Part 4 out of 5
whether or not you are too young to be married."
"Mama, I will marry Pete," said Mathilde, trying to make a voice broken
with sobs sound firm and resolute.
"Mr. Wayne at the moment has no means whatsoever, as I understand it,"
"I don't care whether he has or not," said Mathilde.
Adelaide laughed. The laugh rather shocked Mr. Lanley. He tried to
"I feel sorry for you, but you can't imagine how painful it is to us to
think that Mathilde came so near to being mixed up with a crooked deal
like that--Mathilde, of all people. You ought to see that for yourself."
"I see it, thank you," said Pete.
"Really, Mr. Wayne, I don't think that's quite the tone to take," put
"I don't think it is," said Wayne.
Mathilde, making one last grasp at self-control, said:
"They wouldn't be so horrid to you, Pete, if they understood--" But the
muscles of her throat contracted, and she never got any further.
"I suppose I shall be thought a very cruel parent," said Adelaide, almost
airily, "but this sort of thing can't go on, really, you know."
"No, it really can't," said Mr. Lanley. "We feel you have abused our
"No, I don't reproach Mr. Wayne along those lines," said Adelaide. "He
owes me nothing. I had not supposed Mathilde would deceive me, but we
won't discuss that now. It isn't anything against Mr. Wayne to say he has
made a mistake. Five years from now, I'm sure, he would not put himself,
or let himself be put, in such an extremely humiliating position. And I
don't say that if he came back five years from now with some financial
standing I should be any more opposed to him than to any one else. Only
in the meantime there can be no engagement." Adelaide looked very
reasonable. "You must see that."
"You mean I'm not to see him?"
"Of course not."
"I must see him," said Mathilde.
Lanley looked at Wayne.
"This is an opportunity for you to rehabilitate yourself. You ought to be
man enough to promise you won't see her until you are in a position to
ask her to be your wife."
"I have asked her that already, you know," returned Wayne with an attempt
at a smile.
"Pete, you wouldn't desert me?" said Mathilde.
"If Mr. Wayne had any pride, my dear, he would not wish to come to a
house where he was unwelcome," said her mother.
"I'm afraid I haven't any of that sort of pride at all, Mrs. Farron."
Adelaide made a little gesture, as much as to say, with her traditions,
she really did not know how to deal with people who hadn't.
"Mathilde,"--Wayne spoke very gently,--"don't you think you could
"I'm trying all the time, Pete. You won't go away, no matter what
"Of course not."
"It seems to be a question between what I think best for my daughter as
opposed to what you think best--for yourself," observed Adelaide.
"Nobody wants to turn you out of the house, you know," said Mr. Lanley in
a conciliatory tone, "but the engagement is at an end."
"If you do turn him out, I'll go with him," said Mathilde, and she took
his hand and held it in a tight, moist clasp.
They looked so young and so distressed as they stood there hand in hand
that Lanley found himself relenting.
"We don't say that your marriage will never be possible," he said. "We
are asking you to wait--consent to a separation of six months."
"Six months!" wailed Mathilde.
"With your whole life before you?" her grandfather returned wistfully.
"I'm afraid I am asking a little more than that, Papa," said Adelaide. "I
have never been enthusiastic about this engagement, but while I was
watching and trying to be cooperative, it seems Mr. Wayne intended to run
off with my daughter. I know Mathilde is young and easily influenced, but
I don't think, I don't really think,"--Adelaide made it evident that she
was being just,--"that any other of all the young men who come to the
house would have tried to do that, and none of them would have got
themselves into this difficulty. I mean,"--she looked up at Wayne,--"I
think almost any of them would have had a little better business judgment
than you have shown."
"Mama," put in her daughter, "can't you see how honest it was of Pete not
to go, anyhow?"
Adelaide smiled ironically.
"No; I can't think that an unusually high standard, dear."
This seemed to represent the final outrage to Mathilde. She turned.
"O Pete, wouldn't your mother take me in?" she asked.
And as if to answer the question, Pringle opened the door and announced
In all the short, but crowded, time since Lanley had first known Mrs.
Wayne he had never been otherwise than glad to see her, but now his heart
sank. It seemed to him that an abyss was about to open between them, and
that all their differences of spirit, stimulating enough while they
remained in the abstract, were about to be cast into concrete form.
Mathilde and Pete were so glad to see her that they said nothing, but
looked at her beamingly. Whatever Adelaide's feelings may have been,
she greeted her guest with a positive courtesy, and she was the only
one who did.
Mrs. Wayne nodded to her son, smiled more formally at Mr. Lanley, and
then her eyes falling upon Mathilde, she realized that she had intruded
on some sort of conference. She had a natural dread of such meetings, at
which it seemed to her that the only thing which she must not do was the
only thing that she knew how to do, namely, to speak her mind. So she at
once decided to withdraw.
"Your man insisted on my coming in, Mrs. Farron," she said. "I came to
ask about Mr. Farron; but I see you are in the midst of a family
discussion, and so I won't--"
Everybody separately cried out to her to stay as she began to retreat to
the door, and no one more firmly than Adelaide, who thought it as
careless as Mr. Lanley thought it creditable that a mother would be
willing to go away and leave the discussion of her son's life to others.
Adelaide saw an opportunity of killing two birds.
"You are just the person for whom I have been longing, Mrs. Wayne," she
said. "Now you have come, we can settle the whole question."
"And just what is the question?" asked Mrs. Wayne. She sat down,
looking distressed and rather guilty. She knew they were going to ask
her what she knew about all the things that had been going on, and a
hasty examination of her consciousness showed her that she knew
everything, though she had avoided Pete's full confidence. She knew
simply by knowing that any two young people who loved each other would
rather marry than separate for a year. But she was aware that this
deduction, so inevitable to her, was exactly the one which would be
denied by the others. So she sat, with a nervously pleasant smile on
her usually untroubled face, and waited for Adelaide to speak. She did
not have long to wait.
"You did not know, I am sure, Mrs. Wayne, that your son intended to run
away with my daughter?"
All four of them stared at her, making her feel more and more guilty; and
at last Lanley, unable to bear it, asked:
"Did you know that, Mrs. Wayne?"
"Oh, dear!" said Mrs. Wayne. "Yes. I knew it was possible; so did you.
Pete didn't tell me about it, though."
"But I did tell Mrs. Farron," said Pete.
Adelaide protested at once.
"You told me?" Then she remembered that a cloud had obscured the end of
their last interview, but she did not withdraw her protest.
"You know, Mrs. Farron, you have a bad habit of not listening to what is
said to you," Wayne answered firmly.
This sort of impersonal criticism was to Adelaide the greatest
impertinence, and she showed her annoyance.
"In spite of the disabilities of age, Mr. Wayne," she said, "I find I
usually can get a simple idea if clearly presented."
"Why, how absurd that is, Wayne!" put in Mr. Lanley. "You don't mean to
say that you told Mrs. Farron you were going to elope with her daughter,
and she didn't take in what you said?"
"And yet that is just what took place."
Adelaide glanced at her father, as much as to say, "You see what kind of
young man it is," and then went on:
"One fact at least I have learned only this minute--that is that the
finances for this romantic trip were to be furnished by a dishonorable
firm from which your son has been dismissed; or, no, resigned, isn't it?"
The human interest attached to losing a job brought mother and son
together on the instant.
"O Pete, you've left the firm!"
"O my poor boy!"
He made a gesture, indicating that this was not the time to discuss the
economic situation, and Adelaide went smoothly on:
"And now, Mrs. Wayne, the point is this. I am considered harsh because I
insist that a young man without an income who has just come near to
running off with my child on money that was almost a bribe is not a
person in whom I have unlimited confidence. I ask--it seems a tolerably
mild request--that they do not see each other for six months."
"I cannot agree to that," said Wayne decidedly.
"Really, Mr. Wayne, do you feel yourself in a position to agree or
disagree? We have never consented to your engagement. We have never
thought the marriage a suitable one, have we, Papa?"
"No," said Mr. Lanley in a tone strangely dead.
"Why is it not suitable?" asked Mrs. Wayne, as if she really hoped that
an agreement might be reached by rational discussion.
"Why?" said Adelaide, and smiled. "Dear Mrs. Wayne, these things are
rather difficult to explain. Wouldn't it be easier for all of us if you
would just accept the statement that we think so without trying to decide
whether we are right or wrong?"
"I'm afraid it must be discussed," answered Mrs. Wayne.
Adelaide leaned back, still with her faint smile, as if defying, though
very politely, any one to discuss it with _her_.
It was inevitable that Mrs. Wayne should turn to Mr. Lanley.
"You, too, think it unsuitable?"
He bowed gravely.
"You dislike my son?"
"Quite the contrary."
"Then you must be able to tell me the reason."
"I will try," he said. He felt like a soldier called upon to defend a
lost cause. It was his cause, he couldn't desert it. His daughter and
his granddaughter needed his protection; but he knew he was giving up
something that he valued more than his life as he began to speak. "We
feel the difference in background," he said, "of early traditions, of
judging life from the same point of view. Such differences can be
overcome by time and money--" He stopped, for she was looking at him with
the same wondering interest, devoid of anger, with which he had seen her
study Wilsey. "I express myself badly," he murmured.
Mrs. Wayne rose to her feet.
"The trouble isn't with your expression," she said.
"You mean that what I am trying to express is wrong?"
"It seems so to me."
"What is wrong about it?"
She seemed to think over the possibilities for an instant, and then she
shook her head.
"I don't think I could make you understand," she answered. She said it
very gently, but it was cruel, and he turned white under the pain,
suffering all the more that she was so entirely without malice. She
turned to her son. "I'm going, Pete. Don't you think you might as well
Mathilde sprang up and caught Mrs. Wayne's hand.
"Oh, don't go!" she cried. "Don't take him away! You know they are trying
to separate us. Oh, Mrs. Wayne, won't you take me in? Can't I stay with
you while we are waiting?"
At this every one focused their eyes on Mrs. Wayne. Pete felt sorry for
his mother, knowing how she hated to make a sudden decision, knowing how
she hated to do anything disagreeable to those about her; but he never
for an instant doubted what her decision would be. Therefore he could
hardly believe his eyes when he saw her shaking her head.
"I couldn't do that, my dear."
"Of course you couldn't," said Mr. Lanley, blowing his nose immediately
after under the tremendous emotion of finding that she was not an enemy,
after all. Adelaide smiled to herself. She was thinking, "You could and
would, if I hadn't put in that sting about his failures."
"Why can't you, Mother?" asked Pete.
"We'll talk that over at home."
"My dear boy," said Mr. Lanley, kindly, "no one over thirty would have
to ask why."
"No parent likes to assist at the kidnapping of another parent's child,"
"Good Heavens! my mother has kidnapped so many children in her day!"
"From the wrong sort of home, I suppose," said Lanley, in explanation, to
no one, perhaps, so much as to himself.
"Am I to infer that she thinks mine the right sort? How delightful!"
"Mrs. Wayne, is it because I'm richer than Pete that you won't take me
in?" asked Mathilde, visions of bestowing her wealth in charity flitting
across her mind.
The other nodded. Wayne stared.
"Mother," he said, "you don't mean to say you are letting yourself be
influenced by a taunt like that of Mrs. Farron's, which she didn't even
Mrs. Wayne was shocked.
"Oh, no; not that, Pete. It isn't that at all. But when a girl has been
Wayne saw it all in an instant.
"Oh, yes, I see. We'll talk of that later."
But Adelaide had seen, too.
"No; do go on, Mrs. Wayne. You don't approve of the way my daughter has
been brought up."
"I don't think she has been brought up to be a poor man's wife."
"No. I own I did not have that particular destiny in mind."
"And when I heard you assuming just now that every one was always
concerned about money, and when I realized that the girl must have been
brought up in that atmosphere and belief--"
"I see. You thought she was not quite the right wife for your son?"
"But I would try so hard," said Mathilde. "I would learn; I--"
"Mathilde," interrupted her mother, "when a lady tells you you are not
good enough for her son, you must not protest."
"Come, come, Adelaide, there is no use in being disagreeable," said
"Disagreeable!" returned his daughter. "Mrs. Wayne and I are entirely
agreed. She thinks her son too good for my daughter, and I think my
daughter too good for her son. Really, there seems nothing more to be
said. Good-by, Mr. Wayne." She held out her long, white hand to him. Mrs.
Wayne was trying to make her position clearer to Mathilde, but Pete
thought this an undesirable moment for such an attempt.
Partly as an assertion of his rights, partly because she looked so young
and helpless, he stopped and kissed her.
"I'll come and see you about half-past ten tomorrow morning," he said
very clearly, so that every one could hear. Adelaide looked blank; she
was thinking that on Pringle she could absolutely depend. Wayne saw his
mother and Lanley bow to each other, and the next moment he had contrived
to get her out of the house.
Mathilde rushed away to her own room, and Adelaide and her father were
left alone. She turned to him with one of her rare caresses.
"Dear Papa," she said, "what a comfort you are to me! What should I do
without you? You'll never desert me, will you?" And she put her head on
his shoulder. He patted her with an absent-minded rhythm, and then he
said, as if he were answering some secret train of thought:
"I don't see what else I could have done."
"You couldn't have done anything else," replied his daughter, still
nestling against him. "But Mrs. Baxter had frightened me with her account
of your sentimental admiration for Mrs. Wayne, and I thought you might
want to make yourself agreeable to her at the expense of my poor child."
She felt his shoulder heave with a longer breath.
"I can't imagine putting anything before Mathilde's happiness," he said,
and after a pause he added: "I really must go home. Mrs. Baxter will
think me a neglectful host."
"Don't you want to bring her to dine here to-night? I'll try and get
some one to meet her. Let me see. She thinks Mr. Wilsey--"
"Oh, I can't stand Wilsey," answered her father, crossly.
"Well, I'll think of some one to sacrifice on the altar of your
friendship. I certainly don't want to dine alone with Mathilde. And, by
the way, Papa, I haven't mentioned any of this to Vincent."
He thought it was admirable of her to bear her anxieties alone so as to
spare her sick husband.
"Poor girl!" he said. "You've had a tot of trouble lately."
In the meantime Wayne and his mother walked slowly home.
"I suppose you're furious at me, Pete," she said.
"Not a bit," he answered. "For a moment, when I saw what you were going
to say, I was terrified. But no amount of tact would have made Mrs.
Farron feel differently, and I think they might as well know what we
really think and feel. I was only sorry if it hurt Mathilde."
"Oh dear, it's so hard to be truthful!" exclaimed his mother. He
laughed, for he wished she sometimes found it harder; and she went on:
"Poor little Mathilde! You know I wouldn't hurt her if I could help it.
It's not her fault. But what a terrible system it is, and how money does
blind people! They can't see you at all as you are, and yet if you had
fifty thousand dollars a year, they'd be more aware of your good points
than I am. They can't see that you have resolution and charm and a sense
of honor. They don't see the person, they just see the lack of income."
"A person is all Mrs. Farron says she asks for her daughter."
"She does not know a person when she sees one."
"She knew one when she married Farron."
Mrs. Wayne sniffed.
"Perhaps he married her," she replied.
Her son thought this likely, but he did not answer, for she had given him
an idea--to see Farron. Farron would at least understand the situation.
His mother approved of the suggestion.
"Of course he's not Mathilde's father."
"He's not a snob."
They had reached the house, and Pete was fishing in his pocket for his
"Do you think Mr. Lanley is a snob?" he asked.
As usual Mrs. Wayne evaded the direct answer.
"I got an unfavorable impression of him this afternoon."
"For failing to see that I was a king among men?"
"For backing up every stupid thing his daughter said."
"Loyalty is a fine quality."
"Justice is better," answered his mother.
"Oh, well, he's old," said Wayne, dismissing the whole subject.
They walked up their four flights in silence, and then Wayne remembered
to ask something that had been in his mind several times.
"By the way, Mother, how did you happen to come to the Farrons at all?"
She laughed rather self-consciously.
"I hoped perhaps Mr. Farron might be well enough to see me a moment
about Marty. The truth is, Pete, Mr. Farron is the real person in that
That evening he wrote Farron a note, asking him to see him the next
morning at half-past ten about "this trouble of which, of course,
Mrs. Farron has told you." He added a request that he would tell
Pringle of his intention in case he could give the interview, because
Mrs. Farron had been quite frank in saying that she would give orders
not to let him in.
Farron received this note with his breakfast. Adelaide was not there. He
had had no hint from her of any crisis. He had not come down to dinner
the evening before to meet Mrs. Baxter and the useful people asked to
entertain her, but he had seen Mathilde's tear-stained face, and in a few
minutes with his father-in-law had encountered one or two evident
evasions. Only Adelaide had been unfathomable.
After he had read the letter and thought over the situation, he sent for
Pringle, and gave orders that when Mr. Wayne came he would see him.
Pringle did not exactly make an objection, but stated a fact when he
replied that Mrs. Farron had given orders that Mr. Wayne was not to be
allowed to see Miss Severance.
"Exactly," said Farron. "Show him here." Here was his own study.
As it happened, Adelaide was sitting with him, making very good invalid's
talk, when Pringle announced, "Mr. Wayne."
"Pringle, I told you--" Adelaide began, but her husband cut her short.
"He has an appointment with me, Adelaide."
"You don't understand, Vin. You mustn't see him."
Wayne was by this time in the room.
"But I wish to see him, my dear Adelaide, and," Farron added, "I wish to
see him alone."
"No," she answered, with a good deal of excitement; "that you cannot.
This is my affair, Vincent--the affair of my child."
He looked at her for a second, and then opening the door into his
bedroom, he said to Wayne:
"Will you come in here?" The door was closed behind the two men.
Wayne was not a coward, although he had dreaded his interview with
Adelaide; it was his very respect for Farron that kept him from feeling
"Perhaps I ought not to have asked you to see me," he began.
"I'm very glad to see you," answered Farron. "Sit down, and tell me the
story as you see it from the beginning."
It was a comfort to tell the story at last to an expert. Wayne, who had
been trying for twenty-four hours to explain what underwriting meant,
what were the responsibilities of brokers in such matters, what was the
function of such a report as his, felt as if he had suddenly groped his
way out of a fog as he talked, with hardly an interruption but a nod or a
lightening eye from Farron. He spoke of Benson. "I know the man," said
Farron; of Honaton, "He was in my office once." Wayne told how Mathilde,
and then he himself, had tried to inform Mrs. Farron of the definiteness
of their plans to be married.
"How long has this been going on?" Farron asked.
"At least ten days."
Farron nodded. Then Wayne told of the discovery of the proof at the
printer's and his hurried meeting in the park to tell Mathilde. Here
Farron stopped him suddenly.
"What was it kept you from going through with it just the same?"
"You're the first person who has asked me that," answered Pete.
"Perhaps you did not even think of such a thing?"
"No one could help thinking of it who saw her there--"
"And you didn't do it?"
"It wasn't consideration for her family that held me back."
"What was it?"
Pete found a moral scruple was a difficult motive to avow.
"It was Mathilde herself. That would not have been treating her as
"You intend always to treat her as an equal?"
Wayne was ashamed to find how difficult it was to answer truthfully. The
tone of the question gave him no clue to the speaker's own thoughts.
"Yes, I do," he said; and then blurted out hastily, "Don't you believe in
treating a woman as an equal?"
"I believe in treating her exactly as she wants to be treated."
"But every one wants to be treated as an equal, if they're any good."
Farron smiled, showing those blue-white teeth for an instant, and Wayne,
feeling he was not quite doing himself justice, added, "I call that just
ordinary respect, you know, and I could not love any one I didn't
respect. Could you?"
The question was, or Farron chose to consider it, a purely rhetorical
"I suppose," he observed, "that they are to be counted the most fortunate
who love and respect at the same time."
"Of course," said Wayne.
"And yet perhaps they miss a good deal."
"I don't know _what_ they miss," answered Wayne, to whom the sentiment
was as shocking as anything not understood can be.
"No; I'm sure you don't," answered his future stepfather-in-law. "Go on
with your story."
Wayne went on, but not as rapidly as he had expected. Farron kept him a
long time on the interview of the afternoon before, and particularly on
Mrs. Farron's part, just the point Wayne did not want to discuss for fear
of betraying the bitterness he felt toward her. But again and again
Farron made him quote her words wherever he could remember them; and
then, as if this had not been clear enough, he asked:
"You think my wife has definitely made up her mind against the marriage?"
"Irrevocably?" Farron questioned more as if it were the sound of the word
than the meaning that he was doubting.
"Ah, you've been rather out of it lately, sir," said Wayne. "You haven't
followed, perhaps, all that's been going on."
Wayne felt he must be candid.
"If it is your idea that your wife's opposition could be changed, I'm
afraid I must tell you, Mr. Farron--" He paused, meeting a quick, sudden
look; then Farron turned his head, and stared, with folded arms, out of
the window. Wayne had plenty of time to wonder what he was going to say.
What he did say was surprising.
"I think you are an honest man, and I should be glad to have you working
for me. I could make you one of my secretaries, with a salary of six
In the shock Pete heard himself saying the first thing that came
into his head:
"That's a large salary, sir."
"Some people would say large enough to marry on."
Wayne drew back.
"Don't you think you ought to consult Mrs. Farron before you offer it to
me?" he asked hesitatingly.
"Don't carry honesty too far. No, I don't consult my wife about my
"It isn't honesty; but I couldn't stand having you change your
"When my wife tells me to? I promise you not to do that."
Wayne found that the interview was over, although he had not been able to
express his gratitude.
"I know what you are feeling," said Farron. "Good-by."
"I can't understand why you are doing it, Mr. Farron; but--"
"It needn't matter to you. Good-by."
With a sensation that in another instant he might be out of the house,
Wayne metaphorically caught at the door-post.
"I must see Mathilde before I go," he said.
Farron shook his head.
"No, not to-day."
"She's terribly afraid I am going to be moved by insults to desert her,"
"I'll see she understands. I'll send for you in a day or two; then it
will be all right." They shook hands. He was glad Farron showed him out
through the corridor and not through the study, where, he knew, Mrs.
Farron was still waiting like a fine, sleek cat at a rat-hole.
During this interview Adelaide sat in her husband's study and waited. She
looked back upon that other period of suspense--the hour when she had
waited at the hospital during his operation--as a time of comparative
peace. She had been able then, she remembered, to sit still, to pursue,
if not a train of thought, at least a set of connected images; but now
her whole spirit seemed to be seething with a sort of poison that made
her muscles jerk and start and her mind dart and faint. Then she had
foreseen loss through the fate common to humanity; now she foresaw it
through the action of her own tyrannical contempt for anything that
seemed to her weak.
She had never rebelled against coercion from Vincent. She had even loved
it, but she had loved it when he had seemed to her a superior being;
coercion from one who only yesterday had been under the dominion of
nerves and nurses was intolerable to her. She was at heart a courtier,
would do menial service to a king, and refuse common civility to an
inferior. She knew how St. Christopher had felt at seeing his satanic
captain tremble at the sign of the cross; and though, unlike the saint,
she had no intention of setting out to discover the stronger lord, she
knew that he might now any day appear.
From any one not an acknowledged superior that shut door was an insult to
be avenged, and she sat and waited for the moment to arrive when she
would most adequately avenge it. There was still something terrifying in
the idea of going out to do battle with Vincent. Hitherto in their
quarrels he had always been the aggressor, had always startled her out of
an innocent calm by an accusation or complaint. But this, as she said to
herself, was not a quarrel, but a readjustment, of which probably he was
still unaware. She hoped he was. She hoped he would come in with his
accustomed manner and say civilly, "Forgive me for shutting the door; but
my reason was--"
And she would answer, "Really, I don't think we need trouble about your
reasons, Vincent." She knew just the tone she would use, just the
expression of a smile suppressed. Then his quick eyes would fasten
themselves on her face, and perhaps at the first glance would read the
story of his defeat. She knew her own glance would not waver.
At the end of half an hour she heard the low tones of conversation change
to the brisk notes of leave-taking. Her heart began to beat with fear,
but not the kind of fear that makes people run away; rather the kind that
makes them abdicate all reason and fan their emotions into a sort of
She heard the door open into the corridor, but even then Vincent did not
immediately come. Miss Gregory had been waiting to say good-by to him. As
a case he was finished. Adelaide heard her clear voice say gaily:
"Well, I'm off, Mr. Vincent."
They went back into the room and shut the door. Adelaide clenched her
hands; these delays were hard to bear.
It was not a long delay, though in that next room a very human bond
was about to be broken. Possibly if Vincent had done exactly what
his impulses prompted, he would have taken Miss Gregory in his arms
and kissed her. But instead he said quietly, for his manner had not
"I shall miss you."
"It's time I went."
"To some case more interestingly dangerous?"
"Your case was dangerous enough for me," said the girl; and then for fear
he might miss her meaning, "I never met any one like you, Mr. Farron."
"I've never been taken care of as you took care of me."
"I wish"--she looked straight up at him--"I could take care of you
"That," he answered, "would end in my taking care of you."
"And your hands are pretty full as it is?"
He nodded, and she went away without even shaking hands. She omitted her
farewells to any other member of the family except Pringle, who, Farron
heard, was congratulating her on her consideration for servants as he put
her into her taxi.
Then he opened the door of his study, went to the chair he had risen
from, and took up the paper at the paragraph at which he had dropped it.
Adelaide's eyes followed him like search-lights.
"May I ask," she said with her edged voice, "if you have been disposing
of my child's future in there without consulting me?"
If their places had been reversed, Adelaide would have raised her
eyebrows and repeated, "Your child's future?" but Farron was more direct.
"I have been engaging Wayne as a secretary," he said, and, turning to the
financial page, glanced down the quotations.
"Then you must dismiss him again."
"He will be a useful man to me," said Farron, as if she had not spoken.
"I have needed some one whom I could depend on--"
"Vincent, it is absurd for you to pretend you don't know he wanted to
He did not raise his eyes.
"Yes," he said; "I remember you and I had some talk about it before my
"Since then circumstances have arisen of which you know nothing--things
I did not tell you."
"Do you think that was wise?"
With a sense that a rapid and resistless current was carrying them both
to destruction she saw for the first time that he was as angry as she.
"I do not like your tone," she said.
"What's the matter with it?"
"It isn't polite; it isn't friendly."
"Why should it be?"
"Why? What a question! Love--"
"I doubt if it is any longer a question of love between you and me."
These words, which so exactly embodied her own idea, came to her as a
shock, a brutal blow from him.
"Vincent!" she cried protestingly.
"I don't know what it is that has your attention now, what private
anxieties that I am not privileged to share--"
"You have been ill."
"But not imbecile. Do you suppose I've missed one tone of your voice, or
haven't understood what has been going on in your mind? Have you lived
with me five years and think me a forgiving man--"
"May I ask what you have to forgive?"
"Do you suppose a pat to my pillow or an occasional kind word takes the
place to me of what our relation used to be?"
"You speak as if our relation was over."
"Have you been imagining I was going to come whining to you for a return
of your love and respect? What nonsense! Love makes love, and
indifference makes indifference."
"You expect me to say I am indifferent to you?"
"I care very little what you say. I judge your conduct."
She had an unerring instinct for what would wound him. If she had
answered with conviction, "Yes, I am indifferent to you," there would
have been enough temper and exaggeration in it for him to discount the
whole statement. But to say, "No, I still love you, Vincent," in a tone
that conceded the very utmost that she could,--namely, that she still
loved him for the old, rather pitiful association,--that would be to
inflict the most painful wound possible. And so that was what she said.
She was prepared to have him take it up and cry: "You still love me? Do
you mean as you love your Aunt Alberta?" and she, still trying to be
just, would answer: "Oh, more than Aunt Alberta. Only, of course--"
The trouble was he did not make the right answer. When she said, "No, I
still love you, Vincent," he answered:
"I cannot say the same."
It was one of those replies that change the face of the world. It drove
every other idea out of her head. She stared at him for an instant.
"Nobody," she answered, "need tell me such a thing as that twice." It
was a fine phrase to cover a retreat; she left him and went to her own
room. It no more occurred to her to ask whether he meant what he said
than if she had been struck in the head she would have inquired if the
blow was real.
She did not come down to lunch. Vincent and Mathilde ate alone. Mathilde,
as she told Pete, had begun to understand her stepfather, but she had not
progressed so far as to see in his silence anything but an
unapproachable sternness. It never crossed her mind that this middle-aged
man, who seemed to control his life so completely, was suffering far more
than she, and she was suffering a good deal.
Pete had promised to come that morning, and she hadn't seen him yet. She
supposed he had come, and that, though she had been on the lookout for
him, she had missed him. She felt as if they were never going to see each
other again. When she found she was to be alone at luncheon with Farron,
she thought of appealing to him, but was restrained by two
considerations. She was a kind person, and her mother had repeatedly
impressed upon her how badly at present Mr. Farron supported any anxiety.
More important than this, however, was her belief that he would never
work at cross-purposes with his wife. What were she and Pete to do? she
thought. Mrs. Wayne would not take her in, her mother would not let Pete
come to the house, and they had no money.
Both cups of soup left the table almost untasted.
"I'm sorry Mama has one of her headaches," said Mathilde.
"Yes," said Farron. "You'd better take some of that chicken, Mathilde.
It's very good."
She did not notice that the piece he had taken on his own plate was
"I'm not hungry," she answered.
She could not lie, and so she looked at him and smiled and answered:
"Nothing, as Mama would say, to trouble an invalid with."
She did not have a great success. In fact, his brows showed a slight
disposition to contract, and after a moment of silence he said:
"Does your mother say that?"
"She's always trying to protect you nowadays, Mr. Farron."
"I saw your friend Pete Wayne this morning."
"You saw--" Surprise, excitement, alarm flooded her face with crimson.
"Oh, why did _you_ see him?"
"I saw him by appointment. He asked me to tell you--only, I'm afraid,
other things put it out of my head--that he has accepted a job I
"O Mr. Farron, what kind of job?"
"Well, the kind of job that would enable two self-denying young people to
marry, I think."
Not knowing how clearly all that she felt was written on her face
Mathilde tried to put it all into words.
"How wonderful! how kind! But my mother--"
"I will arrange it with your mother."
"Have you known all along? Oh, why did you do this wonderful thing?"
"Because--perhaps you won't agree with me--I have taken rather a fancy to
this young man. And I had other reasons."
Mathilde took her stepfather's hand as it lay upon the table.
"I've only just begun to understand you, Mr. Farron. To
understand, I mean, what Mama means when she says you are the
strongest, wisest person--"
He pretended to smile.
"When did your mother say that?"
"Oh, ages ago." She stopped, aware of a faint motion to withdraw on the
part of the hand she held. "I suppose you want to go to her."
"No. The sort of headache she has is better left alone, I think, though
you might stop as you go up."
"I will. When do you think I can see Pete?"
"I'd wait a day or two; but you might telephone him at once, if you like,
and say--or do you know what to say?"
"It used to frighten me when you made fun of me like that; but now--It
must be simply delirious to be able to make people as happy as you've
just made us."
He smiled at her word.
"Other people's happiness is not exactly delirious," he said.
She was moving in the direction of the nearest telephone, but she said
over her shoulder:
"Oh, well, I think you did pretty well for yourself when you chose Mama."
She left him sipping his black coffee; he took every drop of that.
When he had finished he did not go back to his study, but to the
drawing-room, where he sat down in a large chair by the fire. He lit a
cigar. It was a quiet hour in the house, and he might have been supposed
to be a man entirely at peace.
Mr. Lanley, coming in about an hour later, certainly imagined he was
rousing an invalid from a refreshing rest. He tried to retreat, but found
Vincent's black eyes were on him.
"I'm sorry to disturb you," he said. "Just wanted to see Adelaide."
"Adelaide has a headache."
Life was taking so many wrong turnings that Mr. Lanley had grown
apprehensive. He suddenly remembered how many headaches Adelaide had had
just before he knew of her troubles with Severance.
"A headache?" he said nervously.
"Nothing serious." Vincent looked more closely at his father-in-law. "You
yourself don't look just the thing, sir."
Mr. Lanley sat down more limply than was his custom.
"I'm getting to an age," he said, "when I can't stand scenes. We had
something of a scene here yesterday afternoon. God bless my soul! though,
I believe Adelaide told me not to mention it to you."
"Adelaide is very considerate," replied her husband. His extreme
susceptibility to sorrow made Mr. Lanley notice a tone which ordinarily
would have escaped him, and he looked up so sharply that Farron was
forced to add quickly: "But you haven't made a break. I know about what
The egotism of suffering, the distorted vision of a sleepless night, made
Mr. Lanley blurt out suddenly:
"I want to ask you, Vincent, do you think I could have done anything
Now, none of the accounts which Farron had received had made any mention
of Mr. Lanley's part in the proceedings at all, and so he paused a
moment, and in that pause Mr. Lanley went on:
"It's a difficult position--before a boy's mother. There isn't anything
against him, of course. One's reasons for not wanting the marriage do
sound a little snobbish when one says them--right out. In fact, I suppose
they are snobbish. Do you find it hard to get away from early prejudices,
Vincent? I do. I think Adelaide is quite right; and yet the boy is a nice
boy. What do you think of him?"
"I have taken him into my office."
Mr. Lanley was startled by a courage so far beyond his own.
"But," he asked, "did you consult Adelaide?"
Farron shook his head.
"But, Vincent, was that quite loyal?"
A change in Farron's expression made Mr. Lanley turn his head, and he saw
that Adelaide had come into the room. Her appearance bore out the legend
of her headache: she looked like a garden after an early frost. But
perhaps the most terrifying thing about her aspect was her complete
indifference to it. A recollection suddenly came to Mr. Lanley of a
railway accident that he and Adelaide had been in. He had seen her
stepping toward him through the debris, buttoning her gloves. She was far
beyond such considerations now.
She had come to put her very life to the test. There was one hope, there
was one way in which Vincent could rehabilitate himself, and that was by
showing himself victor in the hardest of all struggles, the personal
struggle with her. That would be hard, because she would make it so, if
she perished in the attempt.
The crisis came in the first meeting of their eyes. If his glance had
said: "My poor dear, you're tired. Rest. All will be well," his cause
would have been lost. But his glance said nothing, only studied her
coolly, and she began to speak.
"Oh, Papa, Vincent does not consider such minor points as loyalty to me."
Her voice and manner left Mr. Lanley in no doubt that if he stayed an
instant he would witness a domestic quarrel. The idea shocked him
unspeakably. That these two reserved and dignified people should quarrel
at all was bad enough, but that they should have reached a point where
they were indifferent to the presence of a third person was terrible. He
got himself out of the room without ceremony, but not before he saw
Vincent rise and heard the first words of his sentence:
"And what right have you to speak of loyalty?" Here, fortunately,
Lanley shut the door behind him, for Vincent's next words would have
shocked him still more: "A prostitute would have stuck better to a man
when he was ill."
But Adelaide was now in good fighting trim. She laughed out loud.
"Really, Vincent," she said, "your language! You must make your complaint
against me a little more definite."
"Not much; and give you a chance to get up a little rational explanation.
Besides, we neither of us need explanations. We know what has been
"You mean you really doubt my feeling for you? No, Vincent, I still
love you," and her voice had a flute-like quality which, though it was
without a trace of conviction, very few people who had ever heard it
"I am aware of that," said Vincent quietly.
She looked beautifully dazed.
"Yet this morning you spoke--as if--"
"But what is love such as yours worth? A man must be on the crest of the
wave to keep it; otherwise it changes automatically into contempt. I
don't care about it, Adelaide. I can't use it in a life like mine."
She looked at him, and a dreamlike state began to come over her. She
simply couldn't believe in the state of mind of those sick-room days; she
could never really, she thought, have been less passionately admiring
than she was at that minute, yet the half-recollection confused her and
kept her silent.
"Perhaps it's vanity on my part," he said, "but contempt like yours is
something I could never forgive."
"You would forgive me anything if you loved me." Her tone was noble
"You mean you don't?"
"Adelaide, there are times when a person chooses between loving and
The sentence made her feel sick with fear, but she asked:
"Tell me just what you mean."
"Perhaps I could keep on loving you if I shut my eyes to the kind of
person you are; but if I did that, I could not hold you an instant."
She stared at him as fascinated as a bird by a snake. This, it seemed to
her, was the truth, the final summing up of their relation. She had lost
him, and yet she was eternally his.
As she looked at him she became aware that he was growing slowly pale. He
was standing, and he put his hand out to the mantelpiece to steady
himself. She thought he was going to faint.
"Vincent," she said, "let me help you to the sofa."
She wanted now to see him falter, to feel his hand on her shoulder,
anything for a closer touch with him. For half a minute, perhaps, they
remained motionless, and then the color began to come back into his face.
He smiled bitterly.
"They tell me you are such a good sick nurse, Mrs. Farron," he said, "so
considerate to the weak. But I don't need your help, thank you."
She covered her face with her hands. He seemed to her stronger and more
cruel than anything she had imagined. In a minute he left her alone.
Farron cared, perhaps, no more for appearances than Adelaide did, but
his habitual manner was much better adapted to concealment. In him the
fluctuations between the deepest depression and the highest elation were
accompanied by such slight variations of look and tone that they escaped
almost every one but Adelaide herself. He came down to dinner that
evening, and while Adelaide sat in silence, with her elbows on the table
and her long fingers clasping and unclasping themselves in a sort of
rhythmic desperation, conversation went on pleasantly enough between
Mathilde and Vincent. This was facilitated by the fact that Mathilde had
now transferred to Vincent the flattering affection which she used to
give to her grandfather. She agreed with, wondered at, and drank in
Naturally, Mathilde attributed her mother's distress to the crisis in her
own love-affairs. She had had no word with her as to Wayne's new
position, and it came to her in a flash that it would be daring, but
wise, to take the matter up in the presence of her stepfather. So, as
soon as they were in the drawing-room, and Farron had opened the evening
paper, and his wife, with a wild decision, had opened a book, Mathilde
ruthlessly interrupted them both, recalling them from what appeared to be
the depths of absorptions in their respective pages by saying:
"Mr. Farron, did you tell Mama what you had done about Pete?"
Farron raised his eyes and said:
"And what did she say?"
"What is there for me to say?" answered Adelaide in the terrible, crisp
voice that Mathilde hated.
There was a pause. To Mathilde it seemed extraordinary the way older
people sometimes stalled and shifted about perfectly obvious issues; but,
wishing to be patient, she explained:
"Don't you see it makes some difference in our situation?"
"The greatest, I should think," said Adelaide, and just hinted that she
might go back to her book at any instant.
"But don't you think--" Mathilde began again, when Farron interrupted her
"Mathilde," he said, "there's a well-known business axiom, not to try to
get things on paper too early."
She bent her head a trifle on one side in the way a puppy will when an
unusual strain is being put upon its faculties. It seemed to her curious,
but she saw she was being advised to drop the subject. Suddenly Adelaide
sprang to her feet and said she was going to bed.
"I hope your headache will be better, Mama," Mathilde hazarded; but
Adelaide went without answering. Mathilde looked at Mr. Farron.
"You haven't learned to wait," he said.
"It's so hard to wait when you are on bad terms with people you love!"
She was surprised that he smiled--a smile that conveyed more pain than
"It is hard," he said.
This closed the evening. The next morning Vincent went down-town. He
went about half-past ten. Adelaide, breakfasting in her room and dressing
at her leisure, did not appear until after eleven, and then discovered
for the first time that her husband had gone. She was angry at Mathilde,
who had breakfasted with him, at Pringle, for not telling her what was
"You shouldn't have let him go, Mathilde," she said. "You are old enough
to have some judgment in such matters. He is not strong enough. He almost
"But, Mama," protested the girl, "I could not stop Mr. Farron. I don't
think even you could have if he'd made up his mind."
"Tell Pringle to order the motor at once," was her mother's answer.
Her distraction at her husband's imprudence touched Mathilde so that she
forgot everything else between them.
"O Mama," she said, "I'm so sorry you're worried! I'm sorry I'm one of
your worries; but don't you see I love Pete just as you do Mr. Farron?"
"God help you, then!" said Adelaide, quickly, and went to her room to
put on with a haste none the less meticulous her small velvet hat, her
veil, her spotless, pale gloves, her muff, and warm coat.
She drove to Vincent's office. It was not really care for his health that
drove her, but the restlessness of despair; she had reached a point where
she was more wretched away from him than with him.
The office was high in a gigantic building. Every one knew her by sight,
the giant at the door and the men in the elevators. Once in the office
itself, a junior partner hurried to her side.
"So glad to see Vincent back again," he said, proud of the fact that he
called his present partner and late employer by his first name. "You want
to see him?" There was a short hesitation. "He left word not to be
"Who is there?" Adelaide asked.
"He's not been taken ill?"
He tried to reassure her, but Adelaide, without waiting or listening,
moved at once to Vincent's door and opened it. As she did so she heard,
him laughing and then she saw that he was laughing at the words of the
handsomest woman she had ever seen. A great many people had this first
impression of Lily Parret. Lily was standing on the opposite side of the
table from him, leaning with both palms flat on the polished wood,
telling him some continued narrative that made her blue eyes shine and
her dimples deepen.
Adelaide was not temperamentally jealous. She did not, like Vincent, hate
and fear any person or thing or idea that drew his attention away; on the
contrary, she wanted him to give his full attention to anything that
would make for his power and success. She was not jealous, but it did
cross her mind that she was looking now at her successor.
They stopped laughing as she entered, and Vincent said:
"Thank you, Dr. Parret, you have given me just what I wanted."
"Marty would just as lief as not stick a knife in me if he knew," said
Lily, not as if she were afraid, but as if this was one of the normal
risks of her profession. She turned to Adelaide, "O Mrs. Farron, I've
heard of you from Pete Wayne. Isn't he perfectly delightful? But, then,
he ought to be with such a mother."
Adelaide had a very useful smile, which could maintain a long, but
somewhat meaningless, brilliance. She employed it now, and it lasted
until Lily had gone.
"That's a very remarkable girl," said Farron, remembrances of smiles
still on his lips.
"Does she think every one perfect?"
"Almost every one; that's how she keeps going at such a rate."
"How long have you known her?"
"About ten minutes. Pete got her here. She knew something about Marty
that I needed." He spoke as if he was really interested in the business
before him; he did not betray by so much as a glance the recognition that
they were alone, though she was calling his attention to the fact by
every line of her figure and expression of her face. She saw his hand
move on his desk. Was it coming to hers? He rang a bell. "Is Burke in the
outer office? Send him in."
Adelaide's heart began to beat as Marty, in his working-clothes,
entered. He was more suppressed and more sulky than she had yet seen him.
"I've been trying to see you, Mr. Farron," he began; but Vincent cut in:
"One moment, Burke. I have something to say to you. That bout you said
you had with O'Hallohan--"
"Well, what of it?" answered Marty, suddenly raising his voice.
"He knocked you out."
"Who says so?" roared Burke.
"He knocked you out," repeated Vincent.
"Who says so?" Burke roared again, and somehow there was less confidence
in the same volume of sound.
"Well, not O'Hallohan; He stayed bought. But I have it straight. No, I'm
not trying to draw you out on a guess. I don't play that kind of game. If
I tell you I know if for a fact, I do."
"Well, and what of it?" said Marty.
"Just this. I wouldn't dismiss a man for getting knocked out by a
"He ain't bigger."
"By a better fighter, then; but I doubt whether or not I want a
foreman who has to resort to that kind of thing--to buying off the man
"I didn't _buy_ him off," said Burke, as if he knew the distinction, even
in his own mind, was a fine one.
"Oh, yes, you did," answered Farron. And getting up, with his hands in
his pockets, he added, "I'm afraid your usefulness to me is over, Burke."
"The hell it is!"
"My wife is here, Marty," said Farron, very pleasantly. "But this story
isn't the only thing I have against you. My friend Mrs. Wayne tells me
you are exerting a bad influence over a fellow whose marriage she wants
to get annulled."
"Oh, let 'em get it annulled!" shouted Marty on a high and rising key.
"What do I care? I'll do anything to oblige if I'm asked right; but when
Mrs. Wayne and that gang come around bullying me, I won't do a thing for
them. But, if you ask me to, Mr. Farron, why, I'm glad to oblige you."
"Thank you, Marty," returned his employer, cordially. "If you arrange
that for me, I must own it would make me feel differently. I tell
you," he added, as one who suggests an honorable compromise, "you get
that settled up, you get that marriage annulled--that is, if you think
"Sure I can," Burke replied, swaying his body about from the waist up, as
if to indicate the ease with which it could be accomplished.
"Well, when that's done, come back, and we'll talk over the other matter.
Perhaps, after all--well, we'll talk it over."
Burke walked to the door with his usual conquering step, but there
"Say," he said, "that story about the fight--" He looked at Adelaide.
"Ladies don't always understand these matters. Tell her, will you, that
it's done in some first-class fights?"
"I'll explain," answered Vincent.
"And there ain't any use in the story's getting about," Burke added.
"It won't," said Vincent. On which assurance Marty went away and left the
husband and wife alone.
Adelaide got up and went to the window and looked out toward the
Palisades. Marty Burke had been a symbol that enabled her to recall some
of her former attitudes of mind. She remembered that dinner where she had
pitted him against her husband. She felt deeply humiliated in her own
sight and in Vincent's, for she was now ready to believe that he had read
her mind from the beginning. It seemed to her as if she had been mad, and
in that madness had thrown away the only thing in the world she would
ever value. The thought of acknowledging her fault was not repugnant to
her; she had no special objection to groveling, but she knew it would do
no good, Vincent, though not ungenerous, saw clearly; and he had summed
up the situation in that terrible phrase about choosing between loving
and being loved. "I suppose I shouldn't respect him much if he did
forgive me," she thought; and suddenly she felt his arms about her; he
snatched her to him, turned her face to his, calling her by strange,
unpremeditated terms of endearment. Beyond these, no words at all were
exchanged between them; they were undesired. Adelaide did not know
whether it were servile or superb to care little about knowing his
opinion and intentions in regard to her. All that she cared about was
that in her eyes he was once more supreme and that his arms were about
her. Words, she knew, would have been her enemies, and she did not make
use of them.
When they went out, they passed Wayne in the outer office.
"Come to dinner to-night, Pete," said Farron, and added, turning to his
wife, "That's all right, isn't it, Adelaide?"
She indicated that it was perfect, like everything he did.
Wayne looked at his future mother-in-law in surprise. His pride had been
unforgetably stung by some of her sentences, but he could have forgiven
those more easily than the easy smile with which she now nodded at her
husband's invitation, as if a pleasant intention on her part could wipe
out everything that had gone before. That, it seemed to him, was the very
essence of insolence.
Appreciating that some sort of doubt was disturbing him, Adelaide said
"Yes, you really must come, Mr. Wayne."
At this moment Farron's own stenographer, Chandler, approached him with
an unsigned letter in his hand.
Chandler took the routine of the office more seriously than Farron did,
and acquired thereby a certain power over his employer. He had something
of the attitude of a child's nurse, who, knowing that her charge has
almost passed beyond her care, recognizes that she has no authority
except that bestowed by devotion.
"I think you meant to sign this letter, Mr. Farron," he said, just as a
nurse might say before strangers, "You weren't going to the party
without washing your hands?"
"Oh." Farron fished in his waistcoat for his pen, and while he was
writing, and Chandler just keeping an eye on him to see that it was done
right, Adelaide said:
"And how is Mrs. Chandler?"
Chandler's face lit up as he received the letter back.
"Oh, much better, thank you, Mrs. Farron--out of all danger."
Wayne saw, what Chandler did not, that Adelaide had never even heard of
Mrs. Chandler's ill health; but she murmured as she turned away:
"I'm so glad. You must have been very anxious."
When they were gone, Wayne and Chandler were left a minute alone.
"What a personality!" Chandler exclaimed. "Imagine her remembering my
troubles, when you think what she has had to worry about! A remarkable
couple, Mr. Wayne. I have been up to the house a number of times since
Mr. Farron's illness, and she is always there, so brave, so attentive. A
queenly woman, and," he added, as if the two did not always go together,
"a good wife."
Wayne could think of no answer to this eulogy, and as they stood in
silence the office door opened and Mr. Lanley came in. He nodded to each
of the two, and moved to Vincent's room.
"Mr. Farron has just gone," said Chandler, firmly. He could not bear to
have people running in and out of Farron's room.
"Gone?" said Lanley, as if it were somebody's fault.
"Mrs. Farron came down for him in the motor. He appeared to stand his
first day very well."
Mr. Lanley glanced quickly from one to the other. This did not sound as
if any final break had occurred between the Farrons, yet on this subject
he could hardly question his son-in-law's secretaries. He made one
"I suppose Mr. Farron thought he was good for a whole day's work."
"Mr. Farron, like all wise men, sir, does what his wife tells him." And
then, as he loved his own work far more than conversation, Chandler
hurried back to his desk.
"I understand," said Lanley to Wayne, "that you are here regularly now."
"Like your work?" Lanley was obviously delaying, hoping that some
information would turn up unexpectedly.
"Humph! What does your mother think about it?"
"About my new job?" Wayne smiled. "You know those aren't the kind of
facts--jobs and salaries--that my mother scrutinizes very closely."
Lanley stared at him with brows slightly contracted.
"What does she scrutinize?" he asked.
"Oh, motives--spiritual things."
"I see." Mr. Lanley couldn't go a step further, couldn't take this young
man into his confidence an inch further. He stuck his stick into his
overcoat-pocket so that it stood upright, and wheeled sharply.
"Good-by," he said, and added at the door, "I suppose you think this
makes a difference in your prospects."
"Mrs. Farron has asked me to come to dinner to-night."
Lanley wheeled back again.
"What?" he said
"Yes, she almost urged me, though I didn't need urging."
Lanley didn't answer, but presently went out in silence. He was
experiencing the extreme loneliness that follows being more royalist
than the king.
On Mondays and Thursdays, the only days Mr. Lanley went down-town, he
expected to have the corner table at the restaurant where he always
lunched and where, on leaving Farron's office, he went. He had barely
finished ordering luncheon--oyster stew, cold tongue, salad, and a
bottle of Rhine wine--when, looking up, he saw Wilsey was approaching
"Haryer, Wilsey?" he said, without cordiality.
Wilsey, it fortunately appeared, had already had his midday meal, and had
only a moment or two to give to sociability.
"Haven't seen you since that delightful evening," he murmured. "I hope
Mrs. Baxter got my card." He mentioned his card as if it had been a gift,
not munificent, but not negligible, either.
"Suppose she got it if you left it," said Mr. Lanley, who had heard her
comment on it. "My man's pretty good at that sort of thing."
"Ah, how rare they are getting!" said Wilsey, with a sigh--"good
servants. Upon my word, Lanley, I'm almost ready to go."
"Because you can't get good servants?" said his friend, who was drumming
on the table and looking blankly about.
"Because all the old order is passing, all the standards and backgrounds
that I value. I don't think I'm a snob--"
"Of course you're a snob, Wilsey."
Mr. Wilsey smiled temperately.
"What do you mean by the word?"
It was a question about which Lanley had been thinking, and he answered:
"I mean a person who values himself for qualities that have no moral,
financial, or intellectual value whatsoever. You, for instance, Wilsey,
value yourself not because you are a pretty good lawyer, but because your
great-grandfather signed the Declaration."
A shade of slight embarrassment crossed the lawyer's face.
"I own," he said, "that I value birth, but so do you, Lanley. You attach
importance to being a New York Lanley."
"I do," answered Lanley; "but I have sense enough to be ashamed of doing
so. You're proud of being proud of your old Signer."
"As a matter of fact," Mr. Wilsey remarked slowly, "Josiah Wilsey did not
sign the Declaration."
"What!" cried Lanley. "You've always told me he did."
Wilsey shook his head gently, as one who went about correcting errors.
"No. What I said was that I feel no moral doubt he would have signed it
if an attack of illness--"
Lanley gave a short roar.
"That's just like _you_, Wilsey. You wouldn't have signed it, either. You
would have said that while in cordial sympathy with the ideas set forth,
you would not care to put your name to a document that might give pain to
a monarch who, though not as liberal as some of us could wish, was yet--"
"As a matter of fact," Wilsey began again even more coldly, "I should
"Oh, you think so now. A hundred years from now you'd sign a petition for
the eight-hour law."
"Never!" said Wilsey, raising his hand. "I should never put my name to a
document--" He stopped at another roar from his friend, and never took
the sentence up again, but indicated with a gesture that only legal minds
were worth arguing with on points of this sort.
When he had gone, Lanley dipped the spoon in his oyster stew with not a
little pleasure. Nothing, apparently, could have raised his spirits more
than the knowledge that old Josiah Wilsey had not signed the Declaration.
He actually chuckled a little. "So like Wilsey himself," he thought. "No
moral courage; calls it conservatism." Then his joy abated. Just so, he
thought, must he himself appear to Mrs. Wayne. Yet his self-respect
insisted that his case was different. Loyalty had been responsible not
for his conservatism, but for the pig-headedness with which he had acted
upon it. He would have asked nothing better than to profess himself
open-minded to Mrs. Wayne's views, only he could not desert Adelaide in
the moment of her struggle for beliefs in which he himself had brought
her up. And now she had deserted him. He alone was left to flaunt a
banner the motto of which he didn't wholly believe, while Adelaide, at a
word from Vincent, had gone over to the other side. And no one knew what
his loyalty had cost him. Long ago, in his first year at college, he had
flunked the examination of the professor whom he reverenced above all
others. No one had cared, no one had long remembered, except Lanley
himself, and he had remembered because some one had told him what the
professor said on reading his paper. It was nothing but, "I had supposed
Lanley was intelligent." Never again had he had that professor's
attention for a single instant. This, it seemed to him, was about to
happen to him again, now when it was too late in his life to do anything
He called the waiter, paid his bill and tip,--he was an extremely liberal
tipper; "it's expected of us," he used to say, meaning that it was
expected of people like the New York Lanleys,--and went away.
In old times he had been an inventor of many clever tricks for getting
up-town by unpopular elevated trains and horse-cars that avoided the
crowd, but the subway was a great leveler, and he knew no magic except to
take a local in rush hours. At three o'clock, however, even this was not
necessary. He took an express, and got off at the Grand Central, turned
up Park Avenue, and then east. He had just found out that he was going to
visit Mrs. Wayne.
He read the names in the vestibule, never doubting that Dr. Parret was
a masculine practitioner, and hesitated at the name of Wayne. He
thought he ought to ring the bell, but he wanted to go straight up.
Some one had left the front door unlatched. He pushed it open and began
the steep ascent.
She came to the door of the flat herself. She had a funny little gray
shawl about her shoulders and a pen in her hand. She tried to make her
voice sound very cordial as she greeted him, but he thought he caught
something that sounded as if, while perfectly well disposed to him, she
couldn't for the life of her imagine why he had come.
"Come in," she said, "though I'm afraid it's a little cold in here. Our
"Let me light your fire for you," he answered, and extracting a
parlor-match from his pocket,--safety-matches were his bugbear,--he
stooped, and put the flame to the fire. As he did so he understood
that it was not the mere forgetfulness of a servant that had left it
unlighted, but probably a deliberate economy, and he rose crimson
It took him some time to recover, and during the entire time she sat in
her gray shawl, looking very amiable, but plainly unable to think of
anything to say.
"I saw your son in Farron's office to-day."
"Mr. Farron has been so kind, so wonderfully kind!"
Only a guilty conscience could have found reproach in this statement, and
"And I hear he is dining at my daughter's this evening."
Mrs. Wayne had had a telephone message to that effect.
"I wondered, if you were alone--" Lanley hesitated. He had of course been
going to ask her to come and dine with him, but a better inspiration came
to him. "I wondered if you would ask me to dine with you."
"Oh, I'm so sorry," said Mrs. Wayne, "but I can't. I have a boy coming.
He's studying for the ministry, the most interesting person. He had not
been sober for three years when I took hold of him, and now he hasn't
touched a drop for two."
He sighed. She said she was sorry, but he could see plainly enough that
any reformed, or even more any unreformed, drunkard would always far
surpass him in ability to command her interest. He did not belong to a
generation that cleared things up with words; he would have thought it
impertinent, almost ungentlemanly, to probe her attitude of mind about
the scene at Adelaide's; and he would have considered himself unmanly to
make any plea to her on the ground of his own suffering. One simply
supported such things as best one could; it was expected of one, like
tipping waiters. He had neither the vocabulary nor the habit of mind that
made an impersonal exposition of an emotional difficulty possible; but
even had he possessed these powers he would have retained his tradition
against using them. Perhaps, if she had been his sister or his wife, he
might have admitted that he had had a hard day or that every one had
moments of depression; but that was not the way to talk in a lady's
drawing-room. In the silence he saw her eyes steal longingly to her
writing-table, deeply and hopelessly littered with papers and open books.
"I'm afraid I'm detaining you," he said. The visit had been a failure.
"Oh, not at all," she replied, and then added in a tone of more
sincerity: "I do have the most terrible time with my check-book. And,"
she added, as one confessing to an absurdly romantic ideal, "I was trying
to balance it."
"You should not be troubled with such things," said Mr. Lanley, thinking
how long it was since any one but a secretary had balanced his books.
Pete, it appeared, usually did attend to his mother's checks, but of
late she had not liked to bother him, and that was just the moment the
bank had chosen to notify her that she had overdrawn. "I don't see how I
can be," she said, too hopeless to deny it.
"If you would allow me," said Mr. Lanley. "I am an excellent bookkeeper."
"Oh, I shouldn't like to trouble you," said Mrs. Wayne, but she made it
clear she would like it above everything; so Lanley put on his
spectacles, drew up his chair, and squared his elbows to the job.
"It hasn't been balanced since--dear me! not since October," he said.
"I know; but I draw such small checks."
"But you draw a good many."
She had risen, and was standing before the fire, with her hands behind
her back. Her shawl had slipped off, and she looked, in her short
walking-skirt, rather like a school-girl being reprimanded for a poor
exercise. She felt so when, looking up at her over his spectacles, he
"You really must be more careful about carrying forward. Twice you have
carried forward an amount from two pages back instead of--"
"That's always the way," she interrupted. "Whenever people look at my
check-book they take so long scolding me about the way I do it that
there's no time left for putting it right."
"I won't say another word," returned Lanley; "only it would really
"I don't want any one to do it who says my sevens are like fours," she
went on. Lanley compressed his lips slightly, but contented himself by
merely lengthening the tail of a seven. He said nothing more, but every
time he found an error he gave a little shake of his head that went
through her like a knife.
The task was a long one. The light of the winter afternoon faded, and she
lit the lamps before he finished. At first he had tried not to be aware
of revelations that the book made; but as he went on and he found he was
obliged now and then to question her about payments and receipts, he saw
that she was so utterly without any sense of privacy in the matter that
his own decreased.
He had never thought of her as being particularly poor, not at least in
the sense of worrying over every bill, but now when he saw the small
margin between the amounts paid in and the amounts paid out, when he
noticed how large a proportion of what she had she spent in free gifts
and not in living expenses, he found himself facing something he could
not tolerate. He put his pen down carefully in the crease of the book,
and rose to his feet.
"Mrs. Wayne," he said, "I must tell you something."
"You're going to say, after all, that my sevens are like fours."
"I'm going to say something worse--more inexcusable. I'm going to tell
you how much I want you to honor me by becoming my wife."
She pronounced only one syllable. She said, "_Oh_!" as crowds say it when
a rocket goes off.
"I suppose you think it ridiculous in a man of my age to speak of love,
but it's not ridiculous, by Heaven! It's tragic. I shouldn't have
presumed, though, to mention the subject to you, only it is intolerable
to me to think of your lacking anything when I have so much. I can't
explain why this knowledge gave me courage. I know that you care nothing
for luxuries and money, less than any one I know; but the fact that you
haven't everything that you ought to have makes me suffer so much that I
hope you will at least listen to me."
"But you know it doesn't make me suffer a bit," said Mrs. Wayne.
"To know you at all has been such a happiness that I am shocked at my own
presumption in asking for your companionship for the rest of my life, and
if in addition to that I could take care of you, share with you--"
No one ever presented a proposition to Mrs. Wayne without finding her
willing to consider it, an open-mindedness that often led her into the
consideration of absurdities. And now the sacred cupidity of the
reformer did for an instant leap up within her. All the distressed
persons, all the tottering causes in which she was interested, seemed to
parade before her eyes. Then, too, the childish streak in her character
made her remember how amusing it would be to be Adelaide Farron's
mother-in-law, and Peter's grandmother by marriage. Nor was she at all
indifferent to the flattery of the offer or the touching reserves of her
"I should think you would be so lonely!" he said gently.
"I am often. I miss not having any one to talk to over the little things
that"--she laughed--"I probably wouldn't talk over if I had some one.
But even with Pete I am lonely. I want to be first with some one again."
"You will always be first with me."
"Even if I don't marry you?"
"Whatever you do."
Like the veriest coquette, she instantly decided to take all and give
nothing--to take his interest, his devotion, his loyalty, all of the
first degree, and give him in return a divided interest, a loyalty too
much infected by humor to be complete, and a devotion in which several
causes and Pete took precedence. She did not do this in ignorance. On the
contrary, she knew just how it would be; that he would wait and she be
late, that he would adjust himself and she remain unchanged, that he
would give and give and she would never remember that it would be kind
some day to ask. Yet it did not seem to her an unfair bargain, and
perhaps she was right.
"I couldn't marry you," she said. "I couldn't change. All your pretty
things and the way you live--it would be like a cage to me. I like my
life the way it is; but yours--"
"Do you think I would ask Wilsey to dinner every night or try to mold you
to be like Mrs. Baxter?"
"You'd have a hard time. I never could have married again. I'd make you a
poor wife, but I'm a wonderful friend."
"Your friendship would be more happiness than I had any right to hope
for," and then he added in a less satisfied tone: "But friendship is so
uncertain. You don't make any announcements to your friends or vows to
each other, unless you're at an age when you cut your initials in the
bark of a tree. That's what I'd like to do. I suppose you think I'm an
"Two of us," said Mrs. Wayne, and wiped her eyes. She cried easily, and
had never felt the least shame about it.
It was a strange compact--strange at least for her, considering that only
a few hours before she had thought of him as a friendly, but
narrow-minded, old stranger. Something weak and malleable in her nature
made her enter lightly into the compact, although all the time she knew
that something more deeply serious and responsible would never allow her
to break it. A faint regret for even an atom of lost freedom, a vein of
caution and candor, made her say:
"I'm so afraid you'll find me unsatisfactory. Every one has, even Pete."
"I think I shall ask less than any one," he returned.
The answer pleased her strangely.
Presently a ring came at the bell--a telegram. The expected guest was
detained at the seminary. Lanley watched with agonized attention. She
appeared to be delighted.
"Now you'll stay to dine," she said. "I can't remember what there is
"Now, that's not friendly at the start," said he, "to think I
care so much."
"Well, you're not like a theological student."
"A good deal better, probably," answered Lanley, with a gruffness that
only partly hid his happiness. There was no real cloud in his sky. If
Mrs. Wayne had accepted his offer of marriage, by this time he would have
begun to think of the horror of telling Adelaide and Mathilde and his own
servants. Now he thought of nothing but the agreeable evening before him,
one of many.
When Pete came in to dress, Lanley was just in the act of drawing the
last neat double lines for his balance. He had been delayed by the fact
that Mrs. Wayne had been talking to him almost continuously since his
return to figuring. She was in high spirits, for even saints are
stimulated by a respectful adoration.
Recognizing the neat back of Mr. Lanley's gray head, Pete's first idea
was that he must have come to induce Mrs. Wayne to conspire with him
against the marriage; but he abandoned this notion on seeing his
"Hullo, Mr. Lanley," he said, stooping to kiss his mother with the casual
affection of the domesticated male. "You have my job."
"It is a great pleasure to be of any service," said Mr. Lanley.
"It was in a terrible state, it seems, Pete," said his mother.
"She makes her fours just like sevens, doesn't she?" observed Pete.
"I did not notice the similarity," replied Mr. Lanley. He glanced at Mrs.
Wayne, however, and enjoyed his denial almost as much as he had enjoyed
the discovery that the Wilsey ancestor had not been a Signer. He felt
that somehow, owing to his late-nineteenth-century tact, the breach
between him and Pete had been healed.
"Mr. Lanley is going to stay and dine with me," said Mrs. Wayne.
Pete looked a little grave, but his next sentence explained the cause of
"Wouldn't you like me to go out and get something to eat, Mother?"
"No, no," answered his mother, firmly. "This time there really is
something in the house quite good. I don't remember what it is."
And then Pete, who felt he had done his duty, went off to dress. Soon,
however, his voice called from an adjoining room.
"Hasn't that woman sent back any of my collars, Mother dear?"
"O Pete, her daughter got out of the reformatory only yesterday," Mrs.
Wayne replied. Lanley saw that the Wayne housekeeping was immensely
complicated by crime. "I believe I am the only person in your employ not
a criminal," he said, closing the books. "These balance now."
"Have I anything left?"
"Only about a hundred and fifty."
She brightened at this.
"Oh, come," she said, "that's not so bad. I couldn't have been so
terribly overdrawn, after all."
"You ought not to overdraw at all," said Mr. Lanley, severely. "It's not
fair to the bank."
"Well, I never mean to," she replied, as if no one could ask more
Presently she left him to go and dress for dinner. He felt
extraordinarily at home, left alone like this among her belongings. He
wandered about looking at the photographs--photographs of Pete as a
child, a photograph of an old white house with wisteria-vines on it; a
picture of her looking very much as she did now, with Pete as a little
boy, in a sailor suit, leaning against her; and then a little photograph
of her as a girl not much older than Mathilde, he thought--a girl who
looked a little frightened and awkward, as girls so often looked, and yet
to whom the French photographer--for it was taken in the Place de la
Madeleine--had somehow contrived to give a Parisian air. He had never
thought of her in Paris. He took the picture up; it was dated May, 1884.
He thought back carefully. Yes, he had been in Paris himself that spring,
a man of thirty-three or so, feeling as old almost as he did to-day, a
widower with his little girl. If only they might have met then, he and
that serious, starry-eyed girl in the photograph!
Hearing Pete coming, he set the photograph back in its place, and,
sitting down, picked up the first paper within reach.
"Good night, sir," said Pete from the doorway.
"Good night, my dear boy. Good luck!" They shook hands.
"Funny old duck," Pete thought as he went down-stairs whistling,
"sitting there so contentedly reading 'The Harvard Lampoon.' Wonder what
he thinks of it."
He did not wonder long, though, for more interesting subjects of
consideration were at hand. What reception would he meet at the Farrons?
What arrangements would be made, what assumptions permitted? But even
more immediate than this was the problem how could he contrive to greet
Mrs. Farron? He was shocked to find how little he had been able to