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That Fortune by Charles Dudley Warner

Part 5 out of 5

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and the legitimate inferences drawn from it by the press and the
fashionable world, Mrs. Mavick had endeavored to surround her intended
son-in-law with the toils of domestic peace.

He must be made to feel at home. And this she did. Mrs. Mavick was as
admirable in the role of a domestic woman as of a woman of the world.
The simple pleasures, the confidences, the intimacies of home life
surrounded him. His own mother, the aged duchess, could not have looked
upon him with more affection, and possibly not have pampered him with so
many luxuries. There was only one thing wanting to make this home
complete. In conventional Europe the contracting parties are not the
signers of the marriage contract. In the United States the parties most
interested take the initiative in making the contract.

Here lay the difficulty of the situation, a situation that puzzled Lord
Montague and enraged Mrs. Mavick. Evelyn maintained as much indifference
to the domestic as to the worldly situation. Her mother thought her
lifeless and insensible; she even went so far as to call her unwomanly in
her indifference to what any other woman would regard as an opportunity
for a brilliant career.

Lifeless indeed she was, poor child; physically languid and scarcely able
to drag herself through the daily demands upon her strength.
Her mother made it a reproach that she was so pale and unresponsive.
Apparently she did not resist, she did everything she was told to do.
She passed, indeed, hours with Lord Montague, occasions contrived when
she was left alone in the house with him, and she made heroic efforts to
be interested, to find something in his mind that was in sympathy with
her own thoughts. With a woman's ready instinct she avoided committing
herself to his renewed proposals, sometimes covert, sometimes direct, but
the struggle tired her. At the end of all such interviews she had to
meet her mother, who, with a smile of hope and encouragement, always
said, "Well, I suppose you and Lord Montague have made it up," and then
to encounter the contempt expressed for her as a "goose."

She was helpless in such toils. At times she felt actually abandoned of
any human aid, and in moods of despondency almost resolved to give up the
struggle. In the eyes of the world it was a good match, it would make
her mother happy, no doubt her father also; and was it not her duty to
put aside her repugnance, and go with the current of the social and
family forces that seemed irresistible?

Few people can resist doing what is universally expected of them. This
invisible pressure is more difficult to stand against than individual
tyranny. There are no tragedies in our modern life so pathetic as the
ossification of women's hearts when love is crushed under the compulsion
of social and caste requirements. Everybody expected that Evelyn would
accept Lord Montague. It could be said that for her own reputation the
situation required this consummation of the intimacy of the season. And
the mother did not hesitate to put this interpretation upon the events
which were her own creation.

But with such a character as Evelyn, who was a constant puzzle to her
mother, this argument had very little weight compared with her own sense
of duty to her parents. Her somewhat ideal education made worldly
advantages of little force in her mind, and love the one priceless
possession of a woman's heart which could not be bartered. And yet might
there not be an element of selfishness in this--might not its sacrifice
be a family duty? Mrs. Mavick having found this weak spot in her
daughter's armor, played upon it with all her sweet persuasive skill and
show of tenderness.

"Of course, dear," she said, "you know what would make me happy. But I
do not want you to yield to my selfishness or even to your father's
ambition to see his only child in an exalted position in life. I can
bear the disappointment. I have had to bear many. But it is your own
happiness I am thinking of. And I think also of the cruel blow your
refusal will inflict upon a man whose heart is bound up in you."

"But I don't love him." The girl was very pale, and she spoke with an
air of weariness, but still with a sort of dogged persistence.

"You will in time. A young girl never knows her own heart, any more than
she knows the world."

"Mother, that isn't all. It would be a sin to him to pretend to give him
a heart that was not his. I can't; I can't."

"My dear child, that is his affair. He is willing to trust you, and to
win your love. When we act from a sense of duty the way is apt to open
to us. I have never told you of my own earlier experience.
I was not so young as you are when I married Mr. Henderson, but I had not
been without the fancies and experiences of a young girl. I might have
yielded to one of them but for family reasons. My father had lost his
fortune and had died, disappointed and broken down. My mother, a lovely
woman, was not strong, was not capable of fighting the world alone, and
she depended upon me, for in those days I had plenty of courage and
spirit. Mr. Henderson was a widower whom we had known as a friend before
the death of his accomplished wife. In his lonesomeness he turned to me.
In our friendlessness I turned to him. Did I love him? I esteemed him,
I respected him, I trusted him, that was all. He did not ask more than
that. And what a happy life we had! I shared in all his great plans.
And when in the midst of his career, with such large ideas of public
service and philanthropy, he was stricken down, he left to me, in the
confidence of his love, all that fortune which is some day to be yours."
Mrs. Mavick put her handkerchief to her eyes. "Ah, well, our destiny is
not in our hands. Heaven raised up for me another protector, another
friend. Perhaps some of my youthful illusions have vanished, but should
I have been happier if I had indulged them? I know your dear father does
not think so."

"Mother," cried Evelyn, deeply moved by this unprecedented confidence, "I
cannot bear to see you suffer on my account. But must not every one
decide for herself what is right before God?"

At this inopportune appeal to a higher power Mrs. Mavick had some
difficulty in restraining her surprise and indignation at what she
considered her child's stubbornness. But she conquered the inclination,
and simply looked sad and appealing when she said:

"Yes, yes, you must decide for yourself. You must not consider your
mother as I did mine."

This cruel remark cut the girl to the heart. The world seemed to whirl
around her, right and wrong and duty in a confused maze. Was she, then,
such a monster of ingratitude? She half rose to throw herself at her
mother's feet, upon her mother's mercy. And at the moment it was not her
reason but her heart that saved her. In the moral confusion rose the
image of Philip. Suppose she should gain the whole world and lose him!
And it was love, simple, trusting love, that put courage into her sinking
heart.

"Mother, it is very hard. I love you; I could die for you. I am so
forlorn. But I cannot, I dare not, do such a thing, such a dreadful
thing!"

She spoke brokenly, excitedly, she shuddered as she said the last words,
and her eyes were full of tears as she bent down and kissed her mother.

When she had gone, Mrs. Mavick sat long in her chair, motionless between
bewilderment and rage. In her heart she was saying, "The obstinate,
foolish girl must be brought to reason!"

A servant entered with a telegram. Mrs. Mavick took it, and held it
listlessly while the servant waited. "You can sign." After the door
closed--she was still thinking of Evelyn--she waited a moment before she
tore the envelope, and with no eagerness unfolded the official yellow
paper. And then she read:

"I have made an assignment. T. M."

A half-hour afterwards when a maid entered the room she found Mrs. Mavick
still seated in the armchair, her hands powerless at her side, her eyes
staring into space, her face haggard and old.

XXV

The action of Thomas Mavick in giving up the fight was as unexpected in
New York as it was in Newport. It was a shock even to those familiar
with the Street. It was known that he was in trouble, but he had been in
trouble before. It was known that there had been sacrifices, efforts at
extension, efforts at compromise, but the general public fancied that the
Mavick fortune had a core too solid to be washed away by any storm. Only
a very few people knew--such old hands as Uncle Jerry Hollowell, and such
inquisitive bandits as Murad Ault--that the house of Mavick was a house
of cards, and that it might go down when the belief was destroyed that it
was of granite.

The failure was not an ordinary sensation, and, according to the
excellent practices and differing humors of the daily newspapers,
it was made the most of, until the time came for the heavy weeklies
to handle it in its moral aspects as an illustration of modern
civilization. On the first morning there was substantial unanimity in
assuming the totality of the disaster, and the most ingenious artists in
headlines vied with each other in startling effects: "Crash in Wall
Street." "Mavick Runs Up the White Flag." "King of Wall Street Called
Down." "Ault Takes the Pot." "Dangerous to Dukes." "Mavick Bankrupt."
"The House of Mavick a Ruin." "Dukes and Drakes." "The Sea Goes Over
Him."

This, however, was only the beginning. The sensation must be prolonged.
The next day there were attenuating circumstances.
It might be only a temporary embarrassment. The assets were vastly
greater than the liabilities. There was talk in financial circles of an
adjustment. With time the house could go on. The next day it was made a
reproach to the house that such deceptive hopes were put upon the public.
Journalistic enterprise had discovered that the extent of the liabilities
had been concealed. This attempt to deceive the public, these defenders
of the public interest would expose. The next day the wind blew from
another direction. The alarmists were rebuked. The creditors were
disposed to be lenient. Doubtful securities were likely to realize more
than was expected. The assignees were sharply scored for not taking the
newspapers into their confidence.

And so for ten days the failure went on in the newspapers, backward and
forward, now hopeless, now relieved, now sunk in endless complications,
and fallen into the hands of the lawyers who could be trusted with the
most equitable distribution of the property involved, until the reading
public were glad to turn, with the same eager zest, to the case of the
actress who was found dead in a hotel in Jersey City. She was attended
only by her pet poodle, in whose collar was embedded a jewel of great
price. This jewel was traced to a New York establishment, whence it had
disappeared under circumstances that pointed to the criminality of a
scion of a well-known family--an exposure which would shake society to
its foundations.

Meantime affairs took their usual course. The downfall of Mavick is too
well known in the Street to need explanation here. For a time it was
hoped that sacrifices of great interests would leave a modest little
fortune, but under the pressure of liquidation these hopes melted away.
If anything could be saved it would be only comparatively valueless
securities and embarrassed bits of property that usually are only a
delusion and a source of infinite worry to a bankrupt. It seemed
incredible that such a vast fortune should so disappear; but there were
wise men who, so they declared, had always predicted this disaster. For
some years after Henderson's death the fortune had appeared to expand
marvelously. It was, however, expanded, and not solidified. It had been
risked in many gigantic speculations (such as the Argentine), and it had
been liable to collapse at any time if its central credit was doubted.
Mavick's combinations were splendidly conceived, but he lacked the power
of coordination. And great as were his admitted abilities, he had never
inspired confidence.

"And, besides," said Uncle Jerry, philosophizing about it in his homely
way, "there's that little devil of a Carmen, the most fascinating woman I
ever knew--it would take the Bank of England to run her. Why, when I see
that Golden House going up, I said I'd give 'em five years to balloon in
it. I was mistaken. They've floated it about eighteen. Some folks are
lucky--up to a certain point."

Grave history gives but a paragraph to a personal celebrity of this sort.
When a ship goes down in a tempest off the New England coast, there is a
brief period of public shock and sympathy, and then the world passes on
to other accidents and pleasures; but for months relics of the great
vessel float ashore on lonely headlands or are cast up on sandy beaches,
and for years, in many a home made forlorn by the shipwreck, are aching
hearts and an ever-present calamity.

The disaster of the house of Mavick was not accepted without a struggle,
lasting long after the public interest in the spectacle had abated--a
struggle to save the ship and then to pick up some debris from the great
wreck. The most pathetic sight in the business world is that of a
bankrupt, old and broken, pursuing with always deluded expectations the
remnants of his fortune, striving to make new combinations, involved in
lawsuits, alternately despairing, alternately hopeful in the chaos of his
affairs. This was the fate of Thomas Mavick.

The news was all over Newport in a few hours after it had stricken down
Mrs. Mavick. The newspaper details the morning after were read with that
eager interest that the misfortunes of neighbors always excite. After
her first stupor, Mrs. Mavick refused to believe it. It could not be,
and her spirit of resistance rose with the frantic messages she sent to
her husband. Alas, the cold fact of the assignment remained. Still her
courage was not quite beaten down. The suspension could only be
temporary. She would not have it otherwise. Two days she showed herself
as usual in Newport, and carried herself bravely. The sympathy looked or
expressed was wormwood to her, but she met it with a reassuring smile.
To be sure it was very hard to bear such a blow, the result of a stock
intrigue, but it would soon pass over--it was a temporary embarrassment--
that she said everywhere.

She had not, however, told the news to Evelyn with any such smiling
confidence. There was still rage in her heart against her daughter, as
if her obstinacy had some connection with this blow of fate, and she did
not soften the announcement. She expected to sting her, and she did
astonish and she did grieve her, for the breaking-up of her world could
not do otherwise; but it was for her mother and not for herself that
Evelyn showed emotion. If their fortune was gone, then the obstacle was
removed that separated her from Philip. The world well lost! This
flashed through her mind before she had fairly grasped the extent of
the fatality, and it blunted her appreciation of it as an unmixed ruin.

"Poor mamma!" was what she said.

"Poor me!" cried Mrs. Mavick, looking with amazement at her daughter,"
don't you understand that our life is all ruined?"

"Yes, that part of it, but we are left. It might have been so much
worse."

"Worse? You have no more feeling than a chip. You are a beggar! That
is all. What do you mean by worse?"

"If father had done anything dishonorable!" suggested the girl, timidly,
a little scared by her mother's outburst.

"Evelyn, you are a fool!"

And perhaps she was, with such preposterous notions of what is really
valuable in life. There could be no doubt of it from Mrs. Mavick's point
of view.

If Evelyn's conduct exasperated her, the non-appearance of Lord Montague
after the publication of the news seriously alarmed her.
No doubt he was shocked, but she could explain it to him, and perhaps he
was too much interested in Evelyn to be thrown off by this misfortune.
The third day she wrote him a note, a familiar, almost affectionate note,
chiding him for deserting them in their trouble. She assured him that
the news was greatly exaggerated, the embarrassment was only temporary,
such things were always happening in the Street. "You know," she said,
playfully, "it is our American way to be up in a minute when we seem to
be down." She asked him to call, for she had something that was
important to tell him, and, besides, she needed his counsel as a friend
of the house. The note was despatched by a messenger.

In an hour it was returned, unopened, with a verbal message from his
host, saying that Lord Montague had received important news from London,
and that he had left town the day before.

"Coward!" muttered the enraged woman, with closed teeth. "Men are all
cowards, put them to the test."

The energetic woman judged from a too narrow basis. Because Mavick was
weak--and she had always secretly despised him for yielding to her--weak
as compared with her own indomitable spirit, she generalized wildly. Her
opinion of men would have been modified if she had come in contact with
Murad Ault.

To one man in New York besides Mr. Ault the failure did not seem a
personal calamity. When Philip saw in the steamer departures the name of
Lord Montague, his spirits rose in spite of the thought that the heiress
was no longer an heiress. The sky lifted, there was a promise of fair
weather, the storm, for him, had indeed cleared the air.

"Dear Philip," wrote Miss McDonald, "it is really dreadful news, but
I cannot be so very downhearted. It is the least of calamities that
could happen to my dear child. Didn't I tell you that it is always
darkest just before the dawn?"

And Philip needed the hope of the dawn. Trial is good for any one, but
hopeless suffering for none. Philip had not been without hope, but it
was a visionary indulgence, against all evidence. It was the hope of
youth, not of reason. He stuck to his business doggedly,
he stuck to his writing doggedly, but over all his mind was a cloud, an
oppression not favorable to creative effort--that is, creative effort
sweet and not cynical, sunny and not morbid.

And yet, who shall say that this very experience, this oppression of
circumstance, was not the thing needed for the development of the best
that was in him? Thrown back upon himself and denied an airy soaring in
the heights of a prosperous fancy, he had come to know himself and his
limitations. And in the year he had learned a great deal about his art.
For one thing he had come to the ground. He was looking more at life as
it is. His experience at the publishers had taught him one important
truth, and that is that a big subject does not make a big writer, that
all that any mind can contribute to the general thought of the world in
literature is what is in itself, and if there is nothing in himself it is
vain for the writer to go far afield for a theme. He had seen the young
artists, fretting for want of subjects, wandering the world over in
search of an object fitted to their genius, setting up their easels in
front of the marvels of nature and of art, in the expectation that genius
would descend upon them.

If they could find something big enough to paint! And he had seen,
in exhibition after exhibition, that the artist who cannot paint a rail-
fence cannot paint a pyramid. A man does not become a good rider by
mounting an elephant; ten to one a donkey would suit him better. Philip
had begun to see that the life around him had elements enough of the
comic and the tragic to give full play to all his powers.

He began to observe human beings as he had never done before. There were
only two questions, and they are at the bottom of all creative
literature--could he see them, could he make others see them?

This was all as true before the Mavick failure as after; but, before,
what was the use of effort? Now there was every inducement to effort.
Ambition to succeed had taken on him the hold of necessity. And with a
free mind as to the obstacles that lay between him and the realization of
the great dream of his life, the winning of the one woman who could make
his life complete, Philip set to work with an earnestness and a clearness
of vision that had never been given him before.

In the wreck of the Mavick estate, in its distribution, there are one or
two things of interest to the general reader. One of these was the fate
of the Golden House, as it was called. Mrs. Mavick had hurried back to
her town house, determined to save it at all hazard. The impossibility
of this was, however, soon apparent even to her intrepid spirit. She
would either sacrifice all else to save it, or--dark thoughts of ending
it in a conflagration entered her mind. This was only her first temper.
But to keep the house without a vast fortune to sustain it was an
impossibility, and, as it was the most conspicuous of Mavick's visible
possessions, perhaps the surrender of it, which she could not prevent,
would save certain odds and ends here and there. Whether she liked it or
not, the woman learned for once that her will had little to do with the
course of events.

Its destination was gall and wormwood both to Carmen and her husband.
For it fell into the hands of Murad Ault. He coveted it as the most
striking symbol of the position he had conquered in the metropolis. Its
semi-barbaric splendor appealed also to his passion for display. And it
was notable that the taste of the rude lad of poverty--this uncultivated
offspring of a wandering gypsy and herb--collector--perhaps she had
ancient and noble blood in her veins--should be the same for material
ostentation and luxury as that of the cultivated, fastidious Mavick and
his worldly-minded wife. So persistent is the instinct of barbarism in
our modern civilization.

When Ault told his wife what he had done, that sweet, domestic, and
sensible woman was very far from being elated.

"I am almost sorry," she said.

"Sorry for what?" asked Mr. Ault, gently, but greatly surprised.

"For the Mavicks. I don't mean for Mrs. Mavick--I hear she is a worldly
and revengeful woman--but for the girl. It must be dreadful to turn her
out of all the surroundings of her happy life. And I hear she is as good
as she is lovely. Think what it would be for our own girls."

"But it can't be helped," said Ault, persuasively. "The house had to be
sold, and it makes no difference who has it, so far as the girl is
concerned."

"And don't you fear a little for our own girls, launching out that way?"

"You are afraid they will get lost in that big house?" And Mr. Ault
laughed. "It isn't a bit too big or too good for them. At any rate, my
dear, in they go, and you must get ready to move. The house will be
empty in a week."

"Murad," and Mrs. Ault spoke as if she were not thinking of the change
for herself, "there is one thing I wish you would do for me, dear."

"What is that?"

"Go to Mr. Mavick, or to Mrs. Mavick, or the assignees or whoever, and
have the daughter--yes, and her mother--free to take away anything they
want, anything dear to them by long association. Will you?"

"I don't see how. Mavick wouldn't do it for us, and I guess he is too
proud to accept anything from me. I don't owe him anything. And then
the property is in the assignment. Whatever is there I bought with the
house."

"I should be so much happier if you could do something about it."

"Well, it don't matter much. I guess the assignees can make Mrs. Mavick
believe easy enough that certain things belong to her. But I would not
do it for any other living being but you."

"By-the-way," he added, "there is another bit of property that I didn't
take, the Newport palace."

"I should have dreaded that more than the other."

"So I thought. And I have another plan. It's long been in my mind, and
we will carry it out next summer. There is a little plateau on the side
of the East Mountain in Rivervale, where there used to stand a shack of a
cabin, with a wild sort of garden-patch about it, a tumble-down root
fence, all in the midst of brush and briers. Lord, what a habitation it
was! But such a view--rivers, mountains, meadows, and orchards in the
distance! That is where I lived with my mother. What a life!
I hated everything, everybody but her."

Mr. Ault paused, his strong, dark face working with passion, as the
memory of his outlawed boyhood revived. Is it possible that this pirate
of the Street had a bit of sentiment at the bottom of his heart? After a
moment he continued:

"That was the spot to which my mother took me when I was knee-high. I've
bought it, bought the whole hillside. Next summer we will put up a house
there, not a very big house, just a long, low sort of a Moorish pavilion,
the architect calls it. I wish she could see it."

Mrs. Ault rose, with tears in her gentle eyes, stood by her husband's
chair a moment, ran her fingers through his heavy black locks, bent down
and kissed him, and went away without a word.

There was another bit of property that was not included in the wreck.
It belonged to Mrs. Mavick. This was a little house in Irving Place, in
which Carmen Eschelle lived with her mother, in the days before the death
of Henderson's first wife, not very happy days for that wife. Carmen had
a fancy for keeping it after her marriage. Not from any sentiment, she
told Mr. Mavick on the occasion of her second marriage, oh, no, but
somehow it seemed to her, in all her vast possessions left to her by
Henderson, the only real estate she had. It was the only thing that had
not passed into the absolute possession and control of Mavick. The great
town house, with all the rest, stood in Mavick's name. What secret
influence had he over her that made her submit to such a foolish
surrender?

It was in this little house that the reduced family stowed itself after
the downfall. The little house, had it been sentient, would have been
astonished at the entrance into it of the furniture and the remnants of
luxurious living that Mrs. Mavick was persuaded belonged to her
personally. These reminders of former days were, after all, a mockery in
the narrow quarters and the pinched economy of the bankrupt. Yet they
were, for a time useful in preserving to Mrs. Mavick a measure of self-
respect, her self-respect having always been based upon what she had and
not what she was. In truth, the change of lot was harder for Mrs. Mavick
than for Evelyn, since the world in which the latter lived had not been
destroyed. She still had her books, she still had a great love in her
heart, and hope, almost now a sure hope, that her love would blossom
into a great happiness.

But where was Philip? In all this time why did he make no sign?
At moments a great fear came over her. She was so ignorant of life.
Could he know what misery she was in, the daily witness of her father's
broken condition, of her mother's uncertain temper?

XXVI

Is justice done in this world only by a succession of injustices?
Is there any law that a wrong must right a wrong? Did it rebuke the
means by which the vast fortune of Henderson was accumulated, that it was
defeated of any good use by the fraud of his wife? Was her action
punished by the same unscrupulous tactics of the Street that originally
made the fortune? And Ault? Would a stronger pirate arise in time to
despoil him, and so act as the Nemesis of all violation of the law of
honest relations between men?

The comfort is, in all this struggle of the evil powers, masked as
justice, that the Almighty Ruler of the world does not forget his own,
and shows them a smiling face in the midst of disaster. There is no
mystery in this. For the noble part in man cannot be touched in its
integrity by such vulgar disasters as we are considering. In those days
when Evelyn saw dissolving about her the material splendors of her old
life, while the Golden House was being dismantled, and she was taking sad
leave of the scenes of her girlhood, so vivid with memory of affection
and of intellectual activity, they seemed only the shell, the casting-off
of which gave her freedom. The sun never shone brighter, there was never
such singing in her heart, as on the morning when she was free to go to
Mrs. Van Cortlandt's and throw herself into the arms of her dear
governess and talk of Philip.

Why not? Perhaps she had not that kind of maidenly shyness, sometimes
called conventional propriety, sometimes described as 'mauvaise honte'
which a woman of the world would have shown. The impulses of her heart
followed as direct lines as the reasoning of her brain. Was it due to
her peculiar education, education only in the noblest ideas of the race,
that she should be a sort of reversion, in our complicated life, to the
type of woman in the old societies (we like to believe there was such a
type as the poets love, the Nausicaas), who were single-minded, as frank
to avow affection as opinion?

"Have you seen him?" she asked.

"No, but he has written."

"And you think he--" the girl had her arms around her friend's neck
again, and concealed her blushing face don't make me say it, McDonald."

"Yes, dear, I am sure--I know he does."

There was a little quiver in her form, but it was not of agony; then she
put her hands on the shoulders of her governess, and, looking in her
eyes, said:

"When you did see him, how did he look--how did he look?--pretty sad?"

"How could he help it?"

"The dear! But was he well?"

"Splendidly, so he said. Like his old self."

"Tell me," said the girl.

And Miss McDonald went into delightful details, how he looked, how he
walked, how his voice sounded, how he talked, how melancholy he was, and
how full of determination he was, his eyes were so kindly, and his smile
was never so sweet as now when there was sadness in it.

"It is very long since," drearily murmured the girl. And then she
continued, partly to herself, partly to Miss McDonald: "He will come now,
can't he? Not to that house. Never would I wish him to set foot in it.
But he is not forbidden to come to the place where we are going. Soon,
you think? Perhaps you might hint--oh no, not from me--just your idea.
Wouldn't it be natural, after our misfortune? Perhaps mamma would feel
differently after what has happened. Oh, that Montague! that horrid
little man! I think--I think I shall receive him coolly at first, just
to see."

But it was not immediately that the chance for a guileless woman to show
her coolness to her lover was to occur. This postponement was not due to
the coolness or to the good sense of Philip. When the catastrophe came,
his first impulse was that of a fireman who plunges into a burning
building to rescue the imperiled inmates. He pictured in his mind a
certain nobility of action in going forward to the unfortunate family
with his sympathy, and appearing to them in the heroic attitude of a man
whose love has no alloy of self-interest. They should speedily
understand that it was not the heiress, but the woman, with whom he was
in love.

But Miss McDonald understood human nature better than that, at least the
nature of Mrs. Mavick. People of her temperament, humiliated and
enraged, are best left alone. The fierceness with which she would have
turned upon any of her society friends who should have presumed to offer
her condolence, however sweetly the condescension were concealed, would
have been vented without mercy upon the man whose presence would have
reminded her of her foolish rudeness to him, and of the bitter failure of
her schemes for her daughter. "Wait, wait," said the good counselor,
"until the turmoil has subsided, and the hard pressure of circumstances
compels her to look at things in their natural relations. She is too
sore now in--the wreck of all her hopes."

But, indeed, her hopes were not all surrendered in a moment. She had
more spirit than her husband in their calamity. She was, in fact, a born
gambler; she had the qualities of her temperament, and would not believe
that courage and luck could not retrieve, at least partially, their
fortune. It seemed incredible in the Street that the widow of Henderson
should have given over her property so completely to her second husband,
and it was a surprise to find that there was very little of value that
the assignment of Mavick did not carry with it. The Street did not know
the guilty secret between Mavick and his wife that made them cowards to
each other. Nor did it understand that Carmen was the more venturesome
gambler of the two, and that gradually, for the success of promising
schemes, she had thrown one thing after another into the common
speculation, until practically all the property stood in Mavick's name.
Was she a fool in this, as so many women are about their separate
property, or was she cheated?

The palace on Fifth Avenue was not even in her name. When she realized
that, there was a scene--but this is not a history of the quarrels of
Carmen and her husband after the break-down.

The reader would not be interested--the public of the time were not--in
the adjustment of Mavick and his wife to their new conditions.
The broken-down, defeated bankrupt is no novelty in Wall Street, the man
struggling to keep his foothold in the business of the Street, and
descending lower and lower in the scale. The shrewd curbstone broker may
climb to a seat in the Stock Exchange; quite as often a lord of the
Board, a commander of millions, may be reduced to the seedy watcher of
the bulletin-board in a bucket-shop.

At first, in the excitement and the confusion, amid the debris of so much
possible wealth, Mavick kept a sort of position, and did not immediately
feel the pinch of vulgar poverty. But the day came when all illusion
vanished, and it was a question of providing from day to day for the
small requirements of the house in Irving Place.

It was not a cheerful household; reproaches are hard to bear when
physical energy is wanting to resist them. Mavick had visibly aged
during the year. It was only in his office that he maintained anything
of the spruce appearance and 'sang froid' which had distinguished the
diplomatist and the young adventurer. At home he had fallen into the
slovenliness that marks a disappointed old age. Was Mrs. Mavick peevish
and unreasonable? Very likely. And had she not reason to be? Was she,
as a woman, any more likely to be reconciled to her fate when her mirror
told her, with pitiless reflection, that she was an old woman?

Philip waited. Under the circumstances would not both Philip and Evelyn
have been justified in disregarding the prohibition that forbade their
meeting or even writing to each other? It may be a nice question, but it
did not seem so to these two, who did not juggle with their consciences.
Philip had given his word. Evelyn would tolerate no concealments; she
was just that simple-minded in her filial notions.

The girl, however, had one comfort, and that was the knowledge of Philip
through Miss McDonald, whom she saw frequently, and to whom even Mrs.
Mavick was in a manner reconciled. She was often in the little house in
Irving Place. There was nothing in her manner to remind Mrs. Mavick that
she had done her a great wrong, and her cheerfulness and good sense made
her presence and talk a relief from the monotony of the defeated woman's
life.

It came about, therefore, that one day Philip made his way down into the
city to seek an interview with Mr. Mavick. He found him, after some
inquiry, in a barren little office, occupying one of the rented desks
with three or four habitues of the Street, one of them an old man like
himself, the others mere lads who did not intend to remain long in such
cramped quarters.

Mr. Mavick arose when his visitor stood at his desk, buttoned up his
frock-coat, and extended his hand with a show of business cordiality, and
motioned him to a chair. Philip was greatly shocked at the change in Mr.
Mavick's appearance.

"I beg your pardon," he said, "for disturbing you in business hours."

"No disturbance," he answered, with something of the old cynical smile on
his lips.

"Long ago I called to see you on the errand I have now, but you were not
in town. It was, Mr. Mavick," and Philip hesitated and looked down, "in
regard to your daughter."

"Ah, I did not hear of it."

"No? Well, Mr. Mavick, I was pretty presumptuous, for I had no foothold
in the city, except a law clerkship."

"I remember--Hunt, Sharp & Tweedle; why didn't you keep it?"

"I wasn't fitted for the law."

"Oh, literature? Does literature pay?"

"Not in itself, not for many," and Philip forced a laugh. "But it led to
a situation in a first-rate publishing house--an apprenticeship that has
now given me a position that seems to be permanent, with prospects
beyond, and a very fair salary. It would not seem much to you,
Mr. Mavick," and Philip tried to laugh again.

"I don't know," replied Mr. Mavick. "If a fellow has any sort of salary
these times, I should advise him to hold on to it. By-the-way,
Mr. Burnett, Hunt's a Republican, isn't he?"

"He was," replied Philip, "the last I knew."

"Do you happen to know whether he knows Bilbrick, the present Collector?"

"Mr. Bilbrick used to be a client of his."

"Just so. I think I'll see Hunt. A salary isn't a bad thing for a--for
a man who has retired pretty much from business. But you were saying,
Mr. Burnett?"

"I was going to say, Mr. Mavick, that there was a little something more
than my salary that I can count on pretty regularly now from the
magazines, and I have had another story, a novel, accepted, and--you
won't think me vain--the publisher says it will go; if it doesn't have a
big sale he will--"

"Make it up to you?"

"Not exactly," and Philip laughed; "he will be greatly mistaken."

"I suppose it is a kind of lottery, like most things. The publishers
have to take risks. The only harm I wish them is that they were
compelled to read all the stuff they try to make us read. Ah, well. Mr.
Burnett, I hope you have made a hit. It is pretty much the same thing in
our business. The publisher bulls his own book and bears the other
fellow's. Is it a New York story?"

"Partly; things come to a focus here, you know."

"I could give you points. It's a devil of a place. I guess the
novelists are too near to see the romance of it. When I was in Rome I
amused myself by diving into the mediaeval records. Steel and poison
were the weapons then. We have a different method now, but it comes to
the same thing, and we say we are more civilized. I think our way is
more devilishly dramatic than the old brute fashion. Yes, I could give
you points."

"I should be greatly obliged," said Philip, seeing the way to bring the
conversation back to its starting point; "your wide experience of life--
if you had leisure at home some time."

"Oh," replied Mavick, with more good-humor in his laugh than he had shown
before, "you needn't beat about the bush. Have you seen Evelyn?"

"No, not since that dinner at the Van Cortlandts'."

"Huh! for myself, I should be pleased to see you any time, Mr. Burnett.
Mrs. Mavick hasn't felt like seeing anybody lately. But I'll see, I'll
see."

The two men rose and shook hands, as men shake hands when they have an
understanding.

"I'm glad you are doing well," Mr. Mavick added; "your life is before
you, mine is behind me; that makes a heap of difference."

Within a few days Philip received a note from Mrs. Mavick--not an
effusive note, not an explanatory note, not an apologetic note, simply a
note as if nothing unusual had happened--if Mr. Burnett had leisure,
would he drop in at five o'clock in Irving Place for a cup of tea?

Not one minute by his watch after the hour named, Philip rang the bell
and was shown into a little parlor at the front. There was only one
person in the room, a lady in exquisite toilet, who rose rather languidly
to meet him, exactly as if the visitor were accustomed to drop in to tea
at that hour.

Philip hesitated a moment near the door, embarrassed by a mortifying
recollection of his last interview with Mrs. Mavick, and in that moment
he saw her face. Heavens, what a change! And yet it was a smiling face.

There is a portrait of Carmen by a foreign artist, who was years ago the
temporary fashion in New York, painted the year after her second marriage
and her return from Rome, which excited much comment at the time. Philip
had seen it in more than one portrait exhibition.

Its technical excellence was considerable. The artist had evidently
intended to represent a woman piquant and fascinating, if not strictly
beautiful. Many persons said it was lovely. Other critics said that,
whether the artist intended it or not, he had revealed the real character
of the subject. There was something sinister in its beauty. One artist,
who was out of fashion as an idealist, said, of course privately, that
the more he looked at it the more hideous it became to him--like one of
Blake's objective portraits of a "soul"--the naked soul of an evil woman
showing through the mask of all her feminine fascinations--the possible
hell, so he put it, under a woman's charm.

It was this in the portrait that Philip saw in the face smiling a
welcome--like an old, sweetly smiling Lalage--from which had passed away
youth and the sustaining consciousness of wealth and of a place in the
great world. The smile was no longer sweet, though the words from the
lips were honeyed.

"It is very good of you to drop in in this way, Mr. Burnett," she said,
as she gave him her hand. "It is very quiet down here."

"It is to me the pleasantest part of the city."

"You think so now. I thought so once," and there was a note of sadness
in her voice. "But it isn't New York. It is a place for the people who
are left."

"But it has associations."

"Yes, I know. We pretend that it is more aristocratic. That means the
rents are lower. It is a place for youth to begin and for age to end.
We seem to go round in a circle. Mr. Mavick began in the service of the
government, now he has entered it again--ah, you did not know?--a place
in the Custom-House. He says it is easier to collect other people's
revenues than your own. Do you know, Mr. Burnett, I do not see much
use in collecting revenues anyway--so far as New York is concerned
the people get little good of them. Look out there at that cloud of dust
in the street."

Mrs. Mavick rambled on in the whimsical, cynical fashion of old ladies
when they cease to have any active responsibility in life and become
spectators of it. Their remaining enjoyment is the indulgence of frank
speech.

"But I thought," Philip interrupted, "that this part of the town was
specially New York."

"New York!" cried Carmen, with animation. "The New York of the
newspapers, of the country imagination; the New York as it is known in
Paris is in Wall Street and in the palaces up-town. Who are the kings of
Wall Street, and who build the palaces up-town? They say that there are
no Athenians in Athens, and no Romans in Rome. How many New-Yorkers are
there in New York? Do New-Yorkers control the capital, rule the
politics, build the palaces, direct the newspapers, furnish the
entertainment, manufacture the literature, set the pace in society? Even
the socialists and mobocrats are not native. Successive invaders, as in
Rome, overrun and occupy the town.

"No, Mr. Burnett, I have left the existing New York. How queer it is to
think about it. My first husband was from New Hampshire. My second
husband was from Illinois. And there is your Murad Ault. The Lord knows
where he came from.

"Talk about the barbarians occupying Rome! Look at that Ault in a
palace! Who was that emperor--Caligula?--I am like the young lady from a
finishing-school who said she never could remember which came first in
history, Greece or Rome--who stabled his horses with stalls and mangers
of gold? The Aults stable themselves that way. Ah, me! Let me give you
a cup of tea. Even that is English."

"It's an innocent pastime," she continued, as Philip stirred his tea, in
perplexity as to how he should begin to say what he had to say--"you
won't object if I light a cigarette? One ought to retain at least one
bad habit to keep from spiritual pride. Tea is an excuse for this. I
don't think it a bad habit, though some people say that civilization is
only exchanging one bad habit for another. Everything changes."

"I don't think I have changed, Mrs. Mavick," said Philip, with
earnestness.

"No? But you will. I have known lots of people who said they never
would change. They all did. No, you need not protest. I believe in you
now, or I should not be drinking tea with you. But you must be
tired of an old woman's gossip. Evelyn has gone out for a walk; she
didn't know. I expect her any minute. Ah, I think that is her ring. I
will let her in. There is nothing so hateful as a surprise."

She turned and gave Philip her hand, and perhaps she was sincere--she had
a habit of being so when it suited her interests--when she said, "There
are no bygones, my friend."

Philip waited, his heart beating a hundred to the minute. He heard
greetings and whisperings in the passage-way, and then--time seemed to
stand still--the door opened and Evelyn stood on the threshold, radiant
from her walk, her face flushed, the dainty little figure poised in timid
expectation, in maidenly hesitation, and then she stepped forward to meet
his advance, with welcome in her great eyes, and gave him her hand in the
old-fashioned frankness.

"I am so glad to see you."

Philip murmured something in reply and they were seated.

That was all. It was so different from the meeting as Philip had a
hundred times imagined it.

"It has been very long," said Philip, who was devouring the girl with his
eyes very long to me."

"I thought you had been very busy," she replied, demurely. Her composure
was very irritating.

"If you thought about it at all, Miss Mavick."

"That is not like you, Mr. Burnett," Evelyn replied, looking up suddenly
with troubled eyes.

"I didn't mean that," said Philip, moving uneasily in his chair,
"I--so many things have happened. You know a person can be busy and not
happy."

"I know that. I was not always happy," said the girl, with the air of
making a confession. "But I liked to hear from time to time of the
success of my friends," she added, ingenuously. And then, quite
inconsequently, "I suppose you have news from Rivervale?"

Yes, Philip heard often from Alice, and he told the news as well as he
could, and the talk drifted along--how strange it seemed!--about things
in which neither of them felt any interest at the moment.
Was there no way to break the barrier that the little brown girl had
thrown around herself? Were all women, then, alike in parrying and
fencing? The talk went on, friendly enough at last, about a thousand
things. It might have been any afternoon call on a dear friend. And at
length Philip rose to go.

"I hope I may see you again, soon."

"Of course," said Evelyn, cheerfully. "I am sure father will be
delighted to see you. He enjoys so little now."

He had taken both her hands to say good-by, and was looking hungrily into
her eyes.

"I can't go so. Evelyn, you know, you must know, I love you."

And before the girl comprehended him he had drawn her to him and pressed
his lips upon hers.

The girl started back as if stung, and looked at him with flashing eyes.

"What have you done, what have you done to me?"

Her eyes were clouded, and she put her hands to her face, trembling, and
then with a cry, as of a soul born into the world, threw herself upon
him, her arms around his neck--

"Philip, Philip, my Philip!"

XXVII

Perhaps Philip's announcement of his good-fortune to Alice and to Celia
was not very coherent, but his meaning was plain. Perhaps he was
conscious that the tidings would not increase the cheerfulness of Celia's
single-handed struggle for the ideal life; at least, he would rather
write than tell her face to face.

However he put the matter to her, with what protestations of affectionate
friendship and trust he wrapped up the statement that he made as matter
of fact as possible, he could not conceal the ecstatic state of his mind.

Nothing like it certainly had happened to anybody in the world before.
All the dream of his boyhood, romantic and rose-colored, all the
aspirations of his manhood, for recognition, honor, a place in the life
of his time, were mere illusions compared to this wonderful crown of
life--a woman's love. Where did it come from into this miserable world,
this heavenly ray, this pure gift out of the divine beneficence, this
spotless flower in a humanity so astray, this sure prophecy of the final
redemption of the world? The immeasurable love of a good woman! And to
him! Philip felt humble in his exaltation, charitable in his selfish
appropriation. He wanted to write to Celia--but he did not--that he
loved her more than ever. But to Alice he could pour out his wealth
of affection, quickened to all the world by this great love, for he knew
that her happiness would be in his happiness.

The response from Alice was what he expected, tender, sweet, domestic,
and it was full of praise of Evelyn, of love for her. "Perhaps, dear
Phil," she wrote, "I shall love her more than I do you. I almost think--
did I not remember what a bad boy you could be sometimes--that each one
of you is too good for the other. But, Phil, if you should ever come to
think that she is not too good for you, you will not be good enough for
her. I can't think she is perfect, any more than you are perfect--you
will find that she is just a woman--but there is nothing in all life so
precious as such a heart as hers. You will come here, of course, and at
once, whenever it is. You know that big, square, old-fashioned corner
chamber, with the high-poster. That is yours. Evelyn never saw it. The
morning and the evening sun shoot across it, and the front windows look
on the great green crown of Mount Peak. You know it. There is not such
a place in the world to hear the low and peaceful murmur of the river,
all night long, rushing, tumbling, crooning, I used to think when I was a
little girl and dreamed of things unseen, and still going on when the
birds begin to sing in the dawn. And with Evelyn! Dear Phil!"

It was in another strain, but not less full of real affection, that Celia
wrote:

"I am not going to congratulate you. You are long past the need of that.
But you know that I am happy in having you happy. You thought I never
saw anything? I wonder if men are as blind as they seem to be? And I
had fears. Do you know a man ought to build his own monument. If he
goes into a monument built for him, that is the end of him. Now you can
work, and you will. I am so glad she isn't an heiress any more. I guess
there was a curse on that fortune. But she has eluded it. I believe all
you tell me about her. Perhaps there are more such women in the world
than you think. Some day I shall know her, and soon. I do long to see
her. Love her I feel sure I shall.

"You ask about myself. I am the same, but things change. When I get my
medical diploma I shall decide what to do. My little property just
suffices, with economy, and I enjoy economy. I doubt if I do any general
practice for pay. There are so many young doctors that need the money
for practice more than I do. And perhaps taking it up as a living would
make me sort of hard and perfunctory. And there is so much to do in this
great New York among the unfortunate that a woman who knows medicine can
do better than any one else.

"Ah, me, I am happy in a way, or I expect to be. Everybody--it isn't
because I am a woman I say this--needs something to lean on now and then.
There isn't much to lean on in the college, nor in many of my zealous and
ambitious companions there. There is more faith in the poor people down
in the wards where I go. They are kind to each other, and most of them,
not all, believe in something. They, have that, at any rate, in all
their trials and poverty. Philip, don't despise the invisible. I have
got into the habit of going into a Catholic church down there, when I am
tired and discouraged, and getting the peace of it. It is a sort of open
door! You need not jump to the conclusion that I am 'going over.' Maybe
I am going back. I don't know. I have always you know, been looking for
something.

"I like to sit there in that dim quiet and think of things I can't think
of elsewhere. Do you think I am queer? Philip, all women are queer.
They haven't yet been explained. That is the reason why the novelists
find it next to impossible, with all the materials at hand, to make a
good woman--that is a woman. Do you know what it is to want what you
don't want? Longing is one thing and reason another.

"Perhaps I have depended too much on my reason. If you long to go to a
place where you will have peace, why should you let what you call your
reason stand in the way? Perhaps your reason is foolishness. You will
laugh a little at this, and say that I am tired. No. Only I am not so
sure of things as I used to be. Do you remember when we children used to
sit under that tree by the Deerfield, how confident I was that I
understood all about life, and my airs of superiority?

"Well, I don't know as much now. But there is one thing that has survived
and grown with the years, and that, Philip, is your dear friendship."

What was it in this unassuming, but no doubt sufficiently conceited and
ambitious, young fellow that he should have the affection, the love, of
three such women?

Is affection as whimsically, as blindly distributed as wealth? It is the
experience of life that it is rare to keep either to the end, but as a
man is judged not so much by his ability to make money as to keep it, so
it is fair to estimate his qualities by his power to retain friendship.
New York is full of failures, bankrupts in fortune and bankrupts in
affection, but this melancholy aspect of the town is on the surface, and
is not to be considered in comparison with the great body of moderately
contented, moderately successful, and on the whole happy households. In
this it is a microcosm of the world.

To Evelyn and Philip, judging the world a good deal by each other,
in those months before their marriage, when surprising perfection and new
tenderness were daily developed, the gay and busy city seemed a sort of
paradise.

Mysterious things were going on in the weeks immediately preceding the
wedding. There was a conspiracy between Miss McDonald and Philip in the
furnishing and setting in order a tiny apartment on the Heights,
overlooking the city, the lordly Hudson, and its romantic hills.
And when, after the ceremony, on a radiant afternoon in early June, the
wedded lovers went to their new home, it was the housekeeper, the old
governess, who opened the door and took into her arms the child she had
loved and lost awhile.

This fragment of history leaves Philip Burnett on the threshold of his
career. Those who know him only by his books may have been interested in
his experiences, in the merciful interposition of disaster, before he
came into the great fortune of the love of Evelyn Mavick.

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