Part 3 out of 5
Late the next afternoon, after an unusually weary round of visits, made
in the extreme heat and in a sort of hopeless faithfulness, Dr. Leigh
reached the tenement in which Father Damon lodged: In all the miserable
scenes of the day it had been in her mind, giving to her work a pleasure
that she did not openly acknowledge even to herself, that she should see
The curtains were down, and there was no response to her knock, except
from a door in the passage opposite. A woman opened the door wide enough
to show her head and to make it evident that she was not sufficiently
dressed to come out, and said that Father Damon had gone. He was very
much better, and his friend had taken him up-town. Dr. Leigh thanked
her, and said she was very glad.
She was so glad that, as she walked away, scarcely heeding her steps or
conscious of the chaffing, chattering crowd, all interest in her work and
in that quarter of the city seemed dead.
It is well that there is pleasure somewhere in the world. It is possible
for those who have a fresh-air fund of their own to steam away in a
yacht, out of the midsummer ennui and the weary gayety of the land.
It is a costly pleasure, and probably all the more enjoyed on that
account, for if everybody had a yacht there would be no more feeling of
distinction in sailing one than in going to any of the second-rate
resorts on the coast. There is, to be sure, some ennui in yachting on a
rainy coast, and it might be dull but for the sensation created by
arrivals at watering-places and the telegraphic reports of these
If there was any dullness on the Delancy yacht, means were taken to
dispel it. While still in the Sound a society was formed for the
suppression of total abstinence, and so successful was this that Point
Judith was passed, in a rain and a high and chopping sea, with a kind of
hilarious enjoyment of the commotion, which is one of the things desired
at sea. When the party came round to Newport it declared that it had had
a lovely voyage, and inquiry brought out the great general principle,
applicable to most coast navigation for pleasure, that the enjoyable way
to pass Point Judith is not to know you are passing Point Judith.
Except when you land, and even after you have got your sea-legs on, there
is a certain monotony in yachting, unless the weather is very bad, and
unless there are women aboard. A party of lively women make even the sea
fresh and entertaining. Otherwise, the game of poker is much what it is
on land, and the constant consulting of charts and reckoning of speed
evince the general desire to get somewhere--that is, to arrive at a
harbor. In the recollections of this voyage, even in Jack's
recollections of it after he had paid the bills, it seemed that it had
been simply glorious, free from care, generally a physical setting-up
performance, and a lark of enormous magnitude. And everybody envied the
Mavick actually did enjoy it, for he had that brooding sort of nature,
that self-satisfied attitude, that is able to appropriate to its own uses
whatever comes. And being an unemotional and very tolerable sailor,
he was able to be as cynical at sea as on land, and as much of an oracle,
in his wholly unobtrusive way. The perfect personal poise of Mavick,
which gave him an air of patronizing the ocean, and his lightly held
skeptical view of life, made his company as full of flavor on ship as it
was on shore. He didn't know anything more about the weather than the
Weather Bureau knows, yet the helmsman of the yacht used to consult him
about the appearances of the sky and a change of wind with a confidence
in his opinion that he gave to no one else on board. And Mavick never
forfeited this respect by being too positive. It was so with everything;
he evidently knew a great deal more than he cared to tell. It is
pleasing to notice how much credit such men as Mavick obtain in the world
by circumspect reticence and a knowing manner. Jack, blundering along in
his free-hearted, emotional way, and never concealing his opinion, was
really right twice where Mavick was right once, but he never had the
least credit for wisdom.
It was late in August that the Delancy yacht steamed into the splendid
Bar Harbor, making its way slowly through one of the rare fogs which are
sometimes seen by people who do not own real estate there. Even before
they could see an island those on board felt the combination of mountain
and sea air that makes this favored place at once a tonic and a sedative
to the fashionable world.
The party were expected at Bar Harbor. It had been announced that the
yacht was on its way, and some of the projected gayeties were awaiting
its coming, for the society reenforcement of the half-dozen men on board
was not to be despised. The news went speedily round that Captain
Delancy's flag was flying at the anchorage off the landing.
Among the first to welcome them as they landed and strolled up to the
hotel was Major Fairfax.
"Oh yes," he said; "we are all here--that is, all who know where they
ought to be at the right moment."
To the new-comers the scene was animated. The exotic shops sparkled with
cheap specialties; landaus, pony-phaetons, and elaborate buckboards
dashed through the streets; aquatic and law-tennis costumes abounded.
If there was not much rowing and lawn-tennis, there was a great deal of
becoming morning dressing for these sports, and in all the rather aimless
idleness there was an air of determined enjoyment. Even here it was
evident that there was a surplus of women. These lovers of nature, in
the summer season, who had retired to this wild place to be free from the
importunities of society, betrayed, Mavick thought, the common instinct
of curiosity over the new arrival, and he was glad to take it as an
evidence that they loved not nature less but man more. Jack tripped up
this ungallant speech by remarking that if Mavick was in this mood he did
not know why he came ashore. And Van Dam said that sooner or later all
men went ashore. This thin sort of talk was perhaps pardonable after the
weariness of a sea voyage, but the Major promptly said it wouldn't do.
And the Major seemed to be in charge of the place.
"No epigrams are permitted. We are here to enjoy ourselves. I'm ordered
to bring the whole crew of you to tea at the Tavish cottage."
"Anybody else there?" asked Jack, carelessly.
"Well, it's the most curious coincidence, but Mrs. Henderson arrived last
night; Henderson has gone to Missouri."
"Yes, he wrote me to look out for his wife on this coast," said Mavick.
"You kept mighty still about it," said Jack.
"So did you," retorted Mavick.
"It is very curious," the Major explained, "how fashionable intelligence
runs along this coast, apparently independent of the telegraph; everybody
knows where everybody else is."
The Tavish cottage was a summer palace of the present fashion, but there
was one good thing about it: it had no tower, nor any make-believe
balconies hung on the outside like bird-cages. The rooms were spacious,
and had big fireplaces, and ample piazzas all round, so that the sun
could be courted or the wind be avoided at all hours of the day. It was,
in short, not a house for retirement and privacy, but for entertainment.
It was furnished luxuriously but gayly, and with its rugs and portieres
and divans it reminded Mavick of an Oriental marquee. Miss Tavish called
it her tepee, an evolution of the aboriginal dwelling. She liked to
entertain, and she never appeared to better advantage than when her house
was full, and something was going on continually-lively breakfasts and
dinners, dances, theatricals, or the usual flowing in and out of callers
and guests, chattering groups, and flirtatious couples. It was her idea
of repose from the winter's gayety, and in it she sustained the role of
the non-fatigueable society girl. It is a performance that many working-
girls regard with amazement.
There was quite a flutter in the cottage, as there always is when those
who know each other well meet under new circumstances after a short
"We are very glad to see you," Miss Tavish said, cordially; "we have been
"That is complimentary to me," said the Major.
"You can judge the depths we have been in when even the Major couldn't
pull us out," she retorted. "Without him we should have simply died."
"And it would have been the liveliest obsequies I ever attended."
Carmen was not effusive in her greeting; she left that role to Miss
Tavish, taking for herself that of confidential friend. She was almost
retiring in her manner, but she made Jack feel that she had a strong
personal interest in his welfare, and she asked a hundred questions about
the voyage and about town and about Edith.
"I'm going to chaperon you up here," she said, "for Miss Tavish will lead
you into all sorts of wild adventures."
There was that in the manner of the demure little woman when she made
this proposal that convinced Jack that under her care he would be
perfectly safe--from Miss Tavish.
After cigarettes were lighted she contrived to draw Mavick away to the
piazza. She was very anxious to know what Henderson's latest moves were.
Mavick was very communicative, and told her nothing that he knew she did
not already know. And she was clever enough to see, without any apparent
distrust, that whatever she got from him must be in what he did not say.
As to Jack's speculations, she made little more progress. Jack gave
every sign of being prosperous; he entertained royally on his yacht.
Mavick himself was puzzled to know whether Carmen really cared for Jack,
or whether she was only interested as in a game, one of the things that
amused her life to play, to see how far he would go, and to watch his
ascension or his tumble. Mavick would have been surprised if he had
known that as a result of this wholly agreeable and confidential talk,
Carmen wrote that night in a letter to her husband:
"Your friend Mavick is here. What a very clever man he is! If I were
you I would keep an eye on him."
A dozen plans were started at the tea for relieving the tedium of the
daily drives and the regulation teas and receptions. For one thing,
weather permitting, they would all breakfast at twelve on the yacht, and
then sail about the harbor, and come home in the sunset.
The day was indeed charming, so stimulating as to raise the value of real
estate, and incite everybody to go off in search of adventure, in wagons,
in walking parties, in boats. There is no happiness like the
anticipation of pleasure begot by such a morning. Those who live there
said it was regular Bar Harbor weather.
Captain Delancy was on deck to receive his guests, who came out in small
boats, chattering and fluttering and "ship-ahoying," as gay in spirits as
in apparel. Anything but high spirits and nonsense would be unpardonable
on such a morning. Breakfast was served on deck, under an awning, in
sight of the mountains, the green islands, the fringe of breaking sea in
the distant opening, the shimmer and sparkle of the harbor, the white
sails of pleasure-boats, the painted canoes, the schooners and coal-boats
and steamers swinging at anchor just enough to make all the scene alive.
"This is my idea," said the Major, "of going to sea in a yacht; it would
be perfect if we were tied up at the dock."
"I move that we throw the Major overboard," cried Miss Tavish.
"No," Jack exclaimed; "it is against the law to throw anything into the
"Oh, I expected Miss Tavish would throw me overboard when Mavick
Mavick raised his glass and proposed the health of Miss Tavish.
"With all my heart," the Major said; "my life is passed in returning good
"I never knew before," and Miss Tavish bowed her acknowledgments, "the
secret of the Major's attractions."
"Yes," said Carmen, sweetly, "he is all things to all women."
"You don't appear to have a friend here, Major," Mavick suggested.
"No; my friends are all foul-weather friends; come a bright day, they are
all off like butterflies. That comes of being constant."
"That's no distinction," Carmen exclaimed; "all men are that till they
get what they want."
"Alas! that women also in these days here become cynical! It was not so
when I was young. Here's to the ever young," and he bowed to Carmen and
"He's been with Ponce de Leon!" cried Miss Tavish.
"He's the dearest man living, except a few," echoed Carmen. "The Major's
The yellow wine sparkled in the glasses like the sparkling sea, the wind
blew softly from the south, the sails in the bay darkened and flashed,
and the breakfast, it seemed to go along of itself, and erelong the
convives were eating ambrosia and sipping nectar. Van Dam told a shark
story. Mavick demonstrated its innate improbability. The Major sang a
song--a song of the forties, with a touch of sentiment. Jack, whose
cheerful voice was a little of the cider-cellar order, and who never sang
when he was sad, struck up the latest vaudeville ditty, and Carmen and
Miss Tavish joined in the chorus.
"I like the sea," the Major declared. They all liked it. The breakfast
lasted a long time, and when they rose from the table Jack said that
presently they would take a course round the harbor. The Major remarked
that that would suit him. He appeared to be ready to go round the world.
While they were preparing to start, Carmen and Jack strolled away to the
bow, where she perched herself, holding on by the rigging. He thought he
had never seen her look so pretty as at that moment, in her trim nautical
costume, sitting up there, swinging her feet like a girl, and regarding
him with half-mocking, half-admiring eyes.
What were they saying? Heaven only knows. What nonsense do people so
situated usually talk? Perhaps she was warning him against Miss Tavish.
Perhaps she was protesting that Julia Tavish was a very, very old friend.
To an observer this admirable woman seemed to be on the defensive--her
most alluring attitude. It was not, one could hear, exactly sober talk;
there was laughter and raillery and earnestness mingled. It might be
said that they were good comrades. Carmen professed to like good
comradeship and no nonsense. But she liked to be confidential.
Till late in the afternoon they cruised about among the islands, getting
different points of view of the coast, and especially different points of
view of each other, in the freedom of talk and repartee permitted on an
excursion. Before sunset they were out in the open, and could feel the
long ocean swell. The wind had risen a little, and there was a low band
of clouds in the south. The skipper told Mr. Delancy that it would be
much fresher with the sinking of the sun, but Jack replied that it
wouldn't amount to anything; the glass was all right.
"Now the great winds shoreward blow;
Now the salt tides seaward flow;
Now the wild white horses play,
Champ and chafe and toss in the spray."
Miss Tavish was in the wheel-house, and had taken the wheel. This clever
girl knew her right hand from her left, instantly, without having to stop
and think and look at her rings, and she knew what port and starboard
meant, as orders, and exactly how to meet a wave with a turn of the
"I say, Captain Delancy," she cried out, "the steamer is about due.
Let's go down and meet her, and race in."
"All right," replied Jack. "We can run round her three times and then
beat her in."
The steamer's smoke was seen at that instant, and the yacht was headed
for it. The wind was a little fresher, but the tight little craft took
the waves like a duck, and all on board enjoyed the excitement of the
change, except the Major, who said he didn't mind, but he didn't believe
the steamer needed any escort.
By the time the steamer was reached the sun was going down in a band of
clouds. There was no gale, but the wind increased in occasional puffs of
spite, and the waves were getting up. The skipper took the wheel to turn
the yacht in a circle to her homeward course. As this operation created
strange motions, and did not interest the Major, he said he would go
below and reflect.
In turning, the yacht came round on the seaward side of the steamer, but
far behind. But the little craft speedily showed her breeding and
overhauled her big rival, and began to forge ahead. The little group on
the yacht waved their handkerchiefs as if in good-by, and the passengers
on the steamer cheered. As the wind was every moment increasing, the
skipper sheered away to allow plenty of sea-room between the boats. The
race appeared to be over.
"It's a pity," said Miss Tavish.
"Let's go round her," said Jack; "eh, skipper?"
"If you like, sir," responded the skipper. "She can do it."
The yacht was well ahead, but the change in the direction brought the
vessels nearer together. But there was no danger. The speed they were
going would easily bring her round away ahead of the steamer.
But just then something happened. The yacht would not answer to her
helm. The wheel flew around without resistance. The wind, hauled now
into the east, struck her with violence and drove her sideways. The
little thing was like a chip on the sea. The rudder-chain had broken.
The yacht seemed to fly towards the long, hulking steamer. The danger
was seen there, and her helm was put hard down, and her nose began to
turn towards the shore. But it was too late. It seemed all over in an
instant. The yacht dashed bow on to the side of the steamer, quivered an
instant, and then dropped away. At the same moment the steamer slowed
down and began to turn to assist the wounded.
The skipper of the yacht and a couple of hands rushed below. A part of
the bow had been carried away and a small hole made just above the
waterline, through which the water spurted whenever she encountered a
large wave. It was enough to waterlog her and sink her in such a sea.
The two seamen grasped whatever bedding was in reach below, rammed it
into the opening, and held it there. The skipper ran on deck, and by the
aid of the men hauled out a couple of sails and dropped them over the
bow. These would aid in keeping out the water. They could float now,
but where were they going? "Going ashore," said Mavick, grimly. And so
"Was there a panic on board?" it was asked afterwards. Not exactly.
Among well-bred people a panic is never good form. But there were white
faces and trembling knees and anxious looks. The steamer was coming
towards them, and all eyes were fixed on that rather than on the rocks of
the still distant shore.
The most striking incident of the moment--it seemed so to some of those
who looked back upon it--was a singular test of character, or rather of
woman's divination of character. Carmen instinctively flew to Jack and
grasped and held his arm. She knew, without stopping to reason about it,
that he would unhesitatingly imperil his life to save that of any woman.
Whatever judgment is passed upon Jack, this should not be forgotten.
And Miss Tavish; to whom did she fly in this peril? To the gallant
Major? No. To the cool and imperturbable Mavick, who was as strong and
sinewy as he was cool? No. She ran without hesitation to Van Dam, and
clung to him, recognizing instinctively, with the woman's feeling, the
same quality that Jack had. There are such men, who may have no great
gifts, but who will always fight rather than run under fire, and who will
always protect a woman.
Mavick saw all this, and understood it perfectly, and didn't object to it
at the time--but he did not forget it.
The task of rescue was not easy in that sea and wind, but it was
dexterously done. The steamer approached and kept at a certain distance
on the windward side. A boat was lowered, and a line was brought to the
yacht, which was soon in tow with a stout cable hitched to the steamer's
It was all done with much less excitement than appeared from the
telegraphic accounts, and while the party were being towed home the peril
seemed to have been exaggerated, and the affair to look like an ordinary
sea incident. But the skipper said that it was one escape in a hundred.
The captain of the steamer raised his hat gravely in reply to the little
cheer from the yacht, when Carmen and Miss Tavish fluttered their
handkerchiefs towards him. The only chaff from the steamer was roared
out by a fat Boston man, who made a funnel of his hands and shouted, "The
race is not always to the swift."
As soon as Jack stepped ashore he telegraphed to Edith that the yacht had
had an accident in the harbor, but that no one was hurt. When he reached
the hotel he found a letter from Edith of such a tenor that he sent
another despatch, saying that she might expect him at once, leaving the
yacht behind. There was a buzz of excitement in the town, and there were
a hundred rumors, which the sight of the yacht and its passengers landed
in safety scarcely sufficed to allay.
When Jack called at the Tavish cottage to say good-by, both the ladies
were too upset to see him. He took a night train, and as he was whirled
away in the darkness the events of the preceding forty-eight hours seemed
like a dream. Even the voyage up the coast was a little unreal--an
insubstantial episode in life. And the summer city by the sea, with its
gayety and gossip and busy idleness, sank out of sight like a phantom.
He drew his cap over his eyes, and was impatient that the rattling train
did not go faster, for Edith, waiting there in the Golden House, seemed
to stretch out her arms for him to come. Still behind him rose a picture
of that bacchanalian breakfast--the Major and Carmen and Mavick and Miss
Tavish dancing a reel on the sloping deck, then the rising wind, the
reckless daring of the race, and a vision of sudden death. He shuddered
for the first time in a quick realization of how nearly it came to being
all over with life and its pleasures.
Edith had made no appeal to Jack to come home. His going, therefore, had
the merit m his eyes of being a voluntary response to the promptings of
his better nature. Perhaps but for the accident at Mount Desert he might
have felt that his summer pleasure was needlessly interfered with, but
the little shock of that was a real, if still temporary, moral turning-
point for him. For the moment his inclination seemed to run with his
duty, and he had his reward in Edith's happiness at his coming, the
loving hunger in her eyes, the sweet trust that animated her face, the
delightful appropriation of him that could scarcely brook a moment's
absence from her sight. There could not be a stronger appeal to his
manhood and his fidelity.
"Yes, Jack dear, it was a little lonesome." She was swinging in her
hammock on the veranda in sight of the sea, and Jack sat by her with his
cigar. "I don't mind telling you now that there were times when I longed
for you dreadfully, but I was glad, all the same, that you were enjoying
yourself, for it is tiresome down here for a man with nothing to do but
"You dear thing!" said Jack, with his hand on her head, smoothing her
glossy hair and pushing it back from her forehead, to make her look more
intellectual--a thing which she hated. "Yes, dear, I was a brute to go
off at all."
"But you wanted to comeback?" And there was a wistful look in her eyes.
"Indeed I did," he answered, fervently, as he leaned over the hammock to
kiss the sweet eyes into content; and he was quite honest in the
expression of a desire that was nearly forty-eight hours old, and by a
singular mental reaction seemed to have been always present with him.
"It was so good of you to telegraph me before I could see the newspaper."
"Of course I knew the account would be greatly exaggerated;" and he made
light of the whole affair, knowing that the facts would still be capable
of shocking her, giving a comic picture of the Major's seafaring
qualities, and Carmen's and Miss Tavish's chaff of the gallant old beau.
Even with this light sketching of the event she could not avoid a
retrospective pang of apprehension, and the tightened grasp of his hand
was as if she were holding him fast from that and all other peril.
The days went by in content, on the whole, shaded a little by anxiety and
made grave by a new interest. It could not well be but that the prospect
of the near future, with its increase of responsibility, should create a
little uneasiness in Jack's mind as to his own career. Of this future
they talked much, and in Jack's attitude towards her Edith saw, for the
first time since her marriage, a lever of suggestion, and it came
naturally in the contemplation of their future life that she should
encourage his discontent at having no occupation. Facing, in this
waiting-time of quiet, certain responsibilities, it was impressed upon
him that the collecting of bric-a-brac was scarcely an occupation, and
that idling in clubs and studios and dangling about at the beck of
society women was scarcely a career that could save him from ultimate
ennui. To be sure, he had plenty of comrades, young fellows of fortune,
who never intended to do anything except to use it for their personal
satisfaction; but they did not seem to be of much account except in the
little circle that they ornamented. Speaking of one of them one day,
Father Damon had said that it seemed a pity a fellow of such family and
capacity and fortune should go to the devil merely for the lack of an
object in life. In this closer communion with Edith, whose ideas he
began to comprehend, Jack dimly apprehended this view, and for the moment
impulsively accepted it.
"I'm half sorry," he said one day, "that I didn't go in for a profession.
But it is late now. Law, medicine, engineering, architecture, would take
years of study."
"There was Armstrong," Edith suggested, "who studied law after he was
"But it looks sort of silly for a fellow who has a wife to go to school,
unless," said Jack, with a laugh, "he goes to school to his wife. Then
there's politics. You wouldn't like to see me in that."
"I rather think, Jack"--she spoke musingly" if I were a man I should go
"You would have nice company!"
"But it's the noblest career--government, legislation, trying to do
something to make the world better. Jack, I don't see how the men of New
York can stand it to be governed by the very worst elements."
"My dear, you have no idea what practical politics is."
"I've an idea what I'd make it. What is the good of young men of leisure
if they don't do anything for the country? Too fine to do what Hamilton
did and Jay did! I wish you could have heard my father talk about it.
Abdicate their birthright for a four-in-hand!"
"Or a yacht," suggested Jack.
"Well, I don't see why a man cannot own a yacht and still care something
about the decent management of his city."
"There's Mavick in politics."
"Not exactly. Mavick is in office for what he can make. No, I will not
say that. No doubt he is a good civil servant, and we can't expect
everybody to be unselfish. At any rate, he is intelligent. Do you
remember what Mr. Morgan said last winter?" And Edith lifted herself up
on her elbow, as if to add the weight of her attitude to her words, as
Jack was still smiling at her earnestness.
"No; you said he was a delightful sort of pessimist."
"Mr. Morgan said that the trouble with the governing and legislation now
in the United States is that everybody is superficially educated, and
that the people are putting their superficial knowledge into laws, and
that we are going to have a nice time with all these wild theories and
crudities on the statute-book. And then educated people say that
politics is so corrupt and absurd that they cannot have anything to do
"And how far do you think we could get, my dear, in the crusade you
"I don't know that you would get anywhere. Yet I should think the young
men of New York could organize its intelligence and do something. But
you think I'm nothing but a woman." And Edith sank back, as if
abandoning the field.
"I had thought that; but it is hard to tell, these days. Never mind,
when we go back to town I'll stir round; you'll see."
This was an unusual sort of talk. Jack had never heard Edith break out
in this direction before, and he wondered if many women were beginning to
think of men in this way, as cowardly about their public duties.
Not many in his set, he was sure. If Edith had urged him to go into
Neighborhood Guild work, he could have understood that. Women and
ethical cranks were interested in that. And women were getting queerer
every day, beginning, as Mavick said, to take notice. However, it was
odd, when you thought over it, that the city should be ruled by the
It was easy to talk about these things; in fact, Jack talked a great deal
about them in the clubs, and occasionally with a knot of men after dinner
in a knowing, pessimistic sort of way. Sometimes the discussions were
very animated and even noisy between these young citizens. It seemed,
sometimes, about midnight, that something might be done; but the
resolution vanished next morning when another day, to be lived through,
confronted them. They illustrated the great philosophic observation that
it is practically impossible for an idle man who has nothing to do to
begin anything today.
To do Jack justice, this enforced detention in the country he did not
find dull exactly. To be sure it was vacation-time, and his whole life
was a vacation, and summer was rather more difficult to dispose of than
winter, for one had to make more of an effort to amuse himself. But
Edith was never more charming than in this new dependence, and all his
love and loyalty were evoked in caring for her. This was occupation
enough, even if he had been the busiest man in the world-to watch over
her, to read to her, to anticipate her fancies, to live with her in that
dream of the future which made life seem almost ideal. There came a time
when he looked back upon this month at the Golden House as the happiest
in his life.
The talk about an occupation was not again referred to. Edith seemed
entirely happy to have Jack with her, more entirely her own than he had
ever been, and to have him just as he was. And yet he knew, by a sure
instinct, that she saw him as she thought he would be, with some aim and
purpose in life. And he made many good resolutions.
That which was nearest him attracted him most, and very feeble now were
the allurements of the life and the company he had just left. Not that
he would break with it exactly; it was not necessary to do that; but he
would find something to do, something worth a man's doing, or, at any
rate, some occupation that should tax his time and his energies. That,
he knew, would make Edith happy, and to make her happy seemed now very
much like a worthy object in life. She was so magnanimous, so
unsuspicious, so full of all nobility. He knew she would stand by him
whatever happened. Down here her attitude to life was no longer a rebuke
to him nor a restraint upon him. Everything seemed natural and
wholesome. Perhaps his vanity was touched, for there must be something
in, him if such a woman could love him. And probably there was, though
he himself had never yet had a chance to find it out. Brought up in the
expectation of a fortune, bred to idleness as others are to industry, his
highest ambition having been to amuse himself creditably and to take life
easily, what was to hinder his being one of the multitude of "good-for-
nothings" in our modern life? If there had been war, he had spirit
enough to carry him into it, and it would have surprised no one to hear
that Jack had joined an exploring expedition to the North Pole or the
highlands of Central Asia. Something uncommon he might do if opportunity
About his operations with Henderson he had never told Edith, and he did
not tell her now. Perhaps she divined it, and he rather wondered that
she had never asked him about his increased expenditures, his yacht, and
all that. He used to look at her steadily at times, as if he were trying
to read the secrets of her heart.
"What are you looking at, Jack?"
"To see if I can find out how much you know, you look so wise."
"Do I? I was just thinking about you. I suppose that made me look so."
"No; about life and the world generally."
"Mighty little, Jack, except--well, I study you."
"Do you? Then you'll presently lose your mind:"
Jack and most men have little idea that they are windows through which
their wives see the world; and how much more of the world they know in
that way than men usually suspect or wives ever tell!
He did not tell her about Henderson, but he almost resolved that when his
present venture was over he would let stocks alone as speculations, and
go into something that he could talk about to his wife as he talked about
stocks to Carmen.
From the stranded mariners at Bar Harbor Captain Jack had many and
facetious letters. They wanted to know if his idea was that they should
stick by the yacht until he got leisure to resume the voyage, or if he
expected them to walk home. He had already given orders to the skipper
to patch it up and bring it to New York if possible, and he advised his
correspondents to stay by the yacht as long as there was anything in the
larder, but if they were impatient, he offered them transportation on any
vessel that would take able-bodied seamen. He must be excused from
commanding, because he had been assigned to shore duty. Carmen and Miss
Tavish wrote that it was unfair to leave them to sustain all the
popularity and notoriety of the shipwreck, and that he owed it to the
public to publish a statement, in reply to the insinuations of the
newspapers, in regard to the sea-worthiness of the yacht and the object
of this voyage. Jack replied that the only object of the voyage was to
relieve the tedium of Bar Harbor, and, having accomplished this, he would
present the vessel to Miss Tavish if she would navigate it back to the
The golden autumn days by the sea were little disturbed by these echoes
of another life, which seemed at the moment to be a very shallow one.
Yet the time was not without its undertone of anxieties, of grave perils
that seemed to sanctify it and heighten its pleasures of hope. Jack saw
and comprehended for the first time in his life the real nature of a pure
woman, the depths of tenderness and self-abnegation, the heroism and calm
trust and the nobility of an unworldly life. No wonder that he stood a
little in awe of it, and days when he wandered down on the beach, with
only the waves for company, or sat smoking in the arbor, with an unread
book in his hand, his own career seemed petty and empty. Such moods,
however, are not uncommon in any life, and are not of necessity fruitful.
It need not be supposed that Jack took it too seriously, on the one hand,
or, on the other, that a vision of such a woman's soul is ever without
By the end of October they returned to town, Jack, and Edith with a new
and delicate attractiveness, and young Fletcher Delancy the most
wonderful and important personage probably who came to town that season.
It seemed to Edith that his advent would be universally remarked, and
Jack felt relieved when the boy was safely housed out of the public gaze.
Yes, to Edith's inexpressible joy it was a boy, and while Jack gallantly
said that a girl would have suited him just as well, he was conscious of
an increased pride when he announced the sex to his friends. This
undervaluation of women at the start is one of the mysteries of life.
And until women themselves change their point of view, it is to be feared
that legislation will not accomplish all that many of them wish.
"So it is a boy. I congratulate you," was the exclamation of Major
Fairfax the first time Jack went down to the Union.
"I'm glad, Major, to have your approval."
"Oh, it's what is expected, that's all. For my part, I prefer girls.
The announcement of boys is more expensive."
Jack understood, and it turned out in all the clubs that he had hit upon
the most expensive sex in the view of responding to congratulations.
"It used to seem to me," said the Major, "that I must have a male heir to
my estates. But, somehow, as the years go on, I feel more like being an
heir myself. If I had married and had a boy, he would have crowded me
out by this time; whereas, if it had been a girl, I should no doubt have
been staying at her place in Lenox this summer instead of being
shipwrecked on that desert island. There is nothing, my dear boy, like a
girl well invested."
"You speak with the feelings of a father."
"I speak, sir, from observation. I look at society as it is, not as it
would be if we had primogeniture and a landed aristocracy. A daughter
under our arrangements is more likely to be a comfort to her parent in
his declining years than a son."
"But you seem, Major, to have preferred a single life?"
"Circumstances--thank you, just a drop more--we are the creatures of
circumstances. It is a long story. There were misrepresentation and
misunderstanding. It is true, sir, that at that time my property was
encumbered, but it was not unproductive. She died long ago. I have
reason to believe that her married life was not happy. I was hot-blooded
in those days, and my honor was touched, but I never blamed her. She
was, at twenty, the most beautiful woman in Virginia. I have never seen
This was more than the Major had ever revealed about his private life
before. He had created an illusion about himself which society accepted,
and in which he lived in apparent enjoyment of metropolitan existence.
This was due to a sanguine temperament and a large imagination. And he
had one quality that made him a favorite--a hearty enjoyment of the
prosperity of others. With regard to himself, his imagination was
creative, and Jack could not now tell whether this "most beautiful woman
of Virginia" was not evoked by the third glass, about which the Major
remarked, as he emptied it, that only this extraordinary occasion could
justify such an indulgence at this time of day.
The courtly old gentleman had inquired about madam--indeed, the second
glass had been dedicated to "mother and child"--and he exhibited a
friendly and almost paternal interest, as he always did, in Jack.
"By-the-way," he said, after a silence, "is Henderson in town?"
"I haven't heard. Why?"
"There's been a good deal of uneasiness in the Street as to what he is
doing. I hope you haven't got anything depending on him."
"I've got something in his stocks, if that is what you mean; but I don't
mind telling you I have made something."
"Well, it's none of my business, only the Henderson stocks have gone off
a little, as you know."
Jack knew, and he asked the Major a little nervously if he knew anything
further. The Major knew nothing except Street rumors. Jack was uneasy,
for the Major was a sort of weathercock, and before he left the club he
wrote to Mavick.
He carried home with him a certain disquiet, to which he had been for
months a stranger. Even the sight of Edith, who met him with a happy
face, and dragged him away at once to see how lovely the baby looked
asleep, could not remove this. It seemed strange that such a little
thing should make a change, introduce an alien element into this domestic
peace. Jack was like some other men who lose heart not when they are
doing a doubtful thing, but when they have to face the consequences--
cases of misplaced conscience. The peace and content that he had left in
the house in the morning seemed to have gone out of it when he returned
Next day came a reassuring letter from Mavick.
Henderson was going on as usual. It was only a little bear movement,
which wouldn't amount to anything. Still, day after day, the bears kept
clawing down, and Jack watched the stock-list with increasing eagerness.
He couldn't decide to sacrifice anything as long as he had a margin of
In this state of mind it was impossible to consider any of the plans he
had talked over with Edith before the baby was born. Inquiries he did
make about some sort of position or regular occupation, and these he
reported to Edith; but his heart was not in it.
As the days went by there was a little improvement in his stocks, and his
spirits rose. But this mood was no more favorable than the other for
beginning a new life, nor did there seem to be, as he went along, any
need of it. He had an appearance of being busy every day; he rose late
and went late to bed. It was the old life. Stocks down, there was a
necessity of bracing up with whomever he met at any of the three or four
clubs in which he lounged in the afternoon; and stocks up, there was
reason for celebrating that fact in the same way.
It was odd how soon he became accustomed to consider himself and to be
regarded as the father of a family. That, also, like his marriage,
seemed something done, and in a manner behind him. There was a
commonplaceness about the situation. To Edith it was a great event. To
Jack it was a milestone in life. He was proud of the boy; he was proud
of Edith. "I tell you, fellows," he would say at the club, "it's a great
thing," and so on, in a burst of confidence, and he was quite sincere in
this. But he preferred to be at the club and say these things rather
than pass the same hours with his adorable family. He liked to think
what he would do for that family--what luxuries he could procure for
them, how they should travel and see the world. There wasn't a better
father anywhere than Jack at this period. And why shouldn't a man of
family amuse himself? Because he was happy in his family he needn't
change all the habits of his life.
Presently he intended to look about him for something to do that would
satisfy Edith and fill up his time; but meantime he drifted on,
alternately anxious and elated, until the season opened. The Blunts and
the Van Dams and the Chesneys and the Tavishes and Mrs. Henderson had
called, invitations had poured in, subscriptions were asked, studies and
gayeties were projected, and the real business of life was under way.
To the nurse of the Delancy boy and to his mother he was by no means an
old story or merely an incident of the year. He was an increasing
wonder--new every morning, and exciting every evening. He was the centre
of a world of solicitude and adoration. It would be scarcely too much to
say that his coming into the world promised a new era, and his traits,
his likes and dislikes, set a new standard in his court. If he had
apprehended his position his vanity would have outgrown his curiosity
about the world, but he displayed no more consciousness of his royalty
than a kicking Infanta of Spain. This was greatly to his credit in the
opinion of the nurse, who devoted herself to the baby with that
enthusiasm of women for infants which fortunately never fails, and won
the heart of Edith by her worship. And how much they found to say about
this marvel! To hear from the nurse, over and over again, what the baby
had done and had not done, in a given hour, was to Edith like a fresh
chapter out of an exciting romance.
And the boy's biographer is inclined to think that he had rare powers of
discrimination, for one day when Carmen had called and begged to be
permitted to go up into the nursery, and had asked to take him in her
arms just for a moment, notwithstanding her soft dress and her caressing
manner, Fletcher had made a wry face and set up a howl. "How much he
looks like his father" (he didn't look like anything), Carmen said,
handing him over to the nurse. What she thought was that in manner and
disposition he was totally unlike Jack Delancy.
When they came down-stairs, Mrs. Schuyler Blunt was in the drawing-room.
"I've had such a privilege, Mrs. Blunt, seeing the baby!" cried Carmen,
in her sweetest manner.
"It must have been," that lady rejoined, stiffly.
Carmen, who hated to be seen through, of all things, did not know whether
to resent this or not. But Edith hastened to the rescue of her guest.
"I think it's a privilege."
"And you know, Mrs. Blunt," said Carmen, recovering herself and smiling,
"that I must have some excitement this dull season."
"I see," said Mrs. Blunt, with no relaxation of her manner; "we are all
grateful to Mrs. Delancy."
"Mrs. Henderson does herself injustice," Edith again interposed. "I can
assure you she has a great talent for domesticity."
Carmen did not much fancy this apology for her, but she rejoined: "Yes,
indeed. I'm going to cultivate it."
"How is this privileged person?" Mrs. Blunt asked.
"You shall see," said Edith. "I am glad you came, for I wanted very much
to consult you. I was going to send for you."
"Well, here I am. But I didn't come about the baby. I wanted to consult
you. We miss you, dear, every day." And then Mrs. Blunt began to speak
about some social and charitable arrangements, but stopped suddenly."
I'll see the baby first. Good-morning, Mrs. Henderson." And she left
Carmen felt as much left out socially as about the baby, and she also
rose to go.
"Don't go," said Edith. "What kind of a summer have you had?"
"Oh, very good. Some shipwrecks."
"And Mr. Henderson? Is he well?"
"Perfectly. He is away now. Husbands, you know, haven't so much talent
for domesticity as we have."
"That depends," Edith replied, simply, but with that spirit and air of
breeding before which Carmen always inwardly felt defeat--"that depends
very much upon ourselves."
Naturally, with this absorption in the baby, Edith was slow to resume her
old interests. Of course she knew of the illness of Father Damon, and
the nurse, who was from the training-school in which Dr. Leigh was an
instructor, and had been selected for this important distinction by the
doctor, told her from time to time of affairs on the East Side. Over
there the season had opened quite as usual; indeed, it was always open;
work must go on every day, because every day food must be obtained and
rent-money earned, and the change from summer to winter was only a
climatic increase of hardships. Even an epidemic scare does not
essentially vary the daily monotony, which is accepted with a dogged
There had been no vacation for Ruth Leigh, and she jokingly said, when at
length she got a half-hour for a visit to Edith, that she would hardly
know what to do with one if she had it.
"We have got through very well," she added. "We always dread the summer,
and we always dread the winter. Science has not yet decided which is the
more fatal, decayed vegetables or unventilated rooms. City residence
gives both a fair chance at the poor."
"Are not the people learning anything?" Edith asked.
"Not much, except to bear it, I am sorry to say. Even Father Damon--"
"Is he at work again? Do you see him often?"
"I should so like to see him. But I interrupted you."
"Well, Father Damon has come to see that nothing can be done without
organization. The masses"--and there was an accent of bitterness in her
use of the phrase--"must organize and fight for anything they want."
"Does Father Damon join in this?"
"Oh, he has always been a member of the Labor League. Now he has been at
work with the Episcopal churches of the city, and got them to agree, when
they want workmen for any purpose, to employ only union men."
"Isn't that," Edith exclaimed, "a surrender of individual rights and a
great injustice to men not in the unions?"
"You would see it differently if you were in the struggle. If the
working-men do not stand by each other, where are they to look for help?
What have the Christians of this city done?" and the little doctor got up
and began to pace the room. "Charities? Yes, little condescending
charities. And look at the East Side! Is its condition any better?
I tell you, Mrs. Delancy, I don't believe in charities--in any
"It seems to me," said Edith, with a smile calculated to mollify this
vehemence, "that you are a standing refutation of your own theory."
"Me? No, indeed. I'm paid by the dispensary. And I make my patients
pay--when they are able."
"So I have heard," Edith retorted. "Your bills must be a terror to the
"You may laugh. But I'm establishing a reputation over there as a
working-woman, and if I have any influence, or do any little good, it's
owing to that fact. Do you think they care anything about Father Damon's
"I should be sorry to think they did not," Edith said, gravely.
"Well, very little they care. They like the man because they think he
shares their feelings, and does not sympathize with them because they are
different from him. That is the only kind of gospel that is good for
anything over there."
"I don't think Father Damon would agree with you in that."
"Of course he would not. He's as mediaeval as any monk. But then he is
not blind. He sees that it is never anything but personal influence that
counts. Poor fellow," and the doctor's voice softened, "he'll kill
himself with his ascetic notions. He is trying to take up the burden of
this life while struggling under the terror of another."
"But he must be doing a great deal of good."
"Oh, I don't know. Nothing seems to do much good. But his presence is
a great comfort. That is something. And I'm glad he is going about now
rousing opposition to what is, rather than all the time preaching
submission to the lot of this life for the sake of a reward somewhere
else. That's a gospel for the rich."
Edith was accustomed to hear Ruth Leigh talk in this bitter strain when
this subject was introduced, and she contrived to turn the conversation
upon what she called practical work, and then to ask some particulars of
Father Damon's sudden illness.
"He did rest," the doctor said, "for a little, in his way. But he will
not spare himself, and he cannot stand it. I wish you could induce him
to come here often--to do anything for diversion. He looks so worn."
There was in the appeal to Edith a note of personal interest which her
quick heart did not fail to notice. And the thought came to her with a
painful apprehension. Poor thing! Poor Father Damon!
Does not each of them have to encounter misery enough without this?
Doesn't life spare anybody?
She told her apprehension to Jack when he came home.
Jack gave a long whistle. "That is a deadlock!"
"His vows, and her absolute materialism! Both of them would go to the
stake for what they believe, or don't believe. It troubles me very
"But," said Jack, "it's interesting. It's what they call a situation.
There. I didn't mean to make light of it. I don't believe there is
anything in it. But it would be comical, right here in New York."
"It would be tragical."
"Comedy usually is. I suppose it's the human nature in it. That is so
difficult to get rid of. But I thought the missionary business was safe.
Though, do you know, Edith, I should think better of both of them for
having some human feeling. By-the-way, did Dr. Leigh say anything about
"He has given Father Damon ten thousand dollars. It's in strict secrecy,
but Father Damon said I might tell you. He said it was providential."
"I thought Mr. Henderson was wholly unscrupulous and cold as ice."
"Yes, he's got a reputation for freeze-outs. If the Street knew this it
would say it was insurance money. And he is so cynical that he wouldn't
care what the Street said."
"Do you think it came about through Mrs. Henderson?"
"I don't think so. She was speaking of Father Damon this morning in the
Loan Exhibition. I don't believe she knows anything about it. Henderson
is a good deal shut up in himself. They say at the Union that years ago
he used to do a good many generous things--that he is a great deal harder
than he used to be."
This talk was before dinner. She did not ask anything now about Carmen,
though she knew that Jack had fallen into his old habit of seeing much of
her. He was less and less at home, except at dinner-time, and he was
often restless, and, she saw, often annoyed. When he was at home he
tried to make up for his absence by extra tenderness and consideration
for Edith and the boy. And this effort, and its evidence of a double if
not divided life, wounded her more than the neglect. One night, when he
came home late, he had been so demonstrative about the baby that Edith
had sent the nurse out of the room until she could coax Jack to go into
his own apartment. His fits of alternate good-humor and depression she
tried to attribute to his business, to which he occasionally alluded
without confiding in her.
The next morning Father Damon came in about luncheon-time. He apologized
for not coming before since her return, but he had been a little upset,
and his work was more and more interesting. His eyes were bright and his
manner had quite the usual calm, but he looked pale and thinner, and so
exhausted that Edith ran immediately for a glass of wine, and began to
upbraid him for not taking better care of himself.
"I take too much care of myself. We all do. The only thing I've got to
give is myself."
" But you will not last."
"That is of little moment; long or short, a man can only give himself.
Our Lord was not here very long." And then Father Damon smiled, and said
"My dear friend, I'm really doing very well. Of course I get tired.
Then I come up again. And every now and then I get a lift. Did Jack
tell you about Henderson?"
"Yes. Wasn't it strange?"
"I never was more surprised. He sent for me to come to his office.
Without any circumlocution, he asked me how I was getting on, and, before
I could answer, he said, in the driest business way, that he had been
thinking over a little plan, and perhaps I could help him. He had a
little money he wanted to invest--
"'In our mission chapel?' I asked.
"'No,' he said, without moving a muscle. 'Not that. I don't know much
about chapels, Father Damon. But I've been hearing what you are doing,
and it occurred to me that you must come across a good many cases not in
the regular charities that you could help judiciously, get them over hard
spots, without encouraging dependence. I'm going to put ten thousand
dollars into your hands, if you'll be bothered with it, to use at your
"I was taken aback, and I suppose I showed it, and I said that was a
great deal of money to intrust to one man.
"Henderson showed a little impatience. It depended upon the man. That
was his lookout. The money would be deposited, he said, in bank to my
order, and he asked me for my signature that he could send with the
"Of course I thanked him warmly, and said I hoped I could do some good
with it. He did not seem to pay much attention to what I was saying. He
was looking out of the window to the bare trees in the court back of his
office, and his hands were moving the papers on his table aimlessly
"'I shall know,' he said, 'when you have drawn this out. I've got a
fancy for keeping a little fund of this sort there.' And then he added,
still not looking at me, but at the dead branches, 'You might call it the
"That was the name of his first wife!" Edith exclaimed.
"Yes, I remember. I said I would, and began to thank him again as I rose
from my chair. He was still looking away, and saying, as if to himself,
'I think she would like that.' And then he turned, and, in his usual
abrupt office manner, said: 'Good-morning, good-morning. I am very much
obliged to you.'"
"Wasn't it all very strange!" Edith spoke, after a moment. "I didn't
suppose he cared. Do you think it was just sentiment?"
"I shouldn't wonder. Men like Henderson do queer things. In the hearts
of such hardened men there are sometimes roots of sentiment that you
wouldn't suspect. But I don't know. The Lord somehow looks out for his
Notwithstanding this windfall of charity, Father Damon seemed somewhat
depressed. "I wish," he said, after a pause, "he had given it to the
mission. We are so poor, and modern philanthropy all runs in other
directions. The relief of temporary suffering has taken the place of the
care of souls."
"But Dr. Leigh said that you were interesting the churches in the labor
"Yes. It is an effort to do something. The church must put herself into
sympathetic relations with these people, or she will accomplish nothing.
To get them into the church we must take up their burdens. But it is a
long way round. It is not the old method of applying the gospel to men's
"And yet," Edith insisted, "you must admit that such people as Dr. Leigh
are doing a good work."
Father Damon did not reply immediately. Presently he asked: "Do you
think, Mrs. Delancy, that Dr. Leigh has any sympathy with the higher
life, with spiritual things? I wish I could think so."
"With the higher life of humanity, certainly."
"Ah, that is too vague. I sometimes feel that she and those like her are
the worst opponents to our work. They substitute humanitarianism for the
"Yet I know of no one who works more than Ruth Leigh in the self-
sacrificing spirit of the Master."
"Whom she denies!" The quick reply came with a flush in his pale face,
and he instantly arose and walked away to the window and stood for some
moments in silence. When he turned there was another expression in his
eyes and a note of tenderness in his voice that contradicted the severity
of the priest. It was the man that spoke. "Yes, she is the best woman I
ever knew. God help me! I fear I am not fit for my work."
This outburst of Father Damon to her, so unlike his calm and trained
manner, surprised Edith, although she had already some suspicion of his
state of mind. But it would not have surprised her if she had known more
of men, the necessity of the repressed and tortured soul for sympathy,
and that it is more surely to be found in the heart of a pure woman than
But there was nothing that she could say, as she took his hand to bid him
good-by, except the commonplace that Dr. Leigh had expressed anxiety that
he was overworking, and that for the sake of his work he must be more
prudent. Yet her eyes expressed the sympathy she did not put in words.
Father Damon understood this, and he went away profoundly grateful for
her forbearance of verbal expression as much as for her sympathy. But he
did not suspect that she needed sympathy quite as much as he did, and
consequently he did not guess the extent of her self-control. It would
have been an immense relief to have opened her heart to him--and to whom
could she more safely do this than to a priest set apart from all human
entanglements?--and to have asked his advice. But Edith's peculiar
strength--or was it the highest womanly instinct?--lay in her discernment
of the truth that in one relation of life no confidences are possible
outside of that relation except to its injury, and that to ask
interference is pretty sure to seal its failure. As its highest joys
cannot be participated in, so its estrangements cannot be healed by any
influence outside of its sacred compact. To give confidence outside is
to destroy the mutual confidence upon which the relation rests, and
though interference may patch up livable compromises, the bloom of love
and the joy of life are not in them. Edith knew that if she could not
win her own battle, no human aid could win it for her.
And it was all the more difficult because it was vague and indefinite, as
the greater part of domestic tragedies are. For the most part life goes
on with external smoothness, and the public always professes surprise
when some accident, a suit at law, a sudden death, a contested will, a
slip from apparent integrity, or family greed or feminine revenge, turns
the light of publicity upon a household, to find how hollow the life has
been; in the light of forgotten letters, revealing check-books, servants'
gossip, and long-established habits of aversion or forbearance, how much
sordidness and meanness!
Was not everything going on as usual in the Delancy house and in the
little world of which it was a part? If there had been any open neglect
or jealousy, any quarrel or rupture, or any scene, these could be
described. These would have an interest to the biographer and perhaps to
the public. But at this period there was nothing of this sort to tell.
There were no scenes. There were no protests or remonstrances or
accusations, nor to the world was there any change in the daily life of
It was more pitiful even than that. Here was a woman who had set her
heart in all the passionate love of a pure ideal, and day by day she felt
that the world, the frivolous world, with its low and selfish aims, was
too strong for her, and that the stream was wrecking her life because it
was bearing Jack away from her. What could one woman do against the
accepted demoralizations of her social life? To go with them, not to
care, to accept Jack's idle, good-natured, easy philosophy of life and
conduct, would not that have insured a peaceful life? Why shouldn't she
conform and float, and not mind?
To be sure, a wise woman, who has been blessed or cursed with a long
experience of life, would have known that such a course could not
forever, or for long, secure happiness, and that a man's love ultimately
must rest upon a profound respect for his wife and a belief in her
nobility. Perhaps Edith did not reason in this way. Probably it was her
instinct for what was pure and true-showing, indeed, the quality of her
love-that guided her.
To Jack's friends he was much the same as usual. He simply went on in
his ante-marriage ways. Perhaps he drank a little more, perhaps he was a
little more reckless at cards, and it was certain that his taste for
amusing himself in second-hand book-shops and antiquity collections had
weakened. His talked-of project for some regular occupation seemed to
have been postponed, although he said to himself that it was only
postponed until his speculations, which kept him in a perpetual fever,
should put him in a position to command a business.
Meantime he did not neglect social life--that is, the easy, tolerant
company which lived as he liked to live. There was at first some
pretense of declining invitations which Edith could not accept, but he
soon fell into the habit of a man whose family has temporarily gone
abroad, with the privileges of a married man, without the
responsibilities of a bachelor. Edith could see that he took great
credit to himself for any evenings he spent at home, and perhaps he had a
sort of support in the idea that he was sacrificing himself to his
family. Major Fairfax, whom Edith distrusted as a misleader of youth,
did not venture to interfere with Jack again, but he said to himself that
it was a blank shame that with such a wife he should go dangling about
with women like Carmen and Miss Tavish, not that the Major himself had
any objection to their society, but, hang it all, that was no reason why
Jack should be a fool.
In midwinter Jack went to Washington on business. It was necessary to
see Mavick, and Mr. Henderson, who was also there. To spend a few weeks
at the capital, in preparation for Lent, has become a part of the program
of fashion. There can be met people like-minded from all parts of the
Union, and there is gayety, and the entertainment to be had in new
acquaintances, without incurring any of the responsibilities of social
continuance. They meet there on neutral ground. Half Jack's set had
gone over or were going. Young Van Dam would go with him. It will be
only for a few days, Jack had said, gayly, when he bade Edith good-by,
and she must be careful not to let the boy forget him.
It was quite by accident, apparently, that in the same train were the
Chesneys, Miss Tavish, and Carmen going over to join her husband. This
gave the business expedition the air of an excursion. And indeed at the
hotel where they stayed this New York contingent made something of an
impression, promising an addition to the gayety of the season, and
contributing to the importance of the house as a centre of fashion.
Henderson's least movements were always chronicled and speculated on,
and for years he had been one of the stock subjects, out of which even
the dullest interviewers, who watch the hotel registers in all parts of
the country, felt sure that they could make an acceptable paragraph. The
arrival of his wife, therefore, was a newspaper event.
They said in Washington at the time that Mrs. Henderson was one of the
most fascinating of women, amiable, desirous to please, approachable, and
devoted to the interests of her husband. If some of the women, residents
in established society, were a little shy of her, if some, indeed,
thought her dangerous--women are always thinking this of each other,
and surely they ought to know-nothing of this appeared in the reports.
The men liked her. She had so much vivacity, such esprit, she understood
men so well, and the world, and could make allowances, and was always an
entertaining companion. More than one Senator paid marked court to her,
more than one brilliant young fellow of the House thought himself
fortunate if he sat next her at dinner, and even cabinet officers waited
on her at supper. It could not be doubted that a smile and a
confidential or a witty remark from Mrs. Henderson brightened many an
evening. Wherever she went her charming toilets were fully described,
and the public knew as well as her jewelers the number and cost of her
diamonds, her necklaces, her tiaras. But this was for the world and for
state occasions. At home she liked simplicity. And this was what
impressed the reporters when, in the line of their public duty, they were
admitted to her presence. With them she was very affable, and she made
them feel that they could almost be classed with her friends, and that
they were her guardians against the vulgar publicity, which she disliked
and shrank from.
There went abroad, therefore, an impression of her amiability,
her fabulous wealth in jewels and apparel, her graciousness and her
cleverness and her domesticity. Her manners seemed to the reporters
those of a "lady," and of this both her wit and freedom from prudishness
and her courteous treatment of them convinced them. And the best of all
this was that while it was said that Henderson was one of the boldest and
shrewdest of operators, and a man to be feared in the Street, he was in
his family relations one of the most generous and kind-hearted of men.
Henderson himself had not much time for the frivolities of the season,
and he evaded all but the more conspicuous social occasions, at which
Carmen, sometimes with a little temper, insisted that he should accompany
her. "You would come here," he once said, "when you knew I was immersed
in most perplexing business."
"And now I am here," she had replied, in a tone equally wanting in
softness, "you have got to make the best of me."
Was Jack happy in the whirl he was in? Some days exceedingly so. Some
days he sulked, and some days he threw himself with recklessness born of
artificial stimulants into the always gay and rattling moods of Miss
Tavish. Somehow he could get no nearer to Henderson or to Mavick than
when he was in New York. Not that he could accuse Mavick of trying to
conceal anything; Mavick bore to him always the open, "all right"
attitude, but there were things that he did not understand.
And then Carmen? Was she a little less dependent on him, in this wide
horizon, than in New York? And had he noticed a little disposition to
patronize on two or three occasions? It was absurd. He laughed at
himself for such an idea. Old Eschelle's daughter patronize him!
And yet there was something. She was very confidential with Mavick.
They seemed to have a great deal in common. It so happened that even in
the little expeditions of sightseeing these two were thrown much
together, and at times when the former relations of Jack and Carmen
should have made them comrades. They had a good deal to say to each
other, and momentarily evidently serious things, and at receptions Jack
had interrupted their glances of intelligence. But what stuff this was!
He jealous of the attentions of his friend to another man's wife! If she
was a coquette, what did it matter to him? Certainly he was not jealous.
But he was irritated.
One day after a round of receptions, in which Jack had been specially
disgruntled, and when he was alone in the drawing-room of the hotel with
Carmen, his manner was so positively rude to her that she could not but
notice it. There was this trait of boyishness in Jack, and it was one of
the weaknesses that made him loved, that he always cried out when he was
Did Carmen resent this? Did she upbraid him for his manner? Did she
apologize, as if she had done anything to provoke it? She sank down
wearily in a chair and said:
"I'm so tired. I wish I were back in New York."
"You don't act like it," Jack replied, gruffly.
"No. You don't understand. And now you want to make me more miserable.
See here, Mr. Delancy," and she started up in her seat and turned to him,
"you are a man of honor. Would you advise me to make an enemy of Mr.
Mavick, knowing all that he does know about Mr. Henderson's affairs?"
"I don't see what that has got to do with it," said Jack, wavering.
"Lately your manner--"
"Nonsense!" cried Carmen, springing up and approaching Jack with a smile
of animation and trust, and laying her hand on his shoulder. "We are
old, old friends. And I have just confided to you what I wouldn't to any
other living being. There!" And looking around at the door, she tapped
him lightly on the cheek and ran out of the room.
Whatever you might say of Carmen, she had this quality of a wise person,
that she never cut herself loose from one situation until she was
entirely sure of a better position.
For one reason or another Jack's absence was prolonged. He wrote often,
he made bright comments on the characters and peculiarities of the
capital, and he said that he was tired to death of the everlasting whirl
and scuffle. People plunged in the social whirlpool always say they are
weary of it, and they complain bitterly of its exactions and its tax on
their time and strength. Edith judged, especially from the complaints,
that her husband was enjoying himself. She felt also that his letters
were in a sense perfunctory, and gave her only the surface of his life.
She sought in vain in them for those evidences of spontaneous love, of
delight in writing to her of all persons in the world, the eagerness of
the lover that she recalled in letters written in other days. However
affectionate in expression, these were duty letters. Edith was not
alone. She had no lack of friends, who came and went in the common round
of social exchange, and for many of them she had a sincere affection.
And there were plenty of relatives on the father's and on the mother's
side. But for the most part they were old-fashioned, home-keeping New-
Yorkers, who were sufficient to themselves, and cared little for the set
into which Edith's marriage had more definitely placed her. In any real
trouble she would not have lacked support. She was deemed fortunate in
her marriage, and in her apparent serene prosperity it was believed that
she was happy. If she had had mother or sister or brother, it is
doubtful if she would have made either a confidant of her anxieties,
but high-spirited and self-reliant as she was, there were days when she
longed with intolerable heartache for the silent sympathy of a mother's
It is singular how lonely a woman of this nature can be in a gay and
friendly world. She had her interests, to be sure. As she regained her
strength she took up her social duties, and she tried to resume her
studies, her music, her reading, and she occupied herself more and more
with the charities and the fortunes of her friends who were giving their
lives to altruistic work. But there was a sense of unreality in all
this. The real thing was the soul within, the longing, loving woman
whose heart was heavy and unsatisfied. Jack was so lovable, he had in
his nature so much nobility, if the world did not kill it, her life might
be so sweet, and so completely fulfill her girlish dreams. All these
schemes of a helpful, altruistic life had been in her dream, but how
empty it was without the mutual confidence, the repose in the one human
love for which she cared.
Though she was not alone, she had no confidant. She could have none.
What was there to confide? There was nothing to be done. There was no
flagrant wrong or open injustice. Some women in like circumstances
become bitter and cynical. Others take their revenge in a career
reckless, but within social conventions, going their own way in a sort of
matrimonial truce. These are not noticeable tragedies. They are things
borne with a dumb ache of the heart. There are lives into which the show
of spring comes, but without the song of birds or the scent of flowers.
They are endured bravely, with a heroism for which the world does not
often give them credit. Heaven only knows how many noble women-noble in
this if in nothing else--carry through life this burden of an unsatisfied
heart, mocked by the outward convention of love.
But Edith had one confidant--the boy. And he was perfectly safe; he
would reveal nothing. There were times when he seemed to understand,
and whether he did or not she poured out her heart to him. Often in the
twilight she sat by him in this silent communion. If he were asleep--and
he was not troubled with insomnia--he was still company. And when he was
awake, his efforts to communicate the dawning ideas of the queer world
into which he had come were a never-failing delight. He wanted so many
more things than he could ask for, which it was his mother's pleasure to
divine; later on he would ask for so many things he could not get. The
nurse said that he had uncommon strength of will.
These were happy hours, imagining what the boy would be, planning what
she would make his life, hours enjoyed as a traveler enjoys wayside
flowers, snatched before an approaching storm. It is a pity, the nurse
would say, that his father cannot see him now. And at the thought Edith
could only see the child through tears, and a great weight rested on her
heart in all this happiness.
When Father Damon parted from Edith he seemed to himself strengthened in
his spirit. His momentary outburst had shown him where he stood-the
strength of his fearful temptation. To see it was to be able to conquer
it. He would humiliate himself; he would scourge himself; he would fast
and pray; he would throw himself more unreservedly into the service of
his Master. He had been too compromising with sin and sinners, and with
his own weakness and sin, the worst of all.
The priest walked swiftly through the wintry streets, welcoming as a sort
of penance the biting frost which burned his face and penetrated his
garments. He little heeded the passers in the streets, those who hurried
or those who loitered, only, if he met or passed a woman or a group of
girls, he instinctively drew himself away and walked more rapidly. He
strode on uncompromisingly, and his clean-shaved face was set in rigid
lines. Those who saw him pass would have said that there went an ascetic
bent on judgment. Many who did know him, and who ordinarily would have
saluted him, sure of a friendly greeting, were repelled by his stern face
and determined air, and made no sign. The father had something on his
As he turned into Rivington Street there approached him from the opposite
direction a girl, walking slowly and undecidedly. When he came near her
she looked up, with an appealing recognition. In a flash of the quick
passing he thought he knew her--a girl who had attended his mission and
whom he had not seen for several months-but he made no sign and passed
He turned about short at the sound of the weak, pleading voice, but with
no relaxation of his severe, introverted mood. "Well?"
It was the girl he remembered. She wore a dress of silk that had once
been fine, and over it an ample cloak that had quite lost its freshness,
and a hat still gay with cheap flowers. Her face, which had a sweet and
almost innocent expression, was drawn and anxious. The eyes were those
of a troubled and hunted animal.
"I thought," she said, hesitatingly, "you didn't know me."
"Yes, I know you. Why haven't you been at the mission lately?"
"I couldn't come. I--"
"I'm afraid you have fallen into bad ways."
She did not answer immediately. She looked away, and, still avoiding his
gaze, said, timidly: "I thought I would tell you, Father Damon, that I'm
--that I'm in trouble. I don't know what to do."
"Have you repented of your sin?" asked he, with a little softening of his
tone. "Did you want to come to me for help?"
"He's deserted me," said the girl, looking down, absorbed in her own
misery, and not heeding his question.
"Ah, so that is what you are sorry for?" The severe, reproving tone had
come back to his voice.
"And they don't want me in the shop any more."
The priest hesitated. Was he always to preach against sin, to strive to
extirpate it, and yet always to make it easy for the sinner? This girl
must realize her guilt before he could do her any good. "Are you sorry
for what you have done?"
"Yes, I'm sorry," she replied. Wasn't to be in deep trouble to be
sorry? And then she looked up, and continued with the thought in her
mind, "I didn't know who else to go to."
"Well, my child, if you are sorry, and want to lead a different life,
come to me at the mission and I will try to help you."
The priest, with a not unkindly good-by, passed on. The girl stood a
moment irresolute, and then went on her way heavily and despondent.
What good would it do her to go to the mission now?
Three days later Dr. Leigh was waiting at the mission chapel to speak
with the rector after the vesper service. He came out pale and weary,
and the doctor hesitated to make known her errand when she saw how
exhausted he was.
"Did you wish me for anything?" he asked, after the rather forced
"If you feel able. There is a girl at the Woman's Hospital who wants to
"Who is it?"
"It is the girl you saw on the street the other afternoon; she said she
had spoken to you."
"She promised to come to the mission."
"She couldn't. I met the poor thing the same afternoon. She looked so
aimless and forlorn that, though I did not remember her at first, I
thought she might be ill, and spoke to her, and asked her what was the
matter. At first she said nothing except that she was out of work and
felt miserable; but the next moment she broke down completely, and said
she hadn't a friend in the world."
"Poor thing!" said the priest, with a pang of self-reproach.
"There was nothing to do but to take her to the hospital, and there she
"Is she very ill?"
"She may live, the house surgeon says. But she was very weak for such a
Little more was said as they walked along, and when they reached the
hospital, Father Damon was shown without delay into the ward where the
sick girl lay. Dr. Leigh turned back from the door, and the nurse took
him to the bedside. She lay quite still in her cot, wan and feeble, with
every sign of having encountered a supreme peril.
She turned her head on the low pillow as Father Damon spoke, saying he
was very glad he could come to her, and hoped she was feeling better.
"I knew you would come," she said, feebly. "The nurse says I'm better.
But I wanted to tell you--"And she stopped.
"Yes, I know," he said. "The Lord is very good. He will forgive all
your sins now, if you repent and trust Him."
"I hope--"she began. "I'm so weak. If I don't live I want him to know."
"Want whom to know?" asked the father, bending over her.
She signed for him to come closer, and then whispered a name.
"Only if I never see him again, if you see him, you will tell him that I
was always true to him. He said such hard words. I was always true."
"I promise," said the father, much moved. "But now, my child, you ought
to think of yourself, of your--"
"He is dead. Didn't they tell you? There is nothing any more."
The nurse approached with a warning gesture that the interview was too
Father Damon knelt for a moment by the bedside, uttering a hardly
articulate prayer. The girl's eyes were closed. When he rose she opened
them with a look of gratitude, and with the sign of blessing he turned
He intended to hasten from the house. He wanted to be alone. His
trouble seemed to him greater than that of the suffering girl. What had
he done? What was he in thought better than she? Was this intruding
human element always to cross the purpose of his spiritual life?
As he was passing through the wide hallway the door of the reception-room
was open, and he saw Dr. Leigh seated at the table, with a piece of work
in her hands. She looked up, and stopped him with an unspoken inquiry in
her face. It was only civil to pause a moment and tell her about the
patient, and as he stepped within the room she rose.
"You should rest a moment, Father Damon. I know what these scenes are."
Yielding weakly, as he knew, he took the offered chair. But he raised
his hand in refusal of the glass of wine which she had ready for him on
the table, and offered before he could speak.
"But you must," she said, with a smile. "It is the doctor's
She did not look like a doctor. She had laid aside the dusty walking-
dress, the business-jacket, the ugly little hat of felt, the battered
reticule. In her simple house costume she was the woman, homelike,
sympathetic, gentle, with the everlasting appeal of the strong feminine
nature. It was not a temptress who stood before him, but a helpful
woman, in whose kind eyes-how beautiful they were in this moment of
sympathy--there was trust--and rest--and peace.
"So," she said, when he had taken the much-needed draught; "in the
hospital you must obey the rules, one of which is to let no one sink in
She had taken her seat now, and resumed her work. Father Damon was
looking at her, seeing the woman, perhaps, as he never had seen her
before, a certain charm in her quiet figure and modest self-possession,
while the thought of her life, of her labors, as he had seen her now for
months and months of entire sacrifice of self, surged through his brain
in a whirl of emotion that seemed sweeping him away. But when he spoke
it was of the girl, and as if to himself.
"I was sorry to let her go that day. Friendless, I should have known.
I did know. I should have felt. You--"
"No," she said, gently, interrupting him; "that was my business. You
should not accuse yourself. It was a physician's business."
"Yes, a physician--the great Physician. The Master never let the sin
hinder his compassion for the sinner."
To this she could make no reply. Presently she looked up and said: "But
I am sure your visit was a great comfort to the poor girl! She was very
eager to see you."
"I do not know."
His air was still abstracted. He was hardly thinking of the girl, after
all, but of himself, of the woman who sat before him. It seemed to him
that he would have given the world to escape--to fly from her, to fly
from himself. Some invisible force held him--a strong, new, and yet not
new, emotion, a power that seemed to clutch his very life. He could not
think clearly about it. In all his discipline, in his consecration, in
his vows of separation from the world, there seemed to have been no
shield prepared for this. The human asserted itself, and came in,
overwhelming his guards and his barriers like a strong flood in the
spring-time of the year, breaking down all artificial contrivances.
"They reckon ill who leave me out," is the everlasting cry of the human
heart, the great passion of life, incarnate in the first man and the
With a supreme effort of his iron will--is the Will, after all, stronger
than Love?--Father Damona rose. He stretched out his hand to say
farewell. She also stood, and she felt the hand tremble that held hers.
"God bless you!" he said. "You are so good."
He was going. He took her other hand, and was looking down upon her
face. She looked up, and their eyes met. It was for an instant, a
flash, glance for glance, as swift as the stab of daggers.
All the power of heaven and earth could not recall that glance nor undo
its revelations. The man and the woman stood face to face revealed.
He bent down towards her face. Affrighted by his passion, scarcely able
to stand in her sudden emotion, she started back. The action, the
instant of time, recalled him to himself. He dropped her hands, and was
gone. And the woman, her knees refusing any longer to support her, sank
into a chair, helpless, and saw him go, and knew in that moment the
height of a woman's joy, the depth of a woman's despair.
It had come to her! Steeled by her science, shielded by her
philanthropy, schooled in indifference to love, it had come to her!
And it was hopeless. Hopeless? It was absurd. Her life was determined.
In no event could it be in harmony with his opinions, with his religion,
which was dearer to him than life. There was a great gulf between them
which she could not pass unless she ceased to be herself. And he?
A severe priest! Vowed and consecrated against human passion! What a
government of the world--if there were any government--that could permit
such a thing! It was terrible.
And yet she was loved! That sang in her heart with all the pain, with
all the despair. And with it all was a great pity for him, alone, gone
into the wilderness, as it would seem to him, to struggle with his fierce
It had come on darker as she sat there. The lamps were lighted, and she
was reminded of some visits she must make. She went, mechanically,
to her room to prepare for going. The old jacket, which she took up, did
look rather rusty. She went to the press--it was not much of a wardrobe
--and put on the one that was reserved for holidays. And the hat? Her
friends had often joked her about the hat, but now for the first time she
seemed to see it as it might appear to others. As she held it in her
hand, and then put it on before the mirror, she smiled a little, faintly,
at its appearance. And then she laid it aside for her better hat. She
never had been so long in dressing before. And in the evening, too, when
it could make no difference! It might, after all, be a little more
cheerful for her forlorn patients. Perhaps she was not conscious that
she was making selections, that she was paying a little more attention to
her toilet than usual. Perhaps it was only the woman who was conscious
that she was loved.
It would be difficult to say what emotion was uppermost in the mind of
Father Damon as he left the house--mortification, contempt of himself,
or horror. But there was a sense of escape, of physical escape, and the
imperative need of it, that quickened his steps almost into a run.
In the increasing dark, at this hour, in this quarter of the town, there
were comparatively few whose observation of him would recall him to
himself. He thought only of escape, and of escape from that quarter of
the city that was the witness of his labors and his failure. For the
moment to get away from this was the one necessity, and without reasoning
in the matter, only feeling, he was hurrying, stumbling in his haste,
northward. Before he went to the hospital he had been tired, physically
weary. He was scarcely conscious of it now; indeed, his body, his hated
body, seemed lighter, and the dominant spirit now awakened to contempt of
it had a certain pleasure in testing it, in drawing upon its vitality, to
the point of exhaustion if possible. It should be seen which was master.
His rapid pace presently brought him into one of the great avenues
leading to Harlem. That was the direction he wished to go. That was
where he knew, without making any decision, he must go, to the haven of
the house of his order, on the heights beyond Harlem. A train was just
clattering along on the elevated road above him. He could see the faces
at the windows, the black masses crowding the platforms. It went
pounding by as if it were freight from another world. He was in haste,
but haste to escape from himself. That way, bearing him along with other
people, and in the moving world, was to bring him in touch with humanity
again, and so with what was most hateful in himself. He must be alone.
But there was a deeper psychological reason than that for walking,
instead of availing himself of the swiftest method of escape. He was not
fleeing from justice or pursuit. When the mind is in torture and the
spirit is torn, the instinctive effort is to bodily activity, to force
physical exertion, as if there must be compensation for the mental strain
in the weariness of nature. The priest obeyed this instinct, as if it
were possible to walk away from himself, and went on, at first with
almost no sense of weariness.
And the shame! He could not bear to be observed. It seemed to him that
every one would see in his face that he was a recreant priest, perjured
and forsworn. And so great had been his spiritual pride! So removed he
had deemed himself from the weakness of humanity! And he had yielded at
the first temptation, and the commonest of all temptations! Thank God,
he had not quite yielded. He had fled. And yet, how would it have been
if Ruth Leigh had not had a moment of reserve, of prudent repulsion!
He groaned in anguish. The sin was in the intention. It was no merit of
his that he had not with a kiss of passion broken his word to his Lord
and lost his soul.
It was remorse that was driving him along the avenue; no room for any
other thought yet, or feeling. Perhaps it is true in these days that the
old-fashioned torture known as remorse is rarely experienced except under
the name of detection. But it was a reality with this highly sensitive
nature, with this conscience educated to the finest edge of feeling. The
world need never know his moment's weakness; Ruth Leigh he could trust as
he would have trusted his own sister to guard his honor--that was all
over--never, he was sure, would she even by a look recall the past;
but he knew how he had fallen, and the awful measure of his lapse from
loyalty to his Master. And how could he ever again stand before erring,
sinful men and women and speak about that purity which he had violated?
Could repentance, confession, penitence, wipe away this stain?
As he went on, his mind in a whirl of humiliation, self-accusation, and
contempt, at length he began to be conscious of physical weariness.
Except the biscuit and the glass of wine at the hospital, he had taken
nothing since his light luncheon. When he came to the Harlem Bridge he
was compelled to rest. Leaning against one of the timbers and half
seated, with the softened roar of the city in his ears, the lights
gleaming on the heights, the river flowing dark and silent, he began to
be conscious of his situation. Yes, he was very tired. It seemed
difficult to go on without help of some sort. At length he crossed the
bridge. Lights were gleaming from the saloons along the street. He
paused in front of one, irresolute. Food he could not taste, but
something he must have to carry him on. But no, that would not do; he
could not enter that in his priest's garb. He dragged himself along
until he came to a drug-shop, the modern saloon of the respectably
virtuous. That he entered, and sat down on a stool by the soda-water
counter. The expectant clerk stared at him while waiting the order,
his hand tentatively seeking one of the faucets of refreshment.
"I feel a little feverish," said the father. "You may give me five
grains of quinine in whisky."
"That'll put you all right," said the boy as he handed him the mixture.
"It's all the go now."
It seemed to revive him, and he went out and walked on towards the
heights. Somehow, seeing this boy, coming back to common life, perhaps
the strong and unaccustomed stimulant, gave a new shade to his thoughts.
He was safe. Presently he would be at the Retreat. He would rest, and
then gird up his loins and face life again. The mood lasted for some
time. And when the sense of physical weariness came back, that seemed to
dull the acuteness of his spiritual torment. It was late when he reached
the house and rang the night-bell. No one of the brothers was up except
Father Monies, and it was he who came to the door.
"You! So late! Is anything the matter?"
"I needed to come," the father said, simply, and he grasped the door-
post, steadying himself as he came in.
"You look like a ghost."
"Yes. I'm tired. I walked."
"Walked? From Rivington Street?"
"Nearly. I felt like it."
"It's most imprudent. You dined first?"
"I wasn't hungry."
"But you must have something at once." And Father Monies hurried away,
heated some bouillon by a spirit-lamp, and brought it, with bread, and
set it before his unexpected guest.
"There, eat that, and get to bed as soon as you can. It was great
And Father Damon obeyed. Indeed, he was too exhausted to talk.
Father Damon slept the sleep of exhaustion. In this for a time the mind
joined in the lethargy of the body. But presently, as the vital currents
were aroused, the mind began to play its fantastic tricks. He was a
seminary student, he was ordained, he was taking his vows before the
bishop, he was a robust and consecrated priest performing his first
service, shining, it seemed to him, before the congregation in the purity
of his separation from the world. How strong he felt. And then came
perplexities, difficulties, interests, and conflicting passions in life
that he had not suspected, good that looked like evil, and evil that had
an alloy of virtue, and the way was confused. And then there was a
vision of a sort of sister of charity working with him in the evil and
the good, drawing near to him, and yet repelling him with a cold,
scientific skepticism that chilled him like blasphemy; but so patient was
she, so unconscious of self, that gradually he lost this feeling of
repulsion and saw only the woman, that wonderful creation, tender,
pitiful comrade, the other self. And then there was darkness and
blindness, and he stood once more before his congregation, speaking words
that sounded hollow, hearing responses that mocked him, stared at by
accusing eyes that knew him for a hypocrite. And he rushed away and left
them, hearing their laughter as he went, and so into the street--plainly
it was Rivington Street--and faces that he knew had a smile and a sneer,
and he heard comments as he passed "Hulloa, Father Damon, come in and
have a drink." "I say, Father Damon, I seen her going round into Grand
When Father Monies looked in, just before daylight, Father Damon was
still sleeping, but tossing restlessly and muttering incoherently; and he
did not arouse him for the early devotions.
It was very late when he awoke, and opened his eyes to a confused sense
of some great calamity. Father Monies was standing by the bedside with a
cup of coffee.
"You have had a good sleep. Now take this, and then you may get up. The
breakfast will wait for you."
Father Damon started up. "Why didn't you call me? I am late for the
"Oh, Bendes has gone down long ago. You must take it easy; rest today.
You'll be all right. You haven't a bit of fever."
"But," still declining the coffee, "before I break my fast, I have
something to say to you. I--"
"Get some strength first. Besides, I have an engagement. I cannot wait.
Pull yourself together; I may not be back before evening."
So it was fated that he should be left still with himself. After his
coffee he dressed slowly, as if it were not he, but some one else going
through this familiar duty, as if it were scarcely worth while to do
anything any more. And then, before attempting his breakfast, he went
into the little oratory, and remained long in the attitude of prayer,
trying to realize what he was and what he had done. He prayed for
himself, for help, for humility, and he prayed for her; he had been used
of late to pray for her guidance, now he prayed that she might be
When he came forth it was in a calmer frame of mind. It was all clear
now. When Father Monies returned he would confess, and take his penance,
and resolutely resume his life. He understood life better now. Perhaps
this blow was needed for his spiritual pride.
It was a mild winter day, bright, and with a touch of summer, such as
sometimes gets shuffled into our winter calendar. The book that he took
up did not interest him; he was in no mood for the quiet meditation that
it usually suggested to him, and he put it down and strolled out,
directing his steps farther up the height, and away from the suburban
stir. As he went on there was something consonant with his feelings in
the bare wintry landscape, and when he passed the ridge and walked along
the top of the river slope, he saw, as it seemed to him he had not seen
it before, that lovely reach of river, the opposite wooded heights, the
noble pass above, the peacefulness and invitation of nature. Had he a
new sense to see all this? There was a softness in the distant outline,
villas peeped out here and there, carriages were passing in the road
below, there was a cheerful life in the stream--there was a harmony in
the aspect of nature and humanity from this height. Was not the world
beautiful? and human emotion, affection, love, were they alien to the
She loved beauty; she was fond of flowers; often she had spoken to him of
her childish delight in her little excursions, rarely made, into the
country. He could see her now standing just there and feasting her eyes
on this noble panorama, and he could see her face all aglow, as she might
turn to him and say, "Isn't it beautiful, Father Damon?" And she was
down in those reeking streets, climbing about in the foul tenement-
houses, taking a sick child in her arms, speaking a word of cheer--a good
physician going about doing good!
And it might have been! Why was it that this peace of nature should
bring up her image, and that they should seem in harmony? Was not the
love of beauty and of goodness the same thing? Did God require in His
service the atrophy of the affections? As long as he was in the world
was it right that he should isolate himself from any of its sympathies
and trials? Why was it not a higher life to enter into the common lot,
and suffer, if need be, in the struggle to purify and ennoble all?
He remembered the days he had once passed in the Trappist monastery of
Gethsemane. The perfect peace of mind of the monks was purchased at the
expense of the extirpation of every want, all will, every human interest.
Were these men anything but specimens in a Museum of Failures? And yet,
for the time being, it had seemed attractive to him, this simple
vegetable existence, whose only object was preparation for death by the
extinction of all passion and desire. No, these were not soldiers of the
Lord, but the fainthearted, who had slunk into the hospital.
All this afternoon he was drifting in thought, arraigning his past life,
excusing it, condemning it, and trying to forecast its future. Was this
a trial of his constancy and faith, or had he made a mistake, entered
upon a slavish career, from which he ought to extricate himself at any
cost of the world's opinion? But presently he was aware that in all
these debates with himself her image appeared. He was trying to fit his
life to the thought of her. And when this became clearer in his tortured
mind, the woman appeared as a temptation. It was not, then, the love of
beauty, not even the love of humanity, and very far from being the
service of his Master, that he was discussing, but only his desire for
one person. It was that, then, that made him, for that fatal instant,
forget his vow, and yield to the impulse of human passion. The thought
of that moment stung him with confusion and shame. There had been
moments in this afternoon wandering--when it had seemed possible for him
to ask for release, and to take up a human, sympathetic life with her, in
mutual consecration in the service of the Lord's poor. Yes, and by love
to lead her into a higher conception of the Divine love. But this
breaking a solemn vow at the dictates of passion was a mortal sin--there
was no other name for it--a sin demanding repentance and expiation.
As he at last turned homeward, facing the great city and his life there,
this became more clear to him. He walked rapidly. The lines of his face
became set in a hard judgment of himself. He thought no more of escaping
from himself, but of subduing himself, stamping out the appeals of his
lower nature. It was in this mood that he returned.
Father Monies was awaiting him, and welcomed him with that look of
affection, of more than brotherly love, which the good man had for the
"I hope your walk has done you good."
"Perhaps," Father Damon replied, without any leniency in his face; "but
that does not matter. I must tell you what I could not last night. Can
you hear me?"
They went together into the oratory. Father Damon did not spare himself.
He kept nothing back that could heighten the enormity of his offense.
And Father Monies did not attempt to lessen the impression upon himself
of the seriousness of the scandal. He was shocked. He was exceedingly
grave, but he was even more pitiful. His experience of life had been
longer than that of the penitent. He better knew its temptations. His
own peace had only been won by long crucifixion of the natural desires.
"I have nothing to say as to your own discipline. That you know. But
there is one thing. You must face this temptation, and subdue it."
"You mean that I must go back to my labor in the city?"
"Yes. You can rest here a few days if you feel too weak physically."
"No; I am well enough." He hesitated. "I thought perhaps some other
field, for a time?"
"There is no other field for you. It is not for the moment the question
of where you can do most good. You are to reinstate yourself. You are a
soldier of the Lord Jesus, and you are to go where the battle is most