Making People Happy
by Thompson Buchanan
The bride hammered the table desperately with her gavel. In vain!
The room was in pandemonium.
The lithe and curving form of the girlfor she was only twenty,
although already a wifewas tense now as she stood there in her own
drawing-room, stoutly battling to bring order out of chaos. Usually the
creamy pallor of her cheeks was only most daintily touched with rose:
at this moment the crimson of excitement burned fiercely. Usually her
eyes of amber were soft and tender: now they were glowing with an
indignation that was half-wrath.
Still the bride beat a tattoo of outraged authority with the gavel,
wholly without avail. The confusion that reigned in the charming
drawing-room of Cicily Hamilton did but grow momently the more
confounded. The Civitas Club was in full operation, and would brook no
restraint. Each of the twelve women, who were ranged in chairs facing
the presiding officer, was talking loudly and swiftly and incessantly.
None paid the slightest heed to the frantic appeal of the gavel....
Then, at last, the harassed bride reached the limit of endurance. She
threw the gavel from her angrily, and cried out shrilly above the
massed clamor of the other voices:
If you don't stop, she declared vehemently, I'll never speak to
one of you again!
That wail of protest was not without its effect. There came a chorus
of ejaculations; but the monologues had been efficiently interrupted,
and the attention of the garrulous twelve was finally given to the
presiding officer. For a moment, silence fell. It was broken by Ruth
Howard, a girl with large, soulful brown eyes and a manner of rapt
earnestness, who uttered her plaint in a tone of exceeding bitterness:
And we came together in love!
At that, Cicily Hamilton forgot her petulance over the tumult, and
smiled with the sweetness that was characteristic of her.
Really, you know, she confessed, almost contritely, I don't like
to lecture you in my own house; but we came together for a serious
purpose, and you are just as rude as if you'd merely come to tea.
One of the women in the front row of chairs uttered a crisp cry of
approval. This was Mrs. Flynn, a visiting militant suffragette from
England. Her aggressive manner and the eager expression of her narrow
face with the gleaming black eyes declared that this woman of forty was
by nature a fighter who delighted in the fray.
Yes; Mrs. Hamilton is right, was her caustic comment. We are
forgetting our great workthe emancipation of woman!
Cicily beamed approval on the speaker; but she inverted the other's
Yes, she agreed, our great workthe subjugation of man!
The statement was not, however, allowed to go unchallenged. Helen
Johnson, who was well along in the twenties at least, and still a
spinster, prided herself on her powers of conquest, despite the fact
that she had no husband to show for it. So, now, she spoke with an air
of languid superiority:
Oh, we've already accomplished the subjugation of man, she
drawled, and smiled complacently.
Some of us have, Cicily retorted; and the accent on the first word
pointed the allusion.
Oh, hush, dear! The chiding whisper came from Mrs. Delancy, a
gray-haired woman of sixty-five, somewhat inclined to stoutness and
having a handsome, kindly face. She was the aunt of Cicily, and had
reared the motherless girl in her New York home. Now, on a visit to her
niece, the bride of a year, she found herself inevitably involved in
the somewhat turbulent session of the Civitas Club, with which as yet
she enjoyed no great amount of sympathy. Her position in the chair
nearest the presiding officer gave her opportunity to voice the rebuke
without being overheard by anyone save the militant Mrs. Flynn, who
Cicily bent forward, and spoke softly to her aunt's ear:
I just had to say it, auntie, she avowed happily. You know, she
tried her hardest to catch Charles.
Mrs. Morton, a middle-aged society woman, who displayed sporadic
interest in the cause of woman during the dull season, now rose from
the chair immediately behind Mrs. Flynn, and spoke with a tone of great
Yes, ladies of the Civitas Club, Mrs. Flynn is perfectly right.
She indicated the identity of the militant suffragette, who was a
stranger to most of those in the company, by a sweeping gesture. It is
our duty to follow firmly on the path which our sister has indicated
toward the emancipation of woman. We should get the club started at
once, and the work done immediately. Lent will be over soon, and then
there will be no time for it.
Yes, indeed, Cicily agreed enthusiastically, as Mrs. Morton again
subsided into her chair; let's get the club going right away. The
presiding officer hesitated for a moment, fumbling among the papers on
the table. What's the name? Oh, here it is! she concluded, lifting
a sheet from the litter before her. Listen! It's the Civitas Society
for the Uplift of Woman and for Encouraging the Spread of Social
Equality among the Masses.
As this gratifyingly sonorous designation was enunciated by Cicily
in her most impressive voice, the members of the club straightened in
their places with obvious pride, and there was a burst of
hand-clapping. Ruth Howard's great eyes rolled delightedly.
Oh, she gushed, isn't it a darling duck of a name! Let's seethe
Vivitas Society forforwhat is it for, anyhow?
Cicily came to the rescue of the forgetful zealot.
It's for the purpose of bringing men and women closer together,
she explained with dignity.
Miss Johnson gushed approval with her usual air of coquettish
Oh, read it again, Cicily, she urged. It's so inspiring!
Yes, do read it again, a number of enthusiasts cried in chorus.
The presiding officer was on the point of complying with the demand
for a repetition of the sonorous nomenclature:
The Civitas Society for she began, with stately emphasis. But
she broke off abruptly, under the impulse of a change in mood. Oh,
what's the use? she questioned flippantly. You'll all get copies of
it in full in your mail to-morrow morning. Mightily pleased with this
labor-saving expedient, Cicily beamed on her fellow club-members. What
next? she inquired, amiably.
Mrs. Carrington rose to her feet, and addressed the assembly with
that dignity befitting one deeply experienced in parliamentary
Having voted on the name, she remarked ponderously, evidently
undisturbed by the exceedingly informal nature of the voting, if such
it could be called, I think it is now time for us to start the
society. She stared condescendingly through her lorgnette at the duly
impressed company, and sank back into her chair.
There were many exclamations of assent to Mrs. Carrington's timely
proposal, and much nodding of heads. Plainly, the ladies were minded to
start the society forthwith. Unhappily, however, there remained an
obstacle to the accomplishment of that desirable enda somewhat
general ignorance as to the proper method of procedure. Ruth Howard
turned the gaze of her large brown eyes wistfully on Mrs. Carrington,
and voiced the dilemma by a question:
How do we start? she asked, in a tone of gentle wonder.
Before Mrs. Carrington could formulate a reply to this pertinent
interrogation, the militant suffragette from England began an oration.
The start of a great movement such as is this, Mrs. Flynn
declaimed, is like unto the start of a great race, or the start of a
noble sport; it is like
Cicily was so enthusiastic over this explanation that she
interrupted the speaker in order to demonstrate the fact that she
understood the matter perfectly.
You mean, she exclaimed joyously, that you blow a whistle, or
shoot a pistol!
This appalling ignorance of parliamentary tactics induced some of
the more learned to ill-concealed titters; Miss Johnson permitted
herself to laugh in a gurgling note that she affected. But it was Mrs.
Carrington who took it on herself to utter a veiled rebuke.
I fear Mrs. Hamilton has not been a member of many clubs, she
At Miss Johnson's open flouting, Cicily had flushed painfully. Now,
however, she was ready with a retort to Mrs. Carrington's implied
Oh, on the contrary! she exclaimed. Why, I was chief rooter of
the Pi Iota Gammas, when I went to boarding-school at Briarcliff.
Miss Johnson spoke with dangerous suavity of manner:
Then, my dear, since you were one of the Pigspardon my using the
English of it, but I never could pronounce those Greek letters
Of course not, Cicily interrupted, with her sweetest smile. I
remember, Helen, dear: you had no chance to practise, not having
belonged at Briarcliff.
Kindly Mrs. Delancy was on nettles during the passage of the gently
spoken, but none the less acrimonious, remarks between her niece and
Miss Johnson. She was well aware of Cicily's deep-seated aversion for
the coquettish older woman, who had not scrupled to employ all her arts
to win away another's lover. That she had failed utterly in her efforts
to make an impression on the heart of Charles Hamilton did not mitigate
the offense in the estimation of the bride. So strong was Cicily's
feeling, indeed, and so impulsive her temperament, that the aunt was
really alarmed for fear of an open rupture between the two young women,
for Helen Johnson had a venomous tongue, and a liking for its
employment. So, now, Mrs. Delancy hastened to break off a conversation
that threatened disaster.
Let us select the officers, the first thing, she suggested, rising
for the sake of effectiveness in securing attention to herself. It is,
I believe, usual in clubs to have officers, and, for that reason, it
seems to me that it would be well to select officers for this club,
here and now. Mrs. Delancy reseated herself, well satisfied with her
effort, for there was a general buzz of interest among her auditors.
Cicily, with the lively change of moods that was distinctive of her,
was instantly smiling again, but now with sincerity. Without a moment
of hesitation, she accepted the suggestion, and acted upon it. She
turned toward Mrs. Carrington, and addressed her words to that
Yes, indeed, she declared gladly, I accept the suggestion....
Won't you be president, Mrs. Carrington?
The important lady was obviously delighted by this suggestion. She
smiled radiantly, and she fairly preened herself so that the spangles
on her black gown shone proudly.
Thank you, my dear Mrs. Hamilton, she replied tenderly, with a
pretense of humility that failed completely. But I believe there are
certain formalities that are ordinarily observedI believe that it is
a matter of selection by the club as a whole. Of course, if She
paused expectantly, and regarded those about her with a smile that was
weighted with suggestion.
Cicily was somewhat perturbed by the error into which she had
fallen. It occurred to her that Helen Johnson might here find another
opportunity for the gratification of malice. A glance showed that this
detestable young woman was in fact exchanging pitying glances with Mrs.
Flynn. Cicily was flushed with chagrin, as she spoke falteringly, with
an apologetic inflection:
Oh, the president has to be elected? I beg your pardon! I thought
it was like the army, andwent by age.
At this unfortunate explanation, the simper of gratified vanity on
Mrs. Carrington's features vanished as if by magic. She stiffened
visibly, as she acridly ejaculated a single word:
Really! The inflection was scathing.
Mrs. Flynn, who was smiling complacently over the evident confusion
of Cicily, now stood up to instruct that unhappy presiding officer:
No, indeed, Mrs. Hamilton, she announced with great earnestness,
for the most part, it is the young women, even young wives no older
than yourself oftentimes, who are at the front, fighting gloriously the
battle of all women in this great movement.... At least, that is the
way in England. She paused and bridled as she surveyed the attentive
company, her manner full of self-content. There, I may say, the
youngest and the most beautiful women have been the leaders in the
Cicily did not hesitate to remove all ambiguity from the utterance
of the militant suffragette with the sallow, narrow face.
And you were a great leader, were you not, Mrs. Flynn? she
There were covert smiles from the other women; but the Englishwoman
was frankly gratified by the implication. She was smiling with pleasure
as she answered:
I may say truthfully that I know the inside of almost every
police-station in London.
At this startling announcement, uttered with every appearance of
pride, the suffragette's hearers displayed their amazement by
exclamations and gestures. Mrs. Carrington especially made manifest the
fact that she had scant patience with this manner of martyrdom in the
cause of woman's emancipation.
My dear Mrs. Flynn, she said, with a hint of contempt in her
voice, here in America, we do not think that getting into jail is
necessarily a cause for pride. There were murmurs of assent from most
of the others; but Mrs. Flynn herself was in no wise daunted.
Well, then, it should be, she retorted, briskly. Zeal is the
I think that Mrs. Flynn should be president, Miss Johnson cried
with sudden enthusiasm. She has suffered in the cause!
Oh, for that matter, interjected Mrs. Morton flippantly, most of
us are married. It was known to all those whom she addressed, save
perhaps the Englishwoman, that at the age of forty Mrs. Morton had
undergone two divorces, and that she was now living wretchedly with a
third husband, so she spoke with the authority of one having had
But Mrs. Flynn was too much interested in her own harrowing
experiences to be diverted by cynical raillery.
The last time I went to jail, she related, I had chained myself
to the gallery in the House of Commons, and, when they tried to release
me, I bit a policemanhard!
Oh, you man-eater! It was Cicily who uttered the exclamation,
I fail to see why, if one should prefer even Chicago roast beef to
an Irish policeman, that should be held against one. This was Mrs.
Carrington's indignant comment on the narrative of the mordant martyr.
The remark affected Mrs. Flynn, however, in a fashion totally
unexpected. She cried out in genuine horror and disgust over the
Good heavens! Do you imagine I would ever bite an Irish policeman?
If not, Mrs. Carrington rejoined slyly, you will have very small
opportunity in New York for the exercise of your very peculiar
Cicily interposed a remark concerning the appetizing charms of some
of the mounted policemen. It seemed to her that the conversation
between the two older women had reached a point where interruption were
the course of prudence. I think we had better do some more business,
now, she added hastily, with an appealing glance toward her aunt.
Mrs. Delancy rose to the emergency on the instant.
By all means, she urged. Let us get on with the business. We
haven't been going ahead very fast, it seems to me. Why not elect the
officers right away?
Once again, the entire company became agog with interest over the
project of securing duly authorized officials. There were murmured
conversations, confidential whisperings. As Ruth Howard earnestly
declared, it was so excitinga real election. A stealthy canvas of
candidates was in full swing. The names of Mrs. Flynn and of Mrs.
Carrington were heard oftenest. Incidentally, certain sentences threw
light on individual methods of determining executive merit. A prim
spinster shook her head violently over some suggestion from the woman
beside her. No, my dear, she replied aggressively, I certainly shall
not vote for hervote for a woman who wears a transformation? No,
indeed!... Cicily improved the interval of general bustle to inquire
secretly of her aunt as to the possible shininess of her nose. It
always gets shiny when I get excited, she explained, ruefully. As a
matter of fact, there was nothing whatever the matter with that dainty
feature, which had a fascination all its own by reason of the fact that
one was forever wondering whether it was classically straight or
up-tilted just the least infinitesimal fraction.
It was Mrs. Morton who first took energetic action toward an
election. She stood up, and spoke with a tone of finality:
I think that dear Mrs. Carrington would make a splendid officer. I
nominate dear Mrs. Carrington for our president.
Did you hear that, Mrs. Carrington? Cicily inquired, with a
pleased smile for the one thus honored. You're nominated.
Oh, it's so thrilling! Ruth Howard exclaimed, with irrepressible
But Miss Johnson, to whom Ruth particularly addressed herself, had
on occasion been unmercifully snubbed by Mrs. Carrington. In
consequence, now, she showed no sign of sympathy with her companion's
emotion. On the contrary, she sniffed indignantly, and muttered
something about that woman!
Meantime, Mrs. Morton was waxing restless over the fact that things
remained at a standstill, despite the nomination she had made. She rose
to her feet, and surveyed the company with a glance eloquent of haughty
I am waiting for a second to my motion, she remarked, icily. Then,
as there was no audible response to this information, she added with
rising indignation: Well, really! There was a wealth of contemptuous
reproach in the tone.
The effect on the susceptible Cicily was instantaneous. With her
customary impulsiveness, and her eagerness to do the right thing for
any and all persons, she felt that she herself had been woefully remiss
in not having hurried to Mrs. Morton's support at once. So, to make
amends, she spoke with vivacity:
Oh, I second it!... Mrs. Carrington, she continued, turning to the
gratified candidate, you're seconded. She was rewarded for her
conduct by a stately bow of thanks from Mrs. Morton. Half a dozen
others, taking their cue from the presiding officer, noisily cried out
in seconding the candidacy of Mrs. Carrington, whereat Mrs. Morton grew
flushed with pleasure, and was moved to consummate the affair without a
I move that the election of Mrs. Carrington as president be now
made, and also that the election be made unanimous, she demanded, with
much unction in her voice. She smiled persuasively at the presiding
officer as she concluded: Won't you put that motion, my dear?
Cicily rose to the occasion with an access of becoming dignity.
It is moved and seconded, she announced loudly, that Mrs.
Carrington be elected president of this club. All in favor of this
One moment, please, Miss Johnson interrupted, excitedly. Madam
Chairman, I move that Mrs. Flynn, the great, the tried, the proven, the
trusted crusader in the cause of women, from England, be elected
president, and that her election be made unanimous. She paused to turn
to Ruth, whom she addressed in a fierce whisper: If you don't second
me, I'll never speak to you again.
Oh, I second you, Ruth cried, anxiously. Of course, I second
But, by this time, Cicily had come to a realization of the fact that
the other women present were every whit as ignorant of parliamentary
law as was she herself. So, in this emergency, she did not scruple to
make audacious retort. She answered with exceeding blandness:
But, you see, Miss Johnson, there's already a motion before the
Thereupon, Mrs. Morton hastened valiantly to her own support.
Yes, indeed, she declared, haughtily; my motion was first. I must
insist that it be voted upon. If Miss Johnson wished to have an
imported English president for our American society, she should have
nominated Mrs. Flynn first. She made direct appeal to the presiding
officer. Am I not right, dear?
Cicily beamed on Mrs. Morton, and was about to reply, when a sudden
thought came to her that did greater credit to her ingenuity than to
her executive knowledge. Forthwith, she beamed, somewhat
hypocritically, on Miss Johnson in turn.
Yes, certainly, she affirmed; I'm sure you're both quite right.
Thank you, Madam Chairman, for agreeing with me, Miss Johnson
replied, placated by Cicily's unexpected amiability toward her. My
motion also is before the house, and I insist that it be voted on. Mrs.
Flynn has been seconded.
There was a spirit of hostility in the manner with which Miss
Johnson and Mrs. Morton faced each other that boded ill for peace. The
rival candidates sat in rigid erectness, disdainfully aloof while their
supporters wrangled. The whisperings of the others suggested a growing
acrimoniousness of debate. That earnest maiden, Ruth, was alarmed by
the tension of strife.
I think I'd rather go, she faltered. I'm afraid you're going to
But the resources of Cicily's inspiration were by no means ended.
She waved a conciliatory hand toward the adversaries, and spoke with an
air of finality that produced an instantaneous effect as of oil on
I'll tell you: I'll put one motion, and the other can be an
amendment. At this profound suggestion, the whole company breathed a
sigh of relief. Only Ruth appeared somewhat puzzled.
What's an amendment? she questioned frankly, while the others
regarded her with evident scorn for such ignorance.
An amendment, Ruth, the presiding officer explained patiently,
isisoh, just listen, and don't interrupt the proceedings, and
you'll know all about it in a few minutes. She beamed once again,
first on Mrs. Morton and then on Miss Johnson. Which of you would
rather be the amendment? she inquired.
Mrs. Morton, as became her years, was first to make reply.
It's entirely immaterial to me, just so my motion is put.
Miss Johnson adopted a manner that was not without signs of heroic
I'll be the amendment, were her words. With that, she bowed very
formally to Mrs. Morton, who returned the salute with a fine dignity,
after which the two at last subsided into their chairs.
Cicily was elated with the subtle manner in which she had evolved
order out of chaos. Her eyes glowed with pride, and the flush in her
cheeks deepened. There was an added music in her voice, as she once
more addressed the company.
Splendid! she ejaculated. Now, all in favor of Mrs. Motion's
mortonI mean Mrs. Morton's motion, please say ay!
In a clear, ringing voice she led the chorus in the affirmative.
Yes, every woman present, including the presiding officer, voted an
enthusiastic ay, whereupon Cicily declared the motion carried; and Mrs.
Morton rose and said: Thank you, ladies. Next, Mrs. Carrington stood
up, placed a hand on her heart, and expressed her appreciation of the
honor done her: I deeply thank you, ladies. The incident was
fittingly concluded by an outburst of applause in which all the club
joined, although Ruth beat her palms in rather a bewildered manner....
Cicily immediately entered on the new phase of the situation.
Now, all in favor of Miss Johnson's amendment, please say ay, she
directed. Again, she led the chorus in the affirmative, and the entire
company joined in the vote without a dissenting voice. Amendment
carried, the presiding officer announced, gleefully. It was now the
turn of Miss Johnson to rise and offer her thanks, and Mrs. Flynn
followed, saying, very neatly: From over the sea, I thank you. The
usual applause was of the heartiest.... But Cicily was still energetic.
Now, all in favor of the motion and of the amendment, please say
ay, she requested. For the third time, she led the chorus, and the
vote was unopposedly affirmative. The motion and the amendment are
carried unanimously, Cicily announced, and the hand clapping sounded a
happy content on the part of the Civitas Club.
Afterward, came a little intermission of conversation in which was
expressed much appreciation of the efficiency of the club in carrying
on its session. It all goes to show how businesslike women can be,
Mrs. Carrington remarked, triumphantly. Mrs. Flynn was even more
emphatic. I've never seen a meeting more gloriously typical of our
great cause. The tribute was welcomed with a buzz of assent.... But,
finally, there came a lull in the talking. It was broken by Mrs.
Delancy, who spoke thoughtlessly out of a confused mind, with no
suspicion as to the sinister effect to be wrought by her words:
Who's elected? was her simple question.
There was a moment of amazed silence, in which the members of the
club stared at one another with widened eyes. It was broken very
speedily, however, by Mrs. Carrington, who rose to her feet with more
activity of movement than was customary to her dignified bearing.
I have the honor, she stated, sharply.
Instantly, Mrs. Flynn, the militant suffragette, was up, her face
Pardon me, but the honor belongs to me, she snapped, regarding the
first claimant with a fierce indignation that was returned in kind.
Most of the others were too confounded for speech, but Mrs. Morton rose
to support her candidate's claims.
Pray pardon me, she began placatingly, but probably Mrs. Flynn
does not understand. The interpretation of parliamentary law in England
may be quite different. Probably, it is. The customs of that country
vary widely from ours in many respects. So, they probably do in the
matter of elections in clubs. Now, I belong to ten clubsAmerican
clubsand I assure you that, according to the parliamentary law in
every one of those ten clubs, Mrs. Carrington is certainly elected.
This advocacy was, naturally, a challenge to Miss Johnson, who
promptly rose up to champion her own candidate.
Mrs. Carrington, I am sure, has no desire to take advantage of a
distinguished stranger within our gatesand one who has served as
gloriously in the cause as Mrs. Flynnbut, even if someone she
regarded Mrs. Morton with great significanceI say, even if someone
should wish to take unfair advantage of a technicality, it would be
altogether impossible, for my amendment to the original motion was
carriedunanimously! Mrs. Flynn is the president of the club, duly
Some hazy notion of parliamentary procedure moved Mrs. Flynn to a
I think the matter might best be settled by the chair, she said,
doubtfully. The chair put the motion. Let us then leave the decision
to Madam Chairman. Mrs. Carrington nodded a stately agreement to the
proposal, and the company as a whole appeared vastly relieved, with the
exceptions of Miss Johnson, who sniffed defiantly, and of Ruth, who
appeared more than ever bewildered by the succession of events.
Now, at last, Cicily felt herself baffled by the crisis of her own
making. She looked from one to another with reproach in her amber eyes.
Butbut you cannot expect me to decide between my guests, she
espostulated. There was appeal for relief in the pathetic droop of the
scarlet lips of the bride, but it was of no avail. The company asserted
with vehemence that she must render the decision in this unfortunate
dilemma.... And, again, the angel of inspiration whispered a solution
of the difficulty. Impulsive as ever, a radiant smile curved her mouth,
and her eyes shone happily.
Very well, she yielded. Since you insist on putting your hostess
in such an unfortunate position, I decide that it is up to the ladies
themselves. Which one wishes to take the office, to force herself
forward against the wishes of the other? She cast a seemingly
guileless glance of inquiry first on Mrs. Carrington, then on Mrs.
Flynn, who simultaneously uttered exclamations of indignation at the
imputation thus laid upon them.
Mrs. Carrington was quick to make explicit answer.
If the ladies of the club do not desire me to be president, I must
decline to accept the office, in spite of a unanimous vote. If,
however She broke off to stare accusingly at her rival, then about
the room in search of encouragement for her claims.
Mrs. Flynn took advantage of the opportunity for speech in her own
Naturally, as a stranger, I hesitate to force myself forward, even
though my record is such that it is hard to see how any opposition
could possibly develop against me. However
Of course, Mrs. Carrington is elected, Mrs. Morton interrupted.
At the same time, Miss Johnson urged aggressiveness on her
Don't back down, she implored. Remember the policeman!
Mrs. Carrington muttered maliciously, as she caught the words.
In view of Mrs. Flynn's record, she began, I scarcely feel
justified Her mock humility was copied by Mrs. Flynn on the instant.
As a stranger, I cannot force myself
The presiding officer decided that this was in truth the
psychological moment in which to dominate the situation.
Indeed, the chair appreciates the rare quality of your
self-denial, she announced in an authoritative voice that commanded
the respectful attention of all. Now, ladies, she continued with an
air of grave rebuke, you see what comes of putting your hostess in
such an unfortunate position as compelling her to force on one of her
guests something she doesn't want. Mrs. Carrington and Mrs. Flynn,
both, are my friends and my guests as well, and I must certainly
decline to embarrass them further in this matter. The only thing I can
do, since neither of them is willing to take the presidency, is
regretfully to accept it myself. So, I will be president, and I do now
so declare myself.
At this astounding decision, Mrs. Carrington and Mrs. Flynn sank
down in their chairs, too dumfounded to protest: but their distress,
along with the similar emotion of Mrs. Morton and Miss Johnson, was not
observed by the others in the general hubbub of enthusiasm aroused by
the new Solomon come to judgment. After an interval of tumultuous
cheering, there came demand for a speech by the newly fleeted
president.... Cicily acceded, after due urging.
I'm ever so much obliged to you, she declared, and kissed her
hands gracefully to her fellow club-members. Thereat, the applause was
of the briskest. Really, I am, she made assurance, and wafted another
kiss. On this occasion, the applause was of even greater volume than
ever before, although four of those present did not join in the ovation
to the new chief executive. Yes, reallytruly! Cicily went on,
fluently. And I think this is a wonderful club we have started. We
need a club. It gives usus married womensomething to do. That's the
real answerthe real cause, I think, of the woman question. These men
have gone on inventing vacuum cleaners and gas-stoves and apartment
hotels and servants that know more than we do. They haven't treated us
fairly. They've taken away all our occupation, and now we've got to
retaliate. We can't keep house for them any more, and, if weif we
care anything about them, or want to help them, we've got to go into
business, or to help them vote.... Well, they brought it on themselves.
They've got too proud. They used to be dependent on us: now, we're
dependent on them, on their inventions and their servants. So, we're
going to show them. We'll make them dependent on us in the wider
outside world, just as they used to be dependent on us in the home.
They've hurt our pride, and we're going to make them pay. They say we
are nervous and reckless and always on the go.... It's their fault:
they've made the new woman, and now we are going to make the new man.
They put us out of work, and made us so, and now they're going to be
sorry.... The time is fast coming when each of us will have at least
three or four men
It was Miss Johnson who caused the interruption to this burst of
Why, that's positively immoral! gasped the outraged spinster.
at least three or four men dependent upon her, concluded the
unabashed president of the Civitas Club, as she cast a withering look
on her enemy, who quailed visibly. And I think that's all, Cicily
added, contentedly. She felt that she could with justice claim to have
conducted herself nobly throughout a critical situation.
I move that we adjourn, said Mrs. Flynn, energetically. Her
vigorous temperament would permit no longer sulking in silence despite
the humiliation to which she had so recently been subjected.
Mrs. Carrington, however, had not yet rejected all hope of office.
We must first select a secretary, she suggested.
This was opposed by Miss Johnson, always persistently moved to
discredit the older woman who had snubbed her socially.
Why not select a professional stenographer as a member of the club;
then make her secretary? Any number of young working women would
doubtless be glad of the honor. This brought an outcry against the
admission of any professional working woman into the exclusive Civitas.
Oh, remember that we have ideals! Ruth Howard remonstrated, with
sincere, if vague, adherence to her ideals; and she up-turned her great
eyes toward the ceiling.
Mrs. Flynn, curiously enough, was opposed to the idealist in this
Yes, she said, I fear that it's quite true. The professional
working woman thinks more of her salary and a comfortable living than
of our great cause.
Cicily herself disposed of the matter with a blithesome nonchalance
that was beautiful to behold.
Oh, don't bother, was her way of cutting the Gordian knot. I'll
make my husband's stenographer do the work.
I move that we adjourn, the militant suffragette repeated in a
most businesslike manner.
Mrs. Carrington was determined that her rival should not outdistance
her at the finish. She spoke with her most forcible dignity:
I second the motion.
The motion was put and carried.... Thus ended the first session of
that epoch-marking organization: The Civitas Society for the Uplift of
Woman and for Encouraging the Spread of Social Equality among the
Cicily Hamilton, bride of a year, was seemingly as fortunate a young
woman as the city of New York could offer to an envious world. Her
house in the East Sixties, just off the Avenue, was a charming home,
dainty, luxurious, in the best of taste, with a certain individuality
in its arrangement and ornamentation that spoke agreeably of the
personality of its mistress. Her husband, Charles Hamilton, was a
handsome man of twenty-six, who adored his wife, although recently, in
the months since the waning of the honeymoon, he had been so absorbed
in business cares that he had rather neglected those acts of tenderness
so vital to a woman's happiness. Some difficulties that disturbed him
downtown rendered him often preoccupied when at home, and the effect on
his wife was unwholesome. Little by little, the girl-woman felt a
certain discontent growing within her, indeterminate in a great
measure, but none the less forceful in its influence on her moods day
The statements that Cicily had made in her inaugural speech to the
Civitas Society exhibited, albeit crudely, some of the facts breeding
revolt in her. In very truth, she found herself without sufficient
occupation to hold her thoughts from fanciful flights that led to no
satisfactory result in action. An excellent housekeeper, who was far
wiser in matters of ménage than she could ever be, held admirable sway
over the domestic machinery. The servants, thus directed, were as those
untroubling inventions of which she had complained. Since she was not
devoted to the distraction of social gaieties, Cicily found an
appalling amount, of unemployed time on her hands. She was blest with
an excellent education; but, with no great fondness for knowledge as
such, she was not inclined to prosecute any particular study with the
ardor of the scholar. To rid herself of the boredom induced by this
state of affairs, the young wife decided that she must develop a new
interest in her fellow creatures. She went farther, and resolved to
establish herself on a basis of equality with her husband, not merely
in love, but in the sterner world of business. Thus, she was brought to
entertain a convincing belief in equality for the sexes, in society and
in the home.
She revealed something of her mind and heart to her aunt on the
afternoon of the day following the singular session of the Civitas
Society. The two women were together in Cicily's boudoir, a delightful
room, all paneled in rose silk, with furniture Louis Quatorze,
and Dresden ornaments.... It was an hour yet before time for the
dressing-bell. Cicily, in a negligee of white silk that fitted well
with the color scheme of the room and that only emphasized the purity
of her ivory skin, suddenly sat up erect in the chair where she had
been nestling in curving abandonment.
Why, Aunt Emma, she exclaimed, with a new sparkle in the amber
eyes, we forgot to set any date for another meeting of the club?
But Mrs. Delancy did not seem impressed by the oversight.
Do you think it makes any real difference, dear? she questioned
At this taunt, Cicily assumed an air of reproach that was hardly
calculated to deceive the astute old lady, who had known the girl for
Don't you take our club seriously? she questioned in her turn. Her
musical voice was touchingly plaintive.
Oh, it's serious enough, was the retort. It's either seriously
pitiful, or pitifully serious, whichever way you choose to look at it.
Cicily abandoned her disguise of concern, and laughed heartily
before she spoke again.
I must admit that I think it's a joke, myself, she admitted:
more's the pity. There was a note of genuine regret in her voice now.
Then, she smiled again, with much zest. But it was so
amusingstirring them up, and then calmly taking the presidency
myself, because none of them knew just how to stop me!
It was barefaced robbery! Mrs. Delancy exclaimed reprovingly,
although she, too, was compelled to smile at the audacity of the
achievement. But, she added meditatively, I really don't see what it
all amounts to, anyhow?
I suspect that you didn't listen attentively to the president's
speech, Cicily railed.
I listened, Mrs. Delancy declared, firmly. In spite of that fact,
my dear, what does it all mean? Down deep, are you serious in some
things I have heard you say, lately?
Oh, yes, I'm serious enough, was the answer, spoken with a hint of
bitterness in the tone. That is, I'm seriously boreddesperately
bored, for the matter of that. I tell you, Aunt Emma, a married woman
must have something to do. As for me, why, I have absolutely nothing to
do. Those other women, too, or at least most of them, have nothing to
do, and they are all desperately bored. Well, that's the cause of the
new club. Unfortunately, the club, too, has nothing to donothing at
alland so, the club, too, is desperately bored.... Oh, if only I
could give that club an objecta real object!
Mrs. Delancy murmured some remonstrance over the new enthusiasm that
sounded in her niece's voice while uttering the aspiration in behalf of
the Civitas Society; but the bride paid no heed.
Yes, she mused, straightening the arches of her brows in a frown
of perplexity, it could be made something, with an object. I myself
could be made something, with an objectsomething worth while to
strive for.... Heavens, how I wish I had something to do!
This iconoclastic fashion of speech was not patiently endured by the
orthodox aunt, who listened to the plaint with marked displeasure.
A bride with a young husband and a beautiful home, she remarked
tartly, seeking something to do! In my day, a bride was about the
busiest and the happiest person in the community. Her voice took on a
tone of tender reminiscence, and a little color crept into the wrinkled
pallor of her cheeks, and she perked her head a bit coquettishly, in a
youthful manner not unbecoming, as she continued: I remember how
happyoh, how happy!I was then!
Cicily, however, displayed a rather shocking lack of sympathy for
this emotion on the part of her relative. She was, in fact, selfishly
absorbed in her own concerns, after the manner of human nature, whether
young or old.
Yes, she said, almost spitefully, I have noticed how always old
married ladies continually remember the happy time when they were
brides. A bride's happy time is as much advertised as a successful
soap.... But IIwell, I'm not a bride any longerthat's all. I've
been married a whole year!
A whole year! Mrs. Delancy spoke the word with the fine scorn of
one who was looking forward complacently to the celebration of a golden
wedding anniversary in the near future.
Cicily, however, was impervious to the sarcasm of the repetition.
Yes, she repeated gloomily, a whole year. Think of it.... And all
the women in my family live to be seventy. Mamma would have been alive
if she hadn't been drowned. A good many live to be eighty. Why, you're
not seventy yet. Poor dear! You may have ten or a dozen more years of
Mrs. Delancy was actually horrified by her niece's commiseration.
Cicily, she eluded, you must not speak in that manner. I've been
happily married. You
The afflicted bride was not to be turned aside from her woe.
I'm perfectly wretched, she announced, fiercely. Auntie, Charles
is a bigamist!
Good Lord! Mrs. Delancy ejaculated with pious fervor, and sank
back limply in her chair, too much overcome for further utterance.
Then, in a flash of memory, she beheld again the facts as she had known
them as to her niece's courtship and marriage. The girl and Charles
Hamilton had been sweethearts as children. The boy had developed into
the man without ever apparently wavering in his one allegiance. Cicily,
too, had had eyes for no other suitor, even when many flocked about
her, drawn by the fascination of her vivacious beauty and the little
graces of her form and the varied brilliance of her moods. It was
because of the steadfastness of the two lovers in their devotion that
Mr. and Mrs. Delancy had permitted themselves to be persuaded into
granting consent for an early marriage. It had seemed to them that the
constancy of the pair was sufficiently established. They believed that
here was indeed material for the making of an ideal union. Their belief
seemed justified by the facts in the outcome, for bride and groom
showed all the evidences of rapturous happiness in their union. It had
only been revealed during this present visit to the household by the
aunt that, somehow, things were not as they should be between these two
erstwhile so fond.... And now, at last, the truth was revealed in all
its revolting nudity. Mrs. Delancy recalled, with new understanding of
its fatal significance, the aloof manner recently worn by the young
husband in his home. So, this was the ghastly explanation of the
change: The man was a bigamist! The distraught woman had hardly ears
for the words her niece was speaking.
Yes, Cicily said, after a long, mournful pause, besides me,
Charles has married She paused, one foot in a dainty satin slipper
beating angrily on the white fur of the rug.
What woman? Mrs. Delancy demanded, with wrathful curiosity.
Oh, a factory full of them! The young wife spoke the accusation
with a world of bitterness in her voice.
Good gracious, what an extraordinary man! Mrs. Delancy, under the
stimulus of this outrageous guilt again sat erect in her chair. Once
more, the flush showed daintily in the withered cheeks; but, now, there
was no hint of tenderness in the roseit was the red of anger. I know
how you must feel, dear, she said, gently. I was jealous once, of one
woman. But to be jealous of a factory fulloh, Lord!
Yes, Cicily declared, in tremulous tones, all of them, and the
Mrs. Delancy bounced from her seat, then slowly subsided into the
depths of the easy chair, whence she fairly gaped at her former ward.
When, finally, she spoke, it was slowly, with full conviction.
Cicily, you're crazy!
No, the girl protested, sadly; only heartbroken. I am so
miserable that I wish I were dead!
But, my dear, Mrs. Delancy argued, it can't be that you are
quiteersensible, you know.
Of course, I'm not sensible, Cicily admitted, petulantly. I said
I was jealous, didn't I? Naturally, I can't be sensible.
But Charles can't be married to the men, too! Mrs. Delancy
At that, Cicily flared in a burst of genuine anger.
Yes, he is, too, she stormed; and to the women, tooto the
buildings, to the machinery, to the nasty ground, to the
fire-escapesto every single thing about that horrid business of his!
Oh, I hate it! I hate it! I hate every one of them!... And he is a
bigamist, I tell youyes, a bigamist! He's married to me and to his
business, too, and he cares more for his business!
Humph! The exclamation came from Mrs. Delancy with much energy. It
was surcharged, with relief, for the tragedy was made clear to her at
last. Surely, there was room for trouble in the situation, but nothing
like that over which she had shuddered during the period of her
misapprehension. In the first minute of relief, she felt aroused to
indignation against her niece who had so needlessly shocked her. I do
wish, Cicily, she remonstrated, that you would endeavor to curb your
impetuosity. It leads you into such absurdities of speech and of
action. Your extravagant way of opening this subject caused me utterly
to mistake your meaning, and set me all a-tremblefor a tempest in a
I think I'll get a divorce, Cicily declared, defiantly. The bride
was not in an apologetic mood, inasmuch, as she regarded herself as the
one undeservedly suffering under great wrongs.
Perhaps! Mrs. Delancy retorted, sarcastically. Her usual good
humor was returning, after the first reaction from the stress she had
undergone by reason of the young wife's fantastic mode of speech. I
suppose you will name Charles's business as the co-respondent.
It takes more out of him than any woman could, was the spirited
retort. Of course, I shall. Why not?
Mrs. Delancy, now thoroughly amused, explained to her niece some
details concerning the grounds required by the statutes in the state of
New York for the granting of absolute divorce, of which hitherto the
carefully nurtured girl had been in total ignorance. Cicily was at
first astounded, and then dismayed. But, in the end, she regained her
poise, and reverted with earnestness to the need of reform in the
courts where such gross injustice could be. She surmised even that in
this field she might find ultimately some outlet of a satisfactory sort
for her wasted energies.
Why, I and my club, and other clubs like it, she concluded, find
the cause of our being in such things as this. We women haven't any
occupation, and we haven't any husbands, essentially speakingand
we're determined to have both.
The bold declaration was offensive to the old lady's sense of
You can't interfere with your husband's business, Cicily, she said
by way of rebuke, somewhat stiffly.
The young wife, however, was emancipated from such admonitions. She
did not hesitate to express her dissent boldly.
Yes, she exclaimed indignantly, that's the idea that you old
married women have been putting up with, without ever whimpering. Why,
you've even been preaching it yourselvespreaching it until you've
spoilt the men utterly. So, now, thanks to your namby-pamby knuckling
under always, it's business first, last, and all the timeand marriage
just nowhere. I tell you, it's all wrong.... I know you're older, she
went on vehemently, as Mrs. Delancy's lips parted. I guess that's why
you're wrong.... Anyhow, it isn't as it was intended. For the matter of
that, which was first, marriage or business? Did Adam have a business
when he married? Huh! There! No man could answer that! Cicily paused
in triumph, and, in the elation wrought by developing a successful
argument, turned luminous eyes on her aunt, while her red lips bent
into the daintiest of smiles.
Mrs. Delancy was not to be beguiled from the fixed habits of
thoughts carried through scores of years by the winsome blandishments
of her whilom ward. She had no answering gentleness for the gladness in
the girl's face. When she spoke, it was with an emphasis of acute
Do you mean that you are going to make your husband choose between
you and his business, Cicily?
Something in the tone disturbed the young wife's serenity. The
direct question itself was sufficient to destroy the momentary
equanimity evolved out of a mental achievement such as the argument
from Adam. She realized, on the instant, that her desire must be
defeated by the facts of life.
No, she admitted, after a brief period of hesitancy, of course
not. Charles chooses business firstany man would.
The inexorable question followed:
Well, what are you going to do? Then, as no answer came: I beg of
you, Cicily, not to be rash. Don't do anything that will cause you
regret after you have come into a calmer mood. Of course, once on a
time, marriage was first with men, and I think that it should be first
nowI know that it should. But it is the truth that business has now
come to be first in the lives of our American men. And, my dear, you
can't overcome conditions all by yourself. At heart, Charles loves you,
Cicily. I'm sure of that, even though he does seem, wrapt up in his
business affairs. Yet, he loves you, just the same. That's the one
thing we older women learn to cling to, to solace ourselves with: that,
deep down in their hearts, our husbands do love us, no matter how
indifferent they may seem. When a woman once loses faith in that, why,
she just can't go on, that's all. Oh, I beg you, Cicily, don't ever
lose that faith. It means shipwreck!
The young wife shook her head slowlydoubtfully; then
No, I won't put up with just that, she asserted, morosely, I want
more. I'll have more, or She checked herself abruptly, and once
again the arch of her dark brows was straightened, as she mused
somberly over her future course.
There fell an interval of silence, in which the two reflected on the
mysteries that lie between man and woman in the way of love. It was
broken finally by Mrs. Delancy, who spoke meditatively, hardly
conscious that the words were uttered aloud.
Of course, you're not really dependent on Charles. Your own
The girl's interruption came in a passionate outburst that filled
her hearer with distress and surprise. It would seem that Cicily had
been thinking very tenderly, yet very unhappily, of those mysteries of
But I am dependent on himdependent on him for every ray of
sunshine in my heart, for every breath of happiness in my life; while
he her voice broke suddenly; it came muffled as she continued
quiveringlywhile hehe's not dependent on me at all! After a
little interval, she went on, more firmly, but with the voice of
despair. That's the pity of it. That's what makes us women nowadays
turn to something elseto some other man, or to some work, some fad,
some hobby, some folly, some madnessanything to fill the void in our
hearts that our husbands forget to fill, because their whole attention
is concentrated on business.... But I'm not going to be that wife, I
give you warning. I'm going to make my husband fill all my heart, and,
too, I'm going to make him dependent on me. I'll make him know that he
can't do without me!
Nonsense! Mrs. Delancy objected, incredulously. Why, as to that,
Charles is dependent on you now. You haven't really lost his lovenot
a bit of it, my dear!
There was infinite sadness in the young wife's gesture of negation.
Aunt Emma, she said earnestly, Charles and I haven't had an
evening together in weeks. We haven't had a real old talk in months....
Why, II doubt if he even remembers what day this is!
Our first anniversary! Long ago, we planned to celebrate the
dayjust the theater and a little supper afteronly us two.... I
wonder if he will remember. The tremulous voice gave evidence that the
tears were very near.
Oh, of course, he will, Mrs. Delancy declared briskly, with a
manner of cheerful certainty. Nevertheless, out of the years of
experience in the world of married folk, a great doubt lurked in her
Cicily's head with the coronal of dark brown hair, usually poised so
proudly, now drooped dejectedly; there was no hopefulness in her tones
as she replied:
I don't knowI am afraid. Why, since the tobacco trust bought out
that Carrington box factory five months ago, and began fighting
Charles, he talks tobacco boxes in his sleep.
Don't take it so seriously, the aunt argued. All men are that
way. My dear, your Uncle Jim mumbles woolenseven during Dog Days. No,
you mustn't take things so seriously, Cicily. You are not the only wife
who has to suffer in this way. You are not the only one who was ever
lonesome. Your case isn't unusualmore pity! It's the case of almost
every wife whose husband wins in this frightful battle with business.
Years ago, dear, I suffered as you are suffering. Your uncle never told
me anything. I've never known anything at all about more than half of
his life. He rebuffed me the few times at first, when I tried to share
those things with him. He said that a woman had no place in a man's
business affairs. So, after a little, I stopped trying. For a time, I
was lonesomevery lonesomeoh, so lonesome!... And, then, I began to
make a life for myself outside the homeas he had already by his
business. I tried in my humble way to do something for others. That's
the best way to down a heartache, my deartry making someone else
The words arrested Cicily's heed. As their meaning seeped into her
consciousness, the expression of her face changed little by little.
Making people happy! She repeated the phrase as she had formulated
the idea again, very softly, with a persistence that would have
surprised Mrs. Delancy, could she have caught the inaudible murmur.
Presently, the faint rose in the pallor of her cheeks blossomed to a
deeper red, and the amber eyes grew radiant, as she lifted the long,
curving lashes, and fixed her gaze on her aunt. There was a new
animation in her voice as she spoke; there was a new determination in
the resolute set of the scarlet lips.
Why, that's something to do! she exclaimed, joyously. It's
something to do, really, after allisn't it?
Yes, her aunt agreed, sedately; something big to do. For my part,
I joined church circles, and worked first for the heathen.
Oh, bother the heathen! Cicily ejaculated, rudely. Charles is
heathen enough for me! With her characteristic impulsiveness, she
sprang to her feet, as Mrs. Delancy quietly rose to go, ran to her
aunt, and embraced that astonished woman with great fervor.
I honestly believe that you've given me the idea I was looking
for, she declared enthusiastically. You darling!... Making people
happy! It would be something for the club, too.... Yes, she concluded
decisively, I'll do it!
Do what? Mrs. Delancy questioned, bewildered by the swift
succession of moods in the girl she loved, yet could never quite
You just wait, Aunt Emma, was the baffling answer.
Mrs. Delancy turned at the door, and spoke grimly:
My dear Cicily, she said, you're getting to be quite as reticent
as your uncle and Charles.
But the girl disdained any retort to the gibe. Instead, she was
saying softly, over and over: Making other people happy! Making other
Cicily Hamilton was inclined to be captious with her maid as she
dressed that evening. She was finical to the point of absurdity even,
which is often the fault of beauty, and perhaps a fault not altogether
unbecoming, since its aim is the last elaboration of loveliness.
Indeed, the fault becomes a virtue, when its motive lies in the desire
to attain supreme charm for the one beloved. It was so with the young
wife to-night. She was filled with anxious longing to display her
beauty in its full measure for the pleasuring of the man to whom she
had given her whole heart. For that fond purpose, she was curt with her
maid, and reproachful with herself. She was deeply troubled by the
thought that a darker shade to her brows might enhance the brilliance
of her eyes. She hesitated before, but finally resisted, a temptation
to use a touch of pencil to gain the effect. She was exceedingly
querulous over the coiling of her tresses into the crown that added so
regally to the dignity of her bearing. The selection of the gown was a
matter for profound deliberation, and ended in a mood of dubiety. That
passed, however, when at last she surveyed her length in the cheval
glass. Then, she became aware, beyond peradventure of doubt, that the
white lacery of silk, molded to her slender form and interwoven with
heavy threads of gold, was supremely becoming. The gleam of precious
metal in the fabric scorned to transmute the amber of her eyes into a
glory of gold. The pearls of her necklace harmonized with the warm
pallor of her complexion.
Despite the pains taken, there remained time to spare before the
dinner hour, when the toilette had been thus happily completed. As she
was about to dismiss the maid, Cicily bethought her to ask a question.
Has Mr. Hamilton come in yet, Albine?
Yes, madama half-hour ago. He went to the study, with his
Left alone, Cicily mused on the maid's information, and bitterness
again swept over her. During the period of dressing, she had been so
absorbed in the attempt to make the most of her charms that, for the
time being, she had forgotten her apprehensions as to her husband's
neglect. Now, however, those apprehensions were recalled, and they
became more poignant. Only a stern regard for the appearance she must
present anon held her back from tears. It seemed to her longing a
dreadful thing that on this day of all others her husband must bring
back to his home this rival of whom she was so jealous. For it could
mean nothing else, if he were closeted with his secretary at this hour:
he was dallying in the embraces of business, with never a thought for
the wife whom he had sworn to love always. For all that she was
beautiful, possessed of ample fortune, married to the man of her choice
and, by reason of her youth, full of the joy of life, Cicily Hamilton
was a very wretched woman, as she strolled slowly down the broad,
winding stair, and entered the drawing-room, where already Mrs. Delancy
That good lady, in her turn, had found herself sorely perturbed. The
mood of revolt in which her niece was, caused a measure of alarm in the
bosom of the loving older woman. Her own course at this moment was not
clear to her. She had been aware that to-day was the first anniversary
of the marriage of the Hamiltons, and it was on this account that she
had prolonged her visit. Yet, she had meant to go away in time to
permit the young pair their particular fête in a solitude à deux. She, too, however, had learned of the present absorption of Mr.
Hamilton in business affairs, and there at she became suspicious that
her niece's fears as to his forgetfulness might be realized. In the
end, she had determined to remain until immediately before the dinner
hour, leaving the going or staying to be ruled by the facts as they
developed. Arrived at this decision, she had telephoned to her own home
as to the uncertainty in regard to her movements, and thereafter had
awaited the issue of events with that simple placidity which is the
boon sometimes granted by much experience of the world.
Hardly a moment after the meeting of the two women in the
drawing-room, the master of the house entered hurriedly, bearing in his
hand a sheaf of papers. Charles Hamilton was a large, dark man,
remarkably good-looking in a boyish, clean-shaven, typically American,
businesslike fashion. Still short of the thirties, he had nevertheless
formed those habits of urgent industry that characterize the successful
in the metropolis. Already, he had become enslaved by the business
man's worst habitthat most dangerous to domestic happinessthe
taking of mutual love between him and his wife as something conceded
once for all, not requiring exhibition or culture or protection or
nourishment of any sort. In this mistake he was perhaps less blamable
than are some, inasmuch as he was fettered by a great ignorance of
feminine nature. From earliest boyhood, he had been Cicily's abject
worshiper. That devotion had held him aloof from other women. In
consequence, he had missed the variety of experiences through which
many men pass, from which, perforce, they garner stores of wisdom, to
be used for good or ill as may be. Hamilton, unfortunately, knew
nothing concerning woman's foibles. He had no least suspicion as to her
constant craving for the expression of affection, her heart-hunger for
the murmured words of endearment, her poignant yearning for gentle,
tender caresses day by day. They loved; they were safely married: those
blessed facts to him were sufficient. There was no need to talk about
it. In fact, in his estimation, there was not time. There was business
to be managedno dillydallying in this day and generation, unless one
would join the down-and-out club! Such was the point of view from which
this bridegroom of a year surveyed his domestic life. It was a point of
view established almost of necessity from the environment in which he
found himself established. He was in no wise unique: he was typical of
his class. He was clean and wholesome, industrious, energetic,
cleverbut he knew nothing of woman.... So, now, he immediately rushed
up to Mrs. Delancy, without so much as a glance toward the wife who had
studied long and anxiously to make the delight of his eyes.
Hello, Aunt Emma! he exclaimed gaily, and kissed her. I am glad
you stayed over to cheer up the little girl, while husband was away
grubbing the money for her.
Oh, do you think, then, that she needs cheering? There was a world
of significance in the manner with which the old lady put the pertinent
question; but the absorbed business man was deaf to the implication.
Cicily, however, spared him the pains of any disclaimer by uttering
one for herself.
Need cheering!I! What an absurd idea!
Hamilton smiled gladly as he heard his wife speak thus bravely in
assurance of her entire contentment. Now, for the first time, he turned
toward her. But it was plain that he failed to note her appearance with
any degree of particularity. He had no phrase of appreciation for the
exquisite woman, in the exquisite gown. He spoke with a certain tone of
fondness; yet it was the fondness of habit.
That's right, he said heartily, as he crossed the room to her
side, and bestowed a perfunctory marital peck on the oval cheek. I'm
mighty glad you haven't been lonesome, sweetheart.
You were thinking that I might be lonesome? There was a note of
wistfulness in the musical voice as she asked the question. The glow in
the golden eyes uplifted to his held a shy hint of hope.
Manlike, he failed to understand the subtle appeal.
Of course, I didn't, he replied. If I thought about it at
allwhich I greatly doubt, we've been so rushed at the officeI
probably thought how glad you must be not having a man under foot
around the house when your friends called for gossip. Oh, I understand
the sex; I know how you women sit about and talk scandal.
An indignant humph! from Mrs. Delancy was ignored by Hamilton, but
he could not escape feeling a suggestion of sarcasm in his wife's
deliberately uttered comment:
Yes, Charles, you do know an awful lot about women!
I knew enough to get you, he riposted, neatly. Then, he had an
inspiration that he believed to be his duty as a host: as a matter of
fact, it was rudeness in a husband toward his wife on the first
anniversary of their marriage. He turned suavely to Mrs. Delancy.
You'll stay to dinner, of course, Aunt Emma. And he added, fatuously:
You and Cicily can chat together afterward, you know.... I've a
horrible pile of work to get through to-night.
At her husband's unconscious betrayal of her dearest hopes, Cicily
started as if she had been struck. As he ceased speaking, she nerved
herself to the ordeal, and made her statement with an air as casual as
she could muster, while secretly a-quiver with anxiety.
Why, Charles, we are going to the theater to-night, you know.
To-night? Hamilton spoke the single word with an air of blank
astonishment. It needed no more to make clear the fact that he had no
guess as to the importance of this especial day in the calendar of
their wedded lives.
Cicily's spirits sank to the lowest deeps of discouragement before
this confession of her husband's inadvertence to that which she
regarded as of vital import in the scheme of happiness.
Yes, she answered dully, to-night. I have the the tickets. Don't
you remember what day this is? She strove to make her tone one of the
most casual inquiry, but the attempt was miserably futile before the
urge of her emotion.
Why, to-day is Thursday, of course, Hamilton declared, with an
ingenuous nonchalance that was maddening to the distraught wife.
Yes, it is Thursday, she rejoined; and now there was no mistaking
the bitter feeling that welled in the words. It is the anniversary of
our wedding day.
Hamilton caught his unhappy bride in his arms. He was all contrition
in this first moment when his delinquency was brought home to
consciousness. He kissed her tenderly on the brow.
By Jove, I'm awfully sorry, dear. There was genuine regret for
such culpable carelessness in his voice. How ever did I forget it? He
drew her closer in his embrace for a brief caress. Then, after a
little, his natural buoyancy reasserted itself, and he spoke with a
mischievousness that would, he hoped, serve to stimulate the neglected
bride toward cheerfulness. I say, he demanded, did you remember it
all by yourself, sweetheart, or did Aunt Emma remind you? I know she's
a great sharp on all the family dates.
The badinage seemed in the worst possible taste to the watching Mrs.
Delancy, but she forbore comment, although she saw her niece wince
visibly. Cicily's pride, however, came to her rescue, and she contrived
to restrain herself from any revelation of her hurt that could make
itself perceptible to Hamilton, who now released her from his arms.
Oh, she said with an assumption of lightness, Aunt Emma told me,
of course. How in the world could you suppose that I, in my busy life,
could possibly remember a little thing like the anniversary of our
No, naturally you wouldn't, the husband agreed, in all
seriousness. Gad! If you hadn't been so engrossed with that wonderful
club and all your busy society doings, you probably would have
remembered, and then you would have told me.
The young wife perceived that it would be impossible to arouse him
to any just realization of the flagrancy of his fault. Yet, she dared
venture a forlorn hope that all was not yet lost.
Well, anyhow, Charles, she said, very gently, I have got the
tickets, and it is our anniversary.
Even if I had remembered about it, was the answer, spoken with a
quickly assumed air of abstraction, as business returned to his
thoughts, I couldn't have gone to-night. You see, I have a conference
onvery important. It means a great deal. Morton and Carrington are
coming around to see me.... I can't bother you with details, but you
know it must be important. I can't get out of it, anyhow.
But, Charles The voice was very tender, very persuasive. It
moved Hamilton to contrition. The pleading accents could never have
been resisted by any lover; but by a husbandah, there is a tremendous
difference, as most wives learn. Hamilton merely elaborated his defense
against yielding to his wife's wishes.
I tell you, Cicily, it's a matter of businessbusiness of the
biggest importance to me. You're my wife, dear: you don't want to
interfere with my business, do you? Why, I'll leave it to Aunt Emma
here, if I'm not right. He faced about toward Mrs. Delancy, with an
air of triumphant appeal. Come, Aunt Emma, what would you and Uncle
Jim do in such a case?
I think Cicily already knows the answer to that question, was the
neutral reply, with which Hamilton was wholly satisfied.
Now, indeed, the girl abandoned her last faint hope. The magnitude
of the failure shook her to the deeps of her being. She felt her
muscles relax, even as her spirit seemed to grow limp within her. She
was in an agony of fear lest she collapse there under the eyes of the
man who had so spurned her adoration. Under the spur of that fear, she
moved forward a little way toward the window, the while Hamilton
chatted on amiably with Mrs. Delancy, continuing to justify the
position he had taken. As he paused finally, Cicily had regained
sufficient self-control to speak in a voice that told him nothing
beyond the bare significance of the words themselves.
Oh, of course, you're right, Charles. Don't bother any more about
it. Attend to your conference, and be happy. There will be plenty more
The preliminary conference with Morton and Carrington, which had so
fatally interfered with Cicily's anniversary plans, proved totally
unsatisfactory from the standpoint of Charles Hamilton. As a matter of
fact, a crisis had arisen in his business affairs. He was threatened
with disaster, and as yet he was unable to see clearly any way out. He
was one of countless individuals marked for a tidbit to glut the
gormandizing of a trust. He had by no means turned craven as yet; he
was resolved to hold fast to his business until the last possible
moment, but he could not blind himself to the fact that his ultimate
yielding seemed inevitable.
In circumstances such as these, it was natural enough that Hamilton
should appear more than ever distrait in his own home, for he found
himself wholly unable to cast out of his mind the cares that harassed
him. They were ever present during his waking moments; they pursued him
in the hours devoted to slumber: his nights were a riot of financial
nightmares. He was polite to his wife, and even loverlike with the set
phrases and gestures and caresses of habit. Beyond that, he paid her no
attention at all. His consuming interest left no room for tender
concerns. He had no time for social recreations, for the theater, or
functions, or informal visits to friends in Cicily's company. His dark
face grew gloomy as the days passed. The faint creases between the
eyebrows deepened into something that gave warning of an habitual frown
not far away in the future, which would mar the boyish handsomeness of
his face. The firm jaw had advanced a trifle, set in a steadfast
defiance against the fate that menaced. His speech was brusquer.
Cicily, already in a state of revolt against the conditions of her
life, was stimulated to carry out the ideas nebulously forming in her
alert brain. She felt that the present manner of living must soon prove
unendurable to her. It was essential that a change should be made, and
that speedily, for she was aware of the limitations to her own
patience. Her temperament was not one to let her sit down in sackcloth
and ashes to weep over the ruins of romance. Rather, she would bestir
herself to create a new sphere of activity, wherein she might find
happiness in some other guise. Yet, despite the ingenuity of her mind,
she could not for some time determine on the precise course of
procedure that should promise success to her aspirations. Primarily,
her desire was to work out some alteration in the status of all
concerned by which the domestic ideal might be maintained in all its
splendid integrity. But her tentative efforts in this direction, made
lightly in order that their purport might not be guessed by the
husband, were destined to ignominious failure. Mrs. Delancy, a week
after the melancholy anniversary occasion, made mention of the fact
that she had cautiously spoken to Charles in reference to his neglect
of the young wife. She explained that his manner of reply convinced her
that, in reality, the man was merely a bit too deeply occupied for the
moment, and that, when the temporary pressure had passed, everything
would again be idyllic. Mrs. Delancy's motive in telling her niece of
the interview was to convince this depressed person that the matter
was, after all, of only trifling importance. In this, however, she
failed signally. Cicily regarded the incident as yet another evidence
of a developing situation that must be checked quickly, or never. But
she took advantage of the circumstances to introduce the topic with
Hamilton. To her, the conversation was momentous, although neither by
word nor by manner did she let her husband suspect that the discussion
was aught beyond the casual.
As usual now, Hamilton, on his return at night from the office, had
shut himself in the library, and was busily poring over a bundle of
papers, when there came a timid knock at the door. In response to his
call, Cicily entered. The young man greeted his wife politely enough,
and even called her darling in a meaningless tone of voice; but the
frown did not relax, and constantly his eyes wandered to the bundle of
documents. Cicily, however, was not to be daunted, for his manner was
no worse than she had expected. She crossed to a chair that faced his,
and seated herself. When, finally, she spoke, it was with an air of
tender solicitude, and the smile on her scarlet lips was gently
You are working too hard, dear, she remonstrated. You must relax
a little when you are away from the office, or you'll haveoh,
brain-fag, or nervous prostration, or some such dreadful thing.
Well, I'll try to put the office out of my head for a little
while, was the obedient answer, which gave the woman the chance she
But you must do it for your own sakenot mine, you know. You see,
Aunt Emma told me that she had been lecturing you a bitsaid you ought
to pay me more attention, and all that sort of thing.
Yes, and so I shall; but I'm pressed to death just nowAfter a
You are so different! Cicily said, almost timidly, as his voice
trailed into silence. Sometimes, I thinkI fear Her voice, in
For the moment, the husband was moved to a sudden tenderness. He
spoke softly, earnestly, leaning toward her.
Cicily, you can't realize what a pleasure it is to a fellow, when
he is pounding away downtown, to stop for a second and think of his
wife at home waiting for himthat dear girl who loves himthe darling
one far away from all the turmoil of the sordid fight.
The rhapsody, although genuine enough, was not satisfying to the
wife. The limit of time to a second was unfortunate. There was
distinct irony in her tone as she answered with a question:
And the farther away the home, the greater the pleasure,
For once, Hamilton was susceptible; and he was keenly distressed,
Cicily! he cried. You don't doubt my love, do you? Why, when a
man and a woman marry, each ought to take the other's love for
grantedtake it on faith.
But the wife was in no wise consoled by this trite defense. It had
been made too familiar to her in previous discussions between them. Her
answer was tinged with bitterness:
That's the only way in which I've had a chance to take it lately,
she said slowly, with her eyes downcast.
The persistence of her mood aggravated the man beyond the bounds of
that restraint which he had imposed on himself. His nerves were
overwrought, and, under the impulse of irritation over another worry at
home added to those by which he was already overburdened, he flared.
Cicily! he exclaimed, sharply. What in the world has come over
you? You don't want to hold me back, do you? You don't want to be that
sort of a wife?
Charles! Cicily exclaimed, in her turn sharply. She was grievously
hurt by this rebuke from the man whom she loved.
Forgive me! Hamilton begged, swiftly contrite. I'm just
nervoustired. It's been a fearfully hard day downtown.
His obvious sincerity won instant forgiveness. Cicily rose from her
chair, and came to seat herself on the arm of his. He took one of her
hands in his, and her free hand stroked his hair in a familiar caress.
When she spoke, it was with a tenderness that was half-humility.
Would it help, dear, to talk to me? We used always to talk over
things, you know. Don't you remember? You said ever so many times that
I had so much common sense!
Again, Hamilton spoke with a tactlessness that was fairly appalling:
Oh, yes, I remember very well. That was before we were married.
Yesbefore! There was scorn in the emphasis of the repetition. It
aroused the husband to knowledge of his blunder.
Ididn't mean to he stammered. IIof course, you
understandReally, dearest, I'm sorry I've been so occupied lately. I
hope things will brighten up soon; then, I shall be more sociable. I've
thought about our anniversary, too. It's too bad I was tied up that
Cicily rose from her position on the arm of her husband's chair, and
strolled across the room.
Oh, that's all right, she remarked, in an indifferent tone of
voice. Of course, business must come first. Her beautiful face was
very somber now; her eyes were turned away from the man.
But Hamilton was amply content. His absorption in other things
rendered him somewhat unobservant of certain niceties in expression
just now. He sprang up, and went to his wife. With his hands on her
shoulders, he declared his satisfaction with the situation as it
appeared to him at this time:
That's my real Cicilymy little girl!... Now, another
Oh, yes, the wife agreed, as I reminded you before, there will be
plenty of other anniversarieslots moreso many more! The melancholy
note in her voice escaped the listener, as she had known that it would.
His answer was enthusiastic:
Yes, indeed! Both of our families are long-lived. Do you remember,
when we got engaged, how you said it was so awfully serious, because
all the women in your family lived to be seventy or more?
Yes, I remember! Then, abruptly recalling the original motive with
which she had sought this conversation, Cicily, by an effort of will
that cost her much, spoke with a manner half-gaily sympathetic:
Charles, why don't you tell me now all about this horrid business
At the question, the man's face quickly grew grim, and the frown
deepened perceptibly between his brows. He dropped his hands from his
wife's shoulders, turned away, and went back to reseat himself in the
chair by the broad table, on which was spread out the bundle of
business papers. He did not look up toward the woman, who followed him
with something of timidity, and took her position anew in the chair
facing him. He had no eyes for the pleading anxiety in the gaze that
was fixed on him. His mood was once more heavy under the weight of
Oh, what's the use of telling you! he snapped, brutally; but that
he had meant nothing personal in the question was shown at once, for he
added, in the same sentence: or anybody else?
Cicily had whitened a little at the opening phrase, but her color
crept back, as she heard the end of the impatient question. After a
little, she ventured to repeat her request for some information as to
the status of affairs in the factory.
Why, as to that, Hamilton replied, in a tone of discomfort, the
facts are simple enough; but they spell disaster for me, unless I can
contrive some way or another out of the mess in which I'm involved by
the new moves. You see, Carrington has sold his factory. He's sold out
to the trustthat's the root of the whole trouble. So, he and Morton
are making a fight against me. They mean to put me down and out. It's
good business from their standpoint; but it's ruin for me, if they
succeed. They think that I'm only a youngster, and that I sha'n't be
able to stand up against their schemes. They are of the opinion that,
since Dad is gone, they will have a snap in wiping me off the map. They
fancy that I don't know a blessed thing in the world except football.
Hamilton paused for a moment, and his jaw shot out a little farther
forward; his lips shut tensely for a few seconds. Then, they relaxed
again, as he continued his explanation of the situation that confronted
him. They're down in my territory now, plotting to undermine my
business in various ways. They have the belief that I am not up to
their plans; but I know more than they give me credit for. His voice
rose a little, and grew harsher. Well, I'm not such a fool as they
fancy I am, perhaps. I'm going to show 'em! I'm in this game, and I'm
going to fight, and to fight hard. I'm not going to let 'em score. The
play won't be over till the whistle blows. I tell you, I'll show 'em!
As he continued speaking, the wife's expression changed rapidly. By
the time he had come to a pause, it was radiant. Indeed, now, for the
first time in many dreary weeks, Cicily felt that she was truly a wife
in all senses of the word. Here, at last, she was become a helpmeet to
her husband. That bête noire business was no longer the thing
apart from her. She was made the confidante of her husband's affairs
abroad. She was made the recipient of the most vital explanations. She
was asked to share his worries, to counsel him. Thus, in her usual
impulsiveness, the volatile girl was carried much too far, much beyond
the actuality. As Hamilton ceased speaking, she leaned forward eagerly.
The rose was deeply red in her checks; the amber eyes were glowing. Her
voice was musically shrill, as she cried out, with irrepressible
Yes, yes, Charles, we'll show 'em! We'll show 'em!
For a moment, the man stared at the speaker dumfounded by the
unexpected outbreak. Presently, however, the import of her speech began
to be made clear to him. We? he repeated, doubtfully. You mean He
hesitated, then added: You mean that youand Ithat is, you mean
Yes, yes, Cicily answered hastily, with no abatement of her
excitement and triumph. Yes, together, we'll show 'em!
At this explicit declaration, Hamilton burst out laughing.
You! he ejaculated, derisively.
Yes, I, Cicily maintained, stoutly. Why, I showed Mrs. Carrington
the other day. Next, we'll beat her husband. You know, I beat her for
the presidency of the club.
Well, then, stick to your club, my dear, Hamilton counseled,
tersely. I'll attend to the real business for this family. His face
was grown somber again.
That's just like Uncle Jim, Cicily retorted, bitterly disappointed
by this disillusionment. I suppose you want me to be like Aunt Emma.
Cicily abandoned the struggle for the time being, acknowledging
almost complete defeat. There was only a single consoling thought. At
least, he had talked with her intimately concerning his affairs. With
an abrupt change of manner, she stood up listlessly, and spoke in such
a fashion as might become an old-fashioned wife, although her voice was
I'll get your house-coat, dear, she said, simply. And, then,
while you look after your business during the evening, I'll domy
knitting! Her hands clenched tightly as she went forth from the study,
but the master of the house was unobservant when it came to such
insignificant details. He was already poring over the documents on the
table; but he called out amiably as he heard the door open.
That's the dear girl! he said.
Two evenings after this memorable interview between husband and
wife, Carrington and Morton were closeted with Hamilton in his library.
To anyone who had chanced to look in on the group, it would have seemed
rather an agreeable trio of friends passing a sociable evening of
elegant leisure. Hamilton alone, as he sat in the chair before the
table, displayed something of his inner feelings by the creases between
his brows and the compression of his lips and a slight tensity in his
attitude. Morton was stretched gracefully in a chair facing that of his
host and prospective victim, while Carrington was close by, so that the
two seemed ranked against the one. A close student of types would have
had no hesitation in declaring Morton to be much the more intelligent
and crafty of the two visitors. He appeared the familiar shrewd,
smooth, well-groomed New Yorker, excellently preserved for all his
sixty-five years; one who could be at will persuasive and genial, or
hard as steel. In his evening dress, he showed to advantage, and his
manner toward Hamilton was gently paternal, as that of an old family
friend who has chanced in for a pleasant hour with the son of a former
intimate. Carrington, on the contrary, was of the grosser type of
successful business man. A frock-coat sufficed him for the evening
always. There was about him in every way a heaviness that indicated he
could not be a leader, only a follower after the commands of wiser men.
But, in such following, he would be of powerful executive ability.
Do you know, Morton was saying, it's really a great personal
pleasure for me to come here, Hamilton, my boy. It reminds me of the
many times when I used to sit here with your father. As he ceased
speaking, he smiled benevolently on the young man opposite him.
Hamilton nodded, without much appearance of graciousness. He was
more than suspicious as to the sincerity of this man's kindly manner.
Yes, I know, he said. You and he had many dealings together, I
believe, didn't you, Mr. Morton?
Oh, yes, indeed, came the ready answer; many and many. He was a
shrewd trader, was your father. It's a pity he cannot be here to know
what a promising young man of business his son has become. He would be
proud of you, my boy.
Thank you, Mr. Morton, Hamilton responded. For that matter, I
myself wish that Dad were here just now to help me.
Again, the visitor smiled, and with a warm expansiveness that was
meant to indicate a heart full of generous helpfulness.
You don't need him, my boy, he declared, unctuously. You are
dealing with an old friend.
Carrington nodded in ponderous corroboration of the statement.
Of course not, of course not! he rumbled, in a husky bass voice.
Hamilton let irritation run away with discretion. He spoke with
something that was very like a sneer:
I thought possibly that was just why I might need him.
Morton seemed not to hear the caustic comment. At any rate, he
blandly ignored it, as he turned to address Carrington.
You remember Hamilton, senior, don't you? he asked.
Very well! replied the gentleman of weight. His red face grew
almost apoplectic, and the big body writhed in the chair. His tones
were surcharged with a bitterness that he tried in vain to conceal.
Morton regarded these signs of feeling with an amusement that he had no
reluctance in displaying. On the contrary, he laughed aloud in his
Well, yes, he said, still smiling, I fancy that you ought to
remember Hamilton, senior, and remember him very well, too. But,
anyhow, by-gones are by-gones. You weren't alone in your misery,
Carrington. He beat me, too, several times.
Hamilton smiled now, but wryly.
So, he suggested whimsically, yet bitterly, now that he's dead,
you two gentlemen have decided to combine in order to beat his son.
That's about it, eh?
Carrington, who was not blessed with a self-control, or an art of
hypocrisy equal to that of his ally, emitted a cackling laugh of
triumph. But Morton refused to accept the charge. Instead, he spoke
with an admirable conviction in his voice, a hint of indignant, pained
Ridiculous, my dear boyridiculous! Just look on me as being In
your father's place. No, no, Hamilton, there's room for all of us.
There's a reasonable profit for all of us in the businessif only
we'll be sensible about it.
It only remains to decide as to the sensible course, then,
Hamilton rejoined, coldly. I suppose, in this instance, it means that
I should decide to follow the course you have outlined for me. Now, I
have your offer before me on this paper. Briefly stated, your
proposition to me is that you will take all the boxes I am able to
deliver to youthat is to say, you agree to keep my factory busy. For
this promise on your part, you require two stipulations from me as
conditions. The first is that I shall not sell any boxes to the
Independent Plug Tobacco Factory; the second is that I shall sell my
boxes to you at a regular price of eleven cents each. I believe I have
stated the matter accurately. Have I not?
You have stated it exactly, Morton assured the questioner. That
is the situation in a nutshell.
Unfortunately, Hamilton went on, speaking with great precision,
it's quite impossible for me to make any such agreement with
youutterly impossible. He looked his adversary squarely in the eye,
and shook his head in emphatic negation.
Carrington merely emitted a bourdon grunt. Morton, however,
maintained the argument, undeterred by the finality of Hamilton's
But, my dear boy, he exclaimed quickly, we're not asking you to
do anything that you haven't done already. Why, you furnished me with
one lot at nine cents.
At a loss, in order to secure custom against competition, was the
prompt retort. It costs exactly eleven cents to turn out those boxes.
Morton persisted in his refusal to admit the justice of the young
man's refusal to accept the terms offered.
But, my dear boy, he continued, take your last four bids. I mean
the bids that you and Carrington made before we bought out Carrington.
The first, time, Carrington bid eleven cents; while you bid fourteen.
On the second lot Carrington bid thirteen; and you bid nine.
You illustrate my contention very well, Hamilton interrupted. At
eleven cents a box, Carrington hardly quit even. It was for that reason
he bid thirteen on the following lot; while I, because I was bound to
get a look in on the business, even at a losswhy, I bid nine cents.
The result was that I got the order, and it cost me a loss of just two
cents on each and every box to fill it. A contented rumble from the
large man emphasized the truth of the statement.
Nothing daunted, Morton resumed his narrative of operations in the
On the third lot, Carrington bid eight cents, while you bid
Carrington's indignation was too much for reticence.
Yes, I got that order, he roared, wrathfully. It was a million
box order, too The withering look bestowed on the speaker by Morton
caused him to break off and to cower as abjectly in his chair as was
possible to one of his bulk.
His success in being the winner in that bout cost him three cents
each for the million boxes, Hamilton commented. Well?
Well, Morton said crisply, for the fourth and biggest order,
Carrington bid seventeen, and you bid sixteen.
Yes, yes! Carrington spluttered, forgetful of the rebuke just
administered to him. And, on the four lots, Hamilton, you cleaned up a
profit, while I lost outso much that I had to sell control of my
plant. And you call that fair competition!
Morton grinned appreciation. The young man regarded the ponderous
figure of Carrington with something approaching stupefaction over the
sheer bravado of the question.
Was that your motive in joining the trust, he demanded ironically:
to get fair competition?
Again, Morton laughed aloud, in keen enjoyment of the thrust.
You're your own father's son, Hamilton, he declared, gaily.
Hamilton, however, was not to be cajoled into friendliness by
Probably, he said sternly, I might not have been able to do so
well, if you had not been clever enough to let both Carrington and
myself each see the figures of the other's secret bid as a great
As the words entered Carrington's consciousness, the ungainly form
sat erect with a sudden violence of movement that sent the chair
sliding back three feet over the polished floor. The red face darkened
to a perilous purple, and the narrow, dull eyes flashed fire. He
struggled gaspingly for a moment to speakin vain. Morton's eyes were
fixed on the man, and those eyes were very clear and very cold.
Carrington met the steady stare, and it sobered his wrath in a measure,
so that presently he was able to utter words intelligibly. But, now,
they were not what they would have been a few seconds earlier:
Youyou told him what I bid?
Hamilton took the answer on himself.
Surely, he did, Carrington. The young man spoke with cheerfulness,
in the presence of the discomfiture of his enemy. He told you what I
bid; and, in just the same way, he told me what you bidevery time!
For a long minute, Morton stared on at his underling whom he had
betrayed. Under that look, the unhappy victim of a superior's wiles,
sat uneasily at first, in a vague effort toward defiance; then, his
courage oozed away, he shifted uneasily in his seat, and his eyes
wandered abashedly about the room. Convinced that the revolt was
suppressed, Morton turned again to the young man opposite him.
All that is done with now. The tone was sharp; the mask of
urbanity had fallen from the resolute face, which showed now an
expression relentless, dominant. Hamilton, what are you going to do?
The manner of the question was a challenge.
I can't make money selling boxes at eleven cents, Hamilton
answered wearily. Nobody could.
At least, you won't lose any, was the meaning answer. Then, in
reply to Hamilton's half-contemptuous shrug, Morton continued frankly.
After all, Hamilton, you can make a profit. It won't be large, but it
will be a profit. This is the day of small profits, you must remember.
It will be necessary for you to put in a few more of the latest-model
machines, and to cut labor a bit. In that way, you will secure a
profit. You must cut expense to the limit.
The young man regarded Morton with strong dislike.
What you mean, he said angrily, is that I must put my factory on
a starvation business. Now, I don't want to cut wages. It's a sad fact
that the men at present don't get a cent more than they're worth.
Besides that, some of them have been working in the factory for father
more than thirty years.
There is no room for such pensioners in these days of small
profits, Morton declared, superciliously. However, it's no business
of mine. Remember, though, it's your only chance to keep clear.
No, Hamilton announced bravely, I'll not cut the wage-scale. I'll
sell to the trade, at thirteen. It's mighty little profit, but it's
Morton shook his head.
The Carrington factory, he said threateningly, will sell to the
trade for ten cents, until
Until I'm cleaned out! Hamilton cried, fiercely.
Morton lifted a restraining hand. He was again his most suave self.
My dear boy, he said gently, I liked your father, and I esteemed
him highly. He was a shrewd trader: he never tried to match pennies
against hundred-dollar bills.... The moral is obvious, when you
consider your factory alone as opposed to certain other interests. So,
take my advice. Try cutting. The men would much rather have smaller
wages than none at all, I'm sure. Think it over. Let me know by
Saturday.... The Carrington factory is to issue its price-list on
Hamilton was worn out by the unequal combat. He hesitated for a
little, then spoke moodily:
Very well. I'll let you know by Saturday.
When, at last, his guests had departed, the wretched young man
dropped his head on his arms over the heap of papers, and groaned
aloud.... He could see no ray of hopenone!
It was a half-hour after the breaking up of the conference when
Hamilton at last raised his head from his arms. He looked about him
dazedly for a little while, as if endeavoring to put himself in touch
once again with the humdrum facts of existence. Then, when his brain
cleared from the lethargy imposed by the strain to which it had so
recently been subjected, he gave a sudden defiant toss of his head, and
muttered wrathfully: Go broke, or starve your men! He got out of his
chair, and paced to and fro swiftly for a little interval, pondering
wildly. But, of a sudden, he reseated himself, drew a pad of paper to
him, and began scrawling figures at the full speed of his pencil. And,
as he wrote, he was murmuring to himself: There is a way outthere
It was while the husband was thus occupied that the door opened
softly, without any preliminary knock, and the wife stepped noiselessly
into the room. The anxiety that beset her was painfully apparent in her
bearing and in the expression of her face. Her form seemed drooping, as
if under shrinking apprehension of some blow about to fall. The eyes of
amber, usually so deep and radiant, were dulled now, as if by many
tears; the rich scarlet of the lips' curves was bent downward
mournfully. She stood just within the doorway for a brief space,
watching intently the man who was so busy over his scrawled figures. At
last, she ventured forward, walking in a laggard, rhythmic step, as do
church dignitaries and choir-boys in a processional. By such slow
stages, she came to a place opposite her husband. There, she remained,
upright, mute, waiting. The magnetism of her presence penetrated to him
by subtle degrees.... He looked up at her, with no recognition in his
They've gone, dear? She spoke the words very softly, for she
understood instinctively something as to the trance in which he was
Hamilton's abstraction was dissipated as the familiar music of
Cicily's voice beat gently on his ears.
Yesoh, yes, they've gone. His voice was colorless. His eyes went
out to the array of figures that sprawled recklessly over the sheet
But the young woman was not to be frustrated in her intention by
such indifference on his part. She spoke again, at once, a little more
Tell me: Did you come out all right?
Hamilton raised his head with an impatient movement. Evidently, this
persistence was a distracting influencea displeasing. There was
harshness in his voice as he replied:
Did I come out all right? Well, yessince I came out at all. Oh,
yes! His voice mounted in the scale, under the impulse of a sudden
access of rage against his enemies. He spoke with a savage rapidity of
utterance: And I can lick Carrington any day in the week. Why, I've
already put him out. It's Mortonthat old fox Morton who's got me
guessing.... What do you think? They even had the nerve to threaten me.
Of course, it was in a round-about way; but it was a threat all the
same. They threatened to close up the Hamilton factory. Gad! the nerve
They threatened to close up your factory, Charles? Cicily
exclaimed, astonished and angry. But you own the Hamilton factory.
What have they to do with it? The impudence of them!
Yes, I own the factory, all right, the husband agreed. But, you
see Hamilton broke off abruptly, and was silent for a moment. When
he spoke again, the liveliness was gone from his voice: it was become
quietly patronizing. Oh, let's forget it, dear. I must be going dotty.
I'll be talking business with you, the first thing I know.
I only wish you would! Cicily answered, with a note of pleading in
Nonsense! was the gruff exclamation. The idea of talking business
with you. That would be a joke, wouldn't it? He spoke banteringly,
with no perception of the gravity in his wife's desire to share in this
phase of his life. But he looked up from the papers after a moment into
his wife's face. She had turned from him, and then had reclined wearily
in the chair opposite him, whence she had been staring at him with a
tormenting feeling of impotence. The expression on her face was such
that Hamilton realized her distress, without having any clue to its
Now, sweetheart, what's wrong? he questioned. He was
half-sympathetic over her apparent misery, half-annoyed.
Cicily, with the intuitive sensitiveness of a woman to recognize a
lover's hostile feeling beneath the spoken words, was acutely conscious
of the annoyance; she ignored the modicum of sympathy. To conceal her
hurt, she had resort to a fictitious gaiety that was ill calculated,
however, to deceive, for the stress of her disappointment was very
The matter with me? she repeated, with an assumption of surprise.
Why, the matter with me is that I'm so happythat's all!
Cicily! Now, at last, the husband was both shocked and grieved
over his wife's mood.
Yes, that's ithappy! the suffering girl repeated. Why, I'm so
happyjust so happythat I could scream!
Hamilton leaned forward in his chair, to regard his wife
scrutinizingly. He was filled with alarm over the nervous, almost
hysterical, condition in which he now beheld her.
Cicily, are you well? he asked. There was a distinct quaver of
fear in his voice. You lookstrange, somehow.
Oh, not at all! came the flippant retort. It's merely that you
haven't really taken a good look at me latelyuntil just this minute.
So, of course, I'd look a bit strange to you.
It must be remembered that Hamilton, although usually intelligent,
had a clear conscience and no suspicion whatsoever as to any
culpability on his part in his relations with his wife: thus it was
that now he was wholly impervious to the sarcasm of her reference,
which he answered with the utmost seriousness.
My dear, I saw you this morning, last nightoh, heaps of times,
Oh, your physical eyes have seen; but your mind, your heart, your
soulthe true youhasn't seen me for I don't know how long.
This cryptic explanation was too subtle for Hamilton to grasp while
yet his brain was fogged by the intricacies of his business affairs. He
gazed on his wife in puzzled fashion for a few seconds, then abandoned
the problem as one altogether beyond his solving. To clear up a vague
suspicion that this might be some new astonishing display of a woman's
indirect wiles, he put a question:
My dear, do you want a new automobile, or a doctor?
Neither! came the crisp reply; and for once the musical voice was
almost harsh, I want a husband!
Good Lord! Another? Hamilton was pained and scandalized, as,
indeed, was but natural before a confession so indecorous seemingly and
so unflattering to himself.
I don't want the one I have now, Cicily affirmed, with great
emphasis. She rather enjoyed the manner in which the man shrank under
her declaration. But he said nothing as she paused: he was momentarily
too dumfounded for speech, I want my first one back, Cicily
Hamilton gaped at his wife, powerless to do aught beyond grope in
mental blackness for some ray of understanding as to this horrible
revelation made by the woman he loved.
Youyou want your first one back! he repeated stupidly, at last.
Of a sudden, a gust of fury shook him. God! he cried savagely. And I
thought I knew that girl!
Cicily rested unperturbed before the outbreak. She was absorbed in
her own torment, with no sentiment to spare for the temporary anguish
she was inflicting on her husband, which, in her opinion, he richly
You did know me once, she answered, coldly. That was before you
changed toward me.
The injustice of this charge, as he deemed it, was beyond Hamilton's
powers of endurance. He sprung from his chair, and stood glowering down
on Cicily, who bore the stern accusation of his eyes without flinching.
The pallor of her face was a little more pronounced than usual, less
touched from within with the hue of abounding health, and her crimson
mouth was less tender than it was wont to be. But she leaned back in
her chair in a posture of grace that displayed to advantage the
slender, curving charm of her body, and her eyes, shining golden in the
soft light of the room, met the man's steadfastly, fearlessly.
Ichangedto you! Hamilton stormed. Cicily! Cicily! What
madness! You knowoh, absurd! Why, Cicily, I love you.... I think of
Oh, yes, you love me, Cicily agreed, contemptuously, You think of
me alwayswhen your other love will let you.
I mean it, came uncompromisingly, in answer to Hamilton's look of
horror. I mean every word of it!
Cicily, the husband besought, as a great dread fell on his soul,
remember, you are my wifemy love!
Yes, I'm one of them. The tone was icy; the gaze fixed on his face
But this utterance was too sinister to be borne. The pride of the
man in his own faithfulness was outraged. His voice was low when he
spoke again, yet in it was a quality that the young wife had never
heard before. It frightened her sorely, although she concealed its
effect by a mighty effort of will.
That is an insult to you and to me, Cicily. It is an insult I
cannotI will notpermit.
It was evident to Cicily that she had carried the war in this
direction far enough; she hastened her retreat.
Oh, I didn't say that you were in love with another woman, she
explained, with an excellent affectation of carelessness. For that
matter, I know very well that you're not. Then, as Hamilton regarded
her with a face blankly uncomprehending, she went on rapidly, with
something of the venomous in her voice: Sometimes, I wish you were.
Then, I'd fight her, and beat her. It would give me something to do.
She paused for a moment, and laughed bitterly. Oh, please, Charles, do
fall in love with some other woman, won't you?
Hamilton started toward the telephone in the hall.
It's the doctor you want, not the automobile, he called over his
Nonsense! Cicily cried. Stop! And, as he turned back
reluctantly, she went on with her explanation: No, it isn't the lure
of some siren in a Paquin dressor undress: it's the lure of the
gamethe great, horrid, hideous business game, which has got you, just
as it's got most of the American husbands who are worth having. That's
the lure we American women can't overcome; that's the rival who is
breaking our hearts. You are the man of business, CharlesI'm the
woman out of a job! That's all there is to it.
Hamilton listened dazedly to this fluent discourse, the meaning of
which was not altogether clear to him. He frowned in bewilderment, as
he again seated himself in the chair opposite his wife. He could think
of nothing with which to rebuke her diatribe, save the stock platitudes
of a past generation, and to these necessarily he had immediate
You have the homethe houseto look out for, Cicily. That's a
woman's work. What more can you wish?
The home! The house! The exclamation was eloquent of disgust. Ah,
yes, once on a time, it was a woman's workonce on a time! But, then,
you men were dependent on us. Marriage was a real partnership.
Nowadays, what with servants and countless inventions, so that
machinery supplies the work, the home is a joke. The house itself is an
automatic machine that runs onbuttons, push-buttons. You men can get
along without us just as well. You don't really depend on us for
anything in the home. Your lives are full up with interest; every
second is occupied. Our lives are empty. My life is empty, Charles. I'm
lonely, and heart-hungry, I've no ambition to go in for bridge. I'm not
a gambler by choice. I don't wish to follow society as a vocation. I'm
not eager even to be a suffragette. I want to be an old-fashioned
wifeto do something that counts in my husband's life. I want him to
depend on me for some things, always. I want to be my husband's
partner. Little by little, while she was speaking, the coldness passed
from the woman's voice; in its stead grew warmth; there was passionate
fervor in the final plea. It moved Hamilton to pity, although he was
ignorant as to the means by which he might assuage his wife's so great
discontent. Manlike, he attempted to overcome emotion by argument.
Cicily, he urged, just now, I'm up to my ears and over in work.
They are crowding me mighty hard. There's dissatisfaction at the
milldanger of a strike. Morton is heading a syndicatea trust,
reallytrying to absorb us. I'm fighting for my very lifemy business
life.... Cicily, you wouldn't throw obstacles in my way now, would
Obstacles! No; I want to help you.
In business? Hamilton queried, astounded. Youhelp mein
Yes, Cicily answered, steadily. I can do something, I know.
There was intensity of purpose in the glow of the golden eyes, as they
met those of her husband; there was intensity of conviction in the
tones of her voice as she uttered the assurance. She realized that the
crisis of her ambition was very near at hand.
You can do nothing. The man's blunt statement was uttered with a
conviction as uncompromising as her own. The egotism of it repelled the
woman. There was a hint of menace in her manner, as she replied:
Take care, Charles. Don't shut me out. You're making a plaything of
menot a wife.... And II won't be your plaything!
I mean, went on the wife relentlessly, that this is the most
serious moment of our married life. If you put me off now, if you shut
me out of your life nowout of your full lifeI can't answer for what
There followed a long interval of silence, the while husband and
wife stared each into the other's eyes. In these moments of poignant
emotion, the profound feeling of the woman penetrated the being of the
man, readied his heart, and touched it to sympathymore: it mounted to
his brain, which it stimulated to some measure of understanding. That
understanding was fleeting enough, it was vague and incomplete, as must
always be man's inadequate knowledge of woman. But it was dominant for
the time being. Under its sway, Hamilton spoke in gracious yielding,
Very well. You can help.
The young wife sat silent for a time, thrilling with the joy of
conquest. The roses of her checks blossomed again; the radiance of her
eyes grew tender; the scarlet lips wreathed in their happiest curves.
At last, she rose swiftly, and seated herself on the arm of her
husband's chair. She wound her arms about his neck, and kissed him
fondly on cheek and brow and mouth.
Hamilton accepted these caresses with the pleasure of a fond
bridegroom of a year, and, too, with a certain complacency as the
tribute of gratitude to his generosity. But, when she separated herself
again from his embrace, he was moved to ask a question that was
calculated to be somewhat disconcerting.
What can you do? he demanded.
Oh, I don't know, Cicily answered, nonchalantly; but something. I
shall do something big! You see, you've done so much. Now, I must do
something toosomething big!
But what have I done? the husband questioned, perplexed anew by
this charming wife of many moods.
What have you done? Cicily repeated, joyously. Why, you've made
me the happiest woman in the worlda partner! Again, the rounded arms
were wreathed about his neck; her face was hidden on his shoulder.
Hamilton's eyes were turned ceilingward, as if seeking some
illumination from beyond. He listened, stupid, bemused, to that word
echoing wildly through his brain: Partner! He understood fully at
last, and with understanding came utter dismay. Partner!... Oh, Lord!
In the days that followed, Cicily was almost riotously happy. The
schemes that had been formulating themselves dimly in her mind
following the altruistic suggestion made to her by Mrs. Delancy now
took on definite shape and became substantial. In view of the fact that
her husband had explicitly brought her into a business partnership with
himself, it occurred to her that she might well combine the idea of
making other people happy with practical uses in behalf of business. To
this end, then, she devoted her intelligence diligently, with the
result that she soon had concrete plans of betterment for the many, and
these of a sort to redound directly to her husband's advantage in a
business way. In brief, she conceived certain philanthropic operations
to be carried out for the enjoyment of her husband's employés; the
effect of such changes would inevitably be a better understanding
between them and their employer, and an increased loyalty and
efficiency on the part of the workers. With this laudable purpose,
Cicily, after broaching the subject in detail to Hamilton, who made no
objection, since her helpfulness was to be operated out of her private
fortune, at once busied herself with the execution of the project. The
factory downtown was soon a-chatter with excitement over the startling
innovations that were under way. The employés cursed or cheered
according to their natures, as they learned of the gifts bestowed by
the wife of their employer. They regarded the new bath-tubs with
wonder, albeit somewhat doubtfully. They discussed the library with
appreciation, or lack of appreciation, according to their degrees of
illiteracy or learning: the socialistic element condemned the inanity
of the volumes selected; there were only histories, biographies, books
of travel, foolish novels and the likenothing to teach the manner by
which the brotherhood of man must be worked out.
In addition to her activities for good in this direction, Cicily
added something actual to her ideas in reference to the up-lift of
woman. She made herself known to the wives of some of the men who
worked in the factory, and called on them in their homes. She invited
them to visit her in return, and she matured a project to make the
Civitas Society her ally in this noble work of up-lift and equalization
in the social order. With such eager works, her days were filled full,
and she was glad in the realization that it was, indeed, become her
splendid privilege to share in her husband's broader life.... She was
It may be doubted if Hamilton had more than the shadow of knowledge
as to his wife's happiness in the changed order. The episode, as he
deemed it, in which she had been given a partnership with him, hardly
remained in his memory. When he thought of it at all, he smiled over it
as over the vagary of one among a woman's innumerable varying moods.
But he thought of it very rarely, for his time was absorbed in the
desperate struggle to find a way out from the destruction that loomed
very close at hand. In the end, he decided not to reject the offer made
by Morton in behalf of the trust. Otherwise, he would be confronted by
Carrington's competition in selling to the independent trade at a dead
loss. But he was determined ultimately to combat this competition to
the limit of his ability and capital. It was apparent to him that
success would be impossible from the outset unless he should reduce his
operating expenses to the minimum. For this reason, he planned to make
the cut in wage-scale that had been suggested by Morton, although in
reality it was to overcome the machinations of the trust, not to
further them. He solaced his conscience by reiteration of the truth:
that, in the event of winning, the reduction would have been but a
temporary thing; whereas, without it, he must close down the factory
immediately. For the sake of his workers, as well as for his own, he
was resolved to pursue the one course that offered a hope of victory.
Naturally enough, the employés did not understand or approve. When
news of the proposed cut in the scale was made known, there came clamor
and wrath and sorrow. Meetings of the workers were held, and in due
time a committee of three waited on Hamilton by appointment in the
study of his house uptown. Schmidt, the most garrulous of the three,
was a man in the prime of life, heavily built, bald, with a white
mustache that gave him a certain grotesque resemblance to Bismarck. The
other two members of the committee were Ferguson, a thin,
alert-mannered Yankee of forty, who spoke with a pronounced drawl; and
McMahon, a short, red-headed, shrewd Irishman, with a face on which
shone a volatile good-humor. The three, on entering the library and
being greeted by Hamilton, found that their employer had fortified
himself for the conference by the presence of Mr. Delancy, in whose
business judgment the younger man had great confidence. The men
received the pleasant salutation of Hamilton with awkwardness, but
without any trace of shamefacedness, for they had the consciousness of
their righteous cause to give them confidence in a strange environment.
Hardly were they seated at their host's request in chairs facing him
and Mr. Delancy, when Schmidt bounced up, and, after squaring himself
resolutely in a position of advantage before the empty fireplace,
proceeded to declaim vigorously as to the rights between labor and
capital, speaking sonorously, with a pronounced German accent. After
some five minutes of this, Mr. Delancy, who was both nervous and
irritable, as the orator paused for breath at a period, ventured to
Yes, yes, man, he exclaimed, testily. But I don't care a damn
about Schopenhauer and socialism, and I'm sure Mr. Hamilton doesn't.
Let's get to the wages paid in the Hamilton factory.
Ferguson came to the support of Delancy, as did McMahon, who said
Give the boss a chance, Smitty.
Schmidt, however, was inclined to be recalcitrant.
There was no arrangement yet to give the boss a chance, he argued.
Just give him a chance then because he's a friend of mine, urged
the Irishman with a grin of such exceeding friendliness toward the
German himself that it was not to be resisted. Schmidt nodded in token
that the employer should be allowed to speak, but he retained his
position as a presiding officer before the fireplace.
Hamilton forthwith set out to present his side of the case to the
men before him.
As you know, he said briskly, I'm the owner of the Hamilton
factory. I pay the wages. Now, the Hamilton factory has been kept
running through good times and through bad times for more than thirty
years. Sometimes, too, it has been run at a loss, without any cut in
the wage-scale to help the owner in that period of loss. Well, it seems
to me under the circumstances that I have a right to run my own
Oh, certainly! Ferguson agreed, languidly.
But Schmidt added a correction to the general concession.
As long as you run it in our way, and don't cut wages.
I'm sorry, men, Hamilton retorted, without any avoidance of the
issue; but that cut must go.
The members of the committee looked from one to another, and shook
their heads dolefully. They knew too well the hardships that would be
wrought among their fellows by a ten per cent. cut the length of the
scale. It was McMahon who spoke first, with his usual air of
good-nature in the sarcasm, but a note of grimness underlying the
Well, now, you see, he said in his rich brogue, addressing
Ferguson and Schmidt, the boss has to save a mite to pay for the new
bath-tubs and that natty bit of a gymnasium and the library they've
been putting in lately.
Ach, Himmel! Schmidt snorted, disgustedly. We will have
manicures soon already! He stared at his pudgy fingers with the
work-begrimed nails, and grinned sardonically.
Hamilton flushed under the taunts.
I have nothing to do with those improvements, he declared, in
self-justification. They are all being put in by Mrs. Hamilton at her
own expense. She is doing it to make you men and women there more
contented with your lotto make you happy.
To make us happy! Schmidt grunted. Bathtubs!
McMahon's sense of humor led him to indulge in another flight of
pleasantry, which shadowed forth the grim reality of these lives.
Sure, but the gymnasium is great, he said, blandly. His tone was
so deceptive that Hamilton smiled in appreciation of the compliment to
his wife's undertaking, and even Mr. Delancy relaxed the harsh set of
his features. The longer you work in it, the Irishman continued
innocently, outside of hours of course, the stronger you get, and the
more you can do in hours for the boss.... Sure, it's great!
Hamilton hastily changed the subject. He explained that, the cut
would not be applied to the wages of the women in the
packing-department, where a hundred were employed. He declared frankly
that their pay was insufficient to stand such a reduction.
And do you think we make enough to stand it? Ferguson exclaimed,
Somebody has to stand it, was Hamilton's moody retort. You have
threatened to strike, if I make this cut. Well, I am forced to threaten
you in turn. If you won't accept the cut, I shall strikeI must
Schmidt, from his position before the fireplace, rose on his toes in
You strike! he clamored, huffily. Who has given you that
permission to strike? You are no union. Bah!
Hamilton shrugged his shoulders, wearily.
Listen, men, he requested. I'll put the facts before you plainly,
for I place my whole confidence in your loyalty. You think, perhaps,
that you're being strung in this deal. Well, we'll all be strung, and
hung over the side of the boat, too, unless we work together. You men
are dissatisfied, because, although you are working full time, you are
asked to take a ten per cent. cut. The truth of the matter is that the
factory is not making a cent of profit. I have to make the boxes for
sale at a loss now, on account of the competition of the trust factory,
which is trying to put me out of business. I must work at cost, or even
at a loss, for a time. With the ten per cent. cut, I can keep going.
Without it, I must close down. As soon as this crisis is over, if I win
out, the old wage-scale will be restored. I hope that time will not be
long away. I may venture to tell you something in confidence: I'm
planning to take on some side linessome things in which I hope to
make big money. As soon as they're started, I'll give you back the
Why don't your wife help pay the wages? Schmidt questioned,
shrewdly. She has plenty of money for foolishness.
Faith, and that isn't a bad idea at all, at all, Mr. Hamilton,
McMahon agreed. It's a better use for her money. Since she's been
coming around to the house these last few weeks, it's cost me a week's
pay to get a hat for my old woman in imitation of hers.... Women have
no place in business, I'm thinking.
Ferguson added his testimony to the like effect:
That's right, he declared. He looked about for a place in which to
spit by way of emphasis, but, seeing none, forbore. My girl, Sadie,
she put two dollars in false hair this very week. Your wife is sure
making it mighty hard for us, Mr. Hamilton. How can I buy false hair
with a ten per cent. cut? Durned if I can see!
Again, Hamilton was afflicted with embarrassment over the
infelicitous results of his wife's benevolent activity, and again he
changed the subject.
Well, boys, he said frankly, I've put the matter to you straight.
I'm sorry. But, unless you take the cut, I don't see any future for any
of us.... It's up to you.
The men decide for themselves, Ferguson replied, glumly. We only
report back to them.
But you three really decide, Hamilton persisted. Come, give me
your decision now.
Ferguson and McMahon regarded each other doubtfully, in silence, as
if uncertain how to proceed. But Schmidt was not given to hesitation in
expressing himself on any occasion. He spoke now with an air of
phlegmatic determination, brandishing his right arm at the start:
Well, speaking for myself only, I want to sayHow do you do, Mrs.
As Schmidt concluded his oratorical flourish in this astonishing
fashion, the other occupants of the room turned amazedly, to behold
Cicily herself, standing in the open doorway of the study.
The young wife was a very charming, radiant vision, as she rested
there motionless. She was gowned for the street, wearing that ravishing
hat which had been the cause of McMahon's undoing, a dainty and rather
elaborate device in black and red, and a black cloth gown, short and
closely cut, which showed to delightful advantage the lissome curves of
her form. Beneath, a luxurious chaussure in black showed the
inimitable grace of tiny feet and ankles. Now, as she regarded the
company in some astonishment, the perfect oval of her cheeks was broken
by the play of dimples as she smiled a general welcome on the men
before her. But her attention was particularly arrested by Schmidt,
who, after his first greeting in words, was now bowing stiffly from the
hips, a feat of some difficulty by reason of his girth. Cicily watched
the formal performance with mingled emotions of amusement and alarm.
When, at last, it was successfully accomplished, however, and the pudgy
figure straightened, she recognized the socialist, and came forward.
Why, it's Mr. Schmidt! she exclaimed, cordially. I'm so glad to
see you! To this, the German murmured a guttural response, too much
overcome by pleasure for coherent speech. The new-comer passed on, and
made her greetings to Ferguson and McMahon with the like pleasant
hospitality, shaking hands with each.
This is, indeed, charming, she exclaimed heartily. Did you bring
your wives along?
Schmidt, as usual, constituted himself the spokesman.
Mrs. Hamilton, he stated, with somber impressiveness, this is
Good gracious! Mrs. Hamilton exclaimed, with some trepidation. I
hope it's nothing that they would not approve of.
Be easy, Ferguson, admonished, soothingly. Sure, it's only that
we're talking business. It's a matter of wages. The woman folk always
approve of them.
Schmidt rolled his eyes heavenward in despair.
But, when we tell them of the ten per cent. cut! Ach, Himmel!
Cicily turned a startled glance on her husband.
A ten per cent. cut! she exclaimed, involuntarily. Why, Charles!
Hamilton was annoyed by this unexpected irruption of the feminine
into the most serious of business discussionsthe intrusion of the
female on the financial. He spoke with distinct note of disapproval in
Now, Cicily, you know nothing of this.
Delancy, too, added the weight of his accustomed authority.
Don't bother with things that do not concern you, Cicily. There
was a patronizing quality in the admonition that irritated the wife.
Ferguson spoke to the same effect, but with a radically different
motive underlying his words:
Of course, it don't concern you, Mrs. Hamilton. I guess you'll be
glad to have some more money to put in bath-tubs and libraries and
gymnasiums. No, ma'am, it don't concern you. But it'll make some
difference to our wives and daughters, I'm thinkingten per cent. out
of the pay-envelope every week. It'll take the curl out of my Sadie's
false hair, all right.
There will be always some good in everything, Schmidt murmured
cynically, but not loud enough for the Yankee to hear.
Cicily was aware of the tension about her, and deemed it the part of
wisdom to create a diversion.
What a coincidence! she exclaimed, gayly. Mrs. Schmidt and Mrs.
Ferguson and Mrs. McMahon are all coming around here this afternoon. I
invited them to attend a meeting of our club.
The dignified face of Mr. Delancy, which was that of the old-school
business man, clean-shaven save for the white tufts of side-whisker,
was distorted by an emotion of genuine horror; his pink cheeks grew
Cicily! he gasped.
Hamilton, too, was hardly less disconcerted, for all his familiarity
with his wife's equalization whimsies.
Invited them here? he questioned, frowning.
The manner of both utterances was of a sort that must inevitably
offend the husbands of the women. Cicily, with the sensitiveness of her
sex, sought to cover the impression by speaking with a manner of
Oh, yes, she answered. Isn't it good of them? They have promised
to return my call this afternoon.
Ferguson yielded to a Yankee propensity for dry humour:
I only hope that Mr. Delancy and Mr. Hamilton won't be too nice to
McMahon, too, would have made some comment; but Hamilton, who now
perceived his blunder, which might have a disastrous effect on the
attitude of these men toward him, hastened to make a diversion on his
Now, men, he said, as affably as he could contrive, I've made you
acquainted with the difficulties and the necessities of the situation.
As I said before, I depend on your loyalty.... Will you let me hear
from you later in the afternoon to-day?
You'll hear from us, all right, the Yankee assured his employer,
with significant emphasis, before Schmidt had a chance to speak; and
McMahon nodded agreement.
Once again, Cicily strove to lighten the mood of the men.
If you're going away to think something over, be sure you come back
in time to take your wives home, after they've joined the club. It's
the Civitas Society, you know, for the up-lift of women.
No sooner were the members of the committee out of the room than
Cicily turned anxiously to her husband.
Oh, Charles, she exclaimed, tell me! It's not true, is it, that
there's to be a cut in wages at the factory?
Hamilton turned away impatiently from the appealing face.
Cicily, he said shortly, Uncle Jim and I are very busy. We have
business of the highest importance to discuss.
Delancy, who from long experience knew much concerning his niece's
wilfulness, now read aright the resolute expression on her face. He
tugged nervously at his tufts of whisker, and spoke in a tone of
Oh, tell her, Charles, and have done with it.... Or, listen,
Cicily. It's this way: These men are getting more money than they ought
to get. Charles can't make a penny profit, running his business this
way. That's all there is to ithe's got to cut them ten per cent. I've
advised it, myself.
Cicily's charming nose was now distinctly tip-tilted, whatever might
be its normal line.
Yes, I'd expect you to advise it, Uncle Jim, she remarked, dryly.
She turned to her husband, accusingly. But, Charles, there is no
reason why you should follow his advice. Why didn't you ask me? I'm
your partner. I don't think you have treated me fairly in this.
Hamilton, overwrought and exasperated by the multiplication of his
worries, began a sharp answer; but it was interrupted by the
decisiveness with which his wife went on speaking:
Charles, you have treated me like a child, like a fool.... And you
said that you'd let me help you!
This reproach appealed to Hamilton as grossly unfair.
Why, Cicily, he exclaimed, I did let you help. I've let you do
everything that you wanted to dono matter how In a sudden access
of discretion, he choked back the foolish.
Delancy, presuming on the right of criticism that had been his
during the years of guardianship, spoke with a candor that was not
He let you do more than I'd have let you do. He let you waste your
money on bath-tubs and libraries, and such foolishness, to make the men
dissatisfied. I wish somebody would tell me what a man working for two
dollars a day can do with a bath-tub and a library at the works.
If anybody were to tell you, you wouldn't listen, was Cicily's
Delancy tugged at his wisp of whisker, and wagged his head
I don't know what young women these days are coming to, was his
What you men are driving us to, you mean! Cicily fairly snapped.
It was difficult enough to manage her husband, without having her
position jeopardized by the interference of this meddlesome old man,
who stood for that exclusion of her sex against which she was fighting.
She went to the chair in which Ferguson had been sitting, and reclined
there in a posture of graceful ease that was far from expressing the
turmoil of her spirit. As he watched her movements, and studied the
loveliness of her, with her delicate face aglow and her amber eyes
brilliant in this mood of excitement, Hamilton forgot his worriment for
the moment in uxorious admiration. He was smiling fondly on his wife,
even as Delancy uttered an exclamation of rebuke to him:
And you're her husband! His emphasis made it clear that a husband
like himself would have suppressed such insubordination long ago.
Well, Hamilton replied placidly, and with a hint of amusement in
his voice, you brought her up, you know.
I did notno such thing! the old man spluttered. In his
indignation, he pulled so viciously on a whisker that he winced from
the pain, which by no means tended to soothe his ruffled temper.
You're quite right, Uncle Jim, Cicily agreed, with dangerous
sweetness in the musical voice. Of course, you never had any time to
pay attention to me, or to Aunt Emma either, for that matter. Oh, no,
you were too much absorbed in that horrid business of yours. You drove
Aunt Emma into working for the heathen, and incidentally, you did teach
me one thing: you taught me what sort of a wife not to be. I learned
from you never to be married after the fashion in which you and Aunt
Emma are married.
Delancy was not blest with an overabundant sense of humor. Now, he
forgot the general charge against him in shocked surprise over the
final statement, which he took literally.
Look here, Cicily, he remonstrated. It took twenty-two minutes in
the old First Presbyterian Church to marry your Aunt Emma and me. You
couldn't possibly get a more binding ceremony.
Cicily laughed disdainfully.
Well, it's my opinion that you've never been married at all,
really, she persisted, with a bantering seriousness. You wouldn't
have been really married if you had spent two whole days in the
church. Then, in answer to the pained amazement expressed on her
uncle's face, she continued succinctly: Yes, I mean it, Uncle Jim.
Aunt Emma has been second wife ever since those twenty-two minutes in
the old First Presbyterian Church, to which you referred so
feelingly.... And she has my sympathy. You married business first, and
Aunt Emma afterward. Business had the first claim, and has always kept
first place. That's why Aunt Emma has my sympathy.
Delancy rose from his chair, greatly offended, now that he perceived
the manner in which he had been bamboozled by the wayward humor of his
niece. He moved toward the door at a pace as hurried as dignity would
permit. There, he turned to address his disrespectful former ward.
Charles has my sympathy! he growled; and stalked from the room.
Don't forget that you are coming to dinner on Sundaywith your
second wife! the irrepressible Cicily called after him impertinently.
But, if the reminder was heard, it was not answered; and husband and
wife were left alone together.
Hamilton would have remonstrated with his bride over her wholly
unnecessary irritating of her uncle, but he was not given an
opportunity. Before the door was fairly shut behind her offended
relation, Cicily took the war into the enemy's camp by a curt question:
Now, Charles, why do you cut wages?
Because I have to, was the prompt response.
And why didn't you tell me?
Tell you? Nonsense! The man's tone was expressive of extreme
But I'm your partner, Cicily persisted bravely, although her heart
sank under the rebuff. You yourself said that I was.
Well, and so you are, since you want it so, Hamilton admitted;
and you're attending to your end, aren't you?
Yes, the little end, Cicily agreed, disparagingly.
At that, Hamilton was plainly exasperated.
What end did you expect? he demanded. I tell you, Cicily, he
continued, in the tone of one arguing with labored patience to convince
a child of some truism, that business is too big, too serious, too
strong for a woman like you, my dear.
Yes, that's just the fear that grips my heart sometimes, Charles,
the wife admitted. With an ingenuity characteristic of her active
intelligence, she had perceived a method whereby to twist his words to
her own purpose. Look here! she went on in a caressing voice, utterly
unlike the emphatic one in which she had spoken hitherto. Do you for a
moment imagine that I really like business? Well, then, I don'tnot a
little bit! For that matter, hardly any woman does, I fancy. As to
myself, Charles, I'm afraid of itthat's the whole truth. I'm only in
it to watch itand you!
The change in her manner had immediate effect on the husband. Again,
he was surveying her with eyes in which admiration shone. For the
ten-thousandth time, he was reveling in the beauty of that oval
contour, in the tender curves of the scarlet lips.... But he forgot to
voice his thoughts. Indeed, what need? He had told her so many times
You talk as if business were a woman, he said, with a smile of
conscious sex superiority, and as if you were jealous.
Cicily concealed her resentment of the patronizing manner, and
replied with no apparent diminution in her amiability:
That's just it: I am jealous!
Good heavens! Hamilton cried, indignantly. Surely, you know that
I never think twice of any woman I meet in business.
The wife smiled in high disdain.
Woman! she ejaculated, with scornful emphasis. I'm not in the
least afraid of any woman being more to you than I am, Charles. Just
let one try!
Why, what would you do? Hamilton inquired, curiously.
The answer was swift and vigorous, pregnant with the insolent
consciousness of power that is the prerogative of a lovely woman.
Cicily leaned forward in her chair, and the golden eyes darkened and
Why, I'd beat her! I'd be everything to you that she wasand more.
I'd outdress her, I'd out-talk her, I'd outwit her, I'd out-think her.
I'd play on your love and on your masculine jealousy. Oh, there'd be
plenty of men to play the play with me. I'd be more alluring, more
fascinating, more difficult, until I held you safe again in the hollow
of my hand, and thenwhy, then, I'd be very much tempted to throw you
The verve with which this girl-woman thus vaunted her skill in the
use of those charms that dominate the opposite sex thrilled and
fascinated the lover, pierced the reserve that possession had overcast
on ardor. His cheeks flushed, under the provocation of the glances with
which she marked the allurements of which she was the mistress. As she
finished speaking, he sprang up from his chair, caught her in his arms,
and drew her passionately to his breast. But Cicily avoided the kiss he
would have pressed on her lips. With her mouth at his ear, she
whispered, plaintively now, no longer boastful, only a timid, fearing,
Yes, I can fight a rival who is a woman, Charles, and I can win.
But this other rival, this fascinating monstrous, evil goddessah!
Hamilton held his wife away from him by the shoulders, mid regarded
her in bewilderment.
Evil goddess! he repeated, half in doubt as to her meaning.
Surely, she must be that, Cicily declared, firmly; this spirit
who is the goddess of modern business, whom I feel absorbing you day by
day, taking from me more and ever more of your thoughts, of your heart,
of your soul, changing you in every vital way, and doing it in spite of
all that I can do, though I fight against her with all my strength! Oh,
it's terrible, the hopelessness of it all! Some day all of you will be
Swallowed up by the evil spirit? Hamilton asked, quizzically, with
Yes! The answer was given with a seriousness that rebuked his
levity in the presence of possible catastrophe.
The husband repeated his threadbare argument.
But, dear, he urged gently, you know that I love you just the
There was a curious, cynical sadness in the wife's voice as she
Probably, a man under ether loves one just the same. But who wants
to be loved by a man under ether?
Cicily, you exaggerate! Hamilton exclaimed. He dropped his hands
from her shoulders, and reseated himself, while she remained standing
before him. There was petulance in his inflection when he spoke again:
I have you, and I have my business.
Cicily made a moué that sufficiently expressed her weariness
of this time-worn fact.
Your two loves! she said, bitterly. Now, at this moment, you
think that they're equal. Well, perhaps they areat this moment. Some
day, the crisis will come. Then, you'll have to choose. It's a new
triangle, Charlesthe twentieth-century triangle in America: the wife,
the husband and the business. But remember: when the choice comes for
us, I shall not be an Aunt Emma!
The manner of his wife, as well as her words, disturbed the husband
strangely. Never had she seemed more appealing in her loveliness, never
more daintily alluring to the eye of a man; yet, never had she seemed
to hold herself so coldly aloof, to be so impersonally remote. He felt
a longing to draw her again into the gentle trustfulness of the maiden
who had gloried in his love.
What do you want me to do, dear? he questioned. I told you that
you could help me. I let you help.
Cicily seated herself again before she replied. When, at last, she
spoke, her voice was listless:
Yes; you let me spend some of my own money for luxuries. It seems
that I could have used it to better advantage in helping to pay the men
their wages, and thus save you from a possible strike.
No, was the serious response. At best, that would have been only
a makeshiftputting off the evil day. No; this thing must be fought
out, once for all. We are running at a loss. To take money from you
would be merely to waste it. Let me tell you, too, that there isn't a
chance in the world for the Hamilton factory in the event of a strike.
Cicily seized on the admission as favoring her side of the argument.
Then, you must not cut the wages, she declared, with spirit. You
must fight Morton and Carrington.
How can one man fight the trust? Hamilton questioned, in return.
No, I'm caught between the two millstones: Morton, Carrington, the
trust, above; the men, labor, below. To live, I must cut into the men.
Now, I know it isn't right, Cicily exclaimed. Tell me, she
continued, bending forward in her eagerness, until he could watch the
beating pulse of her round throat, if I were to give you all my money,
couldn't you fight, and yet keep up the wages? I have quite a lot, you
know. It was accumulating, uncle said, all the time while I was growing
up. She refused to be convinced by her husband's shake of the head in
negation. I've met a lot of their women and children, in these last
few weeks, while I have beenplaying at being in business. None of the
families have any more than enough for their needsI know! Some of
them have barely that. A cut in wages will be something awful in its
effects. Why, Charles, some of the families have six or seven
I know, the harassed employer acknowledged, with a sigh that was
almost a groan. But, Cicily, my dear, unless there is a cut, I shall
be ruined. That is the long and the short of the matter. Unless I make
the men suffer a little now, the factory must be closed down; all Dad's
work must go for nothing. It's either I or them. If they don't take the
cut for the time being, they'll soon be without any wages at all. Now,
if you really want to help me, in a way to count, just do all you
possibly can to prevent a strike. Then, you'll be helping me, and, too,
you'll be helping them as well. Of course, you understand that I shall
put back the wages as soon as ever I can.
Good! the wife cried, happily. I'll help. Despite her distress
over the situation as it affected both the workmen and her husband, she
was elated by the fact that, at last, she was wholly within her
husband's confidence; that, at last, she was actually to coöperate with
him in his business concerns: a practical, no longer merely a
theoretical, partner! Hamilton himself gave the cap to the climax of
Now, he said, with a tender smile, you're positively in business,
according to your heart's desire. You're on the inside, all ready to
fight the what-do-you-call-it.
But a new thought had changed the mood of the impulsive bride. Of a
sudden, she sobered, and her eyes widened in fear.
Yes, she said slowly, tremulously; I'll help you, Charles, in any
way that I can, for a strike would be too terrible. It would come
between you and me.
Small wonder that, Hamilton was astounded by this declaration on the
part of his wife. His usually firm jaw relaxed, dropped; he sat staring
at the fair woman opposite him with unrestrained amazement.
How under heaven could a strike at the factory come between you and
me? he queried, at last.
The answer was slow in coming; but it came, none the lesscame
firmly, unhesitatingly, unequivocally.
If there were to be a strike, I could not let those women and those
children suffer without doing something to help them.
At this candid statement as to what her course would be, the husband
stiffened in his chair. His expression grew severe, minatory.
What? he ejaculated, harshly. You'd use your money to help them?
My wife use her money to fight me? His frown was savage.
Cicily preserved her appearance of calm confidence, although she was
woefully minded to cower back, and to cover her eyes from the menace in
his. She was a woman of strongly fixed principles, however chimerical
her ideas in some directions, and now her conscience drove her on, when
love would have bade her retreat.
I'd use my money to keep women and children from starving to
death, she said, in a low voice, which trembled despite her will.
Hamilton smothered an angry imprecation. He strove to master his
wrath as he spoke again, very sternly:
Cicily, you are my wife. You have said that you were my partner. As
either, as both, you have responsibilities toward my welfare that must
I'm a woman, with responsibilities as a human being first of all,
was the undaunted retort. I wouldn't be fit to be a wife, if I were to
let women and children starve without trying to help.
Nonsense, Cicily! Hamilton's anger was controlled now; but he
remained greatly incensed over this stubborn folly on his wife's part,
as he esteemed it. Strikers don't starve to death, nowadays. They have
benefits and funds, and all sorts of things, to help them. They don't
even go hungry.
Then, why do they ever give in? was the pertinent query. I tell
you they do go hungryoften, even at the best of times. I've been down
among those people. I've seen them with three, six, children to feed
and clothe, and rent to pay, on two to four dollars a day. What chance
have they to save? I tell you, if there's a strike, some of them will
starve, and, if you let them starve, Charles, you won't be my husband!
I mean it. The wife rose from her chair, went to her husband, and
kissed him, tenderly, sorrowfully. Then, she turned to leave the room.
But, before she reached the door, Hamilton spoke again, gravely,
quite without anger:
Cicily, my dear, he said, I give you credit for being as sincere
and honest as you are foolish. So, the only chance for all of us is
that you should do your best now, at once, to prevent an issue that may
spell catastrophe for all of us. It's up to you now, my dear partner,
to do your best to win them, to keep them from striking.
The young wife paused in the doorway, and faced her husband. There
was a trace of tears veiling the radiance of the golden eyes. Her voice
quivered, but the low music of it was very earnest:
I will, CharlesI will fight hardmy hardestfor my happiness
and for yours!
Mrs. Schmidt, Mrs. McMahon and Miss Sadie Ferguson, whom Cicily had
selected as the principal beneficiaries in her initial work of up-lift,
arrived a half-hour before the time set for the meeting of the Civitas
Society, and were shown into the drawing-room. Mrs. Schmidt, a thin
wisp of faded womanhood, effaced herself in a remote corner, while Mrs.
McMahon, a brawny Amazon with red, round face and shrewdly twinkling
eyes, frankly wandered about the room, scrutinizing the furnishings and
ornaments and commenting on them without restraint. Sadie Ferguson, on
the other hand, seated herself elegantly upright on an upholstered
chair, and disported herself altogether after the manner of heroines of
high degree as described by her favorite Brooklyn author. At times, she
stared intently, as some impressive thing strange to her experience
caught her eye; but always she recalled her manners speedily, and
forthwith relapsed into a languid indifference of demeanor such as
becomes the Vere De Vere. The trio had not long to wait before their
hostess appeared, and greeted them with a genuine cordiality that put
them at their ease, as far as ease was possible in an environment so
novel. She was at pains to pay a compliment to the girl:
Prettier than ever, Sadie! she exclaimed, with honest admiration.
And, in fact, the girl would have been charming, but for the
disfiguring effects of an over-gaudy dress and an abominable hat.
Aw, quit yer kiddin', Sadie answered coquettishly, intensely
pleased and quite forgetting the Vere De Vere manner in her pleasure
over the compliment. An expression of horror came in her face, as she
realized her violent departure from the ideal; and she added
stammeringly: I mean, you're really too kind, my dear Mrs. Hamilton.
Having achieved this, the girl drew a long breath of relief. She felt
that she had redeemed herself in the matter of social elegance.
Cicily smiled pleasantly on Sadie, then turned to Mrs. McMahon, for
she was minded to put these women in the best of humors, in order thus
to work toward the avoidance of a strike by means of their influence
over their husbands. She observed the hat that had been the cause of
McMahon's complaint, which was, in truth, a riot of variegated
ugliness. Cicily believed, however, that in this instance the end must
justify the means.
What a beautiful hat! she cried, in a tone of convincing
sincerity. She even clasped her hands to emphasize her admiration.
Mrs. McMahon preened herself, and tossed her head; so that feathers
and flowers dashed their hues worse than before.
It's nothing so much! It's just some odds and ends they threw
together for me!
Odds and ends! Cicily repeated, in a hushed voice; and she added,
truthfully: I never saw anything like it in my life. She purposely
avoided directly addressing Mrs. Schmidt, for she was aware of the
woman's painful shyness. It was ever so good of you to come around
this afternoon, she went on. I'm going to have some friends here to
Gentleman friends? Sadie questioned, eagerly. Her face fell when
Cicily answered in the negative, and she could not restrain an
ejaculation of disappointment.
Mrs. McMahon felt it incumbent on her to administer a rebuke to the
What do you care, Sadie, so long as they're Mrs. Hamilton's
friends? And she added majestically, turning to her hostess: Excuse
At this public correction, Sadie flushed scarlet, and glanced
appealingly toward Mrs. Schmidt.
What a nerve! she commented, angrily. Then, she addressed Mrs.
McMahon herself. If you will pardon me, Mrs. McMahon, she said, very
haughtily, I prefer to present my own apologies in individual person.
And, finally, she turned to Cicily. Mrs. Hamilton, if you consider my
interrogation regarding the sex of your guests impertinent, my humblest
apologies are at your disposal.
And she didn't choke! the Irishwoman murmured, admiringly.
Cicily insisted that there was no occasion for apology, and
afterward went on to explain something as to the character and aims of
the Civitas Society for the Uplift of Women. But here, at once, she
found herself beset with unexpected difficulties. Mrs. McMahon drew
herself up with all the dignity of her great bulk, and voiced her
feeling by the tone in which she asked:
I would like to know, Mrs. Hamilton, if you think we are subjects
Can you beat it! Sadie cried, in outraged pride.
Cicily hastened to soothe her guests by an explanation that was more
ingenious than ingenuous.
You don't understand, she remonstrated. This is the club I spoke
to you about. I want you to become members of the society. We need you
to help in the work.
You're on! Sadie declared, with gusto. Again, she realized how she
had departed from her idols. I would say, she went on mincingly, it
will afford me great pleasure.
You mean, then, Mrs. McMahon inquired, that you've picked us out
to help uplift the other women? As Cicily nodded assent, she
continued, condescendingly: Well, if I do have to say it myself,
there's many of them as needs it.
Presently, Mrs. Carrington and Mrs. Morton were shown into the
drawing-room, and welcomed by Cicily, who insisted on introducing them
to three other earnest workers. The newcomers submitted to the
introductions with obvious unwillingness, and their acknowledgments
were of the frigidest.
They, Cicily explained, with a wave of her hand toward the three,
have had large practical experience in the work of the club.
Sure, and I have that, Mrs. McMahon agreed, expansively; and so
have Frieda and Sadiein a smaller way, of course.
Mrs. Carrington unbent so far as to ejaculate, Indeed! the while
she surveyed the speaker through a lorgnette; and Mrs. Morton added an
Cicily, who was all anxiety to establish harmonious relations
between the two parties of her guests, since so much might depend on
the result of her efforts, spoke placatingly to the company:
I'm sure you ladies will find one another entertaining.
Oh, vastly entertaining, no doubt! Mrs. Morton replied; but her
tone was far from satisfactory to the worried hostess. Nor was the
manner of Mrs. McMahon calculated to relieve the tension.
If I live, I'll have the time of my life! she declared, grimly.
She turned to Mrs. Morton: Is your husband's family any relation to
the Mortons of County Clare, if I may make so bold as to ask?
Yes, Mrs. Morton answered, with much complacency. Mr. Morton at
present keeps up his old family estate in Ireland.
Sure, and that wouldn't bust him, Mrs. McMahon commented
caustically. I remember the estatea bit of a cabin in a bog. The
Amazon's huge frame shook as she chuckled. Just ask your husband;
he'll remember me well. Sure, the last time I saw him was when his
aunt, Nora, married Tom McMahon, my husband's uncle. Faith, it's
cousins we are by marriage.
What might have been Mrs. Morton's attitude toward this suddenly
discovered kinship must remain forever in doubt; for, to Cicily's
unbounded relief, a diversion was now offered by the appearance on the
scene of Mrs. Flynn, Miss Johnson and Ruth Howard. Once again, the
necessary introductions were made. Mrs. Flynn displayed astonishment at
the style of these ladies, but contrived a neutral manner that was
void of offense. Miss Johnson was distant, but Ruth was honestly
pleased with this opportunity for sisterly association for the sake of
uplift, and rolled her large eyes ecstatically.
These ladies, Cicily explained anew, are the members whom the
club has met to consider. They have had wide experience in the great
work of helping women.
Indeed, and you're right, Mrs. Hamilton, Mrs. McMahon affirmed.
Whenever anything happens on the block, it's Katy McMahon they send
for. Faith, setting-ups and laying-outs are my specialties.
Mrs. Carrington and Mrs. Morton had withdrawn to a tête-à-tête
at some distance, where they were engaged in a low-toned conversation,
punctuated by many head-shakings. The hostess had seated the new
arrivals in chairs opposite Mrs. McMahon and Sadie. It was evident by
their exclamations that Mrs. Flynn and Ruth were mystified and
impressed by the Irishwoman's explanation. But Miss Johnson maintained
an air of impenetrable reserve.
Setting-ups! quoth the militant suffragette.
Laying-outs! sighed Ruth; and she turned up her eyes, with a blink
Yes, Mrs. McMahon went on, unctuously; setting up with the sick,
and laying out the dead. Faith, sometimes, I have to be nurse and
undertaker, all in one.
So, Ruth gushed, unrolling her eyes with some difficulty, sitting
up with the sick, and laying out the dead, is your great work!
Oh, not that entirely, the Irishwoman continued, not that
entirely! Of course, I have to run my house; and, now and then, when a
family's too poor to have a doctor, 'tis myself that brings a baby into
the world on the side, so to speak. Having had five myself, I'm quite
familiar with the how of it.
There came a horrified gasp from the women listening.
Cheese it! Sadie whispered, fiercely. From her study of the
favorite author, she surmised that Mrs. McMahon was wandering far
afield from the small talk of a Clara Vere De Vere. Your subject for
conversation is really positively shocking and disgusting, she added,
Cicily attempted yet once again to establish harmony among
Mrs. McMahon has done so much good in homes of suffering, she said
gently, that she's very direct in her speech.
The good-natured Irishwoman herself chose to make the amende
honorable, but after her own fashion.
Sure, excuse me, ladies, she exclaimed, heartily. Faith, I didn't
mean to speak of anything so unfashionable as the bearing of children.
Mrs. Delancy and a friend entered at this moment, to the great
relief of Cicily, who greeted her kinswoman warmly, and at once led her
toward Mrs. McMahon.
Here is someone whom you know, Aunt Emma, she said, with
Mrs. Delancy, after one look of shocked amazement at the unwieldy
figure squeezed into a gilt chair, which threatened momentarily to
collapse under the unaccustomed burden, recovered the poise of the
well-bred woman of unquestioned social position, and went forward
cordially, holding out her hand.
Oh, it's Mrs. McMahon! she exclaimed, with a pleasant smile. I'm
delighted to have you with us in this work.
Under this geniality, all of the Irishwoman's resentment vanished,
and she returned the greeting warmly.
And how is little Jimmy? Mrs. Delancy continued, returning to Mrs.
McMahon, after having spoken to Mrs. Schmidt and Sadie.
Thus addressed, the maternal Amazon displayed certain evidences of
confusion, and, indeed, seemed inclined to evade the issue, for she
replied after a little hesitation:
Sure, ma'am, Michael and Terence and Patrick and Katy and Nora are
And Jimmy? Mrs. Delancy persisted, albeit somewhat puzzled by the
Well, ma'am, Mrs. McMahon made answer, with an embarrassment that
was a stranger to her you see, ma'am, there's only five, at
present.... We haven't had Jimmy yet!
There came a gasping chorus from the whole company. Cicily, who had
taken her position behind the table set for the presiding officer of
the Civitas Club, lifted a scarlet face, as she beat a tattoo with the
gavel, and called out bravely:
The Civitas Society will now come to order!
There was a little delay while the members of the club shifted
positions in such manner as to bring them facing the president. When
this had been accomplished, the militant suffragette at once stood up,
and spoke with the aggressive energy that marked her every act.
I move that we dispense with the reading of the minutes of the last
Yes, I think we ought to, Cicily agreed, and she smiled approval
on Mrs. Flynn. In fact, there were no minutes.
But Mrs. Carrington nourished rancor against her rival for the
presidency, and the fact that Mrs. Flynn had made a suggestion, was
reason enough why she should combat it.
I think, she remarked coldly, getting to her feet slowly, that we
should certainly read the minutes. It's most interesting to read the
minutes. She re-seated herself, with an air of great importance.
But, Cicily objected, there are no minutes.
Mrs. Carrington did not trouble to rise for her retort:
I don't see what that has to do with the question at issue.
Oh, very well, then, Cicily rejoined, with one of those flashes of
inspiration that were of such service to her as a presiding officer,
you read them yourself, Mrs. Carrington. At this happy suggestion,
Mrs. Carrington uttered an ejaculation, but vouchsafed nothing more
precise. Cicily waited for a few seconds, then continued gaily: Now
that the minutes are read, the specific business before the house is
the consideration of new members. All working clubs to be successful
must take in constantly virile, live members.
Mrs. Morton, who had by no means forgotten her conversation with
Mrs. McMahon and cherished a distinct grudge against that excellent
woman, voiced a caution:
But, Mrs. Hamilton, she objected, due care should be exercised in
The club cannot be too careful, Mrs. Carrington agreed.
Mrs. McMahon was fuming in her chair, evidently on the edge of an
outbreak. Mrs. Delancy saved the situation by prompt action.
I think, she said, rising, that, if new members are to be voted
on, they should not be present in the meeting during the discussion.
Oh, yes, Cicily made decision, with a smile of gratitude for her
aunt. She nodded brightly toward the three candidates, and addressed
them in her most winning voice.
Mrs. McMahon, will you and Mrs. Schmidt and Miss Ferguson kindly
await the club's action in the next room? She indicated the curtained
archway that led into the withdrawing-room at the back.
Certainly, ma'am, the Irishwoman answered, with a rough
haughtiness all her own. She heaved herself up from the gilt chair,
which seemed to creak a sigh of relief; and the trio went out in the
midst of a deep silence.
Their departure set free a babel of chatter, a great part of it
addressed in personal remonstrance to the presiding officer. Cicily
lost patience, and called out sharply, with the authority of her
Any member addressing the chair will please follow the usual
Mrs. Carrington was the first to take advantage of the formal
method. Sitting elegantly in her place, she spoke:
Madam Chairman, I rise to a point of order.
Very well, then, Mrs. Carrington, Cicily rejoined, with her most
official manner, please rise.
The outraged member bounced to her feet with an alacrity that was
not her habit. It was evident that the lady was angry.
Really, she declared in an acid voice, I never in my whole
What was your point of order? Cicily interrupted, blandly.
Why, wellwellthat is, I've forgotten it now. But it was very
The presiding officer's sense of humor ran away with her discretion.
The chair, she announced gravely, regrets exceedingly that the
member found her point of order too big to raise.
It was Mrs. Delancy who, after her usual fashion, strove to restore
peace, as Mrs. Carrington indignantly settled back into her chair:
Madam Chairman, if this meeting is called to consider the election
of new members, I would like to nominate Mrs. McMahon, Mrs. Schmidt and
Ruth now made display of her customary need for information. She
turned her large eyes on the presiding officer, and inquired
How do you elect new members?
Cicily explained with an air of patient toleration.
They must first be nominated, my dear, and then be seconded. You
have a chance of performing a valuable service to the club now, Ruth,
by seconding the nominations already made.
Oh, have I? the girl demanded, animatedly, evidently pleased by
this unexpected opportunity of fulfilling her ideals. Well, then, I
second themyes, every one of them!
It is moved and seconded, Cicily stated briskly, that Mrs.
McMahon, Mrs. Schmidt and Miss Sadie Ferguson be elected as members of
the Civitas Society for the Uplift of Women and the Spread of Social
Equality among the Masses.
The militant suffragette was on her feet before the presiding
officer had finished speaking.
Madam Chairman, she announced in her resonant voice, I rise on a
question of rules.
But there is a question before the house, Cicily protested.
I am exceedingly sorry to antagonize the chair, Mrs. Flynn
maintained resolutely, but, since my late lamentable experience in
this club, I have made it a point to look up the matter of
parliamentary law as exercised in America. By way of verification, she
held aloft a formidable-appearing, fat volume. Now, I would like to
know whether members are elected to this club by a plurality of votes,
or by a two-thirds majority, or whether or no a single adverse vote can
keep out a candidate from the privileges of the club.
A plurality is quite sufficient, Mrs. Flynn, I assure you, Cicily
decided without the slightest hesitation, despite the fact that her
knowledge as to the difference, if any, between plurality and majority
was of the vaguest. Now, all in favor of the candidates, please
Once again, her purpose was frustrated by the suffragette, who had
been busily consulting the formidable volume.
A moment, Madam Chairman, she demanded, peremptorily. This
American book on parliamentary law says that the club has the right to
decide how new members are to be elected. Therefore, I move that these
elections be as the elections in England, made by secret voting, and
that three black balls be sufficient to defeat any candidate in her
I second the motion, Miss Johnson called out, rallying to the
support of Mrs. Flynn as on a former occasion, because she believed
that such action would tend toward the annoyance of her dear friends,
Mrs. Carrington and Cicily.
Cicily forthwith offered the motion to a vote, and it was carried,
although Mrs. Carrington, Mrs. Morton and Mrs. Delancy voted against
it. Immediately, Mrs. Flynn brought to view from a mysterious pocket a
small black box of wood.
I have here, she explained impressively, the voting-box used in
our club in England. I'm very sorry we did not have it on the occasion
of the election of the president at the last session of this club. I
have no doubt that the issue would have been quite otherwise. Yet, I
hope that no one will misunderstand my position. It is merely my
tendency toward the strong upholding of constitutional rights as
opposed unalterably and forever to tyranny and the forces of disorder
and anarchy. Naturally, there can be no doubt as to the ultimate
election of one at least of the candidates in this particular instance,
inasmuch as that particular candidate is the relation of a member of
the Civitas Society.
Mrs. Morton flounced out of her seat, with an agility that showed
her full appreciation of the thrust.
It is unconstitutional for one club-member to insult a fellow
club-member, she cried, in a rage. And, anyhow, I wish to deny that
statement. I'm not a relationI'm not, I'm not!
Pardon me, the militant suffragette declared, belligerently. Her
narrow, sallow face was set; the lust of battle shone in her snapping
eyes. I know that in Ireland the Mortons and the McMahons are close
relatives. Being an Englishwoman, I naturally know all about it.
Cicily deemed this a fitting time for the exercise of her
prerogative as presiding officer, and rapped violently on the table
with the gavel.
Order! Order! she commanded. Then, she beamed approvingly on Mrs.
Will you carry the box around, Mrs. Flynn, please? she requested.
The suffragette courteously acquiesced, and, as a formal return to
the chair for the honor bestowed on her, first presented the box to
Cicily, who under instructions as to the manner of operation dropped a
white ball into the receptacle, after exhibiting it ostentatiously so
that all the company could see. Next, Mrs. Flynn offered the box to
Mrs. Morton, who selected a black ball, and permitted all who would to
observe the color before her vote was concealed within the box.
I congratulate you on your triumph over natural family affection,
the presiding officer remarked, bitterly.
In turn, the box was presented to each of the members present. This
task accomplished, Mrs. Flynn, at the request of Cicily, set herself to
counting the votes, while the idle ladies discussed the exciting events
of the session with great animation. Presently, the teller looked up,
and addressed the chair.
Madam Chairman, she announced in a businesslike tone, the vote
stands eight to two.
At this statement, the presiding officer clapped her hands merrily,
in a manner more joyous than dignified.
Good! she cried, and her dainty smile was all-embracing, as her
happy eyes roved over the assembly. Then, they're all elected, after
all. It's great! Oh, I thank you! I knew our club would vindicate
itself. I knew that you would live up to our mottowhatever it is. I
knew that you were too big to let social prejudices stand in the way of
the progress of real womanhood. I knew that we were actually a live
club, come together with a genuine aim to do real good. I can see now
that we are going to accomplish something worth while. We are not going
to be merely a set of empty-headed, silly women with nothing to do. Oh,
I tell you that I have some great plans, now that at last we are really
started out right. Now, we can outline our plans of work among women
less fortunate than we ourselves. We can find places for them, we can
lead them on to better things, we can teach them our own doctrine of
living for others, our own principle of making other people happy. The
young wife had spoken with an ever increasing enthusiasm. Her eyes were
sparkling; her voice deepened musically; the color glowed brightly in
her cheeks; her slender form was held proudly erect in the tense
eagerness of an exalted sincerity of purpose. The other women listened
wonderingly at first; but, little by little, the eloquent vehemence of
their president moved them to sympathetic excitement, so that they
nodded and smiled assent to the speaker's lofty sentiments.
Only Mrs. Flynn seemed entirely unaffected by the oratorical
outburst. Now, when the speech came to a close, that militant
suffragette again addressed the chair.
Madam Chairman, she said with brutal directness, the vote stands
eight to two. There are two white balls, and eight black balls.
At this shocking revelation of the fact, Cicily stared dazedly for a
moment; then, an expression of bleak disappointment stole over her
features. She uttered a sound of dismay, which was almost a moan, and
the color fled from her face.
Oh, I don'tcan't believe it! she cried, with sudden fierceness.
With the words, she snatched up the box, which Mrs. Flynn had deposited
on the table, and poured out the balls. She stared at them affrightedly
for a moment. There could be no mistake: They were two white and eight
black! Cicily regarded the incontrovertible evidence of defeat for a
minute with dilated eyes. Then, abruptly, she laughed hardily,
straightened up from her scrutiny of the balls, and gazed wrathfully
out upon her fellow club-members. When she spoke, her tone was of ice.
Her utterance was made with the utmost of deliberation.
So, she said, while her amber eyes flashed fire, you are a set of
empty-headed, silly women with nothing to do, after all!
Cicily! Mrs. Delancy exclaimed, aghast, while the others could
only gasp in horror before this unparalleled vituperation.
I mean itevery word of it! Cicily repeated, hotly. But the
impetuosity of her mood was checked as she beheld the general
consternation consequent on her attack; for now all the others were on
their feet, moving hurriedly and muttering excitedly.
I suppose this is parliamentary law as it is understood in
America, the militant suffragette made sarcastic comment, in a shrill
voice. I prefer the English fashion of doing things, for my part.
Cicily realized, with an increase of misery, how intolerable had
been her conduct. With that swift changefulness that was distinctive of
her nature, she sought to make amends as best she could, although she
understood that the task was well-nigh a hopeless one.
I beg your pardon, she said, with as much humility as she could
summon. But, oh, you don't know what you are doing. You can't know!
Don't you realize that you are spoiling our one chance for doing
goodspoiling our chance to make this a genuine club to help women
actually, not just merely making a joke by pretending?
Mrs. Morton voiced the general sentiment of disagreement succinctly:
I fail to see how association with such persons could be anything
but distasteful, even disgusting.
Exactly! Mrs. Carrington agreed.
Such women have their own clubs, Miss Johnson pointed out for the
enlightenment of the presiding officer. She was very happy over her
dear Cicily's discomfiture. How can they help in any really great
work? Let them work among the creatures of their own class. We, she
concluded loftily, have our ideals.
My ideal, the president retorted bitterly, is to do
somethingnot merely to talk about it. Not one of you, she continued,
waxing wroth again, has ever done any real good, has ever put herself
out to be of service to others, has ever really done anything for
anybody elsenot one of you!
Mrs. Hamilton, Mrs. Morton protested indignantly, I cannot permit
such a statement. I for one send my check to the Charity Organization
every Christmas, without fail. Others, too, boasted of their
philanthropies, always exercised through some most respectable medium.
As the clamor of rebuke died away, Cicily ventured one more plea:
Then, won't you do this for me? she asked. I, as your president,
ask that you elect these women. Let them in, to help me in doing the
hard work. You needn't do anything, but just belong and take the
credit. I am under obligations to these persons. I promised them
election to the club. I know now that I had no right to do so, but I
did. I am sorry that I was so hasty in the matter. But won't you make
my word good in this one case? The musical voice was tenderly
persuasive. Some of those who listened yielded to the spell of it and
the winning radiance of the amber eyes. But Mrs. Flynn was not of
There's nothing in this book of American parliamentary law that
says the president has a right to promise anything binding on the club.
I move that the president consider herself rebuked for exceeding her
Ruth, there's another chance to second something, Cicily
The maiden of the large eyes was pleased and flattered by the
suggestion, which she accepted in all seriousness.
Really? she exclaimed, and turned her gaze aloft. Oh, then, I
second itI second it, of course!
It is moved and seconded, Cicily declared listlessly, that the
president be rebuked for trying to be of some genuine use to herself
and to her fellow women. All in favor of the motion will please say
The form in which the president had stated the motion was not
satisfactory to most of the members, who preserved a silence of
indecision, with the single exception of Ruth, who uttered an
enthusiastic affirmative vote, as a matter of course, only to shrink
back perplexedly when she found angry eyes focused on her from every
side. But Cicily nonchalantly announced the motion as having been
carried, without troubling to call for the contrary vote.
Ladies, she said, the president accepts the rebuke; and she also
resigns from her office and from the club. She is done with you, with
all of you, and with your pitiful joke of a club.
She stood serenely defiant, while the company of babbling,
head-tossing women hastened forth from the drawing-room, until only
Mrs. Delancy remained.
For a few moments after the passing of the Civitas Society, Cicily
remained in her place, motionless, tense, her face whitely set. Then,
of a sudden, the rigidity of her pose relaxed. She moved swiftly to
where her aunt was sitting, dropped to her knees, and buried her face
in the old lady's lap. The dainty form was shaken by a storm of
sobs.... Mrs. Delancy, wise from years, attempted no word of comfort
for the time beingonly stroked the shining brown tresses softly, and
patted a shoulder tenderly. So, the girl, for now she was no more than
that, wept out the first fury of her grief in this comforting,
sheltering presence, as so often she had done in the years before
marriage claimed her. Little by little, the fierceness of her emotion
was worn out, until at last she was able to raise a sorrow-stricken
face, in which the clear gold of the eyes still shone beautiful, though
dimmed, through the veil of tears. The scarlet lips were tremulous, and
the notes of the musical voice came brokenly as she spoke her despair.
I've ruined him! came the hopeless wail.
Mrs. Delancy misunderstood the final pronoun, for the articulation
of the girl, clogged by feeling, was none too distinct.
Pooh! she ejaculated, cheerfully. For my part, I think you're
well rid of them.
But you don't understand, Cicily almost moaned. It's himhim!
I've ruined him, I tell you.
This time, Mrs. Delancy understood the pronoun, but she understood
nothing beyond that.
Ruined him? she repeated, wholly at a loss. Whom have you ruined,
Cicily? What do you mean?
Then, the young wife poured forth the tale of the disaster she had
all unwittingly wrought in the affairs of her husband. She explained
her high hopes of saving a dangerous situation by means of her own
influence over the women, who, in turn, controlled the leaders among
the workmen in the factory. Cicily was painfully aware of the mischief
that must result from the refusal of the Civitas Society to welcome
into its sacred circle the three candidates whom she had proposed. She
knew the sensitiveness of these women, knew that they would bitterly
resent the slight thus put upon them. Where she had meant to bind their
friendship for her, she had succeeded only in creating a situation by
which they might well come to detest her for having subjected them to
needless humiliation. With their hostility aroused against her, they
would throw their influence, which she believed dominant, to persuade
the men against any concessions in favor of their employer. With a full
perception of the catastrophe in which she had so innocently become
involved, the wife hurriedly recounted the facts to her aunt, bewailing
the evil destiny that had worked such dire havoc with her schemes for
Well, you did what you could, Mrs. Delancy suggested consolingly,
when at last the melancholy recital was ended.
And I failed! came the retort, in a voice of misery.
Certain utterances of the girl on a former occasion had rankled in
the bosom of the old lady, perhaps because she perceived a certain
element of justice in them, and by so much a measure of dereliction on
her own part in the regulating of affairs between herself and her
husband. Now, despite the kindliness of her nature and her real
sympathy for the suffering of the niece who knelt at her knees, she
could not forbear a mild reproof:
Well, Cicily, she said gently, it all comes of a woman fooling
with business. Why, if you'd only been content to work for the
I've just finished with the heathen! was the quick interruption.
Well, my dear, Mrs. Delancy commented drily, if you'd only work
for the far-off heathen, you'd find it much more satisfactory. You
might not do any good, to be sure; but, anyhow, the bad results
wouldn't affect you.
Cicily got to her feet, without making any reply, and went to the
mirror at one end of the drawing-room. There, she busied herself after
the feminine fashion with concealing the more apparent ravages made by
her weeping. When she came back to face her aunt again, she was her
usual charming self, save for a lack of color in her cheeks, and a
portentous gravity in the drooping of the mouth.... Happily, she was
not of the majority, whose noses bloom redly when watered with tears.
And now, she said, desolately, I've got to tell them! She nodded
toward the withdrawing-room, where the three candidates were waiting;
and Mrs. Delancy understood.
Why don't you write it to them? she advised. Whenever I have
anything uncomfortable to tell anyone, I always write it. Then, I let
your Uncle Jim read the reply.... It's so much more satisfactory that
way, and, you know, he can say right out what I don't dare even to
But Cicily had courage and a conscience. She felt that she must not
shirk the consequences to herself of her own indiscretion.
No, I'll tell them, she declared resolutely; but her heart was
sick within her at contemplation of the scene that waited.
Fortunately, perhaps, small time was given Cicily for dread
anticipations. Hardly had she ceased speaking when the door into the
withdrawing-room was cautiously opened, and the face of Mrs. McMahon
was made visible to the two women who had faced about at sound of the
knob turning. On perceiving that the room was empty save for the
hostess and Mrs. Delancy, the Irishwoman threw the door wide, and came
Faith, it was so quiet I was sure they'd gone, she announced, with
manifest pride in her deductive powers. There was, too, a general air
of elation in the woman's manner of carriage that struck a chill to
Cicily's heart. And the cold of it deepened as Mrs. Schmidt and Sadie
Ferguson followed into the drawing-room, each evidently in a state of
exaltation. The three ranged themselves in rude dignity before their
hostess. Mrs. McMahon constituted herself the spokeswoman.
Well, she inquired genially, now that we're members of the club,
what is it you'd be after having us to do?
An interval of silence followed, under the influence of which the
three waiting candidates seemed visibly to droop, as if by a subtle
instinct they began to apprehend misfortune. When, finally, Cicily
spoke, it was in a colorless voice:
I'm afraid there is nothing that any of us can do, now. The three
started, and exchanged glances in which was dawning alarm, I mean,
the unhappy hostess went on, making her confession of failure by a
mighty effort of will, thatthat the election did not go as I had
expected it to.
Again, there was a painful silence, in which Sadie fidgeted and Mrs.
Schmidt seemed to grow more shrunken and faded than before. Mrs.
McMahon alone stood unmovingly erect, stiffly pugnacious on the
So, that's it! she exclaimed, at last. Her big voice was raucous
with anger. Sure, then, and we're not members, at all!
As the bald truth was thus made known to Sadie, she flared into
complete forgetfulness of the ideal deportment of her heroines.
Them cats turn us down! she screeched.
Mrs. Schmidt uttered no word, for she was by nature given to
profound silences, almost unbroken for days. Perhaps, she believed the
garrulity of her husband ample for the entire family. Nevertheless, in
this critical moment, Mrs. Schmidt opened her mouth repeatedly, like a
fish out of water, as if she were striving her utmost to speak.
Andand, Cicily added weakly, I'm awfully sorry.
Sure, and you don't need to trouble yourself, Mrs. Hamilton, the
Irishwoman declared, viciously. The likes of us know how you rich
people have a habit of bringing us into your parlors to make fun for
their friends. You come to our homes, and we treated you like a lady.
Faith, now we come here, and you treat us like monkeysthat's all the
difference. We're much obliged to you for the lesson. Sure, and we
won't bother you again, not a bit of it. And we'll be pleased if you'll
treat us the same.... Good-day to you, Mrs. Hamilton. The irate woman
bobbed her head energetically at her hostess, and strode toward the
doorway into the hall. But she halted for a moment as Cicily addressed
Mrs. McMahon, you must listen to me! I had no idea that this would
turn out as it did. I have been your friendI am your friend. When the
club refused to admit you, I resigned from the club. There is nothing
more that I can do. Oh, I am so sorry that it all occurred!
Faith, we'll take your explanation for all it's worth, was the
wrathful woman's comment, uttered with scorn. She was too deeply hurt
to be solaced by explanations that did not alter the shameful fact one
whit. She turned again toward the doorway, only to be halted by the
appearance there of her husband, accompanied by Schmidt and Ferguson.
McMahon paused just within the room, and stood rubbing his hands,
and grinning jovially, his round face aglow with satisfaction. He
addressed his wife banteringly, evidently in high good spirits:
Faith, Katy McMahon, he exclaimed, but you're looking proud the
day! Sure, now, I'll have the automobile to take us all up to Sherry's
in just a minute, when we've done talking with Mr. Hamilton. Bedad,
with our wives and daughters moving in such elegant society and members
of such a grand club with the boss's wife, we wouldn't dare take them
any less place at all!
It's a bad mind-reader you are! fairly shouted the outraged wife.
Sadie added something unintelligible, it was so rapidly uttered and so
venomously hissed. Even Mrs. Schmidt displayed every symptom of speech
What's the matter, Sadie? Ferguson demanded, not unkindly, as he
observed the expression on his daughter's face. Wasn't your false hair
the right shade? I'm sorry, if it ain't, because I don't see as how I
can buy you any more with this ten per cent. cut we're taking.
Instantly, Cicily aroused to new hope. She moved a stop forward, her
hands up-raised in eagerness. A glow of color burned in either cheek,
and her eyes sparkled again.
Oh, she questioned tensely, then you're not going to
strikeyou'll take the cut?
It was Schmidt who answered, beaming happily on his hostess.
Strike? Ah, no! When you make friends with our wives, and Mr.
Hamilton, he tells us the truth just like one man with another, we
appreciate it, yes; we stand by and help, yes!
Schmidt's right, Ferguson added. Mr. Hamilton and you, ma'am, are
human. So, we've decided to stick it out for a while, anyhow.
McMahon, too, yielded his tribute of commendation.
Yes, Mrs. Hamilton, he said seriously, there's one thing that the
bosses generally don't understand; but the men always appreciate it
when the boss, and the boss's wife, too, are on the level.
To the amazement of everyone, Mrs. Schmidt broke into speech; find
that outburst was like the eruction of Krakatao in its unexpectedness,
its suddenness, its overwhelming virulence.
Yes, yes, yes, she clamored, addressing her hapless husband, who
stood appalled before the attack, you are one big, fat fool! You
always were. You are in love with herno? You let her bring your wife
here, make her for a joke to her rich friends, let her get insults.
They laugh and make fun of me, Frieda Schmidt, your wife; and then,
when they have had the good laugh, they say: 'What do you think we want
of you? You are not like us. We are grand ladies: you are a working
woman. Get out! Get out! We have had our laugh at you. Now, go! We are
through; we are tired of you. It was very good of Mrs. Hamilton to
bring you here for us to laugh at; but it is over. Get out!'... And
then you come and thank her because she insults your wife, insults your
name; and you take less wages from her husband because she insults your
name and me. If you take that cut, you are not my mannever with me no
more! With the last words, she darted from the room, and a moment
later the street-door slammed violently behind her.
Good for Frieda! Mrs. McMahon applauded. When she does talk, sure
she says something.... You heard her, Mike McMahon? Well, what she
said, them's my sentiments. You know what she did now. A jerk of the
head indicated the wretched hostess. She pretended to ask us to join a
club. She brought us here to insult us, to make fun of us. She made us
the laughing-stock of Morton and Carrington's wives. Do you hear that?
Morton and Carrington! Put the names of them in your pipe and smoke it.
Mike McMahon, listen to what I'm telling you. If you take a cut from
them that insult your wife, you can forget to come home for good, my
bucco. In her turn, the Irishwoman stalked out of the room and from
the house with a tread of heavy dignity.
That goes with me, Pop! Sadie declared, as she flounced out.
It's all been a terrible mistake, Cicily ventured to the three men
who stood regarding her with sullen faces and baleful eyes after the
revelations that had just been made.
I'm thinking you're right, McMahon agreed. There was something
sinister in his voice. But it's us that made the mistake. We thought
the boss and his wife could be on the level with us. What a bunch of
damn fools we were! And his two confrères nodded gloomy assent.
It was at this most unpropitious moment that Hamilton came briskly
into the room. He stopped short in the doorway, at sight of the three
men of the committee, who turned to face him.
Well, boys, he exclaimed briskly, have you decided? The men
nodded without speaking. Well?
I'll do the talking, Ferguson said, holding up a hand to check
Schmidt. We've decided, Mr. Hamilton. We're going to strike. We'll
make you come to terms, or we'll bust you if we can.
Hamilton's face hardened, and he squared his shoulders.
I suppose you know what you're up against? he questioned harshly.
Yes, we've just found out, Ferguson retorted, with gusty rage.
We'd been thinking that you were on the levelyou and your wife, too.
We swallowed that funny story of your being crushed by the trust. Oh,
we were suckers, all right. We were suckers for fair! We were going to
fall for it. We were going take your cut. And then your wife brings our
wives and daughters here, pretending she's going to put them in her
clubbrings them here to make a laugh for Morton and Carrington's
wives. Yes, Morton and Carrington, the very men you say are crushing
you, your enemies! Oh, your enemies are all right! Do you think we are
fools? No, to hell with you! The furious man's voice rose to a shriek
with the last words. He whirled, and made for the door, and the other
two followed him.
One minute, Hamilton called. You needn't go back to the works. We
close down in ten minutes. Come back to see me when you are hungry. He
stood motionless as the men passed silently out, and until he heard the
sound of the street-door closing behind them. Then, he turned to
Cicily, who had waited pallid and shaken, her eyes downcast, her hands
clasped distressedly. His voice, as he spoke, was not softened; even,
it was harder than before. You see what you have done, he said
simply. This settles it. I'm going into a big fight. I can't be
handicapped. For the future, you will stay where you belong. You will
confine your activities to the house, where they will be less
dangerous, let us hopeless fatal! Without awaiting any reply, he
wheeled, and strode from the room.
Cicily sent word of a severe headache, and did not appear at the
dinner-table that night, nor did she see her husband during the
evening. She retired to her bed-chamber at an early hour, but not to
sleep. Instead, she abandoned herself to torturing reflections on the
malevolent predicament into which she had been brought. She did not
attempt to disguise from herself the hideous fact that her own
precipitancy of action in the matter of the candidates for the club had
been the primary cause of the peril that now beset her husband's
business prosperity by reason of the strike thus induced. She bewailed
the impetuous character of her emotions, which had so evilly led her
into an action fraught with such dire consequences. She had no regret
for the motives that had impelled her, but she was profoundly sorrowful
over the thoughtless haste with which she had entered on a course of
more than doubtful expediency. Her one relief was in a reiteration that
she would, that she must, find some way by which to make amends for the
catastrophe she had so ingenuously engineered. To the discovery of a
method for retrieving her error, she gave her mind with an almost
frenzied concentration; but the effort was fruitless. Cudgel her
wearied brain as she would, it could not make pace to the goal she
sought. When, after a sleepless night, she rose, it was with the maze
of disaster still unthreaded. Her usual ingenuity of resource was
become impotent. Raging against her own supineness, she was yet forced
into ignoble inactivity.
Cicily learned that her husband had breakfasted early, and had left
the house, without any message to her, or any statement as to when he
might return. The sight of food sickened her, but she managed to drink
a cup of coffee, which put a little heart into her after the wearing
hours of the night. A turn around the Park and along the Drive still
further quickened her spirits; but the day passed without any flash of
inspiration as to a means for undoing the ill she had wrought. She made
a toilette for dinner by a brave effort. Yet, she might have spared her
pains, for Hamilton did not appear. She idled through the meal with as
much cheeriness of demeanor as she could summon for the benefit of the
servants. Afterward, she sought the seclusion of her boudoir, leaving
word that she should be notified immediately in the event of her
In the meantime, Hamilton himself had opportunity for meditation,
and this had softened his mood to some degree. He admitted to himself
that her interest in the wives of his workmen had been the prime factor
in their determination to endure a temporary cut in the wage-scale
without striking. To be sure, his own attitude of confidential
intercourse with the leaders in stating his position frankly had had
its influence; but he did not for a moment believe that this alone
would have sufficed to bend the men to his will. No, it had been the
happy effect of his wife's intimate association on terms of equality
with the women that had been the chief factor in creating a sentiment
of sympathy for him to the extent of coöperation. Without her work in
his behalf, the men would certainly have struck. Now, since her mistake
in judgment had been the immediate cause of the strike, in justice she
could hardly be held guilty of more than an act of folly. Essentially,
the final situation was what it would have been without any
intervention whatsoever on her part. In going over the succession of
events logically and calmly, Hamilton came to the decision that he
would absolve his wife from any real guilt in the affair. He even felt
a half-hearted kindliness toward her for her blundering good-will. But
he was none the less resolved that he would tolerate no further
injection of this charming feminine personality into his business
concerns. The wife must mind her own businessthe homeand that
alone; she must have no part in his.... It was in this mood that he
returned to his house late in the evening, and shut himself into the
study. There, presently, Cicily came, seeking him.
The bride was very beautiful to-night, with a touch of sadness in
her expression that gave her a new spirituelle charm. She had chosen a
black gown as becoming the melancholy of the time, but its austere
lines, without any touch of adornment, only brought into full relief
the exquisite outlines of the slenderly rounded form, and served to
emphasize the creamy whiteness of a complexion that was flawless. There
was hardly a glimpse of rose in the ivory curve of the cheeks, but
there was no lessening of the bending scarlet in the lips and the amber
eyes were luminous even beyond their wont, as their gentle radiance
shone forth above the dark circles traced by a sleepless night.
Hamilton turned a little as the door opened. He regarded his wife
quizzically as she walked forward with a step of native grace, now
grown a trifle languid from the weight on her spirit. He did not speak,
however, until she had seated herself in the chair facing his. Then,
when at last she looked up, and her somber gaze encountered his, he
Cicily, my dear, I think you are well rid of that coterie of cats.
Why, how did you know? Cicily questioned, in some astonishment as
to his knowledge of her break with the members of the Civitas Society.
Oh, in a very simple way. Aunt Emma told Uncle Jim, and Uncle Jim
told me, Then, out of the kindness of his heart, the young husband
went on speaking in such wise, according to his best judgment, as
should console the very apparent misery of his wife. My dear, he said
gently, I want you to know that I don't really blame you for this
wretched strike. I'd have had it on my hands just the same, if you'd
never had a finger in the pie. So, don't go grieving over something
that can't be helped. And, of course, I give you all credit for the
very best of intentions in the matter. Only he broke off discreetly;
but the discretion had come too late.
Only what? Cicily questioned, quietly. There was something ominous
in the quiet, and this the man realized.
Nevertheless, Hamilton was not one to shirk that which he deemed his
duty. So, now, he answered lucidly with just what was in his mind as to
the future relations between them, although he understood sufficiently
well the ambitions of the woman before him to know that he must wound
Sweetheart, he said softly, I don't wish to grieve you in any
way. Yet, I must insist calmly now on what I said yesterday in the heat
of anger. You must attend to your duty in the home. It is for me, and
for me alone, to conduct matters of business outside. Can you not
understand that you are by nature and training utterly incompetent for
the rôle you seek to play? Business aptitude is not a thing to be
picked up in an instant, haphazard, at the wish of anyone. It is
something acquired by long striving and experience. The man has it in
greater or less degree, as the result of generations of the work; he
inherits an aptitude; he develops it by systematic training. Feminine
intuition cannot give you a substitute for the practical needs of
business. So, my dear, I beg you to be reasonable. You must not meddle
further in my affairs. But, don't, for heaven's sake, be melancholy
over it. I love you, my dear, and I want you to be happy. You will be,
if only you can get the right point of view. Try! Won't you, dear? As
he finished speaking with this appeal, Hamilton leaned forward
anxiously, pleadingly. Deep down in his heart he felt a glow of pride
over the mildness and the reasonableness with which he had presented
the case in its true light to this irrational, dear creature.
For a long minute, Cicily vouchsafed no answer, although she felt
the intensity of his gaze fixed upon her. She remained motionless,
leaning back in the chair, her taper fingers loosely clasped on her
lap, her eyes downcast, as one absorbed in earnest, yet not
disquieting, thought. Finally, however, she raised her head slowly, and
her gaze met that of her husband fairly. It seemed to him that perhaps
the faint touch of color in her cheeks had grown a little brighter, but
of this he could not be sure. Otherwise, certainly, she betrayed no
sign of particular emotion; whereat he rejoiced, since he knew from
experience that her temperament might manifest tumultuously on
Then, it's come, she said at last, in a low voice. Again, her eyes
were downcast, and she rested there, to all appearance, tranquilly
Hamilton stirred uneasily. This was not what he had expected, and he
found himself unprepared for the emergency.
If you mean that common-sense has come, he remarked grimly, I beg
to tell you that it has, and that it has come to stay!
The wife spoke again, rather languidly, without troubling to raise
You mean that you are going to push me back, that you are going to
shut me out of your life totallyout of your big, whole, full life?
You mean that, for the future, you are going to treat me as a doll, as
a plaything with which to amuse yourself when you chance to be tired
and in a mood for such diversionin fact, as other men of the average
sort treat their wives? You have told your side of it. Now, I'm going
to tell you mine. And I'm going to ask you not to decide too hastily.
Think over the matter carefully, I beg of you. For, you see, it
involves our whole future, yours and mine.... Charles, once you yielded
to my wishes. You took me in. You let me help you.
Yes, exclaimed Hamilton, in exasperation of spirit. And you made
a mess of things all round! He shook his head emphatically. No,
Cicily; I tell you, no!
Charles, wait! the wife commanded, raising her eyes, and
straightening her form in sudden animation. Take my moneytake
everything that I have. Throw it away, if you want to. Use it in your
business, if it will help the least bit. Do whatever you pleaseonly,
don't shut me out. Tell me everything. Teach me something of your
knowledge concerning these things. Let me share as much as I can. You
direct, of course. I'll only do what you wish me to do. But don't drive
me away from you. She paused, leaned farther forward, and went on
speaking in a tone of deepest seriousness: If we part this way now, if
I am to cease from any interest in your affairs, and you go on alone,
why, then, I'll never have you again. I know that for the truth. That's
why I am pleading like this. Once, I demanded it as a right; now, I beg
it as a favor. Here is the choice, Charles. You can't be as Uncle Jim
is, simply because I won't be like Aunt Emma in this matter. If you
shut me out now, I'll shut you outfor good!
Good God! was there ever such a woman! Hamilton cried, in
desperation. Why, if I were to take you in, within two weeks you'd be
down there, helping the families of the strikers. You told me that,
Would you have me see them starve, Charles, when I had the means
for their relief? came the undaunted retort.
That does settle it! Hamilton exclaimed, with angry vehemence. It
came to him in this instant that all his reasonableness and gentleness
were futile when opposed to the unfeminine ambition of his girl wife.
Temper had him in its clutch, and he yielded blindly to its guidance.
I'm your husband, Cicily, he announced, dictatorially. Please,
understand that, from now on, I direct the affairs of this family.
There can be no happiness in a house without headonly bother and
worry and confusion. From now on, I direct. I'm the head of this
house.... I have a big fight on. I intend that you shall be loyal. I
mean that you shall be faithful to me straight through.
You demand this? The woman's voice was like ice.
Yes, the husband replied, roughly. I demand that you take your
proper place, the place of a wife in her husband's home; and that you
stay there, doing as I tell you. And, in this strike, you keep your
hands off. This is what you must do, as long as I am your husband. The
man's eyes were masterful; his jaw was thrust forward.
Well, if that's the sort of man you are, I won't have you for a
husband, Cicily declared, quietly. There was an air of aloofness about
her that was more disturbing than had been a display of passion. If
that's your idea of marriage, we'd be better apart, for it isn't mine.
No, you're not my husband, She stood up, slowly drew the wedding-ring
from her finger, and laid it on the table.
Cicily! Hamilton cried, aghast, as she turned away.
She did not pause until she was come to the door. But, there, she
faced about for a final utterance.
No, I won't have you for a husband, was her ultimatum.... And
yet, I think that I'll teach you a lesson. I have a fancy to save
youin spite of yourself! And, leaving Hamilton to ponder these
astounding words, she went forth from the room.
The week that followed was to Cicily the most strenuous and the most
exciting that she had ever experienced in the brief span of her years.
She steadfastly maintained her pose as a woman who had renounced her
husband; yet, she remained in that husband's house, with a sublime
disregard for the inconsistency of her conduct. She studiously avoided
any discussion, of the status she had established. What her future
course would be was left wholly to conjecture. She presided at the
table with inimitable grace and self-possession, taking care to treat
her husband with every consideration, but always with a trace of
formality that was significant of the changed relation. Hamilton, on
his part, was inclined to regard his wife's dramatic renunciation of
him as a passing whim, which it were wiser to ignore until such time as
it should have worn itself out. In the meantime, he was so much
absorbed by the struggle over his business difficulties that, he had
little time or disposition to make researches into feminine psychology,
even that of his wife. He had an optimistic theory that, in the end,
his domestic troubles would adjust themselves by some process of
natural evolution. He was confident, too, that his assertion of mastery
must eventually be accepted by his wife. So, he smiled pleasantly on
Cicily, when he was not too busy to notice her presence, and betimes he
felt the little packet that he carried in the inner pocket of his
waistcoat, and was fondly content, wondering when the dear girl would
again slip the bond of servitude willingly on the finger whence she had
removed it with such magnificent disdain.
It was that wedding-ring, thus cherished by Hamilton, which caused
the wife more concern than aught else in her domestic entanglement. She
had regarded the symbol as something splendidly sacred, and she now
bitterly regretted the impulse that had led her to discard it so
needlessly. Indeed, the very night on which she defied her husband, she
had crept down to the library when all the house was quiet, and had
there made sure that it was not still lying disregarded on the table
where she had cast it down in resentment. Now, she hoped and believed
that her husband had locked it away in some drawer where at least it
would be safe. Only, she wished that she had saved it as a souvenir of
mingled happiness and sorrow.
Apart from this matter of the ring, Cicily had no remorse. She
regretted the course of action thrust on her by malign fate, but her
conscience was clear of reproach. Perhaps, in some subtle, unconfessed
recess of her heart, she nourished a hope that ultimately joy would
return to her life. But her openly expressed conviction to herself was
that she was done with the life of love. Yet, a curious personal
ambition urged her on to make good the declaration to her husband that
she would save him in spite of himself. To this end, she bent all her
energies. As she reflected on the circumstances under which she had so
ignominiously failed, she decided that she must have recourse again to
the means by which she had so nearly attained success in her plans for
her husband's welfare, only to fail miserably on account of the
obstinacy of the Civitas Society. So, she sought out the women whom she
had unhappily offered as candidates to the club, and set herself with
all the art that was in her to win back their favor. She was sure that
by alliance with them she could mold circumstance to her will, and
ultimately triumph gloriously over the erring man who had flouted her
ambition to help in a business struggle.
Cicily made a full confession of her marital disaster to Mrs.
Delancy, who by turns scolded and cried over the wilful girl. The old
lady disapproved strongly of her niece's conduct, which was without any
excuse whatsoever according to her own notions of conventional
requirements. But, since she loved this child whom she had mothered,
she forgave her, and by degrees came to feel a certain sympathy for
her, which reacted mildly in her own attitude toward her husband.... It
was on one of her visits to her aunt that Cicily encountered Mr.
Delancy, who was already aware of the unfortunate position of affairs,
and now felt himself called on to protest. He expressed himself with
some severity, and concluded with a hope that she was not determined to
persevere in her folly.
I was never more determined in my whole life, Uncle Jim, was the
Mr. Delancy resisted a temptation to snatch up one of the teacups
from the exquisite Sèvres service over which his wife and his niece
were sitting, and to hurl it into the fireplace, for the sake of
relieving his choler. He refrained from any overt act, however, by a
great effort of will, and perforce contented himself with an explicit
statement of his opinion:
You were never more bull-headed in your life, he snorted, stopping
short in his agitated pacing of the drawing-room, to face his niece
with a scowl; and that's saying a great deala very great deal!
James! Mrs. Delancy exclaimed, in mild remonstrance.
But Cicily was not to be suppressed by this man who typified the
evils against which she had fought.
Would you have me give up my principles? she questioned,
Once again, Mr. Delancy snorted contemptuously.
You haven't got any principles, he declared, baldly. No woman
At this brutal statement on the part of her husband, Mrs. Delancy
stiffened, and an exclamation of shocked amazement burst from her.
Cicily smiled cynically, as she addressed her aunt:
Well, Aunt Emma, she said amusedly, you see now what your
attitude has led to. You began with no backbone. So, now, you have no
principles. Oh, you nice, sweet-faced, gray-headed, deceiving old-lady
But Mrs. Delancy refused to see any element of humor in the
situation. Indeed, she was on the verge of tears over the wantonly
injurious statement made by the husband whom she had cherished for a
James, how could you! she cried out, in a voice broken by emotion.
To say such things to your wifeoh!
Too late, the irascible husband realized that he had committed a
serious fault, had in fact been guilty of a gross injustice, which was
hardly less than an insult, to the woman whom he thoroughly respected.
Emma he began, appealingly.
But Mrs. Delancy had changed in an instant from tearful reproach to
No, don't speak to me! she commanded; and she deliberately turned
her back on the culprit.
Under the goad of this treatment, Delancy addressed his niece in a
tone that was almost ferocious.
So, he snarled, not content with breaking up your own home, you'd
try to ruin mine, would you! You should apologize to your Aunt Emma, at
Dear Auntie, Cicily exclaimed without a moment's hesitation, in a
voice of contrition, I beg you to let me apologize to you very humbly
for what Uncle James said.
What the! stormed the badgered old gentleman. Now, look here,
Cicily. You think you're very smart. But do you know what your attitude
has led to?Scandal!
Mrs. Delancy forgot for the moment her own subject for complaint.
Yes, she agreed, turning to her niece, it's a scandal to live in
a house with a strange manyou know, that's what you yourself called
It's a worse scandal, Delancy amended, not to live with him.
Oh, I see, Cicily remarked, meditatively. I must have a chaperon.
But, on the other hand, now, Charles is, or rather he was, my husband.
That seems, somehow, to make a difference. At least, we are well
acquainted, although strangers at present, in a sense. And, besides, I
have the kindliest feeling for Charles, and that's more than lots of
women have for their husbands. As to that, you know, since he's not my
husband now, there is really no reason why I should not have the very
kindliest of feelings for him.
Well, you claim to renounce your husband, Delancy argued angrily,
and yet you continue to live with him in the same house. It's a
monstrous state of affairs. Will you tell me, please, madam, when this
scandalous situation is to end?
Would you have me desert Charles in a crisis? Cicily demanded,
haughtily. No, I'll give no one an opportunity to accuse me of
desertion in the face of the enemy.
Oh, Lord! Delancy exclaimed; and his tone was eloquent. Oh, no,
you haven't deserted him!
I don't see what that has to do with it, Cicily objected, flushing
painfully. Charles and I have merelythat is, we'vebroken off
At this extraordinary statement of the case, Mrs. Delancy, in her
turn, flushed a dainty pink, which was wondrously becoming to her waxen
cheeks, not unduly wrinkled despite her burden of years. Delancy
himself forgot indignation for the moment, and laughed outright, as he
regarded his wife to observe the manner in which she received the
surprising information. His eyes took on a kindlier expression as he
saw the change that gave her a wondrously younger look, and a rush of
memories caused him to smile reminiscently, half-sadly, half-tenderly.
The effect on him was apparent in the pleasanter voice with which he
next addressed his niece, playfully:
My, my! She'd be sending him home to his mother, I expect, if only
he had a mother.
Cicily, still suffering in the throes of a painful embarrassment,
Uncle Jim, I'd just like to shake you!
Oh, don't mind my gray hairs, Delancy scoffed. And, when you're
done with me, you might spank your Aunt Emma.
That good woman shook her head dolorously, as the flush died from
I don't know what we're coming to, she mourned.
Anarchy! was her husband's prompt answer, as he mounted again on
his favorite hobby. Once women begin to believe that they have
intelligence, anarchy will be the natural, the inevitable result. God
never made them to think. In his excitement, he had forgotten the
manner in which he had already once offended his wife.
Then, why did God give women brains? Cicily demanded.
I can't waste my time in arguing with a woman, Delancy answered
loftily, and, turning away, tugged superciliously at a wisp of whisker.
That's it! Oh, yes, that's it! Cicily exclaimed, with rising
indignation. Her embarrassment had passed, but a flush remained in her
cheeks, and her radiant eyes were alight with the battle-lust. You
think women haven't any intelligence. You can't waste your time arguing
with them! Very well, then, I tell you that it's you who haven't the
intelligence to recognize a new point of viewa new force in the
world; the force of women's brainsuntil it shall hit you in the face.
That's why I'm holding out against Charles, fighting him, to save him,
to keep him from growing into a narrow-minded, hard-headed, ignorant
old fossil! The application of this explicit description was not far
to seek. It was evident that Delancy took it to himself, for he, in his
turn at last, colored rosily. But he did not choose to accept a
personal reference, and contented himself with a bit of repartee:
Huh, no fear! He won't live to be a fossil. His troubles will kill
him off early, or I lose my guess.... So, that's your excuse for
ruining him, is it?
I'd help him, if he'd let me, Cicily answered, sadly, forgetful of
her indignation against the sex.
You help him! Delancy exclaimed, mockingly. Why, you brought on
But Cicily would have protested, only to be interrupted by the
indignant old gentleman, who shook an accusing forefinger at her.
You can't tell me! Yes, you did, with your impertinent
interference. Huh! When women get to fooling with business, we shall
all go to the dogs. Why, if it hadn't been for you and for what you did
with your precious 'helping,' Charles would have had a chance to make
good money. Now, Morton and Carrington are charging the independent
dealers twenty-two cents a box. But for this strike, Charles might have
induced those old pirates to raise their price to him a little, and let
him make some money.... Help himoh, piffle!
Well, Cicily declared, not a whit abashed, if I were Charles, I'd
start up again, pay wages, and sell to the independents.
The seriousness with which the young woman spoke for a moment
betrayed Delancy into discussing business with one of the unintelligent
But his contracts! he objected.
What are contracts, Cicily interrupted serenely, when the workmen
There, Emma! Delancy cried, in deep disgust. Do you hear? Now,
isn't that just like a woman?
Yes, James, Mrs. Delancy answered meekly; I know that you're
right. But, somehow, I think Cicily, too, is right.
At this paradoxical pronouncement, Delancy stared fixedly at his
wife in stark amazement.
What! he gasped. What! After forty years, you say that to me! You
question my business judgment! Emma, you, my wife! He struggled wildly
for a few seconds to gain control of his emotions. No, he continued
bitterly; I deserve it for forgetting myself. I beg my own pardon for
mentioning a word of business to a woman.... I'm going to Charlespoor
fellow! After a long, resentful stare directed against his former
ward, he marched out of the room.
See what you've made me do! Mrs. Delancy said accusingly to her
niece, as the two were left alone together. Why, I've actually
appeared rebellious to James.
You ought to have been so years ago, Cicily rejoined, stubbornly.
But Mrs. Delancy could only shake her head morosely in negation of
this audacious idea. Then, her thoughts reverted to the young woman's
How is it all going to end? was her despondent query.
You mean, when are Charles and I going to make public the true
state of affairs? When are we going to part before the world? The old
lady nodded acquiescence. Well, that will be when the strike is over,
and Charles's business troubles are settlednot before.
If this sort of thing keeps on, Mrs. Delancy announced, with
another access of self-pity, your Uncle Jim and I probably will be
parted by that time, too!
Nonsense! Cicily jeered, smitten to sudden compunction for her
part in causing distress of mind to the woman whom she really loved and
honored. Why, Auntie, if you were to leave Uncle Jim, whom would he
have to bully? Pooh, dear, you and he'll never part.
Again, the old lady's thoughts veered from herself.
But, Cicily, she ventured, you're doing your best to prolong the
strike. You're actually giving those women money, I know. Yesterday,
when I called to see you, I saw the stub in your chequebook, which was
lying open on the desk in your boudoir. I didn't mean to pry, but I
couldn't help seeing it.
Well, I'm not letting them starve, was the unashamed admission.
Cicily, Mrs. Delancy said, with an abrupt transition from one
phase of the subject under consideration to another, about this matter
of you and Charles separating, I have a suspicion that you are very
much like that highly improper young woman in the French story, who was
going to live with her lover as long as the geranium lasted. And you're
going to live in the house with Charles while his troubles continue.
And that improper young woman used to get up in the night, every night,
to water the geranium, secretly. And you are providing the strikers
with food, to prolong the strike. Humph! You don't want to go. Cicily
blushed a little, but attempted no reply. You're in love with himyou
know you are!
The young wife's reserve broke down a little before the keen glance
that accompanied the words.
Ioh, I'm interested in his spiritual development, she stammered,
weakly. Anyhow, she added defensively, hedoesn't know it!
Thank heaven, you're still moral! Mrs. Delancy ejaculated, in
accents of huge relief.
I think I must be, was the low-spoken admission, becausebecause
I'm so unhappy! The scarlet lips drooped to a tremulous pathos, as she
went on speaking in a voice of poignant feeling. Oh, Aunt Emma, when I
see Charles so harassed, so tired, so troubled in every way, I just
long to throw my arms around his neck, and to kiss all those hard lines
away from his dear face, and to tell him how much I love him, and how
sorry I am, and how much I want to help him.
Heaven bless you, child! Mrs. Delancy exclaimed, surprised and
delighted. Why don't you, then?
Because, came the gloomy explanation, if I did, I'd be like you.
The old lady was not gratified by this candid defense.
Humph! Well, you might do worse, if I do say so myself, she
declared, with a toss of her head.
Of course, you old dear, Cicily agreed, with an air of humility,
in lots and lots of waysbut
You're obstinate! came the tart rebuke. If you're really in love
with him, give in!
That's just the trouble, the young wife said. Because I'm so much
in love with him, I can't give in in this particular. I love him too
much to be content with just the bits of him that are left over from
the other things. I want a partnership. Marriage has changed since your
day, Auntie. Real marriage to-day must be a partnership in all things.
I must have that, a full share in my husband's lifeor nothing! I tell
you, there is too much of men and women swearing before God to become
as one, and walking away to begin life and to live it ever after as
two. It was all very well when the women had the house to keep, and
didn't think; but nowadays most of them have no house to keep, and they
are beginning to think.
But, Mrs. Delancy objected, much discomposed by this tirade
against matrimony as she knew it, you're upsetting all the holy
things. To look up to your husbandthat's love.
That's lonesomeness and a crick in the neck! was the flippant
denial. My woman would stand where her brains entitle her to stand,
beside her husband, looking into his eyes, working for him, working
with him, being together with him straight through everything. That's
love; that's real marriage!
Cicily, Mrs. Delancy protested, totally bemused by her niece's
fiery eloquence, I think you're wrong, but II feel that you're
Deep down in your heart, dear, the young woman asserted with
profound conviction, you know that I'm right, because you're a real
woman. The men don't know itpoor things!but the ruling passion of a
woman's life is usefulness. And isn't it much nicer to work for a
husband whom you love than for the heathen?
Before her aunt could frame an adequate answer to this very
pertinent inquiry, Cicily sprung up, with the graceful animation that
was usual with her.
And, now, I must hurry home, she announced, to receive Mrs.
McMahon and Mrs. Schmidt and Sadie Ferguson, who are coming to call.
Merciful providence! Mrs. Delancy ejaculated, in genuine horror.
You don't mean to tell me that those women come to your house now?
Oh, yes, was the nonchalant assent. Why shouldn't they? You know,
we're friends again now. I've organized them into a club.
Well, I do not think it's at all proper, the old lady said, with
But Cicily only laughed under the reproof, bestowed a hasty kiss on
her aunt's cheek, and swept buoyantly from the room.
When Mrs. McMahon, Mrs. Schmidt and Miss Ferguson were ushered into
the drawing-room of the Hamilton house, Cicily was there, ready to
welcome her guests warmly.
And how is Madam President of our club? she said with a delightful
assumption of deference to Mrs. McMahon, who bridled and simpered in
proud happiness over this recognition of the honor she enjoyed.
Indeed, she's as proud as a peacock, that she is, she avowed
candidly. And, if you noticed, Mrs. Hamilton, I didn't so much as say
how do you do to the man at the door, as I always have before, nor even
so much as look at him.... For such is the high-society way of it,
they're after telling me.
Cicily smiled, and then addressed Sadie with a like cordiality.
Everything is shipshape, Miss Secretary? she inquired.
This club could go ten rounds without turning a hair, was the
spirited reply. Then, the ambitious girl recalled her most esteemed
author, and paraphrased her statement: I mean, every thing is really
Mrs. Schmidt, too, smiled in appreciation, although without
committing herself to words, when she was addressed as Madam
Vice-President. Then, after all were seated, the Irishwoman delivered
herself of a message of gratitude.
Mrs. Hamilton, she said, and her great, round face was very
kindly, we want to thank you here and now for that last cheque. You'll
be glad to know that Murphy's babies are fine and dandy; and those
Dagosyou know, the ones in the sixth floor front in Sadie's
housefaith, the wife come home from the hospital last night looking
And say, Mrs. Hamilton, Sadie interrupted enthusiastically, again
forgetful of niceties in diction by reason of her excess of feeling,
maybe you ain't in strong with that bunch! They were all singing and
praying for you all last night to beat the band. They made so much fuss
Pop had to go up with a club, and threaten to bust some heads in before
anybody could get to sleep in the house. Of course, father didn't
understand. He heard them say something about Hamilton, and guessed
they might be some sort of poor connection of the boss.
Cicily, pleased by this information as to the gratitude of those
whom she had sought to serve, yet tried to change the subject for
You, Mrs. McMahon, she directed briskly, must be in charge. You
must let me know about the sick ones and the hungry ones, and then I'll
see what can be done.
'Deed, and I will that, was the eager response. Then, the
Irishwoman shook her huge head admiringly. Sure, when the women get
the votes, you'll be elected alderman from the ward. But, as Cicily
would have laughingly protested against this arrant flattery, a sudden
thought came to the President of the new club, and she spoke with an
increase of seriousness: And, oh, I was forgetting one thing! What do
you think now, Mrs. Hamilton? Carrington's men have been around! In
answer to her hostess's look of bewildered inquiry, she explained the
significance of the fact: Yes, Carringtonbad luck to him!is
getting ready to start another factory, they say; and, so, he wanted to
see how many of the boys he could get. Cicily uttered an exclamation
of astonishment, mingled with alarm, at the news. Yes, ma'am. I was
talking to Mike McMahon, and telling him that, after all, I thought Mr.
Hamilton was on the level, and that it would be a good thing to take
the cut for a little while. And, then, he got mad, and he blurted out
the whole thing to me. It's Tim Doolin, him what used to work in the
Hamilton factory, and was discharged, and so went over to Carrington's.
He's come around as a sounder. He's been advancing the boys a little on
the side, and promising them good jobs and steady wages, if they'll
hold out until Carrington is ready to use them at his place. The
Amazon, who had raced through her narrative, paused, panting for
Cicily was tense in her chair, with her cheeks flaming indignation,
her golden eyes darkened with excitement.
So, she exclaimed fiercely, that's the way they are fighting!
Cicily was in the throes of a righteous wrath. Unaccustomed to the
sharp practices that are endured almost without rebuke in the world of
business affairs, this revelation of trickery on the part of her
husband's enemies filled her with a disgusted horror. There was in the
girl-wife a strong quality of the protecting maternal love in her
attitude toward her husband. It was in obedience to its impelling force
that she had followed so steadfastly her ambition to help him in his
business, to be his partner. It was the dominance of this feeling that
had caused her to stay on in her husband's house to comfort him, and if
possible to save him, in the time of his tribulation. So, now, this
phase of character caused her to resent as something unspeakably vile
the machinations just revealed to her. There and then, she uttered a
silent vow to worst these sinister foes by fair means or by foul. Her
will commanded their undoing, no matter how unscrupulous the method;
and conscience voiced no protest.
A movement of expectancy among the three visitors aroused Cicily
from the fit of abstraction into which she had fallen, and on which the
others had not ventured to obtrude themselves. She looked up, and then,
following the direction of her guests' gaze, turned to see her husband,
standing motionless just within the doorway of the drawing-room. He was
staring with obvious amazement at the trio of women in his wife's
company. Moreover, it was easy to judge from the expression on his
face, with the brows drawn and the mouth set sternly, that his
amazement was not builded on pleasure.... Cicily immediately rose,
forgetful for the moment of her plans for vengeance against the
plotters, and went forward with a pleased smile. She was well aware
that her husband would not regard this visitation with equanimity, but
she hoped to prevent any overt act on his part that might fatally
antagonize these women, whose good will she had struggled so hard to
regain for his sake. So, she faced him with an air of happy
self-confidence, and spoke with the most musical cadences of her voice,
the while the caress of her eyes sought to beguile the frown from his
Charles, you know Mrs. McMahon, and Mrs. Schmidt, and Miss
Yes, I know them, came the uncompromising answer. The grimness of
his face did not relax. He had had a day of tedious worries, and the
sight of the women here in his own home exasperated him almost beyond
the point of endurance. An unexpected pleasure! he added, with an
inflection that was unmistakable.
Oh, we didn't come to see you, Mr. Hamilton, Sadie declared
resentfully, in answer to that inflection. We came to see your wife.
These are the officers of our new woman's club, Cicily interposed,
hastily. Do sit down for a moment, Charles. She returned to her own
chair; but Hamilton made no movement to obey her request. Instead, he
addressed the visitors in a tone even more unpleasant than that which
he had used hitherto.
Oh, you came to get something from Mrs. Hamilton, he sneered.
Indeed, and we did not! the Irishwoman retorted roughly, furious
at the insinuation. But her anger melted as she caught Cicily's
pleading eyes. There was a grateful softness in the brogue as she
added: Sure, she's given too much already, and that's the truth.
There was no hint of relaxing in the tense severity of Hamilton's
face, as he replied, without a glance toward his wife:
So, Mrs. Hamilton has been helping the wives of the men?
'Tis that same she's been doingthe saints preserve her! Mrs.
McMahon answered, with pious fervor. Faith, if the women could vote,
it's president they'd make her, so it is.
Cicily could not resist a temptation to appeal.
Charles, she urged, if only you'll have a little patience, you'll
find that they can be of serviceof great service!
Still, Hamilton ignored his wife utterly, while he addressed the
three women impersonally.
I did not know that the men were in the habit of using their wives
in a strike like this. His manner was designedly offensive.
Again, it was Sadie who was first to retort, which she did with a
manner that aped his own insolence.
Well, if Mrs. Hamilton can butt into it, it's a cinch we can!
The man's face darkened with wrath. His voice, when he spoke,
sounded dangerously low and controlled.
Mrs. Hamilton has nothing whatever to do with my business affairs,
he declared, explicitly. She has nothing whatever to do with this
strike. If you women come from the men, go back and tell them that I'm
not dealing with womenneither now nor in the future. If they want
anything at any time, let them come for it themselves.
Can you beat it? Sadie demanded wonderingly, of the universe at
But the Irishwoman took it on herself to answer, with an
explicitness equal to Hamilton's own:
Faith, and we didn't come to see you, as you know very well, I'm
thinking. If it wasn't for Mrs. HamiltonGod bless herwe wouldn't be
here at all.... And 'tis sorry I am we are.
Then, you'd better go, and relieve your feelings, was the tart
rejoinder. And you will please remember one thing: Mrs. Hamilton has
absolutely no influence of any kind in this strike. I do not know in
the least what she may have been doing; but, whatever it is, it's
entirely apart from me.
Charles, please Cicily would have protested. It seemed to her a
vicious violation of good taste thus to air their marital disagreements
in the presence of others. There was a perilous fire in the golden
eyes; but Hamilton had no heed just now for niceties of conduct. He
went on speaking, ruthlessly breaking in on his wife's attempted plea:
Whatever Mrs. Hamilton has accomplished has been done without my
consent and with her own moneyentirely apart from me.... Good-day!
Now, at last, Hamilton moved from the position he had steadily
maintained before the doorway. He stepped to one side, and bowed
formally to the three women, who rose promptly as they realized the
significance of his action. Cicily, too, stood up, wordless in her
suffering. For the moment, at least, her indomitable spirit was
overwhelmed by this crowning misfortune, and she felt all her ambition
hopelessly baffled. Through this last catastrophe, her benevolent
scheming must be brought to nought. It was impossible for her to
believe that these women, on whose support she had relied for so much
that was vital to her plans, could remain loyal to her after the gross
insult to which they had been subjected in her own house. She realized
that, deprived of their aid, she could not hope to cope with the
situation that threatened ruin to the man whom she loved. In that
instant of disaster, she hated her husband as much as she loved him,
for his folly had destroyed all the structure of safety that her
devotion had builded. So, she stood silent, watching the discarded
guests as they walked toward the door. Her slender form was drawn to
its full height; the scarlet lips were set tensely; the clear gold of
her eyes burned with the fires of bitter resentment against this man
whose blundering had wrought calamity.
Even as the three outraged women moved forward slowly toward the
door with that slowness which their dignity demanded of them under the
circumstances, there came an interruption.
A servant appeared in the doorway, and then stood aside to usher in
three newcomers. These were no others than Mr. McMahon, Mr. Schmidt and
Mr. Ferguson, who halted in astonishment on the threshold, at beholding
their wives thus unexpectedly bearing down on them in the house of the
enemy. In their turn, the women came to an abrupt standstill, regarding
the men with round eyes. For a few seconds, the six remained thus
facing one another, too dumfounded by the encounter for speech.
Then, presently, the German uttered a guttural ejaculation in his
own tongue, which seemed to relieve the general paralysis.
Caught with the goods! Ferguson exclaimed sardonically, with a
scowl of rebuke directed toward his daughter.
At the same moment, McMahon fairly shouted an indignant question at
his wife as to her presence in this house. But that Amazonian female
did not shrivel before the blistering growl of her husband.
Sure, I'll trouble you, Mike McMahon, she declared fiercely, if
it's endearing terms you're about to use, to wait till we get home.
Under the spell of this admonition, the Irishman contented himself with
subterranean mutterings, to which his wife discreetly paid no
But what's it all about? Ferguson inquired sharply, of his
Ah, forget it! came the unfilial retort. Then, recalling the Vere
De Vere, she amended her statement: I mean, father dear, do not make a
scene, I beg of you.
A scene! Ferguson exclaimed, savagely. Why, I'll
What the irate Yankee might have done was never revealed, for he was
interrupted by Cicily, who had now recovered her poise, so that she
spoke pleasantly, favoring the tumultuous parent with her sweetest
Sadie and the other ladies came to call on me, Mr. Ferguson, she
exclaimed, well aware that this announcement left the mystery of the
women's presence as it had been before.
Mrs. McMahon, however, shed a ray of light on the puzzle.
Faith, and 'tis that, she agreed, glibly. We just dropped in for
a cup of tea with a member of our club.
It was Hamilton who now interrupted further questions by the three
husbands. He had been nervously fidgeting where he stood, and at last
his impatience found vent in words.
I'm not interested in these domestic affairs, he snapped. If you
men have anything to say to your wives and daughters, take them home,
and say it to them there. This is not the place for it. There's only
one thing that I have time to listen to from you.
Schmidt waddled forward a pace beyond his fellows, and addressed his
former employer with the dignity born of constituted authority.
Well, Mr. Hamilton, he said ponderously, with his accent more
pronounced than usual by reason of the emotion under which he labored,
I speak as the chairman of the committee. So, sir, you will listen to
us right here and now. He paused for a moment to wipe the perspiration
from his forehead with an adequately huge handkerchief.
Ferguson seized on the opportunity thus given to voice the rancor
that was in his heart.
Yes, yes, he cried excitedly, you want to understand that we're
men! We're strikingyes! But we're fighting you in the open, like men.
And we've come to tell you that we're not going to stand for the way
you fight.... Is that plain enough for you, Mr. Hamilton?
The amazement of Hamilton over the charge thus brought against him
was undoubtedly genuine. He stepped forward as if to strike, but
checked himself almost instantly. There was no longer any look of
boyishness in the drawn fare, with the chin thrust forward
belligerently, the brows drawn low, the eyes blazing.
The way I fight! he repeated challengingly, menacingly.
Schmidt, having restored the handkerchief to its pocket, took up the
Yes, he declared, with surly spitefulness. I have been in a dozen
strikes, and this is the first time any employer ever attacked me in my
affectionsthrough my Frieda. The German's narrow eyes were alight
with venomous resentment, as he glowered at Hamilton.
Astounded by this attack, Hamilton forgot rage in stark
What on earth do youcan youmean? he stormed.
It is not right, was the stolid asseveration of the German. The
home is sacred. The speaker's tone was so malevolent that Hamilton was
impressed, in spite of himself. And then, suddenly, a suspicion
upreared itself in his braina suspicion so monstrous, so absurd, so
baseless, so extravagantly impossible, that he would have laughed
aloud, but for the sincerity of the feeling manifested in the faces of
the men before him. His eyes roved from Schmidt to the faded woman who
was the man's wife. He saw her shrinking behind the ample bulk of Mrs.
McMahon, her mouth opening and closing soundlessly, as if in a wordless
soliloquy. Then, again, his eyes returned to the man who had just
uttered the preposterous accusation, and he beheld the usually jocund
face distorted by a spasm of jealous fury, the insensate fury of the
male in the loathed presence of a rival. No, here was no room for
laughter. However ludicrous the mistake in its essence, its fruits were
too serious for mirth. He turned his gaze on McMahon, and saw there the
like virile detestation of himself. He ventured a glance toward the
Amazon, who loomed over-buxom and stalwart. Again, he was tempted to
amusement; but, again, a look toward the husband checked any
inclination toward lightness of mood. Finally, he regarded Ferguson,
and there, too, he beheld a passionate reproach. He did not trouble to
stare at the girl. He remembered perfectly her cheap prettiness, her
mincing manner, her flamboyant smartness of apparel from Grand Street
emporiums of fashion. The strain of a false situation gripped him
evilly, so that for the moment he faltered before it, uncertain as to
his course. Denial, he felt, must be almost hopeless, since how could
men capable of such crude stupidity digest reason? He hesitated
visibly, and in that hesitation his accusers read guilt.
It was evident from a sudden, flaming red that suffused Mrs.
McMahon's expansive countenance that she was beginning to grasp the
purport of the accusations against Hamilton. She started toward her
husband with a demeanor that augured ill for peaceful conference, when
she was stayed by Cicily's grasp on her arm.
Wait! came the command, in a soothing voice. Let me speak to
these foolish men. You'll only stir them up, and make them worse. The
Amazon yielded reluctantly, for she loved as well as honored the woman
who had won her friendship by so much endeavor; but there was dire
warning of things to come in the gaze she fixed on her suspicious
I'll not listen to this foolishness any longer, Cicily declared,
dearly, in a cold voice that held the attention of all. You men are
too utterly absurd. There's no love lost between your wives and my
husband, I assure you. If you had chanced in a few minutes earlier, you
would have been well aware of the fact. Her statement was corroborated
by the vehement nods of the women and the glances of disdainful
aversion that they cast on the master of the house at this reference as
to the status of their mutual affection. Your wives and daughters,
Cicily concluded haughtily, with a level look at the three husbands,
which was not wanting in its effect, are my friends.
But Ferguson was not dismayed by the reproof.
Yes, Mrs. Hamilton, he answered, with bitter emphasis, you're the
onewe know that! You're the cat's-paw, with your clubs and your
benefits. He turned to Hamilton, and went on speaking with even
greater virulence. It's through her that you're fighting; it's through
her that you're attacking us in our homes; it's through her that you're
turning our wives and our daughters against us until our lives are
miserable with them, morning, noon and night. They're forever talking
against the strike, trying to make us come back to you, and to take the
cut. And it ain't fair, I tell you! No honest employer would fight that
way from behind a woman's petticoats. Women haven't got any place in
business, according to our way of thinking. We didn't mind your wife's
butting in with bath-tubs and gymnasiums and libraries, and such
foolish truck as that; but, when it comes to mixing up in the strike,
and organizing our wives and daughters against us, why, we kick. That's
the long and the short of it, Mr. Hamilton. No real man would stoop to
that sort of work. It's a woman's trick, that's what it isand women
have no place in business. Schmidt and McMahon, almost in unison,
At last, the badgered employer felt himself sure of his ground.
You're right, Ferguson, he declared, with intense conviction.
Women have no place in business. You don't need to argue to convince
me of that fact. If you doubt my sentiments in that respect, just ask
my wifeshe knows what my ideas on the subject are. But I knew nothing
of all this. Mrs. Hamilton has mixed herself up with this affair
entirely without my knowledge or consent. She has nothing whatever to
do with my business affairs. As for the future, you may rest assured
You may rest assured, Cicily interpolated, that Mrs. Hamilton
will continue to do precisely as she pleases.
But, Cicily Hamilton would have protested.
Precisely as she pleases, came the repetition, with an added
emphasis, which, Hamilton knew from experience, it would be useless to
Faith, exclaimed McMahon, in humorous appreciation of the scene,
the filly has the bit in her teeth and is running away.
Cicily, however, was not to be diverted from a frank exposition of
her position. Now, she faced the men, and made clear her attitude:
Let me tell you that Mrs. Hamilton is proud to be merely a member
of the club which you have heard referred to and certainly she is not
going to resign her membership in it. You men have your union. There's
no reason why we women should not have our club as well. You say that
I've been helping them. Very well, what of it? Yes, I have been helping
them. Why shouldn't the women take money from me, I'd like to know. For
that matter, it's nothing like what you men have been doingtaking
money from Carrington and Morton.... And you talk about fighting fair!
At the final statement made by his wife, Hamilton whirled on the
What's that? he fairly barked. Are Morton and Carrington
supplying you fellows with money to prolong the strike?
Yes, Cicily replied, as the men maintained a sullen silence. And
these men of yours have been listening to their lying promises about
starting a new factory, as soon as you are down and out for keeps. She
eyed the men scornfully, as she continued: Haven't you the sense to
see that it's merely a plan to ruin Mr. Hamilton completely? They want
to kill him off for good and all. Then, when he's out of the way,
you'll have to work for any sort of wages they are willing to give you.
Good gracious, the scheme is plain enough! Why can't you see it as it
isa plot to do him up through you? A woman can see the inside of it
But her sensible argument was wasted on the men, who already had
their opinions formed, and were not likely to change them readily at a
Women have no place in business, Schmidt reiterated, heavily. We
have proved that. Now, Mr. Hamilton, you just keep your wife to
yourself. We don't want her meddling around in our concerns. And we'll
keep our wives to ourselves. They don't want you! he added
significantly; and McMahon and Ferguson endorsed the sentiment by
vigorous nods of assent. So, the German concluded, we will settle
this strike ourselves, like men, without any more woman's interference.
Am I right?
That's exactly what I want you to do, Hamilton replied. And any
time you want to come back with the cut, let me know.
I hope you won't hold your breath while you're waiting, the
Irishman advised grimly.
And I hope you won't be hungry, Hamilton retorted.
With this exchange of civilities, the meeting between the men and
their former employer came to an abrupt end. Without any further
farewells than a series of curt nods, the men filed from the room.
I'm thinking that it's a pleasant talk we'll be having together,
this night, Mrs. McMahon remarked judicially, after the departure of
the committee. So, it's thinking I am that we'd better start early,
and then we'll have time a plenty to thrash it out with the boys.
Good-by, Mrs. Hamilton.... And please to remember that the next meeting
of the club is to be on the Thursday.
I'll surely be there, Cicily promised.
The adieux were quickly spoken, and the women took their departure,
leaving husband and wife alone together, standing silently.
Hamilton stirred presently, turned, and threw himself heavily into
the nearest chair, whence he stared curiously at his wife with morose
eyes of resentment. Cicily felt the scrutiny, but she did not lift her
gaze to his. She was not shirking the conflict between them, which
seemed inevitable after this last episode; but she was minded to let
her husband begin the attack. In her turn, she sought a chair, into
which she sank gracefully, and rested in a pose of languid indifference
that was fascinating in itself, but at this moment for some
inexplicable reason peculiarly aggravating to the man. It may be that
her apparent ease at a critical period in their fortunes appealed to
him as hatefully incongruous; it may be that the gracious femininity of
her, her desirability as a woman, thus revealed by the lissome
lassitude of her body, emphasized the fact that she was a creature
created for joy and dalliance, not for the rasping stratagems of the
market-place. Whatever the cause, it is certain that the lazy abandon
of her posture irritated him, and it was with an attempt to veil his
chagrin that at last he spoke:
Well, he exclaimed petulantly, some more of your work, I see!
Cicily, however, disguised the fact that she winced under the
contempt in his tone.
Yes, she answered eagerly. Now, don't you see that I was right?
The device did not suffice to divert Hamilton from his purpose of
So, he went on, speaking roughly, not content with forgetting
your duty, not satisfied with your dreary failure as a wife, you've
turned traitor, too.
You seem to forget that it was yourself who failed in your
dutynot I, Cicily retorted.
Is that trumped up, farcical idea, your excuse for fighting me?
I'm not making any excuses, Cicily replied, stiffly. And for the
simple and very sufficient reason that I am not fighting you.
Then, what under heaven do you call it? Hamilton demanded, with a
sneer. Is it by any chance saving me?
Yes, I'd do that, came the courageous statement, if only you'd
And your manner of doing it, Hamilton went on, still in a tone of
sneering contempt, I suppose would be by going on the way you have
been goinggiving money to my enemies, and so prolonging the strike,
and so ruining me!
I do believe you are blind! Cicily declared, angrily. She changed
her pose to one of erect alertness, and her eyes flashed fire at her
husband. Is it possible that you don't appreciate why I gave those
women moneywhy I helped them? Why, I wouldn't be a woman, if I
didn't. As I've told you before, I was a woman before I became a wife.
If keeping other women and little children from going hungry isn't
wifely, isn't businesslike, then thank God I'm not wifely, not
Well, you're not, all right, Hamilton announced succinctly. I'm
glad that you're satisfied with yourselfnobody else is.
Oh, I know what you want, was the contemptuous answer. You want
the conventional, old-time wife, the sort that is always standing ready
and waiting to swear that her husband is right, even when her instinct,
her brain, her heart, all cry out to her that he is wrong. Well,
Charles, I am not that sort of wife, nor ever will be. The real root of
the trouble is that we women are changing, developing, while you men
are not: you are the same. We, as a sex, are growing up, at last; your
sex is standing still. The ideas our grandmothers held, the lives they
led, would kill us of dry rot. But you men are just where your
grandfathers were in relation to your homes and your beliefs as to the
duty of your wives. Of course, your old-time wife looked up to her
over-lord with reverence; she hung on his every word with profound
respect; she swore by his every careless opinion, without ever daring
to call her soul or her mind her own. For that matter, why shouldn't
she have done so? He was educated, after some sort of fashion at least;
and he went abroad into the world, where he mixed with his fellows,
where he did things, good or bad; while she, poor, pretty, ignorant
doll, snatched up by him in early girlhood, and afterward kept
sequestered, forced to assume the tragic responsibilities of a wife and
mother before she was old enough to appreciate her difficult
positionwhat chance did she have? Now, to-day, I tell you, it is all
different. We're as well educated as you menbetter, oftentimes. We
have discovered that we can think intelligently; we do think. We, too,
go abroad into the world; we, too, do things. Best of all, we see with
a new, clearer vision. And we see certain things that you men have
become blinded to through centuries of usage, of selfish, careless
struggling for your own ends. We are able to see with the distinctness
of truth the right relation of the man and the womanan equal
relation, with equal rights for each, with equal claims on each other,
with equal duties to each other in the home and in the world outside
the homepartners, held together by love.
My dear, Hamilton remarked dryly, as his wife paused, you have
omitted one salient qualification of the modern woman: she is,
preëminently an orator. Why, you, yourself, are a feminine
Demosthenesnothing less. But he abandoned, his tone of raillery, as
he continued: And so, what you've been doingthat's your idea of
partnership, is it?
Yes, Cicily declared, spiritedly. When one partner makes a
mistake, it's the duty of the other to set things straight.
By ruining him! the husband ejaculated, in savage distrust.
Have I ruined you? There was a flame of indignation in the amber
eyes, and the curving lips were turned scornfully; but there was a
restrained timbre of triumph in the music of her voice. No! Why, let
me tell you something: Those women are for you, already. They are
helping me against their husbands. You'll win in the endin spite of
all the damage you tried to do to-day with your colossal blundering.
But they're loyal to me, and they'll forgive you for my sake, and
they'll give you the victory in the fight.... Just wait and see!
Nonsense! Hamilton mocked. He considered his wife's assertions as
merely the maunderings of an extravagant enthusiast. She was
sinceremore the pity!but she knew absolutely nothing of the
problems with which she insisted on entangling herself so futilely.
I promise you, Cicily persisted, undismayed by her husband's
jeering attitude of scepticism, that you will win in the end. Yes, you
will; because it is right: that you should. I am doing my part, not
only to help you; but, too, because it is right. We owe a duty not only
to ourselves, but to those people as well.... Even you must see that!
Well, I don't, Hamilton maintained, consistently. But he winced
involuntarily under the expression of pity for his ignorance that now
showed in his wife's face.
Well, it only serves to illustrate what I said, Cicily went on,
with a complacency that annoyed the man almost beyond endurance. The
woman has the clearer visions nowadays. That's where we differ from our
dear departed grandmothers, from our mothers even. They had a personal
conscience that stopped short at the front and back doors of the home.
We women of to-day have a bigger conscience, which takes in the bigger
family. It's a social conscience, and that it is which makes us
different from those women of the earlier generations. Don't you see,
Charles, that you and I are really a sort of big brother and sister to
those in our employ? So, let us help them, even if we have to do it
against their own mistaken efforts of resistance.
Of course, Hamilton suggested, still sneeringly, Morton and
Carrington, too, are our dear brothers.
For an instant, Cicily was nonplused by the question; but, of a
sudden, she received one of those inspirations on which she usually
relied for escape from a predicament.
Oh, yes, indeed, she replied happily, and beamed radiantly on her
astonished husband, in anticipatory enjoyment of her repartee. They're
our bad brothers, whom we must spankhard!
If there's any spanking to be done, I'll attend to it, myself,
Hamilton declared, gruffly.
Oh, very well, Cicily agreed. But you don't seem to be doing it
effectively at present.... Tell me, why are they paying the men to stay
It must be that they recognize the brotherhood claim of which you
were speaking so eloquently. The man's voice was vibrant with
Now, see here, Charles, Cicily remonstrated, the flush in her
cheeks deepening under the rebuff in his flippant answer. You know why
they're doing it just as well as I do. It's simply because they want to
keep you closed down, so that they can go on charging the independents
twenty-two cents a box.
No, the husband declared, enticed despite his will into discussing
business for a moment with his wife, they could charge them that
anyhow. I couldn't interfere, because they have me tied up with a
contract at eleven cents.
Then, if I were you, Cicily argued with new animation, I'd break
that contract. Yes, I'd open up right away, pay full wages, and sell to
the independents at fifteen cents a box. They'd come to you fast
Break a contract with a trust! Hamilton jeered. He laughed aloud
over the folly of this idea as a means of escape from disaster.
What are contracts when the men are starving? The question came
with an earnestness that did more credit to the heart than to the head
of the wife.
If that isn't like a woman! The man's tone was surcharged with
disgust. Cicily, I've had enough of this.
Then, you won't fight? An energetic shake of the head was the
answer. You won't help the men? Again, the gesture of refusal. You
won't make any move at all? A third time, the man silently denied her
plea. Then, I will! Cicily concluded, defiantly. She leaned back in
her chair, clasped her slender hands behind her head, and stared
ceilingward, with the air of one who has pleasantly solved all the
perplexities of life.
Good heavens, what do you mean to do next? Hamilton questioned, in
Never mind: you'll see, came the nonchalant answer.
The contented air of the woman, coupled with her tone of assurance
as she spoke, goaded the man to an assertion of authority.
I demand that, as long as you're in my house
He was interrupted by the cold voice of his wife. She did not turn
her eyes from their dreamy contemplation of the ceiling, nor did she
alter in any way the languor of her posture, the indifference of her
manner. But, somehow, the quality in her voice was insistent, and the
gentle, musical tone broke on his delivery with a subtle force
sufficient to halt it against his will.
You can't demand, Cicily said, evenly. We stopped that
relationship three weeks ago.
It is true, Hamilton answered, more quietly, that you've refused
to live with me as my wife. But, if you are to remain in my house, I
must insist that you keep out of meddling with my business affairs.
Otherwise, I shall be forced
Again, the softly spoken words from his wife's lips held a spell
that checked his own, and compelled him to listen grudgingly.
You cannot force me, Charlesfor the simple reason that I won't
leave. No, indeed! I am quite certain that when you think things over
in a saner mood, you will be convinced of the fact that just at this
time it would be highly inadvisable for you to complicate your affairs
further by a public scandal. So, I tell you that I sha'n't go. I shall
stay here until you are out of this mess. Since I feel that to be my
duty, I shall do it!
Oh, Lord, if you were a man! Hamilton choked helplessly.
If I were a man, was the placid conclusion offered by Cicily, I
suppose I'd sit still, and do nothing, like you. But I'm not a man,
thank Heaven!... The only pity is, you won't take my perfectly good
Your adviceoh, the devil! Hamilton sprang from his chair. His
face was distraught, as he stood for a moment staring in baffled anger
at his wife, who still held her eyes meditatively content on the
ceiling. He clenched his hands fiercely, and shook them in impotent
fury. Your advice! he repeated, in a voice that was nigh moaning.
Then, he whirled about, and strode from the room, trampling heavily.
Cicily listened until she heard the door of the library slam
noisily. In the interval, she retained her attitude of consummate ease.
But, with the sound of the closing door, she was suddenly
metamorphosed. Her eyes drooped wearily. She cowered within the chair
as one stricken with a vertigo. The slender hands unclasped from behind
her head, and shut themselves over her face. Her form was bowed
together, and shaken violently. There came the sound of muffled sobs.
In the days that followed, Cicily found herself on the very verge of
despair. She had pinned the hope of success for her husband on a
restored influence with the wives of the leaders in the strike. She had
felt confident that, with them fighting in her behalf, she would
achieve victory. She had not doubted that these women could mold the
men to their will. Now, however, she had, to a great extent, lost faith
in the efficacy of this method. She had seen and heard those husbands
defy their womankind openly. They, too, were obstinate in their belief
that women should not obtrude into business affairs. She realized that
she was combating one of the most tangible and potent factors in human
affairs, the pride of the male in his dominion over the femalean
hereditary endowment, a thing of natural instinct, the last and most
resistant to yield before the presentations of reason. The resolute
fashion in which her husband held to his prerogative of sole control
was merely typical. These other men of a humbler class were like unto
him. Evidently, then, she must contrive some other strategy, if she
would save her husband from the pit he had digged for himself by
yielding to the specious processes of Morton and Carrington. Yet, she
could imagine no scheme that offered any promise of success.... She
grew thinner, so that her loveliness took on an ethereal quality. Her
nights were well nigh sleepless; her days became long hours of
She was sitting in her boudoir late one afternoon, still revolving
the round of failure in her plans. She had dressed to go out; but, at
the last moment, a wave of discouragement had swept over her, and she
had sunk down on a couch, moodily feeling that any exertion whatsoever
were a thing altogether useless. She was disturbed from her morbid
reflections by the entrance of a servant, who announced the presence of
Mr. Morton and Mr. Carrington in the drawing-room, who had called to
see Mr. Hamilton. In sheer desperation, with no precise idea as to her
course, Cicily resolved to interview these callers, since her husband
had not yet returned home. So, she bade the servant inform the
gentlemen that Mr. Hamilton was expected to return very soon, and that
in the meantime she would be glad to give them a cup of tea. As soon as
the servant had left the room, she regarded herself minutely in the
mirror, made some adjustments to the masses of her golden brown hair,
pinched her pale checks until roses grew in them, observed that her
skirt hung properly, and then descended to the drawing-room, which she
entered with an air of smiling hospitality, of luminous loveliness, of
radiant youthfulness, calculated to beguile the sternest of men from
their habitual discretion.
The two gentlemen rose to greet her with every indication of
pleasure. As a matter of fact, they enjoyed the charm that radiated
from the beautiful young woman, but, in addition, they rejoiced in this
opportunity to gather from her carelessness some information that the
reserve of her husband would certainly have withheld. It was with
deliberate suggestion that Morton addressed her heartily as Mrs.
Partner, having in mind a former interview, in which she had so
declared herself. But it was Carrington who, after the three were
seated, and while waiting for the tea-equipage, ventured to introduce
the topic of his desires directly by asking how business was.
Oh, business is booming! Cicily answered, with such a manner of
enthusiasm that it hoodwinked her hearers completely. They uttered
ejaculations of surprise involuntarily, but managed to refrain from any
more open expressions of wonder. Oh, yes, indeed! Cicily continued,
following blindly an instinct of prevarication that had been suddenly
born within her brain. Isn't it splendid? We just ended our strike
to-day. She stared intently at Carrington with sparkling eyes. It
filled her with secret delight to witness the expression of
consternation on that gentleman's face; and she could not resist the
temptation to add maliciously, although she veiled her voice: I know
that you're glad for us, Mr. Carrington. I can just tell it by looking
Erohyes, of course, Carrington stammered hastily, the while he
attempted a wry smile. He pulled his handkerchief from a pocket, and
wiped his forehead.
Yes, indeed; we're both delighted, Morton added quickly, to cover
the too evident confusion of his associate.
Ah, Cicily went on gloatingly, turning the iron in the wound
relentlessly, it does surely make you feel good when you win a strike,
doesn't it? Next to an Easter hat, I think the winning of a strike is
the grandest sensation!
So, you really won? Morton inquired, half-suspiciously.
Oh, yes! Cicily assured him, with an inflection of absolute
sincerity. Then, abruptly, the expression of her face changed to one of
alarm, mingled with cajolery. But, please, Mr. Morton, she pleaded,
you won't say anything about it, will you? Charles doesn't wish to
have it announced just yet, for some reason or another.
No, certainly not, Mrs. Hamilton, Morton assured her. We won't
tell of it.
Thank you so much! was the grateful response; and Cicily fairly
dazzled the puzzled gentlemen by the brilliancy of her smile. You
know, she continued mournfully, Charles did scold me so after you
were here that other time when I talked to you. He scolded me really
frightfully for talking so much.... It didn't do a bit of good my
telling him that I didn't say a thing. But I didn't, did I? She asked
the question with the ingenuous air of an innocent child, which imposed
on the two men completely.
Indeed, you didn't! Morton declared with much heartiness, as he
darted a monitory glance toward Carrington. Why, for a business woman,
I thought you a very model of discretion, Mrs. Hamilton. And so did
Exactly! Carrington agreed under this urging of his master. If
all women in business were like Mrs. Hamilton here, business would not
be so difficult.
Cicily felt the sneer in the words, but she deemed it the part of
prudence to conceal any resentment. On the contrary, she assumed a
hypocritical air of triumph.
Good! I'll tell that to Charles, she declared, joyously. You know
he's such a horribly suspicious person that he doesn't trust anyone.
Once again, she turned to Morton with an alluring smile. Of course, he
ought to be very glad, indeed, to trust you, his father's oldest
I hope that you told him that, Morton replied primly, albeit he
was hard put to it to prevent himself from chuckling aloud over the
naïveté of this indiscreet young woman.
Cicily maintained her mask of guilelessness.
Yes, indeed, I did!... He said that was why he didn't trust you.
Morton saw fit to change the rather delicate subject.
It must be a matter of great satisfaction that you have at last won
this strike, he remarked, somewhat inanely.
Of course, it is, Cicily agreed, with a renewal of her former
enthusiasm. Oh, I'm so glad, because now we can pay our men their old
wages! That's how we won the strike, you know, she went on, with a
manner of simplicity that was admirably feigned; just by giving in to
them. All we had to do was to give them what they wanted, and
everything was all settled right away.
Ahem! Morton cleared his throat to disguise the laugh that would
come. Yes. I've known a good many strikes that were won in that same
Carrington, who had been ruminating with a puzzled face, now voiced
To save my life, he exclaimed to Morton, I don't see how Hamilton
can pay the old wages, and deliver boxes at eleven cents. I couldn't do
Why, you see, that's just it, Cicily declared blithely, still
following her inspiration with blind faith. We're not going to deliver
boxes at eleven cents.
At this amazing statement, the two men first regarded their hostess
in sheer astonishment, then stared at each other as if in search of a
clue to the mystery in her words. The entrance of a maid with the
tea-tray afforded a brief diversion, as Cicily rose and seated herself
at the table, where she busied herself in preparing the three cups.
When this was accomplished, and the guests had received each his
portion, Carrington at once reverted to the announcement that had so
You say, you're not going to deliver boxes for eleven cents? he
No, Cicily replied earnestly, without the slightest hesitation;
we're going to sell to the independents at fifteen. We've gone in with
them, now. She felt a grim secret delight as she observed the
unmistakable confusion with which her news was received by the two men
You say you've gone in with the independents? Carrington repeated,
helplessly. His mouth hung open in indication of the turmoil in his
wits as he waited for her reply.
Yes, that's it! Cicily reiterated, with an inflection of
surpassing gladness over the event. Oh, it does make me so happy,
because now, you see, we can all be genuinely friendly together. We're
not competitors any more.
But now, at last, Morton's temper overcame his caution. He turned to
Carrington with a frown that made his satellite quake; but the
fierceness of it was not for that miserable victim of his machinations:
it was undoubtedly for Hamilton, who, according to the wife's
revelations, dared pit himself against the trust by violating his
contracts with it.
We'll see Meyers about this, Morton declared, savagely. So, he'd
go in with the independents, would he? Well, let him try it onthat's
Cicily stared from one to the other of the two men, with her golden
eyes wide and frightened.
Oh, she stammered nervously, did Ihave I said anything?... Oh,
my goodness, Charles will be so angry!
She maintained her attitude and expression of acute distress, while
the two men rose, and, very rudely, without a word of excuse to their
hostess, moved to the far end of the drawing-room, where they were out
of earshot. But, on the instant when their backs were turned, the
volatile young wife cast off her mock anxiety, and, in the very best of
spirits, wrinkled her nose saucily at the disturbed twain.... And, as
long as they conferred together, with no eyes for her, she sat alertly
erect, smiling to herself, as one highly gratified by the course of
Now, if only Charles doesn't spoil things again! she murmured.
Morton and Carrington were just finishing their low-toned, but very
animated, conference at the end of the drawing-room, when their
attention, together with that of Cicily, was attracted by a noise at
the door. All three looked up, to see Hamilton striding into the room.
Behind him came Delancy. At a gesture of warning from his wife,
Hamilton faced about, and saw his two business foes.
Well, well, I didn't know that you were here, he exclaimed, with a
fair showing of cordiality, as he advanced, and shook hands with the
visitors. Delancy contented himself with bowing to each in turn, then
went to Cicily, and asked for a cup of tea. During the few moments
spent in offering this hospitality, Cicily whispered rapidly to the old
gentleman, who appeared mightily startled at her words.
Mrs. Hamilton has been entertaining us again, Morton remarked, in
an acid tone, to his host. Really, she has been rather more
interesting than she was before.
At this statement, Hamilton shifted uneasily. He turned an indignant
stare on his wife, wondering dismally what new imbroglio had been
precipitated by her lack of restraint.
Oh, you needn't look at me in that fashion, Cicily objected, with
a pout. I didn't say anything this time, either. I only told them
about our winning the strike, and
What! Hamilton brought out the word like a pistol-shot.
Surely, you couldn't mind my telling them that, Cicily said, in a
voice suspiciously demure. And that's all I told them, except
Except what? Hamilton fairly shouted.
Why, except about the contracts to do the work for the independents
at fifteen centsthat's all.
Youyou told them that! the astounded husband gasped. He whirled
toward Morton. Why, it isn't so, Mr. Mortonnot a word of it! You
must realize that it isn'tthat it couldn't be so.
Morton, however, was not convinced by the earnestness of the young
man's repudiation. Instead, he looked his host up and down with a
sneering scrutiny that was infinitely galling.
I see, he said harshly, that you're just like your father before
you. He could always manage to contrive some way by which to accomplish
his ends, without being over-troubled with scruples. Only, he would
never have confided his business secrets to a woman.
Hamilton turned reproachful eyes on his wife.
Cicily, he cried entreatingly, I want you to tell Mr. Morton
But that resourceful woman interrupted him. Her face showed a
shocked amazement, as she spoke swiftly:
Charles, do you mean that you want me to? She did not finish the
sentence; but the inference was so plain that Morton did not hesitate
to make use of it.
Trying to make your wife lie for you won't do any good, Hamilton,
he advised, disagreeably.
But, if Hamilton had been perplexed before, he was now suddenly
dazed by the inexplicable conduct of Delancy, who advanced nimbly from
the tea-table, caught Hamilton by the arm, and drew him apart a little.
He spoke hurriedly, in a low voice, but intentionally pitched so that
Morton could overhear.
It's no good, my boy, he declared, warningly. You see, the fact
of the matter is, you're caughtcaught with the goods on, as the
police say. And, when you're caught with the goods, don't waste time in
lying. It makes a bad business worse, that's all. Having uttered these
extraordinary words of advice to his marveling nephew, the old
gentleman turned jauntily on the seething Morton. Well, what are you
going to do about it? he demanded, composedly.
Morton, frantic over the trickery that, as he believed, had been
attempted against him, made no pretense of suavity in this emergency.
In his vindictiveness, he spoke with a candor unusual to him in his
Do? he rasped. I'll show you mighty quick what I'll do! You seem
to forget, Hamilton, that we have a contract with you. You are under
agreement with us to put all your work out for us at eleven cents a
Hamilton would have entered a violent protest against any purpose of
evading his obligations; but Delancy silenced the young man by an
imperative gesture, and took it on himself to reply, bearing in mind
the whispered directions of his niece. He addressed Morton in a
condescending fashion that was unspeakably annoying to that important
I never heard of any such contract, he declared blandly, and I
have a bit of money invested in the plant, too.... Has he one,
He has a verbal one, Hamilton answered, more and more bewildered
by the progress of affairs. He wouldn't give a written one.
Huh! A verbal agreement! Delancy sniffed. Well, Morton, may I ask
how you are going to work to prove this verbal agreement?
We'll show that he did the work at that price, was the aggressive
answer. That will suffice.
Very good, Delancy said, judicially. Only, Morton, I venture to
predict that you can't prove your verbal contractnot by any manner of
means.... Who was with you at the time when that verbal agreement was
made between you and Hamilton, as you allege?
Carrington, who had been almost as greatly puzzled over the course
of affairs as was Hamilton, now perceived something that was definitely
within his own knowledge.
Mr. Morton and I were together, he vouchsafed.
And, so, you met the two Hamilton partners? Delancy queried.
Both Morton and Carrington denied that the wife had been present at
I have an idea, Delancy continued imperturbably, that Mrs.
Hamilton here would be quite willing to go on the stand and swear that
she was present at the interview with her husband, to which you have
referred. From something she has let drop to me, I have a very strong
impression to this effect. There was a whimsicality in the old
gentleman's tone that none save his niece marked.
But I tell you, Carrington vociferated, she wasn't there!
I hardly see what that has to do with it, Cicily interpolated
languidly, from her place at the tea-table. I remember it all quite
perfectly. There was a smothered ejaculation from Morton, which
sounded almost profane; Carrington's eyes were widely rounded as he
stared at his hostess. Yes, she went on, her musical voice gently
casual in its modulations, I remember it so well, because it was the
day afterafteroh, well, after something or other! I shall remember
what presently. And I wore
Never mind all that, Delancy interrupted. It doesn't matter what
you wore, or whether you wore anything, or not.
Uncle Jim, Cicily cried, horrified. On this occasion, the emotion
in her voice was wholly genuine.
But Delancy was in a combative mood, and eager to get on with the
fight toward which he had been guided involuntarily by the whispered
instructions of his niece.
Morton, he inquired briskly, have you read those recent decisions
of Bischoff's on unfair contracts? Then, as the other shook his head
in sullen negation, the old gentleman went on complacently: Well, I
haveevery word! Incidentally, the last one was against myself, so,
naturally, I took a rather keen interest. Especially, as the Court of
Appeals has just sustained it.... It happens, therefore, that I know
what I'm talking about.
If it's fight you want, you'll get itmore than you want, I
fancy, Morton growled. We'll put the price down to nine cents, and
You might as well put your price down to eight cents, while you're
about it, Delancy retorted, with a chuckle. You see, your price won't
really matter a particle to us, since we have a fairnotice, please,
that I said faircontract at fifteen cents for five years, with a
privilege of renewal at the same terms. Oh, yes, put your price down to
eight cents, by all means!
Carrington's face turned purple, as he heard the fleering
announcement of his rival's success, and Morton betrayed signs of a
Have you such a contract? he questioned, more mildly than he had
Delancy turned to face Hamilton, and put the question bluntly.
Have we, Charles? There was no reply forthcoming from the
distracted young man, only a burst of sardonic laughter. It seemed to
him clear that everyone had gone mad together. Quickly, then, the old
gentleman directed the question to his niece. Have we, Mrs. Partner?
You bet we have! Cicily answered on the instant, inelegantly, but
with convincing emphasis.
A faint ray of illumination stole into the mental blackness of
Hamilton. Under its influence, he addressed Morton with a half-sneer:
Do you think any man would have the nerve to try bluffing on a
thing like that? In his thoughts there was a forceful emphasis on the
word man, but he carefully avoided letting it appear in the spoken
There followed a lengthy and acrimonious debate among the men, to
which Cicily listened with an air of half-amused, half-bored tolerance.
She was, in fact, thrilling with delight over her inspiration, which
had at last come after such long waiting. She felt an intuitive
conviction that her ruse would win the battle for her husband's
success. She need worry no more over the powerlessness of her women
allies to bend the husbands to their will. Hereafter, she would retain
the friendship of those worthy women, but without any ulterior object
beyond their own welfare. It appealed to her as vastly more fitting
that triumph should come from duping these men, who were her husband's
enemies, who would have ruined him by their schemes, but for her
intervention with a woman's wiles where man's vaunted sagacity had
proved itself utterly at fault. The sincerity of her belief had
sufficed in a minute to win the coöperation of Uncle Jim, that most
determined opponent to woman's intrusion on business affairs. He had
listened to her suggestion at the tea-table, at first with scornful
displeasure over her venturing an opinion of any sort on business.
Then, as he comprehended the purport of her scheme, his instinct for
finesse had caused him to seize on it impetuously, to act upon it
immediately.... Surely, Cicily thought, since Uncle Jim had been won
over, there remained only the working out of details to insure a
glorious victoryher victory for Charles!
She aroused herself from her abstraction with a start of alarm as
she heard Morton crying out defiance.
I tell you, he was saying heatedly, those independent people have
contracts with us. All this plotting of yours is just damned
foolishnessI beg your pardon, Mrs. Hamilton. The enraged capitalist
flushed with new annoyance, for he prided himself greatly on the
elegance of his manners, and it horrified him that he should have so
far forgotten himself as to swear in the presence of a lady. But
they've no place in business anyhow! he thought to himself
Oh, don't mention it! Cicily answered, with an air of unconcern.
To herself, she was reflecting amusedly on how much greater than the
offender knew was his discourtesy toward herself, since she it was who
was the author of that damned foolishness to which he had so
But Delancy had no time to fritter away on niceties of etiquette.
Oh, no, Morton! he scoffed. Johnson of the independents told me
that you never gave them contracts, except for each lot. You see,
that's how we got in on the deal.
Yes, that's how we got in, Cicily echoed, in a gentle murmur.
There was an infinity of satisfaction in her voice.
We'll make them break with you, Carrington shouted, roughly.
Just try it! taunted Hamilton, who, at last, found himself
embarked on this mad adventure in chicanery.
I have five millions in negotiable securities, Delancy added. I'm
willing to spend every penny of it in 'busting' you, if you try it.
Hamilton now took up the argument, with a spirit that delighted the
listening wife. It was evident to her that he had grasped the
significance of her deceit, and was enthusiastic in following it up to
the best of his ability.
So, he said to Morton, you fancy that you can make the
independents leave us! Well, you'll learn your mistake presently. Do
you suppose for a minute that they'll pass us up, when we offer a fair
contract for fifteen cents, to deal with you, after you've just put the
price up to twenty-two? Nonsense!
Morton raised an imperatively restraining hand as Carrington was
about to splutter some threat. Of a sudden, the diplomatic man of
affairs resumed his gracious, suave bearing; and his voice was
agreeably modulated when he spoke:
Gentlemen, it seems to me that we're arguing a great deal,
needlessly. Now, you know, both of you, that I always liked old Charley
Hamilton. Well, as a matter of fact, I'm delighted to discover that his
son here has the same quality of business ability. So, my boy, why
shouldn't you come in with us? There's ample future for brains with
us.... Of course, I'm saying this on the supposition that everything is
just as you have represented it. The cold caution of the man of
business cropped out in the concluding sentence.
Make a proposition, Hamilton directed, curtly.
Well, Morton replied, speaking with thoughtful deliberation, we
might take over a controlling interest in your factory for, say, two
hundred and fifty thousand.
Such an offer as that is merely a joke, was Hamilton's
What do you think it's worth?
Conservatively, a million.
Oh, absurd! Morton exclaimed, reprovingly; but his voice retained
its pleasant quality. Dear me! Youth is so hasty! Now, my boy, the
truth is that you know your factory isn't worth anything like that
I suspect that you have forgotten five fat years of prospective
profits. There came a groan from Carrington at this reference, and
Morton's face lost for a moment its wheedling amiability. But the
latter's discomfiture was of the briefest, if one might judge by
Is a million your lowest figure? he demanded. Then, as a nod of
assent from the owner answered his question, he added: And a
sixty-days' option goes with your offer?
Hamilton, however, had other conditions to impose.
If you take over the control, he asked, do I stay in charge as
president and manager? I must stipulate for that.
Oh, well, Morton agreed graciously, the brain that could pull off
this deal ought to be of some use to us.... All right, my boy.
At this final statement from the magnate, Cicily could not forbear a
subdued ripple of laughter. The brain that could pull off this
dealoh, splendid! Who now would dare deny that she was a partner in
very truth, a partner worth while!... Then, her inspiration again urged
her on. She was beset with feverish impatience, as the four men dallied
tediously over their adieux. When, at last, the visitors were safely
out of the house, the young wife bore down like a whirlwind on Delancy.
She could not waste even a word on Hamilton yet.
Quick! Quick! she commanded. The red in her cheeks was deeper than
it had been for weary weeks; her eyes shot fires of eagerness; her
delicate fingers clutched the old gentleman's arm in a grasp so earnest
that he winced from the pain of it.
Eh, what? he demanded, confused by the violence of her onslaught.
Oh, do hurry, Uncle Jim! Cicily cried. The telephoneJohnson!
Good heavens, yes! Delancy exclaimed, instantly aroused to the
exigencies of the situation, while Hamilton stared blankly at the two
conspirators. I should say so! I've got to get hold of Johnson.
He's on the wire by this time, I'm sure, Cicily announced. While
you were getting rid of those men, I sent Watson to call him up.
Bully, Cicily! Hamilton shouted, in irrepressible enthusiasm. For
the first time, he had spoken honest praise of his wife's business
ability, and the soul of the woman was filled with a glorious triumph.
Delancy was already on his way toward the telephone in the hall. But
he turned to speak his mind:
Why on earth don't your Aunt Emma have ideas like that, he
questioned, resentfully; practical ideas?
Perhaps she has, Cicily replied, accusingly. But you would never
listen. There was no answer beyond an unintelligible grunt from the
Hurry! Uncle Jim! Hamilton urged, in his turn. And do your best.
If Johnson's with us, the deal will go through. He's never gone back on
his word, and he controls the independents.
Yes, boy, Delancy cried over his shoulder, as he vanished through
the doorway, if he's with us, weyour wifewins!
Anyhow, Hamilton soliloquized, win or lose, it's a great game!
Then, he turned to regard his wife, with eyes in which amazement
vied with admiration.
Cicily, under her husband's intent gaze, felt a glow of
embarrassment. To conceal her emotion, she turned, and seated herself
in a chair, where she relaxed into a posture as listlessly indifferent
as she could contrive in this moment of pleasurable turmoil.
Now, indeed, she realized that the moment of her vindication in this
man's estimation was at hand. It was her brain that had evolved the
ruse by which his enemies would be worsted. Delancy and Hamilton might
still retain doubts as to the issue of the affair, but she had none.
Her instinct, which had so ably guided her to this point, now assured
her that victory was assured. It must be, then, that the husband who
had treated her claims and pretensions so fleeringly would henceforth
recognize her worth. He had been helpless in the grasp of circumstance,
and the flood of disaster had threatened to overwhelm him. She had
plucked him forth from the whirlpool, had brought him safe to shore.
She had most nobly justified herself in the rôle of Mrs. Partner....
This was her hour of supreme delight. The lines of fatigue had vanished
from the lovely face as if by magic; her eyes were happy, shining in a
clear contentment; her scarlet lips were molded into a smile of joy,
and from them a dimple crept to make a tiny shadow in the pale oval of
As for Hamilton, that young business man found himself in a maze of
perplexity, as he stood for a long time in silence, studying the fair
picture of femininity there offered to his gaze. In his breast, various
emotions warred lustily. He was a-thrill with elation over the
possibility of outwitting the foes who had used every wile and
subterfuge of trickiness to ruin him. He was moved to a profound
admiration for the intelligence that had originated and carried out a
counter plot so instantly effective in his interests. But underlying
these was a grievous hurt to his egotism. The pride of the male was
wounded sore. Where he, the head of the house, the lord of the home,
the man of affairs, had ignominiously failed, that frail creature, his
wife, whom he had criticised and rebuked time and again, had snatched
victory from defeat by clever and unscrupulous machinations worthy of a
master of high finance. This feat was something incredible, yet it was
true that it had been achieved. It was something absolutely contrary to
all the conventions in which he had been reared. It was directly
opposed to his personal beliefs, as he had expressed them times without
number, to all and sundrynotably to his wife. Here was the sting to
his vanity. He had been wrong. Of that, there could be no doubt. In
other cases, in all probability, his contentions would have been
justified; but there was small consolation in this fact, since in his
own vital concerns he had been proven wrong. He winced as he reflected
on the humility that would be becoming on his part.... Then, he was
moved to a sudden rapture, and forgot his hurt pride, as he realized
again the exceeding worth of the woman whom he loved. Under the urge of
this feeling, he exclaimed with candid vehemence of admiration:
You darling little liar! The fondness in his voice made the
epithet a word of sweetest praise.
Cicily stirred animatedly, casting off her assumed listlessness, in
the bliss of this honest tribute from him who had so sternly flouted
her aforetime. Her eyes of gold lighted radiantly as they were lifted
Oh, noa big liar, I'm very much afraid. She leaned forward, and
her voice was gloating as she continued: Oh, Charles, isn't it just
splendid! And it was all so gloriously simple! Why, it isn't on my
conscience one tiny little bit. You see, they lied, and so, of course,
I was justified in lying. It was to save you, and to help our workers
down there. So, I lied, and I'm glad of it. She gurgled unrestrainedly
for a moment. Do you know, Charles, dear, a woman can beat a man
lying, any time!... Oh, it's great!
But Hamilton, not being under the thrall of intuitions, was not yet
ready to rejoice over a victory that remained to be won.
Wait, he admonished. You know, we haven't heard from Johnson yet.
We don't know what he'll do.
Pooh! Cicily retorted confidently, for in her wisdom she accepted
the dictum of her instinct without reserve. If it should be necessary,
why, I'll convince him, too.
His curiosity prompted Hamilton to ask a leading question.
How did you come to think of it? he inquired eagerly.
Oh, I just thought of it becausebecause Cicily halted,
completely at a loss. She knew very well how she had come to think of
it. The idea had been the kindly gift of intuitionthat was all there
was to it. But the explanation of the fact to a mere man, with his
finical dependence on logic and all manner of foolishness in the way of
reasoning, offered considerable difficulty. So, she rested silent,
puzzling over a means for making the truth lucid to a member of the
Well, because what? Hamilton repeated, suggestively.
Why, just because Unable to find adequate words for interpreting
the cause, Cicily attempted a diversion. And, anyhow, I'm so glad!
Now, you do see that I can help you, that I can do something for you
that counts. For the life of her, the young wife could not resist a
temptation to boast a little over her accomplishment in the world of
business. She even ventured to hint as to the because which she had
left unexplained. Surely, Charles, now you must see how it's possible
for us women to help our husbands outside the homeonce in a while, at
least. Really, there is some room in business on occasion for
intuition, just as there is in other things. But the few men who
possess the gift don't call it by its right namenot they! I imagine
they're too busy and prosperous to call it anything.
You mustn't think I'm not grateful, Cicily, Hamilton answered,
with surprising meekness. I know how much I shall owe you, if this
deal goes through. He went to the chair where his wife was sitting,
and kissed her tenderly. Yes, you'll find me grateful enough, he
repeated earnestly, as he straightened again, and stood regarding her
with lover-like intentness.
Cicily, however, was not wholly content with the expression of
feeling on her husband's part. Her ambition toward really sharing his
whole life was not to be thwarted by accepting a single success, and
the resultant gratitude on the part of the one served, as a sufficient
It's not gratitude that I want, Charles, she declared, resolutely;
that is, not gratitude alone. I want recognition.
But I do recognize everything, Cicily, Hamilton urged, manifestly
at a loss to understand his wife's precise meaning. Then, of a sudden,
his vision cleared, and he spoke with a new gentleness, yet with
something of the old authority. I recognize most clearly that here and
now is the real turning point of our lives. We have both made
Oh, both? Cicily questioned, rebelliously. Her serene confidence
in herself did not relish the open confession of error.
Yes, Hamilton maintained, judicially; we've both made mistakes.
I've cared too much for business. I admit that fully and freely. I let
it intrude on my home life; I let it hamper the expression of my love
for you. As for you, you adorable creature, you've been headstrong
beyond belief. You've been impulsive to the limit of that very
impulsive temperament of yours. You've been unreasonable to the verge
of distraction. But, thank heaven! you've beenas you'd call
itintuitional, too. That redeems you from criticismas it may redeem
me from ruin in my business. So, darling, isn't it fair, when I say
that I'm going to change, to say that I want you to change, too? To sum
it up, dear heart, we must begin all over again.
Nevertheless, Cicily, although she was a-quiver with delight over
the open revelation of her husband's changed feeling toward her and
toward himself, did not hesitate to combat his determination. She shook
her head slowly in negation of his proposal, and spoke with the energy
of profound conviction:
It's too late, Charles. We can't go back.
But, Cicily, Hamilton remonstrated, greatly hurt by her resistance
to his humble resolve, you don't understand! I admit that I was
wrongmore than partly to blame, perhaps. That was as far as he could
go. The wife who loved him smiled secretly at the obvious effort with
which he acknowledged so much. It was enough to satisfy her in that
directionmore than enough! But there remained still the fact that she
was totally out of harmony with his scheme of turning backward to begin
their life together afresh, after a finer plan of conduct.
There's no such thing as going backward in life, Charles, she
declared, intently. We must go forwardonly forward!
No, Hamilton answered, gravely. That would never do. The old
struggle would come up again. You were right in your argument, Cicily,
and I see it now. I recognize the existence of that modern triangle, as
you described it. One must choose, inevitably. It's either you or
business. I chose once, and I went wrong. Now, let me choose again,
dear. Oh, you must believe me, sweetheart. You are the
dearerinfinitely the dearer to me! It is you I loveonly you! There
was genuine passion in the man's voice. It rang heavenly harmonies in
the soul of the wife. For the moment, she was half-inclined to throw
away the troubles begotten of ambition, the strivings engendered by
ideals, to rest content with the happiness of love's transports. She
fought the temptation stoutly, but it was almost beyond her woman's
strength to resist. She feinted for time by haphazard questioning,
voiced in broken, uncertain tones while she strove to maintain her
What are you going to do, Charles? How will you prove that I am
dearer to you, after all, than is this hateful business?
How am I going to prove it? Hamilton repeated, with immense
self-satisfaction. Why, I'm going to sell out to Morton, to-morrow.
At this explicit statement of his purpose, Cicily was swiftly
recalled from her temporary mood of yielding.
You're going to quit? she demanded, sharply. Is that what you
Yes, came the complacent answer, firm in the intensity of sudden
resolve. I have it all planned out, already. We'll take a steamer the
last of the week for anothera better, wiserhoneymoon. We'll go to
the Italian lakes, to Switzerland. Then, afterward, we'll drop down to
that little village in the south of France. You remember the place,
don't you, dearest?
Yes, Cicily answered, very softly. Her cheeks were flushed with
tender memories of that embowered nook which had given lotos-eating
pause to their wedding-journey. Her eyes were dreamy with fond
reminiscence, as she imagined again the quaint beauties of that lover's
paradise. But, by a fierce effort of will, she threw off the spell that
threatened to defeat her most cherished ambition; and she spoke with an
accent of supreme determination, in a voice become suddenly vibrant
with new energy. But I won't go! Her face, too, had lost the
delicate, yielding lines of the woman wooed and won, rejoicing in
submission; it was again alert, set to fixedness of plan that would
brook no denial. At sight of the change in her, Hamilton stared in
dismay. He could not understand this development in her. He had
humiliated himself in vain. He had offered the abandonment of all that
could offend her, yet she remained obdurate, discontented, defiant of
his every desire. He almost groaned, as he cast himself disconsolately
into a chair, and buried his head in his hands, despairing of any
understanding as to the whims of a woman.
Don't you see, dear, Cicily went on, gently persuasive, that we
can'twe just can't!quit? Why, Charles, being a quitter is the one
thing that you've most hated all your life. And I, too, have hated it.
No, you can't quit, because you're held here by dutyby duty to
yourself, by duty to those men and women, our little brothers and
sisters, who depend on you for their livelihood.
The trust will take care of them, Hamilton declared mechanically,
without lifting his face from his hands.
You know how the trust will take care of them, Cicily retorted,
with a touch of bitterness. It will pay them a starvation wageno
But you're jealous of business! Hamilton objected, raising his
head to gaze curiously at this most paradoxical person. And, now, you
are urging me to keep at it. I don't understand.
Cicily laughed aloud, in genuine enjoyment. Her eyes were alight
with the fires of victory.
I used to be jealous of it, she admitted, joyously. I'm not any
longerbecause I've beaten it. Your offer just now proves that,
doesn't it?... But, now that I have won a triumph over my old rival,
why, we've got to go forward.
Together? There was a tender, half-fearful doubt in the husband's
voice as he asked the question that meant so much to him, for he loved
this variable wife of his in this moment more than he had ever dreamed
that he could love a woman.
The wife's head drooped shyly, and her face flamed. Her word came
very softly spoken, but it rang a peal of happiness in the heart of her
The man rose from his chair, and went to his wife's side, where he
stooped, and took her face in his hands, and raised it until he could
look deep into the eyes of gold.
You will care again, as you used to care?
And she answered bravely, although a gentle confusion held her all
I will care becausebecause I've never stopped caring!
Thank God! Hamilton said reverently, and gathered her into his
Afterward, the twain lovers talked of many things, as lovers will,
of things grave and gay, of things silly and profound. They talked of
business affairs, into which Cicily might on occasion flash the light
of intuition to clear the way for grosser reason. They discussed the
mutuality of interests that would be theirs, a lesson of supreme worth
to a conventional world. They arranged philanthropic schemes for the
betterment of conditions for the little brothers and sisters who gained
a sustenance by toil at their behest. But, most of all, they talked
those divine absurdities that are the privilege of all true lovers. The
husband bewailed the incredible stupidity that had led him into neglect
of the most adorable being in the universe; the wife mourned over the
stern necessity that had driven her to sacrifice ineffable happiness on
the altar of conscience.
They drew apart a little, when Delancy came bustling in from his
conversation over the telephone; but they scarcely had ears for his
jubilant announcement of victory.
Johnson thinks it's great! the old gentleman cried, triumphantly.
He's coming right up here in his machine, with a lawyer, to draw the
papers.... And I've 'phoned for our attorney to get here as fast as he
can. My boy, we've got 'em! Hooray!
Hamilton responded with a perfunctory enthusiasm, but his eyes never
left his wife's face.
As for Cicily, she sat silent, her eyes veiled, reveling in the glad
riot of her thoughts. Through her brain went echoing the words spoken
by her Aunt Emma, which had served in a measure to guide her course of
action, and she smiled in perfect content as she mused on their meaning
in her life. She had sought to make other people happy. She had
striven valiantly in behalf of the workers in the factory; she had
struggled for her husband. Well, she had succeeded for themsurely,
she had made other people happy; and out of her labors for those others
she had won the supreme happiness for herself.
But it was after Delancy had left them that Hamilton reached into
the inner pocket of his waistcoat, and plucked forth a little packet of
tissue paper, which he unrolled with a touch that was half-caressing.
Of a sudden, Cicily, watching, uttered a cry of delight.
You caredso much? she questioned, with shy eagerness, as she put
out her left hand.
The husband slipped the wedding-ring to its place.
I cared so much, he said softly; and infinitely more!
The amber eyes of the wife were veiled with tears, as she lifted
them to his.
Oh, thank God, it is back again! she whispered.