Part 2 out of 6
other too much."
Miss Morrison sank into a chair and revealed the tint of her
lettuce-green petticoat beneath her olive-green frock.
"I'm making you cross with me," she said regretfully. "Please don't
dislike me at the outset. You see, out in California we're not so up and
down as you are here. If you were used to spending your days in the
shade of yellow walls, with your choice of hammocks, and with nothing to
do but feed the parrot and play the piano, why, I guess you'd--"
She broke off and stared about her.
"Why, there isn't any piano!" she cried. "Do you mean Honora has no
"What would be the use? She doesn't play."
"I must order one in the morning, then. Honora wouldn't care, would she?
Oh, when do you suppose she'll be home? Does she like to stay over in
that queer place you told me of, fussing around with those frogs?"
Kate had been rash enough to endeavor to explain something of the
Fulhams' theories regarding the mechanistic conception of life. There
was nothing to do but accord Miss Morrison the laugh which she appeared
to think was coming to her.
"I can see that I shouldn't have told you about anything like that,"
Kate said. "I see how mussy you would think any scientific experiment to
be. And, really, matters of greater importance engage your attention."
She was quite serious. She had swiftly made up her mind that Mary
Morrison, with her conscious seductions, was a much more important
factor in the race than austere Honora Fulham. But Miss Morrison was
suspicious of satire.
"Oh, I think science important!" she protested.
"No, you don't," declared Kate; "you only wish you did. Come, we'll go
to your room."
It was the rear room on the second floor, and it presented a stern
parallelogram occupied by the bare necessaries of a sleeping-apartment.
The walls and rug were gray, the furniture of mahogany. Mary Morrison
looked at it a moment with a slow smile. Then she tossed her green coat
and her hat with its sweeping veil upon the bed. She flung her camera
and her magazines upon the table. She opened her traveling-bag, and,
with hands that almost quivered with impatience, placed upon the
toilet-table the silver implements that Honora had sent her and
scattered broadcast among them her necklaces and bracelets.
"I'll have some flowering plants to-morrow," she told Kate. "And when my
trunks and boxes come, I'll make the wilderness blossom like a rose. How
have you decorated your room?"
"I haven't much money," said Kate bluntly; "but I've--well, I've
ventured on my own interpretations of what a bed-sitting-room
Miss Morrison threw her a bright glance.
"I'll warrant you have," she said. "I should think you'd contrive a very
original sort of a place. Thank you so much for looking after me. I
brought along a gown for dinner. Naturally, I didn't want to make a
dull impression at the outset. Haven't I heard that you dine out at some
sort of a place where geniuses congregate?"
* * * * *
Years afterward, Kate used to think about the moment when Honora and her
cousin met. Honora had come home, breathless from the laboratory. It had
been a stirring afternoon for her. She had heard words of significant
appreciation spoken to David by the men whom, out of all the world, she
would have chosen to have praise him. She looked at Miss Morrison, who
had come trailing down in a cerise evening gown as if she were a bright
creature of another species, somewhat, Kate could not help whimsically
thinking, as a philosophic beaver might have looked at a bird of
paradise. Then Honora had kissed her cousin.
"Dear blue-eyed Mary!" she had cried. "Welcome to a dull and busy home."
"How good of you to take me in," sighed Miss Morrison. "I hated to
bother you, Honora, but I thought you might keep me out of mischief."
"Have you been getting into mischief?" Honora asked, still laughing.
"Not quite," answered her cousin, blushing bewitchingly. "But I'm always
on the verge of it. It's the Californian climate, I think."
"So exuberant!" cried Honora.
"That's it!" agreed "Blue-eyed Mary." "I thought you'd understand.
Here, I'm sure, you're all busy and good."
"Some of us are," agreed Honora. "There's my Kate, for example. She's
one of the most useful persons in town, and she's just as interesting as
she is useful."
Miss Morrison turned her smiling regard on Kate. "But, Honora, she's
been quite abrupt with me. She doesn't approve of me. I suppose she
discovered at once that I _wasn't_ useful."
"I didn't," protested Kate. "I think decorative things are of the utmost
"There!" cried Miss Morrison; "you can see for yourself that she doesn't
"Nonsense," said Kate, really irritated. "I shall like you if Honora
does. Let me help you dress, Honora dear. Are you tired or happy that
your cheeks are so flushed?"
"I'm both tired and happy, Kate. Excuse me, Mary, won't you? If David
comes in you'll know him by instinct. Believe me, you are very welcome."
Up in Honora's bedroom, Kate asked, as she helped her friend into the
tidy neutral silk she wore to dinner: "Is the blue-eyed one going to be
a drain on you, girl? You oughtn't to carry any more burdens. Are you
disturbed? Is she more of a proposition than you counted on?"
Honora turned her kind but troubled eyes on Kate.
"I can't explain," she said in _so_ low a voice that Kate could hardly
catch the words. "She's like me, isn't she? I seemed to see--"
"Ghosts--bright ghosts. Never mind."
"You're not thinking that you are old, are you?" cried Kate. "Because
that's absurd. You're wonderful--wonderful."
Laughter arose to them--the mingled voices of David Fulham and his
newfound cousin by marriage.
"Good!" cried Honora with evident relief. "They seem to be taking to
each other. I didn't know how David would like her."
He liked her very well, it transpired, and when the introductions had
been made at the Caravansary, it appeared that every one was delighted
with her. If their reception of her differed from that they had given to
Kate, it was nevertheless kindly--almost gay. They leaped to the
conclusion that Miss Morrison was designed to enliven them. And so it
proved. She threw even the blithe Marna Cartan temporarily into the
shade; and Dr. von Shierbrand, who was accustomed to talking with Kate
upon such matters as the national trait of incompetence, or the
reprehensible modern tendency of coddling the unfit, turned his
attention to Miss Morrison and to lighter subjects.
* * * * *
Two days later a piano stood in Honora's drawing-room, and Miss Morrison
sat before it in what may be termed occult draperies, making lovely
music. Technically, perhaps, the music left something to be desired.
Mrs. Barsaloux and Marna Cartan thought so, at any rate. But the
habitues of Mrs. Dennison's near-home soon fell into the way of trailing
over to the Fulhams' in Mary Morrison's wake, and as they grouped
themselves about on the ugly Mission furniture, in a soft light produced
by many candles, and an atmosphere drugged with highly scented flowers,
they fell under the spell of many woven melodies.
When Mary Morrison's tapering fingers touched the keys they brought
forth a liquid and caressing sound like falling water in a fountain, and
when she leaned over them as if to solicit them to yield their kind
responses, her attitude, her subtle garments, the swift interrogative
turns of her head, brought visions to those who watched and listened.
Kate dreamed of Italian gardens--the gardens she never had seen; Von
Shierbrand thought of dark German forests; Honora, of a moonlit glade.
These three confessed so much. The others did not tell their visions,
but obviously they had them. Blue-eyed Mary was one of those women who
inspire others. She was the quintessence of femininity, and she
distilled upon the air something delicately intoxicating, like the odor
It was significant that the Fulhams' was no longer a house of suburban
habits. Ten o'clock and lights out had ceased to be the rule. After
music there frequently was a little supper, and every one was pressed
into service in the preparation of it. Something a trifle fagged and
hectic began to show in the faces of Mrs. Dennison's family, and that
good woman ventured to offer some reproof.
"You all are hard workers," she said, "and you ought to be hard resters,
too. You're not acting sensibly. Any one would think you were the
"Well, we're entitled to all the pleasure we can get," Mary Morrison had
retorted. "There are people who think that pleasure isn't for them. But
I am just the other way--I take it for granted that pleasure is my
right. I always take everything in the way of happiness that I can get
my hands on."
"You mean, of course, my dear child," said the gentle Mrs. Goodrich,
"all that you can get which does not belong to some one else."
Blue-eyed Mary laughed throatily.
"Fortunately," she said, "there's pleasure enough to go around. It's
like air, every one can breathe it in."
But though Miss Morrison had made herself so brightly, so almost
universally at home, there was one place into which she did not venture
to intrude. This was Kate's room. Mary had felt from the first a lack of
encouragement there, and although she liked to talk to Kate, and
received answers in which there appeared to be no lack of zest and
response, yet it seemed to be agreed that when Miss Barrington came
tramping home from her hard day's work, she was to enjoy the solitude of
Mary used to wonder what went on there. Miss Barrington could be very
still. The hours would pass and not a sound would issue from that high
upper room which looked across the Midway and included the satisfactory
sight of the Harper Memorial and the massed University buildings. Kate
would, indeed, have had difficulty in explaining that she was engaged in
the mere operation of living. Her life, though lonely, and to an extent
undirected, seemed abundant. Restless she undoubtedly was, but it was a
restlessness which she succeeded in holding in restraint. At first when
she came up to the city the daze of sorrow was upon her. But this was
passing. A keen awareness of life suffused her now and made her
observant of everything about her. She felt the tremendous incongruities
of city life, and back of these incongruities, the great, hidden,
passionate purpose which, ultimately, meant a city of immeasurable
power. She rejoiced, as the young and gallant dare to do, that she was
laboring in behalf of that city. Not one bewildered, wavering, piteous
life was adjusted through her efforts that she did not feel that her
personal sum of happiness had received an addition. That deep and
burning need for religion, or for love, or for some splendid and
irresistible impetus, was satisfied in part by her present work.
To start out each morning to answer the cry of distress, to understand
the intricate yet effective machinery of benevolent organizations, so
that she could call for aid here and there, and have instant and
intelligent cooeperation, to see broken lives mended, the friendless
befriended, the tempted lifted up, the evil-doer set on safe paths,
warmed and sustained her. That inquisitive nature of hers was now so
occupied with the answering of practical and immediate questions that it
had ceased to beat upon the hollow doors of the Unknown with unavailing
So far as her own life was concerned, she seemed to have found, not a
haven, but a broad sea upon which she could triumphantly sail. That
shame at being merely a woman, with no task, no utility, no
independence, had been lifted from her. So, in gratitude, everywhere, at
all times, she essayed to help other women to a similar independence.
She did not go so far as to say that it was the panacea for all ills,
but she was convinced that more than half of the incoherent pain of
women's lives could be avoided by the mere fact of financial
independence. It became a religion with her to help the women with whom
she came in contact, to find some unguessed ability or applicability
which would enable them to put money in their purses. With liberty to
leave a miserable condition, one often summoned courage to remain and
face it. She pointed that out to her wistful constituents, the poor
little wives who had found in marriage only a state of supine drudgery,
and of unexpectant, monotonous days. She was trying to give them some
game to play. That was the way she put it to them. If one had a game to
play, there was use in living. If one had only to run after the balls of
the players, there was not zest enough to carry one along.
She began talking now and then at women's clubs and at meetings of
welfare workers. Her abrupt, picturesque way of saying things "carried,"
as an actor would put it. Her sweet, clear contralto held the ear; her
aquiline comeliness pleased the eye without enticing it; her capable,
fit-looking clothes were so happily secondary to her personality that
even the women could not tell how she was dressed. She was the least
seductive person imaginable; and she looked so self-sufficient that it
seldom occurred to any one to offer her help. Yet she was in no sense
bold or aggressive. No one ever thought of accusing her of being any of
those things. Many loved her--loved her wholesomely, with a love in
which trust was a large element. Children loved her, and the sick, and
the bad. They looked to her to help them out of their helplessness. She
was very young, but, after all, she was maternal. A psychologist would
have said that there was much of the man about her, and her love of the
fair chance, her appetite for freedom, her passion for using her own
capabilities might, indeed, have seemed to be of the masculine variety
of qualities; but all this was more than offset by this inherent impulse
for maternity. She was born, apparently, to care for others, but she had
to serve them freely. She had to be the dispenser of good. She was
unconsciously on the outlook against those innumerable forms of
slavishness which affection or religion gilded and made to seem like
Among those who loved her was August von Shierbrand. He loved her
apparently in spite of himself. She did not in the least accord with his
romantic ideas of what a woman should be. He was something of a poet,
and a specialized judge of poetry, and he liked women of the sort who
inspired a man to write lyrics. He had tried unavailingly to write
lyrics about Kate, but they never would "go." He confessed his
fiascoes to her.
"Nothing short of martial measures seems to suit you," he said
"But why write about me at all, Dr. von Shierbrand?" she inquired. "I
don't want any one writing about me. What I want to do is to learn how
to write myself--not because I feel impelled to be an author, but
because I come across things almost every day which ought to be
"You are completely absorbed in this extraordinary life of yours!" he
"Why not!" demanded Kate. "Aren't you completely absorbed in your life?"
"Of course I am. But teaching is my chosen profession."
"Well, life is my chosen profession. I want to see, feel, know, breathe,
Life. I thought I'd never be able to get at it. I used to feel like a
person walking in a mist. But it's different now. Everything has taken
on a clear reality to me. I'm even beginning to understand that I myself
am a reality and that my thoughts as well as my acts are entities. I'm
getting so that I can define my own opinions. I don't believe there's
anybody in the city who would so violently object to dying as I would,
Dr. von Shierbrand."
The sabre cut on Von Shierbrand's face gleamed.
"You certainly seem at the antipodes of death, Miss Barrington," he said
with a certain thickness in his utterance. "And I, personally, can think
of nothing more exhilarating than in living beside you. I meant to
wait--to wait a long time before asking you. But what is the use of
waiting? I want you to marry me. I feel as if it must be--as if I
couldn't get along without you to help me enjoy things."
Kate looked at him wonderingly. It was before the afternoon concert and
they were sitting in Honora's rejuvenated drawing-room while they waited
for the others to come downstairs.
"But, Dr. von Shierbrand!" she cried, "I don't like a city without
"I beg your pardon!"
"I like to see signs of my City of Happiness as I approach--outlying
villas, and gardens, and then straggling, pleasant neighborhoods, and
"Oh, I see. You mean I've been too unexpected. Can't you overlook that?
You're an abrupt person yourself, you know. I'm persuaded that we could
be happy together."
"But I'm not in love, Dr. von Shierbrand. I'm sorry. Frankly, I'd like
"And have you never been? Aren't you nursing a dream of--"
"No, no; I haven't had a hopeless love if that's what you mean. I'm all
lucid and clear and comfortable nowadays--partly because I've stopped
thinking about some of the things to which I couldn't find answers, and
partly because Life is answering some of my questions."
"How to be happy without being in love, perhaps."
"Well, I am happy--temperately so. Perhaps that's the only degree of
happiness I shall ever know. Of course, when I was younger I thought I
should get to some sort of a place where I could stand in swimming glory
and rejoice forever, but I see now how stupid I was to think anything of
the sort. I hoped to escape the commonplace by reaching some beatitude,
but now I have found that nothing really is commonplace. It only seems
so when you aren't understanding enough to get at the essential truth
"Oh, that's true! That's true!" cried Von Shierbrand.
"Oh, Kate, I do love you. You seem to complete me. When I'm with you I
understand myself. Please try to love me, dear. We'll get a little home
and have a garden and a library--think how restful it will be. I can't
tell you how I want a place I can call home."
"There they come," warned Kate as she heard footsteps on the stairs.
"You must take 'no' for your answer, dear man. I feel just like a
mother to you."
Dr. von Shierbrand arose, obviously offended, and he allied himself with
Mary Morrison on the way to the concert. Kate walked with Honora and
David until they met with Professor Wickersham, who was also bound for
Mandel Hall and the somewhat tempered classicism which the Theodore
Thomas Orchestra offered to "the University crowd."
"Please walk with me, Miss Barrington," said Wickersham. "I want you to
explain the universe to me."
"I can do that nicely," retorted Kate, "because Dr. von Shierbrand has
already explained it to me."
Blue-eyed Mary was pouting. She never liked any variety of amusement,
conversational or otherwise, in which she was not the center.
* * * * *
So Kate's life sped along. It was not very significant, perhaps, or it
would not have seemed so to the casual onlooker, but life is measured by
its inward rather than its outward processes, and Kate felt herself
being enriched by her experiences.
She enjoyed being brought into contact with the people she met in her
work--not alone the beneficiaries of her ministrations, but the
policemen and the police matrons and the judges of the police court. She
joined a society of "welfare workers," and attended their suppers and
meetings, and tried to learn by their experience and to keep her own
ideas in abeyance.
She could not help noticing that she differed in some particulars from
most of these laborers in behalf of the unfortunate. They brought
practical, unimaginative, and direct minds to bear upon the problems
before them, while she never could escape her theories or deny herself
the pleasure of looking beyond the events to the causes which underlay
them. This led her to jot down her impressions in a notebook, and to
venture on comments concerning her experiences.
Moreover, not only was she deeply moved by the disarrangement and
bewilderment which she saw around her, but she began to awaken to
certain great events and developing powers in the world. She read the
sardonic commentators upon modern life--Ibsen, Strindberg, and many
others; and if she sometimes passionately repudiated them, at other
times she listened as if she were finding the answers to her own
inquiries. It moved her to discover that men, more often than women, had
been the interpreters of women's hidden meanings, and that they had been
the setters-forth of new visions of sacredness and fresh definitions
It was these men--these aloof and unsentimental ones--who had pointed
out that the sin of sins committed by women had been the indifference to
their own personalities. They had been echoers, conformers, imitators;
even, in their own way, cowards. They had feared the conventions, and
had been held in thrall by their own carefully nursed ideals of
themselves. They had lacked the ability to utilize their powers of
efficiency; had paid but feeble respect to their own ideals; had
altogether measured themselves by too limited a standard. Failing wifely
joy, they had too often regarded themselves as unsuccessful, and had
apologized tacitly to the world for using their abilities in any
direction save one. They had not permitted themselves that strong,
clean, robust joy of developing their own powers for mere delight in the
exercise of power.
But now, so Kate believed,--so her great instructors informed
her,--they were awakening to their privileges. An intenser awareness of
life, of the right to expression, and of satisfaction in constructive
performances was stirring in them. If they desired enfranchisement, they
wanted it chiefly for spiritual reasons. This was a fact which the
opponents of the advancing movement did not generally recognize. Kate
shrank from those fruitless arguments at the Caravansary with the
excellent men who gravely and kindly rejected suffrage for women upon
the ground that they were protecting them by doing so. They did not seem
to understand that women desired the ballot because it was a symbol as
well as because it was an instrument and an argument. If it was to
benefit the working woman in the same way in which it benefited the
working man, by making individuality a thing to be considered; if it was
to give the woman taxpayer certain rights which would put her on a par
with the man taxpayer, a thousand times more it was to benefit all women
by removing them from the class of the unconsidered, the superfluous,
and the negligible.
Yes, women were wanting the ballot because it included potentiality, and
in potentiality is happiness. No field seems fair if there is no gateway
to it--no farther field toward which the steps may be turned. Kate was
getting hold of certain significant similes. She saw that it was past
the time of walls and limits. Walled cities were no longer endurable,
and walled and limited possibilities were equally obsolete. If the
departure of the "captains and the kings" was at hand, if the new forces
of democracy had routed them, if liberty for all men was now an ethic
need of civilization, so political recognition was necessary for women.
Women required the ballot because the need was upon them to perform
great labors. Their unutilized benevolence, their disregarded powers of
organization, their instinctive sense of economy, their
maternal-oversoul, all demanded exercise. Women were the possessors of
certain qualities so abundant, so ever-renewing, that the ordinary
requirements of life did not give them adequate employment. With a
divine instinct of high selfishness, of compassion, of realization, they
were seeking the opportunity to exercise these powers.
"The restlessness of women," "the unquiet sex," were terms which were
becoming glorious in Kate's ears. She saw no reason why women as well as
men should not be allowed to "dance upon the floor of chance." All about
her were women working for the advancement of their city, their country,
and their race. They gave of their fortunes, of their time, of all the
powers of their spirit. They warred with political machines, with base
politicians, with public contumely, with custom. What would have crushed
women of equally gentle birth a generation before, seemed now of little
account to these workers. They looked beyond and above the irritation
of the moment, holding to the realization that their labors were of
vital worth. Under their administration communities passed from
shameless misery to self-respect; as the result of their generosity,
courts were sustained in which little children could make their plea and
wretched wives could have justice. Servants, wantons, outcasts, the
insane, the morally ill, all were given consideration in this new
religion of compassion. It was amazing to Kate to see light come to dull
eyes--eyes which had hitherto been lit only with the fires of hate. As
she walked the gray streets in the performance of her tasks, weary and
bewildered though she often was, she was sustained by the new discovery
of that ancient truth that nothing human can be foreign to the person of
good will. Neither dirt nor hate, distrust, fear, nor deceit should be
permitted to blind her to the essential similarity of all who were
"bound together in the bundle of life."
It was not surprising that at this time she should begin writing short
articles for the women's magazines on the subjects which presented
themselves to her in her daily work. Her brief, spontaneous, friendly
articles, full of meat and free from the taint of bookishness, won favor
from the first. She soon found her evenings occupied with her somewhat
matter-of-fact literary labors. But this work was of such a different
character from that which occupied her in the daytime that so far from
fatiguing her it gave an added zest to her days.
She was not fond of idle evenings. Sitting alone meant thinking, and
thought meant an unconquerable homesickness for that lonely man back in
Silvertree from whom she had parted peremptorily, and toward whom she
dared not make any overtures. Sometimes she sent him an article clipped
from the magazines or newspapers dealing with some scientific subject,
and once she mailed him a number of little photographs which she had
taken with her own camera and which might reveal to him, if he were
inclined to follow their suggestions, something of the life in which she
was engaged. But no recognition of these wordless messages came from
him. He had been unable to forgive her, and she beat down the question
that would arise as to whether she also had been at fault. She was under
the necessity of justifying herself if she would be happy. It was only
after many months had passed that she learned how a heavy burden may
become light by the confession of a fault.
Meantime, she was up early each morning; she breakfasted with the most
alert residents of the Caravansary; then she took the street-car to
South Chicago and reported at a dismal office. Here the telephone served
to put her into communication with her superior at Settlement House. She
reported what she had done the day before (though, to be sure, a written
report was already on its way), she asked advice, she talked over ways
and means. Then she started upon her daily rounds. These might carry
her to any one of half a dozen suburbs or to the Court of Domestic
Relations, or over on the West Side of the city to the Juvenile Court.
She appeared almost daily before some police magistrate, and not long
after her position was assumed, she was called upon to give evidence
before the grand jury.
"However do you manage it all?" Honora asked one evening when Kate had
been telling a tale of psychically sinister import. "How can you bring
yourself to talk over such terrible and revolting subjects as you have
to, before strange men in open court?"
"A nice old man asked me that very question to-day as I was coming out
of the courtroom," said Kate. "He said he didn't like to see young women
doing such work as I was doing. 'Who will do it, then?' I asked. 'The
men,' said he. 'Do you think we can leave it to them?' I asked. 'Perhaps
not,' he admitted. 'But at least it could be left to older women.' 'They
haven't the strength for it,' I told him, and then I gave him a notion
of the number of miles I had ridden the day before in the street-car-it
was nearly sixty, I believe. 'Are you sure it's worth it?' he asked. He
had been listening to the complaint I was making against a young man who
has, to my knowledge, completely destroyed the self-respect of five
girls--and I've known him but a short time. You can make an estimate of
the probable number of crimes of his if it amuses you. 'Don't you think
it's worth while if that man is shut up where he can't do any more
mischief?' I asked him. Of course he thought it was; but he was still
shaking his head over me when I left him. He still thought I ought to be
at home making tidies. I can't imagine that it ever occurred to him that
I was a disinterested economist in trying to save myself from waste."
She laughed lightly in spite of her serious words.
"Anyway," she said, "I find this kind of life too amusing to resign. One
of the settlement workers was complaining to me this morning about the
inherent lack of morals among some of our children. It appears that the
Harrigans--there are seven of them--commandeered some old clothes that
had been sent in for charitable distribution. They poked around in the
trunks when no one was watching and helped themselves to what they
wanted. The next day they came to a party at the Settlement House togged
up in their plunder. My friend reproved them, but they seemed to be
impervious to her moral comments, so she went to the mother. 'Faith,'
said Mrs. Harrigan, 'I tould them not to be bringing home trash like
that. "It ain't worth carryin' away," says I to them.'"
About this time Kate was invited to become a resident of Hull House. She
was touched and complimented, but, with a loyalty for which there was,
perhaps, no demand, she remained faithful to her friends at the
Caravansary. She was loath to take up her residence with a group which
would have too much community of interest. The ladies at Mrs. Dennison's
offered variety. Life was dramatizing itself for her there. In Honora
and Marna and Mrs. Barsaloux and those quiet yet intelligent
gentlewomen, Mrs. Goodrich and Mrs. Applegate, in the very servants
whose pert individualism distressed the mid-Victorian Mrs. Dennison,
Kate saw working those mysterious world forces concerning which she was
so curious. The frequent futility of Nature's effort to throw to the top
this hitherto unutilized feminine force was no less absorbing than the
success which sometimes attended the impulsion. To the general and
widespread convulsion, the observer could no more be oblivious than to
an earthquake or a tidal wave.
Kate had not seen Lena Vroom for a long time, and she had indefinitely
missed her without realizing it until one afternoon, as she was
searching for something in her trunk, she came across a package of
Lena's letters written to her while she was at Silvertree. That night at
the table she asked if any one had seen Lena recently.
"Seen her?" echoed David Fulham. "I've seen the shadow of her blowing
across the campus. She's working for her doctor's degree, like a lot of
other silly women. She's living by herself somewhere, on crackers and
cheese, no doubt."
"Would she really be so foolish?" cried Kate. "I know she's devoted to
her work, but surely she has some sense of moderation."
"Not a bit of it," protested the scientist. "A person of mediocre
attainments who gets the Ph.D. bee in her bonnet has no sense
of any sort. I see them daily, men and women,--but women
particularly,--stalking about the grounds and in and out of classes,
like grotesque ghosts. They're staggering under a mental load too heavy
for them, and actually it might be a physical load from its effects.
They get lop-sided, I swear they do, and they acquire all sorts of
miserable little personal habits that make them both pitiable and
ridiculous. For my part, I believe the day will come when no woman will
be permitted to try for the higher degrees till her brain has been
scientifically tested and found to be adequate for the work."
"But as for Lena," said Kate, "I thought she was quite a wonder at her
"Up to a certain point," admitted Fulham, "I've no doubt she does very
well. But she hasn't the capacity for higher work, and she'll be the
last one to realize it. My advice to you, Miss Barrington, is to look up
your friend and see what she is doing with herself. You haven't any of
you an idea of the tragedies of the classroom, and I'll not tell them to
you. But they're serious enough, take my word for it."
"Yes, do look her up, Kate," urged Honora.
"It's hard to manage anything extra during the day," said Kate. "I must
go some evening."
"Perhaps Cousin Mary could go with you," suggested Honora. Honora threw
a glance of affectionate admiration at her young cousin, who had
blossomed out in a bewitching little frock of baby blue, and whose eyes
reflected the color.
She was, indeed, an entrancing thing, was "Blue-eyed Mary." The
tenderness of her lips, the softness of her complexion, the glamour of
her glance increased day by day, and without apparent reason. She seemed
to be more eloquent, with the sheer eloquence of womanly emotion.
Everything that made her winning was intensified, as if Love, the
Master, had touched to vividness what hitherto had been no more than a
What was the secret of this exotic florescence? She went out only to
University affairs with Honora or Kate, or to the city with Marna
Cartan. Her interests appeared to be few; and she was neither a writer
nor a receiver of letters. Altogether, the sources of that hidden joy
which threw its enchantment over her were not to be guessed.
But what did it all matter? She was an exhilarating companion--and what
a contrast to poor Lena! That night, lying in bed, Kate reproached
herself for her neglect of her once so faithful friend. Lena might be
going through some severe experience, alone and unaided. Kate determined
to find out the truth, and as she had a half-holiday on Saturday, she
started on her quest.
Lena, it transpired, had moved twice during the term and had neglected
to register her latest address. So she was found only after much
searching, and twilight was already gathering when Kate reached the
dingy apartment in which Lena had secreted herself. It was a rear room
up three flights of stairs, approached by a long, narrow corridor which
the economical proprietor had left in darkness. Kate rapped softly at
first; then, as no one answered, most sharply. She was on the point of
going away when the door was opened a bare crack and the white, pinched
face of Lena Vroom peered out.
"It's only Kate, Lena!" Then, as there was no response: "Aren't you
going to let me in?"
Still Lena did not fling wide the door.
"Oh, Kate!" she said vaguely, in a voice that seemed to drift from a
Maeterlinckian mist. "How are you?"
"Pretty sulky, thank you. Why don't you open the door, girl?"
At that Lena drew back; but she was obviously annoyed. Kate stepped into
the bare, unkempt room. Remnants of a miserable makeshift meal were to
be seen on a rickety cutting-table; the bed was unmade; and on the desk,
in the center of the room, a drop-lamp with a leaking tube polluted the
air. There was a formidable litter of papers on a great table, and
before it stood a swivel chair where Lena Vroom had been sitting
preparing for her degree.
Kate deliberately took this all in and then turned her gaze on her
"What's the use, girl?" she demanded with more than her usual
abruptness. "What are you doing it all for?"
Lena threw a haggard glance at her.
"We won't talk about that," she said in that remote, sunken voice. "I
haven't the strength to discuss it. To be perfectly frank, Kate, you
mustn't visit me now. You see, I'm studying night and day for the
"Yes, inquisition. You see, it isn't enough that my thesis should be
finished. I can't get my degree without a last, terrible ordeal. Oh,
Kate, you can't imagine what it is like! Girls who have been through it
have told me. You are asked into a room where the most important members
of the faculty are gathered. They sit about you in a semicircle and for
hours they hurl questions at you, not necessarily questions relating to
anything you have studied, but inquiries to test your general
intelligence. It's a fearful experience."
She sank on her unmade cot, drawing a ragged sweater about her
shoulders, and looked up at Kate with an almost furtive gaze. She always
had been a small, meagre creature, but now she seemed positively
shriveled. The pride and plenitude of womanhood were as far from her
realization as they could be from a daughter of Eve. Sexless, stranded,
broken before an undertaking too great for her, she sat there in the
throes of a sudden, nervous chill. Then, after a moment or two, she
began to weep and was rent and torn with long, shuddering sobs.
"I'm so afraid," she moaned. "Oh, Kate, I'm so terribly, terribly
afraid! I know I'll fail."
Kate strangled down, "The best thing that could happen to you"; and said
instead, "You aren't going about the thing in the best way to succeed."
"I've done all I could," moaned her friend. "I've only allowed myself
four hours a night for sleep; and have hardly taken out time for meals.
I've concentrated as it seems to me no one ever concentrated before."
"Oh, Lena, Lena!" Kate cried compassionately. "Can it really be that you
have so little sense, after all? Oh, you poor little drowned rat, you."
She bent over her, pulled the worn slippers from her feet, and thrust
her beneath the covers.
"No, no!" protested Lena. "You mustn't, Kate! I've got to get at my
"Say another word and I'll throw them out of the window," cried Kate,
really aroused. "Lie down there."
Lena began again to sob, but this time with helpless anger, for Kate
looked like a grenadier as she towered there in the small room and it
was easy to see that she meant to be obeyed. She explored Lena's
cupboard for supplies, and found, after some searching, a can of soup
and the inevitable crackers. She heated the soup, toasted the crackers,
and forced Lena to eat. Then she extinguished the lamp, with its
poisonous odor, and, wrapping herself in her cloak threw open the window
and sat in the gloom, softly chatting about this and that. Lena made no
coherent answers. She lay in sullen torment, casting tearful glances at
her benevolent oppressor.
But Kate had set her will to conquer that of her friend and Lena's
hysteric opposition was no match for it. Little by little the tense form
beneath the blankets relaxed. Her stormily drawn breath became more
even. At last she slept, which gave Kate an opportunity to slip out to
buy a new tube for the lamp and adjust it properly. She felt quite safe
in lighting it, for Lena lay in complete exhaustion, and she took the
liberty of looking over the clothes which were bundled into an
improvised closet on the back of the door. Everything was in wretched
condition. Buttons and hooks were lacking; a heap of darning lay
untouched; Lena's veil, with which she attempted to hide the ruin of her
hat, was crumpled into the semblance of a rain-soaked cobweb; and her
shoes had gone long without the reassurance of a good blacking.
Kate put some irons over the stove which served Lena as a cooking-range,
and proceeded on a campaign of reconstruction. It was midnight when she
finished, and she was weary and heartsick. The little, strained face on
the pillow seemed to belong to one whom the furies were pursuing. Yet
nothing was pursuing her save her own fanatical desire for a thing
which, once obtained, would avail her nothing. She had not personality
enough to meet life on terms which would allow her one iota of
leadership. She was discountenanced by her inherent drabness:
beaten by the limits of her capacity. When Kate had ordered the
room,--scrupulously refraining from touching any of Lena's papers,--she
opened the window and, putting the catch on the door, closed it softly
* * * * *
Kate's frequent visits to Lena, though brief, were none too welcome.
Even the food she brought with her might better, in Lena's estimation,
be dispensed with than that the all-absorbing reading and research
should be interrupted. Finally Kate called one night to find Lena gone.
She had taken her trunk and oil-stove and the overworked gas-lamp and
had stolen away. To ferret her out would have been inexcusable.
"It shows how changed she is," Kate said to Honora. "Fancy the old-time
Lena hiding from me!"
"You must think of her as having a run of fever, Kate. Whatever she does
must be regarded as simply symptomatic," said Honora, understandingly.
"She's really half-mad. David says the graduates are often like
that--the feminine ones."
Kate tried to look at it in a philosophic way, but her heart yearned and
ached over the poor, infatuated fugitive. The February convocation was
drawing near, and with it Lena's dreaded day of examination. The night
before its occurrence, the conversation at the Caravansary turned to the
candidates for the honors.
"There are some who meet the quiz gallantly enough," David Fulham
remarked. "But the majority certainly come like galley slaves scourged
to their dungeon. Some of them would move a heart of stone with their
sufferings. Honora, why don't you and Miss Barrington look up your
friend Miss Vroom once more? She's probably needing you pretty badly."
"I don't mind being a special officer, Mr. Fulham," said Kate, "and
it's my pride and pleasure to make child-beaters tremble and to arrest
brawny fathers,--I make rather a specialty of six-foot ones,--but really
I'm timid about going to Lena's again. She has given me to understand
that she doesn't want me around, and I'm not enough of a pachyderm to
get in the way of her arrows again."
But David Fulham couldn't take that view of it.
"She's not sane," he declared. "Couldn't be after such a course as she's
been putting herself through. She needs help."
However, neither Kate nor Honora ventured to offer it. They spent the
evening together in Honora's drawing-room. The hours passed more rapidly
than they realized, and at midnight David came stamping in. His face
"You haven't been to the laboratory, David?" reproached his wife.
"Really, you mustn't. I thought it was agreed between us that we'd act
like civilized householders in the evening." She was regarding him with
an expression of affectionate reproof.
"I've been doing laboratory work," he said shortly, "but it wasn't in
the chemical laboratory. Wickersham and I hunted up your friend--and we
found her in a state of collapse."
"No!" cried Kate, starting to her feet.
"I told you, didn't I?" returned David. "Don't I know them, the geese?
We had to break in her door, and there she was sitting at her
study-table, staring at her books and seeing nothing. She couldn't talk
to us--had a temporary attack of severe aphasia, I suppose. Wickersham
said he'd been anxious about her for weeks--she's been specializing with
him, you know."
"What did you do with her?" demanded Honora.
"Bundled her up in her outside garments and dragged her out of doors
between us and made her walk. She could hardly stand at first. We had to
hold her up. But we kept right on hustling her along, and after a time
when the fresh air and exercise had got in their work, she could find
the right word when she tried to speak to us. Then we took her to a
restaurant and ordered a beefsteak and some other things. She wanted to
go back to her room--said she had more studying to do; but we made it
clear to her at last that it wasn't any use,--that she'd have to stand
or fall on what she had. She promised us she wouldn't look at a book,
but would go to bed and sleep, and anybody who has the hardihood to wish
that she wins her degree may pray for a good night for her."
Honora was looking at her husband with a wide, shining gaze.
"How did you come to go to her, David?" she asked admiringly. "She
wasn't in any of your classes."
"Now, don't try to make out that I'm benevolent, Honora," Fulham said
petulantly. "I went because I happened to meet Wickersham on the
Midway. She's been hiding, but he had searched her out and appealed to
me to go with him. What I did was at his request."
"But she'll be refreshed in the morning," said Honora. "She'll come out
all right, won't she?"
"How do I know?" demanded Fulham. "I suppose she'll feel like a man
going to execution when she enters that council-room. Maybe she'll stand
up to it and maybe she'll not. She'll spend as much nervous energy on
the experience as would carry her through months of sane, reasonable
living in the place she ought to be in--that is to say, in a millinery
store or some plain man's kitchen."
"Oh, David!" said Honora with gentle wifely reproach.
But Fulham was making no apologies.
"If we men ill-treated women as they ill-treat themselves," he said,
"we'd be called brutes of the worst sort."
"Of course!" cried Kate. "A person may have some right to ill-treat
himself, but he never has any right to ill-treat another."
"If we hitched her up to a plough," went on Fulham, not heeding, "we
shouldn't be overtaxing her physical strength any more than she
overtaxes her mental strength when she tries--the ordinary woman, I
mean, like Miss Vroom--to keep up to the pace set by men of
He went up to bed on this, still disturbed, and Honora and Kate, much
depressed, talked the matter over. But they reached no conclusion. They
wanted to go around the next morning and help Lena,--get her breakfast
and see that she was properly dressed,--but they knew they would be
unwelcome. Later they heard that she had come through the ordeal after a
fashion. She had given indications of tremendous research. But her eyes,
Wickersham told Kate privately, looked like diseased oysters, and it was
easy to see that she was on the point of collapse.
Kate saw nothing of her until the day of convocation, though she tried
several times to get into communication with her. There must have been
quite two hundred figures in the line that wound before the President
and the other dignitaries to receive their diplomas; and the great hall
was thronged with interested spectators. Kate could have thrilled with
pride of her _alma mater_ had not her heart been torn with sympathy for
her friend whose emaciated figure looked more pathetic than ever before.
Now and then a spasmodic movement shook her, causing her head to quiver
like one with the palsy and her hands to make futile gestures. And
although she was the most touching and the least joyous of those who
went forward to victory, she was not, after all, so very exceptional.
Kate could not help noticing how jaded and how spent were many of the
candidates for the higher degrees. They seemed to move in a tense
dream, their eyes turning neither to right nor left, and the whole of
them bent on the one idea of their dear achievement. Although there were
some stirring figures among them,--men and women who seemed to have come
into the noble heritage which had been awaiting them,--there were more
who looked depleted and unfit. It grew on Kate, how superfluous
scholarship was when superimposed on a feeble personality. The colleges
could not make a man, try as they might. They could add to the capacity
of an endowed and adventurous individual, but for the inept, the
diffident, their learning availed nothing. They could cram bewildered
heads with facts and theories, but they could not hold the mediocre back
from their inevitable anticlimax.
"A learned derelict is no better than any other kind," mused Kate
compassionately. She resolved that now, at last, she would command
Lena's obedience. She would compel her to take a vacation,--would find
out what kind of a future she had planned. She would surround her with
small, friendly offices; would help her to fit herself out in new
garments, and would talk over ways and means with her.
She went the next day to the room where Lena's compassionate professors
had found her that night of dread and terror before her examination. But
she had disappeared again, and the landlady could give no information
The day was set. Marna was to sing. It seemed to the little group of
friends as if the whole city palpitated with the fact. At any rate, the
Caravansary did so. They talked of little else, and Mary Morrison wept
for envy. Not that it was mean envy. Her weeping was a sort of tribute,
and Marna felt it to be so.
"You're going to be wonderful," Mary sobbed. "The rest of us are merely
young, or just women, or men. We can't be anything more no matter how
hard we try, though we keep feeling as if we were something more. But
you're going to SING! Oh, Marna!"
Time wore on, and Marna grew hectic with anticipation. Her lips were too
red, her breath came too quickly; she intensified herself; and she
practiced her quivering, fitful, passionate songs with religious
devotion. So many things centered around the girl that it was no wonder
that she began to feel a disproportionate sense of responsibility. All
of her friends were taking it for granted that she would make a success.
Mrs. Barsaloux was giving a supper at the Blackstone after the
performance. The opera people were coming and a number of other
distinguished ones; and Marna was having a frock made of the color of a
gold-of-Ophir rose satin which was to clothe her like sunshine. Honora
brought out a necklace of yellow opals whimsically fashioned.
"I no longer use such things, child," she said with a touch of emotion.
"And I want you to wear them with your yellow dress."
"Why, they're like drops of water with the sun in them!" cried Marna.
"How good you all are to me! I can't imagine why."
When the great night came, the audience left something to be desired,
both as to numbers and fashion. Although Marna's appearance had been
well advertised, it was evident that the public preferred to listen to
the great stars. But the house was full enough and enthusiastic enough
to awaken in the little Irish girl's breast that form of elation which
masks as self-obliteration, and which is the fuel that feeds the
fires of art.
Kate had gone with the Fulhams and they, with Blue-eyed Mary and Dr. von
Shierbrand, sat together in the box which Mrs. Barsaloux had given them,
and where, from time to time, she joined them. But chiefly she hovered
around Marna in that dim vast world back of the curtain.
They said of Marna afterward that she was like a spirit. She seemed less
and more than a woman, an evanescent essence of feminine delight. Her
laughter, her tears, her swift emotions were all as something held for a
moment before the eye and snatched away, to leave but the wavering
eidolon of their loveliness. She sang with a young Italian who responded
exquisitely to the swift, bright, unsubstantial beauty of her acting,
and whom she seemed fairly to bathe in the amber loveliness of
Kate, quivering for her, seeming indefinably to be a part of her,
suffering at the hesitancies of the audience and shaken with their
approval, was glad when it was all over. She hastened out to be with the
crowd and to hear what they were saying. They were warm in their praise,
but Kate was dissatisfied. She longed for something more emphatic--some
excess of acclaim. She wondered if they were waiting for more
authoritative audiences to set the stamp of approval on Marna. It did
not occur to her that they had found the performance too opalescent
Kate wondered if the girl would feel that anything had been missing, but
Marna seemed to be basking in the happiness of the hour. The great
German prima donna had kissed her with tears in her eyes; the French
baritone had spoken his compliments with convincing ardor; dozens had
crowded about her with congratulations; and now, at the head of the
glittering table in an opulent room, the little descendant of minstrels
sat and smiled upon her friends. A gilded crown of laurel leaves rested
on her dark hair; her white neck arose delicately from the yellowed lace
and the shining silk; the sunny opals rested upon her shoulders.
"I drink," cried the French baritone, "to a voice of honey and an ivory
"To a great career," supplemented David Fulham.
"And happiness," Kate broke in, standing with the others and forgetting
to be abashed by the presence of so many. Then she called to Marna:--
"I was afraid they would leave out happiness."
Kate might have been the belated fairy godmother who brought this gift
in the nick of time. Those at the table smiled at her indulgently,--she
was so eager, so young, so almost fierce. She had dressed herself in
white without frill or decoration, and the clinging folds of her gown
draped her like a slender, chaste statue. She wore no jewels,--she had
none, indeed,--and her dark coiled hair in no way disguised the shape of
her fine head. The elaborate Polish contralto across from her, splendid
as a mediaeval queen, threw Kate's simplicity into sharp contrast. Marna
turned adoring eyes upon her; Mrs. Barsaloux, that inveterate encourager
of genius, grieved that the girl had no specialty for her to foster; the
foreigners paid her frank tribute, and there was no question but that
the appraisement upon her that night was high.
As for Mama's happiness, for which Kate had put in her stipulation, it
was coming post-haste, though by a circuitous road.
Mrs. Dennison, who had received tickets from Marna, and who had begged
her nephew, George Fitzgerald, to act as her escort, was, in her
fashion, too, wondering about the question of happiness for the girl.
She was an old-fashioned creature, mid-Victorian in her sincerity. She
had kissed one man and one only, and him had she married, and sorrowing
over her childless estate she had become, when she laid her husband in
his grave, "a widow indeed." Her abundant affection, disused by this
accident of fate, had spent itself in warm friendships, and in her
devotion to her dead sister's child. She had worked for him till the
silver came into her hair; had sent him through his classical course and
through the medical college, and the day when she saw him win his title
of doctor of medicine was the richest one of her middle life.
He sat beside her now, strangely pale and disturbed. The opera, she was
sorry to note, had not interested him as she had expected it would. He
had, oddly enough, been reluctant to accompany her, and, as she was
accustomed to his quick devotion, this distressed her not a little. Was
he growing tired of her? Was he ashamed to be seen at the opera with a
quiet woman in widow's dress, a touch shabby? Was her much-tired heart
to have a last cruel blow dealt it? Accustomed to rather somber pathways
of thought, she could not escape this one; yet she loyally endeavored to
turn from it, and from time to time she stole a look at the stern, pale
face beside her to discover, if she could, what had robbed him of his
For he had been a happy boy. His high spirits had constituted a large
part of his attraction for her. When he had come to her orphaned, it had
been with warm gratitude in his heart, and with the expectation of being
loved. As he grew older, that policy of life had become accentuated. He
was expectant in all that he did. His temperamental friendliness had
carried him through college, winning for him a warm group of friends and
the genuine regard of his professors. It was helping him to make his way
in the place he had chosen for his field of action. He had not gone into
the more fashionable part of town, but far over on the West Side, where
the slovenliness of the central part of the city shambles into a
community of parks and boulevards, crude among their young trees
surrounded by neat, self-respecting apartment houses. Such communities
are to be found in all American cities; communities which set little
store by fashion, which prize education (always providing it does not
prove exotic and breed genius or any form of disturbing beauty), live
within their incomes and cultivate the manifest virtues. The environment
suited George Fitzgerald. He had an honest soul without a bohemian
impulse in him. He recognized himself as being middle-class, and he was
proud and glad of it. He liked to be among people who kept their feet on
the earth--people whose yea was yea and whose nay was nay. What was
Celtic in him could do no more for him than lend a touch of almost
flaring optimism to the Puritan integrity of his character.
Sundays, as a matter of habit, and occasionally on other days, he was
his aunt's guest at the Caravansary. The intellectual cooeperatives there
liked him, as indeed everybody did, everywhere. Invariably Mrs. Dennison
was told after his departure that she was a fortunate woman to have such
an adopted son. Yet Fitzgerald knew very well that he was unable to be
completely himself among his aunt's patrons. Their conversation was too
glancing; they too often said what they did not mean, for mere
conversation's sake; they played with ideas, tossing them about like
juggler's balls; and they attached importance to matters which seemed to
him of little account.
Of late he had been going to his aunt's but seldom, and he had stayed
away because he wanted, above all things in the world, to go. It had
become an agony to go--an anguish to absent himself. Which being
interpreted, means that he was in love. And whom should he love but
Marna? Why should any man trouble himself to love another woman when
this glancing, flashing, singing bird was winging it through the blue?
Were any other lips so tender, so tremulous, so arched, so sweet? The
breath that came between them was perfumed with health; the little rows
of gleaming teeth were indescribably provocative. Actually, the little
red tongue itself seemed to fold itself upward, at the edges, like a
tender leaf. As for her nostrils, they were delicately flaring like
those of some wood creature, and fashioned for the enjoyment of odorous
banquets undreamed of by duller beings. Her eyes, like pools in shade,
breathing mystery and dreams, got between him and his sleep and held him
intoxicated in his bed.
Yes, that was Marna as she looked to the eye of love. She was made for
one man's love and nothing else, yet she was about to become the
well-loved of the great world! She was not for him--was not made for a
man of his mould. She had flashed from obscurity to something rich and
plenteous, obviously the child of Destiny--a little princess waiting for
her crown. He had not even talked to her many times, and she had no
notion that when she entered the room he trembled; and that when she
spoke to him and turned the swimming loveliness of her eyes upon him, he
had trouble to keep his own from filling with tears.
And this was the night of her dedication to the world; the world was
seating her upon her throne, acclaiming her coronation. There was
nothing for him but to go on through an interminably long life, bearing
a brave front and hiding his wound.
He loathed the incoherent music; detested the conductor; despised the
orchestra; felt murderous toward the Italian tenor; and could have slain
the man who wrote the opera, since it made his bright girl a target for
praise and blame. He feared his aunt's scrutiny, for she had sharp
perceptions, and he could have endured anything better than that she
should spy upon his sacred pain. So he sat by her side, passionately
solitary amid a crowd and longing to hide himself from the society
of all men.
But he must be distrait, indeed, if he could forget the claim his good
aunt had upon him. He knew how she loved gayety; and her daily life
offered her little save labor and monotony.
"Supper next," he said with forced cheerfulness as they came out of the
opera-house together. "I'll do the ordering. You'll enjoy a meal for
once which is served independently of you."
He tried to talk about this and that as they made their way on to a
glaring below-stairs restaurant, where after-theater folk gathered. The
showy company jarred hideously on Fitzgerald, yet gave him a chance to
save his face by pretending to watch it. He could tell his aunt who some
of the people were, and she would transfer her curiosity from him
"They'll be having a glorious time at Miss Cartan's supper," mused Mrs.
Dennison. "How she shines, doesn't she, George? And when you think of
her beginnings there on that Wisconsin farm, isn't it astonishing?"
"Those weren't her beginnings, I fancy," George said, venturing to taste
of discussion concerning her as a brandy-lover may smell a glass he
swears he will not drink. "Her beginnings were very long ago. She's a
Celt, and she has the witchery of the Celts. How I'd love to hear her
recite some of the new Irish poems!"
"She'd do it beautifully, George. She does everything beautifully. If
I'd had a daughter like that, boy, what a different thing my life would
be! Or if you were to give me--"
George clicked his ice sharply in his glass. "See," he said, "there's
Hackett coming in--Hackett the actor. Handsome devil, isn't he?"
"Don't use that tone, George," said his aunt reprovingly. "Handsome
devil, indeed! He's a good-looking man. Can't you say that in a proper
way? I don't want you to be sporty in your talk, George. I always tried
when you were a little boy to keep you from talking foolishly."
"Oh, there's no danger of my being foolish," he said. "I'm as staid and
dull as ever you could wish me to be!"
For the first time in her life she found him bitter, but she had the
sense at last to keep silent. His eyes were full of pain, and as he
looked about the crowded room with its suggestions of indulgent living,
she saw something in his face leap to meet it--something that seemed to
repudiate the ideals she had passed on to him. Involuntarily, Anne
Dennison reached out her firm warm hand and laid it on the quivering one
of her boy.
"A new thought has just come to you!" she said softly. "Before you were
through with your boast, lad, your temptation came. I saw it. Are you
lonely, George? Are you wanting something that Aunt Anne can give you?
Won't you speak out to me?"
He drew his hand away from hers.
"No one in the world can give me what I want," he said painfully.
"Forgive me, auntie; and let's talk of other things."
He had pushed her back into that lonely place where the old often must
stand, and she shivered a little as if a cold wind blew over her. He saw
it and bent toward her contritely.
"You must help me," he said. "I am very unhappy. I suppose almost
everybody has been unhappy like this sometime. Just bear with me, Aunt
Anne, dear, and help me to forget for an hour or two."
Anne Dennison regarded him understandingly.
"Here comes our lobster," she said, "and while we eat it, I'll tell you
the story of the first time I ever ate at a restaurant."
He nodded gratefully. After all, while she lived, he could not be
He had taken her home and was leaving, when a carriage passed him. He
could hear the voices of the occupants--the brisk accents of Mrs.
Barsaloux, and the slow, honey-rich tones of Marna. He had never dreamed
that he could do such a thing, but he ran forward with an almost frantic
desire to rest his eyes upon the girl's face, and he was beside the curb
when the carriage drew up at the door of the house where Mrs. Barsaloux
and Marna lodged. He flung open the door in spite of the protests of the
driver, who was not sure of his right to offer such a service, and held
out his hand to Mrs. Barsaloux. That lady accepted his politeness
graciously, and, weary and abstracted, moved at once toward the
house-steps, searching meantime for her key. Fitzgerald had fifteen
seconds alone with Marna. She stood half-poised upon the carriage-steps,
her hand in his, their eyes almost on a level. Then he said an
impossible and insane thing. It was wrung out of his misery, out of his
knowledge of her loveliness.
"I've lost you!" he whispered. "Do you know that to-night ended my
Mama's lips parted delicately; her eyes widened; her swift Celtic spirit
encompassed his grief.
"Oh!" she breathed. "Don't speak so! Don't spoil my beautiful time!"
"Not I," he retorted sharply, speaking aloud this time. "Far be it from
Mrs. Barsaloux heard him vaguely above the jangling of coins and keys
and the rushing of a distant train.
"You're not going to leave town, are you, Dr. Fitzgerald?" she inquired
casually. "I thought your good-bye had a final accent to it."
She was laughing in her easy way, quite unconscious of what was taking
place. She had made an art of laughing, and it carried her and others
over many difficult places. But for once it was powerless to lessen the
emotional strain. Mysteriously, Fitzgerald and Marna were experiencing a
sweet torment in their parting. It was not that she loved him or had
thought of him in that way at all. She had seen him often and had liked
his hearty ways, his gay spirits, and his fine upstanding figure, but he
had been as one who passed by with salutations. Now, suddenly, she was
conscious that he was a man to be desired. She saw his wistful eyes, his
avid lips, his great shoulders. The woman in her awoke to a knowledge of
her needs. Upon such a shoulder might a woman weep, from such eyes might
a woman gather dreams; to allay such torment as his might a woman give
all she had to give. It was incoherent, mad, but not unmeaning. It had,
indeed, the ultimate meaning.
He said nothing more; she spoke no word. Each knew they would meet on
The next night, Kate Barrington, making her way swiftly down the Midway
in a misty gloom, saw the little figure of Marna Cartan fluttering
before her. It was too early for dinner, and Kate guessed that Marna was
on her way to pay her a visit--a not rare occurrence these last few
weeks. She called to her, and Marna waited, turning her face for a
moment to the mist-bearing wind.
"I was going to you," she said breathlessly.
"So I imagined, bright one."
"Are you tired, Kate, mavourneen?"
"A little. It's been a hard day. I don't see why my heart isn't broken,
considering the things I see and hear, Marna! I don't so much mind about
the grown-ups. If they succeed in making a mess of things, why, they can
take the consequences. But the kiddies--they're the ones that torment
me. Try as I can to harden myself, and to say that after I've done my
utmost my responsibility ends, I can't get them off my mind. But what's
on _your_ mind, bright one?"
"Oh, Kate, so much! But wait till we get to the house. It's not a thing
to shriek out here on the street."
The wind swept around the corner, buffeting them, and Kate drew Marna's
arm in her own and fairly bore the little creature along with her. They
entered the silent house, groped through the darkened hall and up the
stairs to Kate's own room.
"Honora isn't home, I fancy," she said, in apology for the pervading
desolation. "She stays late at the laboratory these nights. She says
she's on the verge of a wonderful discovery. It's something she and
David have been working out together, but she's been making some
experiments in secret, with which she means to surprise David. Of course
she'll give all the credit to him--that's her policy. She's his
helpmate, she says, nothing more."
"But the babies?" asked Marna with that naivete characteristic of her.
"Where are they?"
"Up in the nursery at the top of the house. It will be light and warm
there, I think. Honora had a fireplace put in so that it would be
cheerful. I always feel sure it's pleasant up there, however forbidding
the rest of the house may look."
"Mary has made a great difference with it since she came, hasn't she? Of
course Honora couldn't do the wonderful things she's doing and be
fussing around the house all the time. Still, she might train her
servants, mightn't she?"
"Well, there aren't really any to train," said Kate. "There's Mrs. Hays,
the nurse, a very good woman, but as we take our meals out, and are all
so independent, there's no one else required, except occasionally.
Honora wouldn't think of such an extravagance as a parlor maid. We're a
community of working folk, you see."
Marna had been lighting the candles which Kate usually kept for company;
and, moreover, since there was kindling at hand, she laid a fire and
touched a match to it.
"I must have it look homey, Kate--for reasons."
"Do whatever it suits you to do, child."
"But can I tell you what it suits me to do, Kate?"
"How do I know? Are you referring to visible things or talking in
parables? There's something very eerie about you to-night, Marna. Your
eyes look phosphorescent. What's been happening to you? Is it the glory
of last night that's over you yet?"
"No, not that. It's--it's a new glory, Kate."
"A new glory, is it? Since last night? Tell me, then."
Kate flung her long body into a Morris chair and prepared to listen.
Marna looked about her as if seeking a chair to satisfy her whim, and,
finding none, sank upon the floor before the blaze. She leaned back,
resting on one slight arm, and turned her dream-haunted face glowing
amid its dark maze of hair, till her eyes could hold those of
"Oh, Kate!" she breathed, and made her great confession in those two
"A man!" cried Kate, alarmed. "Now!"
"Now! Last night. And to-day. It was like lightning out of a clear sky.
I've seen him often, and now I remember it always warmed me to see him,
and made me feel that I wasn't alone. For a long time, I believe, I've
been counting him in, and being happier because he was near. But I
didn't realize it at all--till last night."
"You saw him after the opera?"
"Only for half a minute, at the door of my house. We only said a word or
two. He whispered he had lost me--that I had killed him. Oh, I don't
remember what he said. But we looked straight at each other. I didn't
sleep all night, and when I lay awake I tried to think of the wonderful
fact that I had made my debut, and that it wasn't a failure, at any
rate. But I couldn't think about that, or about my career. I couldn't
hold to anything but the look in his eyes and the fact that I was to see
him to-day. Not that he said so. But we both knew. Why, we couldn't have
lived if we hadn't seen each other to-day."
"And you did?"
"Oh, we did. He called me up on the telephone about two o'clock, and
said he had waited as long as he could, and that he'd been walking the
floor, not daring to ring till he was sure that I'd rested enough after
last night. So I told him to come, and he must have been just around the
corner, for he was there in a minute. I wanted him to come in and sit
down, but he said he didn't believe a house could hold such audacity as
his. So we went out on the street. It was cold and bleak. The Midway was
a long, gray blankness. I felt afraid of it, actually. All the world
looked forbidding to me--except just the little place where I walked
with him. It was as if there were a little warm beautiful radius in
which we could keep together, and live for each other, and comfort each
other, and keep harm away."
"Oh, Marna! And you, with a career before you! What do you mean to do?"
"I don't know what to do. We don't either of us know what to do. He says
he'll go mad with me on the stage, wearing myself out, the object of the
jealousy of other women and of love-making from the men. He--says it's a
profanation. I tried to tell him it couldn't be a profanation to serve
art; but, Kate, he didn't seem to know what I meant. He has such
different standards. He wanted to know what I was going to do when I was
old. He said I'd have no real home, and no haven of love; and that I'd
better be the queen of his home as long as I lived than to rule it a
little while there on the stage and then--be forgotten. Oh, it isn't
what he said that counts. All that sounds flat enough as I repeat it.
It's the wonder of being with some one that loves you like that and of
feeling that there are two of you who belong--"
"How do you know you belong?" asked Kate with sharp good sense. "Why,
bright one, you've been swept off your feet by mere--forgive me--by
That glint of the eyes which Kate called Celtic flashed from Marna.
"Mere sex!" she repeated. "Mere sex! You're not trying to belittle that,
are you? Why, Kate, that's the beginning and the end of things. What
I've always liked about you is that you look big facts in the face and
aren't afraid of truth. Sex! Why, that's home and happiness and all a
woman really cares for, isn't it?"
"No, it isn't all she cares for," declared Kate valiantly. "She cares
for a great many other things. And when I said mere sex I was trying to
put it politely. Is it really home and lifelong devotion that you two
are thinking about, or are you just drunk with youth and--well, with
Marna turned from her to the fire.
"Kate," she said, "I don't know what you call it, but when I looked in
his eyes I felt as if I had just seen the world for the first time. I
have liked to live, of course, and to study, and it was tremendously
stirring, singing there before all those people. But, honestly, I can
see it would lead nowhere. A few years of faint celebrity, an empty
heart, a homeless life--then weariness. Oh, I know it. I have a trick of
seeing things. Oh, he's the man for me, Kate. I realized it the moment
he pointed it out. We could not be mistaken. I shall love him forever
and he'll love me just as I love him."
"By the way," said Kate, "who is he? Someone from the opera company?"
"Who is he? Why, he's George Fitzgerald, of course."
"Mrs. Dennison's nephew?"
"Certainly. Who else should it be?"
"Why, he's a pleasant enough young man--very cheerful and quite
Marna leaped to her feet.
"You're not in a position to pass judgment upon him, Kate. How can you
know what a wonderful soul he has? Why, there's no one so brave, or so
humble, or so sweet, or with such a worship for women--"
"For you, you mean."
"Of course I mean for me. You don't suppose I'd endure it to have him
worshiping anybody else, do you? Oh, it's no use protesting. I only hope
that Mrs. Barsaloux won't."
"Yes, doesn't that give you pause? Think of all Mrs. Barsaloux has done
for you; and she did it with the understanding that you were to go on
the stage. She was going to get her reward in the contribution you
made to art."
Marna burst into rippling laughter.
"I'll give her something better than art, Kate Crosspatch. I'll give her
a home--and I'll name my first girl after her."
"Marna!" gasped Kate. "You do go pretty fast for a little thing."
"Oh, I'm Irish," laughed Marna. "We Irish are a very old people. We
always knew that if you loved a man, you had to have him or die, and
that if you had him, you'd love to see the look of him coming out in
your sons and daughters."
Suddenly the look of almost infantile blitheness left her face. The
sadness which is inherent in the Irish countenance spread over it, like
sudden mist over a landscape. The ancient brooding aspect of the Celts
was upon her.
"Yes," she repeated, "we Irish are very old, and there is nothing about
life--or death--that we do not know."
Kate was not quite sure what she meant, but with a sudden impulse she
held out her arms to the girl, who, with a low cry, fled to them. Then
her bright bravery melted in a torrent of tears.
They had met like flame and wind. It was irrational and wonderful and
conclusive. But after all, it might not have come to quite so swift a
climax if Marna, following Kate's advice, had not confided the whole
thing to Mrs. Barsaloux.
Now, Mrs. Barsaloux was a kind woman, and one with plenty of sentiment
in her composition. But she believed that there were times when Love
should not be given the lead. Naturally, it seemed to her that this was
one of them. She had spent much money upon the education of this girl
whom she had "assumed," as Marna sometimes playfully put it. Nothing but
her large, active, and perhaps interfering benevolence and Mama's
winning and inexplicable charm held the two together, and the very
slightness of their relationship placed them under peculiar obligations
to each other.
"It's ungrateful of you," Mrs. Barsaloux explained, "manifestly
ungrateful! It's your role to love nothing but your career." She was not
stern, merely argumentative.
"But didn't you expect me ever to love any one?" queried Marna.
Mrs. Barsaloux contemplated a face and figure made for love from the
beginning, and delicately ripened for it, like a peach in the sun.
"But you could have waited, my dear girl. There's time for both the
love and the career."
Marna shook her head slowly.
"George says there isn't," she answered with an irritating sweetness.
"He says I'm not to go on the stage at all. He says--"
"Don't 'he says' me like that, Marna," cried her friend. "It sounds too
unutterably silly. Here you are with a beautiful talent--every one
agrees about that--and a chance to develop it. I've made many sacrifices
to give you that chance. Very well; you've had your trial before the
public. You've made good. You could repay yourself and me for all that
has been involved in your development, and you meet a man and come
smiling to me and say that we're to throw the whole thing over because
'he says' to."
Marna made no answer at all, but Mrs. Barsaloux saw her settle down in
the deep chair in which she was sitting as if to huddle away from the
storm about to break over her.
"She isn't going to offer any resistance," thought the distressed patron
with dismay. "Her mind is completely made up and she's just crouching
down to wait till I'm through with my private little hurricane."
So, indeed, it proved. Mrs. Barsaloux felt she had the right to say
much, and she said it. Marna may or may not have listened. She sat
shivering and smiling in her chair, and when it was fit for her to
excuse herself, she did, and walked out bravely; but Mrs. Barsaloux
noticed that she tottered a little as she reached the door. She did not
go to her aid, however.
"It's an infatuation," she concluded. "I must treat her as if she had a
violent disease and take care of her. When people are delirious they
must be protected against themselves. It's a delirium with her, and the
best thing I can do is to run off to New York with her. She can make her
next appearance when the opera company gets there. I'll arrange it this
She refrained from telling Marna of her plans, but she went straight to
the city and talked over the situation with her friend the impresario.
He seemed anything but depressed. On the contrary, he was
"Spirit her away, madam," he advised. "Of course she will miss her lover
horribly, and that will be the best thing that can happen to her. Why
did not the public rise to her the other night? Not because she could
not sing: far from it. If a nightingale sings, then Miss Cartan does.
But she left her audience a little cold. Let us face the facts. You saw
it. We all saw it. And why? Because she was too happy, madam; too
complaisant; too uninstructed in the emotions. Now it will be different.
We will take her away; we will be patient with her while she suffers;
afterward she will bless us, for she will have discovered the secret of
the artist, and then when she opens her little silver throat we shall
Mrs. Barsaloux, with many compunctions, and with some pangs of pure
motherly sympathy, nevertheless agreed.
"If only he had been a man above the average," she said, as she
tearfully parted from the great man, "perhaps it would not have
mattered so much."
The impresario lifted his eyebrows and his mustaches at the same time
and assumed the aspect of a benevolent Mephistopheles.
"The variety of man, madam," he said sententiously, "makes no manner of
difference. It is the tumult in Miss Marna's soul which I hope we shall
be able to utilize"--he interrupted himself with a smile and a bow as he
opened the door for his departing friend--"for the purposes of art."
Mrs. Barsaloux sat in the middle of her taxi seat all the way home, and
saw neither street, edifice, nor human being. She was looking back into
her own busy, confused, and frustrated life, and was remembering certain
things which she had believed were buried deep. Her heart misgave her
horribly. Yet to hand over this bright singing bird, so exquisite, so
rare, so fitted for purposes of exposition, to the keeping of a mere
male being of unfortunate contiguity, to permit him to carry her into
the seclusion of an ordinary home to wait on him and regulate her life
according to his whim, was really too fantastic for consideration. So
she put her memories and her tendernesses out of sight and walked up
the stairs with purpose in her tread.
* * * * *
She meant to "have it out" with the girl, who was, she believed,
reasonable enough after all.
"She's been without her mother for so long," she mused, "that it's no
wonder she's lacking in self-control. I must have the firmness that a
mother would have toward her. It would be the height of cruelty to let
her have her own way in this."
If the two could have met at that moment, it would have changed the
course of both their lives. But a trifle had intervened. Marna Cartan
had gone walking; and she never came back. Only, the next day, radiantly
beautiful, with fresh flowers in her hands, Marna Fitzgerald came
running in begging to be forgiven. She tried to carry the situation with
her impetuosity. She was laughing, crying, pleading. She got close to
her old friend as if she would enwrap her in her influence. She had the
veritable aspect of the bride. Whatever others might think regarding her
lost career, it was evident that she believed the great hour had just
struck for her. Her husband was with her.
"Haven't you any apology to make, sir?" poor Mrs. Barsaloux cried to
him. He looked matter-of-fact, she thought, and as if he ought to be
able to take a reasonable view of things. But she had misjudged. Perhaps
it was his plain, everyday, commercial garments which deceived her and
made her think him open to week-day arguments; for at that moment he
was really a knight of romance, and at Mrs. Barsaloux's question his
eyes gleamed with unsuspected fires.
"Who could be so foolish as to apologize for happiness like ours?" he
"Aren't you going to forgive us, dear?" pleaded Marna.
But Mrs. Barsaloux couldn't quite stand that.
"You sound like an old English comedy, Marna," she said impatiently.
"You're of age; I'm no relation to you; you've a perfect right to be
married. Better take advantage of being here to pack your things. You'll
"You mean that I'm not expected to come here again, _tante_?"
"I shall sail for France in a week," said Mrs. Barsaloux wearily.
"For France, _tante_? When did you decide?"
"This minute," said the lady, and gave the married lovers to understand
that the interview was at an end.
Marna went weeping down the street, holding on to her George's arm.
"If she'd been Irish, she'd have cursed me," she sobbed, "and then I'd
have had something to go on, so to speak. Perhaps I could have got her
to take it off me in time. But what are you going to do with a snubbing
"Oh, leave it for the Arctic explorers to explain. They're used to
being in below-zero temperature," George said with a troubled laugh.
"I'm sure I can't waste any time thinking about a woman who could stand
out against you, Marna, the way you are this day, and the way
"But, George, she thinks I'm a monster."
"Then there's something wrong with her zoology. You're an--"
"Don't call me an angel, dear, whatever you do! There are some things I
hate to be called--they're so insipid. If any one called me an angel I'd
know he didn't appreciate me. Come, let's go to Kate's. She's my court
of last appeal. If Kate can't forgive me, I'll know I've done wrong."
* * * * *
Kate was never to forget that night. She had come in from a day of
difficult and sordid work. For once, the purpose back of all her toil
among the people there in the great mill town was lost sight of in the
sheer repulsiveness of the tasks she had had to perform. The pathos of
their temptations, the terrific disadvantages under which they labored,
their gray tragedies, had some way lost their import. She was merely a
dreadfully fagged woman, disgusted with evil, with dirt and poverty. She
was at outs with her world and impatient with the suffering involved in
the mere living of life.
Moreover, when she had come into the house, she had found it dark as
usual. The furnace was down, and her own room was cold. But she had set
her teeth together, determined not to give way to depression, and had
made her rather severe toilet for dinner when word was brought to her by
the children's nurse that Dr. and Mrs. Fitzgerald desired to see her.
For a moment she could not comprehend what that might mean; then the
truth assailed her, took her by the hand, and ran her down the stairs
into Mama's arms.
"But it's outrageous," she cried, hugging Marna to her. "How could you
be so willful?"
"It's glorious," retorted Marna. "And if I ever was going to be willful,
now's the time."
"Right you are," broke in George. "What does Stevenson say about that?
'Youth is the time to be up and doing.' You're not going to be severe
with us, Miss Barrington? We've been counting on you."
"Have you?" inquired Kate, putting Marna aside and taking her husband by
the hand. "Well, you are your own justification, you two. But haven't
you been ungrateful?"
Marna startled her by a bit of Dionysian philosophy.
"Is it ungrateful to be happy?" she demanded. "Would anybody have been
in the right who asked us to be unhappy? Why don't you call us brave? Do
you imagine it isn't difficult to have people we love disapproving of
us? But you know yourself, Kate, if we'd waited forty-eight hours, I'd
have been dragged off to live with my career."
She laughed brightly, sinking back in her chair and throwing wide her
coat. Kate looked at her appraisingly, and warmed in the doing of it.
"You don't look as if you were devoted to a career, she admitted.
"Oh," sighed Fitzgerald, "I only just barely got her in time!"
"And now what do you propose doing?"
"Why, to-morrow we shall look for a place to live--for a home."
"Do you mean a flat?" asked Kate with a flick of satire.
"A flat, or anything. It doesn't matter much what."
"It will be on the West Side," said the matter-of-fact Fitzgerald.
"And who'll keep house for you? Must you find servants?"
"Why, Kate, we're dreadfully poor," cried Marna excitedly, as if poverty
were a mere adventure. "Didn't you know that? I shall do my own work."
"Oh, we've both got to work," added Fitzgerald.
He didn't say he was sorry Marna had to slave with her little white
hands, or that he realized that he was doing a bold--perhaps an
impious--thing in snatching a woman from her service to art to go into
service for him. Evidently he didn't think that way. Neither minded any
sacrifice apparently. The whole of it was, they were together. Suddenly,
they seemed to forget Kate. They stood gazing at each other as if their
sense of possession overwhelmed them. Kate felt something like angry
resentment stir in her. How dared they, when she was so alone, so weary,
"Will you stay to dinner with me?" she asked with something like
"To dinner?" they murmured in vague chorus. "No, thanks."
"But where do you intend to have dinner?"
"We--we haven't thought," confessed Marna.
"Oh, anywhere," declared Fitzgerald.
Marna rose and her husband buttoned her coat about her.
They smiled at Kate seraphically, and she saw that they wanted to be
alone, and that it made little difference to them whether they were
sitting in a warm room or walking the windy streets. She kissed them
both, with tears, and said:--
"God bless you."
That seemed to be what they wanted. They longed to be blessed.
"That's what Aunt Dennison said," smiled Fitzgerald.
Then Kate realized that now the exotic Marna would be calling the
completely domesticated Mrs. Dennison "aunt." But Marna looked as if she
liked that, too. It was their hour for liking everything. As Kate opened
the outer door for them, the blast struck through her, but the lovers,
laughing, ran down the stairs together. They were, in their way,
outcasts; they were poor; the future might hold bitter disillusion. But
now, borne by the sharp wind, their laughter drifted back like a song.
Kate wrapped her old coat about her and made her solitary way to Mrs.
Dennison's depressed Caravansary.
There was no question about it. Life was supplying Kate Barrington with
a valuable amount of "data." On every hand the emergent or the
reactionary woman offered herself for observation, although to say that
Kate was able to take a detached and objective view of it would be going
altogether too far. The truth was, she threw herself into every friend's
trouble, and she counted as friends all who turned to her, or all whom
she was called upon to serve.
A fortnight after Mama's marriage, an interesting episode came Kate's
way. Mrs. Barsaloux had introduced to the Caravansary a Mrs. Leger whom
she had once met on the steamer on her way to Brindisi, and she had
invited her to join her during a stay in Chicago. Mrs. Barsaloux,
however, having gone off to France in a hot fit of indignation, Mrs.
Leger presented herself with a letter from Mrs. Barsaloux to Mrs.
Dennison. That hospitable woman consented to take in the somewhat
That she was enigmatic all were quick to perceive. She was beautiful,
with a delicate, high-bred grace, and she had the manner of a woman who
had been courted and flattered. As consciously beautiful as Mary
Morrison, she bore herself with more discretion. Taste governed all
that she said and did. Her gowns, her jewels, her speech were
distinguished. She seemed by all tokens an accomplished worldling; yet
it was not long before Kate discovered that it was anything but worldly
matters which were consuming her attention.
She had come to Chicago for the purpose of adjusting her fortune,--a
large one, it appeared,--and of concluding her relations with the world.
She had decided to go into a convent, and had chosen one of those
numerous sisterhoods which pass their devotional days upon the bright
hill-slopes without Naples. She refrained from designating the
particular sisterhood, and she permitted no discussion of her motives.
She only said that she had not been born a Catholic, but had turned to
Mother Church when the other details of life ceased to interest her. She
was a widow, but she seemed to regard her estate with quiet regret
merely. If tragedy had entered her life, it must have been subsequent to
widowhood. She had a son, but it appeared that he had no great need of
her. He was in the care of his paternal grandparents, who were giving
him an education. He was soon to enter Oxford, and she felt confident
that his life would be happy. She was leaving him an abundance; she had
halved her fortune and was giving her share to the convent.
If she had not been so exquisite, so skilled in the nuances of life, so
swift and elusive in conversation, so well fitted for the finest forms
of enjoyment, her renunciation of liberty would not have proved so
exasperating to Kate. A youthful enthusiasm for religion might have made
her step understandable. But enthusiasm and she seemed far apart.
Intelligent as she unquestionably was, she nevertheless seemed to have
given herself over supinely to a current of emotions which was sweeping
her along. She looked both pious and piteous, for all of her
sophisticated manner and her accomplishments and graces, and Kate felt
like throwing a rope to her. But Mrs. Leger was not in a mood to seize
the rope. She had her curiously gentle mind quite made up. Though she
was still young,--not quite eighteen years older than her son,--she
appeared to have no further concern for life. To the last, she was
indulging in her delicate vanities--wore her pearls, walked in charming
foot-gear, trailed after her the fascinating gowns of the initiate, and
viewed with delight the portfolios of etchings which Dr. von Shierbrand
chanced to be purchasing.
She was glad, she said, to be at the Caravansary, quite on a different
side of the city from her friends. She made no attempt to renew old
acquaintances or to say farewell to her former associates. Her
extravagant home on the Lake Shore Drive was passed over to a
self-congratulatory purchaser; the furnishings were sold at auction; and
her other properties were disposed of in such a manner as to make the
transfer of her wealth convenient for the recipients.
She asked Kate to go to the station with her.
"I've given you my one last friendship," she said. "I shall speak with
no one on the steamer. My journey must be spent in preparation for my
great change. But it seems human and warm to have you see me off."
"It seems inhuman to me, Mrs. Leger," Kate cried explosively. "Something
terrible has happened to you, I suppose, and you're hiding away from it.
You think you're going to drug yourself with prayer. But can you? It
doesn't seem at all probable to me. Dear Mrs. Leger, be brave and stay
out in the world with the other living people."
"You are talking of something which you do not understand," said Mrs.
Leger gently. "There is a secret manna for the soul of which the
chosen may eat."
"Oh!" cried Kate, almost angrily. "Are these your own words? I cannot
understand a prepossession like this on your part. It doesn't seem to
set well on you. Isn't there some hideous mistake? Aren't you under the
influence of some emotional episode? Might it not be that you were ill
without realizing it? Perhaps you are suffering from some hidden
melancholy, and it is impelling you to do something out of keeping with
the time and with your own disposition."
"I can see how it might appear that way to you, Miss Barrington. But I
am not ill, except in my soul, which I expect to be healed in the place
to which I am going. Try to understand that among the many kinds of
human beings in this world there are the mystics. They have a right to
their being and to their belief. Their joys and sorrows are different
from those of others, but they are just as existent. Please do not worry
"But you understand so well how to handle the material things in the
world," protested Kate. "You seem so appreciative and so competent. If
you have learned so much, what is the sense of shutting it all up in
"Did you never read of Purun Bhagat," asked Mrs. Leger smilingly, "who
was rich with the riches of a king; who was wise with the learning of
Calcutta and of Oxford; who could have held as high an office as any
that the Government of England could have given him in India, and who
took his beggar's bowl and sat upon a cavern's rim and contemplated the
secret soul of things? You know your Kipling. I have not such riches or
such wisdom, but I have the longing upon me to go into silence."
The lips from which these words fell were both tender and ardent; the
little gesticulating hands were clad in modish, mouse-colored suede;
orris root mixed with some faint, haunting odor, barely caressed the air
with perfume. Kate looked at her companion in despair.
"I must be an outer barbarian!" she cried. "I can imagine religious
ecstasy, but you are not ecstatic. I can imagine turning to a convent as
a place of hiding from shame or despair. But you are not going into it
that way. As for wishing to worship, I understand that perfectly. Prayer
is a sort of instinct with me, and all the reasoning in the world
couldn't make me cast myself out of communion with the unknown something
roundabout me that seems to answer me. But what you are doing seems, as
I said, so obsolete."
"I am looking forward to it," said Mrs. Leger, "as eagerly as a girl
looks forward to her marriage. It is a beautiful romance to me. It is
the completely beautiful thing that is going to make up to me for all
the ugliness I have encountered in life."
For the first time a look of passion disturbed the serenity of the
high-bred, conventional face.
Kate threw out her hands with a repudiating gesture.
"Well," she said, "in the midst of my freedom I shall think of you often
and wonder if you have found something that I have missed. You are
leaving the world, and books, and friends, and your son for some pale
white idea. It seems to me you are going to the embrace of a wraith."
Mrs. Leger smiled slowly, and it was as if a lamp showed for a moment in
a darkened house and then mysteriously vanished.
"Believe me," she reiterated, "you do not understand."
Kate helped her on the train, and left her surrounded by her fashionable
bags, her flowers, fruit, and literature. She took these things as a
matter of course. She had looked at her smart little boots as she
adjusted them on a hassock and had smiled at Kate almost teasingly.
"In a month," she said, "I shall be walking with bared feet, or, if the
weather demands, in sandals. I shall wear a rope about my waist over my
brown robe. My hair will be cut, my head coiffed. When you are thinking
of me, think of me as I really shall be."
"So many things are going to happen that you will not see!" cried Kate.
"Why, maybe in a little while we shall all be going up in
flying-machines! You wouldn't like to miss that, would you? Or your son
will be growing into a fine man and you'll not see him--nor the woman he
marries--nor his children." She stopped, breathing hard.
"It is like the sound of the surf on a distant shore," smiled Mrs.
Leger. "Good-bye, Miss Barrington. Don't grieve about me. I shall be
happier than you can know or dream."
The conductor swung Kate off the train after it was in motion.
* * * * *
So, among other things, she had that to think of. She could explain it
all merely upon the hypothesis that the sound of the awakening
trumpets--the trumpets which were arousing woman from her long
torpor--had not reached the place where this wistful woman dwelt, with
her tender remorses, her delicate aversions, her hunger for the
indefinite consolations of religion.
Moreover, she was beginning to understand that not all women were
maternal. She had, indeed, come across many incidents in her work which
emphasized this. Good mothers were quite as rare as good fathers; and it
was her growing belief that more than half of the parents in the world
were undeserving of the children born to them. Also, she realized that a
child might be born of the body and not of the spirit, and a mother
might minister well to a child's corporeal part without once ministering
to its soul. It was possible that there never had been any bond save a
physical one between Mrs. Leger and her son. Perhaps they looked at each
other with strange, uncomprehending eyes. That, she could imagine, would
be a tantalization from which a sensitive woman might well wish to
escape. It was within the realm of possibility that he was happier with
his grandmother than with his mother. There might be temperamental as
well as physical "throwbacks."
Kate remembered a scene she once had witnessed at a railway station. Two
meagre, hard-faced, work-worn women were superintending the removal of a
pine-covered coffin from one train to another, and as the grim box was
wheeled the length of a long platform, a little boy, wild-eyed,
gold-haired, and set apart from all the throng by a tragic misery, ran
after the truck calling in anguish:--
"Grandmother! Grandmother! Don't leave me! I'm so lonesome,
grandmother! I'm so afraid!"
"Stop your noise," commanded the woman who must have been his mother.
"Don't you know she can't hear you?"
"Oh, maybe she can! Maybe she can," sobbed the boy. "Oh, grandmother,
don't you hear me calling? There's nobody left for me now."
The woman caught him sharply by the arm.
"I'm left, Jimmy. What makes you say such a thing as that? Stay with
mother, that's a good boy."