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The Dust by David Graham Phillips

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The Grain of Dust





INTO the offices of Lockyer, Sanders, Benchley,
Lockyer & Norman, corporation lawyers, there drifted
on a December afternoon a girl in search of work at
stenography and typewriting. The firm was about the
most important and most famous--radical orators often
said infamous--in New York. The girl seemed, at a
glance, about as unimportant and obscure an atom as
the city hid in its vast ferment. She was blonde--tawny
hair, fair skin, blue eyes. Aside from this hardly
conclusive mark of identity there was nothing positive,
nothing definite, about her. She was neither tall nor
short, neither fat nor thin, neither grave nor gay. She
gave the impression of a young person of the feminine
gender--that, and nothing more. She was plainly
dressed, like thousands of other girls, in darkish blue
jacket and skirt and white shirt waist. Her boots and
gloves were neat, her hair simply and well arranged.
Perhaps in these respects--in neatness and taste--she
did excel the average, which is depressingly low. But
in a city where more or less strikingly pretty women,
bent upon being seen, are as plentiful as the blackberries
of Kentucky's July--in New York no one would
have given her a second look, this quiet young woman
screened in an atmosphere of self-effacement.

She applied to the head clerk. It so happened that
need for another typewriter had just arisen. She got
a trial, showed enough skill to warrant the modest wage
of ten dollars a week; she became part of the office force
of twenty or twenty-five young men and women similarly
employed. As her lack of skill was compensated by
industry and regularity, she would have a job so long
as business did not slacken. When it did, she would
be among the first to be let go. She shrank into her
obscure niche in the great firm, came and went in mouse-
like fashion, said little, obtruded herself never, was all
but forgotten.

Nothing could have been more commonplace, more
trivial than the whole incident. The name of the girl
was Hallowell--Miss Hallowell. On the chief clerk's
pay roll appeared the additional information that her
first name was Dorothea. The head office boy, in one
of his occasional spells of "freshness," addressed her
as Miss Dottie. She looked at him with a puzzled
expression; it presently changed to a slight, sweet smile,
and she went about her business. There was no rebuke
in her manner, she was far too self-effacing for anything
so positive as the mildest rebuke. But the head
office boy blushed awkwardly--why he did not know and
could not discover, though he often cogitated upon it.
She remained Miss Hallowell.

Opposites suggest each other. The dimmest personality
in those offices was the girl whose name imaged to
everyone little more than a pencil, notebook, and
typewriting machine. The vividest personality was Frederick
Norman. In the list of names upon the outer doors of the
firm's vast labyrinthine suite, on the seventeenth floor
of the Syndicate Building, his name came last--and,
in the newest lettering, suggesting recentness of
partnership. In age he was the youngest of the partners.
Lockyer was archaic, Sanders an antique; Benchley,
actually only about fifty-five, had the air of one born
in the grandfather class. Lockyer the son dyed his
hair and affected jauntiness, but was in fact not many
years younger than Benchley and had the stiffening
jerky legs of one paying for a lively youth. Norman
was thirty-seven--at the age the Greeks extolled as
divine because it means all the best of youth combined
with all the best of manhood. Some people thought
Norman younger, almost boyish. Those knew him uptown
only, where he hid the man of affairs beneath the
man of the world-that-amuses-itself. Some people
thought he looked, and was, older than the age with
which the biographical notices credited him. They knew
him down town only--where he dominated by sheer force
of intellect and will.

As has been said, the firm ranked among the greatest
in New York. It was a trusted counselor in large
affairs--commercial, financial, political--in all parts of
America, in all parts of the globe, for many of its
clients were international traffickers. Yet this young
man, this youngest and most recent of the partners,
had within the month forced a reorganization of the
firm--or, rather, of its profits--on a basis that gave him
no less than one half of the whole.

His demand threw his four associates into paroxysms
of rage and fear--the fear serving as a wholesome antidote
to the rage.

It certainly was infuriating that a youth, admitted
to partnership barely three years ago, should thus
maltreat his associates. Ingrate was precisely the epithet
for him. At least, so they honestly thought, after the
quaint human fashion; for, because they had given him
the partnership, they looked on themselves as his
benefactors, and neglected as unimportant detail the sole
and entirely selfish reason for their graciousness. But
enraged though these worthy gentlemen were, and
eagerly though they longed to treat the "conceited
and grasping upstart" as he richly deserved, they
accepted his ultimatum. Even the venerable and
veneerated Lockyer--than whom a more convinced self-
deceiver on the subject of his own virtues never wore
white whiskers, black garments, and the other badges
of eminent respectability--even old Joseph Lockyer
could not twist the acceptance into another manifestation
of the benevolence of himself and his associates.
They had to stare the grimacing truth straight in the
face; they were yielding because they dared not refuse.
To refuse would mean the departure of Norman with
the firm's most profitable business. It costs heavily to
live in New York; the families of successful men are
extravagant; so conduct unbecoming a gentleman may
not there be resented if to resent is to cut down one's
income. The time was, as the dignified and nicely
honorable Sanders observed, when these and many similar
low standards did not prevail in the legal profession.
But such is the frailty of human nature--or so savage
the pressure of the need of the material necessities of
civilized life, let a profession become profitable or
develop possibilities of profit--even the profession of
statesman, even that of lawyer--or doctor--or priest--
or wife--and straightway it begins to tumble down
toward the brawl and stew of the market place.

In a last effort to rouse the gentleman in Norman
or to shame him into pretense of gentlemanliness, Lockyer
expostulated with him like a prophet priest in full
panoply of saintly virtue. And Lockyer was passing
good at that exalted gesture. He was a Websterian
figure, with the venality of the great Daniel in all its
pompous dignity modernized--and correspondingly
expanded. He abounded in those idealist sonorosities that
are the stock-in-trade of all solemn old-fashioned frauds.
The young man listened with his wonted attentive
courtesy until the dolorous appeal disguised as fatherly
counsel came to an end. Then in his blue-gray eyes
appeared the gleam that revealed the tenacity and the
penetration of his mind. He said:

"Mr. Lockyer, you have been absent six years--
except an occasional two or three weeks--absent as
American Ambassador to France. You have done nothing
for the firm in that time. Yet you have not scorned to
take profits you did not earn. Why should I scorn to
take profits I do earn?"

Mr. Lockyer shook his picturesque head in sad
remonstrance at this vulgar, coarse, but latterly frequent
retort of insurgent democracy upon indignant aristocracy.
But he answered nothing.

"Also," proceeded the graceless youth in the clear
and concise way that won the instant attention of juries
and Judges, "also, our profession is no longer a profession
but a business." His humorous eyes twinkled merrily.
"It divides into two parts--teaching capitalists
how to loot without being caught, and teaching them
how to get off if by chance they have been caught.
There are other branches of the profession, but they're
not lucrative, so we do not practice them. Do I make
myself clear?"

Mr. Lockyer again shook his head and sighed.

"I am not an Utopian," continued young Norman.
"Law and custom permit--not to say sanctify--our
sort of business. So--I do my best. But I shall not
conceal from you that it's distasteful to me. I wish to
get out of it. I shall get out as soon as I've made enough
capital to assure me the income I have and need. Naturally,
I wish to gather in the necessary amount as
speedily as possible."

"Fred, my boy, I regret that you take such low
views of our noble profession."

"Yes--as a profession it is noble. But not as a
practice. MY regret is that it invites and compels such
low views."

"You will look at these things more--more mellowly
when you are older."

"I doubt if I'll ever rise very high in the art of
self-deception," replied Norman. "If I'd had any bent
that way I'd not have got so far so quickly."

It was a boastful remark--of a kind he, and other
similar young men, have the habit of making. But
from him it did not sound boastful--simply a frank
and timely expression of an indisputable truth, which
indeed it was. Once more Mr. Lockyer sighed. "I see
you are incorrigible," said he.

"I have not acted without reflection," said Norman.

And Lockyer knew that to persist was simply to
endanger his dignity. "I am getting old," said he.
"Indeed, I am old. I have gotten into the habit of
leaning on you, my boy. I can't consent to your going,
hard though you make it for us to keep you. I shall
try to persuade our colleagues to accept your terms."

Norman showed neither appreciation nor triumph.
He merely bowed slightly. And so the matter was
settled. Instead of moving into the suite of offices in
the Mills Building on which he had taken an option,
young Norman remained where he had been toiling for
twelve years.

After this specimen of Norman's quality, no one
will be surprised to learn that in figure he was one of
those solidly built men of medium height who look as
if they were made to sustain and to deliver shocks, to
bear up easily under heavy burdens; or that his head
thickly covered with fairish hair, was hatchet-shaped
with the helve or face suggesting that while it could
and would cleave any obstacle, it would wear a merry
if somewhat sardonic smile the while. No one had ever
seen Norman angry, though a few persevering offenders
against what he regarded as his rights had felt
the results of swift and powerful action of the same
sort that is usually accompanied--and weakened--by
outward show of anger. Invariably good-humored, he
was soon seen to be more dangerous than the men of
flaring temper. In most instances good humor of thus
unbreakable species issues from weakness, from a desire
to conciliate--usually with a view to plucking the more
easily. Norman's good humor arose from a sense of
absolute security which in turn was the product of
confidence in himself and amiable disdain for his fellow men.
The masses he held in derision for permitting the classes
to rule and rob and spit upon them. The classes he
scorned for caring to occupy themselves with so cheap
and sordid a game as the ruling, robbing, and spitting
aforesaid. Coming down to the specific, he despised
men as individuals because he had always found in each
and everyone of them a weakness that made it easy for
him to use them as he pleased.

Not an altogether pleasant character, this. But
not so unpleasant as it may seem to those unable
impartially to analyze human character, even their own--
especially their own. And let anyone who is disposed
to condemn Norman first look within himself--in some
less hypocritical and self-deceiving moment, if he have
such moments--and let him note what are the qualities
he relies upon and uses in his own struggle to save
himself from being submerged and sunk. Further,
there were in Norman many agreeable qualities,
important, but less fundamental, therefore less deep-
hidden--therefore generally regarded as the real man and
as the cause of his success in which they in fact had
almost no part. He was, for example, of striking
physical appearance, was attractively dressed and
mannered, was prodigally generous. Neither as lawyer nor
as man did he practice justice. But while as lawyer he
practiced injustice, as man he practiced mercy. Whenever
a weakling appealed to him for protection, he gave
it--at times with splendid recklessness as to the cost
to himself in antagonisms and enmities. Indeed, so
great were the generosities of his character that, had
he not been arrogant, disdainful, self-confident, reso-
lutely and single-heartedly ambitious, he must inevitably
have ruined himself--if he had ever been able to
rise high enough to be worthy the dignity of catastrophe.

Successful men are usually trying persons to know
well. Lambs, asses, and chickens do not associate
happily with lions, wolves, and hawks--nor do birds and
beasts of prey get on well with one another. Norman
was regarded as "difficult" by his friends--by those
of them who happened to get into the path of his ambition,
in front of instead of behind him, and by those
who fell into the not unnatural error of misunderstanding
his good nature and presuming upon it. His clients
regarded him as insolent. The big businesses, seeking the
rich spoils of commerce, frequent highly perilous waters.
They need skillful pilots. Usually these lawyer-pilots
"know their place" and put on no airs upon the
quarter-deck while they are temporarily in command.
Not so Norman. He took the full rank, authority--
and emoluments--of commander. And as his power,
fame, and income were swiftly growing, it is fair to
assume that he knew what he was about.

He was admired--extravagantly admired--by young
men with not too broad a vein of envy. He was no
woman hater--anything but that. Indeed, those who
wished him ill had from time to time hoped to see him
tumble down, through miscalculation in some of his
audacities with women. No--he did not hate women.
But there were several women who hated him--or tried
to; and if wounded vanity and baffled machination be
admitted as just causes for hatred, they had cause. He
liked--but he did not wholly trust. When he went to
sleep, it was not where Delilah could wield the shears.
A most irritating prudence--irritating to friends and
intimates of all degrees and kinds, in a race of beings
with a mania for being trusted implicitly but with no
balancing mania for deserving trust of the implicit

And he ate hugely--and whatever he pleased. He
could drink beyond belief, all sorts of things, with no
apparent ill effect upon either body or brain. He had
all the appetites developed abnormally, and abnormal
capacity for gratifying them. Where there was one
man who envied him his eminence, there were a dozen
who envied him his physical capacities. We cannot live
and act without doing mischief, as well as that which
most of us would rather do, provided that in the doing
we are not ourselves undone. Probably in no direction
did Norman do so much mischief as in unconsciously
leading men of his sets down town and up to imitate
his colossal dissipations--which were not dissipation for
him who was abnormal.

Withal, he was a monster for work. There is not
much truth in men's unending talk of how hard they
work or are worked. The ravages from their indulgences
in smoking, drinking, gallantry, eating too much
and too fast and too often, have to be explained away
creditably, to themselves and to others--notably to the
wives or mothers who nurse them and suffer from their
diminishing incomes. Hence the wailing about work.
But once in a while a real worker appears--a man with
enormous ingenuity at devising difficult tasks for
himself and with enormous persistence in doing them.
Frederick Norman was one of these blue-moon prodigies.

Obviously, such a man could not but be observed
and talked about. Endless stories, some of them more
or less true, most of them apocryphal, were told of him
--stories of his shrewd, unexpected moves in big cases,
of his witty retorts, of his generosities, of his peculiarities
of dress, of eating and drinking; stories of his
adventures with women. Whatever he did, however trivial,
took color and charm from his personality, so easy
yet so difficult, so simple yet so complex, so baffling.
Was he wholly selfish? Was he a friend to almost anybody
or to nobody? Did he ever love? No one knew,
not even himself, for life interested him too intensely
and too incessantly to leave him time for self-analysis.
One thing he was certain of; he hated nobody, envied
nobody. He was too successful for that.

He did as he pleased. And, on the whole, he pleased
to do far less inconsiderately than his desires, his
abilities, and his opportunities tempted. Have not men
been acclaimed good for less?

In the offices, where he was canvased daily by part-
ners, clerks, everyone down to the cleaners whose labors
he so often delayed, opinion varied from day to day.
They worshiped him; they hated him. They loved
him; they feared him. They regarded him as more than
human, as less than human; but never as just human--
though always as endowed with fine human virtues and
even finer human weaknesses. Miss Tillotson, next to
the head clerk in rank and pay--and a pretty and
pushing young person--dreamed of getting acquainted
with him--really well acquainted. It was a vain dream.
For him, between up town and down town a great gulf-
was fixed. Also, he had no interest in or ammunition
for sparrows.

It was in December that Miss Hallowell--Miss Dorothea
Hallowell--got her temporary place at ten dollars
a week--that obscure event, somewhat like a
field mouse taking quarters in a horizon-bounded grain
field. It was not until mid-February that she, the
palest of personalities, came into direct contact with
Norman, about the most refulgent. This is how it

Late in that February afternoon, an hour or more
after the last of the office force should have left,
Norman threw open the door of his private office and glanced
round at the rows on rows of desks. The lights in the
big room were on, apparently only because he was still
within. With an exclamation of disappointment he
turned to re-enter his office. He heard the click of type-
writer keys. Again he looked round, but could see
no one.

"Isn't there some one here?" he cried. "Don't I
hear a typewriter?"

The noise stopped. There was a slight rustling
from a far corner, beyond his view, and presently he
saw advancing a slim and shrinking slip of a girl with
a face that impressed him only as small and insignificant.
In a quiet little voice she said, "Yes, sir. Do you wish

"Why, what are you doing here?" he asked. "I
don't think I've ever seen you before."

"Yes. I took dictation from you several times,"
replied she.

He was instantly afraid he might have hurt her feelings,
and he, who in the days when he was far, far less
than now, had often suffered from that commonplace
form of brutality, was most careful not to commit it.
"I never know what's going on round me when I'm
thinking," explained he, though he was saying to himself
that the next time he would probably again be
unable to remember one with nothing distinctive to fix
identity. "You are--Miss----?"

"Miss Hallowell."

"How do you happen to be here? I've given
particular instructions that no one is ever to be detained
after hours."

A little color appeared in the pale, small face--and
now he saw that she had a singularly fair and smooth
skin, singularly beautiful--and he wondered why he had
not noticed it before. Being a close observer, he had
long ago noted and learned to appreciate the wonders of
that most amazing of tissues, the human skin; and he
had come to be a connoisseur. "I'm staying of my
own accord," said she.

"They ought not to give you so much work," said
he. "I'll speak about it."

Into the small face came the look of the frightened
child--a fascinating look. And suddenly he saw that
she had lovely eyes, clear, expressive, innocent. "Please
don't," she pleaded, in the gentle quiet voice. "It isn't
overwork. I did a brief so badly that I was ashamed
to hand it in. I'm doing it again."

He laughed, and a fine frank laugh he had when
he was in the mood. At once a smile lighted up her
face, danced in her eyes, hovered bewitchingly about
her lips--and he wondered why he had not at first
glance noted how sweet and charmingly fresh her mouth
was. "Why, she's beautiful," he said to himself, the
manly man's inevitable interest in feminine charm wide
awake. "Really beautiful. If she had a figure--and
were tall--" As he thought thus, he glanced at her
figure. A figure? Tall? She certainly was tall--no,
she wasn't--yes, she was. No, not tall from head to
foot, but with the most captivating long lines--long
throat, long bust, long arms, long in body and in legs
--long and slender--yet somehow not tall. He--all this
took but an instant--returned his glance to her face.
He was startled. The beauty had fled, leaving not a
trace behind. Before him wavered once more a small
insignificance. Even her skin now seemed commonplace.

She was saying, "Did you wish me to do something?"

"Yes--a letter. Come in," he said abruptly.

Once more the business in hand took possession of
his mind. He became unconscious of her presence. He
dictated slowly, carefully choosing his words, for perhaps
a quarter of an hour. Then he stopped and paced
up and down, revolving a new idea, a new phase of the
business, that had flashed upon him. When he had his
thoughts once more in form he turned toward the girl,
the mere machine. He gazed at her in amazement.
When he had last looked, he had seen an uninteresting
nonentity. But that was not this person, seated before
him in the same garments and with the same general
blondness. That person had been a girl. This time
the transformation was not into the sweet innocence of
lovely childhood, but into something incredibly different.
He was gazing now at a woman, a beautiful world-
weary woman, one who had known the joys and then
the sorrows of life and love. Heavy were the lids of
the large eyes gazing mournfully into infinity--gazing
upon the graves of a life, the long, long vista of buried
joys. Never had he seen anything so sad or so lovely
as her mouth. The soft, smooth skin was not merely
pale; its pallor was that of wakeful nights, of weeping
until there were no more tears to drain away.

"Miss Hallowell--" he began.

She startled; and like the flight of an interrupted
dream, the woman he had been seeing vanished. There
sat the commonplace young person he had first seen.
He said to himself: "I must be a little off my base
to-night," and went on with the dictation. When he
finished she withdrew to transcribe the letter on the
typewriter. He seated himself at his desk and plunged
into the masses of documents. He lost the sense of his
surroundings until she stood beside him holding the
typewritten pages. He did not glance up, but seized
the sheets to read and sign.

"You may go," said he. "I am very much obliged
to you." And he contrived, as always, to put a
suggestion of genuineness into the customary phrase.

"I'm afraid it's not good work," said she. "I'll
wait to see if I am to do any of it over."

"No, thank you," said he. And he looked up--
to find himself gazing at still another person, wholly
different from any he had seen before. The others had
all been women--womanly women, full of the weakness,
the delicateness rather, that distinguishes the feminine.
This woman he was looking at now had a look of
strength. He had thought her frail. He was seeing
a strong woman--a splendidly healthy body, with sinews
of steel most gracefully covered by that fair smooth
skin of hers. And her features, too--why, this girl was
a person of character, of will.

He glanced through the pages. "All right--thank
you," he said hastily. "Please don't stay any longer.
Leave the other thing till to-morrow."

"No--it has to be done to-night."

"But I insist upon your going."

She hesitated, said quietly, "Very well," and turned
to go.

"And you mustn't do it at home, either."

She made no reply, but waited respectfully until it
was evident he wished to say no more, then went out.
He bundled together his papers, sealed and stamped
and addressed his letter, put on his overcoat and hat
and crossed the outer office on his way to the door.
It was empty; she was gone. He descended in the
elevator to the street, remembered that he had not
locked one of his private cases, returned. As he opened
the outer door he heard the sound of typewriter keys.
In the corner, the obscure, sheltered corner, sat the girl,
bent with childlike gravity over her typewriter. It
was an amusing and a touching sight--she looked so
young and so solemnly in earnest.

"Didn't I tell you to go home?" he called out, with
mock sternness.

Up she sprang, her hand upon her heart. And once
more she was beautiful, but once more it was in a way
startlingly, unbelievably different from any expression
he had seen before.

"Now, really. Miss--" He had forgotten her name.
"You must not stay on here. We aren't such slave
drivers as all that. Go home, please. I'll take the

She had recovered her equanimity. In her quiet,
gentle voice--but it no longer sounded weak or insignificant--
she said, "You are very kind, Mr. Norman.
But I must finish my work."

"Haven't I said I'd take the blame?"

"But you can't," replied she. "I work badly. I
seem to learn slowly. If I fall behind, I shall lose my
place--sooner or later. It was that way with the last
place I had. If you interfered, you'd only injure me.
I've had experience. And--I must not lose my place."

One of the scrub women thrust her mussy head and
ragged, shapeless body in at the door. With a start
Norman awoke to the absurdity of his situation--and
to the fact that he was placing the girl in a compromising
position. He shrugged his shoulders, went in and
locked the cabinet, departed.

"What a queer little insignificance she is!" thought
he, and dismissed her from mind.


MANY and fantastic are the illusions the human
animal, in its ignorance and its optimism, devises to
change life from a pleasant journey along a plain road
into a fumbling and stumbling and struggling about
in a fog. Of these hallucinations the most grotesque is
that the weak can come together, can pass a law to curb
the strong, can set one of their number to enforce it,
may then disperse with no occasion further to trouble
about the strong. Every line of every page of history
tells how the strong--the nimble-witted, the farsighted,
the ambitious--have worked their will upon their feebler
and less purposeful fellow men, regardless of any and
all precautions to the contrary. Conditions have
improved only because the number of the strong has
increased. With so many lions at war with each other
not a few rabbits contrive to avoid perishing in the

Norman's genius lay in ability to take away from
an adversary the legal weapons implicitly relied upon
and to arm his client with them. No man understood
better than he the abysmal distinction between law and
justice; no man knew better than he how to compel-
or to assist--courts to apply the law, so just in the
general, to promoting injustice in the particular. And
whenever he permitted conscience a voice in his internal
debates--it was not often--he heard from it its usual
servile approbation: How can the reign of justice be
more speedily brought about than by making the reign
of law--lawyer law--intolerable?

About a fortnight after the trifling incident related
in the previous chapter, Norman had to devise a secret
agreement among several of the most eminent of his
clients. They wished to band together, to do a thing
expressly forbidden by the law; they wished to conspire
to lower wages and raise prices in several railway systems
under their control. But none would trust the
others; so there must be something in writing, laid away
in a secret safety deposit box along with sundry bundles
of securities put up as forfeit, all in the custody of
Norman. When he had worked out in his mind and in
fragmentary notes the details of their agreement, he
was ready for some one to do the clerical work. The
some one must be absolutely trustworthy, as the plain
language of the agreement would make clear to the
dullest mind dazzling opportunities for profit--not only
in stock jobbing but also in blackmail. He rang for
Tetlow, the head clerk. Tetlow--smooth and sly and
smug, lacking only courageous initiative to make him a
great lawyer, but, lacking that, lacking all--Tetlow
entered and closed the door behind him.

Norman leaned back in his desk chair and laced his
fingers behind his head. "One of your typewriters is
a slight blonde girl--sits in the corner to the far left--
if she's still here."

"Miss Hallowell," said Tetlow. "We are letting
her go at the end of this week. She's nice and ladylike,
and willing--in fact, most anxious to please. But the
work's too difficult for her. She's rather--rather--well,
not exactly stupid, but slow."

"Um," said Norman reflectively. "There's Miss
Bostwick--perhaps she'll do."

"Miss Bostwick got married last week."

Norman smiled. He remembered the girl because
she was the oldest and homeliest in the office. "There's
somebody for everybody--eh, Tetlow?"

"He was a lighthouse keeper," said Tetlow.
"There's a story that he advertised for a wife. But
that may be a joke."

"Why not that Miss--Miss Halloway?" mused

"Miss Hallowell," corrected Tetlow.

"Hallowell--yes. Is she--VERY incompetent?

"Not exactly that. But business is slackening--
and she's been only temporary--and----"

Norman cut him off with, "Send her in."

"You don't wish her dismissed? I haven't told
her yet."

"Oh, I'm not interfering in your department. Do
as you like. . . . No--in this case--let her stay on for
the present."

"I can use her," said Tetlow. "And she gets only
ten a week."

Norman frowned. He did not like to HEAR that an
establishment in which he had control paid less than
decent living wages--even if the market price did
excuse--yes, compel it. "Send her in," he repeated.
Then, as Tetlow was about to leave, "She is trustworthy?"

"All our force is. I see to that, Mr. Norman."

"Has she a young man--steady company, I think
they call it?"

"She has no friends at all. She's extremely shy--
at least, reserved. Lives with her father, an old crank
of an analytical chemist over in Jersey City. She hasn't
even a lady friend."

"Well, send her in."

A moment later Norman, looking up from his work,
saw the dim slim nonentity before him. Again he leaned
back and, as he talked with her, studied her face to
make sure that his first judgment was correct. "Do
you stay late every night?" asked he smilingly.

She colored a little, but enough to bring out the
exquisite fineness of her white skin. "Oh, I don't mind,"
said she, and there was no embarrassment in her manner.
"I've got to learn--and doing things over

"Nothing equal to it," declared Norman. "You've
been to school?"

"Only six weeks," confessed she. "I couldn't afford
to stay longer."

"I mean the other sort of school--not the typewriting."

"Oh! Yes," said she. And once more he saw that
extraordinary transformation. She became all in an
instant delicately, deliciously lovely, with the moving,
in a way pathetic loveliness of sweet children and sweet
flowers. Her look was mystery; but not a mystery of
guile. She evidently did not wish to have her past
brought to view; but it was equally apparent that
behind it lay hid nothing shameful, only the sad, perhaps
the painful. Of all the periods of life youth is the best
fitted to bear deep sorrows, for then the spirit has its
full measure of elasticity. Yet a shadow upon youth
is always more moving than the shadows of maturer
years--those shadows that do not lie upon the surface
but are heavy and corroding stains. When Norman
saw this shadow upon her youth, so immature-looking,
so helpless-looking, he felt the first impulse of genuine
interest in her. Perhaps, had that shadow happened
to fall when he was seeing her as the commonplace and
colorless little struggler for bread, and seeming doomed
speedily to be worsted in the struggle--perhaps, he
would have felt no interest, but only the brief qualm
of pity that we dare not encourage in ourselves, on a
journey so beset with hopeless pitiful things as is the
journey through life.

But he had no impulse to question her. And with
some surprise he noted that his reason for refraining
was not the usual reason--unwillingness uselessly to add
to one's own burdens by inviting the mournful
confidences of another. No, he checked himself because in
the manner of this frail and mouselike creature, dim
though she once more was, there appeared a dignity, a
reserve, that made intrusion curiously impossible. With
an apologetic note in his voice--a kind and friendly
voice--he said:

"Please have your typewriter brought in here. I
want you to do some work for me--work that isn't to be
spoken of--not even to Mr. Tetlow." He looked at
her with grave penetrating eyes. "You will not speak
of it?"

"No," replied she, and nothing more. But she
accompanied the simple negative with a clear and honest
sincerity of the eyes that set his mind completely
at rest. He felt that this girl had never in her life told
a real lie.

One of the office boys installed the typewriter, and
presently Norman and the quiet nebulous girl at whom
no one would trouble to look a second time were seated
opposite each other with the broad table desk between,
he leaning far back in his desk chair, fingers interlocked
behind his proud, strong-looking head, she holding
sharpened pencil suspended over the stenographic note-
book. Long before she seated herself he had forgotten
her except as machine. There followed a troubled hour,
as he dictated, ordered erasure, redictated, ordered re-
readings, skipped back and forth, in the effort to frame
the secret agreement in the fewest and simplest, and
least startlingly unlawful, words. At last he leaned
forward with the shine of triumph in his eyes.

"Read straight through," he commanded.

She read, interrupted occasionally by a sharp order
from him to correct some mistake in her notes.

"Again," he commanded, when she translated the
last of her notes.

This time she was not interrupted once. When she
ended, he exclaimed: "Good! I don't see how you did
it so well."

"Nor do I," said she.

"You say you are only a beginner."

"I couldn't have done it so well for anyone else,"
said she. "You are--different."

The remark was worded most flatteringly, but it did
not sound so. He saw that she did not herself understand
what she meant by "different." HE understood,
for he knew the difference between the confused and
confusing ordinary minds and such an intelligence as his
own--simple, luminous, enlightening all minds, however
dark, so long as they were in the light-flooded region
around it.

"Have I made the meaning clear?" he asked.

He hoped she would reply that he had not, though
this would have indicated a partial defeat in the object
he had--to put the complex thing so plainly that no
one could fail to understand. But she answered, "Yes."

He congratulated himself that his overestimate of
her ignorance of affairs had not lured him into giving
her the names of the parties at interest to transcribe.
But did she really understand? To test her, he said:

"What do you think of it?"

"That it's wicked," replied she, without hesitation
and in her small, quiet voice.

He laughed. In a way this girl, sitting there--
this inconsequential and negligible atom--typefied the
masses of mankind against whom that secret agreement
was directed. They, the feeble and powerless ones, with
their necks ever bent under the yoke of the mighty and
their feet ever stumbling into the traps of the crafty--
they, too, would utter an impotent "Wicked!" if they
knew. His voice had the note of gentle raillery in it
as he said:

"No--not wicked. Just business."

She was looking down at her book, her face
expressionless. A few moments before he would have said
it was an empty face. Now it seemed to him sphynxlike.

"Just business," he repeated. "It is going to take
money from those who don't know how to keep or to
spend it and give it to those who do know how. The
money will go for building up civilization, instead of
for beer and for bargain-trough finery to make working
men's wives and daughters look cheap and nasty."

She was silent.

"Now, do you understand?"

"I understand what you said." She looked at him
as she spoke. He wondered how he could have fancied
those lack-luster eyes beautiful or capable of expression.

"You don't believe it?" he asked.

"No," said she. And suddenly in those eyes, gazing
now into space, there came the unutterably melancholy
look--heavy-lidded from heartache, weary-wise
from long, long and bitter, experiences. Yet she still
looked young--girlishly young--but it was the youthful
look the classic Greek sculptors tried to give their
young goddesses--the youth without beginning or end--
younger than a baby's, older than the oldest of the sons
of men. He mocked himself for the fancies this queer
creature inspired in him; but she none the less made
him uneasy.

"You don't believe it?" he repeated.

"No," she answered again. "My father has taught
me--some things."

He drummed impatiently on the table. He resented
her impertinence--for, like all men of clear and positive {?}
mind, he regarded contradiction as in one {?}
pudent, in another aspect evidence of the fol{?}
contradictor. Then he gave a short laugh--the {?}
ing laugh of the clever man who has tried to believe his
own sophistries and has failed. "Well--neither do I
believe it," said he. "Now, to get the thing typewritten."

She seated herself at the machine and set to work.
As his mind was full of the agreement he could not
concentrate on anything else. From time to time he
glanced at her. Then he gave up trying to work and
sat furtively observing her. What a quaint little
mystery it was! There was in it--that is, in her--
not the least charm for him. But, in all his experience
with women, he could recall no woman with a comparable
development of this curious quality of multiple
personalities, showing and vanishing in swift succession.

There had been a time when woman had interested
him as a puzzle to be worked out, a maze to be explored,
a temple to be penetrated--until one reached the place
where the priests manipulated the machinery for the
wonders and miracles to fool the devotees into awe.
Some men never get to this stage, never realize that
their own passions, working upon the universal human
love of the mysterious, are wholly responsible for the
cult of woman the sphynx and the sibyl. But Norman,
beloved of women, had been let by them into their
ultimate secret--the simple humanness of woman; the
{?}ry of the oracles, miracles, and wonders. He
{?}red that her "divine intuitions" were mere
{?} guesses, where they had any meaning at all;
that her eloquent silences were screens for ignorance or
boredom--and so on through the list of legends that
prop the feminist cult.

But this girl--this Miss Hallowell--here was a
tangible mystery--a mystery of physics, of chemistry.
He sat watching her--watching the changes as she bent
to her work, or relaxed, or puzzled over the meaning
of one of her own hesitating stenographic hieroglyphics
--watched her as the waning light of the afternoon
varied its intensity upon her skin. Why, her very hair
partook of this magical quality and altered its tint,
its degree of vitality even, in harmony with the other
changes. . . . What was the explanation? By means of
what rare mechanism did her nerve force ebb and flow
from moment to moment, bringing about these fascinating
surface changes in her body? Could anything, even
any skin, be better made than that superb skin of hers
--that master work of delicacy and strength, of smoothness
and color? How had it been possible for him to
fail to notice it, when he was always looking for signs
of a good skin down town--and up town, too--in these
days of the ravages of pastry and candy? . . . What
long graceful fingers she had--yet what small hands!
Certainly here was a peculiarity that persisted. No--
absurd though it seemed, no! One way he looked at
those hands, they were broad and strong, another way
narrow and gracefully weak.

He said to himself: "The man who gets that girl
will have Solomon's wives rolled into one. A harem at
the price of a wife--or a--" He left the thought
unfinished. It seemed an insult to this helpless little
creature, the more rather than the less cowardly for
being unspoken; for, no doubt her ideas of propriety
were firmly conventional.

"About done?" he asked impatiently.

She glanced up. "In a moment. I'm sorry to be
so slow."

"You're not," he assured her truthfully. "It's my
impatience. Let me see the pages you've finished."

With them he was able to concentrate his mind.
When she laid the last page beside his arm he was
absorbed, did not look at her, did not think of her.
"Take the machine away," said he abruptly.

He was leaving for the day when he remembered her
again. He sent for her. "I forgot to thank you. It
was good work. You will do well. All you need is
practice--and confidence. Especially confidence." He
looked at her. She seemed frail--touchingly frail.
"You are not strong?"

She smiled, and in an instant the frailty seemed
to have been mere delicacy of build--the delicacy that
goes with the strength of steel wires, or rather of the
spider's weaving thread which sustains weights and
shocks out of all proportion to its appearance. "I've
never been ill in my life," said she. "Not a day."

Again, because she was standing before him in full
view, he noted the peculiar construction of her frame--
the beautiful lines of length so dextrously combined that
her figure as a whole was not tall. He said, "A working
woman--or man--needs health above all. Thank
you again." And he nodded a somewhat curt dismissal.
When she glided away and he was alone behind the
closed door, he reflected for a moment upon the
extraordinary amount of thinking--and the extraordinary
kind of thinking--into which this poor little typewriter
girl had beguiled him. He soon found the explanation
for this vagary into a realm so foreign to a man of his
high tastes and ambitions. "It's because I'm so in
love with Josephine," he decided. "I've fallen into the
sentimental state of all lovers. The whole sex becomes
novel and interesting and worth while."

As he left the office, unusually late, he saw her still
at work--no doubt doing over again some bungled piece
of copying. She had her normal and natural look and
air--the atomic little typewriter, unattractive and
uninteresting. With another smile for his romantic
imaginings, he forgot her. But when he reached the street
he remembered her again. The threatened blizzard had
changed into a heavy rain. The swift and sudden
currents of air, that have made of New York a cave of the
winds since the coming of the skyscrapers, were darting
round corners, turning umbrellas inside out, tossing
women's skirts about their heads, reducing all who were
abroad to the same level of drenched and sullen wretched-
ness. Norman's limousine was waiting at the curb.
He, pausing in the doorway, glanced up and down the
street, had an impulse to return and take the girl home.
Then he smiled satirically at himself. Her lot
condemned her to be out in all weathers. It would not be
a kindness but an exhibition of smug vanity to shelter
her this one night; also, there was the question of her
reputation--and the possibility of turning her head,
perhaps just enough to cause her ruin. He sprang
across the wind-swept, rain-swept sidewalk and into the
limousine whose door was being held open by an obsequious
attendant. "Home," he said, and the door

Usually these journeys between office and home or
club in the evening gave Norman a chance for ten or
fifteen minutes of sleep. He had discovered that this
brief dropping of the thread of consciousness gave him
a wonderful fresh grip upon the day, enabled him to
work or play until late into the night without fatigue.
But that evening his mind was wide awake. Nor could
he fix it upon business. It would interest itself only in
the hurrying throngs of foot passengers and the ideas
they suggested: Here am I--so ran his thoughts--here
am I, tucked away comfortably while all those poor
creatures have to plod along in the storm. I could
afford to be sick. They can't. And what have I done
to deserve this good fortune? Nothing. Worse than
nothing. If I had made my career along the lines of
what is honest and right and beneficial to my fellow
men, I'd probably be plugging home under an umbrella
--and to a pretty poor excuse for a home. But I was
too wise to do that. I've spent this day, as I spend all
my days, in helping the powerful rich to add to their
wealth and power, to add to the burdens those poor
devils out there in the rain must bear. And I'm
rewarded with a limousine, and all the rest of it.

These thoughts neither came from nor produced a
mood of penitence, or of regret even. Norman was
simply indulging in his favorite pastime--following
without prejudice the leading of a chain of pure logic.
He despised self-deceivers. He always kept himself free
from prejudice and all its wiles. He took life as he
found it; but he did not excuse it and himself with the
familiar hypocrisies that make the comfortable classes
preen themselves on being the guardians and saviours
of the ignorant, incapable masses. When old Lockyer
said one day that this was the function of the "upper
classes," Norman retorted: "Perhaps. But, if so, how
do they perform it? Like the brutal old-fashioned farm
family that takes care of its insane member by keeping
him chained in filth in the cellar." And once at the
Federal Club-- By the way, Norman had joined it, had
compelled it to receive him just to show his associates
how a strong man could break even such a firmly established
tradition as that no one who amounted to anything
could be elected to a fashionable club in New
York. Once at the Federal Club old Galloway quoted
with approval some essayist's remark that every clever
human being was looking after and holding above the
waves at least fifteen of his weaker fellows. Norman
smiled satirically round at the complacently nodding
circle of gray heads and white heads. "My observation
has been," said he, "that every clever chap is shrewd
enough to compel at least fifteen of his fellows to wait
on him, to take care of him--do his chores--and his
dirty work." The nodding stopped. Scowls appeared,
except on the face of old Galloway. He grinned. He
was one of the few examples of a very rich man with a
sense of humor. Norman always thought it was this
slight incident that led to his getting the extremely
profitable--and shady--Galloway business.

No, Norman's mood, as he watched the miserable
crowds afoot and reflected upon them, was neither
remorseful nor triumphant. He simply noted an interesting
fact--a commonplace fact--of the methods of that
sardonic practical joker, Life. Because the scheme of
things was unjust and stupid, because others, most
others, were uncomfortable or worse--why should he
make himself uncomfortable? It would be an absurdity
to get out of his limousine and trudge along in the
wet and the wind. It would be equally absurd to sit in
his limousine and be unhappy about the misery of the
world. "I didn't create it, and I can't recreate it.
And if I'm helping to make it worse, I'm also hastening
the time when it'll be better. The Great Ass must have
brains and spirit kicked and cudgeled into it."

At his house in Madison Avenue, just at the crest
of Murray Hill, there was an awning from front door
to curb and a carpet beneath it. He passed, dry and
comfortable, up the steps. A footman in quiet rich
livery was waiting to receive him. From rising until
bedtime, up town and down town, wherever he went
and whatever he was about, every possible menial detail
of his life was done for him. He had nothing to do
but think about his own work and keep himself in health.
Rarely did he have even to open or to close a door. He
used a pen only in signing his name or marking a passage
in a law book for some secretary to make a typewritten copy.

Upon most human beings this sort of luxury, carried
beyond the ordinary and familiar uses of menial
service, has a speedily enervating effect. Thinking
being the most onerous of all, they have it done, also.
They sink into silliness and moral and mental sloth.
They pass the time at foolish purposeless games indoors
and out; or they wander aimlessly about the earth
chattering with similar mental decrepits, much like monkeys
adrift in the boughs of a tropical forest. But Norman
had the tenacity and strength to concentrate upon
achievement all the powers emancipated by the use of
menials wherever menials could be used. He employed
to advantage the time saved in putting in shirt buttons
and lacing shoes and carrying books to and from
shelves. In this lay one of the important secrets of his
success. "Never do for yourself what you can get some
one else to do for you as well. Save yourself for the
things only YOU can do."

In his household there were three persons, and sixteen
servants to wait upon them. His sister--she and
her husband, Clayton Fitzhugh, were the other two
persons--his sister was always complaining that there were
not enough servants, and Frederick, the most indulgent
of brothers, was always letting her add to the number.
It seemed to him that the more help there was, the less
smoothly the household ran. But that did not concern
him; his mind was saved for more important matters.
There was no reason why it should concern him; could
he not compel the dollars to flood in faster than she
could bail them out?

This brother and sister had come to New York
fifteen years before, when he was twenty-two and she
nineteen. They were from Albany, where their family
had possessed some wealth and much social position for
many generations. There was the usual "queer streak"
in the Norman family--an intermittent but fixed habit
of some one of them making a "low marriage." One
view of this aberration might have been that there was
in the Norman blood a tenacious instinct of sturdy and
self-respecting independence that caused a Norman
occasionally to do as he pleased instead of as he conven-
tionally ought. Each time the thing occurred there
was a mighty and horrified hubbub throughout the
connection. But in the broad, as the custom is, the
Normans were complacent about the "queer streak."
They thought it kept the family from rotting out and
running to seed. "Nothing like an occasional infusion
of common blood," Aunt Ursula Van Bruyten (born
Norman) used to say. For her Norman's sister was

Norman's father had developed the "queer streak."
Their mother was the daughter of a small farmer and,
when she met their father, was chambermaid in a Troy
hotel, Troy then being a largish village. As soon as she
found herself married and in a position with whose duties
she was unfamiliar, she set about fitting herself for them
with the same diligence and thoroughness which she had
shown in learning chamber work in a village hotel. She
educated herself, selected not without shrewdness and
carefully put on an assortment of genteel airs, finally
contrived to make a most creditable appearance--was more
aristocratic in tastes and in talk than the high mightiest
of her relatives by marriage. But her son Fred was a
Pinkey in character. In boyhood he was noted for his
rough and low associates. His bosom friends were the
son of a Jewish junk dealer, the son of a colored wash-
woman, and the son of an Irish day laborer. Also, the
commonness persisted as he grew up. Instead of seeking
aristocratic ease, he aspired to a career. He had
choice of several rich and well-born girls; but he
developed a strong distaste for marriage of any sort and
especially for a rich marriage. A fortune he was
resolved to have, but it should be one that belonged to
him. When he was about ready to enter a law office, his
father and mother died leaving less than ten thousand
dollars in all for his sister and himself. His sister
hesitated, half inclined to marry a stupid second cousin
who had thirty thousand a year.

"Don't do it, Ursula," Fred advised. "If you must
sell out, sell for something worth while." He laughed
in his frank, ironical way. "Fact is, we've both made
up our minds to sell. Let's go to the best market--
New York. If you don't like it, you can come back and
marry that fat-wit any time you please."

Ursula inspected herself in the glass, saw a face and
form exceeding fair to look upon; she decided to take
her brother's advice. At twenty she threw over a multi-
millionaire and married Clayton Fitzhugh for love--
Clayton with only seventeen thousand a year. Of
course, from the standpoint of fashionable ambition,
seventeen thousand a year in New York is but one
remove from tenement house poverty. As Clayton had
no more ability at making money than had Ursula herself,
there was nothing to do but live with Norman and
"take care of him." But for this self-sacrifice of
sisterly affection Norman would have been rich at thirty-
seven. As he had to make her rich as well as himself,
progress toward luxurious independence was slower--
and there was the house, costing nearly fifty thousand
a year to keep up.

There had been a time in Norman's career--a brief
and very early time--when, with the maternal peasant
blood hot in his veins, he had entertained the quixotic
idea of going into politics on the poor or people's side
and fighting for glory only. The pressure of expensive
living had soon driven this notion clean off. Norman
had almost forgotten that he ever had it, was no longer
aware how strong it had been in the last year at law
school. Young men of high intelligence and ardent
temperament always pass through this period. With
some--a few--its glory lingers long after the fire has
flickered out before the cool, steady breath of worldliness.

All this time Norman has been dressing for dinner.
He now leaves the third floor and descends toward the
library, as it still lacks twenty minutes of the dinner

As he walked along the hall of the second floor a
woman's voice called to him, "That you, Fred?"

He turned in at his sister's sitting room. She was
standing at a table smoking a cigarette. Her tall, slim
figure looked even taller and slimmer in the tight-fitting
black satin evening dress. Her features faintly
suggested her relationship to Norman. She was a handsome
woman, with a voluptuous discontented mouth.

"What are you worried about, sis?" inquired he.

"How did you know I was worried?" returned she.

"You always are."


"But you're unusually worried to-night."

"How did you know that?"

"You never smoke just before dinner unless your
nerves are ragged. . . . What is it?"


"Of course. No one in New York worries about
anything else."

"But THIS is serious," protested she. "I've been
thinking--about your marriage--and what'll become of
Clayton and me?" She halted, red with embarrassment.

Norman lit a cigarette himself. "I ought to have
explained," said he. "But I assumed you'd understand."

"Fred, you know Clayton can't make anything.
And when you marry--why--what WILL become of us!"

"I've been taking care of Clayton's money--and of
yours. I'll continue to do it. I think you'll find you're
not so badly of. You see, my position enables me to
compel a lot of the financiers to let me in on the ground
floor--and to warn me in good time before the house
falls. You'll not miss me, Ursula."

She showed her gratitude in her eyes, in a slight
quiver of the lips, in an unsteadiness of tone as she said,
"You're the real thing, Freddie."

"You can go right on as you are now. Only--"
He was looking at her with meaning directness.

She moved uneasily, refused to meet his gaze.
"Well?" she said, with a suggestion of defiance.

"It's all very natural to get tired of Clayton," said
her brother. "I knew you would when you married
him. But-- Sis, I mind my own business. Still--
Why make a fool of yourself?"

"You don't understand," she exclaimed passionately.
And the light in her eyes, the color in her cheeks, restored
to her for the moment the beauty of her youth that was
almost gone.

"Understand what?" inquired he in a tone of gentle

"Love. You are all ambition--all self control. You
can be affectionate--God knows, you have been to me,
Fred. But love you know nothing about--nothing."

His was the smile a man gives when in earnest and
wishing to be thought jesting--or when in jest and
wishing to be thought in earnest.

"You mean Josephine? Oh, yes, I suppose you
do care for her in a way--in a nice, conventional way.
She is a fine handsome piece--just the sort to fill the
position of wife to a man like you. She's sweet and
charming, she appreciates, she flatters you. I'm sure
she loves you as much as a GIRL knows how to love. But
it's all so conventional, so proper. Your position--her
money. You two are of the regulation type even in
that you're suited to each other in height and
figure. Everybody'll say, `What a fine couple--so well
matched!' "

"Maybe YOU don't understand," said Norman.

"If Josephine were poor and low-born--weren't one
of us--and all that--would you have her?"

"I'm sure I don't know," was his prompt and amused
answer. "I can only say that I know what I want, she
being what she is."

Ursula shook her head. "I have only to see you
and her together to know that you at least don't
understand love."

"It might be well if YOU didn't," said Norman dryly.
"You might be less unhappy--and Clayton less uneasy."

"Ah, but I can't help myself. Don't you see it in
me, Fred? I'm not a fool. Yet see what a fool I act."

"Spoiled child--that's all. No self-control."

"You despise everyone who isn't as strong as you."
She looked at him intently. "I wonder if you ARE as
self-controlled as you imagine. Sometimes I wish you'd
get a lesson. Then you'd be more sympathetic. But
it isn't likely you will--not through a woman. Oh,
they're such pitifully easy game for a man like you.
But then men are the same way with you--quite as
easy. You get anything you want. . . . You're really
going to stick to Josephine?"

He nodded. "It's time for me to settle down."

"Yes--I think it is," she went on thoughtfully. "I
can hardly believe you're to marry. Of course, she's
the grand prize. Still--I never imagined you'd come
in and surrender. I guess you DO care for her."

"Why else should I marry?" argued he. "She's
got nothing I need--except herself, Ursula."

"What IS it you see in her?"

"What you see--what everyone sees," replied Fred,
with quiet, convincing enthusiasm. "What no one could
help seeing. As you say, she's the grand prize."

"Yes, she is sweet and handsome--and intelligent
--very superior, without making others feel that they're
outclassed. Still--there's something lacking--not in her
perhaps, but in you. You have it for her--she's crazy
about you. But she hasn't it for you."


"I can't tell you. It isn't a thing that can be put
into words."

"Then it doesn't exist."

"Oh, yes it does," cried Ursula. "If the engagement
were to be broken--or if anything were to happen
to her--why, you'd get over it--would go on as if nothing
had happened. If she didn't fit in with your plans
and ambitions, she'd be sacrificed so quick she'd not
know what had taken off her head. But if you felt what
I mean--then you'd give up everything--do the wildest,
craziest things."

"What nonsense!" scoffed Norman. "I can im-
agine myself making a fool of myself about a woman
as easily as about anything else. But I can't imagine
myself playing the fool for anything whatsoever."

There was mysterious fire in Ursula's absent eyes.
"You remember me as a girl--how mercenary I was--
how near I came to marrying Cousin Jake?"

"I saved you from that."

"Yes--and for what? I fell in love."

"And out again."

"I was deceived in Clayton--deceived myself--
naturally. How is a woman to know, without experience?"

"Oh, I'm not criticising," said the brother.

"Besides, a love marriage that fails is different from
a mercenary marriage that fails."

"Very--very," agreed he. "Just the difference
between an honorable and a dishonorable bankruptcy."

"Anyhow--it's bankrupt--my marriage. But I've
learned what love is--that there is such a thing--and
that it's valuable. Yes, Fred, I've got the taste for
that wine--the habit of it. Could I go back to water
or milk?"

"Spoiled baby--that's the whole story. If you had
a nursery full of children--or did the heavy house-
work--you'd never think of these foolish moonshiny

"Yet you say you love!"

"Clayton is as good as any you're likely to run
across--is better than SOME I've seen about."

"How can YOU say?" cried she. "It's for me
to judge."

"If you would only JUDGE!"

Ursula sighed. "It's useless to talk to you. Let's
go down."

Norman, following her from the room, stopped her
in the doorway to give her a brotherly hug and kiss.
"You won't make an out-and-out idiot of yourself,
will you, Ursula?" he said, in his winning manner.

The expression of her eyes as she looked at him
showed how strong was his influence over her. "You
know I'll come to you for advice before I do anything
final," said she. "Oh, I don't know what I want! I
only know what I don't want. I wish I were well
balanced--as you are, Fred."


THE brother and sister dined alone. Clayton was,
finding his club a more comfortable place than his home,
in those days of his wife's disillusionment and hesitation
about the future. Many weak creatures are curiously
armed for the unequal conflict of existence--
some with fleetness of foot, some with a pole-cat weapon
of malignance, some with porcupine quills, some with
a 'possumlike instinct for "playing dead." Of these
last was Fitzhugh. He knew when to be silent, when
to keep out of the way, when to "sit tight" and wait.
His wife had discovered that he was a fool--that he
perhaps owed more to his tailor than to any other
single factor for the success of his splendid pose of
the thorough gentleman. Yet she did not realize what
an utter fool he was, so clever had he been in the use
of the art of discreet silence. Norman suspected him,
but could not believe a human being capable of such
fathomless vacuity as he found whenever he tried to
explore his brother-in-law's brain.

After dinner Norman took Ursula to the opera,
to join the Seldins, and after the first act went to
Josephine, who had come with only a deaf old aunt.
Josephine loved music, and to hear an opera from a
box one must be alone. Norman entered as the lights
went up. It always gave him a feeling of dilation,
this spectacle of material splendor--the women, whose
part it is throughout civilization to-day to wear for
public admiration and envy the evidences of the prowess
of the males to whom they belong. A truer version of
Dr. Holmes's aphorism would be that it takes several
generations in oil to make a deep-dyed snob--wholly to
destroy a man's or a woman's point of view, sense of
the kinship of all flesh, and to make him or her over
into the genuine believer in caste and worshiper of it.
For all his keenness of mind, of humor, Norman had the
fast-dyed snobbishness of his family and friends. He
knew that caste was silly, that such displays as this
vulgar flaunting of jewels and costly dresses were in
atrocious bad taste. But it is one thing to know,
another thing to feel; and his feeling was delight in the
spectacle, pride in his own high rank in the aristocracy.

His eyes rested with radiant pleasure on the girl
he was to marry. And she was indeed a person to
appeal to the passion of pride. Simply and most
expensively dressed in pearl satin, with only a little
jewelry, she sat in the front of her parterre box, a
queen by right of her father's wealth, her family's
position, her own beauty. She was a large woman--tall, a
big frame but not ungainly. She had brilliant dark
eyes, a small proud head set upon shoulders that were
slenderly young now and, even when they should
became matronly, would still be beautiful. She had good
teeth, an exquisite smile, the gentle good humor of those
who, comfortable themselves, would not have the slightest
objection to all others being equally so. Because
she laughed appreciatively and repeated amusingly she
had great reputation for wit. Because she industriously
picked up from men a plausible smatter of small talk
about politics, religion, art and the like, she was
renowned as clever verging on profound. And she
believed herself both witty and wise--as do thousands,
male and female, with far less excuse.

She had selected Norman for the same reason that
he had selected her; each recognized the other as the
"grand prize." Pity is not nearly so close kin to love
as is the feeling that the other person satisfies to the
uttermost all one's pet vanities. It would have been
next door to impossible for two people so well matched
not to find themselves drawn to each other and filled
with sympathy and the sense of comradeship, so far as
there can be comradeship where two are driving luxuriously
along the way of life, with not a serious cause for
worry. People without half the general fitness of these
two for each other have gone through to the end,
regarding themselves and regarded as the most devoted
of lovers. Indeed, they were lovers. Only one of those
savage tests, to which in all probability they would never
be exposed, would or could reveal just how much, or
how little, that vague, variable word lovers meant when
applied to them.

As their eyes met, into each pair leaped the fine,
exalted light of pride in possession. "This wonderful
woman is mine!" his eyes said. And her eyes answered,
"And you--you most wonderful of men--you are
mine!" It always gave each of them a thrill like
intoxication to meet, after a day's separation. All the joy of
their dazzling good fortune burst upon them afresh.

"I'll venture you haven't thought of me the whole
day," said she as he dropped to the chair behind her.

It was a remark she often made--to give him the
opportunity to say, "I've thought of little else, I'm
sorry to say--I, who have a career to look after." He
made the usual answer, and they smiled happily at each
other. "And you?" he said.

"Oh, I? What else has a woman to think about?"

Her statement was as true as his was false. He
was indeed all she had to think about--all worth wasting
the effort of thought upon. But he--though he did
not realize it--had thought of her only in the incidental
way in which an ambition-possessed man must force
himself to think of a woman. The best of his mind was
commandeered to his career. An amiable but shakily
founded theory that it was "our" career enabled him
to say without sense of lying that his chief thought
had been she.

"How those men down town would poke fun at
you," said she, "if they knew you had me with you all
the time, right beside you."

This amused him. "Still, I suspect there are lots
of men who'd be exposed in the same way if there were
a general and complete show-down."

"Sometimes I wish I really were with you--working
with you--helping you. You have girls--a girl--to
be your secretary--or whatever you call it--don't

"You should have seen the one I had to-day. But
there's always something pathetic about every girl who
has to make her own living."

"Pathetic!" protested Miss Burroughs. "Not at
all. I think it's fine."

"You wouldn't say that if you had tried it."

"Indeed, I should," she declared with spirit. "You
men are entirely too soft about women. You don't
realize how strong they are. And, of course, women
don't resist the temptation to use their sex when they see
how easy it is to fool men that way. The sad thing
about it is that the woman who gets along by using
her sex and by appealing to the soft-heartedness of
men never learns to rely on herself. She's likely to
come to grief sooner or later."

"There's truth in all that," said Norman. "Enough
to make it dangerously unjust. There's so much lying
done about getting on that it's no wonder those who've
never tried to do for themselves get a wholly false notion
of the situation. It is hard--bitterly hard--for a man
to get on. Most men don't. Most men? All but a
mere handful. And if those who do get on were to tell
the truth--the WHOLE truth--about how they succeeded
--well, it'd not make a pleasant story."

"But YOU'VE got on," retorted the girl.

"So I have. And how?" Norman smiled with
humorous cynicism. "I'll never tell--not all--only the
parts that sound well. And those parts are the least
important. However, let's not talk about that. What
I set out to say was that, while it's hard for a man to
make a decent living--unless he has luck--and harder
still--much harder--for him to rise to independence----"

"It wasn't so dreadfully hard for YOU," interrupted
Josephine, looking at him with proud admiration. "But
then, you had a wonderful brain."

"That wasn't what did it," replied he. "And, in
spite of all my advantages--friendships, education,
enough money to tide me over the beginnings--in spite
of all that, I had a frightful time. Not the work. Of
course, I had to work, but I like that. No, it was the--
the maneuvering, let's call it--the hardening process."

"You!" she exclaimed.

"Everyone who succeeds--in active life. You don't
understand the system, dear. It's a cutthroat game.
It isn't at all what the successful hypocrites describe
in their talks to young men!" He laughed. "If I
had followed the `guides to success,' I'd not be here.
Oh, yes, I've made terrible sacrifices, but--" his look
at her made her thrill with exaltation--"it was worth
doing. . . . I understand and sympathize with those who
scorn to succeed. But I'm glad I happened not to be
born with their temperament, at least not with enough
of it to keep me down."

"You're too hard on yourself, too generous to the

"Oh, I don't mean the men who were too lazy to
do the work or too cowardly to dare the--the unpleasant
things. And I'm not hard with myself--only frank.
But we were talking of the women. Poor things, what
chance have they got? You scorn them for using their
sex. Wait till you're drowning, dear, before you criticise
another for what he does to save himself when he's
sinking for the last time. I used everything I had in
making my fight. If I could have got on better or
quicker by the aid of my sex, I'd have used that."

"Don't say those things, Fred," cried Josephine,
smiling but half in earnest.

"Why not? Aren't you glad I'm here?"

She gave him a long look of passionate love and
lowered her eyes.

"At whatever cost?"

"Yes," she said in a low voice. "But I'm SURE you

"I've done nothing YOU wouldn't approve of--or
find excuses for. But that's because you--I--all of us
in this class--and in most other classes--have been
trained to false ideas--no, to perverted ideas--to a
system of morality that's twisted to suit the demands
of practical life. On Sundays we go to a magnificent
church to hear an expensive preacher and choir, go in
expensive dress and in carriages, and we never laugh at
ourselves. Yet we are going in the name of One who
was born in a stable and who said that we must give
everything to the poor, and so on."

"But I don't see what we could do about it--" she
said hesitatingly.

"We couldn't do anything. Only--don't you see
my point?--the difference between theory and practice?
Personally, I've no objection--no strong objection--to
the practice. All I object to is the lying and faking
about it, to make it seem to fit the theory. But we were
talking of women--women who work."

"I've no doubt you're right," admitted she. "I
suppose they aren't to blame for using their sex. I
ought to be ashamed of myself, to sneer at them."

"As a matter of fact, their sex does few of them
any good. The reverse. You see, an attractive woman
--one who's attractive AS a woman--can skirmish round
and find some one to support her. But most of the
working women--those who keep on at it--don't find
the man. They're not attractive, not even at the start.
After they've been at it a few years and lose the little
bloom they ever had--why, they've got to take their
chances at the game, precisely like a man. Only, they're
handicapped by always hoping that they'll be able to
quit and become married women. I'd like to see how
men would behave if they could find or could imagine
any alternative to `root hog or die.' "

"What's the matter with you this evening, Fred?
I never saw you in such a bitter mood."

"We never happened to get on this subject before."

"Oh, yes, we have. And you always have scoffed
at the men who fail."

"And I still scoff at them--most of them. A lot of
lazy cowards. Or else, so bent on self-indulgence--
petty self-indulgence--that they refuse to make the
small sacrifice to-day for the sake of the large advantage
day after to-morrow. Or else so stuffed with vanity
that they never see their own mistakes. However, why
blame them? They were born that way, and can't
change. A man who has the equipment of success and
succeeds has no more right to sneer at one less lucky
than you would have to laugh at a poor girl because
she wasn't dressed as well as you."

"What a mood! SOMETHING must have happened."

"Perhaps," said he reflectively. "Possibly that
girl set me off."

"What girl?"

"The one I told you about. The unfortunate little
creature who was typewriting for me this afternoon.
Not so very little, either. A curious figure she had.
She was tall yet she wasn't. She seemed thin, and when
you looked again, you saw that she was really only
slender, and beautifully shaped throughout."

Miss Burroughs laughed. "She must have been attractive."

"Not in the least. Absolutely without charm--and
so homely--no, not homely--commonplace. No, that's
not right, either. She had a startling way of fading and
blazing out. One moment she seemed a blank--pale,
lifeless, colorless, a nobody. The next minute she
became--amazingly different. Not the same thing every
time, but different things."

Frederick Norman was too experienced a dealer
with women deliberately to make the mistake--rather,
to commit the breach of tact and courtesy--involved
in praising one woman to another. But in this case
it never occurred to him that he was talking to a woman
of a woman. Josephine Burroughs was a lady; the
other was a piece of office machinery--and a very trivial
piece at that. But he saw and instantly understood
the look in her eyes--the strained effort to keep the
telltale upper lip from giving its prompt and irrepressible
signal of inward agitation.

"I'm very much interested," said she.

"Yes, she was a curiosity," said he carelessly.

"Has she been there--long?" inquired Josephine,
with a feigned indifference that did not deceive him.

"Several months, I believe. I never noticed her
until a few days ago. And until to-day I had forgotten
her. She's one of the kind it's difficult to remember."

He fell to glancing round the house, pretending to
be unconscious of the furtive suspicion with which she
was observing him. She said:

"She's your secretary now?"

"Merely a general office typewriter."

The curtain went up for the second act. Josephine
fixed her attention on the stage--apparently undivided
attention. But Norman felt rather than saw that she
was still worrying about the "curiosity." He marveled
at this outcropping of jealousy. It seemed ridiculous
--it WAS ridiculous. He laughed to himself. If she
could see the girl--the obscure, uninteresting cause of
her agitation--how she would mock at herself! Then,
too, there was the absurdity of thinking him capable of
such a stoop. A woman of their own class--or a woman
of its corresponding class, on the other side of the line
--yes. No doubt she had heard things that made her
uneasy, or, at least, ready to be uneasy. But this
poorly dressed obscurity, with not a charm that could
attract even a man of her own lowly class-- It was such
a good joke that he would have teased Josephine about
it but for his knowledge of the world--a knowledge in
whose primer it was taught that teasing is both bad
taste and bad judgment. Also, it was beneath his dig-
nity, it was offense to his vanity, to couple his name
with the name of one so beneath him that even the matter
of sex did not make the coupling less intolerable.

When the curtain fell several people came into the
box, and he went to make a few calls round the parterre.
He returned after the second act. They were again
alone--the deaf old aunt did not count. At once
Josephine began upon the same subject. With studied
indifference--how amusing for a woman of her
inexperience to try to fool a man of his experience!--she

"Tell me some more about that typewriter girl.
Women who work always interest me."

"She wouldn't," said Norman. The subject had
been driven clean out of his mind, and he didn't wish to
return to it. "Some day they will venture to make
judicious long cuts in Wagner's operas, and then they'll
be interesting. It always amuses me, this reverence of
little people for the great ones--as if a great man were
always great. No--he IS always great. But often it's
in a dull way. And the dull parts ought to be skipped."

"I don't like the opera this evening," said she.
"What you said a while ago has set me to thinking.
Is that girl a lady?"

"She works," laughed he.

"But she might have been a lady."

"I'm sure I don't know."

"Don't you know ANYTHING about her?"

"Except that she's trustworthy--and insignificant
and not too good at her business."

"I shouldn't think you could afford to keep
incompetent people," said the girl shrewdly.

"Perhaps they won't keep her," parried Norman
gracefully. "The head clerk looks after those things."

"He probably likes her."

"No," said Norman, too indifferent to be cautious.
"She has no `gentlemen friends.' "

"How do you know that?" said the girl, and she
could not keep a certain sharpness out of her voice.

"Tetlow, the head clerk, told me. I asked him a
few questions about her. I had some confidential work
to do and didn't want to trust her without being sure."

He saw that she was now prey to her jealous suspicion.
He was uncertain whether to be amused or irritated.
She had to pause long and with visible effort
collect herself before venturing:

"Oh, she does confidential work for you? I thought
you said she was incompetent."

He, the expert cross-examiner, had to admire her
skill at that high science and art. "I felt sorry for
her," he said. "She seemed such a forlorn little

She laughed with a constrained attempt at raillery.
"I never should have suspected you of such weakness.
To give confidential things to a forlorn little incompetent,
out of pity."

He was irritated, distinctly. The whole thing was
preposterous. It reminded him of feats of his own
before a jury. By clever questioning, Josephine had
made about as trifling an incident as could be imagined
take on really quite imposing proportions. There was
annoyance in his smile as he said:

"Shall I send her up to see you? You might find
it amusing, and maybe you could do something for her."

Josephine debated. "Yes," she finally said. "I
wish you would send her--" with a little sarcasm--
"if you can spare her for an hour or so."

"Don't make it longer than that," laughed he.
"Everything will stop while she's gone."

It pleased him, in a way, this discovery that Josephine
had such a common, commonplace weakness as jealousy.
But it also took away something from his high
esteem for her--an esteem born of the lover's idealizings;
for, while he was not of the kind of men who are
on their knees before women, he did have a deep respect
for Josephine, incarnation of all the material things
that dazzled him--a respect with something of the reverential
in it, and something of awe--more than he would
have admitted to himself. To-day, as of old, the image-
makers are as sincere worshipers as visit the shrines.
In our prostrations and genuflections in the temple we
do not discriminate against the idols we ourselves have
manufactured; on the contrary, them we worship with
peculiar gusto. Norman knew his gods were frauds,
that their divine qualities were of the earth earthy. But
he served them, and what most appealed to him in
Josephine was that she incorporated about all their
divine qualities.

He and his sister went home together. Her first
remark in the auto was: "What were you and Josie
quarreling about?"

"Quarreling?" inquired he in honest surprise.

"I looked at her through my glasses and saw that
the was all upset--and you, too."

"This is too ridiculous," cried he.

"She looked--jealous."

"Nonsense! What an imagination you have!"

"I saw what I saw," Ursula maintained. "Well,
I suppose she has heard something--something recent.
I thought you had sworn off, Fred. But I might have

Norman was angry. He wondered at his own
exasperation, out of all proportion to any apparent
provoking cause. And it was most unusual for him to feel
temper, all but unprecedented for him to show it, no
matter how strong the temptation.

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