Part 4 out of 4
down the three rickety steps that led to the road across which we had
to go before turning in to the tree-lined lane that led to the quaint
old tavern; and as we walked we were conscious of being watched with
speculation that would become opinion as soon as we were out of
Picking our way through the mud, we soon reached the house, and at
its door an untidy old gentleman, with the grace and courtesy of the
days that are no more, greeted us as a gracious host greets warmly
welcomed guests, and we were led to a roaring fire and told to make
ourselves at home.
As he left the room to call his wife I touched Selwyn's arm and
pointed to an open book on an old desk near the window at which
travelers were supposed to register. "Ask him if he can't have a
lunch fixed for us to take with us. Then you won't have to register
or explain. Tell him anything will do, and please to hurry!"
He did not hurry. Nobody hurries in Claxon. It was twelve o'clock
before the buggy was at the door, a basket of lunch in it, and
good-bys said; and giving a last look around the big, dusty, sunshiny
room with cobwebs on its walls and furniture in it that would have
made a collector sick with desire, I walked out on the porch, and
with me went the three dogs which had been stretched in front of the
big log fire. Together we went down the steps.
Tucking a robe around me, the old gentleman nodded to Selwyn. "Don't
let your wife get cold, suh, and don't stay out too long. The sun's
deceiving and it ain't as warm as it looks." Being deaf, he spoke
loudly. "The battlefields are to your left about half a mile from
the creek with a water-oak hanging over it, and nigh about two miles
from here. You can't miss 'em. Over yonder"--he pointed to the top
of a modest mountain--"is where we had a signal station during the
war. The view from there can't be beat this side of heaven. I ain't
sure the battlements of heaven itself--"
But our horse had started and Selwyn, looking at me, laughed.
"Battlefields have their interest, but not to-day. It's nice, isn't
it, to be--just by ourselves and all the world away? Are you all
right? I have orders to keep my wife warm."
"She's very warm. Where are we going?" I turned from Selwyn's eyes.
"I don't know. Don't care. It is enough that we are to be together."
"Wouldn't you feel better if you said 'I told you so'? Any one would
want to say it. It was a pretty long trip to take unnecessarily, and
as we haven't been of service we needn't have come. I'm sorry--"
"I'm not." Selwyn, paying no attention to the horse, who had turned
into the road leading to the top of the mountain, kept his eyes still
on me. "I don't deserve what has come of our venture, but I shall
enjoy it the more, perhaps, because of undeserving. It is just 'we
two' to-day. I get so mortally tired of people--"
"I don't. I like people. Perhaps if I only knew one sort I would
get tired of them. I used to think my people were those I was born
among, but I'm beginning to glimpse a little that my family is much
larger than I thought, and that all people are my people. Still--"
I laughed and drew in a deep breath of pine-scented air.
"Still--?" Selwyn waited.
"It _is_ nice to get away from everybody now and then, and be with
just you. I mean--" Certainly I had not meant to say what I had
said, and, provoked at my thoughtless revealing, at the chance it
would give Selwyn to say what I did not want him to say, I stopped
abruptly, then quickly spoke again. "Why don't you make the horse go
faster? We'll never get to Signal Hill at this rate. He's crawling."
"What difference does it make whether we get anywhere or not? I
don't want to get anywhere. To be going with you is enough. You are
a cruel person, Danny, or you would not make me go so long a way
"I am not making you go alone. It is you who are making me. I am
much more alone than you." Again I stopped and stared ahead. What
was the matter with me that I should be saying things I must not say?
In the silence of earth and air I wondered if Selwyn could hear the
quick, thick beating of my heart.
On the winding road no one was in sight, and from our elevation a
view of the tiny town below could be glimpsed through the bare
branches of the trees of the little mountain we were ascending; and
about us was no sound save the crunch of the buggy-wheels on the
gravel road, and the tread of the slow-moving horse. It was a new
world we were in--a kindly, simple, strifeless world of peace and
plenty, and calm and content, and the crowded quarters close to
Scarborough Square, with their poignant problems of sin and
suffering, of scant beauty and weary joy, seemed a life apart and
very far away. And the world of the Avenue, the world of handsome
homes and deadening luxuries, of social exactions and selfish
indulgence, of much waste and unused power, seemed also far away, and
just Selwyn and I were together in a little world of our own.
"We might as well have this out, Danny." An arm on the back of the
buggy, Selwyn looked at me, and in his eyes was that which made me
understand he was right. We might as well have it out. "For three
years you have refused to marry me, and now you say you are more
alone than I. We've been beating the air, been evading something;
refusing to face the thing that is keeping us apart. What is it?
You know my love for you. But yours for me-- You have never told me
that you loved me. Look at me, Danny." He turned my face toward
him. "Tell me. Is it because you do not love me that you will not
"No." A bird on a bough ahead of us piped to another across the
road, and as mate to mate was answered. "It is not because I do not
love you--Selwyn. I do--love you." The crushing of my hands hurt,
but he said nothing. "I shall never marry unless I marry you--but I
am not sure--we should be happy."
"Why not? Is there anything that man could do I would not do to make
you happy? All that I am or may be, all that I have to give--and of
love I have much--is for you. What is it, then, you fear? Your
freedom? I should never interfere with that."
I shook my head. "It is not my freedom. What I fear is our lack of
sympathy with, our lack of understanding of, certain points of view.
We look at life so differently."
"But certainly a woman doesn't expect a man to think just as she
thinks, to feel as she feels, to see as she sees, nor does he expect
her to see and feel and think his way in all things. As individuals
"Of course I wouldn't expect, wouldn't want my husband to feel toward
all things as I feel. I would not want a stupid husband with no mind
of his own! You know very well it is nothing of that sort. If,
however, we cared not at all for the same sort of books; if we saw
little alike in art and literature, in music or morals, in science or
religion; if the same interests did not appeal; if to the same
impulse there was no response--we could hardly hope for genuine
comradeship. In most of those things we are together, but life is so
much bigger than things, and in our ideas of life and what to do with
it we are pretty far apart."
"Are we? Are you very sure? Are you perfectly sure, Danny, that we
are so very far apart?"
Something warm and sweet, so tempestuously sweet that it terrified,
for a moment surged, and, half-blinded, I looked up at him. "Do you
mean--?" My fingers interlocked with his.
"That I would like to live in Scarborough Square?" He smiled
unsteadily and shook his head. "No, I wouldn't know how to live
there. I wouldn't fit in. I am just myself. You are a dozen selves
in one. But I am beginning to see dimly what you see clearly.
Concerning my selfishness there is certainly nothing hazy. The walls
around my house have been pretty high, and perhaps they should come
down. You have much to teach me. I have a habit of questioning--"
"So have I. All thinking people question. But in spite of my
questioning, perhaps because of it, I know now that my life--must
count. It isn't mine to use just for myself, or in the easiest way.
If there's anything to it, I've got to share it. Down in Scarborough
Square I've been seeing myself in the old life, and when I go back to
it I cannot--keep silent concerning what I have learned. I think
perhaps we've failed--the men and women of our world even more
discouragingly than the men and women of the worlds I've learned to
know. As your wife you might not care to have me say--"
I stopped, silenced by the view which lay revealed before us, then I
gave a little cry. Peak after peak of tree-filled mountains raised
their heads to a sky of brilliant blue whose foam-clouds curled and
tumbled in fantastic shapes, and in the valley below was the silence
and peace of a place unpeopled. I turned to Selwyn, and long
resistance yielding to that for which there was no words, I let him
see the fulness of surrender. For a long moment we did not speak,
then I drew away from his arms. "We must get out. It is a heavenly
vision. I want--"
Getting down from the high, old-fashioned buggy, Selwyn held his arms
out to me, lifted me in them to the ground. "I, too, want here--my
heavenly vision." It was difficult to hear him. Drawing my face to
his, he kissed me again. "You have told me that you loved me. _You
are mine and I am going to marry you_."
He turned his head and listened, in his face something of the old
impatience. The soft whir of an automobile broke the silence of the
sun-filled, breeze-blown air, and I made effort to draw away from
Selwyn's arms. "Some one is coming," I said, under my breath.
"Shall we go on or stay here?"
"Stay here. Why not?" Frowningly, Selwyn for a moment waited, then,
with his hand holding mine, we walked nearer the edge of the
mountain's plateau and looked at the ribbon-like road that wound up
to its top. The noise of the engine was more distinct than the car,
but gradually the latter could be seen clearly, and presently three
figures were distinguished in it.
"They'll have to pass us. There's no other way." Words not
utterable were smothered under Selwyn's breath. "A few more minutes
and they'll be going down the mountain, however, and will soon be out
of sight. Are you cold? Do you mind staying up here for a little
while--with all the world away?"
"No. I want to stay." I leaned forward. In the machine, now near
enough to see that two people were in its back seat and the driver
alone in front, there was also leaning forward; then hurried
movement, then the man behind got up and waved his hat, and the girl
beside him got up also.
Slowly Selwyn turned to me, in his eyes rebellious protest. "It is
Mr. and Mrs. Cressy, and there's no way of getting rid of them.
They've motored over instead of waiting for the train. Have they no
sense, no understanding?"
"And they think they've been so considerate in hurrying to us!" The
tone of my voice was that of Selwyn's. "Is there nothing we can do?"
"Nothing--unless we tell them to wait here while we go over to
Shelby. The reward of virtue was never to my taste! Our one day
He turned away, but quickly I followed him; in his hand slipped mine.
"I'm sorry, Selwyn--but there will be another day--be many days."
Many undeserved blessings have come to me in life and have made me
temporarily meek and humble, but when punishments come which are
unwarranted, meekness and humility (of which I have never possessed a
sufficient amount, inasmuch as I am a person without money)
disappear, and I am not a lowly-minded lady. I was punished for my
part in helping Tom and Madeleine get married by action of Mrs. Swink
that was as astounding as it was unexpected. Mrs. Swink is a wily
woman. She has little education and large understanding of human
nature. She knows when she is beaten. In a woman such knowledge is
The day after our return from Claxon she appeared in my sitting-room
in Scarborough Square and, throwing her arms around me, kissed me
three times. She attempted a fourth kiss, which I prevented, and
followed the kisses with an outburst of tears that was proportionate
to her person in volume and abundance. Feeling as one does who is
overtaken by a shower when the sun is shining, I made effort to draw
away, but my head was again pressed on her broad bosom, and with
fresh tears I was thanked for my kindness in chaperoning her daughter
on her matrimonial adventure; an adventure which would have subjected
her to much criticism had I not been along. Also Mr. Thorne. The
unexpectedness of these thanks was disconcerting and, with an
expression that was hardly appreciative of the pose she was assuming,
I finally rescued myself from her arms and, drawing off, looked at
her for explanation. Mrs. Swink is not a person I care to have kiss
"Oh, my dear, you do not know the anguish of a mother's heart! You
couldn't know it unless you were a mother, and when you are one I
hope your heart won't be wrung as mine has been wrung! But poor,
dear Mr. Swink always said bygones ought to be bygones, and now
they're married I suppose it's a bygone and I ought not to let my
heart be wrung; but it is, and I've been thinking about poor, dear
Mr. Swink all day." She took her seat and, wiping her eyes and nose,
began to cry again. "Oh, my dear, you don't know the anguish of a
"Would you like a fresh handkerchief?" I asked. The one in Mrs.
Swink's hand was too wet for further use. I started toward my
bedroom door, but she shook her head.
"I've got two or three, I think. I'm so easily affected when my
heart is wrung that I have to keep a good many on hand. But I had to
come and thank you. It would have been so dreadful for them to have
gone off alone. It makes it very different to have had you and Mr.
Thorne along. Yes, indeed--a mother's heart--"
What was she up to? Fearing that my face would indicate too clearly
that I was not deceived by her change of tactics, I shielded it from
the fire by the screen, close to the chair in which I sat, and made
effort to wait politely, if not with inward patience, for what I
would discover if I only gave her time. Something had happened I did
not understand. I had forgotten the letter Selwyn had sent her.
"They went away an hour ago on their wedding-trip." A fresh
handkerchief was drawn from the heaving bosom for the fresh tears
which again flowed. "My poor head is all in a whirl. So many things
had to be done, though Madeleine wouldn't take but one trunk and no
maid, though I told her she could have Freda, and there are so many
things that have got to be attended to before they get back that I
don't know where to begin, and I had to come down here right away and
thank you the first thing. And of course she will have to have a
trousseau, for her poor, dear father wouldn't like it if she didn't
have one, and the best that could be bought. He was very particular,
her father was, and I know he would thank you, too, if he could. And
there will have to be a reception, and it's about that, and a few
other things, I felt I must talk to you this morning, being you are
responsible, in a way, for the marriage--"
"I am nothing of the sort. You are responsible for its being the
sort of marriage it was. I went with them because--"
"Yes, indeed, I understand! Tom says it was splendid in you and I
had to come and thank you. Everybody will take it so differently
when they know you and Mr. Thorne were along. I think it was noble
in Mr. Thorne when his poor brother wanted so much to marry
Madeleine. I feel it was such a narrow escape--her not marrying him.
I've been hearing all sorts of sad things about him lately. Real
sad. I was deceived in him."
"Who deceived you?"
I might as well not have asked the question. No attention was paid
"He was such a dear boy, Harrie was. So handsome and his family so
well known, and he was so in love with Madeleine that I was deceived
in him. Yes indeed, I was deceived. A woman is so helpless where
men are concerned."
"She isn't a bit helpless unless she prefers to be. A great many
women do. Had you made any inquiries concerning Harrie's character?"
"In my day it wasn't expected of a woman to make inquiries." Mrs.
Swink's voice was that of righteous reserve. "It's very hard on a
mother to ask questions about character and things like that. I knew
of the Thorne family very well, and of the Thorne house, which I
thought Harrie would live in until he and Madeleine could build a
moderner one, and-- Oh no, my child, you don't know the anguish of a
mother's heart! You don't know!" Tears not of anguish, but of
blighted ambition, caused the flow of words to cease temporarily, and
light came to me. Selwyn's letter had done the work.
Harrie being eliminated, the fat old hypocrite was trimming her sails
with hands hardened from long experience. Her embraces and gratitude
were a veer in a new direction. In a measure I was to be held to
account for the present situation; in a sense to be social sponsor
for Mrs. Thomas Cressy. A homeless Harrie, disapproved of by family
and friends, would not have made a desirable son-in-law, and I had
been seized upon as the most available opportunity within reach to
bring her daughter's marriage desirably before the public. Mrs.
Swink had seemingly little understanding of the little use society
has for people who do not entertain. I do not entertain.
Nothing was due her, but hoping if I promised help she might go away,
I suggested the possibility of Kitty's entertaining Tom and Madeleine
on their return from their wedding-trip, and at the suggestion the
beady little eyes brightened, and immediately I was deluged with
details of the reception she had determined to give the bride and
groom, implored for help in making out the list of guests to be
invited, and begged to be one of the receiving party. The last I
When at last she was safely gone I locked the door and sprayed myself
with a preparation that is purifying. I was dispirited. There are
times when the world seems a weary place and certain of its people
beyond hope or pardon.
Last night I had a talk with Mrs. Mundy. She had seen the girl I
overheard speaking of an ill man who was being nursed by some one she
knew, and this girl had admitted that the "some one" was Etta Blake.
By another name she had been living in Lillie Pierce's world. For
the past two weeks, however, she had been away from it. When Mrs.
Mundy told me, something within gave way, and my head went down in my
arms, which fell upon the table, and I held them back no longer--the
aching tears which came at last without restraint. "The pity--oh,
the pity of it!" was all that I could say, and wisely Mrs. Mundy let
me cry it out--the pain and horror which were obsessing me. Hand on
my head, she smoothed my hair as does one's mother when her child is
greatly troubled, and for a while neither of us spoke.
I had feared for some time what I knew now was true, and it was not
for Etta alone that pity possessed me. Somehow, for all young
girlhood, for the weak and wayward, the bold and brazen, the
unprotected and helpless, I seemed somehow responsible, I and other
women like me, who were shielded from their temptations and ignorant
of the dangers to which they were exposed; and Etta was but one of
many who had gone wrong, perhaps, because I had not done right.
Something was so wrong with life when such things could happen, as
through all ages had happened; things which men said were impossible
to prevent. Perhaps they are, but women are different from men in
that they attempt the impossible. When they understand, this, too,
must be attempted--
After a while Mrs. Mundy began to tell me what she had learned. It
was an old story. The girl who told her of Etta was a friend of the
latter's and had been a waitress in the same restaurant in which Etta
was cashier. It was at this restaurant that Harrie met her.
"She was crazy to think he meant to marry her," the girl had told
Mrs. Mundy, "but at first she did think it. For some time he was
just nice to her, taking her to ride in his automobile, and out to
places where he was not apt to meet any one he knew, and then--then--"
"She doesn't blame Harrie, though. That is, at first she didn't.
She was that dead in love with him she would have gone with him
anywhere, but after a while, when she found out the sort he was,
she--cursed him. It was about the child they had a split."
"Was it born here?" I was cold and moved closer to the fire.
Mrs. Mundy shook her head. "He sent her to a hospital out of town,
but when she came back with the child he told her she would have to
send it away somewhere, put it in some place, or he'd quit her. He
seemed to hate the sight of it. It was on account of the child they
had a fuss. Etta wouldn't give it up. She can be a little fury when
she's mad, the girl said, and they had an awful row and he went off
somewhere and stayed four months. She tried to get work, but each
time some one told about her and she was turned off because--of the
child. At one place one of the bosses tried to take some liberty
with her and she threw an ink-bottle at him and he drove her away.
She knew there wasn't any straight way left to her after that unless
she starved or went in a rescue place. She tried to get in one and
take the baby with her, but it was full, and then, too, she kept
hoping she could get work. Then the baby got sick and needed what
she couldn't give it, and after a while she gave up. She got a woman
to look after the child, promised to pay her well, and went down into
Lillie Pierce's world. Since the day she went she has never been out
except to see the baby, until two weeks ago, when she moved into a
decent place and took two rooms. Harrie had come back to her."
"How old is the child?"
"Ten months. She never intended it to know anything of its mother.
She hoped she would die before it was old enough to understand. It's
a little girl. Etta is eighteen."
The room grew still and, getting up, Mrs. Mundy put more coal on the
fire, made blaze spring from it, warm and red. I waited for her to
"It seems like Mr. Harrie can't stay away from her, the girl says.
He never sees the child, though. The other woman, who's married and
has children of her own, still keeps it for her. She's named Banch."
Mrs. Mundy looked up. "I've found where the Banches live. It's only
two squares from where Etta is now living."
"But Harrie?" I turned off the light behind me.
"He is with Etta. He was taken ill on Christmas night. Except the
doctor, no one knows he is with her. He would have been dead by now
had it not been for Etta, the doctor says. He had pneumonia. Mr.
Guard and Mr. Crimm have gone to see him to-night, to see when he can
be moved away."
"And Etta--what will become of her?"
Mrs. Mundy looked into the fire. "What can become of any girl like
that but to go back to the old life? She's an outcast forever."
"And he--" I got up. All the repression of past ages was breaking
into revolt. "He will go home and feed on the leaven of Pharisees
and hypocrites, and later he will marry a girl of his world, and the
world that will give him welcome will keep Etta in her hell. I
wonder sometimes that God doesn't give us up--we who call ourselves
clean and good! We are a lot of cowards, most of us women, of
'fraid-cats and cowards!"
My hands made gesture, and, going to the window, I looked out,
ashamed of my outburst. Beating one's head against the walls of
custom and convention accomplished nothing. All sane people agreed
concerning the injustice of one person paying the price of the sin of
two people; all normal ones admitted that what was wicked in a woman
was wicked in a man, but agreement and admission were terms of
speech. Translation into action would have meant a bigger price than
even sane and normal and righteous people were willing to pay. Men
could hardly be blamed, but women should be, for the continuance of
old points of view. Women are no longer ignorant or dependent, and
the time for silence and acceptance is past. Perhaps the women of
Lillie Pierce's world are not so much to be despaired of as some of
mine and other sheltered worlds; the soulless, spineless, selfish
ones who cannot always justly draw their skirts aside, and yet do
draw them with eyebrows raised, and curling lips, and gesture that
means much. I, too, have been a coward. I, too, have been long
asleep. But there were other women who had been making splendid
fight while I was wasting time, and at thought of them came courage,
and under my breath I prayed God to make it grow.
"You must bring Etta here." I turned from the window. "I want to
talk to her, to see if something can't be done. Surely something can
be done! She might get some rooms not far from here and take the
child to live with her. Mr. Thorne will doubtless make his brother
go away. Can you see her to-morrow and bring her here?"
Mrs. Mundy got up. "You are dead tired and ought to go to bed.
Night before last you didn't sleep two hours, and I heard you up late
last night. You mustn't take things too hard, Miss Dandridge." She
put her warm hands on my cold ones. "You're young, but for over
thirty years I have been looking life in the face, and I've learned a
lot that nothing but time can teach. One of the things is that we
all ain't made in the same mold, and our minds and hearts ain't any
more alike than our bodies. Every day we live we have to get in a
new supply of patience and politeness to keep from hitting out, at
times, at folks who don't see our way. Some people ain't ever going
to look at things they don't want to see, or to listen to what they
don't want to hear, but there ain't as many people like that as you
think. There's many a woman in this world to-day that God is proud
of; in the Homes and places what they're the head of, and on their
boards and things they are learning that all women are their kin, and
after a while they'll make other women understand. I'll see Etta
to-morrow, and if she will come I will bring her to see you. But
until Mr. Harrie is gone she won't come--won't leave him. Sometimes
it seems a pity he didn't die. Go to bed, Miss Dandridge! you are
all tired out."
For two weeks Etta Blake refused to come to Mrs. Mundy's, refused to
see the latter when she went to see her, to see me when I went; but
yesterday she came to both of us. Ten days ago Harrie was taken to
Selwyn's home and is now practically well. Mr. Guard tells me he is
going away; going West.
I have seen Selwyn but twice since he learned where Harrie was found,
and then not alone. Both times some one was here and he stayed but a
short while. He has bitten dust of late and even with me he is incased
in a reserve that is impenetrable. There has been no chance to mention
Harrie's name had he wished to do so. I do not know that he will ever
mention it again. Selwyn is the sort of person who rarely speaks of
painful or disgraceful things.
I was in my sitting-room when Mrs. Mundy came up with Etta. As the
latter stood in the doorway prayer sprang in my heart that I would not
shrink, but the heritage of the ages was upon me, and for a half-minute
I could only think of her as one is taught to think--as a depraved,
polluted creature, hardly human, and then I saw she was a suffering,
sinful child, and I took her hands in mine and led her to the fire.
To see clearly, see without confusion, and with no blinding of
sentimental sympathy, but as woman should see woman, I had been trying
to face life frankly for some months past; yet when I saw Etta I
realized I had gone but a little way on the long and lonely road
awaiting if I were to do my part. And then I remembered Harrie. He
had gone back to the proudest, haughtiest home in town; and Etta--where
could Etta go?
Hatless, and in a shabby dress, with her short, dark, curly hair parted
on the side, she looked even younger than when I had first seen her,
but about her twisting mouth were lines that hardened it, and in her
opalescent eyes, which now shot flame and fire and now paled with
weariness, I saw that which made me know in bitter knowledge she was
old and could never again be young. Youth and its rights for her were
gone beyond returning.
She would not sit down; grew rigid when I tried to make her. "You want
to see me?" She looked from me to Mrs. Mundy and back again to me.
"What do you want to see me about? Why did you want me to come here?"
"We want to talk to you, to see what is best for you to do." I spoke
haltingly. It was difficult to speak at all with her eyes upon me.
They were strange eyes for a girl of eighteen.
"Best for me to do?" She laughed witheringly and turned from the fire,
her hands twisting in nervous movements. "There are only two things
ahead of me. Death--or worse. Which would you advise me--to do?"
Without waiting for answer the slight shoulders straightened and went
back. Scorn, hate, bitterness were in her unconscious pose, and from
her eyes came fire. "If you sent for me to preach you can quit before
you start. There ain't anything you can do for me. I'm done for.
What do people like you care what becomes of girls like us? Maybe we
send ourselves to hell, but you see to it that we stay there. You're
good at your job all right. I hate you--you good women! Hate you!"
I heard Mrs. Mundy's indrawn breath, saw her quick glance of shock and
distress, then I went over to Etta. She was trembling with hot emotion
long repressed, and, as one at bay, she drew back, reckless, defiant,
and breathing unsteadily.
"I do not wonder that you hate us. I am sorry--so sorry for you, Etta."
For a full minute she stared at me as if she had not heard aright and
the dull color in her face deepened into crimson, then with a spring
she was at the door, her face buried in her arms. Leaning heavily
against it, she made convulsive effort to keep back sound.
"Sorry--oh, my God!" In a heap she crumpled on the floor, her face
still hidden in her hands. "I did not know--in all the world--anybody
was sorry. You can't be sorry--I'm a--"
I motioned Mrs. Mundy to go out. "Leave her with me," I said. "Come
back presently, but leave her awhile with me."
Going over to the window, I stood beside it until the choking sobs grew
fainter and fainter, and then, turning away, I drew two chairs close to
the fire and told Etta to come and sit by me. For a while neither of
us spoke, and when at last she tried to speak it was difficult to hear
"I didn't mean to let go like that. I wouldn't have done it if you
hadn't said--you were sorry. You've no cause to be sorry for me. I'm
not worth it. I was crazy--to care as I cared. I ought to have known
gentlemen like him don't marry girls like me, but I didn't have the
strength to--to make him leave me, or to go away myself. And then one
day he told me it had to be a choice between him and the baby. He
seemed to hate the sight of the baby. He said I must send it away."
Swaying slightly, she caught herself against the side of the table
close to her, and again I waited. "She's a delicate little thing, and
I couldn't put her in a place where I didn't know how they'd treat her.
He told me it had to be one or the other--and I'd rather he'd killed me
than made me say which one. But I couldn't give the baby up. She
"And then--" My voice, too, was low.
"He got mad and went away. I thought I hated him, but I can't hate
him. I've tried and I can't. When he came back and found where I was
living--" A long, low shiver came from the twisting lips. "About five
weeks ago I moved to where he was taken sick. And now--now he has gone
home again and I--" She got up as if the torment of her soul made it
impossible for her to sit still, and again she faced me. "It doesn't
matter what becomes of me. What do rich people and good people and
people who could change things care about us? And neither do they care
what we think of them, and specially of good women. Do you suppose we
think you really believe in the Christ who did not stone us? We don't.
We laugh at most Christians, spit at them. We know you don't believe
in Him or you'd remember what He said."
She turned sharply. Mrs. Mundy with Kitty behind her was at the door.
The latter hesitated, and, seeing it, Etta nodded to her. "Come in. I
won't hurt you. You need not be afraid."
Speaking first to Etta, Kitty kissed me, and I saw she had come
up-stairs because she, too, was wondering if there was something she
could do. Kitty is no longer the child she once was. She is going,
some day, to be a brave and big and splendid woman. At the window she
sat down, and as though she were not in the room Etta turned toward me.
"You said just now you wanted to help. Wanting won't do that!" She
snapped her fingers. "You've got to stop wanting and will to do
something. Men laugh at the laws men make, but we don't blame men like
we blame women who let their men be bad and then smile on them, marry
them, and pretend they do not know. They do not want to know. If you
made men pay the price you make us pay, the world would be a safer
place to live in. Men don't do what women won't stand for."
Kitty leaned forward, and Etta, with twisting hands, looked at her and
then at Mrs. Mundy and then at me, and in her eyes was piteous appeal.
"There's no chance for me, but I've got a little baby girl. What's
going to become of her? In God's name, can't you do something to make
good women understand? Make them know the awfulness--awfulness--"
Again the room grew still and presently, with dragging steps, Etta
turned toward the door. Quickly I followed her. She must not go. I
had said nothing, gotten nowhere, and there was much that must be said
that something might be done. To have her leave without some plan to
work toward would be loss of time. She was but one of thousands of
bits of human wreckage, in danger herself and of danger to others, and
somebody must do something for her. I put my hand on her shoulder to
draw her back and as I did so the door, half ajar, opened more widely.
Motionless, and as one transfixed, she stared at it wide-eyed, and into
her face crept the pallor of death.
Selwyn and Harrie were standing in the doorway.
Stumbling back as if struck, Harrie leaned against the door-frame,
and the hat in his hand dropped to the floor. Selwyn, too, for a
half-minute drew back, then he came inside and spoke to Etta, and to
me, and to Mrs. Mundy, and to Kitty. Pushing a chair close to the
fire, he took Harrie by the arm and led him to it.
"Sit down," he said, quietly. "You'll be better in a minute."
Harrie had given Etta no sign of recognition, but the horror in his
once-handsome face, now white and drawn, told of his shock at finding
her with me, and fear and recoil weakened him to the point of
faintness. In his effort to recover himself, to resist what might be
coming, he struggled as one for breath, but from him came no word, no
Infinite pity for Selwyn made it impossible for me to speak for a
moment, and before words would come Mrs. Mundy and Kitty had gone out
of the room and Selwyn had turned to Etta.
With shoulders again drawn back, and eyes dark with fear and
defiance, she looked at him. "Why have you come here?" she asked.
"What are you going to do? You've taken him home and left me to go
back to where he drove me. Isn't that enough? Why have you brought
"To ask Miss Heath to say what he must do. That is why I have come."
Pushing the trembling girl in a chair behind Harrie's, Selwyn looked
up at me. "You must decide what is to be done, Dandridge. This is a
matter beyond a man's judgment. I do not seem able to think clearly.
You must tell me what to do."
"I? Oh no! It is not for me. Surely you cannot mean that I must
tell you--" The blood in my body surged thickly, and I drew back,
appalled that such decision should be laid upon me, such
responsibility be mine. "What is it you want--of me?"
"To tell me--what Harrie must do." In Selwyn's face was the
whiteness of death, but his voice was quiet. "I did not know, until
David Guard told me, that there was a child, and that Harrie was its
father, and that because of the child Etta would not go away as I had
tried to make her. I did not know she had no father or brother to
see that, as far as possible, her wrong is righted. I want you to
forget that Harrie is my brother and remember the girl, and tell
me--what he must do."
From the chair in which Harrie sat came a lurching movement, and I
saw his body bend forward, saw his elbows on his knees, his face
buried in his hands, and then I heard a sudden sob, a soft, little
cry that stabbed, and Etta was on the floor beside him, crouching at
his feet, holding his hands to her heart, and uttering broken,
foolish words and begging him to speak to her, to tell her that he
would marry her--that he would marry her and take her away.
"Harrie--oh, Harrie!" Faintly we could hear the words that came
stumblingly. "Could we be married, Harrie, and go away, oh, far
away, where nobody knows? I will work for you--live for you--die for
you, if need be, Harrie! We could be happy. I would try--oh, I
would try so hard to make you happy, and the baby would have a name.
You would not hate her if we were married. She was never to know she
had a mother, she was to think her real mother was dead and that I
was just some one who loved her. But if we were married I would not
have to die to her. Tell me--oh, tell me, Harrie, that we can be
married--and go away--where nobody knows!"
But he would tell her nothing. With twitching shoulders and head
turned from her he tried to draw his hands from those which held his
in piteous appeal, and presently she seemed to understand, and into
her face came a ghastly, shuddering smile, and slowly she got up and
drew a deep breath.
As she stood aside Harrie, with a sudden movement, was on his feet
and at the door. His hand was on the knob and he tried to open the
door, but instantly Selwyn was by him, and with hold none too gentle
he was thrust back into the room.
"You damned coward!" Selwyn's voice was low. "She is the mother of
your child, and you want to quit her; to run, rather than pay your
price! By God! I'll see you dead before you do!"
Again the room grew still. The ticking of the clock and the beat of
raindrops on the windowpanes mingled with the soft purring of the
fire's flames, and each waited, we knew not for what; and then Etta
"But you, too, would have to pay--if he were made to pay--the price."
She looked at Selwyn. "It is not fair that you should pay. I will
go away--somewhere. It does not matter about the baby or me. Thank
you, but-- Good-by. I'm going--away."
Before I could reach her, hold her back, she was out of the room and
running down the steps and the front door had closed. Mrs. Mundy
looked up as I leaned over the banister. "It is better to leave her
alone to-day," she said, and I saw that she was crying. "We can see
her to-morrow. She had better be by herself for a while."
Back in the room Selwyn and I looked at each other with white and
troubled faces. We had bungled badly and nothing had been done.
"Come to-morrow night. I must see David Guard, must see Etta again,
before I-- Come to-morrow and I will tell you. I must be sure." I
turned toward Harrie, but he had gone into the hall. Quickly my
hands went out to Selwyn, and for a long moment he held them in his,
then, without speaking, he turned and left me.
I know I should not think too constantly about it. I try not to, but
I cannot shake off the shock, the horror of Etta's death. Selwyn
inclosed the note she wrote him in the letter he sent me just before
leaving with Harrie for the West, but he did not come to see me
before he left.
When I try to sleep the words of Etta's note pass before me like
frightened children, crying--crying, and then again these children
sing a dreary chant, and still again the chant becomes a chorus which
repeats itself until I am unnerved; and they seem to be calling me,
these little children, and begging me to help make clean and safe the
paths that they must tread. I am just one woman. What can I do?
I knew Etta was dead before Selwyn received her note. Mrs. Banch,
the woman who kept the child for her, came running to Mrs. Mundy the
day after Etta had been to see me, and incoherently, sobbingly, with
hands twisting under her apron, she told us of finding Etta, with the
baby in her arms, lying on her bed, as she thought, asleep. But she
was not asleep. She was dead.
"She had done it as deliberate as getting ready to go on a long
journey," the woman had sobbed. "Everything was fixed and in its
place, and after bathing and dressing the baby in a clean gown, she
wrote on a piece of paper that all of its clothes were for my little
girl, and that she wouldn't do what she was doing if there was any
With a fresh outburst of tears, the woman handed me a half-sheet of
note-paper. "Bury us as we are," it read. "I am taking the baby
"We will come with you." Mrs. Mundy, who had gotten out her hat and
coat to go to see Etta before Mrs. Banch came in, hurriedly put them
on, while I went for mine, and together we followed the woman to the
small and shabby house in the upper part of which Etta had been
living for some weeks past; the lower part being occupied by an old
shoemaker and his wife who had been kind to her; and as we entered
the room where the little mother and her baby lay I did not try to
keep them back--the tears that were too late.
"Last night I was standing in the door when she came by with a letter
in her hand." As Mrs. Banch talked, she was still quivering from the
shock of her discovery, and her words came brokenly. "On her way
back from mailing it I asked her to come in and set with me, but she
wouldn't do it; she said she was going to take the baby with her to
spend the night, as she didn't want to be by herself; and, going
up-stairs, she wrapped her up good and took her away with her. I
don't know why, but I felt worried all last night, and this morning I
couldn't get down to nothing 'til I ran around to see how she was and
how the baby was, and when I went up in her room--" The woman's
work-worn hands were pressed to her breast. "God--this world is a
hard place for girls who sin! It don't seem to matter about men, but
women--" Presently she raised her head and looked at us. "I never
seen a human being what had her spirit for enduring. She paid her
price without whining, but something must have happened what she
couldn't stand. She had a heart if she was--if she was--"
Two days later, as quietly as her life had ended, Etta's body, with
her baby on its breast, was put into the ground, and mingled with
David Guard's voice as he read the service for the dead was the
far-off murmur of city noises, the soft rise and fall of city sounds.
With Mrs. Mundy and Mrs. Banch, the old shoemaker and his wife, I
stood at the open grave and watched the earth piled into a mound that
marked a resting-place at last for a broken body and a soul no one
had tried to reach that it might save, but I did not hear the beating
of the clods of clay, nor the twittering of the birds in the trees,
nor the wind in their tops. I heard instead Etta's cry to Kitty and
to me: "In God's name, can't somebody do something to make good women
It is these words that beat into my brain at night; these and the
words I did not speak in time and which, on the next day, were too
late. The note she sent Selwyn also keeps me awake.
"I am going," she wrote, "so the thought of me will not make you
afraid. You tried to help me, but there isn't any help for girls
like me. I am taking the baby with me. I want to be sure she will
be safe. It would be too hard for her, the fight she'd have to make.
I can't leave her here alone. ETTA."
Last night David Guard came in for a few minutes. Leaning back in a
big chair, he half closed his eyes and in silence watched the flames
of the fire, and, seeing he was far away in thought, I went on with
the writing of the letter I had put aside when he came in. I always
know when he is tired and worn, and I have learned to say nothing, to
be as silent as he when I see that the day's work has so wearied him
he does not wish to talk. At other times we talk much--talk of life
and its possibilities, of old cults and new philosophies, of books
and places; of the endless struggles of men like himself to be
intellectually honest and spiritually free. But oftenest we speak of
the people around us, the people on whom the injustices of a selfish
social system fall most heavily; and among them, sharing their
hardships, understanding their burdens, recognizing their limitations
and weaknesses, leading and directing them, he has found life in
losing it, and it now has meaning for him that is bigger and finer
than the best that earth can give.
Presently he stirred, drew a long breath as one awaking, but when he
spoke he did not turn toward me.
"I saw Mr. Thorne the night before he left with Harrie for his
friend's ranch in Arizona. He is going to give him another chance,
and it's pretty big of him to do it, but I doubt if anything will
come of it. Harrie belongs to a type of humanity beyond awakening to
a realization of moral degeneracy; a type that believes so
confidently in the divine right of class privilege that it believes
little else. Harrie's failure to appreciate the hideousness of
certain recent experiences has made them all the more keenly felt by
his brother. I have rarely seen a man suffer as the latter has
suffered in the past few days, but unless I am mistaken--"
The pen in my hand dropped upon the desk, and for a while I did not
speak. Then I got up and went toward David Guard, who had also
risen. "You mean--" The words died in my throat.
"That he is beginning to understand why you came to Scarborough
Square; to grasp the necessity of human contact for human
interpretation. He, too, is seeing himself, his life, his world,
from the viewpoint of Scarborough Square, and what he sees gives
neither peace nor pride nor satisfaction. He will never see so
clearly as you, perhaps, but certain cynicisms, certain intolerances,
certain indifferences and endurances will yield to keener perception
of the necessity for new purposes in life." He held out his hand.
"He needs you very much. I've got to go. Good-by."
For a long time I sat by the fire and watched it die. Was David
Guard right, or had it been in vain, the venture that had brought me
to Scarborough Square? I had told Selwyn I had come that I might see
from its vantage-ground the sort of person I was and what I was doing
with life; but it was also in the secret hope that he, too, might see
the kindred of all men to men, the need of each for each, that I had
come. If together we could stand between those of high and low
degree, between the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak, with
hands outstretched to both, and so standing bring about, perhaps, a
better understanding of each other, then my coming would have been
worth while. But would we ever so stand? All that I had hoped for
seemed as dead as the ashes on the hearth. I had brought him pain
and humiliation, drawn back, without intention, curtains that hid
ugly, cruel things, and for him Scarborough Square would mean forever
bitter memories of bitter revealing. I had failed. I had tried, and
I had failed, and I could hold out no longer.
Getting up, I pressed my hands to my heart to still triumphant
throbbing. It had won, I did not hate his house. I hated its walls.
But I could no longer live without him. I would marry him when he
My hands in his, Selwyn looked long at me, then again drew me to him,
again raised my face to his. "A thousand times I've asked. A
thousand times could give myself no answer. Why did you wire me to
come back, Danny?"
"You were staying too long."
He smiled. "No; it was not that. There was something else. What
"I wanted to see you."
He shook his head. "What was it? Why did you send for me?"
"To--tell you I would marry you whenever you wish me to--"
His face whitened and the grip of his hands hurt. Presently he spoke
again. "But there was something else. You had other reasons.
Surely between us there is to be complete and perfect understanding.
What is it, Danny?"
I drew away and motioned him to sit beside me on the sofa. In the
firelit room faint fragrance of the flowers with which he kept it
filled crept to us, and around it we both glanced as if its spirit
were not intangible; and at unspoken thought his hands again held
"You sent for me--" He leaned toward me.
"Because I heard--an unbelievable thing. David Guard tells me--you
have sold--your house. I can think of nothing else. Tell me it is
not true, Selwyn! Surely it is not true!"
"It is true."
With a little cry my fingers interlaced with his and words died on my
lips. As quietly as if no fight had been fought, no sleepless nights
endured, no surrender made at cost of pride beyond computing, he
answered me, but in his face was that which made me turn my face
away, and in silence I clung to him. The room grew still, so still
we could hear each other's breathing, quick and unsteady, then again
I looked up at him.
"But why, Selwyn? Why did you sell your house?"
"You would not be happy in it. You do not care for it. I am ready
now to live--wherever you wish."
"But I am ready, too, to live--where you wish. Don't you see it does
not matter where one lives? What matters is one must be very
sure--one cannot live apart, and that one's spirit must have chance.
Why did you not tell me, Selwyn? Why did you do this without letting
"You would have told me not to do it; would not have consented.
There was no other way to be sure that I was willing--to do my part.
I know now there is something to be done, know I must no longer live
behind high walls."
"But the house will be needed when the walls come down! It is not
where one lives, but how, that counts. You must not sell your house."
"But I have sold it--" Something of the old impatience was in his
voice, then the frown faded. "There was no other way--to be sure.
Were the walls down-- I did not think, perhaps, that walls could be
anywhere. It is too late now. The house was sold while I was away.
The papers will be signed next week."
Again the room grew still and I made effort to think quickly,
definitely. I was not willing that Selwyn should make such sacrifice
for me. I would let the sunshine into his house and love it when its
cold aloofness became friendly warmth, and together we could learn in
it what life would teach. The house must not be sold, but how
prevent? I bent my head down to the violets on my breast, drew in
deep breath. Suddenly a thought came to me. I looked up.
"When a man sells a piece of property doesn't his wife have to sign
the papers as well as himself?"
"She does." Selwyn smiled.
"And the sale couldn't be consummated unless she signed them?"
"It could not. You know the law." Again he smiled. "Not having a
"But you will have--before those papers are ready to be signed. I am
not going to sign them. I mean-- Don't you see what I mean?"
"I'm not quite sure I do." Selwyn's voice was grave, uncertain. "Is
"We will have to be married next week and then you can tell the party
who wants your house that your wife does not wish it to be sold. Put
the blame on me. It would be disappointing to many people if there
was not something, even about my marriage, for which they could
criticize me. You mustn't sell the house, Selwyn. That is why I
wired you to come. I was afraid it might be too late--if I waited."
Still doubting, Selwyn looked at me as if it could not be true, that
which I was saying, and again the room grew still. Then--
Presently, and after a long and understanding while, he broke its
stillness, though when he spoke it was difficult to hear him. "We
will always keep them, these rooms in Scarborough Square. We will
need them as well as the house without its walls. And I-- You must
have patience with me, Danny. Are you sure you have enough?" "I have
not quite as much as you will need for me. And yet--when there is
love enough there is enough of all things else. We have waited long
to be sure. Surely--oh, surely now--"
"We know?" He bent lower. "Yes, I think now--we know."