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A Modern Instance by William Dean Howells

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not be afraid to stay alone. Or if you think I'd better not, I will go for
the doctor myself."

"No, no," said Halleck, smiling sadly: the case certainly had its ludicrous
side. "He doesn't need a doctor. You mustn't think of calling a doctor.
Indeed you mustn't. He'll come out all right of himself. If you sent for a
doctor, it would make him very angry."

She burst into tears. "Well, I will do what you say," she cried. "It would
never have happened, if it hadn't been for me. I want to tell you what I
did," she went on wildly. "I want to tell--"

"Please don't tell me anything, Mrs. Hubbard! It will all come right--and
very soon. It isn't anything to be alarmed about. He'll be well in a few
hours. I--ah--Good by." He had found his cane, and he made a limp toward
the door, but she swiftly interposed herself.

"Why," she panted, in mixed reproach and terror, "you're not going away?
You're not going to leave me before Bartley is well? He may get worse,--he
may die! You mustn't go, Mr. Halleck!"

"Yes, I must,--I can't stay,--I oughtn't to stay,--it won't do! He won't
get worse, he won't die." The perspiration broke out on Halleck's face,
which he lifted to hers with a distress as great as her own.

She only answered, "I can't let you go; it would kill me. I wonder at your
wanting to go."

There was something ghastly comical in it all, and Halleck stood in fear of
its absurdity hardly less than of its tragedy. He rapidly revolved in his
mind the possibilities of the case. He thought at first that it might be
well to call a doctor, and, having explained the situation to him, pay him
to remain in charge; but he reflected that it would be insulting to ask a
doctor to see a man in Hubbard's condition. He took out his watch, and saw
that it was six o'clock; and he said, desperately, "You can send for me, if
you get anxious--"

"I can't let you go!"

"I must really get my breakfast--"

"The girl will get something for you here! Oh, _don't_ go away!" Her lip
began to quiver again, and her bosom to rise.

He could not bear it. "Mrs. Hubbard, will you believe what I say?"

"Yes," she faltered, reluctantly.

"Well, I tell you that Mr. Hubbard is in no sort of danger; and I know that
it would be extremely offensive to him if I stayed."

"Then you must go," she answered promptly, and opened the door, which she
had closed for fear he might escape. "I will send for a doctor."

"No; _don't_ send for a doctor, don't send for anybody don't speak of
the matter to any one: it would be very mortifying to him. It's merely
a--a--kind of--seizure, that a great many people--men--are subject to; but
he wouldn't like to have it known." He saw that his words were making an
impression upon her; perhaps her innocence was beginning to divine the
truth. "Will you do what I say?"

"Yes," she murmured.

Her head began to droop, and her face to turn away in a dawning shame too
cruel for him to see.

"I--I will come back as soon as I get my breakfast, to make sure that
everything is right."

She let him find his own way out, and Halleck issued upon the street, as
miserable as if the disgrace were his own. It was easy enough for him
to get back into his own room without alarming the family. He ate his
breakfast absently, and then went out while the others were still at table.

"I don't think Ben seems very well," said his mother, anxiously, and she
looked to her husband for the denial he always gave.

"Oh, I guess he's all right. What's the matter with him?"

"It's nothing but his ridiculous, romantic way of taking the world to
heart," Olive interposed. "You may be sure he's troubled about something
that doesn't concern him in the least. It's what comes of the life-long
conscientiousness of his parents. If Ben doesn't turn out a philanthropist
of the deepest dye yet, you'll have me to thank for it. I see more and
more every day that I was providentially born wicked, so as to keep this
besottedly righteous family's head above water."

She feigned an angry impatience with the condition of things; but when her
father went out, she joined her mother in earnest conjectures as to what
Ben had on his mind.

Halleck wandered about till nearly ten o'clock, and then he went to the
little house on Clover Street. The servant-girl answered his ring, and when
he asked for Mrs. Hubbard, she said that Mr. Hubbard wished to see him, and
please would he step upstairs.

He found Bartley seated at the window, with a wet towel round his head, and
his face pale with headache.

"Well, old man," he said, with an assumption of comradery that was nauseous
to Halleck, "you've done the handsome thing by me. I know all about it.
I knew something about it all the time." He held out his hand, without
rising, and Halleck forced himself to touch it. "I appreciate your delicacy
in not telling my wife. Of course you _couldn't_ tell," he said, with
depraved enjoyment of what he conceived of Halleck's embarrassment. "But I
guess she must have smelt a rat. As the fellow says," he added, seeing the
disgust that Halleck could not keep out of his face, "I shall make a clean
breast of it, as soon as she can bear it. She's pretty high-strung. Lying
down, now," he explained. "You see, I went out to get something to make me
sleep, and the first thing I knew I had got too much. Good thing I turned
up on your doorstep; might have been waltzing into the police court about
now. How did you happen to hear me?"

Halleck briefly explained, with an air of abhorrence for the facts.

"Yes, I remember most of it," said Bartley. "Well, I want to thank you,
Halleck. You've saved me from disgrace,--from ruin, for all I know. Whew!
how my head aches!" he said, making an appeal to Halleck's pity, with
closed eyes. "Halleck," he murmured, feebly, "I wish you would do me a
favor."

"Yes? What is it?" asked Halleck, dryly.

"Go round to the Events office and tell old Witherby that I sha'n't be able
to put in an appearance to-day. I'm not up to writing a note, even; and
he'd feel flattered at your coming personally. It would make it all right
for me."

"Of course I will go," said Halleck.

"Thanks," returned Bartley, plaintively, with his eyes closed.

XXVI.

Bartley would willingly have passed this affair over with Marcia, like some
of their quarrels, and allowed a reconciliation to effect itself through
mere lapse of time and daily custom. But there were difficulties in the way
to such an end; his shameful escapade had given the quarrel a character of
its own, which could not be ignored. He must keep his word about making a
clean breast of it to Marcia, whether he liked or not; but she facilitated
his confession by the meek and dependent fashion in which she hovered
about, anxious to do something or anything for him. If, as he suggested to
Halleck, she had divined the truth, she evidently did not hold him wholly
to blame for what had happened, and he was not without a self-righteous
sense of having given her a useful and necessary lesson. He was inclined to
a severity to which his rasped and shaken nerves contributed, when he spoke
to her that night, as they sat together after tea; she had some sewing in
her lap, little mysteries of soft muslin for the baby, which she was edging
with lace, and her head drooped over her work, as if she could not confront
him with her swollen eyes.

"Look here, Marcia," he said, "do you know what was the matter with me this
morning?"

She did not answer in words; her hands quivered a moment; then she caught
up the things out of her lap, and sobbed into them. The sight unmanned
Bartley; he hated to see any one cry,--even his wife, to whose tears he was
accustomed. He dropped down beside her on the sofa, and pulled her head
over on his shoulder.

"It was my fault! it was my fault, Bartley!" she sobbed. "Oh, how can I
ever get over it?"

"Well, don't cry, don't cry! It wasn't altogether your fault," returned
Bartley. "We were both to blame."

"No! I began it. If I hadn't broken my promise about speaking of Hannah
Morrison, it never would have happened." This was so true that Bartley
could not gainsay it. "But I couldn't seem to help it; and you were--you
were--so quick with me; you didn't give me time to think; you--But I was
the one to blame, I was to blame!"

"Oh, well, never mind about it; don't take on so," coaxed Bartley. "It's
all over now, and it can't be helped. And I can promise you," he added,
"that it shall never happen again, no matter what you do," and in making
this promise he felt the glow of virtuous performance. "I think we've both
had a lesson. I suppose," he continued sadly, as one might from impersonal
reflection upon the temptations and depravity of large cities, "that it's
_common_ enough. I dare say it isn't the first time Ben Halleck has taken a
fellow home in a hack." Bartley got so much comfort from the conjecture he
had thrown out for Marcia's advantage, that he felt a sort of self-approval
in the fact with which he followed it up. "And there's this consolation
about it, if there isn't any other: that it wouldn't have happened now, if
it had ever happened before."

Marcia lifted her head and looked into his face: "What--what do you mean,
Bartley?"

"I mean that I never was overcome before in my life by--wine." He
delicately avoided saying whiskey.

"Well?" she demanded.

"Why, don't you see? If I'd had the habit of drinking, I shouldn't have
been affected by it."

"I don't understand," she said, anxiously.

"Why, I knew I shouldn't be able to sleep, I was so mad at you--"

"Oh!"

"And I dropped into the hotel bar-room for a nightcap,--for something to
make me sleep."

"Yes, yes!" she urged eagerly.

"I took what wouldn't have touched a man that was in the habit of it."

"Poor Bartley!"

"And the first thing I knew I had got too much. I was drunk,--wild drunk,"
he said with magnanimous frankness.

She had been listening intensely, exculpating him at every point, and now
his innocence all flashed upon her. "I see! I see!" she cried. "And it was
because you had never tasted it before--"

"Well, I had tasted it once or twice," interrupted Bartley, with heroic
veracity.

"No matter! It was because you had never more than hardly tasted it that a
very little overcame you in an instant. I see!" she repeated, contemplating
him in her ecstasy, as the one habitually sober man in a Boston full of
inebriates. "And now I shall never regret it; I shall never care for it;
I never shall think about it again! Or, yes! I shall always remember
it, because it shows--because it _proves_ that you are always strictly
temperance. It was worth happening for that. I am _glad_ it happened!"

She rose from his side, and took her sewing nearer the lamp, and resumed
her work upon it with shining eyes.

Bartley remained in his place on the sofa, feeling, and perhaps looking,
rather sheepish. He had made a clean breast of it, and the confession
had redounded only too much to his credit. To do him justice, he had not
intended to bring the affair to quite such a triumphant conclusion; and
perhaps something better than his sense of humor was also touched when he
found himself not only exonerated, but transformed into an exemplar of
abstinence.

"Well," he said, "it isn't exactly a thing to be glad of, but it certainly
isn't a thing to worry yourself about. You know the worst of it, and you
know the best of it. It never happened before, and it never shall happen
again; that's all. Don't lament over it, don't accuse yourself; just let
it go, and we'll both see what we can do after this in the way of behaving
better."

He rose from the sofa, and began to walk about the room.

"Does your head still ache?" she asked, fondly. "I _wish_ I could do
something for it!"

"Oh, I shall sleep it off," returned Bartley.

She followed him with her eyes. "Bartley!"

"Well?"

"Do you suppose--do you believe--that Mr. Halleck--that he was ever--"

"No, Marcia, I don't," said Bartley, stopping. "I _know_ he never was. Ben
Halleck is slow; but he's good. I couldn't imagine his being drunk any more
than I could imagine your being so. I'd willingly sacrifice his reputation
to console you," added Bartley, with a comical sense of his own regret that
Halleck was not, for the occasion, an habitual drunkard, "but I cannot tell
a lie." He looked at her with a smile, and broke into a sudden laugh. "No,
my dear, the only person I think of just now as having suffered similarly
with myself is the great and good Andrew Johnson. Did you ever hear of
him?"

"Was he the one they impeached?" she faltered, not knowing what Bartley
would be at, but smiling faintly in sympathy with his mirth.

"He was the one they impeached. He was the one who was overcome by wine on
his inauguration day, because he had never been overcome before. It's a
parallel case!" Bartley got a great deal more enjoyment out of the parallel
case than Marcia. The smile faded from her face.

"Come, come," he coaxed, "be satisfied with Andrew Johnson, and let Halleck
go. Ah, Marcia!" he added, seriously, "Ben Halleck is the kind of man you
ought to have married! Don't you suppose that I know I'm not good enough
for you? I'm pretty good by fits and starts; but he would have been good
right straight along. I should never have had to bring _him_ home in a hack
to you!"

His generous admission had the just effect. "Hush, Bartley! Don't talk so!
You know that you're better for me than the best man in the world, dear,
and even if you were not, I should love you the best. Don't talk, please,
that way, of any one else, or it will make me hate you!"

He liked that; and after all he was not without an obscure pride in his
last night's adventure as a somewhat hazardous but decided assertion of
manly supremacy. It was not a thing to be repeated; but for once in a way
it was not wholly to be regretted, especially as he was so well out of it.

He pulled up a chair in front of her, and began to joke about the things
she had in her lap; and the shameful and sorrowful day ended in the bliss
of a more perfect peace between them than they had known since the troubles
of their married life began. "I tell you," said Bartley to Marcia, "I shall
stick to tivoli after this, religiously."

It was several weeks later that Halleck limped into Atherton's lodgings,
and dropped into one of his friend's easy-chairs. The room had a bachelor
comfort of aspect, and the shaded lamp on the table shed a mellow light on
the green leather-covered furniture, wrinkled and creased, and worn full of
such hospitable hollows as that which welcomed Halleck. Some packages of
law papers were scattered about on the table; but the hour of the night had
come when a lawyer permits himself a novel. Atherton looked up from his as
Halleck entered, and stretched out a hand, which the latter took on his way
to the easy-chair across the table.

"How do you do?" said Atherton, after allowing him to sit for a certain
time in the silence, which expressed better than words the familiarity
that existed between them in spite of the lawyer's six or seven years of
seniority.

Halleck leaned forward and tapped the floor with his stick; then he fell
back again, and laid his cane across the arms of his chair, and drew a
long breath. "Atherton," he said, "if you had found a blackguard of your
acquaintance drunk on your doorstep early one morning, and had taken him
home to his wife, how would you have expected her to treat you the next
time you saw her?"

The lawyer was too much used to the statement, direct and hypothetical, of
all sorts of cases, to be startled at this. He smiled slightly, and said,
"That would depend a good deal upon the lady."

"Oh, but generalize! From what you know of women as Woman, what should you
expect? Shouldn't you expect her to make you pay somehow for your privity
to her disgrace, to revenge her misery upon you? Isn't there a theory that
women forgive injuries, but never ignominies?"

"That's what the novelists teach, and we bachelors get most of our doctrine
about women from them." He closed his novel on the paper-cutter, and,
laying the book upon the table, clasped his hands together at the back of
his head. "We don't go to nature for our impressions; but neither do the
novelists, for that matter. Now and then, however, in the way of business,
I get a glimpse of realities that make me doubt my prophets. Who had this
experience?"

"I did."

"I'm sorry for that," said Atherton.

"Yes," returned Halleck, with whimsical melancholy; "I'm not particularly
adapted for it. But I don't know that it would be a very pleasant
experience for anybody."

He paused drearily, and Atherton said, "And how did she actually treat
you?"

"I hardly know. I hadn't been at the pains to look them up since the
thing happened, and I had been carrying their squalid secret round for a
fortnight, and suffering from it as if it were all my own."

Atherton smiled at the touch of self-characterization.

"When I met her and her husband and her baby to-day,--a family
party,--well, she made me ashamed of the melodramatic compassion I had been
feeling for her. It seemed that I had been going about unnecessarily, not
to say impertinently, haggard with the recollection of her face as I saw it
when she opened the door for her blackguard and me that morning. She looked
as if nothing unusual had happened at our last meeting. I couldn't brace up
all at once: I behaved like a sneak, in view of her serenity."

"Perhaps nothing unusual _had_ happened," suggested Atherton.

"No, that theory isn't tenable," said Halleck. "It was the one fact in the
blackguard's favor that she had evidently never seen him in that state
before, and didn't know what was the matter. She was wild at first; she
wanted to send for a doctor. I think towards the last she began to suspect.
But I don't know how she looked _then_: I couldn't look at her." He stopped
as if still in the presence of the pathetic figure, with its sidelong,
drooping head.

Atherton respected his silence a moment before he again suggested, as
lightly as before, "Perhaps she is magnanimous."

"No," said Halleck, with the effect of having also given that theory
consideration. "She's not magnanimous, poor soul. I fancy she is rather a
narrow-minded person, with strict limitations in regard to people who think
ill--or too well--of her husband."

"Then perhaps," said Atherton, with the air of having exhausted conjecture,
"she's obtuse."

"I have tried, to think that too," replied Halleck, "but I can't manage it.
No, there are only two ways out of it; the fellow has abused her innocence
and made her believe it's a common and venial affair to be brought home in
that state, or else she's playing a part. He's capable of telling her that
neither you nor I, for example, ever go to bed sober. But she isn't obtuse:
I fancy she's only too keen in all the sensibilities that women suffer
through; and I'd rather think that he had deluded her in that way, than
that she was masquerading about it, or she strikes me as an uncommonly
truthful person. I suppose you know whom I'm talking about, Atherton?" he
said, with a sudden look at his friend's face across the table.

"Yes, I know," said the lawyer. "I'm sorry it's come to this already.
Though I suppose you're not altogether surprised."

"No; something of the kind was to be expected," Halleck sighed, and rolled
his cane up and down on the arms of his chair. "I hope we know the worst."

"Perhaps we do. But I recollect a wise remark you made the first time we
talked of these people," said Atherton, replying to the mood rather than
the speech of his friend. "You suggested that we rather liked to grieve
over the pretty girls that other fellows marry, and that we never thought
of the plain ones as suffering."

"Oh, I hadn't any data for my pity in this case, then," replied Halleck.
"I'm willing to allow that a plain woman would suffer under the same
circumstances; and I think I should be capable of pitying her. But I'll
confess that the notion of a pretty woman's sorrow is more intolerable;
there's no use denying a fact so universally recognized by the male
consciousness. I take my share of shame for it. I wonder why it is? Pretty
women always seem to appeal to us as more dependent and childlike. I dare
say they're not."

"Some of them are quite able to take care of themselves," said Atherton.
"I've known striking instances of the kind. How do you know but the object
of your superfluous pity was cheerful because fate had delivered her
husband, bound forever, into her hand, through this little escapade of
his?"

"Isn't that rather a coarse suggestion?" asked Halleck.

"Very likely. I suggest it; I don't assert it. But I fancy that wives
sometimes like a permanent grievance that is always at hand, no matter what
the mere passing occasion of the particular disagreement is. It seems to
me that I have detected obscure appeals to such a weapon in domestic
interviews at which I've assisted in the way of business."

"Don't, Atherton!" cried Halleck.

"Don't how? In this particular case, or in regard to wives generally. We
can't do women a greater injustice than not to account for a vast deal
of human nature in them. You may be sure that things haven't come to the
present pass with those people without blame on both sides."

"Oh, do you defend a man for such beastliness, by that stale old plea of
blame on both sides?" demanded Halleck, indignantly.

"No; but I should like to know what she had said or done to provoke it,
before I excused her altogether."

"You would! Imagine the case reversed."

"It isn't imaginable."

"You think there is a special code of morals for women,--sins and shames
for them that are no sins and shames for us!"

"No, I don't think that! I merely suggest that you don't idealize the
victim in this instance. I dare say she hasn't suffered half as much as you
have. Remember that she's a person of commonplace traditions, and probably
took a simple view of the matter, and let it go as something that could not
be helped."

"No, that would not do, either," said Halleck.

"You're hard to please. Suppose we imagine her proud enough to face you
down on the fact, for his sake; too proud to revenge her disgrace on you--"

"Oh, you come back to your old plea of magnanimity! Atherton, it makes me
sick at heart to think of that poor creature. That look of hers haunts me!
I can't get rid of it!"

Atherton sat considering his friend with a curious smile. "Well, I'm sorry
this has happened to _you_, Halleck."

"Oh, why do you say that to me?" demanded Halleck, impatiently. "Am I a
nervous woman, that I must be kept from unpleasant sights and disagreeable
experiences? If there's anything of the man about me, you insult it! Why
not be a little sorry for _her_?"

"I'm sorry enough for her; but I suspect that, so far, you have been the
principal sufferer. She's simply accepted the fact, and survived it."

"So much the worse, so much the worse!" groaned Halleck. "She'd better have
died!"

"Well, perhaps. I dare say she thinks it will never happen again, and has
dismissed the subject; while you've had it happening ever since, whenever
you've thought of her."

Halleck struck the arms of his chair with his clinched hands. "Confound the
fellow! What business has he to come back into my way, and make me think
about his wife? Oh, very likely it's quite as you say! I dare say she's
stupidly content with him; that she's forgiven it and forgotten all about
it. Probably she's told him how I behaved, and they've laughed me over
together. But does that make it any easier to bear?"

"It ought," said Atherton. "What did the husband do when you met them?"

"Everything but tip me the wink,--everything but say, in so many words,
'You see I've made it all right with her: don't you wish you knew--how?'"
Halleck dropped his head, with a wrathful groan.

"I fancy," said Atherton, thoughtfully, "that, if we really knew how, it
would surprise us. Married life is as much a mystery to us outsiders as the
life to come, almost. The ordinary motives don't seem to count; it's the
realm of unreason. If a man only makes his wife suffer enough, she finds
out that she loves him so much she _must_ forgive him. And then there's a
great deal in their being bound. They can't live together in enmity, and
they must live together. I dare say the offence had merely worn itself out
between them."

"Oh, I dare say," Halleck assented, wearily. "That isn't my idea of
marriage, though."

"It's not mine, either," returned Atherton. "The question is whether it
isn't often the fact in regard to such people's marriages."

"Then they are so many hells," cried Halleck, "where self-respect perishes
with resentment, and the husband and wife are enslaved to each other. They
ought to be broken up!"

"I don't think so," said Atherton, soberly. "The sort of men and women that
marriage enslaves would be vastly more wretched and mischievous if they
were set free. I believe that the hell people make for themselves isn't at
all a bad place for them. It's the best place for them."

"Oh, I know your doctrine," said Halleck, rising. "It's horrible! How a man
with any kindness in his heart can harbor such a cold-blooded philosophy
_I_ don't understand. I wish you joy of it. Good night," he added,
gloomily, taking his hat from the table. "It serves me right for coming to
you with a matter that I ought to have been man enough to keep to myself."

Atherton followed him toward the door. "It won't do you any harm to
consider your perplexity in the light of my philosophy. An unhappy marriage
isn't the only hell, nor the worst."

Halleck turned. "What could be a worse hell than marriage without love?" he
demanded, fiercely.

"Love without marriage," said Atherton.

Halleck looked sharply at his friend. Then he shrugged his shoulders as he
turned again and swung out of the door. "You're too esoteric for me. It's
quite time I was gone."

The way through Clover Street was not the shortest way home; but he climbed
the hill and passed the little house. He wished to rehabilitate in its
pathetic beauty the image which his friend's conjectures had jarred,
distorted, insulted; and he lingered for a moment before the door where
this vision had claimed his pity for anguish that no after serenity could
repudiate. The silence in which the house was wrapped was like another fold
of the mystery which involved him. The night wind rose in a sudden gust,
and made the neighboring lamp flare, and his shadow wavered across the
pavement like the figure of a drunken man. This, and not that other, was
the image which he saw.

XXVII.

"Of course," said Marcia, when she and Bartley recurred to the subject of
her visit to Equity, "I have always felt as if I should like to have you
with me, so as to keep people from talking, and show that it's all right
between you and father. But if you don't wish to go, I can't ask it."

"I understand what you mean, and I should like to gratify you," said
Bartley. "Not that I care a rap what all the people in Equity think. I'll
tell you what I'll do, I'll go down there with you and hang round a day or
two; and then I'll come after you, when your time's up, and stay a day or
two there. I _couldn't_ stand three weeks in Equity."

In the end, he behaved very handsomely. He dressed Flavia out to kill, as
he said, in lace hoods and embroidered long-clothes, for which he tossed
over half the ready-made stock of the great dry-goods stores; and he made
Marcia get herself a new suit throughout, with a bonnet to match, which she
thought she could not afford, but he said he should manage it somehow.
In Equity he spared no pains to deepen the impression of his success in
Boston, and he was affable with everybody. He hailed his friends across
the street, waving his hand to them, and shouting out a jolly greeting.
He visited the hotel office and the stores to meet the loungers there; he
stepped into the printing-office, and congratulated Henry Bird on having
stopped the Free Press and devoted himself to job-work. He said, "Hello,
Marilla! Hello, Hannah!" and he stood a good while beside the latter at her
case, joking and laughing. He had no resentments. He stopped old Morrison
on the street and shook hands with him. "Well, Mr. Morrison, do you find it
as easy to get Hannah's wages advanced nowadays as you used to?"

As for his relations with Squire Gaylord, he flattened public conjecture
out like a pancake, as he told Marcia, by making the old gentleman walk
arm-and-arm with him the whole length of the village street the morning
after his arrival. "And I never saw your honored father look as if he
enjoyed a thing less," added Bartley. "Well, what's the use? He couldn't
help himself." They had arrived on Friday evening, and, after spending
Saturday in this social way, Bartley magnanimously went with Marcia to
church. He was in good spirits, and he shook hands, right and left, as he
came out of church. In the afternoon he had up the best team from the hotel
stable, and took Marcia the Long Drive, which they had taken the day
of their engagement. He could not be contented without pushing the
perambulator out after tea, and making Marcia walk beside it, to let people
see them with the baby.

He went away the next morning on an early train, after a parting which he
made very cheery, and a promise to come down again as soon as he could
manage it. Marcia watched him drive off toward the station in the hotel
barge, and then she went upstairs to their room, where she had been so long
a young girl, and where now their child lay sleeping. The little one seemed
the least part of all the change that had taken place. In this room she
used to sit and think of him; she used to fly up thither when he came
unexpectedly, and order her hair or change a ribbon of her dress, that she
might please him better; at these windows she used to sit and watch, and
long for his coming; from these she saw him go by that day when she thought
she should see him no more, and took heart of her despair to risk the wild
chance that made him hers. There was a deadly, unsympathetic stillness in
the room which seemed to leave to her all the responsibility for what she
had done.

The days began to go by in a sunny, still, midsummer monotony. She pushed
the baby out in its carriage, and saw the summer boarders walking or
driving through the streets; she returned the visits that the neighbors
paid her; indoors she helped her mother about the housework. An image of
her maiden life reinstated itself. At times it seemed almost as if she
had dreamed her marriage. When she looked at her baby in these moods, she
thought she was dreaming yet. A young wife suddenly parted for the first
time from her husband, in whose intense possession she has lost her
individual existence, and devolving upon her old separate personality, must
have strong fancies, strange sensations. Marcia's marriage had been full of
such shocks and storms as might well have left her dazed in their entire
cessation.

"She seems to be pretty well satisfied here," said her father, one evening
when she had gone upstairs with her sleeping baby in her arms.

"She seems to be pretty quiet," her mother noncommittally assented.

"M-yes," snarled the Squire, and he fell into a long revery, while Mrs.
Gaylord went on crocheting the baby a bib, and the smell of the petunia-bed
under the window came in through the mosquito netting. "M-yes," he resumed,
"I guess you're right. I guess it's only quiet. I guess she ain't any more
likely to be satisfied than the rest of us."

"I don't see why she shouldn't be," said Mrs. Gaylord, resenting the
compassion in the Squire's tone with that curious jealousy a wife feels for
her husband's indulgence of their daughter. "She's had her way."

"She's had her way, poor girl,--yes. But I don't know as it satisfies
people to have their way, always."

Doubtless Mrs. Gaylord saw that her husband wished to talk about Marcia,
and must be helped to do so by a little perverseness. "I don't know but
what most of folks would say 't she'd made out pretty well. I guess she's
got a good provider."

"She didn't need any provider," said the Squire haughtily.

"No; but so long as she would have something, it's well enough that she
should have a provider." Mrs. Gaylord felt that this was reasoning, and she
smoothed out so much of the bib as she had crocheted across her knees with
an air of self-content. "You can't have everything in a husband," she
added, "and Marcia ought to know that, by this time."

"I've no doubt she knows it," said the Squire.

"Why, what makes you think she's disappointed any?" Mrs. Gaylord came plump
to the question at last.

"Nothing she ever said," returned her husband promptly. "She'd die, first.
When I was up there I thought she talked about him too much to be feeling
just right about him. It was Bartley this and Bartley that, the whole
while. She was always wanting me to say that I thought she had done right
to marry him. I _did_ sort of say it, at last,--to please her. But I kept
thinking that, if she felt sure of it, she wouldn't want to talk it into me
so. Now, she never mentions him at all, if she can help it. She writes to
him every day, and she hears from him often enough,--postals, mostly; but
she don't talk about Bartley, Bartley!" The Squire stretched his lips back
from his teeth, and inhaled a long breath, as he rubbed his chin.

"You don't suppose anything's happened since you was up there," said Mrs.
Gaylord.

"Nothing but what's happened from the start. _He's_ happened. He keeps
happening right along, I guess."

Mrs. Gaylord found herself upon the point of experiencing a painful emotion
of sympathy, but she saved herself by saying: "Well, Mr. Gaylord, I don't
know as you've got anybody but yourself to thank for it all. You got him
here, in the first _place_." She took one of the kerosene lamps from the
table, and went upstairs, leaving him to follow at his will.

Marcia sometimes went out to the Squire's office in the morning, carrying
her baby with her, and propping her with law-books on a newspaper in the
middle of the floor, while she dusted the shelves, or sat down for one of
the desultory talks in the satisfactory silences which she had with her
father.

He usually found her there when he came up from the post-office, with the
morning mail in the top of his hat: the last evening's Events,--which
Bartley had said must pass for a letter from him when he did not
write,--and a letter or a postal card from him. She read these, and gave
her lather any news or message that Bartley sent; and then she sat down
at his table to answer them. But one morning, after she had been at home
nearly a month, she received a letter for which she postponed Bartley's
postal. "It's from Olive Halleck!" she said, with a glance at the
handwriting on the envelope; and she tore it open, and ran it through.
"Yes, and they'll come here, any time I let them know. They've been at
Niagara, and they've come down the St. Lawrence to Quebec, and they will be
at North Conway the last of next week. Now, father, I want to do something
for them!" she cried, feeling an American daughter's right to dispose of
her father, and all his possessions, for the behoof of her friends at any
time. "I want they should come to the house."

"Well, I guess there won't be any trouble about that, if you think they can
put up with our way of living.' He smiled at her over his spectacles.

"Our way of living! Put up with it! I should hope as much! They're just
the kind of people that will put up with anything, because they've had
everything. And because they're all as sweet and good as they can be. You
don't know them, father, you don't half know them! Now, just get right
away,"--she pushed him out of the chair he had taken at the table,--"and
let me write to Bartley this instant. He's got to come when they're here,
and I'll invite them to come over at once, before they get settled at North
Conway."

He gave his dry chuckle to see her so fired with pleasure, and he enjoyed
the ardor with which she drove him up out of his chair, and dashed off her
letters. This was her old way; he would have liked the prospect of the
Hallecks coming, because it made his girl so happy, if for nothing else.

"Father, I will tell you about Ben Halleck," she said, pounding her letter
to Olive with the thick of her hand to make the envelope stick. "You know
that lameness of his?"

"Yes."

"Well, it came from his being thrown down by another boy when he was at
school. He knew the boy that did it; and the boy must have known that Mr.
Halleck knew it, but he never said a word to show that he was sorry, or did
anything to make up for it He's a man now, and lives there in Boston, and
Ben Halleck often meets him. He says that if the man can stand it he can.
Don't you think that's grand? When I heard that, I made up my mind that
I wanted Flavia to belong to Ben Halleck's church,--or the church he did
belong to; he doesn't belong to any now!"

"He couldn't have got any damages for such a thing anyway," the Squire
said.

Marcia paid no heed to this legal opinion of the case. She took off her
father's hat to put the letters into it, and, replacing it on his head,
"Now don't you forget them, father," she cried.

She gathered up her baby and hurried into the house, where she began her
preparations for her guests.

The elder Miss Hallecks had announced with much love, through Olive, that
they should not be able to come to Equity, and Ben was to bring Olive
alone. Marcia decided that Ben should have the guest-chamber, and Olive
should have her room; she and Bartley could take the little room in the L
while their guests remained.

But when the Hallecks came, it appeared that Ben had engaged quarters for
himself at the hotel, and no expostulation would prevail with him to come
to Squire Gaylord's house.

"We have to humor him in such things, Mrs. Hubbard," Olive explained, to
Marcia's distress. "And most people get on very well without him."

This explanation was of course given in Halleck's presence. His sister
added, behind his back: "Ben has a perfectly morbid dread of giving trouble
in a house. He won't let us do anything to make him comfortable at home,
and the idea that you should attempt it drove him distracted. You mustn't
mind it. I don't believe he'd have come if his bachelor freedom couldn't
have been respected; and we both wanted to come Very much."

The Hallecks arrived in the forenoon, and Bartley was due in the evening.
But during the afternoon Marcia had a telegram saying that he could not
come till two days later, and asking her to postpone the picnic she had
planned. The Hallecks were only going to stay three days, and the suspicion
that Bartley had delayed in order to leave himself as little time as
possible with them rankled in her heart so that she could not keep it to
herself when they met.

"Was that what made you give me such a cool reception?" he asked, with
cynical good-nature. "Well, you're mistaken; I don't suppose I mind the
Hallecks any more than they do me. I'll tell you why I stayed. Some people
dropped down on Witherby, who were a little out of his line,--fashionable
people that he had asked to let him know if they ever came to Boston; and
when they did come and let him know, he didn't know what to do about
it, and he called on me to help him out. I've been almost boarding with
Witherby for the last three days; and I've been barouching round all over
the moral vineyard with his friends: out to Mount Auburn and the Washington
Elm, and Bunker Hill, and Brookline, and the Art Museum, and Lexington;
we've been down the harbor, and we haven't left a monumental stone
unturned. They were going north, and they came down here with me; and I got
them to stop over a day for the picnic."

"You got them to stop over for the picnic? Why, I don't want anybody but
ourselves, Bartley! This spoils everything."

"The Hallecks are not ourselves," said Bartley. "And these are jolly
people; they'll help to make it go off."

"Who are they?" asked Marcia, with provisional self-control.

"Oh, some people that Witherby met in Portland at Willett's, who used to
have the logging-camp out here."

"That Montreal woman!" cried Marcia, with fatal divination.

Bartley laughed. "Yes, Mrs. Macallister and her husband. She's a regular
case. She'll amuse you."

Marcia's passionate eyes blazed. "She shall never come to my picnic in the
world!"

"No?" Bartley looked at her in a certain way. "She shall come to mine,
then. There will be two picnics. The more the merrier."

Marcia gasped, as if she felt the clutch in which her husband had her
tightening on her heart. She said that she could only carry her point
against him at the cost of disgraceful division before the Hallecks, for
which he would not care in the least. She moved her head a little from side
to side, like one that breathes a stifling air. "Oh, let her come," she
said quietly, at last.

"Now you're talking business," said Bartley. "I haven't forgotten the
little snub Mrs. Macallister gave me, and you'll see me pay her off."

Marcia made no answer, but went downstairs to put what face she could upon
the matter to Olive, whom she had left alone in the parlor, while she ran
up with Bartley immediately upon his arrival to demand an explanation of
him. In her wrathful haste she had forgotten to kiss him, and she now
remembered that he had not looked at the baby, which she had all the time
had in her arms.

The picnic was to be in a pretty glen three or four miles north of the
village, where there was shade on a bit of level green, and a spring
bubbling out of a fern-hung bluff: from which you looked down the glen over
a stretch of the river. Marcia had planned that they were to drive thither
in a four-seated carryall, but the addition of Bartley's guests disarranged
this.

"There's only one way," said Mrs. Macallister, who had driven up with her
husband from the hotel to the Squire's house in a buggy. "Mr. Halleck tells
me he doesn't know how to drive, and my husband doesn't know the way. Mr.
Hubbard must get in here with me, and you must take Mr. Macallister in your
party." She looked authoritatively at the others.

"First rate!" cried Bartley, climbing to the seat which Mr. Macallister
left vacant. "We'll lead the way."

Those who followed had difficulty in keeping their buggy in sight.
Sometimes Bartley stopped long enough for them to come up, and then, after
a word or two of gay banter, was off again.

They had taken possession of the picnic grounds, and Mrs. Macallister was
disposing shawls for rugs and drapery, while Bartley, who had got the horse
out, and tethered where he could graze, was pushing the buggy out of the
way by the shafts, when the carryall came up.

"Don't we look quite domestic?" she asked of the arriving company, in her
neat English tone, and her rising English inflection. "You know I like
this," she added, singling Halleck out for her remark, and making it as if
it were brilliant. "I like being out of doors, don't you know. But there's
one thing I don't like: we weren't able to get a drop of champagne at that
ridiculous hotel. They told us they were not allowed to keep 'intoxicating
liquors.' Now I call that jolly stupid, you know. I don't know whatever we
shall do if you haven't brought something."

"I believe this is a famous spring," said Halleck.

"How droll you are! Spring, indeed!" cried Mrs. Macallister. "Is _that_ the
way you let your brother make game of people, Miss Halleck?" She directed a
good deal of her rattle at Olive; she scarcely spoke to Marcia, but she was
nevertheless furtively observant of her. Mr. Macallister had his rattle
too, which, after trying it unsatisfactorily upon Marcia, he plied almost
exclusively for Olive. He made puns; he asked conundrums; he had all the
accomplishments which keep people going in a lively, mirthful, colonial
society; and he had the idea that he must pay attentions and promote
repartee. His wife and he played into each other's hands in their _jeux
d'esprit_; and kept Olive's inquiring Boston mind at work in the vain
endeavor to account for and to place them socially. Bartley hung about Mrs.
Macallister, and was nearly as obedient as her husband. He felt that the
Hallecks disapproved his behavior, and that made him enjoy it; he was
almost rudely negligent of Olive.

The composition of the party left Marcia and Halleck necessarily to each
other, and she accepted this arrangement in a sort of passive seriousness;
but Halleck saw that her thoughts wandered from her talk with him, and that
her eyes were always turning with painful anxiety to Bartley. After their
lunch, which left them with the whole afternoon before them, Marcia said,
in a timid effort to resume her best leadership of the affair, "Bartley,
don't you think they would like to see the view from the Devil's Backbone?"

"Would you like to see the view from the Devil's Backbone?" he asked in
turn of Mrs. Macallister.

"And _what_ is the Devil's Backbone?" she inquired.

"It's a ridge of rocks on the bluff above here," said Bartley, nodding his
head vaguely towards the bank.

"And _how_ do you get to it?" asked Mrs. Macallister, pointing her pretty
chin at him in lifting her head to look.

"Walk."

"Thanks, then; I shall try to be satisfied with me own backbone," said Mrs.
Macallister, who had that freedom in alluding to her anatomy which marks
the superior civilization of Great Britain and its colonial dependencies.

"Carry you," suggested Bartley.

"I dare say you'd be very sure-footed; but I'd quite enough of donkeys in
the hills at home."

Bartley roared with the resolution of a man who will enjoy a joke at his
own expense.

Marcia turned away, and referred her invitation, with a glance, to Olive.

"I don't believe Miss Halleck wants to go," said Mr. Macallister.

"I couldn't," said Olive, regretfully. "I've neither the feet nor the head
for climbing over high rocky places."

Marcia was about to sink down on the grass again, from which she had risen,
in the hopes that her proposition would succeed, when Bartley called out:
"Why don't you show Ben the Devil's Backbone? The view is worth seeing,
Halleck."

"Would you like to go?" asked Marcia, listlessly.

"Yes, I should, very much," said Halleck, scrambling to his feet, "if it
won't tire you too much?"

"Oh, no," said Marcia, gently, and led the way. She kept ahead of him in
the climb, as she easily could, and she answered briefly to all he said.
When they arrived at the top, "There is the view," she said coldly. She
waved her hand toward the valley; she made a sound in her throat as if she
would speak again, but her voice died in one broken sob.

Halleck stood with downcast eyes, and trembled. He durst not look at her,
not for what he should see in her face, but for what she should see in his:
the anguish of intelligence, the helpless pity. He beat the rock at his
feet with the ferule of his stick, and could not lift his head again. When
he did, she stood turned from him and drying her eyes on her handkerchief.
Their looks met, and she trusted her self-betrayal to him without any
attempt at excuse or explanation.

"I will send Hubbard up to help you down," said Halleck.

"Well," she answered, sadly.

He clambered down the side of the bluff, and Bartley started to his feet in
guilty alarm when he saw him approach. "What's the matter?"

"Nothing. But I think you had better help Mrs. Hubbard down the bluff."

"Oh!" cried Mrs. Macallister. "A panic! how interesting!"

Halleck did not respond. He threw himself on the grass, and left her
to change or pursue the subject as she liked. Bartley showed more
_savoir-faire_ when he came back with Marcia, after an absence long enough
to let her remove the traces of her tears.

"Pretty rough on your game foot, Halleck. But Marcia had got it into her
head that it wasn't safe to trust you to help her down, even after you had
helped her up."

"Ben," said Olive, when they were seated in the train the next day, "why
_did_ you send Marcia's husband up there to her?" She had the effect of not
having rested till she could ask him.

"She was crying," he answered.

"What do you suppose could have been the matter?"

"What you do: she was miserable about his coquetting with that woman."

"Yes. I could see that she hated terribly to have her come; and that
she felt put down by her all the time. What kind of person _is_ Mrs.
Macallister?"

"Oh, a fool," replied Halleck. "All flirts are fools."

"I think she's more wicked than foolish."

"Oh, no, flirts are better than they seem,--perhaps because men are better
than flirts think. But they make misery just the same."

"Yes," sighed Olive. "Poor Marcia, poor Marcia! But I suppose that, if it
were not Mrs. Macallister, it would be some one else."

"Given Bartley Hubbard,--yes."

"And given Marcia. Well,--I don't like being mixed up with other people's
unhappiness, Ben. It's dangerous."

"I don't like it either. But you can't very well keep out of people's
unhappiness in this world."

"No," assented Olive, ruefully.

The talk fell, and Halleck attempted to read a newspaper, while Olive
looked out of the window. She presently turned to him. "Did you ever fancy
any resemblance between Mrs. Hubbard and the photograph of that girl we
used to joke about,--your lost love?"

"Yes," said Halleck.

"What's become of it,--the photograph? I can't find it any more; I wanted
to show it to her one day."

"I destroyed it. I burnt it the first evening after I had met Mrs. Hubbard.
It seemed to me that it wasn't right to keep it."

"Why, you don't think it was _her_ photograph!"

"I think it was," said Halleck. He took up his paper again, and read on
till they left the cars.

That evening, when Halleck came to his sister's room to bid her good night,
she threw her arms round his neck, and kissed his plain, common face, in
which she saw a heavenly beauty.

"Ben, dear," she said, "if you don't turn out the happiest man in the
world, I shall say there's no use in being good!"

"Perhaps you'd better say that after all I wasn't good," he suggested, with
a melancholy smile.

"I shall know better," she retorted.

"Why, what's the matter, now?"

"Nothing. I was only thinking. Good night!"

"Good night," said Halleck. "You seem to think my room is better than my
company, good as I am."

"Yes," she said, laughing in that breathless way which means weeping next,
with women. Her eyes glistened.

"Well," said Halleck, limping out of the room, "you're quite good-looking
with your hair down, Olive."

"All girls are," she answered. She leaned out of her doorway to watch
him as he limped down the corridor to his own room. There was something
pathetic, something disappointed and weary in the movement of his figure,
and when she shut her door, and ran back to her mirror, she could not see
the good-looking girl there for her tears.

XXVIII.

"Hello!" said Bartley, one day after the autumn had brought back all the
summer wanderers to the city, "I haven't seen you for a month of Sundays."
He had Ricker by the hand, and he pulled him into a doorway to be a little
out of the rush on the crowded pavement, while they chatted.

"That's because I can't afford to go to the White Mountains, and swell
round at the aristocratic summer resorts like some people," returned
Ricker. "I'm a horny-handed son of toil, myself."

"Pshaw!" said Bartley. "Who isn't? I've been here hard at it, except for
three days at one time and live at another."

"Well, all I can say is that I saw in the Record personals, that
Mr. Hubbard, of the Events, was spending the summer months with his
father-in-law, Judge Gaylord, among the spurs of the White Mountains. I
supposed you wrote it yourself. You're full of ideas about journalism."

"Oh, come! I wouldn't work that joke any more. Look here, Ricker, I'll tell
you what I want. I want you to dine with me."

"Dines people!" said Ricker, in an awestricken aside.

"No,--I mean business! You Ve never seen my kid yet: and you've never seen
my house. I want you to come. We've all got back, and we're in nice running
order. What day are you disengaged?"

"Let me see," said Ricker, thoughtfully. "So many engagements! Wait! I
could squeeze your dinner in some time next month, Hubbard."

"All right. But suppose we say next Sunday. Six is the hour."

"Six? Oh, I can't dine in the middle of the forenoon that way! Make it
later!"

"Well, we'll say one P.M., then. I know your dinner hour. We shall expect
you."

"Better not, till I come." Bartley knew that this was Ricker's way of
accepting, and he said nothing, but he answered his next question with easy
joviality. "How are you making it with old Witherby?"

"Oh, hand over hand! Witherby and I were formed for each other. By, by!"

"No, hold on! Why don't you come to the club any more?"

"We-e-ll! The club isn't what it used to be," said Bartley, confidentially.

"Why, of course! It isn't just the thing for a gentleman moving in the
select circles of Clover Street, as you do; but why not come, sometimes, in
the character of distinguished guest, and encourage your humble friends? I
was talking with a lot of the fellows about you the other night."

"Were they abusing me?"

"They were speaking the truth about you, and I stopped them. I told them
that sort of thing wouldn't do. Why, you're getting fat!"

"You're behind the times, Kicker," said Bartley. "I began to get fat six
months ago. I don't wonder the Chronicle Abstract is running down on your
hands. Come round and try my tivoli on Sunday. That's what gives a man
girth, my boy." He tapped Ricker lightly on his hollow waistcoat, and left
him with a wave of his hand.

Ricker leaned out of the doorway and followed him down the street with a
troubled eye. He had taken stock in Bartley, as the saying is, and his
heart misgave him that he should lose on the investment; he could not have
sold out to any of their friends for twenty cents on the dollar. Nothing
that any one could lay his finger on had happened, and yet there had been
a general loss of confidence in that particular stock. Ricker himself had
lost confidence in it, and when he lightly mentioned that talk at the club,
with a lot of the fellows, he had a serious wish to get at Bartley some
time, and see what it was that was beginning to make people mistrust him.
The fellows who liked him at first and wished him well, and believed in
his talent, had mostly dropped him. Bartley's associates were now the most
raffish set on the press, or the green hands; and something had brought
this to pass in less than two years. Ricker had believed that it was
Witherby; at the club he had contended that it was Bartley's association
with Witherby that made people doubtful of him. As for those ideas that
Bartley had advanced in their discussion of journalism, he had considered
it all mere young man's nonsense that Bartley would outgrow. But now, as he
looked at Bartley's back, he had his misgivings; it struck him as the back
of a degenerate man, and that increasing bulk seemed not to represent an
increase of wholesome substance, but a corky, buoyant tissue, materially
responsive to some sort of moral dry-rot.

Bartley pushed on to the Events office in a blithe humor. Witherby had
recently advanced his salary; he was giving him fifty dollars a week now;
and Bartley had made himself necessary in more ways than one. He was not
only readily serviceable, but since he had volunteered to write those
advertising articles for an advance of pay, he was in possession of
business facts that could be made very uncomfortable to Witherby in the
event of a disagreement. Witherby not only paid him well, but treated him
well; he even suffered Bartley to bully him a little, and let him foresee
the day when he must be recognized as the real editor of the Events.

At home everything went on smoothly. The baby was well and growing fast;
she was beginning to explode airy bubbles on her pretty lips that a fond
superstition might interpret as papa and mamma. She had passed that stage
in which a man regards his child with despair; she had passed out of
slippery and evasive doughiness into a firm tangibility that made it some
pleasure to hold her.

Bartley liked to take her on his lap, to feel the spring of her little
legs, as she tried to rise on her feet; he liked to have her stretch out
her arms to him from her mother's embrace. The innocent tenderness which he
experienced at these moments was satisfactory proof to him that he was a
very good fellow, if not a good man. When he spent an evening at home, with
Flavia in his lap for half an hour after dinner, he felt so domestic that
he seemed to himself to be spending all his evenings at home now. Once or
twice it had happened, when the housemaid was out, that he went to the door
with the baby on his arm, and answered the ring of Olive and Ben Halleck,
or of Olive and one or both of the intermediary sisters.

The Hallecks were the only people at all apt to call in the evening, and
Bartley ran so little chance of meeting any one else, when he opened the
door with Flavia on his arm, that probably he would not have thought it
worth while to put her down, even if he had not rather enjoyed meeting
them in that domestic phase. He had not only long felt how intensely Olive
disliked him, but he had observed that somehow it embarrassed Ben Halleck
to see him in his character of devoted young father. At those times he used
to rally his old friend upon getting married, and laughed at the confusion
to which the joke put him. He said more than once afterwards, that he did
not see what fun Ben Halleck got out of coming there; it must bore even
such a dull fellow as he was to sit a whole evening like that and not
say twenty words. "Perhaps he's livelier when I'm not here, though," he
suggested. "I always did seem to throw a wet blanket on Ben Halleck." He
did not at all begrudge Halleck's having a better time in his absence if he
could.

One night when the bell rung Bartley rose, and saying, "I wonder which
of the tribe it is this time," went to the door. But when he opened it,
instead of hearing the well-known voices, Marcia listened through a
hesitating silence, which ended in a loud laugh from without, and a cry
from her husband of "Well, I swear! Why, you infamous old scoundrel, come
in out of the wet!" There ensued, amidst Bartley's voluble greetings, a
noise of shy shuffling about in the hall, as of a man not perfectly master
of his footing under social pressure, a sound of husky, embarrassed
whispering, a dispute about doffing an overcoat, and question as to the
disposition of a hat, and then Bartley reappeared, driving before him the
lank, long figure of a man who blinked in the flash of gaslight, as Bartley
turned it all up in the chandelier overhead, and rubbed his immense hands
in cruel embarrassment at the beauty of Marcia, set like a jewel in the
pretty comfort of the little parlor.

"Mr. Kinney, Mrs. Hubbard," said Bartley; and having accomplished the
introduction, he hit Kinney a thwack between the shoulders with the flat of
his hand that drove him stumbling across Marcia's footstool into the seat
on the sofa to which she had pointed him. "You old fool, where did you come
from?"

The refined warmth of Bartley's welcome seemed to make Kinney feel at home,
in spite of his trepidations at Marcia's presence. He bobbed his head
forward, and stretched his mouth wide, in one of his vast, silent laughs.
"Better ask where I'm goin' to."

"Well, I'll ask that, if it'll be any accommodation. Where you going?"

"Illinois."

"For a divorce?"

"Try again."

"To get married?"

"Maybe, after I've made my pile." Kinney's eyes wandered about the room,
and took in its evidences of prosperity, with simple, unenvious admiration;
he ended with a furtive glimpse of Marcia, who seemed to be a climax of
good luck, too dazzling for contemplation; he withdrew his glance from her
as if hurt by her splendor, and became serious.

"Well, you're the _last_ man I ever expected to see again," said Bartley,
sitting down with the baby in his lap, and contemplating Kinney with
deliberation. Kinney was dressed in a long frock-coat of cheap diagonals,
black cassimere pantaloons, a blue necktie, and a celluloid collar. He had
evidently had one of his encounters with a cheap clothier, in which the Jew
had triumphed; but he had not yet visited a barber, and his hair and beard
were as shaggy as they were in the logging-camp; his hands and face were
as brown as leather. "But I'm as glad," Bartley added, "as if you had
telegraphed you were coming. Of course, you're going to put up with us." He
had observed Kinney's awe of Marcia, and he added this touch to let
Kinney see that he was master in his house, and lord even of that radiant
presence.

Kinney started in real distress. 'Oh, no! I couldn't do it! I've got all my
things round at the Quincy House."

"Trunk or bag?" asked Bartley.

"Well, it's a bag; but--"

"All right. We'll step round and get it together. I generally take a little
stroll out, after dinner," said Bartley, tranquilly.

Kinney was beginning again, when Marcia, who had been stealing some covert
looks at him under her eye lashes, while she put together the sewing she
was at work on, preparatory to going upstairs with the baby, joined Bartley
in his invitation.

"You wont make us the least trouble, Mr. Kinney," she said. "The
guest-chamber is all ready, and we shall be glad to have you stay."

Kinney must have felt the note of sincerity in her words. He hesitated, and
Bartley clinched his tacit assent with a quotation: "'The chief ornament of
a house is the guests who frequent it.' Who says that?"

Kinney's little blue eyes twinkled. "Old Emerson."

"Well, I agree with him. We don't care anything about your company, Kinney;
but we want you for decorative purposes."

Kinney opened his mouth for another noiseless laugh, and said, "Well, fix
it to suit yourselves."

"I'll carry her up for you," said Bartley to Marcia, who was stooping
forward to take the baby from him, "if Mr. Kinney will excuse us a moment."

"All right," said Kinney.

Bartley ventured upon this bold move, because he had found that it was
always best to have things out with Marcia at once, and, if she was going
to take his hospitality to Kinney in bad part, he wanted to get through the
trouble. "That was very nice of you, Marcia," he said, when they were in
their own room. "My invitation rather slipped out, and I didn't know how
you would like it."

"Oh, I'm very glad to have him stay. I never forget about his wanting to
lend you money that time," said Marcia, opening the baby's crib.

"You're a mighty good fellow, Marcia!" cried Bartley, kissing her over the
top of the baby's head as she took it from him. "And I'm not half good
enough for you. You never forget a benefit. Nor an injury either," he
added, with a laugh. "And I'm afraid that I forget one about as easily as
the other."

Marcia's eyes suffused themselves at this touch of self-analysis which,
coming from Bartley, had its sadness; but she said nothing, and he was
eager to escape and get back to their guest. He told her he should go out
with Kinney, and that she was not to sit up, for they might be out late.

In his pride, he took Kinney down to the Events office, and unlocked it,
and lit the gas, so as to show him the editorial rooms; and then he passed
him into one of the theatres, where they saw part of an Offenbach opera;
after that they went to the Parker House, and had a New York stew. Kinney
said he must be off by the Sunday-night train, and Bartley thought it well
to concentrate as many dazzling effects upon him as he could in the single
evening at his disposal. He only regretted that it was not the club night,
for he would have liked to take Kinney round, and show him some of the
fellows.

"But never mind," he said. "I'm going to have one of them dine with us
to-morrow, and you'll see about the best of the lot."

"Well, sir," observed Kinney, when they had got back into Bartley's parlor,
and he was again drinking in its prettiness in the subdued light of the
shaded argand burner, "I hain't seen anything yet that suits me much better
than this."

"It isn't bad," said Bartley. He had got up a plate of crackers and two
bottles of tivoli, and was opening the first. He offered the beaded goblet
to Kinney.

"Thank you," said Kinney. "Not any. I never do."

Bartley quaffed half of it in tolerant content. "I _always_ do. Find it
takes my nerves down at the end of a hard week's work. Well, now, tell me
some thing about yourself. What are you going to do in Illinois?"

"Well, sir, I've got a friend out there that's got a coal mine, and he
thinks he can work me in somehow. I guess he can: I've tried pretty much
everything. Why don't you come out there and start a newspaper? We've got a
town that's bound to grow."

It amused Bartley to hear Kinney bragging already of a town that he had
never seen. He winked a good-natured disdain over the rim of the goblet
which he tilted on his lips. "And give up my chances here?" he said, as he
set the goblet down.

"Well, that's so!" said Kinney, responding to the sense of the wink. "I'll
tell you what, Bartley, I didn't know as you'd speak to me when I rung your
bell to-night. But thinks I to myself, 'Dumn it! look here! He can't more'n
slam the door in your face, anyway. And you've hankered after him so
long,--go and take your chances, you old buzzard!' And so I got your
address at the Events office pretty early this morning; and I went round
all day screwing my courage up, as old Macbeth says,--or Ritchloo, _I_
don't know which it was,--and at last I _did_ get myself so that I toed the
mark like a little man."

Bartley laughed so that he could hardly get the cork out of the second
bottle.

"You see," said Kinney, leaning forward, and taking Bartley's plump, soft
knee between his thumb and forefinger, "I felt awfully about the way we
parted that night. I felt _bad_. I hadn't acted well, just to my own mind,
and it cut me to have you refuse my money; it cut me all the worse because
I saw that you was partly right; I _hadn't_ been quite fair with you. But I
always did admire you, and you know it. Some them little things you used to
get off in the old Free Press--well, I could see 't you was _smart_. And I
liked you; and it kind o' hurt me when I thought you'd been makin' fun o'
me to that woman. Well, I could see 't I was a dumned old fool, afterwards.
And I always wanted to tell you so. And I always did hope that I should be
able to offer you that money again, twice over, and get you to take it just
to show that you didn't bear malice." Bartley looked up, with quickened
interest. "But I can't do it now, sir," added Kinney.

"Why, what's happened?" asked Bartley, in a disappointed tone, pouring out
his second glass from his second bottle.

"Well, sir," said Kinney, with a certain reluctance, "I undertook to
provision the camp on spec, last winter, and--well, you know, I always run
a little on food for the brain,"--Bartley broke into a reminiscent cackle,
and Kinney smiled forlornly,--"and thinks I, 'Dumn it, I'll give 'em the
real thing, every time.' And I got hold of a health-food circular; and I
sent on for a half a dozen barrels of their crackers and half a dozen
of their flour, and a lot of cracked cocoa, and I put the camp on a
health-food basis. I calculated to bring those fellows out in the spring
physically vigorous and mentally enlightened. But my goodness! After the
first bakin' o' that flour and the first round o' them crackers, it was all
up! Fellows got so mad that I suppose if I hadn't gone back to doughnuts,
and sody biscuits, and Japan tea, they'd 'a' burnt the camp down. Of course
I yielded. But it ruined me, Bartley; it bu'st me."

Bartley dropped his arms upon the table, and, hiding his face upon them,
laughed and laughed again.

"Well, sir," said Kinney, with sad satisfaction, "I'm glad to see that you
don't need any money from me." He had been taking another survey of the
parlor and the dining-room beyond. "I don't know as I ever saw anybody much
better fixed. I should say that you was a success; and you deserve it.
You're a smart fellow, Bart, and you're a good fellow. You're a generous
fellow." Kinney's voice shook with emotion.

Bartley, having lifted his wet and flushed face, managed to say: "Oh,
there's nothing mean about _me_, Kinney," as he felt blindly for the beer
bottles, which he shook in succession with an evident surprise at finding
them empty.

"You've acted like a brother to me, Bartley Hubbard," continued Kinney,
"and I sha'n't forget it in a hurry. I guess it would about broke my heart,
if you hadn't taken it just the way you did to-night. I should like to see
the man that didn't use you well, or the woman, either!" said Kinney, with
vague defiance. "Though _they_ don't seem to have done so bad by you,"
he added, in recognition of Marcia's merit. "I should say _that_ was the
biggest part of your luck She's a lady, sir, every inch of her. Mighty
different stripe from that Montreal woman that cut up so that night."

"Oh, Mrs. Macallister wasn't such a scamp, after all," said Bartley, with
magnanimity.

"Well, sir, _you_ can say so. I ain't going to be too strict with a _girl_;
but I like to see a married woman _act_ like a married woman. Now, I don't
think you'd catch Mrs. Hubbard flirting with a young fellow the way that
woman went on with you that night?" Bartley grinned. "Well, sir, you're
getting along and you're happy."

"Perfect clam," said Bartley.

"Such a position as you've got,--such a house, such a wife, _and_ such a
baby! Well," said Kinney, rising, "it's a little too much for _me_."

"Want to go to bed?" asked Bartley.

"Yes, I guess I better turn in," returned Kinney, despairingly.

"Show you the way."

Bartley tripped up stairs with Kinney's bag, which they had left standing
in the hall, while Kinney creaked carefully after him; and so led the way
to the guest-chamber, and turned up the gaslight, which had been left
burning low.

Kinney stood erect, dwarfing the room, and looked round on the pink
chintzing, and soft carpet, and white coverleted bed, and lace-hooded
dressing-mirror, with meek veneration. "Well, I swear!" He said no more,
but sat hopelessly down, and began to pull off his boots.

He was in the same humble mood the next morning, when, having got up
inordinately early, he was found trying to fix his mind on a newspaper by
Bartley, who came down late to the Sunday breakfast, and led his guest into
the dining-room. Marcia, in a bewitching morning-gown, was already there,
having put the daintier touches to the meal herself; and the baby, in a
fresh white dress, was there tied into its arm-chair with a napkin, and
beating on the table with a spoon. Bartley's nonchalance amidst all this
impressed Kinney with a yet more poignant sense of his superiority, and
almost deprived him of the powers of speech. When after breakfast Bartley
took him out to Cambridge on the horse-cars, and showed him the College
buildings, and Memorial Hall, and the Washington Elm, and Mount Auburn,
Kinney fell into such a cowed and broken condition, that something had to
be specially done to put him in repair against Ricker's coming to dinner.
Marcia luckily thought of asking him if he would like to see her kitchen.
In this region Kinney found himself at home, and praised its neat
perfection with professional intelligence. Bartley followed them round with
Flavia on his arm, and put in a jocose word here and there, when he saw
Kinney about to fall a prey to his respect for Marcia, and so kept him
going till Ricker rang. He contrived to give Ricker a hint of the sort of
man he had on his hands, and by their joint effort they had Kinney talking
about himself at dinner before he knew what he was about. He could not help
talking well upon this theme, and he had them so vividly interested, as he
poured out adventure after adventure in his strange career, that Bartley
began to be proud of him.

"Well, sir," said Ricker, when he came to a pause, "you've lived a
romance."

"Yes," replied Kinney, looking at Bartley for his approval, "and I've
always thought that, if I ever got run clean ashore, high and dry, I'd
make a stagger to write it out and do something with it. Do you suppose I
could?"

"I promise to take it for the Sunday edition of the Chronicle Abstract,
whenever you get it ready," said Ricker.

Bartley laid his hand on his friend's arm. "It's bought up, old fellow.
That narrative--'Confessions of an Average American'--belongs to the
Events."

They had their laugh at this, and then Ricker said to Kinney: "But look
here, my friend! What's to prevent our interviewing you on this little
personal history of yours, and using your material any way we like? It
seems to me that you've put your head in the lion's mouth."

"Oh, I'm amongst gentlemen," said Kinney, with an innocent swagger. "I
understand that."

"Well, I don't know about it," said Ricker. "Hubbard, here, is used to all
sorts of hard names; but I've never had that epithet applied to me before."

Kinney doubled himself up over the side of his chair in recognition of
Ricker's joke; and when Bartley rose and asked him if he would come into
the parlor and have a cigar, he said, with a wink, no, he guessed he would
stay with the ladies. He waited with great mystery till the folding-doors
were closed, and Bartley had stopped peeping through the crevice between
them, and then he began to disengage from his watch-chain the golden
nugget, shaped to a rude sphere, which hung there. This done, he asked
if he might put it on the little necklace--a christening gift from Mrs.
Halleck--which the baby had on, to see how it looked. It looked very well,
like an old Roman _bolla_, though neither Kinney nor Marcia knew it. "Guess
we'll let it stay there," he suggested, timidly.

"Mr. Kinney!" cried Marcia, in amaze, "I can't let you!"

"Oh, _do_ now, ma'am!" pleaded the big fellow, simply. "If you knew how
much good it does me, you would. Why, it's been like heaven to me to get
into such a home as this for a day,--it has indeed."

"Like heaven?" said Marcia, turning pale. "Oh, my!"

"Well, I don't mean any harm. What I mean is, I've knocked about the world
so much, and never had any home of my own, that to see folks as happy as
you be makes me happier than I've been since I don't know when. Now, you
let it stay. It was the first piece of gold I picked up in Californy when
I went out there in '50, and it's about the last; I didn't have very good
luck. Well, of course! I know I ain't fit to give it; but I want to do it.
I think Bartley's about the greatest fellow and he's the best fellow this
world can show. That's the way I feel about him. And I want to do it. Sho!
the thing wa'n't no use to me!"

Marcia always gave her maid off all work Sunday afternoon, and she would
not trespass upon her rule because she had guests that day. Except for the
confusion to which Kinney's unexpected gift had put her, she would have
waited for him to join the others before she began to clear away the
dinner; but now she mechanically began, and Kinney, to whom these domestic
occupations were a second nature, joined her in the work, equally
absent-minded in the fervor of his petition.

Bartley suddenly flung open the doors. "My dear, Mr. Ricker says he must
be go--" He discovered Marcia with the dish of potatoes in her hand, and
Kinney in the act of carrying off the platter of turkey. "Look here,
Ricker!"

Kinney came to himself, and, opening his mouth above the platter wide
enough to swallow the remains of the turkey, slapped his leg with the
hand that he released for the purpose, and shouted, "The ruling passion,
Bartley, the ruling passion!"

The men roared; but Marcia, even while she took in the situation, did not
see anything so ridiculous in it as they. She smiled a little in sympathy
with their mirth, and then said, with a look and tone which he had not seen
or heard in her since the day of their picnic at Equity, "Come, see what
Mr. Kinney has given baby, Bartley."

They sat up talking Kinney over after he was gone; but even at ten o'clock
Bartley said he should not go to bed; he felt like writing.

XXIX.

Bartley lived well now. He felt that he could afford it, on fifty dollars a
week; and yet somehow he had always a sheaf of unpaid bills on hand. Rent
was so much, the butcher so much, the grocer so much; these were the great
outlays, and he knew just what they were; but the sum total was always much
larger than he expected. At a pinch, he borrowed; but he did not let Marcia
know of this, for she would have starved herself to pay the debt; what was
worse, she would have wished him to starve with her. He kept the purse, and
he kept the accounts; he was master in his house, and he meant to be so.

The pinch always seemed to come in the matter of clothes, and then Marcia
gave up whatever she wanted, and said she must make the old things do.
Bartley hated this; in his position he must dress well, and, as there was
nothing mean about him, he wished Marcia to dress well to. Just at this
time he had set his heart on her having a certain sacque which they had
noticed in a certain window one day when they were on Washington Street
together. He surprised her a week later by bringing the sacque home to her,
and he surprised himself with a seal-skin cap which he had long coveted: it
was coming winter, now, and for half a dozen days of the season he would
really need the cap. There would be many days when it would be comfortable,
and many others when it would be tolerable, and he looked so handsome in it
that Marcia herself could not quite feel that it was an extravagance. She
asked him how they could afford both of the things at once, but he answered
with easy mystery that he had provided the funds; and she went gayly round
with him to call on the Hallecks that evening and show off her sacque. It
was so stylish and pretty that it won her a compliment from Ben Halleck,
which she noticed because it was the first compliment, or anything like
it, that he had ever paid her. She repeated it to Bartley. "He said that I
looked like a Hungarian princess that he saw in Vienna."

"Well, I suppose it has a hussar kind of look with that fur trimming and
that broad braid. Did anybody say anything about my cap?" asked Bartley
with burlesque eagerness.

"Oh, poor Bartley!" she cried in laughing triumph. "I don't believe any of
them noticed it; and you kept twirling it round in your hands all the time
to make them look."

"Yes, I did my level best," said Bartley.

They had a jolly time about that. Marcia was proud of her sacque; when she
took it off and held it up by the loop in the neck, so as to realize its
prettiness, she said she should make it last three winters at least; and
she leaned over and gave Bartley a sweet kiss of gratitude and affection,
and told him not to try to make up for it by extra work, but to help her
scrimp for it.

"I'd rather do the extra work," he protested. In fact he already had the
extra work done. It was something that he felt he had the right to sell
outside of the Events, and he carried his manuscript to Ricker and offered
it to him for his Sunday edition.

Ricker read the title and ran his eye down the first slip, and then glanced
quickly at Hubbard. "You don't mean it?"

"Yes I do," said Bartley. "Why not?"

"I thought he was going to use the material himself some time."

Bartley laughed. "He use the material! Why, he can't write, any more than a
hen; he can make tracks on paper, but nobody would print 'em, much less
buy 'em. I know him, he's all right. It wouldn't hurt the material for his
purpose, any way; and he'll be tickled to death when he sees it. If he
ever does. Look here, Ricker!" added Bartley, with a touch of anger at
the hesitation in his friend's face, "if you're going to spring any
conscientious scruples on me, I prefer to offer my manuscript elsewhere. I
give you the first chance at it; but it needn't go begging. Do you suppose
I'd do this if I didn't understand the man, and know just how he'd take
it?"

"Why, of course, Hubbard! I beg your pardon. If you say it's all right, I
am bound to be satisfied. What do you want for it?"

"Fifty dollars."

"That's a good deal, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is. But I can't afford to do a dishonorable thing for less money,"
said Bartley, with a wink.

The next Sunday, when Marcia came home from church, she went into the
parlor a moment to speak to Bartley before she ran upstairs to the baby. He
was writing, and she put her left hand on his back while with her right she
held her sacque slung over her shoulder by the loop, and leaned forward
with a wandering eye on the papers that strewed the table. In that attitude
he felt her pause and grow absorbed, and then rigid; her light caress
tightened into a grip. "Why, how base! How shameful! That man shall never
enter my doors again! Why, it's stealing!"

"What's the matter? What are you talking about?" Bartley looked up with a
frown of preparation.

"This!" cried Marcia, snatching up the Chronicle-Abstract, at which she had
been looking. "Haven't you seen it? Here's Mr. Kinney's life all written
out! And when he said that he was going to keep it and write it out
himself. That thief has stolen it!"

"Look out how you talk," said Bartley. "Kinney's an old fool, and he never
could have written it out in the world--"

"That makes no difference. He said that he told the things because he knew
he was among gentlemen. A great gentleman Mr. Ricker is! And I thought he
was so nice!" The tears sprang to her eyes, which flashed again. "I want
you to break off with him. Bartley; I don't want you to have anything to
do with such a _thief_! And I shall be proud to tell everybody that you've
broken off with him _because_ he was a thief. Oh, Bartley--"

"Hold your tongue!" shouted her husband.

"I _won't_ hold my tongue! And if you defend--"

"Don't you say a word against Ricker. It's all right, I tell you. You don't
understand such things. You don't know what you're talking about. I--I--I
wrote the thing myself."

He could face her, but she could not face him. There was a subsidence
in her proud attitude, as if her physical strength had snapped with her
breaking spirit.

"There's no theft about it." Bartley went on. "Kinney would never write it
out, and if he did, I've put the material in better shape for him here than
he could ever have given it. Six weeks from now nobody will remember a word
of it; and he could tell the same things right over again, and they would
be just as good as new." He went on to argue the point.

She seemed not to have listened to him. When he stopped, she said, in a
quiet, passionless voice, "I suppose you wrote it to get money for this
sacque."

"Yes; I did," replied Bartley.

She dropped it on the floor at his feet. "I shall never wear it again," she
said in the same tone, and a little sigh escaped her.

"Use your pleasure about that," said Bartley, sitting down to his writing
again, as she turned and left the room.

She went upstairs and came down immediately, with the gold nugget, which
she had wrenched from the baby's necklace, and laid it on the paper before
him. "Perhaps you would like to spend it for tivoli beer," she suggested.
"Flavia shall not wear it."

"I'll get it fitted on to my watch-chain." Bartley slipped it into his
waistcoat pocket.

The sacque still lay on the floor at his feet; he pulled his chair a little
forward and put his feet on it. He feigned to write awhile longer, and then
he folded up his papers, and went out, leaving Marcia to make her Sunday
dinner alone. When he came home late at night, he found the sacque where
she had dropped it, and with a curse he picked it up and hung it on the
hat-rack in the hall.

He slept in the guest-chamber, and at times during the night the child
cried in Marcia's room and waked him; and then he thought he heard a sound
of sobbing which was not the child's. In the morning, when he came down to
breakfast, Marcia met him with swollen eyes.

"Bartley," she said tremulously, "I wish you would tell me how you felt
justified in writing out Mr. Kinney's life in that way."

"My dear," said Bartley, with perfect amiability, for he had slept off his
anger, and he really felt sorry to see her so unhappy, "I would tell you
almost anything you want on any other subject; but I think we had better
remand that one to the safety of silence, and go upon the general
supposition that I know what I'm about."

"I can't, Bartley!"

"Can't you? Well, that's a pity." He pulled his chair to the
breakfast-table. "It seems to me that girl's imagination always fails her
on Mondays. Can she never give us anything but hash and corn-bread when
she's going to wash? However, the coffee's good. I suppose _you_ made it?"

"Bartley!" persisted Marcia, "I want to believe in everything you do,--I
want to be proud of it--"

"That will be difficult," suggested Bartley, with an air of thoughtful
impartiality, "for the wife of a newspaper man."

"No, no! It needn't be! It mustn't be! If you will only tell me--" She
stopped, as if she feared to repeat her offence.

Bartley leaned back in his chair and looked at her intense face with a
smile. "Tell you that in some way I had Kinney's authority to use his
facts? Well, I should have done that yesterday if you had let me. In the
first place, Kinney's the most helpless ass in the world. He could never
have used his own facts. In the second place, there was hardly anything in
his rigmarole the other day that he hadn't told me down there in the lumber
camp, with full authority to use it in any way I liked; and I don't see how
he could revoke that authority. That's the way I reasoned about it."

"I see,--I see!" said Marcia, with humble eagerness.

"Well, that's all there is about it. What I've done can't hurt Kinney. If
he ever does want to write his old facts out, he'll be glad to take my
report of them, and--spoil it," said Bartley, ending with a laugh.

"And if--if there had been anything wrong about it," said Marcia, anxious
to justify him to herself, "Mr. Ricker would have told you so when you
offered him the article."

"I don't think Mr. Ricker would have ventured on any impertinence with me,"
said Bartley, with grandeur. But he lapsed into his wonted, easy way
of taking everything. "What are you driving at, Marsh? I don't care
particularly for what happened yesterday. We've had rows enough before, and
I dare say we shall have them again. You gave me a bad quarter of an hour,
and you gave yourself"--he looked at her tear-stained eyes--"a bad night,
apparently. That's all there is about it."

"Oh, no, that isn't all! It isn't like the other quarrels we've had. When I
think how I've felt toward you ever since, it _scares_ me. There can't be
anything sacred in our marriage unless we trust each other in everything."

"Well, _I_ haven't done any of the mistrusting," said Bartley, with
humorous lightness. "But isn't sacred rather a strong word to use in regard
to our marriage, anyway?"

"Why--why--what do you mean, Bartley? We were married by a minister."

"Well, yes, by what was left of one," said Bartley. "He couldn't seem
to shake himself together sufficiently to ask for the proof that we had
declared our intention to get married."

Marcia looked mystified. "Don't you remember his saying there was something
else, and my suggesting to him that it was the fee?"

Marcia turned white. "Father said the certificate was all right--"

"Oh, he asked to see it, did he? He is a prudent old gentleman. Well, it is
all right."

"And what difference did it make about our not proving that we had declared
our intention?" asked Marcia, as if only partly reassured.

"No difference to us; and only a difference of sixty dollars fine to him,
if it was ever found out."

"And you let the poor old man run that risk?"

"Well, you see, it couldn't be helped. We hadn't declared our intention,
and the lady seemed very anxious to be married. You needn't be troubled. We
are married, right and tight enough; but I don't know that there's anything
_sacred_ about it."

"No," Marcia wailed out, "its tainted with fraud from the beginning."

"If you like to say so," Bartley assented, putting his napkin into its
ring.

Marcia hid her face in her arms on the table; the baby left off drumming
with its spoon, and began to cry.

Witherby was reading the Sunday edition of the Chronicle-Abstract, when
Bartley got down to the Events office; and he cleared his throat with
a premonitory cough as his assistant swung easily into the room. "Good
morning, Mr. Hubbard," he said. "There is quite an interesting article in
yesterday's Chronicle-Abstract. Have you seen it?"

"Yes," said Bartley. "What article?"

"This Confessions of an Average American." Witherby held out the paper,
where Bartley's article, vividly head-lined and sub-headed, filled half a
page. "What is the reason _we_ cannot have something of this kind?"

"Well, I don't know," Bartley began.

"Have you any idea who wrote this?"

"Oh, yes, I wrote it."

Witherby had the task before him of transmuting an expression of rather low
cunning into one of wounded confidence, mingled with high-minded surprise.
"I thought it had your ear-marks, Mr. Hubbard: but I preferred not to
believe it till I heard the fact from your own lips. I supposed that our
contract covered such contributions as this."

"I wrote it out of time, and on Sunday night. You pay me by the week, and
all that I do throughout the week belongs to you. The next day after that
Sunday I did a full day's work on the Events. I don't see what you have to
complain of. You told me when I began that you would not expect more than a
certain amount of work from me. Have I ever done less?"

"No, but--"

"Haven't I always done more?"

"Yes, I have never complained of the amount of work. But upon this theory
of yours, what you did in your summer vacation would not belong to the
Events, or what you did on legal holidays."

"I never have any summer vacation or holidays, legal or illegal. Even when
I was down at Equity last summer I sent you something for the paper every
day."

This was true, and Witherby could not gainsay it. "Very well, sir. If this
is to be your interpretation of our understanding for the future, I shall
wish to revise our contract," he said pompously.

"You can tear it up if you like," returned Bartley. "I dare say Ricker
would jump at a little study of the true inwardness of counting-room
journalism. Unless you insist upon having it for the Events." Bartley
gave a chuckle of enjoyment as he sat down at his desk; Witherby rose and
stalked away.

He returned in half an hour and said, with an air of frank concession,
touched with personal grief: "Mr. Hubbard, I can see how, from your point
of view, you were perfectly justifiable in selling your article to the
Chronicle-Abstract. My point of view is different, but I shall not insist
upon it; and I wish to withdraw--and--and apologize for--any hasty
expressions I may have used."

"All right," said Bartley, with a wicked grin. He had triumphed; but his
triumph was one to leave some men with an uneasy feeling, and there was not
altogether a pleasant taste in Bartley's mouth. After that his position in
the Events office was whatever he chose to make it, but he did not abuse
his ascendency, and he even made a point of increased deference towards
Witherby. Many courtesies passed between them; each took some trouble to
show the other that he had no ill feeling.

Three or four weeks later Bartley received a letter with an Illinois
postmark which gave him a disagreeable sensation, at first, for he knew it
must be from Kinney. But the letter was so amusingly characteristic,
so helplessly ill-spelled and ill-constructed, that he could not help
laughing. Kinney gave an account of his travels to the mining town, and of
his present situation and future prospects; he was full of affectionate
messages and inquiries for Bartley's family, and he said he should never
forget that Sunday he had passed with them. In a postscript he added: "They
copied that String of lies into our paper, here, out of the Chron.-Ab. It
was pretty well done, but if your friend Mr. Ricker done it, I'me not goen
to Insult him soon again by calling him a gentleman."

This laconic reference to the matter in a postscript was delicious to
Bartley; he seemed to hear Kinney saying the words, and imagined his air of
ineffective sarcasm. He carried the letter about with him, and the first
time he saw Ricker he showed it to him. Ricker read it without appearing
greatly diverted; when he came to the postscript he flushed, and demanded,
"What have you done about it?"

"Oh, I haven't done anything. It wasn't necessary. You see, now, what
Kinney could have done with his facts if we had left them to him. It would
have been a wicked waste of material I thought the sight of some of his
literature would help you wash up your uncleanly scruples on that point."

"How long have you had this letter?" pursued Ricker.

"_I_ don't know. A week or ten days."

Ricker folded it up and returned it to him. "Mr. Hubbard," he said, "the
next time we meet, will you do me the favor to cut my acquaintance?"

Bartley stared at him; he thought he must be joking. "Why, Ricker, what's
the matter? I didn't suppose you'd care anything about old Kinney. I
thought it would amuse you. Why, confound it! I'd just as soon write out
and tell him that I did the thing." He began to be angry. "But I can cut
your acquaintance fast enough, or any man's, if you're really on your ear!"

"I'm on my ear," said Ricker. He left Bartley standing where they had met.

It was peculiarly unfortunate, for Bartley had occasion within that week
to ask Ricker's advice, and he was debarred from doing so by this absurd
displeasure. Since their recent perfect understanding, Witherby had
slighted no opportunity to cement their friendship, and to attach Bartley
more and more firmly to the Events. He now offered him some of the Events
stock on extremely advantageous terms, with the avowed purpose of attaching
him to the paper. There seemed nothing covert in this, and Bartley had
never heard any doubts of the prosperity of the Events, but he would have
especially liked to have Ricker's mind upon this offer of stock. Witherby
had urged him not to pay for the whole outright, but to accept a somewhat
lower salary, and trust to his dividends to make up the difference. The
shares had paid fifteen per cent the year before, and Bartley could judge
for himself of the present chances from that showing. Witherby advised him
to borrow only fifteen hundred dollars on the three thousand of stock which
he offered him, and to pay up the balance in three years by dropping five
hundred a year from his salary. It was certainly a flattering proposal;
and under his breath, where Bartley still did most of his blaspheming, he
cursed Ricker for an old fool; and resolved to close with Witherby on his
own responsibility. After he had done so he told Marcia of the step he had
taken.

Since their last quarrel there had been an alienation in her behavior
toward him, different from any former resentment. She was submissive and
quiescent; she looked carefully after his comfort, and was perfect in
her housekeeping; but she held aloof from him somehow, and left him to a
solitude in her presence in which he fancied, if he did not divine, her
contempt. But in this matter of common interest, something of their
community of feeling revived; they met on a lower level, but they met, for
the moment, and Marcia joined eagerly in the discussion of ways and means.

The notion of dropping five hundred from his salary delighted her, because
they must now cut down their expenses as much; and she had long grieved
over their expenses without being able to make Bartley agree to their
reduction. She went upstairs at once and gave the little nurse-maid a
week's warning; she told the maid of all work that she must take three
dollars a week hereafter instead of four, or else find another place; she
mentally forewent new spring dresses for herself and the baby, and arranged
to do herself all of the wash she had been putting out; she put a note in
the mouth of the can at the back door, telling the milkman to leave only
two quarts in future; and she came radiantly back to tell Bartley that she
had saved half of the lost five hundred a year already. But her countenance
fell. "Why, where are you to get the other fifteen hundred dollars,
Bartley?"

"Oh, I Ve thought of that," said Bartley, laughing at her swift
alternations of triumph and despair. "You trust to me for that."

"You're not--not going to ask father for it?" she faltered.

"Not very much," said Bartley, as he took his hat to go out.

He meant to make a raise out of Ben Halleck, as he phrased it to himself.
He knew that Halleck had plenty of money; he could make the stock itself
over to him as security; he did not see why Halleck should hesitate. But
when he entered Halleck's room, having asked Cyrus to show him directly
there, Halleck gave a start which seemed ominous to Bartley. He had
scarcely the heart to open his business, and Halleck listened with changing
color, and something only too like the embarrassment of a man who intends a
refusal. He would not look Bartley in the face, and when Bartley had made
an end he sat for a time without speaking. At last he said with a quick
sigh, as if at the close of an internal conflict, "I will lend you the
money!"

Bartley's heart gave a bound, and he broke out into an immense laugh of
relief, and clapped Halleck on the shoulder. "You looked deucedly as it'
you _wouldn't_, old man! By George, you had on such a dismal, hang-dog
expression that I didn't know but _you'd_ come to borrow money of _me_, and
I'd made up my mind not to let you have it! But I'm everlastingly obliged
to you, Halleck, and I promise you that you won't regret it."

"I shall have to speak to my father about this," said Halleck, responding
coldly to Bartley's robust pressure of his hand.

"Of course,--of course."

"How soon shall you want the money?"

"Well, the sooner the better, now. Bring the check round--can't
you?--to-morrow night,--and take dinner with us, you and Olive; and we'll
celebrate a little. I know it will please Marcia when she finds out who my
hard-hearted creditor is!"

"Well," assented Halleck with a smile so ghastly that Bartley noticed it
even in his joy.

"Curse me," he said to himself, "if ever I saw a man so ashamed of doing a
good action!"

XXX.

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