing but
wires would have got it for me. So here I am making my first bow to
society under the shadow of his cloak.
Of course you came here.
What, really, is Mr. Early?
Apostle, expounder of the universe, business man, prophet.
He's our display window. The way in which he manages to keep a
little lion always roaring on the bargain-table astonishes us all every
day. And when he runs short of foreign lions he roars a bit himself.
Privately, I think he's more entertaining than the imported article.
St. Etienne would be merely a western city without him.
Now, she went on, I'm going to introduce you to some other girls.
To me, as to Dick, Miss Elton may be the bright particular star, but
she is not the only light.
So Miss Elton and Percival were left alone in the crowd.
Madeline, said the young man, does this getting through college
make you feel as though you had suddenly had your cellars taken away
and your attics left foundationless in space? The question is 'what
next?' That's what I used to ask you in the good old days when we
played mumbly-peg together. What shall we play now?
I know what I shall play. There is home, with mother enraptured to
have me at her beck and call again; and, of course, there are musical
and social 'does'. They are going to be such fun that I do not know if
I shall have room to tuck in a little study. But I suppose you must
have a harder game. Yes, you must.
And are you so contented with the dead level? I fancied you were
going to be ambitious.
She turned her head and looked out through the narrow mullioned
window beside her as though to avoid his eyes, but she answered
If I have any ambitions, they are not very imposing. Let's talk
about yours; or rather let's not talk about yours here. There are too
many people and too much Swami. We are out at the lake, at the old
summer home. Run out and dine with us to-morrow. Father is almost as
anxious to see you as I am. You know you are his chief consolation for
the fact that I am not a boy.
Thanks. May I bring Norris? Not that I'm afraid of the dark by
myself, but that I really want you to know him.
Bring him of course, Dick, she said without enthusiasm.
And now do you suppose I can get you a cup of coffee or a sherbet?
Hush, I don't know whether anything so vivid is possible. I
believe, out of deference to Ram Juna, the refreshments are light
almost to Nirvana. You can't insult a man who lives on a few grains of
rice by making him watch the herd gorge on salads and ices, can you?
And do you really believe that great mountain of flesh was built
out of little grains of rice?
Mrs. Appletonyou remember her?
She has pounced on me already. She remembers that I waltz like a
Dick, said Miss Elton scornfully, don't make the mistake of
considering yourself a plum. Mrs. Appleton told me that the Swami feeds
on dew and flaming nebulae.
Humph! said Dick, I think he's a big bronze fraud.
Oh, come, men may be great without playing foot-ball, she laughed.
Well, he's not for me. I can believe in almost any kind of a
prophet except one that works miracles.
Who knows? The Swami may be the molder of your destiny, said
Madeline gaily, with youth's lightness in referring to the vague
He may; but I'd lay long odds against it.
I must be going. Miss Elton rose. The crowd is thinning, and Mrs.
Lenox looks impressively in my direction. We are going out together on
the train. Their new country place is near us, you know. And you,
ungrateful one, I suspect, have not even spoken to Mr. Early yet. Go
and 'make your manners,' like a good boy. I'll expect you to-morrow
afternoon. Mr. Norris, Dick has promised to bring you with him to
dinner to-morrow. Till then, good-by.
Come, Ellery, we'll face the music, now that the real attractions
are gone, said Dick.
Mr. Early extended two hands, ponderous in proportion to the rest of
his body, in fatherly greeting.
Ah, Percival, my dear fellow, so you are done with Yale and back
again in St. Etienne? I welcome you out of the fetters of mere
bookishness into the freedom of real life, where it is man's business
to serve, and not to absorb.
Dick blushed guiltily as several surrounding ladies turned their
lorgnettes on him, but Mr. Early went on, undisturbed and very audible:
I do not introduce you to Swami Ram Juna, because introductions
belong to the world of conventionalities, and he lives in that world
where real human relations are the only things that count; but I put
your hand in his, in token of the contact in which your spirit may meet
his great soul.
Very good of you, I'm sure, murmured Dick, as the Swami bent his
head and gave him a penetrating look.
You, too, then, are a seeker? Ram Juna inquired in a low tone, but
with his delicate and distinct enunciation.
AhI hope so, Dick answered hastily, and with an evident desire
to push the topic no further. And this, Mr. Early, is my old chum,
Norris, who has come West to be on the editorial staff of the Star.
The Star? It is the symbol of illumination. Is then your
Star devoted to the enlightenment of mankind? asked Ram Juna,
transferring his fixed gaze.
In a senseyes, Norris faltered with a swift guilty recollection
of certain head-lines in last night's edition.
He who writes must think. He who thinks goes below the surface. He
who goes below the surface is moving toward the center, said the Swami
Mr. Early's broad face expanded into a benevolent smile, and an
oncoming instalment swept the young men away.
Does Mr. Early learn his remarks by heart? asked Norris.
I don't know. But let us be seekers. Let us seek dinner, and fresh
air. Give me fresh airanything but Nirvana!
CHAPTER II. MOTHER AND SON
To have been captain of the foot-ball team, which some student of
sociology has called the highest office in the free gift of the
American people, might seem glory enough for one life; but Richard
Percival was of such stuff that all past triumphs became dust and
ashes. He was greedy of the future. Now that the doors of college were
fairly closed, that career became to him but as a half-dreaming
condition, before one wakes.
On this summer evening, however, it was easy to prolong the dream,
since the hour was one for quiet of body and for wandering visions. The
room was large and suffused with that restfulness which comes to homes
where serene and thoughtful lives have been lived. There were long
straight lines; there was a scarcity of knickknacks; there were
pictures gathered because they were loved and not to fill a bare space
on the wall; there were books and books and books, many of them with
the worn covers of old friends. Here, clasped in the arms of another
old friend of a chair, half-sat, half-lay his mother, and near her
lounged Ellery Norris, the friend whose delicate mingling of love and
admiration was as fragrant wine to Dick, who believed in himself
because others had always believed in him. The dying twilight, laden
with rose-spiciness and with the first shrill notes of the warm night,
came in through high narrow windows. Everywhere was the sweet repose
that comes after sweet activity, and the center of it was the fragile
woman who lay back in her chair, caressing with light hand the head of
the young man who sat upon the rug and leaned against her knee.
Norris was looking at Mrs. Percival with a kind of wondering
admiration which the son saw with a touch of pity. Poor old Norris! It
must have been tough to grow up without a home. As for this fragrant
type of femininity, young Percival took it for grantedat least in the
women that belong to a man; and the other women hardly count.
Everything made Dick feel very tender toward his past, very well
satisfied with his present, very secure about his future. All would be
good. That was the natural order of the universe. He had always found
it easy to do things and to be a good deal of a personage.
He stared up silently at the space above the mantel where hung a
portrait that gazed back at him, with features pale in the fading
light. Singularly alike were the boyish face that looked up and the
boyish face that looked down, though the painted Percival, a little
idealistic about the eyes, wholly firm about the mouth, appeared the
more determined of the two. Perhaps this came from the shoulder-straps,
the blue uniform, and the military squareness of the shoulders.
Yes, you are like him, Dick. Mrs. Percival spoke to his thoughts.
The boy looked up startled.
Am I? he asked. I wish I might be. I wish I might be half so much
of a man.
And I hope you will be moreno, not that. He was my all. I can
hardly wish you to be more, but I hope you will do more.
At least you don't have a drag on you from the beginning, as he had.
Has Dick told you the story, Ellery? She turned with a gentle smile
toward the other man. You see I can't help calling you Ellery. Dick's
letters have made you partly mine already. We are not strangers at
Norris flushed and impulsively laid his firm square hand over the
slender one that was stretched upon the chair arm nearest him.
You don't know how glad I am to be yours, and to have you for
mine, he said. I never knew my mother.
You know then how Minnesota was a pioneer state, and how she sent a
fifth of her population to the war, and Dad among the first? You know
how the First Minnesota held the hill and turned the day at Gettysburg,
though few of them lived to tell of their own bravery? It makes the
lump come up in my throat even to remember it, just as it did when I
first heard the news and knew that my boy-lover was there.
There was silence a moment.
Ah, Dick, you have a young body to match your heart, Mrs. Percival
went on, but Dad, before he was twenty, carried a bullet in his side.
He had to conquer pain before he could spend strength on other things.
Dick rubbed his cheek with the mother's trembling hand.
Yes, he said soberly, it must have been harder to endure the
sufferings that clung to him and killed him at last than it would have
been to give everything in one swift sacrifice. Endurance,that's a
word I don't know, do I, mother?
No, dear, that's the word you know least; but you'll have to learn
Ellery, I guess that's where you have the advantage of me. Dick
looked up with a smile.
If I have, it's been a dour lesson, Norris answered with a wry
Well, if Dad gave his life to his country by dying, I mean to give
mine by living, Dick went on. There must be things that need doing.
More than there are men to do them, said his mother softly. You
have his spirit and his genius. You have health, too. Don't put a
bullet in your young manhood.
What do you mean, mother?
There are a thousand wounds besides those from a gun. I'm counting
on you to live his life as he would have liked to live itto be his
You mustn't expect the sun and the moon to stand still before me.
Oh, well, I dare say I'm as foolish as other mothers. Mrs.
Percival laughed as though she must do that or cry. But you were
certainly born to something, Dick. You've shown it ever since you
organized your first militia company and whipped the five-year-olds in
the next street.
And he's kept right on bossing his particular gang ever since.
Richard Dux, smiled Ellery.
The boy grinned up at them, and his mind traveled to those later
days when that leadership of his was so easily acknowledged as to be
axiomatic. He saw in panorama the stormy joys of college life with the
victories of the field. He beheld again the quieter hours when the
young men saw visions together and felt themselves called to put
shoulder to the car of righteousness, while they discussed with the
sublime self-sufficiency of inexperience the politics and sociology of
the world. The fellows all believed in him as one of those who are
destined to be prime pushers at the wheel. Perhaps he would be among
those conquerors who climb aboard and ride, forgetful of the plodding
crowd which toils at the drudgery of progress but does not taste its
glory. So many oblivions go to make one reputation.
Dick knew that power was in him. To others it showed in his
unconscious self-confidence of carriage, in his eyes that glowed, in
the electric something that compelled attraction.
But now college visions were fading into the light of common day.
The boys had gone home to be men. Success began to look not like an
aurora, but like a solid structure built of bricks that must be carried
in hods. Hods are uninspiring objects.
Dick stared at the pile of unlit logs in the fireplace and felt the
rhythmic strokes of his mother's hand upon his well-thatched head as
she watched him in sympathetic silence; but he saw the eyes of his
fellow classmen and felt their good-by hand-clasps. Again the train
thumped with monotonous rolling as it brought him ever westward and
homeward. Farm after farm, village and town, city upon city, long level
prairies that cried out of fertility, the rush and roar and chaos of
Chicago, and then more cities and rivers and hills and lakes, and now
the blessed restfulness of home and twilight. He had seen it all many
times beforetwo thousand miles of space to be covered between New
Haven and St. Etienne. On this last journey it had taken on a new
significance to his eyes,a significance which matched his dreams. It
was instinct with meaning of which he was a part.
This was his country, huge, half-formed, needing men. Its bigness
was not an accident of geography, but a pregnant fact in the
consciousness of a people as wide as itself. Thousands of redmen once
covered it, and it was then only a big place, not a great country. It
must be a mighty race who would master those miles of inert earth.
God breathed His spirit into the earth and it became a living man.
ManHis imagemust breathe the spirit into the earth and make it a
His father, with a Gettysburg bullet bruising his life, had
nevertheless played the part, and done his share toward turning a
frontier village into a noble city. With a thrill Dick saw himself
building the structure higher on its firm foundations, making it great
enough to match the wide fertile acres that lay about it, and the
dazzling Minnesota sky that hung above. So he built his castle of
achievement in the air, where his own glory lay mistily behind his
service to his fellow men. Already the thing seemed donevague and
yet, somehow, concrete.
Pooh, what is time? A mere figment of the imagination! exclaimed
Dick suddenly. Was it day before yesterday that I came home?
Forty-eight hours have put a gulf between the old and the new me.
Condensed time,just add hot water and it swells to six times its
His mother smiled indulgently at her son's vagaries of speech, and
he went on:
Moreover, I've been away four years,years of vast importance, it
seems to me. I come back and everything is going on in the same old
way. Every one is interested in the same old things. They don't seem to
think anything exciting has happened, except that the city has doubled
in size and there has been another presidential election. They aren't a
bit stirred up over me. They aren't even deeply moved because Ellery
over there is wielding an inexperienced editorial pen. Everything is
familiar, but I've forgotten it all. It's hard to pick up the threads.
More than that, boys. The threads are not all done up in a neat
bunch and handed to you as they are in New Haven. St. Etienne's point
of view is not always that of the gentleman and the scholar. Its great
men are not of the campus, but those who control the destinies of
others, sometimes by wealth, oftener by the genius of power. But, after
all, this is the real world.
Dick laughed again.
And a world after my own heart, mother.
Yes, I think you will fit in, she said with maternal complacency.
Both of you, she added with sudden remembrance.
The fitting-in on my part will have to be a process of swelling, I
guess, Norris said whimsically. Small and narrow as is the berth I
have at the Star office, I shall have to be bigger than I am
before I fill it.
Oh, you're all right. You're fundamentally all right, and that
means you'll rise to every opportunity you get. Dick's voice took on
some of the patronage of a leader for his follower. I'd bank on Ellery
Norris if the rest of the world turned sour.
Thanks, said Ellery briefly, and their eyes met in that
interchange of assurance which is the masculine American equivalent for
embrace and eternal protestation. Mrs. Percival smiled to herself,
amused yet pleased by the frank boyish affection.
What kind of a time did you have at Mr. Early's reception? she
Oh, it was a circus with three rings. In the middle ring there was
a performing hippopotamus of a Hindu. He was really a sunburst. Then in
the farthest ring there were a thousand women with big hats, all
talking at once. But in the nearest there were just Madeline and Mrs.
Lenox, and that was a good show. By Jove! Madeline is prettier than
ever, and hasn't found it out yet. That's the advantage of sending a
girl off to a women's college where there is no man to enlighten her.
Pretty! That's not the word to describe Miss Elton. She's too
simple and dignified, remonstrated Norris.
Bowled over already, are you? Dick jeered.
Ellery is quite right, Mrs. Percival interrupted. Madeline has
something Easter-lily-like about her.
You grow enthusiastic, mother.
I love her very dearly, Dick.
Norris and I are going out to see her to-morrow. We'll take the
motor, I guess.
Mrs. Percival beamed down at him and gave his head an affectionate
pat, and the son glanced up with a blandness that might easily have
become a smirk. Yet his mother's complacent satisfaction with the
inevitable irritated him. Madeline Elton might be the most admirable
combination of the virtues and the graces, but he wanted to find it out
Mrs. Percival rose with the air of one who has heard and said what
Good night, dear boy, she purred as Dick struggled to his long
legs. How good it is to have you to lean on and trust! These have been
lonely years while you were away. Now I shall leave you two to your
Dick kissed her hand and then her lips, as though to show both
reverence and love. Norris, too, stooped and kissed her hand, and the
two watched her as she moved in her slow way up the stairs. As she
disappeared, Norris turned and laid an arm over Dick's shoulder.
That's the kind of thing, Percival, that you do not wholly
appreciate unless you've gone without it. I grew up without any
atmosphere to speak of, and I've been gasping for breath all my life. I
wonder if I shall ever get a full allowance of air to live in.
As they looked, friendly eye into friendly eye, Ellery seemed to
review his own life in contrast with Dick's. Dick had background; he
had to begin everything for himself. He had earned most of his way
through college; he had earned his standing among the men as he had
earned his standing in scholarship, by dogged persistence instead of by
the right of eminent domain to which Dick was born. He had never envied
Percival's readier brain, wider popularity, more profuse fortune; but
something close to envy crept upon him now for this refinement of home,
this delicate mother-love. This was a loss not to be made good by pluck
or perseverance. Love was the gift of the gods.
CHAPTER III. AN OCCIDENTAL LUMINARY
Over next door, beyond the thick laurel hedge, on this same evening,
Mr. Sebastian Early, now that the last of his guests had withdrawn the
silken wonder of her reception skirts, was settling down to a quiet
evening with his turbaned guest.
Now Mr. Sebastian Early is far too intricate a person to be
dismissed, as Mrs. Lenox disposed of him, with a phrase and a laugh. In
early life, it is true, he had seemed a commonplace and insignificant
young man. His first appearance before the public was as the inventor
of a hook-and-eye, but his hook-and-eye had such unusual merits that it
seemed, according to the engaging pictures and verses in the
street-cars, to simplify most of the sterner problems of every-day
life. As its lineaments began to stare at passers-by from thousands of
huge bill-boards over the length and breadth of the land, dimes turned
to dollars in Mr. Early's ever-widening pockets, and for the time he
felt himself a man of distinction. Yet in these later and regenerate
days, Mr. Early sometimes had a moment's anguish as he remembered those
miles of unesthetic bill-boards, which once marred the meadows and
streams of his native land; for with a widening horizon, there had
crept upon him a rising spirit of discontent.
Perhaps it was that divine discontent, which William Morris
celebrates, that makes men yearn for higher things. Department stores
still rolled out their multitudinous cards of hooks-and-eyes, but the
person of Sebastian Early passed unnoticed in the crowd. He yearned for
fame, not for his product, but for himself, and the same ability that
led him to serve the wants of the public in hooks now drove him to
study its social demands. Like many another unfortunate, he began to
perceive that dollars alone were not enough of a key to unlock the
magic door. In this over-fed land, people with money are growing too
common. Therefore to gold one must add power and distinction, if one
would keep one's head above the herd. This must one do and not leave
the other undone.
Sebastian determined to make himself interesting. The public has a
fawning respect for fame. One or two abortive attempts convinced Mr.
Early that his literary efforts would bring him not even the
distinction of infamy. At last he hit upon an idea. He would be a
patron of the Artsnot one of your little ordinary buyers, but a man
whose purse was, so to speak, regilded by mind. He spent six months of
hard work as a student of the situation and then he made his début. He
selected a few gems of half-forgotten eighteenth century
literaturegems that deserved to be given life-preservers on that
stream of oblivion into which they were too surely being sucked. These
he brought forth in tiny volumes, wide-edged and thick-papered,
illuminated as to capitals and bound in ooze or in old brocade on which
were scattered a few decorations, calculated, so unthinkable were they,
to upset the reasoning power of the average reader, and thus prepare
him for the literary matter which he should find within.
These books naturally took. They invited no man to read, but they
were interesting to look at and therefore particularly adapted to those
occasions when one must make a small gift to a friend. Scarce a
center-table in the country but held at least one. The beauty of it was
that the literary matter cost him nothing, and the books were their own
advertising bill-boards; for wherever they went they lay in conspicuous
From books Mr. Early passed on to furniture; and he begot strange
shapes, wherein forgotten Gothic forms were commingled with forms that
never man saw before; and these also took. So the circle widened, until
glass pottery and rugs were gathered into the potpourri of Mr. Early's
Finally he established his magazine, The Aspirant, for he
began to feel the need of explaining thingschiefly himselfto his
expanding circle. The Aspirant had covers of butcher's paper;
and the necessity for self-defense at last developed in Mr. Early that
literary style which he had found it impossible to cultivate while he
still had nothing to say. He grew a peculiar ability for
self-glorification and for slugging the other man. Particularly caustic
did his pen become in respect to those, whether painters, musicians,
poets, novelists or reformers, who had endeared themselves to the great
mass of the public. The Aspirant always called the public the
rabble, and you can't damn humanity more easily and cheaply than by
calling it the rabble. Naturally every one hastened to buy Mr.
Early's furniture, his rugs and his pottery, and diligently to read
The Aspirant, in order that he or she might escape the universal
condemnation. Be outré and you'll be right; be right and you'll
be outré; be outré anyway: was the simple creed.
To those penniless celebrities to whom purchase of Mr. Early's
commodities was over-expensive, there was another way out from under.
They might visit Mr. Early's hospitable home, and so contribute their
mite to the halo of distinction that surrounded him. The great ones
came to St. Etienne. They ate and drank and were exhibited to an
admiring throng. They gave lectures, introduced from the platform by
Mr. Sebastian Early; they went away and The Aspirant chronicled
their satellite excellences. No such ex-guest need fear a blow in the
face upon its pages. All these things came before the publicmore and
more before the public every year. They kept Mr. Early's growing corps
of assistants busy, inventing new furniture and new forms of invective.
It is needless to say that the hook-and-eye was never included in
the illustrious list of Mr. Early's productions. That gentleman
frequently blessed himself in private that his first commodity had been
put upon the market as the Imperial, and not as the Bright and
Early as he had once half-resolved. Only a few knew who was
responsible for the bill-boards.
Still even his new enterprises paid. He was a good business man, and
he shared with the rabble an appetite for cold cash. Nor did the
crafty Arts exhaust either his abilities or his desires; for though he
had no wish to pose before the world in the over-done rôle of a
millionaire, still he needed money and ever more and more money. To get
it he kept his hand in many a business enterprise and his eye on many a
speculation of which the gaping world did not dream. Even his
right-hand editorial writer knew not of his left-handed dip into an
electric light company here or a paving contract there, for his left
hand had assistants too,quiet, unobtrusive, even shy,men who could
lobby a bill on the quiet, or wreck an opposing company, even though
they did not know the difference between Hafiz and chutney. And Mr.
Early's mind was of such a broad catholicity that it would be hard to
tell which side of his career he most enjoyed, the variety-show or the
Thus it will be seen that this great man, who was a credit to the
new art movement of our time, and of whom St. Etienne, a young western
city, felt justly proud, was in his usual element when he introduced to
the society, in which he was now a fixed star, a light from the Far
East. And Swami Ram Juna seemed so sure that he himself was right and
all the rest of the world was wrong, that Mr. Early felt him to be a
The impression deepened as he found himself alone with the Hindu. He
had rather dreaded the strange demands and customs that might meet him;
but the man of bronze and the snowy turban proved himself to be the
best of table companions, suave, courteous and sympathetic. He seemed
even to take a kindly interest in such matters of a day as Mr. Early's
incursions into the realms of art and literature. Through dinner they
chatted almost gaily, and afterward, while Mr. Early smoked, the Swami
joined him in the slow sipping of a liqueur.
There is a frankness of those who have nothing to hide; there is a
frankness which makes a mask for him who is, below the surface, all
mystery. As Sebastian studied his companion, he told himself that this
simple creature was after all a man, perhaps adapting himself to public
demands as any clever fellow would; and, as this thought occurred to
him, Mr. Early's benevolence increased.
You ought to write a book, he said with the air of one projecting
a novel thought. With your gift for expression, and yourahinsight
into realities, you couldn't fail to make a success of it.
It is my intention, said the Hindu.
Mr. Early looked a little taken aback, but brightened again with a
Why not do it here? he asked. Come, where could you find a more
fitting place? You have your rooms in a wing of the house all to
yourself. That gives you perfect solitude. I should be delighted to
have you for my guest while you do your work; and when you finish, I
know enough of the tricks of the trade to help you push it a bit.
Of a certainty truth is self-vigorous, and needs no tricks to keep
Ah, yes, the man of business answered cheerfully. But one may
boost it,one may boost it, my dear fellow.
The Swami bent his great head and appeared to meditate. When he
looked up, his spiritual eyes were narrowed to a speculative slit, and
he studied the face on the other side of the comfortable log fire.
My friend, you are generous. You offer me a home, and I am fain to
accept it, if I may put the offer in another form. For the present I
must return to India. Too long already have I been away from the
atmosphere which is to me life. I must see some of the brothers of my
soul. I must saturate myself with repose and with the underlyingwith
Karma. Also, in this too-vigorous country, that is unattainable. But
here, in this place, one who is filled with the message might give it
forth to his brothersor perhaps to the sisters, who appear the more
anxious for it. Here the very energy of the air says 'give' rather than
'grow'. If I might a yearsix months henceaccept your hospitality?
He looked tentatively at Mr. Early.
My home is yours. Do what you like with it, said Mr. Early
benignly. He was thinking how well a picturesque cut of the Hindu's
head would look on the covers of The Aspirant, combined with a
judicious puff within.
The Swami smiled serenely.
I observe, he went on in his delicate voice, that the wing on the
ground floor, in which you have given me room, has two apartments,
divided by a little passage, and that the little passage gives not upon
the public highway, but upon a garden, quiet and lovely, that faces the
sun and is shut in by brick walls and hedges. The farther one of these
rooms is bare and but slightly furnished, though my bedroom is
sumptuous like that of a maha-rajah. Still the bare small room pleases
me best. If I might have this room when I come again! If I might keep
the bare room sacred to my meditations, all unentered save by myself!
It means to me much that no alien mind, no soul of a common servant,
should mar the serenity of the atmosphere in that spot where I sit
alone with myself. I would have it dedicated to the greater Me. It
would be the cap-sheafdo you not so say in this land of great
harvests?thus to give shelter not only to my body, but to my soul, in
this bare and quiet little room.
Why, certainly, certainly! Mr. Early could not help thinking that
a guest who spent most of his time alone in an empty room would prove
no great tax upon his entertainer.
I thank you, said Ram Juna, rising and making a salaam of curious
dignity and courtesy. You bid me lecture. You bid me write and
instruct in the sacred truths. That will I do when I come again; and my
consolation shall be the unblemished hours when I sit alone in the
little room which faces the sun. You comprehend me? You understand?
And Mr. Early, who never, if he could help it, spent a half-hour in
either solitude or idleness, answered again:
Why, certainly, certainly.
In some months, then, I may return, noble friend. And now I will
bid you farewell until the dawn.
The Swami, with marvelous lightness of foot in spite of his huge
body, made off for his own domain. If Mr. Early, who now sat and yawned
alone by the dying fire, could have peeped in on the excellent Ram
Juna, he would have been much gratified by the evident satisfaction
with which the Oriental surveyed the quarters which were one day to be
his. The Swami strode at once across the bedroom, across the little
passage that opened into the garden, into the unused room beyond. Here
with a swift thrust he turned on the electric light, then moved from
window to window, opened them, examined the heavy wooden shutters which
he closed and unclosed, craning his bull-neck through the opened
sashes. Around and under each piece of furniture he peered, nodding and
smiling his approbation of everything. As he came out, he paused for
some moments to examine the lock on the door.
Quite inadequate, quite inadequate, he muttered with a frown. We
must do better than that.
He stood and thought a moment, then put out the light, stepped to
the garden door and disappeared into the night.
With so light a tread did he come back that Mr. Early, should he
have been listening, could have heard no warning footstep to tell him
that his guest was returning.
Back in his own bedroom, Ram Juna peeped into the luxurious
bath-room with placid delight.
So much water, so easily hot, he said. It is admirable. All is
admirable. He sank in a heap, cross-legged, in the middle of the
floor, with large hands folded over his stomach, and large eyes
narrowed, while a kindly smile spread over his face, and his head
nodded at rhythmic intervals, for all the world like a benevolent
Buddha. The ruby glowed and sparkled like a living thing in the light
and movement; and thus he sat for some hours.
CHAPTER IV. AT MADELINE'S
Now, said Richard Percival, as he and Norris stowed themselves
away in his automobile, we shall leave the city, in which are
contained how many loves and struggles and silk umbrellas at reasonable
prices, and go to the lake where there is no civilization to bother and
distract. The lake is 'The Lake' par excellence to St. Etienne.
It was created by Providence for summer homes. Therefore it was placed
only ten miles from the Falls. Providence was a good business woman.
Generations of savages lived and diedchiefly diedhere. They came
where the Father of Waters roared and tumbled and they made their
prayers to the Great Spirit, but the sight never suggested to them a
great city. Then came the Anglo-Saxon, whatever he is, and harnessed
the power of the river, and built ugly gray mills, dusty with flour,
and turned his log huts into houses of brick and stone, and erected
saloons and department stores. And when he had worked like Dædalusand
you've probably forgotten who Dædalus was, now that you have been a few
weeks out of collegewhen he had worked like Dædalus, I say, and got
the hardest of it done, he began to look at something besides the Falls
and to pine for means of dalliance. Behold then at his hand, Lake
Imnijaska! And now Madeline Elton is the best thing on its shore. Gee
up, old motor!
They sped along and Dick took up the tale. He was used to talking
while Norris listened and appreciated.
Evidently you don't know who Dædalus was or you would have answered
back. What kind of an omniscient editor are you going to make, think
you? Never mind, Dædalus is dead; and, anyway, Edison has beaten him by
The lake, as I was saying, twists and turns so that it gets in more
shore to the square inch than any other known sheet of water. Therefore
the real-estate dealer loves it. And if you elevate your longshore nose
and sniff at our lake because no salt codfish dry upon smelly wharves
and no sea anemones or crabs appear and disappear with the tides, then
will the entire population of St. Etienne rise and howl anathemas at
you. They will run you out of town on the Chicago Express, and as you
fly for your life they will shriek after you, 'Well, anyway, we feed
the world with flour!' Yes, sir, that is the way we Westerners argue.
Dick halted at the top of the hill up which the faithful motor had
coughed, and the two looked down on the shimmering blue that stretched
below them with arms of broken opals sprawling for miles, now here, now
there. Long tortuous passages opened out anew into ever more bays, as
though the water were greedy to explore. Around it rolled the woodland
in billows of intense green with sandy beaches in the troughs and
straight cliffs at the crests. The green islands were vivid in color.
So was the sky above, like the flash in a sapphire. A half-dozen sails
fluttered gull-like, and as many launches darted along, suggesting
living water creatures.
By Jove! Ellery exclaimed, moving uneasily. When you sniff this
air it makes you want to stand on tiptoe on a hilltop and shout. And
when you look at these colors, they are too brilliant to be true.
Even you, you old conservative slow-poking duffer! cried Dick.
This is the land to wake you up. It calls 'harderharder!'
It's a different kind of beauty from what I'm used to. Ellery
sobered down again. I've been trying to analyze it ever since I came
West. It wouldn't appeal to the tired or the world-weary. Its charm is
for the vigorous and the confident and the hopefulfor the young.
For us, my boy, Dick said.
At Madeline's, as Dick called it, with that obliviousness of the
older generation shown by the younger, Norris felt as they entered, as
he had felt at Mrs. Percival's, that he was in a candid, human, refined
home, with a full appreciation of the finer sides of life. They passed
through the drawing-room and by long glass doors to the broad piazza,
with every invitation to laziness, easy chairs, cushions, magazines,
all made fragrant by a huge jar of roses and another of sweet peas. And
there was not too much. The veranda in turn gave upon a wide expanse of
green that stretched steeply down to that cool wet line where the
lapping waters met the lawn. The trees whispered softly around. Every
prospect was pleasing, and only man was vile; for there was another
man, sitting in the most comfortable of chairs and engaging Madeline
all to himself, as he contentedly sipped the cup of tea that he had
taken from her hand. This other man, whose name was Davison, was making
himself agreeable after the fashion of his kind, a fashion quite
familiar to every girl who has been so unfortunate as to get a
reputation, however little deserved, for superior brains.
Afternoon, he said, I didn't suppose any other fellows except
myself were brave enough, to call on Miss Elton. I hear she's so
awfully clever, you know. Taken degrees and all that sort of thing.
Give you my word it comes out in everything around her. Why, this very
napkin she gave me has a Greek border. Everything has to be classic
Not everything, Mr. Davison, said Madeline indulgently. You know
I am delighted to have you here. She turned abruptly to the new-comers
as though she had already had a surfeit of this subject. It is a
pleasant thing to have had a good education, but one does not care to
spend one's time thinking about it, any more than about how much money
there is in one's pocket.
You had a fine ride out? Madeline asked.
Great! answered Dick. To be young, on a summer day, seated in a
good motor with a thoroughly tamed and domesticated gasoline engine,
and to be coming to see youwhat more could we ask of the gods?
You see Percival feels that he must lard the gods into his
intercourse with you, Miss Elton, Mr. Davison interjected.
That's because the gods have become nice homey things, retorted
Dick. Even in the West we couldn't keep house without Dionysius
assisted by Hebe to superintend our afternoon teas, and Hercules as a
patron of baseball.
Madeline laughed and cast a grateful look in his direction.
You see how pleasant it is to feel familiar with the gods so that
you can use them freely, she said.
So you don't think it's necessary, in order to be clever, to
despise everything that's done nowadays, because the Greeks used up all
the ideas first? asked Davison.
Not at all. Nature conducts a vast renovating and cleaning
establishment, and whenever any old ideas look the least bit frayed or
soiled around the edges, pop, in they go, and come out French
dry-cleaned and as fresh as ever. They're sent home in a spick-span box
and you couldn't tell 'em from new.
If we don't get anything new I hope that we, at least, get rid of
some of the old thingsfears and superstitions, said Madeline.
Things that are holy rites in one age are so apt to be holy frights in
Say, did you ever go down the streets of Boston and notice the
number of signs of palmists and astrologers and vacuum cures?
exclaimed Davison. But perhaps it ain't fair to take Boston for a
Ellery, a true New Englander, stared at him in astonishment, as one
who heard sacred things lightly spoken of.
Most of us can see how funny we are, Davison pursued.
Can we? murmured Dick.
But Boston, he went on calmly, has lost her sense of humor. She
peers down at everything she does and says, 'This is very serious.'
That's why she takes astrologers in earnest. They're in Boston. Anyway,
I think you were mighty sensible to come back to us, Miss Elton, rather
than to stay in the unmarried state, alias Massachusetts. A girl really
has a much better chance in the West.
Yes, that's where Miss Elton showed a long head, said Dick with
But really now, joking apart, Davison went on, having made his
opening, don't you think it's unsettling to a girl to do too much
I hope you are not deeply agitated over the eradication of
womanliness, Madeline remonstrated. Really, Mr. Davison, it isn't an
easy thing to stop being a womanwhen you happen to be born one.
But there are plenty of unwomanly women, he objected.
That's true, she answered, but I believe womanliness is
killedwhen it is killednot through the brain, but through the
heart. It's not knowledge, but hard-heartedness that makes the
She glanced up and met Norris' eyes. It was not easy for him to join
in the chatter of the others, but he was thinking how she illuminated
her own words. Manifestly she was not lacking in mind, and quite as
evidently her brain was only the antechamber of her nature. She gave
him the impression of the heart at leisure from itself. There was the
unconsciousness of sheltered girlhood, but already, in bud, the
suggestion of that big type of woman who, as years mellow her, touches
with sympathy every life with which she comes in contact. What she now
was, promised more in the future, as though Fate said, I'm not through
with her yet. I've plenty in reserve to go to her making.
Intelligence, said Dick pompously, is the tree of life in man,
and the flower in womanand one does not presume to criticize
Mr. Davison changed his method of attack.
Oh, of course I'm up against it, he said, with you three fresh
from the academic halls. But I can tell you you'll feel pretty lonely
out here. The street-car conductors don't talk Sanskrit in the West.
They talk Swede.
Oh, this,this is home! cried Madeline, springing up as if to
shake off the conversation. You don't know how I love it! It's fresh
and vigorous and its face is forward. She flung out her arms and
smiled radiantly down on the three young men, as though she were an
embodiment of the ozone of the Northwest.
Sing to us, please, Madeline, said Dick.
Very well, I will, she said. I'll sing you a song I made myself
yesterday, when I was happy because I was at home again. Perhaps it
will tell you how I feel, for it's a song of Minnesota. She turned and
nodded to Mr. Davison, and then slipped through the doors to the room
where the piano stood.
The long shadows of afternoon lay across the lawn, and the grass,
more green than ever in the level light, clasped the dazzling blue of
the quiet waters. The three men stretched themselves in their easy
chairs, as a stroked kitten stretches itself, with a lounging abandon
which is forbidden to their sisters, as Madeline's voice rose fresh and
true and touched with the joy of youth.
Ho, west wind off the prairie;
Ho, north wind off the pine;
Ho, myriad azure lakes, hill-clasped,
Like cups of living wine;
Ho, mighty river rolling;
Ho, fallow, field and fen;
By a thousand voices nature calls,
To fire the hearts of men.
Ho, fragrance of the wheat-fields;
Ho, garnered hoards of flax;
Ho, whirling millwheel, 'neath the falls;
Ho, woodman's ringing ax.
Man blends his voice with nature's,
And the great chorus swells.
He adds the notes of home and love
To the tale the forest tells.
Oh, young blood of the nation;
Oh, hope in a world of need;
The traditions of the fathers
Still be our vital seed.
Thy newer daughters of the West,
Columbia, mother mine,
Still hold to the simple virtues
Of field and stream and pine.
The song stopped abruptly, and Dick sprang to his feet.
Good, Madeline! he exclaimed. You make me feel how great it is to
be part of it.
Do I? she said. I thought of you when I wrote it. Oh, here come
father and mother back from their drive.
Mr. Davison rose hastily.
I'd no idea it was so late, he said. I must be going. Miss Elton,
I didn't mean a word of all that about your being so clever. You're all
Thanks for the tribute, Madeline smiled as he disappeared down the
drive. Dick, I wish you'd always be on hand when he comes. He makes my
brain feel like a woolly dog.
Rummy chap, said Norris.
The older people came in to greet the boy they had known all his
life, to ask the innumerable usual questions, to say the inevitable
things through dinner.
Afterwards, when the last fragments of sunset burned through and
across the water, they gathered on the piazza. It was that dreamy hour
when women find it easy to be silent and men to talk. Madeline and her
mother sat close, with hands restfully clasped in their joy at being
together. Mr. Elton eyed the two young men from his vantage of years of
shrewd wisdom. Both the boys were clean-shaven, after the manner of the
day, a fashion that seems to become clean manliness, vigorous and
self-controlled. Both were good to look at; but here the resemblance
ended, for Dick's long slender face and body lithe with its athletic
training, was alive and restless, as though he found it difficult to
keep back his passion for activity; Ellery, big but loosely joined, had
the dogged look of one that held some of his energy in reserve. A good
pair, Mr. Elton concluded, and felt a sudden spasm of longing for a
sonnot that he would have exchanged Madeline for any trousered biped
that walked, but it would be a great thing to own one such well of
young masculine vigor as these.
It's going to be great fun for us old fellows to sit back and watch
you young ones, the elder man ejaculated. There are several
good-sized jobs waiting for you.
That's a good thing, said Dick. When there's nothing to do,
nobody'll do it.
And it will be a tame sort of a world, eh? Well, thank the Lord,
it's none of our responsibility any longer. You've got to tackle it.
The new phases of things are too much for me, with a brain solidified
You might at least help us by stating the problem, said Norris.
You see, it's like this. Until a few years ago every census map of
the United States was seamed by a long line marked 'frontier.' That
line is gone. That's the situation in a nutshell. Our work, the
subjugation of the land, is about done, and the question is now up to
you; what are you going to do with it? You know the old story of the
man who said he had a horse who could run a mile in two-forty. And the
other fellow asked, 'What are you going to do when you get there?'
We've done the running and our children are there. Now what? You must
develop a whole set of new talentsnot trotting talents, but staying
I suppose, said Norris slowly, for Dick was silent, circumstances
bring out abilities. That's the law that operated in the case of the
older generation, and we'll have to trust to it in ours.
That's true. But I sometimes wonder if, after all, we are helping
you to the best preparation. We send you back to get the old education.
The tendency of old communities is to rehash the traditions until they
become authority. New communities have to face problems for themselves
and solve them by new ways. The first kind of training makes scholars.
The second brings out genius. The old makes men think over the thoughts
of others. Heaven knows we need men who will think for themselves!
Well, 'old and young are fellows', said Dick. To-day grows out of
Yes, if it grows. The growing is the point. It mustn't molder on
yesterday. You must have enough books to get your thinkers going, but
not more. You must not feast on libraries until you get intellectual
gout and have to tickle your palate with dainties. A good deal of stuff
that's written nowadays seems to me like literary cocktails,something
to stir a jaded appetite. That's my friend Early's specialtyto serve
literary cocktails. But the appetite you bolster up isn't the
equivalent of a good healthy hunger after a day out-of-doors.
When nature wants a genius, I suppose she has to use fresh seed,
And genius is creative, Mr. Elton went on. So far, the genius
this country has developed is that which takes the raw material of
forest and river and creates civilization. And let me tell you that's a
very different job from heaping up population.
Silence fell on the little group and they became suddenly aware of
lapping waters and the sleepy twitter of birds, and even of a long
slender thread of pale light that struck across the lake from a
low-lying star. Madeline gave a little sigh and pressed her mother's
Dick flushed and hesitated in the darkness, with youth's confidence
in its own great purposes and youth's craving for sympathy in its
ambitions. Mr. Elton's combination of kindness and shrewdness seemed to
draw him out.
It sounds impertinent and conceited for a young fellow like me to
talk about what he means to do.
Fire away. I knew your father, Dick.
Then you'll know what I mean when I say that it has always been my
ambition to live up to his traditionshis ideal of a man's public
Mr. Elton nodded and Dick went on, while Ellery eyed him with some
of the old college respect, and Madeline leaned eagerly forward.
I don't mean any splurge, you understand, but the same quiet
service he gave. Father left his affairs in such good order that there
isn't any real necessity for me to try to add to my income. Of course,
it isn't a great fortune, but it's more than enough; and my ambitions
don't lie that way. There's a certain amount of business in taking care
of it as it stands. Mother is glad to turn the burden of it over to me.
She's done noblydear little womanbut
I understand. It's a man's business.
Yes, said Dick, with the simple masculine superiority of four and
twenty. That's enough of a background for life, you see; but I long
since made up my mind that public affairsaffairs that concern the
whole communityare to be my real interest.
So you're going into politics, Dick? said the older man slowly.
Well, not to scramble for office, Percival answered with a flush.
We fellows have been well-enough taught, haven't we, Ellery? to know
that it is rather an ugly messI mean municipal affairs in this
country. The local situation, here in St. Etienne, I have yet to study;
and I don't mean to lose any time in beginning.
Mr. Elton made no reply for a moment, and when he spoke there was an
unpleasant cynicism in his voice that galled Dick's pride.
The young reformer! Well, I suppose a decent man with a little
ability could do something here, if he knew what he was going to do.
It's a good thing to get on your sea-legs before you try to command a
Father! Madeline cried out, unable to contain herself. Don't you
be a horrid wet blanket!
The three looked at her to see her face aglow with the lovely
feminine belief in masculinity that also belongs to the early twenties.
That's all right, said the elder Elton unemotionally. I wasn't
wet-blanketingI know things are needed. There's plenty of corruption
wanting to be buried, and most of us are content to hold our noses and
let it lie. Or perhaps we give an exclamation of disgust when it is
served up in the newspapers. Reform if you must, but don't reform all
day and Sundays too; and build your cellars before you begin your
Then he went on a shade more heartily: It's a mighty good thing for
some of you young fellows to be going into politics; perhaps that's the
chief work for the next generation. And Norriswhat of you?
Ellery started. It had been a silent evening for him, but his
silence had glowed with interest, not so much in the conversation as in
his own thoughts. Two things had forced themselves home,the first
when he looked down on that expanse of vivid water, vivid sky, vivid
green. Here a man, even a young man, might waken to all his faculties
and make something of life. He need not plod dully through years, to
reach success only when he is old and tired. The landscape poured like
wine into Ellery Norris' veins.
And now here was the other side. He had watched with fascination the
restfulness of Miss Elton's hands, the one that held her mother's, the
one that lay quietly in her lap. He watched her steady eyes that kept
upon her father and Dick as they talked. He saw her face glow with
sympathy and interest and yet remain calm, as if secure in the goodness
of the world; and he told himself that he was glad this wonderful thing
belonged to Dick. Dick's restlessness would be held in leash, as it
were, by this steadfastness.
Once she half turned as though she felt his scrutiny, and queer
pains darted through his body when her eyes met his.
Now when Mr. Elton attacked him, he came back from his far-away
excursion with a sense of surprise that there was a present, but he
Oh, I'm not a very important person. I'm just beginning to learn
the trade of a newspaper man, and I'm afraid I shan't be able to think
about much but city news and bread and butter for the next few years.
No telling what may happen, with his Honor, the mayor here, backed
up by the power of the press. We'll make St. Etienne a model city in
the sight of gods and men, eh, boys? said Mr. Elton good-humoredly,
but rising as if to cut short the conversation.
Can't we take a walk before Ellery and I go back to town? asked
Go, you kid things. I haven't seen the evening paper yet, and
that's more to my old brain than moonlight strolls. Mr. Elton
The three young people set out upon a path that twisted by the lake
shore, bordered on its inner side by trees that had become in the
darkness mere shapeless masses out of which an occasional mysterious
thread of light brought into sight some uncanny shape. The purple of
the evening zenith had sunk into deeper and deeper blue, pricked here
and there with stars. Bats were wheeling in mysterious circles among
the tree-tops, and the air was full of sounds that seem to come only at
Isn't it strange that though every one of those trees is an old
friend, I should be frightened at the very idea of being alone among
them at night? And yet there's nothing in the dark that isn't in the
day, said Madeline.
Oh, yes, there is, Dick rejoined. There's more being afraid in
She laughed and they went on in silence.
Who's been building a new house, just on the very spot I always
meant to own some dayright here next to your father? Dick demanded,
Oh, you haven't seen that, have you? said Madeline. Let's sit
down on this log and look at the stars. That's Mr. Lenox's new house;
and I'm so sorry for them!
Why grieve for the prosperous? Reserve your tears for the
Why, you know, in town, they live with Mr. Windsor, who is Mrs.
Lenox's father, and he's a multimillionaire; and it's a great
establishment; and the world is necessarily very much with them. So
when Mr. Lenox proposed that they should build a country house of their
own and spend their summers here, I think he wanted to get out to some
primitive simplicity, where the children could go barefoot if they
wanted to. But as soon as it was suggested, Mr. Windsor presented his
daughter with a big tract, and insisted on building this great palace,
and they have to keep so many servants that Mr. Lenox says it is a
regular Swedish boarding-house. And there are so many guest-rooms that
it would be a shame not to have them occupied; and extra people run out
in their motors every day; and the children have to be kept immaculate
all the time. So they've brought the world out with them. Mr. Lenox has
to dress for dinner, instead of putting on old slippers and going out
to weed the strawberry-bed, which is what he would like to do when he
gets out on the evening train.
Poor things, in bondage to their house! said Norris, and they all
looked solemnly at the multitude of lights shining through the trees.
There are ever so many disadvantages about being among the few very
rich people in a western town, where most of your friends aren't
opulent, Madeline went on. When Mrs. Lenox makes a call, she has to
wait while the woman changes her dress. And nobody says to her, 'Oh, do
stay to lunch,' when they've nothing but oysters or beefsteak, but they
wait till they get in an extra chef and then send her a formal
invitation. I believe ours is one of the half-dozen houses where people
don't pretend to be something quite different from what they are when
Mrs. Lenox appears. And yet she's the most simple-minded and genuine
person, and would rather have beefsteak and friendship than paté de
fois gras and good gowns any day.
Poor things! said Dick again.
I think they are out on the terrace now. Would you like to go over
and see them? Madeline asked.
No, thank you, said Dick politely. We won't make their life any
more complicated. Besides, I prefer the society of you and the stars to
that of the miserable too-rich. And they are not alone.
Of course not. They never are. But Mrs. Lenox said yesterday that
late this fall, when every one else has gone into winter quarters, she
is going to ask you and me and perhaps one or two others to visit her;
and we'll have a serene and lovely time.
Do you think that there is any hope that they will have lost part
of their money by that time? asked Dick.
Father says Mr. Windsor has forgotten how to lose money, and of
course Mr. Windsor and Mr. Lenox are all one.
I must see to it that I don't marry a millionaire's daughter, said
CHAPTER V. SALAD DAYS
The most desirable thing in life is to have the sense of doing your
duty without the trouble of doing it. Therefore days of preparation are
always delicious days. There is the mingling of repose with all the
joys of activity. To be planning to do things has in it more of triumph
than the actual doing. It carries the irradiating light of hope and
purpose, without the petty pin-prick of detail which comes when reality
Dick's first summer at home was a period of delight. He absorbed
ideas and so felt that he was doing something in this city of his birth
which now, in his manhood, came back to him as something new and
strange. The weeks drifted by and he seemed to drift with them, though
both mind and body were alert. All the things he learned and all the
things he meant to do were tripled and quadrupled in interest when he
passed them on to his two counselors-in-chief, Norris, solid and
appreciative, Madeline, even more believing and more sympathizing, but
glorified by that charm of sex which gilds even trifling contact of man
and maid, making her friendship not only gilt but gold.
So he spent his days in prowling about and meeting all sorts and
conditions of men, while Ellery slaved in a dirty and noisy office; but
when Saturday came and the Star went to press at three, Norris,
with the blissful knowledge that there was no Sunday edition, would
meet Percival, stocked with a week's accumulation of experiences. In
the hearts of both would be deep rejoicing as, at week-end after
week-end, they stowed themselves in Dick's motor and betook themselves
lakeward, nominally to go to the Country Club and play golf, but with
the subconsciousness for both that the lake meant Madeline.
There were, to be sure, other people, girls agreeable, pretty and
edifying, men of their own type and age, older men who did less sport
and more business, but all of these were neither more nor less than a
many-colored background to the little three-cornered intimacy which, as
Dick said, was the real thing.
It came to be understood that the three should spend their Sunday
afternoons together, not on the cool piazza, where intrusion in its
myriad forms might come upon them, but off somewhere, either on the
bosom of the waters or on the bosom of the good green earth, who
whispers her secret of eternal vitality to every one that lays an ear
close to her heart.
The season was like the placid hour before the world wakes to its
daily comedy and tragedy; and yet, with all its superficial serenity,
this summer carried certain undercurrents of emotion that hardly rose
to the dignity of discontent, but which, nevertheless, troubled the
still waters of the soul. At first Madeline half resented the continual
presence of Norris at these sacred conclaves. He seemed so much an
outsider. Dick she had known all her life and she could talk to him
with perfect freedom, but his friend often sat silent during their
chatter, as though he were an onlooker before whom spontaneity was
impossible. Yet as Sunday after Sunday the two young men strode up
together, she grew to accept Ellery. First he became inoffensive; then
she became aware that his eyes spoke when his lips were dumb; and
finally, when words did come, they were the words of a friend who
understood moods and tenses. In some ways it was a comfort to have this
buffer between her and Dick. It helped to prolong the period of
Dick never spoke of love, but the way was pointed not only by the
easy restfulness of their comradeship, but in the very atmosphere that
surrounded them. She read it half-consciously in the looks of father
and mother as they met and accepted Dick's intimacy in the house, in
the warmth of Mrs. Percival's motherly affection when Madeline ran in
for one of her frequent calls. Life was full of it, like the gentle
half-warmth that comes before the sun has quite peeped over the horizon
on a summer morning; and it was well that this dawn to their day should
be a long one. Madeline had been away the greater part of four years,
and she was now in no hurry to cut short her reunion with the old home
life. Dick, too, had his beginnings to make, man-fashion, and they
ought to be made before he took on himself the full life of a man. So
she was happily content to drift, conscious in a vague dreamy way that
the drift was in the right direction, feeling the situation without
analyzing it. It was a condition of affairs like Madeline herself,
gently affectionate, but not passionate or deeply emotional. She was
not of the type of women who rise up and control destiny.
Norris, for all his passive exterior, had undercurrents that were
fervid and powerful, and this first summer in the West, unruffled on
its surface, stirred them and sent his life whirling along their
irresistible streams. He never lost the sense that he was an outsider,
admitted on sufferance to see the happiness of others and allowed to
pick up their crumbs. If hard work, oblivion and lovelessness were to
be his lot, the hardest of these was lovelessness. Much as he loved
Dick he continually resented that young man's careless acceptance of
the good things of life, and most of all did his irritation grow at
Percival's way of taking Madeline for granted, enjoying her beauty, her
sympathy, the grace that she threw over everything, and yet, thought
Ellery, never half appreciating them. He himself bowed before them with
an adoration that was framed in anguish because these things were, and
were not for him. More and more cruel grew the knowledge that the
currents of his life were gall and wormwood, flowing through wastes of
Yet, along with the new grief came a new awakening, at first dimly
felt by Madeline alone, then read with greater and greater clearness.
But of all undercurrents, Dick, prime mover and chief talker,
remained unconscious, absorbed in his own dawning career, delighting in
his two friends chiefly as hearers and sympathizers with his
So it happened that one August afternoon, when it was late enough
for the sun to have lost its fury, a not too strenuous breeze drove
their tiny yacht through a channel which stretched enticingly between a
wooded island and the jutting mainland.
Let's land there, Madeline exclaimed suddenly. It looks like a
She pointed toward a stretch of beach caught between the arms of
trees that came to the very water's edge, and enshrined in a great wild
grape-vine that had climbed from branch to branch until it made a
Dick turned sharply inward and ran their prow into the twittering
Thou speakest and it is thy servant's place to obey, he said.
How does it feel to keep slaves? I've often wondered, Ellery said
as he jumped ashore and Dick began tossing him rugs and cushions.
Very comfy, thank you, and not at all un-Christian, she answered
saucily. Dick, don't throw the supper basket, under penalty of
liquidating the sandwiches. I think there's a freezer of ice-cream
under the deck, if you'll pull it out. Now, are you ready for me?
She stepped lightly forward under Dick's guidance, took Ellery's
outstretched hands and sprang to the shore, where a kind of throne was
built for her against a prostrate log,all this help not because it
was necessary, but as the appropriate pomp of royalty.
I suspect, said Dick, looking about him with great satisfaction,
that this was a favorite picnic place for Gitche Manito and Hiawatha,
in the morning of days.
That shows how nature can forget, Madeline retorted. Surely you
know the real story, Dick.
I don't, said Ellery. Tell it to me.
She snuggled comfortably down into her rugs.
In early days, which is the western equivalent for 'once upon a
time,' a furious storm raged down the lake and tore the water into long
ribbons of purple and green. A beautiful girl stood, perhaps on this
very spot, with a savage who had rescued her from a sinking canoe and
brought her here, dripping but safe. Over there on the mainland her
father came running out of the woods in an agony of fear. He saw her
here, saw her signals, but the shriek of the storm and the roar of the
waters drowned out the words that she frantically screamed toward him.
He saw her point to the Indian, who was always feared, always counted
treacherous, and his dread of the hurricane changed to terror of the
savage. He raised his rifle and the girl's deliverer dropped dead at
Then fifty years went by, and this became a bower for the eating of
sandwiches, added Dick.
Norris was lying on his back and staring through the tangle of grape
and maple leaves at the flecks of blue beyond.
That's a noble story, he said. I didn't suppose this new land had
any legends. It all gives me the impression of being just old enough to
Isn't that the conceit of the Anglo-Saxon? He calls this a new land
because he's lived here only about a half-century. Things did happen
before you were born, my dear boy, said Dick.
Indeed! What things? Norris asked placidly.
Suppose you enlarge your mind by looking up the stories of the old
coureurs du bois who used to stumble through these woods when they
were the border-land between Chippewa and Sioux. Dick threw a pebble
at Norris' face. Suppose you go up to that inky stream in the north,
which twists mysteriously through the forests, black with the bodies of
dead men rotting in its mire. I don't wonder they thought the rough
life more fascinating than kings and courts. I'd like to have seen
sun-dances and maiden-tests; I'd like to have eaten food strange enough
to be picturesque, and to have found new streams and traced them to
their sources, and to have come unexpectedly on new lakes, like
amethysts. It's as much fun to discover as to invent. And then the
Jesuit fathers, half-tramp, half-martyr,they were great old fellows.
And the Frenchmanwhere is he? said Madeline. Gone, and left a
few names for the Swede and the American to mispronounce; but you may
come down later, Mr. Norris, and find how law and order, in our own
people, fought with savagery out here on the frontier. It's a thrilling
You love it all and its legends, don't you? Ellery looked from one
to the other.
Don't you? Madeline asked.
By Jove, I do! he cried, sitting suddenly upright as though
stirred with genuine feeling. I love it without its legends. It does
not seem to me to have any past. It is all future. It makes me feel all
Do you know what's happened to you? Dick laughed exultantly.
Gitche Manito the Mighty has got youthe spirit of the Westwhich,
being interpreted, is Ozone.
Something has got me, I admit, Norris cried. What is it? What is
it that makes the sky so dazzling? What is it that makes the leaves
fairly radiate light? What is it that, every time you take a breath,
makes the air freshen you down to your toes? I feel younger than I ever
did before in all my life.
The other two were looking at him.
Well, our height above the sea-level Dick began.
Oh, rot! Ellery exclaimed. It's something more than airit's
atmosphere. You feel here that it's glorious to work.
You make me proud of you, old boy.
It's funny how universally you fellows call me 'old boy'. I suppose
I was older than the rest of you. I had to take the responsibility for
my own life too soon and it took out of me that assurance that most of
you hadthat complacent confidence that things would somehow manage
themselves. But I'm getting even now. I'm appreciating being young,
which most men don't.
Bully for you! Dick cried. If you couldn't be born a Westerner,
you are born again one. I am moved to tell you something that gave me a
small glow yesterday. I met Lewisthe editor of the Star, you
know, Madelineand he insisted on stopping me and congratulating me on
having brought Mr. Norris to St. Etienne; said he was irritated at
first by having a man forced on him by influence, when there was really
no particular place for him, but, he went on, 'Mr. Norris is rapidly
making his own place. We think him a real acquisition.'
Oh, pooh! Norris lapsed sulkily into his usual quiet manner. Of
course I can write better than I can talk. My thoughts are just slow
enough, I guess, to keep up with a pen.
Dick laughed softly as though he were pleased at things he did not
tell. Madeline, for the first time, gave her real attention to Mr.
Norris, whom she had not hitherto thought worth dwelling onat least
when Dick was about. Never before had this young man talked about
A silence fell.
Was that a wood-thrush? Norris asked, manifestly grasping at a
change of subject.
I don't know, and I don't intend to know, Madeline cried, with
such unusual viciousness that the two men stared. Poor birds! she
said. I've nothing against them, but I'm in rebellion against the bird
fad. I'm so tired of meeting people and having them start in with a
gushing, 'Oh, how-de-do! Only fancy, I have just seen a scarlet
tanager!' and you know they haven't, and they wouldn't care anyway, and
their mother may be dying.
Ellery laughed, and Dick said:
Well, what are you going to do about it?
I'm going to invent a fad of my own.
Let us in on the ground floor.
If you like. I'm learning the notes of the wind in the tree-tops.
It has such variety! No two trees sound alike. Hear that sharp twitter
of the maples? The oak has a deep sonorous song, and the elm's is as
delicate as itself. I believe I could tell them all with my eyes shut.
One breeze with infinite manifestations. I suppose our souls twist
the breath of the spirit to our own likenesses in the same way, Ellery
Madeline looked at him and he smiled.
You're getting poetical, old codger, said Dick. You must be in
love. Ellery blushed, but Dick went on, oblivious of byplay. I move
that we celebrate the occasion by a cold collation. Last week, your
mother kindly made inquiries about my tastes that led me to infer that
everything I most affect is stowed away in that comfortable-looking
So they had supper, and Norris fished a volume of Shelley from his
pocket and read The Cloud, which Dick followed by a really funny
story from a magazine. They fell to talking about their own affairs,
which to the young are the chief interests. It takes years that bring
the philosophic mind to make abstractions stimulating. Finally they
wafted homeward under a sky dark at the zenith and becoming paler and
paler, violet, rose, wan white, with a line of intense violet along the
horizon, and, as they sailed, Madeline sang softly as one does in the
immediate presence of nature.
This was one day. On another Dick was full of his adventures of the
week. He was learning to know his St. Etienne in all its phases. He
told them of the lumber mills down by the river, where brawny men,
primitive in aspect, fought with a never-ending stream of logs which
came down with the current and raised themselves like uncanny
water-monsters, up a long incline, finally to meet their death at the
hands of machinery that ripped and snarled and clutched. Who would
dream, to look at the great commonplace piles of boards that lined the
riverbank for miles, that their birth-pangs had been so picturesque?
Or again, Dick told them of those other mills, which were the chief
foundation of St. Etienne's wealth, piles of gray stone, for ever
dust-laden and dingy, into which poured a never-ending stream of grain,
and out of which poured an equally unceasing stream of bags and barrels
laden with flour. Around the wide interiors wandered a few men, gray
too, who peeped now and then into caverns where hidden machinery did
all the work. Outside, locomotives whistled and puffed and snorted, as
they switched the miles of cars to and from the mills. Great vans
rolled up with their burdens of fresh empty barrels to be filled and
rolled away again.
It was the commonplace of daily toil, but Dick made it vivid,
because it was in him to see all things as the work of men, and
whenever you catch them doing real work, men are interesting.
Sometimes Dick had other stories to tell. In his collegiate days, he
had grown familiar with the typical slum and its problems. The class in
sociology had visited such. So he went to the slums of St. Etienne, and
behold, they were not slums at all, for the slum can not be grown, like
a mushroom, in a night. It must have a thousand nauseous influences
stagnating for a long time undisturbed. But here were meager little
wooden huts, flanked by rusting piles of scrap-iron, or flats along the
river-bottom where the high waters of spring were sure to send the
dwellers in these shabby apologies for homes scrambling to the roofs,
or drive them to the shelter of the neighboring brewery. Here as the
waters swept under the stony arches of the bridges, old women tucked up
their petticoats and fished for the richness with which a city befouls
its river. Here they made themselves neat woodpiles of the drift of the
sawmills, and turned an honest penny by exhibiting on their roofs gaudy
advertisements of plug-tobacco, that those who passed on the bridge
above might look down and read and resolve to avoid the brand thus
Sometimes Dick had to relate a picturesque interview with a
policeman who unfolded to him unknown phases of life, for though he
believed in himself, Percival also believed in the other man, and
therefore made him a friend. Every one likes a jolly friendly prince,
and that was Dick's type.
Or he would dip into a police court where all the stages of
wretchedness were pitchforked into one another's evil-smelling company,
so that it ranged from the highest circle of purgatory to the lowest
depths of hell.
Why do you go to such places, Dick? It's nauseating, Madeline
Why? he demanded. I suppose that sometime, when I've made over my
information into the neat systematic package that you prefer, I shall
start a soul-uplifting row. I look forward to that as my career. You
ought to get a career, Madeline.
A career? I know the verb, but not the noun, she retorted saucily.
I'm afraid mine is nothing but the trivial task, flavored with all the
flavors I like best.
Sometimes, when they went home together at night, Percival had
stories to unfold to Norris alonestories he could not tell Madeline,
of things found in the mire, upon which the healthy happy world turns
its back when every night it goes up town to pleasant hearthstones
and to normal life. These were tales of foul sounds and foul air, where
men and women gathered and drank and gambled and laughed with laughter
that was like the grinning of skulls, hollow and despairing. They were
stories of girls with sodden eyes and men with wooden facesof
innumerable schemes to suck money by any means but those of honor. And
these were the phases of his study that Dick looked upon with a kind of
anguished fascination, as more and more he saw how the hands stretched
out of that mire smirched the city which he hoped to serve.
Sometimes, and this was when they were with Madeline again, Ellery
would have his experience to tell, redolent of printer's ink, and full
of the interest of that profession which is never two days the
samestories of how business toils and spins and is not arrayed like
Solomon. Norris, too, was beginning to run up against human nature both
in gross and in detail, and to know the world, from the fight last
night in Fish Alley up to the doings of statesmen and kings. Madeline
had little to tell, for she was living quietly at home, taking the
housekeeping off her mother's hands and driving her father to the
morning train. She had few episodes more exciting than an afternoon
call or a moonlight sail. But the young men brought her their lives,
and when she had made her gay little bombardment of comment, they felt
as though some new light had fallen upon familiar facts. The very
simplicity of her thought put things in the right relation and gave the
effect of a view from a higher plane.
There were many times when they did not discuss, but gave themselves
to the joy of young things. They sailed, and Madeline held the tiller;
and, when evening came on, they curled down with cushions in the bottom
of the boat and sang and chattered the twilight out. They played golf
and tennis, and the blood leaped in their veins, for whatever they did,
they did it with heart and soul. As for their relations with one
another, these were taken for granted, and what they meant, not one of
the three stopped to question. It was enough that they were sweet and
satisfying in silence.
Late in the season there came a Sunday, memorable to Ellery, when
Dick had gone away for some purpose, and, after a little
self-questioning, Norris ventured alone for his afternoon with
Madeline. She welcomed him with such serene unconsciousness that he
wondered why he had hesitated.
I'm not so good a sailor as Dick, Miss Elton, he said. Will you
trust yourself with me?
Being an independent young woman, I'm willing to depend on you.
A truly feminine position.
It means that I am quite capable of seizing the helm myself if you
should fail me, she laughed.
And I am masculine enough to determine that you shall get it only
by favor, not by necessity, he retorted.
That suits me quite well, Madeline answered gravely.
And you are not apprehensive of storms in the vague far-away?
Don't. I'm so contented with things as they are that I do not want
to think of far-aways or of anything that means change.
You are satisfied with to-day? he persisted.
Ellery flushed with traitorous rejoicing that Dick was absent. It
was a day of sunshinenot the ardent blaze of summer, but the crisp
glow of October that seems all light with little heat. The lake was so
pale as to be hardly blue, and girdled with soft yellow, touched only
here and there with the intenser red of the rock maples. Back farther
from shore rose the tawny bronze of oaks. The light breeze flung the
Swallow along with those caressing wave-slaps that are the
sleepiest of sounds.
To sail under that sky, with Madeline leaning on her elbow near at
hand, they two separated from the rest of the world by wide waters, was
like a brief experience of Paradise. Ellery watched the light tendril
of hair that touched her cheek, lifted itself and touched again, near
that lovely curve above her ear. The cheek was warm and creamy but
untouched by deeper color. He fell into that mood of blessed silence
that, as a rule, comes only when one is solitary.
As they rounded at the dock he came back to himself with a sudden
wonder if she had missed the titillation of Dick's chatter, for she had
been as silent as he.
I'm afraid I have been very dull. I enjoyed myself so much that I
forgot to try to amuse you.
It's been a heavenly sail, exactly to match the day, Madeline
answered with a deep contented sigh that filled him with delight. I
was this moment thinking what a comfort it was to know you well enough
so that I didn't have to talk. It's a test of comradeship, isn't it?
As they smiled at each other, his heart leaped with the
consciousness of a bond below the surface.
He treasured this crumb of her kindness, not because she was
niggardly, but because there was little that belonged to him and to him
alone. Sometimes, in the rush and roar of the office, came the memory
of her eyes and her voice of assurance.
What will our comradeship be like, whenwhen she is Dick's wife?
he questioned himself, and then fell to work with fury.
Thus the delightful summer died into the past; there came a winter
only less good, with its dinners and dances, with quiet fireside
evenings, and yet another summer of the same close friendship that
began to take on the semblance of a permanent thing in life, all the
richer as experience grew deeper and knowledge wider and the best
Whether they read or sang or discussed, though the world saw little
done, these three young people had the inestimable happiness of knowing
CHAPTER VI. JEWEL WEED
Along the wide straight street of the city surged the usual shopping
crowd. Largely petticoated was it, for o'daytimes man must be busy at
his office that woman may have this privilege of going shopping. Surely
there is no other stream in the wide world that is so monotonous as
this human never-ending current. The same types, the same clothes, the
same subjects of conversation in the fragments that catch the ear. And
seldom does one see a face that looks even cheerful, much less
happy,all intent on matching ribbons.
The world is too much with us; late and soon;
Getting and spending we lay waste our powers.
Thus might they cry aloud, if they were condemned to proclaim their
sins, like the long banner of bat-like souls that Dante saw passing in
similar fashion beneath his eye.
And yet, in spite of its monotony, humanity is perennially
interesting to itself. Therefore among the strenuous, the hurrying, and
the anxious-eyed, one girl loitered on dilatory foot from wide window
to wide window.
Girl seems an inadequate word to describe Lena Quincy. It may be
applied to any youthful feminine person, and Lena, in spite of her
carefully-groomed shabbiness, was by no means one of the herd. She
affected one like a bit of Tiffany glass, shimmering, iridescent,
ethereal; and no ugliness in her surroundings could take away that
Every one who looked at her at all looked twice. She had grown so
used to this tribute that it hardly affected her unless it came from
one who merited her interest in return.
Now she was wandering from one to another of the ladies with the
waxen faces, the waxen hands and the wooden hearts, who gazed back
unmoved from behind their plate-glass; though it was not the fixed and
amiable smiles of the lay-figures that caught her attention, but rather
the curious way in which this one's braid was laid on the gown, or the
new device in buttons, there beyond.
Now she turned and studied the human flux in front. She was not
shopping, save in sweet imagination. This was her theater, and she was
fain to make the show last as long as possible. Her absorbent gaze saw
everything. Yet it was selective too, for it passed swiftly over the
chaff of the shabby and fixed itself on the wheat of the properly
gowned. Sometimes she wove romances about her swiftly-disappearing
actors, romances not of heart and soul but of garments, of splendors
and of money; but even such entrancing tissues of her brain vanished
like pricked soap-bubbles when there passed in the body one of those
select few whose skirts proclaimed perfection. Could dreams stand
against reality? Yet the dreams were blissful, though, when they were
gone, the girl was left steeped in the bitterness of envy.
It is said that there is a consolation in being well-dressed that
religion itself can not afford. It is to be remembered that there is
also the pharisaism which always forms a hard shell about every kernel
of religion; and the pharisaism of the correct costume is the most
complacent of all forms of self-righteousness. Lena's lips grew
positively pale as she saw it pass, drawing its rustling petticoats
close to its side. She hungered and thirsted for this form of
It was early April, and there was a savage nip in the air, for
Winter shook his fist at the world long after he dared to come out of
his lair. Spring refused to sit in his lap for more than an instant,
but leaped from that affectionate position, ashamed of her intimacy
with the hoary sinner, and the buds swelled slowly and swelled
Other women hurried, but Lena did not feel the cold except when she
saw a set of magnificent Russian sables with a cordial invitation to
Buy now. Her eyes suddenly filled with tears at her own impotence.
Why had God created her such as she was and then denied her the
perquisites of her desires? It was as though nature should make the
heart of a rose and should leave off all the out-shaken wealth of
petals, whose reflected lights and shadows make the flower's heart
With the mist clearing from her eyes Lena walked onward to the next
big sheet of glass, and looked through a wealth of Easter hats and
bonnets at the mirror that was meant to manifold their charms. She did
not see the millinery, but there was comfort in the really good glass,
not like her parody at home which cast a pale green tinge over a
On Lena nature had really spent herself. The very texture of her
skin made the fingers itch to caress its transparent delicacy that let
through a tender flush. Every curve of her body suggested hidden
beauty, and the way she turned her head on her shoulders left one
feeling how music and painting fall short of expressing the loveliest
loveliness. But, having accomplished a miracle, fate had left it
without a meaning and thrown it on an ash heap. No wonder that it
resented its position.
Every man who passed Lena on the street looked at her; some of them
spoke to her; but she was possessed of a self-respect that kept her
from responding to such overtures. She prided herself on her virtue.
Certain it was that the admiration of the other sex never set her
vibrating with delicate emotions, never increased by a single beat the
pulses of her heart, except when it suggested some definite benefit to
herself. With reason, Lena congratulated herself on her firm resistence
to the many-formed temptations that come to beauty housed with poverty.
Now, as she looked in the milliner's glass, she saw her own face,
rose-like and delicate. She saw the great violet eyes, so innocent that
they almost persuaded herself, as they did others, that some creature
more celestial than ordinary humanity wondered from behind them at the
world. She saw the fair soft curls that clung about her forehead, and
the sight of these things gave a momentary peace to her soul. Then she
surveyed the dingy felt hat that rested brutally on the silken wonder
of her hair, and rebellion rose again.
It's a comfort that my collar fits so well, she reassured herself.
After all, there is nothing more important than a collar. I don't look
in the least 'common'.
Among the hats stood a photograph of a popular actress, pert and
pretty. The sight of it sent Lena's thoughts afield into new wastes of
The idea of the stage had once come to her like an inspiration.
Nothing could be more easy and natural to her than to act; nothing more
delectable than the tribute paid to the star. Money, flowing gowns,
footlights, tumults of applause had seemed inevitable. Lena shivered
now, with something else than cold inside her flimsy jacket, as she
remembered the crumbling of her dream. She saw again the fat man with
the sensual mouth who had given her a job; and felt again her tingling
resentment when she found how small the part was, and how poorly paid.
She remembered how she had held herself aloof from the other girls,
who, like herself, had trivial parts, and how they had snubbed her in
return; how even the little that she did was made ridiculous through
the trick of a hook-nosed, gum-chewing rival, and how the first
audience that she faced had tittered at her stumble. A wave of heat
succeeded the shiver at this point in her remembrance. Then she
recalled her impertinent answer to the vituperation of the manager, and
how he had sworn at her for a damned minx, who thought herself a
Vulgar! Vulgar! Vulgar! she said to herself in impotent anger. She
wished they could all know how she despised them. For she could act!
She was still sure that she could play any partexcept that of patient
endurance. Yet, so far, hardship was all that life had offered her. A
chance! That was it. So far, she had never had a ghost of a chance.
Would fateor luckor Providenceor whatever it is that rules, never
give her a turn of the wheel?
Next to the art of the milliner was displayed the art, less
interesting to Lena, of the brush. Before the picture store a span of
horses shook their jingling harness, and a brightly-buttoned coachman
waited, with impassive face turned steadily to the front. There came
from the doorway a girl who was lifted above the pharisaism of clothes
into the purer ether. She was calm-eyed and well-poised, and Lena hated
her for the rest of her life for her obliviousness of the sordid.
Behind her walked a young man who now opened the carriage door and
lingered a moment and laughed as he talked with the girl who had taken
her seat. Lena involuntarily drew her feet closer beneath her skirts
that no careless glance of that girl should fall upon their shabbiness.
She looked at the man as she looked at the Russian sables. He was a
type of that delectable world from which she was shut out.
I should be ashamed to be silly about fellows, the way some girls
are, was her inward comment. But I'd just like to have people see me
with a thing like that dangling around me. And I shall, some time. I'm
a whole heap prettier than she is.
The carriage door shut abruptly. Lena's too thin boots, out of
plumb, suddenly slipped on a half-formed piece of ice. She made a
desperate grab at the smooth surface of the window and then came
ignominiously downnot wholly ignominiously, however, since her
accident brought to her aid the man who was a type.
She didn't have to stop to consider that the man would notice
neither her hat nor her boots. She knew it instinctively and instantly.
But the rose-petal face and the big eyes were overwhelmingly present to
her consciousness. She saw them reflected in the look on his face as he
bent over her.
I hope you're not hurt.
Not in the least. Only humiliated. Lena smiled, because people are
always attracted by cheerfulness.
You are sure you have not twisted your ankle? he insisted.
Nothing but my hat and my hair, she pouted. Thank you for coming
to my rescue.
It wasn't much of a rescue, he said.
Are you sorry I didn't have a tragedy and give you a chance to play
hero? she inquired naïvely.
When you are in need, may I be the one to help? he said with
Lena flushed and nodded as he lifted his hat and was gone. She
walked slowly homeward, actually forgetting to stop at her favorite
window in the lace store, so occupied was she with the latest story she
was telling herself. It was a story in which a large house with soft
rugs and becoming pink lights occupied the foreground, and somewhere in
the background hovered a man who was a type and who loved to spend
money on diamonds. The vision was so lovable that she lived with it all
the way, even through the narrow entrance of the lodging-house and up
the narrow stairs, saturated with obsolete smellssmells of dead
dinnersto the very instant when she opened the upper door and faced
bald reality and her mother. Mrs. Quincy sat by the window in a room on
the walls of which the word shabby was written in a handwriting as
plain, and in language far simpler than ever Belshazzar saw on the
walls of Babylon. It fairly cried itself from the big-figured paper,
peeling along its edges; from the worn painted floor; from the frayed
rug of now patternless carpet; from the sideboard that looked like a
parlor organ. Even from the closet door it whispered that there was
more shabbiness hidden in the depths.
Mrs. Quincy herself was a part of it, for she was to Lena what the
faded rose is to the opening one, a once beautiful woman, whose skin
now looked like wrinkled cream.
Lena shut the door and came in without speaking. She flung her hat
and coat on the bed in the corner, where a forlorn counterpane showed
by the hollows and hills beneath that it had given up all attempt to
play even. The girl sat down listlessly with her hands in her lap.
You've been gone a long time, Lena, said the mother in a
delicately querulous voice. You're fortunate to be able to get out
instead of being cooped up in this little room the way I am. Mrs.
Quincy coughed with conscious pathos. I sometimes wonder if you ever
think of your poor mother and how lonely she is most of the time. But
I'd ought to be used to people's always forgetting me.
Much I have to come home to! Lena answered. You're about as
cheerful as barbed wire. But you can comfort yourself! I shan't be able
to go out at all much longer, any way.
Why, what's the matter now?
Do you expect me to wear a felt hat all summer? Lena asked
sharply. I'm ashamed to be seen in that old thing and I should think
you'd be ashamed to be so stingy with me.
Her mother sighed and lapsed into the creaking comfort of her
I ain't stingy, she said at last. But if you had your way you'd
spend every last cent of the pension the very day it comes. I've got to
look out we don't starve. If you'd only make up your mind to work and
earn a little instead of livin' so pinched! I'm sure I'd work if I
could. But there! there ain't nothing for me to do but to set and
suffer, and nobody knows what I endure.
I wasn't born to be a working girl, said Lena sullenly. I've got
the blood of a lady if I haven't got the clothes of one.
Well, when it comes to eating and drinking, blood don't count much.
Everybody's got the same appetite.
No, everybody hasn't, retorted the girl. I haven't any appetite
for canned baked-beans and liver.
You eat them, anyway.
I know it, worse luck!
There was a tingling silence for a moment and then Lena spoke with
Mother, what can I do? I'm not one of those girls who can go ahead
and don't care. I haven't been brought up as they have. The only thing
you've taught me is that my father was a gentleman and that I am a
beauty. And what good does that do me?
Teachin' is respectable.
I can't teach. I couldn't pass a teacher's examination to save my
life. I don't know how to do anything. And I won't sink below the level
of decent society. I'd starve first. Do you suppose I haven't thought
it all over a hundred times?
You can sew very nicely. I'm sure everything you make has real
Go into a shop at starvation wages to make pretty things for other
girls to wear? I stopped along near Madame Cerise's to-day and looked
at some of the girls near the window, with their hair all lanky and
their faces sunk in, working for dear life on finery. Mother, is that
what you want for me?
There was hungry appeal in Lena's voice, that some mothers would
have felt; but Mrs. Quincy was not on the lookout for other people's
shades of emotion.
Well, if you'd any sense you'd take Joe Nolan, as I've told you
fifty times if I've told you once. He's got real good wages, and you
could twist him around your little finger.
Lena's teeth came together with a click.
Joe! Well, perhaps, when there's nothing else left but the
poorhouse. It's pretty tough if I have to marry a mechanic.
Joe's a good deal of a man. He won't always be a mechanic, Lena.
He's got too much ambition.
He may, or he may not. Anyway, he'll bear the marks of a mechanic
all his days. I'm not his kind.
Lena rose and went across the room to lean on the little
dressing-table and survey herself in the old green glass. This was her
panacea for every woe. The little pucker in her forehead straightened
Look at me, mother, she demanded, turning around. Do you think
all this is meant to scrub and sew and cook for the foreman in
locomotive works? Because I don't.
She was smiling, but her mother did not smile in return.
I believe I was most as pretty as you are when I was a girl, Mrs.
Quincy said. And that was all the good it did. I thought I was making
a grand marriage when I got your father; but he seemed to sort of
flatten out and lose all his ambition after we was married. He didn't
seem to care about anything, though I used to give him my opinion
pretty plain. And it's mighty little he left me when he was took, she
Her daughter eyed her speculatively.
Well, I'm not going to be taken in the way you were, she said
sharply. You thought a good old name and a promising career were
enough; and father didn't keep his promises. I want money and not the
promise of money.
And where will you find him? sniffed Mrs. Quincy, to whom it and
he were synonymous. I don't notice any millionaires crowding up to
you, for all your big eyes and your great opinion of yourself.
That's just it. If I could only meet them! Lena got up and walked
restlessly about the room. Her eyes fell on the last night's copy of
the Star, opened to that chatty column headed Woman's Fancies.
She had read it with absorbed interest. Her body halted now, for the
muscles often stop work when the mind becomes possessed of a great
idea. She stood for a long time and looked from the unwashed
window-pane while a new resolve slowly hardened itself within.
I'll try, I'll try, I'll try, she said to herself, and her heart
thumped uncomfortably. And if I take it to the office myself, when
they see me perhaps they
Aloud she said nothing, for she had early learned the great lesson
that the best way of getting her own will with her mother was to do
what she wished first and argue about it afterward.
What have we got for supper, mother? she asked.
Nothing, said Mrs. Quincy sharply.
Nothing? Well, give me some money and let me go and get something.
Mrs. Quincy reluctantly lifted her skirt and began to explore her
petticoat below. She shook open the mouth of a pocket into which she
dived to return with a knotted handkerchief. Lena looked on impatiently
as the knot was slowly untied and a small hoard of silver disclosed.
There, said Mrs. Quincy. You can take this quarter, Lena, and do
get something nourishing. Don't buy cream-cakes. I feel the need of
what will stay my stomach.
I'll get baked-beans, answered the girl with a short laugh.
Yes, do. I shan't have another cent till next pay-day comes. We've
got to make this last. Get some tea, Lenagreen, remember. The beans
won't cost more than twelve cents. I don't see how you can have a new
Well, give me ten cents, anyway, Lena answered with unexpected
What do you want it for?
Please, mammy, Lena said coaxingly. I won't buy cream-cakes or
anything to eat. I want to invest in a gold mine.
Mrs. Quincy gave her a sharp look and grudgingly handed out a dime;
for Lena's voice was instinct with hope, and hope was such a rare
visitor in the dingy little lodgings that Mrs. Quincy grew generous
under its magnetic warmth.
Now what'd you want that ten cents for? she asked curiously when
the girl came back. My land! Only paper and pencil? I thought you was
going to do something grand.
CHAPTER VII. LENA'S PROGRESS
About a month after Lena had made her investment in the raw
materials of the writer's art, Dick Percival happened to drop into the
sooty and untidy office where for more than a year Norris had been
engaged in manufacturing public opinion.
Hello! he cried as he opened the door. Then he stood transfixed at
the vision that met his sight, for a very blond and fuzzy head was bent
over Ellery's desk and a very startled pair of blue eyes was raised to
meet his own. There stood a rosebud dressed in gray. Is there anything
more demure and innocent than a pinky girl in a mousy gown? Dick's hat
came off and a deferential look replaced the careless one.
Hello, yourself! said Norris. You announce yourself like a
telephone girl. Come in. What do you mean by troubling the quiet waters
of my daily toil?
I beg your pardon, said Dick politely. If you are busy I
That's all right. Miss Quincy and I can postpone our confab without
inconveniencing the order of the universe. Miss Quincy was already
gathering her notes, and she smiled at Dick in a half-shy way that
said, I remember you very plainly. As she disappeared slowly down the
hall, Dick started after her.
Great Scott, Ellery! he ejaculated. How you have lied to me about
the grubbiness of your work! If this is your daily grind, I don't mind
having a whirl at the editorial profession myself.
It isn't the sum total of my duties, he said.
Who is Hebe? asked Dick.
Well, she's rather a problem, Ellery replied. I believe she
appeared a few weeks ago at Miss Huntress' officethe woman editor,
you knowwith a catchy little article on fashions. It happened that
the boss was in the office, and we consider it rather a grind on him,
for he was much taken by either the article or the eyes, and she got a
little job as a sort of reportorial maid-of-all-work. Funny, isn't it?
If a man is buying a rug, he wouldn't think of deciding on it because
it was green, without testing its wearing qualities; but in nine cases
out of ten a girl gets chosen because of her eyes. That's all I know
about her. Pretty, isn't she?
Pretty! Is that all the command you have of your native language?
You ought to lose your job for that. Why she'snever mindI haven't
Neither have I, answered Norris sharply. He remembered that long
ago Dick had called Madeline pretty. It is a cheap and easy word. I
haven't time for you, either. Will you go away; or will you keep still
while I finish this work?
Waltz away. Dick sat down on the window-sill and fell into a
meditative state of mind. Once or twice he walked to the door and
looked down the hall, while Norris plugged steadily away and ignored
the presence of his friend.
After a prolonged silence, Dick spoke again, solemnly:
I should like to meet her.
MissQuincy, did you call her?
Oh! Isn't she rather out of your class?
Pshaw! Don't talk of classes, now that you're out of college. Do
you know anything about her?
Nothing, said Ellery shortly. I don't consider it my business to
go beyond my official relations.
Well, I haven't any business relations not to go beyond, said
Dick. So I mean to pursue the inquiry.
Do as you like, Ellery answered. Is that what you came down here
to talk about?
No, said Dick, changing his manner. I came to talk up an
editorial campaign. You don't know my chum, Olaf Ericson, do you? He's
the biggest man on the force, and he's a corker. I've learned more from
him about bad smells than I did in two years of chemistry at New Haven.
He knows this town from the seventh sub-cellar up, and 'him and me is
great friends'. Seriously, Norris, I've begun to get hold of just the
facts I wanted about 'the combine', and it's information that is so
very definite and to the point that I believe I can make it hot for
them. I want the public to be kept informed on everything that is to
their discredit. Now the Star is a fairly clean paper, as papers
go. I want help.
You'll have to go up higher for that, my boy. It's not for a
freshman like myself to direct the policy of the paper. It would be a
pretty serious matter to run up against those fellows. Mr. Lewis, the
old man, is out, but when he comes back we'll go and have a talk with
Talk to him! I should think so! Dick exclaimed, and he began to
pace the room and pour out the floods of his information, in wrath of
soul and glow of spirits at his resolve to clean things up.
Meanwhile in Miss Huntress' office, farther down the hall, Lena was
discussing with that determined person the possibility of supplying the
public with more of the kind of literature for which women, in
particular, are supposed to have a mad desire. Miss Huntress was an
adept at filling her page with personalities by which those who know
nobody may have almost as great a knowledge of the great as those who
have achieved the proud distinction of being in it. Lena had written
a highly successful series of articles on St. Etienne as seen from the
shop windows, and she longed for new and similar fields to conquer.
I've been wondering, said Miss Huntress, if you couldn't get up
some catchy little things on private libraries and picture galleries.
If you can raise some photographs to go with them, you might make quite
a hit. That's the kind of thing that takes. You see it makes people
able to talk about the inside of rich folk's houses.
I suppose you would want me to begin with Mr. Early, said Lena,
hardly knowing what reply to make.
Never mind Mr. Early. Everybody knows just what he's got and how
his place looks. You might include him later, but I should start with
people who are more exclusive and yet whose names everybody knows. Now
there's Mr. Windsor and Mrs. Percival. By the way, Mr. Norris is
awfully intimate at the Percivals'. Perhaps he'd help you to an
introduction. If Mrs. Percival would let you write up her library, you
may be sure there'd be a lot of others who would follow her example.
You might try it, anyway. Go and see her. Tell her what a hard time you
are having to earn your own living. Your looks will carry you a long
I think young Mr. Percival is in Mr. Norris' office now. Some one
came in while I was there and I think he called him Percival, said
Say! is that so? exclaimed Miss Huntress. Now's your chance! Go
in and ask while he's there. He'll find it hard to refuse to your
You go, interposed Lena. If I go, it will look as though I knew.
But you can walk in all innocent.
Therefore the conversation on matters which were to change the
destiny of a city was interrupted by a smart knock on the assistant
editor's door, and Miss Huntress, eminently self-possessed, walked in
on the two young men.
Beg pardon, Mr. Norris, I didn't know you had any one here, she
began. But I won't keep you a moment. The truth is, I want a series of
articles on the private libraries of the city, and, knowing that you
are acquainted with Mrs. Percival, I thought you'd help the paper to an
Let me introduce Mr. Percival, said Norris. He can give you more
information than I can.
Well, this is lucky! ejaculated Miss Huntress.
Our library isn't a show affair, Dick said stiffly. My mother, I
am sure, would be very unwilling to submit to that kind of a write-up.
My father was a book-lover, not a book-fancier. It's essentially a
I'm sorry you feel that way about it, Miss Huntress rejoined
equably. Of course, nowadays, I can't admit that there's any such
thing as privacy. And it isn't only that I want the articles, Mr.
Percival. I want to help along a girl that needs the work, and an
awfully nice girl she is. We haven't any regular job for her, and all I
can do is to throw odd bits of work in her way. She has an old mother
to support, and it would be a real charity to her if you'd look at it
in that light. Miss Quincy is a perfect lady, and you may be sure she'd
take no advantage of you to write up anything sensational or
Dick started and glanced consciously at Norris, who grinned back.
Of course that puts another light on it, Mr. Percival said after a
decent pause, and trying to compose his face to a judicial expression.
I'd hate to put a stumbling-block in the way of a girl like that.
Ah-umI'll speak to my mother about it, Miss Huntress, and I dare say
I can persuade her to allow it.
That's very good of you, Miss Huntress answered,with sad
comprehension that a complexion like Lena's was a great aid to a
literary career. You couldn't manage to let Miss Quincy go up this
afternoon, could you? she went on with characteristic energy in
pushing an advantage. It would be a good thing if she could get her
first stuff ready for the Saturday-night issue.
My mother, I suppose, is driving this afternoon, Dick said
hesitatingly. He went through a hasty calculation and saw reasons for
cutting out certain of his own engagements. See here, Miss Huntress,
if you're in such a hurry, I don't mind taking Miss Quincy up and
telling her what I know about old editions and rare folios. I'll make
it right with mother afterward.
Miss Huntress' face cleared perceptibly.
You're awfully good, Mr. Percival. Won't you come down to my office
now, and I'll introduce you to Miss Quincy? This is a real favor. Dick
shot a glance of triumph at Ellery, believing himself a skilled sly dog
of a manipulator, and not knowing that he was the manipulated. Norris
spoke in scorn.
I suppose righteousness and reform can wait now.
You can bet they will. I'll call on you to-morrow afternoon,
That's the usual fate of reform. Don't be a fool, Dick. But Dick
was already disappearing down the corridor in pursuit of the able woman
The girl waiting in the disordered office looked more than ever like
a bridesmaid rose, pink and ruffled and out of its proper setting, as
she saw Mr. Percival coming.
Miss Quincy, said Dick, I have a motor down stairs, and I'll take
you up to the house right away, if you don't mind.
If she didn't mind!
When youth starts out to revolutionize the world, it meets with many
distractions. Even in the hour that Dick spent in the quiet old library
with Miss Quincy, he met with distractions. He tried to keep her mind
on missals and Aldine editions, but she persisted in poring over old
copies of Godey's Lady's Book, which she found tucked away in a
forgotten corner. Nobody but Lena could have scented them out.
The fashions are so funny, Mr. Percival! she insisted. Do look at
these preposterous hoop-skirts and the little short waists. Did you say
that no one knows how that gold leaf was put on that ugly old book? How
absurd! I must put that down. I suppose that is the kind of thing I
have to write up.
Be sure you don't get mixed up and describe monkish fichus and gold
leaf on the bias, or you'll be everlastingly disgraced in the office.
Never mind. I'll learn your horrid old pieces of information in a
few minutes. Do let me look at this a little longer, Lena answered so
prettily, and pointed with so dainty a finger, and glanced up so
pathetically, that Dick too became absorbed in Godey's Lady's Book.
Weren't they frightful guys? Lena went on. But I dare say the men
of that timewhat is the date?1862thought they were lovely.
Very likely, poor men! You see they hadn't the privilege of knowing
the girls of to-day and they thought their own women were the
Now you are horrid and sarcastic, said Lena.
Never a bit. I find it impossible to believe that there was ever
before so much beauty in the world. There was here and there a pretty
girl, like Helen of Troy, and they made an awful fuss over her.
But she must have been really wonderful.
Yes, if a girl is as much run after as that, she must either be a
raving beauty or else she lives in the far West.
But, you know, there aren't so very many real beauties nowadays,
are there? She glanced sidewise at him in an adorable manner.
I can't remember more than oneor two, said Dick judicially.
Lena laughed softly.
I think it must have been very nice to be one of the few and be
made a fuss over, instead of
Instead of what?
Instead of having to grub and struggle for your bread, Lena
answered,and there was a misty look in the big eyes she turned up to
Poor little girl! said Dick. You certainly are not of the kind
who ought to battle with the world. Haven't you any man who could
shelter you a little?
Lena shook her head, with an air of patient suffering.
My father is dead, she said. He was of a good family, as you
might know by my name, but he was wounded in the war, and he never got
over it. Of course he was very young then. He wasn't married till long
afterward. He died when I was a little thing.
That was the history of my father, too! Dick felt a glow of
kindred experience. See, that is his portrait over the mantel.
Lena looked very lovely and spiritual as she gazed up at the quiet
face that looked back at her, and Dick watched her. Then she drew a
full breath and turned her eyes on him.
You are like him, she said softly, and something in her voice made
the words a thrilling tribute.
Then she added: Yes, but he left you in comfort, and wemy mother
Will you let me come to see your mother some time?
Lena's heart beat fast with mingled fear and hope, but all Dick saw
was a startled and sweet surprise.
I should be almost ashamed to have you come, she said with a soft
blush and a look of shy invitation. We are so poor and we live in such
a shabby place.
If your shabbiness comes because of your father's sacrifice for his
country it is something to be proud of, Dick answered.
Through Lena's mind there passed a swift memory of quarrels and
bickerings, of daily smallnesses, which were her chief recollection of
her father. She looked frankly up into Dick's face.
Yes, she said. That ought to make it easy to bear. Now I must not
talk about myself any more. What did you tell me about that funny old
And I may come to see you and your mother? Dick persisted.
If you do not forget us to-morrow,Lena glanced at him out of the
corner of her eyes in a way calculated to make him remember.
I shan't forget, said Dick.
He took out a small note-book and wrote down the address she gave
him. And she gave herself a little shake and pulled out a much larger
note-book. I ought not to waste my time and yours this way, but, you
see, I'm not much of a business woman. I sometimes forget altogether.
Dick thought her very preposterous and charming as she set to work
with an air of severity; and so she wasthe last thing on earth made
to do serious work. They leaned together over one treasure after
another, in that electric nearness that moves youth so easily, and
sends a tingling sensation up the backbone.
When she suddenly rose, her cheeks were pinker and more transparent
than ever, and her eyes softer and dreamier.
Let me take you home in the motor, said Dick.
Dear me, no, Lena exclaimed. I'm afraid you think me entirely too
informal already. II'm so stupid and impulsive. I'm always doing
wrong things and not thinking till afterward. Good-by, and thank you,
After he had bowed her out, Dick plunged into a big chair and spent
a few moments in analyzing his own character. He perceived that in some
ways he differed from most of his friends. Now Ellery and Madeline and
most of the others lived along certain conventional lines, with certain
fixed interests and habits. That kind of existence would be intolerable
to him. He liked to star his days with all kinds of colored incidents
that had no particular relation to his main work. He liked to run down
every by-path, explore it a bit, and then come back to the highway.
Those small excursions were apt to take a man into leafy dells where
there were ferns and flowers too shy to fringe the dusty plodding
thoroughfare. Dick liked that figure. It revealed to him a certain
lightness of heart and poetry in himself that distinguished him from
the prosy grubbers. This sprinkling of life with episodes was like a
little tonic. It kept him vivid and alive.
Take this very afternoon just passed. It meant little, of course,
either to him or to the pretty little pathetic reporter girl, but it
had injected a bit of pleasure into her routine, and given him an
insight into another kind of maiden from the well-kept, sheltered women
he knew best. Such things help a man's larger sympathies. He was glad
that he could enjoy many types of men and women.
A rumble of wheels outside brought him out of this particular
by-path into the highway.
What a dispensation that the mater didn't come home in the middle
of it! he said with a sigh of satisfaction.
CHAPTER VIII. THE FALLS
According to his promise, Dick presented himself at Ellery's office
on the next afternoon. He wore a brisk and moving air.
Miss Quincy is not here to-day, Norris said without looking up.
I know it, Dick answered promptly. Are you through yet?
I've finished with the ephemeræ of this particular Tuesday, and
before I begin on those of Wednesday, I have a few precious moments to
waste on you. Ellery wheeled his chair around.
Do you know that this is Decoration Day and a holiday?
Is there anything a sub-editor does not know?
Have you ever been to the Falls of Wabeno?
And you call yourself a true citizen of St. Etienne? Come with me
and see the populace chew gum amid scenes of natural beauty.
I thought we were going to agitate civic reform.
We'll agitate as we go along. Come, Ellery, it's a superb day. I
feel like the bursting buds. Let's get out.
My dear Dick, said Norris, the trouble with you is that you never
want to do anything; you always want to do something else. I begin to
think that there are compensations to a man in having fate hold his
nose to the grindstone. He learns persistence, willy-nilly.
Stop your growling. Up, William, up, and quit your galley-proof. I
am willing to bet that my flashes in the pan will do things before I am
I dare swear they will get way ahead of my grubbing, Ellery
rejoined, slamming his desk. Come, I'll go with you.
On the southern outskirts of the city lay a park where art had done
no more than retouch nature. Here a placid stream suddenly transformed
itself into an imposing waterfall, plunging with roars over a rocky
cliff, and sending its spray whirling high in air to paint a hundred
illusive rainbows amid outstretching tree-branches or against a somber
background of stone.
Dick left his motor near the brink of the cliff above the Falls and
the two climbed down the steep bank, stopping now and again to yield to
the fascination of rushing water and to snuff the fresh-flying mist as
it swept into their faces.
Caught in the gully below, the stream, which had suddenly contracted
a habit of unruliness, tumbled onward under trees and through
overhanging rocks until it joined the Mississippi a half-mile away.
There were other people, hordes of them, tempted by May sunshine.
What is it, Ellery, Dick demanded, what deep-seated idealism is
it that draws these crowds to the most beautiful spot near town as soon
as spring offers more than half an invitation?
It certainly isn't a poetry that crops out in their clothes or in
their conversation, Norris grumbled. The staple remark seems to be,
'Gee, ain't it pretty?'
You mustn't expect to see aristocracy here; this is too cheap, and
too easy to reach. Your aristocrat prefers less beauty at greater
effort and more cost. This is the place to touch elbows with the
They had climbed down the long winding steps by this time, and were
leaning against the parapet of a small rustic bridge that crossed below
Let's sit down on that bench, said Dick, and let the sunshine
trickle through the trees and through us, and feel the spray in our
nostrils, and delight in hanging maidenhair ferns, and watch the girls
go bythe girls in pink and blue dresses, each leaning on the arm of a
swain who grins. It's vastly more fun than a fashionable parade.
The branches met overhead, darkening the narrow chasm; the steep
banks were spattered with dutchman's breeches that fluttered like
butterflies poised for a moment; down stream a few yards, where the
valley widened, lay a tiny meadow where the sun fell full on a carpet
of crow-foot violets that gave back the May sky. Two squirrels chased
each other around a big maple, and a blue jay looked on and commented.
Why is this stream of girls and men out for their holiday like
baked ice-cream? asked Dick. That isn't a conundrum; it's a
I know, they give you the same sense of incongruity, Ellery
But I like them, Dick pursued. I like a great many more kinds of
people than you do, Norris. You are narrow-minded. You want to
associate only with the good and true and bathed.
Oh, I wish well to the majority of the race, but there are some
that I do not care to eat with.
Something in Ellery's voice made his friend turn and survey him.
You look tired. You're working too hard. Don't make the western
mistake of thinking frazzled nerves mean energy.
That isn't my kind, Ellery smiled. I'm all right. Let me spurt
for a while. I got my position through favor, Dick, yours and Uncle
Joe's. I didn't particularly deserve it, and I didn't know anything
about the work; so, for your sake as well as my own, I have determined
to make good. Friendship may give a fellow his chance, but it doesn't
hold down a job, you know.
Pooh! You've made good already. A man can be tremendously
experiencedfor the Westwhen he's been at a thing a year. Look at me
and my work.
What do you consider your work? Road inspector? For, to tell the
truth, Norris was not wholly satisfied with Dick's year of dawdling
around the streets.
My profession, Dick answered with oracular gravity, is a
combination of hard work and fine art. It requires both toil and
genius. I think I may say, with all natural modesty, that I have shown
great natural aptitude for it. My profession is making friends. I have
made friends useful and ornamental, friends great and small, friends
beautiful and friends the oppositewhich reminds me of your previous
question, city politics. Whom do you suppose I supped with last night?
With the Honorable, or by courtesy dubbed Honorable, William
Barry, Dick replied triumphantly.
'Piggy' Barry? ejaculated Ellery, turning on Dick in surprise.
Alderman Barry? The boss?
'Piggy' does somehow sound more appropriate than 'Honorable', Dick
And is he one of the people you like? questioned Ellery with
For business purposes, yes. If I'm going to get into politics some
day, it becomes me to cultivate local statesmen, doesn't it? I took the
great man to the theater, or at least to something that called itself
the theater, and I gave him an excellent supper afterward. He seemed to
appreciate it and my society.
I dare say you made yourself agreeable. Do you expect he will help
you in your public career?
Not voluntarily, perhaps; but I wanted to know him, better and
better. Under benign influences, he is indiscreet. He reminded me last
night of Louis XIV. He might have said, 'St. Etienne, it is I,' but in
his simpler and less sophisticated language, he was content to remark,
'I'm the whole damn show, see?'
I'm glad he knew enough to put the appropriate adjective before
show, said Ellery grimly.
And yet I suspect that, even in that statement, he lied, Dick went
on. I studied him last night. You'll never persuade me that that man,
whose head is all face and neck, does the intricate planning and
wire-pulling that runs this city. I've an idea Barry is only the two
placards on each side of the sandwich-man. He may be the adjective
show, but I doubt if he's the man.
Have you discovered who is the real sandwich-man?
No, I haven't. My reasoning is inductive. I see numerous little
holes with small tips of threads sticking through them, but when I try
to get hold of the threads to pull them out and examine them, the ends
are too short or my fingers are too big. But get hold of them I shall,
sooner or later, by hook or crook. If I don't give some of those
fellows the slugging of their lives, my name isn't Richard Percival.
I suspect that it is Richard Percival, said Ellery with a
whimsical glance of affection.
This, as I read it, is the history, Dick went on. Six years ago,
when you and I were sub-freshmen, and unable to take an active part,
there was a brief spasm of reform. It was a short episode of fisticuffs
and fighting, which is for a daya very different thing from
governing, which goes steadily on from year to year. But this reform
movement did result in giving the city a good charter.
The Garden of Eden was once fitted out with an excellent system of
Exactly. Charters, left to themselves, do not regulate human
nature. The good citizens of St. Etienne went their own busy business
way and left the less occupied bad citizens to adapt the charter to the
needs of life; and that was an easy job, so easy that it has apparently
been possible for one man to manage it. The charter put great power
into the hands of the mayor. There have been three mayors elected under
it, and they have all been 'friends' of Billy Barry.
I wonder if the next will be, queried Ellery thoughtfully.
And the majority of every working committee appointed by the city
council is made of 'friends' of Piggy, who shows a fine disregard of
party lines in his affiliations. William is one more product of this
horseless wireless agea crownless king.
What makes you think that he isn't the power he seems?
A lot of things. The business interests behind him do not seem to
be wholly his. That is another field for investigation.
You started yesterday to tell me about a big policeman.
Yes, Olaf Ericson, with the eyes and mustache of a viking above a
blue uniform. When I met him last he had just had the melancholy duty
of cutting down a poor wretch that had hung himself, and of sending for
the coroner. He told me that the pathetic part of it was that the dead
man was a total stranger in the city; and then he winked and asked if I
knew that though the city paid the coroner his salary, the state
guaranteed an extra fee of 'saxty dollar' to that official for every
stranger who met with sudden death within our limits? I didn't know,
but I do now. I took pains to look up last year's records and,
curiously enough, out of one hundred and seventy-six cases that
required the services of a coroner, one hundred and fifty-one were
those of strangers. That would add about nine thousand dollars to a
quite moderate salary. Another queer thing is that Doctor Nigerthe
coroner, you knowis Billy Barry's brother-in-law.
Great Scott! said Ellery.
Great Barry, say I. Now it may be my historic sense, or it may be
mere curiosity, but I mean to hunt up the personal history of those
hundred-odd strangers who died forlorn and lonely within our gates.
Work quietly, Dick, and get your facts well in hand.
I intend to. But when I have it all, don't you suppose your chief,
Lewis, will be willing to publish the record?
I hope so.
I dare say the day will come when Barry and I shall cease to be
friends, said Dick cheerfully. One must submit to the inevitable. But
let's keep the papers dribbling out information to the public. By the
time the coroner story is finished, I expect to have another ready.
Not yet. What used old Eddy to preach to us in rhetoric? 'Before
you attempt composition, be sure that you have a rounded thought.' This
isn't round, it's elliptical. Big Olaf is a friend useful. He's a
shrewd fellow, who's been looking stupid for some time. The 'bunch'
hasn't been treating him square. You can guess what that means. Anyway,
he is sore as well as shrewd, and now I fancy he belongs to me.
Norris turned with a start and stared Dick in the face.
How did you get possession of him? he asked sharply.
Well, what if I bought him?
Do you mean that you are making up to him what Barry's dirty hands
have failed to give? You are bribing him to act as your spy?
I do not suppose there is any harm in my hiring a private
That depends on whether he is already a public official, and on how
you pay him, and what you pay him for.
Ellery, those fellows have sentries and pickets and fortifications
and guns always in battle-array against us and our kind. The only thing
to do is to gather hosts and ammunition on the other side.
True. But there isn't any use in fighting dishonesty with dishonor.
Dick, don't lower your standard to the mere flinging of mud.
But Dick did not appear to listen. His eyes were caught by one of
the passing couples and he sprang to his feet.
Let's follow the stream a little farther, he said, moving as he
spoke. The gorge grows wilder and more enticing the farther you go.
He walked hurriedly down the path, and Ellery, whose mind seldom
leaped, but progressed by orderly steps, followed in some bewilderment.
An instant before Dick's face had worn the profound air of a man on
whose shoulders rested mighty problems. Now every movement was boyish
and exultant. He laughed to himself. The stream thundered and one does
not ask a friend to shout out his minor moods, so Ellery forbore to
Suddenly the brook burst through overhanging cliffs of party-colored
sandstone out of its thread-like gorge into the wide chasm of the
Mississippi. A small steamer lay at anchor and tooted a discordant horn
to signify to the world that she intended to be up and doing. A crowd
of phlegmatic-faced revelers stood upon the bank and watched her with
absorbed indifference, while a smaller number pushed aboard and
prepared for true joy by laying in a store of cracker-jack and peanuts
at a diminutive counter.
Just in time! Dick ejaculated and he shoved Ellery on to the
swaying deck as the hawsers were swung loose.
They whirled out into mid-stream and exchanged the fine feminine
delights of the brook for the bold masculine ones of the great river,
whose craggy banks rose high, like fortifications, forest-crowned.
Tangles of woodbine, clematis and bitter-sweet sprawled down over
striated rocks. The boat twisted its way through a current that boiled
up from below in whirlpools. Here and there huge logs plunged downward
like water-monsters, as they threaded between wooded islands, where
meek-looking cottontails squatted and twiddled their noses at the
passing craft; on, on, until, far off, loomed the boldest highest cliff
of all, its top crested by a quaint old slit-windowed round tower of a
fort, once a border defense against Chippewa and Sioux, now backed by
the sleek lawns of well-groomed officers.
Ellery looked around at his fellow passengers, contentedly munching
their peanuts and conversing in broad English flavored with Norse. They
were a good-natured assemblage, who choked and snorted and chuckled and
whinnied in their laughter. Norris' eyes were caught by one girl,
conspicuously because plainly dressed. As she turned her profile, he
glanced at Dick. Dick too was staring at her, and even while Ellery
eyed him, he raised his hat and bowed gravely, with a deferential air
that became him.
So, exclaimed Norris under his breath, that was why we tore like
madmen to catch this boat!
It would have been a pity to lose it, Dick responded innocently.
It is a delicious bit of scenery from here to the fort. I wanted you
to see it.
Pink and white scenery with yellow curls, jeered Ellery.
Dick made no reply and Ellery went on.
She has a young man already. You can't go and take her away from
him. That wouldn't be playing fair.
The man with her is an oaf. He has a loose mouth that wabbles when
he opens it to pick his teeth.
So you think that though you may not snatch her bodily, you may
make her wish to be with you instead of with him, and that the wish
will lie fallow in her heart. Dick, you are a student of human nature,
Ellery said, half amused, half irritated.
I dare say he is a gentleman at heart. Oafs always are.
What you really do, Ellery continued, is to make her
uncomfortable and conscious of his clothes and his sprawl. She flushed
when she saw you, and she has been sitting stiffly ever since.
Oh, drop it, Norris.
Ellery shrugged his shoulders.
I don't know what you want to do it for, he said. You're a queer
combination, Dick, of the whole-souled reformer and the abject goose.
Nothing inconsistent about being a philanthropist and a
philogynist. By Jove! She's pretty in her malaise, pink, and
pecking like a little wren at her oaf. Ellery, it's a brute of a shame
that such as she should be cast before himshe, a fine lacy creature
who shows her breeding through it all.
How much are you in earnest?
There you go again! Dick turned on his friend with a kind of
exasperation. You belong to that period of social development when
they ask a man's intentions if he looks twice at the girl he dances
with. I don't have to be in earnest, thank Heaven! But when I get a
chance to look at anything so lovely as that girl, I mean to do it,
just as I look at a flower or a picture. I don't mean to lose all the
delicious froth of life. Do you happen to know her first name?
Lena, answered Ellery shortly.
Lena! It's a delicate fragile little namenot meant for a girl who
has to plug her way through life. Her real name is Andromeda, poor
childchained to the rock and momently expecting the jaws of poverty.
You know, Dick, the attention that seems like a trifle to you, with
a life full of interests, may look like a serious affair to her.
See here, old man, you needn't be so snippy. Must I confine my
philanthropy to the old and ugly to keep it above suspicion? I'm just
so far interested in this, and no more, that I'm sorry for that little
girl, and if I saw a chance, I'd do her a good turn, as I pass along;
and if I didn't think more of you than of any other man, I wouldn't
give you the satisfaction of rendering so much of an account of
Ellery was silent and looked at the river with its whirlpools, at
the cliffs, gray with stone and pale green with May, and sometimes at
Dick, who leaned forward with his chin in his hand, apparently absorbed
in thought, but occasionally shooting a glance at Lena who laughed and
chattered with Mr. Nolan in a sort of intermittent fever.
The steamer tooted and splashed at the landing below the fort, and
turned herself about for the return trip. Sand-martins dropped from
their holes in the cliffs and skimmed across the bows, and the breeze
blew fresher as they headed up stream. Still the two friends sat in
silence, though once Percival looked across and laughed, as though he
enjoyed the other's seriousness.
Norris, you are funny, he said.
You always see consequences to things.
Most things have both causes and effects, Ellery retorted,
I deny it, said Dick.
When they creaked at the dock, Dick suddenly pushed forward so that
he almost touched Lena in the crowd that was hurrying to shore.
Good afternoon, Miss Quincy, he said. I hope you have enjoyed
this little sail as much as I have.
Knowing that he had watched her ever since they started, she looked
up at him with flushed inquiry.
Yes, it was lovely, she said.
Come on, Lena, exclaimed her escort, seizing her arm. I guess we
ought to hurry. There'll be an awful crowd on the street-cars.
If you'll allow me, said Dick, I have an automobile up near the
Falls, and I'd be delighted to
We come by the cars and I guess they're good enough for us to go
home by, Mr. Nolan interrupted roughly. We're blocking the way here.
Come, Lena. He glowered at Dick's lifted hat and added quite audibly:
Confound the dude! Thought he could cut in, did he?
Now then, said Dick as he dropped back, the oaf made a mistake.
If he'd gracefully accepted my offer, he'd have gone up several pegs in
her estimation. As it is, when her pretty little feet get trodden on by
the crowd on the back platform, she will view us with regret as we
whizz by. Poor little Andromeda!
They loitered as the other trippers", now filled with zeal to catch
the trolley, pushed past them up the glen, and soon they were
practically alone. Nature reasserted her sway as though there had never
been laughter and babble along the musical stream and under the
over-arching trees. The friends walked more and more slowly. A white
thing lay on the path before them, and Dick stooped to pick it up,
while Ellery looked on with mild curiosity.
It's a letter, stamped and sealed. Percival peered at it closely,
for though the level sunlight flooded the tops of the trees, down here
by the stream it was fast growing dark.
Not much sealed, either, he added, noticing what a tiny spot of
the flap stuck tight to the paper beneath. Some one has dropped it
here. By Jove, Ellery, it's addressed to William Barry! I'd give a farm
in North Dakota to know what's in it.
He turned it again and stared at the back.
I noticed, said Ellery, that there was a mail-box near where we
left the automobile. You can post it as we go along.
Yes, assented Dick. He glared at the name of William Barry as
though it fascinated him. Then he tucked the letter into his breast
As the motor began to champ its bit, Norris remarked:
You forgot to mail that letter, Dick.
So I did, said Dick. No matter. I'll post it in town. It will go
all the quicker.
CHAPTER IX. AN INVITATION
A full month slipped away after the little excursion down the river
before Dick saw Lena Quincy again. In fact he had almost forgotten her.
That day, if it was recalled at all, was chiefly memorable because it
marked a change in his attitude toward his chosen occupation. It seemed
that revelation after revelation poured upon him. The intricate threads
of city politics fascinated him more and more as he began to understand
whence they led and whither.
But one day on the street Dick met and passed Lena. She gave him a
little bowwistful, it seemed to him, and she looked tired and thin.
His conscience smote him. He had really meant to do a common kindly
thing to cheer this girl, but it had slipped his mind. That night he
hunted up her address in his note-book and found his way to the dismal
Four cheap-looking young persons were loitering in the parlor, two
were drumming on a piano that was out of tune, and the room smelled
fusty. The assembled group giggled and disappeared upon his entrance,
and Lena, when she came down the stairs, flushing with embarrassment
and pleasure, looked as much out of place as he felt. He stood before
her, hat in hand. It would be impossible to talk to her in such a room.
Miss Quincy, he said, it is such a perfect night that it is
neither more nor less than self-torture to stay indoors. Can't you be a
bit unconventional and go out with me to the band concert in the park?
He remembered that she went about with the oaf.
Lena hesitated. She realized that this call was a crucial affair to
her, though his long delay in coming proved it to be a casual matter to
Mr. Percival. She must make no mistake. In her instant's hesitation,
while her soft eyes were looking inquiringly into his face, she had an
I should love it, Mr. Percival, she said with that little air of
reserve that set her apart. But don't you see, IIcan't go with
youuntiluntil you know my mother and unless she approves.
Of course, said Dick, quite unconscious of Lena's play-acting.
Lena turned and twisted a bit of worn blue plush trimming on the
shelf over the gas-log before she showed him a blushing face.
The only thing I can do is to ask you to come up stairs and meet
mother. She can hardly move about enough to come down.
She led the way with anxiety in her heart as to how her mother would
behave. Would she show irritable astonishment if Lena treated her with
gentle deference, and asked her permission to be out in the evening
with a strange young man? But Mrs. Quincy knew a thing or two as well
as her daughter, and Dick saw only that the room was very ugly, that
Lena moved about with lips compressed and voice gentle and full of
tender consideration, to make her mother as comfortable as possible
before she went away.
And I shan't keep you up late, mother, dear, Lena said with a
final kiss that made Mrs. Quincy wink to keep back the statement that
she saw herself waiting for the return of her daughter.
The fresh evening air was delicious after this. Dick felt all his
chivalry again stirred. It made no difference that Lena said little to
keep up her share in the conversation. Dick was content to do the
entertaining himself, and satisfied when Lena laughed. He bubbled over
with fancies old and new, and even the old ones took fresh life. The
college stories and jokes that everybody knew, the commonplaces of his
world, set Lena exclaiming with delight. The excitement of the night,
and they two alone in the crowd, made the little girl cling to his arm
for fear they might be separated! There were quieter moments when they
wandered to the outskirts and found a bench for a moment's rest.
Once he spoke of some of the rough sides of her work, and she
answered quietly that she was used to such things and managed to forget
their hardship. Dick glanced at her face, self-contained in the
gas-light. He remembered her mother and the ugly room. He had a vision
of a sweet spirit bearing an adverse fate with dignity, and now giving
him, in return for his small act of courtesy, the perfume of her
presence, her beauty, her wondering admiration. For the time it seemed
to Lena herself that she was what he fancied her. She was only showing
him, she thought, the best side of herself. It was natural that she
should hide the other.
The clock in the steeple far above tinkled out ten, and Lena drew
herself to attention.
Oh, not yet, Dick exclaimed. Let's go somewhere and get an ice.
Again Lena hesitated. Even so small a luxury tempted her for its own
sake, and she liked to be with Mr. Percival. With Jim Nolan she would
have gone in a moment, but she was determined that this man should not
think her too easy of access.
I think not, she said reluctantly. I must go home to mother. She
isn't used to being up late, and she needs my help.
She knew that she had answered well when he urged:
Very well, then. If you will give such very little nibbles of your
time, you must give me more of them. Will you come out againto the
theateroff in the motoranywhere?
Lena could hardly speak, but she smiled up her thanks.
Oh, Mr. Percival! she said.
As he walked away after seeing her home, he felt himself irritated
with the other women, the women to whom ease and pleasure are a matter
So they fell into the way of making little expeditions together, and
Dick no longer joked with Ellery about this delectable morsel of
pinkness, but kept his growing intimacy to himself. This dell by the
way, into which he had strayed by accident, was becoming more
fascinating than the crammed highway with its buzzing life.
July and August and September passed and, in spite of her reserve,
Dick felt that he was coming to know little Lena well. He had told her
all about himself, his mother, his three-cornered intimacy with Norris
and Madeline, his plans for his own future, and to all she listened,
sometimes with a dreamy far-off look in the big eyes, sometimes with a
swift smile of sympathy, in spite of the fact that he and his point of
view were often puzzling to her. And he brought dainties and flowers to
the dingy room.
Lena, on her side, thoroughly enjoyed some phases of her
acquaintance with Mr. Percival. Apart from all other considerations, it
was a real pleasure to prove herself the actress she knew she was. She
pretended, when she was with him, that she was a wholly different kind
of person. It was fun to do it well and convincingly and deliberately.
It was exhilarating.
But deeper, far deeper than her histrionic satisfaction lay the hope
that Dick Percival might be the key to some other kind of life than
that she led; and as the months went by, this hidden intimacy,
delicious to him because of its very remoteness, began to irritate her.
Was he ashamed of her? Was he playing with her? Privately she found
Prince Charming, unless he meant something more than a half-hour now
and again, something of a bore. Of what pleasure could it be to her
that he was rich and happy and full of plans and in touch with all that
was delightful, if he gave none of this to her?
One evening she seemed listless as she sat enduring an account of a
garden party he had been to the day before. He had thought it might
amuse her, but it evidently didn't.
I'm always telling you of my affairs, he said half querulously.
Why don't you give me your experiences?
There's nothing to tell, she said dully. You've had so many
interesting things happen, and you expect ever so many more lovely
things to come, but I've always been pinched, and I shall have to keep
on pinching for ever, I guess.
Nonsense! Dick answered impulsively. The future is sure to bring
you better things.
She looked down a moment, and Dick had an impression that she was
holding back tears. At any rate, when she lifted her head again, her
face wore a cold little stare that he had never seen before, and that
seemed to hold him at arm's length.
I'm quite alone with the people I have to live among, she said.
I'm not like them, and I don't care for them.
Am I one of your kind? Dick asked. He reviled himself the next
moment for having said so much, but Lena seemed to draw no inferences,
though her color heightened a little as she answered:
Oh, you! There's only one of you, unfortunately. You are a little
oasis in my desert. I'm very grateful for you, but
Lena had said such things before. Dick began to revolve plans for a
larger kindness, and, in his slow masculine intellect, fancied that it
was all his own idea to try and bring this small person into contact
with those who would appreciate her and with whom she could be
happy,for of course Lena herself was quite submissive to her lot.
To Dick's friends this long summer dawdled itself away much as the
previous one had done. There were the same week-ends at the lake, with
Dick more full of vivacity than ever, Ellery growing more certain of
himself, Madeline rounding slowly out of girlhood into womanhood. Yet
there was a difference. Half a dozen Sundays, when Percival was too
busy, Ellery, half-irritated with his friend, half-exultant in his
desertion, spent the quiet afternoons à deux with Madeline.
It seemed to Norris that some indefinable change was coming over
Dick. At times he was vivid, even fantastic, and again he lapsed into
erratic silences out of which he came at new and unexpected points. He
developed ideas that appeared to his friend not quite in keeping with
the sterling Dick of old. He was less sensitive, so thought Ellery, in
his code of honor as he saw more and more of the crooked ways of men.
Once Norris met him walking with one of the cheaper aldermen, and he
wore a duplicatein giltof the alderman's walk and swagger. He
talked politics and reform, but with less emphasis on his ideals and
more on the game, which seemed to mean the fun of catching the rascals
red-handed and turning them out.
Madeline, as Ellery studied her, was unaware of any change either in
Dick himself or in his attitude toward her. It was like her to be above
suspicions or small jealousies.
So summer slipped into October, and there came a month of lovely
days. Winter, after a feint, slunk into hiding again, and the only
result of his excursion was a more splendid red on the maples, a more
glowing russet on the oaks. Indian summer reigned in his stead,
flinging broadcast her gorgeous colors and her melting mellowness. That
men might not surfeit of her sweets, she tempered her daytime
prodigality of heat by nights of frost. People were coming back to
town, a few, very few, in velvet gowns, but mostly in rags and anxious
about their autumn wardrobes; and yet these were days to make one long,
as one does in spring, for the smell of the good brown earth and the
sniff of untainted country air. The atmosphere was full of glowing
warmth that penetrated to the heart and made every face on the street
reflect some of its delight; for autumn with her thousand charms and
witcheries was proving that she died, not from gray old age, but in the
fullness of her prime.
Madeline Elton, therefore, wished herself back again with the fallen
maple leaves and the pines that held their own; and Mrs. Lenox was
fitting temptation to desire as the two hobnobbed over cups of tea in
easy friendliness. When Dick Percival appeared, Mrs. Lenox saw the way
to make her bait irresistible.
Dick, she cried, just the man! Don't you pine for sunshine in
your nostrils instead of city smoke? Doesn't the thought of winter
coming, cold and long, make you appreciate these last heavenly gleams?
Do you remember what a delicious week you and Mr. Norris and Madeline
spent with me a year ago?
Yes, to everything, said Dick. All of which meanswhat? No
cream, please, Madeline.
All of which means, answered the lady, that Mr. Lenox and I are
wise in our generation and do not fly to the city when the first birds
go south; that I want Madeline to come and pay me a visit; that, as a
kind of sugar-plum, a chromo, if you please, to induce her to buy my
wares, I propose that you and Mr. Norris should join us on the Sunday
of next week. What do you say?
May the Lord prosper you, and I'll do my part as an attraction,
Dick replied heartily. But I choose to be a sugar-plum rather than a
chromo, especially if Madeline is going to eat me.
I didn't need any additional inducement, Mrs. Lenox, said
Madeline. Yourselves and all out-doors are surely sufficient. It will
be good to get away from the grime. Now what bee have you in your
bonnet, Dick? For a new look had come into his face as she spoke.
Percival had been glancing around the cheerful comfortable room
whose very books and pictures suggested peace of mind. It seemed to him
that he looked with Lena's longing eyes rather than with his own,
familiar with these surroundings. He was thinking how little his small
courtesies counted, and how much these women could do if they chose.
Why shouldn't he be bold? Madeline and Mrs. Lenox were simple-hearted
enough to take his plea at its true value, and not misunderstand his
motives. They would be interested in Lena in exactly the same way he
was. He smiled at Madeline's serenely inquiring face.
Well, Dick? she asked again.
I was wondering whether I dared to suggest a little act of human
kindliness to you two. You women are so much more ready to do such
things than men are, but we are more apt to run up against the cases
where it is needed. There's a pathetic little girl doing some hack work
for the Star. Norris knows her. She's just one of those delicate
creatures that ought to live in the sheltered corner of a garden, and
she's out on a bleak prairie. She's about as much like the people she
has to associate with as an old-fashioned single rose is like a
cabbage. Even her mother, who is the only relative she has, is nothing
but a fretful porcupine of a woman. I've been to see them a few times
and the situation seems to me almost intolerable. If ever a girl needed
a friend or two, it's shenot for charity, you understand, but just
for real contact with people of her own kind. Now a man's not much use
in such circumstances, is he? But naturally I think you are about the
best kind of a friend in the world, so I came up this afternoon partly
to see if you wouldn't give her a hand.
It sounds as though it might be more of a pleasure than a painful
So it would. You'd take to her, I know, the young man went on
eagerly. Mrs. Lenox watched him in somewhat irritated amusement. She
hasn't your brains, of course, Madeline, but she has such charm, such
simplicity and freshness, that you can't help liking her. And she grubs
away at perfectly uncongenial work, and lives with this fusty old
mother in a fusty little lodging-house. It makes me sick to think of
such daily crucifixion. I've no business to say it, I know; but when
you spoke about a week at the lake, I couldn't help thinking what such
a thing would mean to her. She'd think herself in Paradise.
I suppose, Dick, that this is your adroit and tactful way of
suggesting that I should ask her, Mrs. Lenox said, laughing.
And Madeline, who, if Dick had proposed that Mrs. Lenox should turn
her very charming summer home into an orphan asylum, would have
considered that the proposition, as coming from him, was entitled to
consideration, put in:
I think it would be a lovely thing to do, Vera.
And we should probably let ourselves in for a frightful bore.
And you might entertain an angel unawares, said Dick.
Mrs. Lenox knit her brows and meditated. She didn't quite like
Dick's championship of this unknown girl, nor did she trust to his
judgment; but, like a wise woman, she wanted to know what was the thing
that had attracted him, and was big enough in heart to be willing to do
a good turn wherever she could.
This is the oracle of the Pythia, she said at last. We will not
commit ourselves to anything at the behest of Richard Percival. On my
way to the station, now, in fact, Madeline and I will go to see this
rose among cabbages. We will introduce ourselves as your friends, Dick.
If we think you are a mere deluded male thing, there the matter ends.
If we, too, are carried away by enthusiasm, we will invite her on the
spur of the moment, and Mr. Lenox, who, like most married men, is a
connoisseur in pretty girls, can talk to her. Will this suit you,
Excellently, said Dick, I know the result.
Then you'll come next Saturday? Madeline is coming day after
to-morrow and I'll write to Mr. Norris. Heaven send these days of sun
continue. Now if we are to pay this call, and I am to catch my train,
we must be off.
Miss Quincy, having quarreled with her mother over her extravagance
in buying a feather boa with the proceeds of her last small check, was
seated by the window, industriously concocting a new hat. The Swedish
girl", whose unfortunate fate it was to minister to the wants of Mrs.
Olberg's lodgers, gave a kind of defiant pound on the door, opened it
and thrust in a disheveled blond head, followed by a hand puckered from
Haar's cards, Miss Quincy, she said, Dar's twa ladies down
She dropped the cards on the floor and disappeared. Lena, in great
curiosity, picked them up and read aloud:
'Mrs. Francis Lenox; Miss Elton.'
For the land's sake! Who air they? asked her mother.
Two of the biggest swells in town.
Well, what on earth do they want here? We ain't very swell.
Perhaps they want me to report some party or something, said Lena.
She was losing no time in giving her hair one or two becoming jerks
and going through a series of wriggles meant to impart grace and style
to her costume.
Perhaps they want to give you a million dollars, said Mrs. Quincy
Lena, with heart burning with mingled shame at her own shabby
surroundings, curiosity at their errand, and awe for the mighty names,
entered the little parlor which gave the impression of never having
been cleaned since it was born with its cheap worn plush furniture, its
crayon portraits and its two vases of gaudy blue and gold. She faced
the two ladies seated on the impossible chairs. Lena was almost as
startling an apparition in that room as was Ram Juna's rose in the
dusty phialwhether a miracle or a clever trick. She looked so
untouched by any vulgarity in her surroundings, so fresh and true, so
instinct with virgin dignity, that the eyes that met her own were
filled with the tribute of surprise; and she exulted in some hidden
corner of her soul.
In the half-hour that they spent together she measured her new
And these are women of the world! she said to herself. Why,
they're boobies. I could do them up any time.
For Lena did not know that women of this type are the most protected
creatures on the face of the earth. The knowledge of good is given
them, but not the knowledge of evil.
So she told them all about herself, which was what they seemed to
want to hear, and when they went away Madeline said:
I wonder if there are many such born to blush unseen. What an
exquisite little tragedy she is!
And Mrs. Lenox answered: Uum! Well, I've asked her, haven't I?
I think the microbe of Dick's impulsiveness must have got into me.
Lena stood back in the shadow of the room to watch her departing
guests. Then she ran up stairs with light steps, ruffling her plumes
like a cocky little lady-wren as she went back to the dreariness where
Mrs. Quincy sat rocking her inevitable creaking chair.
Well! asked her mother after a pause, a pause just long enough,
the daughter knew, to fill her with irritable curiosity.
Well, Lena answered smartly, and what do you think? They came to
call, if you please, because Mr. Percival asked them to; and they were
sweet as honey. And Mrs. Lenox asked me to spend a whole week at her
For the land sake!
I guess, Lena went on with complacence, Mr. Percival must have
said something pretty nice.
Her mother stared at her speechless, and it was such an unusual
thing for Mrs. Quincy to be struck dumb that Lena was correspondingly
elated as she rattled on.
Such dresses! I'd give anything to have such clothes and wear them
with that kind of an every-day, don't-care air. My, but Mrs. Lenox is a
stunner! But the Lenoxes are just rolling in money; and they say Mr.
Lenox hadn't a red cent when she married him and gave him his start.
It's lucky I have another check coming from the Star. I'll need
more things than ever it will buy to go out there. I must begin to get
ready right away.
The mention of expenditure brought Mrs. Quincy back to her normal
state of mind, and she resumed her rocking. Lena's means and extremes
in shopping were her standard grievance.
I might know that 'ud be the next thing. Of course you'll be
spending every penny you can rake and scrape on clothes, so's to look
fine for your new fine friends. It's no matter about me. I can go
without a decent rag to my back, so long as you've got feathers and
Well, I earned the money. I don't see why I shouldn't spend it. I'm
not robbing you, said Lena sulkily.
You might contribute a mite to your own board.
I'll save you my board for a week, snapped the girl.
Mrs. Quincy changed her tack. And leave me shut up in town, she
resumed. I should think you'd think twice, Lena, before you went off
gallivantin' and left your poor old mother here alone. Nobody seems to
think I need any pleasure.
I'll write and ask Mrs. Lenox if she won't take you instead of me.
Take me! I should think not! I wouldn't be hired to leave my own
place and go off like a charity case among a lot of rich people who
looked down on me because I was poor. I've got too much self-respect to
jump at an invitation, like a pickerel at a frog. But there! You never
think twice about things.
Suppose I did refuse. You'd fly out at me for not making the most
of my chances, said poor Lena, on the verge of tears.
Mrs. Quincy was temporarily silenced by the truth of this reply, and
Lena pursued her advantage.
Come now, mother, do you want me to get out of it?
Oh, I suppose you'll have to go, or I won't have no peace to my
life, Mrs. Quincy grudgingly responded.
Yes, you shall. If you say so, I'll give it up now and never say
another word about it.
And act injured to death, said her mother. No, you go!
After you've done everything you can to spoil it for me, answered
Lena, not half realizing how well she spoke the truth, and how both by
inheritance and by precept her mother had trailed the serpent over her
life. To Lena, fortune and misfortune were still things of outward
import, and almost synonymous with possession and non-possession. Yet,
in spite of Mrs. Quincy's dour looks, Lena found herself singing as she
moved swiftly about the room. Spontaneous joy was a rare thing with
her. The first peep into the delectable world was entrancing.
CHAPTER X. BITTER-SWEET
It was all charming, if a little strangethe friendliness of Miss
Elton when Lena met her at the station, the smart trap and groom that
met them at the end of their short journey, the very way in which Miss
Elton took possession of those awe-inspiring objects, and the
respectful curiosity of the loungers at the country station. As she
stepped into the carriage, Lena caught a glimpse of a cart-horse with
so many ribs as to suggest that the female of his species had yet to be
created. He looked so like her mother, that he gave her a spasm of
anguish which she tried to forget, as they were whirled down the road
with its fringe of straight-limbed trees. Never had the world looked
more lovely. Her spirits were lifted up.
Mrs. Lenox met them at the door with hospitable effusiveness, but
Lena's crucifixion began from that moment.
The man will carry your bag up for you, said Mrs. Lenox.
As Olaf obediently stepped forward, Lena flushed and thought: They
both noticed that it was only imitation leather.
Mrs. Lenox walked up stairs with them, chattering gaily with
Madeline, and Lena followed in embarrassed silence at the charming
freshness and daintiness of everything about her.
I've put you and Miss Elton in adjoining rooms, said Mrs. Lenox,
smiling kindly at her, so that you needn't feel remote and lonely on
your first visit here.
The man put down the bag and disappeared, and a trim maid came
forward to help Lena off with her coat which, with a sudden pang, she
wished were lined with satin instead of sateen.
Sall Ay unpack you bag? said the little maid politely.
No, thank you. I prefer to do it myself, said Lena desperately. It
was more than she could endure to have a strange girl spying out the
nakedness of the land. Yet when the little maid said, Vary well,
ma'am, and walked into the next room, Lena wondered if she had made a
mistake. She heard Miss Elton's cheerful address of the appalling
personage with the puffed up bit of hair and the saucy cap.
How do you do, Sophie?
Good day, mees. As thar anything Ay can do for you?
I fancy my dress would be better for a good brushing after the
dusty train, and the gown I want is in the top tray of the little
The door closed and Lena wondered in terror what of her small store
of finery she ought to put on, and when she ought to go down stairs.
She solved the first question to the best of her ability and sat down
on the edge of a very clean beflowered chair in despair about the
other, when there came voices in the hall, and Madeline tapped on her
door, and called:
Don't you want to come out and see the baby?
Now Lena detested babies as sticky and order-destroying vermin, but
in relief she said: A baby? Oh, how lovely!
Come, said Mrs. Lenox. The proper study of womanhood is baby.
Lena went out to find a very small person in a very tottering
condition, steered up and down the hall by another be-capped maid who
was holding tight to his rear petticoats, while Mrs. Lenox trotted by
his side, pulling a woolly lamb that baa'd with enchanting precision,
and allowing her skirts to be worried by a small puppy, whose business
in life was to bite anything hard that lay on the floor or that
wiggled. Mrs. Lenox and Miss Elton sat down on the floor to towsle and
to be towsled amid laughter and hair-pulling and frantic yelps from the
puppy, while Lena looked on and said: Isn't he cunning? and wondered
whether she ought to sit on the floor or not. She wondered if this were
indeed the millionaire Mrs. Lenox of whom she read with awe from the
In the swing column as being present at such and such society
functions", thus and thus attired.
Somehow Mrs. Lenox, seated on the floor, with her hair over one eye,
disconcerted Lena more than any amount of grandeur would have done. She
felt as one might who should catch the Venus of Melos cutting capers.
Then the redoubtable lady jumped up, tucked in a few hair-pins, gave a
final shake to her small son and said:
I dressed little Frank myself this afternoon. Don't you think I did
a good job? Dressing a baby combines all the pleasures of the chase
with the requirements of the exact sciences, Miss Quincy. Now let's go
down and have some tea before big Frank gets home. I think we've time
for a little friendly chat.
This time Lena followed with greater sense of security. She knew her
dress was pretty and becoming, though inexpensive; and as for
conversation, that to Lena's mind meant clothes and society, with which
she felt a journalistic familiarity.
Perhaps you prefer cream in your tea? said Mrs. Lenox, with hand
poised over the little table.
No, thank you, I like lemon, answered Lena, who had never tasted
it before and now thought it very nasty indeed. Then she wondered why
she had told such a small useless lie.
But it was comfortable to be in a big lovely room with a pile of
logs blazing in a great fireplace, and soft lamps shedding a glow
rather than making spots of light. She wished she had, like Madeline,
picked out a very easy chair instead of the stiff one she had selected,
but she felt too shy to move until Mrs. Lenox suggested it, and then
she was embarrassed because she was embarrassed. She wondered if she
should ever be able to do things like these women, without thinking of
what she was doing.
Madeline was idly turning the pages of a magazine and now she held
Look at these illustrations. Aren't they stunning?
I don't know, said Mrs. Lenox. I'm growing tired of that kind of
thing. It isn't art; it's a fad. The trouble with most of this modern
work is that it is too smart and fashionable. The clothes are more
important than the people.
Quite a contrast to ancient art, where the people were everything
and the clothes nothing, Madeline retorted. After all, I rather like
the modern way. The old Greeks were not a bit more real people. They
were nothing but types.
And very decapitated and de-legged types, said Mrs. Lenox with a
laugh. And dirty, toolike the Sleeping Beauty. Do you know, it gives
me the shivers to think of the Sleeping Beauty, lying there for ages,
with dust and cobwebs accumulating on her. I'm sure I hope the prince
gave her a thorough dusting before he kissed her.
You are horribly realistic, Veraa person with no imagination.
I think I have just shown a truly vivid imagination.
It is the business of imagination to build up a world of loveliness
I don't agree with you. I think it is the business of imagination
to project things as they really are. I don't want to slip out from
under reality and see only beauty. Beware, Madeline, or you will
degenerate into a mere optimist.
Isn't it funny that if your opponent can call you an optimist, he
feels that he has delivered a knock-down blow to all your arguments?
Mrs. Lenox suddenly pulled herself together and turned toward Lena, who
sat silently drinking her tea and taking no part in the conversation.
Did you tell me that your mother is an invalid, Miss Quincy?
Not exactly; but she can't go about much. It seems to play her out
It must be very hard on her to stay in the house all the time. I
wonder if I might take her to drive with me once in a while? A scarlet
flush passed over Lena's face at the very idea of her mother's
querulous vulgarity being displayed to this woman, and Mrs. Lenox could
not help seeing her embarrassment.
A little wave of pity swept over the older woman. It must be a cruel
fate to be ashamed of one's surroundings. Mrs. Lenox herself was one of
those serious-minded persons who regard their opportunities as
responsibilities. She waged constant warfare with the dominion of
externals, and believed with all her heart that the life was more than
raiment; but a momentary doubt assailed her as to whether, after all,
it might not be easier to conquer things when one owned them, rather
than when one had to do without them. It has generally been Dives who
is represented as enslaved by the goods of this world. Perhaps Lazarus,
if his heart is absorbed in sordid longing for what others have and he
has not, stands just as poor a chance of the kingdom of Heaven.
What could she do to make Miss Quincy feel at ease? The girl
certainly had brains and character. Dick had told them of her brave
bearing of burdens. This stiff back and this silence were but the
tribute of shyness to new surroundings. So ran Mrs. Lenox's swift
thoughts and she set herself to make Lena talk about the things with
which she was familiar, to link her past to this present.
Evidently the same thought was flitting through Madeline's brain,
for before Mrs. Lenox spoke she began:
Do you know, Miss Quincy, I have felt a little envy of you ever
since Dick first told us about you.
Envy! Of me? Lena exclaimed, moved to genuine surprise.
Yes, Madeline went on, leaning forward, eager to explain herself.
You see, I seem to have had a good deal of training, which looks as
though it should prepare me to do something, and thenthen I don't do
anything. It makes me feel flat and unprofitable. I'd like to feel like
you every nightas though I'd really accomplished a thing or two.
Isn't it like Madeline to try to make the girl feel the dignity of
drudgery! Mrs. Lenox said to herself.
The stuck-up thing! thought Lena; rubbing it into me that she
does not have to work for her living.
She was tempted to make a sharp answer, but remembered her diplomacy
and held it in.
Work isn't always so pleasant when you're in it, she said.
Everything is apt to look rough around the edges until you hold it
off and get a view of it as a whole, Mrs. Lenox put in. Even
lovesometimes. But I think that, next to love, work is about the best
thing in life.
Oh, that depends, Madeline cried. When I read papers at clubs,
people talk about my 'work', but nobody thinks that it is worth while.
I'd like to earn a dollar, just as a guaranty that some one thought the
thing I did was worth it.
Gracious! Lena exclaimed in genuine surprise. Do you really feel
that way about earning money?
Don't you? Madeline asked in return; and each looked at the other
No, I don't, Lena burst out sullenly, but forgetting to be shy. I
feel degraded by every dirty five-dollar bill I get by being a slavey.
People make you feel that way. You get it rubbed into you every day.
No, no, Mrs Lenox cried, remorseful now that their talk had
drifted into such intimate personalities. I am sure, Miss Quincy,
nobody feels that way about a woman that works, except, perhaps, people
whose opinion you can well afford to despise. This was a shaft that
struck so near home that Lena could hardly hold back the tears. I am
sure I think a thousand times more of a woman who does her honest share
than I do of the helpless ones who lie down on somebody else and
whine, Mrs. Lenox went on.
Madeline was inwardly bemoaning her own lack of tact. She really
wanted to make a friend of this girl, because Dick had asked her to,
and here, at the very beginning, she had stumbled, and all that was
meant to show her regard and sympathy but served to make a gulf between
Mrs. Lenox darted a look at her and sprang suddenly to her feet.
Oh, here's Frank, she exclaimed with an air of relief. Come in,
boy, and have some tea and fire. It was good of you to come so bright
Earlier than bright, I'm afraid, he said.
Lena looked with interest toward the door. Frank Lenox was great in
St. Etienne, first because he was the son-in-law of old Nicholas
Windsor, a potentate of the first local magnitude, and second, because
he was pushing to still greater success the enterprises that the elder
man had begun. So people talked about him in the street-cars by his
first name. Lena felt that it was a privilege to look at him, big,
clean, with that mingling of alertness with power which is the
characteristic of the American business man. It was an experience of
absorbing interest to see the half underhand caress he gave his wife in
passing, and to find herself actually shaking hands with him. He seemed
imposing and friendly and yet quite like other people, as he looked
around for a capacious chair and his wife handed him a cup of tea. She
was conscious that he looked at her with great interest. She recognized
the expression in masculine eyes and it soothed her ruffled spirit. It
was the constant affirmation of her beauty, a beauty which had in it
something dream-like that made men's eyes dream. After all, she could
always get along with men.
If you'd know what brought me home before my time, it was not your
charms, my dear, but a mad desire to get away from Harris, who cornered
me and opened up the negro question. I saw nothing for it but to take
to the woods.
It makes my traditional abolition blood boil to see how public
opinion seems to be settling down and dallying with heresy and
injustice again, Madeline exclaimed. She looked flushed and vigorous,
and Lena stared at her and wondered how she could care for such things.
Was it pure affectation?
Oh, you're young, my dear, said Mrs. Lenox laughingly. You must
hold all your opinions violently. And you haven't been South. Things
can't help looking different down there.
Vera! cried Miss Elton so explosively that Lena sat up straighter
than ever, you're not really a renegade yourself, are you? and she
spoke as though her life depended on the answer.
Certainly not, Mrs. Lenox answered. But I'm growing tolerant
toward the poor old world as it is. I'm willing to let it grow slowly
instead of insisting that it shall all be immediately as good and wise
as I am. I'm learning to respect other people's point of view and to
suspect that my mind is not such an ingenious mechanism as I once
supposed it to be.
Moreover, since she has married, she has contracted a habit of
taking the opposite point of view, said her husband.
Oh, that's one of the jokes that has successfully withstood the
ravages of time, said Mrs. Lenox scornfully.
Very well, then, I'll say that you are getting on toward middle
life and have had your enthusiasms corrupted by a worldly-wise father
and husband. But I dare say that Miss Quincy, being young, is quite as
explosive as you are, Madeline. So we shall be two against two.
He looked with a challenge toward the girl, and perhaps Lena might
have managed the expected saucy answer if she had not suddenly
remembered that her shoes were shabby and she had meant to keep them
hidden under her skirts. This memory destroyed her new-found
equilibrium, so she blurted out a weak, I really don't know anything
about it, and then blushed hotly at her own awkwardness.
It's a stupid subject, anyway, said Mr. Lenox. I fled from town
to avoid it. Let's not talk about negroes.
Tell us what has happened in the great world, said Mrs. Lenox,
leaning forward with her elbows on her knees and chin in hands.
Another Jap victory, he said. And I'll take a second one of those
little cakes please, if Miss Quincy will leave one for me. It cuts me
to the heart to see how the young girls of our generation stuff on
little cakes. If they'd only take example by these same Japanese, who
develop strategy and patriotism on rice, cherry blossoms and
gymnastics, there'd be some hopes for us as a people.
He glanced again at Lena in a very amiable manner, as though he
expected her to be saucy in return, but she blushed with mystification
and mortification. She had felt doubtful as to whether she ought to
take another of the little cakes, but they were very good, and she was
young enough to love goodies, without many chances at anything so
delectable as these particular bits. And now to be detected and made
fun of! She began to question if she should be able to get along with
these men, after all.
Thank you, he went on after a pause. And now that I'm comforted
with cake, another cup of tea, Vera; and then, if you would complete my
happiness, just give me a posy out of that bouquet for my buttonhole.
His wife rose, pulled a flower from a vase and pinned it to his
Here's mignonette! That's for dividends, she said, and she put her
fingers in his hair and gave his head a little shake.
Don't infringe on my head,it's patented, he said. Now go and
sit down, and I will tell you something really exciting as well as
instructive. I know about it because I have the privilege of helping
the good work with a few dollars. Professor Gregory has dug up two or
three hundred old manuscripts somewhere near Thebes, and he cables that
they belong to the first century after Christ, that he expects them to
illuminate most of the dark recesses of the time, and that I am
privileged to share the glory by making an ample contribution. Doesn't
that stir your young blood? I never hear of these things without a
passionate desire to go to some respectably aged land and dig and dig
and dig. It's a choice between doing so and making things in this very
new land for some other fellow to dig up six thousand years from now.
Which would you choose, Miss Quincy?
Lena was extraordinarily pretty, and he had a theory that pretty
girls were made to be talked to. Lena thought so too, yet all she said
was, I should think the digging would be very dirty work, though.
He glanced at her swiftly, and, though there was nothing unfriendly
in the look, she felt an uncomfortable shiver. She fell into a
miserable silence which she hardly broke when the others addressed her
with a deliberate question or made some manifest effort to include her
in topics introduced for her benefit. These attempts were only too
apparent to her and rasped her soul the more. These people had such a
perplexing way of saying whatever came into their heads. They were
serious and frivolous at unexpected places. They were not at all
elegant; they were natural, but their naturalness was not of Lena's
kind. Mr. Lenox rose and smiled at his wife.
I think I must go and have a look at my latest son, he said. He
is a very interesting person. At present he seems to be composed of two
simple but diverse elements, a stomach and a sense of humor. At the
door he paused again and said, Have you seen our new coat of arms,
Madeline?two kids rambunctious?
He went away and sounds of manifest hilarity floated down the
stairs. And then dinner was announced, and he looked so good-tempered
when he returned and gave Lena his arm that her spirits were again
lifted up. She had never before been escorted to a meal as though it
were an affair of ceremony.
I met an old fellow to-day, her host began with persistent attempt
to draw her out, that told me that for two years he had dined on bread
and milk. And then I felt that I was a favorite of fortune to be able
fearlessly to storm the dining-room. Happy the appendix that has no
Lena giggled helplessly. Was it amusement that she saw in Mr.
Lenox's eyes as he unfolded his napkin and surveyed her?
It's an awesome thing, isn't it, to be living in a world darkened
on one side by the servant question and on the other by the appendix,
like Scylla and Charybdis?
She found herself sitting down to face the mysteries of a meal whose
type was different from any hitherto met in her brief experience of
life. Her internal summing up was, Of course I can't make any
impression on Mr. Lenox. He likes the other kind of woman.
She looked at Mrs. Lenox, a woman of restraint and dark hair and
straight lines, and contrasted her with herself, a thing of curves and
sunshine colors. She did not know that a man never cares for a type of
woman, but only for woman in the concrete. Poor little Lena! When the
evening was over and she found herself at last in her too-splendid
bedroom, she put arms and head down on the dressing-table and sobbed.
These people were simple where she was complicated and complicated
where she was simple. It was all uncomfortable and different. She
thought of Jim Nolan's unfrilled conversation, of his clumsy, rather
inane compliments, of his primitive amoeba-like type of humor. She saw
the whole course of her life of mean shifts and wranglings with her
mother; and though its moral niggardliness was unappreciated, its
physical meagerness sickened her in contrast to the ease and beauty of
these newer scenes. She must climb out of that life, somehow, by hook
or crook; if this were the alternative, she must grow to its likeness,
no matter how the birth-pangs hurt. She would face it. She would even
rejoice in the opportunity to study these women and mold herself to
their outward form of bien aise. She wouldshe would. Faint and
far-away voices came to her, and she wondered if Mr. and Mrs. Lenox
were discussing her and laughing, as she would do in their place, at
her gaucheries. The meaner you are yourself, the easier it is to
believe in the meanness of others. It was the most godlike of men who
taught the godliness of all men. Lena could not imagine that these
people could either like or respect her unless she were molded after
their pattern and had as much as they had.
And Miss Elton! She hated Miss Elton for that irritating calmness,
for that easy appropriation of the good things of life. She hated with
a hate that tingled her spine and shook her small body. The tragedy of
littleness made her grit her teeth as she thought of the unconscious
girl now going to bed in the next room.
I'll get even with her somehow, was Miss Lena's resolve. Just let
me get the hang of things a little, and I'll show her! Miss Quincy was
conscious that though she as yet lacked knowledge of their world, she
had the advantage of the inheritance of guile.
But things! things! things! Lena thought a little of the irony of
itthat all her life she had pined to be set in luxury, and yet now
and here the very rugs and chairs and soft lights, the pictures of
unrecognized subjects, the unfamiliar delicacies before her at the
table, all seemed to loom up and crush her into insignificance by their
importance and expensiveness. They were her masters still.
But it was not Lena's way to waste her time on abstractions. While
she sat and watched her fire crumble away into ashes, she was chiefly
occupied with the concrete, and there entered into her soul and took
possession of its empty chambers and began to mold her to her own
purposes the demon of social ambition, which is not the desire to do or
to be, but rather the longing to appear to be and to seem to doto
take the chaff and leave the wheat.
Mastered by this powerful spirit, Lena actually did make great
strides in the next few days. She learned to lounge quite comfortably,
to pretend with verisimilitude, even to chatter a little, helped
chiefly by a certain persistent light-weight on the part of Mr. Lenox;
but the life was hard and the rewards meager. All the time she
suspected Miss Elton and Mrs. Lenox of despising her, because she had
so much less than they. Their kindliness was but an added insult.
CHAPTER XI. POLITICS AND PLAY
It was with joy that Lena stood, on Saturday night, with Mrs. Lenox
and Miss Elton on the veranda, and hailed the advent of a large red
automobile, which disgorged, besides Mr. Lenox, two dress-suit cases
and two young men. Mr. Percival had liked her in her natural state and
with him she would not need to put on style. He was to her the shadow
of a great rock in a desperately thirsty land. The only kind of
pretense that he demanded was that she should be a dear innocent little
girl, and that rôle came easily. She smiled and blushed and saw that
there was a difference in his eyes when he greeted her from the look he
bent on the other two ladies. It was balm to her spirit to think that
this man, who admired her, was himself admired by the people whom she
suspected of despising her; and that they did admire him was evident.
They were hardly seated at dinner before Mrs. Lenox began:
Dick, I have just been reading your last night's speech at the
Municipal Club and I'm quite effervescing with it. I want to put you up
on a pedestal and call the attention of Mr. Frank Lenox to you. He is
one of the innumerable excellent gentlemen, over the length and breadth
of the land, who are so busy running everything else that they let city
politics go to the place that I'm not allowed to mention. It does my
heart good to see you taking it up in earnest.
It was a good speech, all right. I've read it, too, said Mr.
Lenox. And I'm all the wretch my wife calls me. I wish I'd heard you
in your frenzy, Percival, though I have less faith in speeches and
principles than she has. Reform is only a seed, you know, and most
seeds never come to maturity or bear fruit. So most people justly doubt
Do you think we're thin sound-waves who do nothing but vibrate?
Not at all; but I mean there are no such things in the world as
abstractions. There are only men and women. Thoughts don't seethe; men
and women seethe. Principles don't reform or corrupt; men and women do
the reforming and corrupting. If you want to do things, don't begin by
making the air resound with denunciations of wickedness; but make
people believe in you and despise the other fellow. When they like you
they'll begin to think about your ideas.
I don't know any better way to make people believe in me than to
stand up for what I think to be right, said Dick sharply.
Stand up all you like, Lenox answered. But the trouble with most
good people is that they are contented to stand up. To arrive anywhere
you've got to get right down and scrap.
Oh, I'm only trying my muscle a bit, Dick answered laughingly. I
do not intend to do much generalizing except in the way of
advertisement. I'm planning to put a spoke in the wheels of a few
That's what I hope. It's easier to fulminate than to fight.
Then you'll be glad to know that Dick has already been answerable
for galvanizing the Municipal Club into new life, Ellery put in. It
has been, as you know, a delightfully scholarly affair, any of whose
members were quite capable of writing a text-book on civics; but Dick
has roped in a lot of new men and stirred up the old ones.
To what end?
Well, for two things; we have appointed committees to keep close
tab on all of the proceedings of the councilto attend every
meetingand others to work up the ward organizations so that we shall
be prepared to work intelligently and together by the next election. We
want to get some clean business man, who is well known, to stand for
mayor. There's a chance for you, Lenox.
Lenox laughed. You've caught me there, haven't you? I am condemned
for being still in the stage where I am content to mention things with
indignation. However, if you have really gone so far, I'm more than
willing to trail after you. I'll at least back you with a few facts,
such as every business man knows, and I'm good for a substantial
contribution toward any campaign you may undertake. And what I do there
are others who will do, too.
I'll not forget your promise, said Dick.
As usual, when men talk public affairs, the women had been content
to listen, but Madeline's temperament was too strong for her restraint.
It's all very well for you to put your hand in your pocket, Mr.
Lenox, she cried, but I don't want to hear you trying to undermine
Dick's idealism. If he does not have the comfort of some purpose higher
than the daily fight, how can he endure it? Don't persuade him to run
through life on all fours and never look at the stars.
Mr. Lenox looked at her warmly.
Thank the Lord for you women, he said. You do not forget that
there are stars and sky above the city smoke. If it were not for you
and your kind, I'm afraid most of the world would be tied to the ground
Oh, I fancy nature has liberated a few of you, and I am glad to
believe that Dick is among the free, she said.
She sat beside Dick, but she turned from him and spoke to Mr. Lenox.
When Percival, softened by her words and the tone of belief in which
they were spoken, looked up, he saw, not her eyes, but, across the
table, those of Lena, big and sympathetic. As he gazed into them he saw
all of Madeline's confidence in him, all of Madeline's ideals, but the
more spiritual, the more feminine, because they were unspoken. Lena's
eyes were eloquent even if she was silent; internally she was really
resenting Madeline's tone, which seemed to her to assume that Dick was
somehow Miss Elton's particular property. Perhaps you needn't be so
sure, missy, she thought.
[Illustration: You look like incarnate songPage 199]
After dinner, when the three men found their way to the
drawing-room, Mrs. Lenox had started Madeline on a career of song. She
was already in the midst of a curious weird Roumanian thing, and Norris
made straight for the piano. Lena, ethereal in pale blue, was
sympathetically listening to perfection. She had lost her look of
incongruity with her surroundings. The dreamy eyes and the transparent
skin found their setting in her filmy gown and the rich soft light.
Dick drew in his breath. He seemed never to get used to her. Naturally
he found a seat near her. She was his protégée.
Don't you sing, Miss Quincy? was his inevitable query.
And she replied with inward anguish, Not at all.
But I'm sure you do. You look like incarnate song, he persisted.
You're playing modest.
Lena cast down her eyes and said, I am a very truthful little
Have you had a good time here?
Then she looked up with kindling face. Oh, so good! You can't know
how I thank you, Mr. Percival. I know I owe it to you. I feel as though
I were breathing the air I belong in, at last. It's so different
frombut you know all about my life, said Lena brokenly. And Mrs.
Lenox is so sweet and kind, I just love her!
And Miss Elton?
Lena stiffened and made no reply for an instant.
Miss Elton is quite as clever as you men, isn't she? Lena asked,
in quite another tone of voice.
Infinitely more so, said Dick cordially.
Do you like it? she asked in a breathless way.
Why, yes, in Madeline, he answered. She isn't a bit priggish, you
know, but just naturally interested in everything good. Why? Don't you
and she get on?
Lena gave an uneasy little twist as though she did not enjoy the
question, and she sighed.
Why, frankly, I don't wholly. It's my own stupid little fault, of
course. I'm not clever. She's very charming; but she gets a little
tiresome to me.
Does she? said Dick ponderingly.
It's very hateful of me to say such things about your particular
friend, said Lena contritely. Besides, I don't meanwhat do I mean?
I never thought it out. But it's so easy to tell you everything, Mr.
Percival. And I think it's rather nice for a girl to be more silly and
inconsequential part of the time. She laughed in a gurgling little
I believe it is, said Dick speculatively, as he looked at her.
But Madeline's awfully jolly, you know. I've had more good times with
her than with any other girl I know. No nonsense about her.
That's it,no nonsense, said Lena, and this time her laugh was
not so pleasant; and Dick glanced across at Madeline with a kind of
resentment. It isn't like Madeline to go back on a fellow that way,
he said to himself. Of course she's had all kinds of advantages over
this poor little thing; but it's small of her not to forget them. I
trusted her to make things sweet; and for the first time she has
disappointed me. He looked at Madeline with a distinct feeling of
irritation as she rose from the piano. Mr. Lenox came and absorbed
Lena, whom he was teaching to answer him saucily. Lena enjoyed this
process, and it had inspired her to a really clever device, namely, to
say vulgar little things in a whimsical way, as though she knew better
all the time but wanted to be humorous. A good many other people have
had the same brilliant idea, but it was none the less original to Lena,
and it saved a lot of trouble and pretense. Norris and Miss Elton were
hobnobbing and laughing at the other end of the room, and Dick followed
Have you been out of town, Dick? Madeline asked as he came up. I
tried to get you over the telephone a day or two ago, and they told me
you were away.
Yes. He laughed exultantly as he sat down. I ran down to the
penitentiary at Easton, just to make sure that I wasn't mistaken in a
fact or two.
What now? asked Norris.
I've been told that Barrythe lord of St. Etienne, Madelineis at
last tired of his humble but powerful place, and intends to show
himself the master that he really is by running himself for our next
mayor. Now even this docile city would hardly exalt a man whom it knew
to be a criminal with a record of two years in the pen,under another
name, of course.
Is it possible that Barry
I've verified my facts. There is only one man in the city besides
myself that knows this, and he's Barry's closest friend. There'll be a
jolly old sensation in the bunch, when I spring my mine.
If nobody knows it, how did you happen to find out? asked Madeline
There was just a moment's silence, and in that instant Norris had a
flash of memory. He seemed to see Dick eying a letter addressed to
William Barry, Esquire. Even while he remembered, he hated himself for
daring to suspect that Dick would be capable of anything really shabby
or dishonorable. Yet he did suspectnay, morehe was sure; and the
pause, the look of innocent inquiry on Madeline's face grew
intolerable. If Dick would say nothing, he, Norris, must.
We newspaper men, he rushed in gaily, get hold of a vast amount
of information that people flatter themselves is secret.
Percival looked at him and grinned. The girl turned slowly from her
amused survey of Dick to study Ellery's face, which showed his
discomfort in its flush. If a girl so gentle could feel scorn, Ellery
would have thought he detected a touch of it. Certainly there was a
hint of grieved surprise as she spoke, with her eyes still fixed on
I'm very sorry, Dick, she said humbly. I didn't mean to be
prying. I've grown so used to asking you about everything. Mr. Norris
ought to get a better mask.
She laughed lightly, but Ellery's face grew hotter. He wondered if
she suspected him of some underhand trickery, and Dick realized it, yet
kept amused silence. For an instant he hated Dick, and felt a wild
impulse to defend himself; but second thoughts came quickly. She loved
Dick and was therefore slow to impute evil to him. Dick loved her, and
if he had for once played the petty knave, it was the place of a friend
to protect her against that knowledge. That had been the instinctive
reason for Norris' words, and he was not going back on them now. Yet
Ellery's brain whirled to think how swiftly and by what simple means he
might have toppled her slowly-ripening friendship into the mire.
Ellery's imagination piled superlatives on every act and expression of
his lady. If she looked light disapproval, it was worse than another's
scorn. And Dickfor whom he had thrown away the thing he most valued
in the worldDick exclaimed gaily:
Don't be suspicious, Madeline. Are all secrets disgraceful? Can't
you trust your old friends?
Of course I'm not suspicious, she answered indignantly. I only
mean to beg your pardon, Dick, and I assure you again that I'm not
curious, even. I asked this question as I have asked a thousand others,
and that would have been the end of itexcept for Mr. Norris' face.
She smiled as she turned away, and Dick lifted his eyebrows and
shrugged his shoulders as much as to say, What difference does it
make, anyway? What difference! Dick didn't care whether she despised
Ellery or nothe didn't care enough to speak an honorable word of
Mrs. Lenox came up crying, Come, my triple alliance, Frank has
carried Miss Quincy off to the billiard-room to give her a lesson. Let
us go, too, to see that they do not get into mischief.
Dick hurried away to usurp Mr. Lenox's place, Madeline tucked her
arm through that of Mrs. Lenox, and Norris was left to follow in outer
When bedtime came, Norris detained Percival.
Come out for a smoke and a turn, he said. The night is frosty,
and you'll sleep all the better for a sniff of fresh air.
What are you so glum about? he asked, as Dick tramped in silence.
He was moody and enraged himself, but too proud to let his anger be
Not mad, most noble Norris, only thinking.
Unfold your thoughts.
I was thinking about Madeline, answered Dick, and Norris' heart
thumped, for he too was thinking about Madeline. I wonder if the kind
of training that she and all girls of her class get is the thing, after
all. I'm not talking about knowledge, you understand. I'm not such a
cad as to grudge a girl the best there is in the world. But there's
something else. It's the electric feminine, I suppose, that makes them
the powers behind every throne. Fate is always represented in
petticoats, you know. It sometimes seems as though the better-trained
girls had all that side of them kept out of sight and polished into
nothingness. Why are they taught to ignore the biggest power that's in
them? Why, even that untrained little Miss Quincy is vivid with some
sex-fascination that the more fortunate girls do not often have.
Oh, she is only a colored light. The sunlight has all other colors
latent in itself. How do you dare to make any comparison between Miss
Quincy and your lovely Miss Elton?
Great Scott! Don't say 'my Miss Elton'! Dick exclaimed. Madeline
doesn't belong to me. And he added politely, Worse luck! She and I
have always been like brother and sister. That's all there is to it.
Are you sure? demanded Ellery, with hot thrusts of mingled anguish
and exultation stabbing through his bosom.
Sure! said Dick equably. Why, even if I loved her, my dear
fellow, I should know, from her unruffled serenity, that there was no
hope for me. But Madeline isn't a very emotional creature, Ellery. She
has too much brains for that,a girl to cheer but not inebriate.
I don't want a girl to make me drunk, ejaculated Norris.
Well, I do, rejoined Dick.
And though Miss Elton's emotions do not lie on the surface, I'll
warrant they are there, Ellery went on as though letting off pent-up
steam. They are like her voicelike all her motionsneither loud nor
faint, but exquisitely modulated. She seems to me like the embodiment
of innocence,not the innocence of ignorance, but the untaintedness of
a mind that goes through the world selecting the best, as the bee takes
honey and leaves the rest. There's no subject, so far as I can see, on
which she is afraid to think; but I can not imagine that any subject
would leave a deposit of mire in her mind.
Gee whizz! scoffed Dick. How fluent your year of journalism has
made you! What a great thing it is to be a serious-minded young man
with eye-glasses, engaged, while yet in youth, in molding public
opinion through the mighty agent of the press! And Madeline is another
of the same kind.
I wish I were of her kind, said Ellery stiffly. You may poke fun
at me as much as you like, Dick, but it's beneath you to jeer at her.
You old duffer, aren't you two the best friends I have in the
world? I like the clear and frosty mountain peaks.
How did you find out about Barry? Ellery asked abruptly.
I do not have to tell you any more than Madeline. Seeing the grim
look on Norris' face, Dick went on, Let's go in and to bed. We seem to
rub each other the wrong way to-night. If we don't separate soon we
shall be having a French duel.
CHAPTER XII. AN ENGAGEMENT
The gates of the delectable world, it seemed to Lena, opened very
slowly, and the mild fragrance and warmth that dribbled out to her
through their narrow crack intensified her outer dreariness. Once in a
while Mrs. Lenox or Miss Elton did her some little kindness.
Occasionally Mr. Percival came to see her, but her shame of her mother
and her home made these visits a doubtful pleasure. The sordid monotony
of her work oppressed her every morning and depressed her every night.
The little money that she earned fell like a snow-flake into the
yawning furnace of her desires. Bitter is the fate of her to whom the
goods of this world are the final good, and to whom those goods are
There came a night when a certain great lady gave a dance, and Lena
was deputed by the feminine head of the staff of the Star to
report these doings of society. At first the chance looked to her
delightful. She was to have a peep into the world of charm which was
her dream and her ambition. She walked through the wide empty rooms
with their soft lights and masses of flowers. She surveyed the
dining-room, a wilderness of candles, orchids and maiden-hairs. She
felt her feet sink luxuriously into the rugs, oh, so different from the
threadbare ingrain carpet at home! She peeped into the ball-room,
smilax-draped and glowing as if eager to welcome the guests to come.
Through it all she carried a prim air, making businesslike notes on her
little pad; but beneath her very demure exterior raged a storm of
rebellion that these things should be and not be for her. The world was
one huge sour grape; and yet she must smile as though it tasted sweet.
There were blurs in her eyes as she stumbled up the back stairs,
whither her way was pointed, that she might stand in a corner of the
dressing-room where the now fast-arriving ladies were laying off their
wraps. She swallowed a lump in her throat and winked hard in the
attempt to forget or ignore the careless looks thrown at her by these
ladies, as the maids removed the long cloaks made more for splendor
than for warmth, or drew up the gloves on bare arms less lovely than
her own. Many of the women looked twice at her, and she thought, and
resented the fact, that they were surprised to see so much beauty. She
could not be impersonal like the other reporters,sensible girls,
taking all this as a part of the day's work, and whispering names to
one another, which Lena, too, must catch and treasure for her
reportorial harvest. She must glance with swift inclusiveness at the
more striking gowns, that later she may serve them up in the technical
slapdash of the social column.
An hour of it left her faint and sick, not with cynical scorn of the
spectacle, but with longing and self-pity. The crowd in the
dressing-room was thinning now, but, whether she had finished her duty
or not, she must escape. She could endure it no longer. Again she made
her way down the narrow non-angelic stairs and out at a little side
door. The night air was sweet and cold. She paused for a moment under
the light of the porte-cochère to watch the string of carriages and the
swirl of silk and laces that passed through the opening door, to listen
to gusts of music that came to an abrupt end as the outside door shut
Suddenly a figure loomed beside her, and she look up to see Dick
Percival, straight and big, with the electric light gleaming on his
white shirt-front, where his overcoat fell back. There was an
unpleasant sternness in his deeply-shadowed eyes.
Miss Quincy! he exclaimed. What are you doing here!
I was sent to report it, said Lena weakly. I'm going home now.
Going home alone? Nearly midnight?
What else can I do? It's what the other girlsreporters, I
meanhave to do.
I shall walk home with you, said Dick sharply, and he drew her
aside into the shadow, as though ashamed of being seen, and piloted her
in silence to the sidewalk. Lena gave a little sob as he drew her arm
through his, and still they walked on until the lights of the great
house grew dim in the distance and only the quiet of the city streets
by night enveloped them.
Ought you not to go back now? You'll lose all the pleasure, said
Are you doing much of this kind of thing? Dick demanded.
This is the first time.
I hope it will be the last, he answered glumly.
So do II don't like it, whispered Lena.
II can't endure itLena! Lena started as she heard her name.
Lena, come over here into the park for just a moment. I want to talk
I can't. It's awfully cold, and said Lena, but she followed his
lead as she remonstrated.
And you have on a wretched little thin coat. Why aren't you
I haven't anything. Lena spoke under her breath. Dick stamped his
foot as a substitute for a curse, whipped off his heavy great-coat,
wrapped her in it, and pushed her down on to a bench.
Lena, he said, standing squarely in front of her, I know I've no
right to hope for anythingno right to speak, even, when you know me
so little; but, by Heaven, I can't endure to see you grinding out your
life in this way, when there's even a chance that you will let me
prevent it. You flower of a girl, you! Oh, Lena, I love youI love
He caught a small white hand that held together the heavy coat, and
kissed it in a kind of frenzy, while Lena, rigid with desire to be
quite sure what this signified, peered stolidly at him from over the
big collar. She was too wise in her generation to leap to conclusions
about the ultimate meaning of Dick's passion. She would not unbottle
any emotion until she knew.
Lena, if you could see how I love you, you'd trust me, I think,
even with yourself. If you will be my wife
Something in Lena seemed to break, and she gave a gasp of relief and
gratitude that was almost prayer and approached love. Then she buried
her face in her hands and sobbed aloud, as Dick put both arms around
her and drew her head to his shoulder.
Lena, can youdo you love me a little? he whispered, as if in
Oh, Mr. Percival, said Lena, I do! How could I help it? But I
could not dream of your loving poor little insignificant me.
And how could I help it? he said, mocking her. Little, you may
be, but this part is bigger than the whole world. You belong to me now,
and I won't have you depreciate yourself.
Oh, Mr. Percival, is it true?
Suppose you say 'Dick', and thank God that it is.
Dick, Dick, Dickit is, said Lena very softly, and she frankly
put her arms around his neck, and her soft lips to his cold cheek, so
that he lost himself in an ecstasy of delight and wonder.
So they sat in the doubtful shadow of a leafless maple, on a hard
park bench, on a chilly November night, and though Dick was half frozen
they were both more than happy. And they talked, in lovers' fashion,
over the great fact, and how it all happened.
The mellow chimes of the city hall began to strike twelvea most
persistent hour, and Lena started into consciousness.
Dick, I must go home, she said. None of those girls, the nice
girls, Miss Elton or any one like that, would do such an improper
thing, would they?
I should think not, said Dick. I wouldn't ask them to.
And I wouldn't allow them, laughed Lena. Now come, like a dear
boy, and walk home with me.
There are so many more things that I want to say, remonstrated
Dick. Stop a moment under this light and let me see your eyes, Lena.
You'll have to look up. I want to talk plain business to you. First,
you'll give up this reporting folly, won't you?
To-morrow, said Lena joyously.
[Illustration: They talked in lovers' fashionPage 216]
What an admirably obedient wife you are going to make! But I'm glad
you hate it. If ever you feel a mad desire to take it up again, we'll
go into the library together and write up Godey's Lady's Book. I
want your life to be sweet and sheltered and filled with good things
Oh, Dick, to think of that kind of a life coming to me!
It ought to have come to you long ago. It was bound to come,
because it belongs to you. But things being as they are, you must give
yourself into my keeping as soon as possible, sweetheart. There's no
reason why we shouldn't be married at once, or nearly so, is there,
Here Lena hesitated, a little in doubt whether she ought to show
maiden reluctance, and her lover went on with his argument.
You are so alone, dear. Don't let any foolish hesitation prolong
this bad time of yours.
What about my mother? demanded Lena, with a sudden descent to the
region of hard facts.
Do you want her to live with us? Dick asked with a gulp.
No, I don't! Lena answered so sharply that Dick started in
surprise, and she gathered herself together.
It would take a long time for me to explain things to you, she
went on in gentler accents. But, Dick, mother and I are not very happy
together. I'll tell you all about it some time. Perhaps she would be
just as contented to live somewhere else.
Very well, said Dick with a sense of relief. We must make her
comfortable, of course. In reality nobody else's comfort made a rap's
difference just then. I dare say we can find some jolly little
apartment and somebody to take care of her.
Hire somebody for her to find fault with, said Lena, with a return
of acid. What about your mother?
Oh, I couldn't let mother live anywhere but in the dear old home.
It's too big and lonely for her by herself, so we must share it with
her. And no other place would ever have the flavor of home, either to
her or to me.
Lena stopped short in her progress.
Does the house belong to you or to her?
Technically to me, I believenot that it makes the slightest
Then I should be mistress of it, not she?
I'm sure she'd be only too glad to turn the housekeeping cares over
to your pretty little hands, said Dick, smiling, but a little
uneasily. She's a good deal of an invalid, you know. But there's
plenty of time to think of all these details. I suppose you've had to
worry about the little things until it's become a habit, he added in a
kind of apology to himself.
I've been a bond-slave so long, said Lena, that I'd like to feel
perfectly free and mistress of everything around me. She straightened
her back and squared her soft shoulders.
So you shall be! answered Dick happily. Even of your husband.
Oh, that, of course, said Lena with an enchanting pout. Now here
we are, and it's very late. You must go. Good night.
Good night, said Dick. I suppose I must not keep you. To think I
have the unbelievable good fortune to kiss you good night, sweetheart.
Mrs. Quincy turned over in the lumpy bed which she and her daughter
shared and said, with a querulousness undiminished by her sleepiness,
You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Lena Quincy, gallivanting around
at this hour of night. It ain't decent. But there!
I guess I know my business, Lena snapped.
She turned out the gas to undress in the dark rather than encourage
her mother's conversation. She needed to think. An awful problem had
just presented itself. How was she to get a trousseau?
It was in another mood that Dick Percival walked home. Whenever
anything very great and wonderful happens to us, we are apt to bow our
heads and cry, What am I, that this should be given to me? Doubtless
he is the noblest man who most often feels this exultant humility. This
was Dick's hour on the mountain. The depth of his own tenderness, the
deliciousness of his passion swept over him like a revelation, as he
asked himself in wonder how it could be that this love had sprung up at
once, like Aphrodite from the waves, where no one could have suspected
such a marvel. He himself had been without realization of how his
passing interest had deepened its roots until now they fed on every
part of him. Love had startled him like a stroke of lightning out of a
clear sky, but it was evident that it was no light that flashed out and
then disappeared. It had come to stay.
Then came self-reproach. He remembered with hot cheeks that he had
actually joked with Ellery about her in early days, and let himself be
bantered in returncad that he was, incapable of appreciating at first
sight the woman he was to love. He had thought her an exquisite trifle,
almost too illusive to be taken seriously. Now that very illusiveness
was the thing that gripped him closest, like poetry and music and all
the finer elements of life, the most impossible to explain, the most
supreme in their dominion. Beauty meant all this. He found himself
repeating, Beauty is truth. Truth beauty. That is all ye know on
earth, and all ye need to know. And Lena was beautiful. How beautiful!
He trembled in flesh and spirit at the vision of her face turned up to
him out of the black November darkness, at the memory of the fine
texture of her cheeks and lips.
He did not stop to ask himself whether he and Keats were agreed in
their definition of beauty. Moreover, poor Keats never had the delight
of anything so pink and golden and blue-eyed as Lena Quincy.
CHAPTER XIII. AN AWAKENING
A little scrawl of a note, delivered just after breakfast at Mr.
Elton's door, brought Madeline to visit Mrs. Percival, who, like her
mother, seemed to be in continual need of her.
She found that lady lying in her favorite chair in the librarythe
chair that had been her refuge in the days of her early widowhood, that
had comfortably housed her when books carried her away from her own
world of sorrows and problems into the world of illusions, the chair in
which she had dreamed of the great things that were to come into a
younger life, not her own, and yet deeply her own,her son's.
Now she lay back in it with clasped hands, thinner than usual and
with eyes sadder. Madeline came in like a young Hebe, glowing with
health and vigor, and infinitely tender toward fragility.
You are ill, dear mother Percival, cried the girl, dropping to her
knees and slipping an arm behind her friend's back in an unconscious
attitude of protection.
Mrs. Percival's fingers followed the soft curve that the girl's hair
made around her forehead.
No, dear, she said slowly, but I had something to tell you. I
wanted to speak to you myself, before any one else had the chance.
Please tell me quickly.
So many of my dearest hopes have come to nothing! Mrs. Percival
went on, with a little bitterness that Madeline thought unlike her.
Each blow, as it falls, seems the hardest to bear. I've tried to
accept whatever happens, graciously. It isn't always easy, Madeline,
Yes? said Madeline.
Is anything the matter with Dick? Madeline rose with a little cry.
Dick does not think so, his mother answered. My child, you have
seen something of this little Miss Quincy?
Madeline's eyes dropped for the tenth of a second and a heaviness
took possession of her body; then she lifted her head bravely.
Yes, she answered, I know Miss Quincyquite the most beautiful
girl I have ever seen.
Very beautiful, echoed Mrs. Percival. So I too thought, the only
time I ever saw her. Well, Madeline, what I have to tell you is that
Dick is to marry her.
The girl saw that the older woman's hands were trembling, and she
laid her own warm young palms over the cold old ones.
I hope Dick will be very happy, she said softly. II'm not a bit
surprised. We ought to have seen that it was coming. And Dick loves
And she laid her cheek against Mrs. Percival's, but the other pushed
her away and stared into the eyes so near her own.
And you can take it so quietly? she asked. Forgive me, dear, if
for once I break down the barriers of reserve. I love you so much, let
me be frank. Surely you know what I hoped, what I thought.
You thought Dick and I loved each other, Madeline said bravely.
I hoped so. Heaven knows I hoped so.
We are too good friends for that, dear Mrs. Percival. One needs a
little something unexplored and unexpected in a lover; don't you think
so? Dick and I knew each other in kilts and pig-tails.
Well, it seems I am as much of an old fool as Dick is a young one,
Mrs. Percival said bitterly. I'm good for nothing but to lie here and
comfort myself with dreams.
You're an old dear, and Dick is a young one, Madeline tried to
laugh. And Miss Quincy is exquisitecharming.
An old fool, repeated Mrs. Percival. Now listen, sweetheart! If
Dick marries this girl, I have no intention of forgetting that he is my
son, and that she is his wife. I shall do all I can to help her to be
worthy of him; but before that happens, I am going to have the
satisfaction of speaking to just one person in the worldyouexactly
what I think about it. From what Mrs. Lenox told me, after her visit in
the country, and from what I saw myself, I think she is a vulgar little
image overlaid with tinsel.
Oh, don't! Madeline cried. You and I do not really know her, but
we can trust Dick. He's too fine himself to be attracted by anything
but fineness. She must have character to have made the fight she has
Attracted by character! Pins and figs! My son is just like all the
others, I am finding. He's attracted by pink flesh. And as for heart
and soulall the women that Dick has known well have been women of
refinement. He takes their purity and nobility for granted, as a part
of womanhood. He thinks he's marrying you and me. His reason has
nothing to do with it.
For the moment Madeline had no answer, and Mrs. Percival went on:
It's foolish to care what people say about your tragedies. Oh, you
needn't shake your head. This is a tragedy, Madeline. And I do care
about the world. I hate to think of the whispering and gossiping
because my sonmy sonhas fallen a victim to a cheap adventuress.
Nonsense, Madeline broke out. Miss Quincy isn't an outcast, just
because she has had the world's cold shoulder. And people aren't so
silly as to let such external things prejudice them.
Don't mistake me, dearie. I'm not taking exception to the girl
because she works. We're allthose of us that are good for muchthe
mothers and wives and daughters of men who work, and we share in their
labor. I could admire and love a real worker, but this butterfly
creature affects me like a parasitea woman who wants to get and not
to give. It's just because I feel that she isn't a real worker that I
am afraid of her.
And that, even if it is true, may be only the result of sordid
surroundings. Madeline's heart misgave her, for she had learned to
respect Mrs. Percival's judgments. She'll blossom out and add
womanliness to beauty in such an atmosphere as you and Dick will give
Spontaneous generation will not do everything. You must have the
germ of a heart before you can develop the whole thing. Do you think
you can really change a girl who has lived for twenty years in the
You are judging cruelly, Madeline cried. Of course every one has
the germs of good.
And did it ever occur to you that the kind of love that Dick will
give his wife may be too goodso far above a coarse-grained woman that
it will not touch her comprehension? A lower grade of man might bring
her out better.
It's impossible to think of so exquisite a creature being
coarse-grained, Madeline exclaimed. I, for one, am going to believe
in her, and in a year, with you and Dick and mother and Mrs. Lenox and
myself all backing her, you'll be proud of her loveliness and tact. I
shall be only Cinderella's ugly sister. But you must not ever quite
forget me, Mrs. Percival. And Madeline laughed most cheerfully.
Mrs. Percival smiled in return. Well, I have had my explosion. It's
extraordinary what a relief it is, once in a while. I'm not often so
guilty, am I, Madeline? After all, I've told you my fears rather than
my convictions. The situation does not seem so bad, now that I have
said even more than I think. Hereafter I shall find it easy to hold my
And you will try to like her? Madeline asked anxiously.
Of course, my dear. I shall try harder than any one else. I am
going in state to pay her a motherly call this very afternoon, feeling
all the time like a plated volcano. Mrs. Percival leaned back with a
small moue, then sat up again. There's my boy's latch-key in
the lock now, she said.
Dick halted at the door when he saw the two and knew that they must
have been talking of him. He had something of an air of defiance
thickly overlaid with innocence; but Madeline went to meet him with
Dick, she exclaimed, I congratulate you with all my heart. She's
the prettiest creature in the world.
Dick, manlike, regarded this as the highest possible tribute to his
beloved and glowed in return. His defiance dropped like a shell and he
shook Madeline's hands with enthusiasm.
You're a trump, he said. I shall not forget how good you have
been to her; and I hope you two will always be friends.
I should think so! I should like to see your trying to prevent us,
Dick, said Madeline saucily. And your mother is going to love her,
When we are married, Dick answered with silly masculine
And that is to be soon!
As soon as I can manage it. I can't bear to have Lena living as she
does now; and there's no reason why we shouldn't cut it short.
No reason at all. I don't wonder you feel so. Good-by, both of
Dick saw her to the door and Madeline walked out with her usual
She found her way home with bottled-up emotions, as a hurt child
holds in the cry until he gets to the spot where mother's breast waits
for the inarticulate sobs. Everything she had done and said seemed to
have been the act of some far-away self, that had hardly any connection
with the real Madeline. The earth danced around her and she was
incapable of real thought. And yet the well-trained, automatic body
that was her outer shell conducted itself with reason. It even stopped
in the living-room to kiss her mother; it apparently skimmed a new copy
of Life; it convoyed her slowly up stairs to her own room, where
it shut and locked her door. But here her real self resumed control, as
she threw herself into an easy chair by the window and stared out at
the desolation of December where dead leaves went whirling in elfin
For a few moments she let the solar system rock and reel around her,
and watched everything she had thought stable go up in smoke. Then upon
the world, swirling and pounding meaninglessly, there came an intense
quiet. She knew that the outer world was as serene as ever; but a great
throbbing pain within showed her that it was only her own little atom
of self that was revolutionized. Nature was not upset. There was still
order for her to hold fast to. For the first time she began to analyze
herself and her emotions.
She could not say that she had planned her future, but it had seemed
so natural and inevitable that she had accepted it without planning,
almost without thought. Dick and she had belonged to each other ever
since they could remember. At ten they had been outspoken lovers, and
ever since there had been that intimate comradeship that seemed to her
to imply the unspoken relation, behind, above, below. All this she had
taken for granted, like mother-love and her own dawning womanhood. And
now Dick, the chief corner-stone of her edifice, was torn away, and the
whole airy structure toppled and dissolved.
I've been assuming all this, she said to herself, and marriage
isn't a thing to take for granted. Shouldn't I have resented it if Dick
had appropriated me as though I belonged to him and had lost my freedom
of choice? I've been unfair to him. And nowif I should never
marrythere are surely plenty of good things left in the world. But
Madeline had always been characterized by those who knew her as
lovely and placid. And why not? What else should life draw out of a
girl of normal nature, surrounded by protecting love, given the good
things of life as by right, shielded from the knowledge of evil, never
facing a problem more exciting than those of Euclid. But now something
began to stir in the unknown depths of her nature. For the first time
in her life she had had a blow. There rose before her a vision of
endless maidenhood. She saw herself as she had seen other
womenuninteresting women, she had thought them. Now they seemed to
her like tragedieswomen whose lives did not count, either to
themselves or to the world, middle-aged, somber, unrelated. To be
childless, to eat and dress and wear the semblance of womanhood, even
to play a little part in society, and yet to be but half a woman! To be
no link in the generations! This was unendurable. The first demand of
every soul is for life, and yet life is life only when it is part of
the future. To live oneself one must live in others. All the mother
hidden in the depths of her rose and cried out against any destiny that
shut her out from the great stream of humanity.
I shall be a side-eddy in the current. I shall grow stagnant and
slimy and lead nowhere. And the rushing waters will go leaping and
She got up and moved restlessly up and down the room. She looked
again out of the window at the sober end of the winter day. In the tree
branches that clattered outside, her eyes fell on an empty nest.
And am I to be such a thing? she said. Surely all the world must
bow down in pity for the solitary woman. Some half-forgotten lines
came back to her:
Mine ear is full of the rocking of cradles.
For a single cradle, saith Nature, I would give every one of my
By her little practice piano her eyes fell on the pages of
Schubert's unfinished symphony.
Unfinished! she said. And yet even there is the phrase that comes
and comes again, sweeter and more full of meaning in every renewed
variety. So I must have love to play through my life, or else it will
be nothing but a medley. It must be my music's theme; even if the
symphony is unfinished. Are there women who can do without it, who can
take a life alone and make it sweet and satisfying? Not I, oh God, not
I! I'm no exceptional creature. I'm just a plain woman. And if life
doesn't give me wifehood and motherhood, it gives me nothing. I wonder
if all women feel this way. This pretty little Lena,is she bursting
with primal need of giving and taking? At any rate she has put
something in Dick's face that was never there beforethat I'd give my
soul to see in a man's face when he looks at me.
Hitherto the world had ambled along in an amiable way; and now it
suddenly turned and delivered a blow in the face. Every one is destined
to receive such blows, some get little else. But the test comes in the
way they are received. You may use belladonna as a poison, or you may
use it to help the blind to see. So when pain comes, you may take it to
your bosom and suckle it till it becomes a fine healthy child, too
heavy for you to carry; or cast out the changeling and leave it on the
doorstep to die. It matters little how much anguish skulks about the
outside of life, so long as it finds no lodgment in the sacred shrines
of the heart. Madeline met her first grief and fought it off; and, even
while she thought it had given her a mortal wound, came the revelation
of the powerlessness of the poor thing. She put her arms down on the
window-sill to cry deliberately, but something dried her tears.
I couldn't put that look in Dick's face, but could he put it in
mine? Was this taking of things for granted the best love of which I am
capable? I've found out to-day that there are all kinds of things in me
that I have never dreamed of before, and passion is one of them, and
rebellion. Great heavens! I might have married him and been serene and
never found things out.
She seemed to be looking at a new Madeline; and while she stared,
startled, this self grew greater and stronger.
This is not the end of life; it is the beginning, she whispered.
I've been looking down the wrong road. Dick has no such power over me
as to consign me to misery everlasting. I am mistress of my own fate. I
have not handed it over to him. Happiness is not a thing to get. It is
a state of mind to live in. It is my own affair, not that of others.
She rested her chin in her hands and fell into a girl's day-dream, in
which the nightmare was forgotten.
Twilight fell at last, and faint sounds came up to her to remind her
that down stairs there were well-beloved people who did not know and
should never know of her little vigil. Her father must be coming home.
It was time for her to put on her armor and go down. Armor is one of
the necessities of life. If we can't wear it in steel plates on the
outside, we must mask the face with impenetrability and the manner with
pretense. Never let the heart be vulnerable. Yet, try as we may,
something of our weakness is laid bare. Hereafter Miss Elton might be
serene, but would never again be placid.
But now she was quite herself.
Down stairs her father read the paper and her mother sat near the
big table, hem-stitching. For them everything was settled, and settled
satisfactorily. They knew whom they were going to marry, and whether
love was to be a success, and where they were going to live, and what
they were going to do. Henceforth, for them the game meant only
pleasantly plodding onward along paths already marked out. Just a
wholesome common marriage, planted with the seed of love and watered
with small self-sacrifices. How could they possibly remember the
restlessness of youth, to whom all these things are hidden in the mists
of the future, and who is longing for everything and sure of nothing?
Madeline sat down at the piano and her hands fell inevitably into
phrasing the unfinished symphony. She became aware that her mother
laid down the stitching and Mr. Elton's evening paper ceased to
crackle. As she stopped her father stood behind her. He bent and kissed
the little parting in her hair.
Your music grows sweeter and richer day by day, little girl, he
said. I suppose as more comes into your life you have more to give.
I'm glad that you give it out to us old folks at home.
Madeline wheeled about and sprang to her feet.
Ah, she exclaimed, if you have finished with your stupid old
paper, I'll give you a real piece of news. It's a 'scoop' too, for no
reporter has got hold of it yet. Dick Percival is engaged to little
Both father and mother stared at her in silence. She stood a little
behind the chandelier, where the light shone full on her face, and in
neither mouth nor eyes could they see the trace of shadow. On the
contrary, there was a radiant loveliness about her that astonished
those that loved her best.
Then Mr. Norris was announced.
Now when Miss Elton had her first peep into her soul, and so stirred
up the possibilities in her nature, she also awoke to new insight into
what was going on behind other people's eyes. The day when she could
look a young man squarely in the face and say to him whatever she
thought had passed. The period of unconscious girlhood, much prolonged
in her case, came to an end. Since, in this world, shadow goes with
sunshine, so demons tag after angels; and with the dawn of her sweeter
womanhood, Madeline developed a new spirit of contrariety and coquetry
that astonished no one so much as herself.
When Mr. Norris came in, his apologetic glance told her at once that
she had hardly spoken to him since she had turned up her straight
little high-bred nose and informed him and Dick that she despised their
underhand ways; told her, also, what had not dawned on her before, that
here was an abject creature, and that it was the province of womanhood
to batter and buffet him who is down, perhaps in secret fear of that
day when outraged manhood will rise and claim a tyranny of its own.
So she put out her hand with that stiffness that holds at arm's
length and said:
Oh, how dy' do, Mr. Norris, just as though they had never sailed
together in dual solitude, and she allowed her lip to curl in evidence
of her disapproval of the much warmer greeting of her elders.
She sat down and eyed and tapped a small bronze slipper, while she
ignored the reproachful glances of her mother at her rank desertion of
conversational duties. Her father hardly noticed it. He himself so
liked young men that he frequently forgot that his daughter and not
himself might be the object of their quest. So he plunged cheerfully
into an animated discussion of the new tide in civic politics, while
Norris dully and conscientiously tried to bear up his end.
Ellery's eyes, however, as well as the thoughts behind those
superficial thoughts that guided his words, were absorbed in the other
side of the room, where Miss Elton canvassed with her mother the merits
of various embroidery silks. She was lovelier than ever. He had thought
her perfect before, but to-night she had added a sheen to perfection
and made herself entrancing, both reposeful and vivid. He wondered if
she had heard of Dick's engagement and if her color covered a pale
Suddenly she flung up her head impatiently, and came behind her
father's chair to clap a small hand over his mouth in the middle of a
sentence of which Norris had entirely lost track.
Father, father, she cried, do you think Mr. Norris wants to come
here and maunder over stupid politics all the evening, after he has
been writing stupid editorials about them all day? They are
stupidI've read some of them. She smiled at the young man. Wouldn't
you both infinitely rather hear me sing?
Mr. Elton kissed the offending hand before he put it gently down.
I know I should.
Norris sprang up.
May I turn your music? he asked eagerly, but she shook her head as
she moved away.
There isn't going to be any music to turn.
She began to sing the same little Roumanian song that he remembered
on their last evening in the Lenox house, and his spirits, lifted for a
moment by her smile, went down again.
Into the mist I gazed and fear came on me,
Then said the mist, 'I weep for the lost sun.'
She sang passionately and he could have cried aloud. It was true
then that she was grieving for Dick.
The music is uncanny, isn't it? she said, as she ended and found
him near her. How does it make you feel?
If I should find an image for my feelings just at present, you
would scorn me for my base material thoughts.
Find it, she commanded.
I think I feel like a mince-piea maddening jumble of things
delicious and indigestible.
She laughed and grew friendly. This, he thought, is, after all, her
permanent mood; but before he could take advantage of it another
caller, Mr. Early, appeared; and again she basely deserted Norris to
the mercies of her father and mother, and devoted herself to the
evident beatification of the apostle of the new in art.
CHAPTER XIV. THE RETURN OF RAM JUNA
One gloomy evening in January Mr. Early sat alone. He had so many
tentacles spread out through the world of men and women that solitude
was unusual to him. Indeed it had often occurred to him, as an example
of the fallacy of ancient sayings, that there was nothing in that old
epigram about the loneliness of the great. The higher he had risen in
the scale of greatness the more insistently and persistently had the
world invaded his life, until even his appreciation of solitude had
This particular day had been a hard one. The problems of glass and
rugs were unusually complicated, and the interruptions to continuous
thought more numerous than usual. Moreover, without warning, like a
meteor of magnificent proportions, Swami Ram Juna, with many
paraphernalia of travel, had suddenly reappeared to ask for that
once-proffered hospitality. Not without state and courtesy could such a
being be welcomed; and courtesy takes time.
Finally, to discuss the matter of the outer cover for the next issue
of The Aspirant, a henchman invaded his privacy. Sebastian
looked over a pile of designs, and chose a flat but lurid young woman,
in a sphinx-like attitude against a background of purple trees. Then
came the more difficult question of an aphorism to be printed on the
table against which the lurid young woman leaned. It was the habit of
The Aspirant to convey, even on its outside, wisdom to the world,
and the thinking up of smart young aphorisms is not always an easy
task. Mr. Early at length evolved: It has been said of old: 'Know
thyself.' I say unto thee, 'Forget thyself. Know thy brother.'
That sounds fairly well, said Mr. Early wearily, and he dismissed
the henchman and settled himself in a particularly benevolent
arm-chair, in front of a cheerfully-roaring fire. The place was a
remote room, decorated not for public inspection but for comfort. Mr.
Early was tired. A certain new question had been waiting in the
antechambers of his mind, and to-night he determined to give it
leisurely attention; for of late it had several times been borne in him
that he was getting along in years and that if he did not intend to die
a bachelor, it behooved him to move swiftly. The thought had been
quickened into livelier vitality when, at a dinner a few nights before,
he had watched the face and studied the figure of Miss Madeline Elton.
She was certainly a rare creature. There was a verve, a magnetic
quality to her, that he hardly remembered before. Her beauty, her
nobility, her purity he felt to be the artistic attributes of
womanhood. No, he not only admired them, they charmed him.
Yes, said Mr. Early. By Jove, if she'd lift her little finger at
me I believe I'd make a fool of myself over her! And why shouldn't I?
Why shouldn't I let myself go? I've got everything else now. A woman of
her bigness likes a man who can do things and who controls other men.
By Heaven, I believe we were made for each other!
Mr. Early grew so excited by the strength of his new passion that he
sprang to his feet and walked up and down to luxuriate in the idea.
Proportionately great was his annoyance when a knock invaded his
self-communion, and his man's face appeared at the door to tell him
that Mr. Murdock would like to speak with him. While he was yet opening
his mouth to anathematize Mr. Murdock, that gentleman entered, familiar
The man who came in was, in his way, a force almost as great and as
worthy of regard as Mr. Sebastian Early himselfin fact no less a
personage than the power behind the throne of that uncrowned king,
William Barry. Though he did not sit on Olympian heights and play with
the thunderbolts of jobs and contracts, as Barry did, yet he had an
occasional way of interfering in the game, just as in Greek legend Fate
loomed large behind the back of Zeus.
Mr. James Murdock was a business genius who dipped into politics,
not for office nor yet for glory, but only for gain. Originally a
partner of Mr. Early's, when, just as some one else invented a better
hook-and-eye, their business was sold out, Murdock let his
many-sidedness run riot in a dozen directions. While Mr. Early's
abilities led him to get all there was in it out of the public on its
imaginative side, Murdock worked out his fortune in more practical
necessities. St. Etienne was a western city, full of growth and
therefore full of needs. There were miles and miles of asphalt to be
laid; there were wooden sidewalks crying out to be replaced by stone;
there were lighting and watering and park-making; and it was
astonishing in how many companies, doing these things, Mr. Murdock had
a share, and how frequently his companies secured the contracts for
doing them. When rival contractors attempted these public works, there
were apt to be strikes and complications which seldom occurred when
Murdock had the job. Then all went smoothly and merrily. And this shows
how friendship rules the world. For Murdock was the friend of Barry;
and Barry was the friend of the strike-ordering walking-delegates. If
these three elements, representing the city fathers, the contractors
and the laborers, were all satisfied with the way the city's work was
being done, who remained to cavil? Certainly not the citizens. St.
Etienne's wheels moved almost without friction.
But Murdock went further than this. His was a fine instinct for
organization. He used Barry like a fat pawn, moved down to the king
row, until the boss alderman was able to look abroad on his noble army
of small officeholders and contractors, who could be trusted, not only
to vote as directed (for to vote is a simple and ineffectual thing),
but also to bring up their hundreds and thousands of well-trained dogs
to vote, and, if need be, to vote again, and then to see that the votes
were properly counted.
It was to Murdock's far-reaching mind that Barry was indebted for
the regulation of interests by which almost every man who served the
city, and particularly those who served it badly and expensively, was
tied to Barry by ties closer than those of brotherly love. Whether
official, contractor or working-man, they owed job or contract to the
influence that Barry seemed to exercise in the councils of the city. It
was by Murdock's advice that the better residence district was
well-policed, well-lighted, well-paved and generally contented with
things as they were. By Murdock's suggestion the city's interests were
zealously guarded in the discussions of the council.
When a committee of the Municipal Club visited that august body to
listen to a debate on a certain paving contract, they could not help
being impressed by the large knowledge of materials and methods
displayed by their representatives, and the unanimity with which they
agreed that a particular bid was, if not the cheapest, the most deeply
satisfying of those offered. What they could not know was the ingenuity
with which Murdock saved both the brain and the time of the council by
arranging its debate beforehand. But the committee did mention, among
themselves, the incongruity between the actual condition of St.
Etienne's streets and the wisdom of the Solons.
But, though Murdock's was the brain to originate and systematize
schemes of plunder for which Barry alone had been incapable, once in a
while the boss grew restive under dominion, in spite of the knowledge
that, if he should once break with the master mind, he would soon make
some fatal mistake and another would become the whole show. So, if the
reign of King Barry was for long temperate and orderly, it was because
Murdock impressed upon him that royal arrogance breeds discontent and
finally revolt, and that by big rake-offs, on the quiet, enough could
be gained to satisfy the ambition of a well-regulated man; and that
while plundering was done with decency, the reform-talk of the
Municipal Clubites would prove no more useful nor ornamental than a
Don't hog everything! as Murdock sagely put it. Let the other
fellow have the small end of the trough, and as long as he ain't
hungry, he won't squeal.
With equal sternness he repressed Billy's fancy for fast horses and
Mrs. Billy's taste for green velvet and diamonds.
It don't look well on a salary of eighteen hundred, he said. Just
you be contented with having things your own way without talking about
it. Throw all the dust you like, but don't let it be gold dust.
You cut a pretty wide swath yourself, Billy growled.
I ain't a alderman, serving the city for pure love and a small
salary, grinned the other. A contractor's got a right to make money.
You make money out o' me, said Billy sourly. You keep me under
your big fat ugly thumb. I guess I can run this business alone. I got
all the strings pretty well in my own hand.
All right, Barry. I'll be sorry to be on the other side, but if you
say so, all right.
Barry swore a moment under his breath and changed the subject. So
matters went on, with Barry still subservient, but growing daily more
inclined to believe himself the autocrat he seemed, daily a little less
cautious, a little more fixed in his assurance that the officeholders,
the delegates and the saloon men constituted, in themselves, a
sufficient prop for his dominion, and that Murdock was a nuisance.
Of course, it's to his interest to keep me under, he said to
himself, and I dunno' whether I'm a fool to let him do it, or whether
I'm a fool to try to break away.
He began to try flyers on his own hook; he gathered many rake-offs
of which he said nothing to his mentor; he drank a little more and
splurged a little more and looked a little more like a bulldog and less
like a man. That the spirit of rebellion was growing up and that the
pawn began to take credit to itself for the position of power in which
it was placed, came gradually home to Mr. Murdock. It made him at first
annoyed, then anxious. So it was that the confidence bred from years of
business coöperation drove him this night to look up his old partner.
Evening, Early, he said as the door closed behind him. Beastly
cold night out. Wish you'd order me a little something hot to induce me
to stay by this comfortable fire of yours.
Mr. Early waved his hand toward a chair and settled himself without
ceremony. There was this comfort in Murdock: they had known each other
too long for pose, and, though the old hook-and-eye partnership was
dissolved, and Mr. Early had soared into the realms of Art, they were
still closely bound by common interests. So Sebastian met him with
Sit down, Jim, he said. I don't mind a nip myself. What's up?
What's down, you'd better ask. Lord save us! What's that?
exclaimed Mr. Murdock, as he caught sight of the lurid lady lying amid
the litter on the table.
That's the cover of my next magazine. Never mind it. It's not in
Well, I should say not, said the other with a slow grin. I've
been pretty much vituperated for some of my business deals, but I never
sprung a thing like that on the public. 'Forget thyself!' That's good,
Early. He winked a wink that came more from the soul than from the
Oh, drop it, Jim, said Mr. Early, relapsing into the old
vernacular. I'm sick of everything to-night. Here's your cocktail.
Help yourself to a cigar.
You ought to get married, instead of sitting here with the blues
all by yourself. Tell you, a warm little wife is a nice thing to come
Thank you, Jim, said Mr. Early dryly.
They sank into silence, a comfortable silence, permeated with the
fragrance of tobacco, with warmth in the cardiac region, and with that
crackle of burning logs that satisfieth the soul. But occasionally Mr.
Early shot a sharp glance at his companion, and his study did not
reassure him. At last he spoke.
Well, out with it, Jim. It's evident that you've something on your
You're right, I have, said Murdock with sudden emphasis. I don't
know whether you can help me, but it's second nature for me to try you.
I'm getting anxious about Barry and affairs connected with him.
What about Barry? I thought you had him in your pocket.
Oh, I've still got him in the pocket over my heart, and buttoned
down tight, said Mr. Murdock grimly. It's because he belongs to me
that I'm looking out for him.
Well, said Mr. Early, and he leaned forward nervously to poke the
fire that needed no poking.
Well! In spite of me, Billy's getting restless. He's getting worse
than restless, and I'm afraid to think how he may break out. You know
how he loses his sense once in a while. Have you noticed how the
Star has been running him of late? Mr. Murdock slowly gathered
force in stating his grievances.
Yes, I've noticed it, said Mr. Early.
The Star is the only paper I haven't got a strangle hold
ofat least so I thought. But some of the other dailies are butting
in. Say they're afraid not to. Of course, an occasional black eye is
all in the day's work. It rather helps things along. Billy expects it,
and he isn't thin-skinned. It doesn't make much difference as long as
our own organs print what they're told. But, say, this thing is going
beyond a joke. Billy has been really cut up over the way this coroner
business is getting home to the public. He says if there is going to be
squirming, he'll look out that there are other people squirming besides
himself. I suppose that's meant as a threat for me. You know there are
thingseven affairs that you are interested in, Sebastianthat are
all on the square, you know, and perfectly right, but they take too
much explaining for the public ever to understand them.
I know, said Mr. Early, still poking the fire.
And do you know who is back of the whole rumpus?
Who? demanded Mr. Early sharply, looking up.
Primarily this infernal next-door neighbor of yours.
Percival. He's too much of a kid to put himself forward, but he's
really the whole thing. He's been sneaking around town for months,
picking up information. He has a confounded cheerful way of making
friends that has cut him out for the job of politics, if he would just
put himself on the right side. Of course he has no more idea of
practical politics than Mr. Murdock looked around for an object of
comparison and concluded lamely, than that girl on your magazine
cover. And what do you think is the latest?
He's stirred up that mare's nest of a dude club till they've taken
to sending a committee to attend every meeting of the councilwhich is
But not necessarily serious.
Not in itself, though it's getting on Barry's nerves, as you people
of fashion say. To tell you the truth, I've had to make a concession to
Barry, just to keep him in order. I preferred him right on the council
where he is, but he's got a bee in his top-hat. He wants to run for
mayor. I suppose he wants to show people what a great man he really is.
I gave in to him on that point. Now here comes in the thing that made
me look you up. Barry has some sort of an acquaintance with this
Percival fellow, and when he proclaimed his intentions, Percival jumped
on him with a flat defiancetold him that he had proof of a
disreputable affair in Barry's career that would queer him with the
whole community. How your neighbor got hold of this thing, I'm jiggered
if I can guess. I thought I was the only man in the city that knew it,
and it has been my chief club to keep Barry in order. But however he
got them, Percival's facts were all square, and Barry collapsed. Now,
these two patched up an agreement. Barry promised to give up his
candidacy for mayor, and stay in his seat in the council, and Percival,
on his part, agreed to keep quiet.
Well, that suits you all right.
It would if it ended there, but what I started out to tell you is
this: the Municipal Club is beginning to take up city politics in
earnest. They are organizing systematically in every ward to be ready
for a fight for the council in next fall's election, and, to cap the
climax, I was told to-day that they had succeeded in getting Preston to
run for mayor. Now you know they could hardly have picked out a worse
man, so far as we are concerned. Preston is popular and strong, and
he's perfectly unapproachable. I'd as soon tackle the law of
gravitation. It isn't even pleasant for respectable citizens, like you
and me, to come out publicly against the whole movement. We can't
afford to do it. Everything we do has got to be done on the quiet.
You needn't get so hot, Jim. It'll blow over. This kind of thing
always does. It's only spasmodic. You ought to know that.
Well, it's taking a very inconvenient time for its spasms. It may
result in spasmodically losing Billy his seat in the council in
November. Nice thing if we didn't have a clear majority of aldermen
next winter, wouldn't it? Mr. Murdock was becoming finely sarcastic in
I suppose it would be inconvenient, assented Mr. Early.
Inconvenient! growled Murdock. Is that the strongest swear word
you can raise? Do you happen to remember that the lighting franchise
expires next fall? Now do we want it renewed, or do we not? Can we
afford to lose the biggest thing we've got? Do we want Billy to see it
through, or do we not?
We certainly do.
Well, what do you propose to do about it?
I don't see that there is much to do except to sit pat, and let it
Suppose when it blew over it should be a cyclone and you and me in
the cellar? No siree, I'm no sitter-down. I'm a fighter, even when I
fight in secret. Damn this feller, Percival, and his gift for making
friends and stirring up enthusiasm for himself! I suspect he has
ambitions. So much the worse for him, if James Murdock is in the ring
against him. Do you know my inferences? I am sure he is not one of the
invulnerables. The fact that he made a concession to Barry gives him
away. He didn't need to. If Barry can work him by a little flattery and
an appeal to their shoddy friendship, he's not one of your out-and-out,
no-compromise, reform-or-die fellows. Say, Early, you know him well.
Can't you get at him?
Mr. Early gave one of those roundabout motions that suggest a desire
to wriggle out of the whole matter, and answered slowly:
I shouldn't wonder if the entire business petered out, anyway. It's
almost a year to the next election, and Percival is going to be married
in a few weeks to a pretty little girl, who would never stir a man's
ambitions to anything more than a smart carriage and pair. He's turned
idiotic about her, and let's hope he'll stay so. Just at present I
don't believe all the boodle and graft in the world would turn a hair
on him. Love and politics, my boy, are no more congenial than water and
oilespecially if the politics is rancid.
We'll have to go into partnership with the lady to keep him down,
said Murdock with a grin. I've formed more unlikely alliances than
that in my time. Why, good Lord! what's that? he exclaimed for the
second time that night.
His eyes had fallen upon a tall white column at the back of the
room, and at his words the column moved forward and displayed the
flowing robes, the snowy white turban, the gleaming ruby of Ram Juna.
Pardon my interruption, said the Hindu courteously. I have been
out. I am but just returned. And I come to assure myself that all is
well with my admirable host.
Ah, Murdock, this is my friend, the Swami. He's going to stay with
me while he writes a book. I've given him the west ell, off in the
quiet of the garden, you know, said Mr. Early.
With kindness you give it. Obligation is mine, said the Swami,
with a deferential movement of his hands. And I go at once to devote
myself to my greatest work. But now I have visited a lady, Mrs.
Appleton, who has great interest in me, and who desires to form what
she calls a class. I call it, rather, a circle of my friends.
And what do you do with them? asked Mr. Murdock, with the same
bald curiosity that one displays at the zoo before the performing
We increase the sum of nobility in the world, said the Swami
softly. We sit together in long white robes, such as you see on me,
and we pour out love upon the universe.
Oh! said Mr. Murdock. He was too astonished to pursue his
It is a serene and blessed occupation, said the Swami.
And do theydoes the class pay for that? Murdock recovered so far
as to ask.
Pay? Not so! said the Swami indignantly. I ask of life no more
than a bare existence and that, a thousand times that, is mine, by the
benevolence of Mr. Early.
They're devilish pretty women, some of 'em, though. You have that
reward, said Mr. Early jocularly.
The Swami cast on him a glance of cow-like anger, but Mr. Murdock
went on persistently: And they don't give you any money at all?
For myself, no. Some, if it harmonize with their desires, make
contribution through me to the great temple in India, where the
brothers may assemble, a sacred spot among the lonely hills. Some give
to that, but not to me. But I must no longer interrupt. I have made my
salute. I go to my remote room.
With a reverential movement of the head, the white column moved
Gee! said Mr. Murdock. Can you stand that kind of thing around
all the time?
Oh, I'm interested in all kinds of people, said Mr. Early. And
he's the most inoffensive creature. I shall hardly see him. He intends
to lock himself up out there in his room most of the time. He meditates
in silence ten hours a day and comes forth to give a lecture that
nobody understands. He's going to be all the rage.
And, of course, if he's the rage, you have him. I wish you'd make
Billy Barry the rage, said Murdock.
It's all I can do to popularize myself, said Early whimsically.
I'll think over the situation a bit, Jim, and see if I can see any way
out from under. Of course, Percival hasn't any record by which you can
discredit him and keep his mouth shutat least not yet.
As Mr. Murdock took a last sip at the cocktail and made an
unceremonious exit, again Mr. Early settled himself for a period of
repose, and again he was interrupted.
Pardon, said the deep voice of the Swami. You sit alone. Is it
permitted that I repose here and join your meditations? For a few
moments? In silence, if you will?
I wish you'd pour out a little rest, said Early. I'm tired.
In spirit and in body, answered the Swami. The rush of the wheel
of life, it exhausts. But I comprehend. I also am a man. The great
world of business has its necessities and its value. My outer nature
shares in it. Ah, you know not. You think of me only on one side of
being. But, like you, I have my sympathies with many things.
Mr. Early made no reply, but sank deeper into his chair. The two sat
long in silence. Sebastian looked at the fire and began to build up a
picture of Madeline's face. The Hindu was apparently lost to the
surrounding world, and yet he occasionally darted a glance of swift,
animal-like inquiry at his host.
Neither do I like the young man Percival, he said placidly, and
Mr. Early started.
It is your next neighbor, Percival, is it not, who annoys? the
Swami inquired equably. The youth who sneers when first I speak at
your house? In India, now, one may do many things that are here
impossible. Ah, but yes, you say, here you may do many things that are
in India impossible. So goes it. Still more. The same forces exist
everywhere; but we in India, we understand the forces that you,
brilliant workers with the superficial, you do not understand. I shall
be glad to help the benevolent Early, if at any time my services are of
value. I know to do many things besides to meditate.
Mr. Early stared in amazement at the unmoved face before him, a face
almost as round and mystifying as the syllable Om", on which its
thoughts were supposed to be centered.
And, remember, I, too, dislike the young man Percival, pursued the
Mr. Early's mind suddenly stiffened with horror.
See here, he exclaimed, sitting up, you understand Mr. Percival
is no enemy of mine. He is, in fact, a friend. You mustn't think you'd
be doing me a kindness byahinjuring him in any way.
My understanding, said the Swami, still unmoved. Fear no midnight
assassination, noble friend. That is pettyand dangerous. I am not
oblivious of the conventionalities. But the mind may be reached, as
well as the body. Percival may do as Iyouwewish. The higher
animal at all times controls the lower. Perhaps, at some time, I may
serve you. But you weary. The body makes demands. I bid you good
He put out a great paw, and Mr. Early grasped it weakly, feeling
that he was in the position of one who has started an oil gusher and
can not control its flow. He might have to light it to get rid of it.
To his own room went Ram Juna, occasionally nodding his head in his
serene manner. He carefully locked behind him the door which connected
his wing with the rest of the house. A few moments he paused listening,
then he crossed his bedroom and the narrow passage that opened on the
garden and entered the little unused room beyond. Here all was dark,
inky dark, for the heavy shutters on the street side of the room were
closed and barred and the shades on the garden front were drawn,
shutting out what dim rays the departed sun had left the night. The
Swami apparently had no need of greater light, for, neglecting the
electric button near the door, he groped quietly about, struck a match
and lighted a single candle, with which he returned to the hallway and
opened the garden door, standing for a moment with the taper flickering
in the rush of cold air that poured in from outside. When he stepped
back and closed the door, there stood beside him another man,
clean-shaven, lean, sharp-nosed and ferret-eyed, whose footstep was
almost as light as that of the Swami himself. Neither of them spoke
until they reached the smaller room and the door was locked.
You shiver, my friend, said Ram Juna. The night is cold.
Freezin', an' so'm I, said the other shortly. You keep me waiting
a devil of a time.
Business, oh my friend, business. Can I utter a word to the ears of
your nationality more convincing? I was necessitated to converse with
my host, the rich and amiable Early. Ah, the nature of humanity is
His companion grinned.
Which means, being interpreted, you've got some lay, I suppose.
What is it!
Abruptness is to me foreign, said the Swami, waving his great hand
with its combination of fat palm and taper fingers. It disturbs me.
Perhaps, some day, I shall need tell you. The amiable Early is as are
all mankind. On the one side he gropes among infinities. Do we not all
so? On the other side he is tied by this body of clay to the groveling
earth. Are we not all so? Am not even I myself? The Swami turned
benevolently toward the other.
You bet! And you can sling language about it! said the man, and he
opened his rat's mouth and laughed without noise. Even Ram Juna's face
relaxed into its Buddha smile, calm, inscrutable, as the two gazed on
each other. Suddenly the younger drew himself together.
Well, I ain't got no time to spare, he said. Are they ready?
I, as well as you Americans, can be the votary of business,
answered Ram Juna. The first principle of business is promptitude. My
friend, they are ready.
Well, hand 'em over, said the little man. Now my job begins; and
I guess it's as ticklish as yours. You may need the skill, but I need
The daring of the leopard when it leaps from the bush where it
crouches, the daring which is half cunning, eh, my friend? said the
Swami comfortably. Here, take the package and go thy way. There will
be more in the future. These I brought with me from India, and even the
eagle customs found them not. Many night-hours have I spent in
preparing them, and mine eyes have been robbed of sleep. It is no
slight task to produce a masterpiece.
Well, you certainly are a dandy, said the man, examining the
contents of his package. I never seen anything like it. And those big
My hands obey the skill of my mind. And here, under the shadow of
the Early, I can work with purer courage. This is the perfection of a
place. It was the idea of genius to come here. Hold, let me examine the
way before thou goest.
Aw, there won't be any body in the garden at this time o' night,
and at this time o' year.
Nay, but it is the wise man who leaves no loophole for mistake,
said the Hindu, with practical caution.
He blew out the light and stepped in darkness to the entrance with
the air of one who would refresh his soul by gazing at the stars and
wiping out the trivialities of the day. After he had looked at the
heavens, his eyes fell with piercing swiftness upon the shadows of the
garden, its bushes, manlike or animal-like in the night.
It was as complete a piece of acting as though a large audience had
been there to see, but all thrown away on silence and solitude.
Coast clear? said a voice behind him.
All is well, said the Swami. Go forth to fortune.
The door closed softly, and Ram Juna sought the repose he had
CHAPTER XV. THE HONEYMOON
The first months of winter were full of excitement to Lena. She
frequently assured herself that she was rapturously happy, but, while
intellectually she accepted the fact, no genial warmth pervaded her
consciousness. The entrance to her new life was too brier-sprinkled for
bliss. Daily to face her mother's mingling of complaisance, self-pity
and fault-finding; to meet Dick's friends, whom Lena, in her
suspicions, regarded as thinly-disguised enemies; to scrimp together
some little show of bridal finery for her quiet wedding; all this
filled her with mingled irritation and gratification.
Most aggravating of all were the persistent attentions of Miss
Madeline Elton. No one likes to be loved as a matter of duty, certainly
not Lena Quincy, whose shrewd little soul easily divined that this
equable warmth of manner, which she dubbed snippy condescension, sprang
from affection for Dick and Mrs. Percival and not for herself. Madeline
set Lena's teeth on edge, and it must be confessed that Lena often did
as much for Madeline, but each politely kept her sensations to herself.
Miss Elton always assured her optimistic soul that things would come
out all right, that love was a great developer, that small vulgarities
of mind were the result of association.
Lena, on the other hand, might have broken friendly relations once
and for all except that she found Miss Elton both useful and
interesting. A friendly and very sly conspiracy between Madeline and
Mrs. Percival had for its object the helping out of Lena's meager
trousseau by certain little gifts, and even of money delicately
proffered so that it might not wound a sensitive pride; and since Mrs.
Percival was a victim to invalidish habits, it fell to Madeline to act
as executive committee. But they need not have troubled themselves
about delicacy, for Miss Lena greedily gobbled everything that was
offered to her, with pretty expressions of gratitude, to be sure, but
internal irritation because the donors were not more lavish.
Madeline, who would have shrunk from accepting a gift except from
one she really loved, of course expected Lena to feel the same way, and
every one of these presents given and taken was to her an assurance
strong of a new bond between them. So they shopped together, and Lena
modestly picked out some appallingly cheap affair and said:
You know I feel that is the best I can afford. And Madeline would
whisper, Take the other, dear, and let the difference be a small
wedding present from me. Won't you be so generous? and Lena was so
generous; but she told herself that they were not doing it for her, but
only because they were ashamed that Dick should have a shabby bride.
And perhaps she was right. It is pretty hard to analyze human motives,
so you may always take your choice, and fix your mind either on the
good ones or on the bad ones, whichever suit you best. Doubtless they
are both there.
Sometimes Lena wished that she had been given a lump sum and allowed
to browse alone, for she felt her taste pruned and pinioned by the very
presence of Miss Elton, who, though she never ventured to criticize,
had yet a depressing influence on Lena's exuberant fancies.
Once, after such a silent sacrifice on her part, Madeline and she
drove up to the Percivals' for five-o'clock tea. Her future
mother-in-law was in the accustomed seat, and Lena found a footstool
near at hand, with a pretty air of affectionate proprietorship that
brought a glow to Dick's face.
Yes, said Lena with a charming pout, I'm utterly played out,
getting myself ready for your approval, sir.
Poor little girl, he whispered. If you only knew what an easy
task that ought to be!
I'm so glad Madeline can go with you, Mrs. Percival said, patting
the girl's hand approvingly. I always think she has such perfect
taste. Some people get fine clothes and then make an heroic effort to
live up to them, but Madeline has the supreme gift of managing clothes
that seem a part of herself.
It is impossible to tell how a speech like this rankled in Lena.
Sometimes she had a wild impulse to stand up and stamp and scream out,
I hate the whole lot of you! but she never did. She kept on smiling
and purring and longing for the freedom which would come when she was
safely married, had passed her initiation ceremonies, and could command
her own money.
But it was wonderful what a fascination she felt for everything that
concerned Miss Elton. Every act, every garment, every inflection of the
girl she hated most was interesting to her. She watched Madeline like a
cat, and disliked her more and more.
At length came the new year, and the day when Lena sat in a carriage
by Dick's side and was whirled away on that journey that was to take
her out of the old and into the new. Her hour-old husband looked at her
with an expression half-quizzical, half-adoring as she sat back and
glanced up with a heartfelt sigh, secure at last of her position as the
wife of Richard Percival. Until this moment she had never wholly
I'm glad the wedding's over, she said.
And I. More glad that our married life has begun. Lena, Lena, how
beautiful you are! When you came down the aisle, I hardly dared to look
at you; and yet it seems to me now that you are more lovely here alone
with me. I should think God would have been afraid to make such eyes
and lips and hair, sweetheart, knowing that He could never surpass
He softly touched the little curl that crept out from below her hat
and kissed the upturned mouth in that ecstasy that borders on awe.
Now, he said, you are never so much as to think of anything
unpleasant for the rest of your life. I wonder what you will most like
Buy all the clothes I want, cried Lena with such a deliciously
whimsical twist of her little lips that Dick laughed at her
irresistible wit. That was coming to be one of Lena's most fetching
little ways, to say what she meant as though it were the last thing in
the world that could be expected of her. It was piquant.
It was no time of year to dally in true lovers' fashion under pine
trees in some remote solitude, so Dick took her to cities and theaters
and big shops and got his fun out of watching her revel with open
purse. Their honeymoon was more full of occupation and less of rapture
and sweet isolated intimacy than Dick could have wished, but it was
much to watch the color come and go on her cheek in her moments of
excitement, to fulfil every capricious whim of her who had been starved
in her feminine hunger of caprice, to punctuate the rush of life by
celestial moments when she rested a tired but bewildering head against
his shoulder and listened silently with drooping lids to all he had to
say, to feel that he could answer the admiring glances of other men
with the triumphant knowledge, All this loveliness is mineonly
mine. Lena was so happy, so outrageously happy,and so shyly
affectionate, what could the young husband do but take with content the
gifts the gods provided; and Dick was lavish and easily cajoled. The
simple trousseau helped out by Miss Elton suddenly swelled to new and
magnificent proportions. Lena blossomed and glowed; she tricked herself
out in the finery that he provided and paraded before him and the glass
until they both laughed with delight. Dick felt that he was playing
with a new and sublimated doll, it was all so amusing, so
inconsequential, and such fun. Although he wondered a little where it
would be appropriate to wear the enormous pink hat with drooping plumes
which perched on the showily fluffy head now facing him, he quite
appreciated the effect.
Oh, of course you think I'm stunning, Lena pouted. But the
question is, what will other people think?
Other people aren't the question at all, retorted Dick. Who cares
what they think so long as you and I know that you are the very
loveliest woman on this whole wide earththis good old earth.
When they came home, Lena exulted again in the luxurious rooms that
Dick had fitted up for her in fashion more modern than the somber
dignity of the rest of the house. Here was another new sensationa
household without bickerings. The elder Mrs. Percival, having accepted
the situation, was no niggard in her spirit of courtesy, but very
gracious as was her wont, and Lena was astonished to find that she and
her new mother-in-law ran their respective lines without collisions.
The half-invalid older woman breakfasted in her own room and occupied
herself with quiet readings and sewings and drivings, but when she did
appear on the family horizon, it was always as a beneficent presence.
Lena purred in the presence of comfort; but when you see a kitten
serenely snoozing before the fire, it does not do to leap to the
conclusion that this kitten would not know what was expected of her on
the back fence at midnight.
If storm and stress should ever come, Dick had himself helped her to
feel that beauty would fill the measure, wherever it fell short; that
however she might sin, beauty was her sufficient apology.
Mrs. Quincy, established in a little flat with a middle-aged
submissive slavey, was as nearly reconciled to fate as her nature would
allow. Her rooms were pleasantly furnished, but Lena's mother was full
of the genius of discord, and almost automatically she so rearranged
her surroundings that each particular article made strife with its
neighbor. Harmony and Mrs. Quincy could not live in the same house.
When Lena paid her duty visits (and she was irritated at the frequency
with which Dick's and Madame Percival's expectations seemed to exact
them) she had not only to listen in nauseated impatience to Mrs.
Quincy's minute questions and comments on people and things, but she
had also to feel her rapidly-developing tastes offended by her mother's
Miss Elton's real kind. She's been here twice since you was here.
And she brought flowers.
Mother! And did you have a newspaper on top of that pretty little
Land sakes! And if I didn't I should have to watch Sarah every
minute to see she didn't put something hot on it or scratch the
mahogany top. I can't afford to have everything I've got spoiled. No
knowin' when I'll git anything moredependent as I am on other
I'll bring you a pretty table-cover then.
I'd like a red one. But I didn't suppose you'd think of gittin'
Oh, mother, red wouldn't look well in this room.
Now, I just think a bit of real bright red would hearten it up. If
you don't git red, you needn't git any, Lena Quincy, for I won't use
it. Are you goin' now? Seems to me you got precious little time for
your old mother since you put on all your fine lady airs.
And Lena? Have you ever watched a cecropia moth when it crawls out
of its dull gray prison of chrysalis? It is a moist, frail, tottering
creature with tiny wings folded against its quivering body, but as the
spring sunshine brings to play its magic and infuses its subtle
heats, there come shivers of growth. Great waves seem to pulsate from
the body into the wings, and with each wave goes color and strength. In
quick throbs they come at last until they look like a continuous
current, and before your eyes is a glorious bird-like creature, with
damask wings outspread, and flecked with peacock spots, hiding the
slender body within. It feels its strength, spreads and preens itself,
and is away to the forest to meet its fate.
Such was Lena in the first months of her marriage. The world's
warmth welcomed her, partly in curiosity, and partly because she was in
truth Richard Percival's wife, and the protégée of Mrs. Lenox, who took
every pains to shield her and help her. The ways of that little sphere
that calls itself society she found it not difficult to acquire, when
to beauty she added the paraphernalia of luxury. A little trick of
holding oneself, a turn of speech, a familiarity with a certain set of
people and their doings, and the thing is accomplished. Was there ever
yet an American girl, whose supreme characteristic is adaptability, who
could not learn it in a few months, if she set her mind to it?
As she experienced the true pleasure of being inside, which is the
knowledge that there are outsiders raging to make entrance, she spread
her wings, did Madame Cecropia, and the only wonder was that she was
ever packed away in the dull gray chrysalis. And now every one forgot
that ugly thing, when Lena changed her sky but not her heart.
Dick and she lived in a whirl; and if he would have liked, after
strenuous days spent in spreading political feelers, to have found at
home quiet evenings and old slippers, he was rapidly learning that the
position of husband to a young beauty is no sinecure. And he admired
and loved her too much to fling even a rose leaf of opposition in her
path. The very hardship of her past made him tender to every whim of
the present. Dick's chivalry was deep-grained, as it is in men who have
lived among pure and simple women. In everything that wore petticoats
he saw something of his mother, fragile, noble, ambitious for those she
loved and forgetful of self. When Lena began to show him things that he
could not admire, he laid the blame of them, not to her, but to the
world that had played the brute to her. And if he tried to change her
it was with apology in his heart for daring to criticize. But as Lena
came to take for granted the ease and comfort of her new life, she more
and more laid aside the pose with which she had at first edified her
lord, and spoke her real mind. She had fully acquired the manner and
the garments of a lady. She could not see that more was needed.
One gray wintry day, as they walked homeward together from a midday
musicale, they passed a grimy little girl who whimpered as she clutched
her small person.
What's the matter, girlie? asked Dick, and as he stopped his wife,
too, halted perforce.
My pettitoat's comin' down, sobbed the child.
Is that all? said Dick. I wouldn't cry about such a little thing.
I'll soon fix it for you. And he stooped.
Dick, said Lena imperatively, there's a carriage coming!
Let it come! said Dick. Sorry I haven't a safety-pin, girlie, but
I guess this one will do till you get home. That impulsive interest in
all varieties of human nature was so natural to him that he took for
granted that it was a part of our common nature.
He looked up with a smile to see Lena's face crimson with wrath and
shame. Her expression sobered him.
What's the matter? he demanded.
It was Mrs. Lenox who drove by, she urged. And she looked so
I don't wonder. I'm amused myself, he replied gaily.
A nice thing for a gentleman to be seen doing, Lena went on, with
a voice growing shrill like her mother's. To play nursemaid to a dirty
little street brat! She had said things like this to him before, but
always with that little smile and naughty-child air. Now, for the first
time she forgot the smile, and this small omission made an astonishing
difference in the impression.
I don't know what else a gentleman should do, answered Dick; or a
lady, either. Mrs. Lenox would have done as much for any baby, her own
Much she would! said Lena sharply. I've been at her house. She
has rafts of nurses to do all the waiting on her children. I guess she
doesn't let them trouble her any more than she can help. If she's
unlucky enough to have the squally little things, she keeps away from
Even as she spoke, Lena realized that her acid voice was a mistake,
but she said to herself that she was tired of acting, and it did not
make any difference what Dick thought now. She was his wife.
Perhaps you don't know the whole, Lena, Dick answered. I happen
to have seen Mrs. Lenox when she was devoting herself to a sick baby,
and Madeline has told me of the kind of personal care she gives.
The more fool she, when she can get some one else to do it for
her, said Lena, with feminine change of front.
Is that the way you feel about children? asked Dick soberly.
I suppose they are necessary evils, said Lena with a smart laugh.
But I'd rather they'd be necessary to other women than to me.
Well, perhaps that's a natural feeling, when we're young and like
to be irresponsible; but I fancy, dear, that things look pretty
different as we get along and are willing to pay the price for our
happinessesto pay for love with service and self-sacrifice. As for
me, I pray that you and I may not some day be childless old folks.
Lena glanced at him sidewise as they walked, and his somber face
showed her that her mistake went deeper than she had suspected.
I'm sorry I was cross, she said with pretty contrition, but her
prettiness and contrition did not have their usual exhilarating effect
on Dick. Lena even turned and laid her hand softly on his arm. Still he
did not look at her.
I wasn't hurt by your crossness, dear, he said gently.
* * * * *
Among those to open hospitable doors to the bride and groom was Mr.
Early. His house adjoined theirs, and only a hedge separated the two
gardens, old-fashioned, with comfortable seats under wide trees on the
Percival place, elaborately Italian on Mr. Early's domain, but spacious
both, for St. Etienne had the advantage of doing most of its growth
after rapid transit was invented, and had therefore never cribbed and
cabined its population into solid blocks of brick and mortar, but had
given everybody elbow-room, so that its residence district looked much
like the suburbs of older cities.
So Dick and Lena went to dine with Mr. Early, and the bride had the
thrilling delight of sitting between her world-famous host and an
equally illustrious scholar, who had his head with him, extra size, and
was plainly bored to death by his own erudition. It was a large dinner,
and Lena was alert to study every one, both what he did and how he did
it; but chiefly, from her vantage point at the right hand of her host;
did she watch Miss Madeline Elton, who sat near the middle of the table
on the other side, where Lena could study her face over a sea of
violets. Lena was puzzled. Madeline seemed less reposeful and more
charming than she remembered. For an instant she wondered if her own
beauty, now tricked out by jewels, was not cheap beside Miss Elton's
undecorated loveliness. She noted that the men around the table looked
often in Madeline's direction. Even Mr. Early occasionally let his
attention wander from his suave courtesy toward herself, and Lena
resented this. She deeply admired Mr. Early. His was the big and
blatant success which she could easily comprehend, and she exulted at
the idea of sitting at the post of honor beside a man distinguished
over the length and breadth of the land. Once, even her own husband,
Richard Percival, leaned forward and gazed at Madeline as she spoke
across the table, and there was a look in his face that Lena treasured
in her cabinet of unforgiven things. She flushed with anger. Her hatred
of Miss Elton was as old as her acquaintance with her husband, and its
growth had been parallel.
Then her eyes met the glowing glance of a dark face under a turban
of soft white silk, and she turned hastily away.
I see you are looking at my ceiling, Mrs. Percival, said Mr.
Early. It is a reproduction of the beautiful fan-tracery in the Henry
VII chapel at Westminster. Doubtless you recognize it. But, alas, it is
impossible to attain the spiritual beauty of the original until age has
laid its sanctifying hand on the carving. This has had but a year of
life for each century that the chapel tracery can boast. And, of
course, I admit that the effect must be modified by the surroundings. A
dining-room can never have the atmosphere of a church, can it, my dear
Mrs. Percival? Though I assure you, I have tried to be consistent in
all the decorations and the furniture of this room.
It's very beautiful, said Lena. And who is the large gentleman
with the long white mustaches?
Surely you have met Mr. Preston. He is one of our best type of
business men, and the candidate that the new reform element, in which
your husband is playing an honorable part, is hoping to set up for
mayor. It would be a notable thing for this community if we might have
a man of his stamp represent our municipality.
I have heard Dick speak of him, said Lena, And is that the
wonderful Hindu of whom I've heard? All the ladies are crazy about him,
but I never happened to see him before.
That is Ram Juna. He has been with me now for two months, and is to
stay indefinitely. He is engaged on a work that will, I am convinced,
add one more to the sacred books of the world. We need such men in this
age of materialism, do we not? And I feel gratefully the beneficent
effect of such a presence in my house.
So Mr. Early went on with ponderous sentences and a sharp look in
But Lena hardly heard him. She was absorbed in the soft lights and
the flowers and the wonderful china, most of which, her host told her,
had been made in his own works and was unique in the world. But strange
as were all these things, her eyes kept coming back, as if fascinated,
to the man-mountain in the silky white robe. The big ruby on his
forehead seemed to wink and flash at her, and as often as she looked
she met the sleepy eyes fixed on her face. Then she was irresistibly
drawn to look again to see if he was still watching. For once, she
forgot her big blue eyes and her bright little fluffs of hair and all
the execution that they were meant to do on the masculine heart,
because there was something different in the way this Oriental surveyed
her. It was an unblinking and unemotional study.
Fortunately Mr. Early was content to talk and let her answer in
brief. Talking was not Lena's strong point. Mr. Early went on with his
monologue, in platitudes about art, and Lena looked interested, or
tried to, while she caught scraps of conversation from farther down the
Miss Elton was telling a story of her cooking-class in a certain
poor district. She had shown a flabby wife, noted even in that region
for her lack of culinary skill, how to make a dish at once cheap,
palatable and nutritious.
And I said, 'Now Mrs. Koshek, if you'd give that to your husband
some night when he comes home tired, don't you think it would be a
pleasant surprise?' But all I could get out of her was, 'I'd ruther eat
what I'd ruther; I'd ruther eat what I'd ruther.' And I'm afraid Mr.
Koshek is still living on greasy sausages.
That might teach you, Miss Elton, said Mr. Preston, the futility
of trying to improve women by reason. Now a man
Oh, pooh, reason! reason! exclaimed Mrs. Lenox, turning upon him,
I'm sorry for you poor men, you mistaken servants of boasted reason!
Reason is the biggest fallacy on earth. It leads men by the straight
path of logic to pure foolishness.
And how is your woman's reason to account for that? he asked
Oh, I suppose your premises are never true. Or, if they are,
another man's opposite premises are equally true. So there you are. Two
contradictions are equally valid, but being a reasonable man you can't
see more than one of them.
And women can see both sides, of course.
Truly. And flop from one to the other with lightning rapidity. We
are too completely superior to reason to have any respect for or
reliance on it. Do you think I try reason on my husband when he is in
the wrong in his arguments with me! Not at all. I just say, 'I'm afraid
you are not feeling well, dear.' And I put a mustard plaster on him.
It's extraordinary how seldom he disagrees nowadays. Or when he's very
obstinately set on an objectionable course, it's a good plan to say
sweetly, 'I'll do just as you like, dear.' He invariably comes back
with an emphatic, 'Nowe'll do as you like.'
I relinquish all claims to be called a reasonable being, said Mr.
Lenox with a wry face.
When we, the unmarried, hear confessions of this kind, said
Madeline, it gives us an incongruous feeling to remember how happy
you, the married, seem, after all.
Getting along becomes a habit, retorted Dick. Matrimony is like
taking opium. It fixes itself on you. I suppose when the hero of
Kipling's poem found out that she was only 'a rag and a bone and a hank
of hair,' he kept on loving the rag, even while he felt like gnawing
the bone and pulling the hair.
He knew he had said an ugly thing. It wasn't like him. He flushed as
he saw Mrs. Lenox glance sharply at him.
Dick, Dick, that is heresy, she exclaimed gaily. We must pretend
there aren't any vampires, and that we do not know what they are made
of. If we tell the naked truth, how can we cry out with conviction that
the old world is an harmonious and beautiful place?
That isn't your real philosophy, he said.
No, it isn't, she said. I sometimes wish it were. If one could
have the temperament to shut one's eyes and say, 'I don't see it;
therefore it isn't true,' what a very easy thing life would be.
I don't know, answered Dick. Going it blind with a dog and a
string doesn't generally make it easier to walk.
That's true, Madeline put in. A little dog isn't a very good
guide up the hilly road of righteousness. As for me, I prefer open-eyed
obedience to blind obedience.
I'll be bound you prefer obedience anyway, Dick said in an
undertone, and he looked at her as though something in her hurt him. He
turned abruptly to Mr. Preston.
Preston, he said, I wish we could hold a special election and put
you into the executive chair before your time. Every kind of evil thing
is taking advantage of our present lax administration. I believe the
crooks of other cities are flying to us on the wings of the wind. One
of the plain-clothes men told me to-day that the government detectives
have traced a gang of counterfeiters to our beloved city, though they
have not succeeded in spotting the rascals' whereabouts. It's rather
humiliating to find St. Etienne picked out as a good hiding-place for
any villany there is going.
You needn't be so sure that a special election or any other kind
would carry us in, laughed Mr. Preston. I'm not so confident as you
seem, Percival, that this community is overwhelmed with the
consciousness of its rare opportunity.
And so the talk drifted on, as usual, to politics.
After dinner, in the drawing-room, Lena saw her husband in
conversation with Ram Juna. The two crossed the room, and Dick
introduced the new prophet.
I fear my too constant inspection disturbed you. Myriad pardons for
me, began the Swami in his mellifluous voice. It is the tribute. When
I feel deep interest I am prone to forget all but my study. See, I am
the last of a family once powerful and wealthy; yet I hardly regret
that heritage that I have lost. I look at you. You are the type of
another fate. You are a bride, young, lovely, with the vigor and glory
of this new race of America. I envy not, but I wonder. So I look too
Lena glanced discomfited at the retreating back of her husband and
said, I'm sure I didn't notice anything peculiar.
A curious gleam came into Ram Juna's sleepy eyes.
Ah, then you, like me, love to examine the soul, your own or
another's. You have fellow feeling. So you forgive. May I sit here
Lena drew aside her petticoats and the Swami shared her little sofa.
You see that while you make study of others, I make study of you. I
should wish to be your friend. I should in fact fear to have you count
me an enemy.
Lena blinked at him in an uncomprehending way with her big eyes, and
he smiled innocently in return.
A woman who is an enemy is a danger. But men are tough-skinned and
hard to kill. Is it not so? And even a woman enemy is often powerless
to hurt. But when a woman hates a woman, then the case is different. A
woman is easy to hurt. A little blow, even a breath on her reputation
or to her pride, and the woman is wounded beyond repair. Is it not so?
Still Lena stared blankly at him, but as he did not return her gaze,
her eyes followed his to the other side of the room where Miss Elton
bent over a table, with Mr. Early on one side of her and Dick Percival
on the other.
Oh! she said with a little gasp. Oh! And Ram Juna looked back at
her and smiled again.
Therefore I was right to desire your friendship and not your
enmity, was I not? said he. I, too, am a good friend and a bad enemy.
See, Mr. Early shows some wonderful Japanese paintings. Shall we join
them in the inspection?
And Lena went with wonder, and in her mind there began to form vague
clumsy purposes which the Hindu would have despised if he had read
Nor did her conversation with her husband in the home-returning
carriage tend to soften Lena's heart.
Dick was in an uncomfortable and irritable state of mind which was
strange and disconcerting even to himself. Instead of giving her the
big hug that was his habit when they found themselves safely alone, he
Lena, you use too much perfume about you. I wish you wouldn't.
Do I? asked Lena ominously. Is there anything else?
Well, since you give me the chance to say it, dear, Dick's tone
was now apologetic, I'd a little rather you wore your dinner gowns
higher. I know many women do wear things like yours to-night, and your
dressmaker has dictated to you; but I think the extremes are not
well-bred. Just look at the best women. Look at Mrs. Lenox and
But here Lena gave so sharp a little cry of anger that Dick stopped
How dare you? she screamed. How dare you hold up a girl you know
I hate as an example to me! If she's so perfect, why didn't you marry
her? I'm sure she wanted you badly enough.
Dick shrank back a little. To him lovethe desire for marriagewas
hardly a thing to be touched by outside hands. He wished Lena would not
tear down the veils of reticence so ruthlessly.
Lena, she did not want me at all. Be reasonable.
Well, then, you took me just because you couldn't get her, did you?
Everything she does and wears is perfection. And there's nothing about
me that's right! Lena had now come to the point of angry tears.
There's one thing about you that's right; and that's my arms,
sweetheart. Dick spoke sturdily in spite of trepidation, for this was
a new experience to him. You know I love you, Lena, I did not mean to
hurt you. I thought only that you were a sweet little inexperienced
woman, and that you would welcome any hints from your husband's worldly
wisdom. Come, don't turn into an Undine, dear, and get the carriage all
wet,for his wife was now sobbing on his shoulder.
You've told me lots of times that I was perfect, she cried. I
don't see why you want to change me now. You're so inconsistent, Dick.
I wish that I could make up for my brutality, said Dick. How can
I, Lena? I feel like the fellow that threw a catsup bottle at his
wife's head at the breakfast-table and then felt so badly when he saw
the nasty stuff trickling down her pretty curls that he brought her
home a pair of diamond earrings for dinner.
What a horrid vulgar story! exclaimed Lena.
Isn't it? Dick rejoined. But vulgar things are frequently true,
as we learn with sorrow. Lena, can't we believe that our marriage
certificate had an affection insurance policy given with it? Don't let
us indulge in little quarrels. As you say, they are vulgar. I want love
to be not only a rich solid pudding full of plums, but I want it to
have a meringue on top.
As he hoped, this made Lena laugh, and she pulled out her
over-scented handkerchief to wipe her eyes. Dick shut his lips tightly,
grown too wise to speak.
CHAPTER XVI. LENA'S FRIENDS
Lena sat one morning behind the coffee-urn so self-absorbed and
smiling that Dick wondered.
Mrs. Percival, he remonstrated, you have a husband at this end of
the table. Have you forgotten it? What are you thinking about?
Dick, I believe I have found a frienda real friend, Lena jerked
A good many of them, I should say. Who is this fortunate person?
Mrs. Appleton! Dick gulped at his coffee and stared at his wife in
some perplexity. Isn't she awell, for one thing, a good deal older
She'll be all the better guide, Lena retorted with one of her
demure pouts. You know she invited me to join the class she has gotten
up for Swami Ram Juna. You needn't grin in that horrid way, Dick. I
shall be so wise very soon that you'll be afraid of me.
Heaven forbid, you dear little inspirer of awe.
At any rate, she's taken the greatest fancy to me, and I to her.
She came here yesterday in the pouring rain, and we spent a long
afternoon talking together. We feel the same way about everything. She
says that with my beauty, I ought to make a great hit, and she's going
to give a big reception in my honor. Of course, with her experience,
she can be a great help to me.
I see. Dick forgot his breakfast entirely, and meditated.
What is Mr. Appleton like? Lena persisted.
He has enough money to make me pale my ineffectual fires, and he
adds to that the personality of the great American desert. But I
suspect his wife is so wholly satisfied with the golden glow that the
latter fact has never penetrated to her consciousness. I think Mrs.
Appleton has not yet recovered from her astonishment at finding herself
wedded to profusion. It appears to delight her afresh from day to day.
You can be very nasty about people when you choose. Lena's tone
was unmistakably vexed.
Frankly, Lena, I do not like Mrs. Appleton or her attitude toward
life. She is the kind of woman who refuses to take the simplest thing
simply, the kind that thinks subscription dances and clubs and private
cars and family tombs were invented chiefly to show our exclusiveness.
Well, what are they for?
Dick laughed. Most of them to get all the fun there is in things, I
should say; and the tombs, to show that love holds even after death.
I like her, anyway, said Lena. I like her better than the
stuck-up kind of women. The words sound bald. Lena's lips made them
seem humorous. It was so easy to avoid disapprobation just by that
little smile and whimsical twist of the mouth.
And whom do you mean by that!
You know whom I mean, Lena answered defiantly. And I consider
Mrs. Appleton a great deal more of a society woman than Mrs. Lenox. At
any rate she goes a great deal more. And she does not neglect her
church duties or her charities, either. She has told me things that she
I should say she does not neglect them, ejaculated Dick. She has
the art so to regild them that even philanthropy and religion become
mere appendages to society. Does Mrs. Lenox belong to Ram Juna's class,
No. Mrs. Appleton asked her, but she wrote that though she was
interested in oriental thought, she, personally, found it more
satisfactory to get it by reading. Now wasn't that snobby, Dick?
Is it snobbish to choose what really suits you, instead of
following a craze like a sheep woman?
But Lena shut her lips tightly. If she had not will, she had
obstinacy. She could be resolute in behalf of her realities, luxury,
beauty and self. From the moment when Mrs. Appleton first dawned on her
horizon, she had recognized her ideal. Here was a woman who was at once
showy, fashionable and virtuous. The things that Mrs. Lenox took for
granted or ignored were to her matters of absorbing importance. She
magnified the office of every detail of social conduct and every
minutia of society's functions. It was worth while to spend a week of
soul-fatiguing labor in order that a tea should be just right; and her
preparations were not made in silence, but with an amount of discussion
and red-tape that filled every crevice of life. She had learned the art
of so cramming the days with trifles that there was no room for the big
things and she could conveniently forget them.
Mrs. Appleton seemed to recognize in Lena the same curious mingling
of deep-down barbaric egotism and love of display, with the longing to
be civilizedly correct. The two were drawn together.
I like her, said Lena positively.
I'm sorry, Dick said gently. I can't say that I do, and I should
be glad if you could find your friends among those I love and respect.
You needn't try to dictate my friendships, said Lena sharply.
I did not think of dictating, sweetheart. But when we love each
other, we naturally long for sympathy in all things. Dick was making a
But there was little use in making this appeal to Lena, to whom love
was but a beneficent masculine idiosyncrasy. Dick glanced at her and at
I must be off, he said. I have an engagement to meet Preston and
plan out our campaign.
I'm going to run for alderman of this ward, Dick laughed as Lena
flushed. Don't you approve?
How can you be interested in running for alderman? she asked. It
is such a mean little ambition. I wish you would try for something big.
It would be grand to have you a senator, so that we could go to
Washington. I should love to be in all the gaieties and meet all the
Why, sweetheart, you don't suppose I care for the great name of
city father, do you? Dick answered laughing. That's only the end of a
lever. I do care immensely to be one of those who will clean up this
city and keep it clean. Perhaps, if we do these near-by things, the big
ones will come, by and by.
A sort of public housemaid, said Lena scornfully.
Exactly! Dick laughed and nodded.
But Lena shrugged her shoulders and pouted as the door shut and she
idly watched her husband's final hand-wave.
He walked down town and the fresh northern air set his pulses
quickening. He noted how few gray heads there were, how full everything
seemed of the vitality of youth. On the piazzas were groups of happy
well-kept children, bundled up for winter play and bubbling over with
exuberance. To any passer-by they told that these were the homes of
young married people. Everywhere life looked sweet and normal and
vigorous. And he knew that for miles in every direction there were more
such homes of more such people.
But when he reached the part of town whither his steps were bent,
all this was reversed. Here was dirt, if not of body, then of spirit.
Here were a thousand evil influences at work. Here was public
plundering for private greed; here were wire-pullings and bargainings
and selfishness reigning supreme. And these forces were the nominal
rulers of a city, the greater part of whose life was good.
However, he was getting the ropes in his hands. These things were no
longer vague generalities floating in his mind, as rosy clouds might be
backed by thunder-heads on the horizon. They were growing definite. He
began to know who were the evil-workers and how they did it. He had the
art of making friends, and he made friends among publicans and sinners
as well aswell, there weren't any saints in St. Etienne to make
friends with. At any rate some of the powers that were began to say
that Dick Percival knew entirely too much. And some of the powers that
ought to be, but still slept, namely the good citizens of St. Etienne,
found their slumbers disturbed by his straight and convincing words.
But to-day all his labors seemed not worth while. There was a sour
taste in his mouth. To do the little thing with a big heart was after
all nothing but a sham. His ideals, he thought, had simmered down to
petty things. He was spending his time in nosing out small
evil-smelling scandals and in running for a mean inferior office. He
felt nauseated with himself. Worse, he felt a horrible new doubt of his
wife. Mrs. Appleton had been to him the type of woman he disliked,
worldly, shallow, busy with the sticks and straws; yet now there would
creep in a suspicion that some of the things he had forgiven to Lena's
beauty and lack of sophistication were close of kin to the older
woman's more blatant materialism. Materialism was the thing Dick had
not learned to associate with his own women.
This radiant morning, then, he felt himself under the dominion of
the grand inquisitors who invented the torture of little things. Life
consisted in having slow drops of water fall on his head, one at a
time. Family life was slimed with small bickerings, children were a
nuisance, society a bore, and the most beautiful woman in the world
defiant and uninspiring at the breakfast-table.
It does not take Cleopatra long to wither the ideals.
Dick began to analyze his wife, which is a dangerous thing for a man
to do. If a husband wishes to preserve the lover's state of mind, he
must continue to think of his wife as a single indivisible creature,
not a compound of faults, virtues and charms, lest in some unlucky
moment he find that the faults are the biggest ingredient.
Dick, however, was thinking, and the substance of his thoughts was
that this little girl, who bore his name, had her seamy side. Up to
now, if he noticed a defect, he instantly and chivalrously put it out
of his mind, but now certain doubts had knocked so long that by sheer
persistence they forced an entrance. Lena, who began by being a sweet,
innocent, much-enduring little thing, now that he knew her more and
more intimately, was less and less the creature he imagined. To the
world in general she was still the big-eyed ingenue, learning to take
her place in society. To him alone, it seemed, to him whose love and
reverence she ought to have desired, she was becoming indifferent as to
the impression she made. Was the other side of her a pose? Dick found
himself walking very fast, and he slackened his pace to a respectable
gait. If Lena the lovable was a pose, then the inspiration and ideals
and joy of his life were frauds. That thought was too appalling. He
deliberately stopped thinking about it and turned his thoughts to
frauds in city politics, which were easier to endure.
Lena, on the other hand, sitting idly by the window, indulged in a
little reflection on her own part. She was revolving with some
bitterness her disappointment and disillusionment. She remembered what
a glorious gilded creature Dick had appeared to her at one time. Now he
was sunk to be a very ordinary young man, with curious and stupid
idiosyncrasies, and not nearly so rich and important as many of the
people she came in contact with. Might she have done better if she had
waited? She too stopped regretting and turned her attention to a novel.
She was just beginning to discover the charms of Gyp. She looked up
to see Mr. Early come up the pathway, and a moment later he stood
Mrs. Percival, he said, I have brought you this little vase, the
first of its kind that my artists have produced. I thought it so really
beautiful that I could not resist laying one before you as a kind of
Oh, it is lovely. And am I really the only person in the world who
You and Miss Elton. A pang of small jealousy shot through Lena's
heart. It was always and everywhere Miss Elton. I sent her another,
but of slightly different shape. I am, as you know, a worshiper of
beauty, but all these creations of man's hands are but parodies, are
they not, Mrs. Percival, on absolute beauty? They are like ourselves,
the creatures of a day. Nature herself, in sea and air and woodland,
produces exquisite loveliness, and yet even her achievements are
dwarfed when one stands face to face with one of creation's
And Mr. Early made a ponderous bow as he presented his work of art.
Lena was so impressed by this compliment that she wrote it out while it
was fresh in her memory, and when Dick came home, she read it to him.
He gave a great bellowing laugh that grated harshly on Lena's nerves;
and then at sight of her reproachful eyes, he drew himself together and
gave her a friendly pat on the shoulder, affectionate, to be sure, but
quite different from Mr. Early's chivalrous manner, and said:
Thinks you better than his old straight-legged tables, does he?
Well, I should say so! Serves him right for being an old bachelor, and
having nothing but furniture and Ram Juna to illuminate existence. I
should expect that combination to drive a man either to drink or to
I don't think it is nice of you to swear, Dick, Lena answered
severely, but on the verge of tears.
Swear, sweetheart? Why, what do you mean?
Well, it's almost the same thing to talk about 'blank' verse. Dick
laughed again and went directly to the library without even noticing
the extremely lovely new dress which his wife had put on for his
Dick's limitations were becoming manifest to young Mrs. Percival. He
might be a gentleman, but she feared that he would never be more. There
was nothing imposing about him. He had lifted her out of sordid want,
but he would not raise her to the pinnacle of greatness. The bland flat
face of Mr. Early and his commanding slowness of movement impressed her
imagination much as a great stone image might its votary. Here was
indeed the truly illustrious. She devoured every floating newspaper
paragraph that concerned Sebastian; for she was still under the
dominion of the idea that greatness in the dailies constituted
greatness indeed. She would have been proud to touch the hem of his
frock-coat. How much greater her elation when, on public occasions, he
singled her out and stalked across the room to utter in loud tones,
intended for the ears of half a hundred, some well-rounded compliment.
A conquest of Mr. Early would have been, for Lena, the consummation of
achievement; but she could not help seeing that his eyes turned more
frequently upon Miss Elton than upon Mrs. Percivalupon Miss Elton, of
whom she felt constant jealousy and abnormal curiosity.
Jealousy rose to its height when, on a certain afternoon, from her
favorite post beside a window, Lena watched a carriage drive up to Mr.
Early's door, and Miss Elton dismount and run up the steps. Mrs.
Percival leaned forward to make sure of her eyes, and then she sat and
eyed the hole where the mouse had disappeared.
Of course she could not know what was going on inside. When Madeline
received a note from Mr. Early, asking her to come and see some very
wonderful tapestries that he had just hung, it seemed the most natural
thing in the world. Sebastian's house was always more like a museum
than bachelor's quarters. He was continually turning it inside out for
public inspection, so Madeline went in all innocence, expecting to find
a dozen or so of her friends sharing the private view. She was
embarrassed, but hardly seriously, as Mr. Early came forward to welcome
Am I all alone? she said with a little laugh.
Apparently you are. But I dare say some others will drop in on us
in a moment, Mr. Early made answer. Meanwhile I am favored, for your
opinion is what I particularly want. These queer old tapestries have
been sent to me from France, but whether I keep them or not depends on
whether they seem the right thing in the right place. Will you come
The big hall had a singularly impersonal aspect. Madeline had never
before seen it except when thronged with people, and now that they two
stood alone in its wide empty space, she was struck with a certain
desolation in it.
Well? inquired Mr. Early.
I can't tell at once, said Madeline slowly. Beauty is a thing
that takes time to unfold itself upon one, isn't it? But I think they
are beautiful. They are certainly strange and solemn, and they
intensify the dignity of this big room; but they make it seem less
homelike than ever. They seem to me things to look at rather than to
live with. I suppose their appropriateness depends a little on what you
want to make of this place. And you do want it only for a public room,
do you not, Mr. Early?
I am afraid that is all I am capable of, said Sebastian, looking
pensively at her. You see the home feeling is beyond my achievement.
It needs the feminine touch to create that ideal atmosphere. That, Miss
Madeline, is above art.
It is so common, are you sure it is not below art? Madeline
I am sure, responded Mr. Early with conviction. It is a subject
on which I have thought much since you came home last year. Never until
then did I wholly realize the lack in my home and in my life. If now,
in all humbleness, I am consulting your taste, it is because I have
sometimes dared to hope that you, my dear lady, would one day give that
final grace to this which would make it indeed a home, instead of the
mere abiding place that it is now.
Madeline turned upon him sharply.
Mr. Early, she said, it isn't wholly courteous in you to take
advantage of my being alone with you in your own domain to speak to me
in this way.
I beg your pardon, Sebastian answered. It was a wholly
unpremeditated expression of what has long been an ardent desire. I did
not mean to speak, but your own words seemed to break down the barriers
of my passion. I could wish that you would permit me to put it in the
form which my heart prompts; but perhaps you are right. Your fine sense
of the proprieties must be my rule of conduct. I shall only trust that
I may soon find a time to speak when I shall not offend your delicacy,
and when, I pray, I may not offend your heart.
Neither now nor at any other time should I advise you to go any
further, said Madeline laughingly, for it was hard to take the bombast
of Mr. Early very seriously. He made her think now of a sort of pouter
pigeon. And Sebastian remained only partly satisfied as to the effect
which he wished to produce. He wanted to give her something to think
about, and so make way for the more impassioned wooing that he was
resolved should follow. He was convinced that to stand alone with him
in the midst of his splendors would make a strong impression on the
mind of any sensible girl. The great hall was certainly a place to
capture the imaginationnot only from its stately proportions and the
mellow coloring that melted into shadow in the far-off roof, but from
the multitude of smaller details, the intricate carvings, gathered
abroad or made under Mr. Early's own eye, the few priceless paintings,
the great jars whose exquisite decorations blended their richer tones
with the deeper shades around. In a wide alcove was gathered a
collection of portraits of distinguished men and women, statesmen,
artists and literati of this country and of Europe, and each picture
was accompanied by an autograph letter to the well-beloved Sebastian
Early. It could be no small thing to contemplate the possession of this
house of notabilities and of the man who had built it up around
himself. This, Mr. Early meant, should be the artistic opening of his
campaign. And Miss Elton had laughed.
There was silence for a long minute, and Madeline, glancing
nervously at her host, saw that his face was grave and that his eyes
were fixed upon her in a melancholy way. She began to feel
I think I must be going now, she said.
You have not told me whether I am to keep the tapestries, Mr.
Early humbly objected.
Oh, I couldn't possibly decide for you. But they seem to harmonize
beautifully with this room.
I am grateful for your decision. Permit me to see you to your
carriage, Miss Madeline.
Lena, watching hungrily from her vantage post, noted Mr. Early's
obsequious courtesies, Madeline's flushed face, and drew angry
conclusions. Nevertheless, she leaned forward and bowed graciously as
Madeline drove past.
If she should marry Mr. Early, I shouldn't feel as if I had
triumphed a bit in getting Dick away from her, she said to herself,
with a bald comprehension of her true state of mind. For Lena made up
for her pose toward others by a certain unimaginative frankness in her
Then, catching a glimpse of another figure, she exclaimed, Oh,
there comes Miss Huntress! and immediately settled herself with an air
of elegant leisure to receive her former superior. Miss Huntress was a
source of continual satisfaction to Lena, the opposite of a skeleton at
the feast, a continual reminder of present prosperity as compared with
past nonentity. To meet her gave Madame Cecropia the same thrill of
satisfaction that it still did to draw her dainty skirts around her and
step into her carriage, half hoping that some envious girl was viewing
her perfections as she had once eyed those of others. On the other
hand, Miss Huntress derived almost equal pleasure out of her
acquaintance with Lena, whose littleness she measured, and whose small
successes she looked upon with amusement, unflecked by envy. Emily
Huntress was a plodding person, with much business on hand and an
earnest necessity for earning money, and though her canons were not
over fine, still she had her standards and lived up to them. She found
Lena useful as a source of social information.
You want to know what is going on? inquired Mrs. Percival. Well,
of course you know it's Lent, and there isn't anything much. But if you
will come up to my boudoir, I will look over my engagement book, and
perhaps I can help you to a paragraph or two.
The word boudoir was a sweetmeat to Lena's palate, combined, as it
was, with the knowledge that her visitor, with a sister, kept house in
So they went up stairs, and Lena babbled and preened herself, while
Miss Huntress frowned and pondered on the difficulties of making
anything readable out of her small kernel of information. The arrival
of a cup of tea, Miss Huntress, being a woman as well as a reporter,
found mollifying to the hardness of life.
I see, she said with an acid little laugh, you have the
Chatterer up here in your unholy of unholies. Her eyes fell on a
small magazine which made a speciality of besmirching the good names of
the entire country. Everybody reads it, and everybody pretends to
It's awfully interesting, said Lena, and she went on with a little
giggle, I think I'll just tuck it away before my husband comes in. He
doesn't approve of it, you know. Men don't care for gossip. I think it
is perfectly wonderful what an amount of scandal it gets hold of. I
don't see how they do it. And they've such a naughty way of writing it
Nothing very remarkable. In every town of importance they have some
one always on the lookout for a promising piece of mud. Miss Huntress
eyed Lena speculatively for a moment. I'll tell you in confidence,
she went on, and I trust you to keep mum about it, for the sake of the
times when I helped youI write for it here. I don't exactly like it,
but you know I can't afford to despise dollars and cents. It's just
plain business, after all. There's a demand for that kind of thing and
it falls to my lot to supply it.
And did you write that awful thing about Mrs. Clarke? cried Lena,
sitting up with big blue eyes, and gazing earnestly at Miss Huntress
with, awe as an arbiter of reputations.
Yep, replied that lady with a gulp of tea.
Gracious! exclaimed Mrs. Percival. I hope you'll never send them
anything about me.
Then you'd better never do anything indiscreet, Miss Huntress
laughed maliciously. But I don't think you would, she went on
speculatively. You're too clever and too ambitious for that. Do you
know, I've rather come to the conclusion that it's only rather
simple-hearted people who do those things. Take that Mrs. Clarke, now.
Of course her husband was a brute, and when the other man came along
she fell so much in love with him that she didn't even think of any one
else in the world except their two selves. A woman who was incapable of
whole-souled passion would have kept an eye on the world and walked the
narrow path of virtue.
Why, you're defending her! exclaimed Lena.
Not in the least, said Miss Huntress grimly. I helped to make her
pay the price.
Oh, well, Lena said with an air of greatness, there are some of
us who can combine the deepest love with decent behavior you know.
Of course, answered Miss Huntress.
Now Miss Elton is just that other kind. I believe she never thinks
what people say about her, Lena observed. Not that she'd do anything
out of the way, you understand.
Certainly not. Miss Huntress began to prick up her professional
ears. She's a particular friend of yours, isn't she?
Intimate, said Lena. You know they used to say that Mr.
Percivalbut of course that was before he met me, and anyway there was
nothing in it.
I know, said Miss Huntress. I sent a line to the Chatterer
once about it.
Did you really? Well, of course, for form's sake, she has to be as
nice as ever to me and Mr. Percival. But she has reconciled herself.
It's all Mr. Early now.
You don't say! ejaculated Miss Huntress with interest.
She's regularly throwing herself at his head. Why only this
afternoon I saw her do the most unconventional thing.
What was it?
Oh, I dare say she was just getting him to subscribe to some
charity or something equally innocent. Still, it was queer. But I know
her too well to suspect her of any impropriety. She's really the
dearest, sweetest girl, Miss Huntress, and I'm the last person in the
world to criticize her.
But aren't you going to tell me?
Well, she came, quite alone, you understand, to Mr. Early's this
afternoon, and was closeted there the longest time. I couldn't help
wondering what it was all about. What do you suppose?
That was funny, meditated Miss Huntress.
I'm certain there's some perfectly natural explanation, if we only
knew it, Lena went on. But she looked awfully flushed when she came
Thank you, said Miss Huntress. I must be going now.
Oh, won't you have another cup of tea? Of course, I'm on very good
terms with Miss Elton, said Lena, fingering the tray cloth a little
nervously. I shouldn't like her to think I'd criticized her behavior,
even to you.
You needn't be afraid, rejoined Miss Huntress. I never let on how
I get my information. I'd lose my job if I did. Much obliged to you,
Mrs. Percival. Things are so dull during Lent that we're thankful for
even a few crumbs. I guess that's your husband's step. It must be
Oh, good-by! Dick, you dear boy, how glad I am to see you, cried
Lena, fluttering to the door to meet her returning lord. Miss
Huntress, this is my husband. Good-by, again. Don't you remember? she
went on, as Dick followed her back into her room. She used to be my
'boss' when I was a poor little slavey in the Star office,
before my best beloved prince came and rescued me from dragons and
And are you so fond of her that you keep up the acquaintance?
Oh, I remember how hard it used to be to get 'matter'; and I don't
mind helping her out a bit when she's hard pressed.
You are a kind-hearted little soul, Lena,and her husband stooped
and kissed her fondly, doing penance in his heart for his doubts of a
day or two ago, thoughts cruel, unjust, unwarranted. Lena had never
looked more delectable than now, with her head on one side, pouring his
tea. She kissed each lump of sugar as she put it in and laughed at her
own conceit; and she brought the cup over to his chair and rubbed her
apple blossom of a cheek against his with a little purr.
I'm afraid you think me very silly, Dick, she laughed. I do not
seem to get a bit wiser or better behaved, do I, for all Mrs. Appleton
and Ram Juna, and even your lovely high-bred mother? Dick, do you
Despise! Why I love and love you and love you all over, said Dick.
CHAPTER XVII. GRAPE-SHOT
Mrs. Quincy, in her solitary confinement, unloved and complaining,
might be considered a figure either repulsive or pathetic, according to
the onlooker's point of view. Fortunately there are always a few big
enough at heart to turn towards the world a face of affection rather
than of criticism, to whom woe appeals more than vulgarity.
So, once in a while in her busy life, Mrs. Lenox found time to drop
in as the bearer of a cheerful word and a friendly look to the ugly
little apartment where Mrs. Quincy lived in the third story height of
On an April afternoon she came, like a dark-eyed Flora, her hands
loaded with daffodils that might bring a glow of the beauty of spring
even to an inartistic spirit. The front door stood open, and a flat has
an unrelenting way of laying bare all the skeletons that find no closet
room. Mrs. Lenox surprised a scene of domestic economy in the tiny
parlor. The curtains had been taken down for fear they would fade, and
a large piece of newspaper lay where the sunlight struck the carpet. In
the middle of the room sat Mrs. Quincy, and before her on a kitchen
chair stood a little tub of foamy soap-suds. A maid was stationed at
hand with a bar of soap and a bottle of ammonia, and the steam of
homely cleanliness filled the air.
Good gracious, I declare! ejaculated Mrs. Quincy, if it ain't
Mrs. Lenox! Come right in. I'm just washin' out my under-flannels and
my stockin's. I can't bear the slovenly ways of servants, and it's only
myself as can do 'em to suit myself. There, Sarah, you take the things
away, and I'll let you rinse 'em out this once. And mind you do it
good. Be sure to use four rinsin's. And soft water, mind. And hand me a
towel to wipe off my hands. It's real good of you to come and see a
forlorn old woman, that I know can't be much pleasure to you, Mrs.
Lenox. There ain't many that takes the trouble. And yet time was when I
was considered as good-lookin' as that ungrateful daughter of mine,
that I slaved for for years. Put them flowers in water, Sarah. I guess
a butter jar's the only thing I got that's big enough to hold them.
Mrs. Lenox sat down, wondering if time and life could ever transform
the smooth beauty of Lena's features to this semblance of failure which
they so closely resembled. Mrs. Quincy's face was like a grain field
over which the storms had swept, changing what was its glory to a
The scarlet-faced Sarah hustled tub and chair and dripping garments
kitchen-ward. The visitor took up her task of cheerfulness, and Mrs.
Quincy cackled and grumbled to her heart's content.
Lena'd be 'shamed to death if she knew you'd caught me doin' my
wash, she whined. I hope you won't tell her. She can come down on me
pretty hard sometimes, I tell you.
Oh, I won't tell, Mrs. Lenox laughed. I only wish you had let me
help. I was thinking what fun it must bewith a maid to hold the soap.
It took me back to nursery days. I used to love to wash dolls'
I don't do it for fun, Mrs. Quincy snapped. But I ain't provided
with a servant that's worth her salt. If anybody's dependent, like I
am, on a whipper-snapper son-inlaw, that ain't got affection enough for
me to spend an hour a week with mewhy, I guess I have to pinch and
scrape wherever I can. No knowin' when I'll git more. I've worked hard
all my life for other folks, Mrs. Lenox. You can see by my hands how
I've worked. And what do I get for it? A stranger like you is kinder to
me than my own flesh and blood. And I know well enough that if Richard
Percival throws me a crust, it's only because he would be ashamed to
have folks say his mother-in-law was starving. Oh, I let him know that
I see through him whenever he comes near mewhich ain't very often.
And Lena goes days and days and never comes to see me. Her voice and
her garrulity were rising, but here a sob gave pause, and Mrs. Lenox
rushed in, repressing an impulse to say a word on the elementary laws
of give and take in love.
Well, I think you are very sensible to do the washing. One must
have some occupation to fill the days, mustn't one? And there aren't
many things, when one is tied to the house. If to-morrow is warm, I
wonder if you would feel up to a little drive in the afternoon?
I shouldn't be surprised if I would.
And do you care for reading? I've brought you a rather clever
little story. I see you have all the magazines.
Yes, Lena sends 'em. She thinks they'll occupy me and save her the
trouble of comin' herself. But, good land, I don't care for 'em beyond
lookin' at the pictures and the advertisementsexcept the Ladies'
Home Companion. That has good recipes in it; only Sarah can't make
nothin' that's fit to eat. But I did read that thing in the
Chatterer about Miss Elton. You've seen it, of course!and she
laughed with cheerful malice and licked her lips like a cat.
About Miss Elton? In the Chatterer? I haven't the least idea
of what you are talking, said Mrs. Lenox in a dazed way.
It's over there, returned the lady, with a comprehensive wave of
the thumb. You can read it. Lena said it couldn't be anybody else.
Mrs. Lenox rose and took the magazine from the table. She walked over
to the window and deliberately turned her back on her hostess. Her
hands shook a little as she turned page after page till her eyes fell
on this little paragraph.
In a certain western city which is famous for its flour and lumber
interests, there lives a bachelor who has made it still more
illustrious in the realms of art and literature. It is a standing
insult to feminine humanity that a man both famous and wealthy should
remain single, but, so far, all attacks upon the citadel of his heart
have proved futile. Rumor now has it that a capitulation is imminent,
but the besieging force has been driven to unusual measures to secure
it. A college training gives a girl the advantage over her fellows,
both in expedients and in determination. Not content with the
extraordinary attractions conferred on her by her own beauty, the young
lady who is ahead in the race for the gay bachelor's heart has been
carrying the war into Egypt. Gossip saith that there are quiet hours
spent by these two in the seclusion of the bachelor's stately home,
when, doubtless, his masculine heart melteth within him, and the bonds
of his servitude are tightened. Still, it is a dangerous game for a
supposedly reputable girl to play, isn't it? and a littlewell, let us
call it unconventional.
Mrs. Lenox shut the magazine and her own teeth.
It is inconceivable that such stuff should be printed, and that
people should buy it, she said. But you see it is so vague that it
might refer to any one at any place, and even if we knew who was meant,
it is too insignificant a piece of small malice to receive anything but
contempt. And now good-by, Mrs. Quincy. I hope these coming spring days
are going to help you to better health.
Good-by. I always appreciate your visits, whined Mrs. Quincy. I'm
sure, with all you have to do, I don't wonder you don't come oftener. I
know there's nothin' to draw you.
Mrs. Lenox went away with a deep breath and a longing for fresh air.
She shook her head at the waiting coachman and said, I am going to
She moved along in a cloud of conjectures, not that the small
paragraph seemed to her very important, but she was a little sickened
by the sudden glimpse of petty minds, who, being rich, stay by
preference in the slums.
Mrs. Quincy, like Mrs. Percival, makes me feel that life is not a
big thing to be lived for some big reason, but an affair to be
scrambled through day by day, grabbing everything you can, and hating
those who have grabbed more. What a way to worry through seventy or
eighty years! she groaned to herself.
Almost at her own door she met Ram Juna, who turned with her to make
one of his ponderous calls, while she sat and talked with him of
emptiness and philosophy, with that vivacious patience that becomes a
habit with women of the world; but when the door opened and her husband
appeared, accompanied by Dick Percival and Ellery Norris she heaved a
distinct sigh of relief.
We know that the dinner hour is looming on the horizon, and we're
not going to stay, said Dick. But your husband has some civic reform
monographs that I thought I would borrow while he was in the lending
You needn't apologize, Dick, she laughed. You are more than
tolerated in this house.
There came a sharp noise, and Madeline Elton, with pale face and
eyes big, stood in the doorway. Every one knew that something had
happened, and Mrs. Lenox, who saw the rolled magazine in the nervous
hand, guessed its purport in a flash.
My dear girl! she cried, running forward, you are not going to
let such a pin-prick hurt you!
Oh, Vera, exclaimed the girl, putting her face down on her
friend's shoulder, you know! It does hurt. I can't help it, and she
The three men looked on in puzzled helpless masculinity, and the
Swami surveyed the scene as the two women clung to each other.
Vera, said Mr. Lenox, are we permitted to know what this means?
Mrs. Lenox kept her arm around Madeline's shoulder as she turned.
It's only an ugly little fling in the Chatterer, Frank, she
said, and it sounds as though it might refer to Madeline. It is
nothing, but I dare say my dear girl does not enjoy a bit of dirt even
on her outer garment. And, Madeline, very likely it is not meant for
Oh, yes, it is, cried the girl. Some one sent me this marked
copy. And I went there once when I thought he had invited a crowd to
see some tapestries. There was no one else there. There is just so much
truth in it.
Would you rather that we should not see it? asked Mr. Lenox.
I'm afraid every one will see it, said Madeline shamefacedly, as
she held out the guilty pages. The three men leaned their heads over
the table with a curiosity that would have done credit to women, while
Ram Juna still looked on.
I have already beheld the writing, he said suavely. Mr. Early
gave way to unwonted anger when he saw. The lady must have an enemy.
That is it, cried Madeline, turning upon him swiftly. I think I
am not so much hurt by the scandalevery one who knows me will believe
better of mebut what cuts is that there should be some one who wants
to hurt me. II've always thought of the world as a friendly place.
Who is it that hates me?
Bah, it is a very small enemy who seeks small revenge, said the
Swami, whose own heart was filled with contempt and irritation. This
was not according to his plan. In India, we do not so revenge.
Mr. Lenox stepped back to the fireplace, from which point a man
always surveys the world at an advantage.
It isn't worth an extra heart-beat, Miss Elton, he said. Ignore
it and your world will promptly forget it.
But, Mr. Lenox, you do not understand. It is not the question of
the truth or falsehood of the story that shakes me. As you say, that is
too absurd. But I shall always wonder who is my enemy, and why.
Norris was looking at her with awakened terror. With the intuition
of love, he had read the processes of her self-conquest at the time of
Dick's marriage. But here was a new possibility. Could it be that this
fair and delicate creature was now to be enwoofed by Sebastian Early,
whom at this juncture Ellery characterized to himself as a fat toad?
He made up his mind that it would not do to trust, as he had been
doing, to time to stand his friend. He must also bestir himself.
I wonder, he said aloud, I wonder if Miss Huntress knows anything
about it. I have a dim idea that some one told me that she wrote things
for the Chatterer. Our society editor, you know.
But even if she did dislike meand I don't know her from Adamhow
could she know? said Madeline, turning on him. You see I was alone
with Mr. Early, and I am sure, for certain reasons, here Ellery was
horrified to see a little flush creeping over her face, that he would
not be guilty of any attempt to besmirch me. And no one else knew that
I was thereexcept A sudden startled look came over her face and
she looked involuntarily at Dick. Except she said, and her voice
Besides, these small acts are those of women, said the Swami
placidly. Dick had caught Madeline's look of astonished comprehension
and he turned pale as he saw. Now, with Ram Juna's words, conviction
flashed upon him. He remembered Lena's dislike for Madeline, of which
he had made light; he remembered the little insignificant woman whom he
had met in his wife's boudoir; the fact that he was Mr. Early's nearest
neighbor clapped assurance on suspicion, and his muddled mind was
capable of only one idea. No one else, least of all, Madeline, must
suspect her little meanness.
Dick, you have an inkling, said Mr. Lenox abruptly, but in all
Not in the least, said Dick hurriedly. I assure you that if I had
the slightest reason to suspect any one, I would be the first to speak.
Iyou know I think everything of you, Madeline. He went toward her in
a futile way, with outstretched hand, but Madeline's eyes were down,
and apparently she did not see the friendly overture. His face looked
pale, strained and old as he stood for a moment before her, and the
others surveyed them in silence.
As you say, said Dick, in sprightly fashion, the best thing is to
forget the whole incident. Lenox, if you will give me those papers, I
must be off.
Our lines lie parallel, said the Swami. Will you permit that I
walk with you?
The four who remained stood awkwardly during the departure, and with
the closing of the door, Mr. Lenox gave an inarticulate ejaculation.
Miss Elton, he said, I think your problem is solved.
You mean it was Mrs. Percival?
You are as sure as I.
And Dick knew, said Ellery. He blushed as he spoke.
Oh no, Mr. Norris! cried Madeline in sharp distress. That would
he unendurable. And besides, he said he didn't.
Dick lied, Ellery stated calmly.
I will never believe that Dick would lie.
He certainly lied, Ellery persisted. Any man would lie to protect
the woman he loves.
Never! exploded Mrs. Lenox. Frank, you would not lie for me!
Assuredly I would, her husband answered quietly, if you needed
She looked at him with speechless dismay.
Therefore, Ellery went on, it behooves a man to love a woman who
demands truth and not untruth as her reasonable service. The
responsibility rests with you women. You can not only make men lie, but
you can make them believe that there is no such thing as truth in the
universe. Isn't it so, Lenox?
Mr. Lenox smiled and nodded, Jove-like.
Oh, yes, they pull some strings, he said; but don't cocker them
up too much. Don't make them think we are nothing but clay in their
You couldn't, because, to our sorrow, we know better, retorted his
Nevertheless, you've unsettled everything, said Madeline
But, Miss Elton, Norris put in, you must not think that I believe
that a man is without responsibility for the kind of woman he loves.
That is where the first turning up or down comes in. He's no right to
give his soul to the thing that is mean or base. He has the right to
choose his road, but after he's chosen, he has to travel wherever the
road leads. Dick's disintegration began from the moment that he met
Miss Quincy. I've known it for a long time.
Poor little thing! said Madeline. She is so small. I hope she
will grow to be something like a mate for Dick.
Do not flatter yourself with wishes, cried Mrs. Lenox. There's
only one soil in which the soul can grow, and that is love. Unless I
misread her, there is no room in her for anything but Lena Quincy
And yet, objected Ellery, she is certainly not a person weighted
with intellect. I should say she is all impulse and emotion.
Anomalous but by no means uncommon, Mr. Norris, she rejoined. All
emotion, yet without emotion of the heart. In her little world, self
lies at the equator, and every one else is pushed off to the frozen
The others looked at her doubtfully.
Don't you think I have studied her? She has been a bald revelation
to me of things I have only half understood in better-bred women. She's
like a weed transplanted from her lean ground to a garden and grown
more luxuriant in her weediness. Do you know what I think? I believe
that when the last judgment shall strip her of her sweet pink flesh,
there will be nothing found inside but a little dry kernel, too hard to
bite, and labeled 'self'.
You are positively vicious, Vera, said her husband gravely.
The tears came to her eyes as she turned to him.
I really loved Dick, and she has stung him.
But all this does not explain her hatred for Madeline.
Do you not understand that even petty people can see how dreary and
stupid their lives are when a person like Madeline comes along? So they
It's good of you to consider my feelings how they grow, and to try
to bolster them up, Madeline smiled. But I am fearfully tired. I must
go home. I hope that my father and mother will never hear of this.
Why should they? said Mr. Lenox. It's only a trifle after all,
though, to be true to her nature, Vera must needs philosophize about
it. It's only a trifle.
Except for Dick, Ellery exploded.
Except for Dick, Mr. Lenox echoed.
It's a great pity, Mrs. Lenox meditated, that Dick can't knock
her down and then they could start again on a proper basis.
It is a disadvantage to be a gentleman, laughed her husband.
Vera, said Madeline impulsively, you won't let this make any
difference between us and Mrs. Percival? If she is a little twisted,
poor child, she has had a cruel training; and she needs decent women
all the more. II really have quite got over my anger with herand
don't let us lose Dick. Dick is like my brother. I mustn't break with
him. We must all be good to him.
I do not know that I feel any large philanthropy, answered Mrs.
Lenox, with something between a laugh and a wry face. But as I have
invited them as well as you to spend Easter with us in the country, I
suppose the ordinary laws of society will require me to behave myself.
The older woman kissed Madeline warmly, and Ellery moved out with her.
He had so entirely made up his mind to walk home with her that he quite
forgot to ask her permission.
He began to talk to her about himself, for almost the first time in
his reticent intimacy, and she forgot her own affairs, as he meant she
should, in listening.
Afterward she could not remember his words because parallel with
them she was reading her own interpretation. Already in a vague way she
understood him, but his little story gave her the crystallized
She had a picture of a lonely childhood, fatherless and motherless
and pervaded with a longing for love that early learned to keep
silence. That had been the first step in his self-possession. Education
had been hard to get, and yet he had got what to the sons of rich men
comes easily, and because to him it meant struggle, it had been the
more treasured. Knowledge came hard because his mind worked slowly and
painfully; therefore his grip was the tighter, and the habits of
thought wrought out by exercise were now giving him a facility that
cleverer men might envy. He could not know how the simple history gave
her an impression of slow irresistible manhood, always, without
drifting, moving toward its chosen end.
When they halted at her door, she had a feeling that she could not
let him go, just yet.
You'll come in and dine with us, will you not? she asked
I wish I might, he answered with that longing tone one falls into
when surveying an impossible and alluring temptation. I simply have to
work to-night. I'm already late for my engagement. May I come sometime
I wish you would. Father is really very fond of you, she went on,
defending her warmth. He likes young men. He has a sneaking longing
for them that no mere girl satisfies. Dick used to be a great deal to
him, butDick has drifted away. You have not been to see us for a long
Not since the day that Dick's engagement was announced, he
answered, looking her boldly in the face. I couldn't. You made me feel
then that you despised me.
I despised you? she spoke with bland innocence but rising color.
Madeline hesitated and looked down. She was scarlet.
I'm not going to pretend to misunderstand you, she said, and
turned laughing eyes toward him. I knew all the time that it was Dick
who had done some shabby thing, and you were trying to shield him.
Of course I knew.
But you told me I ought to get a mask, Ellery fumbled.
I meant when you try to tell lies. You don't do it with the grace
and conviction of an accomplished hand. Pooh, I can read you like an
I am very glad you can, he said deliberately. I thank God you
can, because on every page you will read the truththat I love youI
love you. I'm wanting you to read it in your own way, but some time I
am going to let the passion of it loosen this slow tongue of mine and
tell you in my own fashion how much it is.
He turned and strode abruptly away. Madeline went in to the
firelight of home.
Why, you look as bright as though you'd heard good news, exclaimed
Mr. Elton, peering over his newspaper in welcome.
Do I, father? Madeline stooped to rub her cheek softly against his
and laughed to herself. Why, I believe I have. That shows what a
whirligig I am. I went out thinking life was a tragedy, and I come back
What, little girl?
A divine comedy, said Madeline and laughed again. Just see what a
walk in the open air will do for a body.
CHAPTER XVIII. EASTER
Easter came late in April, when, to match man's mood, it should
come; for the world was alive with new vitality. The south winds were
infusing their wonder-working heats, and the bluebirds flashing their
streaks of color through branches that felt the stir of sap, amid buds
that strained to burst. There was the smell of growth where bits of
secret greenness hid behind the dead leaves of last fall.
On Saturday evening Mrs. Lenox welcomed the same circle that had met
at her home the November before, and Lena's little heart glowed with
the soul-satisfying sense of the difference to her. Then she had been a
social waif, received on sufferance. Now she was one of them. She could
even afford to have her own opinions. The very memory of past
discomforts doubled the present blessedness, and Mr. Lenox looked only
half the size that he had six months before. It was a long stride to
have taken in half a year, and with reason she congratulated herself on
her cleverness. In Mr. Lenox's gravity of manner as he took her in to
dinner, she perceived only respect for Mrs. Percival, not knowing that
he had in mind the small episode of the Chatterer, which his
wife and Miss Elton had agreed to ignore.
What very sensible people we are! exclaimed Mrs. Lenox as she
surveyed her small table party. We shall spend to-morrow in hunting
for anemones instead of looking at our neighbors' spring fineries; we
shall catch the first robin at his love song, instead of listening to
the cut and dried, much-practised church music; and we shall find rest
to our souls. Dick, I am sure you need it. You look worn out. I'm
afraid politics is proving a hard mistress.
I wonder if it is possible to do too much, said Dick, rousing
himself, with manifest languor. It's only the way he does it that
plays a man out. Here's Ellery, now, who works like a galley slave and
looks as fresh as the proverbial daisy.
Well, come, you are criticizing yourself even more severely, Mr.
Lenox said. You'll have to learn the secret, Dick, of letting your
arms and legs and brain work for you, while your inner man remains at
peace. That's the only way an American man can live in these hustling
days; and if you don't master it, the young men will come in and carry
you out by the time that you are fifty.
And there are worse things than that, rejoined Dick. I suppose it
is the universal experience that when one gets out of the freedom of
extreme youth and settles down to the jog-trot, harnessed life, the way
looks rather long and monotonous. A fellow can't help feeling tired to
think how tired he'll be before he gets to the end. To-night I feel as
old and dry as a mummy. If you touch me, I'll crumble.
Mrs. Lenox and I have been longer in the game than you, Dick,
answered his host whimsically. We are getting dangerously near the
equator; and we do not find ourselves exhausted. On the contrary, I
rather think the scenery improves, in some respects, as we go along.
You are hardly capable of measuring the common fate. You have had
the touchstone of success, and the world has opened up before you. But
what depress me and impress me are the sodden people whom I meet by the
hundred; and I can't help reading my fate in the light of theirs. There
are such millions of us, obscure and uncounted except on the census.
If you will persist in talking serious things, said Ellery, isn't
obscurity, after all, an internal and not an external quality? You've
got to believe that you are a creature that is worth while. There is no
bitterness in belonging to the myriads if the myriads are themselves
dignified by nature.
But are they? cried Dick, now rousing himself. I look at every
face I pass on the street. I'm always on the search for some ideal
quality; and what do I see? Egotism and greed answer me from all their
eyes. The ninety and nine have gone astray.
Then it belongs to you to be the hundredth who does not go astray;
and who gives a satisfactory answer to the same eternal questioning
that meets you in the eyes of other men. It's not given to any man to
play a neutral part in the world conflict. In all the magnificent
interplay of forces, I doubt if there is any force strong enough to
keep one standing still.
Yes, my dear Ellery. And it is just that eternal motion that I am
complaining about. It is burdensome to the flesh and wearisome to the
imagination to look forward to a future of eternal rushing and
striving. I have a multitude of experiences every year, and I
straightway forget them; and that deepens the impression that all these
little affairs of ours, about which we make such an infernal racket at
the time, are matters of very small importance in the march of the
centuries. The march of the centuries may be majestic, but the waddle
of this little ant of a man is not. It's insignificant.
That's a dangerous state of mind to be in, Dick, said Lenox.
And after all, you can't help being a very important thing to
yourself, said Madeline. And it must be of eternal significance to
you whether your soul is walking with the centuries or against them.
My dear Madeline, answered Dick, when I am with you and such as
you who live on a little remote mountain, eternity seems a very
important matter; but when I am with most people, next Wednesday, when
taxes are due, looms up and shuts out eternity. And you will permit me
to think that you women who are sheltered and who sit with the good
things of life heaped about you, don't know very much about practical
But why isn't my conscience as practical as my clothes? persisted
Madeline. And why is the fortune made to-day in Montana mines and lost
to-morrow in Wall Street any more practical than this same majestic
march of the centuries and the great thoughts that circle about it?
'Practical' is such a foolish word, Dick.
Undoubtedly, to you, said Dick with a little sneer. But to most
of the race to which we have the honor to belong it is the word that
makes the dictionary heavy. It is because you do not know its meaning
that you women, or perhaps I ought to use the despised term, 'ladies,'
become the very beautiful and useless articles that you areworks of
art, which may thrill and charm a man for a moment, when he has time to
look at them, but which bear little relation to the stress of life
which you can not comprehend.
Dick! Madeline spoke almost with tears in her eyes. It is not
like you to have a fling at women.
You see I'm gathering wisdom as I go along.
Gathering idiocy, you mean, interposed Mr. Lenox. Dick, you young
fool, the ideal woman is the goal toward which the rest of humanity
must run; and the sooner you bend all your practical faculties in that
direction, and there abase the knee, the better for you.
He nodded down the table toward his wife, and she pursed up her lips
and said, You nice goose! That's the way to keep us sweet-tempered.
I hope you're not going to turn cynic, Dick, said Ellery. The
rôle does not fit you.
A cynic, interposed Mrs. Lenox, always thinks that he has
discovered the sourness of the world. In reality all he has found is
his own bad digestion. I should hate to think there was anything on my
table to cause acute indigestion, Dick.
Perhaps there is a cog loose in his brain so that his wheels do not
work together, added Ellery.
At any rate, cynicism is self-confessed failure; so don't give way
to it, Mr. Lenox concluded.
Oh, I give up. Spare me, cried Dick.
Mrs. Lenox rose with a little nod, and as Madeline swept past him
towards the door, Dick turned for an instant and stopped her
Forgive me, he said. I did not mean it. I felt like saying
But you always used to want to be nice, Dick, she answered.
Miss Elton, Mrs. Percival spoke severely, as a matron to a
heedless girl, perhaps the gentlemen would prefer to have their smoke
alone. Are you coming to the drawing-room with us?
Later, much later, Lena, in the privacy of her own room, awaited the
coming of her husband who seemed to her to prolong outrageously the
game of billiards which made his excuse for sitting up a little longer
than herself. She shook out her fluff of hair, and arrayed herself in a
bewildering pink dressing-gown from beneath which she toasted some very
pink toes before the fire. She knew what arguments told on the
masculine intellect. And at last Dick came.
Sit down over there, she commanded. No, you shan't come near me,
Dick, until I've said my say. I'm really much displeased, and you need
not act as though you thought it was a trifling matter.
Dick sat humbly in the spot appointed.
Dick, I don't want you to say any more horrid little things about
women. You've done it several times lately. The other day you said
something to Mr. Early about his 'glorious freedom'; and you made a
sneering remark to Mr. Preston about women's small dishonesties.
Only jokes, I assure you.
Everybody knows that women are a great deal better than men.
They must be, said Dick. Literature is full of statements to that
And marriage is far more desirable than 'glorious freedom'.
It is, answered Dick. So long as there are things to disagree
about, marriage will not lose its savor.
You say that in a perfectly mean way, as though you did not really
believe anything nice. But whether you believe it or not, I am going to
ask you not to talk so any more, Mrs. Percival went on with dignity,
because it sounds exactly like a criticism of me, and I think you owe
it to me to treat me with respect. What must people think of me when
you fling inwhat do you call theminnuendoes like that around?
Mr. Percival looked at his wife in silence; then he picked her up,
chair and all, and whirled her around in front of a long pier glass.
Do you see that? he demanded.
Lena saw and dimpled.
Now I propose, Dick went on, to carry you down stairs, just as
you are! I shall then arouse the whole household by my shouts and
gather them around you; and when every man jack of them is there, I
shall say 'Ladies and gentlemen, is it possible for a man whose wife
looks like this to utter any serious accusation against femininity?'
Dick, don't be silly, said Lena, pouting with pleasure, and she
glanced again at herself in the glass. I am nice, am I not?
Nice! ejaculated Dick, Huyler and Maillard and Whitman and
Lowney, all rolled into one big candy man, never dreamed of anything so
sweet. Did you really think I was disrespectful? Why, little Lena!
Easter morning dawned, a God-given splendor of blue and spring
softness, and the six stood, after breakfast, on the veranda and looked
at the day.
Time and the world are before you. Choose how you will spend the
forenoon, said Mrs. Lenox.
I should like to drive, Lena promptly replied. Mr. Lenox was
telling me last night about his new pair of horses. I know he is pining
to show them off.
She cast one of her most fascinating glances at her unmoved host.
Just the thing. How shall we divide up? And Mrs. Lenox looked
Miss Elton and I, said Norris boldly, are going to row, just as
we used last summer.
Madeline glanced sidewise at him with some astonishment, as he made
this radical statement, but although she pondered a moment, she offered
no objection. Dick also glanced at him longingly as he said last
summer. Our lives seem made of little bits that have small relation
with each other. Things just happen. And yet, when we look back over a
long stretch we realize that life is a coherent whole, that it leads
somewhere, and Dick's life had led a long way in the past year. So he
too became grave but said nothing, as he resigned himself to a back
seat beside Mrs. Lenox and watched Lena perched airily beside her host.
Now I hope that matter will be amicably settled, Mrs. Lenox began,
looking with a satisfied air at the two unmarried people who were
starting toward the boat-house.
What! Dick exclaimed with a sudden start.
Are you a bat that you can not see daylight facts? she cried,
turning upon him.
I dare say I am. And he looked very sober. Yes, I suppose it is
all right. Norris is one of those fellows who always knows what he
wants, and just plods along until he gets it.
* * * * *
I said 'row', Ellery remarked as he pushed the boat out from
shore, but I meant 'loaf and invite the soul'. The sunlight is too
delectable for anything strenuous.
But inviting the soul is always a solitary experience, objected
Perhaps. But it is delightful to know that there is a sister soul
also inviting herself close at hand. I hope yours will accept the
invitation. 'At homethe soul of Mr. Ellery Norris, to meet the soul
of Miss Madeline Elton'.
A soft flush rose over Madeline's face and she devoted herself to
the tiller ropes.
P.S. Please come, Ellery went on with a laugh. R.S.V.P.
Aren't you 'flouting old ends'? she smiled.
I hoped I was flouting new beginnings, he answered soberly, and he
rowed languidly in a silence which Madeline rushed to fill.
I've been thinking ever since last night about Dick, she said. He
is so different from the buoyant creature of last summer. And it is
only a year.
Well, perhaps this is a phase. He rested on his oars and looked at
her. Dick is healthy, and joy is his normal state. He ought to be able
to recover from his malady.
Sometimes I think it is permanent.
I am almost afraid, too. But you see you can not get any bargains
in the department store of this world. You have to pay full price for
everything. If you want self-indulgence, you have to pay your health;
if you want health, you have to pay self-control. You never pay less
than the value of what you get, and you are often horribly over-charged
for a very inferior article. Now Dick wanted Lena Quincy. He bought a
little gratification, and paid
Everything he had, answered Norris abruptly. Do you think I have
not watched his courage and ideals wither as if they had been frosted?
He is numb. 'Heavy as frost,' Wordsworth said, and that's the
weightiest figure he could find. It did not take her a month to begin
to change him. In three months she has him well started. Isn't it a
pity that the worse one of the two should have the controlling force?
But Dick's very volatility that we love has laid him open to this
I'm glad, said Madeline slowly, that he has his political
Yes, he's going into it with a kind of fury.
Won't that give him a big outlet?
He may get a lot of satisfaction and do a really creditable thing.
Your tone does not sound very hopeful.
A single interest in life may accomplish more for the world, but I
don't believe it is very satisfactory for one's self.
Madeline looked at him inquiringly.
God gives us of His own creative power, he said reverently, and
there came into his very practical face that dreamy look which she had
seen there once or twice before. He supplies us with the raw materials
of the universe, gold and beauty and food and desireand loveand He
bids us out of these things to build a man. We can't build a successful
man if we use only one ingredient. We get a complete man only when we
use them all.
Madeline stared off across the waters, and Ellery watched her over
shipped oars. At last he said, But are you going to think only of
Dick, and Dick, and Dick for ever?
She turned on him a face flushed but utterly frank.
I know what you are thinking, she said. But you are mistaken,
quite mistaken. And she met his eyes squarely in spite of her
heightened color. At this very moment I was thinking more of you than
of him, she added.
And what of me?
I was thinking how I misread you at first. I thought you a kind of
That you are dogged and persistent; and that therefore you stick to
your ideals better than he.
Do you know how comparatively easy that is, even for a plodder,
when his ideals are set up before him in visible form, so that he can
not forget them by day or by night? I wonder if you can realize what it
means to have a face like yours looking up from every dirty strip of
galley-proof, and a voice like yours sounding under the rumble of the
big presses. It's something of a possession for an every-day man. A
soft glow that might have been a trick of the spring sun spread over
Madeline's face. There is no thought more intoxicating to a girl than
to feel that she stands to a man for his ideals. A long sweet silence
fell between them, while she mused on this thing, and he watched her in
Madeline! he cried, suddenly leaning forward and catching her
hands. I must tell you! You must know, and I must know!
With the grasp of his fingers, the first physical touch of love, an
electric pang seemed to leap through the girl's body; and in the flash
were shown to her new heights and depths in herself, and a thousand dim
things in the future. She felt, in the man, the revelation of that
mystery by which the body's passion slips into passion of the
soulthat soul-love, which by its very nature can never know lassitude
nor revulsion. And what was actual in him, grew radiant with
possibility in herself.
She looked up to meet his eager face and his eyes like lamps. No,
no! she cried. Don't tell me.
But do you know without telling?
I must think.
But surely you must have read it long ago.
I only glanced at it. I never looked it in the face.
Don't examine it too closely now, or I'm afraid you will find it a
poor thing, he said whimsically. Take it on impulse, Madeline.
But she waved him away with her hand, turning her face to one side,
and leaned back in her cushions, while Ellery waited, hardly breathing.
There was a deep hush on the opal waters under the April morning sky,
and no sound but the far-off note of a wood-thrush.
Madeline! he cried at last. Be merciful, and speak to me.
She gathered her self-possession and turned to face him with smiles
and dimples, and one swift look full in the face.
Mr. Norris, she said airily, and then laughed as his face fell at
the title, we are in the middle of a big sheet of water, and I do not
want you to upset the boat; we are visible from many miles of shore,
and the world and his wife are driving and motoring on this most
beautiful of days; but over on our right there is a lovely little
beach, and a clump of willows that have forced the season a bit.
Perhaps, if we went there, I might listen to what you have to say.
Oh, Madeline, my Madeline, he said, I can never tell you because
the words are not made that will hold it, and it will take a lifetime
to tell it all. But, if you are willing, we will make a beginning over
there by the dipping willows. He shot a stormy glance at her as he
caught the oars, and she met it bravely. Please don't trail your
fingers in the water, he said. You are delaying the progress of the
Heaven forbid delay! she cried in mock horror, and showered him
with the drops from her lifted hand.
The keel grated, and Ellery sprang ashore and held out his arms to
Madeline, he said, sternly holding her at arm's length, this spot
is so evidently created for a lovers' bower, that I suspect you of
having had your eye on it for a long time. How did you come to direct
Instinct, she laughed. That wonderful instinct of woman.
Shall we stay here for ever and let the world wag?
And live on locusts and wild honey? she asked.
Yes, if you will be my wild honey. I'm going to begin to devour you
right away. And he caught her at last.
Who gave you permission? she whispered with cheek close to his.
Who? Haven't you heard the universe shouting aloud? The sky, and
the sun and the lake and the woods. They've been crying 'Mine! Mine!
Mine!' for the last ten minutes. You'll never contradict them,
Never, said she.
For a long moment they looked into each other's eyes, and she read
in his that mastery without tyranny which for some inexplicable reason
sets a woman's heart beating with unimagined bliss.
Ten minutes later, or so it seemed, Madeline pulled his watch from
his pocket and started in dismay.
Ellery, she cried, do you know that we have been sitting here for
four hours? What will Mrs. Lenox and all the others think?
Who cares what they think? Let them think the truth, if their
imaginations can soar to that height.
We must hurry back.
Don't you think it is a little brutal to invite a man to leave
Heaven and go back to earth?
Perhaps we need a dose of the world. Medicine is good for one.
Not unless he is ill; and I was never well till now.
Come, Ellery, we really must go, she said with severity.
Well, there's lunch, he meditated. I confess that I can view the
prospect of luncheon with something like equanimity. There are certain
advantages about the world, Madeline.
It was long after the driving party had returned when Miss Elton and
Mr. Norris strolled up the path from the boat-house, quite indifferent
to the fact of their lateness. Dick on the piazza watched their coming
and needed no handwriting on the wall. The girl glowed and Ellery
reflected her light.
It would be a perfect woman who should unite her spirit with Lena's
soul-delighting body, Percival said to himself. And Ellery chooses
the spirit, and I, God help me, love and choose the body. But I can not
bear to meet them.
He was turning to slip away when he met his wife face to face, and
stopped half in curiosity to see what she would notice and hear what
she would say. Lena, too, gazed at the oblivious advancing pair.
Well, of all things! exclaimed Mrs. Percival. I should think
she'd feel pretty cheap.
Why? asked Dick, startled.
Coming down to a nobody like that! Lena retorted in scorn. But I
think she has been going off in her looks lately, and I dare say she
knows it, and is glad to get even him.
The billiard room was empty, and Dick went in and shut the door.
CHAPTER XIX. ORIENTAL RUBIES
As the months drifted into summer, young Mrs. Percival often felt
very dull. She had not even the excitement of envy left her for, with
the engagement of Miss Elton and Mr. Norris, much of her old enmity for
Madeline faded. Ellery looked to her like a fate so inferior to her own
that she could afford to drop her jealousy; and since Mr. Early and
Dick were now wholly released from thrall, she considered Madeline a
creature too inoffensive to be reckoned an enemy. She could even share
the tolerant and amused pleasure with which the world surveys a love
match. This pair was so evidently and rapturously content that they
diffused their own atmosphere. Lena could not understand that variety
of love, but its presence was patent to her.
Most of the real people as Mrs. Appleton called them, in
improvement on their Maker's classification, were leaving town either
for the lake or for some more distant breathing place, but she was tied
at home, first because Mrs. Percival the elder, whom Dick refused to
desert, preferred the wide quiet of her rooms, and second because Dick
himself grew daily more absorbed in his political labors.
Lena went to say good-by for the summer to Mrs. Appleton and was
bidden to come up stairs to a disordered little room where that matron
superintended a flushed maid busy with packing.
I am really quite played out with all this turmoil, Mrs. Appleton
sighed. Truly, dear Mrs. Percival, I think you are to be congratulated
on staying at home. The game is not worth the candle.
I think, if Madame is tired, I could finish alone. Marie lifted a
face that manifested hope from the bottom of a trunk, but Madame shook
her head. It was one of her principles to see to everything herself and
so gain the proud consciousness of utter exhaustion in doing her duty.
Lena glanced enviously about the heaped up gowns and lacy lingerie.
It made her own stock seem mean.
Perhaps it will amuse you to look these over while I am busy, Mrs.
Appleton went on good-humoredly, pushing a leather-bound case across
the table toward Lena's arm. Mrs. Percival lifted out one little tray
after another with growing sullenness. The profusion of jewels gave her
no pleasure. She slammed the trays back in place.
Did Mr. Appleton give you all of these? she demanded.
Yes. Isn't he generous? But he says that my type of beauty is one
that can stand lavish decoration.
He's certainly more free than Dick, Lena said with bald envy,
reviewing her own small store that a few short months ago had seemed to
her like the wealth of Ormus and of Ind.
My dear, Mrs. Appleton exclaimed with a self-conscious laugh, you
can hardly expect Dick Percival to rival Humphrey.
Mrs. Percival felt bitterly her friend's loftiness of position. It
was of course impossible for a woman to feel superior to what she owns
and Mrs. Appleton owned more and always would own more than Lena
Percival. Do you know, my love, Mrs. Appleton pursued, I think your
husband is making a great mistake in going in for petty politics. With
his pull, and his fair amount of capital to start with, he ought to be
able to make a fortune. He's just throwing his life away.
Don't you suppose I know it? Lena cried tearfully. I've told him
so a hundred times. He's just crazy over these nasty little things.
He's willing to sacrifice anything to get the place of ward alderman
away from some miserable Swede. Think of me tied in town all summer!
I wouldn't stand it, Mrs. Appleton answered absently, her eyes on
Marie, stuffing tissue paper in a sleeve. A woman has such influence
on her husband. Take matters in your own hands, my dear.
Lena, rebellious at heart, found her only diversion in occasional
week-ends at other people's country houses, or in long flights by
evening in Dick's motor. Her husband was self-absorbed and often
silent, another person, as she frequently and querulously rubbed into
him, from the ardent creature of a few months before.
Sometimes he made attempts to open to her his subjects of thought,
but Lena never attempted to understand things that did not interest
her, and now that she was safely married, it was too much trouble to
make much pretense at it; so she was often alone, and frequently bored.
Even Mr. Early was away most of the time, and the great blank eyes
of closed windows blinked down at her from his closed house beyond the
dividing hedge that flanked the garden. His place stood on a corner,
and on the two sides that fronted the streets, Sebastian had hidden the
wonders of his terraces and trimmed trees by high walls, but toward the
Percivals he had been less exclusive. Most of the houses in St.
Etienne, like their own, had no property dividing line, but lawn melted
into lawn with a park-like openness that hinted at communistic
kindliness. This had its disadvantages in lack of privacy, and hence it
was that in spite of quite an extensive demesne, Lena found in her own
garden no spot absolutely hidden from curious eyes of passers, except
in one thicket of trees and shrubbery over near the Early boundary.
Here there was seclusion, and here, therefore, young Mrs. Percival had
her hammock and her group of chairs and tables; and here she spent long
indolent afternoons in sleepy reading and sleepier dreaming, which was
only less agreeable than the social triumphs of which she dreamed. And
yet she often found herself weary of nothing, and wished she had some
one exactly to her taste to keep her company and talk to her about
little things in that fool's paradise of laziness where, it is said,
Satan is entertainer in chief. Once in a while, on his brief
home-stays, Mr. Early illuminated her retreat with his presence.
Toward the middle of the summer, certain business interests called
Dick to North Dakota, and then life was duller than ever.
Therefore it was a not wholly unwelcome diversion when, late on an
August afternoon, she saw the thick laurels of the hedge near her part
a little and the form of Ram Juna stand in the cleft, snowy white from
turban to slippers save for the gleaming ruby and the polished bronze
face. He looked like the day itself, glowing, sultry, indolent.
Pardon me, dear lady, he said, that through the bush I spied you.
I was solitary. You are solitary. The heat suits not with the severer
thought. The weak body refuses to yield to the commands of mind. I fail
to write; and perhaps you fail to read.
I guess your thinking is harder work than my reading. Won't you
come over and sit down? said Lena cordially.
Then you, like me, would welcome companionship?
Yes. Isn't this a nice shady place? Lena answered. The maid is
just bringing me some iced drinks, and I dare say they'll taste good to
you if you have been trying to write that wonderful book of yours in
all this blaze.
The Hindu pushed the hedge still farther asunder and swept with a
sigh of content over to a cushioned reclining chair.
If one's heart were set on the things that fade, what greater
satisfaction? Shadow, deep shadow from the heat, cool drafts, the voice
of a fair woman.
You must not count me among the things that fade, though, laughed
Lena, as she handed him a tall glass of clinking fragrance. I shan't
like you a bit if you do.
Everything fades, the rose, the lady, even thought, which is after
all but a grub on the tree of truth. All, all fade.
I wish you wouldn't talk that way, objected Lena. You make me
feel quite creepy.
Ah, said Ram Juna, you love the things of to-day. To me the
thought that all is transitory is bliss. Is it not so?
Yes, said Lena, I'm sure I like roses and jewels and iced minty
stuff to drink. And Ram Juna, I wish you would tell me the really-truly
history of your ruby. I've heard so many stories about it. He put up
his hand, detached the great jewel from its place and laid it in her
small outstretched palm.
That is a mark of my confiding, he said. There are few to whom I
would give to handle my treasure. It may truly be called a stone of
blood. Such angry storms of greed and passion, such murders of father
by son and husband by wife link their story to it. And now it rests at
last on the head of a man of peace. For how long? For how long? Lena
looked at it with the eyes of fascination as it lay in her open hand.
It charms you like a serpent? asked her companion, leaning forward
with indolent amusement. You are true woman. You love the glitter.
Would you like to see others?
Have you others? cried Lena. Ohoh, I should like to see them!
He rose, made her a salaam of grace, parted the hedge once more and
disappeared only to return bringing in his hands a curious box of
carven ivory, which he set on the table between them and proceeded to
unlock with a key of quaint device.
Lena gave a cry of rapture and astonishment as the lid fell back.
Ram Juna laid his hand on her arm.
Silence! he commanded, would it be well that the flippant public
who pass near at hand on the pavement should know that there are such
treasures in this thicket?
I did not know that there was so much splendor in the world,
whispered Lena in admiration.
Rubiesall rubies! They were the stones beloved of my ancestors.
This dangled once on the neck of a maha-ranee, more beautiful than
itself, only, unfortunately, she lost her neck, murdered by a rival
He twisted the string of gems about her arm, bare to the elbow, and
Lena gasped with pleasure.
Let me add this braceleta serpent. See of curious carved gold the
scales, and the eyes again two wicked rubies to beguile men's souls.
Yet it becomes the arm, does it not? Look, at your pleasure, at the
rest of the box.
He pushed the case toward her and Lena began to finger its profuse
contents with occasional sighs of envious delight and glances at her
white flesh enhanced by its ornaments. Ram Juna sat in silence.
How do you dare to carry such things around with you? she asked.
Not much longer, he answered with a shrug. To me they are
delusions inappropriate. I see that is your thought. Is it not so? What
have I to do with necklaces and rings of princesses? I had forgotten
that I had them, until a chance thought recalled it. I had long since
meant to sell them and give the money to the great cause for which I
labor. That is my treasure, is it not? I shall never take them back to
India. I must hasten to get rid of them, for I purpose to return there
Why, are you going away?
To-morrow I leave this city. My work here is done. It is the last
of work. Hereafter I shall find some solitary spot and end my life in
meditations. And the rubiesI might give them away; but perhaps the
trifle I should receive for them would help the Brothers in their
service. I shall not expect or wish their value.
Oh, I wish I might buy some of them!
Why not? No lady could wear them with greater dignity. Young,
beautiful, beloved, and clothed with jewels. It is the frame for the
Oh! said Lena.
To you, whom I reverence, they should cost but a trifle.
How much? gasped Lena.
The necklace, now, said Ram Juna, and he leaned over and twisted
it about her arm as he seemed to hesitate, I would give you that for
five thousand dollarsand you can see that it is worthah, I know not
how many times that sum. I do not understand these things.
But my husband is away, and I have not any thing like that sum.
Besides, I could not buy it without asking him, you know. Oh, I should
Bah, it is a trifle to a lady in your position. You could in many
ways raise so paltry an amount. I can not, unfortunately, give you time
to deliberate. He was speaking very rapidly with many gestures, quite
unlike his usual calm. I tell you I return to India without delay. If
you would wish those beautiful things you must hastento-day. Any
person, I think, would lend you such money. Mr. Earlyah, yesMr.
Mr. Early is away, isn't he?
Lena was growing confused. She turned the glittering string around
and around on her arm, and her heart was big with foolish longing. The
necklace seemed the only thing in life worth while. Ram Juna's quick
movements and urgent words quite took away her powers of reasoning.
Mr. Early? Yes. He returned this morning. Shall I tell you a great
secret, Madame? A man loves the one for whom he does a favor. Would it
not be wise to let Mr. Early do this thing for you? I know he will lend
you without question. It will hereafter bind him to you. See. I make
the arrangements with him myself. Ladies know nothing of business, and
I not much. But I talk with him, he understands, and I make all smooth.
Will you? Shall I? Yes or no? Do not lose such a treasure by hesitancy.
Your husband shall thank you when he comes again. Yes? See the sunlight
comes through the trees and makes the rubies like itself.
Oh, if Mr. Early would, said Lena. I don't see why I shouldn't.
And if Mr. Percival thinks I can't afford it, the rubies are worth more
than I paid for them anyway.
You are reasonable. Hold it. I trust you while I go to see Mr.
Early, and return. The necklace is yours, beautiful lady.
Ram Juna was awakened from his usual serenity and full of tiger-like
restlessness. Again he plunged through the hedge, and Lena saw the
white turban flying toward the house. Even Mr. Early looked around
startled as his usually torpid guest burst into the little den.
Hello! he said. What's up?
Early, I bring you opportunity, the greatest of gifts. The favor I
shall confer, is it less than the favor I have received from you?
What do you mean? asked Sebastian.
Once you say that you will give much to get the young Percival in
Yes. What of it?
It is done.
A look of real interest began to illuminate Mr. Early's face.
Well? he said sharply.
I have rubiesrubies to lure the heart of a woman from her bosom.
Madame, the young wife would give her soulif she but had one. That is
too hard. Let her give her note. The Swami laughed gently. You would
lend her five thousand dollars, my friend, to buy rubies from me. That
is an empty show. She gives you the note. I give her the necklace that
she must have. That is all. There is no need to give me money. I return
your hospitality thus.
Well, suppose I did all this. Dick Percival could easily discharge
his wife's debt.
Not so fast. Not so fast. The young wife is a fool as well as a
knave. To the note she shall sign her husband's name. That I will bring
to pass. But you know nothing of this. Of course not. You suppose that
the signature is genuine. You are unaware that Percival is out of town.
And Iif I am guiltyI am with my guilty knowledge in the hut in the
mountains of India. Do you not think that while you hold that note
young Percival will gladly serve you in any fashion that you may
choose, rather than that so foolish a piece of wife's knavery should
Gee whizz! exclaimed Mr. Early, gazing at the simple seeker after
truth, whose face shone with a radiant smile. Gee whizz! Ram Juna, but
you are a business man! But she won't sign her husband's name.
Ram Juna's smile expanded cheerfully.
Let that remain to me. You have but to play your part, he said.
Mr. Early thought hard for a moment.
There is need to haste, said the Swami gently. She is now in the
garden where access is easy. Make the note. I will take it to her to
sign. Hasten, my friend.
Mr. Early drew toward him pen and ink.
It's a little flyer, and there may be something in it, he said. I
don't see that I get into trouble any way. But see here, Swami, you
deserve something for your work. I'm not going to see you lose that
five thousand. When you bring me this I O U with Dick Percival's
signature, I'll give you my check for the amount. Understand?
Be that as you will, said the Hindu, and he caught the piece of
paper and fled toward the thicket where Lena still played with her toy.
Have I not told you? he began suavely. The necklace, less fair
than its owner, is yours. But one moment. Will you first do me a
He lifted the great white turban from his hot forehead and set it on
the table before her.
A simple bit of the skill of my country, he said. Will you look
fixedly into the great ruby that remains mine? And, as you look, will
you yield your mind to me, and let me show you a vision? Soeven
deeper let your eyes penetrate to the heart of the jewel. Deeper and
He made a swift motion or two before her, and her eyes grew fixed.
What do you see?
Myself, she answered.
Naturally. What else could you ever see? But you are different. You
are a thousand times more beautiful. The world lies at your feet. It is
a world of adulation. Do you see this?
Very well. Now look away. We must not longer see the beautiful
picture. You remember we have business. Mr. Early, your friend, and my
friend, will lend you money. But how are you to repay him? You have
nothing of your own. It must be your husband who secures you. In the
front of the book which you are reading it is written 'Richard
Percival'. You will copy this with your utmost care, here on this
paper. Ah, for you it is not hard to do this thing. For some it would
be hard to persuade them. You make but a poor copy. That is of
indifference. I will return this to Mr. Early. You will await me here.
The August afternoon was closing, and the shadows grew strong here
where vines knit the trees into close brotherhood. Lena lay back in her
chair and clutched her treasure in a kind of stupor, until, in an
incredibly short time Ram Juna again appeared, tucking a scrap of
yellow paper into some inner pouch as he came. The Buddha smile still
played about his lips. He seated himself on the ground and stared
unblinkingly at the girl, and she gazed almost as fixedly back, except
that once in a while her eyes wandered to the big red stone which still
hung in the turban on the table. Ten minutesfifteen minutesthey sat
in silence, as though the Swami enjoyed the experience, then the bronze
man rose and moved slowly toward her.
Awake! he whispered. You must never forget that you wrote your
husband's name when you had not the right. Ah, in India, our knaves are
not also fools.
There was a sudden sharp noise and a cry in the garden behind the
hedge; and the Swami leaped into attention with the swift
motionlessness of a wild animal. Lena roused herself heavily and
blinked about. There was no Swami to be seen. His turban lay on the
table, but he himself had disappeared in a twinkling. She heard a rush
of feet and voices raised in excitement and then a sharp command. Even
while she listened, confused, a blue-coated starred man appeared at the
opening in the hedge and over his shoulder she saw Mr. Early's face,
startled out of its decorum into bewildered anxiety.
Beg pardon, miss, said the officer. Have you seen anything of
that nigger preacher?
The Swami? asked Lena.
The man nodded.
He was here a moment agoat least I think he was. II'm not sure.
And he seems to have gone away. I don't know where he is. She looked
Left this in his hurry, I guess, said the man, taking possession
of the turban. He must be hiding somewhere near. With your permission,
I will search the house, miss, and he moved off without waiting for
the said permission.
Mrs. Percival, said Mr. Early.
Beg pardon, Mrs. Percival, the man threw back with an added air of
respect. It is an unpleasant duty, ma'am, but you'll not object, I
know. He beckoned sharply to two or three others who stood behind Mr.
Early, and turned toward the open door.
What does all this mean, Mr. Early? Lena gasped.
He tumbled as if exhausted into the same easy chair that Ram Juna
had occupied a few moments before.
I am completely staggered, he exclaimed. The police seem to think
they have reason to suspect my guest of being implicated with a gang of
counterfeiters. In fact they say that it is his extraordinary cunning
of hand that produced the bills that have been appearing everywhere.
Andgreat heavens!he used my house asasas a fence! My house!
Pardon me, my dear Mrs. Percival, but I am horribly upset. They've
found dies and all kinds of queer things in the little room that he
kept sacred to his meditations. But of course I can't be suspected of
knowing. Why, all my servants can bear testimony to the fact that I
know nothing about that room.
Of course, Mr. Early, no one would think of accusing you.
Still, my house, you knowand my friend. It's horrible! In fact
Mr. Early was shivering as though he had the ague. It would drive me
mad if any one should thinkwhy, Mrs. Percival, think of the scandal
of having him with me for months. Of course, if they catch him, I'll
make him clear me at once. But, take it how you will, it is awful. The
least I can expect is to be laughed at over the whole civilized world
for being his dupe. I've always prided myself on my clean skirts. You
think I'm raving, Mrs. Percival. I am nearly mad. Mr. Early suddenly
leaped up with horror newly reborn in his eyes. And I had just given
him a large check. That is bound to look bad. There is no knowing how
it may be misconstrued. Great heavens, what am I to do?
I'm afraid that check was for me, she said. Mr. Early, I want to
thank youforfor being so generous to me; and when Dick comes back
from North Dakota, he will repay you at once.
Mr. Early caught himself up and remembered that he had a part to
play in the present drama.
When Dick comes back, he said in a stupefied way, what do you
mean by 'when Dick comes back'? Isn't he here now? Why, he must be. It
isn't an hour since he signed
Didn't you know he was away? asked Lena timidly, her heart
sinking, for Mr. Early's tone was sharp.
I certainly thought he signed a note made out to me. Was it another
piece of the Swami's clever forgery?
HeI cried poor Lena in confusion. Oh, Mr. Early, do you call
it forgery?my own husband's name? Oh, Ioh, Mr. Early, what are you
thinking? At this moment she was the picture of confused innocence.
Mr. Early looked at her and gave a long-drawn breath of
I understand, he said at last, while Lena hung her head. You
wrote Dick's name for him, and he knows nothing about it. Well, let it
go at that. It is a matter of no consequence. And, my dear Mrs.
Percival, I would suggest that this matter be kept a secret between you
and me. We'll never mention the debt again. I'm sure you will accept
the rubies as a little gift from one of the most humble of your
admirers. He bent forward and kissed her finger-tips in his most
Oh, Mr. Early, you are so good! Lena's voice expressed manifest
relief. The memory came back to her of what Ram Juna had said about the
bond created by favor. It flashed into her mind, He thinks it is sweet
and innocent and womanly in me to do such a thing in ignorance. Dick
would think so, too. How should I know?
But suppose Dick shouldn't like to have me take them from you, such
a magnificent gift?
I would suggest, Mr. Early's manner was regaining some of its
self-possession, that you speak of the necklaceis that it in your
hand? a really wonderful thing, with curious settings, carved by
handas I was saying, I would suggest that you speak of it as a gift
from the Swami, who, as is well known, was much impressed by your
charms. A present from such a creature, who hardly comes into the
category of ordinary men, would create no such remark as might a gift
from me. Do you not see? We will let the truth remain a little secret
between us two. I have an idea that we shall not be likely to see Ram
Juna again. I fancy he is a fellow of greater cunning than any of us
dreamed; and if he has a little start of the detectives, I doubt if
they have so much as a glimpse of his heels; though, to be sure, he is
rather a marked figure, and difficult to disguise. Now don't forget.
The Swami, with oriental profuseness, gave you the rubies.
You are a dear, gushed Lena. Oh, I do hope he is gone! After
all, it was a relief that Dick should not know.
One favor I must ask, my dear Mrs. Percival, Mr. Early went on
hesitatingly. If, by any chance, Dick should ever come to know of
this, will you assure him that I supposed his signature to be genuine?
I wouldn't have him suspect that Ithat I was a partyor at least
that I knew that you wrote it for him. For really, little woman, it
wasn't strictly honest, you know.
I'm afraid it wasn't, Lena confessed with charming blushes. But I
didn't think. I don't know much about such things, you know.
Of course you don't. No nice woman does, said Mr. Early
comfortingly. And now let us forget it.
Here come the officers, said Lena.
It ain't no use, said the captain disgustedly. He's given us the
slip, somehow. And we'd watched the house and made sure we'd nab him.
What are you going to do? asked Mr. Early.
Take his kit, and set guards and send telegraph descriptions of him
in all directions. 'Taint likely he can get clean away. He'll be a
marked man wherever he goes.
If there is anything I can do to help you, said Mr. Early
grandiloquently, you can command me, though you may imagine that it is
very offensive to me to be mixed up in this kind of affair.
Well, rather, said the officer dryly. Then, seeing the flush
rising on Mr. Early's face, he went on with the patronage of the
majesty of the law: You needn't fear that you'll suffer any personal
inconvenience. We've had you under surveillance for a long timeever
since we began to suspect your nigger friend; and we know you are all
right. But the assurance seemed to add to Mr. Early's discomfiture.
Looks as if it was going to blow up a storm. A dark night would be a
good thing for him and a nuisance to us. But we'll catch him sure.
They were gone, and Lena lingered a moment, fastening her
dearly-bought bauble around her neck and gathering her books, while a
maid came scudding from the house to bundle rugs and cushions away in
face of the thunder-heads looming in the southwest. A sudden sibilant
sound brought Lena to attention.
Mrs. Percival! she heard. Look up.
Among the branches over her head the leaves were drawn so closely
together that only a few faint glimmers of white showed, and the
brilliant eyes that glared down at her were the most conspicuous things
Listen and reply not, he said. You will bring a dark and large
great-coat, and other dark garments that you can find, and leave them
here with swiftness and secrecy. I command you. If you do not obey, I
will make it the worse for you.
He snarled suddenly, and Lena jumped back as though a tiger had
sprung at her throat.
The face disappeared among the leaves, and Lena sped toward the
house, hastened by a crash of thunder and a few great drops, that
seemed to her frightened imagination like the servants of the savage
creature that she had left in the tree-tops. She slipped out again, in
spite of wind and rain, obedient to his command, and as she dropped her
bundle at the foot of the tree trunk, she whispered,
I hope, oh, I hope that you will get away! But she heard no reply.
The storm came down and the night fell, seamed with lightning.
Lena quietly ate her dinner, and listened to the well-bred calm
voice of her mother-in-law as she wondered what Dick was doing, and
when he would be at home again. But Lena wondered what Ram Juna was
doing, and whether she should ever see him again.
CHAPTER XX. A LIGHT FROM THE EAST
To be in the heart of a great country, fifteen hundred miles from
the Atlantic, and two thousand miles from the Pacific, to be forbidden
the public highway of the train, and to have one's objective point
India,this is by no means an easy problem, even to the oriental mind.
And who could know what was going on in the being that crept away into
the storm, strong with the instinct of hiding and of cunning. He must
have balanced all things. To go westward, where the great steamers
plied toward the Orient, this would seem the natural course; and yet
that way lay interminable prairies and empty stretches, and again
deserts and piled mountains, without shelter and without food. It is
easier to hide among people than amid solitudes. On crowded city
streets, we jostle without seeing.
It was no great feat to transform the once Swami of the flowing
robes and lofty port into a hulking skulking negro tramp, like the
sturdy villains of ancient days, sleeping in woody nooks by day, and
pursuing his slow journey under the stars, answering the look of such
human beings as he met with suspicion, keeping to the hamlets where
police officers were scarce and knowledge of the criminal world
scarcer, and where solitary house-wives, whose men were in the field,
could be persuaded, half through charity and half through fear, to dole
out food. Ah, but it was a weary journey. The world, of whose
littleness we boast when we think of steam and electricity, grows very
sizable again when a man comes back to the elemental means of
progresshis own two legs. As for the smaller world in which he had
been livingthe world of luxury and of worshiping discipleshe
laughed silently to think what a mirage it was and always had been.
Down the Mississippi he crept, sometimes peering from between the
great trees that flanked its steep banks, as the red Indians did long
ago, to see the boats of the white man go serenely up and down that
mighty swirling current, and stopping even in his self-absorption to
feel a little of the beauty when the great river spread itself into the
shimmering expanse of Lake Pipin, or to remember, at Winona, the
picturesque legend that he had heard of the deserted Chippewa maiden
who here threw herself from the overhanging rocks into the pitiless
rush of waters below, and left only her ghost and her sweet-sounding
name to the spot. He halted to inspect the great monolith, a hundred
feet in height, of Sugar Loaf.
He had an idea that in some little town to the south he might
venture to board a straggling cross-country train to Chicago; and, once
in the thick of men again, he believed himself safe. He had always been
wary enough to keep on his person a certain sum of money. Such as it
was, it might serve his purpose. It also tickled his sense of humor to
think thatshabby black wayfarer that he washe had in his pocket a
check for five thousand dollars, that he could not cash, and a handful
of rubies that were enough to awaken the suspicions of the least
suspicious. But still, day after day and night after night, he plodded
patiently on his way down the water course, until at last, at Prairie
du Chien, two hundred miles from St. Etienne, he felt that he might
comfort his inner man with hot food, and his weary legs with a bed and
a pillow. He prowled along the streets of the country town looking for
some cheap lodging-house where such as he, a humble, cringing, dog-like
fellow, might find shelter. He looked through a dusty window and saw a
shaggy-bearded, roughly-dressed man shoveling food with a knife, and he
felt that he had found the right place.
The proprietor of the establishment sat at a small table absorbed in
the perusal of a week-old Sunday newspaper. He growled out a Guess so.
Sausages; baked beans; coffee, to Ram Juna's polite inquiry. It
neither looked nor smelled inviting, but the Hindu submitted to fate
and swallowed a hasty and unpalatable meal.
Can you tell me where I can get a bed for the night? he asked,
turning to his host.
The evident refinement in his voice made that worthy look up from
his literary occupation in some startled curiosity.
They ain't many places where they take niggers, he said with an
unpleasant grin. But I guess you might find a berth at Sally Munn's,
if you ain't too particular about morals. She's a merlatter herself;
keeps a place 'bout six houses down, first street to the left. The man
stared impudently as he spoke, but Ram Juna said, Thank you, with his
usual politeness as he went out. The Hindu noted the impudent stare,
but he went away with an indifferent air.
See here! said the proprietor to his single other customer, ain't
this picture in the paper the very image of that black feller that just
Say, it's him!
We'd ought to look this up. There's a big reward offered.
While Ram Juna slept, lying in all his day clothes, some subtle
subconsciousness kept watch, became aware of disturbance, and roused
his body to attention. He got up, tiptoed to the open window and looked
out at the group of men standing below in the darkness.
Aw, shut up, Sal, one of them was saying to an angry woman in the
doorway. We ain't goin' to raid ye, though Lord knows you wouldn't
have no kick comin' if we did. What we want is that black feller that
come to-night. We suspect he's one of a gang of counterfeiters that the
St. Etienne police are after; and we ain't goin' to lose the chance of
the reward. You fellers keep right under the window, and I'll take you
six up stairs with me. He's big and he may show fight. Get your guns
ready. Don't shoot to kill. We want to deliver him alive. But you
needn't be afraid to use a ball on him.
Ram Juna drew away from the window and smiled his old Buddha smile.
With clumsy creaking precautions they mounted the stair. The moment for
the climax came; there was a rush all together, a breaking down of the
shaky door. The crew burst into the rooman empty roomand stared
puzzled and stupefied at the walls and at each other.
Well, if that don't beat all! ejaculated the sheriff. Where in
has that fellow disappeared to?
They say, said Josiah Strait, a lank westernized Yankee, that
them Hindu jugglers and lamas, and so forth, has supernatural gifts,
and I begin to believe it.
* * * * *
Something over a month later, Mr. Early burst in on Mr. and Mrs.
Percival as they dawdled over the breakfast-table.
It's no time to be paying calls, I know, he apologized, but I've
had such a sensation this morning that I had to come over and share it.
Yes, there are times when a man wishes that he had a wife to talk to!
What is it, Early? Dick asked indifferently.
Mr. Early was waving a bit of paper about in a way quite hysterical.
Do you see that? he cried exultantly. I never expected to see it
again, but I declare it is worth its price. I was going over my bank
accounts the first thing this morning and I found it.
How do you expect us to know what it is when you're fanning it
about that way? Dick demanded.
It's a check, man, a check for five thousand that I gave Ram Juna
the very day of his unceremonious departure. Lena turned scarlet, and
Mr. Early noticed it with fresh glee. A check I gave Ram Juna, he
repeated. It's been cashed, with four indorsements, in New Orleans.
Now how did he manage that, tell me. The Swami is one of the great
geniuses of the age. Of course I wanted to see the rascals punished,
and it makes me hot to think how they used my house and all that, but,
by Jove! I'm glad they haven't Ram Juna. From New Orleans, a seaport,
mind you! I am willing to make a good-sized bet that he's well on his
way to his favorite Himalayas by this time, ready to meditate on the
syllable 'Om' for the rest of his life. Oh, it's too good! How he must
laugh in his sleeve at the rest of the world! But how did he get that
Well, if I were in your place, I should have it traced back, said
Dick, the practical.
Of course I shall, exclaimed Mr. Early. Of course I shall. I
shall put it in the hands of the police at once, for I'm sure of one
thing, if it helps to root out any sinners, Swami Ram Juna won't be
among them. He's gone for good, take my word for it; and as for the
other rascals, I hope with all my heart they may suffer. He nodded
jubilantly at Mrs. Percival, and she flushed again.
It's a very good joke, certainly, said Dick, but rather an
expensive one for you, I should say, Early.
Oh, I shall get five thousand dollars' worth of satisfaction out of
it, Mr. Early went on enthusiastically. And I'm proud of the Swami,
proud of him. And the splendid simplicity of him! I was talking
yesterday with the detective that ferreted him out. The plunder they
found in my little room was perfectly primitive. He had practically no
tools to make the cleverest counterfeits in years. A deft hand and a
wonderful thumb had the Swami.
What are they going to do with the big ruby in his turban? asked
Oh, that is one of the chief things that I came to tell you about.
You, my dear Mrs. Percival, have especial reason to be interested in
this. He turned, brimming with information, to Lena, The captain of
police took it to Brand'sthe jeweler, you knowto be appraised. Now
isn't this the crown of the whole story? Brand tells him that it is
Dick sat back in his chair and laughed with abandon, and laughed
And what about my rubies'? screamed Lena, springing to her feet.
I have not the slightest doubt that they are paste, too. Everything
he touched was fraud.
I'm glad of it! I'm glad of it! cried Dick, with a new access of
mirth. The old rascal! Giving my wife jewels! Why, Lena, you couldn't
wear his stuff anyway, after all this fracas. It will do to trim a
But Lena, with angry face, tapped the floor nervously with her gaudy
small slipper, and made no reply to her husband's hilarity.
Even to her slow-working mind it was evident that she had paid a
high price for some worthless bits of glass. This conferring of a favor
was indeed a bond.
She wondered what Mr. Early thought of her; what Dick would say if
he ever discovered.
CHAPTER XXI. A LIGHT IN THE WEST
The strenuousness of the fall campaign almost wiped these events
from Dick's mind. Day after day he spent in bringing home his points to
the man on the street and in the workshop. Much of it was dreary and
monotonous work, but he kept doggedly at it. It seemed his whole life,
now. And night after night Mr. Preston, Dick and Ellery tried to put
fire into some dingy little hall-full of men. To Percival's surprise,
Norris developed a plain common-sense variety of eloquence that
appealed to his audiences quite as much as did Dick's more fervid
eloquence. Ellery invariably spoke straight to some well-known
condition. But they hammered and pounded and reasoned and explained;
they tried emotion, and logic and everything except bribes to win their
ground, until their speeches began to sound automatic to themselves,
their voices grew hoarse, and they moved like men in a dream.
If there were one day more of this, Dick said to Norris, as they
tramped home late on the night before election, and felt a certain
restfulness in the November starlight, I should send down a wheezing
nasal phonograph to grind out my speech. I am played out. Everything I
say sounds like tommy-rot.
It does grow hollow. The worst of it is it robs me of my evenings
Um! said Dick. When are you to be married?
About Christmas. The death of Golden, poor fellow, shoves me up a
peg on the editorial staff, and justifies me in facing matrimony. Mr.
Elton is good enough to give us a little home. They are a family to
hang to, Dick. I feel as though I had 'belongings' for the first time
since I lost my own father and mother. Madeline and I shall make rather
a small beginning, but, as you know, she has not set her heart on
No, said Dick slowly. You are a lucky fellow, Ellery. You're
going to get away ahead of me in the long run. Preston said yesterday
that the honors of this campaign were yours. He has been a fine
figure-head, and I have hollered loud, but you've hollered deepest, and
the public knows it. I guess that's the real reason that you've been
shoved ahead on the staff. Here's your boarding-house. Good night, old
fellow. To-morrow night our labors will be over.
I hope yours will have just begun, Mr. Alderman, Norris retorted.
The polls closed in uncertainty and for three days speculation
filled the papers, and election bets remained unpaid. Then the decks
cleared. Mr. Preston was elected mayor by a narrow plurality; and out
of the eighteen aldermen, the reform element had carried seven, Dick
Percival among them, to victory. The Municipal Club counted its gains
and was jubilant, for this meant that, if the city council passed any
objectionable measure, their iniquity could be vetoed by the mayor, and
the bad men of the city fathers lacked one of the two-thirds majority
which they would need to carry their legislation over the executive's
Dick took Lena and went away for a fortnight's rest, but came back
looking old and dissatisfied.
It was understood that the first battle in the new council would be
over the lighting franchise, which was about to expire and which the
company in power wished to renew. There had been some talk of an
attempt to force it through before the old council went out of power,
but even Billy Barry's henchmen refused to commit themselves to so
unpopular a measure on the very eve of election; for St. Etienne had
been paying a notoriously high price for notably bad lighting, and the
citizen, usually a meek animal, had been stirred to a realization of
his injuries by wholesale exposition of the truth.
But now there were new councils of war, and Billy swore more
intricate oaths than he had ever been known to produce in days of yore.
He was still in possession of his aldermanic seat, but a little
uncertain whether it was a throne or a stool of repentance. Still Billy
talked loudly of the things he meant to do; and, as usual in his
troubles, went to consult the delphic Mr. Murdock; and Mr. Murdock went
to see Mr. Early; and Mr. Early, after very much demur, went to see Mr.
Percival. Sebastian did not like to mix himself publicly in politics,
and the reformers were his friends.
Still, one evening just before the franchise was introduced, Mr.
Early did drop in on Dick in a friendly sort of way. Percival took him
to his own sanctum, and settled down with him to the friendly communion
Mr. Early hesitated and was manifestly ill at ease, which gave Dick
a pleasurable amusement while he waited to hear the discomfort
At last Sebastian said: Dick, you know I am a man of art rather
than of politics, and of course I am in entire sympathy with the idea
of clean government; but I want to talk to you about this lighting
Well? said Dick, as he took out his cigar.
It's a matter of some importance to one or two of my friends, and I
may say, to myself, that the old contract should be renewed, said Mr.
Early, gaining confidence. I want to ask you to look at it in a
reasonable light. I suppose you fellows had to be a little outrageously
virtuous to make your campaign; but now it's time to drop that and get
down to business.
Dick resumed his cigar with an air of settling the question.
Mr. Early, he said, I do not think it necessary for us even to
discuss this matter. This was one of the main issues in the campaign.
Some of us were elected on purpose that we might rid the city of this
kind of thing; and we propose to carry out our pledges. There is
nothing more to be said.
There are personal considerations to every question, Percival,
answered Mr. Early, shading his face with his hand, and watching Dick's
expression with artistic appreciation of the changes that he felt sure
he should see.
Not for me, said Dick. Thank Heaven my hands are clean, and I can
do whatever I believe to be right.
Yes, for you, answered Mr. Early suavely, and then he broke into a
suppressed laugh. Why, you young idiot, if you care to be told, your
feet are limed, and the sooner you recognize the fact the better.
What do you mean? cried Dick with fierce resentment.
Oh, sit down, my boy, said Mr. Early, still amiable. There's no
use in rampaging. I just want to tell you a little story and show you a
little piece of paper.
Dick sat down and glared at his guest.
Your wife Dick started up with something like a groan. Yes,
your wife, Percival. You see a man does not always stand alone. Your
wife has a necklace of worthless rubies, which she has told you was a
present from our dear departed Swami. If people only knew about it,
there might be a certain amount of scandal about a young woman's
receiving a supposedly valuable gift from a swindler who was also a
social idol. Don't go off your head, Dick. You've got to listen to me.
As a matter of fact, she lied to you when she told you he gave them to
her. She bought them; and she had not the money to pay for them. I
suppose it was at his suggestion that she borrowed the sum from me.
That would have been all right, except that she gave me a note signed
by Richard Percival, and she quite omitted to tell me that her husband
was away at the time. I found that out by chance afterward, after I had
supplied her demand. Would you like to see the forgery, Dick? It's an
ugly word, but we might just as well be plain with each other.
Dick's tongue had grown dry and speechless, so that he seemed to
have no power to check this recital, and now all he could do was to
reach out an eager hand.
Not so fast, said Mr. Early. It's mine, not yours. And it will
take more than the five thousand dollars out of which it swindled me to
buy it back. It sounds bad, doesn't it? A forgery, connected with a
rascal who was the talk of the country. I should not myself care to
pose again as the dupe of a woman and her friendly counterfeiter, but
that would be a small matter compared with the hail of scandal that
would whir around the head of that pretty little butterfly, your wife.
Scandal! My wife! Dick staggered to his feet.
That is what we all want to avoid, don't we? Mr. Early asked with
his fat smile.
They looked at each other in silence. Dick had a wild impulse to
fling himself on his knees, spiritually speaking, and to beg for mercy;
but the expression of Mr. Early's face suggested that all sentiment
would fall into cold storage in his breast.
You've been devoting yourself, with a certain amount of success, to
digging out the hidden things in other men's careers, the tormentor
went on with a cheerful sneer. I suppose it has amused you. I know it
amuses me, and it would doubtless amuse the public, to fix attention on
this little affair of your own. You must remember that you have this
disadvantage: you and your kind are thin-skinned. Billy Barry and his
kind are pachyderms.
He settled back comfortably in his chair and smiled benevolently at
Dick's white face.
Well? Dick asked at last hoarsely.
Mr. Early carefully refolded the slip of paper, and tucked it away
in his vest pocket, but he spoke with engaging openness.
It's yours, my dear boy, the day after the lighting franchise
passes over the mayor's veto. If they fail to pass it, I shall know
that you and Mrs. Percival are willing to stand a little public obloquy
for the sake of what you consider right. Very creditable to you, I am
sure, and damned uncomfortable for your wife.
Dick still stared at him, and he went on: I'll leave you to think
it over. In fact, I do not know that it is necessary for me to learn
your decision except by your action. Sorry to have to take extreme
measures, but it's every one for himself, in this world.
He went out, and Dick sank into a chair and stared at his toes and
What's the use? he said to himself. She didn't know what she was
doing. I can't change it or her.
Winter went on, and Ellery and Madeline were married. Dick
squandered himself on their wedding present, and looked like a
thunder-cloud as he watched the ceremony. On the day after he returned
from his brief honeymoon, Norris started down town to take up the
routine of life, irradiated now by love and purpose. The world seemed
fresh and fair, and even the face of Billy Barry less unlovely than
usual as they met near Newspaper Row.
Morning, said Mr. Barry. You look ripping. My congratulations.
Sorry you could not come around to the council meeting, last night.
You'd have been pleased to see the old franchise waltz through.
What do you mean? demanded Norris, stopping short.
Haven't even read the morning paper? Good land, that's what it
means to be a bridegroom! Barry went on with a chuckle. Couldn't stop
looking at her face behind the coffee-pot!
Norris restrained an impulse to throttle him and allowed Barry to
Why, yes, we passed the old thing. I always said we would. Your
friend Percival voted with the combine. He's the real stuff. When he
saw how truth and justice lay, he buckled down and did the square
thing. Have a cigar? No? Oh yes, it's straight goods I'm givin' you.
You needn't look so queer. And say, on the quiet, I'm rather stuck on
you reform fellers. All they need is argument. So when you get 'em, you
get 'em cheap. Say, it's better than cash, any day.
Norris ran up the steps and snatched a morning's paper. Yes, it was
true. Percival had voted against his friends and had given the victory
to the other side. Ellery flung into his office and whirled into his
day's work in a kind of daze. There was much to do and no time for
outside thought, but when the afternoon was over, instead of rushing
back to the little home, as he had expected, Norris hurried into his
coat and hastened to find Dick. Mr. Percival was at home; and, without
waiting to be announced, Ellery sprang up the stairs to the little
sanctum where the two had confabbed on many a day. He plunged in on
Dick, pale and unresponsive, and blurted out his question.
Yes, said Dick, I voted for it. I became convinced that it was
the best thing the city could do. I've been telling the boys so for the
past two weeks. I really didn't understand the matter before. Don't get
so excited, Norris.
He spoke quietly, but without meeting his friend's eyes, and
Ellery's heart sank.
I don't know what it means, Dick, he said bitterly, but it seems
to me that, like Lucifer, you've been falling from dawn to dewy eve,
and now you are likely to consort with the devils in the pit. Are you
the old Dick who used to be my idol?
Oh, bosh! said Dick. You are making mountains out of mole hills.
The franchise is all right.
It's not all right; and you're not all right, cried Norris, in a
frantic grasping after the truth of the matter. The old relationships
are slipping away and something that was as dear to me as myself is
going with them.
He turned away and Dick suddenly rose.
Ellery, he cried hoarsely, and Norris turned to see anguish in
Dick's face and outstretched hand, IIcan't explain to you, cried
Percival; but, Ellery he moved forward, don't cut the bonds of old
friendship, for God's sake! I need you now, as I never did before. If
you desert me, I shall lose my grip.
Norris stepped back, and the two took each other's hands and looked
steadfastly, eye into eye. And Norris saw something that took on him
the hold that death has on us, and made him ready to forgive. Death is
the big problem of every mind. We may perhaps master and solve the
question when the death is of the body, but when the soul dies out, the
problem is too great.
Ellery sank into a chair with weariness.
Tell me about it, he said.
Then Dick stiffened again.
There isn't anything to tell.
See here, said Norris. This isn't only a question of the lighting
franchise. The city may walk in darkness and be damned for all I care;
but I can't bear that you should walk in darkness. Do you realize what
it means? You have fought your first public battle on a basis of truth.
You make your first public appearance in league with evil. You are
killing the hope of your public career before it is fairly in bud.
I know it, said Dick.
Percival, you've stirred this city into consciousness. It's been
wonderful how you have done it so swiftly, for it is your doing. The
decent elements are marching forward into control and it belongs to you
to march at their head. The thing has got to go on. If you don't lead
it, some one else will.
I know it.
And you are going to give up? Ellery urged, incredulous.
I haven't decided. Perhaps I have done with politics.
And if you abandon your public career, what are you going to do?
What do other failures do?
Oh, stuff! exclaimed Norris, and began to pace the room. Then you
did not vote for the franchise because you believed in it. Somebody has
a pull on you. I'd never have believed that any man in this wide world
would get a pull on Dick Percival.
Well, somebody has, said Dick shortly. I wouldn't say so much as
that to any mortal but yourself. Now spare me, Ellery, and don't carry
it any further. Do you think, he went on bitterly, that I have not
gone over the whole ground and told myself the old truths that never
mean anything to you until life rams them home on your consciousness? A
man may creep out from under the machinery of state law, and escape
from the punishment he deserves; but from the laws under which we
really live, there is no escape. It is reap what you sow; hate and you
shall be hated; sin and suffer. And it isn't as though one went out to
sow. One sows perforce, every minute, whether he will or not. In some
instances the reaping is singularly little fun, Ellery.
Well, whatever hold this mysterious some one has on you, be a man.
Stand up and own yourself and let the consequences go hang.
I know some men could. You could. That's the advantage of having
taken a good many hard blows. You learn to stand up against them, Dick
answered slowly. You know other people's opinion has always been a god
to me. I haven't the strength to defy it now.
There was a short silence, then Dick laid his arms across his
friend's shoulders, quite in the old friendly way.
Now may we drop that subject and be good pals again?
Not yet, Ellery said sharply. We won't drop it till I've had one
more say. Dick, don't be knocked out by a single blow. You! Why, I
thought you had a grip like a bulldog. I can't believe even in this
ugly mess. Still less will I believe that you haven't the couragethat
you aren't man enough to own your defeat, and then go on as though you
hadn't been beaten.
Dick poked at the andirons with his toe. Suddenly he looked up with
a flash of his old brilliance and buoyancy.
Suppose I do! he exclaimed. What a fellow you are, Ellery, to
stick to me this way! But don't underestimate my difficulty. I'm not an
absolute coward, but I've been beaten not only once, but on both flanks
and in the middle. Everything in life seemed to be giving me a kick. I
was at the bottom when you came in, but if you believe in me, perhaps
I'll begin to believe in myself again. You've always been telling me
how much I did for you. You've done more for me to-night than I ever
dreamed of doing for you.
Ellery's face cleared. They stood with clasped hands, and there
seemed no need of further explanations or assurances. Norris drew a
long breath of relief.
So we are friends still? asked Dick.
Till the Judgment Day and beyond.
Now good-by, said Dick, as though anxious to get rid of him, till
A moment later a radiant vision stood in the doorway making a
Dick, said Lena.
Dick started and stiffened himself as though to give battle, his
hands rested on the chair-back in front of him, but an instant's survey
of his wife's rose-leaf face, her well-groomed masses of hair, her
dainty evening gown, seemed to inspire another attitude. He threw his
arms passionately around her.
Oh, Lena, he cried, love me! You must love meyou have cost me
Nonsense! Lena gave him a sharp push and spoke resentfully. I'm
not half so extravagant as most of the women we know.
Dick drew away and became rigid again.
Extravagant! he exclaimed as though to himself. You have cost me
my self-respect, a big part of my future and the cream of my best
friendship. What higher price could a man pay for the thing he loves?
I do think, Dick, said Lena severely, that you can talk the
silliest nonsense of any person I ever heard. What on earth is the
meaning of all this? Nono as she saw that he was getting ready to
reply. I have not time to hear. I thought that tiresome Mr. Norris
would never go. What can you see in him?Have you forgotten that we
are going to the Country Club for dinner? It's long past time for you
Imagine it! I had forgotten that dinner! Dick answered bitterly.
For a moment he turned away as though, he would not see her while he
readjusted something in himself. He felt like a different man and
looked to her indefinably strange when he faced her again quietly. To
himself he was saying, What would Ellery do? and on his answer to his
own question he was readjusting his whole life.
We will not go out this evening, Lena, he said. We've come to a
crisis in our affairs more important than a club dinner.
What, have you been losing money? cried Lena, startled and
Dick looked at her with a very unpleasant smile.
No, he answered. I wonder what you would say if I told you that I
Lena gasped with horror. For the moment she could not speak. A gulf
of povertyno one knew better than she what that meantyawned before
her. A blind fury against Dick, if he should have plunged her into
this, possessed her; and Dick watched her and read her as he had never
Will you sit down? he asked courteously. I want to talk with
youjust by our two selves. I haven't lost any money, Lena. Let me
relieve your mind of its worst apprehension. Her face smoothed, but
she seated herself quietly, puzzled and foreboding. Dick was so
I've lost no money, he repeated, but I've come desperately near
ruin for all that. Lena, a moment ago I made a real appeal to your
love. You answered me by a shrug and a push for fear that I might muss
that very pretty and exceedingly becoming gown. It was a kind of
illustration of all our married life.
Lena still stared at him dumbly, vague with uncomprehending fear.
This didn't seem like the easy-going husband she knew. She wished he
would look at her.
When we were married, he went on, I had a dream that a man's wife
stood for his ideals, that he might mold his life by her purity and
nobleness and love. I've always been saying, in effect, 'Lead on, Mrs.
Percival and I will follow where you lead!' You've led me into the
depths, Lena, and I'm never going to say that to you any more. You and
I have got to remold our relations and start again.
What has happened? Lena asked faintly, and feeling very helpless.
She seemed suddenly to realize how very big Dick's body was, and how
little chance she stood against it. If he was inaccessible in spirit
she had no hold over him. She wished he would get angry. That would be
something concrete. She would know how to meet it.
What has happened? she repeated.
Only this, Dick said. I am going to refuse to delude myself any
longer; and it is fair to you as it is to me that you should know it. I
am going to stop telling myself that you are my ideal woman, when you
have shown me, for instance, your unwillingness to make such tender
self-sacrifice as a mother must give to a childthat you are true and
honest when you are guilty of an underhand thrust like that little
squib about Madelinethat
Ah, shrieked Lena, leaping to her feet with the light beginning to
come into her eyes. So that's what's the matter! That girl
No, said Dick evenly, that is not what cuts most. What hurts
through and through, Lena, is the knowledge that you don't even love me
enough, in spite of all my wasted passion, to keep from intriguing with
another man behind my back for the sake of a few bits of red glass.
Howdid Mr. Early? Lena began, but he interrupted her again.
Did it seem such a simple thing to keep me perpetually blinded?
Last night, Lena, I paid your debt to Mr. Early. I sold my vote in the
council, along with my self-respect and my honor in the sight of others
to get back this shred of paper. Once I might have thought you sinned
ignorantly, but I know you better now. Here is that priceless scrap.
He drew it from his pocket and threw it into her lap. Now I've swept
away all the mists! There can't be any sweet illusions between you and
me, Lena. He drew a sharp breath.
Lena's heart was beating very fast and her eyes were down. She saw
shrewdly that there was no need of argument on any of these topics. The
less she said about them the better for her. And Dick, with his hands
in his pockets, was watching her from the other side of the room. She
twisted the piece of paper in her hands. She had always a bald way of
telling herself the truth. Now she would face Dick in the same spirit.
After all, she was his wife. He couldn't get away from that.
Well, she said, I suppose you don't love me any more? Her voice
was like her mother's, acid and selfish.
Do you love me? asked Dick.
No! said Lena. She saw him writhe and felt glad that she had the
power to hurt him, but he answered very gently.
Then I still have the advantage of you, Lena. I love you, not in
the old way I once dreamed of lovingbut still I love you. All this
that I've said to-night was not spoken in the heat of anger. I've known
these facts for a long time, and you have never felt any change in my
manner; but gradually I have come to see that there could never be any
genuine relations between usyou and meso long as you thought me
just a silly dupe for you to get everything you could from, to be
played on as you pleased. We must begin again, a new way. You don't
love me, you say. I do love you, sweetheart, not for what I thought you
were, but for what you are, because you are my wife, because you need
my tenderness and help. But I'm not going to let you lead any longer.
We can't even walk side by side as some husbands and wives do. Dick
seemed to hear the voices of Ellery and Madeline by their own fireside,
and he went on hurriedly. You needn't look at me that way, Lena, as if
you were afraid of me. I shall want you to be comfortable and happy. I
shall try to give you the things you wantthingsthingsthings! But
I have some purposes in life, and they, not you, are to be my
Dick turned away and stared out of the winter window, stirred by his
own words into a strange new understanding of himselfa mere fatuous
self-believer, a man who trusted to fate not fight, to fortune not to
mastery, who had not made his standards, but let them make themselves.
And now it was come to this, that a half-hour in a room with a foolish
girl was the turning-point in his life.
He seemed strange to himself, as though he were examining a life
from the outside rather than from the inside, and fumbling at its real
He had done no wrong; but what does the march of events care whether
the failure be intentional or careless? Results follow just the same.
There flashed before his inward eye the face of his long-dead
father, white and set with some inward pain of which he did not speak.
Dick remembered that as a boy that had seemed to him a pitiful thing.
Now he saw it somewhat as the believers once saw the face of the
martyr, the visible manifestation of triumphthe success of being true
to yourself in spite of all the world.
Dick drew a long breath and dropped his boyhood without even a
regret. He knew he could accept conditions and limitations and not kick
against the pricks, but quietly, as one who is capable of being
superior to them. The bitterness, the depression of an hour, two hours,
ago faded into trifles, and the thing nearest to his consciousness was
that dead father who had had his wound and lived his life in spite of
it; nearer, infinitely nearer, than the living wife whom a slight noise
brought to his remembrance. He had forgotten her. She belonged now to
the elements outside his dearest life.
He turned toward Lena, waiting, silent, uncomprehending,poor
little Lena, a woman who could never be anything more. He felt a wave
of strange new pity for her, unlike the pity he had once experienced
for her poverty of body, a sorrow, this, for what she was in herself,
his wifepoor, poor little child!
Lena sat still, picking at the bit of paper, but she looked up now,
moved in spite of herself by the exultant ring in Dick's voice, as he
strode over to her and held out both his hands.
And so we begin againhonestly, this time. Perhaps some day you'll
come to accept my standards inwardly as well as outwardly. Perhaps
you'll even come to love me, some day, little wife.
Lena took his hands submissively. Her small tyranny, her stock of
little ambitions had slipped from her and she shivered as though she
was stripped and cold; but behind there was a kind of delight in this
new Dick, with authoritative eyes into which she stared, wondering
still, with trepidation, what he was going to make of her life.
CHAPTER XXII. ANOTHER BEGINNING
Norris, as he left Percival's house, had a glimpse of Lena coming
down the hall, wonderful in her shimmering evening gown, brave in
jewels. She dazzled him, though he despised his eyes for admiring her
and told himself that she was tinsel.
He bowed in response to her curt nod, well aware that she thought
him too unimportant to merit her courtesy, while she resented her
husband's inexplicable regard for him. He went out into a cold winter
drizzle and turned his face toward home and Madeline, those new and
thrilling possessions. For the moment, however, there was no
exhilaration in his heart, rather a depressed questioning whether,
after all, everything beautiful was a sham. Was the daily grind a
mechanical millwheel? Dick and Dick's marriage, were they but samples
of the way life deals with hope? A pang stabbed through him as his own
marriage rose and stood beside Dick's in his mind. It meant so much to
him; yet only a few months before his friend had been bubbling with an
exultation more open-voiced than his own.
There are not only great Sloughs of Despond waiting here and there
for the pilgrim, but there are in almost every day little gutters of
despond that must be jumped if one does not wish cold and soiled feet;
so here his healthy mind cried out against morbid thoughts and he
reviled himself for companioning the thing he held sacred with the
thing he had always felt foredoomed to failure. He told himself that
middle-age was not a dead level of hopes grown gray and withered, but
rather a heightening of the contrasts between success and failure. A
word of Mr. Elton's spoken long ago, flashed back to him: Don't build
your attics before you've finished your cellars. That, after all, was
a test. If one could but get a good solid foundation under hope, one
might trust it to lift its pinnacle as far toward Heaven as the
ethereal upper air. Alas for Dick!
Then, though he still loved his one-time hero, Ellery put Dick from
his mind. His feet quickened and his heart began to beat joyously
again. He ran up his steps, delighting in the commonplace performance
of putting a latch-key into a lock. The cold and drizzle were shut
outside, and Madeline waited in the warmth and light of the hall to
insist on helping him off with his overcoat, a task so absurdly
difficult that when it was finished they laughed and kissed each other
in mutual delight at their own foolishness.
Then Madeline took his hand and drew him into the living-room, where
the light was low and shaded, but blazing logs painted even
far-shadowed corners with warmth, and pranked the girl's white dress
into glowing pink, while the fire hummed and crackled its own triumph:
I consumed the deep green forest with all its songs,
And all the songs of the forest now sing aloud in me.
Ellery stood with his arm around his wife's waist and looked about
with a quizzical expression that made her ask,
What are you thinking?
I was remembering.
And pray what business have you, sir, to live in anything but the
Perhaps I get more from to-day because I don't forget yesterday.
When I first came to St. Etienne, sweetheart, Dick took me to his home.
You know, with your mere mind, but you can not appreciate, how
unrelated my life had been. You can't imagine how hungrily I looked at
that restful room and at Dick's mother. I felt as though I would give
anythingmy soulto have a home. And now, behold, I have one.
And you had to pledge your soul to me to get it.
True. I paid dearly, he said. But I was wondering how it was that
you had managed to put so much atmosphere into so untried a place. It
looks to me as impossible as a miracle. Here are some new walls, and
new furniture and new curtains and new vases and new pictures. Even the
books are mostly new. I always resented new books. They are like green
fruit. A book isn't ripe until it begins to be frayed around the edges.
It would seem to me a hopeless job to make a home out of all this raw
material. Yet this room already reminds me of Mrs. Percival's library,
Madeline, and it isn't only because it is a long room with a big
I think it is a good beginning, she answered. Now all we have to
do is to live in it.
You talk as though 'living' were a very easy matter, he
remonstrated. I think it must be the hardest thing in the world,
judging by the failures. I know heaps of people who are drifting, or
grubbing, or wallowing, or stumbling, or racing, but only a handful
that are living. The thought of it made me blue all the way home.
Dick? Madeline asked with ready intuition.
Yes, Dick. He voted with the combine and against the reform element
in last night's council meeting; and he did it on some one's
compulsion. I can't tell you how it has stirred and disheartened me.
Have you seen him?
What did he say?
That he could not explain.
Then, said his wife decisively, it is some of Lena's doings.
About anything elseanythinghe would have told you, Ellery.
Very likely, though it is hard to see how Mrs. Percival could be
mixed up in affairs like this.
Madeline was moving about restlessly.
Ellery, she said at last, I feel as though you and I had to be a
sort of pair of god-parents to Dick. He is so dear, so lovable, so
fineand so unable to go alone. You, particularly, dearest, are the
stanchest thing he has. I know just how he feels about you, for I feel
so, too. You are going to push behind him and understand him and back
up all his resolves, aren't you, even if he does half disappoint you?
You aren't going to let anything alienate you or come between your
friendship and his, are you? I know you love him, and I'm sure he needs
Ellery smiled down at her questioning eyes and the intoxicating
appeal of her confidence in himMadeline's!
I rather think I am Dick's friend for all I'm worth, he said
slowly, at last. Even if I were tempted to disloyalty, I should be
ashamed to harbor it with your faithfulness standing before me. And I
believe this very afternoon was a kind of crisis with himthat he was
gathering himself together when I came away.
And by your help, I dare say, added his wife.
I hope so. I know but one thing that seems to me more worth while
than the purpose of helping Dick Percival to be what it is in him to
And what is that other better thing?
You arrant fraud! Do you need to ask? he said, laughing.
Well, comfort yourself. You are to go on fulfilling your two
purposes in lifeyou and I together.
I pray we may. I believe we shall, answered her husband earnestly.
I know we shall, doubting Thomas. I'm one of the women who are
strong in unreasoning faith.
They stood silently smiling at each other for a moment.
Shall we celebrate the beginning of home with pomp and music? she
asked. There's a little time before dinner. Make yourself comfortable.
Push Mrs. Percival up to the fire.
Mrs. Percival! Ellery exclaimed, dropping his guilty arm and
looking about in a startled manner.
Oh, I forgot you didn't know. I've been all over the house this
afternoon, christening our things with the names of the people that
gave them to us. Doesn't it make all the wedding presents seem very
friendly and not at all new? Wouldn't you know, even if you hadn't been
told, that this particular chair was Mother Percivalit's so graceful
and comforting. Dump yourself into it, Ellery.
She pushed him down laughing.
Ah, I begin to see that you stole your atmosphere. The things
aren't so new after all. They're old acquaintances.
Of course they are. Isn't it jolly to have 'your loving friends'
tucked around in spirit in every nook and corner of the house, without
the nuisance of having the good people here in the body to disturb our
I see, he meditated, then went on ungratefully: After all, I
think I'm more taken with the privacy than with the spiritual
presences, though they can hardly be considered skeletons at the
I should think not, exclaimed Madeline indignantly. I love them
each and allwell, with a few exceptions, Ellery. You needn't grin
sarcastically. Now there's the pianosuch a piano as I have always
dreamed of but never hoped to own. If I called it a Steinway Grand, I
should know that it was an excellent instrument; but when I call it
'Vera,' it warms and delights my heart a thousand times.
Ellery rose and bowed ceremoniously to the piano.
Vera, will you and Mrs. Norris favor me with Schubert's Serenade, while I sit on Mrs. Percival? he asked. I am ragingly hungry, but
perhaps the Serenade will keep me harmless and quiet for a
He sat and listened and looked into the warm deep heart of the
friendly fire. Dreams and hopes came back to him, as things once seen
through a glass darkly, but now face to face. Without turning, he was
conscious of Madeline, across the room, filling life with music.
When a small maid, as new as the books, appeared to announce dinner,
he looked up startled.
Shall we go? asked Madeline, rising.
To our own private particular family communion-table, he answered,
drawing her arm through his.
* * * * *
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THE FAIR GOD; OR, THE LAST OF THE TZINS.
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