Part 8 out of 8
So there was a third man eager to sacrifice his life to her, Martie
marvelled. Adele would consider herself a martyr if she succumbed to
the wiles of the rough diamond; she would puzzle and distress him in
his ranch-house; she would Fret and exact and complain. Probably one
of the Swedish farmers thereabout could give him a daughter who
would make him an infinitely better wife, and bear him children, and
worship him blindly. But no; he must yearn for this neurotic,
abnormal little creature, with her ugly history and her barren brain
"Isn't it funny how unlucky I am, Martie?" Adele asked at parting.
"If you'll tell me why one woman has to have so much bad luck, and
others just sail along on the top of the wave, I'll be obliged to
you!" She came close to Martie, her faded, bitter little face
flushing suddenly. "Now this Mrs. Cooper," she said in a low tone,
"her father was a shoe manufacturer, and left her half a million
dollars. Of course, it's a SNAP for her to say she'll do this, and
say she'll do that! She says it's for the children she refuses the
divorce, but the real reason is she wants him back. She can live in
Adele's voice trailed off disconsolately. Martie felt a genuine pang
of sympathy for the unhappy little creature whose one claim had been
of sex, and who had made her claim so badly.
"Write me now and then!" she said warmly.
"Oh, I will!" Adele stretched up to kiss the taller woman, and Mrs.
Baker kissed her, too. Martie went away smiling; over all its waste
and suffering life was amusing, after all.
Would John, with his irregular smile and his sea-blue eyes and his
reedy voice, also come back into her life some day? She could not
say. The threads of human intercourse were tangled enough to make
living a blind business at best, and she had deliberately tangled
the web that held them even more deeply than life had done. Before
he himself was back from long wandering, before he learned that she
was in the city, and that there had been no second marriage, months,
perhaps years, must go by.
Martie accepted the possibility serenely. She asked nothing better
than work and companionship, youth and health, and Teddy. Every day
was a separate adventure in happiness; she had never been happy
And suppose this was only the beginning, she wondered. Suppose real
achievement and real success lay ahead? Suppose she was one of the
women to whom California would some day point with pride? Deep in
her singing heart she suspected that it was true. How it was to come
about she could only guess. By her pen, of course. By some short
story suddenly inspired, or by one of her flashing articles on the
women's problems of the day. She was not a Shakespeare, not a George
Eliot, but she had something for which the world would pay.
Nine years since the September when Rodney Parker had flashed into
her world; a long nine years. Sitting under her green-shaded reading
lamp, Martie reviewed them, for herself, and for Sally. She and
Sally had thought of Dr. Ben as only an amiable theorist then, but
there had been nothing theoretical about the help he had given Sally
and Joe with their problem.
Martie had solved her own alone. Rodney, Pa, Wallace, and John had
all entered into it, but no one of them had helped her. It was in
spite of them rather than because of them that she was sitting here
poised, established, needed at last. She saw her life to-night as a
long road, climbing steadily up from the fields and valleys,
mounting, sometimes in storm, and sometimes in fog, but always
mounting toward the mountains. Rose and Adele and Lydia were content
with the lowlands, the quiet, sunny plains below. She must have the
There were other women seeking that rising road; perhaps she might
help them. Love and wifehood and motherhood she had known, now she
would know the joy of perfected expression, the fulfillment of the
height. She dedicated herself solemnly, joyfully, to the claim of
the years ahead. Ten years ago she might have said that at twenty-
eight the best of a woman's life was over. Now she knew that she had
only begun to live.