Part 4 out of 5
"Madam!" cried Philip, rising, with a flushed face, and then he
remembered that he was talking to Evelyn's mother, and uttered no other
"This is ended." And then, with a slight change of manner, she went on:
"You must see how impossible it is. You are a man of honor.
"I should like to think well of you. I shall trust to your honor that
you will never try, by letter or otherwise, to hold any communication
"I shall obey you," said Philip, quite stiffly, "because you are her
mother. But I love her, and I shall always love her."
Mrs. Mavick did not condescend to any reply to this, but she made a cold
bow of dismissal and turned away from him. He left the house and walked
away, scarcely knowing in which direction he went, anger for a time being
uppermost in his mind, chagrin and defeat following, and with it the
confused feeling of a man who has passed through a cyclone and been
landed somewhere amid the scattered remnants of his possessions.
As he strode away he was intensely humiliated. He had been treated like
an inferior. He had voluntarily put himself in a position to be
insulted. Contempt had been poured upon him, his feelings had been
outraged, and there was no way in which he could show his resentment.
Presently, as his anger subsided, he began to look at the matter more
sanely. What had happened? He had made an honorable proposal. But what
right had he to expect that it would be favorably considered?
He knew all along that it was most unlikely that Mrs. Mavick would
entertain for a moment idea of such a match. He knew what would be the
unanimous opinion of society about it. In the case of any other young
man aspiring to the hand of a rich girl, he knew very well what he should
Well, he had done nothing dishonorable. And as he reviewed the bitter
interview he began to console himself with the thought that he had not
lost his temper, that he had said nothing to be regretted, nothing that
he should not have said to the mother of the girl he loved. There was an
inner comfort in this, even if his life were ruined.
Mrs. Mavick, on the contrary, had not so good reason to be satisfied with
herself. It was a principle of her well-ordered life never to get into a
passion, never to let herself go, never to reveal herself by intemperate
speech, never to any one, except occasionally to her husband when his
cold sarcasm became intolerable. She felt, as soon as the door closed on
Philip, that she had made a blunder, and yet in her irritation she
committed a worse one. She went at once to Evelyn's room, resolved to
make it perfectly sure that the Philip episode was ended. She had had
suspicions about her daughter ever since the Van Cortlandt dinner. She
would find out if they were justified, and she would act decidedly before
any further mischief was done. Evelyn was alone, and her mother kissed
her fondly several times and then threw herself into an easy-chair and
declared she was tired.
"My dear, I have had such an unpleasant interview."
"I am sorry," said Evelyn, seating herself on the arm of the chair and
putting her arm round her mother's neck. "With whom, mamma?"
"Oh, with that Mr. Burnett." Mrs. Mavick felt a nervous start in the arm
that caressed her.
"Yes, he came to see your father, I fancy, about some business. I think
he is not getting on very well."
"Why, his book--"
"I know, but that amounts to nothing. There is not much chance for a
lawyer's clerk who gets bitten with the idea that he can write."
"If he was in trouble, mamma," said Evelyn, softly, "then you were good
"I tried to be," Mrs. Mavick half sighed, "but you can't do anything with
such people" (by 'such people' Mrs. Mavick meant those who have no money)
"when they don't get on. They are never reasonable. And he was in such
an awful bad temper. You cannot show any kindness to such people without
exposing yourself. I think he presumes upon his acquaintance with your
father. It was most disagreeable, and he was so rude" (a little thrill
in the arm again)--"well, not exactly rude, but he was not a bit nice to
me, and I am afraid I showed by my looks that I was irritated. He was
just as disagreeable as he could be.
"He met Lord Montague on the steps, and he had something spiteful to say
about him. I had to tell him he was presuming a good deal on his
acquaintance, and that I considered his manner insulting. He flung out
of the house very high and mighty."
"That was not a bit like him, mamma."
"We didn't know him. That is all. Now we do, and I am thankful we do.
He will never come here again."
Evelyn was very still for a moment, and then she said: "I'm very sorry
for it all. It must be some misunderstanding."
"Of course, it is dreadful to be so disappointed in people. But we have
to learn. I don't know anything about his misunderstanding, but I did
not misunderstand what he said. At any rate, after such an exposition we
can have no further intercourse with him. You will not care to see any
one who treated your mother in this way? If you love me, you cannot be
friendly with him. I know you would not like to be."
Evelyn did not reply for a moment. Her silence revealed the fact to the
shrewd woman that she had not intervened a day too soon.
"You promise me, dear, that you will put the whole thing out of your
mind?" and she drew her daughter closer to her and kissed her.
And then Evelyn said slowly: "I shall not have any friends whom you do
not approve, but, mamma, I cannot be unjust in my mind."
And Mrs. Mavick had the good sense not to press the question further.
She still regarded Evelyn as a child. Her naivete, her simplicity, her
ignorance of social conventions and of the worldly wisdom which to Mrs.
Mavick was the sum of all knowledge misled her mother as to her power of
discernment and her strength of character. Indeed, Mrs. Mavick had only
the slightest conception of that range of thought and feeling in which
the girl habitually lived, and of the training which at the age of
eighteen had given her discipline, and great maturity of judgment as
well. She would be obedient, but she was incapable of duplicity, and
therefore she had said as plainly as possible that whatever the trouble
might be she would not be unjust to Philip.
The interview with her mother left her in a very distressed state of
mind. It is a horrible disillusion when a girl begins to suspect that
her mother is not sincere, and that her ideals of life are mean. This
knowledge may exist with the deepest affection--indeed, in a noble mind,
with an inward tenderness and an almost divine pity. How many times have
we seen a daughter loyal to a frivolous, worldly-minded, insincere
mother, shielding her and exhibiting to the censorious world the utmost
love and trust!
Evelyn was far from suspecting the extent of her mother's duplicity, but
her heart told her that an attempt had been made to mislead her, and that
there must be some explanation of Philip's conduct that would be
consistent with her knowledge of his character. And, as she endeavored
to pierce this mystery, it dawned upon her that there had been a method
in throwing her so much into the society of Lord Montague, and that it
was unnatural that such a friend as Philip should be seen so seldom--only
twice since the days in Rivervale. Naturally the very reverse of
suspicious, she had been dreaming on things to come in the seclusion of
her awakening womanhood, without the least notion that the freedom of her
own soul was to be interfered with by any merely worldly demands. But
now things that had occurred, and that her mother had said, came back to
her with a new meaning, and her trustful spirit was overwhelmed. And
there, in the silence of her chamber, began the fierce struggle between
desire and what she called her duty--a duty imposed from without.
She began to perceive that she was not free, that she was a part of a
social machine, the power of which she had not at all apprehended, and
that she was powerless in its clutch. She might resist, but peace was
gone. She had heretofore found peace in obedience, but when she
consulted her own heart she knew that she could not find peace in
obedience now. To a girl differently reared, perhaps, subterfuge, or
some manoeuvring justified by the situation, might have been resorted to.
But such a thing never occurred to Evelyn. Everything looked
dark before her, as she more clearly understood her mother's attitude,
and for the first time in years she could do nothing but give way to
"Why, Evelyn, you have been crying!" exclaimed the governess, who came to
seek her. "What is the matter?"
Evelyn arose and threw herself on her friend's neck for a moment, and
then, brushing away the tears, said, with an attempt to smile, "Oh,
nothing; I got thinking, thinking, thinking, and Don't you ever get blue,
"Not often," said the Scotchwoman, gravely. "But, dear, you have nothing
in the world to make you so."
"No, no, nothing;" and then she broke down again, and threw herself upon
McDonald's bosom in a passion of sobbing. "I can't help it. Mamma says
Phil--Mr. Burnett--is never to come to this house again. What have I
done? And he will think--he will think that I hate him."
McDonald drew the girl into her lap, and with uncommon gentleness
comforted her with caresses.
"Dear child," she said, "crosses must come into our lives; we cannot
help that. Your mother is no doubt doing what she thinks best for your
own happiness. Nothing can really hurt us for long, you know that well,
except what we do to ourselves. I never told you why I came to this
country--I didn't want to sadden you with my troubles--but now I want you
to understand me better. It is a long story."
But it was not very long in the telling, for the narrator found that what
seemed to her so long in the suffering could be conveyed to another in
only a few words. And the story was not in any of its features new,
except to the auditor. There had been a long attachment, passionate love
and perfect trust, long engagement, marriage postponed because both were
poor, and the lover struggling into his profession, and then, it seemed
sudden and unaccountable, his marriage with some one else. "It was not
like him," said the governess in conclusion; "it was his ambition to get
on that blinded him."
"And he, was he happy?" asked Evelyn.
"I heard that he was not" (and she spoke reluctantly); "I fear not. How
could he be?" And the governess seemed overwhelmed in a flood of tender
and painful memories. "That was over twenty years ago. And I have been
happy, my darling, I have had such a happy life with you.
"I never dreamed I could have such a blessing. And you, child, will be
happy too; I know it."
And the two women, locked in each other's arms, found that consolation in
sympathy which steals away half the grief of the world. Ah! who knows a
For Philip there was in these days no such consolation. It was a man's
way not to seek any, to roll himself up in his trouble like a hibernating
bear. And yet there were times when he had an intolerable longing for a
confidant, for some one to whom he could relieve himself of part of his
burden by talking. To Celia he could say nothing. Instinct told him
that he should not go to her. Of the sympathy of Alice he was sure, but
why inflict his selfish grief on her tender heart? But he was writing to
her often, he was talking to her freely about his perplexities, about
leaving the office and trusting himself to the pursuit of literature in
some way. And, in answer to direct questions, he told her that he had
seen Evelyn only a few times, and, the fact was, that Mrs. Mavick had cut
him dead. He could not give to his correspondent a very humorous turn to
this situation, for Alice knew--had she not seen them often together, and
did she not know the depths of Philip's passion? And she read between
the lines the real state of the case. Alice was indignant, but she did
not think it wise to make too much of the incident. Of Evelyn she wrote
affectionately--she knew she was a noble and high-minded girl. As to her
mother, she dismissed her with a country estimate. "You know, Phil,
that I never thought she was a lady."
But the lover was not to be wholly without comfort. He met by chance one
day on the Avenue Miss McDonald, and her greeting was so cordial that he
knew that he had at least one friend in the house of Mavick.
It was a warm spring day, a stray day sent in advance, as it were, to
warn the nomads of the city that it was time to move on. The tramps in
Washington Square felt the genial impulse, and, seeking the shaded
benches, began to dream of the open country, the hospitable farmhouses,
the nooning by wayside springs, and the charm of wandering at will among
a tolerant and not too watchful people. Having the same abundant
leisure, the dwellers up-town--also nomads--were casting in their minds
how best to employ it, and the fortunate ones were already gathering
together their flocks and herds and preparing to move on to their camps
at Newport or among the feeding-hills of the New-England coast.
The foliage of Central Park, already heavy, still preserved the freshness
of its new birth, and invited the stroller on the Avenue to its
protecting shade. At Miss McDonald's suggestion they turned in and found
a secluded seat.
"I often come here," she said to Philip; "it is almost as peaceful as the
To Philip also it seemed peaceful, but the soothing influence he found in
it was that he was sitting with the woman who saw Evelyn hourly, who had
been with her only an hour ago.
"Yes," she said, in reply to a question, "everybody is well. We are
going to leave town earlier than usual this summer, as soon as Mr. Mavick
returns. Mrs. Mavick is going to open her Newport house; she says she
has had enough of the country. It is still very amusing to me to see how
you Americans move about with the seasons, just like the barbarians of
Turkestan, half the year in summer camps and half the year in winter
"Perhaps," said Philip, "it is because the social pasturage gets poor."
"Maybe," replied the governess, continuing the conceit, "only the horde
keeps pretty well together, wherever it is. I know we are to have a very
gay season. Lots of distinguished foreigners and all that."
"But," said Philip, "don't England and the Continent long for the
presence of Americans in the season in the same way?"
"Not exactly. It is the shop-keepers and hotels that sigh for the
Americans. I don't think that American shop-keepers expect much of
"And you are going soon? I suppose Miss Mavick is eager to go also,"
said Philip, trying to speak indifferently.
Miss McDonald turned towards him with a look of perfect understanding,
and then replied, "No, not eager; she hasn't been in her usual spirits
lately--no, not ill--and probably the change will be good for her.
It is her first season, you know, and that is always exciting to a girl.
Perhaps it is only the spring weather."
It was some moments before either of them spoke again, and then Miss
McDonald looked up--"Oh, Mr. Burnett, I have wanted to see you and have
a talk with you about your novel. I could say so little in my note. We
read it first together and then I read it alone, rather to sit in
judgment on it, you know. I liked it better the second time, but I could
see the faults of construction, and I could see, too, why it will be more
popular with a few people than with the general public. You don't mind
"Go on, the words of a friend."
"Yes, I know, are sometimes hardest to bear. Well, it is lovely, ideal,
but it seems to me you are still a little too afraid of human nature.
You are afraid to say things that are common. And the deep things of
life are pretty much all common. No, don't interrupt me. I love the
story just as it is. I am glad you wrote it as you did. It was natural,
in your state of experience, that you should do it. But in your next,
having got rid of what was on top of your mind, so to speak, you will
take a firmer, more confident hold of life. You are not offended?"
"No, indeed," cried Philip. "I am very grateful. No doubt you are
right. It seems to me, now that I am detached from it, as if it were
only a sort of prelude to something else."
"Well, you must not let my single opinion influence you too much, for I
must in honesty tell you another thing. Evelyn will not have a word of
criticism of it. She says it is like a piece of music, and the impudent
thing declares that she does not expect a Scotchwoman to understand
anything but ballad music."
Philip laughed at this, such a laugh as he had not indulged in for many
days. "I hope you don't quarrel about such a little thing."
"Not seriously. She says I may pick away at the story--and I like to see
her bristle up--but that she looks at the spirit."
"God bless her," said Philip under his breath.
Miss McDonald rose, and they walked out into the Avenue again. How
delightful was the genial air, the light, the blue sky of spring!
How the brilliant Avenue, now filling up with afternoon equipages,
sparkled in the sunshine!
When they parted, Miss McDonald gave him her hand and held his a moment,
looking into his eyes. "Mr. Burnett, authors need some encouragement.
When I left Evelyn she was going to her room with your book in her hand."
Why should not Philip trust the future? He was a free man. He had given
no hostages to fortune. Even if he did not succeed, no one else would be
involved in his failure. Why not follow his inclination, the dream of
He was at liberty to choose for himself. Everybody in America is; this
is the proclamation of its blessed independence. Are we any better off
for the privilege of following first one inclination and then another,
which is called making a choice? Are they not as well off, and on the
whole as likely to find their right place, who inherit their callings in
life, whose careers are mapped out from the cradle by circumstance and
convention? How much time do we waste in futile experiment? Freedom to
try everything, which is before the young man, is commonly freedom to
excel in nothing.
There are, of course, exceptions. The blacksmith climbs into a city
pulpit. The popular preacher becomes an excellent insurance agent. The
saloon-keeper develops into the legislator, and wears the broadcloth and
high hat of the politician. The brakeman becomes the railway magnate,
and the college graduate a grocer's clerk, and the messenger-boy, picking
up by chance one day the pen, and finding it run easier than his legs,
becomes a power on a city journal, and advises society how to conduct
itself and the government how to make war and peace. All this adds to
the excitement and interest of life. On the whole, we say that people
get shaken into their right places, and the predetermined vocation is
often a mistake. There is the anecdote of a well-known clergyman who,
being in a company with his father, an aged and distinguished doctor of
divinity, raised his monitory finger and exclaimed, "Ah, you spoiled a
first-rate carpenter when you made a poor minister of me."
Philip thought he was calmly arguing the matter with himself. How often
do we deliberately weigh such a choice as we would that of another
person, testing our inclination by solid reason? Perhaps no one could
have told Philip what he ought to do, but every one who knew him, and the
circumstances, knew what he would do. He was, in fact, already doing it
while he was paltering with his ostensible profession. But he never
would have confessed, probably he would then have been ashamed to
confess, how much his decision to break with the pretense of law was
influenced by the thought of what a certain dark little maiden, whose
image was always in his mind, would wish him to do, and by the very
remarkable fact that she was seen going to her room with his well-read
story in her hand. Perhaps it was under her pillow at night!
Good-luck seemed to follow his decision--as it often does when a man
makes a questionable choice, as if the devil had taken an interest in his
downward road to prosperity. But Philip really gained a permanent
advantage. The novel had given him a limited reputation and very little
money. Yet it was his stepping-stone, and when he applied to his
publishers and told them of his decision, they gave him some work as a
reader for the house. At first this was fitful and intermittent, but as
he showed both literary discrimination and tact in judging of the market,
his services were more in request, and slowly he acquired confidential
relations with the house. Whatever he knew, his knowledge of languages
and his experience abroad, came into play, and he began to have more
confidence in himself, as he saw that his somewhat desultory education
had, after all, a market value.
The rather long period of his struggle, which is a common struggle, and
often disheartening, need not be dwelt on here. We can anticipate by
saying that he obtained in the house a permanent and responsible
situation, with an income sufficient for a bachelor without habits of
self-indulgence. It was not the crowning of a noble ambition, it was not
in the least the career he had dreamed of, but it gave him support and a
recognized position, and, above all, did not divert him from such
creative work as he was competent to do. Nay, he found very soon that
the feeling of security, without any sordid worry, gave freedom to his
imagination. There was something stimulating in the atmosphere of books
and manuscripts and in that world of letters which seems so large to
those who live in it. Fortunately, also, having a support, he was not
tempted to debase his talent by sensational ventures. What he wrote for
this or that magazine he wrote to please himself, and, although he saw no
fortune that way, the little he received was an encouragement as well as
an appreciable addition to his income.
There are two sorts of success in letters as in life generally.
The one is achieved suddenly, by a dash, and it lasts as long as the
author can keep the attention of the spectators upon his scintillating
novelties. When the sparks fade there is darkness. How many such
glittering spectacles this century has witnessed!
There is another sort of success which does not startlingly or at once
declare itself. Sometimes it comes with little observation. The
reputation is slowly built up, as by a patient process of nature.
It is curious, as Philip wrote once in an essay, to see this unfolding in
Lowell's life. There was no one moment when he launched into great
popularity--nay, in detail, he seemed to himself not to have made the
strike that ambition is always expecting. But lo! the time came when, by
universal public consent, which was in the nature of a surprise to him,
he had a high and permanent place in the world of letters.
In anticipating Philip's career, however, it must not be understood that
he had attained any wide public recognition. He was simply enrolled in
the great army of readers and was serving his apprenticeship. He was
recognized as a capable man by those who purvey in letters to the
entertainment of the world. Even this little foothold was not easily
gained in a day, as the historian discovered in reading some bundles of
old letters which Philip wrote in this time of his novitiate to Celia and
to his cousin Alice.
It was against Celia's most strenuous advice that he had trusted himself
to a literary career. "I see, my dear friend," she wrote,
in reply to his announcement that he was going that day to Mr. Hunt to
resign his position, "that you are not happy, but whatever your
disappointment or disillusion, you will not better yourself by
surrendering a regular occupation. You live too much in the imagination
Philip fancied, with that fatuity common to his sex, that he had worn an
impenetrable mask in regard to his wild passion for Evelyn, and did not
dream that, all along, Celia had read him like an open book. She judged
Philip quite accurately. It was herself that she did not know, and she
would have repelled as nonsense the suggestion that her own restlessness
and her own changing experiments in occupation were due to the
unsatisfied longings of a woman's heart.
"You must not think," the letter went on, "that I want to dictate, but I
have noticed that men--it may be different with women--only succeed by
taking one path and diligently walking in it. And literature is not a
career, it is just a toss up, a lottery, and woe to you if you once draw
a lucky number--you will always be expecting another . . . You say
that I am a pretty one to give advice, for I am always chopping and
changing myself. Well, from the time you were a little boy, did I ever
give you but one sort of advice? I have been constant in that. And as
to myself, you are unjust. I have always had one distinct object in
life, and that I have pursued. I wanted to find out about life, to have
experience, and then do what I could do best, and what needed most to be
done. Why did I not stick to teaching in that woman's college? Well, I
began to have doubts, I began to experiment on my pupils. You will
laugh, but I will give you a specimen. One day I put a question to my
literature class, and I found out that not one of them knew how to boil
potatoes. They were all getting an education, and hardly one of them
knew how much the happiness of a home depends upon having the potatoes
mealy and not soggy. It was so in everything. How are we going to live
when we are all educated, without knowing how to live? Then I found that
the masses here in New York did not know any better than the classes how
to live. Don't think it is just a matter of cooking. It is knowing how,
generally, to make the most of yourself and of your opportunities, and
have a nice world to live in, a thrifty, self-helpful, disciplined world.
Is education giving us this? And then we think that organization will do
it, organization instead of self-development. We think we can organize
life, as they are trying to organize art. They have organized art as
they have the production of cotton.
"Did I tell you I was in that? No? I used to draw in school, and after
I had worked in the Settlement here in New York, and while I was working
down on the East Side, it came over me that maybe I had one talent
wrapped in a napkin; and I have been taking lessons in Fifty-seventh
Street with the thousand or two young women who do not know how to boil
potatoes, but are pursuing the higher life of art. I did not tell you
this because I knew you would say that I am just as inconsistent as you
are. But I am not. I have demonstrated the fact that neither I nor one
in a hundred of those charming devotees to art could ever earn a living
by art, or do anything except to add to the mediocrity of the amazing art
product of this free country.
"And you will ask, what now? I am going on in the same way. I am going
to be a doctor. In college I was very well up in physiology and anatomy,
and I went quite a way in biology. So you see I have a good start. I am
going to attend lectures and go into a hospital, as soon as there is an
opening, and then I mean to practice. One essential for a young doctor I
have in advance. That is patients. I can get all I want on the East
Side, and I have already studied many of them. Law and medicine are what
I call real professions."
However Celia might undervalue the calling that Philip had now entered
on, he had about this time evidence of the growing appreciation of
literature by practical business men. He was surprised one day by a
brief note from Murad Ault, asking him to call at his office as soon as
Mr. Ault received him in his private office at exactly the hour named.
Evidently Mr. Ault's affairs were prospering. His establishment
presented every appearance of a high-pressure business perfectly
organized. The outer rooms were full of industrious clerks, messengers
were constantly entering and departing in a feverish rapidity, servants
moved silently about, conducting visitors to this or that waiting-room
and answering questions, excited speculators in groups were gesticulating
and vociferating, and in the anteroom were impatient clients awaiting
their turn. In the inner chamber, however, was perfect calm. There at
his table sat the dark, impenetrable operator, whose time was exactly
apportioned, serene, saturnine, or genial, as the case might be,
listening attentively, speaking deliberately, despatching the affair in
hand without haste or the waste of a moment.
Mr. Ault arose and shook hands cordially, and then went on, without delay
for any conventional talk.
"I sent for you, Mr. Burnett, because I wanted your help, and because I
thought I might do you a good turn. You see" (with a grim smile)
"I have not forgotten Rivervale days. My wife has been reading your
story. I don't have much time for such things myself, but her constant
talk about it has given me an idea. I want to suggest to you the scene
of a novel, one that would be bound to be a good seller.
"I could guarantee a big circulation. I have just become interested in
one of the great transcontinental lines." He named the most picturesque
of them--one that he, in fact, absolutely controlled. "Well, I want a
story, yes, I guess a good love-story--a romance of reality you might
call it--strung on that line. You take the idea?"
"Why," said Philip, half amused at the conceit and yet complimented by
the recognition of his talent, "I don't know anything about railroads
--how they are run, cost of building, prospect of traffic, engineering
difficulties, all that--nothing whatever."
"So much the better. It is a literary work I want, not a brag about the
road or a description of its enterprise. You just take the line as your
scene. Let the story run on that. The company, don't you see, must not
in any way be suspected with having anything to do with it, no mention of
its name as a company, no advertisement of the road on a fly-leaf or
cover. Just your own story, pure and simple."
"But," said Philip, more and more astonished at this unlooked-for
expansion of the literary field, "I could not embark on an enterprise of
"Oh," said Mr. Ault, complacently, "that will be all arranged. Just a
pleasure trip, as far as that goes. You will have a private car, well
stocked, a photographer will go along, and I think--don't you? a water-
color artist. You can take your own time, stop when and where you
choose--at the more stations the better. It ought to be profusely
illustrated with scenes on the line--yes, have colored plates, all that
would give life and character to your story. Love on a Special, some
such title as that. It would run like oil. I will arrange to have it as
a serial in one of the big magazines, and then the book would be bound to
go. The company, of course, can have nothing to do with it, but I can
tell you privately that it would rather distribute a hundred thousand
copies of a book of good literature through the country than to encourage
the railway truck that is going now.
"I shouldn't wonder, Mr. Burnett, if the public would be interested in
having the Puritan Nun take that kind of a trip." And Mr. Ault ended his
explanation with an interrogatory smile.
Philip hesitated a moment, trying to grasp the conception of this
business use of literature. Mr. Ault resumed:
"It isn't anything in the nature of an advertisement. Literature is a
power. Why, do you know--of course you did not intend it--your story has
encouraged the Peacock Inn to double its accommodations, and half the
farmhouses in Rivervale are expecting summer boarders. The landlord of
the Peacock came to see me the other day, and he says everything is
stirred up there, and he has already to enlarge or refuse application."
"It is very kind in you, Mr. Ault, to think of me in that connection, but
I fear you have over-estimated my capacity. I could name half a dozen
men who could do it much better than I could. They know how to do it,
they have that kind of touch. I have been surprised at the literary
ability engaged by the great corporations."
Mr. Ault made a gesture of impatience. "I wouldn't give a damn for that
sort of thing. It is money thrown away. If I should get one of the
popular writers you refer to, the public would know he was hired. If you
lay your story out there, nobody will suspect anything of the sort. It
will be a clean literary novel. Not travel, you understand, but a story,
and the more love in it the better. It will be a novelty. You can run
your car sixty miles an hour in exciting passages, everything will work
into it. When people travel on the road the pictures will show them the
scenes of the story. It is a big thing," said Mr. Ault in conclusion.
"I see it is," said Philip, rising at the hint that his time had expired.
"I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Ault, for your confidence in me. But
it is a new idea. I will have to think it over."
"Well, think it over. There is money in it. You would not start till
about midsummer. Good-day."
A private car! Travel like a prince! Certainly literature was looking
up in the commercial world. Philip walked back to his publishers with a
certain elasticity of step, a new sense of power. Yes, the power of the
pen. And why not? No doubt it would bring him money and spread his name
very widely. There was nothing that a friendly corporation could not do
for a favorite. He would then really be a part of the great, active,
enterprising world. Was there anything illegitimate in taking advantage
of such an opportunity? Surely, he should remain his own master, and
write nothing except what his own conscience approved. But would he not
feel, even if no one else knew it, that he was the poet-laureate of a
And suddenly, as he thought how the clear vision of Evelyn would plunge
to the bottom of such a temptation, he felt humiliated that such a
proposition should have been made to him. Was there nothing, nobody,
that commercialism did not think for sale and to be trafficked in?
Nevertheless, he wrote to Alice about it, describing the proposal as it
was made to him, without making any comment on it.
Alice replied speedily. "Isn't it funny," she wrote, "and isn't it
preposterous? I wonder what such people think? And that horrid young
pirate, Ault, a patron of literature! My dear, I cannot conceive of you
as the Pirate's Own. Dear Phil, I want you to succeed. I do want you to
make money, a lot of it. I like to think you are wanted and appreciated,
and that you can get paid better and better for what you do. Sell your
manuscripts for as good a price as you can get. Yes, dear, sell your
manuscripts, but don't sell your soul."
Did Miss McDonald tell Evelyn of her meeting with Philip in Central Park?
The Scotch loyalty to her service would throw a doubt upon this. At the
same time, the Scotch affection, the Scotch sympathy with a true and
romantic passion, and, above all, the Scotch shrewdness, could be trusted
to do what was best under the circumstances. That she gave the least
hint of what she said to Mr. Burnett concerning Evelyn is not to be
supposed for a moment. Certainly she did not tell Mrs. Mavick. Was she
a person to run about with idle gossip? But it is certain that Evelyn
knew that Philip had given up his situation in the office, that he had
become a reader for a publishing house, that he had definitely decided to
take up a literary career. And somehow it came into her mind that Philip
knew that this decision would be pleasing to her.
According to the analogy of other things in nature, it would seem that
love must have something to feed on to sustain it. But it is remarkable
upon how little it can exist, can even thrive and become strong, and
develop a power of resistance to hostile influences. Once it gets a
lodgment in a woman's heart, it is an exclusive force that transforms her
into a heroine of courage and endurance. No arguments, no reason, no
considerations of family, of position, of worldly fortune, no prospect of
immortal life, nothing but doubt of faith in the object can dislodge it.
The woman may yield to overwhelming circumstances, she may even by her
own consent be false to herself, but the love lives, however hidden and
smothered, so long as the vital force is capable of responding to a true
emotion. Perhaps nothing in human life is so pathetic as this survival
in old age of a youthful, unsatisfied love. It may cease to be a
passion, it may cease to be a misery, it may have become only a placid
sentiment, yet the heart must be quite cold before this sentiment can
cease to stir it on occasion--for the faded flower is still in the memory
the bloom of young love.
They say that in the New Education for women love is not taken into
account in the regular course; it is an elective study. But the immortal
principle of life does not care much for organization, and says, as of
old, they reckon ill who leave me out.
In the early season at Newport there was little to distract the attention
and much to calm the spirit. Mrs. Mavick was busy in her preparation for
the coming campaign, and Evelyn and her governess were left much alone,
to drive along the softly lapping sea, to search among the dells of the
rocky promontory for wild flowers, or to sit on the cliffs in front of
the gardens of bloom and watch the idle play of the waves, that chased
each other to the foaming beach and in good-nature tossed about the cat-
boats and schooners and set the white sails shimmering and dipping in the
changing lights. And Evelyn, drinking in the beauty and the peace of it,
no doubt, was more pensive than joyous. Within the last few months life
had opened to her with a suddenness that half frightened her.
It was a woman who sat on the cliffs now, watching the ocean of life, no
longer a girl into whose fresh soul the sea and the waves and the air,
and the whole beauty of the world, were simply responsive to her own
gayety and enjoyment of living. It was not the charming scene that held
her thought, but the city with its human struggle, and in that struggle
one figure was conspicuous. In such moments this one figure of youth
outweighed for her all that the world held besides. It was strange.
Would she have admitted this? Not in the least, not even to herself, in
her virgin musings; nevertheless, the world was changed for her, it was
more serious, more doubtful, richer, and more to be feared.
It was not too much to say that one season had much transformed her. She
had been so ignorant of the world a year ago. She had taken for granted
all that was abstractly right. Now she saw that the conventions of life
were like sand-dunes and barriers in the path she was expected to walk.
She had learned for one thing what money was. Wealth had been such an
accepted part of her life, since she could remember, that she had
attached no importance to it, and had only just come to see what
distinctions it made, and how it built a barrier round about her. She
had come to know what it was that gave her father position and
distinction; and the knowledge had been forced upon her by all the
obsequious flattery of society that she was, as a great heiress,
something apart from others. This position, so much envied, may be to a
sensitive soul an awful isolation.
It was only recently that Evelyn had begun to be keenly aware of the
circumstances that hedged her in. They were speaking one day as they sat
upon the cliffs of the season about to begin. In it Evelyn had always
had unalloyed, childish delight. Now it seemed to her something to be
"McDonald," the girl said, abruptly, but evidently continuing her line of
thought, "mamma says that Lord Montague is coming next week."
"To be with us?"
"Oh, no. He is to stay with the Danforth-Sibbs. Mamma says that as he
is a stranger here we must be very polite to him, and that his being here
will give distinction to the season. Do you like him?" There was in
Evelyn still, with the penetration of the woman, the naivete of the
"I cannot say that he is personally very fascinating, but then I have
never talked with him."
"Mamma says he is very interesting about his family, and their place in
England, and about his travels. He has been in the South Sea Islands. I
asked him about them. He said that the natives were awfully jolly, and
that the climate was jolly hot. Do you know, McDonald, that you can't
get anything out of him but exclamations and slang. I suppose he talks
to other people differently. I tried him. At the reception I asked him
who was going to take Tennyson's place. He looked blank, and then said,
'Er--I must have missed that. What place? Is he out?'"
Miss McDonald laughed, and then said, "You don't understand the classes
in English life. Poetry is not in his line. You see, dear, you couldn't
talk to him about politics. He is a born legislator, and when he is in
the House of Lords he will know right well who is in and who is out. You
mustn't be unjust because he seems odd to you and of limited
intelligence. Just that sort of youth is liable to turn up some day in
India or somewhere and do a mighty plucky thing, and become a hero. I
dare say he is a great sportsman."
"Yes, he quite warmed up about shooting. He told me about going for yak
in the snow mountains south of Thibet. Bloody cold it was. Nasty beast,
if you didn't bring him down first shot. No, I don't doubt his courage
nor his impudence. He looks at me so, that I can't help blushing. I
wish mamma wouldn't ask him."
"But, my dear, we must live in the world as it is. You are not
responsible for Lord Montague."
"And I know he will come," the girl persisted in her line of thought.
"When he called the day before we came away, he asked a lot of questions
about Newport, about horses and polo and golf, and all that, and were the
roads good. And then, 'Do you bike, Miss Mavick?'
"I pretended not to understand, and said I was still studying with my
governess and I hadn't got all the irregular verbs yet. For once, he
looked quite blank, and after a minute he said, 'That's very good, you
know!' McDonald, I just hate him. He makes me so uneasy."
"But don't you know, child," said Miss McDonald, laughing, "that we are
required to love our enemies?"
"So I would," replied the girl, quickly, "if he were an enemy and would
keep away. Ah, me! McDonald, I want to ask you something. Do you
suppose he would hang around a girl who was poor, such a sweet, pretty,
dear creature as Alice Maitland, who is a hundred times nicer than I am?"
"He might," said Miss McDonald, still quizzically. "They say that like
goes to like, and it is reported that the Duke of Tewkesbury is as good
"Do be serious, McDonald." The girl nestled up closer to her and took
her hand. "I want to ask you one question more. Do you think--no, don't
look at me, look away off at that sail do you-think that, if I had been
poor, Mr. Burnett would have seen me only twice, just twice, all last
Miss McDonald put her arm around Evelyn and clasped the little figure
tight. "You must not give way to fancies. We cannot, as life is
arranged, be perfectly happy, but we can be true to ourselves, and there
is scarcely anything that resolution and patience cannot overcome. I
ought not to talk to you about this, Evelyn. But I must say one thing: I
think I can read Philip Burnett. Oh, he has plenty of self-esteem, but,
unless I mistake him, nothing could so mortify him as to have it said
that he was pursuing a girl for the sake of her fortune."
"And he wouldn't!" cried the girl, looking up and speaking in an unsteady
"Let me finish. He is, so I think, the sort of man that would not let
any fortune, or anything else, stand in the way when his heart was
concerned. I somehow feel that he could not change--faithfulness, that
is his notion. If he only knew--"
"He never shall! he never shall!" cried the girl in alarm--"never!"
"And you think, child, that he doesn't know? Come! That sail has been
coming straight towards us ever since we sat here, never tacked once.
That is omen enough for one day. See how the light strikes it. Come!"
The Newport season was not, after all, very gay. Society has become so
complex that it takes more than one Englishman to make a season. Were it
the business of the chronicler to study the evolution of this lovely
watering-place from its simple, unconventional, animated days of natural
hospitality and enjoyment, to its present splendid and palatial isolation
of a society--during the season--which finds its chief satisfaction in
the rivalry of costly luxury and in an atmosphere of what is deemed
aristocratic exclusiveness, he would have a theme attractive to the
sociologist. But such a noble study is not for him. His is the humble
task of following the fortunes of certain individuals, more or less
conspicuous in this astonishing flowering of a democratic society, who
have become dear to him by long acquaintance.
It was not the fault of Mrs. Mavick that the season was so frigid, its
glacial stateliness only now and then breaking out in an illuminating
burst of festivity, like the lighting-up of a Montreal ice-palace. Her
spacious house was always open, and her efforts, in charity enterprises
and novel entertainments, were untiring to stimulate a circulation in the
languid body of society.
This clever woman never showed more courage or more tact than in this
campaign, and was never more agreeable and fascinating. She was even
popular. If she was not accepted as a leader, she had a certain standing
with the leaders, as a person of vivacity and social influence. Any
company was eager for her presence. Her activity, spirit, and affability
quite won the regard of the society reporters, and those who know Newport
only through the newspapers would have concluded that the Mavicks were on
the top of the wave. She, however, perfectly understood her position,
and knew that the sweet friends, who exchanged with her, whenever they
met, the conventional phrases of affection commented sarcastically upon
her ambitions for her daughter. It was, at the same time, an ambition
that they perfectly understood, and did not condemn on any ethical
grounds. Evelyn was certainly a sweet girl, rather queerly educated, and
never likely to make much of a dash, but she was an heiress, and why
should not her money be put to the patriotic use of increasing the
growing Anglo-American cordiality?
Lord Montague was, of course, a favorite, in demand for all functions,
and in request for the private and intimate entertainments. He was an
authority in the stables and the kennels, and an eager comrade in all the
sports of the island. His easy manner, his self-possession everywhere,
even his slangy talk, were accepted as evidence that he was above
conventionalities. "The little man isn't a beauty," said Sally McTabb,
"but he shows 'race.'" He might be eccentric, but when you came to know
him you couldn't help liking the embryo duke in him.
In fact, things were going very well with Mrs. Mavick, except in her own
household. There was something there that did not yield, that did not
flow with her plans. With Lord Montague she was on the most intimate and
confidential relations. He was almost daily at the house. Often she
drove with him; frequently Evelyn was with them. Indeed, the three came
to be associated in the public mind. There could be no doubt of the
intentions of the young nobleman. That he could meet any opposition was
The noble lord, since they had been in Newport, had freely opened his
mind to Mrs. Mavick, and on a fit occasion had formally requested her
daughter's hand. Needless to say that he was accepted. Nay, more,
he felt that he was trusted like a son. He was given every opportunity
to press his suit. Somewhat to his surprise, he did not appear to make
much headway. He was rarely able to see her alone, even for a moment.
Such evasiveness in a young girl to a man of his rank astonished him.
There could be no reason for it in himself; there must be some influence
at work unknown to his social experience.
He did not reproach Mrs. Mavick with this, but he let her see that he was
very much annoyed.
"If I had not your assurance to the contrary, Mrs. Mavick," he said one
day in a pet, "I should think she shunned me."
"Oh, no, Lord Montague, that could not be. I told you that she had had a
peculiar education; she is perfectly ignorant of the world, she is shy,
and--well, for a girl in her position, she is unconventional. She is so
young that she does not yet understand what life is."
"You mean she does not know what I offer her?"
"Why, my dear Lord Montague, did you ever offer her anything?"
"Not flat, no," said my lord, hesitating. "Every time I approach her she
shies off like a young filly. There is something I don't understand."
"Evelyn," and Mrs. Mavick spoke with feeling, "is an affectionate and
dutiful child. She has never thought of marriage. The prospect is all
new to her. But I am sure she would learn to love you if she knew you
and her mind were once turned upon such a union. My lord, why not say to
her what you feel, and make the offer you intend? You cannot expect a
young girl to show her inclination before she is asked." And Mrs. Mavick
laughed a little to dispel the seriousness.
"By Jove! that's so, good enough. I'll do it straight out. I'll tell
her to take it or leave it. No, I don't mean that, of course. I'll tell
her that I can't live without her--that sort of thing, you know. And I
can't, that's just the fact."
"You can leave it confidently to her good judgment and to the friendship
of the family for you."
Lord Montague was silent for a moment, and seemed to be looking at a
problem in his shrewd mind. For he had a shrewd mind, which took in the
whole situation, Mrs. Mavick and all, with a perspicacity that would have
astonished that woman of the world.
"There is one thing, perhaps I ought not to say it, but I have seen it,
and it is in my head that it is that--I beg your pardon, madam--that
The shot went home. The suggestion, put into language that could be more
easily comprehended than defended, illuminated Mrs. Mavick's mind in a
flash, seeming to disclose the source of an opposition to her purposes
which secretly irritated her. Doubtless it was the governess. It was
her influence that made Evelyn less pliable and amenable to reason than a
young girl with such social prospects as she had would naturally be.
Besides, how absurd it was that a young lady in society should still have
a governess. A companion? The proper companion for a girl on the edge
of matrimony was her mother!
This idea, once implanted in Mrs. Mavick's mind, bore speedy fruit. No
one would have accused her of being one of those uncomfortable persons
who are always guided by an inflexible sense of justice, nor could it be
said that she was unintelligently unjust. Facile as she was, in all her
successful life she had never acted upon impulse, but from a conscience
keenly alive to what was just to herself. Miss McDonald was in the way.
And Mrs. Mavick had one quality of good generalship--she acted promptly
on her convictions.
When Mr. Mavick came over next day to spend Sunday in what was called in
print the bosom of his family, he looked very much worn and haggard and
was in an irritated mood. He had been very little in Newport that
summer, the disturbed state of business confining him to the city. And
to a man of his age, New York in midsummer in a panicky season is not a
The moment Mrs. Mavick got her husband alone she showed a lively
solicitude about his health.
"I suppose it has been dreadfully hot in the city?"
"Hot enough. Everything makes it hot."
"Has anything gone wrong? Has that odious Ault turned up again?"
"Turned up is the word. Half the time that man is a mole, half the time
a bull in a china-shop. He sails up to you bearing your own flag, and
when he gets aboard he shows the skull and cross-bones."
"Is it so bad as that?"
"As bad as what? He is a bad lot, but he is just an adventurer--a
Napoleon who will get his Waterloo before fall. Don't bother about
things you don't understand. How are things down here?"
"Going swimmingly." "So I judged by the bills. How is the lord?"
"Now don't be vulgar, Tom. You must keep up your end. Lord Montague is
very nice; he is a great favorite here."
"Does Evelyn like him?"
"Yes, she likes him; she likes him very much."
"She didn't show it to me."
"No, she is awfully shy. And she is rather afraid of him, the big title
and all that. And then she has never been accustomed to act for herself.
She is old enough to be independent and to take her place in the world.
At her age I was not in leading-strings."
"I should say not," said Mavick.
"Except in obedience to my mother," continued Carmen, not deigning to
notice the sarcasm. "And I've been thinking that McDonald--"
"So you want to get rid of her?"
"What a brutal way of putting it! No. But if Evelyn is ever to be self-
reliant it is time she should depend more on herself. You know I am
devoted to McDonald. And, what is more, I am used to her.
I wasn't thinking of her. You don't realize that Evelyn is a young lady
in society, and it has become ridiculous for her to still have a
governess. Everybody would say so."
"Well, call her a companion."
"Ah, don't you see it would be the same? She would still be under her
influence and not able to act for herself."
"What are you going to do? Turn her adrift after eighteen--what is it,
seventeen?--years of faithful service?"
"How brutally you put it. I'm going to tell McDonald just how it is.
She is a sensible woman, and she will see that it is for Evelyn's good.
And then it happens very luckily. Mrs. Van Cortlandt asked me last
winter if I wouldn't let her have McDonald for her little girl when we
were through with her. She knew, of course, that we couldn't keep a
governess much longer for Evelyn. I am going to write to her. She will
jump at the chance."
"Oh, she likes Mrs. Van Cortlandt. It will just suit her."
"And Evelyn? That will be another wrench." Men are so foolishly tender-
hearted about women.
"Of course, I know it seems hard, and will be for a little. But it is
for Evelyn's good, I am perfectly sure."
Mr. Mavick was meditating. It was a mighty unpleasant business. But he
was getting tired of conflict. There was an undercurrent in the lives of
both that made him shrink from going deep into any domestic difference.
It was best to yield.
"Well, Carmen, I couldn't have the heart to do it. She has been Evelyn's
constant companion all the child's life. Ah, well, it's your own affair.
Only don't stir it up till after I am gone. I must go to the city early
Because Mavick, amid all the demands of business and society, and his
ambitions for power in the world of finance and politics, had not had
much time to devote to his daughter, it must not be supposed that he did
not love her. In the odd moments at her service she had always been a
delight to him; and, in truth, many of his ambitions had centred in the
intelligent, affectionate, responsive child. But there had been no time
for much real comradeship.
This Sunday, however, and it was partly because of pity for the shock he
felt was in store for her, he devoted himself to her. They had a long
walk on the cliff, and he talked to her of his life, of his travels, and
his political experience. She was a most appreciative listener, and in
the warmth of his confidence she opened her mind to him, and rather
surprised him by her range of intelligence and the singular uprightness
of her opinions, and more still by her ready wit and playfulness. It was
the first time she had felt really free with her father, and he for the
first time seemed to know her as she was in her inner life. When they
returned to the house, and she was thanking him with a glow of enthusiasm
for such a lovely day, he lifted her up and kissed her, with an emotion
of affection that brought tears to her eyes.
A couple of days elapsed before Mrs. Mavick was ready for action. During
this time she had satisfied herself, by apparently casual conversation
with her daughter and Miss McDonald, that the latter would be wholly out
of sympathy with her intentions in regard to Evelyn. Left to herself she
judged that her daughter would look with more favor upon the brilliant
career offered to her by Lord Montague. When, therefore, one morning the
governess was summoned to her room, her course was decided on. She
received Miss McDonald with more than usual cordiality. She had in her
hand a telegram, and beamed upon her as the bearer of good news.
"I have an excellent offer for you, Miss McDonald."
"An offer for me?"
"Yes, from Mrs. Van Cortlandt, to be the governess of her daughter, a
sweet little girl of six. She has often spoken about it, and now I have
an urgent despatch from her. She is in need of some one at once, and she
greatly prefers you."
"Do you mean, Mrs. Mavick, that--you--want--that I am to leave Evelyn,
and you?" The room seemed to whirl around her.
"It is not what we want, McDonald," said Mrs. Mavick calmly and still
beaming, "but what is best. Your service as governess has continued much
longer than could have been anticipated, and of course it must come to an
end some time. You understand how hard this separation is for all of us.
Mr. Mavick wanted me to express to you his infinite obligation, and I am
sure he will take a substantial way of showing it. Evelyn is now a young
lady in society, and of course it is absurd for her to continue under
pupilage. It will be best for her, for her character, to be independent
and learn to act for herself in the world."
"Did she--has Evelyn--"
"No, I have said nothing to her of this offer, which is a most
advantageous one. Of course she will feel as we do, at first."
"Why, all these years, all her life, since she was a baby, not a day, not
a night, Evelyn, and now--so sweet, so dear--why Mrs. Mavick!"
And the Scotch woman, dazed, with a piteous appeal in her eyes, trying in
vain to control her face, looked at her mistress.
"My dear McDonald, you must not take it that way. It is only a change.
You are not going away really, we shall all be in the same city. I am
sure you will--like your new home. Shall I tell Mrs. Van Cortlandt?"
"Tell Mrs. Van Cortlandt? Yes, tell her, thanks. I will go--soon--at
once. In a little time, to get-ready. Thanks." The governess rose and
stood a moment to steady herself. All her life was in ruins. The blow
crushed her. And she had been so happy. In such great peace. It seemed
impossible. To leave Evelyn! She put out her hand as if to speak. Did
Mrs. Mavick understand what she was doing? That it was the same as
dragging a mother away from her child? But she said nothing. Words
would not come. Everything seemed confused and blank. She sank into her
"Excuse me, Mrs. Mavick, I think I am not very strong this morning." And
presently she stood on her feet again and steadied herself. "You will
please tell Evelyn before--before I see her." And she walked out of the
room as one in a trance.
The news was communicated to Evelyn, quite incidentally, in the manner
that all who knew Mrs. Mavick admired in her. Evelyn had just been in
and out of her mother's room, on one errand and another, and was going
out again, when her mother said:
"Oh, by-the-way, Evelyn, at last we have got a splendid place for
Evelyn turned, not exactly comprehending. "A place for McDonald? For
"As governess, of course. With Mrs. Van Cortlandt."
"What! to leave us? "The girl walked back to her mother's chair and
stood before her in an attitude of wonder and doubt. "You don't mean,
mamma, that she is going away for good?"
"It is a great chance for her. I have been anxious for some time about
employment for her, now that you do not need a governess--haven't really
for a year or two."
"But, mamma, it can't be. She is part of us. She belongs to the family;
she has been in it almost as long as I have. Why, I have been with her
every day of my life. To go away? To give her up? Does she know?"
"Does she know? What a child! She has accepted Mrs. Van Cortlandt's
offer. I telegraphed for her this morning. Tomorrow she goes to town to
get her belongings together. Mrs. Van Cortlandt needs her at once. I am
sorry to see, my dear, that you are thinking only of yourself."
"Of myself?" The girl had been at first confused, and, as the idea forced
itself upon her mind, she felt weak, and trembled, and was deadly pale.
But when the certainty came, the enormity and cruelty of the dismissal
aroused her indignation. "Myself!" she exclaimed again. Her eyes blazed
with a wrath new to their tenderness, and, stepping back and stamping her
foot; she cried out: "She shall not go! It is unjust! It is cruel!"
Her mother had never seen her child like that. She was revealing a
spirit of resistance, a temper, an independence quite unexpected.
And yet it was not altogether displeasing. Mrs. Mavick's respect for her
involuntarily rose. And after an instant, instead of responding with
severity, as was her first impulse, she said, very calmly:
"Naturally, Evelyn, you do not like to part with her. None of us do.
But go to your room and think it over reasonably. The relations of
childhood cannot last forever."
Evelyn stood for a moment undecided. Her mother's calm self-control had
not deceived her. She was no longer a child. It was a woman reading a
woman. All her lifetime came back to her to interpret this moment. In
the reaction of the second, the deepest pain was no longer for herself,
nor even for Miss McDonald, but for a woman who showed herself so
insensible to noble feeling. Protest was useless. But why was the
separation desired? She did not fully see, but her instinct told her
that it had a relation to her mother's plans for her; and as life rose
before her in the society, in the world, into which she was newly
launched, she felt that she was alone, absolutely alone. She tried to
speak, but before she could collect her thoughts her mother said:
"There, go now. It is useless to discuss the matter. We all have to
learn to bear things."
Evelyn went away, in a tumult of passion and of shame, and obeyed her
impulse to go where she had always found comfort.
Miss McDonald was in her own room. Her trunk was opened. She had taken
her clothes from the closet. She was opening the drawers and laying one
article here and another there. She was going from closet to bureau,
opening this door and shutting that in her sitting-room and bedroom, in
an aimless, distracted way. Out of her efforts nothing had so far come
but confusion. It seemed an impossible dream that she was actually
packing up to go away forever.
Evelyn entered in a haste that could not wait for permission.
"Is it true?" she cried.
McDonald turned. She could not speak. Her faithful face was gray with
suffering. Her eyes were swollen with weeping. For an instant she
seemed not to comprehend, and then a flood of motherly feeling overcame
her. She stretched out her arms and caught the girl to her breast in a
passionate embrace, burying her face in her neck in a vain effort to
subdue her sobbing.
What was there to say? Evelyn had come to her refuge for comfort, and to
Evelyn the comforter it was she herself who must be the comforter.
Presently she disengaged herself and forced the governess into an easy
chair. She sat down on the arm of the chair and smoothed her hair and
kissed her again and again.
"There. I'm going to help you. You'll see you have not taught me for
nothing." She jumped up and began to bustle about. "You don't know what
a packer I am."
"I knew it must come some time," she was saying, with a weary air, as she
followed with her eyes the light step of the graceful girl, who was
beginning to sort things and to bring order out of the confusion, holding
up one article after another and asking questions with an enforced
cheerfulness that was more pathetic than any burst of grief.
"Yes, I know. There, that is laid in smooth." She pretended to be
thinking what to put in next, and suddenly she threw herself into
McDonald's lap and began to talk gayly. "It is all my fault, dear; I
should have stayed little. And it doesn't make any difference.
I know you love me, and oh, McDonald, I love you more, a hundred times
more, than ever. If you did not love me! Think how dreadful that would
be. And we shall not be separated-only by streets, don't you know. They
can't separate us. I know you want me to be brave. And some day,
perhaps" (and she whispered in her ear--how many hundred times had she
told her girl secrets in that way!), "if I do have a home of my own,
It was not very cheerful talk, however it seemed to be, but it was better
than silence, and in the midst of it, with many interruptions, the
packing was over, and some sort of serenity was attained even by Miss
McDonald. "Yes, dear heart, we have love and trust and hope."
But when the preparations were all made, and Evelyn went to her own room,
there did not seem to be so much hope, nor any brightness in the midst of
this first great catastrophe of her life.
The great Mavick ball at Newport, in the summer long remembered for its
financial disasters, was very much talked about at the time. Long after,
in any city club, a man was sure to have attentive listeners if he, began
his story or his gossip with the remark that he was at the Mavick ball.
It attracted great attention, both on account of the circumstances that
preceded it and the events which speedily followed, and threw a light
upon it that gave it a spectacular importance. The city journals made a
feature of it. They summoned their best artists to illustrate it, and
illuminate it in pen-and-ink, half-tones, startling colors, and
photographic reproductions, sketches theatrical, humorous, and poetic,
caricatures, pictures of tropical luxury and aristocratic pretension; in
short, all the bewildering affluence of modern art which is brought to
bear upon the aesthetic cultivation of the lowest popular taste. They
summoned their best novelists to throw themselves recklessly upon the
English language, and extort from it its highest expression in color and
lyrical beauty, the novelists whose mission it is, in the newspaper
campaign against realism, to adorn and dramatize the commonest events of
life, creating in place of the old-fashioned "news" the highly spiced
"story," which is the ideal aspiration of the reporter.
Whatever may be said about the power of the press, it is undeniable
that it can set the entire public thinking and talking about any topic,
however insignificant in itself, that it may elect to make the
sensation of the day--a wedding, a murder, a political scandal, a
divorce, a social event, a defalcation, a lost child, an unidentified
victim of accident or crime, an election, or--that undefined quickener of
patriotism called a casus belli. It can impose any topic it pleases upon
the public mind. In case there is no topic, it is necessary to make one,
for it is an indefeasible right of the public to have news.
These reports of the Mavick ball had a peculiar interest for at least two
people in New York. Murad Ault read them with a sardonic smile and an
enjoyment that would not have been called altruistic. Philip
searched them with the feverish eagerness of a maiden who scans the
report of a battle in which her lover has been engaged.
All summer long he had lived upon stray bits of news in the society
columns of the newspapers. To see Evelyn's name mentioned, and only
rarely, as a guest at some entertainment, and often in connection with
that of Lord Montague, did not convey much information, nor was that
little encouraging. Was she well? Was she absorbed in the life of the
season? Did she think of him in surroundings so brilliant? Was she,
perhaps, unhappy and persecuted? No tidings came that could tell him the
things that he ached to know.
Only recently intelligence had come to him that at the same time wrung
his heart with pity and buoyed him up with hope. He had not seen Miss
McDonald since her dismissal, for she had been only one night in the
city, but she had written to him. Relieved by her discharge of all
obligations of silence, she had written him frankly about the whole
affair, and, indeed, put him in possession of unrecorded details and
indications that filled him with anxiety, to be sure, but raised his
courage and strengthened his determination. If Evelyn loved him, he had
faith that no manoeuvres or compulsion could shake her loyalty. And yet
she was but a girl; she was now practically alone, and could she resist
the family and the social pressure? Few women could, few women do,
effectively resist under such circumstances. With one of a tender heart,
duty often takes the most specious and deceiving forms. In yielding to
the impulses of her heart, which in her inexperience may be mistaken, has
a girl the right--from a purely rational point of view--to set herself
against, nay, to destroy, the long-cherished ambitions of her parents for
a brilliant social career for her, founded upon social traditions of
success? For what had Mr. Mavick toiled? For what had Mrs. Mavick
schemed all these years? Could the girl throw herself away? Such
disobedience, such disregard for social law, would seem impossible to her
Some of the events that preceded the Mavick ball throw light upon that
interesting function. After the departure of Miss McDonald, Mrs. Mavick,
in one of her confidential talks with her proposed son-in-law, confessed
that she experienced much relief. An obstacle seemed to be removed.
In fact, Evelyn rather surprised her mother by what seemed a calm
acceptance of the situation. There was no further outburst. If the girl
was often preoccupied and seemed listless, that was to be expected, on
the sudden removal of the companion of her lifetime.
But she did not complain. She ceased after a while to speak of McDonald.
If she showed little enthusiasm in what was going on around her, she was
compliant, she fell in at once with her mother's suggestions, and went
and came in an attitude of entire obedience.
"It isn't best for you to keep up a correspondence, my dear, now that you
know that McDonald is nicely settled--all reminiscent correspondence is
very wearing--and, really, I am more than delighted to see that you are
quite capable of walking alone. Do you know, Evelyn, that I am more and
more proud of you every day, as my daughter. I don't dare to tell you
half the nice things that are said of you. It would make you vain." And
the proud mother kissed her affectionately. The letters ceased. If the
governess wrote, Evelyn did not see the letters.
As the days went by, Lord Montague, in high and confident spirits, became
more and more a familiar inmate of the house. Daily he sent flowers to
Evelyn; he contrived little excursions and suppers; he was marked in his
attentions wherever they went. "He is such a dear fellow," said Mrs.
Mavick to one of her friends; "I don't know how we should get on without
Only, in the house, owing to some unnatural perversity of circumstances,
he did not see much of Evelyn, never alone for more than a moment. It is
wonderful what efficient, though invisible, defenses most women, when
they will, can throw about themselves.
That the affair was "arranged" Lord Montague had no doubt. It was not
conceivable that the daughter of an American stock-broker would refuse
the offer of a position so transcendent and so evidently coveted in a
democratic society. Not that the single-minded young man reasoned about
it this way. He was born with a most comfortable belief in himself and
the knowledge that when he decided to become a domestic man he had
simply, as the phrase is, to throw his handkerchief.
At home, where such qualities as distinguished him from the common were
appreciated without the need of personal exertion, this might be true;
but in America it did seem to be somehow different. American women, at
least some of them, did need to be personally wooed; and many of them had
a sort of independence in the bestowal of their affections or, what they
understood to be the same thing, themselves that must be taken into
account. And it gradually dawned upon the mind of this inheritor of
privilege that in this case the approval of the family, even the pressure
of the mother, was not sufficient; he must have also Evelyn's consent.
If she were a mature woman who knew and appreciated the world, she would
perceive the advantages offered to her without argument. But a girl,
just released from the care of her governess, unaccustomed to society,
might have notions, or, in the vernacular of the scion, might be
And then, again, to do the wooer entire justice, the dark little girl, so
much mistress of herself, so evidently spirited, with such an air of
distinction, began to separate herself in his mind as a good goer against
the field, and he had a real desire to win her affection. The more
indifferent she was to him, the keener was his desire to possess her.
His unsuccessful wooing had passed through several stages, first
astonishment, then pique, and finally something very like passion, or a
fair semblance of devotion, backed, of course, since all natures are more
or less mixed, by the fact that this attractive figure of the woman was
thrown into high relief by the colossal fortune behind her.
And Evelyn herself? Neither her mother nor her suitor appreciated the
uncommon circumstances that her education, her whole training in
familiarity with pure and lofty ideals, had rendered her measurably
insensible to the social considerations that seemed paramount to them, or
that there could be any real obstacle to the bestowal of her person.
where her heart was not engaged. Yet she perfectly understood her
situation, and, at times, deprived of her lifelong support, she felt
powerless in it, and she suffered as only the pure and the noble can
suffer. Day after day she fought her battle alone, now and then, as the
situation confronted her, assailed by a shudder of fear, as of one
awakening in the night from a dream of peril, the clutch of an assassin,
or the walking on an icy precipice. If McDonald were only with her! If
she could only hear from Philip! Perhaps he had lost hope and was
submitting to the inevitable.
The opportunity which Lord Montague had long sought came one day
unexpectedly, or perhaps it was contrived. They were waiting in the
drawing-room for an afternoon drive. The carriage was delayed, and Mrs.
Mavick excused herself to ascertain the cause of the delay. Evelyn and
her suitor were left alone. She was standing by a window looking out,
and he was standing by the fireplace watching the swing of the figure on
the pendulum of the tall mantelpiece clock. He was the first to break
"Your clock, Miss Mavick, is a little fast." No reply. "Or else I am
slow." Still no reply. "They say, you know, that I am a little slow,
over here." No reply. "I am not, really, you know. I know my mind.
And there was something, Miss Mavick, something particular, that I wanted
to say to you."
"Yes?" without turning round. "The carriage will be here in a minute."
"Never mind that," and Lord Montague moved away from the fireplace and
approached the girl; "take care of the minutes and the hours will take
care of themselves, as the saying is." At this unexpected stroke of
brilliancy Evelyn did turn round, and stood in an expectant attitude.
The moment had evidently come, and she would not meet it like a coward.
"We have been friends a long time; not so very long, but it seems to me
the best part of my life," he was looking down and speaking slowly, with
the modest deference of a gentleman, "and you must have seen, that is, I
wanted you to see, you know well, that is--er--what I was staying on here
"Because you like America, I suppose," said Evelyn, coolly.
"Because I like some things in America--that is just the fact," continued
the little lord, with more confidence. "And that is why I stayed. You
see I couldn't go away and leave what was best in the world to me."
There was an air of simplicity and sincerity about this that was
unexpected, and could not but be respected by any woman. But Evelyn
waited, still immovable.
"It wasn't reasonable that you should like a stranger right off," he went
on, "just at first, and I waited till you got to know me better. Ways
are different here and over there, I know that, but if you came to know
me, Miss Mavick, you would see that I am not such a bad sort of a
fellow." And a deprecatory smile lighted up his face that was almost
pathetic. To Evelyn this humility seemed genuine, and perhaps it was,
for the moment. Certainly the eyes she bent on, the odd little figure
were less severe.
"All this is painful to me, Lord Montague."
"I'm sorry," he continued, in the same tone. "I cannot help it.
I must say it. I--you must know that I love you." And then, not heeding
the nervous start the girl gave in stepping backward, "And--and, will you
be my wife?"
"You do me too much honor, Lord Montague," said Evelyn, summoning up all
"No, no, not a bit of it."
"I am obliged to you for your good opinion, but you know I am almost a
school-girl. My governess has just left me. I have never thought of
such a thing. And, Lord Montague, I cannot return your feeling. That is
all. You must see how painful this is to me."
"I wouldn't give you pain, Miss Mavick, not for the world. Perhaps when
you think it over it will seem different to you. I am sure it will.
Don't answer now, for good."
"No, no, it cannot be," said Evelyn, with something of alarm in her tone,
for the full meaning of it all came over her as she thought of her
"You are not offended?"
"No," said Evelyn.
"I couldn't bear to offend you. You cannot think I would. And you will
not be hard-hearted. You know me, Miss Mavick, just where I am. I'm
just as I said."
"The carriage is coming," said Mrs. Mavick, who returned at this moment.
The group for an instant was silent, and then Evelyn said:
"We have waited so long; mamma, that I am a little tired, and you will
excuse me from the drive this afternoon?"
"Certainly, my dear."
When the two were seated in the carriage, Mrs. Mavick turned to Lord
"No go," replied my lord, as sententiously, and in evident bad humor.
"What? And you made a direct proposal?"
"Showed her my whole hand. Made a square offer. Damme, I am not used to
this sort of thing."
"You don't mean that she refused you?"
"Don't know what you call it. Wouldn't start."
"She couldn't have understood you. What did she say?"
"Said it was too much honor, and that rot. By Jove, she didn't look it.
I rather liked her pluck. She didn't flinch."
"Oh, is that all?" And Mrs. Mavick spoke as if her mind were relieved.
"What could you expect from such a sudden proposal to a young girl,
almost a child, wholly unused to the world? I should have done the same
thing at her age. It will look different to her when she reflects, and
understands what the position is that is offered her. Leave that to me."
Lord Montague shook his head and screwed up his keen little eyes.
His mind was in full play. "I know women, Mrs. Mavick, and I tell you
there is something behind this. Somebody has been in the stable." The
noble lord usually dropped into slang when he was excited.
"I don't understand your language," said Mrs. Mavick, straightening
herself up in her seat.
"I beg pardon. It is just a way of speaking on the turf. When a
favorite goes lame the morning of the race, we know some one has been
tampering with him. I tell you there is some one else. She has some one
else in her mind. That's the reason of it."
"Nonsense." cried Mrs. Mavick, with the energy of conviction.
"It's impossible. There is nobody, couldn't be anybody. She has led a
secluded life till this hour. She hasn't a fancy, I know."
"I hope you are right," he replied, in the tone of a man wishing to take
a cheerful view. "Perhaps I don't understand American girls."
"I think I do," she said, smiling. "They are generally amenable to
reason. Evelyn now has something definite before her. I am glad you
And this was the truth. Mrs. Mavick was elated. So far her scheme was
completely successful. As to Evelyn, she trusted to various influences
she could bring to bear. Ultimate disobedience of her own wishes she did
not admit as a possible thing.
A part of her tactics was the pressure of public opinion, so far as
society represents it--that is, what society expects. And therefore it
happened in a few days that a strong suspicion got about that Lord
Montague had proposed formally to the heiress. The suspicion was
strengthened by appearances. Mrs. Mavick did not deny the rumor. That
there was an engagement was not affirmed, but that the honor had been or
would be declined was hardly supposable.
In the painful interview between mother and daughter concerning this
proposal, Evelyn had no reason to give for her opposition, except that
she did not love him. This point Mrs. Mavick skillfully evaded and
minimized. Of course she would love him in time. The happiest marriages
were founded on social fitness and the judgment of parents, and not on
the inexperienced fancies of young girls. And in this case things had
gone too far to retreat. Lord Montague's attentions had been too open
and undisguised. He had been treated almost as a son by the house.
Society looked upon the affair as already settled. Had Evelyn reflected
on the mortification that would fall upon her mother if she persisted in
her unreasonable attitude? And Mrs. Mavick shed actual tears in thinking
upon her own humiliation.
The ball which followed these private events was also a part of Mrs.
Mavick's superb tactics. It would be in a way a verification of the
public rumors and a definite form of pressure which public expectation
would exercise upon the lonely girl.
The splendor of this function is still remembered. There were, however,
features in the glowing descriptions of it which need to be mentioned.
It was assumed that it was for a purpose, that it was in fact, if not a
proclamation, at least an intimation of a new and brilliant Anglo-Saxon
alliance. No one asserted that an engagement existed. But the prominent
figures in the spectacle were the English lord and the young and
beautiful American heiress. There were portraits of both in half-tone.
The full names and titles expectant of Lord Montague were given, a
history of the dukedom of Tewkesbury and its ancient glory, with the long
line of noble names allied to the young lord, who was a social star of
the first magnitude, a great traveler, a sportsman of the stalwart race
that has the world for its field. ("Poor little Monte," said the
managing editor as he passed along these embellishments with his
On the other hand, the proposed alliance was no fall in dignity or family
to the English house. The heiress was the direct descendant of the
Eschelles, an old French family, distinguished in camp and court in the
glorious days of the Grand Monarch.
Probably no man ever wrote and published a book, a magazine story, or a
bit of verse without an instant decision to repeat the experiment. The
inclination once indulged becomes insatiable. It is not altogether the
gratified vanity of seeing one's self in print, for, before printing was,
the composers and reciters of romances and songs were driven along the
same path of unrest and anxiety, when once they had the least recognition
of their individual distinction. The impulse is more subtle than the
desire for wealth or the craving for political place. In some cases it
is in simple obedience to the longing to create; in others it is a lower
ambition for notoriety, for praise.
In any case the experiment of authorship, in however humble, a way, has
an analogy to that other tempting occupation of making "investments" in
the stock-market: the first trial is certain to lead to another. If the
author succeeds in any degree, his spirit rises to another attempt in the
hope of a wider recognition. If he fails, that is a reason why he should
convince his fellows that the failure was not inherent in himself, but in
ill-luck or a misdirection of his powers. And the experiment has another
analogy to the noble occupation of levying toll upon the change of
values--a first brilliant success is often a misfortune, inducing an
overestimate of capacity, while a very moderate success, recognized
indeed only as a trial, steadies a man, and sets him upon that serious
diligence upon which alone, either in art or business, any solid fortune
Philip was fortunate in that his first novel won him a few friends and a
little recognition, but no popularity. It excited neither envy nor
hostility. In the perfunctory and somewhat commercial good words it
received, he recognized the good-nature of the world. In the few short
reviews that dealt seriously with his work, he was able, when the
excitement of seeing himself discussed had subsided, to read between the
lines why The Puritan Nun had failed to make a larger appeal. It was
idyllic and poetic, but it lacked virility; it lacked also simplicity in
dealing with the simple and profound facts of life. He had been too
solicitous to express himself, to write beautifully, instead of letting
the human emotions with which he had to deal show themselves. One notice
had said that it was too "literary"; by which, of course, the critic
meant that he did not follow the solid traditions, the essential elements
in all the great masterpieces of literature that have been created. And
yet he had shown a quality, a facility, a promise, that had gained him a
foothold and a support in the world of books and of the making of books.
And though he had declined Mr. Ault's tempting offer to illuminate his
transcontinental road with a literary torch, he none the less was pleased
with this recognition of his capacity and the value of his name.
To say that Philip lived on hope during this summer of heat, suspensions,
and business derangement would be to allow him a too substantial
subsistence. Evelyn, indeed, seemed, at the distance of Newport, more
unattainable than ever, and the scant news he had of the drama enacted
there was a perpetual notice to him of the social gulf that lay between
them. And yet his dream was sustained by occasional assurances from Miss
McDonald of her confidence in Evelyn's belief in him, nay, of her trust,
and she even went so far as to say affection. So he went on building
castles in the air, which melted and were renewed day after day, like the
transient but unfailing splendor of the sunset.
There was a certain exaltation in this indulgence of his passion that
stimulated his creative faculties, and, while his daily tasks kept him
from being morbid, his imagination was free to play with the construction
of a new story, to which his recent experience would give a certain
solidity and a knowledge of the human struggle as it is.
He found himself observing character more closely than before, looking
for it not so much in books as in the people he met. There was Murad
Ault, for instance. How he would like to put him into a book!
Of course it would not do to copy a model, raw, like' that, but he fell
to studying his traits, trying to see the common humanity exhibited in
him. Was he a type or was he a freak? This was, however, too dangerous
ground until he knew more of life.
The week's vacation allowed him by his house was passed in Rivervale.
There, in the calmness of country life, and in the domestic atmosphere of
affection which believed in him, he was far enough removed from the scene
of the spectres of his imagination to see them in proper perspective, and
there the lines of his new venture were laid down, to be worked out
later on, he well knew, in the anxiety and the toil which should endue
the skeleton with life. Rivervale, to be sure, was haunted by the
remembrance of Evelyn; very often the familiar scenes filled him with an
intolerable longing to see again the eyes that had inspired him, to hear
the voice that was like no other in the world, to take the little hand
that had often been so frankly placed in his, and to draw to him the form
in which was embodied all the grace and tender witchery of womanhood.
But the knowledge of what she expected of him was an inspiration,
always present in his visions of her.
Something of his hopes and fears Alice divined, and he felt her sympathy,
although she did not intrude upon his reticence by any questions. They
talked about Evelyn, but it was Evelyn in Rivervale, not in Newport. In
fact, the sensible girl could regard her cousin's passion as nothing more
than a romance in a young author's life, and to her it was a sign of his
security that he had projected a new story.
With instinctive perception of his need, she was ever turning his
thoughts upon his literary career. Of course she and all the household
seemed in a conspiracy to flatter and encourage the vanity of authorship.
Was not all the village talking about the reputation he had conferred on
it? Was it not proud of him? Indeed, it did imagine that the world
outside of Rivervale was very much interested in him, and that he was
already an author of distinction. The county Gazette had announced, as
an important piece of news, that the author of The Puritan Nun was on a
visit to his relatives, the Maitlands. This paragraph seemed to stand
out in the paper as an almost immodest exposure of family life, read
furtively at first, and not talked of, and yet every member of the family
was conscious of an increase in the family importance. Aunt Patience
discovered, from her outlook on the road, that summer visitors had a
habit of driving or walking past the house and then turning back to look
at it again.
So Philip was not only distinguished, but he had the power of conferring
distinction. No one can envy a young author this first taste of fame,
this home recognition. Whatever he may do hereafter, how much more
substantial rewards he may attain, this first sweetness of incense to his
ambition will never come to him again.
When Philip returned to town, the city was still a social desert,
and he plunged into the work piled up on his desk, the never-ceasing
accumulation of manuscripts, most of them shells which the workers have
dredged up from the mud of the literary ocean, in which the eager
publisher is always expecting to find pearls. Even Celia was still in
the country, and Philip's hours spared from drudgery were given to the
new story. His days, therefore, passed without incident, but not without
pleasure. For whatever annoyances the great city may have usually, it is
in the dull season--that is, the season of its summer out-of-doors
animation--a most attractive and, even stimulating place for the man who
has an absorbing pursuit, say a work in creative fiction. Undisturbed by
social claims or public interests, the very noise and whirl of the gay
metropolis seem to hem him in and protect the world of his own
The first disturbing event in this serenity was the report of the Mavick
ball, already referred to, and the interpretation put upon it by the
newspapers. In this light his plans seemed the merest moonshine. What
became of his fallacious hope of waiting when events were driving on at
this rate? What chance had he in such a social current? Would Evelyn be
strong enough to stem it and to wait also? And to wait for what? For
the indefinite and improbable event of a poor author, hardly yet
recognized as an author, coming into position, into an income (for that
was the weak point in his aspirations) that would not be laughed at by
the millionaire. When he coolly considered it, was it reasonable to
expect that Mr. and Mrs. Mavick would ever permit Evelyn to throw away
the brilliant opportunity for their daughter which was to be the crowning
end of their social ambition? The mere statement of the proposition was
enough to overwhelm him.
That this would be the opinion of the world he could not doubt.
He felt very much alone. It was not, however, in any resolve to make a
confidante of Celia, but in an absolute need of companionship, that he
went to see if she had returned. That he had any personal interest in
this ball he did not intend to let Celia know, but talk with somebody he
must. Of his deep affection for this friend of his boyhood, there was no
doubt, nor of his knowledge of her devotion to his interests. Why, then,
was he reserved with her upon the absorbing interest of his life?
Celia had returned, before the opening of the medical college, full of a
new idea. This was nothing new in her restless nature; but if Philip had
not been blinded by the common selfishness of his sex, he might have seen
in the gladness of her welcome of him something more than mere sisterly
"Are you real glad to see me, Phil? I thought you might be lonesome by
this time in the deserted city."
"I was, horribly." He was still holding her hand. "Without a chance to
talk with you or Alice, I am quite an orphan."
"Ah! You or Alice! "A shade of disappointment came over her face as she
dropped his hand. But she rallied in a moment.
"Poor boy! You ought to have a guardian. What heroine of romance are
you running after now?"
"In my new story?"
"She isn't very well defined in my mind yet. But a lovely girl, without
anything peculiar, no education to speak of, or career, fascinating in
her womanhood, such as might walk out of the Bible. Don't you think that
would be a novelty? But it is the most difficult to do."
"Negative. That sort has gone out. Philip, why don't you take the
heroine of the Mavick ball? There is a theme." She was watching him
shrewdly, and saw the flush in his face as he hurriedly asked,
"Did you ever see her?"
"Only at a distance. But you must know her well enough for a literary
purpose. The reports of the ball give you the setting of the drama."
"Did you read them?"
"I should say I did. Most amusing."
"Celia, don't you think it would be an ungentlemanly thing to take a
social event like that?"
"Why, you must take life as it is. Of course you would change the
details. You could lay the scene in Philadelphia. Nobody would suspect
Philip shook his head. The conversation was not taking the turn that was
congenial to him. The ball seemed to him a kind of maelstrom in which
all his hopes were likely to be wrecked. And here was his old friend,
the keenest-sighted woman he knew, looking upon it simply as literary
material--a ridiculous social event. He had better change the subject.
"So the college is not open yet?"
"No, I came back because I had a new idea, and wanted time to look
around. We haven't got quite the right idea in our city missions. They
have another side. We need country missions."
"Aren't they that now?"
"No, I mean for the country. I've been about a good deal all this
vacation, and my ideas are confirmed. The country towns and villages are
full of young hoodlums and toughs, and all sorts of wickedness. They
could be improved by sending city boys up there--yes, and girls of tender
age. I don't mean the worst ones, not altogether. The young of a
certain low class growing up in the country are even worse than the same
class in the city, and they lack a civility of manner which is pretty
sure to exist in a city-bred person."
"If the country is so bad, why send any more unregenerates into it?"
"How do you know that anybody is always to be unregenerate? But I
wouldn't send thieves and imbeciles. I would select children of some
capacity, whose circumstances are against them where they are, and I am
sure they would make better material than a good deal of the young
generation in country villages now. This is what I mean by a mission for
the country. We have been bending all our efforts to the reformation of
the cities. What we need to go at now is the reforming of the country."
"You have taken a big contract," said Philip, smiling at her enthusiasm.
"Don't you intend to go on with medicine?"
"Certainly. At least far enough to be of some use in breaking up
people's ignorance about their own bodies. Half the physical as well as
moral misery comes from ignorance. Didn't I always tell you that I want
to know? A good many of my associates pretend to be agnostics, neither
believe or disbelieve in anything. The further I go the more I am
convinced that there is a positive basis for things. They talk about the
religion of humanity. I tell you, Philip, that humanity is pretty poor
stuff to build a religion on."
The talk was wandering far away from what was in Philip's mind, and
presently Celia perceived his want of interest.
"There, that is enough about myself. I want to know all about you, your
visit to Rivervale, how the publishing house suits you, how the story is
And Philip talked about himself, and the rumors in Wall Street, and Mr.
Ault and his offer, and at last about the Mavicks--he could not help
that--until he felt that Celia was what she had always been to him, and
when he went away he held her hand and said what a dear, sweet friend she
And when he had gone, Celia sat a long time by the window, not seeing
much of the hot street into which she looked, until there were tears in
There was one man in New York who thoroughly enjoyed the summer. Murad
Ault was, as we say of a man who is free to indulge his natural powers,
in his element. There are ingenious people who think that if the
ordering of nature had been left to them, they could maintain moral
conditions, or at least restore a disturbed equilibrium, without
violence, without calling in the aid of cyclones and of uncontrollable
electric displays, in order to clear the air. There are people also who
hold that the moral atmosphere of the world does not require the
occasional intervention of Murad Ault.
The conceit is flattering to human nature, but it is not borne out by the
performance of human nature in what is called the business world, which
is in such intimate alliance with the social world in such great centres
of conflict as London, New York, or Chicago. Mr. Ault is everywhere an
integral and necessary part of the prevailing system--that is, the system
by which the moral law is applied to business. The system, perhaps,
cannot be defended, but it cannot be explained without Mr. Ault. We may
argue that such a man is a disturber of trade, of legitimate operations,
of the fairest speculations, but when we see how uniform he is as a
phenomenon, we begin to be convinced that he is somehow indispensable to
the system itself. We cannot exactly understand why a cyclone should
pick up a peaceful village in Nebraska and deposit it in Kansas, where
there, is already enough of that sort, but we cannot conceive of Wall
Street continuing to be Wall Street unless it were now and then visited
by a powerful adjuster like Mr. Ault.
The advent, then, of Murad Ault in New York was not a novelty, but a
continuation of like phenomena in the Street, ever since the day when
ingenious men discovered that the ability to guess correctly which of two
sparrows, sold for a farthing, lighting on the spire of Trinity Church,
will fly first, is an element in a successful and distinguished career.
There was nothing peculiar in kind in his career, only in the force
exhibited which lifted him among the few whose destructive energy the
world condones and admires as Napoleonic. He may have been an instrument
of Providence. When we do not know exactly what to do with an
exceptional man who is disagreeable, we call him an Instrument of
It is not, then, in anything exceptional that we are interested in the
operations of Murad Ault, but simply on account of his fortuitous
connection with a great fortune which had its origin in very much the
same cyclonic conditions that Mr. Ault reveled in. Those who know Wall
Street best, by reason of sad experience, say that the presiding deity
there is not the Chinese god, Luck, but the awful pagan deity, Nemesis.
Alas! how many innocent persons suffer in order to get justice done in
Those who have unimpaired memories may recollect the fortune amassed,
many years previous to this history, by one Rodney Henderson, gathered
and enlarged by means not indictable, but which illustrate the wide
divergence between the criminal code and the moral law. This fortune,
upon the sudden death of its creator, had been largely diverted from its
charitable destination by fraud, by a crime that would have fallen within
the code if it had been known. This fortune had been enjoyed by those
who seized it for many years of great social success, rising into
acknowledged respectability and distinction; and had become the basis of
the chance of social elevation, which is dear to the hearts of so many
excellent people, who are compelled to wander about in a chaotic society
that has no hereditary titles. It was this fortune, the stake in such an
ambition, or perhaps destined in a new possessor to a nobler one, that
came in the way of Mr. Ault's extensive schemes.
It is not necessary to infer that Mr. Ault was originally actuated by any
greed as to this special accumulation of property, or that he had any
malevolence towards Mr. Mavick; but the eagerness of his personal pursuit
led him into collisions. There were certain possessions of Mr. Mavick
that were desirable for the rounding-out of his plans--these graspings
were many of them understood by the public as necessary to the
"development of a system"--and in this collision of interests and fierce
strength a vindictive feeling was engendered, a feeling born, as has been
hinted, by Mr. Mavick's attempt to trick his temporary ally in a certain
operation, so that Mr. Ault's main purpose was to "down Mavick."
This was no doubt an exaggeration concerning a man with so many domestic
virtues as Mr. Ault, meaning by domestic virtues indulgence of his
family; but a fight for place or property in politics or in the Street
is pretty certain to take on a personal character.
We can understand now why Mr. Ault read the accounts of the Mavick ball
with a grim smile. In speaking of it he used the vulgar term "splurge,"
a word especially offensive to the refined society in which the Mavicks
had gained a foothold. And yet the word was on the lips of a great many
men on the Street. The shifting application of sympathy is a very queer
thing in this world. Mr. Ault was not a snob. Whatever else he was, he
made few pretensions. In his first advent he had been resisted as an
intruder and shunned as a vulgarian; but in time respect for his force
and luck mingled with fear of his reckless talent, and in the course of
events it began to be admitted that the rough diamond was being polished
into one of the corner-stones of the great business edifice. At the time
of this writing he did not altogether lack the sympathy of the Street,
and an increasing number of people were not sorry to see Mr. Mavick get
the worst of it in repeated trials of strength. And in each of these
trials it became increasingly difficult for Mr. Mavick to obtain the
assistance and the credit which are often indispensable to the strongest
men in a panic.
The truth was that there were many men in the Street who were not sorry
to see Mr. Mavick worried. They remembered perfectly well the omniscient
snobbishness of Thomas Mavick when he held a position in the State
Department at Washington and was at the same time a secret agent of
Rodney Henderson. They did not change their opinion of him when, by his
alliance with Mrs. Henderson, he stepped into control of Mr. Henderson's
property and obtained the mission to Rome; but later on he had been
accepted as one of the powers in the financial world. There were a few
of the old stagers who never trusted him. Uncle Jerry Hollowell, for
instance, used to say, "Mavick is smart, smart as lightnin'; I guess
he'll make ducks and drakes of the Henderson property." They are very
superficial observers of Wall Street who think that character does not
tell there. Mr. Mavick may have realized that when in his straits he
looked around for assistance.
The history of this panic summer in New York would not be worthy the
reader's attention were not the fortunes of some of his acquaintances
involved in it. It was not more intense than the usual panics, but it
lasted longer on account of the complications with uncertain government
policy, and it produced stagnation in social as well as business circles.
So quiet a place as Rivervale felt it in the diminution of city visitors,
and the great resorts showed it in increased civility to the small number
The summer at Newport, which had not been distinguished by many great
events, was drawing to a close--that is, it was in the period when those
who really loved the charming promenade which is so loved of the sea
began to enjoy themselves, and those who indulge in the pleasures of
hope, based upon a comfortable matrimonial establishment, are reckoning
up the results of the campaign.
Mrs. Mavick, according to her own assertion, was one of those who enjoy
nature. "Nature and a few friends, not too many, only those whom one
trusts and who are companionable," she had said to Lord Montague.
This young gentleman had found the pursuit of courtship in America
attended by a good many incidental social luxuries. It had been a wise
policy to impress him with the charm of a society which has unlimited
millions to make it attractive. Even to an impecunious noble there is a
charm in this, although the society itself has some of the lingering
conditions of its money origin. But since the great display of the ball,