Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Law-Breakers and Other Stories by Robert Grant

Part 3 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

independent and self-reliant, which stirred his pulses. He had been a
close and absorbed student, and his observation of the other sex had
been largely indifferent and formal. He knew, of course, that the
modern woman had sloughed off helplessness and docile dependence on
man, but like an ostrich with its head in the sand he had chosen to
form a mental conception of what she was like, and he had pictured her
either as a hoyden or an unsympathetic blue-stocking. This trig,
well-developed beauty, with her sensible, alert face and capable
manner was an agreeable revelation. If she was a type, he had
neglected his opportunities. But the present was his at all events.
Here was companionship worthy of the name, and a stimulating
vindication of the success of woman's revolt from her own weakness and
subserviency. When at the conclusion of their game they sat down on a
bank overlooking the last hole and connected conversation took the
place of desultory dialogue between shots, he was struck by her common
sense, her enthusiasm, and her friendliness. He gathered that she was
eager to support herself by some form of intellectual occupation,
preferably teaching or writing, and that she had come to Rock Ledge
with Mrs. Spinney in order to talk over quietly whether she might
better take courses of study at Radcliffe or Wellesley, or learn the
Kindergarten methods and at the same time apply herself diligently to
preparation for creative work. Of one thing she was certain, that she
did not wish to rust out in Westford. While her father lived, of
course her nominal home would be there, but she felt that she could
not be happy with nothing but household employment in a small town out
of touch with the movement and breadth of modern life. The substance
of this information was confided to me by Morgan before we went to bed
that night.

It is easy and natural for two young people vegetating at a summer
resort to become exceedingly intimate in three or four days,
especially when facility for intercourse is promoted and freedom from
interruption guaranteed by a self-sacrificing accessory. My complicity
at the outset had been pure off-hand pleasantry, but by the end of
thirty-six hours it was obvious to me that Morgan's interest was that
of a man deeply infatuated. Seeing that the two young people were of
marriageable age and free, so far as I knew, from disqualifying
blemishes which would justify me in putting either on guard against
the other, I concluded that it behooved me as a loyal friend to keep
Mrs. Spinney occupied and out of the way. Consequently Morgan and Mrs.
Spaulding were constantly together during the ensuing ten days, and so
skilfully did I behave that the innocent pair regarded the flirtation
which I was carrying on as a superb joke--a case of a banterer caught
in the toils, and Mrs. Spinney's manners suggested that she was
agreeably flattered.

Morgan's statement that he had never contemplated marriage was true,
and yet in the background of his dream of the future lurked a female
vision whose sympathy and companionship were to be the spur of his
ambition and the mainstay of his courage. Had he found her? He did not
need to ask himself the question more than once. He knew that he had,
and, knowing that he was deeply in love, he turned to face the two
questions by which he was confronted. First, would she have him?
Second, in case she would, was he in a position to ask her to marry
him, or, more concretely, could he support her? The first could be
solved only by direct inquiry. The answer to the second depended on
whether the views which he had expressed to me as to the possibilities
of matrimonial content in circumstances like his were correct. Or was
I right, and did it all depend upon the woman? But what if it did? Was
not this just the woman to sympathize entirely with his ambition and
to keep him up to the mark in case the shoe pinched? There was no
doubt of her enthusiasm and interest when in the course of one of
their walks he had confided to her that he had dedicated his life to
close scientific investigation. Well, he would lay the situation
squarely before her and she could give him his answer. If she was the
kind of woman he believed her to be and she loved him and had faith in
him, would the prospect of limited means appall her? He felt sure that
it would not.

By the light of subsequent events, being something of a mind reader, I
know the rest of their story as well as though I had been present in
the flesh.

Before the end of the fortnight he made a clean breast of his love and
of his scruples. He chose an occasion when they had strolled far along
the shore and were resting among picturesque rocks overlooking the
ocean. She listened shyly, as became a woman, but once or twice while
he was speaking she looked up at him with unmistakable ardor and joy
in her brown eyes which let him know that his feelings were
reciprocated before she confessed it by speech. He was so determined
to make clear to her what was in store for her if she accepted him
that without waiting for an answer to his burning avowal he proceeded
to point out and to reiterate that the scantiest kind of living so far
as creature comforts were concerned was all which he could promise
either for the present or for the future.

When, having satisfied his conscience, he ceased speaking, Edna turned
toward him and with a sigh of sentiment swept back the low bands of
profuse dark hair from her temples as though by the gesture she were
casting all anxieties and hindrances to the winds. "How strange it
is!" she murmured. "The last thing which I supposed could happen to me
in coming here was that I should marry. But I am in love--in love with
you; and to turn one's back on that blessing would be to squander the
happiness of existence." She was silent a moment. Then she continued
gravely, "As you know, I was engaged--married once before. How long
ago it seems! I thought once, I believed once, that I could never love
again. Dear Horace, how wrapped up we were in each other! But I was a
child then, and--and it seems as though all I know of the real world
has been learned since. I must not distrust--I will not refuse the
opportunity to make you happy and to become happier myself by
resisting the impulse of my heart. I love you--Morgan."

"Thank God! But are you sure, Edna, that you have counted the cost of
marrying me?"

"Oh, yes! We shall manage very well, I think," she answered, speaking
slowly and contracting a little her broad brow in the attempt to argue
dispassionately. "It isn't as if you had nothing. You have fifteen
hundred dollars and your salary, nearly two thousand more. Five years
ago that would have seemed to me wealth, and now, of course, I
understand that it isn't; and five years ago I suppose I would have
married a man if I loved him no matter how poor he was. But to-day I
am wiser--that's the word, isn't it? For I recognize that I might not
be happy as a mere drudge, and to become one would conflict with what
I feel that I owe myself in the way of--shall I call it civilizing and
self-respecting comfort? So you see if you hadn't a cent, I might feel
it was more sensible and better for us both to wait or to give each
other up. But it isn't a case of that at all. We've plenty to start
on--plenty, and more than I'm accustomed to; and by the time we need
more, if we do need more, you will be famous."

"But it's just that, Edna," he interjected quickly. "I may never be
famous. I may be obscure, and we may be poor, relatively speaking, all
our lives," and he sighed dismally.

"Oh, yes, you will, and oh, no, we shan't!" she exclaimed buoyantly.
"Surely, you don't expect me to believe that you are not going to
succeed and to make a name for yourself? We must take some chances--if
that is a chance. You have told me yourself that you intended to

"In the end, yes."

"Why, then, shouldn't I believe it, too? It would be
monstrous--disloyal and unromantic not to. I won't listen to a word
more on that score, please. And the rest follows, doesn't it? We are
marrying because we love each other and believe we can help each
other, and I am sure one of the reasons why we love each other is that
we both have enthusiasm and find life intensely absorbing and admire
that in the other. There's the great difference between me now and
what I was at eighteen. The mere zest of existence seems to me so much
greater than it used. There are so many interesting things to do, so
many interesting things which we would like to do. And now we shall be
able to do them together, shan't we?" she concluded, her eyes lighted
with confident happiness, her cheeks mantling partly from love,
partly, perhaps, from a sudden consciousness that she was almost
playing the wooer.

Morgan was equal to the occasion. "Until death do us part, Edna. This
is the joy of which I have dreamed for years and wondered if it could
ever be mine," he whispered, as he looked into her face with all the
ardor of his soul and kissed her on the lips.

That evening he hooked his arm in mine on the piazza after dinner and
said, "You builded better than you knew, George. We are engaged, and
she's the one woman in the world for me. I've told her everything--
everything, and she isn't afraid."

"And you give me the credit of it. That's Christian and handsome. I'll
say one thing for her which any one can see from her face, that she
has good looks and intelligence. As to the rest, you monopolized her
so that our acquaintance is yet to begin."

"It shall begin at once," said Morgan, with a happy laugh. "But what
about you, George?"

"I leave for New York to-night. Now that the young lovers have
plighted their troth my presence is no longer necessary. A sudden
telegram will arrive."

"But Mrs. Spinney? We have begun to--er--hope--"


"Begun to think--wondered if--"

"I were going to marry a woman several years my senior who has the
effrontery to believe that she can lecture acceptably on the entire
range of literary and social knowledge from the Troubadours and the
Crusades to Rudyard Kipling and the Referendum? Such is the reward of
disinterested self-sacrifice!"

"Forgive me, George. I knew at first that you were trying to do me a
good turn, but--but you were so persistent that you deceived us. I'm
really glad there's nothing in it."

"Thanks awfully." Then bending a sardonic glance on my friend, I
murmured sententiously:

"Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is Winged Cupid painted blind."

* * * * *

"Edna, why don't you take a more active interest in these club
gatherings?" asked Morgan Russell one afternoon eight years subsequent
to their marriage. He had laid aside his work for the day, and having
joined his wife on the piazza was glancing over a printed notice of a
meeting which she had left on the table. "I'm inclined to think you
would get considerable diversion from them, and the study work at home
would be in your line."

Edna was silent a moment. She bent her head over her work--a child's
blouse--that he might not notice that she was biting her lip, and she
managed to impart a dispassionate and almost jaunty tone to the
indictment which uttered.

"Every now and then, Morgan, you remind me of Edward Casaubon in
'Middlemarch.' Not often, but every now and then lately."

"That selfish, fusty, undiscerning bookworm?"

"You're not selfish and you're not fusty; but you remind me of him
when you make remarks like your first." She brushed a caterpillar from
her light summer skirt, and noticing the draggled edge held it up.
"There's one answer to your question about taking an active interest
in clubs. There are twenty others, but this is one."

Her husband appeared puzzled. He looked well, but pale and thin, as
though accustomed to close application.

"I mean I can't afford it," she added.

"I see. Then it was stupid of me--Casaubonish, I dare say, to have
spoken. I was only trying to put a little more variety into your life
because I realized that you ought to have it."

Edna gave a faint sigh by way of acquiescence. Marriage had changed
her but little in appearance. She looked scarcely older, and her
steady eyes, broad brow, and ready smile gave the same effect of
determination and spirit, though she seemed more sober.

"I'm a little dull myself and that makes me captious," she asserted.
Then dropping her work and clasping her hands she looked up earnestly
at him and said, "Don't you see the impossibility of my being active
in my club, Morgan? I go to it, of course, occasionally, so as not to
drop out of things altogether, but in order to take a prominent part
and get the real benefit of the meetings a woman needs time and money.
Not so very much money, nor so very much time, but more of either than
I have at my disposal. Of course, I would like, if we had more
income--and what is much more essential--more time, to accept some of
the invitations which I receive to express my ideas before the club,
but it is out of the question. I have a horror of superficiality just
as you have."

"A sad fate; a poor man's wife," said Morgan with a smile which,
though tranquil, was wan.

"And you warned me. Don't think for a moment I'm complaining or
regretting. I was only answering your question. Do you realize, dear,
we shall have been married eight years day after to-morrow?"

"So we have, Edna. And what a blessing our marriage has been to me!"

"We have been very happy." Then, she said, after a pause, as though
she had been making up her mind to put the question, "You are really
content, Morgan?"

"Content?" he echoed, "with you, Edna?"

"Not with me as me, but with us both together; with our progress, and
with what we stand for as human beings?"

"I think so. That is, relatively speaking, and provided I understand
correctly what you mean."

She had not resumed her work, and her eager, resolute expression
indicated that she was preparing to push the conversation to a more
crucial point.

"I suppose what I mean is, would you, if we were going to start over
again, do just as you have--devote yourself to science?"

"Oh!" Morgan flushed. "I don't see the use of considering that
conundrum. I have devoted myself to science and there is no help for
it, even if I were dissatisfied."

"No present help."

"No help at any time, Edna. But why resurrect this ghost? We burned
our bridges at the altar."

"We did. And don't misunderstand me, dear. I'm not flinching, I'm not
even regretting, as I said to you before. Perhaps it may seem to you
brutal--which is worse than Casaubonish--to ask you such a question.
Still, we're husband and wife, and on an anniversary like this why
isn't it sensible to look matters squarely in the face, and consider
whether we've been wise or not? You ask the use. Are we not both
seeking the truth?"

"Just as a tradesman takes an account of stock to ascertain whether he
is bankrupt. I suppose you are thinking of the children and--and you
admitted that you are a little tired yourself."

"I wasn't thinking of any one. I was simply considering the question
as an abstract proposition--by the light, of course, of our

"It is hard for you, Edna; yes, it is hard. I often think of it."

"But I shouldn't mind its being hard if I were sure we were

Morgan leaned toward her and said with grave intensity, "How, dear,
are the great truths of science to be ascertained unless men--men and
their wives--are willing to delve lovingly, to sacrifice comforts, and
even endure hardships in pursuit of them?"

Edna drew a deep breath. "But you must answer me a question. How are
children to be educated, and their minds, bodies, and manners guarded
and formed in the ideal way on a small income such as ours?"

"I thought it was the children."

"It isn't merely the children. It's myself and you--you, Morgan. It
breaks my heart to see you pale, thin, and tired most of the time. You
like good food and we can't afford to keep a decent cook. You have to
consider every cent you spend, and the consequence is you have no
amusement, and if you take a vacation, it is at some cheap place where
you are thoroughly uncomfortable. And, of course, it is the children,
too. If you, with your talents had gone into business or followed
medicine or the law, like your friend Mr. Randall, we should have an
income by this time which--well, for one thing, we should be able to
keep the children at the seaside until October, and for another have
Ernest's teeth straightened."

"Perhaps I can manage both of those, as it is. But, Edna, what's the
advantage of considering what might have been? Besides, you haven't
answered my question."

"I know it," she said slowly. "You mustn't misunderstand me, Morgan.
I'm very proud of you, and I appreciate fully your talent, your
self-sacrifice, and your modesty. I thought you entirely right the
other day in repulsing that odious reporter who wished to make a
public character of you before you were ready. I'm content to wait--to
wait forever, and I shall be happy in waiting. But, on the other hand,
I've never been afraid to face the truth. It's my way. I've done so
all my life; and my growth mentally and morally has come through my
willingness to acknowledge my mistakes. Every one says it is fine for
other people to starve for the sake of discovery, but how few are
willing to do it themselves! If we were in a book, the world would
admire us, but sometimes I can't help wondering if we would not be
happier and more satisfactory human products if you had done something
which brought you rewards more commensurate with your abilities. I'm
merely thinking aloud, Morgan. I'm intensely interested, as you know,
in the problems of life, and this is one of them."

"But you know foreigners claim that we as a nation are not really
interested in culture and knowledge, but only in their money value.
What becomes of the best scholarship if we are ready to admit it?"

"Ah! but Professor Drayson told me only the other day that abroad, in
Germany, for instance, they give their learned professors and savants
suitable salaries and make much of them socially, because it is
recognized that otherwise they wouldn't be willing to consecrate
themselves to their work."

"Then the essential thing for me to do is to invent some apparatus
which I can sell to a syndicate for half a million dollars."

"That would be very nice, Morgan," she answered, smiling brightly.
"But you know perfectly well that if we go on just as we are to the
end, I shall be thoroughly proud of you, and thoroughly
happy--relatively speaking." So saying she put her arm around her
husband's neck and kissed him affectionately.

Although this conversation was more definite than any which had taken
place between them, Morgan was not seriously distressed. He knew that
it was his wife's method to think aloud, and he knew that she would be
just as loyal to him and no less cheerful because of it. She was
considering a problem in living, and one which indisputably had two
sides. He had always been aware of it, and the passage of time without
special achievement on his part had brought it more pointedly before
him now that there were two children and the prospect of a third. He
was absorbed in his vocation; and the lack of certain comforts--
necessities, perhaps--though inconvenient, would not have weighed
appreciably in the scale were he the only one affected. But though he
was pursuing his course along the path of investigation eagerly and
doing good work without a shadow of disappointment, he was aware
not merely that he had not as yet made a concrete valuable discovery,
but might never do so. This possibility did not appall him, but he
recognized that it was a part of the circumstances of his particular
case viewed from the standpoint of a contemplative judgment on his
behavior. He was succeeding, but was his success of a character to
justify depriving his wife and children of what might have been theirs
but for his selection? The discussion was purely academic, for he had
made his choice, but he did not question Edna's privilege to weigh the
abstract proposition, and accordingly was not depressed by her frankness.

It happened a few weeks later that Edna received a letter from Mrs.
Sidney Dale inviting her and Morgan to spend a fortnight at the Dale
spring and autumn home on the Hudson. Edna had seen Mrs. Dale but
twice since their trip abroad. She had been unable to accept a
previous similar invitation, but on this occasion Morgan insisted that
she should go. He argued that it would refresh and rest her, and he
agreed to conduct her to Cliffside and remain for a day or two

Cliffside proved to be a picturesque, spacious house artistically
situated at the vantage point of a domain of twenty acres and
furnished with the soothing elegancies of modern ingenuity and taste.
Among the attractions were a terrace garden, a well-accoutred stable,
a tennis court, and a steam yacht. Mrs. Dale, who had prefaced her
invitation by informing her husband that she never understood exactly
why she was so fond of Edna and feared that the Russells were very
poor, sat, a vision of successive cool, light summer garments, doing
fancy work on the piazza, and talking in her engaging, brightly
indolent manner. Morgan found Mr. Dale, who was taking a vacation
within telephonic reach of New York, a genial, well-informed man with
the effect of mental strength and reserve power. They became friendly
over their cigars, and a common liking for old-fashioned gardens. On
the evening before he departed, Morgan, in the course of conversation,
expressed an opinion concerning certain electrical appliances before
the public in the securities of which his host was interested. The
banker listened with keen attention, put sundry questions which
revealed his own acuteness, and in pursuance of the topic talked to
Morgan graphically until after midnight of the large enterprises
involving new mechanical discoveries in which his firm was engaged.

Morgan was obliged to go home on the following morning, but Edna
remained a full fortnight. On the day of her return Morgan was pleased
to perceive that the trip had evidently done her good. Not only did
she look brighter and fresher, but there was a sparkling gayety in her
manner which suggested that the change had served as a tonic. Morgan
did not suspect that this access of spirits was occasioned by the
secret she was cherishing until she confronted him with it in the

"My dear," she said, "you would never guess what has happened, so I
won't ask you to try. I wonder what you will think of it. Mr. Dale is
going to ask you--has asked you to go into his business--to become one
of his partners."

"Asked me?"

"Yes. It seems you made a good impression on him from the
first--especially the last evening when you sat up together. It came
about through Mrs. Dale, I think. That is, Mr. Dale has been looking
about for some time for what he calls the right sort of man to take
in, for one of his partners has died recently and the business is
growing; and Mrs. Dale seems to have had us on her mind because she
had got it into her head that we were dreadfully poor. I don't think
she has at all a definite idea of what your occupation is. But the
long and short of it is her husband wants you. He told me so himself
in black and white, and you will receive a letter from him within a
day or two."

"Wants me to become a broker?"

"A banker and broker."

"And--er--give up my regular work?"

Edna nervously smoothed out the lap of her dress as though she
realized that she might be inflicting pain, but she raised her steady
eyes and said with pleasant firmness:

"You would have to, of course, wouldn't you? But Mr. Dale explained
that you would be expected to keep a special eye on the mechanical and
scientific interests of the firm. He said he had told you about them.
So all that would be in your line of work, wouldn't it?"

"I understand--I understand. It would amount to nothing from the point
of view of my special field of investigation," he answered a little
sternly. "What reply did you make to him, Edna?"

"I merely said that I would tell you of the offer; that I didn't know
what you would think."

"I wish you had refused it then and there."

"I couldn't do that, of course. The decision did not rest with me.
Besides, Morgan, I thought you might think that we could
not--er--afford to refuse it, and that as you would still be more or
less connected with scientific matters, you might regard it as a happy
compromise. Mr. Dale said," she continued with incisive clearness in
which there was a tinge of jubilation, "that on a conservative
estimate you could count on ten or twelve thousand dollars a year, and
his manner suggested that your share of the profits would be very much
more than that."

"The scientific part is a mere sop; it amounts to nothing. I should be
a banker, engaged in floating new financial enterprises and selling
their securities to the public."

There was a brief silence. Edna rose and seating herself on the sofa
beside him took his hands and said with solemn emphasis, "Morgan, if
you think you will be unhappy--if you are satisfied that this change
would not be the best thing for us, say so and let us give it up. Give
it up and we will never think of it again."

He looked her squarely in the face. "My God, Edna, I don't know what
to answer! It's a temptation. So many things would be made easy. It
comes to this, Is a man justified in refusing such an opportunity and
sacrificing his wife and children in order to be true to his----?"

She interrupted him. "If you put it that way, Morgan, we must decline.
If you are going to break your heart--"

"Or yours--"

"Morgan, whichever way you decide I shall be happy, provided only you
are sure. If you feel that you--we--all of us will be happier and
er--more effective human creatures going on as we are, it is your duty
to refuse Mr. Dale's offer."

"It's a temptation," murmured Morgan. "I must think it over, Edna. Am
I bound to resist it?"


"You know I may never be heard of in science outside of a few partial
contemporaries." His lip quivered with his wan smile.

"That has really nothing to do with it," she asserted.

"I think it has, Edna," he said simply. Then suddenly the remembrance
of the conversation with his friend Randall recurred to him with vivid
clearness. He looked up into his wife's eyes and said, "After all,
dear, it really rests with you. The modern woman is man's helpmate and
counsellor. What do you advise?"

Edna did not answer for a few moments. Her open, sensible brow seemed
to be seeking to be dispassionate as a judge and to expel every
vestige of prejudice.

"It's a very close question to decide, Morgan. Of course, there are
two distinct sides. You ask me to tell you, as your wife, what I think
is wisest and best. I can't set it forth as clearly as I should
like--I won't attempt to give my reasons even. But somehow my instinct
tells me that if you don't accept Mr. Dale's offer, you will be sorry
three years hence."

"Then I shall accept, Edna, dear," he said.

Three years later I took Mrs. Sidney Dale out to dinner at the house
of a common friend in New York. In the course of conversation I
remarked, "I believe it is you, Mrs. Dale, who is responsible for the
metamorphosis in my friend, Morgan Russell."

"Is he a friend of yours?"

"An old friend since college days. I never saw any one so spruced up,
shall I call it? He has gained fifteen pounds, is growing whiskers,
and is beginning to look the embodiment of worldly prosperity."

"It is delightful to see them--both him and his wife. Yes, I suppose I
may claim to be responsible for rescuing him from obscurity. My
husband finds him a most valuable man in his business. I'm very fond
of Mrs. Russell. She hasn't the obnoxious ways of most progressive
women, and she certainly has executive ability and common sense. Being
such an indolent person myself, I have always been fascinated by her
spirit and cleverness. I'm glad she has been given a chance. They are
getting on nicely."

"I think she is in her element now. I was at their house the other
day," I continued blandly. "It seems that Edna is prominent in various
educational and philanthropic bodies, high in the councils of her
club, and a leading spirit in diverse lines of reform. They are
entertaining a good deal--a judicious sprinkling of the fashionable
and the literary. The latest swashbuckler romances were on the table,
and it was evident from her tone that she regarded them as great
American literature. Everything was rose color. Morgan came home while
I was there. His hands were full of toys for his children and violets
for his wife. He began to talk golf. It's a complete case of
ossification of the soul--pleasant enough to encounter in daily
intercourse, but sad to contemplate."

Mrs. Dale turned in her chair. "I believe you're laughing at me, Mr.
Randall. What is sad? And what do you mean by ossification of the

Said I with quiet gravity, "Fifteen or twenty thousand dollars a year.
Morgan Russell's life is ruined--and the world had great hopes of

Mrs. Dale, who is a clever person, in spite of her disclaimers, was
silent a moment. "I know what you mean, of course. But I don't agree
with you in the least. And you," she added with the air of a woman
making a telling point--"you the recently appointed attorney of the
paper trust, with a fabulous salary, you're the last man to talk like

I regarded her a moment with sardonic brightness. "Mrs. Dale," I said,
"it grieves us to see the ideals of our friends shattered."

Book of the day: