Part 1 out of 9
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Josephine Paolucci and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team.
THE BENT TWIG
I SYLVIA'S HOME
II THE MARSHALLS' FRIENDS
III BROTHER AND SISTER
IV EVERY ONE'S OPINION OF EVERY ONE ELSE
V SOMETHING ABOUT HUSBANDS
VI THE SIGHTS OF LA CHANCE
VII "WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT ..."
IX THE END OF CHILDHOOD
_A FALSE START TO ATHENS_
X SYLVIA'S FIRST GLIMPSE OF MODERN CIVILIZATION
XI ARNOLD'S FUTURE Is CASUALLY DECIDED
XII ONE MAN'S MEAT
XIII AN INSTRUMENT IN TUNE
XIV HIGHER EDUCATION
XV MRS. DRAPER BLOWS THE COALS
XVI PLAYING WITH MATCHES
XVII MRS. MARSHALL STICKS TO HER PRINCIPLES
XVIII SYLVIA SKATES MERRILY ON THIN ICE
XIX AS A BIRD OUT OF A SNARE
XX "BLOW, WIND; SWELL, BILLOW; AND SWIM, BARK!"
XXI SOME YEARS DURING WHICH NOTHING HAPPENS
_IN CAPUA AT LAST_
XXII A GRATEFUL CARTHAGINIAN
XXIII MORE TALK BETWEEN YOUNG MODERNS
XXIV ANOTHER BRAND OF MODERN TALK
XXV NOTHING IN THE LEAST MODERN
XXVI MOLLY IN HER ELEMENT
XXVII BETWEEN WINDWARD AND HEMLOCK MOUNTAINS
XXVIII SYLVIA ASKS HERSELF "WHY NOT?"
XXIX A HYPOTHETICAL LIVELIHOOD
XXX ARNOLD CONTINUES TO DODGE THE RENAISSANCE
XXXI SYLVIA MEETS WITH PITY
XXXII MUCH ADO
XXXIII "WHOM GOD HATH JOINED..."
XXXIV SYLVIA TELLS THE TRUTH
XXXV "A MILESTONE PASSED, THE ROAD SEEMS CLEAR"
XXXVI THE ROAD IS NOT SO CLEAR
XXXVII "... _His wife and children perceiving it, began
to cry after him to return; but the man put his
fingers in his ears and ran on, crying, 'Life!
XXXVIII SYLVIA COMES TO THE WICKET GATE
XXXIX SYLVIA DRIFTS WITH THE MAJORITY
_THE STRAIT PATH_
XL A CALL FROM HOME
XLI HOME AGAIN
XLII "_Strange that we creatures of the petty ways,
Poor prisoners behind these fleshly bars,
Can sometimes think us thoughts with God ablaze,
Touching the fringes of the outer stars_"
XLIII "_Call now; is there any that will answer thee_?"
XLIV "_A bruised reed will He not break, and a dimly
burning wick will He not quench_"
XLV "_That our soul may swim
We sink our heart down, bubbling, under wave_"
XLVI A LONG TALK WITH ARNOLD
XLVII "...AND ALL THE TRUMPETS SOUNDED!"
THE BENT TWIG
Like most happy childhoods, Sylvia's early years lay back of her in a
long, cheerful procession of featureless days, the outlines of which
were blurred into one shimmering glow by the very radiance of their
sunshine. Here and there she remembered patches, sensations, pictures,
scents: Mother holding baby sister up for her to kiss, and the
fragrance of the baby powder--the pine-trees near the house chanting
loudly in an autumn wind--her father's alert face, intent on the
toy water-wheel he was setting for her in the little creek in their
field--the beautiful sheen of the pink silk dress Aunt Victoria had
sent her--the look of her mother's steady, grave eyes when she was so
sick--the leathery smell of the books in the University Library
one day when she followed her father there--the sound of the rain
pattering on the low, slanting roof of her bedroom--these were the
occasional clearly outlined, bright-colored illuminations wrought on
the burnished gold of her sunny little life. But from her seventh
birthday her memories began to have perspective, continuity. She
remembered an occasional whole scene, a whole afternoon, just as it
The first of these must have marked the passing of some unrecognized
mental milestone, for there was nothing about it to set it apart from
any one of a hundred afternoons. It may have been the first time she
looked at what was about her, and saw it.
Mother was putting the baby to bed for his nap--not the
baby-sister--she was a big girl of five by this time, but another
baby, a little year-old brother, with blue eyes and yellow hair,
instead of brown eyes and hair like his two sisters'. And when Mother
stooped over the little bed, her white fichu fell forward and Sylvia
leaned to hold it back from the baby's face, a bit of thoughtfulness
which had a rich reward in a smile of thanks from Mother. That was
what began the remembered afternoon. Mother's smiles were golden coin,
not squandered on every occasion. Then, she and Mother and Judith
tiptoed out of the bedroom into Mother's room and there stood Father,
with his University clothes on and yet his hair rather rumpled up, as
though he had been teaching very hard. He had a pile of papers in his
hand and he said, "Barbara, are you awfully busy just now?"
Mother said, Oh no, she wasn't at all. (She never was busy when Father
asked her to do something, although Sylvia could not remember ever
once having seen her sit and do nothing, no, not even for a minute!)
Then Father said, "Well, if you _could_ run over these, I'd have time
to have some ball with the seminar after they're dismissed. These are
the papers the Freshmen handed in for that Economics quiz." Mother
said, "Sure she could," or the equivalent of that, and Father thanked
her, turned Judith upside-down and right-side-up again so quick that
she didn't know what had happened, and left them all laughing as they
usually were when Father ran down from the study for something.
So Sylvia and Judith, quite used to this procedure, sat down on the
floor with a book to keep them quiet until Mother should be through.
Neither of them could read, although Sylvia was beginning to learn,
but they had been told the stories so many times that they knew them
from the pictures. The book they looked at that day had the story of
the people who had rowed a great boat across the water to get a gold
sheepskin, and Sylvia told it to Judith, word for word, as Father
always told it. She glanced up at Mother from time to time to make
sure she was getting it right; and ever afterwards the mention of the
Argonauts brought up before Sylvia's eyes the picture of her mother
that day, sitting very straight, her strong brown fingers making an
occasional mark on the papers, as she turned them over with a crisp
rustle, her quiet face bent, in a calm fixity of attention, over the
Before they knew it, the work was done, Father had come for the
papers, and showed Sylvia one more twist in the acrobatic stunt they
were learning together. She could already take his hands and run up
to his shoulders in one squirrel-like dash; but she was to learn the
reverse and come down on the other side, and she still got tangled up
with which foot to put first. So they practised whenever they had, as
now, a minute or two to spare.
Then Judith was set to play with her blocks like the baby she still
was, while Sylvia and Mother had a lesson in reading. Sylvia could
remember the very sound of Mother's clear voice as she corrected a
mistake. They were reading a story about what happened to a drop of
water that fell into the brook in their field; how, watering the
thirsty cornfields as it flowed, the brook ran down to the river
near La Chance, where it worked ever so many mills and factories and
things. Then on through bigger and bigger rivers until it reached
the Mississippi, where boats rode on its back; and so on down to the
ocean. And there, after resting a while, it was pumped up by the sun
and made into a cloud, and the wind blew it back over the land and
to their field again, where it fell into the brook and said, "Why,
how-de-do, Sylvia--you still here?"
Father had written the story, and Mother had copied it out on the
typewriter so it would be easy for Sylvia to read.
After they had finished she remembered looking out of the window and
watching the big white clouds drift across the pale bright April sky.
They were full of hundreds of drops of water, she thought, that were
going to fall into hundreds of other brooks, and then travel and work
till they reached the sea, and then rest for a while and begin all
over again. Her dark eyes grew very wide as she watched the endless
procession of white mountains move across the great arch of the sky.
Her imagination was stirred almost painfully, her mind expanding with
the effort to take in the new conception of size, of great numbers, of
the small place of her own brook, her own field in the hugeness of
the world. And yet it was an ordered hugeness full of comforting
similarity! Now, no matter where she might go, or what brooks she
might see, she would know that they were all of one family, that the
same things happened to them all, that every one ended in the ocean.
Something she had read on a piece of paper made her see the familiar
home field with the yellow water of the little creek, as a part of the
whole world. It was very strange. She tried to tell Mother something
of what was in her mind, but, though Mother listened in a sympathetic
silence, it was evident that she could make nothing out of the
incoherent account. Sylvia thought that she would try to tell Father,
the next chance she had. Even at seven, although she loved her mother
passionately and jealously, she was aware that her father's mind was
more like her own. He understood some things that Mother didn't,
although Mother was always, always right, and Father wasn't. She fell
into silence again, standing by her mother's knee, staring out of the
window and watching the clouds move steadily across the sky doing
their share of the world's work for all they looked so soft and lazy.
Her mother did not break in on this meditative contemplation. She took
up her sewing-basket and began busily to sew buttons on a small pair
of half-finished night-drawers. The sobered child beside her, gazing
up at the blue-and-white infinity of the sky, heard faintly and
distantly, for the first time in her life, the whirring reverberations
of the great mystic wheel of change and motion and life.
Then, all at once, there was a scraping of chairs overhead in Father's
study, a clattering on the stairs, and the sound of a great many
voices. The Saturday seminar was over. The door below opened, and the
students came out, Father at the head, very tall, very straight, his
ruddy hair shining in the late afternoon sun, his shirt-sleeves rolled
up over his arms, and a baseball in his hand. "Come on, folks," Sylvia
heard him call, as he had so many times before. "Let's have a couple
of innings before you go!" Sylvia must have seen the picture a hundred
times before, but that was the first time it impressed itself on her,
the close-cut grass of their yard as lustrous as enamel, the big
pine-trees standing high, the scattered players, laughing and running
about, the young men casting off their coats and hats, the detached
fielders running long-legged to their places. At the first sound of
the voices, Judith, always alert, never wasting time in reveries, had
scampered down the stairs and out in the midst of the stir-about.
Judith was sure to be in the middle of whatever was going on. She had
attached herself to young Professor Saunders, a special favorite of
the children, and now was dragging him from the field to play horse
with her. Father looked up to the window where Sylvia and Mother sat,
and called: "Come on, Barbara! Come on and amuse Judith. She won't let
Mother nodded, ran downstairs, coaxed Judith over beyond first base to
play catch with a soft rubber ball; and Sylvia, carried away by the
cheerful excitement, hopped about everywhere at once, screaming
encouragement to the base runners, picking up foul balls, and sending
them with proud importance back to the pitcher.
So they all played and shouted and ran and laughed, while the long,
pale-golden spring afternoon stood still, until Mother held up her
finger and stopped the game. "The baby's awake!" she said, and Father
went bounding off. When he came back with the downy pink morsel,
everybody gathered around to see it and exclaim over the tiny fat
hands and hungry little rosebud mouth. "He's starved!" said Mother.
"He wants his supper, poor little Buddy! He doesn't want a lot of
people staring at him, do you, Buddy-baby?" She snatched him out
of Father's arms and went off with him, holding him high over her
shoulders so that the sunshine shone on his yellow hair, and made a
circle of gold around his flushed, sleepy face. Then everybody picked
up books and wraps and note-books and said, "Good-by, 'Perfessor!'"
and went off.
Father and Sylvia and Judith went out in the garden to the hotbed to
pick the lettuce for supper and then back in the kitchen to get things
ready. When Mother was through giving Buddy his supper and came
hurrying in to help, Sylvia was proud that they had nearly everything
done--all but the omelet. Father had made cocoa and creamed
potatoes--nobody in the world could make creamed potatoes as good as
his--and Sylvia and Judith had between them, somewhat wranglingly,
made the toast and set the table. Sylvia was sure that Judith was
really too little to be allowed to help, but Father insisted that she
should try, for he said, with a turn in his voice that made Sylvia
aware he was laughing at her, "You only learned through trying, all
those many years ago when you were Judith's age!"
Mother put on one of her big gingham aprons and made the omelet, and
they sat down to the table out on the veranda as they always did in
warm weather. In La Chance it begins to be warm enough for outdoor
life in April. Although it was still bright daylight for ever so long
after the sun had set, the moon came and looked at them palely over
the tops of the trees.
After supper they jumped up to "race through the dishes," as the
family catchword ran. They tried to beat their record every evening
and it was always a lively occasion, with Mother washing like
lightning, and Father hurrying to keep up, Sylvia running back and
forth to put things away, and Judith bothering 'round, handing out dry
dish-towels, and putting away the silver. She was allowed to handle
that because she couldn't break it. Mother and Judith worked in a
swift silence, but a great deal of talking and laughing went on
between Sylvia and her father, while Buddy, from his high-chair where
he was watching the others, occasionally broke out in a loud, high
crow of delight. They did it all, even to washing and hanging out
the dish-towels, in eleven and a half minutes that evening, Sylvia
Then she and Judith went to sit on the porch on the little bench
Mother had made them. They tried to see who could catch the first
glimpse of the evening star every evening. Mother was putting Buddy to
bed and Father was starting the breakfast cereal cooking on the stove.
After a while he went into the living-room and began to play something
on the piano, something full of deep, swaying chords that lifted
Sylvia's heart up and down as though she were floating on the water.
The air was full of the moist fragrance of spring. When the music held
its breath for a moment you could hear the bedtime note of sleepy
birds in the oaks. Judith, who did not care much for music, began
to get sleepy and leaned all her soft, warm weight against her big
sister. Sylvia for the first time in her life was consciously aware of
being very happy. When, some time later, the evening star shone out
through the trees, she drew a long breath. "See, Judith," she cried
softly and began to recite,
First star I've seen tonight--"
She stopped short--it was Aunt Victoria who had taught her that poem,
the last time she had come to see them, a year ago, the time when she
had brought Sylvia the pink silk dress, the only dress-up dress with
lace and ribbons on it Sylvia had had up to that time. As suddenly as
the evening star had shone out, another radiant vision flashed across
Sylvia's mind, Aunt Victoria, magnificent in her lacy dress, her
golden hair shining under the taut silk of her parasol, her white,
soft fingers gleaming with rings, her air of being a condescending
goddess, visiting mortals ...
After a time Mother stepped out on the porch and said, "Oh, quick,
children, wish on the shooting star."
Judith had dropped asleep like a little kitten tired of play, and
Sylvia looked at her mother blankly. "I didn't see any shooting star,"
Mother was surprised. "Why, your face was pointed right up at the
"I didn't see it," repeated Sylvia.
Mother fixed her keen dark eyes on Sylvia. "What's the matter?" she
asked in her voice that always required an answer. Sylvia wriggled
uncomfortably. Hers was a nature which suffers under the categorical
question; but her mother's was one which presses them home.
"What's the matter with you?" she said again.
Sylvia turned a clouded face to her mother. "I was wondering why it's
not nice to be idyllic."
"_What_?" asked her mother, quite at a loss. Sylvia was having one of
her unaccountable notions.
Sylvia went to lean on her mother's knee, looking with troubled eyes
up into the kind, attentive, uncomprehending face. "Why, the last time
Aunt Victoria was here--that long time ago--when they were all out
playing ball--she looked round and round at everything--at your dress
and mine and the furniture--_you_ know--the--the uncomfortable way she
does sometimes--and she said, 'Well, Sylvia--nobody can say that your
parents aren't leading you a very idyllic life.'"
Mother laughed out. Her rare laugh was too sudden and loud to be very
musical, but it was immensely infectious, like a man's hearty mirth.
"I didn't hear her say it--but I can imagine that she did. Well, what
_of_ it? What if she did?"
For once Sylvia did not respond to another's mood. She continued
anxiously, "Well, it means something perfectly horrid, doesn't it?"
Mother was still laughing. "No, no, child, what in the world makes you
"Oh, if you'd heard Aunt Victoria _say_ it!" cried Sylvia with
conviction. Father came out on the veranda, saying to Mother, "Isn't
that crescendo superb?" To Sylvia he said, as though sure of her
comprehension, "Didn't you like the ending, dear--where it sounded
like the Argonauts all striking the oars into the water at once and
Sylvia had been taught above everything to tell the truth. Moreover
(perhaps a stronger reason for frankness), Mother was there, who would
know whether she told the truth or not. "I didn't hear the end."
Father looked quickly from Sylvia's face to her mother's. "What's the
matter?" he asked.
"Sylvia was so concerned because her Aunt Victoria had called our life
idyllic that she couldn't think of anything else," explained Mother
briefly, still smiling. Father did not smile. He sat down by Sylvia
and had her repeat to him what she had said to her mother. When she
had finished he looked grave and said: "You mustn't mind what your
Aunt Victoria says, dear. Her ideas are very different from ours."
Sylvia's mother cried out, "Why, a child of Sylvia's age couldn't have
taken in the significance of--"
"I'm afraid," said Father, "that Sylvia's very quick to take in such a
Sylvia remained silent, uncomfortable at being discussed, vaguely
ashamed of herself, but comforted that Father had not laughed, had
understood. As happened so frequently, it was Father who understood
and Mother who did the right thing. She suddenly made an enigmatic,
emphatic exclamation, "Goodness _gracious_!" and reaching out her long
arms, pulled Sylvia up on her lap, holding her close. The last thought
of that remembered time for Sylvia was that Mother's arms were very
strong, and her breast very soft. The little girl laid her head down
on it with a contented sigh, watching the slow, silent procession of
THE MARSHALLS' FRIENDS
Any one of the more sophisticated members of the faculty of the State
University at La Chance would have stated without hesitation that the
Marshalls had not the slightest part in the social activities of the
University; but no one could have called their life either isolated or
solitary. Sylvia, in her memories of childhood, always heard the low,
brown house ringing with music or echoing to the laughter and talk
of many voices. To begin with, a good many of Professor Marshall's
students came and went familiarly through the plainly furnished rooms,
although there was, of course, in each year's class, a little circle
of young people with a taste for social distinctions who held aloof
from the very unselect and heterogeneous gatherings at the Marshall
These young aristocrats were, for the most part, students from the
town itself, from La Chance's "best families," who through parental
tyranny or temporary financial depression were not allowed to go East
to a well-known college with a sizable matriculation fee, but were
forced to endure four years of the promiscuous, swarming, gratuitous
education of the State University. All these august victims of family
despotism associated as little as possible with the common rabble of
their fellow-students, and accepted invitations only from such faculty
families as were recognized by the inner circle of the town society.
The Marshalls were not among this select circle. Indeed, no faculty
family was farther from it. Every detail of the Marshalls' life was in
contradiction not only to the standards and ideals of the exclusive
"town set," but to those of their own colleagues. They did not live
in the right part of town. They did not live in the right sort of a
house. They did not live in the right sort of a way. And consequently,
although no family had more visitors, they were not the right sort of
This was, of course, not apparent to the children for a good many
years. Home was home, as it is to children. It did not seem strange
to them that instead of living in a small rented house on a closely
built-up street near the campus in the section of the city occupied by
the other faculty families, they lived in a rambling, large-roomed old
farmhouse with five acres of land around it, on the edge of the West
Side. They did not know how heartily this land-owning stability was
condemned as folly by the rent-paying professors, perching on the
bough with calculated impermanence so that they might be free to
accept at any moment the always anticipated call to a larger salary.
They did not know, not even Sylvia, for many years, that the West Side
was the quite unfashionable part of town. It did not seem strange to
them to see their father sweeping his third-floor study with his own
hands, and they were quite used to a family routine which included
housework for every one of them. Indeed, a certain amount of this was
part of the family fun. "Come on, folks!" Professor Marshall would
call, rising up from the breakfast table, "Tuesday--day to clean the
living-room--all hands turn to!" In a gay helter-skelter all hands
turned to. The lighter furniture was put out on the porch. Professor
Marshall, joking and laughing, donned a loose linen overall suit to
protect his "University clothes," and cleaned the bare floor with a
big oiled mop; Mrs. Marshall, silent and swift, looked after mirrors,
windows, the tops of bookcases, things hard for children to reach;
Sylvia flourished a duster; and Judith and Lawrence out on the porch,
each armed with a whisk-broom, brushed and whacked at the chairs and
sofas. There were no rugs to shake, and it took but an instant to set
things back in their places in the clean-smelling, dustless room.
This daily drill, coming as it did early in the morning, usually
escaped the observation of any but passing farmers, who saw nothing
amiss in it; but facetiously exaggerated reports of its humors reached
the campus, and a certain set considered it very clever to lay bets as
to whether the Professor of Political Economy would pull out of his
pocket a handkerchief, or a duster, or a child's shirt, for it was
notorious that the children never had nursemaids and that their father
took as much care of them as their mother.
The question of clothes, usually such a sorely insoluble problem for
academic people of small means, was solved by the Marshalls in an
eccentric, easy-going manner which was considered by the other faculty
families as nothing less than treasonable to their caste. Professor
Marshall, it is true, having to make a public appearance on the
campus every day, was generally, like every other professor,
undistinguishable from a commercial traveler. But Mrs. Marshall, who
often let a good many days pass without a trip to town, had adopted
early in her married life a sort of home uniform, which year after
year she wore in one form or another. It varied according to the
season, and according to the occasion on which she wore it, but it had
certain unchanging characteristics. It was always very plain as to
line, and simple as to cut, having a skirt neither full nor scant, a
waist crossed in front with a white fichu, and sleeves reaching just
below the elbow with white turn-back cuffs. As Mrs. Marshall, though
not at all pretty, was a tall, upright, powerfully built woman, with
a dark, shapely head gallantly poised on her shoulders, this garb,
whether short-skirted, of blue serge in the morning, or trailing, of
ruby-colored cashmere in the evening, was very becoming to her. But
there is no denying that it was always startlingly and outrageously
unfashionable. At a time when every woman and female child in the
United States had more cloth in her sleeves than in all the rest of
her dress, the rounded muscles of Mrs. Marshall's arm, showing through
the fabric of her sleeves, smote shockingly upon the eye of the
ordinary observer, trained to the American habit of sheep-like
uniformity of appearance. And at the time when the front of every
woman's waist fell far below her belt in a copiously blousing sag,
Mrs. Marshall's trim tautness had in it something horrifying. It must
be said for her that she did not go out of her way to inflict these
concussions upon the brains of spectators, since she always had in
her closet one evening dress and one street dress, sufficiently
approximating the prevailing style to pass unnoticed. These costumes
lasted long, and they took in the long run but little from the
Marshall exchequer: for she wore them seldom, only assuming what her
husband called, with a laugh, her "disguise" when going into town.
For a long time, until Sylvia's individuality began to assert itself,
the question of dress for the children was solved, with similar ease,
by the typical Marshall expedient, most heartily resented by their
faculty acquaintances, the mean-spirited expedient of getting along
comfortably on inadequate means by not attempting to associate with
people to whose society their brains and cultivation gave them the
right--that is to say, those families of La Chance whose incomes were
from three to five times that of college professors. The Marshall
children played, for the most part, with the children of their
neighbors, farmers, or small merchants, and continued this humble
connection after they went into the public schools, where their
parents sent them, instead of to "the" exclusive private school
of town. Consequently the plainest, simplest clothes made them
indistinguishable from their fellows. Sylvia and Judith also enjoyed
the unfair advantage of being quite unusually pretty little girls
(Judith being nothing less than a beauty), so that even on the few
occasions when they were invited to a children's party in the faculty
circle their burnished, abundant hair, bright eyes, and fresh, alert
faces made up for the plainness of their white dresses and thick
It was, moreover, not only in externals like clothes that the
childhood of Sylvia and Judith and Lawrence differed from that of the
other faculty children. Their lives were untouched by the ominous
black cloud familiar to academic households, the fear for the future,
the fear which comes of living from hand to mouth, the dread of "being
obliged to hand in one's resignation," a truly academic periphasis
which is as dismally familiar to most faculty children as its blunt
Anglo-Saxon equivalent of "losing your job" is to children of plainer
workpeople. Once, it is true, this possibility had loomed up large
before the Marshalls, when a high-protection legislature objected
loudly to the professor's unreverent attitude towards the tariff. But
although the Marshall children knew all about this crisis, as they
knew all about everything that happened to the family, they had had
no experience of the anxious talks and heartsick consultations which
would have gone on in any other faculty household. Their father had
been angry, and their mother resolute--but there was nothing new in
that. There had been, on Professor Marshall's part, belligerent,
vociferous talk about "freedom of speech," and on Mrs. Marshall's a
quiet estimate that, with her early training on a Vermont farm, and
with the high state of cultivation under which she had brought their
five acres, they could successfully go into the truck-farming
business like their neighbors. Besides this, they had the resource,
extraordinary among University families, of an account in the
savings-bank on which to fall back. They had always been able to pay
their debts and have a small surplus by the expedient of refusing to
acknowledge a tenth part of the social obligations under which
the rest of the faculty groaned and sweated with martyr's pride.
Perfidiously refusing to do their share in the heart-breaking struggle
to "keep up the dignity" of the academic profession, they were not
overwhelmed by the super-human difficulties of that undertaking.
So it happened that the Marshall children heard no forebodings about
the future, but only heated statements of what seemed to their father
the right of a teacher to say what he believed. Professor Marshall had
gone of his own initiative to face the legislative committee which was
"investigating" him, had quite lost his temper (never very securely
held in leash), had told them his highly spiced opinion of their
strictures on his teaching and of the worth of any teacher they could
find who would submit to them. Then he had gone home and put on
his overalls. This last was rather a rhetorical flourish; for his
cosmopolitan, urban youth had left him ineradicably ignorant of the
processes of agriculture. But like all Professor Marshall's flourishes
it was a perfectly sincere one. He was quite cheerfully prepared to
submit himself to his wife's instruction in the new way of life.
All these picturesque facts, as was inevitable in America, had
instantly reached the newspapers, which, lacking more exciting news
for the moment, took that matter up with headlined characterizations
of Professor Marshall as a "martyr of the cause of academic freedom,"
and other rather cheap phrases about "persecution" and "America, the
land of free speech." The legislative committee, alarmed, retreated
from its position. Professor Marshall had not "been obliged to hand in
his resignation," but quite the contrary, had become the hero of the
hour and was warmly complimented by his colleagues, who hoped to
profit by an action which none of them would have dared to imitate.
It had been an exciting drama to the Marshall children as long as it
lasted. They had looked with pride at an abominable reproduction of
their father's photograph in the evening paper of La Chance, and they
had added an acquaintance with the manners of newspaper reporters to
their already very heterogeneous experience with callers of every
variety; but of real anxiety the episode had brought them nothing.
As to that same extraordinary assortment of visitors at the Marshall
house, one of the University co-eds had said facetiously that you
met there every sort of person in the world, from spiritualists to
atheists--everybody except swells. The atheist of her dictum was the
distinguished and misanthropic old Professor Kennedy, head of
the Department of Mathematics, whose ample means and high social
connections with the leading family of La Chance made his misanthropy
a source of much chagrin to the faculty ladies, and who professed
for the Marshalls, for Mrs. Marshall in particular, a wrong-headed
admiration which was inexplicable to the wives of the other
professors. The faculty circle saw little to admire in the Marshalls.
The spiritualist of the co-ed's remark was, of course, poor foolish
Cousin Parnelia, the children's pet detestation, whose rusty clothes
and incoherent speech they were prevented from ridiculing only by
stern pressure from their mother. She always wore a black straw hat,
summer and winter, always carried a faded green shopping bag, with a
supply of yellow writing paper, and always had tucked under one arm
the curious, heart-shaped bit of wood, with the pencil attached, which
spiritualists call "planchette." The Marshall children thought this
the most laughable name imaginable, and were not always successful
in restraining the cruel giggles of childhood when she spoke of
planchette's writing such beautiful messages from her long-since-dead
husband and children. Although he had a dramatic sympathy for her
sorrow, Professor Marshall's greater vivacity of temperament made it
harder for him than for his wife to keep a straight face when Cousin
Parnelia proposed to be the medium whereby he might converse with
Milton or Homer. Indeed, his fatigued tolerance for her had been a
positive distaste ever since the day when he found her showing Sylvia,
aged ten, how to write with planchette. With an outbreak of temper,
for which he had afterwards apologized to his wife, he had forbidden
her ever to mention her damn unseemly nonsense to his children again.
He himself was a stout unbeliever in individual immortality, teaching
his children that the craving for it was one of the egotistic impulses
of the unregenerate human heart.
Between the two extremes represented by shabby, crack-brained Cousin
Parnelia and elegant, sardonic old Professor Kennedy, there were many
other habitual visitors at the house--raw, earnest, graceless students
of both sexes, touchingly grateful for the home atmosphere they were
allowed to enter; a bushy-haired Single-tax fanatic named Hecht, who
worked in the iron-foundries by day, and wrote political pamphlets by
night; Miss Lindstroem, the elderly Swedish woman laboring among
the poor negroes of Flytown; a constant sprinkling from the
Scandinavian-Americans whose well-kept truck-farms filled the region
near the Marshall home; one-armed Mr. Howell, the editor of a luridly
radical Socialist weekly paper, whom Judith called in private the
"old puss-cat" on account of his soft, rather weak voice and mild,
ingratiating ways. Yes, the co-ed had been right, one met at the
Marshalls' every variety of person except the exclusive.
These habitues of the house came and went with the greatest
familiarity. As they all knew there was no servant to answer the
doorbell, they seldom bothered to ring, but opened the door, stepped
into the hall, hung up their wraps on the long line of hooks, and went
into the big, low-ceilinged living-room. If nobody was there, they
usually took a book from one of the shelves lining the room and sat
down before the fire to wait. Sometimes they stayed to the next
meal and helped wash up the dishes afterwards. Sometimes they had a
satisfactory visit with each other, two or three callers happening to
meet together before the fire, and went away without having seen any
of the Marshalls. Informality could go no further.
The only occurrence in the Marshall life remotely approaching the
regularity and formality of a real social event was the weekly meeting
of the string quartet which Professor Marshall had founded soon after
his arrival in La Chance.
It was on Sunday evening that the quartet met regularly for their
seance. Old Reinhardt, the violin teacher, was first violin and
leader; Mr. Bauermeister (in everyday life a well-to-do wholesale
plumber) was second violin; Professor Marshall played the viola, and
old Professor Kennedy bent his fine, melancholy face over the 'cello.
Any one who chose might go to the Marshall house on Sunday evenings,
on condition that he should not talk during the music, and did not
expect any attention.
The music began at seven promptly and ended at ten. A little before
that time, Mrs. Marshall, followed by any one who felt like helping,
went out into the kitchen and made hot coffee and sandwiches, and when
the last chord had stopped vibrating, the company adjourned into the
dining-room and partook of this simple fare. During the evening no
talk was allowed except the occasional wranglings of the musicians
over tempo and shading, but afterwards, every one's tongue, chastened
by the long silence, was loosened into loud and cheerful loquacity.
Professor Marshall, sitting at the head of the table, talked faster
and louder than any one else, throwing the ball to his especial
favorite, brilliant young Professor Saunders, who tossed it back with
a sureness and felicity of phrase which he had learned nowhere but in
this give-and-take. Mrs. Marshall poured the coffee, saw that every
one was served with sandwiches, and occasionally when the talk,
running over every known topic, grew too noisy, or the discussion too
hot, cast in one of the pregnant and occasionally caustic remarks of
which she held the secret. They were never brilliant, Mrs. Marshall's
remarks--but they were apt to have a dry humor, and almost always when
she had said her brief say? there loomed out of the rainbow mist of
her husband's flashing, controversial talk the outlines of the true
proportions of the case.
After the homely feast was eaten, each guest rose and carried his own
cup and saucer and plate into the kitchen in a gay procession, and
since it was well known that, for the most part, the Marshalls "did
their own work," several of the younger ones helped wash the dishes,
while the musicians put away the music-racks and music, and the rest
put on their wraps. Then Professor Marshall stood at the door holding
up a lamp while the company trooped down the long front walk to
the gate in the hedge, and turned along the country road to the
cross-roads where the big Interurban cars whizzed by.
All this happened with that unbroken continuity which was the
characteristic of the Marshall life, most marking them as different
from the other faculty families. Week after week, and month after
month, this program was followed with little variation, except for the
music which was played, and the slight picturesque uncertainty as
to whether old Reinhardt would or would not arrive mildly under the
influence of long Sunday imbibings. Not that this factor interfered at
all with the music. One of Sylvia's most vivid childhood recollections
was the dramatic contrast between old Reinhardt with, and without, his
violin. Partly from age, and partly from a too convivial life, the
old, heavily veined hands trembled so that he could scarcely unbutton
his overcoat, or handle his cup of hot coffee. His head shook too, and
his kind, rheumy eyes, in their endeavor to focus themselves, seemed
to flicker back and forth in their sockets. The child used to watch
him, fascinated, as he fumbled endlessly at the fastenings of his
violin-case, and put back the top with uncertain fingers. She was
waiting for the thrilling moment when he should tuck the instrument
away under his pendulous double chin and draw his bow across the
strings in the long sonorous singing chord, which ran up and down
Sylvia's back like forked lightning.
This was while all the others were tuning and scraping and tugging at
their pegs, a pleasant bustle of discord which became so much a
part of Sylvia's brain that she could never in after years hear the
strumming and sawing of an orchestra preparing to play, without seeing
the big living-room of her father's house, with its low whitewashed
ceiling, its bare, dully shining floor, its walls lined with books,
its shabby, comfortable furniture, the whole quickened by the
Promethean glow from the blaze in the grate and glorified by the
chastened passion of the singing strings.
The two Anglo-Saxon, professors were but able amateurs of their
instruments. Bauermeister, huge, red, and impassive, was by virtue of
his blood, a lifelong training, and a musical ancestry, considerably
more than an amateur; and old Reinhardt was the master of them all.
His was a history which would have been tragic if it had happened to
any but Reinhardt, who cared for nothing but an easy life, beer, and
the divine tones which he alone could draw from his violin. He had
offered, fifty years ago in Vienna, the most brilliant promise of a
most brilliant career, a promise which had come to naught because
of his monstrous lack of ambition, and his endless yielding to
circumstance, which had finally, by a series of inconceivable
migrations, landed him in the German colony of La Chance, impecunious
and obscure and invincibly convinced that he had everything worth
having in life. "Of vat use?" he would say, even now, when asked to
play in public--"de moosic ist all--and dat is eben so goodt here mit
friends." Or, "Dere goes a thousand peoples to a goncert--maybe fife
from dat thousand lofes de moosic--let dose fife gome to me--and
I play dem all day for noding!" or again, more iconoclastically
still,--when told of golden harvests to be reaped, "And for vat den? I
can't play on more dan von fioleen at a time--is it? I got a good one
now. And if I drink more beer dan now, I might make myself seeck!"
This with a prodigiously sly wink of one heavy eyelid.
He gave enough music lessons to pay his small expenses, although after
one or two stormy passages in which he treated with outrageous and
unjustifiable violence the dawdling pupils coming from well-to-do
families, he made it a rule to take no pupils whose parents employed a
servant, and confined himself to children of the poorer classes, among
whom he kept up a small orchestra which played together twice a week
and never gave any concerts. And almost since the arrival of the
Marshalls in La Chance and his unceremonious entrance into the house
as, walking across the fields on a Sunday afternoon, he had heard
Professor Marshall playing the Doric Toccata on the newly installed
piano, he had spent his every Sunday evening in their big living-room.
He had seen the children appear and grow older, and adored them
with Teutonic sentimentality, especially Sylvia, whom he called his
"Moonbeam brincess," his "little ellfen fairy," and whom, when she was
still tiny, he used to take up on his greasy old knees and, resting
his violin on her head, play his wildest fantasies, that she might
feel how it "talked to her bones."
In early childhood Sylvia was so used to him that, like the others
of her circle, she accepted, indeed hardly noticed, his somewhat
startling eccentricities, his dirty linen, his face and hands to
match, his shapeless garments hanging loosely over the flabby
corpulence of his uncomely old body, his beery breath. To her, old
Reinhardt was but the queer external symbol of a never-failing
enchantment. Through the pleasant harmonious give-and-take of the
other instruments, the voice of his violin vibrated with the throbbing
passion of a living thing. His dirty old hand might shake and quaver,
but once the neck of the fiddle rested between thumb and forefinger,
the seraph who made his odd abiding-place in old Reinhardt's soul
sang out in swelling tones and spoke of heavenly things, and of the
Paradise where we might live, if we were but willing.
Even when they were quite little children, Sylvia and Judith, and
later, Lawrence, were allowed to sit up on Sunday evenings to
listen to the music. Judith nearly always slept, steadily; and not
infrequently after a long day of outdoor fun, stupefied with fresh
air and exercise, Lawrence, and Sylvia too, could not keep their eyes
open, and dozed and woke and dozed again, coiled like so many little
kittens among the cushions of the big divan. In all the intensely
enjoyed personal pleasures of her later youth, and these were many for
Sylvia, she was never to know a more utter sweetness than thus to fall
asleep, the music a far-off murmur in her ears, and to wake again to
the restrained, clarified ecstasy of the four concerted voices.
And yet it was in connection with this very quartet that she had her
first shocked vision of how her home-life appeared to other people.
She once chanced, when she was about eight years old, to go with her
father on a Saturday to his office at the University, where he had
forgotten some papers necessary for his seminar. There, sitting on
the front steps of the Main Building, waiting for her father, she had
encountered the wife of the professor of European History with her
beautiful young-lady sister from New York and her two daughters,
exquisite little girls in white serge, whose tailored, immaculate
perfection made Sylvia's heart heavy with a sense of the plebeian
inelegance of her own Saturday-morning play-clothes. Mrs. Hubert,
obeying an impulse of curiosity, stopped to speak to the little
Marshall girl, about whose queer upbringing there were so many stories
current, and was struck with the decorative possibilities of the
pretty child, apparent to her practised eye. As she made the kindly
intended, vague remarks customarily served out to unknown children,
she was thinking: "How _can_ any woman with a vestige of a woman's
instinct dress that lovely child in ready-made, commonplace,
dark-colored clothes? She would repay any amount of care and
"thought." So you take music-lessons too, besides your school?" she
asked mechanically. She explained to her sister, a stranger in La
Chance: "Music is one of the things I _starve_ for, out here! We never
hear it unless we go clear to Chicago--and such prices! Here, there is
simply _no_ musical feeling!" She glanced again at Sylvia, who was
now answering her questions, fluttered with pleasure at having the
beautiful lady speak to her. The beautiful lady had but an inattentive
ear for Sylvia's statement that, yes, lately Father had begun to give
her lessons on the piano. With the smoothly working imagination coming
from a lifetime of devotion to the subject, Mrs. Hubert was stripping
off Sylvia's trite little blue coat and uninteresting dark hat, and
was arraying her in scarlet serge with a green velvet collar--"with
those eyes and that coloring she could carry off striking 'color
combinations--and a big white felt hat with a soft pompon of silk
on one side--no, a long, stiff, scarlet quill would suit her style
better. Then, with white stockings and shoes and gloves--or perhaps
pearl-gray would be better. Yes, with low-cut suede shoes, fastening
with two big smoked-pearl buttons." She looked down with pitying eyes
at Sylvia's sturdy, heavy-soled shoes which could not conceal the
slender, shapely feet within them--"but, what on earth was the child
"--every Sunday evening--it's beautiful, and now I'm getting so big I
can help some. I can turn over the pages for them in hard places,
and when old Mr. Reinhardt has had too much to drink and his hands
tremble, he lets me unfasten his violin-case and tighten up his bow
Mrs. Hubert cried out, "Your parents don't let you have anything to do
with that old, drunken Reinhardt!"
Sylvia was smitten into silence by the other's horrified tone and
hung her head miserably, only murmuring, after a pause, in damning
extenuation, "He's never so _very_ drunk!"
"Well, upon my word!" exclaimed Mrs. Hubert, in a widely spaced,
emphatic phrase of condemnation. To her sister she added, "It's really
not exaggeration then, what one hears about their home life." One of
her daughters, a child about Sylvia's age, turned a candid, blank
little face up to hers, "Mother, what is a drunken reinhardt?" she
asked in a thin little pipe.
Mrs. Hubert frowned, shook her head, and said in a tone of dark
mystery: "Never mind, darling, don't think about it. It's something
that nice little girls shouldn't know anything about. Come, Margery;
come, Eleanor." She took their hands and began to draw them away
without another look at Sylvia, who remained behind, drooping,
ostracised, pierced momentarily with her first blighting misgiving
about the order of things she had always known.
BROTHER AND SISTER
A fuller initiation into the kaleidoscopic divergencies of adult
standards was given Sylvia during the visits of her Aunt Victoria.
These visits were angelic in their extreme rarity, and for Sylvia were
always a mixture of the beatific and the distressing. Only to look at
Aunt Victoria was a bright revelation of elegance and grace. And yet
the talk around table and hearth on the two or three occasions when
the beautiful young widow honored their roof with a sojourn was hard
on Sylvia's sensitive nerves.
It was not merely that a good deal of what was said was
unintelligible. The Marshall children were quite accustomed to
incessant conversations between their elders of which they could
gather but the vaguest glimmering. They played about, busy in
their own absorbing occupations, lending an absent but not wholly
unattentive ear to the gabble of their elders, full of odd and
ridiculous-sounding words like Single-tax, and contrapuntal
development, and root-propagation, and Benthamism, and Byzantine,
and nitrogenous fertilizers, and Alexandrine, and chiaroscuro, and
surviving archaisms, and diminishing utility--for to keep up such a
flood-tide of talk as streamed through the Marshall house required
contributions from many diverging rivers. Sylvia was entirely used to
this phenomenon and, although it occasionally annoyed her that good
attention was wasted on projects so much less vital than those of the
children, she bore it no grudge. But on the rare occasions when Aunt
Victoria was with them, there was a different and ominous note to the
talk which made Sylvia acutely uneasy, although she was quite unable
to follow what was said. This uncomfortable note did not at all come
from mere difference of opinion, for that too was a familiar element
in Sylvia's world. Indeed, it seemed to her that everybody who came to
the Marshall house disagreed with everybody else about everything.
The young men, students or younger professors, engaged in perpetual
discussions, carried on in acrimonious tones which nevertheless seemed
not in the least to impair the good feeling between them. When there
was nobody else there for Father to disagree with, he disagreed with
Mother, occasionally, to his great delight, rousing her from her
customary self-contained economy of words to a heat as voluble as his
own. Often as the two moved briskly about, preparing a meal together,
they shouted out from the dining-room to the kitchen a discussion on
some unintelligible topic such as the "anachronism of the competitive
system," so loudly voiced and so energetically pursued that when
they came to sit down to table, they would be quite red-cheeked and
stirred-up, and ate their dinners with as vigorous an appetite as
though they had been pursuing each other on foot instead of verbally.
The older habitues of the house were no more peaceable and were
equally given to what seemed to childish listeners endless disputes
about matters of no importance. Professor La Rue's white mustache and
pointed beard quivered with the intensity of his scorn for the modern
school of poetry, and Madame La Rue, who might be supposed to be
insulated by the vast bulk of her rosy flesh from the currents of
passionate conviction flashing through the Marshall house, had fixed
ideas on the Franco-Prussian War, on the relative values of American
and French bed-making, and the correct method of bringing up girls
(she was childless), which needed only to be remotely stirred to burst
into showers of fiery sparks. And old Professor Kennedy was nothing
less than abusive when started on an altercation about one of the
topics vital to him, such as the ignoble idiocy of the leisure-class
ideal, or the generally contemptible nature of modern society. No, it
was not mere difference of opinion which so charged the air during
Aunt Victoria's rare visits with menacing electricity.
As a matter of fact, if she did differ in opinion from her brother and
his wife, the children would never have been able to guess it from the
invariably restrained tones of her fluent and agreeable speech, so
different from the outspoken virulence with which people in that house
were accustomed to defend their ideas. But, indefinable though it was
to Sylvia's undeveloped powers of analysis, she felt that the advent
of her father's beautiful and gracious sister was like a drop of
transparent but bitter medicine in a glass of clear water. There
was no outward sign of change, but everything was tinctured by
it. Especially was her father changed from his usual brilliantly
effervescent self. In answer to the most harmless remark of Aunt
Victoria, he might reply with a sudden grim sneering note in his voice
which made Sylvia look up at him half-afraid. If Aunt Victoria noticed
this sardonic accent, she never paid it the tribute of a break in the
smooth surface of her own consistent good-will, rebuking her brother's
prickly hostility only by the most indulgent tolerance of his
queer ways, a tolerance which never had on Professor Marshall's
sensibilities the soothing effect which might have seemed its natural
The visit which Aunt Victoria paid them when Sylvia was ten years old
was more peaceable than the one before it. Perhaps the interval of
five years between the two had mellowed the relationship; or more
probably the friction was diminished because Aunt Victoria arranged
matters so that she was less constantly in the house than usual. On
that occasion, in addition to the maid who always accompanied her,
she brought her little stepson and his tutor, and with characteristic
thoughtfulness refused to impose this considerable train of attendants
on a household so primitively organized as that of the Marshalls. They
all spent the fortnight of their stay at the main hotel of the town, a
large new edifice, the conspicuous costliness of which was one of the
most recent sources of civic pride in La Chance. Here in a suite of
four much-decorated rooms, which seemed unutterably elegant to Sylvia,
the travelers slept, and ate most of their meals, making their trips
out to the Marshall house in a small, neat, open carriage, which,
although engaged at a livery-stable by Mrs. Marshall-Smith for the
period of her stay, was not to be distinguished from a privately owned
It can be imagined what an event in the pre-eminently stationary life
of the Marshall children was this fortnight. To Judith and Lawrence,
eight and four respectively, Aunt Victoria's charms and amenities were
non-existent. She was for Judith as negligible as all other grown-ups,
save the few who had good sense enough to play games and go in
swimming. Judith's interest centered in the new boy, whom the
Marshalls now saw for the first time, and who was in every way a
specimen novel in their limited experience of children. During their
first encounter, the well-groomed, white-linen-clad boy with his
preternaturally clean face, his light-brown hair brushed till it shone
like lacquer, his polished nails and his adult appendage of a tutor,
aroused a contempt in Judith's mind which was only equaled by her
astonishment. On that occasion he sat upright in a chair between his
stepmother and his tutor, looking intently out of very bright blue
eyes at the two gipsy-brown little girls in their single-garment
linen play-clothes, swinging their tanned bare legs and feet from the
railing of the porch. They returned this inspection in silence--on
Sylvia's part with the keen and welcoming interest she always felt in
new people who were well-dressed and physically attractive, but as for
Judith with a frankly hostile curiosity, as at some strange and quite
unattractive new animal.
The next morning, a still, oppressive day of brazen heat, it was
suggested that the children take their guest off to visit some of
their own favorite haunts to "get acquainted." This process began
somewhat violently by the instant halt of Arnold as soon as they were
out of sight of the house. "I'm going to take off these damn socks and
shoes," he announced, sitting down in the edge of a flower-bed.
"Oh, don't! You'll get your clean suit all dirty!" cried Sylvia,
springing forward to lift him out of the well-tilled black loam.
Arnold thrust her hand away and made a visible effort to increase his
specific gravity. "I hope to the Lord I _do_ get it dirty!" he said
"Isn't it your best?" asked Sylvia, aghast. "Have you another?" "I
haven't anything but!" said the boy savagely. "There's a whole trunk
full of them!" He was fumbling with a rough clumsiness at the lacing
of his shoes, but made no progress in loosening them, and now began
kicking at the grass. "I don't know how to get them off!" he cried,
his voice breaking nervously. Judith was down on her knees, inspecting
with a competent curiosity the fastenings, which were of a new
"It's _easy_!" she said. "You just lift this little catch up and turn
it back, and that lets you get at the knot." As she spoke, she acted,
her rough brown little fingers tugging at the silken laces. "How'd
you ever _get_ it fastened," she inquired, "if you don't know how to
"Oh, Pauline puts my shoes on for me," explained Arnold. "She dresses
and undresses me."
Judith stopped and looked up at him. "Who's Pauline?" she asked,
disapproving astonishment in her accent.
Judith pursued him further with her little black look of scorn. "Who's
"Why--you know--your Aunt Victoria--my stepmother--she married my
father when I was a little baby--she doesn't want me to call her
'mother' so I call her Madrina.' That's Italian for--"
Judith had no interest in this phenomenon and no opinion about it.
She recalled the conversation to the point at issue with her usual
ruthless directness. "And you wouldn't know how to undress yourself
if somebody didn't help you!" She went on loosening the laces in a
contemptuous silence, during which the boy glowered resentfully at the
back of her shining black hair. Sylvia essayed a soothing remark
about what pretty shoes he had, but with small success. Already the
excursion was beginning to take on the color of its ending,--an
encounter between the personalities of Judith and Arnold, with Sylvia
and Lawrence left out. When the shoes finally came off, they revealed
white silk half-hose, which, discarded in their turn, showed a pair of
startlingly pale feet, on which the new boy now essayed wincingly to
walk. "Ouch! Ouch! OUCH!" he cried, holding up first one and then the
other from contact with the hot sharp-edged pebbles of the path, "How
do you _do it_?"
"Oh, it always hurts when you begin in the spring," said Judith
carelessly. "You have to get used to it. How old are you?"
"Ten, last May."
"Buddy here began going barefoot last summer and he's only four," she
stated briefly, proceeding towards the barn and chicken-house.
After that remark the new boy walked forward with no more articulate
complaints, though his face was drawn and he bit his lips. He was
shown the chicken-yard--full of gawky, half-grown chickens shedding
their down and growing their feathers--and forgot his feet in the
fascination of scattering grain to them and watching their fluttering
scrambles. He was shown the rabbit-house and allowed to take one of
the limp, unresponsive little bunches of fur in his arms, and feed
a lettuce-leaf into its twitching pink mouth. He was shown the
house-in-the-maple-tree, a rough floor fixed between two large
branches, with a canvas roof over it, ensconced in which retreat his
eyes shone with happy excitement. He was evidently about to make some
comment on it, but glanced at Judith's dark handsome little face,
unsmiling and suspicious, and remained silent. He tried the same
policy when being shown the children's own garden, but Judith tracked
him out of this attempt at self-protection with some direct and
searching questions, discovering in him such ignorance of the broadest
division-lines of the vegetable kingdom that she gave herself up
to open scorn, vainly frowned down by the more naturally civilized
Sylvia, who was by no means enjoying herself. The new boy was not
in the least what he had looked. She longed to return to the
contemplation of Aunt Victoria's perfections. Lawrence was, as usual,
deep in an unreal world of his own, where he carried forth some
enterprise which had nothing to do with any one about him. He was
frowning and waving his arms, and making stabbing gestures with his
fingers, and paid no attention to the conversation between Judith and
the new boy.
"What _can_ you do? What _do_ you know?" asked the former at last.
"I can ride horseback," said Arnold defiantly.
Judith put him to the test at once, leading the way to the stall which
was the abode of the little pinto broncho, left them, she explained,
as a trust by one of Father's students from the Far West, who was now
graduated and a civil engineer in Chicago, where it cost too much to
keep a horse. Arnold emerged from this encounter with the pony with
but little more credit than he had earned in the garden, showing an
ineptness about equine ways which led Judith through an unsparing
cross-examination to the information that the boy's experience of
handling a horse consisted in being ready in a riding-costume at a
certain hour every afternoon, and mounting a well-broken little
pony, all saddled and bridled, which was "brought round" to the
"What's a porte-cochere?" she asked, with her inimitable air of
despising it, whatever it might turn out to be.
Arnold stared with an attempt to copy her own frank scorn for
another's ignorance. "Huh! Don't you even know that much? It's the big
porch without any floor to it, where carriages drive up so you can get
in and out without getting wet if it rains. Every house that's good
for anything has one."
So far from being impressed or put down, Judith took her stand as
usual on the offensive. "'Fore I'd be afraid of a little rain!" she
said severely, an answer which caused Arnold to seem disconcerted, and
again to look at her hard with the startled expression of arrested
attention which from the first her remarks and strictures seemed to
cause in him.
They took the pinto out. Judith rode him bareback at a gallop down
to the swimming pool and dived from his back into the yellow water
shimmering hotly in the sun. This feat stung Arnold into a final fury.
Without an instant's pause he sprang in after her. As he came to the
top, swimming strongly with a lusty, regular stroke, and rapidly
overhauled the puffing Judith, his face shone brilliantly with relief.
He was another child. The petulant boy of a few moments before had
vanished. "Beat you to the springboard!" he sputtered joyously,
swimming low and spitting water as he slid easily through it at twice
Judith's speed. She set her teeth and drove her tough little body with
a fierce concentration of all her forces, but Arnold was sitting on
the springboard, dangling his red and swollen feet when she arrived.
She clambered out and sat down beside him, silent for an instant. Then
she said with a detached air, "You can swim better than any boy I ever
Arnold's open, blond face flushed scarlet at this statement. He looked
at the dripping little brown rat beside him, and returned impulsively,
"I'd rather play with you than any girl I ever saw."
They were immediately reduced to an awkward silence by these two
unpremeditated superlatives. Judith found nothing to say beyond a
"huh" in an uncertain accent, and they turned with relief to alarums
and excursions from the forgotten and abandoned Sylvia and Lawrence.
Sylvia was forcibly restraining her little brother from following
Judith into the water. "You _mustn't_, Buddy! You _know_ we aren't
allowed to go in till an hour after eating and you only had your
breakfast a little while ago!" She led him away bellowing.
Arnold, surprised, asked Judith, "'Cept for that, are you allowed to
go in whenever you want?"
"Sure! We're not to stay in more than ten minutes at a time, and then
get out and run around for half an hour in the sun. There's a clock
under a little roof-thing, nailed up to a tree over there, so's we can
"And don't you get what-for, if you go in with all your clothes on
"I haven't any clothes _on_ but my rompers," said Judith. "They're
just the same as a bathing suit." She snatched back her prerogative of
asking questions. "Where _did_ you learn to swim so?"
"At the seashore! I get taken there a month every summer. It's the
most fun of any of the places I get taken. I've had lessons there from
the professor of swimming ever since I was six. Madrina doesn't know
what to do with me but have me take lessons. I like the swimming ones
the best. I hate dancing--and going to museums."
"What else can you do?" asked Judith with a noticeable abatement of
her previous disesteem.
Arnold hesitated, his own self-confidence as evidently dashed.
"Well--I can fence a little--and talk French; we are in Paris winters,
you know. We don't stay in Lydford for the winter. Nobody does."
"_Everybody_ goes away?" queried Judith. "What a funny town!"
"Oh, except the people who _live_ there--the Vermonters."
Judith was more and more at a loss. "Don't _you_ live there?"
"No, we don't _live_ anywhere. We just stay places for a while. Nobody
that we know lives anywhere." He interrupted a further question from
the astonished Judith to ask, "How'd you happen to have such a dandy
swimming-pool out of such a little brook?"
Judith, switched off upon a topic of recent and absorbing interest,
was diverted from investigation into the odd ways of people who
lived nowhere. "Isn't it great!" she said ardently. "It's new this
summer--that's why I don't swim so very well yet. Why, it was this
way. The creek ran through a corner of our land, and a lot of Father's
students that are engineers or something, wanted to do something
for Father when they graduated--lots of students do, you know--and
everybody said the creek didn't have water enough and they bet each
other it did, and after Commencement we had a kind of camp for
a week--tents and things all round here--and Mother cooked for
them--camp fires--oh, lots of fun!--and they let us children tag
around as much as we pleased--and they and Father dug, and fixed
concrete--say, did you ever get let to stir up concrete? It's great!"
Seeing in the boy's face a blankness as great as her own during his
chance revelations of life on another planet, she exclaimed, "Here,
come on, down to the other end, and I'll _show_ you how they made the
dam and all--they began over there with--" The two pattered along the
edge hand-in-hand, talking incessantly on a common topic at last,
interrupting each other, squatting down, peering into the water,
pointing, discussing, arguing, squeezing the deliciously soft mud up
and down between their toes, their heads close together--they might
for the moment have been brother and sister who had grown up together.
They were interrupted by voices, and turning flushed and candid faces
of animation towards the path, beheld Aunt Victoria, wonderful and
queen-like in a white dress, a parasol, like a great rose, over her
stately blond head, attended by Sylvia adoring; Mrs. Marshall quiet
and observant; Mr. Rollins, the tutor, thin, agitated, and unhappily
responsible; and Professor Marshall smiling delightedly at the
"Why, Arnold _Smith_!" cried his tutor, too much overcome by the
situation to express himself more forcibly than by a repetition of the
boy's name. "Why, _Arnold_! Come here!"
The cloud descended upon the boy's face. "I _will_ not!" he said
"But we were just _looking_ for you to start back to the hotel,"
argued Mr. Rollins.
"I don't care if you were!" said the boy in a sullen accent.
Sylvia and Judith looked on in amazement at this scene of
insubordination, as new to them as all the rest of the boy's actions.
He was standing still now, submitting in a gloomy silence to the
various comments on his appearance, which was incredibly different
from that with which he had started on his travels. The starch
remaining in a few places in his suit, now partly dried in the
hot sun, caused the linen to stand out grotesquely in peaks and
mud-streaked humps, his hair, still wet, hung in wisps about his very
dirty face, his bare, red feet and legs protruded from shapeless
knickerbockers. His stepmother looked at him with her usual
good-natured amused gaze. "It is customary, before going in swimming,
isn't it, Arnold, to take your watch out of your pocket and put your
cuff-links in a safe-place?" she suggested casually.
"Good Heavens! His watch!" cried Mr. Rollins, clutching at his own
Professor Marshall clapped the boy encouragingly on the shoulder.
"Well, sir, you look more like a human being," he said heartily,
addressing himself, with defiance in his tone, to his sister.
She replied with a smile, "That rather depends, doesn't it, Elliott,
upon one's idea of what constitutes a human being?"
Something in her sweet voice roused Judith to an ugly wrath. She came
forward and took her place protectingly beside her new playmate,
scowling at her aunt. "We were having a _lovely_ time!" she said
Mrs. Marshall-Smith looked down at the grotesque little figure and
touched the brown cheek indulgently with her forefinger. "That too
rather depends upon one's definition of a lovely time," she replied,
turning away, leaving with the indifference of long practice the
unfortunate Mr. Rollins to the task of converting Arnold into a
product possible to transport through the streets of a civilized town.
Before they went away that day, Arnold managed to seek Judith out
alone, and with shamefaced clumsiness to slip his knife, quite new and
three-bladed, into her hand. She looked at it uncomprehendingly. "For
you--to keep," he said, flushing again, and looking hard into her
dark eyes, which in return lightened suddenly from their usual rather
somber seriousness into a smile, a real smile. Judith's smiles were
far from frequent, but the recipient of one did not forget it.
EVERY ONE'S OPINION OF EVERY ONE ELSE
In this way, almost from the first, several distinct lines of cleavage
were established in the family party during the next fortnight. Arnold
imperiously demanded a complete vacation from "lessons," and when, it
was indolently granted, he spent it incessantly with Judith, the two
being always out of doors and usually joyously concocting what in any
but the easy-going, rustic plainness of the Marshall mode of life
would have been called mischief. Mrs. Marshall, aided by the others
in turn, toiled vigorously between the long rows of vegetables and
a little open shack near by, where, on a superannuated but still
serviceable cook-stove, she "put up," for winter use, an endless
supply of the golden abundance which, Ceres-like, she poured out every
year from the Horn of Plenty of her garden. Sylvia, in a state of
hypnotized enchantment, dogged her Aunt Victoria's graceful footsteps
and still more graceful, leisurely halts; Lawrence bustled about on
his own mysterious business in a solitary and apparently exciting
world of his own which was anywhere but in La Chance; and Professor
Marshall, in the intervals of committee work at the University, now
about to open, alternated between helping his wife, playing a great
deal of very noisy and very brilliant music on the piano, and
conversing in an unpleasant voice with his sister.
Mr. Rollins, for whom, naturally, Arnold's revolt meant unwonted
freedom, was for the most part invisible, "seeing the sights of La
Chance, I suppose," conjectured Aunt Victoria indifferently, in
her deliciously modulated voice, when asked what had become of the
sandy-haired tutor. And because, in the intense retirement and
rustication of this period, Mrs. Marshall-Smith needed little
attention paid to her toilets, Pauline also was apparently enjoying an
unusual vacation. A short time after making the conjecture about her
stepson's tutor, Aunt Victoria had added the suggestion, level-browed,
and serene as always, "Perhaps he and Pauline are seeing the sights
Sylvia, curled on a little stool at her aunt's feet, turned an
artless, inquiring face up to her. "What _are_ the 'sights' of La
Chance, Auntie?" she asked.
Her father, who was sitting at the piano, his long fingers raised
as though about to play, whirled about and cut in quickly with an
unintelligible answer, "Your Aunt Victoria refers to non-existent
phenomena, my dear, in order to bring home to us the uncouth
provinciality in which we live."
Aunt Victoria, leaning back, exquisitely passive, in one of the big,
shabby arm-chairs, raised a protesting hand. "My dear Elliott,
you don't do your chosen abiding-place justice. There is the new
Court-House. Nobody can deny that that is a sight. I spent a long time
the other day contemplating it. That and the Masonic Building are a
_pair_ of sights. I conceive Rollins, who professes to be interested
in architecture, as constantly vibrating between the two."
To which handsome tribute to La Chance's high-lights, Professor
Marshall returned with bitterness, "Good Lord, Vic, why do you come,
She answered pleasantly, "I might ask in my turn why you stay." She
went on, "I might also remind you that you and your children are the
only human ties I have." She slipped a soft arm about Sylvia as she
spoke, and turned the vivid, flower-like little face to be kissed.
When Aunt Victoria kissed her, Sylvia always felt that she had, like
Diana in the story-book, stooped radiant from a shining cloud.
There was a pause in the conversation. Professor Marshall faced the
piano again and precipitated himself headlong into the diabolic
accelerandos of "The Hall of the Mountain-King." His sister listened
with extreme and admiring appreciation of his talent. "Upon my word,
Elliott," she said heartily, "under the circumstances it's incredible,
but it's true--your touch positively improves."
He stopped short, and addressed the air above the piano with
passionate conviction. "I stay because, thanks to my wife, I've
savored here fourteen years of more complete reconciliation with
life--I've been vouchsafed more usefulness--I've discovered more
substantial reasons for existing than I ever dreamed possible in the
old life--than any one in that world can conceive!"
Aunt Victoria looked down at her beautiful hands clasped in her lap.
"Yes, quite so," she breathed. "Any one who knows you well must agree
that whatever you are, or do, or find, nowadays, is certainly 'thanks
to your wife.'"
Her brother flashed a furious look at her, and was about to speak,
but catching sight of Sylvia's troubled little face turned to him
anxiously, gave only an impatient shake to his ruddy head--now graying
slightly. A little later he said: "Oh, we don't speak the same
language any more, Victoria. I couldn't make you understand--you don't
know--how should you? You can't conceive how, when one is really
_living_, nothing of all that matters. What does architecture matter,
"Some of it matters very little indeed," concurred his sister blandly.
This stirred him to an ungracious laugh. "As for keeping up only human
ties, isn't a fortnight once every five years rather slim rations?"
"Ah, there are difficulties--the Masonic Building--" murmured Aunt
Victoria, apparently at random. But then, it seemed to Sylvia that
they were always speaking at random. For all she could see, neither of
them ever answered what the other had said.
The best times were when she and Aunt Victoria were all alone
together--or with only the silent, swift-fingered, Pauline in
attendance during the wonderful processes of dressing or undressing
her mistress. These occasions seemed to please Aunt Victoria best
also. She showed herself then so winning and gracious and altogether
magical to the little girl that Sylvia forgot the uncomfortableness
which always happened when her aunt and her father were together. As
they came to be on more intimate terms, Sylvia was told a great many
details about Aunt Victoria's present and past life, in the form of
stories, especially about that early part of it which had been spent
with her brother. Mrs. Marshall-Smith took pains to talk to Sylvia
about her father as he had been when he was a brilliant dashing youth
in Paris at school, or as the acknowledged social leader of his class
in the famous Eastern college. "You see, Sylvia," she explained,
"having no father or mother or any near relatives, we saw more of
each other than a good many brothers and sisters do. We had nobody
else--except old Cousin Ellen, who kept house for us in the summers
in Lydford and traveled around with us," Lydford was another topic on
which, although it was already very familiar to her from her mother's
reminiscences of her childhood in Vermont, Aunt Victoria shed much
light for Sylvia. Aunt Victoria's Lydford was so different from
Mother's, it seemed scarcely possible they could be the same place.
Mother's talk was all about the mountains, the sunny upland pastures,
rocky and steep, such a contrast to the rich, level stretches of
country about La Chance; about the excursions through these slopes
of the mountains every afternoon, accompanied by a marvelously
intelligent collie dog, who helped find the cows; about the orchard
full of old trees more climbable than any others which have grown
since the world began; about the attic full of drying popcorn and
old hair-trunks and dusty files of the New York _Tribune_; about the
pantry with its cookie-jar, and the "back room" with its churn and
Nothing of all this existed in the Lydford of which Aunt Victoria
spoke, although some of her recollections were also of childhood
hours. Once Sylvia asked her, "But if you were a little girl there,
and Mother was too,--then you and Father and she must have played
Aunt Victoria had replied with decision, "No, I never saw your mother,
and neither did your father--until a few months before they were
"Well, wasn't that _queer_?" exclaimed Sylvia--"she _always_ lived in
Lydford except when she went away to college."
Aunt Victoria seemed to hesitate for words, something unusual with
her, and finally brought out, "Your mother lived on a farm, and we
lived in our summer house in the village." She added after a moment's
deliberation: "Her uncle, who kept the farm, furnished us with our
butter. Sometimes your mother used to deliver it at the kitchen door."
She looked hard at Sylvia as she spoke.
"Well, I should have thought you'd have seen her _there_!" said Sylvia
in surprise. Nothing came to the Marshalls' kitchen door which was not
in the children's field of consciousness.
"It was, in fact, there that your father met her," stated Aunt
"Oh yes, I remember," said Sylvia, quoting fluently from an often
heard tale. "I've heard them tell about it lots of times. She was
earning money to pay for her last year in college, and dropped a
history book out of her basket as she started to get back in the
wagon, and Father picked it up and said, 'Why, good Lord! who in
Lydford reads Gibbon?' And Mother said it was hers, and they talked a
while, and then he got in and rode off with her."
"Yes," said Aunt Victoria, "that was how it happened.... Pauline, get
out the massage cream and do my face, will you?"
She did not talk any more for a time, but when she began, it was again
of Lydford that she spoke, running along in a murmured stream of
reminiscences breathed faintly between motionless lips that Pauline's
reverent ministrations might not be disturbed. Through the veil of
these half-understood recollections, Sylvia saw highly inaccurate
pictures of great magnificent rooms filled with heavy old mahogany
furniture, of riotously colored rose-gardens, terraced and
box-edged, inhabited by beautiful ladies always, like Aunt Victoria,
"dressed-up," who took tea under brightly striped, pagoda-shaped
tents, waited upon by slant-eyed Japanese (it seemed Aunt Victoria had
nothing but Japanese servants). The whole picture shimmered in the
confused imagination of the listening little girl, till it blended
indistinguishably with the enchantment of her fairy-stories. It all
seemed a background natural enough for Aunt Victoria, but Sylvia could
not fit her father into it.
"Ah, he's changed greatly--he's transformed--he is not the same
creature," Aunt Victoria told her gravely, speaking according to her
seductive habit with Sylvia, as though to an equal. "The year when
we lost our money and he married, altered all the world for us."
She linked the two events together, and was rewarded by seeing the
reference slide over Sylvia's head.
"Did you lose _your_ money, too?" asked Sylvia, astounded. It had
never occurred to her that Aunt Victoria might have been affected by
that event in her father's life, with which she was quite familiar
through his careless references to what he seemed to regard as an
interesting but negligible incident.
"All but the slightest portion of it, my dear--when I was twenty years
old. Your father was twenty-five."
Sylvia looked about her at the cut-glass and silver utensils on
the lace-covered dressing-table, at Aunt Victoria's pale lilac
crepe-de-chine negligee, at the neat, pretty young maid deft-handedly
rubbing the perfumed cream into the other woman's well-preserved face,
impassive as an idol's. "Why--why, I thought--" she began and stopped,
a native delicacy making her hesitate as Judith never did.
Aunt Victoria understood. "Mr. Smith had money," she explained
briefly. "I married when I was twenty-one."
"Oh," said Sylvia. It seemed an easy way out of difficulties. She
had never before chanced to hear Aunt Victoria mention her long-dead
SOMETHING ABOUT HUSBANDS
She did not by any means always sit in the hotel and watch
Pauline care for different portions of Aunt Victoria's body. Mrs.
Marshall-Smith took, on principle, a drive every day, and Sylvia was
her favorite companion. At first they went generally over the asphalt
and in front of the costly and incredibly differing "mansions" of
the "residential portion" of town, but later their drives took them
principally along the winding roads and under the thrifty young trees
of the State University campus. They often made an excuse of fetching
Professor Marshall home from a committee meeting, and as the faculty
committees at that time of year were, for the most part, feverishly
occupied with the classification of the annual flood-tide of Freshmen,
he was nearly always late, and they were obliged to wait long
half-hours in front of the Main Building.
Sylvia's cup of satisfaction ran over as, dressed in her simple best,
which her mother without comment allowed her to put on every day now,
she sat in the well-appointed carriage beside her beautiful aunt, at
whom every one looked so hard and so admiringly. The University work
had not begun, but unresigned and harassed professors and assistants,
recalled from their vacations for various executive tasks, were
present in sufficient numbers to animate the front steps of the Main
Building with constantly gathering and dissolving little groups. These
called out greetings to each other, and exchanged dolorous mutual
condolences on their hard fate; all showing, with a helpless masculine
naivete, their consciousness of the lovely, observant figure in the
carriage below them. Of a different sort were the professors' wives,
who occasionally drifted past on the path. Aunt Victoria might have
been a blue-uniformed messenger-boy for all that was betrayed by their
skilfully casual glance at her and then away, and the subsequent
directness of their forward gaze across the campus. Mrs.
Marshall-Smith had for both these manifestations of consciousness of
her presence the same imperturbable smile of amusement. "They are
delightful, these colleagues of your father's!" she told Sylvia.
Sylvia had hoped fervently that the stylish Mrs. Hubert might see
her in this brief apotheosis, and one day her prayer was answered.
Straight down the steps of the Main Building they came, Mrs. Hubert
glistening in shiny blue silk, extremely unaware of Aunt Victoria,
the two little girls looking to Sylvia like fairy princesses, with
pink-and-white, lace-trimmed dresses, and big pink hats with rose
wreaths. Even the silk laces in their low, white kid shoes were of
pink to match the ribbons, which gleamed at waist and throat and
elbow. Sylvia watched them in an utter admiration, and was beyond
measure shocked when Aunt Victoria said, after they had stepped
daintily past, "Heavens! What a horridly over-dressed family! Those
poor children look too absurd, tricked out like that. The one nearest
me had a sweet, appealing little face, too."
"That is Eleanor," said Sylvia, with a keen, painful recollection of
the scene a year ago. She added doubtfully, "Didn't you think their
dresses pretty, Aunt Victoria?"
"I thought they looked like pin-cushions on a kitchen-maid's
dressing-table," returned Aunt Victoria more forcibly than she usually
expressed herself. "You look vastly better with the straight lines
of your plain white dresses. You have a great deal of style, Sylvia.
Judith is handsomer than you, but she will never have any style." This
verdict, upon both the Huberts and herself, delivered with a serious
accent of mature deliberation, impressed Sylvia. It was one of the
speeches she was to ponder.
Although Professor Marshall showed himself noticeably negligent in the
matter of introducing his colleagues to his sister, it was only two
or three days before Aunt Victoria's half-hours of waiting before the
Main Building had other companionship than Sylvia's. This was due to
the decisive action of young Professor Saunders, just back from the
British Museum, where, at Professor Marshall's suggestion, he had been
digging up facts about the economic history of the twelfth century in
England. Without waiting for an invitation he walked straight up to
the carriage with the ostensible purpose of greeting Sylvia, who was a
great favorite of his, and who in her turn had a romantic admiration
for the tall young assistant. Of all the faculty people who frequented
the Marshall house, he and old Professor Kennedy were the only people
whom Sylvia considered "stylish," and Professor Kennedy, in spite of
his very high connection with the aristocracy of La Chance, was so
cross and depressed that really his "style" did not count. She was
now greatly pleased by the younger professor's public and cordial
recognition of her, and, with her precocious instinct for social ease,
managed to introduce him to her aunt, even adding quaintly a phrase
which she had heard her mother use in speaking of him, "My father
thinks Professor Saunders has a brilliant future before him."
This very complimentary reference had not the effect she hoped for,
since both the young man and Aunt Victoria laughed, exchanging glances
of understanding, and said to each other, "Isn't she delicious?" But
at least it effectually broke any ice of constraint, so that the
new-comer felt at once upon the most familiarly friendly terms with
the sister of his chief. Thereafter he came frequently to lean an arm
on the side of the carriage and talk with the "ladies-in-waiting,"
as he called the pretty woman and child. Once or twice Sylvia was
transferred to the front seat beside Peter, the negro driver, on the
ground that she could watch the horses better, and they took Professor
Saunders for a drive through the flat, fertile country, now beginning
to gleam ruddy with autumnal tints of bronze and scarlet and gold.
Although she greatly enjoyed the social brilliance of these occasions,
on which Aunt Victoria showed herself unexpectedly sprightly and
altogether enchanting, Sylvia felt a little guilty that they did not
return to pick up Professor Marshall, and she was relieved, when they
met at supper, that he made no reference to their defection.
He did not, in fact, mention his assistant's name at all, and yet he
did not seem surprised when Professor Saunders, coming to the Sunday
evening rehearsal of the quartet, needed no introduction to his
sister, but drew a chair up with the evident intention of devoting
all his conversation to her. For a time this overt intention was
frustrated by old Reinhardt, smitten with an admiration as unconcealed
for the beautiful stranger. In the interval before the arrival of the
later members of the quartet, he fluttered around her like an ungainly
old moth, racking his scant English for complimentary speeches. These
were received by Aunt Victoria with her best calm smile, and by
Professor Saunders with open impatience. His equanimity was not
restored by the fact that there chanced to be rather more general talk
than usual that evening, leaving him but small opportunity for his
It began by the arrival of Professor Kennedy, a little late, delayed
at a reunion of the Kennedy family. He was always reduced to bilious
gloom by any close contact with that distinguished, wealthy, and much
looked-up-to group of citizens of La Chance, and this evening he
walked into the front door obviously even more depressed than usual.
The weather had turned cool, and his imposingly tall old person was
wrapped in a cape-overcoat. Sylvia had no fondness for Professor
Kennedy, but she greatly admired his looks and his clothes, and his
handsome, high-nosed old face. She watched him wrestle himself out of
his coat as though it were a grappling enemy, and was not surprised at
the irritability which sat visibly upon his arching white eyebrows.
He entered the room trailing his 'cello-bag beside him and plucking
peevishly at its drawstrings, and although Aunt Victoria quite roused
herself at the sight of him, he received his introduction to her with
reprehensible indifference. He sank into a chair and looked sadly at
the fire, taking the point of his white beard in his long, tapering
fingers. Professor Marshall turned from the piano, where he sat,
striking A for the conscientious Bauermeister to tune, and said
laughingly, "Hey there, Knight of the Dolorous Countenance, what
vulture is doing business at the old stand on your liver?"
Professor Kennedy crossed one long, elegantly slim leg over the other,
"I've been dining with the Kennedy family," he said, with a neat and
"Anything specially the matter with the predatory rich?" queried
Marshall, reaching for his viola-case.
Professor Kennedy shook his head. "Alas! there's never anything the
matter with them. _Comme le diable, ils se portent toujours bien_."
At the purity of accent with which this embittered remark was made,
Mrs. Marshall-Smith opened her eyes, and paid more attention as the
old professor went on.
"The last of my unmarried nieces has shown herself a true Kennedy by
providing herself with a dolichocephalic blond of a husband, like all
the others. The dinner was given in honor of the engagement."
Sylvia was accustomed to finding Professor Kennedy's remarks quite
unintelligible, and this one seemed no odder to her than the rest, so
that she was astonished that Aunt Victoria was not ashamed to confess
as blank an ignorance as the little girl's. The beautiful woman leaned
toward the morose old man with the suave self-confidence of one who
has never failed to charm, and drew his attention to her by a laugh
of amused perplexity. "May I ask," she inquired, "_what_ kind of a
husband is that? It is a new variety to me."
Professor Kennedy looked at her appraisingly. "It's the kind most
women aspire to," he answered enigmatically. He imparted to this
obscure remark the air of passing a sentence of condemnation.
Sylvia's mother stirred uneasily in her chair and looked at her
husband. He had begun to take his viola from the case, but now
returned it and stood looking quizzically from his sister to his
guest. "Professor Kennedy talks a special language, Vic," he said
lightly. "Some day he'll make a book of it and be famous. He divides
us all into two kinds: the ones that get what they want by taking it
away from other people--those are the dolichocephalic blonds--though
I believe it doesn't refer to the color of their hair. The other kind
are the white folks, the unpredatory ones who have scruples, and get
pushed to the wall for their pains."
Mrs. Marshall-Smith turned to the young man beside her. "It makes one
wonder, doesn't it," she conjectured pleasantly, "to which type one
In this welcome shifting from the abstract to the understandably
personal, old Reinhardt saw his opportunity. "Ach, womens, beautifool
and goot womens!" he cried in his thick, kindly voice. "Dey are abofe
being types. To every good man, dey can be only wie eine blume, so
hold and schoen--"
Professor Kennedy's acid voice broke in--"So you're still in the 1830
Romantische Schule period, are you, Reinhardt?" He went on to Mrs.
Marshall-Smith: "But there _is_ something in that sort of talk. Women,
especially those who consider themselves beautiful and good, escape
being _either_ kind of type, by the legerdemain with which they get
what they want, and yet don't soil their fingers with predatory acts."
Mrs. Marshall-Smith was, perhaps, a shade tardy in asking the question
which he had evidently cast his speech to extract from her, but after
an instant's pause she brought it out bravely. "How in the world do
you mean?" she asked, smiling, and received, with a quick flicker of
her eyelids, the old man's response of, "They buy a dolichocephalic
blond to do their dirty work for them and pay for him with their
"_Oh!_" cried Mrs. Marshall, checking herself in a sudden deprecatory
gesture of apology towards her sister-in-law. She looked at her
husband and gave him a silent, urgent message to break the awkward
pause, a message which he disregarded, continuing coolly to inspect
his fingernails with an abstracted air, contradicted by the half-smile
on his lips. Sylvia, listening to the talk, could make nothing out of
it, but miserably felt her little heart grow leaden as she looked from
one face to another. Judith and Lawrence, tired of waiting for the
music to begin, had dropped asleep among the pillows of the divan. Mr.
Bauermeister yawned, looked at the clock, and plucked at the strings
of his violin. He hated all talk as a waste of time. Old Reinhardt's
simple face looked as puzzled and uneasy as Sylvia's own. Young Mr.
Saunders seemed to have no idea that there was anything particularly
unsettling in the situation, but, disliking the caustic vehemence of
his old colleague's speech, inter-posed to turn it from the lady by
his side. "And you're the man who's opposed on principle to sweeping
generalizations!" he said in cheerful rebuke.
"Ah, I've just come from a gathering of the Clan Kennedy," repeated
the older man. "I defy anybody to produce a more successfully
predatory family than mine. The fortunes of the present generation of
Kennedys don't come from any white-livered subterfuge, like the rise
in the value of real estate, as my own ill-owned money does. No, sir;
the good, old, well-recognized, red-blooded method of going out and
taking it away from people not so smart as they are, is good enough
for them, if you please. And my woman relatives--" He swept them away
with a gesture. "When I--"
Mrs. Marshall cut him short resolutely. "Are you going to have any
music tonight, or aren't you?" she said.
He looked at her with a sudden, unexpected softening of his somber
eyes. "Do you know, Barbara Marshall, that there are times when you
keep one unhappy old misanthrope from despairing of his kind?"
She had at this unlooked-for speech only the most honest astonishment.
"I don't know what you're talking about," she said bluntly.
Judith stirred in her sleep and woke up blinking. When she saw that
Professor Kennedy had come in, she did what Sylvia would never have
dared do; she ran to him and climbed up on his knee, laying her
shining, dark head against his shoulder. The old man's arms closed
around her. "Well, spitfire," he said, "_comment ca roule_, eh?"
Judith did not trouble herself to answer. With a gesture of
tenderness, as unexpected as his speech to her mother, her old friend
laid his cheek against hers. "You're another, Judy, _You'll_ never
marry a dolichocephalic blond and make him pull the chestnuts out of
the fire for you, will you?" he said confidently.
Mrs. Marshall rose with the exasperated air of one whose patience is
gone. She made a step as though to shield her husband's sister from
the cantankerous old man. "If I hear another word of argument in this
house tonight--" she threatened. "Mr. Reinhardt, what are these people
The musician awoke, with a sigh, from his dazzled contemplation of
his host's sister, and looked about him. "Ach, yes! Ach, yes!"
he admitted. With a glance of adoration at the visitor, he added
impressively what to his mind evidently signified some profoundly
significant tribute, "Dis night we shall blay only Schubert!"
Sylvia heaved a sigh of relief as the four gathered in front of the
music-racks at the other end of the room, tuning and scraping. Young
Mr. Saunders, evidently elated that his opportunity had come, leaned
toward Aunt Victoria and began talking in low tones. Once or twice
they laughed a little, looking towards Professor Kennedy.
Then old Reinhardt, gravely pontifical, rapped with his bow on his
rack, lifted his violin to his chin, and--an obliterating sponge was
passed over Sylvia's memory. All the queer, uncomfortable talk, the
unpleasant voices, the angry or malicious or uneasy eyes, the unkindly
smiling lips, all were washed away out of her mind. The smooth,
swelling current of the music was like oil on a wound. As she listened
and felt herself growing drowsy, it seemed to her that she was
being floated away, safely away from the low-ceilinged room where
personalities clashed, out to cool, star-lit spaces.
All that night in her dreams she heard only old Reinhardt's angel
voice proclaiming, amid the rich murmur of assent from the other
THE SIGHTS OF LA CHANCE
One day at the end of a fortnight, Aunt Victoria and Arnold were late
in their daily arrival at the Marshall house, and when the neat surrey
at last drove up, they both showed signs of discomposure. Discomposure
was no unusual condition for Arnold, who not infrequently made his
appearance red-faced and sullen, evidently fresh from angry revolt
against his tutor, but on that morning he was anything but red-faced,
and looked a little scared. His stepmother's fine complexion, on
the contrary, had more pink than usual in its pearly tones, and her
carriage had less than usual of sinuous grace. Sylvia and Judith ran
down the porch steps to meet them, but stopped, startled by their
aspect. Aunt Victoria descended, very straight, her head high-held,
and without giving Sylvia the kiss with which she usually marked her
preference for her older niece, walked at once into the house.
Although the impressionable Sylvia was so struck by these phenomena,
that, even after her aunt's disappearance, she remained daunted and
silent, Judith needed only the removal of the overpowering presence
to restore her coolness. She pounced on Arnold with questions. "What
_you_ been doing that's so awful bad? I bet _you_ caught it all
"'Tisn't me," said Arnold in a subdued voice. "It's Pauline and old
Rollins that caught it. They're the ones that ha' been bad."
Judith was at a loss, never having conceived that grown-ups might do
naughty things. Arnold went on, "If you'd ha' heard Madrina talking to
Pauline--say! Do you know what I did? I crawled under the bed--honest
I did. It didn't last but a minute, but it scared the liver out o'
me." This vigorous expression was a favorite of his.
Judith was somewhat impressed by his face and manner, but still
inclined to mock at a confession of fear. "Under the _bed_!" she
Arnold evidently felt the horror of the recently enacted scene so
vividly that there was no room for shame in his mind. "You bet I did!
And so would you too, if you'd ha' been there. _Gee_!"
In spite of herself Judith looked somewhat startled by the vibration
of sincerity in his voice, and Sylvia, with her quick sympathy of
divination, had turned almost as pale as the little boy, who, all his
braggart turbulence gone, stood looking at them with a sick expression
in his eyes.
"Was it in your room?" asked Judith. "I thought Pauline's room was on
the top floor. What was she doing down there?"
"No, it was in old Rollins' room--next to mine. I don't know what
Pauline was doing there."
"What did Pauline do when Aunt Victoria scolded her?" asked Sylvia.
She had come to be fond of the pretty young maid with her fat, quick
hands and her bright, warm-hearted smile for her mistress' little
niece. One day, when Mrs. Marshall-Smith had, for a moment, chanced to
leave them alone, Pauline had given her a sudden embrace, and had told
her: "At 'ome zere are four leetle brozers and sisters. America is a
place mos' solitary!" "What did Pauline do?" asked Sylvia again as
Arnold did not answer.
The boy looked down. "Pauline just cried and cried," he said in a low
tone. "I _liked_ Pauline! She was awful good to me. I--I heard her
crying afterwards as she went away. Seemed to me I could hear her
crying all the way out here."
"Did she go away?" asked Judith, trying to make something coherent out
of the story. Arnold nodded.
"You bet she did. Madrina turned her right out--and old Rollins too."
"Was _he_ there? What was the matter anyhow?" Judith persisted.
Arnold twisted uncomfortably, loath to continue bringing up the scene.
"I d'n know what was the matter. Yes, old Rollins was there, all
right. He's gone away too, the doggoned old thing--for good. That's
_something_!" He added, "Aw, quit talkin' about it, can't you! Let's
"It's my turn to help Mother with the tomatoes," said Judith. "She's
doing the last of the canning this morning. Maybe she'd let you help."
Arnold brightened. "Maybe she would!" he said, adding eagerly, "Maybe
she'd tell us another of the stories about her grandmother."
Judith snatched at his hand and began racing down the path to the
garden. "Maybe she would!" she cried. They both called as they ran,
"Mother, _oh_, Mother!" and as they ran, they leaped and bounded into
the bright autumn air like a couple of puppies.
Sylvia's mental resiliency was not of such sturdily elastic stuff. She
stood still, thinking of Pauline crying, and crying--and started aside
when her aunt came out again on the porch.
"I don't find any one in the house, Sylvia dear," said Mrs.
Marshall-Smith quietly. Sylvia looked up into the clear, blue eyes, so
like her father's, and felt the usual magic spell lay hold on her. The
horrid impression made by Arnold's story dimmed and faded. Arnold was
always getting things twisted. She came up closer to her aunt's
side and took the soft, smooth fingers between her two little hard,
muscular hands. In her relief, she had forgotten to answer. Mrs.
Marshall-Smith said again, "Where are your parents, dear?"
"Oh," said Sylvia. "Oh yes--why, Father's at the University at a
committee meeting and Mother's out by the garden putting up tomatoes.
Judy and Arnold are helping her."
Mrs. Marshall-Smith hesitated, looked about her restlessly, and
finally raised her parasol, of a gold-colored silk, a lighter tone,
but the same shade as her rich plain broadcloth costume of tan. "Shall
we take a little walk, my dear?" she suggested. "I don't feel like
sitting still just now--nor"--she looked down into Sylvia's eyes--"nor
yet like canning tomatoes,"
That walk, the last one taken with Aunt Victoria, became one of
Sylvia's memories, although she never had a vivid recollection of what
they saw during their slow ramble. It was only Aunt Victoria whom the
little girl remembered--Aunt Victoria moving like a goddess over their
rough paths and under the changing glory of the autumn leaves. She
herself was a brighter glory, with her shining blond hair crowned by
a halo of feathery, gold-colored plumes, the soft, fine, supple
broadcloth of her garments gleaming in the sunshine with a sheen like
that of a well-kept animal's coat. There breathed from all her person
a faint odor of grace and violets and unhurried leisure.
Sylvia clung close to her side, taking in through all her pores this
lovely emanation, not noticing whether they were talking or not, not
heeding the direction of their steps. She was quite astonished to find
herself on the University campus, in front of the Main Building. Aunt
Victoria had never walked so far before. "Oh, did you want to see
Father?" she asked, coming a little to herself.
Mrs. Marshall-Smith said, as if in answer, "Just sit down here and
wait for me a minute, will you, Sylvia?" moving thereupon up the steps
and disappearing through the wide front door. Sylvia relapsed into
her day-dreams and, motionless in a pool of sunlight, waited, quite
unconscious of the passage of time.
This long reverie was at last broken by the return of Mrs.
Marshall-Smith. She was not alone, but the radiant young man who
walked beside her was not her brother, and nothing could have
differed more from the brilliantly hard gaze which Professor Marshall
habitually bent on his sister, than the soft intentness with which
young Mr. Saunders regarded the ripely beautiful woman. The dazzled
expression of his eyes was one of the remembered factors of the day
The two walked down the shaded steps, Sylvia watching them admiringly,
the scene forever printed on her memory, and emerged into the pool of
sunshine where she sat, swinging her legs from the bench. They stood
there for some minutes, talking together in low tones. Sylvia,
absorbed in watching the play of light on Aunt Victoria's smooth
cheek, heard but a few words of what passed between them. She had a
vague impression that Professor Saunders continually began sentences
starting firmly with "But" and ending somehow on quite another note.
She felt dimly that Aunt Victoria was less calmly passive than usual
in a conversation, that it was not only the enchanting rising and
falling inflections of her voice which talked, but her eyes, her arms,
her whole self. Once she laid her hand for an instant on Professor