Part 2 out of 5
then by an impulse she put her left hand over his, and looked up to him
in quite a business way.
"Mr. Delancy, don't you be troubled about that rumor we were speaking of.
It will be all right. Trust me."
He understood perfectly, and expressed both his understanding and his
gratitude by bending over and kissing the little hand that lay in his.
When he had gone, Carmen sat a long time by the fire reflecting. It
would be sweet to humiliate the Delancy and Schuyler Blunt set, as
Henderson could. But what would she gain by that? It would be sweeter
still to put them under obligations, and profit by that. She had endured
a good many social rebuffs in her day, this tolerant little woman, and
the sting of their memory could only be removed when the people who had
ignored her had to seek social favors she could give. If Henderson only
cared as much for such things as she did! But he was at times actually
brutal about it. He seemed to have only one passion. She herself liked
money, but only for what it would bring. Henderson was like an old
Pharaoh, who was bound to build the biggest pyramid ever built to his
memory; he hated to waste a block. But what was the good of that when
one had passed beyond the reach of envy?
Revolving these deep things in her mind, she went to her dressing-room
and made an elaborate toilet for dinner. Yet it was elaborately simple.
That sort needed more study than the other. She would like to be the
Carmen of ten years ago in Henderson's eyes.
Her lord came home late, and did not dress for dinner. It was often so,
and the omission was usually not allowed to pass by Carmen without
notice, to which Henderson was sure to growl that he didn't care to be
always on dress parade. Tonight Carmen was all graciousness and warmth.
Henderson did not seem to notice it. He ate his dinner abstractedly, and
responded only in monosyllables to her sweet attempts at conversation.
The fact was that the day had been a perplexing one; he was engaged in
one of his big fights, a scheme that aroused all his pugnacity and taxed
all his resources. He would win--of course; he would smash everybody,
but he would win. When he was in this mood Carmen felt that she was like
a daisy in the path of a cyclone. In the first year of their marriage he
used to consult her about all his schemes, and value her keen
understanding. She wondered why he did not now. Did he distrust even
her, as he did everybody else? Tonight she asked no questions. She was
unruffled by his short responses to her conversational attempts; by her
subtle, wifely manner she simply put herself on his side, whatever the
In the library she brought him his cigar, and lighted it. She saw that
his coffee was just as he liked it. As she moved about, making things
homelike, Henderson noticed that she was more Carmenish than he had seen
her in a long time. The sweet ways and the simple toilet must be by
intention. And he knew her so well. He began to be amused and softened.
At length he said, in his ordinary tone, "Well, what is it?"
"What is what, dear?"
"What do you want?"
Carmen looked perplexed and sweetly surprised. There is nothing so
pitiful about habitual hypocrisy as that it never deceives anybody.
It was not the less painful now that Carmen knew that Henderson knew her
to the least fibre of her self-seeking soul, and that she felt that there
were currents in his life that she could not calculate. A man is so much
more difficult to understand than a woman, she reflected. And yet he is
so susceptible that he can be managed even when he knows he is being
managed. Carmen was not disconcerted for a moment. She replied, with
her old candor:
"What an idea! You give me everything I want before I know what it is."
"And before I know it either," he responded, with a grim smile. "Well,
what is the news today?"
"Just the same old round. The Foundlings' Board, for one thing."
"Are you interested in foundlings?"
"Not much," said Carmen, frankly. "I'm interested in those that find
them. I told you how hateful that Mrs. Schuyler Blunt is."
"Why don't you cut her? Why don't you make it uncomfortable for her?"
"I can't find out," she said, with a laugh, dropping into the language of
the Street, "anything she is short in, or I would."
"And you want me to get a twist on old Blunt?" and Henderson roared with
laughter at the idea.
"No, indeed. Dear, you are just a goose, socially. It is nothing to
you, but you don't understand what we women have to go through. You
don't know how hard it is--that woman!"
"What has she done?"
"Nothing. That's just it. What do you say in the Street--freeze? Well,
she is trying to freeze me out."
Henderson laughed again. "Oh, I'll back you against the field."
"I don't want to be backed," said Carmen; "I want some sympathy."
"Well, what is your idea?"
"I was going to tell you. Mr. Delancy dropped in this afternoon for a
cup of tea--"
"Yes, and he knows Mrs. Schuyler Blunt well; they are old friends, and he
is going to arrange it."
"Why, smooth everything out, don't you know. But, Rodney, I do want you
to do something for me; not for me exactly, but about this. Won't you
look out for Mr. Delancy in this deal?"
"Seems to me you are a good deal interested in Jack Delancy," said
Henderson, in a sneering tone. The remark was a mistake, for it gave
Carmen the advantage, and he did not believe it was just. He knew that
Carmen was as passionless as a diamond, whatever even she might pretend
for a purpose.
"Aren't you ashamed!" she cried, with indignation, and her eyes flared
for an instant and then filled with tears. "And I try so hard."
"But I can't look out for all the lame ducks."
"He isn't a duck," said Carmen, using her handkerchief; "I'd hate him for
a duck. It's just to help me, when you know, when you know--and it is so
hard," and the tears came again.
Did Henderson believe? After all, what did it matter? Perhaps, after
all, the woman had a right to her game, as he had to his.
"Oh, well," he said, "don't take on about it. I'll fix it. I'll make a
memorandum this minute. Only don't you bother me in the future with too
many private kites."
Carmen dried her eyes. She did not look triumphant; she just looked
sweet and grateful, like a person who had been helped. She went over and
kissed her lord on the forehead, and sat on the arm of his chair, not too
long, and then patted him on the shoulder, and said he was a good fellow,
and she was a little bother, and so went away like a dutiful little wife.
And Henderson sat looking into the fire and musing, with the feeling that
he had been at the theatre, and that the comedy had been beautifully
His part of the play was carried out next day in good faith. One of the
secrets of Henderson's success was that he always did what he said he
would do. This attracted men to him personally, and besides he found, as
Bismarck did, that it was more serviceable to him than lying, for the
crafty world usually banks upon insincerity and indirectness. But while
he kept his word he also kept his schemes to himself, and executed them
with a single regard to his own interest and a Napoleonic selfishness.
He did not lie to enemy or friend, but he did not spare either when
either was in his way. He knew how to appeal to the self-interest of his
fellows, and in time those who had most to do with him trusted him least
when he seemed most generous in his offers.
When, the next day, his secretary reported to him briefly that Delancy
was greatly elated with the turn things had taken for him, and was going
in again, Henderson smiled sardonically, and said, "It was the worst
thing I could have done for him."
Jack, who did not understand the irony of his temporary rescue, and had
little experience of commercial integrity, so called, was intent on
fulfilling his part of the understanding with Carmen. This could best be
effected by a return dinner to the Hendersons. The subject was broached
at breakfast in an off-hand manner to Edith.
It was not an agreeable subject to Edith, that was evident; but it was
not easy for her to raise objections to the dinner. She had gone to the
Hendersons' to please Jack, in her policy of yielding in order to
influence him; but having accepted the hospitality, she could not object
to returning it. The trouble was in making the list.
"I do not know," said Edith, "who are the Hendersons' friends."
"Oh, that doesn't matter. Ask our friends. If we are going to do a
thing to please them, no use in doing it half-way, so as to offend them,
by drawing social lines against them."
"There's Mavick; he'll be over from Washington next week."
"That's good; and, oh, I'll ask Father Damon."
"Yes; he'll give a kind of flavor to it. I shouldn't wonder if he would
like to meet such a man as Henderson."
"And then the Van Dams and Miss Tavish; they were at Henderson's, and
would help to make it easy."
"Yes; well, let's see. The Schuyler Blunts?"
"Oh, they wouldn't do at all. They wouldn't come. She wouldn't think of
going to the Hendersons'."
"But she would come to us. I don't think she would mind once in a way."
"But why do you want them?"
"I don't want them particularly; but it would no doubt please the
Hendersons more than any other thing we could do-and, well, I don't want
to offend Henderson just now. It's a little thing, anyway. What's the
use of all this social nonsense? We are not responsible for either the
Hendersons or the Blunts being in the world. No harm done if they don't
come. You invite them, and I'll take the responsibility."
So it was settled, against Edith's instinct of propriety, and the dinner
was made up by the addition of the elder Miss Chesney. And Jack did
persuade Mrs. Blunt to accept. In fact, she had a little curiosity to
see the man whose name was in the newspapers more prominently than that
of the President.
It was a bright thought to secure Mr. Mavick. Mr. Thomas Mavick was
socially one of the most desirable young men of the day. Matrimonially
he was not a prize, for he was without fortune and without powerful
connections. He had a position in the State Department. Originally he
came from somewhere in the West, it was said, but he had early obtained
one or two minor diplomatic places; he had lived a good deal abroad;
he had traveled a little--a good deal, it would seem, from his occasional
Oriental allusions. He threw over his past a slight mystery, not too
much; and he always took himself seriously. His salary was sufficient to
set up a bachelor very comfortably who always dined out; he dressed in
the severity of the fashion; he belonged only to the best clubs, where he
unbent more than anywhere else; he was credited with knowing a good deal
more than he would tell. It was believed, in fact, that he had a great
deal of influence. The President had been known to send for him on
delicate personal business with regard to appointments, and there were
certain ticklish diplomatic transactions that he was known to have
managed most cleverly. His friends could see his hand in state papers.
This he disclaimed, but he never denied that he knew the inside of
whatever was going on in Washington. Even those who thought him a snob
said he was clever. He had perfectly the diplomatic manner, and the
reserve of one charged with grave secrets. Whatever he disclosed was
always in confidence, so that he had the reputation of being as discreet
as he was knowing. With women he was of course a favorite, for he knew
how to be confidential without disclosing anything, and the hints he
dropped about persons in power simply showed that he was secretly
manoeuvring important affairs, and could make the most interesting
revelations if he chose. His smile and the shake of his head at the club
when talk was personal conveyed a world of meaning. Tom Mavick was, in
short, a most accomplished fellow. It was evident that he carried on the
State Department, and the wonder to many was that he was not in a
position to do it openly. His social prestige was as mysterious as his
diplomatic, but it was now unquestioned, and he might be considered as
one of the first of a class who are to reconcile social and political
life in this country.
Looking back upon this dinner of the Delancys, the student of human
affairs can see how Providence uses small means for the accomplishment of
its purposes. Of all our social contrivances, the formal dinner is
probably the cause of more anxiety in the arrangement, of more weariness
in the performance, and usually of less satisfaction in the retrospect
than any other social function. However carefully the guests are
selected, it lacks the spontaneity that gives intellectual zest to the
chance dining together of friends. This Delancy party was made up for
reasons which are well understood, and it seemed to have been admirably
well selected; and yet the moment it assembled it was evident that it
could not be very brilliant or very enjoyable. Doubtless you, madam,
would have arranged it differently, and not made it up of such
As a matter of fact, scarcely one of those present would not have had
more enjoyment somewhere else. Father Damon, whose theory was that the
rich needed saving quite as much as the poor, would nevertheless have
been in better spirits sitting down to a collation with the working-women
in Clinton Place. It was a good occasion for the cynical observation of
Mr. Mavick, but it was not a company that he could take in hand and
impress with his mysterious influence in public affairs. Henderson was
not in the mood, and would have had much more ease over a chop and a
bottle of half-and-half with Uncle Jerry. Carmen, socially triumphant,
would have been much more in her element at a petit souper of a not too
fastidious four. Mrs. Schuyler Blunt was in the unaccustomed position of
having to maintain a not too familiar and not too distant line of
deportment. Edith and Jack felt the responsibility of having put an
incongruous company on thin conventional ice. It was only the easy-going
Miss Tavish and two or three others who carried along their own animal
spirits and love of amusement who enjoyed the chance of a possible
And yet the dinner was providentially arranged. If these people had not
met socially, this history would have been different from what it must
be. The lives of several of them were appreciably modified by this
meeting. It is too much to say that Father Damon's notion of the means
by which such men as Henderson succeed was changed, but personal contact
with the man may have modified his utterances about him, and he may have
turned his mind to the uses to which his wealth might be applied rather
than to the means by which he obtained it. Carmen's ingenuous interest
in his work may have encouraged the hope that at least a portion of this
fortune might be rescued to charitable uses. For Carmen, dining with
Mrs. Schuyler Blunt was a distinct gain, and indirectly opened many other
hitherto exclusive doors. That lady may not have changed her opinion
about Carmen, but she was good-natured and infected by the incoming
social tolerance; and as to Henderson, she declared that he was an
exceedingly well-bred man, and she did not believe half the stories about
him. Henderson himself at once appreciated the talents of Mavick, gauged
him perfectly, and saw what services he might be capable of rendering at
Washington. Mr. Mavick appreciated the advantage of a connection with
such a capitalist, and of having open to him another luxurious house in
New York. At the dinner-table Carmen and Mr. Mavick had not exchanged a
dozen remarks before these clever people felt that they were congenial
spirits. It was in the smoking-room that Henderson and Mavick fell into
an interesting conversation, which resulted in an invitation for Mavick
to drop in at Henderson's office in the morning. The dinner had not been
a brilliant one. Henderson found it not easy to select topics equally
interesting to Mrs. Delancy and Mrs. Blunt, and finally fell into
geographical information to the latter about Mexico and Honduras. For
Edith, the sole relief of the evening was an exchange of sympathy with
Father Damon, and she was too much preoccupied to enjoy that. As for
Carmen, placed between Jack and Mr. Mavick, and conscious that the eyes
of Mrs. Blunt were on her, she was taking a subdued role, which Jack
found much less attractive than her common mood. But this was not her
only self-sacrifice of the evening. She went without her usual
To Edith the dinner was a revelation of new difficulties in the life she
proposed for herself, though they were rather felt than distinctly
reasoned about. The social atmosphere was distasteful; its elements were
out of harmony with her ideals. Not that this society was new to her,
but that she saw it in a new light. Before her marriage all these things
had been indifferent to this high-spirited girl. They were merely
incidents of the social state into which she was born, and she pursued
her way among them, having a tolerably clear conception of what her own
life should be, with little recognition of their tendencies. Were only
her own life concerned, they would still be indifferent to her. But
something had happened. That which is counted the best thing in life had
come to her, that best thing which is the touchstone of character as it
is of all conditions, and which so often introduces inextricable
complications. She had fallen in love with Jack Delancy and married him.
The first effect of this was to awake and enlarge what philosophers would
call her enthusiasm of humanity. The second effect was to show her--and
this was what this little dinner emphasized--that she had put limitations
upon herself and taken on unthought-of responsibilities. To put this
sort of life one side, or make it secondary to her own idea of a useful
and happy life, would have been easy but for one thing--she loved Jack.
This philosophic reasoning about it does her injustice. It did not occur
to her that she could go her way and let him go his way. Nor must it be
supposed that the problem seemed as grave to her as it really was--the
danger of frittering away her own higher nature in faithfulness to one of
the noblest impulses of that nature. Yet this is the way that so many
trials of life come, and it is the greatest test of character. She felt-
as many women do feel--that if she retained her husband's love all would
be well, and the danger involved to herself probably did not cross her
But what did cross her mind was that these associations meant only evil
for Jack, and that to be absorbed in the sort of life that seemed to
please him was for her to drift away from all her ideals.
A confused notion of all this was in her thoughts when she talked with
Father Damon, while the gentlemen were in the smoking-room. She asked
him about his mission.
"The interest continues," he replied; "but your East Side, Mrs. Delancy,
is a puzzling place."
"Perhaps you'll laugh if I say there is too much intelligence."
Edith did laugh, and then said: "Then you'd better move your mission
over to this side. Here is a field of good, unadulterated worldliness.
But what, exactly, do you mean?"
"Well, the attempt of science to solve the problem of sin and
wretchedness. What can you expect when the people are socialists and
their leaders agnostics?"
"But I thought you were something of a socialist yourself!"
"So I am," he said, frankly, "when I see the present injustice, the
iniquitous laws and combinations that leave these people so little
chance. They are ignorant, and expect the impossible; but they are right
in many things, and I go with them. But my motive is not theirs. I hope
not. There is no hope except in a spiritual life. Materialism down at
the bottom of society is no better than materialism at the top. Do you
know," he went on, with increased warmth, "that pessimism is rather the
rule over that side, and that many of those who labor most among the poor
have the least hope of ever making things substantially better?"
"But such unselfish people as Dr. Leigh do a great deal of good," Edith
"Yes," he said reflecting--"yes, I have no doubt. I don't understand it.
She is not hopeful. She sees nothing beyond. I don't know what keeps
"Love of humanity, perhaps."
"I wish the phrase had never been invented. Religion of humanity!
The work is to save the souls of those people."
"But," said Edith, with a flush of earnestness "but, Father Damon, isn't
human love the greatest power to save?"
The priest looked at the girl. His face softened, and he said, more
gently, "I don't know. Of the soul, yes. But human love is so apt to
stand in the way of the higher life."
In her soul Edith resented this as an ascetic and priestly view; but she
knew his devotion to that humanity which he in vain tried to eliminate
from his austere life, and she turned the talk lightly by saying, "Ah,
that is your theory. But I am coming over soon, and shall expect you and
Dr. Leigh to take me about."
The next morning Mr. Mavick's card gave him instant admission to the
inner office of Mr. Henderson, the approach to whom was more carefully
guarded than that to the President of the United States. This was not
merely necessary to save him from the importunities of cranks who might
carry concealed dynamite arguments, but as well to protect him from
hundreds of business men with whom he was indirectly dealing, and with
whom he wished to evade explanations. He thoroughly understood the
advantages of delay. He also understood the value of the mystery that
attends inaccessibility. Even Mr. Mavick himself was impressed by the
show of ceremony, by the army of clerks, and by the signs of complete
organization. He knew that the visitor was specially favored who
penetrated these precincts so far as to get an interview, usually
fruitless, with Henderson's confidential man. This confidential man was
a very grave and confidence-begetting person, who dealt out dubious hints
and promises, and did not at all mind when Henderson found it necessary
to repudiate as unauthorized anything that had been apparently said in
his name. To be sure, this gave a general impression that Henderson was
an inscrutable man to deal with, but at the same time it was confessed
that his spoken word could be depended on. Anything written might, it is
true, lead to litigation, and this gave rise to a saying in the Street
that Henderson's word was better than his bond.
Henderson was not a politician, but he was a friend of politicians. It
was said that he contributed about equally to both sides in a political
campaign, and that this showed patriotism more than partisanship. It was
for his interest to have friends on both sides in Congress, and friends
in the Cabinet, and it was even hinted that he was concerned to have men
whose economic and financial theories accorded with his own on the
Supreme Bench. He had unlimited confidence in the power of money. His
visitor of the morning was not unlike him in many respects. He also was
not a politician. He would have described himself as a governmental man,
and had a theory of running the government with as little popular
interference as possible. He regarded himself as belonging to the
Between these two men, who each had his own interests in view, there was
naturally an apparent putting aside of reserve.
"I was very glad to make your acquaintance, Mr. Mavick," said Henderson,
cordially. "I have known of you for a long time."
"Yes? I've been in the employ of the government for some time."
"And I suppose it pays pretty well," said Henderson, smilingly.
"Oh, extravagantly," Mavick rejoined, in the same spirit. "You just
about get your board and clothes out of government. Your washing is
another thing. You are expected, you know, to have your washing done
where you vote."
"Well, it's a sure thing."
"Yes, till you are turned out. You know the theory at Washington is that
virtue is its own reward. Tom Fakeltree says it's enough."
"I wonder how he knows?"
"Observation, probably. Tom startled a dinner table the other day with
the remark that when a man once gives himself up to the full enjoyment of
a virtuous life, it seems strange to him that more people do not follow
"The trouble with the virtue of Washington is that it always wants to
interfere with other people's business. Fellows like Tom are always
hunting up mares' nests in order to be paid for breaking them up."
"I can't say about Tom," rejoined Mavick. "I suppose it is necessary to
"I suppose so. And that goes along with another proposition--that the
successful have no rights which the unsuccessful are bound to respect.
As soon as a man gets ahead," Henderson continued, with a tone of
bitterness, "the whole pack are trying to pull him down. A capitalist is
a public enemy. Why, look at that Hodge bill! Strikes directly at the
ability of the railways to develop the country. Have you seen it?"
"Yes," Mavick admitted; "the drawer of it was good enough to consult me
on its constitutionality. It's a mighty queer bill."
"It can't get through the Senate," said Henderson; "but it's a bother.
Such schemes are coming up all the time, and they unsettle business.
These fellows need watching."
"And managing," added Mavick.
"Exactly. I can't be in Washington all the time. And I need to know
what is going on every twenty-four hours from the inside. I can't rely
on politicians or lobbyists."
"Well," said Mr. Mavick, in his easiest manner, "that's easy enough.
You want a disinterested friend."
Henderson nodded, but did not even smile, and the talk went on about
other measures, and confidentially about certain men in Washington,
until, after twenty minutes' conversation, the two men came to a perfect
understanding. When Mavick arose to go they shook hands even more
cordially than at first, and Henderson said:
"Well, I expect to hear from you, and remember that our house will always
be your home in the city."
It seemed very fortunate to Jack Delancy that he should have such a
clever woman as Carmen for his confidante, a man so powerful as Henderson
as his backer, and a person so omniscient as Mavick for his friend.
No combination could be more desirable for a young man who proposed to
himself a career of getting money by adroit management and spending it in
pure and simple self-indulgence. There are plenty of men who have taken
advantage of like conditions to climb from one position to another, and
have then kicked down the ladders behind them as fast as they attained a
new footing. It was Jack's fault that he was not one of these. You
could scarcely dignify his character by saying that he had an aim, except
to saunter through life with as little personal inconvenience as
possible. His selfishness was boneless. It was not by any means
negative, for no part of his amiable nature was better developed than
regard for his own care and comfort; but it was not strong enough to give
him Henderson's capacity for hard work and even self-denial, nor Mavick's
cool, persevering skill in making a way for himself in the world.
Why was not Edith his confidante? His respect for her was undoubted; his
love for her was unquestioned; his trust in her was absolute. And yet
with either Carmen or Miss Tavish he fell into confidential revelations
of himself which instinctively he did not make to Edith. The explanation
of this is on the surface, and it is the key to half the unhappiness in
domestic life. He felt that Edith was not in sympathy with the
associations and the life he was leading. The pitiful and hopeless part
of it is that if she had been in sympathy with them, Jack would have gone
on in his frivolous career at an accelerated pace. It was not absence of
love, it was not unfaithfulness, that made Jack enjoy the hours he spent
with Carmen, or with the pleasing and not too fastidious Miss Tavish,
with a zest that was wanting to his hours at home. If he had been upon a
sinking steamboat with the three women, and could have saved only one of
them, he would not have had a moment's hesitation in rescuing Edith and
letting the other two sink out of his life. The character is not
unusual, nor the situation uncommon. What is a woman to do? Her very
virtues are enemies of her peace; if she appears as a constant check and
monitor, she repels; if she weakly acquiesces, the stream will flow over
both of them. The dilemma seems hopeless.
It would be a mistake to suppose that either Edith or Jack put their
relations in any such definite shape as this. He was unthinking. She
was too high-spirited, too confident of her position, to be assailed by
such fears. And it must be said, since she was a woman, that she had the
consciousness of power which goes along with the possession of loveliness
and keen wit. Those who knew her best knew that under her serenity was a
gay temperament, inherited from the original settlers of Manhattan, an
abounding enjoyment of life, and capacity for passion. It was early
discovered in her childhood that little Edith had a will of her own.
Lent was over. It was the time of the twittering of sparrows, of the
opening of windows, of putting in order the little sentimental spots
called "squares," where the poor children get their idea of forests, and
the rich renew their faint recollections of innocence and country life;
when the hawkers go about the streets, and the hand-organs celebrate the
return of spring and the possibility of love. Even the idle felt that it
was a time for relaxation and quiet.
"Have you answered Miss Tavish's invitation?" asked Jack one morning at
"Not yet. I shall decline today for myself."
"Why? It's for charity."
"Well, my charity extends to Miss Tavish. I don't want to see her
"That leaves me in a nice hole. I said I'd go."
"And why not? You go to a good many places you don't take me--the clubs,
brokers' offices, Stalker's, the Conventional, and--"
"Oh, go on. Why do you object to my going to see this dance?"
"My dear Jack," said Edith, "I haven't objected the least in the world;"
and her animated face sparkled with a smile, which seemed to irritate
Jack more than a frown would have done.
"I don't see why you set yourself up. I'll bet Miss Tavish will raise
more money for the Baxter Street Guild, yes, and do more good, than you
and the priest and that woman doctor slopping about on the East Side in
"Very likely," replied Edith, still with the same good-humored smile.
"But, Jack, it's delightful to see your philanthropic spirit stirred up
in this way. You ought to be encouraged. Why don't you join Miss Tavish
in this charity? I have no doubt that if it was advertised that Miss
Tavish and Mr. Jack Delancy would dance for the benefit of an East Side
guild in the biggest hall in the city, there wouldn't be standing room."
"Oh, bosh!" said Jack, getting up from his chair and striding about the
room, with more irritation than he had ever shown to Edith before.
"I wouldn't be a prude."
Edith's eyes flashed and her face flushed, but her smile came back in a
moment, and she was serene again. "Come here, Jack. Now, old fellow,
look me straight in the eyes, and tell me if you would like to have me
dance the serpentine dance before a drawing-room full of gossiping women,
with, as you say, just a few men peeping in at the doors."
Jack did look, and the serene eyes, yet dancing with amusement at the
incongruous picture, seemed to take a warmer glow of love and pleading.
"Oh, hang it! that's different," and he stooped and gave her an awkward
"I'm glad you know it's different," she said, with a laugh that had not a
trace of mockery in it; "and since you do, you'd better go along and do
your charity, and I'll stay at home, and try to be--different when you
And Jack went; with a little feeling of sheepishness that he would not
have acknowledged at the time, and he found himself in a company where he
was entirely at his ease. He admired the dancing of the blithe, graceful
girl, he applauded her as the rest did with hand-clapping and bravas, and
said it was ravishing. It all suited him perfectly. And somehow, in the
midst of it all, in the sensuous abandon of this electric-light
eccentricity at mid-day, he had a fleeting vision of something very
different, of a womanhood of another sort, and a flush came to his face
for a moment as he imagined Edith in a skirt dance under the gaze of this
sensation-loving society. But this was only for a moment. When he
congratulated Miss Tavish his admiration was entirely sincere; and the
girl, excited with her physical triumph, seemed to him as one emancipated
out of acquired prudishness into the Greek enjoyment of life. Miss
Tavish, who would not for the world have violated one of the social
conventions of her set, longed, as many women do, for the sort of freedom
and the sort of applause which belongs to women who succeed upon the
stage. Not that she would have forfeited her position by dancing at a
theatre for money; but; within limits, she craved the excitement, the
abandon, the admiration, that her grace and passion could win. This was
not at all the ambition which led the Egyptian queen Hatshepsu to assume
the dress of a man, but rather that more famous aspiration which led the
daughter of Herodias, in a pleasure-loving court, to imitate and excel
the professional dancing-girls. If in this inclination of the women of
the day, which is not new, but has characterized all societies to which
wealth has brought idleness, there was a note of demoralization, it did
not seem so to Jack, who found the world day by day more pleasing and
As the months went by, everything prospered with him on his drifting
voyage. Of all voyages, that is the easiest to make which has no port in
view, that depends upon the varying winds, if the winds happen to be soft
and the chance harbors agreeable. Jack was envied, thanks to Henderson.
He was lucky in whatever he touched. Without any change in his idle
habits, and with no more attention to business than formerly, money came
to him so freely that he not only had a complacent notion that he was a
favorite of fortune, but the idea of his own importance in the financial
world increased enormously, much to the amusement of Mavick, when he was
occasionally in the city, to whom he talked somewhat largely of his
operations, and who knew that he had no more comprehension of the sweep
of Henderson's schemes than a baby has of the stock exchange when he
claps his hands with delight at the click of the ticker.
His prosperity was visible. It showed in the increase of his accounts
at the Union, in his indifference to limits in the game of poker, in a
handsome pair of horses which he insisted on Edith's accepting for her
own use, in an increased scale of living at home, in the hundred ways
that a man of fashion can squander money in a luxurious city. If he did
not haunt the second-hand book-shops or the stalls of dealers in
engravings, or bring home as much bric-a-brac as he once had done, it was
because his mind was otherwise engaged; his tailor's bills were longer,
and there were more expensive lunches at the clubs, at which there was a
great deal of sage talk about stocks and combinations, and much wisdom
exhibited in regard to wines; and then there were the little suppers at
Wherry's after the theatres, which a bird could have eaten and a fish
have drunken, and only a spendthrift have paid for.
"It is absurd," Edith had said one night after their return. "It makes
us ridiculous in the eyes of anybody but fools." And Jack had flared up
about it, and declared that he knew what he could afford, and she had
retorted that as for her she would not countenance it. And Jack had
attempted to pass it off lightly, at last, by saying, "Very well then,
dear, if you won't back me, I shall have to rely upon my bankers."
At any rate, neither Carmen nor Miss Tavish took him to task. They
complimented him on his taste, and Carmen made him feel that she
appreciated his independence and his courage in living the life that
suited him. She knew, indeed, how much he made in his speculations, how
much he lost at cards; she knew through him the gossip of the clubs, and
venturing herself not too far at sea, liked to watch the undertow of
fashionable life. And she liked Jack, and was not incapable of throwing
him a rope when the hour came that he was likely to be swept away by that
It was remarked at the Union, and by the men in the Street who knew him,
that Jack was getting rapid. But no one thought the less of him for his
pace--that is, no one appeared to, for this sort of estimate of a man is
only tested by his misfortunes, when the day comes that he must seek
financial backing. In these days he was generally in an expansive mood,
and his free hand and good-humor increased his popularity. There were
those who said that there were millions of family money back of Jack, and
that he had recently come in for something handsome.
But this story did not deceive Major Fairfax, whose business it was to
know to a dot the standing of everybody in society, in which he was a
sort of oracle and privileged favorite. No one could tell exactly how
the Major lived; no one knew the rigid economy that he practiced; no one
had ever seen his small dingy chamber in a cheap lodging-house. The name
of Fairfax was as good as a letter of introduction in the metropolis, and
the Major had lived on it for years, on that and a carefully nursed
little income--an habitue of the club, and a methodical cultivator of the
art of dining out. A most agreeable man, and perhaps the wisest man in
his generation in those things about which it would be as well not to
Seated one afternoon in his favorite corner for street observation, by
the open window, with the evening paper in his hand, in the attitude of
one expecting the usual five o'clock cocktail, he hailed Jack, who was
just coming down-stairs from a protracted lunch.
"I say, Delancy, what's this I hear?"
"About what?" said Jack, sauntering along to a seat opposite the Major,
and touching a bell on the little table as he sat down. Jack's face was
flushed, but he talked with unusual slowness and distinctness. "What
have you heard, Major?"
"That you have bought Benham's yacht."
"No, I haven't; but I was turning the thing over in my mind," Jack
replied, with the air of a man declining an appointment in the Cabinet.
"He offers it cheap."
"My dear boy, there is no such thing as a cheap yacht, any more than
there is a cheap elephant."
"It's better to buy than build," Jack insisted. "A man's got to have
"Recreation! Why don't you charter a Fifth Avenue stage and take your
friends on a voyage to the Battery? That'll make 'em sick enough." It
was a misery of the Major's life that, in order to keep in with necessary
friends, he had to accept invitations for cruises on yachts, and pretend
he liked it. Though he had the gout, he vowed he would rather walk to
Newport than go round Point Judith in one of those tipping tubs. He had
tried it, and, as he said afterwards, "The devil of it was that Mrs.
Henderson and Miss Tavish sympathized with me. Gad! it takes away a
person's manhood, that sort of thing."
The Major sipped his bitters, and then added: "Or I'll tell you what; if
you must do something, start a newspaper--the drama, society, and
letters, that sort of thing, with pictures. I heard Miss Tavish say she
wished she had a newspaper."
"But," said Jack, with gravity, "I'm not buying a yacht for Miss Tavish."
"I didn't suppose you were. Devilish fine girl, though. I don't care
who you buy it for if you don't buy it for yourself. Why don't you buy
it for Henderson? He can afford it."
"I'd like to know what you mean, Major Fairfax!" cried Jack. "What
"There!" exclaimed the Major, sinking back in his chair, with a softened
expression in his society beaten face. "It's no use of nonsense, Jack.
I'm an average old sinner, and I'm not old enough yet to like a milksop.
But I've known you since you were so high, and I knew your father; he
used to stay weeks on my plantation when we were both younger. And your
mother--that was a woman!--did me a kindness once when I was in a d---d
tight place, and I never forgot it. See here, Jack, if I had money
enough I'd buy a yacht and put Carmen and Miss Tavish on it, and send
them off on the longest voyage there is."
"Who's been talking?" exclaimed Jack, touched a little, but very much
"The town, Jack. Don't mind the talk. People always talk. I suppose
people talk about me: At your age I should have been angry too at a hint
even from an old friend. But I've learned. It doesn't pay. I don't get
angry any more. Now there's Henderson--"
"What have you got against Henderson?"
"Nothing. He is a very good fellow, for that sort of man. But, Lord!
Henderson is a big machine. You might as well try to stand in with a
combination of gang-saws, or to make friends with the Department of the
Interior. Look at the men who have gone in with Henderson from time to
time. The ground is strewn with them. He's got no more feeling in
business than a reaper-and-binder."
"I don't know what Henderson's got to do with my having a yacht."
"I beg your pardon, Jack; it's none of my business. Only I do not put my
investments"--Jack smiled faintly, as if the conversation were taking a
humorous turn--"at the mercy of Henderson's schemes. If I did, I
wouldn't try to run a yacht at the same time. I should be afraid that
some day when I got to sea I should find myself out of coal. You know,
my boy, that the good book says you cannot serve two masters."
"Nobody ever accused you of that, Major," retorted Jack, with a laugh.
"But what two have you in mind?"
"Oh, I don't mean anything personal. I just use names as typical. Say
Henderson and Carmen." And the Major leaned back and tapped his fingers
together, as if he were putting a general proposition.
Jack flushed, and then thought a moment--it would be ridiculous to get
angry with old Fairfax--and then said: "Major, if I were you, I wouldn't
have anything to do with either of them. You'll spoil your digestion."
"Umph!" the Major grunted, as he rose from his chair. "This is an age of
impudence. There's no more respect for gray hair than if it were dyed.
I cannot waste any more time on you. I've got an early dinner. Devilish
uphill work trying to encourage people who dine at seven. But, my boy,
think on these things, as the saint says."
And the old fellow limped away. There was one good thing about the
Major. He stood up in church every Sunday and read his prayers, like a
faithful old sinner as he was.
Jack, sobered by the talk, walked home in a very irritated mood, blaming
everybody except himself. For old Fairfax's opinion he didn't care, but
evidently the old fellow represented a lot of gossip. He wished people
would mind their own business. His irritation was a little appeased by
Edith's gay and loving greeting; but she, who knew every shade of his
face, saw it.
"Have you had a worrying day?"
"No; not specially. I've had an hour of old Fairfax, who hasn't any
business of his own to attend to."
"Oh, nobody minds the Major," Edith said, as she gave him a shake and
another kiss; but a sharp pang went through her heart, for she guessed
what had happened, since she had had a visit that afternoon from another
They were staying late in town. Edith, who did not care to travel far,
was going presently to a little cottage by the sea, and Mrs. Schuyler
Blunt had looked in for a moment to say good-by before she went up to her
"It's only an old farmhouse made over," Mrs. Blunt was saying; "hardly
smart enough to ask anybody to, but we hope to have you and Jack there
"That would be very nice. I hear Lenox is more beautiful than ever."
"Yes, it is, and about as difficult to get into as the kingdom of heaven.
It's being spoiled for moderate people. The Hendersons and the Van Dams
and that sort are in a race to see who shall build houses with the
biggest rooms, and give the most expensive entertainments. It's all
show. The old flavor has gone."
"But they cannot spoil the scenery.".
"My child, they are the scenery. You can't see anything else. It
doesn't bother me, but some of my old neighbors are just ruining
themselves trying to keep the pace. I do think the Americans are the
biggest fools on earth."
"Father Damon says the trouble is we haven't any middle class for a
"Yes, that's the English of it. But it's a pity that fashion has got
hold of the country, and is turning our summers into a worry and a
burden. I thought years ago when we went to Lenox that it was a good
thing the country was getting to be the fashion; but now it's
fashionable, and before we know it every desirable spot will be what they
call syndicated. Miss Tavish says she is coming to visit the Hendersons
"I thought she went to Bar Harbor."
"But she is coming down for part of the season. These people don't stay
anywhere. Just long enough in one place to upset everything with their
extravagance. That's the reason I didn't ask you and Jack up this
"Thank you, we couldn't go, you know," said Edith, simply, and then, with
curiosity in her eyes, asked; "but I don't quite understand what's the
"Well," said Mrs. Blunt, as if nerving herself up to say what must be
said, "I thought perhaps you wouldn't like to be where they are."
"I don't know why I should or why I should not," Edith replied.
"Nor have Jack with them," continued Mrs. Blunt, stoutly.
"What do you mean, Mrs. Blunt?" cried Edith, her brown eyes flaming.
"Don't turn on me, Edith dear. I oughtn't to have said anything. But I
thought it was my duty. Of course it is only talk."
"That Jack is always with one or the other of those women."
"It is false!" cried Edith, starting up, with tears now in her eyes;
"it's a cruel lie if it means anything wrong in Jack. So am I with those
women; so are you. It's a shame. If you hear any one say such things,
you can tell them for me that I despise them."
"I said it was a shame, all such talk. I said it was nonsense. But,
dear, as a friend, oughtn't I to tell you?" And the kind-hearted gossip
put her arm round Edith, and kept saying that she perfectly understood
it, and that nobody really meant anything. But Edith was crying now,
with a heart both hurt and indignant.
"It's a most hateful world, I know," Mrs, Blunt answered; "but it's the
best we have, and it's no use to fret about it."
When the visitor had gone, Edith sat a long time in misery. It was the
first real shock of her married life. And in her heart she prayed. For
Jack? Oh no. The dear girl prayed for herself, that suspicions might
not enter her heart. She could not endure that the world should talk
thus of him. That was all. And when she had thought it all over and
grown calm, she went to her desk and wrote a note to Carmen. It asked
Mrs. Henderson, as they were so soon to leave town, to do her the favor
to come round informally and lunch with her the next day, and afterwards
perhaps a little drive in the Park.
Jack was grateful for Edith's intervention. He comprehended that she had
stepped forward as a shield to him in the gossip about Carmen. He showed
his appreciation in certain lover-like attentions and in a gayety of
manner, but it was not in his nature to feel the sacrifice she had made
or its full magnanimity; he was relieved, and in a manner absolved.
Another sort of woman might have made him very uncomfortable. Instead of
being rebuked he had a new sense of freedom.
"Not one woman in a thousand would have done it," was the comment of
Major Fairfax when he heard of the drive in the Park. "Gad! most of 'em
would have cut Carmen dead and put Jack in Coventry, and then there would
have been the devil to pay. It takes quality, though; she's such a woman
as Jack's mother. If there were not one of them now and then society
would deliquesce." And the Major knew, for his principal experience had
been with a deliquescent society.
Whether Carmen admired Mrs. Delancy or thought her weak it is impossible
to say, but she understood the advances made and responded to them, for
they fell in perfectly with her social plans. She even had the face to
eulogize Mrs. Delancy to Jack, her breadth of view, her lack of
prejudice, and she had even dared to say, "My dear friend, she is too
good for us," and Jack had not protested, but with a laugh had accepted
the implication of his position on a lower moral level. Perhaps he did
not see exactly what it meant, this being on confidential terms about his
wife with another woman; all he cared for at the moment was that the
comradeship of Miss Tavish and Carmen was agreeable to him. They were no
restraint upon him. So long as they remained in town the exchange of
civilities was kept up. Carmen and Miss Tavish were often at his house,
and there was something reassuring to Jack in the openness with which
affairs went on.
Early in June Edith went down to their rented cottage on the south Long
Island shore. In her delicate health the doctor had recommended the
seaside, and this locality as quiet and restful, and not too far from the
whirl of the city. The place had a charm of its own, the charm, namely,
of a wide sky, illimitable, flashing, changing sea, rolling in from the
far tropical South with its message of romance to the barren Northern
shore, and the pure sand dunes, the product of the whippings of tempests
and wild weather. The cottage was in fact an old farmhouse, not an
impertinent, gay, painted piece of architecture set on the sand like a
tent for a month, but a solid, ugly, fascinating habitation, with barns
and outhouses, and shrubs, and an old garden--a place with a salty air
friendly to delicate spring blossoms and summer fruits and foliage.
If it was a farmhouse, the sea was an important part of the farm, and the
low-ceiled rooms suggested cabins; it required little imagination to
fancy that an East-Indian ship had some time come ashore and settled in
the sand, that it had been remodeled and roofed over, and its sides
pierced with casement windows, over which roses had climbed in order to
bind the wanderer to the soil. It had been painted by the sun and the
wind and the salt air, so that its color depended upon the day, and it
was sometimes dull and almost black, or blue-black, under a lowering sky,
and again a golden brown, especially at sunset, and Edith, feeling its
character rather than its appearance to ordinary eyes, had named it the
Golden House. Nature is such a beautiful painter of wood.
With Edith went one of her Baltimore cousins, a young kindergarten
teacher of fine intelligence and sympathetic manner, who brought to her
work a long tradition of gentle breeding and gayety and simplicity--
qualities which all children are sure to recognize. What a hopeful thing
it is, by-the-way, in the world, that all conditions of people know a
lady at sight! Jack found the place delightful. He liked its
quaintness, the primitiveness of the farmer-fisherman neighbors, he liked
the sea. And then he could run up to the city any morning and back at
night. He spent the summer with Edith at the Golden House. This was his
theory. When he went to town in the morning he expected to return at
night. But often he telegraphed in the afternoon that he was detained by
business; he had to see Henderson, or Mavick was over from Washington.
Occasionally, but not often, he missed the train. He had too keen a
sense of the ridiculous to miss the train often. When he was detained
over for two or three days, or the better part of the week, he wrote
Edith dashing, hurried letters, speaking of ever so many places he had
been to and ever so many people he had seen--yes, Carmen and Miss Tavish
and everybody who was in town, and he did not say too much about the hot
city and its discomforts.
Henderson's affairs kept him in town, Miss Tavish still postponed Bar
Harbor, and Carmen willingly remained. She knew the comfort of a big New
York house when the season is over, when no social duties are required,
and one is at leisure to lounge about in cool costumes, to read or dream,
to open the windows at night for the salt breeze from the bay, to take
little excursions by boat or rail, to dine al fresco in the garden of
some semi-foreign hotel, to taste the unconventional pleasures of the
town, as if one were in some foreign city. She used to say that New York
in matting and hollands was almost as nice as Buda-Pesth. These were
really summer nights, operatic sorts of nights, with music floating in
the air, gay groups in the streets, a stage imitation of nature in the
squares with the thick foliage and the heavy shadows cast on the asphalt
by the electric lights, the brilliant shops, the nonsense of the summer
theatres, where no one expected anything, and no one was disappointed,
the general air of enjoyment, and the suggestion of intrigue. Sometimes,
when Mavick was over, a party was made up for the East Side, to see the
foreign costumes, the picturesque street markets, the dime museums, and
the serious, tragical theatres of the people. The East Side was left
pretty much to itself, now that the winter philanthropists had gone away,
and was enjoying its summer nights and its irresponsible poverty.
They even looked in at Father Damon's chapel, the dimly lighted fragrant
refuge from the world and from sin. Why not? They were interested in
the morals of the region. Had not Miss Tavish danced for one of the
guilds; and had not Carmen given Father Damon a handsome check in support
of his mission? It was so satisfactory to go into such a place and see
the penitents kneeling here and there, the little group of very plainly
dressed sinners attracted by Father Damon's spiritual face and unselfish
enthusiasm. Carmen said she felt like kneeling at one of the little
boxes and confessing--the sins of her neighbors. And then the four-
Carmen, Miss Tavish, Mavick, and Jack--had a little supper at Wherry's,
which they enjoyed all the more for the good action of visiting the East
Side--a little supper which lasted very late, and was more and more
enjoyed as it went on, and was, in fact, so gay that when the ladies were
set down at their houses, Jack insisted on dragging Mavick off to the
Beefsteak Club and having something manly to drink; and while they drank
he analyzed the comparative attractions of Carmen and Miss Tavish; he
liked that kind of women, no nonsense in them; and presently he wandered
a little and lost the cue of his analysis, and, seizing Mavick by the
arm, and regarding him earnestly, in a burst of confidence declared that,
notwithstanding all appearances, Edith was the dearest girl in the world.
It was at this supper that the famous society was formed, which the
newspapers ridiculed, and which deceived so many excellent people in New
York because it seemed to be in harmony with the philanthropic endeavor
of the time, but which was only an expression of the Mephistophelian
spirit of Carmen--the Society for Supplying Two Suspenders to Those who
have only One.
By the end of June there was no more doubt about the heat of the town
than about its odors. The fashionable residence part was dismantled and
deserted. At least miles and miles of houses seemed to be closed.
Few carriages were seen in this quarter, the throngs of fashion had
disappeared, comparatively few women were about, and those that appeared
in the Sunday promenade were evidently sight-seers and idlers from other
quarters; the throng of devotees was gone from the churches, and indeed
in many of them services were suspended till a more convenient season.
The hotels, to be sure, were full of travelers, and the club-houses had
more habitues than usual, and were more needed by the members whose
families had gone into the country.
Notwithstanding the silence and vacation aspect of up-town, the public
conveyances were still thronged, and a census would have shown no such
diminution of population as seemed. Indeed, while nobody was in town,
except accidentally, the greater portion of it presented a more animated
appearance than usual, especially at night, on account of the open
windows, the groups on door-steps and curb-stones, and the restless
throng in the streets-buyers and sellers and idlers. To most this
outdoor life was a great enjoyment, and to them the unclean streets with
the odors and exhalations of decay were homelike and congenial. Nor did
they seem surprised that a new country should so completely reproduce the
evil smells and nastiness of the old civilization. It was all familiar
and picturesque. Work still went on in the crowded tenement-houses, and
sickness simply changed its character, death showing an increased
friendliness to young children. Some impression was of course made by
the agents of various charities, the guilds and settlements bravely
strove at their posts, some of the churches kept their flags flying on
the borders of the industrial districts, the Good Samaritans of the
Fresh-air Fund were active, the public dispensaries did a thriving
business, and the little band of self-sacrificing doctors, most of them
women, went their rounds among the poor, the sick, and the friendless.
Among them Ruth Leigh was one who never took a vacation. There was no
time for it. The greater the heat, the more noisome the town, the more
people became ill from decaying food and bad air and bad habits, the more
people were hungry from improvidence or lack of work, the more were her
daily visits a necessity; and though she was weary of her monotonous
work, and heart-sick at its small result in such a mass, there never came
a day when she could quit it. She made no reputation in her profession
by this course; perhaps she awoke little gratitude from those she served,
and certainly had not so much of their confidence as the quacks who
imposed upon them and took their money; and she was not heartened much by
hope of anything better in this world or any other; and as for pay, if
there was enough of that to clothe her decently, she apparently did not
spend it on herself.
It was, in short, wholly inexplicable that this little woman should
simply go about doing good, without any ulterior purpose whatever, not
even notoriety. Did she love these people? She did not ever say
anything about that. In the Knights of Labor circle, and in the little
clubs for the study of social questions, which she could only get leisure
to attend infrequently, she was not at all demonstrative about any
religion of humanity. Perhaps she simply felt that she was a part of
these people, and that whether they rejected her or received her, there
was nothing for her to do but to give herself to them. She would
probably have been surprised if Father Damon had told her that she was in
this following a great example, and there might have been a tang of
agnostic bitterness in her reply. When she thought of it the condition
seemed to her hopeless, and the attitude of what was called civilization
towards it so remorseless and indifferent, and that of Christianity so
pharisaical. If she ever lost her temper, it was when she let her mind
run in this nihilistic channel, in bitterness against the whole social
organization, and the total outcome of civilization so far as the mass of
humanity is concerned.
One day Father Damon climbed up to the top of a wretched tenement in
Baxter Street in search of a German girl, an impulsive and pretty girl of
fifteen, whom he had missed for several days at the chapel services.
He had been in the room before. It was not one of the worst, for though
small and containing a cook-stove, a large bed, and a chest of drawers,
there was an attempt to make it tidy. In a dark closet opening out from
it was another large bed. As he knocked and opened the door, he saw that
Gretchen was not at home. Her father sat in a rocking-chair by an open
window, on the sill of which stood a pot of carnations, the Easter gift
of St. George's, a wax-faced, hollow-eyed man of gentle manners, who
looked round wearily at the priest. The mother was washing clothes in a
tub in one corner; in another corner was a half-finished garment from a
slop-shop. The woman alternated the needle at night and the tub in the
daytime. Seated on the bed, with a thin, sick child in her arms, was Dr.
Leigh. As she looked up a perfectly radiant smile illuminated her
usually plain face, an unworldly expression of such purity and happiness
that she seemed actually beautiful to the priest, who stopped,
hesitating, upon the threshold.
"Oh, you needn't be afraid to come in, Father Damon," she cried out; "it
isn't contagious--only rash."
Father Damon, who would as readily have walked through a pestilence as in
a flower-garden, only smiled at this banter, and replied, after speaking
to the sick man, and returning in German the greeting of the woman, who
had turned from the tub, "I've no doubt you are disappointed that it
isn't contagious!" And then, to the mother: "Where is Gretchen? She
doesn't come to the chapel."
"Nein," replied the woman, in a mixture of German and English, "it don't
come any more in dot place; it be in a shtore now; it be good girl."
"What, all day?"
"Yaas, by six o'clock, and abends so spate. Not much it get, but my man
can't earn nothing any more." And the woman, as she looked at him, wiped
her eyes with the corner of her apron.
"But, on Sunday?" Father Damon asked, still further.
"Vell, it be so tired, and goed up by de Park with Dick Loosing and dem
"Don't you think it better, Father Damon," Dr. Leigh interposed, "that
Gretchen should have fresh air and some recreation on Sunday?"
"Und such bootiful tings by de Museum," added the mother.
"Perhaps," said he, with something like a frown on his face, and then
changed the subject to the sick child. He did not care to argue the
matter when Dr. Leigh was present, but he resolved to come again and
explain to the mother that her daughter needed some restraining power
other than her own impulse, and that without religious guidance she was
pretty certain to drift into frivolous and vulgar if not positively bad
ways. The father was a free-thinker; but Father Damon thought he had
some hold on the mother, who was of the Lutheran communion, but had
followed her husband so far as to become indifferent to anything but
their daily struggle for life. Yet she had a mother's instinct about the
danger to her daughter, and had been pleased to have her go to Father
And, besides, he could not bring himself in that presence to seem to
rebuke Ruth Leigh. Was she not practically doing what his Lord did--
going about healing the sick, sympathizing with the poor and the
discouraged, taking upon herself the burden of the disconsolate,
literally, without thought of self, sharing, as it were, the misery and
sin of this awful city? And today, for the first time, he seemed to have
seen the woman in her--or was it the saint? and he recalled that
wonderful illumination of her plain face that made her actually beautiful
as she looked up from the little waif of humanity she held in her arms.
It had startled him, and struck a new chord in his heart, and planted a
new pang there that she had no belief in a future life.
It did not occur to him that the sudden joy in her face might have been
evoked by seeing him, for it was a long time since she had seen him. Nor
did he think that the pang at his heart had another cause than religious
anxiety. Ah, priest and worldly saint, how subtle and enduring are the
primal instincts of human nature!
"Yes," he said, as they walked away, in reply to her inquiry as to his
absence, "I have been in retreat a couple of weeks."
"I suppose," she said, softly, "you needed the rest; though," and she
looked at him professionally, "if you will allow me to say it, it seems
to me that you have not rested enough."
"I needed strength"--and it was the priest that spoke--" in meditation
and prayer to draw upon resources not my own."
"And in fasting, too, I dare say," she added, with a little smile.
"And why not?" he asked.
"Pardon me," she said; "I don't pretend to know what you need. I need to
eat, though Heaven knows it's hard enough to keep up an appetite down
here. But it is physical endurance you need for the work here. Do you
think fasting strengthens you to go through your work night and day?"
"I know I couldn't do it on my own strength." And Dr. Leigh recalled
times when she had seen him officiating in the chapel apparently
sustained by nothing but zeal and pure spirit, and wondered that he did
not faint and fall. And faint and fall he did, she was sure, when the
service was over.
"Well, it may be necessary to you, but not as an example to these people.
I see enough involuntary fasting."
"We look at these people from different points of view, I fear." And
after a moment he said: "But, doctor, I wanted to ask you about Gretchen.
You see her?"
"Occasionally. She works too many hours, but she seems to be getting on
very well, and brings her mother all she earns."
"Do you think she is able to stand alone?"
Dr. Leigh winced a little at this searching question, for no one knew
better than she the vulgarizing influence of street life and chance
associations upon a young girl, and the temptations. She was even forced
to admit the value in the way of restraint, as a sort of police force,
of the church and priestly influence, especially upon girls at the
susceptible age. But she knew that Father Damon meant something more
than this, and so she answered:
"But people have got to stand alone. She might as well begin."
"But she is so young."
"Yes, I know. She is in the way of temptation, but so long as she works
industriously, and loves her mother, and feels the obligation, which the
poor very easily feel, of doing her share for the family, she is not in
so much moral danger as other girls of her age who lead idle and self-
indulgent lives. The working-girls of the city learn to protect
"And you think this is enough, without any sort of religion--that this
East Side can go on without any spiritual life?"
Ruth Leigh made a gesture of impatience. In view of the actual struggle
for existence she saw around her, this talk seemed like cant. And she
"I don't know that anything can go on. Let me ask you a question, Father
Damon. Do you think there is any more spirituality, any more of the
essentials of what you call Christianity, in the society of the other
side than there is on the East Side?"
"It is a deep question, this of spirituality," replied Father Damon, who
was in the depths of his proselyting action a democrat and in sympathy
with the people, and rated quite at its full value the conventional
fashion in religion. "I shouldn't like to judge, but there is a great
body of Christian men and women in this city who are doing noble work."
"Yes," replied the little doctor, bitterly, "trying to save themselves.
How many are trying to save others--others except the distant and foreign
"You surely cannot ignore," replied the father, still speaking mildly,
"the immense amount of charitable work done by the churches!"
"Yes, I know; charity, charity, the condescension of the rich to the
poor. What we want are understanding, fellowship, and we get alms!
If there is so much spirituality as you say, and Christianity is what you
say it is today, how happens it that this side is left in filth and
misery and physical wretchedness? You know what it is, and you know the
luxury elsewhere. And you think to bridge over the chasm between classes
with flowers, in pots, yes, and Bible-readers and fashionable visitors
and little aid societies--little palliatives for an awful state of
things. Why, look at it! Last winter the city authorities hauled off
the snow and the refuse from the fashionable avenues, and dumped it down
in the already blockaded and filthy side streets, and left us to struggle
with the increased pneumonia and diphtheria, and general unsanitary
conditions. And you wonder that the little nihilist groups and labor
organizations and associations of agnostics, as you call them, meeting to
study political economy and philosophy, say that the existing state of
things has got to be overturned violently, if those who have the power
and the money continue indifferent."
"I do not wonder," replied Father Damon, sadly. "The world is evil, and I
should be as despairing as you are if I did not know there was another
life and another world. I couldn't bear it. Nobody could."
"And all you've got to offer, then, to this mass of wretchedness,
poverty, ignorance, at close quarters with hunger and disease, is to grin
and bear it, in hope of a reward somewhere else!"
"I think you don't quite--"
The doctor looked up and saw a look of pain on the priest's face.
"Oh," she hastened to say, almost as impetuously as she had spoken
before, "I don't mean you--I don't mean you. I know what you do. Pardon
me for speaking so. I get so discouraged sometimes." They stood still a
moment, looking up and down the hot, crowded, odorful street they were
in, with its flaunting rags of poverty and inefficiency. "I see so
little result of what I can do, and there is so little help."
"I know," said the father, as they moved along. "I don't see how you
can bear it alone."
This touched a sore spot, and aroused Ruth Leigh's combativeness.
It seemed to her to approach the verge of cant again. But she knew the
father's absolute sincerity; she felt she had already said too much; and
she only murmured, as if to herself, "If we could only know." And then,
after a moment, she asked, "Do you, Father Damon, see any sign of
anything better here?"
"Yes, today." And he spoke very slowly and hesitatingly. "If you will
excuse the personality of it. When I entered that room today, and saw
you with that sick child in your arms, and comprehended what it all
meant, I had a great wave of hope, and I knew, just then, that there is
coming virtue enough in the world to redeem it."
Ruth was confounded. Her heart seemed to stand still, and then the hot
blood flowed into her face in a crimson flood. "Ah," escaped from her
lips, and she walked on more swiftly, not daring to look up. This from
him! This recognition from the ascetic father! If one of her dispensary
comrades had said it, would she have been so moved?
And afterwards, when she had parted from him, and gone to her little
room, the hot flush again came to her neck and brow, and she saw his
pale, spiritual face, and could hear the unwonted tenderness of his
voice. Yes, Father Damon had said it of her.
The question has been very much discussed whether the devil, in temperate
latitudes, is busier in the summer or in the winter. When Congress and
the various State legislatures are in session, and the stock and grain
exchanges are most active, and society is gayest, and the churches and
benevolent and reformatory associations are most aggressive--at this
season, which is the cool season, he seems to be most animated and
But is not this because he is then most opposed? The stream may not flow
any faster because it is dammed, but it exhibits at the obstructed points
greater appearance of agitation. Many people are under the impression
that when they stop fighting there is a general truce: There is reason to
believe that the arch enemy is pleased with this impression, that he
likes a truce, and that it is his best opportunity, just as the weeds in
the garden, after a tempest, welcome the sun and the placidity of the
elements. It is well known that in summer virtue suffers from inertia,
and that it is difficult to assemble the members of any vigilant
organization, especially in cities, where the flag of the enemy is never
lowered. But wherever the devil is there is always a quorum present for
business. It is not his plan to seek an open fight, and many observers
say that he gains more ground in summer than in any other season, and
this notwithstanding people are more apt to lose their tempers, and even
become profane, in the aggravations of what is known as spring than at
any other time. The subject cannot be pursued here, but there is ground
for supposing that the devil prefers a country where the temperature is
high and pretty uniform.
At any rate, it is true that the development of character is not arrested
by any geniality or languor of nature. By midsummer the Hendersons were
settled in Lenox, where the Blunts had long been, and Miss Tavish and her
party of friends were at Bar Harbor. Henderson was compelled to be in
the city most of the time, and Jack Delancy fancied that business
required his presence there also; but he had bought a yacht, and
contemplated a voyage, with several of the club men, up the Maine coast.
"No, I thank you," Major Fairfax had said; "I know an easier way to get
to Bar Harbor."
Jack was irritable and restless, to be sure, in the absence of the sort
of female society he had become accustomed to; but there were many
compensations in his free-and-easy bachelor life, in his pretense of
business, which consisted in watching the ticker, as it is called,
in an occasional interview with Henderson, and in the floating summer
amusements of the relaxed city. There was nothing unusual in this life
except that he needed a little more stimulation, but this was not strange
in the summer, and that he devoted more time to poker--but everybody
knows that a person comes out about even in the game of poker if he keeps
at it long enough--there was nothing unusual in this, only it was giving
Jack a distaste for the quiet and it seemed to him the restraint of the
Golden House down by the sea. And he was more irritable there than
elsewhere. It is so difficult to estimate an interior deterioration of
this sort, for Jack was just as popular with his comrades as ever, and
apparently more prosperous.
It is true that Jack had had other ideas when he was courting Edith
Fletcher, and at moments, at any rate, different aspirations from any he
had now. With her at that time there had been nobler aspirations about
life. But now she was his wife. That was settled. And not only that,
but she was the best woman he knew; and if she were not his wife, he
would spare no effort to win her. He felt sure of that. He did not put
it to himself in the way an Oriental would do, "That is finished"; but it
was an act done--a good act--and here was his world again, with a hundred
interests, and there were people besides Edith to be thought of, other
women and men, and affairs. Because a man was married, was he to be shut
up to one little narrow career, that of husband? Probably it did not
occur to him that women take a different view of this in the singleness
of their purpose and faith. Edith, for instance, knew or guessed that
Jack had no purpose in life that was twenty-four hours old; but she had
faith--and no amount of observation destroys this faith in women--that
marriage would inspire him with energy and ambition to take a man's place
in the world.
With most men marriage is un fait accompli. Jack had been lucky, but
there was, no doubt, truth in an observation of Mavick's. One night as
they sat at the club Jack had asked him a leading question, apropos of
Henderson's successful career: "Mavick, why don't you get married?"
"I have never," he replied, with his usual cynical deliberation, "been
obliged to. The fact is, marriage is a curb-bit. Some horses show off
better with it, and some are enraged and kick over the traces. I cannot
decide which I would be."
"That's true enough," said Jack, "from a bachelor's point of view of
independence, but it's really a question of matching."
"The most difficult thing in the world--in horses. Just about impossible
in temperament and movement, let alone looks. Most men are lucky if they
get, like Henderson, a running mate."
"I see," said Jack, who knew something about the Henderson household,
"your idea of a pair is that they should go single."
Mavick laughed, and said something about the ideas of women changing so
much lately that nobody could tell what the relation of marriage would
become, and Jack, who began to feel that he was disloyal, changed the
subject. To do him justice, he would have been ashamed for Edith to hear
this sort of flippant and shallow talk, which wouldn't have been at all
out of place with Carmen or Miss Tavish.
"I wanted to ask you, Mavick, as a friend, do you think Henderson is
"Nobody is safe. Henderson is as safe as anybody. You can rely on what
he says. But there's a good deal he doesn't say. Anything wrong?"
"Not that I know. I've been pretty lucky. But the fact is, I've gone in
"Well, it's a game. Henderson plays it, as everybody does, for himself.
I like Henderson. He plays to win, and generally does. But, you know,
if one man wins, somebody else has got to lose in this kind of industry."
"But Henderson looks out for his friends?"
"Yes--when it doesn't cost too much. Times may come when a man has to
look out for himself. Wealth isn't made out of nothing. There must be
streams into the reservoir. These great accumulations of one--you can
see that--must be made up of countless other men's small savings.
There's Uncle Jerry. He operates a good deal with Henderson, and they'd
incline to help each other out. But Uncle Jerry says he's got a small
pond of his own, and he's careful not to connect it with Henderson's
"What do you think of Missouri?"
"What do I think of the Milky Way? It doesn't much matter to me what
becomes of Missouri, unless Henderson should happen to get smashed in it,
and that isn't what he is there for. But when you look at the
combinations, and the dropping-off of roads that have been drained,
and the scaling down in refunding, and the rearranging, and the strikes,
how much chance do you think the small fry stand? I don't doubt that
Henderson will make a big thing out of it, and there will be lots of
howling by those who were not so smart, and the newspapers will say that
Henderson was too strong for them. What we respect nowadays are
adroitness and strength."
"It's an exciting game," Mavick continued, after a moment's pause.
"Let me know if you get uneasy. But I'll tell you what it is, Jack;
if I had a comfortable income, I wouldn't risk it in any speculation.
There is a good deal that is interesting going on in this world, and I
like to be in it; but the best plan for a man who has anything is, as
Uncle Jerry says, to sail close and salt down."
The fact was that Mavick's connection with Henderson was an appreciable
addition to his income, and it was not a bad thing for Henderson.
Mavick's reputation for knowing the inside of everything and being close-
mouthed actually brought him confidences; that which at first was a
clever assumption became a reality, and his reputation was so established
for being behind the scenes that he was not believed when he honestly
professed ignorance of anything. His modest disclaimer merely increased
the impression that he was deep. Henderson himself had something of the
Bismarck trait of brutal, contemptuous frankness. Mavick was never
brutal and never contemptuous, but he had a cynical sort of frankness,
which is a good deal more effectual in a business way than the oily,
plausible manner which on 'Change, as well as in politics, is distrusted
as hypocrisy. Now Uncle Jerry Hollowell was neither oily nor frank; he
was long-headed and cautious, and had a reputation for shrewdness and
just enough of plasticity of conscience to remove him out of the list of
the impracticable and over-scrupulous. This reputation that business men
and politicians acquire would be a very curious study. The world is very
complacent, and apparently worships success and votes for smartness,
but it would surprise some of our most successful men to know what a real
respect there is in the community, after all, for downright integrity.
Even Jack, who fell into the current notion of his generation of young
men that the Henderson sort of morality was best adapted to quick
success, evinced a consciousness of want of nobility in the course he was
pursuing by not making Edith his confidante. He would have said, of
course, that she knew nothing about business, but what he meant was that
she had a very clear conception of what was honest. All the evidences of
his prosperity, shown in his greater freedom of living, were sore trials
to her. She belonged to that old class of New-Yorkers who made trade
honorable, like the merchants of Holland and Venice, and she knew also
that Jack's little fortune had come out of honest toil and strict
business integrity. Could there be any happiness in life in any other
It seemed cruel to put such a problem as this upon a young woman hardly
yet out of girlhood, in the first flush of a new life, which she had
dreamed should be so noble and high and so happy, in the period which is
consecrated by the sweetest and loveliest visions and hopes that ever
come into a woman's life.
As the summer wore on to its maximum of heat and discomfort in the city,
Edith, who never forgot to measure the hardships of others by her own
more fortunate circumstances, urged Dr. Leigh to come away from her
labors and rest a few days by the sea. The reply was a refusal, but
there was no complaint in the brief business-like note. One might have
supposed that it was the harvest-time of the doctor, if he had not known
that she gathered nothing for herself. There had never been so much
sickness, she wrote, and such an opportunity for her. She was learning a
great deal, especially about some disputed contagious diseases. She
would like to see Mrs. Delancy, and she wouldn't mind a breath of air
that was more easily to be analyzed than that she existed in, but nothing
could induce her to give up her cases. All that appeared in her letter
was her interest in her profession.
Father Damon, who had been persuaded by Edith's urgency to go down with
Jack for a few days to the Golden House, seemed uncommonly interested in
the reasons of Dr. Leigh's refusal to come.
"I never saw her," he said, "so cheerful. The more sickness there is,
the more radiant she is. I don't mean," he added, laughing, "in apparel.
Apparently she never thinks of herself, and positively she seems to take
no time to eat or sleep. I encounter her everywhere. I doubt if she
ever sits down, except when she drops in at the mission chapel now and
then, and sits quite unmoved on a bench by the door during vespers."
"Then she does go there?" said Edith.
"That is a queer thing. She would promptly repudiate any religious
interest. But I tell her she is a bit of a humbug. When I speak about
her philanthropic zeal, she says her interest is purely scientific."
"Anyway, I believe," Jack put in, "that women doctors are less mercenary
than men. I dare say they will get over that when the novelty of coming
into the profession has worn off."
"That is possible," said Father Damon; "but that which drives women into
professions now is the desire to do something rather than the desire to
make something. Besides, it is seldom, in their minds, a finality;
marriage is always a possibility."
"Yes," replied Edith, "and the probability of having to support a husband
and family; then they may be as mercenary as men are."
"Still, the enthusiasm of women," Father Damon insisted, "in hospital and
outdoor practice, the singleness of their devotion to it, is in contrast
to that of the young men-doctors. And I notice another thing in the
city: they take more interest in philanthropic movements, in the
condition of the poor, in the labor questions; they dive eagerly into
philosophic speculations, and they are more aggressively agnostics.
And they are not afraid of any social theories. I have one friend,
a skillful practitioner they tell me, a linguist, and a metaphysician,
a most agreeable and accomplished woman, who is in theory an extreme
nihilist, and looks to see the present social and political order upset."
"I don't see," Jack remarked, "what women especially are to gain by such
"Perhaps independence, Jack," replied Edith. "You should hear my club of
working-girls, who read and think much on these topics, talk of these
"Yes," said Father Damon, "you toss these topics about, and discuss them
in the magazines, and fancy you are interested in socialistic movements.
But you have no idea how real and vital they are, and how the dumb
discontent of the working classes is being formulated into ideas.
It is time we tried to understand each other."
Not all the talk was of this sort at the Golden House. There were three
worlds here--that of Jack, to which Edith belonged by birth and tradition
and habit; that of which we have spoken, to which she belonged by
profound sympathy; and that of Father Damon, to which she belonged by
undefined aspiration. In him was the spiritual element asserting itself
in a mediaeval form, in a struggle to mortify and deny the flesh and yet
take part in modern life. Imagine a celibate and ascetic of the
fifteenth century, who knew that Paradise must be gained through poverty
and privation and suffering, interesting himself in the tenement-house
question, in labor leagues, and the single tax.
Yet, hour after hour, in those idle summer days, when nature was in a
mood that suggested grace and peace, when the waves lapsed along the
shore and the cicada sang in the hedge, did Father Damon unfold to Edith
his ideas of the spiritualization of modern life through a conviction of
its pettiness and transitoriness. How much more content there would be
if the poor could only believe that it matters little what happens here
if the heart is only pure and fixed on the endless life.
"Oh, Father Damon," replied Edith, with a grave smile, "I think your
mission ought to be to the rich."
"Yes," he replied, for he also knew his world, "if I wanted to make my
ideas fashionable; but I want to make them operative. By-and-by," he
added, also with a smile, "we will organize some fishermen and carpenters
and tailors on a mission to the rich."
Father Damon's visit was necessarily short, for his work called him back
to town, and perhaps his conscience smote him a little for indulging in
this sort of retreat. By the middle of August Jack's yacht was ready,
and he went with Mavick and the Van Dams and some other men of the club
on a cruise up the coast. Edith was left alone with her Baltimore
And yet not alone. As she lay in her hammock in those dreamy days a new
world opened to her. It was not described in the chance romance she took
up, nor in the volume of poems she sometimes held in her hand, with a
finger inserted in the leaves. Of this world she felt herself the centre
and the creator, and as she mused upon its mysteries, life took a new,
strange meaning to her. It was apt to be a little hazy off there in the
watery horizon, and out of the mist would glide occasionally a boat,
and the sun would silver its sails, and it would dip and toss for half an
hour in the blue, laughing sea, and then disappear through the mysterious
curtain. Whence did it come? Whither had it gone? Was life like that?
Was she on the shore of such a sea, and was this new world into which she
was drifting only a dream? By her smile, by the momentary illumination
that her sweet thoughts made in her lovely, hopeful face, you knew that
it was not. Who can guess the thoughts of a woman at such a time? Are
the trees glad in the spring, when the sap leaps in their trunks, and the
buds begin to swell, and the leaves unfold in soft response to the
creative impulse? The miracle is never old nor commonplace to them, nor
to any of the human family. The anticipation of life is eternal. The
singing of the birds, the blowing of the south wind, the sparkle of the
waves, all found a response in Edith's heart, which leaped with joy. And
yet there was a touch of melancholy in it all, the horizon was so vast,
and the mist of uncertainty lay along it. Literature, society,
charities, all that she had read and experienced and thought, was nothing
to this, this great unknown anxiety and bliss, this saddest and sweetest
of all human experiences. She prayed that she might be worthy of this
great distinction, this responsibility and blessing.
And Jack, dear Jack, would he love her more?
Although Father Damon had been absent from his charge only ten days, it
was time for him to return. If he had not a large personal following, he
had a wide influence. If comparatively few found their way to his
chapel, he found his way to many homes; his figure was a familiar one in
the streets, and his absence was felt by hundreds who had no personal
relations with him, but who had be come accustomed to seeing him go about
on his errands of encouragement, and probably had never realized how much
the daily sight of him had touched them. The priestly dress, which may
once have provoked a sneer at his effeminacy, had now a suggestion of
refinement, of unselfish devotion, of consecration to the service of the
unfortunate, his spiritual face appealed to their better natures, and the
visible heroism that carried his frail figure through labors that would
have worn out the stoutest physique stirred in the hearts of the rudest
some comprehension of the reality of the spirit.
It may not have occurred to them that he was of finer clay than they--
perhaps he was not--but his presence was in their minds a subtle
connection and not a condescending one, rather a confession of
brotherhood, with another world and another view of life. They may not
have known that their hearts were stirred because he had the gift of
And was it an unmanly trait that he evoked in men that sentiment of
chivalry which is never wanting in the roughest community for a pure
woman? Wherever Father Damon went there was respect for his purity and
his unselfishness, even among those who would have been shamefaced if
surprised in any exhibition of softness.
And many loved him, and many depended on him. Perhaps those who most
depended on him were the least worthy, and those who loved him most were
least inclined to sacrifice their own reasonable view of life to his own
sublimated spiritual conception. It was the spirit of the man they
loved, and not the creed of the priest. The little chapel in its subdued
lights and shadows, with confessionals and crosses and candles and
incense, was as restful a refuge as ever to the tired and the dependent;
but wanting his inspiring face and voice, it was not the same thing, and
the attendance always fell away when he was absent. There was needed
there more than elsewhere the living presence.
He was missed, and the little world that missed him was astray. The
first day of his return his heart was smitten by the thinness of the
congregation. Had he, then, accomplished nothing; had he made no
impression, established in his shifting flock no habit of continuance in
well-doing that could survive even his temporary withdrawal? The fault
must be his. He had not sufficiently humiliated and consecrated himself,
and put under all strength of the flesh and trust in worldly
instrumentalities. There must be more prayer, more vigils, more fasting,
before the power would come back to him to draw these wandering minds to
the light. And so in the heat of this exhausting August, at the time
when his body most needed re-enforcement for the toil he required of it,
he was more rigid in his spiritual tyranny and contempt of it.
Ruth Leigh was not dependent upon Father Damon, but she also learned how
long ten days could be without a sight of him. When she looked into his
chapel occasionally she realized, as never before, how much in the air
his ceremonies and his creed were. There was nothing there for her
except his memory. And she knew when she stepped in there, for her cool,
reasoning mind was honest, that it was the thought of him that drew her
to the place, and that going there was a sentimental indulgence. What
she would have said was that she admired, loved Father Damon on account
of his love for humanity. It was a common saying of all the professional
women in her set, and of the working-girls, that they loved Father Damon.
It is a comfort to women to be able to give their affection freely where
conventionalities and circumstances make the return of it in degree
At the close of a debilitating day Dr. Leigh found herself in the
neighborhood of the mission chapel. She was tired and needed to rest
somewhere. She knew that Father Damon had returned, but she had not seen
him, and a double motive drew her steps. The attendance was larger than
it had been recently, and she found a stool in a dark corner, and
listened, with a weary sort of consciousness of the prayers and the
singing, but not without a deeper feeling of peace in the tones of a
voice every inflection of which she knew so well. It seemed to her that
the reading cost him an effort, and there was a note of pathos in the
voice that thrilled her. Presently he advanced towards the altar rail--
he was accustomed to do this with his little flock--and placing one hand
on the lectern, began to speak.
At first, and this was not usual, he spoke about himself in a strain of
sincere humility, taking blame upon himself for his inability to do
effectively the great service his Master had set him to do. He meant to
have given himself more entirely to the dear people among whom he
labored; he hoped to show himself more worthy of the trust they had given
him; he was grateful for the success of his mission, but no one knew so
well as he how far short it came of being what he ought to have made it.
He knew indeed how weak he was, and he asked the aid of their sympathy
and encouragement. It seemed to be with difficulty that he said this,
and to Ruth's sympathetic ear there was an evidence of physical
exhaustion in his tone. There was in it, also, for her, a confession of
failure, the cry of the preacher, in sorrow and entreaty, that says,
"I have called so long, and ye would not listen."
As he went on, still with an effort and feebly, there came over the
little group a feeling of awe and wonderment, and the silence was
profound. Still steadying himself by the reading-desk, he went on to
speak of other things, of those of his followers who listened, of the
great mass swirling about them in the streets who did not listen and did
not care; of the little life that now is so full of pain and hardship and
disappointment, of good intentions frustrated, of hopes that deceive,
and of fair prospects that turn to ashes, of good lives that go wrong, of
sweet natures turned to bitterness in the unaided struggle. His voice
grew stronger and clearer, as his body responded to the kindling theme in
his soul. He stepped away from the desk nearer the rail, the bowed head
was raised. "What does it matter?" he said. "It is only for a little
while, my children." Those who heard him that day say that his face
shone like that of an angel, and that his voice was like a victorious
clarion, so clear, so sweet, so inspiring, as he spoke of the life that
is to come, and the fair certainty of that City where he with them all
wished to be.
As he closed, some were kneeling, many were crying; all, profoundly
moved, watched him as, with the benediction and the sign of the cross, he
turned and walked swiftly to the door of the sacristy. It opened, and
then Ruth Leigh heard a cry, "Father Damon! Father Damon!" and there was
a rush into the chancel. Hastening through the throng, which promptly
made way for the doctor, she found Father Damon lying across the
threshold, as he had fallen, colorless and unconscious. She at once took
command of the situation. The body was lifted to the plain couch in the
room, a hasty examination was made of pulse and heart, a vial of brandy
was produced from her satchel, and messengers were despatched for things
needed, and especially for beef-tea.
"Is he dead, Dr. Leigh? Is he any better, doctor? What is the matter,
"Want of nourishment," replied Dr. Leigh, savagely.
The room was cleared of all except a couple of stout lads and a friendly
German woman whom the doctor knew. The news of the father's sudden
illness had spread rapidly, with the report that he had fallen dead while
standing at the altar; and the church was thronged, and the street
rapidly blocked up with a hushed crowd, eager for news and eager to give
aid. So great was the press that the police had to interfere, and push
back the throng from the door. It was useless to attempt to disperse it
with the assurance that Father Damon was better; it patiently waited to
see for itself. The sympathy of the neighborhood was most impressive,
and perhaps the thing that the public best remembers about this incident
is the pathetic solicitude of the people among whom Father Damon labored
at the rumor of his illness, a matter which was greatly elaborated by the
reporters from the city journals and the purveyors of telegraphic news
for the country.
With the application of restoratives the patient revived. When he opened
his eyes he saw figures in the room as in a dream, and his mind struggled
to remember where he was and what had happened; but one thing was not a
dream: Dr. Leigh stood by his bedside, with her left hand on his brow
and the right grasping his own right hand, as if to pull him back to
life. He saw her face, and then he lost it again in sheer weariness at
the effort. After a few moments, in a recurring wave of strength, he
looked up again, still bewildered, and said, faintly:
"Where am I?"
"With friends," said the doctor. "You were a little faint, that is all;
you will be all right presently."
She quickly prepared some nourishment, which was what he most needed, and
fed him from time to time, as he was able to receive it. Gradually he
could feel a little vigor coming into his frame; and regaining control of
himself, he was able to hear what had happened. Very gently the doctor
told him, making light of his temporary weakness.
"The fact is, Father Damon," she said, "you've got a disease common in
The father smiled, but did not reply. It might be so. For the time he
felt his dependence, and he did not argue the point. This dependence
upon a woman--a sort of Sister of Charity, was she not?--was not
altogether unpleasant. When he attempted to rise, but found that he was
too weak, and she said "Not yet," he submitted, with the feeling that to
be commanded with such gentleness was a sort of luxury.
But in an hour's time he declared that he was almost himself again,
and it was decided that he was well enough to be removed to his own
apartments in the neighborhood. A carriage was sent for, and the
transfer was made, and made through a crowd in the streets, which stood
silent and uncovered as his carriage passed through it. Dr. Leigh
remained with him for an hour longer, and then left him in charge
of a young gentleman from the Neighborhood Guild, who gladly volunteered
to watch for the night.
Ruth walked slowly home, weary now that the excitement was over, and
revolving many things in her mind, as is the custom of women. She heard
again that voice, she saw again that inspired face; but the impression
most indelible with her was the prostrate form, the pallid countenance,
the helplessness of this man whose will had before been strong enough to
compel the obedience of his despised body. She had admired his strength;
but it was his weakness that drew upon her woman's heart, and evolved a
tenderness dangerous to her peace of mind. Yet it was the doctor and not
the woman that replied to the inquiries at the dispensary.
"Yes, it was fasting and overwork. Men are so stupid; they think they
can defy all the laws of nature, especially priests." And she determined
to be quite plain with him next day.
And Father Damon, lying weary in his bed, before he fell asleep, saw the
faces in the dim chapel turned to him in strained eagerness the moment
before he lost consciousness; but the most vivid image was that of a
woman bending over him, with eyes of tenderness and pity, and the smile
with which she greeted his awakening. He could feel yet her hand upon
When Dr. Leigh called next day, on her morning rounds, she found a
brother of the celibate order, Father Monies, in charge. He was sitting
by the window reading, and when the doctor came up the steps he told her
in a low voice to enter without knocking. Father Damon was better, much
better; but he had advised him not to leave his bed, and the patient had
been dozing all the morning. The doctor asked if he had eaten anything,
and how much. The apartment was small and scantily furnished--a sort of
anchorite cell. Through the drawn doors of the next room the bed was in
sight. As they were talking in low voices there came from this room a
"I hope you ate a good breakfast," she said, as she arose and went to his
"I suppose you mean better than usual," he replied, with a faint attempt
at a smile. "No doubt you and Father Monies are satisfied, now you've
got me laid up."
"That depends upon your intentions."
"Oh, I intend to get up tomorrow."
"If you do, without other change in your intentions, I am going to report
you to the Organized Charity as a person who has no visible means of
She had brought a bunch of violets, and as they talked she had filled a
glass with water and put them on a stand by the head of the bed. Then--
oh, quite professionally--she smoothed out his pillows and straightened
the bedclothes, and, talking all the time, and as if quite unconscious of
what she was doing, moved about the room, putting things to rights, and
saying, in answer to his protest, that perhaps she should lose her
reputation as a physician in his eyes by appearing to be a professional
There was a timid knock at the door, and a forlorn little figure, clad in
a rumpled calico, with an old shawl over her head, half concealing an
eager and pretty face, stood in the doorway, and hesitatingly came in.
"Meine Mutter sent me to see how Father Damon is," she explained; "she
could not come, because she washes."
She had a bunch of flowers in her hand, and encouraged by the greeting of
the invalid, she came to the bedside and placed them in his outstretched
hand--a faded blossom of scarlet geranium, a bachelor's button, and a
sprig of parsley, probably begged of a street dealer as she came along.
"Some blooms," she said.
"Bless you, my dear," said Father Damon; "they are very pretty."
"Dey smells nice," the child exclaimed, her eyes dancing with pleasure at
the reception of her gift. She stood staring at him, and then, her eye
catching the violets, she added, "Dose is pooty, too."
"If you can stay half an hour or so, I should like to step round to the
chapel," Father Monies said to the doctor in the front room, taking up
The doctor could stay. The little girl had moved a chair up to the
bedside, and sat quite silent, her grimy little hand grasped in the
father's. Ruth, saying that she hoped the father wouldn't mind, began to
put in order the front room, which the incidents of the night had
somewhat disturbed. Father Damon, holding fast by that little hand to
the world of poverty to which he had devoted his life, could not refrain
from watching her, as she moved about with the quick, noiseless way that
a woman has when she is putting things to rights. This was indeed a
novel invasion of his life. He was still too weak to reason about it
much. How good she was, how womanly! And what a sense of peace and
repose she brought into his apartment! The presence of Brother Monies
was peaceful also, but hers was somehow different. His eyes had not
cared to follow the brother about the room. He knew that she was
unselfish, but he had not noticed before that her ways were so graceful.
As she turned her face towards him from time to time he thought its
expression beautiful. Ruth Leigh would have smiled grimly if any one had
called her beautiful, but then she did not know how she looked sometimes
when her feelings were touched. It is said that the lamp of love can
illumine into beauty any features of clay through which it shines. As he
gazed, letting himself drift as in a dream, suddenly a thought shot
through his mind that made him close his eyes, and such a severe priestly
look came upon his face that the little girl, who had never taken her
eyes off him, exclaimed:
"It is worse?"
"No, my dear," he replied, with a reassuring smile; "at least, I hope
But when the doctor, finishing her work, drew a chair into the doorway,
and sat by the foot of his bed, the stern look still remained on his pale
face. And the doctor, she also was the doctor again, as matter of fact
as in any professional visit.
"You are very kind," he said.
There was a shade of impatience on her face as she replied, "But you must
be a little kind to yourself."
"It doesn't matter."
"But it does matter. You defeat the very work you want to do. I'm going
to report you to your order." And then she added, more lightly, "Don't
you know it is wrong to commit suicide?"
"You don't understand," he replied. "There is more than one kind of
suicide; you don't believe in the suicide of the soul. Ah, me!" And a
shade of pain passed over his face.
She was quick to see this. "I beg your pardon, Father Damon. It is none
of my business, but we are all so anxious to have you speedily well
Just then Father Monies returned, and the doctor rose to go. She took
the little girl by the hand and said, "Come, I was just going round to
see your father. Good-by. I shall look in again tomorrow."
"Thank you--thank you a thousand times. But you have so much to do that
you must not bother about me."
Whether he said this to quiet his own conscience, secretly hoping that he
might see her again on the morrow, perhaps he himself could not have