Part 1 out of 19
SUSAN LENOX: HER RISE AND FALL
David Graham Phillips
DAVID GRAHAM PHILLIPS
Even now I cannot realize that he is dead, and often in the city
streets--on Fifth Avenue in particular--I find myself glancing
ahead for a glimpse of the tall, boyish, familiar
figure--experience once again a flash of the old happy expectancy.
I have lived in many lands, and have known men. I never knew a
finer man than Graham Phillips.
His were the clearest, bluest, most honest eyes I ever saw--eyes
that scorned untruth--eyes that penetrated all sham.
In repose his handsome features were a trifle stern--and the
magic of his smile was the more wonderful--such a sunny,
youthful, engaging smile.
His mere presence in a room was exhilarating. It seemed to
freshen the very air with a keen sweetness almost pungent.
He was tall, spare, leisurely, iron-strong; yet figure, features
and bearing were delightfully boyish.
Men liked him, women liked him when he liked them.
He was the most honest man I ever knew, clean in mind, clean-cut
in body, a little over-serious perhaps, except when among
intimates; a little prone to hoist the burdens of the world on
his young shoulders.
His was a knightly mind; a paladin character. But he could
unbend, and the memory of such hours with him--hours that can
never be again--hurts more keenly than the memory of calmer and
more sober moments.
We agreed in many matters, he and I; in many we differed. To me
it was a greater honor to differ in opinion with such a man than
to find an entire synod of my own mind.
Because--and of course this is the opinion of one man and worth
no more than that--I have always thought that Graham Phillips
was head and shoulders above us all in his profession.
He was to have been really great. He is--by his last book,
Not that, when he sometimes discussed the writing of it with me,
I was in sympathy with it. I was not. We always were truthful to
But when a giant molds a lump of clay into tremendous masses,
lesser men become confused by the huge contours, the vast
distances, the terrific spaces, the majestic scope of the
ensemble. So I. But he went on about his business.
I do not know what the public may think of "Susan Lenox." I
scarcely know what I think.
It is a terrible book--terrible and true and beautiful.
Under the depths there are unspeakable things that writhe. His
plumb-line touches them and they squirm. He bends his head from
the clouds to do it. Is it worth doing? I don't know.
But this I do know--that within the range of all fiction of all
lands and of all times no character has so overwhelmed me as the
character of Susan Lenox.
She is as real as life and as unreal. She is Life. Hers was the
concentrated nobility of Heaven and Hell. And the divinity of
the one and the tragedy of the other. For she had known
both--this girl--the most pathetic, the most human, the most
honest character ever drawn by an American writer.
In the presence of his last work, so overwhelming, so
stupendous, we lesser men are left at a loss. Its magnitude
demands the perspective that time only can lend it. Its dignity
and austerity and its pitiless truth impose upon us that honest
and intelligent silence which even the quickest minds concede is
necessary before an honest verdict.
Truth was his goddess; he wrought honestly and only for her.
He is dead, but he is to have his day in court. And whatever the
verdict, if it be a true one, were he living he would rest content.
ROBERT W. CHAMBERS.
BEFORE THE CURTAIN
A few years ago, as to the most important and most interesting
subject in the world, the relations of the sexes, an author had
to choose between silence and telling those distorted truths
beside which plain lying seems almost white and quite harmless.
And as no author could afford to be silent on the subject that
underlies all subjects, our literature, in so far as it
attempted to deal with the most vital phases of human nature,
was beneath contempt. The authors who knew they were lying sank
almost as low as the nasty-nice purveyors of fake idealism and
candied pruriency who fancied they were writing the truth. Now
it almost seems that the day of lying conscious and unconscious
is about run. "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall
make you free."
There are three ways of dealing with the sex relations of men
and women--two wrong and one right.
For lack of more accurate names the two wrong ways may be called
respectively the Anglo-Saxon and the Continental. Both are in
essence processes of spicing up and coloring up perfectly
innocuous facts of nature to make them poisonously attractive to
perverted palates. The wishy-washy literature and the
wishy-washy morality on which it is based are not one stage
more--or less--rotten than the libertine literature and the
libertine morality on which it is based. So far as degrading
effect is concerned, the "pure, sweet" story or play, false to
nature, false to true morality, propagandist of indecent
emotions disguised as idealism, need yield nothing to the
so-called "strong" story. Both pander to different forms of the
same diseased craving for the unnatural. Both produce moral
atrophy. The one tends to encourage the shallow and unthinking
in ignorance of life and so causes them to suffer the merciless
penalties of ignorance. The other tends to miseducate the
shallow and unthinking, to give them a ruinously false notion of
the delights of vice. The Anglo-Saxon "morality" is like a nude
figure salaciously draped; the Continental "strength" is like a
nude figure salaciously distorted. The Anglo-Saxon article reeks
the stench of disinfectants; the Continental reeks the stench of
degenerate perfume. The Continental shouts "Hypocrisy!" at the
Anglo-Saxon; the Anglo-Saxon shouts "Filthiness!" at the
Continental. Both are right; they are twin sisters of the same
horrid mother. And an author of either allegiance has to have
many a redeeming grace of style, of character drawing, of
philosophy, to gain him tolerance in a clean mind.
There is the third and right way of dealing with the sex
relations of men and women. That is the way of simple candor and
naturalness. Treat the sex question as you would any other
question. Don't treat it reverently; don't treat it rakishly.
Treat it naturally. Don't insult your intelligence and lower
your moral tone by thinking about either the decency or the
indecency of matters that are familiar, undeniable, and
unchangeable facts of life. Don't look on woman as mere female,
but as human being. Remember that she has a mind and a heart as
well as a body. In a sentence, don't join in the prurient clamor
of "purity" hypocrites and "strong" libertines that exaggerates
and distorts the most commonplace, if the most important feature
of life. Let us try to be as sensible about sex as we are trying
to be about all the other phenomena of the universe in this more
Nothing so sweetens a sin or so delights a sinner as getting
big-eyed about it and him. Those of us who are naughty aren't
nearly so naughty as we like to think; nor are those of us who
are nice nearly so nice. Our virtues and our failings
are--perhaps to an unsuspected degree--the result of the
circumstances in which we are placed. The way to improve
individuals is to improve these circumstances; and the way to
start at improving the circumstances is by looking honestly and
fearlessly at things as they are. We must know our world and
ourselves before we can know what should be kept and what
changed. And the beginning of this wisdom is in seeing sex
relations rationally. Until that fundamental matter is brought
under the sway of good common sense, improvement in other directions
will be slow indeed. Let us stop lying--to others--to ourselves.
THE child's dead," said Nora, the nurse. It was the upstairs
sitting-room in one of the pretentious houses of Sutherland,
oldest and most charming of the towns on the Indiana bank of the
Ohio. The two big windows were open; their limp and listless
draperies showed that there was not the least motion in the
stifling humid air of the July afternoon. At the center of the
room stood an oblong table; over it were neatly spread several
thicknesses of white cotton cloth; naked upon them lay the body
of a newborn girl baby. At one side of the table nearer the
window stood Nora. Hers were the hard features and corrugated
skin popularly regarded as the result of a life of toil, but in
fact the result of a life of defiance to the laws of health. As
additional penalties for that same self-indulgence she had an
enormous bust and hips, thin face and arms, hollow,
sinew-striped neck. The young man, blond and smooth faced, at
the other side of the table and facing the light, was Doctor
Stevens, a recently graduated pupil of the famous Schulze of
Saint Christopher who as much as any other one man is
responsible for the rejection of hocus-pocus and the injection
of common sense into American medicine. For upwards of an hour
young Stevens, coat off and shirt sleeves rolled to his
shoulders, had been toiling with the lifeless form on the table.
He had tried everything his training, his reading and his
experience suggested--all the more or less familiar devices
similar to those indicated for cases of drowning. Nora had
watched him, at first with interest and hope, then with interest
alone, finally with swiftly deepening disapproval, as her
compressed lips and angry eyes plainly revealed. It seemed to
her his effort was degenerating into sacrilege, into defiance of
an obvious decree of the Almighty. However, she had not ventured
to speak until the young man, with a muttered ejaculation
suspiciously like an imprecation, straightened his stocky figure
and began to mop the sweat from his face, hands and bared arms.
When she saw that her verdict had not been heard, she repeated
it more emphatically. "The child's dead," said she, "as I told
you from the set-out." She made the sign of the cross on her
forehead and bosom, while her fat, dry lips moved in a "Hail, Mary."
The young man did not rouse from his reverie. He continued to
gaze with a baffled expression at the tiny form, so like a
whimsical caricature of humanity. He showed that he had heard
the woman's remark by saying, to himself rather than to her,
"Dead? What's that? Merely another name for ignorance." But the
current of his thought did not swerve. It held to the one
course: What would his master, the dauntless, the infinitely
resourceful Schulze, do if he were confronted by this
intolerable obstacle of a perfect machine refusing to do its
duty and pump vital force through an eagerly waiting body?
"He'd _make_ it go, I'd bet my life," the young man muttered.
"I'm ashamed of myself."
As if the reproach were just the spur his courage and his
intelligence had needed, his face suddenly glowed with the
upshooting fire of an inspiration. He thrust the big white
handkerchief into his hip pocket, laid one large strong hand
upon the small, beautifully arched chest of the baby. Nora,
roused by his expression even more than by his gesture, gave an
exclamation of horror. "Don't touch it again," she cried,
between entreaty and command. "You've done all you can--and more."
Stevens was not listening. "Such a fine baby, too," he said,
hesitating--the old woman mistakenly fancied it was her words
that made him pause. "I feel no good at all," he went on, as if
reasoning with himself, "no good at all, losing both the mother
and the child."
"_She_ didn't want to live," replied Nora. Her glances stole
somewhat fearfully toward the door of the adjoining room--the
bedroom where the mother lay dead.
"There wasn't nothing but disgrace ahead for both of them.
Everybody'll be glad."
"Such a fine baby," muttered the abstracted young doctor.
"Love-children always is," said Nora. She was looking sadly and
tenderly down at the tiny, symmetrical form--symmetrical to her
and the doctor's expert eyes. "Such a deep chest," she sighed.
"Such pretty hands and feet. A real love-child." There she
glanced nervously at the doctor; it was meet and proper and
pious to speak well of the dead, but she felt she might be going
rather far for a "good woman."
"I'll try it," cried the young man in a resolute tone. "It can't
do any harm, and----"
Without finishing his sentence he laid hold of the body by the
ankles, swung it clear of the table. As Nora saw it dangling
head downwards like a dressed suckling pig on a butcher's hook
she vented a scream and darted round the table to stop by main
force this revolting desecration of the dead. Stevens called out
sternly: "Mind your business, Nora! Push the table against the
wall and get out of the way. I want all the room there is."
"Oh, Doctor--for the blessed Jesus' sake----"
"Push back that table!"
Nora shrank before his fierce eyes. She thought his exertions,
his disappointment and the heat had combined to topple him over
into insanity. She retreated toward the farther of the open
windows. With a curse at her stupidity Stevens kicked over the
table, used his foot vigorously in thrusting it to the wall.
"Now!" exclaimed he, taking his stand in the center of the room
and gauging the distance of ceiling, floor and walls.
Nora, her back against the window frame, her fingers sunk in her
big loose bosom, stared petrified. Stevens, like an athlete
swinging an indian club, whirled the body round and round his
head, at the full length of his powerful arms. More and more
rapidly he swung it, until his breath came and went in gasps and
the sweat was trickling in streams down his face and neck. Round
and round between ceiling and floor whirled the naked body of
the baby--round and round for minutes that seemed hours to the
horrified nurse--round and round with all the strength and speed
the young man could put forth--round and round until the room
was a blur before his throbbing eyes, until his expression
became fully as demoniac as Nora had been fancying it. Just as
she was recovering from her paralysis of horror and was about to
fly shrieking from the room she was halted by a sound that made
her draw in air until her bosom swelled as if it would burst its
gingham prison. She craned eagerly toward Stevens. He was
whirling the body more furiously than ever.
"Was that you?" asked Nora hoarsely. "Or was it----" She paused, listened.
The sound came again--the sound of a drowning person fighting for breath.
"It's--it's----" muttered Nora. "What is it, Doctor?"
"Life!" panted Stevens, triumph in his glistening, streaming face. "Life!"
He continued to whirl the little form, but not so rapidly or so
vigorously. And now the sound was louder, or, rather, less
faint, less uncertain--was a cry--was the cry of a living thing.
"She's alive--alive!" shrieked the woman, and in time with his
movements she swayed to and fro from side to side, laughing,
weeping, wringing her hands, patting her bosom, her cheeks. She
stretched out her arms. "My prayers are answered!" she cried.
"Don't kill her, you brute! Give her to me. You shan't treat a
baby that way."
The unheeding doctor kept on whirling until the cry was
continuous, a low but lusty wail of angry protest. Then he
stopped, caught the baby up in both arms, burst out laughing.
"You little minx!" he said--or, rather, gasped--a tenderness
quite maternal in his eyes. "But I got you! Nora, the table."
Nora righted the table, spread and smoothed the cloths, extended
her scrawny eager arms for the baby. Stevens with a jerk of the
head motioned her aside, laid the baby on the table. He felt for
the pulse at its wrist, bent to listen at the heart. Quite
useless. That strong, rising howl of helpless fury was proof
enough. Her majesty the baby was mad through and
through--therefore alive through and through.
"Grand heart action!" said the young man. He stood aloof, hands
on his hips, head at a proud angle. "You never saw a healthier
specimen. It'll be many a year, bar accidents, before she's that
near death again."
But it was Nora's turn not to hear. She was soothing and
swaddling the outraged baby. "There--there!" she crooned.
"Nora'll take care of you. The bad man shan't come near my
little precious--no, the wicked man shan't touch her again."
The bedroom door opened. At the slight noise superstitious Nora
paled, shriveled within her green and white checked gingham. She
slowly turned her head as if on this day of miracles she
expected yet another--the resurrection of the resurrected
baby's mother, "poor Miss Lorella." But Lorella Lenox was
forever tranquil in the sleep that engulfed her and the sorrows
in which she had been entangled by an impetuous, trusting heart.
The apparition in the doorway was commonplace--the mistress of
the house, Lorella's elder and married sister Fanny--neither
fair nor dark, neither tall nor short, neither thin nor fat,
neither pretty nor homely, neither stupid nor bright, neither
neat nor dowdy--one of that multitude of excellent, unobtrusive
human beings who make the restful stretches in a world of
agitations--and who respond to the impetus of circumstance as
unresistingly as cloud to wind.
As the wail of the child smote upon Fanny's ears she lifted her
head, startled, and cried out sharply, "What's that?"
"We've saved the baby, Mrs. Warham," replied the young doctor,
beaming on her through his glasses.
"Oh!" said Mrs. Warham. And she abruptly seated herself on the
big chintz-covered sofa beside the door.
"And it's a lovely child," pleaded Nora. Her woman's instinct
guided her straight to the secret of the conflict raging behind
Mrs. Warham's unhappy face.
"The finest girl in the world," cried Stevens, well-meaning but tactless.
"Girl!" exclaimed Fanny, starting up from the sofa. "Is it a _girl_?"
Nora nodded. The young man looked downcast; he was realizing the
practical side of his victory for science--the consequences to
the girl child, to all the relatives.
"A girl!" moaned Fanny, sinking to the sofa again. "God have mercy on us!"
Louder and angrier rose the wail. Fanny, after a brief struggle
with herself, hurried to the table, looked down at the tiny
helplessness. Her face softened. She had been a mother four
times. Only one had lived--her fair little two-year-old Ruth--and
she would never have any more children. The tears glistened in
her eyes. "What ails you, Nora Mulvey?" she demanded. "Why
aren't you 'tending to this poor little creature?"
Nora sprang into action, but she wrapped the baby herself. The
doctor in deep embarrassment withdrew to the farther window. She
fussed over the baby lingeringly, but finally resigned it to the
nurse. "Take it into the bathroom," she said, "where everything's
ready to feed it--though I never dreamed----" As Nora was about
to depart, she detained her. "Let me look at it again."
The nurse understood that Fanny Warham was searching for
evidence of the mysterious but suspected paternity whose secret
Lorella, with true Lenox obstinacy, had guarded to the end. The
two women scanned the features. A man would at a glance have
abandoned hope of discovering anything from a chart so vague and
confused as that wrinkled, twisted, swollen face of the newborn.
Not so a woman. Said Nora: "She seems to me to favor the
Lenoxes. But I think--I _kind_ o' think--I see a _trace_
of--of----" There she halted, waiting for encouragement.
"Of Galt?" suggested Fanny, in an undertone.
"Of Galt," assented Nora, her tone equally discreet. "That nose
is Galt-like and the set of the ears--and a kind of something to
the neck and shoulders."
"Maybe so," said Fanny doubtfully. She shook her head drearily,
sighed. "What's the use? Lorella's gone. And this morning
General Galt came down to see my husband with a letter he'd got
from Jimmie. Jimmie denies it. Perhaps so. Again, perhaps the
General wrote him to write that, and threatened him if he
didn't. But what's the use? We'll never know."
And they never did.
When young Stevens was leaving, George Warham waylaid him at the
front gate, separated from the spacious old creeper-clad house
by long lawns and an avenue of elms. "I hear the child's going
to live," said he anxiously.
"I've never seen anything more alive," replied Stevens.
Warham stared gloomily at the ground. He was evidently ashamed
of his feelings, yet convinced that they were human and natural.
A moment's silence between the men, then Stevens put his hand on
the gate latch. "Did--did--my wife----" began Warham. "Did she
say what she calculated to do?"
"Not a word, George." After a silence. "You know how fond she
is of babies."
"Yes, I know," replied Warham. "Fanny is a true woman if ever
there was one." With a certain defiance, "And Lorella--she was
a sweet, womanly girl!"
"As sweet and good as she was pretty," replied Stevens heartily.
"The way she kept her mouth shut about that hound, whoever he
is!" Warham's Roman face grew savage, revealed in startling
apparition a stubborn cruelty of which there was not a trace
upon the surface. "If I ever catch the---- ----I'll fill him
full of holes."
"He'd be lynched--_whoever_ he is," said Stevens.
"That's right!" cried Warham. "This is the North, but it's near
enough to Kentucky to know what to do with a wretch of that
sort." His face became calmer. "That poor little baby! He'll
have a hard row to hoe."
Stevens flushed a guilty red. "It's--it's--a girl," he stammered.
Warham stared. "A _girl_!" he cried. Then his face reddened and
in a furious tone he burst out: "Now don't that beat the devil
for luck!. . . A girl! Good Lord--a girl!"
"Nobody in this town'll blame her," consoled Stevens.
"You know better than that, Bob! A girl! Why, it's downright
wicked. . . I wonder what Fanny allows to do?" He showed what
fear was in his mind by wheeling savagely on Stevens with a
stormy, "We can't keep her--we simply can't!"
"What's to become of her?" protested Stevens gently.
Warham made a wild vague gesture with both arms. "Damn if I
know! I've got to look out for my own daughter. I won't have it.
Damn it, I won't have it!" Stevens lifted the gate latch. "Well----
"Good-by, George. I'll look in again this evening." And knowing
the moral ideas of the town, all he could muster by way of
encouragement was a half-hearted "Don't borrow trouble."
But Warham did not hear. He was moving up the tanbark walk
toward the house, muttering to himself. When Fanny, unable
longer to conceal Lorella's plight, had told him, pity and
affection for his sweet sister-in-law who had made her home with
them for five years had triumphed over his principles. He had
himself arranged for Fanny to hide Lorella in New York until she
could safely return. But just as the sisters were about to set
out, Lorella, low in body and in mind, fell ill. Then
George--and Fanny, too--had striven with her to give them the
name of her betrayer, that he might be compelled to do her
justice. Lorella refused. "I told him," she said, "and he--I
never want to see him again." They pleaded the disgrace to them,
but she replied that he would not marry her even if she would
marry him; and she held to her refusal with the firmness for
which the Lenoxes were famous. They suspected Jimmie Galt,
because he had been about the most attentive of the young men
until two or three months before, and because he had abruptly
departed for Europe to study architecture. Lorella denied that
it was he. "If you kill him," she said to Warham, "you kill an
innocent man." Warham was so exasperated by her obstinacy that
he was at first for taking her at her offer and letting her go
away. But Fanny would not hear of it, and he acquiesced.
Now--"This child must be sent away off somewhere, and never be
heard of again," he said to himself. "If it'd been a boy,
perhaps it might have got along. But a girl----
"There's nothing can be done to make things right for a girl
that's got no father and no name."
The subject did not come up between him and his wife until about
a week after Lorella's funeral. But he was thinking of nothing
else. At his big grocery store--wholesale and retail--he sat
morosely in his office, brooding over the disgrace and the
danger of deeper disgrace--for he saw what a hold the baby
already had upon his wife. He was ashamed to appear in the
streets; he knew what was going on behind the sympathetic faces,
heard the whisperings as if they had been trumpetings. And he
was as much afraid of his own soft heart as of his wife's. But
for the sake of his daughter he must be firm and just.
One morning, as he was leaving the house after breakfast, he
turned back and said abruptly: "Fan, don't you think you'd
better send the baby away and get it over with?"
"No," said his wife unhesitatingly--and he knew his worst
suspicion was correct. "I've made up my mind to keep her."
"It isn't fair to Ruth."
"Send it away--where?"
"Anywhere. Get it adopted in Chicago--Cincinnati--Louisville."
"When she and Ruth grow up--what then?"
"People ain't so low as some think."
"`The sins of the parents are visited on the children unto----'"
"I don't care," interrupted Fanny. "I love her. I'm going to
keep her. Wait here a minute."
When she came back she had the baby in her arms. "Just look,"
she said softly.
George frowned, tried not to look, but was soon drawn and held by
the sweet, fresh, blooming face, so smooth, so winning, so innocent.
"And think how she was sent back to life--from beyond the grave.
It must have been for some purpose."
Warham groaned, "Oh, Lord, I don't know _what_ to do! But--it
ain't fair to our Ruth."
"I don't see it that way. . . . Kiss her, George."
Warham kissed one of the soft cheeks, swelling like a ripening
apple. The baby opened wide a pair of wonderful dark eyes, threw
up its chubby arms and laughed--such a laugh!. . . There was no
more talk of sending her away.
NOT quite seventeen years later, on a fine June morning, Ruth
Warham issued hastily from the house and started down the long
tanbark walk from the front veranda to the street gate. She was
now nineteen--nearer twenty--and a very pretty young woman,
indeed. She had grown up one of those small slender blondes,
exquisite and doll-like, who cannot help seeming fresh and
sweet, whatever the truth about them, without or within. This
morning she had on a new summer dress of a blue that matched her
eyes and harmonized with her coloring. She was looking her best,
and she had the satisfying, confidence-giving sense that it was
so. Like most of the unattached girls of small towns, she was
always dreaming of the handsome stranger who would fall in
love--the thrilling, love-story kind of love at first sight. The
weather plays a conspicuous part in the romancings of youth; she
felt that this was precisely the kind of day fate would be most
likely to select for the meeting. Just before dressing she had
been reading about the wonderful _him_--in Robert Chambers'
latest story--and she had spent full fifteen minutes of blissful
reverie over the accompanying Fisher illustration. Now she was
issuing hopefully forth, as hopefully as if adventure were the
rule and order of life in Sutherland, instead of a desperate
monotony made the harder to bear by the glory of its scenery.
She had got only far enough from the house to be visible to the
second-story windows when a young voice called:
"Ruthie! Aren't you going to wait for me?"
Ruth halted; an expression anything but harmonious with the
pretty blue costume stormed across her face. "I won't have her
along!" she muttered. "I simply won't!" She turned slowly and,
as she turned, effaced every trace of temper with a dexterity
which might have given an onlooker a poorer opinion of her
character than perhaps the facts as to human nature justify. The
countenance she presently revealed to those upper windows was
sunny and sweet. No one was visible; but the horizontal slats in
one of the only closed pair of shutters and a vague suggestion
of movement rather than form behind them gave the impression
that a woman, not far enough dressed to risk being seen from the
street, was hidden there. Evidently Ruth knew, for it was toward
this window that she directed her gaze and the remark: "Can't
wait, dear. I'm in a great hurry. Mamma wants the silk right
away and I've got to match it."
"But I'll be only a minute," pleaded the voice--a much more
interesting, more musical voice than Ruth's rather shrill and
thin high soprano.
"No--I'll meet you up at papa's store."
Ruth resumed her journey. She smiled to herself. "That means,"
said she, half aloud, "I'll steer clear of the store this morning."
But as she was leaving the gate into the wide, shady, sleepy
street, who should come driving past in a village cart but
Lottie Wright! And Lottie reined her pony in to the sidewalk and
in the shade of a symmetrical walnut tree proceeded to invite
Ruth to a dance--a long story, as Lottie had to tell all about
it, the decorations, the favors, the food, who would be there,
what she was going to wear, and so on and on. Ruth was intensely
interested but kept remembering something that caused her to
glance uneasily from time to time up the tanbark walk under the
arching boughs toward the house. Even if she had not been
interested, she would hardly have ventured to break off; Lottie
Wright was the only daughter of the richest man in Sutherland
and, therefore, social arbiter to the younger set.
Lottie stopped abruptly, said: "Well, I really must get on. And
there's your cousin coming down the walk. I know you've been
waiting for her."
Ruth tried to keep in countenance, but a blush of shame and a
frown of irritation came in spite of her.
"I'm sorry I can't ask Susie, too," pursued Lottie, in a voice
of hypocritical regret. "But there are to be exactly eighteen
couples--and I couldn't."
"Of course not," said Ruth heartily. "Susan'll understand."
"I wouldn't for the world do anything to hurt her feelings,"
continued Lottie with the self-complacent righteousness of a
deacon telling the congregation how good "grace" has made him.
Her prominent commonplace brown eyes were gazing up the walk, an
expression distressingly like envious anger in them. She had a
thick, pudgy face, an oily skin, an outcropping of dull red
pimples on the chin. Many women can indulge their passion for
sweets at meals and sweets between meals without serious
injury--to complexion; Lottie Wright, unluckily, couldn't.
"I feel sorry for Susie," she went on, in the ludicrous
patronizing tone that needs no describing to anyone acquainted
with any fashionable set anywhere from China to Peru. "And I
think the way you all treat her is simply beautiful. But, then,
everybody feels sorry for her and tries to be kind. She
knows--about herself, I mean--doesn't she, Ruthie?"
"I guess so," replied Ruth, almost hanging her head in her
mortification. "She's very good and sweet."
"Indeed, she is," said Lottie. "And father says she's far and
away the prettiest girl in town."
With this parting shot, which struck precisely where she had
aimed, Lottie gathered up the reins and drove on, calling out a
friendly "Hello, Susie dearie," to Susan Lenox, who, on her
purposely lagging way from the house, had nearly reached the gate.
"What a nasty thing Lottie Wright is!" exclaimed Ruth to her cousin.
"She has a mean tongue," admitted Susan, tall and slim and
straight, with glorious dark hair and a skin healthily pallid
and as smooth as clear. "But she's got a good heart. She gives
a lot away to poor people."
"Because she likes to patronize and be kowtowed to," retorted
Ruth. "She's mean, I tell you." Then, with a vicious gleam in
the blue eyes that hinted a deeper and less presentable motive
for the telling, she added: "Why, she's not going to ask you
to her party."
Susan was obviously unmoved. "She has the right to ask whom she
pleases. And"--she laughed--"if I were giving a party I'd not
want to ask her--though I might do it for fear she'd feel left out."
"Don't you feel--left out?"
Susan shook her head. "I seem not to care much about going to
parties lately. The boys don't like to dance with me, and I get
tired of sitting the dances out."
This touched Ruth's impulsively generous heart and woman's easy
tears filled her eyes; her cousin's remark was so pathetic, the
more pathetic because its pathos was absolutely unconscious.
Ruth shot a pitying glance at Susan, but the instant she saw the
loveliness of the features upon which that expression of
unconsciousness lay like innocence upon a bed of roses, the pity
vanished from her eyes to be replaced by a disfiguring envy as
hateful as an evil emotion can be at nineteen. Susan still
lacked nearly a month of seventeen, but she seemed older than
Ruth because her mind and her body had developed beyond her
years--or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say beyond the
average of growth at seventeen. Also, her personality was
stronger, far more definite. Ruth tried to believe herself the
cleverer and the more beautiful, at times with a certain
success. But as she happened to be a shrewd young person--an
inheritance from the Warhams--she was haunted by misgivings--and
worse. Those whose vanity never suffers from these torments
will, of course, condemn her; but whoever has known the pain of
having to concede superiority to someone with whom she or he--is
constantly contrasted will not be altogether without sympathy
for Ruth in her struggles, often vain struggles, against the
mortal sin of jealousy.
The truth is, Susan was beyond question the beauty of
Sutherland. Her eyes, very dark at birth, had changed to a soft,
dreamy violet-gray. Hair and coloring, lashes and eyebrows
remained dark; thus her eyes and the intense red of her lips had
that vicinage of contrast which is necessary to distinction. To
look at her was to be at once fascinated by those violet-gray
eyes--by their color, by their clearness, by their regard of
calm, grave inquiry, by their mystery not untouched by a certain
sadness. She had a thick abundance of wavy hair, not so long as
Ruth's golden braids, but growing beautifully instead of thinly
about her low brow, about her delicately modeled ears, and at
the back of her exquisite neck. Her slim nose departed enough
from the classic line to prevent the suggestion of monotony that
is in all purely classic faces. Her nostrils had the
sensitiveness that more than any other outward sign indicates
the imaginative temperament. Her chin and throat--to look at
them was to know where her lover would choose to kiss her first.
When she smiled her large even teeth were dazzling. And the
smile itself was exceedingly sweet and winning, with the
violet-gray eyes casting over it that seriousness verging on
sadness which is the natural outlook of a highly intelligent
nature. For while stupid vain people are suspicious and easily
offended, only the intelligent are truly sensitive--keenly
susceptible to all sensations. The dull ear is suspicious; the
acute ear is sensitive.
The intense red of her lips, at times so vivid that it seemed
artificial, and their sinuous, sensitive curve indicated a
temperament that was frankly proclaimed in her figure--sensuous,
graceful, slender--the figure of girlhood in its perfection and
of perfect womanhood, too--like those tropical flowers that look
innocent and young and fresh, yet stir in the beholder
passionate longings and visions. Her walk was worthy of face and
figure--free and firm and graceful, the small head carried
proudly without haughtiness.
This physical beauty had as an aureole to illuminate it and to
set it off a manner that was wholly devoid of mannerisms--of
those that men and women think out and exhibit to give added
charm to themselves--tricks of cuteness, as lisp and baby stare;
tricks of dignity, as grave brow and body always carried rigidly
erect; tricks of sweetness and kindliness, as the ever ready
smile and the warm handclasp. Susan, the interested in the
world about her, Susan, the self-unconscious, had none of these
tricks. She was at all times her own self. Beauty is anything
but rare, likewise intelligence. But this quality of naturalness
is the greatest of all qualities. It made Susan Lenox unique.
It was not strange--nor inexcusable that the girls and their
parents had begun to pity Susan as soon as this beauty developed
and this personality had begun to exhale its delicious perfume.
It was but natural that they should start the whole town to
"being kind to the poor thing." And it was equally the matter of
course that they should have achieved their object--should have
impressed the conventional masculine mind of the town with such
a sense of the "poor thing's" social isolation and
"impossibility" that the boys ceased to be her eagerly admiring
friends, were afraid to be alone with her, to ask her to dance.
Women are conventional as a business; but with men
conventionality is a groveling superstition. The youths of
Sutherland longed for, sighed for the alluring, sweet, bright
Susan; but they dared not, with all the women saying "Poor
thing! What a pity a nice man can't afford to have anything to
do with her!" It was an interesting typical example of the
profound snobbishness of the male character. Rarely, after Susan
was sixteen, did any of the boys venture to ask her to dance and
so give himself the joy of encircling that lovely form of hers;
yet from babyhood her fascination for the male sex, regardless
of age or temperament, had been uncanny--"naturally, she being
a love-child," said the old women. And from fourteen on, it grew
It would be difficult for one who has not lived in a small town
to understand exactly the kind of isolation to which Sutherland
consigned the girl without her realizing it, without their fully
realizing it themselves. Everyone was friendly with her. A
stranger would not have noticed any difference in the treatment
of her and of her cousin Ruth. Yet not one of the young men
would have thought of marrying her, would have regarded her as
his equal or the equal of his sisters. She went to all the
general entertainments. She was invited to all the houses when
failure to invite her would have seemed pointed--but only then.
She did not think much about herself; she was fond of
study--fonder of reading--fondest, perhaps, of making dresses
and hats, especially for Ruth, whom she thought much prettier
than herself. Thus, she was only vaguely, subconsciously
conscious of there being something peculiar and mysterious in
This isolation, rather than her dominant quality of
self-effacing consideration for others, was the chief cause of
the extraordinary innocence of her mind. No servant, no girl, no
audacious boy ever ventured to raise with her any question
remotely touching on sex. All those questions seemed to Puritan
Sutherland in any circumstances highly indelicate; in relation
to Susan they seemed worse than indelicate, dreadful though the
thought was that there could be anything worse than indelicacy.
At fifteen she remained as unaware of even the existence of the
mysteries of sex as she had been at birth. Nothing definite
enough to arouse her curiosity had ever been said in her
hearing; and such references to those matters as she found in
her reading passed her by, as any matter of which he has not the
beginnings of knowledge will fail to arrest the attention of any
reader. It was generally assumed that she knew all about her
origin, that someone had, some time or other, told her. Even her
Aunt Fanny thought so, thought she was hiding the knowledge deep
in her heart, explained in that way her content with the
solitude of books and sewing.
Susan was the worst possible influence in Ruth's life. Our
character is ourself, is born with us, clings to us as the flesh
to our bones, persists unchanged until we die. But upon the
circumstances that surround us depends what part of our
character shall show itself. Ruth was born with perhaps
something more than the normal tendency to be envious and petty.
But these qualities might never have shown themselves
conspicuously had there been no Susan for her to envy. The very
qualities that made Susan lovable reacted upon the pretty, pert
blond cousin to make her the more unlovable. Again and again,
when she and Susan were about to start out together, and Susan
would appear in beauty and grace of person and dress, Ruth would
excuse herself, would fly to her room to lock herself in and
weep and rage and hate. And at the high school, when Susan
scored in a recitation or in some dramatic entertainment, Ruth
would sit with bitten lip and surging bosom, pale with jealousy.
Susan's isolation, the way the boys avoided having with her the
friendly relations that spring up naturally among young people
these gave Ruth a partial revenge. But Susan, seemingly
unconscious, rising sweetly and serenely above all pettiness--
Ruth's hatred deepened, though she hid it from everyone, almost
from herself. And she depended more and more utterly upon Susan
to select her clothes for her, to dress her, to make her look
well; for Susan had taste and Ruth had not.
On that bright June morning as the cousins went up Main Street
together, Susan gave herself over to the delight of sun and air
and of the flowering gardens before the attractive houses they
were passing; Ruth, with the day quite dark for her, all its
joys gone, was fighting against a hatred of her cousin so
vicious that it made her afraid. "I'll have no chance at all,"
her angry heart was saying, "so long as Susie's around, keeping
everybody reminded of the family shame." And that was a truth
she could not downface, mean and ungenerous though thinking it
might be. The worst of all was that Susan, in a simple white
dress and an almost untrimmed white straw hat with a graceful
curve to its brim and set at the right angle upon that wavy dark
hair, was making the beauty of her short blond cousin dim and
At the corner of Maple Street Ruth's self-control reached its
limit. She halted, took the sample of silk from her glove. There
was not a hint of her feelings in her countenance, for shame and
the desire to seem to be better than she was were fast making
her an adept in hypocrisy. "You go ahead and match it for
mamma," said she. "I've got to run in and see Bessie Andrews."
"But I promised Uncle George I'd come and help him with the
monthly bills," objected Susan.
"You can do both. It'll take you only a minute. If mother had
known you were going uptown, she'd never have trusted _me_." And
Ruth had tucked the sample in Susan's belt and was hurrying out
Maple Street. There was nothing for Susan to do but go on alone.
Two squares, and she was passing the show place of Sutherland,
the home of the Wrights. She paused to regale herself with a
glance into the grove of magnificent elms with lawns and bright
gardens beyond--for the Wright place filled the entire square
between Broad and Myrtle Streets and from Main to Monroe. She
was starting on when she saw among the trees a young man in
striped flannels. At the same instant he saw her.
"Hel-_lo_, Susie!" he cried. "I was thinking about you."
Susan halted. "When did you get back, Sam?" she asked. "I heard
you were going to stay on in the East all summer."
After they had shaken hands across the hedge that came almost to
their shoulders, Susan began to move on. Sam kept pace with her
on his side of the carefully trimmed boxwood barrier. "I'm going
back East in about two weeks," said he. "It's awfully dull here
after Yale. I just blew in--haven't seen Lottie or father yet.
Coming to Lottie's party?"
"No," said Susan.
Susan laughed merrily. "The best reason in the world. Lottie has
only invited just so many couples."
"I'll see about that," cried Sam. "You'll be asked all right, all right."
"No," said Susan. She was one of those whose way of saying no
gives its full meaning and intent. "I'll not be asked, thank
you--and I'll not go if I am."
By this time they were at the gate. He opened it, came out into
the street. He was a tallish, athletic youth, dark, and pleasing
enough of feature to be called handsome. He was dressed with a
great deal of style of the efflorescent kind called sophomoric.
He was a Sophomore at Yale. But that was not so largely
responsible for his self-complacent expression as the deference
he had got from babyhood through being heir apparent to the
Wright fortune. He had a sophisticated way of inspecting Susan's
charms of figure no less than charms of face that might have made
a disagreeable impression upon an experienced onlooker. There is
a time for feeling without knowing why one feels; and that period
ought not to have been passed for young Wright for many a year.
"My, but you're looking fine, Susie!" exclaimed he. "I haven't
seen anyone that could hold a candle to you even in the East."
Susan laughed and blushed with pleasure. "Go on," said she with
raillery. "I love it."
"Come in and sit under the trees and I'll fill all the time
you'll give me."
This reminded her. "I must hurry uptown," she said. "Good-by."
"Hold on!" cried he. "What have you got to do?" He happened to
glance down the street. "Isn't that Ruth coming?"
"So it is," said Susan. "I guess Bessie Andrews wasn't at home."
Sam waved at Ruth and called, "Hello! Glad to see you."
Ruth was all sweetness and smiles. She and her mother--quite
privately and with nothing openly said on either side--had
canvassed Sam as a "possibility." There had been keen
disappointment at the news that he was not coming home for the
long vacation. "How are you, Sam?" said she, as they shook
hands. "My, Susie, _doesn't_ he look New York?"
Sam tried to conceal that he was swelling with pride. "Oh, this
is nothing," said he deprecatingly.
Ruth's heart was a-flutter. The Fisher picture of the Chambers
love-maker, thought she, might almost be a photograph of Sam.
She was glad she had obeyed the mysterious impulse to make a
toilette of unusual elegance that morning. How get rid of Susan?
"_I_'ll take the sample, Susie," said she. "Then you won't have to
keep father waiting."
Susie gave up the sample. Her face was no longer so bright and interested.
"Oh, drop it," cried Sam. "Come in--both of you. I'll telephone
for Joe Andrews and we'll take a drive--or anything you like."
He was looking at Susan.
"Can't do it," replied Susan. "I promised Uncle George."
"Oh, bother!" urged Sam. "Telephone him. It'll be all
right--won't it, Ruth?"
"You don't know Susie," said Ruth, with a queer, strained laugh.
"She'd rather die than break a promise."
"I must go," Susan now said. "Good-by."
"Come on, Ruth," cried Sam. "Let's walk uptown with her."
"And you can help match the silk," said Ruth.
"Not for me," replied young Wright. Then to Susan, "What've _you_
got to do? Maybe it's something I could help at."
"No. It's for Uncle George and me."
"Well, I'll go as far as the store. Then--we'll see."
They were now in the business part of Main Street, were at
Wilson's dry goods store. "You might find it here," suggested
the innocent Susan to her cousin.
Ruth colored, veiled her eyes to hide their flash. "I've got to
go to the store first--to get some money," she hastily improvised.
Sam had been walking between the two girls. He now changed to
the outside and, so, put himself next Susan alone, put Susan
between him and Ruth. The maneuver seemed to be a mere
politeness, but Ruth knew better. What fate had intended as her
lucky day was being changed into unlucky by this cousin of hers.
Ruth walked sullenly along, hot tears in her eyes and a choke in
her throat, as she listened to Sam's flatterings of her cousin,
and to Susan's laughing, delighted replies. She tried to gather
herself together, to think up something funny or at least
interesting with which to break into the _tete-a-tete_ and draw
Sam to herself. She could think nothing but envious, hateful
thoughts. At the doors of Warham and Company, wholesale and
retail grocers, the three halted.
"I guess I'll go to Vandermark's," said Ruth. "I really don't
need money. Come on, Sam."
"No--I'm going back home. I ought to see Lottie and father. My,
but it's dull in this town!"
"Well, so long," said Susan. She nodded, sparkling of hair and
skin and eyes, and went into the store.
Sam and Ruth watched her as she walked down the broad aisle
between the counters. From the store came a mingling of odors of
fruit, of spices, of freshly ground coffee. "Susan's an awful
pretty girl, isn't she?" declared Sam with rude enthusiasm.
"Indeed she is," replied Ruth as heartily--and with an honest if
discouraged effort to feel enthusiastic.
"What a figure! And she has such a good walk. Most women walk horribly."
"Come on to Vandermark's with me and I'll stroll back with you,"
offered Ruth. Sam was still gazing into the store where, far to
the rear, Susan could be seen; the graceful head, the gently
swelling bust, the soft lines of the white dress, the pretty
ankles revealed by the short skirt--there was, indeed, a profile
worth a man's looking at on a fine June day. Ruth's eyes were
upon Sam, handsome, dressed in the Eastern fashion, an ideal
lover. "Come on, Sam," urged Ruth.
"No, thanks," he replied absently. "I'll go back. Good luck!"
And not glancing at her, he lifted his straw hat with its band
of Yale blue and set out.
Ruth moved slowly and disconsolately in the opposite direction.
She was ashamed of her thoughts; but shame never yet withheld
anybody from being human in thought. As she turned to enter
Vandermark's she glanced down the street. There was Sam,
returned and going into her father's store. She hesitated, could
devise no plan of action, hurried into the dry goods store.
Sinclair, the head salesman and the beau of Sutherland, was an
especial friend of hers. The tall, slender, hungry-looking young
man, devoured with ambition for speedy wealth, had no mind to
neglect so easy an aid to that ambition as nature gave him in
making him a lady-charmer. He had resolved to marry either
Lottie Wright or Ruth Warham--Ruth preferred, because, while
Lottie would have many times more money, her skin made her a
stiff dose for a young man brought up to the American tradition
that the face is the woman. But that morning Sinclair exerted
his charms in vain. Ruth was in a hurry, was distinctly rude,
cut short what in other circumstances would have been a
prolonged and delightful flirtation by tossing the sample on the
counter and asking him to do the matching for her and to send
the silk right away. Which said, she fairly bolted from the store.
She arrived barely in time. Young Wright was issuing from Warham
and Company. He smiled friendly enough, but Ruth knew where his
thoughts were. "Get what you wanted?" inquired he, and went on
to explain: "I came back to find out if you and Susie were to be
at home this evening. Thought I'd call."
Ruth paled with angry dismay. She was going to a party at the
Sinclairs'--one to which Susan was not invited. "Aren't you
going to Sinclairs'?" said she.
"I was. But I thought I'd rather call. Perhaps I'll go there later."
He was coming to call on Susan! All the way down Main Street to
the Wright place Ruth fought against her mood of angry and
depressed silence, tried to make the best of her chance to
impress Sam. But Sam was absent and humiliatingly near to curt.
He halted at his father's gate. She halted also, searched the
grounds with anxious eyes for sign of Lottie that would give her
the excuse for entering.
"So long," said Sam.
"Do come to Sinclairs' early. You always did dance so well."
"Oh, dancing bores me," said the blase Sophomore. "But I'll be
round before the shindy's over. I've got to take Lot home."
He lifted the hat again with what both he and Ruth regarded as
a gesture of most elegant carelessness. Ruth strolled
reluctantly on, feeling as if her toilet had been splashed or
crushed. As she entered the front door her mother, in a wrapper
and curl papers, appeared at the head of the stairs. "Why!" cried
she. "Where's the silk? It's for your dress tonight, you know."
"It'll be along," was Ruth's answer, her tone dreary, her lip
quivering. "I met Sam Wright."
"Oh!" exclaimed her mother. "He's back, is he?"
Ruth did not reply. She came on up the stairs, went into the
sitting-room--the room where Doctor Stevens seventeen years
before had torn the baby Susan from the very claws of death. She
flung herself down, buried her head in her arms upon that same
table. She burst into a storm of tears.
"Why, dearie dear," cried her mother, "whatever is the matter?"
"It's wicked and hateful," sobbed the girl, "but----Oh, mamma, I
_hate_ Susan! She was along, and Sam hardly noticed me, and he's
coming here this evening to call."
"But you'll be at Sinclairs'!" exclaimed Mrs. Warham.
"Not Susan," sobbed Ruth. "He wants to see only her."
The members of the Second Presbyterian Church, of which Fanny
Warham was about the most exemplary and assiduous female member,
would hardly have recognized the face encircled by that triple
row of curl-papered locks, shinily plastered with quince-seed
liquor. She was at woman's second critical age, and the strange
emotions working in her mind--of whose disorder no one had an
inkling--were upon the surface now. She ventured this freedom of
facial expression because her daughter's face was hid. She did
not speak. She laid a tender defending hand for an instant upon
her daughter's shoulder--like the caress of love and
encouragement the lioness gives her cub as she is about to give
battle for it. Then she left the room. She did not know what to
do, but she knew she must and would do something.
THE telephone was downstairs, in the rear end of the hall which
divided the lower floor into two equal parts. But hardly had
Mrs. Warham given the Sinclairs' number to the exchange girl
when Ruth called from the head of the stairs:
"What're you doing there, mamma?"
"I'll tell Mrs. Sinclair you're sick and can't come. Then I'll
send Susan in your place."
"Don't!" cried Ruth, in an agitated, angry voice. "Ring off--quick!"
"Now, Ruth, let me----"
"Ring off!" ordered Ruth. "You mustn't do that. You'll have the
whole town talking about how I'm throwing myself at Sam's
head--and that I'm jealous of Susan."
Mrs. Warham said, "Never mind" into the telephone sender and
hung up the receiver. She was frightened, but not convinced.
Hers was a slow, old-fashioned mind, and to it the scheme it had
worked out seemed a model of skillful duplicity. But Ruth, of
the younger and subtler generation, realized instantly how
transparent the thing was. Mrs. Warham was abashed but not
angered by her daughter's curt contempt.
"It's the only way I can think of," said she. "And I still
"Of course you don't," cut in Ruth, ruffled by the perilously
narrow escape from being the laughing stock of the town. "People
aren't as big fools as they used to be, mamma. They don't
believe nowadays everything that's told them. There isn't
anybody that doesn't know I'm never sick. No--we'll have to----"
She reflected a moment, pausing halfway down the stairs, while
her mother watched her swollen and tear-stained face.
"We might send Susan away for the evening," suggested the mother.
"Yes," assented the daughter. "Papa could take her with him for
a drive to North Sutherland--to see the Provosts. Then Sam'd
come straight on to the Sinclairs'."
"I'll call up your father."
"No!" cried Ruth, stamping her foot. "Call up Mr. Provost, and
tell him papa's coming. Then you can talk with papa when he gets
home to dinner."
"If that doesn't work out we can do something else this afternoon."
The mother and the daughter avoided each other's eyes. Both felt
mean and small, guilty toward Susan; but neither was for that
reason disposed to draw back. As Mrs. Warham was trying the new
dress on her daughter, she said:
"Anyhow, Sam'd be wasting time on Susan. He'd hang round her for
no good. She'd simply get talked about. The poor child can't be
lively or smile but what people begin to wonder if she's going
the way of--of Lorella."
"That's so," agreed Ruth, and both felt better. "Was Aunt
Lorella _very_ pretty, mamma?"
"Lovely!" replied Fanny, and her eyes grew tender, for she had
adored Lorella. "You never saw such a complexion--like Susan's, only
snow-white." Nervously and hastily, "Most as fine as yours, Ruthie."
Ruth gazed complacently into the mirror. "I'm glad I'm fair, and
not big," said she.
"Yes, indeed! I like the womanly woman. And so do men."
"Don't you think we ought to send Susan away to visit
somewhere?" asked Ruth at the next opportunity for talk the
fitting gave. "It's getting more and more--pointed--the way
people act. And she's so sweet and good, I'd hate to have her
feelings hurt." In a burst of generosity, "She's the most
considerate human being I ever knew. She'd give up anything
rather than see someone else put out. She's too much that way."
"We can't be too much that way," said Mrs. Warham in mechanical
"Oh, I know," retorted Ruth, "that's all very well for church
and Sundays. But I guess if you want to get along you've got to
look out for Number One. . . . Yes, she ought to visit somewhere."
"I've been trying to think," said her mother. "She couldn't go
any place but your Uncle Zeke's. But it's so lonesome out there
I haven't the heart to send her. Besides, she wouldn't know what
to make of it."
"What'd father say?"
"That's another thing." Mrs. Warham had latterly grown jealous--
not without reason--of her husband's partiality for Susan.
Ruth sighed. "Oh, dear!" cried she. "I don't know what to do.
How's she ever going to get married!"
"If she'd only been a boy!" said Mrs. Warham, on her knees,
taking the unevenness out of the front of the skirt. "A girl has
to suffer for her mother's sins."
Ruth made no reply. She smiled to herself--the comment of the
younger generation upon the older. Sin it might have been; but,
worse than that, it was a stupidity--to let a man make a fool of
her. Lorella must have been a poor weak-minded creature.
By dinner time Ruth had completely soothed and smoothed her
vanity. Sam had been caught by Susan simply because he had seen
Susan before he saw her.
All that would be necessary was a good chance at him, and he
would never look at Susan again. He had been in the East, where
the admired type was her own--refined, ladylike, the woman of
the dainty appearance and manners and tastes. A brief
undisturbed exposure to her charms and Susan would seem coarse
and countrified to him. There was no denying that Susan had
style, but it was fully effective only when applied to a sunny
fairy-like beauty such as hers.
But at midday, when Susan came in with Warham, Ruth's jealousy
opened all her inward-bleeding wounds again. Susan's merry eyes,
her laughing mouth, her funny way of saying even commonplace
things--how could quiet, unobtrusive, ladylike charms such as
Ruth's have a chance if Susan were about? She waited, silent and
anxious, while her mother was having the talk with her father in the
sitting-room. Warham, mere man, was amused by his wife's scheming.
"Don't put yourself out, Fanny," said he. "If the boy wants Ruth
and she wants him, why, well and good. But you'll only make a
mess interfering. Let the young people alone."
"I'm surprised, George Warham," cried Fanny, "that you can show
so little sense and heart."
"To hear you talk, I'd think marriage was a business, like groceries."
Mrs. Warham thought it was, in a sense. But she would never have
dared say so aloud, even to her husband--or, rather, especially
to her husband. In matters of men and women he was thoroughly
innocent, with the simplicity of the old-time man of the small
town and the country; he fancied that, while in grocery matters
and the like the world was full of guile, in matters of the
heart it was idyllic, Arcadian, with never a thought of duplicity,
except among a few obviously wicked and designing people.
"I guess we both want to see Ruth married well," was all she
"I'd rather the girls stayed with us," declared Warham. "I'd
hate to give them up."
"Of course," hastily agreed Fanny. "Still--it's the regular
order of nature."
"Oh, Ruth'll marry--only too soon," said Warham. "And marry
well. I'm not so sure, though, that marrying any of old Wright's
breed would be marrying what ought to be called well. Money
isn't everything--not by a long sight--though, of course, it's
"I never heard anything against Sam," protested Mrs. Warham.
"You've heard what I've heard--that he's wild and loose. But
then you women like that in a man."
"We've got to put up with it, you mean," cried Fanny, indignant.
"Women like it," persisted Warham. "And I guess Sam's only
sowing the usual wild oats, getting ready to settle. No, mother,
you let Ruth alone. If she wants him, she'll get him--she or Susan."
Mrs. Warham compressed her lips and lowered her eyes. Ruth or
Susan--as if it didn't matter which! "Susan isn't _ours_," she
could not refrain from saying.
"Indeed, she is!" retorted George warmly. "Why, she couldn't be
more our own----"
"Yes, certainly," interrupted Fanny.
She moved toward the door. She saw that without revealing her
entire scheme--hers and Ruth's--she could make no headway with
George. And if she did reveal it he would sternly veto it. So
she gave up that direction. She went upstairs; George took his
hat from the front hall rack and pushed open the screen door. As
he appeared on the veranda Susan was picking dead leaves from
one of the hanging baskets; Ruth, seated in the hammock, hands
in lap, her whole attitude intensely still, was watching her
with narrowed eyes.
"What's this I hear," cried Warham, laughing, "about you two
girls setting your caps for Sam Wright?" And his good-humored
brown eyes glanced at Ruth, passed on to Susan's wealth of wavy
dark hair and long, rounded form, and lingered there.
Ruth lowered her eyes and compressed her lips, a trick she had
borrowed from her mother along with the peculiarities of her
mother's disposition that it fitted. Susan flung a laughing
glance over her shoulder at her uncle. "Not Ruth," said she.
"Only me. I saw him first, so he's mine. He's coming to see me
"So I hear. Well, the moon's full and your aunt and I'll not
interrupt--at least not till ten o'clock. No callers on a child
like you after ten."
"Oh, I don't think I'll be able to hold him that long."
"Don't you fret, Brownie. But I mustn't make you vain. Coming
along to the store?"
"No. Tomorrow," said Susan. "I can finish in the morning. I'm
going to wear my white dress with embroidery, and it's got to be
pressed--and that means I must do it myself."
"Poor Sam! And I suppose, when he calls, you'll come down as if
you'd put on any old thing and didn't care whether he came or
not. And you'll have primped for an hour--and he, too--shaving
and combing and trying different ties."
Susan sparkled at the idea of a young man, and _such_ a young
man, taking trouble for her. Ruth, pale, kept her eyes down and
her lips compressed. She was picturing the gallant appearance
the young Sophomore from Yale, away off in the gorgeous
fashionable East, would make as he came in at that gate yonder
and up the walk and seated himself on the veranda--with Susan!
Evidently her mother had failed; Susan was not to be taken away.
When Warham departed down the walk Ruth rose; she could not bear
being alone with her triumphant rival--triumphant because
unconscious. She knew that to get Sam to herself all she would
have to do would be to hint to Susan, the generous, what she
wanted. But pride forbade that. As her hand was on the knob of
the screen door, Susan said: "Why don't you like Sam?"
"Oh, I think he's stuck-up. He's been spoiled in the East."
"Why, I don't see any sign of it."
"You were too flattered by his talking to you," said Ruth, with a
sweet-sour little laugh--an asp of a sneer hid in a basket of flowers.
Susan felt the sting; but, seeing only the flowers, did not
dream whence it had come. "It _was_ nice, wasn't it?" said she,
gayly. "Maybe you're right about him, but I can't help liking
him. You must admit he's handsome."
"He has a bad look in his eyes," replied Ruth. Such rage against
Susan was swelling within her that it seemed to her she would
faint if she did not release at least part of it. "You want to
look out for him, Susie," said she, calmly and evenly. "You
don't want to take what he says seriously."
"Of course not," said Susan, quite honestly, though she, no more
than the next human being, could avoid taking seriously whatever
was pleasantly flattering.
"He'd never think of marrying you." Ruth trembled before and
after delivering this venomous shaft.
"Marrying!" cried Susan, again quite honestly. "Why, I'm only seventeen."
Ruth drew a breath of relief. The shaft had glanced off the
armor of innocence without making the faintest dent. She rushed
into the house. She did not dare trust herself with her cousin.
What might the demon within her tempt her to say next?
"Come up, Ruth!" called her mother. "The dress is ready for the
last try-on. I think it's going to hang beautifully."
Ruth dragged herself up the stairs, lagged into the
sitting-room, gazed at the dress with a scowl. "What did father
say?" she asked.
"It's no use trying to do anything with your father."
Ruth flung herself in a corner of the sofa.
"The only thing I can think of," said her mother, humbly and
timidly, "is phone the Sinclairs as I originally set out to do."
"And have the whole town laughing at me. . . . Oh, what do I
"Arthur Sinclair's taller and a sight handsomer. Right in the
face, Sam's as plain as Dick's hatband. His looks is all clothes
and polish--and mighty poor polish, I think. Arthur's got rise
in him, too, while Sam--well, I don't know what'd become of him
if old Wright lost his money."
But Arthur, a mere promise, seemed poor indeed beside Sam, the
actually arrived. To marry Sam would be to step at once into
grandeur; to marry Arthur would mean years of struggle.
Besides, Arthur was heavy, at least seemed heavy to light Ruth,
while Sam was her ideal of gay elegance. "I _detest_ Arthur
Sinclair," she now announced.
"You can get Sam if you want him," said her mother confidently. "One
evening with a mere child like Susie isn't going to amount to much."
Ruth winced. "Do you suppose I don't know that?" cried she.
"What makes me so mad is his impudence--coming here to see her
when he wouldn't marry her or take her any place. It's insulting
to us all."
"Oh, I don't think it's as bad as all that, Ruthie," soothed her
mother, too simple-minded to accept immediately this clever
subtlety of self-deception.
"You know this town--how people talk. Why, his sister----" and
she related their conversation at the gate that morning.
"You ought to have sat on her hard, Ruth," said Mrs. Warham,
with dangerously sparkling eyes. "No matter what we may think
privately, it gives people a low opinion of us to----"
"Don't I know that!" shrilled Ruth. She began to weep. "I'm
ashamed of myself."
"But we must try the dress on." Mrs. Warham spread the skirt,
using herself as form. "Isn't it too lovely!"
Ruth dried her eyes as she gazed. The dress was indeed lovely.
But her pleasure in it was shadowed by the remembrance that most
of the loveliness was due to Susan's suggestions. Still, she
tried it on, and felt better. She would linger until Sam came,
would exhibit herself to him; and surely he would not tarry long
with Susan. This project improved the situation greatly. She
began her toilet for the evening at once, though it was only
three o'clock. Susan finished her pressing and started to dress
at five--because she knew Ruth would be appealing to her to come
in and help put the finishing touches to the toilet for the
party. And, sure enough, at half-past five, before she had
nearly finished, Ruth, with a sneaking humility, begged her to
come "for half a minute--if you don't mind--and have got time."
Susan did Ruth's hair over, made her change to another color of
stockings and slippers, put the dress on her, did nearly an
hour's refitting and redraping. Both were late for supper; and
after supper Susan had to make certain final amendments to the
wonderful toilet, and then get herself ready. So it was Ruth
alone who went down when Sam Wright came. "My, but you do look
all to the good, Ruth!" cried Sam. And his eyes no less than his
tone showed that he meant it. He hadn't realized what a soft
white neck the blond cousin had, or how perfectly her shoulders
rounded into her slim arms. As Ruth moved to depart, he said:
"Don't be in such a rush. Wait till Susie finishes her primping
and comes down."
"She had to help me," said Ruth, with a righteousness she could
justly plume herself upon. "That's why she's late. No, I must
get along." She was wise enough to resist the temptation to
improve upon an already splendid impression. "Come as soon as
"I'll be there in a few minutes," Sam assured her convincingly.
"Save some dances for me."
Ruth went away happy. At the gate she glanced furtively back.
Sam was looking after her. She marched down the street with
light step. "I must wear low-necked dresses more in the
evenings," she said to herself. "It's foolish for a girl to
hide a good neck."
Sam, at the edge of the veranda, regretting his promise to call
on Susan, was roused by her voice: "Did you ever see anything as
lovely as Ruth?"
Sam's regret vanished the instant he looked at her, and the
greedy expression came into his sensual, confident young face.
"She's a corker," said he. "But I'm content to be where I am."
Susan's dress was not cut out in the neck, was simply of the
collarless kind girls of her age wear. It revealed the smooth,
voluptuous yet slender column of her throat. And her arms, bare
to just above the elbows, were exquisite. But Susan's
fascination did not lie in any or in all of her charms, but in
that subtlety of magnetism which account for all the sensational
phenomena of the relations of men and women. She was a clever
girl--clever beyond her years, perhaps--though in this day
seventeen is not far from fully developed womanhood. But even
had she been silly, men would have been glad to linger on and on
under the spell of the sex call which nature had subtly woven
into the texture of her voice, into the glance of her eyes, into
the delicate emanations of her skin.
They talked of all manner of things--games and college East and
West--the wonders of New York--the weather, finally. Sam was
every moment of the time puzzling how to bring up the one
subject that interested both above all others, that interested
him to the exclusion of all others. He was an ardent student of
the game of man and woman, had made considerable progress at
it--remarkable progress, in view of his bare twenty years. He
had devised as many "openings" as an expert chess player. None
seemed to fit this difficult case how to make love to a girl of
his own class whom his conventional, socially ambitious nature
forbade him to consider marrying. As he observed her in the
moonlight, he said to himself: "I've got to look out or I'll
make a damn fool of myself with her." For his heady passion was
fast getting the better of those prudent instincts he had
inherited from a father who almost breathed by calculation.
While he was still struggling for an "opening," Susan eager to
help him but not knowing how, there came from the far interior
of the house three distant raps. "Gracious!" exclaimed Susan.
"That's Uncle George. It must be ten o'clock." With frank
regret, "I'm so sorry. I thought it was early."
"Yes, it did seem as if I'd just come," said Sam. Her shy
innocence was contagious. He felt an awkward country lout.
"Well, I suppose I must go."
"But you'll come again--sometime?" she asked wistfully. It was
her first real beau--the first that had interested her--and what
a dream lover of a beau he looked, standing before her in that
"Come? Rather!" exclaimed he in a tone of enthusiasm that could
not but flatter her into a sort of intoxication. "I'd have hard
work staying away. But Ruth--she'll always be here."
"Oh, she goes out a lot--and I don't."
"Will you telephone me--next time she's to be out?"
`Yes," agreed she with a hesitation that was explained when she
added: "But don't think you've got to come. . . . Oh, I must go in!"
"Good night--Susie." Sam held out his hand. She took it with a
queer reluctance. She felt nervous, afraid, as if there were
something uncanny lurking somewhere in those moonlight shadows.
She gently tried to draw her hand away, but he would not let
her. She made a faint struggle, then yielded. It was so
wonderful, the sense of the touch of his hand. "Susie!" he said
hoarsely. And she knew he felt as she did. Before she realized
it his arms were round her, and his lips had met hers. "You
drive me crazy," he whispered.
Both were trembling; she had become quite cold--her cheeks, her hand,
her body even. "You mustn't," she murmured, drawing gently away.
"You set me crazy," he repeated. "Do you--love me--a little?"
"Oh, I must go!" she pleaded. Tears were glistening in her long dark
lashes. The sight of them maddened him. "Do you--Susie?" he pleaded.
"I'm--I'm--very young," she stammered.
"Yes--yes--I know," he assented eagerly. "But not too young to
love, Susie? No. Because you do--don't you?"
The moonlit world seemed a fairyland. "Yes," she said softly. "I
guess so. I must go. I must."
And moved beyond her power to control herself, she broke from
his detaining hand and fled into the house. She darted up to her
room, paused in the middle of the floor, her hands clasped over
her wildly beating heart. When she could move she threw open the
shutters and went out on the balcony. She leaned against the
window frame and gazed up at the stars, instinctively seeking
the companionship of the infinite. Curiously enough, she thought
little about Sam. She was awed and wonderstruck before the
strange mysterious event within her, the opening up, the
flowering of her soul. These vast emotions, where did they come
from? What were they? Why did she long to burst into laughter,
to burst into tears? Why did she do neither, but simply stand
motionless, with the stars blazing and reeling in the sky and
her heart beating like mad and her blood surging and ebbing? Was
this--love? Yes--it must be love. Oh, how wonderful love
was--and how sad--and how happy beyond all laughter--and how
sweet! She felt an enormous tenderness for everybody and for
everything, for all the world--an overwhelming sense of beauty
and goodness. Her lips were moving. She was amazed to find she
was repeating the one prayer she knew, the one Aunt Fanny had
taught her in babyhood. Why should she find herself praying?
Love--love love! She was a woman and she loved! So this was what
it meant to be a woman; it meant to love!
She was roused by the sound of Ruth saying good night to someone
at the gate, invisible because of the intervening foliage. Why,
it must be dreadfully late. The Dipper had moved away round to
the south, and the heat of the day was all gone, and the air was
full of the cool, scented breath of leaves and flowers and
grass. Ruth's lights shone out upon the balcony. Susan turned to
slip into her own room. But Ruth heard, called out peevishly:
"Only me," cried Susan.
She longed to go in and embrace Ruth, and kiss her. She would
have liked to ask Ruth to let her sleep with her, but she felt
Ruth wouldn't understand.
"What are you doing out there?" demanded Ruth. "It's 'way after one."
"Oh--dear--I must go to bed," cried Susan. Ruth's voice somehow
seemed to be knocking and tumbling her new dream-world.
"What time did Sam Wright leave here?" asked Ruth.
She was standing in her window now. Susan saw that her face
looked tired and worn, almost homely.
"At ten," she replied. "Uncle George knocked on the banister."
"Are you sure it was ten?" said Ruth sharply.
"I guess so. Yes--it was ten. Why?"
"Was he at Sinclairs'?"
"He came as it was over. He and Lottie brought me home." Ruth
was eyeing her cousin evilly. "How did you two get on?"
Susan flushed from head to foot. "Oh--so-so," she answered, in
an uncertain voice.
"I don't know why he didn't come to Sinclairs'," snapped Ruth.
Susan flushed again--a delicious warmth from head to foot. She
knew why. So he, too, had been dreaming alone. Love! Love!
"What are you smiling at?" cried Ruth crossly.
"Was I smiling?. . . Do you want me to help you undress?"
"No," was the curt answer. "Good night."
"Please let me unhook it, at least," urged Susan, following Ruth
into her room.
"Did you have a good time?" asked Susan.
"Of course," snapped Ruth. "What made you think I didn't?"
"Don't be a silly, dear. I didn't think so."
"I had an awful time--awful!"
Ruth began to sob, turned fiercely on Susan. "Leave me alone!"
she cried. "I hate to have you touch me." The dress was, of
course, entirely unfastened in the back.
"You had a quarrel with Arthur?" asked Susan with sympathy. "But
you know he can't keep away from you. Tomorrow----"
"Be careful, Susan, how you let Sam Wright hang around you,"
cried Ruth, with blazing eyes and trembling lips. "You be
careful--that's all I've got to say."
"Why, what do you mean?" asked Susan wonderingly.
"Be careful! He'd never think for a minute of marrying you."
The words meant nothing to Susan; but the tone stabbed into her
heart. "Why not?" she said.
Ruth looked at her cousin, hung her head in shame. "Go--go!" she
begged. "Please go. I'm a bad girl--bad--_bad_! Go!" And, crying
hysterically, she pushed amazed Susan through the connecting
door, closed and bolted it.
WHEN Fanny Warham was young her mother--compelled by her
father--roused--"routed out"--the children at half-past six on
week days and at seven on Sundays for prayers and breakfast, no
matter what time they had gone to bed the night before. The
horror of this made such an impression upon her that she never
permitted Ruth and Susan to be awakened; always they slept until
they had "had their sleep out." Regularity was no doubt an
excellent thing for health and for moral discipline; but the
best rule could be carried to foolish extremes. Until the last
year Mrs. Warham had made her two girls live a life of the
strictest simplicity and regularity, with the result that they
were the most amazingly, soundly, healthy girls in Sutherland.
And the regimen still held, except when they had company in the
evening or went out--and Mrs. Warham saw to it that there was
not too much of that sort of thing. In all her life thus far
Susan had never slept less than ten hours, rarely less than twelve.
It lacked less than a minute of ten o'clock the morning after
Sam's call when Susan's eyes opened upon her simple, pale-gray
bedroom, neat and fresh. She looked sleepily at the little clock
on the night stand.
"Mercy me!" she cried. And her bare feet were on the floor and
she was stretching her lithe young body, weak from the
relaxation of her profound sleep.
She heard someone stirring in Ruth's room; instantly Ruth's
remark, "He'd never think for a minute of marrying you," popped
into her head. It still meant nothing to her. She could not have
explained why it came back or why she fell to puzzling over it
as if it held some mysterious meaning. Perhaps the reason was
that from early childhood there had been accumulating in some
dusky chamber of her mind stray happenings and remarks, all
baring upon the unsuspected secret of her birth and the
unsuspected strangeness of her position in the world where
everyone else was definitely placed and ticketed. She was
wondering about Ruth's queer hysterical outburst, evidently the
result of a quarrel with Arthur Sinclair. "I guess Ruth cares
more for him than she lets on," thought she. This love that had
come to her so suddenly and miraculously made her alert for
signs of love elsewhere.
She went to the bolted connecting door; she could not remember
when it had ever been bolted before, and she felt forlorn and
shut out. "Ruth!" she called.
"Is that you?"
A brief silence, then a faint "Yes."
"May I come in?"
"You'd better take your bath and get downstairs."
This reminded her that she was hungry. She gathered her
underclothes together, and with the bundle in her arms darted
across the hall into the bathroom. The cold water acted as
champagne promises to act but doesn't. She felt giddy with
health and happiness. And the bright sun was flooding the
bathroom, and the odors from the big bed of hyacinths in the
side lawn scented the warm breeze from the open window. When she
dashed back to her room she was singing, and her singing voice
was as charming as her speaking voice promised. A few minutes
and her hair had gone up in careless grace and she was clad in
a fresh dress of tan linen, full in the blouse. This, with her
tan stockings and tan slippers and the radiant youth of her
face, gave her a look of utter cleanness and freshness that was
exceedingly good to see.
"I'm ready," she called.
There was no answer; doubtless Ruth had already descended. She
rushed downstairs and into the dining-room. No one was at the
little table set in one of the windows in readiness for the late
Molly came, bringing cocoa, a cereal, hot biscuit and crab-apple
preserves, all attractively arranged on a large tray.
"I didn't bring much, Miss Susie," she apologized. "It's so
late, and I don't want you to spoil your dinner. We're going to
have the grandest chicken that ever came out of an egg."
Susan surveyed the tray with delighted eyes. "That's plenty," she
said, "if you don't talk too much about the chicken. Where's Ruth?"
"She ain't coming down. She's got a headache. It was that salad
for supper over to Sinclairs' last night. Salad ain't fit for a
dog to eat, nohow--that's _my_ opinion. And at night--it's sure
to bust your face out or give you the headache or both."
Susan ate with her usual enthusiasm, thinking the while of Sam
and wondering how she could contrive to see him. She remembered
her promise to her uncle. She had not eaten nearly so much as
she wanted. But up she sprang and in fifteen minutes was on her
way to the store. She had seen neither Ruth nor her aunt.
"_He_'ll be waiting for me to pass," she thought. And she was not
disappointed. There he stood, at the footpath gate into his
father's place. He had arrayed himself in a blue and white
flannel suit, white hat and shoes; a big expensive-looking
cigarette adorned his lips. The Martins, the Delevans, the
Castles and the Bowens, neighbors across the way, were watching
him admiringly through the meshes of lace window curtains. She
expected that he would come forward eagerly. Instead, he
continued to lean indolently on the gate, as if unaware of her
approach. And when she was close at hand, his bow and smile
were, so it seemed to her, almost coldly polite. Into her eyes
came a confused, hurt expression.
"Susie--sweetheart," he said, the voice in as astonishing
contrast as the words to his air of friendly indifference.
"They're watching us from the windows all around here."
"Oh--yes," assented she, as if she understood. But she didn't.
In Sutherland the young people were not so mindful of gossip,
which it was impossible to escape, anyhow. Still--off there in
the East, no doubt, they had more refined ways; without a doubt,
whatever Sam did was the correct thing.
"Do you still care as you did last night?" he asked. The effect
of his words upon her was so obvious that he glanced nervously
round. It was delightful to be able to evoke a love like this;
but he did wish others weren't looking.
"I'm going to Uncle's store," she said. "I'm late."
"I'll walk part of the way with you," he volunteered, and they
started on. "That--that kiss," he stammered. "I can feel it yet."
She blushed deeply, happily. Her beauty made him tingle. "So can
I," she said.
They walked in silence several squares. "When will I see you
again?" he asked. "Tonight?"
"Yes--do come down. But--Ruth'll be there. I believe Artie
"Oh, that counter-jumper?"
She looked at him in surprise. "He's an awfully nice fellow,"
said she. "About the nicest in town."
"Of course," replied Sam elaborately. "I beg your pardon. They
think differently about those things in the East."
Sam, whose secret dream was to marry some fashionable Eastern
woman and cut a dash in Fifth Avenue life, had no intention of
explaining what was what to one who would not understand, would
not approve, and would be made auspicious of him. "I suppose
Ruth and Sinclair'll pair off and give us a chance."
"Right after din--supper, I mean. In the East we have dinner in
"Isn't that queer!" exclaimed Susan. But she was thinking of the
joys in store for her at the close of the day.
"I must go back now," said Sam. Far up the street he saw his
sister's pony cart coming.
"You might as well walk to the store." It seemed to her that they
both had ever so much to say to each other, and had said nothing.
"No. I can't go any further. Good-by--that is, till tonight."
He was red and stammering. As they shook hands emotion made them
speechless. He stumbled awkwardly as he turned to leave, became
still more hotly self-conscious when he saw the grin on the
faces of the group of loungers at a packing case near the curb.
Susan did not see the loafers, did not see anything distinctly.
Her feet sought the uneven brick sidewalk uncertainly, and the
blood was pouring into her cheeks, was steaming in her brain,
making a red mist before her eyes. She was glad he had left her.
The joy of being with him was so keen that it was pain. Now she
could breathe freely and could dream--dream--dream. She made
blunder after blunder in working over the accounts with her
uncle, and he began to tease her.
"You sure are in love, Brownie," declared he.
Her painful but happy blush delighted him.
"Tell me all about it?"
She shook her head, bending it low to hide her color.
"No?. . . Sometime?"
She nodded. She was glancing shyly and merrily at him now.
"Well, some hold that first love's best. Maybe so. But it seems
to me any time's good enough. Still--the first time's mighty fine
eh?" He sighed. "My, but it's good to be young!" And he patted
her thick wavy hair.
It did not leak out until supper that Sam was coming. Warham
said to Susan, "While Ruth's looking out for Artie, you and I'll
have a game or so of chess, Brownie." Susan colored violently.
"What?" laughed Warham. "Are _you_ going to have a beau too?"
Susan felt two pairs of feminine eyes pounce--hostile eyes,
savagely curious. She paled with fright as queer, as
unprecedented, as those hostile glances. It seemed to her that
she had done or was about to do something criminal. She could
An awful silence, then her aunt--she no longer seemed her loving
aunt--asked in an ominous voice: "Is someone coming to see you, Susan?"
"Sam Wright"--stammered Susan--"I saw him this morning--he was
at their gate--and he said--I think he's coming."
A dead silence--Warham silent because he was eating, but the two
others not for that reason.
Susan felt horribly guilty, and for no reason. "I'd have spoken
of it before," she said, "but there didn't seem to be any
chance." She had the instinct of fine shy nature to veil the
soul; she found it hard to speak of anything as sacred as this
love of hers and whatever related to it.
"I can't allow this, Susie," said her aunt, with lips tightly
drawn against the teeth. "You are too young."
"Oh, come now, mother," cried Warham, good-humoredly. "That's
foolishness. Let the young folks have a good time. You didn't
think you were too young at Susie's age."
"You don't understand, George," said Fanny after she had given
him a private frown. Susie's gaze was on the tablecloth. "I
can't permit Sam to come here to see Susie."
Ruth's eyes were down also. About her lips was a twitching that
meant a struggle to hide a pleased smile.
"I've no objection to Susie's having boys of her own age come to
see her," continued Mrs. Warham in the same precise, restrained
manner. "But Sam is too old."
Mrs. Warham met his eyes steadily. "I must protect my sister's
child, George," she said. At last she had found what she felt
was a just reason for keeping Sam away from Susan, so her tone
was honest and strong.
Warham lowered his gaze. He understood. "Oh--as you think best,
Fan; I didn't mean to interfere," said he awkwardly. He turned