Part 4 out of 6
"I'm free to confess that you would not," said the other, checking a
sigh as if she despaired of bringing this excited girl down to the
earth. "Yet I am bound to say--" She hesitated and Kate took up
"I _do_ know--I really understand," she cried contritely. "You are not
an egotist at all, dear lady. Though you have held many positions of
honor, you have never thought of yourself. Your sacrifices have been
_bona fide_. You who are so delicate and tender have done things which
men might have shrunk from. I know what you mean by sincerity, and I am
aware that you have it completely and steadily, whereas I have more
enthusiasm than is good either for myself or the cause. But you wouldn't
want me to form myself on you, would you now? Temperament is just as
much a fact as physique. I've got to dramatize woman's disadvantages if
I am to preach on the subject. Though I really think there are tragedies
of womanhood which none could exaggerate."
"Oh, there are, there are, Miss Barrington."
"How shall I make you understand that I am to be trusted!" Kate cried.
"I know I'm avid. I want both pain and joy. I want to suffer with the
others and enjoy with the others. I want my cup of life full and running
over with a brew of a thousand flavors, and I actually believe I want to
taste of the cup each neighbor holds. I have to know how others feel and
it's my nature to feel for them and with them. When I see this great
wave of aspiration sweeping over women,--Chinese and Persian women as
well as English and American,--I feel magnificent. I, too, am standing
where the stream of influence blows over me. It thrills me
magnificently, and I am meaning it when I say that I think the women who
do not feel it are torpid or cowardly."
The elder woman smiled patiently. After all, who was she that she should
check her flaming disciple?
Whenever Kate had a free Sunday, she and Mrs. Dennison, the mistress of
the Caravansary, would go together to the West Side to visit George and
Marna Fitzgerald. It amused and enchanted Kate to think that in the
midst of so much that was commonplace, with dull apartment buildings
stretching around for miles, such an Arcadia should have located itself.
It opened her eyes to the fact that there might be innumerable Arcadians
concealed in those monotonous rows of three-and four-story flat
buildings, if only one had the wisdom and wit to find them. Marna seemed
to know of some. She had become acquainted with a number of these happy
unknown little folk, to whom it never had occurred that celebrity was an
essential of joy, and she liked them mightily. Marna, indeed, liked high
and low--always providing she didn't dislike them. If they were Irish,
her inclination toward them was accelerated. There were certain wonders
of Marna's ardent soul which were for "Irish faces only"--Irish eyes
were the eyes she liked best to have upon her. But she forgave Kate her
Anglo-Saxon ancestry because of her talent for appreciating the Irish
Time was passing beautifully with Marna, and her Bird of Hope was
fluttering nearer. She told Kate that now she could see some sense in
being a woman.
"If you'd ask me," she said with childish audacity, "if such a foolish
little thing as I could actually have a wonderful, dear little baby, I'd
have said 'no' right at the start. I'm as flattered as I can be. And
what pleases me so is that I don't have to be at all different from what
I naturally am. I don't have to be learned or tremendously good; it
isn't a question of deserts. It has just come to me--who never did
deserve any such good!"
Next door to Marna there was a young Irishwoman of whom the Fitzgeralds
saw a good deal, the mother of five little children, with not more than
sixteen months between the ages of any of them. Mary Finn had been
beautiful--so much was evident at a glance. But she already wore a
dragged expression; and work, far beyond her powers to accomplish, was
making a sloven of her. She was petulant with the children, though she
adored them--at least, sporadically. But her burden tired her patience
out. Timothy Finn's income had not increased in proportion to his
family. He was now in his young manhood, at the height of his earning
capacity, and early middle-age might see him suffering a reduction.
Mrs. Finn dropped in Sunday afternoon to share the cup of tea which
Marna was offering her guests, and as she looked wistfully out of her
tangle of dark hair,--in which lines of silver already were beginning to
appear,--she impressed herself upon Kate's mind as one of the
innumerable army of martyrs to the fetish of fecundity which had borne
down men and women through the centuries.
She had her youngest child with her.
"It was a terrible time before I could get up from the last one," she
said, "me that was around as smart as could be with the first. I'm in
living terror all the time for fear of what's coming to me. A mother has
no business to die, that's what I tell Tim. Who'd look to the ones I
have, with me taken? I'm sharp with them at times, but God knows I'd die
for 'em. Blessed be, they understand my scolding, the dears. It's a cuff
and a kiss with me, and I declare I don't know which they like best.
They may howl when I hurt them, but they know it's their own mother
doing the cuffing, and in their hearts they don't care. It's that way
with cubs, ye see. Mother bear knows how hard to box the ears of 'em.
But it's truth I'm saying, Mrs. Fitzgerald; there's little peace for
women. They don't seem to belong to themselves at all, once they're
married. It's very happy you are, looking forward to your first, and you
have my good wishes. More than that, I'll be proud to be of any service
to you I can when your time comes--it's myself has had experience
enough! But, I tell you, the joy runs out when you're slaving from
morning to night, and then never getting the half done that you ought;
and when you don't know what it is to have two hours straight sleep at
night; and maybe your husband scolding at the noise the young ones make.
Love 'em? Of course, you love 'em. But you can stand only so much.
After that, you're done for. And the agony of passing and leaving the
children motherless is something I don't like to think about."
She bared her thin breast to her nursing babe, rocking slowly, her blue
eyes straining into the future with its menace.
"But," said Marna, blushing with embarrassment, "need there be
such--such a burden? Don't you think it right to--to--"
"Neither God nor man seems to have any mercy on me," cried the little
woman passionately. "I say I'm in a trap--that's the truth of it. If I
was a selfish, bad mother, I could get out of it; if I was a mean wife,
I could, too, I suppose. I've tried to do what was right,--what other
people told me was right,--and I pray it won't kill me--for I ought to
live for the children's sake."
The child was whining because of lack of nourishment, and Mrs. Finn put
it to the other breast, but it fared little better there. Mrs. Dennison
was looking on with her mild, benevolent aspect.
"My dear," she said at last with an air of gentle authority, "I'm going
out to get a bottle and good reliable infant food for that child. You
haven't strength enough to more than keep yourself going, not to say
anything about the baby."
She took the child out of the woman's arms and gave it to Kate.
"But I don't think I ought to wean it when it's so young," cried Mrs.
Finn, breaking down and wringing her thin hands with an immemorial
Hibernian gesture. "Tim wouldn't like it, and his mother would rage
"They'll like it when they see the baby getting some flesh on its
bones," insisted Mrs. Dennison. "There's more than one kind of a fight a
mother has to put up for her children. They used to think it fine for a
woman to kill herself for her children, but I don't think it's so much
the fashion now. As you say, a mother has no business to die; it's the
part of intelligence to live. So you just have a set-to with your
old-fashioned mother-in-law if it's necessary."
"Yes," put in Kate, "the new generation always has to fight the old in
the interests of progress."
Marna broke into a rippling laugh.
"That's her best platform manner," she cried. "Just think, Mrs. Finn, my
friend talks on suffrage."
"Oh!" gasped the little Irishwoman, involuntarily putting out her hands
as if she would snatch her infant from such a contaminating hold.
But Kate drew back smilingly.
"Yes," she said significantly, "I believe in woman's rights."
She held on to the baby, and Mrs. Dennison, putting on her hat and coat,
went in search of a nursing-bottle.
On the way home, Mrs. Dennison, who was of the last generation, and
Kate, who was of the present one, talked the matter over.
"She didn't seem to understand that she had been talking 'woman's
rights,'" mused Kate, referring to Mrs. Finn. "The word frightened the
poor dear. She didn't see that fatal last word of her 'love, honor, and
obey' had her where she might even have to give her life in keeping
"Well, for my part," said Mrs. Dennison, in her mellow, flowing tones,
"I always found it a pleasure to obey my husband. But, then, to be sure,
I don't know that he ever asked anything inconsiderate of me."
"You were a well-shielded woman, weren't you?" asked Kate.
"I didn't need to lift my hand unless I wished," said Mrs. Dennison in
"And you had no children--"
"But that was a great sorrow."
"Yes, but it wasn't a living vexation and drain. It didn't use up your
vitality and suck up your brain power and make a slattern and a drudge
of you as having five children in seven years has of little Mrs. Finn.
It's all very well to talk of obeying when you aren't asked to obey--or,
at least, when you aren't required to do anything difficult. But good
Tim Finn, I'll warrant, tells his Mary when she may go and where, and
he'd be in a fury if she went somewhere against his desire. Oh, she's
playing the old medieval game, you can see that!"
"Dear Kate," sighed Mrs. Dennison, "sometimes your expressions seem to
me quite out of taste. I do hope you won't mind my saying so. You're so
"I don't mind a bit, Mrs. Dennison. I dare say I am getting to be rather
violent and careless in my way of talking. It's a reaction from the
vagueness and prettiness of speech I used to hear down in Silvertree,
where they begin their remarks with an 'I'm not sure, but I think,' et
cetera. But, really, you must overlook my vehemence. If I could spend my
time with sweet souls like you, I'd be a different sort of woman."
"I can't help looking forward, Kate, to the time when you'll be in your
own home. You think you're all bound up in this public work, but I can
tell by the looks of you that you're just the one to make a good wife
for some fine man. I hope you don't think it impertinent of me, but I
can't make out why you haven't taken one or the other of the men who
"You think some one wants me?" asked Kate provokingly.
"Oh, we all know that Dr. von Shierbrand would rather be taking you home
to see his old German mother than to be made President of the University
of Chicago; and that nice Mr. McCrea is nearly crazy over the way you
"But it would seem so stale--life in a home with either of them! Should
I just have to sit at the window and watch for them to come home?"
"You know you wouldn't," said Mrs. Dennison, almost crossly. "Why do
you tease me? What's good enough for other women ought to be good
enough for you."
"Oh, what a bad one I am!" cried Kate. "Of course what is good enough
for better women than I ought to be good enough for me. But yet--shall I
tell the truth about myself?"
"Do," said Mrs. Dennison, placated. "I want you to confide in me, Kate."
"Well, you see, dear lady, suppose that I marry one of the gentlemen of
whom you have spoken. Suppose I make a pleasant home for my husband,
have two or three nice children, and live a happy and--well, a good
life. Then I die and there's the end."
"Well, of course I don't think that's the end," broke in Mrs. Dennison.
Kate evaded the point.
"I mean, there's an end of my earthly existence. Now, on the other hand,
suppose I get this Bureau for Children through. Suppose it becomes a
fact. Let us play that I am asked to become the head of it, or, if not
that, at least to assist in carrying on its work. Then, suppose that, as
a result of my work, the unprotected children have protection; the
education of all the children in the country is assured--even of the
half-witted, and the blind and the deaf and the vicious. Suppose that
the care and development of children becomes a great and generally
comprehended science, like sanitation, so that the men and women of
future generations are more fitted to live than those we now see about
us. Don't you think that will be better worth while than my individual
happiness? They think a woman heroic when she sacrifices herself for her
children, but shouldn't I be much more heroic if I worked all my life
for other people's children? For children yet to be born? I ask you that
calmly. I don't wish you to answer me to-day. I'm in earnest now, dear
Mrs. Dennison, and I'd like you to give me a true answer."
There was a little pause. Mrs. Dennison was trifling nervously with the
frogs on her black silk jacket. When she spoke, it was rather
"I could answer you so much better, my dear Kate," she said at length,
"if I only knew how much or how little vanity you have."
"Oh!" gasped Kate.
"Or whether you are really an egotist--as some think."
"Oh!" breathed Kate again.
"As for me, I always say that a person can't get anywhere without
egotism. The word never did scare me. Egotism is a kind of yeast that
makes the human bread rise. I don't see how we could get along without
it. As you say, I'd better wait before answering you. You've asked me an
important question, and I'd like to give it thought. I can see that
you'd be a good and useful woman whichever thing you did. But the
question is, would you be a happy one in a home? You've got the idea of
a public life in your head, and very likely that influences you without
your realizing it."
"I don't say I'm not ambitious," cried Kate, really stirred. "But that
ought to be a credit to me! It's ridiculous using the word 'ambitious'
as a credit to a man, and making it seem like a shame to a woman.
Ambition is personal force. Why shouldn't I have force?"
"There are things I can't put into words," said Mrs. Dennison, taking a
folded handkerchief from her bead bag and delicately wiping her face,
"and one of them is what I think about women. I'm a woman myself, and it
doesn't seem becoming to me to say that I think they're sacred."
"No more sacred than men!" interrupted Kate hotly. "Life is sacred--if
it's good. I can't say I think it sacred when it's deleterious. It's
that pale, twilight sort of a theory which has kept women from doing the
things they were capable of doing. Men kept thinking of them as sacred,
and then they were miserably disappointed when they found they weren't.
They talk about women's dreams, but I think men dream just as much as
women, or more, and that they moon around with ideas about angel wives,
and then are horribly shocked when they find they've married limited,
commonplace, selfish creatures like themselves. I say let us train them
both, make them comrades, give them a chance to share the burdens and
the rewards, and see if we can't reduce the number of broken hearts in
"There are some burdens," put in Mrs. Dennison, "which men and women
cannot share. The burden of child-bearing, which is the most important
one there is, has to be borne by women alone. You yourself were talking
about that only a little while ago. It's such a strange sort of a
thing,--so sweet and _so_ terrible,--and it so often takes a woman to
the verge of the grave, or over it, that I suppose it is that which
gives a sacredness to women. Then, too, they'll work all their lives
long for some one they love with no thought of any return except love.
That makes them sacred, too. Most of them believe in God, even when
they're bad, and they believe in those they love even when they ought
not. Maybe they're right in this and maybe they're not. Perhaps you'll
say that shows their lack of sense. But I say it helps the world on,
just the same. It may not be sensible--but it makes them sacred."
Mrs. Dennison's face was shining. She had pulled the gloves from her
warm hands, and Kate, looking down at them, saw how work-worn they now
were, though they were softly rounded and delicate. She knew this woman
might have married a second time; but she was toiling that she might
keep faith with the man she had laid in his grave. She was expecting a
reunion with him. Her hope warmed her and kept her redolent of youth.
She was still a bride, though she was a widow. She was of those who
understood the things of the spirit. The essence of womanhood was in
her--the elusive poetry of womanhood. To such implications of mystic
beauty there was no retort. Kate saw in that moment that when women got
as far as emancipation they were going to lose something infinitely
precious. The real question was, should not these beautiful, these
evanishing joys be permitted to depart in the interests of progress?
Would not new, more robust satisfactions come to take the place of them?
They rode on in silence, and Kate's mind darted here and there--darted
to Lena Vroom, that piteous little sister of Icarus, with her scorched
wings; darted to Honora Fulham with her shattered faith; to Mary
Morrison with her wanton's wisdom; to Mary Finn, whose womanhood was her
undoing; to Marna, who had given fame for love and found the bargain
good; to Mrs. Leger, who had turned to God; to her mother, the cringing
wife, who could not keep faith with herself and her vows of obedience,
and who had perished of the conflict; to Mrs. Dennison, happy in her
mid-Victorian creed. Then from these, whom she knew, her mind swept on
to the others--to all the restless, disturbed, questioning women the
world over, who, clinging to beautiful old myths, yet reached out
diffident hands to grasp new guidance. The violence and nurtured hatred
of some of them offended her deeply; the egregious selfishness of others
seemed to her as a flaming sin. Militant, unrestrained, avid of coarse
and obvious things, they presented a shameful contrast to this little,
gentle, dreaming keeper of a boarding-house who sat beside her, her
dove's eyes filled with the mist of memories.
And yet--and yet--
The next day, as it happened, she was invited to Lake Forest to attend a
"suffrage tea." A distinguished English suffragette was to be present,
and the more fashionable group of Chicago suffragists were gathering to
pay her honor.
It was a torrid day with a promise of storm, and Kate would have
preferred to go to the Settlement House to do her usual work, which
chanced just now to be chiefly clerical. But she was urged to meet the
Englishwoman and to discuss with her the matter of the Children's
Bureau, in which the Settlement House people were now taking the keenest
interest. Kate went, gowned in fresh linen, and well pleased, after all,
to be with a holiday crowd riding through the summer woods. Tea was
being served on the lawn. It overlooked the lake, and here were gathered
both men and women. It was a company of rather notable persons, as Kate
saw at a glance. Almost every one there was distinguished for some
social achievement, or as the advocate of some reform or theory, or
perhaps as an opulent and fashionable patron. It was at once interesting
Kate greeted her hostess, and looked about her for the guest of honor.
It transpired that the affair was quite informal, after all. The
Englishwoman was sitting in a tea-tent discoursing with a number of
gentlemen who hung over her with polite attentions. They were well-known
bachelors of advanced ideas--men with honorary titles and personal
ambitions. The great suffragist was very much at home with them. Her
deep, musical voice resounded like a bell as she uttered her dicta and
her witticisms. She--like the men--was smoking a cigarette, a feat which
she performed without coquetry or consciousness. She was smoking because
she liked to smoke. It took no more than a glance to reveal the fact
that she was further along in her pregnancy than Marna--Marna who
started back from the door when a stranger appeared at it lest she
should seem immodest. But the suffragette, having acquired an applauding
and excellent husband, saw no reason why she should apologize to the
world for the processes of nature. Quite as unconscious of her condition
as of her unconventionality in smoking, she discoursed with these
diverted men, her transparent frock revealing the full beauties of her
neck and bust, her handsome arms well displayed--frankly and insistently
feminine, yet possessing herself without hesitation of what may be
termed the masculine attitude toward life.
For some reason which Kate did not attempt to define, she refrained from
discussing the Bureau of Children with the celebrated suffragette,
although she did not doubt that the Englishwoman would have been capable
of keen and valuable criticism. Instead, she returned to the city, sent
a box of violets to Marna, and then went on to her attic room.
A letter was awaiting her from the West. It read:
"MY DEAR MISS BARRINGTON:--
"Honora and the kiddies are here. I have given my cousin a
room where she can see the mountains on two sides, and I hope
it will help. I've known the hills to help, even with pretty
rough customers. It won't take a creature like Honora long to
get hold of the secret, will it? You know what I mean,
"I wish you had come. I watched the turn in the drive to see
if you wouldn't be in the station wagon. There were two
women's heads. I recognized Honora's, and I tried to think
the second one was yours, but I really knew it wasn't. It was
a low head--one of that patient sort of heads--and a flat,
lid-like hat. The nurse's, of course! I suppose you wear
helmet-shaped hats with wings on them--something like
Mercury's or Diana's. Or don't they sell that kind of
"Honora tells me you're trying to run the world and that you
make up to all kinds of people--hold-up men as well as
preachers. Do you know, I'm something like that myself? I
can't help it, but I do seem to enjoy folks. One of the
pleasantest nights I ever spent was with a lot of bandits in
a cave. I was their prisoner, too, which complicated matters.
But we had such a bully time that they asked me to join
them. I told them I'd like the life in some respects. I could
see it was a sort of game not unlike some I'd played when I
was a boy. But it would have made me nervous, so I had to
"Well, I'm talking nonsense. What if you should think I
counted it sense! That would be bad for me. I only thought
you'd be having so may pious and proper letters that I'd have
to give you a jog if I got you to answer this. And I do wish
you would answer it. I'm a lonely man, though a busy one. Of
course it's going to be a tremendous comfort having Honora
here when once she gets to be herself. She's wild with pain
now, and nothing she says means anything. We play chess a
good deal, after a fashion. Honora thinks she's amusing me,
but as I like 'the rigor of the game,' I can't say that I'm
amused at her plays. The first time she thinks before she
moves I'll know she's over the worst of her trouble. She
seems very weak, but I'm feeding her on cream and eggs. The
kiddies are dears--just as cute as young owls. They're not
afraid of me even when I pretend I'm a coyote and howl.
"Do write to me, Miss Barrington. I'm as crude as a cabbage,
but when I say I'd rather have you write me than have any
piece of good fortune befall me which your wildest
imagination could depict, I mean it. Perhaps that will scare
you off. Anyway, you can't say I didn't play fair.
"I'm worn out sitting around with this fractured leg of mine
in its miserable cast. (I know stronger words than
'miserable,' but I use it because I'm determined to behave
myself.) Honora says she thinks it would be all right for you
to correspond with me. I asked her.
"What a ridiculous boy," said Kate to herself. She laughed aloud with a
rippling merriment; and then, after a little silence, she laughed again.
"The man certainly is naif," she said. "Can he really expect me to
answer a letter like that?"
She awoke several times that night, and each time she gave a fleeting
thought to the letter. She seemed to see it before her eyes--a purple
eidolon, a parallelogram in shape. It flickered up and down like an
electric sign. When morning came she was quite surprised to find the
letter was existent and stationary. She read it again, and she wished
tremendously that she might answer it. It occurred to her that in a way
she never had had any fun. She had been persistently earnest,
passionately honest, absurdly grim. Now to answer that letter would come
under the head of mere frolic! Yet would it? Was not this curious,
outspoken man--this gigantic, good-hearted, absurd boy--giving her
notice that he was ready to turn into her lover at the slightest gesture
of acquiescence on her part? No, the frolic would soon end. It would be
another of those appalling games-for-life, those woman-trap affairs.
And she liked freedom better than anything.
She went off to her work in a defiant frame of mind, carrying, however,
the letter with her in her handbag.
What she did write--after several days' delay--was this:--
"MY DEAR MR. WANDER:--
"I can see that Honora is in the best place in the world for
her. You must let me know when she has checkmated you. I
quite agree that that will show the beginning of her
recovery. She has had a terrible misfortune, and it was the
outcome of a disease from which all of us 'advanced' women
are suffering. Her convictions and her instincts were at war.
I can't imagine what is going to happen to us. We all feel
very unsettled, and Honora's tragedy is only one of several
sorts which may come to any of us. But an instinct deeper
than instinct, a conviction beyond conviction, tells me that
we are right--that we must go on, studying, working,
developing. We may have to pay a fearful price for our
advancement, but I do not suppose we could turn back now
if we would.
"You ask if I will correspond with you. Well, do you suppose
we really have anything to say? What, for example, have you
to tell me about? Honora says you own a mine, or two or
three; that you have a city of workmen; that you are a
father to them. Are they Italians? I think she said so.
They're grateful folk, the Italians. I hope they like you.
They are so sweet when they do, and so--sudden--when
"I have had something to do with them, and they are very dear
to me. They ask me to their christenings and to other
festivals. I like their gayety because it contrasts with my
own disposition, which is gloomy.
"Upon reflection, I think we'd better not write to each
other. You were too explicit in your letter--too
precautionary. You'd make me have a conscience about it, and
I'd be watching myself. That's too much trouble. My business
is to watch others, not myself. But I do thank you for giving
such a welcome to Honora and the babies. I hope you will soon
be about again. I find it so much easier to imagine you
riding over a mountain pass than sitting in the house with a
leg in plaster.
He wrote back:--
"MY DEAR MISS BARRINGTON:--
"I admire your idea of gloom! Not the spirit of gloom but of
adventure moves you. I saw it in your eye. When I buy a
horse, I always look at his eye. It's not so much viciousness
that I'm afraid of as stupidity. I like a horse that is
always pressing forward to see what is around the next turn.
Now, we humans are a good deal like horses. Women are,
anyway. And I saw your eye. My own opinion is that you are
having the finest time of anybody I know. You're shaping your
own life, at least,--and that's the best fun there is,--the
best kind of good fortune. Of course you'll get tired of it
after a while. I don't say that because you are a woman, but
I've seen it happen over and over again both with men and
women. After a little while they get tired of roving and
"You may not believe it, but, after all, that's the great
moment in their lives--you just take it from me who have seen
more than you might think and who have had a good deal of
time to think things out. I do wish you had seen your way to
come out here. There are any number of matters I would like
to talk over with you.
"You mustn't think me impudent for writing in this familiar
way. I write frankly because I'm sure you'll understand, and
the conventionalities have been cast aside because in this
case they seem so immaterial. I can assure you that I'm not
impudent--not where women are concerned, at any rate. I'm a
born lover of women, though I have been no woman's lover. I
haven't seen much of them. Sometimes I've gone a year without
seeing one, not even a squaw. But I judge them by my mother,
who made every one happy who came near her, and by some
others I have known; I judge them by you, though I saw you
only a minute. I suppose you will think me crazy or insincere
in saying that. I'm both sane and honest--ask Honora.
"You speak of my Italians. They are making me trouble. We
have been good friends and they have been happy here. I gave
them lots to build on if they would put up homes; and I
advanced the capital for the cottages and let them pay me
four per cent--the lowest possible interest. I got a school
for their children and good teachers, and I interested the
church down in Denver to send a priest out here and establish
a mission. I thought we understood each other, and that they
comprehended that their prosperity and mine were bound up
together. But an agitator came here the other day,--sent by
the unions, of course,--and there's discontent. They have
lost the friendly look from their eyes, and the men turn out
of their way to avoid speaking to me. Since I've been laid up
here, things have been going badly. There have been meetings
and a good deal of hard talk. I suppose I'm in for a fight,
and I tell you it hurts. I feel like a man at war with his
children. As I feel just now, I'd throw up the whole thing
rather than row with them, but the money of other men is
invested in these mines and I'm the custodian of it. So I've
no choice in the matter. Perhaps, too, it's for their own
good that they should be made to see reason. What do you say?
Honora wrote the same day and to her quiet report of improved nights
and endurable days she added:--
"I hope you will answer my cousin's letter. I can't tell you
what a good man he is, and so boyish, in spite of his being
strong and perfectly brave--oh, brave to the death! He's very
lonely. He always has been. You'll have to make allowances
for his being so Western and going right to the point in such
a reckless way. He hasn't told me what he's written you, but
I know if he wants to be friends with you he'll say so
without any preliminaries. He's very eager to have me talk of
you, so I do. I'm eager to talk, too. I always loved you,
Kate, but now I put you and Karl in a class by yourselves as
the completely dependable ones.
"The babies send kisses. Don't worry about me. I'm beginning
to see that it's not extraordinary for trouble to have come
to me. Why not to me as well as to another? I'm one of the
great company of sad ones now. But I'm not going to be
melancholy. I know how disappointed you'd be if I were. I'm
beginning to sleep better, and for all of this still, dark
cavern in my heart, so filled with voices of the past and
with the horrible chill of the present, I am able to laugh a
little at passing things. I find myself doing it
involuntarily. So at least I've got where I can hear what the
people about me are saying, and can make a fitting reply.
Yes, do write Karl. For my sake."
Meantime, Ray McCrea had neglected to take his summer vacation. He was
staying in the city, and twice a week he called on Kate. Kate liked him
neither more nor less than at the beginning. He was clever and he was
kind, and it was his delight to make her happy. But it was with the
surface of her understanding that she listened to him and the skimmings
of her thoughts that she passed to him. He had that light, acrid accent
of well-to-do American men. Reasonably contented himself, he failed to
see why every one else should not be so, too. He was not religious for
the same reason that he was not irreligious--because it seemed to him
useless to think about such matters. Public affairs and politics failed
to interest him because he believed that the country was in the hands of
a mob and that the "grafters would run things anyway." He called
eloquence spell-binding, and sentiment slush,--sentiment, that is, in
books and on the stage,--and he was indulgently inclined to suspect that
there was something "in it" for whoever appeared to be essaying a
benevolent enterprise. Respectable, liberal-handed, habitually amused,
slightly caustic, he looked out for the good of himself and those
related to him and considered that he was justified in closing his
corporate regards at that point. He had no cant and no hypocrisy, no
pose and no fads. A sane, aggressive, self-centered, rational
materialist of the American brand, it was not only his friends who
thought him a fine fellow. He himself would have admitted so much and
have been perfectly justified in so doing.
Kate received flowers, books, and sweets from him, and now and then he
asked her why he had lost ground with her. Sometimes he would say:--
"I can see a conservative policy is the one for me, Kate, where you're
concerned. I'm going to lie low so as not to give you a chance to send
Once, when he grew picturesquely melancholy, she refused to receive his
offerings. She told him he was making a villainess out of her, and that
she'd end their meetings. But at that he promised so ardently not to be
ardent that she forgave him and continued to read the novels and to tend
the flowers he brought her. They went for walks together; sometimes she
lunched with him in the city, and on pleasant evenings they attended
open-air concerts. He tried to be discreet, but in August, with the full
moon, he had a relapse. Kate gave him warning; he persisted,--the moon
really was quite wonderful that August,--and then, to his chagrin, he
received a postcard from Silvertree. Kate had gone to see her father.
* * * * *
She would not have gone but for a chance word in one of Wander's
"I hear your father is still living," he wrote. "That is so good! I have
no parents now, but I like to remember how happy I was when I had them.
I was young when my mother died, but father lived to a good age, and as
long as he was alive I had some one to do things for. He always liked to
hear of my exploits. I was a hero to him, if I never was to any one
else. It kept my heart warmed up, and when he went he left me very
Kate reddened with shame when she read these words. Had Honora told him
how she had deserted her father--how she had run from him and his
tyranny to live her own life, and was he, Wander, meaning this for a
rebuke? But she knew that could not be. Honora would have kept her
counsel; she was not a tattler. Karl was merely congratulating her on a
piece of good fortune, apparently. It threw a new light on the
declaration of independence that had seemed to her to be so fine. Was
old-time sentiment right, after all? The ancient law, "Honor thy father
and thy mother," did not put in the proviso, "if they are according to
thy notion of what they should be."
So Kate was again at Silvertree and in the old, familiar and now
lifeless house. It was not now a caressed and pampered home; there was
no longer any one there to trick it out in foolish affectionate
adornments. In the first half-hour, while Kate roamed from room to room,
she could hardly endure the appalling blankness of the place. No
stranger could have felt so unwelcomed as she did--so alien, so
She was waiting for her father when he came home, and she hoped to warm
him a little by the surprise of her arrival. But it was his cue to be
deeply offended with her.
"Hullo, Kate," he said, nodding and holding out his hand with a
deliberately indifferent gesture.
"Oh, see here, dad, you know you've got to kiss me!" she cried.
So he did, rather shamefacedly, and they sat together on the dusty
veranda and talked. He had been well, he said, but he was far from
looking so. His face was gray and drawn, his lips were pale, and his
long skillful surgeon's hands looked inert and weary. When he walked, he
had the effect of dragging his feet after him.
"Aren't you going to take a vacation, dad?" Kate demanded. "If ever a
man appeared to be in need of it, you do."
"What would I do with a vacation? And where could I go? I'd look fine at
a summer resort, wouldn't I, sitting around with idle fools? If I could
only go somewhere to get rid of this damned neurasthenia that all the
fool women think they've got, I'd go; but I don't suppose there's such a
place this side of the Arctic Circle."
Kate regarded him for a moment without answering. She saw he was almost
at the end of his strength and a victim of the very malady against which
he was railing. The constant wear and tear of country practice, year in
and year out, had depleted him of a magnificent stock of energy and
endurance. Perhaps, too, she had had her share of responsibility in his
decline, for she had been severe with him; had defied him when she might
have comforted him. She forgot his insolence, his meanness, his
conscienceless hectoring, as she saw how his temples seemed fallen in
and how his gray hair straggled over his brow. It was she who assumed
the voice of authority now.
"There's going to be a vacation," she announced, "and it will be quite a
long one. Put your practice in the hands of some one else, let your
housekeeper take a rest, and then you come away with me. I'll give you
three days to get ready."
He cast at her the old sharp, lance-like look of opposition, but she
stood before him so strong, so kind, so daughterly (so motherly, too),
that, for one of the few times in his life of senseless domination and
obstinacy, he yielded. The tears came to his eyes.
"All right, Kate," he said with an accent of capitulation. He really was
a broken old man.
She passed a happy evening with him looking over advertisements of
forest inns and fishing resorts, and though no decision was reached,
both of them went to bed in a state of pleasant anticipation. The
following day she took his affairs in hand. The housekeeper was
delighted at her release; a young physician was pleased to take charge
of Dr. Barrington's patients.
Kate made him buy new clothes,--he had been wearing winter ones,--and
she set him out in picturesque gear suiting his lank length and
old-time manner. Then she induced him to select a place far north in the
Wisconsin woods, and the third day they were journeying there together.
It seemed quite incredible that the dependent and affectionate man
opposite her was the one who had filled her with fear and resentment
such a short time ago. She found herself actually laughing aloud once at
the absurdity of it all. Had her dread of him been fortuitous, his
tyranny a mere sham? Had he really liked her all the time, and had she
been a sensitive fool? She would have thought so, indeed, but for the
memory of the perplexed and distracted face of her mother, the cringing
and broken spirit of her who missed truth through an obsession of love.
No, no, a tyrant he had been, one of a countless army of them!
But now he leaned back on his seat very sad of eye, inert of gesture,
without curiosity or much expectancy. He let her do everything for him.
She felt her heart warming as she served him. She could hardly keep
herself from stooping to kiss his great brow; the hollows of his eyes
when he was sleeping moved her to a passion of pity. After all, he was
her own; and now she had him again. The bitterness of years began to
die, and with it much of that secret, instinctive aversion to men--that
terror of being trapped and held to some uninspiring association or
For now, when her father awoke from one of his many naps, he would turn
to her with: "Have I slept long, Kate?" or "We'll be going in to lunch
soon, I suppose, daughter?" or "Will it be very long now before we reach
It was reached at dawn of an early autumn day, and they drove ten miles
into the pine woods. The scented silence took them. They were at "God's
green caravansarie," and the rancor that had poisoned their hearts was
gone. They turned toward each other in common trust, father and
daughter, forgiving, if not all forgetting, the hurt and angry years.
"It really was your cousin who brought it about," Kate wrote Honora. "He
reminded me that I was fortunate to have a father. You see, I hadn't
realized it! Oh, Honora, what a queer girl I am--always having to think
things out! Always making myself miserable in trying to be happy! Always
going wrong in striving to be right! I should think the gods would make
Olympus ring laughing at me! I once wrote your cousin that women of my
sort were worn out with their struggle to reconcile their convictions
and their instincts. And that's true. That's what is making them so
restless and so strange and tumultuous. But of course I can't think it
their fault--merely their destiny. Something is happening to them, but
neither they nor any one else can quite tell what it is."
* * * * *
Dr. Barrington was broken, no question about that. Even the stimulation
of the incomparable air of those Northern woods could not charge him
with vitality. He lay wrapped in blankets, on the bed improvised for him
beneath the trees, or before the leaping fire in the inn, with the odors
of the burning pine about him, and he let time slip by as it would.
The people at the inn thought they never had seen a more devoted
daughter than his. She sat beside him while he slept; she read or talked
to him softly when he awakened; she was at hand with some light but
sustaining refreshment whenever he seemed depressed or too relaxed. But
there were certain things which the inn people could not make out. The
sick man had the air of having forgiven this fine girl for something. He
received her service like one who had the right to expect it. He was
tender and he was happy, but he was, after all, the dominator. Nor could
they quite make out the girl, who smiled at his demands,--which were
sometimes incessant,--and who obeyed with the perfect patience of the
strong. They did not know that if he had once been an active tyrant, he
was now a supine one. As he had been unable, for all of his
intelligence, to perceive the meaning of justice from the old angle, so
he was equally unable to get it from his present point of view. He had
been harsh with his daughter in the old days; so much he would have
admitted. That he would have frustrated her completely, absorbed and
wasted her power, he could not perceive. He did not surmise that he was
now doing in an amiable fashion what he hitherto had tried to do in a
masterful and insolent one. He did not realize that the tyranny of the
weak is a more destructive thing when levelled at the generous than the
tyranny of the strong.
Had he been interrupted in mid-career--in those days when his surgery
was sure and bold--to care for a feeble and complaining wife, he would
have thought himself egregiously abused. That Kate, whose mail each day
exceeded by many times that which he had received in his most
influential years, whose correspondence was with persons with whom he
could not at any time have held communication, should be taken from her
active duties appeared to him as nothing. He was a sick father. His
daughter attended him in love and dutifulness. He was at peace--and he
knew she was doing her duty. It really did not occur to him that she or
any one else could have looked at the matter in a different light, or
that any loving expression of regret was due her. Such sacrifices were
expected of women. They were not expected of men, although men sometimes
magnificently performed them.
To tell the truth, no such idea occurred to Kate either. She was as
happy as her father. At last, in circumstances sad enough, she had
reached a degree of understanding with him. She had no thought for the
inconvenience under which she worked. She was more than willing to sit
till past the middle of the night answering her letters, postponing her
engagements, sustaining her humbler and more unhappy friends--those who
were under practical parole to her--with her encouragement, and always,
day by day, extending the idea of the Bureau of Children. For daily it
took shape; daily the system of organization became more apparent to
her. She wrote to Ray McCrea about it; she wrote to Karl Wander on the
same subject. It seemed to suffice or almost to suffice her. It kept her
from anticipating the details of the melancholy drama which was now
being enacted before her eyes.
For her father was passing. His weakness increased, and his attitude
toward life became one of gentle indifference. He was homesick for his
wife, too. Though he had seemed to take so little satisfaction in her
society, and had not scrupled when she was alive to show the contempt he
felt for her opinions, now he liked to talk of her. He had made a great
outcry against sentiment all of his life, but in his weakness he found
his chief consolation in it. He had been a materialist, denying
immortality for the soul, but now he reverted to the phrases of pious
men of the past generation.
"I shall be seeing your mother soon, Kate," he would say wistfully,
holding his daughter's hand. Kate was involuntarily touched by such
words, but she was ashamed for him, too. Where was all his hard-won,
bravely flaunted infidelity? Where his scientific outlook?
It was only slowly, and as the result of her daily and nightly
association with him, that she began to see how his acquired convictions
were slipping away from him, leaving the sentiments and predilections
which had been his when he was a boy. Had he never been a strong man,
really, and had his violence of opinion and his arrogance of demeanor
been the defences erected by a man of spiritual timidity and restless,
excitable brain? Had his assertiveness, like his compliance, been part
and parcel of a mind not at peace, not grounded in a definite faith?
Perhaps he had been afraid of the domination of his gentle wife with her
soft insistence, and had girded at her throughout the years because of
mere fanatic self-esteem. But now that she had so long been beyond the
reach of his whimsical commands, he turned to the thought of her like a
yearning child to its mother.
"If you hadn't come when you did, Kate," he would say, weeping with
self-pity, "I should have died alone. I wouldn't own to any one how sick
I was. Why, one night I was so weak, after being out thirty-six hours
with a sick woman, that I had to creep upstairs on my hands and knees."
He sobbed for a moment piteously, his nerves too tattered to permit him
to retain any semblance of self-control. Kate tried in vain to soothe
him. "What would your mother have thought if you had let me die alone?"
he demanded of her.
It was useless for her to say that he had not told her he was ill. He
was in no condition to face the truth. He was completely shattered--the
victim of a country physician's practice and of an unrestrained
irritability. Her commiseration had been all that was needed to have him
yield himself unreservedly to her care.
It had been her intention to stay in the woods with him for a fortnight,
but the end of that time found his lassitude increasing and his need for
her greater than ever. She was obliged to ask for indefinite leave of
absence. A physician came from Milwaukee once a week to see him; and
meantime quiet and comfort were his best medicines.
The autumn began to deepen. The pines accentuated their solemnity, and
out on the roadways the hazel bushes and the sumac changed to canary, to
russet, and to crimson. For days together the sky would be cloudless,
and even in the dead of night the vault seemed to retain its splendor.
There are curious cloths woven on Persian and on Turkish looms which
appear to the casual eye to be merely black, but which held in sunlight
show green and blue, purple and bronze, like the shifting colors on a
duck's back. Kate, pacing back and forth in the night after hours of
concentrated labor,--labor which could be performed only when her father
was resting,--noted such mysterious and evasive hues in her Northern
sky. Never had she seen heavens so triumphant. True, the stars shone
with a remote glory, but she was more inspired by their enduring, their
impersonal magnificence, than she could have been by anything relative
A year ago, had she been so isolated, she might have found herself
lonely, but it was quite different now. She possessed links with the
active world. There were many who wanted her--some for small and some
for great things. She felt herself in the stream of life; it poured
about her, an invisible thing, but strong and deep. Sympathy,
understanding, encouragement, reached her even there in her solitude and
heartened her. Weary as she often was physically, drained as she could
not but be mentally, her heart was warm and full.
October came and went bringing little change in Dr. Barrington's
condition. It did not seem advisable to move him. Rest and care were the
things required; and the constant ministrations of a physician would
have been of little benefit. Kate prayed for a change; and it came, but
not as she had hoped. One morning she went to her father to find him
terribly altered. It was as if some blight had fallen upon him in the
night. His face was gray in hue, his pulse barely fluttering, though his
eyes were keener than they had been, as if a sudden danger had brought
back his old force and comprehension. Even the tone in which he
addressed her had more of its old-time quality. It was the accent of
command, the voice he had used as a physician in the sick-room, though
it was faint.
"Send for Hudson," he said. "We'll be needing him, Kate. The fight's
on. Don't feel badly if we fail. You've done your best."
It was six hours before the physician arrived from Milwaukee.
"I couldn't have looked for anything like this," he said to Kate. "I
thought he was safe--that six months' rest would see him getting
They had a week's conflict with the last dread enemy of man, and they
lost. Dr. Barrington was quite as much aware of the significance of his
steady decline as any one. He had practical, quiet, encouraging talks
with his daughter. He sent for an attorney and secured his property to
her. Once more, as in his brighter days, he talked of important matters,
though no longer with his old arrogance. He seemed to comprehend at
last, fully and proudly, that she was the inheritor of the best part of
him. Her excursive spirit, her inquisitive mind, were, after all, in
spite of all differences, his gift to her. He gave her his good wishes
and begged her to follow whatever forces had been leading her. It was as
if, in his weakness, he had sunk for a period into something resembling
childhood and had emerged from it into a newer, finer manhood.
"I kept abreast of things in my profession," he said, "but in other
matters I was obstinate. I liked the old way--a man at the helm, and the
crew answering his commands. No matter how big a fool the man was, I
still wanted him at the helm." He smiled at her brightly. There was,
indeed, a sort of terrible brilliancy about him, the result, perhaps,
of heroic artificial stimulation. But these false fires soon burned
themselves out. One beautiful Sunday morning they found him sinking. He
himself informed his physician that it was his day of transition.
"I've only an hour or two more, Hudson," he whispered cheerfully. "Feel
"Oh, we may manage to keep you with us some time yet, Dr. Barrington,"
said the other with a professional attempt at optimism.
But the older man shook his head.
"Let's not bother with the stock phrases," he said. "Ask my daughter to
come. I'd like to look at her till the last."
So Kate sat where he could see her, and they coaxed the fluttering heart
to yet a little further effort. Dr. Barrington supervised everything;
counted his own pulse; noted its decline with his accustomed accuracy.
The sunlight streamed into the room through the tall shafts of trees;
outside the sighing of the pines was heard, rising now and then to a
noble requiem. It lifted Kate's soul on its deep harmonies, and she was
able to bear herself with fortitude.
"It's been so sweet to be with you, dear," she murmured in the ears
which were growing dull to earthly sounds. "Say that I've made up to you
a little for my willfulness. I've always loved you--always."
"I know," he whispered. "I understand--everything--now!"
In fact, his glance answered hers with full comprehension.
"The beat is getting very low now, Doctor," he murmured, the fingers of
his right hand on his left wrist; "very infrequent--fifteen
Dr. Hudson tried to restrain him from his grim task of noting his own
sinking vitality, but the old physician waved him off.
"It's very interesting," he said. It seemed so, indeed. Suddenly he said
quite clearly and in a louder voice than he had used that day: "It has
stopped. It is the end!"
Kate sprang to her feet incredulously. There was a moment of waiting so
tense that the very trees seemed to cease their moaning to listen. In
all the room there was no sound. The struggling breath had ceased. The
old physician had been correct--he had achieved the thing he had set
himself to do. He had announced his own demise.
Kate had him buried beside the wife for whom he had so inconsistently
longed. She sold the old house, selected a few keepsakes from it,
disposed of all else, and came, late in November, back to the city.
Marna's baby had been born--a little bright boy, named for his father.
Mrs. Barsaloux, relenting, had sent a layette of French workmanship, and
Marna was radiantly happy.
"If only _tante_ will come over for Christmas," Marna lilted to Kate, "I
shall be almost too happy to live. How good she was to me, and how
ungrateful I seemed to her! Write her to come, Kate, mavourneen. Tell
her the baby won't seem quite complete till she's kissed it."
So Kate wrote Mrs. Barsaloux, adding her solicitation to Marna's. Human
love and sympathy were coming to seem to her of more value than anything
else in the world. To be loved--to be companioned--to have the vast
loneliness of life mitigated by fealty and laughter and tenderness--what
was there to take the place of it?
Her heart swelled with a desire to lessen the pain of the world. All her
egotism, her self-assertion, her formless ambitions had got up, or down,
to that,--to comfort the comfortless, to keep evil away from little
children, to let those who were in any sort of a prison go free. Yet
she knew very well that all of this would lack its perfect meaning
unless there was some one to say to her--to her and to none other: "I
* * * * *
Mrs. Barsaloux did not come to America at Christmas time. Karl Wander
did not--as he had thought he might--visit Chicago. The holiday season
seemed to bring little to Kate except a press of duties. She aspired to
go to bed Christmas night with the conviction that not a child in her
large territory had spent a neglected Christmas. This meant a skilled
cooeperation with other societies, with the benevolently inclined
newspapers, and with generous patrons. The correspondence involved was
necessarily large, and the amount of detail to be attended to more than
she should have undertaken, unaided, but she was spurred on by an almost
consuming passion of pity and sisterliness. That sensible detachment
which had marked her work at the outset had gradually and perhaps
regrettably disappeared. So far from having outgrown emotional struggle,
she seemed now, because of something that was taking place in her inner
life, to be increasingly susceptible to it.
Her father's death had taken from her the last vestige of a home. She
had now no place which she could call her own, or to which she would
instinctively turn at Christmas time. To be sure, there were many who
bade her to their firesides, and some of these invitations she accepted
with gratitude and joy. But she could, of course, only pause at the
hearthstones of others. Her thoughts winged on to other things--to the
little poor homes where her wistful children dwelt, to the great scheme
for their care and oversight which daily came nearer to realization.
A number of benevolent women--rich in purse and in a passion for public
service--desired her to lecture. She was to explain the meaning of the
Bureau of Children at the state federations of women's clubs, in lyceum
courses, and wherever receptive audiences could be found. They advised,
among other things, her attendance at the biennial meeting of the
General Federation of Women's Clubs which was meeting that coming spring
in Southern California.
The time had been not so far distant when she would have had difficulty
in seeing herself in the role of a public lecturer, but now that she had
something imperative to say, she did not see herself in any "role" at
all. She ceased to think about herself save as the carrier of a message.
Her Christmas letter from Wander was at once a disappointment and a
* * * * *
"I've made a mess of things," he wrote, "and do not intend to
intrude on you until I have shown myself more worthy of
consideration. I try to tell myself that my present fiasco is
not my fault, but I've more than a suspicion that I'm
playing the coward's part when I think that. You can be
disappointed in me if you like. _I'm_ outrageously
disappointed. I thought I was made of better stuff.
"I don't know when I'll have time for writing again, for I
shall be very busy. I suppose I'll think about you more than
is good for me. But maybe not. Maybe the thoughts of you will
be crowded out. I'm rather curious to see. It would be better
for me if they would, for I've come to a bad turn in the
road, and when I get around it, maybe all of the old familiar
scenes--the window out of which your face looked, for
example--will be lost to me. I send my good wishes to you all
the same. I shall do that as long as I have a brain and
"That means trouble," reflected Kate, and had a wild desire to rush to
* * * * *
That she did not was owing partly--only partly--to another letter which,
bearing an English postmark, indicated that Ray McCrea, who had been
abroad for a month on business, was turning his face toward home. What
he had to say was this:--
"I'm sending you a warning. In a few days I'll be tossing on
that black sea of which I have, in the last few days, caught
some discouraging glimpses. It doesn't look as if it meant to
let me see the Statue of Liberty again, but as surely as I
do, I'm going to go into council with you.
"I imagine you know mighty well what I'm going to say. For
years you've kept me at your call--or, rather, for years I
have kept myself there. You've discouraged me often, in a
tolerant fashion, as if you thought me too young to be
dangerous, or yourself too high up to be called to account.
I've been patient, chiefly because I found your society, as a
mere recipient of my awkward attentions, too satisfactory to
be able to run the risk of foregoing it. But if I were to sit
in the outer court any longer I would be pusillanimous. I'm
coming home to force you to make up that strange mind of
yours, which seems to be forever occupying itself with the
thing far-off and to-be-hoped-for, rather than with what is
near at hand.
"You'll have time to think it over. You can't say I've been
At that she flashed a letter to Colorado.
"What is your cousin's trouble?" she asked Honora. "Is it at the mines?"
"It's at the mines," Honora replied. "Karl's life has been and is in
danger. Friends have warned me of that again and again. There's no
holding these people--these several hundred Italians that poor Karl
insisted upon regarding as his wards, his 'adopted children.' They're
preparing to leave their half-paid-for homes and their steady work, and
to go threshing off across the country in the wave of a hard-drinking,
hysterical labor leader. He has them inflamed to the explosive point.
When they've done their worst, Karl may be a poor man. Not that he
worries about that; but he's likely to carry down with him friends and
business associates. Of course this is not final. He may win out, but
such a catastrophe threatens him.
"But understand, all this is not what is tormenting him and turning him
gaunt and haggard. No, as usual, the last twist of the knife is given by
a woman. In this case it is an Italian girl, Elena Cimiotti, the
daughter of one of the strikers and of the woman who does our washing
for us. She's a beautiful, wild creature, something as you might suppose
the daughter of Jorio to be. She has come for the washing and has
brought it home again for months past, and Karl, who is thoughtful of
everybody, has assisted her with her burden when she was lifting it from
her burro's back or packing it on the little beast. Sometimes he would
fetch her a glass of water, or give her a cup of tea, or put some fruit
in her saddle-bags. You know what a way he has with all women! I suppose
it would turn any foolish creature's head. And he has such an impressive
way of saying things! What would be a casual speech on the tongue of
another becomes significant, when he has given one of his original
twists to it. I think, too, that in utter disregard of Italian etiquette
he has sometimes walked on the street with this girl for a few steps. He
is like a child in some ways,--as trusting and unconventional,--and he
wants to be friends with everybody. I can't tell whether it is because
he is such an aristocrat that it doesn't occur to him that any one can
suspect him of losing caste, or because he is such a democrat that he
doesn't know it exists.
"However that may be, the girl is in love with him. These Italian girls
are modest and well-behaved ordinarily, but when once their imagination
is aroused they are like flaming meteors. They have no shame because
they can't see why any one should be ashamed of love (and, to tell the
truth, I can't either). But this girl believes Karl has encouraged her.
I suppose she honestly believed that he was sweethearting. He is
astounded and dismayed. At first both he and I thought she would get
over it, but she has twice been barely prevented from killing herself.
Of course her countrymen think her desperately ill-treated. She is the
handsomest girl in the settlement, and she has a number of ardent
admirers. To the hatred which they have come to bear Karl as members of
a strike directed against him, they now add the element of
"So you see what kind of a Christmas we are having! I have had Mrs. Hays
take the babies to Colorado Springs, and if anything happens to us
here, I'll trust to you to see to them. You, who mean to look after
little children, look after mine above all others, for their mother gave
you, long since, her loving friendship. I would rather have you mother
my babies, maiden though you are, than any woman I know, for I feel a
great force in you, Kate, and believe you are going on until you get an
answer to some of the questions which the rest of us have found
"Karl wants me to leave, for there is danger that the ranch house may be
blown up almost any time. These men play with dynamite as if it were
wood, anyway, and they make fiery enemies. Every act of ours is spied
upon. Our servants have left us, and Karl and I, obstinate as mules and
as proud as sheiks, after the fashion of our family, hold the fort. He
wants me to go, but I tell him I am more interested in life than I ever
dared hope I would be again. I have been bayoneted into a fighting mood,
and I find it magnificent to really feel alive again, after crawling in
the dust so long, with the taste of it in my mouth. So don't pity me. As
for Karl--he looks wild and strange, like the Flying Dutchman with his
spectral hand on the helm. But I don't know that I want you to pity him
either. He is a curious man, with a passionate soul, and if he flares
out like a torch in the wind, it will be fitting enough. No, don't pity
us. Congratulate us rather."
"Now what," said Kate aloud, "may that mean?"
The letter had a note of reckless gayety. Had Honora and Karl, though
cousins, been finding a shining compensation there in the midst of many
troubles? It sounded so, indeed. Elena Cimiotti might swing down the
mountain roads wearing mountain flowers in her hair if she pleased, and
Kate would not have thought her dangerous to the peace of Karl Wander.
If the wind were wild and the leaves driving, he might have kissed her
in some mad mood. So much might be granted--and none, not even Elena, be
the worse for it. But to live side by side with Honora Fulham, to face
danger with her, to have the exhilaration of conflict, they two
together, the mountains above them, the treacherous foe below, a fortune
lost or gained in a day, all the elements of Colorado's gambling chances
of life and fortune at hand, might mean--anything.
Well, she would congratulate them! If Honora could forget a shattered
heart so soon, if Wander could take it on such easy terms, they were
entitled to congratulations of a sort. And if they were killed some
frantic night,--were blown to pieces with their ruined home, and so
reached together whatever lies beyond this life,--why, then, they were
to be congratulated, indeed! Or if they evaded their enemies and swung
their endangered craft into the smooth stream of life, still
congratulations were to be theirs.
She confessed to herself that she would rather be in that lonely
beleaguered house facing death with Karl Wander than be the recipient of
the greatest honor or the participant in the utmost gayety that life
That the fact was fantastic made it none the less a fact.
* * * * *
Should she write to Honora: "I congratulate you?"
Or should she wire Karl?
She got out his letters, and his words were as a fresh wind blowing over
her spirit. She realized afresh how this man, seen but once, known only
through the medium of infrequent letters, had invigorated her. What had
he not taught her of compassion, of "the glory of the commonplace," of
duty eagerly fulfilled, of the abounding joy of life--even in life
shadowed by care or sickness or poverty?
No, she would write them nothing. They were her friends in fullness of
sympathy. They, like herself, were of those to whom each day and night
is a privilege, to whom sorrow is an enrichment, delight an unfoldment,
opposition a spur. They were of the company of those who dared to speak
the truth, who breathed deep, who partook of the banquet of life
She had seen Honora in the worst hour of tribulation that can come to a
good woman, and she knew she had arisen from her overthrow, stronger for
the trial; now Karl was battling, and he had cried out to her in his
pain--his shame of defeat. But it would not be his extinction. She was
sure of that. They might, among them, slay his body, but she could not
read his letters, so full of valiant contrasts, and doubt that his
spirit must withstand all adversaries.
No, sardonic with these two she could never be. Like that poor Elena,
she might have mistaken Wander's meanings. He was a man of too elaborate
gestures; something grandiose, inherently his, made him enact the drama
of life with too much fervor. It was easy, Honora had insinuated, for a
woman to mistake him!
Kate gripped her two strong hands together and clasped them about her
head in the first attitude of despair in which she ever had indulged in
her life. She was ashamed! Honora had said there was nothing to be
ashamed of in love. But Kate would not call this meeting of her spirit
with Karl's by that name. She had no idea whether it was love or not. On
the whole, she preferred to think that it was not. But when they faced
each other, their glances had met. When they had parted, their thoughts
had bridged the space. When she dreamed, she fancied that she was
mounting great solitary peaks with him to look at sunsets that blazed
like the end of the world; or that he and she were strong-winged birds
seeking the crags of the Andes. What girl's folly! The time had come to
put such vagrant dreams from her and to become a woman, indeed.
Ray telephoned that he was home.
"Come up this evening, then," commanded Kate.
Then, not being as courageous as her word, she wept brokenly for her
mother--the mother who could, at best, have given her but such
As she heard Ray coming up the stairs, she tossed some more wood on the
fire and lighted the candles in her Russian candlesticks.
"It's what any silly girl would do!" she admitted to herself
Well, there was his rap on the foolish imitation Warwick knocker. Kate
flung wide the door. He stood in the dim light of the hall, hesitating,
it would seem, to enter upon the evening's drama. Tall, graceful as
always, with a magnetic force behind his languor, he impressed Kate as a
man whom few women would be able to resist; whom, indeed, it was a sort
of folly, perhaps even an impiety, to cast out of one's life.
"Kate!" he said, "Kate!" The whole challenge of love was in the accent.
But she held him off with the first method of opposition she could
"My name!" she admitted gayly. "I used to think I didn't like it, but I
He came in and swung to the door behind him, flinging his coat and hat
upon a chair.
"Do you mean you like to hear me say it?" he demanded. He stood by the
fire which had begun to leap and crackle, drawing off his gloves with a
She saw that she was not going to be able to put him off. The hour had
struck. So she faced him bravely.
"Sit down, Ray," she said.
He looked at her a moment as if measuring the value of this courtesy.
"Thank you," he said, almost resentfully, as he sank into the chair she
placed for him.
So they sat together before the fire gravely, like old married people,
as Kate could not help noticing. Yet they were combatants; not as a
married couple might have been, furtively and miserably, but with a
frank, almost an exhilarating, sense of equally matched strength, and of
their chance to conduct their struggle in the open.
"It's come to this, Kate," he said at length. "Either I must have your
promise or I stay away entirely."
"I don't believe you need to do either," she retorted with the
exasperating manner of an elder sister. "It's an obsession with you,
"What man thinks he needs, he does need," Ray responded sententiously.
"It appears to me that without you I shall be a lost man. I mean
precisely what I say. You wouldn't like me to give out that fact in an
hysterical manner, and I don't see that I need to. I make the statement
as I would make any other, and I expect to be believed, because I'm a
truth-telling person. The fairest scene in the world or the most
interesting circumstance becomes meaningless to me if you are not
included in it. It isn't alone that you are my sweetheart--the lady of
my dreams. It's much more than that. Sometimes when I'm with you I feel
like a boy with his mother, safe from all the dreadful things that might
happen to a child. Sometimes you seem like a sister, so really kind and
so outwardly provoking. Often you are my comrade, and we are completely
congenial, neuter entities. The thing is we have a satisfaction when we
are together that we never could apart. There it is, Kate, the fact we
can't get around. We're happier together than we are apart!"
He seemed to hold the theory up in the air as if it were a shining
jewel, and to expect her to look at it till it dazzled her. But her
voice was dull as she said: "I know, Ray. I know--now--but shall we
"Why shouldn't we, woman? There's every reason to suppose that we'd grow
happier. We want each other. More than that, we need each other. With
me, it's such a deep need that it reaches to the very roots of my being.
It's my groundwork, my foundation stone. I don't know how to put it to
make you realize--"
He caught a quizzical smile on her face, and after a moment of
bewilderment he leaped from his chair and came toward her.
"God!" he half breathed, "why do I waste time talking?"
He had done what her look challenged him to do,--had substituted action
for words,--yet now, as he stretched out his arms to her, she held him
off, fearful that she would find herself weeping on his breast. It would
be sweet to do it--like getting home after a long voyage. But dizzily,
with a stark clinging to a rock of integrity in herself, she fought him
off, more with her militant spirit than with her outspread,
"No, no," she cried. "Don't hypnotize me, Ray! Leave me my judgment,
leave me my reason. If it's a partnership we're to enter into, I ought
to know the terms."
"The terms, Kate? Why, I'll love you as long as I live; I'll treasure
you as the most precious thing in all the world."
"And the winds of heaven shall not be allowed to visit my cheek too
roughly," she managed to say tantalizingly.
He paused, perplexed.
"I know I bewilder you, dear man," she said. "But this is the point: I
don't want to be protected. I mean I don't want to be made dependent; I
don't want my interpretations of life at second-hand. I object to having
life filter through anybody else to me; I want it, you see, on my
"Why, Kate!" It wasn't precisely a protest. He seemed rather to reproach
her for hindering the onward sweep of their happiness--for opposing him
with her ideas when they might together have attained a beautiful
"I couldn't stand it," she went on, lifting her eyes to his, "to be
given permission to do this, that, or the other thing; or to be put on
an allowance; or made to ask a favor--"
He sank down in his chair and folded across his breast the arms whose
embrace she had not claimed.
"You seem to mean," he said, "that you don't want to be a wife. You
prefer your independence to love."
"I want both," Kate declared, rising and standing before him. "I want
the most glorious and abounding love woman ever had. I want so much of
it that it never could be computed or measured--so much it will lift me
up above anything that I now am or that I know, and make me stronger and
freer and braver."
"Well, that's what your love would do for me," broke in McCrea. "That's
what the love of a good woman is expected to do for a man."
"Of course," cried Kate; "but is that what the love of a good man is
expected to do for a woman? Or is it expected to reconcile her to
obscurity, to the dimming of her personality, and to the endless petty
sacrifices that ought to shame her--and don't--those immoral sacrifices
about which she has contrived to throw so many deceiving, iridescent
mists of religion? Oh, yes, we are hypnotized into our foolish state of
dependence easily enough! I know that. The mating instinct drugs us. I
suppose the unborn generations reach out their shadowy multitudinous
hands and drag us to our destiny!"
"What a woman you are! How you put things!" He tried but failed to keep
the offended look from his face, and Kate knew perfectly well how hard
he was striving not to think her indelicate. But she went on
"You think that's the very thing I ought to want to be my destiny? Well,
perhaps I do. I want children--of course, I want them."
She stopped for a moment because she saw him flushing with
embarrassment. Yet she couldn't apologize, and, anyway, an apology would
avail nothing. If he thought her unwomanly because she talked about her
woman's life,--the very life to which he was inviting her,--nothing she
could say would change his mind. It wasn't a case for argument. She
walked over to the fire and warmed her nervous hands at it.
"I'm sorry, Ray," she said finally.
"Sorry that I'm not the tender, trusting, maiden-creature who could fall
trembling in your arms and love you forever, no matter what you did, and
lie to you and for you the way good wives do. But I'm not--and, oh, I
wish I were--or else--"
"Or else that you were the kind of a man I need, the mate I'm looking
"But, Kate, I protest that I am. I love you. Isn't that enough? I'm not
worthy of you, maybe. Yet if trying to earn you by being loyal makes me
worthy, then I am. Don't say no to me, Kate. It will shatter me--like an
earthquake. And I believe you'll regret it, too. We can make each other
happy. I feel it! I'd stake my life on it. Wait--"
He arose and paced the floor back and forth.
"Do you remember the lines from Tennyson's 'Princess' where the Prince
pleads with Ida? I thought I could repeat them, but I'm afraid I'll mar
them. I don't want to do that; they're too applicable to my case."
He knew where she kept her Tennyson, and he found the volume and the
page, and when he had handed the book to her, he snatched his coat
"I'm coming for my answer a week from to-night," he said. "For God's
sake, girl, don't make a mistake. Life's so short that it ought to be
happy. At best I'll only be able to live with you a few decades, and I'd
like it to be centuries."
He had not meant to do it, she could see, but suddenly he came to her,
and leaning above her burned his kisses upon her eyes. Then he flung
himself out of the room, and by the light of her guttering candles
"Come down, O maid, from yonder mountain height.
What pleasure lives in height (the shepherd sang).
In height and cold, the splendor of the hills?
But cease to move so near the Heavens, and cease
To glide a sunbeam by the blasted pine,
To sit a star upon the sparkling spire;
And come, for Love is of the valley, come thou down
And find him; by the happy threshold, he
Or hand in hand with Plenty in the maize,
Or red with spirted purple of the vats,
Or foxlike in the vine; nor cares to walk
With Death and Morning on the Silver Horns,
Nor wilt thou snare him in the white ravine,
Nor find him dropped upon the firths of ice,
That huddling slant in furrow-cloven falls
To roll the torrent out of dusky doors;
But follow; let the torrent dance thee down
To find him in the valley; let the wild
Lean-headed eagles yelp alone, and leave
The monstrous ledges there to slope, and spill
Their thousand wreaths of dangling water-smoke,
That like a broken purpose waste in air;
So waste not thou; but come; for all the vales
Await thee; azure pillars of the hearth
Arise to thee; the children call, and I
Thy shepherd pipe, and sweet is every sound,
Sweeter thy voice, but every sound is sweet;
Myriads of rivulets hurrying thro' the lawn,
The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees."
She read it twice, soothed by its vague loveliness. She could hear,
however, only the sound of the suburban trains crashing by in the
distance, and the honking of the machines in the Plaisance. None of
those spirit sounds of which Ray had dreamed penetrated through her
vigorous materialism. But still, she knew that she was lonely; she knew
Ray's going left a gray vacancy.
"I can't think it out," she said at last. "I'll go to sleep. Perhaps
But neither voices nor visions came to her in sleep. She awoke the next
morning as unillumined as when she went to her bed. And as she dressed
and thought of the full day before her, she was indefinably glad that
she was under no obligations to consult any one about her programme,
either of work or play.
Kate had dreaded the expected solitude of the next night, and it was a
relief to her when Marna Fitzgerald telephoned that she had been sent
opera-tickets by one of her old friends in the opera company, and that
she wanted Kate to go with her.
"George offers to stay home with the baby," she said. "So come over,
dear, and have dinner with us; that will give you a chance to see
George. Then you and I will go to the opera by our two independent
selves. I know you don't mind going home alone. 'Butterfly' is on, you
She said it without faltering, Kate noticed, as she gave her
enthusiastic acceptance, and when she had put down the telephone, she
actually clapped her hands at the fortitude of the little woman she had
once thought such a hummingbird--and a hummingbird with that one last
added glory, a voice. Marna had been able to put her dreams behind her;
why should not her example be cheerfully followed?
When Kate reached the little apartment looking on Garfield Park, she
entered an atmosphere in which, as she had long since proved, there
appeared to be no room for regret. Marna had, of course, prepared the
dinner with her own hands.
"I whipped up some mayonnaise," she said. "You remember how
Schumann-Heink used to like my mayonnaise? And she knows good cooking
when she tastes it, doesn't she? I've trifle for desert, too."
"But it must have taken you all day, dear, to get up a dinner like
that," protested Kate, kissing the flushed face of her friend.
"It took up the intervals," smiled Marna. "You see, my days are made up
of taking care of baby, _and_ of intervals. How fetching that black
velvet bodice is, Kate. I didn't know you had a low one."
"Low _and_ high," said Kate. "That's the way we fool 'em--make 'em think
we have a wardrobe. Me--I'm glad I'm going to the opera. How good of you
to think of me! So few do--at least in the way I want them to."
Marna threw her a quick glance.
"Ray?" she asked with a world of insinuation.
To Kate's disgust, her eyes flushed with hot tears.
"He's waiting to know," she answered. "But I--I don't think I'm going to
"Oh, Kate!" cried Marna in despair. "How can you feel that way? Just
think--just think--" she didn't finish her sentence.
Instead, she seized little George and began undressing him, her hands
lingering over the firm roundness of his body. He seemed to be anything
but sleepy, and when his mother passed him over to her guest, Kate let
him clutch her fingers with those tenacious little hands which looked
like rose-leaves and clung like briers. Marna went out of the room to
prepare his bedtime bottle, and Kate took advantage of being alone with
him to experiment in those joys which his mother had with difficulty
refrained from descanting upon. She kissed him in the back of the neck,
and again where his golden curls met his brow--a brow the color of a
rose crystal. A delicious, indescribable baby odor came up from him,
composed of perfumed breath, of clean flannels, and of general
adorability. Suddenly, not knowing she was going to do it, Kate snatched
him to her breast, and held him strained to her while he nestled there,
eager and completely happy, and over the woman who could not make up her
mind about life and her part in it, there swept, in wave after wave,
like the south wind blowing over the bleak hills, billows of warm
emotion. Her very finger-tips tingled; soft, wistful, delightful tears
flooded her eyes. Her bosom seemed to lift as the tide lifts to the
moon. She found herself murmuring inarticulate, melodious nothings. It
was a moment of realization. She was learning what joys could be hers
Marna came back into the room and took the baby from Kate's trembling
"Why, dear, you're not afraid of him, are you?" his mother asked
Kate made no answer, but, dropping a farewell kiss in the crinkly palm
of one dimpled hand, she went out to the kitchen, found an apron, and
began drawing the water for dinner and dropping Marna's mayonnaise on
the salad. She must, however, have been sitting for several minutes in
the baby's high chair, staring unseeingly at the wall, when the buzzing
of the indicator brought her to her feet.
"It's George!" cried Marna; and tossing baby and bottle into the cradle,
she ran to the door.
Kate hit the kitchen table sharply with a clenched hand. What was there
in the return of a perfectly ordinary man to his home that should cause
such excitement in a creature of flame and dew like Marna?
"Marna with the trees' life
In her veins a-stir!
Marna of the aspen heart--"
George came into the kitchen with both hands outstretched.
"Well, it's good to see you here," he declared. "Why don't you come
oftener? You make Marna so happy."
That proved her worthy; she made Marna happy! Of what greater use could
any person be in this world? George retired to prepare for dinner, and
Marna to settle the baby for the night, and Kate went on with the
preparations for the meal, while her thoughts revolved like a
There were the chops yet to cook, for George liked them blazing from the
broiler, and there was the black coffee to set over. This latter was to
fortify George at his post, for it was agreed that he was not to sleep
lest he should fail to awaken at the need and demand of the beloved
potentate in the cradle; and Marna now needed a little stimulant if she
was to keep comfortably awake during a long evening--she who used to
light the little lamps in the windows of her mind sometime
They had one of those exclamatory dinners where every one talked about
the incomparable quality of the cooking. The potatoes were after a new
recipe,--something Spanish,--and they tasted deliciously and smelled as
if assailing an Andalusian heaven. The salad was _piquante_; the trifle
vivacious; Kate's bonbons were regarded as unique, and as for the
coffee, it provoked Marna to quote the appreciative Talleyrand:--
"Noir comme le diable,
Chaud comme l'enfer,
Pur comme un ange,
Doux comme l'amour."
Other folk might think that Marna had "dropped out," but Kate could see
it written across the heavens in letters of fire that neither George nor
Marna thought so. They regarded their table as witty, as blessed in such
a guest as Kate, as abounding in desirable food, as being, indeed, all
that a dinner-table should be. They had the effect of shutting out a
world which clamored to participate in their pleasures, and looked on
themselves as being not forgotten, but too selfish in keeping to
themselves. It kept little streams of mirth purling through Kate's soul,
and at each jest or supposed brilliancy she laughed twice--once with
them and once at them. But they were unsuspicious--her friends. They
were secretly sorry for her, that was all.
After dinner there was Marna to dress.
"Naturally I haven't thought much about evening clothes since I was
married," she said to Kate. "I don't see what I'm to put on unless it's
my immemorial gold-of-ophir satin." She looked rather dubious, and Kate
couldn't help wondering why she hadn't made a decision before this.
Marna caught the expression in her eyes.
"Oh, yes, I know I ought to have seen to things, but you don't know what
it is, mavourneen, to do all your own work and care for a baby. It makes
everything you do so staccato! And, oh, Kate, I do get so tired! My feet
ache as if they'd come off, and sometimes my back aches so I just lie on
the floor and roll and groan. Of course, George doesn't know. He'd
insist on our having a servant, and we can't begin to afford that. It
isn't the wages alone; it's the waste and breakage and all."
She said this solemnly, and Kate could not conceal a smile at her
"daughter of the air" using these time-worn domestic plaints.
"You ought to lie down and sleep every day, Marna. Wouldn't that help?"
"That's what George is always saying. He thinks I ought to sleep while
the baby is taking his nap. But, mercy me, I just look forward to that
time to get my work done."
She turned her eager, weary face toward Kate, and her friend marked the
delicacy in it which comes with maternity. It was pallid and rather
pinched; the lips hung a trifle too loosely; the veins at the temples
showed blue and full. Kate couldn't beat down the vision that would rise
before her eyes of the Marna she had known in the old days, who had
arisen at noon, coming forth from her chamber like Deirdre, fresh with
the freshness of pagan delight. She remembered the crowd that had
followed in her train, the manner in which people had looked after her
on the street, and the little furore she had invariably awakened when
she entered a shop or tea-room. As Marna shook out the gold-of-ophir
satin, dimmed now and definitely out of date, there surged up in her
friend a rebellion against Marna's complete acquiescence in the present
scheme of things. But Marna slipped cheerfully into her gown.
"I shall keep my cloak on while we go down the aisle," she declared.
"Nobody notices what one has on when one is safely seated.
Particularly," she added, with one of her old-time flashes, "if one's
neck is not half bad. Now I'm ready to be fastened, mavourneen. Dear me,
it _is_ rather tight, isn't it? But never mind that. Get the hooks
together somehow. I'll hold my breath. Now, see, with this scarf about
me, I shan't look such a terrible dowd, shall I? Only my gloves are
unmistakably shabby and not any too clean, either. George won't let me
use gasoline, you know, and it takes both money and thought to get them
to the cleaners. Do you remember the boxes of long white gloves I used
to have in the days when _tante_ Barsaloux was my fairy godmother?
Gloves were an immaterial incident then. 'Nevermore, nevermore,' as our
friend the raven remarked. Come, we'll go. I won't wear my old opera
cloak in the street-car; that would be too absurd, especially now that
the bullion on it has tarnished. That long black coat of mine is just
the thing--equally appropriate for market, mass, or levee. Oh, George,
dear, good-bye! Good-bye, you sweetheart. I hate to leave you, truly I
do. And I do hope and pray the baby won't wake. If he does--"
"Come along, Marna," commanded Kate. "We mustn't miss that next car."
* * * * *
They barely were in their seats when the lights went up, and before them
glittered the Auditorium, that vast and noble audience chamber
identified with innumerable hours of artistic satisfaction. The receding
arches of the ceiling glittered like incandescent nebulae; the pictured
procession upon the proscenium arch spoke of the march of ideas--of the
passionate onflow of man's dreams--of whatever he has held beautiful
Kate yielded herself over to the deep and happy sense of completion
which this vast chamber always gave her, and while she and Marna sat
there, silent, friendly, receptive, she felt her cares and frets
slipping from her, and guessed that the drag of Mama's innumerable
petty responsibilities was disappearing, too. For here was the pride of
life--the power of man expressed in architecture, and in the high
entrancement of music. The rich folds of the great curtain satisfied
her, the innumerable lights enchanted her, and the loveliness of the
women in their fairest gowns and their jewels added one more element to
that indescribable thing, compacted of so many elements,--all
artificial, all curiously and brightly related,--which the civilized
world calls opera, and in which man rejoices with an inconsistent and
more or less indefensible joy.
The lights dimmed; the curtain parted; the heights above Nagasaki were
revealed. Below lay the city in purple haze; beyond dreamed the harbor
where the battleships, the merchantmen and the little fishing-boats
rode. The impossible, absurd, exquisite music-play of "Madame Butterfly"
Oh, the music that went whither it would, like wind or woman's hopes;
that lifted like the song of a bird and sank like the whisper of waves.
Vague as reverie, fitful as thought, yearning as frustrate love, it
fluttered about them.
"The new music," whispered Marna.
"Like flame leaping and dying," responded Kate.
They did not realize the passage of time. They passed from chamber to
chamber in that gleaming house of song.
"This was the best of all to me," breathed Marna, as Farrar's voice took
up the first notes of that incomparable song of woven hopes and fears,
"Some Day He'll Come." The wild cadences of the singer's voice,
inarticulate, of universal appeal, like the cry of a lost child or the
bleating of a lamb on a windy hill,--were they mere singing? Or were
they singing at all? Yes, the new singing, where music and drama
The tale, heart-breaking for beauty and for pathos, neared its close.
Oh, the little heart of flame expiring at its loveliest! Oh, the loyal
feet that waited--eager to run on love's errands--till dawn brought the
sight of faded flowers, the suddenly bleak apartment, the unpressed
couch! Then the brave, swift flight of the spirit's wings to other
altitudes, above pain and shame! And like love and sorrow, refined to a
poignant essence, still the music brooded and cried and aspired.
What visions arose in Marna's brain, Kate wondered, quivering with
vicarious anguish. Glancing down at her companion's small, close-clasped
hands, she thought of their almost ceaseless toil in those commonplace
rooms which she called home, and for the two in it--the ordinary man,
the usual baby. And she might have had all this brightness, this
celebrity, this splendid reward for high labor!
The curtain closed on the last act,--on the little dead
Cio-Cio-San,--and the people stood on their feet to call Farrar, giving
her unstintedly of their _bravas_. Kate and Marna stood with the others,
but they were silent. There were large, glistening tears on Marna's
cheeks, and Kate refrained from adding to her silent singing-bird's
distress by one word of appreciation of the evening's pleasure; but as
they moved down the thronged aisle together, she caught Marna's hand in
her own, and felt her fingers close about it tenaciously.
Outside a bitter wind was blowing, and with such purpose that it had
cleared the sky of the day's murk so that countless stars glittered with
unwonted brilliancy from a purple-black heaven. Crowded before the
entrance were the motors, pouring on in a steady stream, their lamps
half dazzling the pedestrians as they struggled against the wind that
roared between the high buildings.
Though Marna was to take the Madison Street car, they could not resist
the temptation to turn upon the boulevard where the scene was even more
exhilarating. The high standing lights that guarded the great drive
offered a long and dazzling vista, and between them, sweeping steadily
on, were the motor-cars. Laughing, talking, shivering, the people
hastened along--the men of fashion stimulated and alert, their women
splendid in furs and cloaks of velvet while they waited for their
conveyances; by them tripped the music students, who had been
incomparably happy in the highest balcony, and who now cringed before
the penetrating cold; among them marched sedately the phalanx of
middle-class people who permitted themselves an opera or two a year, and
who walked sedately, carrying their musical feast with a certain sense
of indigestion;--all moved along together, thronging the wide pavement.
The restaurants were awaiting those who had the courage for further
dissipation; the suburban trains had arranged their schedules to
convenience the crowd; and the lights burned low in the hallways of
mansions, or apartments, or neat outlying houses, awaiting the return of
these adventurers into another world--the world of music. All would talk
of Farrar. Not alone that night, nor that week, but always, as long as
they lived, at intervals, when they were happy, when their thoughts were
uplifted, they would talk of her. And it might have been Marna Cartan
instead of Geraldine Farrar of whom they spoke!
"Marna of the far quest" might have made this "flight unhazarded"; might
have been the core of all this fine excitement. But she had put herself
out of it. She had sold herself for a price--the usual price. Kate would
not go so far as to say that a birthright had been sold for a mess of
pottage, but Ray McCrea's stock was far below par at that moment. Yet
Ray, as she admitted, would not doom her to a life of monotony and heavy
toil. With him she would have the free and useful, the amusing and
excursive life of an American woman married to a man of wealth. No, her
programme would not be a petty one--and yet--
"Do take a cab, Marna," she urged. "My treat! Please."
"No, no," said Marna in a strained voice. "I'll not do that. A
five-cent ride in the car will take me almost to my door; and besides
the cars are warm, which is an advantage."
It was understood tacitly that Kate was the protector, and the one who
wouldn't mind being on the street alone. They had but a moment to wait
for Marna's car, but in that moment Kate was thinking how terrible it
would be for Marna, in her worn evening gown, to be crowded into that
common conveyance and tormented with those futile regrets which must be
her so numerous companions.
She was not surprised when Marna snatched her hand, crying:--
"Yes, yes, I know," murmured Kate soothingly.
"No, you don't," retorted Marna. "How can you? It's--it's the milk."
There was a catch in her voice.
"The milk!" echoed Kate blankly. "What milk? I thought--"
"Oh, I know," Marna cried impatiently. "You thought I was worrying about
that old opera, and that I wanted to be up there behind that screen
stabbing myself. Well, of course, knowing the score so well, and having
hoped once to do so much with it, the notes did rather try to jump out
of my throat. But, goodness, what does all that matter? It's the baby's
milk that I'm carrying on about. I don't believe I told George to warm
it." Her voice ceased in a wail.
The car swung around the corner, and Kate half lifted Marna up the huge
step, and saw her go reeling down the aisle as the cumbersome vehicle
lurched forward. Then she turned her own steps toward the stairs of the
"The milk!" she ejaculated with commingled tenderness and impatience.
"Then that's why she didn't say anything about going behind the scenes.
I thought it was because she couldn't endure the old surroundings and
the pity of her associates of the opera-days. The milk! I wonder--"
What she wondered she did not precisely say; but more than one person on
the crowded elevated train noticed that the handsome woman in black
velvet (it really was velveteen, purchased at a bargain) had something
on her mind.
Kate slept lightly that night. She had gone to bed with a sense of
gentle happiness, which arose from the furtive conviction that she was
going to surrender to Ray and to his point of view. He could take all
the responsibility if he liked and she would follow the old instincts of
woman and let the Causes of Righteousness with which she had allied
herself contrive to get along without her. It was nothing, she told
herself, but sheer egotism for her to suppose that she was necessary to
She half awoke many times, and each time she had a vague, sweet longing
which refused to resolve itself into definite shape. But when the full
morning came she knew it was Ray she wanted. She couldn't wait out the
long week he had prescribed as a season of fasting and prayer before she
gave her answer, and she was shamelessly glad when her superior, over
there at the Settlement House, informed her that she would be required
to go to a dance-hall at South Chicago that night--a terrible place,
which might well have been called "The Girl Trap." This gave Kate a
legitimate excuse to ask for Ray's company, because he had besought her
not to go to such places at night without his escort.
"But ought I to be seeing you?" he asked over the telephone in answer
to her request. "Wouldn't it be better for my cause if I stayed away?"
In spite of the fact that he laughed, she knew he was quite in earnest,
and she wondered why he hadn't discerned her compliant mood from her
"But I had to mind you, hadn't I?" she sent back. "You said I mustn't go
to such places without you."
From her tone she might have been the most betendriled feminine vine
that ever wrapped a self-satisfied masculine oak.
"Oh, I'll come," he answered. "Of course I'll come. You knew you had
only to give me the chance."
He was on time, impeccable, as always, in appearance. Kate was glad that
he was as tall as she. She knew, down in her inner consciousness, that
they made a fine appearance together, that they stepped off gallantly.
It came to her that perhaps they were to be envied, and that they
weren't--or at least that she wasn't--giving their good fortune its full