Part 1 out of 5
This etext was produced by David Widger
THE GOLDEN HOUSE
By Charles Dudley Warner
It was near midnight: The company gathered in a famous city studio were
under the impression, diligently diffused in the world, that the end of
the century is a time of license if not of decadence. The situation had
its own piquancy, partly in the surprise of some of those assembled at
finding themselves in bohemia, partly in a flutter of expectation of
seeing something on the border-line of propriety. The hour, the place,
the anticipation of the lifting of the veil from an Oriental and ancient
art, gave them a titillating feeling of adventure, of a moral hazard
bravely incurred in the duty of knowing life, penetrating to its core.
Opportunity for this sort of fruitful experience being rare outside the
metropolis, students of good and evil had made the pilgrimage to this
midnight occasion from less-favored cities. Recondite scholars in the
physical beauty of the Greeks, from Boston, were there; fair women from
Washington, whose charms make the reputation of many a newspaper
correspondent; spirited stars of official and diplomatic life, who have
moments of longing to shine in some more languorous material paradise,
had made a hasty flitting to be present at the ceremony, sustained by a
slight feeling of bravado in making this exceptional descent. But the
favored hundred spectators were mainly from the city-groups of late
diners, who fluttered in under that pleasurable glow which the red
Jacqueminot always gets from contiguity with the pale yellow Clicquot;
theatre parties, a little jaded, and quite ready for something real and
stimulating; men from the clubs and men from studios--representatives of
society and of art graciously mingled, since it is discovered that it is
easier to make art fashionable than to make fashion artistic.
The vast, dimly lighted apartment was itself mysterious, a temple of
luxury quite as much as of art. Shadows lurked in the corners, the ribs
of the roof were faintly outlined; on the sombre walls gleams of color,
faces of loveliness and faces of pain, studies all of a mood or a
passion, bits of shining brass, reflections from lustred ware struggling
out of obscurity; hangings from Fez or Tetuan, bits of embroidery,
costumes in silk and in velvet, still having the aroma of balls a hundred
years ago, the faint perfume of a scented society of ladies and gallants;
a skeleton scarcely less fantastic than the draped wooden model near it;
heavy rugs of Daghestan and Persia, making the footfalls soundless on the
floor; a fountain tinkling in a thicket of japonicas and azaleas; the
stems of palmettoes, with their branches waving in the obscurity
overhead; points of light here and there where a shaded lamp shone on a
single red rose in a blue Granada vase on a toppling stand, or on a mass
of jonquils in a barbarous pot of Chanak-Kallessi; tacked here and there
on walls and hangings, colored memoranda of Capri and of the North Woods,
the armor of knights, trophies of small-arms, crossed swords of the Union
and the Confederacy, easels, paints, and palettes, and rows of canvases
leaning against the wall-the studied litter, in short, of a successful
artist, whose surroundings contribute to the popular conception of his
On the wall at one end of the apartment was stretched a white canvas; in
front of it was left a small cleared space, on the edge of which, in the
shadow, squatting on the floor, were four swarthy musicians in Oriental
garments, with a mandolin, a guitar, a ney, and a darabooka drum. About
this cleared space, in a crescent, knelt or sat upon the rugs a couple of
rows of men in evening dress; behind them, seated in chairs, a group of
ladies, whose white shoulders and arms and animated faces flashed out in
the semi-obscurity; and in their rear stood a crowd of spectators--
beautiful young gentlemen with vacant faces and the elevated Oxford
shoulders, rosy youth already blase to all this world can offer, and
gray-headed men young again in the prospect of a new sensation. So they
kneel or stand, worshipers before the shrine, expecting the advent of the
Goddess of AEsthetic Culture.
The moment has come. There is a tap on the drum, a tuning of the
strings, a flash of light from the rear of the room inundates the white
canvas, and suddenly a figure is poised in the space, her shadow cast
upon the glowing background.
It is the Spanish dancer!
The apparition evokes a flutter of applause. It is a superb figure, clad
in a high tight bodice and long skirts simply draped so as to show every
motion of the athletic limbs. She seems, in this pose and light,
supernaturally tall. Through her parted lips white teeth gleam, and she
smiles. Is it a smile of anticipated, triumph, or of contempt? Is it
the smile of the daughter of Herodias, or the invitation of a
'ghazeeyeh'? She pauses. Shall she surprise, or shock, or only please?
What shall the art that is older than the pyramids do for these kneeling
Christians? The drum taps, the ney pipes, the mandolin twangs, her arms
are extended--the castanets clink, a foot is thrust out, the bosom
heaves, the waist trembles. What shall it be--the old serpent dance of
the Nile, or the posturing of decorous courtship when the olives are
purple in the time of the grape harvest? Her head, wreathed with coils
of black hair, a red rose behind the left ear, is thrown back. The eyes
flash, there is a snakelike movement of the limbs, the music hastens
slowly in unison with the quickening pulse, the body palpitates, seems to
flash invitation like the eyes, it turns, it twists, the neck is thrust
forward, it is drawn in, while the limbs move still slowly, tentatively;
suddenly the body from the waist up seems to twist round, with the waist
as a pivot, in a flash of athletic vigor, the music quickens, the arms
move more rapidly to the click of the heated castenets, the steps are
more pronounced, the whole woman is agitated, bounding, pulsing with
physical excitement. It is a Maenad in an access of gymnastic energy.
Yes, it is gymnastics; it is not grace; it is scarcely alluring. Yet it
is a physical triumph. While the spectators are breathless, the fury
ceases, the music dies, and the Spaniard sinks into a chair, panting with
triumph, and inclines her dark head to the clapping of hands and the
bravos. The kneelers rise; the spectators break into chattering groups;
the ladies look at the dancer with curious eyes; a young gentleman with
the elevated Oxford shoulders leans upon the arm of her chair and fans
her. The pose is correct; it is the somewhat awkward tribute of culture
to physical beauty.
To be on speaking terms with the phenomenon was for the moment a
distinction. The young ladies wondered if it would be proper to go
forward and talk with her.
"Why not?" said a wit. "The Duke of Donnycastle always shakes hands with
the pugilists at a mill."
"It is not so bad"--the speaker was a Washington beauty in an evening
dress that she would have condemned as indecorous for the dancer it is
not so bad as I--"
"Expected?" asked her companion, a sedate man of thirty-five, with the
cynical air of a student of life.
"As I feared," she added, quickly. "I have always had a curiosity to
know what these Oriental dances mean."
"Oh, nothing in particular, now. This was an exhibition dance. Of
course its origin, like all dancing, was religious. The fault I find
with it is that it lacks seriousness, like the modern exhibition of the
dancing dervishes for money."
"Do you think, Mr. Mavick, that the decay of dancing is the reason our
religion lacks seriousness? We are in Lent now, you know. Does this
seem to you a Lenten performance?"
"Why, yes, to a degree. Anything that keeps you up till three o'clock in
the morning has some penitential quality."
"You give me a new view, Mr. Mavick. I confess that I did not expect to
assist at what New Englanders call an 'evening meeting.' I thought Eros
was the deity of the dance."
"That, Mrs. Lamon, is a vulgar error. It is an ancient form of worship.
Virtue and beauty are the same thing--the two graces."
"What a nice apothegm! It makes religion so easy and agreeable."
"As easy as gravitation."
"Dear me, Mr. Mavick, I thought this was a question of levitation. You
are upsetting all my ideas. I shall not have the comfort of repenting of
this episode in Lent."
"Oh yes; you can be sorry that the dancing was not more alluring."
Meantime there was heard the popping of corks. Venetian glasses filled
with champagne were quaffed under the blessing of sparkling eyes, young
girls, almond-eyed for the occasion, in the costume of Tokyo, handed
round ices, and the hum of accelerated conversation filled the studio.
"And your wife didn't come?"
"Wouldn't," replied Jack Delancy, with a little bow, before he raised his
glass. And then added, "Her taste isn't for this sort of thing."
The girl, already flushed with the wine, blushed a little--Jack thought
he had never seen her look so dazzlingly handsome--as she said, "And you
think mine is?"
"Bless me, no, I didn't mean that; that is, you know"--Jack didn't
exactly see his way out of the dilemma--"Edith is a little old-fashioned;
but what's the harm in this, anyway?"
"I did not say there was any," she replied, with a smile at his
embarrassment. "Only I think there are half a dozen women in the room
who could do it better, with a little practice. It isn't as Oriental as
I thought it would be."
"I cannot say as to that. I know Edith thinks I've gone into the depths
of the Orient. But, on the whole, I'm glad--" Jack stopped on the verge
of speaking out of his better nature.
"Now don't be rude again. I quite understand that she is not here."
The dialogue was cut short by a clapping of hands. The spectators took
their places again, the lights were lowered, the illumination was turned
on the white canvas, and the dancer, warmed with wine and adulation, took
a bolder pose, and, as her limbs began to move, sang a wild Moorish
melody in a shrill voice, action and words flowing together into the
passion of the daughter of tents in a desert life. It was all vigorous,
suggestive, more properly religious, Mavick would have said, and the
applause was vociferous.
More wine went about. There was another dance, and then another, a slow
languid movement, half melancholy and full of sorrow, if one might say
that of a movement, for unrepented sin; a gypsy dance this, accompanied
by the mournful song of Boabdil, "The Last Sigh of the Moor." And
suddenly, when the feelings of the spectators were melted to tender
regret, a flash out of all this into a joyous defiance, a wooing of
pleasure with smiling lips and swift feet, with the clash of cymbals and
the quickened throb of the drum. And so an end with the dawn of a new
It was not yet dawn, however, for the clocks were only striking three as
the assembly, in winter coats and soft wraps, fluttered out to its
carriages, chattering and laughing, with endless good-nights in the
languages of France, Germany, and Spain.
The streets were as nearly deserted as they ever are; here and there a
lumbering market-wagon from Jersey, an occasional street-car with its
tinkling bell, rarer still the rush of a trembling train on the elevated,
the voice of a belated reveler, a flitting female figure at a street
corner, the roll of a livery hack over the ragged pavement. But mainly
the noise of the town was hushed, and in the sharp air the stars, far off
and uncontaminated, glowed with a pure lustre.
Farther up town it was quite still, and in one of the noble houses in the
neighborhood of the Park sat Edith Delancy, married not quite a year,
listening for the roll of wheels and the click of a night-key.
Everybody liked John Corlear Delancy, and this in spite of himself, for
no one ever knew him to make any effort to incur either love or hate.
The handsome boy was a favorite without lifting his eyebrows, and he
sauntered through the university, picking his easy way along an elective
course, winning the affectionate regard of every one with whom he came in
contact. And this was not because he lacked quality, or was merely easy-
going and negative or effeminate, for the same thing happened to him when
he went shooting in the summer in the Rockies. The cowboys and the
severe moralists of the plains, whose sedate business in life is to get
the drop on offensive persons, regarded him as a brother. It isn't a bad
test of personal quality, this power to win the loyalty of men who have
few or none of the conventional virtues. These non-moral enforcers of
justice--as they understood it liked Jack exactly as his friends in the
New York clubs liked him--and perhaps the moral standard of approval of
the one was as good as the other.
Jack was a very good shot and a fair rider, and in the climate of England
he might have taken first-rate rank in athletics. But he had never taken
first-rate rank in anything, except good-fellowship. He had a great many
expensive tastes, which he could not afford to indulge, except in
imagination. The luxury of a racing-stable, or a yacht, or a library of
scarce books bound by Paris craftsmen was denied him. Those who account
for failures in life by a man's circumstances, and not by a lack in the
man himself, which is always the secret of failure, said that Jack was
unfortunate in coming into a certain income of twenty thousand a year.
This was just enough to paralyze effort, and not enough to permit a man
to expand in any direction. It is true that he was related to millions
and moved in a millionaire atmosphere, but these millions might never
flow into his bank account. They were not in hand to use, and they also
helped to paralyze effort--like black clouds of an impending shower that
may pass around, but meantime keeps the watcher indoors.
The best thing that Jack Delancy ever did, for himself, was to marry
Edith Fletcher. The wedding, which took place some eight months before
the advent of the Spanish dancer, was a surprise to many, for the girl
had even less fortune than Jack, and though in and of his society
entirely, was supposed to have ideals. Her family, indeed, was an old
one on the island, and was prominent long before the building of the
stone bridge on Canal Street over the outlet of Collect Pond. Those who
knew Edith well detected in her that strain of moral earnestness which
made the old Fletchers such stanch and trusty citizens. The wonder was
not that Jack, with his easy susceptibility to refined beauty, should
have been attracted to her, or have responded to a true instinct of what
was best for him, but that Edith should have taken up with such a perfect
type of the aimlessness of the society strata of modern life. The
wonder, however, was based upon a shallow conception of the nature of
woman. It would have been more wonderful if the qualities that endeared
Jack to college friends and club men, to the mighty sportsmen who do not
hesitate, in the clubs, to devastate Canada and the United States of big
game, and to the border ruffians of Dakota, should not have gone straight
to the tender heart of a woman of ideals. And when in all history was
there a woman who did not believe, when her heart went with respect for
certain manly traits, that she could inspire and lift a man into a noble
The silver clock in the breakfast-room was striking ten, and Edith was
already seated at the coffee-urn, when Jack appeared. She was as fresh
as a rose, and greeted him with a bright smile as he came behind her
chair and bent over for the morning kiss--a ceremony of affection which,
if omitted, would have left a cloud on the day for both of them, and
which Jack always declared was simply a necessity, or the coffee would
have no flavor. But when a man has picked a rose, it is always a sort of
climax which is followed by an awkward moment, and Jack sat down with the
air of a man who has another day to get through with.
"Were you amused with the dancing--this morning?"
"So, so," said Jack, sipping his coffee. "It was a stunning place for
it, that studio; you'd have liked that. The Lamons and Mavick and a lot
of people from the provinces were there. The company was more fun than
the dance, especially to a fellow who has seen how good it can be and how
bad in its home."
"You have a chance to see the Spanish dancer again, under proper
auspices," said Edith, without looking up.
"We are invited by Mrs. Brown--"
"The mother of the Bible class at St. Philip's?"
"Yes--to attend a charity performance for the benefit of the Female
Waifs' Refuge. She is to dance."
"Who? Mrs. Brown?"
Edith paid no attention to this impertinence. "They are to make an
artificial evening at eleven o'clock in the morning."
"They must have got hold of Mavick's notion that this dance is religious
in its origin. Do you, know if the exercises will open with prayer?"
"Nonsense, Jack. You know I don't intend to go. I shall send a small
"Well, draw it mild. But isn't this what I'm accused of doing--shirking
my duty of personal service by a contribution?"
"Perhaps. But you didn't have any of that shirking feeling last night,
Jack laughed, and ran round to give the only reply possible to such a
gibe. These breakfast interludes had not lost piquancy in all these
months. "I'm half a mind to go to this thing. I would, if it didn't
break up my day so."
"As for instance?"
"Well, this morning I have to go up to the riding-school to see a horse--
Storm; I want to try him. And then I have to go down to Twist's and see
a lot of Japanese drawings he's got over. Do you know that the birds and
other animals those beggars have been drawing, which we thought were
caricatures, are the real thing? They have eyes sharp enough to see
things in motion--flying birds and moving horses which we never caught
till we put the camera on them. Awfully curious. Then I shall step into
the club a minute, and--"
"Be in at lunch? Bess is coming."
"Don't wait lunch. I've a lot to do."
Edith followed him with her eyes, a little wistfully; she heard the outer
door close, and still sat at the table, turning over the pile of notes at
her plate, and thinking of many things--things that it began to dawn upon
her mind could not be done, and things of immediate urgency that must be
done. Life did not seem quite such a simple problem to her as it had
looked a year ago. That there is nothing like experiment to clear the
vision is the general idea, but oftener it is experience that perplexes.
Indeed, Edith was thinking that some things seemed much easier to her
before she had tried them.
As she sat at the table with a faultless morning-gown, with a bunch of
English violets in her bosom, an artist could have desired no better
subject. Many people thought her eyes her best feature; they were large
brown eyes, yet not always brown, green at times, liquid, but never
uncertain, apt to have a smile in them, yet their chief appealing
characteristic was trustfulness, a pure sort of steadfastness, that
always conveyed the impression of a womanly personal interest in the
person upon whom they were fixed. They were eyes that haunted one like a
remembered strain of music. The lips were full, and the mouth was drawn
in such exquisite lines that it needed the clear-cut and emphasized chin
to give firmness to its beauty. The broad forehead, with arching
eyebrows, gave an intellectual cast to a face the special stamp of which
was purity. The nose, with thin open nostrils, a little too strong for
beauty, together with the chin, gave the impression of firmness and
courage; but the wonderful eyes, the inviting mouth, so modified this
that the total impression was that of high spirit and great sweetness of
character. It was the sort of face from which one might expect
passionate love or unflinching martyrdom. Her voice had a quality the
memory of which lingered longer even than the expression of her eyes; it
was low, and, as one might say, a fruity voice, not quite clear, though
sweet, as if veiled in femineity. This note of royal womanhood was also
in her figure, a little more than medium in height, and full of natural
grace. Somehow Edith, with all these good points, had not the reputation
of a belle or a beauty--perhaps for want of some artificial splendor--but
one could not be long in her company without feeling that she had great
charm, without which beauty becomes insipid and even commonplace, and
with which the plainest woman is attractive.
Edith's theory of life, if one may so dignify the longings of a young
girl, had been very simple, and not at all such as would be selected by
the heroine of a romance. She had no mission, nor was she afflicted by
that modern form of altruism which is a yearning for notoriety by
conspicuous devotion to causes and reforms quite outside her normal
sphere of activity. A very sincere person, with strong sympathy for
humanity tempered by a keen perception of the humorous side of things,
she had a purpose, perhaps not exactly formulated, of making the most out
of her own life, not in any outward and shining career, but by a
development of herself in the most helpful and harmonious relations to
her world. And it seemed to her, though she had never philosophized it,
that a marriage such as she believed she had made was the woman's way to
the greatest happiness and usefulness. In this she followed the dictates
of a clear mind and a warm heart. If she had reasoned about it,
considering how brief life is, and how small can be any single
contribution to a better social condition, she might have felt more
strongly the struggle against nature, and the false position involved in
the new idea that marriage is only a kind of occupation, instead of an
ordinance decreed in the very constitution of the human race. With the
mere instinct of femineity she saw the falseness of the assumption that
the higher life for man or woman lies in separate and solitary paths
through the wilderness of this world. To an intelligent angel, seated on
the arch of the heavens, the spectacle of the latter-day pseudo-
philosophic and economic dribble about the doubtful expediency of having
a wife, and the failure of marriage, must seem as ludicrous as would a
convention of birds or of flowers reasoning that the processes of nature
had continued long enough. Edith was simply a natural woman, who felt
rather than reasoned that in a marriage such as her heart approved she
should make the most of her life.
But as she sat here this morning this did not seem to be so simple a
matter as it had appeared. It began to be suspected that in order to
make the most of one's self it was necessary to make the most of many
other persons and things. The stream in its own channel flowed along not
without vexations, friction and foaming and dashings from bank to bank;
but it became quite another and a more difficult movement when it was
joined to another stream, with its own currents and eddies and
impetuosities and sluggishness, constantly liable to be deflected if not
put altogether on another course. Edith was not putting it in this form
as she turned over her notes of invitation and appointments and
engagements, but simply wondering where the time for her life was to come
in, and for Jack's life, which occupied a much larger space than it
seemed to occupy in the days before it was joined to hers. Very curious
this discovery of what another's life really is. Of course the society
life must go on, that had always gone on, for what purpose no one could
tell, only it was the accepted way of disposing of time; and now there
were the dozen ways in which she was solicited to show her interest in
those supposed to be less fortunate in life than herself-the alleviation
of the miseries of her own city. And with society, and charity, and
sympathy with the working classes, and her own reading, and a little
drawing and painting, for which she had some talent, what became of that
comradeship with Jack, that union of interests and affections, which was
to make her life altogether so high and sweet?
This reverie, which did not last many minutes, and was interrupted by the
abrupt moving away of Edith to the writing-desk in her own room, was
caused by a moment's vivid realization of what Jack's interests in life
were. Could she possibly make them her own? And if she did, what would
become of her own ideals?
It was indeed a busy day for Jack. Great injustice would be done him if
it were supposed that he did not take himself and his occupations
seriously. His mind was not disturbed by trifles. He knew that he had
on the right sort of four-in-hand necktie, with the appropriate pin of
pear-shaped pearl, and that he carried the cane of the season. These
things come by a sort of social instinct, are in the air, as it were, and
do not much tax the mind. He had to hasten a little to keep his half-
past-eleven o'clock appointment at Stalker's stables, and when he arrived
several men of his set were already waiting, who were also busy men, and
had made a little effort to come round early and assist Jack in making up
his mind about the horse.
When Mr. Stalker brought out Storm, and led him around to show his
action, the connoisseurs took on a critical attitude, an attitude of
judgment, exhibited not less in the poise of the head and the serious
face than in the holding of the cane and the planting of legs wide apart.
And the attitude had a refined nonchalance which professional horsemen
scarcely ever attain. Storm could not have received more critical and
serious attention if he had been a cooked terrapin. He could afford to
stand this scrutiny, and he seemed to move about with the consciousness
that he knew more about being a horse than his judges.
Storm was, in fact, a splendid animal, instinct with life from his thin
flaring nostril to his small hoof; black as a raven, his highly groomed
skin took the polish of ebony, and showed the play of his powerful
muscles, and, one might say, almost the nervous currents that thrilled
his fine texture. His large, bold eyes, though not wicked, flamed now
and then with an energy and excitement that gave ample notice that he
would obey no master who had not stronger will and nerve than his own.
It was a tribute to Jack's manliness that, when he mounted him for a turn
in the ring, Storm seemed to recognize the fine quality of both seat and
hand, and appeared willing to take him on probation.
"He's got good points," said Mr. Herbert Albert Flick, "but I'd like a
"I'll be hanged, though, Jack," was Mr. Mowbray Russell's comment, "if
I'd ride him in the Park before he's docked. Say what you like about
action, a horse has got to have style."
"Moves easy, falls off a little too much to suit me in the quarter,"
suggested Mr. Pennington Docstater, sucking the head of his cane.
"How about his staying quality, Stalker?"
"That's just where he is, Mr. Docstater; take him on the road, he's a
stayer for all day. Goes like a bird. He'll take you along at the rate
of nine miles in forty-five minutes as long as you want to sit there."
"Jump?" queried little Bobby Simerton, whose strong suit at the club was
talking about meets and hunters.
"Never refused anything I put him at," replied Stalker; "takes every
fence as if it was the regular thing."
Storm was in this way entirely taken to pieces, praised and disparaged,
in a way to give Stalker, it might be inferred from his manner, a high
opinion of the knowledge of these young gentlemen. "It takes a
gentleman," in fact, Stalker said, "to judge a hoss, for a good hoss is a
gentleman himself." It was much discussed whether Storm would do better
for the Park or for the country, whether it would be better to put him in
the field or keep him for a roadster. It might, indeed, be inferred that
Jack had not made up his mind whether he should buy a horse for use in
the Park or for country riding. Even more than this might be inferred
from the long morning's work, and that was that while Jack's occupation
was to buy a horse, if he should buy one his occupation would be gone.
He was known at the club to be looking for the right sort of a horse, and
that he knew what he wanted, and was not easily satisfied; and as long as
he occupied this position he was an object of interest to sellers and to
Perhaps Mr. Stalker understood this, for when the buyers had gone he
remarked to the stable-boy, "Mr. Delancy, he don't want to buy no hoss."
When the inspection of the horse was finished it was time for lunch, and
the labors of the morning were felt to justify this indulgence, though
each of the party had other engagements, and was too busy to waste the
time. They went down to the Knickerbocker.
The lunch was slight, but its ordering took time and consideration, as it
ought, for nothing is so destructive of health and mental tone as the
snatching of a mid-day meal at a lunch counter from a bill of fare
prepared by God knows whom. Mr. Russell said that if it took time to buy
a horse, it ought to take at least equal time and care to select the
fodder that was to make a human being wretched or happy. Indeed, a man
who didn't give his mind to what he ate wouldn't have any mind by-and-by
to give to anything. This sentiment had the assent of the table, and was
illustrated by varied personal experience; and a deep feeling prevailed,
a serious feeling, that in ordering and eating the right sort of lunch a
chief duty of a useful day had been discharged.
It must not be imagined from this, however, that the conversation was
about trifles. Business men and operators could have learned something
about stocks and investments, and politicians about city politics.
Mademoiselle Vivienne, the new skirt dancer, might have been surprised at
the intimate tone in which she was alluded to, but she could have got
some useful hints in effects, for her judges were cosmopolitans who had
seen the most suggestive dancing in all parts of the world. It came out
incidentally that every one at table had been "over" in the course of the
season, not for any general purpose, not as a sightseer, but to look at
somebody's stables, or to attend a wedding, or a sale of etchings, or to
see his bootmaker, or for a little shooting in Scotland, just as one
might run down to Bar Harbor or Tuxedo. It was only an incident in a
busy season; and one of the fruits of it appeared to be as perfect a
knowledge of the comparative merits of all the ocean racers and captains
as of the English and American stables and the trainers. One not
informed of the progress of American life might have been surprised to
see that the fad is to be American, with a sort of patronage of things
and ways foreign, especially of things British, a large continental kind
of attitude, begotten of hearing much about Western roughing it, of
Alaska, of horse-breeding and fruit-raising on the Pacific, of the
Colorado River Canon. As for stuffs, well yes, London. As for style,
you can't mistake a man who is dressed in New York.
The wine was a white Riesling from California. Docstater said his
attention had been called to it by Tom Dillingham at the Union, who had a
ranch somewhere out there. It was declared to be sound and palatable;
you know what you are drinking. This led to a learned discussion of the
future of American wines, and a patriotic impulse was given to the trade
by repeated orders. It was declared that in American wines lay the
solution of the temperance question. Bobby Simerton said that Burgundy
was good enough for him, but Russell put him down, as he saw the light
yellow through his glass, by the emphatic affirmation that plenty of
cheap American well-made wine would knock the bottom out of all the
sentimental temperance societies and shut up the saloons, dry up all
those not limited to light wines and beer. It was agreed that the
saloons would have to go.
This satisfactory conclusion was reached before the coffee came on and
the cigarettes, and the sound quality of the Riesling was emphasized by a
pony of cognac.
It is fortunate when the youth of a country have an ideal. No nation is
truly great without a common ideal, capable of evoking enthusiasm and
calling out its energies. And where are we to look for this if not in
the youth, and especially in those to whom fortune and leisure give an
opportunity of leadership? It is they who can inspire by their example,
and by their pursuits attract others to a higher conception of the
national life. It may take the form of patriotism, as in this country,
pride in the great republic, jealousy of its honor and credit, eagerness
for its commanding position among the nations, patriotism which will show
itself, in all the ardor of believing youth, in the administration of
law, in the purity of politics, in honest local government, and in a
noble aspiration for the glory of the country. It may take the form of
culture, of a desire that the republic-liable, like all self-made
nations, to worship wealth-should be distinguished not so much by a
vulgar national display as by an advance in the arts, the sciences, the
education that adorns life, in the noble spirit of humanity, and in the
nobler spirit of recognition of a higher life, which will be content with
no civilization that does not tend to make the country for every citizen
a better place to live in today than it was yesterday. Happy is the
country, happy the metropolis of that country, whose fortunate young men
have this high conception of citizenship!
What is the ideal of their country which these young men cherish? There
was a moment--was there not for them?--in the late war for the Union,
when the republic was visible to them in its beauty, in its peril, and in
a passion of devotion they were eager--were they not?--to follow the flag
and to give their brief lives to its imperishable glory. Nothing is
impossible to a nation with an ideal like that. It was this flame that
ran over Europe in the struggle of France against a world in arms. It
was this national ideal that was incarnate in Napoleon, as every great
idea that moves the world is sooner or later incarnated. What was it
that we saw in Washington on his knees at Valley Forge, or blazing with
wrath at the cowardice on Monmouth? in Lincoln entering Richmond with
bowed head and infinite sorrow and yearning in his heart? An embodiment
of a great national idea and destiny.
In France this ideal burns yet like a flame, and is still evoked by a
name. It is the passion of glory, but the desire of a nation, and
Napoleon was the incarnation of passion. They say that he is not dead as
others are dead, but that he may come again and ride at the head of his
legions, and strike down the enemies of France; that his bugle will call
the youth from every hamlet, that the roll of his drum will transform
France into a camp, and the grenadiers will live again and ride with him,
amid hurrahs, and streaming tears, and shouts of "My Emperor! Oh, my
Emperor!" Is it only a legend? But the spirit is there; not a boy but
dreams of it, not a girl but knots the thought in with her holiday
tricolor. That is to have an abiding ideal, and patiently to hold it, in
isolation, in defeat, even in an overripe civilization.
We believe--do we not?--in other triumphs than those of the drum and the
sword. Our aspirations for the republic are for a nobler example of
human society than the world has yet seen. Happy is the country, and the
metropolis of the country, whose youth, gilded only by their virtues,
have these aspirations.
When the party broke up, the street lamps were beginning to twinkle here
and there, and Jack discovered to his surprise that the Twiss business
would have to go over to another day. It was such a hurrying life in New
York. There was just time for a cup of tea at Mrs. Trafton's. Everybody
dropped in there after five o'clock, when the duties of the day were
over, with the latest news, and to catch breath before rushing into the
program of the evening.
There were a dozen ladies in the drawing-room when Jack entered, and his
first impression was that the scream of conversation would be harder to
talk against than a Wagner opera; but he presently got his cup of tea,
and found a snug seat in the chimney-corner by Miss Tavish; indeed, they
moved to it together, and so got a little out of the babel. Jack thought
the girl looked even prettier in her walking-dress than when he saw her
at the studio; she had style, there was no doubt about that; and then,
while there was no invitation in her manner, one felt that she was a
woman to whom one could easily say things, and who was liable at any
moment to say things interesting herself.
"Is this your first appearance since last night, Mr. Delancy?"
"Oh no; I've been racing about on errands all day. It is very restful to
sit down by a calm person."
"Well, I never shut my eyes till nine o'clock. I kept seeing that
Spanish woman whirl around and contort, and--do you mind my telling you?
--I couldn't just help it, I" (leaning forward to Jack) "got up and tried
it before the glass. There! Are you shocked?"
"Not so much shocked as excluded," Jack dared to say. "But do you
"Yes, I know. There isn't anything that an American girl cannot do.
I've made up my mind to try it. You'll see."
"No, you won't. Don't flatter yourself. Only girls. I don't want men
"Neither do I," said Jack, honestly.
Miss Tavish laughed. "You are too forward, Mr. Delancy. Perhaps some
time, when we have learned, we will let in a few of you, to look in at
the door, fifty dollars a ticket, for some charity. I don't see why
dancing isn't just as good an accomplishment as playing the harp in a
"Nor do I; I'd rather see it. Besides, you've got Scripture warrant for
dancing off the heads of people. And then it is such a sweet way of
doing a charity. Dancing for the East Side is the best thing I have
"You needn't mock. You won't when you find out what it costs you."
"What are you two plotting?" asked Mrs. Trafton, coming across to the
"Charity," said Jack, meekly.
"Your wife was here this morning to get me to go and see some of her
friends in Hester Street."
"Not today. It's awfully interesting, but I've been."
"Edith seems to be devoted to that sort of thing," remarked Miss Tavish.
"Yes," said Jack, slowly, "she's got the idea that sympathy is better
than money; she says she wants to try to understand other people's
"Goodness knows, I'd like to understand my own."
"And were you trying, Mr. Delancy, to persuade Miss Tavish into that sort
"Oh dear, no," said Jack; "I was trying to interest the East End in
something, for the benefit of Miss Tavish."
"You'll find that's one of the most expensive remarks you ever made,"
retorted Miss Tavish, rising to go.
"I wish Lily Tavish would marry," said Mrs. Trafton, watching the girl's
slender figure as it passed through the portiere; "she doesn't know what
to do with herself."
Jack shrugged his shoulders. "Yes, she'd be a lovely wife for somebody;
"and then he added, as if reminiscently, "if he could afford it. Good-
"That's just a fashion of talking. I never knew a time when so many
people afforded to do what they wanted to do. But you men are all alike.
When Jack reached home it was only a little after six o'clock, and as
they were not to go out to dine till eight, he had a good hour to rest
from the fatigues of the day, and run over the evening papers and dip
into the foreign periodicals to catch a topic or two for the dinner-
"Yes, sir," said the maid, "Mrs. Delancy came in an hour ago."
Edith's day had been as busy as Jack's, notwithstanding she had put aside
several things that demanded her attention. She denied herself the
morning attendance on the Literature Class that was raking over the
eighteenth century. This week Swift was to be arraigned. The last time
when Edith was present it was Steele. The judgment, on the whole, had
been favorable, and there had been a little stir of tenderness among the
bonnets over Thackeray's comments on the Christian soldier. It seemed to
bring him near to them. "Poor Dick Steele!" said the essayist. Edith
declared afterwards that the large woman who sat next to her, Mrs. Jerry
Hollowell, whispered to her that she always thought his name was
Bessemer; but this was, no doubt, a pleasantry. It was a beautiful
essay, and so stimulating! And then there was bouillon, and time to look
about at the toilets. Poor Steele, it would have cheered his life to
know that a century after his death so many beautiful women, so
exquisitely dressed, would have been concerning themselves about him.
The function lasted two hours. Edith made a little calculation. In five
minutes she could have got from the encyclopaedia all the facts in the
essay, and while her maid was doing her hair she could have read five
times as much of Steele as the essayist read. And, somehow, she was not
stimulated, for the impression seemed to prevail that now Steele was
disposed of. And she had her doubts whether literature would, after all,
prove to be a permanent social distraction. But Edith may have been too
severe in her judgment. There was probably not a woman in the class that
day who did not go away with the knowledge that Steele was an author, and
that he lived in the eighteenth century. The hope for the country is in
the diffusion of knowledge.
Leaving the class to take care of Swift, Edith went to the managers'
meeting at the Women's Hospital, where there was much to do of very
practical work, pitiful cases of women and children suffering through no
fault of their own, and money more difficult to raise than sympathy.
The meeting took time and thought. Dismissing her carriage, and relying
on elevated and surface cars, Edith then took a turn on the East Side,
in company with a dispensary physician whose daily duty called her into
the worst parts of the town. She had a habit of these tours before her
marriage, and, though they were discouragingly small in direct results,
she gained a knowledge of city life that was of immense service in her
general charity work. Jack had suggested the danger of these excursions,
but she had told him that a woman was less liable to insult in the East
Side than in Fifth Avenue, especially at twilight, not because the East
Side was a nice quarter of the city, but because it was accustomed to see
women who minded their own business go about unattended, and the prowlers
had not the habit of going there. She could even relate cases of
chivalrous protection of "ladies" in some of the worst streets.
What Edith saw this day, open to be seen, was not so much sin as
ignorance of how to live, squalor, filthy surroundings acquiesced in as
the natural order, wonderful patience in suffering and deprivation,
incapacity, ill-paid labor, the kindest spirit of sympathy and
helpfulness of the poor for each other. Perhaps that which made the
deepest impression on her was the fact that such conditions of living
could seem natural to those in them, and that they could get so much
enjoyment of life in situations that would have been simple misery to
The visitors were in a foreign city. The shop signs were in foreign
tongues; in some streets all Hebrew. On chance news-stands were
displayed newspapers in Russian, Bohemian, Arabic, Italian, Hebrew,
Polish, German-none in English. The theatre bills were in Hebrew or
other unreadable type. The sidewalks and the streets swarmed with noisy
dealers in every sort of second-hand merchandise--vegetables that had
seen a better day, fish in shoals. It was not easy to make one's way
through the stands and push-carts and the noisy dickering buyers and
sellers, who haggled over trifles and chaffed good-naturedly and were
strictly intent on their own affairs. No part of the town is more
crowded or more industrious. If youth is the hope of the country, the
sight was encouraging, for children were in the gutters, on the house
steps, at all the windows. The houses seemed bursting with humanity,
and in nearly every room of the packed tenements, whether the inmates
were sick or hungry, some sort of industry was carried on. In the damp
basements were junk-dealers, rag-pickers, goose-pickers. In one noisome
cellar, off an alley, among those sorting rags, was an old woman of
eighty-two, who could reply to questions only in a jargon, too proud to
beg, clinging to life, earning a few cents a day in this foul occupation.
But life is sweet even with poverty and rheumatism and eighty years.
Did her dull eyes, turning inward, see the Carpathian Hills, a free
girlhood in village drudgery and village sports, then a romance of love,
children, hard work, discontent, emigration to a New World of promise?
And now a cellar by day, the occupation of cutting rags for carpets, and
at night a corner in a close and crowded room on a flock bed not fit for
a dog. And this was a woman's life.
Picturesque foreign women going about with shawls over their heads and
usually a bit of bright color somewhere, children at their games, hawkers
loudly crying their stale wares, the click of sewing-machines heard
through a broken window, everywhere animation, life, exchange of rough or
kindly banter. Was it altogether so melancholy as it might seem? Not
everybody was hopelessly poor, for here were lawyers' signs and doctors'
signs--doctors in whom the inhabitants had confidence because they
charged all they could get for their services--and thriving pawnbrokers'
shops. There were parish schools also--perhaps others; and off some dark
alley, in a room on the ground-floor, could be heard the strident noise
of education going on in high-voiced study and recitation. Nor were
amusements lacking--notices of balls, dancing this evening, and ten-cent
shows in palaces of legerdemain and deformity.
It was a relenting day in March; patches of blue sky overhead, and the
sun had some quality in its shining. The children and the caged birds at
the open windows felt it-and there were notes of music here and there
above the traffic and the clamor. Turning down a narrow alley, with a
gutter in the centre, attracted by festive sounds, the visitors came into
a small stone-paved court with a hydrant in the centre surrounded by tall
tenement-houses, in the windows of which were stuffed the garments that
would no longer hold together to adorn the person. Here an Italian girl
and boy, with a guitar and violin, were recalling la bella Napoli, and a
couple of pretty girls from the court were footing it as merrily as if it
were the grape harvest. A woman opened a lower room door and sharply
called to one of the dancing girls to come in, when Edith and the doctor
appeared at the bottom of the alley, but her tone changed when she
recognized the doctor, and she said, by way of apology, that she didn't
like her daughter to dance before strangers. So the music and the dance
went on, even little dots of girls and boys shuffling about in a stiff-
legged fashion, with applause from all the windows, and at last a
largesse of pennies--as many as five altogether--for the musicians.
And the sun fell lovingly upon the pretty scene.
But then there were the sweaters' dens, and the private rooms where half
a dozen pale-faced tailors stitched and pressed fourteen and sometimes
sixteen hours a day, stifling rooms, smelling of the hot goose and
steaming cloth, rooms where they worked, where the cooking was done,
where they ate, and late at night, when overpowered with weariness, lay
down to sleep. Struggle for life everywhere, and perhaps no more
discontent and heart-burning and certainly less ennui than in the palaces
on the avenues.
The residence of Karl Mulhaus, one of the doctor's patients, was typical
of the homes of the better class of poor. The apartment fronted on a
small and not too cleanly court, and was in the third story. As Edith
mounted the narrow and dark stairways she saw the plan of the house.
Four apartments opened upon each landing, in which was the common hydrant
and sink. The Mulhaus apartment consisted of a room large enough to
contain a bed, a cook-stove, a bureau, a rocking-chair, and two other
chairs, and it had two small windows, which would have more freely
admitted the southern sun if they had been washed, and a room adjoining,
dark, and nearly filled by a big bed. On the walls of the living room
were hung highly colored advertising chromos of steamships and palaces of
industry, and on the bureau Edith noticed two illustrated newspapers of
the last year, a patent-medicine almanac, and a volume of Schiller. The
bureau also held Mr. Mulhaus's bottles of medicine, a comb which needed a
dentist, and a broken hair-brush. What gave the room, however, a
cheerful aspect were some pots of plants on the window-ledges, and half a
dozen canary-bird cages hung wherever there was room for them.
None of the family happened to be at home except Mr. Mulhaus, who
occupied the rocking-chair, and two children, a girl of four years and a
boy of eight, who were on the floor playing "store" with some blocks of
wood, a few tacks, some lumps of coal, some scraps of paper, and a tangle
of twine. In their prattle they spoke, the English they had learned from
their brother who was in a store.
"I feel some better today," said Mr. Mulhaus, brightening up as the
visitors entered, "but the cough hangs on. It's three months since this
weather that I haven't been out, but the birds are a good deal of
company." He spoke in German, and with effort. He was very thin and
sallow, and his large feverish eyes added to the pitiful look of his
refined face. The doctor explained to Edith that he had been getting
fair wages in a type-foundry until he had become too weak to go any
longer to the shop.
It was rather hard to have to sit there all day, he explained to the
doctor, but they were getting along. Mrs. Mulhaus had got a job of
cleaning that day; that would be fifty cents. Ally--she was twelve--was
learning to sew. That was her afternoon to go to the College Settlement.
Jimmy, fourteen, had got a place in a store, and earned two dollars a
"And Vicky?" asked the doctor.
"Oh, Vicky," piped up the eight-year-old boy. "Vicky's up to the
'stution"--the hospital was probably the institution referred to--"ever
so long now. I seen her there, me and Jim did. Such a bootifer place!
'Nd chicken!" he added. "Sis got hurt by a cart."
Vicky was seventeen, and had been in a fancy store.
"Yes," said Mulhaus, in reply to a question, "it pays pretty well raising
canaries, when they turn out singers. I made fifteen dollars last year.
I hain't sold much lately. Seems 's if people stopped wanting 'em such
weather. I guess it 'll be better in the spring."
"No doubt it will be better for the poor fellow himself before spring,"
said the doctor as they made their way down the dirty stairways. "Now
I'll show you one of my favorites."
They turned into a broader street, one of the busy avenues, and passing
under an archway between two tall buildings, entered a court of back
buildings. In the third story back lived Aunt Margaret. The room was
scarcely as big as a ship's cabin, and its one window gave little light,
for it opened upon a narrow well of high brick walls. In the only chair
Aunt Margaret was seated close to the window. In front of her was a
small work-table, with a kerosene lamp on it, but the side of the room
towards which she looked was quite occupied by a narrow couch-
ridiculously narrow, for Aunt Margaret was very stout. There was a thin
chest of drawers on the other side, and the small coal stove that stood
in the centre so nearly filled the remaining space that the two visitors
were one too many.
"Oh, come in, come in," said the old lady, cheerfully, when the door
opened. "I'm glad to see you."
"And how goes it?" asked the doctor.
"First rate. I'm coming on, doctor. Work's been pretty slack for two
weeks now, but yesterday I got work for two days. I guess it will be
The work was finishing pantaloons. It used to be a good business before
there was so much cutting in.
"I used to get fifteen cents a pair, then ten; now they don't pay but
five. Yes, the shop furnishes the thread."
"And how many pairs can you finish in a day?" asked Edith.
"Three--three pairs, to do 'em nice--and they are very particular--if I
work from six in the morning till twelve at night. I could do more, but
my sight ain't what it used to be, and I've broken my specs."
"So you earn fifteen cents a day?"
"When I've the luck to get work, my lady. Sometimes there isn't any.
And things cost so much. The rent is the worst."
It appeared that the rent was two dollars and a half a month. That must
be paid, at any rate. Edith made a little calculation that on a flush
average of ninety cents a week earned, and allowing so many cents for
coal and so many cents for oil, the margin for bread and tea must be
small for the month. She usually bought three cents' worth of tea at a
"It is kinder close," said the old lady, with a smile. "The worst is,
my feet hurt me so I can't stir out. But the neighbors is real kind.
The little boy next room goes over to the shop and fetches my pantaloons
and takes 'em back. I can get along if it don't come slack again."
Sitting all day by that dim window, half the night stitching by a
kerosene lamp; lying for six hours on that narrow couch! How to account
for this old soul's Christian resignation and cheerfulness! "For," said
the doctor, "she has seen better days; she has moved in high society; her
husband, who died twenty years ago, was a policeman. What the old lady
is doing is fighting for her independence. She has only one fear--the
It was with such scenes as these in her eyes that Edith went to her
dressing-room to make her toilet for the Henderson dinner.
It was the first time they had dined with the Hendersons. It was Jack's
doings. "Certainly, if you wish it," Edith had said when the invitation
came. The unmentioned fact was that Jack had taken a little flier in
Oshkosh, and a hint from Henderson one evening at the Union, when the
venture looked squally, had let him out of a heavy loss into a small
profit, and Jack felt grateful.
"I wonder how Henderson came to do it?" Jack was querying, as he and old
Fairfax sipped their five-o'clock "Manhattan."
"Oh, Henderson likes to do a good-natured thing still, now and then.
Do you know his wife?"
"No. Who was she?"
"Why, old Eschelle's daughter, Carmen; of course you wouldn't know; that
was ten years ago. There was a good deal of talk about it at the time."
"Some said they'd been good friends before Mrs. Henderson's death."
"Then Carmen, as you call her, wasn't the first?"
"No, but she was an easy second. She's a social climber; bound to get
there from the start."
"Is she pretty?"
"Devilish. She's a little thing. I saw her once at Homburg, on the
promenade with her mother.
"The kind of sweet blonde, I said to myself, that would mix a man up in a
duel before he knew where he was."
"She must be interesting."
"She was always clever, and she knows enough to play a straight game and
when to propitiate. I'll bet a five she tells Henderson whom to be good
to when the chance offers."
"Then her influence on him is good?"
"My dear sir, she gets what she wants, and Henderson is going to the.....
well, look at the lines in his face. I've known Henderson since he
came fresh into the Street. He'd rarely knife a friend when his first
wife was living. Now, when you see the old frank smile on his face, it's
It was half-past eight when Mr. Henderson with Mrs. Delancy on his arm
led the way to the diningroom. The procession was closed by Mrs.
Henderson and Mr. Delancy. The Van Dams were there, and Mrs. Chesney and
the Chesney girls, and Miss Tavish, who sat on Jack's right, but the rest
of the guests were unknown to Jack, except by name. There was a strong
dash of the Street in the mixture, and although the Street was tabooed in
the talk, there was such an emanation of aggressive prosperity at the
table that Jack said afterwards that he felt as if he had been at a
meeting of the board.
If Jack had known the house ten years ago, he would have noticed certain
subtle changes in it, rather in the atmosphere than in many alterations.
The newness and the glitter of cost had worn off. It might still be
called a palace, but the city had now a dozen handsomer houses, and
Carmen's idea, as she expressed it, was to make this more like a home.
She had made it like herself. There were pictures on the walls that
would not have hung there in the late Mrs. Henderson's time; and the
prevailing air was that of refined sensuousness. Life, she said, was her
idea, life in its utmost expression, untrammeled, and yes, a little
Greek. Freedom was perhaps the word, and yet her latest notion was
simplicity. The dinner was simple. Her dress was exceedingly simple,
save that it had in it somewhere a touch of audacity, revealing in a
flash of invitation the hidden nature of the woman. She knew herself
better than any one knew her, except Henderson, and even he was forced to
laugh when she travestied Browning in saying that she had one soul-side
to face the world with, one to show the man she loved, and she declared
he was downright coarse when on going out of the door he muttered, "But
it needn't be the seamy side." The reported remark of some one who had
seen her at church that she looked like a nun made her smile, but she
broke into a silvery laugh when she head Van Dam's comment on it, "Yes,
a devil of a nun."
The library was as cozy as ever, but did not appear to be used much as a
library. Henderson, indeed, had no time to add to his collection or
enjoy it. Most of the books strewn on the tables were French novels or
such American tales as had the cachet of social riskiness. But Carmen
liked the room above all others. She enjoyed her cigarette there, and
had a fancy for pouring her five-o'clock tea in its shelter. Books which
had all sorts of things in them gave somehow an unconventional atmosphere
to the place, and one could say things there that one couldn't say in a
Henderson himself, it must be confessed, had grown stout in the ten
years, and puffy under the eyes. There were lines of irritation in his
face and lines of weariness. He had not kept the freshness of youth so
well as Carmen, perhaps because of his New England conscience. To his
guest he was courteous, seemed to be making an effort to be so, and
listened with well-assumed interest to the story of her day's pilgrimage.
At length he said, with a smile, "Life seems to interest you, Mrs.
"Yes, indeed," said Edith, looking up brightly; "doesn't it you?"
"Why, yes; not life exactly, but things, doing things--conflict."
"Yes, I can understand that. There is so much to be done for everybody."
Henderson looked amused. "You know in the city the gospel is that
everybody is to be done."
"Well," said Edith, not to be diverted, "but, Mr. Henderson, what is it
all for--this conflict? Perhaps, however, you are fighting the devil?"
"Yes, that's it; the devil is usually the other fellow. But, Mrs.
Delancy," added Henderson, with an accent of seriousness, "I don't know
what it's all for. I doubt if there is much in it."
"And yet the world credits you with finding a great deal in it."
"The world is generally wrong. Do you understand poker, Mrs. Delancy?
No! Of course you do not. But the interest of the game isn't so much in
the cards as in the men."
"I thought it was the stakes."
"Perhaps so. But you want to win for the sake of winning. If I gambled
it would be a question of nerve. I suppose that which we all enjoy is
the exercise of skill in winning."
"And not for the sake of doing anything--just winning? Don't you get
tired of that?" asked Edith, quite simply.
There was something in Edith's sincerity, in her fresh enthusiasm about
life, that appeared to strike a reminiscent note in Henderson. Perhaps
he remembered another face as sweet as hers, and ideals, faint and long
ago, that were once mixed with his ideas of success. At any rate, it was
with an accent of increased deference, and with a look she had not seen
in his face before, that he said:
"People get tired of everything. I'm not sure but it would interest me
to see for a minute how the world looks through your eyes." And then he
added, in a different tone, "As to your East Side, Mrs. Henderson tried
that some years ago."
"Wasn't she interested?"
"Oh, very much. For a time. But she said there was too much of it."
And Edith could detect no tone of sarcasm in the remark.
Down at the other end of the table, matters were going very smoothly.
Jack was charmed with his hostess. That clever woman had felt her way
along from the heresy trial, through Tuxedo and the Independent Theatre
and the Horse Show, until they were launched in a perfectly free
conversation, and Carmen knew that she hadn't to look out for thin ice.
"Were you thinking of going on to the Conventional Club tonight, Mr.
Delancy?" she was saying.
"I don't belong," said Jack. "Mrs. Delancy said she didn't care for it."
"Oh, I don't care for it, for myself," replied Carmen.
"I do," struck in Miss Tavish. "It's awfully nice."
"Yes, it does seem to fill a want. Why, what do you do with your
evenings, Mr. Delancy?"
"Well, here's one of them."
"Yes, I know, but I mean between twelve o'clock and bedtime."
"Oh," said Jack, laughing out loud, "I go to bed--sometimes."
"Yes, 'there's always that. But you want some place to go to after the
theatres and the dinners; after the other places are shut up you want to
go somewhere and be amused."
"Yes," said Jack, falling in, "it is a fact that there are not many
places of amusement for the rich; I understand. After the theatres you
want to be amused. This Conventional Club is--"
"I tell you what it is. It's a sort of Midnight Mission for the rich.
They never have had anything of the kind in the city."
"And it's very nice," said Miss Tavish, demurely.
The performers are selected. You can see things there that you want to
see at other places to which you can't go. And everybody you know is
"Oh, I see," said Jack. "It's what the Independent Theatre is trying to
do, and what all the theatrical people say needs to be done, to elevate
the character of the audiences, and then the managers can give better
"That's just it. We want to elevate the stage," Carmen explained.
"But," continued Jack, "it seems to me that now the audience is select
and elevated, it wants to see the same sort of things it liked to see
before it was elevated."
"You may laugh, Mr. Delancy," replied Carmen, throwing an earnest
simplicity into her eyes, "but why shouldn't women know what is going on
as well as men?"
"And why," Miss Tavish asked, "will the serpentine dances and the London
topical songs do any more harm to women than to men?"
"And besides, Mr. Delancy," Carmen said, chiming in, "isn't it just as
proper that women should see women dance and throw somersaults on the
stage as that men should see them? And then, you know, women are such a
"I hadn't thought of that," said Jack. "I thought the Conventional was
for the benefit of the audience, not for the salvation of the
"It's both. It's life. Don't you think women ought to know life? How
are they to take their place in the world unless they know life as men
"I'm sure I don't know whose place they are to take, the serpentine
dancer's or mine," said Jack, as if he were studying a problem. "How
does your experiment get on, Miss Tavish?"
Carmen looked up quickly.
"Oh, I haven't any experiment," said Miss Tavish, shaking her head.
"It's just Mr. Delancy's nonsense."
"I wish I had an experiment. There is so little for women to do. I wish
I knew what was right." And Carmen looked mournfully demure, as if life,
after all, were a serious thing with her.
"Whatever Mrs. Henderson does is sure to be right," said Jack, gallantly.
Carmen shot at him a quick sympathetic glance, tempered by a grateful
smile. "There are so many points of view."
Jack felt the force of the remark as he did the revealing glance. And he
had a swift vision of Miss Tavish leading him a serpentine dance, and of
Carmen sweetly beckoning him to a pleasant point of view. After all it
doesn't much matter. Everything is in the point of view.
After dinner and cigars and cigarettes in the library, the talk dragged a
little in duets. The dinner had been charming, the house was lovely, the
company was most agreeable. All said that. It had been so somewhere
else the night before that, and would be the next night. And the ennui
of it all! No one expressed it, but Henderson could not help looking it,
and Carmen saw it. That charming hostess had been devoting herself to
Edith since dinner. She was so full of sympathy with the East-Side work,
asked a hundred questions about it, and declared that she must take it up
again. She would order a cage of canaries from that poor German for her
kitchen. It was such a beautiful idea. But Edith did not believe in her
one bit. She told Jack afterwards that "Mrs. Henderson cares no more for
the poor of New York than she does for--"
"Henderson?" suggested Jack.
"Oh, I don't know anything about that. Henderson has only one idea--to
get the better of everybody, and be the money king of New York. But I
should not wonder if he had once a soft spot in his heart. He is better
than she is."
It was still early, lacked half an hour of midnight, and the night was
before them. Some one proposed the Conventional. "Yes," said Carmen;
"all come to our box." The Van Dams would go, Miss Tavish, the Chesneys;
the suggestion was a relief to everybody. Only Mr. Henderson pleaded
important papers that must have his attention that night. Edith said
that she was too tired, but that her desertion must not break up the
"Then you will excuse me also," said Jack, a little shade of
disappointment in his face.
"No, no," said Edith, quickly; "you can drop me on the way. Go, by all
"Do you really want me to go, dear?" said Jack, aside.
"Why of course; I want you to be happy."
And Jack recalled the loving look that accompanied these words, later on,
as he sat in the Henderson box at the Conventional, between Carmen and
Miss Tavish, and saw, through the slight haze of smoke, beyond the
orchestra, the praiseworthy efforts of the Montana Kicker, who had just
returned with the imprimatur of Paris, to relieve the ennui of the modern
The complex affair we call the world requires a great variety of people
to keep it going. At one o'clock in the morning Carmen and our friend
Mr. Delancy and Miss Tavish were doing their part. Edith lay awake
listening for Jack's return. And in an alley off Rivington Street a
young girl, pretty once, unknown to fortune but not to fame, was about to
render the last service she could to the world by leaving it.
The impartial historian scarcely knows how to distribute his pathos.
By the electric light (and that is the modern light) gayety is almost as
pathetic as suffering. Before the Montana girl hit upon the happy device
that gave her notoriety, her feet, whose every twinkle now was worth a
gold eagle, had trod a thorny path. There was a fortune now in the whirl
of her illusory robes, but any day--such are the whims of fashion--she
might be wandering again, sick at heart, about the great city, knocking
at the side doors of variety shows for any engagement that would give her
a pittance of a few dollars a week. How long had Carmen waited on the
social outskirts; and now she had come into her kingdom, was she anything
but a tinsel queen? Even Henderson, the great Henderson, did the friends
of his youth respect him? had he public esteem? Carmen used to cut out
the newspaper paragraphs that extolled Henderson's domestic virtue and
his generosity to his family, and show them to her lord, with a queer
smile on her face. Miss Tavish, in the nervous consciousness of fleeting
years, was she not still waiting, dashing here and there like a bird in a
net for the sort of freedom, audacious as she was, that seemed denied
her? She was still beautiful, everybody said, and she was sought and
flattered, because she was always merry and good-natured. Why should Van
Dam, speaking of women, say that there were horses that had been set up,
and checked up and trained, that held their heads in an aristocratic
fashion, moved elegantly, and showed style, long after the spirit had
gone out of them? And Jack himself, happily married, with a comfortable
income, why was life getting flat to him? What sort of career was it
that needed the aid of Carmen and the serpentine dancer? And why not,
since it is absolutely necessary that the world should be amused?
We are in no other world when we enter the mean tenement in the alley off
Rivington Street. Here also is the life of the town. The room is small,
but it contains a cook-stove, a chest of drawers, a small table, a couple
of chairs, and two narrow beds. On the top of the chest are a looking-
glass, some toilet articles, and bottles of medicine. The cracked walls
are bare and not clean. In one of the beds are two children, sleeping
soundly, and on the foot of it is a middle-aged woman, in a soiled woolen
gown with a thin figured shawl drawn about her shoulders, a dirty cap
half concealing her frowzy hair; she looks tired and worn and sleepy.
On the other bed lies a girl of twenty years, a woman in experience.
The kerosene lamp on the stand at the head of the bed casts a spectral
light on her flushed face, and the thin arms that are restlessly thrown
outside the cover. By the bedside sits the doctor, patient, silent, and
watchful. The doctor puts her hand caressingly on that of the girl.
It is hot and dry. The girl opens her eyes with a startled look, and
"Do you think he will come?"
"Yes, dear, presently. He never fails."
The girl closed her eyes again, and there was silence. The dim rays of
the lamp, falling upon the doctor, revealed the figure of a woman of less
than medium size, perhaps of the age of thirty or more, a plain little
body, you would have said, who paid the slightest possible attention to
her dress, and when she went about the city was not to be distinguished
from a working-woman. Her friends, indeed, said that she had not the
least care for her personal appearance, and unless she was watched, she
was sure to go out in her shabbiest gown and most battered hat. She wore
tonight a brown ulster and a nondescript black bonnet drawn close down on
her head and tied with black strings. In her lap lay her leathern bag,
which she usually carried under her arm, that contained medicines, lint,
bandages, smelling-salts, a vial of ammonia, and so on; to her patients
it was a sort of conjurer's bag, out of which she could produce anything
that an emergency called for.
Dr. Leigh was not in the least nervous or excited. Indeed, an artist
would not have painted her as a rapt angelic visitant to this abode of
poverty. This contact with poverty and coming death was quite in her
ordinary experience. It would never have occurred to her that she was
doing anything unusual, any more than it would have occurred to the
objects of her ministrations to overwhelm her with thanks. They trusted
her, that was all. They met her always with a pleasant recognition.
She belonged perhaps to their world. Perhaps they would have said that
"Dr. Leigh don't handsome much," but their idea was that her face was
good. That was what anybody would have said who saw her tonight, "She
has such a good face;" the face of a woman who knew the world, and
perhaps was not very sanguine about it, had few illusions and few
antipathies, but accepted it, and tried in her humble way to alleviate
its hardships, without any consciousness of having a mission or making a
Dr. Leigh--Miss Ruth Leigh--was Edith's friend. She had not come from
the country with an exalted notion of being a worker among the poor about
whom so much was written; she had not even descended from some high
circle in the city into this world, moved by a restless enthusiasm for
humanity. She was a woman of the people, to adopt a popular phrase.
From her childhood she had known them, their wants, their sympathies,
their discouragements; and in her heart--though you would not discover
this till you had known her long and well--there was a burning sympathy
with them, a sympathy born in her, and not assumed for the sake of having
a career. It was this that had impelled her to get a medical education,
which she obtained by hard labor and self-denial. To her this was not a
means of livelihood, but simply that she might be of service to those all
about her who needed help more than she did. She didn't believe in
charity, this stout-hearted, clearheaded little woman; she meant to make
everybody pay for her medical services who could pay; but somehow her
practice was not lucrative, and the little salary she got as a dispensary
doctor melted away with scarcely any perceptible improvement in her own
wardrobe. Why, she needed nothing, going about as she did.
She sat--now waiting for the end; and the good face, so full of sympathy
for the living, had no hope in it. Just another human being had come to
the end of her path--the end literally. It was so everyday. Somebody
came to the end, and there was nothing beyond. Only it was the end, and
that was peace. One o'clock--half-past one. The door opened softly.
The old woman rose from the foot of the bed with a start and a low
"Herr! gross Gott." It was Father Damon. The girl opened her eyes with
a frightened look at first, and then an eager appeal. Dr. Leigh rose to
make room for him at the bedside. They bowed as he came forward, and
their eyes met. She shook her head. In her eyes was no expectation, no
hope. In his was the glow of faith. But the eyes of the girl rested
upon his face with a rapt expression. It was as if an angel had entered
Father Damon was a young man, not yet past thirty, slender, erect.
He had removed as he came in his broad-brimmed soft hat. The hair was
close-cut, but not tonsured. He wore a brown cassock, falling in
straight lines, and confined at the waist with a white cord. From his
neck depended from a gold chain a large gold cross. His face was smooth-
shaven, thin, intellectual, or rather spiritual; the nose long, the mouth
straight, the eyes deep gray, sometimes dreamy and puzzling, again
glowing with an inner fervor. A face of long vigils and the schooled
calmness of repressed energy. You would say a fanatic of God, with a
dash of self-consciousness. Dr. Leigh knew him well. They met often on
their diverse errands, and she liked, when she could, to go to vespers in
the little mission chapel of St. Anselm, where he ministered. It was not
the confessional that attracted her, that was sure; perhaps not
altogether the service, though that was soothing in certain moods; but it
was the noble personality of Father Damon. He was devoted to the people
as she was, he understood them; and for the moment their passion of
humanity assumed the same aspect, though she knew that what he saw, or
thought he saw, lay beyond her agnostic vision.
Father Damon was an Englishman, a member of a London Anglican order, who
had taken the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, who had
been for some years in New York, and had finally come to live on the East
Side, where his work was. In a way he had identified himself with the
people; he attended their clubs; he was a Christian socialist; he spoke
on the inequalities of taxation; the strikers were pretty sure of his
sympathy; he argued the injustice of the present ownership of land. Some
said that he had joined a lodge of the Knights of Labor. Perhaps it was
these things, quite as much as his singleness of purpose and his
spiritual fervor, that drew Dr. Leigh to him with a feeling that verged
on devotion. The ladies up-town, at whose tables Father Damon was an
infrequent guest, were as fully in sympathy with this handsome and
aristocratic young priest, and thought it beautiful that he should devote
himself to the poor and the sinful; but they did not see why he should
adopt their views.
It was at the mission that Father Damon had first seen the girl. She had
ventured in not long ago at twilight, with her cough and her pale face,
in a silk gown and flower-garden of a hat, and crept into one of the
confessional boxes, and told him her story.
"Do you think, Father," said the girl, looking up wistfully, "that I can-
-can be forgiven?"
Father Damon looked down sadly, pitifully. "Yes, my daughter, if you
repent. It is all with our Father. He never refuses."
He knelt down, with his cross in his hand, and in a low voice repeated
the prayer for the dying. As the sweet, thrilling voice went on in
supplication the girl's eyes closed again, and a sweet smile played about
her mouth; it was the innocent smile of the little girl long ago, when
she might have awakened in the morning and heard the singing of birds at
When Father Damon arose she seemed to be sleeping. They all stood in
silence for a moment.
"You will remain?" he asked the doctor.
"Yes," she said, with the faintest wan smile on her face. "It is I, you
know, who have care of the body."
At the door he turned and said, quite low, "Peace be to this house!"
Father Damon came dangerously near to being popular. The austerity of
his life and his known self-chastening vigils contributed to this effect.
His severely formal, simple ecclesiastical dress, coarse in material but
perfect in its saintly lines, separated him from the world in which he
moved so unostentatiously and humbly, and marked him as one who went
about doing good. His life was that of self-absorption and hardship,
mortification of the body, denial of the solicitation of the senses,
struggling of the spirit for more holiness of purpose--a life of
supplication for the perishing souls about him. And yet he was so
informed with the modern spirit that he was not content, as a zealot
formerly might have been, to snatch souls out of the evil that is in the
world, but he strove to lessen the evil. He was a reformer. It was
probably this feature of his activity, and not his spiritual mission,
that attracted to him the little group of positivists on the East Side,
the demagogues of the labor lodges, the practical workers of the working-
girls' clubs, and the humanitarian agnostics like Dr. Leigh, who were
literally giving their lives without the least expectation of reward.
Even the refined ethical-culture groups had no sneer for Father Damon.
The little chapel of St. Anselm was well known. It was always open.
It was plain, but its plainness was not the barrenness of a non-
conformist chapel. There were two confessionals; a great bronze lamp
attached to one of the pillars scarcely dispelled the obscurity, but cast
an unnatural light upon the gigantic crucifix that hung from a beam in
front of the chancel. There were half a dozen rows of backless benches
in the centre of the chapel. The bronze lamp, and the candles always
burning upon the altar, rather accented than dissipated the heavy shadows
in the vaulted roof. At no hour was it empty, but at morning prayer and
at vespers the benches were apt to be filled, and groups of penitents or
spectators were kneeling or standing on the floor. At vespers there were
sure to be carriages in front of the door, and among the kneeling figures
were ladies who brought into these simple services for the poor something
of the refinement of grace as it is in the higher circles. Indeed, at
the hour set apart for confession, there were in the boxes saints from
up-town as well as sinners from the slums. Sometimes the sinners were
from up-town and the saints from the slums.
When the organ sounded, and through a low door in the chancel the priest
entered, preceded by a couple of acolytes, and advanced swiftly to the
reading-desk, there was an awed hush in the congregation. One would not
dare to say that there was a sentimental feeling for the pale face and
rapt expression of the devotee. It was more than that. He had just come
from some scene of suffering, from the bed of one dying; he was weary
with watching. He was faint with lonely vigils; he was visibly carrying
the load of the poor and the despised. Even Ruth Leigh, who had dropped
in for half an hour in one of her daily rounds--even Ruth Leigh, who had
in her stanch, practical mind a contempt for forms and rituals, and no
faith in anything that she could not touch, and who at times was
indignant at the efforts wasted over the future of souls concerning which
no one knew anything, when there were so many bodies, which had inherited
disease and poverty and shame, going to worldly wreck before so-called
Christian eyes--even she could scarcely keep herself from adoring this
self-sacrificing spirit. The woes of humanity grieved him as they
grieved her, and she used to say she did not care what he believed so
long as he gave his life for the needy.
It was when he advanced to the altar-rail to speak that the man best
appeared. His voice, which was usually low and full of melody, could be
something terrible when it rose in denunciation of sin. Those who had
traveled said that he had the manner of a preaching friar--the simple
language, so refined and yet so homely and direct, the real, the inspired
word, the occasional hastening torrent of words. When he had occasion to
address one of the societies of ladies for the promotion of something
among the poor, his style and manner were simplicity itself. One might
have said there was a shade of contempt in his familiar and not seldom
slightly humorous remarks upon society and its aims and aspirations,
about which he spoke plainly and vigorously. And this was what the
ladies liked. Especially when he referred to the pitifulness of class
distinctions, in the light of the example of our Lord, in our short
pilgrimage in this world. This unveiling and denunciation made them
somehow feel nearer to their work, and, indeed, while they sat there,
co-workers with this apostle of righteousness.
Perhaps there was something in the priestly dress that affected not only
the congregation in the chapel, but all the neighborhood in which Father
Damon lived. There was in the long robe, with its feminine lines, an
assurance to the women that he was set apart and not as others were; and,
on the other hand, the semi-feminine suggestion of the straight-falling
garment may have had for the men a sort of appeal for defense and even
protection. It is certain, at any rate, that Father Damon had the
confidence of high and low, rich and poor. The forsaken sought him out,
the hungry went to him, the dying sent for him, the criminal knocked at
the door of his little room, even the rich reprobate would have opened
his bad heart to him sooner than to any one else. It is evident,
therefore, that Father Damon was dangerously near to being popular.
Human vanity will feed on anything within its reach, and there has been
discovered yet no situation that will not minister to its growth.
Suffering perhaps it prefers, and contumely and persecution. Are not
opposition, despiteful anger, slander even, rejection of men, stripes
even, if such there could be in these days, manna to the devout soul
consciously set apart for a mission? But success, obsequiousness,
applause, the love of women, the concurrent good opinion of all
humanitarians, are these not almost as dangerous as persecution? Father
Damon, though exalted in his calling, and filled with a burning zeal,
was a sincere man, and even his eccentricities of saintly conduct
expressed to his mind only the high purpose of self-sacrifice. Yet he
saw, he could not but see, the spiritual danger in this rising tide of
adulation. He fought against its influence, he prayed against it,
he tried to humiliate himself, and his very humiliations increased the
adulation. He was perplexed, almost ashamed, and examined himself to see
how it was that he himself seemed to be thwarting his own work.
Sometimes he withdrew from it for a week together, and buried himself in
a retreat in the upper part of the island. Alas! did ever a man escape
himself in a retreat? It made him calm for the moment. But why was it,
he asked himself, that he had so many followers, his religion so few?
Why was it, he said, that all the humanitarians, the reformers, the
guilds, the ethical groups, the agnostics, the male and female knights,
sustained him, and only a few of the poor and friendless knocked, by his
solicitation, at the supernatural door of life? How was it that a woman
whom he encountered so often, a very angel of mercy, could do the things
he was doing, tramping about in the misery and squalor of the great city
day and night, her path unilluminated by a ray from the future life?
Perhaps he had been remiss in his duty. Perhaps he was letting a vague
philanthropy take the place of a personal solicitude for individual
souls. The elevation of the race! What had the land question to do with
the salvation of man? Suppose everybody on the East Side should become
as industrious, as self-denying, as unselfish as Ruth Leigh, and yet
without belief, without hope! He had accepted the humanitarian situation
with her, and never had spoken to her of the eternal life. What
unfaithfulness to his mission and to her! It should be so no longer.
It was after one of his weeks of retreat, at the close of vesper service,
that Dr. Leigh came to him. He had been saying in his little talk that
poverty is no excuse for irreligion, and that all aid in the hardship of
this world was vain and worthless unless the sinner laid hold on eternal
life. Dr. Leigh, who was laboring with a serious practical problem,
heard this coldly, and with a certain contempt for what seemed to her a
vague sort of consolation.
"Well," he said, when she came to him in the vestry, with a drop from the
rather austere manner in which he had spoken, "what can I do for you?"
"For me, nothing, Father Damon. I thought perhaps you would go round
with me to see a pretty bad case. It is in your parish."
"Ah, did they send for me? Do they want spiritual help?"
"First the natural, then the spiritual," she replied, with a slight tone
of sarcasm in her voice. "That's just like a priest," she was thinking.
"I do not know what to do, and something must be done."
"Did you report to the Associated Charities?"
"Yes. But there's a hitch somewhere. The machine doesn't take hold.
The man says he doesn't want any charity, any association, treating him
like a pauper. He's off peddling; but trade is bad, and he's been away a
week. I'm afraid he drinks a little."
"The mother is sick in bed. I found her trying to do some fine
stitching, but she was too weak to hold up the muslin. There are five
young children. The family never has had help before."
Father Damon put on his hat, and they went out together, and for some
time picked their way along the muddy streets in silence.
At length he asked, in a softened voice, "Is the mother a Christian?"
"I didn't ask," she replied shortly. "I found her crying because the
children were hungry."
Father Damon, still under the impression of his neglect of duty, did not
heed her warning tone, but persisted, "You have so many opportunities,
Dr. Leigh, in your visits of speaking a word."
"About what?" she asked, refusing to understand, and hardened at the
slightest sign of what she called cant.
"About the necessity of repentance and preparation for another life," he
answered, softly but firmly. "You surely do not think human beings are
created just for this miserable little experience here?"
"I don't know. I have too much to do with the want and suffering I see
to raise anxieties about a world of which no one can possibly know
"Pardon me," he persisted, "have you no sense of incompleteness in this
life, in your own life? no inward consciousness of an undying
The doctor was angry for a moment at this intrusion. It had seemed
natural enough for Father Damon to address his exhortations to the poor
and sinful of his mission. She admired his spirit, she had a certain
sympathy with him; for who could say that ministering to minds diseased
might not have a physical influence to lift these people into a more
decent and prosperous way of living? She had thought of herself as
working with him to a common end. But for him now to turn upon her,
absolutely ignoring the solid, rational, and scientific ground on which
he knew, or should know, she stood, and to speak to her as one of the
"lost," startled her, and filled her with indignation. She had on her
lips a sarcastic reply to the effect that even if she had a soul, she had
not taken up her work in the city as a means of saving it; but she was
not given to sarcasm, and before she spoke she looked at her companion,
and saw in the eyes a look of such genuine humble feeling, contradicting
the otherwise austere expression of his face, that her momentary
bitterness passed away.
"I think, Father Damon," she said, gently, "we had better not talk of
that. I don't have much time for theorizing, you know, nor much
inclination," she added.
The priest saw that for the present he could make no progress, and after
a little silence the conversation went back to the family they were about
They found the woman better--at least, more cheerful. Father Damon
noticed that there were medicines upon the stand, and that there were the
remains of a meal which the children had been eating. He turned to the
doctor. "I see that you have been providing for them."
"Oh, the eldest boy had already been out and begged a piece of bread when
I came. Of course they had to have something more at once. But it is
very little that I can do."
He sat down by the bed, and talked with the mother, getting her story,
while the doctor tidied up the room a bit, and then, taking the youngest
child in her lap and drawing the others about her, began to tell a story
in a low voice. Presently she was aware that the priest was on his knees
and saying a prayer. She stopped in her story, and looked out through
the dirty window into the chill and dark area.
"What is he doing?" whispered one of the children.
"I don't know," she said, and a sort of chill came over her heart. It
all seemed a mockery, in these surroundings.
When he rose he said to the woman, "We will see that you do not want till
your husband comes back."
"And I will look in tomorrow," said the doctor.
When they were in the street, Father Damon thanked her for calling his
attention to the case, thanked her a little formally, and said that he
would make inquiries and have it properly attended to. And then he
asked: "Is your work ended for the day? You must be tired."
"Oh, no; I have several visits to make. I'm not tired. I rather think
it is good for me, being out-of-doors so much." She thanked him, and
For a moment he stood and watched the plain, resolute little woman
threading her way through the crowded and unclean street, and then slowly
walked away to his apartment, filled with sadness and perplexity.
The apartment which he occupied was not far from the mission chapel,
and it was the one clean spot among the ill-kept tenements; but as to
comfort, it was not much better than the cell of an anchorite. Of this,
however, he was not thinking as he stretched himself out on his pallet to
rest a little from the exhausting labors of the day. Probably it did not
occur to him that his self-imposed privations lessened his strength for
He was thinking of Ruth Leigh. What a rare soul! And yet apparently she
did not think or care whether she had a soul. What could be the spring
of her incessant devotion? If ever woman went about doing good in an
unselfish spirit it was she. Yet she confessed her work hopeless. She
had no faith, no belief in immortality, no expectation of any reward,
nothing to offer to anybody beyond this poor life. Was this the
enthusiasm of humanity, of which he heard so much? But she did not seem
to have any illusions, or to be burned up by enthusiasm. She just kept
on. Ah, he thought, what a woman she would be if she were touched by the
fire of faith!
Meantime, Ruth Leigh went on her round. One day was like another, except
that every day the kaleidoscope of misery showed new combinations, new
phases of suffering and incompetence, and there was always a fresh
interest in that. For years now this had been her life, in the chill of
winter and the heat of summer, without rest or vacation. The amusements,
the social duties, the allurements of dress and society, that so much
occupied the thoughts of other women, did not seem to come into her life.
For books she had little time, except the books of her specialty. The
most exciting novels were pale compared with her daily experiences of
real life. Almost her only recreation was a meeting of the working-
girls, a session of her labor lodge, or an assembly at the Cooper Union,
where some fiery orator, perhaps a priest, or a clever agitator,
a working-man glib of speech, who had a mass of statistics at the end of
his tongue, who read and discussed, in some private club of zealots of
humanity, metaphysics, psychology, and was familiar with the whole
literature of labor and socialism, awoke the enthusiasm of the
discontented or the unemployed, and where men and women, in clear but
homely speech, told their individual experiences of wrong and injustice.
There was evidence in all these demonstrations and organizations that the
world was moving, and that the old order must change.
Years and years the little woman had gone on with her work, and she
frankly confessed to Edith, one day when they were together going her
rounds, that she could see no result from it all. The problem of poverty
and helplessness and incapacity seemed to her more hopeless than when she
began. There might be a little enlightenment here and there, but there
was certainly not less misery. The state of things was worse than she
thought at first; but one thing cheered her: the people were better than
she thought. They might be dull and suspicious in the mass, but she
found so much patience, unselfishness, so many people of good hearts and
"They are the people," she said, "I should choose for friends. They are
natural, unsophisticated. And do you know," she went on, "that what most
surprises me is the number of reading, thoughtful people among those who
do manual labor. I doubt if on your side of town the, best books, the
real fundamental and abstruse books, are so read and discussed, or the
philosophy of life is so seriously considered, as in certain little
circles of what you call the working-classes."
"Isn't it all very revolutionary?" asked Edith.
"Perhaps," replied the doctor, dryly. "But they have no more fads than
other people. Their theories seem to them not only practical, but they
try to apply them to actual legislation; at any rate, they discriminate
in vagaries. You would have been amused the other night in a small
circle at the lamentations over a member--he was a car-driver--who was
the authoritative expositor of Schopenhauer, because he had gone off into
Theosophy. It showed such weakness."
"I have heard that the members of that circle were Nihilists."
"The club has not that name, but probably the members would not care to
repudiate the title, or deny that they were Nihilists theoretically--that
is, if Nihilism means an absolute social and political overturning in
order that something better may be built up. And, indeed, if you see
what a hopeless tangle our present situation is, where else can the mind
"It is pitiful enough," Edith admitted. "But all this movement you speak
of seems to me a vague agitation."
"I don't think," the doctor said, after a moment, "that you appreciate
the intellectual force that is in it all, or allow for the fermenting
power in the great discontented mass of these radical theories on the
problem of life."
This was a specimen of the sort of talk that Edith and the doctor often
drifted into in their mission work. As Ruth Leigh tramped along late
this afternoon in the slush of the streets, from one house of sickness
and poverty to another, a sense of her puny efforts in this great mass of
suffering and injustice came over her anew. Her indignation rose against
the state of things. And Father Damon, who was trying to save souls, was
he accomplishing anything more than she? Why had he been so curt with
her when she went to him for help this afternoon? Was he just a narrow-
minded, bigoted priest? A few nights before she had heard him speak on
the single tax at a labor meeting. She recalled his eloquence, his
profound sympathy with the cause of the people, the thrilling, pathetic
voice, the illumination of his countenance, the authority, the
consecration in his attitude and dress; and he was transfigured to her
then, as he was now in her thought, into an apostle of humanity. Alas!
she thought, what a leader he would be if he would break loose from his
The acquaintance between the house of Henderson and the house of Delancy
was not permitted to languish. Jack had his reasons for it, which may
have been financial, and Carmen had her reasons, which were probably
purely social. What was the good of money if it did not bring social
position? and what, on the other hand, was the good of social position if
you could not use it to get money?
In his recent association with the newly rich, Jack's twenty thousand a
year began to seem small. In fact, in the lowering of the rate of
interest and the shrinkage of securities, it was no longer twenty
thousand a year. This would have been a matter of little consequence in
the old order. His lot was not cast among the poor; most of his
relations had solid fortunes, and many of them were millionaires, or what
was equivalent to that, before the term was invented. But they made
little display; none at all merely for the purpose of exhibition, or to
gain or keep social place. In this atmosphere in which he was born Jack
floated along without effort, with no demand upon him to keep up with a
rising standard of living. Even impecuniosity, though inconvenient,
would not have made him lose caste.
All this was changing now. Since the introduction of a new element even
the conservative old millions had begun to feel the stir of uneasiness,
and to launch out into extravagance in rivalry with the new millions.
Even with his relations Jack began to feel that he was poor. It did not
spur him to do anything, to follow the example, for instance, of the
young fellows from the country, who were throwing themselves into Wall
Street with the single purpose of becoming suddenly rich, but it made him
uneasy. And when he was with the Hendersons, or Miss Tavish, whose
father, though not newly rich, was one of the most aggressive of
speculators, and saw how easily every luxurious desire glided into
fulfillment, he felt for the first time in his life the emotion of envy.
It seemed then that only unlimited money could make the world attractive.
Why, even to keep up with the unthinking whims of Miss Tavish would
bankrupt him in six months. That little spread at Wherry's for the
theatre party the other night, though he made light of it to Edith, was
almost the price he couldn't afford to pay for Storm. He had a grim
thought that midwinter flowers made dining as expensive as dying.
Carmen, whom nothing escaped, complimented him on his taste, quite aware
that he couldn't afford it, and, apropos, told him of a lady in Chicago
who, hearing that the fashion had changed, wrote on her dinner cards, "No
flowers." It was only a matter of course for these people to build a new
country-house in any spot that fashion for the moment indicated, to equip
their yachts for a Mediterranean voyage or for loitering down the
Southern coast, to give a ball that was the talk of the town, to make up
a special train of luxurious private cars for Mexico or California. Even
at the clubs the talk was about these things and the opportunities for
There was a rumor about town that Henderson was a good deal extended.
It alarmed a hundred people, not on Henderson's account, but their own.
When one of them consulted Uncle Jerry, that veteran smiled.
"Oh, I guess Henderson's all right. But I wouldn't wonder if it meant a
squeeze. Of course if he's extended, it's an excuse for settling up, and
the shorts will squeal. I've seen Henderson extended a good many times,"
and the old man laughed. "Don't you worry about him."
This opinion, when reported, did not seem to quiet Jack's fears, who saw
his own little venture at the mercy of a sweeping Street game. It
occurred to him that he possibly might get a little light on the matter
by dropping in that afternoon and taking a quiet cup of tea with Mrs.
He found her in the library. Outdoors winter was slouching into spring
with a cold drizzle, with a coating of ice on the pavements-animating
weather for the medical profession. Within, there was the glow of warmth
and color that Carmen liked to create for herself. In an entrancing tea-
gown, she sat by a hickory fire, with a fresh magazine in one hand and a
big paper-cutter in the other. She rose at Jack's entrance, and,
extending her hand, greeted him with a most cordial smile. It was so
good of him! She was so lonesome! He could himself see that the
lonesomeness was dissipated, as she seated him in a comfortable chair by
the fire, and then stood a moment looking at him, as if studying his
comfort. She was such a domestic woman!
"You look tired, monsieur," she said, as she passed behind his chair and
rested the tip of her forefinger for a second on his head. "I shall make
you a cup of tea at once."
"Not tired, but bothered," said Jack, stretching out his legs.
"I know," she replied; "it's a bothering world." She was still behind
him, and spoke low, but with sympathy. "I remember, it's only one lump."
He could feel her presence, so womanly and friendly. "I don't care what
people say," he was thinking, "she's a good-hearted little thing, and
understands men." He felt that he could tell her anything, almost
anything that he could tell a man. She was sympathetic and not
"There," she said, handing him the tea and looking down on him.
The cup was dainty, the fragrance of the tea delicious, the woman
"I'm better already," said Jack, with a laugh.
She made a cup for herself, handed him the cigarettes, lit one for
herself, and sat on a low stool not far from him.
"Now what is it?"
"Oh, nothing--a little business worry. Have you heard any Street rumor?"
"Rumor?" she repeated, with a little start. And then, leaning forward,
"Do you mean that about Mr. Henderson in the morning papers?"
Carmen, relieved, gave a liquid little laugh, and then said, with a
change to earnestness: "I'm going to trust you, my friend. Henderson put
it in himself! He told me so this morning when I asked him about it.
This is just between ourselves."
Jack said, "Of course," but he did not look relieved. The clever
creature divined the situation without another word, for there was no
turn in the Street that she was not familiar with. But there was no
apparent recognition of it, except in her sympathetic tone, when she
said: "Well, the world is full of annoyances. I'm bothered myself--and
such a little thing."
"What is it?"
"Oh nothing, not even a rumor. You cannot do anything about it. I don't
know why I should tell you. But I will." And she paused a moment,
looking down in an innocent perplexity. "It's just this: I am on the
Foundlings' Board with Mrs. Schuyler Blunt, and I don't know her, and you
can't think how awkward it is having to meet her every week in that stiff
kind of way." She did not go on to confide to Jack how she had intrigued
to get on the board, and how Mrs. Schuyler Blunt, in the most well-bred
manner, had practically ignored her.
"She's an old friend of mine."
"Indeed! She's a charming woman."
"Yes. We were great cronies when she was Sadie Mack. She isn't a
genius, but she is good-hearted. I suppose she is on all the charity
boards in the city. She patronizes everything," Jack continued, with a
"I'm sure she is," said Carmen, thinking that however good-hearted she
might be she was very "snubby." "And it makes it all the more awkward,
for I am interested in so many things myself."
"I can arrange all that," Jack said, in an off-hand way. Carmen's look
of gratitude could hardly be distinguished from affection. "That's easy
enough. We are just as good friends as ever, though I fancy she doesn't
altogether approve of me lately. It's rather nice for a fellow, Mrs.
Henderson, to have a lot of women keeping him straight, isn't it?" asked
Jack, in the tone of a bad boy.
"Yes. Between us all we will make a model of you. I am so glad now that
I told you."
Jack protested that it was nothing. Why shouldn't friends help each
other? Why not, indeed, said Carmen, and the talk went on a good deal
about friendship, and the possibility of it between a man and a woman.
This sort of talk is considered serious and even deep, not to say
philosophic. Carmen was a great philosopher in it. She didn't know, but
she believed, it seemed natural, that every woman should have one man
friend. Jack rose to go.
"So soon?" And it did seem pathetically soon. She gave him her hand, and