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A Surrender by Robert Grant

 

Morgan Russell and I were lolling one day on the beach at Rock Ledge watching the bathers. We had played three sets of tennis, followed by a dip in the ocean, and were waiting for the luncheon hour. Though Russell was my junior by four years, we were old friends, and had prearranged our vacation to renew our intimacy, which the force of circumstances had interrupted since we were students together at Harvard. Russell had been a Freshman when I was a Senior, but as we happened to room in the same entry, this propinquity had resulted in warm mutual liking. I had been out of college for eight years, had studied law, and was the managing clerk of a large law firm, and in receipt of what I then thought a tremendous salary. Russell was still at Cambridge. He had elected at graduation to pursue post-graduate courses in chemistry and physics, and had recently accepted a tutorship. He had not discovered until the beginning of the Junior year his strong predilection for scientific investigation, but he had given himself up to it with an ardor which dwarfed everything else on the horizon of his fancy. It was of his future we were talking, for he wished to take his old chum into his confidence and to make plain his ambition. “I recognize of course,” he told me, “that I've an uphill fight ahead of me, but my heart is in it. My heart wouldn't be in it if I felt that the best years of my life were to be eaten up by mere teaching. Nowadays a man who's hired to teach is expected to teach until his daily supply of gray matter has run out, and his original work has to wait until after he's dead. There's where I'm more fortunate than some. The fifteen hundred dollars—a veritable godsend—which I receive annually under the will of my aunt, will keep the wolf at a respectful distance and enable me to play the investigator to my heart's content. I'm determined to be thorough, George. There is no excuse for superficiality in science. But in the end I intend to find out something new. See if I don't, old man.”

“I haven't a doubt you will, Morgan,” I replied. “I don't mind letting on that I ran across Professor Drayson last winter, and he told me you were the most promising enthusiast he had seen for a long time; that you were patient and level-headed as well as eager. Drayson doesn't scatter compliments lightly. But fifteen hundred dollars isn't a very impressive income.”

“It was very good of the old fellow to speak so well of me.”

“Suppose you marry?”

“Marry?” Russell looked up from the sea-shells with which he had been playing, and smiled brightly. He had a thin, slightly delicate face with an expression which was both animated and amiable, and keen, strong gray eyes. “I've thought of that. I'm not what is called contemplating matrimony at the moment; but I've considered the possibility, and it doesn't appall me.”

“On fifteen hundred a year?”

“And why not, George?” he responded a little fiercely. “Think of the host of teachers, clerks, small tradesmen, and innumerable other reputable human beings who marry and bring up families on that or less. Which do you think I would prefer, to amass a fortune in business and have my town and country house and steam yacht, or to exist on a pittance and discover before I die something to benefit the race of man?”

“Knowing you as I do, there's only one answer to that conundrum,” said I. “And you're right, too, theoretically, Morgan. My ancestors in Westford would have thought fifteen hundred downright comfort, and in admitting to you that five thousand in New York is genteel poverty, I merely reveal what greater comforts the ambitious American demands. I agree with you that from the point of view of real necessity one-half the increase is sheer materialism. But who's the girl?”

“There is no girl. Probably there never will be. But I'm no crank. I like a good dinner and a seat at the play and an artistic domestic hearth as well as the next man. If I were to marry, of course I should retain the tutorship which I accepted temporarily as a means of training my own perceptions, though I should try to preserve as at present a considerable portion of my time free from the grind of teaching. Then much as I despise the method of rushing into print prematurely in order to achieve a newspaper scientific reputation, I should expect to eke out my income by occasional magazine articles and presently a book. With twenty-five hundred or three thousand a year we should manage famously.”

“It would all depend upon the woman,” said I with the definiteness of an oracle.

“If the savants in England, France, and Germany—the men who have been content to starve in order to attain immortality—could find wives to keep them company, surely their counterparts are to be found here where woman is not the slave but the companion of man and is encouraged to think not merely about him but think of him.” After this preroration Russell stopped abruptly, then raised himself on one elbow. Attracted by his sudden interest I turned lazily in the same direction, and after a moment's scrutiny ejaculated: “It looks just like her.”

As it was nearing the luncheon hour, most of the bathers had retired. Two women, one of them a girl of twenty-five, in the full bloom of youth and vigor, with an open countenance and a self-reliant, slightly effusive smile, were on the way to their bath. They were stepping transversely across the beach from their bath-house at one end in order to reach the place where the waves were highest, and their course was taking them within a few yards of where we lay. For some reason the younger woman had not put on the oil-skin cap designed to save her abundant hair from getting wet, but carried it dangling from her fingers, and, just as Russell noticed her, she dropped it on the beach. After stooping to pick it up, she waited a moment for her friend to join her, revealing her full face.

“Yes, it's certainly she,” I announced. “I spoke to her on the pier in New York last autumn, when she was returning from Europe, and it's either she or her double.”

“You know her?”

“Yes, the Widow Spaulding.”

“Widow? You mean the girl?”

There was just a trace of disappointment in the tone of Russell's surprise.

“Yes, I mean the girl. But you needn't dismiss her altogether from your fastidiously romantic soul merely because she has belonged to another. There are extenuating circumstances. She married the Rev. Horace Spaulding, poor fellow, on his deathbed, when he was in the last stages of consumption, and two days later she was his widow.”

“You seem to know a good deal about her.”

“I ought to, for she was born and bred in Westford. Edna Knight was her name—the daughter of Justin Knight, the local attorney, half-lawyer and half-dreamer. His parents were followers of Emerson, and there have been plain living and high thinking in that family for three generations. Look at her,” I added, as she breasted a giant wave and jubilantly threw herself into its embrace, “she takes to the water like a duck. I never saw a girl so metamorphosed in three years.”

“What was she like before?” asked Russell.

“Changed physically, I mean, and—and socially, I suppose it should be called. Three years ago, at the time of her marriage to Spaulding, she was a slip of a girl, shy, delicate, and introspective. She and her lover were brought up in adjacent houses, and the world for her signified the garden hedge over which they whispered in the gloaming, and later his prowess at the divinity school and his hope of a parish. When galloping consumption cut him off she walked about shrouded in her grief as one dead to the world of men and women. I passed her occasionally when I returned home to visit my family, and she looked as though she were going into a decline. That was a year after her marriage. Solicitous sympathy was unavailing, and the person responsible for her regaining her grip on life was, curiously enough, a summer boarder whom old Mrs. Spaulding had taken into her family in order to make both ends meet. Westford has been saved from rusting out by the advent in the nick of time of the fashionable summer boarder, and Mrs. Sidney Dale, whose husband is a New York banker, and who spent two summers there as a cure for nervous prostration, fascinated Edna without meaning to and made a new woman of her in the process. There is the story for you. A year ago Mrs. Dale took her to Europe as a sort of finishing touch, I suppose. I understand Westford thinks her affliction has developed her wonderfully, and finds her immensely improved; which must mean that she has triumphed over her grief, but has not forgotten, for Westford would never pardon a purely material evolution.”

“I noticed her at the hotel this morning before you arrived, and admired the earnestness and ardor of her expression.”

“And her good looks presumably. I saw you start when she approached just now. She may be just the woman for you.”

“Introduce me then. And her companion?”

“Will fall to my lot, of course, but I have no clew as to her identity.”

Mrs. Spaulding enlightened me on the hotel piazza, after luncheon, when, as a sequence to this persiflage I brought up my friend. The stranger proved to be Mrs. Agnes Gay Spinney, a literary person, a lecturer on history and literature. It transpired later that she and Edna had become acquainted and intimate at Westford the previous spring during a few weeks which Mrs. Spinney had spent there in the preparation of three new lectures for the coming season. She was a rather serious-looking woman of about forty with a straight figure, good features, and a pleasant, but infrequent smile, suggesting that its owner was not susceptible to flippancy. However, she naïvely admitted that she had come away for pure recreation and to forget the responsibilities of life.

Morgan and the widow were conversing with so much animation that I, to whom this remark was addressed, took upon myself to give youth a free field; consequently I resigned myself to Mrs. Spinney's dignified point of view, and, avoiding badinage or irony, evinced such an amiable interest in drawing her out that by the end of fifteen minutes she asked leave to show me the catalogue of her lectures, a proof of which she had just received from the printer. When she had gone to fetch it, I promptly inquired:

“Why don't you two young people improve this fine afternoon by a round of golf?”

A gleam of animation over Morgan's face betrayed that he regarded the suggestion as eminently happy. But it was Edna who spoke first.

“If Mr. Russell will put up with my poor game, I should enjoy playing immensely. But,” she added smiling confidently and regarding him with her large, steady brown eyes, “I don't intend to remain a duffer at it long. I see,” she continued after a moment, “from your expression, Mr. Randall, that you doubt this. I could tell from the corners of your mouth.”

“I must grow a mustache to conceal my thoughts, it seems. I was only thinking, Mrs. Spaulding, that golf is a difficult game at which to excel.”

“Yes, but they say that care and determination and—and keeping the eye on the ball will work wonders even for a woman. I shall be only a moment in getting ready, Mr. Russell.”

“But what is to become of you, George?” asked Morgan as she disappeared.

“I noticed that a sensitive conscience kept you tongue-tied. This is probably one of the most self-sacrificing acts which will be performed the present summer. But you will remember that Mephistopheles on a certain occasion was equally good-natured.”

“Don't be absurd. Is she very trying?”

“Dame Martha had some humor and no understanding; Mrs. Spinney has some understanding and no humor. Here she comes with her catalogue of lectures. There are over fifty of them, and from their scope she must be almost omniscient. How are you getting on with the widow?”

“Mrs. Spaulding seems to me an interesting woman. She has opinions of her own, which she expresses clearly and firmly. I like her,” responded Morgan with a definiteness of manner which suggested that he was not to be debarred by fear of banter from admitting that he was attracted.

It seems that as they strode over the links that afternoon he was impressed by her fine physical bearing. There were a freedom and an ease in her movements, essentially womanly and graceful, yet independent and self-reliant, which stirred his pulses. He had been a close and absorbed student, and his observation of the other sex had been largely indifferent and formal. He knew, of course, that the modern woman had sloughed off helplessness and docile dependence on man, but like an ostrich with its head in the sand he had chosen to form a mental conception of what she was like, and he had pictured her either as a hoyden or an unsympathetic blue-stocking. This trig, well-developed beauty, with her sensible, alert face and capable manner was an agreeable revelation. If she was a type, he had neglected his opportunities. But the present was his at all events. Here was companionship worthy of the name, and a stimulating vindication of the success of woman's revolt from her own weakness and subserviency. When at the conclusion of their game they sat down on a bank overlooking the last hole and connected conversation took the place of desultory dialogue between shots, he was struck by her common sense, her enthusiasm, and her friendliness. He gathered that she was eager to support herself by some form of intellectual occupation, preferably teaching or writing, and that she had come to Rock Ledge with Mrs. Spinney in order to talk over quietly whether she might better take courses of study at Radcliffe or Wellesley, or learn the Kindergarten methods and at the same time apply herself diligently to preparation for creative work. Of one thing she was certain, that she did not wish to rust out in Westford. While her father lived, of course her nominal home would be there, but she felt that she could not be happy with nothing but household employment in a small town out of touch with the movement and breadth of modern life. The substance of this information was confided to me by Morgan before we went to bed that night.

It is easy and natural for two young people vegetating at a summer resort to become exceedingly intimate in three or four days, especially when facility for intercourse is promoted and freedom from interruption guaranteed by a self-sacrificing accessory. My complicity at the outset had been pure off-hand pleasantry, but by the end of thirty-six hours it was obvious to me that Morgan's interest was that of a man deeply infatuated. Seeing that the two young people were of marriageable age and free, so far as I knew, from disqualifying blemishes which would justify me in putting either on guard against the other, I concluded that it behooved me as a loyal friend to keep Mrs. Spinney occupied and out of the way. Consequently Morgan and Mrs. Spaulding were constantly together during the ensuing ten days, and so skilfully did I behave that the innocent pair regarded the flirtation which I was carrying on as a superb joke—a case of a banterer caught in the toils, and Mrs. Spinney's manners suggested that she was agreeably flattered.

Morgan's statement that he had never contemplated marriage was true, and yet in the background of his dream of the future lurked a female vision whose sympathy and companionship were to be the spur of his ambition and the mainstay of his courage. Had he found her? He did not need to ask himself the question more than once. He knew that he had, and, knowing that he was deeply in love, he turned to face the two questions by which he was confronted. First, would she have him? Second, in case she would, was he in a position to ask her to marry him, or, more concretely, could he support her? The first could be solved only by direct inquiry. The answer to the second depended on whether the views which he had expressed to me as to the possibilities of matrimonial content in circumstances like his were correct. Or was I right, and did it all depend upon the woman? But what if it did? Was not this just the woman to sympathize entirely with his ambition and to keep him up to the mark in case the shoe pinched? There was no doubt of her enthusiasm and interest when in the course of one of their walks he had confided to her that he had dedicated his life to close scientific investigation. Well, he would lay the situation squarely before her and she could give him his answer. If she was the kind of woman he believed her to be and she loved him and had faith in him, would the prospect of limited means appall her? He felt sure that it would not.

By the light of subsequent events, being something of a mind reader, I know the rest of their story as well as though I had been present in the flesh.

Before the end of the fortnight he made a clean breast of his love and of his scruples. He chose an occasion when they had strolled far along the shore and were resting among picturesque rocks overlooking the ocean. She listened shyly, as became a woman, but once or twice while he was speaking she looked up at him with unmistakable ardor and joy in her brown eyes which let him know that his feelings were reciprocated before she confessed it by speech. He was so determined to make clear to her what was in store for her if she accepted him that without waiting for an answer to his burning avowal he proceeded to point out and to reiterate that the scantiest kind of living so far as creature comforts were concerned was all which he could promise either for the present or for the future.

When, having satisfied his conscience, he ceased speaking, Edna turned toward him and with a sigh of sentiment swept back the low bands of profuse dark hair from her temples as though by the gesture she were casting all anxieties and hindrances to the winds. “How strange it is!” she murmured. “The last thing which I supposed could happen to me in coming here was that I should marry. But I am in love—in love with you; and to turn one's back on that blessing would be to squander the happiness of existence.” She was silent a moment. Then she continued gravely, “As you know, I was engaged—married once before. How long ago it seems! I thought once, I believed once, that I could never love again. Dear Horace, how wrapped up we were in each other! But I was a child then, and—and it seems as though all I know of the real world has been learned since. I must not distrust—I will not refuse the opportunity to make you happy and to become happier myself by resisting the impulse of my heart. I love you—Morgan.”

“Thank God! But are you sure, Edna, that you have counted the cost of marrying me?”

“Oh, yes! We shall manage very well, I think,” she answered, speaking slowly and contracting a little her broad brow in the attempt to argue dispassionately. “It isn't as if you had nothing. You have fifteen hundred dollars and your salary, nearly two thousand more. Five years ago that would have seemed to me wealth, and now, of course, I understand that it isn't; and five years ago I suppose I would have married a man if I loved him no matter how poor he was. But to-day I am wiser—that's the word, isn't it? For I recognize that I might not be happy as a mere drudge, and to become one would conflict with what I feel that I owe myself in the way of—shall I call it civilizing and self-respecting comfort? So you see if you hadn't a cent, I might feel it was more sensible and better for us both to wait or to give each other up. But it isn't a case of that at all. We've plenty to start on—plenty, and more than I'm accustomed to; and by the time we need more, if we do need more, you will be famous.”

“But it's just that, Edna,” he interjected quickly. “I may never be famous. I may be obscure, and we may be poor, relatively speaking, all our lives,” and he sighed dismally.

“Oh, yes, you will, and oh, no, we shan't!” she exclaimed buoyantly. “Surely, you don't expect me to believe that you are not going to succeed and to make a name for yourself? We must take some chances—if that is a chance. You have told me yourself that you intended to succeed.”

“In the end, yes.”

“Why, then, shouldn't I believe it, too? It would be monstrous—disloyal and unromantic not to. I won't listen to a word more on that score, please. And the rest follows, doesn't it? We are marrying because we love each other and believe we can help each other, and I am sure one of the reasons why we love each other is that we both have enthusiasm and find life intensely absorbing and admire that in the other. There's the great difference between me now and what I was at eighteen. The mere zest of existence seems to me so much greater than it used. There are so many interesting things to do, so many interesting things which we would like to do. And now we shall be able to do them together, shan't we?” she concluded, her eyes lighted with confident happiness, her cheeks mantling partly from love, partly, perhaps, from a sudden consciousness that she was almost playing the wooer.

Morgan was equal to the occasion. “Until death do us part, Edna. This is the joy of which I have dreamed for years and wondered if it could ever be mine,” he whispered, as he looked into her face with all the ardor of his soul and kissed her on the lips.

That evening he hooked his arm in mine on the piazza after dinner and said, “You builded better than you knew, George. We are engaged, and she's the one woman in the world for me. I've told her everything— everything, and she isn't afraid.”

“And you give me the credit of it. That's Christian and handsome. I'll say one thing for her which any one can see from her face, that she has good looks and intelligence. As to the rest, you monopolized her so that our acquaintance is yet to begin.”

“It shall begin at once,” said Morgan, with a happy laugh. “But what about you, George?”

“I leave for New York to-night. Now that the young lovers have plighted their troth my presence is no longer necessary. A sudden telegram will arrive.”

“But Mrs. Spinney? We have begun to—er—hope—”

“Hope?”

“Begun to think—wondered if—”

“I were going to marry a woman several years my senior who has the effrontery to believe that she can lecture acceptably on the entire range of literary and social knowledge from the Troubadours and the Crusades to Rudyard Kipling and the Referendum? Such is the reward of disinterested self-sacrifice!”

“Forgive me, George. I knew at first that you were trying to do me a good turn, but—but you were so persistent that you deceived us. I'm really glad there's nothing in it.”

“Thanks awfully.” Then bending a sardonic glance on my friend, I murmured sententiously:

  “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
   And therefore is Winged Cupid painted blind.”

       * * * * *

“Edna, why don't you take a more active interest in these club gatherings?” asked Morgan Russell one afternoon eight years subsequent to their marriage. He had laid aside his work for the day, and having joined his wife on the piazza was glancing over a printed notice of a meeting which she had left on the table. “I'm inclined to think you would get considerable diversion from them, and the study work at home would be in your line.”

Edna was silent a moment. She bent her head over her work—a child's blouse—that he might not notice that she was biting her lip, and she managed to impart a dispassionate and almost jaunty tone to the indictment which uttered.

“Every now and then, Morgan, you remind me of Edward Casaubon in 'Middlemarch.' Not often, but every now and then lately.”

“That selfish, fusty, undiscerning bookworm?”

“You're not selfish and you're not fusty; but you remind me of him when you make remarks like your first.” She brushed a caterpillar from her light summer skirt, and noticing the draggled edge held it up. “There's one answer to your question about taking an active interest in clubs. There are twenty others, but this is one.”

Her husband appeared puzzled. He looked well, but pale and thin, as though accustomed to close application.

“I mean I can't afford it,” she added.

“I see. Then it was stupid of me—Casaubonish, I dare say, to have spoken. I was only trying to put a little more variety into your life because I realized that you ought to have it.”

Edna gave a faint sigh by way of acquiescence. Marriage had changed her but little in appearance. She looked scarcely older, and her steady eyes, broad brow, and ready smile gave the same effect of determination and spirit, though she seemed more sober.

“I'm a little dull myself and that makes me captious,” she asserted. Then dropping her work and clasping her hands she looked up earnestly at him and said, “Don't you see the impossibility of my being active in my club, Morgan? I go to it, of course, occasionally, so as not to drop out of things altogether, but in order to take a prominent part and get the real benefit of the meetings a woman needs time and money. Not so very much money, nor so very much time, but more of either than I have at my disposal. Of course, I would like, if we had more income—and what is much more essential—more time, to accept some of the invitations which I receive to express my ideas before the club, but it is out of the question. I have a horror of superficiality just as you have.”

“A sad fate; a poor man's wife,” said Morgan with a smile which, though tranquil, was wan.

“And you warned me. Don't think for a moment I'm complaining or regretting. I was only answering your question. Do you realize, dear, we shall have been married eight years day after to-morrow?”

“So we have, Edna. And what a blessing our marriage has been to me!”

“We have been very happy.” Then, she said, after a pause, as though she had been making up her mind to put the question, “You are really content, Morgan?”

“Content?” he echoed, “with you, Edna?”

“Not with me as me, but with us both together; with our progress, and with what we stand for as human beings?”

“I think so. That is, relatively speaking, and provided I understand correctly what you mean.”

She had not resumed her work, and her eager, resolute expression indicated that she was preparing to push the conversation to a more crucial point.

“I suppose what I mean is, would you, if we were going to start over again, do just as you have—devote yourself to science?”

“Oh!” Morgan flushed. “I don't see the use of considering that conundrum. I have devoted myself to science and there is no help for it, even if I were dissatisfied.”

“No present help.”

“No help at any time, Edna. But why resurrect this ghost? We burned our bridges at the altar.”

“We did. And don't misunderstand me, dear. I'm not flinching, I'm not even regretting, as I said to you before. Perhaps it may seem to you brutal—which is worse than Casaubonish—to ask you such a question. Still, we're husband and wife, and on an anniversary like this why isn't it sensible to look matters squarely in the face, and consider whether we've been wise or not? You ask the use. Are we not both seeking the truth?”

“Just as a tradesman takes an account of stock to ascertain whether he is bankrupt. I suppose you are thinking of the children and—and you admitted that you are a little tired yourself.”

“I wasn't thinking of any one. I was simply considering the question as an abstract proposition—by the light, of course, of our experience.”

“It is hard for you, Edna; yes, it is hard. I often think of it.”

“But I shouldn't mind its being hard if I were sure we were wise—justified.”

Morgan leaned toward her and said with grave intensity, “How, dear, are the great truths of science to be ascertained unless men—men and their wives—are willing to delve lovingly, to sacrifice comforts, and even endure hardships in pursuit of them?”

Edna drew a deep breath. “But you must answer me a question. How are children to be educated, and their minds, bodies, and manners guarded and formed in the ideal way on a small income such as ours?”

“I thought it was the children.”

“It isn't merely the children. It's myself and you—you, Morgan. It breaks my heart to see you pale, thin, and tired most of the time. You like good food and we can't afford to keep a decent cook. You have to consider every cent you spend, and the consequence is you have no amusement, and if you take a vacation, it is at some cheap place where you are thoroughly uncomfortable. And, of course, it is the children, too. If you, with your talents had gone into business or followed medicine or the law, like your friend Mr. Randall, we should have an income by this time which—well, for one thing, we should be able to keep the children at the seaside until October, and for another have Ernest's teeth straightened.”

“Perhaps I can manage both of those, as it is. But, Edna, what's the advantage of considering what might have been? Besides, you haven't answered my question.”

“I know it,” she said slowly. “You mustn't misunderstand me, Morgan. I'm very proud of you, and I appreciate fully your talent, your self-sacrifice, and your modesty. I thought you entirely right the other day in repulsing that odious reporter who wished to make a public character of you before you were ready. I'm content to wait—to wait forever, and I shall be happy in waiting. But, on the other hand, I've never been afraid to face the truth. It's my way. I've done so all my life; and my growth mentally and morally has come through my willingness to acknowledge my mistakes. Every one says it is fine for other people to starve for the sake of discovery, but how few are willing to do it themselves! If we were in a book, the world would admire us, but sometimes I can't help wondering if we would not be happier and more satisfactory human products if you had done something which brought you rewards more commensurate with your abilities. I'm merely thinking aloud, Morgan. I'm intensely interested, as you know, in the problems of life, and this is one of them.”

“But you know foreigners claim that we as a nation are not really interested in culture and knowledge, but only in their money value. What becomes of the best scholarship if we are ready to admit it?”

“Ah! but Professor Drayson told me only the other day that abroad, in Germany, for instance, they give their learned professors and savants suitable salaries and make much of them socially, because it is recognized that otherwise they wouldn't be willing to consecrate themselves to their work.”

“Then the essential thing for me to do is to invent some apparatus which I can sell to a syndicate for half a million dollars.”

“That would be very nice, Morgan,” she answered, smiling brightly. “But you know perfectly well that if we go on just as we are to the end, I shall be thoroughly proud of you, and thoroughly happy—relatively speaking.” So saying she put her arm around her husband's neck and kissed him affectionately.

Although this conversation was more definite than any which had taken place between them, Morgan was not seriously distressed. He knew that it was his wife's method to think aloud, and he knew that she would be just as loyal to him and no less cheerful because of it. She was considering a problem in living, and one which indisputably had two sides. He had always been aware of it, and the passage of time without special achievement on his part had brought it more pointedly before him now that there were two children and the prospect of a third. He was absorbed in his vocation; and the lack of certain comforts— necessities, perhaps—though inconvenient, would not have weighed appreciably in the scale were he the only one affected. But though he was pursuing his course along the path of investigation eagerly and doing good work without a shadow of disappointment, he was aware not merely that he had not as yet made a concrete valuable discovery, but might never do so. This possibility did not appall him, but he recognized that it was a part of the circumstances of his particular case viewed from the standpoint of a contemplative judgment on his behavior. He was succeeding, but was his success of a character to justify depriving his wife and children of what might have been theirs but for his selection? The discussion was purely academic, for he had made his choice, but he did not question Edna's privilege to weigh the abstract proposition, and accordingly was not depressed by her frankness.

It happened a few weeks later that Edna received a letter from Mrs. Sidney Dale inviting her and Morgan to spend a fortnight at the Dale spring and autumn home on the Hudson. Edna had seen Mrs. Dale but twice since their trip abroad. She had been unable to accept a previous similar invitation, but on this occasion Morgan insisted that she should go. He argued that it would refresh and rest her, and he agreed to conduct her to Cliffside and remain for a day or two himself.

Cliffside proved to be a picturesque, spacious house artistically situated at the vantage point of a domain of twenty acres and furnished with the soothing elegancies of modern ingenuity and taste. Among the attractions were a terrace garden, a well-accoutred stable, a tennis court, and a steam yacht. Mrs. Dale, who had prefaced her invitation by informing her husband that she never understood exactly why she was so fond of Edna and feared that the Russells were very poor, sat, a vision of successive cool, light summer garments, doing fancy work on the piazza, and talking in her engaging, brightly indolent manner. Morgan found Mr. Dale, who was taking a vacation within telephonic reach of New York, a genial, well-informed man with the effect of mental strength and reserve power. They became friendly over their cigars, and a common liking for old-fashioned gardens. On the evening before he departed, Morgan, in the course of conversation, expressed an opinion concerning certain electrical appliances before the public in the securities of which his host was interested. The banker listened with keen attention, put sundry questions which revealed his own acuteness, and in pursuance of the topic talked to Morgan graphically until after midnight of the large enterprises involving new mechanical discoveries in which his firm was engaged.

Morgan was obliged to go home on the following morning, but Edna remained a full fortnight. On the day of her return Morgan was pleased to perceive that the trip had evidently done her good. Not only did she look brighter and fresher, but there was a sparkling gayety in her manner which suggested that the change had served as a tonic. Morgan did not suspect that this access of spirits was occasioned by the secret she was cherishing until she confronted him with it in the evening.

“My dear,” she said, “you would never guess what has happened, so I won't ask you to try. I wonder what you will think of it. Mr. Dale is going to ask you—has asked you to go into his business—to become one of his partners.”

“Asked me?”

“Yes. It seems you made a good impression on him from the first—especially the last evening when you sat up together. It came about through Mrs. Dale, I think. That is, Mr. Dale has been looking about for some time for what he calls the right sort of man to take in, for one of his partners has died recently and the business is growing; and Mrs. Dale seems to have had us on her mind because she had got it into her head that we were dreadfully poor. I don't think she has at all a definite idea of what your occupation is. But the long and short of it is her husband wants you. He told me so himself in black and white, and you will receive a letter from him within a day or two.”

“Wants me to become a broker?”

“A banker and broker.”

“And—er—give up my regular work?”

Edna nervously smoothed out the lap of her dress as though she realized that she might be inflicting pain, but she raised her steady eyes and said with pleasant firmness:

“You would have to, of course, wouldn't you? But Mr. Dale explained that you would be expected to keep a special eye on the mechanical and scientific interests of the firm. He said he had told you about them. So all that would be in your line of work, wouldn't it?”

“I understand—I understand. It would amount to nothing from the point of view of my special field of investigation,” he answered a little sternly. “What reply did you make to him, Edna?”

“I merely said that I would tell you of the offer; that I didn't know what you would think.”

“I wish you had refused it then and there.”

“I couldn't do that, of course. The decision did not rest with me. Besides, Morgan, I thought you might think that we could not—er—afford to refuse it, and that as you would still be more or less connected with scientific matters, you might regard it as a happy compromise. Mr. Dale said,” she continued with incisive clearness in which there was a tinge of jubilation, “that on a conservative estimate you could count on ten or twelve thousand dollars a year, and his manner suggested that your share of the profits would be very much more than that.”

“The scientific part is a mere sop; it amounts to nothing. I should be a banker, engaged in floating new financial enterprises and selling their securities to the public.”

There was a brief silence. Edna rose and seating herself on the sofa beside him took his hands and said with solemn emphasis, “Morgan, if you think you will be unhappy—if you are satisfied that this change would not be the best thing for us, say so and let us give it up. Give it up and we will never think of it again.”

He looked her squarely in the face. “My God, Edna, I don't know what to answer! It's a temptation. So many things would be made easy. It comes to this, Is a man justified in refusing such an opportunity and sacrificing his wife and children in order to be true to his——?”

She interrupted him. “If you put it that way, Morgan, we must decline. If you are going to break your heart—”

“Or yours—”

“Morgan, whichever way you decide I shall be happy, provided only you are sure. If you feel that you—we—all of us will be happier and er—more effective human creatures going on as we are, it is your duty to refuse Mr. Dale's offer.”

“It's a temptation,” murmured Morgan. “I must think it over, Edna. Am I bound to resist it?”

“Bound?”

“You know I may never be heard of in science outside of a few partial contemporaries.” His lip quivered with his wan smile.

“That has really nothing to do with it,” she asserted.

“I think it has, Edna,” he said simply. Then suddenly the remembrance of the conversation with his friend Randall recurred to him with vivid clearness. He looked up into his wife's eyes and said, “After all, dear, it really rests with you. The modern woman is man's helpmate and counsellor. What do you advise?”

Edna did not answer for a few moments. Her open, sensible brow seemed to be seeking to be dispassionate as a judge and to expel every vestige of prejudice.

“It's a very close question to decide, Morgan. Of course, there are two distinct sides. You ask me to tell you, as your wife, what I think is wisest and best. I can't set it forth as clearly as I should like—I won't attempt to give my reasons even. But somehow my instinct tells me that if you don't accept Mr. Dale's offer, you will be sorry three years hence.”

“Then I shall accept, Edna, dear,” he said.

Three years later I took Mrs. Sidney Dale out to dinner at the house of a common friend in New York. In the course of conversation I remarked, “I believe it is you, Mrs. Dale, who is responsible for the metamorphosis in my friend, Morgan Russell.”

“Is he a friend of yours?”

“An old friend since college days. I never saw any one so spruced up, shall I call it? He has gained fifteen pounds, is growing whiskers, and is beginning to look the embodiment of worldly prosperity.”

“It is delightful to see them—both him and his wife. Yes, I suppose I may claim to be responsible for rescuing him from obscurity. My husband finds him a most valuable man in his business. I'm very fond of Mrs. Russell. She hasn't the obnoxious ways of most progressive women, and she certainly has executive ability and common sense. Being such an indolent person myself, I have always been fascinated by her spirit and cleverness. I'm glad she has been given a chance. They are getting on nicely.”

“I think she is in her element now. I was at their house the other day,” I continued blandly. “It seems that Edna is prominent in various educational and philanthropic bodies, high in the councils of her club, and a leading spirit in diverse lines of reform. They are entertaining a good deal—a judicious sprinkling of the fashionable and the literary. The latest swashbuckler romances were on the table, and it was evident from her tone that she regarded them as great American literature. Everything was rose color. Morgan came home while I was there. His hands were full of toys for his children and violets for his wife. He began to talk golf. It's a complete case of ossification of the soul—pleasant enough to encounter in daily intercourse, but sad to contemplate.”

Mrs. Dale turned in her chair. “I believe you're laughing at me, Mr. Randall. What is sad? And what do you mean by ossification of the soul?”

Said I with quiet gravity, “Fifteen or twenty thousand dollars a year. Morgan Russell's life is ruined—and the world had great hopes of him.”

Mrs. Dale, who is a clever person, in spite of her disclaimers, was silent a moment. “I know what you mean, of course. But I don't agree with you in the least. And you,” she added with the air of a woman making a telling point—“you the recently appointed attorney of the paper trust, with a fabulous salary, you're the last man to talk like that.”

I regarded her a moment with sardonic brightness. “Mrs. Dale,” I said, “it grieves us to see the ideals of our friends shattered.”

 
 
 

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